Saturday 31 December 2011

New Year's Eve walk

I've just blown the cobwebs away with a New Year's Eve walk - I have ended the year as I intend to start the next - with exercise. It was mizzling with rain all the way, but very mild, and I only needed the lightest of waterproofs to keep me dry. I didn't take the camera, so the above photo's a bit of a cheat, and taken on a November day, but shows you the landscape.

I walked solidly for an hour, stopping only to look at the colours on leaves and to notice the FIRST CELENDINE OF THE YEAR - flowering still in the Old Year!!! Blimey - never seen them this early before.

The Filipendula (Meadowsweet to you and I) are past blooming along the valley, some with yellowing leaves and browning tips, and others gone over completely to chocolate brown with dropping wet leaves. There were splashes of colour still in the hedgerows, especially the acid yellow of the wild strawberry leaves interspersed with brighter green ones, the glassy green of Harts Tongue ferns, bottle green of ivy and holly leaves reflecting what light there was. A few Bramble leaves looked like they were on fire with their fierce sherbert yellow and rose pink and scarlet, and beach leaves danced nut-brown in the breeze.

The hilltops were shrouded in low cloud, which had settled like a hug across the valley, sinking into the woodland and masking the trees. The dead bracken clung to the steeper hillsides like a cinnamon-brown blanket, whilst in the depths of the hedgerows tiny creepers of Goosegrass were already growing up towards the light, and Hedge Sparrows played hide and seek.

The birds were quite noisy, though hard to identify against the dull light (and without my glasses on). A Thrush, startled by my approach, ceased singing until he had reached safety at the top of the tallest oak tree along the lane, and a Bullfinch swooped into cover in the Hazel behind the hedge.

In the woodland Hazel catkins were already showing, with the tiny little scarlet male flowers, and the Alder trees showing up maroon against the grey-green of the oak and ash, wound about with ivy like a leafy scarf.

What is life if, full of care, we have no time to stand and stare?


Friday 30 December 2011

Planning ahead

In this strange hinterland between Christmas and New Year I have had a sudden rush of blood to the head. I am busy sewing when I can - trying to finish an extension to a single quilt - a hexagon one I made for G to take to Uni with her to remind her of home - and which she handed back to me when she came home to her double bed. It has been keeping our feet warm all winter, and I began - probably a year ago - to piece the hexagons to make it full size for our bed. Anyway, during yesterday's scheduled power cut, and having taken down the tree (to let more light in the room) and packed Christmas away for another year, I pulled a chair into the bay window and sat sewing for several hours. Bliss . . .

I am currently accepting "orders" from my girls for their Christmas presents next year, which gives me time to make them! I have tracked down some fabric for cushions which I have wanted to make for a while, and just ordered that - 3 x 1/2 metre lengths - and a little bit for myself, another 1/2 metre so I didn't go mad (couldn't afford to!) I can't wait for that parcel to arrive.

Tuesday 27 December 2011

Primroses on Christmas Day!

My eldest daughter and I had a lovely walk today. It was very mild, and has stayed dry - if grey - all day. We felt we needed to walk off some of the Christmas Excess! Anyway, we cheated a bit and got my husband to drop us off about half a mile from home (thus neatly avoiding the steepest and most tiring hill) and walked for about 2 1/2 miles at a fairly leisurely pace - especially up the inclines!

The grey skies meant that the light was poor for photography, but as it turned out, it wasn't really the views which tempted us, but things far closer to us, as we found summer flowers still blooming, and now spring flowers are coming to join them! We found Primroses in full bloom, and the bud of one of the little wild Daffodils. I'm sure in Cornwall, which is warmer, they have been out a while, but it's a first for us to notice them so early here.

A neighbour's Muscovy geese - and the fruit from old apple trees which have been forgotten, now that you can buy cooking apples in supermarkets . . .

The first buds on the little wild Daffodils.

One of the donkeys on our walk.
A view across the fields towards Carmarthen.

Walking into the view . . . looking out across the damp Towy Valley.

How the Primrose blooms lifted my spirits - they made me feel that even in the depths of winter, spring cannot be too far away. These have been in bloom several days so would have been out for Christmas Day!

Red Campion still blooming from the summer.

A wild strawberry makes an early start to the season. We found another plant half a mile on which had a green fruit too!

Meadowsweet still putting out flowers, having been in bloom since the summer.

When the gorse is out of bloom, then kissin's out o' fashion! You're OK in these parts, apparently!

One of our neighbouring farms, Allt-y-ferin, showing that this site has been inhabited for thousands of years as that is a Norman motte and bailey castle - or rather, where one once stood), and that itself is on the site of a prehistoric Promentary Fort during the Iron Age.

We have had a lot of rain recently. This little stream pouring down from a field met up with all its family and friends in recent heavy rain, with the result that our lane has been much damaged and will need to be repaired where the tarmac has been ripped up.

We were glad to get home to the warmth of the kitchen.

The Home-made Christmas

One of the first things I made were some felt biscuits (as you do!!!) having been inspired by the cover picture on Mollie Makes magazine a couple of months ago. I thought they looked fun, and they are delightful to sew. I thought the Jammy Dodgers were a bit too big from the pattern given, compared with the other biscuits, but they looked good all the same. The felt was all taken from a selection of felt squares I had already, some of which came from a wonderful £2 auction box a couple of years ago. I am sure its original owner would be delighted to know I am still using her craft things.

The pretty pressed glass plate they're displayed on was £1 from the car boot sale. It's the sort of green glass I collect myself, but it was just right for what I had in mind as part of G's Christmas present . . . I happened to have the crochet doily amongst my collection of such things . . . as was the tablecloth beneath in the photos.

G had been saying that her bedroom was very bland and she wanted some colour in it, so I decided on turquoise as a colour theme, and bought some ready-made pillowcases from a certain well-known supermarket, and put pretty edgings on (fat 1/4s from the patchwork shop). Not as well-done as the lovely ones on Morning Minion's blog - I shall add that extra border another time - bu she was pleased with them all the same.

Then I did the same for her sister.

The scarf is a very simple pattern called Old Shale. I seemed to be knitting it forever as scarves need to be long, but it was eventually finished and G pleased with it.

This frame was 50p at the car boot sale. The Aida material was some from a big bag of Aida fabrics from a charity shop (£1 the lot). The embroidery floss is something I use regularly and carry on adding to my skeins. The design of the House Martin and Swallow comes from a booklet of Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady designs I must have had 30 years now. I return to it still to work more of the same designs or try a new one. This was to accompany a little blue bird brooch for T, which I found on an antiques stall at Wells Market back in early Autumn.

I also bought some hand towels and used fat 1/4s to give a pretty border. This one went to one of my aunts, and there was a 2nd I forgot to photograph, which had a pretty dark green and red patterned border.

This one was more purple than puce and I had to use the ONLY design that matched for colour, and I did deliberate long and hard as it was part of a wonderful parcel of materials that Mornings Minion sent me and which is destined to become a quilt for our bed - perhaps this winter now that I have some time to spare (I hope). The photograph doesn't do the print justice as it is just the PRETTIEST design I have ever seen, with purple hollyhocks.

And of course, you already know about the bunting . . .

Saturday 24 December 2011

Christmas with Thomas Hardy


This poem is taken from "A West Country Christmas" compiled by Chris Smith.

'It's not difficult to conjure up a picture of that marvellous man of Dorset literature, Thomas hardy, sitting by the fireside at Christmas time as the flickering light from the fireplace draws shadows on the walls - an atmosphere perfectly captured in this poem:

While I watch the Christmas blaze
Paint the room with ruddy rays,

Something makes my vision glide

To the frosty scene outside.

There, to reach a rotting berry,

Toils a thrush - constrained to very

Dregs of food by sharp distress,

Taking such with thankfulness.

Why, O starving bird,
When I
one day's joy would justify
And put misery out of view,

Do you make me notice you?

Thomas Hardy.

Extract from "A Child's Christmas in Wales" by Dylan Thomas, because I cannot have a Christmas without mention of Cats!!!

Here is Jarvis, posing nicely. He is called Jarvis because we are - somewhat distantly I believe - related to musician Jarvis Cocker, through my mum's Battams family.

One Christmas was so much like another, in those years around the sea-town corner now and out of all sound except the distant speaking of the voices I sometimes hear a moment before sleep, that I can never remember whether it snowed for six days and six nights when I was twelve or whether it snowed for twelve days and twelve nights when I was six.

All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. In goes my hand into that wool-white bell-tongued ball of holidays resting at the rim of the carol-singing sea, and out come Mrs. Prothero and the firemen.

It was on the afternoon of the Christmas Eve, and I was in Mrs. Prothero's garden, waiting for cats, with her son Jim. It was snowing. It was always snowing at Christmas. December, in my memory, is white as Lapland, though there were no reindeers. But there were cats. Patient, cold and callous, our hands wrapped in socks, we waited to snowball the cats. Sleek and long as jaguars and horrible-whiskered, spitting and snarling, they would slink and sidle over the white back-garden walls, and the lynx-eyed hunters, Jim and I, fur-capped and moccasined trappers from Hudson Bay, off Mumbles Road, would hurl our deadly snowballs at the green of their eyes. The wise cats never appeared.

Now for my favourite of Hardy's seasonal poems and I make no apology for repeating it year on year!

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
"Now they are all on their knees,"
An elder said as we sat in a flock

By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where

They dwelt in their strawy pen,

Nor did it occur to one of us there

To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave

In these years! Yet, I feel,

If someone said on Christmas Eve,

"Come; see the oxen kneel,

"In the lonely barton by yonder coomb

Our childhood used to know,"

I should go with him in the gloom,

Hoping it might be so.

Thomas Hardy.

Friday 23 December 2011


Whilst we don't go carolling hereabouts, I did in my Southampton childhood (being a Hampshire Hog, though of Devon stock through and through on dad's side.) Just a bunch of kids, well wrapped up in the evenings leading up to Christmas, and hoping for a bit of spending money - which we normally got - a sixpence here or a thrupppence there, and the Posh House once giving us half a crown between us, so we must have sung well for them!

Here is fellow Hampshire Hog (and more claim to it than I) Norman Goodland's take on Carol singing:

"Carols is funny things! They bain't all to do wi' Christmas! if you dont ring 'em oout proper, they might not answer the door, not gie thee nar 'apence!"

Foster Father was delivering his annual lecture to the Baughurst bell-ringers, of whom he was Captain. They practiced in Foster Mother's scullery, on the handbells.

I remember them - big bewhiskered men, shirt sleeved and leather belted, standing facing each other in a double row. Flashing up the brass bells. hecking the swing with broad thumb, to make them 'speak'' in their clear, fluid tones. It was all taken very seriously. Standards were high; they had to be, to impress the gentry upon whom they called.

They walked from Baughurst to Wolverton, back through Ramsdell and Pamber End, and home through what was then known as the 'gypsy'' village of Tadley. Or made their way up to Heath End, aiming for the high spot of the season - Aldermaston Hall.

"We had to watch they sarvint galls!" Father once told me. "They was always up to mischief!"

"We was invited up to the hall oncest. We 'ad to go in through the back, an' through the kitchens, y'see. An' we left our 'ats in the kitchen along wi' they gals.

"We went in and give a tune or two to the Master and the Mistress, and them as was there. They gie us a sovereign! They told us to go back to the kitchens and Cook would gie us a drink.

"So we done that. And when 'twas time to get on, they gals was round the door away from the light. An' they wouldn't gie us our 'ats until we give 'em a Christmas kiss.

"Waal - yu never put yer 'at on inside a gentleman's 'ouse, luk. So we put 'em on outside in the dark - so we didn't see what was gwine on.

"Anyways. We went on down to the Hhind's Head, t'other end o' the street. We went in, took off our 'ats - an' everybody started to laugh! We didn't know what to make on it! 'Til we looked at each other - an' then we seed we all 'ad white 'air - like a bunch of old men!

"Twas they sarvint gals! They'd put flour in our 'ats - whiles we was a-carollin' for the Master!"

Father and his bell-ringers faced some competition from other Christmas and New Year rounders - the village bands of the time - The August Hill Drum and Fife Band. The Temperence Bands; one from Tadley, one from Baughurst. But is is said at the end of their rounds, the Temperence Bands were not more temperate than Father and his bell-ringers, when they came to clanking up the garden path well after midnight, to collect their bicycles and wobble their ways home!

Taken from "A Hampshire Christmas" compiled by Sara Tiller.

Monday 19 December 2011

People were tougher then . . .

At yesterday's car boot sale I picked up a little book called Exmoor Wanderings, by Eric R Delderfield. I have a couple of others by him too (The Raleigh Country and Just Wandering in Devon). They are all published in the 1950s, when I was a little tot. By golly, but life was different then. E R Delderfield was brother of the novelist R M Delderfield and their father was editor of the Exmoor Chronicle. HERE'S a link for you if you want to learn more.

Delderfield writes of one old boy, still living (at that time), who, when he felt rather ill and went off his food, kept himself going on beer instead. And not just a couple of pints but 30 PINTS A DAY FOR FOUR MONTHS!!! I can only assume it was home-brew, and on the weak side. Apparently "he was very ill before he got better".

Then there was the farmer, Bill Ridd of Challacombe, weighing in at 30 stones if he was a pound, who managed to sire 8 children, never left the district (he died at Brendon in 1916) and despite his bulk, was out managing his farm every day, riding on - not a Shire-proportioned cob - but an Exmoor pony which must have been delighted at its master's demise! I have always known that Exmoors are tough (and stout) ponies (for photos see HERE) capable of carrying a man all day, but carrying 30 stone takes some beating.

Then there was the weather. Imagine snow so deep that even 5 bar gates were buried beneath it - which was the case in the dreadful winter of 1915. The farmers were going out with feed for their stock, using a horse and cart, and walking over the TOP of the gates! 1947 was another bad winter across the country, and it was 10 weeks before the roads were all cleared of snow . . .

Saturday 17 December 2011

Back to Bunting

I have to say, although it took me ages to make the two lots of bunting from start to finish, it was very enjoyable and I was quite pleased with myself. Firstly, I will post the link to the blog where I found the Bunting Tutorial:

This was very useful and told me all I needed to know. I used a crochet hook to push out the points when I had turned the little flags inside out. As I didn't have a long enough length of ready-made bias-binding (you will need the 1"(2.5cm) width if you are buying it), I had to make my own. I had lots of the green Laura Ashley fabric still - donated by someone who had made curtains from the rest of it - so I used that for one lot, and a neutral fat quarter of lighter-weight patchwork fabric for the other. I cut it 1 1/2" wide (4cm) and then turned back and pressed 1/4" (1cm) on either side. This took forever.

I had a colour theme for one lot of bunting, but the other was made with leftover fabric which had gone into the hexagon patchwork quilt I made for my daughter (they both got one to take to Uni), so the colours and patterns are more random. I used plains and patterns, regularly spaced. When they were all assembled I pinned them in 4" (10cm) apart, ready to machine into place, having already turned the bias binding in half and ironed it to give a good crease. Finally, I just sewed the ends in on the bias binding.

I am sure they will be well-received, and I doubt very much if either of my girls will visit my blog before Christmas (hence the photos!) as they are busy, and don't normally visit very often even when they're not! They will certainly dress their otherwise neutrally-decorated rented accommodation and hopefully remind them of their mother's love for them . . .

Leftovers - I think I shall make some bunting for me next, and then some Christmas bunting (probably for NEXT year!)

Friday 16 December 2011

Dressing the tree

Why is it cats always have to "help"? I think little Ban will get a shock if I hung her in the tree!

Thursday 15 December 2011

R.I.P. Tippy

I wish I could say he got better. But he didn't. We had to have him pts today.

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Making bunting

Yesterday I had the bright idea to make some bunting. I'd never done it before, but I soon got OH to make me an appropriate template, and then I set to. Well, I have to say it wasn't to difficult, but talk about time-consuming . . . It would have been a doddle if I'd been using felt flags and ready-made bias-binding, but making your own bias binding takes forever . . .

Still, I'm very pleased with the results, and hopefully they will be well-received in due course. Photos to follow . . .

Monday 12 December 2011

Winter weather!

Well, we knew it was meant to rain "a bit" yesterday, but what the weathermen omitted was the bit about "rain of Biblical proportions" . . . Hell's teeth, it was a cross between a gigantic bath being emptied over the land and a monsoon. Our steep lane turned into a river. The river came up across the lane and backed up a fair way towards the Chapel. When it subsided a little, there were still big streams of water at the sides of the lane, and piles of leaves dumped higgledy-piggledy, along with big chunks of tarmac, where the water had undermined the road! I think that the Council workmen are going to be busy out there in the New Year.

I stayed indoors, listened to the Archers, finally got around to bottling 10 bottles of Damson Wine, and cleaning out 3 demi-johns and racking the New Forest Crab Apple wine. I meant to change the oil in the chip fryer, but that had to wait until today. I also made a fresh lot of Damson Ice Cream. Oh, and I managed some x-stitch, and some card and unavoidable letter writing.

Tippy is slowly getting better, but I want him to suddenly become his old self, and I think it is going to be a slow business, perhaps 1 step forward to 2 back. He is eating better, but after I "missed" with the Boscopan injection he was meant to have yesterday and DIDN'T get the needle beneath the skin, his bowels have slowed down again. I am still administering oil and water by the dropper.

The photo wasn't taken yesterday. It's one from a couple of years ago I think, and the rain was much worse yesterday. A real flash flood.

Anyway, I will try and get myself out of the doldrums where I seem to have descended, because of worrying about Tippy.

Oh, and just when we needed it, a stray cat which has been doing the rounds locally for a couple of months now and which I have discouraged from coming up the hill every time I have seen it doing so, has finally turned up here, desperate and will NOT go away. It's a girl, and she looks pregnant. She is going to have to go to the CPL, because we CANNOT have any more cats - certainly not pregnant ones. The old Christmas story - there is no room at the inn . . . even for cats who are half-sisters to our boys, and are grey with apricot/buff highlights and eyeliner and white bibs and paws . . . and are tame.

Winter weather!

Friday 9 December 2011


Well, The Invalid is still seeing his Personal Doctor, but things are - hopefully - moving in the right direction now. He had to go down again this morning for, ahem, one of those "bend over" moments, but this time no enema necessary. I am trying to get liquids down him (I am not his favourite person when he sees me arriving armed with a small syringe). He ate a very good breakfast though, and LOVED his cream and egg yolk. Tomorrow there will be fresh ox heart for supper. (Thank you Susan for your advice, which has been taken on board). In fact, many thanks to all of you who have been so helpful and supportive during the last couple of weeks. Your thoughts are much appreciated, I can tell you.

Now I have the weekend ahead of me. The usual routine is grocery shopping on a Saturday morning, when we have dropped D off at work. Meals will be loosely based around what is available in the "reduced" area! We are having a frugal week this week, to try and put money aside for bills (including the vet's bill, although they have been VERY good about what they have charged for - only one enema when he had 3 . . .) I want to try and clear that as soon as I can. So it will be an "eat from the freezer" week, and we will only buy essentials.

Of course, one person's essentials differ from someone else's. One of this week's "essentials" in our house is (ground) Cinnamon. We use this a lot. My husband has it sprinkled on his home-made muesli each morning and says it helps ward off colds. I use it for baking too. Anyway, we have nearly run out.

Bread flour and fresh yeast are more essentials. I am back to trying to bake fresh bread every other day. It has gone by the board recently because of nursing Tippy, but tonight I made two pizza bases and with the 1/3 of dough left over, I baked a small crusty white loaf. After years of me telling him - but him not REALLY listening - we saw a programme this week about bread making where they showed the ingredients in the average loaf, one being derived from animal hair . . . OH was suitably horrified and said he is never going to eat Supermarket bread again. Well, the occasional best quality loaf won't hurt, but I agree with him, home made is best and only has 4 ingredients - flour, water, a little salt and fresh yeast. It takes very little time to make - perhaps 20 minutes from start to finish - and is so much more filling than the rubbish bread . . .

Cheese bread . . .

Saturday afternoon will be spent watching the horse racing, whilst I work on another Christmas gift for my daughters. One piece of knitting is now finished, so I need to crack on with the other. There is a half-done piece of x-stitch needing to be finished as well.

Sunday morning rain is forecast, which bodes ill for the Car Boot Sale, but there are always some stalls under cover, and you never know what turns up. Sometimes there are more stalls than you can shake a stick at, but nothing worth buying. Other times, there are only a handful of stalls but something just up your street is on offer. You never know.

I had hoped to go to the local auction tomorrow, but finances are tight. I will be listing more belongings on e-bay instead, as this is really helping our tight finances at present, and we have far too many things we don't need so we may as well get some money for them.

Sunday afternoon is "free" - I'd like a walk, weather permitting. So much to try and cram in though, during the short hours of winter daylight.

What are your plans for the weekend?

Tuesday 6 December 2011

Yet another update

He's back from the vet's, and his night at one of the female vet's houses where she said the first thing he did was to pass big sharp bones all over her kitchen floor - and it would appear he had eaten a Rattus Giganticus (the farm next door breed 'em BIG). She thinks most of it is now out, but he still "may" need another enema etc. I do hope not. He has been delerious with happiness a being home and very clingy - it's just like having a poorly toddler all over again. I couldn't do anything - tried the ironing and he just sat on what I was trying to iron!

Anyway, he's having a snooze now, which is good. I will have lunch whilst I can and get back to the ironing.

Monday 5 December 2011

Tippy . . .

He's back at the vet's again today. In a very bad way this morning straining to go, and crying in pain, then being sick again. Another drip, another enema - which has produced large sharp bones - where were they hiding when they took the X-ray last week then? Lord knows what he ate - pheasant perchance? He is on steroids now, to try and calm his inflamed bowels, and spending the night at the vet's home, under the radiator in her bathroom (bless her), as she said how much they hated being left in a cage overnight at the vet's. He has had his bowel greased a good way up too, to help him pass anything still lurking inside. I am exhausted with worry and the awfulness of watching him starve to death in front of my eyes.

Say a little prayer for the wee man, please.

Sunday 4 December 2011

My favourite shops . . .

This follows a set pattern for me, in chronological order. From the age of little till my teens, sweetie shops were IT. I could tell you the range of sweets for sale in any sweetie shop in our part of Southampton, and can still recall the wonderful one at Weston Park, with its huge counter of penny sweets, four for a penny sweets, parma violets, Spanish Gold "tobacco", chocolate fish, mushrooms, shrimps, lips, false teeth (these latter three in a tasteful Germoline pink), Flying Saucers, Gobstoppers, "cigarettes", Opal Fruits, Lovehearts, Sherbert Dabs, Rainbow drops, Lucky Bags, Fizzer bars, Five Boys chocolate, Frys Chocolate Cream bars, and many of the chocolate bars still on sale today (though with different names). Then there were the sweetie jars (now, I note, being offered for sale (empty) at Antiques Fairs for upwards of £20 a time!!!) Rows and rows of them with anything from Barley Sugar Twists, Peardrops, Quality Street (always too expensive to buy!), rhubarb and custard, chocolate limes, apple drops, acid drops, kola cubes, blackberries and raspberries, pineapple chunks, to the - horrid to me - clove balls, aniseed balls, Fox's Glacier Mints, Fisherman's Friends, Zubes, Cough Candy and Coltsfood Rock. No wonder I had so many fillings!!!

Around ten, my taste in magazines changed from comics (the Beano and the Dandy religiously every week) to taking Horse and Hound weekly. I used to always look at the Countryman magazine too and Country Life (ideas beyond my station there!) I was never far from books, but they were usually the sort on offer at the Library (I devoured four new books every week), or the offerings in the hardware store down the road, which were mainly Enid Blyton (whose books I scorned as they didn't have PONIES in them) to the Children's Classics, which I read my way through. Then when I got my first job at 16, I discovered the delights of Gilbert's Bookshop in Southampton, house in a tall terraced Regency building, and it was my first port of call on pay-day. My collection of antiquarian horse books dates from that time and I still have them all, and have greatly added to that collection over the years, and still do. I have been a bookaholic all my life and needless to say, rarely come home empty handed from the car boot sale (another 4 books today!) and our regular trips to Hay-on-Wye are one of our greatest pleasures.

Around this time (16) I got my first pony, and although he was only a yearling, and spent lots of my wages buying equipment for him from the saddler's at the bottom of Southampton High Street. How I LOVED to go in that shop - the smell of leather was so seductive - and I bought my first saddle by paying £1 a week for it. It was a 16" half panel leather-lined pony saddle and cost me £16 - £1 an inch . . . and it was a bright London Tan colour when I first got it. Subsequently I bought a girth (red nylon I seem to remember), linen saddle cloth (white with red and white Tattersall check), numbered stirrup leathers and solid nickle stirrups.

Food for Maize (my pony) was initially bought in 7 lb brown paper bags from a feed merchants in Woolston. I would go and buy 7 lb bags of broad bran (huge flat flakes, not like the rubbish you get today), rolled oats, pony nuts, and rolled barley and stagger home on the bus with them. I bought linseed and boiled it up on the cooker. Eventually I saw sense and bought my feed in half hundredweight sacks which lived in the back of the larder, underneath the stairs.

My dad gave me my first initiation into the delights of antiques shops and I can remember us regularly looking in the windows of the ones in Wickham when we all went out for a Sunday drive. We never went inside though, as we couldn't afford to buy anything, and didn't want to be "time-wasters" . . . He would have loved the Antiques fairs we go to now, and was no stranger to buying stuff at auction as he bought old prints to use the glass for painting his copies of Impressionist paintings on. I still have them . . . A few old chairs came our way in the same manner - half a crown a time perhaps - and a jug and basin set (very plain with a grey pattern). My real love of antiques has come since I married my OH, although when I lived just outside Salisbury I always used to buy little things from the antiques and junk shops in Lammas Street, and the big collection of antiques stands where Sainsburys now is. Little sugar sifter spoons at 50p a time, blue and white china, interesting little bits. Dorchester Market was another hunting ground of mine.

Somewhere along the line came my interests in crafts and making things, embroidery, sewing generally, quilts, knitting etc, and so I have been in enough shops to have stashes of material, wool and craft paraphenalia. This has been passed on to my eldest daughter though her sister rolls her eyes and sighs if she sees me stroking wool or trying to persuade myself NOT to buy another piece of material . . .

What are your favourite shops?

P.S. Tippy is hopefully on the mend again - cheese got him "moving" (a bit too well!), but today he is eating a little and has been out hunting. Currently asleep on our bed . . .