We had a bit of a quieter day today, heading off to Snape Maltings mid-morning to see an exhibition by the intriguingly-named Jelly Green; a local artist who usually paints livestock but in this exhibiton was showcasing more landscapes. We had a potter round some of the other crafty and antiques shops, and a home furnishings store that makes John Lewis look like cheap tat…
Then we had lunch on the quay before driving north up the coast to my all time favourite childhood haunt of Covehithe. St Andrew’s Church at Covehithe is the tiniest parish church you’ll ever find with the biggest, most out of proportion tower attached – its built in the ruins of an older church. The church never needed to be the size it was, but was built large and grand to show the status and wealth of its benefactor. Now, it sits perilously close to a crumbling cliff edge, and we’re told the latest estimates is that it only has until 2068 before it is swallowed up by the sea along with the manor house and cottages that surround it.
It used to be that you could either park at the church and walk down to Covehithe Broad, or drive on down the road and park up just before a barrier and talk along the cliffs to Benacre Broad. Now there is only one option, to park by the church and walk down through fields of pigs to the beach, and double-back (so long as the tide allows) for a 2 mile walk down the beach to get to Benacre. With a threatening sky, and the fear of less tide time than we thought, we saw sandmartins nesting in the cliffs, a WW2 bunker falling out the cliffs, and driftwood in the making from trees from the woodland above as they slipped onto the beach.
I have also come up with a new idea for a story based on Covehithe church. This one is a dark tale set 60 years from now. It’s not post-apocolyptic but it is a world where there are energy shortages, and electricity is rationed. Not everyone has cars anymore, dual carriageways have become spacious boulevards, and using The Internet is something you can only do at The Library (unless you are very well off), and the church of protagonists childhood is living on the borrowed time on the cliff edge as another storm is coming in from the sea.
Today has been Emma’s birthday. As something a bit different this year, we’ve had a night away at the Bourne Valley Inn in St Mary Bourne in rural Hampshire. Yesterday we visited Avebury to see the biggest stone circle in the British Isles, and to Avebury Manor – star of the BBC show The Manor Reborn.
The stone age ring of standing stones inspired me to write yesterday’s poem, whilst the homely coziness of the the Bourne Valley Inn and the lovely meal last night – which we ate in our slippers in front of a roaring open fire – gave me other writing ideas. This morning we struck off on a walk, winding our way up hill, and down valley in the cold, grey, midwinter’s light. It started to rain halfway and our return journey really was into the dark comes rising kind of weather. We retreated to the homely Inn for a light lunch to warm ourselves up.
It was over lunch that I put pen to paper on some new writing. A bit of a first (or a rediscovery) for me, as its a short story – a companion piece to my Mr Tumnal novel. Set at some point after the end of the novel, it doesn’t rely on prior knowledge of the story but shows some of the characters in a new setting. A pub that isn’t but is much like the Inn features in it, and Louis’ daughter Sarah is now working behind the bar, but more than that I cannot say.
I just like it that a change of scene, and something new, or something different can set something in my brain moving to generate this creativity. It’s something that I like very much about myself.
After 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.
Emma is on nights this weekend, and so, with the chances that a large part of tomorrow will be spent asleep, we headed out this morning with the aim of spending as much time as possible outdoors enjoying the weather. And what fabulous weather we had to enjoy! Cold, crisp and sunny – my favourite kind of winter’s day. We headed down to Dorchester on Thames and had a potter round the village and visited the amazing Abbey, with its lead font (really, a lead font? I guess in 1140AD they didn’t know any better…) and then went for a nice walk out to and up the Wittenham Clumps.
At the end of the walk we passed a house selling homemade produce from the gate. And when I say homemade produce, I mean fudge, crumbles, jam, jellies… and all with an honesty box. How cool would it be to live in a village where you could sell so much from the front gate with an honesty box? I want to live in Dorchester! Seduced by all that was on offer we bought a bag of fudge and a blackcurrant crumble. I now wish that I had bought a pot of raspberry and apple jam…
Back home and there was just time to have a cup of tea and review today’s photos before I made spaghetti bolognaise for dinner, which we ate early followed by the the crumble, before Emma headed out to work.
This evening I have mainly be mooching around and giving some of the piccolo pieces for Abingdon Concert Band‘s next Movie Magic concert. I *think* Beauty and the Beast, Hymn to the Fallen, and The Simpsons might be possible … maybe, on a good day … but there’s not a cat in hell’s chance of Pirates of the Caribbean!
Following on from the butchers yesterday we made our pilgrimage into Bicester for the vegetables but completely forgot to pick up our passport application forms… ggrrr! Emma had ordered some barerooted trees and shrubs from Buckingham Nurseries and so, as it was a gorgeous, crisp, cold and clear winter’s day we decided to head off for a walk around Stowe before collecting them.
And the light was gorgeous. The kind of light that makes you feel good about the cold. They’ve also recently rebuilt a wooden bridge to complete the lakeside walk which is a gorgeous, traditional build of oak frame and pegs construction. Today’s trip will probably be the last time we approach the gardens from the Oxford Avenue approach, as the opening of the new New Inn/Grand Avenue approach is imminent.
We discovered too, that the Gothic Temple which we’ve long admired is actually a holiday rental from The Landmark Trust, although at 800 quid for about 3 nights! And it would be damn cold in winter up there on the hill with all that glass. Looks nice though, inside…
Back at the garden centre, we collected the plants, four dogwoods and a Chinese Rowan tree to transform the front garden, where two years ago we cut down the leylandii. I also treated us to a witchhazel for that splash of winter colour. It will always remind me of that day we visited the actual Green Knowe – when Tolly first arrives at Green Knowe in the books in the middle of winter he has never seen flowering dead twigs!
This weekend we finally managed to “Christmas” Emma after the washout that was last Sunday, when we got down to the New Forest for New Year. We had roast beef dinner to see out the old year and then settled down to an evening of cribbage, scrabble and Call My Bluff – such fun when you find the words yourselves in the dictionaries and then make up the false definitions to try and confuse the oppose team.
- a grey clay of Jurassic origin
- a plant of the daisy family
- the orignial name of one of the lovers in A Midsummer Night’s Dream
- a ten-sided biscuit (18th century)
- to garland with tinsel or ribbons
- a belt in a paper-making machine
- sound made by an Asian owl
- to snatch or move something quickly (Scottish)
- a small brass shim used in clock-making
- a killer of hares
- an old, seldom used word to describe people with leprosy who committed suicide
- rabbit poison
- belonging to the deer family
- obsequious behaviour
- of or pertaining to beer
- a kind of footstool, padded with carved feet
- old word for a harelip
- common woodlouse
And our dinner…
After the endless rain that was yesterday afternoon and evening, this morning was bright, sunny, a little bit cold and crisp and utterly, utterly beautiful. So we had a good walk out on the forest before heading back home at lunchtime to where 7 cats were to found standing shamefaced around a spilt tub of (Arthur’s diet) food, and very full tummies.
This afternoon I have mostly been reading, and finishing, Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book. It’s brilliant. I love the simple concept of a baby, orphaned by an unknown killer, escaping into the graveyard to be brought up by the ghosts who ‘live’ inside. I’m really glad that we visited Highgate Cemetery last year, and slightly amazed that we had the same idea about the place as Neil Gaiman – that of these tombs on these streets, and how you can easily imagine the dead, once left alone by the living, coming out of their front doors and meeting and talking, discussing the people who had walked through that day. And here, in this book, Neil Gaiman has written about them.
One of the upsides of the Eyjafjallajoekull volcano eruption and the resulting ash cloud has been a cloudless sky, devoid of any vapour trails. Saturday began with a trip into Headington to collect 1920’s original fireplace from Nicola. Having just about fitted it into Emma’s car we headed home and carried it indoors where straight away we saw what an improvement it would be. Then we popped into Bicester to buy our veggies from the market, a cornish pasty and a custard tart for lunch and went for a picnic and potter in the Lyde Garden, Bledlow (via my sis-in-law’s home-to-be in Chinnor).
Following a relaxing amble in the birdsong and sunshine we got stressed out and rudely woken back into the 21st century by a trp to B&Q – we were duped into believing they had affordable fire hearths, when in fact all they sold were cheap and nasty tacky things. Edit: expensive and tacky hearths. So we came home from via our own Homebase where we bought three pieces of Blue/Black Limestone (which we thought was actually slate) to make a hearth and a very large sheet of MDF make a backing for the fireplace. A sheet of MDF so large in fact that it wouldn’t fit in the car and I had to leave my driving license at the desk to be allowed to walk the wood home on the trolley round the ringroad!!
On Sunday, whilst Emma cleaned out the chickies and the bunny I worked on deconstructing the old fireplace and installing the new one, and it looks fab! So, so nice!
The old, an MDF Inca Mausoleum circa 2005…
The new, a 1920s wooden fireplace that cost Â£20 and a half a dozen eggs…
We spent a nice morning outside cleaning out the bunnies and the chickens before I disappeared inside to dismember the rest of the turkey and boiled the carcass up into a delicious soup.
This afternoon, we headed out to the canal, this time to Kirtlington for a nice walk in the freezing cold. Getting there proved to be a bit of an epic though, with a lane full of potholes to rival the surface of the moon. We like the look of Jane’s tearoom though, with its seemless transition between the outside and the inside, and the old mill squeezed in between canal and river.
A year ago today I got my new kitchen, and I love it. It seems appropriate therefore that I have spent a good part of today in my kitchen. Tuned to Radio 4 dramas and comedies on the iPlayer I have made a further batch of mincepies. My plan to make cheese straws failed upon realising that I hadn’t as of yet defrosted the puff pastry.
Before the exploits in the kitchen, we had a nice walk down by the canal with its very frozen water, and then headed into town to visit the veg stall and get a few bits for lunch. After the mincepies, I was going to make a start on base icing the Christmas cake, but got diverted when Lucy came round and we went for a bit of a festive jaunt to the garden centre, a nice cashew chilli chicken meal and some good ol’ Strictly… on the tele. Emma was very pleased with the result, as was I, for Chris Hollins definitely seemed to the dancer who, if not the best, had developed the most of the course of the series and thus seemed to embody what it should all be about.
~ Today was the kind of winter’s day that cannot be beaten; cold and bright. It being the first day of Emma and my little mini-holiday, we had a leisurely breakfast and headed out for a walk at Burnham Beeches, which was lovely and quiet and beautiful. We finished off with a late-lunch at The Stag – I opted for a huge bowl of tomato soup and crusty bread, and Emma for a baked potato with cheese and bacon – before returning home via Oxford so that I could collect a parcel.
~ This evening, we have had a very nice festive time enjoying the lavish Creation Theatre production of Beauty & the Beast in the antique spiegeltent. As always magical. I love it!
We haven’t been to Brill for a while and so that’s where we decided to go for a bit of a wander today. It’s been changeable weather today, and, true to form, as we arrived the rain pounded down on us. It was short and sweet though, and we had our walk around the common, the newly restored windmill (looking fantastic now that is uncloaked from plastic), and village. We are tempted, but manage to resist an impromptu Sunday lunch at The Pheasant…
We go home instead, and, after a trip to the local Co-op, Emma cooks me a very nice pub lunch at what we shall call, the Cat & Chicken…
~ Emma’s best friend, Caroline and her children came to visit us on their way back up north. It was nice to see them and they got to meet the chickens. Sadly they weren’t here for very long but we should be seeing them again at Christmas.
~ It was pretty cold and miserable and threatening rain when Caroline left us. The easy choice would have been to go back indoors and hibernate. That would have been so easy, but sometimes one needs to act on your instincts and get out in the countryside for a walk. We did, and I took Emma to Wytham Woods and I’m glad we did because we had a really nice walk and blew those cobwebs away. Plus, itâs a good area of woodland and possibly a local alternative for Burnham Beeches.
A leisurely but productive morning. We had hot cross buns for breakfast and then Emma watched last night’s Grand Prix and surfed the web whilst I finished my cleaning (ran out of polish yesterday), and sorted out filing and the like.
Then after a spot of lunch we headed out on a round trip of Oxfordshire, seeing first the location of a house in Shipton on Cherwell, before viewing a house in Launton (a truly blank canvas, lacking in personality but itching to have some) with lambs next door, and then driving amongst flooded fields to Marsh Gibbon and Stratton Audley.
Returning home, we decided to go for a walk back down at Somerton, but on the way got diverted by the picturesque villages of Ardley and Fewcott, and Souldern. Having had a brisk and cold walk by a swollen river we went home via Lower Heyford, and then searched into the evening for all of these places and more on FlashEarth and RightMove. So many weird addresses we could have…
Corncrake Way was nice, and Stratton Audley distinguished, but what of Crumps Butts (I kid you not) or Ludgershall, Oddington â the list goes on, and on…
After an early morning visit to a Tesco somewhere in Bracknell, and a return home for a leisurely breakfast, Emma and I headed out for a long, leisurely walk in Burnham Beeches. With gorgeous blue skies, it was the perfect winterâs day. Reflections proved to be a recurring them, for the water was so still, and the reflections so clear that they could be windows into another day; pockets of water amongst tufty grass, where you could kneel down beside them, lean close over the edge and see, not your own reflection, but another person from another world looking back.
In the afternoon, whilst Emma had a little snooze and watched the birds in the field opposite, I worked on my novel, making changes to the master file, revisions that I had worked on weekâs ago. I am so far behind.
For dinner, Emma cooked her speciality Vietnamese spring rolls and a stirfry. Delicious. 🙂 And then we snuggled up on the sofa and watched some of Children of Green Knowe and The Box of Delights. A perfect end to a perfect day, and proof that simple pleasures can be the best and the most romantic.
Today I managed to not fall into the age-old Saturday trap of not getting up, though later than a weekday, early enough to not waste the morning. By the time I did get up, I found that the postie had already been and delivered my amazon parcel of Katie Meluaâs Pictures and the Jamie at Home book. This is good. I had breakfast and listened to my new cd and chose a menu from the book to cook tomorrow.
Then it was vacuuming around and changing the sheets on the bed, before heading over to Thame. In the nice cookshop there I found a âflavour shakerâ finally â that shop is so great its bad and its evil (I could spend a fortune in there every week!). I really shouldnât have done, but I also bought bread and olives from the Italian deli â you have to buy something when you go in because the smell that hits you is just so gorgeous.
Emma arrived in the afternoon, and we went for a walk in the woods, before looking through â with a certain amount of gobsmackedness â at the wedding magazine that Emma bought. Weâve decided on a date based on Craflwynâs availability: 23 May 2009 (the day after my birthday).
Then I cooked Emma a delicious mushroom risotto from my new Francescoâs Kitchen cookery book. It was delicious, and fun to cook as well. Dried mushrooms really are the most incredible things!
A nice sunny, spring day today, just right in fact for a walk in the woods. So i headed over to Amersham – it’s not actually that far and met up with Emma, and we had a spot of lunch and then went for a walk in the woods with the birds twittering in the treetops and the fresh, young green growth of beech trees. Really very nice. Blissful in fact… 🙂 And Amersham is not all that far either