January 25 2018: Welshcakes

There were always welshcakes in my childhood.  Like bread or cheese they were staples in the pantry, almost any pantry.

When we visited my father’s Pembrokeshire  aunties – ancient ladies in wrap-around pinnies – we ate welshcakes at scrubbed farmhouse tables, with old copies of Farmer’s Weekly under the cushions on the settle and the faint smell of damp and cows and primroses everywhere.  Welshcakes were served with home-brewed beer for the adults and ginger beer for children.  The ginger beer was so fierce and fiery, the bubbles racing up your nose ,that it almost took the top of your head off and every  glass  of the commercial stuff  since then has been a deep disappointment.

My mother’s aunties in the Valleys served us tea in delicate cups on lace tablecloths and we had to mind our manners.  But the welshcakes were just as good. They were kept in a battered tin with a picture of King George and Queen Mary.  The houses smelled of polish  and Brasso and the free coal my uncles got as miners.

The aunties used a griddle on top of the range, my mother made welshcakes directly on top of the Aga, risking burnt fingers as she wiped a butter wrapper over the hob.  My   sister was the welshcake queen of Oxfordshire,making them in a heavy le Creuset pan and storing them in Tupperware and taking them to hospitals and coffee mornings and sick friends.  When she died we joked that she would turn up at the Pearly Gates with a tin of welshcakes for St Peter.

This week in Yorkshire  I made welshcakes with three year old Bethan, younger grand-daughter.  Wrapped round and round in an enormous apron, she stood on a chair and carefully mixed the flour and the butter, sugar, sultanas and egg, concentrating as hard as if  I was giving her the secret of the universe, which in a way,I was.

We looked for a box for her to take some welshcakes home and at the back of the cupboard I found an old ice cream carton that my mother must have used to bring cakes to us more than twenty years ago.

An ice cream carton and a recipe for welshcakes – who needs heirlooms with treasure like that to hand on?






January 20 2018: The girl with the long blonde hair

I heard recently about the death of an old friend.  Phil was never the great love of my life but we were  good mates, good friends and spent a lot of time together years ago.

Back in the 1970s  we shared a passion for Ealing Comedies – The Lavender Hill Mob, Kind Hearts and Coronets, The Ladykillers etc and spent many an evening scouring the old flea pit cinemas of Oxfordshire to see them.   Eating popcorn in  almost deserted cinemas  that smelt of damp and decay, but we were happy and laughing in the dark.

At the time Phil drove an ancient sports car with a dodgy starter motor.  This meant we often had to come giggling out of the cinema and push the car to get it going.  Then we would  – literally – jump in  the car and head off to his place or mine.

Then I moved away.  We met and married other people but over the years had met up occasionally and were always pleased to see each other, a friendship that might have survived even better had we not lived 200miles  apart.

So when I  heard he’d died I was  sad for Phil and his  life cut short and for his wife and family.

But above all, to be honest, I was sad for myself – for that girl with the long blonde hair I used to be, the girl who could jump effortlessly into a moving sports car…