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The Good and the Glorious

Today’s blog title is inspired by our chef, Clive. He means to say how, with two cars and four people, we managed to deliver the whole day’s food this week! As the blog has been going for many months, and although the clientele changes sometimes, the routes are similar and the write-ups should not all be the same. Today 28 bags were delivered, and people were chatted to. Special diets were catered for, just like every week. One man whose bag had been taken back to base called the helpline twenty minutes later to say that he was in, and could he have it? He was getting ready to make soup! So our two Musselburgh volunteers sped all the way back to give it to him. All else being similar every week when we don’t have the Hollies to cook in, I have decided that this time we will be discovering the history of giving through literature.

We reviewed a tiny bit of the Bible last week, mentioning how the Apostles during the first century set up food drops for disabled people, widows and orphans. One less-true story, but still based on historical fact, was written by Charles Dickens. ‘Oliver Twist’ is a famous story about the successes and (mostly) the failures of a system which was set up to care for children who could not look after themselves, and had no family to help them survive. In this past era, many people of all ages starved and were ostracised merely for their poverty. People were encouraged to believe that a lack of funds was an indication that someone was ‘not pleasing to God’ in some way, and was thus deserving of their plight. In reality of course, it was just an attempt by certain religious bodies and politicians at some convenient social conditioning. The less the ordinary people cared about each other, the more abuses those in power could get away with. Types like the character, Fagin, existed to prey on these vulnerables and make a few quid at their expense. He even tried to pass his actions as a thief-runner off as ‘helping’ the children. He is correct, though, when he intimates that the system being the way it was, is what allowed his kind of villain to thrive.

We cross from the past into the future to consider the magnanimity of Captain Kirk of the original starship Enterprise, whose mission – detailed in that famous episode ‘The Trouble with Tribbles’ (aired well before I was born)!… was to bring a much-needed cargo of triticale wheat grains to a starving colony on a far-off world. Politics came in here too, as did espionage. A Klingon national tried to help his side’s chances in the war by secretly poisoning the food while it was still in Kirk’s hold. Fortunately a plague of vermin – the ‘Tribbles’ of the title – got a colony of their own established in the Enterprise storerooms, and ate the food (and died) thus exposing the plot. Stirring stuff!

My celiac husband, Duncan, whose diet does not include wheat at all, may find that the story above does not do for his imagination what it did before his diagnosis…so, now an attempt to be different. One of my favourite authors, who also wrote before my birth, is Clifford Simak. He penned a tale about the starvation of the mind, given (as perhaps it has come to be given) less stimulus of true import in more modern times. The imagination of humankind, opined Mr Simak, peoples a far-off land with characters. Although we know nothing of their existence, King Arthur and Lancelot, Laurel and Hardy (the film characters – not the actual people), Don Juan and his ladies – are all living out their stories in some unseen dimension even now. Where this becomes a problem for us is when one of its most infamous denizens – the devil in literature; complete with red skin, horns and a paunch – returns to Earth to plead with the human race to stop writing two-dimensional characters! Road Runner, he emphasises, has no real conversation. He and his kind are boring the more well-rounded characters to death! – Wonder what he would have made of Twitter?

Of course, Tolkien had his hand in the pot of charity as well. When the Hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, was walking in the woods with the Dwarves they became tired and hungry, not sure how their quest could succeed when they were badly prepared and had no adequate food or shelter within the first fortnight. My husband, who used to do mountain rescue years ago, is fed up with these ‘weekend warrior’ types who leave home unprepared! As luck would have it, they came across someone who proved to be an ally – Tom Bombadil, whose absence from the movie adaptation upset Duncan quite badly. This lonely but personable were-bear had a whole big house in the wilds, which he happily shared with loads of animals – and also the hapless group of travellers; at least for several days and nights. His hospitality included bread, milk and honey – even to me, a dairy allergic, this represented a welcome indeed! The group had to leave in the end, before the richness of their diets made them too fat and happy to continue on their quest. Well, that’s the way I read it. Please log any differing opinions on the website. I love a good debate!

Finally, I am minded to end on a cautionary note. Anyone too well-fed should ponder the misfortunes of the Masters in ‘Porterhouse Blue’, that fictional tale of a Cambridge-esque university whose most famous incumbents used to dine nightly on huge, tasty platters of grease and meats and other complex proteins, much alcohol and sweet dishes. Porterhouse’s meals were legendary amongst the educated types in the book, and many an aspiring lecturer made his choice to be on their rosters simply to partake of the available fayre. Of course, all this rich diet and too-little exercise inevitably led to the various strokes and trans-ischaemic attacks which might be caused by such unwise living. Those of us familiar with the texts will know that a ‘Porterhouse Blue’ refers not to the colour of the uniform, but to the colour of the face when one’s excesses finally lead one to the usual end for a Porterhouse man!
So, this completes our tale of food and other necessary things. Our minds have been fed, hopefully to an extent which might have been pleasing to Mr Simak. God bless, everyone; please ‘like’, and do comment on the website. We love to know what people want to hear. For now, from myself, Duncan and the cats, farewell! See you all next time.

Janine. xx

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