Five on Friday and one year on

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One  There must have been a massive downpour last night. Water was running off the fields and streaming onto the main road this morning; there were rivulets of soil and leaves along the lanes, and big puddles everywhere. It was also distinctly soggy underfoot on my way down to the beach with the dog. I walk there more and more these days, pulled by the sound of the waves on the pebbles and the possibility of being the only person there. I wasn’t there long before a couple arrived with two very energetic spaniels and a portly man pitched up with two equally portly labradors. He stopped halfway to the water’s edge, stripped down to his shorts, donned a swimming cap and gloves, then bounded into the sea. Yes, really. It may be a gloriously sunny day but that sea is blinking freezing. He wasn’t even wearing a wetsuit. Bonkers. He swam along close to the shore while his dogs, obviously more sensible than he is, ran along the beach barking. Probably telling him there was no way they would be joining him.

Two  Spring is most definitely in the air here in our coastal plot. I watched a pair of blue tits checking out the old nest box in the cherry tree earlier. It would be lovely to have birds nesting in it but our two city-turned-seaside moggies will probably deter them and, anyway, I’d hate the cats to catch any fledglings (the mice, shrews and other assorted creatures are bad enough). Alfie spends a lot of his time down by the pond and during our first summer here, he kept bringing a newt into the kitchen. He would catch the newt, carefully carry it up to the house and deposit it gently on to the kitchen floor. I’d scoop the still-very-much-alive newt into a tub of water and take it back to the pond. This happened several times over the course of a couple of weeks and I’m sure it was the same newt each time.

Three  You can almost hear the plants growing in the garden. Buds are swelling on the fruit trees; gorgeous blue grape hyacinth flowers are studding the path edges; tulip and narcissus bulbs are shooting up; and crinkled rhubarb leaves are pushing through the soil. It’s all heart-swellingly life-affirming. The primroses I picked for my ‘In a Vase on Monday’ are still looking lovely. I forgot to tell you about their scent – they smell deliciously honey-like which is something I’d not noticed before I picked them. I’ve photographed them next to an apple to show you how tiny the little jug is.

Four  I’ve been working my way through last weekend’s sourdough loaf. David has got into a great routine of weekend bread-baking. Sometimes bagels, sometimes baguettes, always a sourdough loaf or two. I’ve taken some photos of him in action and he’s ‘thinking about’ writing a guest post about his new passion. Watch this space.

Five  Wordpress informed me a couple of days ago that I’ve been blogging for one whole year. More often than not, I am late to the party (in all senses of the phrase) and I’ve read that many people think that blogging may have had its day, whatever that means. Well, as far as I’m concerned, it’s still relevant, hugely  enjoyable and creatively satisfying. I love reading your blogs and making connections. I have laughed out loud, been inspired, had a lump in my throat, been full of admiration and learnt a lot. Thank you for reading, thank you for commenting and thank you for your friendship.

I’m once again joining Amy for her Five on Friday weekly round-up. Do pop over to see her and for links to many other Fives from around the world.





Five on Friday

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One  We’ve had some gloriously sunny days but the late afternoons and evenings have been icy-cold this week. Winter is reminding us that it may yet come back to bite us on the bum. I read a tip on Gillian’s blog for cleaning the glass windows in wood burners: screw-up some newspaper, wet it, dip it in ash from the fire, scrub the window and the soot comes away easily, give it the once-over with some dry scrunched-up newspaper and Bob’s your uncle. It worked a treat. The sight of the first fire after cleaning was so clear, it looked as though there was no glass there at all. It feels all the more toasty when you can clearly see the flames flickering around the wood.

Two  I’m off the starting block with the crochet. Woohoo. I’ve managed a little square and a little circle of double crochet, which was the source of much amusement (Look! It’s a hat for a guinea-pig!), and now I’m doing a little piece of half treble. I’ve discovered that it’s much easier if you can see what you’re doing, so wearing my reading glasses and sitting by the window help enormously. Now I’m getting the hang of it I can see how it could become addictive. It’ll be a long while before I’m up to blanket-speed, though.

Three  David’s 50th birthday present from me was a day on an advanced bread-baking course at the E5 Bakehouse last Sunday. He had an absolutely brilliant time and came home even more fired-up about bread. I’d say he’s on the verge of being a bread evangelist. He will talk bread with anyone who’ll listen. I’m on the verge of being bored by bread (bludgeoned by baguette) but that would be churlish when he’s turning out such scrumptious loaves for us to eat.

Four  My brother and his family came to stay for a few days. I do so love spending time with them and seeing our children together. There’s quite an age gap but my little niece and nephew adore their big cousins and my three are lovely with them. My sister-in-law, who is an all-round super creative person (web designer and photographer) has been helping me get my head around a website for my editorial work and she’s very kindly taken some photos of me. I’m definitely not a natural in front of the camera and it’s a testament to her skill that there were a few decent ones out of all the photos she took. She’s going to do some tweaking before I use them.

Five  Did I mention the bread?!  🙂  Back to the Howard Jacobson quote at the end of my previous post. Uncertainty is my default state of mind these days. My 16-year-old sees pretty much everything in black-and-white but the older I get, the more I see that the world is a big mush of grey. The only thing I am certain about is my love for my family, that the sea will be outside the window tomorrow morning and the dog will be pestering me for her walk if she hasn’t been out by 10am.

Wishing you an excellent weekend. I shall be catching up with a mountain of laundry, ‘encouraging’ the children to do their half-term homework before Monday and hopefully getting out into the garden – the greenhouse needs clearing out and there are sweet peas to sow. Spring is in the air.

I’m joining in with Amy’s popular Five on Friday link-up which has been running for one year today, linking many bloggers from around the world.


Show offs

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If you visited our house over the past week you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d walked into a scene of blissful domesticity: home-grown produce on the kitchen table, the smell of freshly baked bread, sewing-basket balanced on top of a pile of uniform to be named… The last few days of the summer holidays have been full of running errands and all those last-minute chores before Back To School – that time in early September when parents across the land heave a collective sigh (of regret and/or relief).

My daughter had her first day at secondary school yesterday and my eldest son got up four hours earlier than he has for the previous six weeks to travel with her on the train so she knew where to go, even though he doesn't start back until Monday. Gosh, I did feel odd waving them off – love, pride, anxiety, happiness, sadness, excitement, wistfulness... The whole shebang.
My daughter had her first day at secondary school yesterday. In a complete fit of magnanimity, my eldest son got up four hours earlier than he has for the previous six weeks to travel with her on the train so she knew where to go, even though he doesn’t start back until Monday. Gosh, it did feel odd waving them off – huge love, pride, anxiety, happiness, sadness, excitement, wistfulness… The whole shebang. He was back an hour later and spent the remainder of the day ‘resting’; she had a very happy first day.


As well as the looming new school year, we’ve also been preparing a bumper family entry for the village gardeners’ association late summer show. My younger son entered ‘A loaf (any size/any flour)’ and has been taking every opportunity to learn from the master bread-maker in our house (my husband). Secrets have been passed from father to son and he duly baked the most magnificent bloomer yesterday evening. David entered a ‘White plaited loaf’ and was up until 3am (yes, 3am) this morning creating his masterpiece (we’d been out to see friends earlier in the evening and stayed late…).

My entries were much less labour-intensive: ‘1 Cucumber’, ‘9 Cherry Tomatoes (one variety)’, ‘Cut flowers mixed or individual outdoor varieties (1 vase)’; ‘Cut grasses and/or seed heads mixed/single variety (1 vase); and ‘5 stems of Annuals’, so I was out in the garden early this morning, battling cobwebs and gathering spiders on my pyjamas, to cut my produce. My daughter entered a photograph – ‘Insect Life’ – of an ant in a flower that she took on holiday a couple of years ago.

Our entries had to be at the village hall by 10am, then there was a four-hour wait to find out the results… We nipped back after lunch to see how we’d done.

My son's prize- (and, to his delight, cash-) winning, ginormous bloomer.
Ta-da! My son’s prize- (and, to his delight, cash-) winning, ginormous bloomer.
David’s late-night creation also won first prize, as did the 9 cherry tomatoes (‘Sungold’) and 1 cucumber (a monster ‘Marketmore’). My mixed flowers and grasses/seedheads didn’t win but I am of the ‘pick and plonk’ school of arranging and there were some rather splendidly arranged vases. My ‘5 stems Annuals’ – Tithonia, of course – came second to some wonderful sunflowers, and my daughter’s photo came third. She’s looking forward to next year when she’ll be old enough to enter for the cash prize and give her brother a run for his money.

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