A Pee View

Despite lashings of rain, resulting in severe flooding in a Cornish pocket around Lostwithiel on the previous day, I found myself driving down to Rinsey Green on the Cornish coast west of Helston, to spend a few days with Liz, Briony and Dan.  This short spell will cross the date at which the year turns since the untimely death of my nephew Max.  Liz decided to mark the interlude by spending time off her own territory, and with some company.

Arriving at the cottage mid-morning, Dan and I were welcomed to a cosy cottage, nicely warm with all requisites and basics to provide creature comforts.  The cottage is set back from the cliff frontage and there are houses between us and the sea, but seated in the bathroom upstairs, as I find myself  from time to time, I am able to gaze through a picture window across the roofs westwards over the wide bay, towards Marazion and Penzance beyond.

After lunch we drive to the inland village of St Erth where a woodcarver has his studio.  Liz has an appointment to pick up a mobile wooden barn owl.  It has a body with articulated wings, and may be suspended from the ceiling and gently pulled downwards to simulate flight.

She first saw these in 2001 when we made an extended family pilgrimage to Porthleven to celebrate my father’s 80th birthday.  Returning to Porthleven earlier in the week she had tracked the carver down and placed an order; her owl is ready for collection.

Andy uses pyrography to work plumage patterns onto the surface of the wooden owl.  He then wraps Liz’s owl and offers to demonstrate pyrography  – a Grecian word meaning ‘fire writing’ which is an old art form known originally as ‘poker work’.    Using rather crude and rudimentary tools in the late 18th century, a Devonshire man worked pyrographic scenes on wood and published a book on the technique in 1811.

Having travelled west from Rinsey we continue on and up onto the Land’s End peninsula to visit Porthcurno, a beach to which I return whenever I can.  We stand on the windswept, rain-spattered beach gazing out at the rollers and the three surfers who are working the sea.  The waves approaching the shore are more or less parallel, then they glance off the short headland on the eastern margin of the cove and continue their passage perpendicular to the shoreline.  The surfers wait for that second phase of the waves to ride across the bay, in front of those of us who are standing on the high water berm watching.

We came to Porthcurno in 2001 and there was an exceptional, low spring tide.  As the tide turned that afternoon lots of the little while surf clams, Spisula solida, whose shells litter the shore, popped up from the sands to greet the incoming sea.  The clams feel the rise of the water; perhaps they surface involuntarily.  Later on that trip, Dan and Emma cooked their famous paella for about 19 of us, and our bucket of bivalves was a welcome ingredient.

Friday dawns and Liz and Briony must inevitably revisit their memories of that morning when Max died.  He is, as the saying goes, with us in spirit.  Soberly we ready our breakfasts and prepare for the day.

We are going to Trevarno Garden near Helston.  It is hardly the season to view a garden but this one has special extras such as The National Gardening and Toy Museums, and quirkily, a Soap Museum alongside a Herbal Workshop where they make soaps and other skincare products to sell.  Add to these attractions the free-range peacocks, guinea fowl, exotic pheasants and, in a paddock at the top of the grounds a small herd of reindeer, and you have the makings of a day out.

On Saturday we visited the Tate in St Ives and enjoyed the Peter Lanyon Exhibition. Look at the website and you can pull up the virtual gallery.    There’s no better place for us to eat Cornish crab or grilled sardines for lunch than in the Tate Cafe overlooking the old town and Porthmeor Beach, and afterwards, whilst Briony who is nursing a cold, and Dan return to the cottage, Liz and I continue to Shang-ri La bearing a coffee and walnut cake, favourite of Stella and Rose.  In the most agreeable surroundings of their cottage we converse over a range of topics then drive back to the cottage where Briony and Dan cook supper.

On Sunday our Cornish interlude comes to an end and we return to our respective homes in Dorset.

Fruitful Friendships

We have just spent a very sociable weekend.  At short notice, John and Gill came to see us on Friday evening, travelling from Middlezoy for a kitchen supper and a really good catch-up.  I cooked them pheasant with grapes and sherry (not the most imaginative choice for a man, who is making a fleeting trip from somewhere in south-western Europe  to Somerset, for a day of shootin’).   A simple apple tart (thank you Anne, our neighbour) with dabs of the last of my sister’s mincemeat (thank you Liz) made a satisfactory dessert.

On Saturday we launched our hall as a dining venue.  Three couples from our youth, friends variously from school or college days, arrived bearing flowers, wine and more apples – beautiful yellow and red cookers – and from Angela an almost warm jar of homemade apple and sage jelly, an accompaniment for pork.

On my menu is a roast shoulder of lamb, brought from France by Nick together with other cuts from the whole animal he bought just before he returned to England the previous weekend.   There is much laughter as more than forty years melt away and I find myself once again in the company of girls, with whom I learnt to write 120 words a minute in Pitman shorthand, and 60 words a minute on a keyboard.  This latter skill has been invaluable over the years and never more so when so much communication and time is spent at my laptop.

On Sunday evening Bas and Rosemary check in for the night.  ( I have had to shoo the cat off their bed, the now fully-heated waterbed which I have tested and deemed fit for human comfort).  We have Conch. Soc. business to discuss over another kitchen supper composed of left-overs, mushroom-nut loaf and a lentil tart with assorted fruity condiments.  In the morning, as I lay up the breakfast table, I pull out one of the larder units of my swish new kitchen to select a jam.  As I survey the top compartment, groaning with jars of  jams, conserves, preserves, chutneys, pickles, variously gifted by friends and family as well as my own efforts, it seems to me that it has been a particularly bountiful autumn, resulting in a collective effort of processing of this harvest into an array of delicious gastronomic embellishments.  Yum.

A Naked Post

I’ve been rattling around at WK in the lead-up to a journey north to Oxfordshire and Surrey.  Nick is ensconced in St V,  having thought it prudent to make a trip across the Channel, in order to jolly along all the various parties involved in the remedial work in respect of our infestation of champignons.

The house is a bit bleak in these grey, damp autumn days, with the normally light and airy ground-floor salon-sejour shuttered and emptied of all but the larger items of furniture.  How fortunate the timing was then; a procession of agents, experts and the builder have darkened the door yet further, calling to verify the work needed, to assess the extent of demolition required, and to generally ‘measure up’.

Fortunately there are garden tasks to complete and I hear that he has given the terrace a complete overhaul and tidy up.  This means he has pulled out every last one of the little plants that had secreted themselves optimistically in crevices.  Tant pis.  Nature fights back……

Meanwhile back at the English ranch I haul out yet more boxes to unpack.  A mix of china, glass and books have come to light.

Then on Thursday I drive to Weymouth (a joyful 35 minute run), to pick up Mum for the day.  We call in at Galton’s nursery to buy some greetings cards, a couple of clothing items for Nick, some yummy cut-price cakes for the freezer, some pansies for the old bread crock, which Mum remembers from her childhood when she lived at Cowplain near Portsmouth.  So she plants this up for me whilst I get her lunch.

After lunch there is a wonderful excuse to sit on the sofa and drift, only to be roused by the phone.  Mum naps on.  Later in the afternoon we peel, then freeze or stew apples won by Nick for being a good neighbour, and halve our French grapes to freeze.  I’ve been using them in creamy chicken and sweet corn dishes.  They will also be good with fish.

On Friday, with the weekend almost upon us, I pick up my rail ticket from Wool, deliver Rooney to the cattery at Milborne St. Andrew, pick up bread from our delightful Winterborne Bakery (Blue Vinny bread a speciality), await arrival of various online purchases, and Rollo, with some curtains she thinks may work in the big room.  They will indeed buy me time until I get a chance to leaf through all my ‘World of Interiors’ to find the perfect fabric.

The short session in the garden sees some foxgloves and geraniums bedded, then I remember I must go onto the Panasonic website to see if I can progress the repair of my Lumix digital camera, which got dropped at the Tank Museum.  Which is why this post is naked… 😦

Of Punchkins and Nursery Rinds

A new week is upon me.  So much for my sister-in-law’s Facebook status:

‎”This is the beginning of a new day. You have been given this day to use as you will. You can waste it or use it for good. What you do today is important because you are exchanging a day of your life for it. When tomorrow comes, this day will be gone forever; in its place is something that you have left behind…let it be something good.” Anon

Today saw the draining of the newly-filled, newly-replaced water-bed mattress because the heater does not work and we can’t get the thing out without releasing some of the water.  The Waterbed Specialist lady tells me what I need, she is beginning to know me when I phone in.

Nick then disappears next door to be a good neighbour.  He returns with a prize of some decent lengths of hard wood……… and a large quantity of spent gas cannisters and fire extinguishers and the longest defunct fluorescent lighting equipment I have seen, which we have volunteered to take to the tip in Blandford, apparently.

Cue lunch at the Crown Hotel in West Street which is absolutely up our alley.  Civilised, calm with lots of wooden interior features in its Georgian style.  We order the main course special and each have our own copy of the Independent to deface in our respective manners – he the Sudoku, me the Cryptic.

Also on the plus side I deliver two items of china to the Weldmar charity shop with a thick pile of tissue paper from our unwrappings which they can make use of.  And buy some solar-powered lights for the garden from Argos.

Then a bit of a clear-up after our young visitors.  We managed to pack in a variety of activities.  We tried to make each day count, Aunty Maddy and Uncle Andrew.  We came to visit you at Maiden Newton and loved feeding the hens, trying out some of the many musical instruments you have (how many actually?) and borrowed some of your vintage VHS videos.

With Halloween upon us we all went to Katie’s house on Saturday afternoon for a party.  The children bobbed for apples, made egg carton and pipe cleaner spiders and ate lots.  At half past 6 we convoyed our way out to Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens for a special event.  Called ABBOTSBURY’S ENCHANTED FLOODLIT GARDEN, the Gardens open as normal at 10am but stay open until 8.30pm. The floodlighting is turned on at dusk each evening and the natural autumn colours of the vegetation are magically lit with theatrical floodlighting, creating beautiful colourful avenues for visitors to walk along.

The route through the garden is dominated by the architectural shapes and shadows of the exotic shrubs and tree canopy, and is lined with candles in lanterns and traditional ‘punchkins’, (Billie’s word).  The children go in spooky dress and witches give out small prizes.  There’s a laser rave arena in a clearing at the edge of which is a small marquee housing a display of creepy crawlies put on by Bugfest, which is a bit of a hit.  Especially the 30cm millipede from Africa.

When we get back to Winterborne K, Amelie and Charlie are asleep and tipped into bed.  The older boys help finish up the sandwiches with some hot chocolate.  The following day I fold up the costumes and tuck them away for another child, another year.  The fat book of Nursery Rinds which Amelie and Charlie share with me each morning is put back in its basket.  Until the next time.

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