Life, photos but not the universe

I’m back!

But not for long – we had quite forgotten that we have to go away again soon.  No time for sorting out millions of pics – here’s one.


It was very windy – Barney says it’s a bit skew (the boat).  Well it was sometimes.

May 19, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 8 Comments

Food and water

At this moment, I am sitting at a steamy computer.  All the windows are frosted (with steam) and there is stock cooking in the kitchen.  Also, duck, roast potatoes, celeriac puree, caramelised carrots (I don’t know if this will really happen but they are simmering away in butter and water with basil leaves thrown in, to my blissful ignorance – anything could happen).  Some random green veg are all ready to go.  And there’s hot water in the kettle.

Depending on whether I am trotting to or from the kitchen, there’s soft, April drizzle and mist or wild, illuminated April showering going on outside various windows as the sun goes down (wherever it is, it’s surely going down round about now).  The light is out there but the rainclouds are only in letting as much of it as necessary to keep the illusion of evening going by.♠

Today, I received an email from Chemist Direct (once upon a time I bought some tooth brushy things from them) and I noticed that they were doing a sale of travel sized toiletries (always an advantage when you’re short of space as we will be on the boat) so I had a quick trawl through the website, not wearing my glasses because I didn’t need to read it all, just to look at the pictures.  At the end of the catalogue of stuff, there was a slightly puzzling object which I couldn’t easily identify.  Rather than put my glasses on I clicked on it and was redirected to a page that said, coyly, “it looks as though you want to enter Chemist Direct’s adult website.  Are you over Eighteeen?”   Oops.  So that’s what it was.

That was really last Sunday.  Since then I’ve spent a night with the Middles as Mrs Middle still can’t walk the mile to Pre-School and back and Mr Middle couldn’t get to work in time if he did the pre-school run.  Little Middle was very animated in the afternoon and ran around the garden instructing various imaginary friends in proper behaviour.  Quite bossy, she was.

We’ve been out for dinner, braving the re-rising of the Lambourn River (It hasn’t really had a chance to go down to normal levels yet and is still brimming and looking as if another half hour of rain will tip it back onto the road).  We went to the Plough at Eastbury and had a very nice meal, quite pricey but very ‘gastro’. I had a wonderful pea and chilli soup and a pave of venison with scallops and black pudding.  Barney had an enormous starter of pigeon breast with anchovies and a fairly large cajun spiced, brahma chicken – that’s a breed of chicken apparently, not a curry (Cajun curry would be quite a serious bit of fusion and it was pretty hot already).  Then we both enjoyed reading the dessert menu.  There was absolutely no possibility of either of us of eating any more!

Speaking of water, we’ll be off again soon, on the boat.  It’s been ages and we’re really missing the tranquility and the measured and relaxed pace of life, for instance, going through the Grindley Brook locks (watch the video to get a feel of that peacefulness) on the Llangollen canal which is famous for it’s phenomenal Pontycysyllte Aquaduct).  The aquaduct is 1,007 ft long, 11 ft wide and 5.25 ft deep. It consists of a cast iron trough supported 126 ft  above the river on iron arched ribs carried on nineteen hollow masonry piers. Each span is 53 ft wide.  You can get a real thrill by looking out from inside the boat over the non-towpath side.  You can see straight down, 126 feet, to the River Dee in the valley below and you can’t see the edge of the trough.  Alternatively, you can hide under a duvet until someone tells you you’re safely across.  One of the things we’ve always liked about it is that, in the middle, there is a plug which is pulled out whenever they need to do maintenance work so that all the water pours down into the valley.  It’s quite a big plug – not like the one in your bath.

We went on our first narrow boat trip up the Llangollen for our honeymoon, forty years ago this year, so it’s quite serendipitous that the boat is now moored there.   Hopefully it won’t snow this time as it did on our wedding night (fortunately we didn’t get on the boat till the next day when most of it had melted.) and also hopefully, Barney won’t fall in, something he did on every one of our first few canal holidays.

If you’re interested in aquaducts, here are some more.  Some are merely big, but some are quite surprising.

An aqueduct, or maybe a viaduct would be useful here; the sign says “road closed”  but I think it should really say “road gone” particularly as a man died here during the floods when he drove his car into the ford and couldn’t get out.


Barney is always kind enough to tell me when he has been somewhere beautiful and this was a view he suggested that I’d like.


And this is the view from outside Iffley Church in Oxford,  freshly sprung.


And Hampstead Norreys Church.  It faces approximately North and is surrounded by trees and big houses so there is only a very brief period of time when the sun glances across it’s front and isn’t obscured either by large trees or buildings.  Around 5 pm ish.  (BST that is).


By the time that big shadow has gone behind the church, the sun has gone behind a hill.  It’s all about timing.  Or luck in my case, since timing is not my strong point.

Sometimes I can take weeks to finish a post.  It was definitely April when I started this one.


May 5, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments


I love colours.  Lots of them and all kinds (except, perhaps, neon colours) and I don’t mind if they clash.

So last week I found a scarf with loads of colours on it, convulvulus blue, deep pink, spring green and deeper green, orange, purple, turquoise, you name it, all on a cream background.  It was all so riotously lush that I had to have it even if I really wasn’t sure I could wear it with anything I’ve got.

Naturally, little Middle and I had to call at the bead shop and I collected a selection of beads with lots of similar clashing colours of which I have made earrings and a bracelet to go with the scarf.  Sparkly ones.

Thing is, it’s wool type mixture rather than a silk/cotton thing and it’s really a bit warm for this time of year.  Also, quite large.  And there’s another thing which is that it seems to me that most patterned scarves have a cream or off-white background and most of my brightly coloured patterned tops seem to have a white background.  And it’s amazing how many creams and off-whites there are which just don’t look happy together.  I love colours that shout at each other but when they sneer faintly, sidelong,  it makes me really uncomfortable.  So I’m thinking of turning the scarf into a – something.  I could either cut off most of the cream and sew the ends together to make a single narrower length of rioting flowers, with not much cream left, or I could get really adventurous and actually make a clothe out of it – there’s more than enough stuff for a top or a teeshirty thing.

‘Course, I have absolutely no dressmaking skills.  But I know, in theory how it’s done.  You make a pattern out of newspaper, using another garment as a template, and you add a bit all round so that there’s enough stuff to make seams.  Then you pin the pattern to the cloth and cut out round it and then you sew all the edges together (except the neck and the bottom and the sleeve ends of course).  Not sure if you make the hems first – like round the neck and the ends of the sleeves?  Or after it’s all sewn together.  Um. ♠

Moving swiftly back outside, while I think about the hems, it’s bluebell time and we’ve got a little bluebell wood just up the road.  So far, every time I’ve passed it I’ve been late or it’s been raining and today I went out intending to find bluebells somewhere, come what may.  What came was rain and all I brought back were sausages♠♠ and some wet views out of the car window (taken while eating a sausage roll, fresh from the butcher’s oven.  Yummy.)


And oh look!  A ghostly hand, creeping out of the grass


Anyway, after I returned home, the sun came out and I abandoned cooking the dinner and ran off into the woods.




Bluebells always make me think of the one time I met a famous person.  My stepsister was at university with the daughter of  Peter Simple  and we were invited to dinner with him.  At the time, I never read newspapers so I had no idea how famous Mr Wharton was and when he said, over the coffee, that it was vulgar to wear blue and green and that you should always look for the colours you find in nature, I promptly offered up bluebells.  “Bluebells are vulgar” he said, magnificently dismissive.

At this point, I realised that my friend/family were looking anxious, (no donkey was safe within earshot) and I assumed they were concerned that I might be about to become a total bore.  So I shut up, even though I was feeling quite adversarial about blue and green, and said nothing else for the rest of the evening.

While searching for Michael Wharton, most of whose names I had forgotten, I came across this delightful story, by Janet Aitchison, the five year old author.  You might enjoy it too.

♠  OMG it’s all coming back to me!  Facings, tacking, edging stitches, pins, needles, crumpled cloth and wayward scissors.  Wrong bits sewn together!  Unpicking!!  Pinpricks leaving drops of blood on the middle of the front of the garment!  Curses!  Strange lumps on a shoulder or a hip where something got sewn too tightly or something else got in between where it oughtn’t to have been.  I’m not sure this is going to be a good idea.  I did look at real patterns but I didn’t see any I liked.

♠♠  Well if you can’t have bluebells there’s nothing wrong with sausages as an alternative.

May 3, 2014 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , | 2 Comments