New Year – New Blog

A Happy New Year to you all!

2013 is over.  Not been the greatest of end of year’s on the family front.  Illnesses and accidents involving close family have been very worrying and still are.  Here’s hoping that the New Year will bring better news for all concerned and, where necessary, peace and comfort.

We did have one big celebration this year – mum’s 75th – the week before Christmas.   I decided to get all the big kids together – a rare occurrence!  So, catering for 10 – all prepared in advance – a huge Boeuf Bourguignon followed by Petits Pots de Chocolat, Roasted Pears with a cranberry and date compote.  It was a surprise party and mum was visibly taken aback.  She was thrilled with her present of a mini ipad from all of us.   I just need to give her a few lessons now.  Big thanks went to sister Ali for making a stunning cake.

IMG_3419      IMG_0458

The extraordinary weather we have been having, high winds and heavy rain has meant chaos here in little Godalming and indeed, over large areas of Surrey.  We had lengthy power cuts 23 24 and 25 December.  Christmas dinner was very nearly a write off but power appeared at 2.30 which gave us time to throw the turkey in the oven (hastily removed after 10 mins as I forgot to stuff it) and get organised to eat by 7pm.

Its a sad state of affairs that we rely so much on our electricity that we just can’t cope when without.  No communications – phones were out and we don’t have a landline phone, no internet (horror of horrors!) and no radio.  Our neighbour kindly lent us his battery radio so we could keep abreast of the local news.  As for letting anyone know our predicament – tough!  The two girls were bereft without their electronic devices.  If truth be known me too!


Three times we had to fix back the chicken run tarpaulins – the metal hole reinforcers just ripped out with the sheer force of the wind as it got under and just lifted it.  The bungees just tore off and the run just ended up a mudbath.


One advantage was that the Golf course where Nigel plays was shut and we were able to take Milo on his favourite walk which took him swimming in a flooded bunker.  The course was just squelchy all over but the bunker attraction has already taken us there three times this week.

Today being New Years Day we have just endured another mini power cut.  Just long enough and worrying enough for us to abort our NYD dinner – a smashing forerib of beef. All being well that will be for tomorrow now.

My day today, aside the soggiest dog walk imaginable, was spent in the kitchen, making Paul Hollywoods Chocolate Marshmallow Teacakes.



They turned out brilliantly bar the fact that I mixed high percentage cocoa dark chocolate with milk chocolate.  It was still too high and caused the white marbling.

Anyway enough of the food now – need to get back to a decent way of eating – far too much sugar and carbs this Christmas.  5:2 here I come again!

Image | Posted on by | Leave a comment

Oh dear!

Well over a year and I’ve not written a sausage!  I did say it would be a while didn’t I?

Well, at popular request, (well – one, thanks Emily), thought I’d give it another go.

I can’t go over what has transpired over the past year in depth – that would bore the pants off everybody.

However, in brief:

Nathalie has now spent her first year and a third of her second at Kent Uni in Canterbury, reading Film Studies.  Of course she is loving it, gets stressed over essays but seems to come out smelling of roses in the end so I have no worries about her degree.  She has become very involved in a local church, singing and leading worship and also taken on a Committee role in the Film Society.

Here is a link to some of the songs she has recently posted on SoundCloud.

Jessica is still creating weird and wacky sounds for the Video gaming industry.  Now, living in a flat in Brixton with two chaps and three cats – one of which was rehomed from me to be with her best buddy – long story which I won’t go into!  They seem to be happy even though they are indoor cats which I am not totally comfortable with!  Sorry Jess.

I’ve finished the graveyard project – Busbridge Church is now in possession of all the photos, a document with every grave transcription and a database.  However, that is not quite the end – my next task is to research, as far as humanly possible, all the occupants to see what noteworthy stories lie within those graves.  Aside the famous people buried there, such as Gertrude Jekyll, there are others mainly unknown to the Community and other tales yet to be discovered.  One story was recently written up by me and published in the Church Magazine.  Once it is online I’ll post a link.

Still volunteering with Phyllis Tuckwell and still massively enjoying it.  Lovely staff and volunteers – we all get on and all muck in.

Now, the chickens….  Sadly I lost one in July – had to have her put to sleep.  The vet thought she had a tumour.  She was my absolutely favourite so the promise to myself not to blub at the vet failed miserably and I was ushered out of the door with instructions to pay the bill next time!  I am currently down to one egg a day if I’m lucky.  They are all getting on a bit.  However, on the plus side they all have bottom feathers –  the fact that all four were bumper bitted helped the problem a lot.  That is a huge relief but not sure how long it will last.

Nigel had to give a paper at a conference in Montreal at the end of October so I tagged along.  Probably not the best time of year to go – cold and damp but I’ve now been there. Not too impressed – I didn’t find it the most attractive city but I do want to return to Canada and see more more of the country.

As for for the cooking front and what would be a blog be without a recipe – this ginger cake was just the best – from Rachel Allen

Ginger Cake - Rachel Allen

Ginger Cake – Rachel Allen

8oz (225g) golden syrup

3 1/2 (100g) oz butter 

3 1/2 oz  (100g) caster sugar

3 oz (74g) stem ginger in syrup, drained and chopped – reserving 3 tbsp syrup

7 fl oz (200ml) milk

2 eggs, beaten

8 oz (225g) self-raising flour

1 tbsp ground ginger

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) – line base and sides of 2lb loaf tin with baking parchment.

Place golden syrup, butter and sugar in saucepan and melt over low heat until mixture is smooth.  Set aside to cool then mix in ginger, milk and eggs.

Sift remaining ingredients into a bowl.  Make a well in centre then tip in wet ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Pour the runny mixture into tin and bake 50-60mins until skewer comes out clean.

Remove from oven and drizzle over the 3 tbsp ginger syrup while hot.

Cool 10 mins then remove from tin onto wire rack.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Can’t remember..

exactly what I’ve really been up to over the past month or so.  I’ve certainly been occupied .

Primarily I’ve spent a lot of time at the Phyllis Tuckwell Charity Shop in Godalming.  I’ve been volunteering there every Friday afternoon for the past couple of months and I love it.  So much that they find me popping in every now and then to do a couple of hours.

Since this starting this particular post (and abandoning it) I’ve now been at PT a further few weeks. Still loving it.  I’m constantly amazed at the generosity of people in the goods they bring in.  Some stuff goes to auction to fetch a proper price and some is researched and valued to sell in the shop.  I spent a pleasurable few hours sorting a carrier bag of disassemble Playmobil which, once researched on the internet, and reconstructed, formed 17 different sets.  As some pieces were missing I contacted Playmobil and they supplied most of those missing pieces free of charge.  So we were able to sell most of the sets complete raising a decent amount for the Hospice.

Highlight of the month was the stunning gramaphone which was brought in and which sold quite quickly for £300.

Here it is:

I wish we could have kept it in the shop – it was quite a talking point – many children had never seen or heard one.  Thankfully if I ever get the urge to listen to one my my mum still has Uncle Fred’s at home and a good assortment of 75s!
My current project is making a few cakes stands which are very much in fashion at the moment.  I’ve yet to see how they sell.

Hand crafted cake stand using vintage plates

The chickens are still knickerless.  Nearly every day I spray them with an antipeck spray.  The good thing is they are getting so much better at being picked up and suffering the indignity of a spray on the posterior.

We had a brief and mildly amusing episode of broodiness from Ace.  She had got it into her head that she needed to occupy the nest and got quite aggressive about it, attempting to peck and growl at me when I turfed her off.  I had to block her entry three times which she found mildly stressful, pacing around, going up the ladder and when I did the evening spray, as I put her down and went to pick up another chicken, she decided I was worthy of some payback and stabbed my foot with her beak.  That was a surprise and she did actually break the skin.  Next morning…. back to her usual, squawky self, but no sign of broodiness.  Weird!

My garden has been decimated by slugs.  Even the potatoes which have been successful this year have no leaves to speak of.  Runner beans – well, of about 20 planted I have 4 – never enough for a meal in one go.  I planted two courgettes in a wheel barrow which has worked well, except one has somehow turned into a butternut squash.

The fruit in the fruit cage was ravaged by birds.  I really need to find a way of stopping them getting in under the netting.  So, no gooseberries, a few redcurrants and blackcurrants.  For some reason they don’t seem to like whitecurrants.  The tomatoes are growing apace in the greenhouse but the fruits are not bulking up and ripening.  I’m sure I was already eating tomatoes this time last year.

I’ve taken on another project too on the back of volunteering  for the Gravestone Photograph resource,, – to photograph the graveyard at Busbridge and record names and dates, except now it has grown into a project for the Church itself to help document the graveyard.  I do like a project!  I am battling with the ravages of time and weeds though!

This week is A level results week so Nathalie is a bit on edge, trying to bide the time by watching lots of films.  All being well, she’ll be off to Kent Uni to do Film Studies.  She is just back from a fabulous week at Soul Survivor and off again on Friday to the same place for the over 18 equivalent, Momentum.  Let’s just hope it stays dry as she is camping.

Jessica has had a good and bad past few weeks.  Firstly her little car died on her on the slip road of the A3 onto the M25 which meant an AA call out.  It was subsequently found to be really dead so a new car hunt ensued.  She found one over the weekend, a newer and limited version of the MX5 but two weeks later she was shunted by a a tailgater on a country lane and the car is now an insurance write off.  Although, she has been given the opportunity to accept a payment, get it fixed and MOT’d and its back on the road, rather than a larger payment and scrap it.

The good thing was that she has been offered an extension of contract until next June by Microsoft so she will be staying in Twycross.  She’s now on the hunt for accommodation.

Am feeling a bit lazy about this blogging,  mostly I suppose because I’m so busy with other things.  So …it may be a while until the next one!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Success (hopefully!)

Both the girls’ bumper bits have stayed on and there doesn’t seem to be any feather plucking.  After some initial head shaking and beak bashing they seemed to have settled to wearing them and don’t seem to be in any discomfort.  Just the way they are worn made me feel that any pecking would hurt but that doesn’t seem to be the case.  Admittedly they are not finding it that easy to peck off the ground or at hard vegetables but they don’t go hungry as they wait to pick up the leavings on the ground kindly pecked off by other three.

I have substituted layers mash for the pellets in the hopes that they will be able to shovel their main food more successfully and, in fact, all the birds seem to prefer it.  The mash which is basically all the seed ground into a coarse mix rather than formed into pellets is supposed to take longer to eat and also help to prevent feather plucking.  At least I have not had to douse the girls in the smelly stuff again and they all seem really content.j

The extraordinary amount of rain we are having is doing wonders for the garden, although its cutting down on the amount I can do out there.  Nevertheless have bought some new shrubs: an olearia, flowering raspberry Red Bross, a miniature lilac, Coprosma Pacific Sunset, as well as a pretty Japanese painted fern.  Oh, and a new Rosemary bush to replace the one I had to rip out to site the chicken run.

The greenhouse if getting fuller by the minute:  so far the tally is; 66 tomato plants (four different varieties)!!, sweetcorn, cabbage, pumpkins, runner and French climbing beans, dwarf French beans, romanesco cauliflower, leeks, sweet basil, Thai basil, dill.

In the ground the potatoes are just showing through, the onions are about 4 inches high, peas are up.  Carrots, turnips and parsnips have come through but slugs have been making their mark so may have to resow.   I gathered a load of birch tree twigs from the ground on our walk this morning – they will make good pea sticks.  I also need defences for them as the chickens are a bit partial to nice young leafy growth.

I had to take Milo for his kennel cough vaccine yesterday – a job I hate – I get really nervous taking him.  Mainly, because he hates the vets and tries to bolt out of the door as soon as we get there.  I keep him occupied with clicker training and took the opportunity to do a bit of muzzle training.  As he gets really stressed I muzzle him to make the whole process, quicker, easier and less stressful for all.   He has to be held down which makes him buck wildly and air snap.  Don’t think he will bite but I’d rather the vet didn’t find out!   Did I mention the vaccine is syringed up his nose? – perhaps you can now see where I’m coming from!  Sheena the vet, is great with him.  She is very compassionate to nervous animals and takes her time to greet him, gives him treats and put him at ease.  OK the procedure puts him straight back into fear mode but no sooner was it finished then he went straight to her for a treat.  Then I breathed a sign of relief.

Very coincidentally I bumped into an old dog agility friend.  Her dog had had exactly the same operation on her elbow as Milo had two years ago.  So her dog will be in rehab for a few months now.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Being ribbed here!

Nigel and I have a trip planned to Edinburgh in a couple of weeks.  I have a family tree contact coming over from Australia who has some documentation to give me so we decided to meet up, as it had been on our list of places to visit.  My two girls are ribbing me about meeting a stranger from the internet!  It will be a good break.  Milo will have to go into kennels while the girls get to look after the rest of the menagerie.

Over the past few weeks we have been catching up with the first series of the Danish TV detective programme, The Killing.  We’ve really enjoyed it – to be recommended.  The language fascinated me, as a linguist.  It seems a very slack language – every word just melted into the next but I found it a delight to listen to.

Chickens – the ongoing saga of featherplucking.  Rose has been in solitary for nearly four weeks but each time I let her out to free range with the others she eventually succumbs to her old habit, so back she goes to her run.  So, the time has come.  I have come to the end of my tether.  The final straw.  The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.

Time for the Bumper Bit – a medieval looking type of scold’s bridle which passes into the beak keeping it slightly open and then a couple of prongs go into the nostrils.  Eating and drinking are possible but pulling out feathers shouldn’t be!

Fitting one, besides it seeming cruel, was not going to be a picnic.  I chickened out and got Jess to do the deed.  We got Rose out after she had gone to bed so that she would be calm, wrapped her in a heavy towel and took her into the conservatory.  Jess managed to get it on but within a minute of her going back into the run, with lots of head shaking and head banging, she had got it off.  It has to be quite precisely placed so it was obviously not quite right.  A second go, quickly executed with a pair or circlip pliers did the trick and it has remained in place.  She was obviously distressed by it, wouldn’t take a mealworm from me – poor recompense for her trials – and spent some time headbanging in her house but she settled.  We checked on her a couple of times.  In the morning I put her straight in with the others.  She soon sussed out how to feed and drink but the others kept giving the bit a quick peck – looks like she was going to be on the other end of the harrassment.

Returning home later in the day Rose seemed settled but I found two of the chickens had been plucked again – the culprit this time being Ace, so she has just been bumper bitted too.  A slightly harder job as she has such a big, floppy comb which was making it hard to see the right bit of the nostril.

I am not happy to be doing this to them but it is a habit which is hard to break.  It is not an act of aggression but the problem is that if any blood is drawn it can turn into a bloodbath as chickens can be cannibalistic at the sight of blood!  Who’d have thought it!

Ace in her Bumper Bit

On to the next wildlife feature – frogs.  It has been a bumper year for them – at least half the pond covered and this year they have not been killed by frost.  Loads of tadpoles swimming around at the moment.  The heron has been paying us a visit – whether or not he is hoping for fish – there aren’t any – or frogs, I don’t know.  The chickens aren’t too enamoured with his visits though.

Resident frogs

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Easter is upon us

And well do I know it – school holidays and yet again have children climbing up the steep bank in the woods to my back fence, invading our privacy and upsetting the dog.  I politely ask them to go back to the park, informing them that it is private land but I have obviously upset a couple of toerags and twice now have had raw eggs lobbed into the garden.  The first lot during half term narrowly missed me as I was gardening.  Today I heard the thud as a missile hit my greenhouse to find egg running down the glass.  Not much fun trying to clean it off before it dried in the sun.  Of course, no culprit to be found.  Strangulation is on my agenda!

Aside from dodging eggs, the garden has had my full attention lately.  Its starting to look good, especially as it has now had a mow and I’ve cut the lawn edges.  Weeding still continues apace.  The chickens are great at keeping down the little weed seedlings although some of my plants are looking a little ragged from their ministrations – not too much damage though.

I usually let them out while I garden.  It so amuses me to have five greedy little pigs bustling around my fork, squabbling over every worm and bug.  I have to be so careful not to spear one of the chooks – they literally stand over the spot where I dig, heads bowed in eager anticipation.  Mimi is the worst as she is the bravest – I once lifted her up on the spade into the air.  She was totally unpertubed.  I am hoping they will be keeping the slug and snail population down, although I’ve already had a couple of rows of turnip seedlings munched.  My prevention tactics involve baking all the empty egg shells (and we have plenty!), then crunching them up to sprinkle them around the plants.  The jury is still out on whether it works.

Still sowing vegetable seeds – today was sweetcorn, peppers and dwarf beans.  I created my bean frame a couple of weeks ago, digging a trench first and burying a bucket of my bokashi waste.  Hope that works – have never tried it.

Rose the chicken is still in solitary confinement although she had time out for good behaviour today and had a good few hours free ranging with the others.  No pecking, and at one point her and Polly had a very pleasurable sun and dustbath together – really cute to see as they rolled over and over, purring and nuzzling each other.

In fact, this is her second outing.  Jess needed record chicken sounds for her work so Rose was drafted in to provide them.  We brought her into the conservatory which proved a bit too noisy so decamped to the lounge where she took up residence on the arm of a leather armchair.  Her burblings were recorded and she was put on the ground, immediately flying up to land on my back as I knelt on the floor.  As Milo had already had a good hard peck on the head as she walked past I was expecting the same (or something worse!) but she just stood up proud as punch, seemingly quite settled with her new vantage point.

Rose and me!

Rose in the lounge

More antics today from the chooks whilst freeranging.  Rose found a dead frog so a game of chicken relay commenced, taking it in turns to grab it and leg it across the garden, the others in hot pursuit.  So funny to watch but I couldn’t have beared to see it torn apart so had to do a rescue and lob it over the back fence.  Not long after that I hear tremendous squawking and Milo barking, to find a beautiful heron standing next to the pond looking for fish.  It didn’t stay too long, once it had discovered the pond doesn’t have fish!  Although it could have had a feast on tadpoles.

Nathalie has returned from a few days in New York with college.  By all accounts she had a good time.   Apparently she was drafted in to do some stand up improvisation at a comedy club and couldn’t get out of it – so threw herself into the job with gusto – what happened to shy little Nathalie?!  Shame no-one got some video – would have loved to see it.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Spring is in the air – or is it summer?

Finally, some lovely warm weather.  I’ve hit the garden big time in a bid to get some seeds going and the garden cleared of the weeds which have accumulated since the autumn.

I finally got round to cleaning out the greenhouse, giving it a good scrub and disinfect.  I feel so much better for that, everything organised now in plastic boxes as snails have been patrolling, eating anything in sight with a paper label.  Hence seed packets with holes, munched instruction leaflets and fertilizers without labels!

A crafty idea came to me when I was shopping in Waitrose (November I think) and saw their little boxes of lettuce seedling for cut and come again lettuce.  Bought one for just over a pound and split the contents up, planting them in the greenhouse border.  I think every single one took and I now have about twenty healthy lettuces.  Thrifty or what!

Tomato seeds are in and just coming up.  Cabbage and leeks sown alongside them in the greenhouse.  In the ground are parsnips, turnips, spring onions, radishes and peas.  The last of the leeks were lifted – quite pathetic ones – but still edible.  Potatoes are next on the agenda  – they are currently chitting in the conservatory and are just about ready for planting.

Did I tell you about the mice?…  We are inundated with them.  I can only assume they are residing in next door’s garden which has been left to grow wild.  Ianto is obviously element and the tally is roughly one a day, sometimes two.  Little Selphie is quite excited by this and has presented Jess with a couple of dead ones at night.  Not sure if she has hunted these as she hasn’t yet (as far as we know!) ventured further than halfway down the garden.  We’ve had live mice, dead mice, half a mouse, just the innards of a mouse and the last straw for me was coming down one morning a couple of days ago to find three piles of mouse thrown up on the kitchen floor, including frog spawn!!!  I then walk into the conservatory to a squelch underfoot and yes, there on my brand new kilim carpet is half a mouse.  Whether or not it matched the half in the kitchen I don’t know – was gagging too much to care!  Steve, if you’re reading, I desperately need my cupboard door and plinth on – the mice are taking refuge behind the fridge which means dragging the whole lot out – PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!

Jess and I spent a merry half hour chasing a mouse under the sofa, for it to find a piece of escaped popcorn and sit there munching, out of reach.  Unfortunately, we never found it and have to assume it was the dead one found the next morning.  Not only mice, I found a dead bat on the grass too, but not sure if that was a cat kill or not

Rose the chicken has now been put in isolation in a bid to stop her feather pecking.  She is back in the Eglu Go, her penance being to de-moss the lawn as I move her run around.  She doesn’t seem too bothered and when I let the others out to freerange they gather round and chat to her, commiserating obviously!

Selphie and Willow investigate Rose

The four girls sunbathing


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment