Thursday, 3 September 2020

What I Did in the Summer Holidays

It is many years since I was faced with having to write an essay on that particular theme, but I have been away from Blogland for so long that I almost feel I should do so today.    Trouble is, I don't have anything of interest to relate.

Life here has rumbled along pretty much as normal.

Fruit and vegetables have been grown, harvested and eaten and the lawns have been mowed.   Meals have been cooked and eaten, bread baked and shared.

The septic tank has been emptied.  The old septic tank man retired, we had to find a new one.  He arrived early so I raced around closing all the windows, waiting for the usual stench to pervade the house... nothing.   The new man did the job, swiftly and efficiently, leaving the air around the cottage smelling of nothing out of the ordinary.   

That was, perhaps, the highlight of the holidays.   😉

Moving swiftly on - life in a small village does have some pleasant surprises.   Doorstep finds being one of them.

During the last week I have found a large bag of succulent plums left by a neighbour who is desperately trying to empty her plum trees to be rid of a wasp invasion.    Another gift of a huge bag of Pink Lady Apples, even the grandchildren enjoy those.   The most unexpected surprise was to find a large bag of library books had been left for me.

Now that the mobile library no longer calls at our village I have been moved onto their 'Click and Pick' van, which means that I can go online and order books and they will deliver them, once a month.  If I don't order any, they will simply make the selection for me.   They will also take away the books I have read.

Of course the lockdown meant that library services were suspended for many months and as I hadn't received any notification that things were about to get going again, this was quite unexpected, but a very nice surprise.     I have managed to find their new timetable, so I will be ready and waiting for them next time.

Much of my time seems to have been spent trying out various mask patterns, trying to find the most comfortable ones, as well as the easiest ones to sew.    The grandchildren have to wear masks on the school bus, and the oldest one must wear his at school, so it was important to get it right.

I spent several hours up at the A&E Dept of the hospital in Louth, waiting to see a doctor because I was suffering from an extremely painful back spasm - it was the weekend, of course.   GP's can rarely been seen anyway and you can forget it if you have a problem over the weekend.     Trying to be seen by someone involved several telephone conversations and much waiting for permission to see an out of hours GP at the hospital.

Buzz into the foyer, answer more questions, temperature taken, wear a mask, sanitise hands, enter the next door.   Wait in the room which had about six very socially distanced chairs.   Wait, wait, wait.  The wait became two hours, the terrible pain diminished with every minute as the stress levels increased.      Eventually I was called through. 

More questions, including where does it hurt?   I had to admit that the pain had completely gone, driven away by the raging stress hormones.   Luckily the doctor believed me and I left clutching a prescription for strong painkillers and muscle relaxants.   I am glad to say that my back is back to normal now - not great, but I can live with it.

Long dog walks have featured, as they always do, but Toby is showing his age now and I have to tailor the walks according to how he is on any given day.      The cats continue to catch rodents, but only the cute little ones which I feel sorry for.  The job they are paid to do is catch rats but they don't seem to do that any more.    Now that the farmer is harvesting the barley field around our house, perhaps we will find a few on the doorstep.   That would help to justify all the expensive cat food which they enjoy so much.

To sum up - I haven't really done much of anything.   I seem to have wafted around in a fairly enjoyable way but non productive way, nothing to do with the strong painkillers, truly!

Now that the grandchildren are back at school it is time that I took myself in hand.  Get back to normal life. 

I hope you haven't found yourselves wasting as much time, or if you have, I hope you enjoyed it.

Friday, 14 August 2020

Make Do and Mend

Make do and mend, down on a farm.

Beef cattle enjoying their summer holidays outdoors.   The brown bull is very placid, so are his wives, which is just as well, given the state of that old gate.

Same gate, different angle.   When the cattle are not in residence I use that gate and I can assure you that it is every bit as fragile as it looks!

Another gate, different farm, same farmer.    Here lives a different bull, his wives and their calves.    The next photograph shows them in another part of the field, one hot and very bright morning.

I never walk through these fields when the cattle are in residence, I have alternative routes, so why risk it when I always have a dog with me.   No point in upsetting these happy families.

It has been a strange year.  Already I can see the signs of autumn, parts of Owl Wood pathways are coated in crunchy golden leaves.      The Barn still has the swallows in residence, not sure for how much longer though.

Meanwhile, down at the lovely old watermill they are working very hard, trying to keep things going.

They have been doing takeaway homemade pizza's and burgers and special weekend breakfasts.  They have had to abandon their usual indoor tearooms and have set up a large marquee outside so that visitors can eat cake and drink coffee in socially distanced, Covid-safe ways.

Fingers crossed for decent weather this evening, they are also hosting their first outdoor cinema event of the year.   Pre-booked tickets, social distancing, etc.   The gable side of this building has a 6 metre screen and they have enough space to accommodate 80 people with safety and compliance.  Food and drinks will also be available.

The last I heard, they had sold every ticket; now they just need the weather to stay dry and the staff to turn up.     They work hard and I wish them every success.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Lost, Found, Lost

This morning I was busy doing some research on the internet when I came across an article written by a journalist with an unusual surname.   Next to the byline was a very small photograph.  Suddenly my brain was on high alert.    There was something familiar about the shape of the face, the darkness of the eyes.   The bright ginger beard threw me a little, but the face I was beginning to remember was that of a beardless pre-teen boy, I began to think that this could be the son of an old friend of mine.  Correct name, red hair, but could it really be that same boy all grown up?

A couple of searches later and I knew for sure.   Carol's son.

I can clearly remember meeting Carol for the first time.    I had recently returned to Lincolnshire from the Middle East and was waiting to collect my children from their new school.      I fell into conversation with an extrovert character with a very strong Liverpudlian accent.

By the time we had walked our children the few hundred yards along the road to home, we had already laughed our heads off.   She was that kind of woman.   Always ready with a funny observation, or a joke.    She was never seen without full makeup, styled hair, and wearing something from her wardrobe of fabulous vintage outfits which had cost very little because no one else had begun collecting them then.   She got me into some bad habits!

It was a nice kind of friendship.   We would take the occasional trawl around charity and antique shops, or go for a coffee somewhere, we didn't spend a huge amount of time together and yet we were real chums.   It suited both of us, we were both friendly but private people. 

Carol had her own business buying inexpensive items, which she would clean and titivate, then present them so beautifully on her stall at antique fairs and the antiques centre that they sold like hot cakes.  On one occasion she turned up at my house, along with her long-suffering husband and his van.     I soon found out why.  She had seen an armchair which she just knew would be perfect for the corner of my dining room.     Her husband hauled the thing in and put it into position, as directed by Carol.    It was the very thing that corner had been lacking.   It was a gift, she wouldn't take any payment.    I had the chair for many years until one of the dogs chomped his way through the upholstery during one stressful stormy night.

Over the years we gradually lost touch, we moved house a few times and the link was broken.   I still  have several of Carol's pieces about the house, a stick stand, a bread bin which I use to store bags of flour (not getting caught out by the panic buyers again) and a wooden trunk which was originally a pigeon-carrier.  They are all in use and have been greatly enjoyed ever since I bought them from her.

It seems that the bearded journalist is her youngest son.   I remember him as a very quiet chap with auburn hair, but other than that I don't remember a huge amount about him.    These days he is a well respected freelance journalist who also writes articles for The Independent and The Guardian newspapers and various journals on the other side of the pond.   He lives and works in U.S.A.

The second article I turned up was a rather wonderful piece that he had written about his mother, her early life, how she met his father, and lots of background details which I vaguely knew, but not in detail.      He wrote very movingly about how his grandmother had suffered from Alzheimer's Disease and the fear that she would also fall victim to this disease had caused Carol huge anxiety throughout her life.

It would be about three years since he wrote the article, and she had already been in a nursing home for a couple of years.  Her husband walked along there and visited every day, sometimes she would hold his hand, other days there would be no recognition and she would wander off saying she had chores to do. 

I won't put a link to the article, but it was an amazing read, beautifully written.   I hope that Carol got to fully appreciate her son's writing ability before this terrible disease took over. 

I hardly dare think about what has happened to Carol and her family since then. 

Please don't feel that you have to comment.   This is something I had to write, for Carol and for myself.


Sunday, 28 June 2020


We have all missed certain things during these lockdown days, some things more than others of course.   I have missed being able to hug my grandchildren and family but, in general, social distancing is fine by me.  Perhaps that is why I enjoy the world of blog - good friends to chat to, interesting articles to read, but no one physically  close enough to be shocked at my wrinkles, the lack of makeup, or the bristly moustache worthy of a walrus...

I have missed my little jaunts out into the folds of The Wolds,  exploring the many beautiful rural Lincolnshire churches.    Pre-plague days many of them were left open during daylight hours so I would often take myself off to enjoy the church architecture, the medieval artifacts, stained glass, the effigies and to soak up the atmosphere.   

Some churches are empty, no matter how well furnished, clean and polished they may be, and there are others which are filled with warmth and welcome, in spite of having been declared redundant.

Folk art, creativity and love is also on display in some churches.   Simply look at the kneelers/hassocks.  Some are stitched to a set design or are done in regulation colours.  They look neat, but they seem very dull  compared to those  which seem to tell the story of someone who was loved and missed.

Maybe the one above was stitched in memory of Farmer X who was, perhaps,  often to be seen ploughing the fields in his little blue tractor.

Was this to remember someone who went wild fowling, or simply loved his dogs and ducks - perhaps his local pub was 'The Dog and Duck'...

In memory of someone who loved to fish, perhaps.

More country scenes, I like the simplicity and the little details which personalise and anchor them to a place.

One of the 'Tennyson'churches has this kneeler - when I first saw it I found it amusing and thought there had to be a story behind it.    There is, I found this in one of my local history books...

On the green, where Bag Enderby Lane leaves the road from Harrington, is the shell of an old elm of enormous girth.   John Wesley is reputed to have preached under the boughs of the tree.    The trunk of the old tree is decayed to such an extent that children used to play in it.   The Tennyson children (Alfred Tennyson, the poet, born in 1809, and his siblings) built a swing on a branch which conveniently spread out horizontally.  

At one time the bough jutted out across the lane, so that traffic had to make a diversion round.   It was long enough for the whole of the population of the village (an extremely small village, by the way) to sit on it at the same time.

I have plenty more images to show you, but I imagine that this must be almost as tedious as being obliged to watch someone's homemade holiday videos!

I will leave you with just one more.    A  tractor which could well have been the symbol I would have picked to put on a kneeler for a farming friend.   She was rarely seen anywhere without her little red tractor.

You should be able to 'click' and enlarge any you can't see very clearly.

I hope you enjoy the rest of your weekend!

p.s.  Sorry, I never could count accurately. 😉

Friday, 26 June 2020

Owl Wood Cook Book

I have finally got around to covering my cook book, the one in which I write my favourite recipes. 

The book which I hope will be added to, and then passed on down through the generations, until someone forgets the family significance. 

Owl Wood is the unofficial name for our small patch of woodland.    By daytime it used to be home to our lovely hens, they free-ranged there and led a marvellous life.    While the hens roamed, the owls slept.    The hens are no longer with us, but the Tawnies are.   Three more little Tawny Owls have spread their wings and left the woodland.

Tweed offcuts and embroidery silks don't really seem like ideal/practical choices for a cookery book, I know but, so what?   

Owl Wood Cook Book it is.

I added a new recipe to it today.   It is actually based on an eighteenth century recipe - Coconut Bread.    Real bread with desiccated coconut for texture and an intriguing flavour.    I saw the recipe and was intrigued, dithered about whether or not to bake it, or to just do a plain bread.   Curiosity won, of course.

It was well worth the effort, beautifully light with just the merest hint of coconut at the end. 

Have a lovely weekend.

Wednesday, 24 June 2020

The Village Show

In years gone by, some of the residents of Little Bunting, Dovecot Dell and Butterbump Splash would be busy reading through the schedule,  drawing up lists, deciding which classes they would enter in the village show.     

Old scores would need to be settled.     Secrecy and subterfuge would be employed, abilities and hopes played down.     Even the mildest and most gentle of folk were secretly driven. 

Special concoctions were brewed, preserves simmered and skimmed to the point of perfection, bottles and jars filled and labelled appropriately then carefully stored, others made perfect, tiny stitches, bold brush strokes, or perfectly composed photographs.     

Entries would be judged to Women's Institute standards, the trouble being that no one, other than a few WI members, knew what those standards were.    Never mind, we all gave it our best shot, increasing our knowledge from year to year.

Alas, as I have so often bewailed, that is now a thing of the past.   Nothing to do with Coronavirus.   

A few of the organisational stalwarts moved, older ones were no longer around to participate or support.   Few people stepped forward to help.   It became unsustainable.   Such is life.

Why am I warbling on about the old village show?       Simply because I came across a sheet of paper with a scribbled recipe for Lemon Curd which also contained a note saying that it was the recipe with which I had won first prize in the village show in 2011.    I had no recollection of having won that class, so I dug out my pile of old prize cards, see above.     

Slowly the cogs turned and I remembered. 

In 2009 I won third, which was marvellous because that was the first time I had ever attempted to make curd.   I recall that I determined never to make any again because it seemed such a performance and required an inordinate amount of stirring.   In 2011 I relented, had another go, and made a better job of it.

All this talk of Lemon Curd made my mouth water.      Luckily I had some lemons in the fruit bowl.  Lockdown meant that I had plenty of time on my hands.     So, for the third time in my life, I made a small batch of Lemon Curd.   What a palaver.  Grate, squeeze, melt, double saucepan, tedium. 

Now I know that it is not pure laziness which prevents me from making it too often. 

It tastes good,  far too good.   I could find ways to use it at every meal.     So I am carefully rationing myself to a generous spoonful swirled into plain Greek yogurt and I won't be making any more for the foreseeable future. 

All this indulgence is tempered by lots of homegrown vegetables.

They are not beautiful, definitely not up to show standards, but they taste great. 

The next few days look set to be fair and hot.    I love it, but I know that many others don't. 

Spells of sunshine and heat are rare so I take full advantage, abandon all but the essential jobs and pretend that I am on holiday.     That doesn't mean that I sunbathe, but I do take full advantage to pick up my books and lounge around. 

How about you?   Does this weather fill you with delight, or do you melt and wilt?