Thursday, 30 June 2016

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this date in Junes past

My first throwback for the 30th of June is a simple and
Delicious crumbly biscuits 
reliable biscuit recipe which I posted in 2013 having baked a batch in our Polegate kitchen. I had been baking these crumbly biscuits every once in a while for many years beforehand and the original go-to recipe is probably buried somewhere in my Good Housekeeping Cookery Compendium - either that or I saw it on Blue Peter!

By the end of June 2014, I had graduated to baking bread and we treated ourselves to a week of varied theatre trips, the 30th of June event being a performance of Shakespeare's The Tempest broadcast to Eastbourne's Cineworld cinema from The Globe Theatre. From the sublime to the ridiculous, the next night saw us at The Devonshire Park Theatre for a live performance of The Play That Goes Wrong. Our friend Linda had recommended this to us and it truly is hilarious. We loved every minute! If you haven't seen it yet, I think the play is still on in London and there's now a Peter Pan Goes Wrong play from the same team.

Another year goes by and we spent the last day of June
Dave walking in Northumberland 
2015 on a ten mile walk around Harthope Burn and Broadstruther in Northumberland. It's such a gorgeous part of the country and, although the sky looks cloudy in this photograph, was a gloriously hot summer's day. The walk was a mixture of quiet roads, burnside grass and narrow peat footpaths across bracken and heather moorland. We spotted our first oystercatcher which we were very pleased about, but still hadn't seen a red squirel although there were signs 'promising' that we would!

That's all for this month's reminiscing. If you want to share your own #ThrowbackThursday posts, feel welcome to drop a link in the Comments. Next month I'll be remembering 28th of Julys.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

A month in books - June 2016

For those of you who have noticed something missing on Stephanie Jane, but can't quite put your finger on what, I am now publishing my book reviews daily on a new blog, Literary Flits! Please do click through and take a look!

I didn't want readers over here to be completely literarily bereft though so I have resurrected my 'A Month in Books' roundup posts. Here you can find out what I read in June and where you can buy yourself a copy, and you can click through to the relevant Literary Flits posts to read my full book reviews.

Here's the books I read and listened to in June:

The Parable Book by Per Olov Enquist

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

I chose this English translation of The Parable Book from NetGalley as its original Swedish publication was highly regarded selling 20,000 copies in just its first week! Unfortunately I didn't get on with the book at all and gave up half-way through.


Disgrace by J M Coetzee

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

I bought a copy of Disgrace from Totnes Community Bookshop and was impressed with the writing. It's not an easy novel in themes or for likeable characters, but I found it an ultimately rewarding read.


Spinsters' Rock by Caeia March

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

As a teenager I went through a phase of reading Women's Press books, but the books are harder to find now so I made a point to swap for Spinsters' Rock when I saw the novel at Dornafield campsite last month. The novel follows lesbian couple Dee and Lotte who find themselves sharing their home with troubled teenager Gail. Spinsters' Rock is very much a novel of friendship and women being strong for themselves and for other women.


The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo

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The Alchemist celebrated its 25th anniversary last year so I am definitely late to the party in only just having picked up a copy to read. The fable of a young shepherd search for his destiny, has become a contemporary classic and is easy to see why!


Young Hearts Crying by Richard Yates

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Yates explores the search for happiness in Young Hearts Crying. We follow the lives of Michael and Lucy, together and apart, over more than two decades as they strive to find their niches in life. The novel begins similarly to Revolutionary Road and I would liken its overall feel to books by Kent Haruf and Anne Tyler.


The Stationmaster by Jiro Asada

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Asada is a well-known writer in Japan and this collection of eight short stories was newly published in English in June. The stories explore universal themes such as aging, illegal immigration, family bonds and social duty and I was very impressed with them all. Great writing.


The German Messenger by David Malcolm

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

I received a copy of this entertaining espionage adventure tale set across First World War Europe after 'meeting' its publisher on Twitter. The German Messenger is my third book for the 2016 Read Scotland Challenge.


Shuttered Life by Florentine Roth

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A German young adult mystery novel set in an aristocratic ancestral home. Elisa returns to her childhood home for the first time in years after her uncle is taken ill. Her relations behave oddly and when Elisa begins receiving menacing notes, she sets to work narrowing down the suspects.


A House For Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

An interesting exploration of the issues surrounding paid surrogacy in which an affluent Indian-American woman pays a poor South Indian woman to have the baby she is unable to carry to term. Malladi shows us both sides of the story and the intense emotional impact involved.


Love in Exile by Ayse Kulin

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Popular Turkish author Ayse Kulin uses her family history to evoke turbulent years in Istanbul as the old ways of the Ottoman Empire gave way to the new modernity of the Turkish Republic. A fascinating portrayal of a country undergoing extreme change.


Gulag 101 by Nico Reznick

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

I loved this sharp and insightful poetry collection and had no hesitation in awarding it five stars. Indie author Nico Reznick has a distinctive voice and, if you're looking for purchasing suggestions for Indie Pride Day on the 1st of July, I would highly recommend this book.


Waiting For The Barbarians by J M Coetzee

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

Another superb five star read and a very powerful novel which, for me, summed up a lot of the misdirection and antagonism of the Brexit campaigns despite Coetzee having published this thirty-six years ago and thousands of miles away. I guess people are depressingly the same wherever and whenever we live!


Victorian by Jordan Elizabeth

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

Indie author Jordan Elizabeth got in touch a few weeks ago to ask if I would like a preview copy of Victorian as I have enjoyed several of her previous books. This one is surprisingly adult in its themes of coping with and overcoming traumatic past events, but also includes a ghostly mystery to lighten the tone.


Donny's Brain by Rona Munro

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

The 2016 AudioSYNC season is in full swing and I am enjoying my third summer of their weekly free audiobook downloads. Donny's Brain was one of last week's pairing and is a very interesting audio play exploring the effects of brain damage and memory loss .


The Swimmers by Joaquin Perez Azaustre

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Read my full book review on Literary Flits

A Spanish novel for my final new read of June, albeit not a completely satisfying one. I liked individual chapters and sections of The Swimmers, but struggled to maintain my concentration and understand the underlying meaning of the story.


So that's it for June. Fifteen books from authors in eleven countries and some fabulous reads among them! As an FYI, all the Buy links are affiliate links so I would get a few pennies should you click through and purchase a book. If you agree with my SmallSteps blog post and are looking to BuyBritish, then Speedyhen and Waterstones are British businesses. Caeia March and Nico Reznick are English authors. David Malcolm and Rona Munro are Scottish. If you would like to ShopLocal then localbookshops.co.uk lists independent bookshops across the UK and Ireland.

The next Month In Books post will be published on Stephanie Jane at the end of July and will definitely include reviews of Greek war fiction - Orthokosta by Thanassis Valtinos, historical Russian fiction - The Gambler by Fyodor Dostoyevski, and Canadian indie fiction - Haven by Katherine Bogle. If you can't wait that long, subscribe to my daily book review blog Literary Flits. There's a mixture of brand new books and reviews, revamped vintage reviews and a weekly giveaway to enter.

In the meantime, why not get involved with Indie Pride Day on the 1st July? It's a celebration of all books by indie authors and small publishers and I believe there are lots of events and giveaways planned online across Facebook and Twitter.

Happy reading!

Monday, 27 June 2016

My #SmallSteps plan to overcome #Brexit disaster

Logo from A British Family 
I voted Remain on Thursday - as you might have grasped from this post here - so was bitterly disappointed and worried come Friday morning as I know many others were too. Since then however I have been thinking about how we might just be able to avoid the worst forecast disasters of this Brexit farce and how Leave could work if enough of us really get behind the idea. I remarked on Facebook that maybe if we all enthusiastically support existing campaigns like ShopLocal, BuyBritish and JustACard we could keep our economy from completely bottoming out. I think if we all try to make a small difference - as much as we can - it could be enough and even eventually trigger economic growth. I want to expand on my theory in this post. )I will be saying Britain and British although Scottish devolution and Irish reunification might render these terms obsolete.)

I am seeing so many different ideologies at the moment from disgusting racist and xenophobic violence to calls to work towards beautiful utopia. I am also seeing defeatist comments that it's pointless to try because 'we don't make anything anymore' and the 'politicians need to sort everything out'. Utter rubbish! (Shameless plug alert) Even I make hats! And bookmarks! Hopefully this head in the sand approach is shock apathy talking because if there's one thing we should take away from this Referendum it's that many of our leading politicians couldn't organise a piss-up in a brewery. Whether Britain ends up leaving the EU or there's another Referendum, or Britain disintegrates into individual countries, the processes will take time and we are already seeing extreme financial volability that will harm trade and jobs across Europe and the world. Already prices are rising and while I agree that it is difficult to see how an individual has significant influence, there are 65 million individuals in Britain and we need each only take SmallSteps. 65 million small steps is a long journey. Let's look at three small steps I plan to take.

Supporting British farmers and growers

When shopping at Morrison's a few days ago, there was only one variety of British-grown apple stocked amongst several from Chile and elsewhere, and ours were a few pence more expensive. I can't remember exactly, but maybe 30p more for a bag of five - an affordable difference. Now, nothing against the Chileans, great people and I like their literature, but I bought the British grown fruit. Obviously I realise that one bag and 30p won't actually make a blind bit of difference. But remember the 65 million? Just imagine the effect if we all coughed up 30p extra and bought British apples? We'd run out of apples! This is the big idea behind the JustACard campaign. Many people making small purchases have a huge impact in preserving businesses. Don't be embarrassed about only spending a small amount somewhere. Something is always better than nothing!
In Britain we still grow a lot of produce and raise food animals. We have those aforementioned breweries, plus cheesemakers, fishing fleets, market gardeners, beekeepers, ... I am not advocating a complete boycott of non-British produce, but I am going to retrain my brain away from always choosing the cheapest to choosing the most local.

I am going to make a point to CheckTheLabel and BuyBritish whenever that is an option.

Supporting my local businesses

Of course, shopping at a large chain like Morrison's, while convenient, doesn't help my local town economy much. While travelling around the UK last summer we noticed the most vibrant towns were those where people still used their High Streets, visited their weekly markets and had a genuine sense of community. In France towns even have some of their markets in the evenings so people can visit after work. It's like a little weekly street party! I like independent shops and cafes anyway, so making more of an effort to ShopLocal and use them won't be too arduous. Vibrant towns are attractive to investment so supporting mine will help it to create jobs, thereby encouraging new shops and businesses to set up in a self-propelling chain reaction.
This Totally Locally poster illustrates the community benefits well:


Plus small businesses are less likely to have shareholders swallowing up chunks of their profits and are more likely to pay their full share of taxes. And those businesses are owned and staffed by local people too so it's in their interest to spend locally what you pay to them. Large chains siphon off a high proportion of their income to head office locations which might not even be in Britain. Obviously some large purchases like cars, furniture and household appliances might be difficult to find on the High Street as so many shops have been forced out of business over recent decades, but the internet is a great resource for locating what I need. Britain has a strong artisan and craftsperson manufacturing sector. Prices do seem higher, but the crashing pound is likely to erode the apparent cheapness of many foreign made products and, especially for gift giving, why buy mass produced plastic crap from the other side of the world when surely a unique locally made and chosen item is far more meaningful?

I am going to make a point to ShopLocal whenever possible. If I can find and afford a product locally, I will buy it there. If not, I will prioritise British businesses that actually manufacture in Britain and pay their full tax liability here followed by overseas businesses that manufacture in Britain and pay their full tax liability here. Tax avoiding businesses and products manufactured overseas will be my last resort.

Minimising my resource drain

£350 million a week for the NHS was a much publicised and now discredited VoteLeave campaign statement. I wondered how much of that we could actually save anyway by just making small lifestyle changes. Healthier people need fewer health services and, while I don't consider myself a drain on the NHS right now, who knows what I might be setting myself up for in the future?
With the loss of EU membership will also come the loss of EU legislation on environmental aspects such as air pollution levels and green space conservation. It would be nice to think the Tory government would keep these laws, but I don't hold out much hope! Greenpeace are already gearing up for the fight, but there is a lot we can do as individuals too. Air pollution is one of the major killers in the UK and a lot of the problem is caused by congested traffic in our towns and cities.
I actually use our car less with our caravan lifestyle than I did living in a house, by several thousand miles a year, but I could reduce it still further by walking or cycling every short journey. The exercise will benefit me and the reduced diesel emissions will benefit everyone. Petrol and diesel prices will no doubt shoot up as a result of the crashing pound so saving money by not driving makes sense too and the more of us who use and insist on safe footpaths and cycle lanes, the more that will be marked out and built. That's more jobs being created too. Walking into town ties back in with ShopLocal as well. I am more likely to get a good sense of what businesses actually operate in my town by walking past them. I notice far more on foot than I ever do through a car window.

I am going to make a point to eat more healthily and walk or cycle journeys of a mile or less.

So, those are my three SmallSteps lifestyle changes which I hope will benefit me as well as whatever is left of my country. I am looking forward to the challenge and would love to discover other such practical suggestions too. Please do Comment your ideas! As a national community, I know we have a huge struggle ahead and the current lack of decisive leadership really isn't helping anyone. Whether Brexit becomes reality or whether Hugh Laurie's suggestion of 'Best of three?' is the route chosen, I think my SmallSteps, if undertaken by enough of us, will result in a revitalised country able to maintain a useful role in Europe and the world.

Friday, 24 June 2016

#Brexit - where do we go from here?

I stayed up until half past five so I am way too tired to blog my disappointment properly. It might be bittersweet to watch the lies and mistruths unravelling over the next few days and weeks - I notice Farage backpedalling already on Good Morning Britain about EU money being diverted to the NHS. 

Instead I'll let the Buffy crew express how I feel right now and hopefully I'll be less depressed about it all tomorrow ...


Thursday, 23 June 2016

Make sure you vote today!


That large banner might have given a clue as to how I will be voting today!

Please, if you are eligible to vote in the UK, make sure you use your vote today, especially if you are female. British women have only had voting rights for less than a century. Respect the women who fought and died for this right and

Use Your Vote Today!

Yes, even if you are voting the Other Way, I'd rather you used your vote 'against' me than didn't bother to vote at all. I really don't want this vital referendum to be decided by such a low proportion of us as turned out for the General Election. 

Of course, if you are still undecided, I can wax lyrical about why I believe remaining in the EU is best for Britain.

Are you sitting comfortably?

My personal priority is freedom of travel. I like being able to travel in and between EU countries without restriction. I like that I often get free entry to museums and important historic sites because I am an EU citizen. I like the reassurance of my EHIC card and I like feeling European as well as British. My family history was traced back through many generations and it's highly likely I'm part Norman on one side, part Viking on the other and goodness knows what else in between. Everyone on this island is an immigrant if we look back far enough! Where would the line be drawn? And thousands of us Brits take advantage of our right to live, work and study in other EU countries. If we swing towards isolationism and send their people back home, they will send ours home too. It will still feel as crowded here and we haven't even addressed non-EU migration yet OVER WHICH WE ALREADY HAVE FULL CONTROL.

As workers, many of our current rights are due to EU laws, not UK laws. Priti Patel, a Brexit advocate, told the Institute of Directors: “If we could just halve the burdens of the EU social and employment legislation we could deliver a £4.3 billion boost to our economy and 60,000 new jobs.” That's great, but NOT when the 'burden' includes workers' rights to a maximum 48 hour working week, the right to be paid for Bank Holidays and a minimum number of holiday days, parental leave and equal opportunities legislation. Snigdha Nag, a Barrister and Senior Lecturer at The City Law School has written a great article about this. Please read it.

I could also tell you that after rebates, reductions and monies received, it actually costs us about £89 per person to be in the EU and that's actual cash without considering trade benefits etc. For contrast, Norway, a non-EU country, pays the equivalent of about £134 per person for EU trading rights, but they don't get any say in the decision making process. We do.

Then I could point out that the Leave campaign's 'We could spend that on the NHS' statements tend to only use the word COULD. Not WILL. COULD. If Johnson, Farage and Gove are on the winning side, you just know they very probably WON'T. 

The EU isn't the whole answer and no one is pretending it's a perfect system, but it has brought Europe together. These days countries talk instead of physically attacking each other - most of the time. British charities benefit from EU funding, our nature benefits from EU protection and our lungs benefit from EU air quality targets. We could do these things independently, but look at who is driving the Leave bandwagon. Do you really think they would?


Are you still here?


The polls opened at 7am and will be open until 10pm tonight. Don't leave it until the last minute. If you're late, you won't be allowed to vote. Go and vote now. Vote in your lunch break. Vote before you go home or to the pub. 

Please do vote today!


Wednesday, 22 June 2016

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

There's still over a week of June left to get through so if
you're trying to stretch your bank balance to the end of this month, I hope some of these deals and bargains will help! For readers, my new giveaway over on Literary Flits starts at noon (UK time) today and this week's prize is books. Last week's giveaway for a handmade hat is still open for entries until midnight tonight too.

A good cuppa is an essential in this house caravan and Twinings have got two good deals going at the moment. Get 20% off Fruit and Herbal Infusions until the 30th of June by using the code SUMMER at checkout or treat yourself to a whopping 25% off Loose Tea Caddies until the 27th of June with the code CADDY at checkout.

Are you a Camping And Caravanning Club member? If so, you might already be aware that you can get 10% off the discount card price at Go Outdoors BUT, to celebrate the first anniversary of this partnership, that discount is increasing to 20% for a limited time. To take advantage, visit the Go Outdoors website and enter code CLUBAVSRY20 at checkout. The double discount code is valid until the 17th of July and you will need to have a Go Outdoors discount card as well as Camping And Caravanning Club membership.

Fitness gets a boost at 66Fit until the end of July with 12.5% off all products with the checkout code AFF12. I have bought equipment from 66Fit before including weights and foam rollers and was pleased with both the speed of shipping and the quality of their products. Take a look at balance boards, exercise weights and balls, bands and tubes, supports and braces, tens machines, massage rollers, swimming aids, pilates and yoga equipment ... you get the picture! There's a great range to choose from!

I am told it has been 950 years since the Battle Of Hastings when English King Harold was killed and the new Norman King Guillaume le Conquerant (William the Conqueror) was crowned instead. English Heritage are celebrating with a fun treasure hunt that might just last all summer. They have hidden 1066 arrows at 257 English Heritage sites across the country. Each has a unique code and there are prizes for every one found. It's the perfect time to get yourself and your family that English Heritage membership you've been planning(!) and you can save 10% of the cost with checkout code EH2016 which is valid until the 30th of June.

Finally for this month's bargains, Waitrose have just announced a deal for new online shoppers - £60 off your first 3 online shops when you spend £100. There's free delivery too when using their codes. Orders must be placed for delivery before the 17th of July.



I hope you find these offers useful and I will keep my eyes open for more to share in July.

Monday, 20 June 2016

A festival weekend - Feastival Sunday at Eastbourne

Decisions ... 
What a difference a day makes! I am so glad that Eastbourne's Feastival this weekend just gone wasn't drenched in the constant rain we had overnight and this morning. I wonder how much of a quagmire Princes Park is right now?

Considering this was only the second occurence of Feastival, the organisers put on a great display with dozens of stalls cooking up foods from all over the world to appeal to any palate. The website lists Spanish, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, French, American, Mexican, Italian, English, Eastern European, Greek, African, Portuguese and Turkish food on offer. We had to walk right around the field twice just to make up our minds what to have for lunch! Considering the current migration hysteria which has taken over Thursday's vote, it was great to see such a positive illustration of a benefit of immigration to Britain.

I chose a vegetarian Yakisoba noodles from Yoshi's
Decisions ... 
Catering which was a tasty and filling mix of fried Japanese ramen noodles with cabbage, carrots and other vegetables, topped with dried seaweed and a ginger and soy sauce. Dave chose beautifully slow cooked Hogget Verdi (lamb) from Forgotten Cuts Co. The meat was served with chips which soaked up the delicious juices, but did go cold a bit too quickly in that chilly seafront wind. For afters we shared a tub of Churros And Chocolate from Pepe's and sat back on the grass to enjoy the music in the sunshine. I did briefly wish we had festival chairs like we borrowed for Broadstock on Saturday, but the ground wasn't too bad.

On the downside, while the bands we heard were good, we
Decisions ... 
both thought that it would have been nice if some cultural diversity had been offered through the music too instead of the all white, all male line-up we saw. Perhaps it had been more varied on the Saturday?

Our soporific sunshine began to cloud over in the late afternoon and instead of digging more clothing layers out of the car (£3 for all day car parking) we decided to stay to the end of Frankie Says and then call it a day. We didn't manage to get away easily though because I spotted the Yummy Things Bakery stall had reduced the last of their chocolate brownie slices to a frankly unrefusable 50p each. We snapped up a Chilli And Lime and a Salted Caramel brownie slice to take away and both were very good.

Decisions ... 

Sunday, 19 June 2016

A festival weekend - Broadstock Saturday at Crowhurst


Continuing our run of busy weekends, we are cramming two festivals into this one! Yesterday we were fortunate to have been invited to join our friends Steve and Frances at a fabulous little festival local to their village of Crowhurst, near Hastings in East Sussex. Broadstock Music Festival has been running for several years now, with a brief hiatus last year, and takes place in the beautiful grounds of Broadwood. Limited to just 300 adult tickets, it's a perfect size of music festival for me and its proceeds are reinvested back into the village. There is a camping field, children's activities including a very good face painter, one music stage and two food options - pizza or cupcakes!

Before I mention the music, I will say thank you to
The Pizza Laundry 
everyone who baked cakes and womanned the refreshments stall. I should have taken a photo of the selection early in the day because it was certainly an enticing display! I thought the pizzas were tasty too and was glad to see the van doing a steady trade. If you spot this Pizza Laundry van anywhere, do give them a try! They really do have a wood fired oven in there and I was impressed with our very thin crust red onion, pine nut, mozzarella and basil pizza. I did mean to find out why the Pizza Laundry name, but forgot to go back and read the sign. If anyone knows, please Comment!

The main event for me was, of course, the music and,
Sharpe And Larsson at Broadstock 
although we only stayed until about half past seven rather than until the death at ten, we got talented musicians and a well-thought through variety. I was pleased to finally meet and hear local guitarist Hratch. He and Dave played together in pre-me days and we both loved his set. Entirely new to us were bluesy trio Sharpe And Larsson and this was perfect laid-back music for a sunny festival afternoon! If you liked their sound as much as I did, further dates are on Helen Sharpe's Facebook page and they are playing at a jazz breakfast in Crowhurst sometime in October. I'm not sure if we will be back this way again then or not.

Brief mentions also to two other sets that particularly caught my ear: we only got to hear Son Of Kirk as a duo instead of their usual four piece, but I loved their sound and lyrics and we tracked them down online when we got home to experience the full sound with cello. Love cello! My other favourites were Tunbridge Wells-based Island Cassettes with their fun indie/worldbeat music which reminded me a little of Graceland-era Paul Simon.

Huge thanks to everyone who made this festival happen. I'll finish with a few YouTubes so you can hear the great music too!




Friday, 17 June 2016

We see art in Worthing - Open Houses and along the Pier

I will admit that I had never thought of Sussex seaside
Trees by Frances Cheeseman 
town Worthing as being a particular hub of the art world so I was pleased to have this perception challenged on Friday when Dave and I visited the town to meet up with his daughter, Chrissie. We began by getting a preview of a few of the venues for the Worthing Artists Open Houses art trail event. This year promises to be the biggest and best yet seen in the town with sixty venues showing work by over 250 artists. The venues are open over three weekends - 18/19 June, 25/26 June and 2/3 July 2016 - and the work on show includes paintings, jewellery, sculpture, prints, stained glass, textiles and pots.

We took a look around Venue 39 which is Andy Manuell's Stonemason shop on South Street in Tarring. Work here includes painting, drawing, photography and collage and I was told that the shop enjoys keeping pieces on display all year, not just for the three weekends. I particularly liked a series of windswept trees by Frances Cheeseman (four pictured above) and also mixed media llama images by Jacqui Lauder.

Swordfish sculpture on Worthing seafront 
This swordfish sculpture is high on a wall outside Venue 8 - Coast Cafe Des Artistes on Beach Parade. There is a line of beach huts here too which are now artists' studios. Only a couple were open on a windy Wednesday afternoon but we did get to admire work at The Book Hut where Maudie Gunzie works to conserve and preserve vintage books by rebinding them and also sells elegant hand-bound notebooks and journals in varying designs and sizes.

After a lunch at the Indigo Restaurant - I enjoyed my Chickpea Chilli Burger, but Dave was a little underwhelmed by his Slow Cooked Pork Belly - we strolled onto the Victorian pier. Designed by Robert Rawlinson and opened in 1862 this beautiful structure is an attraction in its own right, but it also hosts the Creative Waves Art On The Pier initiative which is now in its fifth year. 2016-17 work showcases creative selfies made by local schoolchildren in a variety of media including clay, textiles and collage. There is also work by Northbrook College Art And Design students and a heritage exhibition of historic local postcards.

We needed to walk almost right to the end of the Pier to see all the art so, if you visit too, don't turn back too soon and miss it! On the way there are stained glass panels which caught our interest. They all have a Worthing theme and pictured below is one of two by Ferring artist Chris Brown. It commemorates the vast amounts of wood that washed ashore in January 2009 from the Ice Prince sinking off the Dorset coast  (remember that?). If you would like to see more of Chris's work, her Open House is Venue 60 on the Trail!

Plank Attack by Chris Brown 

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Review: Where To Invade Next, a documentary by Michael Moore

I'm quite a fan of Michael Moore films having enjoyed being both educated and shocked by Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling For Columbine. Therefore I was happy to spot his newest documentary Where To Invade Next in the Ritzy Cinema listings for the very evening when we were staying up near Brixton. The film was only released here on the 10th of June so, for once, I was one of the first to see a movie!

'Academy Award-winning director Michael Moore returns with what may be his most provocative and hilarious film yet: Moore tells the Pentagon to "stand down" — he will do the invading for America from now on. Where to Invade Next is an expansive, rib-tickling, and subversive comedy in which Moore, playing the role of “invader,” visits a host of nations to learn how the U.S. could improve its own prospects. The creator of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine is back with this hilarious and eye-opening call to arms. Turns out the solutions to America’s most entrenched problems already exist in the world—they’re just waiting to be co-opted.'

It's an unusual premise for a film and the three of us - myself, Dave and his daughter Carrie - were engrossed throughout the two hour screening. It helps that the Ritzy has very comfortable seats! I did feel a bit uncomfortable about Moore's marching everywhere carrying a large Stars And Stripes, but I guess that would appeal more to the folks back in America and it was a successful parody of their current imperialism. What fascinated me was the difference in views about work-life balance and how to live well between many of our European neighbours and ourselves. (Well, between them and America obviously but much of the UK's self-perception seems similar to America's.) We gawped at Italy's standard eight week holiday entitlement and Slovenia's universal free university education, and were impressed by France's school meals system - both the food itself and the the children eating as though in a restaurant - Tunisian women's bravery is inspiring and Iceland's gender laws with regard to company board composition could have prevented the banking crisis. Plus having not so long ago read One Of Us, about Anders Breivik, seeing Norway's rehabilitating prison system was particularly interesting especially as it was contrasted with brief glimpses of the brutality of American prisons.

A timely release considering the current Brexit hysteria, I wondered whether the common sense portrayed in Where To Invade Next will persuade any Leavers that some European ideas are actually pretty good. After all, we in Britain have EU legislation to thank for the 48 hour working week and paid annual leave (great article about this by Snigdha Nag here). Moore does present a rather one-sided view by plucking the best idea from each country he visited and not always presenting a realistic view of the struggles needed to achieve it. However these isolated idea grabs were pretty much the idea of the film and, overall, I thought we were left with an uplifting utopian view, but one which could actually be very achievable - if there wasn't always more emphasis on profit for a few rather than good lives for many.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Visiting London: Borough Market, Tate Modern and The Blues Kitchen

Staying overnight in Tulse Hill this weekend meant that
The Shard, London 
our journey into central London took us to London Bridge railway station instead of our more usual starting point of London Victoria. I didn't realise the iconic Shard building was going to be directly overhead and looking straight up from its base was bizarre. Vertigo alert! We also spotted the Gherkin, the Cheese Grater and the new Walkie Talkie building peeping over the skyline. I couldn't get such good photos of that trio though and I am quite proud of this moody Shard shot!

Our first destination was Borough Market which I have heard about from others many times, but never actually visited before. On the way we passed a(nother) replica of Francis Drake's ship, The Golden Hinde. We were a little blase about it having recently seen a remarkably similar Golden Hinde in Brixham. Did someone order a job lot?!

Borough Market wasn't so much a place to visit as a giant hall to struggle through. Perhaps a rainy Saturday in June wasn't the best time to go because hundreds of other people had had the same idea. I got an idea of the wealth and variety of products on offer and the whole experience was quite overwhelming, but there wasn't enough space to properly browse. Our guide, Dave's daughter Carrie, told us that it's never much quieter there regardless of when you go! We did find a good lunch from the street food stalls. Dave sampled a Balkan spinach and cheese burek and I chose an Indian chickpea pancake filled with masala potatoes.

Tate Modern was also busy (especially the cafe where we
Valentine by Evelyne Axell 
were served quickly but had nowhere to sit!) but the crowds here were far less rushed. We toured the free galleries of hit-and-miss modern art. I found a few pieces I really liked, all of which (I think) was by artists whose work I hadn't seen before. Pictured to the right is Valentine created in 1966 by Belgian artist Evelyne Axell. Valentine depicts the liberation of the female body as personified by Soviet cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova. It is oil on canvas with the addition of an zipper and a helmet.

Babel 2001 by Brazilian artist Cildo Meireles was fabulous but impossible for me to photograph well as it was displayed in a darkened space. The work illustrates the information overload experienced in modern society and consists of a huge tower made of radios. There were dozens of them dating from the 1940s to the 2000s, tuned to different radio stations, and stacked from the floor to almost the high gallery ceiling. Finally, a display of numerous images by German artist John Heartfield were surprising as they were created and displayed in the 1930s and are very anti-Hitler and Nazi-ism. Six are pictured below so you can get the idea.

Images by John Heartfield 

After the Tate Modern we made our way to Brixton for an evening at the Ritzy Cinema. Last year we saw the film Suffragette there and this time we were lucky to catch the new Michael Moore documentary, Where To Invade Next. It's an interesting film which I will soon blog about fully in a post of its own.

The Blues Kitchen
(photo pinched from their website!) 
That busy Saturday pretty much wore us out and neighbours partying in their garden until 4am didn't allow us much sleep so I was glad to be taken to The Blues Kitchen for a reviving Sunday brunch. I absolutely loved the decor and ambience here. There is parquet flooring on the walls, Blues music images everywhere, a neon name in a fishtank, stained glass lampshades and beautiful copper tables. Whoever designed this place did a fantastic job! The food is excellent too. I had the Healthy Breakfast which included poached eggs, fried kale and sweetcorn fritters. Those fritters are now my new favourite food! And the coffee was considerably better than that served at the Tate. I definitely want to go back to The Blues Kitchen next time we are round Brixton way.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Top Five Etsy Finds - upcycled books

As an avid reader, I love books and, despite now reading
Insect Hotel by PopinjayCreates 
more on my Kindle Fire than I do in print, I do still prefer the feel of a 'real' paper book. It's always sad when a good book wears out from too much reading though so for my Top Five Finds this month I have scoured Etsy for ingenious ways to upcycle a book. Etsy artisans, of course, have a wealth of ideas!

First up is a simple and clever idea by Hermione at PopinjayCreates who are based in Norwich, Norfolk. Hermione decided to upcycle Ladybird children's books into Insect Hotels. I loved the idea of ladybirds potentially living in Ladybird books! We certainly need to do all we can to encourage and protect our garden insects so why not hang a couple of these hotels in your porch, shed or conservatory and see who moves in?
Ladybird Insect Hotels are for sale at £4.27 each plus shipping.

Fairytale Book Dress
by OshunOccasions 
A gorgeous Fairytale Book Dress dress for my second choice and I was absolutely amazed to realise that this outfit really is created from old books! Many techniques feature: twisting, curling, punching, folding and crimping and it took many, many hours to make! Twisted roses, layered daisies, curled strands of paper and die-cut butterflies all adorn this dress, which is made up of frilled and gathered paper. The bodice has woven paper at the front with book spines being like the boning of a corset. OshunOccasions, in Somerset, makes beautiful dresses with a bohemian faerie vibe and there are links to further information about this dress from its Etsy listing. Wouldn't it be just perfect for a literary-themed wedding, a publicity shoot or a convention costume?
The Fairytale Book Dress is for sale at £249.99 plus shipping.

If you have a new dress of course you are going to need a
Rebecca Bag by BagsyMeFirst 
new handbag to complement it, so how about this Daphne Du Maurier Rebecca Bag, one of an extensive selection created by Kate Lowe at BagsyMeFirst in Buckingham. The cover illustration is dark and atmospheric, offset by the gold foiled title in freehand script, and the lining fabric is a spookily good match for its wallpaper. The bag has new black resin handles and antiqued brass feet and will easily hold a purse and keys to the boathouse. There's an internal pocket for a mobile phone trimmed with ribbon, and a pocket for business cards trimmed with a tiny 'Made with love' charm.
The Rebecca Bag is for sale at £64.99 plus shipping.

The House By The Bridge by NoBookEndsUK 
Moving away from fashion now, I was so impressed by this House By The Bridge book sculpture created by Frenchman Stephane Godec at NoBookEndsUK in London. Another fairytale creation! Stephane has been upcycling books for about three years now creating items from greetings cards to elaborate sculptures such as this. He says he is simply inspired by his love of books and I think it is wonderful that they can have second lives in such beautiful forms.
The House By The Bridge is for sale at £120 plus shipping.

Simple elegance for my fifth and final choice and if you
Shakespeare Heart Garland by Bookity 
couldn't quite see yourself in That Dress but you would still like a literary element to your wedding or summer party, I think rows of these Shakespeare Heart Garlands could look stunning. Created by Lou at Bookity in London, the hearts are recycled from old and damaged editions of Shakespeare plays. Each heart is about 11cm (4 inches) across and eight are strung together on natural hessian twine to produce a three-yard-long garland.
Each garland is for sale at £19.93 plus shipping.

That's all my Etsy choices for this month and, as always, if you love something I've missed, feel welcome to pop a link in the Comments.  Click through the links to see more photographs of each item and learn about their creators. I have thoroughly enjoyed discovering just how many ways there are to reuse a book and hope you have too!

(Links in this post are affiliate links so if you choose to buy anything after clicking through I would receive a small percentage of the sale price.)

Saturday, 11 June 2016

Love the Fruit Bat Juice Cafe in Cheam

I drove up to London to see my sister yesterday. She lives
in Sutton, but as a treat we went over to Cheam for a wander around the shops and a visit to the weekly Friday market at the Parochial Rooms.

Our main destination though was the wonderfully named Fruit Bat Juice Cafe. Located on Broadway, the Fruit Bat is run by Alfie and Karen and has a bewildering array of juice combinations from which to choose and they are all freshly made to order. You can make up your own blends too. There's a choice of indoor or outdoor seating, newspapers and juicing books to read as you sip, and some beautiful artworks for sale on the walls. I forgot to check the artist's name so please  omment if you know.

I was feeling a tad uncomfortable after a curry the night before so Karen suggested a soothing blend including coconut milk, ginger and yoghurt. It was absolutely delicious. My sister had a super-healthy green concoction and, in a nice touch, we both got a shot glass sized taster of the other's juice choice so I know her drink was good too! In order not to overdo the healthiness, we also shared a couple of cakes - although they were both gluten-free! We can highly recommend the Lime Polenta slice and the Pear And Ginger Muffins.

Suitably refreshed, we had a tour of the nearby charity shops. Cheam does have good charity shops. I absolutely didn't buy any books though.

Absolutely none at all.

And if you believe that ... !

Upcoming Literary Flits book reviews are very likely to include another J M Coetzee novel: Waiting For The Barbarians, as well as Between Shades Of Grey by Ruta Sepetys, Bitter Fruit by Achmat Dangor and Rosshalde by Hermann Hesse.

Friday, 10 June 2016

Perfect Banana Cake recipe

I know I am setting myself up for a fall by calling this a
'perfect' recipe, but it turned out so well that I don't think I could have done anything better! I wanted to take a cake to an afternoon tea with friends yesterday so baked a banana cake as I had everything to hand. I blogged a Bread Machine Banana Bread recipe a couple of years ago, but we no longer have the bread machine. I debated using the slow cooker, but wasn't sure I had actually left myself enough time by that point so this cake is oven baked.

Banana Cake 
Ingredients
75g sultanas
1 tbsp rum
125g butter
150g demerara sugar
1 egg, beaten
2-3 ripe bananas
180g plain white flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
60ml milk

Preheat the oven to 180c.
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.

Put the sultanas into a cup with the rum and set aside.

Mash the bananas into a bowl and set aside.

Put the butter and sugar into a saucepan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat.

Add the mashed bananas and the rum-soaked sultanas. Stir well.

Add the egg and stir well again, but don't whisk.

Stir in the flour and spices. When combined, add the milk.

Pour the mixture into the prepared loaf tin.

Bake at 180c for about 45-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. If the top of the cake browns before the centre is cooked through, loosely cover it with aluminium foil, shiny down down.

Leave the cake to cool before trying to remove it from the tin.

My cake did need a little 'encouragement' to leave the tin so I might use a greaseproof paper liner next time I bake it. It did feel quite heavy as a whole cake, but the slices were beautifully moist and very tasty!

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Miles Ahead - Don Cheadle's Miles Davis biopic movie

We're back in Hailsham for three weeks at our usual
campsite here catching up with friends and Dave's getting to play some tennis which is great. Looking around at what's on locally we got lucky with an art-house type film showing at our old favourite cinema, Hailsham Pavilion, yesterday. Don Cheadle was long ago chosen by jazz trumpeter Miles Davis' family as their favourite to play the legend onscreen and the resultant film, Miles Ahead, is finally doing the rounds of cinemas. I learned by reading up on its background that getting the whole production together was quite the labour of love for Cheadle. Not only the film's star and director, he was also heavily involved in its writing and financing, even going so far as crowdfunding in Indiegogo.

Miles Ahead begins in 1970s New York where a reclusive Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) hasn't worked for five years, choosing to remain secluded in his mess of an apartment instead. A heavy drinker and drug taker, he is coerced by Rolling Stone journalist Dave Brill (Ewan McGregor) into being interviewed. Instead of speaking however Davis begins to play and the resultant music morphs into a film that is part truth and part fiction. The tag line is 'His story - with a little improvisation'. I'm not a Miles Davis aficionado by any stretch, but I'd say there's actually a lot of improvisation! I really enjoyed the film though.

Like our last cinema film, Carol, Miles Ahead looks fantastic. It jumps from the 1970s to the 1940s and back with wonderfully evocative sets and costumes. I love the long coats and am quietly hoping they come back into fashion on the back of this film! Emayatzy Corinealdi is great as the dancer Frances Taylor who became Davis' wife. Miles Ahead is far more about impression and atmosphere than true reportage and I thought it achieved its aims beautifully in that sense. I accept that the main plotline of the stolen music probably never happened and I don't think Davis did ever run around waving guns - maybe I'm wrong, there was a lot of coke - but I feel I do now have a stronger sense of him as a man as well as a dedicated musician.

Miles Ahead will be released on DVD in the UK on December 31st and is available for pre-order now.

The film soundtrack is available for download now as is the original Miles Davis album which gave its name to the film.