Tuesday, 5 July 2016

Day 30 - Home-Made Drink Recipe

Elderflower and Blackberry Drink

A couple of Christmases ago I watched a TV programme called (I think) "The Twelve Days of Christmas" with Alexander Armstrong and Giles Coren. It was a bit dull, unless you find the sight and sound of two posh blokes pontificating about wines and liqueurs exciting. However, they did feature one non-alcoholic drink which I thought sounded nice. I had to watch the right bit a few times on Catch-Up to get the right ingredients as there was nothing on the programme website.

It's now become a staple of our Christmas lunch.

Of course it doesn't have to be a Christmas drink. You could make it in the autumn when blackberries are in season. I used frozen blackberries that I had picked a few months previously.

1/2 cup of elderflower cordial
Juice of one lime
1 litre of soda water
Handful of blackberries
Handful of mint leaves (bruised)


1. Put all the ingredients in the order above in a large glass jug.

2. Serve with ice.

Monday, 4 July 2016

Day 29 - Interesting Coastal Snippet

When I was a boy I used to spend summer holidays with my grandparents who lived in Bexhill-On-The-Sea (due to it's older demographics Bexhill is affectionately known as 'God's waiting room') on the south coast. Sand was in short supply on the beach. Like much of the Sussex coast it's mostly shingle. These were holidays when I was on my own a lot. I didn't mind. I used to love sorting through the stones hunting for fossils and sea glass. 

A few years ago I read a book called 'The Pebbles on the Beach' by Clarence Ellis. A wonderful exploration of the geology of shingled shores. 

From this book I learnt some stuff about wave movements that I thought I would share.

There are three important terms to remember when watching waves.

The swash is the rushing water driven up the beach after the wave has broken.

The backwash is the opposite. It's the seawater returning to the sea after the swash has reached it's end.

This is the stretch of wind-swept water over which waves travel. The longer the fetch the bigger the waves and the longer the swash and backwash.

If the slope of the beach is gentle then the decrease of speed of the swash will be slower and so it will travel further up the beach. If the slope is steep then the backwash will be faster. On a shingle beach the backwash will drag material down so that the slope becomes gentler. The stronger swash will then push that same material up the beach and make the slope less steep.

If you watch waves on an open beach then you'll notice that the waves are not parallel with the shore line. This is because the prevailing wind rarely blows at ninety degrees to the coast so waves come in at an angle. The swash will travel at the angle of the wave. However, the backwash travels back in a straight line. This creates something called 'longshore drift'. It describes the movement of sand and pebbles on the beach.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Day 28 - A Parlour Game

Parlour Games were very popular in middle-class Victorian households - especially at Christmas time. Here are two parlour games 

Up Jenkins

Traditionally this game is played with a sixpence although a 1p piece also works. 

Two teams sit at opposite sides of the table. Team A have their hands underneath the table and pass the coin between them. When somebody from Team B says “UP JENKINS” then everybody from Team A puts their clenched fists on the table.

Team B now has to work out who has the coin by giving one of three instructions:

Creeply Crawly Team A moves their fingers forward in a crawling motion

Wibbly Wobbly         Team A have to turn their clenched fists over for a moment and then back again.

Flat on Table         Team A have to put their hands flat on the table

Now Team B must guess who has the coin, but beware somebody on Team A might be bluffing!

If Team B guess right then it’s their go. If they get it wrong then Team A starts again.

Alphabet Minute

Have everyone write a general topic of conversation down on a slip of paper, along with a letter of the alphabet (e.g. Shopping F; Holidays P etc.). 

Pick a topic out of a hat. Now start a conversation with one another about the topic. The catch is that they have to begin each sentence with a letter of the alphabet following each other, beginning with the letter written in the slip of paper. They must follow the conversation through the alphabet. The idea is to get back to the original letter.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Day 27 - Foraging Tips

I thought I'd just give you a heads-up on some foraging resources to help you with your wild food gathering. The elderflower season has just finished and, because of the weather, it hasn't been the best of years. There simply wasn't enough blossom around. I only managed to make a three litres of cordial. That'll be enough for the year but no surplus for gifts/bartering. Sorry about that.


Richard Mabey Food for Free 
First published in 1972 and riding on the back of the whole self-sufficiency, back-to-the-land zeitgeist thing of the early 1970s. It's been regularly updated and has always been in print. It goes through just about every food in the UK that can be foraged both on land and in the water (both fresh and sea). If you have to have one book on foraging then this is it. Get the pocket-sized edition so that you can carry it around with you when you're out and about.

Richard Mabey is a prolific writer on nature and the countryside and I'm sure that I'm close to having read every one. I can recommend Nature Cure, Beechcombings:The Narrative of Trees and his biography of Gilbert White. 

Adele Nozedar The Hedgerow Handbook: Recipes, Remedies and Rituals
I tend not to carry this book around with me as it's a bit too big and heavy but it's still one of my favourite foraging books. It isn't as wide-ranging as Food for Free as it is only about plants from the hedgerows of Britain. Given for most of us this is the bulk of our foraging then it's a good book to have. It delves into the folklore of edible plants and explores the medicinal qualities of each plant. The recipes are fantastic and that's what I tend to use it for.

Vivien Weise Cooking Weeds
I got this as a Christmas present from somebody who knows me too well. Somebody once said that weeds are just plants that are in the wrong place. It's perhaps for that reason that weeds are not often used for food. Anyway, there are some great recipes in this book like Nipplewort Soup (you'll need your Richard Mabey to identify this). I have to admit I've only tried a couple of recipes from Cooking Weeds but I love looking through it and planning to try some of the others.


Every article on foraging published in the Guardian.

This blog on urban foraging is a real joy. Lots of tips on identifying and locating plants plus cooking advice.

One of a series by TV bushcrafter Ray Mears on wild food and hunting and gathering. Lots of foraging tips. Mears is not a vegetarian so there is an occasional bit of catching and eating wild animals. That's not a problem for me but I thought I'd give you advance warning.

A good friend and excellent storyteller wrote a series of articles on foraging for the 'Smallholder' magazine.

Friday, 1 July 2016

Day 26 - Favourite Comedy Clip

Trigger's Broom

'Only Fools and Horses' was a 1980s British TV sitcom featuring the escapades and mishaps of a South London market trader (Del Boy) with his brother (Rodney) and various other characters. This includes Trigger, the main character in this clip. Trigger was, to put it politely, a bit slow on the uptake. I always thought that was the ironic origin of his nickname. I recently found out it was because people thought he looked like a horse.

The other person at the table is Boysie - a bit of a dodgy used-car salesman.

This clip is often used by philosophers as a perfect example of the Ship of Theseus Paradox. If an object has parts replaced then is it the same object? Take, for example, an Ancient Greek ship. It's made of pieces of wood, cloth, leather and rope. After a while an oar is broken and is replaced. Are we now looking at the same ship? I guess most people would say yes. Now fast forward so that every single piece of the ship has been replaced perhaps more than once. Is that the same ship as the original? If you say no, then you have to decide at what point the transition from original ship to a new ship happens. Is it after 50% of the ship being replaced? How about 40%?

Anyway, here it is. Look out for the bloke serving up food with a fag hanging out of his mouth. Those were the days.

Triggers broom from Lisa Ledbury on Vimeo.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

Day 25 - Playlist of Film Music

Like my playlists of classical and folk music this is not my 'top ten' of pieces of film music but simply ten pieces of film music that I enjoy and I think stand alone as extraordinary pieces of music. You'll see the film, composer and then the music title. The link is through the music title and will take you either to Spotify or YouTube.

James Horner

The Chemical Brothers

Yann Tiersen

Fiddler on the Roof
Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick

John Kander and Fred Ebb

James Horner

Local Hero
Mark Knopler

Jon Hopkins

The Great Escape
Elmer Bernstein

North By Northwest
Bernard Hermann

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Day 24 - Norfolk Recipe

Norfolk Shortcakes

I've noticed a rise in TV programmes about regional recipes and cooking. Rick Stein, the Hairy Bikers and good old Hugh F-W have travelled the length and breadth of the country finding out about local foods. Without getting all deep and philosophical this might be regarded as a counterweight to the increasing (and also welcome) internationalisation of our food. Let's celebrate both of them.

Norfolk doesn't quite have the richness and variety of some regions such as the West Country or Yorkshire but there are a few dishes that you will see in some Norfolk restaurants and tea rooms. If you're a vegan then just use the right kind of margarine.

Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Day 23 - A Short Science Film

The Intelligence of Crows

No, not the title of my first novel. This is an excerpt from a BBC series called "Inside the Animal Mind". The problem solving abilities of this bird is amazing.


Monday, 27 June 2016

Day 22 - Preserving Technique


I am going to give this a go on the allotment this year. It's an excellent way of storing large quantities of root vegetables outside and is not often used today. If you don't have much space at home and lots of root vegetables then it's worth a go.

Clamping is just a pile of roots on a bed of straw and straw and earth on top.

Here's how to do it:

1. Choose a site that is unlikely to become waterlogged.

2. Harvest your root crops and allow to dry on the soil for a few hours.

3. To build the clamp, start with a good layer of straw. On top of this pile your vegetables in a pyramid shape.

4. It's also a good idea to dig a small trench around the base of the clamp to help draw off water.

5. Cover this pyramid with a layer of straw to leave for a couple of days to allow excess moisture to evaporate.

6. Cover the straw with a layer of fairly dry earth about 15cm thick. Leave a few tunnels with straw sticking through at the bottom and top to allow air to circulate. Smooth the earth flat so that rain will easily run off.

It's best to make a series of smaller clamps rather than one huge one. That way you won't waste time burrowing into a clamp and then rebuilding it. It's better to dismantle a clamp and then store sacks in a shed until the next clamp is needed.

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Day 21 - Norfolk Dialect

Apparently regional dialects/accents are declining under the influence of television and mass media. One part of me mourns this but if it happens then it seems to be something that is coming along as a consequence of changes in society. 

I thought that I would share this YouTube video with you all. Apparently it was taken from an old cassette and was recorded a few years ago. Some of it may be regarded as politically incorrect but I still find it very funny and was made with a great deal of affection for the Norfolk accent.

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Day 20 - A Lateral Thinking Puzzle

Arresting the Right Person

There are variations on this puzzle. If you want to know the answer then scroll all the way to the bottom of the page.


Acting on an anonymous phone call, the police raid a house to arrest a suspected murderer. They don't know what he looks like but they do know his name is John and that he is inside the house. The police burst into the house and find a carpenter, a lorry driver, a mechanic and a fireman all playing poker. Without hesitation or communication of any kind, they immediately arrest the fireman. 

How did the police know they had got their man?

The carpenter, lorry driver and mechanic were all women. The fireman, John, was the only man there.

Friday, 24 June 2016

Day 19 - Soup Recipe

Courgette and Tomato Soup

Just like every vegetable grower I find myself with a glut of vegetables come the early autumn. This is especially true of courgettes. I only plant two or three courgette plants every year but I still seem to have way too much. The gratitude of my neighbours as I present them with another courgette seems to diminish over time. This is a soup that uses quite a lot of courgettes and tomatoes. You're going to need your biggest saucepan for this.


1 tbsp butter

2 onions, chopped

1kg courgette, sliced

1kg tomato, chopped

2 tbsp plain flour

½ tsp turmeric

2 litres of stock (chicken or vegetable)


1. Melt the butter in a large pan, add the onions and courgettes, and cook for 5 minutes on a medium heat, stirring occasionally.

2. Add the tomatoes and flour. Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring around to stop the flour from becoming lumpy. Add the turmeric and stock, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.

3. Purée the soup. If you prefer the soup to be less lumpy then sieve afterwards.

4. Serve hot with some crusty bread.

It also freezes well.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Day 18 - Favourite 'Brain Pickings'

Poetry and Leisure

'Brain Pickings' is easily one of my favourite websites. It's beautifully designed and covers a wide variety of cultural subjects. It's put together by Maria Popova, a New York-based artist. She spends hours on this website every week and it has a solid fan base around the world (including me).

I've decided to include two 'Brain Pickings' that have really appealed to me. However, I do urge you to subscribe to her newsletter so that you'll be able to keep up with her work. The website remains ad-free but only because people make small donations.

Maurice Sendak (author of the 'Where the Wild Things Are') created some magical illustrations to accompany William Blake's series of poems known as 'Songs of Innocence'. It's the rarest of Sendak's published works and they're a real joy to look at.

Excerpts from a book published in 1948 by the German philosopher Joseph Pieper. For Pieper industrialisation created the phenomenon of workaholism (perhaps we call it presenteeism now) and that we have lost that essential part of our life called leisure. He does not define leisure as pure inactivity neither does he see work in a purely negative light. Much of what he says anticipates E.F. Schumacher's book 'Good Work' or his essay on Buddhist Economics in 'Small is Beautiful'.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

Day 17 - Rules to a Card Game

This is a family card game and I have fond memories of playing it. Not with my family but at university. 

All you need is a pack of cards. Plus one spoon for each player - minus one. So if there are 8 of you playing you'll need 7 spoons.
It's best for large groups - anything from 4 to 13 people.
The goal of the game is to collect four cards of the same rank and pick up a spoon.
For each player in the game, you need four cards of the same rank from the deck. For example with 5 players you can use just the Aces, 2s, 3s, 4s and 5s. Take out all the other cards.
Shuffle these cards and deal them to the players. Each player will now have four cards.
Put the spoons in the middle of the table so that every player can reach them.
Players simultaneously choose one card from their hands, pass that card to the opponent on their left, and pick up the card they've received from the opponent on their right.
Each player can never have more than four cards in his hand, so it's illegal for a player to pick up a new card before passing one to the left.

When a player collects four of a kind, he or she must as subtly as possible take a spoon and place it in front of themselves. The moment they do this then everybody else must grab a spoon. The person without a spoon is out.

Play then continues until there are two people left. They are the co-winners.

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

Day 16 - Playlist of Classical Music

Playlist of Classical Music

This is not my 'Desert Island Discs' of classical music. I'd be hard pressed to include all of my favourite pieces by the major composers. So this is a list of a few pieces of classical music by composers you may not be familiar with but that have some meaning for me. There's a Spotify link to each piece of music through the title.

If you listen you'll probably notice a preference for contemporary minimalist, early/medieval and English pastoral music. It's pretty easy to join the dots between these styles.

Gyorgy Ligeti Clocks and Clouds

Arvo Part Cantus in Memory of Benjamin Britten

Gavin Bryars Jesus' Blood Never Failed Me Yet (It'll help if you read the background to this piece here)

Peter Warlock Capriol Suite 

Michael Praetorius Dances From Terpsichore

Thomas Tallis Spem in Alium

Giovanni Pergolasi Stabat Mater

John Tavener The Protecting Veil

George Butterworth The Banks of Green Willow

Terry Riley In C (Not classical but listen to his A Rainbow in Curved Air as well - an extraordinary piece of early electronic music and a huge influence on Brian Eno, Kraftwerk etc.)

Monday, 20 June 2016

Day 15 - Favourite Podcast

Podcasts from the BBC

Did I say I was going to tell you about my favourite podcast? Well, that's partly true. Here's a list of some of the BBC podcasts that I subscribe to. I don't listen to them all. I tend to go through them and cull the episodes that don't interest me. That does, however, leave quite a lot to catch up on. Thank goodness I work at home.

You can either click on download specific programmes or click on 'Subscribe' to get programmes automatically downloaded.

'Ramblings' with Clare Balding. Clare Balding going for a walk with various people and having a nice chat about this and that. Marvellous.

'In Our Time' with Melvyn Bragg. The seemingly eternal and omnipotent Melvyn Bragg talks every week with a group of academics on just about every subject you can imagine. 30 minutes on ancient Chinese law-making one week and the discovery of the neutron the next.

'More or Less' with Tim Harford. If you like statistics with a sense of humour then this is the programme for you.

'The Early Music Show' with Lucie Skeaping. If you want a weekly dose of medieval and early modern European music then this is your required weekly download.

'The Food Programme' on Radio 4. This is not a cookery programme (although cookery is involved). It explores the history, science, politics, culture and just about every aspect of food. Food museums, what to eat if you're an ultra-runner, the history of vinegar or the rise of food banks. If it's food-related then they have (or will) cover it.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Day 14 - Vegan Recipe

Vegan Burger

A pukka recipe from Jamie Oliver. I've changed the recipe slightly because Jamie's original recipe has been a bit sloppy when I've made it in the past.

Saturday, 18 June 2016

Day 13 - Favourite Artist

Evelyn Dunbar

Evelyn Dunbar

I don't really have a favourite artist so apologies if I mislead you. What I would like to do is to share with you an artist whom I admire very much and does not get the recognition that I think she deserves.

Evelyn Dunbar was one of the few female artists working for the War Artists' Advisory Committee. She was sent out to record the contribution of British women, especially the Women's Land Army, to the war effort. It seems to me extraordinarily far-sighted of the British government to recruit some of the greatest British artists of the 1940s to compile a kind of artistic documentary of wartime Britain. Edward Ardizzone, John Piper, Edward Ravilious and Graham Sutherland all worked for the Committee.

It's a shame that Evelyn Dunbar is not as well known as many of her artistic contemporaries. Being a woman certainly did not help and she was, by all accounts, a very modest and self-effacing person who avoided the limelight. She was most happy living in the Kent countryside and tending to her garden. I think she easily fits into the 'pastoral' tradition of English painters like John Constable, Samuel Palmer or John Nash and she should be regarded in that light.

I've included some examples of her work below and then provided a list of books and websites if you want to know more.

Just click on the images to see them in more detail.

Land Army Girls Going to Bed

Baling Hay

A Canning Demonstration

Dairy Training

Men Stooking and Women Learning How to Stook

Learning to Milk with Artificial Udders

Potato Sorting

By the way, I found a derelict potato sorter at a Nursery in North Norfolk a few months ago - rusting away and forgotten. Here's a picture I took of it. I might try and convince them to allow me to renovate it.

Women's Auxiliary Air Fleet Store

Preparing for a Gas Attack

Gill Clarke Evelyn Dunbar: War and Country

Gill Clarke The Women's Land Army: A Portrait

If any of my Norfolk friends are reading this - both titles are available through the Library Service


Listen to Gill Clarke talk about Dunbar on Radio 4's "Woman's Hour"


A piece in the Independent on neglected British women artists during the Second World War (I suppose that means all of them)


A website to accompany an exhibition on Dunbar at Pallant House.

Friday, 17 June 2016

Day 12 - East Anglian History

Radicalism in Norfolk

It might surprise some people just how radical the good people of Norfolk have been. Everything from Kett's Rebellion through to the role of rural workers in the development of agricultural trades unions and our part in prison reform and the abolition of slavery. Apparently William Morris, on a visit to Norwich, predicted that the revolution would start here. We're still waiting for that.

Anyway, here are three stories about radicalism in Norfolk:

An article about a vibrant socialist and anarchist movement in Great Yarmouth in the 19th century.

Wilf Page was a organiser for agricultural workers rights in Norfolk for many years. He was also briefly a County Councillor whilst a member of the Communist Party.

The history of the Burston School Strike is well-known. The longest strike in British history (1914-1939). It remains an inspiration for many in the labour and radical movement. The TGWU organises an annual rally at Burston to celebrate the strike.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Day 11 - Public Domain Images

Public Domain Images

Public domain images are images on the web that is no longer restricted by copyright law. That means that they can be reused, revised, remixed and redistributed (the four R's of open content) by all of us.

They are different to images released under Creative Commons. Creative Commons images are also open content but copyright still applies. It's simply that the creator (and owner of the copyright) has waived his or her control over that image.

Anyway, here are a collection of my favourite public domain image collections. There may be some Creative Commons images as some websites have mixed them up. However, they can all be freely used.


Vintage illustrations from antique books, postcards, and advertisements from the 18th to the early 20th century.


Thousands of images that can be freely downloaded from the Getty Museum

The British Library has scanned in over a million images from their collections and put them on Flickr. All of them public domain. The drawback is that there is very little in the way of metadata (words to describe the images) so searching is limited. However, as an exercise in crowdsourcing the British Library are encouraging people to add descriptions to the images to help others in the future.

A digitisation collection from New York Public Library. Free to download hi-res copies. 

Thousands of hi-res images to freely download from the Wellcome Institute. The emphasis will be on medical matters.

The best till last. The Rijksmuseum is the national museum of the Netherlands. You can reuse, revise, remix and redistribute any of the images from their collections.