Thursday 31 December 2015

A Confession

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I am still feeling warm and fuzzy, but there is something which I need to get off my chest.  Amy at Love Made My Home organised a Christmas Card Swap, an opportunity for bloggers to send each other cards.  I thought this was a lovely idea so I signed up straight away...and then, blown off course as you know we were, I completely failed to deliver.  I sent only two Christmas cards this year and this wasn't one of them.
However, my swap partner, Clare at The Summerhouse By The Sea sent me a stonker of a handmade card.  Here it is -

Isn't she clever?  Would you like a closer look at that beautiful crocheted snowflake?  Here you go -

Clare suggested that I could detach the snowflake and hang it on my Christmas tree, so that's exactly what I did -

I absolutely love it.  Thank you to Amy for organising the swap and to Clare for such a lovely card.  Now Clare is a generous person and throughout Advent she posted a series of tutorials showing how to crochet these snowflakes, stars and other adorable ornaments.  If you click here you can see the whole lot in beautiful, frosted, wintry colours. 
Right then, I'm off to prepare to shoo out this year and usher in the new one.  See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 30 December 2015

The Sixth Day of Christmas

Hello, thank you for popping in, you are all very welcome, especially if this is your first visit.  It's been wild, wet and windy here but we are counting our blessings because we are too high up for floods.  I say that with no smug thoughts, I am truly sorry for those whose homes or businesses have been ruined, especially at this time of year.
Yesterday, the lovely Wendy from September Violets commented that I sound very content, which took me aback somewhat.  (I've just read that back and laughed out loud.  "Took me aback somewhat"?!  Where on earth did that come from?)  The truth is that right now, I do feel content, which is unusual for someone as generally anxious as I am.  I suppose that it's because I am living in the moment, and at this moment, I am with the people who I love most, we have enough food in the cupboards (and there are treats), there are no bills to worry about for a couple of weeks so we have enough money (even though we have a fortnight with no income at all), it hasn't been too cold so we are warm with a minimum fuel expenditure and we are all in good health.  We don't have any work or other commitments so we are running our own timetable, not anyone else's, and we are doing whatever we want to do.  It doesn't mean that we are not still mourning the loss of my mother-in-law, it means that we are working through that process very gently and looking after each other as we do so.
I think this may be to do with the fact that we live very simply and modestly, so our wants are not great - for example, we haven't felt the need to brave the sales, despite the marvellous bargains there are to be found, because we have all we actually need at the moment.  It's probably also to do with the fact that our children are grown up and relatively independent, so we don't need to focus so much on them as we used to.
So yes, at this moment, I do feel content.  I leave you with a picture of my mantelpiece at this moment - I know that it's blurry, but I like to think of it as warm and fuzzy, which is just how I feel.  See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 29 December 2015

The Fifth Day of Christmas

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  I know that for some people, Christmas can be a difficult time - I have had several Christmases like that, times when I have breathed a great big sigh of relief on 27th December and been glad that it's all over.  It's difficult when you're hard up, or when you're lonely, or when you are grieving, or when you have to work and all around you there seems to be an excess of consumption and jollity. 
This year, however, we feel able to celebrate the twelve days of Christmas.  We don't put up our tree or any decorations before 19th December at the earliest, so we are not tired of them by the day after Boxing Day, and I am well aware that we can only do this because we are all at home and have no work until next week, but I do love the slow, gentle days between Christmas and New Year, the days when we have no timetable, we can wake up when we are ready and gently potter about.  Sometimes we even have chocolate for breakfast - and today I had a gin and tonic at 2pm!!  Soooooooooo decadent. 
Today, however, we did a little more than that as we had another celebratory family meal.  I fancied a spot of baking, something chocolatey seemed in order and thanks to a lovely friend, I have a bottle of Merlyn in the cupboard, a Welsh cream liqueur.  So, I used Mary Berry's recipe to make a chocolate and (Irish) cream liqueur roulade.
I love that brief, marbly  moment when you are mixing the chocolate in!  Would you like to see the  finished result? -
I know that it looks a bit rustic but Oh My Goodness, it tasted heavenly!  It's a chocolate roulade filled with double cream which has been whipped up with the aforesaid liqueur and the drizzle on the top is made with icing sugar, double cream and more of the liqueur.  It's definitely not child-friendly!
After that we did a jigsaw together.  We haven't done that for years and it was lovely.  And now it's quiet again, just the Best Beloved, me, the Christmas tree lights, the candles, a bottle of wine and something decent on the television.  Happy Christmas.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 28 December 2015

The Fourth Day of Christmas

Hello, and Happy Christmas to all of you.  I know that some people think that Christmas is over now, but I'm a traditionalist and as far as I'm concerned, 28th December is the fourth of the twelve days of Christmas.
We are having a quiet, gentle time.  On Christmas Day we went to church before driving over to The Teacher's and Flashman's house and she cooked the dinner - she's been helping her father cook the Christmas dinner since she was twelve years old so we had no fears, but she was vegetarian then so she's never cooked the meat before.  Roles were reversed and this year, the Best Beloved was her sous chef.  She did a fine job with the goose -

The Mathematician raised a toast to Grandma and brought tears to our eyes.  After dinner, we played board games and laughed quite a lot, especially when trying to work out where they are going to put the full-sized pool table which Flashman's parents bought him for Christmas!! 
We came home in the evening, turned on our Christmas tree lights, lit the fire and the candles and opened our presents.  We've never opened our presents in the evening before, never had a Christmas Day like this one before, but as our children grow up and their lives change, we have to change too.  It's life, and this year was a good one for things to be different.
So, as I contemplate what kind of chocolate to eat this evening and what kind of wine to drink, I leave you with something seasonal: today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the day when we remember the story told in St Matthew's Gospel of how King Herod ordered the execution of all baby boys in and around Bethlehem, so here are Show of Hands singing Innocents' Song, a setting of Charles Causley's poem, accompanied by the Urban Soul Orchestra.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Winter Solstice

Hello, thank you for calling in.  It feels really good to be connecting with you all again here.

The sudden death of my mother-in-law at the beginning of December blew us all off course.  We had to wait for a fortnight before the funeral, which is not at all unusual in this country, but my goodness, it's unkind.  It was a horrible time, none of us was really able to focus on anything, we were suspended in limbo, grieving and unable to move forward in any way until we had said our goodbyes.  All around us the world seemed to be  twinkling and full of excited jollity but our hearts couldn't rise to it so we have avoided the festive parties, the music stations on the radio and the Christmas specials on the television.  The weather hasn't helped: it's been grey and dull and I think it has actually rained every day.  Perhaps the heavens are as sad as we are?  We travelled back to the south coast of England for the funeral at the end of last week.
If there is a positive in all of this, it is the realisation that we have very caring and supportive family members, friends and colleagues.  Some have rung us, some have sent cards, some have sent text messages and emails, some have prayed for us, some of you have left comments here and some have given practical help; every little act has counted, every single one has made a difference.  I feel that we have been blessed in this way.
So, we have only had a few days to make our Christmas preparations.  We have done some gentle shopping (but not enough), posted a couple of cards (but not enough), laundered the Christmas linen and I have spent today tidying and cleaning.  Today is the day of the winter solstice here in the northern hemisphere, the day when the North Pole is tilted at its furthest point from the sun, the shortest day of the year with only 7 hours 49 minutes of sunlight.  If you have been popping in here for a while, you will know that I like to observe the passage of the earth around the sun by marking each equinox and the solstice.  I hadn't really thought about it this time, but this afternoon, making our home ready for Christmas, it suddenly hit me: we shall put up a Christmas tree, bedeck it with lights, light candles and drink mulled wine.  It feels like the perfect way to celebrate the solstice.  (Also, Michael Buble's Christmas special is on the television, the perfect  way to usher in Christmas, I think!)
I'll be back soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 18 December 2015


Hello, thank you for calling in, and special thanks for your kind messages of sympathy and support.  I shall be back soon to catch up with you, but in the meantime, I have this special post for today.  This was always going to be today's post, whatever happened, and it will become clear why..

This is Arthur Holland Budd, known to many as Art, to a few as Dad and to me as Gramps.  He was born in Hackney in North London on 18th December 1909, the first child of Arthur and Florrie.  The family was not well off: Arthur made just enough money selling newspapers to enable them to live together in one rented room.  When Gramps was three years old, his father became ill and died, three months before his younger brother, George was born.  Poor Florrie, she was only twenty-six years old and now had two little boys to support.  So what did she do?  She married again, of course, providing her sons with a stepfather, a merchant seaman who was also called Arthur!  Gramps was almost eight years old.
Gramps left school when he was fourteen years old and was apprenticed to a cobbler, but that didn't work out - I think he couldn't stand the smell of the glue - and he eventually found a job as a warehouseman in Shoreditch with Hobday Brothers Ltd, a wholesaler of bicycle, motorcycle and motor car accessories and latterly, electrical applicances.  He stayed there for years, it's where he was working when he married his sweetheart, Julie, on Christmas Eve 1933 and he was still there when their first child, my father, was born in 1941. 
Of course, this was during the Second World War, and it wasn't long before Gramps had to leave the warehouse and join the Royal Air Force - he always said that Hobdays had to replace him with two men to get the same amount of work done.  So what did the RAF do with this experienced warehouseman?  They assigned him as a storekeeper, of course, and sent him off to the Cocos Islands in the Indian Ocean. 
Gramps' brother, George, was also conscripted into the RAF and wrote to Art in March 1943, "war is a curse, still I think it will soon be over now, we can't go wrong now the Budd boys are on it".  I had never heard that until it was read out at Gramps' funeral and the poignancy of it made me smile then and still does.  As my father wrote in his eulogy, "Unfortunately, a storekeeper in the Cocos and a RAF driver in Iraq were unable to deliver quite that quickly and it was 1946 before Arthur returned home."  When I asked my father's permission to write this post, my mother asked me if I would like a copy of a photo of Gramps and George together in their uniforms, a photo I had never seen before and am proud to show you now, so here they are, the handsome Budd Boys -

After Gramps was demobbed, he went back to Hobdays because firms were legally obliged to hold open pre-war jobs for returning servicemen.  A second son was born in 1947 and five or six years after that, Gramps became ill with a hernia - which he blamed on having to do all the work of the two men who had replaced him during the war - and spent six weeks in hospital, during which time, Hobdays sacked him!  However, I think this was really a blessing in disguise because he became a bus conductor with London Transport.  Now then, gentle reader, you may not know what a bus conductor is, so please allow me to explain: each bus had a driver and a conductor, the passengers got on the bus at the back and while the bus travelled on to the next stop, the conductor walked around the bus, took their fares and issued them with tickets.  My Gramps did that for almost thirty years as well as acting as the local Trade Union Representative, administering the sick fund and running the Dalston Garage football pool.  Gramps was A Bus Conductor:  when my sisters and I visited his house, his cap would be hanging on the peg in the hall and we loved to put it on and play at being bus conductors.  In 1977, when London Transport introduced a compulsory retirement age of 68 years, Gramps was the only member of staff who had to retire but even that didn't stop him completely as he still went to the garage every Friday to run the football pool and, as my father put it, "offer advice to his successors".
Twelve years later, Gramps moved out of the house in Hackney he had lived in for 37 years and, with Nanny, moved to Cardiff to be closer to his elder son.  Obviously, he memorised the bus timetable and made full use of it!
In his youth, Gramps had been a keen sportsman, excelling at cricket and football, he remained a keen Leyton Orient supporter and he loved to watch sport on the television.  He was interested in current affairs and in history and when I was a little girl he took me to visit the V&A Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green and, with Nanny, the Tower of London.  Those are precious memories.  He loved the seaside and I think he thought that a holiday was not a proper holiday unless it was spent by the sea - I have precious memories of those, too.  He especially loved small children and in his eighties, would get down on the carpet to play with my daughters, much to their delight.  He had two sons, two daughters-in-law, six grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren and I think he was hugely proud of all of us; when he lived in London he used to take us on the Underground sometimes and as he waved his free pass to the person at the barrier, he would say, "My grandchildren," very proudly, and we would all be ushered through without tickets, on a nod and a wink.
Gramps died at the age of 99.  Can you imagine the changes he saw in his lifetime?  Five British monarchs, two world wars, women's suffrage, men at the South Pole and on the moon, television, computers...It has been said that it is a seminal moment when your last grandparent dies and I have to agree.  I felt bereft, and as the eldest child of the eldest child, I also felt the generations shift.  The London bus has become a kind of totem for our family, a symbol of our identity, a reminder of Gramps, our London heritage, our roots and our memories.
He often used to say to me, when nobody else was listening, "You're my number one," with a knowing smile.  I knew exactly what he meant: it wasn't that I was his favourite because he loved us all equally, it was simply that I was the first-born grandchild, number one of six.  It was a play on words, his little joke.  I used to reply, "And you're my number one."  He knew exactly what I meant.

I have to thank my dear Dad for giving me permission to write this post, for allowing me to use parts of his eulogy and for sharing his photos with me.

Happy Birthday Gramps.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Thursday 3 December 2015

The Unexpected...

We didn't expect the Best Beloved to take a day off work today.  We didn't expect our girls to come home today.  We didn't expect to go for a walk together in the woods today.  We didn't expect to stand together and hold each other up today.  We didn't expect the Best Beloved's mother to die today.  We just didn't expect it.  And we are all very, very sad today.

love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 1 December 2015

It All Begins With A Chopped Onion

Hello, thank you for dropping in here, you are very welcome.  Thank you to all of you who left such encouraging comments about my WIPs on my last post - I had hoped to have finished them all off by now but I have been a tad distracted, so I can't do any showing-and-telling yet, but it won't be long.

In the meantime, I'd like to show you a frugal dinner which we have just about once a week.  It's cheap, nutritious, tasty, quick to knock up and versatile, which all adds up to it being a Very Useful Recipe.  I know that lot's of people have recipes like this so here's my version.

Here are the ingredients -

1 onion, peeled and chopped quite finely
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed (or very finely chopped)
smoked bacon lardons (entirely optional: if I don't have them, I leave them out)
1 tin of mixed beans in water
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
dried green herbs
black pepper
This is what I do -
1. Heat a lug of oil in a pan until it's medium hot, tip in the onions, garlic and bacon lardons if
    you are using them, turn the heat right down and gently cook until the onion is soft and
    translucent.  This will take about 15 minutes.

2  Empty the tin of beans into a colander and rinse all the gloop off under running water 
    before you add the beans to the pan. 
3  Add the tomatoes and herbs - I used oregano but rosemary, thyme or mixed herbs are 
    also good.  I also add a splash of alcohol (cooking sherry) if I have it, then grind in the
    pepper and give it all a good stir.
4. Increase the heat under the pan, bring it up to a simmer, put the lid on and let it gently
    putter away unattended for about 10 minutes.  It's all cooked, you are simply trying to
    meld it all together.

That's it!  I serve it with rice.  This quantity serves two hungry adults but if there are three of us, I use a larger tin of beans and a bit more liquid - plain water is fine; four of us and it's two tins of beans, etc.  If I'm not using the bacon, I add a very small amount of salt.  If you make it in the morning, let it cool and then reheat it in the evening, it tastes even better.
I hope to see you again soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 21 November 2015

Five on Friday (on Saturday!)

Hello, thank you for popping in, especially if you have come here via Amy at Love Made My Home.  The temperatures have been so warm this autumn that it came as a shock when they dropped yesterday, but the bonus was that last night, there was snow.  Tipped off by Facebook, we opened the curtains at 10.40pm so that we could watch the white flakes swirling around in the air as we sat by the fire.  It looked and felt beautiful and it was ephemeral - by this morning it had gone, but the sun is shining and the sky is blue, a different kind of beautiful.
So, today I would like to share with you the WIPs which are sitting in my knitting bag and making me feel guilty.  Like most knitters, I love the knitting and can't stand the sewing up, especially the sewing in of ends, and so these Works In Progress accumulate as I move on to the next piece of knitting.  Naughty, I know.  I am hoping that by sharing them with you, I shall shame myself into finishing them off.
1.  Muffatees
A couple of winters ago I discovered the wonder of the muffatee - it's a knitted tube with a slit for your thumb and it keeps your wrist and hand warm when you need to use your fingers and thumb.  I have several pairs and wear them a lot.  Peter Rabbit's mother earned a living by knitting them from rabbit-wool but I knitted these from sheep's wool and I am really looking forward to wearing them once I have sewn in those pesky tails.
2.  A Gift Bag
At the moment it's a tube but once I have sewn in the tails and sewn up one end it will be transformed into a little bag to be tied with a ribbon.  Honestly.
3. A Mystery
I'm afraid I can't tell you what this is yet because it's a gift and I don't wish to spoil the surprise.  I was really keen to learn how to do stranded colourwork and this was my first attempt.  It may well turn out to have been my last - not only does it turn out that I don't hold the wool properly so it took ages to knit, but have you seen how many ends there are to be sew in??  And this is only about half of them!  That's why this beauty has been a WIP for two years.  I DEFINITELY need to grasp this nettle and finish it off.  (I hate to even think about this, but I am making this for The Teacher so I really should make another for her sister...)
4.  Baubles
These are little jackets for some rather plain and scruffy Christmas tree baubles.  I plan to make a string of them and hang them up, not necessarily during the festive season.  I know, it's a bit bonkers.
5.  Santa's Jumper
Well, only if Santa is very, very small!  These are Christmas tree decorations - I sold some in September to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support and have been asked to make a few more.  Fancy that, people paying real, actual money for my handiwork!  It takes me about six hours to knit one, in the round on 3mm DPNs, and it's a labour of love, but they are very sweet and I promise to show you this one when it's finished.
So there you are, the contents of my Bag of Shame.  I'm off now to visit the other Five on Friday posts and then find a bodkin, and could I just point out that in my mother's knitting bag there are pieces of a jumper which has been on the needles since 1984?  Could I?
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 16 November 2015

Autumn On The Edge

It was early November, the sun was shining, the sky was blue and the temperature was warm enough for us to be wearing long-sleeved t-shirts.  "Shall we go out somewhere?" he said.  "Yes please," I replied.  "Where shall we go?" he said.  "Somewhere arboreal,"  I replied.  I wanted to wonder at the trees in their autumn party dresses before they finally cast them off.
He took me to Wenlock Edge, a walk we love, and he didn't just take me, he took his camera, too.  "I'm going to take some photos for your blog,"  he said!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  We were just over two miles from home when we realised that it was quite foggy.  "I hope it's sunny at the Edge,"  he said.  By the time we were four miles from home the fog was thick and the temperature had dropped - fortunately, we found our emergency fleeces in the car boot and boy, were we grateful.  We couldn't see the expanse of the Ape Dale stretching out below the Edge, but we could see the trees (well, only the ones which were close to us).  I know that Blogland has been full of pictures of autumnal trees for weeks now, but this is a place to record my memories and so I am going to show you his photos.

These are old lime kilns, a reminder of industrial activity which ceased long ago - he is particularly keen on this kind of industrial archaeology.  While he went down to photograph them, I found a fallen tree trunk and sat alone in the wood.  I looked around at the beautiful colours, I breathed deeply and drew in the scent of autumn woodland (actually, I suppose it's the smell of decaying vegetation, but that doesn't sound very attractive, does it?) and my head filled with the sound of birdsong, lots of it.  It was a very special few minutes.  I think I was trying to preserve it in my memory, something I could draw on later. 
That was a fortnight ago.  There hasn't been much sunshine since that day and high winds a few days later have taken most of the leaves from the trees now.  Autumnal temperatures have been amazingly high here and we haven't put the heating on yet, which is a blessing because I'm not sure how we are going to afford to put it on at all, but I think that winter is on its way.
Things are a bit grim here at Tiggywinkle Towers so I would like to say a big THANK YOU to Karen, Karen, Rosie, Amy, Janet, Lisa and Alison for the kind, supportive comments you left on my last post.  You have helped me to see things from a different perspective - yes, life are tough at the moment but it would be a great deal more difficult if I didn't have caring, thoughtful people around me.  And in a week where the world seems to be a dreadful, brutal place, how wonderful it is that people who have never met me and know me only through what I write here care enough to leave a thoughtful message for me. 
I shall be back soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Thursday 5 November 2015

Counting my blessings

Today I am counting my blessings. 

Last week we were the recipients of three food parcels.  We stayed with my parents for a few days over half term and they sent us home with a box of delights: a bottle of wine, a small ham joint, sausages from the farm shop, good cheese, posh biscuits to go with the cheese, Italian tinned tomatoes, my favourite brand of tea, you know the sort of thing.  They have always been very good to us when money has been scarce and we have learned to put our dignity aside and accept graciously as well as gratefully.  "We've done you a food parcel," my mother said.  "Is there a red cross on the box?"  the Best Beloved replied.  "I've put a map inside,"  my father joked. 
On Saturday I went to a breakfast meeting and was given the surplus to bring home:  croissants, yoghurts, strawberries and grapes.  Delicious treats which I am eking out.  Strawberries in November!
Then we were given a box of tins from the Harvest Festival collection at the parish church.  When the curate rang to tell me about it, carefully and discreetly, I said, "I can't take them."  She knew that I was embarrassed.  "Yes, you can," she replied.  She was right.  I can.  My cupboard is now full of tins of soup, baked beans, tuna, corned beef, you know the sort of thing.  So I have just used some of those tins to cook tonight's dinner, ready to reheat when I come home from work: a pasta bake with tuna, sweetcorn and condensed mushroom soup.  I went to the little shop over the road to buy an onion and when I placed it on the counter, saying, "Big spender!" and laughing, the assistant told me to take it and refused my coins. 
Last week was half term so there was no work for the Best Beloved and so no income this week.
But today I am counting my blessings as the tears fall freely from my eyes because it has come to this. 
Love, Mrs Tiggwinkle x

Friday 23 October 2015

Five on Friday

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Thank you, too, for your messages about my last post - if I have brought the Battle of Trafalgar to life for some readers, I am absolutely chuffed.  Today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home so if you have the time, please hop over there and see who else is joining in this week.

Last Sunday afternoon the Best Beloved and I went to Bridgnorth, a pretty old town on the banks of the River Severn, for a little walk.  The sun didn't come out from behind the thick clouds but the air was still and too warm for coats and we took our time.  Here are five good things about Bridgnorth:
1. The River Severn
We walked along the east bank of the river, which divides High Town from Low Town (I know, it's so quaint, isn't it?). 

We passed a very small patch of neglected ground which is marked by this plaque (you might want to click on it to enlarge it for easier reading) -

If you studied the Industrial Revolution for O-Level History (I know, that dates me) you will know about Richard Trevithick.  The locomotive built here was named Catch Me Who Can and was exhibited at a "steam circus" in London: it went round a circular track at a top speed of 12mph(!) pulling an open carriage full of passengers who paid a shilling for the thrill.

2.  The Cliff Railway
The top of High Town stands more than a hundred feet higher than the river and if you don't fancy climbing one of the seven sets of two hundred-odd steps or the steep roads to get there, the funicular railway is great fun - very old-fashioned but just right.  Some people use it for their daily commute to work!  It is, apparently, the shortest and steepest in the country and a return ticket costs £1.20.  Built in 1892 and originally powered by water but converted to electricity in the 1940s, the original carriages were replaced in 1955. 

3.  The Castle
Very little remains of Bridgnorth's twelfth century castle as most of it was blown to pieces by parliamentary forces on the orders of Oliver Cromwell in 1646 after the royalists who had retreated there surrendered during the Civil War.  The part of the keep which does remain leans at an angle of fifteen degrees, almost four times that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.  It looks precarious but it must be quite safe because it doesn't appear to have shifted during the last 369 years!

4. The Severn Valley Railway
This steam railway runs between Bridgnorth and Kidderminster and although we didn't take a ride this time, from the Castle Walk we sat and watched an engine gather its head of steam before it chugged away over the bridge. 

5. The Views
King Charles I visited Bridgnorth twice in the seventeenth century and as he gazed out from the Castle Walk, he declared it "the finest view in all my kingdom.".  The views have changed a lot in almost four hundred years since then, but probably not unrecognisably and they are still pretty fine (and even better when the sun shines).

If you ever get the opportunity to visit Bridgnorth, it's worth it - you could even go when the lovely shops, pubs and tearooms are open.  I do. 

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x  

Wednesday 21 October 2015

Trafalgar Day

Hello.  Thank you for the kind comments and messages you left for me after my last post.  October is turning out to be a difficult month, but I am able to enjoy the beauty of the mists and mellow fruitfulness.  Today, however, I'd like to talk about something different.  Allow me, if you will, to take you back to 21st October 1805: King George III was King of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, the kingdom had been at war with France for twelve years (on and off) and by this time, the threat of invasion by Napoleon Bonaparte and his forces felt imminent.  If you like, think of Horatio Hornblower and Richard Sharpe.  This was the day that Admiral Lord Nelson led twenty-seven ships into battle against thirty-three French and Spanish ships in the Atlantic Ocean just off the southwest coast of Spain, west of Cape Trafalgar, and destroyed twenty-two enemy ships without losing a single one of his own.

Nelson's masterstroke was to divide his fleet into two parallel columns and sail them perpendicularly into the enemy line.  At the head of one column was HMS Victory, led by Nelson himself, and at the head of the other, HMS Royal Sovereign, led by Admiral Collingwood, but I do not intend to give you a history lesson here.  I reckon that most of you know the outcome, that although Admiral Nelson won the battle, he lost his life there that day, shot by an enemy musket, and has been feted as a great British hero ever since.  No, I shan't go into battle tactics.  Instead, I wish to take you further down the line of eleven ships headed up by HMS Victory, to the ship at the back, HMS Spartiate, a 74-gun (for which read "cannon") ship of the line under the command of Captain Sir Francis Laforey, Baronet.  

On board HMS Spartiate were sailors and and Royal Marines, identifiable by their scarlet jackets as they stood on deck and shot at the men aboard the French and Spanish ships. One of these Marines was twenty-nine year-old Private John Rendle who had joined up four years earlier, lying about his age because men had to be under the age of twenty-five in order to enlist.  They also had to be unmarried, perhaps because the work was so dangerous that any wife was likely to be widowed before too long?  John was born in 1776 in Washfield in Devon, a rural, scattered parish a couple of miles outside the town of Tiverton with only a few hundred inhabitants.  Employment opportunities were few and he earned a meagre living as an agricultural labourer before he went to Tiverton on 9th October 1801, took the king's shilling and donned the scarlet coat.  And now here he was, playing his part in the Royal Navy's most famous battle.

The Fall of Nelson by Denis Dighton

By the end of that day, five of Spartiate's crew were dead and twenty wounded, including one Marine...but it was not John.  The ship, according to The Trafalgar Roll, "had her foretopsail yard shot away, and her masts, yards and rigging in general were a good deal damaged" and she returned to Plymouth for repairs.  John stayed in the Royal Marines until September 1814 when, aged thirty-seven, he was discharged because of chronic rheumatism - which, I think, is hardly suprising after thirteen years spent on wooden ships. And his pension after thirteen years of service?  Twenty-one days' pay.  That's all.  He returned to Tiverton and found work as a labourer.

There are many memorials to Lord Nelson in the UK.  One of them, known as The Nelson Monument, was raised on Portsdown Hill, just north of Portsmouth Harbour, in 1807.  Do you know how it was financed?  The Royal Navy took two days' pay from every man who fought at Trafalgar to pay for the monument.  So, not only did these men risk their lives, they paid for the privilege of doing so!  There doesn't seem to me to be much glory in that.

So, today I am raising a glass to Private John Rendle, my great, great, great grandfather.  The Royal Navy may not have honoured him, but I do.

Happy Trafalgar Day

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Wednesday 14 October 2015

A Flat Start to the New Year

Hello.  Thank you for bearing with me, I have been neglecting my blog.  Actually, I have spent a lot of time thinking about it, and I have read and appreciated your comments, but I just haven't been able to write anything.  It's all felt very odd.

Like many people whose lives are determined by the rhythm of academic terms, September usually means New Year - for children there are new shoes, new bags, new teachers and sometimes new schools.  For adults there are new routines and often new adventures and new horizons as children grow older and become less dependent.  I have always liked September, partly because of these new possibilities, partly because I like the return to routine after the sprawling school summer holidays and partly because it opens the gate to Christmas (I have printed that word in a tiny font because really, it's far to early to talk about it!), and I do really love Christmas.  September also brings Autumn, which is my favourite season. 
This year, however, felt different and I am not really sure why.  Perhaps it's because the summer was so disappointing: the weather was warm but, apart from about three days in July, not hot and it rained a lot, almost every weekend, I think.  I had hoped for some camping trips - there are so many destinations on my wishlist - but apart from a weekend in July and our folk festival trip, we didn't go anywhere because the weather was too poor for short trips.  We did have two wonderful long weekends away at short notice, but four lovely weekends do not a summer make.  So at the end of our seven week school break (seven weeks! ) I felt very unsatisfied and not really ready to move on. 

Or perhaps it's because the Best Beloved doesn't have enough work at the moment and I am very anxious about how we will manage the winter expenses.  Or perhaps it's because I slowly realised that a relationship which I thought was a personal friendship is actually merely a professional friendship, and I am mourning the perceived loss of that imagined personal friendship.

So, September came and brought with it the sunshine we missed in July and August, but my spirits were low.  Here is the hawthorn tree outside my bedroom window, laden with haws beneath a blue sky.

For the last few years I have cycled around the parish foraging for blackberries, crab apples and elderberries to turn into jewel-coloured jars of hedgerow jelly, but this year I had no heart for it (for which I heartily apologise to The Beau, who is very keen on it - I am afraid you are on the last of last year's jars and the cupboard its bare).  Nor will there be any blackberry vodka to sip on Christmas Eve this year.  We celebrated the equinox on 23rd September with a proper pudding: it had to be apple really, it could have been plum but the Best Beloved doesn't like plums so it really did have to be apple, especially as I was given a bagful of them from the curate's garden, and I turned to Delia for her baked apple and almond pudding which is delicious hot or cold (I served it hot with a dollop of thick cream). 

Yummy, and extra good for being naughtily eaten during the week!  I thought that it might be a turning point as I really wanted to show you at the time, but I just couldn't do it.  And even though I was unexpectedly offered a new job and am now earning Real Money (a very small amount) for the first time in almost three years, I couldn't drag myself out of the slump, not even to write my monthly family history post, and I usually love writing those.

Then the Sunday before last I was reading the Observer Magazine and I saw a Waitrose advertisement which read "Autumn.  Britain's warmest season" and something just clicked in my head.  I had found a way to write!  I do LOVE autumn for its warmth, its colour and its fruitfulness: the rich reds, oranges, yellows and burgundies of the leaves on the deciduous trees and shrubs, the acorns, beech mast and conkers which ripen and drop from the trees, the fungi which spring up from the damp earth.  I love lighting tealights along the mantelpiece as night falls and later on, when it's cold, we shall light the fire.  We have so far enjoyed blue skies and warm sun - the Best Beloved and I went for a walk that Sunday afternoon in short sleeves, in October!  Dragonflies and butterflies danced around us and my spirit lifted itself up and joined in, gratefully.  The leaves are beginning to turn but this is only the starter, the main course is yet to come. 

And here, for no other reason than "just because", are a few pictures of our afternoon at Lilleshall Arboretum, which is lovely because (a) there are lots of trees and (b) it's free.

See you soon (I hope).

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 10 October 2015

Five On Friday (on Saturday!)

Hello, thank you for popping in.  It's been a while, but today I am linking up with Amy at Love Made My Home  for Five on Friday.

So here, in no particular order, are five things which I really enjoy about this early part of autumn.

1.  Lighting tealights

I do like candlelight and as darkness falls earlier now, I light tealights along the mantelpiece and enjoy the cosy glow which emanates from these red glass holders.  

2.  Shawls

Although we are enjoying warm, sunny days, the evenings are chilly, not cold enough for a frugal person to put the heating on but chilly enough to be uncomfortable when I am sitting down.  The solution to this is a shawl around my shoulders, just right.

3.  Woodland bounty

This is my hawthorn tree, laden with haws (and therefore full of birds which feast on them). The woods are full of acorns, beech mast, conkers, pine cones, the fascinating fruits which used to adorn infant school nature tables when I was a child.  When my girls were little they always took "nature bags" with them when we went out for autumn walks so that they could collect this bounty and bring it home to pore over and play with.  

4.  Toadstools

Up from the earth they spring at this time of year.  I find them fascinating, so many different types, all taking their part in the complex ecosystem.  I even quite like the ones which have appeared in my lawn this year, although I don't think the Best Beloved is very keen.

5.  Summer flowers In My Garden

I was really taken by surprise last Sunday when I rounded a corner in my garden and found a bed full of pink hardy geraniums flowering their heads off.  I associate their flowers so much with the summer, as I do the buddleia which you can see in this photo, that to see them in October feels like a bonus, a real extension of the summer season, a reminder that the boundaries between nature's seasons are not concrete but that one leads into another as a river estuary leads into the sea.

Thank you to Amy for hosting these lovely Friday blog parties, and to everyone who is joining in this week.  I'll be hopping over to visit during the weekend, so why don't you?  Click here to go to Amy's post and when you get to the bottom, you will see who else is sharing their Five On Friday.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 22 September 2015

On the Long Mynd

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  We are adjusting to the changing routines that a new academic year brings, although things won't really settle until The Mathematician goes back to university on Saturday. 
I must admit that I am in a bit of a slump.  When my head feels full of cotton wool and my heart is sagging, the Best Beloved knows that I need to go to a high place, literally and geographically, and on Sunday afternoon that's just what we did.  We drove to Church Stretton and took The Burway, an ancient route which leads up the Long Mynd.  Mynydd is the Welsh word for "mountain" and so this is Shropshire's Long Mountain, a rocky plateau about ten miles long in the Shropshire Hills - of course, if you were one of Malcolm Saville's Lone Piners you will know it well.  It's heathland and moorland, grazed by sheep and ponies, and we just missed the heather, we must go a little earlier next year to catch its purple glory. 
We stopped to look back down at Church Stretton, so far below us that it looks like Toytown 
Eventually we reached the far end of the plateau and got out of the car.  This is the Starboard Way, a route for walkers and riders.  It was chilly up there and windy, it's always windy -
Now the wind is put to good purpose up here: there has been a gliding club here since the 1930s and we spent a while watching them take off and swoop around the sky.  The sheep didn't seem to be particularly bothered, they must be used to it!
And how did we know that we had reached the far end of the plateau?  This is how -
Once, in our folly, we drove down this road in a car laden with children and camping gear.  Never again!  We go the long way round now to the valley below, but we didn't do that this time.  No, we stood on the Mynd and drank in this view of the valley - I have made it extra large for you in the hope of conveying some of its glory -
I am so sorry that it's not bathed in golden sunshine but do you see what I mean?  Glorious.  I find these kind of views very stirring, perhaps because it evokes a non-existent romantic, rural idyll, perhaps because it appears to be untainted by the man-made ugliness of the industrial revolution (although goodness knows I am eternally gratefully for that revolution), perhaps because I consider a patchwork of fields and hedgerows like this to be very English, and I am English, apart from the eighth that's Irish.  I can hear Ralph Vaughan Williams playing in my head when I look at this!
We stayed up there for a couple of hours and I came down with the cotton wool blown away and my heart lifted. 
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x