If you’d like to skip straight to the creative project and learn how to make a plum cake then scroll down until you see Blue’s paw print below.
This episode is subtitled: ‘Italian romance…’
‘Thanks for Saturday night, Jen,’ said Kim sheepishly.
‘I’m not doing it again,’ I said. ‘I don’t know why Gary couldn’t have done the decent thing and just gone for a meal with his mum and Tommy. It wouldn’t have killed him. And lying never pays off. And now you’ve dragged me into your lies…’ I was on a roll – upset with myself more than anything because I’d allowed myself to be used as an excuse for them not to go.
‘I’ve had a long chat with Gary,’ she continued, ‘and he’s told me all about life growing up with Beryl and her boyfriends.’
‘She didn’t have that many did she?’ I asked.
‘No, not at all. And the more I delved and reasoned with Gary, the more it was obvious that he was just a spoilt brat who couldn’t stand the thought of his mum giving her attention to someone else. He’s never been good at sharing.’
‘Well, that’s something then,’ I replied, pleased that Kim had managed to have some sort of impact.
‘So we’re going out with them this Saturday,’ she said triumphantly.
Thank goodness, I thought, Beryl will be so pleased.
‘He still thinks Tommy is a loser but one step at a time,’ she continued. ‘For what it’s worth, I think he’s lovely.’
Beryl came bustling in. ‘Jenny! Tommy loved the plum cake you made and said would you like to join us on Saturday? Please come,’ she pleaded.
‘That’s very kind of him. Yes, okay I will,’ I said, slightly worried about gate-crashing a family do.
Kim had arranged that she and Gary would pick me up then Beryl. Tommy would meet us in the restaurant. As we drove round the corner we could see Beryl who was making the most of the evening sunshine and warm breeze, waiting for us eagerly at the end of her road.
‘What is she wearing?’ cried Gary in disbelief.
Her flouncy blouse and flouncy skirt billowed and her small body looked as though it was bobbing about in a sea of pink and white roses. She’d gained a bit of height from the silver high-heeled shoes (with a pink glittery bow on top of each one) but she was struggling to walk in them.
‘She’s really made an effort,’ I said, in her defence.
‘Yes she has,’ said Kim sincerely, then added, ‘but I think I should give her a few make-up tips.’ I had to admit, Beryl’s ‘Aunt Sally’ cheeks were carrying a bit too much blusher.
The waiter sorted us out with some drinks while we waited for Tommy. ‘Shouldn’t he be here by now?’ asked Gary.
‘He’ll be here soon son, don’t fret,’ replied Beryl, not noticing Gary’s impatience. But another round of drinks arrived and Tommy was still nowhere to be seen.
‘I told you he was a loser!’ said Gary as he stormed off to the gents.
Beryl stared after him and her bottom lip quivered slightly. ‘He’ll be here soon,’ she said quietly.
Then, larger than life, Tommy came bursting in. ‘Ladies, ladies – I’m so sorry I’m late.’ He looked around and added, ‘No Gary this evening? Upset tummy again?’
Beryl beamed, turned to Kim and me and said, ‘It’s just Tommy’s little joke. It seemed that every time Tommy wanted to take me out all those years ago, I couldn’t go because Gary was poorly.’
Kim winced. She’d heard it first hand from Gary that he used to feign illness so his mum would stay at home with him. Sounded like Tommy had the measure of him.
Then Gary reappeared and Tommy proceeded to tell us about the events that had delayed him. ‘I was stopped at the traffic lights on Wesley Road when I saw a young woman come out of the hairdressers with a beautiful new hair do. She was struggling to put her purse back in her bag on account of her crutches. She looked done up ready for a night out (but no dancing, obviously). Anyway, a shifty looking bloke was coming up behind her and I could see what was going through his head. Before I had time to wind my window down and warn her, he snatched the bag and scarpered!’
‘Really?’ said Gary, not believing a word of it.
‘Really,’ said Tommy. ‘I couldn’t chase after him at my age so I did the next best thing and took her to the police station.’
‘Couldn’t you ring us?’ asked Gary smugly.
‘No battery,’ replied Tommy and Gary gave him his ‘I’ve got you sussed pal’ face. ‘Anyway,’ Tommy continued, ‘let’s get some food ordered.’
For the rest of us the conversation flowed and the food was good but Gary spent the evening on the periphery of the party and only got animated when a policeman walked through the door. At that point he resumed his smug look and assumed, correctly, that the policeman was going to head our way.
‘Mr Drake,’ said the policeman. Gary grinned and nudged Kim. ‘I’m sorry to bother you,’ he continued, ‘but I couldn’t reach you by phone and wanted to ask you to attend an identity parade tomorrow morning at 9.30. We’ve apprehended a suspect and would like you to see whether you recognise him.’
‘I’d be delighted,’ said Tommy and cheekily raised his glass to Gary, who was completely irked by the whole episode.
‘Well, ladies,’ said Gary, ‘enough excitement for one night, I think. I’ll get your coats.’
‘Not so fast,’ Tommy said. ‘I have an announcement to make first. I’ve decided not to go back to Australia. I’m going to stay here instead.’
Beryl gave an excited gasp but was disappointed when she saw Gary’s less than enthusiastic expression. Tommy continued, ‘Beryl, my beauty…?’
‘Yes, Tommy, love.’
‘…for the second time of asking… will you marry me?’ ◊
How to Make a Plum Cake
Beryl’s neighbour was inundated with plums on her plum tree and was letting some of them go to waste. As you’d expect, I seized the opportunity of salvaging them and made Beryl a plum cake – which Tommy loved by all accounts!
The tree looks beautiful but it’s even better that it’s functional for this week’s project, too!
I used about 12 of them.
First I creamed 115g of unsalted butter with 150g of sugar (the recipe says caster sugar but I only had granulated in my cupboard).
In a separate bowl I sieved 125g of plain flour and mixed it with 1 teaspoon of baking powder and a pinch of salt.
I added the dry mixture plus two eggs to the butter/sugar mixture, a bit at a time, alternating between egg and flour until it was all mixed together. Then I added the cake batter to a greased tin (this one was 24cm, spring form). I cut the plums in half, removed the stones and arranged them on top of the cake batter (pushing them in slightly to encourage the cake to rise up around them). I think it’s traditional to place them randomly but I did it in circles, some cut side up and come cut side down.
Before it goes in the oven you need to sprinkle about 30g of sugar and one teaspoon of cinnamon over the plums.
Bake at 180°C for 40 – 50 mins (until a skewer comes out clean). The dark patches are cinnamon – didn’t get my sprinkling very even!
Enjoy it plain or with custard!
- This is the recipe I used.
This cake is very easy and very yummy! You may also like the blackberry coulis I made this time last year from salvaged blackberries I picked whilst out walking Blue.
See you all again next week.
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