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Letters December 4: Winter arrives, don't forget Bristol - and Dickens' turkey

By Western Daily Press  |  Posted: December 04, 2013

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Facing up to the winter with verse

I thoroughly enjoyed this past summer and the warm weather. Autumn has been quite picturesque too, with some lovely sunny days, but now we face the dark days of winter, my least favourite of all the seasons.

I have enclosed a few verses regarding my own take on winter and, like Mother Nature herself, I have described it as Ol Ma Winter.


She spreads her cold mantle all around

Leaving skeletal limbs, as last leaves hit the ground!

The Hoare frost and early mist start to catch her bite

Those dark days... short, quickly blending into night.

She surveys all around with her woeful withering stare

Even the very birds in flight seem frozen in the air!

There's no grace, no kindness. Not from this ol hag

As water logged tree branches continue to sag!

Children make the best of it as they play and run along

While this seasons ol witch drags out her dark sinister song!

Hibernators huddle close to shake off their cold

But this is not a new seasons story. No... her's is centuries old.

And next season Ol Ma Winter will call yet again

With her dark, slow, cold mantle spreading ice, snow and rain!

Kev Sullivan

St Werburgh's, Bristol

This year, try a vegetarian Christmas

One again we are approaching Christmas. It may be a joyous time for some, but not for all, especially for the birds and animals about to face the ultimate day of suffering for us to enjoy our Christmas lunch.

There is no such thing a humane killing.

They say we are a nation of animal lovers, yet how can we love one and kill and eat another? It doesn't make sense.

So please remember what you are eating and have a vegetarian Christmas, without the knowledge of the guilt, the suffering and ultimate cruelty involved.

Serena Saunders

Swindon, Wilts

We're a forgotten part of the city

I would like to comment on the two letters in the Western Daily Press on November 28. One from Alison Secretary, BS10 Parks and Planning, the other from Chris Webb of Bristol concerning Mayor Ferguson.

Alison mentions the situation in BS10 regarding development around Henbury, Brentry and Southmead and the Southmead Hospital development and the lack of involvement by Mayor Ferguson.

You are not the only ones forgotten over there in BS10. We are also the forgotten part of the City of Bristol in the Frenchay area, as we are soon to be landed with 490 houses on the Frenchay Hospital site! We already have massive traffic congestion on all the roads in and out of Frenchay, with an extra 490 houses it will be gridlock.

As regards Mayor Ferguson's city cutbacks, closing toilets etc mentioned by Chris Webb, I agree with him. Cut back at the top – forgo your salary Mayor Ferguson, set an example, not send more onto the dole. Cut the overheads, Bristol is top heavy.

Roland Jempson

Frenchay, Bristol

Blame Dickens for your turkey curry

It is Charles Dickens that I blame for the turkey fritter. After all it was the gritty Victorian novelist who in his 1843 book A Christmas Carol arranged for Scrooge to give a festive turkey to Bob Cratchit and by doing so it was Dickens who established the gobbler as the season of goodwill's gastronomic centrepiece.

If it hadn't been for the Victorian writer our seasonal fare might still have been roast swan.

Only a quarter of a century later Mrs Beeton, the author of Everyday Cookery and Housekeeping, writes about turkey in 1868 as 'a noble dish' adding that the feast on December 25 would scarcely be a Christmas dinner without it. And by the 20th century that prediction had come true – Christmas wasn't Christmas without a turkey. So much so, in fact, that when rationing was introduced during the Second World War much of the British population mocked up festive birds out of mutton.

The British Christmas Lunch is of course much older than Scrooge and Cratchit. It was the Roman bon viveur Marcus Apicus who, in AD354, made the earliest known reference to a Christmas feast. He mentions mulled wine, baked ham, squash and fig cakes and, for his Caesarean spin on roast turkey, ostrich brain. Unfortunately ostriches were, even then, not native to the UK.

On the other hand we had forests full of wild boar. And by medieval times it was the Yule boar that was the speciality of the season. Trimmings included a Christmas pudding made of meat, oatmeal and spices wrapped in the gut of a pig.

Henry V was a great fan of mince pies and even served them at his Coronation in 1413 – filled with a variety of meats mixed with fruits. By the 18th century the mince pie had evolved into the bite-sized versions we know today, with suet replacing meat.

By the early 19th century Christmas was a well-established English festival and Jane Austen in the early part of the 19th century talks of the brawn and cold pies on the Christmas table in her novel Persuasion.

Then Dickens wrote A Christmas Carol. Turkeys had been farmed in Britain since the 17th century, but when Queen Victoria came to the throne in 1837 it was too expensive for most people. The nation was divided by preference: roast beef in the north, goose in the south. On Christmas Day 1840 Queen Victoria and her family, for example, had beef and roast swan.

But Dickens put a stop to all that. In 1851 Queen Victoria settled down to her first Christmas turkey dinner and one and a half centuries later the nation does nothing but complain about post-Christmas turkey fritters.

D F Courtney

Weston-super-Mare, North Somerset

Don't scare these wonderful little birds

I write regarding an article in the Western Daily Press on November 16 about starlings on the Somerset Levels.

It appears the RSPB are going to make another car park for visitors to view starlings flying in to roost. This car park will be at Ham Wall near Shapick, this is at their reserve.

I am concerned about the number of visitors and how close they will be allowed when viewing. If too close, as in the past, these little birds will move on to another area. The Somerset Levels are mostly a flat area, wide open to gales and rain. Winter is upon us now, maybe snow and ice.

I have seen films of what it is like on the Levels when winter really sets in, a very difficult time for the starlings.

The weight of snow and ice on the reeds often bends them right over. The fox makes the most of this situation and feeds on many starlings.

A few years ago TV crews were filming these little birds when flying in to roost. I believe the bright lights and noise disturbed them and they had to find another area. Again man is the cause of most of our wildlife's decline. Everyone must think things through first. We shall see, time will tell!

J H Rowbrey

Minehead, Somerset

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