Tuesday 31 January 2017


Parsnip (who should know a thing or two about root vegetables) has introduced me to a new word for swedes. Rutabaga. It sounds exotic. I had to go to google to read all about it. What a confusion! When is a swede not a swede? When it's a turnip, or a rutabaga. While the vegetables stay the same, and taste quite different from each other, their names are interchangeable depending on which part of Britain you're in. And that's without factoring in names given in other countries.
It reminds me of the childhood joke,
how do you tell the difference between a stoat and a weasel?
Answer, A weasel is weasyily recognised, but a stoat is stoatally different.
When my swede and turnip seedlings first sprouted in the autumn I had no idea which was which. Birds had pulled out the small white labels that identified each row and I ended up planting out the thinnings as guesswork. No matter, both crops did well. How pretty the turnips look, and, satisfyingly, just the same as on the packet!

Sunday 29 January 2017


It's a cold wet day, best suited to sitting by a well-stocked log fire and having a leisurely read through the papers or starting on one of the Christmas books.  The various seed and plant firms are bombarding me with emails tempting me to purchase their goods. I would love to be swinging into action in the garden but it's far too early in the year to be doing much. We are still cropping plenty of vegetables; sprouts, leeks, chard, spinach, turnip and swede, but it's not much fun squelching about in the sodden soil to harvest them. To eat with our haggis we had the traditional mashed 'neeps 'n tatties,'  homegrown. (Turnips and potatoes to you sassenachs.)
I sowed swede and turnip seed in the autumn after clearing one of the veg beds of a summer crop at the suggestion of Monty Don on a gardening programme. I thought that it might be too late in the season to have much success, but worth trying as otherwise the ground would just lie idle.
I'm pleased with the results, a good crop of both. Something has had a nibble at the swedes, but without inflicting too much damage, as you can see. 
There's plenty of seed left in each packet to plant again this autumn. Now doesn't that gladden the heart of someone who has a combination of Scottish and Yorkshire blood in her veins!

Friday 27 January 2017


A morning sky for Skywatch Friday.
It's cold.
Skywatching this week has involved being able to see little more than grey mist. Some days have been positively dreich, such a descriptive Scottish word for dull, wet, dreary weather. My mother was a Scot and my grandmother Irish and many celtic words remain in common use in our household.
Big brother phoned to ask if I'd eaten haggis on Burn's night. He complained that he'd been unable to buy one wrapped in anything other than plastic and was not very happy about the fact. I told him that was a minor complaint, that I'd gone to buy my haggis only to find them on sale either sliced or in the shape of a sausage. Some haggis were labeled vegetarian. Come on, a haggis, vegetarian! Isn't that an oxymoron? What about tradition, sheep's pluck, oats and  spices all wrapped up into a nice round ball in the lining of an animal's stomach, how can you improve on that?
No answers on a postcard, thank you very much!

Friday 20 January 2017

Skywatch Friday

It was good to open the bedroom curtains in the morning and see the pearly sunrise that promised some sunshine for the day ahead. 
We enjoyed a crisp, cold day here in the south-west of England. Bright sunshine quickly melted the overnight frost.
Pink blossom on the tree echoed the pink of the early morning light. It was a joy to be outside - we were well wrapped up!
And at the end of the day there was a beautiful sunset. 
Now it's freezing hard and I've covered some of my plants with protective fleece.
Linking with Friday Skywatch to see beautiful skies from all over the world.

Saturday morning
Today is rather different.
Wishing you a brighter weekend than mine!

Monday 16 January 2017

Blue Monday

Apparently the most depressing day of the year is today, January 16th, known as, 'Blue Monday.' Mental Health Research UK wants to rename it, 'Blooming Monday' and is encouraging everyone to share pictures of themselves in brightly coloured clothing. I've just walked down the road to the postbox and have to say that the weather isn't helping, it's anything but bright and inspiring; the landscape is grey, the fine rain drenching. I'm living in roll-neck sweaters and woolly socks and forgive me for sounding like a grouch, but January and February are the months when I could happily hibernate.

Our e-mail system stopped working at Christmas and we were out of communication for weeks. Friends phoned to say that they couldn't make contact. We've just discovered why, our provider went bankrupt! E-mail is so immediate, ideal for those silly, short exchanges with friends and family that make you smile and equally good for lengthy catch-ups and an exchange of photographs with those who now live far away.
The art of letter writing, it seems, is dead.

Mt mother wrote wonderful letters, full of the routine of her daily life. She would describe a blackbird singing outside the kitchen window and what she had baked that was going to be eaten for tea. Her writing would transport me straight back home. I was also a letter writer, often adding drawings to accompany whatever I was writing about. One day I received a reply from a friend. She had made, as a heading, a carefully detailed pen drawing of a town crier in a feathered hat. He was ringing a hand bell as he read out a notice, proclaiming, 'Such is the letter that Rosemary writes and so do I....'
Throughout my childhood a single house telephone was our connection to the outside world and its four-digit number is embedded in my memory. The phone was positioned in the hall at the foot of the stairs and was used for my father's business as well as for family calls. A pad and pencil were set out on the table so that important customer details could be written down. Unfortunately I was a doodler. When friends rang to chat I would pick up the pencil and doodle on the pad. Loops and lines grew and connected the letters and numerals in an intricate web. I was totally unaware that I was doodling. If Dad was in the sitting room and I had been talking on the phone for some time he would know that his business messages were in the process of being obliterated. "Rosemary!" he would bellow, "Get off the phone!"

I like the feel of a pencil in my hand and have drawn and written since childhood, both for my own pleasure and for my career. I think of a pencil as a magical tool, able to record fact, create fiction and make imaginary figures that can, with just a few small marks, smile back at me from the page.
I've just finished writing my first novel and when I started I wrote in pencil, only later transferring what I had written onto the computer. At some point, I can't recall exactly when, perhaps during the editing process, the pencil became redundant and I wrote straight onto the screen.

Do I still doodle? I went and looked at the telephone pad in the hall. Pristine! Well, I'll go to the foot of our stairs! How strange. Did I stop doodling at the start of the digital age?
Dad would be pleased!

Monday 2 January 2017

Party time

Christmas Day
The Christmas meal duly arrived in a box and was a great success, removing the need to do all the prepping of vegetables, side dishes and sauces, I just had to open the packaging and put the contents  in the oven. It meant that my time wasn't all spent in the kitchen as in former years and I could lounge in the sitting room with the family. Just great, like a mother hen with all her chickens safely home!
My presents were all surprises, one of them being a pomegranate tree. The label says that it can be grown outside, but I'm going to be cautious and grow it in a pot. I plan to treat it as I do the lemons and move it in and out with the changing seasons.
This holiday period involves a lot of indulgent eating. I dusted the trifle with 'gold' for a festive flourish!
Boxing Day
On a bright, sunny day we were invited to our friends' house for lunch. Their garden edges the Severn Estuary and the sun shone golden on the reed bed at the edge of the water. It looked beautiful seen through the window but the camera wasn't able to capture what I saw and I wasn't inclined to stand outside in the bitter chill.

Janet is a colour queen and we discussed a possible new look for the sitting room walls.
Steve has a set of practise drums in a corner of his studio. Who can resist?
Well, certainly not me!
Watch out, Ringo!
Then the master showed me how.
New Year's Eve
All the village were invited to bring in the New Year at the hotel. As I've described before, we are a small hamlet that originally served the 'big house' up the hill which is now the hotel. Each house in the hamlet had it's own role to play in the running of the estate, our home being for the gamekeeper and his family. He raised the game birds on the land that is now an orchard that abuts our vegetable garden.
We villagers scrubbed up well, put on our party clothes and went up the hill for a glass of fizz and a jolly time!
Which got louder

and jollier as the night went on.
There was a great band for dancing
and it was lovely to catch up with the 'children' (now gorgeous grown-ups) of various villagers who were back home for the holidays.
A piper came at midnight
and we all joined in for Auld Lang Syne
New Year's Day
After not quite long enough in bed we set out for a celebration lunch with friends. The table was set to tempt even those who thought they weren't hungry!
Followed by puddings

enjoyed by all!
A house full of friends - what can be nicer!

Himself had a good chat with birthday boy, Alfie, they had worked together for many years at the former Bristol art school.
The 'colour queen' had been busy since our visit on Boxing Day
Now the walls are PINK.
When is my favourite time in a party?
When the throng has left,
everyone well fed
and happy,
 and the host and hostess can slump in comfy chairs.
We 'chew the fat' 
and the future is viewed through my rose tinted spectacles
with the help of very pink walls!
Wishing you all that is good for the year ahead.