Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Florentines, guitar riffs and the Nobel Peace Prize

Often when I do a quick round-up of my columns for the Lincolnshire Free Press, regular blog readers will have noticed that some of them have content from previous blog posts: snippets from a number of posts to create an article about Scottish memories, for instance.

My latest offerings are all brand-spanking new so I hope you enjoy reading them, as you would a normal blog post. Feel free to comment on the articles on the paper's website.

So who won Great Burgess Bake Off?

I was challenged to make Mary Berry's Florentines by food blogger, Helen, at The Crazy Kitchen. Dougie was keen to get involved so we had a Burgess Bake Off. Find out who was the best baker.

'Are we nearly there yet, Mum?'

A miserable Bank Holiday journey home was made more interesting when we listened to Radio Two's Top 100 Guitar Riffs.

Nobel Peace Prize winner of Holbeach

During our recent trip to Oslo we discovered a Nobel Peace Prize winner who was born in our town, Holbeach.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Literature in London with Books about Town

While Rory was sunning himself in Corfu with his girlfriend, Juliana, and her family, Dougie and I nipped down to London last weekend for a little break of our own. We did lots of sightseeing, a bit of shopping (new bag!) and just enjoyed being together, practising for what it's going to be like when Rory goes to university next weekend (pass the hankies!)

I had heard about the Books about Town project: the National Literacy Trust working with Wild in Art to bring literature to the streets of London. Trails of benches, shaped as open books, have been decorated by professional illustrators and local artists. There are four trails - Bloomsbury, City, Greenwich and Riverside - so you can pick a trail and even download a quiz for each one. Of course, we didn't know this and had wondered why we hadn't spotted any benches whilst shopping in Oxford Street. The next day, as we sauntered over Tower Bridge to the south side of the river, we found ourselves on the Riverside Trail. It was a wet day, which was in our favour: I could take lots of photographs as no-one was sitting on the benches. We crossed back over the river on the Millennium Bridge and stumbled on part of the City trail too.

If you fancy having a guess at which book is represented on each bench, here is a little quiz for you. See if you can get 10 out of 10. No cheating!












Friday, 22 August 2014

Crutches, celebrations and columns

I've still got a couple of posts from our trip to Northumberland  but I've decided there's no rush to get them on here: they can keep. But I will just let you know what's been going on here at Burgess Towers over recent weeks.

Dougie has been suffering from a leg injury. He ruptured his calf muscle playing badminton of all things, not his usual volleyball. He was in terrible pain to begin with and thought he might have damaged his Achilles. A trip to A&E was necessary as he couldn't self-diagnose (or rather, he could but wanted to be sure), returning with a set of crutches and the knowledge that his Achilles was fine but it would still take some weeks to recover. As the volleyball season approaches he is pining a lot and desperate for it to heal quickly. He's getting there and did enjoy a few days, when the weather was exceptionally good, lying in the hammock in the garden, having me wait on him. Thankfully he can now walk about, albeit slowly, but still a long way off running and jumping.

Great news for Rory last week. He did extremely well in his A levels so will be off to Exeter University in a few weeks time to study politics. The days are racing by and, as he is going away with his girlfriend's family to Corfu at the beginning of September, there are very few days left where I can show him how to cook, wash, iron, shop....and all those other things I planned to do many years ago but mollycoddled him instead.

I may not have had much time for blogging but the column is still going so here's the links to the last few pieces if you would like a read.

Enjoying highland flings in Scotland

Bring on the soggy Bake Off bottoms

Preserving a legacy on the internet


Wednesday, 13 August 2014

A perfect day in Seahouses

I was born in Whitley Bay, just east of Newcastle upon Tyne on the coast, and sometimes the urge to be near the seaside just overwhelms me. Staying on the Northumberland coast for a few days was therefore the perfect place to be. Seems ridiculous but we had never actually taken a holiday around here - the odd day trip, yes, but over the years we have just stayed with Mum and Dad so hadn't considered the region for a proper break. Madness.

A perfect day at the seaside began when I looked out of the window and saw a vast blue sky. Leaving the teens to their slumber, Dougie and I couldn't wait to make the most of the weather and go for a walk. And what a walk. Our apartment looked out onto St Aidan's beach and we could now see it properly as the tide was going out. The air was fresh and there was quite a gusty breeze but that couldn't alter the sheer happiness of walking hand in hand on the beautiful beach. Sounds soppy but I had a grin from ear to ear as it was just what I had been pining for - a beach and plenty of time to enjoy it.

The beach at Seahouses with the Farne Islands in the distance. 

We headed towards Bamburgh Castle which you may remember from my previous post could be seen in the distance on the headland. From the beach we couldn't see the castle above the dunes but we kept walking as we knew it was there somewhere. After a while we were convinced we must have reached it, so popped our heads over the dunes, only to discover it was still some way off. We hadn't planned to stay out all morning so did the sensible thing and headed back. The kiddies still weren't up.

Coffee on the balcony, some 'encouraging words' to the kids and we eventually managed persuade them to join us in a saunter around the vicinity. Seahouses itself is a small fishing village which caters for day trippers wanting a short cruise to the Farne Islands to see the puffins and seals. It has an amusement arcade, a Crazy Golf, a few chippies, a great real ale pub and a bustling high street. We really should have taken a boat trip out to the Farne Islands, odd that we didn't, having come all this way. We did pop into the RNLI lifeboat station, remembering the story of Grace Darling, daughter of the lighthouse keeper on the islands, who, realising it was too rough for the lifeboat to be put out from Seahouses, rowed out with her father to rescue sailors from the stricken Forfarshire in 1838. There is a museum about Grace Darling in Bamburgh - we didn't get to that either.

So what did we do in Seahouses? We ate fish and chips down by the harbour, like everyone else does. According to The Hairy Bikers the 'best fish and chips in the country' can be found at Pinnacles Restaurant. We put this to the test; Rory and Juliana getting theirs from Pinnacles, Dougie and I buying ours from Lewis's restaurant. Not a very scientific comparison, as we neglected to include the third chippie, Neptunes, from our taste test. The result was a win for Pinnacles - by a whisker. Although slightly more expensive, the fish was enormous. I did prefer the batter from Lewis's though...

Despite being full of fish, Juliana wanted to try the kippers for which the village is so famous so we hunted out the local smokery, Swallowfish, located in a tiny, authentic little place, the Fishermen's Kitchen, with a rather good-looking, bohemian young chap serving at the counter. Looked nowt like Captain Bird's Eye, that's for sure. 

Here are Dougie and the teens posing outside the shop:

We took the kippers home and left the teens to have a game of Crazy Golf and a session of sandcastle-building on the beach.

Dinner later was a five minute walk through town to the Elan Pizzeria, a tiny place where you can bring your own wine if you don't fancy buying theirs. The pizza toppings were a bit out of left field - Peking duck with hoisin sauce and Caesar salad anyone? - but the pizzas were great and the puds - Tiramisu and a Wimbledon Mess in a large Knickerbocker Glory glass - were scrummy.

A quick walk back, taking in the view yet again:

Evening view from Salt Air apartment to the Farne Islands
Back in our cosy apartment, coffee served, some beers and a tad more wine before a family decision to watch a DVD. A great selection for us to choose from so we settled down to The Grand Budapest Hotel.

A day of simple pleasures - unforgettable