Friday, 19 February 2016

Half term days out

This week was half term and Spring seems to be here, though she is a fickle thing and not to be trusted. My little speckled hen believes it however and started to lay again right on cue, the week after Valentine's Day. The blackbirds are courting too and everything is in bloom together - daffodils and narcissus have caught up with the hellebores and snowdrops, and surely impossibly early I have primroses, cowslips and auriculas all flowering. The mornings have been heavily frosted and several days we've

had sunny blue skies and I've had itchy feet. Perfect for Waddesden, reservoirs and the zoo with gorgeous grandchildren and dogs let off the leash to chase the fresh scents. More please! Easter is coming early this year and instead of giving up for Lent the past few years I've subscribed to '40 Acts' where a daily email alerts me to give instead of give up. It might be making time to listen, getting in touch, giving a random gift or helping someone when you might otherwise walk on. I am the world's worst receiver of gifts but I do get a lot out of giving. I have been reminded that time and presence is harder to give than presents but I am working on it - so now is the time to ask for those favours even though, hopefully, it won't all end at Easter!

Saturday, 13 February 2016

Been a Long While....

Although I haven't posted for 3 whole years I do quite often pop back for a look at my scrapbook of previous posts and memories - how to make marmalade, pictures of picnics and walks and early morning mists - and I've missed having somewhere to muse and moan and pin photos to look back at. Actually I'm amazed it's all still here and I read other blogs and feel like I'm not quite doing my bit, so here I am. Back on the page.

I've had a completely rotten time with dentistry lately but that is such a small thing because you know, I'm here and so is the world and I am still in it and out in it so no more complaining. I am in love with birches this past year or two and as I was walking I stretched back and breathed deeply and when I looked up it was sooo beautiful. Aren't mobile phones great for that?
So the day is ending and tomorrow, I know, will be good.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

My Mad Fat Teenage Diary

Interviewed in 2004 Anne Marie Duff said of Shameless 'It was really odd, but at the beginning, we didn't see that it was a comedy. We thought it was quite a gritty drama. Hearing it aloud changed our opinion. At the first read-through, we didn't know if it was OK to find it funny. These people are incredibly resourceful... not in a conventional way, but they are imaginative and loving. They're like animals in the way they protect their own. It doesn't matter how crazy and dark something is as long as there's some love behind it.' 

Watching the first episode of My Mad Fat Teenage Diary I felt the same. Some reviewers loved it (Sam Wollaston for The Guardian), some hated or just didn't get it (Arifa Akbar in The Independent). These 21st century dramas - include Gavin & Stacey in the mix - are so much more than comedy in that they reflect life, real not reality, with all the ups and downs. In all of them the protagonists, heroes or antiheroes, make the best of it; they grin and bear it; crack a joke even if it is on them. And this was exactly what Rae, played with incredible maturity and insightful expression by newcomer Sharon Rooney, did. Absolutely not to be missed! Having read the book reviews on Amazon I have to admit to being intrigued to find out more about the real Rae Earle - I just pressed click to order the book and there is a great interview here! And a nice one with Sharon Rooney at screenterrier blogspot and some  interesting follow up stuff is here
Also really pleased to see that Anne Marie is returning to Shameless for the last episode, though somewhat relieved that it has all ended after an epic decade of writing! and like everyone else, hoping for a glimpse of James McAvoy - I predict he will appear in the final moments!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Wild Places

In The Wild Places Robert Macfarlane writes of a man who spent years - like twenty - studying how sand moves. Today the snow blew in and as I walked I saw how it patterned every surface uniquely. Snow on beech hedges and on holly leaves, snow on laurel and broken grass piercing fresh snow. I watched snow falling on cedars, given special meaning as it is a favourite book, film and audio read of mine, watched snow melting on the tips of hawthorn and felt soft clumps fall from tall pines and brush my shoulder. I was keeping a close eye on the snow because our new Pekin trio arrived at the weekend and they have gone free range for the first time. Finding their way around the garden and in and out of their house was tricky enough before the world turned white. Luckily we  were offered a young cockerel who the hens rely on completely as a compass and guide. It is really funny to watch as the little hens almost fall over themselves to stay as close to him as possible. The snow fell steadily from early morning until late afternoon and tonight sound is muffled by it. Perfect peace.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

A River Runs Through It

Happy New Year! and time to catch up with this neglected blog. Many times I've thought to write but the words got no further than my imagination so there is a bit of catching up to do!
The Autumn was gently eventful with some beautiful days both early and late on. Pics here of the rope swing Ted rigged up on the moor for the boys - at the place he used to play at their age - so sweet!  Lingering nearby this past month has been a lone Egret, blown off course but fishing hapily in the Bulbourne. Also pics of the boys in the park, which has been flooded for months. We find it really exciting to wade slowly through the grassy pools with Scout dashing madly hither and thither.
Driving home from mid Wales in November we were diverted many times as the Severn and Wye were in full spate. Devastating for the local population but an awesome beauty in the roiling, red waters and the power of a landscape transformed by nature. In many places the alders, willows and hazels looked prettily at home in the watery meadows and the vistas, empty of vehicles and people were tranquil. A lttle scary to drive over a bridge as the river ran through it and a henhouse floated by - but the frisson of some essential life force impressed itself on my consciousness. The Wild!

The start of December brought a flurry of snow and a hoar frost that lasted almost a week. Our eight year old Pekin cockerel having pegged out I was worried for our one remaining also aged hen. She moulted dramatically on his demise and looked dreadful. The plumage has now regrown a distinctive, mottled grey and we managed to find a little black hen to keep her company - and warm! This little one is very chatty, runs up to me every time I step out of the door and sits on the porch   tapping on the glass for attention. The not very good picture is of the very old hen and a little robin that also lives in the garden and enjoys a fair share of the mealworms I treat my bantams to! I am hoping to pick up a couple more pekins next week - white wheatens so hope they all settle in together. Meanwhile it is marmalade time again - I had to look out my old recipe here and you can too! Happy New Year!


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Amazing sunset

A veil of high cloud today allowed weak but warm sunshine all afternoon as I worked in the garden. The Pekins get bolder, demanding titbits whenever I appear and jumping into the borders before I am out of them. After eight years they are just too tame; but still laying. At 6.20 the sun has just set and the sky looked amazing so I leaned out of my bedroom window to take this pic. Hope this means another good day tomorrow!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Safeguard Our National Walking Trails!

Over the past few years we have walked the Thames Path and the Ridgeway as well as walking long stretches of the Pembroke Coast, Offa's Dyke and the South West Coast path. These trails are funded and managed nationally but the government is proposing local management which is opposed by The Rambler's Association amongst others. More than 7,000 people have signed their petition calling on Natural England - the Government body responsible - to rethink their plans for National Trails but the decision will be made next month. Local responsibility for the trails will almost inevitably mean less investment , a decline in quality and possibly commercial involvement that could be detrimental to their natural beauty.

These pics were taken last summer on the South West Coast path - the red sandstone cliffs near Sidmouth - very steep walk! - and the chalk harbour at Beer - very good crab & chips! Please sign the petition.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Ashridge Boundary Path

A fabulous walking day. We took the bridle path behind the Bridgewater monument and down to Barleycoombe, skirting Aldbury to Clipperdown and back along the Ashridge Boundary path. About two hours in glorious autumn sunshine. The apple tree on the old drover's road was laden with Coxes Orange pippins and we managed to scrump a couple. In the distance the bleached grass blew and shimmered on Pitstone Hill and the Ridgeway beckoned. And good company: one of those perfect times where we finished each other's sentences, discovered we like all the same things and thoroughly enjoyed sharing the countryside we are so blessed with only 25 miles from London. In amongst the debris of the wheatfield these little wild pansies or Heartsease (sigh) and Speedwell.

Sunday, 30 September 2012

Room at the Top

I'm watching Room at the Top with the fabulous Maxine Peake. Better I thought than Simone Signoret in the 1959 classic, though she won an Oscar for it. I think I found the classic Penguin edition on my dad's bookshelf around 1970. He did read some good books! Funny how a young girl like Susan can be totally 'in love' (whatever that means.....') and not notice that her lover is not in love with her. I guess we have all been there. We think we can make them fit the story. Poor Susan doesn't even understand a good story when he tells it to her, which is rather a good ploy to discourage our empathy for her. And Joe isn't quite the angry young man of the Braine novel, in fact he's a bit soft, but Matthew Mcnulty matches Laurence Harvey in a sort of new mannish way. It's Maxine that makes it though; watch it for her tough, tender, bittersweet rendition of a more mature but poignant and hapless love.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Richard Brautigan

I thought I was off the wall with my  love of Richard Brautigan novels. As a nineteen year old art student I read them in the seventies but no one ever seemed to have heard of him. Simple, beautiful, deeply meaningful novels and poems, a Beat but never quite on the record. More zen than The Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, he apparently did have a huge following in the US.  and a smaller niche one over here - someone nicked my collection of his books before the decade ended.Now Jarvis Cocker has caught up with his fan base and his daughter Ianthe in 'Messy Isn't It?' The Life and Times of Richard Brautigan on Radio 4. Unfortunately iPlayer is baaad at keeping content for more than a week so  I listened at 11.30 before the programme disappears into the ether. As a bonus I found a great archive and discovered plenty of 'out of prints' on Amazon. I have been recommending for the past forty years so hope that there will now be a revival.

Sunday, 16 September 2012

Wells Next the Sea

Last day of coasteering we spent in Wells Next the Sea and we'll definitely be back. Perfect seaside, wide sandy bay, pretty beach huts, and sand dunes to nestle in. The geography of this coast with its sand bars and shingle spits is fascinating and dangerous. The coast from Cromer to Hunstanton is backed by creeks and salt marshes, everywhere are avid bird/ seal/ dophin watchers. We saw one seal from Blakeney Point while we ate our cod & chips!  On the horizon Sheringham wind farm; I like it but why has it been funded and built by Norway and not team GB?
Inland, fields of apricot gold barley and stands of dark Scots pine. Very quiet and quite beautiful.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


Tomorrow I walk in beautiful Wendover Woods for The Altzheimer's Society. This week we spent a lovely Autumn day in Southwold where John Betjeman wrote a poem to his friend Mary Wilson wife of the former Prime Minister. The linking article enlightened  and the poem she wrote to mark his passing from Altzheimer's moved me.

"My love you have stumbled slowly
On the quiet way to death
And you lie where the wind blows strongly
With a salty spray on its breath
For this men of the island bore you
Down paths where the branches meet
And the only sounds were the crunching grind
Of the gravel beneath their feet
And the sighing slide of the ebbing tide
On the beach where the breakers meet."

Along the length of the pier are dedications of the sort you often see on seaside benches and which I always read feeling something akin to affection. Now in her nineties Mary lives quietly in Westminster where I suspect she still writes poetry...


Friday, 14 September 2012

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder...

Just back from a little trip up the east coast - Suffolk and Norfolk. Big seas then big skies. Called in at Snape. I love the old Maltings. Which do you prefer? No prizes for guessing my favourite. And then to Thorpeness, a place so close to Sizewell that I had always shied away. It was however an amazing find, a gem. Its creator is by turns called an eccentric and a philantropist. It started to rain just as we reached the boating lake which was a disappointment, but I think we will be back.

Sunday, 9 September 2012

Beautiful broad beans, lush lettuces

The Indian Summer continues and all the veggies that crashed early in the year are on top form. Sunshine in March, a heatwave in April followed by an unremittingly cold, wet May & June meant no beetroot or radishes but broad beans and lettuce have been excellent and we are now on the second crop; I am also trying for late beetroot on a second sowing. The lettuce is so sweet we are eating daily - and don't they look pretty?
Partied last night and met lots of old friends - how we change, and yet stay the same. And how time passes if we don't grasp it - seize the day!

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Glued to Parade's End on BBC2, mostly looking at Adelaide Clemens pretty face and perfect hair. The best cut ever. Have to watch PE though to see from all angles and the fab movement. Wish I was 19 again and had half the nous I have today (at 19 I had none whatsoever.) Talented and dogged - and, well, gorgeous.
Still haven't found out who her hairdresser is but this is the pic my hairdresser is looking at! And here is another fascinating interview. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Royal Affair

Today was a clear blue sky day with the fresh hint of Autumn in the air. The garden was full of boys having a last crazy Play-In before school on Wednesday. Joyful. First September in 28 years without school for me : the beautiful weather contributed to a sense of muted elation. New (part-time, I can lunch too!) job starts at the end of the month and feeling excited. 
Evenings are drawing in and tonight we have a beautiful gibbous moon, flame red, and by nine o'clock the sky is black. So last night we cosied in at the Rex watching A Royal Affair starring the gorgeous Mads Mikkelsen and Alicia Vikander. Big shame the seats were not full as it is not to be missed. My heart skipped many beats and I will now be trawling through films I have overlooked featuring 'Denmark's sexiest man' while awaiting his next release The Hunt, though that might take some sitting through, given the subject matter.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

The Ice Cream Boat!

Another week, another weekend. Fabulous weather and very satisfied that children can play outdoors as children should. One very warm day the boys found this slightly scary (for grandmas, who will be held accountable) spot on the River Colne and adventured for hours using the river as their pathway through dense undergrowth and scaring me half to death. All was well, just a little muddy! And today a family picnic near Marlow. The Ice Cream Boat came to call - v exciting, the man hands the ices ashore on a long pole to which you then clip your money and there is a pot for change. On the far shore a Jazz Band set up for the afternoon and we lazed around playing cricket, watching canoists and boats of every kind as we grazed. I didn't swim but the children stayed in for an impressively long while!

Monday, 23 July 2012

Still Wild

Had a wonderful birthday (his) down by the Thames yesterday, first at The Beetle and Wedge for a long, lazy and very indulgent lunch and later on to Henley where the urge overtook us, and quite a few others, so we took the plunge on the Regatta course which was luckily vacated at the time.First week o f the hols looking good!


After eight months of total crap I have turned a corner; the corner. A new beginning. Spent Saturday at Waterperry gardens in Oxfordshire at the Art in Action event. As usual the ceramics were my favourite - we bought several beautiful, tiny porcelain dishes, and just the smell of wet clay made me want to get my hands dirty again. There is a sack waiting in the back porch and two small boys who are also itching to get their fingers into it, and the summer holidays have arrived with blue skies and sunshine! Best in show though was Roanna Wells. I am not a great fan of textiles, there is too much homespun dross, but some things shine out like Roanna's conceptual pieces executed, we watched her, with painstaking concentration. They really have to be seen to be appreciated, quite wondrous.

Interpersonal Spatial Arrangements

Interpersonal Spatial Arrangements is an ongoing series of works looking at social situations that bring people together for a common cause.
By abstracting the individuals, focus is given to the spontaneous emerging patterns and self organisation of the crowds.
President Obama’s Inauguration, Washington 2009
Hand stitch on wool.

Sunday, 15 April 2012

April Showers

Looking back to last year's Blog the weather in 2011 tied in with the school hols and I had tanned legs by the end of April, sadly not repeated in 2012. We didn't notice the winter being dry but the Gade has all but dried up right down to Water End, the lowest for maybe five years.
After a mild winter and a few warm days before Easter the garden looks lovely - both the cherry blossom and the bluebells are earlier than last year but the cold north wind is now scattering petals with the hail.When I feel in need of comfort I often stand beneath the cherry breathing in the fragrance and listening to the humming bees.
We walked down to Hoo wood this afternoon to see the first sprinkling of bluebells but as you can guess from the pics that dramatic sky caught us out. Beautiful light though...

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A bigger picture

The queues were around the block for the last week of David Hockney's A Bigger Picture at the R.A. I've read all the reviews and some are harsh: this is without doubt the best exhibition I have ever seen or am likely to see. I took my husband and then my grandson; my daughter is going today. Sam asked (as I raved on) why I didn't take 'my whole school' and I wish I'd had the forethought. They will have to make do with digital images and the book and a day painting in Ashridge. I love the Fauvist palette, the mark making, the grandeur, the technology. I've always liked Hockney: etchings, pools, California landscapes, the Grand Canyon, but I hadn't realised how it all fitted together before. In close up the marks and motifs have been perfected while standing back the perspective, pattern and dynamic come into play. I was swept away.                                

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Venus and Jupiter

Venus and Jupiter in conjunction
I've been fascinated by events in the night sky these last few nights and after some intense questioning from my grandsons decided a google was in order. On the Guardian website there is lots of info and a starwatching guide as well as lots of readers pics of this beautiful heavenly dance. This photo is byTafreshi/Getty Images, as the mist has drawn down again tonight though today was like summer. Clear blue skies and my first sightings of butterflies: a small tortoiseshell and a Brimstone. We usually see the latter first and a neighbour spotted one last week but despite spending all of Sunday in the garden I had been disappointed so far. Ladybirds seem to have benefited from our - all but for a fortnight - Mediterranean winter and the garden is beautiful with narcissus and helibores. Daylight until six thirty and British Summertime begins in less than two weeks!

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Google Walking Post Script

And then I found this. On the google map, a cottage located in a book, in Cornwall, built for a week of filming in Wales then taken apart and no trace of it but cached digital images. The time space thing again....

Google walk

Can't believe it - still horizontal almost a month later! Typing slowly with two fingers of right hand, I notice I sound stilted and am avoiding capitals. No matter; in these technological times I can leave my bed and walk the earth, with the aid of google. I notice that  travelling the Pembroke Coast Path and checking out the uploads revives sensations deep in my brain - it really is, for a millisecond, just like being there. I expect there is a time - space equation for that and I have just felt it. It wasn't a smell but the feeling of my feet on the path and a leaning into the picture and it only works with somewhere I have been. Amazing - try it!

Monday, 2 January 2012

Happy New Year!

Long time, no blog. Lying up in bed with sciatica having watched every self help clip on youtube - do you try osteopath, physio, chiro? Keep mobile/ lie flat? Take the drugs or avoid the pain? Anyway v peed at not being able to walk/cycle/garden/ boogie - sit on a chair even to blog/cinema/eat!! All began with Ofsted and no time to walk/ swim, too many hours at computer/in meetings.
But this cheered me up! Forever England, Chariots of Fire and all that. 

Awoken by cockerel crowing and kites keening it was a beautiful sunny day and is lighter this evening than since before 12th December with clear blue skies and a soft rose sunset, still twilight at 5 o'clock. The weather stays incredibly mild with roses still blooming and these incredibly profuse little daisies thinking they are somewhere in the Med! Still wanting to know their name if anyone can help? So, mustn't grumble. Happy New Year!

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Source of the Thames

On random days over the past few years we have been walking the Thames from the barrier to the source which we reached on Friday. Another perfect, golden, Autumn day; quiet water meadows, glowing Cotswold stone, placid cattle munching, our feet tramping the final eight miles from Ashton Keynes to the official source at Lyd Well and on to the Thames Head pub.

 The whole length of the river has given us so many wonderful days each a jewel in itself. Favourites have been: the sweeping park and Observatory at Greenwich, the houseboats and Georgian cottages through Chelsea, the parakeets at Ham House near Richmond, the tiny Stanley Spencer gallery at Cookham, watching the Henley Regatta preliminaries, swimming at Wallingford and Crayfishing at Lechlade. Through Spring, Summer and Autumn, through fields and cities, sparkling grey, sap green and pink with Oxford clay; racing over weirs, slow and meandering until finally just puddles in an ancient Ash grove, the history is tangible. And the lady we met with her poodle in her bicycle basket, the elderly couple parked up in their wheelchairs at Henley, the Chinese grandmother catching Crayfish - unforgettable.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Last weekend of summer...

On Saturday night the clocks go back and it will be dark by 6 o'clock. Every year I rail against it. For three blissful years between 1968 and 1971 we basked in double British summertime: long summer evenings with 10 o' clock curfews and winter afternoons with time to play in the snow. I remember watching field mice playing in the beech leaves at the bus stop as we waited for dawn and the bus to school. Any government that brings it back will get my vote! So we decided to make the most of it and drive to mid Wales for the weekend, from whence we ended up promenading Aberystwyth in the Autumn sunshine. The war memorial is fabulous, as you can see and there were plenty of people in the waves. Sunday found us in Ludlow by the River Teme. Just above the weir is a wide deep part that looked really inviting but someone held me back and I was just a teensy bit worried about an undercurrent. So we are planning to head for the beach on Saturday for that last swim of the summer before the dreaded clocks.