Thursday, 30 September 2010

Mother Earth!

Food for free, including home-grown tomatoes

Redcurrant jelly, raspberry jam, wild raspberry jelly, strawberry jam, rowan and apple jelly, gooseberry jelly, marmalade, opal plum jam, and now my indefatigable wife's latest find is a recipe for rosehip and apple jelly - they're all there in the photograph. Small wonder my centre of gravity slips ineluctably southwards with each creation from nature's bounty - all food for free - requiring only my time to pick them!

The rosehip and apple creation is deliciously moreish and a major hit with her home-made bread, bannocks and as an accompaniment to ice cream.

Actually, while the fruit is free, nothing else is. By the time you've paid for petrol to drive to where you're going to pick the fruit, paid for electricity and gas to boil it all up, and sugar to add to the boiling creation, it ends up quite an expensive exercise. But there's nothing to match the home made creation and you won't find anything to beat it on the supermarket shelves.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Not still waters

It has rained relentlessly for pretty well 24 hours. I took the dogs down to the river for their walk and watched the water pouring like brown Guiness or Newcy Brown - Newcastle Brown Ale to the uninitiated - through the tree lined gorge. It rammled and thrashed in torment between the high rocky sides and stormed on seawards in a torrent of white sound. The noise of the water blanks out everything, and for a while the mind is blank too while you come to terms with the sheer violence of what's happening in front of you. When the elements flex their muscles we puny humans have no response. But I know that the water level will fall as quickly as it rose, and in 36 hours we'll wonder what all the fuss was.

Drookit dogs!
They say there’s no such thing as bad weather,
just the wrong clothing.
How can I explain that to two damp dogs?

Half a dozen autumn run salmon had been resting in a pool preparing to run The Loups (or Leaps), a short series of waterfalls that they have to negotiate in the final stage of their journey to the headwaters to spawn and produce the next generation of the King of Fish. They'll be safely tucked away just now, close under the bank, to escape the destructive force of the spate.


It may be autum, but the canopy of leaves on the trees lining the river bank provides a marvellous umbrella against the rain. It's mostly beech trees but there are fir trees, rowans, oak and sycamore and I can take off my cap because the worst I'll suffer is a few large drops that manage to break their way through the cover.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Jam tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow

It's just not cricket! The rain it raineth every day.

The rain it raineth on the just
And also on the unjust fella,
But chiefly on the just because
The unjust steals the just's umbrella!

The beginning of September, we should be enjoying sunshine, farmers should be bringing in their harvest - the "hairst" in Scotland. The last of the wild harvest from the hedgerows is waiting to be picked. It's been pretty good so far this summer. I picked loads of wild raspberries which my wife boils up into the most delicious jelly. Our daughter brought us tiny plums which she turned into plum jam. There's been blackcurrant jelly, garden raspberries for jam and her marmalade, famous throughout three counties. And there's still more to come unless the wet weather rots the fruit on the bushes.

Folk should be more conscious of the countryside and what it offers. It takes about two hours to pick 5 lbs of wild fruit like raspberries, and I'm always surprised how easily and quickly my wife makes the jelly. She always make too much, but a jar of home-made produce is always a much more acceptable gift to give to a hostess when we go for dinner than a boring old bottle of wine. I think it's time I started to learn these simple countryside skills - but it will have to be next year now!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Words maketh blogger

The Edinburgh International Book Festival is an integral part of the The Edinburgh Festival and the Fringe Festival. Edinburgh, in the month of August, buzzez with people of every shape, size, colour, creed. Some are self-centred, some pushy, some reserved, even withdrawn - but, really, the greatest majority are fun people - and whatever I may think of individual foibles and imperfections, everyone is in Edinburgh to have fun and be part of the annual, amazing cultural (whatever that really means in this context)festivities. There's something for everyone from elevated to lower deck.

My contribution to the carnival was as a speaker at a Book Festival workshop last Monday with my co-author of "Sea Dog Bamse, WWII Canine Hero", Andrew Orr. The event was called "Selling The Story" and was targeted at would-be and struggling published authors looking for advice on marketing and how to get their book onto bookshop shelves.

Self and co-author Andrew Orr in the Writers’ yurt at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. We had just taken part in a workshop explaining how, working alongside our publisher, we marketed ourselves and our book and successfully turned it into Scottish best seller – Sea Dog Bamse, World War II Canine Hero ISBN: 978 1 84158 849 0

I've never bothered much with the Book Festival, and how I regret that now. But I've had three days at it this year and it's been an absolutely marvellous experience. What an idiot for not going before, but better late than never. I feel quite bereft at the thought that I shan't be playing with the big children again next year, with my pass to the writers' yurt (canvas encampment!) and talking to other writers I never expected to meet.

But I met and talked with other writers and found that some of my ideas were well received. It's so useful to hear their problems, but much more importantly, their successes - and see how I can put their ideas to work for myself.

And the workshop was a success. There's been positive feedback and I met the sister of one of my ushers at my wedding who I lost contact with about fifteen years ago. She bought my books and is taking them out to Canada when she visits her brother next week. A totally unexpected and welcome bonus.

I love meeting new people, I loved being part of the Book Festival - I want to do it again.