Monday 30 October 2023


After the terrorist events in Israel at the beginning of the month, it seems a tad tasteless to be posting about my usual irrelevant trivia. How can I witter on about knitting and days out when people have lost their lives, their loved ones and live in constant fear? Even in my country, the repercussions of the events of October 7th are still very much resounding: Weekly marches on Whitehall continue, not all the protesters showing peaceful intentions; posters of kidnapped Jewish children are torn down; Jewish children are being advised to remove the badges from their school blazers for fear that they will be targeted, and the Metropolitan Police have come under fire for apparently turning a blind eye to blatant acts of antisemitism. Can this really be happening in 2023? I thought we had come further than this.

I don't usually discuss any political opinions on this blog - trying to focus instead on the lovelier aspects of life. Having said that, my heart bleeds for those involved and so, I have added my name to the October Declaration, condemning antisemitism and expressing support for British Jews. It also calls on the media to condemn Hamas for what it is: a terrorist organisation. I'm looking at you BBC!

As I've said many times, however, this blog serves as my diary and the content reflects the ordinary day to day things that I want to recall. I try very hard not to take my life for granted. Sometimes it's tricky - day to day stresses, worries and irritations affect us all - but, as recent events have highlighted for me, I am one lucky, lucky girl and I should try to remember that more often. 

Here then, are some happies from the last month. They may be mundane, they may be trivial, but they represent my life at the moment, and I am indeed blessed.

Some of my pumpkin harvest. I didn't grow the huge carving pumpkins this year, opting instead for a smaller, supposedly tastier variety. To be honest though, apart from the size, they didn't seem much different:

Making kimchi. Here it is fermenting quietly, wrapped up snug in a fleece. It is also sitting on a hot water bottle as my kitchen is so cold - I'm still holding out against putting the heating on!

A trip to Arlington Arts to see a one woman show about Agatha Christie's missing days. I really enjoyed it, it was just a shame that the audience was quite small:

Meeting my friend, C, at Batsford Arboretum. We took a picnic and it was lovely. Autumn seems a little delayed in our parts this year, so we were hoping that there would be a bit more colour. According to Alexander Armstrong on Classic FM, it's because the summer was so wet. My favourite tree was a cypress, grown from a cone that fell off the Duke of Wellington's coffin during his funeral parade. 

A day trip to Turville in the Chiltern Hills. This picturesque village has been used as a set in many films and TV programmes including 'The Vicar of Dibley', 'Goodnight Mr. Tom' and 'Chitty Chitty Bang Bang'.
The climb up the hill to the windmill is tiring but well worth it for the view. We recuperated with our picnic and a wee dram at the local pub afterwards:

I woke up one Sunday with a need to see the sea. The weather was fine, so we set off for Christchurch in Dorset for the day. 

Vegan 'fish' and chips on the beach. It was nice that the cafe had a vegan, GF option, but it would have benefited from a bit of lemon, caper juice and nori:

For £2.50, we took the ferry across to Hengistbury Head. Here we took the coastal footpath and blew away the cobwebs with the glorious sea breezes, enjoying our flask of tea on a conveniently placed bench on the headland.

Visiting E and L in Bristol. We went out for mezze at KooCha and jolly nice it was too!

A literary walk honouring war poet Edward Thomas in Steep in Hampshire. He lived in several houses in the village and is commemorated on the war memorial. Given that several of his poems describe the beautiful, local scenery, the residents have dedicated the hillside to him: 

The place wasn't called Steep for nothing! The path up the hill had us making several stops to catch our breath. The view from the top of 'Shoulder of Mutton Hill' was heavenly and a fitting tribute.
A memorial window to Thomas in the local church:
A local monument to 3 villagers - Edward Thomas, John Wyndham and Sir Alec Guinness. We were just admiring it when we fell into conversation with a local gentleman, who stopped to admire Bridget.  Apparently, he lived nearby and washes the stone when it gets too green with algae.

A trip to Shaftesbury in Dorset. This is the view from Gold Hill, famous from the Hovis advert if you are old enough to remember it!

Shaftesbury was very pretty, with lovely views from Park Walk and the interesting ruins of Shaftesbury Abbey:
 We had just found out that it was 'International Curry Week', so we stopped off in Salisbury on the way home. Sadly, our favourite Indian street food place was closed, so we nipped into one in Andover instead. This was slightly disappointing as it smelled much better than it tasted.

Playing with clay. The 'martian skulls' are each dedicated to a weed and imprinted with the name, leaf and flower. The quotation at the base is by A.A.Milne and states that 'Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them'. Very fitting for my garden!
Blobs made from leftover clay:

Christmas knitting. These are 'Hermione's Everyday Mitts' and despite what it looks like, the 2 pairs are actually made out of different yarns. The top ones are made from a wool called 'There be dragons' and the second pair are made from acrylic for my more strictly vegan daughter!

Our local Apple Day, where you can take your apples to be juiced:

A visit to Tyntesfield (a Victorian Gothic house and garden near Bristol) with my friend, S. I set off in glorious sunshine, only to hit a thick bank of fog on the way. It took me a while to locate the fog lights on our 'new' car! Luckily, it had cleared by the time we met up.
They had a fantastic selection of pumpkins in their greenhouse:

A trip to the American Museum in Bath. We have been here before, but it was well worth a return visit.
My favourite quilts in the exhibition:

An example of Grandma Moses' work in the folk art section:
We spent ages watching this dragonfly laying her eggs in the garden pond:

Lastly, a trip to the one man show 'Haunted'. He acted out F. Marion Crawford's 'The Upper Berth' and 'The Monkey's Paw' by W.W. Jacobs.  It was excellent.

Well, that's all for this month. Anything exciting going on at your end? I'm hoping to get another post in before Christmas, but with my current rate of posting, I wouldn't put money on it. 
For now, Toodle pip.
Am Yisrael Chai. 

Wednesday 13 September 2023


I can't recall the TV programme that we watched where they were renovating the writing room at Sissinghurst. I have a feeling that it may have been Michael Portillo that visited there. I never cared much for him as a politician but, over the years, he has grown on me, with his railway journeys and colourful attire. Whichever programme it was, a seed was sown and I hankered to pay a visit.

We waited until the school term started and then R looked at accommodation in the area. He gave me a choice of a hotel on a golf course or a shepherd's hut. Needless to say, I chose the latter. We were only going for 3 days - Saturday morning to Monday evening, and the hut looked picturesque and well equipped. There was a wood-burning stove and I pictured cosy, autumnal evenings snuggled up inside.  As it turned out, that weekend saw the UK having a bit of a heatwave, so the stove didn't get so much as a look in. 

We set off bright and early on the Saturday morning, avoiding motorways and sticking to the A and B roads. It was a pleasant journey and we arrived at Sissinghurst just before lunch time.

Originally a pig farm, Sissinghurst has been in turn: a moated manor house; a Renaissance courtyard house; a prison camp for 3000 captured French sailors during the 7 Years War; a poor workhouse, and is today a working farm with cattle, sheep and pigs. Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson bought Sissinghurst Castle in 1930 and their home and garden are now world famous. The garden is divided into a series of 'rooms', each with a different planting scheme, colour and scent. It was idyllic and we spent several hours exploring, pausing briefly for lunch. Sadly, the National Trust vegan pasty that I had been looking forward to wasn't gluten free. Yes, I have been forced to add another dietary restriction, this one by necessity rather than choice. Vegan and gluten free - aren't I the one to invite round to dinner! In case of such an eventuality, I had packed emergency sandwiches and was happy with those. They did sell a very nice vegan vanilla ice-cream in a gluten free cone, which hit the spot nicely as dessert.

Known to Vita and Harold as the 'Big Room', the library was converted from the farm stables. Filled with 4000 books, it is presented as they would have used it, with furniture from Vita's childhood home and souvenirs from their travels. The 78 step climb up to the top of the tower revealed a stunning view of the estate. On the way up, Vita's writing room was protected by a barred doorway. Here, she created novels, poetry and gardening articles - I loved it!

Here then are some photos of our trip to Sissinghurst. Having had my camera stolen a few weeks ago, I managed to purchase a replacement on eBay for the princely sum of £35, including P&P, so I am back in business photography wise.

The Big Room:

The Tower:

Vita's writing Room:

Harold's writing room:

Sunflowers in the vegetable garden:

Having exhausted the delights of Sissinghurst, we set off to find our shepherd's hut. It was charming, set in a beautiful orchard and full of mod cons.

We popped into the local Indian Restaurant in Headcorn for dinner. It was fine, although nothing special, then returned to the hut to settle down for the night. The mattress was comfy, the hut with both sets of windows open was cool, and the owls hooting lulled us to sleep.

We decided to visit Canterbury on the Sunday. The Cathedral proved to be a nice respite from the oppressive heat outside. We paused to listen to one of the volunteers telling the story of Thomas Becket. I leaned across to R and whispered that she looked very like Jan Leeming the former BBC news presenter. It was only when we got close enough to read her badge that we realised that it was in fact her. Apparently, she has been a volunteer there for many years. She was animated, interesting and brought the story to life.
Joey, built by students and staff at Canterbury College to commemorate the centenary of the end of WWI.

The water tower:

A beautiful, if slightly listing, second hand bookshop:
A rather more successful lunch. We had a choice of 2 vegan toasties on Gluten free bread and a choice of 3 (yes, count them!) vegan, GF cakes. I was very happy.  :O)

We finished off the day with a brief trip to Herne Bay. It was close to Canterbury, so it would have been rude not to. Owing to the unseasonably good weather, it was very crowded, but we found a quieter place to have a quick paddle (I had forgotten my costume), collect some hag stones and enjoy the compulsory chippies on the beach. Driving back past Whitstable, we decided that that would have been a much better place to stop. Quieter and with fewer loud people flashing acres of sun-burned, tattooed flesh.

For our last day, we had planned to visit Hever Castle. A brief glance at the road atlas, however,  revealed that Churchill's family home, Chartwell, was nearby. There was so much to see in this part of Kent that a few extra days wouldn't have gone amiss. Chartwell it was, and I'm so glad that we decided to visit. Not only was it interesting and beautiful but they were having a heritage day, so entry was free!

The swimming pool where the family used to bathe:
One of the 3 interlocking fish ponds. Churchill used to sit in the blue chair to paint and contemplate:
Clementine's rose garden:

Finally, a National Trust kitchen!

Churchill's studio, full of hundreds of his paintings:

An example of Churchill's brick laying. We goggled at the number of hobbies and interests that the great man had on top of his punishing work schedule. I've no idea how he found time for everything.
The Marycot - the very upmarket Wendy House built for Churchill's daughter Mary:

The vegetable garden, complete with chickens and bees:
We took a liking to the pig made in Africa out of recycled oil drums in the shop on the way out. He came home with us as a souvenir of our short but lovely holiday. His name is Winston and he now sits in our garden sheltering under a tree.

Our final destination was on the way home. We stopped in the Ashdown Forest to pay tribute to A.A. Milne and play Pooh sticks on the famous bridge.
The lone pine and the heffalump trap:
Owl's house:
We took sticks with us and had 3 games - I won the 1st, R the second and for the deciding round, our sticks joined in the water and came under together. A draw was happily declared.

Pooh's house. The letter box was filled with post from children and the pots filled with tiny jars of honey, brought as gifts:
Piglet's House:

We arrived home at about 8pm, tired but happy. It had been a glorious few days, blessed by good weather.

Just a couple of extra photos to share:
My finished Homestead Shawl; pattern by Melody Hoffmann:
A trip to the Southern Wool Show at the racecourse. A few sneaky purchases came home with me:

That's all for the moment. I hope you have enjoyed our unseasonably nice weather. Here's to a wonderful autumn.

Toodle pip for now. x