Sunday 23 February 2020

A Fairly Typical Start to the Day

I get up with the larks - usually around 5.15am, depending on how hungry senior cat Sparky is.  She has developed a method of loudly picking at the kitchen/hallway door and once started, she doesn't stop until someone gets up to see to her. 

I am the weakest link.

Just as well I am also a morning person and have always preferred early mornings to late nights.

Naturally, Toby and Millie then decide that if I am up and about then I can take care of them, too.   So I feed the cats, let Toby out to stretch his legs and puss-cat Millie usually goes with him.   She doesn't actually go anywhere, just sits on the back doorstep, waiting for him to come in again.    Then they both demolish their breakfasts, while I empty the dishwasher and boil the kettle to make a very strong coffee.

I check emails, read newspapers online, flick through a few blogs and then get ready to face the day.

If the schools are on holiday then I am free to go out whenever I like with Toby.    On school days I have to cook breakfast for two of my grandchildren and keep an eye on them until the school buses come along.

Toby and the girls take the opportunity to take another nap, worn out after their early start, no doubt.

Once I am free to roam the fields I head off to wherever my feet lead me. 

Sometimes the wild wood calls to me,  other days I may go along by the beautiful watermill, then out along the bridle path, or through the fields  to the lovely old dovecote or, perhaps, take a quick walk round the church on the hill.

I enjoy all of those walks and many others, too.   Me and the dog.   He is very good company, he doesn't expect any conversation but we do exchange many glances!

Often I don't meet another soul, occasionally I see a friend, or someone I know and I will stop for a quick chat.    I enjoy the chats but I am more than happy to walk by myself and enjoy the peace and freedom.   

An hour later, refreshed and reinvigorated we return home.  I kick off my muddy boots, then set to work getting the mud and water off Toby.    His reward is a couple of dog biscuits and as I give them to him I often wonder whether it is the walks, or the biscuits which he enjoys more.

My reward is a cup of tea and a bowl of porridge, housework awaits.

Of course the downside of being summoned so early is that by 9pm my energy levels have dropped and I head to bed.    Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz almost as soon as my head touches the pillow.

Friday 14 February 2020

Wild Garlic Sighted!

I was surprised and delighted to find wild garlic leaves sprouting in Owl Wood today.  Right now the leaves are only three or four inches high, but they smell deliciously garlicky.    I found this photograph on one of my old posts, a wonderful reminder of what the wild garlic will look like in a few weeks time.

It shouldn't be too long before I can forage a few leaves to incorporate into my baking and cooking.  Wild garlic is one of those seasonal delights to be enjoyed for a few weeks and then it is the turn of something else.   Seasonal eating of the nicest kind.

Wild garlic bread will be on the menu - featuring chopped leaves and flowers.   Delicate and delicious!


Perhaps best of all, there will be wild garlic scones - chopped wild garlic leaves, a little English mustard powder, a pinch of Cayenne Pepper, and grated Parmesan Cheese.     Far too delicious to be legal!

I love snow and all the forms
Of the radiant frost
I love waves, and winds, and storms,
Everything almost
Which is Nature's, and may be
Untainted by man's misery.

Stay safe this weekend.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Billy Butlins in the Village Hall

Probably the most attractive things in our little village - are the village signposts!

The train is there because we had a railway station until Dr Beeching closed the line down.

The horse, the blacksmith and anvil are shown because up until a year or two ago we still had a working village blacksmith.

Then we have two horses ploughing a field - around here is all farmland; battered old horse shoes (probably made by our very own blacksmith) still occasionally turn up in the fields.

I know many of you have heard some of this before, but this is for the benefit of  my new readers, to set the scene... the village is very small, no shops now, the school has closed and the church was demolished in the 1600's, we still have a family-run village pub though.

We also have a tiny village hall - it used to be the Methodist Chapel.  In the old days the hall was used almost every day of the week for one group or another.    Women's Institute, Sewing Groups, Youth Clubs, Whist Drives, plays and performances, Talent Shows, Village Shows, Table Tennis, etc.   

Fair to say it was a lively place.

Different times.

Up until a couple of years ago we used to have a wonderful Village Show and a Christmas Bazaar.  Alas, even they have fizzled out now due to lack of support.

All is not lost, however...

Once a month the hall comes to life, okay, it may be merely an echo of times past, but we do our best.

Some of the older residents of the village meet there, to have a chat, eat cake, drink tea, and share some laughter.

Occasionally we will have a guest speaker, or a craft demonstration of some kind, most often we make our own entertainment.   Our local history buff sometimes bring along a collection of documents, photographs, booklets and leaflets of some kind and tells us what he has learned.   It is always interesting. 

His theme on Monday was Butlins holiday camps! 

Just a few miles further along the coast from us,  is Skegness - site of the very first Butlins  holiday camp, opened in 1936.   Part of the reason Billy Butlin chose the site was because Skegness was easily accessed by train from London.     One or two of the group recalled family holidays there, they had a wonderful time, shared lots of happy memories.

We sobered up a little, later. 

My lovely Miss Read (retired village school teacher) confided that she is no longer able to drive, can scarcely see to read, even with magnifiers and lights; she has blind spots and a very limited field of vision.     She will soon be registered blind.

I have a feeling that our little meetings, and the bonds of friendship which have been forged, are going to be even more important to her.   

Sunday 9 February 2020

Bits and Pieces

As I sit here in Parsonage Cottage, I can see the trees in Owl Wood rocking and rolling as the full force of the storm hits them.  The wind is one thing but, even as I typed that sentence, the rain has arrived.   Not normal rain, monsoon-style rain.  I cannot even see the trees right now because there is so much coming down.   All I can say is thank goodness those trees are not in leaf or there would be tree casualties.

Millie, the little ginger cat, has leapt up onto the back of the sofa and is staring at the window in total bewilderment at the noise and the rain.    I am thankful that I managed to squeeze in a very short walk around the garden (so that Toby could 'stretch his legs') before this lot arrived.

The polytunnel has suffered a cut from falling debris, easily remedied with some tape.   The gate between the vegetable garden and Owl Wood has blown down, along with the fencing and the old church pew we had along there.

A lovely metal archway has blown down, but I am hopeful that the honeysuckle plant and the beautiful old clematis it supported can be saved.   The main bird table pole has snapped and fallen, the birds and squirrels were a bit miffed about that one, but right now they have a bigger problem to deal with, this torrential rain. 

That is the damage so far, along with lots of big fallen branches, of course, fuel for next year.

Ooops! spoke too soon.   The conservatory roof has developed a leak, or three.    Buckets and mops at the ready!   Never let it be said that I don't know how to have a good time.

Yesterday evening was also 'interesting'.     The log burner suddenly started puffing out smoke and fumes, then all the fire and fume/gas alarms started beeping and talking, adding to the drama and sense of emergency.

A back-draught had been created by the strength and direction of the wind.   We were being well and truly kippered.

Windows and doors were flung open, never mind that there was a gale howling around.     Ultimately the log burner had to be emptied of logs and hot ash...  Fun, fun, fun!

A new cowling must be bought to fix the problem, even though the original one has always coped admirably before.  No, the chimney doesn't need sweeping, it was done less than a month ago.

Back to the biscuits, TED's meeting tomorrow, my day to do the refreshments, so I made a batch of Lincoln biscuits from a recipe I found in a 1980 Lincoln Cathedral Cookery Book.     The biscuits are mild ginger, shouldn't be too much for anyone to cope with. 

I have also baked some tiny cheesy scones, for those who don't have a sweet tooth.

They are packed with flavour and are far too delicious.   I will be glad to get them out of the house.   They are such a temptation.   

I can 'hear' one of my old Domestic Science teachers, Miss M, from the Isle of Lewis, telling me off for using a fluted cutter for a savoury scone.   Ah, well!  Guilty as charged.

Tuesday was the day for the monthly visit by the mobile library.   They were ten minutes late, but as it was a dry day I didn't mind the wait.

I had a pile of pre-ordered books waiting for collection and I pulled a couple more from the shelves.   

It seems that the service is changing for this rural route.   No longer will a van trundle along to wait in the village for one and all.

Instead, there will be a transit van (the same one they currently use, but with only the driver) which will trundle along to park up by our house gate.   It will bring any books which I may have ordered, plus I get to have a quick browse.   It will stay for ten minutes, no longer.  If I am not at home then the books can be left in a box in the barn.

I have mixed feelings about it.   Yes, it will save me from having to lug my books all the way along the road into the village (no footpath, so muddy in the winter, but especially dangerous in the summer when drivers have the sun in their eyes) but it feels like a real diminution of the service, even though it will make things easier for me.

This is a photograph of Toby, Sparky and Millie.   I took it a few days ago when they were all on 'high alert' because a lion or, possibly, a tiger had attacked Millie in Owl Wood - which you can see just beyond the summerhouse roof.    It was one of those days when we had bright blue skies, lots of sunshine, and a heavy frost.     

Stay safe.   Enjoy what is left of your weekend.