No, it wasn’t “By appointment” but I did introduce our on-line demonstration to Her Royal Highness The Countess of Wessex. The video of our butternut squash soup, ginger cake and a copy of my book were all presented to her during the Royal visit marking the Open Sight centenary year. Having lost my sight due to serving in the Royal Navy, it was an extra special opportunity to thank The Countess as Royal patron of Blind Veterans UK.
Regular Farnborough College student viewers had requested the session’s two incredibly simple recipes. Just sauté the vegetables, simmer in a good stock and blend to make the excellent soup. Melt butter, syrup and sugar, stir in the other ingredients, pour the sloppy batter into a loaf tin and bake the ginger cake. One of the regulars even shared his own sugar-free, gluten-free recipe. If these blind cooks can do it, so can you!
Our ever patient and enthusiastic flower arranging tutor, Liz, has just called it a day. She’s shared her extraordinary knowledge, skill and artistry with the weekly class for at least 20 years. It isn’t often that you find someone who can conjure up a stunning flower design with bits of intriguing rusty metal, twigs, the odd bloom and a few leaves. Liz has constantly inspired us with designs drawn from previous centuries and modern art, from Europe, Japan and further afield, and her own wild imagination. We have learned the key techniques, how to get the best from our supermarket bunches and whatever is surviving in our gardens. She scoured the oddest places for materials that give a different dimension. Who else would have thought of flower arranging in a plastic goldfish bowl – but it works.
My own seasonal creation is a large Verdi gris metal urn heaped with gilded faux fruit. Dead easy to stuff in the bunches of grapes, pineapples, pomegranates and more, interspersed with wriggly willow and topped with a flickering candle. (the candle is faux too as safer when one can’t see).
I started these classes all those decades ago when I was working at full pelt. Using my hands, being creative, concentrating on something without a screen has kept my sanity, given the brain cells a rest and (nearly) grown a new skill.
Meanwhile, the sous-chef has been catching up fast. His festive contribution is a Christmas wreath for the front door: red berries and apples nestling amongst sprays of fir with the tiniest hint of gold.
If you are entertaining at Christmas, catch something different with my unusual smoked salmon recipe to serve with drinks: free demo 1030 on Monday 12 December.