Monday 31 August 2015


The warning signs were there and I ignored them.  

I'll start at the beginning, we met on a blind date, a meal out with some mutual friends -  Steve and Rhona, we have a lot to blame thank you for.

On one of our early outings, we took our much younger brothers to a funfair.    Max won a prize at some stall or other and was told that he could   "Choose any prize you like, between the yellow light and the green light".

Max replied "I'll have the yellow one, please."

The stallholder thought he was taking the mickey and the rest of us were no use, we were curled up in laughter.     Max had misheard.   I found it funny and endearing.

The humour wears off when it happens on an almost daily basis, the laughter becomes forced.   We can have whole discussions, get things clear, and then still find out that my black is his white.

It improved a little when he got hearing aids, a few years ago.

Yesterday evening,  I was down at the far end of the house,  flicking through a book.   I could hear the owls hunting; the windows were open and they almost sounded as though they were in the room with me, so loud and clear was the sound.

Max came into the room and I told him that there was a lot of owl activity in the garden.

Max "I wonder why?  It's a Bank Holiday Monday tomorrow".


Then I hooted with laughter, probably scaring the owls off.    He thought I was talking about cars driving along the lane.

(I know, it loses in translation.)

Our whole life together has been filled with these surreal conversations.  Some are downright dangerous, some are frustrating, this one really got me laughing.  Only Max!

Sunday 30 August 2015

Sleepy Sundays

Coco is sleeping like a sweet little innocent.   She spent last night outside (her choice) hunting.   When I opened the door this morning I was greeted with a stained and bloody doorstep and her haul for the night...a teenage rat, a large mouse, and some tiny headless creature.    She strolled in, ate a hearty breakfast and flaked out on the sofa.

I took Dobson through the small gate to the barley field - his first experience of it this year.   He trotted out there very happily, romped through the field, happily sniffing and chasing his ball.

He was happy, until we reached a certain corner of the field - it backs onto the old school playing field - and then he began to growl, tail between his legs, refusing to move forward.    I tried to cajole him into moving, but he wouldn't.   Eventually I clipped his lead on and ran him away from there, making a game of it and he settled down.

Our walk continued, peacefully, happily.   His nose got a workout and so did his legs.  All seemed well with the world.  We turned the final corner and home came into sight, that was it then.   He scooted, ran for all he was worth, not looking back, until he reached the safety of the small garden gate.

To his credit, he did stay and watch to make sure that I got home safely...

Now he is safely snoozing in his bed, under my work table.   Poor lad, I'll never know what happened to him in the two years before we got him, all I can try to do is build up his confidence, bit by bit.

Poppy, I thought you may like to see Max and Merry, they are sitting right next to me...

Merry is watching 'The Gruffalo's Child', Max is snoozing.

Combine Harvester and Motorbikes in Little Bunting

The loud rumble of heavy farm machinery in 'our' barley field heralds the start of some fun.

Farmer T drives the combine harvester and is followed by his mother, Mrs T Snr, driving her red tractor and wagon.

They grow 'em tough in Little Bunting, for Mrs T is in her early 70's and still puts in a full day of farm work.   She works as many hours as her son, driving the tractor and wagon back and forth.   I like her, I wish I had her stamina.

They toil late into the evening, trying to beat the wet weather which is forecast.

Things change when the barley has gone, before ploughing begins.

First of all, we can begin to use this little gate.   It leads directly into the huge barley field, which means that silly-billy Dobson will have a couple of weeks of stress-free walks, no need to walk along the lane before turning into the field.

photograph stolen from my brother, Mr Whiskerburn.

It also means that these bad boys will come visiting, as the annual Enduro motorbike race will probably go ahead in the village.   There will be a weekend of noise, dust, and activity in our little village.  Some people hate it, I find that I quite enjoy it.

Sorry, Mr Whiskerburn, yours again.x

They only race around the harvested barley fields for a couple of hours at a time and it raises a hefty chunk of much needed money for the Little Bunting village fund.

Thanks, Mr W.

Let the fun begin!

Friday 28 August 2015

A Bed in Rural Wuhan, China

Eighteen months ago, Miles and Poppy got married.   In order to do so, they had to make the long journey from Shanghai to Wuhan, where Poppy was born.   They took the opportunity to visit family and friends, taking lots of photographs along the way.

I'm not saying that I would like to sleep in this bed - but wow!   Goodness knows how old it is.   I like to imagine that the whole suite of furniture was a wedding gift for some long-ago couple.   I imagine the paintwork would have been much more vibrant.

A straw mattress, plastic and board sheeting on the roof, mosquito netting, concrete floor...   It is one of those images which I like to explore, there is so much going on.  It could almost be a staged piece, except that I know it is not.
fliss& max

Wednesday 26 August 2015

Cleaning out the Owl Box

The trees are showing signs of autumn, leaves are turning colour, falling into crisp and crunchy piles along the lane.   Of course the schools go back next week, so the weather will probably improve, it usually does!

One job which has been on the 'To Do' list is cleaning out the owl box in our little patch of woodland.  It is necessary to do that now, while the box is not being used, in the hope that the 'des res' will attract some honeymooning tawny owls again next year.

A few years ago we were incredibly lucky, for when the 'Owl Men' came around for their Spring check on the box, they found three of these little owlets.   It was so exciting, a real gift from nature.

A few weeks later the owl men came back to weigh, measure and ring them - and once again, they were more than happy for us to watch the procedure.

They turned into real beauties.

Since that time the box has been variously occupied by squirrels and Jackdaws.  No more owls - yet we hear them around the place each night, sometimes we even get to see them hunting in the wood.

Max climbed up the ladders while I held them steady.    Just as well we did that bit of housekeeping for the box was filled with large sticks, twigs, moss, frayed bits of string, sheep wool, etc.

Here's one small example of what came cascading down

 on to my unsuspecting head.    A little warning, next time, would be appreciated.   Never mind, it will be worth it if we can attract the tawnies.

ps  Yes, I did squeal as what looked like a dead rat, complete with tail fell on my head.   So thankful it turned out to be sheep's wool and a length of thick string...!

Through the Arch

This green and leafy archway is at the far end of one of Farmer T's barley fields.  On those rare summer days when the sun is shining, and the field is shimmering with heat, it beckons with a promise of coolness and shade.

Old railway sleepers have been used to form a series of steps

I always have to smile when I reach the top, for there is a signpost, hiding its' head amongst the foliage.

The bank is the old railway line, it was closed in the 1960's and since then nature has been allowed to run riot.

Up one side, over the bank, then another drop down into Farmer B's field.   The official track cuts through the field - but it means a walk along a different lane - Dobson finds that far too scary - so we cut along the side of the field and emerge through the hedge near the old railway bridge which marks the start of Little Bunting.   We walk through the archway, up the lane, and we are home.  

This battle-scarred bridge was built in the 1840's.    A few weeks ago a skip lorry driver didn't bother to read the warning signs.   He drove through with the arms raised, causing a lot of masonry to fall.   As a result, the bridge was closed for three or four weeks, causing a long detour for drivers and problems for local businesses.  It was bliss without the traffic, just ask Dobson.

He arrives home exhausted with the stress of it all.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

On my Reading Shelf this Week.

I know that some people like to read one book at a time, but that doesn't work for me.   I like to read a bit of this and a bit of that, depending on my mood...and yes, that applies to fiction books too.

No, I don't get stories/characters mixed or muddled, I just pick up from where I left off, as though I had not put the book down.

This drives Max crazy.  He likes to plod methodically through books, one at a time.

These are some of my current craft favourites - with a venerable old teddy keeping an eye on things - thanks, Meggie.

This shelf is on the other side of my work table, slightly more variety there.

Surely not!  A Kindle?  I swore I would never have one, nothing could replace a real book, etc.etc.

I was given one last Christmas - and it, too, has found a place in my reading pile.   It is so easy to just pop into my handbag whenever I go out, it holds a variety of books so I always have something there to read, should I have to pass some time.  I also find it useful for bedtime reading, not so good for reading in the bathtub, though!

Hedgerow books, plant identification, historical, architectural, autobiographical books and several maps all jostle for position alongside the fiction, art and craft books.   The main bookshelves are down the other end of the house, they're filled with a pretty eclectic selection, too.

Books have always delighted me - I find it utterly comforting to have a pile of books waiting to be read.   I panic if I don't have a few unread ones waiting in the wings.   Most are second hand, often from charity shops, auctions, car boot sales, etc.  Some were bought new.   As long as they don't smell, I don't mind.

How about you?  Are you a one book at a time, kind of person or do you dabble?

Monday 24 August 2015


Last year I was lucky enough to be given a pile of vintage Japanese kimono fabrics.    I spent yesterday evening cutting and snipping, cutting squares to make a quilt top.   These are some of the patterned fabrics but there are plenty of plain ones as well.

Most of them are between twenty and fifty years old, a few are much older.   They are amazing, both in colour and condition.     Some are printed, others woven, a few have been painted by hand.

It feels so good to be getting creative again, so much of this summer has been spent doing practical work

on Cowslip Cottage, helping to turn this lovely old place into a home again.    My role has been stripping wall and ceiling paper (hard work!), tidying up after the workers, gardening, making the tea...

The trouble is that I keep getting distracted by these wonderful creatures...  They graze the park land to the rear of the cottage and I could spend hours watching them.

aren't they beautiful?

Don't worry, I'm not coming any closer.

Slaking their thirst at the trough - then the little ones gamboled off for some more fun.

Fun is what has been lacking for me, the quilt should help fix that.

Sunday 23 August 2015

Poppy and Miles in Shanghai

Happiness!  Miles is back in Shanghai, home with Poppy
after spending a month here, working on Cowslip Cottage.
It is still a work in progress,
but will become their home in the future.

I know that Miles enjoyed my food while he was home, 
but I also know that
 he is extremely happy to be eating food cooked by Poppy!

She is a marvellous cook.

Take your eyes off that beef, Boy!

*  *  *

Now that Miles is back in China
the nest is empty again.
I don't have any problem with that,
I know many parents suffer dreadfully
from 'empty nest syndrome'.
All I have ever wanted for my children
is that they should be happy and healthy
now they are all happily married
and living their own lives,
I couldn't be happier.

I can indulge myself in all my hobbies and interests.
I have time to read, to sew, dabble with a variety of crafts,
visit the old churches and buildings, which I love so much
I don't have to cook so many meals!

This is what Max and I ate yesterday evening.
I made a large jug of custard, thick and unctuous
and we indulged in
wild plum and windfall apple crumble.

No starter, no main course,
just crumble and custard.

We were happy little piglets!

My worktable has become own again,
it is covered with fabrics
as I play around with making a patchwork quilt for young Merry.

A Surprise in the Churchyard

Crumbling rustic buildings, ancient churches, old churchyards - I love them all.

Today I visited a very small and ancient church which is set high on a hill in the lovely Lincolnshire Wolds, surrounded by farmyard buildings.   Perfection!    I had never been there before, but I had read about it in a tatty old book and it sounded interesting, so off we went.

A single track road with occasional passing places led to a small village.    I had a rough idea of the location but was helped by this clear sign on the side of the road.      We followed the pointing finger along a grass track to a very pretty parking area next to a lovely old house with a walled garden and lots of beautiful, mellow,  old farm buildings.

It was the most surprising entrance to a churchyard - with these fabulous old buildings and a tennis court on one side

and this glorious view down into the valley on the other side.    In between is the church, but that is for another day.

Manicured grass on one side, a little wild on the other.

I love everything about this little churchyard.

These delicious old buildings with their crumbling brickwork, peeling woodwork, sharp angles and old pantiles and lime mortar.

The gravestones were fascinating.   I particularly liked this block of stone, solid, no nonsense.   There is a much more modern version of it, made from granite.  It may last forever and look immaculate, but it doesn't have the charm of this 50 year old stone.  You can see the modern one in the next photograph - a simple block of granite - beautiful in its' simplicity, but too unchanging for me.

I like to wander around, read the names and dates, think about the people.   I got something of a surprise though, for I found a headstone bearing the name of a friend from our village.   She passed away three years ago.

Sheila was in her early 80's, but seemed much younger - a busy, intelligent, no-nonsense woman with a great sense of humour.   A village stalwart.    Max and I attended her funeral, it was held in the local market town, three or four miles away from Parsonage Cottage.  The large parish church was packed to the rafters for she was a well known and well liked woman.

I had no idea that she was buried here.

When we tried the church door, it was locked.   Somehow, it didn't seem to matter.  With the views, the wonderful gravestones and the crumbling farm buildings we were content.

However, the woman who lives in the very large farmhouse next door came through the arched doorway (visible in the second and fifth photographs) and offered to open the church up for us.

We got chatting, mentioned our surprise at finding the marker for our friend - and spent a happy five minutes reminiscing about her, for she had known her, too.      It seems that Sheila and her husband had farmed just a few fields away, their plot overlooked their old farm.

This wheelbarrow load of geraniums was parked outside the church door.   It had formed part of the decorations for a recent wedding.  Utterly charming and perfect for this location.