Monday, 25 October 2010

I was a listener in the woods,
I was a gazer at the stars,
I was not blind where secrets were concerned,
I was silent in a wilderness,
I was talkative among many,  
I was mild in the mead-hall,
I was stern in battle,
I was gentle towards allies,
I was a physican of the sick,
I was weak towards the feeble, 
I was strong towards the powerful,
I was not parsimonious lest I be burdensome,
I was not arrogant though I was wise, 
I was not given to vain promises though I was strong, 
I was not unsafe though I was swift, 
I did not deride the old though I was young,  
I was not boastful though I was a good fighter, 
I would not speak about any one in their absence,
I would not reproach, but I would praise,
I would not ask, but I would give.

Cormac Mac Cuileannain, King and Poet of Cashel, AD 836-908

(As translated by Peter Berresford Ellis. From "The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends.")

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Cheddar Pennies


  1. 50g/2oz/4 tbsp butter
  2. 115g/4oz/1 cup Cheddar cheese, grated
  3. 40g/1 1/2oz/1/3 cup plain flour
  4. Pinch of salt
  5. Pinch of chili powder

  • With an electric mixer, cream the butter until soft.
  • Stir in  the cheese, flour, salt and chilli. Gather to form a dough.
  • Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Shape into a cylinder about 3cm in diameter. Wrap in greaseproof paper and chill for 1-2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 180/350/Gas 4. Grease 1-2 baking sheets.
  • Cut the dough into 5mm thick slices and place on the prepared baking sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes, until golden. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

I've only made these once, but they are quite tasty, especially with pre-dinner drinks.

Gingerbread Cookie recipe.

  • 175g/6oz/1 1/2 cups plain flour
  • 1.5ml/1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • Pinch of salt
  • 5ml/ 1 tsp ground cinnamon*
  • 65g/2 1/2oz unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 75g/3oz/1/3 cup caster sugar
  • 30ml/2 tbsp maple or golden syrup
  • 1 egg yolk, beaten
*=I used ground ginger, instead of cinnamon, but you could use either.


  1. Sift together the flour, bicarb of soda, salt and spices. Rub the butter into the flour in a large bowl until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar, syrup and egg yolk, and mix to a firm dough. Knead lightly. *Wrap in clear film and chill for 30 minutes before shaping.*
  2. Preheat the oven to 180oC/350oF/Gas 4. Grease a large baking sheet. Cut the ginger bread roll into thin slices and place them, slightly apart, on the prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until just beginning to colour round edges. Leave on the baking sheet for 3 minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
*=Chilling is optional. I didn't do so, but, after how badly the second batch turned out, I might start.

I've made these about two times now. The first time, they came out beautifully. The second time...well, I'm not entirely sure what exactly went wrong, but they didn't turn out quite so nicely.

They do look good, when done properly, however! All home made and cracked on top. And they're tasty, to boot.

Drawings and paintings

Just a few examples of art from the last couple of years. Two examples of fan art and the other four are original pieces.

I'm not, however, that keen an artist, so this is likely to be the only art post I do.

Stormy Skies (Unfinished)

He knew nothing of soaring through the endless sky, nothing of the joys and delights of finding a mate. He knew only the boring life of a display bird at a falconry center. Every day he was chained to a perch for the public to gaze at, and sometimes used to chase dead chicks being swung though the air on bits of string. He never questioned it, however, never wondered if there was anything out beyond his cage. Every night he would sleep and then repeat the whole performance again the next day. He had no word for bored, even though he often felt so.

He was the biggest of the hunting birds, bigger even then the eagle owl whom was often perched near him. A proud bird, the owl, and one whom he couldn't stand. Indeed, he held the others with the same disrespect. The Cara-caras, whom he could not understand, the various hawks, falcons and even the other eagles. None of them, he felt, were worthy of his time.

But there was one. A young female of his species. Bigger than he, as was the norm amongst raptors, she had a calm, collected air to her. As she shared the cage with him, they would often sleep side by side.
In fact, it was she who started him wondering if there was something else out there, beyond the center that they called home.
It was her custom to have a wash in the morning, and then for them to enjoy in a bit of mutal preening. This time, however, she merely stared out through the wire, taking no notice of his beak running through her glossy, golden tinted neck feathers.

"What is the matter?" He wanted to know, annoyed at being ignored.

She didn't answer for a while, continuing to stare, a far away look in her dark orange eyes, then, at last, she shook herself and turned to face him.

"Do you think there's anything out there?"

The unexpected question took him by surprise. "W-What?"

Waving one wing, she repeated: "Do you think there's anything out there? Beyond these boxes? I've seen sparrows whom aren't contained, flitting about in the bushes and it makes me wonder."

Looking at her, he could see the lively spark almost dancing in her eyes. Then, turning his own head, he too, gazed out upon the paths and neatly clipped hedges, before turning back to her, seeming troubled.

"If there is, what is it to us? Nothing, that's what."

Her eyes almost seemed to sear right into his soul. "In other words, you don't care, do you?" It didn't sound like a question however, more a statement. A plain and simple fact.

He was confused, but, at the same time a little angry. "Maybe I don't. What are you saying?"

"I'm saying that there could be something else out there that's a lot better than what we're offered in this place. Think about that, Skeet."

Skeet turned towards the bowl of water that had just been put down by their keeper, shaking his head as he did so.

“Believe what you want to, Skaforn. But I think you are sadly mistaken. There is nothing out there, and if there was, what would we do with it? Where would we go? How would we survive?”

Skaforn didn’t answer, but, deep down, she knew Skeet was wrong. There had to be something outside the cages. But how to convince Skeet. He wasn’t an easy eagle to convince at the best of time, but, when he thought he was right, like now, he could be downright near impossible.

Gazing down on him now, however, Skaforn made a promise to herself. She would get him to believe, no matter how long it took her.

She would!

This was something that I started, but then never finished. Even now, a few years later, I still get little flashes of ideas, but due to a lack of time, never follow up on them.

Call me childish, but I like stories about talking animals, just so long as they act like animals, rather than furry, or indeed, feathered, humans.

One of the books I read, and indeed, remember from when I was a child, is Callanish by William Horwood. A fairly short, for him, story about a young Golden eagle named Creggan, who escapes from London Zoo and starts making his way up to Scotland. There are other stories woven into the plot, but Creggan is, to an extent, the main focus of the book.

What I liked about it was that the birds acted like birds. Yes, they talked, but they were still recognisably birds.

I'm fairly certain that Callanish, in some small way, inspired me to start on Stormy Skies.

If I do ever make a start on it again, then I'd have to do a lot of researching, and develop the characters much more. Skaforn, in particular, is complex, but I really haven't done her justice here.