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OATCAKES TO DIE FOR!

As a Derbyshire lass, my favourite Saturday treat was an oatcake with bacon and eggs for breakfast. Sometimes, lunch and even tea.  It’s a cross between a pancake and a crumpet and you wouldn’t think that something so humble could cause rivalry across boundary lines. That’s because they make them in Staffordshire too, a bit different, but I’m not going to get into debate here about which are best. Remember though, I’m Derbyshire born and bred.

My Mum made them by mixing ground oatmeal with yeast and water, setting it aside to activate, I think is the term. She added flour, salt and sugar to the batter before pouring some of the mixture into a frying pan to make neat round circles – except hers came out looking like Iceland a lot of the time. 

They are nutritious and so versatile you can fry or grill them and have them with any filling of your choice.  These days my husband makes them for me with gluten free flour, equally as delicious but I’ve always thought there was something missing.

A well -known maker of oatcakes are the folks out at Owlgreave Farm in Comb, a tiny village in the heart of the High Peak. (near Chapel en le Frith and Castleton).  They’ve been producing oatcakes using a recipe with a secret ingredient since 1949. So that’s it. I knew there was something special about the ones we used to buy in Bakewell. 

  In my new novel, Edna’s Death Café, eighty year old Edna runs a café called The Happy Oatcake. Her speciality is the oatcakes from her mother’s recipe. I wanted readers to discover this delicious product for themselves. She so happens to run meetings where locals can talk about the things in  life that make them happy, (oatcakes) and how they feel about their eventual demise. Set against the stunning backdrop of Castleton in a hard winter, the novel explores community, simple pleasures, good food and how to approach the end of life. They chat over tea and, of course, oatcakes. 

I spent a couple of weeks in Castleton in May 2017, staying at the quaint and utterly delightful Oatcake Cottage whilst polishing the book for publication. It was the time of the Garland Ceremony and this is plays a significant part in the novel.  Here’s a link for those of you interested in English history.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Castleton_Garland_Day

It was wonderful revisiting old haunts – Hope, Hathersage where I used to swim in the outdoor Lido, Surprise View where I climbed onto the granite boulders with my grandad and ice-creams by the river in Bakewell. I may have travelled round the world since I left Derbyshire in 1974, but my heart belongs in the Peak District which is why I wanted to bring this new book and a little bit of me to my loyal readers and hopefully some new ones this year.

Edna’s Death Café is available from September 5th 2018 from all on-line retailers. The paperback is planned for early next year. 

https://www.troubador.co.uk/bookshop/contemporary/ednas-death-cafe/

Why not get yourself a copy. Put on the kettle and where ever you are in the world, pop an oatcake under the grill and load with your favourite filling. Enjoy.

http://www.derbyshireoatcakes.co.uk/

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Mothers and Daughters - friend or foe?

I’m getting tired of listening to people talk about the relationship with their mother being “toxic.”  I’ve come across enough cases and watched the dynamics between the two to understand that this is a real phenomenon but we need to stop pinning random descriptions on people or situations spewed out by the press. It’s like calling someone schizophrenic who is in two minds about something or who is behaving in a way we consider to be out of the normal range. These labels are heavy duty and damaging. No wonder the American psychiatrists are reminded of the Goldwater rule when they diagnose the 45th President from afar.

  Most mothers drive their daughters crazy at time and vice versa because the relationship is one of the most fraught there is. According to Deborah Tannen in her book “You’re Not Wearing That”, interactive patterns of communication between the two are riddled with misunderstandings. We can all relate to that. Mum says something she considers to be caring i.e., ‘A dress would look better on you,’ and daughter hears, ‘You’re putting on weight.’

  In fact any comment about a daughter’s appearance even if said in the spirit of love can be heard as painful criticism. The relationship swings between boiling anger through to adoration much like a love affair.

  Daughters will say no matter how hard they try to please they end up feeling like a failure because of some small, albeit well intended remark yet mothers see it as trying to be helpful. After all, they only want the best for their daughters. Women talk a lot about everything so there is more opportunity to say and hear things that are going to be taken in a wrong way. Although most sons love their mothers, their communication and behaviours are less emotionally driven and of course there is no competition. Mothers see their daughters as a reflection on them although most would not admit it. In turn, daughters desperately want their mother’s approval which is why the relationship balances on a pin a lot of the time.

  So where does the toxic label come in? Experts have many things to say on this. Mothers who dismiss or undermine their daughters by not understanding their insecurities and feelings can trigger deep seated problems with self-esteem from an early age. It’s hard enough being female in this age of body consciousness. I’ve no time for the Kardashian types but Kim has done women a favour by baring cellulite on her curvaceous bottom and look at the outpouring of negativity she received.

  Being micro-managed by mothers, especially these days is an issue raised by daughters who say they feel helpless to manage their own lives. The maternal response is, “I’m just trying to help darling.”  I’ve been guilty of this with my own daughters until each in turn responded by cutting me out of the family picture. If I go too far I get “Sent to Coventry.”

  Emotional disconnection is another reason cited for the development of a toxic relationship. We all need hugs and validation but when the primary caregiver, and here I want to remind readers that I am including adoptive mothers, foster mothers, grandmothers and guardians, withholds that affection either because they are incapable of showing it or use it as a form of punishment then this really is damaging. Mothers who suffer periods of depression may well find themselves unable to bond with their child, post natally or later but they need medical help rather than be subject to a rant on somebody’s blog.

 My daughters talk about their need for boundaries, especially now they are late twenties and early thirties. Boundaries need to be respected the moment a daughter rushes to her room to write Dear Diary and locks it away under the floorboards. Surely that’s saying something that maybe at fourteen she doesn’t fully understand. When mothers experience boundaries being erected to keep them out, they feel rejected and this can trigger an angry response. ‘But I thought we were friends?’

 Well, even friends don’t share everything and as I was told many years ago, ‘Your children are not your friends. You are the parent and you have a job to do. Guidance, support and as they get older, being there but never, ever interfering.’

 For someone who has spent a life time helping others I found this difficult. Surely a caring mother isn’t going to see her daughter get together with an unsuitable partner? Surely her role is to point out his flaws and get her away from him even if it does mean going to Mongolia to achieve it? No. She, the daughter, has to work things out for herself because only that way will she learn and unless such a relationship is a deliberate protest to your values then so be it. I can say all of this comfortably because I was guilty of all these behaviours. It gets down to a matter of trust. Do you trust your daughter to do the right thing? Helicoptering shows you don’t.  

  In 1978, Christina Crawford exposed her mother, Joan Crawford as a cruel, manipulative, unloving and I guess toxic, mother in her memoir, “Mommy Dearest.” Some didn’t believe it was possible she was talking about The Joan Crawford they loved and admired because they never saw that side of her. As more women begin to understand the wounds caused by controlling and critical mothers, the more they will be able to correct the mistakes in parenting their own daughters. The only caveat to that is history and behaviour can repeat itself unless there is a greater self -awareness.

  Many of the women I counsel have low self-esteem and when we delve further we find there has been a difficult relationship with their mother. For those who were not brought up by birth mothers, it is the unending pain caused by abandonment that poisons the unhealed wound.

  As mothers we are a target for all sorts of attacks from the psychobabble world. Some we must accept and take on board but please remember we are human too. We may well have had issues with our own mothers and fervently vow never to be like them then are shocked when some of the criticisms levelled at us include, “You’re just like your mother.”

 I’ll be writing more posts on this fascinating and at times exasperating relationship.

 My new book, The Future Can’t Wait, tracks the breakdown of a relationship between a mother who believes she’s doing all the right things and a daughter who thinks otherwise. The result is extreme.

Published by Urbane Publications, September 2017

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The Cruelty of Lambs video promo

  • Published in Writing

Here's my first attempt at making a video promo for my book at no cost. Apologies if there is a lip synch problem for some viewers. It was to do with the transfer of data.  Always room for improvements!

Thank you for watching, 

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