Another Green Olive triumph

Where would I like to go on Mothering Sunday? I would like to go to my favourite restaurant, the Green Olive in Bridgwater, and that is where my family took me.

We were shown to our seats and there followed a splendid feast with a couple of bottle of Yakut wine; we had mixed starters of all sorts of nice Turkish things, as well as patlican soslu – aubergines with tomatoes and peppers, borek – cheese wrapped in pastry, fried liver, and spicy prawns. Although we each ordered something different, we tried and shared each other’s meals, various kebabs and grilled meats, salad and rice. Then just for once, I had dessert – a selection of delicious sweets, including baclava, revani and sekerpare which I had never had before.

Revani is a soft, moist, semolina sponge, soaked in a light syrup… and here is a recipe from Ozlem Warren:

http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2013/10/revani-a-deliciously-moist-and-a-little-lighter-semolina-cake-in-syrup-turkish-chefs-of-the-world/

Sekerpare are delightful little almondy semolina cakes – if I had made them at home I don’t think I would have been able to stop eating them! In fact, I might try making some at home, and then give them to my friends to save me from myself. Here is Ozlem’s recipe:

http://ozlemsturkishtable.com/2015/07/sekerpare-tender-and-moist-turkish-semolina-cookies-in-syrup/

We finished our meal with coffee and complimentary Turkish Delight. If by some chance you should visit Bridgwater, and it’s an interesting town, then go to the Green Olive for lunch or for dinner:

http://www.greenolivebridgwater.co.uk/

March 25th…

I often wonder what happened in the past on the whatever day it is – and when I read the newspaper I always look at whose birthday it is and today i noticed it was both Aretha Franklin (seventy-five) and Elton John (seventy) among other people i didn’t know, the Keeper of the Privy Purse, Lord-Lieutenant for the Isle of Wight, the Director general of the Red Cross and a former world rackets champion… also Lord Justice Bean who I guess doesn’t thank Rowan Atkinson for using his name! Apparently, March in general is one of the months in the year which has fewest births (September has the most!)

I had a look at what else happened in the past on March 25th, Robert the Bruce became King of Scotland (1306) The Slave Trade Act came into force, abolishing the slave trade in the British Empire (1807) and same day, same year the Swansea and Mumbles Railway, then known as the Oystermouth Railway, becomes the first passenger-carrying railway in the world.

This is also the day which some Christians celebrate the following little known saints:

  • Ælfwold II – Bishop of Sherborne who died in 1058
  • Barontius and Desiderius – two hermits from the eight century
  • Dismas – the good thief who was crucified beside Jesus, nobody actually knows who he was and he was just given the name
  • Humbert of Maroilles – seventh century French monk and abbot
  • Quirinus of Tegernsee – third century Roman martyr

…and here is a little more about popular birth dates:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/12058134/How-popular-is-your-birthday.html

My family story in 10 objects… number 3

Obect 3 – my mum’ (or maybe my grandma’s) Be-Ro flour cookery book

This is what I wrote about this handy little book a little while ago:

I am lucky to be able to remember far back into my childhood, my babyhood even because I can remember being in my pram at about a year old! From my first memories I can remember being in our kitchen while my mum,  cooked. She was a great baker and the Be-Ro cookery book was her Bible, along with Mrs Beeton, of course. Mum told me that her mother, my grandma Ida had had a copy of this little book, and as a child Monica had thought the little girl on the front was her.

bero 1 001

The Be-Ro girl

 

Monica aged 11

As soon as I started living on my own, I started cooking; I think the first thing I made was a walnut cake, I’m not sure I used a Be-Ro book, but I remembered the method exactly having watched and helped my mum so many times when I was little.

This edition is the 17th reprint, I now have the 32nd and use it so often I’m on my second copy and in need of a third! I still use Be-Ro flour, I still think it’s the best, and I wonder if either of my children will follow the tradition?

Wholesome, simple and economical, how true!!

Be-Ro was founded by Thomas Bell in 1875, in a little shop and bakery in Longhorsley in the north-east of England, just north of Newcastle in 1875.  He had tried for a long time to make a successful self-raising flour, and eventually after much experimentation he succeeded, and produced the world’s first!

Although I have written here about baking, many of my memories about my family involve producing food in the garden, cooking the food – me with my parents, my children with us, my extended family being together and eating together.  Food, – buying it as well, cooking, and eating are constant topics of conversation, whether at home or in other parts of the country or abroad. Visiting different food shops and markets, to look as well as to buy, is something we do wherever we go. Going to different restaurants and then trying to copy the dishes we have enjoyed at home, adds to the enjoyment of eating out.

I’m sure food has always been important for us going back generations, not just as nourishment and fuel for the often arduous lives of my forebears, working on the land as labourers, working in shipyards and on railways; my dad’s mother in the 1920’s would take a skewer and stick it into a bulb of garlic then thrust it into meat to flavour it – and she left school at thirteen and worked as a servant and cleaner in a convent, so she had no fancy recipe books or tradition of exotic food at home. In my dad’s family there even had to be two varieties of sausage served at breakfast, Dad and his father preferred Powters (the best) his brother, sister and mum preferred Musk’s (also pretty good)

This little book, this little old recipe book,  instructs the baker, but for my family, it represents much more.

To find out more about Be-Ro:

https://sites.google.com/site/longhorsleylocalhistorysociety/thomas-bell—be-ro-flour

and

https://be-ro.co.uk/f_about.html

Just, actually…

I’m working on my mainly finished story, the next Radwinter e-novel to be published, doing what I suppose you could call housework, or housekeeping. I’m not changing the structure or reconfiguring the chapters/rooms, but I am dusting the window ledges/sentences and shelves/paragraphs, and hoovering the carpets/ eliminating repetitions.

When I write, I seem to have favourite words which I keep using over and over again – once it was ‘utter’ and ‘utterly’, another time it was ‘wow’, another time people kept sighing… this time, so far it’s the little words, ‘just’ and ‘actually’.

This is where spellchecks are so useful – imagine what it was like for Charles Dickens, or Tolstoy! I  used  search to find every time I used ‘just’… in fact it also called up ‘justified’, ‘justification’, ‘adjust’ and ‘Justyna’. I did keep quite a few ‘justs’, and some I changed to ‘only’ or ‘nearly’ or another word, but over three hundred (yes 300) were eliminated altogether. Although not nearly as tiring as reading the whole thing to find those repeats, it is still time-consuming and wearying – each one has to be weighed and considered before being kept, altered or cut.

I am now going on to ‘actually’…

My Radwinter stories are written as a first person narrative, and Thomas who recounts them does have a particular style of speaking as we all do; I want the reader to ‘hear’ his voice and get a sense of his character, but I don’t want the reader to be come fed-up with him because he does go on at such lengths about things. It is a very difficult balance…

back to actually…

Here is a link to where you can find my novels if you haven’t already read them!

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

By the way, the featured photo is of a knitted balaclava with earflaps

The rusted wheel of things

I am quite ignorant about the works of A.E. Houseman, and apart from the fact he is a Shropshire poet, I know very little about his life either. This is something I must remedy! While we were on holiday once, not far from where Houseman was born, my husband bought ‘A Shropshire Lad’, published by Houseman in 1896,when he was thirty-seven; I must dig it out and read it!

Here is Houseman’s ‘March’:

March

The sun at noon to higher air,
Unharnessing the silver Pair
That late before his chariot swam,
Rides on the gold wool of the Ram.

So braver notes the storm-cock sings
To start the rusted wheel of things,
And brutes in field and brutes in pen
Leap that the world goes round again.

The boys are up the woods with day
To fetch the daffodils away,
And home at noonday from the hills
They bring no dearth of daffodils.

Afield for palms the girls repair,
And sure enough the palms are there,
And each will find by hedge or pond
Her waving silver-tufted wand.

In farm and field through all the shire
The eye beholds the heart’s desire;
Ah, let not only mine be vain,
For lovers should be loved again.

More about Moving Dragons

It was just over eight months ago that some writing friends and I got together to try and promote our work, and to share the work of others too. We knew people in writing groups who for various reasons did not have their own blog but wanted to put their writing out in public view. We called ourselves The Moving Dragon Writes, and we started a WordPress blog as a sort of writers’ community blog. It’s called Somerset Writers, because that’s where we are, but it is a notional rather than actual  name, there are no county borders in our group!

Earlier today, I published  a piece about using social media to share and promote and publicise.. This is what I wrote:

One of the driving desires of a writer, as with any artist,  is to get work before an audience, to share what we have produced, to have people read what we have written. I guess we are fortunate these days in living in a world where we can show strangers our stories and poems and other writing and get feedback and comment – and often appreciation!

Social media gives us a wonderful stage on which to parade our characters and scenes. Yes, there can be a dark side to it – but odd things can happen anywhere in real life too – when you sit next to a person on the bus, or get into conversation with someone you don’t know very well in a pub or café, or encounter strange and sometimes downright weird folk in other situations.  We usually can deal with that as part of life, and have strategies and know how to find help – so it is with social media. Yes, there are stories in the press about unfortunate things which have happened from on-line encounters, but there are far more wonderful stories of friendships made, opportunities explored – and for writers and musicians – audiences reached!

We Moving Dragons share our work, and those of friends here on our blog – (and if you have a short story, article, poem, or anything which fits our eclectic group, then please get in touch!) and we also promote it through our Facebook page:

https://www.facebook.com/TheMovingDragonWrites/?ref=bookmarks

and we tweet too –

https://twitter.com/brimdraca

… and here is a link to our WordPress:

https://somersetwriters.wordpress.com

Last holiday

It’s strange how unexpected and probably quite innocuous things can have a tremendous impact years and years later. As a reader, and as a writer I have a great dislike of what I call unsatisfactory endings. I don’t mean that the end of every book I read or every story I write should be full of joy, laughter, love and happiness – in fact that would be an unsatisfactory ending too if it’s not feasible or realistic within the context of the rest of the plot!

I have just realised when this first struck me – a very long time ago, when I was watching an old black and white film called ‘Last Holiday’. it starred Alec Guinness but had a stellar cast (for those days)

  • Wilfrid Hyde-White – in so many films but best known as Colonel Pickering in My Fair Lady.
  • Sid James – comedian side-kick of Tony Hancock and star of Carry On films
  • Bernard Lee – in many, many films, also was M in James Bond films
  • Ernest Thesiger  – famous stage and film actor
  • Lockwood West – father of Sir Timothy West and grandfather of Samuel West
  • David McCallum – father of David McCallum the Man From U.N.C.L.E. and NCIS

The story of Last Holiday is very simple; Alec Guinness’s character is diagnosed with a terminal disease so he sells up everything and goes to a fancy hotel in the country, where the other guests mistakenly believe he is a rich man. Because of his supposed wealth all sorts of things happen even though he is very modest and unassuming. He learns that the diagnosis was wrong and he is perfectly healthy, however on his way home from the doctor who tells him this wonderful news he crashes his car and dies.

When I saw the film it made a great impact on me – mainly because of the ending. In a way, if he’d really had the illness and died, it would have been a more satisfactory ending… or if he had survived and the other guests had realised their folly of liking him for his supposed wealth, so he may have been without ‘friends’ but at least he would have learned something. But no… he was dead. After going all the way through the film which I remember thinking as a child was funny and moving and meaningful, suddenly without any thought for the audience, he was dead. I felt annoyed and cheated.

I felt the same about ‘Cold Mountain’ by Charles Frazier; it was a wonderful novel, marvellous, and although long, carried the reader through all the terrible events the main character endured as he walked for months and months, back to the woman he loves. He is almost in sight of her home when he is shot dead… It wasn’t the fact he was killed particularly, but it was the fact that the book just fizzled out after all the struggles – of the characters and the readers.

I mentioned that I have been reading The Red Tent by Anita Diamant; without giving anything away and spoiling it if you haven’t read it – which I recommend you do – the ending is totally satisfactory, even though the characters have had horrific things to deal with.

In my books, I really try very, very hard to create a satisfactory ending – not always happy, and sometimes with a huge and difficult and maybe unachievable challenge for the characters in their future unwritten-about lives…

So maybe, although Last Holiday was a disappointment to me, it taught me a great lesson in my writing – maybe, as my dad would have said, it was a good bad example!

By the way, my featured image is from very happy seals – nothing to do with my post!