One of those days

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I took this photograph at the Royal William Yard during an art exhibition a couple of summers ago. Signs like this are common in ex services buildings, I keep a little file of them, you never know when a specific image like this will come in useful. Today is the day. Our part of Cornwall is drenched in cold rain that blows into every crevice or body part that is foolish enough not to be covered by waterproof clothing. I had hoped to get some pictures of snowdrops and early daffodils first thing this morning but the skies turned grey and our morning walk became all about doggy elimination and getting home. Rather than wandering the lanes of South East Cornwall looking for early signs of new growth I am catching up with post festive laundry, hence the picture from my strange archive. Fear not, this is not a blog about my laundry habits. That is a subject so dull it is only equalled as a dampener by Cornish rain.

Today’s blog is about the reward for festive laundry diligence.Soft, yielding gingerbread that accompanies my cup of tea between bouts of laundry activity. I have always been a lover of soft gingerbread treats, mostly around Christmas time and exclusively from Lidl

This festive season was about meeting new family members and deepening knowledge of people we’ve only met fleetingly before. Our Polish family members arrived bearing gifts, one of which was the most gorgeous soft gingerbread from the city of Torun. Somewhat late to this particular packet there were only three left when I had my first, and only one when I needed my mid laundry snack. Big mistake , these were the best gingerbreads I have ever eaten.

I’m told Torun is the world epicentre of gingerbread. Time to do a little research. The first record of gingerbread creation in Torun is in 1380. The city is ideally placed for making gingerbread because the landscape lends itself to the production of fine wheat on good soil and copious honey production by the village bees of the area. Spices were imported from India via Germany. Pierniki as they are known in Poland are soft gingerbread bakes, enrobed in dark chocolate with a hidden 💓 of fruit preserve. My particular Pierniki were made by the biggest manufacturer Kopernik, who’ve been making Gingerbread for 250 years.

http://www.kopernik.com.pl

Achievements of the day. One more satisfying than the other.

Clean washing
Empty Box

Advent#28

Bubble, friends, terrorists and artists.

“Bubble” spoken or shouted in a broad, loud, East London/Essex accent.

Bubble and Squeak is a staple of our festive season. It was always part of our childhoods, made as a way of using up Christmas leftovers. Our abiding love of “Bubble” currently involves an early festive meeting in London, with friends. “Bubble” happens regularly at Maria’s Cafe in Borough Market. We’ve settled very happily into an annual December breakfast at Maria’s after searching for Christmas breakfast perfection high up in London’s Skyscrapers with extravagant prices for many years. Height does not necessarily dictate breakfast good quality or satisfaction. Closer to the ground, and reality, Maria’s has become our regular pre Christmas breakfast haunt, they do the best breakfast we’ve ever had in the area. Any breakfast comestible with their bubble and squeak is festive perfection on a plate.

Fortified by calories, laughter and cups of tea we set off to sample, taste and shop.

https://www.monmouthcoffee.co.uk/
https://www.sallyclarke.com/category/sweet/chocolate-truffles/

Coffee from Monmouth is always enjoyed with a chocolate truffle, we drink our coffee and nibble our truffles, overlooked by the Market Porter. A flat-capped sturdy chap depicted in Street Art painted on the wall of The Market.
https://www.themarketporter.co.uk

Illustrations by Josie Jammet https://www.designfather.com/illustrations-by-josie-jammet/

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Art at Borough is not only about the working life of the market.

London Bridge and Borough Market have been the location of two seperate terrorist attacks. The second only weeks a go. The first in June 2017 has been commemorated by a mural by James Cochran or Jimmy C. on a railway arch in Stoney Street, part of the perimeter of the market. Jimmy’s work is a joyous multicoloured commemoration of the lives lost and the lives forever marked by the event. It also reflects the vivid and resilliant nature of London which will rise above the harm and wickedness of terror attacks. A series of hearts float like bubbles on a background of blue. The code 44A is the identification number of the railway arch.


https://www.railstaff.co.uk/2018/03/27/mural-unveiled-in-memory-of-london-bridge-terror-attacks/

Following this sad but resilient image, this blog about bubble shifts location from Borough Market and heads for home.

Bubble is a traditional left-overs treat in our house. Formed from the remains of the Christmas day roast it has a domestic ritual of its own.

Bubble is prepared during the evening after the big roast has been served. Portions of bubble rest in the fridge overnight, awaiting frying in butter the next morning.

Reminiscent of Jimmy C’s bubble-like hearts on the Borough Memorial a heart shaped knob of butter softens in the pan.

An edible landscape of buttery fjords and pillowy potato mounds form in the pan.

Once the outer surfaces are crispy, dark and caramelised it’s time to serve up the bubble and share.

Bubble, 💕 on a plate.

Advent#25

A Christmas Crime

No more chocolates in the Advent calender. Off into the uncharted waters of Advent beyond 24. Chocolate is part of this story.

The tin of Quality Street has slipped it’s lid and chocolates stare lewdly as people pass. ” Take me ” they purr, “You know you want to”

Enrobed in jewel bright colours , crinkle wrapping catches the eye. The fall from grace is quick and furtive.

Two deft actions and the sweet is naked . A moment on the lips and into the bucal space. The tongue guides the sweet silky coating onward, probing for flavour with a nip of teeth.

Meanwhile the wrapper is deftly hidden within the tin.

The first crime of Christmas committed.

Advent#16

Christmas comestibles.

Today the long walk in the sunshine took us back to the location of Advent #1
https://theoldmortuary.design/2019/12/01/advent-1/

Our visit to Jacka today was enhanced by festive baking. We weren’t exactly early birds, but were lucky enough to get there in time to get the last available slice of Stolen and one of their lusciously deep mince pies. Coffee drinking at Jacka this morning was hugely sociable . The coffee hounds Hugo and Lola were treated to snippets of delicious bacon from a generous benefactor while everyone at the various tables were talking to one another.

As this is a second Advent visit to Jacka I thought I would share some of the bakeries history . Gleaned from a 1985 published article displayed on the café wall .

Dated currently back to 1597, Jacka is the oldest working Bakery in Britain. It is said that it supplied Ships Biscuits to the Mayflower in 1620. Ships biscuits from this bakery were still famous worldwide well into the twentieth century.

Todays festive bakes were tastier than any Ships biscuit. Time to roll out the the word ‘ moist’ . The festive season is known for its traditional foods. In Britain moistness is demanded of Christmas cakes and Turkey. Today we added a third moist festive eating experience.

Bakery made Stollen , as far removed from the supermarket stuff as it is possible to be. A generous core of deep yellow marzipan surrounded by jewel fruited,doughy loveliness , gently dusted with icing sugar. The mince pie, no less lovely, had a deep, golden pastry case filled with dried fruits, quenched to plumpness and topped with a pastry star.

The coffee, as is usual at Jacka was made with great beans by a skillful barrista.

This may not be our last Advent visit.

Devon Slice and other baked goods controversy.

Yesterday’s Quickie#5 was a scone. A controversial food item, in particular in the borderlands of the Tamar Valley but also worldwide. Quickie#5 was a cheese scone for simplicity

Lively conversation occurs at theoldmortuary over baked goods as we are a mixed heritage household. One Hongkonger with Devon/Cornish genes, one Essex woman and two dogs from Bedford. Growing up in Essex I loved being bought a Devon Slice. A soft mound of sweet dough, glazed and split across the top and filled with fresh cream and jam. When I moved to the Tamar Valley I fully assumed I would reacquaint myself with the Devon Slice. I can’t say I was hugely diligent in searching them out but occasional enquiries were met with puzzled looks in the bakeries I visited. I have a vague idea I bought something similar, in the eighties, at Jacka Bakery on the Barbican in Plymouth, but it wasn’t called a Devon slice. As they are the countries oldest working bakery and must know their dough products I must assume a Devon Slice was an Essex or maybe even more locally a Braintree invention or,worse,a family made- up name.

Our much missed family baker, Jenny, part of the Cornish heritage had never heard of a Devon slice fitting my description.

This opening paragraph illustrates that there isn’t much of my bakery knowledge that is factually correct, and so with my lack of accurate knowledge laid bare I will make a small personal statement about the Scone/ Jam/Cream debate.

In my early Essex life amongst family we split a scone, spread the cut surfaces with thick cream and topped it with jam. We were all happy with this, I continued to be happy with it for 30 years until I moved to the Tamar Valley. My life since then has straddled the Tamar Valley, living in Cornwall and working either in Devon, or more recklessly and wildly, ‘ Up the line’ *

* Up the Line’ in Cornwall means anywhere beyond of where you are within Cornwall and to the East. It could mean Plymouth, London or, in reality, anywhere in the rest of the World.

Personally despite living in Cornwall I persist in my ‘Essex’ ways left to my own devices. In company I can go either way to be honest. I actually don’t have a huge preference. To say the spreading order of jam and cream or cream and jam is contentious is in itself contentious. Not having an opinion is entirely possible but will always expose the undecided individual to unlooked for advice in any group of people.I am hugely fascinated by other people’s views . Does Aberdeen side with Devon , cream first, or does it follow a Celtic lead and side with Cornwall, jam first? Where does Birmingham stand?

Essex I believe stands with Devon, but maybe that’s just my own leafy corner of North East Essex. Who knows?

Debate and more knowledge warmly welcomed.

Saturday Walking at Kingsand and Cawsand

Kingsand and Cawsand are coastal villages in the ‘forgotten’ corner of South East Cornwall. Every bit as beautiful as other, more famous, villages in Cornwall they remain largely undiscovered . They were a big part of our lives when we rowed for the local gig racing team. Our walk on Saturday took on a familiar pattern. The beaches are available for dog walking now the summer season is over. This was our primary reason for going as well as a birthday lunch. Gig rowing reared its head, or more accurately its bum almost the minute we arrived in the village. We stopped just by the Rame Gig sheds and a familiar voice shouted out. ” Look who it is, we were only talking about you a week or two ago when we were at Port Isaac ” We stopped gig rowing ten years ago so it must have been something memorable. ” We were at Port Isaac and talked about the time you had terrible trouble with your bum” Not for us the glamour of a memorable race, cleaving through heaving surf, oh no, memorable because a nasty blister gained in a 23 mile London River Race had impacted, in all senses of the word, on a performance more than ten years ago at Port Isaac. Obviously this was all said with love and humour. After hugging sweaty rowers fresh from a training session we moved on to the first of the days beaches.

http://www.ramegigclub.com/

Cawsand beach, where the Rame gigs are launched.

Hugo and Lola love this beach, twenty minutes of scampering and eliminating and they are ready for a walk. Quickly up The Bound past the gig shed with no further mention of bottoms.

Rame Gig shed

We followed Garrett Street keeping the Sea to our right. Beautiful coastal cottages line the street as we climbed a gentle hill.

This lovely gateway gives the perfect opportunity to look back over Cawsand.

Our destination today is The Devonport Inn on The Cleave , Kingsand. This portion of the Cornish coast overlooks Plymouth Sound. Devonport is the location of Plymouths Naval Dockyard it is also the name of one of the original towns that were merged to create modern Plymouth.

http://visitrame.org.uk/

We were a little early for our booked table so the dogs got another scampering session on the second beach of the day.

Now this is not a food blog but today’s destination was chosen because the food served at The Devonport Inn is fabulous. We had Skate Wings and mussels both served with super chunky chips deep fried in beef dripping. All properly lovely. The Devonport Inn is an unfussy but really comfy place to enjoy food and drink.

http://www.devonportinn.com

A cosy corner

Replete with good food and conversation we retraced our steps towards Cawsand, one more beautiful sunshine shot to complete our afternoon.

If you can’t paint, Podcast

My painting and writing life is a little obsessive. Doing either thing I can lose hours, miss meals and generally lose track of time. This June I am spending the whole month in Hong Kong caring for my seven month old granddaughter. I only travelled with hand luggage and the travel painting kit did not make the cut. I thought I could stock up on arrival but it’s not been as easy as I imagined.

There has also not been a huge amount of time for me to twiddle my non-painty fingers. Other stuff to do. Let’s not pretend the care of a 7 month old is complex. Love, care and endless walks. The endless walks are a challenge in blistering heat or torrential rain. VV, my granddaughter likes to look outward whilst being pushed so meaningful babble is also denied to me, whatever happened to eye contact? I’m already a massive failure to her on the breast front, maybe not looking at me manages her disappointment . With no ability to create,my obsessive streak needs an outlet. Now my phone and headphones are my walking friend, inspiration, and recipients of my obsessive attentions.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=desert+island+discs+podcasts&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-gb&client=safari

I’ve been a life long lover of Desert Island Discs, but you can have too much of a good thing, so I searched for something similar but different. I was attracted to Jay Rayners Out To Lunch. I read his restaurant reviews because I love his use of language and honesty. He has a fabulous voice, accent and a laugh that sounds like it comes from a huge communal cooking pot.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=out+to+lunch+podcast+jay+rayner&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8&hl=en-gb&client=safari

Podcasts free people up to be themselves, his conversations, over food, include expletives and intimacies, just as any meal out with friends would. As I write this I’m fresh from his episode with Grayson Perry, this is, after all, an art and design blog. The premise of this podcast is that Jay chooses a restaurant that matches the culinary favourites of his guests and they chat over a three course meal.The topics range from the mundane to the sublime. Seriously if you want a dose of articulate laughing happy people, this is the place to drop your ears. At the end of the season Jay presents The Juicy Offcuts From Season 1. The aural equivalent of leftovers, what’s not to love.

Jays 4th guest was Jessie Ware, a singer songwriter and podcaster. Jessie’s Podcast, Table Manners, hosted with her mum, is my next listening project. The teaser, first broadcast in 2017 is five minutes of mother daughter bickering. Delicious already.

Two days later and I’m well into Table Manners and I’m already hooked. There is a huge archive so I’ve only touched the surface. I’ve really loved the episodes I’ve listened to. This podcast is based around Jessie and her mum Lennie cooking a meal, usually in one of their homes, for someone in the public eye or ear. I use this descriptive advisedly. Celebrity would be another title to describe the guests but it is such a superficial notion, Jessie and her mum bring out such depth from their guests it feels wrong.

Bickering between Jessie and Lennie is a bit of a thing in this podcast. Loving bickering is hugely relaxing. My grown up children say there is nothing better than dozing in a room with background family bickering, I probably had not fully understood this concept until I heard this podcast.

Currently my ears are being pleasured by Tim Dowling , he definitely does good nattering.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?client=safari&hl=en-gb&ei=bVsCXZ6ECIri-AaBhYXYCw&q=table+manners+podcast&oq=table+manners+&gs_l=mobile-gws-wiz-serp.1.0.0i67j0l7.48480.60749..62692…1.0..0.162.2720.40j1……0….1…….8..35i39j33i160j0i22i30j0i20i263j46j0i10j46i67j0i131j46i39j0i3j0i131i67.65cDTLNfjok

These podcasts open up so many world’s that I may not have ever experienced. I’ve got an ever growing list of music, literature, art and many other random things that need googling and then exploring further.

Was there life before podcasts?

I’ve given you an extra serving of tissues with your coffee.

9BB38BA8-C91E-4978-B03F-762EDA799358-6471-000006471DE03962In writing a style and arts blog, I consider I’ve dodged the awkward ball of having to write a critical review. If somewhere isn’t stylish, I can easily choose not to write about it and when reviewing creative subjects, there is nearly always something positive to pull out of the experience. I’m grateful this is not a foodie blog because I don’t know enough about the subject to be interesting. However, I am very aware that style/ decor/ ambience is something that is very important to most people, particularly when considering repeat visits. Style is also about how things are served.

Before I go any further, I will say the food at this establishment was lovely.

While on the rural eastern edge of Plymouth, we went to a Farm Shop that is well-considered locally but appears to have recently changed its name; it charges premium prices. We ordered lunch and coffee, to be accurate a flat white. Our drinks were slow to arrive and the flat white arrived not with the usual almond biscotti, but with an extra serving of tissues. The waitress explained that she had slopped so much of the coffee in the saucer that we would need extra tissues!

She hadn’t actually slopped a flat white, because that was not what was being served. She’d slopped, at best a latte, and at worst the sort of white coffee elderly relatives give you.

Premium prices should go hand in hand with quality, expertise, pride and a good knowledge of your subject. Without that, customers are unlikely to return. Nationally, the bar is set pretty high for these types of establishment. Daylesford comes to mind and somewhat unexpectedly the motorway services at Gloucester. Perhaps I’m being picky but I don’t see a side serving of extra tissues as a reason to come back.

Thankfully that was the worst experience of the day. Onto more positive things soon…