Somerset beef in cider

Here’s another autumnal recipe – a traditional stew from round these parts… I think the original Somerset stew would not have had tomatoes but they certainly give a good colour and flavour! It’s just the sort of recipe which should be cooked in a Nottingham jar!

Somerset beef in cider

  • ½ lb tomatoes chopped up and sieved, or a tin of chopped tomatoes
  • a can of butter-beans (or you can soak overnight and then  cook dried beans)
  • ½ lb sliced onions
  • 1½ lb beef, cubed and dredged in 1 oz seasoned flour
  • ¾ pint  Somerset cider (or any cider you have)
  • 1 pint stock
  • 2 dessert apples, peeled, cored and cut into chunks
  • seasoning, including half a dozen cloves (optional but they really do add to the flavour)
  1. fry the onions, add the beef and fry until brown
  2. put the beef and onions, beans, tomatoes, apples, cloves and seasoning into a casserole
  3. deglaze the pan with the cider and add to beef
  4. add some of the stock but not too much (add more later as needed)
  5. cook at 180°C , 350°F , gas mark 4 for about 2 hours (more if necessary)

October moochings

It has been a wonderful October day today, shirt-sleeve warm, lovely sunshine a pleasant breeze and blue, blue skies! We didn’t do much, just mooched into town, then dropped down to our county town of Taunton and mooched some more. October really is the beginning of autumn, but it often surprises with a few lovely summery days before settling down into a decline.

Several years ago we went down to Sussex to Winchelsea Beach where my husband and a band he had been playing with for all his adult life – and quite a few teen-age years as well, had a gig in a wonderful pub, the Ship. I’d not been there before, although I think we may have driven through the area many years ago on a miserable wintry day… we hadn’t stopped to site-see, too jolly chilly. However, when we went down to Winchelsea Beach on this occasion the weather was wonderful. We had all travelled from away, most of the band from north Surrey, us from Somerset. We checked into the hotel where we were all staying, and then went to the venue.

The Ship is a great pub, with an interesting style – being so close to the sea it has a nautical theme… and when we were there it had a door into a butcher’s shop… in fact they had a sheep roast, like a hog roast but with a whole sheep. We heard a story at the time that the owners had wanted to have nautical artefacts and bought a job lot which they thought would be a few assorted pictures, maybe a porthole or two, a few knotted ropes, a bit of rigging etc… what turned up was a pantechnicon carrying an extraordinary collection including lifeboats and a funnel… By the time we visited all was beautifully and interestingly arranged.

While we were there we visited Rye, and the town of Winchelsea, and Hastings and the Romney Marshes and  Dungeness… we were on the way home when we stopped there and the mist had come in and it was spooky and a bit creepy with the power station and the lighthouse…

However, the thing I remember most is the band inside the pub rehearsing (and sampling the beer) and us wives and partners sitting outside on some decking, our shorts and shirt sleeves rolled up as far as they could, lounging back basking in the glorious sunshine… we all ended up with sunburned noses… in October!!

The harvest wagons sound

For most of us harvest time passes us by; we might notice the seasons changing, the days getting shorter, neighbours offering us fruit and vegetables which have grown in abundance, but for the most part, our lives chug on the same as usual.

Here is Somerset the orchards (many of them recently planted as cider grows in popularity) are almost ready to have their apples picked, farm machinery ‘the harvest wagons‘, are on the roads day and night, and villages will be having their ‘Harvest Homes’ – a great feast, eating and drinking, dancing into the night, to celebrate this time of year.

I came across an interesting site which was discussing  church harvest festivals – another aspect of life which has changes as fewer people attend church; as well as a brief history, there was a nice selection of recipes. Here was what was offered:

  • harvest soup (it was a bit of a modern twist, including squash and yoghurt, but in the olden days a hearty vegetable soup would certainly have been on any Harvest Home menu!)
  • cottage loaf
  • fidget pie
  • baked stuffed marrow
  • apple damson tansy
  • apple cake
  • hedgerow jelly

Here is another extract from John Clare’s ‘The Shepherd’s Calendar’ for September:

The maid afield now leaves the farm
With brimming bottles on her arm
Loitering unseen in narrow lane
To be oertook by following swain
Who happy thus her truth to prove
Carrys the load and talks of love
Full soon the harvest wagons sound
Rumbling like thunder all around
In ceasless speed the corn to load
Hurrying down the dusty road
While driving boy with eager eye
Watches the church clock passing bye
Whose gilt hands glitter in the sun
To see how far the hours have run
Right happly in the breathless day
To see it wearing fast away
Yet now and then a sudden shower
Will bring to toil a resting hour
When under sheltering shocks a crowd
Of merry voices mingle loud
Wearing the short lived boon along
With vulgar tale and merry song
Draining with leisures laughing eye
Each welcome bubbling bottle drye
Till peeping suns dry up the rain
Then off they start to toil again

Anon the fields are wearing clear
And glad sounds hum in labours ear
When childern halo ‘here they come
And run to meet the harvest home
Stuck thick with boughs and thronged with boys
Who mingle loud a merry noise
Glad that the harvests end is nigh
And weary labour nearly bye
Where when they meet the stack thronged yard
Cross bunns or pence their shouts reward

John Clare

… and here is the link to the recipes:

Snow leopards and the Severn Bridge

I’ve been challenging myself to tackle a list of seventy-three different subjects on which a blog could be written… I’ve done this for the past couple of days, but this doesn’t mean I’m going to do it every day for the next two and a bit months! The suggestions are very wide-ranging and aimed at people from every area of life who might want to write a blog, not just writers. There are some amazing blogs in unexpected sites… this is one of my favourites from a plumbers’ suppliers:

Back to the seventy-three… today I’m challenging myself to write about…  Current Events… I do occasionally comment on the world around us, but rarely if ever on political issues, and rarely on controversial issues. I have plenty of thoughts and ideas, but for me, my blog here, is not the place where I choose to air my opinions and views. So … current events…

Current events

I read a newspaper everyday, listen to the news on the radio, watch the evening news on TV, follow certain news websites from around the world, and I think in general keep myself up to date with what is happening.

Having relatively young children, it is very hard not to be anxious, depressed or worried about the world today… for example, looking on the BBC website in four different areas of news, local (Somerset) national (England and UK) and international (the world) the gloomy frightening, awful stories seem to outweigh by a long streak the positive optimistic news:


  • Severn Bridge tolls to be reduced
  • Criminal’s movie memorabilia to be sold
  • Vigilante trapped girl’s online groomer
  • Risks to brain-injury baby were missed
  • Health bosses press on with A&E closure
  • Jude Law sparks cinema security alert
  • Flying Scotsman stuck on slippery slope
  • Go-ahead for badger cull in 11 new areas
  • Leaders outline new transport plans
  • Royal Navy helicopter joins Irma effort
  • Yeovil Town 0-0 Cheltenham Town
  • Girl’s organs donated to record 8 people
  • Next generation of wild cranes fledge


  • Tube blast is terror incident, say police
  • Harrow Fire
  • Timber yard blaze brings rail chaos
  • Ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle ‘missing’
  • Emergency landing after plane loses wheel
  • Boy detained for killing love rival
  • Briton dies in Sri Lanka crocodile attack
  • NHS workers demand 3.9% pay rise
  • Gang sentenced for ‘territorial’ killing
  • Church ‘did not anticipate’ bishop row
  • ‘Annoyed’ customer failed in blackmail bid
  • HS2 ‘may disrupt city travel for years’
  • Suspended sentence for Redmayne stalker


  • Tube blast is terror incident, say police
  • Pound hits highest since Brexit vote
  • Bank hints at interest rate rise
  • Briton dies in Sri Lanka crocodile attack
  • Timber yard blaze brings rail chaos
  • Wealthier areas asked to build more homes
  • Ex-footballer Clarke Carlisle ‘missing’
  • New guidance targets type 2 diabetes risk
  • Man admits killing toddler in crash
  • ‘I was abused by nuns for a decade’
  • Bombardier announces Belfast job cuts
  • Boy, 14, slashed in face at school
  • Lancashire loss confirms Essex as champions


  • North Korean test splits world powers
  • Swedish politician ‘raped for his beliefs’
  • Swedish festival cancelled after rape claim
  • Saturn probe Cassini is incinerated
  • Full article Saturn probe Cassini is incinerated
  • Ex-CIA head quits Harvard over Manning
  • Manilla police removed after teen deaths
  • Paedophile furore wrecks Iceland coalition
  • Trump repeats ‘both sides’ controversy
  • Tunisian women free to marry non-Muslims
  • Irma-hit nursing home loses funding
  • Google sued over ‘sex discrimination’
  • Mayweather criticised over Trump defence
  • Lady Gaga in hospital with ‘severe pain’
  • George Harrison’s sitar to be auctioned
  • Snow leopard no longer ‘endangered’

So much to fear, so much to be angry and appalled about, so much sadness and tragedy…

There is good news in among it all though…  let me find a good news story in among each of these section of current events…

  • The death of thirteen year old Jemima Layzell in 2012, from a brain aneurysm must have broken the hearts of her parents and family and all her friends. However, from her untimely death, she transformed the lives of eight different people, including five children. She donated her heart, pancreas, lungs, kidneys, small bowel and liver and gave life and a decent quality of life to eight strangers. Great good came from her tragedy – and maybe this will make more people think about becoming organ doners after their deaths. I rally believe there should be presumed consent unless someone actually opts out.
  • it’s harder to find a good news story among the UK news items, I guess we could ‘borrow’ from Somerset news that cranes have successfully bred on the levels and marshes of our county… I guess the fact that a plane made a successful emergency landing after losing a wheel is very good news
  • for Essex who beat Lancashire at cricket, it’s probably the best news that they won – they weren’t actually playing Lancashire, but Lancs lost against Somerset so Essex won the County Championship Division 1
  • … and what good news from the world can we find? It is a triumph for Tunisian women that they are now allowed to marry who they choose. The best news  for the snow leopards is that they are no longer endangered, but merely vulnerable

Country roads, lead me… to a pack of hounds? A herd of cows?

To give you the background of the story I need to explain that to get to Cheddar (cheese and Gorge) from here, our little village by the sea, we take what is laughingly designated an A road, the A371. We go through the picturesque villages of Hutton, Banwell and Winscombe. Hutton and Banwell are typical Somerset villages, delightful cottages and other old buildings along the winding high streets, and modern housing set back on either side. This A road leads from the 70,000+ population town of Weston-super-Mare, to the major A38 so a lot of heavy traffic including buses, lorries, low-loaders, tankers etc travel this route. You can imagine the tail backs and congestion caused when two of these monsters meet head to head. The real trouble spot is Banwell, which has extremely narrow streets and a junction in the middle which causes all sorts of confrontations and major tailbacks with unsuitable traffic trying to negotiate the turn.

However… enough of that… Recently we have had to go from our village to Winscombe, one of the villages on the A371. We’ve had to go at rush hour, so, being local, we take a completely different route which goes down single-track, high-hedged, typically English country roads. It’s a very pleasant ride, and if we meet other vehicles, mostly cars, but occasionally farm machinery, there are plenty of pull-ins and people are usually most polite and pleasant and courteously take it in turns to pull in, or reverse, or squeeze past, trying not to fall into any drainage ditches or bump into any dry-stone walls.

Today, off we set on a pastoral journey; all was well, pleasant day, hedgerows full of fruit, fields full of different crops including orchards laden with red apples for the cider farms. We met other drivers, passed, waved thanks, smiled etc… and suddenly, there in front of us was a pack of fox hounds, out for their daily exercise. We actually met them yesterday; they are surprisingly big, slim, with upright tails, clever eyes, smiling mouths (not very smiley for the foxes they used to chase – the ‘sport’ is now banned, thank goodness) Yesterday one of them had decided he wasn’t interested in going for exercise and we had met him trotting in the opposite direction, obviously heading home to the kennels – his name was old Happy, we learned.  There must have been twenty or thirty of them, with two chaps on bikes in charge – one man at the back, one at the front. The men wore long brown coats – like lab coats but brown and gave us cheery waves of thanks as we inched carefully past.

So that was the first country event… on the way home, once again taking country roads to avoid the queues in Banwell, we pulled over into a gateway to let two cars past us, coming from the opposite direction. In the second, the driver wound down his windows and told us there was a herd of cows up ahead. No doubt they were either going from one field to another, or were going to or from their field to the milking parlour. It could take half an hour or more for them to amble along from one place to another. We decided to turn round and take a different route, along even narrower country roads… This time we completed our journey without disruption!

The joys of country life!


Moving house…

No we are not going to be moving house, but someone near and dear to us is. Moving is such a nightmare – not the getting the new place which is so exciting, nor saying goodbye to the old place which is sometimes left with regret, sometimes with relief, sometimes with a mix of the two, but the actual physical packing up of stuff is the nightmare, and moving it out and then in, and then unpacking!

If you are moving somewhere bigger it is not such a problem… if you are moving somewhere smaller it definitely is! But whether it’s bigger, or smaller, the sorting out of everything, throwing away/giving away/recycling/charity shop donating/tip taking to… sorting stuff out, not getting side-tracked by reminiscing/reading a book you forgot you had/looking at old photos/making yet another cup of tea, trying to pack cleverly (I have to admit, brag even, that I am amazing at packing stuff, whether it’s shopping or luggage for holiday, or the boot of the car, I am brilliant!) and not running out of energy, enthusiasm, patience…

I’ve moved many times in my life – the first I can’t really remember, when I was fourteen and the family moved from a two bedroom flat into a three bedroom semi-detached house. The garden was a jungle and I remember that, I remember there was a lot of renovation needing doing, and that my sister and I had our own rooms for the first time. I can barely remember it, to be honest, I know I had wallpaper with Egyptian pictures on it and hieroglyphs… but the move, no, I can’t remember!

Two years later we were on the move again – and this time from the east of the country to the west. I really don’t remember it at all, because I wasn’t there; I was on holiday with cousins for the whole of the summer holiday – maybe to get me out of the way! So when I came home, I came home to a new place, a bungalow on a hill…

The next move for me, though not for the family, was to Manchester to do my degree. I was there for three years, and moved from flat to flat many times – five times I think! of course, then I was mostly moving clothes and bedding, and a few bits and pieces of cookery equipment, books and LPs. Then there were a series of moves round Manchester, mostly in rented accommodation, but then into a flat I was buying and then a move out of the city to Oldham. I only really remember one of those moves… we were moving out of a house, literally round the corner to another house; we’d hired a van to move all the furniture which I was driving… load the van, drive round the corner, unload the van, drive back, reload etc. etc… boy was it exhausting!!

Eventually after another move in Oldham, we moved down here to Somerset… This time it wasn’t me on my own, but with a husband and two small children! I’ve written about it elsewhere, and i do remember it – the moving that is, I don’t remember the packing up or the unpacking! Maybe it is just as well!

So to our dear house-movers, good luck next week, we will do all we can to help!!


Legend of the lagerphone,

Thinking back to a moment of serendipity…

It was another of those moments of serendipity which created one of the greatest Celtic music legends of… the small Somerset village of Uphill.

My children were young and I was at home with them when late one evening my husband Bari sauntered the couple of hundred yards to our pub, the Dolphin. I wasn’t worried when he didn’t return at closing time as expected, guessing he was standing outside the pub chatting to friends, maybe having sampled a couple of extra pints…

He arrived home when I was in bed and he was very smiley and excited and not the littlest bit tipsy. He had gone to the pub and found an abandoned drum kit and a couple of blokes with guitars. As a drummer he couldn’t resist asking if he could have a little play… and the rest as they say… was the start of Uphill’s own Celtic Connections.


It wasn’t long before there was a regular meeting of four musicians Terry, Mick, Amy and Bari and singer Kevin were meeting regularly and jamming then practising in the pub cellars, thanks to the support of landlord Paul.

Terry played guitar, Mick played banjo and mandolin, Amy played fiddle and tin whistle and Kevin played the fiddle and lagerphone, and sang.

Before long, playing a variety of traditional music, they had gigs in and around Weston and .a loyal following. They played lively sing-along music but their big thing was actually getting the audience to song along with them rather than just humming and lalalala-ing. To do it they had a magnificent visual display unit – the words written on rolls of wallpaper! This was especially useful when singing well-known tunes with their own words made up by Kevin!

They travelled widely through Somerset, Watchett, Wellington, Weston… and other places not necessarily beginning with W. They occasionally had gust players, the amazing bass player, Jim, the Dolphin’s then landlord, Louie, and jazz zinger Ros Cuthbert.

There were some great gigs, and great times and a lot of happy memories!

Kevin and lagerphone

Kevin and lagerphone