29 May 2013

rhubarb, fig, scone

According to Delia Smith, you can "probably get rich fruit scones to the plate within twenty five minutes of having first thought of them".  I have had a terrible craving for honey recently - something to do with the pollen season? - so I decided to test the notion.  Happily it is indeed possible, at least if you use a food processor.  Of course, there is always the risk that you'll make an error if you rush, and I did - plain flour instead of self raising. Obviously they didn't rise as they should, but they tasted fine.  You can find the recipe here though I add more fruit, sultanas and cranberries if I have them.

Today I have been making inroads into the rhubarb by making my favourite Glencar Jam.  (If you decide to make it you'll get just over four jars, and you can do without the candied peel if you prefer - I do. And don't forget you'll need to leave it overnight before boiling.)  Come September, the shelves will be packed with this stuff and I'll have to make myself a whole new wardrobe of dresses that will fit. 

I am off to my pattern cutting class shortly. Just as well really.

28 May 2013


It was while we were sitting in the sun that John mentioned that one of the lovely things about the bearded iris was how it could be passed from generation to generation.  This one, he said, had come from his grandfather's garden.  A clump went first to "number 28", the house he lived in.  His mother liked a garden but was no gardener herself, so it was probably granddad who planted it. Then, when his mother moved across the road, John made sure that some were transferred there. When he started gardening himself for a living, more clumps were dug up and taken to the schools he worked at - in Stepney and Millwall. One year there was such an excess that he dug some up and hung them in bags on our railings with a label asking people to help themselves - slowly over the course of a week they all disappeared. And now another generation is  flowering for the first time on the West Ham allotment blowsily blowing in the wind. 

I hadn't really thought about it before. So exotic, such a journey, and surely more places to go yet.

24 May 2013

after the rain

Now I'm home, wrapped up in a woolly, I realise that it has actually been quite a busy week.  Hastings at the weekend for paintings and drawings at the elegant Jerwood, and later fish and chips; preparing for the WI AGM on Tuesday; sewing, yoga and pattern cutting classes on Wednesday; coffee and a quick trip around the Estuary exhibition at the Museum of London in Docklands today. So, tetchy and tired this evening, we called the boy and went out for supper, crossed over the bridge to the restaurant and noticed that the nest was empty.

Walking home over the canal, we passed the barges with their smoky chimneys. The path through the park smelt of damp and fox, the trees were full of birdsong, the air was cool and clear and clean. Outside the pavilion overlooking the small lake, a group of young women were spinning and swaying hula hoops in the half light.

There must be a family of swans out there somewhere too.

23 May 2013

they're here

They're here, the cygnets.  My friend texted earlier in the week to say she'd seen them.  She thought there were five but it's hard to tell.  You can just about see one on her back, and several tucked under her wing. Stop on the bridge and look and you are bound to get into conversation with someone else who has been waiting for their arrival. Children stop on their way home from school - or out on nature study, mothers with bags of shopping point them out to their babies, cyclists and passers by along the other bank slow down to take a peek . It's rather amazing to think that we're all connected by a pile of reeds and plastic bags, two swans and those six eggs.  Now you are too, I suppose.

21 May 2013

if ever...

The priest at St Patrick's in Wapping was known to be sympathetic to pets, but even we were surprised when a young woman got up to go to communion and a white furry poodle head popped over her shoulder.  We couldn't stop giggling as it progressed up the aisle.

This little lurcher is not at a service.  The church is deconsecrated and the dog comes along with a most formidable volunteer to keep her company.

If ever I am lucky enough to have a dog when I am an old lady, and this is one of the" if ever..." dream games I play, then I want a dog that looks like this.

20 May 2013

deferred gratification

I read somewhere that children who are able to defer gratification are often found to be more socially mobile in later life, which might be taken as a proxy for "successful". Is the same true for gardeners do you think?  I'ver been pondering this as the spring weather has continued to perplex and vex me. With not a little caution, my tender tomato and courgette plants went out as soon as it seemed that the temperatures might be warm enough to sustain them, at least with a bit of evening cosseting until they hardened off a little. But as soon as they started to progress, the day time temperatures would fall and development would stall,  Tantalisingly, cucurbit seed leaves would open wide, only to get stuck like supplicants to some greater authority.  Seedlings were potted on, would grow a bit, then halt. Alliums would start to unfold, then think better of it.  Leek seeds, promisingly named and normally dependable, just never made an appearance at all.

Wild garlic, back of the shed, with insidious convolvulus

None of this matters much I've decided. Firstly because I don't consider myself to be a gardener and success isn't that much of an issue. Indeed, one of the pleasures of growing vegetables is that, apart from a few permanent crops, the patchwork of a plot changes from year to year, perfect for lightweights like me; and for those who love the order of straight lines and grids, there is a great deal to be said for a line of pea sticks, catch crop lettuces, and tobleroned potatoes however long you have to wait.

Lettuce plant from the Chinese lady; my swap was asparagus

Secondly, there are always - always - other pleasures: this year's frenzied bird activity; a female black cap gorging in the blossom before it disappeared, a robin singing for a solid hour waiting for the opportunity to pick over that space where the seeds have been hoed back; a pair of speckled woods twisting upwards.  Or the plants that just get on and do their own thing, when they're good and ready, or those that have stuck out the winter and will just seed themselves if you wait long enough.

Rocket, gone to seed

And if you are really lucky and it rains most of the summer so the rhubarb can establish itself, and the leek moth can't take hold, and the asparagus beetle gets washed off, and whitefly finds it a little too windy or chilly, or whatever, then you can eat just-what-your-body-ordered purple sprouting broccoli everyday for a fortnight, give asparagus to your mates, plan to make fig and rhubarb jam, grill your leeks with peppers at £1 a giant bowl from the grocer on Bow Road.  It doesn't even seem to matter much that when you get home after a day when you seem to have spent most of the day planting or sowing or weeding with your arse in the air in Uttanasana and you feel fit for nothing more than a good scrub and something to drink.

I just may have said this every year since I started writing this blog.  Or I may just be feeling a little more philosophical about the small pleasures in life today.

10 May 2013


It's been a busy day. Best cocoa brownies in the oven, first thing  Pilates. Take mother shopping and drop her off to visit her sister,  Market. Back to make rock cakes, chocolate cake, apple and pear cakes. Masses of washing up. Fairy cakes to make yet. So it doesn't seem unreasonable to ask him to make supper even though he had to walk a long way when the DLR was stopped because of...well, let's not worry about that.

And here is the menu: cheese and pickle sandwiches and a glass of cider. Sourdough loaf bought today, extortionate price, must get on and make some myself. Supermarket cheddar,  Last year's glutney from the cellar.

And now a quandary: what would I have for my last ever meal, if I had a choice that is?  It's either the broccoli, anchovy, tomato pasta; cheese on toast; or today's front-runner, the cheese and pickle sourdough sandwich with the cidre du jour, currently Wyld Wood Organic.

I am replete.

Now for those fairy cakes.