Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Wednesday, April 30 – Food, glorious food

Last night I made a pilaff with the last of the goose and some of the rice from the newly arrived supplies. It certainly isn’t a classic dish and it may not be one I’ll make again, but it was wonderful to have different textures and flavours after all these months of unvaried, albeit still nutritious, meals.
We all talked about foods we are missing again and as always fresh crusty bread was top of the list. Second was cheese. Not special continental cheeses, but plain old English cheddar which we could have on toast, or eat in a sandwich or sprinkle on top of a baked potato. But we are grateful for the supplies that have been delivered and talked about how to make the most of them.
Jane pleaded for pasta, which she can easily make now we have flour. So we plan to have a carbonara tonight as we don’t have tomatoes, butter or cheese, but we do have eggs and bacon. Anna says she craves cucumbers and avocados, which we can’t possibly obtain, but she says she will enjoy the pasta too. Stephen longs for burgers, which we can manage to make if we bring back mince from the pub barter market on Saturday. Martin says he misses cauliflower cheese, which we also can’t make, but I said that when we can find a cauliflower we could serve it with a white sauce, now that we have powdered milk and flour, so he was fairly happy with that.
And I miss sweet things. I know I shouldn’t but I’ve always had a sweet tooth and liked having a biscuit or a cake with my morning coffee and afternoon tea. I’m struggling to think what I can make apart from drop scones and soda bread and then I suddenly remembered that I still have dried yeast in the pantry and so I am going to make little doughnuts. I will try to make some filled with jam, but even plain ones, sweetened and rolled in sugar after they are fried will be a sweet treat. If they are disastrous the hens will gobble them up and maybe lay more eggs. They gave us four today.


Latest diary entries

April 10 – afternoon

I was helped across the road this morning by a nice young gentleman. What a lovely place Hobart is. I love the winter sun on my back and the blue sky above me. I love Mount Wellington in the background. I love the parks. I love the people. I love the fact that I found a skip full of biscuits. A small store had had a fire (I am sorry for them of course) and had had to throw out smoke damaged goods. They obviously sold a lot of biscuits. There were a few children rummaging in the skip and I joined them. They did not seem to mind. I could not carry as many as they could of course – some of them brought with them big bags – but I managed to stash a few packets away in my bag. So now I have good food and better still, I found a wi-fi signal. It was not perfect brilliant but it was good enough while I was busy with lunch. And hooray! ‘Tasmania’ has been in touch. We will meet tomorrow, not far from the city. I shall make my way over to the West of the city this afternoon, in preparation for leaving tomorrow.


April 10 – evening

Shortbread biscuits are not as good as ginger ones but they are still tasty. Have found fruit and veg at the back of a supermarket. Am steering clear of tomatoes. For ever.


April 11 – morning (very early).

Today is the day. I feel funny inside and not just because I had a lot of kiwi fruit last night. I have found the place we are to meet on Google Earth and am on my way. I will take a bus and then have to hike by foot but I am grateful that we are going into the bush. It will be private there and I should be able to take off my scarf. Time to go!

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Tuesday, April 29 – A nice cup of tea

Such good news today! Stephen had cycled to the chemist to pick up iron tablets for Anna and came back to tell us supplies have reached the village. I doubt if it has anything to do with the efforts made by Martin and his fellow adventurers the other week, but it is quite a coincidence that one minute we are being ignored and the next we have rations delivered by the army. so maybe they did achieve something after all.
There is flour, rice, sugar, tea, cooking oil and salt being distributed at the church. The stocks are being guarded and handed out by members of the Parish Council, to ensure there is enough for every local household. As soon as Stephen told us we decided to go straight over there with the car. We could have walked with the wheelbarrow, but the weather is unreliable today and we would not have wanted these precious supplies spoiling in the rain.
And when we got there, amidst the excitement of actually having tea again, we found there was also powdered milk, coffee, soap and toilet paper! These feel like the greatest luxuries after so long without. So as soon as we were home with our supplies we made a pot of tea and I set about making drop scones. We still have jam as I made so much at the end of the summer, so we could actually have afternoon tea and feel almost civilised. And the soap is very welcome as we are almost at the end of our supply of tablets given to me in previous Christmases and the bars in the cloakroom and bathroom both have blackened cracks, but I was determined to use them down to the last sliver.
Martin said he’d never known a cup of tea to taste so good, so we treated ourselves to another pot immediately and can now look forward to real tea first thing in the morning. If they had been able to deliver fresh bread as well, that would make our breakfasts complete. But we shall content ourselves with fried egg, black pudding, drop scones and a good strong cup of tea.



Slasher in Angel Alley RedChapter Three

Limehousesailortown does not do politics – sailortown exists for the sailor.   Whilst the ships are in dock unloading their cargo their mariners and ships cats scurry ashore.   After weeks at sea battling with the elements, cooped together in small, over-familiar groups they come onto land, wherever they may be in the world, with a little money in their pockets and a desire to be entertained.   Just beyond the dock gates they find dance halls and music halls, ale-houses and catnip dens, brothels and night clubs.   They are enticed by ice-cream vans, burger bars, winkle stalls and pie-‘n-mash tents.   Juke-boxes blare, fish and chips sizzle and dour missionaries fret after their souls.

Westwards along Ratcliff Highway the stews and doss houses peter out to be replaced by wholesale warehouses stuffed with pepper and cinnamon, teas and coffees, wines, spirits, carpets and beds, monkeys, macaws – and the contraband wares of smuggler and river pirate, produce not fanfared on the signs above the doors.   At the Highway’s western end, dingy curiosity shops, junk shops proclaiming themselves to be antique emporia, ships’ chandlers and the tagareen stores of the bum-boat men huddle together between the river and the soup kitchens and meeting halls of Whitechapel.   Whitechapel does do politics.


Boz and Phoebles stopped off for a light lunch in the ground floor bar of the catnip den that occupies the remainder of the building below their bedsit.   Snowdrop was singing a selection of songs from Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny and should probably have stuck to juggling.   She was accompanied by Sam on upright and Mouse Jackson on tenor sax and they were really quite good, as was the eel pie and mustard ice-cream.   Once fortified, the ginger pair set off towards Wapping High Street and onward to Whitechapel, for a little under-cover detective work.

Toynbee Hall, that vicarage-gothic edifice which might well have seen William Morris and Peter Kropotkin pass through its doors in times gone by, was hosting a debate on Class Unity, The Co-operative Movement and World Solutions to World Problems.   As delegates gathered a degree of disharmony was already beginning to emerge.   Old Labour was present with a Yorkshire ex-colliery brass band; Marxists and Leninists and Trotskyists and Maoists were in dispute over the subjects for discussion, procedural details and the exact fillings for the sandwiches; La Columna Internationalistas, in red neckerchiefs were acting as unofficial bouncers.   Huddled in small yet noisy groups and eyeing each other suspiciously were collectivist-anarchists, mutualist-anarchists, communist-anarchists, anarcho-syndicalists, anarcho-surrealists, Situationists and The Brick Lane Zapatistas.   Consuella Starcluster was there with her tambourine, and the Kittens of Chaos had brought along a breakaway anarcha-feminist chapter of the WI who were starting to heckle.    Boz and Phoebles, thinly disguised in matching ‘Red Ed’ t-shirts, cloth caps and mufflers, slipped unobtrusively into the hall and, with backs to the wall, quietly observed.   The discord was beginning to spread to a gathering crowd outside in Commercial Street and scuffles were breaking out.


Round the corner, where an insignificant and darkly narrow passageway, plastered with faded and torn inflammatory posters and bills, opened out into Angel Alley a soapbox had been set up outside the offices of the Freedom Press.   White cats in brass bound and riveted, midnight-dark goggles guarded its corners like Trafalgar Square lions and Slasher McGoogs had mounted it to address an unenthusiastic crowd.

“Comrades!   You do not need me to point out the architects of your sorry condition.

I am not here to itemise the burdens heaped upon you by self appointed tyrants, to list the injustices, to pick through the corruption and filth, the graft and malfeasance that has shackled the masses to a life of perpetual toil and wrung out a wealth of obscene proportions to heap on the privileged few.   You can denounce your oppressors without my help.

Yet, to be just to these poor men of pelf,


Damned to the mines, an equal fate betides

The slave that digs it, and the slave that hides!”

He paused at this dramatic climax – Silence… until one of the sinister white cats began to clap pointedly.   There was a ripple from the audience followed by a Whoop and a couple of Yeahs.   The front two rows of uncomprehending felinity were made up of feckless alley cats of assorted shapes, sizes and colours, but behind them was a press of black and white ships’ cats and their docker cousins.   These toms were politically aware and wanted to be roused.   Slasher stepped up the rhetoric, wringing his cap and waving a clenched fist.


Early next morning began the first ever mass-strike of ships’ cats.   Vessels without their cats could not sail, the docks clogged up with stranded shipping and new arrivals rusted at anchor in the roads; cargos rotted and rats ran wild.   Dockland fell eerily silent.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Monday, April 28 – Utterly foxed

I don’t think I dare tell Neil what I did today. I’m not even sure I should tell Martin, he’s such a terrible one for tittle tattle he’d be sure to tell Neil or Tony at some point. But I told Jane, who then told Anna and Stephen and they all said I should have kept it. They wanted to raise the baby fox as a pet and name it Ferdy.
I have such mixed feelings about the foxes now. I used to think they were nature’s dustmen, clearing away the bodies of dead deer and other animals. Then I was annoyed and somewhat distressed when they killed all the hens and left the dead and dying littering the hen run. And lately I have come to see it from Neil’s point of view, when a newborn lamb is taken so soon, when it has just found the springs in its legs. So Neil won’t be pleased to know that I have rescued a fox cub from drowning.
It happened this morning, soon after I’d fed the hens. I was walking round the garden to see how wet it all was after yesterday’s downpour. I had to empty some pots in the courtyard of their pools of surplus water and then I walked across the lawn to admire the new silver leaves of the whitebeam, when I noticed a strange screeching cry. I thought at first it was an angry squirrel quarreling with one of the cats, or maybe a young magpie calling hungrily for its parent. But it was an odd noise so I crossed the ditch towards the wood where so much had fallen in the winter. And I was just about to turn back when I saw it. A little bundle of dark fur crawling on the edge of another ditch. I went over to look and realised it was a very small cub, still with its charcoal baby coat, crying crossly for its mother.
I thought I should leave it for its parent to rescue, but then I thought how close it was to deep water, how near it was to drowning. It was much much smaller than the little lamb that sprang out of a watery ditch the other day and I was so afraid that it would drown before its mother returned that I had to pick it up. As I held it in my hands I thought it looked more like a very small bear cub than a fox. Its front paws were square and spade-like, its nose was snub and not yet elongated and its fur was soft and dusky, with not yet a hint of red. I couldn’t put it back down on the grass with swollen ditches close by, so I carried it into the wood where I knew a fox had dug its earth in previous years. Sure enough, there were signs that the burrow was back in use, so I placed the cub by the entrance and watched as it sniffed, then waddled down the slope and into its home. I hope its mother will return soon and that it will survive, though I’m not sure Neil would agree with me.
And when I went back out late this afternoon to feed the hens, who delivered five eggs today, I couldn’t resist creeping across to the wood again. But all was quiet and there was no sign of the little fox or its parent.

Powerless – The Year the Lights Went Out

Sunday, April 27 – Tough and tender

I knew I was right to worry about the water. This morning I saw a very small black lamb on a spit of grass while its careless mother was on the other side of a full ditch. I couldn’t see Neil anywhere nearby and I was ready to leap the fence and jump to the rescue, when the ewe moved away and the lamb scrambled through the deep water, wet up to its chin, to reach her. And she didn’t care, but just kept slowly moving across the grass to find another mouthful while her baby bleated pitifully and tried to shake itself dry.
I told Neil later what I had seen, but he just laughed and said tough little chaps, aren’t they. I know he is right and that they can survive almost anything, bar foxes, but I do feel anxious when I see them coping with these difficult conditions.
And the bad weather has put a stop to our regular outdoor laundry. I’ve decided not to try to wash much other than underwear and socks until we have a dry spell. We’ve caught up with sheets and large items recently, so we can have a washing day once we get a good sunny breezy day. It’s such hard work trying to wash and wring out in the rain, then dry indoors. And I much prefer the fresh scent of sunshine on my clothes and sheets to the smell of damp smoking firewood.
The hens aren’t happy about the weather either. They gave me one egg yesterday and only two today. There’s not much I can do about it, other than hope the sun shines at length soon.
Still, the goose is cooking over the fire as I write and the fat is dripping into a pan as it cooks. It’s making the fire smoke, but we are all looking forward to some succulent meat.

Star Stone Trilogy – Book One: Yii Chapter Six (cont)

Sarah went to the lodge and asked Jack, the porter:
‘Please, where can I find Desmond Hamilton-Wordsworth?’
Jack, a touch haughty: ‘You mean the Honourable Hamilton-Wordsworth,’ he said. ‘And who might be asking for him?’
Sarah drew herself up to her full height: ‘I am Sarah Hamilton-Wordsworth,’ she said.
Jack looked suitably remorseful.
‘I beg your pardon, missy; I didn’t realise. Are you his sister?’
‘No, I am his cousin. I’m staying at the Rector’s Lodging with my aunt and uncle.’
‘Well,’ said Jack very respectfully. ‘Fancy that!’ (A favourite expression of Jack’s: ‘Fancy that!’). ‘Now your cousin is on staircase eight miss, room four. But here’s his scout; Alec will take you there, and you’re very welcome to Sherborne College miss.’
Sarah had already learnt that a ‘scout’ was a college servant who looked after the staff and students. Alec was round, balding, rosy cheeked and very jolly-looking with a friendly smile. He was to become a good friend of Sarah’s.
‘You come this way, missy,’ he said. ‘The Honourable is still in his rooms, though I dare say he’ll be off to the river shortly.’
Desmond was delighted and surprised to see Sarah, and greeted her royally: ‘But have they let you out of that place where you were imprisoned?’ he laughed. Sarah explained giving him a brief account of the horrors of St Raphael’s and her being expelled, and what a brick Aunt Caroline had been, and how thrilled she was to be in Oxford.
‘But you’re going off to the river, aren’t you? I mustn’t hold you up.’
‘Why, yes,’ said Desmond, ‘but why don’t you come too? There’s lots to see, any number of College eights out rowing. And George, our waterman, will make you a cup of tea, and then you can come back here and have more tea!’
So they set off for the river, and the College barge, a sort of headquarters for the oarsmen. There she met George the waterman, and had a wonderful afternoon watching the rowing with quite a professional eye, having learnt to row and cox with Desmond on the lake in her uncle’s estate.
Sarah was impressed with the Sherborne College eight, and said so to Desmond on the way back through Christchurch Meadows. ‘They are going really well,’ she said.