Tuesday, 4 December 2007


Yesterday I baked a Christmas cake. Today I made a Christmas pudding. Nigella has nothing on me - apart from a voluptuous figure, a wealthy husband and a shelf-ful of books to her name etc etc!

Steaming a pudding is a whole day's work - 8 hours spent topping up the pan to ensure it doesn't burn dry - but well worth it. And you get to make a wish as you stir it.

So we have a cake and a pudding. Now all we need is the main course. I gave up on turkey a few years ago and since then we've eaten goose, biryani, chicken and pork. The girls have voted for crispy duck this year, with pancakes. We'll see.

Monday, 3 December 2007


Today I baked a Christmas cake. It filled the house with the aroma of dried fruit, warm spices and brandy.

I followed the recipe from my battered old Good Housekeeping cookery book. I've tried others but I think this one's the best.

My mum had a Good Housekeeping cookery book. Hers was neatly covered in brown paper and plastic and we had to ask permission to look at it. I haven't taken such good care of mine. The dust jacket's lost, the spine and one half of the hardboard cover have fallen off and the pages are well thumbed and splattered with greasy marks (especially the recipe for macaroni cheese, my fall back when I can't think what else to cook). It's served me well since my final year at university when I bought it for 50p as an introductory offer to some book club.

The other cookery book my mum used was one by Molly Weir, a redoubtable Scotswoman who later appeared on adverts for Flash. I wonder what became of her?


The first Sunday in Advent.
New year.
New beginning.
I do hope so.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Summer in St Ives

Our holiday next summer has been confirmed. We have a fortnight in Seashore, our first choice. The girls are pleased. They will have two weeks on Porthmeor beach instead of being dragged round the artistic treasures of northern Italy. Alan and I will have to wait until they leave home before we're able to shoulder our rucksacks and set off for the continent again. It's a shame. The new Eurostar Terminal at St Pancras looks very inviting (and I'm not just thinking of the impressive champagne bar). Perhaps we'll manage a long weekend break in Bruges, or Strasbourg. Meanwhile we'll have to make do with cornish pasties, body boards and the south west coastal path. I'm not complaining.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Karine Polwart

I went to hear Karine Polwart at St George's last evening with Alan and Steve and Moira. It was the first time I had heard her live and it was great. She began and ended her gig with two of my favourite songs ('Daisy' and the 'Heron' song) which was very nice of her! Listening to her sing and talk reminded me of home (Scotland). I liked that.
There was a competition to suggest the cheesiest combination of fish and names of musicians/songs etc. I particularly liked 'Skate Rusby' and 'Pike and Tuna Turner'. We scribbled a few suggestions and one of mine 'Red Hot Chilli Kippers' made it to the shortlist but was outvoted by 'Sushi and the Banshees'. I was, of course, gutted!!!

Friday, 26 October 2007


Yesterday I took the girls into London to visit the V&A, which claims to hold the world's largest collection of art and design. It was the first visit for all of us and I was, as I often am, overawed by the sheer scale of the building and its contents. We concentrated on fashion, miniatures, a bit of sculpture and 20th century design which, in itself, took us 3 1/2 hours (including a bite to eat in the very stylish cafe).

London holds a very special place in my heart. I lived there for 7 1/2 years in the 80s and it was one of the happiest periods in my life, not without its low points, but my overwhelming memories are of friends and the time we shared together. There was a church, St Leonard's in Streatham, against which I have judged all other churches and found them wanting. And then there is the city itself, of which Boswell once wrote "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

A number of my old friends have now left London, or moved away from Streatham, and one died suddenly last year. The congregation at St Leonard's is filled with unfamiliar faces and Geoffrey has retired as rector. I have left my job in the City and sold our flat. I don't belong there any more, at least not physically. My visits are increasingly as a tourist or a protester. But as the coach sailed over the Hammersmith flyover yesterday morning there was still a tiny part of me that thrilled at the prospect of coming home.

Sunday, 21 October 2007


On Thursday evening I went to Broadmead Baptist Church to hear George Monbiot speak on Climate Change - Global Injustice. He spoke very powerfully of the need for 'us' to act 'now' and suggested three things that we might do which, if I remember them correctly, are:

1 take steps to ration our own carbon consumption
2 join with others to tackle climate change in our own community
3 take direct action

I have made a mental note of the date and venue of my local climate action group, but what captured my imagination was the first suggestion. I have, along with many others I know, been trying to cut my own carbon consumption but I have no idea of how effective, if at all, my efforts have been. George's reference to carbon rationing action groups (or CRAGs) prompted me to go looking for them on the internet where I found them at http://www.carbonrationing.org.uk/. It is a fairly complicated process but, given the urgency of the issue, worth considering and I would be very interested in discussing the possibility of forming such a group in the Bedminster/Southville area.

If anyone would like to join in the discussion (in one of our local hostelries, perhaps) please let me know.

Monday, 8 October 2007

Chooseday? Tuesday?

Last week I attended a cafe meeting to discuss an exciting new initiative called Chooseday. The idea is that on one day of the week (Tuesday?) you choose to break with routine and do something different, something that will be good for you and good for the planet. It is suggested that your first choice should be to leave your car at home and walk/cycle/take the bus to work. I think it is a great idea and one that I hope will capture the imagination of the people of Bristol when it is launched later this year. For further information and to register your support log on to http://www.chooseday.org/.

What will you choose to do on Tuesday?

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Free Burma

Support Burma
International Bloggers' Day
4 October 2007

Wednesday, 3 October 2007

Summer 2008

This afternoon I posted our booking form to Cornish Riviera Holidays. It's only a few weeks since we returned from this year's summer holiday and I am already looking ahead to next year's adventure. However if one wants a cottage in St Ives in the school holidays then this exactly what one has to do to guarantee a place of one's choice. Besides the thought of two weeks on Porthmeor beach (even if I have to sit in my hoodie with a cup of hot tea) will see me through the long cold winter.

Sunday, 30 September 2007


I have recently returned from a week's visit to Treginnis Isaf near St Davids in the company of 26 10-year-old schoolchildren. The location was idyllic, the weather surprisingly mild and the staff kindness itself. We milked goats, fed pigs, collected freshly laid eggs, groomed horses, checked sheep, dug up and prepared carrots for our dinner, gathered brambles (or blackberries as the English insist on calling them) and created assemblages from flotsam and jetsam from the nearby beach. In short we experienced a way of life that has all but disappeared from our city-centred existence and it was wonderful. The children, in general, and a few in particular, responded enthusiastically to the opportunity to see, touch, smell and taste things for the very first time. I hope that, even if only in a few cases, it will not be the last.

Personal highlights included milking a goat, leading a donkey and several interesting conversations with the farmer on the state of modern British farming.

Facebook friends may view my photos on my profile page.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Cut the Carbon March

We have just bid farewell to Dwijen Mallick, one of the Cut the Carbon Marchers, who has spent two nights with me and my family in Bristol and is now en route to Bath. Dwijen works for an independent institute researching and implementing sustainable development in Bangladesh. Having worked in partnership with Christian Aid in Dwijen was invited to be one of the 10 overseas marchers to join the 10 UK marchers in this protest march from Bangor to London, the longest in history. As someone who is increasingly alarmed by the perilous state of our planet I would have loved to have taken part in this march if only I could have spared the 3 months, which I couldn't. So I was glad of the opportunity to be involved, even in this small way. Besides which it gave us the opportunity to make a new friend and talk to someone on the front line of climate change, an experience which has served to increase my determination to reduce my own carbon footprint and to encourage others to do the same. The problem is how to do so without coming across as en eco freak. And yet if we don't do something (anything?) and now ...

Sunday, 9 September 2007


Along with millions of people across the world I mourn the death of Luciano Pavarotti. Speaking of him, Michael Kenyon, who runs the BBC Proms, said that 'he made the world love music'. What a remarkable achievement for which to be remembered. I wonder what I shall be remembered for.

I was relieved that there was no attempt to beatify Pavarotti. References were made to his divorce and remarriage and to his dealings with the Italian taxmen. The failure to recognise a person's flaws is not only dishonest but also detracts from his humanity, the person that he was and with whom we can identify. Diana's vulnerability, Mother Teresa's depression and Pavarotti's lifestyle were as much a part of them as their good works and I don't think they should be airbrushed from their portraits.

PS The recording of Pavarotti and his father played at the funeral was of them singing 'Panis Angelicus' by Franck. It was the first piece I chose for my dad's funeral service and is an exquisitely beautiful piece of music.

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

New Year

It's obviously not a new calendar year, but today marks the beginning of a new academic year.

Returning to work after five and a half weeks' holiday is a strangely disconcerting experience. I can never remember my password and everyday routines have to be relearned. However I welcome the opportunity to make a fresh start, an attempt to do things better this year based on the experiences of the last. It's like being given a second go at a new year's resolution (or the opportunity to try out next year's possibilities).

Well that's the theory anyway.

Besides it's good to see everyone again and catch up with what they did in their holidays.

Sunday, 2 September 2007

The Beginning

They say that you should never say never ... well I said I would never write a blog ... and here I am. Which only goes to prove that 'they' were right (are they always, I wonder?)

Anyway it may not last very long, so let's enjoy it while it does.

I do a lot of thinking, running things over and over in my head, and I thought that if I ran them over in a blog they might make more sense, and perhaps some of you might like to comment on my musings in a helpful manner.

So here goes ... except that I can't think of anything at the moment, so I'll have to wait until I do.

Meanwhile I'll go away and find out how to make this blog look more interesting for you to look at.