Friday 31 December 2021

Happy New Year


Wishing all fellow bloggers and friends a Happy New Year, and hoping that 2022 will be a good one for us all.  Jennie xxx

A rather wet walk

 I am determined to get back to walking each day again - only heavy rain will deter me.  Yesterday it was of course, raining again - it has most days in the lead up to Christmas, and indeed since too.  Because of the weather I didn't go far - just 3/4 mile or so to the postbox and back again, but that was quite a good workout because it is up hill and down dale each way.  Several people out dog-walking or cycling.  There's a holiday complex (Caer Beris) on the edge of town and I think some are staying there over Christmas/New Year.

Common Earthballs growing on a stump on yesterday's (wet!) walk.

The blackberries were setting fruit well into October but the weather caught up with them.  In autumn Tam and I did the short walk along the length of the old railway lineout of town towards Llandod, and that would seem to be a good place for picking blackberries next summer.  Oh, and around the reservoirs at Rhayader too.

Oak moss is very common in these parts and grows on almost every tree and bush.  Here is overarches the stream at the side of the lane.

It's been a mild autumn and winter so far, and Dandelions are starting to flower.  I'm starting to look out for Celendines and Snowdrops now.

What you can't see in this photo is the sheets of rain gusting across the fields. When I got home, my coat, hat, gloves had to go on radiators, trainers underneath a radiator and wet socks in the wash!  I was wearing summer trainers which have a mesh front - no good for splashes from wet road walking.  When I got home I did some research and ordered a pair of waterproof walking shoes, which will arrive later today.

The light was very poor, but you can see the beautiful outline of this tree.  A Beech I think, from memory.

    Well, New Year's Eve is with us already.  I will get the rest of Christmas put away today - and the tree stripped and outside tomorrow. At least it doesn't have to travel far- just through the French windows!  Back at our old home, if it was dropping a lot, it got unceremoniously shoved through the bay window!

Thursday 30 December 2021

Late on parade today

 I woke at about 5.30 and tried to get back to sleep.  I obviously dropped off again as it was nearly 9 a.m. when I woke, due to one of the cats clawing at the door and signifying breakfast was in order!  When I moved my hips were SO sore again - I'd spent several hours sewing yesterday and I think the angle of leaning under my craft lamp is not doing me any good - I'll have to try and reconfigure it today.  Plus a nice long walk to get all my muscles moving again. Here's the progress on the William de Morgan tile design anyway:

Whilst on the Arts & Crafts theme, middle daughter gave me these lovely coasters and the butter dish I'd asked for (design is William Morris's Pimpernel).

Plus gorgeous Christy towels in a colour which goes really well with the new bathroom tiles. I am trying to replace the towels I inherited from my late m-in-law and have some I actually chose and like (e.g. NOT BEIGE!)

We love these beautiful mugs from our son, who commissioned them from a girl he knows who is a potter.  Isn't the glaze gorgeous?  Almost too nice to use!

A strange coincidence over this little Edwardian? keepsake which Tam found for me in Aberystwyth.  I had seen one just like it at an Antiques Fair and nearly treated myself, but didn't.  It's up on my bedroom mantlepiece now.

Here is the newly skimmed wall painted, but it needs a few bits touched up in places.  I will do that today and carry on with the wallpapering too.

It wouldn't be Christmas without books and of course, I asked for the latest in the Outlander series.  It will take me a while to get through it though.

Tam brought me a trilogy from this new-to-me author.  I have the first one upstairs, and am deep in the Rebecca Riots now.

A book I've only dipped into so far but don't think I will try the recipe for Ginger Biscuits with beetroot in (this was during WW1 rationing).

I'm looking forward to reading this again. She was an exceptional lady.

I have the pheasants in the garden . . .!

        Well, another dreary grey and wet day today but I need to get out and stretch my legs.  K and I will have our normal toodle in the park and then I'll go a bit further afield.

        I have found that the Church at Garway, Herefordshire is a Templar Church, and so we will have to explore that one as a New Year treat.

            I am surrepticiously going round and removing the Christmas decor now that Christmas is properly behind us.  The tree will be taken down on New Year's Day, so we can have the curtains open again and life can go back to normal. I've decided to have the groceries delivered by Asda for a month or so until the Omicron variant has peaked and things have calmed down again.  It is spreading so rapidly that it's pointless pushing my luck by going to the supermarket, and Aldi is rather cramped, unlike the airy Tesco with its wide aisles.

        Time to get myself organized again - I began with the ironing, now it will be moving books as we are having new carpets laid in January and one room is the Library.  Wish me luck!

Monday 27 December 2021

Getting organized

 Llanelwedd Quarry on the edge of town.

I have to say, once Christmas is over I would happily pack everything away pretty swiftly.  I am NOT a Twelfth Night person - here it is New Year's Eve when everything goes back in the boxes and we face the New Year all sorted.

I began this morning by baking another loaf, as the one I made yesterday(using the steam function in my new oven) soon got eaten.  So now I have another nice crusty Coburg shape loaf using half Oatmeal flour and half strong plain.  The crust is studded with Pumpkin Seeds. Yesterday's didn't stay around long enough to cool as we had it for lunch with a cheeseboard, and very good it was too.  

I have also set to and done the ironing mountain - half of which was king size bedding, but at least it's all done now.

    Christmas was very enjoyable, and it was wonderful to have all our family here under one roof this year.  Everyone took a Flow Test (us included) before our get-together.  On Christmas Eve we had our favourite venison casserole, using the Antony Worrall-Thompson recipe I've been using since it was first published in a magazine in 2007.  Christmas lunch was a gigantic turkey-sized Capon, cooked to perfection.  My contribution to the meal was the Chocolate Roulade and the washing up afterwards (6 bowlfuls!!). Thank you kids. Yesterday D made his fabulous Rum &  Pineapple Ham, and we have some more to finish off today.

    Strangely, I have had no appetite, and wasn't too bothered about wine either, or chocolate, and I have lost 3lbs in 3 days.  Let's hope I can keep that up!

    I had some lovely gifts, including colourful new towels to match the new bathroom.  FINALLY I can pension off some of the ones inherited from my mother-in-law who bought towels in the January sales every year. I prefer to choose my own! I have the new Diana Gabaldon book to read, some murder-mysteries set in Wales in the 1850s, William Morris themed things, and things I actually needed and asked for.  T, amazingly, found the exact thing I had been looking at and thinking of buying when I saw it at an Antiques Fair.  It was a little horse shoe, bound with coloured ribbons (faded now) and with a ribbon and a riding hat in the centre.  She found hers in Aberystwyth though!

    Now, despite the rain, I need to get a walk in and the bins out.  I hope you all had a lovely Christmas too.

Update:  two walks have been had today - a short one in the park with K, and then a longer faster one on my own.  Too much sitting makes my hips hurt, so I want to get into increasingly longer walks again as the weather improves.

    We still have our son D here - first of all his 12.20 train was cancelled, so his plan was to catch the 4 p.m. and then THAT was cancelled.  Since he had booked a ticket for the first, and not had any text to tell him it was cancelled, and the same again for the later train, he has fired off an irate email to them.  The Heart of Wales Line is a quiet one - one or sometimes two carriages which travel between Swansea and Shrewsbury (very slowly though!)  Free concessionary travel has been returned to it from October to March.  D has to pay of course.  So now we have offered to drive him home tomorrow - that way we can be sure he will get there.

    The large capon (chicken) has bee stripped and is now bubbling away in my jam pan in the company of leek leaves, carrots, onion etc for soup stock.  Tea is chicken curry and cold cuts for Keith.

    Hint to weather - mild is nice but some sunshine would be delightful.


Friday 24 December 2021

Merry Christmas to all my blogging friends.

 The Oxen

Christmas Eve, and twelve of the clock.
“Now they are all on their knees,”
An elder said as we sat in a flock
By the embers in hearthside ease.

We pictured the meek mild creatures where
They dwelt in their strawy pen,
Nor did it occur to one of us there
To doubt they were kneeling then.

So fair a fancy few would weave
In these years! Yet, I feel,
If someone said on Christmas Eve,
“Come; see the oxen kneel,

“In the lonely barton by yonder coomb
Our childhood used to know,”
I should go with him in the gloom,
Hoping it might be so.

Thursday 23 December 2021

With the Winter Solstice at our backs


Isn't this a Gone With the Wind sky?  I was fortunate to notice the first glimmer of a wonderful post-Solstice sunrise yesterday and shot outside to take a few photos.  It was cold and frosty, but worth it.  Of course, this was the best photo and taken inside, from the pink bedroom. I should have cleaned the windows first!


Finally I can share the x-stitch picture which I finally finished for my friend G.  I hope she likes it.  I admit to being glad to get to the end of it as when you sew with two greens just one shade apart, it sends you cross-eyed!  The dark green trees on the right were an area I made an error with a couple of years back and I could not make sense of what I had sewn (and left) and the chart, so I abandoned the chart and bodged them - not too badly I hope.

        Yesterday I did some baking - a Boiled Fruit cake with crushed pineapple in, which is a great last minute Christmas cake (sans icing).  I also made my Manderin Orange Cake but wasn't paying attention and used the plain flour which was out - it needs Self Raising.  Still edible just not very sponge-like!!

        Tam has had her booster jab, and the other two are booked in today and tomorrow for theirs. Tam's had her glands come up under her arm, but that is a common reaction as those are the lymph nodes closest to the injection site and their reacting is a sign that the immune system has kicked in.    The same thing often happens with Flu.  Keith and I, being elderly, just had sore arms as at our age we have less of an immune system to make a fuss with! 

        Keith's Physio visited again yesterday and they went through the exercises he needs to do to develop his muscles again.  He had Keith doing things which I thought he would just not have been able to do, which gives hope . . . He has to do his exercises 3 times a day and we see Daniel again in the New Year.

        Well, I shall wish you all Merry Christmas now, as I am sure we are all going to be quite busy over the next few days.  Keep safe, and stay happy.

Monday 20 December 2021

Alison Uttley's Christmas


Alison Uttley is a writer I have adored since I first discovered her, probably around age 10 or 11. (I think the first of her books I read was A Traveller in Time.) I collect her books when I see them and they bring great pleasure.  She brings the countryside and her childhood alive with her descriptions.  She was born in 1884 and died in 1976.  Enjoy: 


Every moment of the month of December something extraordinary occurred, even if it was only a mouse peeping out from under the blue frill of the settle, or a robin hopping to the kitchen table, or a little red squirrel running along the wall outside the window and peering in, with tail uplifted, as we sat at breakfast.   So when my mother beckoned us, with one finger raised, her eyes bright with excitement, her lips pursed for silence, we followed her into the parlour with never a word.  She had a secret for us, we knew, something not to be talked about. 

The room was chilly, although a great fire burned in the wide fireplace throughout the winter months to keep it ready for visitors. It had an air of secrecy and expectation as if it shared in the surprises, an air it never lost, so that always, even after I was grown-up, I went through the door in readiness for something out of the common.

My mother unlocked the second big drawer of the tallboy chest, and our hearts beat more quickly, and we danced on tip-toe with excitement.  The second drawer, called "Your Mother's Drawer" by my father, who never went near it, was the Cave of Aladdin. 

The key was kept on a bunch of twenty keys in the drinking-horn in the tallboy cupboard.  It was a smooth silvery key, with a character of its own; a large key, which turned softly in the lock, and all the other keys jingled sympathetically on the key-ring. 

The drawer was deep and long, and it held an astonishing number of articles.  The Sunday toys were there, concealed under a snowy pile of starched linen and damask tablecloths.  There lay a clockwork swan, with concertina-folded paper wings, that trundled majestically across the floor when it was wound up; a folding panorama of a circus, with painted pictures of horses and dogs, of clowns and pigeons, and ballet girls and the frock-coated ringmaster with his whip; Mrs Beeton's Household Management, complete with coloured plates of fruits and puddings in pyramids of beauty, such as I imagined existed only in the Royal Palace; some volumes of Household Words bound in calf; my best doll with blue eyes and real hair and velvet plaid dress; and the big blue scrap-book which held the Christmas cards of my mother's girl-hood.

This delectable drawer was opened, and at once from its depths came a fragrance as if Mrs Beeton's jellies and trifles were really concealed there.  This smell came from a casket of tiny dessert biscuits, a yearly Christmas present from our grocer, in return for our valued custom.  Carmine sugared diamonds, ratafia balls with pink comfits, biscuits in the shape of walnuts, they were ready for Christmas Day.  My mother shook her head at our eager hands held out, but she unlatched the clasp of the box and gave us each a delicious morsel.  Then she drew the tablecloths over it.  There was something else.

From out of the drawer she brought a plain white cardboard box.  She carried it to the table and laid it on the tapestry cloth.  We leapt forward as she lifted the lid, but we were sent to the kitchen to wash our hands.  When we returned, damp and clean, the drawer was closed and my mother was already sitting at the table with her writing-desk and blotter.

The table had become a shop, with a gay assortment of Christmas cards spread out before us.  It was truly an intoxicating sight!  There they lay, in all the glory of painted picture, of tinsel ribbon, of frost that sparkled like the hoar-frost on the glittering fleece of snow on the lawn.    We gazed entrance at robins with wide-open beaks, singing songs we could hear in imagination, at flowers whose cent seemed to pour into the air, at plum puddings we could almost taste.  There were pictures of the Holy Family in the Stable, with Ox and Ass, and Wise Men offering gifts, and churches that lighted up when we held them to the window, and coaches driving up to inn doors.  There were pictures of snow and icicles and holly.  It was a heavenly box of delights, and we turned the cards over with cries of excitement.  

To children who had few picture-books, who had never been to a picture gallery, who seldom even visit a shop, this was a feast of art.  We were hungry for such things.  We could never finish looking at them and pointing out their beauties to one another and to our mother. . .

In the cardboard box were a few special cards, some gilt-edged, others which stood upright.  These were kept for very exalted people, certain benefactors, our canon, an our two godmothers. There were also a few little single cards with no luxury of sparkling frost, but an old-fashioned simplicity about them. One was slipped into the cup of the milk-churn for the milk-dealer; others went with Christmas presents of freshly shot rabbits and newly made brawns, with baskets of yellow apples and a few mince-pies when we went to see our friends in the villages.

                                                                           *                  *                *

I came across one of my old scrap-books lately It held the choicest treasures of childhood, and as I turned the heavy pages,  I felt again the emotions of rapture and exquisite delight I knew when I was seven or eight; as if those bespangled cards with their robins and snow had kept the essence of childhood in their folded leaves.  The cards were so familiar after the long scrutiny to which I had subjected them in those early days that not only every detail appeared fresh, but I remembered the feelings I had once experienced when I looked at them.

Christmas cards with raised and embossed flowers - a clump of blue forget-me-nots growing at the foot of a silver birch tree, a bunch of red and white daisies tied with blue ribbons, pink an white dog-roses trailing round a text - were desired because they could be touched and outlined by small searching finger-tips.  They were real as the flowers in the fields and woods in summer.  They came at Christmas when the wild flowers were not there. They were perhaps stuck on my some magical means. They were something special, an every Christmas card with raised flower or figures was a treasure. . .

                          *             *           *
How our senses are dulled these days.  Yet even in my childhood Christmas was truly magical - exciting and exotic things (hah! Clementines and Dates!), Lemonade which was such a treat when through the year it was just orange squash (I still love fizzy drinks).  On the sideboard was a box of Turkish Delight and another of Milk Tray (and no-one dived in for the dark chocolate in those days!)  One of my best presents when I was small was a tin doll's house, brick with roses climbing up the walls.  Another year it was a Compendium of Games, and mum and I used to play with that regularly - she was generous with her time.  Always an avid reader, I loved to get books at Christmas and still have some of them - the Wonder World of Nature, and Malcolm Saville's Country Book, and all the pony books I was given down the years are still in a box in the attic.  

We couldn't afford a "proper" tree, so mum and I would get a branch of gorse from the edge of our garden where there was a wild area, and make up a flour and water paste for it and whilst that was still drying, sprinkle the "tree" with glitter, so it sparkled like snow.  We had those little tin candle holders which clipped onto the branches and held birthday-cake sized candles which were actually lit (oh goodness, today that would be considered such a fire hazard!)  and small glass baubles which broke so readily, especially if one of our three cats had batted one off the tree!

Christmas was full of the excitement of the stories I read: Hans Christian Anderson's The Snow Queen, and The Little Tin Soldier who, after falling out of the window and Having Adventures, returns in the body of a fish to that same household and is restored to the Nursery, where the ungrateful children throw him into the fire and the little paper ballerina - the love of his life - is blown into the fire and burnt in an instant beside him.  Dickens' Christmas Carol (which was on Christmas every year I am sure, along with the Wizard of Oz) with Scrooge and Bob Cratchit and little Tiny Tim!

Anyway, I wish I could write more from the book as  there is a whole chapter of this, and it's an absolute delight to read.  Treat yourself to Country Things by Alison Uttley.  You won't regret it.

Sunday 19 December 2021

Jumbleberry Jam and thoughts on Omicron

I've been planning to make jam for Christmas gifts to friends and new neighbours for weeks now.  I was starting to run out of time so yesterday I finally set to.  The recipe is HERE and very quick and straightforward.  Just three ingredients - bags of mixed fruit from the freezer department of your nearest supermarket, jam sugar and lemon juice.  5 minutes at a rolling boil and it should be done.

I popped the freshly-washed jars in a low oven to warm and put the lids in a bowl of boiling water.  Unfortunately at some point in the move, my 3 jam funnels have been mislaid.  I had to just decant the jam using a ladle yesterday, but can't do without a funnel so have ordered a new one on-line.  I will now of course find the others. . .

A full bag and 3/4 of another (which was more blackcurrant-orientated) made 9 jars of fragrant jam which tastes AMAZING.  My new cooker proved its worth as it kept the rolling boil going - my cooker in our last home would turn the heat down the moment it reached boil, which made jam-making a challenge!

Meanwhile, we are having to be extra careful about contact with the outside world because of the Omicron variant.  No-one wants to have to cancel Christmas, especially as everyone had to last year, when Tam's siblings joined up to spend Christmas together, and all we could do was to Zoom them as we all opened presents.  It wasn't the same - but at least no-one upset G by winning a board game!

    We are glad to have had our booster jabs (Tam gets hers tomorrow and I hope that the other two have theirs soon as they are living in cities and more vulnerable.) (Update: D gets his on 23rd.  G still waiting.)

    I truly cannot understand the Covid-deniers, the Anti-Vaxxers, the Conspiracy Theorists, the "I don't want to be controlled" folk  and the "yuman rights" folk who don't even want to wear a mask. Now I've just caught the news and there are protests in London against further restrictions - how clever is that - form huge crowds when Omicron is so much more easily transmissible.  If you're talking about being controlled, you don't have to look back too far in history to WW2, when our entire population was controlled with rationing of food, clothing, sweets, heating fuel, petrol, rules and regulations over lighting, carrying a gas mask at all times, requisitioning of land and property for military use (some of it never given back). Strike action was illegal and all foreign nationals had to report to the police (and indeed, many were interned). Even light was controlled with double Summertime.  Control of the people?  Absolutely, but as a temporary and very necessary measure.

The view across the lane yesterday.

     If there is protection in the form of a vaccine (which wasn't conjured out of thin air but developed from work against the SARS virus outbreak in 2003, which, incidentally, also came from China) then have it and don't believe conspiracy theories that it will kill you - some straight away but the rest of us are doomed I tell you!)   No, your immune system, however good you think it is, will NOT save you in this event - remember what happened to the Native Americans when Europeans arrived and they had contact with the likes of Smallpox, Cholera, Flu, TB, Polio, Typhoid and the like for the first time. They had absolutely NO immunity.  Even Measles was fatal - and that's something we think of as just an itchy childhood illness now, but it can kill, even now, if you are not vaccinated.

        I don't often comment on what is happening in the "Outside World" but some things irritate me beyond belief and folk who think they are armchair epidemiologists - especially the ones who lie to children at the school gates - need a wake-up call.

        It's bad enough to have the Government saying one thing and Prof. Whitty being the Soothsayer of Doom, and putting the wind up everyone, and no-one knowing for sure quite what the impact of Omicron is going to be in the long term.  Let's hope it IS much milder, as South Africa says, let's hope that we don't start the New Year with another Lockdown (although in the countryside that has less impact than in the town), but I'm not holding my breath.  Here in Wales they do things differently anyway, and Mark Drakeford has already put restrictions on nightclubs from 27th December, and schools are to return later - in the hope of lessening the spread of infection, plus the one-way systems in Supermarkets and stores, and social distancing are being reinstated.  I can foresee that household bubbles and the rule of 6 are in the offing again too.


        Just as well I have plenty of decorating to keep me occupied, and wonderful local walks to enjoy.  Keep safe my friends.

Friday 17 December 2021

Several reasons to visit Presteigne an the curious story of Sir John Pryce


Cascob Church is vaguely near the focus of my interest today.

I am currently reading Phil Rickman's novel, The Heresy of Dr Dee, which has of course strong elements of Border history in it.  I had never heard of the Battle of Pilleth (known to the Welsh as the Battle of Bryn Glas).  Never realized that the Judge's Lodgings for which there are many signposts around the Welsh countryside we traversed this year, was such a gem of a museum, and Phil Rickman incorporated this courtroom into his story, having a London judge Sir Christopher Legge sit there in judgement of the Plant Mat leader Gethin Rhys. Never heard of Plant Mat either.  Now there is so much to explore when the weather improves a bit and the days lengthen into spring. (Currently counting down to the shortest day).

    The Battle of Pilleth (Bryn Glas if you are Welsh) was one fought by Welshman Owain Glyndwr against Sir Roger Mortimer (he himself with great land holdings in the Welsh borderlands and within this area of Radnorshire, though the county was not officially created until 1542, 140 years after the battle).  HERE is a link to the matter, and worth reading.  The English corpses stayed unburied . . .

        The rebellious Plant Mat, of whom the character in the book, Gethin Rhys, was supposedly the leader, were originally centred around the Devil's Bridge area on the edge of Ceredigion (Cardiganshire) during 1530, and on hearing of the route of the judge to Rhayader church,  they hatched a plan to ambush and murder the judge there.  They were hunted down and captured and not unsurprisingly, put to death. HERE is another link which tells you more.  We had never heard of Plant Mat (Matthew's Children) before and they were never taught in History in the Welsh schools my children attended.

I have had a wonderful wander round Welsh history this afternoon, which sooths the edges off endless online quotes and phonecall waits to try and discuss renewing our house insurance policy, with an alteration (how dare you wish to change the details?!  You can WAIT now.)  I am now off to read in detail, bits from a book on Wales by Sabine Baring-Gould, a Devon priest, antiquarian, novelist of Lew Trenchard.  I have several lovely old copies of various of his books, especially about the West Country and its history and folklore.  He read and researched widely and in such detail and there are many amazing and utterly forgotten snippets in his book of North Wales.  We were always told at University to get back to ORIGINAL sources in our research wherever possible, rather than "facts" which have been passed and altered like Chinese whispers, by people utilising them subsequently. In the same way we were taught to always be aware of bias - of people having decided what the end of their book, article, essay would be and then plucking up "facts" to fit the rhetoric. "What they brought to the table" was always something to be wary of - e.g. their personal bias, however unintentional it might be.  Baring-Gould seemed to be innocent of any spin.

        I shall leave you with this snippet:  

"Sir John Pryce, fifth baronet, of Newtown Hall, was born in 1698, and succeeded to the title and estates on the death of his father in 1720. He[272] married first his first cousin Elizabeth, daughter of Sir Thomas Powell. She died in 1731.

One day Sir John was overtaken by a storm of rain whilst out shooting, and took refuge under a tree, and to the same shelter ran a girl, Mary, daughter of a small farmer of Berriew, named John Morris. As the rain continued to fall, Sir John Pryce was given plenty of time to make the girl’s acquaintance, to fall in love with her, and to propose. This led to a second marriage.

But the humble origin of Lady Pryce led to much spiteful comment, and some people would assert that she had not been married to Sir John. This was absolutely untrue, but falsehood is believed if venomous. Whether it were this, or that she could not accommodate herself to her new situation, or the fact that the first Lady Pryce was kept, embalmed, by the bedside, or perhaps all together combined to weigh on her spirits, and she died of despondency after two years of married life. This was in 1739.

Ere long, however, he fell in love again, and this time with a widow, Eleanor Jones, and married her.

But when the lady found the bodies of his two preceding wives embalmed, one on each side of the matrimonial bed, she absolutely refused to enter it, and ordered their burial “before she would supply their vocation.”

She also died, in 1748. Immediately Sir John wrote off to one Bridget Bostock, “the Cheshire Pythoness,” who pretended to heal the sick by the faith-cure and with her “fasting spittle,” which she supplied in corked and sealed bottles:—

Madam,—Being very well informed by very creditable people that you have done several wonderful cures, even when Physicians have failed ... why may not God enable[274] you to raise the Dead as well as to heal the Sick, give sight to the Blind and hearing to the Deaf? Now I have lost a wife whom I most dearly loved, and I entreat you for God Almighty’s sake that you would be so good as to come here, if your actual presence is absolutely requisite, to raise up my dear wife, Dame Eleanor Pryce, from the Dead.... Pray let me know by return of the Post, that I may send you a Coach and Six and Servants to attend you here, with orders to defray your expenses in a manner most suitable to your desires.

“Your unfortunate afflicted petitioner & hble servt.

John Pryce.

In compliance with this invitation Mrs. Bostock visited Buckland, in Brecknockshire, where Sir John then was, and exerted all her miracle-working powers, but without effect.

Sir John remained inconsolable—for a while. But from his will, dated 20th June, 1760, it appears that he was then meditating a fourth marriage. He, however, died before it took place. In his will he speaks of “that dearest object of my lawful and best and purest Worldly affections, my most dear and most entirely beloved intended wife, Margaret Harries, of the parish of S. Martin, Haverfordwest, spinster.”

He died on October 28th, 1761, and was buried at Haverfordwest."

Taken from The Project Gutenberg eBook of A Book of North Wales by Sabine Baring-Gould.

Wednesday 15 December 2021

Getting Christmassy and Carolling with Norman Goodland


I am glad to report I am back in the land of the living again now, after that blip in my health.  I'm taking stronger anti-histamines for a few days in case it was caused by an allergic response to mould spores from mouldering leaves and I've not been overdoing things.

      Yesterday we finished dressing the tree and finding new homes for the Christmas meece family now that the furniture they used to sit on was sold with our old house.  I even found a new baby meece (I know the singular is mouse but they are meeces to me) in a shop in town when Tam and I were doing last minute shopping.  We have some nice gift shops here.

The tree is a nice one, with all our favourite baubles on it, collected down the years.  When the children were smaller we used to go to Salem Christmas Tree Farm and choose and cut down a tree and go in and each choose a special decoration. There are also a selection of x-stitch decorations (designs from Just X-Stitch, the American x-stitch mag I bought probably 30 years ago) which are special to me.

The new "meece" is the little one on the right.  I couldn't resist, and our nearest TK-Maxx (where I got the others) is in Carmarthen, over 50 miles away.

Foxy-loxy has come off the tree this year to decorate the old candle box in the kitchen along with a little jingle-bell wreath.

        Yesterday we had the local carpet shop out to measure for two carpets and quote for the lino laying.  We're going to the shop tomorrow to choose carpets but have already decided that we will have a similar silver-grey in the bedroom here we had in our last home.  It goes well with the blue.  The other carpet is for the Library and will be a Berber style carpet in a neutral colour which won't show muddy pussycat paw prints!

        So, not a great deal happening here.  I still have a couple of letters to write and things to organize, and house insurance to sort out.  I am trying not to think about the marathon clear out necessary in the Library in January, to lay the new carpet . . .

        I've been looking back through past Christmas posts and will share this one with you, from my Hampshire roots.

A piece by Norman Goodland today. He was a well-known writer and broadcaster. I remember him well from my Hampshire days, and he captured Hampshire countryside and the folk that lived there, perfectly.


'Carols is funny things!  They bain't all to do wi' Christmas!  if you don't ring 'em out proper, they might not answer the door, nor gie thee nar 'apence!'

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

'Waal - you never put yer 'at on inside a gentleman's 'ouse, luk.  So we put 'em on outside in the dark - so we didn't see what was gwine on. Anyways.  We went on down to the Hind's Head, t'other end o' the street.  We went in, took off our 'ats - an' everybody started to laugh! We didn't know what to make on it!  'Til we looked at each other - an' then we seed we 'ad white 'air - like a bunch of old men!

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

Father and his bell-ringers faced some competition from other Christmas and New Year rounders - the village bands of the time - The August Hill Drum and Fife Band.  The Temperence Bands, one from Tadley, one from Baughurst.  But it is said at the end of their rounds, the Temperence Bands were no more temperence than Father and his bell-ringers, when they came to clanking up the garden path well after midnight, to collect their bicycles and wobble their ways home!

Snow by the River Cothi.

Monday 13 December 2021

Thomas Hardy's Christmas

 From Under The Greenwood Tree, or The Mellstock Quire  . . .

The cider-mug was emptied for the ninth time, the music books were arranged, and the pieces finally decided upon.  The boys in the meantime put the old horn-lanterns in order, cut the candles into short lengths to fit the lanterns; and, a thin fleece of snow having fallen since the early part of the evening, those who had no leggings wound wisps of hay round their ankles to keep the insidious flakes from the interior of their boots.  

Old William Dewey, with the violincello, played the bass; his grandson Dick the treble violin; and Reuben and Michael Mail the tenor and second violins respectively.  The singers consisted of four men and seven boys, upon whom devolved the task of carrying and attending to the lanterns, and holding the books open for the players.  Directly music was the theme, old William ever and instinctively came to the fore.

'Now mind, neighbours: you two counter boys, keep your ears open to Michael's fingering, and don't ye go staying into the treble part along o'Dick and his set, as ye did last year.  Billy Chimlen, don't ye sing quite so raving mad as you fain would; and, all o'ye, keep from making a great scuffle upon the ground when we do go in at people's gates but go in quietly, so as to strike up all of a sudden, like spirits.'

'And, Coss,' said the tranter terminatively, 'you keep house here till about half-past two; then heat the metheglin and cider in the warmer you'll find turned up upon the copper; and bring it wi' the victuals to church-hatch, as th'st know.'

Just before the clock truck twelve they lifted the lanterns and started.  The moon, in her third quarter, had risen since the snowstorm; but the dense accumulation of snow-cloud weakened her power to a faint twilight, which was rather pervasive of the landscape than traceable to the sky. The breeze had gone down, and the rustle of their feed and tones of their speech echoed with an alert rebound from every post, boundary-stone, and ancient wall they passed, even where the distance of the echo's origin was less than a few yards.  Beyond their own slight noises nothing was to be heard, save the occasional bark of foxes in the direction of Yalbury Wood, or the brush of a rabbit among the grass now and then, as it scampered out of their way. . . .

                                    *                     *                     *

. . . . By this time they were crossing to a gate in the direction of the school, which, standing on a slight eminence at the junction of three ways, now rose in unvarying and dark flatness against the sky.   The instruments were retuned, and all the band entered the school enclosure, enjoyed by old William to keep upon the grass.

Then passed forth into the quiet night an ancient and time-worn hymn, embodying a quaint Christianity in words orally transmitted from father to son through several generations down to the present characters, who sang them out right earnestly.  'Remember Adam's fall, O thou Man: Remember Adam's fall From Heaven to Hell . . .'  Having concluded the last note, they listened for a minute or two, but found that no sound issued from the schoolhouse.  Four breaths, and then, "O, what unbounded goodness!" 'number 59', said William.  This was duly gone through, and no notice whatever seemed to be taken of the performance.

'Good guide us, surely 'tisn't a' empty house, as befell us in the year thirty-nine and forty-three!' said old Dewy.

'Perhaps she's jist come from some musical city, and sneers at our doings?' the tranter whispered.

' 'Od rabbit her!' said Mr Penny, with an annihilating look at a corner of the school chimney, 'I don't quite stomach her, if this is it.  Your plain music ell done is as worthy as your other sort done bad, a' b'lieve, souls; so say I.'

'Four breaths, and then the last', said the leader authoritatively.  ' "Rejoice, ye Tenants of the Earth," number sixty-four'.

At the close, waiting yet another minute, he said in a clear loud voice, as he has said in the village at that hour and season for the previous forty years - 'A merry Christmas to ye!'

When your brain isn't in residence


OK, can someone turn Christmas off please?   Another night with very little sleep as I was frightened to sleep in case I woke up choking and unable to breath again, and I'm so tired I don't know my behind from my elbow.  I've found a gift I ordered and then cancelled because I thought I'd already bought it, wasn't already bought and needs to be ordered again . . .  I can't remember what I have bought for anyone as I've lost the list with it on.

The Christmas tree is in the living room, but not too keen on staying upright because a screw on the holder has rusted through and just goes round and round, so it's had to have card jammed down there. I have not one IOTA of energy to go up to the attic and bring the lights and decorations down.  At the moment, it can just be part of the greenwood for Christmas. In fact, I may give in and have a small fake tree in future, and I never thought I'd hear myself say THAT.

The car is at the garage having it's MoT (WHAT possessed me to book it in at 9.15 a.m.?)  I asked initially for a new battery and an oil change, and then this morning they asked if it was having a service and I said yes, so the bill will be much bigger and I am kicking myself.  Keith said it needed a service anyway, but we could do without the bill right on Christmas.

I've got chicken out for tea, but for all I care it can stay raw.  I have to have a big tidy up as the carpet people are coming in the morning to quote.  I just want to crawl into bed and sleep.

Do you have days like this?  Yeesh, let's hope tomorrow is better.

Sunday 12 December 2021

Time to rest


I've run out of fresh photos as it has been to dull, grey and wet to go out with the camera recently.  I rested up this weekend after the labours of the week.  

I met the lady who owns the lovely grey horse in the field next door.  We had a lovely chat yesterday and I made a fuss of her horse (who is a rescue, and 24 yrs old now).  We got on like a house on fire (horse and owner).

I managed to watch the jumps racing yesterday, and did some work on my William de Morgan tile x-stitch.  It's nice to work on something simpler now I've finally finished the present.  I need to get a tube tomorrow to post it in though. Here's another little snippet.

I've not been feeling my best today.  I woke up choking this morning as I had a "frog in my throat" - to put it politely - and then when I came downstairs I started with a headache and slightly runny nose.  Later my legs went quite wobbly so I didn't go for a walk with Keith and have rested up today.  I also took a Lateral Flow Test, which was negative.  Hopefully it's just a bit of a cold, but it's a bit scary as it could be a cold/Flu/Covid and I dread Flu as much as Covid - for me it can be just as lethal. It's a nasty thing to get.

I've been reading some lovely Christmassy passages from Thomas Hardy and trying to get in the mood.  We did at least go and buy the Christmas tree, locally grown too (about 4 miles away, less as the crow flies).  It was like going on a mini adventure driving through the most beautiful parkland to the barn where the trees were.  The best had gone - there were lots of Nordman firs which were a bit sparse on the top but we found a good one and it's sat in a bucket of water in the yard now and will come in tomorrow and go in the living room and be dressed.

Sorry this is a rather nondescript post, but it nearly 8.30 and my brain starts to want to relax now (I'm a morning person).