Wednesday 30 January 2019

Powder Puffs and Catkins

As I drove into Lincoln seven of the Red Arrows were zooming through
the skies in a large 'V' formation.
Lincoln Cathedral was their backdrop.
Fabulous start to the day!

The day has been cold, with an icy, biting wind.
Cold or not, dogs need their walks.   
Wrap up well, don thick socks, sensible footwear, gloves and a scarf.

Up the lanes, down the hill, past the little church, down by the old farm,
then along the river bank.

Cold, but dry.

Better than elsewhere, at least we don't have snow.

Good clean air and a bit of exercise
beautiful scenery
interesting buildings.

I enjoyed the walk, and so did Toby.

Home again.

A quick rub down with a towel
one dog biscuit
and a snooze for him,

a cup of tea and a browse through this book, for me.

Published in 1938, it was written by a man,
under the pseudonym of  'Aunt Kate'.

It is dated, tooth-achingly 'nice', but interesting.

One page for every day of the year.
A handy hint, a recipe, and a word of cheer.
All written as WWII was approaching.

Think 'Brief Encounter'.

Train Journey Tips

A very important article on a train journey is your ticket, 
use a handbag that provides a little compartment where you can put your ticket 
without fear of whisking it out with your powder puff.
Wear an invisible net over your hair to preserve its set on a railway journey.
Use a much heavier foundation or powder base than usual
to protect your skin from dust and dirt.
Carry a thick wad of cotton wool and a bottle of complexion milk.
The milk will clean up your skin and leave it as fresh as after a thorough wash-up.
If you are addicted(?) to headaches when travelling by train
carry frozen eau de cologne or lavender water.

Here is a cheery little note about Spring.

It is too soon to talk of springtime yet.
Before the bright and sunny days are with us there must be cruel days - cold and harsh.
But we are travelling towards the spring.
That unfailing process of revival is beginning.
Take courage.
Below the cold ground, under the sodden leaf, within the branch which seems so dead,
life is moving.
The days grow longer, the nights grow shorter.
January is done, and February is almost with us.
The spring will come and with all its singing birds
and we shall be glad!

How true this is.

I have spent a lot of time, this last week, working in Owl Wood, spring cleaning the woodland floor of all the branches and sticks which have fallen during the last few months.      Sounds easy, but it takes a lot of time and effort.

This foreground of this photograph shows what I have collected, it may help if I tell you that that heap of sticks and branches is between five and six feet high,all hauled up to an area where they can be crunched up to make some wonderful wood chip for the pathways and gardens.    Recycling.

The woodland floor is coming to life.   There are snowdrops everywhere, the early signs of the bluebells to come
and, most excitingly, the very earliest signs of the wild garlic!  Tiny, thread-like green strands, pinch them between your fingers and the smell of garlic is already in them.

One of the reasons I wanted to get the woodland floor cleaned up and ready, was so that I could watch the garlic grow, without danger of damaging plants by dragging fallen branches through them.

Spring is just around the corner.    All the trees and shrubs are preparing themselves.    It will happen.

Stay warm, stay safe, stay cheerful.

Saturday 26 January 2019

Lapdancers, Toe Tappers, Conspirators

Millie, the waif and stray from Dovecote Dell.  We already had a full house when she was found, abandoned, in the nearby hamlet which is home to the lovely old dovecote.

Some friends felt sorry for the skinny little ginger creature and took her in.   Work commitments took them away quite often, so they began to look for some other mug to have her.   They worked on me. Audrey, as she was then called, came to live with us.

We quickly decided that she was too round and sweet to be an Audrey, much more of a Millie.  Sparky simply called her "Invader".

There were a few yowls and skirmishes, some hissing and snarling, but after a couple of weeks things settled down.   It helps that Millie is not one of those cats who wants to dominate. 

Once Sparky, our senior cat,  had worked that one out, she tolerated the incomer.

Millie is a dreamer, often away with the fairies, slow to react, but happy to fit in.   If she has a secret desire, it is to be a dog. 

Whenever I take Toby out for one of our walks around the gardens, or Owl Wood, Millie follows.   If I am simply letting Toby out into the garden, she will follow him, or will sit on the garden wall, waiting for him. 

She just likes to hang around on the fringes.    Too much attention makes her feel uncomfortable, but the occasional stroke, or gentle pull on her tail, set her purring and chirruping. 

Yet for some reason, she does like to get between me and my laptop computer.    Don't blame me for typos, blame the cat!

While Millie is trying to sit on the keyboard, typing with all eighteen of her little toes, Toby stands on my foot. 

If I ignore him, he lifts his foot off and then does it again, and again.   Each time he exerts a little more pressure, until it becomes painful, so I have to pay him some attention, too.     The whole process is repeated, until I put the computer down and take them out and about into Owl Wood. 

Millie, the cat who isn't dominant in any way, becomes assertive when she has Toby in tow.   

Who leads?  Who follows?  What plans are they hatching?  Little tykes.

My plans for the weekend involve celebrating our granddaughter's seventh birthday, dog walking - without Millie, lots of reading and a bit of crocheting - and if I am feeling really self indulgent I will bake some bread.

I don't particularly want to eat it, but I love the process of making and baking it.

However you plan to spend your weekend, I hope you have a good one.

Wednesday 23 January 2019

Books Full of Secrets

I have spent much of the last week reading my old cookbooks, not looking for recipes, but doing a little exploration and detective work.     It hasn't take me very far, but I have enjoyed it.

These particular books are fascinating.    Old, well worn, so well worn that some of them are falling apart, but they are wonderful documents.   

They are mystery stories -  well, all apart from the red one, which belonged to my mother.   It was her handwritten recipe book, so I have known it since childhood and it is very dear to me.

The others are all early Victorian handwritten recipe books.     Some of you already know about my passion for them.    My exploration and enjoyment of them continues.   I am a poor detective, for I haven't really made much progress in finding out who wrote them.   I don't suppose I ever shall, but that doesn't matter.

I have managed to unpick a little of the story from one of the very worn ones, it was originally a maths exercise book for the daughter of the rector of a church in Derbyshire.     Just a few pages were used for the original purpose - beautiful penmanship - and then the rest is filled with recipes for food and medicines, written in a much less refined hand.

That particular book is a treasure, it tells so many stories, even though the name of the cook is not revealed.   There are kitchen suppers, enormous school dinners, Christmas and Easter feasts for vast numbers of people, along with many hundreds of recipes.     Cook had to deal with 56 stone pigs, so there are lots of recipes for salting hams, etc.      It isn't always the easiest of books to read, simply because the handwriting takes some getting used to, but it has been worth the effort.       There are more leads to follow before I have completed my detective work on that volume.

The tan leather one seems to have belonged to a 'lady' her handwriting is beautiful.

The scope of her recipes is somewhat different from that of the vicar's cook.

The one next to it,  with the worn and nibbled spine, reads more like the cookbook of someone who lived in a town, rather than out in the countryside, but I need to do further work on it.

The light coloured book on the left, is very interesting - well they all are - it always reads more like a book which was used for amusement.   Lots of recipes, especially for ice creams and water ices, lots of handwritten knitting patterns, lists of people attending a funeral, a poem about a very tragic accident when a man fell through the ice on a pond and died.       That particular incident was easy to check up on, and it did happen, at a big country house in Cheshire.        More leads to be followed up on in the future.

Each and every book is fascinating.      Not least, the big black one.   More of that another time.

Saturday 19 January 2019

Demolished, Forgotten, Remembered

Change happens.    Live anywhere for long enough and you can't help but notice.

These old buildings have gone, replaced by a six foot wooden wall.   

The ash tree which is providing the shadowing in the second photograph was one tree, not two.    Impossible to confirm from this photograph, but very evident when you examined the tree, which I did frequently,  has also gone. 


This old building has also gone, too.   Replaced by a high wooden fence.

Much more practical, totally understandable, but not nearly so charming!

I have a large archive of photographs of the old buildings, simply because I used to visit the place so often.


It was ramshackle, parts were beyond repair, but I am glad I took so many photographs before it was too late.

I was there, recording the demolition, of course, for the archives.

Why did I spend so much time around the place? 

The hay net may give you a clue.

I was visiting this handsome old chap.      The horse, of course!

Thursday 17 January 2019

A Bit Chilly

A few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about why I don't like wearing hats...

This was me this morning.     The road was icy and the wind was even icier.   So cold that I put on one of my hats when I went to walk Toby!

This afternoon is even colder, but the sun is shining.    It has been a beautiful, bitterly cold winter's day.   A nice change from dull and grey.

My feet were clad in these - special ice and snow boots - vital equipment if I am not to fall over on the icy roads!

Needless to say, this afternoon has been spent in Cosy Corner, working on a couple of projects. 

It feels like the height of laziness, but I am just going to have to live with that feeling.
I'm not budging - apart from cooking tea for the grands, of course.

I hope you are warm and toasty - or cool and comfortable - depending on which part of the world you live!

Found in the garden today.

Tuesday 15 January 2019

Hysteria and The Little Woman

Women have great reason to be thankful for their ignorance on some topics.   Our heads are not confused and distressed with the mists and mazes of politics; with a few painful exceptions, we are blessedly unaware that the country will be shipwrecked and the world overturned if X is elected and Y is not; we do not have to contend at elections, we know that the country has gone on and the Government endured though X was made an MP and Y was not.

The world wags in spite of it all, and we do not meddle with its revolutions.   Had I been blessed with a family of daughters I should earnestly have prayed that each one might be beautiful and womanly, and well fitted to preside over her home, leaving outside matters to others.

Home Notes
January 1894.

Dutiful wife and grandma that I am, I suppose this  means that I should do a little baking - ginger loaves full of fruit, candied peel and plenty of brandy. 

Please note:   If you get really desperate, or you don't enjoy baking,  you could always simply glug down the brandy, cut out the middle calories.

Put the cakes into the oven, clear away the mess, then get a good book and have a read as you enjoy the heady aromas of brandy and spices.     

Back to     Isobel's Home Notes:

Busy women are invariably the happiest.    It is in idle women that we find hysteria, depression, melancholy, and morbid feelings of all sorts arise.    Those who are not obliged to earn a living, and have not much work to do in the house, should take up a hobby, and occupy themselves steadily in one way or another.

Outdoor exercise for at least two hours daily should be taken.    Teaching poor children, making clothes for the poor, visits of charity, and visiting the sick are occupations in which all may feel that they are doing good.

To get up a girls' club is another good plan, and every woman should make a point of taking lessons in cookery, for the talent of cooking does much to promote happiness in life, as well as economy, should she have to set up housekeeping on her own account.

Can't imagine what may have prompted this post.

Saturday 12 January 2019

A New Cosy Corner

Florence loves to browse my books as she sits on the conservatory window sill and toasts her toes on the radiator.      She particularly likes the old handwritten ones, enjoying that feeling of connection, through the ink, to the hand which wrote the words so many years ago.

Cosy Corner, the place where I sit to read/write blog posts, do most of my craft work, read my books.     Until last year Cosy Corner was in the kitchen, next to the Rayburn.

Things have changed,  the Rayburn has gone and there is a log burner in the conservatory and this corner has become my favourite.   

Of course that means that the animals have all decided that it is their favourite, too.   If I leave my seat you can be sure that when I return, one of the cats will have taken it, even though they have very cosy beds of their own.

This week hasn't all been about reading or crocheting.      We had a few glimmers of brilliant sunshine the other morning, I was easily tempted out to do a longer walk than normal.   A walk which I haven't done since last autumn - through the village, around some fields, then up to the old gravel pits.

Trouble was, my feet decided to lead me up to the Wild Wood instead.   

This is one of several paths which lead out of the far side of the village.    Over the bridge, follow the muddy path through the barley field and then you can turn left or right.

My intention had been to turn right, but when I reached that point I found myself turning the other way instead.  The Wild Woods then!

We cut along the edge of a field,  crossed this little bridge.     One path leads to the Wild Wood, a remnant of the woodland which covered the land 10,000 years ago.   You can see it in the distance.

Wild Wood

As Toby and I approached, I could hear a woodpecker hard at work hammering on some trees, searching for his breakfast, busy as a workman with a jackhammer.      We didn't venture far inside because

of this.    Old bottles and jars, mangled metal.   In little heaps.    I assume that the trust which owns the woodland has started a programme of making the place clean and safe.    I couldn't risk having Toby cut his pads, so we stuck to the fields margins instead, made do with peering through the hedges and over the boundary ditch.   

Little glimpses of big fairy doors, glorious green moss, brilliant orange lichen.    A place of great beauty.   

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful weekend.

Thursday 10 January 2019

I Can See Clearly Now

I was driving along a quiet road with very little traffic, however,  the pavements were bustling with pedestrians, cyclists, skateboarders and scooters.       I found myself approaching a T junction when suddenly I lost my eyesight, I could see nothing.    All I could do was wind down the windows, listen for traffic and then pull out slowly and carefully because I wasn't 'allowed' to stop the car to get out.     It was terrifying. 

Then I woke up.

Amateur dream analysts could have a field day with that one.   

I am not aware of having any major life decisions to make and I am certainly not under any particular stress... unless you count having to decide between finishing off a puff quilt, which should have been completed a year ago, or starting on crocheting a throw and indulging in a bit of colour therapy as I find up my wool...

I do suffer from two kinds of migraine, one of them being the painless variety,  where the sight in one eye goes, to be replaced by a kind of firecracker worm which dances around for about 20 minutes.      I had one of those episodes last week, so perhaps that was on my mind.

I have had my eye test, nothing has changed much over the last two years, so all is well in the department.

Perhaps I should put a sprig of Rosemary under my head tonight - "The leves layde under the heade whanne a man slepes, it doth away evell spirites and suffereth not to dreeme fowle dremes ne to be afeade."    Taken from an old MS in the British Museum - A Garden of Herbs, by Eleanour Sinclair Rohde.


Monday 7 January 2019

Dry Toast and Cider in Owl Wood

Dry toast, warm cider, a song, and a jolly good beating with a stick were on the menu last night. 

For the apple trees.

Tradition dictates that the oldest apple tree should be wassailed on 6th January, to ensure a good crop in the following autumn.      We wassailed five of our apple trees - the oldest one, two young apple trees in another part of the garden, both young and not doing especially well, plus two newly discovered apple trees in Owl Wood. 

They are about 40 years old, but had been completely overtaken by all the other trees, so much so that they barely got any light, yet somehow they managed to survive, they just didn't look like apple trees, and nor did they bear enough fruit to be noticed. 

The year before last we had to have some trees, which had become unsafe, taken down.        It seemed drastic action at the time, but the positive impact on Owl Wood has been wonderful.

Access to the sunlight and energy, for the first time in many years,  gave these two apple trees and several others, the chance to produce some very nice fruit.         I decided they both merited a bit of extra help after all their years of struggle.

At the last moment we decided to include a crab apple tree which has endured a similar struggle that made six!

Stretching a point, perhaps?

I felt sorry for them all!      They were all given a piece of soaked toast, a hefty sprinkling of warm cider, a bit of a beating with a stick, and were then serenaded with the wassail song.    I hope they enjoyed it.

The neighbours think we are barking mad, and so we are!

The garage is really coming on now, the back of the roof has been completed, so has the front.

It has been a bit of a slog, but it is getting there.  Whether or not our daughter and son-in-law ever actually park their cars inside is another matter!

I have noticed that they keep calling it a barn, rather than a garage...

Three bays, two for them, one for us, plus a log store on either side. 

The local schools went back today, so childcare duties have begun again. 

Here is our oldest grandson waiting for the school bus.    He used to enjoy throwing/catching/juggling beanbags about while we waited.     It seems that he has caught the reading bug, at last!

His younger sister stuck with our game of catch the bean bag, enjoying the extra attention.

Sunday 6 January 2019


We haven't seen a glimpse of sunlight for days, the skies are unremittingly grey and dull.   The nearest I can come to some sunshine is this old recipe book, every recipe contains mustard, Colman's, of course.

The booklet was part of a very clever advertising campaign started in 1926, when Dorothy L Sayers was a young advertising copywriter.   She wrote most of the copy for the campaign, which was based around the fictional Mustard Club.

President of the club was Baron de Beef, other members were - Miss Di Gester, Lord Bacon, Augustus Gusto KC, Signor Spaghetti, Lady Hearty,  and Master Mustard.      People were encouraged to apply for membership of the club and at one time 10 women were employed to deal with the 2,000 applications for badges, which were received each day.    By the time the campaign came to an end there were 500,000 members of the club.

The 32 page booklet has sections of  recipes for fish, pig, mutton and beef, game and fowl, cheese, sandwiches, sauces and pickles, with mustard being used in all of them.

The rules of the Mustard Club were quite simple.

1.  Every Member shall on all proper occasions eat Mustard to improve his appetite and strengthen his digestion.

2.  Every Member shall once at least during every meal make the secret sign of the Mustard Club by placing the mustard-pot six inches from his neighbour's plate.

3.  Every Member who asks for a sandwich and finds that it contains no Mustard shall publicly refuse to eat same.

4.  Every Member shall see that the Mustard is freshly made, and no Member shall tip a waiter who forgets to put Mustard on the table.

5.  Each member shall instruct his children to "keep that schoolboy digestion" by forming the habit of eating Mustard.

The East Anglian Film Archive even has a spoof film - .Archive film reel showing members of the original Mustard Club. 

Friday 4 January 2019

Life or Death in the Countryside

The old watermill, 60-70 years ago.

The morning dawned grey and sullen, fairly fresh, but dry.    I decided to try my first 'big' walk since I attempted a triple salchow in the conservatory...!   

The watermill today

The walk was quite uneventful, one tractor and a pick-up truck passed us along the lane, but otherwise it was quiet.

I was meandering along the lane into Dovecote Dell, when a rabbit suddenly broke cover and raced across the road, hotly pursued by something.   I rarely remember to take spectacles out with me, so it took me a moment or two to realise that the tiny thing in pursuit was a stoat.     A rabbit is small, but a stoat is about one tenth of the size.    Despite that, it meant business, but so did the athletic rabbit. 

They zig-zagged across the lane, through the electric fence and back out into Brook Farm, then back again.  Sometimes the rabbit was well ahead, then the stoat would catch up and I feared the worst.   The last I saw of them was as they ran past the allotment gardens, past the farmhouse and into the back meadow.   I left them to it, there was nothing I could, or should, do about it.

On past the old dovecote and up a steep short hill and into the churchyard.

We made a quick circuit of the church, stopping to read a few stones, admire the view, and all the work that has been done in the grounds.    Occasionally old bones rise to the surface of the soil under the ancient yew trees, where countless generations of rabbits have excavated their homes.   None today.     I scrambled back out the side gate, past the Victorian post box which is set into the wall, and walked back to the dovecote.

The old dovecote looked a bit sad today, but that is just down to the light.

I followed the path through the farmyard, then walked along the bank of the  chalk stream, back into Little Bunting.

It was a joy to be out in the countryside again.     In all, I probably walked about three miles,  it was enough.   I was glad to reach home.   But I did it!    The first decent walk of the year.

The rest of the day was spent looking after two of my grandchildren, their mother was back at school and their father working with my husband, roofing the new garage.      Just as well I hadn't planned to do anything for myself!

The old dovecote on a summer's day!