Saturday, 26 November 2016

Starry starry night - and Hay Winter Festival.

The past two days we have been out before first light and back as the last glimmer has settled on the horizon, with stars at either end of the day.  I found myself humming Starry Starry Night as we drove home from Hay this evening, after a very enjoyable and worthwhile day with our Fleamarket stall, in the grounds of the castle.

Each evening, the moment we arrived back we were greeted by five hungry cats, demanding their supper - NOW.  Each evening, I have hurriedly doled out cat biscuits and then refilled the bird feeders with barely enough light to find them on the trees - tonight especially when we were back at past 5 p.m.  A thin sliver of marzipan light was just melting behind the hills to the West, with an angry rolling purple-edged cloud above our heads, but behind us was stygian darkness.  Then I flung together a scratch tea - my husband quite happy to have cheese on toast, whilst I opened a freezer container which had a label saying Mince 'n' Rice and two happy smiley faces - to indicate it was one of my more successful concoctions.  Well, it might have been before it got frozen and before I had this cold, but tonight it tasted of absolutely nothing at all and so I mostly ate the few spoonfuls of baked beans I had slung on the plate to keep it company.

A part of our stand at Hay today.  I was gratified that several pieces I had bought because they were interesting and unusual were bought by folk passing through (and it was busy there today). Sometimes I wonder if I am going wrong because people don't even LOOK at what I have on display, but just wander past . . .

I had several wanders round the town centre as there was a small Food Festival there.  Here is the Onion Johnnie - a rare beast these days.  I can remember them coming over from France on the ferry, riding their bikes all over Southampton selling onions.  If I hadn't recently bought a sack of onions myself, I would have had some of his.

Here is where I got my lunch.  The stall on the left had a really good selection of pies, and I plumped for the Boozy Beef :Pie, which was delicious, with wonderful pastry.  Earlier I had some Spicy Lentil Soup from the stall on the right, and also a Chicken Samosa.  All were really good.

I was very disappointed (but not surprised) when my husband has his usual bacon roll and refused point blank to let me get anything for him to try - even a lovely pork pie, or some hand-made sausages.  He is highly suspicious of any food bought when out, in case it might have "stuff" in it - by this I mean dangerous spices, onion, GARLIC (which would poison him!) or even herbs.

Inside the long markquee were lots more stalls, selling various produce, like these tasty muffins - this end of the table had savoury ones, and as you went towards the other end there were lots of different chocolate mixtures and brownies.  I was very tempted by the After Eight one, but as I had made and brought cake, I stayed my hand.  It was bad enough that I had a samosa AND a pie!

A look around Festive Hay now - in the shop selling maps, a lovely Map Man.


Above and below, the good old traditional (and excellent) butchers.  It's a while since I've seen Game hung outside a butchers like this, although the (equally traditional and excellent) butchers in Newport, Pembs, does the same at this time of year.

Above, Henry VII overlooks the town, and has a big Christmas Bow to keep him company.

There were a variety of entertainments throughout the day - a couple of Choirs (I had to walk away when the Male Voice Choir were singing, beautifully I might add, as I always get choked when I hear them.  If they had sung Myfanwy I would have been in pieces.

Here, Brecon Concert Band were playing to a captive audience.

People-watching . . .

I think that Ben Fogle was turning on the Hay Christmas Lights, but we had an hour and a half's journey, so couldn't stay to watch him.

Right, two down and one to go.  Tomorrow morning we are up at 5 a.m. and away to Carmarthen Fleamarket shortly after 6 a.m.  I hope I can find the Hereford Hop cheese I bought today for my lunch tomorrow - it is SOMEWHERE in the back of the car . . .

Friday, 25 November 2016

Snow on the mountains

There was still some snow on the Brecon Beacons as we drove past today on our way to Hay-on-Wye.  These are old photos, but better than nothing.  There was snow in the gulleys on Hay Bluff too - so they must have had a good coating last week.

As we were driving home today, the sun was out and it was beautiful.  The trees which still have leaves really light up the landscape.  Amongst a thicket of bare branches grew what is probably a Spindle Tree - anyway, it still had a shimmer of pale golden leaves and looked absolutely stunning against the dark backdrop.  I was driving or I might have been tempted to try and pull over and get a photo - but then, I've just looked to my right and seen my camera here at home, so that would have been a total waste of time!

The Field Maples still have a mass of stunning deep gold leaves, and surprisingly several Weeping Willows along the way still have their full compliment too, but one good frost and they will lose them.

Tomorrow we are back at Hay for the Winter Festival, and a little band of us will be setting up our stalls within the castle grounds (just within the walls by the little car park by the war memorial, where there are books with an honesty box).  Hopefully there will be lots of people about, wanting to part with some cash, as there is a Food Festival too (and I am planning an Alternative Lunch to the Pastrami salad roll I normally have).

Then on Sunday we have yet another Fair, the big Fleamarket on Carmarthen Showground, so roll on Monday morning when we can have a lie-in (bet we wake early!)

Oh, and as you may have guessed, the madness of Black Friday has totally passed us by.  Not much of that on display in Hay!!

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Plodding on

Although I am feeling a bit brighter, I still haven't shaken this nasty bug off.  I'm still on anti-biotics, but I think the bug is still in my body causing problems as when I went to one of the Units today to have a change around of stock, I broke into a real sweat walking backwards and forwards with various bits of furniture and boxes of china.  It was the same this afternoon when we loaded the car for the first of three back-to-back Fairs.  I wish we didn't have to do them as my husband is unwell too (same bug) only he's about 3 or 4 days behind me and standing around in the cold for the next three days isn't going to bring any health benefits!  Ah well, needs must, and if tomorrow turns out to be quiet, we shall pack up early and at least we will be packed for the next couple of days so don't have to start over.

This afternoon was my last opportunity to do some baking for the Fairs (I always take cake to share round amongst friends).  The top cake is a simple Lemon Drizzle, but it's Lemon and Lime as I had both to use up.  It turned out well, though it got forgotten for 20 minutes beyond it's allotted span in the oven as I was watching Bargain Hunt on tv.  (One of our vices).

It was one of those days for baking mishaps, and this was a rather dismal failure as it got overbeaten (the mixer turned itself on when I was out of the room!) and the cracks are probably due to the mixture being too wet.  This was because when I was heating up the fat and syrup/treacle, I got distracted and it boiled over (BAD), and I added more fat to make up for what I had lost all over the stove, so I guess I got the balance wrong.  Ah well, let's hope it tastes OK.  It is a Chocolate Fruited Gingerbread.

I have the dates for Tricia's cremation, and then funeral.  I can only do one, so will be going to her funeral/spreading of her ashes.  I forgot to ask whether it was family flowers only, donations to charity, or what - my mind was thinking about the funeral and so I suppose I have been distracted all day long.

Doh, just gone to check my emails and got an order confirmation from My Hermes for the parcel I'm having picked up tomorrow, and I suddenly realized I'd not printed off their labels.  I think I need an early night.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Life goes on

I have to pick up the pieces of my life, changed as it is by Tricia's loss, and carry on, as we all must in such a situation.

I hope all the UK folks who read my blog are safe and sound and not flooded or blown away in the wake of the first storm of the season, the belligerent Angus making its presence felt with flood alerts now in place in 75 places countrywide.  I was horrified to find that the iconic thousand year old Tarr Steps on Exmoor has had the central stones washed away in the deluge.  I hope that it can be restored.

Yesterday's heavy and persistent rain would normally have kept us in the house, but unfortunately we had to take the car in for a fairly vital repair - it had refused to start the previous day and we CANNOT be stranded anywhere with a non-functioning car, so we went into town and got it sorted, and I managed a good session of Christmas shopping.

Whilst I was choosing books for gifts in The Works, I came across this one, and for £3, well, it was a no-brainer, so it became a little cheer-me-up gift.  There are some lovely recipes in it, and the chapter headings are Cheese and Dairy; Charcuterie; Bread and Pastry; Cakes, Biscuits and Cereal; Salt Curing; Rendering and Fats; Jams, Jellies and Preserves;  Pickles and Chutneys; Condiments; Air Drying; Cordials and Liqueurs; What's in My Larder.  A good selection of things to make to tempt you to get busy in the kitchen.

Now, I bought this book for a family member.  However, it was one I picked up and perused for quite a while whilst I was in Booths in Hay-on-Wye a few weeks ago.  It was full price there (£20) so I put it back, but it was a third cheaper in TK-Maxx yesterday, and I thought, oh, R would love that. Hmmm, I got home and looked and it again and realised that J would also like it, and so for the moment it is staying with ME, and I will get him a copy from one of those Amazon remainder offers (cheapskate!)  The illustrations are divine and so are the recipes, and I can recommend it.

Another treat for me, with Christmas coming up.  I usually buy just one Christmas cooking magazine and this is it for 2016.  Apart from the mouth-watering trifle on the cover, there are lots of other tempting recipes.

I have two Aged Aunties, and had intended to get a canvas printed for each with one of my best photographs, so I got myself organized and downloaded some photos onto my memory stick. However, the cheapest canvas I could have got in town was £25 in Boots.  I remembered seeing a similar outfit in Tesco, so went there, only to find them dearer by quite a bit (£39.99 cheapest).  That was out of budget, but my eye fell on printing a calendar using your own photos.  This was only £10, and so I thought I would see if I could get a seasonally appropriate group of my views together to make up a calendar, and am absolutely delighted with the result.  I pick them up next Monday, and I am delighted I have a personalised gift for them of all my favourite photos.  I hope they are well received.

As I type this up, I have an on-line auction on in the background, and in due course, I will bid on a couple of items that we are interested in for my business.  It's nearly as good as being there - it is an auction we have started attending regularly only this summer - over the English border, so not exactly next door.  We are going tomorrow anyway (day two of the sale, but nothing marked down there as it's furniture and we are Full Up with furniture at the moment).  We have some items to put in the next auction, so will deliver them and pick up anything we might have bought today.  I hope I feel a bit more human by then, as although the steroids have worn off and I got a proper night's sleep last night, I am still struggling with the chest infection and had to take a sputum sample to the Hospital today, and carry on with the anti-biotics.

So, the rhythm of workaday life has resumed, with its rewards and tribulations and - a little glimmer of light in the darkness of house selling - we have a Christmas viewing on the house, so let's hope we don't get snowed in!

Sunday, 20 November 2016

Sifting through the memories

I have spent the entire morning looking through all my photographs, looking for one batch in particular (still missing) but I have managed to find the early ones I wanted, which show Trish aged 16.  The one above is her sitting on her New Forest pony Nickie (Prince Nickovitch, we were into our Russian names in those days, influenced by Ilya Kuryakin from the Man from Uncle!)  Any riders among you of a certain age may remember the correct seat on a horse was so that you could just see your toes in front of your knees - though it looks rather WW1 military to our eyes now!!

Another line up - Trish and Nickie (who still has his tongue out); Me with Maize, also New Forest, and just a yearling; and Hilary with Donna, who was a 3 yr old then, and also New Forest.  In the background were grey broodmare Cindy and her yearling daughter Corinne.  They belonged to the gypsies, and were always underfed and thin.

We (childhood friends Trish, Rosie and me) kept our ponies at Mr Stark's.  He'd been a Farrier in WW1, and surviving the war, had bought a 10 acre smallholding on Portsmouth Road, where he kept pigs, chickens and 3 Welsh Black steers we called Simon, Garfunkel and Curley.   We paid 2/6d a week rent (including hay).  Feed for the ponies was kept in the shed where the pigswill was cooked up, and going in there during the dark of a winter's evening, loud were our screams when the rats ran over our wellies!

We used to walk the ponies for miles along the lanes and they were completely traffic proof long before we ever rode them in traffic.

In the early 1960s we had learned to ride (after a fashion - no instructors there!) at Testwood Riding School, and Tricia's favourite was a fleabitten grey Connemara mare called Mandy.  We used to help out at the stables on the Saturday - ride and lead ponies up from the fields, groom them, cut chaff on the chaff cutter (amazing we never lost our fingers, Health & Safety would have had a field day with that), used woollen stable bandages as tail bandages (one flick of a tail and they flew off across the stable), went down the Rec at lunch time and Trish would have a very frugal "lunch" of a frozen lemon mousse - you ate them like an ice cream.

We went dancing at the Royal Pier in Southampton, wore a lipstick called The Palest, thought that girls who wore mascara were trollops, used Manhattan Perfume, rode on the back of Mods' Scooters, hung out in the Mirabelle Cafe (ooh, that Mac the Knife with his tattoos - he was Dangerous), and met a succession of unsuitable boyfriends  (more of which later).

Trish worked for local Government after she dropped out of 6th Form, and worked part time at the Concorde Jazz club at Stoneham, behind the bar.  She learned to drive and had an old Morris Minor.  I can remember trying to drive home in heavy rain one night and the wipers broke, and we took our tights off and tied them to the wipers (through open windows) and limped home pulling the wipers to and fro.

Trish met John Rennie and I can still remember thinking, ah, this is the one, when after 3 weeks she announced "I'm still not bored with him yet!"  There's an accolade . . .

They were married in 1975 and went on to have a son and a daughter, and throughout all her married life we would phone and meet up regularly - she has always been like the sister I never had.  She supported me when my first marriage broke up (to be honest, it was doomed from the start) and then through a series of rather rocky relationships, also doomed from the start. Gosh, I bent her ear on MANY occasions, and arrived sobbing on her doorstep too, but Trish was always the sensible one to my wearing my heart on my sleeve and leaping in where it really would have been prudent to at least open my eyes before leaping.

Of course, as the years went by we took different pathways in life, and in her 20s Rosie and her husband and son, and extended family moved back to New Zealand to live, but we have always kept in touch.

When we moved to Wales nearly 30 years ago Trish and I saw less of one another, but she and John and the children managed a few holidays down here and I went to stay with her too, as they moved to a series of different houses on the edge of the New Forest.  She inherited her daughter's pony Siddy when Laura discovered boys and rode him until a year or two before she became ill - he was always a bit full-on and with her severe scoliosis, it became more sensible for her to ride her friend's old pony Tango instead, and her friend rode Siddy.

Trish was always a great animal lover and supporter of animal charities, and a vegetarian since she was 10 years old.  She took a firm stance over vivisection, fox-hunting, animals for slaughter and was an early supporter of animal rights, demonstrating (and often being arrested) on protests.  She subsequently became a vegan.  She never backed down from her beliefs, and influenced friends and family to back her stance.  She was true to her beliefs until the very end.

In 2004, Rosie came over to England to visit family and friends, and we had a wonderful get-together here for a few days.  In the photo above are Little Lin - who helped us with the ponies at Mr Stark's, and shared a flat with Trish for a time  (there is also a Big Lin, based purely on height), Rosie (standing), Trish doing something practical and me looking rather jolly, as we'd been on the pop and I think were probably a bottle down at this point!

Rosie is an artist and brought her paints and we had some lovely days out - probably visiting Skomer Island was one of the highlights, as it was so beautiful on the day we went, and the Puffins were so tame.  We watched a pod of Dolphins at the back of the island, surrounded by acres of Red Campion.  Happy days.

Lots and lots of memories have come flooding back as I look back on our shared lives, but I have to say there is one vivid one which pretty well sums up Trish and her no-nonsense approach to life.  When we were 17 or so, we met a couple of blokes at a dance, and I think Trish saw one of them a couple of times, and he had something of hers she had lent him, a book I think, and she wanted it back.  He was parked outside her house in a sports car, his mate with him (smug git he was too).  Trish asked for the book back but Gilbert (dear God, what was his mother thinking?) wouldn't give it to her.  Trish got really riled and began to hit him with her handbag, and I quickly joined in.  As we were belabouring this bloke, a police car pulled up on the other side of the road and a woman police officer walked across and said, "What's the problem? Are you two girls OK?"  I looked at Trish, she looked at me, and she answered the police woman, "No problem at all officer" and lifted her handbag again and carried on walloping Gilbert and the police woman left us to it!  That's my girl . . .

Friday, 18 November 2016

R.I.P. Tricia Rennie

Trish and John, when they were here with us in September 2015.

It is with immense sadness that I am writing that my best friend of nearly 60 years, Tricia Rennie (or Tricia Hanslip as she was in our childhood), passed away today, after a long and brave battle against cancer.  Life can be so unfair.  Life will never be the same again.

My thoughts are with her family at this time.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Just waiting for news . . .

An appropriate photo for this brief post.  The bay pony having 40 winks is how I feel I would like to be now.  Worrying about Tricia, and being on steroids AND having a cold resulted in NO sleep last night.  I was feeling drowsy around 2.30, blew my nose and got the mother of earaches and painful neuralgia right down the right hand side of my head.  I had to get up and take some painkillers, and then I sat and watched tv and had a cup of tea, waiting for the pain to ease a little.  I watched a very good programme about the Bohemians by Victoria Coren Mitchell - the 2nd of 3 - and she covered the Bloomsbury Set, Edward Carpenter (the original hippy, and who invented sandals but wearing them with huge hairy socks was NOT a good look), the Bright Young Things, dastardly Augustus John who thought it was fun to live in a gypsy caravan with his entourage of wife, mistresses and their naked most of the time children and who reckoned he has sired 99 bastard children, and so on to Eric Gill, who broke every rule going when it came to who (and what) to have sex with . . .

Sadly, I heard this morning that Trish has taken a turn for the worse again and is struggling with a chest infection and her lung cancer worsening now she is off the chemo.  It is just a matter of time and so I am having to brace myself for the phone call - it could be a few days or just a few hours.


The photo above is one of the beautiful ones I took when I was staying with her last month.  It seems so long ago now.  A Beech tree with Gout!!

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

A taste of another post arriving this evening (steroids have taken over and I'm climbing the walls . . .) Now updated with more recipes.

I made these Apple Crescents at the weekend.  Basically they are bread dough rolled flat, stuffed with lightly sugared apple, and baked.  Yummy.  Even my husband liked them and had 4 to my 2!

Fresh yeast rising in the jug, egg for glazing and sugar for the apples.

The recipe.  I am hoping it is legible (if blown up by clicking on it).  You should get three recipes on that page, to experiment with.

I shall be back to finish this post off later.  Now it's time to go and make tea (Kedgeree for me), plain boiled smoked cod, veg and a jacket spud for OH.

I haven't made this apple cake for ages, but boy is it GOOD.  I thoroughly recommend giving this one a whirl.  I may make it for my husband to take along to the boys at the small fleamarket he's going to do on Friday.  It soaks up a few more windfalls too.

Here's another tried and tested recipe and really moreish.  The orange and cinnamon goes well together.

Lunch for the week - a big pan of minestrone soup with boiling bacon and butterbeans for extra nutrition.  VERY filling and kept the Steroid Munchies at bay until teatime.

Whilst I was "resting" this afternoon (e.g. in an attempt to stop bouncing off the walls from the steroid hit) I carried another box of apples through, and peeled, cored and chopped them and put them in a pan of cold water.  All this whilst I was watching Ben Fogle's programme about New Lives in the Wild.  Really good - brave English couple who upped sticks and moved to the middle of nowhere somewhere in British Columbia, offering log cabin holidays, canoeing the wild rivers and going to look for Grizzlies and Black Bears.  Good on them.

Now, I've not tried this recipe before, but I have to say it is rather good.  I hope you can read this recipe (and the others, if not, shout out and I'll type them up).  I added about 3 or 4 oz of slivers of crystalized ginger as my husband loves that and I have to say it is rather GOOD.  The scorched looking topping is a grated apple, mixed with a little sugar and cinnamon.

Finally a bit of colour on the half landing down to mum's - some pretty silk flowers which are such a gorgeous colour.

All this had helped take my mind off worrying about my best friend . . .

Feeding the birds, and what passes for normality at the moment

Morning all.  I am trying to live in what passes for normality here.  Trish is still holding on, despite being off the life support machine now, so I can only wait and hope and pray.

I will probably bake a cake this morning - apple-based to try and use up what we have over a hundredweight of, despite not picking two trees, or the small ones on another, and giving boxfulls away!

I need to top up the bird feeders, as they are mobbed.  This is what comes of living in the countryside and quite a heavily wooded area, so there is a constant flow of birds.  Dozens of "spadgers" (sparrows) as my mum used to call them, at the front feeder, which also hosts Coal/Blue/Great Tits, Chaffinches, a Nuthatch and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker.  I just have the sunflower heart feeder out there, but the latter two birds have learned that sunflower hearts are Good!  The garden is never still.

My other feeders are in the Damson tree which I look out on from the kitchen window.  Again, sunflower hearts (no waste with those) and a small round feeder of peanuts (as they are so expensive this year).  I have less sparrows, more Tits, and some Goldfinches visiting, plus the Nuthatch family and another Woodpecker, which again like an easy meal and seem to prefer the sunflowers.  It does my heart good to watch them, but they are too numerous to count for the famous Big Garden Birdwatch as they come and go in such numbers.

The cooking apple tree has now dropped much of its fruit that was too high (or small) to pick.  As I write the wind is getting up and shivering the yellowing leaves and the Jackdaws added to the number of apples floating in the big goldfish pond when they went for breakfast this morning.  There was a Treecreeper going upside down up the branches on Monday, and the Wrens and Tits are always searching for insects at the base of the leaves and in cracks in the bark.

I have 6 or 8 Blackbirds out in the garden, picking at the apples - their favourites are the sweet eating apples of which there are lots of small ones I've left on the ground for them plus the bigger ones on the ground from the two home-grown trees at the top of the yard, where life is quieter.

Right, your support over the last few days has been magnificent.  I will try and visit everyone's blogs and comment more often myself too (slap wrists).

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Time for something personal

Thank you all so much for your support and comments about the blog.  I shall carry on as ever, and try and portray my life as it is lived, with and without cake photos . . .  I am having to rest at the moment as I have managed to get a chest infection again, and after an afternoon in the emergency appointment corrall at the Doctors', now have Gel for Oral Thrush (due to doubling my steroid inhaler as per instructions), a short course of steroids (hopefully my diet won't be totally trashed) and a short course of antibiotics.  Fortunately I have an enormous pile of sewing and books to keep me occupied.

On another note, as I wrote yesterday, I don't like to write about family or personal things, but you will have read about my best friend (for the past 59 years) Tricia, who was diagnosed with terminal cancer a couple of years ago.  She has struggled on with the help of Chemo (although that in itself has probably wreaked more damage than the cancer).  She had to go into hospital late last week, and things have taken a turn for the worse, and she has been on a life support machine.  As you can imagine, her family are in pieces, and I am dreading picking up the phone when it rings.  Your support and friendship will certainly help carry me through what lies ahead.  You don't know how much I am glad to have you as blogging friends.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Time to pull the plug?

A wet and cloudy evening here, so no chance of a glimpse of the super moon, which is a great pity after we have had clear moonlit nights leading up to it.

In recent weeks I have been thinking whether or not I should continue with this blog.  I don't care to share lots of family details on here, which makes for a plain and simple reporting of what I do.  Loading photos on rural broadband takes forever some days, but I don't like blog writing without the illustrations.   I try and include lots of countryside photos, but I guess after a while everyone knows the area I live in and it becomes plain repetitive and there is a limit to what I can write about the scenery.    

When I write about something which really interests me I don't get any response.  If I write about sewing or recipes I do, but I am more than the sum of my domestic attributes.  I'm not a political animal, although there is plenty I could write on recent political happenings.  

I often get inspiration for writing this blog as I would LIKE to write it when I am out and about, but short of recording it somehow, the words are all gone by the time I get back home, and there have been a lot of calls on my time this summer, since I have tried to really make a go of my little antiques business.

Perhaps it is time to take a blogging break, and debate whether I call it a day sometime in the New Year.  I will still follow friends' blogs, but perhaps it is time for a rethink on mine.

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Shades of Autumn - a Recent Walk

I'm in the middle of bread making, but thought I would share a few photos from a recent walk.  Firstly, our beautiful river Cothi in Autumn hues.

R. Cothi at the bottom of our hill.

Talking of hills . . . this is the walk where the first 3/4 hr is spent climbing. . .

A last echo of summer in this little Foxglove.

Top of the hill and the misty view down our valley.

Views (above and below) across the valley.

Ivy flowers for any late bees and insects (still plenty about).

A little hippy house up in the woods.

The lane downhill (SO much easier on the legs).

A little stream on the lane's edge.

Mostly Willow and Hazel - the Willows hold on to their leaves well in this more sheltered spot.

Above and below, a friend's donkeys, Ned and George.

I stopped for a chat with my friend, and her dog was doing his very best to get our attention!!

A final slightly jiggled photo of the autumn colours.

Right, Cottage loaves wait for no woman . . .