Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Sparkly December

What a month of weather!

December has been a month of -

Torrential rain

I have got used to the noise of the wind buffeting the bungalow at night and the rain lashing in gusts at the window.  We've had so many storms lately that I now seem to sleep through it rather than lying there worried that the glass in the windows will smash.

Loved decorating the tree with Ez (and I didn't move ANY decorations once she was out of the way - promise!).  We like to collect decorations from most countries we visit if we can (the turquoise bauble is a cheat - my parents gave it to us).  Here are a few of my favourites -

China, Norway and South Africa

We have been very busy this month driving up and down to Poole in dire weather to practise singing Handel's Messiah (and carols).  Our dinner for three consecutive nights consisted of a cheese topped bap and a bag of crisps.  I have to check for food debris when we get there.  I'd forgotten that the audience stand for the Hallelujah Chorus though and thought they were leaving en masse!  We had a great conductor called Christian Curnyn - I loved him.  He wanted us 'strong and wrong', he wanted 'feeling', he wanted 'more Celine Dion'!  Yes!  We had a near disaster when we got to Poole for the concert and Sarah had left her score (in sensible bag with zips) by the front door but luckily she borrowed one, phew. Just wish singing for long periods with heavy score in hand didn't give me 'singer's shoulder blade'.  

We have managed a few little jollies, squeezed in (I can clean next year).

We saw this train (The Royal Scot) on the station a while back whilst waiting to go to Basingstoke to see Madeleine Peyroux in concert.  I decided that this is what I want to do for my next big birthday (swallow).  I was annoyed that I didn't have my camera because it looked so cosy, lit up in the dark, all the people eating at their little tables by lamp light and the train decorated for Christmas inside.  It made me sigh with pleasure.  One day.....


We stuck our little pinkies in the air at the Christmas drinks and nibbles/Salisbury International Arts Festival/pre launch/meet the new Festival Director thing.  Tip - don't try eating a warm, crumbly mince pie with one hand whilst holding a glass of hot mulled wine in the other as the result is massive crumbs stuck to your lip and no free hand to wipe them off.  Not a good look if you are trying to look suave, arty and at the same time desperately sucking your stomach in.

This is where it was held - The Banqueting Hall in Salisbury Guildhall.

The Guildhall lit up behind the Christmas market



Many important guests have been entertained here over the centuries from King George III to Lord Nelson to the current Queen and Diana, Princess of Wales.  There are supposedly three ghosts who haunt this room.  I was too busy trying to look cool to notice any paranormal activity.

Another impressive building (and freezing cold, glad I wore me vest) I have studied this month is Sherborne Abbey.  We sang our carol concert there with brass from the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra and the church organ (phwor).  Not much room for our scores, lots of paper shuffling and clashing of folders but it was wonderful - Christmasy, atmospheric and fun.  All the great and the good were there to do readings - authors Philip Pullman and Tracey Chevalier.  Sumptuous.

The amazing fan vaulted roof at Sherborne Abbey

Some say it is the Cathedral of Dorset and it has the heaviest peal of eight bells in the world.

Before the congregation arrived.  Sarah got told off for trying to pinch a programme off one of the pews!

Outside the Lady Chapel where we could panic before the concert (Oh, no, that's just me)

We've grabbed as many walks in the daylight and in the dry as we can.

Our friend Patsy in the village must have a lot of cooking apples!  She gives us her grass clippings in exchange for vegetables

Big Dog admiring the view

The scent from the Viburnum outside the back door is heavenly

Christmas shopping in Salisbury 

Not the most enjoyable shopping trip.  I had a cold so my nose was continually running, I parked too close to a wall in the car park but didn't have the energy to move the car so had to squeeze out of the driver's door (whilst sniffing), the self service machine in WH Smiths told me I needed assistance but I was so hot and bothered that I just abandoned my shopping!  Oh, and this was all topped off by a box full of rolls of wrapping paper falling on my head.  Agh!

Sarah made Christmas buns - they were sooooo yummy

One day I discovered I had company at my usual 'top of the hill thinking spot'

A reindeer carrying boy from Norway, a nisse doll from Denmark that my Grandmother gave me when I was little and a gnome from Bath

The 'nisse' is a creature from Scandinavian folklore where they are known to help out with household chores & taking care of the animals on farms - I could do with one of those. Apparently it is a tradition in Denmark to bring a warm rice pudding to these Creatures on Christmas Eve in order to show their gratitude and to keep the temperamental and vindictive Nisse happy and helpful!

When the kids were younger we one day found that a yellow interloper had gate crashed the nativity scene so it is now tradition, along with the one eared donkey.

Grandpa Simpson waiting for the baby to arrive

Most recent decoration - Ez brought back from Loch Ness in Scotland

Interesting fact - I didn't know but there is more water in Loch Ness than all the other lakes in England, Scotland and Wales put together!!

Stockings on the stairs

I have a soft spot for my wobbly reindeer

Sarah made several batches of mincey pies (I dusted them with icing sugar)

We've played Cluedo (my favourite), cards ........

and Jenga

It's been so nice to have time to watch lots of old films like 'White Christmas', go to the panto (Dick Whittington) and get the Downton Abbey jigsaw puzzle out from last Christmas (at last!).  Frank likes to help Sarah by sitting in the lid of the puzzle and playing with the pieces.  We know how to live!  Mind you, so does Big Dog. When we got back from the panto the other night there was MY new, unopened (and saved) packet of Thornton chocolates on her bed, empty, next to a very sheepish looking dog......  Grrrrr.....

The girls decorated their nails for the season

Oliver wore his Christmas hat with the ears for a sunny dog walk

I was very excited to find some fungi whilst furtling about up the hollow on my own one day

Jew's Ear Fungi

Lots of Old Man's Beard

Slimey Beech cap

Big Dog walking back down the hollow past one of my favourite bright pink berried Spindle Trees

We were forecast one decent day this week so we rushed down to the coast and walked from Portman Ravine to Southbourne.  It was so good to get some sea air under our tails.

My hair growing experiment is going well.  I just hope I can get through the 'Bradley Wiggins' phase that I appear to be in.

Who are those two old country broads?

We've seen signs of storm damage on our village walks.

This barn was missing a huge piece of roof

Glad I wasn't around when that flew off!

No, that isn't a lake - it's a flooded field.

The river Ebble has burst it's bank

Sarah trying to cross a bridge in the field!

Sandbags outside a cottage

New Year's eve in Grovely woods today - happy, happy, happy 

And lots of fungi!  Coral and Antler fungi on the left and bottom right a jelly fungi we have never seen before - 'Jelly Tongue'.  Very exciting end to the year.

Anyway, must dash - doing something different this New Year's eve and going to a concert in the Medieval Hall in the Cathedral Close (bit different to the usual debauchery in the pub!) and at the moment I am wearing a festive jumper (acrylic won't do) that smells of beef casserole.

Happy New Year!!

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Dark November.....

This month I have been mostly staggering around the lanes in the dark, pretending to be brave.

Summer seems a distant memory

I am by no means scared of the dark or of walking on my own in the middle of nowhere but even I find it hard not to be spooked when walking the dog in COMPLETE darkness with rustling sounds all around me! For some strange reason the 6.30am dark walk never seems as spooky as the 5.00pm dark walk.  May be it is the feeling that people are waking up, lights are coming on in the valley and the knowledge that the sky will gradually get lighter.


- We have been decorating every weekend.  I completely missed autumn's final flourish and my walk in Grovely woods.  By the time the plasterer, builder, roofer, carpet layers etc had gone - so had the leaves......

- We visited the autumn book fair at the 'sausage roll church' (don't ask, it's a long story).  Found some bargains!  'The Spire' William Golding, several Agatha Christie and 'The French Lieutenant's Woman' - all for under a pound each.  Yes!

-  I sang Mozart's Requiem to a sold out audience - not on my own, I hasten to add.

- The ducks have gone to a better place - not heaven, the New Forest.

- Frank has ventured outside, briefly.  He has been institutionalised, living indoors for four years and finds the big world outside a bit scary.  He ducks every time a bird flies over, bless.

- Had lunch at Fisherton Mill gallery with my colleague and ex-colleague.  Had hummus, chickpea and olive open sandwich - yum.  I wanted cake too but didn't want to appear greedy.

- I watched a fabulous documentary on Sarah's kindle called 'Fabulous Fashionistas' that was originally shown on Channel Four.  So inspiring to see women in their 80's not giving in to age or stereotypes and wearing bright, mad, vibrant clothes.  I won't be watching anything else on the kindle as Sarah dropped it in the bath last night.  I say nothing.....

- I made chocolate chip muffins.  They didn't last long enough for a photo shoot.

- We booked two holidays for next year!

Going back to Halloween....

The pumpkin pie was nice - sort of custardy in flavour

There is still colour to be found if you look hard enough.

Spindle tree - it thrives on chalky soil 

Their wood is extremely hard and was once used for wool spindles.  I love the combination of bright pink fruit and orange seeds.

Colour in the front garden

I helped Sarah to make her mincemeat - home made mince pies, can't wait!

No more duckies....

I remember the day we brought the ducklings home - they were so cute

But we were struggling with the noise (Indian Runner ducks are supposed to be quiet!) and worrying about the neighbours.  They have gone to a friend of the roofer who has a two and a half acre plot in the New Forest where they can run and quack as much a they like, with lots of other animals to play with, including two Emu's!!

The garden is so quiet and their pen looks very empty.

The Mozart concert went well.  This is the symbol for 'full chest voice' - we have a mad choir master.


We have had the first hard frosts this month

Quick, get that vitamin D!

We've had our first fires 

Been warming the beer up at the local!! 

A rare visit to Salisbury to buy curtains and a pleasant walk -


The Greencroft in Salisbury 

It's hard to believe this was once used as a place of execution and a burial plot for plague victims in the 17th Century!

I saw lots of squirrels scrambling up and down the trees.

These gardens still hold some of the original city ramparts built around 1415.  

Bourne Hill House gardens

Sarah said that when she played here as a child this structure was always referred to as 'Devil's Gate'.  I'm still trying to find out what this is.....In 1791 the 15th century gothic porch from Salisbury Cathedral was erected in the parkland - could this be it?

Frank has ventured outside but not very far.

Before retiring back in to the warm and commandeering MY chair!

I am having a snooze......

The cows are nice and warm in the barn

The sun is so low this time of year

A walk to see the autumn colour at Hare Warren yesterday - alas, I'm about a week too late.  

So I kicked through the leaves instead

I found what I think could be honey fungus

The last few leaves, clinging on for dear life

The pigs were being fed.  They were very noisy. 

One fellow walker said it sounded like a dinosaur as she emerged from the woods!

Who said that?

Leaves from the Ribus in the front garden 

I have been studying shapes

And treating myself to a splash of colour   

I bought these in a gorgeous little craft shop in Wilton shopping village.  The home made, crafty looking items and woman painting in the window drew me in and I ended up buying some Christmas pressies - everything was made locally.

I was inspired to get my paints out when I got home!

I yearn for colour at the moment.  

I want to wear it, paint it, eat it (I can't stop eating Clementines).  

I'm looking forward to decorating the tree next month with my much loved decorations that I have been collecting over the years and from different countries (before Frank pulls it over) and surrounding myself with lots of sparkly lights, glitter and brightly coloured wrapping paper.....