Sunday, April 19, 2009

Gooseberries and Yesterday

Yesterday was a full day.
a) I rang 96 years 11 months old Mum in her Ashburton rest-home at nine as I do every Saturday. She’s been fine until recently but sounds pretty feeble at present.
b) I finished the Obama book. It really was a joy to read.
c) Anne’s in Auckland, so Susanna, my caregiver, came to shower and dress me. I can’t manage socks.
d) Helen, my school-girl gardener, came for two hours. She planted tulip bulbs and foxglove seeds as well as weeding
e) Rae Julian, an old friend, popped in for a couple of hours in the afternoon. She’s off to Tonga for three weeks work. We had a good political chin-wag.
f) Ulrike Handke rang from Berlin. Ulrike, was the German adviser when I managed the national language advisers’ group. She is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met and we became good friends. They spent several Easters and Christmasses with us. Anne introduced their young daughter Lisa to Easter egg hunts in our garden. Since her family’s return home I have visited them once and Anne twice. Lisa spent three months in Wellington last year on a working holiday before starting university this year.
g) Grace, the daughter of a friend of Anne’s, is house-staying while Anne’s away. She’s a good cook so I’ve continued dining well.
h) Anne’s cousin Rex has been looking at my blog. After reading my Semple piece he emailed me with a recollection of his own. On a Pacific cruise as they entered one port there was a cheering crowd. This rather large lady suggested that he a little boy might like to stand in front of her to see better. He thought they were cheering for him and waved back. But no; they were not cheering him, the lady was Queen Salote. My memory recalls the coronation film and the London crowds warmly greeting the same Queen.
i) I put up my strawberry blog and this got me interested in researching further, this time gooseberries.
Like the strawberry, the gooseberry was sought in the wild in Europe, west Asia and North Africa, long before it became a cultivator. It began to be grown in home gardens in the Low Countries, France and England in the 16th century. Towards the end of the 18th century it became a common plant of cottage horticulture in the new industrial areas of England as it provided a big yield while taking up little space. Most home gardens in Little River had a row of gooseberry, a task was to pick enough for a meal and then top and tail them. Jam-making was a bigger job.

While common in Europe gooseberries are not grown much in North America though it was introduced to New England by the early settlers. The plant didn’t like the heat of the summers for it got bad mildew. In the nor-west where the climate was more suitable it did better but it was found to be an alternate host to the white pine blister rust which damages white pines a major milling log. As a result there are laws against the gooseberry and blackcurrant cultivation in some states.

I had made the obvious connection between goose and berry but the etymological sources deny the linkage. Likewise they are baffled by the use of the term gooseberry to be the third person chaperone, indeed to muddle metaphors, the fly in the ointment. Sometimes in this situation the gooseberry is wanted. Most times, he, or she, is a pain in the neck.

No comments:

Post a Comment