Thursday, 30 December 2010


Have you seen it?

Each year there is a Nativity crib at the junction of Eldon Square and Eldon Gardens; this year it ain't there! so where is it? Let me know if you see it elsewhere and I have just missed the relocation. I have emailed the Council who said it is nothing to do with them (really?!!!)so I should contact Eldon Square owners- which I have done- to no avail so far. So I have emailed the Evening Chronicle and wait...... If you want to add pressure please send some emails/letters too. I already resent Christmas lights not being allowed as that is 'politically incorrect' so now we have Winter Festival and winter lights.

I feel a crusade coming on....

Hopefully the stamps mission to have the option to buy religious postage Christmas stamps has registered a little with the powers that be.

I have another crusade going with Interflora who reckon they have not seen my dozens of emails (which I have kept!!) regarding the July engagement 'bouquet' I sent to D2-I showed you photos of the pathetic bunch Interflora delivered.

I am delighted to say I have at last (4 months it has taken- but I have never yet given up on a book, though I was tempted with this one) finished 'The Dante Club ' and can now start on 'Blood Royal' by Vanora Bennett. I shall register Dante with Bookcrossing and set it free in the wild......

A walk along the beach at Druridge Bay has cleared the cobwebs and a cuppa at Deans and Daniella's has girded the loins so now to put the house back to rights; I should unearth the missing (hidden!) Dyson and hoover up the debris below the disintegrating wreath.

I do hope you see him tomorrow- 'The man with as many noses as there are days in the year'; keep your eyes open for him!

Hogmanay tomorrow- I need to find a silver coin (for wealth), coal (or fuel of some sort- signifying warmth), a piece of cake/sweet food (to wish plenty to eat) and a wee bottle of alcohol (to give us drink) to put in a bag to leave for the First Foot- to be brought in by who ever happens to be the first person (preferably & traditionally a tall, dark, handsome male)(but it might have to be H1!) to step over the threshold of the front door after midnight at New Year; they bring 2011's luck in with them.

Happy New Year when it comes!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

'God bless us, every one'

Happy Christmas to all my readers. I just wonder who and where.

It is almost a year now since I started to blog; I hope I have given you a taste of Northern England- places to go, people to see, gardens.....

I wonder what happens when the year ends- do my months condense into a year 2010 just as my day blogs are squeezed into a month? I look forward to seeing what happens! In fact I am uncertain of whether to blog on into 2011- it does seem a bit arrogant to blog about one's life!

I have had a lovely Christmas, doing all our usual things with the whole gang here- plus some! I had lots of lovely gifts- especially soap- what are folks trying to tell me? Between Fenwick's window, All Saint's candlelit carol service and the County (without the mulled wine they say they have!) with friends, D3 and I didn't get time to track Santa on the internet! Stockings and Santa's tray /church /sausage sandwiches /drinks at friends /chocolates /turkey dinner and flaming Christmas pudding/charades and board games.... we do it all!

Lie-in with a Boxing Day book, Boxing Day fry-up, more games..... I have always liked the feast of Stephen.

Now 'The 2010 Wall' has to come down to prepare for the Wall of 2011.... to clag or not to clag?..... the vote is to have a 'Wall' again next year. I might get a number of wedding pics for it in 2011(hint- K&J,J&M, G&M, G&H,P&R.......)

Like Narnia's Dawn Treader, we are careering towards New Year- thinks...... will I come up with some New Year resolutions? losing weight is a permanent resolve; writing more.... sending off some writing to publishers (how?)...Going to bed earlier.... Are you going to make any resolutions for 2011?

I would love some captions for a picture!

I wish you a happy, healthy New Year.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010


Light and warmth are now on their way back! Hurrah! I greet the dawn of December 21st with a cheer every year; my 'electric light syndrome' (now everyone calls it SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder?) has always caused me to get a bit down in winter months for all I love winter as much as every other season in Britain.

Last week D3 and I were invited to the Tyneside to see 'In Our Name'; the Tyneside is a lovely Art Nouveau picture house, bar and cafe; we met cast and crew of the young persons' film which was largely filmed in the North East of England; the film showed different forms of post traumatic stress symptoms (and their effects) as revealed particularly in a female returning from a war-zone. Wow!

The snow is picking its way from the heavens which are full with the promise of more to come. The birds are desperately hungry. There are more tracks in the garden.

Will folks get home for Christmas?

Monday, 20 December 2010

Preparing for Christmas

One fine winter's day when Piglet was brushing away the snow in front of his house, he happened to look up and there was Winnie-the-Pooh. Pooh was walking round and round in a circle, thinking of something else, and when Piglet called to him, he just went on walking.
'Hallo!' said Piglet,'what are you doing?'
'Hunting', said Pooh.
'Hunting what?'
'Tracking something,' said Winnie-the-Pooh very mysteriously.
'Tracking what?' asked Piglet, coming closer.
'That's just what I ask myself. I ask myself, What?'
'What do you think you'll answer?'
'I shall have to wait until I catch up with it,' said Winnie-the-Pooh.'Now, look there.' He pointed to the ground in front of him. 'What do you see there?'
'Tracks,' said Piglet. 'Pawmarks.' He gave a little squeak of excitement.'Oh,Pooh! Do you think it's a-a-a Woozle?'.........

'It's a very funny thing,' said Bear, ' but there seem to be two animals now.' .........

'The tracks!' said Pooh. 'A third animal has joined the other two!'.........

Another snowfall or two or three has brought more chaos and cancellations. D1 is really poorly and in bed. Lots of bad coughs around but D3 and I managed to warm through people at church with mmmmulled wine and mmmmince pies.

Inspiration at the Sage gave the best performance they have ever given..... and the signer was mesmerising again!

Pre snow we made a start on the Christmas preparations so the free- range turkey is ordered. A trip across the shire to North Acomb Farm filled the freezer with both gluten free and pork free sausages ready for the annual onslaught of offspring with appetites!

The cupboard-under-the-stairs is freed up from all the recycling collections-magazines at hospitals, specs at opticians for Vision Aid Overseas, stamps at the friends who collects for the local Hospice- room for Harry Potter now!

Deck the hall with boughs of holly.........
D1 & D3 and I went to Jesmond Dene Centre and made wonderful Christmas wreaths with all the natural materials collected from the woods by the rangers- I loved it- but D1 was so ill we had to bring her home to bed. She tries.....

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

St Lucy

Isn't it strange? All the things/people which kept me busy when I was already busy with offspring and work- are disappearing out of my life at a time when I thought I'd be less busy and have more time with them. Friends have moved, fair trade and church are less absorbing than when I ran lots for them; I see distant friends and extended family less..... come to that I think I paint, decorate, clean, iron, cook less..... so why am I so busy now that finding time to write and read has become difficult?

Why, if I have been marooned inhouse by weather, is my house more of a tip than it usually is? Maybe this fortnight it has been because I have spent so much time shovelling snow and being an ice breaker so the bin men can get in the road after 3 weeks of missing our court out.

H1, D3 and I went to Arbeia for a candlelit visit to the Romans!

P, C and I did not embarrass ourselves at a charity quiz.

Then a very select group of us went to Gateshead's, annual 'Enchanted Parks' at Saltwell Park; magical! Even though my pictures probably won't reflect the lights,art and drama etc., well enough. Some photos are blurry close up (when you click -or even click twice on the photo)

December 13th is St Lucy's day. In many countries, especially Sweden and in our neighbourhood, the youngest daughter dresses in white with a red belt (to commemorate purity and martyrdom) and gives out buns! St Lucy used to carry food (to persecuted Christians in the catacombs of Rome) so she used to stick her candle on her head- thus the lights and evergreen crowns of today's celebrations. I know now that a lot of our friends will giggle as they recall the lighting of a candle ......

According to legend, St Lucy is now the brightest star in the sky; methinks there is another roast parsnip-loving, young man who twinkles alongside her. Check out the back of the seats in the Theatre Royal!

Ice defeated the Ladies walking capabilities so we snuggled down to watch' Its a wonderful life' instead!

Friday, 10 December 2010

A don't like these tights!

Oh no I don't!

I've been to the pantomime 'Robin Hood' at the Theatre Royal and the children I was with loved it; the 3D part was screamingly funny! Such an initiation into theatre. I love watching their surprised faces as the audience erupts into baddie boos and hisses and the traditional calls of 'Behind you' and 'Oh no you can't ' etc. Robin hated his tights and I disliked my thermal, long johns the following day- I know- too much information.

N&N's meeting on Lord Armstrong at the Rugby Club was local and walkable in the deep midwinter snow; better still was our group's walk from the Hearth through Horsley Woods, skirting along the banks of the (frozen) Tyne; we circled back to hot pea and ham soup and a brilliant Christmas party; so much variety and talent in the 'party pieces' which were offered- poems, flute, northumbrian pipes, concertina, readings, carols and a quiz.

It must be bitterly cold here when the national media put out requests asking Geordies to put on coats if they are going out gallivanting for the night (cos we're hard us!!) Certainly, icicles decorate every gutter and dirty snow heaps decorate every pavement (often by drivers who forget about pedestrians)

The city is feeling embarrassment and disgust at the way Toon manager Chris Hughton has been so badly treated; his loyalty and hard work have brought stability and teamwork back to United but his reward is to be finished by Mike Ashley. I dream of Ashley walking into St James Park to find the stadium is completely EMPTY

Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Outside it has been nonstop blizzard and the sky is still full. Everyone is staying local; under scuttling umbrellas there are plodging, multi coloured wellies. D3 is yelling for help to get out of her wellingtons....

Hats are pulled down over ears and gloved, hooded figures scurry home to get warm. All the buses from the Haymarket have stopped (unannounced) at 7pm each evening. Lots of ice-filled, heavy gutters have fallen from their 'moorings'.

The muffled sound of scraping, bonny-coloured snow shovels punctuates the patter of hail on the window. I am going back to sipping mulled wine and writing Christmas cards.

I always used to buy my mother a poinsettia on December 1st; and she always used to give the offspring an Advent calendar- but no more; so we now buy them! Oooh! and D3 has rewarded me for the wellie haul with my very own Advent calendar.

Outside, footprints disappear like all our yesterdays.

and more snow......

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village, though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Robert Frost

I studied 'Ten Twentieth Century poets' in fifth form and enjoyed so many of their poems; I loved this verse and thought Robert Frost's name so appropriate!
Snow is pattering on the window again and I haven't really slept for two nights; why I don't know... maybe last night because the heating occasionally but noisily burst into life; for the first time in years , we left it on overnight.

I think I am becoming typically British as I am talking weather. The snow is pattering on the window again; clouds keep building high in a blue sky and soon the flakes will start picking and the cleared path will disappear again.

Several nights ago I took these 3 photos at midnight as an eerie, peach light lit up the sky; I couldn't capture it without shake but it gives you an idea of what it was like. We have had paparazzi-flashes of lightning and cracking thunder; I didn't know these came in deep winter- I associate them with balmy August days.

... and miles to go before I sleep.....

Thursday, 25 November 2010


The north wind doth blow
And we shall have snow
And what will the robin do then- poor thing!
He'll sit in the barn
And keep himself warm
And hide his head under his wing-poor thing!

Britain's only named wind- the Helm wind- blows in from the east; continental, central Europe is cold in winter with no warmth from the sea to mitigate the freezing land temperatures so a wind blowing from the east is COLD. Thus we have icy, snowy conditions.

C. has taken a photo of what we discover to be a waxwing; these are visitors to S.E. England, migrating from Scandinavia in winter; so what are they doing up here?

We have been to see it! 'Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows' finished off a fun family/friend day of bowling, pizzas and cinema. Roll on July 2011? to see part II.

Mmmmeanwhile H1 and I celebrated our first Christmas lunch, popping round the corner to Eslington Villa. Maybe we should call it 'Thanksgiving' as I think of L. and C. and family celebrating today across the Atlantic.

Saturday, 20 November 2010


The rainbow was a biblical symbol of God's promise.....

I signed the online petition so maybe those of us who did, played a tiny, tiny part in history now 'The Lady' in Burma is free. I wish the media would not push her to talk but leave Aung San Suu Kyi to conduct her affairs without pressure- she has just regained her freedom after years of house arrest- the junta will be watching. In the North we have a family who push for help for the people of Burma (what is Burma's new name?) especially the Karen tribe who are apparently being ethnically cleansed

I feel the same for Prince William and Kate Middleton- preparing a wedding is bad enough without the press hounding them to find out where? who? what? Leave them alone!

Our walk from Matfen Schoolroom tearoom was in delightfully sunny weather and sustained by the promise of cheese& bacon scones and hummingbird cake!!!! we had lunch on an eerie Bronze Age burial site and passed a sad and abandoned windmill.

The weather is so mixed at present- a lot of rain (Cornwall is suffering floods) and beautiful sunshine; wind has stripped most trees of foliage.

The Ladies walked Druridge Bay and the sunshine was warm on our backs.

A weekend at the clean, organised, lovely, new house of friends in Penrith has suggested to me that we need to move! They say one should do that every 5 years to clear out rubbish- H1 just takes it all with him and installs it in the next loft and new bookshelves!

We checked out the progress of the 2010 dig at Vindolanda bathed in winter rays. The road which we lost has been refound nearer the north gate! Our tiny 'room' is still central in the fort- it hints of a special function to me - just what was its purpose?

The fields are full of livestock brought in from outbye; flocks of ewes are being served and coloured on their rear ends by the ram's weekly changed dye-pad jackets (so in spring the farmer knows which ewe is due to lamb in which week in order that he can bring them in to lambing sheds when it is their time). Our group have had to walk along public rights of way recently through herds with bulls. Disconcerting to say the least, particularly in view of the couple gored this week.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Stirring the pudding

My one weakness is Christmas puddings- Hmm! as well as mulled wine and sweet mincemeat. Thus I added more splatters to my trusty recipe book page last week.

4 oz raisins
4 oz currants
4 oz sultanas
4 oz mixed peel
2 oz almonds (I replace these with glace cherries- but if you can get chrystallised fruit from Spain etc chop those up & stick 'em in)
2 teasp mixed spice
2 oz plain flour
pinch salt
4 oz fine breadcrumbs (grate frozen bread!)
4 ozbrown sugar
4 oz shredded (veggie) suet
grated rind of a lemon
2 tablsp treacle (I do 1 tablesp & 1 of golden syrup)
2 eggs (beaten)
milk (&/or rum/brandy)

I also add a grated carrot and a grated apple to my pudding.

Pick fruit over; sieve together spices ,flour,salt. Add all dry ingredients; add eggs & liquids- stir 3 times to the east making a wish (& ask anyone else at home to stir the same way/number of times) then stick into 2 X 1pint bowls (leave room for your pud to rise up); actually I do one 1 pint Pyrex bowl and 2 small bowls- which H1 & I eat at Easter or thereabouts; we have just eaten the second - purely in the interests of emptying bowls to fill them for the next festive season! I cover the top (with a pleat in just as I was taught in Domestic Science)with greasproof paper then wrap the whole bowl (with pleat on top for optimistic expansion)up in foil & steam, store and eat with custard or icecream. I do pour a lit ladle of brandy over our pudding on Christmas Day but don't put any alcohol in the dessert itself.

Have you read 'Puddings' by Pam Ayres?

I was peeved to hear Twinings are moving to Poland from Tyneside and abandoning their workforce here; greed for profit forfeits principles and people.

This week's media made a lot out of the student demonstration against the huge hike up in university fees; most people recognise that the violence wasn't carried out by NUS and the general student body; these days it seems impossible to hold a demonstration in Britain without it is highjacked by others who have no interest in the cause but only in the anarchy and violence they can bring to disrupt peace and law. Oh but didn't the LibDems fib?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Get real!

Magazines annoy me.....

Apparently everything happens in a 50 mile circle round London, or certainly in the South East.

No one there shops in Asda or Tesco but in gastronomic emporiums; everyone cooks with couscous, fennel, laksa paste and pancetta; those who eat mince, stewing steak and mashed spuds are so poor- and uncatered for in recipe books; have you ever tried to find a cookery book of '100 Mince recipes' and which is basic/easy, healthy and interesting? I have 3 bottles of balsamic vinegar in my store cupboard but do I know how to use them up?

Cool is designer or internet-bought and of course clothes and shoes cost a minimum of £350.

Britain has a temperate climate and is cold( particularly in winter and more particularly up North and over the border) not Mediterranean so flimsy tops? no thank you! Trendy, chunky sweaters have to dry outside or on a chinese laundry-type. drying rack indoors, preferably quickly before company arrives. Thick, 'rustic' jumpers have to go under a coat- Yes ! In daytime Newcastle we do wear coats sometimes.

Look a little further north over your cappucino froth and see us.

I love mince and dumplings, turnip and cabbage- how do you eat yours? with a sprinkling of nutmeg in my turnip (H1 calls it swede- is he trying to be posh?!!) We eat loads of veg- imagine us being aware of health issues- but I reckon lots of us believe in local and seasonal so avoid air miles where possible. Magazine journalists won't believe it but I am typical of a lot of folks out in the provinces-fairtrading, recycling and environmentally friendly in such as energy consumption and cleaning products.

BUT I am an ordinary Briton, frugal and recession aware;I am not a banker with untold oodles of money drawn unethically from the minions; thus I use Ponds moisturiser, Simple soap and Boots No.7. My 'notes' are provided by Youth Dew and Chanel No.5. I apply these products in pink ,beige and blue bathrooms with matching tiles; my bath is not a clawfooted, drapery but has functional shower curtains which prevent a splashed carpet- I do not live in envy of Tuscan style.

I walk lots as spas are part of someone else's world! Gyms are boring and frankly, in these days of recession, are often the first thing to be disposed of on the financial accounts.

My chic is provided by Asda and M&S- normal size not 'Autographed' and slimlined- but mostly under £30. Handbags may be Radley, Fenwicks or Accessorize. If the cap fits- wear it- Thinsulate (from the local garden centre?) for walking and berets big enough for my head or earmuffs to prevent ear ache from where ever is cheap. I suppose I buy where I encounter what I need and I believe 'designer' is a big con which you fall for if you have money- and I don't know what you are talking about (and why) when you quote a name at me- Who?

At 5'3" and size 14/16, I do not look like Cheryl, Sharon or Cat so what about making and advertising clothes for the majority ie ordinary women? What about an article about clothes that are not consistent sizes (when a 14 here is not a 14 there- and is the reason why shopping is a nightmare)?

If you want me to come down to discuss these magazine articles with you , I stay in Holiday Inns and B&B's at £35 a night , not in Rue La Fayette hotels.

Magazine editors- get real!

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Remember, remember....

Remember, remember , the fifth of November
Gunpowder ,treason and plot.
I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot.

I reckon the GunPowder Plot was a setup! In 1605 the Catholics and Puritans were hoping James Stuart(VI of Scotland and I of England-who inherited the English throne after the Tudor dynasty ended) with his mother's(ie Mary,Queen of Scots) French connections would be more 'understanding' of different religions but were disappointed so.....
Robet Catesby and friends including the mercenary soldier Guy Fawkes, piled up gunpowder under the House of Lords in the care of Fawkes; if all gunpowder came from the military powers-that-be then their plot was known about!!! Thus Guy was found and hung,drawn and quartered (ugh!)and the Catholics were discredited. The House of Lords did not go up in a bang but we remember, remember.......

So we all went as I always do, to a large firework display in memory of what might have boomed and doomed the King and courtiers; I go into my second childhood of wonder. How do the circles so high consist of alternate colours? How do the first ring of flares then throw out a second ring of sparkles all in the correct place, not mixed greens and reds? I oohed, aahed and guessed the colours about to burst forth with each shot heavenward into a black, autumn, night's sky. I don't think a guy was thrown onto the bonfire this year- are the children of today too delicate to remember history as it was?

I wonder if that is why Catholics are not allowed to inherit the throne of England or be married to the sovereign?

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

What is 'My England'?

Today I walked with my walking group and I felt happy; They are such a nice bunch. We walked at Allendale Town starting at Allendale Bakery (there is a brewery there too!);the range of types of bread is large and we can vouch for how delicious it is!

I was thinking... (this bodes bad!).... what makes 'My England' for me? This was an article Bill Bryson had in the Saga Magazine last year (Yes you are right to question what one so young is doing reading a Saga magazine!!) and he received answers from lots of famous people.

For H1 'My England' (I know he is Welsh but he has lived in England longer than he lived in the Land of his Fathers) is when he hears the smack of leather on willow on a summer's evening.

To D1, Britishness is the strains of the entry music to Blue Peter and the use of 'sticky backed plastic' and 'here's one I've made earlier'.

To D3, 'my England' is standing in wellies as the Guy is thrown on the bonfire and the sky is filled with the sight of fountains of fireworks overhead while bangers crack and there is a smell of fireworks and autumn woodsmoke in the air.

To my friend M. England is Yorkshire pudding and gravy.

For 'My England' I am spoiled for choice..... walking in the clarts through the fallen leaves of Northumberland must rate high.... but it must be (don't laugh!) the pride I feel when with the sound of a siren I watch drivers checking their mirrors and manoeuvering their vehicles out of the way of the oncoming ambulance, fire tender or police car.

This week as you head east along the A69 back to Newcastle, just coming up from the Brocksbushes roundabout- look right and look for the 2 initials grown in a larch forest with evergreen spruce- these can only be seen in autumn- and probably in spring. Very much our England!

Monday, 1 November 2010

Dark nights

I have decided to continue to write since the house is quiet.

The clocks went back an hour (Spring forward/Fall back is the only way lots of folk remember which way even though we don't call autumn Fall) on Saturday night right in the middle of our Halloween party. All Hallow's Eve (or Halloween) comes the day before the holy (hallowed) day called All Saints' Day.

We have always scraped out turnip (snanny) lanterns in the North of England but now Halloween has followed in American footsteps and really started on the 'Trick or Treat' celebrations; D3 loves Halloween so we do the whole whammy! tombstones, pumpkins, decorations all over the house, streamers, cauldons bubbling and witches, skeletons, spiders etc everywhere. The party was on a villains' theme so who came? Bonnie and Clyde, Cruella Devill (twice), skeletons, monsters, Lucifer, The Worst Witch, The Evil Queen came bearing a red apple for Snow White (she avoided all the mirrors), Beetle Juice (with hair!!!!!) Poisoned Ivy, a man in black.... I loved the games even if I didn't recognise/know the baddie from Corrie.

We had a more subdued dinner party on the actual night but had lots of trick or treaters knocking at the front door; our family always had to present a poem, tale or joke (as well as dressing up and carrying their hollowed-out lanterns....)these days Halloweeners just stand and look at you, apparently thinking an outfit is enough.

The Ladies ate at Bellingham cafe (good basic, cheap food) then walked to Hareshaw Linn; eeh! we had so much fun over Poohsticks- and so many bridges to check out the progress of one's chosen 'stick' sailing down the burn.

Before leaving we called at the wonderful bakers and bought sly cake, pasties and pies, aniseed balls and winter warmers- purely in the interests of supporting rural economy! But we came back in the dark; I love autumn and winter BUT I hate dark nights; roll on December 21/22nd and the Solstice when the sun will start to come back to us.

A. announced last night in the middle of the dinner party that it is 55 days to Christmas!