Saturday, 31 August 2013

Pudding rules!

I feel a crumble coming on - recipe to follow!  I have been blackberrying again and found the most amazing berries I have ever seen.
Tilly and I walked a different path today and found ourselves alongside the East Coast train line.  I had a Railway Children moment when the express train from London belted past at a hundred miles an hour.  I was tempted to wave to the passengers heading for Edinburgh.  The train also brought to mind that wonderful poem by Robert Louis Stevenson 'From a Railway Carriage' 

'Faster than fairies, faster than witches
Bridges and houses, hedges and ditches
And charging along like troops in a battle
All through the meadows the horses and cattle
All of the sights of the hill and the plain
Fly as thick as driving rain
And ever again, in the wink of an eye
Painted stations whistle by.'

Here's the second verse written out in my mother's childish hand.  It was copied into her elocution book some time in the mid 1920s.  

I have always been able to visualise the child gathering brambles, probably because that was me long ago and far away!

I found another poem in my mother's exercise book and I couldn't possibly leave the first few lines out of this post!  
I looked up the meaning of 'pottle' and it was a small conical punnet and the word is from old French, potel, 'little pot'.  So with a great big modern day punnet of the choicest wild blackberries and a few Bramley apples, I have made a blackberry and apple crumble.  I have just had some for pudding this evening and it was yummy.  Here is the basic recipe I always use for crumbles.  If you wish you can add extra ingredients such as cinnamon, ginger or porridge oats, to complement the kind of crumble you are making.  I have also made a gluten free version by substituting the flour for ground almonds.  It gives a rather different type of topping but also very delicious.

6oz plain flour
6oz butter
4 oz caster sugar (or light soft brown sugar)

Rub the butter into the flour until it's like breadcrumbs, then add the sugar.  Dribble a couple of tablespoons of cold water into the mix and stir it through just enough to make a few clumpy bits in the crumble mixture (Nigel Slater tip).  Cook the crumble for 20 minutes at 200 degrees C and then turn the oven down to 180 for about another 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden brown and scrumptious looking.

You can't beat a proper pudding.  

Thursday, 29 August 2013


I don't know what it is about walking on a beach that always seems to generate lots of pensive thoughts.  The constancy of the waves is probably something to do with it.  They are always there, coming and going, large or small.  Running in and out.  

One thought that always occurs to me, when I am on the beach, is that if I was to follow that massive body of water in front of me all the way round the world, in one continuous line,
I would end up here, just down the road from my Melbourne boy.
It's always a comforting thought, if not a little melancholy.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

In a turbulent world

I am not being flippant but in a turbulent world it is always very reassuring when the village flower and vegetable show comes along again.  I can't believe it's a year since I chatted about last year's event, and with the preoccupations we must all surely have concerning Syria, I think we need these constant reminders that, come hell or high water, flowers will always bloom, vegetables will always grow and it is very important to have the best dahlia or the most gigantic leek.

Every fruit and veg show has to have a lady in a big hat, and here she is.
She was handing out the silverware to the prizewinners.  I rather suspect one village gentleman must have a very large mantelpiece or corner cabinet because he was the sole exhibitor in a few categories and must have staggered away from the proceedings with a considerable haul!
Only one in five of us uses leaf tea these days.  That statistic includes our household.  We don't hold with tea bags, unless it's a fruity one!  I find the category of knitted tea cosy particularly charming but can't help wondering how much longer the teapot is going to be needing it's woolly pullover before the tea bag attains world domination.  
The blue pansy in this last photo reminds me of those glowing Art Deco pictures made with butterfly wings.  

Monday, 26 August 2013


I have just taken a stroll down the drive to pick some blackberries.  It was peaceful in the wood, just some whirring of pigeon wings and the mewing of a couple of buzzards overhead.  The sun was lovely and warm on my back, its strength beginning to lessen now.  The mists from earlier this morning had receded back to the sea and the sky was a soft periwinkle blue.  

I picked a few berries and looked up to see a young deer looking back at me.  The poor thing took fright, of course.  I wish I could explain to these elegant creatures that I mean them no harm. Nothing could be further from the truth.  I do say so out loud but they are always long gone by the time the words leave my mouth, bounding through the woods, out of harm's way.

I picked a generous punnet of juicy berries which are now in a cake baking in the oven.  There's plenty more fruit to come and I daresay a blackberry and apple crumble will be on offer over the next week or so.  I love these seasonal treats.

Sunday, 25 August 2013

A lovely little something

There was a triangular area of long grass in our childhood garden, which also had lupins growing randomly throughout this rather wild area.  Whenever I see a drop of rain sitting at the point where the leaflets join together at the base of the lupin's palmate leaf, shining like a drop of silver, I think back to time spent sitting amongst the grasses and plants in that part of the garden. 

Happy days!

Saturday, 24 August 2013

Vivacious Vivaldi

So, did you watch the Four Seasons Prom last night?  I was glued to the television from start to finish.  
The concert did not disappoint.  How could it?  I knew what it was going to sound like from hearing the radio transmission of the live performance, but to see it was just wonderful.  I have never sat through a whole televised prom before.  The musicians sit and play and it's all lovely but I fidget a lot and because I am at home I can get up and do something else at the same time.  There is not the extra dimension to keep me sitting on the edge of my seat as there was last night.
Nigel Kennedy's production was very different.  It was visual as well as wonderful to hear.  
The young Palestinian players, especially his 15 year old protege Mostafa Saad, were inspiring, especially when you consider the conditions under which they are trying to learn and develop their talent as serious musicians.  It's not something you can imagine is easily achieved alongside every day life in the Gaza Strip.  The experience of performing in the Royal Albert Hall must have been extraordinary for them and I was fascinated to watch their faces as the programme progressed.  
There was some singing in Arabic.  I have no idea what he was saying but his performance was riveting.  It was beautiful and haunting.  It brought to my mind the tragic souls suffering so much throughout the Arab world.  The young man's face, as he sang, was raptuous but also seemed sorrowful and indeed there is much to be heartbroken about in that region of the world.  I wonder if the audience felt the same.  Their applause was genuine and generous.
Magical.  The concert is saved on the Sky box and will be played many times over.  I just hope that someone brings out a recording on CD.  I've set my heart on it!

Friday, 23 August 2013

The Fringe's final fling

We've had a very good day out in Edinburgh, catching the tail end of the Fringe Festival craziness on the Royal Mile.
Although they've been at it for three weeks or so now, there was still an amazing amount of energy being exerted by troupes of actors, flamboyant individuals and bands of undergraduates from all over the place.  Mostly young things eager to entertain and be different.  The Royal Mile offers us free entertainment as well as a platform to performers to show snippets from some of the 2,700 shows which have been on offer over the past weeks. No wonder the place is jumping!

Here we have a lively group dancing away to the tunes of the 1940s.  They were loving every minute and so was the crowd.
Brave individuals invite the hoards to witness their antics.  Some despair as laughter is a bit on the thin side, others get a healthy reception.  But that's the Fringe for you.  Zillions of acts, some are dire, others are brilliant, most are somewhere in between.
 Tools of the trade.
This weekend is the last gasp but there are some tickets left.
Promotional leaflets are still being flung into your hand as you progress up the Royal Mile.
Some take a rather more sedate approach to advertising a show!
 Some lie down on the job
 and others flaunt banners, or use a singer, as well as leaflets,
and a few use winsome and gentle persuasion to promote their performance,
or wear a tee shirt
Every possible surface throughout Edinburgh is plastered with posters.
There is much to see and hear, and it's all great fun.
There were some really good craft stalls in front of St Giles Cathedral. 
Which of these two will be packing up at the end of the day and enjoying a long hot soak in the bath?
Once we reached George IV Bridge we walked down The Mound to the Playfair Steps.  All too soon, after a spectacular firework display next Sunday, 1 September, which will bring the Edinburgh International Festival to a close, the throng of visitors will all start to drift away and the streets of Edinburgh will become manageable again!  No more shuffling along behind time-careless festival goers and dodging around those who just want to stand and stare at such a beautiful city.  Frankly, if you live and work in Edinburgh, it's a huge relief to get the city back! However, before that happens, there are still streams of people to negotiate at every turn.
Street entertainment is not confined to the Royal Mile.  Outside the National Gallery and Royal Academy of Arts there are others doing their bit to entertain.
This is the most decorative clown I have ever seen, from top
to toe.

Even the Academy has risen to the occasion with some colourful columns, giving Princes Street a bit of a lift!
Edinburgh is looking very beautiful, as always.  George Street has completely given itself over to the spirit of the Festival with lots of places to sit with a glass of wine, chill out and watch the world go by.

It all seems to have gone very well this year, with the strong arm of the law to keep a watchful eye over the proceedings, of course.
And now the party is nearly over.