Wednesday 28 August 2013

I should be working, but . . .


. . . then I get distracted.  I just went to check comments on my Facebook page, and then I was TOTALLY led astray by this article:

I would urge you to read all the comments too.  Significance of the number 12, and comparisons between Christianity and Pagan beliefs.  And SO MUCH MORE.  Brilliant.  By the by regarding the significance of this pagan site, in a way, but I wish someone would stop "them" STILL wanting to build over it!  How typical . . .

Then I started looking up the poison levels of Mistletoe, supposedly a spear (or arrow) which was used to kill Balder as it was the only plant which had not been mentioned (thought too insignificant)

 He had a dream of his own death and his mother had the same dreams. Since dreams were usually prophetic, this depressed him, so his mother Frigg made every object on earth vow never to hurt Baldr. All objects made this vow except mistletoe. Frigg had thought it too unimportant and nonthreatening to bother asking it to make the vow (alternatively, it seemed too young to swear). 

When Loki, the mischief-maker, heard of this, he made a magical spear from this plant (in some later versions, an arrow). He hurried to the place where the gods were indulging in their new pastime of hurling objects at Baldr, which would bounce off without harming him. Loki gave the spear to Baldr's brother, the blind god Höðr, who then inadvertently killed his brother with it
Then I followed this link:

And then this one . . .

And you wonder why I get no work done . . .  Thelma - you have my abject apologies as once you have read this, there's your day gone for a burton!!!

Tuesday 27 August 2013

A stroll round Totnes

Totnes has an array of wonderful shop displays and I couldn't resist this one!  Sad to say, the two luscious cakes in the centre are mock-ups of ones which can be provided for special occasions. I feel hungry just looking at them!

As we walked around, I was soon suffering from hanging basket envy . . . (mine here are small and pathetic!)

It was difficult to take a photo of this beautiful building without including a huge stack of BINS.

This little pub at the bottom of the High Street used to be run (in Victorian times) by an ancestor of mine.  In one of the census enumerations, he - having married for the 3rd (or 4th?) time, a lass VERY much younger than him, and he was a father (yet again) in his early 80s!  Must be something in the water . . .

A little street winding out of view.

And another . . .

Through a doorway . . .

Behind bars - the famous Cat Prisoner of Totnes!

One of the few unchanged shops.  I think one of the photos I have of my Gran Bow, she was standing just outside this shop in the 1920s (only then it had a big clock suspended from the corner of the building.)

Window-shopping in the Vintage shop.

A splendid Arabian enhanced the corner of one shop window.

We walked down to see if the castle was open in the evening, but sadly no, so I made do with this photo instead. . .

Splendid hanging baskets on the back of the Dartmouth Inn.

Here's the front of the inn - at the end of the Victorian period, my g. grandfather was the publican here. We went in for a drink, to try and get a feel for the place, but I think it has been very much altered (opened out inside) since his time.

Lastly, looking down across the town and The Plains from the shadow of the East Gate arch.  We were sad to leave.

Sunday 25 August 2013

Adventures in Devon

 Somerton, below, was briefly the ancient capital of Wessex around 900AD, and the Wessex King Ine - 688-726 - was supposedly originally a farmer here.

I can wearily report we are back from our travels and just wish we had had more time to relax in between the bursts of long drives, but we had to be back to take our son to work/pick him up on Saturday.  Our first port of call was Street in Somerset and we seemed to be making good time (to view a cottage) but then suddenly realized after we had eaten a leisurely car park picnic, that we were actually running late, and I was allowed just 15 minutes to gallop from the car park into the Clarks Village to buy new winter shoes.  This would have just about possible, as I bought the 3rd pair of shoes I tried on, had I not then got totally lost and ended up in the wrong car park and NO IDEA where the one with my husband in was . . .  After running round like a chicken with its head off, I calmed down sufficiently to realize that I had best retrace my steps (all the shops and walkways looked the SAME!) and see if I could find him.  We were a little late for the viewing (as I then also realised that  being witless, I had NOT noticed that the estate agents' details printed from the internet failed to include directions on how to get there.)  This was to set the pattern for our entire time away.  I think I need a new brain . . .

A frantic phone call gave us directions and we viewed a lovely unspoilt Somerset cottage, which had a perfect complement of outbuildings, stunning English cottage gardens and ancient fruit trees.  However, someone had offered on it (which we knew) and it was possible, due to circumstances, that more houses might be built nearby.

We were staying that first night near Barnstaple in North Devon and after stopping to stretch our legs at Somerton,  we got onto the A361 and headed vaguely N-W.  Above is the view from the car as we crossed the North Devon countryside . . .  I know - it could be anywhere!

Our B&B was on a farm and once we had found it (I forgot to note the address, and again, we had to phone for directions on how to find it once we were nearly there). We had a very pleasant room and were the only house guests.  We had a fabulous meal in a pub a couple of miles away, recommended by the landlady, followed up by Honeycomb Ice Cream.  I thought I would burst and had to exhort my OH to eat half of it!

The next morning we drove to Barnstaple, nearby, to have a look around the town before dropping down to the village near Bideford where there was another cottage to view.  This photo was taken looking along some of the stalls at Barnstaple Pannier Market.  I bought some oddments of Paisley and similar material from a nearby stall (run by a lovely lady who was very helpful).  Had we been the day before, we would have been able to look around the Antiques and Collectables stalls . . .  Drat!  We were impressed by the Fresh Fish and Butchers and Deli etc shops on the other side of the Butchers Row, and we also had a wander round the charity shops.

We left in what we thought was good time to view the next property, as it appeared to be a simple left turn off the main road.  I looked at the house details - once again, no directions.  We couldn't find the left turning - I was map reading : (   . . .  I got more and more flustered, as we got into Bideford and didn't know where to turn next.  A phone to the agents gave us directions, BUT they omitted the final "turn Right".  We ended up in the middle of nowhere, but a further phone call finally got us to the property, which was absolutely superb, perfect, 10/10.  OK, much further West than we originally planned, but it was even better than the details I had of it and would suit us down to the ground . . .  One to seriously consider should we get an offer soon (we are about to change agents).

So we set off heading southwards towards our destination of Totnes, where I had booked B&B for the night.  We stopped for a cuppa in Great Torrington, a pleasant town, where we found this lovely puss taking 40 winks on a stall near the Fish Counter in Great Torrington Pannier Market.  Perhaps he got Perks at the end of the day . . .

Above, the view across the car park one way . . . and below, the other . . .

A pleasant little town and much more to our preference than the sleepy North Devon town where we had stopped to stretch our legs the previous day.  That had reminded me of some of the Welsh towns which are miles from anywhere and just serve the most basic of needs (though this did have more shops - and a sheep market, strangely enough).

For some reason, our map reading skills fled once again, and OH got us on the wrong road this time after we missed a vital turning (glad it wasn't just me!)  We nearly ended up in Crediton before managing to relocate ourselves onto the right road, and down through Moretonhampstead and Bovey Tracey and then on to Totnes.

Hurray!  But our B&B had no parking and I ended up driving round a loop FOUR times to drop my OH and luggage off and be back to pick him up.  I was nearly tearing my hair out by then!  More tomorrow . . .

A unicorn for my friend Yarrow . . .

Monday 19 August 2013

Chutney Making

I have been busy in the kitchen today, and finally took myself by the scruff and got my tomatoes and red peppers used up.  I made a batch of Spiced Tomato and Red Pepper Chutney.  Recipe here:

As you can see, the colour is wonderful - it uses Cider Vinegar and I used white granulated sugar (as I had bought a huge bag last week).  It used up the last of my fresh ginger root too, so that's not malingering in the bottom of the veg rack any longer.

I also made a big vat of Ratatouille (minus Aubergine, which I'm not mad on) and a Spelt Loaf . . .

When we were on our way back from Brecon yesterday, I finally got the opportunity to take a photo of a wee cottage I have a soft spot for.  It's just outside of Trecastle and as you can see, the lights were the right colour for once!

No room to swing a cat, and it's on the busy A40, but the view across to the Brecon Beacons is beautiful.

One of those Baldrick moments . . .

. . . in that we have a Cunning Plan afoot!

A neighbour came up last week, who hadn't seen inside our house since the renovations began, some 17 years back.  I showed her round, and she was amazed by it, and very enthusiastic, and - having worked for an Estate Agent's in the past - said she felt it deserved a Bigger Billing than it had.  I had been advocating using a more up-market estate agent for quite a while now, but banging my head against a brick wall as far as my husband was concerned.  Anyway, he finally listened to our friend, and so we are now frantically tidying up and putting the last dabs of paint about the place (guess who wields the paintbrush in our house?!)

We are off for 3 days this week, down to the West Country, where we will be viewing a couple of properties - one in Somerset, one in North Devon and if I can arrange it today, one in the South Hams - in fact, in the very village my Devon gran's family have their roots back to antiquity.

As soon as we are back, I shall be Making a Phone Call . . .

Well, we have enjoyed the last part of The White Queen (the entire series was brilliant), and although I knew the story already, it was well worth watching.  I will add that I feel a VERY special affinity with this period of history, as OUR house, Ynyswen, sent Welshmen to support the cause of Henry Tudor.  They WEREN'T short of Carmarthenshire men, of that I am sure, as the Dynevor Lord, Rhys ap Grufydd, gathered his loyal men from the Towy Valley and marched off to support Henry Tudor.  As a consequence, the incumbant of our house at that time - Gwilym ap John, was made Essquire to the Body of Henry VII . . .  A good selling point for our house, yes? 

Friday 16 August 2013

Castles, friends and chutney

If you look closely at the horizon (left), you will just see two humps which are Bronze Age cairns.

I have been busy this week.  I seem to have amassed a huge pile of refurbishment (mainly textiles, but some tack too), and I made a rod for my own back by buying 8lbs each of Tomatoes and Red Peppers (£1 per tray) to make chutney with.  Then I forgot to get vinegar, so that limited the chutney recipe to those using cider or white wine vinegar!  I made a batch of Taste of Summer chutney yesterday (red tomatoes, courgettes - glut from garden - etc) and will get vinegar when we go out later.

Yesterday I had a phone call from a year friend, who said she might be down our way because her son and his friends (walking and camping wild in the Brecon Beacons) may need rescuing due to Trench Foot!!!  The beauty of the Welsh weather . . .  Then she said it looked as if they would carry on.  Then in the evening, she had come down to rescue them and they would be coming after all.  They got totally lost, about three times, but finally arrived and 3 tired young men collapsed thankfully into dry beds and slept like they had been anaesthetized!  It was lovely to see Kim and her daughter, and meet Manchee their Bedlington/Whippet cross, and we had a lovely long chat this morning.  They are on their way homewards now and I managed to ply Kim with tomatoes, red peppers and a jar of chutney : )  I hope Kim and family will visit again soon.

The header (which I have left big as it worked this time), and the top photo were taken on a recent visit to Carreg Cennen Castle, as our daughter wanted to go there again - "It might be the last time, if you suddenly get a buyer" . . .  (I wish!!!)

Anyway, sunshine beckons and I fancy a walk in the Deer Park at Dinefwr Castle, so I will try and talk my husband into it.

Tuesday 13 August 2013


For some (dare I say sad?) people, happiness is going out spending money on lots of new clothes or new shoes they don't need, handbags to add to the pile in the wardrobe or chosing a new car or an up-market holiday.  I guess they wouldn't be hugging themselves if they just found an old book they had been looking for for years or delighting in the freshness of just-picked home-grown fruit or vegetables.

I am a simpler soul, and quite satisfied by a walk along our lanes (doesn't our river look beautiful at the moment?) . . .

Or remembering the perfume and sight of masses of Bluebells back in the spring.

Or making a (half!) bottle of Elderberry Syrup for coughs and colds . . .

Or buying some craft things and two cheap books . . .

Or enjoying the old fashioned roses in bloom in the garden . . .

Or making Chutney . . .

Or just watching cats . . .

Or baking . . .

Or loving family moments  . . . (well, two members short in this photo taken recently at Carreg Cennen Castle!)

Today I have baked a big Chocolate Courgette Cake for the neighbours who helped get me out of the ditch the other day (blardy holidaymakers!), made a big pan of low-calory soup - Spiced Lentil and Tomato, had a brisk 2 mile walk and spent the day catching up with jobs that needed doing - polishing copper and brass, and cleaning some tack, and tidying up some magazines and books.  Oh, and I also helped my husband persuade a length of reluctant water piping around the back of the bath and thence onwards to the attic.  We are having to replace the length put in recently by a plumber who performed like a racehorse on Speed, and which has now sprung a fresh leak.  I will not add washing half the entire - large -  collection of bed linen to my list of things which make me happy! I even found time to sit on the patio in the lounger, reading one of the books we got from the car boot sale on Saturday.  That WAS bliss!

What makes you happy?

Friday 9 August 2013

Pugin's Gem - St Giles Catholic Church, Cheadle

These are the magnificent West doors to St Giles Catholic Church in Cheadle, Staffordshire.  By happy coincidence we ended up there on our journey back to Sheffield, because we had missed our junction to leave the M6 and ended up one further on, and heading across country.  Imagine our delight to see a signpost for "Pugin's Gem" at the head of a small road we needed to take.  My daughter quickly consulted her mobile, and found that it was in Cheadle, which we had to go through anyway.

The same heraldic lions appeared in miniature on the side door.

A simple stained glass window showing the Agnus Dei.  (This is the title for Jesus, coined by John the Baptist, who said, on seeing Jesus, "Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world."  The Lamb of God title is used in Christian prayers, and the Agnus Dei is a standard part of the Catholic mass.)

The church was mostly in darkness as we went in, although the High Altar and Pulpit were lit.  We explored, marvelling at the beauty of the interior, and only when giving donations at the end, did we notice that there was a meter which if you put £1 in, gave you 15 minutes' lighting!!!

THAT was more like it!  What stunning patterns . . .

I think what the colour and designs did, more than anything for me, was to give an idea of what churches looked like in Medieval times, with colour and wall paintings illustrating scenes from the Bible.  Which is, of course, what you also got in St Giles'.

Whilst this might not be to everyone's taste - this did actually remind me of the colours and painting on an old steam Fairground ride I once saw in Salisbury - it has Pugin absolutely stamped all over it!  (As an aside, I was watching a programme with Kirsty Allsopp in it the other evening, and she had a dress in green and yellow that was for all the world like the wallpaper in Pugin's house, only without the Gothic lettering . . .)

I have to say, it just left us speechless.

The floor tiles looked so Medieval too.

The beautifully-carved figure of Christ.

The Virgin Mary.

Lastly, the High Altar.

Today, Alton Towers to us means the huge theme park, but in the 1840's it was the home of the Earl of Shrewsbury, a practicing Roman Catholic.  He commissioned Augustus Pugin to commence work on a Catholic Church in Cheadle in 1841.  Pugin toured "the very cream of Norfolk's churches" in preparation for his designs, drawing various aspects of Medieval design, and he also travelled to Antwerp to find inspiration for the windows at Cheadle.  Local quarries produced the sandstone for the building, whilst the extensive estates of Lord Shrewsbury provided some wonderful Oak and Elm . . .

Detail of a pew back.

HERE is a link to the Wikipedia page which will give you greater details.  I hope you get the chance to visit this amazing building one day.