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!

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

Bid Feasting Adieu

"When Christmas is ended, bid feasting adieu."

Happy New Year!
Health, Wealth and Happiness to one and all.

LINDA   I imagine this is how you used to present peacock to your grandchildren...?

Most of the Christmas clutter has been cleared away, some empty spaces filled with pots of hyacinths.     Owl Wood floor is covered with the spikes of snowdrops just waiting to emerge and yellow catkins dangle from the hazel trees.  The squirrels keep making forays into the garden, heading for the bird feeders.     They have been spotted by Sparky, but they are fully aware that she is trying to make herself invisible, as long as they don't forget, all will be well. 

By 8am this morning Toby and I were heading towards the watermill.     No matter what the season, it never disappoints. 

We took the same route as on my previous post, coming back through part of the slumbering village.

It wasn't slumbering last night, for by midnight there were whizz bangs and whooshes enough to rival those in London.      Twelve or thirteen years ago there were fireworks at the pub, but that was about it.    Over the years, it seems as though everyone has decided that they need to compete for the biggest bangs and the loudest whooshes...

I am still deeply immersed in the pile of books which I received for Christmas.   All bar one are second hand at the very least.    There are collected bundles of those old Victorian,  and first world war era, magazines which I enjoy so much, books about the effect the magazines had on the women who read them, another one about the lives of some of the women who wrote cook books, are you yawning already?    Explorations on a theme and a time which fascinates me.

For a bit of light relief, I have a brand new book, a gift from J and MingMing, Shark's Fin and Sichuan Pepper, by Fuchsia Dunlop.      A sweet-sour memoir of eating in China.   She made a vow  to eat everything she was offered, no matter how bizarre...   She is made of sterner stuff than me!

Talking of food, we are still using up the leftovers.   Homemade vegetable soup for tea -  thickened with a couple of blitzed, leftover jacket potatoes.   Crusty old bread diced up, sprinkled with olive oil and herbs, then turned in a pan until they become crisp and golden, a good handful of fresh parsley in the soup, a quick grate off a hard lump of cheese, and you have a meal fit for a king and so easy that even I can't go wrong.

Because of my passion for old cookery books, and books about the people who wrote them,  many people assume that I love cooking, they really couldn't be more wrong.    I do enjoy baking bread, but only when I am in the right mood.       Otherwise, I find that being expected to produce meal after meal after meal is tedious, to say the least. 

I am driven to produce good food to feed my family and friends, but that is not the same thing at all.  The years have seen me tied to producing far too many meals, for far too many people, it is no longer fun for me.

Adieu to the feasting!

How about you?     Do you enjoy cooking?   I would love to know.

I know several men who do enjoy cooking - Billy Blue Eyes for one, Cro is another, and of course there is my lovely neighbour and blogging friend, Dominic, another whiz in the kitchen.