So… in the pub tonight…

We usually go down to the pub on a Sunday night to catch up with our two friends, the two T’s, Tim and Trevor; Trevor we have known for many years and is a surrogate granddad to our children, Tim we have known  since we moved back down here, fifteen years ago.

Also ranged along the bar, Phil, an amazing cook (he actually is the pub chef but says he is just a cook) – he is so imaginative, inventive and a brilliant producer of food, plus a funny and dear chum. Alongside Phil was Leighton, who introduced us to the Underfall boatyard in Bristol – we have been there three times already, and no doubt go many more times – and not only because of the brilliant café, Pickle. If you visit, I recommend the lemon polenta cake, but my husband has had several others, each delicious, and a bacon sandwich which he describes as a pig between two slices of bread! There was someone else at the bar, but I didn’t see who he was.

Terry, our friend who was in the amazing band, Celtic Shambles with my husband drifted through; the band had its name from the music it played (Celtic) and way it was played (a shambles). Alice who holds the license, returned from walking her two dogs, ‘jugs’ – a cross between pugs and Jack Russells, and various other regulars went back and forth.

Conversation with Tim and Trev:

  • family news… daughter in Amsterdam, son and girlfriend enjoying her birthday celebrations, Tim’s son’s new house, Tim’s wife’s minor op
  • what we’ve been up to… Trev’s games of bowls, my trip to London, my husband’s amazing carrot and freekeh burgers and other great cooking from him, Tim’s plans for his holiday
  • Celebrity Masterchef
  • moving house – Tim’s move from the Midlands to Weston, our move from Oldham to Weston, our experiences of buying/selling/renting houses, estate agents
  • Underfall – our latest favourite place
  • the cost of insurance
  • fitness and leisure/health centres
  • Brexit – a very brief discussion to avoid falling out with anyone
  • roadworks in the village
  • how tricky the quiz is recently – mainly because it seems to be more about celebrities, TV, films than about general knowledge/current affairs

All in all a typical night at the Dolphin! The boys were on Otter beer, I had a little Merlot, for medicinal reasons!

Another ice-house adventure

Although I have read many stories about ice houses – not houses made from ice, but little buildings used to store winter ice for use in the grand houses in whose grounds they were constructed, it was only when we visited Killerton in Devon a couple of years ago that I first saw an actual one.

it certainly made an impact on me because in one of my Radwinter books, the main character gets trapped when he falls into one, and he really thinks he is going to die there as its remote and so well insulated his shouts for help can’t be heard, even if there was anyone about.

At Easter, holidaying in Kent, we went to visit Scotney Castle which was built in the late 1300’s but not properly finished until two hundred years later.  Three hundred years later, in accordance with the fashion of the time, the architect Anthony Salvin, designed an ice house for the estate and it was built in 1841. What an amazing structure it was; all the materials were either from the estate of locally sourced. The brick lining of the chamber was made from bricks produced in the nearby village of Kilndown, the timber for the frame from the woodlands, and the heather for the insulated thatched roof from the grounds of the estate. During 2012 restoration, once again local materials were used and even the finial on top was made from local oak.


During the winter, ice was collected from the moat and stored in the ice house; it was so perfectly designed and constructed that it could last for a year without melting. Any melt-water didn’t just sit in a slushy puddle at the bottom, but drained out and back into the moat.

SCOTNEY (63)Scotney Castle

. If you would like to read my book which features the ice house adventure,  it’s called Magick and here is a link:



I decided to walk from the station to rendezvous with my friends in London; as I strolled along the Bayswater Road I passed a building and the plaque caught my eye. We have dear friends who live in the Netherlands, and anything to do with their country and history interests us.

Once I was home, I was able to find out more about ‘Orangehaven’ – it was a club founded during the second World War  on the initiative of Queen Wilhelmina; she had been Queen of the Netherlands since 1890, when at the age of only ten she inherited the throne from her father King Willem III. When the Germans invaded her country during World war II she escaped to London.

There were about 1700  ex-pat Dutch people who had also fled the invaders  and the Queen was determined that there should be somewhere in London for them  where they could meet, socialise, and receive support if they were in need or difficulty. There was also some accommodation for people when necessary. The club opened on the 6th June 1942 opened the club was. One amusing story in what was otherwise a sad and trying time, whenever Queen Wilmelmina came to the club, everyone drank tea , all alcoholic drinks, were discretely hidden from view


WhatsApp Image 2016-07-30 at 11.09.53

When a wrong turn is right

Today I had a lovely day meeting friends in London;as we came from different places we arranged to meet near the statue of Eros at Piccadilly Circus… actually the statue isn’t really Eros even though he is always called that, he is in fact Anteros, his brother. My train arrived into Paddington station and since it was quite a nice day, I decided to walk and see the sights on route, so off I set.
I had printed off a map and it all seemed quite straight forward, and anyway I could ring my friends, I could use my phone map, or I could ask someone if I went astray.

I stepped out and found Hyde Park and walked along beside it, found Oxford Street and walked along it, found Regent’s Street and… and realised I had gone wrong! it didn’t matter, I was in plenty of time, and I knew I’d turned left onto Regent’s Street not right, so turned back. Because I was on a day out I looked at things as I passed and suddenly noticed a window with some writing on it:


This was where my grandfather went! I’m not sure whether he would have attended the old building pre-1912, or this new one, but this was where he was a student! I was walking along streets he must have walked along hundreds of times!!

If I hadn’t gone wrong I wouldn’t have found it!

My great grandparents, Billy and Fanny with their four sons,

Reg, my granddad on the far right with his brothers and parents at about the age he would have been when he went to the Polytechnic.

In 1848 the  Bishop of London told the clergy to set up evening classes to improve the “moral, intellectual and spiritual condition of young men in the metropolis”. The Metropolitan Evening Classes for Young Men commenced which then became the City of London College and then the City of London Polytechnic.

Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples

I’ll soon be off to London and I couldn’t help but think of this famous poem by William Wordsworth! Although I studied Wordsworth when i was doing my degree, this was a neglected poem by my tutors. Maybe they thought it was too short, maybe it they thought it was too well known, or not challenging enough. I knew it from my own reading, but I didn’t realise it was composed on top of a coach as Wordsworth was journeying to meet his illegitimate daughter for the first time! he was on his way to France and no doubt excited at the prospect and maybe in that mood everything would be shiny and bright and wonderful!

Upon Westminster Bridge

Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Dull would he be of soul who could pass by
A sight so touching in its majesty:
This City now doth, like a garment, wear

The beauty of the morning: silent, bare,
Ships, towers, domes, theatres, and temples lie
Open unto the fields, and to the sky;
All bright and glittering in the smokeless air.

Never did sun more beautifully steep
In his first splendour, valley, rock, or hill;
Ne’er saw I, never felt, a calm so deep!

The river glideth at his own sweet will:
Dear God! the very houses seem asleep;
And all that mighty heart is lying still!

William Wordsworth

Here i an intersting article:

When your hot water bottle has perished…

I mentioned before that my father-in-law was in Africa during the war; I never knew him so I never was able to talk to him about his experiences. We have his photo album though, and we did have some rather large furniture, and on a smaller scale, The Congo Cookery Book by Clare E. Willet. My father-in-law was nowhere near the Congo so whether he acquired it there, or whether he came across it in a second-hand book shop or at a jumble sale, and bought it, thinking about the time he had spent in Africa, we don’t know.

As well as  recipes, as so often with old cookery books, there is a section on household hints; some are universal and could be applied to any household anywhere, some are more specific to life ‘in the tropics:

  • furniture – a recipe using palm oil – plus turps, meths and vinegar… what on earth did it smell like!!!
  • gloves – all leather goods and silk stockings should be kept in an air tight tin or a screw topped jar
  • hot water bottles  – “When your hot water bottle has perished, use a bag of sand from the river in its place. Sand keeps hot a long time and a hot sand bag fitted into the small of the back can be a great comfort in the chilly stage of fever”
  • ink – keep the lid closed
  • lamp wick substitute – a strip from an old felt hat soaked in vinegar and dried
  • loofahs – “Loofahs grow on a creeper which spreads rapidly and will cover a fence quickly. They make good pot scrubbers as well as bath sponges. Ask a native who speaks Lingola for some seeds of the ‘Linyuka’.”
  • marking ink substitute – see ‘avocado pear and cashew apple’ – turning to those pages, there is nothing about marking ink for the avocado!
  • moths and silver fish – us a spray!
  • postage stamps and gum labels – to unstick them cover with a thin piece of paper and iron
  • shampoo – if you run out use soap, and Borax powder in the rinsing water
  • raw coffee – coat the beans in melted butter or palm oil then roast
  • coffee stains – will yield to a mixture of egg yolk and glycerine
  • damp stains – remove with eau de Cologne


Squab pie

I have to say I’ve never had squab pie; I always thought it was pigeon or rook pie and a country dish. Pigeons and rooks are seen as vermin and shot or caught to stop them eating a farmer’s crops, particularly cereal. Pigeons are still eaten, and they are not hard to get hold of – I don’t mean run out and grab a pigeon off the street or out of your garden, I mean you can find them in butcher’s and supermarkets. However, I think you might find it extremely difficult to get hold of a young rook, or enough young rooks to make a pie. I daresay if you live in the country there will be someone who could get them for you or get them for your butcher! Make sure though, that you have what are called ‘branchers’, young rooks which can’t yet fly as they are tasty and tender. In some of the recipes I’ve seen, chicken and or beef is added to the rook meat. If I have pigeon, then I will often casserole it with beef – lovely gravy – but maybe next time I should make a pie.

Back to squab pie… apparently in many places squab pie is actually a lamb or mutton pie, especially in Devon, Gloucestershire and in Yorkshire. The recipes I’ve seen for this mutton/lamb pie have the interesting addition of apples and spices, usually nutmeg and cinnamon, which sounds curious to me and reminiscent of other recipes I’ve seen for tagine dishes. The word squab, meaning a young bird, probably originates in Scandinavia so how it also came to be associated with mutton I’m not sure!