Tag Archives: family

Of grandmothers and cunning plans

Of grandmothers and cunning plans

Sunday. After yesterday’s leisurely start if outdoorsy-busy day, today Emma and I got up and breakfasted, before packing my mini-kitchen into freezer bag and our new Blue Texel farm shop bag. Then we headed out to Amersham to see Emma’s Grannie…

Grannie, thought that we were just going over to see her for the afternoon and have a snack lunch with her, but we have been harbouring a secret and cunning plan. A while back after speaking to her one weekend, probably as I was finishing up cooking our roast, I had the idea that next time we go and see her for the day, we should surprise her by turning up in her house, and cooking her dinner.

Today, that day came and we pitched up at her house. Only yesterday she had phoned to check if there was anything she had needed to get in for lunch. No, we lied.

Of course it wasn’t quite the meal that we had originally planned. I had intended to roast a couple of pheasants but when we went to the butchers yesterday the man who provides the pheasants hadn’t shot any in the last week so they had none! The man had been aiming his bow and arrow at something a little larger (hence the rather delicious venison steaks we had last night). So instead we bought duck breasts and I made my seared duck with orange, and parsenip mash meal (all constituent bits of it came from the Slimming World Festive Feasts book).

Emma’s Grannie was touched by our actions and I think we might have given her quite a nice big event to remember. 🙂

The Sixteen Day Weekend

On the eve of going back to work tomorrow its time for a little bit of a round-up of the last two weeks which have seen me largely oblivious to what day it was. There was our professional photoshoot near the beginning of the holiday which featured 300 photos, 7 cats, 3 chickens, 2 bad bunnies and a couple of humans, which was good fun and we got some good shots that we will probably (and sadly) never be able to afford to get printed (or even have the digital files from).

The real day-confusion though, I guess it all started a week last Friday on my Birthday. Emma took me to see Bekonscot Model Village – I always thought it was Beaconsfield (which it is in) Model Village when I have seen it on the brown signs on the M40 ever since I first came to the Oxford area twenty years ago(!). It’s a fantastic place full of childhood wonder…


The thing is, that day out (and the Prezzo meal that followed it) made it seem a bit Saturday-ish (appropriately enough for our wedding anniversary any celebration-plans were dampened by waiting in all day for the Gas Man to Cometh and fix the boiler), and then we did Sunday-ish things on Saturday, so by the time we got to the bank holiday weekend I really didn’t know what day it was!

Then it got really confusing, because on Tuesday we went off to celebrate my belated-birthday with my Mum and Dad for a couple of days (after that is, the Gas Man Returneth to actually fix the boiler). We went to a very nice nursery in Suffolk where we got my present from my parents which was in the form of an Espallier Royal Russett Apple tree for the garden. Then we went out to the dinner at the local hotel in a failed attempt to stalk the Springwatch team…

11109279_10153274860950630_1718929694820422193_nWednesday saw us making the short trip down to RSPB Minsmere for some more Springwatch-stalking. Within moments of us entering the (appropriately-named) Bittern Hide, not one, but two bitterns flew in from the right and landed in the reedbeds right in front of us. One of them proceeded to wade and swim out of the reeds in front of us. Brilliant stuff! We also heard them boom, and paid our respects to Spineless Simon, and heard the guys talking about an adder called Baldrick. 🙂


So, by the time we got to drive off into the sunset on Wednesday, whether it was Wednesday or Sunday (or indeed which Sunday) was really, all very confused. I could really do with another holiday. Oh, wait, in just nine working days time I will be getting one. 🙂

The Occasional Poet

The Occasional Poet

Whenever I start a new notebook to jot down my writing notes there comes first a period where I have to transcribe bits and pieces across from the old to the new. I have quite a collection of truly interesting story ideas building up now, but I also found some poems I needed to copy to my small book of poems.

One of these poems was one that I began on hearing of my great auntie Kathleen’s death earlier this year At the time I left it because I didn’t know how to complete it, but actually, re-reading it now I find it to be a fitting tribute.

Auntie Kathleen

You saved our Cristmas cake
When we let it cookfor double
the time it should have

I had a question about ham
and you sent me your little book
to help me.

You came all the way
to the foot of Snowdon
When I got married.

You blew bubbles like a pro
You were kind and caring,
with I think, a slightly wicked
Sense of humour.

You gave me five songs for my
wedding, to remember you by
Five songs, and the reasons behind them.
Thank you for the whole host of memories

The pleasure of words

The pleasure of words

The original plan (ie. the plan that only came into being two days ago) for today would have seen us spending this morning with my mum and dad. But plans changed, and circumstances dictated that we suddenly had an entire Sunday morning in which we had no jobs to do… this an entire morning in which we could get up and breakfast leisurely… and I feared lots.

For lunchtime we ventured out into an increasingly blustery day for Sunday lunch at the in-laws, and I even found a bit of time in the afternoon to read my book. I’be been reading Magical Tales, the companion book to the brilliant exhibition at The Bodleian. It’s a fantastic inspirational and interesting book for me although it does have the “downside” in that I can’t seem to get past a chapter without asking at least for books to my To Read list.

Autumn walks

Autumn walks

about_pub2After an early start to Saturday, giving the house a good clean, Emma and I headed out to Oxford just after midday to meet my Mum and Dad at The Perch Inn, Binsey – just on the edge of Port Meadow in Oxford. After a very nice two course of French-style cuisine (Emma ate snails for the first time), we went for a walk out across Port Meadow towards town. We parted ways there as my Mum and Dad went on into town to go and visit the fantastic Magical Books exhibition at the The Bodleian.

Emma and I continued our walk up Port Meadow with Barney and then back along a section of the Oxford Canal. I loved it. Sunshine over the meadow with a blustery wind and a backdrop of moody clouds, and then the inspiring delight of the canal, with its tow path down one side and the backs of narrow if extensive houses that led down to the canal. The backs of houses are so much more interesting than the front, don’t you think?



Back home, and whilst Emma had a short snooze, I read with a cat on my lap and Barney dog at my feet, until my Mum and Dad arrived home bearing cakes to accompany a cup of tea. We chatted for a bit, and then we gave them a light supper of biscuits and cheese (posh cheese from the Bicester farmer’s market a few week’s back) before they went on their way to get to my brother’s in Cambridge. I read some more while Emma caught up Strictly action.

Being a tourist in your own town

Being a tourist in your own town

Today was a day for seeing family that I haven’t seen in ages, or indeed in come cases, not at all. With the exception of Olivia, I’ve not met any of my first cousins-once-removed, and only she when she was a baby, so it was nice to finally meet. They’re all over in the UK for a few weeks seeing sights ahead of the big birthday bash of my Uncle Gerry. As Oxford is on most people’s shopping lists of places to visit and we’re on hand as native guides, Emma and I had a day being tourists in our own town.

We went on an open top bus tour (before and after, but critically not during, the most torrential downpour), visitied the Oxford Castle Unlocked tour, had lunch in The Eagle and Child (once drinking den and meeting place of Tolkien, C.S. Lewis and the rest of the Inklings) and showed them Blackwell’s Bookshop and the world famous Norrington Room (which boasts three miles (5 km) of shelving and with 10,000 square feet (930 m2) merited an entry in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest single room selling books).

Great Aunt Blanche and Gunning King

We have a portrait in our house of Great Aunt Blanche. To me she would have been Great great aunt Blanch as she was my Granpy’s aunt. Its a very good charcoal sketch and we’ve always known that the artist was apparently a member of the Royal Academy but we’ve not known much more than that. Blanche Geraldine Powney (1874–1952?) herself was married to a antique dealer in Colchester and we used to have some nice bits of furniture that she left my Granpy. Aunt BlancheThis week, my Mum has discovered the identity of the artist, Gunning King, who was indeed a member of the Royal Academy and has quite a collection of paintings out there. I particularly like this painting of Corfe Castle, where some of my other family come from…

Corfe Castle by Gunning King( see more paintings )

Great Aunt Blanche and Gunning King

We have a portrait in our house of Great Aunt Blanche. To me she would have been Great great aunt Blanch as she was my Granpy’s aunt. Its a very good charcoal sketch and we’ve always known that the artist was apparently a member of the Royal Academy but we’ve not known much more than that. Blanche Geraldine Powney (1874–1952?) herself was married to a antique dealer in Colchester and we used to have some nice bits of furniture that she left my Granpy.

Aunt Blanche

This week, my Mum has discovered the identity of the artist, Gunning King, who was indeed a member of the Royal Academy and has quite a collection of paintings out there. I particularly like this painting of Corfe Castle, where some of my other family come from…


Originally published at shepline: the journal. You can comment here or there.

Iceland Full Circle Day 4: Þingvellir, Geysir and Gulfoss

Day 4: Friday 17 August 2012

Another nice, leisurely breakfast this morning after another good night’s sleep, if a disturbed once at around 4 o’clock by Emma climbing up from under the back of the bed, across the pillow and trying to get out the window. It is important to remember that Emma, in this instance, is a cat – if named after t’other Emma.

Drífa and Kjartan arrived shortly after breakfast for our day out doing the Golden Circle – a trip that Reykjavik Excursions charge £100 each for the tour that has no admission charges and only involves a few hours of driving. This way we get to see some famous sights but hopefully in the company of less tourists, and we get to spend some time with the family.

The journey starts with a pitstop at a bakery at Mossfellsbaer – I say bakery but it was more a deli-come-chocolatier at an out-of-town retail park. And then we head off away from the N1 inland to Þingvellir.

I have been to Þingvellir just once before at the end of my 2002 holiday in the north. Then, the visitor centre was brand new, but the day was heavy rain and thick, low cloud. The place was completely different. In fact it took me ages to realise that where we were today in the bright, clear sunshine in the rising heat, was the same place.

Þingvellir, seat of Iceland’s first government is on a large fissure in the ground – a massive cliff that runs through the ground. To the east you are standing on the Eurasian plate and to the west you are standing on the American plate – and this is the only place where the great mid-Atlantic ridge is visible above sea level. It’s weird to think that just a few hundred metres in either direction and where we are standing would be the bottom of the ocean.

From Þingvellir we head on to Pengingagjá or the Chasm of Coins – deep pool in a fissure of rock where we toss coins in to make a wish. Some one it seems has made a wish on an old credit card – a new maybe to term ‘loose change’.

As we drive onwards and up to Geysir we can see the great icecap of Landjokull beyond the mountains. The great Geysir – father to all geysirs in the world has been long dormant but his smaller brother Strokkur is reliably active and does its thing every five minutes or so and see it spurt several times in the time that we are there. Watching water gurgle and splutter before activity. The water, always at least 80–100°C of naturally hot water starts off almost serenely quiet and eerily blue before slowly rising and falling, with ever increasing difference in water level, faster and faster, until whoosh it gushes out in one huge fountain leaving a gaping chasm beneath, back into which the spilt water is sucked.

We have our lunch, bought earlier at a picnic table within sight of Geysir. And after lunch we move on to Gulfoss – Europe’s largest waterfall. It’s not far but I do realise that in my novel I have relocated it closer to Reykjavik – so much so that Ben, a state of shock and upset is able to drive out of Reykjavik to face his fears at Gulfoss. Again in contrast to the low cloud and persistent rain of ten years ago, today it is warm and sunny and a rainbow – could it be the Bifrost – lingers long over the waterfall which is stunningly beautiful.

On the drive back to Reykjavik, Kjartan and Drífa take us by way of the hillside location on the edge of a lake where last June they got married. It is indeed a fantastic and beautiful spot to get married.

Just between Snorrabraut, the indoor swimming pool and the back of Hallsgrimkirkur we find the new location of Cheap Jeep but unfortunately the man there, like before on the phone, is worrying laid back about things. There’s no jeep for us as our vehicle has been dropped off at Keflavik and it won’t be ready for an hour maybe. He takes our phone number though and says he will call when it is ready for collection. We leave again, without jeep wondering if he will or not and what our vehicle will look like when it does…

…it’s not long after we’ve finished dinner and Emma and I settle down with Janet in the lounge to read and write our journals and talk that the man phones us in characteristically laid back fashion to say it will be ready in 20 minutes. Drifa comes back to the house and takes us back down into Reykjavik to collect our jeep. A Blue Daewoo which is fully functioning, automatic, and cheap by merit only by being old and having a slightly peculiar door handle to the back door.

As it begins now to get dark I catch up with writing these pages and think about repacking my rucksack for the round Iceland road trip ahead of us. For bedtime reading tonight, further to something that Kjartan said, I will make a start on Halldór Laxness’ Independent People.

Day 5: Reykjavik to Brautaholt…

Iceland Full Circle Day 2: Cousins and Bathing in the Blue Lagoon

Day 4: Thursday 16 August

Plans change. Given second thoughts Janet had decided her Peugeot 206 might be a little small for four people and two dogs so we belayed the trip to the golden circle. Instead, after a leisurely breakfast Janet took us down to see Signý and Noí in their new flat. Noí is very cute, and very strong – he would stand on our laps and really grip our fingers.

Signý served us a wickedly delicious Hairy Bikers chocolate cake and showed us around their new flat – so bright and airy. The kitchen is very similar to ours with the same oiled oak worktops and I recognised immediately one of Grandpa’s old oak coffee tables that he made, and that Signý is attached to, possibly, more than anything else. The other thing I notice about Signý’s and Níls’ flat is that, like all the houses in Iceland, even the smaller places – they still have generous utility/wet rooms and lots of storage. I guess they need them with the sometimes harsher conditions in the winter but its still 100% more storage than it is usual to find in UK houses where instead there is always precious little storage even for the vacuum cleaner or the ironing board.

After our visit to see Signý, Janet dropped us at the BSí bus terminal so that we could catch the tour out to the Blue Lagoon. Getting there was swift enough along the long, straight, main road that lead us almost back to Keflavik airport to the Spa built next to and using the waste water from a power station. I have a family connection to the Blue Lagoon in that it was my uncle’s father who managed the power station when they realised that the waste water and the silica mud that it created had restorative properties. There is now a sister spa up in the north near Mývatn which I remember bathing in ten years ago almost to the day when it was like this was in the beginning – a lake on the edge of the road where we parked the van and changed, girls to one side, boys to the other before wandering down and in.

Not now with the Blue Lagoon with a £25 or 5000 IKR entrance fee. It’s worth it though and we spent a good hour and a half lounging in the warm, slightly salty, sulphurous waters – even if the wristband-operated lockers do provide a bit of a challenge. The journey takes us out of Reykjavik under clear skies and we can see the rolling, tumbling expanse of an old lava field with old and new building perched in amongst it all. Out across the water we can clearly see Snaefellsness Peninsular and the glacier at its tip.

I’ve been to the Blue Lagoon once before – I guess twice in 8 years isn’t too bad for a frequency rate. There is a comfortableness in that, although there has been more development like the new ‘Lava Restaurant’ and a neighbouring clinic where you can stay. It is otherwise exactly the same as it always was. I’m sure the locker system has changed though as I don’t remember the system of electronic bracelets to set and lock the catches.

We lounge about in the warm, milky-blue waters, plaster the white silica mud onto our upper bodies and faces, try the steam bath in the lava cave, and then a waterfall massage – pummelled in the shoulders by heavy cold water.

Our return bus journey is almost twice as long as it ought to have been as the driver takes us to virtually any hotel in Reykjavik dropping off people after people until there are only four people, including us, left and we are a full half hour later for Drífa who has been waiting in the car for us with little Melkorka – only two years and very smiley.

Drífa and Melkorka stay for dinner – yummy smoked salmon filled fajitas and salad. Our earlier plans to do the golden circle are revived for tomorrow – Drífa and Kjartan would like to take us.

After dinner we play with Kelkorka and her toys and I give her her present – which she loves instantly. Its Mr Gumpy’s Outing by John Burningham. I read it to her, adding the odd translation for the animals and she loves the illustrations. Kjartan has been wanting a copy of my book and so I give them a slightly battered copy of my own which I inscribe for them and draw their attention to the illustration on page 200. I tell them that they can have this battered copy so long as they download a Kindle version…

When Drífa leaves we decide that the throaty, sports car sound of Drífa’s exhaust as not as loud as she feared. She just needs a ‘Robin’ to bolt the ends back together.

Day 4: Þingvellir, Geysir, and Gullfoss…

On the second day of Christmas: attempt two…

So, after the washout that, for Emma, was Christmas Day we tried again and headed over to her parents for post-Christmas lunch of cheese and biscuits and sausage rolls. Emma made up for lost time and fed and cuddled her little niece, Lily…

Slimming World waits for no festivities and today was weigh-in day, and big congratulations to Emma who reached her two stone milestone. Not so big congratulations for me. Christmas, it seems does not agree with me (or rather it agrees with me a little too much), and I have gained 3lbs which I find a bit disappointing. I’m still within my 10% of my bodyweight loss, but can no longer say that I have lost a whole 2 stone. 🙁

On the sixth day of advent: ghost of Christmas past

Seeing Nellie playing under the Christmas tree skirt last night was reminiscent of 18 years ago and Bramble as a kitten playing under the Christmas tree. I found this footage recently on an old VHS tape from Christmas 1993.

We never had a video camera as a family, but just occasionally there exists a bit of footage. For the most part its the kind of thing that is impossible to watch at the time of recording but years later, when you’ve forgotten it exists its nice to discover them again, particularly when you get to see your grandparent’s again, and sufficient time has passed that the feelings of horror of how thin one was then, or the amount of hair one had, are not quite so horrific.

It’s fun to see things again the traditions that have built up and lasted over the years, and which one’s you have taken with you into your new life with your partner, and which one’s you have lost, or which one’s you didn’t have to lose because they are (coincidentally) the same. One of the big one’s from my family is that the Christmas cake is cut on Christmas Eve with an ‘extra’ present ‘from the tree’ to start the festive season off.

What Christmas traditions do you have?

(includes the classic response from my Mum, when I tell her and my Dad that they said there was no way I would get that for Christmas, “When I have ever told the truth about Christmas?”)

Family Reunited

Friday 24 July at 20:29 •
There I was, innocently making the tonight’s dinner, and Emma was in the lounge messing around on Facebook, and then suddenly she’s telling me that I have a new friend; someone very close to me. I couldn’t guess who it was, and nor would I have done, I don’t think. Umm, tonight I welcome my mother to Facebook. Err … I wasn’t expecting that one?!!

The Jefferys’ In Blissford

After the hiatus of Easter weekend, and the worries concerning Emma’s dad’s cancer today was the day for heading off to the New Forest and a day with my parents. Thankfully, Mr Jefferys was up to driving again so we didn’t have to drive the two sides of a triangle to collect them.

We had a very pleasant day, sitting in the garden, and going for the walks. We got to see my mum’s new ‘studio’ in the part-converted garage, and tried out the iPod with the speakers and amplifier for the wedding.

After Em’s parents left to go home, Em and I remained for a while longer to load up on paving stones to make a few paths through our expanse of gravel and for Emma to have a bit of a sleep whilst my Mum and I realised the shocking truth of just how big a shop it was going to have to be for our little holiday at Craflwyn Hall next month…

Goodbye Grandpa

Funerals are odd things. In some strange, mixed up way, I’ve been looking forward to today. I think that it is because of Grannie’s funeral two and a half years ago. Although it was sad, and upsetting, she was old, and we came away from having spent a day with family many of whom we hadn’t seen in ages, and it was good. In many ways, Grannie herself would have liked it.

I arrived at Emma’s a little before 11 o’clock and we went on to Amersham. It’s weird but as I drove through the grounds of Amersham Crematorium it hit me. Literally right behind the eyes I could feel myself begin to well up. The service itself was a humanist service – Grandpa having been not in the slightest way, religious. We had some readings, and my Dad did a eulogy, put together with the aid of thoughts and memories from us all. Just before ‘the off’, my brother thrust a video camera into my hands. Apparently they had a last minute request from Signý (who could not make it being on completely the otherside of the world in New Zealand) for a video to be made. I felt very uneasy about this, but felt better after working out that if I stacked up all the prayer books on the pew they made a very useful tripod.

Afterwards we went back to The Crown in Amersham for a reception, and then later in the afternoon Emma and I went back up The Hill to visit her Grannie. This, together with a Friday evening trip to Tesco and a late dinner, has made it all a bit of a weird day. I’m writing this having just put some more of December 2007 into my photo album and watching a very good programme in which Stephen Fry investigates how to make a Gutenberg press. I’m not entirely sure what day it is. By rights it should be Saturday today, and therefore tomorrow it should be Sunday, but that’s not the case. I still have the whole weekend ahead of me.

Parents Meeting

And so at last we come to the day; the day of the parents meeting. If it wasn’t for ‘The Summit’ being scheduled for 1245 hours, I would have called it ‘Parents Evening’ but my pedantry forbids it. Both Emma and I were agreed that by comparison, both me meeting her parents and her meeting mine, has been a breeze. The venue was The Wherry The Ferry at Cookham, was nice, if a little on the noisy side, but in all other respects it went well, and further proved to both of us that the more you fear something and feel nervous about a situation, the more you enjoy it.

This is with the exception of interviews. Don’t talk to me about interviews…

Red skies behind Norman towers

This weekend was utterly, fantastically great! 🙂

My parent’s arrived on Friday night, and on Saturday we went for a walk with Barney dog at Stowe Landscape Gardens near Buckingham (one of the Capability Brown constructed estates – there’s also a private school in the house, which I keep on thinking I might use as the location for a spinoff drama series from my first novel, ‘Flyht’). At about 4.30 Emma joined us and met my parents and they got on really well together.

Actually, during that and a meal in Oxford a bit later they all three ganged up on me to tease me… :- We went to see Hamlet then, which was warmer and sunnier than last time I went, and had definitely improved still further during the run. As the second half was about to begin, the sky was cast with this fantastic red hue set off by the Norman tower infront. Emma and I huddled up closer under our rugs and linked arms and ‘enjoyed’ the tragedy unfolding before us… 😉

Afterwards, my mum and dad, said Emma was lovely and they were so happy for me, and Emma really liked them too. Sorry, am I getting all soppy and gushing? Normal service will resume shortly I promise. 😉

Freyja visits Grannie’s Magic Woods

Freyja visits Grannie's Magic Woods
Freyja visits Grannie’s Magic Woods
Originally uploaded by shepline on 12 Apr ’06, 10.47pm BST PST.

What the English weather couldn’t provide, a little bit of shepline magic has been able to reproduce…

The family met up on Chorleywood Common today to say a final farewell to Grannie Shepherd, and a BIG Hello to her first great grandaughter, Freyja Holm Ólafsdóttir. After lunch we went back to Whitelands Avenue where the family used to live, and to the woods behind.

There, amongst the beech trees and the bluebells we scattered Grannie’s ashes. It being early April still, the bluebells were all still green, but that wasn’t going to stop me! 😉

Rest in peace, Granny Shepherd

My brother just phoned me. Granny Shepherd, my dad’s mum has died this afternoon. The last time I saw her was Granpa’s 90th birthday celebration a month or so back, and a few week’s ago she saw her great great grandson for the first time.

It’s one of those sad but relieved occasions, as, although she was basically okay, life wasn’t much for her in recent months. My thoughts and wishes to her though, and to my Grampa, and to my dad. I guess we will be having a funeral at some point, but hopefully people won’t rush, so that my parent’s have a chance to get back from America and my aunt has a chance to come over from Iceland with her family.

Edit: Am I being selfish in being relieved that I wasn’t the one to receive the call from Grampa, or my Uncle and have to tell the rest of the family? I don’t think so – I hope not – considering that four years ago it was me who had to make the call to my dad about the fire…