A Jolly Long Walk, and a Windy One

Our days are measured at St Vaast and we find ourselves at the Easter weekend with no commitments.  True we have a 5 o’clock rendez-vous with our friends, the Tailles, on Easter Saturday and that is a very convivial interlude.  Otherwise we have things to be getting on with at the house, but I do decide that I must tackle a longish walk.  Nick prefers to stay and get on with garden projects so I wrap up warm and sally forth after lunch on Sunday.  My plan is to cut through to the seafront by the Lerminez house then walk to Pont de Saire, and round to Pointe de Saire and then turning north to walk up to Le Dranguet.  So far so good.  Just past the bridge I can access the top of the beach which takes me to the point, past all the beachfront houses with gardens that roll down to the shore.  There are banks of the Mesanbreanthemum plants with their carmine pink or creamy white flowers.  It is a very windy day so kite-surfers are out in force.  And once I get to the headland and turn towards Le Dranguet there are plenty of Easter Sunday walkers and their dogs.

Once at Le Dranguet I must turn and head for home.  This is tough because I am now walking into the wind all the way.  The final stretch along the beach road after the bridge is particularly taxing and I am tired.  When I get back to 104 I have walked 12.5km and it has taken some 2 hours 40 minutes.  Without the company of a fellow being I have been listening to my current Audible ‘read’, At The Edge of the Orchard’ by Tracy Chevalier, which I finish.  Happily it has a very satisfactory ending.  Now to write it up for my reading journal………



Prim, Proper and some Bridges to Cross

It is that time of the year, when banks of primroses grace the roadside verges and you just want to keep stopping the car and take photos.  I captured a few today on my way back from Valognes after an appointment with Manu.  I’ve got primroses out in my garden and there are two clumps underneath the large Euphorbia which grows by the pergola which is covered in Honeysuckle which seem to flower the whole year through.


After our three gastronomic events with friends it was time to eat at home and try to tackle some of freezer stock.  The day before I arrived in St Vaast Nick had been fishing and and taken a good haul of Pollack.  We now have a good stock of large white fish fillets and he has saved me heads and frames to make the other kind of stock, which I find so useful as a base for soups and for poaching.  Once cooked it is a fiddly job to pick the white fish bits of the heads and bones to add to the gluey stock.  I used this to make a big vat of bisque, taking carrots, rice and some leek to thicken the liquid, as well as some of the fish and scallop frills and then some spices.  It has to be bizzed up and the result is an orange seafoody looking bisque which tastes wonderfully savoury and gets stowed away for lunches for forthcoming visitors.

I’m only in France for just under week before I need to board a ferry to return to WK for a Bridge tutorial weekend.  Our tutor Barry is scheduled to teach us for four hours on Saturday and Sunday.  He arrives just after lunch and we settle down to learning some new ‘tricks’.  It is time to find out about the Blackwood convention and with the addition of this system to our repertoire we can hold our heads up and begin to play in the wider world.  We enjoy a meal at The Greyhound in the evening, a chance for the pub to redeem itself after the disastrous serving of crayfish which Barry received last time we treated him to his meal.  On Sunday morning Cybs cooks us a fab full English after which we settle down to another four hours with thirty minutes for tea, coffee and cake.  At the end of all this brain exercise I am quite spent but needs must, and there is a house to re-order for the kids’ Easter break, before I leave on Monday morning to rejoin Nick in la belle France

And Shall there be Ormers and Tripe for Lunch?

After Charlie’s visit Nick crossed to France and I spent a week at Winterborne K sorting and clearing.  I weeded out papers from the filing cabinets and folders.  I ditched lots of Conference and Meeting Abstracts, reports, correspondence and notes that I just don’t need and nor will anyone else.  I carefully sift out things that I will pass along to Simon Taylor who now holds the post in Conch Soc that I held for twenty years.  I manage to deal with shells awaiting labelling and curation and get a backlog of glass and plastic containers tucked into drawers.  I play some Bridge with my girls.

On Mothers’ Day I drive to Godalming where I am royally spoilt, having dropped boxes of JMBA with Malcolm and Christine Storey to await collection by Ian Smith.  Ryan and Ted are chefs for the day.  I get presents and CJ manages to read Girl on a Train in one sitting.

On Monday morning I commence my nannying duties.  They run a tight ship, them Perrymans, and there are things to remember each day.  Fortunately Demi, the nanny who is on holiday, has drawn up a big flow chart with clouds of information and five sides of exercise book of ancillary notes.

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Demi’s crib sheets are extremely helpful and I would have been all at sea without Ted’s timetable and kit requirements day by day.  But I am amused that she reminds me that it is a good idea to make some preparations for Ted’s evening meal before I pick him up from school and then get the meal ready during his session on a computer game.  It is also useful advice to know that I must remember to clean the food off the sides of the dishwasher door and wipe all kitchen worktops with Multisurface cleaner!

During my week in Godge I have lunch with Vikky and with Charles and Lis, the first at the Thai Roof Garden Restaurant in Guildford and the second in the café at the Watts Gallery.  The latter is a good find, the food is delicious and well presented.  Meanwhile Nick is in St Vaast with Andrew, the two men having crossed the Channel for a few days in order to bring the timber for the pergola back to England.  Andrew experiences the best of French hospitality chez Taille.  NickAndrewOystersblog

My most enjoyable sociable occasion whilst in residence at 88 Pep is spent at Hambledon Farm amongst the best of friends.  Charles and Susie have arranged a small supper party with the Charlesworths and Upcotts and Susie’s good friend Cherrie.  We are all avid readers so it’s a kind of book group get-together but we cover lots of other topics, not least the forthcoming Referendum which already is threatening to divide the nation.

At the end of my week I drive back to The Old Workshop, take in a game of Bridge with the girls on Friday night, and drive myself to Poole on Saturday morning Cherbourg-bound.  Arriving in the afternoon I am then plunged into an extended weekend of feasting chez des amis.  Bri and Georgy invite us and the Poulets for supper on Saturday evening when our hostess served us Lapin a la Moutarde.  On Sunday, together with Lorraine and Stephen, we are guests of Miguel and Bibi for a Mexican lunch and what fun that was.  We ate tortilla chips and guacamole with our apero, and then enjoyed a chicken broth with rice and assorted ‘sambals’ to sprinkle over.  So healthy and so delicious.   The authentic guacamole would be lovely to eat up as a single course.  We have another lunch date on Monday when we are the guests of Dede and Francoise Burnouf, along with the Tailles, and both their neighbouring couples, who we already know from previous events at their house on the quay. IMG_3495 Dede cooks a lunch, starting with a tasty dish of ormer (‘fished by Dede from the wests Cotentin) and he follows this with Tripes Normands.  In anticipation of a dislike of tripe on the part of Nick and myself, and also Fefe, Dede barbecues some fine magrets de canard on his open hearth.  I do taste the tripe but it is a very poor second to pink-cooked duck breast fillets.

During the lunch conversation is very lively and good-humoured.  Even when the sub-mariner neighbour of F and F launches into a light critique of the English.  I always knew he is an Anglophobe, he has barely been cordial on occasions when we have met chez Taille.  He is probably a misogynist to boot.  Well, that is his loss 🙂  Shame because his wife is lovely and cooked the best tarte aux pommes I have ever eaten, for our dessert.  I even got a doggy bag to bring home.  Our hostess, Francoise, is also lovely and I hope to spend more time with her.



Charlie’s Great Fat Vehicle Weekend

Over the last weekend in February Charlie came to stay.  This was to be his special weekend; as the youngest of four he so often goes with the flow.  We planned some events which featured vehicles; from his youngest days he has showed a great liking for cars.

Day 1.  A meeting of the Conchological Society at NHM in Cromwell Road summons me to London.  Nick and Andrew have colluded to give Charlie his own offroading experience in Andrew’s field by the Hardy Monument.  What better treat could a 9-year old boy have than to drive a Hi-Lux truck round a large field?

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Whilst they are there they have some nice wildlife encounters including the sighting of a barn owl abroad in full daylight and some Sika deer which are disturbed by the dogs Teddy and Flossie.

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The morning’s activities are rounded off with fish and chips out of the paper in Maddy’s kitchen at The Old Schoolhouse.  Afterwards Andrew chauffeured Charlie on a circuitous route back to TOW in his Mercedes convertible.

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Day 2.  On Sunday we piled into the car and drove to Norden Station near Corfe Castle to take a 12 mile round trip on Swanage Steam Railway.

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This is probably one of the most expensive railway journeys you can make in this country!  We installed ourselves in the refreshment car and settled down to enjoy a ride at a stately pace down to Swanage.  Upon arrival we did not leave the station because we planned to have our lunch at The Greyhound in our village.  Instead we bought some postcards and a treat for Charlie in the gift shop and boarded the train for the return.  Back in WK we ate our lunch, packed Charlie’s bag and drove to Cholsey where he rejoined his siblings who had had a North Farm weekend, and Claire and Carl who had just got back from a week in Portugal.  Nick and I will now have to put our thinking caps on for themed weekends to suit each of JAS.

Weaving a Willow Goose

After the excitement of Mum’s birthday, Monday dawned with a lunch party at The Old Workshop in view.  Annabel has been trying to schedule a lunch with some fellow villagers who are keen readers and it has been difficult for Nick and I to fit in.  Finally, I have picked a date and Annabel has liaised with the invitees and it is all systems go.  And it does go extremely well.  As a group of seven we gel and our chat ranges over various topics but lingers longest on the matter of the forthcoming Referendum.  Just before we disperse some books are shown and exchanged.  The seeds are sown.

Later on Anne Poulet is due to arrive at Poole ferry terminal.  She is coming over for the Willow Goose workshop which we have booked with Kim Creswell who lives just outside Sherborne.  Whilst she is with us we take in the Sculptures by the Lake, a curry at the Rajpoot in Dorchester and spend her final evening with us eating supper with Madeleine and Andrew after our willow day.  Six of us converge on Kim’s cabin and spend a rewarding day weaving a goose in white willow.  It is fascinating to see how the finished article evolves gradually as, bit by bit, sticks of willow are woven around the simple structure which shapes the frame.  My sister Liz has brought two of her friends along, and my guests are Anne and Andrew.  At the end of the afternoon we have a gaggle of respectable geese.

Whose Birthday is it?


On Sunday my dear mother celebrates her 92nd birthday.  A goodly number of her descendants congregate at The Old Workshop for a family lunch which will be memorable for the panoply of desserts that are contributed by various members of the family.

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I roasted a Daniell leg of lamb, with spuds, parsnips and a bucket of gravy.  At the last minute I had decided that it might be wise to make a generous lasagne as well in case some children showed a preference.  Good thing I did, the hungry hordes cleaned up very efficiently.  1FBLunchBut a good thing too is that everyone was not so bouffed out with their main course that they could not do the puddings justice, and the two birthday cakes.  Mum’s candle moment was enjoyed by all, not least her!  After tea and cake the children roared round the garden playing Sharkie Sharkie and Mum sat in my granny chair, in the corner retreat by the big glass kitchen doors.

I put out some cheeses, French bread, oatcakes and piccalilli on the island unit. Meanwhile the children continued to play and formed a human pyramid 🙂  4FBPyramid The cheese and pickles (I topped up the piccalilli several times) disappeared as the adults topped themselves up and before too long it was time for those with longish journeys home to get underway.  We assembled in the hall for a group photo, something which I will treasure, as Mum is sat in the carver chair of her former dining suite and flanked by the youngest family members, and fanning out to the adults with Dan, Barns, Nick and Martin, guardians of the clan.


At several moments during the day Mum needed to be reminded that it was a birthday party, and indeed it was her birthday!  As she left with Christina I helped her into the car and expressed the hope that she had enjoyed her birthday.  “Oh,” she said “was it my birthday, today?”  “Yes, Mum it was your 92nd birthday”.  “92?!” incredulously.  “Yes Mum, and I am now 69”.  Incredulous look.


A Village Week, a Falling Star and a Plethora of Shells

Arriving back in the UK on Tuesday, we drove back to our village where Book Group would be meeting in the afternoon at our usual venue, The Greyhound pub.  We discussed Driving Over Lemons, a rather lack-lustre read for me.  I was not engaged by the author, former Genesis drummer Chris Stewart, at all.  Generally his genre, sort of travel books, is not my cup of tea.  A few wasted hours then, but in the interests of village involvement I stick with it.  Bridge the following evening was altogether more stimulating and on Thursday I factored in a yoga lesson, a visit on Friday to see Mum and on Friday evening the McGoverns and Cadecs came for a curry supper.  What with the village walk on Saturday I felt back on track with village activities.  We walked in wind, rain and cold but it didn’t matter.  A decent pub lunch followed.  An optional extra on Sunday was a SSAFA curry lunch at Bryanston School.

The week that followed was largely spent out of the county.  On Monday I drove there and back to see my dear friend Stella Maris, who is a fading star.  She has been a leading light in my adventures with shells.  Now, in her 90s, she is a tired lady, destined before long to become stardust.  How lovely that she knows me, smiles with pleasure as she recognises my name, my voice.  It is just a whirlwind of a visit to the Camborne area.  I meet Pam at the cottage so we can sort out some of Stella’s collections that need to be rehomed.  This is a job she started as much as 15 years ago, perhaps longer.  In the interval she has assiduously sought out people and institutions to whom she could pass on useful objects and books.  Once Pam and I have completed our task I take her, Rose and Andrew to lunch.  We return to Shang-ri La to await the arrival of Dave Fenwick who is coming to collect some shells and after tea round table in the parlour I head for Dorset with some boxes of this and that including a small collection of Drift Seeds and Sea Beans.

On Wednesday Nick and I slip down to Clifford Bridge to say with our very good friends, Bas and Rosemary.  Bas and I have plans to work through his shelly queries, gleanings from the hauls of seabed sediment that were taken during boatwork which took place during the field trip to North Wales.  I took three of these dredged samples back to The Old Workshop to process, sieve, sort, identify.  I think Bas must have worked through at least ten such hauls.  There are lots of specimens to look at because Bas is nothing if not meticulous.  This is a man for whom the maxim that ‘the best is the enemy of the good’ could be a blessing and a curse!


During our visit we give a day to walking the land around Haytor, taking in the famous granite tramway and some exceptional Hut circles in the neighbourhood of Hound Tor.  It is quite a long trek, intermittently uphill and downalong and we feel virtuous when we return to Mill House for lunch and a short nap for me and Rosemary.  Our treat is to eat at the very special Old Inn at Drewsteignton.

On Friday morning we cannot tarry for long.  There is just time for me to spend an hour or so working through a few more of Bas’ samples before we have to leave for Winterborne K because I have a special family party to prepare for on Sunday 21st.


Icelandic Interval

I first visited Iceland in the early 1990s, during the course of my studies for a BSc degree at Royal Holloway, reading Geology and Zoology.  It was a whim, prompted by I forget what, that found Nick and I boarding a flight bound for Reykjavik in November.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip, the few days allotted allowed us to take in a good number of the essentials in terms of organised excursions.

A chance conversation with our sons after Joel’s Italian evening gave rise to the idea that another trip should be made, this time with our adult children and spouses.  For various reasons the group that finally booked for the trip consisted of Nick, myself, Barns, Dan and Ems.  We were booked into a central hotel – Centerhotels Klopp – which gave us easy access to venues for night-time dining.

We ate at a range of establishments, and tried some unusual foods: puffin, minke whale and the rather difficult to stomach fermented shark.  I have to say that the reindeer burger tasted much like the regular kind.  IMG_3410EditIn some restaurants we paid a lot of money and it was on the last evening when we ate at the Laundromat Café that we found a place that had great atmosphere; a stylish space with a relaxed ambiance and easy décor.

We found time to walk around Reykjavik and visited the Ice Cube Concert Hall and looked in the Maritime Museum which was all about fishing. DSC00139Edit DSC00141EditWe signed up for excursions which took us to Thingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss, the Blue Lagoon.  The hot spring I remember from my first trip has expanded spatially and the gradual doming of water now takes place more rapidly before it erupts.

Sadly the young ones missed out on their Glacier Hike because of bad weather conditions and we were not fortunate enough to see the Northern Lights.  Another time.  For the moment my photos can tell their story, enhanced by a short video clip which shows the most spectacular of the hot springs in action at the present time.