Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Welcome Back Cutty Sark ! A Celebration with Anzac Biscuits.

My split personality of being an Oz and living in the UK is illustrated by the commemoration days this week.

I know it was St Georges Day on Monday but I could not think of a suitably culinary treat to celebrate so we had spatchcock chicken and roast veges.  According to the Oxford dictionary the first record of the word spatchcock came from Ireland in the 1700s and referred to a small chicken, called poussin in France possibly originating from the phase ‘dispatch a cock’ meaning to kill the chicken.  Nowadays it refers to a method of preparing poultry by flattening and opening it out to shorten the cooking time.  I love spatchcock chickens because I can prepare and cook a whole roast for two in an hour. Placing a couple of sliced up onions under the chicken makes it particularly yummy.

On Mondays I sit next to Rahul from India. We swap stories about British/Australian and Indian festivals and traditions.  His last query was ‘Why eggs and chickens at Easter?”  We had an interesting conversation about the merging of ancient pagan rituals with Christian celebrations and my anthropology background came in very handy. Sometimes our discussions become quite lively and Sam chips in to try and wind me up further! 

Anyway about poor old neglected St George.  Rahul asked me about St George’s day so I was trying to remember back to my Girl Guide and Brownie days when we had to learn all about our country’s flag. Because the Union Jack is in the corner of it, we had to know how it was made up – the flags of St George, St Andrew of Scotland and St Patrick of Ireland. Wales is missing because it was part of England when the flag was designed.  Wikipedia says that strictly speaking, it should be called the Union flag and only called the Union Jack when flown from a boat – hmm – not many people know that! The rest of the Oz flag is made up with the Southern Cross star constellation and the Federation Star. The Southern Cross is the most recognisable constellation in the southern hemisphere, holding huge significance for the Aboriginal people and for navigation.  I can’t wait to spot it on my first night back in Australia. The Federation Star has seven points to represent Australia’s five states and two territories.

It is Anzac day today – one of the most important dates in the Australian calendar. It is marked by a public holiday – we don’t have Bank holidays – and memorial services / parades of ex- and serving armed service personnel. In my family we always baked Anzac biscuits and I have continued the tradition over here. 

The Australian War Memorial Web- site* offers this explanation of the history:

“When war broke out in 1914, Australia had been a federal commonwealth for only 13 years. The new national government was eager to establish its reputation among the nations of the world. In 1915 Australian and New Zealand soldiers formed part of the allied expedition that set out to capture the Gallipoli peninsula in order to open the Dardanelles to the allied navies. The ultimate objective was to capture Constantinople (now Istanbul in Turkey), the capital of the Ottoman Empire, an ally of Germany.

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated, after both sides had suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. Over 8,000 Australian soldiers had been killed. News of the landing on Gallipoli had made a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who had died in the war.
It is said that, because they stored well and contained no eggs (which were in short supply then), women back home baked them and sent them out to the troops.  Last night I made a batch and brought them into the Enquiry Unit today and, by special request, am now posting the recipe – enjoy!

Anzac Biscuits:
1 cup (100g) rolled oats
1 cup (150g) plain flour
¾ cup (70g) desiccated coconut
¾ cup (190g) sugar
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
½ cup (125g0 butter melted
2 tablespoons (60g) golden syrup

Pre- heat oven to 160o C. Combine oats, flour, coconut and sugar.  Dissolve the soda in the boiling water and add to melted butter and golden syrup.  Pour into the dry ingredients and mix well.  Place in teaspoonfuls on a greased baking tray, leaving lots of room for spreading. Bake for 15 minute or until golden brown.  Remove from tray while they are still warm or you will need a hammer and chisel!  Enjoy! 

Here is my experience in pictures of making my batch of Anzac biscuits yesterday morning
Preparation – that all went pretty much to plan!!

Oops, the recipe DID say to allow room for them to spread!!

No wonder they are all shapes, all sizes – just like the cheapy fruit in Sainsbury’s!

I was sooo excited to see on the news that Her Maj has re-opened the Cutty Sark today. After years of extensive refitting and, almost destroyed by a massive fire five years ago, it’s fantastic to see her back in all her glory.  I love that ship and I am really hoping that they have managed to keep the smell of tea in the hold.  There was a fascinating video that used to play on a loop in a corner of the hold depicting the very rare footage of sailors working the sails. They stood in a line on ropes high up the masts furling and unfurling heavy canvas sails in all weathers as the ship was tossed around on the huge waves. I would stand there for ages inhaling the aroma of tea, trying to imagine the lives of those sailors.  If I watched the film for too long I’d end up feeling quite queasy from the depiction of all that swaying around! 

The Cutty Sark began her life as a record breaking tea clipper, built for speed to transport tea to England as quickly as possible to retain its freshness.  She lost her speed advantage when the faster steam ships took over.  She was then deployed for several years to make the ‘wool run’ from Australia, continuing to break speed records on that long and dangerous journey. there you have the full circle this week’s UK / Oz connections and commemorations! 

...but  I need to end with another very important date to commemorate this week – tomorrow is my sister Jinny’s birthday in Blackwood Australia.  She edits an amazing prize-winning local paper called the Blackwood News.

When I read it I am transported back to the kitchen of her old ex-gold miner’s cottage drinking coffee and looking out over the bush ringing to the sounds of cockatoos squawking, and kookaburras laughing.  Happy Birthday JINNY!

Recipe  the PMWU Centenary Cookbook 2005, Lothian Books, Melbourne, Australia
Oz flag:
Union jack:
*Information re ANZACS -
Gallipoli campaign:
Cutty Sark opening:
Cutty Sark history:
Blackwood news:
Cutty Sark:
Spatchcock chicken:


Course Work Lamentations

Everyone is head down, flat out either studying for exams or writing course work.  I spent all yesterday trying to cull 700 words from my case study.  It had to be 3000 words with a 10% leeway which means you could do 2700 – 3300 words excluding title page, appendices and references.  I had already gone through it several times tightening up the language by cutting out any extraneous ands, buts, and adjectives.  By the end it felt like a right slash and burn job! If you submit too many words you get marked down and they stop reading when the word limit is reached.

This year I have discovered the joys of the reference tool on Microsoft Office. Prior to this I had laboriously entered each reference by hand, making sure it was in the acceptable format (American Psychological Association or APA) and always ending up with an adverse comment from the tutor marking the piece saying I still hadn’t done it quite right. If you have never had to do references, take it from me - it is totally boring...and as soon as you sit down to do your first essay make friends with the reference tool!
Here is an example of how a reference has to be entered in APA format:

Association of Chartered Physiotherapists in Women's Health. (2012). The Mitchell method of simple relaxation. Retrieved April 14, 2012, from The Association of Chatered Physiotherapists in Women's Health:

Beck, A. (1991). Cognitive therapy and the emotional disorders. London: Penguin.

Bruch, M. (1998). The UCL case formulation model: Clinical applications and procedures. In M. Bruch, & F. W. Bond, Beyond Diagnosis Case formulation Aproaches in CBT (pp. 19-41). Chchester, West Sssex, UK: John Wiley & Sons Limited.

Now it may look pretty straightforward but you have to get all the commas and full stops in the right places, space it perfectly then put all the bits in the right order, know what goes in italics and what doesn’t and then make sure the right lines are indented by the right amount and then double space it all – whew!
When I did my degree we used a different system called the Harvard Referencing System and so I found it a complete faff to have to change to a new system.

...anyway the joys of academia!!

I have also discovered some other wonderful things thanks to my resident IT consultant. If you include tables in your text the words are counted as part of the auto word count.  However if you convert the table to a pdf document and then take a screen shot, it becomes a picture and the individual words aren’t counted. I managed to lose 90 words with that little trick!

And then I have finally mastered the document ‘Styles’ tool so that my latest piece of work looks beautifully uniform with lovely titles and headings.  Now hopefully the tutor marking it will be suitably impressed!

So with all my usual angst this week getting the course work done, unfortunately our lovely three day  trip to Paris the week before Easter is a distant memory.

We had been invited to stay with our wonderful San Franciscan cousins who had rented a flat in St Sulpice.  We arrived to perfect Spring weather with no rain and blossoms everywhere.  We walked at least 10 miles each day, caught some great art exhibitions, engaged in lots of people watching, got to enjoy the totally wonderful architecture and ate the best croissants ever.  Being situated directly opposite the church, we were woken each morning to the sounds of the bells calling the faithful to prayer.  

My cousin told me of a fascinating place – the Shakespeare and Company bookshop situated on the left bank in Paris opposite the Notre Dame.

I can hardly believe that I have never come across it before.  I would have loved to have lolled around on one of the sofa’s tucked away in the corners indulging my love of reading but unfortunately it has become a victim of its own success – there was a steady stream of tourists doing exactly what I was doing – rubber necking in total fascination!

Dissertation Steps :  Flickr user chnrdu
Why does my head hurt so much? :

Thursday, 12 April 2012

How to be a good UK citizen

Our beloved Prime Minister David Cameron has recently announced changes to the Life in the UK citizen test. We have a wonderful eclectic mix of nationalities working in the Enquiry Unit.  They include foreigners (eg me - Australian / Irish), EU citizen like G from Greece, first generation UK born like H who has a Burmese father,  and those from families that can trace their English roots back for several generations.  We decided to test our knowledge of life in the UK by completing the test questions found on the official government site:

I am not sure how helpful it is to know

  • The exact year of women gained the right to divorce their husbands
  • That schools need to open 190 days per year
  • Children aged 13-16 cannot work for more than 12 hours per week
  • How many parliamentary constituencies there are in the UK  choice of 464, 564, 646,664
  • Which were the largest immigrant groups to the UK in the 1980s.

All of us are undergraduates, while others are studying at postgraduate level taking masters level courses or even doctorates.  We all failed miserably.  Then we discovered another more useful questionnaire entitled ‘The Real citizen questionnaire test’ and I was quite stunned to score 9/10.  Try it at:

We thought of a few more useful questions:

What is the most popular food for uni students living away from home?
a) Pot noodles
b) Whatever is on special offer at Lidl or Asda
c) Who cares about food when you have cigarettes and alcohol?
What is the best way to secure a bicycle at university?

a) Using at least three sturdy locks applied to frame and both wheels  attached to the nearest security guard

b) Armed with a full tool kit, remove all detachable bits before  doing (a) 
You will need a large wheelbarrow to transport them all around with you as you go from class to class
c) There is no best way – leave it at home and take the bus

When driving, someone flashes their lights at you. Does this mean
a) What the ***** did you do that for?!!**
b) Out the way I’m coming through?
c) Watch out for the hazard ahead?

How long does the average car suspension last for London residents cursed by speed cushions and speed bumps.
a) A year or two if you’re lucky
b) Depends how successful you are in forcing your way through first to get preference on the least bumpy route.
c) Don’t know.  I gave up and got a trail bike

What is an Oyster Card?
a) A seafood restaurant discount card
b) A fisherman’s ID
c) A handy tool to use when locked out of your flat or someone else’s

When planning a day out in London don’t forget to pack
a) All weather gear
b) Credit cards, cash
c) Your map and guide

Your phone rings.  It is your fourth unsolicited call that day from a call centre in India.  How do you respond?
a) I'm only the cleaner
b) I live in a 5th floor flat – it would be difficult to fit a conservatory
c) When they insist your computer requires attention, ask ‘What is a computer?’

...any more suggestions very welcome!

Life in UK graphic
UK citizens:

Monday, 2 April 2012

Happy Easter!

Easter Bunnies

I couldn't resist starting this blog with these wonderful photos from my last trip to West Sussex.  I was struck by the beauty and symmetry of the trees and despite a difference of only 5 minutes and 50 yards between pics the lighting changes so much.

 I have attended my last teaching day and my Enquiry Unit day before my Easter holidays.  We have four weeks break until we return for our last few weeks of teaching on our programme. I feel very ready for a bit of a break. Last Saturday was taken up with working on the uni Open Day.  I was a tour supervisor and worked with four other students showing visitors around the Mansion site.  It is always fun to listen to the visitors sharing their stories their aspirations, hopes and dreams.

Open Day

I can really feel for the parents who are having to say goodbye to their children now grown up and ready to flee the nest.  I remember when my two left home within a year of each other; the pain of an empty, quiet house was almost unbearable and I wandered around it in tears, realising that life would never be the same again.  I clung to my friends who were experiencing the same ‘empty nest syndrome’. We felt so torn. We wanted to celebrate our children’s achievements and their excitement of leaving home to start their grand adventures but were deeply grieving as we felt feelings of emptiness and redundant. I thought back to my own parents saying goodbye to me as I left home at 18 to live in a mad hippy household with seven fairly disreputable ‘friends’ back in the early 1970s.  I remembered Mum and Dad waving me off at the airport 6 years later as I left for Europe as a newly qualified nurse ready to start my grand OS (overseas) trip.  Since starting work aged 16, I had saved every spare penny to fund all by myself and felt so proud and independent.   

It is now 34 years later and my parents are still waiting for me to come home!  They never tried to stop me leaving and I always felt I had gone with their blessing.  They understood my need to explore the world – they had done the same thing when they spent two years here n 1951 -53. My father had recently graduated as a physicist and had won the opportunity to work in London. With two small children, they packed up and set sail on a decommissioned troop ship that took six weeks to travel from Melbourne to Southampton. Throughout our childhood Mum told us tales of that amazing journey via the Suez Canal to an England reeling from the effects of World War II with rationing still in force.  Letters to Oz took six weeks so they had to be very careful not to include alarming news which would cause undue worry for their parents.

It is only as a parent myself that I can fully appreciate just what amazing parents I was blessed with. A few years ago I asked my mother about how she felt as her six children all left home one after another.  She described the same pain I had experienced.  We had no idea and I believe that is how it should be.  I have tried to pass this legacy onto my own children who are wonderfully mature and independent young adults now building their own lives and families.  Isn’t it funny how life can go full circle?  My Jack is leaving London on the 10th April to live in Perth, Australia.  He is going with my blessing but I will miss him terribly, as will his sister! Thank Goddess for Skype!

… but now I am off to Paris for three days  with my new husband – that still sounds very weird! - and then to Aldeburgh in Suffolk for another four days with his family – my new official in laws!

...but no rest (or not enough in my case!) for the wicked as my Mum would say!  I have to catch up on my college work ready for the last push when we return to uni at the end of April.  This week I was shocked to discover another bit of work to submit in May that I had not clocked at all.  That is a warning for me to get myself properly organised with a timetable and schedule to get all my work finished in time.  I will need to heed all the advice from the research I did for the last blog!

The goddess Ostara (1884) by Johannes Gehrts 
 So there is just time for me to wish all my readers a very Happy Easter.  Did you know the word Easter comes from an old English word Eostre or Eastre which in turn descends from the old German word Ostara , the name of a pagan goddess. Pagan celebrations were held in April in her honour and the modern traditions of rabbits, hares and eggs at Easter time descend from these ancient Spring rites.