Friday 30 December 2016

Tidal waves

The Ice House at Dinefwr Park . . .

I have just woken up and had one of those terrifying dreams where you are on a shore and there is a tidal wave.  In my dream, there were two.  We were standing on higher ground, looking down on a small tidal wave (a bit like the Severn Bore) break upon the beach below us.  Then someone suddenly exclaimed "Oh my God - look at THAT one" and the most immense tidal wave 100 feet high or more bore down on us from the horizon.  I knew that despite being on higher ground, this one would sweep us away and drown us . . .

I woke out of that dream, glad NOT to be on a tropical beach with the view from Hell but still feel rather unsettled and nervy.  I think it was an indication that I have not dealt with all the emotional turmoil in the lead up to Christmas - Tricia's death and funeral, and the house-selling hope that was ours so briefly before being snatched away when the viewers had a change of heart . . . 

Anyway, we have awarded ourselves a day out today and are off to Brecon to check out the monthly Fleamarket there.  It is held in the Market Hall, where we go for Brecon Militaria Fair, so will be nice and warm.  Mind you, it is very mild out and am I giving my age away if I say as I get older, whilst crisp frosty COLD winter days LOOK nice (and provide great photos), my body is a lot more comfortable with mild and overcast . . .

I have lots to catch up on, and believe it or not, I am actually looking forward to doing the ironing mountain.  Well, I never thought I'd be writing that when I struggled with the tsuanami of ironing when my kids were small!!!

I am going to de-Christmas the house today.  I took the decorations off tree no. 2 (in the sitting room) last night and will do the same with the equally lovely tree in the hall today, and take the decorations down and put them back in the attic, ready to move on into 2017 tomorrow.  

HAPPY NEW YEAR to you all, health and happiness.

Wednesday 28 December 2016

Winter walk in Dinefwr Deer Park (photo heavy)

This will be one of these posts which could be a tad short on words as the photos don't need a lengthy description.

We felt in need of some fresh air today, and as it was such a beautiful clear winter's day, I went with our eldest daughter and her boyfriend for a walk in Dinefwr Castle Deer Park.  We parked up in the Rugby Club car park and made our way across the back of the parkland, using excellent pathways much of the time.  Only the section from the car park to the main track were at all muddy, and even then we managed to find a drier way through.  There were no wild birds on the pond, but plenty of small birds in the woodland around us.

This view is from the main pathway between the woodland and the fields, going in the direction of Newton House.  We stood and drank in the view of the foothills which front Black Mountain.  Just behind the trees to the left is Garn Goch, which was an Iron Age hillfort (the links are worth visiting).  It's many years since we were last there, and we must go again - we have no excuse as it's not very far from Llandeilo or our home.  When T and I were on the Roman Dig in Dinefwr Park, I can remember Ken saying that the Romans would have been able to see the campfires of the Demetae who lived at Garn Goch, just as the Demetae were well aware of the Roman Fort and could see their occupation.

A little wonderworld of moss and fungi had taken over this long-felled tree.

Above and below: The trees stood proud against the blue, blue skies behind the slope.

You can see Garn Goch far more clearly now - it's that hill directly above the white house to the left of the picture.

Fallow deer in the park.  There are normally around 100 of them.

There was a small herd up in the woods too, with young bachelor bucks keeping them company.

Newton House viewed from the slopes of the Deer Park.  I do miss volunteering there.

The sun was starting to drop as we walked through the woods - we had until 3 p.m. to get out, before we were padlocked in!  T did say she noticed a mobile number to phone should this happen though.

I kept dropping behind the other two as I stopped to take photos.

A slightly out of focus photo of the castle, high on its cliffs.

The view behind us.  I was saying how this sort of light was so wonderfully captured in Pre-Raphaelite paintings.

Sunburst through the trees, and lengthening shadows.

A last glimpse of the house through the trees.

The edge of the woodland gives a beautiful view up the Towy Valley.

The castle again.

Such wonderful late afternoon light.  I am pretty sure those are bat boxes on the trees.

There were fabulous reflections on the mill pond.   Here is a link to Dinefwr and some beautiful photographs to show you more of what you missed!

Hmm - I don't know what the red ball is below the sun but it appears reflected in the water!  Must be the Red Ball Ghostie!!

Finally, one of the many very mature oak trees in the park (there are some wonderful Maiden Oaks too, over a thousand years old.)  This one is probably a good 500 years of age.  Below, a last glimpse of the castle.

Monday 26 December 2016


Boxing Day morning and I was awake at 6 a.m.  I haven't been sleeping well for the past couple of weeks, and I think the events of the past 5 weeks, from the time of Tricia's death have all combined to hit me with a BIG wallop.  Preparing for last Monday's viewing took its toll and the hope we had so briefly, then snatched away didn't help matters.

The responsibility of trying to make Christmas perfect for everyone is a huge one, and I lost the plot when I had about a dozen things in the oven and veg steaming on top, and a rapidly-cooling turkey on the side, and I went and watched 15 minutes of Singing in the Rain and left my more-than-capable family to make gravy and take things out when ready.  I just couldn't make my brain multi-task any longer . . . They'd all been a great help preparing the veg and stuffing etc, but brain fog just caught up with me.  I am sure that is familiar to many a mum who doesn't have the option of walking away.

I will try and manage to do a slightly longer walk today than yesterday's, but right now my brain is still SO tired and I just want to read a book (I'm 1/3 way into Raven Black by Ann Cleeves and really enjoying it.)

I haven't had much appetite and suddenly realized at 3 p.m. yesterday I'd not had lunch - just a couple of the chocolates from middle daughter.  Ah well, all to the good, as I started to lose weight again and a further pound had gone on Christmas Eve - then I had wine and crisps in the evening so it's back on again, but it won't be there long.

I hope that you all had a lovely Christmas.  We will be back to work tomorrow as we have the post-Christmas Fleamarket on Carmarthen Showground.  I think I will be in bed around 7 p.m. tonight! NO alcohol either, as that seems to have fried my remaining neural connections . . .  I haven't overdone it at all, but drinking for 3 days in a row has frazzled my brain.

Update: NOT the alcohol or overdoing things or not processing everything that has been happening these past couple of weeks, but my husband's germs - he had been complaining of his brain not working in the run up to Christmas, being tired out all the time - now he has kindly passed it on to me.  I took some Panadol earlier on and they helped a bit, but I can barely keep my eyes open . . .  NOT looking forward to being on parade at 5 a.m. tomorrow morning, that's for sure.

Further update: think we'll join the queue at 7.30 insteaad of 6.30 and just be further away from the doors for unloading.

Also, my problems are zilch when I think of the miserable Christmas Zara Phillips and Mike Tindall must have had following her miscarriage.  My thoughts are with them and I hope her next pregnancy is successful, whenever it happens.

Friday 23 December 2016

Alison Uttley's Christmas Memories Part 2

In the shop window, standing on strips of white cotton wool wimulating snow, were homely animals, pink sugar mice and pink pi9gs with curly tails of string, stout and familiar and satisfying in their sugar content.  Their noses were pointed, their ears were pricked, all ready to be nibbled.  They would doubtless appear in our stockings, but again we never noticed my mother's whispered conversations about them.

The newspaper man showed us a set of lead spoons fir for a doll, with a fringed napkin and knife and fork with embossed handles.  The leaden blade of the knife would only cut butter, the spoons were the correct size for a dip into a basket of lemonkali*.   (*These were lemonade crystals - I loved those too).  They were irresistible, and we always wanted them to hang on the tree.

A doll's cup, also made of lead, was elegant in shape, with curving handle and narrow base.  There was a teapot, slender and tall, and some plates, all set in a box for sixpence.  They were arranged in a cardboard background, which set off their silver lustre and leaden charm, for lead was a metal that interested us extremely.  It was mined in the ancient lead-workings of the hills, and we saw the pigs of lead carried in carts from the cupellows where they were smelted, to the canal boats where they were taken to some unknown destination.  Lead was our own metal; it made our pipes for water, it made some of our kitchen spoons, and a garden ornament, and dishes.  We could see the veins of shining metal in the stones of the rockery.  So we welcomed the little lead cups and saucers, and much preferred them to china.  We whispered to our mother, and she nodded and bought them, for she shared our love for small toys.

There were little boxes of chocolates, which held about eight tiny round creams not much bigger than peas, or a ring of plain chocolate drops.  The lids had pictures of snow scenes, of hayfields, of animals over which we pored as if we were looking at picture books.  The threepenny boxes were circular, the fourpenny boxes were oblong, and it was difficult to choose between them, when all were so charming.  They were an attractive part of the tree's decoration, and the boxes when empty would hold jewellery from crackers, or treasures of seeds and dried flowers throughout the year.

Besides these toys and small presents, there were the more spectacular beauties of glass ornaments that came out of the Christmas drawer and were added to each year by new ones from the village shop.  The obliging newspaper man opened one box after another and displayed his treasures at sixpence a dozen.  He limped up and down, always in pain from a shrunken leg, but I thought he had an existence at Christmas next to an angel from heaven.  He said the word, and all the beauties of Aladdin's Cave were spread out for us to see.  'Sesame', he whispered, and behold a cardboard box filled with silver, rose and sapphire bells with glass clappers which tinkled like a fairy's bell.  Glass balls of gold and silver were there for the tree, and we fastened them to the garlands of ivy and yew which adorned the summits of high clocks and cupboards.  Once we had a house of silver glass with red windows, which came from the market town, a silver bird with a spun glass tail to sing on the tree, and an angel with a star.  These were breath-taking ornaments which winked in the candlelight, and carried minute reflections of the room in their rounded surfaces.

Candles had to be bought, small fluted candles for the little tree.  They burned in hexagonal glass-sided lanterns whose red and green sides could be remove and washed.  They hung on the outstretched branches, but their glow was warm and soft in the darkness of the room.  Before the house candles were lighted they had a jewel-like effect of rubies and emerald, for coloured glass was something we secretly admired, whether in a door, or a window, a lamp or a lantern.  These little lanterns were bought one memorable Christmas from the village shop, and they were used for many years.  We had no method of lighting the tree, and there was always the fear of fire in an isolated house.

The Chinese lanterns that appeared each Christmas from the sacred locked drawer in the dining-room made a festival in the kitchen.  They had been there before we were born, and my first memories were of these wavering lights swinging under the ceiling in their soft flower-like colours.  Occasionally a new one was bought to replace a casualty when the north wind entered and set a lantern alight.  We made our choice, hesitating between peonies and Chinese people, wide scenes of river and kite-flying.  They were circular and cylindrical, and they waved with every breath of wind that came through the doors with the milking-cans.  That they had originated in China was a sufficient reason for admiration, and their concertina folds which allowed them to be packed flat as a penny, their delicate and elusive paintings, the rice-paper transparency lighted by the candles within, gave a poetical feeling, a dreamlike air of unreality and wonder to the children who stared up at them.

They were suspended on the clothes-line which passed through great hooks in the ceiling, and each night until after New Year they were lighted at dusk before the big lamp.  We gazed at them in delight, and watched the fanciful pictures swing in the firelight, and the yellow circles move on the ceiling above.

This lighting of the lanterns was a Christmas ritual, something inherited from the past.  It was before the days of the Christmas tree, and perhaps it was part of the old Kissing Bunch tradition, to give illumination that the globe of holly, apples, and oranges lacked.

Alison Uttley's Christmas Memories Part 1

The afternoon of Christmas Eve was dedicated to our shopping expedition, when we went on foot to the village to buy the rate and beautiful toys which cost a penny.  We walked with our mother, instead of driving, because this was part of the excitement, and the sensation of bliss was prolonged by the anticipation of the shopping with no horse waiting outside in the cold and no driver hurrying us away from all the allurements of the village shop.  In our pockets we had each our Christmas shilling, to be spent on as many small things as possible, and even sixpence would buy a great number by careful laying out.

We danced and skipped on the hard frosty road, we stamped on the cat-ice in the hollows, we slid on the glassy cart tracks, and we shouted to make an echo as we went under the railway bridge that spanned river and road.  It was imperative that everyone called under that fine bridge, which had ferns hanging from the roof in summer and icicles in winter, for the best echo was there.  I called to it only last summer, and it was just the same.

We stopped for a minute on the ancient stone bridge which carried the road over the river further on, and we stood tip-toe by the wall to see if any ice had formed, but the river was always too swift for ice to cover it.  The fourteenth century bridge was the division between our countryside and the village, and after passing over it we became decorous, and walked sedately.  When we arrived at the village of little stone houses which climbed up the long steep hill we went first to the post office to give in our parcels and letters.  We looked eagerly round at the velvet-framed views, and the Christmas cards for last-minute posting.  The bell tinkled and more people came into the tiny crowded space, so that we were packed like parcels ourselves.  Everyone talked, but we managed to spend a penny or two and to get change for our silver.  My brother bought a sheet of transfers with lions and tigers.  I proudly chose a penny packet of diminutive notepaper and envelopes, pale blue or pale pink, with a rose or a pansy in the corner, meaning Love or Thoughts in the grown-up Language of Flowers.  This was one of the most desirable possessions, to be used for poems of tales and letters that were never posted.

The newspaper shop was two doors away, and the newspaper man had a Christmas display in the parlour upstairs.  We always went up that wooden stair to see the toys and to buy jewels of glass and bells of silver from the boxes which lay on mahogany tables and spindly chairs, for the enjoyment of the village.

There were shining silver watches which cost a penny each, and Christmas magic transformed them into real watches that only measured celestial time, that made a minute last as long as an hour, that brought eternity to a second.

They had paper faces, and movable fingers which broke off unless we were careful, and a screw to wind up the works.  They hung on silver chains with bars for slipping through a buttonhole.  We paid our pence, and bought our watches and immediately we were grown-up.  We set them by the clock on the "Greyhound", and we could alter them to the grandfather-clock-time when we got home.  We could control time as we wished, and the fingers always stayed at the hour of happiness.  The watches told the time as reliably as the sun that travelled over the frosty sky, and the moon that peered icily through the window by night. We put our watches in our pockets, and then went on to the next best thing.

Besides those useful and important time-keepers, there were sugar watches, which were more fantastic and less enduring.  They disappeared completely before the Fifth Day of Christmass, when

My true love sent to me,
Five gold rings,
Four colly birds,
Three French hens,
Two turtle doves and
A Partridge in a pear-tree.

Pink and white sugar made these delectable watches, and the sugar chains were so brittle we could eat a link at a time, like Hansel and Gretel who took a sugar tile from the roof and a gingerbread from from the walls of the witch's cottage.

The silver watches were kept for weeks, and sometimes they lasted until Easter, when the dandelion clocks soon came to take their place.  We brought them out of our watch-pockets, our sashes and belts, we gazed earnestly at them, we moved the fingers with tentative touch, as we heard the clock strike.  The sugar watches had only a short life, but a brilliant one.

The sugar watches came out of a tray of enchantment, such as only the newspaper man could produce.  A half-penny each, all spun from gossamer sugar in pink and white, the trifles lay for our choosing.,  There were lighthouses, the only kind of lighthouse we had ever seen, although we had heard stories of the Eddystone from my mother.  A lighthouse was a very romantic building, and these sugar models were tall and narrow, with green and red lights in the openwork sugar windows, and a picture of a lighthouse pasted in the front.  When we held them to the fire, a lamp seemed to burn within the frail structure.  They belonged to a world where:

I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas day, on Christmas Day,
I saw three ships come sailing in,
On Christmas Day in the morning.

There were little flat churches, with towers and red paper windows  and porches, and we had no doubt that some kind of service was going on within them for on the scraps pasted over the walls were children in red and blue hastening through the snow to the doors.

There were sugar bells and sugar houses, and sugar castles with pink curling edges to the battlements.  There were trumpets and drums and fiddles, each with a small picture attached lest we should not understand the message of fairyland they conveyed.  We chose one or two from the medley of pretty objects, and my mother watched us and secretly made her own choice, although we were perfectly unconscious of this, and we wondered at the power of Father Christmas who put them in our stockings.

All these sugar toys gave an air of unreality and magic by their fragility, and of gaiety by the painted scraps which later on, when the ornaments were eaten, would fill a corner of our scrap books.

They had a foreign air, and we were told they came from Germany where the bears lived in the forests and the Brothers Grimm wrote their fairy tales, or from Switzerland where there was eternal snow on the mountains and edelweiss and chamois on the slopes.  They were the pure essence of fairyland.  It seemed impossible that such delicate objects could be made by human fingers.  Only people who had supernatural powers could construct these sugar toys.

From Plowmen's Clocks by Alison Uttley.

Thursday 22 December 2016

All bets are cancelled

Sadly, just as I was going up to bed last night, I checked my emails.  I had one from our estate agent, saying the viewers loved our house, it was so friendly and welcoming, but they are now inclined towards one of the ones they saw on Tuesday.

I have to say, being given hope (they intimated they would be in touch with an offer) and then having it snatched away is depressing - especially as we had found a property which ticked EVERY box and were intending to go and view first thing in the New Year.  Ah well, we'll just put it behind us and look forward to a wonderful family Christmas.

Wednesday 21 December 2016

Well, they liked it. . .

Well the viewing has taken place.  They liked it, and mentioned it was the top of their list, and several of the others they had down to view were just makeweights.  In fact, one cancelled (or they cancelled it) and they phoned up (I'd given them my card) asking to view again the same afternoon.  They were inclined to linger, they were full of plans for the house and garden.  I am hopeful.  We shall see.  I will keep you posted.  I'm trying to keep calm and not raise my hopes to much - many a slip twixt cup and lip, as the old saying goes.

Here is the wreath I made the previous day, intending to hang it on the front door, but it never made it so stayed in the kitchen beside the inglenook, looking festive.  The little dangly baubles came from the Old Railway Line Nurseries at Three Cocks, between Brecon and Hay.  Oh My Goodness - WHAT a tempting display of hundreds of gorgeous Christmassy must-haves.  It was a wonder I just spent £10 - I could have easily added a nought to that!

I've been sat up in my office with the curtains open, looking out into the darkness, and wishing Eldest Daughter and her boyfriend (and cat!) would arrive SOON.  The minute I went downstairs to cook K's meal (we're having stir fry, NOT his sort of food) they turned up.  Phew.  I am a terrible worrywort as I get older and this was T's first long drive with her car - she passed her test at the beginning of the month.  It is taking some adjusting from a diesel car which she learned to drive in to a petrol one, but I am sure it will soon be second nature.

Talking of driving, we went into town today to get the various joints of meat for Christmas, and the ingredients for the Raised Game Pie I am planning for Boxing Day.  As we were waiting at the traffic lights where you leave the Tesco car park, there was some really stupid driving - people just driving across the lights, with a pile of cars in front of them backed up from the next roundabout and we missed one whole set of light changes because we were blocked in. Cretinous driving.  Hah - can't you tell I'm getting older - you should hear me on the subject of headlights, and indicating!

Right, I will go downstairs and sort out a meal for the rest of us, and be back in the morning with some Christmas extracts from a lovely Alison Uttley book I got in Hay recently - Plowmen's Clocks, absolutely delightful.  

Sunday 18 December 2016

Moving on

Thank you all for thinking of me on Friday.  It wasn't easy - I knew it wouldn't be.  When my daughter and I were sat in a little italian coffee shop in Highcliffe beforehand, I was dreading it.  Once we got there though, there were lots of familiar faces - she had a good turn out - and a horsey friend of Tricia's whose pony has shared a field with Tricia's pony for quite a few years now, dyed her hair bright pink in memory of Trish (whose hair turned white very early and so she always jazzed it up with pink or purple flashes.)

I sat by two old school friends of mine (Lin and Hilary) who knew Trish from their teenage years and I'd not seen Hilary since we were 21, but knew her instantly.

It was a lovely humanist ceremony and the man who gave the reading about Tricia's life was really good at his job.  Tricia's husband John had chosen 3 tracks by Curtis Stigers, who was Tricia's favourite musician.  I hadn't read the final line of the programme, so I was totally unprepared when Knights in White Satin began to play.  I had just about held it together up to that point (by dint of biting the inside of my lip and trying not to let my breathing get shallow.) Much nose blowing though, as tears will out and come down your nose if you deny them liberty from your eyes.  That particular song just finished me though - we played it in her bedroom for hours on end (her poor parents must have got sick of it - I know her sister did!)  I was glad when we were out in the fresh air and everyone walked across the grounds to put Tricia's ashes in the place they had chosen.

It was a perfect spot, in a little private bit of wild woodland away from the main burial area.  Birds were singing (in December!) and although I didn't see it, there was a squirrel in the oak tree and her sister said that the squirrel had been there when they had chosen that tree as the focus for the ceremony.  I am glad that the funeral is now behind me, and we can all move on, grieving in our own ways.   

G is based in Portsmouth now, and below are a few photographs from inside Gunwharf Quays.  As you can see, it is all dazzling with Christmas lights - the Father Christmas and his reindeer were spectacular at night.

Sorry, I have run out of time as I need an early night for a very early start tomorrow to finish the last jobs and get sorted before our house viewers turn up.  Positive thoughts from 10 a.m. onwards please . . .

The Spinnaker is very impressive.

Wednesday 14 December 2016

Off to Hampshire in the morning

Sorry to be absent, but I have had a busy time of things this past week, as we have our viewing next Monday, and I am losing three days because of going down to Hampshire for Tricia's funeral on Friday.  I'm dreading it as seeing her family upset is going to have me the same way, and I shall be glad when it has taken place and we can all move on.  I am very grateful to our middle daughter G for providing me a bed whilst I am down there, and for accompanying me to the funeral and driving us in a hire car.

Anyway, the redecorating is now done, and the front hall is the same creamy yellow as the kitchen, and there is just a tiny bit of touching up on a filled crack in the shower room wall.

Today was Tackle the Junk Room day, and I am glad to have . . . most . . . of that done.  Just needs another 15 mins or so in there on Sunday to rejig the left hand side.

The tree is set up and dressed and looks very pretty.  I will try and get a decent photo of it, meanwhile you will have to make do with a photo of Molly Mouse (or is she a rat?!) and her boyfriend Tommy, who I couldn't resist when shopping in TK-Maxx again last week.

You probably won't be at all surprised to find that I have walked over 5 miles around the house in all my sorting out and tidying up today.

I am fast running out of time to get ready for Christmas, but once the viewing has happened on Monday - and I really DO hope it takes place, as we have had 3 cancellations out of 4 booked "viewings" in the past year, so I am not holding my breath - then I can get presents wrapped and sort out a food shopping list.

The meals will be fairly standard this year - turkey instead of venison for Christmas Day, a Raised Game Pie for Boxing Day, so I will blow the dust off my Elizabethan style Raised Pie tin, and probably a Ham too, as we have our eldest daughter's boyfriend coming to stay this Christmas too.  I haven't made a single mince pie yet, or made a Christmas cake, or done any baking in advance, or . . . ah well, I think the kitchen is going to be red hot next week.

I'll be back on Saturday night, so hopefully will find five minutes to post.  I hope you are all more organized than I am for the Big Day . . .

Monday 12 December 2016

Mymydd-y-Gwair walk - a few more photos

Madness here today, as we have a viewing of our house in a week's time and I am still busy redecorating, tidying etc etc.  SO much to do.  A few photos here which have taken forever to load.  Some archaeology for you - but all industrial I think, although from where I was standing the banks above were fairly circular and could have been a robbed-out cairn . . . or a pond . . . or a henge!! (Hah to the last!!)

Fair amount of bank left . . . and a lovely view.

Water-holding pond, which was in association with a couple of others not holding water any longer.

Fabulous views in all directions . . .  We plan to walk the ridge on another day.

Sour acid soils extending down into the valley bottoms.  Tussock grass much in evidence. Just out of sight to the left, coal mining was carried out into the past century.

I loved the sun lighting up these rushes.  Just below this trackway was a flatter track which was probably something to do with the industrial history of the valley, and below is the entrance to an old adit which led to one of the pit faces, some 3 miles away, underground.  Quite a walk to work.

One last photo showing the sun on the mossy oak branches.  Magic.  Now I must wield my paintbrush in earnest . . .

Wednesday 7 December 2016

Yellow dandruff and a lovely walk . . .

My dear friend Deb suggested a walk today.  I needed a break from painting the kitchen so I joined her up on the mynydd above Pontardulais.  Isn't it beautiful?

We have another walk planned along this bridleway half way up the side of this hill - and a further one along the TOP of it!  I can't wait.  As you can see, the sun came out for us and it was SO warm for December.

Up on the top, looking across at the little homesteads spread out in the landscape.  There will be LOTS more photos tomorrow, but meanwhile I shall leave you with the current state of play in the kitchen - which has jackets abandoned on every chair, (mostly my husband's!), cat towels on all the chairs as they keep bringing their muddy paws in, and chaos everywhere.  One more wall to do now.

See what I mean?!  The painting is the reason for the yellow dandruff!!

There will be an "AFTER" picture . . .

Sunday 4 December 2016

Christmas is coming . . .

It has been frosty this week, but now has warmed up quite a bit and I think rain is forecast.  Here (before I forget which folder they were in) is another frosty picture to start things off.  From 2014 - a Copper Beech near Allt-y-Gog, Whitemill.

As you can see, I had another weak moment in TK-Maxx and this little chap came home to help make Christmas special in our household.  A nice Torquay pottery tray to his right, and my favourite beautifully-decorated big vase (Torquay or possibly Exeter Pottery) behind him.

We have been standing at the Militaria Fair at Brecon today.  On the way home we stopped for some Festive Cheer at Trecastle Antiques Centre.  Whilst my OH had a cup of tea, I nursed a rather large glass of alcoholic punch (yummy it was) and we munched mince pies and looked round at what was on offer.  The green of this lovely 1930s  jelly mould caught my eye (I am having a Green Moment in my kitchen at the moment, for ceramics and enamel items).  It doesn't all match exactly but most of the shades are near enough, when not under direct light or flash . . .  I just HAD to have this mould because . . .

it was made by Bovey Pottery.  Now, Bovey Tracey is where my dad grew up, so of course, I couldn't leave this lovely piece in the shop.  I intend to use it regularly as it is ready to go, as they say, and will give a lovely design to the jelly.

This is Phil Rickman writing in 2001 as Will Kingdom.  The main characters in this book are the same as in The Cold Calling, which is the book of his I downloaded to my Kindle and read at top speed last week.  It is good to see DI Bobby Maiden, the American Grayle Underwood,  Marcus Bacton who runs an ailing paranormal journal and the end-of-the-pier entertainer Cindy Mars-Lewis back in action again.

I blew the dust off some of my Christmas cookery magazines yesterday.  Somewhat baking-orientated, as you can see.  I keep these magazines for years and years and dust them off annually.

Finally, a first for Ynyswen - outside Christmas lights - they were reduced in Tesco yesterday to half price (£7.50), so I thought I would invest in these frosted berry lights.  If nothing else, they help light the way to the car when it is pitch black and we have an early start . . .

So, another fair under our belt, and it was good to catch up with old friends again.  On the way home, the shadows were lengthening across the fields, and the mountains smudged by mist although the road home was still bathed in sunshine.  The last bit of narrow lanes down our valley side held the last sunlight as it sank behind the trees and the mossy central stripe down the lane was emerald and orange, just as it had been white with frost a few evenings earlier as we made our way homewards.

It is nearly the shortest day now and already I have spotted catkins on a small hazel bush at the top of our yard.  Think positive, after winter comes the spring!