Monday, 28 April 2014

Legacy from a Viking

Image borrowed from Blackpool Viking Dungeon

I have spent many hours sanding, cleaning and painting the bureau.    Unsurprisingly,  my thoughts have mostly been about the history of it.

I acquired it a few years ago, when I was instructed to get rid of both it, and all the contents.  My aunt was moving into a smaller home and had no need of a bureau, nor was she interested in the contents, she wanted them burnt.

I love it because it belonged to my late uncle.  

He had a hard start in life as his father died very young, leaving his widow with four children and no income.   My uncle had to leave school to earn money to buy food and clothing for his siblings.   His dreams of becoming a priest were just that.    Life was a struggle for them, but they managed.

The habit of frugality never left him, throughout his life the maximum 'pocket money' which he ever allowed himself each week was £5.00.    This bought his occasional pint of beer and enabled him to place some bets on the horses.    He was rather good at that and often won.   I hope he had fun with his winnings.

His other hobby was the game of darts.  He was extremely skilled and won lots of cups and trophies, unsurprisingly, he was on his local pub's team.    At some point, he and my aunt had a falling out over something.   The trophies disappeared and have never been recovered.   His ability to throw darts was also lost, but more of that later.

My uncle and aunt did not have any children of their own, but they were wonderfully generous and indulgent to my brothers and I.    He even helped my mother to nurse me through a bad dose of pneumonia, when I was just 6 weeks old...of course I don't remember that.

Somehow they never quite got the knack of turning a house into a home, perhaps that was why they enjoyed spending so much time at our place.

Uncle John and my mother would cook up a storm of wonderful food while my aunt was pretty good at washing the salad, though she left the tricky bit of slicing and arranging it to someone else!

I digress.   Inside the bureau was a medium-sized cardboard box.   My heart gave an extra beat of excitement as I lifted the lid, for inside were many dozens of letters written by my parents and myself, to my aunt and uncle.    They dated from the early 1960's, when we were living in Hong Kong and then move on to the years we spent in the Western Isles.  

Treasure within treasure.  These old letters, especially the ones with my parents thoughts and their, oh so familiar, handwriting are very special to me.

The dresser I told you about in my previous post is now finished,
and you can catch just a glimpse of the bureau over on the right,
it is about to undergo the next phase of painting...birds, flowers, etc.

So, this once dull piece of furniture (to the right of the photograph)  is now standing proudly in my kitchen.    I think it looks quite Scandinavian in that light grey colour.      The dresser has been completed, the doors and drawers are back in place and I'm pleased with it.

You may be wondering where the Viking bit comes in, well my uncle suffered from clawing of the hands in his later years.  Dupuytren's contracture.  It is believed that this spread through Europe in the wake of Viking invasions and settlements.  The hand deformity meant the end to his darts playing.

Funny to think that my darling uncle, so like a miniature James Bond (being dark and handsome in his younger years)  probably had Viking blood running through  his veins.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Getting Exotic in the Kitchen

Recently our daughter painted an old dresser and suddenly George understood why I had so long wanted to paint our kitchen dresser.   It's nothing special, just an item of furniture which I bought, with my own hard-earned money  just a few months after we married, almost 40 years ago.   In fact I bought two, but I'm not planning on painting the larger one, I like it exactly the way it is.

This is a photograph of the kitchen as it used to be, things have been changed around a little since then, but you can see the dresser on the right.   The nicest thing about it is the leaded glass doors.

Here it is now - still waiting to have the doors and drawers returned, but you get the idea.   I love that gentle splash of colour, it really lifts that corner of the kitchen.      Staying in the kitchen, but just the other side of the doorway, is an old bureau.

It is very plain, ugly, but oh so useful.   George hates it, would happily chop it up for firewood!

It calls to me - I can hear it begging me to paint it.   How can I refuse?   I know exactly what I shall do with it - a few coats of a soft blue/grey/greenish colour for the whole thing, and then the fun can begin.

I am going to indulge myself, do something I have wanted to do for a long time.

Beautiful wallpaper by Gracie Studio for Aerin Laude
I love this Chinoiserie-style, so as soon as I have the basic painting done I'm going to indulge myself and paint all over it with birds and flowers - I'm quite excited about it.

The funny thing is that a few months ago, when I was sorting through my craft cupboard, I almost decided to throw away all my paints, I honestly couldn't imagine myself ever picking up a paintbrush again.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

A Milk-White Steed

One slightly misty, moisty morning we spotted
 a unicorn.

image borrowed from

As soon as he saw us he trotted off,
 disappeared into the mist.
I recall posting about it on my old blog
Pear Tree Log
but for some reason I'm unable to find the post.

Ever since that day we have kept a sharp look out for him
for he lives only five minutes drive from here,
not far from where my header
photograph was taken.

We have caught brief glimpses of him on several occasions.
Unfortunately, as soon as I reach for my camera
he turns tail and disappears
at a rate of knots.

Yesterday we saw him quite clearly.
He lifted his head and stared at us
for a long moment
then continued to graze,
 quite unconcerned.

I'm fairly sure he smirked
I had forgotten my camera.


Tuesday, 22 April 2014

A Knight for Saint George's Day

What better way to celebrate St George's Day than with
a knight, a princess, and a dragon.
Another page of the Owl Wood Journal.

Owl Wood is particularly beautiful right now
with bluebells coming into bloom,
the wild garlic is about to flower.

Soon parts of the woodland will have that wonderful blue haze,
as the bluebell flowers open fully,
while others will have a misty white haze
a particularly pungent smell of garlic
as these white flowers come into bloom...
Wild garlic.

Pathways are strewn with beautiful golden aconites
and the whole place is filled with
light and life,

The hens miss nothing,
for they know the woodland
as well as

the fairies.
It is difficult to tell from this photograph,
but the fairy door is ajar.

Happy Saint George's Day.

Friday, 18 April 2014

An Adventure Begins - Owl Wood Journal

I can't give you the words
for they are still inside George's head,
but I can give you a peek 
at the next page of the journal.

The colours are less intense
than on the woodland scene
and the whole feel is light and bright.

Quite often our walks around the woodland
are taken with a full complement of animals,
as well as the children.

Normally the order runs like this -
Toby Too
followed by the 3 hens ambling along after us.

It must look hilarious,
especially when Harry is dressed as a knight, or a pirate,
even funnier when we are...;-)


P.S.  Jonathan, Ming Ming - we'll call you tomorrow,
let me know what time is convenient
for you.

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Answers on a Postcard

This is the sight which greeted George
when he went 
to open the polytunnel doors
the other morning.

Funnily enough, he didn't notice the gaping hole
until after he'd opened the first door.

Our imaginations ran riot as we tried to think
what could possibly have happened,
surely too much damage
to have been caused by a cat
but could it have been done by a fox?
Any suggestions?

The penny dropped when we were inspecting the damage,
and were joined by Toby Too.
His guilty face, 
plus the incriminating high-level claw marks
(Toby is a bit of a demon for standing on his back legs to open doors)
added to the fact that George then remembered that TT
had followed him into the polytunnel
the previous evening,
but he forgot to check that he had  gone back out
before he locked up.

Toby couldn't have been in there for much more than ten minutes
because he was back in the kitchen at supper time.

Luckily, TT had gone through one small panel
which was easily repaired.
So don't worry, Jonny!

In his defence,
that was the day when George was feeling ill.

If only he had listened to nurse,
and taken the medicine,
I'm fairly sure this wouldn't have happened.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

Who Lives in a House Like This?

It has been a difficult day.
George is unwell, and when he is unwell
he gets grumpy,
very grumpy.
He makes a very difficult patient.

The aged aunt was in a complete muddle today.
Her legs are in a terrible state
and so was her mind.
Order has been restored, 
those things which can be fixed, were
extra care has been bought in...
it doesn't come cheap!

To top it all, poor Bennie (cat)
has been frightened out of her wits
and heavily splattered with some dark brown substance.
We've cleaned her up (to a point)
and checked her out,
she seems physically okay
but is very distressed.
Right now she is hiding at the back of one of the dressing room cupboards.
I'll let her calm down for a while.

I'm escaping into my fantasy world.

The real fairy door tree in Owl Wood is always ajar
just like this one.
All of these animals have visited
at one time or another.

This page is finished
and I must move on to painting the next one.
My eyesight is not what it once was,
even with specs,
but this does kind of portray how I feel about Owl Wood.

Fairies and fawns must be left behind
as knights and fair maidens
mounted on beautiful steeds
try to outwit
 the fiery dragons.

First, however, I must check on my patients.


Monday, 14 April 2014

Chinese Puddings

Ming Ming and her fellow students were set the task of cooking a banquet.

Doesn't it all look splendid?
Those finishing touches really do add something special
and show off their knife skills.

Ming Ming's task was to make the puddings...
which is great, because I would quite happily
skip the main course of any meal 
and move on to the pudding.

Chocolate, always a winner - and they look so beautiful.

Tempting morsels...

...and it looks as though someone was tempted by
this cheesecake as one of the garnishes is missing...

and then there is this platter of what looks like
wine-poached pears.

Just looking at all those tempting puds
reminds me of how
we sometimes used to host a 
'Puddings Evening'.
No starters or mains,
just lots and lots of puddings.
Definitely not something to be indulged in too often!

Great work Ming Ming.
Keep those photographs coming.

*   *   *

Saturday, 12 April 2014

Owl Wood Journal - Away with the Fairies

I can't deny that I am totally caught up in the process of making
 Owl Wood Journal,
which is really difficult as I am also being enticed outdoors 
by the fine weather.

This is the page I am working on at the moment.   
The page is evolving, with extra fairies and woodland creatures which demand to be fitted in.
It is very simple, definitely not well executed, but goodness is it fun to do!
Another week of snatched time should see this one completed. 
I already have plans for the next couple of pages.
The whole point of the journal is to remind the grandchildren of the happy times we spend in Owl Wood,
so, big wild bears and wolves must feature, 
as must dragons, knights
and horses.

Sir Harry and Lady Francesca playing on 'The Standing Stone'
I have decided that I'll paint some pictures
and George has kindly agreed to write the words.
He is, after all, the spinner of tales.

I have an old fashioned manual typewriter
so I'll type his words
and stick them into the journal.
It should add to the battered
and worn
look which I am trying to create.

Meanwhile, the gardens are looking so much better after all our hard work.
The lawns have been mowed, and mowed again.
Weeds have been uprooted
edges trimmed,
vegetable beds dug over
and the polytunnel has been cleaned and organised
with lots of seedlings growing happily
promising much.
The cats spend their days lolling around in there,
when they are not out hunting.

The spring flowers are quite wonderful
the colours amazing.

I wish I could be disciplined enough to settle for just one colour
and create, say,  a white flower garden
but I love lots of colour
from soft and subtle to the bright and zingy.
They make me happy.

The cauliflowers are doing well

and the PSB continues to flourish.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

A Little Corner of England, in Shanghai

Jonny and Ming Ming live in Thames Town, Shanghai.
What used to be an area of farms and ducks is now a mind-boggling imitation of an English town
with a Gothic style church, mock Tudor, half timbered buildings,
medieval meeting hall, pubs, cobblestone streets and even old-style red telephone boxes..

A river winds through the town, complete with ferries and a floating restaurant.
Tearooms, coffee shops, pubs, even a fish and chip shop.
Statues as diverse as Winston Churchill and Harry Potter can be found there, along with one of Princess Diana, and even James Bond, 007.
There are red double decker buses, trams
along with zebra  crossings,

Friday, 4 April 2014

Fencing Lions

This simple metal fence 
is attached to these gates.

This is the Lion Bridge at Burghley House.   
It spans a lake which was designed by Capability Brown, at a cost of 1,000 guineas.    

One of the most fascinating things about the 26 acre lake is that it was designed to look like a meandering river.

On one side and you can see beautiful Burghley House.

While on the other, there is a ford which is used by the groundsmen and the farm workers.

Details of the lovely old stonework
dated 1778.

Today I am delighted to be joining in with Good Fences.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Wild Garlic in the Quiche and Posset in my Pocket

Jonny, Ming Ming, here is a quick round-up of the last week.

The scaffolding has gone up and work
is slowly progressing on the house next door.
It is all looking very different now.

Young Archie and his parents
have been staying with us over the last week.
It was wonderful.

He is as good as he is beautiful;
just 8 weeks old
and he sleeps through the night.

You three darlings were practically school-age before you began to do that.

So like his daddy.

Lots of cooking was involved
but I kept meals simple.

Like this quiche which was made with cheese and home-grown wild garlic
served with salad,
 new potatoes and home-made bread.

I also made a huge rhubarb crumble
 with gallons of custard.

As you know, that's about as good as it gets these days!

Oh, okay then,
 because Isis and Tim are meat-eaters
I also cooked Redhill Farm Lincolnshire sausages,
 turkey and ham pie
and made a meaty stir-fry

Somehow I don't think they would have been
happy with our spinach soup
or chickpea curry,
lentil dahl
and so on.
Roast peacock is more their style!

One sunny day we visited the watermill
and had lunch
walked it off in the grounds.

Scarlet,  I hope you will forgive me for posting a photograph of bridges,
hopefully you won't find these too scary!

Spring flowers are everywhere.
Snowdrops and daffodils are giving way to primroses, violets and forget-me-nots.
Hedgerows are turning a wonderful green
and the trees are starting to show their blossom.
It is magical.

Ming Ming, you must come home in the spring,
I know that you would love it all.

Farewells are always difficult
and it was particularly hard saying goodbye to Archie.
 we let his parents
strap him into the baby seat
and we waved them off
with a tear in our eye.

George then discovered he'd
been given a curdled-milk gift
"Eeeuuw, there's posset in my (shirt) pocket".
Great aim, Archie.