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walk1

We’ve been busy and–one thing and another–routine such as it is here, day to day, has gone out the window.

There’s something to be said for routine, for a bit of structure.

I managed a walk this morning, the first since we got back from Normandy and it felt good.

Routinely, I try to walk every other day, ideally in the early morning–certainly in summer when it’s too hot by 10am.

I come back, the day’s ahead and a walk’s in the bag–a good feeling.

A bit of routine.

At 11.15–(it was cloudy and the wind was fresh)–I found myself out on the road.

Walking sets more than your legs in motion–the steady rhythm starts the mind turning over, popping stuff into your head–offering up ideas and solutions.

I’d got today’s lunch sorted yesterday–I thought; the left over spinach and rice torte and salad.

Then Meredith came back from the annual vide grenier (attic clearing sale) in Lautrec with scrambled eggs on her mind for breakfast–oh dear, there are four eggs in the torte!

Too bad I thought.

Then after ten minutes on the road, the sun came out and the mussels I bought for lunch yesterday floated into my thoughts.

(I’d forgotten they were in the fridge–I’d changed my mind about them when the weather got cooler.)

I was back home by noon–plenty of time.

The torte’ll keep ’til tomorrow!

Must remember it’s in the fridge though…

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whoopee–on the road again!

 

 

 

 

 

Normandy (2)

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Meredith and I made two visits to the American Cemetery at Omaha Beach before Friday’s D-Day commemoration.

On Wednesday 4th she had arranged to meet an old high school classmate who was in charge of NBC TV’s coverage of the D-Day Ceremony.

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Ex-New Trier classmates re-unite: Meredith with Bob Epstein, Special Events, NBC News

The following day we returned to hear John Morris, a founding member of Magnum photo agencydeliver a short speech at the Memorial to honor of a friend who had been killed soon after the landings. He laid a wreath.

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John, who is 97 and first voted in a presidential election in 1935, also had a D-Day story to tell, which NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported.

The narrow lanes in Normandy link small villages where the damage has been repaired and only gratitude remains.

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Buildings are restored to former beauty–though the photographs from 70 years ago strategically placed (badges of honor almost) give a “Before and After” idea of the devastation wrought by allied bombing seventy years ago.

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Our journeys through the Normandy countryside are full of surprises.

No fighting troops but troops there are a-plenty–fully kitted out.

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…and driving every conceivable type of vehicle of the era.

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The plucky little guy!

Willys jeeps predominate–the ones we grew familiar with in post war films, usually transporting a cigar-smoking John Wayne or Robert Mitchum at speed.

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Answering a call of nature!?

I had a schoolboy crush on the Willys jeep, seeing myself in the Mitchum role long before I ever imagined I’d be an actor.

These “troops” processing at a more leisurely pace through the tranquil countryside are “re-enactors”, come to Normandy to do just that, re-enact incidents from the past and lend a non-violent “dressing” to the scene.

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Italian re-enactors!

After lunch with Bob “backstage” at the American cemetery on Wednesday, we watch a Belgian company of re-enactors paying tribute to the fallen with a full ceremony–including Taps (the Last Post) in front of the American flag.

They attract a crowd, perhaps providing a focus for people visiting this overwhelmingly emotional place.

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“Backstage” is the area where all the TV companies prepare the technical paraphernalia for the big day.

Meredith feels a touch of déjà-vu….

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Transported momentarily back into a previous life as a TV producer and writer with ABC News in New York.

(She was working freelance for NBC when she interviewed me in January 1986…)

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John Morris being interviewed by NBC TV

John Morris is telling the story he has told a thousand times since 7th June 1944.

He was based in London–Photo Editor of LIFE magazine–waiting anxiously for the first images of the invasion to arrive from the legendary photographer, Robert Capa–who was with the initial wave of American soldiers on Omaha Beach.  

The first three rolls of film were ruined when a darkroom technician tried to speed up the development process–but John managed to find a few frames which remain the defining photos of the American D-day landing.

(The story is best told by him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fzmieOlZy0&feature=channel_video_title/)

The backdrop to the interview is the Wall of Remembrance–dedicated to those Missing in Action.

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This is one of the eleven surviving images.

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John Morris points out in another interview that to take the photo, Robert Capa would have to have been on the beachside of the swimmer with his back to the German guns.

Back home now–time to read further and reflect on the events that unfolded from early morning on 6th June 1944…

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in awe at the bravery of those men wading ashore.

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One of the “Brave”–returned.

 

Normandy (1)

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Dawn–6 June 2014–close to “Juno” Beach

D Day 6th June 1944/2014

The enormity, the impossibility, the bravery, the awfulness, the wastefulness, the sheer chaos–you can read about it and watch films about it but standing on raised ground on that stretch of coastline in Normandy, is when the full story hits me.

I’m looking out across the wide stretch of the English Channel towards the Hampshire coastline and my mind starts playing with the image like the photographic trick of fading a present day scene into a photo of the same location years before and I catch my breath.

It’s a calm sea this Friday morning and empty, but at dawn on the 6th June seventy years ago it was a heaving mass of naval craft full of men about to put their lives in deadly peril.

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Utah and Omaha beaches ( Colleville-sur-Mer)–American (73,000 men landed)
Gold and Sword (Arromanches and Ouistreham)–British and Free French (61,715)
Juno (Courseulles-sur–Mer)–Canadian (21,400)
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156,115 troops landed on these beaches on the 6th of June 1944.
(Casualty figures are still being revised.)
Above the beach at Colleville is the American cemetery.
There are the crosses and the Stars of David, laid out in perfect symmetry.
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At peace the soldiers honored here find order after chaos.

A sea of white marble contrasts the sea turned red from blood on D-Day 70 years ago.

This morning 6th June 2014 the 9386 fallen heroes buried above Omaha Beach are joined by a multitude of commemorators come to pay our respects and wonder how such a thing could have been endured.

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An inland invasion this time and the crafts conveying the masses are coaches–hundreds of them–escorted from Caen to Colleville-sur-Mer by motorcycle gendarmes.

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There will be ceremonies all along the coast in the days to come on the beaches and in the villages that saw the story unfold.

Some large involving Presidents and Queens and some more modest; many attended by some of the dwindling band of brothers brought together to save the world–70 years ago.

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Early yesterday morning, 7am, and I’m heading to the market in Castres.

We have six coming for lunch, then three others for dinner. On the menu: blackened salmon for lunch and slow cooked lamb shoulder with courgettes for dinner.

It’s going to be a busy day!

As I approach a roundabout on the outskirts of town a large white coach crosses in front of me and for a moment I wonder what day it is. School buses don’t run on Saturdays.

Then I remember.

The coach is full–but these are rugby fans, not school children–at the start of a seven hour journey to Paris.

Last night at le Stade de France in the capital, Castres Olympique replayed last year’s Rugby cup Finale against Toulon.

It was a surprise that Castres CO were in the Finale again–having had a less than spectacular year.

Toulon, however, were in their pomp–having won the Coupe D’Europe the week before and with the legendary Jonny Wilkinson playing his last game before retirement. They were clear favorites.

But they were favorites last year too–and Castres had triumphed against the odds in a nail- biter. So the mood in Castres yesterday morning was excited. On ne sait jamais! [You never know!]

I sent my photographer along to record the feverish atmosphere.

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But it wasn’t to be. This time Goliath was not to be denied!

Toulon won 18 points to 10.

As  Jonny left the field for the last time, “God Save the Queen” played out through the loudspeakers–an extravagant tribute!

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Castres players watching a Wilkinson kick for goal–and their hopes fade.

The big white coach rolled back through the night to Castres, its tired and disappointed CO supporters reflecting on what might have been.

From chatting with local rugby fans, I doubt anyone on board would begrudge Jonny his final triumph. They are a fair-minded lot and they’d be happy just to have been there to see “the Great Boot” laid to rest!

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The great Jonny Wilkinson’s toothy grin as he holds up the trophy

This is tasty and colorful–a refreshing early summer salad.

From the isle of Sicily apparently–with the colours of another beautiful isle, Ireland , in there.

It cuts nicely something rich, like mackerel or pork..

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a cucumber

A few radishes

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1 orange

mint–a few torn leaves

3 tbs olive oil

1 tbs juice from an orange

1 tsp each white wine vinegar and lemon juice

salt and pepper

Peel the cucumber, slice it as thinly as possible (a food processor’s disc does this perfectly).
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Put the slices in a colander or sieve and sprinkle some salt over and leave to drain for a half hour.
Dry them on kitchen paper.
Peel the orange down to the flesh–no white pith–and slice it thin.
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Build the salad prettily–a white dish sets off the colors!
Whisk the orange juice, vinegar, lemon juice and seasoning together and pour it over the salad.
Turn it all over and serve.

 

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I favor small red/yellow peppers for this.

Four of these on a plate and you have a light lunch or supper.

(Two would be good as a starter–on a small bed of rocket (arugula).

We added some simple broccoli with garlic to the plate last night.

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A pretty picture.

This is adapted from a Marcella Hazan recipe.

for 2/3

3 smallish red peppers

40z/100gms small courgettes–sliced thin (a food processor’s disc is helpful for this)

1 clove garlic–chopped fine

2 oz/50gms grated Emmental cheese (We like the creamy taste of the emmental, but you could try substituting other cheeses, such as parmesan)

1 oz/25gms breadcrumbs (I use organic wholewheat or rye.)

4 tbs olive oil

2 tbs parsley–chopped

salt and pepper

 

  • set the oven to 400F/200C
  • Peel the peppers carefully with a hand peeler (easier than expected); halve them and then halve them again to form cargo carrying boats.
  • Remove the seeds.
  • Slice the courgettes as thinly as you can.
  • In a large bowl mix the courgettes, cheese, parsley, garlic and breadcrumbs with two tablespoons of the olive oil and season to taste.
  • Load the pepper boats generously with the courgette cargo.

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  •  Oil a piece of foil on an oven tray and moor the boats on it.
  • “How apt” Meredith says ” …these  boats being so “moorish”!

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  •  Sprinkle over the fourth tablespoon of oil.
  • Thirty minutes in the top half of the oven should do it.

The fight goes on to get kids eating more healthily, which is good for them, their future health and welfare and is ultimately a money saver on health costs.

This piece by Mark Bittman from The New York Times  addresses the fight over ensuring school children get healthy school lunches and speaks to the heart of the problem of child and adult obesity that besets populations worldwide.

British cooking guru and author Jamie Oliver comes up against the same difficulties–and fights on.

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…We are in a public health crisis largely brought about by the consumption of sugar and hyperprocessed carbs. It’s fine to scream “don’t eat as many of them,” but that message can’t possibly match the power of the billions of dollars spent annually by an industry ($400 million a year on marketing soda to teens alone) encouraging us to consume more. Government’s proper role is to protect us, and this would be a fine way to start.

…Healthy food initiatives threaten profits and are therefore fought or deflected or co-opted at all costs by the producers of hyperprocessed food. This is true even when those costs include producing an increasingly sick population — and a disproportionate number of defenseless children — and an ever-growing portion of our budget spent on paying for diet-related illness. Big Food will continue to pursue profit at the expense of health as long as we let them.

 

At Jean Jaures College in our local town, a glance at the lunch menu seems to confirm that an effort is being made–though the day we visited we were not invited to sample for ourselves!

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