Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Toilet Brush Mystery ......

For some weeks, some would say years I have been somewhat preoccupied. (yes hubby, I am taking to you..) Lots of things in my brain jiggling about, planning, renovating, writing, tutoring, befriending, entrepreneuring ...Not a real word you say? Then how come I've been doing it?

When my brain gets overloaded, new information and ideas still arrive, pushing into my noggin through my eyes and ears, unfortunately other older more useless stuff gets pushed out to make room for the new stuff. I can only presume there is a tiny hole at the back of my head, but I'm too busy to look.

Trivial things seem to filter straight through, never remaining in my head for more than a few seconds. Tonight hubby phoned to say he'd be late;

'Could you record the football please?' he asked.

'Sure.' said I.

I put the phone down and 'ting,' the request fell out of my brain and I got on with the immediately important stuff; dinner for the kids, their home work and lots of walking around the trashed house and gardens saying 'Right,' as if that would magically sort out the devastation. Only when the 7yo read her book for school - a book about a daddy - did my back-up brain kick in, and I shot off to press R on the remote!

.....This inability to function properly is the reason I haven't been able to solve the toilet brush mystery before today....

Our downstairs loo is rather frugal, fairly roomy, but frugal, (and that's being kind.) Beside the toilet, I've placed a huge flowerpot housing Finn McCool's (Fionn mac Cumhail's) loo brush. It's not that we do excessively large number twos in this family, its just that when we first arrived to the house, the cleaning jobs required industrial strength tools. I bought a massive cleaning brush that looks like a fat hedgehog on a pole; length and girth. Impressive eh?

Now for weeks, every.single.darn.time I go into that loo, the toilet brush is out of the flower pot and lying on the floor. It first started when we had guests, I'd assumed one of them had forgotten to replace it, but after the third and forth time of finding it on the floor I was wondering what the heck was going on.

Sadly, every time I left the loo, the info pertaining to the loo brush incident fell out of my brain, a consequence of being hounded as a mummy....

'Can you push me on the swing?'

'Can I have a drink?'

'Can you help me catch the neighbours sheep that are in our field?' (that was tonight!!)

'They' loiter outside the loo, waiting to acost me. I can't even have two minutes to wee....

After our guests left and the bog brush still kept escaping its pot, I assumed the children, bored during protracted movements, were messing with it. I never remembered to ask them about it: Brainless!

Anyhoo, mystery solved, euwwww, yuck, disgusting. Tabby attacks the brush, claws out, viscious, clearly he thinks it looks like a hedgehog too...

This is NOT a good week for the cats; pigeon murdering and now this!
[Update 2014: 5 years on and our new website is launched here come visit us online.]

Monday, 28 June 2010

Sad. The Demise of Racing Pigeon....

In this hot, beautiful weather my heart hurts.

For the past couple of days a racing pigeon has sat on our roof. Tired from flying in such unprecedented weather, it rests at The Larches wearing two little bands around spindly legs. It seems to enjoy our company but is generally mindful not to come too close.

We'd opened the velux windows to the attic room above the kitchen and had to rush and close them as the pigeon eyed with interest the bed in the room below.

Yesterday evening we put out some of our chicken's corn, placed high and safe on a wall. But lulled by the music played on the iPod while hubby was barbecuing, it flew down to the ground, venturing in to explore the kitchen through the open back door. We only just saved him from the cat; Benny our most successful predator.


Today I'm back to my writing. It's hot. I've had several interruptions from tree people and horse people wanting to use the manège .... Distracted, I left the back door open.... Pigeon returned and decided to pay me a visit.

I heard the commotion in the corridor outside my office and raced out. Benny had the beautiful silver grey bird by the throat, wings wide, crucified against his chest. I gave chase, but unlike Tabby, Benny never releases. He fled across the garden and over our wall heading to the cattle fields. Gone. I won't find them now, won't enter a field of 50 cattle with calves and a fiesty bull.

My only consolation is that it would have been so injured that I wouldn't have been able to release it anyway. But my heart still hurts for the lovely gentle creature who seemed only to be looking for a bit of respite.

I love the cats; there have been no rats seen since we got them and yesterday Benny killed a mouse in the old cottage/my potting shed, the mouse that's been eating my seedlings I hope. But I'm cross now, cross that I couldn't save the pigeon.

RIP pigeon.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Drinking and Eating....

We were invited to dinner again by Antoinette Savill.... I presume, as this was our second invitation in as many months, that the hubby and I were either well behaved the first time or amusing, or possibly both!

As Antoinette is a cookery writer, I am endlessly delighted to attend somewhere where I get fed lush food AND get to gossip unashamedly with interesting guests. Last night was no exception......

The day had been really warm and the evening weather didn't disappoint either, we nine sat in the garden sipping a multicolour of wines, chatting until we were called to table, while three hilarious terrier shaped dogs lashed up and down silently. I swear, not a peep out of them! It was like a funny silent movie.... in colour... with wine... I digress..

We had a warm soup to start; deep bottle green with a swirl of cream and a depth of flavour.

'Guess what it is,' she asked, smug, so you knew it was going to be tricky.

'Remember I live near the stream, woods and pastureland....'

The soup wasn't peppery, so watercress was out. It wasn't wild garlic, I think we've almost passed that season....... I couldn't place the taste.

'Nettle.' The guest to my left called. He was American and I was impressed. It was delicious, made deep and rich by a pheasant stock.

Next came the main course of pheasant, roasted and served in the most unctuous, plate-lickable, sauce. Red cabbage with apple, courgette and beans on the side, gave the dish a summery sweetness. .... In a restaurant I may have dismissed this dish as something for late Autumn or winter. Not so! It was light but flavoursome. moreish. Later in the car, as I waxed lyrical about the taste and texture of the bird, husband bragged that he'd been served a decent portion of pheasant but no vegetables (he doesn't eat his veg, naughty boy!) AND when the rest of us were eating the salad course, he was slipped a second plate of pheasant! Top hostess is Antoinette, husband was seriously impressed...... I can't believe he gets rewarded for not eating his greens...... humph!

After the salad came the naughty section of the meal: Pots and pots of home made ice cream made with goats milk. So many flavours, we had a job strategically placing them on the table. At one stage it did look that one male guest was barricaded in, stuck behind a heavenly ice fortress. He ate his way out ... Damson, lemon curd, ginger and rhubarb, lavender, banana and hazelnut to name but a few. All served with exquisite Florentine biscuits, made by another guest, a chef to the Royals no less! [Tap your nose in a knowing way.]

Yet another guest spoke to us of her apple orchard, close to Leominster. We'll need her help and expertise when our cider orchard arrives as bare root stock in November, and she has a mulberry tree, so I hope she'll advise us on that too.

While the party was in full swing we departed for the hills, to relieve our lovely babysitter who'd been out all day competeing with her daughter and her horse. They've qualified for the Horse of The Year Show so we'll definitely be going to that in October to cheer them on.

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Gosh Golly Cucumbers for Tea!

It's a real joy to be able to step out your door and pick something for tea. I remember a friend telling me last year that she had eaten a whole meal comprising only of produce from her garden; eggs, potatoes, chives, lettuce, cucumber, beans, tomatoes. (She asked to be forgiven for the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, butter and sauvignon blanc!) I was jealous at the time but this year its our turn. It is so yummy, stuff the budget; we're eating for free!!

Actually it probably cost me £40 to set up with seeds, a few bags of compost and a splurge on two new trowels which the children have commandeered and lost in the garden! But it's money well spent as we'll be eating fruit and veg till the late Autumn, I really shouldn't have to buy anything except citrus fruits and bananas.

Here's some of our sucesses so far.

Friday, 25 June 2010

Nervous energy......

Wish I could type as fast as this

Have a sooper dooper weekend

kiss kiss...

Country Ways....pass the butter....

Here in the country we like to make our own jam....

Our own cider....

Lucille Ball at her finest.

And, of course, our own policemen....

Fitness for Writers...

All day I sit and write. Even in the good weather I'm fairly disciplined, writing Monday to Friday. Sad ass, I know but I'm also conscious that the sproglet's Summer Holidays will soon be upon us and I will struggle to concentrate.

Last night I lay on the 7yo's bed and we had a little chat. It's difficult to understand her when she's tired and sucking her thumb. However, her brain still operates very efficiently thank you.

'Why have you got these?' She fingered the skin below my eyes and I could only imagine the dark suitcases of tired that were hanging there!

'What do you mean? Describe what you see.' Probably shouldn't have done THAT!

'Sort of, ermm, creased triangles hanging down that are, ermmm, sort of grey.'

It was an accurate portrayal, delivered without agenda.

'Well I think I'm very tired and also I've not been out in the fresh air these past weeks. I've just been in the office, working. I probably need to get out in the fields and exercise and get a bit fit again. I don't do enough when I'm writing.'

'Hmmmm.' The 7yo considered this as she continued to suck her thumb and stroke her favoured Bed-Bear's silky label.

'I know,' she said. 'All writers should have pedals attached to their computer, and unless they pedal, their computers won't work.'

Genius. Writers; creating their own electricity (not just gas) AND getting fit.... now there's an idea....

Later I searched to see if such a device even existed. Is the Pope Catholic/catholic? ... (another blog post entirely).... Yikes! I found a sort-of solution in Bloggyland! The Treadmill Desk... ... they just need to add the 'create-your-own-electricity' bit and then I can see it flying off the QVC shelves.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

House Makeover... one day

We're getting to the point where we will need to start to think about redeveloping parts of the house.... although with the budget just announced we may just have to be content with the planning phase.

Upstairs needs a big family bathroom as, at the moment, the bathroom most accessible for all the bedrooms, is tiny. It resides in a funny tower and boasts a huge bath but no shower. We won't lose the tower, as it's a lovely feature, but we may need to create another similar one beside it. Downstairs, below this bathroom and to the left of it, a nasty porch rots.... its days are numbered... Plus we haven't really got a front door so we need to create one in keeping with the house.

Oooo I like a bit of planning....

Sharpening pencils and getting my sketch pad out right now....

This house is inundated with fairies....

A couple of nights ago, long past bed time, the 7yo wandered downstairs in her pink PJ's. Usually she's back down looking for food as she hardly gets anything to eat during the day: Oh wait, that is if you don't count a cooked breakfast like scrambled egg on toast, biscuit break at school with milk plus a two course lunch and cake break in the afternoon with juice! Oh yes and the huge dinner I provide, (the Irish mother in me doesn't trust that the sproglets will have eaten enough nutrients/their body weight during the day,) followed by a pudding and often cheese and biscuits..... ! BTW, there's not a pick on her or the 5yo... I, on the other hand....


'No more food!' I said before she had time to open her cute Springwatch gaping beak..

'I don't want food, I just can't suck my thumb because my wobbly tooth is annoying me.'

The tooth next to a front tooth has been precarious for some considerable time.

'Oh dear,' I said, in that matter-of-fact-stuff-and-nonsense-way that British mothers have when they're tired, the house is a pig sty, the garden needs watering and the husband has just asked for shirts to be ironed sometime this month.

'Why don't you pull it out? Good girl, back to bed now.'

She stomped off.

Two minutes later she was back, the 5yo in tow. He was well impressed.

'She pulled her tooth out mummy. We're going to show Daddy and give him the heeby-jeebies.'
(Daddy's not keen on these teeth matters.)

Later that night hubby and I checked on the babies sleeping. In the 7yo's room there was a little note.......

I'm pleased to say that the Fairy came and complied with instructions. She also left £1, probably because she couldn't find a 50p in her purse!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Whaling: Just 72 Hours Left...

I'm not a great campaigner, but this time I think we have to stand up to a world that can't think of something else to eat or is at a loss for how to make a product without a bit of defenceless whale in it!

These creatures are gentle and beautiful and until someone tells us that they have become so abundant that there NEEDS to be a world cull, LETS JUST LEAVE THEM TO SWIM AND HAVE BABIES.... OK? Thank you, I feel better now. *Can I be even clearer: I'm NOT advocating a cull! (sommeone asked!!!!) I'm trying to say that unless the world is so densely populated with whales that our very existence is threatened, I want the whales left to live in peace....man. OK?

Here's the link, if you feel you can sign up please do ...sign up

Sorry for the rant, soap box now back under the stairs. I'm also sorry that I don't speak whale.

Monday, 21 June 2010

Elderflower Champagne

Last night we four intrepid explorers trooped into the furthest field. We were foraging for Elderflower heads to make Elderflower Champagne, to Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's recipe.

It proved a difficult task; 5ft stinging nettles, gorse and a rambling rose protected our most productive Elderberry tree, but eventually we had a decent stash.

The conconction is brewing in the dairy and it smells divine. I pop in now and again purely for an aroma-fest.

I'll let you know how we progress in a few days or weeks...hic!

Gardening in Pictures, part III

Onions and garlic are going well.

Strawberries basking in the sun...

Fat Hen.... no, not you, the plant, the weed, it's called Fat Hen. It is delicious, although in large amounts it can be toxic, (so can wine!!) Cooking it as you would spinach reduces the potency.

The pumpkins, courgettes, peas, beans and sweetcorn are really motoring along. I'm going to start serving mini courgettes with butter at dinner and pickling the glut.

I may have overdone the potatoes!!

Saturday, 19 June 2010

A Fairy Murder..... say it isn't so!

This morning I got up earlier than the rest of the household. I'm creating a rose garden along the front drive, collecting up all the rose trees around the gardens and planting them together.

I got tired trying to fight an enormous root that is seriously hindering my digging. I need hubby and Dizzy (but hubby's still asleep,) so I took a stroll.

Imagine my horror when I found three little fairy wings.

Do fairies shed wings at this time of year or has there been a murder? Are dark forces alive and well in my garden? Please, if you have any ideas, send them through the blogisphere now..... we must save the fairies..... Oh I've come over all 'Arthur and the Invisibles'....

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Never Clean Your Car!

Invited to lunch recently, by a lovely girl friend, I heard a funny story. Well, it's funny depending on who you are really. My pal has given me full permission to repeat the tale.....

My friends are having some building work undertaken. All day, builders arrive with vans and lorries to disrupt their life. Their house is beautiful, and will be more so, after the builders leave. They are fortunate to have one particularly delightful builder, and he seems to be driving the project along at speed.

As a distraction from the renovation, my pal got out in her garden with a tray of sunflowers to plant. Close to her outside wall, she noticed a jar. Assuming that some passing yob had lobbed said jar into her garden, she went to recover it.

It was someones ashes! The name was right there on the casket! It was the ashes of a dead lady!

How dreadful. My pal confessed to feeling a bit bored that day. This was a bit of excitement! She phoned the council and asked them to immediately come to collect the body/ashes.

'When the man came to the door, I did ham it up a tadge!' she confessed. 'I told him I was utterly traumatised.'

The man from the council put on his most serious face. He took the ashes with reverence and promised to investigate.

Later, having tracked down the family, he drove to the next of kin. The daughter of the deceased opened the door. She was understandably upset.

Unfortunately the daughter of the deceased is married to my friend's favourite builder. ....... He'd been cleaning out his van on my friend's drive, and had forgotten to put his mother-in-law away..... Whoops, such an easy mistake to make, surely?

I understand that building work may slow considerably in the foreseeable future.

Tagged! The Interrogation

Ooooo! I've been tagged by the delectable Erin at 'Cross the Pond. I love reading Erin's blog: Being born a Londoner, (St John's Wood, sweetie,) I'm interested to see London through her NYC eyes, as she settles into her new home with hubby and babies.

Erin's interrogating 5 bloggers and although I'm uncomfortable being interviewed, I'm sure it will be good practise for my upcoming interviews with J Ross, J Leno and D Dimbleby when my books are bestsellers, (one can dream.) Here I go..... bound, but not gagged....


1. Why blog?
'I started The Archers at The Larches for two reasons, first to document our new life and second, I use it as a warm up exercise before I write the 'real' stuff. I've written a children's book - Greystone School, First Freedom, one book in a series of six and I also have drafts of two adult novels... Fingers crossed please!'

2. Do you have to write or want to write?
'Have to write.... or I'd go do-lally. Mind you, if I don't earn a living at it soon, the husband will send me out cleaning!!! ....Can't even clean my own pad actually!'

3. Sweet or savoury?
'Savoury for sure... used to work on the deli in Sainsbury's when I was at University. (I won't tell you which one for fear of prosecution!) But suffice to say, I used to eat more than I sold: It was for the good of the customers! How else would I be able to advise them? On a Friday night, a girl called Bethan used to work on the counter with me. She could get a full Scotch Egg in her mouth AND CHEW! They are the size of a baseball!! Bloody impressive.'

4. If you could have coffee with just one person, living or dead, who would it be and why?
'Nelson Mandela. No contest really, what a dude. He's cool, principled and wot a line in shirts!!'

5. Toilet paper roll: over or under?
'Couldn't care less, provided that it is the cheapest nastiest stuff. Value brand please. This is because we have a septic tank that takes all poo, wee, washing up water and breaks it down, distributing it to the fields. Posh paper clogs it up!'

6. Do you enjoy cooking or prefer being cooked for?
'I do love cooking but sometimes family dinner, every single night, gets a bit laborious, especially as I usually cook from scratch - not a fan of prepared /processed food. I love making a rod for my own back! Hubby does a mean BBQ and would happily cook every night if the weather was good. I pray for good weather.'

7. Beach or Mountains/lake?
'Mountains/Lake. You can fish, swim, hike, camp, check out fauna, flora... On the beach people keep throwing buckets of water over me before trying to tow me out to sea, back to my pod!'

8. Would you rather read a book or watch a movie/TV?
'A book any day; although I do love gardening programmes.'

9. If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?
'My utter surprise that everyone in the universe isn't nice. I always assume people are kind, friendly and trustworthy and mostly I'm right (thank goodness) but others are just putting on a show! I'm more a WYSIWYG!'

10. Where on earth would you visit if money and time was no issue?
'The Galapagos Islands or Belize. Actually if money was no issue, I'd buy The Galapagos Islands or Belize and only really nice, kind people would be allowed to live there... conservationists .... like Chris Packham, phwoor!!!

So, having done my homework, I'm tagging 5 more unsuspecting bloggers with my questions (*Some questions I may have nicked from Erin!)

To respond to such a tag may not be their cup-of-tea, I've tagged them purely for their own wonderful writing styles and suggest you take a look. My blogging victims are:

Their Questions are:
1. Snog, Marry, Avoid: (this exam question relates either to David Cameron or President Obama?)
2. What's the worst Christmas present you've ever received?
3. Describe the worst public toilets you've ever visited.
4. What is the food you most dislike and why?
5. Do you prefer the curtains/windows open or shut when you sleep?
6. How competitive are you?
7. What's the best wedding or birthday party you've attended?
8. What's the best chat-up line you've ever heard/used?
9. What's better, a bath or a shower?
10.How superstitious are you?

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Ripe Blackberries....

We've been in The Larches for almost a year. Walking the hedges, I'm excited to see the blackberries forming. If I manage to pick even a percentage of them, I'll need a new freezer!

Our life has completely changed since last I picked blackberries...[imagine harp music up and down the scales and your vision blurred into wiggly lines....yes, it's a flashback!]

....2009..Blackberry picking time in Oxfordshire:

Our cottage garden was productive, with a veg plot, herbaceous borders and a tiny pond. We only had room for a few soft fruits; raspberries and blueberries and our big old walnut tree precluded us from fruit trees.

Blackberry season was a time for foraging; my secret location was a park and ride car park just outside Oxford City. Hundreds of people parked and passed by the largest juiciest fruits every day. They kindly left them for me to pick and I picked tons. Now some might say, that these blackberries may have been tainted with the fumes from the cars. They may have been, but they were the best I could find and it would have been a shame to ignore them....free food indeed.

One day I was merrily picking, my third visit that week, when I noticed a burly security guard ambling toward me. I presumed I was infringing some rule about the park and ride car park, i.e. that I was supposed to park and then ride, not park and pick!

'Sorry,' I called, before he'd quite reached me. 'I'm picking all your blackberries.'

He stood beside me as I continued to pick.

'I saw you on the cameras,' he said. 'You've been here before.'

He was about 35yo, his accent possibly from London. He stared at the black fruits I was picking as I popped them into my pot. Some were so ripe they burst, sweet juice staining my fingers. His face screwed up, into the kind of face you get if you suck a lemon.....

'How d'ya know if they're ripe?'


'Well, they're black.' I said. 'And really sweet...Here taste one.'

He recoiled.

'Urghhh, no thanks. I only eat stuff from a supermarket me! And I only like it washed and wrapped in plastic, then I know it's clean.'

Good point!

He left me to forage....clearly thinking I was deranged. Still, more for me! I didn't have to share my crop.

It worries me that we are ignoring readily available produce. My garden is filled with ground elder, cow parsley, nettles, jack-by-the-hedge. All plants we've forgotten how to cook. I've got a new book: Food for Free a Collins gem. I'm determined to eat my way through the garden and hedgerows...safely!

This year my family can be sure of fume free blackberries, apples, pears, sloes, damsons, cherries.....and so much more. I count my blessings and my vitamins...not a cellophane wrapper in sight.

Friday, 11 June 2010

LBW and Cromwell...

If you like literature or cricket, or history actually.... don't read this post! You have been warned. The dying of the hair from blond to brunette, has done nothing to remove the blondness from my soul...

At school I studied modern history; WW2 and the like. I seemed to have missed the Kings and Queens of the UK and, although I have, of course, heard of King Henry XIII, 1491-1547, he who founded a religion on that song D.I.V.O.R.C.E. I really have scant understanding of his English contemporaries. Interesting to me is the fact that Henry was having hissy-fits with his women, while the Italian Renaissance was in full swing: The greats like Leonardo, Michelangelo, Titian and Raphael creating masterpieces for the Catholic Church, while Henry picked a fight with a Pope.

I'm reading Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel at the moment and couldn't seem to reconcile the lead character, Cromwell, with the timeline of Henry. In the end I had to ask a very distinguished well-read, learned friend...

'So, Cromwell and the Roundheads, were they on Henry VIII's side or wot?'

Sheesh! ....She was more than kind.... Turns out the lead character Thomas Cromwell, is only a distant relative of bloody Oliver Cromwell! I was only a 100 years out! In the back of my head I knew that something was amiss. I should have asked my friend Google!!! So much less embarrassing.

Many years ago I was (not) watching cricket with husband and his mates.

'Oh, LBW!' They cried in unison.

The TV cut to black and white film footage of a 1960's game of cricket....and the commentator spoke...in that BBC voice we all used to enjoy....sigh...

'Oh dear, oh dear, what a pity, LBW. Out for a billion...' or some such nonsense.

The film returned to present day and the boys in my sitting room calmed down. The only noise; the clunk from a ball being struck by wood and the hiss of a can being opened.

'Is LBW a famous old cricketing family?' I asked, imagining the same wooden bat, being handed down through the generations to the next fresh faced public school boy. As soon as I said it, I wished I could rewind.

I dread the cricket season because of that story, which is regurgitated often..... just thought I'd get in first this year!


Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Gardening in Pictures II

A Rude awakening...

Last Friday the phone rang, far too early for it to be good news. I sat bolt upright in the bed, while my husband scrambled his hand around the dresser to answer it. Sadly my Aunty Cherry had passed away, my father's sister. He is the last of the six now.

I flew to Dublin on Sunday. Cherry was surrounded by family, laid out in her sitting room She looked beautiful, aunts, uncles and friends, cousins; once, twice, thrice removed, all in attendance.

After the service in Dublin, we convoyed to County Kildare, an hour below the city. Cherry was buried with her mother in Nurney, close to the family farm in Kildoon, a place she loved.

She was glamourous, petite. Had a penchant for shoes with high heels. She was my favourite aunt. When she took you out, in her Morris Minor, (I think it was pale blue,) she spolied you rotten. I'd promised I'd visit many times. I never made it. I'm cross with myself now.

Although very sad, it is also a time to see lovely relatives you forget you have. Swapping stories is great, but you can't compete with the Irish tales.

These days I only go back to Ireland for the sad times. I'm determined to take our babies to see their cousins..........they know their English heritage, time they knew their Irish breeding.....

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Food Glorious Food!

Yum, yum, yum....

Antoinette Savill's dinner party was fantastic. Her house is a stunning barn conversion, set in a farm just outside Ludlow.

It was still warm, so we all chatted over Champagne in the garden.

Brought to a round table, we began the feast with Wild Garlic Soup. It was delicate and refreshing - the garlic had been picked in the woods locally. The main course and my husband's absolute favourite, was poached salmon and seasonal veg. Later, he confessed that he wished he'd asked for more! Then followed individual lavender pavlova, home-made ice cream and rhubarb. I really loved the pavlova, I may even attempt that myself! We closed with some delectable cheese.

I'm a fan of vodka, so Antoinette let me taste her home made damson vodka ....stunning; sweet and fruity, thank goodness we only had time for a little taste or I may have over-indulged! I now know who to ask for advice, as The Larches is rife with fruits. I see me making some pretty impressive Christmas pressies this year....and far easier than chutney!

The guests were charming, intelligent and artistic. (not sure whether I fall into one of those categories...) They hailed from London, my old stomping ground. In a previous life,.... so very long ago,...sigh..... I had lived in Battersea. We always pronounced it Batt-er-see-ah, to big up its status. Renowned for its power station, it is a pretty enclave 'south of the river.' It is most certainly south of the finery of Sloan Square and the hallowed King's Road, which boasts the store, Peter Jones!

'Oh lovely,' quipped a guest, 'you lived in South Chelsea.'

Earlier that day Antoinette had discovered a puff-ball mushroom, in the woods. It was the size of your head, I kid you not! Although we had to rush home to allow the babysitter to escape, Antoinette's overnight guests are sure to get an amazing breakfast this morning...

And so, with our tummies full we left them quaffing and headed home to the babies. What a lovely evening.

A Day Off

Husband took yesterday, Friday, off. He timed it well, it must have been the hottest day of the year so far, with temperatures reaching a balmy 27°. Scorchio for the UK! We were due to take the kids to Alton Towers (Autumn Towers according to the 5yo) but the Tesco vouchers didn't reach us in time, so we stayed home instead. Actually I was pleasantly relieved: The hottest day of the year + millions of families queuing for sickening rides + traffic + rubbish burger/pizza and chips vs roiling fields + breeze + rides in Dizzy Disco + golf + the blow up swimming pool.....really!? No competition...

Husband's a workaholic so he set to, cutting down the wilderness. We pulled three conifers over; him with the chain saw, me pulling the tree with Dizzy. Not strictly H&S but needs must.

Hawthorn is evil. I've decided. My arms and legs are bleeding from the huge thorns. The spikes penetrating the thickest jeans and sturdiest gloves. I'm enjoying the pain-free exercise of blogging.....

[.....Oh God! He's come to find me again....to get back to work...it's Saturday, day 2 of pain.... Will blog more later]


I'm back. Exhausted. Having borrowed a friend's trailer we have been able to deposit our cuttings on the bonfire. The bonfire that is now easily 20ft tall. Worrying really as this is our star attraction for Bonfire Night 2010.....How big will it be in November? Call the fire brigade now please.

We're out to dinner this evening at friend's house, she's a food writer, Antoinette Savill. Really looking forward to it. Will report back on the deliciousness in a future blog.

Off to check on the chilled Prosecco...night, night.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

The Yolk's on us....

Naughty Norah is in BIG trouble.

....I heard a noise in the wood shed and hidden behind a massive bit of wood was Naughty Norah. Under Naughty Norah there were 20 eggs! She clearly doesn't even want to brood them, she lays and goes. Naughty girl.

As I don't know how old these eggs are, I've donated them to the compost heap.

I thought we were a bit low on eggs recently.....especially as Laura used to lay two per day. I miss that lovely hen ... horrid fox.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

What could possibly go wrong????

Usually, when my husband is away on business, (whisper please...)... disasters happen. I won't list the disasters of the past, for fear of reminding the disaster daemons...but suffice to say they've been, pretty, damn, B. A. D!

Today however, went quite smoothly. The sun was warm. I cleaned the car and the kids washed their bikes; having ridden them through the woods yesterday with friends.

No chickens died today. No horses escaped. OK, a rabbit was murdered before our eyes by a cat, while the children and I ate dinner in the garden,....but heyho that's nature. Actually, (she sniggered) when the children saw the bunny in Ben's mouth, they politely said,

'May we be excused from the table?'

I gave the nod, mafia-like (or murphia-like really, because I'm actually Irish, well; born to an Irish mum and dad....) I watched as the two cats, one carrying a bunny almost the same size as him, were pursued around the garden by two children. They were desperate to rescue the squealing bunny. All five lashed 'round the pond, hurdled the felled conifers and navigated the stone wall onto the bridlepath! I continued to eat my chicken and coconut curry, while sipping a glass of chilled Chablis, a left-over from the weekend. It was like watching The Goodies or a Benny Hill sketch in fast motion......the cats won. Bunny died. The End....

After dinner, we three played golf till 9pm! Husband has mowed Home field so that we have a par three golf hole, (for him it's a par three! For the rest of us it's a par 99, especially if you go off the fairway, as the meadow grass is up to our knees) The green has a hole in the earth containing an inverted 2 litre pop bottle. This in turn holds a natty flag stick I made....such a talent!

... Well anyway, our game was going really well, until the cats joined in, and then the 7yo had an urgent appointment with the loo, and then the 5yo discovered enormous black slugs, that he collected on dock leaves for the chickens.... so who knows who won. These people who won't take sport seriously! Honestly! Annoying really, as I'm sure I was leading the field... and yet I'm pleased to tell you, I felt none of the urges of Mr T let's-go-down-to-the Woods!!! 'scusting, should be ashamed of himself!

As it was 9pm, there were no sproglet shenanigans regarding bed. They surrendered easily. Pretty late, even for half term. I had just one more ordeal to conquer.......The nightly electrocution.

Well, my hair is slightly frizzier but I locked the chooks down, turning on the dreaded 'leccy fence. I love/hate it.

Oh yes, there was one slight disaster, I dyed my hair. I've had many disasters with my hair in the past...another blog post entirely. But I'm too poor/mean to get the professionals to colour my hair, so I expect failure every so often. Today, instead of just slightly toning down my brassy, gold-blond, shock of madness.....I am now a brunette. Oh well gotta laugh!



Clearly my husband's fault entirely. No question!

A Formal Introduction

Now I'm ashamed to say, that I've never really formally introduced you to the girls, although I'm constantly talking about Rooster! I call him Rooster but I've been reliably informed by the 5yo, that Rooster's real name is Road Runner. Good point, I'd forgotten that.

Anyhoo.....here are the gals:

Peachy, a terribly good natured girl

Snow Pink was originally called Snow White, until she gashed her body on a nail. I was forced to throw her on an operating table and spray her with animal anticeptic which is bright purple! Her chest has since faded to a pink colour.

Whitey, has remained Whitey as she's still just white!

Chocolate, with Cadbury flavoured feathers......I wish.

Lucy, our shy girl, who especially likes her layers pellets.

Pecky, on account of her peckyness! She almost had a friend's diamond ring the other day.....maybe we should call her Tea-Leaf!

Naughty Norah is utterly bananas. She is first out, last in. Wanders off by herself and is constantly in trouble. Last week we lost her, she was found under an upturned bin in the wood shed by husband!

A better pic of Naughty Norah!

The Archers at The Larches

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Lou - Chicken whisperer....

Snowy and Moon

Snowy and Moon