Canteen Days

“Canteen” | a place in a factory, office, etc. where food and meals are sold, often at a lower han usual price.[Cambridge English Dictionary]

“Craic” | (Irish English) enjoyable time spent with other people, especially when the conversation is entertaining and funny [Cambridge English Dictionary]

 

I hear some people are finding it hard to stay at home and shun human contact during this Covid-19 crisis. Understandable, especially if their regular lifestyle involves daily socialising. But I am experiencing an unexpected bonus. Ever since I stopped going to work I have found it increasingly difficult to find the time to keep up with this blog; suddenly I have no excuse but to knuckle down and resume normal service. Thanks pandemic, for the first time in ages I have time on my hands.

I am fascinated with communal eating, and it’s ironically apt at the moment, when eating out is banned until further notice, by edict of BoJo. In particular, canteens are a thread which runs through much of my life, from school dinners to university refectories, via worker’s canteens, in the UK and overseas.

Even without the virus crisis I just miss the canteen experience these days, as a social diversion, a welcome pause in the working day. Looking back, there have been periods when no canteen was available on a daily basis, such as when I went freelance after leaving the BBC in 1983. At such times, the lack of a canteen was a minor disappointment, something missing in the working day.

Of course, it’s not just about the food, but the craic as well. Actually, like Commisario Montalbano I am rubbish at eating and talking simultaneously, so it’s eat-first-chat-second for me if I have a choice, but for sure there’s not much to be said for eating alone. .                 Continue reading

Discover the original Boston

I once heard a story that a visitor to Lincolnshire, on discovering that there is a town in our county called Boston, said how nice it was that we named our towns after cities in the USA. Of course it’s the other way round. In 1612 John Cotton, non-conformist Vicar of St Botolph’s Church (aka “The Stump”) in Boston Lincolnshire encouraged his flock to join the Massachusetts Bay Company, and he later helped to found the city of Boston, Massachusetts (1630).

This is a rather basic example of the kind of historical fact about Boston Lincolnshire that makes it a town well worth visiting if you are on our patch, and there are lots more. Did you know that earlier, in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, Boston was a major trading port, second only to London? Or that by the opening of the thirteenth century, Boston ranked as a port of the Hanseatic League, the commercial and defensive confederation of merchant guilds and their market towns dominating Baltic maritime trade along the coast of Northern Europe?

There’s no better place to get the feel of Boston’s distant and recent past than its ancient Guildhall in South Street. Continue reading