Pasties at Porthcurno………. and Other Indulgences

After our Oxfordshire weekend, I have a busy week which incorporates the usual suspects.  Bridge, lunch and supper dates, yet another spell in the dentist’s chair with a shell day with Harry and Anna thrown in.  I also dig out all the paperwork for the Purple Dye chapter which I need to write.  Talking of digging I put a few pots of things in the border where the Crinodendron is.  I decide to resurrect the Garden Journal which Anne made for me a couple of years ago and stick a few photos in as aides memoires.  We are coasting up to the weekend when my birthday celebration will start with a lunch for 10 at the Greyhound and this includes 2 immediate neighbours who share my birthday.

So the birthday week arrives and we leave WK and head for Whimple where we will visit our friend Hilary who paints.  There is a picture to collect, now framed and we are going to have delicious lunch at The Jack on the Green with her. After a warming meal we drop her back at her home and head for a northern passage across Dartmoor.  We are heading for Padstow and as the road climbs steadily to higher ground we are suddenly in a heavy flurry of snow, driving at the windscreen and settling soon on the road.  The snow is so persistent I make a hasty rollcall of possible sources of sustenance in the car – the answer is virtually nil!  As we continue on our way the weather subsides and we come to northern Cornwall, where, sure, there is snow on the ground but patchy.  This covering will persist, in some pockets, throughout our stay.

The Old Custom House Hotel in Padstow is much to our liking and after a fortuitous hiccup we are upgraded to one of their suites which does us nicely.

So on the morning of the 3rd I wake to the pleasure of being in Cornwall and with a collection of cards and gifts to open.  People are so kind and I feel spoilt.  We are going to go to Porthcurno today, via Hardy’s Exotic plants to pick up a plant or two.  We also pick up two warm pasties which we carry to Porthcurno and eat on the beach.  Later we are going to meet Richard and Anne, part of our extended family and eat supper at Trevaskis Farm.  We eat a magnificent three-course meal which I know will weigh heavily on the scales of reckoning when my extended birthday-fest comes to an end!

Thursday is Shang-ri La day where I find Stella, looking much much better and Rose who runs the show these days.  Lunch in the bijou dining room will always be a sociable treat of a ritual and after Pam and Andrew arrive and it’s tea and carrot and walnut cake.  I accompany Rose down the garden to see the snowdrops and have my breath taken away by the Hamamelis, chicly in flower.  Dinner in the Pescadou restaurant at hour hotel piles yet more on the scales of dietary wrath.

On Friday we are going to visit Lis at Taunton and she lunches us at Augustus, her friendly neighbourhood restaurant.  Here we talk more and eat less and it is good.  Our last port of call is Clifford Bridge, home of friends with whom we always feel delightfully entertained and imaginatively well fed.  A game of Spite and Malice with a glass of Amaretti on ice has me almost asleep over my playing cards.  On the morrow we walk in their woods, enjoy a concoction of soup with bread straight out of the breadmaker.  And then it is home James in our ‘new’ automatic Peugeot which has thoroughly won us over with its heated leather seats and satnav…………. yaaaay!


When Winter followed Spring

Back in St Vaast and pleased to be just we two, chez nous.  The daffodils continue to bloom sequentially with the earliest variety now in need of dead-heading.  Nick spends time in the garden tracking down the bee orchid rosettes and staking them.  I need to find a good time to lift a few plants which we will give to Bas and Rosemary.  I plan to delay this until a day or two before our return to Dorset.  Whilst the weather is kind Nick manages two fishing trips.  Now is the time for the large pollack that frequent the offshore wrecks and he is not disappointed.  On his first trip, solo, he lands ten very fine fish.   We give six away and freeze 8 fillets.  Two days later Georgy and Francois join Nick and they again catch ten fish between them.

I go shopping with Brigitte one day, and join her and Anne at the gym for a couple of sessions on other days.  I try a Pilates for the first time.   As the first week draws to a close there are rumours of snow on the way.  On Saturday I decide to lift some of the bee orchids for transfer to England and I translocate other plants to add to the two major drifts of plants.  The ground is so wet that this task is achieved much more easily and speedily than this time last year.  In the long term this should make mowing more easy, in addition to lending more coherence to the orchid flower spikes when they bloom.  It is as well that I get the job done with a bit of time to spare.  On Sunday night it snows heavily and a blizzard continues into Monday.  We have at least 30 cms of snow around our house.

As the day wears on it is clear that we will not be crossing the Channel on Tuesday.  We lose electricity in the middle of the day on Monday and this does not return until 48 hours later.  Worse, we then have to contend with 36 hours with no water supply.  Fortunately clean snow can be collected and melted for most purposes, leaving bottled water for drinking and cooking.  We negotiate our way through these privations with minimal discomfort.  Our wood-burning stove throws heat out, our two-ring gas hob enables us to cook, and my stock of candles sees excellent service.  We have an ear to the outside world courtesy of our small transistor radio.  One afternoon we cosy down on our sofas and play a four-handed, four-pack game of Spite and Malice with Ty and Claire.

The northeasterly gale blows onshore, a very unusual occurrence on our coast.  It hits the oyster park and very large numbers of oyster sacks are swept off their trestles and cast up at high tide.  Some are ripped open and the oysters spill out.  On consecutive afternoons we harvest two modest servings from these serendipitous strandings.  We take our second cache of these desirable comestibles over the road to share with Ty and Claire on the evening before we catch our return ferry.  Claire is cooking a guinea fowl stuffed with dried fruit and pate which has partially defrosted and should be used.  It is delicious.

Reconnecting in Dorset

Within 24 hours of our return to WK, we had supper with Maddy and Andrew. We had missed them whilst we were away. We ate a delicious lasagne made by Elisabeth and finished up the various chocolate brownies and crunches that Rollo and Terry brought to St Vaast. Later that night and into the morning it snowed and we woke on Friday morning to a fresh blanket of snow. We fared well in Dorset for no further snow fell and after a few days it started to melt. During the snowy days we were visited by a large cock pheasant who settled into regular visits once he discovered he would be fed.

After our supper with the Dukes we made trips to the cinema on three consecutive evenings. We saw Quartet, Les Miserables and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. I had already seen the latter film but it was showing at the Athelhampton Cinema and Nick was keen to see it too. These wintry days are perfect cinema weather.

A quick midweek-overnighter in Godalming saw my teeth and hair sorted. The latter appointment was a blessing as Dorset hairdressers have struggled to understand my requirements, or in one case, think they know what I would like better than I do. At the end of the week I went to visit Mum after a lengthy absence. It is a blessing that she does not feel the passage of time. We sat and looked at photos on my iPad, played a few games and she enjoyed looking at the Facebook pages of some family members.

Celia and I went over to Rollo’s to celebrate her birthday. We all prepared something for our lunch which we ate in leisurely fashion. Afterwards we drank wine and compared notes on teeth and hair……………

After a year’s absence from meetings, Nick and I drove to the Natural History Museum in Cromwell Road on the last Saturday in January to attend the first indoor meeting of the Conchological Society in 2013. I took up some shells to exhibit and spent the day looking at other exhibits and catching up with the fraternity. The speaker failed to show, having found the weather conditions in northern England somewhat daunting. Nevertheless there was never a lull moment and I left at the end of the afternoon with a list of tasks and follow-up items to get my conchological year rolling. As I left the museum I was much taken with the frontage which is illuminated by divine blue lighting. London can be rightly proud of this institution for which admission is free.

Easter Bunnies and Rainbow Trout

We are beginning to wind our Inshriach days down.  Unfortunately some of us find our own personal mechanisms are waning too – a cold/virus which has been hanging around me during the week smites me down on Friday night and I keep to my bed on Saturday and much of Sunday.  Charlotte too is feeling rough; this is hard as the Perrymans must pack up and head for Aberdeen airport to catch their flight early Saturday afternoon.  Over the weekend all the adults start sneezing and feeling below par.

The Easter Egg hunt takes place on Good Friday.  It is a short-lived frenzy during which many eggs are retrieved from hiding places in the house.  They are piled onto a platter and then divvied up, together with three large chocolate rabbits.  Each family has its carrier bag stash to take home.  That evening Charlotte cooks a delicious three-course dinner, the last meal for the assembled before we begin to disperse.

Another last minute enterprise is trout-fishing.  Dan is delighted to indulge in a past pleasure and takes enough fish from the small lake below the house to provide Saturday night’s dinner.  Lucy and Walter are invited and I am so sorry to feel below par, and unable to join everyone at the long table in the hall.  Lanquishing in the four poster bed above them all, I hear the sounds of clacking cutlery and happy chatter.  The children all rise to the occasion.

On Sunday evening Dan, Barney, Lukie and the children join the ‘sleeping train’ at Aviemore.  On Easter Monday Nick and I slip away early for the long journey home.  Neither of us feels at all well, but we drive our way north to south and fall in our front door.  It will be a good few days before we both feel we have shaken ourselves free of the virus.

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Shock and Awe

Imagine our amazement when we awoke to an Arctic landscape on Tuesday morning.  Stealthily through the night that lovely white stuff that gives kids and grown-up kids so much pleasure cloaked our immediate environs and the mountains beyond.  Having slept in bedrooms with drawn curtains, the children’s jaws dropped when they trickled down into the kitchen and looked out of the windows.

This snow might mean some rescheduling for the movie short we will be filming this week.  However Dan is ever known for his ability to work with the conditions he finds, and the mercurial moods of children who may, or may not, feel like donning costumes to do his bidding.  It seems that Haribo is an ever ready encouragement to pull out the best performances!

Charlotte is pressed into service as make-up mistress by putting her cosmetics to a rather unconventional use.  With the addition of some talcum powder she transforms two of her nephews and one of her nieces into pallid lost souls!  Then it is off to the woods for a bit of shooting…………

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Simply Christmages

A pictures does for many words it’s said so here follows a slideshow, a chronological set of pictures which might give you the impression that Christmas was largely spent in the kitchen.  But that’s ok because I love our kitchen and its back is broad…..

We coasted into festivities with the arrival of Dan, Ems, Lola and Ruby.  By Boxing Day afternoon 29 sentient beings excluding Rooney were circulating around the ground floor of the Workshop which meant we could easily keep tabs on the children and vice versa. I’ve cooked up two vats: a venison casserole and a lamb curry.  My sisters have offered desserts.  There is a mountain of good food and the day passes convivially.  The children have a vigorous session in the garden after lunch then settle down in front of Toy Story 3.

With time trickling by and the necessity for some to leave in the late afternoon we squeeze in the communal cracker pulling event in the big hall followed by a frenzy of present unwrapping.  It all has to be fitted into a smaller time window than one would have wished but we manage.  There is fun and games before the children go to bed and once they are away Dan treats us to a screening of The Prophet – an unusual choice for festive viewing!

There is more kitchen action for me the following day.  The Hackneys get on the road early in the morning, northward bound, then a leg of lamb goes into the Aga before two contingents sally forth: one to the Tank Museum, the other to Weymouth Sands.  We eat our roast meal at the end of the afternoon.  The exodus starts the following day.

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Thanks for Our (Almost) Daily Bread

We live in a village without a shop or proper post office but we do rejoice in the Greyhound Inn (whose carveries are famed well beyond the confines of the village) a mobile library, a mobile PO and a weekly bus into Dorchester.  We also have something rather special for this side of the Channel – a village bakery.

And so it was that I could pick my way up the snowy lane on Saturday morning to buy a Blue Vinny loaf and place our Christmas order.  The shop opens for 3 hours on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and for an extra hour on Saturday.  There’s a small wooden ‘hutch’ outside, with an honesty box therein,  from which you can buy the farm’s eggs, honey, chutneys.  Not that there are many eggs to be had at this time of year.

Indoors preparations for Christmas are typically (for me) multi-stranded.  I find it difficult to complete one job before I start another so it’s all a bit muddly.  I think as far as dressing the monster tree is concerned I just have to hang a batch of decorations then move to something else for variety.   Where Christmas trees are concerned, for Nick, size has always mattered! We went to a supplier at Toller Porcorum – what a name 🙂 – which Maddy and Andrew have used for many years.  They are connoisseurs of the larger tree.

And I am still unpacking boxes of books and shelving in batches where I can but it is another task which needs tea breaks.  I have rethought my strategy and will now get all the books out then start shuffling and regrouping.  What I really would like is a library!

The snow continues to fall and sends we Brits into a spin.  It is the severest winter since records began in 1910 I read somewhere.  I don’t have to venture far afield fortunately, and more fortunately Nick is able to make the drive, overnight, to Caen to pick up the Ferry for Poole early on Sunday.

Whilst he was away I had to troubleshoot a major plumbing episode when one of the taps to the bath sprang a leak and I didn’t notice until a puddle welled in the carpet between the bedroom and bathroom, and water was running along under the bathroom floor to cause a large damp area on the plaster of the bedroom walls downstairs.

None of the plumbers I phoned answered, or if I got an answer they had no-one available until the next week!  Thank goodness for practical, capable friends like Stuart who came over from Cerne with various wrenches and a smile.  He fixes it.  It then takes a good while and many kilowatt hours with the fan heater to dry the bedroom out ready for use over Christmas.

At Winterborne K we get our heaviest fall on Monday, when Claire and the children were due to come from Bournemouth to have lunch with us.  She wisely decides to head back to Oxfordshire, but this is not without its challenges because driving conditions are still treacherous, we hear on Radio 4, and it is with great relief that we receive her text at the end of the afternoon to say that she and all her treasures are safely reinstalled at home.

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Upper Hands for No-one

The miserable man has failed to turn up, without notice, there is no reply from the office and doubtless the weather has had its wicked way.  Nevertheless we have a telephone……….

So, tant pis, let’s enjoy some nice views from our property with the promise of a thaw tomorrow and rain on Saturday and Sunday which means with a good tail wind, and not from the northeast, we will get home.

And now for some delvings from the freezer for lunch, and a walk this afternoon to La Hougue.

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A Close Run Thing

We’ve tipped up in St Vaast with a bag of fireworks for our builder.  Work to counteract dry rot problems on our house is long, long overdue and we have a ‘rendez-vous’ with him, in the frozen wastes of our barren salon-sejour, at 11 o’clock tomorrow morning.  ‘Rendez-vous’ is an altogether too agreeable word for a meeting which we will need to conduct with aplomb and a bit of cool, since in building matters the customer seldom has the upper hand.

Our builder has made it clear that, rather like many of his compatriots of the masculine gender, business of this kind is best left to the men to sort out.  At least I won’t be required to be the tea lady.  And the coffee I served last time, when 6 of them were seated around the table on September 1st to agree works and responsibilities, didn’t appear to cut the mustard either so I think I’ll don a pinafore and hug the stove instead.

We are lucky to be here, having made a run for it yesterday evening when a lull in snowfall allowed us to drive to Portsmouth for the overnight crossing.  Today the news from England is all about the weather.  It’s a fine line between a Winter Wonderland and gross inconvenience and discomfort.

So we left Winterborne K yesterday morning and arrived in Surrey without too much hassle.  We’ve had cold weather in Dorset, yes, but the day was bright, sunny.  Since my return from Cornwall we have caught up with the sailing Derricks who came for lunch, and the following day Celia and Rollo, friends my business course days, came for a kitchen lunch and a catch-up.  Celia has had a varied working life and currently resides in Tunisia.  But periodically she comes back to work in the UK and seeks out house-keeping jobs for a couple of years.  She likes this work and especially if she has a large establishment to rattle around.  She’d interviewed for a job in a neighbouring village but failed to secure it.  But she may yet end up in Dorset.  Already 3 of our group of 8 (7 of us are still linked up) now live in the county, although Rollo never moved away.

Last weekend our good friends the Hunters came to stay.  We ate in on Saturday evening then on Sunday morning we sallied forth taking in a Table Top Sale at a local Middle School, and a short stroll down to view Lulworth Cove.  There is a small shack near the shore where you can buy fresh fish.  And bliss, it is open Saturdays and Sunday all year round.  We couldn’t resist a minor spree so bought a nice cooked Brown Crab to share and 2 glistening plaice.  Dick and Eileen bought crab claws and 2 whole sole.  Thence to The European Inn at Piddletrenthide which styles itself as offering ‘a taste of country life near the sea.’  Which is perfectly right.  We had a great lunch.

I’ve come over to St V with a list of jobs.  Christmas provisioning for a start.  Cupboards and wardrobes in the front bedrooms need to be emptied.  I need to dig out all the Christmas decorations we have here, take them back to WK and rationalise my total assemblage.  I want to round up all my potted plants and decide what to leave here and what to take to Dorset.  A number of grasses, reeds, sedges and succulents are going to be better off, and sit more stylishly, on the shingle area of our evolving garden in the UK.

I’m rather excited about the new garden, although to some it might be not much more than a postage stamp.  But I’ve some ideas, and am trying very hard not to wish the months away so that I can get stuck in.

Parting Shots

So its fare thee well Inshriach House and all its inhabitants.  A late afternoon walk in the sun and snow shows the landscape at its tranquil best with the tracks and footprints which mark our week in its thrall.

Sun shining down into the garden.

Sun  on the mountains behind Inshriach House, the Bothy, the Henhouse

Lola really wants to go home now…

A last look back.