Sun and slime

The first sunny day in what seems like forever.

The 2015 man-free holiday.

An annual tradition,  a few days of catch-up chat,  laughter,  and the opportunity to see some of the more eccentric aspects of British life.

Today we headed to Brightlingsea for the Opening of the Oyster Fishery.  

The Mayor and the great and the good headed off in boats



Proclamations were made and a long lunch was had to celebrate the start of oyster season.

Well,  there is now an ‘r’ in the month.

Shockingly,  there is nowhere in Brightlingsea to sample oysters so we headed down the coast to Whitstable,  a fab,  retro,  slightly bohemian seaside resort on the Kent coast.

Couldn’t move for oyster shops there!


I’ve tried oysters before,  and yes,  they are still disgusting second time around.

Imagine swallowing a giant,  slightly salty and fishy tasting bogey and you’ll get the idea.

Not that I’ve ever tasted a giant,  slightly salty and fishy tasting bogey.   But if I had,  that’s what it would be like.

Hope no one’s eating as they read this!  🙂

Hops and cream teas tomorrow.




If you’ve never tried it before, hugging a church is an interesting experience.

Sunday saw us at Painswick, a stunning Gloucestershire Cotswolds town of amber stoned buildings, to see the ancient clypping ceremony.

Painswick was also celebrating the Painswick Feast and the Apple Fair.

You could bring your own apples for pressing.

And buy puppy dog pie from the food stall.


We were assured the pies contained beef and plum.

Much to the relief of the local puppy population.

Clypping is an olde English word meaning hugging or embracing.

Nothing to do with the topiary in the churchyard


So after a procession around the churchyard



The congregation forms a circle around the church, holds hands and then embraces the church



Afterwards the children are given a coin and a clypping cake


Sunshine, pies and mad English customs.

Unbeatable. 🙂

Strange Stuff

It’s been one of those weeks.

A catch-up week.

Washing, ironing, cookingzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Not the most riveting of things to blog about

So this is by way of a catch up post.

So many people have asked me about the weird customs I go to.

And the main question is

“but, how on earth do you find out about them?”


These help 🙂

My collection of books about interesting and/or frankly bizarre stuff in Britain.

I have a separate bookcase to house all my Pevsners (county guides to the architecture of Britain) and Mee’s (county guides which you have to read whilst mentally adopting the voice of a 1950s BBC announcer).

The collection includes some fab general guides to weird customs in Britain


And veers wildly from the profane


To the sacred




To High Church


Lots and lots of weird and wonderful stuff to learn about, look at, and, occasionally, participate in.

Or you can just save yourself a lot of research time and go straight to my friend and fellow weird customs fan Averil’s cool web site Calendar Customs. Pick an area, or a month, and be amazed 🙂


Hungerford at Hocktide.

It’s great.

You get this



And these


And the Tutti Men (tithes men) roaming the town to take money (or kisses) as payment


You do get an orange in return.

The Hocktide Court is held in the Town Hall and visitors are welcome to attend


But the best bit is the Hocktide Luncheon.

A long, very liquid, lunch with lots of toasts and speeches. Followed by this


The ritual shoeing of the colts – or first time visitors – by the Blacksmith to the Town and Manor.

If you resist this happens…


Or this….


Wrestled to the ground by the Vicar, or the Bailiff, or any number of fine upstanding members of the Hungerford community.

I went quietly…


That’s me that is! 🙂

And to finish the day?


Anchovies on toast.

Of course.

Lovely people (when they’re not attaching horseshoes to your feet), unique event.

Go if you get the chance.

But maybe give the anchovies a miss…..


Could it be?

Could it possibly be….a breakthrough?

Yesterday I did a yoga class and left it feeling positively….energised!

As opposed to my usual end of class state of wanting to drag my aching and decrepit body into the nearest hole (or coffee shop) and lay and whimper for a month or two.

I’m sure this has nothing to do with yesterday’s yoga class being one for beginners (rather than the one for bendy fit people we normally impose ourselves on)

No nothing at all to do with that.

Hey, I take my small crumbs of comfort wherever I can get them 🙂


Tomorrow I am off for a few days with Averil (Hi Averil!)

This will involve Tutti Men, Morris Men, the Cerne Abbas giant, and pagan Beltane celebrations.

British culture.

Gives a new meaning to the word eclectic 🙂


Stir-up Sunday

Today is Stir Up Sunday, the day traditionally when Christmas puddings were made, giving them time to mature ready for the big day.

In our house today it was “stirred-up Sunday”. You know those kinds of days when everyone is out of sorts and irritable? That was us today. It came to a head when oldest child, who fancies his chances at becoming some kind of You Tube movie mogul, flounced into the kitchen, as youngest child and I were battling with the pudding, and shouted “you said you would clean and tidy the kitchen so I can film in here and you haven’t done anything

To put this in context, I have had one of those weeks where I have spent most of my time trailing around the house tidying and cleaning, only to retrace my steps each time and find something akin to a Tasmanian Devil has been following me and undoing everything I’ve done.

You know that Katie Perry song “Roar”?

That was me that was.

It is a wonder oldest child’s face didn’t melt in the blast.

So we were in a good place to do the happy family “stirring and making a wish” bit that is supposed to go hand in hand with making a Christmas Pudding.

Which is why we didn’t actually start steaming it until 2pm when we’d all calmed down a bit.

Which is why the darned thing is still steaming now, 7 hours later.

And it doesn’t look any different to when it was first put in

What is a Figgy Pudding supposed to look like anyway? I know what supermarket Christmas puddings look like but I’ve never seen a traditional Figgy pudding in the flesh before.

And having recently read Agatha Raisin and the Christmas Crumble I’m a bit scared to stop steaming it in case it poisons someone.

If any of you are curious to try making Figgy Pudding, like all recipes there are numerous variations out there.

The version I’ve gone for involves soaking 175g chopped dried figs, 225g chopped, dried and pitted dates and 90g raisins/currants in 100ml of brandy (though I used Grand Marnier) overnight, then adding 50g self raising flour, 100g suet, 175g breadcrumbs, 2 eggs, 1tsp nutmeg, juice and zest of 1 orange, 1/2 tsp ginger, 2tsp mixed spice and 1 eating apple, grated.

And yes, full hat and scarf ensemble is obligatory, the recipe doesn’t work otherwise. Honest.
Mix together and make a wish as you are doing so.

“I wish my big brother would turn into a…”

Add charms, or sixpences if you like (though don’t forget to warn potential guinea pigs of possible choking/dental hazards). Pour into a greased pudding basin and wrap pudding and basin in a double layer of grease proof paper, then a single layer of tin foil. Tie it into submission with a piece of string.
Find a large pan with a tightly fitting lid, put a small saucer upside down in the bottom, put your pudding basin on top of the saucer and pour boiling water into the pan so it comes halfway up the outside of the basin. Put the lid on.

Of course, the slow cooker I was planning on using as it was just the right size for the pudding basin, became just that bit too small once the basin was encased in its winter coats. None of my pans or casserole dishes were big enough for the job. So I am now steaming the pudding in a wok.

Hey, it’s fusion Ok?

Times for steaming vary. Some books suggest 4 hours, others say 6. As I said, we’re over the 7 hour mark and it looks as blithely uncooked as it did at 2pm.

So perhaps you’d be better of not following the recipe after all. Look on it more as one of those experiments you read about in science textbooks.

Or possibly one of those experiments you see in a Science Fiction B movie.