THERE IS NOTHING LIKE A STEW: Whilst under the weather recently, my daughter brought us down a huge pan of stew, the size of which would have kept a pig happy. It was truly beautiful. Gazing into a pan of stew is like admiring an allotment Here we see sturdy carrots and onions, a turnip or two, with a few fingers of suede. Turn the ladle, and there is tomato and celery, and I do believe some fennel. A stew is the most hospitable host. It welcomes anything wholesome. “Come on in you guys”, it seems to say, and the following night, it goes on partying [because there are always leftovers] A can of beans and some plum tomatoes, a handful of herbs added willy-nilly, and it’s a whole new ball game. However, we don’t crow too much about serving stew. Give us ‘Beef Bourguignon’ or ‘Blanquette of veal’, and we admit to that, but stew is like an underestimated relation, kindness itself, but deemed too ordinary for display. Well, I’m having none of it. Tonight we are having stew, and tomorrow I’ll throw in some dumplings. It’s just so friendly and giving, and the pan stays warm for a long time. .What’s not to love!

WHAT IS NEEDED IS SOME FUN: What we need in these damp ,drippy’, post-Christmas days is a bit of frivolity, and that is just what is being served up tonight in the village hall It’s ‘Murder mystery night’, so we are going to wipe the cobwebs away and get thinking .Now! is it the butler, or the maid, or is it in fact Granny concealing a dagger under her knitting?[Or, come to think of it, is she a granny at all, or a young woman from a cheap London boarding house masquerading as Granny?]I swear I saw a bit of peroxide –blonde hair poking out from under that grey wig! Oh the possibilities are endless! All this, and a fish and chip supper mid-way .I’m not sure I could eat a thing. Could it in fact be someone actually sitting on our table [someone hanging onto the salt shaker far and away too long---what are they concealing. No one needs that much salt!] Which brings me to the point, do bring cutlery, and sauces and condiments. Drinks can be purchased via donation. The time is 6.30, for 7pm .Come at your peril .It’s not for the faint-hearted!

SHORT-MAT BOWLS: Every Wednesday afternoon, there is short-mat bowls in the village hall, from 2-4pm. It costs £3.50 [which includes the hire of the hall and refreshments.]It doesn’t matter if you have never picked up a bowling ball before .It’s easy to learn, fun, and good exercise. If you wish to give it a try, you can contact Teresa Parsons [telephone 01797-280-143]

THE SERVICE OF HOLY COMMUNION: There will be a service of Holy Communion in Iden Parish Church, at 9.30 am on Sunday 1st February.

THE POP-IN: The next Pop-In will be on Monday 2nd February at 11am in the village hall. All are welcome. There is bric-a brac and books for sale, and it’s a nice chance to unwind and have coffee/tea, biscuits and a chat.

A TROUBLE SHARED: A trouble shared is a trouble halved isn’t it? That’s why the Pop-In is so good for us. When I was at work, I would bomb in and share either joy, or trials and tribulations with colleagues, and they with me. We all did didn’t we? [some people’s lives were such an interesting den of iniquity---well! Certainly mine was] Now, I miss a bit of a con-flab. Even the mouse in my laundry room has packed his bags and departed. There is nothing like sharing a Rich Tea with someone in the village hall, to put everything in perspective.

BINGO: Iden Bingo continues to gain momentum .No surprise there, because it’s such fun, and the prizes are not at all bad .There is a jackpot, a flier[besides the normal books], plus a raffle, and a nice tea, costing only£1. It’s alive with conversation, but when Ray calls out the numbers, you could hear a pin drop. It’s a lovely way to while away an afternoon .Everyone from Iden and the surrounding area is welcome .The next Bingo is on Thursday 5th February . Doors open at 2pm, eyes down at 2.30pm.

IT’S MARMALADE TIME AGAIN: Seville oranges are the order of the day in our neck of the woods, as Iden ladies swirl their wooden spoons in preserving pans once again, and stock-pile the preserving sugar [Thank you Min for our jars –lovely marmalade] Isn’t it homely and joyous, and thought –provoking to imagine something age-old still going on in Iden kitchens. The smell is wonderful, the colour coppery, like autumn leaves and the labels hand –written .It doesn’t get much better!

OF COURSE I LOVE GORSE: When I was young, I liked nothing better than bringing home wild flowers .Well, in those days we could pick wild flowers with impunity, before many became a protected species. We rarely had money for bought flowers, so we relied on meadows, and the woodland floor for decoration, and no one was more pleased with a flower or two than my mum. “.Lets pick some buds and watch them come out”, she would say. Sticky- buds from the horse chestnut were her favourite, but she enthused over every bud and wild flower, so I grew up unable to pass anything that would make up a vase.----But just as, Margaret Thatcher said “the lady’s not for turning”, so the gorse bush seemed to say “the lady’s not for picking”. Oh, I tried, on a few occasions to bring home sprigs of gorse, but those prickles meant business. Gorse is to be admired from afar. Seemingly you can look, but you can’t touch. Anyway, this week, driving along near Camber, I noticed that gorse, with it’s brave yellow flowers seemed to be the only thing around daring to flower. “It’s okay, I get the message”, I wanted to say, after all those years trying to wrestle a bunch homeward. It has a slight Greta Garbo quality .A mystery surrounding it. Which just goes to show, that not everything of beauty allows itself to be owned!

CONTACT ME: If anyone has anything to add to the Village Voice, I’ll gladly include it. Please ring Gill Griffin [telephone 01-797 280311]

Gill Griffin

Belfield, Main Street