Mushy Pea and Chorizo Soup

How do you feel about mushy peas? I am a bit of an evangelist about them. Much like Yorkshire Puddings. There are perhaps no such thing as bad peas in my mind (peas being the most wonderful, and round, of vegetables). But there are very definitely bad mushy peas. Which even in themselves are better than no mushy peas. Just about. But there is no disappointment quite like the arrival of a what was advertised as a plate of fish, chips and mushy peas, and turns out to be fish, chips and crushed garden peas. Or luminous green processed marrowfat peas. Both of which have their place. The latter going particularly well with a fray bentos steak and kidney pudding and tinned potatoes (more on which later.) But they are not mushy peas. Mushy peas are a glorious ambrosia, and should be that strange grey-green bordering on khaki colour that could pass quite easily for a Farrow and Ball paint used in tasteful middle class hallways. They should not be bright, verdant green. They should be neither too hard or too mushy. They should be the happy product of somehow having remembered, despite one’s drunkenness, to steep the dried peas overnight with their little tablet of bicarbonate of soda. Tipped from a box, in my case generally a blue one from Bachelors. Batchelors Bigga Dried Peas. They must be soaked for 12-16 hours. Hence them becoming a mysterious, seldom enjoyed delight. Because if you don’t remember the night before to get the box out of the cupboard, pour peas into a bowl, boil the kettle and pour over the peas – you ain’t having no mushy peas with your sunday dinner. (which you absolutely should by the way). You’d be surprised the many points at which this process can go wrong. Getting distracted half way through, and coming downstairs the next day to a bowl of dried peas. Even worse – getting distracted while cooking and forgetting to cook the soaked peas. (Hey. Yes, I have considered the possibility I have ADHD. Probably).

For those who are less than purists, there are lesser products who come to the rescue. The little brother to the Bigga pea, the “Quick Soak” – which only need 2 hours. The (*spits*) tinned varieties. You can even get frozen mushy peas I think. (and mushy pea patties which are something else entirely). It all depends how low you want to sink.

On this occasion, we had some “Quick Soak” peas with a pot roast on Sunday. My husband had originally bought them for Christmas, having been unable to find the proper version for love nor money in these Covid & Brexit straitened times. As I already had seventeen vegetables on the go for that repast, I thought I would save the peas for another day. I’m seldom impressed by the Quick Soak peas, but they’ll do in a pinch. Better than nowt. (A position I seldom take when it comes to substandard Yorkshire Puddings. I have to be really craving to put up with Aunt Bessies.)

The thing about Quick Soak peas is that they disintegrate to next to nothing. We got about three tablespoons of actual peas for the meal from the box. But the liquid I strained off was full of bright green mush. It was this viscous effluvia that got me thinking. Could I do something with the “pea juice”?

Pea juice. Stuff of the gods. When my mum would cook mushy peas for our sunday dinners when I was at home, I used to delve in with my spoon so much that she would tell me that there wouldn’t be any left for dinner. “I’m only getting the pea juice though” I would complain. Pea juice, the soupy water that would eventually be strained off when the peas were served. Sweet and salty and green.

If you have followed me so far – if you know of what I speak – then the question of whether you like the pea juice is important, because it is the base for this soup and if it is too strong for you then you won’t like it. It is very salty. Probably really bad for you salty. If you don’t like mushy peas at all, you probably won’t like it. Venture elsewhere. Try my Celery and Butterbean recipe which always seems to do well in terms of searches.

However if you share my love of the delicious green, carry on.

This recipe uses the drained off liquid from making mushy peas. I suppose you could leave the peas in for even greater effect, if you are living your absolute best life.


c. 1 pint pea juice (drained liquid from making mushy peas with either quick soak, or Bigga dried peas)
1 pint Chicken Stock
125 chorizo
1 tin cooked new potatoes
Fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped

Add the stock to the pea juice in a pan and heat.
Chop the chorizo into small cubes, and fry in a pan until the oil is released and the chorizo begins to crisp a little
Chop the cooked potatoes into small cubes and add to the pea/stock.

When the soup comes to a boil, assess the consistency, if you would like a thicker soup, mix some cornflour with water and stir into the broth. Add the cooked chorizo and its oil, and parsley. Stir to combine, cook for a little while longer.

Serve with crusty bread and butter.


Just another day.
468 since I last saw you. Hugged you. Smiled with you.
5158 since I let you go. Couldn’t hold on any more.
7345 since we moved into a little flat with cress growing in the floor and a bed we couldn’t sleep in.
8548 since we started our strange escapade
3390 days it lasted. Kind of. Not all of them good. But enough.

9555 days (ish) since I first saw your face.
16,346 days since anyone first saw your face.
16,590 days (ish) since you blinked into this place.
16,225 days between blinking in and blinking out.
15,981 days you walked, crawled, toddled, skated this earth.

Numbers. Days. These just my numbers. You built more.
Started new counts.
Left your soft trace.
Somewhere your count goes on. It never ended, never began.
Somewhere we are infinite.
Outnumbering the numbers.
Just not here.

Here we can only count.

A bucket list from 2003

  • I will be thin – or at least reasonable ❎
  • I will be happy and able to weather life’s ebbs and flows without turning my life upside down✅
  • I will get some poetry published ❎
  • I will finish more than one novel and send it to publishers ❎
  • I will get the small celtic tatoo I promised myself ❎
  • I will go to New Orleans ❎
  • I will get married✅
  • I will be a mother ❎
  • I will own a house with a large kitchen, where friends can come and drink coffee and talk and be fed by me out of large bubbling pots on the stove. ❎
  • I will sell my spices on a market stall ❎
  • I will work for myself ✅
  • I will paint✅
  • I will visit Egypt ❎
  • I will make a difference to someone who needs it. ✅
  • I will understand the wrongs done to me by friends and lovers, and forgive and forget them. ✅

A list of things I found on a blog from 2003. Things I wanted to do before I die. I’ve made some progress at least. And some of the things I haven’t done I’m not sure would be on my list any more.

I won’t be a mother. That ship has sailed. I considered it, but too many things were in the “this won’t work” column. I no longer want a celtic tattoo. These days I am holding on for when I have both money and healing time and lack of pandemic to get a pair of playing cards and a peacock feather. To begin with.

I am not thin. Or reasonable. I’m probably about 4 stone heavier than I was when I wrote that. And I was well overweight then. I would still like to have a less cumbersome, less painful body.

I don’t write as much poetry as I used to. I don’t write as much as I used to. But I would still like to get published. I will finish editing my first. And I will write my second because it’s pecking at my brain. Whether anyone wants them – who knows.

Whether I ever visit New Orleans or Egypt – will depend upon a lot of things. But the shine went off them somewhat, with terrorism, and Trumpism. And of course money and company are another issue. But I have come to the conclusion that though there is much I would like to see in the world, if I don’t get to, that’s ok. I live in the most beautiful place, and feel joy every time I look out over the view. Tourism has come to seem trivial to me in my midlife, what with everything. Not that I won’t do it if I can, but something in me fears that won’t come back in quite the same way that it used to be for my parents. And maybe that’s for the best. It’s destroying the planet after all.

I suppose I still wouldn’t mind selling spices on a market stall. Not that I do much with spices. I’d like to cook for people. I’d like to sell my art, and roses.

The one big one though is that kitchen. That house. I can see it, feel the turn of the key in the lock, hang my coat on a hook in the hallway, walk along the tiled floor into that kitchen and drop my keys on the table. It’s darker than I thought. But I still don’t own it. Still don’t know where it is or how I will get there. I bought a house the year after that blog. But so much has happened since then. The house didn’t last. So much has gone since then. I don’t even think I’m the same person. How can that be seventeen years ago?

I turned around and everything changed.

Maybe I should write another list.

I’ll certainly write about some of those achievements. I’m proud of them.

I weather life’s ups and downs pretty well.
I work for myself
I make a difference for those who need it
I understand, and have forgiven but not forgotten those in my life who I used to think of as having done me some wrong.

Acceptance is a powerful thing.

Grandma Long’s Christmas Cake

A reblog from my old site, ten years ago no less!

With a nod to a battered Bero cook book from god knows when

  • 10oz unsalted butter
  • 10oz soft brown sugar
  • 5 eggs
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tbsp camp coffee & chicory essence (or a shot of espresso, or v. strong instant coffee)
  • 1tsp mixed spice
  • 1tsp salt
  • 10oz plain flour
  • 14oz currants
  • 10oz sultanas
  • 10oz raisins
  • 2oz cut mixed peel
  • 8oz glace cherries, chopped in half or quarters
  1. Cream together the butter and sugar (making sure to remove any hard lumps first – sieve if you like.
  2. Beat eggs, and add, along with treacle and coffee essence – stir until combined.
  3. Gradually add sieved spice, salt and flour, combining with the wet ingredients.
  4. Combine the fruit in another bowl, and mix thoroughly to get an even distribution.
  5. Add the fruit to the cake mix, slowly and steadily (you will need a large bowl) until thoroughly mixed, glossy and delicious. 
  6. Grease an line a 8 or 9 inch cake tin, allowing the paper to stick up a couple of inches around the rim to protect the cake. Add mixture to tin, and smooth surface. If desired, arrange blanched almonds decoratively on top – alternatively leave plain for marzipan and icing later.
  7. Bake in very slow oven, about Gas Mark 2, 300 F, 150 C for about 4 1/2 hours.
  8. When cooked (a skewer inserted in the centre will come out cleanish) remove from oven, and leave to cool
  9. Remove cooled cake and place on a wire rack.  Make a few skewer holes in the top, and carefully dribble over a cap full of whisky, brandy, or rum. Wrap in tin foil and keep to one side.
  10. After a couple of days, open the foil, turn the cake over, and make a few skewer holes in the bottom, and dribble over another cap full of spirit. (Either the same or different than the top)  Wrap up the cake again and set aside
  11. Repeat this process every couple of days until you are happy the cake is drunk enough. It can be nice to do the last few top soakings with cherry brandy for a nice sticky festiveness.
  12. If wanting to ice the cake – cover first with warmed apricot jam, then add marzipan, icing, and decorations as desired.
  13. Eat and be merry. Very good with Cheshire cheese and sherry.
  14. Do not drive after eating!


Loss follows you like a shadow,
dogged and loyal.
Tracking your every move,
silently tracing your life.
Sometimes behind me,
almost forgotten.
Sometimes, in the cold afternoon
winter’s light –
stretching out before, long and dark and thin
twice the size of me,
touching everything.

We each have one.
But it is each our own.
We might huddle together and it seems
our shadows merge.
Collective grief.
But you will take yours with you
and I mine.

Some days,
when I am in the full brightness of living
it can seem there is no shadow at all.
But the slightest move reminds me
of one or the other dark hollows in my life
and there it is again.
Sometimes so dark,
like a void,
that I might fall into.
That emptiness that can never be filled.
But of course a shadow is not a hole.
And those absences are not complete.
Somewhere I feel their light flickering within.

One day, maybe, the shadow will bring comfort.
Memory like a shady spot on a hot day.
Taking refuge in the privilege of having been there
In those moments when they shone brightest.

But for now I am still a little afraid of the dark.

Seam Splitting

Has there always been a bulge?

Babies are bulgy. Bulging cheeks and bellies,
Chubby thighs and arms and little palms.
And then we stretch out and become little people

I don’t think my smaller self was bulgy but
At some point a young girl’s body tends to bulge
In adultlike directions
But takes a while to settle down into its right proportions.
Just as boys become strange gawky fawns
Before they grow into their jawlines
And their bodies hang right from those shoulders.

I remember looking
At my nascent boobs,
Over my poorly postured paunch
And thinking that it looked like
A sad hippopotamus.

Always comparing my body to animals.
My thighs, squashed out when seated,
Were plucked chickens, growing eventually
To a pair of Christmas birds.

Some bulges were welcomed.
No one has ever complained about the two
Upon my front, no matter how large they become.
I’ve preferred them when weightloss and sadness
Made them rounder. But in general they are the least of my foes.

Curves around and behind make me take up more
( S p a c e )
Than I am supposed to.

But the one I hate the most
Sits front and centre
Above the hearth below the heart.

I remember when it went from 
Bulging outward
To begin to sag
And become salt and sore.
Unlike its northern sisters
Which have always been downhearted.

Ugh! I thought.
I can’t get any bigger than this.
But not having found the magic wand
Of course I did.

20 years and a quarter of a body more
The bulge has taken on
A life of its own.
It split me open and is trying to escape.
It hisses and gurgles,
And rejects all encouragement to keep
An orderly house.

I am torn between never wanting to look down
And never being able to forget
The ticking clock below my chest.

Even if I chanced to be distracted
and forget for just a minute what is there –
someone will be along
to remind me.

Helpfully shouting from their van
or their cluster of friends
words and laughter that they will forget
and which have wrapped around
my ankles
since my hippo days.

Tripping me up.
Whispering in my ear
Every time I think I can.
Every time I think I am beautiful.
Every time I think I am enough.


How do we keep going?
What has been lost and fades away.
How do we keep being?
All that we created, crumble.
All that rose to greatness, humbled.
All the love we built dissolved
and trampled in the clay
How can I keep breathing
in this world with hatred seething,
bound up in violence,
threatened into silence,
remembering the days when you
could be you, and freely –
without fear of legal retribution
or threat of vile solution.
When things seemed better every day.
When good men still drew breath,
and laughed,
and played their jokers.
When guilt played out but time
returned our tokens.
And I wanted to see tomorrow
in the lines upon my hand.

I daren’t ask the cards to guide me
to show this darkness in its truth.
I have not the life to pull me through
the disappointment of the end of youth.

On Statuary and School.

I love a good statue. A good statue can be appreciated on many levels. It can be a thing of beauty. It can make you think. It can tell you a story. It can remind you of something. Not all statues do all of this. Not all statues are good statues.

What is the purpose of a statue? Depends, doesn’t it. It could be a modern art reclining thing of curves and vacancies. Which may be based on a person but the person isn’t really the point. The statue is. It may be based on a figure from antiquity or the bible or so on – and be a sculptural masterpiece, so again, the person isn’t really the point. Or isn’t any more. A statue of Nero, for instance, is appreciated in a different way than a statue of, say, Lincoln. Or Margaret Thatcher. Or Berlusconi. Are there any statues of Berlusconi?

Most statues of real people are put up in some way to celebrate, or commemorate them in a positive way. To say this person was great, or meaningful, or powerful. Significant. Some people are so admired by their peers that their statues are funded by subscription. Some statues are vanity projects. Some are deliberate political acts.

As the statue of Edward Colston toppled into the water, echoing the fall of many other statues felled in rebellion – Stalin, Saddam, – and I pondered the rights and wrongs of it, a phrase started to tickle my memory. Something from Virginia Woolf. I’ve since tried to find it and failed, though I found something similar in the London Scene. Maybe it is from her diaries. I will have to keep looking. It wasn’t about statues. It was about buildings. Architecture. Someone (I don’t know whether it is Woolf herself reflecting, or a character in a novel or essay) is in London, shopping. And they see the changing landscape. Buildings being demolished, new ones rising in their place. And there is a comment on how some will mourn the loss of the old, and wish to protect, keep the ancient city in aspic, never changing. But that life is change, and while we might wish to keep the world as it was when we were young or in our prime, and see that as how it is meant to be, all change being detrimental – the fact is that “our” city, may itself be unpalatable to our parents and grandparents. And that while some element of conservation is desirable, to hold on to some of our history – we also need some space for each generation to build a new world. That we all deserve to shape the world we live in, have new styles that speak to us. And also to get rid of that which is old which is unsafe or not fit in some way – things do not necessarily warrant protection just because they are old. (Maybe unless they are really old – and few and far between)

So too it must be with Statues, surely? Each generation must be able to choose who to celebrate. To put up new statues. And also demand that some be removed from prime position. Those statues which are in public spaces, which any of us might come across unexpectedly – should be subject to review. That if it becomes apparent that public opinion or social mores change to the extent that their continued presence is offensive or painful, then we move it. If the person, however problematic, is of note, significance, in the history of a town or nation – then their story should be told properly. Not the edited highlights. Let them be moved to a museum, an exhibition, which shows the full extent of their life, for good and ill. A statue with a name in the end says little. People at the time may have known some of the significance but eventually it is just a man in a hat. A meeting place. A landmark. If you really care about notable characters in a town’s history, you should be encouraged that people want the true story told.

We’re all complicated people. Complex. Different eras had different beliefs and norms and ideas. I am conscious that even my inner thoughts and feelings would not hold up completely to the scrutiny of some of the expectations of young campaigners today. And I am the loony lefty social justice warrior of the family. Perhaps it is a bit of a characteristic of Generation X – we care but we’re a little irreverent about things. We’re also quite a cowed generation I think. There is probably a psychological reason for it – many of us have been talking about environmentalism and fighting racism and homophobia in our way for decades. But the momentum took time to build up. And these millennials and zoomers have more energy, and more methods of organising and communicating than I could have dreamed of in my youth.

But we are all complicated humans. While the removal of a statue of a slave trader seems a pretty obvious move in a world where slavery is illegal and indeed we fight against modern day slavery and human trafficking. There are maps of others who have similarly profited from human misery, and those who received compensation when their slaves were freed. There will be lists of those who owned slaved. And then there will be other evidence of reprehensible views and acts on the part of others.

There is a line somewhere. It’s foolish to say there shouldn’t be. In fact there are lots of lines. As I said – how old does a statue have to be before we do not judge the subject in the same way? Or rather, we judge, in a “he was a bastard apparently” kind of way, but it doesn’t make us think, actually that shouldn’t be there. Nero for instance. Caligula. Not nice in lots of ways and probably had slaves. Slaves whose descendants probably still exist. Is the difference that we can’t know? Or is it just time? Is it that the civilisation / empire that profited from those slaves exploitation no longer exists? Some of those who profited from or owned slaves in the trans-atlantic era, are heads of state. Kings and Queens. Archbishops. Presidents. Do we remove those? (I am not giving an answer really.) Is there some level of significance which grants a pass? Churchill for instance. Won’t have owned slaves because it was no longer legal (I do not doubt he might have done if it were) – but he certainly did some horrible things and held views which were vile. But he was also head of state at a significant time. And as others have pointed out – some people we celebrate for the good they have done, are also awful in other ways. Something we are reminded of again and again in the #metoo movement. Those we think of as saintly may have done or thought or said things in life which were horrendous – just these things remained secret or private or unrecorded.

There is a line. I don’t know where it is for me. I don’t want to see slavers celebrated. But equally I think it is important that we look at them properly. Not just as a pretty or indifferent block of stone or bronze.

Most people view the destruction of statues which do not fit a particular religious worldview as barbaric to some extent. Similarly we see the chopping off or covering up of exquisitely carved genitalia in the prudish Victorian era, or the defacing and eradication of the statues and even carved names of certain Pharaohs – as at the very least regrettable from a historical and artistic interest perspective.

I am not completely in favour of cancel culture. Of people committing sins or offence or crime and then being thrown completely in the bin – their works discarded and career ended. It would be odd if I were, seeing as I believe passionately in the right of people to rehabilitation and forgiveness and to building a decent life no matter what they have done. I don’t support the death penalty, or even life imprisonment. I think it’s lazy. I believe in treatment and rehabilitation.

I also think we pick and choose. People may be quick to boycott music or film or tv because an artist has done something appalling. But do we similarly say, I will not use the electric light, take this life saving medicine, or use this invention because the person who made it was a monster. It doesn’t make sense to me.

What does make sense is using horror – which we cannot unmake – which has happened and is no longer avoidable – to teach. To learn from. Learn how to prevent in future. Why did this happen? To learn what lasting impacts this horror has, whether it be sexual harassment in the present day or slavery in the past.

And this brings me on to school. Along with tumbling statues there is a cry to decolonise our curricula – to teach more comprehensively about our history relating to empire and slavery and exploitation across the globe. Which I wholeheartedly support. I don’t know what children learn these days – but my history (and I studied to A-Level) was remarkably poor on this. Indeed it was poor on anything of real use and significance. Kings, Queens, and War. We need to and should learn about the causes and horrors of war, I think. But more comprehensively again – not in some bizarre way that suggests wars ended in the 1940s. And I don’t see a need to learn about battles and strategy – in mainstream history. If you want to learn about it or go into the military – then that should be a separate A-Level or Degree level specialism. I was frustrated by the lack of real normal people in my history education. Initially I had signed up for AS level history – which was European – war – related. So I expanded to A level so I could do the British Social History element – which was slightly better – we covered the expansion of suffrage, the Irish question, the introduction of National Insurance, pensions etc. But we stopped before the first world war.

I think we started right. With Anglo-Saxons, Romans and Vikings and Normans. I fondly remember colouring in pictures of longships. But then we go off and get distracted by kings and queens. Which also make for fabulous colouring in exercises – and provide useful bookmarks for periods in history – but for real useful, meaningful history we need to understand the lives of real people and the things which changed them significantly. The endless tracing of threads through life and time. It’s such a fascinating story. But we need to make sure that people understand the world they live in. Politics. Rights. Finance. Employment Law. Immigration. Health. Mental Health. The pain experienced in the past, and still being experienced by different groups of people. Understanding our own situation, but also the situation of those different from us in many ways.

I teach mental health first aid. I have learnt so much since doing this course about managing my mental health that could have helped me avoid 30 years of pain, had I been taught it at school. I have peers who don’t know how to cook, to change a plug, to manage money (though I am proof you can understand very well and still not put into practice). I have had conversations that reveal a wild lack of understanding of how taxation and government works. People living in ignorance and obliviousness – which is fine if that is how you choose to live – but then who go to vote and campaign for things which they have never thought or read anything about, and go on to say “experts” know nothing – potentially causing devastation in people’s lives.

To be fair, some aspects of my education were good. My school doesn’t have a good reputation to some, but I think it was great. It was at least good for a reasonably clever person who wanted to try – maybe less so for those who struggled or did not engage. It was ethically mixed. It was socio-economically mixed. I learnt about different religions. I also had an excellent term or year of history which taught us about evaluating sources – we looked at the Kennedy assassination and the Bermuda triangle – to see how events were reported in different ways and why – to look at primary and secondary evidence. To know the difference between fact and opinion.

In this day and age – I think schools have a difficult job – but they should be helping people navigate the world we live in. Safety online. Sex, Relationship and Interpersonal education which discusses consent, appropriateness, the developing understanding of sexuality and gender which gives language to help us express who we really are – Understanding working life – what our rights are, how we should relate with eachother and build our confidence to get the most out of our working lives and not get stuck being exploited by bad bosses. Mental and Physical health – Nutrition. Understanding psychological development, and also the background to societal problems.

No one should be looking at the Black Lives Matter protests and not getting it. You can disagree with the methods or the timing – but you should as a human being see the long history behind this. The cries unheard. The polite requests and petitions for change. The generational trauma. The real and present danger experienced by BAME people in our society. The prejudice and discrimination faced. BAME people are not the only people who experience disadvantage. But they are who we are speaking about at the moment. Because we have been shutting down these conversations for too long.

Town Planning

Rewalking the streets of my childhood home
the map redrawn
New streets roam where there were none.
New hopes and homes in the shadow of towers long gone.
The room where you broke my heart,
carted away with the rubble.
Dust long settled, dug in to the foundations of new lives.

Clean lines on these show homes.
“Tasteful” art on the sill,
meaningless but matching.
The choice between memory and moment.

Why do I hold on to echoes?
Standing in the shade it is dark and cold.
I need to make new pathways of my own.
New neurons sparking, branching out.
Remember or forget – but don’t get lost.
Time to clear out
the accumulated mental tshotchkes of a thousand years.
Of lives not lived.
People I used to be.
Thoughts thought too often
they have become worn
and no longer fit me well.

While I was driving donuts around
this subconscious suburbia,
the sun was shining, rivers flowing
brick stacked upon brick and other people’s
children scuffed their knees,
making memories of their own.

Opening my eyes, I breathe in the
impermanent breeze.
We are as fleeting.
How sad to remain wet from
rain which fell from clouds
dissipated a millenium ago.
I let this passing sunlight dry me,
warm me, unseize my bones.

I take his ageing hand and walk forward.
I will pay attention to this film, for the rest of its run.

Henry Cole wrote a card

The Christmas list
gets shorter every year.
The names change.

Families grow,
then shrink,
then suddenly –
the solitary names

You write the card still.
By mistake.
Then remember,
and sit
staring at your error.
Maybe a tear
maybe just numb.

How does life go so fast?
How quickly does that light fade,
the sharpness blunt
before the blade breaks.

Even the wedding list.
So quick a time
between planning
and execution –
suddenly shorter.

The names dropped.
Cards unwritten.
Those you optimistically
for years
but never gave
or sent.
But now –

My world is smaller.
My grip was not
tight enough.
You all slipped through
like sand.