Monday, September 29, 2008

In the News

Teresa, over at Blueberries, Art and Life has mentioned my blog, along with others, in an interesting article entitled 'The Traveling Front Porch' in her monthly column for her local newspaper. Thanks Teresa! She has used my post of 18th September - A Walk at Baslow - to illustrate how she can travel the world through reading other people's blogs and how by leaving comments and communicating with each other, we have set up a social network of friends and neighbours similar to those we have who pop by to pass the time of day in our own neighbourhood. The article also describes, for those who may not know, what a blog is and what it is like to be part of the blogging commuity. So, why not pop along to Teresa's blog to have a read, I'm sure you will enjoy the article and the rest of her lovely blog too.

Meanwhile, summer really is at an end now after that last glorious day on Saturday. This morning is cold, wet and windy and more of the same forecast for the rest of the week. So I'm getting ready to say farewell to September.......

and hello to October.......

....the month, we hope, of crisp autumnal mornings and brisk walks in the cooling sun. Of warming, wholesome foods full of flavour, rich colourful hedgerows with the smell of woodsmoke in the air and fallen russet coloured leaves crunching under foot. I've sorted out my jumpers, gloves, scarves and warmer coats to be ready so I hope I will need them and not my raincoat and umbrella!

The cats have already started to seek warmth and solace within the house, and the saying that goes something like 'if you want the comfortablest seat in the house, you'll have to move the cat' is so true!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

On the Edge

It was a wonderful day yesterday so we decided to make the most of the warm weather by taking a walk we had always wanted to do but had somehow never got around to. We occasionally used to pass through the village of Alderley Edge on our way to the shops at Handforth Dean. It was a surprise to learn that it was still classed as a village as, in appearance it is like a small town. What other village in England has such lavish housing, a TGI Friday on its main street, expensive flower shops and delicatessens and its Oxfam shop full of designer clothes? Of course Alderley Edge and its environs is home to a few premier football players and actors who have made their name in various TV soaps although this time it wasn't the village we were interested in but the place from which it takes its name, the edge itself.

We parked at Hare Hill and prepared to walk the two miles to The Edge following the waymark signs. We set off at about 10.45a.m. By now the sun was bright; the first chill of the day was fast disappearing and we were enveloped by a growing warmth in the air.

We walked across the fields, still slightly rutted and muddy in places from both the recent rains and the trampling of cattle, glad of our sturdy shoes. As we walked I was surprised to see several people struggling across the grass in flip flops or elegant designer shoes with gold toe caps and heels.

By now the light was so bright it became really difficult to take any decent photographs. We entered the woods walking on a carpet of fallen russet coloured leaves. Along the way we passed rabbit holes.....

.....derelict farm buildings and......

.....interesting rock formations.

Up sunlit paths amongst tall trees with twisted branches and.....

...straggling, intertwined root formations. The photos just don't do justice to the beauty of it all.

At last we reached the Edge itself. By now it was really warm, the sun was high in the sky and many people were out enjoying their walks and picnics.

The view was stunning and people were just standing and staring and asking each other to take family photos - all with warnings not to step back! I just sat and watched whilst Paul was taking photos.

We consumed our picnic by the ancient cave and then it was time to walk all the way back to Hare Hill.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Granny's Mirror

Over the last few evenings our local BBC news programme, Midlands Today, has been including a feature on how people are coping with the "credit crunch". Last night's item was about buying meat and how people are turning to less costly cuts and old style recipes. It featured some catering college students who were learning to cook with things like mutton, offal and pigs trotters. The presenter also interviewed a local butcher about what kinds of meat he was selling and his customers about what they would be prepared to buy, cook and eat. Most drew the line at pig's trotters. Where is this leading you ask? Well, it was the mention of pig's trotters that sent my mind whirling back to my early childhood and my visits to granny's house. Granny Rose was my paternal grandmother, as opposed to Grandma Florence who was my mother's mother, and she was a sprightly, twinkly, button of a character. Small and neat with little round glasses and a bun full of hair pins. She used to struggle along on her bowed legs - something that, had she been born later, could have been easily corrected in childhood. She would always wear a black dress covered with a wrap around pinafore to protect it against the dust and dirt caused by everday cleaning, cooking and polishing.

I loved Granny's house just as much as I loved Grandma's house. In her parlour or living room she had a huge table, usually set ready for tea when we arrived with her pretty china tea service kept for special occasions. I used to play on the rug in front of the fire whilst she and Mum would chatter and natter. On the back wall were two painted mirrors, her pride and joy apparently, as they were the first things she bought after she was married. One I recall had a piled up bowl of fruit on it the other flowers and a bird. I liked the mirrors but best of all I loved to get into Granny's front or best room with its chandelier dangling in the centre. In the window was a huge table full of family photos and on the opposite wall an upright piano, its top also covered in photos. In the middle of the table was a huge display of waxed flowers under a glass dome. I was always rather fearful of this as it reminded me of a similar dome of flowers that she had pointed out to me once when she took me to the local cemetery to put flowers on grandad's grave. She would always stop at a very small grave halfway up the path and say to me 'That's little Emily, she died young'.

What about the pig's trotters I hear you ask? Well, they were one of Granny's favourite foods and so she always put them on the tea table, along with lots of other food like sliced ham, haslet or tongue, bread and butter, tomatoes, beetroot and celery, tinned fruit in small bowls and little cakes on a stand. My Mum, in her usual fastidious way used to say to me very quietly, 'Don't eat the pig's trotters'. Not that I ever would have done, I thought they looked rather gruesome. One day I asked her why and she said she didn't trust them not to make us ill as Granny 'kept them for too long'.

Granny died at the age of 84 in the early 1960s, not I hasten to add anything to do with the consumption of elderly pig's trotters. As she lay dying her beloved Salvation Army came and played hymns on her front lawn under her bedroom window. After her funeral Mum came to me and said that Granny had left to me and my cousin £50 a piece and we were each to have one of the mirrors; I was to have first choice. I chose the mirror with the bird on it and I still have it even now.

It seems strange to be talking about having meat on the table as we haven't actually eaten it for over twenty years; we don't call ourselves vegetarians, though, as we do eat fish occasionally. I honestly can't remember the last time we ate meat or how we used to cook it but I remember my visits to Granny's house like they were yesterday.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A Walk at Baslow

Yesterday, on our way to Chesterfield to visit my sister, we stopped for a little walk and leg stretch at the village of Baslow. We'd set out from home quite early and made our way towards Leek, over the hills by the Roaches and down into Buxton. The town was quite busy and looked wonderful in the early morning's misty light. The car park in Baslow is just behind the green, near the village hall and there were already quite a few people parking their cars and getting prepared for a walk; struggling into walking boots, shrugging on waterproof jackets and juggling back packs, walking sticks and plastic coated maps. As we only intended a half hour walk we set off pretty briskly along the path towards Chatsworth Park.

We walked over the little stone bridge which crosses the River Derwent and down by the little thatched cottages, all looking lovely with neatly trimmed hedges and pretty late summer/early autumn flowers in their small front gardens. I wonder what it is like to live in them, in such a beautiful village but with so many people passing by? I expect the owners are used to it all.

Walkers enter the park through the unusual kissing gate, the whole of which rotates to transport you from one side to the other, it was causing quite a lot of amusement and interest amongst the walkers, especially those with back packs and those with dogs.

The path still has old cobble stones in some areas and, once again I found myself thinking about all the people who had walked over them in the years they had been there. There is something very evocative about old pathways don't you think?

Autumn had definitely come to the park, the tree below was the most beautiful colour, not easily captured by camera, its leaves were drifting gently down to the ground as we walked by.

The Avenue of trees below looked inviting but we hadn't time to divert from the main path.

We walked on until we could see the roof of Chatsworth House amongst the trees. It is years since I first visited the house itself and every year I think that it would be nice to visit again but somehow it is something that never happens - one day perhaps.

I'm guessing that are going to be lots of visitors to the house because of the new film The Duchess and they have an exhibition ready and waiting for them. I really want to see this film but we are waiting until it comes to the film theatre in Stoke rather than go to see it at the huge Odeon complex. I can't bear those places, the noise, the heat, the smell of pop-corn, the loud, garish adverts you have to sit through first. At the film theatre which is on the university campus you can book your ticket in advance, walk in, sit down and the film starts immediately. No fuss, just a nice tranquil experience.

It was time to turn round and retrace our steps and head back to Baslow. We walked back, past the cottages, towards the bridge and into the village.

The Cafe on the Green looked inviting but we had a flask of coffee with us so we consumed that in the car park before setting off towards Chesterfield taking the turn for Cutthorpe to avoid the town centre which is always very busy. Not far from Cutthorpe we saw water buffaloes in a field, Paul stopped to take a photograph and you can see this on his blog Distant Thoughts - link on my side-bar. We had a lovely lunch with my sister and brother-in-law and then made our way to visit my niece and her family in their lovely new home. It was good to see them settled and happy.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cat Sitting and Cat Napping

Goodness me, the sun is shining! We have had sun for two days now and I'm keeping my fingers crossed that it doesn't rain tomorrow and that the lawn will have dried out enough for it to be cut. This is the kind of weather we have been longing for throughout August. We've actually put the chairs out in the garden and are going to eat our evening meal al fresco - something I've been wanting to do all summer.

After work today we went for a walk at Trentham; we walked by the lake where the Miss Elizabeth was ferrying passengers to and fro between the gardens and the monkey forest. We heard a heron calling, I've never heard one before, a sort of cross between the calls of a goose and a crow. We went into the Craft Fair; there were some lovely things, home made soaps, candles, preserves, handbags, scarves and bears to name just a few. Then it was home to make sure the lovely lady below was all right.

All this week I've been looking after her fluffiness for our friends next door whilst they are in Wales. I've never come across a more laid back cat; as you can see she takes her leisure very seriously. The daily routine is as follows, up at 5a.m. usual morning routine for us and our own cats fed before I pop round to open curtains and feed Miss Fluffy just before we leave for work at 6a.m. back home for 12 noon, sort out our cats and then round again to check her and let her out. In between a cat nap for me and then back for her food around 5p.m. Household chores, evening meal and a perhaps bit of TV then back at 9p.m. to check once more, draw curtains and lock up for the night. Of course, this isn't going down well with our cats who follow me round and and cry at the kitchen door and peer through the conservatory windows, thoroughly disapproving of my treachery.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

A Cottage at Shallowford

I always enjoy visiting this lovely little cottage; even though its front is close to quite a busy road and the main railway line runs right at the bottom of the garden, with Virgin trains passing by on their way between Stoke and Stafford and all stops beyond, it retains its peaceful, tranquil air. It was once the home of Izaak Walton, author of The Compleat Angler, first published in 1653, and is a magnet for fishing enthusiasts from far and wide who visit to pay homage to one of the most famous of them all.

Not that I'm an angler, of course, I just love the cottage, its interior, its herb garden and lavender hedges, all beautifully maintained by Stafford Council. Izaak (or Isaac) Walton was born at St Mary's, Stafford on 9th August 1593 and little is known of his early life. His father, an ale house keeper, died when Izaak was four years old. He was apprenticed in London, some biographers say to an ironmonger, others say to a linen draper, either way he set up his own business and his friendship with the Vicar of his then Parish, who was the poet John Donne, led him into a literary world where he was acquainted with writers like Ben Johnson and Henry Wotton, whose memoir became Walton's first published work. He was at first noted for writing biographies. His first wife and all their seven children had died by 1640. His second marriage produced a son and daughter who made it to adulthood.

Walton, who was a devout Anglican and Royalist sympathiser, bought the cottage in 1655, no doubt as a retreat from life in London under Cromwell. During his long life he held quite a few public offices and worked also as a tax collector and as a steward to Bishop George Morley of Worcester, later Bishop of Winchester. When he died in 1683 he was buried in Winchester Cathedral. The ground floor of the cottage is set out as it would have been in the 17th century

whilst upstairs in an angling museum.

The note below the 34lb pike, caught by Charles John Morris in 1890, reads:- 'The pike pictured here has survived two cottage fires..... so in case of a the black box.....grab the pike and run'. Izaak Walton also has connections with Dove Dale in Derbyshire where he also loved to fish with his friend Charles Cotton. His name still lives on in the name of the hotel there. Here is a link to their page on his life history.

The gardens outside the cottage are lovely.

and you can wander round to your hearts content amongst the plants and flowers...

...and across the lawns, there is an orchard and a paddock at the side where you can sit at picnic tables if you so wish. I was fascinated with the gorgeous lavender hedge.

The gardens around the side and front of the cottage are also full of lovely plants and flowers and there was a point of sale for cuttings of herbs from the garden.

The nearby Meece Brook runs its course from Mill Meece towards Stafford and the River Sow. The water looks clear and is surely still just as Walton would remember it.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

A bright spot

How wonderful. Two awards in as many weeks, aren't I lucky? Thank you, Sarah, and Fern for thinking of me. It's been a rough old week this week for various reasons. Firstly, last Friday, the car had to go for its service and MOT, it should have been done in a day but - you knew there was a but - it needed some work on the brakes, the parts had to come from Shrewsbury and they couldn't fetch them until Saturday so couldn't do the work until Monday etc, etc. We had a courtesy car which was useful but we are used to the higher seats in our sweet little Agila and this one was a two door Corsa with very low seats and doors that you had to open wide to get out of, so parking was an issue and getting out in the garage was a struggle. Also the tax was due on Monday and to buy this you need an MOT certificate so we were on tenterhooks that it would be finished before the post office closed at 5.30p.m. otherwise we couldn't bring it home. It was finally ready for 4.30p.m. on Monday and Paul dashed across to the Post Office to get the tax disc and back to the garage to pick the car up. We had to get up at 5a.m. the next day for work so needed the car to get there. In the meantime that evening we noticed that the fridge/freezer wasn't working, just after we'd spent all the week before preserving plums from the tree and making curries and hot pots with the glut of courgettes, needless to say most of this was ruined. I managed to make even more pots of jam with the plums but we said goodbye to everything else except a few bits our kind neighbours were able to put in their freezer. We've been struggling all week without a fridge, making up powdered milk and fetching our cheese and margarine from next door. On top of this Paul had an interview so we couldn't order a new fridge straight away but finally managed to find a cheap and cheerful one which we have to wait until tomorrow for because being at work all this week we couldn't guarantee being in for a delivery. Only niggling problems, I know, but I've felt so tired this week and depressed with the constant rain lashing against the windows and completely ruining the garden; plus the fact that we've spent the money we put aside for a Home Information Pack on the car and fridge. We were going to take the house off the market as soon as we needed to buy a HIP but then we felt that we still needed to sell the house to rid ourselves of the mortgage, but the fact that it has been on sale for over a year and that work is intermittent and our savings are fast disappearing is a constant worry. When is this going to end? I don't think the measures put in place recently by the government will make any difference to us at all so where do we go from here?

Oh, dear, I'm sorry, I'm twittering and wittering and moaning and groaning and there are far worse things going on in the world that I don't really have the right to complain but at least you can see how nice it was to receive the award from Sarah and Fern in amongst all the gloom. I have to award it to others so I'll come back with that later. Meanwhile, it is still raining........