16.8.17

St Kilda


We enjoyed a wonderful cruise around the Scottish islands in June, visiting St Kilda, the Orkneys, Hoy and Shetland. Full of history, beautiful countryside and generally pretty good weather. Such a treat. St Kilda was fascinating and thankfully a sunny day. Now owned by the National Trust it still has a graveyard, post office, small shop, and a museum house.





We explored the curved row of ruined houses and the replacements built in the 1830s after the original ones were damaged by a gale. Now they are no longer occupied by anyone as occupants finally departed in 1930. Some have been reformed and are lived in by members of the NT.






It was interesting to see the byres where folk used to store their food, often used as shelters by the flock of primitive sheep who occupy this land. It’s very much considered a Natural Nature Reserve. There are many wonderful seabirds including puffins, gannets, fulmars, shags, cormorants, oystercatchers and many others. There are also meadow pipits, snipes, wheatears and St Kilda wrens, plus field mice who happily live there too.







There was a small church with a school room attached. We listened to a young man entertaining us by playing his violin brilliantly.





There’s also a Military Base, to which there is no entry. They are no doubt present for defence purposes, having occupied parts of this land for some years. They keep watch over all the nearby islands and also provide some basic facilities such as electricity and fresh water for the tourists etc.


Being a remote island it is said to be the remains of an ancient volcano in the Atlantic ocean, west of the Outer Hebrides. Originally part of a group of remote islands called Hirta (now known as St Kilda), Soay and Boreray. It could have once been occupied by people who were ‘pirates, exiles or malefactors’, escaping justice for whatever reason. There’s nowhere to stay there, so definitely a place to visit on a cruise. This was the view of it when we sailed away.
 

21.1.17

WARTIME RECIPES

Borrowed from my grandmother’s old cookery book. 

Bread and Butter Pudding
Several slices of thin bread with margarine or butter
2 ounces of sugar (if available) otherwise one grated apple.
2 oz of dried raisins
1 beaten or dried egg
1 pint of milk
½ teaspoon of cinnamon

Line a pie dish with layers of the sliced buttered bread, raisins and a sprinkle of sugar or grated apple between each. Beat up the egg or add the dried egg to the milk, then pour over the pudding and all to stand for about ten minutes.
Cook at around 175 degrees for an hour or so.

Lord Woolton Pie 
Chop a selection of potatoes, cauliflower, swedes, carrots, onions or whatever other vegetable you have available, and add one tablespoon of oatmeal. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Put them in a pie dish, add a sprinkle of herbs, thyme, sage or parsley, as you wish, and a little brown gravy. Line the top with sliced potatoes or wholemeal pastry and bake in a moderate oven until the pastry has browned.

Mock Cream
1 tablespoon of dried milk
2 oz margarine or butter
1 teaspoon of sugar
½ teaspoon of vanilla essence

Beat the margarine and sugar, slowly add the dried milk then add the vanilla and beat until smooth.

Chocolate Haystacks
8 shredded wheat
1 tin sweetened condensed milk
2 oz cocoa.

Mix and shape in an egg cup. Set out on a tray. Do not cook just leave to harden.

Courting Cake
8 oz flour
4 oz marg/butter
2 oz sugar
1 egg (fresh or dried)

Mix to a stiff pastry with a little milk. Cut in half. Roll out one round and spread with jam. Roll a second round and place on top. Or cut and form the other half into tiny balls and place evenly on top. Bake approx 40 - 45 mins at 180C until golden brown.

Bran Loaf 
4 oz All Bran
4 oz brown sugar
6 oz mixed dried fruit
½ pint milk
4 oz Self Raising flour
1 tsp Baking Powder

Soak bran, sugar and fruit in the milk for 30 mins in a mixing bowl. Add the sifted flour and BP and mix well. Put mixture in a greased loaf tin. Bake for approximately 1 hour at 180C.

Brenda does quite a bit of cooking in my book Always In My Heart, although it doesn't always do her any favours with certain members of the family.
 

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil.

 Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

Published by Mira Books
Available in most good book shops and online.

WH Smith

Amazon UK

Amazon US

Kobo

14.1.17

Work on the land in World War II

At the start of the war because of the blockade around our shores, there were fewer imports, and farming exports fell. The amount of food people could find went down and people turned their flower gardens into vegetable plots. They would keep hens and maybe a pig too. Women and youngsters would go out each autumn to pick acorns, collecting those that had fallen from the oak trees and use them to feed pigs. Children often had plots at school where, with the help of teachers, they too grew vegetables.

 Throughout the war the government maintained good prices and strived to avoid a post-war farm recession, as happened following World War I. Farm labour shortage did become a problem, most men having enlisted. A farmer’s first reaction was to get his wife and children to work with him, being required to produce more food. Eventually an emergency appeal was made to recruit members for the Women’s Land Army. Many had not worked on the land before, some having been hairdressers, shop assistants or simply wives and mothers, so had a great deal to learn. It could be difficult at times for them to cope with the cold and mud of winter, the long hours and heavy work involved in the vital tasks of digging, weeding and ploughing, but the land girls grew proud at being able to contribute to the war effort.

Later, the government allowed German and Italian prisoners of war (POWs) to be used as farm labourers, which is what happens in this story. Were they welcomed, and were there rules that had to be kept? They were often involved in caring for sheep and hens. I too have experienced that when running a smallholding. I found that great fun, if quite demanding and took me a while to learn how to do it.

A friend supplied me with a number of battery hens, which I could give the freedom to be free-range. Being a lass from the mill towns of Lancashire I barely knew how to deal with them, except for a vague memory of helping my grandfather with his hens when I was a small child. She explained the routine, reminding me to shut them up last thing at night. What she didn’t tell me was how to get them safely into the hen hut. I diligently attempted to pick them up. They ran around avoiding me and I finally fell headlong, catching none on them. I went off to have a cup of tea to puzzle over how to resolve this issue, then saw them forming an orderly queue. Presumably in correct pecking order they hopped through the pop hole and onto their perches. So simple! I used this experience in the story, just for fun.

Despite rationing of raw materials for farm equipment, farmers during the war became keen on new technology. The arrival of the Ford Tractor provided valuable equipment for the task of food production. When the war was over, most of their previous hired labourers did not return to the farm. By then most farmers were much better equipped, having used their increased income to buy machines, so they no longer required anywhere near as many workers.

Brenda Stuart returns to her late husband’s home devastated by his loss only to find herself accused of bestowing favours upon the Germans. Life has been difficult for her over the war, having been held in an internment camp in France simply because of her nationality. Thankful that her son at least is safe in the care of his grandmother, she now finds that she has lost him too, and her life is in turmoil. 

Prue, her beloved sister-in-law, is also a war widow but has fallen in love with an Italian PoW who works on the family estate. Once the war ends they hope to marry but she has reckoned without the disapproval of her family, or the nation. The two friends support each other in an attempt to resolve their problems and rebuild their lives. They even try starting a business, but it does not prove easy.

Published by Mira Books
Available in most good book shops and online.

WH Smith

Amazon UK

Amazon US 

Kobo