The Old Friend in my Handbag

Carol Drinkwater’s The Forgotten Summer is safely stored in my handbag and can be enjoyed at any time, but a generous glass of Chateauneuf du Pape is a recommended companion.

I devoured Drinkwater’s memoirs and drank up her wisdom, and her novel, Forgotten Summer, did not disappoint me.  Drinkwater wraps up her nuggets of wisdom, and powerful observations, in a beautifully crafted narrative.

This is so much more than the story of an English girl that fell in love with a Frenchman.  Jane’s memories of her life, thirty years on, are the starting point for Jane’s exploration of another world that her husband inhabited.

Read the complete review of Forgotten Summer in My Reading.

 

Drinkwater books are like my old friends.  I started this reading friendship with the Olive Farm books.

I escaped into the world of Apassionata immediately. I could feel the heat of the sun on my face as I ran away to the Mediterranean, with the narrator’s voice in my head. The descriptions are vivid, soothing and thoroughly necessary; they nourish the imagination and transport you.

Read the complete review of The Olive Farm in My Reading.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Check out my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-04-03 19:40:28.

Fish Shack, ‘bay-bee’, Fish Shack

Books in my Handbag Tour

Fifteen miles from nowhere, we saw a faded sign for ‘Fish Shack’.  We followed a road to the middle of the beach desert until we reached a decaying old boat that was almost as big as a whale. Yes, and the B52’s track was playing in my head…

Parking the car on the uneven tarmac, we hobbled over the pebbles to the shack.  Luckily, I found a table overlooking abandoned boats and Dungeness Power Station.  Optimistic that my husband had reserved a love shack to celebrate two decades of marriage, I congratulated him on this romantic setting.  Alas, always thinking of his stomach, the Fish Shack was the destination.

Expecting greasy fish and chips, I was handed plaice and salad with a large cup of builder’s tea.  The food was absolutely delicious!  The plaice, caught only hours earlier, was cooked in olive oil on a hot plate. The fresh salad had an olive oil and lemon dressing. It was served in a small cardboard box, but they will probably steal this idea on the Great British Menu. And builder’s tea could be the new Pinot Noir.  I must confess that I declined the bread roll, but understood that it was a nod to the fishermen who eat this food.

Seizing the moment, we decided to go for a walk on the beach.  We were told it was fine to walk on the beach if we didn’t touch the ‘fishing tackle’!!  Forget visiting a maritime museum, there were artefacts on the beach such as rusty anchors and abandoned nets.  These savvy people are obviously protecting the objects d’art to prevent art galleries and Michelin starred restaurants from displaying them in their gaffs.  The food and the setting were perfect: The Fish Shack is indeed a funky little shack. Get yourselves off to the food getaway!

Who knows? Maybe this place will become either the Dungeness Modern Art Gallery or even the Derek Jarman Modern.  An art gallery and restaurant without walls could be the new concept of the 21st century.  Visit now as in the future you may need a credit card without a limit.

Funky Fact

Derek Jarman, the artist and filmmaker, lived in Prospect Cottage, Dungeness.

 

Please see all my travels and adventures at Handbag Adventures.

Wine tasting in Blighty

Au revoir France and goodbye ferry. Hello, White Cliffs of Dover. Where are the bluebirds?

Have you guessed? We stayed in Blighty for our holidays. But I feared that we would miss the sunshine and the dégustation. A ‘Blightycation’ ahead of us, we visited: castles, gardens, castles, seaside towns, pubs and yet more castles.

 

Barnsole Vineyard

Travelling the roads, in search of another castle, I spotted a brown sign for a vineyard. Barnsole Vineyard was perfectly situated in a picturesque Kentish village. The entrance to the bijou vineyard took us straight to the vines. Alors! We were en France. We were invited to sit on a terrace surrounded by flowers. My mind wondered back to those many, many heady days of wine tasting en France. I wanted to say, ‘Bonjour. Dégustation s’il vous plait?’ But my schoolgirl French wasn’t required. The only headache that threatened was from the wine, rather than trying to dredge up my language skills.

 

Proprietors of Barnsole Vineyard

The proprietor gave us a warm welcome. She was passionate about the vineyard and keen to point out that ‘nature throws its challenges’ at the winemaking process. This vineyard oversees the whole process from the grape to your glass. Despite the hard work, the proprietors were relaxed. They had learned the art from the previous Polish owners. On the day that we visited, their friends were bottling the sparkling wine. I felt like I had walked into a scene of the many romance novels that I have read. However, I was concerned that the lovely proprietor was spitting out the wine onto the grass. I didn’t like to comment at the time!

We were welcomed with a tray full of bottles to taste. No complaints were heard from me as I wasn’t driving. The only hint of Blighty was the cool breeze that threatened to bring a few drops of rain.

The wine was delicious! We enjoyed the fresh citrus flavours of the white and another had a slightly floral taste. The red wine tasted of berries. My tasting senses were working! According to the experts the Red Reserve 2013 had ‘redcurrants and sense of delicious spice’ while the Recheinsteiner was ‘complex with a great body’: I don’t remember him but I was right about the berries. We also bought some sparkling English wine for Christmas. I did feel a warm glow from the effects of the wine tasting. However, I could walk in a straight line to the car. Feel free to congratulate me on this because I concentrated with all my might! Apparently, I am lined up for an award.

Nodding off on the journey home, I did see the bluebirds. This Francophile may have been converted. We will all be delighting in ‘Blightycations’ very soon – just you wait and see. Meanwhile, I am thinking of organising a pre-Christmas wine tasting celebration. Would you care to join me?

 

Please see all the articles in my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-07-12 07:00:06.

‘Winestorming’ in Broadway

Broadway, Cotswolds

Broadway village, in the Cotswolds, is constructed of honey coloured stone.

Dripping with charm, this village always makes my heart glow and coaxes me to find souvenirs for the senses – and not the bric-a-brac variety.

Broadway Delicatessen and Broadway Wine Company are always essential destinations on our culinary compass.  Broadway Wine Company is a boutique wine shop. The wines are displayed like precious books and each bottle has a blurb.  Every label tells a story, and the wine merchant invites you into the narrative. Then like a conductor, he throws his arms around until he finds the right melody of flavour for you.

 

Drunk with enthusiasm, his mind travels to the various wine regions.  His words ramble down the dusty tracks to the vineyards, until you reach some possible destinations for your wine choice. Oozing knowledge, he tells you where and how the wine is produced.  Listening to your preferences, he starts ‘winestorming’ as he searches for the correct notes of flavour.   Speaking, without pretention and without pausing, he finds the perfect match for your taste.

On our last pilgrimage, the wine evangelist helped us to select a trio of wines from the Old World and New World.  We paired the Sidewood Reserve from the Adelaide Hills with some Gloucester Old Spot Sausages, served with Worcester apple sauce.   Low and behold, it was a perfect match!

 

 

 

Please see all my travels at Handbag Adventures and my blog at jessiecahalin.com.

 




Originally posted 2017-09-08 07:00:12.

Chase away writer’s block in the real world

During the last couple of months, I have been immersed in a virtual world of social media. Yesterday, my family insisted that I visited the real world of the Brecon Beacons.

Initially, I complained that it was another rainy day in Wales and it wasn’t worth braving a potential storm.  I was happy to admire the colours of the garden, from my writing room, but the writing wasn’t flowing.  Finally, I left my handbag at home, retrieved my walking gear and went to the Brecon Beacons.  The beep, beep, beep of my phone was left behind as we drove into the heart of the impressive mountain range.

Always one to admire the cloudless blue sky, I was surprised by depth of the grey sky.   I had been adamant that I needed the blue sky for some ‘blue sky thinking’, but I was wrong. I needed the reality of a dramatic landscape to chase away the writer’s block.

We stood in the landscape as the colours were dissolved by silver, grey and bronze tones.  We discussed how the scene was changing before us, and how the moving clouds were like the curtains opening and closing on the stage.  This very real experience made me aware that the weather re-writes the landscape in the same way that a writer changes the shades of meaning in a story.

Rather than staring at the computer screen for inspiration, or peering into the same garden – why not immerse yourself in the real world?  It is good to hear the real tweets of the birds rather than the computer-generated tweets.

 

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-05-31 07:00:54.

A table for two and a notebook

On arrival at Restaurant James Sommerin, we ordered a good Pinot Noir. We noted that the ambiance was calm, staff attentive and the other guests were very well attired.

Feeling relaxed, in our jeans and T shirts, we discussed the merits of the food; each dish looked elegant like a work of art.  Much to my husband’s dismay, I started to make notes about the food.  The guests on the neighbouring table were intrigued by the notebook.  Clearly, I wasn’t a restaurant critic as I was wearing jeans.   We sipped more of the wine that was so beautifully flavoured with summer fruits that it could have been a soft drink.

The delicious food improved with each course.  Buoyed by this tasting experience, I was determined to write an analysis of each dish. I scribbled furiously between each morsel and took photographs of the dishes.  More delicious wine was poured into a glass that could happily home several goldfish.

Alas, I cannot read the scribbles in my notebook.  Throughout the notebook, I had repeated the words ‘great textures’ and ‘explosion of flavour’ albeit in various styles of handwriting. ‘Desert’ was underlined enthusiastically. Did I go to the Sahara to eat pudding? Other words were incomplete and I hope that they didn’t run off onto the beautifully laundered table cloth.  I circled ‘black pudding’ purée several times because I didn’t have my highlighter pen. I do remember that I was offended by the puréed texture but I am a northerner.

Undeterred by the black pudding, I did note down Picasso’s poetry on a plate.  Obviously, Pinot Noir should come with a cliché warning on the label. Mysteriously, the notebook has splashes of wine and food inside of it but I will keep it as a tribute to the Picasso chef.

James Sommerin is a chef and an artist.  The restaurant was like a theatre of food and next time I will dress up for the occasion. The food was so good that I can forgive the corruption of the black pudding texture.  I will wish on a star for the restaurant!

 

 

Please see my blog at jessiecahalin.com

Originally posted 2017-06-28 07:00:41.

Books abandoned for sculptures…

I had the pleasure of visiting Yorkshire Sculpture Park last week. It is an open-air art gallery, set in the grounds of an eighteenth-century mansion.  The landscaped gardens work together with the sculptures to create an amazing creative harmony.

There is such a variety of sculptures and each one inspires questions.  Indeed, it is amazing the way in which perfect strangers are happy to discuss the sculptures without worrying about their interpretations. Perhaps the visitors feel uninhibited as they are not confined by the walls of gallery that echoes with knowledge. Who knows?’

During the walk, we stumbled on many people from different nationalities.  An Australian woman told me that she had been ‘startled’ by a wonderful sculpture of a woman’s head.  We agreed that the spirit of the woman seems to beckon you.  From a distance, the sculpture looks like a projected image – prompting: is she real or imaginary? As you approach, the sculpture is flat – like the silhouette on a stamp.  It is a beautiful form that seemed to appeal to women rather than men, on that day.  Despite the grey sky, the light was adding a mystical quality that gave the sculpture an air of confidence.  What this suggesting something about the modern woman?

Further into the walk, we were greeted by Highland cattle.  These creatures were so still, and at ease with the visitors, that we wondered if they were sculptures.  We also found a dead tree with ancient looking bark and a very twisted form.  Had the tree been left there to demonstrate how natural objects can also be sculpted by the elements? We were having this debate when another visitor overheard and said, ‘What a load of arty farty nonsense!’  This brought us completely down to earth and reminded me of how everything is open to interpretation.

Still laughing at the comments, we found some steps that were carved into the earth paving a way to some open woodland.  I decided that the steps were a sculpture but my husband was sceptical at this point; he had been influenced by our fellow Yorkshire folk.  A plaque marked the spot as if to reassure me.  It felt as if someone was presenting a hopeful message about the climb.  Pardon the pun, but I went a step further and commented that to me they represented the struggle for independent authors.  But that was my interpretation at that point in time: I was influenced by my emotions, experience, the weather and, of course, ‘arty farty nonsense’.

The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is a wonderful place to visit.  I wonder if you would be able to spot the sculptures that instigated our discussions?  Would you agree with the interpretations?  Did someone deliberately construct a place when art can be read according to mood, weather and other factors?  I don’t know the answer to this but invite you to have a look.  Perhaps some of the questions should be placed next to the sculptures?  Maybe, there will be a sculpture of a handbag in the future, or possibly a sculpture constructed of books.

Following the visit, I was brimming with questions and ideas.  Reading the sculptures inspired my own writing, and reminded me that it is so important to take some time for reflection.  I placed picture postcards of the sculptures in my handbag, rather than books.  However, I know that I will return to ask more questions and to find a suitable reading spot – or maybe several.

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Originally posted 2017-05-25 07:00:14.