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Friday, 27 August 2010


A bit of a mixed bag for you today!

DAY OUT - On Thursday I went to Basingstoke where I met up with a couple of my Surrey friends - we all worked together at Guildford College back in the dark ages - and the chosen rendez vous was Milestones Museum of Everyday Life. An excellent choice in view of the weather since it is all under cover. Took us back I can tell you although none of us is old enough to remember penny farthing bikes as shown in the bike shop there!

It was good to catch up with old friends and we did enjoy our reminiscences. It also served as research for my memoirs as it reminded me of so many things I want to include in my writing!

MORE BOUNTY - NOT FREE THIS TIME: Not content with apples I bought these yesterday and was busy preparing them for the freezer as well as the remaining apples from Wednesday. I think word must have got round the local wasp community too since I did them under constant barrage from wasps!!

SOMERZEST - YEOVIL: Friday evening we went to Somerzest a free craft and food exhibition at the Octogon here in Yeovil - the evening was fine and there was music and a hog roast - well actually it was buns with roast pork inside not actually a BBQ or anything! The crafts on offer were varied and beautiful - thought of you Lesley as one lady did the most beautiful nuno felt. I didn't like to try and take any pics though. I came away with this bag of bits of semi felted merino scraps, not sure what I will do with them any ideas? It was the colours that did it!! And we bought a piece of cheese so last of the big spenders us!

RECIPE for those who requested the recipe for the apple cake here it is:

Let me know if you can't read it and I'll type it out for you Helsie!

This is the book it came from - another oldie although this one is only from 70s so a relative newbie!!

BADGERS: Fot those of you who said you wished you had badgers visiting your gardens - here is why we don't really welcome them. Last night they did this...

...and the night before they exposed all the roots of this rosa rugosa on our boundary fence which we have now filled in again. With acres and acres of woodland between us and their set they still think the grass is greener this side of the fence! Bit like us I guess!

AUTUMN MORNING: Yesterday morning when I got up this was my view from the bedroom - lovely autumn sunrise....
.. .... and from the kitchen - lovely isn't it?
Nobody ever says Yeovil why how wonderfull it's such a lovely town and yet.....

I happened to look up as we went into town to the Farmers Market yesterday morning and thought if we were abroad we'd be taking photos of this sort of thing and saying how lovely the towns are.....

when we have it all here on our own doorsteps if only we take the time to look! Just look at that sky too!

SWEET PEAS: I DON'T think we shall get many more sweet peas - to think that we didn't have any when I posted here but we have since had a small posy every other day for what seems like weeks. Their stunning colours and amazing scent made them worth the wait.

PS I notice that this post is dated Friday 27th which was when I started it but it was acutally finished and posted on Sunday 29th - not that it matters of course but in case you wonder how I knew what I did on Saturday on Friday if you see what I mean?!

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

More free bounty

Firstly I must thank all those lovely bloggers who posted such sympthetic and supportive comments on my Grey Blanket post - I really appreciated them all and they worked for today in spite of the weather being wet and chilly I am feeling much happier! I like to think I am normally quite a positive person and hate it when I don't match up to my own expectations and feel miserable and negative but we all have those days and perhaps they make us appreciate the up days.

More free bounty these are from an apple tree in the garden of my mother's house not far from us which has been rented out since her death 9 years ago and provides me with a small pension. I was visiting the house recently along with the agent as I had had some work done and wanted to check it out before paying for it all when I noticed that there were hundreds of windfalls on the grass. Guessing that the tenants would not want to make use of them - they are a young couple who both work full time - I asked the agent if she would ask them if I could come round and pick some of them up sometime. Today was the day arranged for the side gate to be left open so it was today or not at all and heavy rain was forecast! Lady luck was with me though and the rain didn't start in earnest till after I had 2 carrier bags full of apples safely stowed in the car. I know my mother would approve as she hated waste and one of her mantras was Waste not Want not so she would be glad I am following her dictum!

I want to freeze some of course but over my cup of coffee I checked out this little book - one of my mother's little treasures and dated 1947! I love this book and as you can see it has been well used! Quite a different kettle of fish to my lovely Country Harvest shown here a couple of posts ago!

No coloured photographs here but instead some lovely line drawings

Makes you want to get the jelly bag out doesn't it and I don't even like jelly!!

You can tell this recipe has been popular look at all the stains on it!

I think I will give canning a miss though - this all looks a bit Heath Robinson to me!! And salting beans having read the paragraph about how to do it and how when you come to use them you should wash them well in 3 lots of water then soak them for a couple of hours before cooking them without salt(!) for 30 - 40 minutes - I am thinking that there would be very few vitamins etc left by then and imagining the kharki coloured result - green veg? I think not and would rather put my excess on the compost heap but of course when this book was written any veg was better than no veg I guess.

Do you have a still room? I certainly don't but I love the idea of it don't you? I imagine myself quietly drying my flowers (you know the ones from that garden I waft round wearing my shady hat and carrying my basket whilst telling "the man" where to dig!) and storing my herbs. Bottles of wonderful concoctions at the ready - tisanes and herbal teas for every ailment! No? Perhaps not then.

I have now have two trays of apple slices in the freezer so far and a further carrier bag of apples which I will leave for another day. We had this delicious Devon Apple cake for dessert with our lunch - I will slice up the remainder and freeze that for another time too. (Not sure in what way a Devon Apple cake differs from a Somerset one which is what this was but the recipe in my Cranks Wholefood cookbook calls it Devon Apple Cake!)

I have been in and out to the freezer in the garage with my apples and thought these worthy of a photo - my lovely hydrangea is enjoying the rain and....

the rose hips on the hedge look amazing all wet and shiny don't they? The little snail seems happy in the rain too.
I will post another memory post later this evening so look out for it in the side bar if you are enjoying these posts.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Grey blanket days

I have been suffering from a case of the gloomies over the past few days, or as I usually think of it I've been under one of my grey blankets - you know those old army type blankets all scratchy and dark. It happens occasionally but when it does I just want to crawl into my hole and indulge in a spell of wallowing in my misery. I tell myself there are many far worse off than me but it makes no difference and all it does is to add a load of guilt to the mix. I ask myself how can I be so ungrateful when I have so much, how can I feel so miserable when there are people suffering such calamities in the world, etc etc. I resolve to be more thankful for all the good things I have in my life but when I am in this frame of mind I know all this but knowing and feeling is not the same thing at all. I must accept these spells and just be grateful they don't come too often and try to understand that maybe they serve to highlight the up days so that there's a silver lining to every cloud perhaps..

I haven't been on the computer for a few days - you wouldn't have wanted me at your party anyway in that mood as I'd have been a proper wet blanket, but today I woke to sunshine after several dull gloomy days which had done nothing to raise my spirits and I felt the blanket lift a little.

The view from my back door this morning as I prepared breakfast - blue skies and sunshine - what a boost to the morale!

I am continuing with my memories, I now have 18,500 words according to Word Count - I know it's quality not quantity that counts and it all needs a lot more work on it but I am pleased to see it growing. I will post a little snipet later so keep an eye on the sidebar if you are interested to read more.
I hope to catch up with you all again soon.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Free bounty!

This afternoon I was out in the garden at the front of the house doing some weeding and I noticed that the blackberries on the other side of the fence alongside the footpath were ripe.

Now this path is used by dog walkers and during term time mothers taking their children to and from school but they obviously don't have the necessary tools and footwear to hand when they pass this bounty. I got my wellington boots and a rake and thus prepared was able to get close enough to pick a bowl full - not without getting scratched and stung of course but as my mother used to say "If a thing's worth having it's worth paying for"!!

Now within 5 minutes of picking I had some in the freezer - can't get much faster than that can you? And this bowl which we shall use later this afternoon. As I sat over a cup of tea in the garden I browsed through my book "Country Harvest" by Rosamund Richardson which I bought about 20 years ago as much for the photographs which are by Linda Burgess, and are as always absolutely beautiful, as for the recipes.

I could make some jam - the book has recipes for blackberry jelly, blackberry and apple jam, blackberry cheese, Damson and blackberry jam .......

Or maybe I'll try the blackberry and apple cake or the crumble....

Chocolate and blackberry brownies sound delicious too - what a pity I am finally succeeding in losing some weight and don't want to undo all the good I have so far achieved..... :-(

I also noticed that the nut tree is loaded with nuts - the squirrel has been busy all week - I hadn't realised that squirrels could chatter so much - I thought it was some kind of bird I could hear but no it was the squirrel getting agitated!

He'd better be quick as although badgers don't climb nut trees (they'd be far too heavy for the skinny branches) they do eat the ones that fall to the ground and these are on the bank in our driveway so we are in for a few weeks of badger crunching and snuffling at bed time I see!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Transports of delight?!

All images are courtesy of Google Images

I enjoyed Jill's post here about riding in the car so much I was inspired to add a post of my own about transport back then:

I remember my daughter aged about 6 at the time asking me once “Did they have cars when you were alive?”! Having assured her I was alive now I went on to answer her question, “Yes THEY had cars but WE didn’t”! Cars were not nearly so common back in the 40’s and 50’s as they are now and most of the people I knew used public transport as did we.

I remember the trains back then – they were beautiful, magnificent things puffing out steam and making a fearsome noise. People often talk about noise pollution now but the noise on a major station concourse back then was incredible. When the whistle blew they had to get up steam to be able to pull out and the great pistons would slowly begin to turn as these magnificent beasts gradually, slowly pulled away drawing the carriages behind them. I remember the carriages were most often divided into individual compartments with bench seats for 4 passengers facing each other. I remember too the upholstery (probably made of coarse wool) which covered these seats and was so prickly to a child’s bare legs, the film of dirt on everything and the big thick leather strap used to raise and lower the window with its holes to hook over the brass fitting so that the window could be opened the required amount and kept there. If you were lucky you might be able to see out of the window or on the other hand your view might be obscured by the cloud of steam which seemed to continually rush past the window carrying with it smuts which added to the general grime on the outside. There were what looked like hammocks made of thick netting supported on wooden rails on which you placed your suitcases and below these were photographs of the towns on that line often in sepia. The sliding door to the compartment was heavy and made of wood with a glass window onto the corridor and often there seemed to be service men sitting on their duffle bags out there as there was not enough room inside to sit down. Where were they all going? Home on leave perhaps? I loved trains and wanted to be a train driver when I grew up but of course I had no idea then what hard physical labour that would have been. The fireman would shovel coal into the gaping furnace that was the engine and the water would boil and create the necessary steam to make the pistons turn. Keeping the furnace fire going on a long journey must have been gruelling. The driving compartment was open to the air – probably just as well or it would have been like an oven and probably was in the summer months. These men wore dark blue overalls as a uniform and black leatherette hats and they were always filthy from the coal dust and the heat but for some reason I wanted to be one (or failing that the lady who cleaned the trains and couldn’t understand why my mother wasn’t keen on either of those careers for me!) Going on the train was always an exciting prospect as it usually meant we were visiting relations or even that we were moving home yet again.

Then there were trams – these if my memory serves me correctly had slatted wooden seats which were not very comfortable and they clanged as they ran along the metal rails in the road. Buses which had a metal basket arrangement covering a fan at the front which allowed the heat from the engine to warm the bus. In winter it was always a scramble for the front seats nearest to this primitive heating especially as the back of the bus was open to the elements. There being no air conditioning or any other form of heat the windows were always steamed up in damp weather and the fun you could have drawing pictures in the damp and then probably wiping it down with your sleeve!

Not many people had cars then but some had motorbikes with sidecars. Apparently my father-in-law had one but that was before I knew my husband. I never had a ride in one so Jill I envy you!

And of course we walked a lot more then too.

Air travel was only for the wealthy and I never imagined I'd see the day when I would be able to get in our own car to drive to the airport to get a flight to visit friends in France or USA or wherever!! Amazing!

Now that I have moved back to the area in which I lived in my teens and early twenties I realise how little of its beautiful countryside I had seen back then because of course without a car it is inaccessible and even when we came by car to visit my mother we obviously didn’t then go off sightseeing much. I am loving discovering it all and am glad that when I was alive I finally did have a car!

For those interested I have also posted another page of my childhood memories - check it out on the sidebar.

How many beans make five or Panic stations

I thought I'd have a change from trips down memory lane today although I am still beavering away on my memories and have plans to make a kind of scrapbook with pictures as well - only wish I could paint like Jill at Third Age Musings who posted yesterday of her childhood memories with some lovely artwork to go with them.

Since a change is supposed to be as good as a rest here's today's offering:

What is this new plant?

It's Yesterday's daily picking of runner beans and I have used a handy flowerpot to carry them into the kitchen not having had a proper trug like Nelson the gardener who used to ....... but no, I said I wouldn't go there today!

Sliced and ready but far too many for two of us to eat at one sitting and there will be more tomorrow so I decided to make some chutney. Lesley at Printed Material suggested this when I mentioned the productivity of our 2 wigwams of runner beans and I must admit I'd never heard of runner bean chutney but as is often the case once something is mentioned it seemed to pop up everywhere and I tasted some at the local Farmers' Market recently and liked it and then came across N number of recipes for it. This one is from Lesley who says it's from a Delia Smith cookbook.

I made half the recipe and with 1 lb of beans I got almost 3 jars. I woke up in the night and suddenly thought OMG I halved everything and half the quantity of onions would have been three quarters of a pound of onions and as I was busy making a quiche and a plum crumble for supper at the same time as doing the chutney I used three quarters of an onion or in fact one whole small one!

I managed to burn my arm on the oven when removing the pastry case for the quiche which caused me to drop it on the floor (I did rescue it though and although a little damaged filled it with egg mixture and it was OKish) and by now time was running short so the plum sponge I had intended had to be a crumble instead but as I had the turmeric and stuff for the chutney in the scales pan I guessed at the amounts and I didn't have quite enough but again it was OKish. Can quite see why when you see chefs at work their kitchens are often panic stations! And you should have seen the kitchen when I'd finished - looked like a bomb site! Moral of this tale is to concentrate on the job in hand and do one thing at a time!! So only time will tell if the chutney edible after all that and since it says to leave it for at least a month before eating I won't know for a while.

Will be back soon with some more memories for those of you who enjoy them.

Friday, 13 August 2010


Can you parse? No, I haven't completely taken leave of my senses but in the interests of some research for my memoirs I was going through some of my memorabilia and came across these sheets along with some school reports and such like.

This was an exercise done by me when I was at the most 6 years old since I left this particular school to move house before I was 7! What is parsing I wondered... To Parse: to resolve a sentence into its component parts and describe their syntactic roles - uh?!.

I even had to check it in the dictionary yet here I was aged 6 merrily doing it and getting it right!

I was amazed at the level we seemed to be expected to reach back in those days although you will notice I obviously hadn't got to grips with capital letters! Though as my husband pointed out in astonishment I was using joined up writing so I guess I couldn't handle it all at once.

Notice the little homily at the top of the page admonishing us not to run after tramcars - where would we find one now?

Verily schools aren't what they were in the olden days!!!

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Sweet peas and memories

The sweet peas after a slow start are coming on a treat and along with our daily portion of runner and French beans we are now able to have a daily picking of their beautiful flowers and to enjoy their wonderful perfume whilst eating our meal!

I have today posted another section of my memories for those who like that kind of thing. This time you will find it on a separate page and you can access it by clicking on Shopping and Food at the top of my sidebar. I hope this works OK as I am not much of a tekkie and I have achieved this new page after much e-mail help from Lorraine at The Balancing Kiwi - many thanks Lorraine. I am afraid the memories come without illustrations as I have nothing suitable to hand and if I spend any more time searching for something to add you'll never get the post at all!

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Back then or My life as a crazy patchwork quilt

Having been encouraged by all the positive comments I received after my last post about my childhood I have taken up the suggestion made by several of you to write my autobiography or since that sounds a bit pompous and important perhaps I should say my memories. Who knows my daughter might one day find it interesting and along the way I will share tidbits with you. If you are not interested in my memories then skip the bit in black type! It did occur to me to start another blog altogether for these posts so that if you aren't interested you needed bother following - what do you think?

I enjoy doing crazy patchwork where the pieces are irregular and there is no set pattern to the quilt I can’t be doing with regular quilting with its symmetry and intricacy, although I can appreciate the workmanship which goes into it. No, for me I love the fact that with crazy patchwork you never know what it’s going to turn out like and that it can actually say something creative about the artist in its very randomness. I love the embellishing using embroidery, ribbons, lace, buttons and bits and bobs.

It occurs to me that my life (and I am sure many if not most people's lives) is somewhat like a crazy patchwork quilt made up of assorted scraps of luxurious bits of silks, velvets and lace along with simple cotton fabrics, the colours varying from bright and cheery to sombre and dark and then embellished with assorted memorabilia each scrap perhaps evoking a memory of when and where the fabric was from. Some of the memories are good ones of long sunny days and happy times and others maybe less happy and of a darker nature when skies seemed always grey. But interspersed with all these memories are sudden flashes of something - shining of moments which live in the memory as something to be treasured and kept special. This is my crazy quilt of memories:

You will perhaps remember that last time I told you that my mother, aunt and I left Suffolk to go and stay with my grandfather in the Forest of Dean:-

Grandfather's House

Grandfather’s house was one of a pair of old stone built cottages which would at one time have been set in fields I suspect since most of the other houses round about were much newer being built perhaps in the 1920s or 30’s. The cottages were approached by a shared path from a little wicket gate painted many years before in green but now a chipped soft pale cabbage colour. The path led to the shared flag stone courtyard in front and there were the two front doors side by side each with a sash window to the side and another above for the bedroom. Alongside the other cottage was a stone lean-to housing a brick built boiler for the washing and a single cold water tap and to the side of Grandfather’s cottage a lean-to shed which was not shared.

At the back of each cottage was the toilet a whitewashed brick affair with a scrubbed wooden seat across the width of the tiny building and a ceramic bowl beneath which led I know not where! It was necessary to tip bowls of washing water down to flush the contents on their way but where it went I have no idea!! In summer it was difficult to keep this building really fresh as you might imagine. No soft toilet tissue then but squares of old newspaper strung on a piece of string and hung on a nail which did make for something interesting to read although the toilets in winter were too cold to linger in and in summer a little on the smelly side so that lingering was not often something I indulged in!

Sadly I have no photos and you can tell that drawing is not my forte either so you will have to use your imaginations I'm afraid!

The front door opened into a room probably about 12 x 12 feet furnished with a polished table and 4 chairs each with a padded horsehair seat covered with a dark brown leatherette, a small bureau above which hung a large sepia photograph of my mother’s oldest brother. He was depicted wearing his dog collar as he had not long before been ordained as a Methodist minister. There was also a piano and a small worn chaise lounge beside the fireplace, a gramophone with some 78s above which hung an oil painting in a gilded frame and alongside a bookcase containing assorted old books of which I remember best The Water Babies which had some lovely illustrations and whose pages were slightly mottled with brown marks due no doubt to the damp. This room was seldom used however except in the summer months when the front door would stand open all day. Most of the living happened in the back room a slightly smaller room accessed from the front room. There was a boarded wooden staircase – no carpet - up to the 2 bedrooms above and a scrubbed table and chairs, a cupboard with a perforated wire panel in the door in which were kept the fresh foods, and a wooden armchair set to one side of the range. There were built in cupboards in the recesses alongside the fireplace and in the upper ones were kept the china and in the lower ones everything else! The floors were flagstones and the only softening effect was a couple of squares of coconut matting since the damp used to come up between the stones in wet weather and carpet would soon be ruined. The curtains were made of thin cotton and hung on an elasticated wire - talk about the sublime to the ridiculous after Reydon Hall!

I remember the smell of that house a mixture of coal fires, of cooking and of damp. I also remember vividly the pretty little china plates each a sort of square shape and with what looked to me like a strawberry painted in the design! I can also remember grandfather’s saucepans – of which he had perhaps 2 there being no room on the range for more than that anyway, which were black and pot bellied in shape – now I wonder why they should stay in my memory?!

At the bottom of the stairs stood an upturned box on which sat a small galvanised bath containing a couple of inches of cold water for washing hands and on the end of the table alongside a dish with a bar of carbolic soap on it (the towel was a roller one on the back of the door)and for drinking and cooking a clean galvanised iron bucket of fresh cold water covered with a teacloth. When I think of the amount of water we use nowadays for rinsing, washing, cooking and cleaning, most of it swishing away down the plughole, I am reminded of those days when every drop of water used had to be fetched in a bucket from the wash house next door and carried into the house through the front door to the kitchen and then of course all waste water had to be carried outside either to the toilet or flung on the garden. In winter it must have been a nightmare although as a child I don’t remember it being a problem but then I didn’t have to do it!!

A paraffin lamp stood on the mantelpiece ready for darkness to fall when it would be lifted down and placed on the table. The amount of light this gave was minimal and later when I started at the grammar school and had home work to do we did in fact have the electricity installed although only downstairs and only for lights and even then my grandfather would never switch the light on if he was at home by himself for any reason! These paraffin lamps seemed to require a lot of attention what with trimming the wicks, cleaning the glass globe and ensuring they were filled with paraffin each day ready for the evenings. They used to make sooty marks on the ceiling and if there was the slightest draught the light would flicker – not at all the romantic soft lighting we sometimes think of lamplight creating!

Of course the range needed to be fed and Cinderford being a mining town coal was the usual fuel when we could afford it and whatever we could find when we couldn’t! Coal was delivered in sacks weighing a hundredweight each and the delivery man was usually filthy and covered in coal dust so that all you could see was his eyes and if he opened his mouth perhaps his teeth. At least we had no gas or electricity bills to pay though!

Upstairs were the 2 bedrooms the front one slightly larger than the back since the staircase took up some of the space alongside the back one. Grandfather slept in the back room in a big brass bedstead. I don’t remember what other furniture there was since I rarely went in there but in the front bedroom with its window overlooking the street and with views across to the hills a mile or so away there was a black iron double bed and a chest of drawers. There must have been bedside tables or somewhere to put the candle down but I don’t remember those. To begin with we all slept in the bed together! But at some stage a single bed was purchased for me and my mother and her sister slept in the double bed together although in the depths of winter I was often to be found in between them and the bed covered with coats in order to keep warm. Under each bed was a china chamber pot for night-time use. Who would wish to go to the toilet when it meant going outside and round the back of the house in the darkness possibly in the rain or snow!

I was happy enough living at Grandfather’s and the only thing I really hated was the cockroaches, which must have lived in the crevices round the fireplace where it would be nice and warm, and which only came out after dark! Occasionally a field mouse would appear indoors but they were cute and I didn’t mind those although I hated the horrible traps my grandfather set for them.

But if I was happy I am sure it cannot have been easy for my mother, aunt nor for grandfather whose peaceful solitary life had been so severely disrupted.