Child of lubricious art

I shared a sonnet by Royal Tyler a couple of days go… here is another!

Sonnet to an Old Mouser

Child of lubricious art, of sanguine sport!
Of pangful mirth! sweet ermin’d sprite!
Who lov’st, with silent, velvet step, to court
The bashful bosom of the night.
Those elfin eyes can pierce night’s sable gloom,
And witch her fairy prey with guile,
Who sports fell frolic o’er the grisly tomb,
And gracest death with dimpling smile!
Daughter of ireful mirth, sportive in rage,
Whose joy should shine in sculptur’d bas relief
Like Patience, in rapt Shakespeare’s deathless page,
Smiling in marble at wan grief.
Oh, come, and teach me all thy barb’rous joy,
To sport with sorrow first, and then destroy

Today is…

I don’t know whether it’s because I’ve been away for a while, where every day was exciting and new with no reference to appointment, commitments, weekly this or monthly that, or whether it’s now I work at home, writing all day there is no such thing as an actual weekend, and two consecutive days can be a weekend, and single day can feel like a weekend… But I seem totally confused as to what day it is.

Maybe it’s because we went to a Tasmanian summer at the height of an English winter, Hobart’s Christmas decorations seemed to wilt under the lovely mid 20° to early 30° temperatures, what was actually January seeming like July…

Maybe I’m just losing my marbles… maybe the story I am so involved in writing is in its own time-sphere… but I literally have to stop and think and gaze at a calendar to work out where I’m up to.

Yesterday,at about nine o’clock in the evening, I suddenly exclaimed ‘Oh! we forgot it’s Pancake Day today! We forgot it’s Shrove Tuesday!’ My husband stared at me for a moment and then said, ‘It’s Monday today, it’s Tuesday tomorrow…‘ Then this morning, with great glee, I gave my husband a gentle pinch and said ‘Pinch, punch, first of the month, and no returns!‘ Once again he gazed at me and then quite gently (before bursting into guffaws of laughter) told me it was still February, March begins tomorrow…

I do have two calendars on the wall in front of me, there is another at the bottom of the stairs, another two in the dining room and one in the kitchen… and there is the date and time on my phone…

Exciting news! I’m nearly there!

It has been a long struggle… a much longer struggle than I expected, but I am delighted to share the news, that apart from a summing up sort of chapter when everything is explained – at a tea party in a Tudorbethan house, the first draft of my next novel Earthquake is finished! Yay! Hurrah!

I first wrote about the Radwinter family in 2013, published as an e-book for Kindle in February 2014; I had intended it as a stand alone novel about a family of four brothers. All my other books are without sequels, and I had no intention of writing one for any of my stories… however the Radwinter tales turned out somewhat differently.

The first novel, the eponymous ‘Radwinter’ followed a genealogical investigation into the paternal line of the Radwinter family and having come to a satisfactory conclusion with the main character tracing their roots back to the beginning of the nineteenth century in what is now the Ukraine, I thought that was the end of that…

Except there was a maternal line… and so it seemed necessary to have follow-up to the story, but this time an exploration of their maternal line, the Magicks. The main character Thomas, was asked by a friend to help find her missing daughter… he had some success in his mission – he found all about the history of the Magick family, and helped his friend too… ‘Magick’ was published in the autumn of 2014 so surely that was it now…

Well it would have been… except Thomas had found all about the distant family, the Radwinters in eastern Europe, the Magicks in Cornwall and Australia but there was a bit of a puzzle about the more recent generations… his friend’s missing daughter had still not been found, other people needed his help to solve odd little non-criminal mysteries… and so ‘Raddy and Syl’ got written and published in spring 2015.

The final part of the Radwinter story, Beyond Hope completed what had been discovered about Raddy and Syl – Edward and Sylvia and that came out in January last year. The final story…

I did a lot of writing last year and completed and published other things, but the Radwinters were still very active… and the next (I daren’t say final) story of their lives has taken up my time for the last few months. I have been very busy with all sorts of other things, including being away in Tasmania and Australia for over six weeks, but now, tonight, I can finally say… the first draft is done! Yes, there is the summing up chapter and the tea party, but I have to go through the rest of the story before I write that. If I am honest, then I think publication day will be in April… possibly before… watch this space!

I hope to have some other exciting news about my books soon too… just looking at the details of a new venture!

If you have missed my Radwinter stories, or any of my others, here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden

… oh and now I have to think about a cover…

Gypsy creams and gypsy tart

My dad always reckoned that we had some gypsy blood in us, but try as I might I can’t find any ancestor who could have been a gypsy or traveller; maybe it’s the dark colouring that some of us Elsdens have, olive skin and dark eyes, but I can’t find any connection at all.

I’d heard of gypsy creams, a type of biscuit I believe, a sort of gingernut with a chocolate buttercream filling… or are they an oaty biscuit with a chocolate buttercream filling or a chocolate biscuit with a chocolate buttercream filling, or are they a sweet wholemeal biscuit with a chocolate cream cheese filling… I actually don’t know because they didn’t feature in my childhood, and I’m not really a biscuit person anyway.

My hero Thomas Radwinter in my latest soon to be finished book has come across a gypsy tart, why I also had not heard of (OK, I confess, I was looking up traditional English desserts and came across gypsy tart and decided Thomas should have one) It sounds an interesting dessert, too sweet for me, of a sweet shortcrust base and a filling made from mainly evaporated and or condensed milk and muscovado sugar… good grief, I can feel my teeth cringing!

There are many different versions of the recipe, all along the same lines; for the shortcrust pastry I would use:

  • 8 oz plain flour
  • 4 oz butter
  • 1 oz castor sugar
  • 1 or 2 egg yolks depending on size
  1. rub butter, sugar and flour together, bind with egg yolks
  2. leave to chill
  3. press into pie dish and bake blind

I might double up the quantity, use what I needed and keep any leftovers for rather special jam tarts.

Suggested fillings:

  • 230ml condensed milk
  • 170ml evaporated milk
  • 175g light muscovado sugar

or:

  • 400g evaporated milk
  • 330g muscovado sugar

or:

  • 410g evaporated milk, refrigerated overnight
  • 275g dark soft brown sugar

or:

  • 205g  evaporated milk
  • 140g  muscovado sugar
  • 2tbs lemon juice

or:

  • 230ml condensed milk
  • 170ml evaporated milk
  • 175g muscovado sugar

I can’t offer my Mum’s recipe because she never made it! However, whatever the ingredients, here is what you do with the filling mix:

  1. put everything in a bowl and blend for at least ten minutes until light, frothy and fluffy
  2. pour into the prepared pastry case and bake 190C°, 375F°, Gas 5, for about 30 minutes (check after 20 minutes), r until just set and still a bit wobbly in the middle
  3. take out of the oven, leave to cool in the tin
  4. serve – with cream, crème fraîche, or yoghurt if you fancy

A copper-bottomed couple of shakes

I’ve written before about the amount of words and phrases commonly used in English, every day English, which originated from nautical terms or slang. I think it really says something about our island heritage and our relationship with the sea-going back to when English first emerged as a language. I wonder if other seafaring nations have a similar volume of such words and phrases in their language, the Dutch for instance, or the Portuguese? The French and Spanish had great navies, great explorers, great sailors, but they also have a huge land mass given over to agriculture, with many of the population going back over many years having no connection with the sea at all.

here is just a selection I’ve come across:

  • A shot across the bows
  • All at sea
  • All hands on deck
  • All sewn up
  • Aloft
  • Aloof
  • Anchors aweigh
  • Any port in a storm
  • Armed to the teeth
  • As the crow flies
  • At a loose end
  • At a rate of knots
  • Athwart
  • Bale out
  • Batten down the hatches
  • Between the devil and the deep blue sea
  • Binge
  • Bitter end
  • Broad in the beam
  • By and large
  • Calm before the storm
  • Chock-a-block
  • Clean bill of health
  • Clear the deck
  • Close quarters
  • Cock up
  • Copper-bottomed
  • Couple of shakes
  • Cut and run
  • Dead in the water
  • Deliver a broadside

I shall have to ask my Dutch friends if it is similar in their language!

On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

The magnificently named Royall Tyler, born in 1757 in Boston was an American lawyer and playwright, and also a Professor of Jurisprudence at the University of Vermont. He sounds a remarkable character, both in his public and private life, and founded a ‘dynasty’ of Royall Tylers, his great-grandson, also  Royall Tyler, born in 1884, was a famous historian, and  another Royall Tyler born in 1936 is a well-known scholar and a translator of Japanese literature.

Here is a sonnet:

On a Ruined House in a Romantic Country

And this reft house is that the which he built,
Lamented Jack! and here his malt he pil’d,
Cautious in vain! These rats that squeak so wild,
Squeak, not unconscious of their father’s guilt.
Did ye not see her gleaming through the glade!
Belike, ‘t was she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho’ she, the maiden all forlorn.
What tho’ she milk no cow with crumpled horn,
Yet, aye, she haunts the dale where erst she stray’d;
And aye, beside her stalks her amorous knight!
Still on his thighs their wonted brogues are worn,
And thro’ those brogues, still tatter’d and betorn,
His hindward charms gleam an unearthly white;
As when thro’ broken clouds at night’s high noon
Peeps in fair fragments forth the full orb’d harvest moon.

Rather a nice sounding lunch snack

I haven’t looked at my little National Mark Calendar of Cooking for a while, and looking through the February recipes came across a recipe using eggs –

Hot stuffed eggs

  • hard-boiled eggs (as many as you want) cut in half lenghtways and the yolks removed
  • finely chopped parsley
  • finely chopped onion
  • finely chopped anchovies or anchovy essence
  • a little butter or olive oil
  • cayenne pepper
  • salt
  • breadcrumbs
  • buttered toast or fried bread
  1. pound the yolks, parsley, onion and anchovies or essence, season as preferred with the cayenne and salt
  2. melt a little butter and cook the egg yolk mixture for just a few minutes
  3. fill the egg whites with the mixture, place on the toast or fried bread, dot with  butter or olive oil and brown quickly under the grill

You could use this basic method and add anything you liked to the egg yolks, minced ham maybe, chopped watercress, tomato pulp as long as it wasn’t too wet, cheese if you fancy cheese and egg together, Worcester sauce, chilli sauce – sweet or otherwise… The possibilities are endless – and dependent on what you have in your cupboard!