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Sunday, 21 December 2014


Today marks the beginning of winter with the shortest day of the year.  We know that we will probably have many weeks of cold dismal weather to come and yet there is also cause for celebration since from now onwards the days will gradually get longer and lighter which is always hopeful.   On the subject of hope I took the above photo yesterday just a short distance from my home!  If the daffodils are in bloom can spring be far away?  Well yes it can but I am kidding myself that it is just around the corner!

 I had walked up through the wood to the local post office with the last couple of cards - they probably won't arrive in time for Christmas now but maybe they will serve as New Year cards!  The sun was peeping through the trees as I walked and the birds were singing as if they thought Spring had arrived as it was quite mild too.

 Having posted my cards I walked back along the A30 instead of through the wood the way I'd come to where I had seen a few daffodils in bloom when we passed in the car a day or so earlier and I wanted to get a photo and here they are nodding their heads happily.

Leaving the main road I walked back into the other end of the wood and made my way home.  The view between the trees was beautiful with the sun shining on the distant countryside.  I'd been feeling a bit blue and stressed for some reason but my walk and the sight of the daffodils soon had me in a more cheerful frame of mind I am glad to say. 

In spite of the daffodils it is beginning to feel a lot like Christmas here and yesterday I put up an outdoor tree, alongside the front door, I'd made from an idea I'd seen in a recent Landscape magazine.  Not sure I like the trunk though as it looks like a ladder - maybe I should remove it since the one in the magazine didn't have a trunk being just a simple triangle.  I am also not sure if it might look a bit naff instead of my usual wreath on the door but I thought it would be a change and the wreath makes the hall a bit dark as it hangs over the glass in the front door.  Oh well it's only for a couple of weeks anyway and then it can come down if not before as the ivy may well shrivel and die before then.

In case I don't get chance to post again before the 25th I wish you all a peaceful, healthy and happy Christmas however you are spending it.

Monday, 8 December 2014

No room at the inn?!

 You may remember here that I told you we had built a bug hotel for the insects to shelter in over winter?  Well I can't tell of course whether or not there are any guests resting inside but what I can tell you is that I have a colony of ladybirds who either couldn't get a booking there or perhaps thought Bug Hotel? No Thanks! and are now residing in our bedroom window!

We have a dormer window and the curtains hang on dormer rods as you can see above,

There is a narrow gap between the window frame and the hinge of the dormer rod just the right size for a little group of ladybirds to settle!  If you click on the pic to enlarge it you may be able to make out the little colony as a dark line.  I am surprised that they didn't choose the other side since the side they have picked is the side whose window is left open a little all the time except when we go out and it must surely be rather draughty.  But maybe that makes for easier entrance and escape.  Last winter we had ladybirds in the corners of the window frames and I had to be careful not to close the windows tight but to leave them on the locked but ventilated position or I would have squashed the little dears and there was a small group of them actually on the curtain who didn't seem to mind being swung backwards and forwards every time we opened or closed the curtain.  They are ideal house guests since they make no noise, they require nothing to eat nor do they leave any mess when come the spring they just disappear.

I notice too that in the compost bins there are many woodlice and a few snails settled in round the woodwork of the lid and first storey who don't seem to mind that the lid is lifted at least once each day letting in the cold air!  Maybe the bug hotel just wasn't large enough for them all!

 The bird table is a hive of activity what with the birds and the squirrels, who are so cheeky and get house points for perseverence.  We don't want squirrels to eat all the food and leave none for the birds but they too are wildlife and who are we to decide who shall live and who shall starve?  They can't help being squirrels can they?!

I also have a healthy number of spiders in the conservatory to judge by the cobwebs.  It is unheated so I don't spend much time out there and they can stay till the spring when they will be evicted during the course of the ritual known as spring cleaning.

So as you can see we do our bit for wildlife here even to the extent of sharing our home with them if there is no room at the inn or the inn is not perhaps to their liking!

Nothing to do with insects or wildlife but I did breadmaking workshop on Saturday.  I used to make a lot of bread and was pretty successful but lately my bread isn't as delicious as I might wish so I enrolled on the course and spent a happy and fun filled afternoon with 6 other students at Emma's bakery in the Real Food Shop in Exeter.

 We produced a 100% wholemeal loaf each, a foccacia embedded with olives, some Greek rolls called Daktyla topped with sesame seeds and a small loaf of soda bread - all of them organic.  I struggled home on the train with all my bread still warm from the oven and we enjoyed the foccacia for supper, I froze the Greek buns and we are both eating the wholemeal which is amazing since Mr M never normally touches wholemeal!  I have to say the soda bread (which contained seeds) has been made into breadcrumbs and the squirrels are enjoying that!  It was far too dry by Sunday and we could only eat so much bread on Saturday evening!

It was a fun afternoon and I learned that one of the reasons my bread is so dense normally might be because "wetter is better" and mine was always on the dry side when I mixed it, not to put the salt near the yeast until you are ready to mix it all together and the slower the rising the better the bread and the better its keeping qualities so no need to put it somewhere warm at all it just takes longer.  I am planning to sign up for the Improvers workshops in the new year and am inspired to bake more once we have eaten what we have!!

Sunday, 7 December 2014


No pictures just a few thoughts:

I have been thinking about connections recently and this week I thought about Advent as being a time of waiting, anticipating and expecting and how that might be connected with another meaning of the term expecting that of expecting a baby.  Of course the birth of a baby is what the Christmas story is all about so there is already a connection.

This week a double tragedy occurred when a young woman walked out of a maternity hospital in Bristol where she had given birth to a baby girl just 4 days earlier.  She left without a coat nor any proper shoes on one of the coldest nights so far this year and her body and that of her baby were found a day or so later just over a mile away where she had apparently jumped into the Avon Gorge.  I have thought a lot about her and what might have driven her to do this at a time when society would be expecting (that word again) her to be overjoyed at the safe arrival of her baby.

Our society expects us to be happy at the birth of a baby in the same way that it expects us to be happy at Christmas but it isn't always quite like that.  Take Christmas - in spite of the decorations and the parties and so on it can be a terribly sad time for many people as the advertisement for Crisis at Christmas says "when you are homeless and lonely at Christmas you can only watch as people meet for parties ....."  of course you don't have to be homeless to be lonely and for many people Christmas reminds them of loved ones who are no longer alive to share it with them.  Some are sick or sad, frightened or concerned and not everyone is enjoying themselves as the media would have us believe.

Having a baby can of course be a happy time especially if the baby and mother are healthy and well but for some people the baby blues set in and the mother loses all sense of her self and her ability to parent the child.  Not everyone is endowed with mothering skills and for some it is a nightmare not helped by the fact that some babies don't sleep enough and exhaustion soon sets in.  Some apparently adore motherhood and seem to know just what to do whereas others lose all their common sense just at the time when it is most needed and lacking in confidence makes matters worse since babies apparently need a relaxed and confident Mum.  But what about the Mums needing relaxed and peaceable babies?!!

It seems to be taboo to admit that you are not enjoying any of it, that you wish you had never thought of having a baby and that you can barely manage to get dressed half the time let alone return to a career where you might have been somebody busy and capable.  Lack of sleep can go on for a long time and such mothers can feel murderous when other mothers blithely say "Oh yes he/she sleeps through the night now" a few weeks down the line!  Not all babies sleep much at all and it is little consolation to a weary mother to learn that they are often the intelligent ones either which may or may not be true. (I loved the Wanderer and still do of course, and would willingly have died for her had that been required but motherhood was definitely not my metier and even now more than 30 years later if I hear a small baby crying my stomach knots and I want to run away as I have no idea what to do to calm it.  Not for me the peering into prams and cooing at the baby inside!!)

I wonder if Mary was a natural or if she too found it all very difficult especially with all those shepherds and wise men visiting and expecting her to make them welcome!  She always looks very serene but I wonder...!

I guess what this post is about is just a reminder to spare a thought for those for whom the Joy of the season is a little thin on the ground this year at Christmas whether they be sick, lonely or even new mothers who are finding it all too much.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Another day another seaside

 Thank you all for your kind comments of my previous post - I continue in similar vein today with another seaside walk for you.  Cyber Monday?  Christmas shopping?  Busy busy?  Take a break and come with me for a breath of fresh air and relaxation!

One of the great advantages of being retired is that if a day dawns bright and sunny and there is nothing in the diary we can just take off and so it was that this morning we decided to take a trip to Bridport which is a town with many antique and junk shops.  I had seen a cottage style carver chair I liked recently and wondered if something like it might be found for our kitchen since I spend a lot of my time sitting out there listening to the radio and reading or knitting and so on.  We didn't find what I was looking for but we did find this cafe and went inside for a coffee and liked it so much we went back later for lunch too.  It was somewhere different - quirky and a bit alternative if you know what I mean.

 Nothing matched and there were books and magazines like National Geographic or Permaculture to read, a board of notices about everything under the sun from yoga classes to sustainability and art classes and best of all the coffee, and later the lunch, were delicious and very reasonably priced - we will certainly go there again.

 Having seen what we wanted in Bridport and had our lunch we walked back to the car park and set off for West Bay for a wander along the coast.  I don't think I will be joining in the Boxing Day Swim though!  It was very cold today even in the sunshine let alone on Boxing Day when it might be even colder!

 The sea was beautiful and the sky blue.  The sounds were of waves and the suck and pull of the sea over the pebbles and all thoughts of consumerism and world problems vanished from my mind.

 Legacy of last year's storms perhaps?  As we couldn't walk any further along in this direction we turned round and walked back towards where we'd come from.

 The waves looked like lace as they rushed across the sand.

 I walked out along the concrete pier - nobody fishing today but one or two other walkers.  This is looking towards Golden Cap.

 By now it was about 3.00 and the sun was getting lower in the sky and lighting the cliffs with a golden glow.  We didn't walk any of the coast path today but we have in the past walked up that steep slope from West Bay and along the top of the cliff before dropping down to Burton Bradstock - a hard climb and the path is now very close to the edge so don't think I'll be trying again any time soon!

Back into the little town and we then made our way home through the stunning Dorset countryside with the sun getting lower in the sky and bathing everything with an apricot glow before dropping below the horizon and the distant viewscould be seen in soft focus with the sky turning the softest pale birds egg blue with the moon to be seen waiting for its turn to shine and the trees an inky silhouette against the skyline.  We got home and lit the fire and put the kettle on feeling so grateful that we live somewhere where we are never far from such lovely places should a bright day arrive and happy that we are in good enough health to go there.