Friday, June 04, 2010

This And That And A Punnet Of Fresh Strawberries

Another end of the week round-up of miscellaneous jottings - the accumulated fluff at the bottom of the drawer of my subconscious mind.

THIS week I have been enjoying the splendid LibriVox podcasts of readings from the 1831 classic "The Eventful History of the Mutiny and Piratical Seizure of H.M.S. Bounty : Its Causes and Consequences" by Sir John Barrow. For anyone not familiar with LibriVox, it is a non-commercial Foundation dedicated to making books in the public domain available in audio form free of charge on the internet. It uses a panel of volunteer readers and currently has a catalogue of over 3,000 books which can be downloaded - free of charge - in a number of ways. One way is to trust to chance and subscribe to the thrice-weekly LibriVox podcast. Here the book is chosen by the LibriVox editors and you just sit back or - if like me you are walking the dog - stride out, and enjoy listening to whatever happens to be the book of the moment. Recent choices have included such diverse fare as David Copperfield, The Decameron and The Return of Sherlock Holmes : but currently it features Barrows' book on the Mutiny on the Bounty.

THAT element of serendipity, also tends to be carried over into my reading habits in that I am a sucker for those "three for two" offers you find in bookshops. My own personal rule of thumb is to choose two books I would have bought anyway, but go for very much of a lucky dip with my third (notionally free) choice. Which explains why I am currently reading a surprisingly lucid account of the lives and times of four great Central Bankers in the period leading up to the great economic crisis of the late 1920s and early 1930s. I am never sure what the secret of a good group biography is, but whether it is a readable style, a dusting of wider historical colour, or just the one-and-a-half times spacing between lines of print : whichever it is, Liaquat Ahamed's book seems to have it. I am not going to suggest that everyone should rush out and buy it - like salt and vinegar crisps, it might be a matter of taste - but if you ever encounter it on a three-for-the-price-of-two table, it is worth a second glance.

Is there any finer pleasure associated with this time of the year than the widespread availability of A PUNNET OF FRESH STRAWBERRIES? For readers from outside these shores I might need to explain the word punnet - a small plastic or cardboard basket used to sell or deliver a specific quantity of soft fruit - but, as far as I am concerned, the word itself is an essential component of the joys of summer strawberries. Nothing beats the ability to go into a greengrocers' shop and order a punnet of fresh strawberries. Not strawberries that have been picked two continents away, frozen and flown in by air, but strawberries that were picked in the same time zone and in the same month. Delicious.


  1. Mutiny on the Bounty? Hm.
    Biography of Bankers? Hm.
    Fresh punnet of Strawberries? Now you're talking. I can almost smell that punnet on the screen....

  2. Anonymous10:13 AM

    Hello Alan, It is early morning here and how I wish I had some of the delicious, fresh strawberries you speak of! Happy to hear you are enjoying your books and the audio while walking the dog. What are your weather conditions this time of year?
    Hope you have a lovely weekend.

  3. A mixed bag today, Alan.

    Bligh was an astounding seaman to have navigated his lifeboat 3,000 miles. By all accounts he was quite enlightened in his treatment of scurvy too.

    I too like the 3 for 2 offers, but in the pub.

    Today's security word: Zedta. Must be the Somerset way of saying: "I said thank you."

  4. Mildred : Today it is blue skies, bright sun, pleasantly warm. Have a lovely weekend yourself.
    CB : I will be heading down to your part of the world the week after next Phil, so send me details of these pubs you know of with three for two offers!

  5. this explains the post yesterday...and is fascinating...

    that...i love doing that! we have a great used book store that gives credit for turn it frees me to get whatever b/c i dont have to pay for it... strawberries!

  6. Yes, I've read several accounts of the whole HMS Bounty incident that give plenty of evidence that Bligh was actually a decent skipper and Fletcher Christian and his gang were thugs.

    The strawberries definitely look good!

  7. I'm looking forward to watching one of the many film adaptations of Mutiny on the Bounty on TCM Saturday night. It's the Marlon Brando version, which I've never seen. Not a huge fan of Brando, but love the Bounty story.

    Punnet? Are you sure you heard them properly?

  8. Nothing like fresh produce & especially fresh berries! Some interesting reading/listening too!

  9. Librivox sounds almost too good to be true. I'm going to check it out and download a punnet of books. Sorry, but punnet is now my word of the day and I'm going to use it correctly and incorrectly all day, so don't punnet me. (arghh)

  10. Is it strawberries that are meant to taste good with black pepper? I keep being told this, but haven't dared try. I wouldn't want to waste one ...

  11. I'm with you on the strawberries - it's a matter of honour to only buy them when they're local and taste of strawberry, instead of tasting of nothing like those giant imported ones.

    Thanks for your wonderful comment on my blog - I love the idea of your Dad on Baildon Bridge. You cheered me up after a day of disappointment at work.

  12. I want a bookstore that sells 3 for 2!

    Agreed on the fresh berries! Lots of strawberry fields around here. There is a stand right on the corner by my office - YUM!

  13. We travelled down to Somerset on Thursday, and noticed a number of roadside sellers setting up their strawberry stalls in the sunshine.

    [note to self] I must try LibriVox.

  14. They look delicious. The red and the sweet and the smell makes one happy. Ours comes from California and the look is good, but the taste and the smell isn't there. They opted for shipping qualities and not taste qualities.

  15. Must check out LibriVox because I'm so awful at actually picking up a book. Might make walking on a treadmill more entertaining. Thank you for the hot tip. One of the marvellous things about living in a warmish climate is that strawberries are available all year round. Of course, they're cheaper when in season and close by you can go an 'pick your own' straight from the plant. Delicious.

    Oh Bligh was of course a Governor here in the colonial days and his contribution somewhat underrated. His contribution much maligned by the mutiny and his handling of the rum rebellion.


Black Friar

For a time, during the late 1970s, I had a job leading parties of foreign visitors on tours of historic London pubs. One of my favourite sto...