Thursday, 26 November 2009

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

It's a windsday

The forecast is for winds of up to 70 mph here tonight, and it certainly feels like it. It's howling down the chimney and whistling through any gaps it can find.

When my kids were little they used to watch the Winnie the Pooh cartoon, and I remember Pooh declaring that it was a Windsday while poor little Piglet got blown off his feet.

That's how it feels here tonight. It's pure coincidence that at midnight it will be Wednesday.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Racing Sheep

It's Tuesday morning, and the end of the August Bank Holiday, with everyone returning to their normal daily occupations.

On Sunday afternoon, our village held its second annual Sheep Race in a field behind the pub. I missed the race last year, and so this year I put my anti-gambling scruples on the back burner, filled my pocket with coins, grabbed my camera and set off for the race.

Here's the lineup of the jockies.

And here's the line up of the races. If you click on the picture you should be able to read it. In the first race I bet on No. 1 Shearger, ridden by Willy Sawsome (in navy blue on the far left of the picture above). The race was won by No. 5 Little Lamb (in fact a lamb half the size of the other runners) ridden by Barbara Ram (the one in pink). So I lost my £1 stake.
In the second race, I felt that it was impossible to guess which sheep would win, or even which sheep was which. So I decided that it must all rest on the rider, and I bet on Race 1's winning rider - Barbara Ram, riding No 5, Rambo.
During the commentary the commentator was interviewing someone with racing credentials (but of the motoring type, I think) and the conversation went something like this:
"Who do you think will win?"
"A sheep."
"Ah! But which sheep will win?"
"A white one." (all the sheep were white)
Here's the second sheep race (The Cottesloe Cup)....

Yes! Barbara Ram did it again, and I won £2.50 which deducting my two £1 stakes, left me with a profit of 50p.
I'm afraid I missed the third race, because I was in the pub drinking a cup of coffee and trying to get warm.
Remember Leo? Well between each race, they had a dog handler and dog fun race, and Leo was entered into the second one (between the 2nd and 3rd Sheep Race). Here's a picture with Leo circled in red. As you can see, his handler picked him up and carried him, so they were both disqualified!

It was really good fun. If anyone has any concerns, I would like to stress that no dogs or sheep were hurt during these races, although there were one or two human injuries, and one of the sheep escaped.

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Cut Short

I've finished writing a book review for Leigh Russell's book "Cut Short".

It's the first book review I've written, so I was a bit nervous about starting, but I enjoyed the book so much that it wasn't difficult to find things to say about it.

Monday, 24 August 2009

The contents of the parcel...

We opened the handsewn 'sew cute' parcel from my daughter Natalie, who is in India. Inside there was a really big (98 inches x 48 inches!) printed cotton wrap with really pretty beaded tasselling. I can wear it as a sarong, a wrap or a scarf, or even use it as a table runner. It's so versatile, and I love it.

Here's a close-up...

My son got a hippie style shirt, otherwise known as a kurta or tunic. It's white with a grandad collar and vertical pintucking. Here he is modelling it.

Also in the parcel was a copy of the Times of India for August 16th, 2009. Nat and Nick went with a local artist to help decorate a long wall in Mumbai. I've outlined the paragraph that refers to them in red, and also outlined Nat and Nick in the picture. It sounds like it must have been a lot of fun. Click on the picture to enlarge.

By the way, Banksy is said to be from Bristol, not London as it says in the article. Nat and Nick both know this since they've both lived in Bristol for the past few years, so it's probably a typo. If you're wondering who Banksy is, so are most of the rest of the world because his identity is a big secret. There's a large section about him in Wikipedia - see if you're interested.

While checking him out online, I found this which I think might be worth a visit to Bristol, though there isn't much time left before the exhibition closes.

It was like Christmas or my birthday all over again around here yesterday. Apart from opening the parcel, my son brought me some chocolates (actually, quite a lot of chocolate) from Belgium, and my neighbour gave me a jar of her really delicious home-made marmalade to thank me for looking after Leo.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Leo, a walk, and a parcel

This is Leo.

Leo is my neighbour's daughter's dog. My neighbour is looking after Leo while her daughter and family are on holiday, but yesterday she had to go into London, so I got to look after Leo. In the late morning, I suddenly realised that if we were going to go out while it was dry we'd better get moving. As you can see, Leo had the same idea. I think the eyes say it all.
Yesterday started and ended as a really lovely day. When we set off, the sun was shining and it was nice and warm outside. At this time of year the hedgerows are just dripping with fruits ripe for the picking, and they're just there on the side of the road for anyone to pick. These particular plums are quite delicious, but I don't think they taste much like plums. To me they taste like rhubarb and custard.
The bramble bushes are ripening and some of the blackberries are ready to be picked. I fancy making some sloe gin this year, and I've found a recipe on the internet which had me chuckling, because it starts with "get a bottle of gin and drink half of it...." Apparently you should wait till after the first frost before you pick the sloes. They look like blueberries in the picture.

I tried to get Leo to pose for a picture with this footpath in the background, but he was very uncooperative.

To the side of the path is a field, and it was empty except for this mother piggie and her little piglets. They all seem to be little minimees of their mother.

Next to the ivy leaves, you can see how small Leo really is. He is such an adorable little thing, and probably won't get any bigger. I would have expected him to have a yappy bark, but no! I discovered that Leo has a big-dog bark which is about 10 times as big as he is when a horse and rider had the temerity to cross his path. I think Leo doesn't like horses. He got so cross that I had to pick him up and hold him so that he wouldn't attack the horse. Sometimes big hearts come in small packages.
And talking of packages........

My daughter Natalie (see the link in the margin for Nick and Nats seeing the world) sent me and my son a present from India. This is what it looked like when it arrived (I've blocked out names and addresses for security). It took them absolutely hours to mail their parcels because they had to be wrapped in paper and string, and then in (what looks to me like) muslin and all sewn up. Apparently there are people in the street outside the post office who will provide a sewing up of parcels service for a small consideration.
I thought you might like to see a closeup of the stitching....

I haven't opened it yet. My son, whose name is also on the parcel, is in Belgium at a pop festival and won't be home until tomorrow afternoon. I just couldn't rob him of the pleasure of picking up this wonderful parcel and feeling it and shaking it, and trying to guess what's inside. So I'm waiting. And to be honest, I can hardly bear to wait, because I'm so curious about what's inside the parcel, but I also love the packaging so much I can't bear the thought of cutting through those stitches.

p.s. I almost forgot. On the way home from the walk with Leo I stopped at the Post Office to post a letter, and while I was in there the heavens suddenly opened and the celestial power shower got turned on. Leo and I were both thoroughly soaked! But after we'd been home a while, it all stopped, the sun came out, and it was all lovely after that.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

Leighton Buzzard Canal Festival

A few weekends ago, I went to the Leighton Buzzard Canal Festival. I'd never been to this festival before so I tucked my camera and some spending money into my bag, and set off after lunch. The festival had been going on since the morning, and by the time I got there I think it was probably less crowded than it would have been earlier. That didn't mean that there was less to see.

The entire length of the towpath side of the canal as far as the eye could see was lined with narrowboats, and traffic up and down the canal was relatively busy. The festival was being held in a park, and was bordered by a lake and the canal, and a good part of it was set within a wooded area.

One of the first things I saw was this old fire engine. It was beautifully cared for and in good working order. It was quite a warm day, and I got to see the engine in action when the firemen in charge sprayed water in a great arc into the air, which fell as droplets and cooled everyone nearby.

This was my favourite stall, selling canal artwork. There were several stalls selling this kind of artwork, but this one was my favourite and i bought the watering can which is just behind the barrel. I'm hoping that I've outwitted Hooli, (my daughter's dog), who has managed to chew all my previous plastic watering cans to a useless mangled mess. This is made of metal, so should shrug off Hooli's dental attacks.

And there were craft stalls with demonstrations:

The stall next to these llamas was selling their wool, some knitting kits, and hand knitted items. Loved the llamas - just look at that cute little white one.

And then there was the Town Crier who was going around ringing his bell and calling out his message which he'd put into a poem. I caught up with him and asked if he was the genuine Town Crier for Leighton Buzzard, and sure enough he was. He said that the job is a voluntary one, and that he can't devote as much time to it as he'd like to at the moment. He is, however, the official Town Crier, and his uniform is supplied by the Town Council. It was a really splendid uniform, and he was a very nice man who was happy to stop and chat to everyone.

I came across a wood turner next, giving a demonstration of how you only need pedal power and some fresh air to produce a thing of beauty. It was quite amazing to watch him at work.
The broom-maker.....

and the walking stick maker.

And corn dollies - with demonstrations and lessons in how to make them.

And last but not least......
The Morris Dancers
(click to play the video)

It really was a great afternoon out, and it didn't rain at all!

Friday, 3 July 2009


After always complaining about rain, here I am saying: "What a relief, it's rained!" It actually feels a bit cooler, and I can face sitting at the computer and writing a post.

The forecast for today is 23 celcius, which if they're right should make it possible to do something more than hang around in front of the fan.

I spent a week in Turkey last week. It was lovely. Pictures will follow in future posts.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Sweltering weather

It's too hot to sit at the computer and type. It's a good day for relaxing in front of the fan.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Voting Today

I went and voted in the European Union elections today. When I got to the polling station (in our village hall) and handed over the poll card I'd been sent in the post, I was given two ballot papers. Up until then I'd thought I was just voting for Euro MP's, or MEP's as they're called. But discovered that I was also voting in the County Council Elections.

The green ballot paper was for the County Council elections, and that was easy to deal with, because it was just a short slip of paper and there were only three candidates to choose from. Easy... choose, put your cross in the right square, fold and put in the correct ballot box.

The European Union election ballot paper was a different story altogether. The paper was yellow, and it was as long as my arm. And I had to choose between 15 parties, half of whom I'd never heard of before, and most of whom I knew very little about. It took a few folds to get it small enough to slip into the EU ballot box.

So that's it. I've exercised my right to vote, and it'll be interesting to hear who wins what.

Saturday, 30 May 2009

Hooli's back

He's such a clever dog, but just a bit camera shy.

Friday, 29 May 2009

Racing Dolphins

I only just got around to copying video from my Flip Video to my computer. This was filmed when we were on a boat trip in La Gomera in the Canary Islands. We saw loads of dolphins, and it's almost as if they were racing the boat we were on.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Burnt Offerings

I decided to make some chocolate chip cookies. I didn't use chocolate chips because I have some nice organic dark chocolate bars. So I chopped one of those up and used them in my standard chocolate chip cookie recipe.

Then I was too lazy to measure out spoonfuls of dough, and decided to make chocolate chip cookie bars instead. Since the recipe said not to grease the pan, I didn't. I then stuck the pan in the oven, and went out to do some gardening while it cooked.

The wind was blowing, and making a racket as it ruffled all the leaves in the trees, so I didn't hear the oven timer when it went off. By the time I remembered and went to look, the cookie was burnt all around the edges.

I decided this wasn't too much of a problem because I could cut the edges off when I cut it up into bars.

Easier said than done: since I didn't grease the pan the whole thing was stuck like glue. I did manage to cut out and scrape out about 20 cookie bars, and the rest was burn edges and crumbs which I have put into a plastic tub, and which I will nibble on while I have a cup of tea (just so I don't waste any).

It may not look very pretty, but it tastes quite good, if slightly burnt and crumbly.

You have to feel sorry for me.

Monday, 25 May 2009

Hooli again and a walk in the woods

Following on from yesterday's post about Hooli finding the rubber squeeky santa turkey, he was so pleased with himself that he slept with it by his side all night, and picked it up again first thing in the morning. So the house was filled with thumps interspersed with squeeks from the turkey as Hooli charged around with it in his mouth.

When I was getting ready to take him for a walk, everything went silent. Next time I checked, the turkey was gone. It's nowhere to be found. When I ask him where it is, he looks at me as if to say: "Turkey? What turkey?". I think he may have buried it again.

We went for a walk in the woods....

A field full of buttercups.

A rather elegant bug.
A molehill?

The path in the wood was almost overrun by wildflowers.

Like a low cloud.

And leaving the woods, I couldn't see the path out.
Till Hooli came back and showed me the way.

When we first came into the wood, there were three muntjac deer on the path ahead.
Two ran away before I could get my camera out.
If you click on the picture above you should be able to see the remaining deer a bit more clearly.
As we walked up the path we could hear loud barking sounds, which seemed to echo through the woods.
It was a little eerie.
When I got home I looked up the deer online.
They're the smallest deer in the UK and are known as the barking deer.
Click on this link to hear what it sounded like.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Gorgeous Day

It's been a gorgeous day here with wall to wall sunshine. In between washing and hanging out laundry, I read for a bit in the garden, and then I started to do some gardening.

Last year was a bit of a disaster in my vegetable patch, because even though I'd covered my vegetables with fleece or netting, I woke up one morning to find that all my salad plants had been decimated overnight by marauding slugs and snails.

I read recently that coffee grounds left around the salad patch are a good barrier for slugs, so I've been saving them up, and today I planted some lettuce seeds in a square area and surrounded it with coffee grounds. Unfortunately I ran out before the square was closed, but I think I have enough time, before the seedlings come up, to drink enough coffee to complete the square.

I've outlined the shape of the square, you can just barely see the coffee grounds, and the green line shows where I started and the red arrow shows where I ran out.

I hope this works, because I got very annoyed last year when I lost my whole crop.

I'm looking after Hooli this weekend and I got quite cross with him because he was digging near the boundary fence. I told him to stop, he'd pause, then start digging again, and just when I was ready to really yell at him, he pulled out a squeeky rubber turkey dressed in a santa costume.

He was so pleased with himself, he kept making it squeek.

I once read that squirrels bury nuts all through the summer and autumn, for use in the winter, and then can't remember where they buried them. Well I reckon Hooli must have buried that turkey at Christmas time, and remembered it all these months later. Does that make him smarter than a squirrel?

Friday, 22 May 2009

I do get some funny emails 1

The first celebrity to die of swine flu......

.....and we all know who gave it to him.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Christmas Steps

I was in Bristol recently and took a walk down St. Michael's Hill. Having driven up and down the hill several times before, I hadn't realised quite how steep it was until I walked it.

After reaching the bottom of the hill, I saw this across the road...

Naturally I was intrigued and had to see more, so on the way back, I had a closer look.

These two pictures were taken looking up, and then down, from the bottom of the first flight of steps.

Of course I had to Google it, and there's a nice article on the BBC Bristol website. According to the plaque on the right hand side of the street above "This streete was steppered done and finished 1669". You can see some close-ups and the full wording here .
Incidentally, I didn't walk back up St. Michael's Hill - I took a taxi. It just looked too much like hard work.

Thursday, 14 May 2009

More weeds...

I have too many dandelions in my garden, and they're not easy to pull out. They have such long twisty roots, which invariably break and regenerate. But according to various books and websites it seems that every part of this plant is edible and very nutritious.

The leaves and roots can be made into a gentle diuretic tea. The leaves can also be used in salad, fried, boiled or even wrapped around cheese. The roots can be eaten raw or cooked, or can be roasted and ground and used as a coffee substitute. The flowers can be added to salad, fried in batter, or made into wine. Even the seeds can be sprouted and eaten.

So why do we pull them up and mutter and curse about them? I guess it's because we can't control where they grow.

I took pictures of the seed head just for the fun of it. Here is a sample of three photos....

I hope it's given the impression of the seeds with their parachutes blowing away from the main plant.
Time to confess: I cheated and placed the seed head on a glass table top, and then knocked a few seeds off and spread them around to look as if they'd blown away. Did my trick work?
By the way, Dandelion is from the french dent de lion which means lion's tooth, because the leaves have a ragged tooth shape.

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Vicious Stinging Nettles

It's that time of year when I do battle with stinging nettles. They creep into my garden, hiding among the flowers and fruit, and seem to suddenly appear out of nowhere, fully grown, and towering over everything else.

The other day I set to work pulling up a couple of clumps that had grown out of their hiding place in two quince bushes that grow against a fence in my garden. Being an old hand at dealing with this perrenial weed, I wore long thick gardening gloves and started pulling. As well as the danger of being stung, the quince bushes are quite thorny, so I was very careful.

You can see above that they've just popped up through the quince, but by the time I see them they're pretty big and very vicious.
Here is a closeup of one of the leaves. Those fine hairs on the leaves and on the stems are what cause all the pain.
Despite taking very good care, I still got an extremely nasty sting on my arm just above the edge of the gardening gloves. I pulled too hard, too fast and too low down the stem, and the top of the plant whiplashed onto my bare arm. Ouch!

I may have been wounded, but look where the nettles ended up. Score so far: 1-1
Apparently they make a good and nourishing soup, but it would take a huge leap of faith for me to even try it.