Activities: a Mixed Bag

By Saturday the clearance operations started by Rob and Nick are well under way.  They have felled some medium-height leylandii bushes which were part of a screen for the garden shed.  But they were also obscuring a view into the top of the field where the climbing frame is, and beyond.  This cuts both ways, when you are standing in that field looking down to the house you can see it clearly through the long straight trunks of several mature trees which have now an identity of their own.  You also get a view east across the valley to Bratton Fleming.

As lower growing shrubs and ground cover are cleared other features are revealed.  What appeared to be a bank between the original garden and the field is actually a dry stone wall, probably of some maturity.  There was already a heap of assorted slabs and rocks in the top corner of the field, this has now been tidied up and a containing wall set around it.

Meanwhile Rosie and I take ourselves into South Molton where we wander through the covered market and also look in several of the arty-crafty gift/homeware shops along the main street.  Inevitably I buy some plants although I am trying to resist the temptation and rationalise what I already have in England and France. It really is a delightful centre and I am surprised that such a small town supports so many shops of that kind.

Before we drive back to the house we stop at the local health shop, Griffins Yard, which has a fine stock of wholesome foods.  I need to buy some fine oatmeal but end up buying several kinds of lentils – I love cooking with these, they’d be one of my Desert Island foods. We’ve overrun lunchtime so when we get back we make some sandwiches and 6 of us eat them in the warm sunshine on the lawn.

Work continues outside but Rosie and I have labour of a different kind.  The crab and lobster need dressing.  We tackle the crab first and because it is really no chore at all we sit at the kitchen table and take our time retrieving every last fibre of white meat from the inner carapace.  The lobster is altogether more straightforward and at the end of it I am surprised by the quantity of meat we have from it compared to that from the crab.  It’s been a useful exercise in itself – I have always assumed you get more from a crab than  a lobster, the difference is that there is more brown meat in the former.  As I shell the prawns Rosie rustles up a cream tea.

Later on we arrange the seafood on a platter and make a salad.  But before we sit to eat it we have a laverbread tasting.  The recipe is simple: you mix ¼ cup of oatmeal with one cup of seaweed.  It doesn’t look quite enough oatmeal so I add a bit more.  Seaweed is salty I think so don’t add seasoning.  Wrong.  The first ‘cake’ I fry in bacon fat is too bland so I season the rest of the mixture before shaping it into patties and frying them. Before we sit down in style to our seafood meal we eat the laverbread in the kitchen with a glass of champagne.  Everyone likes them.  They are quite ‘sticky’ as you might expect, the sensation in the mouth is not dissimilar to potato rosti when it is made with grated potato, as I was taught by a Swiss friend.

After supper 4 of us play Scrabble.  The previous evening 7 of us had played a game which was new to Nick and I.  Each person writes the names of 7 well-known people on slips of paper.  These are then put into a hat.  There are 2 teams and the names are drawn out successively.  There are 3 rounds using the same named slips and you have 45 minutes per round to do as many names as you can.  In round 1 you have to describe the person to your team-mates until they guess the name.  The names go back into the hat.  In round 2 you draw again and have to mime the person whose name is on your paper slip.  In round 3 you again draw a name slip from the hat then choose one word to help your team guess the name.  By this stage it obviously helps if you have a good memory!!  The points for each team are then totalled.  A lot of fun.

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