Stir-up Sunday

I blush to admit I learned about Stir-up Sunday by listening to the Archers… But it’s here: the last Sunday before Advent is the day to make your Christmas pudding, cake etc, and I am making fruit cake today, despite popular wisdom that few people actually like them. I’ll make a plum pudding as well, since I have plums a-plenty in my freezer.

For years, my school friend Michelle’s mother used to send me a fruit cake each Christmas, and I use her recipe now. Mine will go to people I know will want them as I do, and they keep superbly with all that brandy for preservative.

It’s a labour of love, a heavy batter. My recipe calls for 6 pounds of dried fruit, a quart of brandy, 10 eggs.. even with that recipe cut in half, considerable effort goes into the soaking, the grating, the juicing and the mixing..

its heaviness a wish
upon a wooden spoon, child’s hand
beneath a mother’s,
turning a hard tide once,
twice, thrice, invoking luck…
(Fruit Cake, from Larder)

The ingredients represent considerable luxury even today. Currants, sultanas, raisins, mixed peel, candied cherries and pineapple – all ways to preserve fruits in season I suppose, if you have sufficient means (sugar, time, heat) but they are and always have been exotic imports for northern kitchens. Oranges (juice and peel required) are not yet in season closer to home (California in this case). Almonds have questionable sustainability creds – as do most things really when produced in the excessive quantities needed to meet every Western whim.

My ingredients include a few home-made versions. I made (for the experience, and probably not to be repeated) candied BC cherries this year; and I load my dehydrator each autumn with a neighbour’s green seedless grapes – each laboriously hand-pricked to dry more evenly – and make the best raisins I’ve ever tasted. I’ve added some candied lemon peel I made when making natural pectin for jam this summer. These are tokens but they put a bit of myself into the gifts the cakes will be.

The cakes are made, the pans lined and filled, and are sitting quietly overnight as the recipe instructs. Tomorrow my house will be fragrant and once they come out of the oven, warm and delectable, the question will be how many loaves will remain by Christmas?

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Tube striking in London

Thames river with river bus

Thames river bus (Uber Boat) will be one of the few ways to get around during today’s tube strike

Departure day looms; I had a nice sunny afternoon yesterday for a final wander round Vauxhall as I prepared myself and my bags to move along.

Fate is a funny fellow. It had initially added to my carefully planned trip to London a week of train strikes, one of these incorporating a tube strike for additional merriment.

Retired soldier at Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey

Field of Remembrance, Westminster Abbey

Then the tube strike scheduled for November 3 was shifted to today, in order to avoid a clash with the Royal British Legion’s London Poppy Day appeal. So instead, the usual transit aftermath will spill into Remembrance Day itself -?! – and I had to take evasive action in order to avoid missing my flight this afternoon.

Well, this evasive action allowed me to discover routes and areas of London I hadn’t been familiar with. I travelled to Stanwell yesterday, where I found an Airbnb bed for the night, only 10 minutes or so from Heathrow.

All this brings back memories of my year in Italy, where transport strikes (scioperi) are so embedded, they have their own website. The BBC has its own advice on how to cope with a tube strike.. but so far nothing on offer about how to cope with the upcoming nursing strike, a whole new level of pain for my other country.

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Reading in London

Please join us! Saturday October 29 at St Mary’s Church, Islington, London N1 (UK)

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Reading in Vancouver

Susan Alexander and I will be reading at Christ Church Cathedral, downtown Vancouver, on Saturday October 22, from 4-5pm. All are welcome!

The poster was so beautiful I had to share!

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Poet Laureate Rocks the Shore

A sunny Sunday on Dallas Road – we gathered to watch the unveiling of the latest Victoria poet laureate legacy art installation. This was a poem by Yvonne Blomer whose term ended in 2018. It’s perched on a grassy spot on Dallas Road, overlooking the ocean.

The big reveal: Yvonne introduces the project and then cuts the ribbon and enlists the help of her husband and father to unwrap her poem.

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