Monday, 22 December 2008

My cup is empty

My cup is empty...
Following on from the post of the lost bras, I was extremely relieved to go into work this morning to discover that my bolderholder was not taking pride of place adorning the company Christmas tree. Phew! Apart from my red face and a twittery facilities manager who couldn't look me in the eye, it would appear I had escaped unscathed.  I was even more relieved when no one else made reference to it, my secret was safe.  So there it is... my cup might be empty but my virtue is very much still in tact.

As Christmas eve is very nearly upon us all, I reflect on the past year with a degree of nostalgia and a modicum of infused impatience; not everything went according to plan.  My year has been blessed with exceptional new friendships, one in particular forged from some cosmic force pulling against the tide, and the trusted old unions seem to be strengthened.   I still remain undiscovered but manage to remain upbeat and hopeful. Although, with the help of some mentoring, I have unearthed a few technical flaws that I am attempting to improve upon.  My cook book has moved a little closer towards the finishing line and one of my rom-coms has attracted some interest by someone who may be able to turn the tide and who should know what they are talking about.  The freelance work continues to trickle in at a regular pace and I guess many would say all in the garden is Rosie, or even rosy!  My cups might be empty but in my own mind my cups are half full... 

In the words of the wonderful Anthony Minghella... who knew a good story when he saw it... Blessings on your head.. I wish you a happy, healthy and successful 2009... XXX Peace and Love from Foxi Rosie.


Saturday, 20 December 2008

Time Flies

Life in the fast lane:  
It has been one of those weeks, ten days actually since I last had time to blog. Life seems to have run away with me again and I have not managed to do half of the things on my wish list. On a good note the blood and the feeling has finally returned to my left foot, it no longer feels like I am walking on a wooden stump, this Christmas bonus has arrived early; it may just be possible I will be Jiving whilst stuffing the turkey on Christmas Day after all...

Last Tuesday saw me walking around work (my part time job) in the full garb as a Green and Black witch, (from that well known chocolate pantomime by Dawn French), for our murder mystery evening at Sway Manor.  We were ready for it, but was it ready for us I ask? Jennie, the payroll queen, managed to show off her ability to raise her leg vertical to her torso, which did raise an eyebrow or two from other diners, especially as she was still sitting at the table at the time and the waiter didn't quite know where to place her turkey, piggies in blankets and stuffing.  Four of the ER team went as Christmas Elves (from the other well know pantomime called 'Elf and Safety'), which just left Dracula (from the other pantomime whose name escapes me at the moment) and bringing up the rear were Hook, Prince Charming, Principle Boy, Peter Pan and Dick Whittington.  

I shall make no apologies for the stream of seasonal puns which may well follow, but it was a spellbinding night full of magic, mystery and hilarity.  My sides haven't ached as much from the peels of laughter, since my week in Devon in October on the Arvon Cookery Writing course, with none other than Tamasin Day-Lewis (sister of the infamous allegedly text dumping Daniel) the divine and lovely Orlando Murrin, along with my other foodie fancy fanatics.    

It is just possible that the organiser of this panto murder mystery event is now a gibbering mess banished to recovery at the Priory or locked away in an alpine Swiss clinic for his own safety, not to mention the safety of future gaggles of Murder mystery pundits.

But a most embarrassing thing happened to me on the way to the forum. I want to share this with you despite the fact that I may live to regret it as it rears it ugly head when I am rich and famous, but there is a seasonal message of goodwill attached... 

I misplaced my bra.  In the rush of getting ready in unfamiliar surroundings, I placed my clean bra, I thought, on the basin counter or it might have been on the hanger of my long dress, but somewhere in between work and the boot of my car it has gone walkabout.  You can imagine the hilarity as I phoned in to our facilities department next day to find out if anyone had handed it in.  When the laughter subsided enough to make the recipient of my call coherent, the uses for a lost bra are apparently endless, to date they are; a novel way of carrying your melons home from the supermarket; a medieval dual slingshot waiting to be hurled at other seasonal shoppers in an attempt to clear a path to checkout; ear muffs; support for one of the male cleaner's man boobs; an airline hammock for a newborn twins; dual nests for twin buzzards; a brake chute for the next speed trial car, the list is endless and will no doubt go on to haunt me for the rest of 2009, other suggestions on a postcard please.

My point is? When time is short we rush, we do daft things.  Misplacing one's bra is one of them, after all it is not as if it is a small matter. Furthermore, I have an awful vision of returning to work on Monday to find my twin cups have been suspended as an additional decorative embellishment on the Company Christmas tree, which is sited in the main foyer.  In addition, swinging from one of the straps will be an enormous tag, with big red festive letters scribed across it saying "Rosie's lost property".   

And the moral of this post?  Take some time out amongst all the mayhem and madness, treat yourself to a bit of 'you' time.  Indulge in some downtime.  Heed this warning which is born from my own painful experience.  

Monday will come and Monday will go, even though I am already bracing myself, no doubt there will be emails, puns, questions to answer.  Maybe I will keep them guessing as to how it could have ended up in the car park, or maybe my bra has gone to the place where bras go to die.  Who knows?  It may even appear in a Nativity coming to you, keep a sharp eye out as Mary enters on her donkey stage right, if you see a pannier swinging over the donkey's back it may well belong to a broad on the edge!!
Ho, ho, ho... 

Thursday, 11 December 2008


Finally I have managed to start putting up the Christmas decorations, but like all good craftsmen, preparation is all.  So the house has received a thorough cleansing in every nook and cranny.  With my blackened sorely foot, it seemed to take forever, but once the job was done and everywhere looked shiny, clean and stinking of beeswax lavender polish, out came the decorations.

This is the mirror in the hallway having received the treatment. Then it struck me that in less than one month it will all be coming down again.  The appeal of fleeing southward to a much warmer climate, to be pampered and spoilt over the festive period, seems to increase with age.  I am beginning to wonder why I do it every year and whilst friends and family always say the house looks divine and the decorations look as though they have jumped off a film or a stage set (don't go too close they probably have - I have a gold sleigh in the bottom garage that Santa left here when Jo was aged six or seven).  I don't seem to have a problem conjuring up the love, it is the continued enthusiasm I seem to have a problem with.  By Boxing Day I have fallen out of love with it all.

It can be compared to my approach to writing.  The start of a new project is just sooooo sexy and interesting and wonderful and so clear in my head, but by the time I've laid out the plot onto cards, jiggled around with some of the character arcs and sat down to write the fecking thing, I have gone off the boil.  I am beginning to think that as I was a child I slipped through the net, undiagnosed with some terrible personality affliction that is only surfacing now, or could it be I am only coming to terms with it now? I can write, I can go the distance, I can complete and to deadlines, but maybe I haven't met my story match yet or worse still maybe I haven't actually found my natural voice. Maybe, the perfect story is like the search for Mr. Perfect, it/he doesn't exist.   Like any worthwhile relationship you just have to darn well take the rough with the smooth and add a little tweak here or a little tweak there and morph the story around the characters like a piece of seamless knitting.  Storytelling is a little like playing with puddled wax, you have to be careful not to go in too soon or you get your fingers burnt, but if you leave it too long, you cannot mould it to the shape you want.  Hmmm...   Hey ho... 

I will be writing tomorrow as my maintenance man is here all day odd jobbing, the whole point of having him was so that I could be free to write rather than DIY (destroy it yourself).  It is true and I am full of shame that I have absolutely no desire to be the woman with the golden drill, or know or understand my AC from my DC, or wire a plug, or plumb in a dishwasher; cook a casserole a resounding YES, knit a rug, sew a pair of curtains in a couple of days and add the flourish of a pelmet YES, but put my head down a soil pipe and rod the drains, definitely not.  
Foxi - Over and Out and off to puddle her wax... 

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

There are no wrinkles on a balloon

This was a conversation I once had with Bobby Davro when he chose to insult me for a laugh, but at my expense.

He was referring to my youthful looks, that's what I like to think anyway, by noticing I hardly had any wrinkles.  There is a payoff.  I can only say that the extra padding came in remarkably handy this week as I missed my footing on the stairs at home; thankfully my airbags inflated as I went into full frontal free fall, I must have resembled a flying tree frog, because I could feel the sense of freedom as the rush of wind rippled through my tendrils.  With my tooth (gap) healing nicely and the appearance of the wide mouth frog disappearing by the day, I have now morphed into the next stage of frog evolution, by taking to the air.  As I mentioned, the air bags did break my fall but not before I had crushed and decimated 'my left foot' (good title for a play) which failed to release itself in time from the free falling body that was about to trap it. This was Sunday night, I was stone cold sober but possibly under the influence of the pain killers and the anti-biotics.  I had to snake crawl my way back up to my bedroom to assess the damage.  I figured at least someone could find me safe in bed with my gangrenous left foot sticking out of the bed, therefore making diagnosis much easier.

I was in so much pain and decided that Bobby was quite correct as the balloon like stump on the end of my foot did not have one wrinkle visible through the blackened stretched skin.  As the toes were pointing west of my body it did cross my mind that it might be broken.  I telephoned the out of hours service, described the scene and a very sympathetic woman did comment it didn't seem to be my week... but her advice?  A & E.  On a Sunday night, you've got to be kidding me.  I telephoned to enquire how long the waiting time would be and would I receive special treatment as I was returning to use there services within the same week, and the receptionist, who clearly didn't acquire her customer service skills from The Ritz Hotel, informed me NO, and it was 5 hours and growing.  The thought of sitting amongst the  drunks and reprobates of Poole did little to entice me to join the party.  My decision?  To grimace and bear it, wait until the morning and if the foot was still attached, I would shower, wash my hair, make up, apply a heavy dose of perfume along with  the full set of acrylic nails minus two (see earlier post) and wend my way down to A & E.  Clearly the ink had hardly had time to dry from my records on Monday.

After establishing the waiting time was only two hours, I telephoned for a taxi to take me to 
A & E.  If you were there, I was the one sporting a rather attractive pink cashmere bed sock on the blackened foot and a boot on the other.  I did consider wearing a high heel on the good foot but I had a vision of an amusing scene from one of Peter Sellers comedic characters, in so much as the rise and fall on the stride of my six inch mis-matched shoe would announce my arrival, and that the noise of the heel on the hospital floor would draw too much attention to the unfashionable footwear, making jumping the queue nigh on impossible.

Thankfully, it is not broken although I have ripped the tendons and ligaments in my foot.  My foot has been a source of light relief and entertainment in between the plethora of dross daytime television shows, as I have watched its changing kaleidoscope of colours on the hour every hour.

To one of my blog followers Brian K who has just undergone surgery, you have my full sympathy.  I will shut up about my woes as they are transitory and minor by comparison...

Tomorrow is another day as they say and I intend to shake off this spell of  misfortune by being more upbeat and chirpy.  I am going to apply for another freelance arts gig.  The decision will be made in the New Year, but it could be a step forward if I am at least shortlisted, or better still selected.

There will be no more mention of my medical woes,  just the usual things, like cooking, writing and credit crunch war shopping, for there are clearly advertised bargains to be had if the companies stay in business long enough for delivery.
Foxi - over and out...

Friday, 5 December 2008

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing

Webmaster, Tools and gobblydegook...
I am constantly in awe of some people's knowledge of all things technically weblymatical.  Take my Facebook friend Matt Smith for instance.  He never ceases to amaze me with his knowledge and insight of how to improve your web profile hits, or draw more traffic to your site and, furthermore, his patience in trying to explain it to someone who doesn't even speak the same techno language, is a tribute to the core of his character.  And, he always seems to pop up like an angel when life events or things are getting you down, as if he doesn't have enough of his own demons to cope with.  If you are reading this Matt, thank you my virtual angel.

I also particularly liked the article by Tom Green, or was it Lucy Vee, from the WGGB blog, about creating your own websites, webpages, Twitter or blogspots. I had thought Twitter was something to do with Ornothology, but I have been put straight on that one. One step at a time RJ, one step at a time, for a little knowledge is a dangerous thing and whilst I agree that my media degree (albeit in Scriptwriting for Film and TV) did help me to face some of my own techno demons, I am still at base camp when it comes to anything too technically demanding. The main difference post degree, is now I give the techno stuff a chance and stick with it as opposed to pre-degree when the offending items would have ended up in one of three places, 
1) charity shop 2) the bin 3) ebay, if only I knew how to use it.   However, I will get there with a little help from my friends; hmmm - thought bubble - good title for a tune.  My FB account is up and running and I have been using it for over a year now and am 'chuffed' to bits (can I say that, or is it one of those modern useage of words that is forbotten?) anyway you get the gist, I am beginning to be dragged into the new era, slowly but surely.

Getting back to my tooth extraction, I am going to milk this sympathy bit till it has worn thin with everyone including me, I have been on the jelly.  Last night I had to miss out on the first of the seasonal parties, on account of I still look like a cross between a chipmunk and a hamster.  When I left hospital and they said a light diet of jelly, I had KY in mind and saucy thoughts of endless nights of entertainment until the 'gap' healed... where is this going?  I am talking about the gap in my gums and NOWHERE else...  So whilst everyone was at TAPS enjoying the party by drinking bubbles and stuffing cake, I was pushing my jelly and ice cream around my plate sulking and that like Cinderella, I was at home imagining what fun everyone else was having. Then I had another ephipany moment (two actually).  Number One, the key to writing exceptional memorable characters is to get inside their skin and write from the inside out and Number Two, I just remembered that the anti-biotics I am popping, should not be taken with ANY dairy produce... damn... so half an hour later when the lactose intolerance kicked in, I was thinking back to one of my first posts which was RTFM... Some people never learn... I guess I am one of them.
Foxi over and out...

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

I suffer for my art

Peath and Love, Love and Peath...
No this isn't because I am unable to spell, the Peath bit is on account of the fact that I now have one tooth less in my head.  In fact, apart from my wisdom teeth, this is the only other body part  I have ever intentionally lost.  The throbbing tooth, or rather gap, is similar to toothache, yet now I know how it feels to be in pain from bumping your gums.

Anyway, onward and upwards.  My writing has taken a bit of a back seat as mentally my mind has been planning my funeral, fixed in the belief that the anaesthetic would do for me, but in fact the only anxious part of the whole procedure was the removal of my acrylic nails.  It was so humiliating and when asked to remove the pair of furry gloves just before I went down for surgery, insult was added to injury further, when they informed me I need only have removed two of the nails; just so they can see if I'm turning blue and they need to get out the electrodes!  If that is the case then why did they print, 'all body piercings and acrylic nails need to be removed or we will not carry out the surgery'.  I bet this was written by a man who had engaged in an argument with his wife that morning, or a mistress who had just used his credit card for some immoral amount of frippery, or a matron with PMT.  Anyway  with no time to readdress the issue I decided to stay schtumm until after the surgery, my letter of formal complaint should now be with my local MP and the copy should be with Gordon Brown for a bit of bedtime reading material no doubt; he has probably sent his secretary on a quest to locate the make of the nails to cover up his nail biting excesses.  Anyway, Hint of the Day you heard it here first... if you find yourself in this situation, just remove two nails.

I would have been considered somewhat sad to take a cuddly toy into day surgery, so I chose to take my good friend and classic 'Rebecca'.  I know I have read this book beyond counting, but I truly adore the text.  It is like visiting an old friend as text and film image merge together seamlessly.  The pace and rise and fall of the language is, for me, exceptional.  I had forgotten how beautiful it is.  It was my comfort blanket to set my mind into a calm place, to forget about acrylic nails, starvation and funerals.

When I eventually lost the palour of grey frost, I managed to muster enough enthusiasm to watch a second rate film last night through the mist of the drugs.  It helped me to realise where I have been going wrong in my writing.  Another revelation, three revelations in one year must benchmark a good year.  It was clear to me that I am not allowing my characters enough time to get to know each other, so the writing of their relationship and how they interact is 'thin' to say the least.  One of my scripts I feel absolutely committed to is 'Repentance'.  The story of a forbidden love in 1804 between black slave and unmarried white socialite.  Nothing like the raunchy Mandingo for those who remember it, Repentance is essentially a love story in the true Love Story writing model.  My next project therefore is to rewrite my 102 pages into a tighter format cutting out as many unnecessary adjectives as possible and writing about the real emotion.  Wish me luck.  In addition, I am almost ready to send off a Rom-Com to my new best friend the heavyweight producer with access to Hollywood, although I won't hold my breath or I will be planning my funeral again.

Christmas looms, the parties and invites are starting, so I tally forth as an optimist, firm in the belief that a new story lies somewhere out there for me to develop.  
Foxi Rosie signing off xx

Saturday, 29 November 2008

Red Planet Scriptwriting Prize

Survivor seems to be the key word for me this week, as I received notification that for the second year running my script was not shortlisted for this wonderful prize; positive footnote, 1) they let me know 2) they personalised it with the name of my script.  I thought this was a nice touch as in most cases of non-selection you are left wondering if your work is just propping up a wonky desk somewhere, or acting as a doorstop.  Onwards and upwards.  Like the true pro that I hope I am becoming I shall learn from it, revisit the concept and structure, along with the dimensions to my main character's arc and hold onto the fact that I have managed to secure a couple of writing 'gigs and talks' for 2009.  Also, my good friend and editor Gilli, would like two more articles from me for early 2009.  Yayy... 

I am also planning the 2009 film networking event I currently run called 'Prequel to Cannes' by way of a ruthless review, including the full title.  It needs to be ramped up with more heavyweight opportunities for those looking to move their careers forward, so between myself and some of the film agencies and organisations, we are hoping to provide a more focused, industry led event.  Watch this space.  

I guess the lesson this week is 'How to survive and enjoy it'...  
Next week I shall be feeling sorry for myself as I will be in hospital on Monday having a tooth extracted under general.  (Unless of course they said under the General... in which case I shall start worrying now).

Tuesday, 25 November 2008


Survivors the drama...
If you think you are having a bad day and have become somewhat immune to all mention of the credit crunch, then in an attempt to cheer yourself up a bit, why not tune into the new drama on the beeb called Survivors.  Devoid of mortgage or loan repayments, the characters have discovered the world is their oyster, assuming of course you can find a fleet of 4 x 4's, enough petrol to enable you to gad about for a bit of unorthodoxed retail therapy, a gun and a couple of chickens.  (Footnote: I am not having a pop at the series as I think it is fab, a very well crafted script from the novel... so far)

It triggered in me an instant memory when just eight years ago I was dragged around Sainsbury's for some war shopping; following our decision to stand side by side with our buds the Americans when we followed like sheep and invaded Iraq.  Now I'm not known for my political viewpoints and I do not intend to start now, but I was whipped into a frenzy by my dear Mother who, with the thought of the last war (as in II) still firmly imprinted on her mind and a handful of useful war recipes lazered into her spleen, she wanted to be first in the queue before rationing kicked in. Armed with two trolleys I commenced loading them to order like a looter who had won a thirty minute trolley dash on the first day of a Harrods' sale.  I was pleased I could still extend my elbows so far out to keep others at bay, whilst keeping a vice like grip on each handle and loading with my feet.
I was instructed to load the likes of essential supplies that an every day domestic war goddess has lying around in her larder, like five gallon drums of water, shampoo, deodorant, soap, toothpaste, pulses, dried peas, pasta and rice, Oh and syrup sponges, flour, syrup of figs, semolina, sugar, fray bentos, spam, corned beef, meat pies in a tin, brown sauce, baked beans, tinned soups, jellies, evaporated milk, sardines, liquid paraffin and volumes of powdered egg.  £250 later along with a car load of processed food, most of which we have never eaten in our lives, I did my dutiful daughter bit by pointing out that if we survived the germ warfare and the tsunami which would be triggered by the whole nuclear shebang imploding underwater, it might just mean we could be living on our own island as the entire contents of our store cupboard re hydrated in an instant and fused to the texture of a comet; but looking on the positive side at least we would have our own food mountain.  If we armed ourselves with hand drill or hammer, we could chisel our way through for several years, assuming the sinews in our arms still had some movement left from the war shopping and hadn't been fried to the texture of elastic, or we could just give that up and lick our way to oblivion.

I had visions of spending many a night sitting around a candle, exchanging recipes of 101 things you could do with a Fray Bentos meat pie but was robbed of the pleasure when the s*** hit the fan and it was revealed that the weapons of mass destruction turned out to be a packet of dried egg left over from the last major war (as in II)...  I appreciate this is an irreverent viewpoint and my apologies to those who do in fact live under the threat of everyday war initiatives, but I hope you see my point.

Two years later when it started to become a possibility that we might outlive the shelf life of the £250 worth of black market carumba sitting on the shelves of our domestic war goddess larder, I decided to throw it all out in tact, still with the unsolved mystery on my mind of how to put powdered egg to good use and having only managed to reach number five on the list of the 101 things to do with a tin of Fray Bentos meat pie... For your benefit, in case you find yourself in the same situation, I shall list them below, but if anyone has any other innovative ideas then please feel free to add to them ready for next time.  Don't hold back.

101 things to do with a tin of Fray Bentos Meat Pie
1)   Daily exercise lifting the tin to decide how to cook it without gas or electricity and replace on the shelf for tomorrow
2)  Weekly exercise by throwing forth as a Frisbee and retrieving at speed before the other marauding neighbours know you have a tin left and place back on the shelf for tomorrow
3)  Combo of Practicality and exercise:  Using the tin like a monkey to crack open the nuts in their shells so you may ingest your daily protein, AND replace on the shelf for tomorrow
4)  Check that it is still in date and replace on the shelf for tomorrow
5)  On Sunday hold said tin over the candle to heat, until the tin becomes too hot to hold, then when cool replace on the larder shelf for... Oh who knows when

By Day five you should have shed enough weight to win slimmer of the year award (unless of course you have eaten the whole packet of powdered egg and belatedly remembered the saying 'you stuff you puff') AND you will feel secure in the knowledge that you still have nine months left on the sell by date to think of the other ninety five things to do with a tin of Fray Bentos Meat Pie.  

I shall sign off now as I have to go darn my knickers in preparation for the next apocalyptic threat to mankind.  

In the words of Ringo, love and peace, peace and love...
Foxi... xx

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Some days are much better than others

Today is one of them.
It was a good day today.  A meeting with the Arts Council and the sense of a job well done.  They don't come around that often, so when they do I feel I have to make the most of them.  With a new contract for some freelance work under my belt, I walked through Poole high street lit by the overhead Christmas decorations, which moved like trapeeze artists dangling on wires, suspended between buildings and swinging from post to post.  

Usually by now, the streets would be alive with the sight of scurrying Christmas shoppers grabbing bargains and struggling with interesting packages and bags, racing homeward to hide them in secret places, away from the prying eyes of the miserable hungry and protesting children clinging to their arms.  Ordinarily they would pass enticing windows full of Christmas promise, whilst the smells from the street food hawkers cooking burgers and hot dogs, fill their nostrils but not their stomachs.   

Yet amazingly today, the streets are virtually empty.  The temporary ice rink with its rising clouds of ice cold mist, throw a hollow echo to the sounds of 80's disco music tinny and shrill, as the discs warble on a cheap machine.  In all my shopping days I have never witnessed such a wilderness, a stark reminder of just how hard times are and how sparse it is going to be for many this Christmas.

My mind drifts back to many a Christmas eve.  I have always had the house filled with at least 40 good friends and family, children playing flutes and pianos, violins, guitars and the clarinet are interspersed with the sound of excited chatter, even the smallest child frightened to fall asleep lest they should miss some exciting event.  The house rang with the sound of laughter and merriment but above all it peeled with Love.  Piles of food from sticky chicken wings (not sourced from Iceland), meat balls in paprika sauce, blanquette de veau, a homemade glazed ham - sliced of course - and the smell of mince twists (mincemeat in filo pastry with whole candied cherries doused in Maderia). As I invariably ran out of time, somewhere in the drawing room was a stack of all the Christmas magazines and cookbooks I had consulted in an attempt to change the menu from last year and seek new inspiration.  My paprika meatballs were always a must though.

This year I was sorting through my Christmas range of old publications, when I came across a simple dessert cream, which was actually there to advertise a new double ball whisk.  The editor of Good Food, Orlando Murrin, was smiling back at me from the pages of the 2001 edition, his broad welcoming smile evoked happy memories of a fabulous week spent in Devon;  Orlando was my tutor at this year's food writing course at the Arvon foundation.  So for you here is his Christmas Orange Brandy Cream...

Orlando's Christmas Orange Brandy Cream (page 198 for anyone who still has a copy of Good Food 2001)

A quick and delicious alternative to traditional brandy butter.  Work time 10 minutes, serves 8 - 10.

300mls double cream
finely grated zest of 1 orange  (Foxi: my new friend Caro would be excellent at extracting this)
3 tbsp brandy
3 tbsp golden icing sugar
3 tbsp orange juice

* Pour cream into bowl
* Add orange zest, brandy and icing sugar
* Whisk until light and fluffy
* Gently fold in orange juice with a spatula
* Serve as soon as possible
Delicious with mince pies or Christmas pudding

Ahhh... exhale.... tomorrow is another day...
Foxi xx

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Cattern Cakes, Lace and Research for a new film script

Cattern Cakes and Lace
Following on from some extensive research around the Lace industry in Devon, in preparation for my next film script idea, I revisited an old favourite cookery book of mine called Cattern Cakes and Lace.  It is a book of a calendar of feasts and I am not even sure if the book is still in print as it dates back to 1987 and was written by Julia Jones (no relation) and Barbara Deer.  It celebrates a series of feast days and comments on why or how they originated, followed by more than a good recipe or two.

I quote:
'November 25th St. Catherine's Day:
Cattern cakes (so called after a corruption of the name Catherine) were, as I explained in the preface, the unlikely catalyst that produced this book, bringing together as they do my interest in festivals, food and lacemaking.

St. Catherine of Alexandria, reputedly one of the most intelligent and beautiful women of her day, was martyred in 310 AD.  her fame reached Europe with the returning Crusaders and the Catherine wheel firework and Catherine or Rose window were named after her.

St. Catherine was taken up as the protector of young unmarried girls, and it was believed that maidens in need of a husband could crown her statue with a wreath of greenery on this day for their prayers to be answered.  The wheel of her death also became the emblem of spinners and lacemakers, for whom St. Catherine became a patron saint.  On her day, lacemakers would hold their annual holiday.'

So here are Julia's authentic recipes one savoury and one sweet:

Rabbit Casserole:
4 rabbit joints
8 oz cooked ham (thickly sliced)
2 medium peeled carrots
8 small peeled shallots
1 pint milk
half a teaspoon of salt
black pepper
quarter teaspoon of grated nutmeg
Fresh parsley
half an ounce of cornflour
2 extra tablespoons milk
half an ounce butter

* Wash the rabbit portions and pat dry
* Arrange in a heatproof dish 
* Dice the ham and slice the carrots and put these into the dish with the shallots
* Heat the milk in a pan
* When it has boiled pour over the rabbit portions 
* Add the seasoning
* Cover the dish and cook slowly until the rabbit is tender (approx one hour)
* Transfer the rabbit portions and vegetables to a clean dish and keep warm
* Strain off the cooking liquid into a clean saucepan (add any of the onions or veg caught in the sieve back into the dish)
* In a small dish, mix the cornflour to a smooth paste with a little cold milk 
* Pour the paste into the strained cooking liquid and stir well, keep stirring for at least three minutes until it comes       to the boil and  thickens
* Remove from heat and add the butter for a glossy look
* Pour over the rabbit and vegetables and garnish with a good handful of freshly chopped parsley

Cattern Cakes:
9 oz self raising flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 oz currants
2 oz ground almonds
2 tsp caraway seeds
7 oz caster sugar
4 oz melted butter
1 medium beaten egg
A little extra sugar and cinnamon for sprinkling

Oven:  200 degrees C/400 degrees F/Gas 6

* Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl then add currants, almonds, caraway and sugar and
   stir until evenly mixed.
* Add the melted butter and the beaten egg and mix well to form a stiff dough.
* Roll out on a floured board into a rectangle (approx 12 x 10 inches)
* Brush the dough with water and sprinkle with the extra sugar and cinnamon
* Roll up like a swiss roll and cut into slices approx three quarters of an inch thick.
* Place the slices well apart, onto a greased baking tray and cook for 10 minutes (or slightly less in fan oven)
* Remove and cool on a wire rack and sprinkle with a little extra caraway seeds if you like

Julia concludes this section by saying:

'St. Catherine's Day was also chosen to honour good Queen Katherine of Aragon, who was patron of local lacemakers during her imprisonment at Ampthill.  The story goes that the Queen, after hearing the sad plight of the women of Bedfordshire, ordered all her lace to be burned and commissioned new, in order to give work to the local industry.  A certain bobin lace was named 'Katherine of Aragon's lace' after her, and , thereafter, lacemeakers would set aside a small sum of money to provide cakes and tea to be enjoyed on this day.  Festivities would be held in the evening and a meal of boiled, stuffed rabbit and onions was served.'

So now we know...
I have made both dishes in the past but if you are squeamish about using rabbit (as we were because Jo had dear old Toffee, a watership Down bunny with wide eyes and charm) then you can use chicken thighs, although from memory the cooking time was slightly less by about 15 minutes.  The Cattern cakes however, herald the onset of autumn and fill the kitchen with a perfume that can only announce Christmas is coming.


Monday, 17 November 2008

Lesson number one

Read the F.....g manual...

I knew I would be cringing from my attempts to blog before the week was out.

Lesson one... double check the heading relates to the content, regardless of interuptions.

This is the disclaimer, reference and justification to the reluctant gardener inference.

Continued from Saturday.
Having spent a delightful Saturday breakfast of home made croissants and blackcurrant conserve with James, my writing soulmate and good friend, I returned homeward to deal with the minefield of wild poo that had appeared on my lawn with increasing volume over the week. My life couldn't be more polarised within a day if I tried.  Well someone had to clear it all up, so armed with marigolds, basic implements and wearing flip flops, I waded into the lawn to pick my way through the offending piles of evidence, which proves that at night my lawn turns into a central meeting place of tawdry animal latrines only upstaged by those highly reported in the LA times.

Now before you all question why flipflops, I work on the principle that my hardened festival trekking daughter, who has 'done' them all (festivals that is) knows it all... but don't tell her I said that. She insists that flip flops mean all you have to do is flip off your flops and hose down your feet.  Jo has walked past mud people writhing on the filthy floor in abject pain without anaesthesia, whilst a chain of equally mud covered individuals attempt to remove an inverted suctioned wellie with a vice like grip sporting the strength of a clam, in the hope that some kind soul will return the favour.  So flip flops it was....

Hence, tying in with the heading of my previous post 'The reluctant weekend gardener'.  No reclining for me with feet up, chocolates open, reading a birthday present treat by my body double Dawn French and her 'Dear Fatty' but a down to earth reminder I now know why women marry... so they can send their licenced goods forth with bucket and spade; or if you've had a blast of an argument, minus the marigolds AND the spade...

Explanation  over...  note to self... in future don't serialise, get it right first time... and consider finding husband before next autumn.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

A weekend post from the unwilling gardener

After speaking with Kristen from London, my new found friend from my recent Arvon writing course and blog guru, I am taking her blog advice and launching into the unknown with my very first post,  taken from a slice of an email I sent to her.

I have named my blog 'The Sifting of Ashes', after a script I have written about two sisters and their personal journey of self discovery.  The story is full of revelations about their parents' past lives and the secrets which were so carefully papered over in an attempt to maintain the impression of a stable married life.

Sifting through the dust of yesteryear, making patterns of what went before and shaping what is yet to come, is how I see my own 'Sifting of Ashes'.  So to those who are interested, welcome, and to those who seek a temporary distraction from what they ought to be doing, glad to oblige...

So I start along this nervous road, like a novice time traveller  attempting to make sense of the world and where I fit in.

The image I have selected for the moment is at the heart of me.  I have to live near water in order to function.  It draws and controls me like the ebb and flow of the moons cycle, without it I wither, fail to function, dry up and cease to be.  Dramatic maybe, but I know this to be true.

So this image shows the walkway down to my beach hut, it is just out of shot on the left and facing the sea.  The simple beach hut cooking facilities mean that all the meals I prepare there have to be uncluttered, stripped  back to their core, good ingredients, simply prepared and as everything has to be carried down a steep chine, transportable.

One of the dishes my friends and crocodiles love the most, is my pan fried fish (depends on which type according to the time of year and availability), coated in well seasoned flour, embalmed with a mixture of Rosie's herbs and once cooked, baptised with lemon and served with a simple side salad of colourful leaves, washed down with iced Sancerre served in the thinnest glass.

There, tis done, my first entry, which no doubt I will look back upon further down the line and find cringeworthy, but the journey has begun.  More later.