Friday 30 April 2021

Puss and Books

Hello!  Thank you for calling in, expecially as I have been so sporadic in posting.  I am happy that you are here.  Here we are on the last day of April, a month which, until the last few days, has been full of sunshine but very cold, with frosty mornings and even snow.  The other thing which has been abundant is blossom.  April has been white, pink, frothy and beautiful, although we haven't smiled all the way through as we lost both of our cats: Lyla was almost fifteen and rather frail, having suffered a dreadful poisoning when she was eighteen months old, and she went out one day and hasn't come home, while her daughter, Pippin, died peacefully in a basket in the kitchen one evening after a short illness. For the first time in thirty-two years there are neither cats nor children in the house and the atmosphere feels unnaturally still.  There is a new grave in the garden.

Pippin and Lyla

Before we bid farewell to April I thought that I really should show you the books I read in...March.  

I am still trying to make my way through the unread books which are already in the house but almost as soon as I had finished A Suitable Boy at the end of February my mother sent me The Children Act by Ian McEwan with her highest recommendation so I set to straight away.  The book is about a judge in the Family Division of the High Court who has to make a judgement in a case involving a teenager who requires a blood transfusion to save his life but is refusing it for religious reasons.  At the same time, the judge's marriage is in crisis.  I haven't seen the film but I can imagine that Emma Thompson was perfectly cast as Fiona, the judge.  I thought this book was brilliant and, at only 213 pages, I read it quickly.  I, too, give it my highest recommendation. 

The next book I read was The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, and I'm aware that I'm arriving late to this party.  I was browsing a second-hand book stall a few years ago when the other browser, a stranger, picked this book out, showed it to me and asked if I had read it.  I was a little taken aback by his direct manner and answered that I had not.  "You should do," he said.  My face must have given my thoughts away as I hesitated because he then said, "Really, I mean it.  You should buy this book."  So I did, and it has sat on my To Be Read shelf waiting for its turn.  This book is even shorter than The Children Act at only 161 pages and if you are unfamiliar with it, it's an allegory about finding your destiny, I have even seen it described as "a self-help book", but that doesn't mean that it's to be dismissed.  I enjoyed it, it's given me food for thought and I am glad that I read it.  "Finding your destiny" is the kind of phrase which would usually put me off, and if I had known that this book was about that I might have put off reading it for even longer, but if I rephrase that as "working out what you really want to achieve" it feels more pragmatic.  The next time a stranger accosts me at a bookstall I shall be more trusting.

The third book I read last month was Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  This was another second-hand purchase which I bought because it had won the Man Booker Prize and I thought I ought to read it, but that was a long time ago and I just didn't really fancy it.  This is also another film I haven't seen (there are a lot of them!) and all I knew about it was that it's about a boy who is cast adrift on the sea in a boat with a tiger.  My conceptions about this novel were all wrong and in fact, I loved it.  I expected it to be a rather philosophical text but it isn't, it's simply a wonderful book and I am not going to spoil it for you by telling you why.  If I ever see it on a second-hand bookstall, I shall be pressing strangers to buy it. 

I shall save my April reading for another post.  Tomorrow is May Day.  When I was a child in the 1970s I skipped around a maypole on the school playground wearing bluebells in my hair but I shan't be doing that tomorrow.  However, I may get up early and wash my face with the dew - unless it's frosty! 

See you soon.  Stay safe and take care. 

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x

Saturday 17 April 2021

Unlocked and Uplifted

Hello, thank you for calling in.  I have something exciting to share with you: for the first time since 2019 I HAVE BEEN AWAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

This is the second week of our Easter school holiday and as the covid restrictions were due to relax a bit on Monday the Best Beloved and I planned to take a few day trips but on Tuesday last week, when the Welsh government confirmed that the border would be opened to visitors from outside Wales on Monday 12th April, the Best Beloved suggested we go to Anglesey for a few days.  I got straight onto our favourite glamping site and booked us in for two nights.  

We began the day with breakfast in the park because the cafe was putting out tables and chairs for the first time this year.  To be honest, I was a little disappointed as there was no china or table service so it was basically operating as a takeaway with seating, but the sun was shining, the food was good and my spirits were high at the thought of going to the seaside.  Whoop whoop!  We went back home and I threw a few things into my bag: knickers, woolly socks, gloves, sunglasses, book, map, crochet project, fairy lights...what else does a girl need for a couple of nights away??  We decided to drive the scenic route and enjoy the journey, and it was a treat:  the sky was blue, the mountains were snow-capped and the fields were green and full of lambs, lots and lots of lambs, possibly thousands of lambs.  We arrived on the island at about 2pm and drove straight to Waitrose to buy some provisions - not our usual grocer but we wanted to indulge ourselves after so many months at home.  (This branch of Waitrose used to be a Co-op but Waitrose took it over...after Prince William and Catherine Middleton moved there in 2010!)  We arrived at the glamping site at 3pm, as arranged, and settled in to our pod.

On Tuesday the sun shone again and after a leisurely breakfast of poached eggs and smoked salmon on toast we drove out to Traeth y Gribin where we stayed for the afternoon.  After a walk along the strand line with my head down (seaweed, little dead crabs, cockle shells, limpets and painted top shells) I sat down to watch the light on the water change as clouds drifted across the sky, read my book and watch the birds.  As the tide receded, mudflats were revealed, punctuated by the small rocky ridges which give the beach its name as "gribin" means "serrated ridge", and to my delight, wading birds appeared.  Meanwhile, the Best Beloved went for a longer walk and then took a nap.  It was a perfect afternoon, even though I was wearing my big coat, a scarf, gloves and a hat.  This is exactly what I had been longing to do for months, you can stick me on a beach in almost any weather and I'll be a happy bunny for hours.  That evening we had fish and chips for dinner and watched the sunset through the glass doors of our warm and cosy pod. 


We left the pod at 10am the following morning.  The owners allow five hours between each occupancy to enable the pod to be thoroughly cleaned and we were asked to strip the bed and leave the doors and window wide open.  The communal kitchen is closed but a toaster and microwave oven had been added to the pod, which already had a kettle and a fridge, and we took a small, portable camping stove with us.  We were entirely self-contained and I felt very safe.  If you'd like to have a look, click here to see where we stayed.  

Before leaving the island we went to another beach.  Again, the sky was intensely blue and so was the water but it really was too cold to sit out so we sat in the car for an hour or so and enjoyed the view, carefully storing the memory in my mind because I don't know when I'll get to the sea again.

I really needed this break.  I was feeling very low beforehand, almost as flat as a pancake, finding it difficult to drum up enthusiasm or energy for almost anything at all.  This lockdown has significantly depleted my mental reserves but Anglesey air has blown the cobwebs right away and cleared the fog from my brain.  I was sad to leave the island behind but I have brought home with me a spring in my step, a smile on my face and some beautiful memories.  I am ready to face whatever the next few weeks bring. 

See you soon.  Stay safe and take care.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x 

Wednesday 7 April 2021

A Happy Easter

Hello, and Happy Easter, whenever you are celebrating!   According to the Anglican church, Easter is a season rather than a weekend and lasts for about seven weeks so my greeting isn't late at all, and some of you may not have celebrated Easter yet if you follow a different church tradition, but I'd like to share with you how I spent the weekend itself.

Good Friday is alternatively known as Hot Cross Bun Day in our house.  I ADORE those sweet, spicy, fruit-studded buns but I never eat them before Good Friday, when I shamelessly eat as many as I can get away with.  When I was young my father used to go to the bakery first thing in the morning and bring home a bag of them for our breakfast, still warm from the oven.  Mmmm!  When I was first married I expected the Best Beloved to do the same but it turns out that he doesn't like them so I was disappointed.  Frankly, HXBs are so important to me that it's amazing we are still married.  I made them myself once, more than thirty years ago, but there seemed little point in all that kneading and proving if he wasn't even going to try one so we reverted to shop-bought buns and later, the children and I would eat them for breakfast before going to the Hot Cross Bun Service at church and eating one or two more.  For many years now we have watched Jesus Christ Superstar during the afternoon of this holy day, it's the perfect day for it, and a tear or two has usually been shed.  We have the 2000 film version on dvd and I find it emotionally draining to watch, it's really quite harrowing.  I need the comfort of another toasted hot cross bun afterwards.

This year I discovered that my friend would be leading a digital Hot Cross Bun Service during the afternoon of Good Friday, preceded by an online hot cross bun bakealong during the morning, and having read many bloggers saying that homemade HXBs are so much better than shop-bought, I decided to join in.  We began at 10am and my friend had cleverly chosen a recipe which requires no kneading and only one prove - you'll find it here if you fancy it.  So we measured and mixed while she told us the bible story of the day and we chatted about our own Good Friday traditions.  I enjoyed it, and at the end of the session I had eight bun-shaped balls of dough on my baking sheet.  All I had to then was leave them to prove and another friend had given me a tip: she told me to turn my oven on to any temperature, leave it on for thirty seconds, turn it off and then pop the dough in.  I was scared that thirty seconds wouldn't be enough so in fact I left it on for sixty, but I shall do thirty next time.  An hour and a half later my balls of dough had risen into glorious buns.  I piped the crosses onto the top, baked them and glazed them as soon as they came out of the oven.  I felt as pleased as punch.  I am desperately trying to avoid using the word "smug" because it's not very nice.  At 2pm I split one of those buns, buttered it and joined the online service.  That bun was delicious.  I may never buy HXBs again.  Afterwards, the Best Beloved and I settled down and watched Jesus Christ Superstar and while it was on my Guernsey daughter sent me a photo of a packet of HXBs with the message that she was just about to watch the film too.  We hadn't discussed it in advance, she just wanted to maintain our family tradition.  I cried even more than I usually do.  

On Saturday I ate a couple more hot cross buns.  

On Sunday I got up very early and went to my friend's garden.  I think the sunrise service on Easter Day is my favourite church service of the year but as no local churches were holding one we had decided to celebrate together in her garden.  We lit a fire, the traditional symbol of the triumph of light over darkness, read some verses aloud (quietly, so as not to disturb her neighbours), drank tea and ate hot cross buns and chocolate mini eggs.  It felt just right.  The birdsong was louder than our voices and Mrs Blackbird kept travelling through the garden to an ivy-covered wall just beyond with beaksful of nest-building materials.  A buzzard wheeled overhead.  As I drove home I noticed the blossom-covered trees, swathes of daffodils lining the roads and a sweet grey squirrel on the verge. The sky had turned blue.

The Best Beloved and I spent the rest of the day alone.  The sun shone and in the afternoon he mowed the lawn while I was indoors as he, the non-lover of HXBs, had asked me to bake him some scones.  As I carried them out to the summerhouse I looked up and saw a heron flying over.  We ate the scones still warm, with cream and jam and accompanied by a pot of Earl Grey tea, while we watched a few bees hovering in the sunshine.   He was very happy and I felt all caked out, although it felt really good to be living outdoors again. My day was made complete when the Best Beloved told me about the evidence of fresh hedgehog activity which he had cleaned off the patio earlier!

On Monday it snowed!  I sorted out the squares I had crocheted during Lent and packed them up ready for the Best Beloved to take to the Post Office.  They are on their way to Woolly Hugs, a charity who will turn them into blankets for people who are unwell.  

May I just mention the weather?  You know how I like to.  A week ago the temperature here was 26 degrees and I had to cover the tiny people in suncream and jam sun hats onto their heads before we went into the garden.  I almost melted.  On Easter Sunday the temperature was 16 degrees in the sunshine and today it is 6 degrees.  Snow fell on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and my grandson is confused because he thought that winter was over and he is too young to have worked out that April can be capricious.  Here is the view from his window this morning.  This is why British people talk about the weather!

See you soon.  Please stay safe.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x