Monday, 24 September 2012

A very Barbara Pym-ish weekend

Barbara Pym, for those who do not know, was one of the best writers of the previous century - a chronicler of small things; the vicarage tea party, the jumble sale, the gentlewoman's companion, village life, which is all lovely and feminine on the surface, but actually full of the loneliness of unrequited love and a deep ironic comedy.  Get me.

Anyway, this weekend we went to many, many local events - a child's 4th birthday (at the Wacky Warehouse, as far from BP as from the moon), a children's playday in Walpole Park and a Reskilling Day run by the local green nuts, the Ealing Transition people.  This was the high point of my day - I learned how to keep chickens and a pig.  Apparently, if you are a vicar and have a massive vicarage behind the church with a field for a garden, you can have a pig in suburban London.  The pig was nice and clean and very grunty, and Hattie was utterly entranced (moo! moo! oh oink! oink!, then later, mo' oink! mo' oink!).  I don't think that the ancestral home has space for either a pig or hens, but I can dream.

In the evening, to round off the whole suburban dream, I went to a recital at the church, featuring the undiscovered talents of members of the congregation.  Some talents should have remained undiscovered, but the majority were great, and of course, Maxine, Lucy's godmother, is a professional flautist and rose above all the others.  I did feel as though I should have been hand embroidering new orphreys on the chasubles instead of knitting a hat for myself and stuffing up the pattern because I had to keep stopping to clap.

I do recommend Barbara Pym though if you haven't read anything by her.

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Sea Room

 dovegreyreader is a bad, bad lady.  She is currently reading a whole load of nature books, and makes them sound like the most wonderful things ever committed to print, and as I am the most easily influenced person in West Ealing, I have put most of them and more on my amazon wishlist.  The first one I bought was this, Adam Nicolson's Sea Room, about his love affair the islands he owns (!) in the Hebrides, near Lewis.

Part history, part biography, part geological survey, the book is amazing.  I finished it a few days ago, and I love it. I'm ashamed that I'd never heard of Adam Nicholson before, which considering that he is the grandson of Vita Sackville-West is a bit shocking.  His father was very rude about the D of E in a dispatch, and now I know more about him, his name is cropping up every where.

Such a wonderful book, and I look forward to reading some more of his things, and to having a bash at the rest of the books on the list.

Not much

Being back at work is making my life simultaneously more and less stressful.  More, because, well, I have to go in and be treated like a mushroom by a sociopath, and less because, hurrah, Nursery has restarted and someone else gets the pleasure of my girls' company for 4 and a half hours every day.  We have our mornings together, then just as I'm beginning to feel that this has been enough joy for one day, I get to drop them off and they have a great afternoon and I have, well, an afternoon.  My favourite time of the day is 3:35 - after my Nursery children have gone home and before I pick my angels up.  I put something interesting on the iplayer and do my work, and then I pick the children up and we go home.

It's been a whole week since I wrote in the blog, and we've been so busy since then, as normal, and I've also been ill with some kind of ghastly tummy bug, so I've not really had the energy to write anything at all.  On Saturday, I left my family and flew across London to Brick Lane for the Renegade Craft Fair, which was great, and I spent a bit too much, mostly on beautiful handmade stuff, but also on some shoes from New Look, which appears to have repositioned themselves slightly upmarket. I did take some photos, but they are even worse than normal, so will stay under wraps.

Not much less to say - the tummy bug has exhausted me and I have no energy for anything at the moment.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Apple and blackberry with vanilla is my new jam

And very nice it is too, if a bit sweet.

Crumbs, what a weekend.  Lucy is going to be 4 on Wednesday, so we had a party for her and about 20 3 and 4 year olds on Saturday; fortunately as we've been having our summer in September, it was baking hot, so we were able to colonise the local park.  They had a brilliant time - no one was sick, no one wet themselves and no one cried too much.

I consider that to be a terrific success, and as it was all outside, there was minimal clearing up to do afterwards. We went to the pub as a family, which was really nice - the girls tore off round the garden and on the climbing frame and swings, and we sat and drank.  Not as heavily as we might have done, but still with concentration and great sense of purpose.

Sunday was spent at Whipsnade - the birthday girl decided that that was the ONLY place.  Hattie loved it there - there were "moos" (antelope), "yak yuk" (yaks), "bah bah"(bears), "bou, oink oink"(boars), "maos"(lynx), "raaaaa"(tiger, lions) and "ack ack"(ducks), not to mention all the "bur"(birds) that one almost two year old could spot. We had a great time.

At church on Sunday, we sat next to our MP, and obviously got chatting to him about the coalition and all who are hell bent on destruction and "iconoclasm", which is in quotes because it is one.  Being some what of an awkward cuss, our MP, who shall remain nameless, was rather non-politic about his colleagues on the opposite bench, describing one as a malevolent, vicious little meerkat.  No prizes.  I do like our MP.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Sparkleberry jam and other things

I am a magpie, attracted to anything shiny and delicious, so when Nigella Lawson re-tweeted this link, I knew I just had to have a go at making my own.  I do not have the patience to pick my own; well, I do and Lucy does, but after yesterday's blackberry and damson picking carnage which resulted in Harriet running out across the road, I don't think it's quite for us yet.  So I bought two punnets of just on the turn strawberries from one of the greengrocers on our bit of the Uxbridge Road, and made sparkly strawberry jam.

The recipe in "How to be a Domestic Goddess" for strawberry jam is excellent, I've made it before and got good results, so I just substituted pomegranate molasses for balsamic vinegar and shoved the whole lot in the pan and boiled it up.  Another slight modification; I added 2 pots of edible red glitter - possibly too much, but it is really, really sparkly, something that I'm not sure shows up in the photo.

We now have three and a half jars of Sparkleberry Jam.  Wonderful.

For all I don't want to be at work, I do love September.  I love going to pick blackberries and damsons, rose hips and crab apples, rowan berries and elderberries, and then turning them into jams, jellies, vodkas and syrups.  Mind you, the first time I made elderberry jam it carbonised, so I'm hoping for a better result this time.  Lucy, eccentric child, won't eat baked beans, but wolfs down crab apple jelly, so I'm going to have to make three or four jars so she doesn't run out.  We all like crab apple jelly, it's sweet and savoury at the same time.

I've found a damson tree half strangled by brambles on a locked up building site a couple of doors up, and there's another on the way to church, so I'm going to have lots and lots for jam and jellies.  I might have to give some away, I think I've still got a load from last year.  This year I want to make rose hip syrup, and I will not let my husband near it - he burned it last year, the idiot.

Right, I have to cook something more suitable for supper than sparkly strawberry jam.  Salmon, beans and noodles I think, and I need to wash my hands several times after handling the chillis, especially before I take my lenses out.

Monday, 3 September 2012

In which I come out as WI curious

I'm trying to be a gardener but I'm really not very good at it.  It's not instant enough for me, the idea of waiting for things to happen is anathema to me, and I either over-water my plants, thus killing them, or shamefully ignore them, thus killing them.  I have had a very hardy Dracaena marginata for the past 15 or so years, which I haven't managed to kill yet, although it was touch and go at one point, but a  bit of pruning and a lot of feeding saved the day.  I've kept my basil plant around for a while, and most of the plants that I've put in the garden have survived and even, whisper it, thrived, including a French Lavender and two English Lavenders, so perhaps I am getting better.

Last week, I decided that the time was right to go to the local WI meeting, and went along to Northfields Community Centre with my mug and my poorly orchid, and listened to a very interesting man from Kew talk about gardens, gardening and caring for orchids.  Apparently appearances are deceptive, and my orchid is not on the verge of the compost heap, but has a whole bunch of healthy roots just under the surface.  With this in mind, I have fed it a bit, and watered it over the draining board so it is not standing in any water and it doesn't look any better yet.  Instant gratification - why isn't it perfect immediately?  Ah well, and I'm sure it will pull through soon, I have faith.

I did enjoy the WI meeting.  Disappointingly, we only sang the first verse of Jerusalem; having had to sing the damn thing frequently at school, I like to show off a bit and put in a bit of vibrato on the whole bow of burning gold line, although no one else likes it much.  The talk was very interesting, and I learned a whole lot about orchids, so much so that I was inspired to look after mine a bit better, and actually follow instructions for the first time in years, and the cake was delicious, so I'm really looking forward to the September meeting.  I might even take my crochet along next time.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Back in the jug agane

I managed to hit my self-imposed target for August with a mighty 13 posts, which is extraordinary.  I wonder if I will be able to do half as well now I have to go back to the place of toil and tears and general rubbishness.  I will get a new job this year.  I will.

We've been super busy in the last week, what with trips to the New Forest, swimming, a day at the Paralympics, a trip to Cambridge and Wimpole Home Farm and Lucy's first theatre trip to see Ange-rina Ballerina at Richmond Theatre.

Each deserves a new post, but I can't be bothered with all that, so here is a photo montage.

The village I grew up has a duck river, and after sharing the remnants of the stale bread with the ducks, the girls decided to climb the fence and look for conkers.  We found a whole bunch, but they were white inside,  so must of come down in the wind.  Most disappointing.

We paid a visit to Auntie Kaili in Cambridge, and went to the park where there is a very cold paddling pool.  Hattie got herself completely drenched, but as I was expecting that, she was only wearing her nappy.  Lucy was far more civilised, and just paddled about.  

We paid a visit to Wimpole Home Farm, where we were treated to an example of realism in farming.

These piglets were all of a day old, and still wet.  Adorable.  

Hattie appreciating pigs in her own unique way.

Both girls were absolutely fascinated by the Shire Horse and her foal.   Beautiful animals and only 1,500 breeding mares left.  The foal is a female, which is good news for the future.

It's been a lovely summer holiday all in all, although I'm part looking forward to going back to work, if only to find myself a new job.