What’s New for the 26th of November: Music we’re thankful for; fairy tales and myths; a graphic novel about a pandemic; an Old Hag, a Piglet, Canadian television, and hot chocolate!

“When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”
“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?”
“I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.
Pooh nodded thoughtfully.
“It’s the same thing,” he said.


Now that was tasty!

I was grumbling yesterday morning to Mrs. Ware, our Head Cook here at the Estate that houses us, that porridge is often boring even if many here like it as Winter breakfast fare. (OR Melling actually found a way to make eating porridge sound cool.) She smiled and said to stop by the Kitchen ‘morrow morning as she had an idea.

So I came to the Kitchen the next morning early before it got too busy and discovered that I was being served thick soup made from rice and minced pork with interesting spicing, served along with green tea and a deep fried cruller. She said it was called canjii in Korean and a visitor showed her how to prepare this hearty meal years ago.

Now I knew that Korea has a millennia old cuisine with food traditions from a number of sources but I hadn’t actually had this traditional breakfast staple from there, as I spent my time overseas in India and Sri Lanka, which have a decidedly different cuisine.

Indeed the staple food for Koreans is rice, and specifically a particular type ofn short grain rice called sticky rice, because its grains stick together rather than falling apart. Mrs. Ware decided to use well-cooked brown rice as she likes the flavour better than the white rice used in Asia. It was a wonderfully tasty and quite filling breakfast.

Now I’m off to find her a copy of The Pooh Cook Book as she’s catering an all-day event for younger children from the School of The Imagination and she wants to do their meals as Pooh and company did them. I will of course review the book as well so you, our dear readers, can see how good the recipes are!


Fairy tales retold is the basis of the anthology edited by Dominic Parisienne and Navah Wolfe that Cat liked quite a bit: ‘Some books you buy for the stories within, some books you buy for the sheer joy of what they look like, such as the British edition of Charles de Lint’s Someplace To Be Flying for its cover art as I did, or perhaps the Small Beer Press edition of Ellen Kushner’s The Privilege of The Sword for, well, because you love the novel and wanted to own a really nice edition of it. And then there’s The Starlit Wood which combines superb stories with truly amazing design.’

A novel gets a nod of approval from one of our Deborahs: ‘Fitcher’s Brides, by Gregory Frost, is one of the most recent additions to Terri Windling’s excellent brainchild, The Fairy Tale Series. As such, it shares shelf space with other such remarkable works as Briar Rose by Jane Yolen and Tam Lin by Pamela Dean. Fitcher’s Brides is, at its core, a retelling of Bluebeard, a cautionary fairy tale that warned against curiosity and temptation, for dark and potentially fatal secrets are hidden behind the locked doors of unknown husbands. While the original fairy tale seems to remove power from women in this regard, the version Frost here purports has a much more satisfying feminist slant to it.’

According to Denise, ‘Peter Dickinson takes the salamander of myth and gives it a new spin in The Tears of the Salamander. In 18th century Italy, young Alfredo is a promising singer in the church choir, and sings with the true love of one born to it. Soon though, he reaches the age where he must make a decision: to become a castrati and continue with the choir for his whole life, or to take his chances and hope his singing voice after puberty is as good as it had been before. As he weighs his decision, tragedy strikes. He is soon introduced to his Uncle Giorgio, a man whom he has never known and whom his father hated. Alfredo is whisked away to Sicily, where his uncle is the Master of the Mountain, a powerful man with the fire and fury of the mountain at his control.’

Eric looks at another book in Windling’s Fairy Tale Series: ‘In Briar Rose, Jane Yolen’s reinterpretation of the story of Sleeping Beauty, the reader is entertained in just this manner. Framed around Rebecca Berlin’s childhood memories of her grandmother’s repeated recital of Sleeping Beauty is a somber retelling of the myth with the Holocaust and the death camp of Chelmno as the setting. The book blends together two story lines in alternating chapters. In the odd-numbered chapters Rebecca’s grandmother tells her version of Sleeping Beauty repeatedly throughout the childhood of Rebecca and her two older sisters. The even-numbered chapters describe the adult Rebecca’s journey to discover the truth behind her grandmother’s claims that the story was real and that she was the princess in it. The two tracks run in parallel, with each segment told by Rebecca’s grandmother keeping pace with the discoveries Rebecca makes about the truth behind the tale.’

Gary also looks at a perennial favorites of lots of us: ‘The long and colorful publishing history of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit continues with a new edition that seems to be aimed at reclaiming the written version of the story as a way to introduce it to young readers. It’s a handsome hardcover book with illustrations by the young Jemima Catlin, who was hand-picked for the assignment by the Tolkien Estate.’

Jane Yolen, Shulamith Oppenheim and Stefan Czernecki’s The Sea King is appreciated by Grey: ‘This lovely folk tale has many old friends in it: Vasilisa the Wise, a beautiful princess who is also a bird; Baba Yaga the witch in her house that runs by itself on chicken legs; the King of the Sea in his underwater palace of crystal; and the innocently wise boy who finds his way because he’s generous and observant. And it has one of the most poignant story lines of all: the father who promises to sacrifice the first thing he sees when he returns home — only to find out that he’s just been borne a son.’

Kathleen has a look at book she’s treasured since her childhood, Tolkien’s Smith of Wooton Major & Farmer Giles of Ham. She says, ‘Smith and Farmer Giles have the advantage of being completed by Tolkien himself, and are lovely, polished tales. . . . They are the work of a very modern and well-educated scholar — but like all Professor Tolkien’s work, they feel like an echo of the sunlit fields and shadowed woods of the British mythic landscape that he so loved.’

Vonnie says a novel she reviews by Patricia McKillip ‘is nearly a prose-poem. The writing is lyrical, the events mysterious, the metaphors shadowy and aquatic. The plot suffers from it, as it does from turning the ocean into a character. This is a diffuse mystery, and the reader has to trust the writer that a point will eventually emerge from the pages. McKillip is both good enough and well-known enough to entitle her to our trust, but at its best, this novel is not a page-turner. Even more so than most of her books, the best way to enjoy Something Rich and Strange might be to read it aloud, enjoying the leisurely trip rather than racing to the destination.’


Hot chocolate becomes very popular with folks here when the weather turns cold, with or without a measure of brandy in it. Richard had a recommendation on where you can find great hot chocolate in a place called Matthews: ‘Now, North Carolina’s not what you’d call a hot chocolate hotbed, at least east of the mountains, on account of the fact that it’s generally pretty warm. Which is why I never expected the hot chocolate in this shop which my wife practically dragged me into (she’d done some scouting, having previously infiltrated Hillsborough with friends on a yarn-shopping expedition) would blow my socks off.’


David binge-watched and reviewed Season 1, Season 2, and Season 3 of the Canadian television drama-comedy Slings & Arrows, which follows the fortunes and misfortunes of a Shakespeare festival in a Canadian town. ‘There is something distinctly Canadian about the whole thing. I’m sure that festival towns exist in other countries, but the nature of government sponsorship of the arts, expectations of the Minister of Culture, and the attitudes of the press and audiences speak volumes about the contradictory nature of the arts in Canada. ‘


Gary gives a qualified thumbs up to Val McDermid & Kathryn Briggs’ Resistance, a graphic novel about a modern pandemic. He notes that ‘ …well before COVID-19 was loosed on the world in late 2019, Scottish crime novelist Val McDermid and Pennsylvania based (and Scotland-educated) graphic novelist Kathryn Briggs began their collaboration on Resistance. It’s a cautionary tale of human hubris and carelessness leading to a bacterial pandemic that eventually wipes out a hefty percentage of the world’s population.’


David is grateful for the reissue of Blues Boy, an old album by bluesman Geoff Muldaur. ‘Long out of print, the albums Muldaur made for Flying Fish Records were recorded in 1978 and 1979. They have languished in oblivion until now. Lovers of rootsy, bluesy guitar-based music owe Rounder a debt of gratitude for reclaiming them and providing us with this sparkling anthology.’

David also enjoyed Sunday Best: The Cream of the Solo Albums, featuring cuts from the first three solo albums by Russell Smith, formerly of the Amazing Rhythm Aces. ‘Smith’s voice is not especially strong, but it is true and engaging, especially when he pushes it a little bit. The presence of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section adds a rock-solid base to Smith’s songs.’

‘We owe a debt of gratitude to labels like Raven and Mystic for giving new life to this exciting music,’ David says of four reissues, two each from Australia’s Raven and England’s Mystic. Read on to see what he liked about David Ackles’ Five & Dime, Roger Chapman’s Mango Crazy and Mail Order Magic, and Tommy Sands’ Man, Like WOW!

Gary was not disappointed by his most anticipated record of the year, the third release by Norwegian pedal steel guitar whiz Trond Kallevåg. ‘With Amerikabåten Trond and his highly sympatico ensemble have created a concept album. In nine songs he displays his affection for American culture as he explores the feelings aroused by the history of Norwegian emigration to America since the middle of the 19th century, a wave that crested in the early 20th. It plays out in what Trond refers to as Nordic Americana, drawing equally on Norwegian and American folk music, country, and a heavy dose of jazz at its base.

Gary looks back to a long-ago favorite that he still enjoys, Joan Baez’s Gracias a la Vida. It is, he says, ‘… a surprisingly coherent and well produced and recorded album for the haste in which it was put together.’ The Spanish-language album, he says, ‘… was kind of a curiosity in the U.S. but quite popular in Latin America. Its heartfelt renditions of classic songs presented in unfussy arrangements make it stand out as one from the era that still sounds quite good today.’

Since he probably won’t be traveling to the U.K. for a jazz gig, Gary is grateful to have Green Park, a record by the London-based quintet led by jazz violinist Benet McLean. ‘Way back in the ’90s I started listening to Django Reinhardt because Richard Thompson named him as an influence. The more I listened to Django the more enamored I became of the playing of Stephane Grappelli, his fiddling compatriot in the Hot Club of France. I’ve been a fan of jazz violin ever since, and now I can add Benet McLean to my list of favorite players.’

Richard took an in-depth look at an idiosyncratic album of songs by an idiosyncratic artist, The Wings Of Butterflies, featuring Les Barker. ‘It is hard, even in a lengthy critical article, to convey the full scope, force and architecture of this idiosyncratic vision of a world ravaged by its inhabitants, many of whom are both perpetrators and victims. The ideas are hardly new and, as I have hinted, will be applauded or shrugged off, depending on the listener’s viewpoint. Even the most cynical or annoyed must concede the brilliance of Barker’s conception, and even if the grandiose set pieces cannot be divorced from their context, there are a good half-dozen or so songs that deserve to enter the standard acoustic folk repertoire.’


I found another of Folkmanis reviews in the Archives by Robert: ‘This Folkmanis puppet is The Piglet. I have to confess, as I sat here looking at him reclining on my bed — he’s rather large, about 14 inches from nose to curly tail (not corkscrew curly, but it’s making a good start) — the first thought that came to my mind was the title of a Tony Hillerman mystery, The Sinister Pig. With his half-closed eyes and slightly open mouth, he looks — well, hungry. (Although now that I think on it, that seems appropriate for a piglet.) I couldn’t help but remember, looking at him, that pigs are omnivorous.’


I’ve been reading Charles de Lint‘s ‘The Moon is Drowning While I Sleep’ story, which is collected in Dreams Underfoot which has the following lovely passage about old hag tunes:She looks like the wizened old crone in that painting Jilly did for Geordie when he got into this kick of learning fiddle tunes with the word ‘hag’ in the title: ‘the Hag in the Kiln,’  ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me,’ ‘The Hag With the Money,’ and god knows how many more. Just like in the painting, she’s wizened and small and bent over and … dry. Like kindling, like the pages of an old book. Like she’s almost all used up. Hair thin, body thinner. but then you look into her eyes and they’re so alive it makes you feel a little dizzy.’

Okay, let’s see if there’s any Old Hag tunes on the Infinite Jukebox, our digital media server. I’ve got one by the Bothy Band whose Old Hag You Have Killed Me is one of best Irish trad albums ever done, and we’ve audio of them performing ‘Old Hag You Have Killed Me’ which we’ll share with you as it’s very splendid.

No idea when it was done, though about fifty years ago is the most common guess among those who speculate about such things, or where it was recorded for that matter. But here it is for your listening pleasure.

Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I'm the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries. I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!

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About Gus the Estate Head Gardener

I'm the person responsible for both the grounds and the livestock which are raised here. I live with Bree (my wife) in one of the cottages that has been here for centuries. I actually enjoy Winters here as my work load is considerably reduced as I let the younger staff members handle the needed work which leaves me time for reading, ice skating and skiing, not to mention just being with my wife. Bliss!
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