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Essentially England News - It all Looks so Different!
August 06, 2016

It all Looks so Different!

One of my favourite London memories involves a late flight and a route that had the pilot follow the River Thames towards Heathrow. All the bridges were lit up, St. Paul's Cathedral stood like a white beacon, the streets were ribbons of light between patches of darkness and to make it extra special fireworks popped in starbursts all over the city to mark Guy Fawkes Day.

It was a spectacular sight and I've always wanted to do that again, see London from the air with maybe a little more leisure to take photos and look from side to side, which is a little difficult to do on a busy flight.

Well, last month, it happened. It could have been a bit of a gamble, seeing how we had every kind of weather bar snow during July, but the day turned out perfect for sightseeing. Warm and bright and a bit windy with the only drawback the traffic jam on the M25. Despite the mess we got to Redhill Aerodrome in good time and the helicopter wasn't late either.

I could go on for hours about the way London looks from above. Sights you're used to seeing at ground level look very different from a few hundred feet up. Clapham Junction railway station, Britain's busiest junction, is pretty crazy at ground level - especially at rush hour. From the air, it's just…amazing. Here's a small selection of my haul of photos. Clockwise from top left: St. Paul's Cathedral, The Royal Courts of Justice, The Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Tower Bridge and the Shard.

London from the air ©

Fortunately, our pilot was a born tour guide. He made sure we didn't miss a thing and while he does the trip many times each week, and has done for a few years, he was quite adamant that seeing London like this never gets old.

I entirely agree with him.

If you'd love to see London from the air, I highly recommend a trip in a helicopter. You can check out a selection of different trips here. My trip was a birthday gift and I couldn't have asked for anything better designed to paint a huge smile on my face.

950 Years Ago...

Harold was crowned king of England on the 6th January 1066. By August 12th, William of Normandy had decided to invade England, petitioned the pope, dedicated his young daughter to a nunnery, raised a sizable army and built a fleet of ships at Saint-Valery-sur-Somme. Clearly, the man didn't dawdle. And in truth, if he wanted to wrest the English crown from Harold he couldn't take half measures. After all, England wasn't just next door. It lay on the other side of the channel and that wide ribbon of water would make it difficult for William's army to to obtain supplies and help if they needed it.

A chronicler claims that William had 726 ships, but we have no absolute proof of that. We do know that the army and fleet were ready by early August. At that point, the English army was diligently guarding the coast. So when the wind blew from the north and prevented William from launching his fleet, he may not have minded so much. In the end, his ships didn't leave Normandy until later in September.

And if you take a look at the rather marvelous video towards the bottom of this page, you will know for sure that seasickness pills were not available to William's army. :-)

Crumble Cake

It's National Afternoon Tea Week next week. I have no idea who comes up with those things, but I'm not arguing. In our house, there's always time for tea and every now and then I might even have a slice of something nice with it. I don't have the sweetest tooth, which is why this cake works so well for me. It's an adaptable cake. Over the years, I've made it with a variety of fruit depending on the time of year. Plums, rhubarb, apple, or a berry mix all work well - as long as the fruit has a bit of tartness to it. It's also quick to put together, so it makes a great standby if you're faced with unexpected guests.

This recipe fills an 8in loose-bottomed cake tin. I'm trying to translate my usual grams into US cup measures, but I'm not entirely sure about these. If you have scales, please use the grams. I can assure you they work.

You will need:

  • 100g (3/5 cup) polenta, semolina or medium-ground cornmeal
  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) self- raising flour
  • 160g (0.7 cups) caster sugar
  • 160g (0.7 cups or 1.4 sticks) unsalted butter
  • 1 large egg
  • grated rind and juice of one lemon
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of cornmeal/polenta and 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 250g (2 1/2 cups) fruit of your choice.

How to Make:

Preheat the oven to 180°C / gas 4 / 350°F.

Blitz polenta, butter, sugar, lemon zest and salt in a food processor until your mixture resembles fine crumbs. Add beaten egg and lemon juice and process until just combined. The mix will form a large ball or lump.

Use two thirds of your dough to line your greased cake tin. Sprinkle the polenta or cornmeal over the dough and then spread out your chosen fruit. Sprinkle the sugar over your fruit and then crumble the remaining cake mix over the top.

Bake in the oven for 45 mins - 1 hour. I find that the juicier the fruit is, the longer the cake takes. Start checking after 40mins and lightly cover with greaseproof paper if the top gets too dark before the cake is done. It's meant to be golden brown and skewer inserted into the dough should come out clean.

And Next Month …

Next month… well, we'll see. We're hoping for a few nice weekends to go exploring. There's a palace not too far away that has hosted Elizabeth I, Charles I and James I and is only open for a couple of months a year... so that's on the list. Meanwhile, please keep well, and I'll be back next month!

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