Friday 21 December 2012

Making Christmas

I will get the other pictures from my weekend away Ooop North posted soon, but at the moment I am busy in the kitchen, mainly, and doing the necessary housework to have everything tidy before our offspring arrive home.  We just have a quiet family Christmas here, as we live so far away from friends and relations.  Hopefully when we move that will change.  When we move . . .

I managed to catch The Wartime Farm Christmas programme the other evening, and recorded it so I can watch it again (probably whilst I am doing the ironing).  One thing that Ruth said really rang true - "You can't BUY Christmas - it's up to you to MAKE it."  How true this was  in war time when there simply WEREN'T any toys on sale for working class pockets (and those that could be found were often shoddy).  So it had, of necessity, to be a home-made Christmas. 

Now we are again in a time of austerity, many people have had to cut their expenditure and we are no exception.  I have made a number of presents again, and I have to say, it is SO satisfying to do so, even when one knitting pattern drove me nearly cross-eyed with concentration and has been much-unpicked. 

Now I have a busy weekend of baking ahead of me, and the usual Christmas traditions for food are being adhered to.  When I suggested to my son that I rang the changes on the usual Chocolate Roulade with raspberry coulis and perhaps did a Lemon Meringue type roulade, he said no!  Chocolate and raspberry it had to be . . .  I make it on Christmas Day and the cook's reward is to have a big slice of it for breakfast on Boxing Day morning : )

I have to say, I have tried to keep away from the shops during the run up to Christmas - especially grocery shopping as it irks me to see instant this and that going in shopping trolleys.  One of my pet hates is seeing people happily spending several pounds on a thick foil tray (throwaway) to cook the turkey in rather than spend a couple of pounds more and have a decent baking tray they can use every year . . . Then there are the jars of  pickled onions which are SO incredibly easy to make, jars of chutney, pickles, sauces etc.  But I dare say there is such a huge gap in the cooking ability between a grandmother in her 70s and a grand-daughter in her 20s and social differences which require people to be in full-time work. A childhood spent in  war-time austerity (when cooking skills were still handed down), then met in the 1960s and 1970s the beginnings of instant this and that and then the "ready meal".   Who would have thought that fish fingers and sliced bread were the thin end of a wedge that would ultimately make such a difference in the kitchen?

But this is starting to sound like a lecture and that wasn't my intention.  Have fun in your kitchen over the next few days and remember that old adage, whatever alcohol you put in your cooking, "one for the cook" is much-recommended too!

Saturday 15 December 2012

Photos of York - I hope!

Right, many thanks to Mac n' Janet for suggesting Flickr to store my photos on.  I see I have limited storage on there each month too, so I may load some on Flickr and some on Photobucket, and see if I can manage that way!

Anyway, here is one of the Fairground rides at York recently - the Gallopers.

York Minster from the front - the best I could do without getting run over!

And in slightly more close-up.  Sorry they aren't very sharp, but that's because I have enlarged them.

The ruins of St Mary's Abbey in the York Castle Museum gardens (the Museum we couldn't afford to go in . . .)

The 14th C Lendal Tower by the River Ouse is a partner to the Barker Tower on the opposite bank, and a chain used to be hung between the two, so that a toll could be extracted by boats wishing to pass.

Our beautiful eldest daughter T, whose birthday treat this outing was.

Part of the market in York.

Above: Barley Hall, York.  Below: Day to day Medieval living inside the Barley Hall   We  visited there for the Medieval Craft Fair, and I bought a present for my husband - a candle holder made using part of old (oak) farm machinery, and some thrifted (!) beach-combed Amber chips (drilled for jewellery) from a Dutch beach, which my clever daughter turned into earrings for me when we got back to her flat.

Thursday 13 December 2012

Preparing for Christmas

Well, the wreath is done.  I have managed a photograph by wiping some earlier ones.   

As for the new blog, I am not sure how many of you will be able to access me if I go over to Wordpress permanently.  Can we have a headcount?  Morning AJ says it won't let her in.  Are there many more of you?

Anyway, I am quite happy with this year's wreath which is a variation on the standard hedgerow-garnered wreath we always make.  T and I that is, but as she is not here until next Sunday, I had to make it alone this time.  I only had to walk as far as our front gate for the ingredients - bendy Pussy Willow wands, long ribbons of ivy which scramble over the front wall, and then I dived into the Christmas decoration boxes and came up with some lovely clear-glass faceted baubles on a silver wire, and for contrast, a long length of gold balls.  The Willow made the interwoven frame, covered with festoons of ivy strands, then the baubles and gold balls.  Underneath hangs a weather-proof silver tree decoration like a star-shaped snowflake.  It looks really pretty (says she modestly).

Today we got 3 bottles of wine for the Christmas meals (our offspring have promised more) and we drove down to Eynons at St Clears (an award-winning butcher) for the meaty part of the Christmas feast - salt-marsh lamb for Christmas Day, casserole venison and  pheasant breast to go towards the Boxing Day Game Pie, and two lovely thick succulent venison steaks to go between three of us when T arrives next weekend.  I have 2 brace of partridges already in the freezer, and a goose which is going in the oven on Christmas Eve and just need to get a game pack from our more local butcher.

Theo'dorable is on the mend and now that his tummy is better, he was allowed out of the kitchen today and chose to snuggle up next to me on the sofa.

Off for a hot bath now, as my fingers are dropping off with cold.

Monday 10 December 2012

Moving blog to WordPress. . .

HERE is the link to my new blog, which will be a work in progress for some time to come, by the look of things, but I will gradually move across there.  Here it is again in case you want to cut and paste:

I haven't the foggiest how to get my side bar friends across, but I dare say I will find out in the fullness of time . . .

Bear with me, as I shall probably post on both blogs until I have the hang of WordPress, but at least you will see my photos.

December gloom

I am trying to get myself organized for Christmas, but am fast running out of time.  I shall breath a sigh of relief when I have all the cards and letters written and the last present posted . . .  I'm nearly there.

I have already had my Christmas present from my husband, as we just happened to be looking round The Works on Saturday (a remaindered mainly-books shop, for those of you not in UK).  I had been very good and stayed my hand over various craft magazines earlier - mainly because at £5 a time, they don't represent very good value for money unless there is more than one thing in them that I want to make!  So even though I keep them forever and a day, I put them back on the shelf.  Imagine my delight when I found a good book on Christmas projects for just £2.99 in The Works, and then when I was rummaging amongst the Kirstie's Homemade books, trying not to get drawn in, I found a different one on Granny Chic which I picked up.  I have to say, not all Granny Chic style appeals to me.  Some of the projects I've seen just look a mess!  However, this particular book had enough appeal and fresh ideas, and it DID have how to make a particular sort of circular cushion cover which I had just seen in the Liberty Vintage book, and at £5.99 was cheap enough, so my OH bought me Granny Chic for Christmas and I have to confess, I am enjoying it NOW and not waiting until Christmas Day!

Now that winter has really arrived (and apparently it is going to REALLY get cold this week), I finally took down the summer curtains and hung the winter ones, which I added wool linings to last year.  I have decided that the summer curtains which are Laura Ashley material, but SO faded after nearly 25 years use, need upgrading, and that I am going to use some of my fabric stash to make up patchwork "fronts" for them, so I have been looking out lengths of material to do this with, though I probably won't start until the New Year now.  I need to finish my Christmas gift crafting first . . .  But at least I have started looking out for suitable material at the Car Boot Sale and came home with a pretty cotton skirt yesterday which I am currently unpicking (takes forever!).  No point looking in Charity Shops as they only have expensive clothing on their racks - I want things which are deemed suitable for the rag bag.  I may ask in one of them . . .

Little poorly Theo is slowly mending from his nasty cold and chest infection, but had to go back to the Vet's on Friday for a long-lasting anti-biotic jab AND an anti-inflammatory for his tummy as the oral anti- biotics I was having to give him just turned him inside out, poor little chap.  The kitchen was not a pleasant place to be if you had any sense of smell and I had to cover everywhere with newspaper.  He looks brighter now and his tummy is mending too, but he's still a bit sniffly.

I really MUST try and get some Christmas baking done (and in the freezer) and I realize I have not even made any Mincemeat this year (still have some from last year though) and I really MUST get the onions pickled . . .  I am finding it hard to motivate myself though - so fed up with winter already and it's only just started.

I am thoroughly fed up with Blogger and seriously thinking of changing - probably to Wordpress.  I know it will take a big chunk of my day to get it sorted out, but bear with me.  I shall make sure I have a good link across, and bring all my favourite friends with me in the sidebar.  So - watch this space.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

Safely home again

I am glad to report that I am home safely from my travels, although the coach back from Birmingham was delayed an hour overall because of traffic problems on the roads (I believe both the bridges across the River Severn were closed) - we had to go via Ross-on-Wye to get to Newport.

I had an absolutely wonderful time up with my daughter, celebrating her birthday.  We went to York, and visited the Quilt Museum and the Medieval Christmas Market at the Barley Hall where I made some purchases - a present for my husband which is a candle holder made from recycled oak from a defunct piece of farm machinery (which will please him as he hates waste and we always try to recycle old things here).  It has a cast iron holder set into the oak.  I also bought some beach-combed-in-Holland chips of amber, which T made up into earrings for me, bless her.  Unfortunately, it was too expensive to go into the York Museum (£7.50 a head) so we turned around and came back out, and it would have been £9 and £8 for us to go into York Minster, so we had to forgo our visit there too.   I feel that you should not have to pay to go into a place of worship (although I did pay several years ago to go into the Minster), even if it does help with restoration and running costs.  In fact, the whole "York experience" seemed to be out to make a maximum profit from tourists and visitors, and we looked long and hard before we found somewhere for lunch which offered value for money, and had soup and sandwiches for £5.95.  Elsewhere they were charging that for sandwiches alone, or even a pound or more again.  Greggs and the pasty shop were doing a roaring trade . . .

In the evening we had her birthday meal with friends, and I had my first-ever cocktails: a Lemon Sherbet, and then a Lavender Haze (mostly rum and pineapple juice).  We both chose the partridge with bramble and beetroot sauce, on a bed of crushed new potatoes.  Scrummy!  We had a lovely evening, although the music was SO loud no-one could carry on a conversation, even if we shouted!

T had to work the middle part of the next day, so I did the rounds of the local charity shops, taking my time and thoroughly enjoying myself.  I bought two books: Alison Weir's "Innocent Traitor" about Lady Jane Grey, and Michel Faber's "The Crimson Petal and the White" about prostitution in Victorian England. Both were read once and only 50p each.  In the same charity shop I also found a lovely old brown Victorian stoneware jar (pre-1892) with "Cadbury" on it and a beautiful tree design in white.  It has a slight chip on the pouring lip, but I can live with that.

After work, we walked across the city to the old steelworks quarter at Kelham island.  T wanted to show me a vintage and collectables outlet (various sellers) and we bought a couple of things for presents, once again.  I even found another piece for my Torquay pottery collection - a little scent bottle which had once held lavender scent.  Then we went to the Fat Cat pub (one of T's favourites) but it was choc-a-bloc with people who had been to the nearby Christmas market.  Around the corner, the Kelham island tavern had a bit more room and we took advantage of its CAMRA listing and had some Herefordshire perry from the keg.  Supper for us was an M&S dine in for £10 offer and very good it was too!  Moroccan chicken and potato rosti, then tart au citron, washed down with a good white wine.

Sunday saw us heading for the Peak District in Derbyshire, Castleton to be precise.  It was a bright and sunny day, though cold.  We took lots of photographs, both on the bus and once we arrived, and the scenery was wonderful.  LOTS of walkers out, and hang-gliders, rock-climbers - all sorts of folk enjoying the countryside.  We went in just about every shop, greatly enjoyed the Christmas Tree Festival in the church, had chips for lunch, and a swift half of cider in one of the pubs before heading home.

I took about 66 photos, but some weren't up to much.  As soon as I have wiped some more off my old blog posts and made room, I'll post as many as I can.

Back soon.

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Off on my travels

You will have to bear with me a while as I am off on my travels tomorrow, journeying (by coach) up to see our eldest daughter in Sheffield, and to celebrate her birthday.  We are to have a day out in York, so I will have to try and clear lots of old photos off my early blog so I can post photos of York and York Minster on my return.

Whilst the West Country, North Wales and the Midlands are practically floating away with the dreadful floods, for once our neck of the woods escaped lightly.  I feel for the families and folk who have lost so much in the flooding.  It is hard to imagine until it happens to you, and I hope I will never experience it.

I am half-dreading the journey, because I am lugging a heavy suitcase with me (half full of presents - but then think how light it will be on the return journey next Monday!)  There is only one change of coach, so that is bearable, and I shall pack a good book and my crochet.  (I am making cushion covers and currently doing the first of two backs). I hope I get a window seat . . .

In the meantime I have been listing a few more things on eBay, to try and raise a bit more money towards Christmas, but I had a very unhappy experience on there recently with the Buyer from Hell, and although the case has just been closed and I have not been found liable (so my money apparently refunded - it had been "held" pending the result),   I keep expecting to hear a mistake has been made, and I will have to forfeit my money after all AND the buyer gets to keep the article in question.  However, just reading about it again has made me feel so sick, as I was completely innocent and the Buyer from Hell lied and lied.  Now with everything I sell, I half-expect someone to come and tell lies and say it wasn't as described, and say they sent me emails when they certainly didn't.  Stupid, I know, but when someone is lieing and calling YOU a liar, and making things up that you cannot prove or disprove, it is a horrid feeling.  The total INJUSTICE of it.  I know this will strike a bell with one or two of my readers on here, and it brings to mind our own family problems in recent times.

Anyway, I am hoping that York won't get flooded as we arrive although I think it is pretty damp up there.  I'll be back Monday evening.  In the meantime, keep safe, dry and warm.

Saturday 24 November 2012

Support your local shops

A miserable Saturday out there - grey and monotone, and with the only colour seen from my window a splash of cerise from some foolhardy rambler roses who insist it is still mild enough to put out the last few flowers. The first of the promised rain has arrived and the wind will doubtless follow (strong gales predicted and torrential rain).

This morning my OH and I went to have a poke around the auction and mart at Ffairfach.  We used to go quite regularly and have had a few bargains from there in the past, but it had very little to tempt us today.  The things under cover included very undesirable pieces of mid-20th C furniture, occasional boxes of odds (only one worth bidding on as it had a couple of pieces of T G Green blue and white striped china) and private sellers of things that the largely farmer clientele might one day need including an assortment of ill-worked crochet throws which had used up oddments of utalitarian-coloured wools (think colours that don't show the dirt!).  The deadstock outside was dire - sodden pieces of wood, empty plastic feed buckets which had once contained ruminant fodder, and farm bits and pieces - didn't encourage us to linger.  The poultry were interesting - I fell in love with some Bluebells and Silver-laced Wyandottes and Sebrights have long been on my wish-list if we ever have poultry again.  My husband prefers the ducks and there were a good selection on offer.  We didn't hang around to find out what prices they were going for as it was too chill and damp.

We lingered outside only long enough to haggle for and buy an old steen (a part glazed earthenware container wider at the top than the bottom - they come in various sizes) which will go by the Hergom.

Earlier in the week we spent a couple of hours shopping in individual (as opposed to multi-national) shops in Carmarthen.  We had need of the Craft Shop (for batting for upholstery), the Market - to price foam for upholstering some chairs and to buy wool; the £1 shop in King Street (more wool for crocheting gifts), butcher (sausages) etc. We also visited the curtain shop and bought material for upholstery and another bargain which is a gift, so I daren't mention it here. We only had to resort to T*sco for cheap gin for Sloe Gin (using the big plump Fiddleford sloes from last year, which I had in the freezer) and because they had a 3 for 2 on Cod Liver Oil which my husband needed.

This afternoon may see me in the kitchen with my upholstery tools as I have four drop-in seats for Victorian balloon-backs to deal with.  Himself is watching the Rugby and our son is back for 2 nights and a day (he needs an early lift to work in the morning and no trains running from his new digs).

Right, soup-time.  Keep warm, dry and safe.

Thursday 22 November 2012

"After Rain" by Edward Thomas

After Rain

The rain of a night and a day and a night
Stops at the light
Of this pale choked day. The peering sun
Sees what has been done.
The road under the trees has a border new
of purple hue
Inside the border of bright thin grass:
For all that has
Been left by November of leaves is torn
From hazel and thorn
And the greater trees. Throughout the copse
No dead leaf drops
On grey grass, green moss, burnt-orange fern,
At the wind's return:
The leaflets out of the ash-tree shed
Are thinly spread
In the road, like little black fish, inlaid,
As if they played.
What hangs from the myriad branches down there
So hard and bare
Is twelve yellow apples lovely to see
On one crab-tree.
And on each twig of every tree in the dell
Crystals both dark and bright of the the rain
That begins again.

Saturday 17 November 2012

When Sea Eagles lived in the New Forest

One of the 3 books which I bought at Hay-on-Wye recently was The New Forest Beautiful by F E Stevens, and dated around 1929.  I was reading it last night and in the final chapter, was absolutely astonished to read the following (he was referring to various lists of birds which had been made over the previous century):

"The eagles seem to have disappeared.  They were there in Gilpin's time (1724 - 1804), for he mentioned a pair which were for several years to be seen in King's Wood, and two were killed near Christchurch many years earlier.  Those particular specimens were not casual visitors, for in the shooting records of the second Earl of Malmesbury, it is mentioned that one of these had wrought great destruction among the wild-fowl and even among the hares.  These must have been monsters, for the record shows that when one settled on an oak to shake its feathers, even the tree shook.  It was a sea eagle, and a youngster, only two years old, but it weighed nine pounds, and had a breadth of 6 feet 6 inches, and a length of 3 feet 1 inch.

The Eagle Tree in the Forest is so named because it was upon a branch of it that an eagle - a sea eagle in that case too - was shot by a Forest keeper, but that was about a hundred years ago."

Can you imagine the absolute STORMS of twitchers descending  if one was spotted there today?

The chapter mentions Honey Buzzards as being quite common too, although Hawks were generally in decline (hardly surprising given the trigger-happy Keepers.

Monday 12 November 2012

Lost in translation

I look out of my window across a drear landscape, lit only by yellowing leaves on the rambler rose, and the Caramac-coloured leaves on the sycamores by the gate.  A white gleam from the caravan in the field opposite provides a foil for the colours.  The sky is the colour of a grey dove's underwing.  A breeze stirs the arching brambles and ramblers to fidgeting.  As a day, it much like any November day.  But it is . . . different.

Yesterday we helped our son move out to house-share with a friend some 25 miles away.  We knew it was coming - after his foreign travels this summer he was merely waiting for a decent pay-cheque (now he has full time hours) and then we knew he would be gone.  It will make our lives much easier, as the past couple of winters have been very difficult when we have had to go out at 8 p.m. at night to fetch him from work (a 20 mile round trip each time) and this year, get him to early shifts starting at 8 or even 7 a.m.  With ice and snow on the ground, this was never a welcome journey.

He had all he needed up in his attic rooms, and just appeared for meals and to occasionally watch something on tv with us which we all enjoyed.  So why does the house now feel so empty?  A threshold has been crossed and a step taken into a future we cannot  fathom.

I am delaying the moment when I go upstairs to tidy up and make up the spare single bed from storage in the next room.  Then it will all be underlined.  My children have grown up . . .

Early evening, and I am just adding a note  to say thank you all SO MUCH for your support and your positive comments.  Thank heavens for friends - I feel so much better having read them and cheered that shadypinesquilter took time to post for the first time.  Whilst I know it is a job well done to raise your children so they feel confident to leave home and make their own way in the world, it is still hard to give yourself a mental shake and move on.  Now WE have some freedom again - after nearly 26 years of child-raising.

When I bit the bullet and went up to clean and tidy his room, my husband came with me, and that always makes things seem better, to have your partner helping.  I made hundreds of spiders homeless as I vacuumed the beams and nooks and crannies, and we made three heaps of belongings: rubbish, rubbish??, and keep (for the moment).  We put up the spare single bed, put on fresh bedding and aired it with the electric blanket.  We put unwanted? books carefully back on the bookshelf, along with a pile of discarded PC games and old CDs.  Clothing was neatly folded and put away until he has room to have the case with his suits and better clothes in it delivered (Friday probably).  There is another pile of books to be donated to charity and a few passed on or sold.  I feel very much better for having got the first of the three rooms sorted.  I may redecorate there in the New Year/when it warms up, to freshen it up a bit and not everyone wants a red half-timbered wall (though the carpet is red and the rest of the room white).

Right, we don't have to turn out to pick him up at 8 tonight, nor do I have to cook another evening meal at 8.30, so we will settle down and relax.

Friday 9 November 2012

A Day in Hay . . .

Good evening.  Well, we have had an absolutely wonderful day out in Hay-on-Wye again today to celebrate my husband's birthday.  It was raining a little when we left home, but cleared around Brecon and stayed dry all day until we were driving home, and then it got increasingly heavy.  It did stay dry long enough for me to pop out just as we were approaching Brecon on the way home and I angled the camera through the sheep wire to get a snippet of the view with stunning autumn colours.  As we drove along, I kept saying to K to write down descriptive words of the autumn colouring for me.  The focus was on beech, field maple, birch and hazel and they were incredibly beautiful in a medley of autumn colours.

The beech trees were the most noticable as they were so much taller than everything else and didn't blend into the scenery in the way the murky dun and bright bay of the oak tree foliage at this time of year.  The beeches were a mixture of cinnamon and butterscotch, sometimes with a foil of lemon yellow silver birch leaves in front of them.  The field maples were as yellow as English mustard, or as golden as palomino ponies, and were often planted beside hazel which at this time of year reminds me of lime marmalade, with a sprinkling of leaves like golden sovereigns.  The blackthorn bushes were fast losing their leaves and in places only tiny stipplings of gold remained, like flecks of gold dust.  The road for almost the entire route home had autumn colours dripping over it.  A shame I was the designated driver for the day . . .

This is a glimpse in the window of an antiques shop we haven't been in until today.  It contains the most eclectic display of wonderful things.  It is our eldest daughter T through and through!  Just seeing the stuffed heron in the window gives you an idea of further inside . . .  When we were there back in May, she had a pair of zebra-leg  table lamps in the window (already sold!)  Bizarre!

A view across the Hay shops from the Castle steps.

We had lunch in the Sandwich Cellar in Back Fold - where we always go.  I had my traditional sausages in a bap and OH had his traditional bacon bap.  Scrummy!

Then it was off to explore our usual bookshops and the antiques shops, which was thoroughly enjoyable, even though we'd last been about a month ago with T.

We were careful with our spending and although my OH found me a little Torquay pottery cream jug in an antique shop on the way, it had a tiny chip and was only £1.  He bought a new book (on Transylvania), and I found one on collecting Horse Brasses, and a lovely old one on the New Forest, and an interesting one I'd picked up before.  I shall share them with you tomorrow.  My total spend was £11 and his was £7, so we didn't splash out too much.  When you consider the sheer number of books in all those shops, it could have been VERY much worse if we were rolling in it!

Autumn colours near Brecon.

Wednesday 7 November 2012

A cheering-up day was needed

My OH and I have not long got back from an afternoon at the Cinema, where we went to see the new Bond film, Skyfall.  It was BRILLIANT!  Our son treated us on his Orange Wednesday number, so us two old codgers had a chance to relax and unwind, and I for one, forgot about the recent hassles.  I won't spoil it for those of you who intend to see it, but the action scenes were great, and it was as good as any of the earlier films.  Mind you, if you suffer from vertigo, you may have to shut your eyes in one bit!   It's the first one I've seen with Daniel Craig in and as he reminded me very much of my first love, I enjoyed the eye candy!

I raided M&S on our way back to the car and now have a crusty wholemeal bloomer, Orkney Crab Pate and some Herefordshire Single Orchard cider for tonight.  Bliss.

Thank you for all your kind comments - how it helps to have friends at the tap of a keyboard.

Tuesday 6 November 2012

Auctions - of one sort and another

Theo making sure his bowl doesn't run away!

 Sorry not to be posting much.  I sold a perfectly good item on eBay and have someone being increasingly nasty and demanding dry cleaning costs when there was nothing wrong with it when it left me.  I shall not be selling any more of my clothing on eBay again - there are some horrid people out there.  It's bad enough when you sell something and someone never pays . . .  I shouldn't let it get me down so, but it is - the unfairness of it I suppose.

Anyway, we've just been watching the Antiques Roadtrip, as we do every weekday evening.  Today they were in Wiltshire and ending up in Wareham - at Cottees sale room, where we started off buying stuff (for our house) at auction.  It still looked pretty much the same, though different faces there.  So many happy memories of days there with T in her push-chair (she was a very obliging baby!)  We still have quite a few of the pieces we bought then.

We have enjoyed going to auction so much over the years, and seen some real fluctuations in prices and demand.  Boxes of fairly ordinary china went from £3 or £4 up to £20 or more over the years.  They're going back down now - it's Winter and not so many car boot sales so demand is less.  We have seen the zenith of Victorian furniture (never popular due to its size) and now it is in the duldrums again.  Nobody wants ordinary prints and paintings - you can get half a dozen for a fiver at one sale we go to.  Some things (the nice chairs we have collected in the past) keep their money better.  Good Welsh dressers tend to hold their money too.  We are just getting back into auction-going again after several years away so it is interesting to  see what prices things are making.  Of course, it depends on what auction you go to as some are more expensive than others as they have a different quality of items in the sale.  The last one I went to the boxes of china had a mixture of ordinary and very nice desirable china in and were beyond my pocket. 

Well, the cold is getting to my fingers again - away from the fire it is perishing - once the house gets cold it takes a lot to warm it up again and we daren't have the central heating on.  Keep warm everyone.

Friday 2 November 2012

One room living - it must be winter!

Although there are still leaves on the trees (unless they are Ash trees, that is), winter is fast approaching and on Monday we decided to have a few hours out before the weather took a real turn for the worse.  We drove down to Narberth, a busy little Pembrokeshire town with views towards the Preseli Mountains.  We looked in a couple of charity shops and my husband found a pair of slightly-too-long brand new Hawkshead cargo trousers - just what he needed.  We had a look around the Museum, although I have to say that the price of entry was a little more than the exhibits warranted.

Here's a photo of one of their photos showing a saddler selling his wares in the weekly market around the time of the First World War I'd say.

We looked in the antiques centre too, but nothing to greatly tempt either of us, though I did like a Lemon and Crute (Torquay) bowl with a bird on it.  (Too dear though for my pocket though).  As we half-suspected, we also found the set of four kitchen chairs we had to sell through the car boot sale back in the summer, for a "dealer price" (e.g. same as at auction) and now being offered for 3 times what we got for them.  It made me rather despondent, but then as my OH said, they actually bought 3 1/2 chairs as one had a dodgy back which he'd had to repair so someone will get a shock when they lean back too far one day and the back breaks off!

We then drove back to Laugharne to deliver an old ironing board, and sleeve-ironing board and some magazines to the 1940s Museum, where they will be of more use to them than in our junk room.  The Museum folk (Simon and Min) were delighted, and we are pleased they will be appreciated.

Now we are down to one-room-living again as we simply cannot afford to heat the house at all this winter.  We can run the Hergom stove in the kitchen now and again, but unless we suddenly inherit a fortune, when the oil runs out, that's it.  The woodpile looks good at the moment, but it won't last if we are burning it all day long. 

Anyway, today the sitting room turned into the kitchen, as I peeled potatoes, peeled and chopped two big pans of apples for pies, mixed the ingredients for a big cake, etc.  I've been shortening trousers too and this evening I have my crochet to look forward to.  So our winter routine is back.

Tuesday 30 October 2012

Grockles or Emmets?

What you call a tourist in the West Country depends on where you live.  In Devon they are Grockles (and in Dorset and parts of Hampshire too, and Somerset too I believe) but go across the Cornish border and they become Emmet.  An emmet (in Hampshire) is a red ant.  Apparently the mass movements of tourists are not unalike those of ants, hence the term.  My good friend J has found me this: However the use of 'emmet' to mean ants is actually from the Cornish dialect of English and is derived from the Old English word �mete from which the modern English word ant, is also derived (compare Modern German Ameise [ant]).

 The little guide I bought in Hay-on-Wye had a few interesting dialect words.  I'd never heard of "ANCHOR" used in any other than a maritime sense, but apparently it is to dawdle or potter . . .

BIGETY - stuck-up - high and mighty.

A CHATTERBAG is a gossip. Love that word!

PURDLE is to cause to fall over or spin round - to PURDLE ALONG is to go at a good rate.

SCAMMISH is clumsy or awkward.

TOMMY is food, especially when taken to work, or a loaf of bread.

A WANT is a mole.  Thus a WANT-HEAP is a mole-hole; and a WANT-WRIGGLE is a mole trackway.

Just a few words for you to enjoy.

Saturday 27 October 2012

Recent books

I bought several recently in Hay-on-Wye:  The Dartmoor Omnibus by Eden Phillpotts has been waiting for me, it would seem, these past couple of years.  I have picked it up, flipped through its pages, and put it back thinking, "But I already have Orphan Dinah as a seperate book, so it's not worth buying this."  This time I picked it up and felt guilty.  It did appear to be waiting for me.  Inside the cover it was inscribed, "Christmas 1936" .  Although I had Orphan Dinah, I didn't have (nor had I read) The Three Brothers, Children of Men or The Whirlwind.  To purchase these separately would cost a lot more than the £5 price of the book as he suddenly seems to be more collectable than he was (if Amazon and eBay and antique shops are anything to go by), so it was tucked under my arm and came home.

I have loved and collected Alison Uttley for many years.  She is another writer whose books are collectible.  This particular copy of Carts and Candlesticks is  very shabby so didn't cost the earth, and the C F Tunnicliffe illustrations are beautiful, as always, and remind me of books from my childhood.  This extract is from Chapter II: Warming-Pans and Candlesticks:

"The spotlessly clean warming-pan was highly polished, and its bright copper face was the first thing strangers saw when they came to the wide open side door.  It shone like red-gold, it was the essence of copper.  It reflected the beams from the fire on the opposite side of the room and flung them about, tossed and returned them, with the additional glow of the warm metal.  Like a polished mirror it hung, to catch every ray of light, and colour it with its own beauty.  There was something welcoming about it - a good broad smile, a winking eye, a flash of recognition, and a kindly air, for it had warmed our beds for generations and it knew our whims and tempers.  Even when all seemed to go wrong, the gay warming-pan had a secret understanding nod for me.

On cold winter nights, when ice crackled under the feet of the men in the yard, and the milk was nearly frozen in the pail, the warming-pan was lifted down from the hook and filled with red-hot cinders, glowing fiercely, raked from the heart of the kitchen fire, or from a sitting-room fire.  The servant girl went upstairs in haste with it, while I sped in front, holding high my candle to light her, for both her hands were occupied in keeping the warming-pan steady, out at arm's-length.  The heat from it was prodigious.  I entered a bedroom, throwing the door wide, and I turned back the cover and blankets from the bed.  The warming-pan was inserted between the sheets, and moved slowly up and down, with never a pause.

This action which had been performed for more years than anyone could remember, always gave me intense pleasure.  It was somehow rich and luxurious and an ancient rite, with the accompaniment of a good smell of clean linen, and hot cinders, and a faint odour of herbs and lavender and feathers.  The candle sent dancing shadows leaping up to the ceiling, the black figures of the girl and myself stooping over the bed, as the warming-pan was drawn to and fro, with never a moment's rest.  Then I slipped my hand through the sheets and felt the warmth and comfort within.   I carried the candle to another room and another bed was warmed.  There was a demand for the services of the warming-pan, and its attendant spirits.  Downstairs it was borne, the cinders were emptied out and the pan was left to cool."

The final book was "The Grockles' Guide" by Jeremy Warburg and Tessa Lorant.  You know my fascination with country language and so this purchase will not surprise any of my regular readers.  I think it deserves a page all of its own.  And a Grockle?  That is a West Country expression for a tourist or holiday-maker.  Occasionally Emmet is used instead . . .

Wednesday 24 October 2012

Autumn in our Valley

Autumn has been dragging her tinted fingers through our valley, and when I go out for walks, I can allow myself to stop on a steep hill at the "next yellow tree" or the "bare ash" (they are always first to drop their leaves, just as they are last to get them).  We have had some heavy rain and the river levels have been rising and falling several feet at a go - sometimes within hours the river level will rise as heavy rains up in the Cambrian mountains run off the steep slopes and join the river.  This time they washed away most of the cut trees we had been harvesting for winter fuel, but some remains.  The Environment Agency wanted them on their way as that corner of the river is where fallen trees always get snagged up.

Yesterday I went for Respiratory Tests at the Hospital, so we will see what the results are in due course.  With my walking up steep hills regularly, my peak flow has increased immeasurably.  I won't say that struggling up hills is in the least bit pleasurable (other asthmatics will understand) when you are gasping for breath and wishing yourself anywhere else than facing the steepest part of the hill yet, but in my case it has paid great dividends.  It opens my lungs so my peak flow can alter as much as 60 from morning test to post-exercise, and several times recently I have registered 450 and even, on one occasion last week, 460 - 10 more than what I have been supposed to aim for.  I have had to raise that magic figure to 475 now.  When I was very ill back in the summer, I was below 300 because my chest was so congested and the Doctor told me that if it got to 200 I was to phone for an ambulance and not even consider walking to the car, which tbh, scared me rigid!  What a difference it also makes to have a Doctor tell me that asthma can be reversible instead of my previous Doctor telling me what did I expect at my age and of course it would be downhill all the way now. 

Apologies for not posting as much as I meant to these past two weeks, but I am busy selling bits and pieces on eBay to raise some money to go up and visit our eldest daughter "oop North".  I shall spend a few days up with her around her birthday, and we are planning a day out in York.  I can't wait to see her again, although she has just been down visiting us, it wasn't long enough.

Theo is putting on weight and gradually getting to know the layout of the house.  The boys still think he is the Devil incarnate, but I dare say it will all settle down in time, especially once he's been neutered.  Each evening he comes up on the sofa beside me, and loves to be made a fuss of, rolling over on his back and having his tummy tickled, and absolutely beside himself with delight!

I need to "do things with apples" today as we have plenty, but all very much smaller than in a normal year.  I need to make some chutney too, and perhaps some jam as well.  And bread.  And a cake.

I shall finally get to do a book post later today, as this is a "day off" (I slept very badly these past two nights).  Don't run away.

Friday 19 October 2012

We adore Theodore

This week Theo is starting to get a bit more adventurous and when the front door is open he will go out and explore the garden.  His cold is drying up (will the carpet ever recover?!) and he is putting on weight and getting to know the other cats.  He is tolerated by them all except the boys, who look on him with abject horror, cross themselves and run away!  Hopefully once he is neutered, they will all settle down together as I dare say they see him as his father's son right now - the Young Pretender.  His father is almost certainly the stray who tries to steal whatever food is put out for Miffy and Amber, but then I suppose he thinks I am putting it out for him . . .

Here is is in the Bramley apple tree, having seen Alfie up there and realized that it is possible for cats to climb.  You can see he has no back end yet but now he's wormed, at least I am feeding him and not the worms.

He has the most beautiful sherbert-lemon eyes!  And a teensy miow.  And a taste for the better things in life - bacon rinds, little bits of cheese, cat food in gravy, chicken leftovers.  He has us trained!

Sunbathing is nice too.  Here he is having a wash-and-brush-up or - as my dad was wont to call it - "playing his eukele"!!!

I think you can safely say he is one of the family now . . .

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Seeing spots

We had a really lovely day out yesterday when we went - as always - to Hay-on-Wye for the day and came home with a few extra books.  I also  did very well on the Torquay Pottery front too!  These lovely spotty pieces came from an antiques place on the way - the big jug dates from 1952-1962, as do the bowl and plates in front of it, and are Babbacombe Pottery (that's a little area on the coast at the edge of Torquay).  The teapot/coffee jug (it has a strainer, so I'm inclined to think it was meant to be a teapot) dates from around WW1 - 1920s, and is Torquay Pottery.  You got more spots for your money in those days.  It is slightly damaged inside the lid as that part was always liable to be bashed a bit in use.  Now the conundrum - I need to defray my costs on buying these, so do I sell the perfect jug and keep the damaged piece, or do I sell the damaged piece and keep the perfect jug which will then be worth more in due course.    Perhaps I should just sell the plates and bowl and keep both the other pieces.  Decisions, decisions . . .

 I also came across this slightly wonky pinch-topped vase and had a gut feeling it was Torquay pottery too, although it was made from white clay.  The pinch-top is something used on some Torquay vases and jugs.  Then I turned it round and found it had a proto-Scandy design with the leaf-like splashes of colour which later turn into a full-blown Scandy pattern, so my hunch was right.  It probably dates from the late Victorian period.  I know - I'm becoming an anorak about this subject aren't I?!

The books we bought will be the subject of a seperate posting.

Meanwhile you will have to be content with one of the few photos taken at Hay, as I forgot to take my camera out of the car!  Arggggggggggggh!  This is the view of the Brecon Beacons (Pen-y-Fan to the right with its twin flat peaks) as we headed towards  home.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Bye-bye firewood . . .

We noticed yesterday, as we were driving back along the river valley, that the river had been in spate overnight and had come around the bend with such force it had - as the Environment Agency had hoped when it cut up the 4 trees languishing there - washed all but the biggest trunk downstream.  As we had been "harvesting" these for our much-needed firewood, this was a glum sight.  Ah well, we still have a BIG dead willow in the copse in our top field, but boy, will it be hard to shift even in small chunks as it's a good distance from the lane and uphill all the way . . .  The long-suffering and much-mended wheelbarrow will be earning its keep again.

Some friends came over for coffee and cake this week and bought me another little piece of Torquay pottery for my collection, bless them.  One I didn't have too!  I have told my OH that I now Need Another Shelf for them, though I'm not quite sure where we can put it yet . . .

Our eldest daughter T is now home for a few days, which is lovely.  We plan to check out a local horse sale today (catalogued one of Welsh ponies and cobs - good quality ponies) and tomorrow we are going to see her sister in Swansea.  In between we have friends coming over this afternoon and I need to rustle up a roast chicken and Pineapple Upside-down Cake (both requested by T), and list a few more things on e-Bay.

On Monday we will be having a much-needed day out in Hay-on-Wye (see top photo).  I hope the weather is fine for us.

Theo the Puny is now starting to fill out and looks a lot less skeletal.  He has already wormed his way into our hearts and is such a loving little boy.  I wormed him this week - though he managed to eat ALL his breakfast and LEFT the bit with the worming tablet in, so I had to mix it in with some cat food in gravy later.  That fooled him.  I have some flea treatment for him too, so will have to get T to hold him later whilst I apply it to the back of his neck though he is so narrow and lean, bless him, it will be like giving him a shower in it!  He can now scamper about - as shown along the garden path one sunny afternoon this week.  I need to get a little ping pong ball for him to play with, now he has some strength for something more than just staying alive.  I will get some more recent photos of him over the weekend.

Have a good weekend everyone.

Sunday 7 October 2012

Torquay pottery update

Someone asked (Issy was it?) to see my latest Torquay pieces, esp. the kingfishers jar I got last weekend, so here goes . . .  You can see why I fell in love with it : )

The little green jug I got today for £2, and the other more unusual one wasthe dark blue one on the left with the Stork (or Heron) on it.  That was given to me with another piece, so I baked the lady a cake in return.

The one on the right (with the "tadpoles" around the top) is one that my husband found for me yesterday (£2 again).  Probably Edwardian.

Another £2 piece.  You may notice it isn't with the others.  That's because I have run out of room on that shelf.  Oh dear - I can see I need another shelf : ) The little green owl is an old match-holder and strike-a-light (£2 again) - not Torquay, but isn't he cute?

Back tomorrow hopefully - oh, and Theo is now wanting to meet the other cats and after I got a stroke down his back today, he then let me touch his head when he was eating and did exactly what Lucky did, all those years ago, when she had come to me, starving - he pushed his head up into my hand, as much as to say, "Oh I do like you really". . .  I'm sure ALL getting-tamed cats will do that, but I feel Lucky has sent him my way

Thursday 4 October 2012

Theo the Untouchable!

I am glad to report he (DEFINITELY a he!!) has settled in well, and is feeling better in himself.  Well enough, indeed, to start cleaning himself up and the "ginger paws" are now turning out to be white ones covered in clay staining . . .

He is completely litter-trained already - whether this by design or happy mistake I'm not sure, but it's a positive.  He has a very healthy appetite, but I should think I am feeding a barrel-load of worms and he has a lot of weight to gain.  Those worms will be dealt with once he has progressed from being an "untouchable".

I am dealing with that as I did with Miffy's boys (and indeed, Miffy herself) - by gently touching him with the fluffy plait on the end of my old schooling whip.  Desensitizing, as Monty Roberts does with horses using a "hand" on the end of a stick to touch them from a distance, so that they don't  realize they are being "stroked" by the human.

Yesterday, my husband left the front door open and he escaped.  I was not party to this fact until I saw him sitting on the sitting room window-sill, whilst the hail storm to end all hail-storms was taking place out there.  I had just been saying, "Thank heavens Theo isn't out in that" when I saw that he was!  I dashed to the front door to open it, startled him and he ran off into the storm.  I'm afraid my husband had a few sharp words from me, as I had expressly said to keep the door SHUT until he was tamer and "hefted" to the house properly.  Grabbing a jacket, I ran to the yard, to see him disappear from sight round a corner of the barn, and I couldn't find him anywhere.

I was despondent when I came back in, thinking he would be out forever, and soaked, cold, hungry, miserable, chased by the horrid tom etc.  I knew I wouldn't be sleeping well that night for worrying about him.  I had left the door open - just in case - and no-one was more surprised than me to see him sitting by his food bowl later, looking hungry!  So today the door has been left open and he's had a little stroll outside and then come back in again.

I peeped just now, and there was a Bank Vole in his food bowl!  What the heck?!  I can only assume that Lucy had returned and left it outside and he had purloined it and pretended it was HIS work!

Anyway, he has been people-watching whilst I've been making soup in the kitchen, and he came through and had a wander round before going back for some more cleaning-up (those feet are VERY dirty).

Leanne - that makes, ahem, 9 now . . .  We got back down to 5 at one point, having lost Tippy, Gypsy and Lucky in the space of 5 months.  I guess word got around that there may be vacancies!

DW - oh gosh, I'm surprised the welcome sign hasn't been washed away recently, but no - still shining brightly for pussums!

Marilyn - welcome.  As you'll have read, Theo is a male (he had a wash earlier and they were difficult to miss!)

Parsnip - yes, always another OMG moment, but sometimes they move on.  The big bad toms who turn up get actively chased away, but this one made himself at home before I changed my mind!

Em - I shall get a voucher for having him neutered/wormed/defleaed soon.  I think I will put one of the cat boxes in there so he uses it and it won't be such a shock when he suddenly gets shoved in one to "take a ride" .

MM & Denim - my heart went out to him.  Soooooooo thin, and JUST like our old Timmy.  Tam will love him when she sees him this month.

Vintage Jane - definitely a boy, and definitely HE chose US! 

AJ - no way could I turn him away.

Tuesday 2 October 2012

The latest addition to the family . . .

Here "he" is.  I'm pretty sure it's a he, but I could be wrong.  Anyway, at the moment we will assume it is.  He was around for breakfast yesterday, but by teatime he was missing.  Of course, I thought the worst . . .

 Pretty little chap isn't he?

Anyway, having spent the night thinking of him dieing alone in a farm outbuilding, chased off by the nasty local tom, or fallen into the slurry lagoon (as you do, in the depths of the night), I came down this morning - and found him in the hall, demanding breakfast!

The door had been left open all day yesterday and either he has had some experience of "indoors" or he is very confident, as he must have come in.  He has been cwtched up in the Junk Room, where there is plenty of cover.  He has been called Theo (as in Theodore Roosevelt) but may end up as "Teddy".  If he's a she, we will have a rethink . . .

Here he is on the wall - I was trying to show how thin he was, but you'll have to take my word.  That's Fluff in the background, looking daggers at him.

Sunday 30 September 2012

Wandering into October . . .

Well, an interesting few days for us here.  We have woken up to October this morning - still grey and wet out there, but that's nothing new!  I have also woken up to a peak flow of 440 - and this is BEFORE medication!!!  I am thrilled to bits, as it means I am finally on the mend and my lungs aren't so bad they are incapable of improvement.  I can only put it down to walking up the steepest hills I could find last week, which - although far from enjoyable and blardy hard work - has expanded my lungs and helped to clear them.  In a week's time I have my respiratory tests at the Hospital, which have to be undertaken without medication, so the fitter I am, the less distressing these tests will be.  After the initial ones, I will then be given Ventolin and I have to do the tests again (Ventolin will help me to breath more easily).

Anyway, we had a good wander around two car boot sales at the weekend and got some useful things, including a box of 10 small Kilner jars for £2, which were just what I needed, though I will have to fork out for new lids for them.  I haven't been able to bottle any fruit until now, because buying in the jars etc new is prohibitively expensive.

We took a stand at the Antiques Fair/Fleamarket yesterday and were fortunate to get a stall inside, as there had been a cancellation.  The forecast had been bad and the light showers turned into heavy rain by lunchtime and the folks outside were rained off.  I came home with a new-to-me piece of Torquay pottery, which I am hoping may be a Bovey Pottery piece (Bovey Tracey was my dad's home village) - it's a big blue jar with a raised motif of kingfishers, beautifully decorated, and we haggled it down to half the asking price in the end as it was missing a lid.  I can live with that!  I had looked at other pieces of Torquay pottery, and there was a little 1920s pinch jug that I liked but I didn't dare to spend before we had sold anything and when I looked later in the day it had gone . . .  In fact, ALL the Torquay ware had gone bar "my" jar and a large hat-pin holder which I didn't like anyway. 

Oh, and remember that little tabby cat?  Well, it turned up at feeding time last night and is a poor little half starved kitten, about 6 mths old I'd say.  Not too terrified of people (it got close enough for me to have touched it, but I didn't want to scare it first time we "met".)  Anyway, it had a good scoff last night, and spent the night in a box of scrumpled up newspaper in the porch, and had a hearty breakfast this morning.  It is sneezing and has a cold though, so I shall have to keep an eye on it.  May need to tempt into a cat box and take it to the vet.   Sigh.  But I cannot watch it starve to death in front of my eyes . . .

Saturday 29 September 2012

Cows would never make good burglers!

That sounds a ridiculous statement, but when you live next to a dairy farm, you have plenty of chance to observe cow behaviour, for good or bad.

I can always tell when they have the boyfriend working of the lass who does the milking.  The cattle will come down from the fields making a din, obviously unhappy, and their noise is accompanied by a regular beeping of the Landrover's horn, as the very impatient boyfriend (who HATES cows and anything to do with them) chivvies them along, nearly hitting the halt and the lame who bring up the rear with the front bumper of the Landy.  When anyone else brings them in, they are quiet.

 We get an awful lot of racket when there the calves are separated from their mamas too.  The calves are left with them for a couple of days and then they are seperated, and the calves come to live with the earlier ones, and mum is left to her own devices.  Reluctant to leave her calf initially, she wanders round the yard at night, bellowing non-stop (they don't even seem to pause for breath!) but after a couple of days she will join the rest of the herd when they go back out to pasture after milking, seemingly forgetting she ever had a calf at all.

But the MOST noise you get from the herd is when they are doing something they aren't supposed to.  This morning, they were meant to be in Park field (I think).  Anyway, I knew they were somewhere they weren't supposed to be (a field along) when I could see them on the horizon, all bellowing fit to bust and obviously so delighted they had made a bid for freedom that they had to tell the world about it.  Next Door will not be pleased as it means fence mending is on the agenda, quite apart from getting them all back where they were meant to be.

Meanwhile, I am giving myself a break from walking today and plan to pick more apples and work on the garden.  Have a good weekend.

Friday 28 September 2012

Keeping busy

A strange old week, for happenings and weather.  Steady rain throughout the day on a couple of days, then an afternoon clear enough to get a walk in.  I have been challenging my lungs with some steep hills.  Normally I would try and avoid the steepest as they are such a struggle, but I need to try and restore myself to pre-illness fitness, and especially so as I had a letter from the Hospital yesterday telling me that I have an appointment the 2nd week in October to present myself for respiratory tests which have to be undertaken WITHOUT having taken any of my asthma medication.  THAT is going to be a challenge and a half, especially as the Nurse I saw mentioned it can be quite distressing.  Not nice to have that to look forward to, but if it means they can say exactly how good/bad my lungs are and perhaps change my medication for something more helpful, then it will be worth it.  (I might add the 2nd half of the respiratory tests are done after medication/large dose of Ventolin).

Anyway, I took myself off the loooooooooooong steep hill towards Brechfa yesterday and although I was puffing like a grampus, I managed it, though it is half an hour's walking uphill all the way before you reach a flat spot.  I had to stop at intervals, but that was to be expected.  Earlier in the week I had walked to a neighbour's house - that had the first part of this same hill on the outward journey and a much steeper hill on the way back, and I managed the latter with just one stop.

Earlier in the week I had to take my husband to A&E as he had damaged his wrist splitting logs (the splitter had hit the log just on the handle and the shock-waves twisted the wrist).  Anyway, after complaining about it aching for a couple of days, a lump suddenly appeared and the pain got worse, so we thought an X-ray might be in order.  It turns out it is just a sprain so he has to rest it (not an easy thing for my husband, who is active and it itching to get all our firewood split for winter.)

We have wandered round the antique shops and charity shops, sorted out our Antiques Fair/Fleamarket goodies (praying for dry weather on Sunday but it's not looking good) .

I keep saying I must get all the apples picked.  It is no good expecting them to get any larger and I am fed up with feeding the Jackdaws and Magpies.  I have taken what windfalls I can and cooked them up, being very frugal and using even the smallest ones in Wartime fashion.  Speaking of which, I am thoroughly enjoying the Wartime Farm programmes, despite them using what are obviously cull cows (due to their udder problems - the Jersey cow's udder was nearly on the round when she walked, so no wonder she had torn half the teat off.  One of the other cows has a mis-shaped udder too.)

A neighbour has Soapwort growing near their home, but not enough to repeat Ruth's hair washing experiment!  I guess it was needs must in those days, though as she said she has some unusual knowledge which many folk wouldn't have had in those days.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

Spotted in the paddock . . .

I was just idly looking out of the window across the paddock when I saw Ban sat in the grass.  I called her name.  She ignored me.  I called louder.  I tapped on the glass. Still no response, so I began to drop the sash window, and at the noise she looked at me, and I saw it WASN'T Ban at all, but a tabby with a white bib - just like our late much lamented Timmy, who died about 8 or so years back now.

I went outside and stood by the apple tree at the edge of the paddock.  The stranger looked at me and sank lower in the grass, and lower . . .  I came inside and left him to it - I presume it's a tom, they usually are at this time of year, looking for a territory of their own.

D, who claims to have noticed him first, wants to call him Snarf (from Thundercats).  I have banned him from doing so! Timmy2 (my choice) will probably move on anyway, especially when Tom, the resident stray tom cat who "thinks" we feed him (he is mistaken - we feed Miffy and Amber) will knock 7 bells out of him, I don't doubt, as he does that with any cat he meets.  He is close to being trapped, neutered and rehomed somewhere else . . . 

I have never lived anywhere where so many stray cats turn up in my garden. Like my good friend in America (Morning's Minion), I am sure they are drawn as if by magnet - though in her case they are actively DUMPED).

Monday 24 September 2012

Antique shop prices . . . think of a number

We had a little wander around the antique shops in town this morning, just window-shopping. These days, the antiques shops are often set ups where lots of different dealers rent a space (according to their pocket) and stock it with what they think will attract a buyer.  In an ideal world, we'd do this too, but we can't afford take a chance on paying a regular rental and perhaps not selling anything for weeks.

Anyway, we had a wander round and there was only one piece of Torquay pottery - a big mug with a good long motto on the back, but at £25 I felt it was all the money and more, and think it's probably a good few pounds more than it's worth in the current market.  Sometimes items for sale are old stock, bought at the top of the market a few years back, which still haven't sold and I can quite understand folk not wanting to sell stuff for half of what they paid for it!

There was a rather battered copy of Eden Phillpotts' "Widecombe Fair" too. As I picked it up part of the spine fell off (that sort of battered condition). That was priced at £10 and bears absolutely no resemblence to general market value (which would be £3 or so in good condition).  I collect Eden Phillpotts and would have bought it at a sensible price, but this was obviously one of those "Oh it's old so it must be valuable" pricing decisions.  Personally, I do my research before I, say, list anything on e-bay where if it's that much over-priced it just won't sell. 

I have decided to sell my collection of Portmeirion pottery (wedding gifts originally) as after having them wrapped up for 3 years, and now collecting the Torquay pottery in its various guises, I far prefer the Torquay pieces and would rather put the money from the Portmeirion into some good pieces for my collection.  I did my research - found out prices new, saw what they went for on e-bay (where there will be P&P on top) and priced them at e-bay prices and they will later be offered for sale on there if I don't shift them locally.  Several women have picked them up, saw my marked price, and despite my offer of a very good deal if they wanted to buy the set of bowls or plates, they loftily remarked that they are "over priced".  It's that old car boot sale ethic - if you're trying to sell at a car boot sale, then you have to do so at give-away prices, even if what you are offering is desirable, yet in a shop setting, it's often "think of a number" . . . Everyone has different levels of knowledge - if it's something a dealer has never come across before, they may price it high and hope to be lucky.  Sometimes the price is a blistering one from sheer ignorance, but on the odd occasion we have picked up a bargain because it's in our area of expertise!

Ah well, we came home empty-handed but I did buy myself a pretty little circular wicker basket with handle yesterday at the boot sale (for blackberrying), and I was given a water-damaged (as in it was still soaking wet!) beautifully-embroidered picture when I expressed an interest in it.  I have it currently soaking in Ariel and hoping I can get the dirty marks out and the mould just starting to form on one corner.

Friday 21 September 2012

Visit from a little ghost cat . . .

I was laying in bed last night, having just stopped reading and turned out the light.  I felt a cat jump gently onto the bed, walk across me and then down into the hollow between me and my husband.  Having been convinced all "lurkers" had been put into the kitchen, I sat up and said to K, "I thought you said all the cats were downstairs - yet one's just walked over me."  I put my hand out to see who it was - and there was nothing there . . .  He hadn't felt anything (well, I suppose he wouldn't, it was me that was walked across).  I can only assume it was a little ghost cat, visiting, and giving it some thought, I think it must have been my darling Lucky, as the strides were very short (she was a little short-legged cat).  Bless her - coming back to say hello.

My eldest daughter has spoken of a ghost cat on her bed before now too.

I am sure the pragmatic amongst you will think - daft woman, it was just her imagination, but I am sure the animal-lovers may think differently . . .

Thursday 20 September 2012

Cats and Crumble . . .

I did some baking this afternoon: a pizza for supper; an apple crumble and a small loaf of bread.  I left the two latter, covered with a clean teatowel, on top of the oven to cool. 

Anyway, we have just been seeking out lurking cats and putting them in the kitchen where they sleep overnight.  Fluff trotted across the kitchen floor, leaving wet footprints behind her, and she had a wet hind leg.  I looked about: no grey cat in sight.  Sheba (aka Misery Guts) and Fluff don't get on, so I assumed they had had a spat and Fluff had ended up in the water bowl.  Yet there was no spilt water. 

I went across to the cooker to put the bread and the cooled crumble away, only to find out that Fluff had attempted to make a bed on top of the lovely warm apple crumble, and THAT was why she was wet - she was covered in apple juice!  Ah well, just as well we have plenty of apples!

Wednesday 19 September 2012


The Weaver of Grass has just written wonderfully about her fear of spiders.  I can quite sympathise with her - around this time of year there seems to be a population explosion - or they all come into the house to keep warm over winter.  I am afraid I don't care for them either, and have to deal with them with the working end of the Dyson pipe especially when I am decorating - as I am in the kitchen at the moment.  I say sorry to them before they go to meet their maker but I am sure a Dyson-death is fairly instant and preferable to drowning in paint.

Anyway, there was a time when I wasn't too bothered about spiders.  I can remember my friend Tricia had one with yellow markings on its back which lived in her dad's toolshed and she had hysterics every time we had to go in there.   At that time, I was OK with spiders, as long as no-one required me to pick one up.

Anyway, this went on until we were having Sunday lunch one day.  Bear in mind this was the cusp of the 1950s into 1960, so there was linoleum on the floor and just a square of carpet in the centre.  We were all sat down to our roast, and I could hear a sort of scrabbling noise over the lino.  I said about it to Dad (mum was too deaf to hear it) but he didn't think anything of it.  Anyway, a few minutes later something tickled my neck and when I put my hand up to rub my neck, the biggest spider this side of the African jungle fell into my gravy.  I have never screamed so loudly before or since, and neither have I liked spiders.  Oooh, it gives me the heeby-jeebies just remembering it!

Tuesday 18 September 2012

If I ever write that book . . .

. . . the one about living here, I finally have a title.  My son called me out into the hall tonight, and said "Look at this."  It was a young newt, going for a stroll up the tiles in the hall.  I picked him (her?) up and carefully put him (her) back outside, but as there is a big gap beneath the door, it may just come back.  We have had lots of young newts/frogs/toads on this particular pathway over the years.  Perhaps it is genetic memory.

Oh, and the book title?  "A newt in the house is worth two in the pond . . ." or something like that!  Author:  Gussie Finknottle (of course!)

Saturday 15 September 2012

When packing for the car boot sale . . .

. . . make sure that you don't pack a cat too!!  Banshee decided this was a good billet . . .

A Normal Saturday

 The cover picture shows Barley being carted at Rickling Green in Essex. 

The day started as most Saturdays start, dragging myself out of bed as the alarm insists it is time to get up.  Which wouldn't be so bad, except it was 6.15 and I had been awake between 3.40 and 5 a.m.  Sigh.  I really did NOT want to get up and my OH was like-minded!  Still, car boot sales wait for no-one so we had breakfast and set off, and indeed, were early enough to bag a few bargains.  I spent all of 20 pence (!) on a lovely little book which was just waiting for me to happen along: The British Countryside illustrated.  It has a soft cover (a little like an old exercise book), and illustrated throughout with black and white photographs and probably dates from the 1930s.  The previous owner has noted beside certain places, when they were visited.  London was the most frequently visited - Oct 1927, Aug 1936, July 1937, July 1942, Aug 1945 and Aug 1950.  I should have thought the July 1942 "holiday" there may have been a bit hairy!  Ilfracombe, Land's End, Tenby (twice), Llandudno, Blackpool were also holiday destinations, some of them quite late in the season - October or November.

 Tenby, bearing more than a passing resemblence to Victorian Whitby!  It has been polished up a bit in recent years : )

The photographs show the British countryside which I can just remember little snippets of when I was growing up in the 1950s.  The Botany Bay gypsies still used one or two of their heavy cobs for ploughing, and still drove them to a "trolley" to get about to the bits of land they had.  Horses pulled the milk floats, though milk was in bottles by then of course, and there was a little rag and bone pony called Sally - a chestnut with lots of white on her legs and splashes on her tummy and the filthiest greasy coat you could imagine.  Shires pulled the Corporation dust carts in Shirley in Southampton.  Country lanes were still largely quiet with traffic, and the  photographs evoke so many memories of unmodernized farmhouses still being lived in by actual farmers, barns being used for storage of hay or straw, and although I remember a small-bale harvesting of hay (unlike the big wrapped bales common nowadays), no-ne was still using the old-fashioned reaper and binder any more.   It was a peaceful countryside I recall, one we could safely run wild in.  That's why I am enjoying the Wartime Farm programme so much, as it is so reminiscent of my childhood, and I recognize things like the Tilly lamps (which we used in powercuts), open fires, chopping wood for kindling etc, a "copper" for washing day, and a mangle for getting the worst of the water from the clothes and sheets.

A scene from a byegone age, though I can remember seeing a field of stooks like this in Dorset before we left.  It had been grown specifically for thatching, I believe, using wheat which was much longer in the stalk.  It was like stepping back into Thomas Hardy's Dorset.  The above photo, however, was taken near Ipswich, in Suffolk.

Anyway, this won't get anything done.  I have chutney all prepared and ready to be cooked, so I had best get changed from my decent clothes into ones which need t be washed and will be once they are reeking of Green Tomato Chutney!