Channeling my inner Paddington Bear by Celia Klassen Time for Tea

Here I am channeling my inner Paddington Bear again! I’ve just returned from a very quick visit to England, this time for a friend’s wedding and just by myself with no kids! It was amazing and difficult at the same time. But the wedding was in Birmingham, which is north England so the places I visited were different from last time. Besides the wedding, the highlight of my visit was visiting the Black Country Museum. If you read any of my other articles you know I enjoy history, so it’s hardly a surprise.
The Black Country Museum is an outdoor museum where old buildings from the surrounding area have been taken down brick by brick, and moved to the site of the museum in order to be preserved and displayed. They are laid out like a small village with streets to walk down, knowledgeable actors in the stores, and some you can even purchase things inside.
Another major interest of mine is baking. I love baking, and I love consuming baked goods even more. Fresh bread, cakes, cookies, etc. will win me over every time! We purchased custard creams which is two traditional biscuits with a frosting in between. Now, I say biscuit … and I meant an English biscuit. This is not the kind you put sausage gravy on. The word biscuit is used in England like the word cookie, but it can also refer to a savory cracker. We can have, for example, a chocolate chip biscuit, or cheese and biscuits.
Another purchase which I admit was a large reason we went to the museum in the first place was to get the traditionally cooked fish and chips. Again … chips are fries, but I think we’ve covered that before. Traditional fish and chips is a large piece of cod, and when I say large, it should fall over both sides of your plate – not three tiny fish fillets you get when you order the dish here. And “chips” are always really chunky “fries” but are not the same as wedges.
I used the example of the fish falling off your plate as an example of size, but traditionally fish and chips came wrapped in newspaper. Many restaurants get food-safe paper printed on to mimic the traditional paper now; others just use plain food-safe paper. Of course, there are many different recipes that claim to be the traditional one, many kinds of batter and many methods of frying.
At the Black Country Museum they cooked it in beef drippings. They were cooked in commercial deep fryers, but the liquid in the fryers was beef fat. I am drooling as I write this. It gave both the fish and the chips the most fantastic flavor. I had some fish and chips later on in my trip from a place I always go, and I’ve been ruined. Those Black Country Fish and Chips just raised the bar so far above all the other places I might have to drive the three hours and pay the museum entry fee to get them every time I go to England.
Another very interesting part of the museum was a coal mine they have constructed. Although it is a fake mine, it was amazingly well done, authentic and underground. Let’s just say that no matter what job you have, or what industry you’re in, or how mistreated you think you are in employment, mining was ten times worse.
The first figure we met underground in complete and utter darkness was a little boy (mannequin) of 10. My son is 10. He goes to school like the other 10 year olds around here. The little boys in mining towns went “down the mine” when they were 10. His job was to sit in the darkness, with not even a candle, and open the doors when he heard the carts coming. His job was 10 hour shifts, alone, cold, and in complete darkness. I mean there wasn’t even a sliver of light until he opened the door and the light on the wagons went by.
The next figure we met was a 12 or 15 year old boy (also mannequin). He had a better job where he was moving the coal wagons and had a pony to do it with. It was his responsibility to look after the pony both inside and outside the mine and many times those boys were saved from disaster by the relationship they had with their pony.
When we met the ‘men’ their jobs were even worse. Lying on their backs chipping away at coal all day, chipping away at the bottom of a seam until it fell down, or being up on ladders propped against something that was planned to fall at any moment. So many of them were hurt or died.
The tour of this mine took about 25 minutes. They had made it authentic size-wise and we were bent almost completely double most of the time due to the sizes of the tunnels. Big tunnels were expensive, so they were small. We wore helmets and several times would have been knocked out if we hadn’t had them on because the beams were so low.
When society says we have things bad, our wages aren’t high enough, our working conditions are bad, I’m going to think of that mine and make the best of my situation. Because it cannot be worse than that. I’m also going to tell my 10 year old next time he complains that he has to go to school.

Thanks for reading!

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