Wednesday 31 August 2016

Talking Wallets

Yesterday I came across a bag of old photographs and documents.
The bag also contained my father's card wallet.

My father at work in Hong Kong, 1961

He died in 2002, so it didn't feel too intrusive to take a peep inside.
Well, maybe just a little, but I did it anyway.

The wallet contains:
  • A Public Record Office Reader's Ticket
  • A National Archives Debit Card (United States of America)
  • U-Boat War Membership
  • World Ship Society Membership Card
  • The Merchant Navy Association National Membership Card
  • The Russian Convoy Club Membership Card
  • National Fishing Research Centre Readers Card
  • Mitgliedskarte Verband Deutscher U-Bootfahrer e.V.
  • Grimsby Veteran Seafarers Association
  • Sharkshunters Membership
  • Hong Kong Branch British Red Cross Society Blood Donation card
  • Humberside Libraries Card
  • N E Lincs Bus Pass
  • Society of Authors Membership Card

That pretty much summed up my father's main interests for much of his life - apart from family, grandchildren and friends, of course!

He was a naval historian and author.  

Just a few of the folders

Among his works is an enormous piece of research on Axis U-Boats and Merchant Navy Vessels during WW11.   It includes technical details, crew lists, patrol details and personal stories from men involved on both sides of the conflict.   This opus magnum is housed in the Archives at Grimsby Town Hall and I also have a hard copy of the 30+ volumes on the top shelves of my hobby room, along with copies of all his other published works.

One of the most impressive aspects is that he did most of this work well before the advent of easy research on the computer.      His research involved a lot of travelling, he talked to people, visited places.   He also wrote, and received,  thousands of letters.  It used to keep the postman happy and the local charity was always sure of a bumper package of beautiful foreign stamps for their appeal.

Goodness knows how much he spent just on stationery alone, never mind the stamps.

He bashed out all his letters and manuscripts on a series of manual typewriters - a whole series of typewriters because he wore them out.

What would your wallet reveal about you?

Tuesday 30 August 2016

Cooking Apples with the Queen

The apple trees are heavy with fruit and will soon need to be harvested.   Our Bramley Apple tree is always very generous with her fruit.    Making the most of this bounty calls for some serious work and a fair bit of planning.

One of our four remaining hens, Mab, is a Speckledy.  

It was difficult to get a decent photograph of her because she kept ruffling her feathers and charging anything that moved.   She is in a bit of a frustrated grump at the moment.

Every once in a while Mab, aka Queen Mab, will withdraw herself from the rest of the small flock.  She goes into hiding and with a whole wood, even a small wood, to hide in, she is not easy to find.  

Apparently,  Speckledy's are a little prone to going broody.   None of our other hens have ever shown any inclination to do this, thank goodness.

She disappeared again a few days ago and was eventually found yesterday.    

Her makeshift nest contained , not eggs, but two windfall Bramley's.

Poor Mab.

Sunday 28 August 2016

Al fresco dining

 The Setting:

A country house on the Edge of Nowhere.

Image borrowed from

It is an unexpectedly beautiful late summer's afternoon.   Guests have gathered for an al fresco celebration meal.  

Chef is presiding over the large barbecue, while the housekeeper is pouring generous glasses of Prosecco,  with apple juice for the young ones.     Lazy, relaxed dining, what could be nicer.

Suddenly, the sky changes from blue and sunny to dark and stormy, enormous raindrops begin to fall and thunder begins to rumble.  

The table is abandoned; everyone makes a grab for plates of food as they dash indoors.

The storm intensifies, rumbles become fighteningly loud clashes while the lightning flashes completely illuminate the darkened house.   Rain becomes torrential and the terrace is soon under a couple of inches of water as the drains struggle to cope.

Gradually things settle down again, the food has been rescued and the big kitchen table is groaning under the weight of it all.      The younglings prefer to take their loaded plates through to the sun room where the drama of the storm can be fully appreciated.

That drama is greatly increased when there is a power outage, something we are used to as it often happens during stormy weather.  

Our London guests were very surprised to hear this and seemed a little relieved when the lights came back on less than two minutes later.

By the time this had occurred for the fifth time,  plans were made to put the generator on standby.   Luckily, this proved unnecessary.  

Each time there was an outage and we were plunged into darkness which caused the children laughed at the delicious fright of it all, while slightly merry adults began talking about how it would all make a great setting for an Agatha Christie country house murder and a quick headcount was taken when the lights came back on, just in case!

Just another Bank Holiday weekend in England so we really should have known better than to plan an outdoor party.

Thursday 25 August 2016


I spent this morning with Poppy and 'Boy'.  

He is settling in to his new life in the country.   Enjoying all the freedom of a large cottage with occasional forays into the gardens.

All that stimulation and exercise often leave him needing a midday nap.

My own two girls, Coco and Miss Pinkerton, gave me quite a hard stare when I got back home.

Cat beds are for wimps, they said.

Sunday 21 August 2016

Little Bunting Village Show

Stage a Village Show in just four weeks?    Could it be done?  Would we be able to find judges at such short notice?  Would people set aside their natural apathy and make the effort to enter?  Would anyone have anything left growing in their gardens which would be worth entering?

You betcha!

People did the event proud.  

The Produce and Flower categories were filled with entries, competition was hot.  Giant marrows, lovely leeks and rosy rhubarb sat cheek by jowl with giant onions, crinkly lettuce and fresh brown eggs, on the faux grass matting.

At the far end of the hall the shelves were groaning under the floral displays, pink and pretty posies, velvet roses and vases full of garden flowers sat alongside more vases filled with dried grasses and wild flowers.

Big bunches, dainty vases, single flowers, jam jars filled with fresh herbs.

All combined to scent the air in
the most wonderful way.
It was better than an
upmarket florists shop.

This stunning floral display
was created by a 90 year old
woman from Dovecot Dell.
She used flowers cut from her
daughter's garden.

It was impressive when viewed from any angle.  Years of
experience have definitely been
put to good use here.

Difficult to believe that such small villages - tiny villages - which even combined have fewer than a hundred households, can throw together a show like this.

A brisk trade was done on refreshments with teas, filter coffee and home baked cakes.

Raffle tickets sold like hotcakes.

Talking of hotcakes - the Cookery section is always hotly contested.    Artisan bread loaves, plum bread, Victoria Sponge Sandwich cakes and Traybakes sat alongside Jams, Lemon Curd, Chutneys and Biscuits.     The Vegetarian Flans were amazingly beautiful and varied.

People often bemoan that the judging is done to WI standards but this year the Cookery was judged in a completely fresh way.        My beautiful daughter in law, Poppy, was asked to step into the breach, despite the fact that she has only been in the country a little over four weeks.

Poppy is Chinese, a trained chef, and has an excellent palate.

Normally I bake  for almost all the Cookery classes but this year I didn't enter any of them because I didn't want to risk any chance that cries of "Unfair"  or "It's a fix" should be heard.   After all, the competitive streak runs strongly through these small communities.

I had the genuine pleasure of writing the notes and filling in the results cards as Poppy tasted, contemplated, and passed judgement on the entries.   It was fascinating to watch her at work.

Once her decision had been made I ferried the results to the wonderful Rosamund, who spent about two hours carefully writing out all the certificates.

Poppy didn't need any lunch after that marathon session of nibbling and sampling.

Photographing the entries was difficult, there was a sea of clingfilm and food covers obscuring the bakes and cakes.

After the judging everyone flooded in to celebrate or commiserate and to await the prize presentations.

The main event is the auction and the hall filled rapidly as those seated at the tables outside came indoors to try to secure a particularly scrumptious cake or flan.

Bidding was brisk and we all bought far too many calorific cakes and then salved our consciences by bidding heartily for the boxes of produce and flowers.

Well done to everyone who worked so hard to pull this off.
It was quite an achievement.

Saturday 20 August 2016


Sometimes, when I flick through my old posts, I have to smile.   They make my life seem rosy and perfect.     Of course my real life is far more complex than that which makes it onto the blog, just as I am sure yours is, too.

I live deep in the Lincolnshire countryside - and I am very content to do so, that bit is true.
I am lucky enough to be surrounded by family and animals, ditto.
Old churches, country life, history, books and the odd bit of cookery are of interest to me, all true.

In real life, however, I have a much broader spectrum of interests, including world affairs and politics.

Those subjects will never make it onto my blog, nor do I comment on political or contentious issues on other blogs.

Blog time is my relaxation time.

So, back to La-La Land.  

Preparations have continued for the Village Show - the hall is now filled with trestle tables and they are covered with sparkling white tablecloths or faux grass, as appropriate.

The Little Bunting Village Hall is decked out with much bunting.

Inside, everything is ready and waiting.   All we need is for those people who demanded another village show, to make a show with their entries.  

Cookery, Produce, Flowers, Photography, Arts and Crafts...anything will do, just pop it into the 'Any Other' class, we won't mind.   That'll be 25 pence, please.

I like to imagine that kitchens throughout the village are filled with the aroma of freshly baked bread, biscuits and cake, with glorious floral arrangements sitting out in the cold scullery, produce scrubbed, primped and polished to perfection...

The reality being that most folk with either be in the pub developing a hangover or well into their second cup of cocoa and about to put the cat out for the night.

The Show:

First jobs tomorrow are helping people place their entries, taking their money and filling in the forms, sorting out squabbles..and, yes, there are always lots of those with threats from some quarters to remove all their entries if ... isn't done.    Let's hope we can avert a murder most horrid or another village feud which will last seven generations.  You think I jest.

Then comes the judging.

The viewing, the tears and tantrums.

Followed by:


This could be Tina and myself as we serve the refreshments - it could be, but it isn't.

Then the auction, always popular, always competitive as people vie to buy the prize-winning entries so that they can make notes and make comparisons as they make sure that they win a first next year.

The hall gets very quiet then.
Enough said.


Friday 19 August 2016

Having a Laugh

This handsome lad is one of the many donkeys we fed at the Radcliffe Donkey Sanctuary.   Those huge hairy ears just add to his charm.

The donkeys come in all shapes, sizes and colours.  Their characters are as varied as those of  any group of humans and it sometimes takes quite a lot of subterfuge and bluff to ensure that every donkey gets their fair share of the treats, for there are some who will kick or bite the others as they try to gobble every treat they can wrap their gnashers around.

Most are very gentle. and take their carrot slices very delicately.

These two were quite a double act - and very gentle.

They loved posing for the camera

perhaps they knew that their comedy routine would get them extra attention,
extra treats.

Whatever it was, they were utterly charming and I know that I'll be going back to feed them again, very soon.

Meanwhile, serious preparations for the village show are now underway.   Even as I type, there are cakes in the oven...

Villagers of Little  Bunting and Dovecote Dell can relax though, I won't be entering any of the Cookery categories this year.

The cakes are to help stock the refreshments table.  

Tea/coffee, slice of cake?

Let's hope that the weather is kind on Sunday, our village hall is tiny so we need to be able to put the half a dozen or so tables outside in front of the hall, otherwise tea and coffee drinking will become a dangerous contact sport in the cramped quarters.

Wednesday 17 August 2016


The board game 'Risk' is one I well remember, my two brothers and I would sometimes play it.

It always ended in tears.    Mine, of course.   It is a game of strategy, so I was doomed to failure from the start.  I never learned to play the game well, nor did I learn to avoid it.  We had some royal set-to's.

Eventually the game disappeared.

My own (now adult) children certainly got very competitive with one another over board games although I made sure that I didn't buy 'Risk'.  Not so much because of the family, more that I didn't trust myself not to regress to childish behaviour if/when I lost, as I surely would have done.

They competed for the biggest, the best, to be the first, to sit in the front passenger seat of the car, anything at all.

Little darlings.  Ha!

Learning how to lose with dignity is difficult and one has a great deal more sympathy for children who struggle with this, than with an adult who should surely have learnt something of this skill along their way through life.

It takes time and patience but it is a lesson worth teaching well.  We don't want to smother the desire to win but it is important to learn how to handle both winning and losing.

Always do your best, but be aware that sometimes others may be better than you.  Acknowledge their success, then try harder next time.

This applies whether you are an athlete, a chess player, running the egg and spoon race or are competing in the Great British Bake Off.

Sore losers, who blame their failure on anything but themselves,  reveal a lot about their lack of maturity, self discipline and perspective.

Accept responsibly for your own failings, learn from your mistakes, stay positive and strive to be kind in victory or defeat.

This is something which my grandchildren are having to learn.   I watch their openly expressed emotions and frustration and I am grateful that their parents have to do the bulk of the work.


A Prehistoric 'Salter's Way'

The main road dissects this small village so for years I simply saw it as a small dot on the road to or from Louth.    It wasn't until I decided to go and explore that I found this beautiful, very small bridge.

A village lane runs almost parallel with it and large ugly utilitarian railings have been installed to make sure than cars don't slip into the stream, so it is difficult to get a decent photograph.   Safety first, but surely there must be a better way for history and safety to coexist.

The bridge probably dates to the 1300's and was a packhorse bridge.     It is very narrow, perhaps three feet wide.    I hope those horses were sure-footed.

The track probably led out to the coast, to where that valuable commodity, salt, was harvested.   It runs back up to the Wolds and was known to be in use since prehistoric times as well as by the Romans, the Anglo-Saxons and the Danes.

This beautiful photograph was found on lincs2thepast  and shows the bridge after some serious clearing and tidying has been done.  It looks huge, trust me, it is tiny.

This rather sweet old painting, courtesy of the team is by Karl Wood 1888-1954 and shows the bridge in earlier times.

A tiny bridge but countless feet and hooves have been across it, including mine.

Monday 15 August 2016

Goodbye Shaggy and Leonie

Yesterday was a sad day in Owl Wood as the very beautiful Leonie-Hen had to be dispatched.   She was suffering, nothing more could be done to help her.  She has been buried, with full honours, along with all those other feathered friends who kept us well supplied with eggs through the years.

Six became five.

Then, just a a few hours later, we found Shaggy lying spark out under a tree.  Dead as a Dodo.  She had been running around, scritching and scratching like a good 'un that morning, no sign of a problem.

Leonie was a beauty but Shaggy was quite ordinary in appearance.  

The loss of Shaggy hurts the most, she was a wonderful little character.  The smallest of the hens, shy and yet friendly, she kept her distance but was always there first for treats, never aggressive with the other hens.   Every night she was the first one home to roost, often an hour ahead of the others.  

Our hens have a wonderful life roaming free in Owl Wood with good food on tap as well as all the insects and fun they can find in the woodland, they supply us with excellent eggs in return.   I know they both had the best of chicken lives.

Four hens remain.

I don't think we'll replace them when they go.

Apart from that, the weekend has been a good one.  We took two grandchildren to visit the local donkey sanctuary.   I forgot to take my camera, so I had to use my granny phone, which doesn't do much more than make calls, at least I got a couple of snaps - which was really lucky because I hadn't got my glasses either.  It was very much down to point, click and hope.

Six buckets of carrots later we were able to leave, but only after promising to return.

I have done lots of walking around the fields and saw these little beauties as I passed through one of the farmyards.

Harvest is well under way, the landscape is changing as fields are being shaved, including the one in which  Parsonage Cottage is sited.   Dog walks will be easier, no need to take the lane for a few weeks, Dobson will enjoy cutting through the field.

Despite the heavy cloud, the skies have been filled with delight.   The Red Arrows flew low over our home, in two 'V' formations.  Unexpected, but wonderful.  They were so low I could almost have asked for an autograph.  

A couple of hours later there was a wonderful WWII plane flying overhead, a Lancaster, perhaps.

Much later and the fly past was a very noisy gaggle of two dozen geese.  their 'V' formation was not as tight as that of the Red Arrows but the noise they made exceeded the decibels of the Hawk jets, or whatever they fly these days.

The barley field around the house has been shaved, the combine was working all day.  The field is mere stubble until Farmer T and his mother come back to bale the straw, which won't be until they have harvested all their other fields of barley.  

Monday 8 August 2016

Flower Power

Take one farmer's wife, five retired schoolteachers,  one recently retired high-flying businesswoman, and  me and what do you get?    An afternoon of fun and laughter, lively conversations and a plan to meet again next week, same time, same place.

Our ages ranged from mid fifties to early nineties and we all live either in Little Bunting, or Dovecote Dell which is just a couple of fields away, longer by road.

Our hands were kept fully occupied as one village elder attempted to teach us how to make sugar paste flowers and leaves.    

I have never enjoyed the company of so many women. for so long, before.   They were all delightful, no one was trying to score points,  everyone chipped in to keep the laughter flowing, encouraging comments and a helping hand as needed.

Throughout my sixty-odd years I have made many friends but have rarely kept them for long, not because we fall out but because we have moved so frequently and promises of letters and telephone calls eventually fizzle and fade.  

I've never really understood this need that so many people have, to be enfolded and supported by a gaggle of friends.   Today I think I got a little glimpse of what that kind of friendship must be like.   It was nice.

Old habits die hard though.

Wednesday 3 August 2016

A Lincolnshire Tale

Once upon a time, Mavis Enderby and Mablethorpe went with Ancaster to Chapel wearing their Great Coates, but the weather turned so warm that they wished they had worn their Somercotes.

When they left Chapel, waiting outside to Greetham was Old Bolingbroke with his silk Hatton.  He walked Witham down to the seashore, where they had the Holbeach to themselves.  But soon a Rippingale blew up and they had to beat a hasty retreat, making a Halton the way back at the sign to Temple Bruer, where several other village worthies were congregated.

Here they decided to have a Little Hale.  Everyone declared it was a Great Hale and as fast as they emptied their glasses, the landlord kept Fillingham.  Eventually they reached a stage where they began to Bicker and Wrangle, and it was very easy to Nettleham.

Someone bawled "Anymore of your Sausthorpe and I'll give you such a Belton the bean that you may Well wish you had never been Bourne."

The landlord was afraid that there was Gonerby a rough-house, so he knocked on the bar and asked everyone if they Woodhall be reasonable and Stow it.   But then he lost his temper and started Hameringham.   In the melee, his barrels started to Leake, and most of his bottles and glasses had Binbrook.

Many of the participants were Horbling about and poor old Aby could only just Crowle.   His clothes would require more than a Little Steeping if they were ever to be clean again.

But here we must draw a Kirton on a village drama which began so Apley, but whose characters appear to be of so Littleworth.

Lincolnshire is home to many wonderful place names - and this is a tale which I have poached from a 1965 copy of Lincolnshire Life.  

There are lots of these and I'll post others as I come across them.   I particularly like this one as the real name of our village is included...because Parsonage Cottage is not in Little Bunting at all, nor is it called Parsonage Cottage, shock, horror!