Saturday 31 December 2016

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

Hello, thank you for calling in, it's lovely to see you here.  It's New Year's Eve, the seventh day of Christmas, and I am feeling rather wistful.  In years gone by I would have been fizzing with excitement by this point, looking forward to dressing up and going out to celebrate with friends until the New Year was ushered in and settled right down, but those days are long gone and tonight it's just the Best Beloved, the cats and me settling down by the fire with Jools Holland's Hootenanny on the telebox and a bottle or two of fizz.  Lovely.
You know, even after two lovely carol services I never really found my Christmas mojo this year.  Sigh.  I looked for it everywhere, but it never came out of its hiding place.  On Christmas Eve the Best Beloved told me that he was really enjoying Christmas this year and I pointed out to him that he had already been off work for a week during which he had been out for breakfast twice, been to the cinema twice, been to the pub and taken a lot of naps.  Of course he was enjoying his holiday, but there wasn't anything festive, was there?
That evening, we went to the most magical Crib Service.  It was supposed to take place in the parish church but with three days to go, the churchwardens told us that they didn't want us so we held it in a little garden instead.  Forty-two people squeezed in and found the real meaning of Christmas there in a "stable" full of toy animals - not just donkeys, sheep and cows but several bears, a leopard, a tiger, a cat, a dog, a fish, a monkey, a reindeer and a unicorn, too -  and fairy lights.  The little boy who was playing Mary got tired of holding the Baby Jesus so he laid the doll down in the manger full of hay and cuddled the monkey instead while the little girl playing Joseph looked on.  Adults who had always wanted to be in a nativity play squeezed in and we all sang Away In A Manger.  We all went home with love in our hearts but I still couldn't find my Christmas mojo.

Christmas Day was small with only three of us here but it was perfectly formed.  We went to church together, not our parish church but another, and found it full of joyful people.   We came home and opened our gifts, small things but well-chosen to give delight.  The Best Beloved and The Mathematician cooked a magnificent feast.  On Boxing Day The Teacher and Flashman came over and there was another feast.  We like feasts.  The next day, my clan gathered around my parents: all of their daughters, our menfolk and all the grandchildren, twenty of us altogether.  How blessed we are.  We went to the theatre in the afternoon to see Mary Poppins and came home in the evening to another feast at my sister's house.  Still my Christmas mojo was nowhere to be found.
Perhaps it's because my children are not here?  They are spending a few days together in Amsterdam and will return home tomorrow.  Perhaps it's the hurt caused by my parish church?  Perhaps it's because I can't find my nativity set?  We never had one at home when I was growing up but an elderly friend gave me one when The Teacher was small, it was hers but her son had bought her a rather grand one to replace it.  Every year I clear a shelf on the bookcase for it but this year, we can't find it and the room doesn't look right without it.  Perhaps it's the missing of those we have loved and lost?  The Best Beloved has felt very keenly the death of his father in September, following the death of his mother just before Christmas last year, and there have been moments when he has fallen apart.  We usually take our Christmas decorations down at Epiphany - apart from the crib because it seems such a shame to take it down when the Magi have only just arrived!  I leave that up until Candlemas at the beginning of February but obviously, that won't be happening this year because what doesn't go up can't come down.  Usually, I want to keep the tree up until Candlemas as well, I do love it so, but the Best Beloved puts his foot down quite firmly, and he is probably right.  Can you imagine how many needles there would be on the floor?!Last night I sat looking at the tree, twinkling away merrily in the firelight, and decided that I couldn't wait to take it down.

I really don't know what has happened to me this year - after all, I am the woman who some of my friends call "Mrs Christmas".  It's not simple Bah Humbug, I really have searched and searched, but the mojo went missing.  So for the first time ever, I am ready to leave Christmas behind, kick this dreadful year out of the door and sally forth into a new one.  This is the year which has seen my family overshadowed by illness since May, saw two deaths in September and the loss of my job in October when my employer suddenly went into liquidation.  No longer will any new works of David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Terry Wogan, Victoria Wood, Denise Robertson, Glen Frey, Caroline Aherne, Leonard Cohen, Greg Lake and George Michael be able to move me (nor Richard Adams, but he was 96 so I think that's OK).  We've had shocking results in a referendum in the UK and an election in the USA and children are still being placed into small, unseaworthy boats in the eastern Mediterranean Sea because their parents believe that they will be safer in those boats than on the land.  So, in that vein, I leave you with a few lines from In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
   The flying cloud, the frosty light:
   The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the old, ring in the new,
   Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
   The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind
   For those that here we see no more;
   Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
   And ancient forms of party strife;
   Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.

Ring out the want, the care, the sin,
   The faithless coldness of the times;
   Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes
But ring the fuller minstrel in.

Ring out false pride in place and blood,
   The civic slander and the spite;
   Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

See you in 2017.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x










Tuesday 20 December 2016


In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.
Hello, thank you for dropping in.  It's a busy time, isn't it?  There is so much to do in this last week before Christmas.  I have found it difficult to get into the festive mood, for several reasons.  I think it's partly because we have a number of family birthdays in December, the last one falling today, and so I could never feel ready to fully concentrate on Christmas until the birthdays had been marked.  It's also because a few years ago, the Best Beloved told me that he hates Christmas and that his favourite day of the whole year is Boxing Day because it means that there are 364 days to go until Christmas!  This news was like a dagger through my heart because, you see, I loved Christmas: the music, the lights, the bustle in the high street, the festive television programmes and theatre visits, the carol services, nativity plays, the decorations, the all-round jollity.  So now I tread on eggshells around him for the whole of December, not talking about the choosing of gifts or the writing of cards, wrapping while he is out, going to carol services without him and recording festive television programmes to watch secretly very early in the morning while he is still asleep.  Last week he dropped the bombshell that he enjoyed Christmas last year and I pointed out to him that his mother died last December so we didn't listen to any Christmas music, watch any festive television or films or attend any carol services and kept the whole thing very low key. Great Big Sigh.
However, I have now heard my Christmas word and I am ready to sparkle.  I often say that for me, Christmas begins when I hear the word "Quirinius" and usually, that is the Sunday before Christmas.  After all, when else do you hear the word "Quirinius"?  The quote at the beginning of this post is, of course, the beginning of the story of the birth of Jesus as told in the second chapter of the Gospel of St Luke and is probably read at every carol service in Christendom.  It makes me feel warm and fuzzy and tells me that Christmas is nearly here.  I heard it on Sunday evening in a candlelit Victorian chapel at a lovely ecumenical carol service organised by all the Christian churches in my community.  I heard it again last night at another, very special carol service - I do love a carol service!
Back in April I visited St Bartholomew's Church in Moreton Corbet and wrote about it here.  A young friend of mine who plays in a brass band read my post and told me that every year, on the Monday before Christmas, the church holds its carol service with mulled wine, mince pies and...the brass band.  I wrote it in my diary then and there and determined to go this year.  I have to tell you that The Mathematician and I had a wonderful time.  The wine and the mince pies were warm, the brass gleamed and twinkled, the candles flickered, the church was packed to the rafters and the singing was lusty.  When the preacher talked about the Christmas shopping and preparations and asked the rhetorical question, "What are we doing it all for?" a very small child at the front immediately answered, "For Jesus," and hearts melted.  When I visited in April I wrote that I had little sense that this church was a House of God but last night, as we sang about Glory to the Newborn King in the candlelight, I changed my mind.
I took some photographs - please excuse the quality, the lighting was low and the heaters, set high on the columns, gave out a red glow, so I'm afraid the pictures look warm and fuzzy, but then again, that is exactly how I felt.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 14 December 2016

A Walk In The Woods

Hello, are you well?  Coping?  Thank you for dropping in here, I didn't realise I had been away for so long, and thank you for the comments you left on my last post, Anne and I are delighted that so many people now know Joe's story.
I do love autumn.  I love its colours and its fruitfulness, trees laden with conkers, acorns and chestnuts, fascinating fungi sprouting from trees and from the earth, walking on thick carpets of fallen leaves and beech mast, so when the Best Beloved said to me one Sunday last month, "Where would you like to go this afternoon?" I answered straight away, "To the woods."  They didn't disappoint.  The air was soft and warm, the leaves scrunched as we walked over and through them and all around us the squirrels scampered through the trees, gathering food for the winter and running down the solid trunks to bury it under the ground.  I sat on a bench by the pool and drank in the colours and the sounds, greedily feeding my soul in preparation for the week ahead. 

Since then, the temperature has dropped, the winds have blown, all the leaves have fallen and when I look out of my window I see the spiky tree skeletons outlined against pale blue skies.  Autumn's glory days have passed and, with frosty mornings, dark afternoons and hot water bottles at bedtime, we are nearing its end - yes, I know that the meteorologists like to fit the seasons neatly into the calendar year so that winter begins on 1st December, but if you have been reading here for a while you will know that I am an astrological kind of gal and in this house, it's autumn until the winter solstice on 21st December.

Out in the back yard, a large Nordmann Fir is propped up against the wall.  It's almost time...
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Sunday 13 November 2016

On 13th November 1916

Hello, thank you for dropping in.  Today is Remembrance Sunday and it carries special poignancy in this year, the centenary of the Battle of the Somme, the largest battle of the Great War on the Western Front.  On the first day of the conflict we often simply call "The Somme" 19,240 British soldiers died.  19,240.  The battle did not finish that day, however, as fighting continued for a further 140 days, by which time the British army had advanced just seven miles and more than one million men were dead or wounded. 
The last battle of the Somme Offensive was the Battle of the Ancre which began one hundred years ago today and ended on 18th November 1916.  Today I am going to tell you the story of a young man who was injured at that battle, one hundred years ago today, and died a grim and painful death.  A volunteer who lied about his age in order to join up, so keen was he to do his bit and serve his country, he left behind no wife or children to tell his story and he lay unspoken of for almost a century, his sad tale untold.  I am not going to tell you his story: my cousin Anne is, for she is his great niece.  These are her words and I am thrilled to bits that she has written this post for us. 
Wor Joe, wor kid, the bairn, Able Seaman Joseph Garside. He would have been all of these names to those who knew him. He was born in Newcastle upon Tyne on 16th September 1897 to Joseph and Annie Garside my great grandparents. He was 5' 4" tall, had dark brown hair and eyes, his occupation was a pitman. I only know all this because of my research into our family history. My Mam gave me all the information I needed to get started. She told me all about her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, who married who etc. But nothing about Joseph. Now why on earth should Joseph be missing? Perhaps it was because he died before she was born or perhaps Joseph's life was too short and too painful to talk about. But now, on this the 100th year anniversary of the Somme, Joseph Garside, along with all our brave young men, needs to be remembered and talked about.
Joseph joined the Royal Naval Division on 27 May 1915 giving his date of birth as 1896. In December 1915 he was drafted to Hawke Battalion and his records show the Division was moved to Egypt in January 1916 preparatory to the Gallipoli Campaign. At the end of the Gallipoli Campaign the Division were re-designated 63rd (Royal Naval) Division and were moved to France, departing Mudros 18th May, arriving Marseilles 23rd May 1916. Joseph's Hawke Battalion were involved in the Battle of Ancre, a phase of the Battles of the Somme. It was here he was wounded on 13th November 1916. His records show he was admitted to the Gen Hos Dannes Camiers on 17th November and later transferred by Amb. Train/ HMS Cumbria on 23rd November and arriving at Warncliffe War Hospital, Middlewood Road, Sheffield on 25th November. On 24 August 1917 Joseph was discharged (invalided) from the RN and spent the rest of his days being cared for by the Mary Magdalane Home for Incurables Newcastle upon Tyne, close to his family. He died on 11th June 1918 aged 20 of (1) Gun Shot Wound Spine (2) Paralysis Cystitis. It is hard to imagine how dreadful his last 19 months would have been. Joseph was buried in his local churchyard with full military honours.
However this is not the end of Joseph's story. I was contacted last year by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and informed that Joseph was one of several hundred servicemen who were not on any official war memorial. Many, like Joseph, had died after they had been discharged. A new 1914-1918 Memorial to include all these servicemen was to be unveiled at Brookwood and,  as Joseph's name was on this new memorial, I was asked if I would like to attend the inauguration and dedication ceremony? It was an unforgettable, very moving day and my husband Alan and I were introduced to the Duke of Kent who is President of the CWGC and I was able to tell the Duke all about Joseph Garside! 
Now you have been remembered and talked about. God bless you wor Joe, you were just a bairn.

P.S. A little update to this story.  Joseph's great nephew Robert Garside has discovered his burial site in St James Churchyard, Benwell, Newcastle upon Tyne and informed the CWGC who have sent the following email:
I can confirm that the Commission is in the process of producing a headstone to mark the grave of Able Seaman Joseph Garside in Benwell (St. James) Churchyard as his official place of commemoration. We cannot say when this work will be completed at this stage, but the Commission update you once we have any further information.
So perhaps another ceremony may be in the offing with his family attending.
See you soon (she said, wiping a tear from her eye as she pinned on her poppy),
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 11 November 2016

On Armistice Day

Hello, thank you for dropping in, you are very welcome here.  This was intended to be a Five On Friday post but there is no link-up this week, so please bear with me.  Actually, that may be a blessing in disguise as I am not sharing five things today anyway!

There were several things I considered sharing with you this week, but then I realised that today is Armistice Day and that I couldn't write about anything else.  Remembrance Sunday, the second Sunday in November, has been marked in my diary for more than forty years: as a child, I was a keen Brownie Guide, Girl Guide and then Ranger Guide which meant attendance at church parade and the wearing of a paper poppy.  Armistice Day itself didn't seem as important as it does now, certainly we never observed a national silence at 11am as has become fashionable, although not compulsory, over the last twenty years or so.  Perhaps it was the Falklands War in 1982 which changed the general attitude, or the Gulf War in 1990/1?  As I have become older it has seemed increasingly important to remember the fallen and the terrible toll that war takes.

I haven't always worn a poppy.  There is a current dispute with FIFA over whether or not the England and Scotland football players should wear poppies on their shirts during their match this evening as FIFA says that the poppy is a political symbol and it doesn't allow political symbols.  I do think that it is used as a political symbol sometimes, which is what stopped me wearing it for a few years, but a friend of mine, a wise ex-serviceman who has been involved in the theatre of war, put me straight and told me, "We wear a poppy to remember the fallen.  That's it."  I have worn a poppy ever since; I don't think it's glorious to die in war, "fighting for one's country", I think that war is bloody and cruel, but I choose to honour the fallen.
I mused over five things for this post.  My first thought was five war poems; my second thought was to show you photographs of five members of our family who served in the armed forces during wartime (and, thankfully, all came home); my third thought was to show you five artefacts we own associated with twentieth century wars.  All of those ideas seemed rather trite and undignified when faced with the reality that we mark this day because so many people have died due to humankind's inhumanity to humankind.  So instead, I ask you to take five minutes today to focus on that thought, to remember the fallen and to thank them for their sacrifice, whether voluntary or not; and if you can't take five, please take two, perhaps at 11 o'clock.
On Sunday, I shall, as usual, be at the cenotaph in our parish at 11am, wearing a poppy and my grandmother's regimental brooch.  The Best Beloved will join me, and may even wear his father's medals.  We will remember them.
Image result for remembrance day free downloadable poppy image
I shall be back here on Sunday with a very special post, the story of a young man who was unknown for decades but who has been recently discovered.  See you then.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Monday 7 November 2016

Drops Fabel Socks

Hello, thank you for calling in, you are very welcome here.  I hope you are keeping warm and cosy - the temperature has dropped sharply here and vests, socks and hot water bottles are the order of the day.  Last time I promised a post about knitting so I thought I'd share my first adventure with Drops Fabel with you.  I had seen this yarn written about online in all sorts of places and wanted to knit with it but what finally spurred me into biting the bullet was when the champion sock knitter at my knit and natter group recommended it.  I went home, went online and went shopping.  This is what I bought -

This one is called "Heather" and I chose it because it shouted my sister's name (which isn't Heather, but she wears these colours) and I wanted to knit some socks for her.  The problem with it was that much as I love these self-striping yarns, you don't really know what the pattern is going to look like when it's knitted up.  There was a tiny photo but it didn't show enough rows to give a realistic picture, so it was a bit of a gamble. 
I have to tell you that knitting with this yarn was an absolute joy.  As the pattern emerged the colours transported me to the moorland at the top of the Long Mynd: the pink heather, the yellow gorse, the brown bracken, the green grasses, the white sheep.  I have heard some knitters say that the yarn they buy tells them what it wants to be used for and I have never understood that, but this yarn wove its own spell as it became a pair of socks which would nurture and cosset a pair of feet as they walked through the British countryside.  I found it SO difficult to give them away, but fortunately, my sister's feet are not the same size as mine so they didn't fit me, which made it easier.

These colours are not true - blame the indoor lighting.

The yarn itself is 75% wool (warmth) and 25% nylon (durability), it's very soft and ever-so-slightly fluffy, there were no knots and it's smooth and easy to knit with.  So, when a friend saw them and asked me to knit a pair for her, I was happy to oblige. 

Outside in the sunshine, these colours are true.

This time, however, I was not so pleased: when I knitted up the second sock, the stripes did not match up with the first!  All was well until I got to the heel and even though I used the same batch of wool, the same number of stitches, the same needles and the same number of rows, they are slightly misaligned, which bothers me Very Much.  Fortunately, it doesn't bother my friend.

However, I have succumbed and bought some more of this wool, in a different colourway - these socks are for me and they tell a different story, which I'll share with you next time.  I just need some sunshine so that I can photograph them.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 5 November 2016

Five On Friday - About Guernsey

Hello, thank you for popping in, and thank you for your kind responses to my last post.  Lorrie captured my feelings perfectly when she described "gentle domesticity" and I have found some comfort in it this week, pottering around the house and garden.

There is also comfort in routine and so today I am joining Amy at Love Made My Home for Five on Friday.  I mentioned last time that the Best Beloved, The Teacher, Flashman and I went to Guernsey last week to spend some time with The Mathematician who is working there during her university placement year.  Here are five things we enjoyed in Guernsey.
1.  The Food
Unsurprisingly, the seafood was abundant and delicious - we enjoyed crab, mussels, scallops, prawns, calamari, sea bass... from 1st October for six weeks every year the Channel Islands run an event called Tennerfest during which participating restaurants offer special menus priced between £10 and £20.  We took advantage of this while we were there and ate some spectacular food.

Mini Fruits de Mer at Crabby Jack's

The Best Beloved's lunch at Crabby Jack's

 Seared Scallops with Rocket Salad at Urban Kitchen
2.  The German Occupation Museum
Guernsey was occupied by German forces from 30th June 1940 until 9th May 1945 and this privately-owned museum, developed from one boy's collection, comprehensively covers that period.  It is old-fashioned, stuffed full of documents and artefacts which have been put together thoughtfully in a series of themed roomsWe enjoyed it very much and told the attendant so; he replied that they have fewer and fewer visitors each year but that those who do come seem to be increasingly appreciative. 

3.  Fort Grey Shipwreck Museum
Fort Grey is a Martello Tower built in 1804 in Rocquaine Bay on the west coast of the island.  Getting there is an adventure as we had to walk out along the causeway and then climb the steps before entering the doorway, but it's not nearly as much of adventure as it was before the museum was opened in 1976 as until then, there were no steps and no doorway: the only way to get in was to use a ladder!  The museum is small but fascinating, the location is fab, looking out over the Hanois Reef and its lighthouse, and the attendant was lovely.  What more could you ask for in a museum?

4.  The Little Chapel
The Little Chapel is very little indeed at 5m x 3m and was first built in 1914 as a miniature version of the grotto and basilica at Lourdes.  This is its third incarnation and unfortunately, it is covered in scaffolding because the ground beneath it is subsiding.  (We have a family joke that wherever I visit, there is scaffolding - the only time I have been to Venice, the entire frontage of St Mark's Basilica was  covered in scaffolding!)  Major restoration work is underway to rescue the building and although it was closed for several months at the beginning of this year, it is now open and we were able to go inside.  Wowee!  These photographs don't do it justice; it is A-MA-ZING.

5. The Beaches
Ah, now you know how much I love to be beside the sea and wherever you are in Guernsey, it's never far away.  I couldn't wait to take my shoes off, feel the sand beneath my feet and paddle in the shallows.  I picked up shells - striped limpets, buttercup-coloured flat periwinkles and top shells glinting with nacre - explored rockpools and simply watched the light change over the water.  Bliss.


I had a romantic notion to sit on a beach with the Best Beloved and watch the sun set over the sea and although we were able to do just that one evening, the sky was cloudy so the reality didn't match my imagined scene.  It wasn't bad, though.

Of course, the best thing of all was being with both of my precious girls.
Now, if you have the time please hop over to Love Made My Home and see what everyone else is sharing this week.
See you soon with, I think, a post about knitting.  It's that time of year again.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x


Wednesday 2 November 2016


Hello, thank you for your patience, for your kind thoughts and your condolences, all very much appreciated.  September and October were very difficult months: two family deaths in September, both long lives lived well but suddenly gone, during which I worked for three weeks under a redundancy notice which was rescinded with five days to go.  "Phew!" I thought - my job is part-time but I love it and the meagre wages have made a big difference, so those weeks were stressful.  We spent the first half of October in that terrible limbo between death and funeral and to be honest, we didn't feel much better afterwards.  We live almost two hundred miles away from the rest of the Best Beloved's family and the inherent communication problems make things difficult.  There seems to be quite a lot of treading on eggshells. 

Last week was half term week so we went to Guernsey for five days with The Teacher and Flashman to see The Mathematician, who is working there for her university placement year.  The break and the time together did us all the power of good...although while we were there, my employer went into liquidation and the Best Beloved's school decided that they don't need him back, so we both became unemployed on the same day.  My employer owes me six weeks' wages and I might receive them before Christmas, or I might not.  Thank goodness for duty-free gin.
So, here we are back home.  The agency found some work for the Best Beloved on Monday and he is now booked up for the rest of this term - hurrah!  The trees are dressed in my favourite autumn colours and I can see lots of them from my windows - hurrah!  The sun is shining in a  blue sky with white fluffy clouds - hurrah!  I am taking deep breaths and trying to gently unwind the tightened ball of grief and anxiety I have become.
Yesterday, this involved a session of homely, old-fashioned, domestic cooking.  I made cottage pie for dinner - is it the ultimate comfort food? - and cooked enough mince for a couple more, now stashed away in the freezer.  I put the remnants of a chicken carcass in a pot with onion, carrot, peppercorns and herbs, covered it with water and simmered it for two hours.  At the end of that time, I lifted the lid and there it was: the smell of my parents' kitchen, the nostalgic smell of home.  My parents always made stock with a chicken or turkey carcass and then used it to make a homely soup with vegetables and lentils.  When I was first married I did the same, but soon discovered that the Best Beloved only really liked soup if it came out of a tin (57 varieties) so there seemed little point, and once The Teacher became vegetarian when she was nine years old there was no point at all.  Any need I had for chicken stock was satisfied by a cube (which, of course, is not the same thing).
So this is the first time I have made chicken stock for many years.  Recently, the Best Beloved has discovered a liking for chilled tubs of soup from the supermarket and he expressed a willingness to give my homemade soup a try, so tonight was the night.  I finely chopped an onion and a carrot, softened them in a smidgen of butter, added a handful of red lentils and the precious stock, added herbs and seasoning and let it all simmer for twenty-five minutes before adding the chicken I had stripped from the carcass. 
Gentle readers, I have to tell you that it was...a triumph.  The Best Beloved said that it was "really nice", which is as complimentary as he gets, and he pointed out that it is the third meal we have had from the chicken - roast on Sunday, sauted with vegetables and rice on Monday, soup today - which thriftiness is immensely satisfying.  That soup was delicious, nurturing body and soul.  Slowly, I am unwinding.
I'll be back soon to tell you about Guernsey.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 1 October 2016


Hello, thank you for calling in. I haven't been around much recently and yesterday saw the culmination of a long and very difficult week.  The Mathematician rang me first thing in the morning.  "I had a dream that Grandad died!  Just tell me," she said.  "Don't be silly," I replied,  laughing, "You're all right.  Now turn off your 'phone and go and take your exam."  I felt terrible and wondered if she would forgive me when, later that day, I would tell her that I had lied.
In the afternoon, The Teacher, the Best Beloved and I went to the Long Mynd, up, up, up to the top to leave the weight of our grief behind for a while and lose ourselves in the vastness of the sky. 

As the rainclouds rolled in and we made a dash for the car, The Teacher stopped and pointed towards the faint colours of a rainbow which was touching the horizon.  "Look," she said, "It's Grandad.  He's come to say goodbye."

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 20 September 2016

St Peter's Church, Melverley

Hello, thank you for calling in.  We are in the last few days of summer here, the sun has been shining and the temperature is still mild enough for short sleeves.  This has made the transition from holidays to termtime much softer and easier, our magical summer break doesn't seem too distant and I am still wearing a holiday glow, although it fades a little each day.

If you travel west to the very edge of Shropshire you will find the village of Melverley, right beside the River Vyrnwy.  On the other side of the river is Wales, for this is border country, the Welsh Marches.  The river meets the River Severn nearby, and so people have lived at this place for longer than anyone knows, and where people lived, they built churches.  The church which is there now is a replacement for the building which stood there before until it was burnt down in an act of arson in 1401.  In 1406, great pieces of oak were transported here and a sturdy wooden frame was built, a simple, rectangular, barn-like structure, the gaps between the oak were filled with wattle and daub, a thin coat of plaster was applied and then limewashed.  Not a single nail or screw was used, the wooden frame was held together with mortice and tenon  joints and wooden pegs.  A couple of hundred years later, a wooden screen and gallery were added, as was the fashion of the time, using wood salvaged from ships which had been broken up and transported up the river.  At some point, a bell tower was added, simple windows were installed to admit the light and in 1925, a stained glass window was fitted into the east end of the building.

The great pieces of oak are still standing beside the river 610 years later, the wattle and daub was replaced only twenty-five years ago and people are still gathering here to worship every Sunday.

One day in 1990, the keyholder came to open the church and when she entered the churchyard, she thought that the church had moved!  Of course it couldn't be true, and in fact it was not the church which had moved but the river bank, sliding into the water and bringing the river dangerously close to the church.  Action needed to be taken so a survey was done and a quote obtained to stabilise the bank: £50,000 was needed.  There are only fifty houses in the village and the sum seemed enormous but, as that keyholder explained to me, "We couldn't let the church go," so they applied for grants, sent begging letters and embarked on a programme of fundraising events.  The money was raised and the work began but as the contractors sought to secure the foundations of the building they discovered that...there were none!  More work was needed to underpin the church and so more letters were sent, more fundraising events held.  English Heritage awarded a grant of £90,000 but attached conditions, one of which was the removal of the wattle and daub and its replacement with fireproof material.  Some pieces of the oak timbers were replaced but again, not a single nail or screw was used, so the building is still held together with wooden pegs.  The final bill was in excess of £234,000 and the determination, creativity and hard work of the villagers in raising the money was rewarded not just by a secure building which is in no danger of being swept away downstream but also by being named Britain's Most Motivated Village 1991.  The prize for this was a plaque and several large sacks of daffodil bulbs to be planted in the churchyard...but irony lay in the fact that the church had great difficulty in motivating anybody to come and plant the bulbs!! 

The church is open every day but in truth there is not a great deal to see.  There is an ancient font, probably Saxon, big enough to immerse a baby in, a Jacobean pulpit and altar, an 18th century chained bible and a rather nice stained glass window. 

The reason to visit is the building itself and its beautiful setting beside the river.  It's a peaceful place, a place to stand in the footprints of people who have been worshipping God here for more than six hundred years and wonder at that fact, a place for contemplation and reflection and you may find spirituality in its simplicity. 

There is just enough room for one person to walk between the church and the hedge which is planted in the river bank.  Before the bank was swept away, there was room for a coach and horses to get through.

Oh, and if you go in the spring, the churchyard is full of golden daffodils.

See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 17 September 2016

Good Thoughts

Hello, thank you for dropping in, especially if you have come here via Love Made My Home.  Today I am joining in Five On Friday so if you have time, please do hop over there and see what everyone else is sharing today.
Today I am not going to share five things with you, instead, I am going to take five minutes to reflect on one thing.  The late Roald Dahl was born on 13th September 1916 in Llandaff in Cardiff and this week has seen many commemorations of his one hundredth birthday.  One quote of his which I have seen several times this week comes from The Twits:
“If a person has ugly thoughts, it begins to show on the face. And when that person has ugly thoughts every day, every week, every year, the face gets uglier and uglier until you can hardly bear to look at it.

A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts it will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.”
I LOVE this.  Firstly, if we think "good thoughts", those thoughts often make us feel happy and so we smile.  People with genuine smiles bring happiness to those around them and, I think, are regarded as more attractive than non-smilers.  Secondly, I have known several really "good" people, people who are kind-hearted, non-judgemental and put themselves out for others.  Their warmth is very attractive, it really does shine out of them like sunbeams and draws other people towards them to bask in it.  They are described as "lovely", a description of their nature which eventually does seem to transcend physical appearance.  

Roald Dahl was a wise man.
I have been trying to think a lot of good thoughts this week.  Whether or not it makes me look lovely, it certainly makes me feel lovely.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x