Tuesday 28 February 2017

The Bare Necessities of Life

A freshly baked loaf of bread and a stack of books.    Happiness!

I baked a couple of loaves yesterday, along with chocolate cake (a Victorian recipe, of course), some simple biscuits ready for a little project which I have in mind and homemade pizzas for the grandchildren's tea.

I am not a domestic goddess, but I do like to make the most of a baking session.

The books are those which are next to my favourite armchair and I dip into them constantly throughout the day.    

If I were to photograph the stack tomorrow, it would probably be very different.  I like to free-range through my collection.

The book at the bottom is one I have had for a year, or so.   I read it, enjoyed the beautiful photographs, felt inspired and then did nothing about it.    This week I bought myself some paste for painting on cakes.   I feel like having a little fun, I'll be starting small.   Hence the biscuits!

There is a very slim volume next and that is a book which was published by the communities of Little Bunting, Dovecote Dell, and Butterbump Splash, to celebrate the millenium.   It is packed full of local history.   I love dipping in and out of it.

Then comes Farmhouse Cookery, a 1p (+2.80 p&p) purchase.   It is an excellent book, more than just a recipe book.

The next little book is A Guide to the Anglican Churches  in Lindsey.   I love exploring some of the old church buildings and graveyards and I thoroughly enjoy reading about their history and points of interest in this very worn and much used booklet.    It was printed way back when keyholders were happy to have their names, addresses, and telephone numbers published.

The one above is simply my notebook and the rest are an assortment of old printed recipe books and a couple of my treasure handwritten ones.

The grey volume sandwiched between them is a reprint of an old book.   One of the Persephone volumes.   Their books have soft grey covers and hidden within are beautiful endpapers and a matching bookmark.   The contents are rather good, too.

I love fresh crusty bread and I love books;    it  would be difficult to give up either.

If push came to shove I would give up the crusty contest.

Books win!

Sunday 26 February 2017

Do You Judge a Book by its Cover?

We all know that we shouldn't do it and yet we do.  We can't help it.   We judge books by their covers, and we judge people.

A Book from my shelves
beautifully tooled and with gilt decoration
(the smudges were on the camera lens, not the book)

Without revealing too much, I thought it would be fun to tell you a little about the group of people who meet once a month in Little Bunting's Village Hall.

We are a pretty ordinary group of people.   We don't dress smartly* and we don't constantly fidget with smart phones.   Most of us have silver/white hair and to the 'young' we have almost become invisible.

Yet in and among this group are several retired schoolteachers, a former editor of a highly regarded magazine, a self-made multi-millionaire, an artist, a former PA who worked in the aerospace industry, then for a Dubai Sheikh and later, for a Japanese Oil Executive,  another is the former resident of a large National Trust property, there are a couple of farmer's wives (who are as well used to catering for large dinner/shooting party as they are to providing a hot meal out in the fields during the long days of harvest) several exceptional gardeners who scoop up prizes at all the local shows, one woman who was widowed young yet managed her farm and young family single-handedly from then on,  the well-travelled wife of a retired sea-captain who also happens to be a skilled horsewoman...

...I could go further, but I'm sure I don't need to do so.

Our covers may be old and wrinkly, our ink faded, but we have lived and worked through good times and bad times, different times.   Perhaps in the ordinary scheme of things our paths would not have crossed.   We would all have missed out on something special.

*The hall is unheated until we arrive.   We put on the heaters and by the time we are ready to leave the worst of the chill has gone.    So we dress accordingly.   Fleeces, heavy coats and jackets.

In winter it is even worse.   ;)

Some of my favourite books.

These are some of the oldest, wrinkliest and best-loved books on my shelves.   I dip into them and read them very frequently.

The beautiful book at the top of the page is simply that.   Beautiful.   I occasionally pick it up and admire it, dust it, put it back down again, the content simply doesn't interest me.


Saturday 25 February 2017

Celebrations on Little Bunting's Village Green

First of all, a big thank you for all the suggestions, they were very helpful.

The weather has been unremittingly dull and grey and a strong wind has been blowing, almost as though Storm Doris is being tailed by her mischievous little sister Ermentrude.    Dobson didn't enjoy his walks, the hens are still complaining about their confinement, and the two cats have spent much of the day in the armchair next to the Rayburn.   Sensible cats.

As I have mentioned previously, Little Bunting has a tiny village hall.    Our village green, however,  is very large and underused.     It is so big that only certain sections of it are mowed, the rest is left to become a haven for wild flowers and wildlife.

There are lots of reasons why it is underused, one being that it is hidden away down a small green lane which leads between two houses, a long way (perhaps 100 yards or more which makes it difficult to run back and forth with teapots, etc) from the village hall.   Then there is the English weather...

These photographs were taken during our village Queen's Jubilee celebrations, back in 2012.  It was a dry day but the wind was cold.  

People were seeking out the sunny corners, trying to get warm.  

Unexciting photographs, but I think you can see that our village green is very spacious.  Such a shame that it is not located next to the village hall, for that is far too small.    Frustrating.   At one time there was talk of turning it into allotments for those villagers who don't have large gardens, but that plan fell through.

The green is surrounded by houses, they back onto it, keeping it safe and hidden.   I imagine there are many people who simply don't know it exists.  

On those rare occasions when the green is used, we decorate it with miles of bunting, of course!

A few of us moved on to continue the celebrations in a beautiful cottage in Dovecote Dell

where we were treated to champagne, nibbles, and lots of cake.

We had a marvellous time.

This is the view from the front garden, how beautiful is that?   The gardens were filled with flowers and fragrance and by this time the cold wind had dropped.   It was a perfect afternoon.

Eventually it was time to make our way home, a gentle meander through the fields.

A moment later and the light had gone and this is the view looking back across the fish pond to Dovecote Dell.

Well that certainly brightened my dull afternoon.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Friday 24 February 2017

Ideas Needed. Help!

Regular readers know that once a month there is a meeting in Little Bunting's tiny village hall.    It is a Council-led initiative to get older, potentially isolated, people to meet for a cup of tea and a chat.   When I say council-led, I mean they invited us to attend a meeting in the hall and gave us the free use of the hall (for the first few meetings)  and then left us to it.   These days we have to pay about two pounds each!  

There are probably about a dozen of us, ranging in age from mid-fifties to early nineties.    Not everyone attends all the time, some of us feel obliged to do so.    Even though we may walk there on reluctant feet, we always have a very jolly time and come away feeling better for having caught up with friends.

So far we have spent some fun times learning how to make sugar paste flowers and Christmas cake decorations, we have played lots of games of cards, had a board games afternoon and a couple of fun afternoons thanks to my gorgeous DiL.   She has demonstrated Chinese cookery and on another occasion we had great fun when she taught us to make garnish pictures.

Next time we meet we are having a session on local history, a talk given by our second-oldest member.   She grew up on a farm in Dovecote Dell, a nearby village.    She lived in the old manor house - this has since been demolished - and knows lots about the history of

the beautiful dovecote and moated manor house.     I'm really looking forward to this one.

The problem is that no one is coming up with fresh ideas for future meetings.   We meet at 2pm and finish at 3.30pm, so it can't be anything too complicated.   We have one brave man who attends anything other than the craft meetings, so I need to include him as much as possible.

I would welcome your thoughts, suggestions, and ideas...

Thursday 23 February 2017

Storm Doris Bowls Through

The garden boundary of our son's cottage has some very large trees growing alongside.    They are not his trees, they are on estate parkland.    There is one big  tree in particular which overhangs the summer house and is long overdue for some serious attention.

The old summerhouse is where the previous owner's wife, an artist, used to do her paintings.     These days it is the temporary resting place for  new kitchen cupboards.   Fitting them is the next big job to be tackled.

During a lull in the storm (Doris) we decided to take a quick drive along to check on the cottage and the cat.      The cottage was fine, warm and cosy,  but the cat was definitely lonely.   He misses our daughter-in-law, Poppy.   She is back in Shanghai at the moment.       I played with the cat while Max did a little 'pottering'.   He can never resist doing a few odd jobs around the place.

We were almost ready to leave when there was a very loud noise, the tree near the summerhouse had split in two, missing the summerhouse, but crashing into the road.     Fortunately not on top of a vehicle or pedestrian.

From this side it doesn't look too bad, but there was even more behind it.   We'd nipped outside to see whether we could drag it to one side but it was impossible.    Already there were two heavy hay lorries and lots of cars queuing on the far side.  

We made a  quick phone call to the police, who  said it could be a while before they got to the incident because the sudden strong gusts had also taken out quite a few others.   Fair enough.

We locked the house, got into our car and before we had driven out onto the road, another big tree had fallen across it.   This one was about a hundred and fifty yards further along, in the other direction.   We were trapped!

The landowner came along, checked everyone was alright and detailed his men to get things cleared asap.     He also agreed to do something about what is left of the tree overhanging the summerhouse, though not today.     His own house,  set in the parkland to the rear of the cottage, had also received a very near-miss.   A huge tree had just fallen against it,  the uppermost branches just scraping the house, but not causing any serious damage.

Effectively trapped, we went back into the cottage and had a cup of tea, of course!

Almost an hour after the incident the road was still closed but enough space had been created at the side of the first fallen tree for us to squeeze past.      We had to take quite a detour to reach home, but we made it.

Glad to say that Owl Wood is still standing, at the moment, and the hen-house gazebo (only in use because of the Defra restrictions) is still standing.  

This Doris is not nearly as cute and cuddly as her name would suggest.

I am so thankful that nothing worse happened.
Fingers crossed.
Stay safe everyone.

Two Country Mice Travel to the City

Once in a while it becomes necessary to winkle Max out of his comfortable routine around Parsonage Cottage and Owl Wood.    I make him change out of his Wellington boots and beloved work clothes and into something more suited to visiting civilisation.  

We head to Lincoln, Just a 45 minute drive along some beautiful country roads.  

We always park near the Lincoln Cathedral, then walk down the hill.    I didn't have much time for taking photographs, but I managed to take some quick snaps as we progressed.    In this collage you can see the Cathedral to the left, the upper section of Steep Hill to the middle, and a corner of Lincoln Castle to the right.    

All of these were taken from one spot - click, click, click.   No time wasted there.

It was a beautiful day, blue skies, weak sunshine, cool rather than cold.    It was also only nine in the morning, so nice and quiet.   I do love this old city.   It is compact, quirky, steeped in history and very beautiful.

This is the really steep part of Steep Hill, it has a one-in-seven gradient which doesn't sound bad until you come back up it laden with shopping bags.   Suddenly one begins to find all manner of things interesting, in order to take a little pause for breath.    Much of the way is lined with interesting little shops.  

For many years there was a wonderful second-hand book shop, half-way up.   It was called 'The Reader's Rest'.    It got a lot of trade as winded people would stagger in to browse the shelves while they got their breath back.    

My parents loved that shop.  I spent many a happy hour in there with them, for I got my love of reading from my mother and my book-collecting habit from my father.  

Errands run, commissions fulfilled, we take some time to have coffee and cake before heading back up the hills.

Another lovely drive through the countryside and we are home.   The animals greet us with great enthusiasm and love, as though we have been away months rather than just a few hours.

Max immediately gets back into his comfortable clothes and heaves a sigh of relief.

Monday 20 February 2017

Romping Around the Owl Wood

Last weekend we had all four of our grandchildren together.   This doesn't happen very often, so we had to make the most of it.    

Max had spent a week overhauling their little electric car (a bargain buy on ebay, a number of years ago) and utilising the space behind the driver's seat so that there was room for a passenger.    

Lucky children!  A green sporty two-seater car, maximum speed 4mph - although after chasing it for a number of circuits around the Owl Wood, it seems faster.

Our oldest grandson very kindly acted as chauffeur for much of the time.   Don't worry.  Before he was allowed to use the car he had to take a driving test, practical and theory.     He never lets his sister forget that, because somehow Grandpa has been sweet-talked into letting her loose without taking the same test!

The little chap in the yellow coat is just three years old and totally in love with the car, luckily his legs are not as long as his ambition.   His cousin Merry, however,  is five and has very long legs and lots of confidence.

The dog and I get a great workout as we jog trot alongside.   I also provide a useful boost of 'Granny Power' when the wet clay soil sometimes stops progress.

They all take turns to travel in the car, but sometimes it is difficult for the little chap to accept that.  It would have been simple to let him be a passenger all the time, but we felt it was important to learn to take turns.     Howls of protest.    Taking a ride on a dinosaur helps calm things down.

Round and round and round we go!   They never seem to tire.

We do though.

Luckily it was eventually time for tea and the opportunity to spend some precious time  with our youngest visitor, our 11 week old grandson.

Sunday 19 February 2017

Wild Garlic!

The Owl Wood holds many delights - snowdrops, crocuses, daffodils, bluebells, cuckoo pint, cow parsley, aconites, dandelions, buttercups and violets. plus many more.    It is probably the wild garlic which makes me most excited of all, but watch this space.

Yesterday I had a hunch that there could be some early signs of it, if only I could find the right location.    I ended up on hands and knees, peering through my strongest glasses and brushing away debris and leaves which cloak the woodland floor.    

By now my nose was almost touching the ground, but Yes!  I had found some tiny bits of it, scarcely half an inch long, but by carefully breaking a tiny piece off one, and crushing it between my fingers, I could easily detect that wonderful garlicky smell.

It is tiny, but active.   It won't take much more than a few weeks for it to come through and then I'll be baking wild garlic scones, wild garlic bread (much nicer than 'garlic bread'), quiches, pesto... the possibilities are endless.

The flowers are very attractive, as well as edible.   For a few weeks the woodland floor will look like this.

It is a true seasonal delight.   I carefully replaced the covering of leaves and will leave it to grow, for now.

I also found one violet, tucked away and hidden.   It helps that I know where to look, or I would never have seen that pretty little flower.   

Thursday 16 February 2017

Buckets, Spades and Rhubarb.

The milder weather, with occasional glimpses of sunshine have really lifted my spirits and energised me.    Suddenly I have become aware of the signs of spring.   

Beautiful catkins.

Drifts of snowdrops near the fairy door in the garden.

The first stalks of rhubarb.

Sunshine, shadows, and snowdrops in our little Owl Wood

and this glorious mass of fungi on an old tree stump.  

It has been lovely.   

Not quite ...

...bucket and spade weather, but very nice after a winter of gloom and heavy cloud.

This is the jolly fisherman statue at Skegness railway station.   

He always makes me smile.

I think someone was having a bit of a laugh when they set him off in the direction of Iceland...

Have a lovely weekend.   We have family coming to stay for the weekend.   Very exciting!

Tuesday 14 February 2017

Looking through the Letter Box

I have two boxes of treasure.    
The brown box is mostly filled with letters written by my late mother.    
The blue box is filled with letters written by my grandparents, my father, and one or two others who I'll tell you about later.

I had a bit of a rummage and a read this afternoon and I learnt some things I hadn't known before.    For example, I discovered my maternal grandfather was 5' 7" tall, which is also my height.  Trivial, I know, but I quite like knowing it.

I also learned that he was one of ten children, which presumably means that there are a whole host of relatives out there, of whom I had no knowledge.   Why, I wonder?

Some of the loveliest things I read this afternoon were letters written by my paternal grandparents.   I grew up living right next door to them until I was seven years old which was when we moved to Hong Kong for three years.    

As I read the letters I could hear my grandparents voices, their beautiful Norfolk accents.   I could see my Nanna's decidedly roly-poly shape encased in her pinafore, and the light glinting off her spectacles, just as I could see Grandad's hand holding the pen.   His hand which was lacking a finger (due to an accident), the big leather belt around his waist,  which he used to pretend would be used on us if we didn't behave ourselves.

My grandmother was kicked in the head by a horse, when she was a child.   She made a 'full' recovery but was left profoundly deaf, so Grandpa had to write notes to her and their house always had plenty of scrap paper and pencils lying around for this purpose.

I smiled at one letter where my grandmother was chiding my father for having put a 5p stamp on his letter, she told him that he should only have used a 4p one.   Typical Gran!

My mother was an extremely good correspondent, she wrote long and interesting letters to all the family and it was lovely to see how much they appreciated them, even though the responses were rather stilted as they struggled to find something newsworthy to write.

I took a trip back in time and it was a very enjoyable experience.

I was quite surprised to find that my mother had kept letters from some of the young men I had been out with before I fell instantly in love with my handsome husband!   

Those letters went into the bin,  just as it began to get a bit noisy out on the patio.

Two of my grandchildren had decided to call in for a visit - they live right next door, so it gets busy over here during half-terms and holidays.

Today they wanted to visit the hens, walk the dog, and bake some cakes.

No more time for looking through letter boxes and walking down memory lane today!

It is time to build some happy memories for my own grandchildren.

Monday 13 February 2017

Shocking Shenanigans in the Village Hall

This is our handsome village signpost.    

Top left depicts the village blacksmith, an important part of village life.    The old forge remains, but all his work tools and equipment were auctioned off a couple of years ago.   His family were blacksmiths and wheelwrights in this village for several generations.   They deserve their place on the sign.  

Then there is a train, because we had the railway line and station until the line was closed in 1960.    

The main house here, The Old Parsonage, was a beer house for the railway workers for a number of years from 1840 onwards.    Funny to think of all the pints which were consumed in there over the years.    

Finally, we have the ploughman and his horses because this is still a deeply agricultural area.    

*   *   *

This afternoon I had to pull on my boots and walk to the village hall for the monthly TEDs meeting.    I didn't want to go, but I  always feel I must try to show my support as much as possible, duty called.

Of the dozen or so regular members, only six of us turned up for an afternoon of card games and chat.    Can you tell, by the way none of us had shed our outer clothing, that the village hall is cold, despite the best efforts of four heaters.

I am not a card game player.    

Snap, Happy Families and Fish are about the limit of my experience of cards.      Luckily we were only playing for pennies and most of those were brought by the one man who supports the group.

We had several quick and fun rounds of a game called 'Newmarket' which was quite fun, once I had got the hang of it.

The next game was 'Bonk'.   It was entirely incomprehensible to me because you can lie  and cheat your way through it.    If you put a card down and the next playing puts one down of the same value, 'Bonk' must be shouted out loud and a forfeit of a penny paid... or sometimes two pence..   I gave it a go and managed to stay in until the very end, which was quite a shame as I'd been trying to get out as quickly as possible...!

Next month  a village elder is going to give a talk about her childhood and growing up in Dovecot Dell.    She is also going to discuss some of the home-made concoctions with which her mother would treat ailments.

This will be much more to my taste.


Sunday 12 February 2017


I have lots of bad habits but there is one which is bordering on an addiction.     I can only satisfy feed it when we drive the dozen or so miles into one of our small local market towns and we don't do that very often.

However, the other day I had an appointment to have my hair cut (always stressful) and before I knew it my resolve had weakened and I was at it again.

Books.   Second-hand books from a charity shop.   Fifty pence each or three for a pound.    There are lots of charity shops in Louth, but this one is the best for books.    The route to my hairdresser's salon took me right past it.   Well, I just had to make a tiny dog-leg detour.

How can I resist?   Brilliant books, favourite authors, all in very good condition.

In my defence, I do recycle most of them after I have read and enjoyed them.   Most, but not all.

This one certainly won't be going back.   It is a modern copy of a book which I read as a child.   It was originally published in 1938 and then again in 1955.   I read it in the early 1960's and loved it.

It is the story of a family of five children who were left to fend for themselves while their parents set off on a mission to rescue their sick Grandmother.    The children are evicted from the house they are living in but luckily a kindly farmer offers them a decrepit old barn which they clean down and turn into a temporary home.

They fend for themselves, do odd jobs, cook and clean.   Well, remember that it was written in the '30's, so the oldest girl does the cooking, cleaning, washing while the older boy does the more manly things...   But that is part of the charm of the book.    It was written in different times.

Having said all of that, the main reason that it has lived so long in my memory is because the children use a haybox for some of their cooking.   This idea fascinated me, I thought it was a marvellous if somewhat mysterious process.

I hope to persuade Max to make one for me, if not I shall set too and make one myself.   It really is a very simple concept which I posted about here.

Must dash, I have a book to read.   

Thursday 9 February 2017

Bridges and Landmarks

These are the bridges that I encounter on my walk around Dovecot Dell, Butterbump Splash and back home to Little Bunting.   Of course the villages are not really called those names, they are for blogging purposes, but they are perfectly apt.

The route I took (the one I use most often) is about three miles long and these are most of the footbridges which I have to cross.    There are a couple more, plus stiles, but I forgot to photograph them.   You get the general idea though.

Deep drainage ditches and beautiful chalk streams which bubble up through the earth to become a small river.

The one with metal sides is an interesting one - a number of years ago, during bad weather, the original bridge became weak and collapsed under the weight of the local farmer's car, it took a nose-dive into the waters.   This is the much sturdier replacement.  Ugly, but I imagine that he feels much safer using it.

The bridge which goes over the lane is the final bridge before I get home.   It is the old railway bridge and trains used to run along it from about the mid 1800's.  They ran up and down the East Coast until Dr Beeching saw fit to close the line in about 1960.

It is not a completely wet and watery walk, there are lots of beautiful things along the way - the old watermill buildings, the Manor House on the hill, the dovecote of course, and some cottages in beautiful settings.

The weather may be dull, the ground may be sodden, but there is always something beautiful, or interesting to look at.

Wednesday 8 February 2017

Dovecote or Pigeoncote

I was born in a well known fishing town and have lived near the sea for most of my life, but right from being a very small girl I knew that I wanted to be in the countryside, preferably on a farm with animals.

It took a long time to achieve anything like the dream, but for the last 13 years I have lived in farming country but not on a working farm.   Just as well, given my vegetarian preferences.

Now that I am feeling healthier I am forcing myself to get back out there and do my long walks.   I sound like a broken-winded old cart horse, but at least I am getting out in the fresh air and building up my stamina.  The Tudor dovecote looks a little less robust than when I last really looked at it; the damp is definitely affecting the brickwork, but it is still standing and is a charming and protected building.

It is set just along the track from this  very attractive but muddy farmyard.

Tucked away at the back of the red-roofed barn is a 16th century hall and beyond that there is a building which incorporates a stone with a 'Green Man' carved into it, fragments of what remains of some now demolished buildings.   One of the men who lived here, Sir Henry Vane was charged with treason and was beheaded at Tower Hill in 1662.

Just three fields away and this is the view.   The white building to the left is our village pub.   Just behind the four clumps of yew trees to the centre of the photograph is the village cemetery.   The church was dismantled by Sir Henry Vane and the stone taken across the fields for his building projects.   Not sure of the exact location but it was somewhere near the trees.

As I trudged on through the fields I was struck by just how many small bridges I have to cross.   Tomorrow I'll post photographs of some of them...I bet you can hardly wait!