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When I was first trying to get a feel for the world in 1914, I returned to the beautiful Glynllifon Estate, near Caernarfon. I hadn’t been there for years, and it was just as I remembered it, green and magical. The grounds had been created as a miniature world in themselves. There are woodland walks past rushing streams, a secret cave, and even a hermit’s grotto. It was easy to imagine the Victorian and Edwardian inhabitants of the grand house rambling through this secret, fantasy version of a wilderness, lying beneath the shadow of the vast, and in those days, dangerous and inaccessible wilderness, of the mountains of Snowdonia.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhile I was catching up with the first episode of ‘The Crimson Field’ this week, I was reminded of Glynllifon. It was this protected, settled world that those three new VAD recruits, like so many of the young women on the front line, had left behind when they set off to face the horrors of the Great War. Okay, maybe not always so grand as Glynllifon, but the with the same opulence and order that had probably changed very little since medieval times. The same protected confidence that the world could be managed through money, status and force of will. The same pre-Raphaelite, daring-do, heroic idealism that had sent their brothers into the trenches to save the world.

The slate amphitheatre

Of course, there were other women, too. Many of them older women of intelligence, energy and ambition, who- like their Victorian mothers – were not content to stay idle and look decorous at dinner parties. These were the women who, behind closed doors and under the safe guise of ‘charity’, had set up, staffed and ran hospitals for the poor – fighting the legacy of extreme poverty and disease among so many of the inhabitants of a rich nation, that was only generally recognised when so many men were found to be unfit to fight.

It was this experience that took many of these women out to use their skills and experience on the front line, including setting up and running their own field hospitals, often in the face of prejudice and non-cooperation. When women first set up an women’s ambulance corps, they were simply laughed at.

 

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I was thinking of all those women, as I returned to the entrance of the Glynllifon estate, and how their lives were changed forever. The grand house is not a museum piece, the nearest you come to it is ‘Yr Iard’, the yard, which houses some of the tools belonging to the vast army of workers who built, maintained and fed this opulence. Theirs is also a story of lives changed forever.

It was this photograph, taken at harvest time 1913, that had me stopping in my tracks.

 

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The last harvest of a world that, on the day the photograph was taken, must have seemed to have lasted forever, and would never end. The last harvest of a lost world. There were terrible injustices and inequalities in that world, and, as a woman, I have no hankering to live there – particularly as my ancestors would have been in the yard rather than the house, and my life would most probably have been one of daily physical drudgery and perilous childbearing, accompanied by the pain of watching many of my children die. But it was – and still is – haunting to look into the eyes of a lost world. And to know, as none of them could have ever foreseen in their darkest nightmares, the fields where the men would be by the time of the next harvest, and the courage and resilience those girls would need to do – as women always do – to pick up the pieces and forge a new world, one that would never be the same again.

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Fancy a genuine taste of WW1? Well, almost!

P1000860   The Edwardians are famed for their lavish dinners, with numerous courses, almost all involving meat. Only the very poor (who couldn’t afford it), cranks, and slightly suspect socialists like George Bernard Shaw (of  Pygmalion fame), followed a vegetarian diet. I didn’t have to do much research on this, as my family were staunch followers of George Bernard, flying the flag of socialism and vegetarianism (along with pacifism) into the 1960s and beyond. Believe me, growing up in the 196os and 70s vegetarians were still viewed as pretty freakish – and don’t talk about any visits to France! I’ll never forget my first visit to Cranks pioneering veggie restaurant in Carnaby Street – it was a revelation!

And here it is!

My (almost) Edwardian kitchen, where the recipes were tried out (and tweaked)

I was intrigued at the articles that began appearing in Newspapers during the war, starting in about 1916, when the shortages really began to bite. WW1 was far more disorganised than WW2 when it came to rationing – which isn’t surprising when you consider that this was an entirely new kind of war, not fought far away on foreign shores. Zeppelins and U-boats brought the war home for the first time, making it a civilian war too. Many of the articles (when they were not discussing horse meat and the dire penalties for hoarding sugar) included recipes. This one is based on a recipe sent in by ‘a Cornish Lady’.

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In true Edwardian style, the original was vast. Possibly to feed hungry land girls and schoolchildren children working on the land to keep the country fed. Okay, I cheated, I added cheese. I have to confess it was pretty tasteless with just a thin white sauce.  And I fried the leeks in butter and garlic rather than boiling them. But, though I say it myself – the results were delicious and satisfying. They were helped by the addition of the bread being delicious sourdough from my local micro-baker, Mick Hartley (as featured on BBCRadio 4 Food programme), which being wild yeast and brown organic flour was pretty authentic to the period too.

So here is the WW1 Meatless Meal, as discussed with Roy Noble during my interview on BBC Radio Wales last Sunday (still time to catch it, I start around 39.30). And Roy is quite right – it’s a variation on a Welsh Rarebit. With a Cornish Lady’s ingenuity, of course. I imagine it’s just the sort of thing that Elin, the heroine of  We That are Left, would have come up with to keep the workers in her walled kitchen garden fuelled up.

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A ‘Meatless Meal’

Based on a 1918 recipe, but on more manageable lines and with the addition of cheese to improve tastiness.

Serves 2 or 4, depending on how hungry you are (but be warned, it is delicious!). Adjust the amounts (especially the cheese) to your own taste.

Chop three leeks. Fry gently in butter until soft. Add a clove of garlic and ten chopped mushrooms (add more if you like mushrooms).

In a saucepan melt two tablespoons of butter, slowly add one tablespoon of floor and stir for one minute. Then add approximately ½ pint (284 ml) milk slowly until you reach a consistency of double cream. Add approximately 4oz (113) grated cheese. Pour over 2 – 4 large pieces of toast. Place in a fireproof dish, scatter grated cheese on top and place under a hot grill until golden brown. Serve hot.

Enjoy!

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

The WW1 Seed Cake I took along for my interview.

In The Spotlight Guest Blog Author Juliet Greenwood….

Juliet Greenwood:

In the spotlight on Debz Hobbs-Wyatt’s blog – plus an extract of the book to whet your appetite …..

Originally posted on WordzNerd Debz:

Today I am delighted to welcome to the spotlight fellow author from North Wales, the talented Juliet Greenwood … big round of applause please …

This Week Juliet Greenwood ...

In The Spotlight: Juliet Greenwood 

 Juliet with her latest novel ...

Introduce yourself:  Have you always wanted to be a published writer? Tell us something about your path to having your first book/story published.I’ve always had my nose in a book, and I’ve always wanted to be a writer.

In my twenties I was in London aiming to live in a garret while writing the most stunning literary tome ever published. I got as far as the garret. I loved living in London and had a wonderful and inspiring time, and somewhere along the line I realised that I needed to live a bit before I could actually write anything that wasn’t pretentious drivel. So I moved to a little village in North Wales, and had a ragtag of different…

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My interview with the lovely Roy Noble for ‘The Roy Noble Show’ on BBC Radio Wales is being aired on Mother’s Day, Sunday March 30th, between 10.30 am and 12.00 pm.

I’d only been interviewed on radio once before, so I was very nervous sitting in my little room in the BBC studios in Bangor, waiting for the voices from Cardiff to begin. But everyone was great, and Roy Noble put me instantly at my ease, so I have a feeling I chatted away like anything.

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I shall be talking about my research for ‘We That are Left’, including the brave women of WW1 who kept life going at home, and also worked on the front line, driving ambulances and picking up the dead and the dying between battles. Along with the inspiration of my own mother’s terrifying journey on the day WW2 broke out, when, as a teenager, she had to make her way on her own across France in a desperate bid to get home, including being stalked by a German submarine as her ferry crossed the Channel …..

You can find the programme by clicking on this link: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03zq8yy

This is the WW1 poppy seed cake that I made for the staff of the BBC . Since I was in Bangor and it was vanishing fast by the time I left, I’m afraid I don’t think any of it quite made it down to the Cardiff studios! The recipe is the one I’ve posted earlier, and is also included amongst the recipes in the book.

 

WTAL at BBC Radio Wales

And this is me and my mum in more peaceful times, in our cottage in the hills in Snowdonia when I was a baby (my dad’s the one taking the photo, you can just see his shadow)Juliet and her mum at home in Snowdonia

Happy Mother’s Day!

large box still life2Today is the first day of spring. A time of celebration and of new beginnings.

And so to celebrate, there is a signed copy of ‘We That are Left’ to be won, along with a very unique box of raw chocolates, – the very first to be available from ‘Plant Based Alchemy’, who have created vegan, gluten free and sugar free versions of the recipes in ‘We That are Left’, not to mention the recipe for the amazing gluten and sugar free vegan chocolate cake for the launch.

Sorry, but I can only post out to UK entrants!

With the Kindle edition

The amazing vegan, gluten and sugar-free chocolate cake at the launch of ‘We That are Left’. Click on the photograph for the recipe.

The chocolates are the first commercial batch made by Plant Based Alchemy, made on the Spring Equinox to celebrate the first day of spring, at nearby Lammas, a pioneering  eco-village in West Wales, which is powered by renewables

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Lammas, where the chocolates were made

This is a taste of the way they were made, and there will be plenty more information on the Plant Based Alchemy blog soon. The cacao butter looks delicious in itself, then there’s the addition of agave syrup, and finally the mixing …

(I’ve tried the prototypes – unforgettably different and delicious)

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Cacao Butter

adding agave 

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Mixing the Chocolates

Finally, the finished box – irresistible.

large box 4To have a chance to win the signed book and this very special box of chocolates, all you have to do is to add a comment to this post. The closing date is midnight on March 25th, in case you would like to give your prize as a perfect Mother’s Day present. Phoebe, the Author’s Secretary will then ceremoniously draw a name from a hat.

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The Author’s Secretary at work …

(My attempt at the Rafflecopter giveaway has been abandoned!)

GOOD LUCK!

Chocolates!The chocolates have arrived!

To celebrate the official launch of ‘We That are Left’ last Friday with the wonderful Novelistas,  my local paper have been running a competition to win a signed copy of the book and a selection of delicious handmade chocolate truffles from Snowdonia-based Cathryn Cariad Chocolates. The flavours we’ve chosen are all linked to the recipes and events in the book (including a good, old-fashioned cup of tea that keeps my heroine going, whether she is growing vegetables, cooking up a seed cake, or dodging bullets in a battered old ambulance on a desperate rescue mission through the battlefields of France). The leaflet that comes with the chocolates explains each taste. So if you want to win a signed copy of the Welsh Books Council’s Book of the Month for March, Waterstones Wales Book of the Month and The National Museums of Wales Book of the Month – this is your chance.

Thank you to Daniel Bissett of the Bangor and Anglesey Mail for the great write-up and the support for a local author, and good luck to everyone who enters. It’s a perfect gift for Mother’s Day. (Although you might be tempted to keep it, especially the chocolates, which are currently carefully locked away and out of temptation)

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And thank you to the Novelistas, the most supportive group of fellow-authors a writer could wish for. The launch was fun and a great way to celebrate the birth of a book.

But have no fear, other events are in the planning stages, this is only the beginning…..

At the launch of We That Are Left

One happy author

Juliet at launch from Trisha

Enjoying books and cake!

With the Kindle edition

The Kindle edition joins the print editions for the celebration

Juliet and Trisha with We That are Left

Celebrating with Trisha Ashley!

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