October 21, 2010

Hot on the heels of news that otters are returning to Britain’s rivers, our neighbour reports the presence of otters in our own river, a bare couple of miles down the road. This adds a whole layer of whiskery cuteness to our wildlife, just in case we were getting a tiny bit blasé about our red squirrels, hares, baby swallows and the like. I mean, otters! How awesome is that?
What would have been even more awesome would be if our neighbour hadn’t found this out only because he ran one over the other night…


Fried Green Tomatoes

October 20, 2010

This year I swore I wasn’t going to grow tomatoes. I don’t really like tomatoes, and besides they never grow properly up here unless you’ve got a greenhouse and if they do grow they never fruit and if they do fruit it never ripens. So I didn’t buy any tomato seeds and when tomato seeds mysteriously appeared in my seed order I didn’t plant them and I didn’t buy any tomato plants at the village plant sale and despite all that, summer came around and I found I was the foster owner of one unwanted orphan tomato plant (I think the magic words ‘it’ll just go in the bin otherwise’ were uttered at some point). And this year it actually flourished, possibly encouraged by copious amounts of coffee grounds and stewed nettle. We stuck it in a sunny spot and watched as it set fruit, and the fruit gradually ripened and then not so gradually split from all the rain in September (it’s all very well saying not to overwater your tomatoes, but nobody told the weather Gods that). But there was still tons of fruit – more tomatoes than I’ve ever managed to grow – probably because I’d looked at all the complicated instructions about picking off the smaller fruit and removing the side trusses and filed them under ‘life’s too short’ along with mushroom stuffing and ironing. And it was almost all of it green.
And that’s where we were until last night, when the first frost came and my little orphan tomato-plant-that-could keeled over leaving us with a substantial family of unripe tomatoes to support.
Chutney recipes, anyone? Unless you’ve got a better idea?

Postman’s Knock

October 19, 2010

There were two exciting packages in amongst the junk mail this morning.
The first was from TfL, presenting me with the Keys to the City:

My Boris Bike Key

Or rather a key, my Boris bike key. Until this summer, I thought that my continued possession of an oyster card would be enough to mark me out from the tourist herd as at least an ex-Londoner, if no longer a fully-fledged citizen. But oyster schmoyster, I’m pretty sure all the really cool Londoners are zipping about on Boris bikes these days. I’ve been planning to use this scheme ever since it was announced. The last time I was down there the number of bikes was phenomenal and I felt pretty resentful at having to trudge around on foot, but my next visit will be different. Come Monday I’ll be zipping about on two wheels instead and I can’t wait, although I could wish that the map in the accompanying leaflet was a little more useful. I mean, I know the Superficial Cycle Highways and other routes have been slated by the bike blogging community but I didn’t think they were so bad that they wouldn’t bother to put them on a map that will be going out to any number of London cyclists. And I know cyclists are notorious scofflaws who like nothing better than to zip the wrong way up one-way streets, but they could at least mark them on the map so we know we’re about to break the law, no? Still, at least the key came in time – I only signed up on Sunday night. I could see nowhere on the TfL website where it told me how long it would take for the key to arrive so I was worried it wouldn’t make it before I left, but fellow twitterers reassured me the process was quick and I took the risk and it paid off. So yay!

And even more yay:

Home made bagels

A passing comment on a post about h****** led to an astoundingly generous offer from Karl of Do the Right Thing of some of his home-made bagels. Well, I wasn’t going to say no to that, was I? Sure enough a very fragrant parcel arrived, even more promptly than my bike key, and the contents were sliced*, toasted and promptly consumed for tea.

Going, going...

I just hope the Boris bike key proves a little longer lasting… I suspect it wouldn’t taste anything like as good though.


*Sadly, the holes weren’t big enough to do it like this

Just When you Thought it was Safe to go back into the Veg Patch…

October 18, 2010

You thought we were done with the monster parsnips, didn’t you?

Well, the truth is I could see that there was a parsnip lurking in there that looked as though it was going to be a biggie. I’ve been sort of avoiding it until I felt capable of dealing with it, but today the thought of spicy parsnip soup for lunch beckoned and I decided tackling it during daylight hours might be the safest way.


I tried it with the fork and despite getting a good way in, it didn’t seem to be budging at all. So I dug it out gradually, the way you might a fence post and finally worked it free.

That’s 1.3 kg of parsnip right there, that is. I think we’ll be having it for lunch for a while…


And Home

October 17, 2010

I’ve decided I could get a bit used to Stena Line Plus. Not so much on the HSS going out, but coming back this afternoon we were on a proper ferry rather than a floating shopping mall and the Stena Plus lounge not only had chairs that weren’t bolted to the floor but it had its own private deck out the back. When lunch came to be served the steward very kindly brought my soup out to me so that we could eat in the sunshine with the shores of Belfast Lough sliding past us, watching the gannets knifing into the water after lunch of their own.

‘Amazing to be doing this in October’ he said as he set the bowl down and indeed it was, although that was of course the sunny Irish side of the Irish sea. Several nautical miles later we backed into Stranraer in weather that was almost comically grim and drove home through the murk. Ah well. It gives us an excuse to light the stove, after all.

There’s a Time for…

October 16, 2010

… sitting down at the computer and banging out a couple of hundred carefully crafted words about the glories of the autumn countryside …

… and there’s a time for just sitting down under a tree.

(although neither picture really does justice to the tree)


We Interrupt this Intermission

October 13, 2010

… to announce to any London-based readers that I’ll be appearing at the Inside Out Festival on Monday 25th October at Birkbeck. There’ll be readings and discussion from a panel of talented writers* so it will be well worth five of your English pounds. If you’ve a book of mine you want signed (and if you haven’t, why not?) that would be the perfect opportunity to do it.

Be there or be elsewhere, obviously.

*and me