Under the floorboards

I went underground on Saturday.

Off the face of the earth. Into a room under the floorboards. Here, a few brave people stooped over a common cause. To tame a beast with sharp fangs and a fickle foot. A foot that changed shape. And fangs so extraordinary that it had a name of its own. Feed Dog. Like an order. Feed Dog, or else.

As we gathered in the room under the street, Cambridge walked over our heads, and carried on as usual.

It would’ve been the perfect setting for a dark, Poe-ish play if it were not for a scrumptious Victoria sponge cake. And colourful, stripey mugs of coffee. And swathes of fabric printed with strawberries and scottie dogs. And Jill – the very antethesis of Allan Poe.


Even the room was cheery! All lovely painted furniture, and polka dot oilcloths.

And to kick the last of my edgy atmosphere, the beast that needed taming was called Janome. Rhyming with salami. Origami. I love mummy.

Here, meet Janome.

And meet Jill. Who has the nicest smiles, and many words a minute. She lives on a narrowboat. And spent the day teaching us a bit of magic.

Of invisible hems and instant buttonholes. Of rick rack, and triple zig zag. Wing needles, and bias tapes. All in the course of a day’s sewing. Thanks Jill. And thank you, ladies, for a Saturday very well spent.

And what do you know, by the end of the day, my beast had begun to purr. It even wrote my name. And made a little cushion for Chotto-ma.

So. Who’s the mummy, Janome?

Well done, Ma

Hah, hah and hah!

I tamed the beast. I snubbed the snob. I sewed. (I just sang that in my best operatic voice)

Last week, I told you that Singer and I weren’t really getting along, remember? Well, we’re doing better this week. One afternoon, I just took off one of our pillowcases, and cut it, and sewed it, and appliquéd it, till it wasn’t a pillowcase anymore. And when I finished, I whooped a shrill whoop, danced a little dance, and said ‘yes’ three times. And my daughter watched me with a grin on her face, and said ‘Well done, Ma’.

Here’s what I made – a reversible bag for Chotto-ma. Tell me what you think.

And here’s another ‘first’ – we carved a pumpkin, Chotto-ma, D and I. Yes, this is the first pumpkin-face we have ever carved. For a while, Chotto-ma waited for the pumpkin to change into a fairytale carriage (because surely all pumpkins must do that), but this is what we had to settle for.

And the last ‘first’ – a pumpkin cake. I scooped out enough pumpkin from pumpkin-face to bake a cake that was rich and moist. And as healthy as a cake can be. It was full of texture, with the warm, roasted smell of pumpkin, paprika and pine-nuts. And a hint of sherry.

Happy Halloween, everyone.

Pumpkin, paprika & pine-nut cake

2 cups grated pumpkin
2 cups plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbs paprika powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup pine-nuts, roasted
2 eggs
3/4 cup olive oil
1 1/2 tbs softened butter
2/3 tbs sherry

Mix the grated pumpkin and paprika and keep aside.
Put the rest of your dry ingredients in a bowl and mix very well.
In another bowl mix all the wet ingredients well.
Now pour the wet mix into the dry mix, and with a wooden spoon, mix it all in till smooth.
Add the pumpkin and the pine-nuts, and give it a good stir
Grease your cake tin with some olive oil, and pour in your batter.
Bake in a pre-heated oven at 160 degree C, for 45-50 minutes.