Goodbye Tom! Good luck!!

Drifted down to the Dolphin this evening, hoping to meet up with our pals, the 2 T’s, Trev and Tim, which we did… only to discover that the lovely bar person Tom who has been dispensing beer, drinks, and a benign  almost Buddha like calm from behind the bar for the last eighteen months, is leaving!

Tom is like all good bar people, he has this radar which clocks customers waiting at the bar, and clocks them in the order they arrived! However, he also has judgement… so if someone is standing there and actually nattering to someone, or even mouthing off, has had too much to drink anyway, is not really that bothered about being served, has already been a bit rude, – and he sees you, pleasant, polite, loyal, friendly local person – then he might move you up the queue and serve you sooner.

He is pleasant and friendly and funny and nice and interesting…

We are so sorry to see Tom go, but we wish him well on his travels, and the best of luck in the future, whatever he gets up to! Maybe we can organise a pub trip to visit him, even though it is 3,452 miles away… However, it’s more likely we will stay in contact through social networking… Even so…

Hot puddings

I wish I liked puddings and desserts, but really I don’t. I wish I liked them because I like traditional cooking – and what I mean by that is looking back to food which was cooked from fresh ingredients, often home-grown, from recipes handed down from previous generations and much-loved because of that.

Hot puddings, I believe, are going to fall away altogether as an everyday part of the main meal; when I was at home as a child, when I was at school with school dinners, there was always pudding… and generally it was hot, usually served with custard or a sweet sauce. There were fruit pies and tarts and turnovers, and custard filled pastries and crumbles and flans, boiled puddings, roly-poly puddings, rag puddings, but I guess the most British is ‘the pudding’ usually a baked sponge. Pudding… aka pud, dessert, afters, sweet…

I was just looking through one of my old cookery books, ‘Modern Practical Cookery’, published in 1934, and there are fifty-two pages of ‘hot puddings’, followed by another thirty-eight pages of pastry (although this does include cheese pastries, egg pie, lobster patties, picnic pies and sausage rolls)

  • 3 almond puddings
  • 24 apple puddings
  • 2 apricot puddings
  • arrowroot pudding
  • 4 banana puddings
  • currant pudding
  • 2 blackcurrant puddings
  • Brazil nut pudding
  • 4 bread/bread and butter puddings
  • 2 caramel puddings
  • carrot pudding
  • cherry pudding
  • chestnut pudding
  • 9  chocolate puddings
  • 3 Christmas puddings
  • 2 cinnamon puddings
  • 5 coconut pudings
  • 3 custard puddings
  • 2 damson puddings
  • 3 date puddings
  • 2 fig puddings
  • 6 ginger puddings
  • 4 golden syrup/treacle puddings
  • 2 gooseberry puddings
  • honey pudding
  • 2 jam puddings
  • 6 lemon puddings
  • loganberry pudding
  • 7 marmalade puddings
  • milk pudding
  • 3 omelettes
  • 4 orange puddings
  • peach pudding
  • pear pudding
  • 3 pineapple puddings
  • plum pudding
  • prune pudding
  • 2 raisin puddings
  • 2 raspberry puddings
  • 2 rhubarb puddings
  • 7 rice puddings
  • 2 sago puddings
  • semolina pudding
  • soda pudding
  • 4 soufflés
  • spaghetti pudding
  • sponge pudding
  • 2 strawberry puddings
  • suet pudding
  • syllabub
  • tapioca pudding
  • 2 vanilla puddings
  • 14 sauces for puddings

As well as all of these – about a hundred and fifty I reckon, there were a whole lot of named puddings… but that surely is for another time!

This is just an ordinary household cookery book, from over eighty years ago, and it’s offering ordinary people hundreds of recipes just for desserts!!

Apple paring machines, perpetual mousetraps, sardine knives and figs! Figs!! Figs!!!

We are so used to everything being available in our shops all the time, or if everything isn’t, then do some on-line shopping and it will be with you in a trice! Occasionally some item – a film, music, special edition game, is announced pre-sale and then everyone is mad to get it, queuing up outside stores, pre-ordering on-line, the excitement building…

Just imagine being in a remote place, where most products manufactured, grown, made elsewhere, have to be brought in. Imagine if the journey to deliver them is perilous – as a retailer you daren’t advertise them in advance in case they get lost, broken, mysteriously vanish,, arrive broken or in a different condition from what you expect, or what arrives isn’t what you ordered.

In 1873, in countries such as Australia and new Zealand, items which couldn’t be made or grown at home, or specific items of a particular make, had to be brought in by ship. My great-great-grandfather had an import/export business in Hobart Tasmania; he would ship out whale products, timber and wool, and import all manner of goods from various other countries in Asia, Europe and North America.

I came across an advertisement from the business of H. Hounsell, Henry Hounsell, general furnishers at 1, Bridge Street Nelson, New Zealand. The Hounsells came from England at some point earlier in the nineteenth century.

In this advertisement, there is great excitement over the newly arrived goods – and what a variety! Many you might expect, guns would be useful for hunting and for protection in those times, furniture too, chairs, beds, and kitchen items (including Nottingham jars!)… but other things, which if you think about it are very necessary – rat and mice traps for the introduced rats and mice brought on ships – maybe even the Echo, which brought Mr Hounsell’s cargo! Sausage-makers, perambulators and figs! And what are kitcheners? I’m guessing they might be free-standing stoves or ovens.

Have a look at what Mr Hounsell proudly advertises:


Hounsell’s Advertisements

ON SALE, at H. HOUNSELL’S, No 1, Bridge-street

JUST OPENED, 2 Cases Superior Single and Double-barrelled GUNS, by Hollis and Sons; quality guaranteed; including a few light Guns for Boys’ or Diggers’ Use, to be SOLD CHEAP.

  • Eley’s Wire Cartridges, all sizes
  • Eley’s Waterproof Gun Caps
  • Eley’s Thick Cloth Gun Wads, in bags
  • Powder and Shot Flasks and Belts
  • Gun Cleaning Rods, Patent Cap Chargers, and a large assortment of Gun Fittings for repairing Guns.
  • Hall and Son’s Glass Gunpowder
  • Hall and Son’s treble F
  • Patent Shot, all sizes
  • Blasting Powder in any quantities, by the single pound or by the keg
  • Single and Double Tape Patent Fuse

including Folding Bedsteads, with lath bottom, NOW ON SALE, in great variety


  • 12 dozen Superior Windsor Wood Seat Chairs
  • 3 dozen children’s Low Chairs, with pans complete
  • 3 dozen Children’s High Chairs, assorted
  • 24 Cane-seat Chairs, in great variety

comprising tall and low-covered Pots, Cream Jars, Bread Pans, Starch Pans, Nottingham Jars and Covers, &c.
1 crate Sets Jugs, well assorted

1 CASK, containing –

  • 6 dozen BM Teapots, splendidly assorted, all sizes
  • Timmin’s Apple Paring Machines
  • Pullinger’s Perpetual Mousetraps
  • BM Chamber Candlesticks
  • Sardine Knives, new patterns
  • Wire Rat-traps

1 CASE containing every description of Household Brushware, Painters’ Brushes and Whitewash Brushes copper-bound, best Wool Mopheads, and Chamois Leathers.


  • 1 Case Round and Oval Tinned Frypans
  • 2 Casks Hollow and Enamelled Ware, including Iron Saucepans, Pots, and Kettles, all sizes; Enamelled Frypans, Gridirons, Washbasins, &c, &c.


  • 1 Cask HOUSE BELLOWS, all sizes, including a few fancy Parlor ditto
  • 6 dozen Tin Prospecting Dishes
  • Avery’s Gold Scales, Blued Fire Guards, and a large assortment of Fenders and. Steel Fireirons

EX ECHO, 3 Dozen Lovelock’s SAUSAGE MACHINES, all sizes

Perambulators! Perambulators!!
Just Opened and Now on. Sale

Just Opened,

  • 2 casks Princess Cut Goblets
  • 2 casks Plain Goblets
  • 1 cask assorted Cut Tumblers and’ Wine Glasses

Kitcheners !! Kitcheners !I!
10 MORE CASES of Flavel’s Patent KITCHENERS, from 3ft. to 4ft. 6in., Now on Sale at lowest remunerative prices.


This advertisement was shared from the collection of The National Library of New Zealand


Do children still play hopscotch? We played it at junior school – there were two versions, chalked onto the playground or road; one was a line of numbered squares, single and then side by side  so you could hop then land with two feet, hop, two feet etc… I think there were ten squares, altogether. My actual memory of the rules are a bit hazy, but I think each player had a stone and would throw it onto a number hop around without stepping on the lines, and pick up the stone on the return… something along those lines (or within those lines I should say!) The other version was circular, like a snail shell, also divided into squares, but with a couple of symbols inserted at random. One symbol meant you had to hop over it, the other meant you could put both feet down. I think when you got to the centre you had to turn round and come back again. If you made it all the way back without falling over or stepping on a line, you put your initials in any square, everyone else then had to jump over, but you could put both feet down.

We did have other games, tig, skipping, some sort of singing game, but hopscotch was my favourite. I mentioned it in a story I was witting, and then couldn’t really properly remember how to play it. Apparently it’s a really old game – at first, before there were paved roads, children would mark the game out in the dirt – scratching or ‘scotching’ the outline. Some things I’ve looked at say it was an ancient British game, going back before the Romans, others say it was actually a Roman game; elsewhere there are claims it began in India or China, or that it is the last vestiges of some labyrinth ritual.

Who knows, who can ever know… my completely instinctive opinion is that children are inventive and love hopping about and balancing, and making up games, and that all over the world children invented similar games. Maybe the outline was based on something else – a pattern they saw, a mosaic, a ritual pathway, whatever, but I think kids made it up!

Baked beans and boilersmiths

I love beans, fresh and dried, and I love pulses, and most things made with them, but I am not that fond of commercially made baked beans. If I had to eat them I would, but I would never choose them, they are usually just to sweet and the sauce always seems slimy.

I came across a recipe for boilermaker baked beans which sounded interesting. I came across it among some American recipes and because I didn’t know, I thought it must be a recipe made for people working as boiler makers which I guess is very hard physical labour and anyone making boilers would be very pleased to have a hearty, tasty meal of beans…

According to Wikipedia:

A boilermaker is a trained craftsman who produces steel fabrications from plates and tubes. The name originated from craftsmen who would fabricate boilers, but they may work on projects as diverse as bridges to blast furnaces to the construction of mining equipment.[1] The trade of Boilermaker evolved from the industrial blacksmith and was known in the early 19th century as a “boilersmith”

However, when I came to investigate the recipe, looking for its origins, I discovered that a boilermaker is also – beer with a whisky chaser, or beer with a whisky in it, sometimes dropped in actually in a shot glass (which always seems silly to me even though I know it’s popular at the moment – I was once given a Jägerbomb… but that’s another story…) The shot glass of whisky dropped into a beer is called a Depth Charge, apparently. Boilermakers as a named drink dates back to the 1890’s in America (I wonder if it has a differ name and a different history in the UK? – another investigation!) miners finishing their shifts in the coal mines of Butte Montana knocked back boilermakers… which they called Sean O’Farrell’s… I am very confused by all this now…

Back to baked beans… boilermaker baked beans are made with whisky and beer – hence the name!

In the recipe I came across the instructions were the ‘throw everything in a pot and cook till done’ sort of method, the ingredients being as much of the following as you had, liked, thought you needed…

  • cooked beans
  • chopped onion
  • crispy cooked bacon broken into bits
  • chilli sauce (the recipe recommended a bottle – guess it depends on the sauce – a bottle of the one I have in my cupboard would blow the lid of the pan!)
  • dark beer
  • tomato salsa/sauce
  • whisky
  • molasses
  • made mustard
  • dark brown sugar
  • hot pepper sauce (as well as the chilli sauce? Really?)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • salt – I would definitely leave salt out – with all those sauces, bacon and mustard I think it will be more than salty enough!

It sounds very sweet to me – I think if I do make it (and i really do fancy giving it a go!) I would leave out the brown sugar and use actual chillies rather than both the chilli and hot pepper sauces. I would also just use chopped tomatoes, not salsa – but add garlic and red/green peppers for flavour…

I might make this tomorrow! I feel inspired! … if I had a Nottingham jar I could make it in that!



Anything is possible

Anything, literally anything is possible… when you write!! In your writing you can be anything you want to be, an astronaut, a channel swimmer, the head of a royal family, a maintenance worker on the Forth Road Bridge – you can go back in time and be a housecarl fighting in the battle of Hastings, or a Roman wife on Hadrian’s Wall inviting her friends to a dinner party, a sweeper on the streets of nineteenth century London, or you can go forward in time, or travel to distant places, travel beyond our solar system beyond our galaxy – you can be anything, be anywhere, do whatever you want… when you write!

You can be more modest and write about a different life in today’s world, but even then you can change your age, your gender, your talents and abilities, your character – you can make yourself ‘better’ than you are, or infinitely worse!

My characters in my books are just ordinary people who just live pretty ordinary lives. Although i don’t write in the first person for all my novels, I do try and ‘become my characters to properly understand why they do and say the things they do and say. I write far more than ever appears in my stories because I’m filling in these people’s lives so they are there as rounded characters and I hope believable characters before they ever land there on the page!

For example, in ‘night vision’, the story of a couple whose marriage is on the brink of disaster, some of the husband’s actions and behaviour seems inexplicable (as it does with real people in real life) but I know why he is as he is, and even though by the end when I hope the reader will accept him as believable, and even though not all his behaviours have been explained, I will know in my omniscient author way! We met people in real life and don’t know why they are as they are, do as they do, say what they say, so I want it to be the same in my books (without being frustrating r annoying!!)

So going back to my original thought of being able to be whatever and whoever you like when you write, I guess the most extreme example for me might be Rudi in ‘The Stalking of Rosa Czekov’, and of course Thomas Radwinter, whose life and adventures I’ve chronicled over several books!

Here are links to my e-books:

night vision –

The Stalking of Rosa Czekov –

The Radwinter stories –

and my first paperback so far, Radwinter –

It was all going so well…

It started earlier in the week, when for various reasons, I had to use up a lot of eggs and so made a big cake; it was a sort of marbled chocolate and vanilla cake and came out very well but even bigger than I had expected. We had the fortnightly art group, and served them cake with their  tea; they enjoyed it very much and were most complimentary. A friend invited us round for a curry and I said as I had cake I would make a trifle and bring to finish the meal; splendid, she said.

This was where I had a bit of a brainstorm. English trifle is so easy, sponge, fruit, custard, cream (sometimes jelly) For a completely unknown and now complexly ridiculous reason, instead of cutting a few fingers of cake I proceeded to line the bowl with cake – yes, ludicrous – and to make it worse I had the uniform coloured top on the outside so it showed through the glass bowl as just brown… plain brown… dull brown… instead of the nice marbled effect from the inside.

I won’t go into further detail except there was fruit and there was custard (no jelly) and there was more cake (why, oh why, oh why??) I came to finish off with more fruit and cream and suddenly saw it as it actually was… it looked like the sort of thing a nine-year-old might make…
I decided it needed rescuing… I would get individual dishes and make pretty portions with fresh fruit attractively arranged…

Last year was the year of getting rid of things, and I was very proud of myself, almost smug with the amount of stuff we got rid of. Except now we have no pretty dishes to serve individual trifles in… never mind! our friends like whisky, let’s serve it in whisky tumblers of which we have six matching ones… except no we don’t… somehow three of the have vanished…

I have made six desserts… they may taste OK, cake, custard, fresh summer fruits, cream… but they look like the sort of thing an embarrassed Masterchef contestant says works perfectly every time at home as s/he surveys the bowl of slop s/he has presented to the judges… ‘I don’t know what went wrong…’