Celebrating pancake day

This week in Derbyshire hospitals, we’ve been making and eating pancakes, and thinking about Shrove Tuesday traditions around the world. From our own tradition of using up all the rich foods in the house by making pancakes and eating as many as we can, to the exotic celebrations of Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday) in New Orleans or Carnival in Rio. The three hospitals I visit, in Chesterfield, Buxton and Bakewell, had very different pancake preferences, and we’ve written three very different poems together.


Pancakes with classic lemon and sugar

Pancake Day

A thick pancake with a ladleful of stew
That’s me done, I don’t know about you!
Or mop it up with a dollop of gravy
Or meatballs to make it really savoury

I don’t like pancakes – bad for my tummy
Even though most people find them yummy!
But Yorkshire puddings with sugar and jam
Suit me just fine with a slice of ham.

People queue up to eat them through my garden gate
We used to bake, but now some just cook and shake.
We take pride and make ours from scratch
Oh, what a lovely big beautiful batch!

Sprinkle on sugar and squeeze on lemon juice
Or blackcurrent jam, or chocolate mousse
Nutella and ice cream, rolled up hot
Golden syrup spooned all over the top!

Yum, yum yum!


It’s pancake day – use up all your rich food
Lent should be a time to do things that are good.
For forty days and forty nights, we fight our greed
We think of others who are in need
(and try to give up drinking mead!)

Visit a lonely neighbour to cheer them up
Keep her company and tea to sup
Volunteer at a charity shop,
Helping out with a brush and mop

Some give up chocolate, some cake
Some might give up sausage and steak
Some give up Facebook, some give up the phone
Try to be positive – stop having a moan!

Give up chips and lose off your hips!
Because soon it’s Easter – and chocolate will be passing our lips!


Ooh! Tastes lovely!
It was alright.
She knows how to mix the batter –
I’ll eat at least half a dozen
Very nice –
Delicious with lemon and sugar
Sweet and tart
Sharp smell
Yummy and scrummy
Excellent and lovely.
Eggs for creation,
Flour – the staff of life,
Milk for purity.
A pinch of salt for wholesomeness
And maple syrup.
We’re not mardy,
But full of gras,
Because we’ll always have a “Ha Ha!”

A Celebration of all things Scottish – a Belated Burns’ Night Celebration

Last week, I was unable to update this blog due to a computer malfunction, so here it is! Patients and staff in Derbyshire hospitals looked at the traditions of Burns’ night – a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

We celebrated all things Scottish, from haggis to tartan, and here are the poems that we came up with.

A Celebration of Scotland

As we sit here eating shortbread
We’ve been listening to Rabbie Burns’ poems
Haggis, neeps and tatties,
The mountains and heather that Scots call home.

Porage* oats to make you strong
With some salt sprinkled on.
Made with water if you can’t afford milk
To keep warm from Scottish rain pouring down.

Tartan outfits worn with pride
The Queen in her favourite Balmoral home
Queen Mother lived in a Scottish Castle
Where the Monarch of the Glen does roam.

William Wallace, Braveheart Warrior
To John Brown, Queen Victoria’s favourite
Played by Scotland’s own Billy Connolly
In a kilt and Highland garb

Lots of actors from north of the border
From Will Fyfe to Ewan McGregor
Sean Connery, the first James Bond
To Robbie Contrane, our Scottish sleuth.

scots keep us entertained
Lulu, Annie Lennox, lovely Lorraine Kelly
The stories of Robert Louis Stevenson

And without Alexander Graham Bell,
We couldn’t chat on the telephone.
We wouldn’t have TV without John Logie Baird!

The land of Robert the Bruce –
We’ve got a lot to thank you for!

* Yes, that’s the way that Scott’s have been spelling their famous oats for many years!


A Weekend in Scotland

Iron Bru – I love you
A tot of finest whiskey too
All-butter shortbread, petticoat tails
In a winter blowing snow and gales.

Men in skirts – they call them kilts
We love how your accent lilts
The colours a sounds of Edinburgh tattoo
Stroll around a loch to find Nessie too.

But that bag piper’s driving me mad
And the midges itch me something bad!
No thanks to that haggis, it sounds offal!
Deep fried pizza and Mars bars must be awful!

But with the wonderful wildlife and scenery too
We’ll still be coming and visiting you.

Scottish Wildlife

I searched for Nessie in a loch
I saw Canada Geese in a flock
The beavers had built their dams
Surrounded by leaping spring lambs.

I walked my Westie on a lead
Watched red squirrels as they feed
As Flora and Morag the Highland cattle
Watch red deer stage fight their battle!

Harvest Festival Poems

This week in hospitals in Chesterfield, Buxton and Bakewell, we’ve been talking about harvest, and writing our own vegetable poems. We talked about helping out with the harvest as children, picking blackberries, scrumping apples and noisy cockerels.

Here are some of our poems. Some of them are haikus – a Japanese poetry form with three lines, of five, seven and five syllables (sometimes we cheated, but everyone seems to do that).

Harvest time

Harvest time

Harvest Poem

Help bring in the harvest fair –
A supper that we all can share.
Collecting harvest festival gifts
For those in need, their hearts we lift.

Apples and berries sweet and ripe
Some like tomatoes served with tripe!
The baker makes the harvest bread –
With a mouse running up to its plaited head.

Butterflies and bees have a final feed
Before the flowers go to seed.
Leaves that turn to brown and gold
Too soon, now the weather turns cold.



Like tiny green trees
We cut down each one to eat
To cook with cheese sauce.

Broccoli tree trunk
Solid and heavy clumps of
Green, and tasty steamed.

sweetheart cabbage


Heavy green teardrops
Give the outer leaves to bunny
Salt and pepper – delicious!



Dirty orange root
But the rabbits still love them
Goes in any stew.



Makes you cry when chopped
Unless you leave the root intact
Strong-tasting flesh.



Green peels like petals
Hairy brown, tangled top-knot
Smooth and shiny seeds.

Keep Calm and Remember VE Day

British children celebrate in May 1945.

British children celebrate in May 1945.

May 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War in Europe. On 7th May 1945, the defeated Nazi Government signed an unconditional surrender in Reims, France. The following day, 8th May 1945, was declared a public holiday in the United Kingdom.

People celebrated all around the world. The devastating war was over at last – in Europe at least. War was still raging in the Far East, which would have terrible consequences, as the atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, killing at least 129,000 people before the Japanese government surrendered in August 1945.

This week, the commemoration of this historic event has been rather overshadowed by the general election – I remember that in May 1995, the May bank holiday was moved to commemorate the 50th anniversary of VE Day and there were big celebrations everywhere. And the 70th anniversary is significant. Even if you were a small child during World War Two, you are now over seventy. This is the last big anniversary of World War Two that is still within living memory for most families and communities.

This week, I discovered that those memories are very much alive. I heard lots of moving recollections of wartime. Two of the patients I talked to were children in Germany at the time.

It’s easy for the British to be patriotic and proud when thinking about the Second World War, but it’s important to remember the suffering on all sides of the conflict. German civilians suffered dreadfully, fleeing their homes to avoid the bombing and the atrocities committed by the invading Russian army. Thousands of civilians died of disease and starvation. Germany was divided up into four sections, each controlled by different Allied Forces. Life must have been very difficult for ordinary people.

Life was hard for everyone in Britain in May 1945, but at least most people could breathe a sigh of relief, and hope that their loved ones came home safely.

There were street parties – and many pubs had run out of beer by 8pm! Food was strictly rationed and rationing would continue for another nine years. But clever cooks like Marguerite Patten, who worked for the Ministry of Food, showed people how to make the most of their rations. We made one of her recipes this week, and it went down very well.

We made carrot scones – vegetables weren’t rationed and were often home grown – under the Dig for Victory campaign, gardeners dug up their flowerbeds and grew vegetables instead, as submarine attacks made food imports very difficult. The carrots add sweetness and also moisture to the recipe. The recipe is very easy to make, and everyone found the scones delicious! I’ll definitely be making them again.

Over tea and scones, we talked, looking at photographs in books and handling objects such as ration books, wooden toys and a newspaper dating back to the war years. I noted down the things that people experienced and remembered.

Wartime Memories

I remember queues and soup kitchens
Being a refugee – hiding in the cellar
Packing our belongings,
Not knowing where we were going,
Ending up in a camp run by the Americans.
Darkness, blackout curtains
Sheltering in candlelight.
No money.
Working on a farm, for food.
Milking a cow, in exchange for some milk.
Living off blueberries picked in the mountains.
Badly bombed – carrying on somehow,
Going from door to door, begging for food.

I remember my bicycle –
Endless stew and ration books.
Two ounces of butter or margarine,
Raisins instead of sweets,
No oranges or bananas.
Cod liver oil to keep us well.
Wooden toys made by a relative –
Or no toys at all. We just played out.

I remember sheltering in the Underground,
Catching lice – it was difficult to keep clean.
It was a filthy place, but we hoped we were safe.
There were Anderson Shelters in back gardens.
They removed all the iron railings from the park
Melted them down to make planes.
All the boys on the look-out for shrapnel –
They didn’t link it with death somehow.
We were fascinated by the barrage balloons that hung above the town.
The eerie sound of whistling bombs.
We made a shelter out of concrete in the back garden.

I remember VE night.
Outside Chesterfield Town Hall at midnight, singing.
We had a midnight pass,
But stayed out much later,
Savouring the freedom,
Roll out the barrel.
In the ATS, we were paid two shillings a day.
We had to salute the top brass.
We used to sing:
We work and slave for little pay
Saluting for two bob a day
It’s foolish but it’s fun.
I wish I had a little kite
To fly all day and fly all night.
And though I know it isn’t right,
It’s foolish but it’s fun.

Hot Cross Buns and Poems

This week, in Derbyshire hospitals, we’ve been leading up to Easter. I started my sessions by making hot cross buns. I’d made the dough at home (plus shortcrust patry for the crosses) and I let my breadmaker do most of the work on Monday morning, although by the time my double batch of dough was ready to take out of the machine, it had risen so much that it was escaping. I put the dough in two large plastic tubs that had previously contained Celebrations chocolates. The hot cross bun dough tried to escape from the Celebrations tubs too, because it rose so much, but I managed to transport it safely to Cavendish Hospital in Buxton and Newholme Hospital in Bakewell. So much for spring weather – on my travels into the Peaks this week, I’ve encountered gales, torrential hail and rivers bursting their banks. It’s grey and drizzly now as I’m writing this.

The patients soon got to grips with kneading and shaping the dough, even one patient who had never cooked before in his life, according to his bemused visitors, who turned up to find him with floury hands. The buns rose up beautifully in the oven, and looked and tasted delicious.

While we were waiting for the buns to bake, we wrote acrostic poems about Easter and springtime. In acrostic poems, the initial letter of each line read vertically to spell a word. It’s a fun, and sometimes challenging way to write a poem, and I discovered that many of the patients and staff had poetic talents. Judge for yourself! We decorated some of the poems with Easter-related pictures.

Bunnies hopping in the sunshine
Undulating fields sprouting with new grass
Daisies and dandelions dancing in the breeze
Daffodils budding and bursting
Into flower like yellow suns
Narcissi and crocuses seeking the warmth
Grass starting to grow – the smell of the first cut.

Listen to the birds singing the dawn chorus
Evenings lengthen towards the solstice
All the colours so brilliant and all the new life
Violets in the hedgerows with a delicate smell and hue
Everyone’s happy that winter’s over –
Swallows and swifts will soon appear.

April Fool

April Fool



sweets poem


lambs poem




Budding leaves

Budding leaves





Easter bonnet

Easter bonnet

Holy Week

Holy Week

Hot cross buns

Hot cross buns

Simnel Cake

Simnel Cake

And finally, here are some fantastic eggs decorated by patients at Walton Hospital in Chesterfield.

Happy Easter!

Have an eggciting Easter!

Have an eggciting Easter!

Pancake Day…flippin’ brilliant!

On Monday, and yesterday, on Shrove Tuesday itself, we made pancakes and looked at the traditions of pancake day. The patients talked about their favourite pancake fillings as they whisked eggs and made the batter. When it was made, we heated up the oil in a frying pan (we used my special non-stick pancake pan with shallow sides), poured in the batter so that it covered the base – nice and thin, and waited until the batter was cooked and we could gently turn the pancake over. I like to flip my pancakes carefully, rather than toss them up in the air! I don’t like the thought of all that hard work making the batter going to waste.

At home, I prefer dairy-free pancakes made with almond milk and garam flour, but at Walton and Newholme hospital, we made the real thing! It was a lovely day yesterday, so we also talked about spring being just around the corner.

We also talked about Derbyshire traditions such as the Winster Pancake race, and the Ashbourne mass football game that involves most of the people in the village.

I’m revising my poetic metre (rhythm) skills at the moment, and my pancake poem is (mostly) in iambic tetrameter. That means that the lines each have eight-syllables.

Shrove Tuesday

The season slowly starts to turn –
The time of spring is coming round.
For warmth and daylight we all yearn;
A spread of snowdrops on the ground.

As Easter still feels far away,
We mark the start of growth and change
A tradition on this fine day
That some might think is very strange.

We beat the eggs and weigh the flour;
A pinch of salt in a large basin
And whisk them up with elbow power
And pour in milk, and then we hasten –

To stove-top – heat the pan with oil,
And when it’s hot, pour batter in.
Don’t wait too long, or it’ll spoil
The cooking pancake, like a skin.

To flip or toss, it’s yours to choose:
Use your spatula with great skill
Once the pancake’s cooked, you can’t lose;
The pancakes pile up: get your fill!

The toppings create much debate
Golden syrup, Lemon, sugar?
Those pancakes, won’t lose you much weight
Lent starts soon – let’s have another!