Tuesday, December 31, 2013

New Year, new challenge

I’m just passing through after a quiet, but deeply enjoyable, Christmas visit to DD and her family, to be followed tomorrow by a New Year visit to DS for Grandson#3’s tenth birthday on Epiphany. I've spent the past couple of days doing the laundry, and yet more baking to take with us, and also getting to grips with my new challenge to myself.

To mark a new year and my 200th blog post, I've finally done something I’ve had in the back of my mind for a long time and started to learn to play the clarinet! Grandson#2 has kindly lent me his spare clarinet to be going on with and he and DD patiently demonstrated the basics to get me going until I’m mobile again and can find myself a teacher locally.

So far I’ve mastered the first five notes of the scale and can fairly reliably get a proper note rather than a squeak or, even worse, silence, and have even managed to play a couple of very simple tunes. At the age of 67 I've reminded myself what it feels like to be a complete beginner at something and I’m enjoying myself enormously.

DH is still rolling his eyes a little at the prospect of my practising all over the house, but is, I think, starting to realise that I do mean to continue as far as I can go, though I will never reach anywhere near the artistry in this slow movement from Mozart’s clarinet concerto. This is one of my very favourite pieces of music, which many years ago sowed the seed of my love of the clarinet’s versatility and wonderfully mellow sound.

I wish you all a very happy New Year. In return, please wish me luck…. 

Image via Google

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Nativity – Prague

Two Christmases ago, I shared with you one of my favourite representations of the Nativity. That year I had been fortunate enough to visit Assisi with DD and had also made my second visit to Prague as locum chaplain to the English-speaking chaplaincy there. While there I spent a wonderful day revelling in the superb collection of mediaeval art in Saint Agnes Convent and especially enjoyed the homely detail in this painting of the Nativity by an anonymous 14th century Bohemian artist.

It comes with my thanks to you all for your friendship and the pleasure your blogs have given me this year and my warmest wishes for a joyous and peaceful Christmas and a happy, healthy New Year.

Image: Nativity scene from the Vyššì Brod altarpiece by the Master of Vyšší Brod (Meister von Hohenfurth) circa 1350

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

New dawn

….or that’s what it feels like. After years of deteriorating sight and six weeks of post-operative caution, I've been cut loose to get on with my life. New glasses here I come! I've also proved to myself that I can still touch my toes and am now gearing up for the last-minute preparations before we head off to Yorkshire on Sunday to spend Christmas with DD and her family.

So it’s out with the baking apron and the festive wrapping paper and even a few decorations, to the accompaniment of some seasonal music. I wish I could organise as successfully as this….

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas at the Co-op

During the last few quiet weeks, I’ve been watching more TV than usual to accompany my knitting. This has meant rather greater exposure to Christmas advertising than I might have wished, which in turn led me to ponder some of the differences between Christmas now and the Christmases of my childhood.

Until I was nearly thirteen our house was a TV-free zone, which meant my only exposure to advertising in the home before then was in the pages of newspapers and magazines, neither of which featured largely in my childhood reading habits. Even on our trips to town, there weren’t really any adverts for toys or games on display, which must have spared our parents much of the pre-Christmas pestering today’s parents seem to have to endure.

Instead we girls relied on one very special Saturday to inform ourselves about the latest toys and games and decide what suggestions or requests we might include in our annual letter to Father Christmas. That Saturday was the day in late autumn when our local Co-operative Society opened its Toy Fair in the big meeting-room on the first floor of its premises in the main street of the east Lancashire cotton-town where I was born.

Not our Co-op, but it gives a good idea of the style

Almost trembling with excitement, my younger sisters and I would be taken by our parents by bus into town, where we would join the queue for admittance into this Aladdin’s cave of childish treasure. There we would spend a blissful hour or two wandering round the displays to find the special one or two items we felt we might be able to ask Father Christmas to bring us. Even then we had a very clear understanding that we couldn't ask for much, but that if we were modest in our requests, we would probably find them satisfied on Christmas morning.

The other great treat of that day was the visit to Father Christmas’s grotto in a side-room off the main hall, with the inevitable question as to whether we had been good, and the invitation to whisper in his ear what we would like him to bring us for Christmas. Then he would hand each of us a small gift as an earnest of the treats to come and we would go home, tired but happy, to start counting down the days to Christmas.

Soon afterwards would come the letters to Father Christmas, written out in our very best handwriting, with no spelling mistakes or crossings-out, which we would leave on the mantelpiece for our father to put up the chimney before he went to bed.

The other ritual which was inexorably linked with the pre-Christmas period as I remember it was the divi. For my overseas readers I should explain that each time one shopped at any Co-operative Society department, one was given a receipt, which was carefully put away safely until it was time toclaim the dividend or divi – our share of the profits of the Society. Twice a year out came the receipts, which were carefully pasted (usually by us children) onto a special claim form, bearing our member’s share number, and even more carefully totalled up by our mother, so that we knew how much divi we could expect.

By the time I was in my teens I was very aware that this bonus went at least part of the way towards paying for the presents which would appear in the stockings we left at the end of our beds on Christmas Eve. By then too I was long aware that our parents helped Father Christmas out by delivering those same presents, which had been carefully hidden in the bottom of the wardrobe in their bedroom, but for the sake of my two youngest sisters my lips were sealed. 

The idea of piling presents round the tree didn’t feature at all in my childhood, since our tree was tiny and stood on a table in our small living-room, well out of harm’s way. It’s a pity Simon didn't do the same….


Images via Google

Sunday, December 08, 2013

A quiet life

That’s what I’m living at the moment, whether I like it or not.  I’m not allowed to drive until I can get new glasses and that may take a little while longer. I had my eyes tested this week and the optometrist thinks my right eye needs to adjust a bit more, until it works properly in harness with the left, before he can establish the correct prescription. 

My left eye has been doing most of the work for so long that the two have got out of the habit of working together, but things are improving day by day. I see the consultant again a week on Monday, when he will hopefully sign me off. Then just a little more patience and there’ll be no holding me.

If there had to be a right time for this enforced quiet, surely these weeks of Advent fit the bill perfectly. Instead of struggling with the unrelenting and indeed overwhelming early presence of Christmas all around me, I’m lucky enough to be able to concentrate on the preparations and anticipation and postpone the celebrations until they are due. Amazingly (except for my electronic Advent calendar) I have yet to hear my first Christmas carol, as all my shopping has been done online and Amazon and other sites don’t yet accompany the ordering process with canned music.

So I’ve been getting on with the baking and the card-writing in blissful peace, with only the occasional piece of Advent music to remind me of the season. The peace won’t last, but it’s been a lovely and very welcome gift.

Words: a modern Advent carol written by Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965) and set to the tune Besançon. It was first published in The Oxford Book of Carols in 1928.

Tune: This carol from the eastern part of France, appeared in the "Recueil de Noëls anciens au patois de Besançon," which was published in 1842. The melody is probably from the seventeenth century.

Image: Wikipedia

Sunday, December 01, 2013

An Advent Sunday baby

Perhaps I should hesitate to start a post with what verges on a cliché, but I can’t help wondering where the years have gone. Back in the earliest days of this blog I asked myself the same question when DD celebrated her fortieth birthday, and today I’m looking back even further, to the day forty-five years ago, when, at the tender age of 22, DH and I became parents for the first time.

It was 1968, the year of students riots in Paris and the doomed Prague Spring in Soviet Czechoslovakia, of the last mainline steam trains in Britain and the first manned Apollo mission in the US. It was the year DH and I graduated and bought our first, rather decrepit house for the princely sum of £2,150.

We were subsisting on a student bursary of £500 a year while he trained as a teacher and once the mortgage had been paid each month, there was very little left over to live on. The house was minimally furnished with family cast-offs, the unused rooms still empty. The only clothes we bought that year were for the baby I was expecting and even those were just the few things I couldn't make myself.

I discovered very quickly how fortunate I was to have been brought up by a mother who taught all her daughters to cook plain, healthy and, above all, economical food. DH was away at college from Sunday to Friday evening, living in our ancient camper to save rent, while I was alone at home, trying to turn a neglected house into somewhere to care for a baby. I’d made a start by painting the kitchen what should, if the label on the tin were to be believed, have been a warm but muted shade of coral, but which turned out to be a vivid and virulent pink, which we had to endure until we sold the house four years later.

Two weeks before the baby was due I went for my weekly ante-natal check-up on the last Tuesday in November. DH was at college as usual, after a very pleasant weekend at home during which we’d celebrated his birthday. Out of the blue, the doctor who examined me said he was worried about my puffy ankles and on hearing there was no-one at home to look after me, insisted that I be admitted to hospital the same afternoon for rest and care until the baby was born.

As it turned out, DS didn't wait for the two weeks to be up before making his entrance. An accidental fall on a wet bathroom floor precipitated the first signs of labour and DH arrived home for the weekend to find that active fatherhood was imminent. When that Advent Sunday dawned, it was obvious that the baby was well on the way and DH spent the long day by my bed, fetching and carrying and making himself as useful as he could.

Back in those days it was mandatory for fathers to have attended ante-natal classes if they were to be admitted to the labour-ward. Being away at college all week meant that he hadn’t been able to go to the classes with me and the staff were adamant that he had to say goodbye to me at the labour-ward door and wait outside until it was all over.

He didn’t have long to wait. The first stage of labour might have been long, but the second was almost precipitous and DS made his entrance into the world only 20 minutes after I’d been wheeled through that door.

When he was wrapped up and given to me to hold, someone asked what we were going to call him. DH and I had whittled  down the possibilities to two short-lists of names, but hadn’t yet made our final choice. At that point I could remember only one name from the boy’s list, probably because it was the shortest, but as soon as I said it out loud, I knew it was the only possible one. When DH was allowed in to see us both, I presented him with not only a son but a name, and suddenly we were a family and life would never be the same again.

Forty-five years on, DS is a husband and father in his turn, with a son who will soon be 10 and a very busy and worthwhile career. But on this Advent Sunday I can still see so clearly the baby with dimples, who looked up at me at the end of that long day and lodged himself in my heart for ever.

Postscript:    It may seem almost unbelievable in these days of camera-phones, Facebook and Instagram, but we don’t have a single photo of either of our children until they were at least 3 months old. They were both born in winter and our first photos were taken when it was finally warm enough to be outside with them. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

WordPress Wednesday

There’s a blogging meme I often see on other blogs called Wordless Wednesday. Knowing me as you all do, you’ll easily guess that wordy Perpetua doesn’t do wordless very well. However, I can’t resist borrowing and twisting the title to express my utter frustration at trying to comment on the WordPress blogs I follow. For the last two days it's been a case of sometimes I can, but mostly I can’t, and it’s been driving me up the wall.

A quick ferret around in the depths of the WordPress help forums has cast some light on the subject. Apparently one or more of the servers which carry communication between users with certain UK internet service providers and WordPress have been falling down on the job, resulting in much gnashing of teeth around these islands. Normal service appears to have been resumed, but I won’t hold my breath just yet. I’m glad it isn’t only Blogger that has off days.

When life is stressful, there’s one sure-fire way to relax and here it is…..

Image via Google

Monday, November 18, 2013

A week of little things

After the stress and busyness of DH’s illness and my cataract surgery, I seem to have fallen into a state of almost suspended animation since my last post. Not being allowed to drive means that I’m reliant on DH to take me out and about, and with the exception of my visit to the hospital for a check-up last Wednesday, he seems very reluctant to do so.

His excuse is that he wants to keep me away from potential colds and flu, sneezing being not a good idea at the moment. I think the real reason is that he’s falling into hibernate (or should that be hermit?) mode and doesn’t enjoy venturing out in the cold, grey weather which has been the norm recently. Whatever the reason, this has been a very quiet week, with our only visitor the postman.

So it’s been a week of little things - small happenings that would go almost unnoticed if life were busier. Things like a welcome, steady drop in DH’s resting blood pressure, disturbed only by a few unexplained spikes. These have probably been happening for months if not years, but ignorance being bliss, we didn’t know to worry about them. As long as the trend continues to be downward, he’ll go on taking the tablets and speak to the GP at his next appointment.

For me the little things include the bracing daily experience of unpeeling the micropore tape which holds my eye shield in place overnight. On the basis of the last ten days or so, I should patent it as a new depilatory! Or there’s the growing realisation that despite some creaks my knees do still work, and that instead of the long-preferred, but now forbidden, bending at the waist to pick things up, I’m again capable of squatting down to do so and getting up again unaided. Who needs gym membership?

Apart from that my days have been a quiet round of pottering – some gentle housework, increasing amounts of reading and some fairly mindless TV watching, while clearing part of my long-neglected pile of clothes mending. It feels so good to be able to thread a needle again without squinting!

Our one sortie into the outside world proved to be more exciting than expected. Ten miles into the nearly forty-mile journey to the hospital we were appalled to discover a “road closed” notice. Several miles further on, a lorry had overturned on the winding road across the hills, which had to be closed to allow the lorry to be recovered.  A swift phone call to the eye clinic told them we would be late and DH took the short cut across the single-track mountain road to the coastal road which is the only other way to get to Aberystwyth. Amazingly we were only 20 minutes late and, less surprisingly, found we weren't the only patients to have been inconvenienced.

Fortunately Wednesday was the one bright and sunny morning of the week, so my only regret was that of course I didn’t have my camera with me on the spectacular mountain road past the remote and long-disused lead mines of Dylife. Google as usual has come to my rescue, so I’ll leave you with a tantalising glimpse of what must be one of the most stunning panoramic views to be found anywhere, and go back to doing not very much at all.

Images via Google

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The world through new eyes

This morning we woke up to the most beautiful weather, clear, sunny and crisp – so crisp indeed that we may well have had our first touch of frost this autumn. However it wasn't until after lunch that I was able to force  persuade DH to come out with me for a walk round the fields.

It wasn’t a long walk, as everywhere is very soggy after so much rain, but I wasn’t in a hurry. There was just so much to see and marvel at, in fresh and startling detail. The sight in my right eye isn’t perfect yet, but it’s so much better than it has been for years that I can again use it to look through the viewfinder of my camera. A little thing perhaps, but it has brought me so much pleasure and satisfaction. I even think the photos are clearer too. J

The old homestead

Sorry to disturb you, ladies
Living fretwork

Mid-Wales valleys and hills

Shapes and textures

Proud against the sky

Beauty in small things too 

Autumn colour at last

Nature's subtlety

Wednesday, November 06, 2013

So far, so good

This is just a quick post to thank you all so much for your good wishes and prayers and to tell you that the operation seems to have gone very well. I couldn't post yesterday as my eye was so thoroughly shielded and strapped up that I couldn't get my glasses on at all, so had to spend the rest of the day resting very quietly and listening to the radio. I saw the consultant first thing this morning and he took off the shield, inspected his handiwork and pronounced himself satisfied so far, so I can now view the world through my glasses again and can even see to use the computer. 

Well. the world is definitely clearer and brighter with my right eye now, though a bit blurry to begin with. I'd forgotten what proper blue and white look like! The operation went well once it happened (2 specialist opthalmic scrub nurses had phoned in sick that morning and they had to wait a couple of hours for another to be available) though it was as tricky as my wonderful consultant had expected and took almost twice as long as a normal cataract operation.

I now have to wait for my poor brain to learn to merge the spanking new colours in my right eye with the yellowy-brownish tinge in my left which has the very beginnings of a cataract too. Given the difficulty with this one, he doesn't want to have to do the other until it's really necessary. Once everything has settled down and healed I'll be able to get the new glasses I now need – and deserve. J


Image via Google

Friday, November 01, 2013

Remember, remember, the Fifth of November...

I see no reason why gunpowder treason
should ever be forgot...
Between fifty and sixty years ago, when I was a child growing up in a small Lancashire village, November 5th, more commonly known in Britain as Bonfire or Guy Fawkes Night was probably the most important date in the calendar after Christmas, Easter and birthdays. From early October the local village shops would display fireworks for sale and as the month drew on, we would start to hear the occasional ‘banger’ being set off early by local boys.

Towards the end of the month, our parents would give my sisters and me ten shillings between us (50 pence now, but worth a great deal more back then) to buy our annual selection of fireworks before the shops ran out of our favourites. Oh, the agony of selection – almost as bad as that of choosing our Saturday sweets!  Catherine wheels, Roman candles, rockets, fountains,  and of course the essential handheld sparklers, even the names transport me straight back to childhood and the growing excitement as Bonfire Night came closer.

But there was much more to Bonfire Night than fireworks. Above all there was the bonfire to be built, in a grassy hollow on the hillside above our mother’s laboriously terraced garden. One October Saturday our father would take us down to the local woods, where we would collect fallen branches and tie them in bundles to be dragged home up the steep field above the woods. Later he helped us to build the bonfire, making sure it would burn well and not collapse too soon, and adding to it any odds and ends of burnable material which had been accumulating in the coal cellar for months.

Then there was the guy to be made, a task which was ours alone. An old shirt or jumper or jacket of our father’s or grandfather’s, together with a pair of ancient trousers or overalls and some holey socks would be stuffed with hay, straw or newspaper until we had an approximation of a human figure, with a bag for a head, and, if we were lucky, an old cap or hat on top.

We were never allowed to go out begging for ‘Pennies for the guy’ as more fortunate schoolmates sometimes did. Instead our guy stayed safe and dry indoors until the time came for him to be fixed firmly on top of the bonfire. In the meantime our mother would be busy too, making hard, dark and beautifully brittle treacle toffee to be sucked as we watched the bonfire burn and the fireworks go off.

Finally the day itself would dawn, with fervent prayers from even the most sceptical child that the weather would stay dry and not be too windy. No weekend communal bonfires and firework displays back then. November 5th was Bonfire Night and only the most appalling of weather would change that.

Our small family bonfire was always lit early in the evening, straight after high tea, and we would gather round it with the neighbouring children and watch our father set off the fireworks one by one, while we traced fiery patterns in the night air with our sparklers and ruined our teeth with treacle toffee. When we were older we would sometimes put potatoes in the embers and leave them to bake while we were busy elsewhere.

For our small family bonfire wasn't the only one we attended each November 5th. Our farmer neighbours had an old, open-fronted quarry on their land and in it their large extended family would build the biggest bonfire I have ever seen. Once our small bonfire was reduced to glowing embers we children would all decamp to the quarry for a spectacular blaze. Adventurous youngsters would scale the lower reaches of the quarry sides to set off fireworks from vantage points above the enormous bonfire, while the rest of us toasted ourselves and watched the excitement.

Eventually even this fire would die down, which was the signal for everyone to head back to the farmhouse kitchen for meat and potato pie cooked in enormous enamel bowls and shared with the multitude. Finally we would walk down the short lane from the farm to our cottage and fall into bed, exhausted, replete and happy, to dream of flames and fireworks and fun.

This November 5th I shall be otherwise occupied, but on the drive to and from the hospital, I shall while away the miles with Bonfire Night reminiscences and maybe even a piece or two of treacle toffee.

Images via Google

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A walk in the park

I’m sitting at my desk this grey, wet Sunday afternoon, with the leaves from the ash trees whirling past my study window as the rising gale tears them from the branches. The radio and TV news is full of dire predictions of the worst storm in years for the southern half of the UK, so I've taken refuge in remembering the very pleasant weekend away DH and I enjoyed a couple of weeks ago.

We had gathered for the weekend with DH’s two younger brothers and their wives at the home of my dear mother-in-law in the Cotswolds and the weather wasn't promising. It had rained almost non-stop the previous day, so when the sun broke through the clouds on the Saturday afternoon we took advantage of the respite to go for a walk in a local beauty spot, Batsford Arboretum

The house is privately-owned and not open to the public, but the fifty acres of beautifully-landscaped parkland which surround it contain a wonderful collection of specimen trees, always an attraction for my tree-loving (though not, so far as I know, tree-hugging) husband. The landscaping we still see dates back to the 1860s and predates the rebuilding of the house in the 1890s, but both were the work of members of the Mitford family, who owned the estate for several decades. During World War One it was the home of the famous (to some perhaps infamous) Mitford sisters until it was sold in 1919.

A parkland vista
And in the far distance deer may safely graze

Though our visit was in early October there was sadly little of the glorious autumn colour we had been hoping for. The very cold late spring seems to have pushed the subsequent seasons back by several weeks and most things were still very green as we strolled happily among the trees and admired the views. I can only hope that the forecast storm won’t wreak havoc among the magnificent old giants that stand with such dignity in their beautiful setting, having survived the Great Storm of 1987, when so many millions of their fellows were not so fortunate.

Just in case here are some more images from our lovely afternoon walk in quintessentially English landscaped countryside.

Batsford House in its setting

A few glimpses of colour

Living sculpture

A magnificent beech 

Such grandeur

Trio in a green study

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Even Homer sometimes nods

I occasionally wonder how (to coin a phrase) I manage to walk and chew gum at the same time.   

I've just treated myself to my very first e-reader - not a Kindle, but a Nook, because above all I want to be able to borrow e-books from the library (via my laptop to the reader) and Kindles don't let you do that. I'd thought first of getting a tablet, but we're on a wired network here, not wi-fi, so that wouldn't have worked. However, what silly me didn't take into account is that I would need wi-fi to register my e-reader with the manufacturer (the book chain Barnes & Noble) to get it to work at all. 

The result is that I have a spiffing little e-reader, fully charged, but not able to go anywhere until I head off to borrow my sister's wi-fi tomorrow. Doh!

At least I don’t have to grapple with a cat at the same time….

Image via Google

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The joys of country living

Those of you with retentive memories may recall the domestic crisis suffered by the Transit household back in the early spring. It’s the kind of problem familiar to anyone who has ever lived in the depths of the country, though thankfully rare. Much more common for those without mains water is the heart-stopping moment when the flow of water from the well slows to a trickle and then to a mere drip or two.

Our well is uphill from the house and so relies on gravity to keep the water flowing into the upstairs storage tank which feeds our house supply. In the past, when the children were still at home and our water usage was much higher, the well would occasionally run dry, with consequences I need hardly spell out. A new and better-located well put paid to this particular problem, but there is still always the risk that air will gradually find its way into the pipe-work until the flow of water slows or even stops, as the siphon which draws water out of the well finally breaks.

Yesterday, being Monday and the day after our return from a weekend away, was wash-day and the washing-machine churned away happily, dealing with load after load. There wasn’t a hint of a problem with water supply, but unbeknownst to us the water tank was gradually being emptied and last night it finally ran dry - halfway through the dishwasher cycle!

It was far too late by then to do anything about the situation, but bright and early this morning any interested spectator would have found DH and me in the open garage adjoining the kitchen, listening anxiously as air whistled and bubbled from the drain valve in the water-pipe which runs up the side of the house to the storage tank. Finally the tiny trickle of water stopped completely and so did the bubbling and whistling.

Had the siphon finally broken or not? Was there a problem with the pipe-work or with the well itself? At least the weather was dry and sunny if we had to investigate further. DH and I looked unhappily at each other and back at the drain valve and waited…and waited… Suddenly, with an explosive and profoundly welcome swoosh, water started to run and then pour from the valve again and we were saved. Until next time…

I can promise you that DH and I never take running water for granted and we never, never waste it. 

Image via Google

Monday, October 07, 2013

The wheels on the car go round and round…

This being a chauffeur business is certainly keeping me busy. Last Tuesday I had to take DH to the health centre for a BP check (still far too high, but gradually coming down) and on Friday across the hills to the hospital for an ultrasound scan of his carotid arteries. This was followed by a very welcome and enjoyable weekend visit by DS who came by train, so had to be collected from the station. Except for the hospital visit (a nearly 80 mile round trip, none of the extra journeys are very long, but it's amazing how they mount up. Thank goodness for the comfy new car. 

This afternoon it was back to the health centre to see the GP to get him into the system for his medication. DH is not a good passenger – too many years of driving many miles alone in connection with work - but he's having to get used to being driven. I’m pleased to report that the initial white knuckles and worried looks have diminished as he has accustomed himself to not being in control of the car for once, but he still can’t wait for the end of the month when he will be allowed to drive once more.

Our lovely GP has checked for us and found out that my cataract operation has been rescheduled for November 5th, though we’re still waiting for the official letter to confirm that date. So life is gradually getting back onto a more even keel and we’re even starting to make plans for our annual family visits for Christmas and New Year. In the meantime, the daily walks are continuing and at the weekend DS and my dear brother-in-law helped us to dust off and reassemble the exercise bike, as we both heed the wake-up call to get fit and stay fit. Even when DH can drive again, in the Transit household the wheels will continue to go round and round.

And while we're on the subject of wheels....

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mellow fruitfulness

It’s a good thing colour can’t leach through the keyboard onto the blog or this post would be written in purple. I've just come in from blackberrying, and even after a good scrub with the nailbrush my fingers are still juice-stained. It’s not that we  need any more jam, as we have more than enough of my summer production to last us through the winter and beyond. It’s more a case of not being able to turn my back on nature’s bounty and this year she has been inordinately generous.

As I stretched across the bramble bushes, always straining for that even more luscious cluster just out of reach (there’s a life metaphor in there somewhere….) I couldn’t remember ever having seen such profusion before. Every small shoot was weighed down by glistening berries, all ripe at the same time, thanks to this year’s late harvest, and seemingly longing to drop into my bowl almost before my fingers touched them.

O for a macro lens and a steady hand!

Please note the spider making a bid for freedom

Of course I browsed as I picked, with my purple lips matching my fingers by the time I brought my laden bowl into the kitchen. The berries are so ripe that they won’t keep, so I shall stew them gently with some of the apples from our French orchard, as a treat for DH who adores blackberry and apple. If I’m lucky there will still be plenty to be gathered over the weekend, but they are a fleeting pleasure and it won’t be long before the bushes are bare and their unmistakable rich and almost earthy flavour will just be a satisfying memory until next autumn.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Late night extra

In a nutshell DH is home and is already in bed and asleep. His blood pressure is still too high, but low enough for him to be discharged and monitored at home. My dear brother-in-law kindly drove me to the hospital to collect him late this afternoon. I’m very happy and very tired and about to go to bed myself, but I just wanted to say a heartfelt thank-you to you all for your kindness, support and friendship. Life will be a bit different for DH and me in future, but we’ll deal with it – together, thank God.

Image via Google