Swamp thing

First thing off my list

History Live at Kelmarsh Hall in Northamptonshire.

The weather forecast said it would be gloriously sunny between 10am and 2pm.
They were wrong.
Very, very wrong.

Imagine having a bucket of water the size of, oh let’s say, Milton Keynes, tipped over your head.
That’s what the weather was like on Saturday.

Until about 4pm when, yes, it was gloriously sunny.

But never mind, we’re British, we’re used to the rain.

And so we watched a reenactment of the Battle of Stoke.

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In the rain.

And the gladiators.

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In the rain.

And we had a picnic.

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In the rain (that’s the picnic rug being wrung out).

Great fun!

If you haven’t been to History Live before, then do go next year if you can. It is one of the most surreal days out. You can queue for your (not too overpriced) cappuccino next to a pustule ridden plague victim, chat with a woad daubed Celt and then watch a medieval battle take place in the company of Suffragettes, Roman centurions and Georgian ladies.

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The day finished with an aerial dogfight between a spitfire and a Messerschmidt (um, I think. More of a medievalist myself…).

In the sunshine.

:-)

20 Days of Summer

Well, it’s traditional.

The schools break up for summer.

And so does the weather

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Six weeks stretch out ahead of us.

Full of possibilities.

Last year I tried to be uber mom. In a fit of misplaced enthusiasm I got the kids to each write ten things they wanted to do over the summer on to small slips of paper and put them in a jar. We could then take it in turns to pick things from their wish lists and do them all over the summer.

Super right?

Ha!

They moaned, they groaned.

Oldest child had one thing on his list, which was “play with x”

Youngest child included a trip to Paris on hers.

Which wasn’t such a mad idea given we were going to France on holiday…

only, we were down near the Spanish border.

So this year there is still a list of fun things to do

But I’m writing it.

Sod family cooperatives, I’m changing it into a dictatorship.

Anyway, as we all know, mums are always right and have the best ideas don’t they. :-)

Don’t they?

Twenty Fab Things We Will Try To Do This Summer

eat
Winkles.
I’ve tried oysters. We forced encouraged the kids to eat snails in France last year. I feel the whole foodstuff as bogey experience will not be complete without the addition of winkles to the canon.

Homemade sushi
Which will no doubt end up the size of giant sausage rolls, but I feel it must be done.

Grasmere Gingerbread.
We’ll be in the area for a week this summer, so it would be positively rude not to.
Every single day.

Caribbean

A new Caribbean restaurant has opened in Leamington. I’ve never eaten Caribbean food. Is this kismet?

Homemade Cherry Pie.
I will, yet again, face my arch-nemesis, pastry.
I will remember the televisual experience that was Twin Peaks

visit
Beatrix Potter’s house in the Lake District.
I find the stories virtually unreadable, but the illustrations? Aaah.

Walsingham
during the candlelit procession to Our Lady of Walsingham. As someone who is slowly moving into agnosticism and possibly paganism, I will be out of my comfort zone here. A spiritual tourist?But I am in awe of people who have such faith, and I am always open to different routes to enlightenment.

The Tate Modern. Apparently, according to his Art teacher, oldest child needs to learn more about different schools of Art and different Artists. I did think that was one of the things they were supposed to teach them about in Art lessons at school – but what do I know? Anyway, we did visit the Tate Modern a few years ago, and did the obligatory “oh my god what is that?” . And, “ha! I could do better than that!”, so I think it could be time for a revisit. We will be cultured and appreciative this time. We will, honest.

The Leamington Gurdwara
is open for Heritage Open Weekend. I’ve been meaning to visit every year since it opened and failed miserably. This is the year I will do it.

English Heritage’s History Live festival of history.
A grand festival of reenactors and other historically minded people. And it’s today. And it’s raining.
Glastonbury for geeks intellectuals :-)

Do

Rock pooling.
It’s summer. It has to be done.

A headstand
That doesn’t involve me slamming into the wall and then slowly collapsing sideways like a felled tree trunk.

Lace making.
I bought the kit in a car boot sale over 15 years ago. This year I will actually have a go!

A picnic in the park.
In the rain if we have to.
And we might have to…

Leamington safari
There are so many bits of our town we haven’t explored.
Shamefully.
Foundry wood.
The canal.
All the mini parks.
We will know our town by the end of the summer.

read
Something old

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Mum’s favourite, and something I haven’t re-read for many years.

Something new

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Should be published in the next week or two. Very eagerly anticipated!

Something Borrowed
Well, it’s on the kindle, so not really borrowed, but this was on the recommendation of Tracey (hi Tracey!) so, sort of borrowed…:-)

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Something Blue
No not that kind of blue.

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A book about a silent retreat in the Himalayas.

Probably quite short then? :-)

And finally, just so it makes the list up to 20, and I’m a bit OCD that way…

Something that’s been mouldering on my bookshelves unread for a while and I’d really like to stop it looking at me reproachfully every time I choose a different title to read.

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It’s good to have a plan :-)

Fiction Friday

This Week I Have Mostly Been Reading

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I loved this book. It was quirky, erudite, interesting, funny and quite a bit weird.

The premise? An authoress, Laura White, (a little bit Tove Jansson), lives in a little Finnish village where she writes a series of books about a mythical place called Creatureville. To the delight of the villagers she sets up a “literature society” to nurture the writing talents of ten (and never more than ten) local young people. Laura holds a party to welcome the final, tenth, member and mysteriously disappears during an indoor snowstorm.

With me so far?

Cue weird and wonderful happenings…

The Game

Trolls (possibly)

A rotting Laura appearing in people’s dreams to read them bedtime stories.

And the mystery of the previous, precociously gifted, tenth member. Did he die? Or was he murdered?

This is great stuff.

Honestly.

It’s a murder mystery of sorts, but the book is about much more than that.

Adult vs children’s perceptions

The writing process as theft.

Group dynamics.

And the ending is shocking in it’s hilarious mundaneness

Next Week I Shall Mostly be Reading

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A Jewish woman, abandoned by her husband and left in the position of being unable to divorce and unable to remarry, sets out to buy a refrigerator, but in a rash moment commissions a portrait of herself instead. A novel that describes the heroine breaking out of conservative Jewish society and diving headlong into the art world of 1960s London.

I believe it doesn’t include trolls.

Dreaming Spires

Friday evening.
Sitting in the gardens of Corpus Christi College Oxford with Jean (hi Jean!) a friend going way back to Library school days.
A full moon casts its silvery light over the mellow stones of Oxford. Champagne. Conversation.

The distant clang of a gate being locked.

The dawning realisation of being locked in the garden.

We shouted for help.

No help came.

The sinking realisation that we were going to have to scale the fence.

All 8 foot of it.

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Saturday.

A trip to the newly opened Story Museum a quirky and eccentric homage to Children’s Literature. You get to play at dressing up and to explore a rabbit warren of children’s book themed rooms and exhibits. Fab

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Neil Gaiman as Mole from Wind in the Willows :-)

Lunch at the Ashmolean, and sun kissed wanderings around more of Oxford’s colleges (thanks to a borrowed Alumni card. Ahem)

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Fabulous dinner at Edamame, a tiny Japanese restaurant, so tiny it’s like eating in someone’s living room. This was going to be a weekend of new experiences and so I tried octopus and sautéed burdock root, neither of which are generally available in Pizza Express :-). Yum.

And then…

And then….

(Drum roll please)

My first classical concert.

I know. I know.

Philistine.

But um, growing up in a house that favoured Country and Western music.

(I know)

And favouring more of a goth/indie vibe myself, classical always seemed so “not for me”.

There’s so much of it, for a start. I mean, where do you even begin navigating your way around the different periods, styles etc?

So.

My first classical concert.

Turns out, there’s not so much difference between the Sisters of Mercy and Bach as you would think.

Mahan Esfahani? Very rock ‘n’ roll.

I enjoyed it very much.

Until half way through the second half when the older lady next to me elbowed me in the ribs and whispered loudly (and accusingly) “But where is the viola d’amore?”

I hadn’t got it, that’s for sure.

Back to our fab rooms at Corpus (I could get used to this)

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Sunday.

The grounds at Magdalene

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The sounds of a choir practicing in the chapel.

Sunshine.

Bliss.

Raaaaah

It’s been a little while since I updated the blog.

Busy at work, busy at home. Stuff generally happening all over and all the time.

Less than a week till the schools break up for summer.

So much to do, so little time.

And I’ve been trying to do the mad Finnish woman’s diet.

You know, the “all sugar is evil” diet.

Which means I’ve been veering wildly from wanting to bite people’s heads off…
To wanting to lick their faces in case any vestiges of previously consumed chocolate bars may still be lurking there.

Yes, as you can see, I feel so much better.

But I will be strong. I will.

We just won’t count the three glasses of wine and piece of cake I had at the barbecue at the weekend.

Well, It would have been positively rude not to…

And life is made a little easier with this turning up today

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Almost makes salad a pleasure :-)

And the hardest part about cooking is….

Much excitement in our local supermarket today.

The bald bloke sat at the table next to mine in Costa in Warwick Tesco today?

Turns out he’s the bald bloke from Masterchef.

In Tescos to do some filming.

Yep, that’s what I thought.

Tesco’s??.

But then as I was wandering the aisles a la “Dawn of the Dead” a horrid thought occurred to me.

“What if it’s not Masterchef related but some awful “let’s peer in the average persons shopping trolley and comment on what they’ve bought” sort of programme?”

My shopping trolley, as a result, was a rainbow of healthy fruit and vegetables.

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As long as you didn’t dig too deep. :-)

Time for tea

The last two mornings I have got up early and gone for a run.

That noise you can hear?  That’s the sound of people who know me falling over in a dead faint.

I don’t do running.

And as I was running around the park this morning I thought to myself

 

“I don’t DO running”

and then “why am I here?”

 

and then “I want to go hoooooommmmeee”

But, I’ve been reading recently.

and that can be a dangerous thing.

so according to this

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I (along with most of the western world) have a biological age that is 18 years older than my chronological age.

Which makes me over 60.

But given the effect that 90minutes of Ashtanga on Friday followed by two early morning runs on Saturday and Sunday has had on my body, 95 would be a positively flattering estimate.

This can’t be good for you!

And then, and then, of course, is the ‘news’ that all sugar is evil, the work of the devil, and responsible for everything that is wrong in the world today.

So what is a girl to do?

Lavender and Honey Scones

No sugar (ahem) and it contains plant matter so it can count as one of your five seven a day.

Take 375g self raising flour and sift it into a bowl. Take 2heaped teaspoons of culinary lavender flowers and grind in a pestle and mortar or blitz in a processor

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Add the lavender to the flour and mix well.

Now add 2 tablespoons of runny honey and mix well, and then to this slightly sticky mix add 80g of butter. Use your finger tips to mix in until it resembles breadcrumbs

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Add between 150-200ml of milk – add a bit at a time, you don’t want it too sticky, but also try not to overwork the dough or the scones will be heavy. Once the dough has come together, turn it out onto a floured surface and press down.

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Cut out your circles and place on a baking tray. Brush with milk if you like.

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Bake in an oven, preheated to 220C gas 7 (200c if fan assisted), for about 15 minutes until golden.

I remember having Lavender ice cream when we were in Provence many years ago.
Sounds lovely doesn’t it?
Imagine eating frozen perfume and you get close to the experience.

These scones are not like that. The lavender is subtle and adds just a hint of fragrance to the scone.

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They go very well with strawberry jam

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And that ups the score to 2 of your 7 a day!

Result!

:-)