Saturday, 31 August 2013

Berrington Hall - then Lunch

We had a day out with the Bluefunnels today. Our turn to drive so we get to choose. We took them to Berrington Hall, just north of Leominster. A fabulous property with grounds by Lancelot "Capability" Brownand the house was designed by his son-in-law. Built in local red sandstone and a really lovely place to visit. Now owned by the National Trust.

It has just about the very best Ha Ha we have ever seen.
Pardon me? You've never heard of a Ha Ha? Well let me explain.
A Ha Ha, or Haw Haw is basically a ditch with a wall on one side between a pasture and a lawn to prevent stock animals getting onto the lawn. Designed so that when you stand where Mr M and Mr Blue are standing and survey the view it looks as though the sheep or cows could walk righ up to the house because you simply cannot see the ditch. At Berrington Hall you can get within ten feet of the edge before you can see the ditch at all. Mrs Blue was impressed.

We enjoyed the house very much and then we went to the OK Diner for lunch. This is our end of the Summer treat. I had the beer battered cod, Mr M the all the way burger. Mr Blue had the Club sandwich and Mrs Blue had the Cheese and Mushroom burger with a salad. Delicious!! then we headed for the cheese shop in Monkton
 a brief stop to buy some lovely flavourful cheese as special treats and then heading for home through the wonderful Welsh countryside of the Wye Valley.
A stop at Bronllys Castle where we discussed just how difficult it would have been to storm a castle that was built on top of a slope like that. A quick reminisce from me over the fact that now there is a posh stiarcase for intrepid explorers to climb but when we first visited there was just a ladder pinned to the side of the slope.
Mr M insists that it was a wooden staircase but I think he had his rose coloured spectacles on because it was just wooden slats for your feet with thin wooden sides to hold on to - I think there were some bits of string to cling onto as well. Now we are all going to get down to some serious healthy eating and try to get fitter for next year. We still have a couple of days planned for this year. It's their turn next to choose and drive - I wonder where we'll go.....

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Come in for a cuppa - August

Each month I join up with Abi at CreatingPaperDreams where she invites us all to sit down and have a cuppa and a chat. You know me, I love to chat so as soon as I heard the sound of your footsteps on the path I would be rushing to open the front door and invite you in. I would ask you to ignore the dust and mess, we have been away twice this year and I decided that this lovely hot weather was just too warm for housework.
I'll ask you whether you prefer tea or coffee - and then warn that everyone who says "I don't mind" will not be able to tell which it is.. I would introduce you to the Divine Miss Em. She spends time with use when both Mummy and Daddy are working and we have a project at the moment.
I'll explain that we spent a week in a caravan in west Wales with Miss Em and she took a lot of photographs. Now she is compiling her first scrapbooking album - With Journalling!
I grin slightly as she disappears upstairs to continue with her next page and whisper to you that she has been reading some of my very old scrapbooks from when her mother's age was still in single figures and thought that every piece of writing had to say something funny. I tell you that we have now talked about this and she can see that something funny on a page or two is good but too much funny can be tiring.
I offer you a choice of sugar free chocolate and cranberry brownies or chocolate and blueberry brownies and stifle a shriek as I realise that the beetroot that has been cooking quietly should be done.
I explain that we are now approaching "That" time of year when fruit and veg are being harvested and I am making chutneys and relishes and pickling beetroot. Soon I will be doing pickled onions so they are ready for Christmas. I will not be making jam because neither of us can eat it any more. I tell you that the reason I do the chutneys and stuff is for Christmas presents. I have always tried to make for Christmas, I explain and while it used to be oven gloves and knee quilts and peg bags and such now it is pickles and chutneys and relishes.
We will probably still be sitting at the table chatting when my daughter arrives to take Miss Em home so you will have the pleasure of meeting her before she whirlwinds through and disappears down the road.
You will tell me that you have to leave and I will be genuinely sad to see you go. I will make sure you know that you are welcome any time - even if I am pickling something! I am sure that next time you come I will have something that needs taste testing.
I will watch until you disappear around the corner and then reluctantly close the door before going to the kitchen, putting on the latex gloves and skinning those beetroot - after putting the jars into the dishwasher to clean and sterilise.

See you next month!

Sunday, 18 August 2013

They've got the builders in

From my kitchen window I can look down into my garden and make sure my chickens are ok. because we live on a hill the land falls away from the back of the house. This gives us the bonus of a cellar (you have to drop your voice into your boots to say that word in this house - long story but it was the late and wonderful Wheelchair Steve that started it). It also means that the house behind us has one bedroom window that looks straight into our kitchen - or if you live in number 1 That Street, my kitchen looks straight into the bedroom.
It has not been a problem for the last thirty-two years because the boy whose bedroom it is never opened his curtains from the time he reached the age of ten and before he was ten he was only in that room to sleep.

He grew up found a lovely girlfriend and moved to Cheltenham. Then his mother died and he and his sisters cleared what they wanted out of the house and sold it. The new owners have a lot of work to do because it had been neglected for a long time. They got the builders in. Polish builders. There is an Alley at the back of our house. the three houses in our block plus Number 1 That Street have access but the land actually belongs to us and to our neighbour Debbie. Try explaining that to someone who has unbolted the gate from the wall because "Is lock!"
"Yes" said Mr M "To keep people out"
"Is commune!" said the builder.
"No!" said Mr M being very quiet. "Is Mine. You ask and I will unlock." He pointed at the gate. "Fix this!" he tapped his watch and heldd up five fingers "Five minutes or I call Police"
He meant it too.
They fixed and every day I go and ask "Open?"
"yes please"
Entente cordial my.........

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Simply a Moment - August

Simply a Moment was started by Alexa over at Trimingthesails A chance to stop for one moment to look around, listen look without and within and record that one precious simple moment in time. Why not take a look after you have shared my moment

I am sitting in front of the computer ready to transcribe another of the letters from my aunt in Africa. I begin to read through the letter just to familiarise myself with her writing - to make it easier. I am swept into the countryside in what was Nyasaland as she describes her journey to the Northern province and her trip to Nkata Bay. I can almost smell the distinctive smell of the lakeshore and hear those 1950s colonial voices as she describes sailing on the lake and how "absolutely outrageous" were the things the "blokes" from the Rhodesian Royal Airforce told her to make her laugh.
I type happily and feel a pull of reluctance to come back to earth when I finish. I glance at my emails and see that several cousins have replied to my message asking for their approval for my plans for the letters. So far they all agree that putting them into the local archives is a good thing because of the social history aspect of the contents of the letters and putting the transcriptions onto the family website for all of us to have access is, apparently something that is awaited with eagerness.
Only four more to transcribe and then They can go on the website together with the photographs and I can start on the letters from Uncle in Canada - This thought brings a huge grin to my face as I save the file and start a new document.

Friday, 9 August 2013

Holiday Journals

Ruth over at EverydaylifeofasuburbanSAHM Has asked if we keep a holiday Journal, if it is a scrapbook and how we do it.
To quote Inego Montoya in "The Princess Bride"
"Let me explain, no it will take too long. Let me sum up"

The earliest holiday scrapbook I have was made in 1968. There are just a few postcards and no journalling. The first journal was done when the children and I went with my cousin and his wife - the Bluefunnels - to Scotland for three weeks I wrote about it and showed the pages starting here.
Ever since then I have taken a note book on holiday with us and made a daily entry. When we get home I photocopy the pages then make an album using notes and leaflets and entry tickets and other ephemora. I also make a single page for the annual album. I put the copies of the journal pages into the album so that the person looking has the choice of reading the entries or just looking at the pictures.

I tend to keep the holiday albums together and recently made a space in the guest room so that if our guests feel like a little light reading before settling down to sleep they can glance through an album. I did wonder if anyone bothered until recently when a guest told me at breakfast that she had really enjoyed "going through the Lake District last night before I went to sleep."

So that's how I do it. A notebook for the journalling and make an album when I get home.

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Ystradfellte - Story Telling Sunday, My Precious

Today is Story Telling Sunday, a meme started by Sian at Fromhighinthesky. This year the connecting theme is "My Precious" and on the first Sunday of every month we all tell our story about something we have that doesn't necessarily have a monetary value but is very precious to us for some reason. When you have read my story why not pop over to Sian's Place and see what wonderful delights await you.

Ystradfellte is a tiny village in the Brecon Beacons. The only reason it is known by anyone other than the people who live there - the landlord of the pub, the Postmaster and the three men and a dog you might see in the lane - is because just up the road about a mile away there are caves, Porth-y-Rogof caves and they are, so I am reliably informed spectacular and difficult. Not being a mole or a hobbit I cannot confirm this.

Thirty-three years ago I met Mr M. I have told that tale before so I'll skip that part. We spent two months getting to know each other and by the time of my birthday, at the end of September, Mr M said he wanted to show me some of his favourite places. My children were doing other stuff - the boys with their father and my daughter off with Rangers so on the Friday afternoon we drove off in Edie, my ambulance. I had no idea where we were going.

We went to the Car park that is just above the caves and took a slow stroll down the river to the first waterfall. If ever you are in that area I highly recommend a visit to the falls they are so beautiful. We came back to Edie and drove down into the village. We went into the pub and this is where I totally fell in love with Mr M all over again. Let me describe the pub first.

The floor was huge slabs of welsh slate, the edges rounded and smoothed with years of wear. The walls were whitewashed with wooden plank panelling up to about half way - I was going to say tongue and groove but that would be far too up market. The wood was blackened by years of smokey fires and pipe smoke and where the clientel had leaned back against the walls the patina was a much lighter colour. There were two benches with high backs either side of the fire and one of these was occupied by an odd young couple. He was wearing a cowboy hat and jeans that had argued with his cowboy boots so they stopped half way below his knees. She had bib and brace overalls, a check shirt and the biggest trainers I had ever seen.  A huge fireplace dominated the wall opposite where you came in but what took your eye immediately you entered was the bar.
It was a hole in the wall. Now this wall was five feet thick. So when you went to the bar and ordered your drinks you stretched across and gave the lady your money and then she pushed the drinks as far across as she could reach. Then you stood.... I stood on tiptoe and stretched as far as I could to reach them. Wonderful!
Next to the bar were three old gentlemen. Two sitting on the bench against the wall the third on a chair facing them across their table. When we came in we had the sudden silence as everyone turned to look at us, followed by the expressions of disappointment when they realised that we were strangers and would not add information to their conversation. And what a conversation. We learned a lot when a local couple came in and were greeted happily by Cowboy and Girl. "Did you see the fire engine?"
"Yes, what happened? We didn't see any smoke"
As they got their drinks we made ourselves small and tried not to cruch our crisps to loudly so that we could listen
It seemed that during the day a prize bull belonging to a local farmer had fallen in the river and the Fire Brigade had been called to the rescue. The Gent on the chair was doing the talking with little asides from Cowboy.
Oh I should say that Cowboy and Girl were playing darts and every time he walked to the dartboard to remove his darts his cowboy boots made a loud hollow clumping sound across that wonderful slate floor. He would throw his darts, dunk, dunk, dunk. Then walk the three steps to collect them, clump, clump, clump. Then girl would throw hers, dunk, dunk, dunk, but her trainers had soft soles so she squeaked across, squeeeak, squeak, squeeeak. This was the accompaniment to the story.
The rescue equipment had been brought from Brecon but it wasn't enough because of where the bull had gone in. "They should have driven him down into the shallows" said Cowboy and that's when it happened.
A high pitched squeaky voice from the corner where the three men were sitting said "I would have shot him, skinned him and ate him by now, he'd be in my freezer!" But the mouths on the three men didn't move!
This was when we realised that what we had assumed were a pile of coats in the corner with them was really a fourth man, a tiny little man whose head only just came above the table top and when he leaned back he disappeared!
The discussion continued about the rescue truck from Merthyr having to be called too and again the conversation stopper "I would have shot him, skinned him and ate him by now, he'd be in my freezer"
Each time this tiny man spoke the rest of the bar would fall silent and wait to make sure he had finished even Cowboy and Girl paused in their game of Darts although as the evening progressed we learned that they were brother and sister and the children of the tiny man.
As new people arrived the tale would be re-told and the silence would follow after the fatal words "I would have shot him, skinned him and ate him by now, he'd be in my freezer.
We were reluctant to leave but eventually we went back to the car

park above the caves and snuggled into our sleeping bag still chuckling. The following day we went into the post office and on the shelf was this tiny souvenir mug. Mr M bought it for me and every time I look at it I can hear the boots and the darts and that voice from the corner
"I would have shot him, skinned him and ate him by now."

We went back last week and the bar has gone. The room has been opened up and made into a boring-could-be-anywhere restaurant bar. The Carpark where we slept now costs four pounds a day to park there and the post office has moved and has a tea room attached. And yet... and yet it still has that feel to it. I am sure that Cowboy and Girl are still around even though they are now in their fifties and life still goes on just the same but with the advantage of mobile phones and... oh wait, no there's no reception there at least not for our two providers so as I said life goes on