Wednesday, 29 September 2010
I think it is probably some time in your 50s when you realize you are radically changing from the wife and mother you were very comfortable as. To my horror, I am already the same SHAPE as my mother, and now I find I am starting to behave like her more and more!
When I am bored and waiting for something to load on this computer (which is very slow), I play a game of Spider Solitaire. Now, today, it suddenly occurred to me that mum used to play Solitaire all the time, with ordinary playing cards, at the dining table. When she finished one game she would start another. I am just the same! Sometimes she would play it clock fashion (is there a name for that?) but mostly in a line of 7 cards in a decreasing row.
I have started feeding some of the cats (who have special foibles) off the floor. Ban, for instance, is currently eating and sleeping on top of our tall larder fridge, so she eats very high up. Until recently she got fed on top of the cooker. She is a cat who keeps changing her sleeping/eating places every couple of weeks, so I indulge her. Lucy, who has one eye, is always wary of the other cats at mealtimes and so she gets fed on the dresser. Lucky, who is very elderly now, has her favourite food on demand. My offspring get cross and say ALL cats should be fed on the floor. This "pandering" is something my mum would have done as in later years, her pets always came first (in front of ME, that's for certain!)
Then last weekend I had a sudden yearning to do a big jigsaw. Typically, I had gotten rid of most of our jigsaw puzzles this summer, in the move to downsize. At a car boot sale, I noticed several stalls selling jigsaws, and for 50p I brought home a 1000 piece jigsaw of, predictably, a thatched cottage and lovely garden. Just the sort of picture my mum would have chosen, though she never did a puzzle bigger than 500 pieces. I have set it up on the table down in her flat, and as I was getting it started, I remembered my mum doing puzzles in the winter, carefully setting out the edge pieces and then turning all the middle pieces over so you could see the printed side, and going for something obviously coloured to start off with. It was strangely comforting to be history repeating itself . . .
Tuesday, 28 September 2010
Umbellifer seed heads with cobwebs.
White Himalayan Balsam makes a pleasant change from the usual pink. In recent years it has colonized the entire river valley.
I love the shades of green throughout this picture.
The lane by the river, which regularly gets flooded once the winter months arrive.
Down by the old mill, the river crashes over the boulders once more.
We walked just to where the lane turns in this photo. That felt quite far enough for a first walk after being poorly. We probably did a mile and a half in all.
Looking Northwards up our valley, towards Brechfa.
Look carefully and you will see what I think is a Devil's Coachman, bending up his bottom in Scorpion-fashion.
A glimpse of what was once a home. Penrhiwmelyn.
A Red Kite soaring high above us. Close by were 3 Buzzards and a Crow. I always feel so privileged when I see a Kite . . .
The hill home and a recent casualty of high winds. This ash tree split in half and has only been saved from bringing down our phone line by the fact that another ash tree caught it . . .
Home . . .
Monday, 27 September 2010
Is there really such a thing? Another dimension? Something that could explain ghosts and similar phenomena? I mention this as there was a piece in the paper today about husbands and wives/families being "on the same wavelength" as one another quite frequently. I've had this a LOT this past week where I have had a thought of a person - daughters - thinking, wonder when they're coming home, and the next moment they walk through the door. Or the phone rings and I say it's so and so, and it IS. But that's old hat, I could do that from early teens onwards.
How about phantom smells? I was going to bed one night and as I crossed the landing, just outside our bedroom door I smelt the unmistakable smell of a just-blown-out candle. My husband smelt it too. A past moment in time slotting into our time? A gift from a parallel universe? You tell me . . .
Saturday, 25 September 2010
The sky is the colour of a bowl of blue ribbons, left to fade for years on a windowsill in the sun. Some of the garden looks scalped where I have been clearing spent leaves in the border. Some of it looks blowsy like a raddled old tart propping up the bar in a seedy back-street pub. The vegetable plot looks like a wart hog has been let loose and has grubbed everything up. I spent a satisfying hour or so taking down the bean poles and the spent beans.
The hill to the river is in gloom now, the dessicated leaves have done with playing in the breeze and have settled for the night in the gullies beside the lane. Little chewed-up lengths of splintered hedgerow litter the lanes hereabouts as farmers tidy up their farms and smallholdings.
Whilst I was working, several ideas for blog posts came into my head, but now they have run willy-nilly from my brain and I am left with a head like an empty room with the door just slammed shut.
I probably meant to talk about books, about find a cookbook of Devon recipes I bought in 1986, and with a favourite much-made recipe in it for Apricot and Coriander Fruit Loaf which I have somehow managed to forget completely about over the years, when Life has got in the way. I plan to make one tomorrow.
I definitely meant to talk about kittens, and trying to tame them, and their blowing raspberries at me . . .
I should mention that I have blown the dust off my more than 3/4 finished Devon Village x-stitch and sewn a little of it this afternoon, and realized just why I laid it aside at summer's start - it was because I was a line adrift on the little bit I was working on today, and it has scrambled my brain completely trying to sort it (as it's beyond "putting right").
I could ponder how I actually enjoy - and look forward to (!!!) - ironing these days, as a satisfying job. It is something I dreaded and avoided when my children were small and there was a permanent ironing mountain the size of Ben Nevis.
I might add that I had the best night's sleep for a week last night, and what bliss it was to stretch out my tired body in a warm bed, and know that all my family were under the same roof and I didn't need to fret about them coming home safely.
As for tomorrow - well, it will involve processing some of the windfall apples I picked up today, along with some of the smaller Bramleys. A couple of pies, and perhaps some chutney . . .
Thursday, 23 September 2010
For the past week or so I feel like I have been wading through treacle. A chest infection, which I chose to ignore ("it's just a cough") had really taken a hold and strong anti-biotics were needed to knock it on the head. I have had to try and rest up, but I find this very difficult. However, most of the time I just felt like I had drunk a bottle of something very strong, and had a woolley head and no energy whatsoever. I have taken the last pill now, so hopefully I will get my brain and my energy back.
I have watched tv and read. I couldn't even muster enough energy or desire to sew - or rather, I really wanted to sew, but just couldn't get my brain to co-operate. I just wanted to SIT.
Well, I have tried to inspire myself now, by taking these photos. I REALLY want to get started on the beautiful picture of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, but know that I should be finishing off my Devon village x-stitch first. I want to work through all those lovely Flower Fairy charts too . . .
Anyway, I have at least allowed myself the indulgence of writing a shopping list of DMC threads I need for the Widecombe picture. Why is it that however many skeins of embroidery floss you have (the box is just the overflow from the many many skeins looped through holes punched in the sides of old cornflake packets) you always need more when you start a new project?
Wednesday, 22 September 2010
A little treat arrived today. I didn't go mad on the spending - it only cost 4 pence, plus the £2.75 postage from someone selling through Amazon. It's Henry Williamson's "The Pathway", the 4th and final part of his series The Flax of Dream. Despite having several books started at present, I couldn't wait to start this too . . . Let me give you a little taster and you will know why . . .
Down the passage from the distant hall came the muffled franging notes of the grandfather clock striking eight times. Seven o'clock already! In half an hour it would be supper time, and the potatoes were not even peeled. Mary had thought that morning to give them a squab pie for supper, but always there had been other things to do, and now it was too late. She opened the door of the oven, and saw that a light brown crisped skin was formed over the rice pudding in its china dish. Apples!
Taking a basket and an old brass lanthorn from tthe dresser she lit the candle, and wen out into sparkling starlight to the woodshed, climbing the worn broad steps to the apple loft, a place of limewashed walls flaking lose into cobwebs, and rows of shelves holding apples resting on straw, each tray marked by a piece of cardboard tcked on it. There were rows of Annie Elizabeth, big yellowy-green ones; Scarlet Leadington, very red and too good for cooking; Lane's Prince Albert, which were green and would keep until April. The straw-laid trays of an entire wall were packed with pippins - Cox's Orange, Wyken, King of the Pippins . . .
Saturday, 18 September 2010
1.30 a.m. on a cool September morning. Having gone to bed at 8.30 p.m. feeling doozy, and then waking at midnight, wondering if my daughter was in yet, I am now paying the price . . .
At 12.15 I padded downstairs, barefoot, thick dressing gown pulled tight around me and peered outside. The peering through the curtains in our bedroom, and then the half-landing showed a deep darkness that hid any possible silver grey car shape on the driveway. I opened the front door, and peered out. I still couldn't see a car, so in a scattering of kittens (who are now about 4 months old and well grown, and have taken to spending the night on my gardening kneeling mat on the porch), I padded, still barefoot, along the pathway until I could see that the drive was still empty. I went back to bed, and laid there for another 15 minutes, until my middle daughter arrived home from her bar job. I waited for sleep to reclaim me. It blardy-well DIDN'T. I got hotter and thirstier and gave up the unequal struggle, so here I am, a hunk of home-made bread in front of me and a half-empty glass of lager . . . well, the principle is it should help me relax and sleep.
I would love to read some more of a new-to-me-but-2nd-hand book that my daughter brought me back from Bristol: Journal of a Somerset Rector 1803 - 1834. He was John Skinner. Not a happy man - curmudgeonly even - but the poor chap had lost his darling wife, their dearest daughter (who was a chip off the old block) and various other close members of his family in fairly short order (several to TB) and his life was never really happy after that (not unsurprisingly). He lived in Camerton, a small mining village near Radstock in Somerset. He was an antiquary, like many of his ilk in that time, and never happier when holed-up in his study, proving to himself that he lived in Camulodunum - that wonderful spot where had once lived Caractacus, where Ostorius had settled a colony, and "where Arthur had fought the traitor Mordred" . . . he was positive that Camerton was none other than the Camulodunum of Tacitus, and he spent many many hours researching and "proving" this fact. He took himself to Stourhead, home of Sir Richard Hoare, and there holed up in HIS study, doing more research, though once another antiquary had the afront to state that Camulodunum was actually COLCHESTER! His jottings finally filled 98 volumes (!) of manuscripts, but sadly, at some point along the way, they ceased to be less about Camulodunum and more telling of the foibles of John Skinner . . . I cannot wait to read further . . .
Wednesday, 15 September 2010
Someone was asking - Sharie I think it was - about what was happening on the house-selling front. Well, as the current agents have not exactly excelled themselves in any capacity whatsoever, we have decided to terminate our contract with them when it elapses at the end of this month, and have asked a specialist agent in England to list our house for us. Hopefully then, as their website has a heavy footfall of potential customers, we may just get someone along to see it.
To be honest, I have just "switched off" as it has just been one long catalogue of errors from start to finish. All the summer I have kept the house spick and span and the garden looking at its best, all to no purpose whatsoever. I find it hard to believe that anyone might want to buy our house, because of the parlous state of the housing market and because no-one in their right mind would want somewhere this roomy this side of the border.
I am still filled with doom and gloom and have not allowed myself any emotional attachment whatsoever with the lovely house and garden we have offered on. That way I won't be disappointed if it all falls through, which I think is more than likely.
So as we move into Autumn, I think it will be next spring before there is any real interest in house-buying again, by which time our house will be very "old hat" and folk will doubtless be saying, "I wonder what's wrong with that? It's been on the market since last summer . . ."
Well, we are home from our travels. Don't ask me how we crammed in what we managed to cram into our car, including 4 adults, but we did, and though it was front-end light for the first half of the journey, by the time we'd used up 1/4 tank of fuel it was a bit more grounded. We looked - perhaps for the last time for years - across the beautiful Peak District, me wishing we had time to stop so I could get my camera out, but it was buried "somewhere" in the back of the car, so that idea was abandoned. A shame, as the colours were so intense - purples, pinks, browns, startling greens where the sun broke through across the moors.
Downhill all the way - or so it felt. Dashing along the short stretches of motorway from Stafford to the Welsh borders, and then slowly along lanes, getting stuck behind trailers with a double-deck of sheep (the farmer gave them a good ride), looking at the beautiful scenery over the hedgerows where the bindweed flowers waved like white flags. The Welsh hills hugged us like a quilt, and it was a relief to be more than half-way home. The rain was with us all the way, but undaunted, the Swallows and Martins were diving headlong through it.
The fingers of autumn had tweaked the green from the leaves of many trees - Chestnuts first of course - but the Elders were a chorus of lilac-pink and fading cream, and the Hawthorns highlighted with skeins of scarlet. Locally we have few berries, stemming from the long dry spell for the first half of the year I think, following such a harsh winter.
The brackened hillsides were turning a muddy green and even the oak trees were starting to brown. Just past the Sugar Loaf, a murder of Crows were playing in the warm wet thermals, rising and falling like black confetti.
An Ash leaf twirled through the air. Autumn is here - and early this year.
A road in mid-Wales, heading towards the Shropshire border.
Arbor Low in the rain. I wanted to concentrate on pictures of the Cove in the centre of the henge this time.
A shame all the stones are recumbent. It must have been quite impressive with them all standing to their full height.
These stones were massive - I assume the two parts were once joined together.
The rain over the millennia has made this wonderful keyhole shape in the limestone upright.
A view showing the height of the henge bank.
The NNW view was not QUITE so good in the rain!
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Whilst we were passing through Derbyshire last week, we stopped at Arbor Low, one of the most famous henge monuments and not for nothing known as "the Stonehenge of the North". Situated at over 1200 feet, it commands spectacular 360 degree views over the Derbyshire Peak District. The name Arbor Low derives from Old English: eordburgh-hlaw. The word Low is a familiar one throughout the Derbyshire region. Arbor Low dates from about 3,000 B.C. and tops a rich limestone plateau. Its earthen banks enclose a generous area roughly 171 feet by 131 feet, with two entrances. Contained within are more than 40 vast stones, recumbent now. Like Avebury, a small group of 3 stone pillars inside the stone circle are known as The Cove. Aubrey Burl (whose wonderful book Circles of Stone I am cribbing from to write this) mentions that the skeleton of a "stockily built man" was buried at the Eastern end of the Cove and nearby was a deep pit containing a single human arm bone, the relevance of which has sadly been lost over the millennia.
Cows and clouds . . .
This view was looking NNW (I think!)
One of the much-weathered limestone uprights, now very much recumbent.
There is the suggestion of an avenue or processional way leading from the henge to the burial mound of Gib Hill some 330 yards West. It is thought that this long barrow was the original focus for the area.
Burl states: " It has been claimed that no fewer than fifty straight ley-lines intersected at Arbor low. More persuasively it appears that this circle-henge was the sub-tribal focus of a well-populated countryside, usurping the roles of earlier family shrines. It lies at the heart of a landscape of eight Early Neolithic chambered tombs. In turn it became the centre of dozens of Bronze Age cairns. It is one of the wonders of Megalithic Britain."
In this instance, I would interpret ley-lines in Alfred Watkin's original polemic - e.g. that these were lines linking places in the landscape, and not energy lines - " A close examination of Watkins' leys reveals that he was perceiving a number of different kinds of alignment. A small number were simple alignments of prehistoric sites, but many were what we would now call "church lines" (a phenomenon fully accepted by German archaeologists), "corpse ways", "church paths" and "coffin lines" . It is clear from his writings that Watkins also included straight Native American paths or "roads" too.
The term "ley" is therefore a generic term for archaic linear features of all kinds. These lines appear in many different cultures and periods and manifest themselves in varying forms. Ultimately they and other linear features, lore and traditional concepts can be found to have a "spirit" element of some kind - often spirits of the dead.(from The Ley Hunter website.)
The weather in Staffordshire was equally threatening . . .
Saturday, 11 September 2010
This is scrummy - lovely and moist. I made mine with mostly plain chocolate (as I'd gotten very low on cooking choc) so it wasn't too sweet and believe it or not, OH even likes it. I haven't told him there are courgettes in it or he would then never touch it again. . . . Sigh. I have, ahem, sent middle daughter off to work with a slice today - she's another one who wouldn't touch it if she thought it had "things" in!!!
175g/6 oz plain chocolate
2 large eggs
175ml/6 fl oz vegetable oil
200g/7 oz S-R Flour
1/2 tspn salt
115g/4 oz caster sugar
225g/8 oz peeled weight courgettes, grated
55g/2 oz walnuts, chopped
Preheat the oven to 180 deg. C/350 deg. F/Gas 4. Grease and flour a 20cm/8 inch round cake tin.
Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water or in a microwave and set aside.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and oil.
Measure the flour, salt and sugar into another bowl, and mix together. Gradually add this mixture to the whisked egg and oil, and beat well together.
Stir in the melted chocolate, then the grated courgettes and nuts (I left out the nuts). Mix well and pour into the prepared cake tin. bake for 1 hour or until the cake is well risen, and is firm and springy to the touch in the centre. Allow to cool in the tin for 10 mins before turning out on to a wire rack.
This is even better the next day - if it lasts that long!
Friday, 10 September 2010
I did another batch of biscuits too, trying out a new recipe, and they are delish. I will be making those again. I also made a Chocolate Courgette Cake, which you would never know had grated courgettes in. Because it's chocolate the little bits are practically invisible. OH had a couple of crumbs, and then went and cut himself a slice. He would NEVER HAVE TOUCHED IT if I'd mentioned it had Courgettes in! I'll add that recipe in the morning. Meanwhile here is the recipe for the scrummy Sugar Biscuits.
4 oz butter or firm margarine
4 oz castor sugar
1 teaspoon lemon rind (I grated one small lemon)
1 egg (seperated)
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz plain flour
1 oz semolina
Castor sugar for dredging.
Lightly cream together butter/marg, sugar and lemon rind, then work in egg yolk and salt until blended. Add flour and semolina and combine to make a firm paste. If a little soft, wrap in greaseproof and leave in fridge for a short while.
Roll out thinly on a floured board and cut into shapes. Place on a lightly greased baking tray. (Whisk egg white lightly to liquify. Brush tops of biscuits and dredge with castor sugar.) I didn't do this. . .
Bake near top of oven at Gas 4, 350 deg. F for 12 - 15 mins until pale golden. They may require checking half way through as the sugar burns easily. Leave on tray for 1 - 2 mins to crisp. Store in an airtight tin when cold.
I sprinkled a little vanilla sugar over my biscuits when they came out of the oven, so there was no chance of them burning in cooking - I have a Fan oven which runs hot. You can use orange rind instead of lemon if wished.
These are GORGEOUS and I shall be making these regularly now.
This recipe was passed on to me by my dear friend Mary, who used to make huge batches of these to serve with her Yorkshire Farmhouse Teas when she and her husband farmed in Yorkshire.
NIG NOG BISCUITS
1/2 cup S-R flour
1/2 cup dessicated coconut
1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup sugar
1 tblspn cold water (oops - forgot that today!)
3 oz margarine
1/2 tsp Bicarbonate of Soda
1 dessertspoon golden syrup (or treacle if you prefer).
Melt fats and syrup in pan. Mix Bicarb with water and pour onto dry ingredients. Form into small balls and bake in a moderate oven (350 deg.) for about 15 mins - I have a fan oven and they were done in 9 mins!
You will be glad to hear that the baking HAS cheered me up.
I have several ideas for postings, and some great photos of the henge monument Arbor Low in Derbyshire to post too, but I am still down in the dumps and in a "can't be bothered" frame of mind. At this minute, I just want to go to bed and sleep forever. All that driving up to Sheffield and back this week (despite G's help - she drove most of the way back), has got to me. I feel like I did when I was nursing my mum and my life wasn't my own - I think it's because there are so many elements of my life that I am NOT in control of at the moment, and cannot alter or improve.
Anyway, the view above is near Arbor Low and the Big Black Cloud which was ominously moving closer as we walked across the fields to the henge. We managed to escape getting soaked, I am glad to say.
Have a good weekend, all.
Monday, 6 September 2010
Do you remember The Glums on the radio, probably late 50s/early 60s? They were part of Take It From Here, a very popular radio show of the time. Jimmy Edwards played the long-suffering father and Dick Bentley the dim and reluctant-to-wed Ron, and June Whitfield was brilliant as Eth.
Well, I feel about as cheerful as Eth today. The house-selling saga continues as disastrously as it started. Now we have announced we will not be renewing our contract, all of a sudden our house gets the long-promised advert in the weekend national paper. Unfortunately, the details were inaccurate and our house was described as being approached by a track (this was the "reason not to buy it" . . .) Since we have spent the last 22 years driving off a Council-maintained metalled road, I am rather at a loss as to where this information may have come from, especially as YKW is denying all knowledge . . .
I am trying to keep my nose to the grindstone tidying up and doing housework, just in case some mad individual might want to come and view, but I think I am wasting my time, if I am honest. I can't help feeling VERY VERY "what's the point?" and totally despondent. I think chocolate is called for . . .
Saturday, 4 September 2010
We had an unexpected day out yesterday. We had been sent a complimentary ticket to go to Builth. But we were skint. And the car had been playing up (beware orange engine-shaped lights on the dashboard). We SHOULD do a car boot sale. Then we listened to the weather forecast (rain coming in around late morning). Car boot sale off then. (One shower was apparently all that arrived in the way of rain!) Should we, shouldn't we? We thought, oh hell, packed a car picnic and went anyway. The engine had been given some medicine which you add to the fuel (a caustic cleaning mix) and another bit had been cleaned. It needed testing. Fingers crossed, but it "may" have worked. As we're off up to Sheffield twice in the next week, let's hope it HAS worked. We spent £2.50 between us at the Fair (!) on an OS map of Manchester for OH and 3 metres of braid to go around a stool I reupholstered.
It was a lovely day out - everything and anything is offered for sale there, as you can see! And we even found a replacement for our washing machine if new bushes don't do the trick . . .
I haven't the foggiest what the story is being told here on this carved chair. We suspected the seat was carved at a later date though.
Isn't this sweet? I might have taken to ironing earlier if I'd had this set when I was small!
The Fleamarket side of the Fair is what we enjoy most, rather than the beautifully-orchestrated stalls in the front sheds. You never know what will turn up. The prices often bear absolutely no relationship to the value of the item on offer. (More than £20 for a glass sweetie jar really is a little excessive I feel . . . Not on this stall, by the way.)
Some of the display cabinets had a proper hotch-potch of items for sale Anything from netske to teddy bears here.
There were some very unusual bedfellows on this stall . . .
I'm really not sure if I could live with this poor little stuffed fawn on the sideboard back at home . . .
I think they must have eaten the rest of this chap as he ended by his fins!
My OH examining one of the many guns on offer (all decomissioned of course).
A collection of traps from the past. Gin traps were outlawed back in 1954, along with other leg hold traps. So much misery in one place . . .
Poor old chap - I have never seen quite such a moth-eaten lion before. Quite how she lost her ears I don't know . . . I wonder if someone wanted an ear-less lion skin to put in front of the fire?
In one of the back sheds, this collection of vintage clothing was on offer . . .
If you double click on this photograph you will read of the sad demise of a much-loved son, who drowned, age 8 years and 10 months . . .
These little Christening gowns were a testament to the needle of many a mother and grandmother. The tiny little pintucks, and dainty stitching - what love went into their making. They remind me of Dorset auctions years ago, when such items could be bought for a pound or two. I was tempted then, but didn't indulge myself. Now I rather wish I had as they are becoming ever more collectable.
A few views from the balcony in one of the display halls. Here are always LOTS of stalls with jewellery, glass and ceramics.
All sorts of gorgeous things on offer including vintage linen and lots of china and glass.
Some of the stalls have "room settings" with wall space for pictures and textiles to be hung, and some fascinating items of treen, furniture and ceramics.