Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Monday 31 December 2018


Another grey day, this time without rain. The current damp weather has played havoc with Peter's arthritis and top of which he has a streaming cold. I shelved my plan to walk into town to check out any worthwhile sales as I also wasn't feeling that energetic. I did however end up walking down to the Co-Op as we were getting low on toilet paper/tissues and the shops will be closed tomorrow. There I naturally checked out the reductions as the Co-Op can be good for bargains. I got some kiln smoked (ie posh) mackerel at 75% off and double Gloucester cheese for 25p (90% off). I bought 4 blocks as cheese freezes well. My other bargains were; olives, Peshwari naan, garlic and coriander naan, scotch eggs and cauliflower bahjis & beetroot pakora. Some treats for both of us. I ambled over to the reduced Christmas items but I've still got lots of excellent chocolate at home. 
With the New Year almost upon us I've begun a list of goals for next year. Nothing gets me more depressed than the feeling that time is passing and I've achieved nothing while knowing that I've made even a tiny bit of progress towards one of my goals gives me a sense of purpose. One goal I've given myself is to complete learning The heart Asks Pleasure First' since I heard it on the radio yesterday. I made a start a long time ago and got 3 pages in but I'm back to sight reading those pages which must be good for the neurons.
Seeing that our travel Scrabble which must be about 40 years old, was in a sad state I replaced the box and made a bag for the tiles from some scrap fabric. Although the board is smaller having tiles with pegs does mean the tiles stay in place when you turn the board around. Our standard board to which I added wires to keep the tiles in place is currently in the camper.
I've already heard fireworks going off so no doubt will get to see more from the windows if I'm awake at midnight. Peter is already fast asleep.

Sunday 30 December 2018


We had a morning of low cloud, misty views and gentle rain. The photo below was taken during the afternoon when it brightened up a little. We usually have porridge for breakfast but in honour of the holiday we had croissants instead. I thought it would be quicker to warm them up under the grill which resulted in one going up in flames due to my underestimating how close the grill pan is to the burning gas. Maybe a sign of how infrequently I use the grill, make that almost never. The burnt bit removed we still enjoyed warm croissants as we caught up on The Archers. 
In the afternoon we began a game of Scrabble which went on into the evening. We've abandoned our house rule of being able to use the dictionary to 'check' if a word we want to use is legal, okay I'll admit to making random words and hoping they're actually real words. Instead we're now following the rule book (not that we have one) and the dictionary is only used when a word is challenged with points being taken off the person who was incorrect. I really enjoy playing Scrabble while Peter prefers chess. I've offered to play chess but he knows that I'll not be interesting to play as I won't have any strategy at all. While we were playing there was a knock on the front door. I opened the door to see a policeman who immediately said it wasn't bad news (surprisingly that didn't cross my mind until later). It seems that somebody in our street had reported the theft of food from a freezer in their garden building while they were away. This was while we were also away so we had no information on strangers hanging around. Not that I'd even be able to recognise the resident young lads that spend time doing up their noisy cars.

Saturday 29 December 2018


It's been a grey day with the clouds sitting on the top of the hills and light rain. Both of us were feeling weary after yesterday's drive so we had a relaxed morning. After that I felt the need to catch up with the housework. I don't know if it's simply part of getting older that makes me feel uncomfortable when the place is messy or just that not having a life filled with children and work the little things matter more. Anyway, the hoovering is done and the kitchen tidy. I was putting out some recycling and exchanging greetings with our neighbour when she very politely pointed out that a shrub growing on our boundary was pushing her fencing over. Even though it was a bit damp outside I didn't mind going out and sorting out the offending shrub. It didn't take long for me to realise that the shrub wasn't actually growing from our garden as the boundary is a low block wall topped by trellis. There's a gap of about 4 inches and on our neighbour's side are two fence panels, one fixed over the other. The offending shrub is not even in the gap but squeezed in between the two panels. I did cut down everything I could reach from my side and will take it down to the dump and the rest will have to be sorted out from the neighbour's side. Having had a few days off from my exercises today I did one set in the afternoon to ease myself back into the routine.
Above are the mini Christmas stockings I made for the youngsters to hang on their Christmas trees. I had fun thinking how I could personalise each stocking. Below is a chocolate cake I made for Sally. I'd seen the design done with a teddy bear as the cake thief and thought it would be fun to do with a chubby marzipan hedgehog.

 More pictures from the New Forest.

Friday 28 December 2018

Off Visiting.

Home once more after a visit to Vytas and Sally in Basingstoke. We drove down on Boxing Day and did the journey in 3 hours as for once there were no hold-ups on the A303. Coming back today took longer and we spent 22 minutes at walking speed or less in the usual traffic jam going past Stonehenge which gave me the chance to take some decent photos.
Yesterday, which was quite sunny, we drove down to Lyndhurst for a walk in the New Forest. The amount of traffic was staggering. Just shows the difference living at the edge of the country makes.
Neither Peter or I had been to the New Forest before which is a lovely mixture of heathland and forest with of course the famous New Forest ponies that roam free.

Vytas led the way on a route that took us right around Lyndhurst which we then had to walk through to get back to the car. I think we walked about 5 miles which was quite enough for our old knees. 

It was so nice to spend time with the youngsters and to be so well looked after. In the evening we played a game called Munchkin which was new to us and then a game of GOT Monopoly.  
An elven steed spotted out in the forest.
We set off for home this morning before there was much local traffic on the road system around Basingstoke which seems to be roundabout after roundabout. The Tom-Tom gave clear instructions and did take the stress out of navigating our way around strange roads. The nice thing about the A303 is that it takes you across the beautiful countryside of the Somerset Plain with its gently rolling hills scattered with Neolithic barrows and virtually no buildings in sight. By the time we got back to Barnstaple we were feeling pretty tired but made a quick stop at Tesco's to pick up a few things. At home the cats were very pleased to see us. I can't have set Patch's feeder correctly as he'd only had 3 of the 6 meals so I'll need to do that again to make sure I get it right. Still both cats are okay and no disasters indoors.

Tuesday 25 December 2018

Christmas Day.

A Happy Christmas to you all.
Yesterday evening we both went to the Midnight Service at our local church. As we walked through the mild night air admiring people's Christmas lights we could hear the muted sounds of the church bells. Out in the country the bells rang loud and clear but in town there has to be consideration for all the people hoping for a peaceful night. With the same thought in mind my friend Janet had got permission to bring her dog to church. Misty is elderly and currently unwell and also possibly due to her earlier experiences (she's a rescue Jack Russell) she now barks when left alone in the house. Janet was reading one of the lessons at the service so I volunteered to look after Misty when needed. Misty was well behaved and once I let her peer out of the pew she was fine. The church, St Mary the Virgin is 13thC and the seating is still the old fashioned wooden pews. As expected the hymns were traditional carols which I find very high and difficult to sing. Instead I dropped an octave to tenor? range and with Peter - bass on one side of me and Janet - soprano on the other we did our best to represent the community choir. English main-stream church congregations tend to be very diffident in their singing, unlike the Fellowship Church we attended for a long time. Pilton Church is large and last night there were about 50 of us in the congregation. Janet remembers, as we did at the village churches, that the church used to be jam packed for the Midnight Service with late comers having to stand. For the last hymn of the service we all lit the candles we had been issued with and the electric lights turned off. A reminder of past times. With chatting to people in the church and then in the street as we made our way home we didn't get back until 1.00. 
I'm glad we had planned a quiet day as although I slept until 9.30 halfway through the morning I was overcome with intense tiredness. A rest on the sofa with a mug of fresh coffee and a croissant and telephone chats with both the boys saw the tiredness clear thank goodness. The rest of the day has been spent quietly watching episodes of Cadfael which I had taped. Despite being made in the late 90's they are well acted with reasonable story lines, and enjoying some of the goodies sent by family and friends. Having begun the day with fudge, Roly's of course, I don't think I could have eaten a full Christmas dinner without either falling asleep or indigestion or both.
The lovely felted mouse which stands about 6 inches high was made by one of our choir members. I had oohed and aahed over it at the craft sales evening at choir so Peter had secretly arranged to buy it for me. It fits in nicely with the other decorations which were presents from the youngsters and I hope one day will hang from a homemade driftwood Christmas tree. Once I'd taken the photo I had to put them away as Speedy, who had ignored his various cat toys, decided that they were perfect to play with. 

Monday 24 December 2018

Christmas Eve.

Another grey day but at least I could see the sheep out in the fields. Today I've been cleaning and attempting to decorate yesterday's baking. The nice thing about special occasion baking is that I get to try out new recipes. Unfortunately that can also increase the chance of failure. Today I dutifully followed a recipe for a fudge frosting but despite my best efforts it was not in the least like fudge. I used a sugar thermometer but maybe it still didn't reach the required temperature. Towards the end of the cooking process the contents of the saucepan were bubbling perilously close to the top and with all the steam I may have misread the scale. Eventually I gave up on the 'beat with a wooden spoon until it thickens' instructions, used the electric mixer which was better and then abandoned the recipe and incorporated the mixture into a butter frosting though I'm not sure if that's worked. It's now in the fridge where I'm hoping it will harden. 
Tonight will be the first time we've not celebrated Kūčios, the Lithuanian traditional Christmas Eve meal which is more important than Christmas dinner. There didn't deem much point with only two of us. Instead of chopping up beetroot, making potato salad and various herring dishes while listening to  A Festival of 9 Lessons from King's College this afternoon I was doing my exercises. I still stuck to the tradition of not eating any meat or dairy products (apart from milk ) today and will be going to the local church for the Midnight Service. (Not quite sure what happened to the font.)

Sunday 23 December 2018

Stuck in the Clouds.

Woke this morning to find that the outside world beyond the houses had disappeared. The low clouds lifted in the middle of the day but by the time I returned from shopping it had settled again to below the tops of the hills. The wet windscreen showed I had driven into the cloud layer as I turned into our little estate.
I hadn't planned to go shopping and Peter even offered to go and get anything I needed for my final baking session but I still wanted to try and find one gift item. I'm glad I did because I found an even better version of the thing I wanted. I dropped into B&Q for a quick browse and couldn't resist a pack of 24 red tree  baubles for 30p. This year's decorations will be minimal but the baubles would work well as part of a Christmas door wreath in the future. Driving over the new bridge the road down to town and big stores was solid with traffic. A bit of stop start to get down the hill and in the Tesco's car park I had to go round again to find a space in my customary corner. It's funny how we become creatures of habit. A brass band was playing carols inside Tesco's which made a welcome change from the muzak style Christmas offering. Needless to say Tesco's was filled with whole families stocking up for Christmas but I only had a short shopping list and didn't need to rush. I got the cream, buttermilk and croissants plus a few other items and headed home. To misquote something I saw on FB, people stock up with a month's worth of food because the shops will be shut for 12 hours.
After a restful cup of tea I got on with the scheduled baking. I've found Peter's oven thermometer very useful as the oven's gas settings don't reach the expected temperature.  I also did a little present wrapping. Not wanting to be wasteful I do keep tissue paper and pretty gift bags to use again. This year I've jazzed up the presents with some shimmery gift ribbon I bought last year in the post Christmas sales. 

Saturday 22 December 2018


It's been a day of varried grey but luckily no showers. At least with the Solstice being yesterday the sun will come up a little earlier each day. My plan for today was to walk into town for some leisurely shopping. My shopping was indeed leisurely despite the crowds in the High Street but I found the walk back up Pilton Street quite tiring. A couple of things I wanted were nowhere to be found which was irritating. I did however enjoy the tasteful Christmas themed window decorations in some of the houses along Pilton Street. I hadn't taken my camera along so can't show the window filled with home made white paper owls. 
The dustmen came to collect our rubbish today instead of next Tuesday. That will mean it will be 17 days until our next collection. That's not a problem for us as we seem to have very little to go in the main bin but some of our neighbours always have overflowing bins and then with Christmas …… . My idea to draw the water out of the stone trough hasn't worked so I had to empty out about 4 inches of water. I'll just have to keep an eye on it.
Some more photos of Tawstock Court from yesterday. 

Friday 21 December 2018

Wedding Singers.

Today we went with 40 choir members to Tawstock Court  to sing at the wedding of the daughter of the couple who run the rugby club where we have our weekly sessions. It was a secret from the bride & groom and their guests so we had to arrive early and park in an overflow carpark. We then had to quietly go in through the back entrance (below) and wait in the bar.
Then we had to make our way to the space below the stairs and wait in silence, not something we often do, until the ceremony was finished. Then the bride and groom came in, from the right, and we sang Alleluia. The bride was moved to tears, in a good way, and some of us more sentimental folk also had to wipe away a tiny tear. The bride thanked us and said how much it meant to her. Little did she know that we were going to sing once more after the family photos had been taken.
While we were silently waiting we had a good look at the grand decoration of the place with its impressive cupola right above. We may have been quiet as we waited but kept ourselves warm by gently swaying or flexing various joints. Laughter nearly broke out when we began bobbing up and down like pigeons or the targets in a fairground shooting range.

After the first song we returned to the bar where we had tea or coffee and enjoyed the warmth and smell of the log fire. 
 Me with my good friend Janet.
The main part of our singing was in this yellow room (stock photo) which was set up with small tables. We stood right where the photographer must have been. We sang the first few songs with the wedding party watching and then we carried on while drinks and canapés were served. (Hah, found out how to get the accent - type an incorrect spelling and it appears.) Once people were chatting we increased our volume including a rousing rendition of Shona, one of our South African songs. It looked like our singing was appreciated but eventually it was time to leave the wedding party to carry on without us. The bride's sister said that it had always been the bride's dream to have a choir sing at her wedding.
The view from the front of the house/manor looking down to the church.  
The road to Tawstock is a very steep and winding lane. Pleasant memories of being back in the country but I wouldn't like to drive there in icy conditions. 

Thursday 20 December 2018

Very Wet.

We had a sunny morning with occasional heavy downpours but by the afternoon rain had set in.
Peter walked into town and walked right over to Halford's where the dashcam he'd ordered hadn't actually arrived.  I wanted one so that we could keep a record of our campervan trips (when the garage finally gets the part that is being specially machined.) Also it would be good to have it in the car in case of any accident or even if someone tries a 'crash for cash' scam on us. These scams have been coming up on some of the consumer programmes we watch/listen to. Being older we fall into one of the groups targeted by criminals carrying out these scams.
We had an excellent practice of the wedding songs last night even though quite a few people couldn't make it. The parents of tomorrow's bride heard us singing Alleluia to Pachelbel's canon and asked us to sing that as the first song. I found this link though our version is simpler, we only sing the alleluia, more rousing and of course we sing acapella. Afterwards as it was the last session before Christmas there were lots of inviting nibbles and I allowed myself off my diet for one evening. It would be rude not to try other people's home baking. The Rocky Road went down very well and while enjoying the praise I did say how easy it had been to make and put the recipe on the choir's FB page. While we were singing there was a lot of very loud aircraft noise, it sounded as if they were going to land on the rugby pitch. At home on FB there was a lot of chatter about the noise, some car alarms had been set off, and general complaints with others pointing out that the military are there to protect us.

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Sun and Showers.

Early showers were followed by a mainly sunny morning. I watched a rainbow grow from a little splash of colour above the farmhouse to a clearer streak disappearing up into the clouds. 
While I'm doing my exercises in my study the cats often hang around or even join in though it's only so that they are close to the one who feeds them. Yesterday Speedy sat on my stomach as I did the bridge position and gently pulsed up and down. Today I had idly plaited my hair in a fish tail all the way to the end so it resembled a rope which then tempted Speedy to attack the end. I didn't mind as I was planning to wash my hair later and by the time Peter looked in to say he was on his way out, Speedy had the whole rope of hair between his paws and in his mouth as I lay on my back doing my knee exercises.
Peter went out into the manic crowds to do the final supermarket shop. I did a little present wrapping and had a long session trying to master the words of all the songs we are singing at the wedding. I think only about half of the choir will be there as it is during the day and some members will be at work. There's no pressure to sing at these events, you just sign up if you want to be there. Peter says it's easier to learn the words for the bass parts as a lot of the time they are just repeating a single word or sound. 
Just had to post this photo of Romas and Laura's new French Bulldog pup, Rhubarb. Look at those ears! 

Tuesday 18 December 2018


It has been grey and wet today. No exciting wild weather just constant rain.
It's the last choir session tomorrow and as our contribution towards the end of term snacks I made some Rocky Road. It doesn't look that brilliant in the photo but it tastes good. I made it in a round silicone cake 'tin' so there were some trimmings a few of which I taste tested. I also used the last of the marzipan to make something to go with one of my Made with Love Christmas gifts. I don't think the recipients of my home baked gifts look at the blog but just in case …….. .
There have been a lot of military planes this evening flying in to Chivenor. I don't know if it's the same plane going round and round or different planes flying in. Must be some sort of exercises unless the Russians are sailing towards Saunton.