Category Archives: Age of Innocence

Memory Post – Danger, Railways and Canals

In my occasional series of memory posts I link to my second (now discontinued) blog “Age of Innocence” .  In this two part post I look at growing up and playing dangerously…

Play places didn’t get more dangerous than the London to Birmingham railway line  It was relatively easy to get up on the tracks and put half pennies on the line for the trains to squash and expand to the size of a penny in the optimistic hope that this would double the value of the coin and shopkeepers wouldn’t notice.  (This never worked by the way).

This was rather like in 1969 trying to tile the edges off of a half crown coin to double its value to make one of the new 50 pence pieces.  (This didn’t work either).

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Ivan Petcher, Sports Reporter

My dad, Ivan, the one in the middle, would have been eighty-nine years old today but sadly he didn’t make it by some way.  I think about him every day but especially so on March 27th.

Luckily I have boxes full of memories and amongst them I have his exercise books where he wrote his sports reports.

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He was an avid sports fan, anything about Leicester, if I could wish one thing it would be that he saw Leicester City win the English Premier League in 2016.

On This Day – Amsterdam and The Red Light District

Life is becoming rather like that film ‘Groundhog Day’ as I continue to search through the archives.

On 16th March I was in Amsterdam in the Netherlands…

The Amsterdam Red Light District covers a large area of the oldest part of the city.

The buildings are tall, narrow and crowded together with a distinctive glow of fluorescent red lights above the red-fringed window parlours from behind which the scantily clad ladies of the night invite customers with a rattle on the glass and a come to me pout and provocative pose.

All rather like I imagine Satan’s front room to look like!

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It’s a Bugs Life

The unseasonally good weather has encouraged the plants in the garden to grow, buds to swell and bugs and insects to make an early appearance.

There is a plethora of ladybirds…

In the USA a group or swarm of ladybirds (which they call ladybugs) is called a loveliness. How nice is that.  The wife of Lyndon Johnson, the 39th President of the USA was called Lady Bird and that is a curious fact and good pub quiz question.

Other famous people with creature names are Buffalo Bill, Bear Grylls, Seal, Tiger Woods, Michael J Fox  and Newt Gingrich,

Butterflies too in the garden, the second one seems to have been in a scrap and come off worst…

There were bees as well, but they were too quick for me to get a picture.

Butterflies are easier because a stay still…

Memory Post – Barmeston Road, Catford, London

One day in 1995 I was at work and driving through London and on impulse took a detour to Catford and to Barmeston Road where my grandparents used to live to see the house that I used to visit with my parents when I was a boy.

It was having a bit of renovation work carried out to it at the time but although it seemed smaller (everything looks smaller as you grow older, especially chocolate biscuits) it looked however almost as I remembered it and the memories came flooding back.

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On This Day – Entertaining Grandchildren

In February 2017 my Grandchildren came to stay for a few days at school half term holiday.

I took them to the Yorkshire seaside town of Hornsea.

I live close to the sea myself, near the resort town of Cleethorpes in Lincolnshire but although it is a popular holiday resort it has to be said that it is just a muddy estuary where the sea is barely visible for long periods of the day.

By contrast, Hornsea ia a real North Sea coast town with a raging sea, barnacled groynes, pounding surf, churning water and a pebble beach clattering away as it was constantly rearranged by the tidal surge.

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Memory Post – Chislehurst Avenue

We lived at Chislehurst Avenue for just over a year. Dad built a new rockery, I made friends with John and Michael Sparks who lived opposite, had my fifth birthday and started going to school at the Ravenhurst Primary where my first teacher was Miss Bird. Dad continued to cycle fifteen miles each way to work in the town of Hinckley.

There was a photograph by the front door of course, this time with my grandparents who were visiting from London and as you can see I have moved up a bike size.  It is quite possible that my Mum took this particular picture because she has always had a tendency to cut feet off a picture…

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Memory Post – Ledwell Drive, Leicester

After a couple of years living close to Leicester city centre in Tyndale Street my parents were ready for a move and were looking to go up a rung or two on the housing ladder, Dad had had a promotion at work at Leicestershire County Council working at the Education Department so the time was right to move on.

For some Reason Dad liked to take pictures outside the Front door of the house.

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National Pizza Day

February 9th is National Pizza Day in the USA.

A National Pizza day in USA is not really surprising because over four billion pizzas are sold in America every year. 17% of all restaurants are pizzerias and it is estimated that around about three hundred and fifty pizza slices are eaten every second. Pepperoni is the most popular pizza at just over one-third of all pies ordered.

“When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie that’s Amore”

The USA makes the extravagant claim that it makes the best pizza in the World and specifically from New York but  surely the finest pizza must come from come from Italy.  Maybe New York has a claim to make because at 15% the Italians are the largest ethnic group in that city.

Back to Italy.  Legend has it that Queen Margherita of Savoy gave her name to the most famous pizza of all on a visit to Naples in 1889.

Tired of French gourmet cooking (as you might well be) she summoned the city’s most famous pizza-maker, Raffaele Esposito, and asked him to bake her three pizzas and she would chose her favourite. Like a judge on a cookery TV programme she decided upon the patriotic version, prepared in the colours of the Italian flag – red (tomato), green (basil), and white (mozzarella) and this became the Pizza Margherita.

Everyone in Naples eats pizza, I have never seen so many pizza restaurants in one place, I tried to work out how many pizzas might be eaten here in a single day but I found the number to be so big it was incalculable and I feared that my head might possibly explode.

Interestingly I cannot see that Italy has a National Pizza Day. Maybe the reason why is this. In terms of pizza consumption per population Italy is only fifth in the World. Fourth is Germany, third is the UK, second is the USA but first is NORWAY!

Perhaps not so hard to understand when you discover that the National dish of Norway is something called fårikål – a dubious combination of boiled cabbage, sliced potato and sheep head meat. Norway doesn’t have a National Pizza Day or understandably a National Fårikål Day. It does have a National Day on 17th May each year which seems to cover just about everything including pizza and fårikål.

When I was a boy growing up I am certain that we had a version of lamb stew but we certainly didn’t have pizza!

We had never heard of moussaka, paella or lasagne and the week had a predictable routine. There was absolute certainty about the menu because we generally had the same thing at the same time on the same day every week, there were no foreign foods at all, no pasta or curries, rice was only ever used in puddings and olive oil for removing ear wax.

I can still remember my very first pizza and I consider myself fortunate that it was in Italy, in 1976, my first ever overseas holiday when I visited Sorrento with my dad.

I became an immediate fan of the Italian classic and all of its variants .  Just so long as it doesn’t have pineapple on it because pineapple on a pizza is just plain wrong.

And, I am not the only one who thinks this way; in 2017, the President of Iceland, Guðni Jóhannesson said that he was ‘fundamentally opposed’ to pineapple on pizzas.

In his words…

“I like pineapples, just not on pizza. I do not (unfortunately) have the power to make laws which forbid people to put pineapples on their pizza.”

Authentic Neapolitan pizzas are made only with local produce and have been given the status of a ‘guaranteed traditional speciality’. This allows only three official variants: pizza Marinara, which is made with tomato, garlic, oregano and extra virgin olive oil, pizza Margherita, made with tomato, sliced mozzarella, basil and extra virgin olive oil, and pizza Margherita Extra made with tomato, buffalo mozzarella from Campania, basil and extra virgin olive oil.

Pizza should be kept simple but sadly it is not only pineapple that is used to spoil it.

Canada joins in on USA Pizza Day and I nominate this Poutine (chips, gravy and cheese curds) Pizza as probably the worst ever variation on the famous pie.

If we had ever had pizza at home and my mum served this up I can guarantee that I would be there twenty-four hours later listening to her repeat over and again – “you are not leaving the table until you have eaten all of your dinner” or, on rare occasions that I could wear her down…” one more mouthful and you can get down ”.

In Naples we stumbled upon an excellent pizzaria down a predictable untidy back street and went downstairs into the restaurant. Good job we were early because within half an hour it was heaving with customers. The food was cheap, the house wine was served in a jug and I would like to tell you that I had a classic Margherita but I can’t because I added ham, olives and artichokes to the topping.

We cannot go to Naples right now of course so have to settle for the next best thing. Last year I bought a pizza stone and Kim has become a bit of an expert at preparing the Italian classic, making the dough from Italian flour and preparing the toppings from ALDI. The stone works well in a regular oven by absorbing the heat and doubling the oven temperature. This process probably does enormous damage to the oven but it makes great pizza. Check out your house insurance policy before using it is my advice.

This is our favourite, thin crust tomato, mozzarella cheese, prosciutto ham and artichokes…

This may look like a pizza but it is in fact a jellyfish and it is important not to get them confused.

So, what is your favourite pizza?

Memory Post – Tyndale Street, Leicester

Every now and again I do a memory post – something from my past.  This is one of a sequence of posts about houses that I lived in.

The West End of Leicester was developed around about the 1900s when affordable housing was required to provide accommodation for the workers in the booming footwear and hosiery industries in the city.

The land was acquired from a wealthy protestant landowner who had some residual say in the naming of the streets – Luther, Latimer, Ridley, Cranmer and Tyndale, all sixteenth century Protestant martyrs.  The area is predictably called the Martyrs and the Church of the Martyrs stands nearby.

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