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Showing posts from April, 2013

Saying goodbye.

Tomorrow I’ll say goodbye to a friend I made while writing Real Port Talbot
Ray Davies Snr was a retired steelworker who painted as a hobby, recreating the town’s lost history in acrylic and canvas. Streets and seascapes, hotels and docklands, rivers, bridges and railways. I met Ray for the first time last year at the house in Port Talbot he used as his painting studio. He made me a frothy cappuccino sprinkled with chocolate and tucked a napkin onto the saucer that was printed with a Welsh red dragon and Bore Da! (Good morning.) 
As I sipped he placed painting after painting in front of me, each one a story, each one a piece of magic to conjure the town I remembered from my childhood. A week or so earlier he’d asked me, via Facebook, if he could use one of my photographs of old St Baglan Church to paint a picture. And suddenly there it was, so much more than its original self, layers of shadow and sunlight, all shades of green nudging the worn inscriptions on old stones.
Would you like…

At Home with The Thoughts of Chairwoman Ffion, aged 8

The gap between my lukewarm lasagne going back to the kitchen at the Bagle Brook Beefeater, and a freshly prepared, hot one replacing it (with profuse apologies) is gratifyingly filled with the chatter of my great-niece, Ffion, each revelation prefaced by, ‘Lynne?’ ‘Ffion?’‘Can I tell you something?’:
A woman on TV who was 101 remembered her little brother being born when she was three. This was her furthest [sic] memory. When I was in school did other children pick me up? Hannah, her friend, keeps picking her up and she doesn’t like it. She is four foot tall.
She didn’t really want to be eight but she didn’t really like being seven.
Mr Doyle, the headmaster, is retiring in July.
She has three money boxes: one Principality and two Hello Kitties.
She is upset with Mittens who scratched Tickles’ nose through the bars of his cage.
She scored the winning goal when Emma tripped.
Iwan doesn’t want to go to Bristol Zoo because of the peacocks.
A newt ran into Miss Trunchbull’s knickers.
All this and mo…

Here comes the sun. And bath-sharing. (Or not.)

I'd like to think I've been channelling the sun through making these dishes but its arrival over the weekend is probably just a coincidence. Or the UK climate finally relinquishing its grip on the persistent Siberian front out of sheer exhaustion. It was like waking up in another country on Sunday morning: blue sky, 20 degrees, and one of the new cherry trees on the cusp of blossom. 
I've posted my recipe for the Blush Apple Tart Tatin elsewhere on the blog though I think that cramming as many apple quarters as you can (compare the two photos of the finished tarts) into the dish before plopping on the pastry is a massive improvement.
The attempt at making Portuguese Custard Tarts was a result of our trip to the Algarve last month, ostensibly to play golf. I am using the word 'play' in the loosest possible way - as a beginner I'd have had more success kicking the ball around the course on some days. But, fortunately, there were plenty of tarts to comfort me afterw…


A parsnip. A leek. Three sweet potatoes the size of a child’s fist. A sweetheart cabbage that was far too small to serve at Saturday's Easter family dinner for eight. Leftover chicken. I’m thinking soup. Grab the chicken stock, garlic, salt and pepper.

The trifling plate of cooked chicken was the only thing left over from lunch. Roast potatoes, roast parsnips, honeyed carrots, peas and leeks sauteed in butter, sausage-meat stuffing and gravy all disappeared within a crumb and a splash. I reckon that a video of the table, played back at high speed, might easily draw similarities to a shoal of pirhanas stripping the flesh from a cow pushed into a Brazilian river.
My 1912 doorstep size Ward Lock edition of Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management expounds on soup – broth, clear and thick – for over 50 pages. It’s one of a handful of collectable books that I kept after I sold Foxed & Bound, the second-hand and antiquarian bookshop I ran for 10 years until the end of 1999. The recip…