Friday, May 26, 2006

Saluting Their Memory

This week-end we all pause to take a breath and peer backwards in astonishment at how fast this year is evaporating. We are also particularly holding in our minds the memory of those who gave so much that we might enjoy the liberty and freedom this nation offers in such unparalleled portion.

On Saturday at 7.30 a.m. the Memorial Day Flag Placement occured at the Los Angeles National Cemetery in Westwood. Hundreds of POW MIA’s, Scouts, Brownies Girl Scouts and Young Marines decorated the graves of the fallen with our national flag. The whole affair would bring a tear to your eye, especially when a breeze ripples through and sets the sea of red white and blue fluttering as if by one spirit.

Let us thank God and them for the benefits we enjoy.

The picture is of my son Oliver saluting at the grave of one of the fallen

Thursday, May 25, 2006

A Cup of Rosey Lee

There is nothing else like it, in fact its my drug of choice - a cup of Rosey Lee. It’s my heart starter in the morning and a comfort at any other time of the day, a good refreshing stimulating cup of tea. I would not be so crass as to impugn all of my adopted countrymen by saying Americans can’t make one, but I have to tell you it is still hard to get a decent cuppa tea in this country, so here is an attempt to do something about it.

I was standing in a salon on the upper deck of the Queen Mary one day talking to Samuel Twining. He was here to launch his family’s latest product, Blackcurrant Tea. There were all sorts of people there to shake hands and take the chance to say they had met such a celebrity. There were members of the Consular Corps and the local British community, all making small talk, and one of the Consular emissaries was trying to rush Mr. Twining through the crowd so that he would be able to make whatever the next commitment was on their schedule. Then there was me, Dr. McLeod, who asked “at what temperature are the aromatic hydrocarbons best released from the steeping tea.” Well Mr. Twining and I had a good long chat much to the chagrin of the organizers of the event, and I want to share with you now what we discussed and how to make a proper cup of tea.

The aromatic hydrocarbons, the fragrant oils in the leaf of the tea plant, are only liberated at high temperature. Now, because we make tea with water the highest temperature possible in 212̊F, or 100̊C. That is not actually very hot in the scheme of things, but it does get the job done, and although it is on the low end it is enough to give tea that magic taste. Much below this temperature and the oils are only minimally released , and down at 85̊C the tannic acid is released much more liberally than the oils. So what’s the point? You can’t make a decent cuppa without using boiling water, not boiled - boiling. While we are on this point it should be fresh water at a new rolling boil, and from thence straight into the hot pot and onto the leaves. Fresh water is still oxygenated and the presence of oxygen enhances the aroma and taste of tea.

Cover the pot with a cosy to keep it really hot and let the tea steep for about three minutes, then pour into china cups or mugs through a strainer. If you like milk, and I do, then contrary to George Orwell’s 1946 opinion in the Evening Standard I think it should go into the cup first, and not without very good reason. I like my tea hot, it’s more fragrant that way. By Newton’s Law of Cooling a body loses heat at a rate that is directly proportional to its temperature above the ambient surroundings. By the Method of Mixtures Law we learn that the resulting temperature of two volumes of liquid which have different temperatures being mixed is a new mixture with a lower temperature from which heat is lost more slowly. What that means is that when you pour tea into a cup it loses heat very quickly at first, and if you then add milk the resultant mixture will have a lower temperature than doing it the other way, milk first. By the way never use cream or half and half, it ruins the tea.

There is another reason to put the milk in first, and that is because milk is a natural buffer. It neutralizes the acid in tea and stops the cup being etched and stained. Teeth too! The argument that you can better judge the color of the tea by putting the milk inafterwards is just specious. Heaven knows if you make tea enough times you instinctively know how much milk to put in. I think the lily-livered writer was spoiled by having others take care of it all for him.

There are a lot of other little refinements and niceties that I would love to add which would turn this spot into a tome. But click away if you are curious and you too will be a tea afficionado.

Tea Time
(try this to the mocking bird hill tune)
When the light in the morning
Falls gently on me,
I go to the kitchen
Where I make the tea.
There are cups for my wife
And my dear little boy,
And my golden haired daughter
They fill me with joy.

And my son is a sleeping
Still sound in his bed,
The light it is a’playing
In the curls on his head.
Oh! Its early in the morning
I’m thrilled as can be.
To wake up with the dawning
With a nice cup of tea.

When the evening time falls
And I’m coming back home,
With thought of my darlings
I never would roam.
Sure the cat and the children
They run to greet me,
Then we all settle down with
A nice cup of tea.

Then at night time when I’m telling
A story or lilt
Their heads are gently nodding
On the pillow or quilt.
And it softly that we leave them,
My darling and me,
And make a benediction
With a nice cup of tea.

September 5, 1998

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Persimmon Tree

The year is advancing at a pace, and the persimmon tree is wearing a new cloak of bright green.

When the broad leaves start to turn gold
And the fruit bright orange and sometimes even red
We get the ladder out, and the long picker basket
And scorning the birds, we take what is left of our crop.

The trick is get the basket claws around the stem
Then twisting slowly, pull until the piece drops in.
Too much recoil launches the remaining fruit on the branch
To a side splitting crash landing on the drive way.

The birds laugh every time fruit falls,
I know the hedge rats hear, and soon the possums
And those brazen raccoons know the tale,
Not to mention the squirrels.

For six months the ultrasonic varmint deterrent
Has failed to do its job again,
But our tree is too tall now
To net its branches.

Some small hours have seen battle,
Hose pipe and prod, Red Ryder and Airsoft
Flash light to the eyes and bingo, a heavy thud
As the prattling predator accepts temporary defeat.

Thanksgiving again! and the tree is bare,
Standing alone until the new shoots of spring
And its flowers welcome back the birds
The ants and the bees, and my protective glances.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


The first step to "A Biting Chance" 1972

There are many perfectly acceptable ways of coming to America, and let’s face it people have been emigrating to this country for centuries, eons, dare I say millennia. The problem now is that we have allowed ourselves to be maneuvered into a situation where we expect the government to exercise just laws, while at the same time dishing out what they extract from our wallets, in the name of fair taxation, to pay for all sorts of socially and politically correct agendae. I am not happy.

Never mind March, what about May Day Madness! We really need our heads examined, because the very things we love most about America, the things I came here to enjoy, are slowly and surely being taken way. We have just watched hoards of our nation’s residents, notice I did not say citizens, parading about as if they were proud of their support of our country’s failure to enforce its laws, and acting as if they rightly deserved a hand-out derived from the taxpayers pockets.

I fought hard to come to America. I competed with other well-qualified applicants, and after going through the process I am proud to be able to call myself an American. There are many applicants in the pipeline who have simply been hung out to dry. Green-Card holders who dearly want to complete the transfer legally, and they are virtually ignored. They do not have access to the fair application of the law. They have petitioned and are not getting a timely execution of justice. The waiting line is well over seven years long. My brother gave up after five.

Still I believe in America. As I look back now at the time when I took my first aeroplane flight and made that first bold step to carve out a new life here. I recall the poem I wrote then in flight. Here it is.

I’m Leaving

I'm excited 'cause I'm leaving,
I'm going away
To a new land over the sea.
To where the people may be different
And the culture too,
Well that's what I'm going to see.

The silver lady waits to do her duty
Soon she'll surge into the sky
To a new world across the ocean
And so to England goodbye.

I won't forget you England, in the half sun
With the droplets of rain for the flowers
I won't forget the Lady who I know thinks of me
Who will sit in a dream for hours.


I'm excited 'cause I'm leaving,
I'm going away
To a new land over the sea
Where the places and the people and the culture are different,
And that's what's exciting me.