Monday, 31 December 2012

A Cereal Bar for Christmas Lunch!

     Yep, seriously! While the majority of the wet English isle were crowding around dining tables laden with turkey, potatoes, Brussels, Christmas pudding & crackers, we were eating cereal bars!

     Yes there is a reasonable explanation!  With two of our children 6000 miles south and enjoying Christmas in the sunshine (interspersed with summer showers), and a daughter a relatively short 200 miles due west (and cat-sitting so tied to staying at home for Christmas), we drove under the grey skies and through rain curtains to spend a few Christmas days in the West with her, and the cat!

     After attending a Christmas morning church service in our village, we left The East about 11.30am and arrived in The West around 3pm.  As recommended by Highway & Road Safety Agencies we stopped for a very short break about 2 hours into the journey – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Motorway Services so empty! The restrooms were quiet; the usual constant whirr of the high powered but essentially inefficient air-hand-dryers was missing. It was just a little eerie!  WH Smith was open, fortunately, because we needed milk at the other side. Unfortunately we didn’t check the sell-by date.  So Christmas Lunchtime we were munching on our Cadbury’s Brunch Bar  - ‘The tasty cereal and raisin bar half covered with milk chocolate At last, a "wholesome" bar that tastes great! Suitable for vegetarians Oats, bran flakes, raisins, crispies & honey in a bed of Cadbury's milk chocolate.’ (Of course chocolate is wholesome, it’s made from milk!) …. splashing muddy road water on to the other road users possibly making shorter journeys, and getting splashed with muddy, flood water in return!

     However, while the majority of the wet English Isle were tiring from silly cracker jokes, getting irritated with broken toys or snoring in the most comfortable chair in the house, the three of us were enjoying our hot Christmas Dinner. Eventually. Once Aunt Bessie’s Yorkshire’s decided to react to the gas oven. It was a delightful meal, (eaten on our laps as there was no dining table!) And we were so satisfied we saved the Christmas Pudding and Custard for …. Thursday, the day after Boxing Day!! 

      It was a different Christmas to say the least! Maybe next year we’ll be able to have a few more family members to share it with us!  We missed you, our precious children, so far, far away!

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

First Snowday Blues of Winter 2012!

Yes it’s always pretty! Pretty cold actually!  

But come 11am and I need to go out in the car, in a hurry. Windscreen, backscreen, side windows, roof all under white cold stuff! I open driver’s door and an avalanche lands on the driver’s seat! Bother! Lean across to check car is in neutral, turn car on to switch on windscreen heater and melt snow. While that is happening, wipe snow off driver’s seat with scarf. Wipe majority of snow off windows with chamois, hope the seat heater will magically remove any wetness, adjust seat down, forward, (who drove this car last?!) ignition on. On? Php! Not even a deathly choke, just a Php! Bother!

“Honey! The car won’t start!”

He tries. Php! I phone my appointment and get venue changed to my house. Hubby says don’t worry he’ll get AA as he’s covered through a deal with the bank, but he doesn’t need to do it straight away, as it’s no longer an emergency.

About an hour later. Hubby goes out and car starts! Yay! Don’t need to phone AA. Another hour later, after a toast-and-peanut-butter-lunch, boots on to go out with hubby to buy new wiperblades (windscreepers – ask my kids!) and anti-freeze!

No snow on passenger seat this time. Seatbelt buckled, turn key, Php! Php!

Climb out – again, boots off, scarf off, jacket hung up. Tidy kitchen a bit, put butter away from toast lunch, put peanut butter away – drop peanut butter jar! Glass on kitchen floor, me in my socks. Shoo dog back out into lounge, get slip-on shoes from next to back door so I don’t cut my feet (even through three pairs of socks!) Slip-on shoes next to back door are wet! They are directly underneath somebody’s rain jacket, which dripped!

Hubby phones AA for help. “We can’t help you sir, because your contract with us does not include ‘Home Start’!” That is, if we were on the road, they’d help, but because we’re at Home, they can’t, or won’t! PHP! “If you pay £96 you can upgrade to a Home Start package!” £96! Not on your life!

Hubby stomps off to friend down the road, a retired mechanic, a very nice man! 

And I think I’ll just stay in front of my screen for the rest of the day. It’s more or less safe here – I think!

Oh, and men replacing roof. Scaffolding all around house, men stomping across roof, two vans in driveway. 

Time for an Aero Bubbles hot chocolate! 

(Just to clarify, none of these pics are from today!! Last two are Google stock photos, car is from a London winter and although the pic is about the same as today, the garden pic is from last year!!)

Thursday, 15 November 2012


         Lately, while making my bed, I’ve been reminded of a set of books my children had. They were those book-club type books where you pay so much a month and get a book a month in the post.  I can only remember a couple of the story books they got. ‘Little 6 o’clock’ was about the number 6 on a town clock who wanted to see the town and so left the clock face but had to be back before the clock hands reached his spot! The other had something to do with a garden and a rose when it rained! (Maybe if my children who are reading this still have those books, they can put the publisher and the other titles in the comments!)  Each month these delightful stories would arrive in our postbox along with an activity book, all colourful, hard cover and beautifully presented.

      In one of these activity books there was a plan on how to tidy your bedroom! FANTASTIC IDEA!! And yes, it did work! Even today, probably about 20 years after my daughter first came across it, she sometimes uses this method! And I admit, so do I!  So I thought I’d share it with anyone who’s interested.

         This is not a ‘Go and tidy your room!’ plan. It’s a ‘Let’s go and tidy your room!’ plan! It’s something Mum and child do together, and, as proved in my daughter’s habits, eventually they may adopt it for themselves!

Step One:  Ask your child to bring a bin bag to their bedroom, for all the rubbish, and then to bring the laundry basket, or something to put their dirty laundry in.

Step Two:  Here comes the part they will LOVE! – Ask them to take everything off the bed and put it on the floor! Note that they are doing the work! Everything goes on the floor, including the sheets, pillow slips, duvet covers etc. which will eventually go in the laundry basket!

Step Three:  Help your child make the bed with clean sheets, pillow slips, duvet cover etc.  All children can help you do this, even if the three year old gets her head in the pillowslip together with the pillow!  It’s all about having fun together and getting a task done! You might like to put a children’s song CD on and sing together while working!

Step Four:  Now that the bed is all nice and tidy, pick up everything off the floor and dump it on the bed!  That’s fun too! All the shoes, dirty clothes, sweet papers, toys, books, papers – everything!

Step Five:  At this point they might be quite excited at seeing the carpet and finding so much space! Enjoy the moment!  Make yourself a spot to sit on the bed and explain to them that we’re going to find a place for everything! And then hand each thing on the bed to them to put in its correct place – rubbish bin, laundry, books on bookshelf etc. By this time my children were well into this ‘game’ and were quite happy to start putting things away. It might be an idea to have a drink-and-biscuit break on the carpet for very young children!

Step Six: Once the last item from the bed has found a place, the job is done and the rubbish bag can be dumped outside and the laundry basket back in its place! 

Not only is your child’s room tidy, but you’ve spent a happy hour with them, laughed together and worked together! Note that 99% of the tidying was done by the child herself/himself! You’ve given direction in a plan of action, you may have suggested places to put things, but the child probably had their own suitable ideas, and all you’ve done is hand the things over!

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Tess's Story

         In 1994 our little family moved from Cape Town to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. It was difficult leaving friends and family to go to a place 1500km from home. To help settle our 10 year old daughter we got a beautiful dog from the local SPCA and because of her golden coat, called her Fudge!  Some months later we took over the care of a large Boerbul called Chester, but he proved a handful and we had to give him to someone with lots of space!

       But we decided Fudge still needed a friend and once more at the Howick SPCA (now uMgeni SPCA) we found Tess.  She appeared to be an Alsation-cross, and although she'd obviously had a bad start to life, was the gentlest dog we have ever known. She settled in well with Fudge and they had many hours of fun together.

      In 2001 we moved home again; this time 500km north. Seven hours drive in one station wagon with two children, two dogs, two cats and Mum & Dad! If Tess could have written the story of her life with us, her time in Klerksdorp may have been the most adventurous in a scary kind of way!

     In the two-and-a-half years we were there we had about five burglaries or burglary attempts! One night, when my hubby was away on business, I woke up to Tess barking. It was 12.15am and unusually she was lying down on the cement in the back yard uttering single gruff barks, but no frantic jumping or running around at all. Poor Tess was so petrified she couldn’t move. From the window I could see two men, dressed in black, standing up against a white wall, under a full moon – they stood out beautifully! Maybe Tess’s frightened barks didn’t scare them away but my manic screaming at them sure did!

     Just a few months before returning to Howick, Fudge contracted cancer of the jaw and knowing that very soon it would affect her ability to eat, we put her to sleep. Tess was on her own for the first time in our home, so we found her a friend in Tigara, a golden Labrador x Rottweiler puppy. Patient Tess could take most of the new puppy's exuberant ways but Tigara hanging on to her tail while she ran around the garden was not what Tess had in mind and revenge came to Tigara, who lived with a little kink in her tail from that day on!

     Back in Howick we rented a home with a large garden, sloping down to a wetland valley and we had a lovely view up a green pastured farm hill (now developed with houses.)  The fence around the entire property was a simple wire fence and when someone walked down the road past our gate, Tess would fly around the entire perimeter of the property a couple of times, leaping over obstacles and storming through undergrowth, branches and trees! Even with a medical (Elizabethan) cone around her neck she would still tear around the garden … and usually the cone would be found in the ivy or under a tree somewhere! We heard via the grapevine that because of this manic chase she was thought of as a vicious dog; as long as that’s what the criminals thought, that’s fine!

     But Tess was a gentle dog. She would sit next to us under our hand and slowly slide to the ground enjoying a loving pat and rub, until she realised our hand didn’t reach anymore and then she’d sit up and do it all again! She was a medium size dog; her head was about two-foot from the ground, but when she jumped up at us there was absolutely no need to be afraid she’d knock us over! She would jump and almost stop in mid-air before her front paws landed like a feather on our chest; such a gentle soul!

     Unlike her Lab/Rottweiler buddy, meal times were taken at a leisurely pace! One crumble at a time, savoured, chewed and enjoyed! And in the few Shaggy Dog Shows we entered her, she did us proud with at least two certificates, one for Best Ex-SPCA Dog! We just needed to point if we needed her to go out of the room, and at meal times just to stand, without a word, and she would sit politely!

     In December 2006 with our eldest two children independent, the remaining three of us emigrated to the UK. Once again it was moving from a home with friends and family to the unknown.  There was no way we could take two dogs and two cats with us. So Nicole took the two cats, a church friend took Tigara to their farm,  and Purdon, a very special friend in Howick, took Tess to live with him and his family of two or three dogs. She still had a large garden and a perimeter fence to hare around and she was loved and spoilt with Purdon’s other dogs for the next five and half years!

     Today I received a letter from Purdon to say that at the age of 15 years, Tess collapsed one Friday in July as if she’d had a stroke. She was unable to stand or walk. By the Monday she only followed him with her eyes. The vet went to the house, and she slipped away in her own home to no more aches or pains. 

Tess, Tessa, Tessie, Tessa Bear – was a gentle, furry friend. She malted in lumps in winter! Her golden fan tail waved high and happy. She loved a good chase and romp with her friends, and she was a beautiful, gentle lady of a dog! She was very much loved and never to be forgotten!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

A Rumburgh mini-break

It wasn’t really our holiday, it was mother’s holiday, and we went as her ‘carers’ but it was most certainly a break for all of us. With the dog safely in the kennels and hubby looking forward to a lie-in on Tuesday morning i.e. not having to take the dog for her 6.30am walk, we were out of the house by 6am on Monday heading for The North – we always chuckle at the English big blue road signs: The North, The South, The Midlands etc!  An ‘Early Starter’ breakfast (plus one Red Bull for the driver!) at a Little Chef in Thrapston was welcomed, but like most meals on the road, was a necessity and not something to write home about! It would be nicer if these places made an effort to make the places look nice – replace tatty chairs, wipe down the tables properly, make sure the toilets are always clean and have a decent knob to pull the door open – but although the chairs and loos were not wonderful, the staff smiled and the food was edible!

About an hour after arriving in Chesterfield we were on the road again with Mum, heading back the way we’d come – altogether we drove 8 hours on the first day of our holiday – and the same on the return journey on the Friday!

But the destination was worth it! About four years ago we went to Rumburgh Farm in Suffolk following the tantalising description of a “Fishing Lodge with a trout stocked lake on the doorstep.” I haven’t stopped talking about it since! Bungalow style, no stairs for Mum; spacious, nothing to fall over; dishwasher, washing machine and tumble drier; both bedrooms en-suite, one with shower, basin and toilet and the other with bath, shower attachment over bath, basin and toilet; and the best was the lake on the doorstep – literally!  To be able to sit on the verandah and listen to the birds, watch the duck families, and watch hubby expertly casting his own hand-made fly for the trout, was the most relaxing thing I could ever think of doing on holiday! Oh yes and he did get up early on Tuesday morning - to ‘go’ fishing!

Two duck families came for their scheduled swim each day; one mummy duck with three fluffy yellow ducklings and three darker, probably slightly older ducklings, would plop into the water near the reeds and swim and play their way around the perimeter of the lake then waddle back up the grass home. One day two little yellow fluffy ducklings decided they didn’t want to go home with Mummy and stayed on the edge while Mummy and four obedient ducklings waddled home. It appeared quite exciting at first being out on their own, although one seemed a little unsure. “Mummy said if ever we’re in danger to get in the water.” They both plopped in and suddenly realised they were on their own! The little beaks quacked as they swam in circles at the edge, no longer having fun. When it was obvious Mummy was leaving them to pay the consequences of their rebellion, and that they might not get tea or a warm cuddle if they didn’t repent and go home, they waddled as fast as they could up the little grassy hill, with stubby yellow wings balancing little webbed feet. Next morning they were back sticking close to Mummy and their siblings!
 Another time one of the slightly older ducklings caught his first fish catch! Mummy scooted over but there was no way this proud duckling was going to let Mummy get hold of his catch! However, the poor little fishy was perhaps a little too big for ducky’s mouth and as soon as he dropped it Mum caught it up and swallowed it whole. Hmph!

From our previous visit we remembered a fishing tackle shop in nearby Beccles, right opposite Tesco’s car park, so on Tuesday we parked in the superstore car park, went in to buy a few necessities, and wondered why a shop like Tesco was so quiet! Mum asked which shop we were in and I quickly responded although the signs were not the usual Tesco blue. A staff member packing shelves, turned and quietly said, “This is the Co-op!”  Oops! Many apologies and laughs!  We eventually found the fishing shop (opposite the Tesco car park!) and we found our way back to the car - in the Co-op car park!

On Wednesday we walked the length of Southwold’s promenade and pier and then had fish & chips/scampi & chips/cheeseburger & chips on the beach front sheltered from the cool breeze in one of those industrial looking, ugly but useful booths, and went home with slightly sun/wind burnt noses.

On Thursday the 2012 Olympic Torch was doing its rounds in Suffolk – the ideal day to stay at home and relax and not get caught up in traffic or crowds!  A final evening meal at the Rumburgh Buck finished off the holiday feeling. It’s a cosy pub, probably not easy with a wheelchair, and even with Mum and her stick, we were up and down little steps, and uneven stone slabs, but then it is a 16th century building with low ceilings (warning for the over 6-footers!). The choice of main meal wasn’t great, but a beef curry, and two chicken pies went down a treat, although I would have preferred full-on Coca Cola and not watery cola :(

Friday was the 8-hour marathon again – in the rain all the way to The North but once we turned East on the way back, it was more or less dry! It’s always good to be home and although it was a short-break, it was a relaxing time and I’d recommend Rumburgh Farm and friendly landlady Charlotte anytime!

And finally - the awesome sunset!

Saturday, 23 June 2012

I am Not a Gardener!

…. but I have been blessed with a very full country garden!

It needs constant care; not only to remove the persistant weeds, the perpetual thistles, the secreted nettles, the colourful dandelions and other unmentionable unwanteds, but it also needs some radical trimming!

This morning I rescued the birdbath from behind ferns, fargesia bamboo and a rhododendron bush; I knew it was there, it had just become so overgrown due to the high rainfall over the last few months of 'drought' that no-one even noticed that its bowl had been blown off in one of the summer winds and was buried under another unknown 'ground cover' (euphemism for Weed!).  The bird bath has now been re-sited so we can enjoy seeing the birds splash & bathe! (So exciting to see the Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush enjoying it just a few hours later.)

At this time of year (summer) Corn Poppies are all over the place and look beautiful growing wild with their delicate red petals nodding violently in the slightest breeze.  But our garden has also sprouted some very tall Oriental Poppies in what was once a vege patch! According to the guide its common name is Oriental Poppy, and its Cultivar is ‘Patty’s Plum’ and although the guide says it grows to 70cm, this one is closer to 170cm in height!

 Also growing among the brilliant white Feverfew flowers are some Opium Poppies. An interesting combination - Opium & Feverfew. Feverfew is a medicinal herb known to relieve migraines, and Opium - well.....?!

Add in a few pretty lilacy-blue Harebells, and some Lady’s Mantle which nearly took over the fish pond, and it all makes quite a pleasant little patch.

Just to confirm – I didn’t know any of these flower's names (except the Poppy) while I was pulling up, cutting down and dragging things around this morning. I’ve spent the afternoon trawling through internet flower identification sites, bringing sprigs of flowers and leaves inside - and squashing little black bugs on my desk - to come up with these names!  Now where did I see a picture of that yellow plant with the red bits?!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On!

There are some days when everything feels under control – ‘some’ could mean just a few days in 30 or twenty in 30! Usually my days go along at a fair 40mph pace – no rush, no boredom, just getting things done.
And then everything happens at once and life gets hectic!

Take June and July for example.  The third week in July is Megan’s graduation and we’ve known that for some time, so the weekend’s accommodation is booked and Bella has been booked into the boarding kennels for the long weekend. Sorted.

For a few months now I’ve been volunteering at the local primary school helping with reading and English literacy, and Tuesday mornings have been the only ‘booked’ date on my weekly calendar.  However, suddenly there’s a meeting with the charity I’m volunteering with and a meeting with a family, a meeting with the team and a training session to fit in to the next few weeks, all with consideration for other people’s busy diaries, and although mine appears to be flexible, it turns out that everything needs to be done on that one day when I’m already booked!

On top of that my elderly mother would like a holiday and will we take her, she’ll pay!  With weekends booked and busy, the only time for a holiday is Monday to Friday and the sooner the better. So the first week in July is booked, and now my mind starts racing as what we need to take, considering the car boot will have a wheelchair, walker, three pieces of adult luggage, food bags and boxes (self-catering) and the fishing rod! Food! Got to plan meals for the week, and don’t forget to include lunches and breakfasts! And things to read! The dog! Rush off to the kennels to make sure they have room for Bella at short notice.

And, and, and,……… meet someone at the chapel at 3.30 for the plates; make sure the songs are all ready for Sunday, both projected and printed for those who like printed, Argh! Can’t find music to one! Panic! (I need music!) Find an old music book on eBay, bid, hope I get it but it still won’t get here by tomorrow! Relief! Found music at home!
Hubby picked up some BBQ ribs last night and has invited a friend for a braai later – means I should make potato salad, and green salad, and take the rolls out of the freezer, and …. I need to check the kiddie story for tomorrow morning, and the activity things ………. and …. and …. and …

It goes on! But to top it all is our car’s mischievous workings at this time of planning overload!

I knew the petrol was lowish when I set out for the boarding kennels this morning, but the guage said I had 70 miles left in the tank – plenty, the warning buzzer only comes on at 50.  Having booked Bella into the kennels I climbed back into the car and the guage quietly tells me I have 3 miles left in the tank! 3?! Home is about 4 miles away!  Does coasting down the one and only windy decline help preserve enough petrol to get me home?! But why did it suddenly drop from 70 to 3? Is the car going to grind to a sad stop on the narrowest part of this country road with wide tractors and double-decker busses whizzing past as the cars queue up behind the silly car stopped on the road?! 2 miles. Please get me home! Please get me home! 1 mile. Well I can at least walk home from here, but the car would still be in a vulnerable spot. 0 miles. Well at least I’ve got to the village. Keep going. As I turned into my road, the guage suddenly woke up and registered 60 miles!  Scream!!!  As if I didn’t have enough things to keep my brain buzzing today! 

Relax! Cup of coffee! Smile!

Maybe the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' craze has something in it!

Have a nice weekend!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Peaceful Way to end the Day!

It was 8.30pm. The sun was shining, the world was bright. The buckets that ‘reigned’ down on Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant last Sunday have been drained and the winds that disrupted both west and east coast shipping in the middle of the week, are sleeping soundly. All that’s left is the breath of their snore if you listen carefully!

The place is Holbrook Creek in Holbrook Bay. An inlet where boats and yachts are moored, and at this time of the evening are stranded on mud banks and mounds.  Across the Stour River are the river front houses of Harwich. To the west and with grounds sloping down to the Creek is the Royal Hospital School with its distinctive towers behind which the sun is slowly sinking.

The last rays of the sun are caught by the clouds who stretch them across the bay in ribbons of orange and yellow and pink. They’re harvested by the barley fields as their Midas touch. The bright red field poppies growing intertwined with dainty white-flowered weeds in the gutter path of the field, add their own brush of colour to this pastoral live painting!

The harmonious chimes of the school clock carry across the fields and waters and blend with the nightly farewells of the chaffinch, robin, blue-tits and pigeons, with the crystal clear cuckoo continuing where the clock left off!

It’s peaceful, incredibly pretty and a beautifully pleasant way to spend the last few waking hours of a day!