Saturday, 31 October 2015


The harbour at Crookhaven and Sullivan's Pub - a great pub!

Max and I used to spend a lot of time holidaying in the  west of  Ireland.   We love it there, great scenery, excellent food and really nice people.

After the first few trips we even found the perfect place to stay, a house which had been made from a row of very old cottages, perched right on the coast next to an old lighthouse.     The original cottages were tiny and had been home to the lighthouse keepers and their large families.

The Crookhaven Longhouse and Lighthouse - Magical, beautiful.

The whole of the top floor is a very modern construction of glass and steel, to maximise the views of the ever-changing seas.

The bedrooms were on the ground floor of the old cottages, with the one bathroom located right at the far end of the building, down a long corridor.

We would stay for three weeks at a time, just Max and I.

The best space and views, we loved it!

I would love to go back , but we would have to find somewhere else to stay, for I will never set foot in that place again.


Well, towards the end of what was to become our final stay, my sleep was disturbed by the sound of something being dropped onto the floorboards of the bedroom.    It sounded almost as though glass marbles were being dropped from a height.  At first I just lay there and listened, trying to work out what it could be.   It went on and on and, loud though the sound was, it didn't wake Max.

Eventually, I said out loud "Stop it!".    The noises did stop and I must have fallen asleep again.

When I woke up I needed to go to the bathroom.    I rarely put lights on, I'm quite happy wander around in the dark, and so I did that night.

I tottered down the long corridor to the bathroom, didn't bother to close the door for the short time I would be in there...   Shock, horror!   I could hear very heavy footsteps coming along the corridor - I presumed it was Max, so I called out that he should wait a moment.

When I got back to the bedroom Max was sound asleep and snoring softly.   I woke him and after his initial grumpiness at being woken from a deep sleep,  he told me that he hadn't been out of bed...

Well, that was the end of my sleep for the night.    We were alone in the house, no other house nearby, no road, nothing to explain away the footsteps.

Unfortunately that was the end of my love affair with Crookhaven Longhouse.    I was scared.

For the remaining few nights I made sure that I put on every light and Max stood guard outside the door during any nocturnal visit to the bathroom!

It hadn't happened on our previous visits and it will probably never happen again.   However, I am much too much of a scaredy-cat to find out.

I still miss those views though.

*      *     *

Don't let my experience put you off visiting this place.   It is exceptional.   You will undoubtedly find details of it if you type in Crookhaven Lighthouse/Longhouse.      I would recommend it to anyone, just as I would also recommend O'Sullivan's pub.   They serve the best pub meals ever and the atmosphere is always as warm and welcoming as the pub fire.     During the summer months the harbour is full of sailing boats and lots of tourists.    We preferred off-season, we like peace and quiet.  I have been to some great places but Ireland is right up there at the top of the list.

Friday, 30 October 2015

Rainy Day Baking and Little Gems

Today began with heavy rain so the dog and I got drenched - but I am very happy about that.

Ever since Dobson came to live with us he has shown a marked reluctance to venture anywhere in the rain, even if he is desperate, he would rather cross his legs and wait until it stops raining.   I have never forced him out in the rain, but I have tried to encourage him, with little success.  

So I was delighted that today he agreed to come out into the pouring rain, for a morning walk.    He actually enjoyed it!   He didn't melt away and he found that smells are just as good in the rain.   Success after two and a half years of gentle persuasion.

Just as well I'm patient.

This handsome boy, Benedict, on the other hand, can usually be found standing out in the rain.   For some strange reason he seems to really enjoy it.     He has a shelter, he just won't use it.

The rain dried up but the day continued to be damp, gloomy, windy.    Our internet connection goes crazy on days like this (the overhead cables run through woodland trees and they need trimming) so the connection drifted in and out.   I gave up trying to read, or respond to, email, etc.

Instead, I made a cup of tea and browsed my recipe books instead.    

Christmas cake is what I wanted to get started, they always improve with keeping and steeping in alcohol.     I also like to soak the fruit in alcohol for a couple of days before mixing and baking and each year I try a different recipe.

This bowl is HUGE, there is something like 5lbs of fruit soaking in it!

I finally plumped for a recipe from my mother's old handwritten recipe book.  

Oddly enough, I have never noticed this one before, but part of the appeal was that the quantities are enough for a 9 inch cake, plus a 6 inch cake.   Perfect!    I always make two cakes, one for Max and the family and another for my younger brother, The Writer.

The recipe book was originally a diary and the first few pages still contain entries from January 1st 1962.    My mothers handwriting quickly transported me back to my 8 year old self, when we were living in Hong Kong.

The entry for 4th January 1962 reads "Jimmy Wong came round this afternoon.   Harry bought me a beautiful firestone and gold ring and I bought the matching earrings."

Here they are.  

I inherited them when my mother died, twenty years ago.    I am not a great one for jewellery, but I do enjoy wearing the pieces which my mother left me and these 'firestones' are truly beautiful.

In morning light they appear a pale blue, then as the day progresses they gradually darken and change to violet and on until they become a rich red wine colour.  Magical!

Jimmy Wong was a Chinese man who used to call around once a month.   He would bring a huge assortment of ready made jewellery and loose stones.    His smooth sales patter often tempted my mother into purchasing something!     One could ask for any stone, any setting or arrangement and a week or two later it would be delivered for inspection.  

So my mother was very much to the forefront of my mind as I set about weighing the fruit, halving cherries, etc.  

She was a wonderful cook, nothing fazed her and everything turned out tasting delicious.    Her big flaw was that she used almost every pot and pan in the house while she cooked.  The kitchen would always look like a bomb had hit it.

I work very tidily and I am a rubbish cook.   Any successes which I have are purely accidental and therefore unrepeatable!   I have a nice, tidy kitchen though.   ;-)


Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Time Travelling with Oscar

Image borrowed from bucksfreedompress.blogspot

Our very elderly neighbour, Oscar was on the village hall committee
and, locked away in his writing bureau, is a dull and tatty-looking blue notebook.

Did I say dull?    Absolutely not!  It is a priceless gem, packed full of village history.

Oscar read aloud from the notebook,  the minutes of the Little Bunting Village Hall Committee meetings  from long ago.

Back then it was a lively and well supported village hall which hosted bingo nights, scrabble games, jumble sales, dances, plays and pantomimes, trips were taken on coaches,  harvest suppers, quizzes, film nights, cricket was played on the village green* and there was the annual Gala, at which a Gala Queen would be chosen.

Oscar read out that the fireworks for the annual display cost the princely sum of £5.00 and we both had a laugh about that, I don't buy fireworks, but I doubt you would get much more than a packet or two of sparklers for that amount, these days.

His notes give the name of the woman who made toffee, another who provided hot dogs and the woman who made soup for everyone.   I can't remember all the details of the costings, but I know the soup-maker charged 99p for the 70 servings.

Image borrowed from

I particularly loved the accounts of cricket on the village green, with a beautiful tea of cucumber, ham or salmon sandwiches with scones and cakes provided for tea.    .   

Wonderful stuff!    Is there anything more evocative of rural England than cricket on the village green?   Chaps in cricket whites and women in pretty frocks serving tea, the heat of a summer afternoon, the smell of grass, friends and rivals come together...

These days our large village green is occasionally mowed and rarely used.   There has been debate and argument on how the ground could be used by the community.   Some wanted it to be a playground for the village children but this was fiercely opposed by some people who thought it would be too noisy for them.  Others wanted the ground to be turned into allotments...

To the best of my knowledge, nothing has been done about it so far.

*If you click on this link it will take you to a map which I drew of Little Bunting.     It shows the location of the village green, hidden away, difficult to find.

So, Oscar and I whiled away an hour or two going down memory lane for him.   I think he enjoyed it almost as much as I did.     Armchair time-travel in wonderful company.

There was a reason that I spent so this time with Oscar, this morning he became a little upset over some work which has to be done to make some outbuildings, which back onto the public road, safe.  He was overwhelmed by the builder/demolition man's chat and didn't understand what was to happen.

So he rang Max.

Unfortunately, Max had a meeting which he couldn't avoid, so I said I would go along and talk to the builder and try to sort things out.     There wasn't really a problem, it was more a case of the builder not fully understanding just how difficult it can be for older people to deal with things like this.

It was quickly sorted and I managed to get Oscar to sit down, have a cup of tea and relax, which is how he got reminiscing, much to my joy.

I know that some of you have been concerned about Oscar, so let me reassure you that Max and I have had a good chat with his family, who are fully committed to doing their best for him.    They totally understand our concerns and we have jointly formulated a plan to help Oscar.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Been through the Woods on a Horse with Two Names

The horse with two names lives in our little patch of woodland.

To young Merry he is  Arnold
and he is as real as the old horse who lives up the road, Benedict.

Hector, however, calls him Galahad.
As far as he is concerned he is merely a steed  to carry him 
into battle.

Arnold/Galahad is a wonderful creation,
made from an old tyre and rope.

He has lived in the woodland for several years.

Today he has been given a change of scene,
a new location within the woodland.

An area which is normally
free from nettle growth.
Nag plead for long enough and things get done

It didn't take long before daredevil Merry was trying to perfect
her 'Frankie Dettori' (the Italian jockey) dismount.

Then she and Dobson went off for a little stroll.

Of course no day would be complete without a visit to this old boy.
Apples, carrots, polo mints
were accepted gratefully.

Merry is fascinated by him
and would spend all day there
somehow I don't think he would object
for he seems equally fascinated by her.
His normal playfulness disappears
and he become
very gentle.

*      *      *

Friday, 23 October 2015

October Flowers from Cowslip Cottage

We went to check on your cottage this morning - the builders are doing a brilliant job!   At long last work has begun, which is very exciting.

I was more interested in seeing how the gardens have fared.

You can imagine my surprise when I found these flowers out there.   The yellow roses have a wonderful perfume almost like honey.

Part of me wanted to leave them to do their own thing, but I gave in to the impulse to pick them so that I could enjoy them for a few days.    Can you see the cat paws on the photograph?  That's little Miss Pinkerton, she can't resist a camera.

Remember that beautiful dark pink climbing rose which grew up back of the cottage?   I was so upset when Max chopped it down.   Well, the brilliant news is that it has started to grow again.   Fingers crossed that it survives, I know you will love it Poppy.

I am about to spend a couple of hours tidying up my patio pots, cutting the plants back and putting them into the polytunnel for the winter.  

One sad piece of news, I had a telephone call yesterday, Apple the little hedgehog has died.   So silly to feel sad over one little hoglet, but I do.     I know that Elaine at Hedgehog Care worked very hard to save him; she thought he was going to make it but yesterday he lost the fight.


Monday, 19 October 2015

After School

This post is for you, as promised, Hector.
Love, Granny

Checking the tyre pressures, essential pre-drive checks.

Retirement at Parsonage Cottage is far from dull and rarely peaceful.    Two of our grandchildren live nearby and on school nights they spend a couple of hours with us - having their tea, talking about their day, followed by a little television viewing, or playing some very lively games on the Wii.    

Fine evenings will often find us outside in our little patch of woodland playing Hide and Seek - very noisy Hide and Seek as our granddaughter finds it impossible to hide without giggling loudly.    I always lose because the animals (dog, cats, hens) give me away - that and my white hair!

Tonight, however, I had to laugh because Dobson, the dog, was having a wonderful game of 'Tag' with little Miss Pinkerton, the ginger cat.    At first I was going to intervene, then I realised that she was actively encouraging him to chase her.     It is the first time I have seen them play together like that, I hope it won't be the last.

Young Hector loves those evenings when he is allowed to get his car out and drive it around the wood.  It is an old one, built by a different grandfather, for his grandson.    I found it listed on ebay several years ago and got it for a bargain price.   Grandpa Max did quite a lot of restoration work on it, fitted a battery, then insisted that Hector should learn to drive it properly and take a driving test.

He passed with flying colours and is a real star at reverse parking.

He went that way!

The evenings are getting darker so having functioning headlamps is an added attraction.    By 6pm their parents are home (thank goodness) and we are exhausted.    

Saturday, 17 October 2015

Caring for Neighbours

An old man collapsed on his kitchen floor, falling heavily and banging his head on the corner of the kitchen table.   Luckily, he always wears an alarm-call around his neck and was able to press the button, although unable to crawl across the floor to the telephone to tell them what had occurred.

This set a procedure in motion and a 'First Responder' was quickly despatched to check up on him.   An ambulance was called and he was taken to hospital, not the local one, for they were concerned about his head wound, etc. and there are more facilities at the larger District hospital.

The woman who comes in a couple of times a week to do the housekeeping and cleaning ensured that the house was kept warm, locked, safe, while a lovely man from the village made sure that the old horse was watered, fed, and mucked out the stable.

What had been forgotten in all the hoo-ha was that a delivery of frozen meals was due.    Upon finding that he couldn't get any response and being unable to gain entry to the house, despite the fact that the car was parked in the yard the delivery man telephoned the police to alert them that there was potentially a problem.

The boys in blue, or more likely, PCSO's were quickly on the scene and tried to gain access.   They were spotted by the housekeeper who got there in time to stop them from causing too much damage to the woodwork.  She explained who she was, what had happened and opened the door.

Image borrowed from -

The local handyman was called, minor repairs made.   The police wrote a note explaining the circumstances of the damage.

After a couple of days in hospital the old man was allowed home.   Of course he had no car and at very nearly 100 years of age is not fit to be driving anyway.  

Brrrrng-brrrrrrrrrrrrng!    'Hello, Max?    I'm in hospital, can you pick me up?'

Two hours later,  Max delivers the old man home.    He put on all the lights, helped the old man into a chair and then checked through the contents of the fridge and cupboards and began to draw curtains and blinds, made sure that the man's medication was to hand.

There was a soft click of the outside door and in came the housekeeper.   She'd spotted the lights blazing and realised that the old man must be back.    Max left him to her competent care.

This morning we called in to check on the old man.   He is so white, frail, shaken.   Not surpising, but it is such a shame.    He has soldiered on for so long and now I fear he is unravelling.    Just lately he has had several falls and wobbly episodes.

The community is doing its best for him, we are all very fond of him.   However,  our combined efforts are are like a roughly cobbled together patchwork quilt and he needs so much more.    

Home and Community Care (HACC)
(borrowed from Family Based Care)

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Image borrowed from The Telegraph!

We often catch a glimpse of some of the hedgehogs which roam our gardens and the woodland at night.   They are surprisingly noisy little critters and certainly have quite a turn of speed.  I love having them around the place.

Yesterday I noticed a small heap of leaves piled up near the entrance to the woodland - the leaves appeared to gently rise and fall - inside was a hedgehog.   A tiny little chap, who remained fast asleep even when I lifted him up and weighed him on my kitchen scales - a mere 248g - and he needs to be at least 600g if he is to survive hibernation.

Time to call Hedgehog Care for advice!

I explained the situation and Elaine, the amazing human dynamo who runs the hedgehog hospital, advised me to take the little creature to her immediately, or he would surely die.

Elaine gave him the once over and said that he was very cold and had lots of fly eggs on him.  She immediately set to work plucking and snipping them out because as he begins to warm up they will develop into maggots.

Once clear of them he will have an injection of antibiotic and will gradually be warmed, which should then stimulate his appetite.   He'll need a lot of care and very regular feeding and will be in intensive care for a while.

We agreed on the name 'Apple' for this little hoglet.   Fingers crossed that he makes it.

Elaine has been running Hedgehog Care for well over thirty years, she cares for over a thousand hedgehogs each year - all the more remarkable when you learn that she is over 75 years old and works around the clock caring for the underweight hedgehogs, the sick ones and the injured ones.  She relies on her pension and donations.

Because she is beginning to feel her age she has cut back on her workload - she only takes telephone calls from 7am until 10pm....!

I feel some fundraising coming on.   I left a donation, but Apple and the hundreds of others in her care need food, medication, heat, and lots of tlc.

If Apple makes it through the winter, he'll come back to Parsonage Cottage in the Spring.    Otherwise we'll take on another youngster which needs a good home.  

Hang on in there, Apple.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Cowslip Cottage

This morning I felt well enough to take a walk along the lane to visit this old chap, Benedict, for the first time in almost three weeks.       He was initially a little grumpy, I think you can see that from the photograph, but once he realised that my pockets were stuffed with carrots and apple he decided to forgive me, especially when I also managed to find a couple of old polo mints.   He was delighted to have some company and spent ages gently nibbling on my fingers and telling me that perhaps I wasn't so bad after all.   I told him how much I love him.

His owner, Oscar (aged very late 90's) was pottering around his garden.   He hasn't been well and these days he has to support himself on two sticks, when outside, and uses a wheeled walker indoors.   Despite all his health problems, Oscar keeps soldiering on.  

Calling in to see Benedict allows me to keep an eye on Oscar without appearing to do so, I hope.

As the day was fine, we went down to your cottage, Max had some more measurements to take and I wanted to try to get the lawns mowed before the weather turns.  

I mowed this lawn, then Max strimmed the edges, while I mowed the other lawn.   It looks nice and neat again.   We also weeded the front garden and swept all the hay out of the parking space, those hay wagons shed a huge amount, I think we filled two and a half sacks, it will all go into the compost heap.

This is the view from the back garden gate, the cattle are still out, just not in shot.

Poppy, this one is for you!   One brave poppy flower still blooming in the rockery area today.   I had to photograph it for you, what a shame I didn't have the macro lens with me.

On the way home we called in at the fruit farm and picked a couple of large bags of pears, they make superb juice, but taste just as nice as a fruit.