I was chatting to my step Mum who reached the ripe old age of 90 last year, and we were comparing our childhood experiences, she was telling me about the harsh winters she remembered.
She was born and bought up in Northampton in one of the old streets in the town centre which was demolished to make way for the Grosvenor shopping centre in the 1970's.
She told me about how her Mum sent her down to queue and collect coke and slack to burn in the winter, the picture above was taken in Northampton at the old gas works, it shows people queuing for coke in 1947.
Times were hard then by todays standards, food waste didn't exist, rationing was still in place long after the war had ended, my own childhood was comparatively easy compared to what my parents experienced.
Seen through the prism of our own todays the past can look like a strange beast, imagine trying to explain to a child today about rationing, when the local supermarket might stock 25,000 different items.
Slack BTW was a fine coal gravel and coal dust mix, I never came across it but I do remember in my very first school there was a storage area for coke next to the playground, it had a strange texture and smell.
From my own pespective I remember some very harsh winters when I was a child, deep snow and bitter cold, although at the time it was great to have snowball fights, they were the best fun you could have.
1963 was a really cold one.
My Dad used to tell me off for laying like a cat in front of our old cannon miser gas fire, some of those long walks home from school saw me come in like a frozen fish finger, cold but happy.
However cold I got I never had the hardship of knowing there were strict limits on what I could eat, I was lucky my dad grew lots of stuff, he bred rabbits and I look back on the food I eat then with a pleasant nostalgia.
We were boiling bunnies long before Glenn Close, bit of a film reference for you to mull over, those of a certain vintage will know straight away, for who don't the web is your educator.
When we go for meals out, which I'm lucky enough to do often, if I ever see liver or steak and kidney suet pudding on the menu I go for that rather than order steak or chicken, you can just imagine the young waitress thinking "why" ?.
Ironic really that I have that choice but choose to order stuff that children these days would turn their noses up at, even my Wife asks me what it is about liver that I like, the answer is simple. the taste.
She was telling me that when she was little they would have what they called bone stew, that is basically neck of lamb or scrag end, not a lot of meat on it but mixed with pearl barley and vegetables and cooked for a long time it was one of my favourites.
Stick some dumplings in as well and we are talking my food heaven, even now I could happily sit down to a plateful of steaming stew with lovely moist dumplings, (who doesn't love moist dumplings) ? :) I can smell it just writng this.
So at this point I hasten to add that our scrag end would have been warpped in newspaper by the butcher, no fancy herb garnishes or polystyrene trays in those days.
Now come on what would you rather have on a cold day, a burger, bit of chicken, risotto, ?
Nah it has to be liver and bacon, with brussles sprouts, covered with pepper.
Leaving the cold hard days of the past behind, in the present day my garden is looking pretty colourful, this morning after yesterdays high winds I noticed the first bloom of one of my sunflowers.
Today I was flicking through Twitter and saw this lovely drawing of Pitsford water by
Giorgio Pandiani @GiorgioPandiani
This year I've grown a few things I hadn't tried before, Fennel, Aubergines, Chicory, Sweet Peas., all of which are growing well,
The ashes 2019
First Test 1st August 2019 at Edgbaston.
Oh dear, oh dear, this Ashes series has started on a sour note, well at least if you are an England cricket fan like me, if you're an Aussie you must be over the moon.
In the run up to this series I wasn't really sure which way the contest would go, although currently England have some great batsmen individually they have never really convinced me about their ability to consistently play Test cricket.
Sure they can whack the ball all over the place in limited overs games and in it's own way that is entertaining, the ECB certainly seem to think so with the genesis of the One Hundred competion.
To me that is not something I will be following, it holds no appeal whatsoever, what allegiance do I have to any of the eight teams who will be playing ?, answer = none.
The mindset of these limited overs games is a world away from that required to play Test cricket, now I'm no big fan of Steve Smith but you can only admire the way he dug in and pulled his team out of a perilous position in the first innings of the first Test at Edgbaston.
After the sandpaper gate scandal Smith was always going to get some stick from the Barmy Army and if he had harboured any hopes that would be forgotten they were swiftly dispelled.
However you get the impression with him that anything coming from the crowd directed at him only acts as further motivation, it certainly doesn't seem to get under his skin, or if it does it doesn't show.
He displayed all the characteristics required, stubborness, obduracy, mental strength, grinding down the oppositions bowlers, frustrate them, hitting the odd six and fours great, but above all don't give your wicket away.
He effectively put down a marker which made it clear to the England team that he wouldn't go quietly, unlike his partner David Warner who failed in both innings, we have to hope he fails again in the next Test because if Smith and Warner are on form England will get a another thrashing.
The irony is that it all started so well, Stuart Broad was skillling them out and soon enough Australia were 122 for 8, this was the basis for a false hope of winning this first Test,
The look of incredulity on Stuart Broads face as he took the wickets was a picture, however that picture would soon change, and suddenly the vista didn't look so good;.
Smith pulled his team out of a hole and England seemed to run out of steam, from looking confident and full of energy they started to look bereft of idea's and tired.
Worse was to come with Anderson breaking down, and with all due credit to the other England bowlers we really needed Jimmy to be on form and to get amongst the Australians, losing him so soon must have been a massive blow to his team mates.
Anderson along with Broad has been a constant in Englands Test team and served us well, I sincerely hope this won't be his last Ashes Series, and with Wood out with injury we may be asking a lot of the other bowlers to do the business.
Australia finished on 248 all out and from a position of 122 for 8 I'd say that they must have been very pleased with that, while England must have thought they'd thrown away a great chance to take a big step towards a first Test win..
In Englands first innings Rory Burns a left handed batsman got to the end of the day with 125 to his name, it wasn't elegant, or fluid, but he got there and laid down his own marker,
Of his teammates Roy, Buttler, Bairstow and Ali all failed, but Englands tail wagged to give them a lead of 90 which could have been so much more if the aforementioned batsmen had contributed.
Now the question was could Steve Smith replicate what he had done in the first innings, and could Warner contribute a big score to make up for his first innings failure, could Englands bowlers dismiss Australia for a relatively low score.
Warner failed again but Smith as in the first innings would not go quietly, he showed what Test cricket is all about, and backed up by Wade, Paine and Head Australia declared on 487 for 7, leaving England with a day to stay in and frustrate the opposition.
Mitchell Starc probably their best bowler was not playing, but their other bowlers all looked confident and were fit, it now needed England to dig in and make Australia fight for every England wicket.
Now you will remember some of the abject capitulations of the past where Engalnd have folded like a pack of cards, oh the misery of seeing your team humiliated, the mockery of the Aussie fans, too much to bear.
Surely they could hold out for a day, at the very least fight till the last man, this after all was the first Test and they needed to bolster their own morale and prove they have what it takes to if not win outright to not actually lose.
What was to follow was a total shitshow, a complete lack of character and total and utter surrender, not one batsman scored 50, the nearest to get to 50 was a bowler, Chris Woakes who lasted for 54 balls for his 37, Jos Buttler lasted 25 balls.
Nathan Lyon took 6 for 49, Pat Cummins 4 for 32, so Starc wasn't required, it was painful to witness and I can only imagine the Australians will be full of confidence for the Tests to come, I only hope England can show some fight and redeem themselves.
Some of the umpiring decisions came under scrutiny with Joel Wilson coming in for some criticism, in total there were 20 reviews in the match of which 10 were overturned which I suppose tells a story of its own.
To lose by a tight margin when you have put up a fight fair enough, to lose by 251 runs and collapse is embarassing and pretty pathetic, I hope my Summer is not about to be ruined.