Saturday, 31 October 2015

Slow cooked wild plum pork recipe

We were kindly given a couple of jars of wild plum chutney by my Dad
Slow cooked wild plum pork 
and his fiancee, Mary, recently. They had been out harvesting the local crop and made both chutney and a very good wild plum jam too. I thought that adding the chutney to a slow cooked pork meal would result in a rich fruity meat and sauce. The following recipe is for two people although it easily made enough sauce to stretch to three if needed.

Good splash rapeseed oil
1/2 onion, finely diced
1/3 red pepper, diced
2 thick pork chops or loin steaks, bones removed
Salt and black pepper
1/2 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp wild plum chutney
100ml (ish) white wine
5-6 new potatoes, halved

Heat the rapeseed oil in a frying pan or the pot of your slow cooker if you can use this on a hob. Fry the onion until softened, then add the diced pepper and cook until starting to soften.

Lay the pork in with the vegetables and brown each side. We could only get roughly chopped pork chops which had bone fragments along one edge so I removed all the bones to prevent sore mouths later on!

Put the slow cooker pot back into its outer, or transfer the pork and vegetables into your slow cooker if you were previously using a frying pan. Season then add the halved potatoes. Add the tinned tomatoes, wild plum chutney and a good glassful of white wine, making sure that the pork and as much of the potatoes as possible are covered. Don't drink up the rest of the wine just yet - you might need more to top up the sauce later if it thickens too soon!

Cover and cook on medium for 4-5 hours. If needed, return the sauce only to a small pan and boil it, stirring continuously, for 5-10 minutes until thickened and glossy. Serve immediately.

We thought that this was a perfect autumn recipe. It uses seasonal fruit with the wild plum chutney and makes a warming dinner for chilly days. In fact, I didn't consider how the little addition of chilli in our chutney would mature during the long cooking time so the plum sauce had a real kick to it!

Friday, 30 October 2015

Wandering the streets of Avignon and a Halloween trick or treat for Volkswagen

Our newest campsite is Camping Bagatelle beautifully situated on the
Looking through the walls 
banks of the River Rhone within easy walking or cycling distance of Avignon's historic centre. It does feel busy after our summer of isolated CLs and there is a definite ebb and flow of motorhomes through the day as overnighters appear to pitch up late afternoon and are gone again by mid-morning. Our pitch is just over €17 a night with our ACSI card which is a little pricier than Anse, but the wifi is a staggeringly good €4 for a whole week - and that's for a login code each! The site is sheltered by lots of trees which do unexpectedly drop twigs onto Bailey's roof, but it means we avoided the worst of the high winds earlier this week and hopefully will do so again early next week. Temperatures are pretty good here too - Dave's been able to wear his shorts for the past two days which he is happy about!

Our friends Chris and Marta were both enthusiastic about Avignon so we had high hopes that, so far, have been pretty much realised. Our first venture over the bridge did coincide with a couple of heavy rain showers so we sheltered in the arches of the imposing city walls. Unfortunately it is no longer possible to walk around the walls as apparently the stonework is unsafe so we just looked up instead.

Avignon walls with convenient rain shelters 

My biggest surprise was that the famous Pont d'Avignon, of "sur le pont
Le pont d'Avignon 
d'Avignon" song fame isn't actually a bridge any more - it stops mid-river. We learned that river erosion and multiple wars had made it too expensive to keep rebuilding so efforts ceased in the 17th century. Today it is possible to pay over the odds to be able to walk onto the half-bridge, but we have settled for looking at it rather than from it. There's so much else to see! The streets nearest the Bridge and the Palais des Papes - seven popes were based in Avignon between 1309 and 1377 - made me question 'what recession'! Historically there has been a lot of money here and, if the numerous boutiques are anything to judge by, there still very much is. Our first (rainy day) visit left us with this impression, yet the next day, when we ventured through the historic district into the 'real' Avignon on the other side, I saw a vibrant working city that I liked very much. Elegant architecture sits side by side with quirky modern ideas, cycle routes and pedestrian areas abound and there is a relaxed vibe that isn't just about the tourist industry.

Fun clock high on an apartment building wall 

Blocked up windows dotted throughout Avignon are painted with
Theatrical scene street art 
theatrical scenes and the town has twelve theatres which, together, host a month long Festival of Theatre in the summer. We visited the large indoor market, Les Halles, which has a vertical garden climbing its front wall. Quite a sight! Inside, it is just constant temptation - fresh produce and treats including fruits and vegetables, cheeses, breads and pastries, meat and fish, olives and preserves, lavender products and honeys ... it's wonderful! We bought ourselves a delicious sheep's milk cheese, perfectly ripe pears, deep fried aubergine slices (beignets) and a feuilletée stuffed with courgette and goat cheese. I even learned to say feuilletée properly!

After Les Halles we wandered as far as Route De Lyon and a great health food shop called Biotope. They stock lots of different tofu products including yet more new-to-us flavours as well as loads more intriguing tins, jars and packets. It was quite a walk to get there and we are planning to make a return journey by bike. There's a traffic-free cycle route leading over the bridge by our campsite into town. Lots of the back streets in town are practically traffic- free for most of the day too so we are looking forward to more exploring, both in town and further afield.

On a different note, here is a kind of trick or treat from Greenpeace for Halloween:

"Volkswagen tricked us. Now they should treat us.

The VW emissions scandal revealed just how dirty our cars really are. They poison our air and warm our climate. But this nasty trick could be a turning point, a chance for companies to move away from a reliance on fossil fuels and invest in greener alternatives.

The technology for electric and hybrid cars is developing so fast that zero fumes on the road and greener cars could soon be the norm. But they need to be made more accessible. If a company like Volkswagen commits to making electric cars more accessible it could be the spark that sets off a wholesale revolution of the car industry. But we also need the government to improve car testing systems so that dangerous, polluting cars are kept off the road.

Sign the petition to tell VW and the government to take action now."

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Favourite Five Horror Stories for Halloween

I'm not the most enthusiastic of horror fiction readers by a long shot so, when checking back on my Goodreads Read list, I was surprised by how many books were actually labelled in the genre. I thought it might be fun to list my five favourites as suggestions for suitably chilling Halloween reads and listens (as some were excellent audio books). There's a linkup at the end of this post as I would love to find out what stories gave you nightmares too!

1) I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
This was a fabulous audiobook download from Audible which I listened to in May of this year. A 1950s classic, it creates its horror through anticipation and expectation rather than using overt gory-ness although there are shocking flashes of extreme violence. What really made this book for me was its overriding sense of loss and loneliness and the world-weary narration is superb.

You can read my blogged review here.
You can buy the audio download from Audible via Amazon

2) The Brain Within Its Groove by L N Nino
This was a StoryCartel find, named for an Emily Dickinson poem that I haven't read! Nino's writing is beautifully elegant and 'old-fashioned', but in a good way, the prose flowing like that of a classic Victorian author. His imagery is vivid with each word appearing to have been considered and deliberated over. Whether the psychiatric science is valid or imagined I cannot say, but certainly the mood and atmosphere ring true and I particularly appreciated the restraint of the writing as we grew closer to its horrific conclusion.

You can buy the ebook download from Amazon

3) The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving

I first heard a recording of The Legend of Sleepy Hollow five years ago and, having then recently seen the Johnny Depp film version, was distracted by trying to mesh the two tales. The film differs from  Irving's original tale. For Halloween 2014, offered members a new recording so I gave the story another chance and am glad I did. I love Irving's detailed descriptions of the town and its residents, their appearances and especially their food! I was surprised that, despite references to the headless horseman, he is quite a peripheral character making this a less spooky tale than I expected although, this time around, a satisfying one.

You can read my blogged review here.
You can buy the audio download from Audible via Amazon

4) Niedermayer And Hart by M J Johnson
Another indie author for my fourth suggestion and the first of my two twitter finds. Twitter really is fantastic for discovering the existence of good self-publishing writers! Niedermayer And Hart has a classic horror storyline but with a sharp, contemporary viewpoint that I enjoyed. The two strands, one set in the thirteenth century and one set in the 1990s, have markedly different writing styles and the contrast gave authenticity to each.

You can read my blogged review here.
You can buy the ebook download from Amazon

5) Ghostileaks by M J Peter
My second twitter find and also my second 'M J' author. Now, how spooky is that?! Ghostileaks is a short story collection of thirteen tales, all of which, unsurprisingly, feature ghosts and several of which are actually purported to be true. I liked that our narrator approaches each tale from a sceptical standpoint which adds to the believability of the scenarios. There are interesting snippets ending each tale to explain their inception too.

You can read my blogged review here.
You can buy the ebook download from Amazon

I hope you enjoyed discovering my favourite horror reads? Please do link up your own via the linkytools gizmo at the end of this post. All horror fiction is welcome whether you're linking to reviews on your blog, to book retailers' pages or, for horror authors, to your own websites!

I'd just like to finish with a shoutout for a massive Facebook party which is happening over the next couple of days. Hosted by author Lilo Abernathy, All Hallows' Reads will showcase twenty-four horror, spooky and paranormal genre authors with plenty of games, prizes and free samples too. It will be a great way to discover new writing and get to know other fans of the strange and supernatural. There's already folks popping by. Consider yourself invited!

Tuesday, 27 October 2015

Don't kill our bees! - DEFRA petition response

I signed a petition, 'Don't kill our bees! Immediately halt the use of Neonicotinoids on crops', on the UK Government's epetition website a while ago and received the response from DEFRA today. From what I can see, their positives are a '10-year National Pollinators Strategy' which might just manage to bring in enough results to create some pretty graphs before our bee populations are beyond help completely, and the 'Bees' Needs' call to action which seems to be a request to farmers and landowners to voluntarily plant a few more flowers! The negatives include their claim to 'use the best available scientific evidence' - the best for whom exactly? - and how 'emergency' is actually defined.

Government response

"We are committed to protecting bees and maintaining a range of pollinators. Government decisions on pesticides are based on recommendations from independent experts who have studied the evidence.

The health of our pollinators is very important in itself and to the wider environment. That is why, in November 2014, the Government launched a 10-year National Pollinators Strategy which will ensure pollinator needs are addressed as an integral part of land and habitat management as well as further investigating how we can help pollinators to thrive.

We use the best available scientific evidence to inform decisions on pesticides and have a committee of scientists, called the Expert Committee on Pesticides, to advise ministers. When the Committee provides its advice it takes into account wider environmental factors, such as increasing resistance to alternative pesticides, risks to biodiversity, and the availability of other pesticides and agronomic techniques to control pests.

Responsible pesticide use contributes towards our innovative and productive farming industry, and so unnecessary requirements need to be avoided to ensure that pesticides are permitted when they can be used safely to protect UK crops from pests and diseases.

Following concerns about some kinds of neonicotinoid pesticides, in 2013 the EU introduced a precautionary ban on three neonicotinoids. These apply to a wide range of crops that are ‘attractive to bees’, and have been fully implemented by the UK. A number of other uses of neonicotinoids continue to remain permitted under the EU approval. The restrictions are not time limited and will remain until and unless the EU Commission decides to change them. The EU Commission has begun a review of the science relating to neonicotinoids and bees and the Government will contribute fully to this review.

EU legislation allows Member States to consider applications for the authorisation of products to deal with emergency situations that are temporary, limited in scale and controlled to address “a danger which cannot be contained by any other reasonable means”. Authorisations are only granted after an assessment of the evidence provided by the applicant demonstrates that all the legal requirements are met.

The Government received applications for emergency authorisation of neonicotinoid seed treatments for use on oilseed rape. Based on the legal requirements and the evidence, the Government has followed the advice of the independent UK Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP) and Defra’s Chief Scientific Adviser that a limited emergency authorisation of two neonicotinoids requested by farmers should be granted where oilseed rape crops are at greatest risk of pest damage, representing just 5% of the UK oilseed rape crop area. The authorisations are time-limited and only cover seed sown in 2015. Also following the advice received by the ECP, the Government rejected the National Farmers Union’s two earlier applications which requested authorisation for the same products to be used on 79% of the UK crop area.

Government is taking a number of actions to improve the state of our bees and other pollinating insects and to build up our understanding of current populations and of the causes of decline.

We are already providing £2 billion to farmers to implement environmental schemes and we will provide £900 million more through the new Countryside Stewardship scheme. This new scheme includes a dedicated Wild Pollinator and Farm Wildlife Package.

The National Pollinator Strategy will ensure pollinators’ needs are addressed as an integral part of land management to provide food, shelter, and nesting sites. This is a collaborative approach working with voluntary organisations, businesses, local authorities and the public. We will shortly be publishing the Implementation Plan for the Strategy, which we have worked closely with our partners to develop.

We launched the Call to Action message, ‘Bees’ Needs: Food and a Home’, in July 2014. It is a simple message for all land managers on the needs of pollinators and how to fulfil them. It includes five actions, such as planting more bee-friendly flowers and cutting grass after flowering.

Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Monday, 26 October 2015

An afternoon in Lyon - street art and fountains

It's going to be a photo-heavy post this evening because I am exhausted
Street art in Lyon 
after our afternoon exploring Lyon and won't write much but will write a lot anyway. We knew Lyon is a large city so opted to just visit two areas, but this still involved several hours strolling around and two slightly stressful train journeys. For a start, the half hourly trains shown on the timetable at our campsite don't exist. We missed one by about thirty seconds and the next wasn't due for ninety minutes so we got to wander Anse for an hour! The train was one of the double decker ones which we still find fun as they are unusual to us. The return fare was about €11 each for a twenty-five minute journey. Once at Lyon Vaise station we were a bit baffled by which Metro platform we needed, but two friendly station staff were very helpful giving us a pocket map and directing us the right way. And it was worth the perseverance to get to the old city centre! We really liked Lyon and would return to spend more time there if back this way in the future.

Vieux Lyon is, as its name implies, the old district of Lyon and it
St Jean cathedral 
reminded us of Trastevere in Rome. There are more eateries than you can shake a stick at, cute little boutique shops, narrow streets and architecturally pretty buildings. The area is dominated by the huge Saint Jean cathedral which towers up into the sky and was just too big the capture on my phone. Instead this image shows one of the arches over the gigantic wooden doors. Originally all these figures would have had heads!

We could also see the Basilica de Notre Dame de Fourviere high up on the hillside above the cathedral. It is an impressive white structure reached by way of a funicular railway.

Lunch was at a creperie called Le Banana. I loved the olde-worlde decor
Inside Le Banana 
inside and they had an interesting range of savoury pancakes. I chose the Fjord which was filled with smoked salmon and goat's cheese, both hot. I wouldn't have thought to pair those two flavours, but the crepe was delicious. Dave had the Margharita with three types of cheese and fresh tomatoes. We enjoyed people-watching and were delighted to spot two cycle rickshaw-like taxis which are operated by Cyclopolitain. After lunch, we spent longer wandering Vieux Lyon and visited a 'traboul' - an alleyway like a twitten which leads into a courtyard. There are several in the area, all privately owned, but with a few open to the public to view.

View along Le Saone, Lyon 

Views from the frequent bridges over Le Saone vary. We saw more
Roman amphitheatre in Lyon 
dismal and grim functional buildings than impressively historic architecture although I did like this particular view upstream. Lyon does have its fair share of grand buildings - the Bank Of China being beautiful - but they are hemmed in by concrete monstrosities. Once over the river we headed towards Roman ruins and the ancient amphitheatre. This was fenced off and I don't know if it was just shut on Mondays or more permanently. We were able to look through the fencing and helpful plaques explained the history. The amphitheatre was built in 12BC and enlarged under the rule of Emperor Hadrian some hundred and thirty years later. (Yes, the same Hadrian of Wall fame!) It seated twenty thousand and was used as the annual meeting place of the sixty-four nations of the Three Gauls as well as for torturing the first Christians (AD177) including Sainte Blandine. Not much of the amphitheatre now remains - more than in Chester but far less than in Italica.

We saw fabulous street art 'over the river' including this tall yellow
Amazing mural
 in Lyon 
apartment block which is painted with residents from several historical eras on its balconies. I also liked the mural of a man painting a mural (shown in the first photo) especially as we had actually seen a man painting a mural last weekend in Brixton. The painting man was on this same building, but around the corner.

Streets were noticeably quieter in this district than in the touristy Vieux Lyon. The area used to be home to silk weavers and we did see a shop selling its own woven silk wares. Fortunately it was closed as the fabrics were stunningly beautiful and probably pricey! Artists have studios and small shops there too. I couldn't get good photographs of their works, but window displays that caught our eyes included a truly fantastical collection entitled Machines A Rever created by Lionel Stocard.

Nearby was the Lyon Opera House which is a grand building alongside
Louise Labe sculpture, Lyon 
the equally as grand Fine Art Museum. The Place outside the Opera House was hosting lots of skateboarders and some rehearsing dancers too. I loved this sculpture of  Louise Labe, a Lyonnais poet, created in 1981. Louise Labe is also shown, together with fellow poet Maurice Sceve, in the yelliow building mural but, unfortunately not on the side of which I took my photo. You can see it on this terresdecrivans page though which also has a short biography of her life (in French).

My final wonderful Lyon scene is the oversized La Fontaine Bartholdi which was sculpted by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and realised by Gaget and Gautier in 1889. I guess the only reason Dave is happily smiling for the camera is that he hasn't seen the four huge horses bearing down on him! The fountain depicts France as a chariot-driving woman controlling the four great rivers of the country depicted as the almost out-of-control horses. Bartholdi first designed the fountain for a Bordeaux competition which he won, but apparently Bordeaux weren't actually interested in making it happen until they learned of the impact of another Bartholdi sculpture - The Statue of Liberty. Then Bordeaux's mayor got in touch again, hummed and hawed over the cost, and eventually sold the monument to Lyon. Definitely Bordeaux's loss!

Bartholdi Fountain, Lyon 


Sunday, 25 October 2015

A Sunday cycle from Anse to Trevoux + travel blog linkup

I hosted a little linkup for travel bloggers this time last month and
Book sculpture at Camping Les Portes du Beaujolais 
enjoyed reading two posts which were added by A Wandering Woman's Travels: Postcards From Thailand and A Train Trip To Wellington (New Zealand). Both are countries that I have not yet visited although know people who have and were very enthusiastic about them. There's another linkup for travel blogs at the end of this post. Let's see where you have loved (or hated!) visiting.

The unusual metal book sculpture pictured above is near the entrance to our current campsite, Camping Les Portes du Beaujolais. It is a Camping Municipal and a particularly nice one with some posh log cabins and chalets and even a wellness centre. It closes at the end of October for everyone except, apparently, self-sufficient camping cars and motor homes. They can use limited facilities all year round. We got chatting to the guy on Reception who has moved here from Alsace and is wonderfully enthusiastic about the region. Thanks to his advice we found our pretty cycle ride today and will also be staying on longer than planned in order to take advantage of the walkable distance to Anse station where we can catch a train into Lyon. He explained why many of the French municipal campsites are becoming very run down: the Mairie issue three year licences and any investment on the part of the licencee remains at the campsite after that period. However, the manager here had her licence renewed for a further six years and again now for another nine years so it is worth her while to make improvements. It's working too! Visits are up from 6,000 campers staying an average of two nights in 2003 to 22,000 staying an average of four nights this year. Our ACSI card gets us a price of €16.80 per night including electric. Wifi is extra at €8 for three days. A bit pricey, but we got two codes for than so can be online simultaneously!

Just outside the campsite entrance, a downhill slope leads to an earth
Bridge at Trevoux 
path which is an offroad walking and cyling route. We followed this until it met up with a bridge over the beautiful Le Saone river. Once over the bridge, a quick detour through narrow village streets got us down to the river and to a great cycle route sur les bords de Saone that we followed all the way to the picturesque town of Trevoux. It's only about five kilometres and I loved cycling through woodland with all the orange and yellow leaves. France in the autumn has spectacular colours! The route was quite busy with other cyclists and pedestrians, it being a Sunday afternoon, but no one was rushing and we exchanged a lot of Bonjours. We definitely must have looked like tourists though. For us, it is lovely and warm here so we were wearing t-shirts. All the locals have already dusted off their winter coats.

Two huge cruise ships passed us including this pictured one, the Scenic
Emerald, which had glass sided cabins for ultimate views. We mooted the idea of a river cruise for ourselves as we would both enjoy sightseeing at that pace and I shouldn't get the same travel sickness as I do out at sea. We would just need to find one that doesn't insist on dressing up too smartly for dinner every evening. Perhaps we'll look into what is on offer for the Danube - or the Nile!

Once in Trevoux, we sat awhile in the sun watching the passersby, then rode over that elegant bridge shown above which is only crossable by pedestrians and cyclists. There are tracks back along the other side of Le Saone, unsurfaced but perfectly rideable even for a nervous ninny like me! A 'Route Barre' sign turned out to be a fib, for cyclists at least, and we got out into agricultural land for a while before returning to the motorway over which there is a bridge. We did have a slight problem with a bramble-covered path which put paid to our Short Cut! If you also ride this circuit, ignore the potential track shown on google maps. The industrial estate after the motorway bridge IS a dead end. However there's cycle route markings on the edge of most of the road into Anse and all the car drivers gave us a generously wide berth. We easily followed the Gare signs back to our camping after a good two hours out. I was considerably less saddle sore than the last time too.

Seize the night! 

Friday, 23 October 2015

Cycling the Velovoie from Geraudot

As you might have guessed from a couple of words in that title, we are
Velovoie on the levee alongside the reservoir 
now in France. Nous sommes en France! I had probably the best ferry crossing ever - lying down in the cabin as we left Newhaven and only being awakened some four hours later by a banging on the cabin door which turned out to be one of the crew letting us know we had arrived. Those Stugeron travel sickness tablets are good! Perhaps I should have just had one instead of two?

Our first afternoon's driving took us to a campsite at Peronne which would probably be a fantastic base for exploring the Somme region in Summer, but was damp and a tad dingy in October. It was open though and many sites along our route south have already closed up for the season so we were happy to pull in there for a night and would definitely return in warmer months.

Our current campsite is Les Rives Du Lac just outside the very pretty
Wooden dog at Camping Rives du Lac 
village of Geraudot. This site is open all year, has good facilities and gravelled pitches. It is pretty busy with lots of permanent-looking setups and several of us travellers making use of it for just a night or two. We chose to stay two nights as we wanted to see the Lacs de l'Aube which are an important element of the Paris flood defences. The basic theory is that water is diverted from the rivers along canals into huge lakes and reservoirs during the rainy winter months which prevents said rivers overflowing their banks. Then, during the dry summers, the water is returned to the rivers keeping their water levels high. It's a fantastic engineering triumph and one that we were able to see close up both by walking on the lake edges yesterday and by cycling part of the Velovoie cycle route this afternoon.

The lake did look very strange yesterday and we weren't aware of its
purpose until we got back home to google it. The water level is amazingly low and we were intrigued by the remaining tree stumps which dot the sand and, at certain angles, look like animals. We 'saw' turtles and a small dog that could almost have been Toby from The Homestead campsite in Hailsham. The sand is very sticky and turned our shoes into platform soles which were fun to try walking on. There are lots of wild birds here, but we only recognised egrets as the others were too far away to identify. There must be significant fish stocks too, both for the birds and for the half dozen or so fishermen we saw out in their little boats this afternoon.

I think the Velovoie is an entirely off-road cycle route which runs from
Canal taking water from the barrage-reservoir Aube
Troyes out to these lakes a right along one side of them. We covered about 28km out and back today and only saw one end of it. It's practically flat and has a good tarmac surface. Our first half hour was through deciduous woodland with beautiful orange and yellow leaves fallen everywhere. Then we got out and up onto a pretty high levee overlooking the waters on one side and farmland on the other. There were huge heaps of potatoes across the end of one field and we had seen several similar heaps on on the way here yesterday.

In the other direction from Camping Rives du Lac, on the Velovoie just
K Rinke sculpture 
before Lusigny, there is an eyecatching hairpin weir with water thundering with great force over its curve. Above it is a sculpture in homage to Gaston Bachelard who was a significant philosopher of the 20th century. The sculpture was created in 1986 by K Rinke. I didn't understand all the French text describing its purpose, but the gist is to illustrate the tension between the point of the pendulum which is only fractionally above the tumultuous waters. It appears as though it should be moved by the water, yet hangs perfectly still.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Waiting for the ferry to France

By the time this post publishes itself on Thursday we will (hopefully) be well on our way through France, but at the time of writing (Tuesday night) we are holed up on the outskirts of Seaford, at the Buckle Holiday Park. It's right next to the beach so I took a walk up there earlier on to get these photos. There's a small shower block and the pitches are generously sized. It's a bit of a shock though, both the £20 a night price and the being surrounded by other caravans after a summer of CLs and CSes. Quiet by Buckle standards, but suddenly ridiculously busy by ours! We decided to come here instead of staying Hailsham because our ten o'clock ferry means we need to be at the port soon after eight o'clock. We couldn't risk getting snarled up in the early rush hour traffic on the A27 and missing our boat. From Buckle Holiday Park we still need to get back into Newhaven, but this shouldn't take more than about fifteen minutes.

Dave said his tearful farewells to everyone at Hailsham Tennis Club. Of
Buckle Holiday Park 
the twenty-four sets he played over the past couple of weeks, he lost five and won nineteen. Woo hoo Davey! Kim even baked an incredible chocolate cake for the occasion which I got to taste as Dave brought some slices home. We've had some fare-thee-well emails too which is really nice. Thank you all :-)

I was pleasantly surprised to receive just over $100 on Kiva repayments day. We were up in London at the time so I didn't get to relending straight away. However I have now made four loans: to Sady for her bookstore in Costa Rica, to the Don Lorenzo Group for a different bookstore in Bolivia, to Nadia for her beauty salon in Palestine and finally, in a new country for me, to the Motk Group enabling Guirlene to buy supplies of soft drinks in Haiti.

In 'other news', don't forget that Sam Baker and Carrie Elkin have started their European tour. They are currently in the Netherlands and will arrive in the UK on the 26th October. If there's a gig near you, get yourself a ticket booked now. They are both fabulous and fascinating musicians!

And if you're already getting organised for Christmas, I have now have four woven bags and some crocheted flowers in my Etsy shop. I'm very pleased with how the Green And Black bag turned out and am just as happy to ship from France!

Sunset over the harbour 

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

A weekend in London - Sunday in East Dulwich

There is a significant protest movement againt the gentrification of
Dia de los Muertos biscuits 
several London boroughs, Brixton - the subject of my post yesterday - being one where the inhabitants are finding themselves forced out by rising rents and property prices. Dulwich village obviously isn't likely to have that problem any time soon as it's always been posh! However East Dulwich is another place that has been on the up in recent years. We took the bus there from Tulse Hill and it is incredible to see the narrow streets that London bus drivers can manage to navigate!

I also learned that London bus fares are now paid by contactless debit card so it didn't matter that my Oystercard has practically no funds. Important note for other travellers though: London bus drivers can't accept cash for the fare. You will need some variety of plastic.

East Dulwich has some gorgeous shops and restaurants! We spent a while exclaiming in Mrs Robinson which stocks fabulous retro homewares. There are also posh cookware shops and a great place called Lush Designs which has mostly printed lampshades and fabric items. I did make an affordable purchase (wools) in a huge charity shop - St Christopher's - which helps to fund a hospice. The High Street is quite long so browsing and window shopping was a lovely Sunday morning activity. We even got to have a good laugh at the prices at Foxton's which is an upmarket estate agent with what looks like a bar for clients within the shop. Carrie told us that the Brixton branch is usually the first place to get trashed during riots and the ostentatiousness means I can understand why!

We got lucky with our lunch choice as we spotted a board directing us
Blue Brick Cafe 
away from the main road to the Blue Brick Cafe. This eyecatching blue tiled building is on Felbrigg Road and serves vegetarian and vegan cuisine. Between us we sampled the soup, the veggie breakfast and the Einkorn pancakes. I think the pancakes won, but that was my choice! My accompanying salad featured tasty flower petals which the cafe source from local urban farm project, Keats Community Organics. I snapped up a couple of the Dia de los Muertos jammy biscuits for later too! The staff were friendly and efficient and the cafe decor is relaxed with lots of vintage teapots on the shelves.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

A weekend in London - Brixton

We were invited to spend last weekend with Dave's daughter Carrie who
New streetart mural near Brockwell Park 
has a gorgeous little flat in Tulse Hill, London. I drove up on the Saturday afternoon which was a little stressy, but nowhere near as fraught as city driving has been on previous occasions. We got there in just over two hours and even managed to park right outside! Carrie had booked for us all to see the new Suffragette film in the evening so we spent the late afternoon walking around Brockwell Park towards Brixton which is one of my favourite London districts. To be fair, I don't know much away from the touristy centre, but I do love the vibrancy of Brixton. There are so many different peoples and cultures represented giving us the opportunities to try cuisines from all over the world, see fruit and vegetables that I haven't a clue how to cook, browse gorgeous fabrics and homewares, hear music and chatter in dozens of languages ... love it!

The new mural being painted in the first photo (top right) was just over
Brixton Market 
the road from the Herne Hill entrance to Brockwell Park. The Park has a miniature railway too, but it wasn't running. We paused for refreshments in The Lido Cafe which was nicely busy and cosy against the October chill although there were some tough swimmers doing lengths in the outdoor pool. I had a rooibos tea and a very good carrot cake while Dave treated himself to a new taste experience: an Espresso Martini. Apparently it's delicious!

Brixton Market was surprisingly calm for a Saturday evening and Carrie said this was because we were much earlier than everyone else. It was only about half past five! This gave us a good chance to browse the vintage clothes shops and also to start narrowing down our choices of where to go for dinner. There was already a bewildering choice in the Market, but then we also went to visit a new commercial area called Pop Brixton. This is a brilliant iniative utilising waste ground where a temporary ice rink used to be. The shopping, eating and office-y area is entirely constructed from shipping containers. I remember reading about a similar space created in Christchurch, New Zealand, after that terrible earthquake. Pop Brixton is now home to microbusinesses, artisans and bars and looked fabulous in the dusk with plants in tubs and lights strung across the walkways. The only think I didn't like was being able to see through the stairs - not good for those with vertigo! I wonder how many of my woven bags I would have to sell in order to pay the rent on a little shop unit?

Pop Brixton
Pop Brixton
After much wandering and deliberation we decided on a Latin American style tapas meal and returned to Brixton Market and The Provincial. This tiny looking restaurant actually seats about two dozen people and had a good offer of six tapas dishes and a litre of sangria for £35. The Broken Eggs with Onion and Fries was good and slow cooked Aubergine was fantastic. We can also recommend the Meatballs and the Cassava, but the Chorizo With Beans and Potatoes wasn't so good - the veg was nice, but the chorizo a bit tough and burned. Overall I we enjoyed our meal and the retro music playing was fun.

I was very impressed with The Ritzy cinema where we went to see
Vintage mural near to The Ritzy 
Suffragette. There's a popular bar area - which was full and loud - and a few quieter tables in the lobby. The screen seats are comfortable with loads of room and a good unobstructed view. It's £12 a ticket though!! We're certainly not used to London prices!

We all loved the film. It is pretty hard-hitting and doesn't shy away from showing the violence meted out both by suffragettes against property and to their persons by policemen, prison guards and (indirectly) by the political establishment of the 1910s.  Such basic inequalities as a woman being unable to sign a cheque for her own money - her husband must sign - or having any rights over her own child - her husband's decision is all that is legally needed - or even to run her own pharmacy - her unqualified husband owns the business. (We learned about the pharmacy inequality during our summer travels, but I can't remember exactly where now. Women could train and qualify as pharmacists because an oversight meant they weren't specifically excluded. All other professions had made sure to state 'men only'!)

The performances, especially from Carey Mulligan and Anne-Marie Duff, are superb. This is definitely a film that everyone should see! Before the credits a list of dates shows when various counties around the world gave their women the right to vote. Switzerland was particularly surprising, not having gained equality until the 1970s. However, I would also have liked a statistic showing what percentage of British women actually USED their right to vote in the recent General Election. Hopefully seeing what the suffragettes endured will encourage more of today's women not to waste their vote.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Ghostileaks by M J Peter / The Power And The Glory by Graham Greene / Dr Lewis B Turndevelt's Big Book Of Forewords by David R Perry

GhostiLeaks: 13 Terrifying Tales LEAKED from the Other Side! by M.J. Peter
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One of my Favourite Five Horror Stories for Halloween 2015

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I discovered author M J Peter on Twitter and excitedly took advantage of his offer of a review copy of Ghostileaks as I had already read good comments about the short story collection. There are thirteen - unlucky for some! - tales in Ghostileaks and I liked Peter's sceptical narrator approach as this made each scenario somehow more believable. Although an indie publication, the writing is to a high standard with few typos. Each story is well paced to draw the reader in and the descriptions are wonderful: 'a surging swarm of home-time zombies besieged the pavement' is an example from The Investment which isn't a zombie story, simply describing the evening rush hour. I enjoyed unusual twists and turns that meant the story I expected to unfold was often different to its actual denouement so I was kept guessing. I think my favourites were The Sandman and Pause which is very well plotted. A nice touch throughout are the short notes after each tale describing their inception and inspiration. A couple are even true!

I was pleased that most of the horror in Ghostileaks is of the unsettling dread variety and there isn't any truly stomach-churning gore. Several stories kept me pondering after I had finished them, but fortunately none gave me lasting nightmares. The collection would be a perfect Halloween gift and ideal for reading aloud around a campfire!

The Power and the GloryThe Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

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I was lucky enough to spot a copy of Graham Greene's The Power And The Glory on a church charity stall in Tavistock, Devon. This is my 1940s read for the Goodreads / Bookcrossing Decade Challenge.

The Power And The Glory is set in Mexico, in a region where Christianity has been banned and the Catholic population forced to continue their worship in secret. Priests are hunted down and those few who have not abandoned their flocks completely must hide away, travel in disguise and lead mass by night in barns without the traditional tools of their trade. Our hero is a sorry excuse for a priest. An alcoholic 'whiskey priest' who has fathered a child outside of marriage, he is also the last remaining free priest and we see the closing noose through his eyes as the authorities, aware of his continued religious practice, slowly get nearer and nearer.

I love Greene's sense of pace and how he managed to fluctuate tension keeping me nervously page-turning throughout. Although this novel is now seventy-five years old its language and writing didn't feel at all dated. Greene's detailed descriptions of the Mexican people and landscapes allow for vivid imaginings but never get bog down the story and we get to meet some wonderfully nuanced characters. There are powerful questions asked of the reader - if your beliefs were banned, would you quietly acquiesce or fight back? What human cost is too much? Should others pay on your behalf? - and these can be applied as much to ethical and social beliefs as to religious ones.

A world-weary sense of inevitability hangs around the edges of the book, especially as the 'whiskey priest' begins to tire of life on the run, and Greene seems to have perfectly understood the stress of his protagonist's situation. The Power And The Glory isn't an easy read and offers different levels of interest depending on how deeply the reader wants to engage with the story. It's certainly a story that has remained in my mind for a long time after I had finished it.

Dr. Lewis B. Turndevelt's Big Book of Forewords: Revisionist EditionDr. Lewis B. Turndevelt's Big Book of Forewords by David R. Perry

Featured in This Time Last Year for Oct 2019
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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The fabulously titled Dr Lewis B Turndevelt's Big Book of Forewords was featured in my Noisetrade newsletter email this morning. I loved both the title and the cover so took the opportunity to download this distinctly bizarre book. Essentially a short compendium of forewords for other books that don't actually (yet) exist, this collection is humorously written in a beautifully pompous literary style that I think will appeal to readers of Victoriana and steampunk.
Dr Lewis himself is a crabby gentleman of presumably advancing years who is frequently either irritated by modern life or deranged by inappropriate medicinal dosages. I love the variety of long words he uses - as indeed do I - and I even learned that spelunking is a real pastime (who'da thunk it?!)

From moustaches to McDonald's by way of beanie babies and Burma, there's a humorously grouchy essay in this collection that's unlikely to be suitable for any niche non-fiction tome and, while I wasn't laughing out loud all the way through, I certainly indulged in much smirking and even the occasional titter. As a Brit, I am also now intrigued to visit South Dakota where, I assume, Turndevelt is persona non grata. Great fun and a good book for late-night dipping into.

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