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Saturday, June 22, 2024
EditorialsFergus Byrne P&F

Fergus Byrne P&F

After nearly ten years producing the Marshwood Vale Magazine I have been fortunate to have enjoyed memories, anecdotes and stories from hundreds of local, as well as not so local people. They have ranged from fishermen and farmers, policemen and politicians and gardeners and chefs, through musicians, artists, potters and writers – and that’s naming just a fraction of the many careers we have been fortunate enough to hear about over the years. It surprised me recently when I realised that very few of them had kept a diary, their stories brought back through memory alone. In this issue of people and food we feature Josceline Dimbleby, whose new book, Orchards in the Oasis, benefitted hugely from the fact that she kept a diary, which she told me recently she still writes in every night before she goes to bed. It is full of memories of people, places and the food that surrounded her as she grew up. Her stepfather, Bill, was a diplomat, so she spent time in many different countries in her formative years. She writes of Bill’s descriptions of celebrations for the Queens birthday while he was based in Peru. ‘At midday we had the Peruvians and the diplomats – four hundred,’ he wrote, and continued, ‘and in the evening we had the British Colony – five hundred of them, who fell on the food like vampires, ground their cigarettes into the carpets and drank five dozen bottles of whisky, two dozen of brandy, one dozen of gin and a lot of vermouth and beer’. Her memories of Jemaa el Fina in Marrakech describe ‘Bowls of hot snails and plates of just-grilled mutton, goat, lamb’s brains, merguez sausages, chicken, whole fish, aubergines and other vegetables…’ Of her time spent in London, Josceline describes the local butcher’s shop in Old Brompton Road: ‘pale sawdust on the floor and the butcher, with his round, rosy face and large stomach under blood-spattered overalls’, as just what she thought an English butcher should be. No so long ago I came across some old notes in my father’s handwriting which I didn’t immediately recognise. He had been asked by one of my brothers to jot down some of his memories of growing up in the village where we lived, and had obviously not had time to write more than a few sketchy details. I still treasure those few descriptions he left and wish he had kept a diary. I hope that Marshwood Vale and people and food will stir good memories for our readers for many years to come.

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