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Crunchy cheese biscuits


Ingredients

125 g plain flour
125 g butter
125 g grated mature Cheddar plus a little Parmesan if you like
Salt, pepper, pinch of cayenne or paprika or dry mustard powder to taste

Method
Preheat the oven to 150C.
Sift the flour into a bowl with the seasonings.
Rub in the butter or blend in a food mixer, but not too thoroughly.
Add the cheese and work up quickly to a paste.
Roll out on a floured board into a sausage shape.
Wrap in clingfilm and put into the fridge for 20 minutes.
Cut into 5mm rounds and place on a non-stick baking sheet.
Bake for about 8 – 10 minutes until golden brown.
Leave to cool a little before taking them off the baking sheet.

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Vegan sponge cake


This recipe is from 2019. You can see what alarming things I had to teach about Vegetarians on this link. The textbook says the vegetarian diet leads to enlargements so watch out!

This sponge is more moist in texture than a sponge made with egg which has structural properties. But the recipe does work and sets to form a soft cake. Vegan margarines work very well with this recipe.

sponge cake 2

Ingredients

75 g vegan margarine

60g caster sugar

1 tbs, 15g honey or golden syrup

175g self raising flour

1 tbs, 15g baking powder

150 ml oat drink or oat milk

Filling 

Strawberry jam

Icing sugar

Method

Line a square cake tin with baking paper or use two 17 cm sandwich tins. Preheat oven 190C/170C fan.

Beat the margarine, sugar and honey or golden syrup in a bowl until smooth.

Mix the flour and baking powder together.

Stir in 2 tbs of the flour mix into the margarine mix then gently stir in 50ml of the oat drink.

Add a little more of the flour mix then the oat drink and keep going until all the flour and oat drink have been added to make a smooth mixture that drops off the spoon.

Spoon into the cake tin and place in the oven and cook 25-35 mins.

The cake springs back to touch when done, but check if a knife or skewer comes out clean. If not, bake for more time.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then take out of the tin and cool on a wire rack.

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Blackleg and teacher strikes in 1970s


My local NUT rep is holding a meeting and teachers from my school say we must go along, as strike action will be announced. For months there have been rumblings of discontent. People are disillusioned with pay and working conditions and want change. I squeeze into the back of the gloomy hall. There are no spare seats and people are jammed together. The fat man on the stage thumps his fist on the table and rallies us to take strike action. All NUT members must come out. Ra, ra they chant. I find it threatening and don’t join in.

When I started teacher training in 1970, most teachers joined the National Union of Teachers, to support us in difficult times and make sure we get a fair deal. I sign up and pay my dues unaware that I had a choice. Now the news rumbles of strike action from teachers and many other unions.

On strike day our school must stay open as some teachers do not belong to unions and others have joined other professional bodies.  Students are told they have a day off, and the staffroom becomes busy organising placards and banners ready for the march.

I do not want to go. If I go on strike I’d lose my pay for the day, but that is not the reason. Deep inside I can’t do it. I don’t want to follow the gang and march on Parliament. Surely change can be effected without this thumping, shouting and marching? I tell the union rep that I am not joining the others and will be coming into school. He seems very cross.

Then things get nasty.  When I go into the staffroom, friends turn away.

And it gets bad. As I’m taking a class, a teacher comes by and thumps on my classroom window and shouts ‘Scab’.

The class looks stunned and turns to me for a reaction. I’m shocked, weak and ashamed. Voiceless in this angry protest.  No-one to hear my meekest views.

Then things get really bad.

More teachers bang on the window. This time I was a ‘dirty blackleg’.

The union rep comes into my room at the end of school.

‘Jenny, you can’t belong to the NUT if you don’t join in the protest. I suggest you join the rest of us.’

He is not pleased when I say no.

On strike day I come to school as usual. The  NUT members will be marching in Trafalgar Square, banners and placards waving about their rights and more pay. And I worry deeply about my future, not belonging to something or joining in with all my colleagues,and not standing up with the rest.

Len comes into my room. I’m busy dragging the wet tea towels and dishcloths out of the spin dryer.

‘Len, you’re not supposed to be in school. Students stay at home today.’

Len looks sheepish.

‘Shall I make us a cup of tea, miss?’

Len busies himself putting the kettle on the gas stove.  The atmosphere is sad. Len’s sad, and I’m sad. Neither of us has any support on this school day. Len gathers an armful of cloths and hangs them on the bars of my gas dryer.  Len and I have somethings in common. He doesn’t belong to the school groups and I wonder if there is anyone at home to welcome Len.

He often stays behind and helps me clear up at the end of the day and never takes his cooking home.  What will happen to Len when he leaves school at sixteen, barely able to read and write? Len and I are alone, offering each other wordless support.

Len stirs three large spoonfuls of sugar into his tea and we sit and drink together. No words. Just thoughts. If this continues, Len will use up my sugar stores.

On TV that night I see the fighting and punching as teachers and police come face to face on the marches.

Next day in the staffroom, they are all too excited to notice me.

‘Did you see me knock off the policeman’s helmet?’

It’s Elizabeth who only last week invited me round for tea in her lovely family home.  I feel my relationship with her and other staff members is damaged forever.

The next time the union calls a strike, I don’t go into school. I agree to go out on strike, but deep in my heart I’m angry. I’m only doing it to stop the bullying and the insults. My pay is docked and I spend the day wandering around Hampstead Heath, breathing in the city air.  It is time to leave the union, and maybe time for me to leave London and have a complete change.

That Friday in the Times Educational Supplement there’s an advert in the back section for a job in Jamaica. Teaching home economics in Kingston on a two year contract with living expenses and accommodation included. It would give me the chance to save some money for a deposit if ever I return to buy my own place.

I’ve taught a lot of children from Jamaican parents in my previous school and if the island is as charming as some of my students, it will be fun.

I ring up the telephone number in the advert and ask them to send me an application. Sunshine island with salt fish and ackee, welcome me!

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Mark Ridgwell died December 10th 2018


My posts on Mark went silent on public media after May 11th 2018 and we struggled on until his death in St Peter’s and St James Hospice outside Lewes. During the year of his dying I’ve moved house 5 times. Twice in Seaford, then a ghastly, dark rental in Lewes, on to Wimbledon and back to our tiny Lewes house. Without him I am a nomad. My companion of 52 years has gone and I am left with energetic photos of his highly active life.

Mark decided to pursue privately funded cancer treatment in London after his Sussex oncologist said she could do no more and we struggled on for an incredible six months. He suffered many blood transfusions, plenty of chemotherapy, one bout of toxic shock and took oodles of morphine. Although not enough to destroy the pain. His courage in enduring this disease was as outstanding as his enthusiasm for life.

Even when his body was like a skeleton, he achieved amazing things –

  • celebrating his 72nd birthday at the Snowdrop pub in Lewes
  • running training sessions for bar tenders to say goodbye
  • travelling to Amsterdam to deliver his library of drink’s books to a training room named after him
  • giving a whisky tasting for Lewes October Feast
  • celebrating my 70th birthday at the Coach and Horses
  • watching his favourite Southover Bonfire parade at Lewes Bonfire on November 5th

We agreed a family cremation with just myself, Annabel, Simon and Tamsin in attendance. It was Christmas time and the rest of the world was in joyous spirits.

On January 6th, we had a small  funeral for family and friends in St Michael’s Church in Lewes. Mark would have been proud of us all and the glory of a service on The Feast of Epiphany. Here is a piece I wrote for a competition.

At my husband’s funeral I wore a red and gold ikat coat that shimmered in the church candlelight, reflecting the ceremony date, the Feast of the Epiphany. Maybe one of the three kings would have worn such royal colours at the crib of baby Jesus? More importantly, long ago, A A Gill remarked ‘Nice coat’ when I sat next to him at Dean Street Townhouse. I was ready to order his favourite dish, shepherd’s pie, and quipped ‘It’s from Kazakstan.’

‘No, Uzbeckistan’ he replied.’

Weeks after Adrian’s death, when I wore the coat at the Royal Academy, a woman in the coffee queue admired its colours.

‘A A Gill told me it was from Uzbeckistan’ I boasted.

‘And he was always right’’ said the lady in front of us. ‘I should know – I’m his mother.’

How I longed to smuggle her away and force out stories of their fabulous meals together, but in the politeness of the dark, Academy’s Member’s room we parted, so much from his Pour Me book bursting for answers.

On December 10th 2018, exactly two years after AA Gill, my husband Mark, died from the same ‘full English’ and I miss them both for their fierce passion for eating and their courage in challenging life to the limit.

Mark’s ashes are stored in a gold leafed casket and I scoop out small servings to take on my mission to sprinkle him in the waters of the world. So far he’s scattered in the Thames, the Channel and Derwentwater and now he’s on a journey to Famagusta, to float into no-man’s land to an out-of-bounds landscape forbidden to the living.’

 

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Walking to the end of life April 8th


I looked down from my favourite seat on the 93 bus from Putney to Wimbledon – front seat left hand side, with its big window view of the world where I can peak into the giant front gardens on Wimbledon Common. An old man walks slowly along the pavement below me, head down, wearing an overlarge black anorak, it’s hood cloaking his head like a monk’s habit. A man that does not want to be seen, lost in his own thoughts. My husband. As I journeyed on the bus to fetch our shopping I realised these past weeks had been spent walking beside a dying man. A man who was once strong and upstanding, argumentative and opinionated. A man that supported me in all things and got things done. And now it is my turn to remember the keys to the house and cars. My turn to make sure the car is full of petrol with a valid MOT. My turn to check that we have the chemo pills and remember to drive us to hospital appointments. My turn to take out the rubbish and buy the toilet paper.

We are never going on holiday together again, never to the theatre or an art gallery. Our travels from now on will be hospital and surgery visits, with short drives round the countryside for stops for cups of tea and toilet visits.

Now we are on our most courageous journey together towards his death. He does not want to travel there and I do not wish to take him, but cancer gives us no choice. Like the men on death row, the hostage taken by Isis, the tortured in Iranian prisons, we must face our future. Like those people there is usually one end – death. How hard for the wives, mothers, and children of those men to face losing their lives. I wonder at their pain, and I cry at my own.

Cancer is not a kind, fair way to end the life of a man that has always been kind and fair. What purpose is served in us suffering so?

My husband and I walk together to his death. He does not make this journey on his own.’Rage, rage against the dying of the light.’ said Dylan Thomas of his dying father. Can I write something better for my crying husband who says he is not afraid to die, but finds the process unbearable. Can I find a way to shelter his suffering, to morphine out his memory and help us to cope?

Our revels now are ended  .. We are the stuff that dreams are made of and our little life is rounded with a sleep.

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March 28/3/2018 Wombles of Wimbledon


March 28/3/2018 Wombles of Wimbledon

From Mark

Last weekend was back to the Wombles of Wimbledon, so I’m sorry but busy in London this meant no email. Our flat was in great shape after the refurbishment so thanks to Jenny and Annabel – interior designers as well as great cooks. It was good to walk on the Common and see Sue and Axel, Lesley and Fiona. Jenny was able to pop out and see more of her London friends. Simon got together so many of the young men who we were privileged to entertain at so many Sunday lunches during their school years at King’s Wimbledon. You can see the picture of the magnificent young men.

Now we are back in Seaford and have met the oncologist with possible encouraging news. When we first met in early February she said I was dying. She now thinks there are signs that the cancer is being hit. But verdicts have to await next week’s blood test, which will hopefully allow me to receive a full chemo shot for the first time and then a CT or MRI scan to see the effects.

From Jenny

I’ve stopped reading journalist Melanie Reid’s pages in the Sunday Times magazine – she was paralysed in a riding accident five years ago. And I’ve stopped listening to most of the news.  Yesterday my challenge was to find humour during our visit to the oncologist. I’d spoken to an ‘O2 guru’ about my phone so who knows if funny things were out there to make me laugh.

As you enter Eastbourne Hospital there’s a huge sign.

‘Let’s get you home. Every day you spend in hospital when you don’t need to makes your recovery take longer. Your own bed is the best bed. A hospital is not a home. People Recover better at home.’

So essentially ….. Off and go home.

My humour did not stretch any further.

Kings students in Wimbledon

Let’s get you home!

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Tic followed toc


16th March Tic followed by toc

From Mark

Last week Sarah’s business had a visit from Simon Weston from the Falklands and he kindly signed his book for me, dedicated ‘to everyone who’s helped to make it possible for me to be who I am.’

 

And though I’ve never appreciated it so much before, all the kind words and memories I’ve received in recent weeks do show me just how much we are moulded and rewarded in life by our family and friends and it’s good to have decluttered the brain enough and to have opportunity to see just that.

 

Interestingly Simon also reflects what Philip Carr Gomm believes when it comes to fears

‘I believe that in life you’ve got to approach and conquer every fear so the more frightened I am, the more important it is that I knock each fear on the head.’

 

Perhaps that’s what A A Gill was doing when he called his cancer ‘ the full English’. By coincidence my favourite t shirt also depicts the full English breakfast.

 

From Jenny

In quiet moments, funny memories, phrases or sounds, flash into my mind. Today it’s The Guiness Sea horse advert with the surfers, horses, thudding drum beat and the deep voice saying

‘He waits, that’s what he does. Tic followed toc followed tic followed toc. Here’s to waiting.’

 

16th March is the third day of Mark’s 2nd chemo treatment and he says he feels trapped. And so do I. We can’t leave and go away. We can’t dream of holidays for summertime, or plan European city breaks. We can’t imagine where our next house will be, or book theatre or art gallery visits.

It feels like the lull before the storm. Like sitting on the upper deck of the Titanic and knowing the iceberg is approaching.

Knowing that we are not going to get in the lifeboats or dive into the freezing Atlantic.

I hope for once we’ve booked first class and are not locked in steerage with Leonardo DiCaprio. Mark starts with his favourite Manhattan cocktail – he’s told the barman how to mix it perfectly despite the tilt in the ship – or is it boat. And I’ve got a glass of the Titanic’s finest Moet champagne. The staff have run off and left us a dinner tray covered with a silver dome in the empty restaurant – Filet mignon for Mark and Lobster thermidor for me. Just sitting there while the band plays Nearer My God to Thee as we wait.

 

Philip Carr Gomm on his last visit has said to focus on things that are bothering us to discover how they can diminish.

Today my word is ‘powerless’ as it’s the weekend, when the medical world is shut, no-one is working – so don’t get ill.

There’s no point being frustrated by it, just accept and enjoy the day.

Thankyou for the jokes, which I’ll put on the blog. I’m still puzzled how the Eastbourne Hospital oncology department has a zero record for people that don’t turn up for treatment – do they all survive each month?

My obscure thought for the day is ‘What would you do if you had one hour left to live?.’

Here are some results –

Sarah would listen to Mozart for Meditation and feast on her husband Simon’s chicken dinner with garlic, lemon and thyme.

Simon, Sarah’s husband, would play Rachmaninoff Vespers Songs for Cherubin and look at the sky.

Sue, my wonderful masseuse would go and sit by the sea and wait – whatever the weather.

Mark wants to listen to Elvis singing His hand in mine, with our patio doors open and eat smoked salmon and sashimi with a glass of Rioja white wine.

I want a helicopter to fly me to the derelict dockland area in Dieppe to Comptoir a Huitre where the chef has a plate of solette meuniere ready with some chilled white Gascony wine.

Betsy would phone and email all her family and tell them she loves them.

My friend Sue would go and look at the sea and walk about and do very little,

My sister Isobel would want family around and ‘To be in a light filled room with lovely fragrant oils . Rose, geranium, lavender, frankincense and listen to favourite music , ‘Let it be ‘ and ‘Bridge over troubled water’ then hear a beautiful poem ‘The owl and the pussy cat ‘

Giles, her husband, would listen to Starman.

Hermione, Isobel and Gile’s  daughter would like to dance to ‘I follow rivers’ and eat cake and be in the sun.

More responses came in

Laurence Abalone, Scallops in Ginger and Moule Marinere washed down with Puligny Montrachet, whilst watching my daughter showjumping with the Bespermark mountains or the Med in the background here in Cyprus, depending where you gaze….

Des – The last hour? Some music to play:-

Weather Report by the Tennors.
Esta Navidad by Jackie Washington.
Yes it is by The Beatles.
Food to eat also struck a chord, pun intended!
Gravadlax, steak diane and creme brulee with poached rhubarb.
or
Sourdough base pizza with slices of new potato, cooked beetroot, capers and blue cheese and strewn with rocket followed by semolina pudding with nutmeggy skin and raspberry jam (unseeded of course)
or
Pork belly with crispy crackling, lashing of English mustard, creamy mash potatoes, cumin flavoured carrot matchsticks and cavolo nero followed by tarte tatin with creme fraiche.

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