Monday, November 30, 2009

Thankful for Small Things

The month of November is nearly over and I can't say I'm sorry. It has been a bleak, grey and wet month - on some days hard to get through but there has been light at the end of the tunnel and I've taken pleasure in a few small things. Curling up with a good book, watching repeats of Midsomer Murders, sipping hot soup for lunch, walking each day if the rain allows and getting stuck into my Family History again. Our cats are an on going pleasure curling up on my lap in the evenings, waking me up in the mornings with a soft paw on my face. I love them - even though they do move just as I'm taking a photograph of them! Just before this photo Chloe was posing at the side of the flowers looking very pretty - as she does, oh well.....

Some of the Paperwhites I planted at the beginning of October have appeared earlier than I expected them to.

Their glorious scent fills the conservatory and wafts delicately through the house an unexpected chink of light in what has been a grey tinged world.

Something to be thankful for.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009


On Sunday morning we took a long walk in the woods on the Trentham Estate.

The sun was shining after a sharp early morning shower

I found myself gazing up into the leafless autumnal trees

Their discarded leaves lying on the woodland floor, sticking underfoot in the mud and turning from bright copper to dull brown

I loved the blackness of the bare branches against the blue sky

Trees are beautiful throughout the seasons, bright and new in spring, lush and green in summer

awash with glorious colour in autumn and bleakly sculptural in winter

This old tree had split, curled and leaned in several directions

What is it about the shape of trees that is so beautiful and so satisfying?

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Over the Top

I've carried this tag over from Amanda at Pandy Potter Bears (link in my sidebar). It is quite easy to do!

Rules :-
1. Use only 1 word answers.
2. Pass along to 6 of you favourite bloggers.
3. Tell them you've given them the award.
4. Have Fun !!

1. Where is your cell phone? Bag
2. Your hair? clean
3. Your mother? Gone
4. Your father? Gone
5. Your favorite food? Pasta
6. Your dream last night? forgotten
7. Your favorite drink? Coffee
8. Your dream/goal? Gone
9. What room are you in? Bedroom
10. Your hobby? Genealogy
11. Your fear? Dementia
12. Where do you want to be in 6 years? Alive
13. Where were you last night? Home
14. Something that you aren’t? Bold
15. Muffins? toasted
16. Wish list item? Gardener
17. Where did you grow up? Derbyshire
18. Last thing you did? Eat
19. What are you wearing? Clothes
20. Your TV? Downstairs
21. Your pets? Cats
22. Friends? Valued
23. Your life? Ordinary
24. Your mood? Reflective
25. Missing someone? Occasionally
26. Vehicle? Car
27. Something you’re not wearing? coat
28. Your favorite store? M&S
29. Your favorite colour? Blue
30. When was the last time you laughed? Yesterday
31. Last time you cried? while
32. Your best friend? Husband
33. One place that I go to over and over? countryside
34. One person who emails me regularly? sister
35. Favorite place to eat? outdoors

I'm supposed to pass this on but as usual I'm just going to say take it with you and do it if you want to.

A Visit to Nottingham

I'm also including this post in the 'Things I am thankful for in November' series of posts (see the button on my sidebar) because this one is about good friends and neighbours. Yesterday we visited friends in Nottingham. We set out early and were in the city centre by 9.40a.m. I've always loved Nottingham - I remember coming here as a small child on shopping trips with my Mum, aunt and cousins. The things I remembered most about the city as a child are the lions in front of the Council Chambers on Old Market Square, what we used to called Slab Square. I'm not sure if the name has changed since its recent re-design. I've yet to see the whole square since it has been refurbished because the first time we came the hoardings were still in place before it was opened, the next time the ice rink was in place and this year again the ice rink is there. They were also decorating the huge Christmas tree using a scaffold.

Here is one of the lions, I couldn't get far enough away to photograph both of them but I remember they were always the place to meet - 'see you at the lions' was the usual arrangement.

In this part of the city the trams whizz by with a clunk and a clank. They are great fun! They also all have names - the one below is named for footballing legend Brian Clough manager of Nottingham Forest from 1975 to 1993 - see here for the other names including Jesse Boot founder of Boots Chemists.

We had parked in the Broad Marsh Centre but actually wanted to visit John Lewis which is in the Victoria Centre; the walk between the two isn't far and I enjoyed window shopping along Bridlesmith Gate and Clumber Street on the way.

I was pleased to see that the Roland Emett water powered clock or 'The Aqua Horological Tintinnabulator' is still in the Victoria Centre although for some reason it didn't play the usual music on the hour as we watched the birds and animals with their musical instruments whizz round at exactly 11a.m. Installed in 1973 it has become, like the lions in the Square, another meeting place for shoppers and friends. More information about the clock here

We left the city and drove up to where our friends live and had a lovely lunch catching up on news and chattering about books, films, cooking, food and lots of other things around the lunch table and then in their comfy living room overlooking the park. All too soon the sun disappeared and darkness fell over the park and tree lined promenade - it was time to get ready to drive home. Thankfully the strong winds that had been promised didn't materialise and we had a good journey back to Stoke. Our kind neighbour had been in and fed the cats, closed curtains and put on the lights for our return home. So after a lovely day yesterday I'm thankful for good friends and neighbours.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Things I am thankful for 3 and 4

Ever since I can remember I've loved books and reading. I remember my Mum reading me the tales of Flopsy Bunny and Little Grey Rabbit and of reading myself; books like Enid Blyton's Secret Seven and Mary Norton's The Borrowers books. I loved Wind in the Willows, The Secret Garden, Children of the New Forest, Gamble for a Throne and Lorna Doone plus a series of books whose names now escape me about three sisters from Northumberland who became a ballet dancer, a horse rider and a flamenco dancer - I'd love to know what these books were called. Later I worked my way through the books of Georgette Heyer, Margaret Irwin, Jean Plaidy and Anya Seton. Some of the books I studied at school have become favourites like Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I remember reading Tiger in the Smoke by Margery Allingham at school and discovering the Lord Peter Wimsey novels by Dorothy L Sayers at the library. Nowadays I tend to read more modern fiction and crime fiction - writers like PD James, Priscilla Masters, Val McDermid, Susan Hill, Kate Atkinson, Stephen Booth, Ian Rankin, Peter Robinson and John Harvey are just some of my favourites. I've recently discovered the wonderful novels of Henning Mankell and the Imogen Quy novels written by Jill Paton Walsh - set in Cambridge in the fictitious St Agatha's College.

Of course, I wouldn't have been able to read all these books without libraries. We lived in a small village where a mobile library came every other week. We were also members of the library in our nearest town which was a bus ride away. I loved both these libraries and choosing books to read. Where ever I've lived I've always joined the nearest library - I can't imagine life without them. Of course today they offer far more than books; you can order books on line and check the progress of your order, attend a reading or writing group, use the Internet, borrow CD's or DVDs, find out about local activities, local history or family history and at some even have a cup of coffee. They are light, airy, welcoming places - but it is the libraries of my childhood that I remember the most, the dark wood and tiled floors, the rows and rows of books, the librarians with their boxes of tickets and inky date stamps. I loved this so much I used to play libraries on the table at home with the books from our shelves, slips of paper for the tickets and a hot water bottle top as a date stamp. So, you can see that books and libraries have been and still are a big part of my life and I'm thankful for that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Vera Brittain was born in nearby Newcastle-under-Lyme in 1893 the only daughter of a weathly family who owned paper mills in Hanley and Cheddleton. When she was a child her family moved to Macclesfield and then to Buxton. At the outbreak of WW1 she was an undergraduate at Somerville College, Oxford. Both her fiance Roland Leighton and her brother Edward Brittain joined the British Army; wanting to aid the war effort herself she left her studies and joined the Voluntary Aid Detachment and served in Malta, France and England. In her autobiographical work 'Testament of Youth' she writes about her experiences of the war and her work treating the badly wounded soliders and prisoners of war. Roland Leighton was killed in France in December 1915 and her brother Edward who, in 1916, was wounded at the Battle of the Somme and awarded a Military Cross, was killed in Italy in 1918. After a few weeks working as a VAD she wrote:-

‘It was very hard to believe that not far away men were being slain ruthlessly.... The destruction of men, as though beasts, whether they be English, French, German or anything else, seems a crime to the whole march of civilisation.’

'Testament of Youth' was written both as a memoir of her wartime nursing experiences and as a literary memorial to Roland Leighton, Edward Brittain and their many friends who were killed or injured during the war - just a few of the thousands who became the lost generation.

At the Eleventh hour, on the Eleventh Day, of the Eleventh month - we will remember them

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Things I am thankful for - 2

I was thankful today for having the ingredients in the cupboard to make a chocolate cake so that I could use up all the chocolate buttons left over from Halloween. We had a slice with a cup of coffee when we got back from our afternoon walk.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Things I am Thankful For - 1

I've decided to join in with Ginny at Sweet Myrtle and her 'Things I am thankful for' during November. November can be quite a misty, grey month between the golden glories of autumnal October and the rush and excitement of pre-Christmas December. The idea is just to reflect upon a few simple everyday things that bring a little colour into our lives.

So what am I thankful for? That I can still put on my walking boots and walk in lovely places, like the one below.

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Discovery Days

Heage Windmill (see my post of 28th October) was only one of the venues we visited during the week of Discovery Days organised for the Derwent Valley Mills World Heritage Site. We also went to Cromford which is always a pleasure. The events were centred around Cromford Wharf, the main event being a horse drawn narrow boat which was to travel between the Wharf and Leabrook Mill. As there is only a towpath on one side of the Cromford Canal until you reach the swing bridge at High Peak Junction we decided to walk to this area, cross the bridge and wait for the boat to arrive.

It was a lovely sunny morning. There were reflections of trees in the water all the way along. We watched the blacksmith in his forge whilst waiting for the horse drawn narrowboat to arrive.
As soon as the men came to open the little swing bridge we knew they were on the way.

The horse appeared first then the narrowboat appeared as they made their way towards the bridge.

They passed through High Peak Junction and made their way further down the canal to the turning basin near Leabrook Mill.

The Mill was in steam for the occasion and we went inside to take a look.

I love watching these old engines working; they have a grace and beauty all of their own.

Meanwhile, William the Shire horse was taking a well earned rest before his next job of taking people around the area on the dray.

Black Treacle Toffee

I was given this recipe by a neighbour who had been given it years ago by a friend of her mother who in turn had been given it by her mother - you get the idea - it's an old recipe but a good one - it is very sticky though and takes two days to set enough to be hammered into small pieces.

Black Treacle Toffee

half a pound of butter
1lb brown sugar
1lb black treacle
1 large tin condensed milk
juice of one lemon

Put all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed pan.
Bring to the boil stirring all the time.
Boil for 25 minutes.
Test to see if it is ready by dropping a little mixture into a bowl of cold water
if it turns into 'balls' it is ready.
Pour into greased trays and allow to set
Hammer into small pieces

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Scenes from the last Week

Old bottles in the window of the Forge at High Peak Junction, Derbyshire.

Lovely felted seasonal hats in Cromford, Derbyshire

Ricky the Pom - my next door neighbour's dog. We walk together on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Morning coffee at the ceramic cafe and a look in the seconds section at Emma Bridgewater's factory shop, Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent.

Egyptian Geese at the JCB Lake at Rocester, Staffordshire

This morning, during a short break from the rain, the clouds in the distance looked like snow-capped mountains glinting in the sun.

All too soon the angry skies were back, the light darkened and the rain returned.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Good News!

This is such good news - part of the Anglo Saxon Hoard is coming to the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in the City Centre early next year. Dating from the 7th Century, it was found earlier this year in a field in the Tamworth/Lichfield area of Staffordshire (the heart of the ancient Anglo Saxon Kingdom of Mercia) by metal detectorist Terry Herbert; as it has been declared treasure trove he and the farmer whose land the hoard was found on will share quite a considerable sum. Some of the items have been on display at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery and as I've seen from reports on BBC Midlands Today (link) there have been queues of people visiting it. At present some of the items are on display at the British Museum in London; once it has been valued about 80 pieces from the collection are coming to the city for about 3 weeks. It will be good for the City, good for Tourism and good for me - it will be so close I could walk there!

Here is a link to see some of the items - TheStaffordshire Hoard Web Page

Now Staffordshire County Council, Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council are mounting a joint bid to keep the Hoard in Staffordshire; there are about 1,500 pieces in all and as the hoard has been declared to be as important as the Sutton Hoo collection of artefacts I expect some of the pieces will remain at the British Museum to take their place alongside other important collections but it would be wonderful for Staffordshire if some of the items could have a permanent home in the County where they were found.