I don’t know where I got it from, possibly from my grandma who lived in the village of Harston which I mentioned the other day when writing about ‘The Old Vicarage Grantchester’. We always laughed at the poem –
‘And Ditton girls are mean and dirty,
And there’s none in Harston under thirty,’
The poem mentions honey in the last nostalgic line – ‘and is there honey still for tea?’ and the ‘it‘ I am thinking of in my opening sentence is a book of Edward Lear’s poems. The little poetry book was small and old, possibly it had belonged to my grandma who lives in Harston when she was a girl. The pages were yellowing, and had that soft, well-used feel, and the illustrations were Lear’s own black ink drawings. I must have first had it when I was quite young and not yet a fluent reader, because I remember working my way through the words. There were words I didn’t understand – and I didn’t realise that many of them were Lear’s own made up words. As well as the illustrations I had my own mental images of some of the strange and outlandish characters and the peculiar things they got up to. I also had ‘Alice in Wonderland’ with the peculiar poems and my edition had marvellous colour pictures, including Old Father William balancing the eel on his nose.
I’m straying, wandering from Edward Lear, to Rupert Brooke, to Lewis Caroll and now back to Lear – I’ve been thinking about food mentioned in books, stories and poems, and after Brooke’s honey I’m thinking of ‘The Owl and the Pussy-Cat’ because honey features there too:
The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea-green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five-pound note.
They didn’t only eat honey, of course, they had a wedding feast:
They dined on mince, and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand, on the edge of the sand,
They danced by the light of the moon,
They danced by the light of the moon.
When our ornamental quiz began to bear fruit, the quince eaten with the runcible spoon was my first though – and I made some quince jelly; in the absence of a runcible spoon, I spread it on toast and butter and ate it in the conventional way!