Friday, 12 September 2014

The Playdough Basket

My mother gave me this basket when I was little.
Originally it was lined with a piece of quilted dressing gown
and filled with sewing things.
Somewhere along the way it lost its contents
and became the Playdough basket.

I still have the recipe for homemade playdough.

2 tbsps oil
2 cups plain flour
1 cup salt (that's the preservative
and makes it unpalatable)
2 cups water
4 tsps cream of tartar
food colouring

Cook gently for a few minutes.

I love playing with playdough.
I just need someone to play with.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Kitchen tour under cover

I am lucky to have a sizeable kitchen.
Size isn't everything though.
The work triangle is abysmal. 
The huge window is to blame.
Glorious though it is to have it centred on the best view of the garden,
it makes a U-shaped layout impossible
and as a galley it is too wide.
It is cold too being NW facing.
So cold, that we have belatedly bitten the bullet
and decided to get double glazed windows.
To the right of the window is a fridge and plastic box 
and baking tin cupboard.
Above the fridge is the inaccessible cupboard for
biscuits, crisps, chocolate and cakes.
The 'children' can all access this with ease now.
I still have to stand on a chair, which is just as well.

There is normally a butcher's block under the window.
It blocks the heat from the radiator.

The range stove (not an AGA, I've never wanted one) 
is in the chimney breast
and the sink unit is to the right of it.

Here are the crockery and glass cupboards, 
with a dropped level work surface for pastry and bread making.
The liquidiser, kettle and coffee machine all stand out on top.
I don't have a food processor since it went 'phut'.

 This is where we eat.
The shelf normally houses various plates, jugs and Poole Pottery jam pots.
The picture above I wrote about here and here and here.
Twenty years ago I had a bench made to store toys.
The Play Doh basket is still in there.
It may be needed again.

The tiles are very warming.
The butcher's hooks hold my utensils.
The mantleshelf above that holds yet more jugs and vases.

The sink unit has three cupboards above
which hold all the spices, oils, vinegars
and miscellaneous bottles and jars.

The three shelves hold a selection of the newly culled cookery books
presently in favour.
Fruit bowls stand on the corner unit and saucepans beneath.
The door to the left goes into the utility room.
Everything is in there being covered in a fine layer of dust.
The mess is indescribable.
I know the men are doing their best but there is hammering of masonry
and drilling of plaster and none of it can be avoided.
I am sitting upstairs and am also
covered in a fine layer of dust.
The men speak a very rare version of Farsi Blokeish.
They are from Afghanistan.

Now go and visit Sue.
She has a lovely new red floor.

Monday, 8 September 2014

Slip sliding

Testing the iphone camera on one of Great Dixter's cats.
Not at all bad.
I certainly haven't missed the weight of my regular camera
swinging at my side, or its annoying lens cap popping off all the time.
The phone needs a robust case though. I'm terrified of dropping it.
Especially if I'm going to make a habit of spraining my ankle
on tricky cliff walk paths.
The small stones underfoot are like ball bearings.
I got off lightly this time;
ibuprofen and an ice pack have sorted me out.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

New every morning*

A huge success, but only after many unsuccessful sowings
of Morning Glory.

These were only just rescued from a pot in the nick of time
and planted near a pillar by the front door.
Some hasty strings were tied to the pillar
and they obliged by twisting their way up with all speed.

They are the first thing to greet me as I open the door in the morning.
They have run out of string but continue to climb and scramble
over the porch roof.

I remember a Biology teacher, Miss Smith,
who used to grow Ipomea Heavenly Blue
in a small lean-to greenhouse at school.
She longed for us to show an interest in these beautiful flowers.
I fear our response was lukewarm.
My apology for this Philistinism is far too late.

Lamentations 3: 23

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

May I introduce

our beautiful granddaughter?

Mother, father and baby doing very well.

Monday, 1 September 2014


a new

to welcome into the

Taken from the sign on the 
Mary Stanford lifeboat house.

Friday, 29 August 2014

Cooking for friends

Garden flowers and apple tart.

We had many visitors yesterday,
three of them Japanese girls from Kyoto University, one a college friend,
two of them our highly expectant son and daughter-in-law.

Watercress soup,tarragon chicken with tomato chilli fondue 
from the Ballymaloe cookbook
(one not jettisoned because of the holiday memories it holds), 
butternut squash risotto and rocket and watercress salad,
the first baked apples of the season and a fancy apple tart
and cream with salted caramel ice cream.

The little yellow dish is from the Sandwich Glass Museum in Massachusetts.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Pigeon's feet

For a moment things would be real to her,
as when they drove round a wide turning in the road
and she saw a thatched yellow cottage standing in the embrace of the turn,
plum-coloured mountains and a violent green field beyond it, 
and hanging heavy over the stone wall an elder tree heavy in fruit.
So heavy the berries had grown that their flat growth fell forwards
and downwards showing their backs, a web of berries, like pigeons' red feet.
Only by moments such as this was she entirely conscious.

Full House by Molly Keane

Wednesday, 27 August 2014


I've been having a culinary cull.
Any book with fewer than a dozen well loved recipes,
which I have photocopied, hits the charity shop pile.


Particularly irritating that one with its cast of thousands ingredients list
and unhygenic painted wooden serving platters.

With a little sigh of regret because really I want to go and eat there
not cook from her book, but owning it was the closest I am likely to get
to this iconic restaurant.


This one was a present.
A lifestyle book (the lifestyle now defunct as they no longer run
their 'boutique guest-house')


And then, in the midst of this pleasurable exercise -
I heard a small pop and a fizz from the worktop behind me.
Nothing untoward met my first glance.
The food processor was sitting there.
I had chopped some onion and celery in it earlier.
The fizzing sound seemed to be coming from it.
So too did the curling wisps of smoke.
I unplugged it and ran to the front door,
holding it by the spindle at arm's length.
Was that foolish?
I don't know. I just wanted it out of the house.

Gone after 30 years.
My Kenwood Cuisine food processor Model A537.


Tuesday, 26 August 2014


Here comes Freddie.

He's a Harlequin Great Dane.

Hip height to a short adult (me).
I was a little apprehensive.

But he was more interested in this horse than me.
We've never seen grazing horses here before
and we've never seen a Harlequin Great Dane.
We talked to his owner while he stood a little way off
surveying his surroundings.
Freddie has a tumour and has already outlived the vet's prognosis
of fifteen months survival.They decided against invasive treatment
and so he is enjoying leisurely walks in the late summer sun.

My camera had done this strange thing as he and his owner loped off.

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Plums on a tray

Destined for a tray bake plum cake.
Riveting stuff.
I blame my broken glasses.
Someone sat on them.

What were they doing in your pocket you ask?
Well sometimes I would rather look unframed about me
 with a compromised focus
than look clearly 
in a restricted field.
So I put them in my coat pocket.
Then I take the coat off and put it on the bench
and someone sits on the coat.

That'll be £60 to mend the snapped bridge, says the optician.
So compromised focus it is for the time being.
I have an assortment of old glasses to press into service
until I'm due for another eye test.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Things on my plate(s)

some of them figgy,

some of them rosy,

some of them lemony.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

'Elementary,' said he.

Do you know what's going on up there?

It is my business to know what other people don't know.

 Let's take a closer look.
That allotment never used to be there did it?

You see but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.

You know my method. It is founded on the observation of trifles.

Is there any point to which you would wish to draw my attention?

That shed has only three walls and there's a ruddy big white plastic sheet on the grass.

And a lot of tripoddy things standing about.
I think this is a film set.

It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data.
Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories,
instead of theories to suit facts.

And look! A funny bit of wall with dead potted plants round it.

Data! Data! Data!. . . I can't make bricks without clay!

Well someone's made a stone wall without stones,

This one's made of polystyrene.

There is nothing like first hand evidence.
but also
There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact.

I bet this is where they are filming 'Mr Holmes' with Sir Ian McKellen.

Nothing clears up a case so much as stating it to another person.

I confess that I have been as blind as a mole,
but it is better to learn wisdom late than never to learn it all.*

* All quotes from Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

Monday, 11 August 2014

A round up

I haven't been around lately.
I've been round and about.
The first five pictures are from Kettle's Yard in Cambridge.
The bench is in Bateman's Garden, Rudyard Kipling's home.
The jelly fish was narrowly avoided underfoot

while paddling.