Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Upcoming live music gigs I'm looking forward to

Since my last gigs post we heard truly amazing music from Rebecca Loebe and Luke Jackson at Starcross, and from Charlie Dore (with choir!) at Kingskerswell. Don't forget Rachel Ries is performing as Her Crooked Heart in Devon This Saturday (the 27th of May). We will be venturing to Kingsbridge to see her. It's essentially a house concert. Contact wheelwrightmark@gmail.com for more details and to reserve your seat!

June 2nd is our next live music gig and this one will definitely be fab as it is Carrie Elkin, a musician we've known for years, together with her husband, Danny Schmidt, whom we have known even longer. Carrie is touring Europe to promote her new album, The Penny Collector, and we will catch her at The Bellows at The Wheelwright Inn which is in Colyford, East Devon. Carrie has an amazing voice and I am keen to hear her new songs. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue.

We have a slightly longer gap before two back-to-back gigs in the east of the country. First we are booked to see Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin at Billericay Library - of all places! Gigs in unusual venues seems to be becoming 'a thing' and this Devon folk duo have five (I think) library gigs coming up across Essex. The Billericay date of The Libraries Tour is in the 16th of June and tickets are available through We Got Tickets. Other dates in the same week are at Maldon, Rayleigh, Harwich and Loughton and those four town name links take you to their respective We Got Tickets pages.

Back to Americana music and I don't know much about Jonathan Byrd, but Dave is keen to see him and that is a good enough recommendation for me! But if you want a second opinion, Rich Warren of WFMT in the Chicago Tribune says that Jonathan is “one of the top 50 songwriters of the last 50 years". The UK tour is from the 12th until the 23rd of June and we are going to the Eye gig on June the 17th at a Community Arts Centre venue called The Bank. Tickets for this gig are available directly from the venue and if you struggled to make the checkout work before, it has now been fixed!



So that's our live entertainment for May and June so far. Let me know if you're coming to any of these too and in the meantime, have a scroll through these South West gig listings from WeGotTickets and see if anything else catches your eye!



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Monday, 22 May 2017

#TreatYourself - special offers that caught my eye

First off, has everyone eligible registered to vote? Remember you have only got until 11:59pm TONIGHT and I shall throw a right hissy fit if any of my blog readers don't vote!

Register To Vote Here!


Already done?
Great, let's look at another quintet of discounts and voucher codes starting with a tempting offer from book DVD and music sellers Speedyhen. Speedyhen already offer free UK delivery on all their products and often have discounted prices too. Now they are adding to their generosity with £5 off spends of £25 or more for new customers. The offer doesn't apply to ebooks, but is valid for everything else and lasts until the 30th of June. Simply use code NEWCUSTOMER17 at checkout.

If the changeable weather keeps catching you out at the moment, Weird Fish have the answer to staying warm. They are offering 30% off a selection of their fleeces and I particularly like this Bina style one in faded jade reduced from £35 to £24.50. All the 30% off fleeces are shown on This Page for Women and on This Page for Men so there's no checkout code to remember, and the promotion lasts until the end of May. Weird Fish also offer FREE Standard UK delivery on all orders, FREE International Shipping on orders over £100, FREE UK 90 days Returns and Exchanges and Next Day UK delivery for just £2.99.

Summer is coming (honestly!) so now is a great time to take advantage of early season offers at Go Outdoors. Their 20% off Big Brand Event finishes tomorrow (23rd May). Go Outdoors has got a superb range of everything you will need for a camping staycation or a festival weekend. We got lots of gear for our trailer tent recently! It is worth remembering that even more stock is often available online than in store and UK delivery is free with spends of over £50. Having a Go Outdoors discount card unlocks great discounts, plus Camping And Caravanning Club members are entitled to an extra 10% off the card price (although not in conjunction with other offers).

Homewares and gift shop Museum Selection has a sitewide sale on at the moment with many items reduced to half price. I love their historically inspired pieces, especially the art nouveau and art deco styled trinkets and accessories. The pictured ceramic Babbacombe Marmalade Cats are made just a couple of miles from my home in a continuation of the long tradition of Devon pottery in Torbay. At the moment you can buy one for £9.99, reduced from £19.99, or a pair for £17.99.

And finally an offer which isn't available just yet but will be valid over the Whitsun Bank Holiday Weekend from the 25th until the 29th of May. Get 20% off Absolutely Everything at Twinings! Shop hundreds of amazing teas and infusions from around the world, plus treat yourself to stylish gifts, teaware, accessories and more or stock up your present drawer for the rest of the year! Use the code WEEKEND20 at checkout.


Sunday, 21 May 2017

Sunflower Seed Milk and Cookies recipes

Sunflower Seed Milk and Flour 
After another superb Kingskerswell gig last night, I am having a quiet cookery day today. We saw Charlie Dore at Kingskerswell Church where she was backed by the Totnes Pop-Up Choir. I love Charlie's music anyway, but the choir made it all the more magical! Take a look at CharlieDore.com for the rest of her tour dates and WorldUnlimited.co.uk for more great live music in South Devon.

Back to the kitchen! I'm cutting down of our dairy intake, partly for personal health reasons and partly for environmental reasons, which got me into trying various nut milks to make our breakfast porridge. Interestingly, in blind taste tests (because I didn't tell him!) Dave actually preferred non-dairy milks and my favourite was almond, but I wasn't so keen on the price. Having seen a few bloggers extolling the pros of homemade nut and seed milks, I decided to give it a go. NestAndGlow.com is a particularly good resource and I eventually settled on their Sunflower Seed Milk as being the best suited to us.

Milk Ingredients
140g sunflower seeds
Water for soaking

4-5 dates (optional)
700ml water

I put the sunflower seeds into a bowl with enough water to well cover them and leave them to soak all day (or overnight). I then drain the seeds, discarding the soaking water.
I put the soaked seeds into a high sided saucepan together with 700ml of fresh water and a few dates for sweetness. The dates are optional, but we both have a sweet tooth here! I use my handheld blender to liquidise the seeds and dates which usually takes a couple of minutes. Of course, if you have a food processor you could use this instead.
When all ingredients are blended I hang a jelly bag over a largish bowl and pour the seed-water mixture through it, squeezing at the end to make sure as little liquid as possible is retained with the seed pulp. This is pretty good exercise for hand strength!
The liquid is the finished milk which I decant into a fridge jug ready for the morning's porridge. It does separate as it stands, but a quick stir-up with a long spoon brings it back together again.

Oat And Date Cookies 
Cookie Ingredients
160g chopped dates
Hot water
1 ripe-ish banana
2 tbsp peanut butter
70g oats
175g sunflower seed pulp

In a great instance of Waste Not Want Not synchronicity it turns out that the leftover sunflower seed pulp from milk-making is a perfect flour substitute in Oat And Date Cookies. Any excuse for cookie baking!

I start to make these by soaking 160g of chopped dates in hot water for 5-10 minutes to soften them. I also set the oven to preheat to 180c although I need to look into whether these cookies would also bake in the slow cooker as I think this would be more economical and energy efficient.

I mash the banana into a large mixing bowl and mix in the peanut butter. I then drain the dates discarding the water and stirring the fruit into the banana mix.

I add the oats and seed pulp and mix everything well together with a wooden spoon. Once there is a sort of dough I use my hands to form it into small balls, lightly flatten them nd place them onto a baking tray. This size batch makes 16-18 cookies. I have found if I flatten them and then place them on a baking tray, they bake without sticking so the tray doesn't need additional greasing or flouring. If I press the cookies onto the tray to flatten them, they do stick!

I bake the cookies on a high oven shelf at 180c for about 15 minutes or until they start to brown on top. I remove the tray from the oven and let them stand for about 5 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

Delicious with an afternoon cuppa or as an on-the-go snack!

Thursday, 18 May 2017

#ThrowbackThursday - where we were on this day in Mays past

Early Spring by Eric Slater 
I wasn't sure whether to go ahead with this Throwback Thursday post when I realised that its date would be the 18th of May. My Mum died on this day four years ago and it is still a difficult anniversary to get through even though I try to ignore it in favour of remembering the happy times of Mum's birthday a week later.

On this day in 2012, a year beforehand, I blogged about a fascinating art exhibition held at Eastbourne's Towner Gallery. Entitled Point Of Departure, its theme was primarily paintings and photographs of the coast between Newhaven and Beachy Head, the port through which so many thousands of travellers have passed, and the white cliffs that are the first sight of Britain when returning home. The exhibition featured a small section dedicated to the print artist Eric Slater who swiftly became one of my favourites.

So, as already explained, I'd rather just forget this point in May 2013 and I notice I just blogged recipes at the time rather than actually writing proper posts. This Salmon And Pesto Penne concoction is still one of our favourites.

On the 18th of May 2014 I blogged about a new job I had just found I had been successful in getting. Only temporary, but it meant I had the summer working as part of a good team at Wealden District Council. Dave and I had recently collected our new-to-us car as well as putting our Polegate house on the market so things were definitely looking up and, as it turned out, my whole life was going to change!

New boots! 
By this time in May 2015 our UK caravan tour was well underway. We were in Yorkshire and had just spent a good day in and near to Bakewell and Eyam. The museums there are both definitely worth a visit and we took the opportunity to devour a genuine Bakewell-baked Bakewell Tart! I was also delighted to buy these Gabor boots at the Peaklander Factory Shop. Two years later they are still going strong, albeit a bit scuffed around the toes!

And last year we had just paid our first visit to Cockington Court near Torquay. We had decided to put down new roots in Torbay and were starting to explore our new home. Cockington is a beautiful village and manor house with walking opportunities, artisan studios and workshops, art exhibition space and a cafe. There's also a cricket pitch where we said we must go to watch a game on a sunny afternoon. We still haven't though and I caught myself making exactly the same suggestion when we were back there last week!

Cockington Court 

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Ask Book Publishers to Stand Up for Free Speech and Forests!

As a keen reader and a book blogger, I was upset at the latest email I received from Greenpeace yesterday. It appears that, although many book publishers are doing their best to reduce their environmental impact, the company from which they buy much of their paper doesn't have good credentials - and it is trying to bully dissenters.

After years of successful Greenpeace campaigns to protect Canada's forests, one logging company, Resolute Forest Products, is trying to silence Greenpeace and our ally, Stand.earth. The company is suing Greenpeace for hundreds of millions of dollars in Canada and the USA. If it wins, Greenpeace’s ability to advocate for forest protection anywhere in the world will take a huge blow.

Mile by mile, Resolute is destroying some of Canada’s most vibrant, ancient forests. But rather than working with Greenpeace on finding solutions, Resolute is trying to hide its actions by suing us - trying to force us into silence. We will not be silenced.

Please sign the Greenpeace petition

Resolute produces paper for some of the biggest book publishers in the world and will listen to its customers. Please can you send a message to publishers, asking them to stand up for the forests? Many major publishing companies including Penguin, HarperCollins, Simon and Schuster, and Hachette source paper from Resolute.

We’re aiming for 500,000 signatures by May 31 when we’ll take your message to Book Expo America in New York - one of the largest publishing industry gatherings in the world. Your voice will help us convince publishers to stand up for free speech and the forests.

We want publishers to:
1. Ask Resolute to produce book paper without harming intact forests and threatened wildlife habitat.
2. Encourage Resolute to stop attacking free speech.

Please can you tell the publishing industry to support Greenpeace and stand up for free speech?


Tuesday, 16 May 2017

One week remaining to Register To Vote!

Are you eligible to vote in June 8th's General Election?

Are you registered to vote?

If you answered yes to both those questions then this post isn't really for you. But maybe you know someone who is still dithering? If so, could you share this on their timeline?

If you answered yes to the first question and no to the second, please Click Here and get yourself registered now. I know you've got until midnight on May 22nd, but do it now. You've obviously got a minute or two spare or you wouldn't be reading this blog! Registering To Vote only takes a couple of minutes - and it's free!

It doesn't matter if you haven't decided who gets your support yet. The main thing is to make sure you can exercise that voting right of yours when the time comes. You know people across the world are still dying for that right? Please don't squander yours!

The pie chart up top shows how much influence non-voters could have had in the 2015 election - if only they had gone to the polls. Shocking isn't it? More Brits stayed away than voted Tory. Those people could have completely changed the face of Britain, but they didn't. Couldn't or wouldn't, who knows. What a waste of their right.


I know that politics in Britain can feel like a foregone conclusion. Tory-controlled media is shouting about a Tory landslide because it's in their best interests to keep you apathetic. Perhaps your constituency seems overwhelmingly opposed to your views, but that might not be the true picture. Here in Torbay, it appears to be a Tory / Lib Dem certainty, but, again, more people here stayed away in 2015 than voted for either of those parties. Just imagine: if all those non-voters had showed up and voted Green then Torbay would have a Green MP! I'd like that!

It is possible for your vote to make a difference and the very first step is to make sure that you Can Vote. Register if you haven't before. Re-register if you've moved or you're not sure about your status.


Sunday, 14 May 2017

A river walk along The Templer Way

The River Teign 
We went for a very different type of walk yesterday along a short stretch of The Templer Way from Newton Abbot towards Teignmouth. The whole of this hiking route covers eighteen miles from Haytor on Dartmoor to Teignmouth on the coast tracing the route by which granite was exported from Dartmoor via the unique Haytor Granite Tramway and the Stover Canal. We picked it up from Forde Road in Newton Abbot, parking near the Teignbridge Propellers premises which looks to be making use of old railway buildings. Forde Road has parking restrictions on weekdays, but not at weekends.

Early on we crossed Aller Brook where there is a small nature reserve sandwiched between the A380 and the industrial estate. A noticeboard there had information about regular events including birdspotting walk and maintenance parties so if you are local and want to get involved, take a wander down there to check the poster. I couldn't find it reproduced online so if anyone knows of a link, please Comment below.

Deciding on this walk from looking at our Ordnance Survey map of the area meant we didn't really know what to expect and our imaginings of a standard footpath alongside a river were only correct for about ten minutes after which we were confronted with this signpost:


As luck would have it, the tide was about as low as it was possible to get so we had plenty of time to complete our five miles to Coombe Cellars pub and back. However the Way is literally along the edge of the river so is covered by water at high tide! Much of this part of the route is over mossy shingle so is slippery under foot and I was frequently glad of my trusty boots and to borrow one of Dave's hiking poles to aid my balance. It's a beautiful walk with impressive views across the river and estuary. We saw a white heron and a gaggle of twenty-one swans as well as geese and seagulls.

The Way was almost completely flat which made a nice change from the more usual Devon undulations although this didn't mean it was easy walking. We both felt like we had more of a workout than the two hours and twenty minutes timespan would suggest! Bizarre sights such as trees with their trunks washed pale by the tide or with seaweed flung into their branches added interest and keeping an eye on the high tide line showed us that walkers really could get themselves stranded along here if they weren't careful! Drawing near to our turn-round point, the Teign widened considerably making its two channels look like tiny threads of streams in the midst of the muddy silt.


Saturday, 13 May 2017

Top Five Etsy Finds - Votes For Women + Giveaway

Votes For Women Brooch
by VeeAccessories
 
This is one of a pair of linked posts on my blogs this week. Yesterday I reviewed Emmeline Pankhurst's biography on Literary Flits. Enter the Giveaway at the end of this post for your chance to win a copy.

I doubt that the 8th of June was chosen for this year's snap General Election because of its significance to women's political history, but hopefully its being the anniversary of the death of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison will remind British women of just how important their right to vote is. (If you are eligible and have not yet done so, Register To Vote Here!) Certainly Etsy artisans are keen to remember suffrage and it was tough for me to decide which of their many handmade and crafted items to highlight in this month's Top Five post.

Jewellery in the Women's Social and Political Union colours (purple for dignity, white for purity, green for hope) is particularly prevalent across Etsy and I liked this bronze Votes For Women Brooch (pictured above) made by VeeAccessories in Sunderland. Vee has dozens of suffragette themed brooches and pins to choose from and each one is unique.

The Votes For Women Brooch is for sale at £9.50 plus shipping.


Votes For Women T-Shirt
by LiteraryEmporium
 
LiteraryEmporium in Frome offers a Votes for Women T-Shirt inspired by one of the most iconic images of the Suffragette movement. The hand-drawn illustration of Annie Kenney and Christabel Pankhurst is screen printed in the South West of England onto a soft white t-shirt made from 100% premium cotton. 10% from the sale of each t-shirt will be donated to The Fawcett Society. Since 1866, when Millicent Fawcett and other campaigners handed over their petition for women’s suffrage to Parliament, Fawcett have campaigned and researched tirelessly to make changes to women’s lives. Today Fawcett is the UK’s leading charity campaigning for gender equality and women’s rights.

The Votes for Women T-Shirt is for sale at £15 plus shipping.


Votes For Women Print 
by HannahSawtell 
Artist HannahSawtell has a studio in Nottingham's Creative Quarter. She was inspired to create a series of portraits of women by a TV documentary about notable women ignored by the narrative of history. Her work combines detailed line drawn illustration with watercolour painting and collage elements to produce a distinctive style of image. In this instance the collage additions are postage stamps on the suffragette's skirt. Hannah is offering signed limited edition prints of Votes For Women, printed on archival Fine Art Hahnemuhle 308gsm paper, with dimensions of 21cm x 29cm.

The Votes For Women Print is for sale at £25 plus shipping.


Votes For Women Sash
by Costumier-Saurus
For those of you interested in historical re-enactment or wanting more unusual vintage dressing-up and cosplay ideas, Costumier-Saurus has this Edwardian-style Votes For Women Sash available. Based in Peterborough, the company is a professional costume design studio that makes costumes for theatre, film and museums across the UK and internationally. The sash in available in adult and child sizes and is handcrafted with both historical accuracy and comfort in mind. It is made from cotton with synthetic satin ribbon and felt lettering.

The Votes For Women Sash is for sale at £50 plus shipping.


Suffragette Floral Cluster Ring
by TrulyVenusian
 
My final choice returns us to jewellery and one of the gorgeous historically-inspired pieces made by Jane Frost at TrulyVenusian in Bath. A prolific jewellery designer, Jane is inspired by iconic women throughout the ages including Anne Boleyn, Jane Austen, and the suffrage women. This Suffragette Floral Cluster Ring features Uruguayan Amethysts, Pakistani Peridots, Brazilian Topaz accents and a Creamy White Chinese Cultured Freshwater Pearl all set in 14ct White Gold coated 925 Sterling Silver.

The Suffragette Floral Cluster Ring is for sale at £145.25 plus shipping.


I hope you loved discovering these creations as much as I did. All links in this post are affiliate links so, should you click through and buy something, I would receive a small commission.

Now for the giveaway!
The prize is my paperback copy of My Own Story by Emmeline Pankhurst, carefully read once and with a BookCrossing label in the front. All entries must be made through the Gleam widget below. The Giveaway is open worldwide until midnight (UK time) on the 26th May and I will draw a winner on the 27th. The winner must respond to my email within 7 days or the prize will be forfeit.

Emmeline Pankhurst biography giveaway

Good luck!

And please do remember to Register To Vote. It's free!

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Exploring Cockington Country Park, Torquay

Dave found us a beautiful walk yesterday and I am glad we went straight out in the sunshine rather than leaving it until today when the rain would have put us off and the mist obscured all our views. We began at Nut Bush Lane which is right on the edge of Torquay and so always reminds me of the Tina Turner song Nutbush City Limits. An influence on the town planners? There is space to park three or four cars and we got lucky.

Our path led away behind the red dog waste bin which seemed sadly redundant as I noticed a couple of instances of dog walkers preferring to bag their animal's crap and then hang the bags from trees. Seriously - what is the point of that? Especially less than fifty yards from a bin. Sometimes I despair of people!

Fortunately such ugliness wasn't typical of our afternoon and we were soon walking through pretty green woodland and emerging onto open downland from where we had gorgeous views across valleys and out to sea. The existence of Cockington Country Park protects the agricultural and natural environment from house building - for the time being at least - and we felt lucky to have this expansive green space so close to our home. We intended to follow the John Musgrave Trail into Cockington village, but it is only sporadically signposted so we don't know if we were exactly on course all the time. There is a bewildering choice of footpaths, cycle routes and bridlepaths converging on Cockington. Does anyone know if a definitive map is available? The John Musgrave Trail was created by the Torbay Coast and Countryside Trust in partnership with the Ramblers Association, from a legacy left by John Musgrove who was a keen walker. It opened in 2006 and extends some thirty-five miles around Torbay. We have a lot more of it still to discover!

Instead of continuing across Torbay, our furthest outward point was around Scadson Woods which I think, at the moment, must be the best destination for wild garlic. The woods had their fair share of bluebells too, but the white garlic flowers stole the show. Their scent was incredible as well.

I was pleased to see that all the paths we walked were well-trodden, cycled and ridden. The more people who use an area such as this, the more likely it is to preserved for the purpose. The paths closest to Cockington Craft Centre and the village would be the easiest for disabled access, but even further afield I think they would be acceptable for pushchairs and Tramper mobility scooters as long as the frequent short-but-steep gradients could be overcome.

I knew we were close to the estate's centre when we began to spot rhododendrons through the trees and then saw the restored Gamekeeper's Cottage. We had visited here last summer so made our way directly to the Cafe for a cup of tea and generous slice of Red Velvet cake. It was getting late in the afternoon so we didn't linger long before continuing our circuit back towards Nut Bush Lane. I did notice a couple of artworks outside the Cafe that are part of a Sculpture Trail. The works are there until the 10th of September and I intend to return to see the whole Trail. I am also tempted by the monthly Food And Craft Market which takes place on the last Sunday of each month and features locally farmed foods and unique handmade crafts. The next Market is on the 28th of May.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Exploring Torbay's UNESCO Geopark - Hope's Nose

Hope's Nose, Torquay 
Often when on walks Dave and I find ourselves wishing for the guidance of a pop-up Expert - as happens on the TV programme Coast for example. Whenever an interesting historical ruin or geological feature hoves into view, the presenter is always greeted by someone who can explain the site. In contrast we make observations, wonder about it and invent a plausible explanation, but usually walk away absolutely none the wiser. This seems especially true in the UK. French and Spanish regional councils seem far more proactive at putting up explanatory signs - often multilingual - as part of walking tourist routes. It's a cheap way to attract visitors after all.

However, on a Torquay walk from our home yesterday, I was delighted to not only visit an important geological site, but also to be given lots of clear information about what we could see! I didn't realise until we moved here that the English Riviera is designated a UNESCO Global Geopark because of the extensive geological landscape: "A landscape untouched by glaciation, revealing stories unseen elsewhere in the world. Stories of tropical seas and scorching deserts, raised beaches and drowned forests, hippopotami and mammoth, straight-tusked elephant and sabre-toothed tiger, cave bear and earliest man." There's an incredible story to be discovered here, understandable even for a geology novice like me, and I am excited to learn more.

If you are around Torbay at the end of May and beginning of June this year - the half-term holiday week - check out the range of events being put on in Torquay, Paignton and Brixham. There's a calendar on the Geopark Website. Entertainment ranges from a Sculpture Trail at Cockington to prehistoric modelling at Brixham, cookery at Occombe Farm to street art fossils at Torre Abbey. Most events look to be kid-focused.

Yesterday we visited the charmingly named Hope's Nose which is within a half hour's walk from our flat and visitable all year round. If you go there yourself make sure to pause by the noticeboard at the roadside. I took photos of the half dozen or so geological sights which include different eras of ancient limestone and sandstone rocks as well as layers of fossils and a raised beach. It's all things that I would be unlikely to identify alone, but the clear photographs on the board give a clear indication of what to look out for. There's also beautiful views out to sea.


Sunday, 7 May 2017

Our Green Party candidate for Torbay MP: Dr Sam Moss

Sam Moss campaigning with
Molly Scott-Cato, Green Party MEP
for the South West
In the second of a pair of political posts - did you read about my NHS campaigning yesterday? - I was proud to witness and take part in another new-to-me political moment last week. Torbay Green Party elected our candidate to contest the Torbay seat at the General Election. I have always made sure to exercise my right to vote, but this is my first time at being so involved in the activities that happen prior to ballot papers being issued. It is all rather exciting!

Together, we chose Dr Sam Moss to represent us. Sam is an experienced Green Party community activist, Paignton resident, back specialist and ex Royal Marine Commando. He pledged to make protecting local NHS services, improving the availability of quality schools in Torbay, and securing a second referendum on membership of the EU a priority for this general election campaign and, if elected, his work as an MP.

Sam said, ‘It is an honour to represent The Green Party in Torbay and a challenge at a time when people are feeling so uncertain about the future and that events are out of our control. I grew up here and have lived in the area for many years. I've witnessed the huge local decline under consecutive governments: the hurt from 5000 job-losses at Nortel in 2001; the haemorrhaging of employment beyond Torbay; the shame of bedroom tax evictions, high rents and benefits sanctions; the tragic loss of mental health services, doctor's surgeries and our dear Paignton Hospital; and the constant pressure on Torbay's precious green natural surroundings from a National Planning system designed for carpet-bombing poor quality homes across the country. Now more than ever we have to stand up for what matters and sow the seeds of a new politics.

The Green Party's priorities for Torbay are: to stand up for renters and ensure that when you rent a home here you feel at home; to stand up for young people with education that's free; and to stand up for our NHS, our patients, and our doctors by defending health services in Torbay and by using Britain’s wealth to invest in health. The Green Party will always stand up for what matters: for an economy for people not corporations, for a socially just society and for an ecologically abundant world. We encourage everyone to stand with us for a bolder, brighter, better future and to stand up for Torbay.

I was greatly encouraged by the Green showing at the local elections last week where we increased our council seats by 17%! Now it's time to look forward to the General Election, especially getting our vision of a very different Britain across to potential voters. If you want to live in a nation with breathable air that doesn't kill thousands of people every year, world-leading renewable energy projects that increase our energy self-sufficiency and create jobs, a properly funded NHS, debt-free education, good quality housing, reliable and affordable public transport, and food labelling that tells the truth about what we are eating, then do consider voting Green on the 8th of June!

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Campaigning to save our NHS in Torquay

Torbay Green Party members
campaign to Keep Our NHS Public 
I did something completely new this morning! And it was fun!

Alongside representatives of the Devon-wide Save Our Hospitals Services campaign, three Torbay political parties set out our stalls on Union Street in Torquay to raise awareness of the looming crisis in public healthcare. I was there with Torbay Green Party handing out flyers and newspapers to passersby. It was interesting to hear the experiences of people who have benefited from NHS care and I surprised myself with how comfortable I felt taking part in the action. Those of you who know me in real life will understand how my habitual lack of self-confidence often impairs my ability to Get Out There, but it turns out that having a cause about which I am passionate enables me to override those nerves! I felt we had a positive impact overall and certainly SOHS were happy with the levels of engagement which was the important thing. You can find out more about the SOHS campaign and how to get involved by visiting their Facebook Group.

Like Health Authorities all across the country, Devon faces drastic reductions in NHS services including closures of hospitals such Paignton. This will lead to countless bed losses and the prospect of patients having to undertake far longer journeys to access essential health and social care. It's completely unnecessary as Britain is wealthy enough a country to have a properly funded healthcare system - if all taxes were collected and the resulting funds weren't being diverted elsewhere.

And we have a huge opportunity coming up to reject the Tories' degradation of our NHS. Please make sure you are registered to vote on June 8th! If you're not, or if you're not sure, Click This Link to visit the Government's Register To Vote website. It's easy, quick - and free!

Friday, 5 May 2017

#WorldReads - five books from India

If this is your first visit to my WorldReads blog series, the idea of the posts is to encourage and promote the reading of global literature. On the 5th of each month I highlight five books I have read from a particular country and you can see links to previous countries' posts at the end of this post.

This month's country is India! A country with a vast literary tradition in many languages, I believe the earliest works still in existence were written in Sanskrit about 3500 years ago. I have chosen modern novels for this post though with all five having been written in the 21st century!


Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai

Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the book from Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Stephanie Jane

According to Goodreads, I first read this in 2009 and a few events in the story did seem familiar as I got to them, but I couldn't remember how it would all end so enjoyed immersing myself in the tale again five years later. Desai has a beautifully rich style of writing which really brings her views of rural Himalayan India and immigrant New York to life.


A House For Happy Mothers by Amulya Malladi

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

As a non-maternal woman I wasn't sure how I would get on reading a book about babies! I am interested in the moral dilemma of paid surrogacy though and found A House For Happy Mothers to be a fascinating insight with compelling perspectives from both sides.


The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga

Buy the book from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

For what essentially is a murderer's confession, The White Tiger is very funny. There is frequent dry humour covering all aspects of Indian life from well-known stereotype characters to unexpected scenarios and I liked Balram's voice which is convincing and sympathetically portrayed.


The Kolkata Conundrum by Kalyan Lahiri

Buy from independent booksellers via Abebooks
Buy from independent booksellers via Alibris
Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

This crime mystery differs from many books in its genre by its dignified and elegant tone. The novel has a strong sense of authenticity, perhaps unsurprisingly as Kolkata is Lahiri's home city, and I loved his presentation of the differing locales, especially as viewed through the eyes of first-time visitor, Orko.


One Indian Girl by Chetan Bhagat

Buy the ebook from Amazon.comAmazon.co.uk
Buy the paperback from Speedyhen
Buy the paperback from The Book Depository
Buy the paperback from Waterstones

Read my original book review on Literary Flits

A light romantic read to finish although, surprisingly for me, this one provoked strong reactions among other Goodreaders who either found it intimidatingly feminist or not feminist enough!


That's it for May's WorldReads from India. I hope I have tempted you to try reading a book from this country! Please do Comment your own favourite Indian books below and if you fancy buying any of the five I have suggested, clicking through the links from this blog to do so would mean I earn a small commission payment.

If you missed any earlier WorldReads posts, we have already 'visited' Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, ItalyNew ZealandNigeria, South AfricaSpain, Sweden and Turkey. In June I will be highlighting five books by Russian authors. See you on the 5th to find out which ones!

Thursday, 4 May 2017

I had a great birthday!

Trying to be a
fashion blogger!
Thank you to everyone for your kind birthday wishes and greetings yesterday. I had a wonderful day, albeit an exhausting one!

Dave got me this OEX Roq 2-Layer Women's Waterproof Jacket I wanted from Go Outdoors. It's amazingly lightweight and rolls down to take up almost no space, especially compared to my decade-old Regatta coat which needed to be far thicker to do the same job. I was surprised at how much fabric technology has advanced. I love the tailored style and fit of the OEX Roq. The hood is snug, but doesn't obscure much of my vision which I appreciate as some hoods make me feel claustrophobic! The jacket is supposed to be waterproof, windproof and breathable too, but I haven't tried it out in bad weather yet. Fingers crossed it does what it's label says it will!

New shoes 
My sister got me these blue plimsolls from White Stuff. They're comfy and will be perfect for summer camping trips which is ideal as we spent most of yesterday visiting Highbridge Caravans to pick up our super new-to-us trailer tent, wandering around their shop and then round Go Outdoors to buy our essential camping gear from their extensive range!

Having left our caravan in Spanish storage this year, we soon realised we had nothing to camp in when zooming around the UK this summer. Dave leapt into research mode and a couple of weeks ago we viewed and put a deposit on a Raclet Solena Trailer Tent at Highbridge. It's so cute and, being French, is rather stylish too - well, I think so anyway! Yesterday was our Official Handover which was very exciting. We were shown how to erect the trailer tent and awning, and how to pack it all away again. Mike, who was demonstrating, was really helpful and even, together with Dave, pushed the Solena from the far end of the site to the car park for us! I'll post photos when we take it on its first trip away - hopefully very soon, but in the meantime here's what it looks like all folded away. Tiny!

Our new Raclet Solena trailer tent 

Wednesday, 3 May 2017

Pip And Nut Butter Cookies recipe

Have you tried any of the Pip And Nut range of nut butters? I think they are my latest favourite food and I have gotten through far too much on toast since we came home! You can find them at various stores including Holland And Barrett and Sainsbury's or buy directly from the Pip And Nut website.

I do find the range quite a bit runnier than other brands and this took some getting used to, but I love the varied flavours and that they are not overly salty tasting. My top recommendations are the Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter and the Crunchy Maple Peanut Butter (for this week anyway ... I might change my mind!)

We wanted a quick sweet recently so I experimented with making Nut Butter Cookies for the first time in ages and they came out beautifully (if I do say so myself!). I needed to add a little more flour than I expected to get the dough consistency right, but the hint of cinnamon with the nut flavour is divine. Here's how I made them:


Ingredients:
75g softened butter
75g demerara sugar
1 tbsp each of Honey Cinnamon Cashew Butter and Crunchy Maple Peanut Butter
120g plain flour

Preheat the oven to about 200c or Gas Mark 6 and grease or flour a baking tray. I prefer to flour as this slightly reduces fat intake, but with the amount of butter in these cookies anyway I accept it's fairly pointless!

Cream the butter and nut butters together. You can of course use 2 tbsp of your nut butter of choice - the pairing above is what I had available. For a vegan cookie, you could substitute vegetable margarine for the butter.

Stir in the sugar and beat briefly to combine well. I like the crunch of demerara sugar in the finished cookie. If you prefer a smoother taste, use a caster sugar instead.

Stir in the flour and mix well until the mixture forms a dough. Split the dough into 12 equal(ish) portions and roll them into balls with your hands. Squash each ball gently to flatten it and place them on the baking tray.

Bake at 200c / Gas Mark 6 for 10-15 minutes, turning the tray part-way though if needed for even baking. Keep an eye on the cookies! Mine were done in almost exactly ten minutes because the oven was already well up to temperature from previous cooking.

Remove the tray from the oven and leave cookies for at least five minutes to cool before you try and lift them up. If you don't they will just collapse! Also leave for at least ten minutes before tasting them. Trust me on this, however good they smell! The insides are molten sugar which stays HOT!

Enjoy your cookies with a good cup of tea.

Nut Butter Cookies 

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Superb live music at Starcross Church - Rebecca Loebe & Luke Jackson

I love that live music gigs around here are performed in churches, active ones at that. Is it a particularly South Devon thing? The only comparable space I remember from Sussex was All Saints in Lewes, but it doesn't have quite the same vibe. As of Saturday night we have a new venue to add to our music roster, St Paul's in Starcross which is near to Exeter. It's about 40 minutes from Torquay (or closer to 45 if you get turned around in the Starcross one way system when leaving!).

Our gig was a co-hosted event with Alison and Tim of St Paul's running a well-stocked and very reasonably priced bar that, I happily noticed, had a good selection of soft drinks as well as wine and beers. There wasn't any cake - we've been spoilt by Kingskerswell! - but I did spot and buy a half dozen of Charlotte's Eggs for £1. I assume Charlotte is the name of a chicken? The music itself was organised by Greg Hancock of Exeter Secret Gigs. A musician himself, he is also a great Luke Jackson fan and had apparently leapt at the chance to be a part of Luke's current short tour with Austin singer-songwriter, Rebecca Loebe. There's still another six opportunities to see the tour this week and you can find venues and ticket links towards the end of this post, just before the YouTube of their stunning finale to the Starcross gig.

The 'stage' at Starcross 
Both Rebecca and Luke are accomplished singer-songwriters independently and, had we simply heard each of them do their sets we would have gone away happy. However, the four songs they sang together took the gig into a whole other dimension. Those harmonies! Outstanding and particularly gorgeous with the church acoustics. We semi-joked with Rebecca after the gig that they need to record their own Raising Sand-type album together although perhaps their music could be described as closer to that of Civil Wars. Both Dave and I felt very lucky to have stumbled across such talent in such a beautiful intimate venue.

You can catch Rebecca Loebe and Luke Jackson at:
May 2, St Margaret's Hall, Bradford-on-Avon, BUY TICKETS
May 3, Cecil Sharp House, London, BUY TICKETS
May 4, The Hopyard, Forest Row, BUY TICKETS
May 5, The Stables, Milton Keynes, BUY TICKETS
May 6, Tower Of Song, Birmingham, BUY TICKETS
May 7, The Wee Gig, Abington, Lanarkshire, BUY TICKETS



Monday, 1 May 2017

Advertiser Spotlight - May 2017

In a new monthly feature for 2017, I did away with the random Google ads which used to appear at the top of my blogs' sidebars and now offer that space for rent and to promote companies I love. Here's a bit about each of this month's quartet:

On Stephanie Jane


A green lifestyle has become increasingly important to Dave and I so I researched the various energy supply options open to us. There's a good comparison table on greenelectricity.org. We were excited to see how much renewable energy is created in Devon and I want to be a part of this, albeit in a small way. Hinkley and fracking are definitely Not In My Name.
I eventually settled on Ecotricity because they promise entirely green electricity and frack-free gas, they have a low rate of customer complaints, and their tariffs are both simple and reasonably priced. There's even an extra dual-fuel discount for taking both electricity and gas. I like Ecotricity's ethos and how profits are used to invent and refine new sustainable ways to create energy. Their new 'seamills' technology was invented by a Devonian engineer!
After nine months, we are still pleased with Ecotricity and I am happy to recommend them to everyone. If I have encouraged you to switch, I have an extra sweetener for you too! Make sure to quote my personal code RAF-I2W6Y by phone, email or via the Ecotricity website and we will then both receive a £50 Ecotopia voucher when your sign-up is confirmed. Thank you!


Go Outdoors is easily my favourite retailer of outdoor and camping equipment and we use the website or pop instore several times a year to purchase clothing or caravan essentials. I have a Go Outdoors discount card which, for £5 a year, entitles me to their great discount prices, plus our Camping And Caravanning Club membership gets us another extra 10% off that! Last year we got our CCC membership fees back in Go Outdoors discounts!
I like the informative website which gives lots of product detail and often offers a greater choice than an individual store. Free UK home delivery is offered on spends of over £50 or you can Click And Collect to any one of over 50 stores nationwide with no minimum spend. It's reassuring to know we will always get the best price as well. Go Outdoors are so confident of this, they offer to beat any lower price by 10% - if we could find one!


On Literary Flits


Have you tried Biscuiteers biscuits yet? I was lucky enough to be sent one of their Birthday Tins and the biscuits inside were gorgeously iced - and delicious! Based in London, Biscuiteers create gift biscuit cards and tins for an incredibly wide range of themes - for exam success, weddings, driving tests, running, cricket, travel, ... with the election coming up, you might even want to send an Emmeline Pankhurst Gingerbread! The pictured Good Luck Pencil Case biscuits would be perfect for an author friend. I love the Beatrix Potter collection and the Mr Men and Little Miss biscuits are fun too.
Be sure to sign up for the Biscuiteers email newsletter before placing your first order as this will get you a £5 discount code for any of the biscuit tins. At the moment you can get 10% off the Best Selling Collections with the code BEST10 too (I'm not sure how long this is valid for).


Alibris UK: books, movies & music
I link to Alibris from book reviews of harder to find titles because of their extensive stock availability, especially of scholarly titles and nonfiction books. They also have music and movie listings too so try searching out hard-to-find movies, CDs or vintage vinyl records. A marketplace website rather than a retailer in their own right (and not owned by Amazon!), Alibris is one of the platforms I used to advertise stock when I ran my own bookshop. When shopping via Alibris you are more than likely to actually be buying from one of thousands of independent booksellers in the UK or across the world. It's a great way to support small businesses whether just around the corner or hundreds of miles away. You might even discover a local bookshop you didn't know was there!
Another site with a newsletter sign-up reward, Alibris offers a £3 voucher for signing up to their email newsletter before you place your first order. Scroll down to the bottom of their page to find it.


Do you want your event, book launch or business featured on my blogs? Four Advertiser Spotlight packages (including image placement, blog post and social media promotion) are available each month, two for Literary Flits and two for Stephanie Jane, all for a very reasonable price!
There's more details on this page. I am currently taking bookings for June and beyond.