Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Festival Fever

This week:

I have been mostly enjoying the abundance of cow parsley in the hedgerows.  I can't get enough of that heady, sweet, grassy smell, it reminds me of the lanes near my grandparent's bungalow.  I'm also using 'macro' on the camera and getting close up.

Alium in the front garden and chives flowering in the herb bed

Make a wish......

I have been trying to take photos of the wildlife before Big Dog chases it!  I haven't been very successful.

Can you see the hare?

We are very excited as every May we have two weeks of unusual, diverse, weird and wacky art, theatre, music and films in Salisbury.

This year, the theme for the Salisbury International Arts Festival is 'Catalunya'.  We have booked lots to see and my fellow Bungalow Girl is stewarding at a lot of events too.   No time for housework, shame.

Last Saturday was the opening of the Festival and this year it was free.  The strange wind-driven musical installations in the Cathedral Close were very atmospheric.

'Audible Forces'

I particularly liked 'Rol mo wind horse' by Jon Easterby (top right) which used goose feathers to catch the wind and instigate a rippling of cymbals.  Each wind device uses the central locking device recycled from a BMW car door!

'Sonic Reed Beds' by Kathy Hinde

This ensemble of sound sculptures re-imagines the natural reed using sprung steel topped with metal or stone.  As they move in the breeze, the tops collide creating random bell-like chimes.

But my favourite installation was 'Phantom Field' by Mark Anderson.  Twenty one wind synthesisers modified from computer fans!  The slightest breath of wind produced a soaring electronic noise,  the stronger the wind the higher the sound.

'Phantom Field' sounded other-wordly

'Rag and Bone - Boneyard Tales'

We were so lucky that the weather cheered up so we could wander around looking at the sculptures without a heavy coat on.  This man operated the dragon's head and eyelids from beneath much to the delight of these children.

You have to expect the unexpected during the Festival

It's not every day you find Spanish lemons strewn all over the Cathedral Cloisters!

There was Catalan cooking, theatre..... 

.....and lots of play stuff for young kids.  Made me miss having toddlers - for about one millisecond!

It was great having a long weekend with the girls.  I made sure that Maisie got her requested, favourite dinner (toad in the hole with cheesey mash) when she came home from work on Saturday!

 One day Maisie will turn in to a sausage

Bungalow bake off this week:

Buttery shortbread v homemade pitta

I used my thirty year old (extremely stained and selotaped) cook book from school for the shortbread recipe.

Sarah's pitta bread was absolutely gorgeous, so much lighter than shop bought and sooooo nice with a home made burger for our first (and fingers crossed, not the only) BBQ of the year!  Oliver joined us too when he heard we were stoking up the old barbie!

It was so nice to have lots of time at home doing the simple things.

We planted the runner beans

Ez helped us chop up the old rotten plum tree branches for kindling (nice hat)

The ducks enjoyed a snooze in the shade of the pear tree

I tried to make sure that I did stop gardening and doing chores now and then to enjoy the view.  Lovely weekend, happy bungalow girl.....

Monday, May 20, 2013

If you go down to the woods today....


I was not disappointed.

We ventured to Grovely Woods and found carpets of scented bluebells in every direction.  I explored new paths and inspected fallen trees for fungi.  I tried to absorb the peace and fresh, damp earthiness in to my very marrow.

One day I will live in the woods, grow my hair and eat soup from an earthenware bowl.

Grovely Woods is a magical place.   It was once a grand medieval hunting forest and is the largest woods in South Wiltshire.  It's full of history and atmosphere.

First Broad Drive

I have been standing on this Roman road in the woods since childhood (not literally) and always find the line of 400 odd Beech trees stretching off in to the distance, eerily silent and breath taking.  It wouldn't surprise me to see a ghostly coach and horses thundering along this track.

There are reputed to be ghosts that haunt the woods.  In the 1700's four Danish sisters were accused of witchcraft by the locals following an outbreak of smallpox.  They were taken to the woods (without trial) and bludgeoned to death.  Four trees mark where they are buried, the largest of which has a hollow at the back where people leave offerings.  I would like to find these trees.   A woodsman, caught for poaching and hung from a tree for his crimes has also been seen, accompanied by the sound of a cracking twig .....gulp.

 Early Purple Orchid

This orchid has strange spotty leaves.  The magenta looked striking with the purple of the bluebells.

Sarah, Big Dog and Oliver

Oliver (No. 1 eldest chick) took photo's too.

Big Dog loves the woods, so many interesting smells...


It was so cold you could see your breath!  It was 9 degrees today, the average for May is 16 degrees!


Today (I know I'm obsessed with the weather, but I am British for goodness sake) it was 6 degrees, felt like 2!  I thought of my friend and ex-neighbour living in Mumbai and wondered whether she was wafting in a thin cotton kaftan in the 33 degree heat.  I have been wearing a woolly hat all week, only in the car and much to my daughter's embarrassment, which is reason enough to do it.  I've been using it as a hair flattening device.  I have big hair.  It works, believe me.  By the time I get to work, it has dried beneath the hat and is at least 2 inches lower.

On our walks this week we have seen (and smelt) wild garlic (mmmmm).

We have also seen many Orange Tip butterflies flitting about which are too darned fast to photograph.


Found I had been carrying an emergency broken biscuit in my handbag all week.  I always told myself I would resist middle-age tendencies but alas, I am weak.  I'll be collecting sugar sachets like my mother next.


Muchos weeding.  I think I must like weeding in a sick way.  It may be something to do with being a frustrated archaeologist.  When I was little I would spend hours in the dirt collecting broken pieces of china from the garden, cataloguing them (bit sad) and then displaying them in a tray with little compartments.  I was an unsociable hermit even then.  The garden here is crammed full of rubbish so I'm in my element!

This was what I found just weeding the rhubarb!  Even a tiny set of teeth (middle of pic).

You have to think - who ate from this china?  What animal did these bones belong to?  How old are they?

After weeding - a lovely walk with my oldest and weirdest friend, Hayley (she'll think it a compliment - don't worry) who came dressed in a thin, floaty, gossamer like, knee length skirt and wellies.  She denied that she was cold but I know she was lying.  We warmed up in the pub at lunchtime though.  Highlight of the day - we saw a Red Kite!  I've only seen one other before.  They have a massive wing span, up to 179 cm, and a long forked tail which they use to change direction.  The one we saw was being mobbed by crows.

Our good friend, fellow bookworm and honorary Bungalow Girl , Basil, cooked for us in the evening.  We particularly enjoyed her central heating.

We liked your neat garden Basil!

Mind you, our garden is looking pretty if you avert your eyes from the trenches, piles of earth, rubble and cement mixers - lots of things going on.

Blue and white bells & double tulip in the front garden


Made rhubarb and ginger jam with my home grown and newly weeded rhubarb.  

Rhubarb and ginger jam

It goes very well with white, crumbly cheese.


Made tried and tested chocolate brownies for Mum's birthday.  She got very excited and flew round on the swings in the park.  Go girl!  

My sister Samantha, Sarah and mad mother doing the 'plant talk'

My mum's garden makes me want to cry, look at that edging!

I certainly haven't inherited her green fingers.

My sister (with wine) and me (with another new Breton top!)

I knew she'd come round to embracing the old 'socks and sandals' thing eventually, it was only a matter of time.......

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Oh, I do like to be beside the seaside

There's nothing like sea air to cleanse the soul (and give you bad hair).

I can't believe we had such good weather on a Bank Holiday weekend!


Sarah's Dad is a fellow coast lover so we thought we would take a stroll along the sea front at Alum Chine.  Ken is a good advert for keeping active and interested in life at 91 years old!

I don't remember seeing this old sign made out of tiles before.  I got chatting with an elderly lady sitting next to it.  She said her family had 'parked' her and that she just had to be patient.  The family did turn up eventually.

You don't have to walk far to get away from the crowds

Although we enjoyed people watching too.  We saw brown wrinkly bodies lying on deckchairs, angled towards the sun, a West Highland Terrier having a ride on the front of a bike and people roller skating, sailing and flying kites.  A boy was digging a hole that was deeper than he was - you could just see the top of his head and the odd flick of sand fly over the top!  One tanned woman looked very glamorous in a white halter neck dress, walking her tiny Chihuahua on a long thin lead....

I thought how nothing changes, only the clothing (or lack of it!).  People still parade up and down the promenade as they did in Victorian times.   I'd rather wear crinolines and carry a parasol myself.  Where's the romance in a pair of flip flops?

Perfect weather for kite flying

I had to keep running to catch up with Sarah and Ken as I get distracted by bright colours.  

Yellow Gorse


First cooked breakfast of the year on the patio

Followed by a three and a half mile walk to work it off.  My map reading skills were questioned as usual but I found the way back home eventually.

Bungalow bake off:

Fougasse bread v ginger biccies

Sarah made Fougasse which is a French bread made with black olives.  It's best eaten warm out of the oven which we did with cheese, hummus etc.  Best bread yet I have to say (even though they look a bit alien like).  I made ginger biscuits with stem ginger.  My guinea pig colleagues liked them.  


We like to frequent our local hostelry after Yoga.  I know it's a bad thing to do but it's the only thing that gets us through the hour of torture - the thought of a ten minute nap (oops, I mean relaxation) followed by a pint and a baguette!

Well, you know you are a local and have been welcomed in to the village when you arrive to find your glasses have acquired cosy little beer warmer jackets made out of felt.


Tense ten minutes in the dentist chair (nothing needed doing) aaaaand reeeeelaaaaax......  Phew.  Followed by the reward of stationery buying in WH Smiths.   

Bungalow bake off (again!):

Fiery Loaf v peanut cookies

The Filone All'Arrabbiata or 'Fiery Loaf' recipe from Tuscany has chilli flakes in it and was nice with soup for lunch.  The peanut cookies are an old family favourite and a Blue Peter recipe from over thirty years ago!  That makes me feel so old.....

The girls love 'em


Even though it has rained on and off all day, the washing is back indoors, the wood-burner is roaring and I have my vest back on, we have had some sun today.

The wellies go on and off, on and off.  In, out, in, out.  So much to do, so little time!

So many tomato plants!  Runner beans popping up

'Er indoors' loves being in the greenhouse when it's pouring outside.  We could see her from the house earlier, doing invisible conducting to Classic FM on the radio.  Strange woman.

We made this bed yesterday with a few more plants and more anti-duck picket fencing.  These free range ducks are costing us a fortune and I think I now have a picket fence addiction.


Oooh, sun's out.  Better go and walk Big Dog.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

May madness

The vest has come off!

And I have my first heat rash of the year - Yahoo!

If May was a colour it would have to be blue.  My favourite month and my favourite colour.

Bluebells, Forget-me-nots and juicy Grape Hyacinth in the garden

I am poised, waiting to make my annual trip to the woods to see the carpet of bluebells.  You have to judge the timing just right though.  They are out in our garden so probably not quite out under the canopy of trees.  Maybe another week yet....  

I'm making the most of the gorgeous weather as I know that this is summer, not July or August (when it will probably pour with rain).  Ha, I'm not going to fall for that one!  

I have decided that we get so few sunny days that I am only going to clean the house if either:

a. It rains
b. My mother is coming to visit

The filthy windows, fur balls and two inch thick dust can wait.  

Instead, I'm running around like a headless chicken weeding, weeding, weeding.  Weeding until it's dark, weeding until I can't stand up, weeding until my lower legs go numb.  

We have devised a new method of weeding for us middle aged bungalow girls with short attention spans - it's called 'Speedy Weeding'.  You do half an hour, then do something else, then another half an hour.

Bungalow bake-off. 

 Soda bread v Quick Chocolate Fudge Cake

They were delicious (phew, I have my mojo back).  Soda bread wasn't bad either.  Home-made ginger biscuits this weekend.

This week we have been mostly driving around the countryside with the trailer hooked on the back of the truck, picking up things that other people don't want (there's a word for people like that).

Last Saturday we drove miles to a kind friend's house to pick up a wheelbarrow and admire their unusual collection of creatures.  Amongst other things, guinea pigs, ferrets, a very shy, grumpy owl and best of all two Great Bustards!

These strange prehistoric looking birds have been extinct in the UK since the mid 19th Century and are gradually being reintroduced.  It made my day having the chance to see these very proud looking birds with distinguishing whiskers.   

Today we drove (again with beloved trailer) to relieve another kind friend of a plum tree. 'Welsh Bill' next door is cutting it up in to logs with his chain saw as I type this - what a nice man.

What with dragging a neighbour's superfluous compost bin through the village, my colleagues driving their grass clippings to work for me (we have too many 'browns' in our 5 compost heaps and not enough 'greens'), I'm beginning to feel like people must feel sorry for us!  

One night on the way back from the pub (and under cover of darkness) we stopped to pick up a shelving unit that said 'free to good home' only to find the next morning that it had one leg shorter than the others!

It's been lots of birds this week:

- Saw a Lapwing today standing on the side of the main road looking a bit lost.  I thought these were waders?  He was a long way from any water.

- There are several woodpeckers in the village who like to hammer away on the top of the telegraph poles only to disappear every time I get the camera out.

I've been studying shadows, light and trees this week on my many walks with poochy.

I am that strange woman, rummaging about amongst the verges with a camera, scribbling in notebooks and muttering to herself....

This beautiful tree was overhanging a cottage garden.

I have Magnolia envy.

Big Dog and I enjoyed our little mini-adventure yesterday morning.  

We were off by 8.30am before the clouds had time to gather.  

Me, trying to be clever - bit wonky!

This is the view from the top of the hill (we have lots of hills).  All I could hear was the distant rumble of guns on Salisbury Plain, lambs bleating, the funny ratchet noise of pheasants, crows cawing and bees buzzing.

Big Dog enjoying the sun

At the top of the hill we walked through a field past - could it be a water tank?  Look at that sky!

Then through the middle of a farm with views for miles in all directions and down through another field towards a tiny footpath which becomes very overgrown in the summer.

A Spindle Tree.  Very common on chalk.

No shortage of that!

We stopped to admire the view, spot the bungalow in the distance and frown at the cause of my Hay-fever (the yellow Rapeseed) emerging on the horizon. 

Just as we were descending and disappearing in to the hollow I saw a cute little wriggly stoat with a black tipped tail.  I watched it for ages.  After a while I looked behind me for Big Dog....

Big Dog had done her Houdini trick

She did catch up with me eventually, out of breath (and licking her lips).

Field Maple

When we were nearly home I spied a Peacock butterfly feeding on the nettles by the side of the lane and this little man sat on the telephone wire.  The males have a rust coloured throat.


Home for coffee and shortbread then an afternoon (speedy) weeding.