Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Lighthouses and Literature

There’s something exciting about lighthouses. Withstanding the gales and the force of the seas they are a thrilling reminder of the lonely existence of the Keepers who used to be marooned there for weeks on end.
They are also an excellent setting for novels and Alison Moore has recently published hers – simply called “The Lighthouse.” I look forward to reading that as I read Jeanette Winterson’s novel “LighthouseKeeping"  a strange story of orphan Silver, adopted by Mr Pew the blind lighthouse keeper at Cape Wrath in Sutherland; Britain’s most north-westerly point. 

The Weathervane on Teignmouth Lighthouse.
In contrast to the wild rocks of that coast, Devon's danger comes from hidden currents and shifting sands.  At the point where the river Teign meets the open sea this causes many problems even for experienced pilots. The lighthouse there stands on Teignmouth promenade and is only 6 metres high with a simple weathervane on the top.   

Further south still and many miles from Cape Wrath is the Combiere lighthouse on the western tip of Jersey where it has stood tall since 1874.  It is 19 metres high with the lamp 36 metres to be seen above high water spring tides, warning ships away from the treacherous shore there.  How often I’ve walked across to it at low tide; admiring the great face that has formed on the stark rocks; passing signs recording the number of people drowned by ignoring the times of the tide.  I’ve also sailed behind it, appreciating the full splendour of that rocky coast line.
The island’s prison is in the same vicinity, a bleak place indeed.

I believe Jeanette Winterson also has a collection of short stories based on lighthouses and if anybody knows the title I’d be pleased to hear it.

Friday, 15 February 2013


Over the years I’ve used many recipes, but my favourite is an old one passed down through the family.
It doesn’t have an official date but it obviously belongs to the 1940s.
Lemon Curd is to be made in a double pan (which has also been passed down and is still intact)

2 Lemons
2 Tablespoonfuls of dried egg or 2 whole eggs.
8oz Sugar
3 oz Margarine.

Put margarine into a double pan.
Grate lemon peel finely on to the sugar. Squeeze juice from lemons.
Add these to margarine and allow all to dissolve.
Reconstitute the dried eggs (or beat whole eggs) and add,
stirring all the time until it thickens.
Pour into jars.

I often follow these instructions and the result is the best lemon curd I’ve ever tasted.

Thursday, 7 February 2013


This evocative little poem was written by my cousin, Rosy Machin -
a wonderful octogenarian, still writing and painting as she’s done all her life.

I waited
Under a threatening sky
In Churchill Square.
But you weren't there.
A pigeon with pink feet
Tottered across the street.
He didn’t care.
Another one passed by
"Why?" he said "Why?"