Thursday, 30 August 2012

Bath Time for Birdies

no queuing
We spent a long time today, my granddaughter and I, watching a group of very new sparrows taking advantage of the water container on the bird table.
At one point there were 14 shoving and pushing to  get a drink and wash their faces. A few fisticuffs and soon they were all settled and sharing

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

One of those days that

"We must have a dead body" announced Mr M, liberally spraying Febreze all around his chair in the breakfast room. I sniffed the air but all I could smell was the aforementioned Febreze. I said this to Mr M who gave me a look - I hate it when he does that - and pointed downwards. "Obviously your sense of smell has not fully recovered then" he said, with a final flourish of the spray can. I thought that any living thing at carpet level would be lying on its back coughing its last breath but decided not to say this.
"Is there a smell?" I asked. This, it seems was an understatement and it was a very good job that my nose had taken the day off. That was yesterday and in the way of things the Karma Pixies decided that Mr M should not have it all to himself so today my nose is working properly and when I came downstairs this morning the smell was waiting for me - we definitely have a dead body.
Mr M spent a while in the cellar, searching for the source of this amazing odour but without luck. He thinks it - the rat - has crawled up into the space between the floor joists and expired so we just have to wait for it to dry out and mummify. The alternative is to rip the ceiling down in the cellar and that is never going to happen.
The rest of the day was just fabulous.
The strawberries on the label were drawn by Miss Em
I made sugarfree Blueberry Muffins and sugarfree Chocolate and Cranberry Muffins and then four pounds of strawberry jam. Proper, old-fashioned strawberry jam. My recipe comes from the 1957 edition of the Ministry of Foods book on preserving fruit and vegetables.
As well as doing this I was helping Miss Em to do a plaster cast hand print. She was fine until she put her hand into the plaster and then had to ease it out. Her face was a picture but as I had plaster of paris on my fingers I couldn't get the camera.  She quickly wiped her hands with kitchen paper and then scrubbed them at the sink.
Em then drew the strawberries for the jam labels and watch with great interest as I scanned the drawing and then added the picture to the labels and printed them. Nothing like seeing your work in print to give you a bit of a boost. Some of these will go out as Christmas presents this year along with an assortment of chutneys. I think I might just ring up the pick your own farm and see what is available in the next couple of weeks. I am in a definite preserving mood lately, and of course the strong smell of jam and chutney cooking covers the stink of decaying rat.

Monday, 27 August 2012

The last fling of the holidays

choosing breakfast at Jo's Place
We went out for the day with Daughter and SiL and Miss Em. As Mr M's knees are not good we needed to go somewhere that didn't entail much walking................. we went shopping.
Well we went to Oakchurch Farm Shop which is between Hereford and.... somewhere else that could be Bishop's Frome but also might not be.

tasting balsamic oils
the notice outside the tearoom
Miss Em dancing while Daddy takes pictures
waiting for tea - the men look desperate,
clutching their heads. It was pretty hot and humid.
As I have said before a day out begins with breakfast and for us that means Morrisons anywhere or Jo's Place on the A40 at Whitchurch between Monmouth and Ross. On Saturday we chose Jo's because Daughter and family had not been there before. They were entranced by the place. It used to be a Little Chef and then it was someone else and now it is Jo's. Mr M had the large breakfast I had the medium one with no beans - I really don't like beans at all - SiL also had the medium but he had everything Miss Em had a sausage and chips and Daughter had Kippers. She kept telling us for the rest of the day just how delicious they were.

We were very lucky when we reached Oakchurch because they had baskets of strawberries for a fiver! Really good sized baskets, you know the ones made of cardboard with a metal handle that used to be in the green grocers with mushrooms in? one of those with probably four or five pounds of strawberries in. Proper jam strawberries so they are a bit sharp to eat raw - that doesn't stop us though. I had hoped to make some sugar free jam with them but every recipe has either gelatin or something like that in it. Mr M finally said that he had quite given up on jam anyway and I was to make some "proper" jam for everyone, especially Miss Em who likes bread and jam for her tea after school

From there we dawdled towards Brecon, pausing at this really cute tearoom - we went there with the Bluefunnels earlier this month - and as we arrived in a shower of rain we hoped to sit and sup while the rain went away. Daughter told it to "Clear up now!" and it immediately stopped raining so we could sit outside in the sunshine and enjoy our cuppa and cake. They make beautiful cakes although their welshcakes had nutmeg in them so they were pseudo welshcakes.

Em liked that she could walk around the garden and photograph the pot animals that were hiding in the long grass. She found a pig and a rabbit and a dog on a bike and then had a dance in the little gazebo while her daddy took her picture.

We got home in time to herd the chickens into their run and then sit and snooze for the rest of the evening. Miss Em was pretty tired and went to bed early.

A fitting end to the summer holidays - we always think of the bank holiday weekend as the end of the holidays. The rest of the time is the build up to school. Making sure the uniform fits, buying shoes, checking shift rotas, starting the early bedtime routine again and reminding grandma that we have to do lots of scrapbooking before terms starts otherwise "before you can turn around Grandma it will be Journal Your Christmas again!"
Am I teaching her good stuff or what?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Weekend Visitors

"Is it alright if Wicked Uncle Cliff comes to stay this weekend?" asked my daughter. Now, he's not her wicked uncle, no. This is the name that Miss Em calls him, sometimes reduced to the three-letter acronym WUC. He is a long time friend of ours who went away for a while but is now safely back in the family.
I said it was fine. My daughter replied that he was bringing a friend so a day or two after this Miss Em helped me prepare bedrooms and she dusted and polished her way around the upstairs of the house - and I let her.
The reason for the visit was a re-enactment weekend at the Roman Amphitheatre in Caerleon. I suppose that when you live in such close proximity to things you cease to notice them, and when someone reacts the way WUC reacted the first time he saw it, you suddenly realise that you are a pretty lucky person.
They arrived on Friday evening and we liked Anna immediately, and we spent hours talking and laughing until I simply had to go to bed, but one of the things we decided to do was to get up fairly early and take them to see the other Roman stuff we have "round yer".
After a hearty breakfast we went to Caerwent and showed them all the excavations there. Mr M told them all about the place. He carries a lot of information in that head of his and always surprises me with the things he knows.
We then took them to Caerleon via Christchurch hill (to show them the view over Caerleon) and then dropped them off by the amphitheatre to enjoy their day. We had to go back home to empty the drip pan... did I tell you about the leaky pipe? No? Oh. the bit of pipe that has the connection to the washing machine and dishwasher started to leak. I was afraid to fiddle with it in-case it went whoosh and I had a fountain instead of a leak. On Thursday Mr M rang the plumber but he couldn't come until Monday. Now I don't know about you but I tend to hang on to a good workman so I didn't want a strange plumber and was prepared to wait. This did mean that we had to put the roasting tin under the leak as nothing else was shallow enough and yet big enough to hold more that three tablespoons of water. The roasting tin would last all night - as long as someone was up at 5am - and could be emptied fairly easily.
Anyway we spent the afternoon snoozing, collected them from Caerleon when they were totally re-enacted out and spent Saturday evening laughing and then again on Sunday morning we talked and laughed the whole time.
I was reluctant to say goodbye and I am now looking forward to the next time WUC and Anna arrive for a stay.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

I've been thinking...

When I say those words out loud in this house everyone goes very quiet. They are poised, ready for flight and my thoughts are not usually that awful. Anyway, I was thinking about our day out yesterday and how much we laughed together and that set me thinking about those family sayings and "in" jokes that develop during a lifetime.
guided tour
My daughter was a bit naughty with her language on a couple of occasions and with a seven year old in the car, well. I asked Miss Em if she thought that Mummy was being very rude and she said yes so I was reassured that certain words would not appear in conversation. I then remembered that when my daughter was about six she had been in the back of the car when we were driving along narrow lanes and met a car coming the other way "Jeemus Price!" she said "That was close!" I reminded her of it and she has said she will try to use that instead.
Food! I saw you eating! Feeeed me!
This set me on the train of thought about all those moments when family sayings are created. One of the things we have is a kind of code for when we are in the company of strangers. If we see something that is really awful or ugly.... for example yesterday at Newark Park, in the dining room there is a metal............. I suppose it is a sculpture really.... thing that looks like lilies and teasels in a big vase all made out of gilded metal. It is huge and dominating and I quite liked it - I wouldn't want to live with it but I liked it. My daughter looked at it, looked at me and said "It's magical". That is our code for "good grief that's hideous!" but it caused the lady next to us to say "Oh yes, it is magical isn't it?" We smiled.
There are many more things we say and I will try to write them down as we say them so that I can collect them.

Saturday, 11 August 2012

A day out

When Mr M worked "continental" shifts in the steelworks I knew where we were. I could work out what shift he was on for weeks in advance and it was good. As an example his rota meant that, starting from a Monday he would work a morning shift on Monday and Tuesday, an afternoon shift on Wednesday and Thursday, a night shift on Friday, Saturday and Sunday and then have Monday and Tuesday off. Then mornings Tuesday and Wednesday etc.
Then he went from working on the production line to working in the office. Bad! horrible! I hated it. no more popping out for an afternoon when he was on a morning shift we were stuck with 8.30am to 4.30pm Monday to Friday. Our days out were confined to Saturday and Sunday and I hate it!

Now he is working on the weighbridge and is back on shifts but the rota is a cumbersome drag. Monday Tuesday Wednesday mornings. Thursday friday afternoons then two days off then Monday Tuesday Wednesday Afternoons and Thursday friday bl**dy DAYS! so we are still stuck with going out on Saturdays.

 I am quite jealous about sharing my time with him so asking my daughter and my favourite son-in-law and delightful granddaughter to come with us was a rare occasion. I am so glad we did.

We took them to Newark Park. A National Trust property not far from Wotton-under-Edge. Until last December it was lived in by a tenant but it was still open to the public. I loved the feel of the place then because it really felt as though it was lived in. Now it feels as though the place is a holiday let, ready for occupation but not really having a heart. It is still the most delightful and quirky house, a joy to walk through and you really can imagine yourself living there

The teashop in in the basement and to get in you go through a window! you have to remember to duck really low. We watched one tall man fold himself up to get in - not the man in the shorts although his legs were what made me take the picture. He looks like he is wearing his school shorts from when he was twelve! Good legs though.
We had great fun watching the faces as they discovered all the things we had learnt last time we went. We had a cuppa and then Mr M stayed at the table while the rest of us walked through the gardens. It was a delightful walk until we were coming back up from the lake and the gentle slop we walked down suddenly got very steep and it felt like the north face of the Eiger. Not that I have ever climbed it. It was good exercise even if I was red-faced and breathing heavily. I was, as the nurse told me I should be, breathless but still able to speak. We then did a little detour to Cam to visit my sister-in-law but she was out so we came home via Gloucester and Chepstow.
I saw three cricket matches but by the time the camera was ready we were three miles down the road. Digital cameras - TUH! This forty mile an hour photography is darned hard work.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Not a leg to stand on

A day out begins with food. The OK Diner, Leominster
I have said before that we have a day out with the Bluefunnels. We try to go about once a month as it is a total relaxation for all of us. However, Mr Blue is waiting for a specialist appointment to see if he now needs a knee replacement. Mrs Blue had something two awful to describe done to her knees a couple of years ago and they are beginning to hurt again and Mr M suffers dreadful pain in his knees. This means that wherever we go there can only be short amounts of walking with long amounts of sitting.

Trying to photograph steam rising from the road
at 40mph from the back seat. Not easy
 Mr M is ok when he is driving but this means that National Trust houses where we have a long walk from the car park are really not possible at the moment. Last weekend Mr Blue had sort of decided that he didn't want to go out but when I unveiled my plan he changed his mind.
"What if we go to the OK Diner for brunch? and then on to this fabulous farm shop that we have found called Oakchurch Farm Shop. They have all sorts of wonderful stuff and a restaurant so when your knees scream you can sit down".
This met with instant approval so on Saturday we collected them, after admiring their new front gates, and set off.
Balsamic strawberry oil
We went the pretty way, up through Monmouth and along the Hereford road through the Buckholt. We spent the time as we usually do, catching up on family news and then the latest gossip. We talked about our chickens and their chickens and what the cousins have been doing since the last family reunion and there we were pulling into the car park at the OK Diner. We can park in the disabled space when we go out with Mr and Mrs B because he has a blue badge.

The food, as always was excellent and we spent the next bit of travel time laughing at me trying to get photographs from the back of a moving car. I missed the train (stupid digital camera) and the wonderful clouds of steam rising from the road disappeared to nothing in the photograph.
"Taste this" he said, so she did!!!

 Oakchurch Farm Shop lived up to my hype and we found plenty of things we desperately needed. When I get a good cold box that stays cold I will buy some of their frozen fruit.

Watching the faces as they tasted the various balsamic oil thingies was good. I even remembered the camera and took some pictures.

We then decided to come home the Welsh way and as this meant passing the Tea room that we are "going to go in there one day"
I try to watch what we eat, but sometimes
I'm not fast enough!

We stopped for a cuppa and just had to have a piece of delicious cake as well. By the time I remembered the camera it was too late. Not even a crumb left behind. Absolutely delicious and I wish I could remember the name of it.

We stopped one more time just outside Llangynidr - pronounced in South Wales as Lan gun id er - where there is a tiny farm shop. mostly meat but they did have some Llanfaes ices which were delish!!!

Back to the Bluefunnels eyrie on top of the hill where we had a nice cuppa before heading home to sit and snooze away the evening.

Sunday, 5 August 2012

The things we do for love

Today is story telling Sunday On the first Sunday in the month we tell a story and then we all go over to Sian's place at FromHighintheSky and leave a link to our story. Then we spend lots of lovely time readinf everyone else's stories. Why not join in?

Bessie Nathan
My Great Grandmother was an actress. I have told stories about her before here but I haven't told this one because it is a recent discovery. I have been researching the life and career of Bessie NATHAN, as she called herself on stage, for the last 16 years. I found relatives in Australia, cousins in America and sad stories of the wartime deaths of two of her grandsons.
One of the family stories we heard from Aunty Muriel was that after my grandmother - Bessie's daughter - died giving birth to twins, Bessie blamed my grandfather. She said he should have "behaved himself" and not allowed his wife to get pregnant again after the doctors had warned her of the consequences. Aunty Mu said there was a terrible row which ended when Grandfather lifted Bessie off her feet and carried her out into the street and then dumped her bags there too. Aunty Mu said that Bessie went across the road and was lodging there so that she could keep an eye on her grand children.
While I was searching the indexes for the marriage of Bessie's youngest daughter, also called Bessie, I found what I thought was the correct reference so I ordered the certificate.
Imagine my surprise when I realised that this was the marriage of Bessie NATHAN to a man called David Walters, who lived in a house on the opposite side of the street to my grandfather!
No one ever knew this except for Bessie and the man she married, at least not until after Bessie had died.
We don't know exactly what she was doing between her marriage to Mr Walters in 1920 and her death in 1930. We know that she died in Lambeth Hospital aged 74 and that her niece Josie registered her death under the name Bessie Elizabeth Seymour in January 1930. We also know that in February 1930 Josie and her uncle Alfred made a Statutory Declaration to correct some of the details on the death certificate. Her name was given as Bessie Elizabeth Walters and where she had been described as the widow of Guilfoyle Seymour (almost the correct name of her first husband) she was now described as the wife or widow of David Walters.
I have spent 16 years chasing this woman. I adore her. Every new little thing I find about her tells me that she was hard and perhaps unforgiving, that she was totally ambitious and her whole life was focussed on acting and the stage. She was an inveterate liar, and from what I remember of my aunt's stories she could tell a good tale. I really don't think she was very nice but by gosh she was a character and I hope that somehow I have passed on some of that strength to my own daughter.

If you have enjoyed my story why not visit Sian's Place and read all the others