Free Stuff for Teachers (1): Highland Clearances Baking

If any of you are doing a Highland Clearances project, you may be studying my own book Fir for Luck, or maybe The Desperate Journey. The 19th century diet in Sutherland consisted of food that could be grown in the region. The staple grain was bere, and beremeal bannocks or scones would be eaten daily in these communities. WP_20170316_09_07_30_Pro

Per table, you’ll need 8oz beremeal, 1-2 level tsp of baking powder, 1 level tsp salt, 2 tsp sugar and 6 fl oz buttermilk.

(Chances are, the originals may not have contained much sugar, but hey – kids like this recipe!)

  1. Buy beremeal from a good local health food shop or order it from, plus a good supply of buttermilk. You will also need baking powder, salt and sugar.
  2. In preparation, weigh out 8oz of beremeal for each table of 4-6 pupils. I find it easiest to have this sealed in freezer bags to prevent floury mess (enough of that to come!)
  3. On the day, give each table a bowl, wooden spoon or similar and a bag of beremeal.
  4.  Number the pupils, co-operative learning style. That way you can distribute tasks fairly. Instructions follow:
  5. Number 1s, empty the bags into the bowls.
  6. Number 2s, add a level teaspoon of baking powder and carefully stir it in.
  7. Number 3s, add another level teaspoon of baking powder and stir it in.
  8. Number 4s, add a level teaspoon of salt. Stir it in. (You get the idea! Only instructions now)
  9. Add 2 heaped teaspoons of sugar. Stir.
  10. Add the buttermilk, a spoon at a time, and stir it in until there is enough moisture to form an elastic dough.(This gets a bit messy)
  11. Get in with your hands and knead until combined. (This gets fairly messy!! Add more flour to stop sticky dough!)CymSRFlXcAARnOO
  12. Divide dough evenly among everyone at the table.
  13. Each pupil should form a round disk around 1/2 an inch thick.
  14. Place on baking paper on tray, writing your name beside in pencil (this works brilliantly and still shows up after baking).CyqGP_ZWQAAXHHG
  15. Bake tray off at 180C/Gas 6, turning the bannocks over once. You’d be there forever if you wanted to cook them all authentically, on a girdle!
  16. Serve with a dollop of butter. I’ve been surprised how much kids have liked these!


Enjoy! Tweet me your results @scattyscribbler – I’d love to see them.

P.S. Other (possibly less old-fashioned) recipes for beremeal can be found at .



The Ride (16): Historical Fiction Rocks. Literally.

I was in Italy for a couple of weeks this month.

What a place Rome is. What a history it has. And it brought home to me, in a whole new way, why I love historical fiction.

I am a particular fan of Caroline Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries (, an MG series following a handful of friends in Ostia, Rome’s ancient harbour, through a range of adventures. I visited the site of Ostia Antica with my family and looked at the hard evidence: pieces of rubble in abundance. Lizards – lots of them, to my 11 year-old’s delight. Tiny fragments of mosaic floors, a lot of statues – most with their heads missing.

My boy explores the theatre at Ostia Antica



Did I begin to get an idea what life might have been like there? I think so. Sort of. There were a couple of fairly well preserved floors of some baths, a theatre, a fish shop (archaeologists think), and best of all, a pub. Yes, complete with counter, courtyard and even frescoes of the menu (it was after all a largely illiterate society), all well-preserved enough to start me off. From the higher floors of some of the buildings, it was very easy to get a clear idea of the layout.

Ever seen a gymnastics competition? Vault, for instance?

The facts, the evidence and the ruins serve as the springboard. All the fancy flips and twists and turns in the air – the really impressive stuff, in other words – is done in the imagination.

We need the springboard, of course we do. But I see the evidence as a launch pad – the harder I hit it, the higher I can fly. I can flesh out the details, make ruins run with life, make the crumbling stones reach for the sky. Make the static statues stumble and sprint, sing and fear and love and cry. Make a story fly high.

Like Ostia Antica, the ruins of the clearance village which features in Fir for Luck seem like rubble and wreckage from the road. Tired tourists pull into the layby to inspect the information display, to ensure that they are not missing a vital attraction on the new North500 Route. They scan the sign, cast a cursory look down the hill towards the scattered remnants of homes and lives and fears and hopes and desperate resolve. But they only see rocks.

The place where I imagine my character Janet’s house to be.


It might have been these very rocks which were hurled at the Sheriff Superintendent from Dornoch who came to discipline the rebellious villagers – we’ll never know. But unless our travellers take a run at the springboard by venturing down the Ceannabeinne trail, they will miss this incredible story of courage and rebellion. They miss a chance for a triple twist in the air and a rush to the head. Who knows, the score might even be a personal best.

I really, really hope that, like all good historical fiction, Fir for Luck can be such a springboard.

And, for those interested in current progress, a  quick update:

  • We’re finalising arrangements for the cover reveal
  • The rough cut of the book trailer is awesome and being tweaked as we speak.
  • ARC copies of the book have arrived at Cranachan HQ and will go out soon.
  • I’m finalising the list of bloggers for the blog tour – let me know if you’d like an ARC copy to review or host  an interview or guest blog post – I’d love to hear from you. The more the merrier. Tweet me @scattyscribbler.

The Ride is speeding up and I am starting to get very excited indeed.

A Little Birdie

A Little Birdie told me…

Last year, I dragged myself into the current century by getting to grips with Facebook and blogging.

It was a good thing and I felt smug.

Until I saw there was a Twitter Pitch opportunity on 6th January, open to all writers resident in Scotland. All major literary agencies and publishers in Scotland would be considering the pitches, an open door to the minds of the very people who could make it all happen.

But I wasn’t on Twitter. Bah humbug, I humphed as I created the swiftest of profiles @scattyscribbler and tussled my first test tweet into cyberspace.

I sat down to hone my pitches. It’s probably more accurate to say I barely got up, honing my pitches. I consulted friends, children, husband, the dog – until I had a hopeful clutch of characters (<140 – no, 135 because of hashtag) for each finished manuscript. I’m ready; I roared my silent battle cry in my heart. Let me at them!

He day came and I tweeted my pitches, spaced out over the morning, quietly confident of at least some interest in something. Surely!

By lunchtime, the first of my writer friends got in touch. She had been asked to send a manuscript to an agent.

I pitched again.

Two more writer pals emailed joyfully that they had been approached.

I pitched more frantically.

Two MORE messages from yet different people. My inbox was exploding with positivity. Just not my positivity.

“Great news!” I answered. “Good Luck!” And I meant it, I really did. These are people I want to succeed! But it couldn’t float the sinking mass of misery in my own mind.

It was evening by the time I had a closer look at my pitches and realised – someone had favourited one of my tweets – someone whose face and profile I didn’t recognise. I looked more closely. Someone who works for a publishing company! A quick check with my personal twitter etiquette expert (thanks Fiona) – and she urged me to get in touch. Still a novice, I checked my microscopic piece of communication over and over: a nonchalant ‘Thanks for liking the pitch. Would you like to see more?’

Even if it had ended there, it would have been an encouragement after a day of silence.


But they asked to see the manuscript! And it’s gone.

And all the birds are tweeting with joy.

For now.