Sunday, 31 July 2016

Little Things

Sometimes the smallest changes can make such a difference.   The kitchen at Parsonage Cottage pretty much remains the same and yet there have been many changes over the ten years we have been here.

First came the major renovations to turn this end of the building from a rat-infested old cart shed, which was packed to the rafters with the previous owners' possessions (including an urn full of their Grandpa's ashes) into a family kitchen.

I wanted a comfortable, homely room.  I don't like wall cupboards, so we don't have any.   I have the dressers and a very large walk-in pantry in the Boot Room.   It works for us, but everyone is different.

We used to have a large, squishy sofa in the room, which was nice, but Dobson (the dog) began to regard it as his own because no one really used it as we tend to gather at the kitchen table.     The table was orientated the other way to accommodate the sofa.

For the last 9 years I have been suggesting that the table should be turned.   Nine years of the broken record technique later.... I am happy to say that the table has been turned, the sofa loaned to Miles and Poppy (permanently, I hope) and the room is as I originally envisaged it.

Everyone likes it.  Life flows more easily around it.   Such a simple change.

There is one more simple change in the kitchen and that has made life much more comfortable for everyone.   Out here in the countryside we are greatly bothered by flies, great numbers of them, especially when the fly-screen doors are left open to lure them inside...dogs and grandchildren are the main culprits.

Fly papers help sort out the nuisance, but there were always a number of the pesky things whizzing around.   We had to find a solution.   Neither the grandchildren, nor the dogs, were going to change their ways.

Max came up with this solution.    A door closure device.    We thought about having one of those dangling chain door covers, but that would have meant the cats could come through with their half-dead victims, so that was out.   We've been there and it isn't nice.

This little device means that the screen door always closes.   The number of flies which come inside has fallen dramatically, the fly papers are almost redundant.   Life is becoming more pleasant.

I wish we could find a similar solution for the outdoor eating areas!

ps  I took the urn of 'Grandpa's ashes' to the vendors solicitor.  It felt a little strange having him on the passenger seat beside me.

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Little Bunting Village Show - Planning Meeting

The Little Bunting Village Hall Committee held their planning and job allocation meeting last night.

So much work allocated to so few, it is no wonder that those few become weary at wearing so many hats!

The show will go on and there should be little discernible difference for most people, though the organisers may all need two weeks in the sun afterwards.

Now we need the weather to cooperate, a fine and dry day would be wonderful, but we'll cope no matter what.   The Show will be fun and it will allow people to explore their secret, competitive side.  Much tea and cake will be consumed, there will be a lot of  merriment and good humour.

No doubt there will be the usual controversy over the cookery classes.   WI standards versus modern, cutting edge, cheffy stuff.   It all adds to the fun.

Little Bunting rarely has a 'Marrows at Dawn' episode, but in the past there have been some shocking moments in the baked goods department...

Sconegate was memorable, has gone down in village history and surely that can only be a good thing!

There are some fairly exciting new events being planned for the future, more of those as we get nearer the time.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Village Show Schedule

The Village Show schedule and list of categories has arrived and there is palpable air of excitement up and down the High Street.

I jest, of course.

a) we don't have a High Street
b) this village doesn't do excited!

Still, I am excited.

Unfortunately, our vegetable garden is very limited this year because our attention has all been on other projects.  We'll have tomatoes and cucumbers but that is about it.

I'll have a go at most of the Cookery categories and my grandchildren can enter all three of the Under 15's classes.   Last year they were the only ones to do so and won by default.   That made Hector very happy.

Photography - possibly.

No to Arts and Crafts.

Flowers - if a bunch of weeds were required then I would win Best in Show, especially with those from the vegetable gardens.   Other than that, we have plenty of lavender and lots of beautiful potato vine, honeysuckle and Passion flowers but nothing much else.  We'll see.   Those classes are usually very well stocked, so I shouldn't need to make up the numbers with my straggling arrangements.

Oh, just spotted an interesting class - one vase of grasses - now that I can do.   Having said that, I don't know my grasses from my sedges, but will they really be that fussy?

Thursday, 21 July 2016

The Decline of the Village Hall

There is an open meeting being held in the village hall tonight, something of a last gasp effort to try to keep this community resource in business.     I shall attend, of course, although I fear my feelings are somewhat mixed.

Of course we should do everything we can to try to keep things going but Little Bunting is a very small village and the hall is even smaller.    As always, there are those few who work hard trying to keep things going for everyone to enjoy, some who will turn up for events and disappear before the cleaning-up begins,  but there are even more who simply do not support any event.

In the past this small village, combined with the two even smaller ones nearby, used to have a real sense of community and the village hall was where everyone came together.

Times change, the demographic has changed, people no longer feel the need to come together in the village hall especially when what has been on offer is stuck in a time warp... bingo, beetle drives, and table top sales of the most cringe-makingly awful kind are simply not going to attract people, certainly not more than once.  

Anyway, a meeting has been called and I'll go along.

The tiny building in my header photograph is not the village hall, but it could be.

Well, that was a really interesting evening.   It began with just the Chairman and me, relief in his eyes when he saw that at least someone had showed up.    We set up a dozen chairs and a couple of tables, wondering whether we were being a little optimistic.

Threaten to take away their toys and you do get a reaction.

Twenty-two members of the community trickled in - some of them newcomers to the village, others who have lived there for a decade or more but who never support any of the functions.   They were surprisingly vocal.

The end result of this meeting, which deviated somewhat from the original aim, was that the residents of the village want their annual village show.   It is a huge event (for villages like Little Bunting, Butterbump Splash and Dovecot Dell) and it doesn't organise itself.  They want one to be organised ready for August 21st.

The people demanding it be thus have no idea of how much time and planning and sheer hard work goes into an event like that.   Normally the programme would be delivered to the community months ahead of the show so that people can grow the appropriate flowers, vegetables and begin making their craft/art projects, alcoholic drinks, etc.

Four weeks.  That is what we have got.

So the silent and inactive majority have spoken.  They want a show and they want their village hall kept open.   We'll jump through the hoops and perform a little miracle.  It is up to them to support it.  Fingers crossed, but don't hold your breath.

Wednesday, 13 July 2016

A Long Awaited Moment

This is the moment Poppy got her first real sight of her new home.  
She has seen lots of photographs and videos, but hadn't seen it properly until this morning.

Simple logistics meant that Poppy and Miles travelled separately from The Netherlands.  
One had all their baggage (4 large cases weighing in at almost 100 kgs)  
and flew into our local airport,
while the other had charge of the cat.
Our local airport is too small to handle the arrival of animals
so he came into the country by ferry.

When Miles, and the friend who so kindly volunteered to drive him up from the port, were within twenty minutes drive of the cottage, 
we took Poppy down there, to tease her a little, with just a view of the outside.
No peeping in the windows!

I wanted them to explore the house together.

They have been married for two and a half years but this is the first home they have bought in England, so it seemed quite appropriate to go in for the gesture of carrying the bride over the threshold.  

It made Poppy smile even more than she had been.

I'm glad to say that they both love what has been done to the cottage.

Boy seemed very relaxed after all his travels.   He explored the house, ate some chicken and found his litter box.  All was well in his new world.

I am glad there is a temporary board blocking the chimney!

Half his fur was trimmed because the weather is so hot in Shanghai, normally he is twice this size, which makes him the size of a small lion.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Are we nearly there yet?

Poppy, Miles and Boy have begun their long journey home from China.
It seems that nowadays, providing all the documentation is correct, and the airline is agreeable, then cats can travel in the cabin of an aeroplane along with their owner.

So here is Boy, in his travel bag, on board the aeroplane and setting out on the adventure of his life.

Cowslip Cottage is ready and waiting to welcome you all.

Safe journey,

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

No Photographs, Three Short Films

Sometimes Mother Nature offers up beautiful moments, usually when I don't have a camera to hand.  So it's lucky for me that I have good visual recall, because a few days ago I was given three marvellous gifts.

Max and I were travelling down a quiet country lane and were treated to the sight of a female Muntjac and her fawn, they froze for a moment as they watched our approach and then they quietly melted away into the undergrowth.   It was such a joyful sight in the early morning sunlight, over so quickly, yet burned into my memory banks.

Later that afternoon I was walking Bill, a Jack Russell type terrier, down by the gravel pit ponds when we saw a mama duck with her twelve little ducklings.   They were very young, mere dots of fluff, yet they swam in tight formation, speeding up and slowing down in unison, still keeping that tight formation, which was worthy of the Red Arrows.

It was a beautiful sight.

The crowning glory came later that evening, down at Cowslip Cottage.  Max was still working so I strolled out into the garden to watch the cattle in the parkland behind.   One moment they were all quietly grazing, eating supper, meandering along, when suddenly one young calf started cavorting around and was quickly joined by seven others.  

Their excitement built and soon they were tearing up and down the field and having so much fun of the kind I normally associate with lambs.   It was beautiful, although it made me sad for all the calves who are reared in less than ideal surroundings like this, without the social structure of a herd and in a large area of park to graze and roam.

Their mothers just carried on eating, so perhaps this is a regular routine.   It all ended when the leader of the gang raced up to

Big Daddy.

He gave a bellow as he was suddenly surrounded by a big unruly gang of his offspring and I held my breath as he began to rear up.   Thankfully, the bellow must have been simply one of shock because he quickly steadied, the calves quietened and stayed around him for several minutes before drifting back to their mothers.

Perhaps they let off steam like that every evening.

Late yesterday afternoon I was standing in the garden room watching a pair of squirrels race up and down and round and round a tree.  They seemed to be having such fun.

As I watched the squirrels, out of the corner of my eye, I saw another movement.  Two rabbits were racing each other, they ran from one tree and around another then back again.

Simple things, beautiful moments.

Then a lovely robin landed on the back garden gate and another beautiful image was fixed in my mind.    He looked stunning as he perched on the old metal gate.

You will have all this happening on your doorstep.

No need for a television or David Attenborough wildlife programmes.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

The Reality

Just a few snapshots - to set your mind at rest.  No Laura Ashley or frills, no chintz.

The lamps are wrapped like that so that no one bumps into them while working on the house.

I haven't touched the back door, I'll leave that one for you.

The conservatory (actually more of a garden room) has just been scrubbed to within an inch of its life and freshened up - the garden is a tumble of flowers, the old sheds are untouched.

A Glimpse of what we have Achieved so Far

I imagine that you are both getting very excited by now, perhaps even a little nervous about what your new life in England may be like.    Understandable, for both of you.   To calm your fears I thought I would give you a little glimpse of how the renovations and furnishing of your new home is going.

I could have stuck to plain and simple for the conservatory/garden room, but I know how much you both like the 1980's Laura Ashley look.

My sewing machine is still glowing red hot from all that fabric work.

Simple blue and white - you did say to keep it plain and simple?

Again, for the bedrooms (we have only managed to complete two of them) we kept it simple and country, cosy and sweet.

I won't spoil things by showing you the other rooms, I'll leave them to your imaginations until you walk through the door and see them for yourselves.

Just teasing, of course.   We have kept it all fresh and simple - a blank canvas waiting for the pair of you to make it home and furnish it to your own tastes.

In reality, I spent much of yesterday perched on this

A platform constructed from the very wide old floorboards and string...

It was the only way I could reach this:

The top corner of the front landing ceiling.   So much of the history of the cottage is revealed here, it shows how the height of the front extension was raised by a couple of feet, blocked doorways and so on.      It is now hidden behind a first coat of 'mist' paint, you'll still be able to read it in the walls though.

It feels good to finally be tackling the job which has worried me for so long.  If nothing else, the landing and hallway will be fresh and clean, light and bright.