Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Along the Bridle Path

Today I took Toby to the far end of a very quiet bridle path.   Walk far enough along it and explore a little and you can see this beautiful old house, which has been standing empty since 1960. 

The filthy state of the windows is quite a good clue, though I didn't realise that it had been empty for almost 60 years, until I read up about it on the internet.

To my back, as I took the photographs, was a duck pond with farm buildings beyond.    The house was built in the 17th century, then refronted in the early 18th century.  It is Grade II listed by English Heritage.

The 'village' had a medieval church which was demolished in 1778.  A new building was constructed in 1871 but that was demolished in 1976.   Next time I go along the bridle path I intend to explore to see what remains of the churchyard.

Just behind the manor house there is a motte and bailey castle, which I hope to explore more fully next time. 

Toby and I turned for home, back along the bridle way, past a couple of beautiful farm houses, the other manor house at the far end of the pathway and down the hill towards the watermill. 

Here's a slightly different view of the watermill, the entrance gate.     Home  is just around the corner.

I never cease to be amazed by just how many interesting things can be found practically on our doorstep, if only we care to look.   Of course it also helps if you are prepared to pull on your walking boots and just get out there in the fresh air to explore.

Time for a cup of tea and a read.

Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Pinning an Elder to the Wall + Village WI

Fair to say that the population in this small village is on the older side of  middle aged, with a sprinkling of the almost middle-aged and just a few young families.     The village is tiny and should really be called a hamlet, because we don't have a church. 
(Henry Vane the Younger had it dismantled in 1660, before he was beheaded, obviously!)

We have a tiny village hall.   This is not it.

Neither is this, but this next one shows the (dull) interior.
For some reason I cannot find a photograph of the exterior today.  Hey-ho!

Every few weeks we have a meeting in the hall, for anyone over 55 years of age; we don't ask for id,  we would gladly let younger ones in too.

Men are reluctant to attend, though we do have one brave man who attends any meetings which don't involve cooking or sewing - and I don't mean my husband, who is always otherwise engaged on meeting days.

As you can see, the expanse of bare wall is quite considerable, but thanks to one very keen local historian we are gradually filling them up with information boards which are full of old photographs, information about the history of the village, the blacksmith, the school, the watermill, and the railway which used to run through the other side of the village. 

Our current project involves plying a particular elder with drink - don't get excited, I mean tea - and allowing her to reminisce about her childhood in the village, her wedding, her life as a village school teacher and the ways in which farming has changed over the decades, with the odd foray into life during the war years, rationing, etc.

As she has been talking, I have typed.   The notes are going to be pared down a little, photographs and any further information added, then we'll make up another couple of information boards for people to read and enjoy.

I cannot help but look at the photograph which I took when my lovely DiL gave one of her cookery demonstrations to the gathering at the hall and then compare it to a photograph in the lobby, of some of the village hall stalwarts,  the village WI ladies,  from around the 1920's...

This is just a small section of the photograph, it is far too big to get all in one shot.   These ladies all belonged to our village WI, I love the way they are turned out in their smart outfits.

Impossible not to compare the very casual dress we tend to wear today  (the hall is very cold even with the wall heaters on full blast)   and feel that we are letting the side down somehow.

I wonder whether another project could possibly be for us all to dress formally and pose for a similar photograph, just for fun and to show that in 2018 we can still put on a good show.    If our solitary male doesn't want to be in the shot he could take the photograph.

Monday, 29 January 2018

Pounding those City Pavements

Today I exchanged my muddy boots and waxed jacket for some much neater footwear and smarter clothing. 

A visit to Lincoln, my favourite city, is always a treat. 
We parked at the top of the hill, near the cathedral and then set off down Steep Hill to the High Street.

I borrowed this photograph from my original blog applebeesatpeartree.blogspot
I had hoped to be able to take plenty of fresh photographs, unfortunately the heavens opened and I simply didn't have enough hands to be able to spare one for the camera.

The interesting old buildings remain the same; so these photographs from a few years back will do nicely!        The lovely white and black building used to be packed to the gunnels with secondhand books, they have gone now, the place is empty and it looks as though someone is working on the interior.

The handmade chocolate shop is still there, in fact when I glanced inside the woman even looked to be standing in exactly the same position as the last time I visited.    I managed to resist temptation by the simple device of telling myself that I'd get some chocolates on the way back up the hill.   By the time I get back up the hill I am usually too worn out to be bothered.   
Saves money, saves calories.

Talking of calories, I took my pedometer with me and was shocked to find that I clocked up well over 9,500 steps walking around the city.    It had the advantage of not being muddy, so no need for Wellington boots, but my feet ached with walking on the hard pavements.

Like everyone else, we were puffing a bit by the time we had climbed back up Steep Hill, but the trick is to keep moving, reduce your pace but don't stop, unless you have a health problem, of course!

Then home again, home again and don't spare the horses.   

This country mouse has had enough of people, pavements, and persistent precipitation.

Sunday, 28 January 2018

How Low can You Go?

These days there are robot vacuum cleaners, gizmos which 'obey your spoken command' others  can allow you to remotely watch what your pet is getting up to during the day and can even spit out a treat or allow you to remotely speak to them.     Heating, lighting and musical many to choose from. 

Not in my home, not yet.

Of course I have gadgets and gizmos, they creep in everywhere, but simple low-tech gadgets and tools have a place, too.

Take this not beautiful, but oh so practical,  boot jack and the two elastic bands.   They don't work together, but they are the key to making my dog walking life easier.

The boot jack makes levering off my boots easy.  No need to call for help, jack makes short work of a difficult job.   My husband made it for me out of scrap wood.

The muddy boots are my winter walking Wellingtons, thickly lined, specially cushioned and tailored to allow for safe and comfortable walking.  They are a delight to wear but the very devil of a difficult job to remove unaided, which makes having 'sleepy' socks a big problem when I am out on a walk.

The solution was simple, those two elastic bands.  They are the perfect size for gently keeping my socks in the right place without cutting off my circulation.

No more hopping around, trying to wrestle a Wellie off my foot, in order to pull up a sock - only to have it snoring again within minutes, or alternatively walking for three or four miles on scrunched up sock.

No doubt I could just buy a pair of virtual reality glasses and walk some digital dog, without leaving the house, or exercise on a treadmill, but where is the fun in that?

Saturday, 27 January 2018

The Kettle in the Woods

The ancient woodland is offering up some unexpected gifts, like this old kettle which I found tucked inside an old hollow tree not far from where the railway line used to skirt the woods.   

Left behind by long-ago campers?

Or, perhaps, it was used by the old railway signalman for a quick brew between trains?

I know from talks with one of our village elders that the old Home Guard would meet in the woods, by the railway line, during the war.     Apparently they had a hut somewhere along there, where they would meet on a Sunday.   When they got bored with the lack of action they got up a tug of war team, no doubt a quick brew was needed after that?

The woodland is an incredible place, I love it in there, although I must admit to a brief moment of disquiet when Toby ran off after a deer, while I was looking at the kettle.   I whistled for him, then suddenly remembered the old M R James ghost story 'Whistle and I'll come to You'. 

I took only a photograph of the kettle.   😀  After all, I don't want to risk 😱.

Thursday, 25 January 2018

A Cushy Number?

Teachers have a cushy number - short hours, long holidays, decent pension - a doddle.   Right?

Imagine if your working day included being sworn at with the kind of language which would make a docker blush.     In addition to this you are variously threatened with what a certain pupil would do if they had a knife, a saw, or a chainsaw and then to crown it all the pupil seizes a chair and tries to hit you with it.

All this abuse from a seven-year-old and when one teacher tries to teach said child that actions have consequences, they don't get back up from senior staff, instead they decide that the fault must lie with the teacher.     Senior staff who are rarely in school, don't actually teach,  and have told the teacher to 'just deal with it'.

The world has gone mad.

Wednesday, 24 January 2018

The Western Isles

This is where I lived in the late 1960's.
A semi-derelict old croft house
no running water
no toilet
no kitchen.
We did have electricity, an electric cooker which gave shocks to the unwary
and an Elsan loo
so we had some of the comforts in life.

We were living in the Western Isles.
almost smack bang in the centre of the Isle of Lewis.

The two low buildings were a byre and the barn
the room which passed for our kitchen
had a door leading straight into them.
Very handy.

I was 14 years old when we went to live on the island;
the first six months were spent living in Stornoway
later we rented a croft house in the same village as this place.
They were wonderful years.

Unfortunately for us, the family who had rented the first croft house to us
needed it back for themselves,
at short notice,
so Ivor, another local crofter,
offered us the use of this place
as a stop-gap.
It was barely habitable
but as it was only going to be for five or six months we took it,

The previous croft house
had seemed primitive when we first arrived
back in 1967
but compared to this one it was a luxury pad!

Our neighbours there were Old John and his wife Marion.
They took the arrival of this family of Sassenachs in their stride
and made us extremely welcome,
taking us under their wing.

Their croft was just a short walk across the field.
There was always a cup of tea and a 'strupak' to hand.
Usually this would be some Scotch Pancakes
freshly made by Marion
sometimes thickly buttered 
served with fresh crowdie
 made with cream from their cow.

I spent most of my spare time
with Marion or Old John.
Marion taught me how to milk the cow
 was always willing to let me tag along when she went out
to tend the other cattle
out on the croft.
Wellies on,  we'd tie our headscarves on tightly,
to try to combat the midges,
then off we would go.

Old John taught me to tend the sheep,
give them basic injections
shear them by hand 
help with rounding them up ready for dipping.
They were glorious days.

As a family we learned the art of digging the peat
cutting them to the right size so that
we could throw them out onto the bank
for drying
Marion taught us what we needed to know
and the whole village
included us in their
round of peat stacking
and stack building
Thus ensuring that we had enough peat
to see us safely through the winters.

So many memories have come to the fore because I have been reading some of the
Lillian Beckwith books again,
they were my mother's copies,
I have had them since she died.
I recently managed to buy the Lillian Beckwith Hebridean Cookbook
for 1p (plus postage)
from a well known website.

Lillian Beckwith lived on an island in the Inner Hebrides
during the 1940/50's.   After that she went to live on the Isle of Man,
another island which holds a special place in my heart.

My elder son gave me a book about life on the Isle of Soay, for Christmas.
Soay just happens to be the island where Lillian Beckwith lived
during her time in the Hebrides.

Not quite the way most people remember the 1960's, perhaps.
Glorious, golden, memories.
(I hated the school though.   More of that another time.)

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

A Secret Stash

...if you enter the woods 
Of a summer evening late,
You will hear the beat of a horse's feet, 
And the swish of a skirt in the dew, 
Steadily cantering through 
The misty solitudes, 
As though they perfectly knew 
The old lost road through the woods.
But there is no road through the woods

part of The Way Through the Woods by Rudyard Kipling.

Image found on google

A world of beauty, history and magic await when you take a walk through a wildwood.  I don't just mean a piece of woodland which has been neglected, or badly managed.  I mean truly ancient woodland, a remnant of the woodland which covered the UK after the last Ice Age, 10.000 years ago.

We are lucky enough to have one such just a few fields away. 

Impossible to walk there and not get caught up in thoughts of history,  magic and pondering on who may have passed along these tracks through the centuries.

Half-open fairy doors, hollow trees, sumptuous green velvet moss and rare lichens lend an air of enchantment.  No doubt soon the woodland floor will be a carpet of bluebells, primrose and violets, perhaps celandine and wood anenomes, too. 

Nearby are the remains of a Cistercian priory, disbanded after just four hundred or so years, due to poor management!       The area is steeped in history, lots of stories.

The recent storms caused a couple of casualties, fallen trees across the pathways.    Hidden by one of them I saw

several very old bottles.     Can't help wondering how they came to be there, a drinkers secret stash? Rubbish left behind after a picnic?

Who know, and it doesn't really matter, but my imagination is having a field day.

Roll on Spring!

Sunday, 21 January 2018

Blame it on Ilona, Toby

The recent rain has made walking through fields and local tracks... unpleasant.    We didn't wade through that lot, we turned off to the left and took another course.

Today dawned very frosty, the earth as hard as iron, water like a stone - hurrah!   A great day for a good walk.

A lot of the water had already drained away, but there was plenty of ice remaining.

At the beginning of January, Ilona, Meanqueen issued her annual walking challenge.       For once, I decided to participate, take a proper note of just how far I walk each day, so I dug out my pedometer and got started.

I honestly thought that I would be doing most of the walking by myself, despite the fact that I have a dog (he has issues, plus he doesn't like getting his feet wet).         I decided that he needed to get fit almost as much as I do.    The big downside of that was the very idea of spending so much time just walking the same old field margins several times a day.   Far too boring.

So I have been pushing Toby, extending his comfort zone, sticking to quiet routes, field margins for sure, just different field margins.    His tail would go down and he definitely got slightly stressed but he trusted me and we made progress.

Three weeks on and he is able to travel further from our local fields and railway line than I ever thought he would be able. 

It helps to have a target - mine is 10000 steps a day - so that, plus having to report in each month on Ilona's blog, have spurred me on to give Toby the extra nudges that he needed.    No doubt there will be setbacks, but now he knows he can jump over the hurdles and head for new horizons.   He is happy and so am I.

So far this month we have clocked up just over 70 miles.   He is a fitter, happier dog.  Thank you Ilona.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Taking Comfort where You Can

Each winter it is the same, he resolves to stay strong and not succumb.   He fails.   Max catches a common cold and it turns into something nasty and long lasting.     He makes a terrible patient.  Enough said.

Besides medication, rest and tlc he sometimes needs comfort food.    The kind of foods which his mother used to make for him, like chicken soup.     I have learnt, over the years, that it is pointless making real chicken soup from scratch because what he craves is tinned cream of chicken soup.   Just like Mama used to dish up.  It does have to be a certain well known brand though.    Offer him at any other time and he does not like it, so it must be something to do with the comforting memories and emotion it evokes.

When he tires of that one, spaghetti on toast works wonders!   His mother was a lovely woman but cooking was not one of her interests, although she made absolutely the best Yorkshire Puddings ever, they never failed.

Image found on google

When I have been ill and want to eat something, but don't know what, I turn to poached eggs on toast, just like my mother used to make for us, failing that a slice of hot buttered toast will always hit the mark although these days I prefer it to be toasted on both sides, unlike when I was young and loved to have the soft squidgy side to contrast against the buttery crunchy side, for some reason.

Image found on google

So how about you?   What foods do you turn to?

Thursday, 18 January 2018

English Muffins with Vodka, Beer, Takeaways and Chocolate

I admit that I have been turning a blind eye to the accumulation, perhaps hoping that it would all just melt away, or that the  Good Fairy would come along and sort everything out.    By yesterday it was still there and I could ignore it no longer. 

Time to gather up a couple of sacks, my 'grabber' and some stout gloves and get to work.    The lane which runs along the side of our property and down to the railway bridge was in need of a good litter-picking session.

I probably cut a comic figure as I drag my sacks along behind me, filling them up with the detritus that others just cannot be bothered to take home with them but, well, someone has to do it, the council won't and it probably irritates me more than most people because I walk that lane every day.

Sweetie wrappers, chocolate wrappers, several takeaway containers and plastic food wrappers, several vodka bottles (and it is almost always vodka bottles rather than other spirits)  countless beer and fizzy drinks cans, rubber gloves, the odd dog poop bag.    By the end I had gathered up the best part of one and a half sacks of rubbish and recycling.

This is one tiny lane in a quiet part of the countryside, scary to think how much rubbish is abandoned with such thoughtlessness every day.     I once came across a whole wodge of lottery tickets - very exciting - of course I had to check them out, but no winners among them, darn it!

Feeling a bit under the weather today, aching bones, streaming eyes, hacking cough.   

Which makes it a good day to sit by the fireside and indulge in some homemade English Muffins.
I know they are inexpensive to buy, but homemade ones are so much nicer
and very easy to make.

I'll put the recipe up another day.

Wednesday, 17 January 2018

It's Complicated...

I am a child of the 1950's, which makes me pretty old - although my granddaughter was keen to reassure me that she has got one teacher at school "who is even older than you, Gran".   I am of the generation which lived in a house with an outside loo, and was often totally delighted by the incredibly beautiful patterns which Jack Frost had left on the inside of my bedroom window, no central heating, having to obey the rule of Silence in the public library, a place of  books and no computers, and who could forget those small bottles of milk which we were expected to drink at morning playtime.

Different times, but I remember them fondly, no doubt my memories are enhanced by selective amnesia.  Everything changed anyway when I was seven years old, we moved to Hong Kong and the memories from there are all filmed in a totally different colour scheme and temperature. 

Our telephone number back  then was  Insert name of town-4223, the telephone was a huge black bakelite model, rather like this.    As I recall, I often used to sing "Nellie the Elephant" down it, though to whom, and why, is lost to the mists of time.

Image borrowed from telephonelines.  net

Nowadays, of course, most people have mobile phones, even I have a mobile phone, though mine is a granny phone, a pay-as-you-go, which I reluctantly agreed to have, just in case...    just in case I break my ankle again, or lose the dog, or suffer some catastrophe and need to call for help.  For peace of mind, my  husband's peace of mind, I should say.

I also have another mobile phone, a much smarter one, which used to belong to one of my sons, it doesn't have a sim card fitted, though it could,  I use it for the camera function - it fits nicely into my jeans pocket, unlike my nice but bulky cameras.      At Christmas I was given an ipad, which has an even better camera function, can't fit it into my pocket, alas!

Betwixt and between all of these devices, I somehow manage to cobble together my posts.   It gets complicated and I am aware that it could all be made much simpler if only I would agree to update and modernise, but I hate the way information gets shared or stored in the cloud, whisked off hither and thither. 

I most definitely do not want to be contactable at all times, or to be made aware of each and every message as it arrives, have my every move posted on Fb, etc.   Besides, that would mean taking my specs so that I could read what was on the screen, yet more stuff to carry about.

On the plus side, by making use of all these devices, and having to learn how to transfer information from phones and computers of assorted makes and generations, I reckon I am giving my brain a great fitness and agility session.

ps Lest you think I am a complete dinosaur let me assure that I once even took a 'selfie' then nearly collapsed on the spot when I viewed it and saw my late 92 year old aunt looking back at me, every wrinkle deeply etched in her face, deep bags under her tired eyes and when did her hair get to be that white and her teeth so, well, yellow?   Hit the delete button quickly, trouble is, somehow that file got shared to my brain and it seems to be protected, delete doesn't work.

Tuesday, 16 January 2018

Nooooo... You can't Make Me

This poor dog of mine really doesn't like to get his feet wet.  He flung himself backwards and dug his heels in, tail lowered and between his legs.   
A passerby could have been forgiven for thinking that I was being mean to him.
In his opinion I was being very cruel, after all, I know that he doesn't like water, don't I?
The local fields, which we normally walk, are wet, wet, wet.   The rain has come down and the local clay soil is very slippery and awash with muddy water.
I have a tendency to go base over apex in such conditions, so for both our sakes,
I was trying to be kind by walking him along our quiet lane to a much drier, local bridle path on slightly higher ground.
A short walk down to the watermill, up the hill and branch off to the right
along a green bridle lane.

We finally made it this far, perhaps two or three hundred yards, it was hard work.      I stopped and had a chat to the mill owner, and a local farmer.       They were highly amused at the sight of me having to coax and cajole a dog to take a walk, their grins said it all.    I'm used to it, I have been coaxing and encouraging Toby dog for over four years now.   It is just as well that I am patient.

The mill itself looks as though it is sitting in a huge pond of weak tea and the water is very high, much to the delight of the wildfowl.

Soggy, boggy and gloomy.   Can't blame Toby for being less than enthusiastic really. 

I noticed there is a lot of rubbish strewn along the road between the railway bridge and the turn off to the watermill.   I intended to go back with my little grabber gadget and a couple of bags - one for recycling, the other for rubbish, but the heavens opened and I decided to save that little treat for another day.   Lucky me.

Instead I went to visit a couple of local friends and this little chap, Bill.

Other than that, I did a little baking ready for when my grandchildren come back from school (we have them for a couple of hours, until their parents come home), tried to do my best Florence Nightingale nursing for my husband, he's got bronchitis again, and that pretty much sums up my day in soggy Lincolnshire.

It rained heavily through the night.

I expect another less than sparkling day.   Thank goodness for books and a warm fireside.

Monday, 15 January 2018

Between the Covers

I believe that what goes on between the covers is much more important than the covers themselves.   That being said, I do enjoy playing about with them, so some of my instagram posts were my version of some recipe book covers.

None of these were carefully planned, I am far too disorganised for that.

Usually I would be trawling through my books, looking for a new way to tickle our tastebuds, or to use up a glut of fruit, when my eye would be drawn to an image like this one.   A quick glance at the fruit bowl and the dresser and I was off, playing.

I would dash around, gather an armful of appropriate props, and away I'd go.   Propping things up and trying to capture the spirit of the original cover.    It was fun and now that I am retired I feel free to play such silly games, alongside all of the things which have to be done.

This little vintage RNLI book is probably the simplest, and yet it took longer than all of the others to set up. 

It was fun.

For all that I love a good book cover, it is what is written inside which matters most.   I have a slowly growing collection of old/very old/relatively modern cookery books.   

Some are big and glossy, others are tiny, tatty, lack covers or illustrations.   It is this latter group which I find to be the most interesting.     They are mainly from the very early 1900's, through to about 1950's and have few illustrations, if any.  They are often printed on poor quality paper and are ragged, well thumbed, splashed, fragile and show their age and it is something of a minor miracle that they survived long enough for me to get my hands on them.

Many of the coverless ones contain recipes of the kind which call for sheep's feet, calves heads, or 'six pennyworth of meat from the butcher'.   Cake and biscuit recipes require only a short list of ingredients - in either small amounts or enormous quantities, depending upon the era and to whom the book was directed.

Others have been written by 'ladies', directed at households who couldn't afford a large number of staff and give the occasional suggestion for a kitchen supper, for cook's night off.

They are packed with social history.   More of this another time.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

My Knead for Pleasure

Several year ago my body gave up on alcohol.     It took me a while to realise, but eventually I decided that the price I would have to pay for drinking even a single glass of wine was far too high.     Chocolate is nice, but only husband is the chocoholic in our family.     Bread, however, is different.

Yes, it takes time and a little effort and organisation, but the reward is great. 

You can use a bread machine, or knead the dough with a mixer (and I sometimes do) but by far the best way is to get your hands in the bowl and simply enjoy the kneading process - or not, if you decide to go down the low-knead or no-knead route!    I use all these methods (bar the bread machine)  according to mood, or time available.

Nothing beats a good old traditional kneading session.    Some people work out their angst against the world, I don't.   I prefer to just enjoy the process and to think good thoughts.   Whatever works for you.

One tip I would give you is to be patient, don't be tied to rigid timings.  Sometimes the dough will rise more slowly - don't panic!     Give it time and, as long as you haven't forgotten to put the yeast in, it will rise!     

I am not in any way a great bread maker, but I do enjoy the process, it is a kind of magic.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Cooking with Florence

Fund-raising events almost always call for bric-a-brac, books, toy donations.   As a member of the village hall committee, and a willing helper for other groups, I tend to gather bits and pieces such as unwanted gifts or unloved toys so that I have a small stock ready for the next worthy cause comes along.     

The doll in this photograph belonged to my granddaughter but she no longer wanted her.   Dolly sat in my sewing room for a few months, somehow or other managing  to avoid being donated...   

I hold my hand up, for some reason I really like her, decision made,  she is staying.

If nothing else, in lieu of a captive grandchild she makes an excellent photographic model.

The cookery book to the left of the photograph was published in 1932, the small yellow one about 2004.    Two remarkably similar images.     I can't find an acknowledgement that it was borrowed from the original book, which seems a shame.

Meanwhile, Florence is busy rolling out her pastry, I hope she has a light hand.