2nd Jan 2009
Joe: Let’s begin by setting the scene, its New Year's Day and a group of friends are driving through the beautiful Norfolk countryside to go for a bracing wilderness walk. At one point the cars slow down and exclamations of horror are heard as a line of 50 cars draws into view; could this possibly be the peaceful beach walk they were expecting? Luckily for them they carry on, past the multitude of people and through a set of twisty routes until eventually they draw to a halt down a tiny lane. Once they have prepared, the group sets off down the path to their distant goal of a steep embankment and, beyond it, a peaceful beach. None of them notice the small car park, devoid of any empty spaces.
As they walk on they find their path to be very crowded, worryingly with many of the people walking in the opposite direction. The closer they draw the more it seems like the embankment is fenced off, but no one could close a beach, could they? Finally they reach a barrier surrounded by people, and one of their group notices a sign, proclaiming in bold type:
Grey Seals Birthing
Voluntary Beach Closure
Thank you for your co-operation
After the initial surprise has worn off the group is aghast, but luckily they can climb to the top of the embankment to view the seals. Once the likely looking people in fluorescent jackets have been queried about the extent of the closure, and following the discovery that the nearest stretch of free beach is a six mile walk away, it is decided that the only thing to do to escape the hordes is to continue walking along the bank. The group eventually comes to rest in an isolated hollow, with a perfect view of the seals. It is now that the secret weapon is revealed. The rucksacks are opened to reveal a small gas cooker, hotdogs, white finger rolls and assorted condiments – the perfect lunch. Whilst the sausages are bubbling away, the group turns to seal watching. There are many of them, ranging from teeny white, fluffy babies to huge (and I mean really big!) adults. Their entire life seems to consist of sleeping, only ever moving to get comfortable.
Once sufficient seals have been watched and hotdogs consumed they head home, stopping at the local pub to finish off a very enjoyable New Year's Day out.
1st Nov 2007
Joe: A few days ago some friends and I went to see one of my favourite authors, Terry Pratchett, at a bookshop. We got there at 12 noon and though it was still an hour before he was due to arrive we were greeted by a huge queue of about 70 people and the helpful grin of an assistant to show us to the end of the queue.
The upside of queuing in a bookshop is that while we waited we could read all the books on the shelves around us: unfortunately, we had been placed in the travel section and were surrounded by booklets giving information about hotels in Scandinavia and things like that. Eventually Terry Pratchett arrived and we started to move slowly along towards him. As we drew closer, to our delight we saw one of the assistants slowly making his way down the queue with a box of chocolates offering one to everybody.
Finally we reached him and eagerly got our books signed (he drew the Great A’tuin in mine) and left feeling that it was well worth the wait. Though I pity the people who believed the poster and arrived at 1pm, as by the time we left people were still queuing round the shop and even to the second floor!
20th Sep 2007
Joe: My walking stick. I found my stick in Dartmoor two years ago, stuck in a huge dam of sticks and trees. I remember dragging back the small tree and hacking off all the little branches with my knife, then snapping it with a resounding crack. It took me ages to carve the top, slowly whittling it down until it was a perfectly smooth dome. I’ve whittled down the handle too so it fits to my hand.
If I look at the end I see the crack where it got caught in a bridge at Corfe Castle. I love the wood under the bark. It’s amazingly smooth with no knots so my hand doesn’t rub on it. The only blemish is where I’ve burnt my name into it. I held a nail in a pair of pliers then heated it over the cooker and branded it on. Where my name is, the stick is burnt black but everywhere else it’s got brilliant swirling patterns in light brown. I’ve had other sticks but none have ever been as good as this. It’s amazingly light but extremely long. I’ve never got tired walking with it and nobody (even a tree expert) has been able to guess what type of wood it is. One once said the reason it was so light was because it was rotten, but it’s survived so many walks up and down mountains and across moors in drizzling rain (and very occasionally sunshine), I know it can’t be.
20th Aug 2007
Last week I sat down to lunch and the sight of a big bowl of sliced pears greeted me. Hungrily I took one and was amazed to find this was not just any old pear – it had been covered in lemon juice, an idea that was completely new to me. Upon discovering this brilliant taste sensation I (along with the help of everyone else) quickly wolfed down the rest of the pears, then hurried to make more – until all the pears in the cupboard had gone. After this we made sure that we had an ample supply of pears and the dish appeared at almost every meal.
3 to 4 sliced pears (unripe)
Half a lemon
Squeeze the lemon over the pears…simple!
Another good thing about the lemon juice as well as being delicious is that it stops the pears from going all brown and yukky.
19th Jul 2007
It’s the last week of school and I still don’t know what to give my teachers. But then I think ‘Hey, why not just give them the same as last year?’ Apricot jam. Trust me, this stuff is amazing. It’s so simple to make and yet some of my teachers are still talking about it from 12 months ago!
If you’re not sure what to give them, this is it. Plus if there’s some left over this jam lasts for years (though not in our house). So who knows, maybe some lucky teacher will be getting a jar next year too…
Thank You Apricot Jam
Makes approx. 14 8oz jars
2kg fresh apricots
Wash the apricots. Cut them into quarters and remove the stones. Place in a preserving pan with the lemon juice and water. Gently bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 mins or until the apricots start to fall apart. Mash them a bit with a spoon. Add the sugar and stir gently over a low heat until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until a set is obtained. (The time this takes can vary greatly, start testing after about 10 mins, but it may take much longer.) Stir regularly to stop it burning. Pour into sterile jars and place lids on while still warm.
11th May 2007
Joe: Saturday and I'm going to a museum (in the middle of the fens) for my birthday with a friend. On the way back we stop at a stall outside someone's farm.
As my friend is looking at the flowers, I wander over to another part of the stall full of good natural carrots covered in earth and sticks of asparagus piled high. Then, as I walk around the back, I spot a tray of enormous goose eggs next to the normal eggs. We buy some, and at home mum promises we can have them the next day. In the morning when I get up I think, what I can have for breakfast? Then I remember: the goose eggs.
Mike: Joe hands me the goose egg and says he wants it poached. Over the years I've perfected a poaching technique for hen's eggs, but these big goose ones are more of a challenge. Careful knife work is required just to break the shell and the thick membrane beneath it without breaching the yolk. That done, I carefully slipped the eggs from a saucer into a small pan of simmering water with a splash of vinegar added (no egg poacher is big enough for the job). After a few minutes and two slices of buttered toast later we had a real 'man'-sized breakfast.
14th Apr 2007
Five days after Easter and I'm looking at a heck of a lot of chocolate and I want to do something with it (apart from eating it) before Carla has a chance of demolishing it.
So Tamsin suggests a family faces competition. Sounds cool huh? So this is what it is; first we got four of our chocolate eggs (one each) then decorated them as each other with coloured icing, easy.
My hair, nicknamed The Bush (thanks dad) was made by dipping the icing in Demerara sugar (brown stuff). They look good and it's something different to do with your chocolate eggs (before eating them of course).