Monday, 30 May 2011

A long way round to Hay

Via Strumble Head in Pembrokeshire -- wild and windy and beautiful.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Getting ready for Hay...

Very much hoping to meet some of you on Tuesday; whether bright and early at 9am, when I will be in the Oxfam tent with Hannah Rothschild, or at 10.30 in the Telegraph tent (more of an informal chat going on there), or at 2pm at How The Light Gets in, where I will be talking about the philosophy of fashion and art with Professor Ulrich Lehmann.
A confession: I'm feeling quite nervous -- will anyone come to see me (there's so much else going on at Hay), and what about the logistics of how to get where, and when, and so on and so forth. Anxiety dreams brewed last night, after the midnight thunderstorms.
Anyone got any good advice?

Sunday, 22 May 2011

My internet connection is playing up...

So am having to write this very fast, in the brief moment I am connected, before it disappears again. Have been fiddling with router, failing to diagnose ailing symptoms, and am throwing myself on the mercy of BT tomorrow, as soon as they wake up.
Meanwhile, I made the most delicious ginger cake ever... the secret ingredients were black strap molasses and spelt flour, plus lashings of fresh ginger AND crystalised chunks, and a simple topping of icing sugar with lemon juice. I appear to have eaten most of it myself, as neither of my friends came round for tea. Harumph.
PS. For all lovers of costume jewels -- whether by Chanel or another -- here is today's Closet Thinker column.
PPS. Herewith gingerbread recipe, from Nigella's How To Be A Domestic Goddess (and my adaptations in brackets).
150g unsalted butter
125g dark muscovado sugar
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle [I used black strap molasses]
2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger [I love ginger, so also added some chopped up chunks of crystallised ginger, left over from Christmas.]
1 tsp ground cinnamon [I substituted ground ginger.]
250ml milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, dissolved in 2 tbs warm water
300g plain flour [I used white spelt flour from Doves Farm].

[I also had two very ripe bananas, which needed to be used, so I mashed them up and added them to the final mixture.]

1 roasting tin 30x20x5cm, greased and lined with parchment or foil. [I used a square baking tin, simply greased with butter, and not lined.]

Preheat oven to 170C/gas 3

Melt the butter with the sugar, syrup, treacle, ginger and cinnamon. Take off the heat, and add the milk, eggs and bicarb in water.

Place the flour in a bowl and pour in the liquid ingredients, beating well (it makes a very liquid batter, so don't be alarmed). Pour into the tin and bake for about 1 hour.

[Mine was cooked in less than an hour -- about 45 minutes -- and when it was cool, I iced it with a mixture of sieved icing sugar with freshly squeezed lemon juice.]

PS. Please read last comment on previous blog for further details of secret midsummer back garden festival. I will bake a cake...

Monday, 16 May 2011

Is anyone coming to Hay?

I'll be there on Tuesday 31st May, bright and early, so we can make Hay while the sun rises.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

After the blogger meltdown...

Annoyingly, I've lost posts and comments, so am briefly repeating myself: but just wanted to urge people to listen to Ancient Mysteries on Radio 4, before the series disappears from BBC iplayer. Five 15 minute dramatic monologues, based on interviews with dementia sufferers, it's the best thing I've heard on radio for a very long time: touches of T.S Eliot and Alan Bennett, but completely original...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

"... the diffused magic of the hot sweet South...

... the soft-pawed night and the ghostly wash of the Mediterranean far below..."

Beneath the umbrella pines at Cap D'Antibes

No sign of the ghosts of Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, but perhaps they had slipped away before the Chanel show began...

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

Reading and writing and falling in coils

I finished Sybille Bedford's 'A Legacy' last weekend, and it's wonderful; quite unlike anything else I've read. At moments, there are echoes of Henry James or Edith Wharton, but really, the novel is entirely itself. Then moved on to Penelope Fitzgerald's novel, 'The Gate of Angels', which is very different in tone (set in London and Cambridge in 1911), but equally remarkable. Anyway, both are highly recommended, if you haven't yet discovered them. Since then, I have fallen down the stairs, and am currently contemplating a disturbingly painful bruise on my foot; yet feeling distracted by the outline of my next book, at the same time as being completely absorbed within it. All quite discombobulating; as if I'm inhabiting two different landscapes (internal and external), and tonight they are jarring with each other, like the bones in my right foot.

Monday, 2 May 2011

The Royal Wedding

Here's the piece I wrote about it in the Sunday Telegraph yesterday. I thoroughly enjoyed it: the pageantry, the flowers, the frocks, the hats, the uniforms, the bridesmaids and pageboys. I didn't have room for everything in the article, so here is a little bit extra on the bride's bouquet:

The meaning of the flowers:
Lily-of-the-valley – Return of happiness
Sweet William – Gallantry
Hyacinth – Constancy of love
Ivy: Fidelity; marriage; wedded love; friendship; affection
Myrtle: the emblem of marriage; love.

The bouquet contains stems from a myrtle planted at Osborne House, Isle of Wight, by Queen Victoria in 1845, and a sprig from a plant grown from the myrtle used in The Queen’s wedding bouquet of 1947.The tradition of carrying myrtle begun after Queen Victoria was given a nosegay containing myrtle by Prince Albert’s grandmother during a visit to Gotha in Germany.  In the same year, Queen Victoria and Prince Albert bought Osborne House as a family retreat, and a sprig from the posy was planted against the terrace walls, where it continues to thrive today.

The myrtle was first carried by Queen Victoria eldest daughter,
Princess Victoria, when she married in 1858, and was used to signify
the traditional innocence of a bride.