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Hazel playing her new Celtic Harp
  • I loved your tweet about ordering a new harp to celebrate the publication of Ellie and the Harp Maker. I just had to ask what drew you to playing the harp, and the Celtic harp in particular?

Thanks so much, Juliet! Yes, the new harp was a ‘reward’ for my debut novel, although it ended up being two year’s wait before I actually got it! This was because it was hand-made to order … and then of course COVID made everything take even longer. It’s a beautiful instrument though, and I’m delighted with it.

The harp in the workshop

I first started harp-playing when I was at university, many years ago. I’d always loved music but never played an instrument. It was a happy accident that led me to a locker that contained a battered, broken old harp. It belonged to one of the music societies but I instantly loved it, so I kidnapped it that summer and had it mended. I realised then how much I longed to play it. It took me a long time to learn but I’m so glad I did!

Although it was chance rather than choice that paired me up with this particular instrument, it’s the perfect one for me. I’ve always been drawn to anything Celtic (I have some Scottish blood, which could be a reason) and I do prefer Celtic harps to classical harps. To my ears the sound is more organic, more ancient, wilder and wiser. It moves me deeply and somehow, in this complicated world, seems to heal and help put things right again.

A harp begins …
  • What were the origins of ‘Foxwillow Trio’? Have you managed to keep on playing and composing during lockdown?

I joined Foxwillow a few years ago. Martin and Celia, the other members, had already been together as duo for over a decade. We met at an informal gig where I was doing some harping and they were singing with guitar, flute and clarinet accompaniment. They invited me and my harp over to theirs the following week and I busked along to their lovely, nature-themed songs. They seemed to like it… at any rate they still keep inviting me back! They write all the songs for this group but I compose the harp parts.

We had masses of gigs lined up for 2020, all of which were cancelled, along with my solo performances. It’s been a sad time for musicians (and I’m extremely grateful that writing is now my main income.) Whenever regulations eased and weather permitted we met up in gardens to keep practising. 2021 has, at last, given us opportunities to perform again. We’ve recently been on stage at the Mid Devon Show and will be playing again at Watchet Festival in August. But it will be a long time before I’ll be able to return to Care Homes with my harp.

  • Do you find the process of writing music for your harp differs from writing a book, or do you find there are similarities?

They’re pretty different, but they complement each other well. Writing drives me slightly crazy because there’s so much intensive thinking involved, so I do need the less cerebral process of music-making as a break from it. Songs or harp pieces are much quicker to write than novels, too, so you have the satisfaction of actually completing something more often.

The two creative processes do have similarities, though. Both take a lot of energy and experimentation. I’m not a very systematic person and when I start a new project I tend to blindly follow my gut instinct. But once I’ve found something I like I’ll doggedly hone and hone. I delete a large proportion of everything I write and I never perform a huge chunk of my repertoire, so masses of work doesn’t actually get used. Maybe I’m too perfectionist?

  • Can I ask you what inspired you to write the story of Ellie and the Harp Maker?
The beginnings of Hazel’s harp in the workshop

My first inspiration was all the people who came up to me after harp performances and said: “I’ve always wanted to play the harp.” I was amazed at the number of people (both women and men) who have this dream. I thought about how much of life we spend dreaming and how we sometimes follow these dreams but often don’t; about what happens when dreams come true… and how they have a habit of not quite turning out the way we expect.

A harp skeleton…

As I was pondering, I was going on a lot of walks in the Exmoor countryside and that became an integral part of the story too. Dan (the harp maker) emerged as not only somebody who could make Ellie’s dream come true, but also someone living a solitarily life, immersed in the local landscape. Then came Phineas the pheasant, who plays an important role in the drama. He was inspired by Exmoor as well.

  • The character of Dan and the details of harp making in Ellie and the Harp Maker were fascinating. Do you think it takes a special kind of person to create a Celtic harp? And were you able to see your new harp being made?

I’d say it does take a special person to create a harp, yes. Of course a great deal of woodworking experience is required, and masses of patience, precision and passion. I’ve never met anyone quite like Dan in real life, although I’ve met several harp makers.

Most harps are factory-made these days, but there are still quite a few skilled harp makers around. My old harp (which I still love, by the way!) was made by a German harp-maker called Frank Sievert. To research Ellie And The Harp Maker I went down to Cornwall and quizzed Tim Hampson, who patiently explained a lot of harp-making details to me and showed me around his workshop. My new harp was made by Mark Norris, who’s based near Peebles in Scotland. It was too far to visit to see the harp being constructed (and it was lockdown anyway) but he generously sent me lots of photos of my harp-in-the-making.

This is just how I imagine Dan’s workshop!
  • I loved the description of surroundings, do you find nature important for the creative process?

Absolutely! I couldn’t do without my ‘thinking walks’. It’s unhealthy to be stuck behind a computer screen all day anyway, and the act of walking is scientifically proven to help problem-solving. Fresh air, flowing water, blowing breezes, buzzing insects, singing birds, green hills… I’m greedy for them all and my writing would lose so much without them.

  • Can you say what you are working on now, both for books and music?

I’ve just finished proof-reading my third novel, Call Of The Penguins, which will be out in November. I have something up my sleeve for book 4, which I’m very excited about but not quite sure how it will pan out so I’d probably better not say more than that.

Music-wise I’m out and about with Foxwillow Trio again and getting my solo repertoire together, with a few private gigs booked. Normally at Christmas I play a glorious festive selection at Dunster Castle and I’m hoping that will happen again this year. I’ll be appearing at some literary festivals too (e.g. Taunton, Exeter and Yeovil) where I’ll be accompanying readings with my harp and playing my song about penguins, Waddling On. So it’s a good mix, and all good fun!

Thank you so much for having me, Juliet. It’s a real pleasure and honour to be featured on your website.

Thank you, Hazel, it’s been a huge pleasure – and I’ll keep my fingers firmly crossed for live audiences being able to enjoy performances of Waddling On!

You can find out more about Hazel, her harp and her best-selling books Away with the Penguins (currently just 99p on kindle!) and Ellie and the Harp Maker on her website, and there are also details and buying links below. Enjoy!

https://www.hazeltheharpist.co.uk/

It’s publication day for The Girl with the Silver Clasp, my second novel for Orion!

I’m so excited to finally be able to share the story of Jess, Rachel and Giselle, as they overcome their differences to save a faded mansion in Cornwall and its traditional harbour community, freeing themselves to follow their dreams.

I loved writing this story, which was inspired by the changes that took place in the 1920s as the world recovered from the trauma of the First World War with the hope of creating a better life after all the suffering.

Like The Ferryman’s Daughter, the story is set just outside St Ives, with its beautiful coastlines and luminous light that, especially after the First World War, attracted artists and crafts men and women in a unique atmosphere of creativity. Part of the story comes from my family background and my great-grandmother, who forged nails in a workshop in the backyard of the family home in Lye in the industrial Black Country.

Another comes from my love of art deco, with its clean lines and colours. Sadly, my own attempts at metalwork and enamelling were brief, and a long time ago, and I definitely don’t have anything near Jess’ eye and skill. But I loved researching for the story, just as I’ve always loved visiting St Ives.

It’s also about female friendship, and learning to overcoming differences to work towards a better future. When I was writing the story, I could never have guessed just how important friendship and supporting each other would become for all of us in the time of Covid. It’s given me a new insight into the world after the First World War, where Jess, Rachel and Giselle attempt to come to terms with the past and build a better future – as well as making me realise just how previous was the life we knew before the pandemic, and that I’ll never take for granted the ability to travel the short distance to the coast again!

Watercress with those little roots, all ready to get growing!

In The Ferryman’s Daughter, Hester, like her mother before her and countless women throughout the ages, makes the very best of the foods she can forage to supplement her family’s meagre income.

The view from the cafe Hester dreams of making her own, looking out from St Ives towards Godrevy Lighthouse

One of my own favourites is watercress. I can remember it growing wild in abundance when I was a child, but living in sheep country I’m not sure I’d like to chance it straight from a stream these days, even if I could find it. So imagine my excitement when I stumbled across the fact that watercress doesn’t need a stream. It doesn’t even need to stand in water. It grows quite happily in the ground or in a pot. And even better, you don’t need to try and source seeds. One bunch of watercress from the supermarket, or even better fresh from a farmer’s market or greengrocer, will do. The little white hairs that are the roots are usually already there on the stems, and a week in water and they’ve increased, grown stronger and are ready to go.

I may not exactly forage for my watercress, but I love being able to wander out and pick fresh peppery leaves for a salad or a garnish for soup.

The harbour at St Ives – Hester’s taste of freedom!

When I was researching Hester’s recipes for The Ferryman’s Daughter I was delighted to come across this one for watercress soup. It’s simple, the colour is amazing, and it tastes delicious – especially with an indulgent swirl of cream or crème fraiche, and fresh white bread, a luxury Hester could only dream of, especially during the shortages of The Great War. It was only natural it became one of the recipes featured in the back of the book.

So whether from your own crop, or it’s grabbed from a supermarket, this is the delicious recipe for Hester’s watercress soup.

Watercress Soup

Salt and pepper

30 g butter

1 medium onion

1 stick celery

Approximately 250 g potatoes

Approximately 250 g watercress

Approximately 300 ml water

Salt, pepper and cream to taste.

Melt butter in pan. Chop onion and cook until soft. Add chopped stick of celery. Peel and chop potatoes into small pieces. Add to pan and stir. Add enough water to cover and simmer until potatoes are soft. Chop watercress, add to soup and warm through. Blend until smooth. The original recipe says to add milk, but I like to keep the tang of watercress and thin slightly with water (or stock) to the preferred consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste and stir with a swirl of cream (or similar). Serve with slices of fresh crusty bread.

One of my favourite bits of research when writing The Girl with the Silver Clasp was Jess’ passion for silverwork and her unique flair for design, which helps her to face the many obstacles she has to overcome to follow her dreams. I had so much help from jewellery makers, but because of Covid it had to be mostly virtual, and my plan to brush up my very rusty metalwork and enamelling skills, and to take a day’s course with a local blacksmith, went out of the window.

Now we are gradually emerging out of lockdown, I can finally get to do those interviews in real life!

My first is with my dog-walking friend Hazel, biomedical scientist for the NHS diagnostic service by day, maker of exquisite earrings by night.

Hazel currently works from a large table in her living room, overlooking the Nant Ffrancon valley and the mountains of Snowdonia. I arrived to interview her to a delicious surprise – a proper afternoon tea delivered in a box, the most amazing treat in the time of covid, and set out in appropriately on 1920’s-style plates.

As we tucked into scones, Hazel told me that since the onset of the pandemic her living room has been gradually transforming itself into her workshop, under the supervision of her three rescue collies.

Working in a hospital has needed light relief over the past eighteen months and Hazel has found being absorbed in jewellery making the perfect therapy, as well as an outlet for her creativity.

Hazel told me that she began making jewellery over twenty years ago, after being trained at her local college. She set up a workshop in her cellar, starting her collection of tools. She loved working with silver and gold, making a selection of rings and earrings, and an identity bracelet for her son.

She thought she would have to give up her passion when the onset of osteoarthritis in her hands stopped her from working with metals, which requires strength and attention to fine detail. But she overcame this by turning to hunting down lampwork beads, unique handmade glass beads that are intricately crafted with beautiful patterns and colours.

Using natural materials to create patterns with silver clay
Working with silver clay

She also discovered silver clay, which doesn’t require the strength to manipulate as real silver, but gives beautiful effects. Hazel uses the natural world, pressing leaves and mosses she finds on her daily dog walks into the clay, leaving imprints to create the patterns, before polishing to stunning effect.

It was inspiring to see so much skill and creativity taking place in an ordinary living room and fitted around the demands of a busy life.

Hazel is hoping to set up an online shop before long, I’m glad to say. I may not have a weakness for diamonds, but I certainly do for such beautiful earrings…

Afternoon tea – laid carefully out of reach of four very interested dogs!
Driving south past Snowdon

Because I live at one end of Snowdonia and my family at the other, for years I’ve taken the drive past the dramatic beauty of Snowdon and Beddgelert for granted, with Brondanw Gardens and Portmeirion to visit on the way.

Well, never again. This last year it seems we’ve either been in lockdown or when Snowdonia is heaving. In the first lockdown there was a certain magical element with the perfect weather and having no traffic or visitors around. The birdsong seemed louder, the bluebells were more intense. And yet at the same time it felt uncomfortably eerie.

The only time I ventured into the mountains during lockdown was when my car battery was found to be flat (embarrassingly!) after not being used for months, and I needed to drive for half an hour to make sure it was fully charged. I was excited to get up to Ogwen lake, even if it was just to turn round and come back without stopping. But once I got there, it was one of those moments the reality of the pandemic really struck home. Where usually there would be crowds climbing Tryfan, or up to Idwal lake and the Glyders, there was just silence. Yes, I loved the idea of nature taking over and having a chance to heal, but it still freaked me out, this lack of humanity in the landscape. This was when a vaccine still seemed impossibly out of reach and when the past year felt like stepping into a disaster movie. I couldn’t wait to get home.

How different it was this last weekend! As I finally ventured out to meet family members for the first time since last September, we had all been vaccinated. We were careful (including, as it turned out, picnicking amidst flurries of snow!), but it felt just that little more like normal. And going past Snowdon amongst the early morning frost, it was great to see the car parks already full and people heading up into the hills. I could see on some of their faces that this must be the first time they had been up on those hills for months.

Looking towards Cader Idris in Southern Snowdonia

I’m keeping my fingers crossed that this is finally a step back towards the freedoms of life before the pandemic – and this drive, and the ability to walk in the mountains and visit the beaches is one I will definitely never, ever, take for granted again!

The summit of Snowdon, and a reminder …

It’s always exciting when a new book is on its way …

As spring begins to appear, my second book for Orion, ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’, is going through the final stages of becoming a real book, for publication day in July 2021. It’s already up for review on NetGalley, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that readers love the story as much as I loved writing it.

This time the story is set in a tiny private harbour a short distance from St Ives in the Cornwall of the 1920s. It’s centred around three very different women, all of whom have been changed by the trauma of the First World War, and who find themselves having to overcome their differences to save a crumbling family mansion and the future of the harbour’s tight-knit community, as well as to fulfil their dreams.

St Ives

I loved doing the research for this book! Sadly, COVID-19 prevented me from returning to St Ives last summer, but I was incredibly lucky to have researched the Art Deco jewellery that is the life-long passion of one of my heroines when I was in London meeting my editor, just before the pandemic changed everything. Jess’ particular skill is enamelling, something I’d learnt at school, and although I wasn’t able to meet up with local jewellery-makers as much as I’d planned, I was still able to get the information I needed, for which I’m hugely grateful.

So now, with my beautiful cover in place, and ‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’ on its first steps out into the world, I’ve no real idea whether it will have a real-life launch or a virtual one, like I had last May for ‘The Ferryman’s Daughter’. Maybe it will be a bit of a mixture of both.

But either way, it will be exciting – and I can’t wait to share the story of Jess, Rachel and Giselle, as they each fight to overcome the past and move into a better future.

Will they find the courage to follow their dreams?

St. Ives, 1916.

Jess Morgan always hoped to become a celebrated silversmith, but when the men return from war she’s forced to return to her job as a seamstress. All she can cling to is the memory of that delicate, unique silver clasp she created for a society bride.

Rachel Bellamy served as an ambulance driver on the front line during the Great War but now it’s up to her to save the family home and picturesque harbour from her wealthy brother-in-law, before it’s too late.

Giselle Harding fought her way up from poverty to become a Hollywood movie star. Yet even the most beautiful jewels she owns will never replace the man she lost.

As the lives of the three women collide, will they be able to overcome their differences and fight together for the dreams they once held so close?

‘The Girl with the Silver Clasp’ is available for pre-order on Amazon – click HERE

And is available from NetGalley HERE

Today I’d like to welcome Thorne Moore, best selling author of A Time for Silence, who is published by Honno Press. Thorne’s latest novel, The Covenant, is a prequel to A Time for Silence and is published on August 20th 2020.

 

 

As a child I was very fond of the Narnia books (mostly because of the Pauline Baynes illustrations). One sentence in The Magician’s Nephew made a deep impression on me. “Aunt Letty was a very tough old lady: aunts often were in those days.” I really liked that. All the images I had had of Victorian women until then, thanks to BBC adaptations of Dickens, usually starring Martin Jarvis, had been of sweet little things with very pretty dresses and ringlets, on a par with fluffy kittens and with about the same IQ, or sad victims doomed by poverty or consumption.

There’s Victorian literature for you, or at least the variety written by men, who lived among women, were raised by them, nursed by them – women they lusted after and married, and yet men never seemed to rise above smug contempt for them. Women are portrayed as feeble and infantile, in need of protection and mastery. Show them as strong and they are mere figures of ridicule, like Trollope’s Mrs Proudie.

Thorne with Honno author Judith Barrow, and Firefly editor, Janet Thomas

Of course Victorian literature written by women presented a completely different picture of female understanding and determination in the period. In the works of the Brontës, Mrs Gaskell or George Eliot, women were rational creatures with at least as much determination and fight in them as the men who treated them as an amusing sub-species.

Real women, like fictional ones, were the same. Law, church and society were against them. Women who failed to marry were objects of contempt and pity. Those who did marry, officially ceased to exist. In the 18th century, it had been decreed that “By marriage, the very being or legal existence of a woman is suspended, or at least incorporated or consolidated into that of the husband.”

So it wasn’t just the vote that women lacked. A wife couldn’t hold property of her own, couldn’t keep her own earnings, couldn’t seek divorce from an intolerable union, couldn’t claim custody of her own children, couldn’t have control over her own body and couldn’t even claim to be a person in her own right. If she had paid work, it was at a far lower rate than any man. If she fell into ‘sin’ she was utterly outcast.

See her on the bridge at midnight

Saying, ‘Farewell, blighted love!’

There’s a scream, a splash, good ‘eavens!

What is she a doing of?

I am sure plenty of women, faced with what life threw at them, did choose suicide as the only way out. And disturbingly, male writers seemed to like the idea of women drowning themselves rather than living to face shame. But many women refused to go under. They refused to accept their lot. They refused to bow to injustice.

They fought back, sometimes at immense cost to themselves and though Parliament, run by men, gets the credit for any changes reluctantly forced through, it was often women’s struggle that lit the touch paper – not just the suffragettes like the Pankhursts, but women like Caroline Norton who campaigned tooth and nail for the Custody of Infants Act, the Matrimonial Causes Act and the Married Women’s Property Act. Or Josephine Butler who fought for the legal rights of wives and the repeal of the Contagious Diseases Act which allowed for the forced and often violent examination of prostitutes. Or Florence Nightingale whose reforms improved the status of female work and raised levels of health care. Or Annie Besant who fought for the rights of the matchgirls to better pay and conditions. Denied the schools and colleges open to their brothers, women fought their way into education, science, medicine. Intrepid women like Gertrude Bell conquered mountains, deserts and jungles, while thousands of ordinary women took their fate in their own hands and sailed for the colonies in the hope of making a better life for themselves. Despite their corsets, crinolines and bustles, women weren’t meek and amenable. They never have been.

In the workplace, though they were lucky to receive half the pay given to men, they were indomitable providers, slaving to keep their families from starvation when husbands died, or fell sick, or deserted. They didn’t fade away if fortune turned against them, they kept fighting, doing whatever it took to keep going, whether that meant slaving in an unhealthy factory, managing the family business, keeping geese in the back yard, taking in washing, or prostitution. Whatever it took. The world pictured women as sweet simpering angels in the house. They were better than that. They were human.

In my new novel, The Covenant, Leah Owen is a woman after my own heart. She has intelligence and determination. She has dreams, and when they come to nothing she turns to the next. She fights. She values her self-respect. Which doesn’t mean she enjoys the struggle. Few women would have done. She’s an Aunty Sally and the world is throwing everything it can find at her. But no matter what is thrown, she refuses to fall. Unless by her own choice.

 

 

My links

The Covenant: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/product/B08CZJ8BSL

Honno: https://www.honno.co.uk/

website: https://thornemoore.com/

FB Author page: https://www.facebook.com/thornemoorenovelist

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ThorneMoore

Amazon author page http://amzn.to/1Ruu9m1

 

I still can’t get over the amazment of hearing ‘The Ferryman’s Daughter’ being read as an audiobook by the wonderful Karen Cass. So when I saw that Elizabeth Morton is narrating her new book ‘A Last Dance in Liverpool‘, I couldn’t resist asking her about how she went about it – especially in the middle of a pandemic! 

Narrating your own book is not for the faint-hearted, so it does help that Liz is an actor, known (among other things) for playing Madeleine Basset in ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ and Linda in the Liverpool sitcom, ‘Watching’. Her husband Peter Davison is also an actor (don’t mention Darleks!), as are her sons.

The results are fascinating  – and unexpectedly hilarious. A real insight into the world of audio books. 

 

 So Liz, I have to ask what made you decide to narrate your own book?

Well, this was certainly a very different experience to the launch of my last book! I did the narration for A Liverpool Girl, at Isis sound studios some time after the book came out earlier this year.

It was only when Peter converted our very small dusty cupboard under the stairs into a makeshift recording studio and I kept seeing not only him, but my two boys darting off from their breakfast cereal to do recordings, and also signs appearing around the house saying ‘walk quietly down the stairs’ that I decided I should get in touch with Isis Audio and ask them if they would like me to try and do the recording for my new book, A Last Dance in Liverpool from home.

Did you experience any particular problems working in a cupboard?

Initially there were problems with the noise from the fridge after I kept forgetting to switch it off, then problems with forgetting to switch it back on again and all the food defrosting but that’s another story. Eventually I got the hang of it.

The sign …

 

And did you enjoy narrating ‘A Last Dance in Liverpool’?

I so enjoyed playing all the characters and even though I have done some work for Big Finish Audio, narrating my books has felt like a return to acting, albeit in this case, perched on a wobbly stool in the dark and with Stanley the dog threatening to bark at the postman at any moment.

A very innocent-looking Stanley

It’s strange also, how it feels like you are seeing the text for the first time, even though I wrote it. Not sure why, but I guess because you are coming at it from a different perspective and it’s important you immerse yourself in the characters so you stop worrying about things like structure and writing style, and that’s quite freeing. I write many different voices, and I would move from Irish, to Liverpool, to Lancashire, often on one page. Keeping the narrator’s voice, which is my natural Northern accent, from veering into one of these other voices, is also tricky.

Technically, when I made a mistake, I had to clap to mark the retake, so when I sent the files to the editor she would then work from those cues. Is this the future? My under-stairs cupboard? I missed walking on Whitley Bay beach at the end of each recording day which is what I did when I recorded earlier in the year, but for now, you’ll find me quite happy in the cupboard under the stairs.

Hope you enjoy the new book!

Thank you Liz for the inside story. I’ll never listen to an audio book in quite the same way again. And I’m looking forward to hearing you read A Last Dance in Liverpool!

 

A last Dance in Liverpool 

You can get the audio edition, narrated by Liz Here

And the Kindle edition HERE

All she wants is one last dance…

Lily and Vincent have been dancing everything from the waltz to the foxtrot together since they were six-years-old. Now a teenager, Lily realises she has feelings for Vincent that she never knew were there.

However, with Vincent off to war, Lily is evacuated to a mother and baby home with her younger siblings. It is there that she finds she has more in common with the fallen women than she once thought. But as the bombs begin to fall in Liverpool, will she ever see her sweetheart again?…

A heart-warming saga for fans of Call The Midwife from the author of A Liverpool Girl.

via Rosie’s #Bookreview Of #HistoricalFiction THE FERRYMAN’S DAUGHTER by @julietgreenwood

Shortcrust pastry for the terrified

With her new book ‘The Garden of Forgotten Wishes’ about to emerge into the world, Sunday Times bestseller Trisha Ashey shares some of her best baking tips. You need never be terrified of shortcrust pastry again! 

It’s dead easy to make shortcrust pastry – all you need is flour, cooking fat and water. Plain flour is best, but you will still get an edible result with self-raising or wholemeal flour. Cooking fat or lard – you can use butter but it tends to disintegrate while rolling.

The rule is that you need half the weight of the flour in fat. So if you have eight ounces (sorry, I am not metric) of flour, you need four ounces of fat. Other than that, you need some water. You are not going to put sugar in your pastry, because if you are putting in a sweet filling, you don’t need it and if you are putting in a savoury filling, you certainly don’t need it. Thick, sweet, chalky white pasty in supermarkets is an abomination. Decide what you are going to make. Maybe you have a cake or tart baking tray and can make tarts, or a large flan dish, or an enamel plate or two. It just needs to be heatproof.

Grease whatever you are going to use. Turn the oven on to a medium heat to warm up.

In a large bowl put your flour (sieve it in if you have a sieve) and your fat, cut into chunks. Now, start to rub the fat and flour between your thumb and fingers and allow yourself to go into a trance for ten minutes. The fat will rub into the flour and it will end up like fine breadcrumbs. You have put air into it at the same time, to make your pastry lighter. When it is all rubbed in, add a little cold water, a little bit at a time until you can gently gather the pastry together into a ball. If you overdo the water, add more flour.

Dust a clean surface with flour, and your rolling pin (or clean bottle or whatever you can find to use instead) and roll out the pastry fairly thinly so you can cut circles out of it with your cutter, or a tumbler or cup, if improvising and making tarts. If using a dish or plate, drape pastry over it and cut off excess round the edges. Gather any leftover bits together.

Fill the tart or tarts, but be frugal with jam etc. because it will bubble over if you overfill. You can use: jam, lemon curd, treacle, that jar of leftover mincemeat, or for savoury ones, a little grated cheese and tomato puree or finely chopped onions.

Bake in the medium-low oven until the pastry is just pale gold – keep an eye on it.

The excess pastry can be wrapped in cling foil and will keep in the fridge for a day or two. You can use it to cover a casserole, or top a fruit filling in a pie dish. Or cover a potato, cheese and onion bake. Or cover your large treacle tart with a lattice of pastry strips before baking…improvise, have fun!

 

The Garden of Forgotten Wishes 

Purchase Links: You can get the UK edition HERE and the US edition HERE

All Marnie wants is somewhere to call home. Mourning lost years spent in a marriage that has finally come to an end, she needs a fresh start and time to heal. Things she hopes to find in the rural west Lancashire village her mother always told her about.

With nothing but her two green thumbs, Marnie takes a job as a gardener, which comes with a little cottage to make her own. The garden is beautiful – filled with roses, lavender and honeysuckle – and only a little rough around the edges. Which is more than can be said for her next-door-neighbour, Ned Mars.

Marnie remembers Ned from her school days but he’s far from the untroubled man she once knew. A recent relationship has left him with a heart as bruised as her own.

Can a summer spent gardening help them heal and recapture the forgotten dreams they’ve let get away?