A Different Death

As it turned out, by the end of yesterday evening it wasn’t Cat’s life and death I was thinking about, but my Aunt Ella’s. I got the call around 10.30 to say she had died earlier in the evening. An expected death, but not expected quite this soon. Tonight I spoke to her husband, my Uncle Bill, Mother’s favourite sibling and the last one surviving. He’ll be 97 in the autumn. I don’t know how old Aunt Ella was, but I’m guessing around the same.
We spoke the other night after I had spent some time over the weekend with his daughter-in-law who was in London for a few days. It was she who told me Ella had widespread cancer and the doctors were talking about weeks, at the most, months. Yesterday afternoon I sent this picture to her of her then infant husband with his mother Ella.

Mother and Son

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Pitta Pattying!

I’d been thinking pitter patter when I wrote last night’s post, but today that became pitta patty. I was working away from home this morning, but back in time for a late lunch. I stopped off at Oli’s and bought some pitta bread, the wholemeal type. While my patties cooked, I prepared salad and warmed the bread, slitting one to slide one patty inside plus a lot of greenery and some hummus. It looked good, but how dud it taste?

Pitta patty

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Pitter Pattying

A quick post before bedtime while MasterB enjoys some Outside Time for the first time in days. He’s having a good sniff around, and seems quite confident, so I was able to come back indoors without the sense that I was abandoning him. The thaw has come. It was all amazingly quick. Yesterday morning the trees were staring to drip, but the pavement outside chez Isobel and Cat was still snow covered and icy. By the afternoon it was clear. A few bits of snow cling on in corners, but our snow people have almost gone, their hats lying on the grass. Yesterday was still very cold, but today, in comparison with last week, was almost balmy, 7℃ according to my thermometer. It was possible to walk down the street bare-headed and bare-handed without the imminent threats of hypothermia and frostbite.
I’ve been baking biscuits which is both good and bad. Good, because I enjoy it and it’s helping me work my way round my new oven. Bad because I eat them all very quickly. I have also been continuing to make fritters. Or rather patties. I thought I’d check what the definition of fritters was, and it says something cooked in a batter. I tried rissoles, but I think that said something encased in pastry. At last patties, which my concise OED (second prize in a crossword competition 1998) defines as a small flat cake of minced meat etc. I’m not entirely happy with this description; they have no meat and not very flat, but for the moment the name will have to do. Obviously this interferes with my plans for a volume of recipes Cooking for the Fritterati as the highway to wealth (still no luck with the lottery tickets. I hope the opera buffs are grateful for my continued subsidy). I have not so far thought of any punning title that includes patties, let alone the literati.
On the plus side, I still think they are delicious. I am mildly addicted. The current batch where the main ingredient is Carlin peas taste wonderful. I really must try to recall what I put in them.
I’m starting to explore the possibilities of aquafaba. It has become quickly apparent I am not on the same page as the most prominent vegan writers. I rarely use tinned beans, and chickpeas are just one pulse of several in my cupboards. Stubborn searching revealed aquafaba can come from various pulses, and you can make it at home. Then it becomes a bit vague. How much aquafaba equals one egg? How exactly do you include it? Where can you use it? I have no plans or desire to make meringue or macaroons any time soon. So I think the current aquafaba I have in the fridge is likely to be thrown out, but just keeping it has been interesting to see how it has thickened. I was put off an aquafaba page which said no references to animal products would be tolerated. I understand people have strong feelings, but it hardly wins hearts and minds when non-vegans are tentatively exploring possibilities. It could just request that people respect it is a vegan page. I agree with much of what vegans say, but when they claim the high moral ground and start lecturing, I find it irritating, and my inner teenager, never far from the surface, wants to stick my tongue out at them and walk away.
There was story I read as a child that has stayed with me. It was about the sun and the rain having a competition to get a man to remove his coat. The rain went first and tore at the man’s coat, summoning the wind’s help. The man was buffeted and pushed around. He drew his coat tightly round him. The rain conceded defeat. It was the turn of the sun. It directed its warmth at the man, drying his hair, allowing him to stand up without fear of the wind knocking him over. His coat steamed and began to dry. He unbuttoned it, and as the sun continued to gently warm him, removed the coat and carried it over his arm.
It’s my belief more people will be won over to veganism or flexitarianism through gentle persuasion rather than sledgehammer tactics.

Dreaming About Theresa

I don’t know what can have been the cause, but last night I dreamt I was voice coaching Theresa May. It can’t be because I want her brand of politics to get a better hearing, I find it abhorrent. Maybe it’s just because she makes so many speeches which we get to hear bits of on the news, and they are always so boring. In my dream I was showing her how back in the 80s Not the Nine O’clock News satirised politicians, pointing out similarities between the satire and her own delivery. Awake, I think The Two Ronnies might have been better source material. I know I spent some time trying to stop her saying ‘I’m very clear’ so maybe it was in the interests of my health, as any politician who says they are or have been clear generally means the opposite, and it winds me up. What we were aiming for in my dream was a little spontaneity, some glimpse of the person she presumably is. Perhaps I should have got her to talk about kitten heels. Continue reading

Snow is Falling, Snow on Snow

Two months too late, the words of those Christmas carols about snow and cold weather are perfectly suited to London. My apologies to those of you who live in places where snow is a regular winter occurrence and who are wondering what all the fuss is about. I live in the south of a country where the climate is temperate, so any extremes mean acres of newsprint and all conversations dominated by talk of the weather. Actually we always talk about the weather, this may be a big island, but it is an island and the weather can change in a matter of hours. A lot of visitors from overseas, even somewhere as close as France, have the misplaced belief that it rains in London everyday, heavily. Er no, it doesn’t. Drizzle is more our style, Rome and Paris have more rain than London. That’s a fact. Yes, I do get irritated by people who seem to think Brits are born with webbed feet. Climate crisis is changing that though, and downpours are becoming the new normal. The snow is probably part of the same pattern.
So my pictures from today start in our garden.


I woke in the night and knew there had been more snowfall. There was a quality to the light that is peculiar to snow. I looked out of the window and saw everything covered in white.

Purple in the snow

Our poor flowers are suffering. There’s a pale pink hyacinth that’s completely buried.


Our plants today are bowed down with the weight of the snow.

Garden chair

Hartley was out and about early, but then must have retired inside. His apewprints were everywhere, and I saw him eyeing the bird feeders.

Mosaic with growth

When the snow goes I need to weed this mosaic. Continue reading

The North Wind Doth Blow

The current bout of cold weather is being called the Beast from the East. I think I prefer the poem:

The north wind doth blow, And we shall have snow, And what will poor Robin do then? Poor thing. He’ll sit in a barn, And keep himself warm, And hide his head under his wing, Poor thing.

Not a lot of snow in London, snow is a rarity here. I got my washing mainly dry on the line this morning, though until the sun reached it, some of it was stiff and frozen. It was bitterly cold, and my cuddle with Hartley was shorter than he wanted. He was curling up on my lap preparing for a snooze when I stood up and headed back indoors to the warmth of the flat. I didn’t think it was going to snow, the forecast showed a twenty per cent chance but the skies were blue. But as I knuckled down to some of the endless paperwork the room became very dark, and I looked up to see real snow, serious snow, swirling about. It started to settle. For about half an hour it continued, then stopped. Tonight there is some left, a smattering, and it will freeze, so tomorrow pavements will be icy and treacherous.

But it is pretty.

I had to photograph the honey fungus on the cherry tree to send pictures to a tree surgeon so I took a few more photos of the garden while I was at it. I don’t know where the robin was, but this male blackbird seemed happy enough.


I checked the bird feeders to make sure the resident avian community won’t starve.

Bird feeders

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Monday Miscellany

I was watching Krishnan Guru-Murthy on Channel 4 news interviewing a woman in Syria who is sticking absolutely to one line. Krishan is polite but insistent when she claims that her side is suffering few casualties. He’s witnessed the fighting, the casualties cannot be as minimal as she suggests. It’s frustrating all round; for Krishnan who isn’t getting answers; for the interviewee who is not a fluent English speaker.

The gap between different sides is evident in so many of the arguments we see on the news. Brexit is once more grabbing headlines. I just heard that dread phrase ‘the will of the people’ again a few minutes ago. It’s a phrase that simultaneously makes me rage and makes me depressed. The will of the people is presumably all the people. So as the referendum result was so close, I cannot see any justification for a Hard Brexit regardless of what Jacob Rees-Mogg and his 61 cronies want; talk about the tail trying to wag the dog.

Across the pond there has been yet another school shooting, where a young man with evident mental health issues combined with a taste for guns and the politics of the far right killed seventeen of the students at the school from which he had been expelled. This is horrific on so many levels. It seems that concerns were raised about this youth; this massacre could have been avoided. We have seen composed and articulate survivors speaking out against the culture of guns in the US, we have seen less of survivors who have injuries that will scar their bodies as well as their minds for the rest of their lives. Continue reading

As in Life, So in Death

As I mentioned in a reply to a comment from Pat the other day, I had a nice wander around West Norwood Cemetery at the weekend. It’s a big place, forty acres, and has a nice rise to the chapel and crematorium at the top, with splendid views across London. There was hardly anyone about, not even many dog walkers, which surprised me given what a great space it is close to streets of houses.

Even in death, maybe especially in death, it’s easy to pick out the rich, the powerful, the self-important and the famous. I couldn’t always find a name on the various tombs and mausoleums, but it was pretty obvious which ones had been particularly costly. Some are the size of beach huts, some largish summer houses. It was an uncomfortable thought that some of our dead are housed better than the living; homelessness is rife in London. It’s a national scandal. Today a homeless man was found dead yards away from the Palace of Westminster, the seat of the UK government.

Grand resting place

Striking a pose in death



At least one pigeon had found itself a upmarket abode.

Pigeon loft

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