Thursday, 31 October 2019

Today we are...

standing smartly to attention not at the bottom of our bed but Ellie’s two beds.
There’s not many dogs that boast their own bedroom.  Ellie does!
Before you start to think... how grand, don’t, because her night bed is in the funny room that we haven’t got a clue what to do with.  So until we do she snoozes in her own space.
The reason we are twitching is because any mo now Boudicca’s chariot will park up and she will sweep in to put us through our paces.  I haven’t told himself but I’m secretly looking forward to hearing what she has to say and where we are going so horribly wrong.  The thing is with Tish, I didn’t get this uptight, is it an age thing I wonder?  Also Ted is a stickler for doing things correctly whereas me, all my life I’ve winged it.  That on balance is why his life has following a boring steady as you go sort of path, mine as a as fart in a colander looking for a hole to get out trajectory.  I’ve had a great deal of fun, he I’m not so sure? 
Funny how in my dotage his sensible-ness keeps me grounded while my on occasions madcap carrying-on brightens his frightfully dull demeanour.  Could that be why we are going for a Masters in all things DOG, I idly wonder?

Wednesday, 30 October 2019

Liver cake and...

sausages... a meat fest.

‘Eight Ludlow sausages please!’
I’m nothing if not polite.  
Dave the carpenter told us where to go to get the best sausages in Ludlow.
Eight sausages were duly weighed and I carried them home without a thought to the extra weight in my shopping bag.  My eyes popped out of my head when they emerged, the size of new born babies thighs!  Usually we have two for me, four for himself, leaving two for a sausage sandwich for hubs the following day.  I managed just one and the man two, leaving the rest to have cold with salad for tonight’s supper.
Boy were they good.

In the woods the other day we got chatting to a lady who gave Ellie a piece of liver cake which she thoroughly enjoyed.  I came home and made her some to go with the carrot, cinnamon and peanut butter biscuits I had made for her earlier.

No point having a cordon bleu chefette for a mum and not enjoying the fruits of her labour is there?


Tuesday, 29 October 2019

‘She’s like ...

  • Boudicca!’
  • His impression after just one phone call.
  • And she was!
  • As we arrived on the dot as strictly instructed, her first words were...
  • ‘Fifty pounds!’
  • no good evening, welcome or any of the usual pleasantries... straight in!
  • We sat in a semi circle, all quivering in our boots.
  • As the evening progressed my fear and trembling subsided a little.  
  • She knew her stuff that was clear, by the end of the evening much against my better judgement I began to warm to her.  I must confess here I have always been drawn to the out of the ordinary folk.
  • As we drove away...
‘She wasn’t that bad!’

‘No, perhaps not, if anyone can help us she can!’

  • Next week we are allowed to take Ellie, then we can get an idea of just what she’s made of!

Monday, 28 October 2019

Eleven years ago...

today we were married...
on the London Eye.
Tonight we celebrate with a couple of flutes and leftover shepherds pie... we know how to live!

A lot has changed in the intervening years!  Not least we have a new member of the family...

His boney bum...

sat on a hard chair.
His owl eyes through pebble thick glasses read the paper.
His ears are now just for decoration.
The lino at his feet long ago lost its pattern with the passage of time.
The fire in the grate burning brightly was a comfort of sorts.
Clinging to the cliff top overlooking the Atlantic ocean the croft has seen many a fierce storm. 
It was good to be back.

Bittersweet memories of my recent trip.

We drove away from my dear neighbours, me with tears in my eyes.  The night before I’d said, this will probably the last time we come to see you.

‘Don’t say that, you mustn’t think it either!’ 
the brother said who had pole position smack in front of the fire. The tears glistening in his eyes I tried not to notice.

The thing is... Our visit made me yearn to go back, to recreate my five happy but hard years living off the land.  I am now thirty five years older!  A dream, just that, to live again amongst the Highlanders, the most generous and kind hearted of folk.

A special, magical time in my life with many happy memories to call on.

 This was where I lived, just back from the sea. Ten miles to the nearest village.

So much has changed in the intervening years.

Sunday, 27 October 2019

A bright idea...

 from a lovely couple in the woods today.
Everyone stops and has a chat with us, Ellie causes so many comments.  All say how beautiful she is and she is!
Conversation ebbs and flows as it does about her history and why she is so cringingly afraid.
With sun streaming through the trees the suggestion was for us to do agility classes.
A brilliant idea some might say with one huge exception... ME!
‘Not in a million years would I do that!  The reason is because wherever I see agility classes I never look at the dog all I look at is the fat old trout in Crimplene elasticated trousers not unlike me, wobbling around the course!’
They both laughed and looked me over.

You get my drift?

Thursday, 24 October 2019

I’m in lurrv...

Alright, alright I did say I wouldn’t mention the dreaded sourdough word again...
however as my heading suggests I am in serious trouble of falling truly, madly, heavily in love with the alchemy of this ancient of bread.
The whole shebang of feeding, coaxing, cosseting this simple life form as got me seriously excited. Is it feeding the inner cavewoman in me I idly wonder?

This was yesterday’s attempt, boy was I proud!  If I’d pushed it out from my very innermost being I couldn’t have been more puffed up with pride.  You have to admit even with the (maybe?) salt mishap it looks a treat.

Today after a couple of slices are gone for this morning’s toast, err, we have a little problem, Oh alright a big problem!  Was it the salt content, was it the last kneading technique?  I am too much of a sourdough novice to know? It tastes blooming glorious though...

Onwards and upwards, more new arrivals will be announced in the Court Circular...
would you expect anything less?

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

I irritate ....

myself so much!
I am always rushing, rushing rushing.  What exactly am I rushing to?  The grave?

All my life I have been a hard worker, sheer hard physical work. On a farm, driving huge tractors, mowing, leading bales, shovelling the preverbals!    

Crofting, digging peat, throwing it out from the bottom of the bank, sacking it off the hill on my back, barrowing it along a rough track, driving it home along sheer drop into the sea roads. Unpacking and stacking it at home.  In the winter, then and only then did I get to toast my toes by the fruits of my labour!

Cheffing 15/16hour days all for 
the glory of some exalted family. 

Now when I can take it easy I can’t, I feel flaming guilty!
Is it me or do most folk of my generation feel the same?  I wish I knew, and more importantly I wish I could for once think...
Sod it!

Sunday, 20 October 2019

I’m about to launch...

 into  a post of meaningless twaddle**
What gave me this idea, you might wonder?   Well, I’ll tell you, even if you didn’t wonder!
In the FT’s ‘How to Spend It’ they feature different rich/famous folk, graciously giving the hoi polloi i.e. Us a glimpse into their cosseted weekend world.  I avidly read every word, each word getting further and further up my nose.  Some might say it’s envy.  I know they’re wrong.  I have in a past life seen the other side firsthand and take it from me, they take themselves very seriously.  They pore over the newspapers to see whether they get a mention, their day completely ruined if not one jot of newsprint features their name.
The Extinction Rebellion celebs are a case in  point.  Completely and utterly forgetting that in order to attend these marches and the like, they have jumped on their private jets.
They have along the way without a second thought accepted freebies from all and sundry thinking all the while it is their god given right.  

‘Just get on the phone to Land Rover will you and get us a couple of hot-off the production line Range Rovers for our shooting weekend will you, old bean’’

Blooming world’s gone mad when those who can afford it get given just about everything their grasping heart desires.

End of rant, remind me to give you a blow by blow account of my weekend here in Ludlow, your gob  will never have been more smacked! Incredulity will accompany every word you read as you get a handle on just how the other half lives.

This by the way is Giles Coren’s take, so much better put than I ever could.  I love that man.  Oh no, not another poor devil, she would clap to her matronly bosoom given half the chance. Hope you can read it, it was in yesterday’s Times 19 October.

** No, not meaningless twaddle I mean every word of it.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

The proof of the...

pudding is in the eating.  However I feel proud as a new mum crowing over her first born.

Hot off the press this evening, Friday.

Just tasted it and it is delish.
All my own work, harnessing the 
wee beasties and bugs and making a very flavoursome loaf.  Just eaten the crust and it is superb and can only get better as my homegrown sourdough starter improves with age.

Promise this will be the last sourdough post.

Friday, 18 October 2019

I do like a bit of...

old tat!  I honestly wish I didn’t but there you are!
Yesterday I escaped the clutches of the oozing sourdough starter, quite a feat I don’t mind telling you.  It really is taking on a life of its own!
I digress.
Walking into the market the very first thing I clapped eyes on was this

an old tin sign.  On enquiring as to the price, I suggested forty might be a more realistic amount. Now I am well aware of the shock horror that may accompany this pearl of wisdom.  She met me halfway at £45, at which I walked away.  Walking back down the hill I thought about it: getting home I told hubs who laid down and played dead. He has long given up kindly enquiring as to where I plan to put these weird and wonderfuls for fear of me demonstrating?
Forty quid was procured without much effort and back up I nonchalantly strolled having in the meantime a spot of fortifying carrot soup.  At least if the negotiations went on into the night I would be able to see.
In my mind the time slurping the soup was crucial to her thinking she had lost the sale?  A cunning plan I thought!
The deal was completed and on a windy day I walked proudly back down the hill, hanging on with dear life to the wildly bucking Cindy.  
Hubs like a goldfish in a bowl opened and closed his mouth a few times.  I thought I heard a feeble  ‘Oh that’s err... nice!’
I could have been wrong, mind! 

Thursday, 17 October 2019

Sourdough soap opera...

the story so far.
My decision to bend the rules has been a success.

This is my usual multigrain loaf made every week, this time with the addition of the throw away half of the starter.  We both agreed the loaf was much improved, the texture and flavour seemed greatly enhanced.  Was it our imagination playing tricks?  I have no idea? 

This photograph was taken yesterday just a few hours after I had fed the remaining starter and you may be able to see that already it had doubled in size.  My idea is to keep dividing and feeding until I feel that it is ripe for making a pukka sourdough loaf.  How I will know is anyone’s guess?
Am I morphing into a crashing sourdough bore I idly wonder...
answers on a postcard please...

Wednesday, 16 October 2019

I’ll be blowed if...

I am going to let some bugs, flour and water get the better of me!

This is the state of play this morning.
If you peer close enough the bubbles are there, the starter has doubled in size since I fed it yesterday afternoon.  I admit it doesn’t look very appetising, however I am determined to crack on.  The rule book has been chucked out of the window, we are now operating under LL Law.  These are my homegrown wee beasties so I am going to carry on feeding them until they seem more perky.

My son, a chef poured cold water on my attempts saying they gave sourdough a good try only to be disappointed time and again.  Well, all I can say is, his mother is made of sterner stuff, as well he knows!
Onwards and upwards.  Today’s ‘divide and rule’ operation.  The spare starter will be added to my usual bread recipe as an improver.  I had hoped by now, to be on the cusp of making the sourdough bread this time. However I am nothing if not patient (that’s a fib, pig-headed, more like), I am determined to not let it beat me.  Got an awful feeling I will be kissing a lot of leaden-loaved princes, however I’ve kissed worse!

Tuesday, 15 October 2019

Ludlow’s a funny...

place, so many people you bump into know exactly where you live.
It started before we even got here when I sent a friend the details of this cottage.  She is a potter and lives in York.  As soon as she saw the details and the address she said I was walking past and saying to Derek, what a lovely peaceful backwater.  She was here bringing some pots to a local gallery.  Then Viv from hens teeth 
came to visit and said her sister had been here the year before visiting the ‘Secret Gardens of Ludlow’.  Our garden was featured: sadly not any more as Ellie has worked her magic!?!
Then in town lots of folk who you get into conversation with enquire and then follow up with
‘Oh yes, we’ve been to your cottage for dinner!
Just this morning in the woods we got chatting to a couple from Australia, Ellie is a huge icebreaker.  Over the course of our conversation they asked where we were in Ludlow, only to say
‘Oh yes we were invited in to see the property which was up for sale!  We well remember the Orangery and the Garden Room!?!’
All the way from Australia and what were the chances of us talking to them and finding out about them having been in our home five years ago.

This is the photograph they took of Ellie.
Lovely, lovely people in an increasingly shrinking world.

Sunday, 13 October 2019

My heart threatened to...

 burst out of my chest.  With supreme willpower I kept
it under control, only just!  I leant into hubs who could without even looking feel my pain.  Tears hung meniscus-like undecided as to whether to fall. 
I gripped his arm for fear of melt down.

It all started so well.  We settled Ellie with her special soothing sound machine, we left with the minimum of fuss.  Off up the hill we trolled complete with cushions for the hard seats in the Assembly Rooms.  I am, at the best of times a fidget, I just can’t sit still, the desire to move is exacerbated by the rigor mortis-type stillness of all who surround me!  The film took me quite a while to get into, this added to my fidgets, the seats, my worn spine and my general 
pain-in-the-arseness all came together to make me think...
let me get out of here!
Am I pleased I didn’t.

The pain, the frustration, the sheer drudgery of his life doing a  boring job, looking after a demanding mother and having to hear her slagging off his, in her view pathetic attempts at painting.

Sitting in the gloom, the mother of an only child, a son, the horror hit home of the power a mother holds over a dutiful son.  The ghastly thought drew me in, settling me better than any soft seat.  Suddenly I was there, experiencing his frustration, the  sheer unending toil of appeasing the one woman in a weird way he loved.  All his pictures were for her, to win her love.

By the end I was in pieces. I sat stock still as the audience got up and started shuffling out.  I didn’t want to move for fear of stepping back into my cosseted life.

If you get the chance go and see 

‘Mrs Lowry & Son’

Saturday, 12 October 2019

All the...

gear and no ruddy idea!

The dog is proving hard to train.
The sourdough starter just isn’t proving a success.

For most of my life I have been blessed with enthusiasm, vim and vigour sailing through impervious to life’s knocks.  Always managing to bounce back with a smile, a mental dusting down and the thought life is too blooming good to be down.
How flaming ever...
this blooming sourdough starter is  being as cantankerous as the dog, not paying the slightest bit of notice to what I say!  I ought to own up here that at gz’s suggestion I sent off for the book.  I invested in the vessels for the woman about kitchen’s essential sourdough must-have equipment.  Ditto the shallow beehive type all singing, all dancing bread proving basket complete with shower cap type hat, a brush and a strange looking fork thingy!?!  All I’m short of now is the cauldron and the pointy hat.
And still the latest brew sits as sullen as it would appear sodding sourdough starter knows how!
The last lot after much pratting about feeding, weighing, splitting and dividing I thought was ready to go?  Wrong!
I did the float test dropping a spoonful into water and blow me down with a feather with leaden boots it sank.  While I did three laps of the ceiling, hubs was left with the arduous task of cleaning out the square sided howsyourfather, (featured in a past post) containing the shit to a blanket consistency sourdough starter.  With the correct stuff, the next batch would be a breeze... wouldn’t it!?!

I ought to say here I might help myself if I actually sat down and read the book before venturing forth.  Which I am ashamed to say I didn’t, not a lot of hope some might say?

Friday, 11 October 2019

The vet fell in love...

with Ellie.

‘If I didn’t have a collie of my own I would gladly take her!’
No chance I thought.

He was bowled over by what a sweet dog she is.  David the vet is a lovely Yorkshireman, he has no idea that he is now my latest squeeze! I have a soft spot for men of Yorkshire as my grandfather was from Keighley.  He didn’t stand a chance, poor man.
He won our hearts by coming out of his surgery saying hello and asking us if we minded him having a look at her outside.  Ellie wasn’t very impressed as he checked her over.  He then took the lead and walked her off which also wasn’t well received.  In we went where he did all the usual checks.  Sounded her chest, he looked at her teeth and gave her the thorough once over.
I mentioned her eyes were very often sore-looking and her muzzle was on occasions red.
He looked into her eyes with a torch and observed that when the nurse came in she sniffed her as opposed to watched her as she went by.  We have been sent home with instructions to look into her eyes in a darkened room to see if her pupils are dilated in the gloom.  She may have problems with her sight, although she does seem to catch her tennis ball, so failing her reading the eye chart we have no idea as to how much she can see?

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

I’m bored...

Ellie is being a princess.
The sourdough cheffette i.e. me isn’t doing it right, although the starter doesn't seem to notice!
The dog behaviourist came yesterday and you wouldn’t believe the things we’re doing wrong?
Himself gets grumpier by the minute, his usual charm isn’t working on the dog.  In recent times it has worked on the dogs he has met in the past... present company accepted of course!
This having a dog lark seems to be working at total odds to what even in today’s paper the experts say how much they enhance your lives!?!  Our partnership is rapidly needing marriage guidance.  He will I am sure willing give me custody of the dog as she just doesn’t seem to trust him.  A gentler man you couldn’t wish to meet.  Meanwhile me, a barrel of noise, larger than life and with exuberance oozing from every pore
of the ancient old bod, she somehow seems to love.  Weird or what?  He gets fed up, I get cross at his expression which Ellie picks up as he scowls when he thinks neither of us are looking. She watches him like a hawk.

Is it any wonder I’m b o r e d ?

Monday, 7 October 2019

I am now about to...

embark on the quest for the perfect sourdough recipe.
All this because of the conversation I had with the GBBO nearly contestant.  
And all these years I had been put off doing it because I thought owning a sourdough starter was a bit like trying to harness a ginger beer plant.  The blooming thing grows and with the growth comes some sort of malevolent other worldliness that you are quite frankly scared to turn your back on.  All these oft repeated pearls of wisdom I trotted out from my usual no-nothing position.  Is it any wonder folk quickly mark my card as a daft tart?
I feel suddenly like a born again something or other(?),a new mum crowing and gloating over her new born as if the first woman to have ever given birth. 

This is my creation just three days old... isn’t it just the most beautiful thing you ever clapped eyes on?
I will bore you rigid with its progress as it grows and has babies of its own...

Saturday, 5 October 2019

‘How do you do...

Blankly I looked at him and said
I have a way with words.
We were walking away from a masterclass on the hoops you have to jump through to get onto Great British Bake Off.
All I said was that looks an interesting bun... like you do to strangers on the next table!?!
Not only did I get the full lowdown on GBBO I got the advanced sourdough starter recipe.  Alright I did drop into the conversation I was a finalist on Masterchef many moons ago... but still!

Then on the way up the hill I said to a couple who were loading up their van with garden cuttings

‘Putting the garden to bed for winter?’

We fell into conversation, this time I blame the dog, folk do talk about how lovely she is... not me sadly but the dog!
Off we trot up to the pub, purely for her sake you understand?  Socialisation’n’stuff.

They happened in a little later and joined us; all through the conversation Hubs antennae was twitching as to me inviting them around for supper.  I do have previous!  He is on strict instructions from me not to let me do it.  As I pronounce this stern directive, his mouth opens and closes and then he weakly says
‘How can I stop you once the invite has been issued?’
Good point!


Thursday, 3 October 2019

Where to start...

we don’t seem to do things in halves, well to be more exact I don’t seem to do things in halves!  In my wisdom I thought it a good idea while Ellie was safely in the kennels we ought to use the time to go and see my dearest friend/‘Mum’ down in Kent.  Now for those that read my blog may remember the heartache caused by my love and worry for Audrey who for the last three years has been making a very good attempt at dying and I ought to say failing!  My health was suffering as a consequence.  We were developing into a typical mother daughter relationship with daggers drawn, oozing with love but drawn all the same!  Husband and all friends who could see the toll that our move to Hythe was having on us both, suggested we move away. After much soul searching I agreed and strange to say the knock-on effect of my relationship with Audrey was an immediate improvement.
Audrey celebrated her 95th birthday in September and still is hanging on by a thread, still in her own flat, still very mentally agile, however her body is being ravaged by three years of virtual constant diarrhoea.  Any lesser mortal would have thrown in the towel long ago.  My love and admiration for her knows no bounds.  Her reception of us moving was just as so many had said... positive and happy for us to enjoy our lives.
Back to my cunning plan...

‘Would it be an idea for us as Ellie is safe to shoot off down to Kent while we can?’
Himself looked at me with a wind pain smile, all the while thinking left hand corner (North West coast of Scotland) to right hand corner (South East of England), the woman must be mad!
On paper seems okay, especially as 40 years ago I set off to do just that: to drive up to start my new life on a croft in the Highlands in my little Morris Minor, the sole driver, cat meowing in the back all the way.  Err... trouble was I was forty frigging years younger, a mere bagatelle!

We did it, me taking cakes, biscuits, pressure cooker to cook for the ‘boys’, my crofter old neighbours.  Then with a day back home in Ludlow in order for me to do more baking to take, we set off to Kent.  Audrey was okay, but very frail, having luckily two reasonably quiet loo days.  The visit was a success, she loved seeing us.  We were going to take her out for lunch, maybe a step too far with her tum?  She called the shots on that decision so we had a picnic in her sitting room, talking and catching up all the while.  I think we both knew as we said goodbye this might be the last time.  I, of all her friends am the only one who she can talk frankly with about dying, her other chums say they want her to carry on to get her telegram from the Queen.  She is ready for the off and who can blame her?  We talk on FaceTime most days and keep up with all that is going on on our lives.  If I could be a tiny bit as tenacious and brave as her I would be happy!

My old croft in the Highlands

BIg pink knickers…

 eat your heart out. Those of you who on occasion have been tempted to plough through my ramblings might remember my horror of dahlias and m...