Oven 180deg, grease and line an 8" square cake tin. Chop 6oz stoned dates and gently heat in small pan with 6 floz boiling water and half tsp bicarb soda for about 5 mins, without boiling, until the dates are soft. Cream 3oz butter and 5oz caster sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in one beaten egg, half tsp vanilla essence and the date mixture. Fold in 6oz self raising flour using a metal spoon, mixing evenly. Pour into prepared tin and bake for 40-45 mins. Then make the best bit - toffee sauce. Heat 3oz light muscovado sugar, one and a half oz butter and 2tbsp single cream or milk in a saucepan and simmer gently, stirring, for about 2 mins. Remove cake from oven and prick all over with fork then pour hot toffee sauce evenly over the surface to sink in. Leave to cool then cut into squares. I'd say be generous with the toffee sauce quantities as the more the better, really.
The previous day, Little Granny, Little R and I visited Greenbank Gardens, using my newly acquired National Trust for Scotland membership. It's £5 a month and easily pays for itself with just one visit somewhere. We had a really lovely afternoon, kicking off with coffee and cake (of course) in the converted stone barn tea room then setting off for a wander round the grounds. We came upon this fountain, above, inside the walled gardens. The statue is called Foam. Fortunately for Foam, the sun soon came out. Little R had a rare tear, dipping her toes in the water, running in circles round the edge, crouching down and guddling for terrified goldfish and taking photos of the flowers with her all time favourite toy, her birthday present Kidizoom camera. All of this was done with Little Granny's hand firmly clamped on her arm lest she join Foam in the pool. I had a nice relaxing time sitting on a bench observing the fun from a safe distance.
We started with a forest walk around the grounds, led by Little R ("I'm an expert on nature, follow me"). Lots of amazingly tall trees and unusual specimens. We then spotted the walled garden but could not figure out how to get into it.
And then we found the way in - GASP. It was a physical shock to the senses to go from the forest to the manicured straight lines and curves of this garden. It looks a bit wonky in this photo, and I can see some bald patches on the lawn in this view, but once inside it was absolute perfection. Not normally my sort of thing in a garden, and certainly not in my own, but the grass was so lush and velvety that I took off my shoes for the sheer joy of walking on it. It was a memorable day, having gone from a rainy morning to a glorious afternoon and from a shadowed forest to a secret garden. Well worth the direct debit.
Finally, here is my attempt at gooseberry jam using the gooseberries from our garden. Having spent a hot afternoon topping and tailing 3kg of gooseberries I came out with 5 jars of gooseberry sauce. I didn't have any preserving sugar and thought that as gooseberries were high in pectin it would be ok to use ordinary sugar, but it wasn't. Oh well, we'll just have to eat it with ice cream instead. It's a hard life.