Life, photos but not the universe

Warm nights and summer darkness

I wandered up the road tonight – I used to do this a lot when we had a dog to walk and the two cats used to come too and ghosted along behind and beside us silently.  The lights from the windows glowed very prettily and it was quite nostalgic.  On the other hand, next-door-but-three have two dogs, one big and dark and one small and shrill.  The big one did its Hound of the Baskervilles impression and the little one yapped hysterically and I thought “if you kept your dogs indoors at night instead of out in a kennel they wouldn’t drive you mad every time any one passes and they’d probably be happier.”

Not my problem anyway.  And maybe they’re deaf (the people – definitely not the dogs).

My problem is that I didn’t get my act together and book cleaners to come before the family party this weekend and I reckoned I could do it myself anyway.  Funny how much bigger the inside of a house is than its outside!

To be fair, Barney did offer to help but in the first place there’s an awful lot of tent/table/gazebo erecting and other heavy outdoor work to do (which I will not) and in the second, he might get cross if I pointed out that cleaning the paintwork requires specs!  (Like, you actually have to see the little specks of dirt which you are going to remove).  Further, I plan to suggest that he might like to lean the outside windows and deadhead the climbing rose.

Anyway, I’m glowing copiously again and also busy calculating how many jobs I will probably ditch before the day (Saturday).  No need, really, to clean the bedrooms that our children will be sleeping in – after all, they never cleaned them when they lived here!  And d’you know,  I don’t think they’ll look at the floors and paintwork and think “goodness how much dirtier Mum keeps stuff than we do”*.  I’ve managed to banish most of Barney’s non-household stuff  to the workshop or the office and all my cardis, jackets and gilets have been swept away from the dining room chairs and put where they belong.  My many spare bags (one for carrying camera and rest of stuff on holiday, one backpack for purse/phone/coffee etc when I’m out with camera in hand, one little blue or red Sativa hemp handbag for when I’m wearing stuff that goes with blue or red, etc, etc**) have gone up to our bedroom so that if I need them when all the house and garden are full of people I can get to them –

Oh dear.  Do you think  I really am a bit OCD?

Oh well.

Oops!  Just now I thought my cursor had gone really weird.  I wiggled the mouse and it continued to be weird.  OMG I thought, the battery/computer’s run out.  Anyway, after another few seconds I realised that it was actually a cursor sized fly on the monitor.

Just now, as I cleaned the downstairs loo floor (with lots of nice smelling stuff and a disintegrating mop) I suddenly noticed, through a rain of falling glow (oh all right then, sweat), an enormous orange moon rising.  Hasn’t the moon been fabulous the last few nights?  So I decided that the loo could look after itself and went out to take a picture of it.


And there it is.

Back to the loo then.

And now the family event is almost upon us – tomorrow – Eldest and GIGi have arrived early and we’ve been promised thundery showers, getting wetter towards afternoon for tomorrow.  So how many beds can I raise if the campers are all washed out and thundered upon?  Anyway  I think it’s time to rest my weary bits.  I apologise for not visiting much, I seem to be a bit preoccupied.

Have a lovely weekend.

*No honestly, none of them will think that.

**No one has ever suggested that I may have a touch of OCD but I do wonder occasionally.  The rest of the time I  just organise things the way I like them and get uncharacteristically***, quite (very)  ratty if they aren’t.

***I can say that confidently, as none of you get to spend much time with me.  Others might disagree : )

July 26, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 10 Comments

sausage and apple

Sadly, I have to report that the sausage part was no longer available.

When I got to our favourite sausage butcher’s shop, there was a noticeboard in the window saying

“Thanks to all our customers for their help and support over the years. We are now closed.”  I’m amazed that we haven’t heard on the grapevine that they were closing and indeed that he didn’t mention it last time I bought sausages.  I don’t know where we’ll get our chilli sausages now.

So I was a bit sad but headed on to Reading to visit the Apple store. Yes. I’ve finally done it – been dithering for ooh, months about whether to get an ipad or a mini and finally settled on the mini, marched into the Apple store and positively swept the sales assistants away with my confident purchasing. Not quite so confident when it came to setting up though. Although I had brought the details I’d need, the password we’ve used for the last ten years for my email account didn’t work! And although I do have my apple password written down in a safe place, obviously I don’t have it on the iphone – because that would be silly wouldn’t it. And no, I couldn’t remember it it’s quite complicated.
Now I have my iPad and its very nice – I’ve set up the wifi so I can use the kindle app and it’s very good for looking at photos. No email though as I still can’t find the email password. On the other hand I can sit out in the dark with my feet in the paddling pool and write posts.
Or lie on the floor in the music room and write posts. Or curl up in bed or collapse on the sofa or perch it next to the cooker or balance it on the steering wheel while I’m waiting to collect Little Middle and write posts. Or check if the moon is really there with the night sky app. And see if north is where I think it is. And then read a bit of book.
Um. Maybe I can take a photo and add it to the post?

Yes.  The music room seen from the floor.
Anyway, today I did collect Little Middle and after her sleep, she said “I’d like some apricots and raisins and some chocolate raisins. I think that’s a good choice” She knew it was pushing things a bit to be asking for chocolate (special treat only) so almost before I’d said no, she was beginning a little tantrum. I said “just tell me when you’re ready to have some raisins and apricots”. After a few sorrowful wails and cries of utter despair she said, snuffling, “I want some raisins and apricots. And a cuddle.

– Please”.

Too, too lovely.

And tonight, we had our first band practice for over a year.  Not been in demand much of late and it was a bit of a shock to the system trying to play stuff I haven’t looked at for so long.  Nice to have the fiddle out though.

one of next door’s irises, hiding under the shrubs.


Oh, I’d better get something out for dinner tomorrow!

Sleep well.

July 18, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments


Oops!  My spam folder has been eating you.  I think I’ve got you all back and I do hope it doesn’t happen again!  I’ll check the spam folder in future – it’s a bit weird, never happened before.  After I’d unspammed all the lost comments I had to approve them as well.  What a pain!

This weather is all about nostalgia isn’t it.  It seems like years since we actually had a summer.  I keep wandering out into the garden at night – it’s like we’ve been given a new country – a warm dark one where you can sit and put your bare feet on the grass.

All the summer clothes I was looking forward to through the  winter are too hot!  I’ve dug out some dresses but I must have bought them when I was thinner.  And it’s just not on wearing compression socks so I’m getting fat ankles.  The other day the Middles came for a Barbecue and we had the paddling pool out.  Me and Mrs Middle sat with our feet in it after dark and it was lovely – unfortunately Barney emptied it or I’d be out there every night.

Anyway, it’s poppy time again.

Every year we get at least one field full somewhere but never the same where.  It took me a while to find this year’s display but here it is.





There’s a sort of purple clover type plant as well- I don’t know what that is but it’s very nice.

At the weekend we are steaming again.  It’s Brother-in-law’s 60th and he’s booked to drive a train on the Epping-Ongar steam railway.  We’re all going on the train with him  –  I hope he won’t be in sole charge.  I believe there is a beer festival happening as well.   If the forecast is to be believed it will be a little different from Barney’s birthday trip in February!

The weekend after that it’s ou annual family do.  We started doing it after a funeral when we thought it was a shame that we only saw lots of the family at funerals and had a huge party in the summer and invited all of both our families.  The first year there were something like fifty people – mostly camping in the orchard – and the sun shone and it was fantastic.  Sadly, most of my half of the family haven’t come again but Barney’s more sociable crowd still come every year or so and it’s really fun.  The only downside is that the house needs to be cleaned a bit before they come.  On the other hand, the upside is that the house is nice and clean for a while.  This year I’m trying to get it done bit by bit and won’t book the cleaners to come – it’s nice  having it done for me but it’s not really very cheap and I have to move everything around before they come so it’s quite stressful.  (On the other hand, If I get fed up with scrubbing, I’ve still got time to get them in).

Anyway, tomorrow I have a plan which involves sausages and the Apple store in Reading.  I’ll have to get a move on in the morning as I’m getting shorn in the afternoon as well.  So busy!  I’d better go to bed after a last wander round the garden listening to owls and sheep (and the motorway).

Sleep well.

July 16, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

Half a specialoffer and a hole in the ground

Quite a while ago, Mr McGrew, a friend of ours told us the strange tale of how he went into a shop to buy something and was amused by the error on the big, handwritten ticket, blazoned in thick red felt tip with the message “1 For the price of 2!”

Politely, he pointed out the error to the shopkeeper who said “Oh no.  That’s not a mistake (thus showing that he was better at English than arithmetic – or salesmanship) that’s the offer.  One for the price of two.”

“But but ……” said our friend.

He never found out what it was all about.

Anyway, the other day I bought some edamame beans on offer at 3 for the price of 2.  They looked interesting and I got some sugar snaps and some cherry toms as part of the same offer so I thought it would be worth trying them and today I cooked them according to the instructions on the packet and tasted them and thought they were horrid.*

But it wasn’t this that made me think of the extraordinary special offer, it was, that at the weekend, Mr McGrew spent a whole day with Barney digging up some of our drive (Mr McGrew has a mini digger and a dumper truck – Wow!  One toy for each boy**) so that we could have a big turning L shape instead of a tiny turning (quarter) circle.  The next day Barney tidied up the edge of the lawn (particularly the bit of which I had said “aren’t you going to make the curve go right round?  If you don’t, everyone will drive over your bricks***) and filled in the extra bit with scalpings ****

Yesterday, he laid a line of bricks in place ready for today, when he cemented them in.  The bricks are to hold the encroaching pea shingle back from the lawn – it’s really bad for the lawn mower blades.*****  The whole thing now awaits a delivery of pea shingle (I’m saying nothing – see*****).



Meanwhile hasn’t it been fantastically hot hot hot!  I can’t remember the last time it was so hot for 5? 6? days (a week???) in a row.  Lovely and to be cherished.  And yesterday the heat affected my brain so that I spent a long time scrubbing the kitchen floor, and then I was glowing like a pig.

Do you know the quote “Horses sweat, men perspire and ladies glow”?  An expression I first heard when I was very young and which I’m sure was attributed to a specific person (Johnson?) whom I’ve forgotten.  So I googled it and came up with a phenomenal lack of scholarly information.  However this link provided lots of very entertaining quotes (absolutely nothing to do with sweat), this one shows the extent to which oracular google fails to identify sources (actually there are more sources than I thought at first but google has failed to supply me with one for my quote so I won’t apologise), this one says nobody knows where the phrase came from  and this one – oh, I’ve lost it.  It was only mildly amusing anyway.

Does anyone know who said it first?

Anyway, speaking of peas, I recently encountered, in Waitrose magazine, a stunningly nice and easy recipe – pea and feta salad.♥  We had it with kebabs on the lawn.  I shall definitely be doing it for the Family party at the end of the month.

*Do tell me if you know a nice way to cook edamame beans.

**Actually it was Mr McGrew who mentioned toys and boys – I didn’t think of it myself though of course once he’d said it I couldn’t get it out of my head.

***I haven’t got to the bricks yet. 

****I don’t really know what these are – they go underneath pea shingle and you flatten them with a banging/stamping machine thing which Mr McGrew also has.

*****actually it’s really bad for my ankles too but if I’d been assertive about pea shingle and the drive fifteen years ago we might not be talking to each other still.  

♥Pea and Feta salad.

125 g  peas (fresh or frozen, barely cooked, cooled and drained)

1/2 a small bag of pea shoots or another small tasty leaf.

50g feta, crumbled

4 spring onions, finely sliced

lemon juice

olive oil


small handful finely chopped fresh mint.

Blanche the peas and cool and drain them.

Mix the peas, pea shoots and spring onions and dress with the oil and lemon juice.  Crumble the feta over and toss it all.  Season enthusiastically with salt and pepper.  Sprinkle the mint over the top.

It’s so summery and fresh as it is, with some crusty wholemeal bread or as a side salad with kebabs.


July 13, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 11 Comments

Going right back

I’m planning to do a lot of this.  After all it’s a virtual world right?  So you can’t be expecting chronological precision.

Croatia in April.

I will tell you about our day with Lydia’s husband – He was our driver for the trip to Mostar and Lydia (a lovely woman who normally works in Dubrovnik but was free to fill in with transport on this occasion) took us from Mlini to meet him on the other side of Dubrovnik as the roadworks in the city were causing delays of up to an hour.  We really liked Lydia.  I never quite caught her husband’s name so I shall call him Gerry.   He spoke with emphasis but indistinctly and a lot and as we were in the back of his mini bus we had to make wild guesses about most of what he told us.

Gerry was a huge, fair skinned, greying man with a big smoking habit and he had lots of opinions and vast knowledge about the history of Croatia and Bosnia Herzogevina.  He stopped at a roadside cafe with a nice view of a bay so that we could have “very good coffee and is not very expensive and you can have very nice cakes and a lovely view from the balcony”. (See? Lovely.)


Although we missed a lot of the information he offered we did understand that he was also offering an alternative to the regular trip which would involve a ‘beautiful torrent’and a good cheap meal of fresh fish.  Since the regular stop was apparently at a catholic church with “a lot of Madonnas – Madonnas here and there and everywhere – I have never seen so many Madonnas, very popular with the Italian visitors”, we all agreed to the change.  (Us and three american boys, one of whom had exactly the same camera and lens as me)

Gerry told us at every stop, “no hurry, stay as long as you want (except in Mostar where I have to book the parking), half hour, an hour, no problem”.

Of the ruined Roman villa  he said “it is worth five minutes of your time, don’t go up the wooden steps, they are very dangerous, go through the cafe”.


At the ancient Turkish village of Pocitelj (Pochitelli), miraculously overlooked and neither bombed nor sacked by any of the armies who passed by it, he said “stay as long as you like.  There is no hurry.  Lunch will wait”.  I could have stayed there all day – for one thing the climb to the tower at the top was a long haul.  (There will be more pictures of Pocitelj.  It was enchanting)

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Of Mostar he said “The only thing worth seeing is the bridge and the museum with the film of the destruction of the bridge.  The bazaar is a single street – goes up to the bridge on both sides.  It is like all such streets, full of stuff for tourists to buy.  The rest of Mostar is not worth a visit.  Is quite ugly in fact.  I do not advise you to eat there, at this time of year the food is not all eaten on one day.  There is risk of stomach upsets.  You will not want to spend more than one hour and a half in Mostar.”

DSC_2334-CS52  DSC_2366-CS5  DSC_2376-CS5

Then he took us to his off-piste lunch spot at Blagaj and it was absolutely fantastic.  Think ice-green water pouring out of a hole in at the bottom of a cliff, a hundred yards away,


and tumbling down beside wooden steps and tables laid with fish straight out of the water and herbs and salad grown on the mountain side (Our table was the nearest one, right next to the weir).  Beats Madonnas every time.  I was daring and tried the local speciality – fried eel.  It was very nice – perhaps one or two too many fins but mostly crispy and tasty.


Then he stopped at a roadside stall selling wonderful homemade preserves and fresh fruit with a fabulous view overlooking the Neretva Delta and we all got to try crystallized lemon and orange peel and dried figs and carob bars and bought bags of enormous strawberries.


Last stop was to see a gigantic tree.  Gerry said it was an oak but it really looked like a Plane Tree.


Anyway it was huge – 12 men needed to reach round it hand to hand  (and there’s Barney, touching it with one hand).


All in one day!  I’m exhausted after reliving it all.

Sleep well.

July 9, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 14 Comments

Eagles returned from the past*.

Many years ago, Barney borrowed from a friend, a pirated CD of the Eagles live concert “Hell Freezes over”.

Mrs Middle, then a teenager, inadvertently recorded something over the first ten minutes of it (gymnastics?  Music?  Eastenders?) and the next time Barney settled down to listen to it he had a nasty shock.

Such was his shame and embarrassment over this vandalism that when Ian asked him if it was he who had borrowed the CD, he said, “Me?  No Mate.  Must have been someone else you lent it to”.  The combined lie and sin preyed upon his mind for a year or two and eventually he confessed.  Ian was, reasonably enough, devastated – a precious, irreplaceable recording missing for so long and now irretrievably damaged as well.

More years passed.

For some reason, Barney was telling this tale to Eldest after the L2B ride last month and Eldest said, “What concert?  Oh look, here it is, you can buy it on Amazon and send him a new copy”.

We all got very excited about this and duly ordered it and, even, it came.  We listened to it (had to check that we’d ordered the right thing) and were swept away all over again by the tightness and easy musicianship and lovely, understated harmony and and and… they were pretty good weren’t they?

Actually, I was in a shop the other day and Hotel California was playing.  I had to stay till the end of the song, avoiding all communications and pretending to study the goods intently without bopping too much.  Lovely.

Here are some pictures.  (No, nothing to do with Eagles or Hotel California – sorry,

Ah but look

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– Kites)

And here’s a thing♦ sent to me by a friend who is keen on photography – should you be feeling concerned about your emails and texts being under scrutiny that’s one concern?  Should you choose to go and watch a (?) match in public in NY (?) it seems you will most certainly be scrutinised.**

♦I roughly quote (unquotes in bold) –This picture was taken with a 70,000 x 30,000 pixel camera (2100 MegaPixels whatever that means.)  

These cameras are not sold to the public.  (Shame!)   

Place your cursor anywhere in the mass of people and double-click or scroll a few times . (Yes, do that.  It’s quite surprising if you’re accustomed to being very pleased if your photo of a person five feet away is more or less in focus)”

Here’s another photo from the wonderful weekend away at The Zeddary.


And one from the garden when we came back


And then we went to the pub and when I saw this parked next to Barney’s little car all  could say was wtf ! ???  Out loud.  (It sounds like wutefuh-k)


The thing is, it belongs to the landlord and if this hadn’t been our favourite local since quite a while before he bought it we probably would have abandoned it before now.  I mean what sort of pratt drives a vehicle like this (with trimmings) if he doesn’t have to?

*Well they haven’t been yet (returned) but they soon will be.

**It seems to me that there are quite a few people looking directly at the camera.  Is that because they know something they shouldn’t? Or because they are bored with the match?  Or they’re like me and zoom in on a camera even if it’s half a mile away up a big building?

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | 12 Comments

Nothing like a good blog party. Except the next one….?

Returned from the far side of the country feeling full of good cheer and the pleasure of seeing lovely people again – and indeed, meeting new ones.

Last year, Z’s wonderful blog party was an adventure into the unknown but this year I knew what to expect and it was great!

Fabulous food, heavenly cake and syllabub!!  (I had to mention the syllabub as I had to resist stealing one every time we went to the room dear Z provided for us – all laid out on a tray, just begging to be tasted) but of course the best thing was seeing everyone again.  Or for the first time : )

I won’t say anything about the disgracefully lavatorial hysteria that followed the introduction of a bewildered beast into the dining room – you really had to be there.  (But who would have thought so small a creature could have such a big bladder)

And other people have mentioned Z’s motor-cycling prowess


Thank you Z,  for a wonderful two days*  : )


*Not least for putting up with us for two whole nights and feeding us extra wonderful food!  xxx

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Uncategorized | , | 8 Comments