Thursday 30 September 2021


This is the Willow Tree figurine "friendship". [I gave one of these to my dear friend Christine for Christmas 2019] I have been thinking about friendship a lot recently. I have some friends who I've known forever, others I have only met recently. Some I see often, others I see rarely.

And some friends [Kezzie, Bless, Lesley, Nicky, PomPom et al...] who I only know through the blog, yet they are still dear to me. One day perhaps I will get to meet them.

The pandemic has made it so much harder for us to relate as we'd like to. A local friend rang on Saturday to say her husband had died. Bob and I visited her - and I so wanted to give her a hug, but couldn't. 

But I appreciate my friends so much - I had a WhatsApp out of the blue from a friend back in Dorset "just thinking of you and hoping retirement it OK...etc". It arrived at just the right moment. Someone else has just become a Grandma, and I sent a small gift for the baby - her thank you card was lovely. The picture was pretty - but the words inside were really special. 

It was lovely to have a brief phonecall with ElizabethD[Barbara] of Small Moments Blog this week. She is recovering well from her op, and quite tired- but in good spirits. She expressed her gratitude for the letters, kind words and prayers of so many friends at this time. For over a decade she has been a kind, wise friend to me.

I recently asked a favour of a much younger friend, who I haven't seen since I left Leicester. She is kindly helping me out and was genuinely delighted to be able to do so. 

Friends value one another, help one another, encourage one another [and sometimes gently point us back to the right path if we are going astray] Friends are loving, but honest. 

Let us not take our friends for granted - remember to say thank you

Let us never assume we can only be friends with 'people like us'

and let us try to befriend the friendless, because friendship is a blessing we should share

This was my Christmas gift from Chris in 2019. 

Treasure your friends, for they are stars who light up your life

Wednesday 29 September 2021

Everyone Writes On Walls – Except Me!

This is a piece of Latin graffiti from Pompeii– back in Roman times, with no internet and Twitter, this was the way that people expressed their opinions- by writing on the public walls.

Currently here in East Anglia, there is much discussion about Banksy. Personally I think he’s a very gifted guy, and makes clever statements about contemporary issues through his artwork. Halfway between Pompeii, and 21st Century spray painting there is the graffiti of the medieval period. I knew nothing about this until Jon lent me an informative book on the subject. It seems that back then, people often ‘made their mark’ in the church buildings when they went to pray. And Norfolk is the best county for finding such graffiti. In Norwich Cathedral, you’ll find numerous marks – crosses, ships, symbols – but also out in the little villages too.

Across the county there are hexfoils, sometimes called ‘daisy wheels’. These are circular designs made with compasses [did you draw them in maths lessons?] Some think these are signs of the Trinity, others that they were made by masons and architects – a reminder of the way to measure and construct angles. 

There are pictures of people, words and names, signs and symbols.  Litcham church has many examples - a “Solomon’s Knot” as well as a heart-felt prayer to St Martyn. [The knot is on the NMGS logo below]

St Nicholas’ Church Blakeney has many ships, carved around a side altar –put there by families praying for their men out ‘in peril on the sea’? 

Beside the front door of the church in Worthing a few miles from here is a sundial- believed to have been an aid to remembering the times of Mass. It seems that the majority of the graffiti represent the prayers of the faithful worshippers – and as churches are restored and ancient walls strengthened, still more of these signs are being uncovered. 

The Norfolk Medieval Graffiti Survey, has done an incredible amount of research. Many of these marks have yet to be interpreted, and the NMGS continues to make new discoveries. For eighteen months, many church buildings have been closed for public worship – but some were opened for private prayer. 

I’m not sure the clergy would have been happy if people had scratched their prayer requests on the wall [Post-It notes are a less damaging option these days] Recently I stood outside Worthing church in the sunshine, marvelling that for over a millennium people had come to that quiet place to reflect, pray, praise and worship. 

I am glad their marks remain – a reminder in this ever changing world that some truths are eternal. 

[this is based on the article I recently wrote for our Parish Magazine]

Tuesday 28 September 2021

Gentle? Not Round Here!


I read this book 12 years ago, it was lent to me by a friend. My comment at the time was that Jane B lived in a different world to me - having formerly worked for Sanderson, her quilts were made of fabulous fabrics [not thrifted pieces of family shirts and dresses] Reviews online seem to be either gushing [beautiful, lovely to read and dream about future projects, so many different ideas] or dismissive [not in the real world, no proper instructions or techniques, no cohesive structure]

I confess that all these years later I remember nothing but the title. It came back to me yesterday as I was pottering in the kitchen. I have decided my approach to domesticity is definitely not 'gentle'.

I had a sort of plan for my morning, which I knew would revolve around domestic with the yogurt which had 'yogged' overnight, find the new packet of yeast, make a loaf, and make some soup. In the afternoon, some sewing, and work on the front path.

But the workmen arrived at 8.30 with the Lathe Palace, having just driven all the way from Kent. First task, then, make them hot drinks.

I dealt with the yogurt as planned. But I spotted some of the tomatoes on the windowsill had ripened well in the weekend sunshine, and some were starting to go soft. I thought I'd make a batch of tomato sauce to eat with pasta for our evening meal.

I went to get a favourite pan from the back of the cupboard, dropped the lid down into the almost inaccessible corner, and managed to dislodge the shelf. Much clattering of pans, as I pulled them all out onto the floor. Bob kindly came to assist. Pans replaced, I prepared the tomatoes, and left the sauce simmering on the stove.**

The yeast hunt involved checking my breadmaking supplies. I took all the contents out from the 'carbs cupboard' which contains flours, rice, pulses, and pastas. I found a part packet of rye flour I had forgotten about, and the top was ripped off - so I had no idea about use by dates. I decided to add some into the loaf I was going to make. I found the new yeast [both packets- oops!] I had packs of flour etc all over the worktops. And a 'dusting of snow' everywhere.
And in between I was making hot drinks for the workmen - it was raining heavily and at one point the wind blew the side panel over [fortunately not onto my raised bed!]
Food in packets is ok - but once it has been transferred to glass jars, I can easily get confused- semolina, ground almonds, and cornmeal can all look very similar. I realised that if I was in a hurry, my ingredients could get confused. I got rather carried away with the label-maker, putting names on the jars. Time was passing, and the breadmaker was still in the cupboard.
I had completely forgotten that a man was coming to change the fuse in the meter cupboard. Fortunately I' d just made a flask of coffee and we'd had elevenses when he switched off the power. 
I had to get out of the kitchen whilst the man was working in there, delaying my domestic plans still further. I was relieved I had not set the breadmaker running. But he was a really pleasant guy, and thanked us for being so helpful.
It was almost lunchtime when he left - so  I put the last two slices of bread in the toaster, and baked beans in the microwave. [At which point I realised just how many clocks need to be reset if the power has gone off! We enjoyed a small lunch. Bob ate one of the apples from the 'freebie' basket down the lane, I enjoyed some fresh figs from Liz - and then I returned to the kitchen tidying.
Monday's domesticity was in no way "gentle" - juggling teamaking, labelmaking, mealmaking and cupboard tidying, it was really quite manic. My Gran used to tell me this nursery rhyme

Curly Locks, Curly Locks, will you be mine?
You shall not wash dishes, nor feed the swine.
But sit on a cushion and sew a fine seam,
And feast upon strawberries, sugar and cream.

Chance'd be a fine thing, as they say! My plans to sit and sew in the afternoon went out the window. And I had no energy left for path digging. Meanwhile Bob had to collect garage lighting strips from Screwfix and buy petrol. He managed one out of two tasks!
This pub sign made me smile [I do hope we can get some fuel before Friday - I cannot cycle to Manchester]

**I did set a timer, I didn't want it to boil dry whilst I was busy multi-tasking.

Monday 27 September 2021

Sun, Saturday, Spoons

 My Spoon Workshop was everything I had hoped for, and so much more. I bicycled the 1½miles to Hoe Village Hall [no need to worry about using precious petrol] and Adam directed me through the building out into the churchyard at the back.

We sat in a circle of chairs, by the gravestones, and spent 6 happy hours carving our spoons. There were five of us on the course- a young couple, an older retired couple, and me.

Adam was a brilliant teacher - he explained the different tools, the various woods, and all the vital safety techniques. ["Do not wield your knife in the Triangle of Doom. You may slice your femoral artery - and there's no phone signal here to call an ambulance"]

There was a great display of books, tools, and finished articles for us to look at. The atmosphere was very relaxed - so if you felt the need to move and stretch your muscles, you could go and look at these, or make a cuppa in the kitchen.
Some of the group had more experience than others, but we each produced our own spoon, in birch, cherry or alder wood. We had the chance to use different equipment and sit on a shave-horse, to use a spokeshave 

My spoon was not as technically good as others [but I have had no previous experience at all] But nevertheless I was really pleased to start with a rough 'spoonblank' and end the day with a functional wooden spoon which I can use to mix cakes, or stir jam.

This is 'greenwood' so I will have to let it dry out for a week or so before I finish it off. That gives me time to decide whether to  burnish it, sandpaper it, and/or oil it.

Did I enjoy the day? Most definitely

Was the atmosphere good? Absolutely - happy conversations, even though we were concentrating hard. Plenty of space for questions, and lots of mutual encouragement.

Would I recommend this workshop to others? Yes, whether novice or experienced, Adam deftly adjusts his teaching to be most useful.

Was it good value for money? Definitely - workshops are limited to five participants, so there is lots of one-to-one tuition, and room to work at your own pace, and make a piece that is uniquely yours - we certainly did not produce five identical spoons! 

Will I make more spoons in the future?  I hope so - Adam sells spoonblanks, and a friend has offered to lend me tools. But don't expect me to make everyone a spoon for this Christmas!

Perhaps when the Lathe Palace is up and running, Bob can turn porridge bowls, and I could carve spoons to go with them? We could call ourselves "Goldilocks Enterprises"...

Until then, you must go on the course yourself, or at least buy your wooden spoons from Adam [website here]

Thank you Adam, and fellow carvers, for a lovely day!

Sunday 26 September 2021

Greater Love Has No Man Than This...

...To Lay Down His Life For His Friends 

I found one part of the Rodin Exhibition very challenging. It was the room where they displayed the plaster cast for "The Burghers Of Calais"

Do you know this story? In 1346, King Edward III of England and his armies besieged the French port of Calais. The people were starving. Six burghers [wealthy citizens who served as civic officials] stepped forward, and offered their lives in return for the King sparing the townsfolk. In the end, the men were ultimately released. 
Rodin's sculpture commemorates their brave act. He exaggerated the size of their bare bruised feet, showing their vulnerability and hopelessness as they walked towards their death.
Initially Rodin planned to put the men on a pedestal, but then decided to keep it at ground level, where the observer could recognise their common humanity. This was a revolutionary idea.

There is a bronze casting of the Burghers in the Victoria Gardens near the Palace of Westminster. I was quite a young child when my father took me to see this statue. He told me the story, and reminded me not only of Jesus' words, but also said that these men were civic officials. He said to hold such a position of honour meant also acknowledging the responsibility of service towards their fellow townspeople. As I looked at these plaster models I remembered my dad's words, and how his life was one of commitment and service.
Maybe some of those in authority today should stop on their way to Westminster and consider these men - who were prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice for others . I am so glad they were spared - their commitment and willingness to suffer for the sake of others is an example to us all.

Saturday 25 September 2021

Harvest Of The Hedgerows

We are trying to make sure we take a walk every day. This does not always happen, but there are some lovely places to see round the village. Sometimes The Daily Walk is a purposeful trot to the Village Shop, to fetch milk, use the Post Office, or pick up the Parish Magazine [I've just had my second article published!] 

On other days, we literally walk "round the houses" and I take note of which flowers and shrubs seem to grow well in the Norfolk clay. Rudbeckias and fuchsias are very popular, as is Photinia [Red Robin] Also there is a lot of montbretia [my SIL tells me this is often called crocosmia nowadays]

But more often than not, we go out of the village to the east or south, and walk through the lanes and down the footpaths. And these past few weeks, we have been foraging blackberries and sloes. I also collected a few apples from a "free- help yourself" tray at the end of one drive.

The blackberries, sloes and apples went into "Hedgerow Jam" - I made four jars. I shan't be giving these away, as they have stones in, and need to be eaten with care!

I've also put blackberries on my breakfast yogurt, and atop sponge puddings. There's a small batch of sloe gin maturing in the cupboard too.

Whilst I was in London, my bro kindly invited Bob over for an evening meal - and gave him a bag of apples. Last time we all had a meal together, Marion presented a challenge "When we dine like this, we should cook a dessert recipe we haven't done before"

Liz has been cooking galettes this summer, and I did do a small, savoury tomato and goat's cheese one a couple of weeks ago. Just enough for two with a big salad alongside. I used my own home grown tomatoes and chives!

But here is my first sweet galette cooked for the family - with blackberries   from the hedgerows, and Adrian's apples. Served with a jug of custard alongside.       A Proper Autumnal Pudding

Friday 24 September 2021

The Fabric Of Society

Liz has bought herself a "member plus guest" ticket from the Tate. This is excellent value - it means a member can go in to Tate Modern or Tate Britain any time [free] - plus they can take a guest [free] and they can visit any of the special exhibitions [free] And there is access to the special members' bar [TM] and dining room [TB]...and they can take up to six children! 

Many of the baby groups have yet to restart because of the pandemic - this will be a good way for Liz to take a walk, appreciate the art, and enjoy a good cup of coffee. And as well as pushing Jess in the pram, she can take a friend along too [and Rosie at weekends] This members+ ticket is £10 a month - it would have cost £35 for Liz and me to go to the Rodin exhibition. 

After we had walked all round the Rodin stuff, it was coffee time. The Members' Room has a spectacular view across the Thames. I spent ages looking at the diagram behind Liz which names many of the buildings of note.

The trays are printed with artworks from the collection. I quite liked the lobster on which we had our coffee cups!
After a break, we went back inside and looked at a few more parts of the collection - Liz particularly wanted to show me "The British Library", created in 2014 by Yinka Shonibare, YS has British/Nigerian nationality. 

This room was mind-blowing! 6,328 books, with names printed in gold leaf on 270 of the spines. The books are bound in African wax print fabric, the artist’s signature material. The history of this fabric reveals a complex relationship between colonialism, cultural appropriation and national identity. It was developed in the 19C in the Netherlands as a mass-produced imitation of the batik dyeing process used in Indonesia, a Dutch colony at the time. The cheaper, machine-made textiles were poorly received in Indonesia. In West and Central Africa, however, they were quickly adopted and absorbed into local traditions.

The names on the books are those of 1st and 2nd generation immigrants to this country, both celebrated and lesser-known, who have made significant contributions to British culture and history. Among names such as Hans Holbein, Zadie Smith, and Dame Helen Mirren, the names of those who have opposed immigration also appear, including Nigel Farage and Oswald Mosley. 

This shelf shows a few names I recognised - interesting people with diverse skills and very diverse origins

  • Cy Grant - Guyana - I remember him singing calypsos on TV when I was very young [and voicing Lt. Green on 'Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons']
  • Suzi Quatro - singer, with Italian/American roots
  • Ken Stott - actor, wonderful in Rebus and the Hobbit, has a Sicilian mother.
  • Bob Geldof - I never knew his grandfather was a Belgian immigrant!
  • Anton Du Bekh - this talented dancer has Hungarian/Spanish parentage but grew up in Kent.

I could have spent hours in this room, looking at the names. There is a website with much more information here Liz suggested it might be a way of using up my Great Stash - I could make covers for all the books on my shelves. I suggested it to Bob who wasn't keen [and pointed out that the extra thickness of the fabric would mean I could accommodate fewer books]

The book jackets list artists, writers, politicians, sportspeople, scientists - and many more. People who have added richness and colour to our culture and history. Many arrived here because their families were originally from British Colonies, others came as refugees fleeing persecution. 

If a piece of artwork is both a feast for the senses, and also truly thought provoking then I think it deserves a place in the Gallery. I loved this!

Whereas this piece didn't move me at all! It is too reminiscent of the stacks of stuff currently in the back garden. 

Thank you Liz for the Tate Trip - brilliant!!

Thursday 23 September 2021

The Soldier, The Dressing Gown And The Giblets

Before I forget, I must share some pictures of my trip to London the other week. Specifically, my visit to Tate Modern with Liz to see the Rodin exhibition. 

The exhibition focusses  on Rodin's work in plaster - he sculpted in clay, then took plaster casts which he then used to create the final bronze pieces.

In his mid thirties, this policeman's son began work on a figure entitled "The Age Of Bronze" - unable to get into art college, he had been working as a studio assistant for many years. His subject was a young Belgian soldier, Auguste Neyt. When the sculpture was exhibited, it was so lifelike that the artist was accused of cheating - of casting direct from the subject's body.

So offended was he, that Rodin commissioned photographs to show the subtle anatomical differences between the sitter and the sculpture. The fiasco had a major impact on the artist - he broke with convention and his new images of the human body were not classical, idealised figures, but rather they reflected the complexities and uncertainties of life. 

When commissioned to make a sculpture of the author Balzac [Emile Zola supported the choice of Rodin] he began by making a model of the man standing arms folded, with a determined expression. But then he decided to clothe him. Rodin decided on a dressing gown! So here is the plaster model of Balzac's dressing gown [bizarrely there are feet poking out at the bottom]

The final statue gives an impression of this imposing man - and has been described as 'the greatest piece of sculpture of the 19th century. Kenneth Clark declared "Balzac, with his prodigious understanding of human motives scorns conventional values, defies fashionable opinion, as Beethoven did, and should inspire us to defy all those forces that threaten to impair our humanity"

I have never read any Balzac, I cannot comment - all I know is that he worked very long hours, and liked sitting around in his d.g. to write!
Rodin was so meticulous he actually borrowed the gown to get the details right.
For one large piece, called "The Gates Of Hell" Rodin needed to create many figures in differing sizes. So he modelled dozens of hands in plaster - some only a couple of inches long. 
He kept drawer after drawer of these, and used the same hands on various figures. Rodin called these little body parts abattis [giblets]

I enjoyed the exhibition, it was interesting to see the construction and the planning which went into the bronzes [under French law, only 12 castings can be made of any piece of Rodins's work] 
I was only really aware of two of his bronze pieces - The Thinker, and The Burghers Of Calais. It was fascinating to see the various plaster models which came before the final metal casting.
But just before entering the exhibition itself, Liz and I stood and admired Rodin's fabulous marble sculpture "The Kiss" [this one actually belongs to The Tate] The textures and surfaces looked so like skin and hair [Do Not Touch! called the guide, in case we marked the pristine surface]
I never knew before that he had a book in his hand - these adulterous lovers had been reading the story of Lancelot and Guinevere!

We spent a great time walking round and chatting - while Jess dozed [mostly] in the pram. 
Part Two of the Tate visit will be covered in tomorrow's post!

Wednesday 22 September 2021

Write It Down, Or You Will Forget!

I need to make notes of things, or they go out of my head. 

Joan Bakewell said she told her novelist friend Malcom Bradbury that she kept forgetting things. 

He replied  "But Joan, you and I have stuffed our brains full throughout our lives, we shouldn't be surprised if some of it begins to fall off the shelf." I find that strangely comforting. 

I'm getting better at using the camera on my phone to note things when I am out and about - the sign outside the charity shop about which items they will/will not accept now. The opening hours of the farm shop. The ISBN of a book in Waterstones which I hope to borrow from the library...

But I still like to physically write it down with a pen or pencil. Somehow the very act of doing that helps fix it in my brain. And I continue to use my filofax [as does Bob] Every couple of weeks we compare our diaries and see what is coming up. Let's be honest, from April onwards last year, the diaries were pretty empty apart from zoom meetings. But things have started to pick up again, and regular groups are restarting..

The chapel where I preached the other Sunday want me to go again in the New Year, we have a family wedding in is starting to get busier. So we have just ordered our refill pages for 2022. 

Ages ago I bought this gorgeous Orla Kiely Gardening Journal [in pristine condition] for £1 in a CS. I'm making diligent notes in there about the raised bed and other plant matters.

There's a chalkboard in the Futility Room for our grocery shopping list.

As long as I don't forget where I put my journal and Filofax, I should be OK!

Yes, I know I could note everything on the computer or my phone, but I like paper!

Tuesday 21 September 2021

There's A Hole In Your Sieve...

...said Bob. I felt he hadn't quite understood the principal of the thing - I mean, isn't a sieve designed to be full of holes? Even the Jumblies discovered that.

What Bob meant was that our garden sieve [aka The Riddle] had got a very large hole on one side. Our riddle is at least 40 years old and came from Bob's Dad.

I have been using it a lot recently. The soil which the builders dug out for the Lathe Palace Foundation was in a large heap - and I wanted to use some as the base layer in the raised bed. But it was full of beautiful Norfolk flints as big as my fist. I needed to make it more of a 'fine tilth'

So I have been riddling out all the big rocks and I got the soil to an acceptable condition. But the hole wasn't helping. So I found some wire, and a 'darned' it

It is not very elegant, but it works, and I was able to get the soil all sorted. I'll be posting pictures of the completed raised bed later.

Thank you to everyone who has shared encouraging words and useful gardening tips, I really do appreciate them.

I love the fact that riddle can mean a coarse sieve [noun], or the act of sieving [verb], as well as a conundrum or word puzzle [noun] or to pose such a conundrum [verb]

Rosie has just started to understand jokes and wordplay properly. She keeps posing questions about animals of various types crossing the road - but most of the answers make no sense. But her best one thus far 

Why did the cow go to the cinema, Grandad?

To see a mooo-vie! 

D'you get it Grandad? cows moo....

I have tried telling her that she shouldn't explain the punchline...

Do you or your grandchildren have favourite riddles?