September • Kathleen Ferrier’s Favourite Apple Tart

In my first year at Uni I lodged in a bungalow on Prospect Rd. Portstewart, with an elderly lady called Mary Kane. Now Mrs K was a kindly soul but her driving would put the fear of God into anyone unfortunate enough to accept a lift in her old Morry Thou. Her budgie had been taught to say He knows, He loves, He cares and she made Apple Tart to die for! In fact she had a letter (I saw it with my own eyes) from singer Kathleen Ferrier, who had taken passage (I think to New York) on the merchant vessel captained by Mr Kane, specifically mentioning her Apple Tart as the best she’d ever tasted.

Now the secret of Mrs. K’s Apple Tart lies in the pastry! It is so thin and crispy that it beats all other pastry crusts hands down. But there are several layers of secrets to this tasty tart and I think I am the only person Mrs Kane ever taught to make it and I wouldn’t want this recipe to go silently into that good night so I am going to share it here. It’s not difficut but there are a few TIPS to it and I am including them all. Try it, and if you like the result (and you will), share it with others. It’s not mine — it’s Mrs Kanes and she deserves to be remembered for it and I will never forget her. This time of year especially, I always think of her kindness to a girl just left home.

  1. Keep everything COLD: If you haven’t a processor (she used her finger tips only) then make sure the (mixing bowl is cold, the butter (no margerine please!) is cold, your hands are cold, the flour, the milk, the board (a marble or granite surface is best for rolling pastry) C O L D

2. You will need to make the pastry first. The ratio is what makes this pastry special. Most pastry is half fat. This is greater, The ratio is 5oz plain flour sifted twice!! (even if using a processor, sift the flour) (do not use self raising — it’s supposed to be thin). 3oz cold butter (I use Kerry Gold Irish butter) 1oz caster/fine sugar (make sure there are no lumps in that either).A couple of tablespoons cold milk. I am sorry I can’t be more specific than that. The thing is to add it slowly so that the pastry is JUST moist enough to hold together (not wet).

Method: Cut the butter up and using your finger tips rub into the flour until it ressembles bread crumbs. Do this lightly so as not to overwork the pastry. Then add the sugar and stir. Then add the milk a little at a time, stirring each little in using a knife, until the pastry will form a ball. OR Place the flour, sugar and cubed butter in the food processor and ZIZZ. Then add the milk still a bit at a time as you ZIZZ.

Put the ball of pastry in cling film and refrigerate for at least half an hour.

You’re going to need an 8 inch diameter metal pie dish with sloping sides and a rim (SEE PIC). If you chill this too, it helps keep the bottom crust cold while you’re filling it. It’s tempting to think that there’s not enough pastry from 5oz flour but trust me, it rolls out so well you’ll be amazed!

So when the pastry has rested, cut it in half and put one half back in the fridge. Roll the other half to the size of your dish (do it by quarter turns rolling in one direction, truning, rolling, turning, rolling… ) Flop it over the rolling pin to lift it to the dish. It should be slightly bigger than the dish. Now here’s a TIP to prevent a soggy bottom in any pie or quiche. Sprinkle a handful of couscous onto the pie crust!

Now preheat the oven to 170C

3 large or 4 medium BRAMLEY APPLES. The type of apple does matter because bramleys are tart and they cook down well and keep a slight acidity even with the sugar. If you can’t get Bramleys at least use a cooking variety and not eating apples because they retain their texture too well.

One at a time, peel the apples and slice them thinly discarding the cores (or you can use these to in jam to make pectin). Place the slices in a spiral overlapping pattern on the pastry base. After each layer, sprinkle 1 tbs fine sugar and a little ground cloves or cinnamon. (Mrs K always used cloves but this is a matter of taste.) Continue until all the appples are layered nicely with sugar and spice. Roll out the other half of the pastry, dampen the edges of the bottom with a little water or milk, place the top on and press the edges down. Lift the pie and trim the excess pastry with the blunt end if a knife. You can use the trimmings to make a decoration for the top like I did here.

Place the pie in the oven on a baking tray (in case of juice). The pie needs 55 mins to cook. It should look quite brown round the edges. When ready, sprinkle with a little more sugar and serve hot or cold with fresh cream or clotted cream. It serves 8 portions or 6 large portions or four extra large greedy portions — or you can try hiding it and eating it all yourself! But I think someone will sniff it out because it’s delicious!!!

I never said this was a health food!

Can you make it with sweetner? I’ve never tried. Maybe, if you really need to do that, you can let us know!

Enjoy and please SHARE.

 

 

September • A love of Autumn

I AM NOT A SILENT POET is a great site run by Reuben Woolley for those of you who like the political side of poetry. I have been known to get a wee bit angry sometimes and so if you’d care to go and see this different side of me, feel free. Versatility is my second name you know. (No, it’s not really my second name…)

But I do really love Autumn and there’s a lot to be said for maturity too. Like this for instance:

In Praise of Maturity

My poems are like Gorgonzola
strong, and sometimes they sting,
sometimes they stink, sometimes they wink,
sometimes they sing.
Political or lyrical I like to ring the changes
you’d be surprised if you read them all
how very wide my range is.
I can bring deep thoughts to laughter,
I can do tantrums and tears
because I have been writing poems for years and years and years….
My poems are like Gorgonzola
they go well with grapes and wine
and the taste may be acquired
but they’re mine, all mine, all mine.

                                                   Oonah V Joslin 2017

Our Autumn Issue of The Linnet’s Wings is shaping nicely.  Marie is working on it now. In fact our Christmas Canzonet is shaping nicely too. I have just been reading for that this afternoon. It’s always a colourful treat and it makes a great Christmas present for the book lover! So look out for that. Our latest issue is available to peruse and BUY HERE

I haven’t been much in society since I came back from Dublin. A little Dublin goes a long way for my reclusive little self. Also I have been missing deadlines and am very behind with my own planned submissions,. I was supposed to be getting a book together! So I will keep the blog brief and try to get some more work (of my own) out there. In the meantime, enjoy early fall.

August • with a flourish

August is one of those months when wild things flourish and are fruitful. Yesterday on our walk we saw a pheasant, a bat (yes in daylight but probably a learner 🙂 and in a dark spot at Belsay quarry garden), a stoat, flitting across a road, his dark tail straight out behind, a wood wasp with its double wings and elongated stripey body (okay so I could have probably done without the woodwasp since it was huge) and we heard, rather than saw, at least one, possibly two, swarms between the quarry and the woodland and they sounded industrial in size! We didn’t go looking for them!! In the main it was a very pleasant Sunday and as ever at Belsay there was colour to be had.

But do you remember back in March the Monkey Puzzle by the castle bloomed? Well now it has borne fruit! The fruits were not, as I expected, at the bottom where the flowers had been — oh no! — a Monkey Puzzle likes to live up to it’s puzzling reputation and so the fruits are way high up in the branches. And far from being delicate, as the flowers were, they are the size of coconuts and hairy with it. It’s not a subtle statement of fertility.

Our friend Alwyn was with us this weekend. She is small but exceedingly fierce.

July • A Peopleful Month

The last time I was in Dublin was 38 years ago

I am not what you’d call a social animal so I asked to go to Holy Island for my birthday meal and we stayed overnight at our friend’s. Turned out she had a couple of other visitors; a young man called Ray who is studying to be a minister and had to withstand, I suspect some rather philosophical conversation over breakfast, when I am sure he thought would be merely get chit-chat. Dorothy said most guests just talk about how lovely the wildlife is and remark on the sound of the seals – not us though. Poor Ray had to work quite hard.  Later Sister Gloria and her (real family sister whom we’d met before) also dropped in for tea and again Ray joined us and it was quite an interesting little party. We had our meal that night at The Ship and afterwards we were talking to a very nice couple from Massechussets (he was a biochemistry prof) and a Swiss lady, also eating there. We discussed Brexit etc etc. That was a surprising number of conversations for a quiet overnight stay on the island.

Up on the Heugh we chatted to volunteers doing the archaeological dig on a chapel that has just been uncovered. I couldn’t do that work. It would knacker my knees.

Now, down near the Abbey, skeletons have been unearthed. I am never sure about lifting the bones of people who expected to be bodily resurrected in another way. It seems a bit disrespectful of their beliefs, if you know what I mean. Anyway they are off to Durham for analysis and I shall be no less interested in the results for all my reservations. It would be a pity to go to Durham aflter all that time and not be able to see the Cathedral. You can see a daily diary of that dig on DigVenture.

We’d planned the Dublin trip since before November last year. I hadn’t been to Dublin for 38 years (see pic above). Yes that was me!

We were to meet our Minnesota friends Kath and Jim Mickelson there and I was looking forward to seeing them again. Then Marie from The Linnet’s Wings was coming too and I had only spoken with her a couple of times on Skype. Then Peggy and Kent were going to be there, then Susan and Ned. I felt a bit overwhelmed — as usual…

In the end we had a lovely time (very late night for me) conversation with students of Jim’s called Rob and Mandy and I got on famously with Marie, and she brought me a gift from Mullingar, bless her heart, and it was lovely to meet Kent at long last and everything went well. The company was staggered because everyone had trips and things to do. Noel got on well with the men — he always does. I coped.

Ballsbridge is the Knightsbridge of Dublin. We stayed at the eponimous hotel. I recommend The Jewel in the Crown and Roly’s Bistro – good Bangladeshi (best Tarka Dahl I’ve had in ages) and good French/Irish cuisine. As ever in a French style restaurant you have to be prepared to wait – the French mindset is that good food takes time, rack of lamb to die for and intense flavours in the jus, and a cheeseboard that good, is worth the time and every euro! There’s another French eaterie called Le Petit Parisien near The Jewel that is also an off-licence and will uncork and temporarily recork a bottle for you to take out and that can save a LOT of bar bill!!! 🙂 plus you get a better wine! We didn’t eat there but if I go back, I will.

It was completely BRILLIANT to spend so much time with Kath and Jim again. It’s incredible to me to have close friends who live in Minneapolis St Paul. I suppose what amazes me most is not Kath’s friendship, because she and I have worked together online, but how well Jim has me taped! He says I am ‘an idealist’ I don’t allow that ‘people will be people’ and so I am bound to always be disappointed. This is true. I am a hopeless, old Trekkie! And I always cry at goodbye, Jim. So there you go…

Peopleful = stressful for me. That’s just who I am.

 It’s worth letting down your guard for true friends though x

and Dublin — it was nice to see you again too.

 

July • Dystopian drift

I keep being reminded, by things happening today, of things I wrote ten years or so ago. PLanning to insert chips into employees to ‘enable’ them to access amenities, reminded me of this one — unfortunately. And I honestly believe that is how the powers that be will circumvent the self-inflicted downfall of capitalism that is already in progress and that it will start as everything does, in small ways first. Thereafter they will just ‘enable’ us all to access some things and not others!

The future’s here and it’s SCARY.

The Dispensary

Tatum walked through the deserted high suburbs towards the low white buildings of the Dispensary. The only residents here were the feral cats and vermin. Life on the outside was too harsh for her now so she had come for aid. She had skills, qualifications. Maybe not the skills they wanted but she would do anything.

Last time they’d given her nutritional supplements and turned her away. “This one is a super processor,” she’d heard the chip analyst say, “Supplements only.” That meant she wasn’t from the genetic pool they wanted. She carried genes for obesity, intelligence and creativity. People like that had a tendency to be fat, physically lazy and imaginative enough to make trouble.

Tatum knew the buildings of the Dispensary well. She had helped develop the facility; had been instrumental in training some of the operatives. She had tried to give them a sense of moral responsibility for what they were doing. It was important that all the measures put in place to combat disease, provide employment and share resources be equitable and humane. Nowadays the operatives trained each other and left moral concerns to the Global Committee.

Tatum pulled the fur coat she’d found at the fill sites tight around her. She was more coat than woman now. Flurries of snow were beginning to fall. From this elevation she could still make out the coastline and the ever encroaching rubbish slick just off-shore. If the snow lay you wouldn’t be able to see where the land ended and the great North Pacific Gyre began. It would all look like bleached plastic. They’d probably put her to work on that floating toxic heap. Still it didn’t stink like… She looked back towards the land fills where she’d picked out a living. Life was rubbish whichever way she turned but at least this way she would stay alive.

The automatic door slid open. A mechanical voice said, “Welcome. Please place your left wrist over the consul scanner.” This had all been automated. She wondered what the chip analysts did for food these days. A barrier was lowered and she went into the booth.
“Chip expired,” said the voice.
“What does that mean, ‘chip expired’?” she asked, looking for the camera she knew was somewhere.
“Operator to booth 9.”
A young man approached. “If you’d like to step this way um, Tatum,” he said consulting an electopad.

“What does it mean expired?” Her voice wavered.
“The systems run off plasma processors now. They cannot interpret your chip. You will receive a new one.”
“Right.”
“Functions change. We will require fresh information.”
Tatum looked at the bland and Spartan surroundings. This kind of impersonal atmosphere was exactly what she’d fought to prevent. But efficiency and accountability had become expediency and dissenters to the new regime had been relocated. She wondered whether Dr. Fiche was still Director.

It was warm enough to remove her coat but she still shivered, missing its accustomed weight. In the booth there was a bed, a table and a chair. Tatum sat in front of the interactive screen and answered all the questions put to her, submitting with ill grace to the various scans.
“Age?”
“59…”
“Status?”
“Outsider. Super Processor.”
“Last employ?”
Paneuropia Dispensary G666 C grade.” It seemed a long ordeal. Each answer was verified by a RetNaScan.

“I will fit your chip,” said the operative coolly.
“Will it hurt?”
He didn’t answer. He swabbed her left wrist and removed the sub-dermal chip deftly. It hurt a little.
“Is there any work here? I’m a geneticist. I wrote, ‘Mutant Man,’ you know.”
The operative made no reply.
“Dr. Tatum Fenton?”
Still there was no hint of recognition.
“Dr. Fiche would remember me.”
The operative replaced the chip with one from the computer output tray. None of this technology was familiar to her and the young man, what was he? Some kind of robot?
“Can I get some food here? I’m so very hungry. I walked all the way down from the fills you see,” she said. “It took me days.” Her voice tailed off.
He remained impassive.

They brought her some real food if you could call it that. It looked grey and tasted synthetic. Afterwards she was asked to check the information on her new implant and confirm it with her secret pin number.
She waved her wrist over the scanner and the screen glowed green.
“There’s nothing on here but today’s date,” she said.
“That is correct. Please insert your pin.” The operative left.

Tatum keyed in the number. She felt the chip tingle in her arm and waited for the rest of the information to appear on the screen. Maybe it took a while to process. The young man had been so uncommunicative; she wasn’t really sure what she was supposed to do. She was so tired though – drained – drained from years scavenging the fill sites, tired from the walk, exhausted and confused by all the new technology. At least it was warm here and she had a full stomach. Still the screen was blank and somewhat distorted. It was a relief to go and lie on the bed. She felt a little dizzy and heavy – as if she was falling…falling…

Oonah V Joslin

First published 2008 in Static Movement

Mid-Summer • and Winter

I don’t think I have ever been more sad or angry over events as this past couple of weeks. I’ve tried to stay rational and calm. I’ve written a couple of poems to let off some steam not to raise awareness — awareness isn’t really a problem but steam is. And it’s HOT and people aren’t being looked after by the people who are supposed to SERVE communities. It seems as if hatred stalks the streets and indifference has hands in some very deep pockets.
Only words
They do not serve who rule
both are in I’m not a Silent Poet.
One feels helpless.

In the meantime Bewildering Stories’ Editors once again chose to include my work in their Quarterly Review
Not for the Weak and Do Not Hurry, Do Not Rest 
It’s a poem that reminds me of my oldest brother(right) Thomas Arthur Kyle who died, aged 82 this week in S. Africa. He had six children and a happy life and was well loved. A life like that is no occasion for over sadness.
My brother Stuart photographed here with him died over a decade ago, aged 62 of cancer. My mother died in 2003 aged 89. She had a LOT of children (see last month’s blog)

I was sitting in the garden the other night, after midnight, after a late supper, cooling off, thinking, feeling a bit sad, contemplating life, looking at the stars and eating a mint magnum. Must be summer, I thought. But our calendar says it’s mid winter. It’s an Australian calendar. Winter in South Africa too.

What to make of all that? I don’t know. Do you? It’s too warm to think, my head is spinning and the world keeps turning.
Happy solstice wherever you are.

Summer, that is

Maybe it’s me
but I dread it you see
Summer, that is.
When it gets too hot
and I can’t go out,
walking that is.

Because I’m alabaster
and it’s a disaster
if I get the sun.
And I can’t get to sleep
in this infernal heat
well – can anyone?

And the minute it’s sunny
isn’t it funny
how mowers come out
buzzing and zizzing
or barbecues sizzling
well into the night.

But when loud talk and laughter
diminish to whispers
after midnight,
I eat an ice cream
in the garden and dream
up where stars gleam so white

and I think it’s okay,
the cool of the day
in Summer, that is.

Oonah June 2017

May and June • the work goes on

I would like you to read this poem today. May and June were the names of two older sisters — twins born on the last day of May and  1st of June. They died before I existed. You can read about that on pg 6 in Gyroscope Review.

and again in 2016 I am delighted to be inAvailable NOW from:
https://www.createspace.com/6652118

https://www.amazon.com/dp/0994525206

Also within the past month I have been flitting here and there spreading words like crazy:
It ain’t over and I’m the fat lady

On a Sundae

The Children Shall Be Blameless
Not for the Weak

Famous Daves

Gyroscope Review Spring 2017 PRINT ISSUE available to buy Gyroscope Review Spring 2017 Anniversary Issue

No Chance Meeting • 40 Years Today

Causeway St. Portrush. 1977 May 3rd was a day that changed my life.

I was walking home to the flat I shared with two other students. I was with my friend — Stephen. He was expecting a visit from a school friend from Wales and was leaving me home early to get back to his digs.
It was one of the worst days of the year politically speaking, because there was a lot of transport disruption from a strike and the military was everywhere, patrolling round. There were even armoured vehicles on Main Street that day.
As we approached the house, a figure came towards us. He was wearing a beige duffle coat and he looked pretty exhausted (after running the gauntlet of a major break-up followed by the worst of welcomes Ulster had to offer, all the way from Wales and with a very rough sea crossing) but he was smiling. Stephen introduced us and I knew PING in that moment and with absolute certainty


This is the man I’m going to marry.

Number 54 upstairs flat

And it wasn’t really a romantic notion (I was never a Mills & Boon kind of girl). It just presented itself in my mind as a fact as though it was the most certain thing in all the world. Now, of course you could accuse me of speaking with hindsight here because it all came to pass, but I assure it that was my first thought! And later Noel told me he had a similar thought. Maybe there is no such thing as a chance meeting.

Do you believe in such things?

I do.

He’d been going to book into Mrs MacSorley’s Guest House but he ended up sleeping on the livingroom floor of our flat because Stephen didn’t have a suitable bedsit and it saved money. In the ensuing few days, he and I talked and found we had similar interests and I became even more sure — yes — this was the man!
At that time Noel lived in Wales and I was just finishing my degree. I found I couldn’t get a job in Ulster so I applied for jobs in Scotland, London and Cardiff and I got the one in Wales. I moved there in 1978. The rest as they say…

August 1980

It just so happens that my sister Esme (bridesmaid) will be with us on Wednesday so we are going to out to celebrate 40 years of knowing each other and the champagne is on ice. Cheers!

George and the Gateshead Worme • by Oonah V Joslin

George and the Gateshead Worme – by Oonah V Joslin 2016

There was a worm lived in Gateshead
in the once-upon-long-ago
with vicious scales and big long nails
a fiery wake that wreaked of death
he carried plague on his foul breath
for he had come up from the SOUTH (boo)
at least that’s how the legend goes.

I’ll eat you all. I’ll ssscorch your town.
I’ll burn your buildingsss to the ground.
I’ll make you plead and beg and weep
unlesss you bring me sheepsss to eat. (hiss)

People complied, what could they do?
‘Til one day all the sheep were gone.
The Worme demanded calves and hogs
horses and asses, cats and dogs,
fowl by the dozen – since they’re small
he downed them whole – feathers and all
and when the livestock was all gone
there was a meeting in the toon.

I’ll eat you all. I’ll ssscorch your fieldsss
I’ll burn your cropsss to cindersss. I’ll
make the river bubble and boil
unlesss you bring me girlsss and boysss. (hiss)

The squire stood there and the thane in
fine threads with haughty demeanour
they’d had turtle doves for breakfast
roast swan and peacocks for dinner
tomorrow they’d have guinea-fowl.
They weren’t getting any thinner! (boo)

We have been forced to make a deal
in these wretched and austere times
with the Worme of Gateshead, people. (boo)
And the Squire wrung his noble hands.

Though it pains us as it pains you
to give in to this vile bully,
we have been forced to make this deal.
You must understand this fully. (boo)

From this day we must deliver
a child a week to The Worme’s lair (hiss)
We’ll draw lots for the sacrifice.
Indeed! I think that’s very fair!

And though the towns folk booed and hissed
the Thane and squire didn’t hear
for they were spirited away
by henchmen – and partook of beer
before going their separate ways
to their out-of-town fortresses.
The first lot fell on gypsy folk
who cursed the Worme that it might choke.

Now and again The Worme came down
just to intimidate the town
swooping and snooping, breathing flame
and he observed the squire and thane
feasting together in the tower
and the squire’s daughter, plump, well fed,
was slurping broth and chomping bread.

Do you really think you can cheat
a dragon with sssuch ssscrawny meat?
Thessse ssskinny children of the poor
are but a morsssel. I want more.
Sssquire, I will have the best you’ve got
and to your daughter fallsss that lot! (hiss)

The squire now wrung his hands for real
he knew there could be no appeal.

Sir George (Huzzah!) was travelling from the south
he was a brave and fearless youth
a knight whose armour shone with truth
he’d heard tell of this Gateshead Worme (hiss)
and thought that it could do no harm
to offer succour to the town
since they were suckers anyway…

Good Knight, as Squire I beg, won’t you
save us from this most evil Worme?

I’ll think about it – here’s the price
you all must pray to Jesus Christ.

He’s eaten all our cheeses too!
The thane was not the brightest coin.
I mean if you become Christians (what dorks!)
I’ll save your daughter and your town.

No problem! Anything you say.
But it’ll have to be today
to save my beautiful daughter
from inevitable slaughter.
She’s up there now you see. Hurry!

Young George leapt on his faithful steed
with his trusty sword Ascalon
and to Gateshead he rode with speed
to find the poisonous dragon.
He glittered in the noonday sun
his hilt with garnets shone and gold.
I will smite thee, O Worme! he cried. (Huzzah!)

The Worme replied, Oooo Aren’t you bold!
Nothing will keep me from my catch
I’m just about to do my worssst
maybe you’d care to ssstay and watch?
or maybe I should cook you firssst! (hiss)

The dragon’s fiery breath surged forth.
The maiden gave a screech of fear. (weak cartoonish screech for HELP)
George thrust his sword into its heart.
Down from his blade a droplet fell.
Up from the ground grew a red rose.

You saved my life the maiden swooned,
you are my hero. You’re a saint.
When I get out of this armour
lass, I think you’ll find – that I aint!

Being well travelled I suppose
there’s always dragons to be killed.
The story goes George plucked the rose.
Saints are allowed some – latitude
for it’s well known – Maids everywhere
have ways of showing – gratitude. (One last HUZZAH! From all the readers)

April • Easter • Musings

April has been both warmer and colder than usual and that’s April for you! I didn’t get out to a reading this month as planned but the summer months are ahead and who knows what will turn up (if I look for it)? Our usual walks are busy-busy with Easter Hols visitors and Easter egg hunts. I like it quiet so I am staying away. I am even avoiding the shops. I have everything I need here and lots of time to enjoy a few old favourite films and books.

So here is my little gift to you this Easter — one of my favourite passages of all time from C.S. Lewis’ Prince Caspian

Did you drool? Bet you did 🙂

So far this April I have written a poem a day. This is no mean feat but is greatly helped by the superb prompts from Marie Lightman’s Blog. It’s a great resource for those writerly types amongst you. Yesterday I wrote one about Seaton Delaval Hall and it reminded me of this lovely day out with my sister. So far it’s been great fun rummaging through the old brain cells.

I have been writing some flash fiction too. This is partly due to having plenty of time on my hands from not editing The Linnet’s Wings because of the site being inaccessible for now. It has given me pause to think… how all that editing may be sapping my own creativity. Certainly this has been my most productive month for a couple of years.

I am pleased to be in the second print edition of Gyroscope Review, in the Spoon on ther Tracks edition of Obsessed with Pipework and Alone Again with Jack Savage in PP&P and Bewildering Stories with GRAPHENE

Whether you are a tree or not, Chocolate is a certainty this weekend. Enjoy!