Sunday 31 January 2016

Busiest Weekend, Totally Exhausted!

Sounds like it could be fun, doesn't it?

Well, it could have been fun, on Thursday I did receive a very late invitation to a huge party (last night)  in the village - alas, the weekend was already fully booked, work scheduled.

I have spent the whole weekend stripping (wallpaper) washing down all the cottage walls, scrubbing all the outer walls with bleach and water...hours of rib-busting, back-breaking, totally exhausting work.   Cowslip Cottage is having a team of plasterers in from tomorrow, many of the walls are to be insulated, etc.

The builders finished most of their messy work on Friday afternoon - leaving me just 48 hours to get the walls scrubbed down and prepared for them, while Max finishes off some of the electrical work.

At 6.30 pm last night I was flat out on the sofa, worn out, with darling Dobson stretched out alongside me, snoring...not being unfaithful to Max, Dobson is my dog, he'd been left at home all day, although we did pop back for half an hour at lunch time.    We spent a couple of hours snoring and snoozing, exhausted after seven hours of stripping and scrubbing, too tired to read a book or watch television, certainly too worn out to party.

We were woken by the sound of fireworks - presumably fireworks to celebrate the 50th birthday party at the pub.    No chance of getting him out to 'stretch his legs' after that little lot.   He had become a quivering jelly, poor boy.

Oh, Well, enough of this whining, time to get back to work while the daylight lasts.

One big push of work should see my job finished.

Poppy, Miles, don't worry.   I am tired, but it is great to see how much has been achieved at the cottage and to know that within a few days it is going to look so much better than before.

I hope next weekend will be really quiet, restful, relaxing.   We can do the work but it takes longer for our batteries to recharge these days.

Love you,

Saturday 30 January 2016

The jackdaw and my father.

The jackdaw was bobbing around, under the old apple tree, trying to feed but without much success.   I stopped what I was doing to watch as he tried to balance on one leg while keeping the other tucked up off the ground.

He struggled, tried this and that method, finally found a way to balance and yet still bend down to get to the food.   I had to admire his determination, it made me think of you, Dad.

That happened almost three weeks ago.  The Jackdaw still comes into the garden to feed, along with the pair of magpies, the blackbirds, pigeons, chaffinches, great tits, robins, etc.   It gets very busy under that old apple tree.

I try to feed the birds while the two cats are indoors and eating their own food.   I can't bear the thought of being instrumental in one of the birds being caught - and Coco is particularly fond of that particular game.

The jackdaw's leg is still not right but he has learned how to cope with it.

So, why did the jackdaw remind me of my father?

My paternal grandmother was a tiny woman, certainly less than 5' tall.   She had four children, my father was an eye-wateringly large baby of 14lbs......he was the last to be born!

His delivery was complicated and during his birth his left arm was broken, but remained undetected for quite some time.

To cut a long and painful story short, he was left with restricted movement and extreme weakness in his left arm.   It was fixed in a permanently bent position, even the hand,  as this was found to be more 'useful' than just leaving it dangling and useless.  The muscles withered, the joints set and I know it caused him a lot of pain at times, but he never complained.

Life, even simple things like dressing, buttoning things, cutting up food, etc, etc, were made very tricky by this disability, but my father ALWAYS found ways around a problem and he did it quietly.
"If at first you don't succeed, try, try, and try again" and "Good, better, best, never let it rest until the good is better and the better, best" were two of his favourite sayings.

He was a truly remarkable man.  I miss him.

ps The jackdaw is doing really well.

Thursday 28 January 2016



We had arranged to call for the neighbours a little after 8.30 pm.   The night was mild and dry, Jupiter was clearly visible in the sky.   Our amble along the lane, accompanied by our torches, was fun.

The first question was 'what should we call ourselves?' ...  it didn't take Mr ND long to come up with a suggestion - The Bagels.   We looked at him bemused.     Slowly the penny dropped, the B&A are their initials, G&EL for us  (our real names) of course!

The Bagels, it was.

The initial sheet was Food and Drink Dingbats, most of which were groan-makingly obvious, once you had seen it, utterly perplexing before.   Two of them totally defeated.

Twenty-five quiz questions prompted much discussion and debate but we got there in the end.

Then there were the 10 jackpot questions.

We won the jackpot section with 7 correct answers and came first in the main quiz.

Our prizes were a giant-sized bag of M&M's and a load of crunchieS and mars bars......terrible for the teeth and worse for the waistline.    We gleefully divvied up the spoils and will share them with the grandchildren.

It was a fun night, we both enjoyed it.   We'll be going along for a big charity pub quiz event in about 10 days time, we'll do our best but don't hold your breath for a result on that one.

Wednesday 27 January 2016

Lending a Hand...Timber!

Our new neighbours are working hard to sort out their new house and gardens.   Fair to say they were not expecting to have to work quite so hard.  

Several weeks before the old neighbours left a huge limb fell from this pine tree during high winds and heavy rain, making the rest of the tree unstable.       We would have been quite happy to help the old neighbours to make it safe and tidy things, but it was left as it was for the new people*.  
*For blogging purposes, I'll call them Mr & Mrs ND (Next Door)

It was a three man job.   One to watch for traffic along the lane (just a few yards beyond the tree) one on the chainsaw, one using the tirfor winch.  

Gratuitous photo of Benedict - just because I can
and because I miss him.x

The enormous size of the tree, and the proximity of the road, meant the only safe place to drop it was Benedict's paddock.   He is still away on his winter holiday, and doing well, according to Oscar's daughter-in-law.   Oscar is having some nursing care at the moment, he is still an amazing and wonderful man and likes to know all the village news.

I took the opportunity to have a look into Oscar's rickety old barn, hoping to see the Barn Owl who sometimes perches in there.    No luck.

I had to go into Benedict's old stable, just because I could.

I stood there savouring the smell of hay and horse.    Sweet, sweet smells and sweet memories of Benedict.

Caught in my memories, I turned just in time to see the owl, as he flew out through that door.   He was less than a foot away from me, pale and silent, incredibly beautiful.   I guess he has decided that since Benedict is not using the place...

Meanwhile, the chainsaw had been used to cut out a wedge of tree, the tirfor winch was under tension and the tree was creaking.........timberrrrrrrrrr!

More work for the new neighbours, but at least the tree is safely down and won't be falling on the road.

Incidentally, we now have an immigrant living next door.

Mr ND is English but his wife is Scottish.    You can imagine her surprise when she went to register for some local services and she was told her application would be the same one used by an immigrant to the country.  She has a great sense of humour and saw the funny side.

Tonight is quiz night at the village pub.   We are supposed to be going up there with Mr & Mrs ND.   Not sure that Max and I will supply any intelligent answers, but it should be a bit of fun.  

Mind you, the quiz doesn't start until after 9pm.  We're normally both thinking about our bedtime cocoa and pj's by that time.....zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Monday 25 January 2016

One Man's Rubbish

A few days ago I was out and about with my camera when I was surprised and delighted to come across...

...this very nice blanket box.   It had obviously been sitting out in all weathers for quite some time.

I asked the owners whether I could have it...and I'm happy to say that it is now sitting out in the polytunnel waiting until I have some time to get working on it.

Wow!  I was so excited, my fingers just itched to set about it with a paintbrush - I know some people would think that was terrible but it is just brown furniture and of no particular pedigree, or great age.

The inset panels are just crying out to me.

I guess before I begin painting it, I need to decide whether to keep it for myself or to paint it for one of the grandchildren to keep their toys or treasures in.

I'll keep you posted.

Sunday 24 January 2016

Frugal Suppers in Songjiang

As with most young couples in the real world, Miles and Poppy are having to be sensible with their money now that they have bought their first home together, Cowslip Cottage, here in England.

The cottage is almost two hundred years old, in a beautiful setting, and is taking quite a lot of renovation work.   It will be a delightful home for them, but renovations cost money, so Poppy ensures that the food they eat doesn't blow the budget.

(The prices are in Chinese Yuan, approx 10 Yuan to the £)

Miles loves Chinese food but every now and then he likes to eat Fajitas!

Poppy retained enough of the ingredients to make two completely different dishes for supper the following night.

Some of the chicken was cooked with red onions, spring onions, peppers, garlic, ginger, and a little soy sauce to become what UK Chinese restaurants call "Kung Pao Chicken".

While the remainder of the vegetables were cooked with fresh mushrooms, sour chilli sauce and 1/2 tsp soy sauce to become a slightly sweet and sour, spicy mushroom dish, which Miles really likes.

with the addition of a couple of bowls of rice you have delicious, authentic, frugal, Chinese food.

Well done, Poppy.   Keep sending those recipes and photographs.

Friday 22 January 2016

Surreal Sight

Why is that I never have my camera with me at the right time?

We were driving down one of the back roads* to our tiny local market town when we were surprised by the sight of an elderly man riding a pennyfarthing bicycle.

Completely unexpected, totally wonderful sight, but a little scary  -   I can never understand what happens when they brake and come to a standstill; that moment when you would normally put your foot to the ground to steady yourself ready to push off again?

For locals, *the back road was the one which comes out near the police station.

(Image borrowed from

Moonlight in Owl Wood

I walked around Owl Wood in the company of Dobson and Miss Pinkerton
moon-shadows followed us around.

The fish pond shimmered silver 
 the midnight blue sky was dotted with myriad stars.

To say it was beautiful just doesn't come near.

*   *   *

This morning was cold and frosty which was no surprise
considering how clear the night sky had been.

Oh how I wish I could find the macro lens..

Miss Pinkerton followed my progress around the gardens,
wondering what I found so interesting.

Enough of playing with the camera,
it's time to walk Dobson - my darling, scaredy-boy. 

Over the last few moths I have gradually been stretching his boundaries, 
managing to persuade him just a few yards further down the lane
or to explore the boundary of an unfamiliar (to him) field
is quite a victory.

All that hard and patient work now means that our walk options have improved tremendously
even though they are nothing compared with the walks I used to take with my old dog.

Across the frosty field you can see some of the cottages down in the village.
By this time, Dobson was getting a bit anxious
but I managed to get him to walk further than before
until we reached a gateway which
overlooks this pretty garden.

It belongs to friends of ours - in the summer it is very beautiful
and makes a great venue for a summer party.

Dobson came across to peer through the wrought-iron gates
but his relief was visible
when I saw "Right, let's go home!"

Once home, I got a large pot of soup on to simmer
and finished making a couple of loaves of bread.

No prizes for guessing what we had for lunch!

Sunday 17 January 2016

Snuggle Quilt

This is the quilt which I have been making for Merry.

Many of the fabrics are remnants from dresses which I have made for her.
I hope the quilt will keep her warm and snuggly and also
remind her of some of her pretty frocks.

She is also mad about purple, pink, and rabbits
so I made sure that I included plenty of those colours and appliqued some rabbits
while I was at it.
Much of it was hand sewn simply because that was how I wanted to do it.
(I think I have got that particular thing out of my system for a while!)

I enjoyed making the quilt but now I'm looking forward to being able to make progress
with my own.
I'm making it from vintage fabrics in very bright, jewel-like colours
to go on our own bed.

I suddenly realised that not one of all the quilts I have ever made
has been for Max and me.
Time to rectify that!

Saturday 16 January 2016

Supper in Shanghai

We are very lucky to have a wonderful Chinese daughter-in-law.
For blogging purposes, I call her Poppy, although her real name is much prettier.

On Poppy's first visit to Lincolnshire, she was amazed and delighted when she saw all the poppies
which lined the lanes and were scattered in the fields, 
something which wouldn't be permitted in China under article 351 of Chinese Criminal Law.

So when I decided to start afresh with blogging,
giving everyone an alternative name,
Poppy seemed appropriate.

Miles and Poppy live in Shanghai - although we hope that it won't be too long before they come
home to the UK to live in Cowslip Cottage which they bought last year
and which Max is working so hard to help renovate.

Communication is so much easier these days,
vastly different from the 80's when Max worked in the Middle East
and one brief telephone call a week 
plus the occasional snail mail letter
was as good as it got.

We get to chat to Miles and Poppy several times a week, via Skype, we also use email,
as well as this blog,
to keep in touch, which is great.

Poppy is an excellent cook and I have decided to share some of the wonderful suppers which
she prepares for Miles.

The main dish here is a home-made sausage, which has been cooked and drained, to remove as much fat as possible.   It is eaten with garlic... as Poppy says,
it should be eaten when you don't plan to do much socialising
because although it tastes delicious, the garlic smell does tend to linger!
There is also a dish of sour beans and mince, another favourite, all served with fluffy rice.

A dish fit for a king.

I know that Max would be very happy to tuck into some of that - and I would be delighted to have a bowl of rice and sour beans (I don't eat meat) - mind you, if he ate the garlic he could find himself banished.

More dishes from Shanghai next week.

Wednesday 13 January 2016

Keeping Warm

Thermal vests at the ready - winter is about to begin!  

Max placed an order for some extra logs to top up the wood store.

Here's my old map of Parsonage Cottage and gardens.  (I drew it for Hector and Merry, a couple of years ago)     The bottom right corner is where the log store is located...very convenient for the wood we cull from Owl Wood, but as far away from the entrance to the gardens as it is possible to get (large X marks the spot)...Hmmmmn!

Oh, well, it provided us with an opportunity to work off some of those Christmas calories as we ferried almost 30 wheelbarrow loads from spot X to the log store.    We had to use that long route because the terracing and retaining walls to the front of the house make the shorter route an obstacle course, especially with wheelbarrows.

This is approximately one third of the load of logs.

Max got them sorted and stacked and they looked like this - trust me, if I had done it they would look a lot messier.   These logs are all ash, they will burn hotly whether seasoned or not.*

One project for the forthcoming year is to build an open-fronted garage and log store down in the front parking area.   It's about time we started making life a little easier as we enter our dotage.

The poly tunnel has a big stack of apple logs for the wood burner - they are far too special to put in the Rayburn.   The old woodcutter's poem says that apple logs scent the room and that really is the truth.   We also use them for the open fire in our master bedroom - a real winter treat on a cold and frosty night.

The Firewood Poem

Beechwood fires are bright and clear
If the logs are kept a year,
Chestnut's only good they say,
If for logs 'tis laid away.
Make a fire of Elder tree,
Death within your house will be;
*But ash new or ash old,
Is fit for a queen with crown of gold

Birch and fir logs burn too fast
Blaze up bright and do not last,
it is by the Irish said
Hawthorn bakes the sweetest bread.
Elm wood burns like churchyard mould,
E'en the very flames are cold
But ash green or ash brown
Is fit for a queen with golden crown

Poplar gives a bitter smoke,
Fills your eyes and makes you choke,
Apple wood will scent your room
Pear wood smells like flowers in bloom
Oaken logs, if dry and old
keep away the winter's cold
But ash wet or ash dry
a king shall warm his slippers by

Words by Lady Celia Congreve

courtesy of

There are lots of poems like this - useful guides.

Young Hector came home from school, tucked into a big pasta meal, then settled down to watch a couple of episodes of his favourite programme while he waited for his mum and dad to come home.   I nipped outside to take these photographs of Parsonage Cottage at tea time...

...and here is the rarely seen far side.    It is a very long house, originally the cow shed/stables/cart shed for the Old Parsonage.     

Tuesday 12 January 2016

Two Lucky Strays find a Wonderful Home

The two stray cats which made their home at the pig farm have now been taken into the hearts and home of Farmer and Mrs T.    They feed them, keep them in at night, and love them.

Alas, neither of them is our darling Bennie, so she is still missing.

I am truly happy that two strays have found a home.  

Poor Bennie.

Sunday 10 January 2016

Poppy's Home-made Sausages & Bacon

Over in Shanghai, Poppy has begun her preparations for some special celebrations next month, she has been making home-made sausages.     Miles loves them but he'll have to be patient for they won't be ready for a few weeks yet.   They are being made for Chinese New Year, February 8th.

She has also been busy preparing her own favourite, Chinese bacon.

Image borrowed from
The bacon and sausages take quite a while to cure/dry/mature, but when they are ready and cooked they will look like the photograph above.     I can imagine Miles salivating already and I know that Max is looking forward to Poppy making him something similar during their summer visit this year.

Chinese New Year celebrations see friends and family getting together and whenever people get together that means that lots of treats are produced from the kitchens.   The sausages and bacon are traditional treats.

Poppy is a trained cook, so Miles is absolutely spoilt with her superb meals but I think these are something very special!

Saturday 9 January 2016

Farmer T left me with a Dilemma

The other day, when I was taking those photographs of the vast pool of water under the railway bridge, Farmer T stopped his car and had a long chat about this and that.

He told me about the two dogs which belong to Sarah, and about how much he and Mrs T miss their dogs.   Then he went on to tell me about the two beautiful stray cats which they now have up at the pig farm.

Almost two years ago the local cattery 'lost' our beautiful Bennie.   Despite a poster campaign, word of mouth pleas, and social media, we haven't been able to find her.     The only consolation was that she may eventually find her own way home as the cattery is less than five miles away.

The pig farm lies between us and the cattery, perhaps a mile and a half away from Parsonage Cottage, so probably somewhere Bennie would pass through if she were trying to find her way home.   On a couple of occasions Alice has reported seeing a cat, which looked very similar to Bennie, in that area.

On several occasions in the past we have been up there, scouring the fields and calling for her - without success.

Now, Farmer T and his wife have apparently grown quite fond of these cats, so presumably the cats have somewhere to sleep, enough food to eat, and they have each other for company.

Should I go up to the pig farm and check out these cats and risk spoiling things for Farmer & Mrs T, and for the other cat, who presumably enjoy one another's company.

Bennie was companion to Coco, but she now has Miss Pinkerton (a stray from Dovecote Dell) to whom she has become very close.  

If I were to find it was Bennie at the pig farm and to find that she was fit and happy there,  would I be strong enough to leave her behind to her new life?   So many more questions.    I'm still thinking it all through.

Friday 8 January 2016

Underneath the Railway Arch and on to Butterbump Splash.

Miles, this one is for you and Poppy.

This is what the lane looked like yesterday morning - doesn't look too bad, does it?

Well, not until you get a little closer to the old railway bridge.   As you can see, the ditch was full to the brim and spilling onto the road and the water was still cascading down off the field and pooling under the bridge.

I took Dobson home (much to his relief) and came back out again.   I wanted to go under the bridge, impossible with a water phobic Dobson,  to check on the lane to Butterbump Splash because, as you will remember, this often floods, too.

Not so this time, the new owners have obviously worked hard and worked wonders on the drainage, the road was amazingly clear, just a few small puddles, and one very unhappy and bedraggled peacock.

He decided he'd had enough adventures and began to make his way home, dragging his sad and soggy tail feathers behind him.  

The mill was looking as beautiful as ever.    I think they have worked wonders on the place and are working hard to create a much better environment for their birds and animals.

Much love from soggy Little Bunting.

Wednesday 6 January 2016

"Old apple tree, we wassail thee"

I made two slices of white toast, soaked it in cider then poured the remainder of the cider into my oldest jug.   There was no special significance in choosing my oldest jug, I just felt drawn to use it.    We donned hats, coats and Wellington boots and made our way out to the garden.

Unfortunately we lost three apple trees to disease last year leaving us with two Bramley apple trees.   Tradition dictates that one should wassail the oldest tree   In the end we decided to wassail both of them, just to be on the safe side.

Once the slice of cider-soaked toast had been  placed in the branches, Max steadily poured the cider around the tree as we marched around it singing:

"Old apple tree, we wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear
For the Lord doth know where we shall be
Till apples come another year.
For to bear well, and to bear well
So merry let us be.
Let every man take off his hat
And shout to the old apple tree
Old apple tree, we wassail thee
And hoping thou wilt bear
Hatfuls, capfuls, three bushel bagfuls
And a little heap under the stairs
Hip! Hip! Horray!"

It was enormous fun, especially as we were joined by Merry, she thought it was a great way to delay her bath and bedtime.

Second time around we sang even more lustily.   We were really getting into our stride by then!  

It was great fun and it felt right.  

Respect for the apple tree which provides us with the fruit for so many apple pies and crumbles.