We’ve just had a very relaxing week in Northumberland. Spring was very definitely in the air and the weather was relatively kind. Relaxing for us means lots of being outside walking and we managed a good few days outside.
A good brisk walk or a run always makes me feel better, no matter the weather or any pain involved! Somehow, being active in the fresh air leaves me feeling as if my brain has had a bit of a rummage around, done some tidying up, done some filing. Even if I haven’t actually solved anything, I feel better equipped to deal with whatever life has thrown at me.
While we were away I read a book that has been on my ‘To Be Read’ list for a while – The Salt Path by Raynor Winn. It’s simply a wonderful book. Raynor and her husband Moth are suddenly made homeless – losing the farmhouse that was their home and their business. Alongside this, Moth was diagnosed with a rare, terminal illness – a degenerative brain disease known as cortico-basal degeneration which is characterised by movement disorders and cognitive dysfunction. Pretty much as the bailiffs were knocking at the door, the couple (who were then roughly the same age as me), decided to walk the 630-mile long South West Coast path – with a very small amount of money for food, and wild camping most nights. I recognise much of the scenery from childhood holidays in Cornwall and this has made me really want to return there. But this book is about so much more than walking – it’s about love, nature, home and homelessness (and our attitudes towards it), friendship and kindness – it is sad, funny, beautifully written and ultimately uplifting.
While I’m thinking about it, I was caught by the attitude of Moth’s consultant – who, at the time of his diagnosis suggested he should rest, not ‘walk too far and be careful on the stairs’. In fact, after a summer of walking, carrying a pack, sleeping in a tent and often going hungry….. Moth’s health improved. Despite this, his consultant suggested he had ‘accelerated his own decline’ and again encouraged him to rest and not walk too far. We need to treat all our patients as individuals – what is right for one person is not necessarily right for another. And really, if you were in this situation, what would do you the most good? There’s certainly an argument for going on a fantastic adventure with the person you love rather than sofa-hopping and feeling like a burden to others isn’t there? Even if this does result in a more rapid decline in your health. Would I have the courage to do this? I really don’t know that I would. This is one of those books that I will be thinking about for a long time.
I wanted to bake a cake while we were away – obviously we needed cake on our return from those long walks. Mr McGregor suggest I use some grapes that needed eating. It was a revelation – a lovely sweet cake! Enjoy.
Red grape cake (pdf:Red grape cake)
250g grapes, halved or quartered depending on your preference
225g self raising flour
175g unsalted butter, cut into cubes, softened
50g caster sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla essence
- Preheat oven to 180/160 fan/gas 4. Grease and line a 2 litre loaf tin
- Beat butter to a cream, then add sugar and beat until light and fluffy
- Add eggs one at a time, adding 1 tablespoon of flour with each egg. Mix thoroughly after each addition
- Fold in remaining flour, add vanilla essence and mix. Add milk to a dropping consistency. Finally fold in the grapes
- Spoon mixture into tin and smooth the surface. Bake for ~50 minutes or till skewer comes out clean (cover with foil if the top browns too quickly towards the end of the cooking time). Cool in tin for 10 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to fully cool