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