26 October 2011

curiouser and curiouser

We had the most lovely weekend.  The weather was perfectly autumnal, warmish, low light, golden if you were lucky enough to be in the sunshine, or cool enough in the shade to remind you that you might want something warm when  you arrived home.  We spent most of it at the Bloomsbury Festival, location eponymous.  It was there that I came across the white rabbit brooch, here pinned on to my lapel.  I bought it at Miwary's stall, a maker with a lovely, quirky collection of things to sell, cotton cup-and-saucers, miniature teddy brooches with moving arms and legs, necklaces made of french knitted string.  Irresistible, even for this most frugal of consumers (discuss...).  The weekend - was full of discoveries and surprises.  Wondrous throat singing from Siberian group Ayarkhaan, Georgian polyphony from Shavnabada, and much more.

I got to weave carpets with the gentlest of teachers in the Brunei Gallery and especially enjoyed the twang that the cords made as the wool was woven in and out and the bash, bash, bashing sound as a nameless implement was used to push down the weft.

There was "eat me" in Persephone Books with tea and scones and a discussion led by Nicola Beauman on the authors she has chosen to republish.  And such interesting conversations with other women squashed into the shop with their cups of tea - an elegant German lady who talked about the challenges of bookcrossing, and remarked on the cheap paper we use here for paperbacks (she's right - we need better paper for the full sensual experience of a good read); and the extremely chatty and intriguing Elizabeth who told us all about her dog Peggy, the prizewinning Kerry Blue, a dog who apparently does impressions of Snowy with her curiosity about what is going on, hates other dogs, is generally so naughty that Elizabeth has to have respite holidays, but has such perfect conformation that she will shortly be appearing on postage stamps in Jersey of all places.  And there was "drink me", not only with a decent cup of tea, but also some rather strong perry at the Lambs Conduit Street Sunday lunch and some Young's Special at The Lamb.

We visited Foundling Voices to hear the stories of foundlings left with the charity in the 1940s - both sad and uplifting with voices of such resilience.  And we tried to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsmen at the British Museum (sold out) so had to make do with feeling just like Alice in the presence of such monumentality.

We mooched through the squares of Bloomsbury under the giant planes, shadowy and gold all at once,  and found cottages with lonely drinkers sitting inside listening to the racing on the radio.

It was all wacky and wonderful and warm, and London in a very good humour.

20 October 2011

apple day

I scrumped these apples a couple of weeks ago from an orchard in which all the fruit had been picked and a mass of perfectly good apples left on the ground.  I thought they would at least be good to make pies and cakes with, but in fact they are perfectly lovely apples, yellow fleshed and delicious to eat.  Only one batch of apple cakes has been made so far, for an evening of food sharing at the WI (link in the side bar).  Tomorrow there will be another made for a coffee morning we are having at Bethnal Green Library, which happens to be one of the few traditional libraries in this borough ( we have "Idea Stores" now).  It is my little contribution to Apple Day - see the England In Particular website for more info.  Links are a pain just now because my other Apple, the electronic one, is playing me up.  The cursor keeps jumping about, and the guess is that it is a hardware problem.  It doesn't feel like that to me as it started after I opened a dodgy email.  Any advice gratefully received before I start queuing at the genius bar.  In the meantime, here is the recipe for the very simple Dorset Apple Cake, cut out from a Waitrose magazine and stuck into my recipe book. I'm attempting to make some of those recipes in the book that I've never attempted before.  This one is quite light and delicate for an apple cake, and if my mum says it tastes good, well, that's good enough for me.  She's not known for her diplomacy.

Dorset Apple Cake

Take: 1 large Bramley, about 225g, 225g SR flour, 1 tsp baking powder, half a tsp of mixed spice, 125g cold butter, diced, 125g caster sugar, finely grated zest of 1 lemon, 2 medium eggs, beaten.  To finish: either 1 tbsp sugar for dredging or, for glaze, a tsp of honey and water.

Use a 20cm cake tin, lined and greased; preheat oven to 190 degrees C, Gas 5.

Peel and core apple into quarters.  Dice 3 of the quarters and finely slice the remaining quarter (keep this for the topping).

Sift flour, baking powder and spice.  Rub butter into flour mixture until it resembles breadcrumbs (well, sort of).  Stir in sugar, diced apple and lemon zest, then slowly add beaten eggs to forma  stiffish mixture.  Spoon into the prepared tin and level off.  Arrange the remaining slices apple on the top.  If there is not quite enough, just add a few slices of whatever eating apple you have to hand.

Bake for 30-40 mins until springy to touch.  Then either dredge with tbsp of sugar OR make a simple glaze with honey and a little hot water to melt the honey and brush this on.  I prefer a glaze and I'm thinking it might be nice with a little bit of cinnamon in.  Might try that next.  

Leave in the tin for 10 mins, then cool on a rack.    

Hope you have an apple-delicious day.  I hope to.  Cursors and curses permitting.

16 October 2011

the plot thickens

There have been dirty deeds afoot on the plot.  A thief, maybe more than one, breeching the defensive fences, cutting hasps and breaking into sheds, stealing brass and copper.  We have got off lightly so far - two entries, stuff tumbled about, seed packets scattered,  not a bean missing.  He better watch out this burglar bill, because one of the more determined plot holders set up a camera (!) and caught him climbing in, miner's style lamp on his head.  Times are hard, but there must surely be easier ways to make money.

Meanwhile I have been bean counting myself, a very satisfying pursuit, gently opening the crispy, crackling pods, and easing out the beans from their silky nests,  squirreling them away for next spring.  And taking stock of what must surely be the last crop of courgettes before the cold air sets a frost.

And we have been gradually bringing home our sacks and boxes of potatoes, a remarkably respectable crop which, unlike the tomatoes, escaped blight.

Pink ones, purple ones, yellow ones.  Delicious mashed, baked, turned into champ with eggs on top.  No idea which is which any more.  The plot thickens - a bit like the old waistline will no doubt.

11 October 2011


Looking seaward from Faversham Road - one that got away

I very much enjoyed my week of sending postcards, and was glad that it got me back into the swing of posting.  Not that I have ever lost the habit of sending postcards - choosing exactly the right card, condensing a message into a limited number of words, hoping that it will delight the recipient, is a pleasure in itself.  It reminded me too that I was a collector of postcards as a child.  I'm not sure what initiated the interest, possibly the fact that we never went away on holiday ourselves, maybe just a romantic interest in foreign places (i.e. anywhere that was not Stepney) or possibly even a developing interest in correspondence, those little messages about weather, the food, seeing you soon.  The collection was never collated, just put into a rather nasty mustard-coloured bag I'd been give as a prize at school.  I was not fussy about what went in, and gladly accepted donations.  Even my primary school teacher Miss Brogan (think Miss Jean Brodie gets a social conscience) used to give me those she received from exotic places.  I got bored with collecting in the end, and it languished in a cupboard for a good while. Some were cut up for templates for a patchwork I made, then the whole lot were eventually tipped down the chute.

It was not the end of the deltiology.  I like to bring home and send memento postcards of days out, or things that catch my fancy and there is a little stash for sending on.  And of course I like to receive them to.  I walked round the house to see what was on display on our mantelpieces.

In the sitting room, evidence of a fascination with singleton shoes -

Tamara Karsavina's ballet shoe, V&A exhibition

A favourite in the bedroom-

The Pearl Necklace by Dod Proctor and free set of cards from local Young's pub

An affectionate message from a friend says " Sunday 18/6/2000: Hello Colleen, I bought this for you over a year ago.  Yes, it sort of definitely reminds me of you.  I've bought another one now - one for the mantelpiece and this one is for you - Love and Kisses C xxx".  

On the kitchen mantel -

Birthday Card to Miss R Gillard of Shepherd's Bush; Lady Elizabeth White ( Matthew Smith); Ikea Note Card

And tucked into the dresser:

My Kitchen, Harold Harvey, with 1985 17p first class postage stamp

I'm impressed by the thought and attention that people - friends, family - have put into the choice of these cards. The Matthew Smith  was given to me because "That dress.  It's the sort of thing you'd wear".  And I'm amazed - and not a little moved - to find that "My Kitchen" has been on my dresser shelf for over 20 years, with a closely written and condensed snapshot of a springtime in Cornwall on the back:

There is another collector in this house, only the post cards are much more organised, neatly arranged in albums and, for the most part, new and unsullied by the hand of the postmant.  When we went out with a friend recently I warned her that he would disappear now and then to look at post card racks. The collection it is carefully collated, occasionally rearranged, and rather a pleasure to idle through.  Particular themes emerge - deserts and stones;, architecture - Islamic, classical, rural and modern; walls, flowers, the green man, mazes and topiary; the nude; seascapes, lighthouses and boats; railways; a page of owls; sculpture; the odd hero.

"It's like having your own little gallery.  It gives me pleasure "he says.  It's a bit more than that I think - a little history of likes, gratitude, and affection.  Send a postcard today, I say.

*Deltiology - the study and collection of postcards

02 October 2011

postcards: day six

Sunday 2nd: Saw Lady Isabella Bird's Travel Quilt back in August, and thought of her when I was out riding my bike today, along the canal, and up to the Filter Beds.  Very hot.  Picnicked on salad sandwiches, lemon syrup cake and lemon and ginger tea in the shade.  Discovered a cache of beehives hidden behind a fence and spied on busy bees. AND SAW A KINGFISHER!!!

ETA: The quilt is by textile artist Michelle Holmes

01 October 2011

postcards: day five

Sat 1/10/11:  Up early for tea and cake stall in St George's Gardens to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Cable Street.  The mayor unveiled a plaque on restored mural, said his bit then had his photo taken at the WI stall.  V odd.  Old docker reminisced and told me I looked a bit of a Catholic, with a touch of Irish.  Perceptive.  Great films and photos of Cable St, with one of clothes shop selling "misfits".  I'd love to sell misfits.