Friends in Conchology

Straight after Ems’ marathon I made a marathon of a different sort, leaving Winterborne K early on Monday morning.  My mission was to drive north to the outskirts of Stockport in Lancashire and, the following morning to travel onward to Benllech on Anglesey.  I had two appointments with conchological friends of mine.  First stop:  Ian Smith who welcomed me warmly.  Although we have corresponded over recent years on matters relating to identification and recording of marine molluscs, we have not met.  Most recently Ian has been carrying out fantastic photography of molluscs which he finds on the shore and in the habitat samples which he takes home to study.  This is an example of his work on a common intertidal snail known as Phorcus lineatus.  Not only does this make identification so much more straightforward but we are also able to enjoy and understand the anatomy of the species which he features.

After supper Ian drove me out of his village which lies in the foothills of the Pennines, just outside the area of Derbyshire known as the High Peak.  We were able to look across to Kinder Scout,a moorland plateau and National Nature Reserve in the Dark Peak of the Peak District. Part of the moor, at 636 metres (2,087 ft) above sea level, is the highest point in the Peak District, the highest point in Derbyshire, and the highest point in the East Midlands.

Returning we stopped at Mellor Church which is situated on high ground and gives wonderful views back across the village and valley.  It is designated by English Heritage as a Grade II listed building .[1] The church contains the oldest wooden pulpit in England and a late 12th-century Norman font.  There is a replica Iron Age Celtic hut in the grounds.

On Tuesday I drove west to Anglesey.  Tom has collected, identified and recorded marine molluscs on northern Welsh and Lancashire coasts for the past 35 years.  Currently he is working on a comprehensive study and catalogue of churches in a north Wales catchment.  Over the years he has built up a well curated collection of marine molluscs, has helped with the digitisation of his records for biological recording purposes and latterly has produced some cutting edge work on shipworms.  It is important to ensure that resources such as those belonging to Tom should be secured for the future and the purpose of my visit was to take possession of Tom’s collection and archive in order to pass them to a suitable storage facility, such as a Museum, where access to the resources can be obtained by professional and amateur biologists.

Over lunch at a great little deli in Benllech we reminisced over field trips in which we have participated in the past and talked about mutual friends.  With a long journey south ahead of me, I bade farewell at 4.30 and drove back over the Brittania Bridge to head for home.  I arrived at Winterborne K just before 11 p.m. with a real sense of achievement.

Marriage and Marathon

I always welcome opportunities for a gathering of the clan. My cousin John married Carol on a sunny afternoon in mid-June. Nick drove my sisters and I (we have been coined The Weird Sisters by my niece) to Fareham where we connected with relatives not seen for too long. It was a happy occasion during which the stories of the mischief, which was a way of life for our numerous great uncles, were recalled; stories which our father recounted for our inexhaustible amusement, often at the dinner table, and which permeated our childhood narrative. I have vivid memories of time spent at my grandmother’s terraced house in Portsmouth. I was allowed to dress up in her clothes……… and run errands so-dressed to the corner shop. I longed to have long hair and I remember plaiting three of her stockings then pulling the open ends over my head to form a cap with a trailing braid! There were trips to Hayling Island, the Southsea Amusement Park and the Floral Clock and Rock Gardens in Southsea which were beautifully lit at night. I am the eldest, it was a perk and no doubt gave my mother a break!

A week later we drove up to Hackney to support our daughter-in-law in her attempt at the Half Marathon.    We saw her pass the end of the road, 3 miles into her run, and again 5 miles in.  She ran well and pulled in a good time.


Afterwards we enjoyed an afternoon- and evening-long BBQ.  The proceedings were punctuated with the comings and goings of our former cat Rooney, who now resides in Hackney, having relinquished his cross-Channel lifestyle of yore.



Une Bonne Raison d’être dans le Dorset

Sur cette magnifique journée en juin j’ai rejoint mon amie Celia à Waterston Manor pour un événement Open Garden. Je m’attendais à de vastes jardins, formellement énoncées et présentant des plates bandes avec profusion de couleur, et aussi avec peut-être une tente de thé ou deux pour des rafraîchissements. Ce que nous avons découvert était un événement animé avec de la musique live, un marché artisanal et une gamme de stands vendant des plantes. Sous l’ombre des arbres, nous avons trouvé deux commerçants particuliers qui vendaient merveilleuses plantes vivaces haut de gamme à des prix fabuleusement bas. J’ai acheté deux cépages blancs d’ Agapanthe, un mauve pâle Campanula glomerata et un couple de géraniums aux fleurs rouges sombres, et aux feuilles à lierre. Ceux sonts pour les paniers suspendus à TOW. Il y avait des stands vendant des articles sculptés et tournés en bois, articles de linge de maison, patchwork, bijoux. Comme je m’apprêtais à partir, j’ai trouvé un commerçant de Lyme Regis vente d’une gamme attractive et inhabituel d’articles rendant hommage à la mer. J’ai acheté quelque chose pour la chambre supérieure a numero 104. Pour le déjeuner Celia et moi, nous avons évité les diverses tourtes Dorset, et les scones, confiture, crème, tout tentants et offerts comme partie du ‘Thé à la Crème’: petit repas typiquement Anglais, chez l’Orangerie. En preference nous avons acheté un bol de poulet et chorizo Paella d’un traiteur espagnol.

Au cours de l’après-midi, il y avait différentes présentations de la CPRE et le groupe d’action (TAINT) contre les eoliennes dans notre coin. Il y avait aussi un spectacle de chien d’amusement.


Juste avant 16 heures, je rassemble mon shopping et je rentre à Winterborne Kingston, en s’arrêtant dans le lay-by juste avant la sortie de notre village pour photographier un champ de coquelicots dont la floraison ne pouvait pas être plus opportun.


Massive Fan of Masterchef

Today Ted is 7 and although he does not find out till later, he is going to meet his hero.  Ted loves Masterchef, as do his mother and I.  We are all going to be hugely treated by a meal at Le Gavroche in Upper Brook Street.

It is a divine dining experience and the normally shy Ted is dumbstruck when Michel Roux comes out of his kitchen to greet Ted and sign a menu.  It was a real privilege, as Ted’s grandparents, to be invited.

Somewhere in Somerset….

…….. there is a country house garden where alpacas may safely graze, giraffes stalk in daisy-rich grassland and wild boar lurk on the lawn.  On one May weekend a gathering of French and English guests spent a sunny afternoon or two sipping champagne, playing petanque, croquet, jeronimo and volley ball.  All you needed for an excuse was a wedding.  When Julien married Lucy the sun shone bright and we partied till the early hours of the morning.  Perfect.

A Treat from Maddy

A beautiful walk in Dorset countryside with mellow weather and flower meadows.  The route was a circular one focused on the Dorset Wildlife Trust field centre at Kingcombe and taking us across some prime countryside and through the village of Hooke.  Just heavenly.

Andrew picked us up from the field centre and drove us to the Fox and Hounds at Cattistock where I was treated to an excellent lunch.  This pub consistently wins Best Dorset Pub (3 times) and no wonder.  The food is well cooked and presented, and the prices are exceptionally good value.

Maddy and I took some photos; hers are beautiful and capture the soft, light and misty atmosphere in which we walked.


We Have Martins at the House

A couple of days after the ‘Roux’ departure we fetched up on French shores.  It was no surprise to find a garden in need of some attention, and a crop of budded leeks which we uprooted and I processed in various ways.  I made a curry base with them, adding peppers, onion, garlic, tomatoes and the usual spicy suspects.  I also cooked up a pot of poireaux fondus which I divided into portions to freeze.  I had to cut out the central stem from the larger leeks but there was still plenty of leaf to use.  We also had rhubarb pickings and I stewed the most tender and made rhubarb, apple and ginger chutney as well.

On Saturday it was Anne’s birthday and she cooked a meal chez eux for us, the ‘Roux’ and the ‘Osmonts’, and afterwards the men entertained us with games of pool.

The Martins arrive the following week.  They have already spent a few pleasant days in Brittany and whilst they are with us the beautiful weather persists.  On the afternoon of their arrival we sit in sunshine on the terrace and drink tea and eat cake.  We exchange family news and think about how we will like to spend their time with us.  Friday is excursion day starting with lunch at Grandcamp Maisy where I discover that the dilapidated Maison de Maitre that I had much admired during our house-hunting days in Normandy has apparently been sold and has certainly been rendered beautiful again with a sympathetic renovation to the exterior and one hopes the interior as well.

After lunch we stroll down to look at the house we were at one time considering, and find this is in much the same condition as when Charlotte and I viewed it, and it appears uninhabited and probably remains unsold.  The town generally looks well, there is much evidence of new paving, paintwork and planting.  It looks as if it would be an agreeable place to live although I am not sure what social opportunities would be on offer.

We drove to Pointe du Hoc to find it populous.  Since our last visit to the site of this famous artillery battery there has been much improvement in the form of a small museum and excellent information panels on the approach and return route to the firing command post, shelters and casemates.  We press on to seek out the house at La Cambe that we nearly bought too.  The house looks sad, and saddest of all for me is that the dark and brooding garden at the rear of the house where there was a stand of mixed conifers and a ground flora of cyclamen has been hacked back.  We conclude that nothing much has happened here either.

A visit to the German Cemetery at La Cambe is sobering. It is very different from the Allied cemeteries, simple but powerful.  Over extensive grounds where 22,000 war dead are buried in pairs, there are clusters of black Maltese crosses.  The site is dominated by a tumulus flanked by two statues and topped by a large dark cross in basalt lava, which marks the resting place for 207 unknown and 89 identified German soldiers, interred together in a mass grave.

The next day was spent in a very different way.  We went to the market which was very busy and was sporting some new stalls, notably one selling some amazing nougat in large wheels reminiscent of cheeses.


After the market we met in the bar for a midday drink with friends, staying in town for a sandwich before we attended the Baptism ceremony of the new Lifeboat.  In the evening we went to a short musical play based on the evening of June 4th 1944.  With friends in the cast it was fun to watch and after the show we enjoyed a ‘repas campagnade’ in the Salle Polyvalente at Barfleur.


On Sunday our new English friends, the Daniells, invited us to a BBQ at their house in Crasville.  It was a beautiful sunny day and we sat outside chatting to their other guests, Caroline and Georges da~Costa.  Early afternoon drifted into late afternoon and before we knew it we were dropping Georges off at La Pernelle where we saw the lovely garden Caroline, who had driven home earlier in the afternoon, created in a sloping field 20 years ago.

On Monday morning the Martins took flight after much hugging and expressions of shared enjoyment during their stay.  I went to yoga.  On Tuesday Francois and Fefe Taille came to lunch with the Lerminez and we made plans for 14th July when we will be back in France.  On Thursday we crossed back to England with a busy weekend ahead.