It’s a while since I managed to write a post here, and even longer (about a month) since I was able to pay close attention to the many excellent blogs I follow. The same has been true of my other (photo) blog, grumpytykepix. It’s been due to a combination of diversions:

  • getting a new website/blog ‘live’ for my employer;
  • getting embroiled in a campaign fighting inappropriate development in the village in which I live, which has revealed at best incompetence in the local (Bradford) council, at worst possible corruption – all this as part of authoring a WordPress blog for my village;
  • being commissioned to author a column in a local weekly newspaper covering forthcoming events in my village and a nearby small town, Otley (yesterday was the fifth appearance);
  • being diverted by a wonderful 88 year old lady who telephoned me to ask whether her family history might be interesting for an article in the paper (it’s fascinating!).

Fewston (Washburn Valley, Yorkshire) Marriages

I’m not ready yet to reveal the identity of my octogenarian or say much about her but so far the story has taken me to a local museum, a local cemetery and consumed hours of searching archives, such as the one pictured, on internet. As a result I’ve managed to identify some of her ancestors back to 1829, which has been a delight to her. But I still have many leads to follow up.

She is concerned that her memory is failing and as she is ‘last of the line’ the family history will die with her unless it is set down. Being last of the line and living alone she is also rather lonely, so an excuse to visit her once a week with the latest ‘tidbit’ is just what was needed, not to mention the glass (or more) of ‘Croft’s Original’ she insists on plying me with; fortunately she lives only a few minutes walk from me, so no driving.

Eventually her story will certainly make a post, or more, on this blog; a page, or more, on the village blog; possibly a feature in a local paper or magazine; and even maybe a book which I’ll gladly ‘ghost’ for her.

When I asked for suggestions for a cake to enter in the village show I commented that my favourite cake, Reine de Saba, would not likely be a good choice as it has an unusual texture. The same is true of the two suggestions I chose to make so it was no surprise to me that neither got into the prizes, but it was fun to ‘compete’.

I made the ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’, suggested by blogger Georgina at The Fresh Princess of Bel Air, original recipe by Lily Vanilli, a couple of days before. The chocolate cake, suggested by Tracey at ‘foodandforagehebrides‘, original recipe from Delia Smith, was made on the morning of the show. I won’t give the recipes here; just follow the previous links to go to them.

However, my experience may be of interest as I’d say don’t make either of them for an important occasion before doing a trial run or you may not get what you expect.

Beetroot cake

Georgina suggested using a processor to grate the beetroot. Personally I have an aversion to machines in the kitchen (I’ve never come across a machine which can compete with a big hand balloon whisk and a copper bowl for beating egg whites) and grating the 500g of beetroot was quick and easy – I just put a polythene bag over each hand, secured with elastic bands around the wrist, grating them into a stainless steel colander over a stainless steel bowl to catch the juice. It took a few minutes then seconds to rinse them out; I hate to think how long it would have taken to clean my wife’s food processor had I used that.

Georgina commented that the unbaked mix was very liquid and needed far longer in the oven than the recipe for a test probe to come out clean. With that in mind I pressed out some of the juice when in the colander. I think it was a mistake as the end result indicated to me it should have been wetter. I baked it for the recommended 35 mins but I think it should have been quite a lot longer. However, the short cooking meant the top of the cake still had a wonderful beetroot colour so I decided not to cover it completely with mascarpone, leaving a rim of cake showing. I didn’t like the idea of chives on top so did a bit more decoration with the raspberries and some mint leaves. I’m sure when the show judges took the tiny slice and found a very strange texture that put paid to any prize; they’d been sampling some good but conventional sponges! It really does taste great though.

Chocolate cake

I followed Delia Smith’s original recipe almost exactly but it did not ‘work’ as suggested. Perhaps it was my ingredients.

The two halves of the cake came out of the oven just as intended – perhaps because I’m used to making the Reine de Saba which is similar though it does have a little flour. However, although I soaked the stated amount of prunes in the correct amount of armagnac for three days, the puree (here I did use an electric liquidiser) came out far too thick and stiff to spread on the very delicate cake so I had to ‘water’ it down, first with more armagnac but, when that began to get too expensive, with water until it became spreadable. The same happened with the melted chocolate (don’t know why as I’m quite used to doing this for souffles) and again I had to dilute it to be able to spread it on the cake ( I couldn’t find 75% cocoa solids chocolate so used half 70% and half 90%).  Again, the show judges probably wrote it off for not having the texture of the sponge cakes they had been ‘tasting’. Yet again, however, I can tell you the cake is delicious.

I also had a suggestion from my Canadian/Romanian blogger at ‘fotogfoodie’ for what sounds like a super cheese cake, but as it is not cooked I decided it was probably not appropriate for a ‘baking’ competition. I’ll be making it for some guests in the future though.

PS. Something crazy has been going on in the email linked to this blog and I just found 137 ‘valid’ notification messages in ‘spam’, dating back to mid August. This is alongside the reader going awry from time to time, not just for me I understand. So one or two of my recent comments about ‘missing’ bloggers may have sounded odd. 

I consider myself very lucky as through things I do, day to day including my work, I learn of some of the amazing things our oft derided youngsters do. 

The latest is about 14 lower sixth formers from the excellent high school within our village boundary – St Mary’s Menston.

St Mary's Menston pupil Hannah Smith reads abut football to South African children

Hannah Smith, pupil at St Mary’s Menston, reads Frank Lampard to Zulu children

St Mary's pupil Kavindu Appuhamy gives an African child a lesson about rhinos, or is it the other way round?

St Mary’s pupil Kavindu Appuhamy gives an African child a lesson about rhinos, or is it the other way round?

I mentioned in an earlier post that I recently created a blog/website for the Wharfedale, Yorkshire, village in which I live – Menston. Looking around for news as the schools started up again after the summer break I found out about the latest phase in a project in which St Mary’s is involved, now in its seventh year.

Bambisanani

It’s called Bambisanani. That’s Zulu for … … … if you want to know you’ll have to go to the whole story, with more pictures, which you’ll find from a link on the latest post on the village website at:

http://menstonvillagewharfedale.com/2013/09/07/menston-village-school-in-south-africa-new-weekday-cycling-group-village-show/

Although the project revolves around sport and leadership, the Menston pupils also taught maths, science, history, chess, dance, football, rounders and netball while they were at Mnyakanya School in the deprived Nkandla region of Kwa Zulu Natal.

Cakes for the village show

Many thanks for the suggestions for cakes to enter in the village show on Saturday. I’ve chosen two unusual ones (which probably means they’ll get nowhere in the prizes even if I succeed in making them well). The first I’ll be making when I’ve finished this post – Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries – thanks to blogger ‘Georgina’; the second I’ll be making the evening before – Chocolate prune and armagnac cake, a Delia Smith recipe - suggested by another of my favourite bloggers.

Other suggestions I’ll be making just for my own enjoyment sometime in the future. When I do I’ll let you know.

I’m looking for suggestions for a cake to submit in the ‘annual show’ for the village in which I live – Menston – in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. The class is ‘My favourite cake’ and, very quaint, there is one class for women and one class for men!

Cakes for village show

Cakes for a village show

There are over 80 classes in all. If you are interested in how one English village show competition is organised you can go to a new blog I’ve recently created for the village, in which I’ve listed all the classes under ‘Events’:

http://menstonvillagewharfedale.com

My favourite cake is in fact ‘Reine de Saba’, as I mentioned some time ago on this blog (it’s under ‘Food’ on the top menu) but it doesn’t look very prepossessing, especially as the centre is deliberately left un- or under-cooked, which might be seen as a ‘mistake’ if you don’t know the cake. The original recipe actually calls for it to be covered in butter icing, but in the first place I don’t like butter icing and the second I think it would completely overpower the cake.

I enjoy decorating cakes when I have the time but for this purpose I don’t think it should rely on decoration; it should just be an extraordinarily good cake!

So, if you’ve blogged about a cake you think would make a good submission to the show please leave a comment with a link to your post about it (or a suggestion even if you haven’t blogged about it).

Many thanks

_________________________________________________________________________

Thanks Georgina. WordPress won’t let me post a reply to your comment so I’m putting it as an edit on the post: - I’ve had a meander through your archives and I’ve put ‘Beetroot cake with mascarpone and raspberries’ on my ‘possibles’ list because: I love raspberries, you say it’s not too sweet, we eat cornmeal mush (‘polenta’ – mamaliga in Romanian) quite a lot, it’s got ginger in it, and it’s a crazy idea! Lemon drizzle, which I make quite a lot, and Victoria sponge, are likely to have a lot of competition (and I don’t consider ‘baking’ to be top of my cooking skills) as staple village show cakes, so something ‘completely different’ seems like a good idea.

Menston and Wilberforce have kept me away; many apologies for the long absence. First of all I was busy night and day (literally) getting a much-needed completely new website to its Beta form for the charity (Wilberforce Trust) for which I work, so it could be viewed by all the 70 or so staff for their feedback by the time I return from annual leave in early September. I’ll take into account the feedback then it can go live, hopefully that month. It’s a WordPress.org site so a lot more work than these wonderful free ‘wordpress.com’ sites. 

Menston village blog; screenshot with first post

Top of the new Menston village blog showing the first post

A glutton for punishment I suppose, I also decided to construct a new ‘unofficial’ website for the village in which I live – Menston. The site - menstonvillagewharfedale.com - a WordPress.com site of course, is in the form of a blog, on which ‘grumpytyke‘ will be commenting from time to time, starting today.  Have a look and let me know what you think, please.

There is an ‘official’ Menston village website, www.menston.org, but although it is now working after a long absence it is very out of date, much of the information being so out of date that it’s not very useful. It’s been promising a new site for a long time but so far it hasn’t materialised. However, its existence meant I couldn’t have a simple Menston name (menstonvillage also existed already) and you can’t have spaces in the WordPress user name unfortunately.

Bringing Menston into the WordPress community

That is only part of the reason I decide to create the ‘unofficial’ site. The ‘official’ one – shared by the local community association and the local parish council – is very institutional. I thought the village, a really friendly and cosy place, merited something a bit more friendly. Knowing what a great community WordPress bloggers are I thought the village should have a WordPress blog of its own.

The new blog was first ‘published’ in late July but really only went ‘live’ on 8 August when it was publicised. I’m delighted to say that in the three days since then it has had around 700 views.

Anyway, please have a look – menstonvillagewharfedale.com – and let me know what you think, with any suggestions. Input from all you great bloggers who follow ‘grumpytyke’ would be really valuable.

madness frozen out

bones interred together        warmed

peace       buds in waiting

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian "lunatic asylum" at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried close by

Early morning view from my sitting room window: the clock tower – about 1/2 mile away – of the once notorious Victorian “lunatic asylum” at Menston, now luxury flats. Over 2,000 bodies of former inmates are buried, together, close by

This post isn’t about photography, and it’s rather late for a weekly challenge, but having been out of posting for a while I couldn’t resist using this recent weekly photo challenge to show why where I live makes me happy, and to learn how to make and insert a gallery (which is what the WordPress posting was about). I live in a village called Menston, on the upper southern slopes of the lower Wharfe valley in Yorkshire, just on the edge of the enormous Leeds/Bradford connurbation.

The first picture is the view I wake up to every morning, that from my bedroom window. There isn’t always a rainbow of course but we do get more than our fair share, I guess because we are looking approximately north so the sun is traversing right to left through the day. The colours and shadow patterns change not only with the seasons but with every minute – it’s a constant delight. More about each picture under the gallery.

I wanted to respond quickly and take photos specifically for this challenge so all the pictures are taken on my little pocketable, early digital Contax SL300R T*, one of the (too) many cameras I have which make me happy too (I’ve recently created another blog specifically for my photographic interests – grumpytykepix – and hope to start posting regularly on that soon). All the pictures in this post were taken over a period of two days. I really like how clicking on one of the gallery pix brings up a slide show of them all.

The hills over the top of the houses in the first picture are the northern slopes up from the river Wharfe. The river down in the valley is about 5 minutes in the car, with the lovely little towns of Otley, to the right, and Ilkley, to the left, about 10 and 15 minutes away respectively. A few minutes into real country as you will see in later pictures, but the magnificent city of Leeds is only 15 minutes away on the regular train from Menston station, a five minute walk from home – the best of all worlds.

The second picture is the view from our living room windows, over the village park, which look south so have sun all day; another constantly changing scene usually teeming with children and many dogs with their owners. If you look carefully in the centre background you’ll see why we don’t need a clock – if I had zoomed into it you would see clearly the time on the clock tower of the once notorious Victorian High Royds psychiatric ‘hospital’ (“Menston” to most locals – we live with it!) – now luxury flats.

Underneath the clock picture, top right in the gallery, is the scene I wait for on my journey home from my two day a week job in York. Driving back along the A658 I crest the hill leading down to the A65 Harrogate/Leeds road and there it is – the Wharfe Valley – dominated here by the torr Almscliffe Crag (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almscliffe_Crag). I’m about 15 minutes from home.

Continuing home, I cross the river at Pool, climb Pool bank then turn along the high ridge – known as Otley Chevin – running along the south side of the valley, (http://www.chevinforest.co.uk/)(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Otley_Chevin). The magnificent view in the fourth picture, with again the Crag dominating in the distance, is a 20 minute climb on foot from home, 5 minutes in the car. A short distance behind me as I take this picture is Leeds-Bradford airport, the UK’s highest, and another great convenience as it’s about 3 hours door to door for me to visit grandchildren near to Dusseldorf (and there’s a bus direct to the airport from home, so no car-parking fees!). No, aircraft noise is not a problem – though my wife wouldn’t agree about the 7am flight on a Sunday morning (I don’t hear it!).

Fifth picture: Even closer here, the first sight of our flat, across the park, windows on the right, first floor. A minute and I’ll be home.

Half an hour walk or so in the opposite direction from the Chevin are the rocks shown in the sixth picture, the famous Cow and Calf which overlook the town of Ilkley. Like Almscliffe Crag, this is a favourite spot for would-be rock climbers to develop their skills, though most visitors just go for the great views and a pint in the nearby Cow and Calf pub (or an ice cream or coffee from the car park (free!) cafe seen on the right).

If you return to Menston by car you can take the road into the village seen in the seventh photo. In the middle distance is the Chevin and if you look carefully you might see the long hill climbing to the top which I take to go to work – 2nd gear for Lofty the camper.

At the bottom of that hill, so half the climb from home, is one of the many great pubs around the village – called appropriately enough the Chevin. Here it is, eighth picture, on our Sunday 14th October walk. The road you see twists down the side of the Chevin through woods to reach Otley and there’s a great small camp site on the right for visitors.

But, ninth picture, we don’t make the climb to look at the front but to sit in the garden at the rear with, for me, a pint of an excellent Yorkshire beer (Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, another happy, brewed in nearby Keighley where I went to school) and an excellent cider for my wife Petronela – both of us wondering at the view.

Hopefully, if I manage to crack getting back into medium format rangefinder photography, I’ll be posting some better pictures from 6 x 9 of the wondrous scenery of where I live on my ‘photography blog’ – grumpytykepix. But maybe the few ‘snaps’ here will show you why where I live is ‘happy’ for me.  

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