The gales are back in force. As the wind howled and the rain lashed at our window panes, tearing down the wisteria outside the kitchen door, I felt like a little pig. One of three, that is. Fortunately in a house made of brick. Had it been of straw we would have woken up exposed to the elements. I refer, of course, to the fairy tale featuring a big bad wolf who huffed and puffed and blew down two of the houses, built of insubstantial materials, with disastrous consequences for the piglets. The wiser, better prepared, porker survived. Other versions have the third brother rescuing his siblings. Either way, it is an entertaining fable, which has given generations of children scary delight.
Not everyone today would agree that this, like many other such tales, is a suitable story for young children. I cannot now remember whether this one featured in Bruno Bettelheim’s 1976 book, ‘The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales’. ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, also featuring a frightening wolf certainly did. All children have fearful fantasies that they need to come to terms with in a safe atmosphere and environment. Bettelheim’s thesis is that folk tales featuring death, destruction, witches and injury, help children to do so. I have more than once referred to the Brothers Grimm’s ‘Hansel and Gretel’, which some people, as with much of this duo’s work, consider too dark. I am, however, in agreement with Bettelheim.
Heinrich Hoffman, for me, is another matter. His ‘Struwwelpeter’, of 1845, at one time the most prolifically published children’s book in the world, is aimed at scaring infants into behaving themselves. The cover of my 1909 copy of Routledge’s English translation illustrates what happens to Little Suck-a-Thumb. There is no possibility of redemption in these cautionary tales – just horrific punishment. Contrast this with what must be universally the most popular children’s book of today, Maurice Sendak’s ‘Where The Wild Things Are’ from 1963. Max, punished for ill-treating the family dog is banished to his room, indulges his fantasies, and is finally forgiven by his mother. It is one thing, although not good, for a child to wave a fork to frighten a dog, quite another for an adult to snip off thumbs.
By mid-afternoon everything had calmed down and I could cease my internal rambling and walk the Hordle Cliff top route in reverse. Water bubbles balanced on nasturtium leaves sparkled in the sunlight.
When we arrived at Downton at the beginning of April a flood around a manhole cover on a bend a short distance from our back drive was being pumped out. Today the lake is back. The flood warning sign has lain in the hedgerow all summer. I fished it out and leant it against a tree. Without this warning the car in the picture would have rushed through the water the driver would not have seen on the blind bend, and given me a cold shower. Other pools reflected the skies at regular intervals.
The skeleton of an umbrella no longer fit for purpose lay abandoned in a bus shelter that has also seen better days.
Even the dogs on the cliff path showed no interest in descending to the shingle below.
This evening’s dinner consisted of rack of pork ribs marinaded in chilli sauce, served with pilau rice and green beans, followed by ginger pudding and custard. Unless you are of a certain age you will not remember the runner beans that, by the time they reached the greengrocer’s, had tough skins with strong cords running down the sides. If you do remember, you may have helped your mother top and tail them, deftly stripping off the stringy bits. Now, the young vegetables reach the supermarkets in tender condition and you just toss them into the boiling water or the steamer. With our meal Jackie finished the Pedro Jimenez, and I began the Rawnsley Estate shiraz grenach mourvedre 2012. Incidentally, it was competition from the Australians that forced the French to name the grapes on their wine labels.