Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Archive for the tag “Jane Lovett”

From one jam to another – via some unlikely yarns

I have zig-zagged across the country over the summer months, barely taking time to wash everyone’s undies before haring off to grab a cuppa with the next lot of family/friends, and then to join another queue on the A1/M1/A7/M6/M5/A12 (delete as appropriate). Hammering endlessly from one end of the country to another is about as much fun as watching ‘Made In Chelsea’ (don’t do it – ever). If only a traffic-less desire line ran directly from north to south, life would be so much easier.

A peaceful desire line trims the corner off the walk to Tesco on Ord Drive, Berwick. If only such a line existed between north and south.

For a start I might have been able to miraculously zoom back for the many local events I longed to share – from the Spittal Seaside Festival, to the Summerland and Electric Penelope gigs at the Maltings. Plus I’ve neglected our galleries for too long – The Watchtower, Granary and Gymnasium have all had stonkingly good summer shows. Fortunately we managed to anchor in Berwick long enough to catch Chloë Smith’s visceral and evocative dance ‘Tidal’ on Spittal Pier – go see the film at the Maltings on 9th September if you missed the real thing.

Why isn’t basic first aid training mandatory?

It was also great to take in the training session for the spanking new Berwick defibrillator (located outside the Youth Project). Hats off to Simon Landels and the Rotary for linking with the Stephen Carey Fund. This charity was launched by the friends and family of the young Alnmouth footballer who, because of a heart defect, collapsed and died during a match in 2012. It is testament to what a small band of dedicated, focused volunteers can achieve – providing over 45 defibrillators around our north-eastern pocket in their first two years. And now we have one in Berwick. It’s a comfort to the Husband who likes to note the location of such things ‘just in case’. However, should he ever need one (God forbid), he’ll also require the services of an informed and trained passer-by. I have never truly got to grips with what you should actually do if you’re faced with someone who may be having a heart attack. It’s not rocket science but, if you’re on the spot, the likelihood of you managing to roll a 17-stone person into the recovery position without the right technique is slim. Why isn’t basic first aid training mandatory? As our Stephen Carey trainer said: ‘Anyone can use a defibrillator – it’s what you do before you get to that stage that’s going to save a life.’

After a long day narrowboating a bit of yarn bombing makes you smile.

After a long day narrowboating a bit of yarn bombing makes you smile.

Of course, had I not been away visiting I would not have encountered the wonderful art of yarn bombing – thereby enabling me to identify the phenomenon in the photo recently submitted to the Berwick Advertiser of a phone box wearing a woolly scarf. Along the Kennet & Avon Canal at Caen Hill Flight (an eye-pixelating stretch of 29 locks), sweaty narrowboaters can pause on the towpath and smile at jolly knitted neck warmers adorning the lamp posts. What a wonderful example of the unpredictable eccentricity of humankind.

Desire lines are, of course, people’s preferred route over an established pathway – for example, cutting off a pavement-created corner (check out the ones by Berwick Tesco on Ord Drive or at the top of the pier). Mind you, off-piste routes are as capricious as their creators. On a recent St Abbs walk, we succumbed to an enticing path which deposited us on a vertiginous gravelly bank.

A woman trims the corner at Berwick Pier. But not all such paths are quite so predictable.

A woman trims the corner at Berwick Pier. But not all such paths are quite so predictable.

I am a tad dizzy when I think of this year’s Berwick Food & Beer Festival (fab family event – Sept 4th (beer only), 5th, 6th, Barracks). I have often helped in the popular demonstration kitchen, but this year I’m doing a demo (3pm tomorrow, Saturday Sept 5th, thanks for asking!). In my mind I follow a path leading to pert Pavlovas and peachy pies. But I dread ending up in the abyss of deflated soufflés and split sauces. And suddenly the simplicity of sitting in an unending queue of traffic on an A-road somewhere far away is quite appealing.

All prepped for my timed practice run of Jane Lovett’s (from Make it Easy) Salmon en croute with lime and coriander sauce.

(A version of this article was first published on 3rd September 2015 in the Berwick Advertiser)

Preserving problems – elderflower cordial gives me the runaround

I often write about preservation and regeneration. It’s a hot topic in Berwick. Some say we have the highest proportion of listed buildings in the country. Above ground our archaeology spans the centuries and beneath lie treasures so precious that you can’t lay foundations without calling on Tony Robinson’s ‘Time Team’. It’s a battle against the clock to capture heritage before it crumbles away.

Hopefully a Berwick building that's on the way up.

City Electrical Factors – a Berwick building that’s hopefully on the way up.

And Kwik Save - one that could do with a bit of tlc.

And Kwik Save – one that could do with a bit of tlc.

I have been waging my own quiet war with preserving since we moved to Berwick and our lives became a cross between ‘The Good Life’ (hens) and ‘Yes Minister’ (The Husband on the town council). Each summer I have eyed the abundant creamy elderflowers and said, ‘This year I will make use of those beauties.’ Each year the flowers drift off the trees like dandruff. And I say, ‘Next year.’

I recently reconnected with a friend whose aunt is the legendary Beryl Wood. BeryI’s book ‘Let’s Preserve It’ (Square Peg, 2011) was first published in 1970 and my friend has worked hard to get it back in print. The book’s Facebook page is all things chutney and preserves. I feel a bit of a fraud ‘liking’ all these things. I mean, I do like them, it’s just that I don’t do much of them – despite abundant produce and good intentions.

I’m not totally inept, just prone to procrastination. The first year we arrived in Berwick, our plum tree was laden. We ate as many as we could. When the plums were almost beyond the point of preserving, I had a night of the long knives. My fingers were blackened with stoning, sticky pans, sugar and labels decorated the kitchen. But, by morning, I had rows of mismatched jars brimful of jam, ketchup, and the little darlings dancing in brandy. Next time I’ll be more organised, I thought. However, no new jars have joined my now dwindling supply.

This year I determined to make elderflower and gooseberry cordial. However, when I finally went to collect my gooseberries, there was not a berry in sight. Blackbirds, apparently. I was deflated. Chatting with Jane Lovett, the cookery writer and demonstrator who lives near Wooler, I was regalvanised. ‘Come on Jackie,’ she said, ‘forget gooseberries. Elderflower cordial’s easy and delicious. All you need is 25 elderflower heads.’  So, armed with a copy of Jane’s book ‘Make it Easy’ (New Holland Publishers, 2012), I resolved to get on with it. The elderflowers were beginning to turn, so The Husband and I, plus scissors and plastic bag, made an evening raid on the banks of the Tweed and harvested the last decent flower heads.

Then I read the recipe. Citric acid. It was 10pm. I chucked the bag of flowers in the freezer, thinking I’d sort it all out the next day. What could go wrong? For a variety of reasons, citric acid’s not easy to source in Berwick. Fortunately, Ross in the Green Shop, sent me to the Brew House near Coldingham, a cornucopia of all things home brew, including citric acid.

And so, on a Sunday morning in late July, I was poised. A huge bowl of sugar, citric acid, lemon juice and boiling water stood ready to receive my flower heads. Sadly, as they defreeze, elderflowers turn a grim brown. Would there be 25 useable flower heads left to scavenge? Out came the scissors. On went the wellies. Up the nettly banks of the Tweed I scrambled. Yes! Clasping my bounty, I rushed back home to the steaming bowl and tipped the blighters in.

So, I’ve done it. And my conclusion? Like regenerating Berwick, preserving takes time, patience, and careful planning. It’s an investment: and the benefits range from satisfaction at getting the timings right, to enjoying tasty and nutritious delights during barren times. And next year, I’ll do it properly. Perhaps.

Jax's brew: Elderflower cordial at last!

Jax’s brew: Elderflower cordial at last!

This article was first published in The Berwick Advertiser in August 2013

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