Sunday, 14 December 2008

In the bleak mid winter

At last, a few moments to my self, l have shut the curtains, turned off the lights and am sat here in the dark, pretending that l am out, even Boy has joined in the game. This is you see, an absolute must this time of year, tonight sees the local young farmers club holding their carol singing event, screeching loudly at every front door between here and Little Dimchurch in the hope of a] money and b] something to nibble on! In my eyes this is money with menaces, 'if you don't pay up or feed us we will sing'! Hence my strategy for playing 'Gone Out'.

The Christmas Food Fayre was very well supported this year, with a deluge of shiny 4 x 4s descending on the pub car park. The fancy photographer from The Prattler showed up and was snapping gaily away at the groaning tables of food, celebrities and villagers, Mrs De La Pole, embarrassed us all once again by wearing her leopard skin coat, which although somewhat scabby around the edges was photographed a plenty and even more so when the hussy opened the coat to reveal a very small polka dot bikini, not exactly what the poor man was expecting, and most certainly not a desirous sight on a woman of Her age, who has lived on nothing but coca-cola for the last 60 years!

As l was walking to the Post Office this morning, l thought that under the 6 inches of snow, the village looked incredibly festive. Sparkling lights, inflatable Santas Christmas wreaths. Strolling back through the woodland path that meanders past Longshort Manor, l caught a glimpse of what l can only describe as the most shocking thing l have every seen coming from the place in all the long years that l have lived in the area, even worse than the various elopements or card game frauds. The wonderful Elizabethan house, which had survived, Civil War, murder and shortage of funds, was bedecked in enough lights to drain the entire grid of electricity. Every gable, gutter, down pipe and window was dripping in white fairy lights, whilst perched a top the very highest roof was Santa, resplendent in his sleigh and complete with all his reindeer, Rudolf with his neon red flashing nose leading the entourage. I was indeed so disturbed by what l saw, that l had to desperately race home to down a good half a bottle of sloe gin to restore my equilibrium.

Cranberry-Mince Shortcake

makes 12
175gr unsalted butter, diced
73g golden caster sugar
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder, sifted
100g ground almonds
4 medium eggs, separated

400g mincemeat
150g cranberries
icing sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 180C/gas mark 4 / bottom shelf AGA. Butter a 30 x 23 x 4cm baking tray. Mix butter, sugar, flour, baking powder & ground almonds to a crumb like constancy, add egg yolks and mix to a sticky dough. Press dough into base of tin and smooth using your fingers. Bake shortcake for 25 - 30 minutes until lightly golden and slightly risen.

Whisk egg whites until stiff. Spoon mincemeat into a bowl and fold in the whisked white in two goes. Fold in 100g cranberries and smooth the mixture over the shortcake base. Scatter the remaining cranberries over the top and bake for 20 -25 minutes until slightly coloured on the surface.

Allow to cool then cut into 12 squares, approx 7cm, then dust with icing sugar.

Friday, 28 November 2008

Christmas Shopping & Email

My life seems to have turned around in the most interesting way since my introduction to the world of the 'web'. I had no idea that there were so many interesting things to be found, l really enjoy Wikipedia, fascinating reading material, keeps me mentally stimulated in between the monthly visits from the county library bus. I have been able to find out all about Great Uncle William, who lost his life in the Veld after an encounter with a large snake, apparently he was still warm when his servant cut open the creature, but unfortunately he had expired due to asphixiation, so the visiting Doctor wrote in 1889. He lies buried on a remote corner of land underneath a banyan tree, home to a great colony of baboons which, whilst he was alive, were the bane of his life, forever steeling into his house and making of with his whisky, specially imported from Jura.

Now aren't emails interesting? I have received correspondence from several banks informing me of monies that has been paid into my account by persons completely unknown to me, but as l don't have a bank account, l think they must have got their information wrong. I have tried to contact them by both telephone and email, but have not been able to either speak to anyone or get a reply. Very strange considering the Post Office is always so very helpful.

Some of my emails have helped with my Christmas shopping; normally l travel up to town on the annual village Christmas shopping trip, but this year l have managed to find a few items by Internet shopping. It does seem so much easier than fighting through the crowds of elderly ladies in order to find the appropriate article for the relevant relation. The only difficulty with the Internet shops was not having a credit or debit card. Fortunately Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane has proved my saviour once again by providing me with a card, thus allowing me to shop whilst comfortably seated at the kitchen table. The slight inconvenience has been postage and dispatch. Morris has advised me not to use either my address or his for delivery but another. l do find that a little bit unusual but he assures me this is quite normal procedure for Internet purchases, allowing the costs to be kept down by only delivering to only one establishment.

Yesterday l bought some rather nice liver from Mr Haddock, the mobile butcher and today's lunch will include one of my favourite meals, faggots.


1 1/2 lbs pigs liver
6oz bacon
2 onions
7oz white breadcrumbs
3oz shredded suet
2 tsp sage
1 tsp basil
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mince the liver, bacon & onions. place all the ingredients together in a bowl & mix well. Form the mixture into 8 balls and roll in flour. pack closely together in a baking tin. Bake in the center of the oven at 180'C or bottom shelf of AGA for 30 minutes. When cooked, divide with a knife and serve with a rich brown gravy and pease pudding.

Friday, 21 November 2008

So much to catch up on

Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane, was a kindly soul and did collect my newspapers the other day, but today l had to brave the weather plus the old fools, and walk down to the post office myself. Boy accompanied me, only being distracted by the odd rabbit or two in its last throws of life, dying miserably from myxomatosis. l have to say that this is why l always take with me on my hedgerow ramblings my father's good old heavyweight stick to end the poor animal's suffering, a good thwack saves the creature from an unpleasant death. There is such a thing as sporting chance and myxi removes that option.

It certainly seems that l have missed a great deal of comings and goings in the village since my accident. The drama group manged to cope without me, Mrs De La Pole kindly offered to do a tasteful dance with her pet python, which apparently is now past its best being of a great age , according to Mrs Smith-Dowson, a bit of a disappointment to her fans who can remember the dance being staged in the West End during the late 1940's. The manor's restoration is continuing at a fast rate of knots, Mrs Eastern informs me that the new owners are hoping to be 'in' in time for the Christmas holiday, certainly, the villagers lives have been interrupted by the constant whirl of helicopters that seem to be forever landing and taking off, Bertha, the Manor's former cook has heard that the new owners are looking to establish a polo club as their son is a keen player. Well that means more traffic, more paparazzi, it has been bad enough since l have returned home, the press keep knocking on my door asking for the exclusive rights to my encounter with poachers. Now that is daft, l was only protecting my own, so to speak, nothing wrong with shooting or hunting in the right circumstances and conditions but a definite No to snares, traps, arch lights and dogs.

Next month's village produce sale has been featured in a very upmarket magazine, The Pratler, my niece, Lettuce, who is office tea lady there, has informed me that a society photographer is coming to takes some snaps. I certainly have a good stock of preserves all ready to take and the evergreen foliage, protected from the birds under swaths of old net curtain, look in excellent condition. I wonder if l ought to make some potted rabbit as a little something for festive fayre, certainly the skins do make rather cosy slippers.

Potted Rabbit
1 jointed rabbit

2 oz butter
1 lump of sugar
1 onion
12 cloves
12 allspice
6 peppercorns
ground nutmeg to taste
8 oz butter
1 dessertspoon Worcestershire sauce

Soak the rabbit joints in salted water for two hours and dry well. Put them in a casserole with a tightly fitting lid and add 2 oz butter, sugar, the onion stuck with clioves, allspice, peppercorns & a good sprinnkling of nutmeg. Put the lid on and cook at 150@C or bottom of AGA for 3 hours. Cool and remove the meat from the bones. Put the meat through the mincer twice and mix with the juices form the casserole, most of the 8 oz butter and Worcestershire sauce. Put into small pots & cover with a little extra butter.

Serves 4 -6

Wednesday, 19 November 2008


It's so nice to be home isn't it? For the past few weeks l have spent time in my local cottage hospital and convalescence home in Much Broomfleet. My wounds seem to be heeling nicely now despite the fact that the nursing staff would try to fill me up with a variety of brightly coloured pills that were supposed to do me good! Bah! A touch of good old Solomon seal root, is just the ticket for bruises and swelling. Heaven knows what l have missed whilst l have been away, but it is nice to sit here in my deep. comfy chair with Dog at my feet, toasting my toes in front of the fire with a large steaming mug of delicious milk posset on the adjacent table.

It all happened about a month ago now, l heard a car coming down my lane, which as you know is a dead end, sometime in the early hours of a Monday. Being a good neighbourly sort, l carefully peered around the somewhat faded Sanderson peony curtains to see who on earth was creating such an ungodly din. Couldn't see a damn thing. Now, l am not afraid of the dark, coming from my time spent hiding in ditches some 60 odd years ago in France. Be prepared is my motto! Throwing on my lived-in mackintosh, gumboots and armed with my late husband's well oiled 12 bore, l purposely marched out into the night. By now, the field opposite was a mass of blazing lights whilst the sound of braying hounds unsettled Boy. 'Blurdey poachers', l muttered under my breath, those horrid little men from the towns, armed with powerful lights, riffles and dogs coming here, to my village killing everything within the light. Making sure both barrels were loaded, and l had spare cartridges in my pocket, l strode out across the lane, after making a mental note of the landrover's number plates, and letting down the 2 off side tyres, to prevent escape. Belying my age, l leaped over the gate and with my headscarf securely knotted under my chin prepared to meet the foe face to face. Carefully l raised my gun to shoulder level and released both barrels over the heads of the poachers, just enough to warn them that l meant business. Lights quickly all went out, dogs silenced, all went black.

To my embarrassment, next morning l woke up in a hospital bed with my right shoulder broken in 2 places. The doctor had asked me if l remembered anything of the previous night's events, to which l could only shake my head in bewilderment, had l perhaps fractured my scapula by not preparing for the gun's recoil? No. I had been knocked to the ground by a fully grown stag as it bounded across the field to escape the poachers bullets. Oh well, at least it escaped to rut another day, so to speak.

Do you know, l am really dreading walking up to the village shop in the morning to fetch my papers, perhaps young Morris-from-then-end-of-the-lane will collect them for me tomorrow as l really can't face those gossips fawning all over me when all l did was miss the target.

As a footnote, the police were unable to apprehend the poachers, despite the fact that the criminals vehicle was 'out of action' as they were attending a beetle drive 10 miles away.

Milk Possit

1 pint whole milk
3 fl oz white wine or sherry or to taste
a squeeze of lemon
a little sugar
pinch of ginger
pinch of nutmeg

heat the milk until it froths add the wine or sherry, strain and add lemon juice and sugar to taste, stir in ginger and nutmeg, serve hot.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Amateaur Dramatics

Goodness me what a week. Longshort manor has been a hive of activity, vans, lorries and cars turning in through the Griffin topped gates from the main road. Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane tells me that the decorators are in, some posh company from London so Mrs Eastern said at church on Sunday. Builders have been erecting scaffolding around the house and men in hard helmets have been crawling all over the place like blue beetles. Apparently, so Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane says, inside everything is either being ripped out or restored. I seem to remember that there was lots of ribbon paneling in the Great Hall and the most marvelous oak staircase with twisted newel post and carvings of fierce, toothy animals staring down at you. Morris, who had been invited inside the other evening brought me back a rather nice silver creamer. He is such a nice boy, despite his facial piercings and tattoos.

Sunday's church service saw the church almost full, something not of the usual. The reason this time was the Village Players, a group of old dears, myself included, who enjoy a good sing along. This season we are doing songs from the musicals. We have been rehearsing for about 8 weeks now, and over the winter take our little show out onto the road to old folks homes around the county. My little performance is from Annie Get Your Gun, l do so enjoy twirling my gun and slapping my thighs. I hasten to add that Mrs De La Poule is doing a fan dance, the last time she exhibited herself in this manner an old gentleman died of heart failure, at the mere sight of her fleshy body. The hussy showed no remorse only adding, ' well he died with a smile on his face'.......... Shameless woman!

This evening l am going out to the monthly Towdry Herbalist Society, we all normally take a selection of nibbles so l had better get my skates on and get baking my apple cake, a nice seasonal delicacy.

Grandma Wilson's Apple Cake

4 apples
3oz butter
1/4 pint fresh milk

2 free range eggs
2ozplain flour
3 tablespoons sugar

Peel the apples, [saving the peel for the compost
bucket], and fry them in hot butter. Mix the eggs, milk and flour. Stir in the apples and butter. put in a greased 7 inch sponge sandwich tine and bake at 375'C, 190'C, gas mark 5 or cake oven in the aga for 20 minutes. Turn out , spinkle with sugar, and brown in the oven or under the grill.

Wednesday, 8 October 2008

Apples and Gossip

My feet feel a bit sore today, l somehow managed to drop the preserving pan from the top shelf two days ago and it had the misfortune to land on my right foot which promptly swelled up to the size of a small marrow. Fortunately the swelling has reduced a bit now but l am still rubbing my foot in borage oil which seems to be doing the trick quite nicely.

The gossips in the village are having a field day at the moment, l heard, whilst collecting my Sunday newspapers from the Village Shop, that the Longshort Manor has at last been sold for some ungodly sum to an aristocrat who lives so Mrs Smart said, mostly in Monaco.

The Manor's history goes a long way back in time, there are remains of the castle in the park, whilst the modern house was built during the reign on Elizabeth 1, all timber frames with red and black brickwork. The house remained in the same family,the Wilton-Smythes for many hundreds of years, l believe the first incumbents came over with William the Conqueror. The last family members fell foul of the last war, with both sons being killed in North Africa, Incidently Daisy Brown, she of the high kicks and loose morals, ran off with the younger son, Guy, at the age of 14 to Paris in 1934. He returned just before the war to take up a commission in the Camel Corps; where Daisy went no one knew, forgotten until she returned to the village as Mrs De La Poule about 25 years ago.

The windy weather has brought down rather a lot of windfalls in the back orchard. A few years ago now, a rather nice young man from the council or was it DEFRA came and inspected my apples, apparently the trees are from very ancient stock you know! Varieties such s Persh Apple, rusty coat and little Herbert. This afternoon then, well in fact after l have finished my drinkings, l am off out, armed with my wicker baskets to gather the crop before the birds and animals eat them!

Apple Ginger:
4lb apples
4lb sugar
3 pints water
2oz ground ginger

Peel and core the apples and cut them into thin slices. Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil syrup until thick. Add the apple slices and boil until transparent. Stir int he ginger, boil for 5 minutes, pour into jars and cover.

this is good for filling tarts.
makes about 6lbs.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Jams and chutneys

Oh it is nice to take the weight of my feet, even if it just for a short while. The Mushroom expedition was not too successful yesterday finding only a few truffles and some wood blewit, a rather pretty coloured dainty which l found growing in several places on its own or in clusters amongst the decaying leaf litter. A lovely mushroom to add to last night's liver and onions.

Today, looking outside through the small, diamond shaped window panes, would appear to be a kitchen day. Over the past week l have been collecting whilst on my perambulations,the brilliant red fruits of the haws and rosehips, the sweet, succulent blackberries and the tart, elderberries. They sit there, in slightly chipped, wicker baskets on my pine scrubbed table, waiting to be transformed into something that little bit special for the monthly village produce sale.

This village feature is held at the market cross in front of the Golden Pheasant Public House on the second Saturday of each month. Over the summer months l must confess to having completely run out of jams and chutneys so to keep my London customers happy, l was forced to buy supplies in from my local Aldi, soaking off the labels and replacing them with my own. The jams received an excellent revue in a monthly food magazine, after a well known celebrity chef bought my entire stock!

Elderberry Chutney: [Grandmother's recipe]
1 1/2lbs elderberries
1 onion
2oz Demerara sugar
1/2 pint vinegar
1/2oz ground ginger
a few cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon mace
2oz stoned raisins

pass the berries through a sieve, chop the onions finely and boil with the other ingredients for fifteen minutes then pot as usual.

My grandmother always had the most wonderful head of black hair right up until she died at the age of 98. She swore that washing her hair in a mixture of boiled vinegar and elderberry enhanced her natural colour.

Friday, 3 October 2008

High kicks and ripped skirts

A strange thing happened yesterday in the Village Stores and Post Office when l went in to get my weekly issue of the Anglefield Post. Usually l see very few souls about as most only sleep in the village; there are not many young ones at all, anyway, Mrs De La Poule was in picking up a large paper bag containing her prescriptions, she is a strange one. Rumour has it that she danced at the Moulin Rouge and in Berlin before the war. Certainly she was in a very strange mood, laughing and joking away she was, l did wonder if she had been at the cooking brandy again, when she announced to all and sundry that she had a new man in her life. Poof, she's had more men than l have had cooked breakfasts that one and she's an old woman to boot, does she have no shame? Apparently not,it would seem. When Mrs Blacker, the postmistress, asked wouldn't she rather watch telly with a good cup of tea, she proceeded to throw her right leg way up into the air in a most immodest kick, utter an ungodly shriek, then leapt high into the air landing in full splits. It brought tears to my eyes it did. She refused all help to raise her from the floor, and shuffled out of the shop, tweed skirt ripped from waist band to hem muttering about the English having no sense of amour. Daft bat is English, she used to be plain Daisy Brown once.

I suffered quite a turn l might say, and it was all l could do to drag my wicker shopping trolley home along Blackmoor Lane. The lane is a mess especially after Farmer Dexter and his lads have been muckspreading! Fortunately a nice glass of cowslip wine helped to calm my nerves somewhat and enabled me to focus my energies elsewhere.

As the weather is not to bad today, Boy, Cat and myself are heading over to Longbrow Wood to forage for mushrooms, young Morris-from-the-bottom-of-the-lane often comes with me looking for something he terms magic mushrooms.

Hmm, l think l might be starting to get the hang of this logging now.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

Introducing myself

Well, yesterday's first attempt at typing seemed to go alright, though my fingers after all that cracking were a little stiff this morning, so l have rubbed a generous amount of bone radial horse embrocation into my joints and knuckles which, l am pleased to say, has alleviated much of the pain and swelling although l now smell of old Cesaer my late father's large chestnut plough horse.

It was lovely to meet up with Mrs Snow yesterday afternoon, and certainly her wines and syrups are already showing signs of an excellent vintage, the raspberry vinegar is already secure in my medicine cabinet ready to use at the first signs of a sore throat.

The weather is so much better today so l am planning to walk along the parish boundary hedge at Cross field to inspect the abundance and quality of sloes for harvesting after the first frost. On my perambulations my companions are usually Boy, my elderly and probably the last l shall own, labrador, who although nearly as old as me can still find the enthusiasm to snuffle out the odd hedgepig or two. Boy you see, is the direct descendant of the labrador owned by my late husband, Boy would travel everywhere with him, sitting before him resting his paws on the handlebars of his velocette motor bike or waiting for him to return from a sortie. He was a spitfire pilot. One of the few. He left one bright and sunny morning, one of those with high wispy clouds, in September. He never returned. I have kept the Boy name and line going in his memory.

This raspberry tea is making me all maudlin, on with the wellington boots, coat and headscarf, collect my stick and basket, off we go Boy and Cat. Did l mention Cat or the kites?

Sloe Gin: [ my grandmother's recipe]

Pick your sloes from blackthorn hedges in October or November when they are most ripe
Take a good sized bottle of gin and drink about half
Prick or cut the sloes and drop into the bottle until full
add l wine goblet of sugar and shake well
turn the bottle every week for 12 months

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

The Beginning

Well, this is a first. Normally you would never find me seated on a chair before noon tide lunchings, but today l have received a new gift from the young man at the bottom of the track, he mentioned something about the machine now in front of me, that it would be ideal for writing my memoirs, and to be more than truthful l have done no typing since the doodle bug shattered my nerves back in the war, but he is a nice lad, always giving me a little something that had fallen off one of his friend's lorries.

It is wet today so what better excuse than to stretch my fingers, crack my joints and try to remember just something. I find as the evenings draw in, as l sit before my peat fire, that l hear the little pattering of tiny feet as my house mice move back into their warm and snug winter quarters after spending the summer months out in the fields and woodland that backs up to my little cottage. The district nurse tries very hard to persuade me that these dear little beasties are pests, but to me they are my friends, hearing them rustle behind the wainscot reminds me that l am still alive!

Well, l think that is more than enough of words for my first attempt, this afternoon l am out to tea with a neighbour the other side of the copse. We will be sampling the first batch of hedgerow wine made last year.