Monday, October 13, 2008

SORRY, SORRY, SORRY - the last few weeks have been hectic to say the least, what with moving house and a full-on calendar of other commitments, I'm afraid the blog has been sadly
neglected, apologies all round.

In a couple of days time I'm off to China for a fortnight, but hope to blog from there as I am taking my latest toy, a small but perfectly formed notebook made by Dell.


Ruth Rendell is one of Britain’s most prolific and popular authors, in the four decades since I read her first book she has published a further 57 titles, 45 under her own name (21 of which feature her detective creation Wexford and the fictious town of Kingsmarkham), and 13 under her pseudonym Barbara Vine. (to learn more about Ruth Rendell, click here.)

I hadn’t read anything by her for a year or two and decided it was more than time to pick up one of her recent books. In 2006 she published The Water’s Lovely as Ruth Rendell, When she writes as Vine the novels are often multilayered, darker and explore the impact that chance or coincidence has on her characters.

Ismay and Heather are sisters who share a flat in what was once the family house; their elderly mother Beatrice, who has dementia, lives in the flat above them cared for by her sister Patricia. Thirteen years previously, when Ismay and Heather were in their early teens, their stepfather Guy was found drowned in his bath.

Ismay has always thought that Heather drowned him in order to protect her from Guy’s sexual attentions, and has worried whether she should have been complict with her mother in covering her sister’s crime.

Now both young women are working and in serious relationships, but the past continues to cast a long shadow, and threatens their lives.

As always Ruth Rendell has created some memorable characters, and in this book are three of the most compellingly selfish people you could imagine. Andrew, Ismay’s boyfriend, is a truly nasty piece of work. He treats Ismay with contempt and reduces her to abject misery. Heather’s fiancée Edmund has a mother, Irene, who is the most hysterical hypochondriac, using her imagined illnesses to try and control Edmund. Marion Melville, one of Irene’s friends, is a character worthy of Dickens. A manipulator par excellence, she visits several elderly people for entirely selfish reasons and it is through her unwittingly amoral behaviour that Guy’s death comes back to haunt the sisters.

Rendell excels at the psychological crime novel and this is no exception, though I did think it was much more in the style of Barbara Vine, and I am surprised she published it under that name.

Rated 4*


There are times when I begin to wonder what country I am living in, and now is one of those times….am I living in Britain, or East Germany before the collapse of the Berlin Wall ? We are being turned slowly but surely in to a nation that spies on one another, reports one another (sometimes anonymously) to the “authorities” for perceived minor infractions of civil or criminal law.

You may wonder why I am getting all hot under the collar about this today, read on and you may become hot under the collar too.

Lincoln City Council has decided that all council employed plumbers and electricians are to be given training in spotting child abuse, so that when they are in someone’s home to fix a wonky pipe or re-wire an electrical circuit they can spy on the family and report back to Social Services if they think that children may have been abused.

Child abuse is a horrible thing, it harms children and their families. The term is wide ranging, and includes neglect, emotional, physical and sexual abuse. It is by its very nature hidden, and difficult to spot even for experts. Just having an accusation of child abuse made, rightly or wrongly, can tear a family apart and do lasting damage which may echo down the generations.
I say this as one who, after 20+ years in the Family Courts, dealt with more cases of child abuse than I care to remember.

To expect handymen (or women) to be able to diagnose children as abused or in danger of abuse after a week or two’s training, when they are busy working on the job of plumbing or wiring is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of.

No it’s worse than that, it is very dangerous and just plain wrong. What on earth do Lincoln Council think they are doing?

The chance of false allegations will be very high; and if a plumber unblocks a sink in Family A’s kitchen and doesn’t report anything, does that mean that all is ticketty-boo and the kids are fine? Does it hell, it means absolutely nothing.

There used to be a good old English phrase “Mind your own business” and the business of plumbers is plumbing, not spying for social services.

I hope that the people of Lincoln rise up and stop this outrageous plan.


Adjusting to a new kitchen takes time - in the first place you have to remember where you have put everything as you unpacked box after box, and then the regular way you move between sink, stove/oven, fridge etc seems awkward and unfamiliar.
Waiting for the plumber to come and sort out the boiler a few days ago, meant a working lunch had to be re-scheduled from a restaurant to being here in the new house, and the menu was dependent on what I had available. -Some frozen Canadian scallops (which are a really useful thing to have in the freezer, they should not be defrosted before cooking and taste delicious), a packet of Puy lentils, and a small Savoy cabbage provided the basis for a really tasty main course which I will be making again.
Puy lentils are the only lentils which have an A.O.C. (Appellation d'Origine Controlée ), they are small, grey-brown in colour and do not require pre-soaking.


Serves 4

400g frozen Canadian scallops
250g Puy lentils
1 onion, finely chopped
200g bacon lardons
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Salt and pepper
1 small Savoy cabbage, finely shredded
1 heaped tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley
Olive oil
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Place the lentils in a saucepan and cover with about ½ litre of boiling water, cook for about 20 minutes until the lentils are soft. Drain and set aside.

In a frying pan sauté the lardons until beginning to brown slightly then add the chopped onion and continue cooking, stirring regularly, until the onion is translucent, add the drained lentils and mix together; add the lemon juice and season to taste. Set aside.

The lentils can be prepared to this stage well in advance, even the day before, and then re-heated in a pan or microwave prior to serving.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a shallow pan, and when very hot add the shredded cabbage, stir-fry for a few moments before adding enough water to moisten it, keep cooking for a minute or two until the cabbage is softened but still has a little bite to it. Stir in the soy sauce and the chopped parsley. Set aside but keep warm.

Heat a frying pan until very hot, add a splash of olive oil and then the frozen scallops. Cook for 6-7 minutes each side until soft, cooked through and golden brown.
Place a ring of the cooked cabbage on each plate, and heap some of the lentils in the centre. Carefully place about 5-6 scallops on top of the lentils and serve immediately with crusty bread.


Anonymous said...

Glad to hear you're getting settled in at the new place. I know what you mean about it taking time to get that "kitchen flow" when one can automatically put ones hand on a required item without thinking.
I'm just back from a couple of weeks in Beijing. You should be just in time to enjoy the autumn colour. It wasn't yet apparent when we visited the Fragrant Hills last week.
Didn't manage to do any blogging from China. Either the authorities or the ISP don't approve of wordpress. Hope you're luckier as I shall be reading with great interest.
The scallop recipe sounds fab. I may try it out at a small dinner party later this month.
Been using puy lentils for several years. I like their flavour and texture. I'm lazy so get mine ready to use from the same place you possibly get your scallops.

Bybee said...

The scallops look yummy...I predict your career in this new kitchen will be even more stellar than the one in your old kitchen.

Mother of the bride said...

Welcome back. Agree with you that Rendell felt more like Vine. Not sure about the ending ....

Nick said...

Haven't read Rendell for a long while, I thought her books were getting a bit samey. Must try the one you mention, it's intriguing.

Totally agree with you over Lincoln Council. A plumber's job is plumbing not spotting child abuse, for which they have no qualifications at all and two weeks' training is hardly enough (unless of course they're guilty of child abuse themselves in which case they're hardly going to report anything). I would have thought a teacher or another mum is much likely to spot suspicious signs.

realdoc said...

Scallops for tea tonight, deffo.

Jeanne said...

What a crazy idea! Plumbers looking for child abuse, indeed. If social worker upon social worker and a medical doctor did not spot the abuse that Baby P or Victoria Climbie were enduring, how in hell will a plumber spot it while underneath the sink??

And I *love* the scallop recipe. Bookmarked!