Category Archives: Pure Joy

Growing and Eating Salsola Agretti (aka Salsola Soda)

In which a post mysteriously appears on my old blog, slightly obsessive in detail but that’s me!

salsola agretti steamed

Salsola agretti, opposite leaved saltwort, Friars Beard is a joy of a vegetable to discover if you are like me, always looking over the fence – in this case the internet fence  – and seeing what people eat in other countries. I don’t think I could ever fit a rice paddy in my suburban garden and I don’t really have space for growing melons and other ground hungry plants much as I would love to try, but this plant, which kept appearing here and there on my Instagram feed, really took my fancy so I tracked down some seed and read as much as I could and looked for photos and based on what I found I had a go at growing it last year. I have to say I love it. Continue reading

How to cut up a mango

Mangocubes2My lovely friend Elaine asked me how I deal with mangoes the other day. I was shown this in a restaurant years ago, I call it hedgehog style. As I remember it was served at the hedgehog stage on a plate, leaving us to eat it rather than sliced off in cubes.  It is still sticky and a bit messy and you may, like Mr Leakey, just decide to get in the bath with your mango instead,  but here goes. I had this beautful Thai golden mango from Wai Yee Hong so thought I would show you.

My Friend Mr Leakey by J S Haldane

The frugal amongst you can trim the centre part and run the back of a knife along the seed and the skins to get every last bit off and add to your morning fruit and yoghurt like I do! I don’t usually mark the fruit with a pen, but just for this I did.

dottedlinemango

showingthreesliceslongcutsmangocrosscutmangoabouttopushmangohedgehogmomentcuttingoffcubesmango

 

 

JauntinSomerset.9

A Somerset Jaunt

One day last week the sky turned to blue and the birds tweeted and the household was very restless so it got into the car and headed off in the direction of Somerset which isn’t really very far away. We have walked the beach at Burnham a lot recently so thought we would go somewhere else.

We decided to have lunch at the Swan in Wedmore, who had tweeted us that they were dog-friendly ‘downstairs’ and go for a short walk at Ham Wall, which allows dogs on leads in parts, though not in the hides.

As we were driving down, admiring the spring lambs, we changed our minds and thought we had better walk the dogs before going for lunch as that way they would be more likely to be calm and well behaved.

JauntinSomerset.7We went across to Cheddar Reservoir, a huge high reservoir near where Brian lived as a boy and where we have been in the past to do bird watching. People walk around the huge circular reservoir, and admire the sky mostly. It is a big place and the birds are nearly always on the other side to where you are. Big rafts of bald-headed coot, groups of seagulls, overwintering tufted ducks, mallards, pairs of courting grebes, little grebes,  the occasional Northern Diver, all sorts of waterfowl can be seen here, though it is advisable to take binoculars if you are serious. There is also a sailing club that use the Reservoir but on the morning we went no one was out on the water.

JauntinSomerset.3There were two students doing a project, one of whom was dressed in a sheet, no idea why but I thought they were very sweet.

And the sky was blue and the clouds were glorious! I have spent a little time trying to figure out why the clouds looked like this, because although not that unusual, it wasn’t typical and I am not very good at clouds. I think, and do correct me if I am wrong, that the exuberant many -fingered whispy cloud reaching out in a loving embrace to the world (and I must admit that I threw my arms wide and high and tried to hug it back) is a cirrus formation. Cirrus are high clouds that form around minerals, so I guess in this case this was sand. That week the UK had been visited by Saharan sand bearing winds, which had been combining with our local pollution to create noticeable smog in the south-east of the country; we in the West had fog two days later and fine sand deposited by night rain on our car windows.

JauntinSomerset.11The cirrus clouds were moving in one direction and the lower clouds, which I can’t figure out what they should be classified as, were moving in another direction. The whole experience of being there was joyful, expansive and light. I am addicted to big skies and watching the movement of clouds and light, they lift my soul from the gloom that I find myself in all too often.

JauntinSomerset.9

If you can find a place to look at the sky and the clouds and have a walk, well it doesn’t make your unconstructive thoughts go away, but it allows some simpler thoughts to find a place in your mind and maybe balance out some of the others. As they say in all the mindfulness books, pay attention to the here and now, and allow your thoughts to come and go, like clouds they are real but they don’t have to last forever.

Lunch at the Swan in Wedmore was lovely, we had a fine Ploughman’s lunch and two desserts, a rhubarb fool, which the chef customized for Brian so it didn’t have cream in it, and I had their malt chocolate cake with salted caramel icecream. The dogs behaved fairly well, though Mme L decided to bark at a pushchair on its way through the bar. We took dog biscuits with us so we rewarded them for being ‘good’.

Puddings.1

Puddings.2

We then headed off to Ham Wall , down the bumpy road between the drains, the green pastures full of grazing swans, and wandered down the lane to the big viewing platform. We heard various bittern booming away to each other, but didn’t see any flying. From the platform we could see swans and cormorants hanging out their wings to dry, the hedgerows were jumping with great tits and dunnock. Wild plants beginning to flower..

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A glimpse of Glastonbury Tor from Ham Wall

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It has become quite a busy place and I miss the way it used to be, when I first went there with Brian all those years ago and it felt like we had it to ourselves but I guess that is the way of the world. Everything changes. It was a lovely outing!

 

Why I Bake Our Bread

A week's worth of bread

I bake because …

Kefir Levain

… it’s wonderful, magical and elemental

Zeb Bakes shapes a boule

…it uses all our human senses, smell, touch, taste, sight, hearing and a little talking too !

Boule of naturally fermented dough

… it brings me into community with people all over the world who also love to bake

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… it just looks and smells so wonderful

Beautiful Crumb

… baking makes the sun shine in my heart

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:-

Ham Wall, Somerset Levels

Ham Wall

Here is a post that has sat in my drafts folder for several years. I am not quite sure why it has sat there, maybe I couldn’t decide on the photos, maybe it felt too personal, I really can’t remember. At a time when the Levels are experiencing their worst floods in years I thought it might be a good moment to share one part of them that I know and love as they have been and hopefully will be again one day.  All these photos date from May 2011.

Walkway

Before I baked there were birds to take me out of myself and make my heart leap with joy and long after my last loaf has crumbled to dust there will be birds.  And before I baked and before I had dogs, we used to go out all the time to see them.  Now our visits are rarer but we still go down to the Levels when we can.

Clouds on the Levels Continue reading