Sunday, 17 November 2013

A Slice of Life

One of my favourite blogs is Adullamite, and he thinks I should put a bit more about the more everyday side of my life in this blog instead of what seems like the "posh and glamorous" side.  That's a really good idea. While I don't find it interesting blogging about my everyday things just for the sake of it, I have been thinking that it gives a very misleading impression just to write about the fun stuff.   Writing is a very interesting occupation, to be sure, and travel writing CAN sometimes seem quite posh and glamorous, despite the shortage of actual money.... though no, I don't have a rich husband like Adullamite thinks!  

The main thing about what I do is that it is actually very varied.  So here is a description of what I've been up to in the last couple of days. 

I made some butternut squash soup. The slices of prepared squash (above) reminded me of a prehistoric monument. I arranged them like this before chopping them up for the soup. 

We had work to do in Belvedere, a bit of Kent which is mostly suburbs and is to be found on marshland roughly between Thamesmead and Erith

When it got to lunchtime we decided to grab a bite to eat at Belvedere's Asda supermarket, which advertised that it had a cafe.  Here's the very same Asda, when residents were protesting against it being built. (snap from

The Asda cafe turned out to be a cavernous sort of warehouse labelled CAFE which was almost empty. As soon as I looked around I realised it was a candidate for my dreaded Black Knife award.  All the so-called  "hot" food had been pre cooked and put into rows of white plastic boxes, ready to be heated up in the microwave for the customers, if there had been any.  Pale sweaty chips, deep fried snacks, congealed beans, heavily boiled yellow brussels sprouts all stone cold.  How disgusting. There seemed to be just one member of staff, who hadn't managed to clear the tables or sweep the old food up off the floor.

N, who was with me, said, "Ah, dear old Asda, so reliable -  it never fails to disappoint!"  We named it Cafe of Despair and climbed the hill to Nuxley Road in Belvedere,  a useful high street with a very good eel pie and mash shop called Miller's.  It was a bit late in the day by then and unfortunately Miller's had run out of eels.  But after having queued for 20 mins we were just grateful to get the very nice meat pies, green liqor, mash and a strong mug of tea.

Belvedere has a first class hardware shop (you don't find so many of them around these days) and a good houseware shop where I got a toilet brush and tin opener.

Back home through the traffic of New Cross, Lewisham, etc. a mere two hours to get five miles, although admittedly we had 3 diversions because of three broken down buses en route. Dropped in at a relative for a cup of tea, can you believe it, she had run out of Marmite, (she had three jars of it in the cupboard, all completely empty)

 so we had to have peanut butter on our toast!

By the evening my bug had come back.  I've been intermittently feeling OK but then running a high temperature, don't know why. Today I feel pretty bad but I'm hoping it will pass off. I don't have any other symptoms so it's weird..

it has meant that I have had to put off my latest BBC appointment and may have to reschedule the next if I keep feeling like this. 

 But, so far the water system is still working in our house. If you want to read about our recent plumbing problems take this link to Adullamite's blog.

Back at home, this Sunday morning, these is dew on the alliums. Autumn is  having its final fling.  I can see the other side of the street because the tree outside is dropping its leaves.

In a burst of sympathetic magic, I iced a relative a cake for her birthday which is covered in gold coins and silver balls since she would like to be a bit wealthier.



  1. So that is the ancestor of the "Meat Pie Floaters" that are found in Australia.......

  2. I like the prehistoric-looking butternut squash. I'm now on the lookout for the opportunity to present food like that.

    As for tin-openers, are you sure you need one? Check out

  3. How do dispair cafes survive?

    Nice peek into your life, but if that's not what you enjoy about blogging, it's really not required. The glimpse into the nuts and bolts of your job is an interesting contrast.

  4. Living on the road has a gritty underside. The comforts of home trump, especially after a "Black Knife" outing. However, you can't discount the real hardware store.

  5. I had a reheated vegetable lasagna at one of the popular restaurants in Cairns here, and refuse to go back. I think you have met Adullamite's brief ~ very normal and everyday Jenny. :)

  6. The empty jars of Marmite remind me of my cabinets after the teen children (and even sometimes husband) get through -- they eat it all, and leave the jars, and i don't know it's empty!

    Hope you are feeling better soon, as no one can enjoy the loveliness of autumn when ill.

  7. I hope the Black Knife Award can gain official recognition. As you say, it's not just the food but the grisly glimpses of what happens in its vicinity.

  8. Adullamite's blog is a real pleasure to read - the voice is clear and true every time.

    How lucky that you had an alternative to Asda, even if the eels had run out...I missed London and the green liquor this time in europe - but not next!
    We still have hardware stores chaos but the men serving know where everything is even if my husband was berated by the woman who mucks us out for buying a straight loo brush - this, she said, is what comes of not having a woman on the staff who knows what a loo brush should be...

  9. I loved this slice of your life, and I really love your imagination with the squash and the cake. Something tells me there's never a dull moment in your lovely home!

  10. I enjoyed this post, Jenny. I'm so glad I still say No to Asda.... that food sounds awful. I must brag.... we also have a real hardware store, the old-school sort. Whatever we want we can get it there.

  11. Good idea for the cake! I'm going to remember that one! As for your posts I always find them interesting and enjoy hearing about your travels just as I enjoyed hearing about the 'nit-ier and grit-ier'!

  12. I personally like a mix of things on a blog - I love to get an idea of the person behind the writing and you can only do this if there is a little of the everyday life on it. In this respect, I think Adultamite is right so thanks for letting us see a little of the real you as well as the great places you visit and of course your amazing photographs.

  13. I always love reading about your travels, because it allows me to travel vicariously. And it indeed sounds glamorous and exciting. However, when you write about your mundane everyday life, it still sounds exciting and somewhat glamorous. Well, all except for the eel pie........I have admittedly eaten rattlesnake once (once is enough) but I'd never eat eel pie.

    My present existence here in the wilds of west Texas is so boring and colorless that I'm often hesitant to document it in my blog. It puts readers to sleep. That's why I so often write about my previous wild life in Hollywood.

    Your butternut squash soup sounds wonderful - - and I like that coin-covered birthday cake!

  14. Oh this was such fun! I have to agree with Adullamite. It was such fun to have an ordinary day visit and I hope you do more of these!! :)

  15. I'm sorry to hear of your unwellness. I hope that it remedies itself quickly.

    The reality of life is that much (most?) is mundane, everyday living. That mundane may be going to the set every day to make a blockbuster or it may be working on an assembly line. What makes many of us interested in people is, perhaps, the differences between us rather than the degree of glamour involved. Perhaps, of course, it is simply a reflection of the mundanity (is there such a word?) of my life that I found your post interesting. On points of detail I would say that I find butternut squash soup is a bit mundane so I add kumera (sweet potato) and lots of herbs however I shall try making a Callanish Standing Stones out of my ingredients next time as a refinement. I eat almost anything but I have to say that one of the least appealing dishes I have ever seen is the pie covered in green liquid. As for no Marmite that is just unforgivable. I bring HUGE jars to NZ with me. I love NZ but I just can't come to terms with Vegemite or the antipodean version of Marmite.

  16. Oh Jenny, it was always apparent to me that you have a delicious sense of humour. How could I not love someone who plays with their vegies before cooking them...... :))

  17. I agree with the others - I think a little peek into your everyday life and doings lets us get to know you a little better!

    LOL on the squash arrangement; you are quite creative. Love the looks of the cake, as I am sure the recipient did!

  18. I really like that photo of 'squashenge'. Great idea for a way to serve it!

  19. I love the idea of putting the gold coins on the cake! I must remember that one! And I love visiting here no matter what you write about, but it is quite lovely to step into Jenny's real world. I like the Stonehenge Squash -- that looks like something I'd do! Sorry, though, about your dining adventures. I suspect you often have better luck but that first place sounds grim!

  20. stonehenge meals and marmite. Now that makes for an interesting plate.

  21. Ah … the subject of food permeating much of this post has given me an appetite, albeit not for the stuff you imaginatively described as not being tasty. It looks like you live on a gorgeous street filled with trees and hedges and the stability of brick along the way. So hope that “bug” vacates the premises soon. :)

  22. I love your Stonehenge squash. (I've been known to "play" with our food before, too.)

    Sorry about the empty Marmite jars. If I could, I'd give you mine. I bought some to try, but evidently it's an acquired taste. I wasn't too keen on it the first time, but I'm determined to give it another go. Sometime. Just not now. ( It lasts on the shelf forever, right?)

  23. Ha! Love this slice of ordinary life. Personally, I would be relieved at the lack of eels and marmite, but loved hearing about them!

  24. I have never eaten an eel; tell me, do they taste like chicken?

    Get yourself to a doctor, Jenny.

  25. I loved this!
    One of the things that I love about blogging and people that blog, is that they are mostly down to earth people...and of course we all love the written word. It's the day to day things, even if you think they are boring, keep people thinking "Oh yes, you're real and I can relate"... I loved this!

  26. Now that certainly is original...posting a picture of your new, you-beaut, unused toilet brush!

    How gross that eatery sounds. I would've been heading for the hills, too.

    I hope you're feeling a lot better as I write, Jenny.

  27. I thought of Stonehenge the minute I saw your squash picture. Fun.

  28. Love the squash Stonehenge and the dish is beautiful !
    But I am not sure what is green liqueur doing on a meat pie ?

    cheers, parsnip

  29. Wonderful post. Your toilet brush is nicer than mine, but my can opener is spiffier. Its comforting how simple things make the world smaller, and more fun. And to think about it, I rarely see a city street in the UK, photos wise, that aren't cute, quaint and/or classy cozy. The eel thing, it will take therapy to deal with that one. They give me the willies.

  30. I thought that top picture was cantaloupe!

    Love the idea with the cake toppings. Just might have to try that myself my next birthday, since I could certainly use more wealth!

  31. After the day you had (disgusting Café of Despair, taking 2 hours for 5 miles, your relative having run out of Marmiet...), I am not surprised you didn't feel so good in the evening!
    I hope you get better soon and will be able to keep your next BBC appointment.
    The cake looks fantastic - what a great idea!

  32. Oh, and I forgot to say that in the 1990s, I spent quite a lot of time in Erith and Belvedere. I had friends living in Erith, and stayed with them several times. I remember one time over Christmas, on Christmas day, we took a walk to Abbey Wood. It was clear blue skies and sunshine, but very cold, and I enjoyed that very much.

  33. A lovely post full of every day charm. I laughed at the three empty pots of marmite. It sounds like my home, except the three empty pots would have been the peanut butter you had, and we would have offered marmite instead!

  34. PS I hope you feel better soon!

  35. Go hope you feel better soon ... and oh, your soup!

  36. I enjoyed this slice regular life kind of post. As others said, it feels like getting to know you a bit better. Never had eel pie although I would give it a try if I had the chance. I miss the appeal of Marmite. Maybe it is something you have to grow up with.


  37. Well, there are lots of bugs going around and I hope you will feel better soon. It looks like you have a busy life. Things are quite hectic over here too...

  38. I'm intrigued by that green liquor... not seen that before! Something between gravy and greenwater, by the looks of it? And I hope you're feeling better soon.

  39. Aw, I hope your bug completely goes away soon!

  40. I enjoyed this little ramble around your everyday world. I love butternut squash soup, but those squashes are so fiddly to peel and chop. It does put me off making it so often. Two local hardware shops have closed recently in our area. It's such a shame as they were both really useful for bits and bobs. Now we only have B&Q and those big stores, which are never as interesting.

  41. I like the idea of awarding a black knife to supermarket caffs. Morrison’s caffs are dreadful too around here. Sainsburys have given up and installed one of the US multiples. (I won’t advertise them, damn invaders)

    Hope your bugs will leave you in peace soon. I’ve been off colour myself again. Life can get quite tedious at times.

  42. Hi Jenny,

    Dear lady, you've got to take care of yourself. Mustn't let those nasty bugs get away with it. However, despite that, you find to share a bit more of your life with your superb writing and splendid photos.

    If I mentioned I like peanut butter and Marmite sandwiches, that might not be good :)


  43. Still seems posh to me even with the toilet bowl brush.

  44. I've seen a few cafés like that, boasting inedible food and tables covered with the remains of other people's meals. Often with some totally misleading name like Paradise Café. How they manage to stay in business I don't know.

  45. I hope you're better now, Jenny! Take care and don't eat too much paracetamol.Useful purchases you did in household shop! I love the cake and hope your relative likes it too.

  46. I love butternut squash soup. There's something about butternut that I can't quite explain. Its tenderness perhaps. I've seen so many soulless cafes like that one. That's why I take a flask with my own coffee wherever I go.

    Have a nice rest of the week.

  47. I love that Stonehenge impression! However I am not so keen on eating a pie covered in sea water!
    There is no truth in the rumour (that I started) that I believe you to be filthy rich! However visiting Belvedere's Asda cafe is going a bit far to prove your lower order credentials! A trip to Kilburn High Road for a loo brush would suffice. (I once lived just off there,how I miss it, not!)
    The bug does have a tendency to come and go. It is a bind but will wear off. Sadly it seems to me these bugs like to hang around. Cheap paracetamol help.
    The cake is wonderful! The view from your mansion is also.

  48. Oh, I knew I should have replied to these comments before, I have read all of them with care and pleasure, as usual, but I'm imagining scrolling back to reconsider each one individually and see if it needs a reply. I will of course. It might take 2 posts.

    Nick, I agree about "Paradise" cafes and the like. That is one reason I liked the cafe name I mentioned in my last piece, Cafe Amnesia, sometimes amnesia is the best way!

    I am glad people liked the wealth cake. That's not a bad idea generally, might use it on other birthdays. I hope the kids didn't mind me using their chocolate coins, haha, they are not good for their teeth anyway :)

    Peanut butter AND marmite, Gary....hmm... hadn't thought of that. Doesn't sound bad - not that I got the chance in my relatives house. :)

    Adullamite, just what I thought about the Asda Cafe, I don't care what misconceptions anyone has about me I am not eating THAT (and to be fair, this seemed to be the opinion of most of Asda's customers, the store was packed but the cafe was not). Believe it or not, Kilburn is "aspirational" now. And West Hampstead is the place to be, apparently. We moved here when it was squatted and the area has gone up around us, so now we are bobbing on the surface... well, I won't take that analogy any further.

    Yes, Cuban (one day I will learn your name) a flask of decent coffee or tea is a good idea. I usually try to take some fruit, some places just have deep fried everything or sugary snacks..

    Friko, I think Morrisons is grim anyway. The one on the Old Kent Road was so awful it was quite scary when I visited one night, the car park was black and creepy and the store was like an obstacle course with piles of boxes, trolleys full of stuff they were returning to shelves, wrapping plastic....I would have walked straight out again except that I was late and I just had to get the stuff.

    Joanne, that's sad to think of the hardware stores closing. So often the owners are knowledgable and have just the thing you need hidden away somewhere. I always patronise them when I can. I love the smell of them too.

    Rachel, no idea what is in the green liquor but it is traditional with eels and I suppose they put it on the pies too. It has some kind of herb in it but I suspect most of it must be food colouring and it doesn't taste of a great deal. Better than it looks, though!

    Thanks for the enquiries about my health. I am taking it easy this week but seem to be getting better. Definitely wrapping up well though as the weather has become quite cold.

    As to what eels taste like, yes, they are very nice as it happens. They are becoming a bit hard to find these days, and the eel shops in London tend to run out. Millers told me they could have saved me some if I had called them first.

    Darla, I don't think there is a single person who has come to love Marmite as an adult. The secret actually is to spread it VERY thin, as it is very strong tasting and salty. I couldn't eat it if it was spread like jam.... yurgh......

    More replies to comments soon....

  49. You make me feel exhausted just reading what you have been up to. The best I can manage for the last couple of days is " got up, wrote a couple of blog posts, watched too much TV, read a bit, went to bed". There was some beer drinking somewhere in there and a fair amount of time thinking "I wish I was as active as Jenny W"

  50. Hi Jenny. Sorry I'm a bit late getting to this. Your squash pic reminded me of a local garden we came across, which had a miniature stonehenge set up in it. I must get back there and take a pic sometime. Love the story of the pie and mash - bit different from all that greek food you had the other day.

  51. Lots of interesting stuff, Jenny.
    We do have "eel pie" here, popular specialty at the famous place of eel habitat, but here, it is a band name of a baked confectionary made with layered thin pie pastry. It is crisp and sweet. Grilled eel called kabayaki (cut into square fillets and dipped in a sweet soy sauce and broiled on a grill) is also very popular dish. However, Japanese eel population has declined drastically in recent years, the price of them has become high.
    I hear marmite is a food you love or you hate. I tried once and I'm afraid I am the latter. Like you say, I think it also depends how you use it. Who knows when it becomes an aquired taste:)
    I hope you are getting better by now.

  52. Ha! I love "tea and toast" posts but rarely put them on my blog. There seems to be quite a drive lately to post more personal stuff but my blog is my escape! Why would I want to escape my boring life of study and work only to write about it on my blog!

    I'm surprised about the Asda cafe. The supermarket cafés are usually quite decent around our area (Barnehurst is near me!)

  53. I was surprised by the Asda cafe too, Mandy, but mainly because I didn't believe how bad a cafe could be. There are some very nice cafes locally. If I had known I'd have gone to the Abbey Cafe in Abbey Wood Road which is basically a workman's caff but quite a social hub and very nice cheap food.

    Well, fancy having eel pie in Japan! It sounds really interesting and unusual. Yes, here in England eels are getting scarce too. What an interesting comment this was. I have eaten beautifully cooked eels in Holland. The fishing needs to be more sustainable, it's worrying that they are becoming hard to find.
    Alan, actually YOU always sound as if you are rushing around everywhere.....other peoples lives eh...! :)

    Yes, Jean, it was rather different come to think of it....

    gz, I had NEVER heard of Eel Pie Floaters. I would not be surprised if there is a similar dish in Australia. I've googled and something similar looking comes up, but with tomato sauce on. Sounds good.

    Dominic, I LOVED the video, not only made me laugh but .... well, it looks quite useful actually :D

    Thanks Mimi, I feel better now though I have developed a runny nose now blah! I have 3 jars of marmite in my cupboard come to think of it, 2 of them empty. It's that dark glass they use.

    Helen, I think I might have something to say to a hardware store owner who tried to persuade me out of the kind of loo brush I KNOW I prefer. Some things are just too important to let slide.

    Maywyn, you can watch Dominic's video too. Maybe neither of us will ever need a tin opener again. :)

  54. I'm actually quite a fan of Asda, but I've never eaten in their cafe and I can't say I ever would, but I love being able to go in one store and come out with light bulbs, printer inks, a cd, some socks, a jar of decafe coffee and a new pillow. ;D


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