Saturday 20 February 2016

This, that and the other.

As we parked at the top of the hill,  next to the castle and the cathedral, the clock began striking the hour, loud and sonorous.

It was cold, but bright and dry, perfect for walking down Steep Hill and into the High Street.   A short walk along the canal and then cut along the side of the High Bridge.
It's the oldest bridge in UK which still has buildings on it.  It was built around 1160 AD.
This photograph shows the back of the building.

We were heading out for a quick look at the marina.

It was good to see that narrowboats are also moored here, so perhaps The Writer may be able to bring his narrowboat across the country and moor here one day soon.    This would be a lovely place to meet up and perhaps go for a jolly jaunt along the canal.

Max disappeared to a bookshop/coffee shop, a good place to rest quietly while I got down to a little light shopping.

I was in M&S with an armful of items which I wanted to try on, when a fellow customer asked me whether I had a voucher... she gave me a 20% discount voucher which can be used multiple times over the next few days, it can even be handed on to friends and family for them to take advantage of the discount!

I was very chuffed indeed.    I still stuck to buying the two jumpers which were on my list, great to find that I got them discounted by so much though.   So kind of her.

We had lunch out - it was pleasant, but that is about the best I can say.  The food was very average, the coffee was tepid and the service was poor.    Oh, well, can't win them all.  We took a steady walk back up Steep Hill (which is VERY steep, by the way, a one in seven gradient for one section) and for once we didn't take any breaks for a breather.

Dobson and the cats had been well looked-after by Hector and Merry, they'd played so much 'fetch' with him that eventually he picked up the ball and asked to be let back into the house!

*     *     *

This afternoon we hosted a little tea party.   Max and I have been married 40 years this month.   He's not in the best of health at the moment, so a holiday is not really on the cards.  Still, we wanted to celebrate so we invited Alice, Richard, their children, plus The Writer to afternoon tea.

When we said the children could eat the food in any order they liked, their faces were wreathed in big grins.

There were smoked salmon sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches and ham sandwiches for the carnivores, along with a bacon and egg flan, like Grandma used to make, and lots of very naughty cakes.   The custard slice was mine - I just love that combination of custard and pastry.

Tomorrow is definitely a day for light food and lots of exercise!

These two little tykes ate heartily, so did the rest of us.     It was fascinating to see how,  given the freedom to pick and choose, the children ate lots of the raw vegetables as well as sandwiches, cakes, etc.  

Then we all got stuck into a game of charades.   Little Merry had a very sketchy understanding of what was required but that made it all the more fun.

She had us in stitches over her interpretation of Jungle Book.    She pretended to be Balloo the Bear and scratched her back on the table leg...         She followed it up with a repeat performance,  but got very cross when we suggested that she was miming Balloo, she insisted that this time it was Bagheera scratching his back ...of course!

We all had a wonderful time.

Perhaps we can have something of a re-run when you two come back home?

Tuesday 16 February 2016

Swearing in Cantonese

I was a middle child, with an older (5 years) brother and a younger (7 years) brother.   We all got on reasonably well,  the age differences helped, but we had our moments - still do, I guess.  ;-)

When I was almost eight, way back in the very early '60's, my father was given a three-year married, accompanied post to Hong Kong.     I remember those days pretty well, the sights, sounds, the smells...though the less said about the smells, the better.

I have lots of interests and hobbies and in and around real life, hobbies and grandchildren, I read.   I read a lot.  I dip in and out of genres though I avoid politics, religion, fantasy, zombies, and books with too much sex, swearing or violence...having said that, some of my favourite Scottish detectives are prone to rather ripe language and murder is generally quite violent.

One of my recent reads include a marvellous autobiography by Martin Booth, Gweilo.    Not long ago I was extolling the virtues of 'The Piano Teacher' a story which is set in Hong Kong around the time of the second World War.    Gweilo was even better.

I was totally transported to the Hong Kong which I knew and loved.

The author was there a decade before us, but he brought it all to life for me.   The forgotten, or half-remembered names of places, roads, mountains, festivals.   Stephen and Stitt, the big bronze lions which guarded the entrance to that wonderful old building, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank - now, alas, gone.  Replaced by a more modern building.

(Somewhere or other I have a maroon-coloured plastic replica, a money box.   I'm not sure that I ever actually put money into it though, I was far more likely to run down to the little shops and spend my money on pencils, rubbers, crayons and exercise books.)

His description of the droughts, typhoons, and the killer humidity were all familiar.  I revelled in his memories, wallowed in the descriptions.   I felt I was back there.

As well as being a vehicle for nostalgia, the book gave me lots of information and background which was new to me.  

Martin Booth died in 2004, he was just 59 years old and had been suffering from a brain tumour.  He wrote this book for his children.  A beautiful gift, and an insight into his early years.

Many books, once I have read them, are donated to charity but Gweilo is staying on my bookshelves. I know that in a few months I will want to read it again and I can't tell you how rarely that happens to me.

So, swearing in Cantonese?   My brothers and I used to mutter the words "Muc-tao, melogyi, sing-sing, gweilo' in the belief that we were using Cantonese swear words for 'monkey, wooden-head, ghost, white devil...not quite sure that we had quite got all of them right.

Still, we knew what we meant!

Sunday 14 February 2016

Litter Louts

Parsonage Cottage is just along this lane, hidden behind the hedge.  I walk along here at least once a day,  I know it pretty well after ten years.

Just lately the amount of discarded rubbish has increased quite dramatically.     You know the sort of thing, drinks cans, sandwich wrappers, etc.   Grrrrrrrrrrr to lazy people.  They just don't give a damn, but I do.

In order to make a proper job of picking it up I decided that I needed a litter picker gadget, so a couple of days ago I emailed a friend who is on the parish council, requesting that they purchase one for me.

Yesterday, it was delivered!   Talk about speedy.

Today, after walking Dobson, I decided to head back out and do a first proper clear-up.

There were countless drink cans, food cans, plastic bottles, chocolate wrappers, crisp packets galore, sandwich wrappers, fast food boxes, paper bags, dog poop bags (disgusting), children's drink cartons, cider bottles, beer cans, beer bottles, energy drink bottles, brandy and whisky bottles (multiple for each) and six vodka bottles..........

That all came from one short stretch of road!

The litter picker was great but it does have its limitations.   I also learnt a valuable lesson about not over-reaching, I found myself sliding down into the bottom of the ditch and quite unable to easily get out.   I tried and tried, hoping that no one would come driving along the lane and see how ridiculous I looked, and eventually I just had to go for a hands and feet scrabble.   Not elegant, but it did get me back on shore!

After half an hour, my bags were full and very heavy.   I struggled to get them back home.   They clinked and clacked so much that my son in law came out to see what was going on.

Two very large and heavy bags and the litter picker.      This litter picker staggered home for a wash and a large cup of coffee.

I wonder what the lane will be like tomorrow - and heaven help anyone I catch littering the place.

Two Years!

Remember this?

The log store roof had taken a battering during a storm, the roofing felt needed to be replaced and you two decided to tackle the job, to save Max from having to climb up there on his less than limber limbs.

I'm glad to say that a few years on, and the roof is holding up well.  Your repair work was first class!   Alas! the log store has a decided tilt towards the shed in Owl Wood, but that is another matter.  ;-)

Today, as you celebrate your second wedding anniversary, remember that all your family back here are thinking of you.   We send you our love and look forward to sharing lots of...


Young Hector is very keen to try dumplings made by Poppy, he watches Kung Fu Panda...he eats a LOT of them.   Little Merry is rather more keen to share lots of rice dishes; she loves rice, hates pasta, adores rice.   Hector loves pasta, hates rice....

Miles, does that remind you of anything?   You, James, and Alice, perhaps?

Enjoy your special day - Valentine's Day and your second wedding anniversary.  Ooodles of love, Mum and Dad xxx


Sunday 7 February 2016

Chinese New Year Feast!

My lovely Chinese daughter-in-law, Poppy, has cooked up quite a feast to celebrate Chinese New Year.

A feast for the eyes - even the cat agrees, just as well he has very good table manners.

Lamb, pork, beef balls, tofu strips, spring onions, radish, potatoes, mushrooms, soy bean puff balls, bone soup, dipping sauces, peanut get the idea.

A magnificent feast, one for sharing with family and friends.

Centre stage of it all was the 'hot pot' which cooked the meat in ten seconds, so it really was a hot pot.

Everything was so beautifully prepared and served with love and happiness.

I hope that this time next year will see a feast such as this being prepared and shared at Cowslip Cottage.  Poppy and Miles are hoping to move back to England in the early autumn.

I can't begin to tell you how happy that makes us.   The whole family is excited about it.  Come to that, even the new neighbours are looking forward to meeting you both.   We'll be looking forward to some feasts and celebrations then, Poppy.

Miles you are a lucky man!

Max and I are off to the pub tonight - quiz night, a special one to raise funds for charity.  Wish us luck!

Love you,

Saturday 6 February 2016

Update on Cowslip Cottage

Poppy, Saturday afternoon in our nearest market town looks like this  -

deserted!   A bit different to Shanghai - do you think you could get used to such a quiet place?   Still, it meant we were able to park outside the Handyman Shop, no ticket required.

Meanwhile, down at Cowslip Cottage...

The plasterers have been at work.   This is the far end of the landing and the bathroom door, which I hope you are keeping.

This is the other landing window - tiny and so adorable, deeply inset, very cottagey.

I was trying to show you just how thick the walls are, how deep the windowsills - I should have put something on there to give you an idea of scale,  the sills are about a foot deep.

The living room is vast.   I know it looks smaller on this photograph but that's just down to the angle.    See how the windows have improved now that you've got the new lintels in place.    I didn't take a photograph of the dining room, but that is looking good, too.

This final photograph is to show you some of the wires which Max has been installing for you...spaghetti junction, each one labelled and tested.   The plasterers have been working in here, too.  The cloakroom has had a lot of work done, as has the area under the stairs.   They have done a huge amount of work, more to be done on Monday.

All systems go.

Mum & Dad

How many inches in a Narrowboat?

My younger brother, The Writer,  has just bought himself a narrowboat - a very handsome one.   He plans to live and work from this vessel.   I haven't seen it yet because it is berthed on the other side of the country in Cheshire, just a couple of miles down the road from our older brother!

I had the pleasure of looking after Hector yesterday, he'd been sick in the night and although his schoolteacher parents are generally pretty strict about sending him in, they decided that he wasn't quite well enough for school.

He was wan and pale, but a walk in the clean cold air, with Dobson, soon had roses in his cheeks and a sparkle in his eyes.

He had a lovely breakfast of eggybreads made using eggs laid by his favourite hen,  King Oliver, (formerly known as Shaggy) and a glass of milk.    He was refreshed and energised and could really have been in school - but I'm not complaining, I had the pleasure of his company all day.

We fell to talking about The Writer's boat, particularly how long it is.    Fifty-seven feet four inches from stem to stern.   Difficult enough for me to visualise, never mind Hector.   Out came my trusty tape measure and a piece of chalk, and we set to work measuring it off against the length of Parsonage Cottage........which is a long house.

This simple task involved using our multiplication tables and lots of calculations as we converted feet to inches, etc.  we had to measure off 688 inches - so that was from the front rain barrel, right the way along the building, almost to where the conservatory begins... seven lengths of the tape measure.

I could nip out and take a photograph but the weather is wild, wet, windy.   This sketch will give you the idea - the boat stretches from the scented roses right the way along to near the conservatory.

Hector was very impressed, in a way which he hadn't been with just the numbers.

So we did reading, maths and lots of exercise as we later took Dobson out again down to the fishponds, you can see the Old Parsonage just through the trees.

It was chilly,  windy, dry.   We had a great time and so did the dog.

We got Dobson from the RSPCA almost three years ago.   He hasn't been an easy dog to work with and there have been times when I despaired.   However, this photograph tells me all I need to know.   See how well he is walking with Hector - confident enough to leave me behind, not pulling on the lead - and best of all, on a walk which is well out of his normal comfort zone.

Thursday 4 February 2016

Breakfast for Two

This is the time of the Spring Festival/New Year celebrations in China, the biggest festival of the year.   It is a time for families to travel from far and wide to be together.

Many of Poppy and Miles' favourite eateries are closed as the staff are on holiday.     This means they are exploring other establishments.  Some are good, others are disappointing.

This sumptuous meal is what they had for 'Breakfast' the other day, probably a very late breakfast.  ;-)