Life, photos but not the universe

Early one morning (some time after the sun was rising)

Ok.  I made a big effort on Saturday morning and got up and was rewarded by beautiful light.  Inspired, I did the same thing on Sunday morning, thinking “it’s even earlier today so the light will be even more spectacular”.  Along with all the other things I’ve forgotten about early mornings, there’s the fact that ‘early does not a beautiful light guarantee’*.  Never mind, I had a pleasant walk and did a bit of cross-footpathing** and found some woods which will be fantastic when the bluebells come out (any minute now).    And I saw a green woodpecker and three deer, two buzzards and one white pheasant.

Some trees of course.

And a coal tit.  It’s there, honest.

No rabbits as they’d all gone to bed behind barbed hedges

And this is not a good place to go cross-footpathing

*Unless you’ve got up early for a particular reason which means you won’t be able to stop and take photos in it.

**Guessing that on the other side of that 16 foot hedge/50 foot gorge/impenetrable rain forest/deep, fast river/field full of cowsh is another footpath, and getting to it.  Oh and hoping that the new footpath will go the way you want to go because there’s no way in hell you’re going back through the cowsh, especially if it turned out to be Bullsh***.

***Or even bullocksh if you have a dog with you.  Nutmeg and I used to go miles to avoid the anxiety of being followed by a herd of small, snorting and whiffling bullocks.  His anxiety that is and my ankles, since anxiety made him try and hide behind me in every direction at once, thus tying my legs firmly together.  There is little you can say to deflect a herd of teenage bulls when you’re sitting in a heap on a trembling dog in the middle of a huge field.


I realise I haven’t thought the crossword thing through.  Tell you what, why don’t you email me your answers and I’ll email a prize to the first with correct answers.

Umm, I haven’t thought that through either.  Don’t hurry with the emails!

March 28, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A cross word.

Oh!  Wordpress said, “this is your 485th post.  Dope!”  Not polite.

A while ago (quite a long while by this time) I  made a silly comment on Christopher’s blog and mentioned an occasion when, as a teenager, I’d wasted lots of homework time writing an essay on why I should be permitted to miss a day of school for a purpose which I still find slightly embarrassing.  Give us a clue, said Christopher (teasing, obviously, since I’d just made it brilliantly clear that I’m not a crossword adept),  for instance an anagram of firebody?????  Well if there’s an anagram for firebody* I’d like to know what it is.

Ok.  After many hours of deep thought, extensive and ramified googling and a certain amount of frustrated head scratching and bewilderment, I have produced a crossword of sorts**. Quite a lot of the clues relate to the subject afore-not-mentioned.  But not all of them.  I’d like to say this was out of some kind of evil intent but actually it’s because I couldn’t find  any more words to fit.  And one or two clues may be more a matter of free association than deduction.  And in some cases the clues are so tenuously related that they might as well not be at all and one word is included just because I liked it and what’s more it’s not in even our venerable OED because it’s so old.  There.  I’m not giving you any more help.  (And of course you won’t need it, even supposing you could be bothered to give it the time of day which of course you need not; I won’t mind : )

Oops!  Must remember to remove the answers before posting.

OMG, just noticed a whole lot of errors!  (That’s to do with inadvertantly transposing numbers in Word, not the actual words – I think they still work).  Here is an updated version.





2  In this kinde of woode be Badger (5) 1  Do you know the old song about John Peel?  Perhaps    Barbie does (3)
5  Clumsy ¾ of a loaf (3) 3   Unsuited for consumption (8)
6  Too awful to say (11) 4  Unfledged king (4)
8  Thin gun (anag)(7) 5  Often found sitting on Athene (3)
10  To trap and tease (4) 7  Uncrowned Scrofula, not at all good (4)
11  Born to be wild (5) 9  Alleged home of a funny smoked fish (7)
12  Vulpine and cunning (3) 11  To stammer and in the first 4 not really doing a lot (6)
13  Look, a  place of  Episcopal authority (3)  12  In the age of the big screen he probably would have won a few himself (5)
14  Bring it home (5) 13  Tinker Tom in a dream between two gardens, smoking it.  (5)
16  A pointless ruin (5) 14  When you’ve gone to it, it becomes a place of terrier (5)
17  Purchance to buy a set of clothing (7) 15  Booker Mann character  was a very small number (2)

Not that I ever thought otherwise but my goodness, crossword makers must be a clever lot.  I bet they do it in their heads too and don’t cheat by using the internet.

And you can see that I haven’t lost the ability to waste hours on something quite pointless but I did have a lot of fun doing it.

The whole crossword thing reminds me of those rare moments when I spent time with my Father being driven to or from various appointments (once, on the way to the dentist, I solved one of his crossword clues).  He was disappointed that, although a voracious reader, I showed no signs of being a real scholar.  Though one year of unexpected academic success in the year 3G, earned me the punishment of an ignominous term in 4X*** attempting to catch up with three years of Greek and Latin, previously unknown to me (except through the books of Greek myths and legends and the short introduction to declensions in Arthur Ransome’s Missy Lee).  That taught me something but not a lot about Greek or Latin.  Anyway, Dad could occasionally be persuaded to tell tales of his school days and one that I will always remember was of a teacher clashing with a clever but undisciplined youth who on being told to write out a hundred lines from Shakespeare, as a punishment, wrote

“The devil damn thee black thou cream-faced loon.  Where gottest thou that goose look.”

If you’re completely stumped on that very old word, if you can find it, there’s a link.

*I’m sure there will be and I’ll kick myself when he tells me.  If he does. (You will won’t you Christopher? Please?)

**I won’t mention the fun I had persuading word to make it look like a crossword.  Pretty isn’t it.

***We never understood why the streams in the local Grammar school were named Y, X, G and D instead of, for instance A, B, C and D or possibly C, VC, NVC or R.


March 26, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Beautiful light

So this morning I got up early (ish) (Bother, that’s yesterday morning).  I didn’t exactly go to bed early last night but as they say, there’s no time like the present (whenever that was).  And it was worth it because the light was gorgeous.  (Well I knew it would be worth it, it’s just hard to remember, when I’m wide awake and bouncing at 2 am,  that I won’t feel the same when the alarm dingles at me and I’m all cosy and comfortable in bed in six hours time).

Of course nothing is a s simple as one hopes.  It’s so long since I’ve been in the habit of getting up when Barney’s still around, I’d forgotten how totally we don’t mix, early in the morning.  I forget how wide awake and full of questions he is and he’s got used to me being semi-comatose and mostly invisible when he brings me up a cup of tea.  He’s full of exasperatingly delighted astonishment at seeing me up and of course, I haven’t had my cup of tea!  So although approximately ambulatory and possibly conscious, I’m thinking “Tea.  Wee.  Ouch (because my back kills first thing)” and am not prepared to think, never mind say, anything else till these things have been attended to.  Me and Mrs Middle are both slow starters and we agree that Barney only thinks we’re grumpy in the morning because he doesn’t understand that we’re not actually awake.  (Mind you, even when he’s sound asleep Barney can give a convincing impression of good cheer and happiness, occasionally singing and laughing a bit and sometimes uttering incomprehensible comments which sound as though they need a cheerful response though they don’t get one.*)

Never mind.  I did get up and even got a bit of a move on and was out well before mid-morning.  I’m not sure that I remembered to brush my hair but by the time I’d parked in a holly bush** and followed a faint footpath through the woods I’m sure it wouldn’t have made any difference .


And now I realise that the clocks are going wherever they go at this time of year, tonight.  (Of course, that’s last night).  I’m not sure if this means I’ll have to get up even earlier or not?  Not, I think.  Anyway, just in case, I’d better go and get stuff done that needs to be done before I can sleep.  It seems awfully early to be doing all that.  Oh and I mustn’t forget to wake Barney up and send him off to sleep too!  Goodnight.

*Though on one occasion, he said in sorrowful tones and very distinctly, “Oh dear!”  and then repeated this several times with increasing emphasis before settling back into regular snoring.  I was quite worried.

**Not exactly in it but uncomfortably close.

March 25, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Things are going to change around here

For instance I am going to explain to Barney that if I cook two sausages and leave one in the fridge, it means I’d like to eat it myself.  He likes to eat the Chilli sausages from the Bladebone butchery.  I don’t because even the mild ones are too much for me to contemplate first thing in the morning and some of them have been known to leave even him gasping a bit.  So every now and then I cook a couple of plain ones for myself.  Mine, all mine!  He needs to understand this.

And then at some stage, I might change my blog template.  I was all ready to do it a few weeks a go but I haven’t quite worked out how to recover all the links while I set up the new one to have the requisite number of bits and pieces to accommodate them*.

And I’m fed up with arriving at nice places just as the light changes from gorgeous to rubbish.  Or driving past wonderful scenery, beautifully lit, when I’m late for something and can’t stop.  So once again, I’m going to start getting up early even though this means going to bed early too.  I say once again but actually I’ve never quite managed it yet, though I have tried.  But it sounds self defeating to say ‘once again I’m going to try’ so I didn’t.  Say it.

This morning I got up very late and went to Snelsmore again.  Different light and not brilliant – oh, well, too brilliant as it happens.  Lizards rustled about in the dry grass from time to time** and the bird song was deafening.  Two yellow butterflies flitted past the car park  but I’m afraid there wasn’t much except gorse for them to feed on.

Speaking of feeding, I do believe there’s a sausage in the fridge.  And I haven’t had breakfast yet (unless you count a banana and some coffee).  So why is it that sausages always curl when you cook them?

*Actually while typing I realised that I have now thought of a way.  But it might be a bit time consuming.  So I won’t become unrecognisable for a while yet.

**I think they were lizards though I suppose Adders would also be a possibility.

March 24, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

More churches

I’ve just left Barney making a sauce.  He wasn’t going to bother but a bit of meat juice in the pan has to be tarted up with a splash (or wallow) of wine and dribbled over the meat doesn’t it?

The sun that was shining when I left home this morning, hid behind clouds as soon as I got to Shalborne and stayed there while I investigated Ham and Inkpen churches.  I’d never realised until last night how true it is that small villages often have a car parking space by the church if nowhere else.  Usually nowhere else in fact.  Except that Inkpen’s 13th century church is approached from halfway up a very manicured driveway to “The Rectory” (which looked more like a manor) and which has ‘private, no parking’ signs and obtrusive little white anti-parking posts all over the place.  Since the church is on a steep,narrow and twisty hill this means parking dangerously on the road or blocking a field gate if you can’t walk the two hundred yards from the village (where, of course there is no parking anyway). While I appreciate that people don’t want all and sundry parking at their front gates, if you have a visit-worthy church at your gate it’s only fair to let people get at it.  There was enough space for cars to go both ways and plenty left over for one or two visitors and a nice green verge or two.  Obtrusive little white anti-parking posts piss me off anyway.  What’s wrong with chunks of granite or unobtrusive dark brown posts?*  Still it is a nice little church with a splendidly ornate, carved rood screen and a lot of lovely old wood, inside.

Ham has an ancient church as well and I enjoyed looking round.  Simple and cool.  But the reverse side of the box hedge next to the graveyard stole the show completely.  Very Bosch. **

And While Shalborne church didn’t look nearly as good today without the evening light, I explored the village and found a walk that went right round a lake concealed behind hedges and back to the church.

And now I had better organise myself for Grandbabyminding.  Duty (and washing and sorting out tomorrow’s dinner) call.


*Oops! I hope none of you have them.  Obviously in some places they look fine.  Ahem.

**As in Hieronymus, not washing machines.

March 22, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Not sprung but boinging a bit.

Two brilliantly sunny days in a row!  Spring must be bouncing up and down a little bit.

I had an immensely enjoyable and productive day yesterday, first visiting a friend in Wiltshire.  I think the weather was ordered especially to give us a good time.  She certainly deserves it and if there is always some sadness and feeling of suppressed fury about the unfairness of cancer at least we had sunshine!  And it was so lovely to see her.  As Pewsey is on my way home, I gave her daughter a lift to the station there and then found my brother at home and spent a half hour with him.  It’s such a pleasure seeing people you love and care about, I really ought to do it more often instead of just thinking how nice it would be!

On the way I stopped at a tiny gem of a church somewhere out in the Wiltshire Downs.

And then on the way back, I stopped at Shalborne church.

While driving through Shalborne (ever so pretty) in the evening sun, I realised that although churches are often photogenic the reason why I take so many church photos is that there’s usually parking there.  I spend hours driving past wonderful views and through picturesque villages with one eye on the view and one on gateways and side roads.  The other eye is usually on the rear view mirror and the idiot up my backside who ought to be enjoying the view too and not making it impossible to drive slowly enough to swerve into unexpected parking spaces.  Yes, I am that four-eyed old lady you’ve cursed so often for tootling along the narrow lanes at a ridiculously slow speed and suddenly changing direction without warning.*

In fact now, I’m going back to Shalbourne having established from Google maps that the church is the only place to park and this time I will take my camera.  I was halfway to Wiltshire yesterday when I realised what the nagging ‘forgotten something’ feeling was about so the iPhone was all I had.  Didn’t do too badly either.

A willow tree and a slightly over the top cappuchino, in Pewsey.

*Well no. I don’t think I am really but the extra eyes would be useful.

March 20, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Change in the air

Actually, the air remains obdurately damp and grey.  However we are at the end of our income and while this situation usually doesn’t, (remain obdurate) who knows?  This time it may mean changes.  Barney came home the other day and said well, that’s it. No more work in view.  This happens from time to time, usually a little earlier in the year and usually, after an anxious week or two it starts coming back.  And of course it helps that for a while we can promise to do the work much sooner than anyone else.   Of course last time it happened, there wasn’t a depression or a whatsit thingie going on.

Oh well, I said, how much have we got in the bank?  A month?  Two months?

Well after we’ve paid ourselves at the end of this month and paid out bills, um, nothing.


So I  went to Reading and collected our new TV, which is already paid for and may have to last a long time – well it was going to have to do that anyway, we really aren’t upgrade type of people.  And I bought a pair of shoes, which will have to last a long time anyway because it’s all kinds of hell finding shoes to wear that don’t give me all kinds of hell.  It was pure luck that I saw a pair which seemed to fit all the peculiar requirements of my feet before the purchase of shoes becomes economically unviable*.

Otherwise, things go on as usual.  Once again I got myself a blood test for low thyroxine levels and once again the doctor (one of them anyway) wants to see me which means they have to adjust the dosage again.  Which means that once again I have to postpone the cholesterol tests and a visit to Dr Porsche to see if I have to finally curtail all eating and smoking and drinking to a level which will mean finding a whole lot of new things to do so that I don’t notice the absence of food, smoke and drink.

And I haven’t dropped dead of a heart attack in the last many months** which is also good.

Meanwhile, in the interests of economy, I have ordered a lot of free books for the Kindle.  One of them was Hobbs’ Leviathan.  Well it’s a book I’ve heard of once or twice and although I couldn’t get on with Moby Dick I thought maybe Mr Hobbs would be more entertaining.  Um.  Well, I was never a political person and it’s always a useful excercise to have your ignorance exposed.  The more you know the more you know you don’t know. And all that.  I put Mr Hobbs aside for a time of true literary deprivation and moved on to the Illiad.  More readable than I expected.  Then I found a small heap of books bought from charity shops and dived into all kinds of unexpected delights and pleasures.  I’ve put Leviathan and the Illiad on hold since I feel the need of light escapism at the moment rather than education and improvement.

And I went for a walk this evening which is also free and although it was nearly dark I took some photos.

I don’t know if they’ll appear though.  They show up in the preview but there’s no sign of them in the draft.  Weird.

Hope you had a nice Mother’s day and failing that, a nice any kind of  day.

*My goodness, aren’t shoes expensive!

**since Dr Porsche first assured me that I was about to.

(Update:  Today the weather is glorious.  Isn’t that nice)

March 19, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

water and wi

Oh, sorry, wi fi.

We girded our loins and braved the retail park yesterday, after watching trains.  Our TV, which was once new and full of promises, is now old and un-cooperative.  Actually it’s worse than that, having developed a habit of switching programmes without permission, usually in the middle of something we both want to watch.  After years of peaceful sleep in front of it, Barney is getting nightmares, often waking to the sound of some awfully grinning person exhorting him to buy bling and tat or being confronted by a sad creature in a darkened room confessing dreadful realities to Big Brother or some other seedy video machine.

So we’re getting a new TV.  We want a clever one, so that Barney can fall asleep in front of something and then wake up and finish watching it without having to leave his comfy chair.  So we decided on a TV in Currys and sadly it wasn’t in stock so we went across the road to Tesco and encountered one of the brightest and most clued up sales youths I’ve met since oh, a couple of weeks ago in the Vodafone shop in Reading.  Following this lad’s advice, we trailed around Argos and back to Currys but the best possible TV (at a price we are prepared to pay) just wasn’t available and what’s more, nobody had any dongles.  At this point we gave up.

As we crossed the car park for the nth time a voice said “I expect you’re looking for water”.  This was such a non-sequiteur to two people whose minds were full of dongles and wifi  that we didn’t realise that he was talking to us and then didn’t immediately recognise him as Mr Water who looks after the pump for the bore hole which supplies our water .*  Fortunately Barney was slightly nearer the ball than me, as I’ve always had trouble remembering that he’s called Alan, not Tony.

We’re used to the water going off from time to time, usually only for a few hours, but this time it had been off for a couple of days and was still coming out of the tap in a rather spluttery and uncertain way.  Anyway, it turned out that there was a problem fixing the pump and the reservoir was being topped up with tankers of water which were barely keeping up with the demand (About forty houses and a boarding school use it and that amounts to quite a lot of water tankers.)  Meanwhile, Mr and Mrs Water were on their way to Tesco to buy big bottles of water.**

As we drove home we passed the hill on top of which is the pump and reservoir for our water and at the bottom of the hill a tanker was piping water down one of those fire hydrant holes by the side of the road.  It  looked a bit forlorn in view of what it was trying to achieve so we decided to leave the washing and the dishwasher for another day.  (But quickly flushed and cleaned the loo and the cat bowl and filled up a big water bottle of our own)

Today we have water again and I’ve been washing and rinsing like one possessed.  Furthermore, John Lewis has exactly the TV we want, in stock and are hoping to get the appropriate dongle (hundreds of them in fact) by the end of the week.

Meanwhile it’s time for a change in the weather.  I thought when the fog lifted the other day it was going to but it went straight back to fog the next day.

Actually I gather we need a month or three of heavy rain – it seems it’s not just our borehole that’s empty but most of the country too.

*We get our water from a privately owned bore hole which means that when the rest of the world is dry, we are sometimes not.  Of course the converse is often true too.

**Not to pour into the reservoir but for themselves.

March 14, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Food, cribbage and steam

For our anniversary dinner we went to our local pub/restaurant.  We’ve been going there since long before it became a restaurant (gastro pub?) so we’ve watched the staff change over many years.  Barney has a way of getting on with people and I enjoy the benefits.

So tonight, we got a special extra course of cold meats, courtesy of the chef, and later when we’d finished dinner and were playing cribbage in the bar, an ice cream on a huge plate with ‘happy anniversary’ written in chocolate across the plate.  Friday night cribbage is a fixture at our local, (fixed mostly by the persistence of the regular players).  Numbers are variable but as long as there are more than three it works ok.  Moved by the contentment that follows a lovely meal and the fact that most of the staff were wandering around watching us play,we encouraged two of them, who had been watching the game from afar, with puzzlement, to learn to play with us.  I had a great time teaching Bea, a Hungarian girl who will shortly be moving to a restaurant in the Scilly Isles, and Barney taught Nick who manages the bar.  They picked it up as quick as you like and loved it.

It’s almost certainly the norm but we are frequently amazed and a little distressed by the long hours, low wages and depressing living arrangements these kids have.  They live above the pub out in the middle of the countryside.  The nearest bus stop is about  a mile away and buses are about as frequent as flying pigs and take a good hour or so to get to the Newbury.  To get to Reading which is a good bit livelier takes another half hour or more and return buses and trains stop at 10 oclock or thereabouts so an evening out, away from work, can only be achieved by paying arms and legs for a taxi or, I’m told, by paying a local acquaintance £24 to give lifts to Reading.  Not exactly a cheap night out!  It’s not surprising that the turnover of staff is high.  I think if I was running the place I and wanted to keep staff, I’d provide some sort of transport for them, even if I had to ferry them myself but the owner is of the absentee kind, mostly busy with his more prestigious restaurant in London.  And to be honest, I think the high turnover is economically useful to him – he doesn’t have to pay decent wages  as long as they’re all  there for less than a year.

After all this conviviality which went on till well after midnight, I was a bit er, tired this morning but we’d decided to go and watch Tornado steaming through Newbury.  It seemed quite early to me but it wasn’t really.  Lovely to see steam on the railway anyway.

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Lots of love

I have recently been promised all kinds of relationships, affection, love and other things, about which I didn’t read, by a series of, er, ladies.  Of foreign extraction.  Or who, I suppose, are foreign and would like to be extracted.   I always delete junk without reading it, having a superstitious dread that if I even touch it it might infect my computer with something ghastly, but I am occasionally tempted to reply and point out that the ladies wouldn’t get much joy from me on several counts.

And Oh Dear!  I forgot today.  For some reason I was sure it was the 8th.  Something to do with a slight confusion of dates as I’m often at the computer when they change in the middle of the night.  (I’m beginning to sound like Eldest, who has been convinced ever since he left home that my birthday is on the 2nd, not the 1st).  Anyway, today (that’s yesterday now), we’ve been married 38 years and Barney left me a card and a presie at the computer (knowing that I wouldn’t wake up properly till I got to it) while I forgot all about it.  Well it seems like yesterday or last week at most, that we met.  And he’s booked a table at a restaurant as well.  (Which is going to be a bit of a problem for me because the water is off and my head has got that interesting flat sided look with sticky out bits of hair on top.  How long should I wait for the water to return before ringing round all my friends and family, begging for a shower!  I suppose I could go swimming?)

While I was busy not remembering the date, I’ve been doing shorter hours than usual with one of my other sources of unconditional love.  Mr Middle did catch the chicken pox from gorgeous Little Middle and is only just recovering.  Enough to take over a little early in the afternoon so I could go home before the traffic reaches its peak.  Gorgeous Grandbaby has completely recovered – indeed she scarcely noticed she was ill, and has boundless energy and enthusiasm and thoroughly enjoyed having a choice of minders for parts of the day.  She obviously thinks it’s great that Daddy is at home for whole days and has more than enough cuddles to spare for all of us.   Though she’s always delighted to see me, she doesn’t mind at all when it’s time for me to go, gives generous kisses and waves and says bye bye, beaming at me from Daddy’s arms.  And she does seem to have learnt to say ‘Grandma’ though though I don’t always catch it.  She is definitely putting sentences together, you can tell by the inflection and the pointing which gives you the general sense of what she’s saying and ‘Grandma do, fetch, read, etc this or that’ figure largely in her conversation which I’m beginning to understand.   On the other hand, she’s not bothering to say anything particularly clearly, even ‘no’ is more of an expressive wail than a distinct word.  Still she’s only 18 months.

Reminds me of overhearing tiny Mrs Middle saying joyfully “Bamalas, bamalas!!” and very small Eldest saying “no no, it’s balamas“.  Bemember that?  Gorgeous Grandbaby calls them ‘nanas’ so it’s just as well that ‘Nana’ isn’t what our family calls grandmothers or we might get confused.

Much later, having showered at a friend’s house and then having a very nice evening out, I’m going to bed.   We decided that we still like being married after thirty eight years so we’ll keep on being it.

Good night.

March 10, 2012 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments