Saturday, September 09, 2006

BLOGGERS seem to be a very mixed bunch.
I have been strolling through the Blogosphere reading a huge variety of blogs, (and thats just the ones written in English).
I have a list of favourites that I have been reading for ages, and I would like to put a list of them on my sidebar, but so far I havn't quite figured out how to do that. One thing seems evident, 99% of bloggers are at least 10 years my junior.


I have heard some people say “I never read fiction” in a disparaging tone, as though novels were akin to comics, and that only reading non-fiction made them intellectually superior in some way.

How foolish and snobbish they are, they miss so much, and this book, given to me by my Australian cousin is a prime example.

I LOVE reading novels, and The Secret River is a really powerful, beautifully written book which is probably destined to become an Australian classic, and may even win the Booker prize this year as it is on the long list. Kate Grenville wrote this book after researching her family history and what a story she tells of the early settlement of New South Wales, based on one of her own ancestors.

The main protagonist is Will Thornhill, a cockney lad, born into a life of poverty and crime in late 18th Century London. Bobbing and weaving, ducking and diving, he learns to survive and becomes a waterman on the River Thames, marries his childhood sweetheart Sal, and is on the way to becoming respectable. An unfortunate turn of events throws him back into poverty and he ends up being transported to Botany Bay for an attempted theft. His wife and young child are able to go too, and they arrive in a new world, so harsh, so brutal, and so remote from everything they have ever known that they might as well have been sent to the far side of the moon.

After he has been emancipated Will, Sal and their children settle on a remote tract of land beside the Hawkesbury River some fifty miles north of Sydney and only accessible by boat.

Will is absolutely in love with the land, and realises that even though he is now a free man he would still be regarded as a criminal if the family returned to England although that is Sal’s abiding dream. Their struggles to clear the land and survive are set against their encounters with the local aboriginal people who roam through the area, and have no concept of ownership of land or growing of crops. Will and the other settlers cannot understand them or their way of life, and have no means of communicating. Clashes continually occur eventually culminating in an incident of such brutality that the aborigines are driven away from the area. However this incident changes Will, who is confused within himself as to how he, a decent man at heart, could have participated in something so horrible. None the less, from then on the family prosper, Sal comes to terms with the fact that they will never return to London, and that their future and their descendants future lies in this new land.

The book made me think of the parallels with the settlement of Southern Africa, and left me with many questions, particularly about how very quickly the indigenous people were subjugated. I am going to have to find other books to read about this early period of Australia’s history.


I don’t smoke any more – I gave up 25+ years ago when my daughter was born. I started smoking when I was about 20 (shared a flat with a friend who smoked like a chimney and got sucked into the chimney myself) and gave up when I was 30. My dear husband has never smoked (what a sensible, goody-goody, smug b*****d he is). I now loathe the whole idea of smoking; I loathe the way the smell clings - to clothes, curtains and in rooms. I don’t like the breath of smokers, and I would hate to sit in a smoky pub or restaurant now. BUT…

I loathe the idea that the state can force people to do things because the state thinks they are good for people. We should all be able to go to hell in our own way.

I particularly loathe the suggestion that we non-smokers should phone a free hot-line and denounce any smokers we may see in a public place.

Is the government lead by a bunch of totalitarian fascists? Do they want us to turn into the Stasi, informing on one another for any perceived misdemeanour? What will happen if the proposed 0800 number comes into use next year as planned, will there be cases of spiteful colleagues and neighbours phoning in to shaft someone? During WW2 in occupied France, many French citizens denounced others to the Germans in an attempt to ingratiate themselves with the occupying power. The British have always been particularly self-congratulatory that such behaviour would “never happen here”. What a load of bollocks, of course it would, and this situation with smokers will prove it. We have had a hosepipe ban in southern England for the past few months, and in the first two months, in Sussex, over 1500 suburban spies rang in to the hot-line to shop people.

You can be sure that there will be plenty of self-righteous folk who will do the same for the poor saps who are addicted to nicotine.

What will happen? Some poor bloke is sitting outside a pub on a sunny Sunday morning enjoying a pint and a ciggie, when nee-nah, nee-nah, the Smoking Gestapo will arrive and carry him off.

Why can’t some pubs, restaurants, cafes etc choose to be smoking venues and advertise themselves as such? Then we non-smokers can avoid them, and the die-hards can puff away in peace


We seem to be having a last burst of warm summer weather this weekend, so what could be nicer than having tea in the garden - and of course afternoon tea wouldn't be afternoon tea without a cake. As we are rushing around trying to get the bathroom tiling completed there is not much time for baking, so I have made my default cake, a Victoria Sponge with cream and jam. In this case the jam is Mulberry & Apple, made by my friend A who is a dab-hand at jam-making.


115g soft baking margarine (I use Stork)

115g caster sugar

115g self-raising flour

2 large eggs

1 teaspoon (5ml) baking powder

¼ teaspoon vanilla essence

Jam and 125ml double cream

Pre-heat oven to 180°C

Grease and base line two 18cm sandwich cake tins

Make sure all ingredients are at room temperature.

Sieve the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl, then add the sugar, soft margarine, eggs and vanilla essence.

Beat well together for two minutes until thick and creamy, if too thick add a tablespoon of milk.

Divide the mixture between the two tins, use a spatula to spread it out to the edges being thinner in the middle so it rises evenly. Tap each tin on work surface before placing in the oven.

Bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown, springy to the touch, and pulling away from the sides of the tin.

Cool in the tins for a couple of minutes, then turn out to cool on a wire rack.

When cool, sandwich together with jam and whipped cream or with whipped cream to which a little chopped fruit has been added such as strawberries, pineapple, or passion fruit pulp.

Dust the top of the cake with icing or caster sugar.

Freezes well either filled or plain (if freezing plain, separate layers with greaseproof paper to prevent them sticking together).

1 comment:

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