Thursday, 29 October 2009


I have had technical problems which have prevented me from updating the blog for a little while. I think I have sorted it now so sorry to my thousands of readers if you thought I had forgotten you.

We had a grey and rain sodden trek down to Dorset on Saturday but it has brightened up and we have enjoyed warm sunshine since arriving.

A couple of nights before coming I fired up the laptop and connected to the hi-fi and we both watched a number of episodes on YouTube of “Last Choir Standing” – the human voice is capable of producing a vast range of sounds and when joined - as in a choir -  is unsurpassable by any instrument or orchestra. What we enjoyed that evening was quite simply,  uplifting. We will continue to search out more beautiful choral efforts. As olduns’ our human spirit needs this stuff like it needs water and Viagra, indispensable life essence.

It's nearly Armistice Day but I’d not thought of that when we diverted from our route to Rushden and turned into the Airfield Road at Poddington. We drove as far as we felt was polite – the control tower still there at the end of the road. It’s been converted to a house now but they have done it well and the external observation balcony with its steel railing is still in place. Returning back down the road we stopped at the American memorial and I snapped some shots here:

The marble of the memorial commemorates the men of the 92nd Bombardment Group (H) who flew missions from here and were posted as missing or killed in action. Lots of young men who would now be old men - with grandchildren – and with stories to tell and love to share. Many, like me, will not forget what they sacrificed and I know that others like me will remember them for their bravery.

Expecting a visit to the caravan shortly from S’s who wants me to make fishcakes for them. While on the subject of fish, I am reminded of another fishy moment a few days ago in a certain branch of TESCO where we asked to have a whole salmon filleted. Turns out that the bloke who normally does it is away sick and it’s left to this dozey middle aged fish hating brunette to serve us. As she handled the fish she was retching and had us in stitches as she recounted that on being deputed to the fish counter a few days previously, she had attempted to bag up a fresh salmon for a customer. Now salmon are slippery right? – everyone knows that - but she didn’t: Even dead, the salmon objected to being confined to a plastic bag and demonstrated its displeasure by launching itself into the main aisle of the supermarket and very nearly taking out an old lady with her shopping trolley. If only a younger woman could have speared the careening fish with a well placed stiletto heal we might have witnessed the first example of salmon surfing seen in a supermarket.

Recently watched this heron circle lazily over our house and land on the roof opposite – what? – on the roof? Strange behaviour for a water wading bird I thought. Was it simply admiring the view or just looking for a higher plaice……..?

Came back from Yeovil yesterday and decided to take a roundabout route well away from the beaten track. This photo gives you an idea why they are called “beaten tracks” – this one was very beaten indeed. Very shortly after I took the picture, the road became a river as well.

We visited the cider museum today as it was “open day”. They showed us the traditional way of making scrumpy cider. It was all very unhygienic and ethnic; the apples were in an old trailer, muddy and half rotten. They were given a token wash in an old bath full of very muddy water. Next, they went through an ancient apple mangle and then shovelled on to layers of straw in the juice press with a shovel that looked like it had just mucked out the pigs. I tasted the juice which was expressed, it was sweet and pleasant but as a precaution I have programmed Dorchester Hospitals number into my mobile phone.

Shortly after we did our supermarket shop – our checkout lad was passing our stuff through the till when he suddenly doubled over with his hands over his face and gave a massively snotty sneeze. With an embarrassing glance he wiped his palms on a paper towel and carried on checking our items through: that’s right I thought – now go and contaminate all our food – then I remembered the cider……….!

Friday, 16 October 2009


Some time ago now I spotted a nice framed and glazed oil painting in a charity shop which we have handed over to be auctioned. I was curious about the location of the subject – Winterbourne, Avon and did a “google” on it. If you click on the link or copy and paste it into the URL bar and then scroll down to the article headed “Annual Visit” and read what this person has to say about their memories of this area I hope that the nostalgia invoked makes you smile as it did me.

It made me think of our family excursions down to Wiltshire to visit granny and grampy at Liddington near Swindon. These early memories came only shortly after the hostilities of the Second World War had ceased and austerity and ration books were constant reminders that there was still much to be achieved before normal life could resume. But as kids, my brother and I were in our element – there was so much here away from the town to explore and experience. Grampy had a smallholding and kept pigs, ducks and chickens all of which had to be fed twice a day. My Uncle John had a beat up little Ford van that he used to drive round the local villages – Chiseldon, Wanborough etc. to collect swill that people had saved for him. I'd go with him when I was able, their was no passenger seat as this space was normally reserved for a swill can but this was temporarily chucked out and replaced by a wooden box for me to sit on. The swill was tipped into butts in the back of the van. The smell inside the vehicle was something to be experienced and the whole inside of the rear end of the van was encrusted in a dried biscuit like coating from the splashed swill. Absolutely disgusting! But Uncle John with his foot hard down on the gas and going at suicidally breakneck speeds round the little country lanes – foul smelling pipe clamped firmly between his teeth – was probably only thinking of Phyllis, the lady (she was probably only 15) on the racing bike I had seen him with the day before.

Once a week, grampy would hobble of on his deformed foot, this time with me in tow, where we would head for the shed on the smallholding. Inside were large kegs containing cornmeal and the tin walls were hung with gardening tools. The floor was hard packed earth and in one corner stood a brick built affair which had had a large bowl like vessel let into the top; a wooden cover sat on top and at the bottom of the brickwork was a little fire hole - this was the swill boiler. Once a week - or when it was needed, the boiler was filled with swill from an old oil drum outside, all the veg parings and leftovers from grannys kitchen from the previous week were also added. A little coal fire was lit underneath and soon the grand boil was under way. I can still smell the earthy, primitive smell of the swill boil and even now as an old bloke I can time travel back if I get a whiff outside of someone’s jacket potatoes or burnt cabbage. I loved it when grampy allowed me to stir it all up with an old wooden bodger. When the whole mess had had a good boil it was left to cool. Then twice a day it was mixed with cornmeal and fed stodgy to the poultry and runny to the pigs. There's nothing quite like watching a half dozen pigs competing for a trough full of sloppy swill – pure magic!

Incidentally, granny had an identical “swill boiler” in the bathroom which was used for heating water for the bath and boiling clothing on washday. There was an old range in the living room which cooked our occasional roast dinner. There was gas lighting in the kitchen, no electricity upstairs (we took a lighted candle to bed), lino covered floors and a jerry under each bed. In the winter the wind would blast down from Liddington hill and moan through the draughty Critall windows but tucked up in bed on a flock mattress and snug under blankets and an eiderdown I dreamt of another lovely day to come.

Enough of that for the mo – out and about recently and snapped this snazzy little confection of a Smart Car in its Liquorice Allsorts paint job – it made me chuckle!

Sunday, 11 October 2009


From what I remembered of it we all had a lovely time yesterday. S&R joined us for a drop of refreshment and we adjourned to the village pub for sippers. Brian is not looking good – we are worried that there may be something serious. He needs a good woman but at 57 he is running out of time. Back home and I fired up the BBQ and did pork cuts that had been well soaked in English wine, garlic, grated apple and ginger juice. There were also some of my own super thick beef burgers and some coleslaw that I also made. Wifes potato salad and green salad ensured that the scoff was well rounded as we will both be if we continue eating like this. We followed up with a communal plunge in the hot tub. After that I don’t remember what happened which is a sure sign that I had a wonderful evening!!!

Up early and to the boot where pickings were a bit thin but I did pick up a nice illustrated book about vintage aeroplanes – included is a scan from one of the pages showing the cockpit of a Blackburn monoplane. It is the oldest British aircraft still flying in the world. I thought that in itself, this picture is illustrative of how far aviation has progressed since the aircraft was built in 1912.

We out to Argos this afternoon to buy a new inflatable air mattress for the caravan bed (it helps with my dodgy back). On the way home we called into the travel agents (as you do) and were quite taken with a couple of offers they were currently running. We emerged some time later having booked a holiday in the Canaries and a cruise for next year. While the girl was doing the booking bit I mentioned to wife that it would be an idea if we took the inflatable mattress with us on these jaunts in case of hard beds but she replied that it would just mean more weight. However, taking a short break from the booking procedure I studied a chart on display which showed a cutaway view of the cruise ship. Bearing in mind that this vessel can probably accommodate twelve hundred or more passengers I could only see ten lifeboats. We have decided to take the mattress

Friday, 9 October 2009


It’s been a bit quiet around here just lately and there is not too much to report but I will risk sticking my head above the parapet to make contact with the outside world. Great excitement in the village yesterday afternoon with three fire engines attending an incident just down the road, stinky smoke clouds were soon quenched and a nice house ended up with a tarpaulin draped over it’s roof – poor people – I hope the insurance company will help them out.

We have both witnessed the pub as a British institution dying a death these past years but driving past Goldington Green and seeing the old manor previously known as “Lincolns” derelict and boarded up was so sad. I remember having the best T-bone I have ever tasted there sometime in the early seventies – starched damask tablecloths and napkins and wonderful service – lovely memories! Although our guests last weekend were unable to visit due to illness, they seem to have made a recovery and so we are anticipating a visit this weekend from S&R. The hot tub is bubbling and there is room for four – I’ve made more than enough burgers for us all and the CD player is set to maximum volume – lets boogey on down!!!

PS I have a reader in Milwaukee-Jude-Hello J – Hope you are all OK!

Monday, 5 October 2009


Not a particularly busy day today – rather laid back in fact. As we drove towards Cambridgeshire for a hospital appointment the flat and dreary landscape (especially this time of year) provided a suitably depressing backdrop to the discussion on the radio which was all about the rights and wrongs of folk topping the’selves when they don’t feel well or because the cat has died. Had you been in that frame of mind and were contemplating a jump, this combination would have surely provided the push.

While we are on the subject of death, I had thought it would have been nice to have had my ashes scattered at various locations around Dorset but my very practical wife has come up with a much better idea. We both share a love for the village of Moreton, Dorset. With that in mind and having spent some lovely time paddling there at the ford across the River Frome, she suggested that it would be quite appropriate that when we have both snuffed, the guardians of the ash mix should take the urn to the middle of the little bridge across the river and chuck us in so we can both have a proper swim.

 I’m up for it big time – why? Ever since I was a young man I have been a connoisseur of jellied eels - the very thought of being tossed of and becoming an ingredient in my favourite food makes me squirm with anticipation. Who needs heaven? – this’ll do me fine. Night, night chappies!

Sunday, 4 October 2009


Made it to a few boots today but pickings were slim. I did find a nice little OXO tin a couple of inches long that I will keep my dip pen nibs in – neither my wife or I remember these small OXO tins so I guess it dates to before the second world war. Inside the lid the inscription reads “Children love OXO or OXO with milk, and thrive on it”. You what? Someone once told me that during a drinking game years ago they had been ordered to drink a large gin mixed with the juice from a jar of pickled cockles – OXO and milk must have come from a similarly tortured mind.

 One thing I had my eye out for today was a brass disk to complete the repair of my large inkpot and luck was with me when I spotted an old brass eight ounce weight from a set of scales on a blokes pasting table. “How much mate” I asked – “It’s got to be a quid innit” he offered. “Fifty pee” I offered in return. Sucking in air through his teeth he hefted the weight in his palm and pleaded “Look its brass and it’s got to be half a pound”.Eying his son who was on the verge of cracking up I threw back at him “Half a pound it is then – here’s yer fifty pee” and with a pained look on the poor chaps face we concluded the deal. (His son by this time had turned the other way – shoulders shaking with laughter).

I have always loved to cook and watch others practice their craft on TV so I was particularly saddened to hear of the premature death of one of the best of the breed – Keith Floyd - so as my own tribute to a character who has given me so much pleasure over the years I include here one of my favourite passages from culinary literature – I bet Floyd knew it and enjoyed it as well.

A mighty fire was blazing on the hearth and roaring up the wide chimney with a cheerful sound, which a large iron cauldron, bubbling and simmering in the heat, lent its pleasant aid to swell. There was a deep red ruddy blush upon the room, and when the landlord stirred the fire, sending the flames skipping and leaping up--when he took off the lid of the iron pot and there rushed out a savoury smell, while the bubbling sound grew deeper and more rich, and an unctuous steam came floating out, hanging in a delicious mist above their heads--when he did this, Mr Codlin's heart was touched. He sat down in the chimney-corner and smiled.

Mr Codlin sat smiling in the chimney-corner, eyeing the landlord as with a roguish look he held the cover in his hand, and, feigning that his doing so was needful to the welfare of the cookery, suffered the delightful steam to tickle the nostrils of his guest. The glow of the fire was upon the landlord's bald head, and upon his twinkling eye, and upon his watering mouth, and upon his pimpled face, and upon his round fat figure. Mr Codlin drew his sleeve across his lips, and said in a murmuring voice, 'What is it?'

'It's a stew of tripe,' said the landlord smacking his lips, 'and cow-heel,' smacking them again, 'and bacon,' smacking them once more, 'and steak,' smacking them for the fourth time, 'and peas, cauliflowers, new potatoes, and sparrow-grass, all working up together in one delicious gravy.' Having come to the climax, he smacked his lips a great many times, and taking a long hearty sniff of the fragrance that was hovering about, put on the cover again with the air of one whose toils on earth were over.

'At what time will it be ready?' asked Mr Codlin faintly.

'It'll be done to a turn,' said the landlord looking up to the clock--and the very clock had a colour in its fat white face, and looked a clock for jolly Sandboys to consult--'it'll be done to a turn at twenty-two minutes before eleven.'

'Then,' said Mr Codlin, 'fetch me a pint of warm ale, and don't let nobody bring into the room even so much as a biscuit till the time arrives.'

Charles Dickens – The Old Curiosity Shop – Chapter 18

Saturday, 3 October 2009


Went along to an antique auction yesterday to follow the sale of a painting that I picked up a while ago. The auctioneer had given it an estimated value of £50-£80 so we were a little disappointed that it only made £30. At least we made over 100% profit.

While we were there a small scrapbook of drawings – one of which may or may not have been done by Landseer was offered up with a start price of £2000 (if my memory serves me right). The bidding went up and up and the item was finally knocked down to a man in motor cycle leathers for £4,400 – it caused quite a stir in the auction room.

We were expecting daughter and husband round this evening for a chill out session and barbeque so we trailed around yesterday looking for charcoal. Didn’t have a lot of luck as the retailers have replaced all the summer stuff with Christmas lines. So - with a bit of hardwood and some other brushwood I loaded up the gas BBQ, shut the lid and turned the gas on. It WOULD have worked – really it would! - though in hindsight it might have been a good idea to have periodically checked the progress of my charcoal factory. Having filled the house full of smoke (and probably the neighbours houses as well) I lifted the lid this morning to check what I’d produced only to discover a pile of ash. Then our visitors contacted us this morning and reported in sick – so now we don’t need the BBQ tonight. Would I call that a positive result? – Yes but no but………...

Just returned from the village pub where we enjoyed the company of a couple we know quite well. He is 57 and has recently been diagnosed with cancer. He's undergoing all sorts of nasty treatments and we were pleased to see he was looking quite good. He is shortly to start a very aggressive programme of treatment – he will either come out at the other end OK or - in his own words - he will not come out at all. I have great faith in modern medicine and with the help of this and the care of his very loving wife I hope that he will manage to overcome this challenge to his life and go on to enjoy a long and happy retirement – go for it Graham!

Thursday, 1 October 2009


The idea of writing a blog is to force myself to get words down so that this novel I have sloshing around in my head can start to take shape. If that means I seem to be writing about uninteresting trivialities then I apologise to anyone of you who read me but it’s all part of my training programme.

I have put together a little collection of writing accessories for my desktop: I will be using these in conjunction with one of my hobbies – copperplate writing. The thuya wood writing box came from Dorset County Show a few weeks ago. I have kept a piece of tissue smeared with Tiger Balm in it and now, internally marinated, I get a beautifully fragrant waft whenever I open the box. T complement the box I managed to pick up the smaller thuya pen box with integral pen rest from a local village boot sale on Sunday for a couple of pounds and I bought the pen holder – also in thuya from a seller on Ebay – about £11 – a lot of money and I nearly baulked but my wife told me not to be an old skinflint and pay the man. Hopefully I am not a skinflint any longer but sadly, I remain old!

The antique glass and silver twin inkpot came from a boot in Somerset a few weeks back – a fiver. The brass pen nib shaped pen rest and the antique brass inkpot sitting on top came after rummaging through a junk box at the same boot – 50p each. Brass stamp box from a charity shop yesterday - £1.25.

My favourite though is the large glass inkpot with the brass top. Weighing in at 1.3 kilos this is a beautiful piece of antique lead crystal glass that was unfortunately missing it’s top. Fortunately though, the hinge mechanism was still in place so I found an old brass doorknob in my workshop, popped it into my little model making lathe and parted the domed part away from the rest of the knob and that is what you see on top. It still needs a little work to make it a permanent job but I was surprised to find that the new top looks so good. What makes this aquisition so pleasing is that it to came from yet another boot and cost me a single pound coin!

I remarked to my wife this morning (half jokingly) that a pair of candlesticks would enhance the collection so this afternoon while browsing round a flea market I was quite taken by a pair of old brass candlesticks. They have been turned from solid brass, are 24cm high and weigh a kilo each. I have spent a little while with the Brasso polish and a rag and here is the result.

Not bad for four quid what? That seems to conclude my little collection (I thought) until our friend turned up a while ago to do my wife’s hair. Looking at this little collection she remarked “you need a kneehole leather top antique desk for that lot” -----------how stupid of me for thinking I’d finished! Looks like I am going to have to keep my eye out at local auctions for a desk. Where will it all end?