Thursday 24 June 2010


I think it might be Summer.

I got home to the smell of barbecue in N16.

But that's not the start. Not the start of Summer. Not the start of the sunshine. Not the start of the story...

Last Friday we left a rainy London. We sat on the train and arrived in Chester.

On Saturday morning we left the hotel without jumpers and questioned the decision. We saw a little bit of the town crier competition and walked a short stretch of the walls. We headed back to the hotel to get ready for Nana's 90th birthday party, the entire point of the trip.

Eccleston village has houses with twisty curly chimneys. It's surrounded by green and bordered by the River Dee. And, on that particular Saturday, it had a village hall filled with my family.

Mum is one of nine so a party with all of the children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, not too mention a few friends, was never going to be small. I saw cousins who seem to have gone from five to fifteen in the blink of an eye, I saw some I had never ever even seen before. Chris met them all, I think, mostly for the first time. We tried and tried to stay outside but that wind was still a little too cold. If only the sun had just stayed in place.

On Sunday the sun was shining and we drove to North Wales.

To the Lleyn Peninsula where my Grandparents used to live.

To where we spent our summers.

To where we waited out those frequent rainy days with games of Upwords and books. To where we played bedknobs and broomsticks on the old brass bed. To where we hid in the caravan at the bottom of the garden.

To where we befriended the local farmer who taught us to count to ten in Welsh and sat a very small me on top of a very big cow.

To where my sister found a sixpence on the lane and where I was jealous until I found a £20 note on the beach.

To where we would go through kissing gates and cross fields and insist that the calves were actually bulls but that we couldn't shouldn't run or they would get us.

To where we will always smile when we think of it. Of those idyllic summer days of sandy picnics, rock pools, cold cold water, and an equal mix of sunshine and rain.

We spent Sunday on the beach at Morfa Nefyn. Walking along the sand to Porth Dinllaen, sitting outside Ty Coch with a cold beer and a view of the sea. We persuaded the children into the sea even though we were too warm in the sun to brave it ourselves.

The sun went down on midsummer's eve.

Monday came and we went to Nefyn and found an almost deserted beach.

Where our feet sank into the soft sand and we dreamed about hiring a holiday cottage right on the beach and waking up to the vast emptiness.

We walked to the beach hut where we used to sit and play, met the man who bought it from my Grandfather ten years ago.

We played in the rock pools and realised that some things never change. We would have stayed there all Summer pointing out tiny hermit crabs, looking for sea urchins.

We picnicked back at Morfa Nefyn with sausage sandwiches and welshcakes. We paddled but none of us swam.

We dragged ourselves away and back to Chester to say goodbye and travel back to London and since then, since those two perfect days of Summer on the beach that weather, that sunshine, has stayed.

I leave the house with bare legs and arms and stay that way all day. We sit with all of the windows and the balcony door open. We wallow in the luxury of warmth.

And now it is Thursday and with Thursday came a quiet night at home for me. A quiet night with the smell of grilling meat in the air but a plan already formed. A quiet night of uploading photos, feeling the warm air around me, making a new dish. A Summer dish. Fusilli with zucchini and butter, it should possibly be butter and zucchini instead, it is buttery buttery goodness. Perfect for this day when Summer seems to have finally settled, at least for now.

FUSILLI WITH ZUCCHINI AND BUTTER (from The River Cafe Classic Italian Cookbook by Rose Gray and Ruth Rogers)
Serves 4

250g zucchini
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, peeled and cut into slivers
150g butter
320g fusilli
50g grated parmesan

Wash and dry the zucchini. Trim off the ends and slice into 1cm rounds.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan that will hold all of the zucchini in a single layer. Add the garlic and allow it to soften before adding the sliced zucchini. Season with salt and pepper and stir until the zucchini is just starting to brown. Add half of the butter, lower the heat and stir and cook until the zucchini is soft and buttery adding a little water if needed to loosen any bits stuck to the pan. Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining butter.

Cook the fusilli in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, keeping back a little of the cooking water to stir into the zucchini.

Mix the fusilli with the zucchini and serve with grated parmesan.


Lisa said...

I felt like I was actually there. This was a beautiful treat to read. Thank you for sharing the memories.

Anonymous said...

a great post, and that pasta sounds might fine.

gastroanthropologist said...

what a wonderful time, I love those trips that remind you of times past. I went to Wales for the first time last year visiting the coast and some to of the castles.. we had a wonderful time and the people there were so sweet and friendly I didn't want to return to London!

Gemma said...

Lisa - thank you, I wanted to share all the memories while they were still so fresh.

Brian - the pasta made me want to get more River Cafe books (and eat there, obviously)

Adrienne - it was lovely to be there again and made me want lots more quiet breaks.


Molly said...

This post is beautiful, Gemma. I wish I could have been there, but somehow, I also feel like I was! xo