Friday, 29 July 2011

Mugged by cookbook - fudge v lassi

I’ve just been mugged by a book.  You ever had that happen to you?  You’re minding your own business, looking for something or other and then a book just shoves itself at you in a bossy manner.  In this case it was The Art of Ayurvedic Cooking and it was in the wrong place – tucked away amongst the I Ching tomes, rather than in the kitchen with the recipe books.  No wonder it was upset.  All those trigrams and the wrong culture too. 

Anyhow.  It was timely. The book had a point. My diet has gone to crap lately.  I’ve been living on muesli, grapefruit, beetroot, fudge and fruit pastilles.  Hardly a balanced regime.
And, you know, you are what you eat.  It’s an old adage but a true one and nowhere is it given more importance than in ayurveda, India’s ancient system of medicine.  In ayurveda food has been used as medicine for the last 5,000 years or so.  An ancient text puts it clearly:  ‘Nutrition is the vital element of all living forms.  Each person’s longevity, ingenuity, happiness, fulfilment, strength and intellect are dependent upon it.’
Eating the right food for your own particular mind-body type is seen as vital if you want to maintain good health and vitality.  If you do fall out of balance, diet is again the first port of call – with specific foods designed to coax your body back into wellbeing. 
I’ve studied ayurveda for donkey’s years – even wrote a book about it – Live Well – the ayurvedic way to health and inner bliss.  I think it’s out of print now but one of these days I’ll get round to putting it out on Kindle as it has some interesting stuff in it – I tried to simplify the whole complexity of ayurveda down into bite-size chunks.  Actually, there’s a few excerpts over at my ancient website – just click on Live Well on the sidebar and you’ll find some stuff, including how to determine your prakruti (your ayurvedic mind-body type).

Anyhow, talking of bite-size chunks, this cookbook…  It was given to me at The Parkschlösschen – one of my all-time favourite spas.  It’s a medical spa hotel in Germany, set on the banks of the Moselle, and their head chef Eckhard Fischer is a food magician.  Seriously, if you can go (it is quite pricey, but it’s worth it) then do.  I had a little *sigh* moment as I opened the book as one of my old day plans was tucked in there.  Advanced yoga; breath meditation; breakfast; pizzichilli (heavenly oil treatment); yoga…and that was just the morning...
Sadly, I can’t go right now but I’m going to start taking a bit more care over what I eat.  Soothe that vata dosha which is a bit flaky. 

Ayurvedic cuisine is quite different from other types of eating.  Pudding is always eaten first – firstly because fruits need more digestion and secondly because giving the body something sweet and unctuous gives a feeling of satiety so you aren’t tempted to overeat. 
Lunch is the largest meal of the day and often consists of several dishes – a dessert, soup, a salad, a main meal and finally lassi.  Evening meals are far smaller (and never eaten late as digestion becomes sluggish in the evening).  Usually a soup and salad would be sufficient. 

At Parkschlösschen you would first see an ayurvedic physician to determine your prakruti.  Meals would then be adjusted for your individual constitution (certain foods are believed to aggravate certain types of people).  However the recipes in the cookbook are designed to work for all doshas (some will suggest slight alterations depending on your dosha).  A few follow, with grateful thanks to Eckhard Fischer.  They are a bit fiddly (those darn superchefs) but worth it...

Cream of Passion fruit (serve before the main meal)
880g yoghurt (3.5% fat)
4-6 passion fruits
5 tbs icing sugar
Four ripe blackberries (to garnish)

Place the yoghurt in a clean muslin and allow it to drip overnight into a bowl) at room temperature.  Discard the liquid.
Halve the passion fruits and scrape out the flesh.  Strain the flesh through a sieve. 
Mix together with the yoghurt and sugar until a smooth cream.  Chill for an hour in the fridge then pipe into glasses and garnish with a blackberry.

Essence of red beetroot
(aha! beetroot!)
4 medium sized beetroots
2 shallots
1 large apple
1 star anise
½ cinnamon stick
1 tsp cloves
3 juniper berries
4 allspice berries
1tsp black peppercorns
1 tbs yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp green cardamom pods (whole)
½ tsp caraway seed
1 tsp fennel seed
1 bay leaf
100ml red wine vinegar
2tbs raw cane sugar or honey
Good pinch rock salt, ground
1 tbs balsamic vinegar
2 litres water
1 tbs tapioca starch
Coriander leaves (to garnish)

Peel the beetroots and grate coarsely.  Peel the shallots and chop coarsely.  Cut the apples into quarters.
Put all the ingredients, except for the balsamic vinegar and tapioca, into a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Allow the soup to simmer gently for at least three hours (uncovered) or until it is reduced by one third.  Strain and add balsamic vinegar to taste.  Mix the tapioca starch with a little water and add to thicken slightly.

Stuffed Hokkaido Squash with lamb’s lettuce salad
4 Hokkaido squashes (about ten cm diameter) (or other squash)
Sea salt, black pepper
2 oranges
8 slices bread
240g Gruyere cheese
4 sprigs fresh basil
2 red chilli peppers
100ml orange juice

For the salad
100g lamb’s lettuce (corn salad)
Sunflower seeds
1 red pepper (bell pepper)
2 tsp walnut oil
Rock salt and black pepper
1 shallot
1 tsp mustard
1 tbs aged balsamic vinegar
1 tsp sugar
Wash the squashes and cut a lid off each.  Remove the seeds, salt the squashes lightly on the inside and then place them upside down.
Grate the orange peel and put to one side.  Squeeze the juice and retain.
Dice the bread into small pieces and brown well in a flying pan (without any fat).

Dice the cheese.  Cut the chilli into fine strips and chop the basil. 
Combine all these and fill the squashes evenly with the mixture.

Put the lids back on the squashes, wrap them in foil and bake for an hour in the oven at 220C (435 F).
Meanwhile wash the salad and drain. 
Peel the pepper, finely dice and sauté the pepper and sunflower seeds in a little walnut oil, adding a little salt.
Dice the shallot finely, mix with the remaining walnut oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar and mustard.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Add the contents of the frying pan and mix thoroughly.
Remove the foil from the squashes and bake without their lids for a further ten minutes at around 250C (475F).
Arrange each squash on a large plate.  Arrange salad leaves to the side and drizzle the dressing over the top. 

Lassi is a classic ayurvedic drink, generally drunk at the end of the meal.  It is also used as a refreshing drink between meals. 
Basic lassi is made by blending 1/3 litre plain yoghurt with 2/3 litre water for about 2-3 minutes. 
You can then add your choice of extra ingredients.

Fruit works well but should always be fully ripened, washed and briefly brought to the boil in a little water to obtain the best flavour.  Mango, strawberries, bananas, apricots, pears, peaches, cherries all work well (ideally choose fruit in season). 
You can also make lassi with herbs.  Basil, mint and chervil all work well.  Use a large bunch of fresh herbs and add a pinch each of salt and freshly ground black pepper.  Increase the mixing time to five minutes to ensure the herbs are mixed well.

Then again, you can make lassi with spices.  Try adding ½ teaspoon of ground green cardamom and one tablespoon of honey.  Or ¼ teaspoon of ginger powder, one pinch of cinnamon and one tablespoon of honey. 

Recipes © Neuer Umschauverlag/LutzJäkel

From The Art of Ayurvedic cooking – The Parkschlösschen Cuisine by Eckard Fischer (Neuer Umschau Buchverlag).  I can't find it on Amazon but, if you wanted to buy it, you could try contacting the spa to see if they still have any copies.

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Pondering World Peace with Shari Arison (and James)

'Um, if you wanted to achieve world peace, how would you go about it?’ I asked James as we took the SP for his walk.
‘Eh what?’ he said, giving me his best 'Mum's going mad again' look.
‘Okay,’ I said. ‘Turn it round. Why isn’t there peace?  Why don’t people just get along with each other?’
He stopped and bit a chunk off his licorice bar. 
‘Go on.’
‘People get chewed up about being different.  Like having different coloured skin or wanting different bits of land or believing in different gods.’
Couldn’t argue with that.
‘Or you get nutjobs like Gaddafi who wreck it cos they have to be the big boss.  They think they’re the only one who can do it right.’

Couldn’t argue with that either.  But then, ain’t it true of all politicians, to greater or lesser degrees?

‘But why do people care?’ I said. ‘Why does it bother them that people are different colours or worship different gods? I mean, if you strip off the skin we’re all the same bone and muscle and tendons.’
‘Ewww, Mum.  Do you have to?’  He paused.  'It’s kinda mad really but it’s like you get two people talking and getting on fine and then one says, ‘I support Arsenal’ and the other one says ‘I support Spurs’ and then they’re, like, ‘you’re a total arsehole’ at each other.’
yes, it's bog roll...

‘Tribe stuff.’
‘I dunno.  Or it’s like school bullies I suppose.  They don’t feel good in their own skin so they take it out on other people. You know, self-esteem shit.’
Okaay.  Hold that thought.

Shari Arison. Pic by Sally Whittle
In Tel Aviv we went to visit Mahuti, the visitor centre for the Essence of Life organisation, founded by Shari Arison.  Arison is Chairperson of the Ted Arison Family Foundation and apparently the richest woman in the Middle-East.  When she inherited an empire she decided, not just to make more money but to work on a broader, wider, far tougher mission.  In fact, really, it doesn’t get much bigger than world peace, does it?  And the irony was inescapable, that she was talking about peace in a country that is surrounded by enemies on the outside and disputes inside and on its borders.  But then, I suppose, there’s nothing like that kind of situation to concentrate the mind.
‘If we want peace in the world, we have to find it in ourselves first,’ she said. ‘We have to take responsibility for our selves and for our actions.  The first step always begins inside us.’

Her belief is that if we learn to listen, to respect one another, to act with compassion and open our hearts lovingly, then we may have a glimmer of a hope of achieving a more harmonious society.  It sounds woolly and New Age but actually it’s tough, inner warrior work.  Both as individuals and as societies we project our fear and loathing outside, onto other people, onto other races and creeds.  Learning to look in the mirror and take back those projections is bloody hard work, a lifetime’s work.  It takes commitment and awareness and humility and self responsibility.
Arison is relentlessly upbeat about this vast task. ‘If we focus our speech and our hearts on bad, bad will grow,’ she said. ‘If we focus on good, good will grow.  The way we think and act shapes our reality.’

Essence of Life runs workshops, has its own radio station and its own visitor centre (with everything spelled out in Hebrew, Arabic and English).  But its most interesting aspect is its work with children.  The Let’s Join Together programme is running in Israeli schools, from kindergarten to senior school and, interestingly, it has already been shown to reduce significantly the level of violence amongst children and teenagers.
It’s all about fostering solid self-esteem. About teaching children to become aware of their emotions and to realise that they are okay in themselves; they’re just fine.  And that, fundamentally, we are all the same, we are all one.  That’s a hard one for our ego-led society but, logically, you can’t escape it.  Like it or not, we are all one.

I like the concept of Arison’s work.  I would love to see children, from a very early age, learning to respect and approve of themselves so they can, in turn, respect others.   Is it pie in the sky?  Is it pissing in the wind?  Well, Arison is a firm believer in the hundredth monkey effect (in which learned behaviour spreads instantaneously from one group to others once a critical mass is reached).  And, you know what?  Where’s the harm?  If all schools taught these principles from a very early age, who knows?  It’s easy to be cynical; easy to think that the system will find a way of subverting the message (and indeed it may).  But you have to try, right?  
My main practical concern is that the programme’s image and delivery is too woolly, too New Age, too fluffy.  It’s the same issue I have with the Steiner system of education.  It’s  beautiful, it’s dolphins and rainbows and bunny rabbits and fluffy kittens.  But it doesn’t have the balance – it's all up in its head somehow; it isn’t terribly grounded.   And, because of that, it runs the risk of alienating the very people it needs to attract. 

I'd also love to see the programme reach out beyond the Jewish world.  Arison has the money and the clout to take this trans-global, trans-cultural, trans-faith. There seems to me a huge irony that Essence of Life with its message of 'We are One' is - at present - so insularly Jewish .

But hey, it’s a start.  And I cannot help but applaud anything that teaches people (and in particular children) to listen, to understand, to love.

So.  What do you reckon?  Should we have classes in self-esteem and self-awareness at nursery?  Would children grow up more balanced and happy if they learned meditation, yoga, self-questioning at school?   If we put peace right in the heart of our children, might we kick off a seismic reaction that could permeate society?  Or is that just hippy-shit?  Is it just being a dreamer? 

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Torschlusspanik and change

Torschlusspanik.  Now there’s a word and a half.  It’s that horrible feeling of panic one gets, the thought that the door between yourself and all of life’s opportunities has been resolutely slammed in your face.  Know that one?  Yeah, thought so.  Me too.

But, you know, it comes about when we think of life as linear – as being a straightforward progression.  It’s all too easy to think we’re failures if we don’t steadily move on in what society perceives as the Right Path; if we don’t get the better job, the bigger house, more money in the bank.  But, really, what if life weren’t a straight line?  What if it were a circle, or cycles of circles?  If you go down only in order to come up again, somewhere slightly different, with a different perspective? 

Marion Woodman says, ‘A life that is being truly lived is constantly burning away the veils of illusion, gradually revealing the essence of the individual.’  And sometimes you have to break down in order to build up.  We fear dissolution in the way we fear all change - yet change is necessary for growth. 

It need not be big changes either.  People always focus on the big stuff – on making a shed-load of money, of losing a ton of weight, of moving abroad.  But really, sometimes all you need is something small, something tiny, just to kickstart the process.  ‘The Self need not carry mountains to transform,’ says Clarissa Pinkola Estes, one of my favourite writers. ‘A little is enough. A little goes a long way. A little changes much.’ 

So, today, maybe, think about doing something different.  Just something small, out of your usual routine.  Because we can become stuck in routine, in doing the same things, day in, day out.

I’m not saying all routine is bad.  Small children, in particular, need routine.  It keeps them feeling safe, secure. They know where their boundaries are, of space and time and emotion.  As they become teenagers, they need to test those boundaries, to flex their egos, their will.  It’s why parents should be a bit mean, a bit tough. Because, without those boundaries against which to push, to struggle, the emerging adult cannot break through his or her chrysalis.  The pearl needs the grit to grow.

But.  Once you’re a fully-grown adult, you need to beware of routines. You need to watch for the soporific trap of the everyday cuckoo clock.  It’s like my friend, Trish, the fitness instructor says – if you do the same exercise routine all the time, you won’t progress.  You’ll get stuck.  You’ll plateau.  You have to surprise yourself, catch yourself unawares.  And yeah Trish, my abs are still surprised this morning after those oblique crunches, thank you very much!

So.  Maybe today do something just a tiny bit differently.  Break the patterns.  Nothing major.  You don’t have to scare the horses.  Baby steps.  Wear something different; eat something different; go somewhere different; do something different.  In Tantra adepts shock themselves into different states of consciousness by consciously breaking taboos.  You don’t have to go that far (I’m not suggesting drinking blood or sleeping with corpses!) but keep the principle in mind.  Don’t become an automaton.  Accept the challenge of growth. 

I'm Patton

I am going demented.  There's a deep aura of negativity permeating the Bonkers House which is sucking out every last quark of joy.  I feel like I’m swimming through Bostik.  Trying to work; trying to keep everyone happy; trying not to scream.

Are we going on holiday?’ asked James. 
‘Yes,’ I said firmly, trying to convince myself as much as him.  In a moment of extreme rashness a few weeks back I had given him a solemn promise that we would have a holiday this summer, we really truly would.
‘Not a staying at home holiday, with walks and the odd picnic,’ he said, suspiciously.  My son, knowing all too well the importance of precision when it comes to promises. 
'A proper holiday,’ he insisted.
I asked what, for him, this entailed – precisely - and he thought long and hard.
‘A pool.  Swimming in the pool.’
My eyes must have brightened because he said quickly.  ‘No, not Tiverton pool. Abroad. Somewhere warm.’
‘So we could go anywhere, if it’s warm?’
‘Well, I’d like to see the odd bit of…I dunno…buildings or something.’
‘Yeah.  But not too much.’

So I had a look online and did a good impression of a plumber sucking his teeth.  How much???  My accountant is going to be unhappy enough as it is but no need to give the poor chap a hernia.  So I cut out all the usual suspects and looked at places that might be considered generally less desirable on account of extreme heat or unstable political situations. 
Adrian peered over my shoulder and looked like he was chewing asafetida.
‘Of course, you don’t have to come,’ I said. ‘You could stay and work.’    Expecting a swift rebuttal.
‘I suppose you could be right,’ he said slowly.  ‘I have got to finish this book.’
‘What?’  James was incandescent.  ‘Just for once, can’t we be a normal family and have a normal family holiday?  I want us to go to Turkey.  Or Greece. Or Portugal.  Not Syria or Afghanistan or Belgium or the Czech Republic. And all of us.’

I sighed. Adrian looked miserable.  I knew he was thinking about deadlines, about irate publishers…
‘Look…about this book,’ I said, offering a deal.  He looked suspicious, then hopeful, then grinned.
‘You’re like the American Fifth Army,’ he said. 
My, my, I'm worthy of a WWII reference?  He must be impressed. 
‘You’re Patton!’ he continued, a rare smile breaking out over his face.  Steady…

But, hey….Patton eh?  If that’s the case I get to give rousing speeches, right?  So, I say “bollocks” to negativity; to this “can’t do” attitude.  I stand up firm and stout and say to all of you who are feeling downtrodden and despairing:
“We are not going to dig foxholes!  We are not going to just shoot the sons-of-bitches, we’re going to rip out their living Goddamned guts and use them to grease the tyres of our tanks. 
We are going to advance and to keep on advancing regardless of whether we have to go over, under, or through the enemy. We are going to go through him like crap through a goose; like shit through a tin horn!  That is all. ” 

Okay?  So.  Right then.  Any ideas, men?  Where can I find a cheap as chips yet not too ghastly holiday, abroad, with water…for a weary general and her troops? 

Sunday, 24 July 2011

Pineapple, cranberry and honeydew ice poles

The post has been very dreary lately.  After a wild flurry of excitement (including my stash of amulets from Tel Aviv) it has gone back to the usual fare of bills, circulars, notifications from school, dire warnings from accountants. 

So the thick parcel addressed to Adrian caught my eye.  Serge Dansereau’s French Kitchenclassic recipes for home cooks.  I will freely confess I hadn’t a clue who he was - though the name conjured a 70s crooner in tight white trousers and a deep tan.  Seems he’s a multi-award winning chef, a French-Canadian who trained in Quebec (oh happy memories of getting totally and utterly slewed on Cointreau after the best meal of my entire life – I wonder if he cooked it?) and then moved to Sydney.  His credo is local seasonal produce and I like that credo, always have.  Why cook food that's come halfway round the world when you can eat what's on your doorstep?

Anyhow, it’s a nice book.  Unusually he includes a lot of recipes for breakfast/brunch (blackberry bran muffins; pear and pomegranate with sheep’s milk yoghurt; butter brioche with cognac and almond marmalade).  The dinner/supper section is – as might be suspected with French cooking – not too helpful for vegetarians but there are some nice suggestions in the lunch section. 

Mostly the choices are quite predictable though some of the recipes in the Deserts and Baking section made me lick my lips – er, slurp to Coffee Custards (I love anything coffee-flavoured) and yum to Sugar and Walnut Pie (a traditional French Canadian treat).  ‘Man on the dole’ pudding (pudding chomeur) was a new one on me – basically a brown sugar desert of sugar, flour and margarine (though Serge adds maple syrup and cream) and Basque custard cake looks delicious.  Weird, I never had a sweet tooth until I became vegetarian – riddle me why?

I was particularly interested to see what he’d put in his Cooking for Kids section and confess was a bit disappointed that he just tends to stick to the usual fare – minified.  In other words, mini chicken sandwiches; mini chicken and leek pies; mini beef burgers and so on.  Hmm. 

But I’m rather taken with the idea of pineapple, cranberry and honeydew icy poles (barres glacees aux jus de fruits).  And, given there is a glimpse of sun today, I am going to perform some sympathetic magic.  By giving you the recipe (sure Serge won’t mind) I am hence summoning beautiful sunny days and the possibility of picnics by the frisky sea or by cool deep rivers or atop bright sunny hills (wherever your fancy takes you).  And yeah, I'm very aware that pineapple isn't remotely local to Exmoor but what the hell? 

Pineapple, cranberry and honeydew icy poles (makes about 30)

You can use lollipop moulds or do what Serge does and use little shot glasses (er, he has 30 shot glasses??)

250g (1¼ cups) caster sugar
½ honeydew melon
300ml pineapple juice
300ml cranberry juice 

Make the sugar syrup by putting the sugar and 250ml (1 cup) water into a saucepan and bringing to the boil. Once the sugar has dissolved, remove and set aside to cool.

Remove the skin from the melon, discard the seeds and chop into chunks. Process to a smooth puree. 
Combine with 50ml of cooled sugar syrup. 100ml water and mix well. Pour into ten shot glasses (or similar) and freeze for 30 minutes or until they start to set. Now add “icy pole sticks” (I think we’d call them lolly sticks in the UK) to the glasses.  Freeze for a further two hours or until totally frozen. 

Repeat the procedure with the pineapple and cranberry (using the same quantities). 

When ready to serve, remove the icy poles from the freezer and wait for a few minutes so they come out easily from their moulds.  Serve immediately on crushed ice.

Serge says you can also use juice from strawberries, passionfruit, mangoes, lychees or rhubarb syrup. See if children can guess the flavours.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Watch Spot Die

This manifestation malarkey is working a treat.   Okay, so there’s the small question of the lottery but, hey, I won didn’t I?  And I bought another ticket as I figure today’s result was just a dry run.

In the meantime, I’m being sent exactly what I need.  Like the deep meditation track from Jackie Stewart. It’s sending me to such deep places – so way back into the past that I’m skipping millennia.  And then, this morning, a copy of The Psychic Way by Barbara Ford-Hammond.  I love it.  She’s so damn down-to-earth about airy-fairy stuff. I’ll tell you more about it when I’m done reading. 
But summer finally arrived on Exmoor today and it was too nice to stay in reading.  Adrian took James and Beth (his cousin, who’s here for the weekend) off to the mid-Devon show. I opted out.  I wanted some reflective time up at the hillfort. 
So the SP and I set off, with our lottery-won trawl, and climbed up the Cauldron (aka The Chimney, now renamed by James).  We stopped by Lulu’s tree – the one where we’d sat and she’d done her usual magic on me and absolved me of all my guilt (and, by heck, can I do guilt!) 
This tree had been bothering me for a while – the way it had a strand of ivy snaking round it.  It wasn’t an old oak tree – not like Hen’s Old Bert.  It was still straight and true.  It didn’t need strangling; it didn’t need pulling down by ivy.  So, a few days back, in the depths of my witchiness, I’d tried to pull it off.  But – ho hum – it wouldn’t detach.  Well, the middle bit did but it stayed grounded firmly at the root and stuck like superglue to the top.  Even swinging on it – like some demented Tarzan – wouldn’t dislodge the sucker.  It annoyed me.  But today I figured – whatever.  Maybe it’s okay like that.  Maybe it doesn’t mind.

And we went deeper into the woodland, away from the path, away from the possibility of people.  Following deer tracks until we found another oak – older, wiser, also straight and true, also embraced by ivy.  And I lay me down.
I had planned to do some yoga.  To stand tall in Tadasana.  To emulate the trees in Vrksasana.  To see the world sideways in Trikonasana.  To get a bit strong and centred with Virabhadrasana.  But instead I just stretched out – no, not even in Savasana, the corpse pose.  Just lay, felt myself supported by the soft ground, and gazed up at blue sky through green leaves.  I had a bit of a love-in with the Earth.  Felt the dappled sun on my face; felt the soft wind on my bare arms. 
The SP was busy – vanishing through bracken but coming back every so often to check in on me and plant a gentle lick on my face or touch a paw to my hand.
Then I turned and watched the world from the viewpoint of moss. 

I lost track of time.  I’m not sure how many hours I spent up there, clutching the earth.  Then a leaf landed on my hand – an oak leaf.  And I sat up and found an ivy leaf on my lap.  So I tucked them in my notebook, one at the front, one at the back, and walked away.
Walked slowly, meditatively, not my usual half-jog. 

Came back to find the house still empty.  So I sat in the garden and read a bit more of Barbara’s book and was pleasantly otherworldly for a little longer.  Then, all of a sudden, James was there, exuding eau de feral boy.  He plonked down next to me and handed me a sweet.  ‘Hey,’ he said.  ‘What’s a line you won’t find in an Enid Blyton book?’
I shook my head and frowned.  He started laughing, that infectious childish laughter. Could barely get the words out. ‘And so they put Timmy in a sack, threw him in the canal and said, ‘Right, we’re the Famous Four now.’
‘What?’ Started laughing myself.
‘I got this book from the fete. Did I tell you we went to the church fete as well?’
No, but never mind.

‘It’s brilliant,' he went on.  'Listen to this.  Things You Wouldn’t Read in a Children’s Book.  ‘With ten seconds to go in the Quidditch final, Hermione hid the snitch in her snatch.’ 

What the...? 

‘It gets better.  What about this? You remember Spot, right?'  I nodded weakly. God, did I remember bloody Spot.  He started grinning.  ‘Watch Spot Die!  See Spot turn malignant!’’ He convulsed with laughter.  ‘What about this one?  'As Prince Charming leant over Sleeping Beauty, he realised the Rohypnol had worked better than he’d hoped.’” He paused. ‘What’s Rohypnol?’

‘Er, what is that book?’  I snatched it from his sticky paw and rolled my eyes.  Mock the Week.   
From the church fete??

'And..Mum?  What's dogging?'

Ye gods. Where exactly in my three days of hard-working manifestation did I request that my child become exceedingly well-acquainted with filth? 

Winning Euromillions!

It’s been a funny old week.  I’ve been battling with myself – yeah, again.  I’m not the stroppy type – I only ever pick fights with myself. It’s mad, it really is.

Anyhow, I need to get a grip, make things happen.  Because we’re the ones who hold ourselves back, right?  And I’ve been in a holding pattern for a while now. Stuck. Unable to see the next move, the right move, clearly. 

Right? Rite! That’s what I needed. Something to figure out where I was going wrong; why I was being blocked (blocking myself); to get to the bottom of what I didn’t understand.  Magick.  Shit yeah.

Magick (with a k to distinguish from the rabbits out of hats malarkey).  Call it summoning powers and entities and whatever.  Or call it, if you prefer, getting in touch with your higher self, the part that isn’t a bonkers numpty. The part that knows. Oh, call it whatever you like. It really doesn't matter.

Anyhow.  While the world was whizzing around getting in a tizzy over politicians and journalists (umm, short aside: why did it all come as such a surprise, eh?) I cut off.  Did my thing.  Went dark and witchy.  

Candles were lit. Incense billowed. Circles were cast.  Sigils were drawn. Shadows danced. 

Questions were asked. Requirements were discussed.

It’s always a bit precarious and I’m wary about this summoning business now.  I used to demand; now I request.  I used to think I knew exactly what I needed: now I ask to receive what I need. 
Sometimes uncanny coincidences (hmm) occur. Sometimes the universe has a stonking great belly laugh at your expense. 

I’m not ashamed to admit I’m strapped for cash right now (holding patterns are crap for generating income).  While debating all kinds of deep and meaningful spiritual questions, I threw in a small request for some dosh.  Okay, hands up,  the lottery crossed my mind.  How much could I ask for?  In the end I went for the fall-back position (just as a test really) – let me win (no earning required) exactly what I needed.

And I bought a Euromillions ticket.

So, today the SP and I were going up to the hillfort and we stopped at the shop and bought a drink and a packet of sweets. I fumbled in my pocket for the right change: £2.60.

‘Ooh, hang about. Check my ticket will ya?’ I said to the girl serving.
She went over to the machine and turned back.  ‘Hey, you’ve won!’
My heart leapt. ‘What?’
‘Yeah.  But don’t get too excited.’

She handed me my winnings.  You’ve guessed, right?  Yeah.  £2.60.  Ho bloody ho.