Category Archives: Blogging

Graves Memorial St David's Park

John Woodcock Graves and The Hobart Connection

The Cockermouth Poets

The New Bookshop, Main Street Cockermouth

My blogging style has become like that of the proverbial London bus. You wait for hours, days, weeks and then two come along together. Why is that? I have no answers as usual.

This is another looking back and ‘here and now’ post, this time about Dad’s anthology of the Cockermouth Poets, design and typesetting by Karen Sawrey. I don’t know if you remember if you have been reading this blog for a while but there were terrible floods back in November 2009., as now across Somerset, which hit the small market town of Cockermouth where Michael lives. I was reminded by seeing Prince Charles on the news that he too visited Cockermouth at that dreadful time.

The town of Cockermouth has a new flood risk management scheme in place which has been operational since 2013. This is a video of the new scheme from the perspective of David Duck at the Environment Agency. It has some interesting shots of the rivers Derwent and Cocker and a good description of the new scheme and you get to hear the distinctive tones of the Cumbrian accent and brings home how each situation is unique and needs a bespoke solution to its particular landscape.

Michael’s response when Cockermouth was getting back on its feet was to organize a poetry trail to brighten up the shop windows of Main Street which had been under so much water. 

The trail was a great success and many people asked if he could produce a book with the poems from the trail which he duly did with the help of Joan Petherington his co-editor and muggins here the typist and sub-sub-sub editor. The Guardian’s Northern correspondent Martin Wainright helped give the book some publicity and took it on holiday with him and wrote about it here, where it sat on a sandy beach many miles from home. The book has been reprinted now, the first run sold out and has done very well indeed for a poetry anthology, raising funds for the charities, Mountain Rescue and Save the Children.  Edit: Michael says to date they have raised £1500!

The Poets in Sydney by Celia of FigjamandlimeCordial

The Poets in Sydney courtesy of Celia @ FigjamandlimeCordial

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

The Cockermouth Poets visit Faaborg, Denmark, courtesy of Misky @ The Chalk Hills Journals

Copies went to Sydney and to East Sussex and thence to Denmark and I was sent these sweet photos by Celia and Misky respectively which pleased the mighty editorix greatly.  

Michael however (never satisfied) hankered longingly after a photo of the book in Hobart, Tasmania.  Why?  Because one of the most famous poems in the book “D’ye Ken John Peel’ was written by one John Woodcock Graves,  who emigrated there and made a new life for himself as a sheep farmer. “It would be so nice” he said, with a far-off look in his eyes, ” if the book were there one day…”

And now we jump forward to the present day and across the world to a park in Hobart where we find Fran! 

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

Photo by Fran at Serendipity Farm, Tasmania

There is a monument in St David’s Park to John Woodcock Graves and when I read that the glorious Fran of Serendipity Farm  had been to Hobart with her daughters and was planning a return journey in 2014,  I emailed her cheekily and asked her if she would maybe take the book to the park and take its photo at the monument. Fran embraced the project with her usual amazing enthusiasm and has sent me masses of photos. I wish I could have perched at the other end of the monument and basked in that hot Tassie sunshine for an hour!

This is my favourite of Fran's photos taken by her daughter Madeline

This is my favourite of Fran’s photos taken by her daughter Madeline

 I am going to surprise Michael with these photos later today.  

The Cockermouth Poets on John Graves Monument in St David's Park, Hobart

And a close up!

Thank you so much Fran and thank you Celia and Misky for playing ‘Pose the book’ ! You are all stars and treasures  and deeply kind people.

D’ye ken John Peel

D’ye ken John Peel with his coat so grey,

D’ye ken John Peel at the break of day,

D’ye ken John Peel when he’s far away,

With his hounds and his horn in the morning.

For the sound of his horn brought me from my bed

And the cry of his hounds which he oft times led,

Peel’s ‘view hullo’ would awaken the dead

Or the fox from his lair in the morning.

Yes I ken John Peel and Ruby too

Ranter and Ringwood and Bellman and True,

From a find to a check, from a check to a view

From a view to a death in the morning

Then here’s to John Peel with my heart and soul

Let’s drink to his health, let’s finish the bowl,

We’ll follow John Peel through fair and through foul

If we want a good hunt in the morning….

John Woodcock Graves (1795-1886)

I do not support hunting, but I am very fond of this song as Michael would sing it to us as small children along with ‘Molly Malone’ and ‘I went to the Animal Fair’ as part of a going to sleep settling down the children ritual. I can hear his deep almost mournful voice softly singing away in the dark as we snuggled down under the covers right now as I write. I have a feeling we all joined in with Peel’s ‘View halloo’ which was the dramatic climax of the song.

Funny the things you remember as you write a blog post. Here is a lovely recording of it being sung by Peter Dawson, not as good as Michael’s of course!

Did your parents sing to you when you were little and do you sing to your children and grandchildren if you have them? 

Joanna  – February 2014.

 

For the curious ….

John Peel the Huntsman celebrated in the song was a real person who was buried in Caldbeck, Cumbria:-

Left and Right Socks

Conviction, Uncertainty  and Falke Sensitive Trek Socks

P1070188

I read a piece about this yesterday and various points hit home and sometimes I wonder how we all survive the battleground of human communication and relationships, at times so complicated and yet I suspect it could all be much simpler if we all stopped taking our thoughts quite so seriously and just got on with the task at hand and then the next task and the next. I think it would all be easier if we focussed on being interested, compassionate, loving and trusting. Those seem to be the core healthy emotions to nurture. Continue reading

In My Kitchen July 2013

Blackboard in Zeb Bakes Kitchen

Dog Meds and Vetty things

In my kitchen there are two slim dogs.  Mme L has been ill with pancreatitis and is now on a complicated regime of micro meals and vet stuff to line her little tum with so she doesn’t vomit all the time. Zeb is in rude health once more after his leather eating trauma earlier this year fortunately.

In my kitchen is a blackboard which usually says things like, buy chicken, or take parcel to post office. My blackboard was made by Andy at Arcadian Furniture who restores furniture and makes new pieces too. He made this board for us with just the right size ledge that it could hold a board rubber and chalk and made it out of the same wood as the kitchen, American Oak.

The eagle-eyed amongst you will note it says ‘Eat Wed pm’ at the bottom. This is because Brian has had the lurgi for over a week and the doctor said starve yourself for 48 hours and drink Dioralyte.

Dioralyte

We are into 36 hours and I am joining in in solidarity till this evening, when we will partake of ‘clear soup’. Brian has decided we are going to have a Chicken Soup and has gone off to buy himself a chicken. The good news is that, so far today he feels better, so cross fingers the doctor gave him good advice finally.

So what else can I show you?

My neighbour's gift of sweet peas

A stunning handful of fragrant frilly sweet peas grown by my neighbour. We are busily trading lettuce and flowers, cheesy buns and vegetables. My neighbour drives out to visit her mother who is now in a Nursing Home, she who likes my bread, and it is very near a wonderful vegetable grower called Mark Cox who gardens at the Walled Garden at Wrington.

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

Broad Beans from the Walled Garden at Wrington

My neighbour is allowed to pick what she wants more or less and she brings me treasure once a week; last week I had the most beautiful broad beans, chard, cavolo nero, newly dug potatoes, and a perfect artichoke.

I have baked more bread in the kitchen, mostly of the sourdough variety. Here is a particular fetching loaf, which someone on Twitter described as a Tin Tin loaf without the tin. A bread with a quiff!

Tintin loaf of sourdough by Zeb Bakes

At the moment as it is hot here, the easiest way to make the bread is to mix it in the evening, retard it in the fridge, shape and prove early in the morning and bake it.   Works for me just fine!

Pheasant casseroleIn the freezer I discovered three halves of pheasant that I bought from a local butcher in pheasant season earlier this year, so I have made them into a casserole, once I had pulled all the bits of shot and feather out I could find. My casserole consisted of the pheasant, cut into smaller joints, sweet onion and carrots from the Walled Garden, two sticks of celery, herbs from the garden, silver thyme, Greek oregano, sweet Cecily, bay leaves, a few peppercorns, a couple of tablespoons of ancient Pontack sauce (made from foraged elderberries in times of yore) some Chinese rice wine, and vegetable stock. Pheasant is a dry meat to my mind but it is all cooked up now and boxed and back in the freezer for another day.

I also had a crack at making the claypot pork dish that Celia made from Food Endeavours of the Blue Apocalypse blog.

Ingredients for Claypot Belly Pork

Here is a pile of bottles that I had to get in order to have a go at it. I already had a kg piece of belly pork from Thoroughly Wild Meat who supplies us with salt marsh lamb hidden in the freezer.

I don’t have a claypot so I made it in my regular casserole. It smelled divine while it was cooking but that too has gone into the freezer as it coincided with Brian and his Lurgi.

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

Ottolenghi Turkey and Courgette Meatballs from Jerusalem

I have also made the fantabulous Ottolenghi turkey and courgette meatballs with sumac sauce, a recipe which is in his Jerusalem but you can probably find written out by someone or other on the net if you look. These little nuggets solve the mystery of doing something tasty with the incredibly boring meat that is turkey mince. I thought they were a bit fiddly to make but if you are set on eating turkey mince and have spare courgettes, then give them a whirl, because the end result is worth it.

Home grown courgettes

In my kitchen were our first veggies apart from lettuce and rocket – three pale green courgettes – which I fried with garden mint in a little butter and oil  about five minutes after harvesting them and had them with some rice and chard while Brian looked the other way.

I have been eating North Sea brown shrimp, odd bits of roast chicken,  and lettuce and bread. Feeling guilty that I can eat and he can’t, though not that guilty that I couldn’t cruelly munch my way through half a bag of M and M’s last night while catching up on the White Queen on the telly box while The Hollow Man averted his gaze.

3IMK

I also had a box of very special chocolates from Haigh’s hand-delivered from Melbourne from a blog friend who is visiting the UK. Lucky lucky me and I loved meeting her and her husband in my kitchen and plying them with cake, more of which another day. (There are no chocolates left of course!)

After watching the White Queen (historical drama based around the time of the War of the Roses)  I always have to spend ages on Wiki looking up the Kings and Queens of England, the Kings all seem to be called Edward or Henry and all the queens Elizabeth. Many of them are a little stressed out.  I have no memory, nor interest in retaining their names and who was married off to whom in political unions but  I am enjoying the White Queen, chiefly because I like the way they roll their eyes in a thoroughly modern way when they marvel and gasp at each other’s Machiavellian ways.

Eat Wed PM

But back to the kitchen –  by the time I get to the end of this post it has indeed become Wed pm and we have made supper.

My grandmother's Willow Pattern soup bowl

The man vet said ‘clear soup’ we translated that tonight into Canja de Galinha  – ‘a soup for what ails you ‘  – as made in the one and only Bewitching Kitchen by Sally.  A Brazilian take on a Portuguese soup, which hit all the right notes for Brian being substantial but super low in fat and super soothing.

Brian's soup

Brian chopped the veggies and I poached the chicken and we cooked far too much rice, but we didn’t care. I invoked the spirit of my paternal grandmother Lily and got out her Willow pattern soup bowls which have nursed more versions of chicken soup than I can remember in their long life and hope that he is cured now. (I added a liberal splosh of chilli ginger sauce to mine as I hadn’t been on starvation watch, but I have never seen Brian attack a bowl of soup with quite such enthusiasm).

I realise it has been far too long since I wrote one of these IMK posts, but if you want to read a whole lot more or indeed join in,  you should visit lovely Celia @ figjamandlimecordial.com whose meme this is and peek at her sidebar as there are lots and lots of kitchens to visit from her links.

Cheese and Onion Crispy Soft Rolls

4th July 2013

cheese and onion crisps Golden Wonder

I used to be completely obsessed with cheese and onion crisps and I suspect I am not alone in this. So you are in for a rambling old post today with a recipe at the end if you keep reading. Golden Wonder were the brand of my childhood, now overtaken by Walkers I believe, who have coloured their cheese and onion packets blue which confuses me utterly, because in my mind cheese and onion will always be green.  The power of the brand is strong in my mental map.

I ate these every day on the 716 Green Line Bus that swooped down into Hammersmith Broadway on its cross-capital journey (from Welwyn Garden City to Chertsey and Hitchin)  and away to Kingston on Thames after a long school day. Continue reading

Nightmares, Time Travel, and Chocolate Cake

I am a bad blogger, I have half-written posts whirling about in my head and none of them finished. I take photos of things with great bloggerly enthusiasm and then somehow the moment passes and I think you probably don’t want to see or hear about old stuff from the week before or even last month. Is blogging supposed to be in the here and now, is it ok to  backdate one’s blog life diary, even relate stories out of synch? How do you feel about this if you blog? How related to a personal timeline should a blog be? Would you as reader mind seeing photos of flowers that have now passed on to the great seed pod in the sky?

My favourite David Austin climbing rose

On a completely random note, I have just waded my way through the first of a two-parter on time travel set in the London Blitz by Connie Willis, called ‘Blackout’ and debating whether to read the second part; truth is I haven’t really engaged with the characters, maybe they will get more interesting if I wade through the second chunk of this.  The only thing I really want to know is whether they have to stay put in the 1940s or get back home; I always prefer it when people get back home in time travel stories.  I really liked an earlier story called’ Firewatch’ and her ‘Doomesday Book’ novel, which are all part of the same series, which is why I bought these two.  If you like time travel stories by the way, my favourite is one called ‘The Book of Kells’ by R A MacAvoy. I read the Connie Willis books because a friend of mine who is now dead, was a great fan of hers and so I read them for her and imagine the conversations we might have had about them once we had both read them.  We all have our own ways of remembering friends who are gone and this is what I do to comfort myself for the loss of this friend.

One thing I do know is that the book has given me nightmares of cities built out of red sandstone where the streets and buildings fall into holes in the ground and one can never find one’s way back to where one was, just keep on going and hope that somewhere, some place it makes sense. I know that this dream is in part derived from some of the passages in the book, but there are no bombs in my dreams, just huge clouds of red dust and buildings silently sliding into crevasses, of running up and down staircases, through courtyards, along passageways and corridors, pushing doors open and always looking for the people I have lost, out on the street, through a building here, round the crest of a hill there, I am exhausted when I wake up. Nightmares have a way of making waking reality preferable most of the time.

Baby Starling having a Think

In my waking reality today it is Sunday and grey and a bit chilly with this strange North Westerly wind howling about round these parts, so I thought that this could be a two slices of chocolate cake sort of a day. (Did you like the way I steered this post away from the  books I read and the madness of my dream life to food?)

I made this rather wonderful choc chip Victoria Sandwich cake last night and it was too late to eat it by the time I finally did the icing thing so I have decided that today I can have yesterday’s slice as well. Flawless logic as ever.  →The recipe is by Dan Lepard ← and can be found on the Guardian’s website for Friday 21st June. I have been thinking about chocolate cake for a while now and how most chocolate cakes these days are squishy and dessert like which is great but sometimes I just hanker after a cake that is not made of pure chocolate, butter, eggs but has flour in it, the sort of cake you can carry off on a plate to a chair somewhere and eat without feeling you have just consumed a box of artisan chocolates that were very nice but you wish you had only eaten two of them.

This cake is,  as promised by Dan in the recipe,  chocolatey but not overwhelming. It is light and moist with a slight tendency to crumbliness, which I like. After all there is nothing quite like chasing cake crumbs around a plate either decorously with a fork or more prosaically with a damp finger.

I used a few bowls in the making ; there was a worrisome moment on mixing in the cocoa batter into the creamed butter and sugar as it looked a bit weird but after that it all came together and I am more than happy with the result.  If I were to open my garden for National Garden Day this is the sort of chocolate cake I would make for my visitors, in fact I would be happy to make it for anyone who came for tea.

I used four large duck eggs and half and half light brown and dark brown soft sugar as I didn’t have enough of either, Green and Black’s cocoa, and some Lindt dark cooking chocolate and a rather expensive tube of Waitrose own brand chocolate chips.

My oven temps are slightly different from Dan Lepard’s. The equivalent of Gas 3 on my chart is 165 C so that is what I used and I reckon you need about half the icing quantity to do this cake, but I don’t like an inch of filling and icing, less is more for me but…

Dan Lepard's Chocolate Chip Victoria Sandwich Cake

…excuse me, I have cut this slice and am terribly sorry but I have to go and eat it before the mouse carries it away. Life is very hard sometimes.

A Bread Bear in Bristol

Bread Bear in Bristol

Heidi who blogs at Steps on the Journey makes these beautiful bread bears as gifts for children and I have admired them on so many occasions and today I had a slightly too firm milky dough sitting in a bowl and I thought it might be perfect for a bread bear. So I went back to Heidi’s tutorial where I see I left a comment in November 2012, just shows me how time flies and how my head is full of good intentions but I got here finally!

Golden Bread Bear

I made a small tactical error of poking his eyes in just before I baked him, thinking that they would pop out and fall off so he is a bit squinty now, he looked slightly more alert before…

unbaked bread bear

…but I have given him an egg wash to show off his beautiful tummy and he has been sunbathing in the garden in between showers. Thank you Heidi for the tutorial – he has been making me smile today!

Sunbathing Bread Bear

The view from the Back Door – a challenge

Cecilia @ thekitchensgarden has a wonderful blog with a readership she calls the Fellowship. Her latest post is a beautifully simple challenge and anyone can join in whether or not you have a blog. Read about ‘What I see from my Back Porch’ and maybe have a go.

I just dashed outside and luckily the sun is out and took these two shots to join in:

Looking down the path towards the back and a most attractive shot of the washing line, complete with resident robin,  I am afraid I have edited out the underpants!

From the Back Door - Zeb Bakes

Robin on the line