Friday, December 30, 2016

How the Pershore plum won the Great War

Someone mentioned a book on Twitter a while back, which had the intriguing title 'How the Pershore plum won the Great War'. My interest was piqued because I was brought up in Malvern, not so far from Pershore, and because in my grandad's garden there was a Pershore egg plum tree. The fruit aren't to everyone's taste, being a culinary plum in general, but I rather liked them.

To be honest, there isn't that much directly about plums in the book; it is a social history of a small town during the time of the Great War, with plums running as a thread through its pages. The social history is told through chapters on topics such as growing food for Britain in the smallholdings around Pershore, and how women were taken on to work on the land as men went away to fight.

Some of the newspaper stories included within the book seem so current in their ways of reporting. Widely reported was a story about German prisoners of war spoiling the potato crop by rubbing out the eyes on potatoes as they planted them. If you're aware of recent examples of the current British press writing lies about refugees, then you'll be unsurprised to hear that the German PoW story was completely fabricated by two journalists. The difference being that the journalists in this case were prosecuted and fined.

Of course, plums do get covered. Chapters explore how jam manufactories and farming cooperatives sprung up in the area. The Pershore plums were sought after during the war for jam, although strawberry jam was always preferred by the troops:


The vignettes of wartime life are of the greatest interest, from drunken fruit pickers, to deaths on the Front, from assertions that women cannot milk cows, to the setting-up of the WI. Small stories wrought large in a small town. Pershore plums may not have made the most wished-for jam for the men on the Front but they played their role. Hurrah for the Pershore plums.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Wordless Wednesday - Star Man

Monday, December 26, 2016

Getting a run up on Spring

It's coming up to new year, an ideal time to make horticultural reflections and confessions. I confess that I haven't blogged much this year. Too much time spent on education, be it sending small child off to school to become another cog in the long journey to adulthood, or reading and writing about Bourdieu. Some time spent in the garden, but generally chasing, chasing, weeks or months behind where I should have been. Some things got done. Most things didn't.

I did grow zinnias from seed for the first time. We had pots containing broad beans, runner beans, potatoes, mangetout and tomatoes. Not many of each but enough to say 'yes, we did grow a bit of our own'.

I won't list what I didn't do. Trust me, it is extensive.

So, this year I'm creeping up on Spring before it charges up and hits me, at full force, in the stomach. I know it's best to keep the seedheads on perennials until Spring. I've seen the goldfinches perched on the cardoons in years past. But for my peace of mind, and to steal a march on Spring, I have been cutting back, weeding, tidying and just trying to get ahead right now. Spring comes so fast, and before you know it you're bowled over by new growth; perennials shooting up where you wanted to tidy, cut back and weed. Bulbs daring you to step on their piercing blades.

I've seen the glorious views of waves of perennials golden in the low frosted light of winter. Well, I've seen them in magazines, and in drier counties than here. Here, the occasional frosting is less frequent than dank darkness, softening the stems, tarnishing the golden heads to the colours of decay.

So, I'm getting ahead this winter. It won't last, but in the meantime, I feel as though I'm winning the race.