Saturday, 14 January 2017

Baize, and Other Stuff

Talking with my son about the finer points of baize tonight got me thinking about the word. He was a little surprised that I knew the correct name for the felt-like fabric used on billiard and poker tables. But then he remembered he was talking to his mother, who knows lots of random facts: here are a few more!

I researched the origin of the word baize. Originally a coarse woollen cloth, it was chosen for its use on playing surfaces because the coarseness causes a desirable friction. There are different grades, depending on the speed at which you wish to play. While today baize is almost always green, originally it came in brown. The name baize comes from the French adjective meaning bay-coloured.

In English we still use the word bay to describe a type of brown horse. Although, as my Icelandic friend says: there are lots of different types of brown in horses. I think she was shocked when I described her horse as "brown" and I am sure  Icelandic has a much richer vocabulary in describing colours of horses than English. Something to do with the importance of the horse within the culture. Even so, my research shows English has more horse colour names than I gave it credit.

Me and a horsey friend in Iceland 2015

A bay horse is generally reddish brown, but it must have black points: dark mane, and ear and leg edges. Despite the word bay originating from the Latin word badius for chestnut or reddish brown, a chestnut horse is not a bay: a chestnut has no dark points. For further reading about Icelandic culture, horses and the meaning of life, check out "A Good Horse has no Colour"

recommended reading
It makes me wonder about the phrase "brown as a berry" and whether the berry referenced is the Chestnut... but more on that another day.

Back to that green cloth: baize was also traditionally tacked to the door leading to the servants quarters in grand houses. It helped to deaden the noise: an type of soundproofing. It gave rise to the phrase "green baize door" to denote domestic service.

I hope that is not the green door they are referring to in this song: if so, the staff are going to be in trouble when the master gets home! This is the original version of a song I remember from the 80's.

Friday, 13 January 2017

British Tea time biscuits and political persuasions

As a rule, I am not a big consumer of commercially made biscuits. However one of my kiwi friends who has just returned to the UK to live is an expert. We were discussing differences in food between NZ and UK and she bemoaned the fact that Malt biscuits are unobtainable here, and how can she make lolly cake without them? I have to confess I have never made lolly cake, a classic for Kiwi kids, and this failing must be rectified. I have promised to bring her a packet of malt biscuits when I return from New Zealand in March, and we will make lolly cake together. Happy Days!

Bourbon Cream and a cuppa

That conversation got me thinking about biscuits and then I was offered a Bourbon Cream at morning tea yesterday. It got me thinking about the classic British biscuits. Some of these biscuits I already knew of by name from references in British films and books. So it was interesting to see if the reality lived up to the anticipation.

Bourbon Cream: two oblong chocolate biscuits sandwiched with a cream filling. Not sure if there is a NZ equivalent. No, not named for, or flavoured with American whisky. it's named in honour of the ancient European royal house. The Bourbons out-lived their welcome in France, but still reign in Spain and Luxembourg. The biscuit was first made in London in 1910.

Marie biscuit: similar to a Vanilla Wine. Its the creation of a London bakery, and named in honour of Grand Duchess Maria Alexandrovna of Russia to the Duke of Edinburgh* (second son of Queen Victoria) in 1874. Really popular worldwide, apparently.

Garibaldi: Full o' Fruit would be our NZ equivalent. This biscuit, commonly referred to as a fly cemetery, was named in honour of the leader of Italian unification. Garibaldi apparently made quite an impression on the British public when he visited South Shields in the 1850's. The biscuit has been manufactured since 1861.

So, a couple of right wing, pro-monarchy choices, and a left wing populist biscuit, which might be slightly better for you. Could be a conversation starter at your next cup of tea?

* New Zealand link: Prince Alfred, Duke of Edinburgh was the first member of the British Royal family to visit New Zealand. This was in 1869, on board the HMS Galatea, the Royal Navy ship of which he was commander. He had survived an assassination attempt the previous year while in Australia.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Pinner Church

St John the Baptist Church, Pinner, Middlesex

St John the Baptist Church at the head of the High Street in Pinner has more than its share of curiosities.

Looking up the High Street, past the Queens Head pub to the church

First off, a favourite for me, a New Zealand connection. There is a memorial window in the church to the son and grandson of a Pinner resident: both died in the First World War. The grandson Edward A Hogg, served with the NZ Expeditionary Forces and fell at Bapaume in the last months of the war.

Edward A Hogg died 1918
Talk about side-tracked: I did a little research on the Hogg family and what was meant to be a quick blog post quickly got derailed, and delayed this post by a day. More information will follow another day: it includes famous hymns, spiders, shellshock, drunkenness and contested wills. And lots of New Zealand connections.

The Pinner church includes a small graveyard: there is another bigger one just around the corner: Paines Lane, which I have written about before. The most unusual tomb has what looks like a coffin raised at least six feet above ground... but apparently the body is in the ground at the conventional six feet below.

In the graveyard, St John the Baptist Church, Pinner