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!

Indian summer days

I can't get on with my book 'The Dante Club' and anyway it is yonks since I found the time to blog so here I am....

I have been so busy doing little jobs and entertaining.
I have picked, dried and stripped the lavender from the garden which gives our room a heavenly perfume and hopefully, some good nights' sleep.

The Ladies walked at Allen Banks upstream along the Allen to Plankey Mill and then returned on the opposite bank to the walled garden starting in frost then bathed in autumn sunshine yet again.

H1 and I went to the north Lakes for a weekend to help F. Last year the amphibious plants didn't grow down to the water's edge and perhaps this contributed to the fewer dragonflies which hovered over the pond this summer- SO there we were cutting, laying and anchoring coir on the pond edge; now - will it stay put through winter weather?

Where was everyone for the first of the season Trinity lecture?- it was on the 'Sage' and was skilfully delivered; so interesting but not well attended which was a real shame; mind it is £5 so maybe that is the deterrent?

The market gardens have all been full of Christmas merchandise for weeks; I confess to find it all rather nauseating in early October to be confronted by neon reindeer and decorated firs- so secular and consumer-blackmailing. Though I must admit my cactus has decided Christmas will be early this year!