I was flying back from Belfast with my daughter and drifting round the duty-free shop wondering whether to buy some whiskey for my husband when I was approached a gentleman who worked there asking if I would like a free taster… What me? Taste whiskey? Was he joking? Yes pleases!!!

He poured us a generous wee dram of The Irishman, and one for my daughter as well… now she doesn’t like whiskey but she obediently sipped then handed it to me… well, it was very nice…

I thought I might buy a bottle as an anniversary present so the kind gentleman suggested I try the others in the range; they were too expensive for me but he said if I was never going to buy a bottle of the expensive one (£70) then I could at least have a free try from him… so I had another wee dram, and my daughter’s wee dram too.

Did I like Yellowtail wine? No matter that I wasn’t going to buy any right now, maybe I’d like to try some Shiraz Cabernet? Oh smooooooooth!!! Mmmmmm!

…and maybe some Merlot? Oh I like it!!! Now, I had already decided to buy a cheaper and a more expensive Irishman whiskey and we couldn’t really manage more bottles so I didn’t buy any more wine… but the kind gentleman gave me several product ‘souvenirs’ for Yellowtail.

I think he must have had a quiet day because he then offered samples of a vodka, the name of which I don’t now remember  hardly surprising after Irishman, Irishman, Yellowtail, Yellowtail, but that was very nice too and took me back to earlier days when vodka was my drink.

Since that experience I have bought many Yellowtails of different variety and they really are lovely, I really recommend them, whatever your taste in wine. My present favourite, as an aperitif…

Pinot Grigio

Sea urchins

Following on from my post about Masterchef  I have to mention sea urchins. I have never tasted one… I don’t think; I once went to a restaurant with a Chines friend when I had abalone and also jelly fish, both of which I enjoyed… there may have been sea urchin on the menu then, I really couldn’t say.

On Masterchef the chefs had to prepare sea urchins; they had several ingredients to accompany them, including cucumber and avocado. Now I have seen sea urchins but never tasted one… and definitely don’t know how to prepare one. These chefs, who are professional cooks, did not have a clue .. only one out of the five had ever cooked one before and that had been on a single occasion. The contestants had a few clues… Monica, one of the judges told them to think of oysters when they were preparing them.

So… if I as an amateur chef was presented with  sea urchins and told to think of oysters, I would think of something very delicate but with an exquisite flavour and whatever I did, I would make sure that the urchin was the main event on the plate… OK so they were nervous, with Monica Galetti glaring at me and Gregg Wallace as the other judge I think I would be very anxious… but really, I don’t think I would serve the urchins as a smear on the plate, or as a tiny ingredient among chunks of avocado, tomato and cucumber!

These chefs just don’t seem to have prepared themselves… maybe I’m wrong, but they seem to have come straight out of their kitchens and straight into the competition… an athlete wouldn’t do that, s/he would get in training!


500… wow!!

I can’t believe, it, I just can’t believe it! I’ve written 500 (yes, five hundred) posts!

I never dreamed when I started this that it would be so much fun and that I would enjoy it so much; being on wordpress has brought me into contact with some wonderful people, gifted writers, artists and crafts-folk  wonderful photographer and poets.

So a big thank you to everyone who has read my posts, and another big thank you to everyone who has shared their thoughts and pictures with me!

Miller’s End

Isn’t this another wonderful poem by Charles Causley?

Miller’s End

When we moved to Miller’s End,
Every afternoon at four
A thin shadow of a shade
Quavered through the garden door

Dressed in black from top to toe
And a veil about her head
To us it seemed as though
She came walking through the dead.

With a basket on her arm
Through the hedge gap she would pass
Never a mark that we could spy
On the flagstones or the grass

When we told the garden boy
How we saw the phantom glide,
With a grin his face with bright
As the pool he stood beside.

‘That’s no ghost walk,’ Billy said,
“Nor a ghost you fear to stop-
Only old Miss Wickerby
On a short cut to the shop.’

So next day we lay in wait,
Passed a civil time of day,
Said how pleased we were she came
Daily down our garden way.

Suddenly her cheek it paled,
Turned, as quick, from ice to flame.
‘Tell me,’ said Miss Wickerby
‘Who spoke of me and my name?’
‘Bill the garden-boy.’ She sighed,
Said, ‘Of course, you could not know,
How he drowned – that very pool-
A frozen winter – long ago.’

Charles Causley 

A thin shadow of a shade quavered through the garden door

Prince Dimitrie Cantemir

I had another ear-grabbing moment when some music by Cantemir was played on Classic FM. it just came straight out of the speakers and lassooed my ears!

Dimitrie Cantemir was born in 1673 in Silişten, Moldovia, now Romania and a real man of many parts; as well as being a musician and composer, he was a writer and philosopher, linguist and ethnographer! He became Prince of Moldova on the death of his father, however his country was part of the Ottoman Empire, and Dimitrie had spent many year in Istanbul as a young man. He could speak Turkish, as well as Latin, Arabic and Greek. His tenure of the throne only lasted three weeks before he was sent back to Constantinople. He did become Prince again, and this time he held his office for a year.

His family moved to Russia and he became involved in translating the Byzantine liturgy for the Orthodox church. he passed on his talents to his children, Maria who became the mistress of Tsar Peter of Russia, his son Antioh was a famous diplomat, and his youngest daughter Smaragda was a great beauty and married a Russian prince.

Dmitrie died in in 1723 but leaves a legacy of wonderful music, which I think we would call fusion…. Moldovian dances, Ottoman and European classical influences, dervish Serma (devotional music)  and played on a variety of western and eastern instruments including tambur, the saz, the kemence,and the bendir (I don’t actually know what they are!)

To quote the sleeve notes from the CD “Cantemir’s compositions are typically cast in pesrev or saz semai form, consisting of several sections (hane) with a ritornello (mülâime or teslim) repeated after each…” so now you know!

Mr Dickens

Dickens has bee a constant companion through my reading life… I wouldn’t say I am an expert, or know any of his stories well enough to be on Mastermind but I have read them again and again over the years, with the exception of a couple, ‘The Mystery of Edwin Drood’, and ‘Dombey and Son’. I also here confess that there are a couple I just have not been able to finish, ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ and ‘A Tale of Two Cities’… I ought to remedy those admissions, oughtn’t I?

There have been some great film versions, particularly BBC productions; one of my all time favourite films is the 1946 black and white version of ‘Great Expectations’ with John Mills, Valerie Hobson, Alec Guinness, Bernard Miles and the incomparable Finlay Currie as Magwitch. I also love ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ – great songs, great acting!

My favourite? Well probably ‘Great Expectations’, although Bleak House is another favourite… and who could not be put on the edge of the seat by these opening paragraphs:

In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no
need to be precise, a boat of dirty and disreputable appearance,
with two figures in it, floated on the Thames, between Southwark
bridge which is of iron, and London Bridge which is of stone, as an
autumn evening was closing in.

The figures in this boat were those of a strong man with ragged
grizzled hair and a sun-browned face, and a dark girl of nineteen or
twenty, sufficiently like him to be recognizable as his daughter.
The girl rowed, pulling a pair of sculls very easily; the man, with
the rudder-lines slack in his hands, and his hands loose in his
waistband, kept an eager look out. He had no net, hook, or line,
and he could not be a fisherman; his boat had no cushion for a
sitter, no paint, no inscription, no appliance beyond a rusty
boathook and a coil of rope, and he could not be a waterman; his
boat was too crazy and too small to take in cargo for delivery, and
he could not be a lighterman or river-carrier; there was no clue to
what he looked for, but he looked for something, with a most intent
and searching gaze. The tide, which had turned an hour before,
was running down, and his eyes watched every little race and eddy
in its broad sweep, as the boat made slight head-way against it, or
drove stern foremost before it, according as he directed his
daughter by a movement of his head. She watched his face as
earnestly as he watched the river. But, in the intensity of her look
there was a touch of dread or horror.

Allied to the bottom of the river rather than the surface, by reason
of the slime and ooze with which it was covered, and its sodden
state, this boat and the two figures in it obviously were doing
something that they often did, and were seeking what they often
sought. Half savage as the man showed, with no covering on his
matted head, with his brown arms bare to between the elbow and
the shoulder, with the loose knot of a looser kerchief lying low on
his bare breast in a wilderness of beard and whisker, with such
dress as he wore seeming to be made out of the mud that begrimed
his boat, still there was a business-like usage in his steady gaze.
So with every lithe action of the girl, with every turn of her wrist,
perhaps most of all with her look of dread or horror; they were
things of usage.

‘Keep her out, Lizzie. Tide runs strong here. Keep her well afore
the sweep of it.’

Trusting to the girl’s skill and making no use of the rudder, he eyed
the coming tide with an absorbed attention. So the girl eyed him.
But, it happened now, that a slant of light from the setting sun
glanced into the bottom of the boat, and, touching a rotten stain
there which bore some resemblance to the outline of a muffled
human form, coloured it as though with diluted blood. This caught
the girl’s eye, and she shivered.

Do you recognize it? ‘Our Mutual Friend’!