Nursery Food, Patrick O’Brian, and Vampires

These past few days we’ve both had Spring colds, allowing us to indulge two British vices – eating nursery food and reading Patrick O’Brian novels

Readers should be reassured that nursery food is not ground infant and suchlike (although O’Brian says the Royal Navy had a dessert known as Drowned Baby). Instead it’s simple and easy to eat dishes like chicken soup and – my favorite – molded jelly (Jello).

Last night Mrs G marked our emerging from the worst of our colds by serving up a splendid red jelly in the shape of a rabbit.

My O’Brian book was the one I consider his best – The Far Side of the World. I’ve remarked before on his ability to show animals as sentient beings. Here’s another example, where Maturin spends a night on a Brazilian veranda:

Two bottles of white port stood between them, two hammocks hung behind them, and Lopez (their host) returned for a moment to beg them to to use the mosquito-netting. ‘Not that we have mosquitoes in Penedo, gentlemen,’ he said, ‘but it must be confessed that at the change of the moon the the vampires do grow a little importunate.’

They did not really annoy his guests however, since the vampire really needs a sleeping prey and these two (although eyed wistfully from the rafters) never went to bed.


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