Monday, 31 August 2015

Whether the weather be fine ...

Today is a Bank Holiday (public holiday) and as I lay in bed this morning I could hear the rain coming down!  Absolutely typical!!

I can remember when this was changed in 1965, from the 1st Monday in August to the last, "to extend the summer holidays"; I thought it was because the weather always seemed to be better at the end of August than the beginning, so I too, have learnt something.

This little 'anonymous' poem popped into my head:-

Whether the weather be fine
Or whether the weather be not,
Whether the weather be cold
Or whether the weather be hot,
We'll weather the weather
Whatever the weather,
Whether we like it or not

A typical Brit poem - and the reason that the British are obsessed with the weather; never knowing.

So what to do on a wet Holiday Monday?  Well I have been lucky to have the whole weekend free and so I have been picking my 'crops' from my greenhouse and garden.
A good mixture

I have been picking figs from my tree which has always been prolific.  When I originally planted it, I dug a huge hole and put the stainless steel drum from an old washing machine in the ground and added compost.  Ever since it hasn't grown huge but twists and turns up to waist level with lots of figs, though sometimes difficult to find in the undergrowth.  The slugs and snails love them so I sometimes leave a ripe one for them so they leave the rest alone!!!
I have picked about 20 this year
This year I have grown six varieties of tomato, including a plum tomato, a sun baby (little yellow ones), Alicante, Ailsa Craig and one I can't remember!  The sixth is unusual and I thought I would try it out.
Sold as black and white on the same rootstock
The tomatoes are black initially and then go to green and finally red.  I am finding them slightly woolly in texture but the flavour is good.
Finally I am also growing peppers and aubergine n the greenhouse, though the latter are not ripening yet though I have plenty.
I am quite pleased with this and the flavour is good.

I have made Bolgnese sauce and this will be frozen -
All the vegetables used are either out of my garden or my 'Cambridge' allotment.

Guess what?

I have spent time ironing embroidery threads because I have started a new piece of smocking and teacher 'J' said that the threads would lie better and as usual, she is correct.

I will not tell you what this will be but it has been started.

It is more even than it looks and when it is finished the work will be blocked and the rows straightened out.

Oh and my toe to top socks are progressing - one made and about to turn the heel on the second.  The second has proved quicker of course, as I now understand the pattern, so it is just finding the time to finish them.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

At last the sun is shining ......

Since I last blogged my feet have hardly touched the ground, hence a week since I last wrote.

I have had my two 'Cambridge' grandchildren, B and Ellie, to stay and was so proud when B loved doing the Adventurer course at our local 'Jungle Parc' and whizzed round the course quicker than some older children.  Daddy will have to take him on the adult course next!!

The day after they left it was the 50+ Adventure Club Summer Walk and picnic and we met in Stilton and set off for a 7 mile walk.  We passed the field where there used to be the medieval village of Washingley and looked at the field where the 'motte and bailey' castle had once stood.  The ancient fish ponds are still there.  On the way we saw this little chap -
The caterpillar of the Elephant Hawk Moth
and saw this strange tower in the distance -
An amazing building!
When we got past the building there were stables on the other side - not what we expected.

I was back at Chester Farm on Monday to help on the archaeological dig again and again I helped with pot and bone washing.
An area where there may have been a medieval hall, but definitely a Victorian glasshouse

Unfortunately by early lunchtime the rain had started to fall and we had to leave the dig site; however we had a very interesting talk from the resident archaeologist about the Roman town, the cemetery of which is being excavated by us!!  Oh and talking about the cemetery, I did have a look around at all the skeletons, some in better order than others.

I was back there again yesterday, but this time clad in heavy boots, waterproof trousers and waterproof jacket because it was raining and blowing a gale (typical British summer!!).  Work did start on the dig and I was pot washing, beginning to learn a little more about the different types of vessels that were used. 

Lunchtime in the tent, out of the rain
I was quite pleased that I queried some pieces of what I thought were the expensive Samian Ware but turned out to be a copy made in this country in Oxford.  I knew the shards were not quite right!!

I also learnt about the minute details of a dig; a very detailed map plotted with the numbers of all the finds but also each grave and skeleton is detailed as well showing every little bone and the stones lining the grave and all to scale.
Double click and this will come up larger
There have been skeletons of adults, children and the most poignant of all, a tiny baby, probably a still birth.  I found this so sad when I saw it as it was so very, very tiny.

However the most beautiful piece I washed was at the end and caused some excitement.
This is a piece of Iron Age quern and how do they know?  Well the hole in the top is a funnel which tapers down to the flat surface underneath where the corn or whatever was being ground would drop down for grinding.  It was extremely heavy but absolutely lovely; puddingstone is found naturally.

Oh, I have managed to finish one of my knitted 'toe to top' socks and it fits!!  Second one is started.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Blink and you would've missed me!!

I was on TV on Monday evening, but only on the local news and very briefly.  My hands were on longer than my face and I must admit that my companions and I thought we would end up on the 'cutting room floor'!!

But why?  Well I if you are a regular follower you may remember I went on an archaeological dig at Chester Farm last year and a few months ago they asked for members of the public to come along so I booked.
Locals to the farm will know that there has been considerable activity during the last few months, on the main, and very busy, A45 road as  trees were cut down, a new access slip road laid, and certain facilities connected and the workmen finished last Friday!!  The facilities included piped water, passed by the Water Board as adequate and therefore not for drinking, and electricity.  Still no loos, only portaloos, but this time separated for Men and Women - progress!!

We arrived for our Health and Safety briefing, Risk Assessment form filling and a talk about the site.  We were then advised that BBC Look East were coming to film for the local news in the evening.

As there were quite a few people this time I volunteered to wash pots and bones.  I am not allowed to show any bones on this blog so this is the nearest you will get -
Just in case we didn't know where the feet or hands were!!!

As it says my first bag was Ankle and Foot bones and note the egg tray- very useful to putting the damp bones in.

A brand new toothbrush for cleaning and a pair of rubber gloves.

The TV cameras filmed us cleaning the skeleton - my companion was cleaning a skull and jaw and got the lion's share - much more interesting than the ribs that I was cleaning and they had launched a drone to take overhead film.  We couldn't be seen as we were under the gazebo!!

After lunch we started on pottery and were mighty impressed by this enormous piece of storage pot.  You can see from the pattern that the four pieces all fit together.  I just loved handling these because we were told what all the pieces were for.  Some were small cups, others were for cooking and like the one above, some were for storage. 

However the pièce de résistance for me was this rather dull looking piece of pot -

It is a piece of an Iron Age (800BC - 43AD) pot and you can see minute pieces of oyster shell which may have come from our local rivers.

I am going back again next week for two days and will report back if there is anything more of interest.

I have managed to fit in a little crafty stuff -

My toe to top first sock progresses, though I must admit the pattern is not for the faint hearted or novice, and I have had to undo a few of the rows from time to time!

When I get tired of the sock I crochet a few rows for my Road Trip Scarf which grows much quicker and doesn't need so much thought!!

Over the weekend I made this Dolly bag with four pockets on the outside and in very bright colours.  This will be for the Bag-a-Bola at Higham Piecemakers Exhibition in September.  I might make another one with more muted colours as they are quite quick to make.

Finally I had to show off this beetroot that I had grown.  This year I decided to grow different coloured ones so bought a packet of mixed seed and this is the inside of the pink beetroot, with good flavour.  The white ones have good flavour and are not as strong as the red ones.
There are various ways to cook beetroot for a vegetable - boiled with their skins on and then remove the skin when cooked (use rubber gloves as they are hot) or in this case I scrubbed it really clean, sliced it and brushed with oil and baked in the oven.  This is quite quick.  I also roast them whole in their skins and of course they can be pickled or boiled and used in cakes.  I have also eaten them raw.  Deeelicious!

Saturday, 15 August 2015

The Power of TV!!

Some weeks ago I picked up a leaflet about Gardens Open in aid of the British Red Cross with one in particular catching my eye.  This was the Fellows Garden, Clare College, Cambridge so I mentioned it to some friends who said they would like to go.  Then we heard that Monty Don would be featuring it on Gardeners World but I didn't really worry too much about it.

We arrived at the appointed hour to find queues stretching as far as the eye could see into the city itself.  Leaving the friends waiting, like all good Brits I joined the queue and discovered that thanks to Monty, who we all cursed for his advertising, most were there as a result of seeing the programme!!  But after about 20 minutes I arrived near the beginning and my friends joined me and we got into the garden.  It was worth the wait though and here are a few pictures that I took, which was quite difficult considering the crowds.
Back of the college
The River Cam was very busy with punters (pole on left)
The 'yellow' bed
Hot reds
The sunken pool
 Monty said that the sunken pool was built so that an eccentric 'fellow' could sleep under the stars!
Beautiful lilies
A beautiful Cardoon
A long queue at the tea tent which we chose not to join and we left, but well worth a visit and I hope that the British Red Cross made pots of money!  Thank you Monty, and I shall still continue to watch your programme!!!!

It seems to have been a week for 'visits' because my Bedford Tuesday looking after Will, was spent with another niece and five of my great nephews and a niece at Wrest Park where they were holding a day of Georgian Games for children.

We arrived in time for the Georgian history lesson -
where the crowd had to boo, hiss and cheer at the appropriate time, then off to try out 'Fox and Goose' (a strategy game), ten pin bowling (but only knocking down the centre pin), croquet and others.

After a picnic lunch (excellent), birthday cake (my niece's) covered with chocolate drops and Maltesers and filled with Smarties, we all needed a walk and the children played cricket to work off their energy and back to the café for a cup of tea.  A brilliant day, with Will having a complete melt down at the end as he was so tired, but OK by the time Mummy returned home.

Now for next week which is going to be fun but more of that later  ........

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

"In Dublin's fair city ...." continued

I had agreed with M that Day Three of my short break to Dublin would be spent on my own doing research.   So I duly caught the bus into the city, and with a few deviations, made my way to the National Archives and a short session with the genealogist.
The Custom House on the banks of the River Liffey
The Convention Centre (the glass building on the left leaning back)!
I loved the Convention Centre as it looks like a tin can pushed over.  Searched for Molly Malone's statue which has moved temporarily and arrived at the National Archives who were quite helpful. 
"Sweet Molly Mallone"
After that on to Christ Church Cathedral to see if I could find out anything about one of my Ancestors who was the Dean at the turn of the 19th/20th centuries.  A very helpful young man called Jonathan, from Stamford (not far from where I live!) took me behind the scenes to see if we could find his portrait.  Unfortunately not, but his name is on the list of 'Deans' by the front door.
Christ Church Cathedral

Why are all the buildings in which I am interested, always covered in scaffolding!!!!

My final visit after walking round the Castle and the sand sculptures, was to Trinity College, where I wanted to see the Book of Kells and the library.  Both were breath taking but packed with people, but I did manage to take this photo of the library.
Marble busts line both sides of the libary
Finally a walk back to the bus via O'Connell Street and the statue of the great man himself.

Daniel O'Connell's statue. 
The next day was our last and as our flight was not until late afternoon we decided to go for a walk from the top of the Hill at Howth Head down to the lighthouse.

The lighthouse in the distance
Waiting for friends to join us
Heather and gorse covering the cliffs
A short break at the lighthouse before the return journey  ......
The return journey!!  The children were not phased by this at all!! 

We couldn't get right to the lighthouse as it is privately owned, but it was a lovely walk, followed by lunch in a harbour side restaurant and a brief flight home.  What a lovely break and it has whetted my appetite to return.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

"In Dublin's fair city ...."

When my son, M, asked me if I would like to go to Dublin with his family I leapt at the chance and so very early (yes, 4.45am!) Tuesday morning I set off for London City airport and a very short and easy flight to Dublin.  Lovely little airport - easy to get to by train and DLR - and easy to check in.  No huge crowds, which I hate, but all the facilities.  They even fly to New York.  We were an hour late leaving but arrived in time for lunch with the family at the rented bungalow in Portmarnock, a short bus ride from Dublin. 

Afternoon was spent on the lovely sandy beach and before the tide came in we were able to look in rock pools and found this -
The bucket was green!!
The children built sandcastles or dug holes -
By the end the hole was so deep he was up to the red band!!
- swam
Teeth were chattering when she came out!!
and I went off to a local pub with some friends and though my son took a photo of me with a pint of Guinness, I only took a sip as I have never tasted it and probably won't again; not my tipple.

The next day M took his wife to the airport to catch the 7.00am flight to London as she had to go to work and she was at her desk before 9.00am!!

The weather was a bit cloudy and rain was forecast so we decided to go into Dublin on the bus.  Easy ride and I noticed how clean everywhere was, the gardens and houses were so well tended and we arrived close to the City Centre.  I was excited because my mother had told me a lot about the Irish side of the family and I know that the ancestors went to Ireland in the late 1600s and were Irish Protestants.  I know a little about Irish history and was so thrilled to be in O'Connell Street and the Post Office.
The Post Office
 It was from here in1916 that the Irish State was declared in the Easter uprising and there are still bullet holes in the columns.  My grandson was most impressed with these!!
Bullet holes above the line!
I had to take a picture of the Spire -

and loved this group of street entertainers - 

who thank you when you give them money - the Dalmatian is stuffed!  Granddaughter loved them all.

I have an old photograph taken in 1906 of a family group taken at 49 St Stephens Green so we went to look for the house, but something was wrong.  The front door was on the wrong side and so I marched in and asked why!!  Apparently the house was pulled down in the '60s, under protest, but the facade had to remain similar except for the front door.  The brickwork should have been red like next door which is an original.

49 is in the middle
The children had been brilliant so we spent some time in the play ground, had lunch, crossed back over the Liffey and went to the Leprechaun Museum where we heard about the folklore of Ireland with their fairies, leprechauns, giants and kings and beautifully told especially for the children.
The Ha'penny Bridge
To top off the day, my son and I went out in the evening for a meal whilst lovely friends did the babysitting.

Brilliant first day with more to follow ......