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Home is … chocolate cake in the tin

It’s been two years since I baked a chocolate cake. And two years since my younger son left to travel around New Zealand.

But I’ve just finished decorating the cake I baked this morning because … he’s on his way back! Both my boys are coming home today – and what is home without a chocolate cake in the tin?

My mother baked every day when we were growing up. Like many Scottish families at the time we ate “High Tea” rather than dinner. Lunch was the main meal of the day and when we ate at 5.30pm, straight after the afternoon milking,  it was a savoury dish followed by a cup of tea and a selection of Mum’s scones, pancakes, “angel” cakes with sponge wings, sultana cake, and sometimes shortbread or Victoria sponge.

Occasionally there would be rich Sacher Torte or her pièce de resistance, an apricot tray bake which was in such demand at local  charity “Bring and Buy” sales, a black market formed amongst the local clientele and  it was auctioned and hidden before it ever reached the sale table! I have her (classified) shortbread and pastry recipes but I’ll never match her skill or lightness of touch.

I look back now and wonder a) how none of us became obese and b) how she found the time to bake on top of managing a large family and helping run a farm. The answer to a) is probably that we all did physical work on the farm and portions were small by today’s standards. And as for b),  I realise now that, in part at least, baking was her creative outlet. Mum never ate the cakes or sweet things herself and we took the home baked food for granted;  anything “shop bought” was regarded as inferior. Her delicious food was always devoured. But I wish we’d praised her more.

I’m living in a rented house at the moment with all my favourite dishes and utensils packed away in storage, so I’ve had to borrow the tins and the beaters today, and make do with strange bowls and tools. That’s my excuse for the cake not looking perfect.

But really, I doubt the boys will notice.

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A chink of light

I’ve written the last paragraph.

It’s just the beginning and it’s not even a full first draft, but it feels like an achievement and I need to share it. Writing’s a lonely business and most of my pals suspect I’ve been loafing around and reading novels these past eight months. My “book” has become an in-joke! And that’s absolutely fine because I’m not comfortable describing myself as a writer… yet!  Journalist? That’s different; I’ve spent 30 years being paid to write and broadcast.

But finishing the last chapter gives me the impetus to start editing, rewriting and checking on facts. I’ll be more confident in contacting all the professionals who’ve helped so far and I’ll speak to others. There’s still so much to do, and many words to write, but at least there’s a structure now. I can finally see the light.

I started my research in March and took chunks of time out to walk and travel but other than that, writing this story  has been my “work” this year, and I’ve learned a lot. It was a mistake to start without a plot but then I didn’t know there were going  to be so many words! And I hadn’t a clue how it would end – until it did.

I hope I’m not tempting fate by setting a deadline now, but I intend to have a first draft by the end of the year. And when my family come home at Christmas I hope I’ll have the courage to show them what I’ve been doing all these months.

Now there’s a scary prospect.

The thrill of the spate

The Findhorn in spate was a childhood highlight. We’d hear the river roaring and go down to watch the flood squeezing through gorges. Then we’d jump with excitement on the bridge, following the branches passing below us and popping up at the other side. It felt dangerous and dark and we were exhilarated by the power.

“Water’s a good servant but a bad master,” my father always said.

And we’d nod but not really understand. It was only a half spate today but I was right back in my childhood.

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