Sunday 26 August 2012

A jumble of thoughts

When you are tired, your mind tends to review the day from a rather strange perspective, picking out pieces which made an impression (for good or bad) at the time and re-running them (for whatever reason!)  So today's impressions are rather like this . . .

Wondering why we got up so early when we were waiting in a queue of cars to get onto the showground for the car boot sale element of a big Steam Rally and Vintage Fair and thinking WHY is there always someone who thinks they needn't queue and drives straight past to the gate . . . Then when we did get onto the showground,  a desperate hunt for a space where we could set up, thinking all the while that despite being very early, we were still going to be without a pitch which we had just had to pay a two-day rate for, even though everyone knew that tomorrow was going to be a complete wash-out and most of the folk who had already been there three days were packing up tonight . . .

Taking it in turns to wander round and see what was for sale, and looking at beautifully-restored old steam rollers, and smaller scale models of steam engines which were giving people rides around the Fair.  Hearing and watching a steam-powered Fairground Organ, which I am certain I have seen in what feels like another life, when I lived near Salisbury.  Salisbury had a beautiful Steam Fair each Autumn.  I was suddenly taken back to the late 1970s again.

Trying to block our ears out to the sounds of the commentators in the main ring, one of which was particularly irritating.  Watching people walk around the rows of car boot stalls and then by-pass our side and go straight for refreshments . . .  or seeing people just glance at a stall and walk by, or pick something up, examine it closely as if they were interested, and then just walk off.

Other stall holders were saying how slow trade was today: some folk had booked in for the entire weekend and hardly sold a thing.  This recession is biting hard as visitors were mainly there for a day's entertainment - happy to shell out on food (of the refreshments kind, not the lovely things on offer in the Taste of Wales area) but very little else.  I think Bank Holidays have that effect on people as pretty well every Antiques or Collectables Fair over a Bank Holiday weekend seems to be the same - round here anyway.

My brain is providing re-runs of tooting whistles from the steam engines when the commentator was doing a resumee - unfortunately it was too wet underfoot for them to parade in the main ring as they usually do.  My nostrils are still smelling the billowing coal smoke from their engines, and I am seeing gleaming brass and black and scarlet and gold and men polishing their engines, wearing caps with badges on, and boiler suits and sons who are obviously turning into their fathers from pre-teenage years.

I am contemplating going downstairs to polish the Victorian copper . . . . well, I don't know quite what it is . . . pointy thing* with a handle!!! which we bought earlier on to hang on a beam.  And to look once again on the two more pieces of Torquay pottery I found and bought for just £2 each and which have crowded the shelf over the kitchen sink even more.

*Pointy thing with a handle is now identified as a Victorian  ale warmer, sometimes known as a "devil". This would have been dug into a fire to heat.  This link will give you an idea of what it looks like.  I've only ever seen the boot sort before. I'll take a photo later.

(Photos are from other outings - our local Steam and Vintage Fair, and one of jewellery at Builth).

Saturday 25 August 2012

A walk around Laugharne

Altarwise by Owl-Light

Altarwise by owl-light in the half-way house
The gentleman lay graveward with his furies;
Abaddon in the hangnail cracked from Adam,
And, from his fork, a dog among the fairies,
The atlas-eater with a jaw for news,
Bit out the mandrake with to-morrows scream.
Then, penny-eyed, that gentlemen of wounds,
Old cock from nowheres and the heaven's egg,
With bones unbuttoned to the half-way winds,
Hatched from the windy salvage on one leg,
Scraped at my cradle in a walking word
That night of time under the Christward shelter:
I am the long world's gentlemen, he said,
And share my bed with Capricorn and Cancer.

Death is all metaphors, shape in one history;
The child that sucketh long is shooting up,
The planet-ducted pelican of circles
Weans on an artery the genders strip;
Child of the short spark in a shapeless country
Soon sets alight a long stick from the cradle;
The horizontal cross-bones of Abaddon,
You by the cavern over the black stairs,
Rung bone and blade, the verticals of Adam,
And, manned by midnight, Jacob to the stars.
Hairs of your head, then said the hollow agent,
Are but the roots of nettles and feathers
Over the groundowrks thrusting through a pavement
And hemlock-headed in the wood of weathers.

First there was the lamb on knocking knees
And three dead seasons on a climbing grave
That Adam's wether in the flock of horns,
Butt of the tree-tailed worm that mounted Eve,
Horned down with skullfoot and the skull of toes
On thunderous pavements in the garden of time;
Rip of the vaults, I took my marrow-ladle
Out of the wrinkled undertaker's van,
And, Rip Van Winkle from a timeless cradle,
Dipped me breast-deep in the descending bone;
The black ram, shuffling of the year, old winter,
Alone alive among his mutton fold,
We rung our weathering changes on the ladder,
Said the antipodes, and twice spring chimed.

What is the metre of the dictionary?
The size of genesis? the short spark's gender?
Shade without shape? the shape of the Pharaohs echo?
(My shape of age nagging the wounded whisper.)
Which sixth of wind blew out the burning gentry?
(Questions are hunchbacks to the poker marrow.)
What of a bamboo man among your acres?
Corset the boneyards for a crooked boy?
Button your bodice on a hump of splinters,
My camel's eyes will needle through the shroud.
Loves reflection of the mushroom features,
Still snapped by night in the bread-sided field,
Once close-up smiling in the wall of pictures,
Arc-lamped thrown back upon the cutting flood.

Dylan Thomas
It is impossible to visit Laugharne without thinking of Dylan Thomas.  He and the small riverside town are synonymous.  I cannot pretend to understand some of his poetry - indeed, much of his poetry.  Perhaps I should have a skinful to drink and then it might become clear.  But oh, the WORDS . . . the descriptions which spring to mind . . . the magic.  A fractured genius in a world of numskulls who saw so complete a world whilst the rest of us glimpsed it in blinks.

Taken through window-glass, his writing room seems ghostly, almost a drunken lurching staggering view . . .

The heron-priested shore . . .

Tuesday 21 August 2012

How a book can take you back

More about the Picts shortly, but harking back to one of my earlier How We Came to be in  Wales posts, I picked up a hardback copy of a book I had previously only owned in paperback.  That is a plus.  Good friends should be for life and the paperback version was very shabby now.  It was Elizabeth West's "Garden in the Hills", sequel to "Hovel in the Hills" where they moved to Hafod, a.tiny Welsh cottage in North Wales.  It was worth buying, because the hardback copies had photographs to illustrate them, which my humble little paperback didn't.

The photos show how basically they had really lived - the little spring where they went for water was little more than a wet spot in a wilderness back in 1963.  A later (1977) photo shows the author sat waiting for her bucket to fill.  We have a spring here, but it is quite a rumbustious one and provided something like 2,000 gallons in one working day when the men came to line the bottom inglenook chimney with volcanic ash (mixed with water).  Another photograph shows the author giving her husband a shower in the garden using a watering can.  We have done basic here, but never quite THAT basic . . .
But then, they had more success at growing some things than I ever did.  I have yet to grow a decent onion - I know, I am doing SOMETHING wrong, as they don't even grow from sets with me, but I can grow a half-decent leek when I try hard enough. It was interesting to read again how successful their gooseberry bushes were, even though they looked like the illustrations in their gardening books of just how a gooseberry bush should NOT look!  You could ignore them totally bar a little judicious pruning once they had been picked, but year after year they delivered huge amounts of fruit.  Mine are the same.

I'll add to this in the morning, with a couple of extracts from the book.  It has been a real trip down memory lane reading bits of it again but golly-gosh, I thought we lived hand-to-mouth.  They mention at the end not even having the money to spare for a stamp . . .

Here is the first page of the "Garden in the Hills" book:

"  'The trouble with you,' said Alan, 'is that you just don't concentrate.

I eased my aching insteps one at a time from the rung of the ladder, and reflected upon his remark.  Last night's snowstorm had now abated and we were mending the shippen roof.  Leastways, Alan was mending the roof, I was standing on top of a ladder and holding the end of another ladder which lay up the slope of the roof and supported him and his tools, a pile of slates and some wire netting.  My arms, stretched upwards and clasping the sides of his ladder, were numb with the cold.  A bitter wind laced with snow and occasional hailstones lashed at my exposed wrists and face.  Occasional gobbets of icy snow and bits of broken slate hurtled down the roof and straight into my gaping coat sleeves.  I was shivering, aching and bad-tempered.  I couldn't see what concentration had to do with it.  'If you'd fixed the damned roof in the summer we wouldn't be spending Christmas Day doing this!' I snarled back.

It was an unfair retort.  I knew perfectly well that during fine summer days there were other things to do - like repointing the chimney-stack,lime-washing the south-west facing front of the cottage, repainting doors and window frames, repairing fences, cutting thistles and earning a living.  It wasn't as though the shippen was needed to shelter cows.  It contained stacks of timber, fencing wire, slates, useful junk and a quantity of packing cases whose contents have been partially investigated since we moved here from Bristol thirteen years ago.  The only livestock using the shippen these days are a roosting blackbird, an occasional nesting wren and a colony of field-mice who make cosy nests each year in a packing case of old Tatler magazines.  There is little danger of a population explosion amongst our township of field-mice, because during the winter months a polecat moves in from the moors and makes short work of the Tatlerville residents.  This nicely balanced community of wildlife is welcome to the facilities of our shippen, but has to be content with premises that are but roughly patched up as and when necessary."

Monday 20 August 2012

Pictish studies

The idea of a Pictish post was first suggested by Kath, and although it got completely and utterly sidelined when my asthma went haywire, I haven't forgotten it.  This will be a little taster. For illustrations you will have to follow the links, because my scanner isn't working. For the text, I am referring to my Dissertation on the Equine Iconography of the 8th-10th Century Pictish Sculptured Monuments (1999).

Who were the Picts?  They were not a single Scottish tribe, but a political confederation of northern tribes.  South-West of Caithness were several tribes including the Epidii - this translates as "horse-breeders" (or horse-trainers) and Kintyre is the MacEachern clanland whose name means "children of the horse-lord."  The distribution of these tribes within Scotland covered an area north of the Forth-Clyde valley, from around AD 300 to AD843. The Romans called them the 'Picti' to the earlier Roman Britons they were known as the Priteni.  To the Irish they were the Cruithni - People of the Designs. No-one knows what they called themselves.  They had their own language, which required translation to people such as St Ninian (400s)and St Columba (AD 565) who tried to preach the Christian gospel to them.

Lists of the Pictish High Kings were kept in the Ulster and Tighernac monasteries in Ireland, and considered reasonably accurate from about AD 550 when Brude was on the throne.

The Picts were subsequently conquered/absorbed when Kenneth McAlpin(e), already king of Dal Riata, on the western side of Scotland, pronounced himself king of the Picts as his mother was of royal Pictish descent  although he sealed it beyond all doubt when he invited Drest (surviving son of  the former Pictish king Drest) and slew him at Scone.

The Picts live on - doubtless genetically in modern Scotsmen and women today - but also in the intriguing symbol stones which survived the millennia.  They can be divided into three groups - Class I, which are purely Pictish symbols; Class II, which incorporate Christian symbolism with the Pictish symbols, and Class III which are purely Christian in decoration. 

There are more than 50 individual and eclectic designs incised on probably commemorative stones, of which there are more than 200 examples (and others are still turning up) .  A discrete corpus were found on cave walls or rock outcrops - appearing to be working drawings for the "real thing", and there are yet more found and silver jewellery and miscellaneous items recovered from various hoards such as the Norrie's Law hoard, Fife; St Ninian's Isle treasure, Shetland and Broch of Burgar hoard, Orkney. 

More later - if you are interested.

Friday 17 August 2012

Minehead Fruit Gingerbread

A few weeks back I found a little booklet of Somerset recipes at a car boot sale for 50p (Old Somerset Recipes by Catherine Rothwell).  Of course, it came home with me.  I felt in a baking mood today - we have a guest popping in tomorrow afternoon so I needed to bake something for then - and I opened the booket and chose to make "Fruit Gingerbreads from Minehead", with a little modification by myself.


1/2 lb flour
1 tablespoon demerara sugar (I omitted this - sweet enough with the syrup)
3 oz butter
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (dissolved in the milk below)
1 oz sliced peel (I used orange peel, hand-made by my eldest daughter and delicious)
1 oz blanched, sliced almonds
1/4 lb golden syrup
3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 egg
3 tablespoons milk
2 oz stoned raisins (I only had sultanas, so used them)
(I also added some dried preserved ginger, chopped small, or you could use preserved stem ginger from a jar of the sort preserved in syrup.  Or omit altogether.)

Put (sugar) butter and syrup in a pan and dissolve over a low heat.  (I weigh the pan, and then weigh the ingredients into it, saves cleaning up another bowl).  Mix the round ginger with the flour and stir into the syrup mixture (I added it the other way round).  Add the egg well beaten and the milk with the soda dissolved in it, the almonds, the raisins and the peel.  Beat well and turn without delay into well greased tins.  (I made a little cake of it in a 7" or so shallow cake tin.)  Bake for 45 mins in a moderate oven.  Allow to cool then cut into squares.

This is gorgeous.  Even my "I-don't-eat-cakes" husband scoffed it.  I'll try for a photo tomorrow, when I have the table laid out tidy.

It was WONDERFUL to be baking again.  To feel well enough to want to do it.  I always find it so satisfying, and I feel a real link with those ancestors of mine who I know cooked and baked (several were doing just that in service.)  Plus my g.grandfather was a Journeyman Baker.  It must be in the blood.

Thursday 16 August 2012


I won't tempt fate by saying I am better.  I've a good way to go yet, but I slept better last night, didn't wake in the middle of the night desperate for my inhaler to help me breath, and I don't feel like I am drowning this morning.  That has to be a positive.  I feel I am back to how I was 10 days ago.  Another positive is that I've heard from the Hospital to say that they have been notified by my GP that I need to see the Consultant, so an appointment will be forthcoming in one of the hospitals in the area.  Good.  Now I can change GPs as I have absolutely NO faith in my current practitioner.

On the down side, it is tipping down with rain out there, so not a good day for a walk on the flat to see if my breathing has improved . . . 

Thinking of Leanne this morning, who is grieving over the loss of her beautiful Sammy dog, and for Morning's Minion, who has just had to have one of her cat tribe pts.  Hugs to you both.

A Mind's Eye Day Out on Dartmoor

This is to cheer me up.  It is daylight, and my breathing is still rubbish, though I have discovered my Ventolin inhaler has probably been running on 99% empty over the weekend, which does not do a lot to help control asthma . . .

So I am going to give myself the treat of a day out on Dartmoor.  OK - this is all in my mind's eye, with a little help from photographs taken on other trips, but it is better than nothing.

On a hill overlooking Widecombe-in-the-Moor,  we park the car and I sit on a boulder, warm from the sun, with a breeze streaming through my hair, and carrying the scents of the moor to me - crushed bracken and the spicey smell of Sweet Gale.  There are probably the minute scents from the small yellow flowers of Tormentil, Heath Milkwort, Heath Bedstraw (the Bedstraws smell so intense close-to - like well-made hay), Silverweed and Self-Heal and Foxgloves lingering in the valley bottoms, but these are overwhelmed by the perfumes of Heather, Ling and the intense coconut-scent of the Gorse.  I take a photograph of the view looking towards Widecombe and breath deeply.  Then we drive down into the view.

We walk past Widecombe Church, the Cathedral of the Moor.  A nearby lane is flushed with a ruby haze of Hawthorn berries.

We walk around the village.  Inside the crammed and cramped pottery is Uncle Tom Cobley's Chair  which is made from pieces of wonderfully-carved wood from a church or quite possibly a monastery which fell foul of Henry VIII.  Bits of misericords peek out from borders of ecclesiastical vernacular wooden architecture.  The fierce beasts as hand-rests are particularly fascinating . . .  We spot an old coaching horn hanging over the counter and ask about it.  Apparently it is the one which was used on the Exeter coach.  My g.g. grandfather drove the Exeter coach (though I don't know on which routes though he lived in Moretonhampstead.)  It could well be the self-same horn he used . . .

We drive on, up over the moorland hills and drop down into Postbridge, which has always been a special place for us.

It is always busy there and it is difficult to take a photograph of the ancient clapper bridge without people in it during the summer.

We dip our fingers in the Dart and head back towards Chagford.

We buy fruit from a tiny shop in the little market place and fresh bread with cheese for a moorland feast later.  For old time's sake, we indulge ourselves by looking in the Estate Agent's window and there it is . . . the house we have dreamed of, the house we have been looking for and which is just on the market, just as we have signed a contract on ours (this is a DREAM day out, by the way . . . .) 

The fawn-grey stone is soft in the photograph - the colour of a pony's muzzle.  The thatch drips down over small loft windows.  There is a huge inglenook in the kitchen with a bread oven. A deep pink rose drizzles flowers down the wall, tucking its nose under the thatch like a kitten nuzzling its mother. The garden folds around the house, protecting it from the wild moorland the other side of the bank-sided wall, which is a half-way house for garden escapees and wild flowers alike.  Harebells dance in the breeze.  We walk through the door and say, "We're interested in the cottage in the window.  Yes, that one . . .  Is it possible to view?"

Wednesday 15 August 2012

The middle of the night

There is something primeval about the middle of the night.  Total blackness.  A heightened awareness of sound, with the wind tipping the leaves on their backs as it rips through the branches and the leaves protest.  The sound of  the rain slamming into the ground, unheeded.  For some strange reason I want to be out in it.  Part of it.

3 a.m. is not a good time to be creative.  My brain is somnolent but my body is still refusing to start healing as it is meant to do and my breathing not relaxed so sleep evades me.  Emotions rule your body in the middle of the night.  There is no balance of rationality.  Just a glimmer of light would bring perspective, but that prospect is hours away yet. 

I just want everything to be right again, for whatever is blocking all progress in our lives right now to be miraculously lifted and for plans to succeed, illness to recede, worries to be eased and hope to return.  I have no heart to do anything.  My routines are out of the window.  One step forward has now fallen back two steps.  This time last week I was back to walking and I can't believe that a few hot humid days have knocked me sideways so much.  I no longer have any faith in my Doctor.  It is not a good position to be in.

Perhaps tomorrow will be better.  It is, as Scarlett O'Hara once famously remarked, another day . . .

Monday 13 August 2012

Things unsaid

There were so many things I wanted to write about in my earlier post.  As a non-driver over the weekend, due to my health, I was able to take on board the scenery about me, and we did get about quite a bit, going to two car boot sales, and the usual shop-to-shop grocery shopping.

I love to look at other peoples' gardens as we drive along.  Some people go to so much trouble and have pristine lawns, never a weed in sight, and beautiful hanging baskets, or with careful placings of shrubs as a backdrop for other plantings.  Yesterday, there was one cottage in a hollow with the most amazing Honeysuckle absolutely smothered in yellow blooms.  I have never seen such profusion.  It reminded me of a little whitewashed cottage we once drove past up in North Wales, which snuggled into the hillside and had one wall absolutely awash with Ceonothus, blue as Lapis Lazuli.  Then there are the abandoned farmhouse type gardens, which bloom as they will, deep pink roses drooping sleepily in a corner, cwtched up with wild visitors such as Valerian, Meadowsweet and Hemp Agrimony.


It had been a while since we had last been to this particular car boot sale (to sell), but it was a pleasant small one, and there were always friendly folk to chat with during the morning.  This was no exception.  We didn't do particularly well - I think everyone is feeling the pinch of this ongoing recession - but it stayed dry.  A chance conversation with one lady gave me an insight into her life.  She was quite smitten with our rocking chair, but her three dogs were currently obsessed with eating the cane chair in her bedroom, bit by bit and she feared ours would share the same fate!  This was the chair that overlooked the beautiful view down the valley, and she liked to sit there with her knitting, or a book, now and then glancing at the view.  That told me quite a bit about her as a person. 

Upon seeing the brass fender we were parting with, another family group reminisced about their old farmhouse where they had grown up.  "Duw" they said, "That is just like Mam's old fender," and they went on to talk about the old house so fondly - I think there must have been a hue clear out and all the "old" stuff had been chucked . . .  The common story a generation or so ago.

We dropped down into our favourite little seaside town afterwards, planning for a breath of sea air and some ice cream, but alas, everyone else had had the same idea and we could not park and had to turn around and drive back home again.

We have so many family memories tied up in this landscape - memories of days out, and birthday treats, and times when we could afford to go and explore rather than counting every mile's use of diesel!

We know practically every house and cottage along the route, and I noticed that the little Gothic cottage - abandoned last time we saw it - had been bought and "done up."  I preferred the peeling pale blue paint which had once adorned the window frames to the replacement white ones, but the beautiful pointed-arch shape still translated well.  I think they could have been estate cottages once as there is another - smaller - gothic-windowed cottage further along the same stretch of road. 

Fields everywhere had finally been cut and baled for haylage, or carried for silage or in some places, hay too.  One field - it is dry enough near the coast - had been growing wheat or barley and rolags of golden straw lay in stripes across the stubble.  That is a rare scene in Carmarthenshire though.

I have been going through my photographs for appropriate ones for this, but the sort I wanted were taken in other places (Haddon Hall for the roses above and the Umbellifers in the previous photo).  I hope they give a flavour of late summer here though.

Looking back on a busy weekend

Well, the past few days have been somewhat surreal.  Moments of highs and lows when really I would prefer life to be on a more even keel.  Once again, my health has taken a real battering and my asthma has been out of control - nothing I was taking was helping me breath any easier, and a trip to the Doctor's actually made things worse, but enough said about that.  My husband finally realized how much tension I have been holding on to - subliminally worried about our son going travelling across Europe on his own, but definitely worried about my asthma and what was causing the spiralling out of control.  I had 2 small glasses of wine last night, was able to relax and today I am feeling better.  Hopefully in control again and not on the one-way staircase of ill-health I was so frightened of.

Anyway, although it was an effort to get up early to check out the car boot sale on Saturday, it was well worth it and our efforts were rewarded.  I even found 3 more pieces of Devon pottery for my collection ( £2.50 the 3). 

Yesterday we had to sell at a car boot sale (there have been so few opportunities this summer, due to the weather, and our Junk Room needs to be emptied a bit more.)  It wasn't a very good day, but we did sell, amongst other things,  a lovely old Windsor chair  made from birch which we have had and used for many years now. 

Just as we got back on Saturday, we spotted these three riders who were taking part in a sponsored ride across Carmarthenshire, linked to the town's Merlin Festival.  They had been up to our local Llanfynydd Show and were now making their way back to Carmarthen via local lanes and then a Police Escort once they reached the A40.  I thought the "dragons" were brilliantly done - the two below even had colour-co-ordinated overreach boots!

Anyway, we will now all be suffering from Olympic Games Withdrawal Symptoms.  It was brilliant, from start to finish (and we still have most of last night's closing ceremony to see as we couldn't stay awake past 10 p.m.)  I feel so honoured to be British and am so proud of all the medals our sports men and women won.  It was great to see the presenters going wild when Usain Bolt, and Mo Farah won their races (we were too!!!)

P.S.  I will try and get back to the next few posts of why we came to be in Wales soon.

Thursday 9 August 2012

The 1940s Museum in Laugharne

We are back to summer today.  No kidding about, it is HOT.  And very, very humid.  High humidity does for me at the moment, and so this morning's planned cutting up of the Willow tree y menfolk dropped a week or two back, lasted approximately 3/4 hour before we both declared it was too darn hot . . .

Plan b then came into action - down to the beach after lunch.  With diesel the price it is, we couldn't go too far, so we decided to go down to Pendine again.  The route to Pendine takes us through Laugharne (pronounced LARN), where Dylan Thomas lived, and where there is now a 1940s Museum, which we had passed several times and said, we must go there . . .  Anyway, since they had bought a shelf from us at a Fleamarket back in May, we decided to go and have a look at it in situ.

Here is the "Tin Shed" which you go into first, and it is packed with original uniforms of various countries, and all sorts of artifacts which have largely been donated.  The proprietor gave us a guided tour and we could have talked until the cows came home, exchanging various bits of information from our particular families.  You can just see (above my husband who is in the white top far right) a re-enactment from Arnhem, when the soldiers were hiding out, having been given the wrong frequency crystals for their radio equipment and they were unable to make contact.  Apparently they were so short of food and water, that they were reduced to taking water from lavatories and flower vases. There was a lot more to show you but as I can't afford to buy new photograph space from Blogger, I am having to create more space on current posts by wiping out photos on much older ones . . .

Here is the Anderson Shelter, faithfully recreated - our guide told us it had taken him a week to dig the hole for it!  Over the top, was the soil which had been dug out, and this was beautifully planted up with wild flowers.

This was the little shack out the back.  I can remember little wooden "bungalows" with wriggly tin roofs, and a little bit of land (5 acres or so) to support the owners.  There were quite a few of them in the part of Hampshire where I grew up.

One view of the kitchen with its pots and pans, scales, zinc washing tub, and some advertising bottles and cans.  The wooden cupboard was called a tallboy in our house, where we had one like it (ours ended up painted battleship grey and turned into a castle by my husband for our children!)

Another view of the kitchen.  You can just see "our" shelf to the right with the coat hanging from it.  We have a few pieces at home which date from WWII so we have promised to donate them, and we look forward to another visit soon.

A corner of the sitting room, again authentic throughout.  It felt just like stepping back in time, especially as the music was Glen Miller, and my feet were tapping along with him!

If you are in our part of Wales, do visit this little Museum.  It is still evolving and being added to, and is absolutely fascinating.  We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and are looking forward to going back soon.

One quick photo of the beach at Pendine, looking across to the Gower Peninsula in the distance.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Cutting the apron strings . . .

At first glance, the above picture and my title today will seem a little confusing.  You may be thinking - what IS she going to make?

Well, our youngest child, our son, now 21, is setting off on the adventure of a lifetime, going solo backpacking in Europe, starting in Budapest in Hungary and making his way through Croatia, Italy, Spain and France.  He has done a lot of saving, much research and planning, and when he gave us a copy of his travel plans yesterday, I was delighted to see that all those formative years of dragging the children around castles, old house and archaeological sites seems to have made a favourable impression as he has castles, museums, a Fleamarket (all those years of car boot sales!), and climbing Vesuvius,  visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum on his list.

Needless to say, his adventures are also viewed with some trepidation by his mother, as I am inclined to get my knickers in a twist and imagine worst-case scenarios (something which needs to be swiftly nipped in the bud for the sake of my sanity over the next 4 or 5 weeks!), so I took myself off to the friendly little wool and sewing shop in Llandeilo yesterday.  I had ordered a zip so I could mend my middle daughter G's skirt.  Then I wanted some sand or sky coloured material to edge my seaside patchwork blocks which I hand-sewed a few weeks back when this chest infection stapled me to the sofa.  I ended up choosing this bright and cheerful yellow which echoes the colour of some of the beach huts in the material, but have made a rod for my back by deciding to do Mitred corners - the hard way.  The two skeins of pretty embroidery floss were to repair  a cushion, and I would have sworn they were the right colours, but when I got them home they are too jade and not enough deep turquoise/marine blue.  What a shame - I will have to pop in there again then!

Anyway, I have plenty to keep me busy.  He has phoned to say he'd reached London yesterday, then Stanstead last night, and this morning phoned to say he was about to board his plane.  Now I won't get to speak to him until he is on his way home next month, and will have to make do with e-mails from him.  I was NOT allowed to get a Facebook account as that would infringe his privacy!!!  It is very hard, giving them their freedom and waving them goodbye, but I am so proud of him for having the guts to do this on his own as I know he had his own reservations over travelling alone.  I am sure he will make friends for life at the youth hostels along the way, which will be full of young folk from all over the world, doing just what he is doing.  The hard part is sitting at home and letting him do it.

Edited to add a recipe for you to try.  I need to keep busy today, so I have a three seed plaited loaf rising, and this is in the slow cooker:  


1 pound minced beef
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 green pepper, halved, seeded and choppped
2 tblspns vegetable oil
1 16 oz can whole tomatoes, with liquid
1 can (14 1/2 oz) condensed beef consomme (I just used a beef stock cube and 1 pt water)
2 tspns chilli powder
1 can (3 1/2 oz) pitted black olives, sliced (I omit this)
1 cup long-grain uncooked rice
4 oz Cheddar cheese, grated

Saute beef, onions and green pepper in oil in a large pan until meat all browned - about 5 minutes.  Pour off excess fat.  Add tomatoes, consomme, chilli powder and half the olives.  Bring slowly to boiling, stir in rice and cook for 5 minutes.  Cover dish.

Bake in casserole dish (I use my Le Creuset) in a moderate oven (375 deg.) for 30 mins.  Uncover, stir, top with remaining olives and cheese.  Continue to bake for 15 mins longer.

Friday 3 August 2012

In Limbo

A bit of a strange week this week.  I feel like I have been in limbo - still do in fact.  T went back home on Monday.  G moved flats on Wednesday (fortunately we didn't need to help as she had a friend with transport), and next week D goes solo back-packing in Europe.  I am not worried, repeat, I am not worried.  If I say it enough I may just believe the rhetoric . . .

I have finished the anti-biotics now but I'm not sure if I am "right" yet.  I'm not coughing, but still needing to clear my chest, still on double the medication (steroid inhaler), still having to take Anti-histamines to keep my chest clear/help my breathing.  I went for a short walk with my OH yesterday and KNEW I wouldn't get back up the hill, so he had to come and get the car to chariot me home.  Mind you, we both felt tired before we started, so it was probably a bad idea all round!

Anyway, I was intending to write another bit about moving to Wales (the horses this time), but the scanner isn't working and all the photos came out woolly, so I shall have to try again later.

Meanwhile, my "collection" of two pieces of Devonware pottery (Dartmouth Pottery/Torquay Pottery etc) has grown apace in the last few weeks, with various charity shop and car boot finds.  It is very cheap at present, having been very expensive until a few years ago, so I shall buy it whilst I can afford it!

Spot the oddball one . . . has a kosher backstamp of Royal Torquay Pottery but I am very dubious about the "sprayed" on green at the bottom and the "wrong" cream (more yellow) and its size . . .  D'you reckon there are fakes out there?  Looking things up on-line, Forster and Hunt at Honiton made stuff VERY similar to this, but I presume NOT with a Royal Torquay Pottery backstamp?  The little Pepper pot beside it is an early one (about 1905 I think).  My favourites are the plate behind it and the square milk jug, both bought cheaply at last week's Fleamarket.  I love the connection with my Devon roots.