Village and Town County Shows

As the day draws nearer I imagine our village kitchens are a buzz with cake baking as folk prepare/test/finalise their cakes and scones. Jam is no doubt already in jars, all that’s needed is a polish of the glass and a gentle press to confirm the cellophane is taut.

Children are planning which vegetables can be twisted and turned into dinosaurs. This was a popular one with my children. Susan and George at the farmshop where we buy our greengroceries would identify possibilities as the day drew nearer. A constant favourite with the youngsters is, of course, the Edible necklace – I often thought it was more about ensuring a collection of sweets to be eaten later rather than the strive to produce an item of great beauty.

Although we are a small old market town (that no longer has a market) the annual show draws interest from across the north east. This, I guess, is due to the broad variety of activity on the day.

There are a number of classes for cattle and the sight of a huge Bull walking proudly in the ring still makes me stop and stare.



Horse lovers are truly spoilt as the 3 rings – Show Jumping, Pony Club and Individual Horse classes – are busy from the off. In previous years the local Hunt would attend for a short gallop around the rings and offer an opportunity to meet the Hounds. Whatever your thoughts of hunting as a sport the partnership between man and dog and the sight of the pack in the field is one of awe.


Alongside the sheep and goats the small animal tent is always busy. Why is it children, no matter how often they are told not to, still love poking their fingers into the cages of rabbits and guinea pigs totally ignoring the threat of been bitten? The number of poultry entrants did not look as high as normal this year, which surprised me as the number of people now having hens in their back gardens is growing (for the first time I will be in charge of a friend’s hens shortly, makes a change from going into neighbours’ gardens to water during holiday breaks – and I am promised eggs everyday)

The weather is always the decider as to how successful such shows are – and the forecast is the topic of conversation in the week leading up to the event. This year was good – cloudy, so not too hot, and dry (that is the most important element as wet weather keeps the crowds away and increases the risk of injuries to horse riders, they slip and slide as the ground turns to mud) Luckily this year the Medics in attendance had a peaceful day with only minor concerns.

If animals are not your thing and standing over boiling pans of fruit with a thermometer waiting for the ‘setting point’ would be your equivalent of ‘watching grass grow’ then do not despair as there are many other sections of interest at county shows.

Alongside the Funfair there are stalls operated by small businesses and charities where bespoke items can be purchased, many of which make unusual gifts. Food carts offer the usual hotdogs, burgers and my treat of the Year – Hog Roast Bun with apple sauce.

Although I have no great interest in motor vehicles even I enjoy the wander around the Vintage Tractors and Cars. 


The owners must spend hours with the polishing cloth – and are always keen to talk about the merits of their particular model.


The Dog Show, always busy and so popular it also needs more than one ring to meet the high number of entrants. This year I was surprised by all the extras the owners brought with them. I remember when dog and owner arrived with blanket, lead and comb. Then it progressed to small cages for the dogs to rest in. This year there was tents, special umbrellas for the cages, individual grooming tables etc. I think I spent more time looking at the equipment then looking at the dogs.


There is a sense of apprehension and hope as the Home Craft Tent is opened to the public once judging is complete. Well I knew my jam would not be listed – I knocked it over as I placed it on the table and messed up the seal. Husband had a much more successful day and showed once again that he knows what to do with a preserving pan.


Above all, such days are what makes a community. Although many of the entrants do come from outside the area the organising and preparation is all local and the required communications helps underpin our sense of belonging, of being part of what makes our ‘village’ what it is. And – most important – it is a great opportunity just to wander with family and friends and catch up with the gossip.

Roll on next year.

Pre-holiday healthy eating

Ever in search of that ‘Beach Body’ we once again view the few weeks before a holiday as a time to rectify 11 months of over-indulgence. Well, it never works in reality and I don’t spend time on the beach anyway.

I do, however, aim to lose a couple of pounds before travelling so I can enjoy trying new foods in strange locations without fear of an expanding waistline (as I have already removed the weight I would have gained- if you follow my logic) 

This year I have been using Tom Kerridge’s book ‘Lose weight for good’. Overall the meals have been tasty and easy to prepare although – word of warning – read the recipe instructions the day before. The number of times I arrive at ‘Step 4’ to read ‘and now marinate for 8 hours’ – 8 hours??, I’m serving it in 30 minutes!!

The servings are a very good size and often I would find that there would be enough left over for lunch the next day. Obviously, that depends on the size of your appetite, but husband never complained of hunger and he can eat a lot! 


Lamb Tagine with Chickpeas was an instant favourite and the recipe used more than once. One of those that I would use even when not ‘healthy eating’



The Rainbow Trout with Braised Fennel was another popular dish – very easy to prepare and all in the same dish. I used Salmon as Trout was unavailable on the day, worked just as well.

The Pulled Pork Tacos looked so pretty on the plate that you could be forgiven for doubting their ‘healthiness’. (my photo does not do them justice) This recipe would work as well with Chicken, Turkey and especially with Slow roasted lamb.



Another success was ‘Chinese Meatball Stir fry’. The servings were enormous and even though I halved the recipe there was still enough for lunch the next day for busy husband.


One of my favourites was the Italian Seafood Pot– easy to prepare and all in one pot. What’s not to like? 

As to the soups – I would recommend them all as they made satisfying lunches and the surplus sat in the freezer happily. The North African Soup is so filling it could be a main course. The Thai-style Butternut squash looks so pretty and by adding some fish easily becomes a main dish. Cream of celeriac soup with Truffle Oil is, oh so sophisticated, I felt the title ‘Chef’ would not have been out of place when serving it.

So, despite feasting well, we did shed a few pounds.






Staying Active 

Being active differs from being sociable, although obviously the two overlap.

When my children were young I spent plenty of time at Ballet, Horse Riding, Ice Skating, Football and Rugby. I never actually took part in any of these activities, I merely drove the car. I felt I was always on the move and interacting although, in reality, I was being a social parent not an athlete!

When time permitted I tried to maintain a general state of fitness by going to the gym, walking and swimming. Although, I have recently become more aware that this activity was more about my mental health than physical ability. I recently challenged myself to complete the ‘Couch 2 5Km’ training programme and downloaded the App. (

As anyone who has read my posts relating to the experience will know – I did not find it easy ( Alongside learning that I was not as fit as I thought I was, I also learnt it is easier to improve general fitness when younger. I am sure the 30-year-old me would have found it more enjoyable and less strenuous a task.

That is not to say you shouldn’t try – having completed the 9 weeks programme I do feel the benefit. I also know I will keep up the activity – today should have been a ‘running day’ but it is raining. Earlier this year I would have been relieved, today I ran up and downstairs for 10 minutes instead.

There are many web sites offering health and activity tips – I have listed some below that I felt had some useful information. Guess there is nothing surprising in any of them although good to be reminded of some of the general levels of fitness we should aim for to improve the chances of a mobile and healthy old age. – has a good guide as to what you should be able to do, as a starter. – this is an easy read and very encouraging in that it answers many questions you may already be thinking. The idea to be fit is not about training for a marathon but to keep mobile both physically and mentally. – this also has a link to activities in your local area (in UK) which leads me on to how fitness can be improved and/or maintained.

There are many ways to improve and maintain fitness and many cost little or nothing. The simplest is to walk – briskly 3 times a walk for approx. 30 minutes each time (walking briskly, from what I understand, is where you feel slightly breathless but can still talk) Challenging yourself to walk a longer distance over the 30 minutes will demonstrate that you are achieving an increase in your ability. 

I have a small pedometer in my pocket that tracks both steps and Kms as well as an App on my phone that shows distance and the route. A Fitbit sounds just a little too much technology for me and the two ‘gadgets’ I have mentioned are enough for me to track my activity.

Local gyms, often, offer ‘off peak’ membership fees and some local schools and colleges open their facilities to the public in the evenings and weekends for a small fee – this is worth checking out as many will be within walking distance. Village/town halls are rented by independent fitness instructors, yoga teachers etc and again – these are inexpensive and also provide an opportunity to socialise within the community.

Increasingly opportunities present themselves that perhaps when working you could not participate in – or know of. Walking Football is new to me although looks a fun way to both exercise and meet new people. ( also type ‘walkingfootball’ into YouTube for some examples)

And, it does not have to be ‘sweaty’ – a regular round of golf provides walking, stretching, load carrying and fresh air. I regularly attended a Tai Chi class, gentle movement but still enhanced my fitness and agility. I regularly ache after a yoga session.

If you are a member of a gym it is also worth checking out the activity programmes that many provide, these are commonly within the monthly fee so will not cost you any extra. The leisure club I attend surprised me with its list. I had not paid attention when working and just used the gym – now I am investigating the possibilities.

Also, good to remember that keeping physically fit is shown to also benefit mental fitness and slow cognitive decline. Research papers (aagh! I know, but are worth the read) do explain the reasons that exercise assists in maintaining brain health as well as physical health. The web links I have inserted below are relatively short and are ‘readable’. 

Cognitive decline and Dementia are referred to in newspapers practically daily. Whilst there is no cure, at present, there is evidence that progression of the disease may be slowed by exercise and possibly may delay the onset.

Aside from cognitive and memory benefits exercise is also shown to improve sleep patterns, moods and stress levels. It is exciting that it is the aerobic/walking kind rather than the resistance and muscle toning efforts that show the best outcomes. I think this makes it easier and cheaper to undertake, It seems that you just need the heart to be pumping fast.

Besides going to an aerobics class (Step etc) also consider swimming, squash, tennis and – Dancing, not that I can dance but it sounds more exciting than running up and down stairs for 10 minutes. Even housework and gardening count. Just do something that creates a light sweat.

The link to Healthy Brains leads to a PDF article that is an easy read with many basic facts and tips.

Very recently The Lancet has published articles relating to exercise and its benefits to both physical and mental health. Follow the link and search for articles of interest, I would suggest you prepare yourself with a coffee and a biscuit before pressing the ‘enter’ button.

Know yourself and your limitations and build your activity accordingly – just keep moving, its more beneficial than you think. 

Photo Acknowledgements:

Photo by Sylwia Bartyzel on Unsplash Featured Image

Photo by Lauren Kay on Unsplash Mom’s Taxi

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash Walking in Snow

Photo by Court Prather on Unsplash Golf

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash – Misted Hands

Photo by kevin laminto on Unsplash – End Photo


Edinburgh Food Festival 2018

The city was awash with vans and scaffolding and everywhere you walked there were posters advertising comedy, drama, dance and music – of course ‘the Fringe’ and Festival start in a few days but there was another festival up and running. Although, I arrived at the Assembly George Square before seeing the first poster advertising the Edinburgh Food Festival. Thank you, Google maps, for the directions.

A small but active festival, the weekend is the busiest of the 5 days. I was there on the Thursday and noticed two things – there were some stalls not open and, disappointingly, the workshops and presentations are held on Saturday and Sunday. I had expected more evidence of local producers but I either just did not notice them or they had not turned up. I could not find a map of the site nor anyone to ask.

There were small business producers – Cocktails, Gin, Craft Beers and Prosecco alongside Street Food stalls offering BBQ Ribs, Pork Belly buns, Pies as well as Gelato.



A beekeeper from Poland was happy to talk about the bees and the many uses for honey and wax.



An enthusiastic cook was keen for us to partake of her baking – would have been rude not too.  The Courgette and Lime cake was light and moist, as were the others we tried.

Whilst there was not the cheeses and meats I expected, as somewhere to eat lunch whilst sitting in the sunshine it can be highly recommended.


I was drawn to the novelty of the ‘Tattie Scone Wrap’ and decided to try the ‘Black Pudding and Berry Gravy’ wrap, it was very tasty. Followed by two scoops of Gelato – Seasalt Caramel and Pistachio. A ‘Berry Juice Mocktail’ from the Beetle Juice van finished off my lunch nicely.


Although very quiet when it opened at midday the people did arrive to eat in increasing numbers.

I stopped by the ‘Slow Food’ stall intrigued to know what slow food they were cooking, expecting casseroles and soups. Turns out it was not about slow cookers at all – it is an organisation highlighting the benefits of traditional agriculture and cooking methods ( The Edinburgh branch are currently partnering the Rosyth Community Hub to showcase the produce of their nursery garden – using vegetables and herbs grown by volunteers which are then cooked for community meals.

From my experience I would not recommend travelling to Edinburgh solely for the food festival although if you are in the city anyway then I would encourage you to call in, entrance is free. Go on a weekend as I think you will have a more interesting experience.