Michael Mitchell studied history at Southampton University, before moving to Grasmere in 1993, where he helps manage the Wordsworth gift shop and works in finance. His interests are vernacular architecture, classic rail journeys and social history. Never a slave to fashion he wears his Marrillion t-shirts with pride – he’s also a friend to many and the other week to celebrate his 20th anniversary we held a great feast in the orchard in his honour.
Of all the social and political changes that have occurred in my lifetime, the T.V dinner probably did more damage to family and social cohesion than any wider governmental policies. My generation left the dining table for the couch and with it the daily ritual of sharing a meal and a conversation. Glued to the telly with our meals on our laps we’d eat our evening meals in virtual silence. It suited us at the time but it isn’t something I’d personally advocate now, as there’s nothing quite like a communal meal for bringing people together.
The Wordsworth Trust employs around fifty people in varying capacities and many of us reside in the hamlet of Town End at the edge of Grasmere village. We live and work together and it’s the first time since I was a kid that I’ve lived in a community where everyone knows and looks out for each other. When we decided to throw a feast in honour of one of our longest and most popular residents a good attendance was virtually guaranteed.
We arranged it in the Old English style with benches and a great banqueting table: we had a bonfire, minstrels and, on a modern touch – a rack of throwaway barbecues. I’d have liked to have included some archery or perhaps some displays of swordsmanship but we had to draw the line somewhere…
When the sun went down we lit lanterns and when the music stopped the crackling fire and mellifluous flow of conversation filled the night. It was the most magical of evenings.
We could do a lot worse than have a national day of feasting, similar to Thanksgiving where communities come together to share a meal. In the meantime I’m looking forward to Michaels 40th.
Mrs Mitchell’s Dorset Apple Cake
Recipe from Mum. I am not a great cook !
8 oz self raising flour
1/2 level teaspoonful cinnamon
4 oz butter
4 oz soft brown sugar
2 oz raisins or sultanas
2 cooking apples, stewed and pulped
Heat oven to 325 f / Gas mark 3
Mix together all ingredients
Turn mixture into a greased loaf tin and bake just below centre of oven for about 1 1/2 hours.
Turn out and cool or leave in tin to cool.
Can be served in slices and buttered.
A really gorgeous recipe.
Next week: A Long Way From Kingston