A View (Just Along The Road) From The Greenhouse; Working Class Heroes….Innit?

Old Wives Tale? I’m Not So Sure
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Autumn continues its steady, inexorable path towards winter and this year its bringing along with it a profusion of berries. The hawthorn has been particularly prolific and now the holly’s joining in. Plums and damsons, on the other hand, have been in short supply, although sloes are plentiful in many of the hedgerows around the village and I have started off a half litre of gin. Country folk would always say that lots of berries was an indication of a “hard” winter to come. Maybe there’s something in this “old wives tale” and maybe there isn’t, I, for one, find it all very confusing. It isn’t two minutes since we were all going to melt down into puddles of fat, if we hadn’t already been drowned due to melting icebergs. I don’t know, if it ain’t one thing, it’s another!

The Kipper Months Begin
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Pretty much cleared out now, at least in the main body of the greenhouse. I’ll leave the weeds until just before “we” (Dave) rotavates, which he’s going to do this side of Christmas, then I’ll put down a layer of permeable membrane, to inhibit new growth. I’m never going to stop the weeds, but I’d like to see a few less, come spring next year. The strawberry beds are slowly being taken up and more of the young, stronger plants are now in the “cold frame”, along with the pineapple, to over-winter.

Me, Inside My Own Head (Artist; Pierre Brissaud 1929)
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

I like this simple picture. It was sent to me by a fellow gardener who I exchange pleasantries with on X. Although this fellow certainly has a little more hair than I do and I don’t have an apron (that may change in the near future) I can see why she would think I’d identify with it. I’ve never professed to be anything other than an enthusiastic if somewhat corner-cutting rough “horticulturalist”, but, in my own head at least, this is me, using a bit of old baling twine, tied round a robust twig, to support a plant which may yet, against all odds, produce a crop (see below).

Green Bin Day
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

I’ve had to take down the two sprout plants, the netting didn’t manage to keep out the butterflies and the hosing down didn’t manage to clear either the caterpillars, or their copious droppings from virtually destroying the whole crop. We had one feed, which I incorporated in a “bubble and squeak”. I continue to say to myself; “there’s always next year”, I think the plan’s going to be to net off a section of the outside space (when and if we get around to creating it) and keep the pests out that way, rather than trying to micro-manage the job, but we’ll see what happens.

Jalfrezi “Gravy”
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Jalfrezi is a type of curry, typified by having an almost gravy like sauce and being quite “wet”. Bought sauces are often very sweet and, although Mrs. C quite likes them, I’m back to where I was twenty or so years ago, making my own curry sauces. Onion, garlic, green chilli (to taste), cumin, coriander and turmeric are combined with tomatoes (I used my own, skinned and de-seeded, but tinned will do) to make the sauce, which is added to dry marinated meat which has been lightly fried off, a red pepper, a couple more chilies and garam masala. I only mention this because I was able to combine home produced veg with spices I’d brought back from India to make something (to my mind at least) as good as anything you might buy from a takeaway. The only downside was I didn’t quite get it “hot” enough, but there’s always a next time.

Chili Jam, Pre-Boiling
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

As previously mentioned, although I got off to a very late start and I didn’t get as many plants in the ground as I would have liked, the peppers and chilies have been quite prolific. bell peppers (now turning from green to a vibrant yellow), small sweet red peppers, jalapenos, green “birds eye” chilies and “Havana Gold” mild chilies continue to crop well. Experience tells me that, so long as we don’t get a really hard frost, that these particular varieties are quite hardy. I’m going to start putting a fleece over them at night though, just in case, and we’ll hopefully keep harvesting right into December.

Chili Jam, Post-Boiling
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

I must have mentioned my “Sweet Chili Jam” previously; it remains a family staple, but given the variety of capsicum available this time around I’ve adapted the recipe (originally by Nigella Lawson) to suit. It’s dead simple, to make the six small jars in the picture I put 550mls of cider vinegar and a kilo of jam sugar in my Maslin pan and slowly melted the sugar (it’s important to allow it to melt without stirring). I blitzed 150 grams of mixed chilies (Havana Gold, Birds Eye and Jalapeno, seeds removed) and 150 grams of mixed red, yellow and green peppers, also de-seeded and added this mixture to the pan once the sugar had melted, turning up the heat to achieve a rolling boil. I let it boil for 12 minutes (which should be plenty), before leaving to cool and decanting it into sterilised jars. It looks great and should be ready to eat within 6-8 weeks. An early taste test, during the cooling period, suggests it has the required amount of “oomph”. Good with both cheese and cold meat, if you like that sort of thing.

Gordon, Alan, Mick, Derek, Stuart; Aspirational Working Class Lads
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2023

Labour is becoming increasingly confident in its belief (probably with good reason) that it has the next GE sewn up, but I’m not so sure it’ll achieve anything like the predicted “landslide” however that’s another story. The infighting, which we all know has gone on since Starmer took over from Corbyn, has undoubtedly been intensified by the latest machinations in the Middle East and this could yet lead to a split, but possibly not until after an election. The main thrust of Labour’s electioneering strategy is based on an appeal, driven, I’m sure, by a PR machine with input from Mandleson, to those he (Starmer) perceives as “working class” and “British”. He’s even re-adopted the Union Flag. It’s no secret that I’m proud of my roots and my “Britishness” and I’ve long believed that the “culture” (a wide ranging concept even before we had the new “diversity” thrust upon us) of our nation is firmly rooted in the ordinary folk of this country.

Recently many second and third generation immigrants, undoubtedly Labour supporters (it’s a ‘broad church’) and mostly deeply embedded in academia, politics, media and the “arts” have taken to posing questions about what constitutes “British” culture and “Britishness” itself, hoping, I’m sure to elicit answers that reinforce their ideologically driven stereotypical view of “white” people as both colonists and racists. These very people, whose parents arrived here in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, looking for the fabled “better life” are now firmly entrenched in what might be called “the middle class”. They fraternise with “white” people who they view as their social equals, so long as they exhibit the correct level of “white guilt” and they’ve benefitted greatly from our culture of generosity and openness, with access to many things they wouldn’t have found in the homelands of their parents.

In my view British “culture” and values are grounded in a kind of social and moral conservatism, which, in turn, have strong links to the teachings of the Christian faith, without ever being dogmatic about religious observance (believe or don’t believe). In its early days the Labour movement was firmly aligned with Methodism and had a simple set of moral/religious beliefs. There’s little doubt it contributed greatly (although not exclusively) to many of the things (as broken as some of them now are) that should make society better. Healthcare, education, adequate housing and affordable energy (amongst other things) became available to all, but something’s gone wrong. We no longer have a clear, simple set of cultural values, instead, we have a group of influential people, entrenched in positions of power and influence, who want to pick and choose what is and isn’t “British”, believing themselves to be somehow better than thee and me. It’s a shame, I remember a time when we mostly all rubbed along together and to be “working class” was to aspire to better oneself, without ever losing touch with ones cultural and moral roots and ones intrinsic “Britishness”. Maybe I’m simply old fashioned and our time’s been and gone, but, if so, the country will end up in an even worse place than it’s currently heading.

© Colin Cross 2023