Tuesday, 30 November 2010


The first snow this morning at 6.30 with Ashley venturing down the path - but not for long!
I don't mind this amount, which is about 1/2" deep, fine and powdery, it's when it freezes it causes trouble, as you'll know. I've swept a patch for more bird seed as the remains of yesterday's has been covered over.

The carpenter came yesterday to do several jobs, one being to put up a second hand rail so I can haul myself upstairs with alternate hands. I suppose I should varnish it....

He laid a 'patching' floor on top of the shed floor that's going into holes and then made a new sewing table frame for me, very utilitarian but sturdy and what I hope will be the right height to machine on. He's made it with a loose top, which is a wardrobe door panel which I bought at Texas (remember that DIY store?) many years ago.

The framework has been put so that it's 1 1/2" or so away from the wall. I'll be able to drop material or a quilt down the back of the table by shifting the table top. There's plenty of room underneath whereas before, with a pasting table, I had a very heavy set of metal drawers helping to support it in the centre. The only snag is that it's too low to cut on comfortably but I'm learning to use the ironing board!

He also put things up in the roof space for me and got down the Christmas paper/cards/labels which I'll have to use soon, a chore I don't look forward to.

Stop moaning, woman...

Monday, 29 November 2010


Stuart and Helen's dog had to be put down a month or so ago after a large lump was found which was inoperable.

Helen wanted to get another dog quickly but this time not to choose a pedigree dog so they plumped for this one. Her name's Bella, she's now 10 weeks old and is a bitser dog - bitser collie, labrador and springer spaniel. It's the first time she'd been here and was into everything, especially if it smelt of food! The cat's food had to be lifted out of the way while she trotted all round the room, investigating everything. Trying to take photos wasn't easy - so every picture is of her rear end!

At least she didn't leave a puddle anywhere! Ashley decided to go outside for a while and he wasn't bothered by her scent when he came back in again - later.

Perhaps next time I see her - in warmer weather down at the stables - maybe I'll get a shot showing her face!

At last! A sort of full frontal... Take me home, Mum!

Sunday, 28 November 2010


I've just wandered down the garden to see what's happening to the plants as it's been such frosty weather recently. Luckily we haven't yet had snow, touch wood! I know, that's tempting fate. But it's only been a heavy frost. This is the last New Dawn rose bud...

These are London Pride rosettes, evergreens, so the frost won't worry them. They remind me of my childhood when they flourished in our London garden

Even the bird feeders are frosted as I don't get much sun in the garden during the winter. Why are goldfinches such messy eaters? The tray on the left is full of nyger seed. I've thrown out porage oats coated with cooking oil, which the birds are fond of, but rather than robins and finches it's a handful of starlings. Blackbirds like it, too. Commercial bird seed seems wasteful as lots of the seeds get left, unwanted by any bird, even the pigeons and collared doves.

Poor old house leeks but they'll recover for next year. Most of these are next spring's forgetmenots which will be a sea of blue come April. Can't wait!
I've rummaged through the leaves of the clumps of hellebores (the plant on the left by the wire plant support) but so far none are showing signs of flowers. Most of them are the creamy variety and the buds should be coming through 'soon' when I shall have to cut off the leaves to show the flowers. I have some dark purple varieties as well but they're usually later flowering.

While I was outside I could hear some sportmen banging away with their shotguns, which reminded me of something which happened in Stone in April 1897. According to a report in the Bucks Advertiser two boys, aged 14 and 10, and another, were crowstarving with Mr.Woodford's breechloading shotgun in his field. The eldest boy put a marble in each of the five blank cartridges he'd been given and fired three. Having reloaded he left the shotgun propped against a hut. The 10 year old boy accidentally kicked the gun and it went off, hitting the 14 year old, who called out that he was shot. Two men took him home.
Mr. Woodford said he'd warned the boy not to put marbles or anything else in the gun and paid him 5/- per week.
At the Infirmary the house surgeon said the immediate cause of death was 'titanus', by which I imagine he meant tetanus. He produced the marble and said he'd found peritonitis.
The Coroner said it was a pure accident and a verdict of Accidental Death was returned. It was, a rider concluded, injudicious of Mr. Woodford to trust a gun...[to] so young a lad.

It's all so casual...

Little snippets of local history like this give an insight into Times Past.

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Gillian came round yesterday, not to garden but to help clear out the cupboard under the stairs. It's long and narrow and I'd never be able to do it on my own. Or, rather, I'd lose interest, having to keep backing out with something before going back again.
So, Gillian to the rescue.

It took a couple of hours and quite a lot of that time was - What's This? I have a Lock and Lock box full of various cables with different 'ends' which have come with some purchase or other and I have no idea what they're supposed to do. There are various bits of ironmongery and plastic, an unwanted extension bar thingy for multiple plugs, an iron flex which is 'too good to throw away', a rechargeable screwdriver with (I think) the correct charger, too. What's that Belkin box for? Is it something to do with the computer dongle???

I'm waiting for my son to come and look through this muddle and tell me what I need to keep, what he will take and what's destined for the wheely bin. I dumped a paper basket full of stuff in there yesterday and Gillian, bless her, took home two carrier bags of things to clutter up her home.

Next week it'll be the shelving up in my workroom - files, felt, wool, local history stuff, a box of card which I can't bear to throw away - can't wait!

Monday, 22 November 2010


No, I don't mean me! I don't like the trailing wires of a normal vacuum cleaner, scared I'll get tangled in them and have a fall, so a few weeks ago I borrowed my son's robot cleaner to see if I liked it. Yes, I did. It's like an obedient servant trundling round your rooms.

His model is several years old now and the new model is much improved. You can see the older one on the left in the photo and the silver and green on the docking station is my Home Help. Not from Social Services, either.

When it has finished cleaning it docks itself onto the home base and recharges; with the new edition it's much easier to clean the filter and although the rubbish bin is relatively small, after the first few times of use it's quite sufficient. For me, it's 'heavy' to take upstairs but it takes all the cottons, snippings and scraps of batting in the workroom, trundles under the bed and out the other side collecting all the cat hair and fluff as it goes. You'd be surprised how much grot it finds in a 'clean' carpet!

Ashley's not scared of it, as he was with the usual cleaner, perhaps because it doesn't thump the floor or has a different 'voice'. If it nudges him he just moves out of the way.

One thing it can't do and that's stairs so they're still in Mucky Mode while the two levels of rooms are fine!

Friday, 19 November 2010


I popped into the library today and was greeted by the staff in rather different clothing!
They're supporting Children in Need with tea, coffee and homemade cakes. There's also a raffle and I was promised (tongue in cheek) by the Viking Queen that one of my tickets would be drawn... Harry Potter and a Medieval Lady were also present.
What a good job that I carry my camera with me these days, just in case I see something of interest!

Monday, 15 November 2010


A while ago I was saying that I couldn't get 'block dates' for cakemaking as supermarkets don't keep them nowadays. Bernard kindly sent a message to say that 'pitted dates' are available in Thame market so last Tuesday I went to the stall, perfectly identified by Bernard, and was able to purchase a packet. The date cake above is the result. There's one snag with this cake - I use an American US silicone 'tin' which means the cake is too long for any of my cake containers - I have to eat a sizeable chunk while it's hot... how sad.
The recipe comes from the WI Book of Cakes and I use it all the time - I'm much better at rubbed-in cakes than the creaming method, so here goes, in case you'd like to have a try-
20 minutes to make, about 55 mins to cook.

(8 oz SR flour
(1 tsp mixed spice, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg. Mix these together in the bowl.
4 oz margarine Rub into the flour.
4 oz sugar Stir into mix.
6-8 oz mixed fruit Add to bowl.
(1 egg Whisk the egg in a basin or measuring jug.
(milk Add milk to make 5 fl. oz.
(1 tbsp jam, syrup or marmalade to add to this mix if wanted. Mix well.

Add to mixing bowl, making a soft, dropping consistency.
Put into 6" cake tin or a silicone mould, bake for c. 55 mins at 150C or 300F or Mark 4 for Gas.
Dribble what's left of the egg/milk mix over the cake, shake sugar over it and get a shiny, crunchy top. Definitely a cut and come again sort of cake.

(Why do other people's recipes look so tidily printed and mine's a mess? Narrow column to write in perhaps? Grrr!)

Saturday, 13 November 2010


I wrote a blog last night but it disappeared...Having had a day of little things going awry I decided to leave it until this morning to have another go. Things are still going wrong...Ho hum.

I was looking on different patchworking sites and found a piece about Mug Mats, large enough to take a mug and a couple of biscuits. It was 6" x 10" but mine's larger at 6" x 12" because I've used two squares I made earlier, just like Blue Peter... It was meant to be a practise for machine quilting with the two reels of machine quilting cotton bought to scribble-quilt the Triangles quilt I made for me, so not too much of a problem if it's untidy. (More about that later!)

I thought this scribble looked a little bit like something from the Zodiac...

I like this material as it has gold in it, too.

After I'd taken the photo of the mat I realised that I'd not made a very good job of the bottom edge, so this morning, in the daylight, I unpicked about half of the edge and resewed it so it looks better now. Just being lazy and not taking another photo...

It's still tending to be a Sod's Law day- having done Must Do jobs before I went out I decided just to start the quilting on the quilt, having unblocked the jammed bobbin from last night - after about 3 stitches - and was sailing along, uneven stitches but what the heck, I was machine quilting. It's a bit like learning to hand quilt tidily, which I can do. I must have pulled the material too hard and the needle broke so I went out instead.

Called on a friend to take her some Excel How To sheets and as I left there were masses of starlings in a large tree outside her home, including others in an apple tree making a great noise as they pecked their way through the bonus of apples. I called to her to wait to pick up some windfalls for me but she didn't hear so the starlings left. Damn! There was my blog for today...

Tuesday, 9 November 2010


This black cat has been around for four or five years and I still don't know whether it's a genuine stray or an opportunist who 'does the rounds', finding food where it can.

He's very, very wary and I can't get anywhere near him/her. He sits outside waiting to be fed and was dozing on the doorstep until he became aware I was just behind him - indoors.

I show him the tin of cat food, if that's what I'm going to put out, or extend my hand if I have dry food but as soon as I raise my arm towards the door handle, he's gone. The closed door seems to indicate safety.

He nips round the side of the house and is confident enough to wait out of my sight but because I went round to take this photo, he hopped through the cats' entrance to wait in safety the other side of the gate. There's just one eye showing beside the hosepipe.

Count to two after the door's been shut and he's there - this time just a small handful of Ashley's dry food - I think this was a complete surprise to him the first time I put it out. He eats anything, jacket potato skins, even bread and butter. With 'wet' food I think he'd eat the plate as well if he could. Then he mooches off until next time, then he'll be waiting nearby for the next handout.

He's not the first cat who's just turned up outside the door. My first cat, well, not my first cat, just the first of the present run which began in the early 80s, when Stuart, my son, came home after splitting up with his girl friend. He brought a scared tabby cat, which got renamed as Puss, and the girl took the Old English Sheepdog... then a friend said there was a pretty white and ginger kitten at the farm, one of a litter belonging to one of their farm cats. He became Sherry. The next was a hefty tabby, also a bag of nerves, and all I saw of him for weeks was one eye peering round the wall at the end of the garden. The two cats ignored him and eventually he plucked up the courage to come indoors and circle round the downstairs room before exploring upstairs and so he joined the gang. He was named Fraidy, cos he was a Fraidy cat. They've all gone now, all buried at the garden. But when I came here, I saw a black and white cat out in the wilderness which was the old overgrown sandpits. He, too, came to get scraps, was accepted by the resident three and now Ashley is the last one left. Perhaps the black one will eventually pluck up courage enough to stay nearby when the door is opened.

Time will tell...

Friday, 5 November 2010


This is the monstrous Bucks County Council HQ where Local Studies and the Record Office are housed in the bottom of this horrible building. Sorry, The Centre for Buckinghamshire Studies...It looks like a Reception class lesson where small children stick egg box bottoms onto cardboard... Can you tell I don't like it? It 'won' a TV competition some years ago for the most disliked building in the TV area.
Anyway, yesterday my friend Chris and I went into Aylesbury to continue transcribing the Bucks County Pauper Lunatic Asylum Admissions Register for our Stone Parish Records which we've been working on for 10+ years, on and off.
It's a quiet atmosphere in the Record Office where everyone is busy researching local and personal history so we try to be quiet as Chris reads from the register, which measures almost a yard wide when it's opened, and I transcribe the selected information straight into the computer. Yesterday it was an all-women table, plus one man, so was quite relaxed.
I heard one researcher talking to the staff (who are very knowledgeable) asking about Prestwood. (You do tend to 'ear-'ole' to conversations). I lived there for 20 years and taught for 14 or 15 years in the First school so, never averse to talking to strangers, said this. We got talking and she asked my name.
When I told her she said, 'You taught my son.' Further conversation revealed that he's now the deputy head of a school 'up country', I can't remember where. We had an audience by now, as you may imagine.
When I came home I found my class photos and there he was, dressed just as she said he was, in blue shirt, short trousers and grey jersey on which was pinned an 'I am 6' badge.
If I hadn't spoken I would never have found out that bit of information, which I passed on to another class teacher who had taught him as he moved up the school.
Ain't being nosey/curious/interested/helpful wonderful!
(The photo comes from the Images on BCC site).

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


A few days ago I noticed that the fat balls I'd hung up for the birds had large holes. I wondered what had made them until one morning I saw a female great spotted woodpecker hammering away. It's been back since and it now attacks the cage of peanuts with gusto.

I don't have a long enough lens on my camera to be able to take a photo of this smart black and white bird which is about 9" in length. I know it's a female because the bird doesn't have a red patch on the top of its head as the males do; both sexes have red patches underneath their tail.
This drawing comes from the AA Book of British Birds.

The magpie and this bird have 'pie' in their name to denote the black and white plumage. I don't get green woodpeckers in my garden as I don't have enough grass to interest them but can sometimes watch them probing in the lawn in my neighbour's garden. Many years ago a Scottish friend, who hadn't ever seen a green woodpecker, or even known of their existence, saw one in her garden and thought it was an escaped parrot - not a bad guess.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010


Went for a quick shop this morning and took my camera in with me. I'd noticed this some time ago and was determined to take a photo one day.

I'm not commenting or I'd be here all day. Suffice to say that's a professional signwriter...

Monday, 1 November 2010


No sun - no moon!
No morn - no noon -
No dawn - no dusk - no proper time of day.
No warmth, no cheerfulness, no healthful ease,
No comfortable feel in any member -
No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds! -

'November' by Thomas Hood.

Typing that made me think how things have changed from the time the poem was written in the early 19th century. Since the Clean Air Acts in 1956 and 1968 we don't have the dense pea-souper fogs caused by open coal fires which were such killers, skies are clear and clean. Seasons are changing with flowers still in the gardens, including primroses, roses and Lychnis coronaria in mine. Still sunshine - I couldn't find a gloomy illustration for the poem - they're all lovely red and orange sunsets! No leaves - heavens! There are millions of them still on the trees in the lovely autumnal shades.And dozens of birds are in the garden.
But it's still November.
Never mind, there'll soon be snowdrops, crocuses, early daffs....