“ I don’t often buy carrot cake…” a review of Severn Droog Castle Cakes, SE18

A vast array of waiting cakes at Severn Drood Castle

Severndroog is something of a hidden gem, hosting cultural Shakespeare or opera in better times – some of which has moved online, and Is next to Oxleas Woods which has been one of our regular exercise routes. For weeks now we’ve been marching up to the gates and sighing about the absence of cake, even though most weekends we’d decided to skip the calories, and then we’d march on quick before anyone could confuse our wistfulness of being a surreptious sunbathe. (Not that wistfulness was in the list of essential activity any more than sunbathing).

I don’t often buy carrot cake. I usually look at it on the counter and frown, and say “I’ll sample that sometime”. But my husband chose the apple and blackberry cake, and I’m often disappointed by Victoria Sponge. So this was an exception.

We arrived ten minutes before opening to find an informal queue. Many people sitting on logs, or pretending to photo the turrets, but looking just a little bit edgy if you got closer to the gate than they did. In the end I broke the ice, and asked if they were about to join the queue lines. It turned out that every ‘casual looking’ passer by was eyeing up the queue lines. We were so English. We filed ourselves politely into a line according to arrival time as far as we worked out. This was my first experience of queue markers as I have studiously been avoiding shops since the whole isolation world began. I would review the queue system for you, but I am the least experienced in the skill now.

Sadly I made the mistake, despite my recent COVID negative test, of forgetting that I don’t feel hugely comfortable sharing cake with my husband right now in case I passed on whatever it was that I did have – regardless of my very paranoid approach to distancing. Otherwise I would have had the apple cake too. However my spicy, properly cream cheese icing (none of this supermarket so-called cream cheese icing none sense) was delicious… and rather filling despite being initially a little disappointed at the slice sizes.

All of the queues were to be found on the benches that overlooked the rose gardens, in our bizarre paranoid isolated groups, partially acknowledging the irony of the situation, and causing much mirth in passers-by. But I suspect they headed straight to the castle as they passed…

Yay I needed to move to Tunbridge Wells

There has been an odd entwining of my writing side and my slightly out of step side… the extra time in the day without the commute, the extra worry… I am turning into ‘disgusted from Tunbridge Wells’

Maybe not disgusted, maybe concerned. 

Or disturbed

Or just bored

I’ve been tweeting my concerns at everyone, regardless of who’s listening. @theguardian, did you realise that by saying NHS staff th,,,

@GrantaBooks you’re advertising 99p books that are coming through Amazon as £7

@GreenwichCouncil The bins, the bins Esmerelda!

@IPCC how come there are photos of the police shoulder to shoulder?

I don’t think that in these instances  I am any more annoyed than I might normally be. It’s just that my previous, “I should mention that,” would have got lost in the daily commute, in the daily franticness., (I have a different standard for missing deliveries that does involve fury, and fury is not the purpose of the blog, so I shan’t tell you here.)

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Wouldn’t want to end up in A&E with indigestion right now – More tales from lockdown SE3

There’s a standing joke in my family that involves an in law, two freezers that are large enough for my very tall husband to stand in, and the bungees used to hold them closed. The joke mostly involves eye rolling with the phrase, “working down the freezer” with a hint of “like that’s really gonna happen…”

Well, I’d say supermarket evasion techniques bring on the best time to set the example for said in-laws and I’ve started to empty my own freezer.  But the reality has proved distressing.  Many labels had fallen off my frozen meals, worse – some revealed old labels with more tasty delights indicated, such as chicken curry (I make a mega chicken curry) that actually turned out to be red bean paste from a vegetarian phase. Seeing as I have two very distinct memories of indigestion from kidney beans, I binned this dish straight away. Wouldn’t want to end up in A&E with indigestion right now.

Some beans are welcome. For me, slow cooked baked beans (with whiskey, bacon, rosemary, whatever’s lying about really) are a weekly staple, eaten with eggs they are bizarrely-head-scratchingly affordable. At least they were until this crisis and every supermarket in the world seems to have run short of borlotti beans. To these nouveau-borlotti- purchasers, i ask, are you actually eating them, or turning them into necklaces with your kids? Undeterred, I ventured into online bean sellers and ordered a wonderful brown packet of wholesome looking beans. I was thrilled, looking out for the postman every day, who’d give me shifty ‘don’t come near me’ looks over her face mask. Then I did the math (bean counter, see?) and discovered my wholesome cheap eat was four times the price of its normal level. 

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Crisis exposes evidence for existence of sock monster – More Tales from Lockdown SE3

I’m not a big shopper but COVID-19 caught me in the middle of a wardrobe refresh bought on by too many cakes (I am a food blogger on the side) and early spring days. You know the sort of thing, along the lines of, ‘this is a good top that still fits but the trousers are too small’ and ‘hmm.. what it’s the ultimate colour for a neutral work skirt in a capsule wardrobe.’? 

Then there is the quandary of weighing up ‘keeping people in jobs’ versus, ‘are their employers really enabling social distancing;’ and ‘what about if they’re just plain scared to come into work?’ My asthmatic retail based husband has been furloughed, and we’re kind of well, is this good or bad? Will there even be a job even to go back to?

As with the rest of the world, it quickly struck me that outfits are utterly useless if I can only wear them shopping. Not that I plan living in my pyjamas, I assure you. And then it double struck me, that while it might be nice to save some money by reigning in the spending on clothes, how much will that little hit of joy on the arrival of a purely trivial parcel help with my mental health as we venture less and less outdoors?

Well, I’ve found the reason to keep that hit of joy coming… it’s because of my recent sock monster discovery. I’ll admit, there has been much debate about the existence of a sock monster, but my conversion over the social distancing period to trouser only outfits has proved beyond doubt that there is sock monster. There is no other way that I can have run out of matching socks in just two days. 

I have not actually achieved photographic evidence of the sock monster as yet, nothing as revealing as those lochness monster photos at any rate. However it’s available hiding places are diminishing with the conversion of the house into an isolation survival unit – in other words, almost all boxes have been opened and checked for their present usefulness (300 sachets of clipper hot chocolate anyone? Long story). Currently there might still be a couple of untouched saucepans in the back of one of the cupboards and I can only assume that the sock monster is slinking between them. I’d call pest control, but y’know, #socialdistancing.

Is that the sock monster’s tale by the pipe at the back there?

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

How to share the kitchen, I mean the office… more Tales from Lockdown SE3

There’s one sort of house layout needed for everyday life; there’s another sort of layout needed for world domination (google ‘piranhas’… see!) and there’s a special sort of layout for lockdown. I know I’m not the only one, as I sit here professionally at a full excel screen, with a dining table full of condiments, seedlings and last night’s beer bottles behind me.

  1. Very important.. the decontamination corner, including gloves on daily rotation and delivery items for a couple of days. Made a little larger by my husband’s decision to spend his free time fixing things on the car that I had no idea were broken and hence containing engine parts (he insists they are not engine parts, but what else is a car made of, other than the doors?)
  2. Stretches space. Until recently, some were limited to one, that’s just one outside visit for exercise. In fact, even though I enjoy my exercise and have been stressing about how long we will keep this right, it is hard to pretend that “You are only allowed to exercise once a day,” will upset too many people (reverse psychology perhaps?). In reality I think adding afternoon stretches will probably pay off. As most Londoners will know a space enough for a single Pilates map is an unlikely investment. We shoved the dining table to one side, know that we’d be having no dinner guests for some while. 
  3. Webcam central. The sofa now sits in front of the desk to allow socialising on the sofa as opposed other work chair. Yes. I know. This desk-sofa invention is unprecedented outside the fantasy world of fancy furniture ads. 
  4. The evidence that we are failing to abide by the ‘can we please try and all use one mug each a day’ request corner….
Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees

Just to let you know, you can watch me discussing my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” with fellow author Awais Khan, here:


Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

The Kindle edition of “Helen and the Grandbees” is currently only £4.16 and you can pre-order “Helen and the Grandbees” here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morrall&ref=nb_sb_noss_2

Afternoon naps and showers – further tales from lockdown

I’m still cycling to work. And then coming straight back home afterwards, which I appreciate some might find bizarre. Surely the only positive to come out of this is the freedom from the commute, I hear you say. Well.. you try having the imagination to find an alternative route of comparable emptiness.

And most significantly, this stubborn habit ensures, umm, general hygiene.

Bear with me…. Normally I cycle to work and shower when I get in. In fact, there is a bit of an over-watered scenario going on here, because then I also shower or bath when I get back home and this latter part features quite a bit of lounging, as I find that the muscles (worked harder on the final 17th mile for being uphill) are waaaay happier if they get warmed up in the bath the same time. There might be Ally McBeal playing on the ipad, but I’m kind of embarrassed by that -so don’t tell anyone (I fast forward the daft songs).

But now that I don’t have to leave the house to shower… how do I remember to shower? There is ‘when i get dressed’ which I’m sure most people would consider normal, but without my bike ride, I think of getting dressed about half way after I have decided it is a really good idea to clean the kitchen and audit the contents of every cupboard, before realising I only have about five minutes left to log into work.

And onto that topic of work. I have a lunch hour. A whole hour. Does it really take an hour to have lunch? No it does not. That’s why a sensible worker will take a stroll around the block – at a minimum. Not really an option anymore. So, here’s a thought, how about a speedy snack… followed by a 2pm 40min snooze? I have often been heard in the office complaining that hammocks have not been provided as I believe they are in Google (well, sleep pods). Of course I will not be indulging this idea, largely because I believe my colleagues are reading this. But maybe YOU should…


Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Monday’s a rubbish day for a takeaway – A review of Sisimi Taste of Goodness SE3/SE13

Monday’s a rubbish day for a takeaway. Everyone’s closed. Monday worked against me in the olden (actually visit the restaurant) days too. Because no on wants to eat well on a Monday. (Although neither do they always want to cook) Copper and Ink, I’’m talking to you. 

We had reasons for this particular Monday needing to be special. So browsing through the three main delivery options revealed fewer than normal options – but at least made us look outside the usual one mile circle. Peckham seemed too far to trust delivery would arrive hot, so that knocked off a couple of appealing options. 

What jumped out was Nigerian food at Sisimi Taste of Goodness

The listings of food definitions, also intrigued, as did an incomplete but very well photographed and written up website. Then we saw the location. Boone Street on the. Lewisham/Blackheath border , and that really left us scratching our heads, as we’d never seen an open shop in Boone Street. In fact, they say themselves, that they are not a restaurant. 

Ordering is simple in that most of the meals appear to be one pots, you don’t have to add sides. As an upside this was also a downside… we kept looking sadly at the two line order as the Uber Driver wended his way towards us, thinking, have I really sampled enough of such an interesting menu in just two items, and… the menu said I would get yam or plantain… what if the worst happens and there’s no plantain when it arrives?

(Coleslaw was actually home made and by myself

There was no need for concern. Our two line order spread over two days, and featured both plantain and much, “I really have to stop eating now”ness. I had chicken Wale, and my husband had pork belly Morolake – both arrived with copious amounts of jollof rice, and he shared his plantain and hot sauce. Along with two beers from Partizan, this was one of those, mutter all evening ‘hm I really enjoyed that meal’ sort of places. 

So, wherever on Boone Street this particular magic is emanating from, I like to think it’s the emergence of a new Michelin Triangle

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

 Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

Grocery Swapping Tales #socialdistancing in #SE3

Groceries are the new entertainment around here (health conditions in this household are making us extra cautious) So hard to come by, they really highlight the month when they do arrive leading to an afternoon of hard-scrubbing of packaging. And what a fest of unanticipated items. Firstly, what on earth is this, offered in lieu of chicken soup?

I have never seen it before, and I really do hesitate to open it. Those lumps. What if they are actually Coronavirus eggs? Is that a thing? It sounds like you might see in a BBC listing, stamped with ‘No Evidence’ which without the presumption of innocence, also does not mean, ‘No Evidence to the Contrary’.

If you know this item to be delicious, please tell me and that may get me over my resistance, or at least persuade my husband to open it when I’m not looking and mash it into a lasagne or something. (That’s how parents sneak veg at their children right?)

For the first time ever I have had delivery swaps on alcohol free wine and beer. Now, I know what’s going on here. Everyone’s realised we can’t drink our way out of lockdown. Social freedom is not at the bottom of the bottle etc, etc and so they are trying to trick themselves out of alcohol by buying the alcohol fee. They’re being ripped off, I’ll have you know. You’re paying no alcohol duty. Shall i tell you who does large deliveries of alchool free. Shall I..? Or shall I keep them to myself (and people who may medically need them. )?.. wouldn’t want to accidentally facilitate hundreds of people to fall of the wagon due to a lack of good alternatives… oh okay… drydrinker.co.uk

Failing that, get someone in the house to mash up the wine and disguise it as water.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? I wonder what Amazon might swap that with. A beehive, perhaps? Or a whole Helen – sporting a beehive? https://www.amazon.co.uk/s?k=Alex+morall&ref=nb_sb_noss

Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall

“Empanada for Breakfast Anyone?” A review of L’Oculto’s takeaway

On my third date with my husband, we went for tapas. We both read the menu and then put them aside both with an expression of uncertainty. It was my then new boyfriend who was going to broach it first. “We could just order everything except the croquettes.”

I agreed immediately. And apparently that’s when he decided we were going to get along. 

(These little, ‘I like you because…’ asides did go a little awry on rock climbing (date2). He said he would only want to date a girl who would be happy going rock climbing. I only went cos I fancied him and then had to be rescued from the top of a fake rock. But hey, we still seemed to end up married. )

And tapas was what we thought we were ordering from L’Oculto for takeaway. We were wrong. There was too much. These dishes, empanadas and pies were enormous. It has to be said every dish was brilliant. The rabbit meat balls were phenomenal. 

Their cheesecake is famous. I have to say, I suspect that the cheesecake is marmite (as in not literally yeast extract flavoured… yeah, anyway.. you get me). It actually tastes of strong cheese. If you’re a regular reader, you’ll know my feelings on overly-sweet cheesecake (here http://blackheath.london/copper-and-ink/i-found-good-cheescake-a-review-of-copper-ink-se3/ at Copper and Ink, and here at Champagne & Fromage http://blackheath.london/greenwich/champagne-and-fromage/first-name-terms-with-a-champagne-named-colin/)  however, I think I may be undone because this was considerably less sweet then the starter of tosta celina. What I did think was perfectly flavoured was the chocolate cake, another delicacy that I am particularly picky about and hardly ever order. Here I trusted them.

Cheesecake more cheesy than Gorgonzola

A note on the hygiene – what was visible was impeccable, separate plastic gloves for each transaction, and alcohol rub on the side. 

However, I appear to have aged. Back in the olden days, that romantic evening in MK when the waitress laughed at us… i did finish everything on my place. Tonight, nope. I have a waist line to consider. Empanada for breakfast anyone? (That’s rhetorical, food is scarce these days.)

L’Oculto has moved to Brockley which threw me a little after ordering. Probably been there a while, but I have a lot of eating to get through on your behalf. So, depending which side of Blackheath you live, you might decide it’s a little too far to justify during social distancing. When all this is over, I’ll be moving in with them. 

Click on the “Date night” blog for a link for takeaway and wine menus to L’Oculto.

Have you pre-ordered my novel “Helen and the Grandbees” yet? Don’t wait for publication date… there might be a run on books by then!



Helen and the Grandbees by Alex Morrall