Special Places

I have mentioned here before that we are selling our yacht, my husband has decided it is time he ‘swallowed the anchor’! These days we get more use from our Motorhome, which we bought to replace the yacht so that we can tour more easily on the continent and visit our daughter in Spain. When the yacht finally goes I know I shall miss visiting the special places that we have found on our voyages. These include two rather special marinas, one at Tichmarsh on the Walton Backwaters (behind Walton on the Naze) and the other at Woodbridge on the river Deben, where you will find the last working tide mill in the UK. Both these marinas are very hard to leave once you have arrived there; they seem to take hold of your soul and won’t let you go!

Interior, St Peter on the WallBut there are some even more special places. One being the wonderful little chapel of St Peter on the Wall at Bradwell on Sea (see photo). This is said to be the oldest church in England and is not far from Bradwell marina where we keep the boat. It was built on a lonely spit of land where St Cedd landed in 654 on a mission from Lindisfarne to bring Christianity  to Essex and was built using stone from the ruined Roman fort of Othona nearby. After about 600 years of continual use it was eventually abandoned and was used as a barn. This may well have saved it. In 1920 it was rediscovered and brought back into use as a chapel. Services and other activities are regularly held there now and, although on one occasion that I visited and sat on one of the benches I did feel an almost overwhelming sadness, it has a wonderful atmosphere of peace and calm.

Another very special place that we have visited many times when sailing is an old oak grove alongside the river Orwell between Pin Mill and Wolverstone. Sadly I do not have any photos but this is an amazing place to walk through. The power, wisdom and aura of peace that these old trees generate is palpable, making my palms itch and my whole body feel alive, I just have to walk among the trees, touching each one that I pass. I shall so miss this place.

Knowing that in future I will have so much less opportunity to visit these places I need to find alternative special places nearer to home. There are many that I hope to visit in the future and I have been meaning to visit for some time but somehow have failed to do so due to life getting in the way. Cannock Chase is not such a long drive from where I live and I have visited in the past, but not as often as I would like. If you are lucky you will see deer here, maybe even a stag in full antlers. There are also several places nearer home. Some I pass regularly by car or on my bike but have never stopped – either in too much of a hurry to get to where I am going or not happy about leaving my bike in the car park while I go walk-about.

This year I intend to re-visit some of these places that I have neglected or make a point of stopping at those that I have so far not visited at all. One such place is actually within walking distance (all-be-it a fairly long walk) and it is my intention to make it my first point of call once I have finally got rid of my recent flu and lung infection and the weather has improved. I shall be writing about these places here as and when I visit each one. I’ll try to remember to take my camera too.

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Nature Spirits

I am in the process of re-reading ‘The Secret Life of Nature’ by Peter Tomkins, which was published in 1997 and which I first read probably in the early 1980’s. This was a follow on book to his ‘The Secret Life of Plants’ published in the 1970’s.

‘The Secret Life of Nature’ is about living in harmony with the hidden world of Nature Spirits, from Fairies to Quarks and is an interesting mix of what many would consider fantasy (fairies, gnomes, elves etc.) and modern science – psychics versus physics. It relates evidence for the unseen world of Nature Spirits as seen by clairvoyants. These spirits function all around us to produce the beauty of nature as we know it. They can be seen flitting around plants and trees, helping them grow, but not just at ground level, many of these beings are also found in the wind and the waves. Sadly I have never seen them myself but have long accepted that such things exists. Whether you consider it spiritually or scientifically, to me it is undeniable that there is an ‘essence’, a ‘spark’ of life that ensures a tulip is just that and not a holly bush. That things are what they are is due to an obvious blue-print and that they thrive is due to that essence of life pulsing through them – the life-force.

The book demonstrates how closely the observations of these clairvoyants now concurs with the findings of modern science regarding nature and way the universe works, the building blocks of matter, although they were at first streets ahead and ridiculed by the scientific community. I was absolutely knocked out the first time I read the book but over the years normal life got in the way and much of what I read was lost into the subconscious. Now I have rediscovered this amazing work and am knocked out anew. It makes you look at the world in a whole different light and anyone who takes these findings on board cannot but be amazed by the beauty of nature and the need to conserve this marvellous planet on which we live.

This also gives me a dilemma; whether you visualize these Nature Spirits as fairy creatures or just think of them merely in scientific terms as bursts of energy, where do we stand when caring for our gardens and countryside? What are we destroying when we mow our lawns, dig up our weeds, prune our trees? Have we any right to destroy what the life energy is creating in this way? But what is the alternative – do we allow our gardens to become rampant? How exactly do we find the compromise and work with these spirits to the mutual benefit of all?

So much of our countryside is ‘tamed’, yet it seems these spirits are still more than happy to work with what is there, but is it perhaps time we began to cover less of our towns with concrete and allow more room for nature – even if it is ‘tamed’. Maybe the old idea of ‘Garden Cities’ is not such a bad idea after all. Meanwhile I am still looking for those elusive spirits, but even now the world of nature has become a much brighter and more vivid reality. Somewhere I have a book about the Findhorn Community – I have read it twice already but may it is time I read that again too.

Cold or The Flu?

I have, had, am recovering from the flu.

I say this with some reservation as I am usually reluctant to claim the flu for what is probably just a cold. Many people these days seem to say they have flu when they just have a bad cold, after all it does sound so much more dramatic, especially if you are trying to wrangle a few days off work. Although the two conditions share some symptoms they are very different beasties. I have had flu before. The last time was many years ago when I was at college and I remember how ill I was. I have had bad colds since, but nothing as bad as genuine flu until now.

I’m not a doctor botherer, I don’t believe in going to the doctor with complaints that I feel I can deal with adequately at home. Doctors should be reserved for the serious problems, especially these days when the NHS is short-handed, under-funded and can’t afford the luxury of treating those who don’t really need it. When I was a child our family GP had a sign on his waiting room wall which read “Prescription is the art of keeping the patient amused while Nature effects a cure.” Well I’m not fussed about being amused, just let Nature get on with it – with a little sensible self-help.

My son started first, with what we, as usual, dismissed as a bad cold. Then a few days later my husband succumbed. A day after that I got it. This was last Tuesday; in the morning I was fine, went to my Spanish class as usual, came home then a short while later from having no symptoms I suddenly had a splitting headache, my eyes hurt, I ached and coughed. After that I was fit for nothing for several days, the lightest effort left me exhausted and I was alternately frozen or sweating hot! – all three of us were the same, at slightly different stages according to when we first went down with it. Pretty well all I could do was sleep and even that was often disrupted. Using my brain for anything was out of the question. I confess I am now slightly worried as you can incubate the flu for a couple of days before symptoms appear and I just hope I haven’t passed it on to the rest of the Spanish group, some of whom are not young!

My son insisted it was flu. I was still reluctant to name it as such but when I began to feel slightly better I decided to check out whether or not what we had was indeed the flu or just a bad cold. I came across a simple chart on the internet showing the differences between the symptoms of a cold and the flu which I was hoping to share here in case anyone else finds it of help but it won’t let me so here is the link: http://www.cdc.gov/flu. Our symptoms ticked all the Influenza boxes.

Now what I don’t understand is that both my son and I lost our appetites, I could hardly face food at all, though my husband could still eat to his normal capacity. In fact he never seems to lose his appetite when he is unwell, whereas I always do. The other slight problem is that he had, several weeks earlier, had the flu jab, after which he felt very unwell with tightness in his chest and pains in his arms – which coming after his recent angina diagnosis was a trifle worrying especially as his ‘puffer’, didn’t shift it. The jab obviously didn’t prevent him getting the flu. With the vaccine given a less than 50% effectiveness rating I don’t think he will bother again. I didn’t have the jab; perhaps the main difference has been that normally, at least with a cold, he would get it worse than me but this time I seem to have been worse than him, so maybe it did do him some good after all.

I am now on the mend, my head doesn’t ache, most other symptoms have reduced but I do have a rather nasty cough that keeps me awake and sometimes gets such a grip I don’t think I’m going to stop. But on the plus side, due to my loss of appetite I have now finally lost the few extra pounds I put on over Christmas and New Year – be thankful for small mercies.

Englyn Form

First up a photo of the snowdrops in my garden. This really ought to have accompanied my last post ‘Spring Englyn’ which you can view here but I hadn’t taken the photo then!

snowdrops

Since writing ‘Spring Englyn’ I have done some more research about the form and it seems I had only discovered the simplified form. What I have written is. I believe, called an Englyn Penfyr where Penfyr means ‘brief ending’. This form was used in verses attributed to a Welsh noblewoman, Heledd, in the 7th Century, in which she lamented the death of her brothers in a battle against the Saxons at Pangwern (modern Shrewsbury).

I came across another website (www.volecentral.co.uk/vf/englyn.htm) which tells me that the Englyn is a Welsh verse form that is very difficult to write. As well as syllable counts there are rhymes to contend with, as demonstrated in my little poem, but they can also have more lines than the three each stanza that I have used. The four line stanza version has syllable counts of 10, 6, 7 and 7 (with the AAAA rhyme pattern). As I mentioned in my previous post the rhyming syllable is before the end of the first line. The information on this web site stipulates that is the 6th syllable. And then there’s the cynghanedd…

“The what?” you ask. Yes, my sentiments exactly. The cynghanedd is a concept apparently peculiar to Celtic poetry and is very difficult to do in English. It is an attribute of a line of poetry. There are several forms of cynghanedd, of which four are relevant to the Englyn. “Each is a tightly specified structural requirement involving rhyme or alliteration, or both”, which may or may not be used in particular positions in the Englyn. (Clear as mud isn’t it.) There is no specific explanation given as to exactly what cynghanedd is so the best I can do is to quote the given example from the above mentioned Vole Central website, with the request that you respect the copyright of the original poet Bob Newman:

In flight, the butterfly knows utter bliss.
Sun today, soon to die,
Full of joy, life on the fly
Scales the void, the scombroid sky.

We are told this example uses all four kinds of cynghanedd although this is not necessary. The first line uses ‘cynghanedd lusg’, the second uses ‘cynghanedd groes’, the third ‘cynghanedd draws’ and the last ‘cynghanedd sain’. As I cannot at this time offer any better explanation on the nature of these variations I suggest anyone interested in having a go at this form studies the rhymes/slant rhymes in the quoted example. Or you could, of course, be content to have a go at the apparently simplified version of the Englyn Penfyr (which should strictly also contain cynghanedd), following the rules given with my Spring Englyn post.

If it is of any comfort the Canadian poet Robert Skelton, who died in 1997, gave examples in his now out of print book ‘The Shapes of Our Singing’ (still available on Amazon) but he does not use strict cynghanedd on the basis that it just doesn’t work as well in English as it does in Welsh. I’m not sure I will attempt the far more complicated rules I have tried to explain here but if you wish to have a go all I can say is Good Luck!

Mystery Solved

When we came home from our autumn holiday I noticed that all along the back of our house, scattered over the tubs and flower-pots there were a quantity of little polystyrene balls. I could only think that they were packaging from something my son had bought while we were away but he said not. So where had they come from? Since no others appeared I soon put it down to one of those things you never find out and forgot all about it.

Then, last Tuesday as I was getting ready to go out, with a weather forecast of rain and possibly sleet, I glanced out of the kitchen window and noticed a few spots of white stuff floating down. I assumed it was the promised sleet. When I went out to the car however it was not raining, nor was it raining when I returned home at mid-day. Again glancing out of the kitchen window I noticed a few little puffs of the white spots floating down quite close to the window and realised it was more little polystyrene balls. I went outside to investigate.

Looking up at the back of the house I could see a hole in the wall just above the waste water pipe from the bathroom where it angles to join the soil downpipe. Every now and then a little puff of polystyrene balls came floating out of the hole. My husband came up from working at the bottom of the garden and asked what I was looking at so I pointed out the hole. Now, a few years ago we re-jigged the bathroom and this hole was where an overflow pipe had emerged. The pipe was no longer needed and had been removed. The hole had been mortared over, quite badly, and some mortar had fallen out! What was floating out was obviously our cavity wall insulation. Then we noticed a slight movement in the hole. “Must be a mouse or something,” said hubby and we wondered how a mouse had got up there. Something moved again. “No, it’s a bird.”

As it moved yet again, pushing out more polystyrene balls we could see a beak and a white head marking, but not much else. It had to be a small bird to fit through the hole so my first thought was that it was a Long-tailed Tit, being small birds with white head markings. We assumed it was nest-building there. I wasn’t quite sure about my identification as Long-tailed Tits are gregarious birds flying around in gaggles of half-a dozen or more and it seemed strange that one should choose to snuggle up for the winter and nest alone.

Hubby got the ladder and climbed up to enlarge the hole by removing some of the mortar and peer in, but he couldn’t see anything and nothing moved. He then decided to knock out the half-brick that was next to the hole. Still nothing flew out and nothing pecked him when he stuck his hand in. Quite clearly we were concerned about having the bird nest in our wall and tossing out our insulation. Having stood on watch for a while with nothing emerging we decided to go indoors for lunch. While sitting at the kitchen table, underneath the hole I suddenly caught a glimpse of a bird flying from the wall into our neighbour’s hedge so we immediately went outside again. Up the ladder once more, my husband began to fill in the cavity wall around the hole with glass-fibre insulation that he just happened to have spare and then, when we were as sure as we could be that there were no birds inside he found another brick, cut it to size and filled in the enlarged hole properly. I watched carefully over the course of the afternoon but no distressed bird returned trying to get back in so I assume it was the only occupant.

Not being sure of my identification I thought about it some more. The beak and bit of head that we did see seemed too sleek to my thinking to be a Tit so I looked in my bird books and I now think it more likely that it was a Pied Wagtail as these are known for being more independent and for nesting in walls. Whatever it was it had chosen a good spot – the angled waste water pipe provided a ‘doorstep’ in front of the hole and it was only a few short yards to a ready supply of food at the bird feeders. It had found itself a cosy bijou residence for the winter! We really could not leave it to nest in our cavity wall but I can’t help feeling a bit guilty about evicting it. I just hope it has found somewhere else cosy to build its nest.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

NB Pictures from Wikipedia and the RSPB

Twelve Days

Candles and hollyMy friends who follow me on Facebook will already be familiar with this rant but I want to share it here too. To whit, the Twelve Days of Christmas.

Christmas celebrations seem to begin earlier every year and from at least the beginning of December you can expect to see Christmas decorations and hear Christmas ‘musac’ everywhere. People decorate their homes and gardens earlier and earlier as if trying to score points by being the first, with the result that by the time Christmas actually arrives they are already fed up with them and longing to take them down. Some even do this on Boxing Day, if they can take time off spending yet more money in the ‘Sales’ that they might even have queued up for over night! Others do at least last out until New Year, but as far as many people are concerned Christmas is over, they are back at work and the children will be back at school in a day or two if not already.

On 2nd January this year my husband and I visited our local tip with some junk cleared from our barn. There were people there throwing away their Christmas trees. It saddens me. There are twelve days of Christmas – the first being Christmas Day itself, so twelfth night is the night of 5th January and traditionally decorations stay up until then, not being taken day until 6th January. This is also, in Christian tradition, when the three wise men arrived at the stable – Epiphany. Even in pre-Christian times the celebrations at this time of year lasted for many days welcoming the return of the light with feasting and firelight.

I believe in tradition and I think it is good to honour the old traditions, it is the way I was brought up. When I was little, yes decorations were seen in the shops from around mid-December and yes, we probably visited Santa in his grotto to tell him what we wanted for Christmas, or we wrote our letter and posted it up the chimney (who has those these days – well actually we do, but many don’t) but decorations were not put up in our house until after my older sister and I had gone to bed on Christmas Eve. That way, when we came down on Christmas morning it was wonderfully exciting, it had wow factor.

As we got older we were allowed to help with the decorations and eventually do it all ourselves, but still not until Christmas Eve (i.e. the day before the first day of Christmas). When I had my own home I carried on this tradition although, with so much to do at that time it gradually got slightly earlier, to maybe the weekend before Christmas. As my youngest son’s birthday is 20th December we usually got the decorations up by then, in time for his party and often ‘Santa’ dropped by to give the children their goody bags, but even so they never came down before 6th January, we had our full twelve days of Christmas.

This year I have had a slight problem in that we have been away this weekend in order to attend a family gathering hosted by my brother-in-law and his wife on 6th January, which was great, but I can’t be in two places at once. What was I to do about the decorations? For the first time ever I have taken some down before twelfth night. I took down the outside tree lights (no-one was going to turn them on when it got dark anyway) and those in the porch and hallway, I have also removed the odd piece of tinsel but the bulk have stayed in place, including the indoor tree, and they will have to wait until we get home tomorrow before being packed away for next Christmas – a compromise of sorts!

Meanwhile maybe I will start a campaign to bring back the full twelve days of Christmas – and it starts here!

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

I’m back again, but other than to wish you all a very Happy New Year I haven’t really planned anything to write about so this is on the fly!

I do hope you have all had a wonderful festive season though I confess I have found it hard this year to get into the festive spirit and somehow it seems even more depressing when you know it is a time of jollity and celebration but you are just not in the mood. This has not been helped by my husband’s recent angina diagnosis and the return of the sciatica I suffered last winter which this time seems even more painful, and then on Christmas morning the sad news that my daughter and partner’s lovely border collie Rufus had to be put to sleep on Christmas Eve to relieve his suffering from cancer!  Despite that I did have a wonderful time and everything fell into place just as it usually does, with most of the family around me.

Now is the time, they tell us, for making New Year resolutions. I confess I’m not really into this – if I make any I usually forget what they were within a few days and as for keeping them…. that’s another issue altogether! Perhaps I ought to write them down so that I can refer to them from time to time, but this seems a little too organised for me. One resolution I will make though is to try to look out for all the good news during 2018 and not let myself get bogged down in all the bad news that the media seems to prefer to report in the most dramatically depressing way possible.

One thing I will try to take on board this year is to not plan to use an untried recipe for a special occasion. I had planned to make a raspberry swirl cheesecake when the family all came to us for Boxing Day, having spent Christmas Day at my eldest son’s. This was as an alternative to the Christmas Pudding I was doing for dinner, knowing that not everyone likes Christmas Pud. I had found a recipe that seemed very quick and easy to whip up. Fortunately before I made it my youngest son informed me that his girlfriend, who was joining us, didn’t want to come empty-handed so was bringing a cheesecake as an offering for the meal. I say fortunately advisedly!

I had bought in all the necessary ingredients so I thought, OK I’ll make it later in the week. I made it yesterday when only my husband, my youngest son and I would be present for dinner. Yes, it was relatively quick and easy to prepare but as I was making it, having checked the ingredients several times, it seemed to me that there was rather a lot of liquid and it wasn’t thickening up. I thought perhaps it would thicken once put into the fridge to chill so I poured it onto the biscuit base anyway, and indeed it did seem to set in the fridge – until I went to get it out for the meal. Then I discovered that all the raspberry juice had leaked out of the bottom of the loose-bottomed flan dish and was all over the shelf in the fridge! Needless to say I couldn’t risk taking it off the flan base as it had an exceedingly soggy biscuit bottom. One the plus side, it did actually taste delicious but if I make that recipe again I shall cut back on the liquid. I’m glad I didn’t make it for Christmas after-all, though I guess we would probably have had a good laugh about it. Now I have the problem that there is rather a lot of it for just three people and it is going to take several days for us to eat it up – we’ll probably be sick  of cheesecake by then. Ah well, worse things happen at sea, as my mother used to say.

As a footnote I must say that my gluten-free Christmas Cake was a success and that recipe is definitely one to use again (see previous post here). I hope all your culinary experiments were successful and that all your dreams come true in 2018.

Season’s Greetings

Season's Greetings

As usual I am taking a break over the Christmas period so this will be my last post until the New Year but I couldn’t depart without wishing you all the joys of the season.

Apparently, so we are told, to say ‘Merry Christmas’ can be offensive to those for whom it doesn’t accord with their own religious or non-religious view. I tend to feel this is quite untrue, but here in the UK we do try to bend over backwards not to offend those of other religious views. I am sure that most reasonable people are just as happy for us to recognise our own traditions as they do their own. These days Christmas has, for most, become a very commercial concern anyway, with very little to do with religion at all.

The ‘Nativity’ has been side-lined, despite the name Christians give to the season being Christ-mas. However this is a country based on the Christian ideals and even if we are not regular church goers, those ideals are none-the-less a great moral code to live by. What’s wrong with a good seasonal story about a baby (the son/sun) born into poverty but destined to bring ‘light’ into the world? Besides, I confess that hearing young children singing ‘Away in a Manger’ always brings a tear to my eye and a lump to my throat.

In order not to cause offence some people have decided that the Christmas season should simply be called ‘Winter Festival’ and people should say ‘Happy Holidays’ as a cover-all, but to me these are all too vague. Mid-winter Festival might be more accurate and mankind has always held festivals at this time of the year, to celebrate the winter solstice – when the year turns and the sun (or son to Christians) returns, bringing light back into the world. As for ‘Happy Holidays’ – for me this is utterly meaningless. It could just as easily apply to our summer break or a holiday at any other period of the year. It is non-specific, vague and sounds insincere and bland.

In the past the season has been called ‘Yuletide’ – a name which due to its Pagan association has now been  phased out from mainstream awareness and yet to the Scandinavians ‘Jul’ is the word they use for Christmas. I miss the Christmas cards we used to see when I was a child which were just as likely to say ‘Yuletide Greetings’ as ‘Christmas Greetings’. This is the term I favour for the season, I like traditions, I like to keep these things going, also it recognises our northern heritage.

But even ‘Yuletide Greetings’ may be considered ‘offensive’ to those of other traditions (and some Christians), or so we are led to believe. So the problem remains; what term can we use that is potentially least offensive to the greatest numbers of people. I have settled on a phrase that says exactly what it is – Season’s Greetings to one and all! See you in the New Year.

Seaonal Banner

Woodpecker

great spotted woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

I love to see birds in my garden and especially at the feeders, which I can clearly see through my kitchen window, and since I do most of my computing at the kitchen table I do take frequent glances outside.

Over the past years there has always been lots of pigeons monopolizing the feeders and keeping all but the bravest of small birds at bay. But over recent months I have noticed something of a change. There seems to be far fewer pigeons about. Instead of the usual 8 or 10 at a time we seem to be down to only one or two, maybe three, at less frequent intervals. Pigeons are a bit of a nuisance and, yes, I have often said that we have far too many; but I don’t dislike the birds and would not like them to disappear altogether. I can’t help wondering if the steady increase in birds of prey in the area is to blame. I often see buzzards circling around and have also seen peregrine falcons on occasions, which are known to catch pigeons and other birds in flight. I have also come across complete bundles of feathers on the ground which could not possibly have been left by a cat for example. We no longer have a cat, but even when we did there was no way she would tackle a pigeon!

Nuthatch

Nuthatch

On the plus side, the reduction in the pigeon population has allowed far more of our small garden birds to visit the feeders. As well as the usual blue-tits, coal-tits, great-tits, long-tailed-tits, robins, sparrows and various finches that have ventured in when the pigeons are around, we have been visited this year, since the pigeon’s decline, by several nuthatches – the first time that I have ever noticed them in our garden. They are a joy to watch. Blackbirds are also regulars but there seems to be an increase in thrushes as well, and particularly I have noticed redwing thrushes feasting on the Pyracantha berries against the fence this year, having been noticeably absent for a couple of years.

Starlings had been gradually increasing too, a nuisance in some areas and considered pests where I grew up, I hardly ever saw them here until a few years ago and gradually we saw a few more, but never more than half a dozen or so. Now they have now disappeared again and I wonder why.

However there is one bird I have never seen in my garden before, though I know other people outside my immediate area who do have them regularly, and that is a Great Spotted Woodpecker. What a wonderful surprise to see one, a female, fly in to our feeders. Just the one, just the once – so far; at least when I have been looking. Perhaps with this spell of cold weather we have been having she will become a more frequent visitor, then perhaps I may get my own photo instead of sharing the one above which, along with the picture of the Nuthatch, I found on the Internet!

Christmas Cake

One of the problems with going on an Autumn holiday and not getting home until Christmas is only a shout away is that everything becomes a rush to catch up. However, I have today at last made my Christmas Cake and have just extricated it from the oven.

We don’t eat a lot of cake these days so I don’t do much baking, but Christmas is that bit special and I usually make a point of making my own. Last year I didn’t get home from our Autumn vacation until early December, giving me even less time, so I admit I cheated and bought one. It was nice, but this year I was determined to do it myself once more. (Sorry, no picture as it is still cooling down in the tin and won’t be decorated until nearer the time.)

In the past I have made a recipe inherited from my mother but this has caused a few problems in recent years. It requires the cake to be put in a cold electric oven which is then turned on and the cake baked for however many hours, then you turn it off and leave it in until the oven is cold. I usually arranged to turn it off just before I went to bed and it could then stay there cooling down until morning. The first problem with this is that the recipe was devised pre-fan ovens and although my oven is electric it is a fan oven. This simply fact actually alters the required cooking time and I never managed to perfect the adjustment so sometimes the cake came out just a little too well done around the edges – still nice in the middle though. The other problem is that most of my family are not actually over-fond of rich fruit cake (I love it!) and now the offspring have all-but left the roost this particular recipe makes a cake that is far too big for my current needs, and again, with the cooking problems it presents too much of a problem to half the quantity and re-adjust the cooking time – it’s not as if it is something I do on a regular basis so that I can practice variations, it needs to be right first time.

For the last several years I have been thinking of trying a different recipe to make a smaller cake and have from time to time researched in various recipe books. Just before we went away and conscious of the fact that I am trying to edge towards a wheat/gluten-free diet (see previous post here) I found a couple of recipes in two gluten-free cook books I have acquired and decided to try one of those. Gluten-free? The only discernible difference from your average rich fruit cake recipe is that it uses rice flour rather than wheat flour.

I have made the one that I thought sounded easiest, though there was not much to choose between them. If I am sufficiently well organised I might make some notes on what I think of it and maybe try the other one next year so that I can decide between the two which one to favour in the future. I can’t wait to try it.

 

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