Friday, 13 November 2015


Just six weeks until Christmas...

Winchester woke up its fairy lights this week, the shops have boasted glittering trees and penguin chocolates for over a month, and we have been practising carols for our traditional choir concert since September. Perhaps soon I will get in the mood.

Meanwhile Ben is excitingly spending this weekend at Sawmill Studios on the River Fowey in Cornwall, recording tracks for their EP due out in February. A huge challenge to get everything planned and ready in time and he seems to be coping brilliantly. Hopefully this will be the start of something big!
Martin kindly joined me in Aberystwyth last weekend for a rather rainy but enjoyable introduction to faraway Wales. We managed to get away after lunch with Martin working whilst I drove through rain and along narrow, winding roads forever marked HALT/SLOW, eventually finding our way to our friends' cottage miles from anywhere (on an unnamed road) thanks to Caroline standing outside with fluorescent jacket and Shawn manning the phone.

It was a great pleasure to catch up with Carrie (old Collingwood friend who lived in Wiltshire for a while before moving several years ago we knew not where) and her drummer husband, who took Martin out and about on Saturday whilst I spent the day at a choir rehearsal. They all came to pick me up late afternoon and we wandered down to the seafront and pier to watch a huge murmuration of starlings. Carrie took the best photo.

Martin came to our concert in the evening (and didn't fall asleep!), which was poorly attended but great to sing, then we enjoyed a mass meal out near the pier afterwards. Next morning we went for a walk in a pretty harbour town and then to the local National Trust property (where Carrie volunteers in the garden), all in the rain though that didn't hinder our enjoyment.

We left them at about 2pm, hungry for some lunch, but were astonished to find the first 3 pubs we visited were so unfriendly that we didn't stay. Eventually we gave up and enjoyed fish and chips before reaching the motorway and continuing our dripping way home.

Five hours each way was a lot of travelling. I am chuffed that Martin was prepared to join me for what would have been a bit of a chore, were it not for the fact I discovered we could visit old friends at the same time.

Come to think of it, I suspect that's the only reason he did join me.

Friday, 30 October 2015


We thought we no longer cared about school half term. Turns out we do!

Rosie is currently working in schools so took a couple of days off from job-hunting and joined us to see Spectre, the newly-released Bond movie. Then since Ben's guitar teaching drops off a little during school holidays, we shared a trip to Bristol to see an exhibition at the Museum.
The Paradoxical Frog
In fact the exhibition wasn't great, but it was interesting to be back inside the old building so many years after visiting as a child (when it was dark and oppressively quiet) to find it heaving with noisy children enjoying half term activities. We escaped to enjoy coffee in a grand old building, then walked up through squirrel city to enjoy the views from the Cabot Tower.
We had a good lunch and catch up, lovely to have some of the family together. Next time will be Christmas!

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Leave the Leaves

It's just beautiful out there today! Max helped me scoop up a whole load of leaves in light rain yesterday, and the clouds made the colours vibrant. Only Martin's camera could cope, so since he is out on Drifter with Bill for the weekend I took the chance to try some shots.

(still need to take that dead seat to the tip)
Anyway I got fed up trying to sort out two choir websites this week (updating one and building the other) so took myself off for a walk down to Wherwell Church in the mild midday sun, filling Martin's camera as I went.
Gosh, endless rows of photos are boring, but there's nothing really to add: I had a peaceful walk across Chilbolton Common and met very few people as it was Sunday lunchtime (ours is casseroling away quietly for this evening)
Even when I got home I couldn't resist taking more. Good job the camera eventually ran out of steam or I'd still be out there. This is from our bedroom window:
Time for G&T! The clocks went back so it feels late even though it's barely six. Turns out the only G we have in the house is our posh presentation box from Bombay Sapphire, so I'm in for a treat.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Lazy Weekend

Martin persuaded me to go sailing again this weekend, luring me with the promise of lunch somewhere dry. It worked!

We set off from home at 9 on Sunday, and had the sails up within very little time, though sadly there was not much wind. Still, the motor is there for this express purpose, so we accepted some help and were at the King and Queen in Hamble in time to enjoy a special offer on their Guinness (Ireland were playing their World Cup match in the bar, as it were) and a delicious lunch.
Max was actually up by the time we got home... somehow on Saturday when Martin was in Birmingham at Weather School and I was out with Sheena and Sarah in Winchester, he managed still to be fast asleep when I returned at 2.30pm. There's clearly still some teenager left in him!

Tuesday, 13 October 2015


Martin and I skipped off for a long weekend in Normandy after his trip to the US was cancelled. We took the overnight ferry on Thursday and arrived after an easy trip but very little sleep into a gorgeously sunny morning.
An enormous crab carcass welcomed us:
Martin had to work during Friday so I sorted out the house then went shopping, followed by a stroll with Martin around the fields and to say hello again to Chauffeau and Limonade, who were very keen for us to give them fallen apples from our trees.
We ended up taking a ladder round the back to harvest the remaining eating apples, which from the state of the surrounding grass looked as though they had been well scrumped. However we found plenty more than we could possibly need, all very tasty!
There were just a few blackberries ripe for picking, and we surprised a group of deer as we tramped through the overgrown path by the lake, the first time I have seen deer on our land. Otherwise very few sheep and no cows, the fields looking decidedly shabby and overgrown.
We kept the fires lit and were snug as bugs in the evenings, managing even to get out on the bikes to  cycle over to Mark's, finding some basking lizards on the common on the way home.
Apart from that we fixed a few things, weeded out the mint in the back bed, cut back an enormous bunch of lavender and did some putting away for the winter. But mainly we ate delicious food, drank rather a lot of wine and chatted by the fireside.

Monday, 5 October 2015

Indian Summer

Ten days or so of clear blue skies and hot sun, what more could we ask? And it included two whole weekends.

Unfortunately I wasn't able properly to bask in sunny delight as both weekends were busy with indoor events, albeit mostly pleasurable.

Last Saturday I was up bright and early to drive up with a group of local singers to Curdworth, near Birmingham, to rehearse with our peripatetic choir. We had hired a church hall for the day and enjoyed high quality singing, a good lunch and plenty of tea and coffee breaks, improving as the day went on and priming ourselves well for our next concert in Aberystwyth in a month's time.

Sunday was Jenny's birthday and Ally had generously booked us both into the Langham Hotel's Spa for the day. We each travelled by train and arriving at opposite ends of London agreed by text simply to walk our way to our brunch meeting, it being a glorious, still morning. Waterloo is a great place to start any trip to London as you have to cross the Thames. This time I chose the Jubilee Bridge, then wandered my way past Trafalgar Square and up across Oxford Street to The Riding House Cafe where I was able to book us a table before Jenny arrived.
We had a delicious salmon Eggs Benedict with coffees and juices then ambled around in the sunshine to work it off a little, cruising Regent Street, popping into Liberty's (where I did the first of my Christmas shopping) and enjoying a bit of girly shopping.

Walking to the Langham we found ourselves outside BBC HQ so walked in to see who we might recognise. There was no--one around but we caught sight of cameras popping through a window and dashed out to find Ellie Goulding leaving Radio 1.
The Langham has a posh front entrance and a small but full Spa where we luxuriated in hot water, bubbles, steam, slate-lined swimming pool, relaxing loungers with champagne and nuts... a really super way to spend hours in good company!
All too soon it was time to catch trains, we grabbed our goody bags and I was home within two hours of swimming my last length, though Jenny was caught out by a cancelled train. Thank you SO much Jenny and Ally for a really lovely day.

The week remained sunny and Max has been able to continue cycling to work, whilst Martin has bought a new saddle for his (new) bike to alleviate his chafing problems (and consequent household hilarity). I mowed the lawn, picked more apples and even found enough blackberries to make another batch of fruit topping for our cereals. Martin took a morning off to help rig the new OYT boat Prolific and do some shopping with his John Lewis gift vouchers (a pat on the back from his boss) and we even took lunch in the garden.

Then this weekend was my termly intensive tuition weekend for the next stage of my CIM marketing course, all about marketing communications. It was a foggy drive to Croydon early Saturday morning, and the M3 remains blighted by the endless 'SmartMotorways' upgrade (which means everything is down to 50 mph with restricted lanes for what looks like an eternity, with few signs of any work being done).

But once there it was a useful course, mostly because we were able to explore the requirements of the project work with our tutor. So now it is just down to me to do lots of reading and research and then get writing.

Meanwhile Martin had persuaded Rosie to come down on Friday evening with Jess and spend the day aboard Drifter. It sounds as though they had fun, catching some fish for tea and finding some wind. Rosie has finished at the Palace so has taken a well-earned break this week, and Martin had been itching to get out sailing again, so it worked well.
 Max played rugby both weekends for the 2nds (the 1sts now have four players for his position so it's a bit tougher to get on the team, but the 2nds are much less organised and he found both games frustrating). Hopefully he will find his niche again soon, but at least he is getting some exercise and kinship outside his working day.

Thursday, 24 September 2015


My plans to walk regularly are suffering somewhat this month, as the hedges have been full of black beauties begging to be picked. We now have bags of blackberries in the freezer, blackberry ice cream too, and a continuous supply of stewed blackberry and apple to top our cereals of a morning.

My cooking apple tree is sagging under the weight of a bumper crop, which I can't use fast enough. Friends have been plied with fruit, and every day I am trying to find something new to make (today was apple turnovers, very yummy).

Besides fruit picking and preparation, I have been doing some more marketing research, including a very helpful morning spent with Lisa at Roots and Wings enjoying her kitchen table workshop. It was refreshing to see small-business marketing in action, in the company of like-minded people, and I am already working on my website to try to make it more empathetic as a result.

Martin has been away for a long weekend on the John Laing to see whether he fancies qualifying as crew on future Ocean Youth Trust sailings, during which time I popped down to see Mum and Dad (and Kerry too) in Somerset and enjoyed some lovely home cooking and company.

In between I have been in touch with a local small business about possibly doing some marketing or other work with them, and am signed up for a short course tomorrow morning about using video for marketing (at a local small business hub, which is the main draw). I have also been having fun at my singing lessons trying out a variety of soprano songs, some of which I manage better than others!

So the month is flying past fast one way and another. I have just yielded to temptation and switched the heating on for an hour or so morning and evening (to dry the towels, if nothing else) and the hot water bottles are back in use. The harvest seems to be in everywhere: I sang at a church fundraiser in Chute village recently and since the car park was a field my shoes looked a little the worse for wear when I returned to the car:

But in between there have been some wonderfully sunny days: last Friday for example was so glorious that Martin and I took ourselves out to lunch in The Plough's garden, a great treat. Plus the Boston Ivy on the house is beginning to turn its rich autumn shades so looks fabulous in the sunshine.

Time to get the camera out again before it autumn loses her glory to October chills.