Sunday, 29 May 2016


'Happiness is not a thing you can cut off by the yard or measure in chunks.  It is a matter of moments when you suddenly know that this moment is special.  A few moments are enough for a long time.'
Reveries a Stillmeadow by Gladys Taber.

Darling Benedict
I used to love visiting him,.

I recently came across a disc with a file of photographs which I had labelled 'Happiness File'.  I was intrigued and had a browse.

A favourite autumnal tree in Owl Wood
The following day the wind came
and the golden leaves were gone.

Some are of my favourite people and animals, while others are simply moments of beauty which still make my heart sing.

Small dots of happiness, just a few of which I share here.

Spotting these three watching me as I cut
through the farmyard.

Working on Cowslip Cottage is hard work, but it is filled with moments of  happiness too.   The house is finally coming together, the dots are beginning to join up and we can see a beautiful and stylish home taking shape.

Six weeks!


This could well be your father and I after a morning of hard work!
Don't worry, the nap refreshes.
A very young Hector,  and old Toby,
several years ago

Thursday, 26 May 2016

One Man Show - Aldridge Haddock

Strong colours, amorphous shapes, vigorous in execution are just a few ways to describe Aldridge Haddock's pantings.   They have also been described as 'distillations of his life experience'.  

His dates are 1921-1996.    He started his career in the R.A.F. where he became a fighter pilot during the Second World War.    I have written about him before, on my original blog, Pear Tree Log, just click on the link if you would like to read his story. Some time after his death a large number of his paintings were put up for auction.   I bought as many as I could afford, without being too greedy.

I have just pulled out a small selection to show you.

These paintings are extremely large.  Unfortunately my photographs don't show them to advantage and they don't show the textures within them.

The depth of colour in this one just doesn't show at all.

If you had read the background stories you will understand me when I say that I think this red one is probably telling something about the days when he was being interrogated and tortured.

Big, bold, wonderful with amazing colours within.

Again, fabulous colours, especially that blue.

From about 1963 Dr Aldridge Haddock had his work exhibited in  Paris, New York and Florida, as well as lots of London galleries.

Alas, his popularity has declined somewhat, but not with those who know his work and the story behind them.

Miles, Poppy,  you have huge wall spaces at Cowslip Cottage.  I think you could quite easily accommodate two or three Haddocks.   There are plenty more to choose from if nothing here takes your fancy.


Monday, 23 May 2016

The Merry Month of May

This old body of mine is rebelling at the  hard work and long hours of renovating and decorating the old cottage in time for Miles and Poppy's return.   In just seven weeks' time they will be home and living in the place.  That thought certainly spurs me on to do more and try harder.

It must be more than eight months now, since they bought the place and I do sometimes wonder what on earth we have been doing all that time.   Then I trip across a folder of photographs like this one...

..and I remember the enormity of the job!

I love the month of May as all the verges and hedgerows suddenly burst forth in a froth of cow parsley, buttercups, daisies, speedwell, plantain, borage, dandelions and a whole host of seasonal delights.  The trees are clothed in fresh leaves and blossom falls like confetti in the breeze.  

Unfortunately the same rampant abandon is true of the gardens and I just don't have the spare time or energy to maintain them, other than a couple of hours spent mowing our own gardens and then again, of course, at Cowslip Cottage!    

At least the woodland looks fabulous although grandchildren, dogs, cats and hens get swallowed up by the cow parsley - it is over five foot high in some places.  They love it, of course, and so do I.

Weeds rule in my vegetable beds and the polytunnel sports just a few cucumber, tomato and courgette plants.    The strawberries are romping ahead, thriving on neglect.  The rhubarb is prolific and the Bramley apple tree has masses of blossom.  

We'll enjoy the basics and get back to our normal routines for next year.


Friday, 20 May 2016

Teapot Hall

This is Teapot Hall.  

Unfortunately it was destroyed by fire, possibly arson, about 70 years ago.   All that remains are a few photographs and an ever-diminishing number of memories of this charming and quirky cottage.

Rowland Wright Alston painted this rather romanticised view, which can now be found in the Museum of Lincolnshire Life.

Teapot Hall was a simple crook construction, with a straw thatched roof and just one room.   Access to the upper floor was via a ladder.     It is believed to have been built in the seventeenth century.

This is the other side of the cottage which shows that it had been added to at some point.   Just as well, because the 1901 census shows that there were nine members of one family living there.   Very cosy.

Over the years it has been variously known as Teapot Hall, Teapot Cottage, Teapot Lodge.

It was more or less derelict by the time it was destroyed in the fire, having last been fully occupied by a family in the 1920's.

Finally, this made me smile...

It is one of those dreadfully twee Lilliput models, but it is quite definitely Teapot Cottage.

This one really is the final photograph.

My thanks to those people who posted their photographs on the internet, I have shamelessly borrowed them in order to keep the memory of Teapot Hall in circulation.x

Tuesday, 17 May 2016

All Work and No Play

This morning we headed off to the small market town of Horncastle, we had to run a few little errands so we decided to make the most of it.

I took a mooch around my favourite charity shops and struck gold.   I found a huge (and very heavy) mountain of old Lincolnshire Life magazines, dating from the mid-sixties.    By the time I got back to the car my arms had stretched by almost three inches under the weight of them.

I've only had time to flick through one or two of them, but already I have found lots of interesting articles.

One of them has this centre-fold.  It is so familiar to me, it is our nearest little market town to Little Bunting.   Anyone who knows the town will recognise it almost immediately, it has scarcely changed at all.   The traffic is heavier, the cobbles have gone and the road which the car is turning out of is now one-way, in the opposite direction, but that's about all.

We had a leisurely lunch and spent time in the gardens.  It has been so relaxing.

As I wandered around the gardens I was stalked by the cats.

The Bramley apple trees are in full blossom, promising a heavy crop.

The lawns have been neatly mowed but the gardens could do with a weed, so I picked a few to take advantage of their beauty.

I'll be back to work on Cowslip Cottage tomorrow - and very happy to be working there - but just for today it has been fun relaxing.

Thursday, 12 May 2016


Yesterday I spent several hours applying a thick paste of paint stripper to the huge beam in the living-room of Cowslip Cottage.    It had been painted with thick, black, treacly paint but I was keen to see what the wood underneath was like.

It is a huge chunky piece of wood and I found myself wondering how many years have passed since the tree was a sapling.   It must have grown for many years, the beam is about four and a half metres long, so it was quite a big oak tree when it was harvested.

Given that Cowslip Cottage is more than 160 years old, then add on the age of the tree and it takes it back to vastly different times.

I love the metal detail at the window end, I'll work hard to get it cleaned up properly.

This is the underside of the beam, the one side which really worried Max, he thought it may have been an add-on, made from some cheap wood...but no, it is of the same age and beauty.

I worked on scraping and washing the beam until lunch time.  I'll do the same again tomorrow.   It is so exciting, the wood is golden and glowing and the grain is fabulous.   It is a joy to be revealing it again.

Once I had cleared up for the day I needed to take a few minutes of fresh air, any excuse to enjoy your pretty gardens.

They are difficult to spot but the Estate cattle are chewing the cud in the area through the trees.

I can't wait to see what tomorrow reveals.

Monday, 9 May 2016

Tea and Cakes in Little Bunting

Little Bunting is a tiny village, deep in the heart of Lincolnshire.

The village school, the blacksmith, grocery shop, butcher's shop and draper's have long since gone, as has the post office.

We have a friendly village pub and a tiny village hall, so there is still some sense of community.

On special occasions Little Bunting has even been known to 'get out the bunting' as everyone gathers on the village green to catch up with friends, eat, drink and play silly games, but these times are rare.

It is such a sleepy kind of place that when the nearby watermill peacocks go walkabout, a phone call results in their keeper coming along on his scooter to round them up - and they obediently stroll along the road and back to where they belong.

Tiny cottages and this beautiful dovecot are just two of the places which I see on my daily walks.

Butterbump Splash is where the lovely historic watermill may be found, and Dovecot Dell is home to this wonderful old dovecot.  

These three very small villages are separated by just a couple of meadows, so gatherings generally include people from all of them, and even then numbers are low.

A couple of weeks ago a piece of paper was placed in our mailbox, it read: Tea and Cakes, Village Hall, Monday 9th May  2pm.

That was it.

I had no idea who had sent it, who was baking the cakes, doing the organising, or whether anyone would attend.

This photograph pretty much shows the whole of our village hall - I did say it is tiny - this was one of our village shows.  Of course the bunting came out then too.

No bunting today, though.
But as I approached the village hall I could hear the murmur of several voices, which was encouraging.     I went inside to find a dozen people, including a couple of men, sipping tea, munching on delicious cakes.

Village elder, Joan, had made them, a wonderful fruit loaf, a chocolate cake and a fabulous Victoria Sponge Sandwich.     It was a shame that the utilitarian cups and saucers had been selected, it would have been so much nicer to drink from the best ones and the cake certainly merited such company.

Still, given that I ended up doing the washing-up perhaps it was just as well!

It was good to catch up with old friends and to meet some of the new people.

So Little Bunting's Village Hall is back in business again, for now.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

A Thousand Words

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so they say.

This painting is one which I began working on quite a few years ago.   It hasn't been touched since then, I abandoned it.    Luckily, instead of throwing it out (like so many others) I propped it up on the top of my work cupboard, so that I would see it every day and perhaps one day feel like finishing it properly.

It has taken all this time, but finally, I feel like picking up my brushes and doing some more work on it.   Unfortunately all the animals which have been blocked in are no longer with us, but they remain in my heart, in my memories and in this painting.

During the last few months Max has been unwell, indeed he has become rather too well acquainted with the NHS recently.   He is on the mend, gradually regaining strength, thank goodness.

Without wishing to be morbid, things like that do make you think about life and legacies.

Some of my treasured items are old letters written by my parents, their diaries and, of course,  my old kitchen journals - recipe books handwritten by unknown cooks of old.   I love simply reading them and I adore making and baking some of the recipes they wrote down.   I often think about the women, what their lives were like, their characters.

Over the years I have collected together a small stash of paintings and stories about life around here, in Owl Wood and round and about.  They are for my grandchildren.   The drawings are not great and neither is the painting, but they tell some of the stories which are deep in the memory banks of my family and their children, my grandchildren.

Take the painting above, it isn't great but that was never my intention.   I wanted to tell stories with it for it contains elements of at least a dozen funny family stories within it, it will make them smile.

Max is great at spinning a yarn for the grandchildren.   It is not something I can do, I prefer to tell my stories in silly pictures, like this one.

It is time I went down to the dressing room and dug out my old paints.  Time to get the brushes out and tell some more stories.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Picnic with a Queen

I packed a wicker hamper full of delicious treats and loaded up the grandchildren with picnic blankets and cushions.   We were bound for Owl Wood, which is where Queen Mab and her ladies-in-waiting live.

Dragons, unicorns, bears, fairies and trolls all live in the woodland, along with our six free-ranging hens, including our Queen Mab, pheasants, squirrels, mice, rats, moles, and on one occasion there was a deer.  It is a magical place.

Queen Mab is definitely one of the cheekier hens and is not averse to jumping up and snatching food from the unwary hand.

The fairy Queen Mab may also live here, in the magic tree which has a real fairy door... Imagination is a wonderful thing and my grandchildren use that little woodland to the full, so do the hens.

The hens were filled with curiosity and a desire to share our picnic.   For some strange reason Queen Mab the Hen lagged way behind this time, which is quite out of character.

We had kept our food simple - manchets, cheese,  radishes, olives and apples.    Easy to eat and easy to share with the hens, they are especially fond of cheese.

The main event was the pudding.  

No ordinary pudding, for I had recreated a really old recipe which had long intrigued me.    
Queen Mab's Pudding!

It was a very simple egg custard, studded with strawberries and decorated with pieces of angelica.  I scattered a few fresh raspberries on top and a small drift of icing sugar.

I have no idea who came up with the recipe but it is another one which I found in one of my really old kitchen journals.   I'll post the recipe, when I have time, over on my other blog.

Meanwhile, Poppy and Miles, I am heading off to Cowslip Cottage to do some more painting.  This time I'll try to remember to take my camera.xx