Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Boxing Day

On Boxing day DD1 and family went to her in-laws and we went to have a grown up day with DD2. George says this is a silly photograph. Well yes, but it was Boxing Day and you are allowed to be silly. We had a very light and elegant lunch - these are balls of prawn risotto deep fried with a caper sauce - I think they were called ancini - does that sound right? Anyway, this was followed by smoked salmon steaks and asparagus with a whole bottle of wine in the sauce and then mulled wine jelly with crystallised ginger cream - another bottle of wine in that! Delicious. DD2 is an exceptionally good cook.

She has a large collection of Dutch candle houses mostly collected from the antique market in Rotterdam (I have got about a dozen) and here she is lighting some of them

and this is what they look like when they are lit.
After lunch we sat and watched Mamma Mia because George had not seen it and they have a huge TV set so it was almost like being at the cinema. It is a real feel-good film and ideal for postprandial viewing. Then we always play cards BUT Pim decided that we wouldn't play the traditional game we would learn an old Dutch game called Klaverjas which was SO complicated! If a suit is trumps then Jack is highest followed by 9, then Ace, 10,King, Queen , 8, 7. But if it is a non-trump suit then the ranking is Ace, 10, King, Queen, Jack, 9,8,7. As if THAT isn't hard enough to handle the scoring is totally illogical - trump jack scores 20, the 9 is 14 and the Ace 11. But - oh no, I cannot go on it is just too difficult. We never did get on to bonus points or points for runs etc but we did play until long past midnight and I think if we play again soon it just might begin to sink in. Pim was very gratified by our progress. He started playing as a schoolboy and it is played in every Dutch brown bar. Well, what can I say.
The day after Boxing Day DD2 always drives me down to Brent Cross where we hit the sales, we just love Fenwicks and we both manage to find something which is a bargain. We are leaving the men in charge of an 8lb piece of topside which hopefully will be ready to eat when we get back at 7. We have to keep on ringing to tell them what to do next!
(DD stands for Dirty Daughter - don't ask me why!)

Well, Christmas is over and all the family dispersed today. DD1 and the boys declared last night that they would leave soon after 8.30. They left at 10 past 12. The house was so quiet when they had gone and I was left with a very dirty pale gold carpet and piles of washing . Will gave me a great big bear hug when he went - lovely! DD2 has gone over to Holland as they always do to spend New Year with Pim's sister. So we are Derby & Joan now. Bliss!

Every year Christmas Eve is a busy day for me and George. At 3 we have the Crib Service which is the MOST popular service of the year and the church is PACKED, standing room only. And the reason is this..... We have a living Crib. People now start arriving at 1.45 to get a good seat. The Christmas story is enacted with the Innkeeper (George with a lantern and the church keys on a big ring round his waist) coming down from the vestry and being interviewed by the vicar - no room at the inn tonight! Then we sing Little Donkey and Noah our donkey, followed by Mary and Joseph, walks all round the church to the delight of the children. I wonder if we are the only church in England which has its own donkey? Last year we had to buy up yards of old carpeting to put round the aisles as Noah doesn't like walking on the flagstones! Then the shepherds (carrying toy sheep - we used to have a real sheep until Health and Safety said it was dangerous)come out and an angel pops up from the pulpit and delivers the Good News. All of them in turn process down to the bell tower where they are eventually joined by Baby Jesus and all the congregation file past to have a look. That is my job, to try and keep the crowd moving on! The children are funny as they wait to see the tableau, every year some little boy says to me it was a good thing the donkey didn't mess on the carpet. I have a feeling there would be great delight if one day he did! George has been organising this event for many years and says that it is a wonderful and moving experience to see the look on the faces as people gaze at the scene. But the responsibility rather goes to his head and he becomes very lovey, demanding equity cards and auditions etc!
The Vicar was telling me that for the first year in memory we didn't have a baby lined up - but nothing fazes our Andrew. He went down to the surgery and hung around until a suitable young mother turned up with a small baby and he accosted her -and as no one can resist our Andrew two days later they were starring in our show!

On trips to the middle east we have bought up djellabayas and head coverings etc. so no teatowels round the heads of OUR shepherds ! Anyway, the day doesn't end there because at some time or other all our family have arrived and have to be fed and then at 10 George and I go back to church to 'sidle' and to read the lessons at the Midnight Mass. This again has been George's job for some 30 years ever since the then vicar decided he needed a strong young man on the door to deal with any drunks or disruptive elements coming in when the pubs closed. For a number of years we did have trouble but not nowadays, the worst that happens is that a group of youngsters come in and after about 10 minutes make a noisy exit. But at least they come. Then we go home and fall into bed at about one o'clock - at least the grandchildren don't wake us at the crack of dawn any more.
This is one of the flower arrangements I did - all the flowers were white and gold this year and the church looked beautiful. I do like the thought that villagers have been celebrating Christmas there for centuries.

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree.

In common with just about every other woman in the country I have been busy, busy, busy lately. And cold! But this is my beautiful Christmas tree - or part of it - it is lovely to get all the boxes out and greet old friends, like the nutcracker prince and Socks the White House cat and a Black Pete from Holland, the green St Nickolas from Russia, the star from Krakow etc. I usually buy one or two new ormanents (not a typo, that is what my daughter used to call them) every year but last year I decided that the tree is now officially full. But then on Sunday we had our usual party after the Carol Service and a dear friend who is a lace maker brought me a very delicate little lace decoration. Always room for one more!

I worked like mad for the party - 60 people invited but one or two fell by the wayside because of the weather. We have been doing this now for more years than I can remember - 30 or 40 - and people very kindly say it wouldn't be Christmas without the Howard's party to start it off. Mind you, that puts a certain pressure on doing it all again the next year. Anyway, dear Sandra came up from London to help and the minute she walked in the kitchen she started making smoked salmon blinis. When most people had left at around 10 o'clock about half a dozen friends lingered and we had baked potatoes and chili con carne. Then we fell into bed exhausted.

On Monday after Sandra had gone home George and I drove to Milton Keynes to find Ikea. I LOVE Ikea and George hates it. We really are not suited. But William wants a bedside cabinet for his room at Uni and asked for it to be flat packed so that he could have the fun of making it so I siezed the opportunity of a visit. The weather was bad and the traffic slow and Milton Keynes is an enigma but eventually we found it. So that is now accomplished and we had a very nice Scandinavian lunch for about a tenner.

This is part of my back garden looking wonderful
and this is the front garden. Isn't it magical the way the snow transforms everything and you see it in a new light!

Sadly DD2 has just telephoned me to say a young boy bashed into her lovely new apple green VW convertible this evening - it was parked outside the house and he just slid into it. Her personalised numberplate is in pieces but I think that the big rubber eyelashes (YES, I am not kidding) are still intact on the headlights. She has daisies all over the boot - you cannot miss her and quite obviously this young man did not. Poor Sarah. But she said she felt really sorry for him because he was as white as a sheet and had to ring his mother and tell her what he had done! Fortunately he was insured but it is still a big nuisance.

I went out in my car today to deliver the Christmas presents to our Almshouse ladies and the side roads are lethal. I was glad to get home and light the fire, spending the evening wrapping presents whilst George is out at Rotary with DD2's husband.

Tomorrow morning I shall be arranging the flowers in church - wrapped up very warmly! Although we had a jolly MESCH meeting last week with a delicious lunch and I was all fired up to get on with the work for the exhibition at Cottenham in February, circumstances are just against me at the moment - but just watch me fly when all the celebrations are over!

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Wearing Purple - Party time

Well, I told you you would see me coming ! I had some very strange looks as we walked across Cambridge to the University Centre today, with my bright purple tights and red shoes, not to mention the red hat! The beaded handbag I got at the Church Bazaar last week for 50p - I thought it was worth that for the beads alone, but it was a very eccentric addition to my outfit.

We had a nice lunch at my friend's 70th birthday party - I had been asked to read a VERY long piece about growing older and seeing this other woman in the mirror who wasn't you at all, but looked suspiciously like you. It went down very well - largely because most of us there knew the feeling only too well of glimpsing an elderly lady in a shop window and realising that it IS YOU!. At the end gave her the picture of the plump lady in purple which I stitched a few weeks ago and I think she was pleased with it. Practically all the guests had made the effort to dress up and the whole thing was great fun.

We have just got home and George has made me a nice cup of tea and we will sit with our feet up & look at the papers before going off to a party this evening with our local MP Andrew Landsley. I shall NOT be wearing red and purple!
(Actually, the really scary thing is that I quite like the purple tights.....)

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

I have had a LOVELY day today at Art Van Go with Clare Bullock making a hat ! This is the first stage, layering up the wool and underneath is the whole class wearing their hats
Not a bad day's work! I have previously made hats with Lizzie Houghton and this was a similar method - of course, I REALLY need a new hat! That is me in the red jacket.

This is my hat being blocked and then it was steamed and now it is just waiting to be worn to the 'Purple Party' on Saturday.
Must dash now as we are going to a Rotary Ladies Night and George is champing at the bit, but just had to show off the hats. We all had such fun.

Monday, 30 November 2009

The grapes of wrath

Yesterday we had another formal testing of the wine - the Man from Delmonte he say it need yet more sugar! Also, sitting in our hallway is not warm enough so the demijohns are now in our boiler cupboard and by the radiator in George's bathroom. Most sensible people go and buy their wine in an off license or at the supermarket - why, oh why can't I? It looks murky and bubbles in a really sinistser manner but the male elements of this venture are convinced that it is going to be a success and are talking of a production run of about 24 bottles!
Meanwhile the sloe gin and damson vodka (my little bit of alchohol production) is going along nicely with just a daily shake of the bottles.
George and I went to Blackthorpe Barn at Rougham on Saturday - what a lovely selection of excellent craft work. There were so many things I would have liked to buy and I had lots of interesting talks with stallholders. One woman had made some stunning patchwork cushions with appliqued circles and squares, jewel-like and glowing - I wonder if it was one of our fellow bloggers in East Anglia? Unfortunately (or fortunately for her) she was very busy selling and I missed the opportunity to talk to her. It was good to see Jenny, the daughter of my friend Pam A-K , there with her recycled art - I have one of her naive angel pictures from way back when she first started selling. I did some Christmas shopping and we had a very nice afternoon tea, scones and jam - delicious - I have begun to feel that Christmas is on its way.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


I cannot believe that six weeks have gone by since we set the mesch exhibition up at Art Van Go. On Monday we took the exhibition down - this is just a last glimpse of part of my work bfore we dismantled it. Then we all went and had a cup of coffee to celebrate because we had lots of positive feedback from the people who viewed our first exhibition.

Today I have had SUCH an exciting day - I went up to London to meet my dear friend Sandra at the V & A to see the Maharaja exhibition - fabulous. Absolutely fabulous and beautifully staged. What a feast for the eyes. Of course, we were not allowed to take photographs but it has been well reviewed in the press and I am sure you have seen images of the incredible jewellery, clothes and regalia etc..

We spent two hours examining EVERYTHING - how delicious to go round with someone who thinks in exactly the same way and likes the same things. Sandra does volunteer work at the Royal Academy and at Kew and she paints and draws - a very talented lady.

We were both enchanted by the watercolours, such minute detail and such marvellous repeat patterns - one lady was going round with a magnifying glass and, if you are thinking of going, I would urge you to take one!. The Rolls Royce belongs to friends of ours in the next village, although the label just says Private Collection. Of course, we had to have a look round the shop and there were lots of things we resisted buying, faux diamond rings and dangly earrings, loads of scrumptious books but I did just buy a Christmas present for a friend. Then we had to have a little something to eat and drink after such concentrated looking and then duly fortified we went up to look at the newly refurbished ceramics gallery. Who would imagine I had a knee operation in June?!

These were some 60 birds made in blue Wedgwood jasper, all that are left of an installation of 4,000. When it was first shown, visitors were invited to take a bluebird home with them so there must be over 3,000 lucky people out there with a nice little work of art.

Then we both loved the little donkey boy, the message being the contrast between the soft little boy and the heavy burden of life which he was to have to bear. I am ashamed to say that I cannot tell you the names of the two artists but by this time it was nearly six o'clock and we had to be literally thrown out of the gallery.
Over to the lovely St Pancras (we pretended we were on our way to Paris, because we used to go there a lot together) for a drink and some more chat before we both made our separate ways home, dear George waiting to meet me at the station.
We must do it again soon!

Sunday, 22 November 2009

We had a BIG NIGHT OUT on Wednesday when we went to the Charter Night of George's Rotary Club at Selwyn College. Don't we scrub up well ! It is always a pleasure to dine in the colleges in Cambridge and I think that over the years we have dined in most of them, although Selwyn is one of the newer ones. You can nearly always be sure of a good meal, lovely surroundings and certainly fine wines and this week
was no exception. We had an excellent dinner and a good excuse to get togged up - I'm afraid George does look a bit flushed, I think the port had been round a bit too often! He didn't drive home!
On Friday we had a brilliant day - a cousin whom I haven't seen since the last family funeral came to visit with his charming wife and son and I asked the widow of another cousin who lives just a few miles away to come for lunch as well and we had a real old wallow in family history. My mother was one of seven sisters, Audrey was married to one of the sons of the eldest girl Dorothy and she was able to put quite a few names to some of the old photographs. My grandmother was quite a charismatic lady - three marriages - I think we could write a book about what we do know about her, and another if we only knew about her life before she married grandfather. She was born in Calcutta, her father was in the army and she was sent to England to be educated under the guardianship of two ferocius looking maiden aunts. WHY didn't we ask all the right questions when she was alive! Anyway, we had a great time remembering things from our childhood and filling in gaps. Ancestry will be red hot this week as we delve a little further. It has been easy-peasy on my father's Angus line, straight back to 1530, no hassle. When Audrey arrived the first thing she said was, Gosh you DO look like your mother! Oh dear.
Yesterday George spent the morning rattling a Children in Need box for Rotary and when he got back we leapt into the car (leapt is a figure of speech only, you understand) and drove up to Birmingham to hear grandson William play his euphonium in the University of Birmingham
concert at the Conservatoire. Of course, you can't see William but he is the dark thatch of hair next to the blond boy sitting underneath the Big drum! Such is grandmotherly devotion! It was an excellent concert and we were so proud because this is his first term. Afterwards we went back to the flat which he shares on the campus with four other boys and this is the kitchen

Not too bad, I thought, on a Saturday night for five lads who have probably had mother doing everything for them for eighteen years. Will showed us the contents of all the cupboards - quite hilarious what the boys did or did NOT have in their cupboards. One lad just had a jar of coffee. One boy had everything labelled with his name. Will had a HUGE supply of food from his mother and, not being a bad cook, apparently often whips up a pasta or rice dish for the boys. He also showed me the big pile of soap Inga had given him and pointed out that in eight weeks he had barely used one bar. I said she had probably given him enough to last all the four years.

When we arrived in Birmingham we could hardly get out of the carpark for the wind and rain, all the umbrellas were being turned inside out - we made a dash into the Bullring which was HEAVING with people. And so noisy! Well, we had to look around the shops as there was no possibility of walking round outside and I just happened to try on a little black dress and a leopard print jacket which looked so nice I just had to buy it, and George bought some fine black cords so the afternoon was not wasted. We also got a big tin of luxury biscuits for William which he decided he would keep in his bedroom rather than in the kitchen! We didn't get back to Cambridge until well after midnight but had to be up early to go off to church this morning followed by the AGM of SOAS (Supporters of All Saints Church) of which George is chairman. Guess what, we made nearly £600 from the sale of our re-cycled cards and gift tags this year! There is about £25,000 in the bank which will be used at any moment now to replace the lead on the roof.

So tomorrow it is off with Marian, Liz, Margaret and Vanda to take down our exhibition at Art Van Go - it has been up for six weeks and we have had some good feedback so it was all worth while. The next thing will be our exhibition at Textiles in Focus at Cottenham, so I'd better get stitching before Christmas gets in the way.

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

I shall wear purple

WOW - THEY ARE CERTAINLY GOING TO SEE ME COMING!!! The colours here are not too good, because the jumper is a real purple and the vest another shade of mauve. I have been wondering what to wear to this fortcoming party and spent the day in
Cambridge (oh, I wish I hadn't worn heels) looking for something purple, a colour which I never wear. I always find exactly what I want in East, in fact I am a walking advertisement for them, so I wasn't surprised to find my outfit there with the help of a charming young woman who knew all about 'wearing purple with a red hat that does not match' as it was her mother's favourite poem! I must admit the orange is a bit in your face BUT the whole idea is to wear a mish mash of colours, and the skirt looks wonderful with a black top - so roll on party.
I enjoyed my day out, I bought a very nice tweed jacket - I REALLY need a new jacket! I looked at the Spanx control pants but they were £67! I think I can suck my stomach in for less than that. A new ironing board cover, purple tights, some Christmas presents - I managed to come back laden.
On Saturday George drove all the way up to Ellesmere Hall to watch junior grandson play Rugby in a public schools league match - THEY WON! It was his birthday on Monday, thirteen - a teenager 5'8" tall. Meantime, I went to Chilford Hall and thought the quilts were better this year than they have been for a long time, much less gimicky. And on Sunday we went with friends to the Design and Craft show at Newmarket Racecourse where I could have spent a fortune, such lovely work on display there. We had lunch overlooking the course, I do like Newmarket. Monday was the Royston Ladies Luncheon Club and a talk on Sufragettes, and the latter part of the afternoon spent making up more packs of Christmas tags for the bazaar, Tuesday morning NADFAS at Churchill College with a lecture on Michaelangelo and Leonardo (very good). The battery on my car failed and we had to wait for the rescue man to come out so I only just made it to Book Group, where we discussed The Gang of Four by Liz Byrski which I enjoyed, but not enormously. We gave it 7 1/2!
Another two weeks to the purple party, I might let you see what the whole outfit looks like - if the camera can take the shock.

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Cock 'o the walk

Where has this week gone? Well, I have been getting ready for the Church Bazaar which is Saturday week, the 14th. Throughout the year I make recycled birthday and Christmas cards with a friend and every year we make well over £400 - £600 for our lovely mediaeval church. So we shall have a card stall, but I have just been busy making gift tags and threading them up and packing them into bags of twelve. I am careful to mix them up, so that each pack has a suitable tag for Grandma, and neice & nephew and neighbour, etc. so it is a bit of a fiddle. But I do sell loads of packs at 50p each! Talk about slave labourToday DD2 has flown to America for 6 days - she has gone to the Jazzercise Conference
in Chicago, so I have asked her husband Pim over for a meal on Sunday evening hoping perhaps he can work some magic with my computer - there are a number of little niggles to be sorted - the behaviour of my camera for a start since I dropped it on a marble floor in France! He knows he will have to sing for his supper.I have also stitched this little fellow - I am quite pleased with the way he has turned out - I just hope no-one will think I did it with one of those computer programmed images. No way! I think that is cheating on a major scale. I was supposed to be doing a bird - well, it is a bird of course, but I think I should have been doing a more flying sort of bird - but this just popped into my head. Now I have to find a frame for him, I do have several but none are suitable.

I have an Almshouse Trustees meeting tonight, and a Church Hall Trustees meeting at 9 a.m. tomorrow morning, followed by the U3A Gardening Club meeting and then in the evening it is supper and cards with friends. I would have had a Triggs Charity Trustees meeting on Tuesday but it was cancelled, so I had lovely evening in! Then I want to try and get to the Chilford Quilt show on Saturday because there are several things I need, and on Sunday we are going to the Design & Craft show at Newmarket with friends. And that is another week gone.

The Lockshun is still bubbling gently after another dose of sugar and is quite clear. We went for a walk last week and picked beautiful blue/black sloes, so sloe gin will sit alongside the damson vodka which is now looking a heavenly colour. It is a bit early for a thimbleful, but the time will come.....

Monday, 26 October 2009

Wearing Purple

Last Saturday we were going out to dinner so I did not have any cooking to do and spent the afternoon machining this little lady. We have been invited to a 'red hat' party for a friend's 70th birthday in November and this is to be a surprise for her. I am pretty certain she does not read my blogs! This is how she finished up - she reminds me of someone! I really wanted a vibrant purple for the suit but couldn't seem to get it mixing the colours I have! But it is roughly purple. She is about 10 " tall. I have yet to buy something purple to wear at this party (I am not really a mauve person) - but I believe it is the 'in' colour so it shouldn't be too difficult. I shall make a red hat and probably look ridiculous - but that is what it is all about.
Meanwhile, this is the noxious brew - or Lockshun as George calls it. It is bubbling away nicely
but it is right up against the big bookcase in the conservatory so I do hope that nothing explodes. George keeps on going in and bending over it and chuckling and the other George keeps popping over to inspect it - it is much loved!
I am much happier with my damson vodka in the kitchen which I keep shaking and sniffing, I think there is a much better chance of me drinking that than the above. That reminds me of Danny Kaye (with whom I appeared once as a very young girl - but that is another story) -
'the vessel with the pestle is the chalice from the palace - but the flagon with the dragon is the brew that is true'

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

On Sunday the members of MESCH (that is, Marian Murphy, Liz Evans, Margaret Starr, Vanda Campbell and I) went to Art Van Go to set up our first exhibition under the new name. Viv and Kevin were on hand to keep us supplied with coffee and biscuits - they kindly gave up their Sunday to be there for us! Although it is largely retrospective, there is some new work and we do hope that people will enjoy it
This is the delightful poster which Marian has devised to publicise the exhibition, which runs until 21st November.

AND GUESS WHAT? I have won a prize! I am so excited - a hundred pounds to be spent at Art Van Go (not at all difficult in that Aladdin's cave of delights) and a certificate! This is a rather startled me receiving the certificate from the lovely Ann at AvG who was the Judge at the New Maynard Gallery 7th Open Exhibition.

No, it is not what you are thinking - there was no bribery or corruption involved as the pieces of work were submitted anonymously and everyone at AvG was really surprised when it turned out to be me wot won it!
This is my sistificate, which of course I shall have framed and hang in a prominent place (Hmm - don't know what George will have to say about that!) The piece of work was a shoe made entirely of machine embroidery - hours of work and three reels of thread - and beautifully box framed by Simon Robinson & Co. of Haslingfield. I haven't been so thrilled since I won first prize for my home made chutney at the village fete ten years ago!
Meantime, the evil brew has started bubbling, George keeps inspecting it anxiously. It is in my conservatory where it will be a great nuisance on Thursday when my embroidery class meets!
Off now to a village meeting to discuss the installation of double yellow lines down my street - having lost two beloved cats to the traffic I am all in favour! My Book Group met this afternoon
(discussing House of Mirth by Edith Wharton) all I have done today is change the bed, my poor house!

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Dordogne and the Grapes

We have been on holiday - staying with my brother in the Dordogne. In 52 years it is only the third time we have spent more than a day in his company so it was a very special week for me. My brother has lived in Europe all his working life, he has a farm on Exmoor and a villa in Sotogrande (neither of which I have visited) but is only allowed to spend so many days a year in the UK for tax reasons. On his way back to Spain he and his wife have rented a big house in Villefrance du Perigord for six weeks , and he suggested we should fly out to Bergerac and join them.
The house was beautifully furnished with antiques and everything was of the very highest quality - it transpired that it belongs to a Member of Parliament who has never rented the house out before - do you think he needs the money now?! There was an elegant salon furnished with the sort of chairs you perch on, but also a television snug where we were able to watch the British news each day. There was a huge terrace overlooking the valley where we ate in the sunshine, my sister in law is a very good cook so I put on several pounds. We packed a lot into the week visiting so many Bastide towns and villages, markets and vineyards, everywhere was so lush and pretty and CLEAN AND TIDY, no wonder the Brits want to live there. But, oh, expensive! Just as well Mr. Ryanair restricted our luggage so severely - we knew we couldn't buy anything. However, I did treat myself to a lucious tasselled tablecloth with matching napkins in a pink check with a lime green insert - very chic. I thought if the luggage went overweight I would wear the cloth like a shawl! My sister-in-law had it in red so I know it is in good taste!
When we got back home after a week of unbroken blue skies and sunshine we found it so cold and the pump on the boiler would not work. We are awaiting the arrival on Monday of a 'proper man' to fix it, in the meantime, a log fire and an extra cardigan. Whilst we were away our lovely neighbours picked our grapes as a frost was threatened - and today was the day of the Crushing. George is Greek Cypriot and a physicist so he is in charge of method and technology, my George was second in command, Brenda and I were the assistants. Brenda had purchased two big plastic tubs which were both full of grapes - what a bumper harvest - and George I dug out the demijohns we had used in our wine making days forty years ago. It was a freezing cold day and we women both refused to take our shoes and socks off to tread the grapes so George II did it on his own, although he did confess it was very cold and uncomfortable to begin with he soon got into a rythm, helped no doubt by Brenda and I singing the theme tune from Zorba the Greek We used an old net curtain of my mother's to strain the juice which, I have to say, looked most unappetising. Most of the time we were helpless with laughter, goodness knows what state we shall be in if any alcohol actually results. Lots of suggestions were made for the name of this grande cru, most of which I would not dream of sharing with you.

The juice has been left overnight and tomorrow some sugar will be added and it goes into the demijohns. All the disgusting mush (with a good few squashed earwigs and other insects I might add) is going to ferment and be distilled. Excise men, turn a blind eye. Do not fret - I have a feeling it might all be binned before long, or am I being unduly pessimistic? Perhaps if it had been a bright sunny day and I had got my own toes round the grapes I would be feeling more optimistic.
We may have a bit of an argument over the naming of the Domaine, after all they are OUR grapes but George II pointed out that they were HIS feet that did the treading. It may have to be double barrelled. I see many hours of discussion over a glass or two (from Waitrose)
Incidentally, the photo at the top is NOT Villefranche - I dropped my camera one day and it seems I have knocked all my photos off the memory stick! Is that possible? Where have they gone? I took the grape photos successfully today, but some 150 pictures of my lovely week with baby brother have gone into the ether. I am so upset about it, but it was a marble floor and it did go with a big bang. Even clever George next door couldn 't find them. C'est un mystere !

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Sour Grapes

The two Georges have devised a scheme to make wine from our grapes! Young George, who is a Greek Cypriot doctor of Physics, is obviously designated as the vineculture specialist and is seen here this morning testing the grapes in a very professional manner. Brenda and I were laughing our socks off - we called him the man from Del Monte. He say grapes no ready yet. However, we had a very pleasant hour sitting in the garden with a cup of coffee whilst the two men made plans and my George went to the garage and dug out four old jars from our wine making days forty odd years ago. Now I think it is just easier to buy it from the wine merchant. . However, it is going to keep them occupied and boys will be boys so I had to go and find an old net curtain which is somehow going

to be used in the manufacture of this Grand Cru. Next Saturday has been designated as treading the grapes day, Brenda has been deputed to buy a large pink plastic garden tub to put the grapes in. They were making wild plans for a still which thankfully I know will never come to pass - firstly where would we put it and secondly I am sure it is illegal! Watch this space.

I have had an email from William who tells me that he has joined the University Brass Band (he plays the euphonium - there cannot be too many of those around!) and the Canoe Club. He has had his first week of lectures and so far has only found himself in the wrong lecture room once!

Meanwhile I have done some stitching! This is 'an Elizabethan fragment' The cuff, on the bottom left hand corner, I made about three weeks ago on disolvable fabric, lots of stitching involved, I soaked it and put it out to dry. The following morning it had DISAPPEARED. Of course, George had not seen it, had not touched it, hadn't noticed it .....so I must have destroyed it or thrown it away myself! ? I searched in vain, so in the end I had to re-do it although I had used up all the matching bits of stuff - however, I think it fits in fairly well.

We had our Harvest Supper on Friday evening and very pleasant it was too. There must have been nearly 80 of us in the village hall and the food was all made by the ladies of the church. Someone very kindly brought me a big bag of green tomatoes 'as I know you like making chutney!' So guess what I have been doing this evening? Yes, that is right, and I don't want to see any more jamjars until next year.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Harvest Festival

Another busy week - but the good news is that I have finished the commission and here it is -
I do hope my 'client' is pleased with it. I am sorry about the conservatory floor - I should have cropped the photo, but I am in a hurry as usual. I am really pleased that it is done and now I can move on.
On Friday I did another stewarding stint at the ERTF exhibition at The Shop in Jesus Lane. It was a lovely day and we had quite a lot of visitors who were all very appreciative - I think it has been a great success for a first venture. When it was my turn for a break I went in to Cambridge market and bought flowers for the Harvest Festival and then spent all of Saturday morning arranging them. There is always a lovely atmosphere in the church at Festival time with the flower rota ladies bustling about decorating the widowsills, the font, the organ - in fact, anywhere some flowers or a bale of hay can be put! It was my job to do the altar and I thought we would have some nice cheerful sunflowers
I liked the little row at the bottom, I thought they looked funny. They are listening to Pauline playing the organ.....

The grapes are from our pergola and there were grapes on the altar as well together with a loaf of bread. The church mice are going to have a real feast this weekend. Then I did the windowsills in the porch, one either side.

On Sunday morning George and I went to church for the Harvest Festival service and we 'ploughed the fields and scattered' with great gusto. The sidesmen forgot to turn up for duty so, as we are always early in church living, as we do, just across the road, we stepped in to fill the breach. It is a task I enjoy doing, standing at the door and handing out the books you get to greet and speak to everyone who comes in. I love to think that people have been attending All Saints for nine centuries, surely all that history must be locked in the stones?

After lunch (in the garden again, it was a glorious day) neighbour Brenda and I went to the Art Exhibition at St Peter and St Paul where her husband (the other George) was exhibiting along with Anthony Green and Mary Cozens-Walker - how much better can it get? It was a very good exhibition and, as I said to Gina, I am sure that they have made a nice lot of money for the church. We know only too well that these mediaeval buildings are horrendously expensive to keep going. Actually, I seem to have spent most of the weekend in church ! Then Brenda and George came in for supper which we ate in the conservatory because everywhere else was in a mess, what a good weekend.

So, today we had a MESCH meeting to discuss the forthcoming exhibition at Art Van Go in Knebworth - only two weeks away now. It is a retrospective exhibition and we were sorting out which pieces we would show, together with some new work. We were also making plans for Cottenham in February - isn't it exciting! Marian Murphy made us a delicious lunch, I took a salad and Liz a pudding so it was quite a jolly meeting. It was lovely to rediscover some of the delightful work the group has done in the past, we had forgotten how clever we were! And today senior grandson William started proper work at Birmingham, with Freshers Week behind him. He has joined the University Brass Band (he must have taken his euphonium up with him - DD1 will be pleased to get it out of the house!) and the canoe club. There are five lads in the flat and apparently Will has undertaken to do the cooking........

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Fishy business

We have had another super weekend! On Saturday we went to Burloes where the studios were Open and we met and talked to lots of artists and admired their work. Came home and were dragged in through the gate in the fence to our lovely neighbours for a drink. Well, one bottle of bubbly became two and then it was what have we got to eat? I dashed back and got some turkey escalopes which were marinading and a couple of courgettes, mushrooms and creme fraiche. Brenda had got sea bass and squid and I remembered I had blackberry & apple in the fridge so dashed back for that. So we had a splendid impromptu feast and a lot of laughter, these times are always the best.
Then today DD2 and lovely Dutch Son in Law came to pick us up and we drove to The Company Shed at Mersea. When we were in Cornwall in June DD2 bought some wool to make a scarf and every time I get in their car the scarf is mysteriously sitting there waiting for me - it does not grow at all in between my efforts, I just hope they take us out often enough for me to finish it before winter sets in. It was a gorgeous day for the drive down, DD2 had taken a cool bag with wine, and French bread & butter - we sat outside in the sunshine drinking until our table became free and then we had
Well that was for me - DD2 had the same and we also had scallops & bacon and king prawns.
The men had eels and smoked salmon and all sorts of other fishy things. Finger lickin' good. The place is very basic but the fish is DIVINE and the atmosphere great.

No table napkins, but a kitchen roll on the table which
as you can imagine came in very handy. These were more crabs waiting to go into the shop. Yummy. After stuffing ourselves until we thought we might grow fins, we took a little walk along by the sea and DD2 treated us to an icecream - then I really felt I was on holiday! The sun was

shining but the sky was wonderful - what sort of painting would this make!

I think there was some talk here of buying the old hulk and doing it up! George would be the Captain of course and SiL who was in the Dutch Navy would be Chief Petty Officer - DD2 would be The Organiser and entertainments officer and I could see me ending up in the galley doing the cooking so I put a stop to any ideas of becoming boat people. I notice how badly George needs a haircut - it is a good job the lovely Gary is coming on Wednesday to cut our hair!
So thank you for a lovely day trip to the seaside - it is great when your children take you on an outing - or is it just that she wants the scarf finished, I wonder?

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Ladies who lunch

What a lovely day I have had! First of all we went to church - George and I were Sidling, I was reading the lesson and George was doing intercessions - but I warned the vicar that I was leaving before his sermon - nothing personal, but I had to go to Jesus (I know it is corny, but the old ones are the best...) I picked up Marian & we drove to Jesus College to attend the ERTF lunch, thank goodness we were allowed to park in the College so that made life easier. We went to The Shop where the exhibition is being held for coffee and cakes
and another chance to look at the work displayed. I was stewarding there on Friday, so I had had a good opportunity to study each piece. It really excellent and very well worth going to visit. Then at 12.30 we all trooped down to Jesus College where we had the added bonus of seeing the Anthony Gormley sculptures, one came across them in the most surprising places and positions! They are very beautiful and strangely moving. We had a champagne reception in the Cloister Court This is Gina and I am terribly sorry but I cannot remember the name of the next member and if it was not so late I would ring Gina and ask her, then Marian, dear Mary Cozens-Walker whose work I greatly admire, me and Lorraine. Ladies Who Lunch! And what a delicious lunch it was - Sorrel, Pea and Lettuce Soup, an enormous amount of chicken with loads of vegetables, Creme Brulee served with a little dish of summer berries, coffee and truffles. And the wine, of course!
And after this feast we had an excellent talk by Michael Brennand Woods in which he spoke about the inspiration for his work and the reasoning and meanings behind various pieces - it was really most interesting and I noticed that everyone stayed wide awake!. I think there were about 30 people present (some husbands, I wish George could have been there) and a really nice atmosphere. No-one seemed to think I was too old!!! Or if they did, they were not rude enough to say so....... (that is a little, private hurt)I do hope that this group will be friendly and supportive , it is so good to get together with other like-minded people and there was a lot of enthusiasm amongst the members.

I told you that we found Gormley pieces in unexpected places and there were several men precariously perched on roof tops! After lunch, Gina, Mary, Marian and I walked round the grounds looking at some of the other sculptures by Anthony Caro and Kiefer Anselm - what a treat. But by 4.30 it was getting quite cold and we called it a day. I may have to be sewn into my vest soon.

Igot back home about 6.30 and dear George poured me a large Campari whilst I told him all about my day. I didn't have to cook for him because he had eaten the left-overs from last night's dinner party - what a star.

Yesterday was good too, we were invited to a lunch party for about 30 people as part of the 50th celebrations of Melbourn Village College, after lunch there was a huge party of ex pupils, members of staff, families and friends - anyone who had had anything to do with the college over the years. I was delighted to meet Arthur and Mary Behenna again - he was the first Warden of the College. They now live in Lincolnshire and Mary remarked that she had read a poem in an Inner Wheel magazine and had recognised my name, which was rather nice. George and I were given a tour of the school by FOUR very enthusiastic young girls, one of whom thought that the Great Fire of London was in 1956! The band played and the sun shone and then there was a dedication of a commemorative stained glass window and then I had to rush home and start cooking!

After dinner we played cards until 1.30 - not bad going for an old 'un, eh?