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Sunday, 31 August 2014

My hunter gatherer genes take over!

Thank you all for your comments on my previous post re pens.  I wouldn't like you to think that I sit here worrying all the time about the environment for as Dreaming in Stitches said there is no black and white in being green!  The post was supposed to be a slightly humorous tongue in cheek sort of post but on a subject which does concern me.  I am always glad to see other people's opinions though and am open to any suggestions.  However just because my nano efforts won't make a dot of difference doesn't mean I shouldn't try and if we all did maybe it would make a difference.  I feel better for having tried anyway!

Anyway another week another post and this past week has been busy for us as with nothing in the diary we decided to use the time to do some of the things we've been meaning to do but not getting round to.  For a start we decided not to do any food shopping but to use up what we already had.

I keep a stock of things in the freezer and cupboards in case we can't get to the shops when the snow is on the ground or we fall ill with colds or something but since it is unlikely that there will be snow any time soon I thought we should eat what we had and defrost the freezer in readiness for new stocks.  So we had some odd meals last week and sometimes we each had something different but the freezer and fridge were sorted out and defrosted and by Saturday the fridge was bare - well almost! 

Another job we wanted to get done was behind the fence where the wood threatens to take over our garden - you may remember I did it a couple of years ago and posted here about it.  Well of course it didn't stay cleared and although we did a bit last year we were back to where we started again now.  So donning my wellie boots, stout gloves and old waxed jacket (it was too hot but it did offer some sort of protection!) I clambered through the fence and made a start on the nettles and brambles along with the rosa rugosa which had spread from our side of the fence to form an almost impenetrable jungle taller than me by several feet!  Mr M joined me after a while and took on the job of raking the cuttings to the end of the fence where we formed a huge compost pile or wildlife refuge perhaps?  Our reward for all this labour was a harvest of blackberries which was then revealed and which for a little light relief I picked and we had in a crumble pudding (using the remains of a loaf of bread for the breadcrumbs) for dessert.  I now also have several pounds of them in the freezer which had been defrosted in readiness.  Whilst the path remains cleared I intend to pick more as they ripen and then we'll have plenty of blackberries if nothing else during the winter!

This morning I woke to see an apricot light on the rose hips along the boundary of the wood and resolved to pick some and make something with them.  I had, during my rest breaks from my machete wielding activities, been reading The Thrifty Forager by Alys Fowler and she had given a recipe for rose hip syrup which I had thought I'd try and then I noticed in the magazine Landscape in Smith's yesterday that there was an article on using rose hips and a recipe for jam which I liked the sound of but not wanting to buy the magazine I tried to remember what it said!

I gathered my rosehips while I may to quote roughly Robert Herrick's poem illustrated below by John William Waterhouse...

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying;
And this same flower that smiles today,
Tomorrow will be dying.

Must say I wouldn't have fancied gathering my rosehips or buds with bare feet though!

....and set to.  I decided to try the jam which was actually a cheese really as I sieved the pulp.  I did try to deseed each rosehip but I don't think I needed to bother since I would be sieving the fruit anyway and it was awfully fiddly.  I added a couple of crab apples for pectin and guessed at the quantities of water and sugar and produced a few pots of what I hoped would be a useful preserve.

I made a few scones to go with our afternoon cup of tea and tried the leftovers on my scone.  It hadn't set properly and although Delia tells me I could tip it all back in the pan with the juice of a lemon and boil it up again I think I might just keep it as it is and use it on my porridge instead of honey or as a syrup over ice cream or something as it is a bit bland and very sweet.  Of course I could also dilute it with hot water to make a drink for when we have a cold as it is supposed to be high in Vit C - those of us of a certain age will remember taking it by the spoonful when oranges were so had to obtain after the war.

We have a lot of self seeded nasturtiums in the garden and I have been adding a few flowers to my salads for weeks now and I also tried pickling some of the seeds which are supposed to be rather like capers.  Why I would bother since I don't think I have ever used capers in anything I don't know but my hunter gatherer genes suggested I should try it.  If it's there for the gathering I feel impelled to use it be it rosehips, blackberries or nasturtiums!

I have no idea whether they taste like capers nor whether I will actually use them but here they are.  Every time I see the name Sacla I am reminded of the little You tube video I showed you here  which in case you didn't see it I make no apology for adding again below!

So what with all this messing about the week sped by and although I hoped to be able to show you my finished bag I fear it is no further forward than it was before since I decided it was too thick to stitch with the pocket on the back and unpicked it and removed the pocket before sewing it back together; then the lining had me flummoxed as it seemed a bit thin and I feared the bag wouldn't have enough body so I unpicked that and added a layer of felt to it to stiffen it but now it's too thick and I fear the bag might end up in the back of the cupboard before long.

This coming week I have more social activities so there won't be so much time for hunting nor gathering but I did wonder whether to set myself a little challenge and try not to use the oven for a week having read that generating electricity is one of the biggest contributors to greenhouse gas emissions worldwide - not that the generators of electricity will produce less if I use less so again it's not black and white but a grey area.  I might try some one pot recipes on the gas hob this week or maybe even the electric slow cooker - it will be interesting to see how much difference it will make to the weekly readings we take.  But I shan't be worrying too much about it and as I don't think Mr M will take kindly to reading by candle-light and my cooking his dinners in a hay box I shan't be going too far with it all!

Sunday, 24 August 2014

It's not easy being Green!

We have a pad of scrap paper - backs of things mainly - on the kitchen table and a pot of assorted biros to hand with which to write our shopping lists, notes, make calculations or draw diagrams of things we are trying to explain to each other.  The pen stock has diminished over the years and we now have difficulty finding something to write with at times so new writing implements were called for.  Not wanting to buy disposable pens which will just add to the amount of plastic being thrown away we were on the look out for something "greener".

We must have spent half an hour looking at pens in W H Smiths yesterday morning and although there were dozens to choose from hardly any were refillable, a couple were 70% biodegradable but only came in green or red ink, there were no refills available for the refillable pens .... it seemed a hopeless quest.

This afternoon Mr M has been researching on the internet looking for ecological types of pen and although there are pens out there that are "green" many have to be bought by the 100 and we only want a couple or else they are available in the USA but no mention of here or ...... !  Maybe I should try making a quill pen and some elderberry ink?!  We do both have fountain pens and maybe that would be the answer or perhaps a pencil as long as the pencil was made of something recycled or biodegradable and not plastic!

Yesterday we also went to our local health shop to buy a 5 litre pack of Ecover washing up liquid from which we fill our small bottle by the sink.  We normally have to order this but today we noticed that there was a choice of Vegan or non vegan 5 litre washing up liquids!  Since the Wanderer has taken to being a "nearly" vegan I was interested to find out what the difference was as I guessed/hoped that Ecover didn't test on animals.  It seems that what is called Chamomile and Marigold in English is called Chamomile et Petit-lait in French and on checking the dictionary petit-lait is whey and not marigold which I know is souci.  So is it better to buy the vegan version or would the whey be going to waste if not used in the washing up liquid?! I shan't tell the Wanderer next time she comes about our washing up liquid containing animal products!

We shopped for our milk, eggs and some vegetables at the farm shop we usually patronise a couple of miles from home this morning too and earlier in the week we drove to a nearby town South Petherton where we like to buy our bread from the local baker, our fruit and vegetables from the green grocer and Mr M likes meat from the butcher.  All well and good but is it greener to be supporting the local shops where the owners take a pride in their produce and know where it all comes from (mainly local apart from oranges and bananas of course although we did once hear a stall holder at Salisbury market shouting out his wares amongst which were "Lovely British bananas"!) but using the car to drive to these shops or to go to the supermarket which we could walk to but where much of their stock has itself traveled many thousands of miles even though we might not ourselves be adding to our carbon footprint?

Sometimes I feel I shall give up and drive to the supermarket to buy a packet of sliced bread and some ready meals and if I don't take a list I won't need a pen to write one either!

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Tale of Two Gardens

If you think of London what do you think of I wonder?  Red buses, Buckingham Palace, London Bobbies, Big Ben ... I guess this sort of thing is what springs to mind first but do you ever think of gardens?  We are lucky that London has many green spaces and parks you only have to look at a map to see this is so but there are also gardens filled with flowers too and on Tuesday Mr M and I went up to London to meet up with a couple of Guildford friends to visit one none of us had seen before.  Mr M and I had heard about it when we were on a guided walk last February which took us round Old Kensington and the guide mentioned this particular garden which should have been included in our walk but said that sadly the day of our walk it was not open to the public but that we might like to visit on our own sometime.  We needed to find a day that our friends and we were free, that the garden was open and that the weather was at least likely to be dry - so Tuesday was the day.  We met our friends at lunchtime at the Albert Hall and walked along the High Street to a cafe called Maggie Jones which we'd discovered on the internet.

A country style cafe and not at all the sort of place you'd expect to come across in Kensington being decked out with all manner of country artefacts - real ones not the sort of ersatz stuff that pubs can buy from companies who make such things for decoration.  The tables were scrubbed wood and lit with candles and the ambiance was lovely.  My photo doesn't do it justice but it really was delightful (do check out this link for better pics in their gallery) and the service and food were excellent - we all loved it.  Don't go here if you like fast food and want a quick burger or pizza, although I am sure they could do that for you if you wished, no this is real food freshly prepared and not microwaved and was ideal for us as it gave us time to chat together and catch up on the news. an hour or so later nicely replete we wandered along towards our chosen garden:

The sun was shining....

....the sky was blue and it was beautiful.  We wandered round having the place almost to ourselves - this really is a secret garden!

 A Moorish style "tent" where one could sip mint tea whilst looking out over the garden perhaps? Or even have a nice lie down on the day bed perhaps!

A formal pond with fountains viewed from the "tent".

A pretty stream with fish.

 Yes that is a flamingo - there were 4 of them called Bill, Ben, Splosh and Pecks in this garden.

Those round "windows" in the walls had views of London (including the ubiquitous cranes!) to be seen through the wrought iron work.

Lovely shaded covered walks.

Hidden corners in the English woodland area and here we came across a mother duck and her adolescent youngsters who'd found a quiet and safe area of a small pond to live.

As you will see, if you read this plaque, this was no ordinary garden but is set 100 feet above Kensington High Street in central London.  Originally atop Derry and Tom's department store which opened in 1933, now no longer trading, there are three themed gardens, a Spanish garden a Tudor garden and an English woodland area too with over 70 full size trees, a flowing stream stocked with fish and the resident flamingoes. Hard to believe that below was the busy noisy street filled with traffic and shoppers!  An amazing garden and the roof must have been capable of taking an enormous weight to have all that going on up there but it was beautiful. Well worth a visit especially as it is free to look round the only difficulty is in trying to find a day you are free when the weather is good that they are actually open but if you are interested see this link for the number to contact and for more info.

Having had our fill of this amazing place we descended to street level and found it was raining - just a short shower but how lucky had we been that it was so lovely whilst we were above in the roof garden - or maybe we were above the clouds!  We wandered round to Kensington Square where this enclosed garden is the oldest such garden in London having been founded in 1685.  This one is private (photo taken through the railings) and belongs to the residents of the Square so we wandered on .......

..... past this lovely building with its box and geranium planters - pretty isn't it?

We crossed Kensington High Street and into our second garden at Kensington Palace.  As you will see the sun was back and the rain all finished - the shower had lasted perhaps 5 minutes so barely worth mentioning!

 Here is the Italian Garden which you can only view from the edges - no entry allowed!

There were herbaceous borders and covered pergola walks but too many people for decent photos here.

 The Round Pond which has recently been refurbished apparently.

 Having explored this garden we were ready for a sit down and a cup of tea and afterwards we then realised it was time to go if we were to catch our respective trains.  Our return to Waterloo was not without its problems though as we stood waiting at the bus stop for ages and ages watching number 9 buses going the opposite way but never coning back before we discovered a notice on the far side of the bus stop pole informing us that due to road works the route had been altered and the number 9 bus would not come this way!  We caught a bus to Victoria instead thinking that we would surely be able to get a connecting bus from there but Victoria was a building site where multi-million pound improvements are being made and we had to walk some distance before we found a bus stop at which a bus for Waterloo would stop!  We did of course get to the station eventually and bade each other goodbye before boarding our respective trains. Another lovely day out - I do so love being retired and able to do such trips. Truly summer 2014 has been a fabulous year for outings.

Many thanks for your kind comments on my previous posts - maybe if I stay home for a few days I might get the bag finished and some more sketches done!

Sunday, 17 August 2014

One thing leads to another

I have been making slow progress with my little bag - mainly because I have been making it up as I go along which rarely works out first time and usually has to be unpicked and done again!

I put a little pocket on the back and then discovered that it wasn't deep enough and would likely mean that anything put in it would fall out but as I didn't have any more of the cream leather effect fabric I couldn't redo it deeper and so put a magnetic press stud on it but that then meant I had to unpick the bottom of the bag to get at the inside of the pocket lining ..... and so it goes!

I still need to stitch the base and to make a lining for the bag plus some kind of strap but I think it will work eventually.  Whilst working on this I came up with a couple of other ideas for different bags I might make and realised that if you are creating something you are then more creative if you see what I mean and one thing leads to another in the ideas department!

You may remember I told you that I had met up with Carol when we went to the Tate Britain?  She had a little notebook with her containing odd sketches and notes and when I said how I wished I could draw or paint she suggested that it was a good idea to do a drawing each day - she has written a post about this here.  I took her advice and here are a couple of sketches I made ....

Steps outside the back door
I have to admit that I didn't keep it up every day but it was a good exercise as even if my drawing didn't improve any it made me look at things properly which can only be a good thing.  I will try to get back to a daily drawing but I am not promising anything and nor do I think I will be showing you any great art!
Nothing to do with any of the above - I have fitted a little emergency exit to the bird bath/drinking water dish having had to rescue several black beetles I have found paddling furiously in the water!  Hope they will find the way out next time.

Another trip to London is in the pipeline for this coming week!  I'll show you where we go later in the week if you are up for another guided tour?!  Thanks for you kind comments on the previous post - I must admit I couldn't do it every day and was tired and ready for early roost that night but I love London and never get fed up with it as there are so many interesting places to see. 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

To Quote Samuel Johnson....

"when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

I must say I have to agree with him and I never tire of the place - there is always something new to discover or see.  I went there again yesterday to meet up with a couple of friends - we had planned to go to the Courtauld Gallery to see an exhibition of Prints called Breugel to Freud.

However when we met up under the clock at Waterloo one of the friends suggested we walk along the South Bank to the Tower of London and take a look at the Poppies there.  So since the main reason for our meeting was to get together and to exchange news and gossip we were all happy to agree.

We wandered along towards the OXO Tower Wharf where we stopped to have a look at a small exhibition of black and white photographs called 65 by Colin O'Brien. Billed as "a nostalgic look back at life spanning a period of 65 years"  It was a real trip down Memory Lane I can tell you!  The photographs were wonderful and the thing I noticed was just how dirty and run-down some places were back in the late 40s and 50s and although I didn't live near London or even go there till much later I did live near Liverpool in the 40's and early 50's which was much the same of course. 

Having had our fill of memories we set off again and passed this strangely painted ship - explanation as to why it was painted thus were on a board ..

If you enlarge this photo by clicking on it you will be able to read what it says.

Here we passed the Globe Theatre or the third reconstruction of Shakespeare's original at least.

Nearby we came upon this bench one of 50 Book Benches to be seen in the city.   As the web site says, "Trails of benches shaped as open books, decorated by professional illustrators and local artists, will appear for the public to enjoy. It will be a unique opportunity to explore the capital’s literary connections, to enjoy art from some of the country’s top artists and to celebrate reading for enjoyment."  What fun to follow one or more of the trails and to take a breather on one of these decorated benches here and there eh?  The benches are to be auctioned at the end of the summer and the money raised will go to the National Literacy Trust which is dedicated to raising literacy levels in the UK.  Can you imagine not being literate?  Nor can I but many are and anything which helps must surely be a good thing.

We soon passed this wonderful reflective building and I just loved the reflections all wavy and slightly distorted.

By now we were in need of refreshment so we stopped just by the Clink - which we didn't venture into! - for a drink.  I chose an iced peach tea with fresh mint and absolutely delicious and refreshing it was too.  I don't know if it was made with peach flavoured tea or just normal tea as it had pieces of fresh peach along with the mint in it but I mean to try it out at home as it was so refreshing!

Suitable refreshed we continued to the Borough Market who says the English don't do markets and how wonderful the French ones are?!!  This one is superb and I could have wandered round for hours.  That building you can see above the railway line which runs above part of the market is the Shard said to be a "Beacon For London".

Just look at those cheeses - I guess/hope they were wired in some way so as to prevent them all rolling onto the ground!

And look at all these different breads.  The stall holder asked if we'd like to try any and I wanted to try all of them!!

Just alongside all the hustle and bustle of the market is Southwark Cathedral  which again would have been worth looking round but we didn't.

Another of the Book Benches - not sure which Trail we were on though!

Past the Tower of London and on towards the Bridge.....

.....which we crossed. 

By now it was about 2.00 pm and we were hungry so we took a detour towards St Katherines Dock which we had visited once before back in the winter.  We had lunch looking across the water to the Royal Barge.

Lunch over we made our way on towards the Tower passing this pub, The Dickens Inn, on the way.  Could be Switzerland couldn't it?

We reached the Tower and here were the poppies we had come to see - a major art installation called Bloodswept Lands and Seas of Red  It was amazing and sobering to see all the ceramic poppies which spilled over the road and into the moat.

Here the volunteers are installing the poppies all 888,246 of them each representing a British fatality (I belive that includes the Commonwealth dead too).  It was heart wrenching and sobering to see all those poppies and to realise the true scale of the number of dead, each poppy in that huge spread representing someone's son or husband, another family scarred forever and that only on "our side" not counting the opponents' dead.  Will we never learn though?  Wars are still taking place people are dying and being killed - why oh why is it that we cannot live peaceably together I wonder?

We wondered what the significance of the shape was and whether there was some sort of design there and this morning I read in the weekend newspaper that there is and that "the poppies will gradually join up around the 16-acre moat in gently co-ordinated swathes. ''Only at the end – on Armistice Day on November 11 – will we fill in the edges of the moat, and make a neat finish.’’ At this point, the installation’s coup de theatre will be revealed: from above, the ancient White Tower, built by William the Conqueror, will be encircled by a sea of crimson red, its round black roof marking the heart of the world’s most dramatic poppy. 

To lighten the tone we also saw this lovely sculpture made from wire netting - bet that was hard on the hands.   The bird on lioness number one's nose is real and just landed there as we watched.  These are part of an exhibition called The Royal Beasts apparently.
We then caught a bus - not any old bus but a Routemaster Heritage Bus  No 15 which took us to the Strand from where we walked to Somerset House and on the way we came across a sign saying Roman Baths so of course we decided to go and see what this was all about - well the Roman Bath was situated in this narrow street in the building on the right and if you knelt on the ground and peered through the semicirular window you could just make out what looked like a stone pool inside.  This morning one of the friends e-mailed me with this link saying we'd been conned!  It wasn't Roman at all but quite new, being late 17th century!!  Oh well some you win and some you lose!

I had bought a book at the Tate when I went last week which was called Quiet London in which it mentioned the courtyard cafe at the Courtauld Gallery so we went into the building in search of the tea shop and came upon another exhibition this time called Time Tattoo Art at Somerset House - you can't say we aren't eclectic in our tastes can you?!!  We didn't find the cafe we were looking for but we did find a tea room and had a cup of tea and ordered a rather large pain au raisin which we divided into 3!  Tea over we walked across the courtyard - the one which is frozen in winter to form an ice rink but which yesterday was in the process of being set up for Film4 Summer Screen and came to the Courtauld Gallery just 5 hours after we'd met up to go there!!!  Of course by now there wasn't really time to see the prints properly as we had trains to catch so we decided to give it a miss this time and to plan another visit to London to see it later along with the Denis Severs House we'd wanted to visit back in the winter and found closed!

Back at the station just across the river we said our goodbyes and got our respective trains home.  The threatened rain and wind which had been forecast hadn't materialised and although not a blue skies and sunshine kind of day it was warm and dry.  Though we are told to expect the wind and rain tonight as the remnants of Hurricane Bertha are due to hit the south west.  Batten down the hatches then and indoor games for all tomorrow.

I do love London and never leave it without thinking of the next visit when I might have time to see some of the things I didn't get to see this time!  Hope you have enjoyed coming with me and found something new along the way?