Category Archives: Family life

The Lent Garden – 39

2 Apr

Maundy Thursday and there were various errands to do in order to stock up before the weekend. I finished off the Simnel cake.

2 apr 2015 (2)

The only garden task was to attend to ‘Mrs Cholmondeley’ and her tying in. There wasn’t quite enough wire for the leafy tendrils to get started on so they were beginning simply to wrap around each other. The shoots are still so soft and tender that it needs a very delicate touch to disentangle them. But it’s good to know that she’s putting on some growth.

There are baby catkins appearing on the Salix too.


In the evening there was the Maundy Thursday service, which commemorates the first Eucharist at the Last Supper. It’s always a very moving occasion, especially at the end when the altar is stripped of all its candles, fabric and crosses. The chancel and side aisle lights are extinguished so that you can only just see a bare rough wooden cross behind the altar, and we remain seated for an hour or so in silent vigil by candlelight.

Then Jesus went with his disciples to a place called Gethsemane, and he said to them, “Sit here while I go over there and pray.” He took Peter and the two sons of Zebedee along with him, and he began to be sorrowful and troubled. Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Going a little farther, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. “Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he asked Peter.  “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

Matthew 26: 36-41



The Lent Garden – 25

15 Mar

It’s Mothering Sunday, the fourth Sunday in Lent, also known as Laetare Sunday from the introduction for the day ‘Rejoice, O Jerusalem …’ (Isaiah ch66 v10). Traditionally this is a day during the Lent where you can relax from the rigours of the season, so I have given myself the day off from garden tasks.

It also happens to be raining, grey and a bit chilly.

And then our daughter has been visiting for the weekend and she and her young man made us a wholesome and tasty lunch. They have adopted a vegan diet for March – but that’s another story altogether.

Good things about autumn

WINKWORTH 3 2009 aYou have to swish through crisp dry leaves on the pavement, no matter how old you are.

Braised lamb shanks with a good red wine.  Apple and blackberry crumble.

Drawing the curtains at tea time and staying in.

Researching Christmas menus, and spending a few therapeutic days peeling, parboiling, baking, ‘getting ahead’, while thinking about good times to come with family and friends.

Baby in wonderland

high chairIt has been a joy recently to spend some time with the grandchildren during their half term. I love the insights you get about the way they see the world. This may be something you have more time to appreciate as a grandparent, being now at a remove from the relentlessness of the daily parental grind.

The little boy who’s now spent seven months on earth is greatly intriguing. He’s a calm (mostly) and serious chap, and a deep thinker, occasionally known as The Professor. And everything is a source of wonder to him, just everything. All inanimate objects, people, animals, noises, smells, perspectives are things to be considered, felt, tasted, pulled, observed, just to see what happens. Life is about curiosity, experiment, review and then storage of the conclusions in a rapidly growing mental database.

A special highlight for me was a moment when his dad had paused in administering the morning cereal and gone to attend to the increasingly insistent needs of an older sister. Just the baby in his high chair and me left in the now peaceful kitchen. The plastic bowl of half-finished gloop beckoned to both of us. Never slow in grabbing an opportunity to feed people I assumed the position, tendering a decent spoonful towards the cherubic mouth. His eyes opened wide before his mouth did. I could see the internal mental workings: ‘Whoah – you can do this too?? That’s another amazing thing! Wow! Imagine that! I thought it was only mum and dad who could do that thing with my food. Well then, best get on with it.’ And in no time at all the bowl was empty and the baby was full.

It’s such a fleeting stage, this series of first encounters with everything there is. In a few weeks and months he will move on to official play, to words and verbal interactions, to the ups and downs of relationships. But this week I feel I’ve witnessed a salutary reminder that it’s good to make room in our lives for a sense of wonder, however long we’ve been around.

Tea thoughts from abroad

It must be 4 o'clock

It must be 4 o’clock

The French way of life, at least insofar as I have experienced it, has much to recommend it. I am a keen advocate of l’entente cordiale and will pop over there at the drop of any old chapeau. But there’s just one problem: it’s all but impossible to get a decent cup of tea once you cross the Channel.

Problem tea is not just a French conundrum of course. Almost any tea not made in one’s own kitchen just doesn’t taste right, which I assume is down to the familiarity of the local water at home and the patina built up on the inside of the domestic pot (tea made with a bag in a mug is bound to disappoint, being at once both too strong and too weak). But the issue seems peculiarly acute in France.

What, really, is so difficult? Use fresh water, boil it (yes that’s actually to boiling point, for example until the kettle switches itself off), then use it in the not too distant future, pouring the appropriate quantity over, say, Assam leaves or bags in a pot, allow it to brew for an absolute minimum of five minutes, ten to be on the safe side. Serve with milk, offering sugar as required. Personally I like the milk in first, but my sister is a post-lactarian and I can live with that.  But somehow much of this good practice escapes our French cousins. In a cafe or restaurant you are offered a yellow packet containing a Lipton Tea bag, no bad thing in itself, but generally it sits without conviction on the saucer which accompanies a cup of water apparently drawn from the hot tap, sometime earlier that day.

These days we order coffee.

But, all is not lost. Our French best friends have seen the light, and Madame can make a pot of tea worthy of a true anglophile. When we visited recently we instituted a tradition (for both of the weeks we were there) of meeting at their house for Friday afternoon tea, and what a pleasing experience it was.

Despite the unfamiliar kitchen in the gite we were renting and the perplexities of the French flour options in the supermarket, I managed to produce some scones one week and lemon shortbread the next. These were greeted with amazement and delight, not least by a teenage son returning hungry from school. But no, en fait ma chere, these are as rock cakes baked on a Stone Age fire compared to the exquisiteness of the tartelettes aux pommes, the mini operas, the eclairs and the macarons adorning the windows of the local patisseries. Perhaps a standard English brew doesn’t come easily, but there other compensations.

And finally …  a tea joke …

‘Why do Marxists always drink Earl Grey?’

‘Because proper tea is theft’.

Thank you and goodnight.

Sandy toes in Sandbanks

animals,aquatic animals,nature,Photographs,scallop shells,scallops,seashells,shells,wildlife


Oh how we laughed, little Alfie and I, as the waves came over my sandals. It’s been so long since I was at the seaside that I’d forgotten you have to take your shoes off before you reach the shifting water. He, a seasoned two and a half years old was better prepared with his sun-suit, hat and plastic shoes. So I stepped back to slip off the damp but unharmed footwear and then such an absorbing time we had choosing and washing the ‘seasholls’ – oysters, razor shells, cockles. Smooth, sharp, rough, ridged, lined, pitted. It’s a serious business, examining, testing, discussing the merits and demerits of each one – mostly in words which were unfamiliar to me but which always made sense to him. The damp sand the colour of salt caramel, the little foamy waves lapping around our toes. Once the collection was complete, in his opinion, we carried the treasures carefully back up the beach to mum, swapping the firm caramel for bleached smooth running sugar-sand.

A perfect English summer seaside day, sun, with a breeze to keep us cool, blue sky, blue sea, a quiet beach, but enough activity on the water to inspire speculation and conversation. The house behind the dunes to retreat to for a picnic and a glass of cool wine. The extended family meaning there were always enough small children around to give you the excuse to focus for a while on finding just the right seashell.