Saturday 27 February 2016

Five On Friday - Birdwatching

Hello, thank you for dropping in, especially if you have come here via Amy at Love Made My Home.  Thank you very much if you left a comment on my last post - I was quite overwhelmed, and for those of you who were wondering, no, we don't keep a pig in our sty, all we have left of it is one wall and the brick floor, which we have extended with the bricks which used to make the other walls so that we can use it as a patio.  We actually refer to it as "the pigsty patio" which seems to horrify some people.  When it's all lovely in the summer, I'll show you.  I was fascinated to learn that in the USA, pigsties and privies were built of wood rather than brick - one of things I enjoy most about Blogland is the window it gives onto other parts of the world.  It also seems that quite a few of us have childhood experiences of outdoor loos and you may be appalled to hear that when I was at university in 1985 the house I lived in had no indoor loo! 
Last weekend the Best Beloved and I went on a little jaunt to North Wales.  Our first stop was The Spinnies, a nature reserve just outside Bangor which we haven't been to before.  A short walk took us to a bird hide which looked out onto a small lagoon.  Unfortunately, the very windy weather had sent most of the aquatic birds into the shelter of the reeds so we didn't see as many as I had hoped to see, but there were plenty of little birdies on the feeders and the Best Beloved took some pretty photos which I thought I'd share with you.  So here are four common British birds and one rather rarer one.
1.  Nuthatch
I have occasionally seen nuthatches in the woods but I have never been this close to one before.  I think they are one of my favourites. 
2.  Mr Chaffinch
The chaffinch is one of the commonest garden birds in Britain but I have never seen one in my garden.  (Don't worry, I have seen plenty of other birds, just not one of these.)
3.  Mrs Chaffinch
Ah, now here is his wife, looking rather plainer than her dandy of a husband. 
4.  House Sparrows
Numbers of house sparrows have declined drastically over the last forty years, perhaps by more than 70%, so I appreciate them a lot more than I used to, but there was no shortage of them here at The Spinnies.
5.  Little Egret
Now here is the star of the show and I am sorry that this is the closest we could get - it's a small, white heron with black legs and big, yellow feet.  According to my bird book, published in 1993, this bird is a "scarce visitor" to this country but apparently, they first bred here in Dorset in 1996 and are now seen in a number of places on the south coast of England...and in Wales, obviously.  This is only the second time I have seen one and we watched it for a long time.  Magnificent, especially when it stretched its wings and flew.
So, I hope you enjoyed this little ornithological post.  If you have time, you might want to hop over to Love Made My Home and see who else is joining in with Five On Friday this week.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Friday 19 February 2016

Five On Friday - The Tollhouse

Hello, thank you for dropping in, especially if you have come here via the lovely Amy at Love Made My Home, you are all very welcome.  Today is the first anniversary of Five On Friday so first of all THANK YOU to Amy for setting it up and hosting for us. 
The Best Beloved and I have been back to visit Blists Hill Victorian Town in Madeley in Telford and today I would like to show you the tollhouse.  Designed by Thomas Telford, the county surveyor after whom the new town was named, it was built in the early nineteenth century and stood on the Holyhead Road, now the A5, north of Shrewsbury.  When the road was widened in the early 1970s, the tollhouse was due to be demolished but instead it was rescued, dismantled brick-by-brick and rebuilt here at the open air museum.

Shall we go inside?  If we go through the parlour at the front of the house we can go straight into the kitchen, the heart of the home, where the fire was lit for warmth and for cooking -

There are two bedrooms; here is the master bedroom, with a wooden cradle on the left, right beside the bed -

and here is the bedroom in which the children would have slept, four or five of them -

The patchwork cover on the bed and the rag rug on the floor were matters of necessity in times when money was short and nothing could be wasted.
Outside the house, there is a garden in which vegetables were grown to feed the family.  There is also one of these -

Do you know what it is?  The lower building on the left with the wall around it is a pig sty.  Every year, the family would rear a pig, fattening it up before slaughtering it for the family table.  The winter frosts would clean the empty sty before a new piglet was bought the following spring.  The building attached to the right is the privy (toilet).  Well, I suppose it made sense to keep all your stinky smells in the same place!  Gentle reader, I have a special reason for showing you this little building: I live in a little Victorian terraced house and when I moved in, there was in the garden the ruins of a little brick building.  These same ruins were in our neighbours' gardens too, and I eventually discovered that each house was built with a pig sty in its garden.  However, having worked out the footprint of the sty, we just couldn't work out what the extra bit was for and it was only when we visited Blists Hill and I saw this, several years later, that I realised it was the privy.  So there would have been a set-up exactly like this in my back garden.
I hope you have enjoyed my five pictures of the tollhouse at Blists Hill.  If you would like to find out more about it, have a look here, and if you have time, pop over to Love Made My Home and see what everyone else is sharing this week.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Tuesday 16 February 2016


Hello, thank you for calling in.  It's very cold here now but I guess that's all relative, if I lived in Siberia I may think it positively balmy.  We are not downhearted, oh no, the skies are blue, the sun is shining and I have my vest on and my muffatees so I am just fine.  Snowdrops, daffodils and crocus are all blooming their heads off and I am smiling my thanks right back at them.

I have had a birthday.  I do believe in birthday celebrations, one day of the year to let someone know how loved and special they are, a day to feel like a queen or a king.  Just one day of the year.  In our house, birthdays always begin with a celebratory breakfast, even on a school day; we get up early together and eat warm croissants with butter and jam, cards and gifts are opened and cooed over and the birthday girl or boy then heads off out with a spring in his or her step and a heart full of love.  This year, however, was to be different: for the first time since 1989 I would not be seeing either of my children, so I was feeling a little forlorn.  I needed to plan something different - as a wise woman said to me, it couldn't be the same but it could be just as good.
Don't get me wrong, the Best Beloved offered to get up early and heat up croissants, but he leaves home before 7am and I really didn't want to get up that early, so I declined his generous offer.  Instead, I rose at a civilised hour and came downstairs to find a vase full of flowers on the table.  This was a beautiful surprise as frugality has meant no gifts for a couple of years and I really wasn't expecting it.  The kitchen was full of the smell of newly baked bread as the Best Beloved had made a wholemeal loaf in the breadmaker overnight.    I ran a bath full of bubbles, switched on the radio and spent a glorious soak with a large mug of Earl Grey and a book.  Bliss.  I took some congratulatory 'phone calls.  At about 11.30am I cooked myself a rather scrummy brunch: toasted bread, butter, smoked salmon, poached eggs and baby plum tomatoes, a veritable feast, and I sat at the kitchen table and ate it very slowly from one of my best Royal Doulton plates, enjoying every mouthful, while I opened my cards and gifts. 

It was a special treat.  Outside the window, clouds were scudding across the blue sky but the sun was doing its very best to shine behind them.  
No photoshopping here - the sky was really that blue.
A little later, I went to work.  I stopped at the greengrocer's shop on the way and bought bunches of daffodils, tied some ribbons around them and gave them to my colleagues when I got there.  They were a bit perplexed until I explained that it was my birthday, that I had received a lot of happiness and I wanted to spread it around.  They understood.
In the evening, the Best Beloved and I went out for a meal, another lovely treat, just the two of us, and when we got home we spoke to The Mathematician on Skype.  It was a strange day, unlike other birthdays I have had, and I would be lying if I said that I didn't miss our girls, but it was a good day.  Different, but good.  Time is moving on and I am moving with it.
See you soon.
Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Wednesday 3 February 2016

Family Folklore - A Follow-Up

Hello, thank you for calling in, and thank you for your comments on my last post, I love to read them.  Today's post follows on from that one...My mother rang me after she had read my post about her evening in the theatre with Churchill and Monty.  "And I have to tell you that not only have I been in the same room as Churchill when he was alive, but I have also been in the same room as him when he was dead!" she said.  "Whaaaaat?!" was my astounded reply.  Here is the story...

Winston Churchill died on 24th January 1965 at the age of 90.  His funeral was held a week later, on 31st January, at St Paul's Cathedral and for three days beforehand, his body lay in state in Westminster Hall.  During those three days, the Hall was open for 23 hours a day for members of the public to come and pay their respects, and 321,360 people did so.  Imagine that, more than 100,000 people each day!  People of all ages queued up and then slowly walked around the Hall at shuffling pace, without stopping - if you have been to Anne Frank's house in Amsterdam or the Crown Jewels in the Tower of London you will know exactly what this was like.  Here is Alfred Egerton Cooper's painting, entitled Lying-in-State of Winston Churchill in Westminster Hall, to give you an idea of the scene.

My grandmother, who I called Granny, was very keen to go and pay her respects but since childhood she had had what we referred to as "a bad leg" and so she wasn't able to stand and queue, so it looked as if she wouldn't be able to go.  However, somebody told my mother that there was an unpublicised special arrangement for disabled people, who wouldn't have to queue.  Obviously, there was no internet to help her find out more details so what did she do?  She telephoned the news desk at the Daily Telegraph, of course!  Yes, if they arrived first thing in the morning, they would be able to go straight in and bypass the queue.

So, Ma and Granny set off on the train from Clapton to Westminster.  Although not a long journey, it was difficult and uncomfortable for Granny, who was 65 years old and not very agile, having to negotiate lots of steps and the jostling crowds of commuters travelling to work.  Fortunately, she was able to sit down on the train.  She was also anxious that the journey may be a fruitless one as she was not officially classed as "disabled".  However, when they got to Westminster Hall at the appointed time, they explained their situation and were directed straight to the viewing platform.  Having paid their respects to our great leader, they left and were back home by 10.30am.

So there you are, the time my mother was in the presence of the very late Winston Churchill.  Now then, gentle reader, this was notable because in those unenlightened times, there was a distinct lack of facilities for disabled people - no special seating areas in theatres and football grounds as there are now, no ramps or dedicated toilets anywhere.  If you were disabled, you had to accept that there were places you just couldn't access.  This special arrangement was made because at this time, twenty years after the end of the Second World War, there were still plenty of ex-servicemen alive who were disabled because of their wartime injuries and who would want to pay their respects to our great wartime leader.  In this country, we had to wait for another thirty years for the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 to make the provision of services and facilities for disabled people compulsory.  As we talked about the train journey there, Ma said that I should not pay any attention to the notion that people were friendlier and more considerate in those days than they are now: although somebody gave up a seat for Granny, nobody did the same for Ma, who had to stand for the entire journey...even though she was almost nine months pregnant!  After all, I was born less than a fortnight later.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x