John Heseltine Photographics

observations of the everyday and all that might be implied

Month: January, 2014

Four wheel drive marmalade

 

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Here at Beaufief in southwest France, January is a time of unashamed domesticity. For a while I can lose my sense of guilt about absenting myself from the numerous regular hours spent in front of the computer and other routines of my working life. No, this is a time for adventures with the chain saw, for splitting logs, deluding myself that I am getting on top of the garden’s weed problem and for making marmalade. Now my own special marmalade has unique qualities, but I shall only reveal a few just now.

Firstly, it is important to buy the Seville oranges abroad, in my case in the UK, and then transport them a fair distance before cooking them, it is little known that they like to be in constant motion after picking. A ferry journey is essential for the next step which consists of allowing the fruit to spill out onto the car deck and settle for a short while under adjacent four wheel drive vehicles: Porsche Cayennes are ideal but Mercedes, BMWs, Audis etc work just as well. Gather up the oranges which will now be lightly coated with German 4WD differential oil and restore to the car to continue the rhythmic movement of an 8 hour voyage. This step also helps perpetuate the reputation Englishmen have as comedians, brightens the tedium of Brittany Ferries employees while also ensuring that other travelers on board will ignore you for the entire journey.

After a further journey by road, the raw ingredients are ready to be transformed into nectar, following my time-tested recipe which always ends with bringing the runny liquid to a boil for a second time and boiling furiously so that the maximum mess is made on the hob and all areas of the kitchen. The set can be monitored by sensing how sticky the tiled floor is becoming underfoot. Towards the end, add last year’s slightly loose left over jars of marmalade and continue boiling for a further ten minutes. The resulting confection has a rich dark colour, a perfect consistency and the slight overtones of vehicle lubricant and a nuance of Michelin all-terrain rubber, something that will linger on visitors’ taste buds for many months. It also means the entire kitchen has to be deep-cleaned leaving ready for the new year ahead.

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Armed Forces Memorial

AFM

In 2007 I was commissioned to document the creation of the bronze sculpture for the Armed Forces Memorial at the National Memorial Arboretum,  Alrewas near Lichfield in Staffordshire. The impressive memorial cost £6 million to build and features the epic bronzes designed and made by the UK sculptor Ian Rank-Broadley. The 16,000 names carved into the Portland stone is a vivid reminder of the sacrifices made by British service personnel since 1945. Sadder still, an area has been allocated for a further 15,000 names, a blank space for those who have not yet been killed.

In reviewing the images ready to upload to my Alamy collection, I have been reminded of my recent visit to the battlefields of Picardy where my grandfather was killed in 1918. The scale of the German cemetery at Maissemy, for instance, makes a vivid impression with a landscape of crosses reminding us of the 30,478 young bodies interred in just one place. But on a lonely and wet hillside a few miles away, a small collection of a dozen graves, buried in the mud where they fell, is an equally compelling message about the futility of war and the waste of English lives who in another time might well have become friends with their German contemporaries resting nearby. Memorials are essential as a reference point for those left behind but also a graphic reminder that war demands a high price of all involved.

A recent report by James A. Lucas claims that the United States seems likely to have been responsible for the deaths of between 20 and 30 million people in wars and conflicts scattered over 37 countries of the world since World War 2. In most of these confrontations the US has not acted alone and many British and European nations must share the responsibility. There will one day be memorials to the fallen in many of these places, but it is unlikely that individual names will be recorded, just the bare fact that so many more have died and that world peace is still no closer to reality.

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