Friday, February 06, 2009

The way we were

In a TV schedule awash with things I don't want to watch, I have been heartened by BBC2's Victorian Farm.

In the second episode, the lady of the house boiled and peeled a whole cow's tongue. Being a fan of the sliced stuff you can buy from butchers and delis, I have sourced a full, skin-and-all one from the butcher and am going to have a bash.

The TV lady simply said she had boiled the tongue but didn't say how long for, so I set out on a mission to find some instructions. My mum has a shelf jam packed with cookery books and recipes, including a sheaf of handwritten ones that belonged to my great-great grandmother.

Eventually, I found what I was looking for in the most wonderful old brown-paged volume called Economy Success Cookery.
Over the decades, the book has lost its front cover and starts immediately at the first recipe so there is no way of telling when it was published. Mum is unsure if it belonged to my grandmother or great-grandmother.

I discovered that an ox's tongue - as it is properly called - should be boiled for two and a half hours or 'up to four if it is tough'. The recipe was amidst instructions for boiling the heads of cows, pigs and sheep, cooking the brains of those unfortunate creatures and how to use them. It was enough to give the Food Standards Agency a fit.

There were also a vast array of ice creams made with custard bases, a recipe for melon jam and a sweet 'vinegar pudding'. I am tempted to try the tangerine marmalade but don't think I'll be bothering with the brawn.

At the back, the book contains hints and tips on starching, use of a meat safe, preserving uncooked eggs by smearing them with vaseline and waterproofing your boots with boiled mutton fat, a la Victorian Farm. There are also potions to get rid of wrinkles, freckles and housewives' reddened hands, plus a 'non-injurious' tooth-whitening solution. If I knew what borax was or where to get it, I might give some of them a go - in these credit crunched times, it's got to be cheaper than Boots!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

No snow

To those who have kindly asked where I am, I am pleased to report that I am not stuck, neck deep in a drift of snow.

In fact, the deepest I have been this week is probably half an inch in Newcastle on Monday morning. Here on my wee stretch of the coast, we have so far been denied the white stuff that has enveloped much of the country.

I felt slightly cheated. I set my alarm half an hour earlier on Monday morning and swaddled myself in myriad layers for work, topped off with my great aunt's long, very thick (and very real looking) fake fur coat. "You want to hope the sun doesn't come out," said the man in the garage as I paid for fuel. "That looks as warm as a duvet!"

The snow began to whirl and hurl itself at the windscreen as I drove south towards Newcastle. The fields along the A1 were swathed in white. But by afternoon, the road was totally clear and I arrived home to find our familiar mud brown scenery had not received its own sprinkle of snowy fairy dust.

I felt slightly resentful at missing the joy of purified winter fields, the all-pervading mud glossed over and sparkling back at a china blue sky; I was jealous of those who enjoyed a guilty snow holiday from work and I missed out on the opportunity to take dozens of pictures of the Grey Mare looking like a Christmas card horse.

Having not experienced the worst snow for 18 years as the London-centric TV news never seemed to tire of telling us, I began to find the weather slightly tedious. As the week wore on, I started to consider it slightly ridiculous that the country ground to a halt because of a few inches of the white stuff.

But then I heard about a teenage girl killed while sledging with friends and walkers who died in the Cumbrian snow. Now I don't feel cheated; I just feel grateful.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas

To all my blog friends old, new, virtual and physical, and indeed to anyone who happens upon this little piece of the Internet.

Wishing you all the best for the festive season and 2009.

Love M&M and the Grey Mare xxx

Saturday, August 30, 2008

And so the year turns

The cherry tree failed to produce a single fruit this year, ditto the pear which admittedly surpassed itself last year with a veritable orchard's worth on its own, and the apples have been poor. The plums - those that were not hijacked by wasps - were good, but yet again the hedgerows are where the real treasure is to be found.

I have been on my first brambling expedition of the year this evening. One bag for me, one bag for next door and ten stung and scratched fingers. The bramble and apple crumble, which I intend to smother in custard, will be worth it though.

Little gold and striped spiders have spun their webs in the bramble bushes and I felt guilty when I accidentally knocked one from his home. In the morning the webs will dazzle with dew.

The arrival of spun silk in the hedgerows adds to the whiff of autumn. The Grey Mare is readying herself for winter too and is starting to look slightly fluffy.

I remember summer. It's just a shame it hasn't
deigned to delight us with its presence for a couple of years.

Monday, August 25, 2008

What I did on my holidays

The majority of what I did on my holidays involved copious amounts of mud - both of the Northumbrian and Scottish varieties.

My week off started with a smile when the Grey Mare delighted me with her dressage. The competiton had been forced inside because the field where it was due to be held was wet, boggy and muddy.

My mud-free moment occurred when I bade farewell to my old Corsa and swapped him for a green machine. My new car is diesel, which I hope will cut the fuel bills. I had emptied the Corsa the night before going to the garage. The garage man still said: "Horsey girl are you?" I don't know if it was the Grey Mare hairs clinging valiantly to the upholstery or the pervading pong of eau d'cheval. I have been ordered not to turn the new car into a horse equipment depositary.

More mud was in order when I accompanied a friend who was showing two ponies at a big horse event in Scotland. We were towed onto the lorry park by tractor and towed off again the next morning. The lorry park henceforth became known as 'the swamp'. My friend did marvellously well and not only won her class but won the championship against the first and second-placed ponies in three classes.

And today, I returned to the muddy showground of Glendale. This year, I was under cover, serving tea and coffee to horsey folk for a couple of hours.

My holiday is over, the summer - such as it was - is drifting on towards autumn and it's back to work tomorrow.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The mysterious mind of the Grey Mare

I have always thought I had the Grey Mare pretty well sussed. We have a good relationship and a fabulous bond. I usually know what will worry her and what she will take in her stride. But sometimes she surprises me.

Today was one of those days where she surprised me big time - and in a fabulous way. Today we went to our second dressage test. And we came second!

After the fiasco of our first attempt a couple of weeks ago, and her naughtiness and 'I'm not listening' while schooling this week, I was prepared for more of the same. I was even more concerned about our chances because due to the sodden ground, our test was in an indoor school. The Grey Mare has been in an indoor school once in the six years I have owned her and that was three or four years ago.

However, she was in a gorgeous huggy mood yesterday and seemed pretty happy this morning. She warmed up well in the field outside at the venue, I managed to stop her seeing the pigs near the school (many horses have a pig phobia) and we went into the indoor arena, complete with its scary white boards. An initial circuit of snort-snort-snort while we dandered round before the test began, then suddenly, she switched into soft, lovely dressage horse mode.

She behaved beautifully, worked well and I was utterly, utterly delighted with her. And we got a lovely big blue rosette.

I adore that wee horse!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Holy Moly

It seems at the moment that people are getting caught by the tide and requiring rescue from the Holy Island causeway just about every weekend.

That's despite clear signs at each side, warnings and lists of safe crossing times.

Do people think those signs are there for a joke? Do they think in their arrogance: "Ah, it won't happen to me" and simply plough on regardless - and then get stuck?

Each rescue costs a fortune - and most could probably be avoided if people had read and paid note to the signs.

I have had a marvellous idea to stop people getting stuck. Put a little hut at each end of the causeway with a member of staff requiring that everyone who crosses signs a disclaimer and agrees to pay for the cost of their rescue if they require one.

I bet that would stop the stupidity in one fell swoop.