Showing posts from 2010


Herewith a little ditty I penned for Christmas (John Betjemen need not worry yet! - though he may turn in his grave) which some of you may empathise with. Just a bit of fun at a hectic time of year:-

The Merry Go Christmas Round

The halls are decked,
The tree is up,
It’s time to make the Christmas cup:
Pour in the cider,
Pour in the wine,
We’re going to have a fine old time!

Blue lights flashing
Anymore and I’ll go spare:
Blow up Santas,
Golden sleighs,
Let’s have a party, weh hey hey!

Big fat turkeys,
Ribs of beef,
Christmas fayre is such a treat.
Where’s the stuffing?
Where’s the pud?
My, oh my, it tastes so good!

In-laws coming,
Out-laws too,
Let’s cook up a turkey stew.
All those presents,
All that booze,
Time to go and have a snooze.

So that was Christmas
Don’t you think?
Too much time at the kitchen sink.
Roll on New Year
Roll on fast
Bloomin’ heck that’s another year passed!

Bah Humbug!

And my Christmas gift to you all (wait for it...) .... is a new Fridge Food post (hurrah!) which may give you an…

Reflections on a Funeral

A week has passed since the funeral of our farmer and I am looking back and reflecting. One of the hardest things about any funeral service, or service of remembrance, is listening to the eulogy. You often learn so much more about the person in that one speech than you might in a lifetime of acquaintance. Even with good friends or relatives, the people who have lived closest with them, on a daily basis, are really the only ones who know the person well. I always end up feeling slightly cheated, that I wish I had spent more time with them, that I wish I had asked them more questions, had more conversations. But suddenly it is too late. Time has been called and you've missed your chance.

We learnt some details of the farmer's life and character that we hadn't known before: the fact that his farm and farmhouse was the very same in which he was born and brought up; the fact that his own father died at 64 (just one year younger than himself) and how devastated he was and how, at…


I am sitting at my bedroom windowsill looking out over the fields and hills that I loved from the moment I first set eyes on them. The sense of eternity embraces the valley in a way that I find hard to put into words. Perhaps it is the fact that the rock and mineral that shapes the landscape has been here for millenia more than us, pre-dating an Ice Age which we can never imagine (although perhaps more easily today in the blanket of snow which covers us). This horseshoe valley was shaped later by glacial erosion and left behind the vista we see before us now.

A weak sun illuminates the scene from time to time, warming gently from on high. The fields in front of me are empty of sheep, the gate swings open and tractor tracks pattern the snow on the lane. My mind is wandering around the corridors of memory, searching for images of the farmer whose sheep filled the land in front of me. His was the old Land Rover which passed by on the day we first came to view the house, locked into the rh…

The twists and turns of life and tyres

Life has taken some extraordinary twists and turns in the last week or so and I'm still in the middle of some difficult stuff. I've found myself without time or energy to write despite fragments of ideas coming to me at strange times and places when I am without pen, paper or computer.

So much has been happening but so much that I can't write about for various reasons. I'm finding it hard to put words to emotions anyway - something which normally comes easily enough to me. There is much around me at the moment that is in limbo, and limbo is a state which is always de-energising.

I have found this brief moment to write while waiting at Selecta Tyres to get my winter treads put back on. It hardly seems a moment ago that I was having them taken off, yet here we are suddenly only a few weeks away from Christmas (quick panic attack). Mercifully, unlike the first time I had this done, I have snuck in before they have felt the need to drape tinsel over the tyres in the waiting …

Things I have done today

Friday 12th November 2010

Things I have done today:

1. Woken up to Classic FM – Saint Saens ‘Dance Macabre’ – scared the cat off the bed.
2. Woken girls who fell back to sleep after their alarm went off.
3. Made cup of tea.
4. Fed cat.
5. Chivvied children.
6. Taken them to school bus.
7. Missed bus.
8. Taken them to next stop.
9. Gossiped with neighbour.
10. Made another cup of tea.
11. Emptied dryer.
12. Paired a laundry basket full of almost identical (but not quite) white socks.
13. Done an hour’s ironing while watching ‘Lorraine’. Apart from the fact it was with Fiona, not Lorraine. Not good. Remind me not to do that again. Felt slightly queasy by end.
14. Made toast and marmite.
15. Texted friend whose father gravely ill. Felt very sad.
16. Emptied dishwasher.
17. Loaded dishwasher.
18. Unloaded dryer and washing machine and put stuff in dryer.
19. Put dark wash in (two muddy coats – one is the gardener’s which was lying around the potting shed and I felt generous; the other is mine from when I wen…

Coming Home

Coming back from holiday is rarely joyous: mountains of mail blocking your front door, a reminder of all you left behind; dust and cobwebs; sagging house plants; the dead flowers you forgot to take out of the the vase in the rush to leave. In our case the house was also perishing cold as our heating is leading a life of its own at the moment and clearly decided to take a holiday too.

Yet, despite all this, for once I was neither downcast nor despondent. I put on the kettle to make a cup of tea and let my eyes fall on the garden, so changed since we left just over a week ago. The late afternoon light was golden, warming the burnished autumn colours still further.The skeletons of the trees were starting to reveal themselves a little more clearly as they slowly shed their yellow, brown and red coats onto the still green lawn below. The sky above was clear October blue. I stepped outside and smelt the subtle shift in season too: a new sharpness to the air laden with woody undertones and me…

Dolphin Delights

Just as an aside, I wanted to alert anyone who's interested to the programme I watched with the girls (when they were meant to be doing their homework!) on dolphins last night as part of BBC 2's Natural World series. Not only was the photography stunning and set in the extraordinarily remote and beautiful Shark Bay in Australia, but the insight into these remarkable animals is unmissable.

I always knew how intelligent they are but this programme revealed whole new levels of knowledge on the social framework of dolphin communities - with one of the central characters being a female who they have been watching for 23 years I think it was (one of the girls spoke just at the wrong moment!). This soulful matriarch, with her family of at least 8 I believe, could teach lessons to many a human mother, that is for sure.

The other point of interest for me was that, by strange coincidence, I have just finished reading Bill Bryson's book on Australia, Down Under, in which he makes a vis…

A Moment of Reflection

I have just eaten my lunch outside on the front terrace in soft September sun. Of course, it's actually October, but today feels like its softer sibling. The sun is hot yet burnless, warming my back as I write; the air is slightly milky and completely still. Save for the buzz of flies, the crisp rasp of a dry leaf as the cat shifts her position in the sun, the distant barking of a dog, the caw of crows, the lowing of cattle and, way across the valley, the intermittent drone of a chainsaw and the calls of playing children, all is calm. A plume of grey smoke, too far away to scent the air, drifts gently upwards from the green valley floor to the blue sky above where not a cloud breaks its perfect cian expanse.

Sitting at my round white metal table, this vista before me, I wish I'd come out earlier. Chores, as ever have kept me inside. I had paperwork to sort out, calls to make, bills to pay. I had not even noticed that the day had turned so good. Only when my stomach rumbled, and…

New Fridge Food Post

It's been a long time coming, but have finally got round to posting something new over at Fridge Food - a thrown together supper of tomato, chorizo and bacon pasta. So easy, remarkably good. Go see.


Coming Home

Our journey back north from the south coast of England was uneventful compared to the same from the south to the north of France. The most notable element was stopping at Warwick Services on the M40 for a quick food shop at the small Waitrose branch they have there – surely the most civilised aspect of the place – and we were even seduced into buying a ‘cool bag’ for a quid (when you spent £15 or more). Ah yes, we were back in England all right.

This was further confirmed as we approached Buxton which was living up to its status as the wettest place in England as high winds drove rain hard and horizontal at the car. Welcome home! Spirits were not high at this point but mercifully the rain eased as we drove into the village and N noted how it was the first time for as long as he can remember unpacking the car from a holiday a) in daylight and b) without it pissing with rain. Reasons to be cheerful, then.

And so we put the kettle on (it was still only 10.45am as we had disembarked from th…

Sunset over Rennes

As we hurtled our way towards the northern French seabord, I glanced left just as the autoroute climbed higher ground and suddenly revealed a beautiful red orb eaten into on its lower circumference by the silhouetted skyline of Rennes. The Eagles were filling the car with a live version of 'Tequila Sunrise' (not literally, of course - would be a bit cramped) and though it was the end of the day, not the beginning, the conjunction of image, mood and music was sublime.

We had left the house far too late, as usual (just trying to finish off those last jobs and close things up for the next few months), and endured a nail-bitingly slow journey up the western edge of France as everyone returned home, like us, from their holidays, cars stuffed to the gunnels with suitcases, pushchairs, surfboards, bodyboards, spare loo rolls and nappies: long queues at the peage, smoke drifting listlessly out of open windows. 25 degrees, blue skies, a few puffy clouds - a perfect day for basking on a …

Letter from Les Landes, Saturday 14th August

Our lunch was rudely interrupted yesterday by a youngish man in camouflage-patterned combat trousers and T-shirt enquiring who owned the land next to us. We told him it belonged to the 'commune' (i.e the Mairie, or Mayor) and politely enquired why he was asking. He didn't seem inclined to tell us, so when I said that, actually, a part of the land was ours (true enough, though sadly only a metre-wide strip the other side of the stream) and that therefore we had reason to know, he informed us he was looking at buying some suitable 'parcelle' of land to make a botanical garden. The piece of land in question, full of natural springs, would, of course, be ideal and save a lot of watering...

Although, to the outsider, this may seem an admirable enough idea, his plan was to encourage tourists and schools visits which seems a little inappropriate in a narrow residential lane squeezed between two houses, thus ruining the privacy and tranquillity of both. When there is miles …

Letter from Les Landes, Friday 13th August

And so I have moved my charabanc to France. The last time I was here the call of the cuckoos and the drill of the woodpeckers reverberated in the woods around us; now it is the soft coo of the woodpigeons or the harsh drone of hedgetrimmers and strimmers which accompany our daily rhythms.

The days pass easily enough in a mix of sunshine and clouds. When sun prevails we are on the beach, when clouds win the battle we find other amusements. There is always a wash to put in, a floor to sweep, a meal to prepare, a bed to change or a visit to be made. N has had work trickling through since we arrived nearly three weeks ago and as I sit on the beach writing this, he is at home taking a conference call. All this annoys me greatly as he is never truly allowed to rest, it seems. He deals with it by putting his head in the proverbial sand and saying that it is only 'normal'. I, meanwhile, yearn for the days pre fax and email and mobile and Blackberry - the days when you couldn't be c…

Dunge Valley Gardens

I went to Dunge Valley Gardens on a sunny afternoon towards the end of May. It's a treasure of a place hiding deep in the beautiful Goyt valley above the Cheshire village of Kettleshulme. I first discovered it soon after we moved here, now seven years ago. Whenever I arrive in a new place I have to go exploring - it's a way of connecting with my new environment and putting my small life into a wider, more meaningful context. But when I followed the small brown signs with the enticing sounding name, like Alice through Wonderland, I truly never expected to find something quite so surprising and alluring on the apparently bare green hillsides around me.

Since that first discovery, I have taken family, friends and French teenagers there and every visit has never failed to delight. I am filled with a sense of wellbeing every time I visit - but I have always chosen my days and timings carefully.

The best time to go is towards the end of a sunny day in May when the rhododendrons and az…

A Moment in Time

Saturday 3rd July 2010

As I write this N, recently returned from Nigeria, is quietly downstairs in his study fiddling with the new watch he bought himself on the plane, while outside my bedroom door there is the intermittent patter of small feet across carpet as G and L rush around gathering new bits and pieces for their endless games of Barbies. I have just found them in the bathroom discussing new hair styles for Rapunzel, chuffed that they have finally released her tresses from some manky old elastic bands which were curtailing her beauty. The house never seems quite complete when one of the girls is missing - E is off with her Year 6 classmates on an adventure weekend in Castleton which happens to be just 15 minutes away from our house. It is nice to know she is nearby.

It is really noticeable how she and her muckers have subtly grown up in the last six months. Until Christmas the boys in their year seemed more of an irritation than anything else. There were complaints, even during …

Nice Smells and Nasty Smells

Kitchens should be full of nice smells - the frying of onions, a waft of garlic, toast and the aroma of fresh coffee. Today mine has been a far cry from this idyll. I came down this morning to be met by an updraft of cheesy stench which I spent some time puzzling over. Now, at some point over the last 24 hours - and I really can't remember if it was last night or this morning - I heard a big bang. It sounded like something had fallen down or over, but I couldn't see anything obvious. It was only when I went to take my tea mug to the sink at around 9am that I was overwhelmed by the hideous odour. Bit by bit, my senses took in the information: a breakfast plate put down in a puddle of something which came to light only when I picked it up to put it in the dishwasher; a large amount of white spatters all over the cupboards next to the sink...and then finally the penny dropped. Yesterday I had been sorting the fridge out a bit - things liquifying in the vegetable drawer, a mouldy …

Washing Around in Cyberspace

This is a quick impromptu post based on a couple of unwanted Followers. It's quite unnerving to log on and find that your latest Follower is sporting a lot of provocative breast. I clicked on the icon, expecting the worst, and the worst certainly came. Bits of a female you can't see without a mirror and a cucumber suddenly filled my screen. This is not really what I want. In fact, I suddenly feel rather lost and alone, and really quite vulnerable, out here in cyberspace. Where have all my 'friends' gone? There just seems to be an aching silence and a feeling of use and abuse pervades this place. It makes me feel rather sad on a day when I was feeling sad enough already.

So Where did Last Week Go? - Final Part

Tuesday Evening, 8th June

This turned out to be as nice as I hoped it would. We were joined by our four best friends up here, and everyone had taken the trouble to dress really smartly, which added to the sense of occasion. We sat and talked in the low lit, comfortable lounge (it not being warm and fine enough to sit outside as we normally would), sipping champagne, perusing all the deliciously tempting menu options and making lively conversation. The evening continued in the same vein - and as we were quite late we were the only ones in the restaurant, but it made no difference. We made more than enough atmosphere all by ourselves. We came away from it replete, happy, and filled with a tremedous sense of wellbeing. What more could you ask for on your birthday?

Wednesday 9th June

There was an inevitable flatness to today after the joys of yesterday. The weather was still unseasonally cool and I had to contend with yoga after a late night and lots of alcohol. It was a bit of a struggle. I…