“Half memoir, half travel, A Yank Back to England...is an absolutely wonderful book, not only about going home again but also about love and family and tradition and the passage of the years.”
—Michael Dirda, Pulitzer Prize-winning literary critic (Washington
To see the entire quote, click here.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Christmas lights

Admittedly, as many of you know, we are a "mixed" family; but nevertheless Christmas is our favorite time of the year--and my favorite holiday! Sadly we have not put up many lights this year as we have been too busy driving little miss madam to her many activities, but Prodigal Wife did make me a very happy chap when she made one of my favorite Christmas treats: a real fruitcake! Now, no jokes, every American we know loves it and you can see the recipe Friday on Anglotopia.net (will post link after it publishes).
Anyway, we took a photo of the fruit (after it had imbibed quite a bit) and it looked to us like beautiful lights, and it certainly is Christmassy, so here it is.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Launching Cy's car

With its huge fins and tail lights, Cy's baby blue Ford Galaxy convertible looked like a relic from either an alien planet junk yard or an unfinished Flash Gordon movie set. As always, it was parked halfway up the curb, more on the sidewalk than off it. A parking ticket fluttered from the windscreen. The car was like Cy in many ways; it was big, outlandish, almost exotic, completely out of place and out of time but still managing to look cool. And the car lumbered just as he did, attracting attention, lots of amused glances and lots of parking tickets. “Christ! I hate getting these!” Cy stuffed the ticket into his ping pong bat bag. “Maureen wants us back for lunch, it’s kinda good she likes you Denis under most other circumstances, she hates the people I drag around the house. But you, she likes you, my young friend. Go figure!”
Cy gently rocked the car back and forth until he had enough room to launch it into the road. He drove so slowly, he looked as if he was prowling, which was just as well because, when Cy was behind the wheel, he insisted on looking at the person he was speaking to, not at the road.
“Cy, look out!”

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Afternoon stroll in London

In the pale gold of the following afternoon we took a stroll in the neighborhood beyond the shopping hordes on the Brompton Road, towards Hans Place. In this the residential part of Knightsbridge, with its soft edged blocks of blood orange colored mansion flats and lovely town houses the area seemed to take on an almost village-like calm, broken only by the occasional soft purring tick of passing cabs. We discovered an elegant mews with cobble stones, a leafy square and Italianate side streets whitewashed and splashed with red carnations and geraniums. And no one seemed to be in sight until we came to Pont Street, filled with locals crisscrossing the road, milling, chatting, doing their bits of shopping, buying everything from baguettes to Beluga caviar. The array of boutique food emporia in Pont Street was truly astonishing. Bright eyed and bright scaled creatures almost flapped with freshness on the fishmongers marble counter, the aroma of fresh bread wafted from the bakery, and vegetables in the green grocers window seemed mounted and displayed like individual jewels in blue tissue paper.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Bit of sweet, Mum?

"It's lovely," Lew was now fulsome with praise as he slurped down his tea.
"I like a bit of sweet," Mum went on, ignoring Lew's effusive praises.
She finished the cake and washed it down with another big swig of Benedictine. "I'm willing to try anything once, I am."
It was the closest she ever got to complimenting someone else’s cooking.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

A lovely English cottage...

Anyone interested in following in the Prodigal Footsteps might be interested in renting this little (well, large) barn in Suffolk, not far from the coastal town of Alderburgh, where we did indeed have a lovely stay. Of course, our cottages were, if not more interesting than this one, definitely a little older, but we thought we'd share nevertheless.
Not sure if it's stocked with tea or if the house comes with a working phone, but if you're interested, the "balancing barn" is available for a mere $2,300+ for three days from living-architecture.co.uk.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

End of the summer shrimp

I'm the first to admit that it is hard to find an English main course recipe that doesn't start with "take half a pound of lard..." Nothing wrong with that of course, but when the sun is still lovely and warm, we all crave lighter fare, even this true-blue Brit!
So let's turn to the exotic East, the lazy days of the Raj and a lovely Goan-inspired shrimp dish with coconut and cream. I know I'm taking a bit of liberty but then, is not Indian food a cornerstone of English cuisine? In fact, in a recent poll taken in Britain, the second favorite dish nationwide turned out to be chicken tikka! (No prizes if you guess what the number one fave was!*)
I've adapted this recipe over time. It began life as a mussel starter but I've switched in shrimp, added cream or yogurt, toned down the heat for the Americans in my midst, and I now serve it up over a bed of salad as opposed to rice. By increasing the portions I've turned this recipe into a delightfully light supper dish.

Here's what you will need

A pound and half of large shrimp. I use fresh-frozen, but use whatever looks good in the market. Do use large or extra large shrimp, smaller prawns tend to disappear.
You'll also require a "finger" of ginger; use powder if you must, but fresh is so much better. A few cloves of garlic and cup of grated coconut, dried or fresh but unsweetened. One small chili pepper chopped up, or use a few dried pepper flakes. If using fresh chili, do taste a smidge beforehand. You want the dish to have a little kick, but not too much. Chop up half a bunch of green onions. Have a wedge of butter on hand or a little pot of ghee if you're feeling exotic. You'll also need a quarter cup of lemon juice, but do peel the rind from said lemon, chop it up, and keep it to one side.
Now bring out the big guns: a cup of cream, sour cream, or yogurt or a combination of all three. I'm trying to watch my weight so I use low fat yogurt. Mind you, the cream adds a wonderful richness, so it's your choice. You can add a half teaspoon of salt, but it really isn't necessary Last but not least, you'll need a teaspoon of turmeric and coriander. I usually add a few cardamom pods in the final dish to torment the wife.... This of course, is also an optional addition. If you cannot find any of these spices at your local Indian shop, use the light-colored curry powder found in regular grocery stores.
You will also need a bunch of coriander or cilantro, chop half the leaves for the sauce, retain the uncut leaves for the salad. Did I mention salad?

Let's address the salad
This is a simple green affair, you need enough leaves to cover four dinner plates. Make sure the salad is torn into small pieces, Use a spring mix type; rocket, dandelion, watercress, or what have you. Whatever you use, do add small shavings of green olives and grated flecks of lemon peel and mix in the whole leaves of coriander you cleverly kept to one side. Make a one-to-one vinaigrette using lemon juice and olive oil. Toss at the last minute then divide, forming beds of salad on the four plates.
Now let's get to the main attraction, which can easily be prepped in advance of your dinner party. Drinks at six on the patio...we eat in five? No probs!
First peel, de-vein, and sauté the shrimp. Thirty seconds a side. No more. Use butter, oil, or ghee if you want! You just want the little chaps pink on both sides. Add lemon juice to the pan and remove the happily sizzling shrimp to a side dish. They will finish cooking off heat. Prior to service, you pop them into the sauce to warm them up. And that's all. The key thing is not to overcook the shrimp, which can be made ahead and rest in the fridge until you are ready to make the sauce...
If you have the time, you can make a little stock using the shrimp shells. This will add a very nice flavor enhancement to the sauce but it's not essential.
In a mini prep gadget, put in the finger of ginger, the garlic cloves and the green bits from your spring onions. Add half a cup of water. Whir up this mixture.
In the unwashed sauté pan in which you part-cooked the shrimp, soften the remaining chopped onion bits in a pat of butter (or oil or ghee) for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic-ginger mixture, stir fry for half a minute before adding the chili, turmeric and cumin, along with the coconut. Now add the shrimp stock you so cleverly made (or a quarter cup of water) to the sauce and cook over a low heat for a few minutes. Take sauce off the heat and pour in the yogurt, cream, or what have you. Put back on low heat for a minute. When everything is nicely incorporated and the sauce is just coating the back of a spoon, pile in the part cooked shrimp and mix into the sauce for another minute. If the sauce is too thick add a few tablespoons of water, or cream --you naughty thing, you! Then turn off the heat.
Now toss your salad in a simple lemony vinaigrette. Plate up the salad forming beds. Top with shrimp and curry sauce. Serve with nan or pita bread, or nothing at all. Oh, nearly forgot. Once plated, sprinkle the chopped coriander over the shrimp.

So there we are! An Englishman's Goan-style curry dish to beat the last of the summer heat, a little spicy but very fresh tasting, light, and delicious. Do try it, I know you'll like this one!
*Yes, you guessed it --fish and chips!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Made in Dagenham

Many of you have, very oddly it seems to me, expressed a desire to visit Dagenham after reading A Yank Back to England. Well, this one's for you (don't say I didn't warn you!).

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Birthday, Dad!

All children think their parents are old, but mine always were, exceptionally so. Obviously, they weren’t born old, but they were old when I was born. By the time I became conscious of age and generational differences, they were already in their fifties. That’s the way it was, only the future was always approached with a glance to past horizons that, despite hardship and deprivations, always glowed with the warmth of familiarity.
Because of my parents’ age, I missed several generations of popular culture: Elvis, Marilyn Monroe, Anthony Eden, Ban the Bomb, Big Bands. Beatniks. My parents missed them, too. My points of reference were Fred Astaire, the Gershwins, Bette Davis, Charlie Chaplin, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby. Not a problem unless I ran into a parent of one of my school friends or a friend would meet my parents. That was always a shock for everyone. When my parents dressed up to go out for the evening, they always looked like Nick and Nora or any movie couple from the thirties. Mum wore lots of rabbit fur and hats with feathers and smelled of talc, and Lew always wore double-breasted suits with baggy trousers. He was always clean shaved, always had a short back and sides hair cut brilliantined like Ramon Navarro – whoever he was.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

And the winners are...

I confess, we were too lazy to pull out our lovely roulette wheel this time, so we used random.org to determine the winners of the Todd Charles books. We ended up with 32 valid entries, and the winning numbers were 8 and (surprisingly) 1. So that means our lucky winners are:
*my Goodreads buddy, Jersey Girl, who tagged, posted, voted, and more (thanks, darling!).
*Prodigal Wife's faithful friend Syl, who was the first to enter our giveaway.
We have emails, so getting info for HarperCollins should be easy.

One little thing--I know we haven't posted as regularly as we might have over the summer. Hopefully that will change as the weather cools...
The Prodigals

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Book Giveaway: An Impartial Witness

We here in the Prodigal Household are big fans of mysteries, as many of you know, and we always have our eyes peeled for a good one! Now, with Prodigal Wife's love of anything historical and my fascination with World War I, we're both anxious to get our hands on Charles Todd's new book, An Impartial Witness. And thanks to HarperCollins, we can now offer all our bloggy friends two free copies of Bess Crawford's second adventure!

This book is barely out but great reviews are already pouring in (OK, green-eyed monster, get back in the closet):
"intricate twists and plenty of viable suspects" (Publishers Weekly)
A "plucky, determined sleuth and a thrilling mystery" (Library Journal)
“A smartly plotted, well-told mystery.” (Booklist on An Impartial Witness )

Here is what the publisher says:

Tending to the soldiers in the trenches of France during the First World War, battlefield nurse Bess Crawford is sent back to England in the early summer of 1917 with a convoy of severely burned men. One of her patients, a young pilot, has clung to a photograph of his wife since his plane went down, and Bess can’t help but notice the photo every time she tends to him. After the patients are transferred to a clinic in Hampshire, Bess is ready for her two-day leave, planning to return to her flat in London to catch up on some much-needed rest. But at the railway station, in a mob of troops leaving for the front, Bess catches a glimpse of a familiar face. Could that be the pilot’s wife? And why is she bidding a very emotional farewell to a soldier who is not her husband?

Back in France, Bess discovers an old newspaper with a drawing of the woman’s face on the front page. Accompanying the drawing is a plea from Scotland Yard looking for information from anyone who has seen her. The woman was murdered-the very day Bess saw her at the terminal. Granted leave to visit Scotland Yard to report what she knows, Bess soon finds herself on the search for a devious and very dangerous killer-a search that will put her own life in jeopardy.

Sounds appealing, yes? If you want to try your hand at one of the two free copies, just leave a comment below before September 15. If you wish, you may earn additional entries in the following ways:
*post/tweet/share this giveaway
*tag my own little tome, A Yank Back to England, on Amazon -- England, memoir, travel, travelogue, and travelogues PLEASE!
*if you've already tagged Yank (THANK YOU!), tagging the Kindle edition works too!
*put Yank on your shelf in Goodreads, Shelfari, or LibraryThing. (one entry each)
*TWO entries if you vote for Yank on Goodreads' Favourite Travel Book list or Have Passport will Travel or Best Traveling Vicariously (FIVE if you do all 3)

That's it! Oh--US only please, sorry. And if we don't have your email yet, please leave it so we can contact you if you win. Winners will be announced on September 16, at which time you'll have 48 hours to send us your address, which we will pass along to HarperCollins.
Good luck everyone!

Monday, August 16, 2010

At the market

"You’re a long way from home,” said Frances to a woman vendor.
A Gaelic shrug of the mouth. “Wiz ze toon-el... iz no problem.”
We had found a Normandy farmer’s wife, with tight curly black hair an easy smile and an English accent as thick as Camembert. She had a stall with a huge array of French cheeses and not much else. We walked on, past fruit and vegetable stalls, a poultry vendor, a pork butcher, a baker’s stall with different breads as well as fruit and savory pies. There was even a knife grinder selling cutlery, and flatware. I thought I might even find a candlestick maker! It was fun. The noise, the banter, the odd blares from radios volumed up for sale. Kate slept through it all.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Cool, creamy, crunchy: Glorious Eton Mess

When the weather heats up, my thoughts turn to languid summers and strawberries and cream and... Eton Mess! The dish was invented by the boys attending Eton College-that bastion of privilege in the lovely village of the same name-and usually served up on parents day or at prize-giving ceremonies.

Why, you may ask, is a former secondary modern school kid waxing lyrically about such an upper class treat? Well, the answer is simple: It is delicious. And with the Prodigal addition of chocolate this wonderful confection becomes extra special. Plus, it's so easy to throw together!

Here's what you need for 6-8 servings.

A pound and a half or more of strawberries, nice and ripe, two cups of whipping cream, a tablespoon of sugar, and a drop of vanilla.

Twelve small meringues, or more if you like lots of crunch. If you have the patience, you can, of course, make them yourself, but I prefer to buy them.

One third cup of Kirsch, white rum, or flavorful spirit (optional)

Two ounces of good quality, semi-sweet chocolate, grated or shaved.

Here's what you do.

Put the cleansed and hulled berries in a bowl, halved or sliced or quartered depending on size of the fruits. Now add the booze if you so desire. As we have a child and I don't want the police on my doorstep I don't, and it works very well without. At this point, resist the desire to add sugar to the bowl. If you do, the strawberries will weep and turn your dessert a gooey pink, and you don't want that. Instead, add a tablespoon of sugar to the cream and beat it to soft peaks. Add a little vanilla if you so desire, especially if you abstain on the Kirsch.

Crush/chop the meringues into rough chunks then add to the strawberries and whipped cream, then "mess" everything gently together. And there you have it: Eton Mess. More of an assembly job than a real recipe.

Serve in tall sundae glasses and top each portion with generous sprinkles of chocolate shavings. The addition of the chocolate is mine but it really works a treat.

Even if you're not strolling the playing fields of Eton with the sun glazing the Thames a shimmering gold, it will certainly feel like it when you taste this wonderful concoction. Evocative of summer and lazy afternoons, Eton Mess is destined to become a family favourite.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

A dandy hot spot

We found this wonderful old photo of The Pantiles in Royal Tunbridge Wells, once the retreat of choice of the English upper-crust under the tutelage of Dandy Richard "Beau" Nash, the Tim Gunn of his day. The photo was obviously taken when the floor was actually still tiles (hence the name), which it isn't anymore, sadly. There are considerably less tourists and locals in this photo than were there when we visited! A charming place.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A happy memory, part 2

I moved a little closer.
"Everything alright, gel?" Lew sounded loud and happy. Yes, yes of course it was. Mary was having a good time. We all were.
"Oh, it's lovely, isn't it, Lew, it weally is. Getting the family together like this, and it's not even a funeral! Ah, ha, ha!" Mary burst out laughing at her own remark. Lew grinned and nodded, unable to speak or even laugh.
"Bloody funny, that is, bloody funny, but you're right!" he finally blurted out.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A happy memory

The hubbub of the pub was pleasant and, seeping through it, I heard "Roll out the Barrel" from across the bar. Lew was merrily singing along. Jessie was knocking back the red wine, chatting with her sister Mary, as if her memory problems never existed. After finishing his song, Lew tottered around the table and hunkered down with Mary. I didn't quite hear what they said, but Mary laughed and told him what a silly old stick he was. That I heard.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

My moment in God's favor

When I was about thirteen, I wanted to be a missionary. I tried to convert my friends and teachers at school. I prayed for Jessie and Lew. For my brother Tony and my dog Rex. And once, apart from praying to Jesus to forgive my many sins, which I did on a regular basis, once, just once, I had a Denis-of-Lourdes moment. I prayed for a cure. I prayed harder than hard for Jesus to heal my athlete’s foot. When I woke up the following morning, my foot was still inflamed and my toes still horribly cracked. And there had endeth my religious phase. I gave up Sunday school and reverted to being a young teen filled with sinful thoughts and not much else.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Reflections on Rye

Prodigal Wife found this beautiful photo of Rye at PublicDomainePictures.net, and it made me grin like a happy giraffe! At the end of the street is Lamb House, once the home of E.F. Benson (and Henry James before him)—better known as Mallards to millions of Mapp and Lucia fans like myself. Looking up at the conservatory, I so easily imagine Lucia spying on her neighbors from her music room. And one of the lovely cottages on the right must be George's home, before he became Lucia's husband (in name only, of course). Perhaps the one with the charming pink roses?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

An inauspicious beginning

When England was celebrating the Festival of Britain and cheering for the Queen, I came into the world without many cheers but quite a lot of tears. Mum bawled her eyes out when I turned out to be a boy and not the girl she always wanted. Regardless, after the nurse offered to take me, mum reluctantly assumed the maternal role.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Roast beef on ...?

The town of Sandwich was first recorded in the seventh century and had Saxon origins, though many believe it was settled much earlier. The name was derived from the Place of Sand, but it was the origin of the edible sandwich that intrigued us most. It all started in the mid-eighteenth century. The illustrious Earl of Sandwich, in order to continue gambling and, presumably, not break a winning streak, called for beef to be placed between two slices of bread so he could eat without getting gravy on his playing cards or ruffled shirt sleeves. Thus a new dish was created. Ironically, the earls of Sandwich had no real connection to the town. The first earl, Edward Montagu, only took the title of Earl of Sandwich because his fleet docked at Sandwich prior to sailing for France to pick up King Charles the Second and return him to the throne of England. Montagu could just as easily taken his title from another town along the coast.
“Anyone for a roast beef portsmouth?” I asked.
We thought about it for a moment; it did not sound as strange as I expected.
“Could work,” said Frances. “Although roast beef ‘rye’ would be better.”
“Rye! Yes. Clever. Very.” I smiled.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Don't knock the stuffing!

Here’s a refreshing, very simple starter to add to your repertoire. The Stilton cheese make this a very proper English dish. This recipe is enough for at least four servings, with a half a pear per guest. Of course, you might like this so much you’ll need a whole pear!
You need two ounces of Stilton and the same amount of cream cheese. Two ripe pears, salad fixings, a lemon, and olive oil.

Here’s what you do.

Crumble the Stilton (no nibbling!), then combine with the cream cheese and whip—we use a mini food-processor for this—until well blended. Use any pears that look and feels nice and ripe. Chill down the pears for an hour or two, then peel and slice in half. Use a spoon to core them out, then spoon the cheese mixture into the hollows you have so cleverly created. I serve the pear halves on a little bed of lettuce garnished with endive spears, and walnut halves that have been sautéed in butter for just a minute.

The pear halves and salad bits are dressed with a vinaigrette made of lemon juice, olive oil, a pinch of salt, and a little sugar. Freshly ground pepper is the final touch.

This is a refreshing and delicious starter, and so simple to put together. Too simple? Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Not so Bleak House

Here is a fabulous view of our favorite seaside town, Broadstairs—with Charles Dickens' Bleak House in the background as a literary bonus. Sadly we did not have time to go inside when we visited, but we understand it's now available for rental. Wouldn't that be the perfect spot for a Prodigal reunion? Or the perfect setting for a murder mystery...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

My imagination takes off

“The airport we saw – much air traffic, is there?” I asked nervously.
“God, no. One plane a day. Maybe two. Been there for ages, that airport, it’s right close to a Battle of Britain station. Spitfires.”
“Spitfires?” My interest rose as my support for airplane noise abatement declined.
“The old airfield runs almost parallel with the new one. But the new one never caught on. Hardly anyone uses it.” Then he turned and said, “Oh, I’m Roy by the way. If you need anything, just come by, I’m always around. No problem.”

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My favorite Brit radio

The Archers was an institution. There were Archer Addicts. Fan clubs. Archer get-togethers. Many a flagging dinner party conversation could be enlivened by simply voicing a concern for one of the principal characters, such as, “I’m very worried about Shula.” During the year, Lew would airmail cassette tapes every two weeks, and I would try to listen to the recorded show at nine thirty on Sunday mornings, the same time the show’s omnibus edition was broadcast in England.

Monday, April 12, 2010

"Oh, there was a crooked house,..."

We ambled back up the hill into the high street, where we found the Old Crooked House. Whether this was the original old crooked house from the famous nursery song, we had no clue, but the very tiny abode, warped and deformed with age, certainly deserved its name. The house looked as if it had tried to uproot itself and gotten twisted and bent in the process. We walked around it and saw a tiny window in the arched curved roof. Amazingly there was a room upstairs, perhaps with an even tinier bedroom! Not much bigger than a child’s tree house, this fabulous building had been converted into a shop for expensive pottery.

Friday, April 9, 2010

No, Kev, it's not you...

Cousin Kevin (The Repairman Cometh) thought he'd had one too many when he spotted the door of this lovely book shop in Canterbury. He might have, of course, but in terms of the door it was just age taking its toll on the former Old King's School Shop, which was founded so many years ago everyone's forgotten exactly when. If you look closely, it says "circa" 1647 above the door!
Doesn't this look like a great spot for a book signing?

Monday, April 5, 2010

"This is not a car, madam!"

I was in a giddy fog, quite like Mister Toad, totally in thrall to the hum of a hot roadster. Frances was shocked. She never imagined me much of a car man and, the truth was, I never had been. Cars were a convenient mode of transport, nothing more. But this was more. This was a speedy beast posing as a car. And I was posing as its trainer. But it did not last long. The euphoric fog lifted and reality set in. I knew it would not be fair, or nice, to encumber my poor old parents with bags on laps while I sat up front like Stirling, or Mario, or Jackie, or Graham, or—

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

East End...to East Side

During our fabulous weekend in New York, we stayed on the ritzy East Side and yet, and yet, what do we see as we're walking down the street? A Barking Dog sign! Oh, no! Where are we again? Is this the East Side or the East End? This Barking Dog is a restaurant attached to a hotel, and probably a lot nicer than the pub in Barking, but nevertheless...
We also saw a Baker Street Pub with a charming Sherlock Holmes sign, but were running late and did not take a photo.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Start spreading the news...

Our New York events are finally upon us, and we can't wait! We hope anyone in the area will join us—it'd be so wonderful to meet some of our cyber-friends! Here are the details:

Friday March 26, 7:30 pm

Barnes & Noble at Lincoln Triangle (Broadway & 66)
Professional actors take on all your favorite characters from A Yank Back to England in a theatrical interpretation of one expat’s rediscovery of his former homeland. Plus, don't miss a chance to win one of three fish & chip dinners for two at the ChipShop!
If you come early, pop into the cafe on the 4th floor and say hi to the old Prodigal Wife, who will be there with the little one.

Sunday March 28, 2-4 pm
Connolly’s Pub and Restaurant
14 East 47th Street (between Madison and 5th)
The Daughters of the British Empire invite you to a afternoon of nibbles, drinkies, and humour with the entire Prodigal Clan—and a raffle! Tickets are $30, with all profits benefiting the Victoria Home. For more info & reservations, call Vicki Downey (646) 220 2309 or email Vickilou67@aol.com

Hope to see some of you this weekend!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bubble, bubble without trouble

Stuck with leftover St. Patrick's Day cabbage and spud? Here's my home version of another cornerstone of English cuisine: Bubble and Squeak. So easy, not a real recipe really. I cook up some bacon and fry up the chopped, leftover spuds and greens in the rendered fat. I let everything brown for a few minutes without touching, then stir up and brown the other sides. That's it! It all goes down very well with everyone, even Kate, though we keep her away from the Guiness...just kidding, Prodigal Wife is not a Guiness fan either.

Monday, March 15, 2010

On the battlements

Walking across a castle tower, we peeked out from the battlements, watching the Arun river as it curved around the shadow of the castle before snaking out into the countryside beyond. About a hundred feet below us, we saw a graveled driveway that led to a private entrance to the castle. As if on cue, a raffishly muddied Land Rover pulled up and young blond children, a pretty blonde woman, and a tousle-haired fellow in a check shirt and crumpled corduroy trousers piled out. They all looked like models from an L.L Bean catalog. But as no photographer appeared, we concluded they might well be the current lord, his lady, and heirs apparent. We walked back inside, descended another staircase past more family portraits, and tried to look for a family resemblance. We found none, but we did find Jessie and Lew patiently waiting for us.
“Gasping for a cuppa tea, son,” said Lew.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Broadcast muse

Trying to repeat the success of my BBC America interview (which sent my little tome flying off the ether-shelves!), we thought we'd put together some "B-roll" before reaching out to some media outlets. Here is what we came up with--what do you think?
It's only 60 seconds, please check it out and let us know!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

One sherry too many

“Is Mum alright, Dad?”
“Don’t wake her, for Gawd’s sake!” Lew’s face registered fear. “She’ll start doing a ‘knees up’ or get all funny. Either way, I’ll never hear the end of it.”
“A knees up?” Frances whispered. I explained it was an East London dance that is only difficult to do if very drunk, which is the only time it is ever performed. A “knees up” requires the linkage of arms, the stomping of feet, and high-kicking legs in order to get the required “knees up” while singing “Knees Up Mother Brown.”
The image of my drunken aunts performing like inebriated Rockettes, trampling on each other’s feet, was not far from my mind.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Sunset in Windsor

Kate and I love to feed the Queen's swans whenever we're in England; once in a while we get a fabulous sunset too, as we did in Windsor.
For other beautiful skies, visit Skywatch.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Troubles at immigration

We've received lots of notes/comments saying how wonderful the old Prodigal Wife is, taking everything in stride, smiling, smoothing things over... I thought it was time to set the record straight: Prodigal Wife has her moments too. Specifically, she has trouble with bureaucrats and their silly rules, as you'll see in this encounter with an officious official at Heathrow. (Must be the six months she spent in the Soviet Union.)

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adelard’s disappointed. Again.

“What you lot been up to? Any trips? Any fab hols?” Adelard sucked on his drink between questions.
“Not really. What about you?” Frances asked.
“Well, I went off with some friends and we did Italy. Madly impressed that we were going to stay in a fourteenth century turret, until I discovered everyone stays in fourteenth century Tuscan turrets. So I didn’t feel quite as spesh as I thought I might. And now we’re all here.” He looked around. “In Tunbridge Wells. Hmm.”

Monday, February 22, 2010

Diamonds are a... well, anyone's best friend

“We always liked the West End. Going up to the theatre,” Jessie was saying.
“Come on, Mum, you don’t like the theatre,” I jumped in, gently teasing her. “When was the last time you went to the theatre?”
“The Palladium, the London Palladium! We saw Liberace!”
“Years ago, it was. She wanted to see him.” Lew pointed to Jessie.
“Well, of course I did, a wonderful man, he was. An entertainer, a real entertainer.”
“A showman, he was that alright,” Lew conceded.
“He had all these outfits, diamonds, furs. And then he was all lit up. Lovely!”
“Well, he appealed to old ducks like you, Mum.”
“What’d you mean?” She looked taken aback.
“Well, you tell me, who was in the audience apart from funny old things like you. I bet there weren’t any men there.”
“There was men, remember, Lew? There was men there. Up in the balcony, lots of young men, all dressed up! Just like Liberace!” said Mum innocently.
Lew pulled a face and raised his eyes to the ceiling. Diplomatically, he said nothing.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

New Canterbury Tales

Surrounded by snow, we're definitely ready for a trip...at least mentally. To get in the mood, here's a lovely shot Prodigal Wife took in Canterbury on one of our annual visits.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snow Special!

Aren't the folks at Amazon lovely? Just in time for Valentine's Day--or is it to cheer those of us who are still surrounded by mountains and mountains of the white stuff--they have reduced the price of A Yank Back to England to frumpence over $11! So if any of you were meaning to purchase my little tome but did not quite get around to it yet, this is the perfect time! You'll save money--and cheer Prodigal Wife up just in time for the big day (and thank you)!
And don't forget your friends--really, where can you get six trips to England for less than $12!!
Click here to check it out.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Freaking? Have a cuppa.

“I don’t want to know!” I babbled on, “Oh, Christ. We’re not equipped, I’m not good at this! And if there’s an emergency, the bloody phone doesn’t work! And there’s my parents in there, and the other lot. Oh, God!” I started laughing.
Frances told me to get a grip, but I continued laughing. With thoughtful eagerness, she offered to smack me. I declined her kindly offer and took deep breaths instead.
“Better?” asked Frances, sounding a little disappointed, then asked me to help put out the tea things. Good idea. So that’s what I did, and my hysteria gradually subsided.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

New York Chippie Sighting

Know we usually post England photos, but we loved this photo our buddy Chris sent us of his chippie's 1975 Reliant Robin, which he keeps in New York to attract fish Brits and other fish lovers. And we're sure it does--love the color!
Chris has kindly donated three fish and chips dinners for two to be raffled off at the Yank Back to England New York event on Friday March 26, at the Lincoln Center Barnes & Noble.
So everyone in the tristate area: come on out! It's going to be fun, we're finalizing the actors now. In the meantime, if you pop into one of Chris' Chip Shops, tell him we sent you.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Kate's first flight

On this first flight to England the baby, there were three other blue plastic boxes, occupied by children far more animated than mine. The one farthest away contained a true screamer; the one next to me, much to the father’s delight, was a mass of whiny wiggles. Every five minutes or so, a tiny, limp, damp hand would appear from the box, move back and forth, then disappear again. The father seemed delighted by this sign of life. But I, for one, found it rather disconcerting to see a disembodied hand appearing periodically like Thing in the Adams Family. My baby slept like, well, like a baby. A good baby. I was being well plied with wine, my wife was sleeping, so all was right with the world.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Just toast for me...

"I'll just have some coffee, that will do me," I murmured pitifully.
"I know what's going to happen. You're going to eat all my food!"
"No, I won't - I'm still feeling rather fragile."
"Serves you right."
How can we loathe those we love? Besides my headache, the price of the full English breakfast had also curbed my appetite. "Maybe toast - that'll be enough for me."
"Let's order some extra sausages," suggested Frances. "That way, you'll have something in case you change your mind."
"I said, a little toast will be fine," I insisted, stubbornly.
"Fine, have toast then. Look, Kate, look! Ponies!" said Frances. Much excitement.
A silvered canopy was whisked away with a flourish, revealing two large, juicy Cumberland sausages. Kate's eyes and smile widened accordingly. A vast platter showed up for Frances, with eggs, sausages, bacon, fried bread, baked beans, and hash browns. Then toast triangles were placed before me, imprisoned within a wire frame.
"Oh, splendid." I tried to sound nonchalant and not as hungry as I was beginning to feel.
"I told you-" said Frances, knowingly.
I grumbled and mumbled as I freed toast from its silver cage. Kate was madly happy with her sausages. Her English side was obviously asserting itself. Then we both started dipping buttered toast into Frances' baked beans. I was now feeling much better and bitterly regretting my cheap moment. Frances felt the same, as Kate and I picked continuously at her plate. But it all worked out. I consumed lashings of buttered toast and marmalade and drank endless cups of excellent coffee. By the time we finished we all felt revived enough for a long nap.
(Note: In the spirit of full disclosure, photo is from the English breakfast-brunch I cooked recently for a couple of close friends who braved the snow rather than cancel. We don't fry bread, sadly.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Yanked back, again

I stopped the car, got out, threw up on the side of the road. Vowed never to drink at high altitudes again. I swallowed some headache pills, guzzled water, and sat in silence behind the wheel. Kate, now three and a half, was asleep. I wished I were, too. Frances looked a bit concerned, a bit wary. Fortunately, the clanging in my head began to lessen and, from what I could see in the rear view mirror, the death-mask pallor on my face had started to fade. Slowly, color seeped back into my cheeks.

Monday, January 4, 2010

A bedtime story

Hello, my name is Riley, the handsome red tabby. Little Daggers is my protege--I met him through my mum, Agnes, who met the young master (a.k.a. the Prodigal Tourist) in that electronic book club, Shelfari. Anyway, me mum has temporarily put aside her Kindle to read a bedtime story to me and my feline companion, Precious.
Agnes and the Cats in the Evening

A Agnes, the Mama Cat

P Precious, the Siamese tabby

R Riley, the famous red tabby

P: Mama, Mama, I sink its bedtime.

A: Okay, let's read a little first. (Fluffs pillows and lies against them. Reaches for A Yank Back to England.)

P: Goody, goody! A real book. I love how they smell. (Rubs face across the pages, then lies down sweetly at A's side.)

R: Hey! That's my place! (Considers the situation; then sits on A's chest, purring deeply.)

A: Riley, sweetheart, I can't see the book. (Holds tome up above R and proceeds to read. After first paragraph gets up, trots into library, and returns with DK Great Britain.) To self: Oomph, this is even heavier.

P: I can't hear it.

A: No, dear, this is a real book. We're being old-fashioned tonight.

P: Oh goody! Costumes and horses!

R: Purrrrrrrr!

A: Riley, honey, don't sit on the book. Now, how do I get it to turn the page? Where's the button? Oh, right.

R: Purrrrrrrr!


P: What, Mama?

A: LOL. These blokes are really funny! Especially the younger male.

R: Scritch, scritch, scritch.

A: LOL. I feel as if I'm really there. (Gets up and heads for bathroom.)

P: Mum! Mum! Come back!

A: Okay, where was I?

R: Purrrrrrr!

A: Oh, right.

P: I want my tea, right now!

A: Lie down, sweetie. Let me read to you for a while.

R: Purrrrrrr!

A: The heater for the bath water! This reminds me of Enchanted April. Only the bath part, though. Close your eyes, Precious!

R: Can we have some of that gravy on our Fancy Feast tomorrow?

A: No, dear. Only in England.

P: I wants milk in my tea.

A: Tomorrow.

R: And can we do this again tomorrow?

A: Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow. Now get down into the knee basket and let's all sleep. We're going touring tomorrow.

R and P: Purrrrrrrrr!

Thanks Agnes, for sending this to us--we loved it!