Most of my photos look better enlarged - just click on the photo to do this

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Flowers and memories

The postman brought this new catalogue yesterday - it is so beautifully presented I feel like a kid in a sweetie shop just reading it!

I want it all! It did however remind me that it is a while since I posted about my childhood and how it is that flowers seem to trigger memories for me.

So the following is another of my occasional ramblings on childhood memories - if you are not interested in that just skip the rest of the post!

Geraniums – I love them love the bright cheery colours and the smell too I like. I just have to rub my fingers across the leaves and then sniff – Mmmm!. As with many other flowers they are very evocative to me of times past.

When I was about 7 we moved to Suffolk where my mother had taken a job as cook at Reydon Hall We had a little apartment on the ground floor just behind the kitchen where we had a bedroom with windows opening onto the garden, a tiny kitchenette and a small rather dark sitting room with a red brick fireplace. There was a toilet and washbasin off the bedroom and a bathroom for our use on the second floor. The sitting room was dark partly because the window looked out onto the roof of the boiler house and this flat roof had a sort of raised bed built on top which was at certain times of the year filled with red geraniums. So although the room was shaded by plants the colour was often bright and cheerful. I loved my life there and although we had our own sitting room I was more often to be found either outside in the grounds or in the kitchen with my mother.

The kitchen was a large cosy room with windows on two sides, a big table in the middle and a huge Aga at one end in front of which were usually to be found several cats sleeping! One of the cats went missing one day and we could hear her calling but couldn’t find her anywhere and some time later when my mother opened the bottom warming oven to put the plates in to warm in readiness for lunch there was Spikey! We thought she was dead but she revived and went on to be the mother of several more batches of kittens!

One of Spikey’s kittens was a little ginger tom and she adored him and continued to cart him round in her mouth long after he was too big for such indignities. She eventually managed to tear through the skin on the scruff of his neck - he was far too heavy to be dragged round and her teeth were sharp! Poor Bassie (Sebastian) had to have his neck stitched and bandaged by the vet after that and I think Spikey realised that the bandage wasn’t very nice in her mouth and gave up carrying him. He didn’t seem to be in any way affected by his rather odd beginning in life though he must have been a little slow on the uptake or he wouldn’t have put up with it would he?

Another cat was Sooty – a black cat as you’d expect - who was a wonderful mother and usually seemed to be either pregnant or to have a litter of kittens to care for. When she was pregnant she loved the taste of chocolate and especially liked KitKat fingers! She would allow me and the family’s children to dress her up and wheel her about in the dolls’ pram and one time she chose this pram for her confinement!

I was forever rescuing the mice and occasional rabbits which the cats brought into the kitchen and sometimes got bitten by the victim for my efforts – no thoughts then of disease or whatnot and nothing dire ever happened to me luckily.

There were extensive grounds and I used to spend hours wandering through the kitchen garden (never the main garden of course!) and sometimes chatting with the gardener who let me go with him into the greenhouses and help him to pick the tomatoes – another scent which always takes me back! Or I would go down the lane to visit my friend whose mother was a domestic servant at the Hall and lived in one of the tied cottages nearby - the hedgerows seemed then to be always full of dog roses and honeysuckle and the verges filled with white cow parsley and other wild flowers. Of course it couldn't have been like this all the time and in winter it was bleak with the wind sweeping in from the east coast but it is the sunny summer days I remember most luckily

Another flower I always associate with this time and place is the gladiolus for there were many in the garden and in season a big arrangement in the entrance hall (not that I got to see that very often as I was not allowed to venture through to that part of the house)

Me on the beach!

On Saturday afternoons my mother and I would go to Southwold as it was her time off. We would sometimes go down to the beach if it was summer and I would have a paddle and my mother would sit on the sand and rest then we’d have tea in a little cafĂ© I seem to remember was called Mrs Minnever’s or perhaps have an ice cream from one of the little shops – I particularly remember the pineapple flavoured ones which were my favourite. My mother would do any shopping she needed and we’d get the bus home and spend the evening in our sitting room having our supper and maybe listening to the radio.

We were living here when the King died and I well remember the sombre music interspersed with news reports all spoken in solemn tones that day on the radio – I didn’t understand why children’s hour was cancelled and why everyone seemed so miserable. See here for more on this day

Sadly my mother suffered a slipped disc and eventually required surgery. She was in hospital for 8 weeks and her sister gave up her own job and came to take over from my mother and to take care of me. Aunty Win and I used to cycle to Southwold to see her in the cottage hospital there but when she was transferred to the bigger hospital at Great Yarmouth for the operation we obviously couldn’t cycle and had to take the bus. I wasn’t allowed into the ward to see her – it was normal at the time that children were not allowed into the wards - and very distressing it was for me and I am sure for her too. My aunt was much stricter than my mother and I had to go to bed at 6.00 instead of being allowed to wait until 8.00 after dinner had been served as I had been used to doing with my mother – I hated those summer evenings when it was still light and I was incarcerated in the bedroom alone!

When my mother came out of the hospital having been told she would never work again we all three left Suffolk and went to stay at my grandfather’s house in the Forest of Dean. I can’t begin to imagine what my grandfather thought of this arrangement since having lived peacefully alone for so many years he now had two of his daughters and one of his granddaughters living with him so his peace would have been shattered.
I hope you haven't been too bored and that you might even have enjoyed your trip down memory lane with me (especially you Louise!)

Monday, 26 July 2010


Hope you all had a good weekend - we did. I met these beauties yesterday at the Craft and Garden show at Montacute House - the photo doesn't do justice to their beauty nor does it show the fabulous coal black eyes nor the haughty look they had! The knitwear made with alpaca yarn was stunning and fabulously soft but also horrendously expensive so I didn't buy any of it! I didn't even buy any fleece either as I wasn't sure I would be able to spin it properly - remember this?!

Many thanks to all those who commented on my previous Living without Electricity post - it was interesting to read your stories and to learn what is most important to you. I noticed that most of us Brits need our cups of tea so a kettle was high on the list! Whilst for those of you who live in different climes it was other things! For me I think it would have to be lighting at the touch of a switch!

Friday, 23 July 2010


We have one of these thingys in the kitchen which is supposed to tell us how much electricity we are consuming at any time. Glancing at it earlier I realised how grateful I am for electricity.

Back when I was a child of 8 or 9 my mother and I lived for a few years with my grandfather (you may remember a post in which I spoke of the time we lived in the Forest of Dean) My grandfather had lived in his rented cottage ever since his marriage back in the mists of time and had never seen fit to update his house and so there was no electricity, no running water in the house (there was a cold tap shared between the two cottages in the wash house next door) no gas, no nothing really! If you have never lived like that you cannot begin to imagine how difficult it is to do the simplest things which we all take for granted these days. Unless of course you can remember back to the 70s when we had the 3 day week.when power was rationed.

Imagine even a simple task like making a cup of tea with no electricity - at my grandfather's we had to boil the kettle on the coal fired range not only for making tea but also for any hot water for washing of selves, clothes, floors, dishes and so on.

This lamp is an electric version of the old fashioned sort and requires no parafin!

Imagine no radio or television! Imagine no lights - reading by lamplight was not easy and the lamps smelled of parafin and seemed to require much attention if they were not to make black sooty marks on the ceilings!
I was a child and accepted, as children do, these privations but I cannot begin to imagine how difficult washing must have been with no washing machine nor even any water except what was fetched in a bucket and heated in the kettle on the fire. Getting the washing dry too must have been a nightmare although I don't recall the festoons of sheets and so on that must have been hung around unless perhaps my mother just didn't attempt to wash things unless it was a good drying day!

Even when it did dry there was always the ironing - no electric iron just one of these heated on the fire!

Checking my facts just now I came across this article "A vision of Britain in 2020 - power cuts and the 3-day week" which suggests that we may see a return to rationed power by 2020 which is a scary thought!

Which electrical item would you find it hardest to do without I wonder?

I have my sister-in-law coming for the weekend and dinner is cooking itself in here - how easy is that? No coal to be humped, no fire to be lit, just switch on!!

Have a good weekend.

Oh and by the way for those who enjoyed the news items I see today that there is a headline saying "France WC squad suspended" - sadly it meant World Cup squad!!

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


Our computer home page is MSN and today I see that there are various newsworthy items which I thought I'd share with you along with some more cheering photos!

First up don't drink aloe vera juice containing something called ketamine since there have been a couple of women who have had severe reactions to the stuff and ended up in hospital.

Secondly don't use your mobile phone too much since it seems use of mobiles increases the risk of tintinus.

Some poor soul in Bosnia has been hit 6 times by falling meteorites and thinks he is being targeted by aliens

Only 1 in 10 police officers are visible - the mind boggles till you click on the article and find that it means the other 9 are beavering away behind the scenes!!

But this one I do like it says that women who are too houseproud are more at risk of breast cancer! Seems the use of air freshening sprays and mould and mildew removers are the main culprits. Since I use none of these I can rest easy till tomorrow I discover some other item of news which says that having too many dust bunnies or an untidy tabletop is likely to cause some illness or other!
The other day I came across an article telling me that if I were willing to pay £39.99 for a product which would increase the length of my eyelashes by up to 50% it would boost my self esteem and apparently so many people tried to buy the stuff on-line that the web page crashed!
I definitely need to get out more or perhaps to change the home page!!

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Afternoon in the garden

I have spent this afternoon in the garden - not wearing a shady hat and sitting quietly with my book oh no! I have been on my hands and knees doing a little outdoor housekeeping!

With my trusty knife in hand I have been weeding the gaps in the paving slabs and cutting the grass back from the edges. It was hot work in the sunshine but very satisfying and reminded me of the times I spent cutting round the irregular slabs of stone which made up the path to the front door of our house in France only this was easier as they were square slabs and not all different shapes!

This hydrangea came with us from our garden in France and we unearthed it as it was such a stunning dark blue but sadly it prefers to be pink here - I think I need to add iron or something to get blue flowers don't I?

Our beans continue to grow and are looking very pretty together - for those of you who are interested the red ones are Scarlet Emperor and the pink ones are called Celebration.

The bees seem to like them anyway and were busy buzzing round both colours!

This is the mauve one I told you about and when we looked to see what it was called we discovered it is not a runner bean at all but a climbing French bean called Cobra which would explain why it is not growing at the same pace as the others! I really should have a garden journal and write down all the names of what we plant and so on but I am not that organised I am afraid!

Not a lot of organisation indoors either - when we moved here and finally had a kitchen large enough to eat in I fondly imagined that at least one of the tables might remain clear and harboured thoughts of having a runner with a vase of flowers on the dining table like they do in the Ideal Home or Country Living or whatever!

Fat chance - now we have two tables covered with "stuff" which has to be cleared away to make room to eat or if anyone is coming! Still no table runner nor vase of flowers either although there is a fruit bowl in the kitchen even if some of the fruit is not in it!
Thank you for all you lovely comments re the Dorset buttons - for those who asked about a tutorial I can do no better than refer tyou to this website which is much better than anything I might be able to offer!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Mixed bunch!

Thank you for all your kind comments on my Dorset button post - They were a bit fiddly but fun to do and I had another 2 hour session this week in which I made these buttons.

The little silk fabric covered one is called a Singleton button and was reasonably easy to do though I wouldn't want to make them by the dozen! The blue and red wool one was actually 2 buttons one on top of the other with a bead in the centre. These were made without a ring and worked round 14 wraps round the finger of the wool itself if you know what I mean. And the green beaded one is just another variation of the previous week's buttons.

We have had rain! At long last the promised rain has arrived and the garden is all the better for it. I love the sunshine but not all the time and the rain is lovely after such a prolonged dry spell.

We planted a couple of new varieties of runner beans this year and as well as the usual red flowers we have these lovely salmon pink ones too. There are also some pale mauve ones but either they are not as vigourous or they are a later variety as they are not as far forward as the red and pink ones.

Here is a little posy of Lesley's marigolds (see this post) picked from the garden on Monday morning. They were put to good use as I held them up in front of the webcam when speaking via Skype to my friend in France that morning and singing Happy Birthday to her. A posy for my friend's special day. Then they graced our lunch table and that afternoon I took them to the old lady I visit as a volunteer as a little gift to cheer her up - explaining that the French word for marigolds is "soucis" which is the same word as for anxieties or worries and how I like to think of my worries as marigolds!!!

Indoor games were called for due to the rain so I got out the flour and the trusty old Kenwood Chef and made some bread for lunch.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Dorset buttons

Last Tuesday I had a lesson in making Dorset buttons. I felt that as we live on the Dorset/Somerset border it was something I ought to know more about. I enjoyed my 2 hour lesson and came away with the little purple button in the bottom right hand corner of the photo. It was made using fine crochet cotton and I must admit I found it terribly fiddly to do and so the others which I have been practising at home since are done using a thicker perle thread (apart from the silver one made in Twilleys Goldfingering) which I found much easier to handle. I am glad I don't have to make teeny tiny ones by the dozen in order to make a living (see this web page for more info ) but they are fun to do, easily portable and could be used in all sorts of creative ways other than for their original purpose.

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Pay it Forward

Thank you to all those of you who read my Pay it Forward post yesterday and said you'd like to join in. The first 3 bloggers to comment were:

Sarah from The Blueberry Patch
Jee from Jeeandme
Kate from Harmony and Rosie
and a close runner up (judging by the times against each comment}
Cheryl from Take Time to smell the Flowers who will receive a small consolation gift!

You will all receive a small gift in the mail sometime soon - no dates promised but within the next few weeks.

Your only commitment now is to write a post pledging to Pay it Forward and send a little gift to the first 3 people to comment on your post and to promise to send their gifts within the next 365 days, (but hopefully sooner of course!)

Thanks to those of you who were kind enough to comment but not lucky enough (or perhaps that should read lucky enough!) to be receiving a small hand made gift from me. If you like the idea you can always join in anyway

With all this generosity and kindness floating round the world should soon be a better place!

PS Forgot to say - please will the 4 bloggers whose names were listed above contact me with their postal addresses - otherwise you might be waiting a long time for your gifts!! You can e-mail me at the address on my profile.