Corona Crumble

Followers of my Being Britalian blog know that I post recipes, mostly Italian ones or my adaptation of the Italian cuisine. As we continue with our corona dictated stay home lifestyle I’ve seen many recipes popping up on blogs: Most are those that show people how to use store cupboard ingredients to create a satisfying meal. All good in these uncertain times as we can’t all offer online dance classes or tutorials for people wanting to learn Forex Trading, therefore it’s safe to say that not everyone can be a creative cook.

Today during a trip to the local shop I bought some rhubarb. Nothing unusual in that you may say, but at the time I was taken in by the long red stalks and had no idea what to do with it as I’d never cooked it before; in fact my previous and only rhubarb experience occurred in primary school and suffice to say I hated the stuff.

So I got home with my bounty and had to think what to do with it. My imagination was lacking in ideas and so I decided upon a crumble, having made a topping previously in school during a home economics class, courtesy of a 1970’s forward thinking school timetable. There was only two things standing in the way of my culinary aspirations, those being, no flour and a suitable dish to cook it in. A text to a friend a street away solved these issues – all undertaken with social distancing protocol. So after a rummage* through my cupboards and I was ready to go.

Peach, Rhubarb and Ginger Crumble

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The ingredients were:

500g rhubarb. A tin of sliced peaches. Two portions of grated/frozen ginger. 160g self raising flour. 75g unsalted butter. 85g sugar.

Cut the rhubarb into pieces and add to a pan with the ginger, add water to cover and bring to the boil, let it simmer until the rhubarb is stewed/soft. Strain and save the liquid for another recipe (jelly or cordial). Put aside to cool

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Rub together the butter, sugar and flour to make a crumble mix. After adding the rhubarb and the drained tin of peach slices top with the crumble mix and chill for an hour.

Pop into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees or 180 fan, as Mary Berry is fond of saying and bake for 30 minutes. Remove, allow to cool for a few minutes and then serve with custard or cream.

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* The word, rummage is used purely for effect, no rummaging is required inside my neatly stacked and organised store cupboard – for organised read OCD.

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Keep Calm And Write A Blog

So we’re in a lockdown situation. Okay not a police state, armed street patrol situation, but a self enforced following sensible advice situation. This means for the first time in my lifetime I must adhere to the advice I’m given for the greater good: As the sound bite says, ‘we’re all in this together’.

In my street there are elderly neighbours who are having provisions and medical supplies delivered by family members who drop them off on the front step and exit to a two metre distance away as they are collected. The one hour, out of the house exercise advice has led to an increased amount of dog walkers passing up and down the street and I’ve never seen so many supermarket delivery vans.

One thing that the corona virus (Covid-19) has spawned is the amount of new blogs that have appeared, most of these new blogs are diaries of people’s experiences as they, ‘Stay Home, Save Lives’ and it’ll be interesting to see how many continue once things return to normal. I’ve read a few and some are really inventive with advice for people who live alone, others have home schooling advice and health and fitness regimes for the sitting room, and some are just produced to make the reader laugh. I’ve also enjoyed reading the established blogs that have adapted to the situation and whose writers have woven their stay home experiences into their regular posts.

Two friends who are also writers have adapted their blogs to fit into the current situation:

Misha Herwin who has had many works published, including two series of young adult novels: The Dragonfire Trilogy and currently the  Letty Parker set of books. Misha also writes novels for the adult reader and her current offering, Belvedere Crescent is available on Amazon etc. Misha’s blog has developed into a daily diary of thoughts and musings about her self-isolation and its effect on her daily routines thus far. Misha’s blog can be found here: https://mishaherwin.wordpress.com

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The blog belonging to Jan Edwards, winner of the Arnold Bennett Book Prize and writer of the Bunch Courtney crime novels among various other works, including short stories in genres ranging from urban fantasy, to crime and horror has seen changes. Jan a member of the script writing team for Doctor Who has also adapted her blog to reflect the current situation. Jan’s new  blog entries include recipes to help people with breaking the, ‘what shall we cook for dinner’ cycle and musings about the world around her and trips to the allotment in readiness for a productive summer. Jan’s blog can be found at: https://janedwardsblog.wordpress.com/

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So, will my blog reflect life with the virus, I guess looking back at this entry and knowing of one written in advance to be published later in the week, it already has. Stay safe everyone.

(Images used with permission)

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Where Have You Gone??

I had an email a few days ago asking if I disappeared into the ether and ending with the question, ‘Where have you gone??’ with two question marks. It is that electronic communication that has resulted this blog post. The email in question asked several questions, two of the most pertinent being:

1. Are you still writing for magazines?

2. Have you stopped posting to your Being Britalian blog?

The answer to the first question is simple. I am no longer writing for Italy Magazine, the publication was sold twice during my time there as a feature writer and I chose not to renew my contract with the second owner of the publication. I am still doing a little freelance work but only currently for trade magazines.

The second question is more difficult to reply to. I have stopped contributing to my blog for a few reasons. First my partner fell ill and was taken into the hospital at Lanciano and I was doing the daily visit through mid-November to mid-December; this meant I had no time to write or do anything remotely interesting to report on. We then came to the UK for follow up hospital appointments and to visit family. The hospital appointments dragged on and before we knew it we were making plans to stay longer than originally anticipated.With my partner’s hospital schedules taking longer than anticipated and my own unresolved health issues to deal with, we secured a place to live and I took on an allotment, (Plot 51) to help ease my sanity through the coming months.

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Being in my birth-town after seven years away meant developing a new daily routine and I was enjoying revisiting experiences I had growing up. I took walks around parks where memories were hidden, visited old haunts that I’d almost forgotten about. Frosty mornings were a retro experience with the emergence of snowdrops and the plethora of international cuisine meant and extra inch developing on the waistline. The most distressing thing was the passing of my beautiful little dog Olive, who had a long and happy life. I like to remember her coming home covered in grass and sand after adventures in the olive groves.

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Things were looking good, we had got into a monthly routine of hospital visits to various different departments and then the corona virus arrived. I won’t dwell upon this and its effects upon the world, suffice to say, Covid-19 has changed so much: The clients looking to buy a holiday home in Abruzzo have seen their plans put on hold. The office staff in Italy are all on lockdown meaning no legal work is being undertaken/completed and the limitations here in the UK means we don’t see ourselves returning to Italy any day soon.

DSCF1846So to reply to the question, where have you gone?? I’m still here, but should there be no reply If you call, I’m maybe working at, Plot 51 and on the subject of writing, I’ve been getting my (typing) finger out – so to speak and I’ll tell you more about that soon.

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Shadows On The Grass

In November I was pleased to asked by Misha M. Herwin to be part of her blog tour following the launch of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass. For those of you unfamiliar with Misha’s work, she’s a prolific writer who writes both young adult literature and mainstream novels. She’s better known for her YA trilogy, Dragonfire and the popular Clear Gold series. Her mainstream work has included the time-slip novel House of Shadows and the keenly observant Picking Up The Pieces and this month saw the release of her third novel, Shadows On The Grass..shadows-on-the-grass

My first observation of this new novel is that it’d be foolish to assume this is solely women’s literature, it’s most definitely not. Yes, the action is centred around several women but that’s where the similarity with other women’s fiction ends. Set in 1960’s Bristol the story segues easily from 1965 to past events in time building the characters piece by piece, while also drawing on historical events.

The narrative belongs to three generations of women struggling to come to terms with their desires, their identity and their Polish heritage. Mimi and Marianna grow up in turmoil, exiled by the Russians and desperate to retain their identities they end up in Bristol. Mimi is a character that’s difficult to warm to, she’s cold and demanding and throughout her life she shows herself to be a selfish mother. Her old friend and cousin, the Royal Marianna seems to be her saving grace but scratch the surface and there’s a darker side to the princess.

For me the star of the novel is Hannah, Mimi’s downtrodden daughter, all she’s ever wanted is acceptance from her mother and now Mimi is dying she spends her days tending to the ungrateful woman out of her sense of duty. Her husband doesn’t help things with his constant need to smother her and protect her, in his defence he’s so ineffectual that he really cannot comprehend that his cloying love is holding his wife in emotional chains.

Hannah’s daughter, Kate, is a rebellious teenager, trying unsuccessfully to throw off the , shackles of family life and her Polish heritage. Her young life is centred around her desire to become a woman. She’s flagrantly sexual in her demeanour but initially afraid to cast off the restraints of her Catholic upbringing. At times she’s as caustic as the bitter lemon she drinks and unforgiving in her attitude to her mother. Possibly this is a trait she’s inherited from Hannah as she in turn inherited it from Kate’s grandmother, Mimi.

Historically there’s passages in the text that stop you in your tracks and propel you towards Google, in a bid to research further the repression of the Polish people in Russia. Thus giving you a better understanding of Mimi’s internal rage and Mariana’s misplaced humility: she’s an enigma and although fictional I’d love to read her memoir.

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My favourite thing about reading anything written by Misha Herwin is her attention to detail and the ability to create sublime sentences. You’d be forgiven for thinking that she pondered over every line crafting and redeveloping it to make it perfect, but I doubt she’s that pretentious; she naturally has the knack of writing a line that makes the reader stop and read it again before continuing with the story. Lines like, ‘Exhaustion fed on her, like some malevolent spirit; it sucked the words from her mouth, the thoughts from her brain.’ and ‘Her fingers were laden with rings, huge stones set in gold, rubies like gouts of blood, sapphires dark as despair.’ make Herwin’s work a joy to digest. And my favourite , ‘she struggled to avoid using the surname that rattled like pebbles in a tin.’ perfectly sums up the inability of an English tongue to pronounce a Polish name.

If you’re looking for a good read, maybe this summer’s beach holiday book, check out Shadows On The Grass available from Amazon now.

For more information on Misha and her work, follow her blog here

Visit Tim Diggles’ blog here for more of his photography projects.

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My New Card

thought provoking

Misha Herwin

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What a difference such a seemingly small thing makes. I had been ploughing through that mire of despond, which is familiar territory for many writers, namely I felt a total failure, thought my work was rubbish and I might as well give up and devote myself to my garden.

I had, however, resolved to have some new cards done; my old ones were way out of date and there had been one or two occasions when it would have been good to have a card to give out.

The design had taken me a very long time. Years, in fact, and in this case I’m not exaggerating. I wanted a card which represented me and what I did, but I couldn’t find the right image. A couple of weeks ago it occurred to me that if I am a writer then a picture of books would work, and if I…

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All blown up

how we laughed

Abruzzo dreaming

Another lovely Spring day and Mr B kindly took me shopping for whitegoods. Thought we were all sorted in one shop – after some prevarication I picked out the right fridge and washer for me and thought “Yaye” at the 50% discount the store had advertised everywhere, only to get to the till and discover that the (very) small print meant my chosen whitegoods would have ended costing way more than I’d budgeted for. Caveat emptor, of course, but as neither of us had clocked the conditions, I said no thanks…getting very flustered and embarrassed in the process, and speaking a kind of awful English with an Italian accent.

A soothing lunch was required, and I was soon revived by pasta with rape (a gorgeous green, a cross between spinach and broccoli), followed by stuffed peppers and cabbage, and then coffee that came close to stopping my heartbeat, with a…

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When the Words won’t Come

What do you do when the words won’t come?

I’m several chapters from completing my novel and due to the lack of words appearing on the screen it’s become a chore.

As a writer of non-fiction for the magazine market I’m a planner, so the chapters; all 52 of them were planned at the start, in-fact I’m so good at planning that several chapters that follow the one I need to write have already been written in advance.

At first I tried to convince myself that due to my personal situation I couldn’t get into the zone: You see it’s currently July and the temperature is in the 30’s and I’m in Italy. However my chapter takes place in early January in Stoke on Trent. But then I remind myself that I wrote about costume wearing ponies in Walsall at Christmas time during a summer in Stoke, so I can’t blame this on location or season.

I think it’s partly planning and anticipation that is to blame.

The chapter I am have to write is entitled, the Pregnant Bedlington Terrier and I have been so looking forward to writing this one, I have scribbled lots of funny lines inside my novel planner, I’ve invented the protagonist for the chapter, right down to his trainers and even have mental images of the scene I want to portray.

Maybe I’ve over-planned and now the story is stale and won’t flow. Maybe I’ve spent too long getting to this quirky piece that the fun has been drained from it. Maybe I just need to put it aside and plough on with other chapters that need to be written. Maybe I should just ditch it and come up with another chapter idea.

The problem Is I cannot decide, because not only are the words not coming, the idea of a replacement won’t come either.

So, it’s time away from the story and a trip to the beach.

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