Friday 26 February 2010

The media

Since we moved we seem to have become very attractive property (the first time I've ever been attractive) to the general media. It seems all are interested in this multigenerational living idea. Strange really as it is fairly common in this neck of the woods, quite a plethora of granny annexes in one form or another.

The funniest media visit was where the photographer arrived (they take ALL day) just before Christmas. Of course the magazine wasn't going out until March so there we were outside in t-shirts shivering for England (or should I say Wales) 'pretending' it was a warm balmy spring day. Worse was to come because of course all my lovingly placed Christmas decorations had to be taken down or moved out of shot.

Another funny episode was when we were being filmed during dinner and J had made stuffed hearts. He knows I'm not keen yet of course I'd have to eat the things or look picky on telly. The woman interviewing I noticed just pushed it round her plate too. I sincerely don't blame her.

We've had make up artists descend, well just on the one occasion to be honest. Poor girl (who was from Frome i.e. very close to where we used to live) got on the wrong train at the Bristol change over, realised her mistake, got off and then had to get a taxi here. £200.00 later!  As she was freelance it came out of her own pocket. 

We are often told to avoid wearing jeans; light clothes and without too much pattern only please.  This is a nightmare in itself as I live in my jeans.  Anyway on the occasion of the photograph here I picked a white skirt.  As it was a very hot and extremely bright day I think the white probably didn't make the photographer's life very easy.  If my plan has worked next time they might just let me wear jeans and be done with it. 

I sooo now know how on the TV they get different shots of a conversation. They don't send down a camera crew but just use a sole camera man.  You run through the conversation while being filmed from the front.  Then it is taken again, say from behind your head so that the interviewer is in shot this time. The interviewer re-asks the question and you can say what you like, but a bit of head nodding and hand waving does the job. Lots of film ending up on the editing floor I guess.

We've found that when reading or watching the end result things have often been written or cut to align with the paper \ magazine \ TV programme's particular angle and I’ve found comments we've said are sometimes misinterpreted. Too late when in black and white or broadcast. Although we have asked for copy I don't think we've ever seen one, never mind signing it off.

It started off as being pure fun and Carol at County Home Search has been really generous with gifts of lovely wine bottle boxes and visits to a health spa. All relished and gratefully received. When the media have contacted us direct though we have never received a penny – or even a free copy of the magazine or paper we were in. I’ve realised that I’m not born to be an X list celebrity – I hate being photographed for a start. We all find it hard work, not so much the interview, those for papers and magazines are often done over the phone. It’s the photography session, it really can take all day. We need a new agent, we really do!

Friday 19 February 2010


cute, well I used to think so. Look what they have done to our tree!   Can you see the rings gnawed round each branch?  Unfortunately it's the tree G8's swing is hung from and it will probably have to go.

They come for Him Next Door's nuts (get your minds out of the gutter). It's a forever cycle of birds, squirrel, Topsy chase, birds back on etc etc.

Topsy quivers with excitement whenever anyone mentions the sq word... she loves the chase, no catching though. Useless dog!

On a side note, Him Next Door has been busy with the Orchard (bit of a grand name really for a patch of ground but there you go!)   He's been clearing the land of weeds and brambles, ready for a couple more apple trees.  Hopefully the fruits of his labour will mean less trips down Tesco this year.

PS:  Here (a few days later) are our two new cookers planted (one early one late).  YUM.

Wednesday 10 February 2010

Another week at the Language Centre - blasus iawn!

The children were sent to the kitchen to begin baking 'picau ar y maen' - see result later in the blog!

We discovered that Welsh dishes and recipes primarily arose out of the necessity to make do with the available ingredients and, more importantly, to make them last. Welsh food has developed to satisfy the needs of hardworking men and women who were doing traditional jobs such as farm labouring, coal mining, quarry work and fishing.

Very few cereal crops could flourish in Wales’ bleak uplands apart from oats. Oats therefore became part of the staple diet and were often included in cakes, soups and porridge. In the "Laws of Hywel Dda" (Welsh law) of the 10th Century Hywel mentions that the only two vegetables cultivated in Wales were cabbages and leeks.  Leeks are indeed common in Welsh cuisine. The foods that are considered to be most traditional throughout Wales include bacon, cheese, Bara Lawr (laverbread), Bara Brith (tea bread) and Cawl (a Welsh stew often with lamb and leeks).

Although we were unable to try Cawl in the classroom we were given a recipe to try out at home. It is very representative of Welsh food. In the past Welsh lamb was considered a bit of a treat. Pork though was eaten as part of the principal diet as homes situated in rural areas and in semi-urban parts of Wales housed a pig-sty (twlc) at the bottom of the garden. Bacon in particular became an essential element in Welsh cuisine as it forms a key ingredient in Cawl. This classic one-pot meal varies from region to region and even from house to house.

Our first taste was of cockles. For hundreds of years, the cockle men and women have harvested cockles across the Gower peninsula. This shellfish is an inexpensive source of protein and remains popular. They can be served in a variety of ways although usually steamed. Unfortunately as they were only selling fresh cockles Saturday when G8's language teacher was buying they wouldn't have been very fresh by the time we got to eat them, so we had to make do with a pot of them in vinegar - yum all the same.

 Next on our agenda was the Bara Lawr, (although bara is Welsh for bread it is in fact seaweed.) This came again from the Gower peninsula. I had never tried it before and wasn't entirely sure I wanted to try it now, oh well in for a penny (and I'm always telling G8 to try food first before she says she doesn't like it). G8's language teacher had come well prepared with her toaster. She had been told it was especially nice on warm buttered toast. Actually I found it quite an understated taste despite the look, although it hasn't quite made my top 10 of favourite things to eat! Another way to serve it apparently is to mix with oatmeal, form into patties and then fry them in bacon fat. Unfortunately we didn't have a cooker or pan to try it this way, but if I get the opportunity in the future I just might.

Then came Bara brith, "speckled bread", it's a rich fruit loaf made of marmalade and dried fruit that is steeped in tea. You can butter it or eat it as it comes. It's best plain in my opinion - although I'll eat in any which way.

Welsh cakes (recall the picau ar y maen at the beginning of the blog) are sweet-dough, griddle scones with currants and sultanas.  Remember from last week that maen means stone, well picau means little cake \ little piece. These were again locally sourced from Rhydwen Bakery in Clynderwen BUT I have to say those baked by the children were even better as they were warm and filled the room with a gorgeous mouth watering smell.

Various cheeses are produced in Wales, these include Caerphilly, Y Fenni, Hen-Sir, Llanboidy. We tried some locally produced cheeses from just up the road from us here in Llysyfran. You can find them the other side of Maenclochog in Rosebush, see My favourite was Caws-y-Graig, a goats cheese - truly delicious! I shall be buying some more of that!

Things really started to look up when I spied a box of Pemberton's chocolate. They are really delicious (and I think I might boycott Cadburys in protest of Kraft's recent actions and buy these instead.) Join me at

Now we really were cooking on gas when the cups came out. We tried a wine from Cwm Deri Vineyard in Narberth, Pembrokeshire - it goes without saying that I liked that very much.

Other things we didn't try but we talked about were:
  • Welsh rarebit, which is milk or beer, mustard, Worcestershire sauce (optional) and Caerphilly cheese melted on top of a slice of toast 
  • Traditional Welsh breakfast, a hearty breakfast of local eggs and cockles fried with bacon and sausage, served with laverbread.
If I've wetted your appetite - literally, try to order direct to your door.

I could hardly move afterwards, but it would have been rude not to try it all!

Thursday 4 February 2010

Welsh place names and a little bit of history thrown in...

Hi, a more educational grown up blog today!!  Some interesting things I learned about the area I now live in from my second week at the Language Centre.

Maenclochog means 'ringing stones' (maen = standing stone + cloch = bell + og = fast\sharp).  It is thought the name refers to a large stone, several tons in weight, nicely poised upon three small upright stones.  It vibrated with the slightest touch, and when struck it sounded like a bell: this curiosity was destroyed by some of the inhabitants, who thought they might find some hidden treasure underneath it.  They blew it up with gunpowder.  Some rocks on the Preseli hills do have curious resonant properties. Was it this characteristic that made the bluestones special, explaining why some were believed to have been taken to Stonehenge?

All villages with Llan at the beginning and there are a few, is because llan means church.  So for example Llan-y-cefn: llan = church\parish + y = the + cefn = ridge\back.  Another little common one, cwm = hollow\deep valley, so for example Cwm Gwaun: cwm = valley + gwaun = moor\low-lying marshy ground\meadow.

llys = court\manor house\hall + y = the + fran (mutated form of brân) = crow\raven i.e. court of the crows.

Pentre Ifan
Pentre = hamlet, village + Ifan = person's name.  Ivan's village was a settlement in the parish of Nevern,  North Pembrokeshire.  It contains the largest (the capstone weighs over 16 tons) and best preserved neolithic dolmen in Wales dating from approximately 3,500 B.C. and was used as a communal burial ground.

Mynydd Carningle
Mynydd = mountain Carn = rock.  Carn Ingli is a small mountain\hill near Newport in Pembrokeshire.  It's less than 400 meters high but it is near the coast and dominates the surrounding area.  It's always had sacred associations; according to legend in the 5th centuary Saint Brynach used to climb to the summit to find tranquillity to pray and to talk with the angels.

We learnt a little about The Merched Becca - The Rebecca Riots which took place between 1839 and 1843 in South and Mid Wales.  They were a protest against high tolls which had to be paid on the local turnpike roads. 
Roads were especially bad in Wales. To remedy this turnpike trusts were set up here (as they were in Britain). A number of people (known as trustees) made up the trust and they improved the roads. In return for this they erected toll gates and collected charges from road users (similar to crossing the Severn Bridge today). Farmers were hard-hit by this as they used the roads to transport lime to their farms to improve the soil.  The rioters, many disguised as women, destroyed the tollhouses and gates. Each leader was known as ‘Rebecca’ and followers were ‘her daughters’. They took their name from the biblical prophecy that the seed of Rebekah would ‘possess the gate of those which hate them’ (Genesis 24, Verse 60).  The riots ceased prior to 1844 because the act to consolidate and amend the laws relating to turnpike trusts in Wales was passed.

There is a belief that Preseli Bluestone, (some 480 million years old, a dolerite found in the Preseli Mountains) was 5000 years ago moved some 200 miles to Salisbury Plain, where they form the inner circle at Stonehenge. Legend has it that Merlin himself moved the bluestones from an older circle to Stonehenge by magically lifting them into the air.  Although there is now debate that the bluestone (a "generic" label of more than 20 different rocks, rather than a geological term) did not originate from a single source, but from widely spread locations in North Pembrokeshire, but I'm an old romantic and like to believe in Merlin.

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