Look up!

My dad was a very observant man, and a very interested man; wherever he went he would be looking at things, observing things,watching things, and he would often say as we wandered a long a fairly boring street ‘Look up!’ and quite often there would be things aloft, strange guttering, odd tiles, peculiar finials, unusual chimneys.

The idea of looking to find something out or the ordinary doesn’t just apply to looking up, of course, it’s more an attitude of having open eyes to the world around. As a writer I think I do observe things closely, focus on people or buildings or places, and tuck away little details for my writing – and i don’t mean I do it consciously, I just do it!

We were in London on a roasting hot day and having wandered along the south bank, we stopped beneath the Millennium Bridge in the shade waiting for ten minutes or so before it was time to rendezvous with the rest of our party and get the coach home. I was taking photos across the river of the wonderful views and then I looked up.

P1020527 I wish I were an artist – what great paintings they would make!P1020536

Soup of the morning, beautiful soup!


I had a beautiful edition of ‘Alice in Wonderland’ when I was a child, probably given to me by my dear god-mother; sadly I have lost both the book and godmother, but I certainly think of my god-mother almost daily, and ‘Alice’ occasionally too. I loved reading from an early age, and Alice was one of the first books I actually read, although I struggled over the long and difficult words – but I knew much of it off by heart having had it read to me so often.

One of the things that delighted me and still delights me is the language, and it certainly had an impact because I remember little phrases and the songs and poems. I’m now very fond of making soup, and I always think of the hilarious Lewis Carroll poem, ‘Soup of the Evening’. The soup at above is butternut and red pointy pepper and the colour is just gorgeous, it is more of a morning soup, a sunrise soup than an evening soup. I’m just pondering on how I could change Carroll’s ‘rich and green’ to something orange or red… and then find another word instead of ‘tureen’, but ‘tureen’ is so splendid… oh, well, ponder on, meanwhile…

Soup Of The Evening
Lewis Carroll

Beautiful Soup, so rich and green,
Waiting in a hot tureen!
Who for such dainties would not stoop?
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Soup of the evening, beautiful Soup!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Soo – oop of the e – e – evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

Beautiful Soup! Who cares for fish,
Game, or any other dish?
Who would not give all else for two
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Pennyworth only of beautiful Soup?
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Beau – ootiful Soo – oop!
Soo – oop of the e – e – evening,
Beautiful, beautiful Soup!

How to make a Swiss roll

This was a joke I found incredibly funny when I was a child – ‘How do you make a swiss roll?’ – ‘Push him down a mountain!’ Very silly, very childish.

I have actually never tried to make a swiss roll, although I have made chocolate roulade which is a similar idea, a thin, rectangular sponge, rolled up while warm, and then when cool filled with deliciousness. I have to confess that as well as still thinking the Swiss roll joke is funny, I have a secret liking for shop bought swiss rolls made with flabby sponge and red jam (no particular fruit mentioned, just red – the same jam that we had as children at school to have with sago/semolina/tapioca for dinner) I also like the individual miniature swiss rolls, the plain sponge and jam ones, and the chocolate ones filled with a sickly white cream and covered in chocolate. My enjoyment of these has slightly diminished by the wrappers now being sealed plastic, not silver foil.

Maybe for English conversation next week I should bring in some traditional English cakes – I might try a swiss roll but will buy a Battenberg! Here is a recipe I could follow from the Spry cookery booklet, dated about 1953:


Bishop Duppa

We passed this rather beautiful building and recognized it as  almshouses and read the notice which told us that Bishop Duppa was responsible for their foundation. it seemed such a strange name that I wondered if he might have been born abroad, but no, Brian (or Bryan) Duppa was born in Lewisham in Kent.

His father was a merchant, and his mother had the wonderful name of Lucrece Maresall. He was born at a time when the old calendar was still in use so although at the time the year was 1588, now we think of it as 1589. He lived during the time of the English Civil war, in Richmond and this is where his almshouses are. He was married to Jane Killingtree, another great name, but they had no children.

Bishop Duppa was a chaplain to the royal family, having been educated at Westminster School and Oxford. He was made Bishop of Winchester in 1638 and Bishop of Salisbury. He died in 1662 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

The almshouses were for 10 unmarried women over 50 years of age, who had to wear  “a gown or coat made of a substantial cloth and of a colour called Bishop’s blue”, but if a woman sold her gown within a year, she had to leave.

The rules for admission were very strict; none of the following could be allowed:.

  • “any person suffering from any contagious disease 
  • thieves 
  • common drunkards 
  • any inmate found to be married” 

 …and also the following provisions:-  

  • “that none of the poor being of ability to do work should at any time be idle but should always be employed in God’s prayer, or reading, or in other employment such as spinning, knitting or the like 
  • that no tippling house should be kept within the said almshouse under pain of expulsion of each person as should keep it 
  • and if any of the poor should be found unseasonably or intemperately tippling in any common alehouse, for the first offence she should forfeit 4d; for the second offence 12d; and for the third offence should be expelled from the said almshouse for ever” 

IMG_20150605_110644802_HDR These present day almshouses were built in 1852 in the Vineyard, next to Queen Elizabeth’s almshouses; the originals were on Richmond Hill

By the river and with the river and on the river and in the river

Living in Cambridge as a child the River Cam featured greatly in my life; my earliest encounters were walking by it, often with my grandma who brought stale bread to feed the ducks. When I was old enough, my dad took me and my sister fishing; I never seemed to catch anything while my sister sitting a few yards away seemed to pull fish out time after time. My dad was a great oarsman and when he was beyond being in a boat himself he would coach a team and sometimes we would ride up and down the tow-path with him as he bellowed at his crew through a megaphone. When it was time for the races, the bumps as they were called, we watch them every evening they were on; when we were older we were drafted in to work in the refreshment tents, making sandwiches and serving tea. We would also swim in the river,for fun or in races with our swimming club.

However when i was about eleven, my best friend was given a kit to make a kayak – although we always called it a canoe, and with the help of her dad (or maybe we were helping him) the boat was built and after that we spent weekends and holidays on the river. We would paddle through the city and upstream through Grantchester Meadows and out beyond Byron’s Pool, or we would set off downstream, carrying the boat past locks. It was truly idyllic, and I only have to see the words ‘Wind in the Willows’ or a willow tree itself to remember that idyll.

IMG_20150605_102722403Not my beautiful Cam but the Thames

What a busy six months!

For some reason, and not through lack of planning, the first six months of this year have been very buys, mostly with happy events, but certainly with a variety of events! As well as our regular activities involving creative writing, art, music, gigs, and teaching English conversation, publishing my latest book ‘Raddy and Syl’,and all our other commitments, there barely seems to have been a week in which something different hasn’t happened.

In January we had a sad occasion, although it also became something of a celebration; an uncle died at the age of 89 and his funeral was a time to remember him and enjoy our memories of him. As with many funerals, it was a coming together of family and friends,some of whom had not seen each other for a long time. We also went to Oxford to see an exhibition about and of the works of William Blake, utterly fascinating.

In February my husband  visited the S.S. Great Britain; he had been before, but it is the sort of ship which can be visited many times before you could tire of it or not find it interesting. he also went to see the tribute band, The Illegal Eagles. Meanwhile, I went to Manchester to see the Mavericks; sadly the concert was cancelled just before they went on stage, but they later gave us an impromptu mini-gig in the concert hall foyer.

March kicked off well for me – the Mavericks in Birmingham, and then again in Bristol! half the fun of going to their gigs is being with friends who are as mad about their music as I am! Husband went on another visit to Bristol, this time he went on a trip round Bristol Docks. We also went on a splendid weekend in Portsmouth – a reunion of my husband’s art college friends, and an opportunity for me to meet up with a cousin I hadn’t seen for a very, very long while. We went by train which made the trip very relaxing and enjoyable!

April was the annual family holiday; we had a splendid time in Kent – in fact we enjoyed it so much we have booked to go again next year! April was also a month for catching up with friends we hadn’t seen for a while, which is always fun!

May was very busy in a lovely way! It was our annual visit to see our dear friends in the Netherlands, and as ever it was wonderful to be with them, most relaxing, nd also a great family barbecue, and a most interesting trip to the Afrika Museum near Nijmegen. We also went up to Oldham for another school reunion – the school which we both taught at!

June has actually been quite exhausting and we seem to have been constantly packing and unpacking bags! We had the most gorgeous wedding of my most gorgeous god-daughter in Richmond, and then we went to New Jersey in the USA for a fabulous week visiting our daughter who we hadn’t seen for nine months. She is on an intern-ship there and while across the pond we also visited New York, Boston and Rhode Island. Last week we were at yet another reunion, this time at my husband’s old school, and tomorrow we are off to London to visit the Globe Theatre and the Rose Theatre. Sadly June was also a month in which we lost a dear friend who died very unexpectedly.

Goodness knows what the rest of the year holds in store for us!

PS: if you haven’t read ‘Raddy and Syl’ yet, here is a link: