Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Dark Tourism Spotlight: Edinburgh

I thought I’d do a special post dedicated to the wonderfully sinister underbelly of Edinburgh.   Mainly, because there are so many parts of the city that have a long, dark, and particularly nasty history….  
Most of the venues listed have no admission charge to visit, so you don’t have to spend any money (apart from your travel costs) and you can scare the living daylights out of yourself and your nearest and dearest for free.  If that’s not a fun day out, I don’t know what is.   
Brodie’s Close:
Edinburgh’s Royal Mile and surrounding areas are FULL of ghost stories and things that go bump in the night.   Brodie’s Close is located just off the RM and is named after Deacon Brodie, who was a respectable locksmith by day and low down dirty burglar at night.   I guess if you have the ability to clone people’s keys, you’d find it difficult not to do a little ‘after hours’ work, wouldn’t you?   Brodie was eventually caught and sentenced to death by hanging.  His ghost roams the close, jangling his keys to frighten the local tourists…

Dark Tourism Spotlight: Edinburgh: Royal Mile

Greyfriars Kirkyard:
A short walk from Brodie’s Close is Candlemaker Row, which is the location of Greyfriars Kirkyard.    Unfortunately, the Kirkyard isn’t haunted by the ghost of Bobby, the famous little dog, whose gleaming statue sits on the path near the entrance, but rather of far more sinister presences…    Are you scared yet?  
The grave of George McKenzie, who was a local jailer, is next to Covenanter’s Prison, where he revelled in consigning many a man to his gruesome death.    Clearly, being in such close proximity to the prison tortured poor Geordie’s soul and his ghost wanders around the graveyard at night…   
Edinburgh Vaults, South Bridge:
The spaces that comprise the EV are a set of underground chambers that occupy the space in the arches beneath the city’s South Bridge.   The vaults have a long and colourful history and were used to house illicit drinking dens, as well as serving as a space for various trades.  
The Vaults, being situated where they were, were damp, with no clean air and no sunlight and, therefore, housed many of the poorer souls living in Edinburgh, who had no other shelter.     Sounds lush.   And if living in the cess pit wasn’t horrific enough, it is alleged that infamous Scottish serial killers, Burke and Hare, also trawled the vaults for suitable victims.  And when I say suitable, I think that pretty much covers anyone that had a body that could be sold to the University medical school.   
In addition to the lovely history of the vaults, there have been many reports of paranormal activity beneath the bridge.   Such is the activity that the vaults were featured on an episode of Most Haunted, as well as further televised investigations.
These days the Vaults are mainly used for ghost tours, which are run by companies based in the area and are of a really high quality.    You know, if you like that sort of thing.    I certainly do and spent a thoroughly creepy hour at the hands of the wonderful Mercat Tours.
The Vaults can only be accessed by taking an organised and paid for tour.   
Dark Tourism Spotlight: Edinburgh: The Bridges

The White Hart Inn, Grassmarket:
The WHI is alleged to be the oldest pub in the centre of the city and has racked up around 500 years of history, so it’s not really that odd to find out that it might be a touch spooky.   The pub was named Most Haunted in 2005, which would definitely convince me to go in for a couple of spirits….  (boom boom)
For years, the public executions were held in the Grassmarket, just a tiny wee distance from the front door of the bar.   In addition, Burke and Hare spent much of their free time convincing unsuspecting ‘clients’ back to their lodging house nearby and then promptly killed them and sold their corpses to medical science.    The White Hart Inn as been at the centre of many a gruesome happening on the streets of the capital city and who knows what else it might see in the future?

The World's Inn, Royal Mile:
This infamous local pub is not the home of any ghosts or ghouls, but rather the last known location of two young ladies, Christine Eadie and Helen Scott.   The bar is the last place that the 17 year old women were seen back in October 1977.

The following day, the bodies of the women were found, bound, beaten, raped and unclothed, six miles apart, in the neighbouring region of East Lothian.    The Police had no leads and eventually, in 1978, they were forced to scale back the criminal investigation.

Unfortunately for the families of the victims, a conviction was not achieved in the case until very recently.    The perpetrator, Angus Sinclair, was initially tried in 2004 and acquitted.    He was then re-tried and finally convicted in late 2014.     Sinclair is also suspected in the murders of several other women and has, to date, been sentenced for the murder of three.    

The World's Inn Murders, as they were known locally, sent shockwaves across the country because of the violent nature of the crimes and the fact that the person who committed the crimes proved so difficult to catch.    Angus Sinclair received the longest sentence ever imposed in a Scottish Court.   

Dark Tourism Spotlight: Edinburgh: Sunset over Calton Hill
Creepy views across Calton Hill
Do you have any other dark recommendations for Edinburgh?
Suz x 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Understanding Anxiety

Understanding Anxiety

I often find that people have no real idea of Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) and what it actually means.  In my experience, people who don't suffer from anxiety either think that those of us who do are rude and/or painfully shy.  We're neither.   

In fact, we're just like you, but our brains panic about the smallest, tiniest social interaction that you probably haven't thought twice about.  

Example: Being Invited to a Party:

Person Without Anxiety:  Yeah, that sounds great!  Where is it?  Who's going?  Can I bring anything?   Yeah, sure, I'll just meet you there.

Me (inwardly): OMG...NO!  What about All Of The People?  I won't know them and because I'm anxious they'll think I'm rude.  THEN they'll all be bitching about me behind my back later on and discussing just how standoffish I am.   What if I can't find the place?  I can't possibly go to a stranger's house/bar/club/shop/bus stop/ANYWHERE I haven't been before on my own!  I will need moral support just to ring the bell/walk in!  What if I get really drunk because I'm so nervous and then never get invited back??  Why did you have to ask me?? Why can't you just leave me alone?  WHY???? 

Me (outwardly): Uh huh...that sounds OK.   I'll check my calendar.

Understanding Anxiety
Please don't make me do this.  
And it's not just large gatherings that frighten the life out of me.  Oh no.  I can be just as awkward with two people; particularly when I don't know them well.  I'm taking friends of friends, family of friends; and anyone I suspect might judge me in an unfair light just because I don't talk incessantly about nothing (apart from on this blog, obvs)

I am definitely the type of person that it takes a good while to get to know.  I'd say about 30 years will do it.   I have a small group of friends that I am entirely comfortable with, but I might not always be relaxed if we're all together at the one time.  It doesn't mean I'm being awkward; it just reflects my anxiety.   And, no, it's not just a case of 'chilling out'. 

A friend and I were recently planning a night in London, where she was off to get some work done on a tattoo and I was tagging along because she seems to like my company.  I was partly excited about the prospect, but also partly not.    It has nothing to do with the person or the destination, just about all the unknown things that could occur.

I spend a LOT of time worrying about things that will never happen.  I also spend an inordinate length of time imagining the most weird and wonderful scenarios (none of them pleasant) that I convince myself WILL ABSOLUTELY happen if I dare to go ahead with my plans.

Understanding Anxiety
One of the many disasters that's bound to happen when I make plans. 
Just because there hasn't been zombie apocalypse in Shoreditch before, does NOT mean it won't happen on the very day I'm there.   I've seen Shaun of the Dead; I know it's possible. Also, you know...bombs going off; getting lost; getting on the wrong train and ending up in France; falling over in front of people in the street, and any combination of two or more of the above.

Anxiety isn't just restricted to social situations.  Work events can be equally nightmare inducing.   These days, I work in an office and am no longer driving/flying/sailing across Scotland trying to find island huts with no postcode.    This has greatly reduced the stress that comes from having zero sense of direction.

This stress has now been replaced by wondering if my Scottish accent is too strong for Welsh people to understand; hoping I don't often anyone on a second by second basis; being worried about asking questions when I have no clue what I'm doing; and generally being anxious about Every. Single. Thing.   It's not that much fun thb.  

One of the worst situations at work is the dreaded Team Meeting.  I don't want to be there; I don't want to speak; I dread being asked my opinion and, generally, I'm counting down the seconds until I can get out.   I like everyone, but I just don't want to gather round in a big group and talk about stuff.  It's my idea of Hell.  

Understanding Anxiety
Lord, take me now.  
Again, this often makes me seem as if I don't care of have no interest in the topic being discussed.  It's not:  I just find it difficult to chat about it with everyone at the same time.    Individually?  Not a problem.   Unfortunately, the world doesn't work in the way I'd like it to and I have resigned myself to being the 'odd' or 'shy' one.    

Interestingly, many introverts and people who suffer from GAD surround themselves with extroverts.   I don't really have any friends who are like me (can you just imagine the conversations?).  My partner is quiet, but still very confident, whereas I'm mostly quiet and have no self belief at all.   

I often think I must be the bane of people's lives as there's just no way I'll ever be like them. Cancelled plans are my weakness.  I say yes to things because I don't want to offend anyone or let them down, but I simply don't like being surrounded by people or attending parties.  I find it so tiring.   There has never been a time in my life that I would prefer to be on a night out rather than camped out at home.    It's genuinely not enjoyable for me.     My stress levels are way lower when I'm in front of the TV watching some trashy show in my PJs.  

Understanding Anxiety
Me: every night.  
The next time you pass someone on the street who won't make eye contact with you and shuffles along quietly; don't think of them as rude or ignorant - consider the possibility the might simply be anxious.    When someone spends Saturday night at home on a Netflix binge - don't assume they're sad or lonely; consider they might be over the moon not to have to leave the house and people all night.

Often, I get really worn out by having to have a 5 minute conversation with a relative stranger in the street that I were unable to avoid and need some time to recover.   Going to work for 8 hours straight leaves me shattered.

I promise I won't judge you for being out all the time and being frightened to spend any time on your own.   Sometimes making constant plans is as much of an avoidance technique as cancelling them.

We're all different and have the right to be whatever we want; whether this is something we choose or something that seems to be out with our control.

How do you cope with anxiety?

Suz x

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Nant Gwrtheyrn, North Wales

Nant Gwrtheyrn, North Wales
Located just outside the village of Llithfaen on the Llyn Peninsula in North Wales, Nant Gwrtheryn is perhaps best known for its Welsh language school.   That was certainly the only reason I’d heard of it since moving here.   However, as I soon discovered, it also has a Heritage Centre, Café, Conference Facilities and Self Catering Cottages, amongst other things.   

As I also found out on arrival, it’s a very popular wedding venue.  Or, at least I think it is.   I rather hope that fancy dresses and high heels are not regularly worn by the locals in order to take a walk down to the beach.  If they are, I’m going to have to buy a whole new wardrobe.  And here was me thinking it was the Scottish accent that had been giving me away for the past three months…

On approach from Llithfaen, we climbed over the hills in the car and spotted a sign for the car park.   Nant Gwrtheyrn do ask that, if you can, you refrain from taking your car down into the village itself, so that spaces are left for residents and, presumably, also wedding guests.   

However, if you do leave your car in the main park, be prepared for a very steep walk.   It’s not bad on the way down as it’s, well…downhill.   It’s a totally different story on the way back up, though.  As I write this three days later, I can still feel the ache in my calves.   That’s always the sign of a good walk.

sightseeingshoes copyright
Beware of steep hills....
It’s around a 1-1.5 miles down (I’m guestimating here, so don’t come back and shout at me if it’s longer) and takes around 20-30 minutes.  Helpfully, there’s a bench at around the half way point, where you can wrestle with other visitors in a sweaty attempt to rest your feet.   On the way down, I met some friendly local sheep and we were able to climb across the rock across from the bench and look out across the cliffs.
sightseeingshoes copyright
rugged Welsh coastline 
sightseeingshoes copyright
down, down, down...
sightseeingshoes copyright
Steep as hell
Once arriving in the village, we saw Meinir’s tree, which tells the story of, who I’ve decided are the Welsh equivalent of Romeo and Juliet (in the loosest sense).   It’s a sad tale of death and lightning, which almost certainly will have you living in fear of venturing outside your front door during any storms.    
The Heritage Centre was converted in 2003 from the village’s original Chapel (Capel Seilo), and offers visitors a detailed history of the site from its inception to the present day.  The building itself is constructed of stone and now has a modern twist.  

On the day of our visit, the front was a riot of coloured flowers and hanging baskets.  Also on site sit two rows of cottages, which date back to 1878.   The Quarryman’s Cottage is open to the public (free of charge, as with the Heritage Centre) and has been restored to show how the Quarrymen would have lived in 1910.

sightseeingshoes copyright
Heritage Centre
sightseeingshoes copyright
Quarrymans Cottages 
The village Café is a lovely spot for lunch and also serves alcohol.  Unfortunately, I didn’t want to render myself physically unable to make the climb back to my car and thought it was wise to refrain.   
Continuing past the Café and its outdoor seating area, you can follow a long and winding road down to the beach, which was populated with holiday makers flying kites and sitting around a camp fire.    It’s another gorgeous spot for a walk and for taking photos to post on Facebook to make all your family and friends back home jealous of your new surroundings.  

sightseeingshoes copyright
the long and winding road
sightseeingshoes copyright
the stunning North Wales coast
On the way back from the beach, we spotted what can only be described as some kind of scary mountain beast.   Seriously, it was big and hairy, with massive horns.  I Googled it when we got home  only to find out it was a feral mountain goat.   It looked more like something that would haunt your dreams.  For a very long time... 
sightseeingshoes copyright
The Lesser Spotted Scary Mountain Beast of North Wales
After walking slightly faster back from the beach in order to avoid aforementioned scary mountain beast/feral mountain goat, we had to make the long pilgrimage back up the incredibly steep hill and back to the car.   We didn't even stop at the bench.   That's how tough we are.   Alternatively, it could be just that I wanted it over and done with as soon as humanly possible and didn't wish to prolong the agony.  I'm going to go for the last one.   It was completely worth it, though!  
Have you visited Nant Gwrtheyrn and survived the hill?? 

sightseeingshoes copyright
Hill?  What hill? 
sightseeingshoes copyright
The beautiful Llyn Peninsula

Suz x 

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Lessons Learned During My First Year of Blogging

In June 2016, I made it through my first year of blogging.   And, man, have I learned a LOT and made SO many mistakes.    Still, it's been so much fun and I can't believe it took me so long to do it.

These are the main lessons I've learned:

Spellcheck Doesn't Pick Up Bad Grammar:
Running spellcheck over your post will NOT pick up the time your iPhone types 'is' instead of 'it' or autocorrects a word that really doesn't fit in the post.   You have to read through your posts (I usually do it in preview mode to see what it'll look like to readers) before you hit publish.

It can also be a good idea, if possible, to get someone else to cast an eye over posts.   I can't count the number of times I've missed something because I know the post off by heart and have gone blind.

Monday, 22 August 2016

Alice in Wonderland Trail: Llandudno

On our first trip to Llandudno, we mainly wandered around, basking in the bank holiday sun and indulging in a spot of shopping.  On our way through the town, we spotted a quite massive wooden sculpture of what I though was the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland.   Thinking I’d maybe had a little too much wine the night before and my eyes were playing tricks on me, I grabbed my phone and Googled it.  

As it turns out, it WAS the Queen of Hearts and there are full trails dedicated to Alice in Wonderland around the town. There is some debate about whether world-renowned author, Lewis Carroll, actually visited Llandudno, but it is fact that the inspiration for his title character was a little girl called Alice Liddell who, with her family, owned what is now the St Tudno Hotel.  This is still operational today.
I warn you, child...if I lose my temper, you lose your head!
I've none of my own...I'm a hatter.
Oh my fur and whiskers, I'm late! I'm late!
Because of the connection, the smart people of Llandudno have installed various wooden statues of the popular characters from the book around the town.  Along with the carvings are 55 rabbit feet imprints, which guide you along the trail.   When I got home that evening, I discovered that there’s also a few official apps on the iTunes store to help you get even more out of it.  

I thought it was a brilliant idea and certainly got us moving around parts of town we may not have visited, had we not stumbled across the Queen. The carvings themselves are incredibly detailed and, although we don’t have kids, I was probably more excited as an adult than any normal child would have been.   They really are wonderful.

Maps and guides can be purchased from the town’s tourist information centre, but you can follow the trail on your own, like we did, and just wander randomly, stopping to shout like a hysterical child when you spot a new carving.  That’s what I did, anyway.   Do try not to attract too much attention to yourself, though.   While you’re there, can you answer Alice’s riddle: Why is a raven like a writing desk?  No? Me either.
You can find out more about the apps and the trails HERE.  

In addition to the trails, Llandudno has lots to offer in terms of shopping and sightseeing.  It boasts the longest pier in Wales and a pack of 180 feral goats, which were introduced to the town by Lord Mostyn in the 19th Century.  

The goats are now managed by the local council in Conwy.   I imagine they have an official Goat Manager, and maybe a Deputy, too.   After all, keeping an eye on 180 goats (particularly naughty ones) is a lot of work for one person, no?  Quite.

Where am I again?  Oh, right...
Llandudno waterfront
The longest pier in Wales 

Suz x

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Rock Vs. Hard Place

Rock Vs. Hard Place

Have you ever found yourself in a situation, not really of your making, and certainly not of your choosing, that you felt incapable of getting out of?

It's one of those positions where, if I give up all my beliefs and stop defending myself against something my entire being believes is wrong, I might be able to salvage something semi positive.   If not; I simply see no way forward.

Part of me hates it.   But part of me is so stubborn and so hurt that I don't think I can let it go.

And, so it goes on.  Don't get me wrong; I'm merely a bit part player in someone else's drama.   I didn't start it and I didn't ask for it, but here we are.    

I hate hatred. I abhor sexism; racism; xenophobia; homophobia and general petty, Ill informed ignorance.   I was brought up to respect everyone and treat others the way if like to be treated   And, for the most part, I manage without a problem.

I hate confrontation, I hate feeling like I've upset anyone, and I tend to apologise for things I haven't even done.   The peace keeper in me can't help it.

But, in exceptional circumstances, I can turn.   And there's no way back for the people in the firing line.   Don't get me wrong; I don't scream and shout.    I'm not nasty and I don't pull childish tricks.   I just stop.  Completely.

Rock Vs. Hard Place

In my life, I've done it twice.   I have cut someone out of my life forever.   And I have no regrets.    It takes a LOT to make me like this and I'm just not the type of person who forgets.   I had forgiven a great deal through the years, but I can't ever get past people who expect others to change to suit what THEY want in life and give zero fucks about the person they want to conform.   

I did for so long during my marriage, but no more.    And it's sad in a way because I hate feeling like I'm causing trouble and I'm so used to backing down to keep the peace.

Eventually, though, even *I* reach my limit. And when I do, it's over...for good.

Maybe I should be like other people and just stand up for myself without apologising for it.   Or feeling bad.   I have no real reason to, and the more guilty I feel, the angrier the whole situation makes me.   And that simply makes me more entrenched.   

Am I alone in feeling crap about a situation I haven't created, but feel I'm being punished for defending myself against? 

Suz x 

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Odd Stuff I Do Because I'm Socially Awkward: Supermarket Edition

Odd Things I Do Because I'm Socially Awkward: Supermarket Edition

I spend much of my time worrying about one thing or another and I mainly put this down to my anxiety and fear of offending anyone.    I do, on occasion, break free of this and lose my temper, but this is quite rare and I tend to keep things to myself for the most part.   

I tend to think of myself as very polite and I'm the person who apologises to everyone for all the things I haven't done wrong.    I always worry about people's perceptions, which tends to cause me more stress than is necessary. I am continually concerned about upsetting anyone and, usually, this ends up with me being the upset one and chastising myself for the stupid things I do that no one else seems to.

I've been thinking about this in the context of one of my greatest causes of stress: going to the supermarket.   These are the situations that cause me most anxiety.   Please tell me I'm not the only one who does these things? 

Taking Stuff Back to the Proper Shelf:
Yep.   If I'm in the Supermarket and I pick something up and then change my mind about it several aisles later, I will take it back to the exact place I found it.   I hate stuffing products back where they don't belong; even though I know that there are people on hand to deal with such obscenities.  

I'm not sure if it's slight OCD or whether it's just out of sheer politeness, but I feel compelled to take things back and put them in their proper places.   LT, on the other hand, will happily leave his initial purchase, carelessly ditched on a shelf miles from its home, and wander off into the sunset without giving it a second thought.    I wish I could do this, but I just can't.

Odd Things I Do Because I'm Socially Awkward: Supermarket Edition
I hate a messy shelf
Putting My Trolley Back:
This is mostly just because I'm a fairly decent person and I spent my youth walking my dog past abandoned trolleys in my home town, wondering why the HELL anyone would steal them and launch them into the River Almond.

I always put my trolley back and I can't even just leave it in the vicinity of the trolley park.   It has to be properly put away in a neat row with other trolleys of its size.    It's like a kind of weird trolley reunion, where I imagine that my cart hasn't seen the others since Trolley High School and they're FINALLY getting the chance to catch up.   And, obviously, this can only happen if I put them away correctly.

Apologising for Using a Token:
Also: I use a token in my supermarket and always end up apologising to the person waiting patiently behind me with a pound coin who is secretly cursing me for not offering them my cart.    I feel compelled to say 'I'm sorry, I have a token', like some random stranger I'll never see again is deserving of an explanation about my actions.     

Never Park My Trolley in the Middle of an Aisle:
I NEVER, I repeat NEVER leave my trolley abandoned in the middle of an aisle while I pop back and pick up the cherry tomatoes I forgot to lift.  It's one of my pet hates, along with people who meet in the store and have a catch up, blocking the aisle for other shoppers, forcing them to pretend they're Pacman as they desperately search for a route to get to the skinless chicken thighs they need for tomorrow's dinner.

I don't understand why anyone would do this as I think it quite rude.  Simply move your trolley into a corner that sells things that no rational people would buy.   Like liver.    Or Cider  that isn't Welsh.   That way, you won't be bothering anyone and you can continue to compare your children against each other in peace and quiet.    

Odd Things I Do Because I'm Socially Awkward: Supermarket Edition
If I can't find the apples, I'll just have to go without. 
Ask For Help:
I will walk round the supermarket for EVER if it means I don't have to ask for something I can't find.   My usual response is 'they obviously don't stock milk/bread/cheese' or whatever it is I can't locate.

LT, on the other hand, will drag someone around the shop until they point out what it is he wants and understands that they are also paid to do such things for stupid shoppers.

I just wish they'd stop moving stuff.    There's nothing worse than visiting the store on a Saturday morning, knowing what you need and knowing where it all is only to rock up and find the whole place is now backwards.   Why would you do this, supermarket??  It's the work of pure evil.   And, no, it doesn't make me buy more stuff; it makes me buy less.  Also: it makes me grumble under my breath for the entire duration of my trip.   

Never Park in Busy Car Parks:
When I lived in Scotland, I was fairly close to a massive Morrison's store, which regularly sold my favourite wine at cut price.  This would have been perfect for me, but it was located just off a massive roundabout with twenty lanes and traffic lights, like, EVERYWHERE.    

Unfortunately, my anxiety simply cannot handle the logistics of getting from one side of the roundabout to the other. I also tried approaching it from different directions to see if it would make it easier, but it didn't.    My solution:  go really late at night when there was hardly any traffic, bolt into the store, grab as many bottles as I could carry and go home and open one to congratulate myself on being so brave.

If I know LT and I are visiting a supermarket when it's likely to be busy (everywhere in North Wales during the school holidays), I will often force him to drive there and park.    I can drive home because I'm already in a space and I can just about cope with getting out of it.    

Odd Things I Do Because I'm Socially Awkward: Supermarket Edition
If it's wrong, it generally stays like that.
Point out Mistakes: 
This is something I never normally do, but broke with my tradition recently after being charged full price for Go Ahead cookie biscuit things that were on offer.    Usually, I just think 'oh well, that's the normal price of that mascara, so I'm not really losing money', instead of 'I only actually picked this up because it was on offer and now I've paid full price.  I must point out the mistake of the billion pound chain I bought it from and get my money back'.   
No.  I just tend to walk away, worried that I'll get someone into trouble or hold up a queue so that people behind me will get all restless and annoyed.   The anxiety this causes isn't generally worth the effort to rectify the problem.

The only reason I broke my tradition recently was because the supermarket in question was empty and I knew I wasn't getting in anyone's way.  As it turns out, I got an effusive apology and an explanation that the offer hadn't been linked to the tills.  Everything was fine and nothing terrible happened.    Who knew????

I realise that some of the things I do is down to being a decent human being, but others are the source of considerable anxiety and I often watch people sauntering through the store, unconcerned and, dare I say, actually *enjoying* the experience.   These people are my heroes.

Do you have similar issues in the supermarket??  

Suz x 

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Homemade Curried Potato Soup

If, like me, you seem to end up with a half bag of dodgy looking spuds at the end of any given week, you might want to check out this simple, tasty tattie soup.     

This recipe was basically invented when I had lots of random stuff in my cupboard,  which I decided to combine and ended up turning out really well.  Who knew?  Now it's one of my favourite go-to recipes and takes 5 mins to prepare and 20 mins on the stove.    

Ingredients: (obvs, you can change up what you want)

Potatoes (any variety)
2 cloves of garlic
Pinch of salt
Teaspoon of chicken powder (or stock cube)
Dash of dried chill, or fresh - whatever you have around
Two teaspoons of dried Cumin powder.
1 large onion

I never cook with oil, so I don't sweat the onion.  I generally just chop everything up (I blitz it with my immersion blender once it's done so the sizes don't matter), throw everything in a large soup pot and cover with water.

I start with the onion and potato simply because they take the longest to cook, but as long as my garlic and chilli are in there fairly close to the beginning, I can't say I've ever noticed a difference.   While the veg is happily bubbling away, I chuck in some chicken powder, salt and lots of cumin.    

I like everything my soup to be pretty spicy, but I will leave out some of the cumin if I know Les is eating it as he doesn't appreciate it quite so much.  If I'm mad at him, I put in more.    JK.       

I like the soup nice and thick, so I tend to just cover with ingredients with water and no more.   If you like yours a bit thinner, simply add more liquid.  

Potatoes aren't always the most flavourful of ingredients, hence the reason for the chill and cumin.   However, this is just a personal choice.   It also tastes great with some leftover cooked chicken and/or shredded cheddar.   

This recipe is a great way to use up potatoes that might otherwise be the thrown on the compost heap and I always have the other items on hand.  Plus: there are no crazy ingredients in it, like courgette flowers or the tears of an albino albatross, so it's simple and straightforward   For the most part, you can leave it on the cooker and go off and do something else.  Who doesn't love a bit of lazy cooking?  

Don't forget about it, though.  It's not quite as tasty when it has that burnt taste.

Suz x