My beautiful picture

And again. At the last minute our meeting was struck by covid. Not an outdoor visit, but our first indoor meeting of the season. So we have a new plan: we will not cancel. We will overcome. Fortunately we had our new chairman to reprise his previous presentation on Bees. He only had about a day to prepare, but he played a blinder. His talk was a little shorter than the usual, but members stepped up to the plate and made up the time putting the world to rights.

Having had our AGM, I have to say it has made me think about things that perhaps I should have thought about sooner. I’m sure that our club is no different to many in that getting people to serve on the committee is something of a fight. We all wonder what we are letting ourselves in for. The actuality is never as bad as the anticipated. Having been chair (person), I graduated to secretary with the idea that it would prevent me from becoming anything more onerous.

And so it has been for some years. And then I began to wonder. I gradually began to see myself as a permanent fixture. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t have a problem carrying on, but I began to become mindful that others might have become frustrated with being stuck with the same old face. Perhaps others felt that I was becoming a permanent fixture and that a fresh approach might be long overdue.

Then I thought that perhaps others did not think this. But then I did, and really thought I had to let someone else have the opportunity to give the job a fresh look. To my surprise and even more delight there seemed to be someone willing to take over. Did I perceive in myself, or perhaps in others, expressions of relief? Best not to dwell.

If my gardening prowess is in question my culinary expertise follows a distant second. But we are approaching frugal times. I was born just after the war into a mindset that to throw food away was bordering on sin. I still think this! Sorry guys, but if you are throwing away food, you can’t be hungry! Do we throw away food? Well OK, yes, but it’s only when we have been stupid and not taken more care to keep track of what we have stored. Sell by dates are often noticed, but then the item is checked with the old niffer, and if it passes the test, used. We don’t throw away dirty containers. ‘Empty’ pickle jars are rinsed out with a little vinegar and used as salad dressing. This can be continued: mayonnaise, salad cream, even jams can be used. It’s important that there is always a little left in the bottom of the jar waiting for the next supplement. After a very short period you can be confident that you are using a condiment that no one else on the planet is consuming.

Cooking: I do have a recipe that goes back a bit, as you may discern from the ingredients. I could amend them, but being an old curmudgeon I prefer to leave them in the original. Some people have told me that this kind of cake is nothing new, in which case I apologise. The great thing about this cake is that containing no flour it is good if you are on a diet.

Almond Gateau

Egg yolks – 8. Egg whites – 8. Eggs – 1. Caster sugar 9 oz. Ground almonds – 9 oz. Dry biscuit crumbs – 2 table spoons. Vanilla extract – a few drops.

Eggs – 2. Butter – 7 oz.  Icing sugar – 7 oz. Ground almonds – 3½ oz.


First: In a bowl, beat the 8 egg whites until stiff.

Second: (that way you don’t have to clean the whisk) In another bowel, beat well together, 8 egg yolks, one egg and 9 oz. caster sugar.

Add 9 oz. ground almonds to the yolk mix and beat together well.

Gently combine the two mixtures. (The beaten whites will slide easily into the yolks rather than the other way around). 

Finally, add the dry biscuits and vanilla extract.

Pour half the mixture into an 8-inch greased baking tin.

Add the chocolate to the remaining mixture.

Pour the chocolate mixture into a second 8-inch greased baking tin.

Bake both at 1800c until cooked, approximately half an hour. Allow to cool.


Beat well together 2 eggs, 7 oz. icing sugar, 7 oz. butter.

Add 31/2 oz. of ground almonds and beat together well.


When cold, carefully cut each cake through to make four equal rounds.
Starting with the white layer, fill between each round alternately.
Coat the top and sides with filling.
Finally, sprinkle top and sides with ground almonds.
Keep in the fridge before using and then store in fridge. Do not keep too long.

While walking our dog the other day I happened to bump into a schoolgirl. What do you talk about to a schoolgirl? “What are you doing at school?” Glum face, “Trigonometry!” came the answer. “I don’t see the point, I’ll never need it.”

It was during one of my ‘in-between jobs’ periods, a term that in no way describes the bleak reality of your situation, when out of desperation I took a temporary contracting job in a factory in Mildenhall. I cracked on and when the contract expired the firm took me on permanently. One of the jobs on the floor was destined for the States. When it was delivered a team had to go with it to oversee the installation and commissioning. $40 dollars a day expenses and a car between two – on top of our wages. Not too bad for 1986.

As we were working 12 on 12 off, 7 days a week, double bubble at weekends, we were coining it in. Labour Day weekend: American union law would not allow us to work. What to do? You do what the locals do; you take the Chevy to the levee and head for Niagara. Crossing the border into Canada, without doubt the best side from which to see it, the bloke at the border did not often have Brits through his patch and was a bit bemused. “Listen chum, our Queen owns your country, so let us in and be quick about it,” was what we contemplated saying, but then happened to notice he was packing heat, so instead opted for, “Thank you sir, have a nice day – sir”.

Later on in the posting we did a similar thing, this time with the good lady. Flight to Las Vegas and then Drive to The Grand Canyon. But unlike the tourists: off bus, look down, back on bus, we were there three nights. That gave us time to walk down – but only the recommended one-day, halfway option.

Back to Las Vegas, played the wheel ($5.00. Well you have to), turned out to be a fish, then back to the grind. And all paid for by savings from the $40 dollars a day.

By now the traumatised child could only cling to her mother for protection.

The point of the story is, that I would never have got the job in the first place had I not remembered that: Tom’s Old Aunt/Sat On Her/Coat And Hat.

Edward Szczepanowski.