Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Owl Wood and Gardens

The trees in the background  are one corner of Owl Wood, the foreground is our vegetable garden, everything made to look rather more attractive by the snow.

How many sheds does one man need?   I can see three sheds, one small barn, plus the poly tunnel, which is also half full of his 'stuff'! 

Oh, and let's not forget this one, just because it is tucked away in the corner...

Down by the herb garden, the rosemary is in flower.

There was a thin coating of ice on the pond.

Final one for today,

this photograph which was taken a couple of weeks before our wedding. 

Forty-two years ago today.

Happy Anniversary to my love.

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

Miscellaneous Household Tips - 1941 and Earlier

  • New shoes too tight?   Try placing a raw peeled potato inside, leave overnight and in the morning your shoes will fit comfortably...
  • Repair children's soft slippers by knitting a new toe-cap.  Cast on about 12 stitches and increase each end of the needle until the width required and knit enough to cover the toe-cap, then stitch on.  Any odd piece of four-ply wool will do.  Mrs Stanley.
  • To make white salad cream without eggs use a small tin of condensed milk, one teaspoonful of olive oil, one and a half teaspoonfuls of vinegar, one teaspoonful of mustard, and one teaspoonful of milk to thin the liquid.  Miss E Patterson.
  • When meat is scarce, boil together split peas, lentils and rice (or split peas and rice without lentils).  If possible buy unpolished rice.  (But where can this be found in England?)  The Rev W Grange White.
  • Always wash new stockings before wearing them.  The washing toughens the material of which they are made, and so they will wear longer.
  • A piece of strong net, the same colour as the stocking, cut larger than the hole, makes a good foundation for a large darn.   Tack the net on the inside of the hole and darn in and out on the right side until the hole is well covered.
  • Clean your rainproof coat by rubbing with hot salt, applied with a clean piece of flannel.  Turn the flannel as it gets soiled.
  • To clean Crape.  Rinse the crape in ox-gall and water to take out the dirt, and then in clean water.   Finally, place in gum-water, to stiffen, then beat it between the hands until dry.
  • For receding gums, rinse the mouth several times a week with tincture of myrrh, a few drops added to a little water.   Use this at night, and in the morning, use salt and cold water as a mouth wash.
  • Hair can never be glorious unless it is well groomed.  The crowning glory of a woman should shine like the coat of a thoroughbred racehorse.   Constant brushing with clean brushes, proper lotions, careful shampooing and never drying the hair by a fire, but with warm towels, will keep it in good condition.
  • Clean porcelain sinks with paraffin, washing well afterwards with carbolic soap and water to get rid of the smell.
  • A home-made clothes cleanser can be made by taking about 20 ivy leaves, first washing them, and then steeping them for about 2 hours or so in a pint of water.   This liquid should be strained, and it will restore the freshness to most kinds of cloth.    It should be applied with a nailbrush.

NB  Please do not try these at home!

Monday, 26 February 2018

Sun Warmed

The Beast from the East is blasting the back of the house, determined  to  try and find a way in around the edges of the boot room door.

Several small falls of snow have magically transformed the garden from winter-ugly to white and lovely.    There's still not enough snow to make a snowman though, darn it.

The animals all had to be 'encouraged' to go outside this morning as  they took one peep at the strange white stuff then leaped back into the room.     Now all three are vying for prime position in front of the log burner. 

There is a big pan of soup simmering on the Rayburn and we have bread which I baked yesterday.     My husband has been chopping logs and refilling the log and kindling stores.    Most importantly I have plenty of cat and dog food in the pantry, so they won't resort to eating us.   I think we'll survive.

Why does this country go into full panic mode over a few snowflakes?  We must be quite a laughing stock.

I am dreaming of milder weather and sun-warmed produce from the garden.   Instead of the snow-scene photographs I took this morning, here's a photograph I took last summer.

Summer days when we eat according to what is ripe and ready in the garden and the poly tunnel.

Much nicer than enduring icy fingers as I try to pull up a few leeks, from the frozen earth,  for a simple pot of soup. 

Roll on those days of sunshine, warmth, and home-grown food.

Sunday, 25 February 2018


A ship's bell hangs alongside three rather more ancient bells in the bell tower of a beautiful Lincolnshire church, St John the Baptist, Belleau.

It came from a full-rigged sailing ship "Bacchus" which was wrecked not far away, on the east coast of England.   She was carrying a cargo of timber, sprang a leak and was grounded.

Image from and State Library of Queensland

Bacchus, launched in 1867 from Liverpool, was wrecked in November 1902.    The image above shows the wreck which was taken to Hull.    In 1903 she was sold to be broken up - £1150.

Her bell was bought at auction, I believe, then gifted to a small tin chapel in a village churchyard.

When the tin chapel was no longer fit for purpose the bell was moved to a beautiful church less than half a mile away and there it hangs today.

This church was rebuilt in 1862, of chalk, the exterior is faced with greenstone from a few miles away.

This old crusader watches over the place.   More of him another time.

Coincidentally, the church organ was installed in 1867, the same year that ss Bacchus was launched.

Linking today with Inspired Sunday     

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Making Music in The Wolds

This nondescript building is tucked away in the heart of a very small quiet village, deep in rural Lincolnshire, an area of outstanding natural beauty.

Plain it may be, but the building  hides a big secret.   
Don't tell anyone, but some of the big names in the world of music come here to record their albums.  All the modern, high-tech recording facilities they could wish for, great accommodation, superb peace and tranquility.

When they call in at our local pub they are assured of anonymity as they enjoy the warmth of the blazing log fire and a drink or two.

They certainly won't be mobbed or pestered, although, one would have to be blind to miss them...

Studio clients have included  Arctic Monkeys, Paul Weller, Wet, Wet, Wet, Shirley Bassey, Billy Bragg, OMD, Kaiser Chiefs,  Lindisfarne,  The Darkness, London Grammar, etc, etc. 

I've just pulled out a few names but there are hundreds more. 

Fun in our little rural backwater.

You just have to scratch the surface and there are stories everywhere.

Friday, 23 February 2018


Hearing loss, or to put it the old fashioned way, deafness, has a profound affect on relationships. 

Communication is changed.

Misunderstandings occur.

Patience is challenged, frustration creeps in.  Quick quips are wasted when they have to be repeated several times.    Ordinary conversation is made more difficult, especially in a car, or if I am on the 'wrong' side (one ear is worse than the other)...and yes, he does wear his hearing aids.

Small talk, inconsequential chatter, melts away.  One gets out of the habit when the effort required in rephrasing or repeating is greater than the original content.   

Patience is tried, on both sides.

Inevitably, the flow of conversations change, the content, the language and the tone.   Frustration, hurt, loneliness creep in.

This is when you have to dig deep and work at a relationship.

ps  It also helps if you find television programmes with subtitles.

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Lincolne Shyre and Weather Lore

This is a very early map of Lincolne Shyre/Lincolnshire, dating from around 1600.

The original is beautifully coloured (I have seen a copy) but this image is taken from a black and white photograph in a very old magazine.

Beautiful as it is, I'm glad I don't have to use it to navigate my way around the byways and tracks of Lincolnshire.

For that I print relevant sections of the OS Explorer map,  which is just as well, because sometimes public footpath markers mysteriously disappear. 

Today was was a case in point.    I came over the hills, through fields with spectacular views punctuated by copses of ancient trees.     We were following a plethora of public right of way signs, down a steep hillside and out onto a quiet village lane.  No signs in sight.     Luckily,  I knew I had to turn left, so I did.

I passed a small handful of very quaint cottages with outbuildings, but then the lane disappeared and became a beautifully mowed green swathe bordered by a neatly clipped low privet hedge on one side and a cottage on the other.

I went back along the lane, tried a few other lanes and footpaths, none of them felt right.

Returning to the original grassed lane I decided that it had to be the correct one -  took a deep breath,  then ventured into what is really the cottage garden.   I fully expected an irate cottager to tell me that I was trespassing!

Thirty yards further on, round a bend, there was a public footpath marker.  I had followed the correct path.   Phew!

This photograph was taken when I was even further along the footpath, if you look to the right, middle height, you can see the neatly clipped privet hedge and the green sward of the garden.  The land beyond the hedge is also their garden, they have a public right of way and bridle path running right through it.

This village was listed in the Domesday Book as having 21 households, it has a few more these days,  but not too many.   

The original village church was yet another one which was destroyed by Henry Vane, back in 1658.   He also had the church dismantled in the village I live in, he used the stone to build the manor house. 

The path led through a glacial overflow valley and a site of special scientific interest, because of the soils, habitats and flora.    All I know was that it was muddy after all the recent rain.   There was a chalk stream running through the bottom of the valley, lovely old trees, and shelter from the worst of the cold breeze.

Once through the valley we skirted some more old trees, then found ourselves back out on a lane, a lane which would lead us to Henry Vane's old estate.  Just a few fields more then home.

We had walked about 6 miles.

There is a countryman's saying, found in another old magazine(!), 

"If cold sets in on February 22nd, it will last for fourteen days."

Today is the day.   The garden is heavily frosted and the weather men are burbling on about some cold weather settling in for the next ten days or so.    

These old countrymen knew a thing or two!

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

Silk Puff Quilt

Progress is slow, but it is growing.    
I have set myself a target of constructing ten puffs every day.
(I cut them all out long ago)


Pin them together,
sew them on the machine
stuff them
then throw them into the large hamper.

There they will languish/mock me,  until I have the time
 a sorting and arranging session,
followed by a sewing marathon
add them to the quilt.
It is growing,

It is simple work, just tedious.

I love the loud and clashing colours,
they will 'glow'
a slightly dark,  very plain,  north-facing bedroom.

With most of my other quilts I have carefully selected colours
gone for the tasteful and quiet.

This time I have gone for colours and patterns
which have something to say for themselves
I am very happy with the way it is turning out.

A puff quilt.

Proof that not quite all my time is spent walking the dog
meeting with friends
doing housework/gardening
attending meetings
taking care of the grandchildren! 

(Proof for myself, that is.)

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

The Misery of Freedom

"Her chains became the silken bands of delight, and freedom itself was misery."

She was a beautiful and wealthy Spanish lady.

He was Sir John Bolle
Elizabethan adventurer and army officer.

In some versions of the tale, she was his prisoner,
(in Cadiz)
whom he treated with chivalrous courtesy,
as was his nature.

(Another version says that he was
a prisoner of the Spanish.)

Before long, she found herself falling in love with him
 begged that he take her away with him.

Gently, he broke the news to her that he was already married
 to a woman in Lincolnshire
and would not break his marriage vows.

"I in England have already A sweet woman for my wife;
I will not falsify my vow for gold or gain
Nor yet for all the fairest dames that live in Spain."

She showered Sir John and his wife with gifts of
jewels and embroidery.
her heart broken, she became a nun
spent the rest of her days in sorrow.

...or so the story goes.

She was
Donna Leonora Oviedo.

There is a very lengthy ballad written about it
"The Spanish Lady's Love."

The museum in Louth, Lincolnshire
 have a copy of a portrait of  Donna Leonora,
 with a sumptuous red silk bedspread
which she gave to Sir John and his wife.

Why on earth am I warbling on about this?

A couple of days I walked across the fields and along the quiet lanes
to this little church set deep in the countryside.

The estate  and the church belonged to Sir John Bolle.
The Manor house is just to the right, beyond the trees.

Sir John died in 1606, aged 44.
It is said that the Spanish Lady's ghost appears at Sir John's other home, in Louth.

Monday, 19 February 2018

Going Round the Bend

Most of my walks are done off-road but occasionally we come across a bit of tarmac.   This very quiet lane leads from a tiny village to the old mysterious and empty manor house and farm.  It rarely sees any traffic. 


On one side of the lane is a hill.   I scrambled up, through brambles and shrubs, and found that it is where St Mary's church used to stand, until it was demolished in 1976.    Research tells me that there has been a church on the site since the 13th century - and no doubt it was regarded as a special place long before then, too.     There will have been quite a few 'lords of the manor' buried here, through the centuries, as well as villagers.

Impossible not to feel the echoes of time, people, and place.

I explored a little, took some photographs, tried to read the names on the gravestones and felt sad.

Time to turn around and head home.

We slip around the side of those gates, up past the converted coach house (on the left) and then veer right, passing between a large pond and the old manor house, before picking up the bridlepath which leads  through fields and the way home.

But first we walk past this old farm building, it has the most wonderful old sagging beams, a curved brick wall which is built into a bank, then another building facing it. 

Unfortunately the yard between them is ankle deep in water at the moment, a definite no-go area for Toby, so no decent photographs. 

Once again, it is all but impossible to ignore the feel of the place and the old farm.

Back to the duck pond and into the present.

"The rain it raineth", today. 

The fields will be very slippery and soggy so we'll  have to content ourselves with a different walk, deliberately seeking out the tarmac lanes. 

Dry days see us going further round the bends, we'll be getting our explorer badges before we know it.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Stitching Presidents

At a recent informal gathering
an older lady, a former village schoolteacher,
 came in to the village hall
hauling an enormous shopping trolley behind her.

We knew it must contain something interesting
because it had taken a lot of effort to drag it there
she only lives next-door-but-one to the hall.

A large and unwieldy bundle of white sheeting was extracted
and laid gently on the tables...

...carefully unfolded
 to reveal a large pure wool tablecloth
which has been embroidered with the names of all
the past Presidents of our village branch of
the Women's Institute.

The branch was formed in 1920
 was extremely well supported for many years.

That support gradually dwindled
in 1998 the village branch was closed.

The corners have some white embroidery motifs which really lift the piece.

It's a really excellent piece of village history
of which
the woman with the trolley (a former President, for many years)
 has been guardian
since the branch was disbanded.

She feels that as it is a piece of village/WI/village hall history,
it should be out on display,
for the village
not left hidden in her wardrobe.

We all agreed.
I emailed the chairman of the Village Hall Committee
and he also agreed.

It will be displayed on a wall
for all to see and enjoy.

Such a shame that there is even less support for village hall activities
than there was when the local WI was disbanded.

Even the village hall committee has diminished in numbers
 people are dropping out like flies,
 others are reluctant to join in.

Signs of the times.

ps  I like the fact that one of those former presidents lived in this house,
many years before we bought the place. 

Friday, 16 February 2018

Chinese New Year in Lincolnshire

Today we celebrated Chinese New Year with our Chinese daughter-in-law and the rest of our family.

Chinese hot pot! 

A delicious way to enjoy a long and leisurely meal. 

Select what you want, put it into the pot of boiling and spicy stock, then chat while you wait for it to cook.

The round brown things are not potatoes, they are gluten balls, doughy puff balls of delight.

Loads of vegetables, salmon, prawns, non-meat meatballs, thinly sliced beef, greens, beans and mushrooms.     Lots of crunchy salad to nibble while you wait.

It is difficult to keep track of just how much you eat. 

Conversation and laughter flows as chopstick skills are put to the test when some bits sink without trace and have to be fished out.       Luckily we had a few wire net scoops on hand, just in case.

Much, much later  we cleared the table and put out fruit and sweet treats, trying to stick to auspicious red, gold and round shapes as much as possible.

Somehow we all managed to squeeze in an extra treat or two. 

I made sure that everyone took home all the tempting goodies, so that the only round thing left in this house is some fruit, and me.   

Double exercise for me tomorrow.

Happy Chinese New Year!

Blue Sky Thinking

The hours which I spend walking the dog are never dull.     If the sun is shining and the sky blue then no matter how cold it is I feast my eyes on the countryside and keep a  watch out for hares, rabbits, stoats/weasels (I can never remember which is which)  squirrels and the occasional fox or a deer. 

I scan the hedgerows and the field margins, looking to see what will soon be stretching and unfurling in the late winter sunshine, while the dog investigates all the new scents and trails.   Once in a while he'll run after a pheasant for all of a few yards, just to show me that he could get it if he really wanted.   Mostly he is content to sniff and snuffle around.

Occasionally we come across a dog walker, a horse and rider or,  perhaps, a farmer driving his 4x4,  or a tractor, as he drives around checking on outlying gas guns.    Pleasantries must be exchanged, even if it just a simple wave of the hand, though often it is a full conversation.

Then we can get back to the job in hand.    Toby can go back to exercising his nose and I can let my mind wander while my legs walk and my eyes feast themselves.

If the weather is horrible, especially if it is a day of bone-seeping icy cold wind and rain then  dog walking becomes a real chore which must be endured.    It is  then that I distract myself, from  physical and mental discomfort  by writing blog posts.

My very best posts.   

Such a shame that none of them ever make it onto the blog. 

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Book Finds

Often I come away from the charity shop with nothing, occasionally I strike pure gold on the bookshelves.    Like this scruffy old one which set my heart beating a little faster with excitement.

The author was Mrs Arthur Webb, she was a writer, a broadcaster, and a popular speaker and cookery demonstrator.         She collected traditional recipes, especially those which had been hand down through family lines.

This little book is filled with tips on economizing and managing, using every last crumb to feed the family, lots of social history and a fascinating read.

Completely different, but one I haven't read before is this Lillian Beckwith book which tells of her childhood in the early 1900's.   I have posted before about her island life books.   Her style of writing is a delight and makes for a quick and easy read.

There was also a nice little Dryad book about simple doll making,  and then I found Map of a Nation which tells the fascinating story of how the Ordnance Survey maps were drafted - a book I should probably have read before I began yesterday's map of our local area.

That's my reading sorted for a day or two, all for the princely sum of £1.50.    

ps I have no idea why the fonts and background colours are so mixed but I haven't the time or the patience to sort it out right now.

Wednesday, 14 February 2018

Mapping my Way

(click to enlarge)

The weather is foul.   It is an afternoon for staying in by the crackling log fire and keeping warm while the wild wind hurls rain at the windows and moans down the chimney.   

I am amusing myself by roughing out a (very inaccurate and not to scale) map of some of the highlights of my normal walking territory, another one for my Owl Wood Journal.

I'm keeping one eye on the amazing figure skaters at the Winter Olympics, fabulous stuff.

Everything is very low key today.   Our semi-feral cat, Sparky, the black and white one, went out this morning as normal.   An hour and a half later she limped in, obviously in pain, and hid herself out of reach.    The feral part comes out in times of stress, but at least she has come home.

We left her for an hour or so, during that time she got herself into her basket and had a wash.     I have had a quick appraisal and a gentle feel around; it is her back left leg, there is no blood and very little swelling.     Right now she is sleeping.    Later I'll examine her more thoroughly.

Fingers crossed it is nothing more than a sprain.

(This is the original, it may be easier to see.)

February 14th, 1946 and a Love Letter

I was recently sorting through (yet another) biscuit tin filled with old photographs, passports, and papers which had belonged to my late aunt and uncle.    The papers ended up with me when they died, as they had no offspring of their own.   

Folded small among the papers was this large and very handsome certificate, which I am tempted to have framed.

It states that on February 14th, 1946 my late uncle, then aged 21 and serving in the Navy, on a Tank Landing Ship, crossed the equator.

I hope the ceremony was fun and that the penalties were not too unpleasant, although I have read that sometimes the ceremonial dunking and trials could be rather cruel, all disguised with laughter and ceremony.          I wish we had known to ask him about it.

He was a lovely quiet and very modest man who never spoke of the years he spent at sea during the war.

His wife, on the other hand, who served in the WRAF, definitely won the war single-handedly!! 
They were chalk and cheese.   

He was four years her junior, a 'toy boy', as she sometimes joked. 

While looking through their papers, I found a letter. 

A love letter from him to her.   It was very simple, very moving, especially as he really did not like writing, although he loved crossword puzzles and quizzes.       His education had been cut short as he had to leave school at the age of 14, to support his mother and two sisters, when his father died.   He was a true grafter all of his life.     

The letter is very beautiful and would have made a perfect post for today, but I know he wouldn't have liked that.    For the moment it remains safely tucked away in a biscuit tin.    There is nothing shocking about the letter, it is all very sweet, but it does reveal how in love he was. 

I hope you all have a wonderful Valentine's Day.

Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Still a Mystery

Yesterday I had the chance to chat to four local historians, two of whom were born and bred in this area.    I was trying to find out a little more about this beautiful, but long empty, old manor house.

I got very excited when my friend, a retired farmer, from a village just a mile away from the house said that she had been to a party in there. 

Unfortunately she was just seven years old and all she can remember is that the house was very dark and gloomy.     That would have been in 1953/4, so almost a decade before it began a life of emptiness.

No help there, but a tiny link to the place.

The second photograph shows the back of the house, not nearly so many windows as at the front, so yes, I can imagine that there are probably some long, dark corridors in there, probably very spooky for an impressionable child.

Given that the heart of the house is some three or four hundred years old, there must have been some very grand 'do's' there.     

I'll keep picking away at the puzzle, someone must know why it has been empty for so many decades.

Almost immediately behind the house there is a large mound - the buried remains of a motte and bailey castle.   A motte and bailey castle was a medieval fortification.  This one dates from 11/12th century.   The motte is about 8 metres high, the platform is about 70 metres in diameter.   It is surrounded by ditches which are about 14  metres wide.    Toby and I explored part of the ditch system - they are dry ditches - very deep and very wide.   

It doesn't exactly look impressive these days.   The mound is fenced off with barbed wire,  impossible for me to get inside, especially with Toby in tow.   

Despite the underwhelming photograph, this was some serious defensive construction work!

This area is so steeped in history, something new to learn every day.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Something in the Cocoa

There must have been something in my cocoa last night.   I slept well, but had a series of strange dreams with disconnected scenes and an unusual cast of characters.

Kylie Minogue was there.   In a coffee shop, seated at a table just behind me.   She had to endure people asking for autographs, others who though they had won the right to an embrace and a selfie.  She looked exhausted.

No idea why I dreamt about her, I don't listen to her music and have never particularly followed her exploits.   

Deeper into the cafe there was another woman who kept playing with the ring tones on her telephone, trying to find one to suit.  She was irritating everyone in the cafe, including the two men who sat at the front of the shop at the cash desk.   The tunes were loud and clear - and no, it wasn't my phone ringing!

The funniest clip of all was when I found that my younger brother had unexpectedly called in for a visit.   He lives on board a narrow boat, not just any narrow boat but one which he and my older brother lovingly renovated a couple of years ago.

Younger brother now sails the canals and waterways of England.

I opened the door to Parsonage Cottage and found that my younger brother was outside, which was a wonderful surprise.             His luggage, though, had me falling about in stitches.    It consisted of about ten large suitcases all permanently attached to one another, in a very long conga line, perfect for life on a narrowboat, he said.