Monday, December 29, 2008

Christmas Tree

We went for a bracing (for that read blinking chilly!) walk yesterday in Perry Wood. We were well fuelled with huge breakfast - bubble and squeak, yummy ham, poached eggs, mushrooms and tomatoes! Raff took his new pop gun rifle and wore his flat hat and looked every bit the country lad!

At the end of the walk we came across this tree which had been decorated with food for the the birds, beautiful!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Hot Wheels

And here is an equally favourite present.
Stan just keeps saying "I'm SO happy, it's JUST what I wanted. I'm SO happy, it's just ............"

I quite like playing with it too - you may notice my hand rather alot!

Friday, December 26, 2008

Clone Troopers

Two of the happiest boys in the world as they got their one true wish at Christmas "Voice Change Clone Trooper helmets" of course - not world peace! Stan was slightly disgruntled that Father Christmas hadn't managed to put one in his stocking but luckily Grandpa Chris-mas sorted it out instead.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Winter Solstice

What a fabulous day, I feel like it's New Year's Day; I felt such a strong sense of new beginnings or of turning a new page.

Bright blue sky when we woke up, impromptu big breakfast with Polly and Simon when they came to collect their boys who had stayed over, which was lovely. Then I finally got on with some garden stuff - most importantly cleaning out the chickens - they were chicken-knee deep in pretty sordid muck, no wonder there are never any eggs, I think they are on strike.

After that I went for a "quick blast " with Mouse, which turned into the full 3 mile loop out to the sea and back along the creek. Well, the sun was beaming down and it felt rude not to celebrate it's solstice by soaking up the rays and I took loads of pictures - they will be paintings one day... From the sea wall looking back inland you can see nearly all of my favourite spots, Perry Wood, Blean, the marshes and Seasalter. I met friend who was walking from Whitstable back to Fav having been dropped there by his wife - I don't think in anger...? we should try it sometime.

The Konik ponies were looking a a little cold, Mouse was very excited to see them; it really is astonishing to walk 20 minutes from the house and be right amongst them. Close by in the field behind them was a vast flock of swans, who overwinter here, I must have counted 50, but the young are pretty well hidden so there were probably another 10 at least.

On the last leg I noticed the shadows that Mouse and I were making looked like Giacometti scupltures, so I snapped them for amusement.

And I just loved the colours of the mud - if you painted it the same purple no-one would believe that was how it looked.

Rounded off the day by gong to Dan And Annies Christmas drinks, with Dan's spectacular mince pies - they are made with a super tasty spiced meat filling, with pine nuts and apricots; I definately had my fair share! Someone there mentioned that it was 9 lessons and carols at 6.30, so we found ourselves easily persuaded - or was that the sherry and Prosecco talking? - to go along and have a good old sing! So I am thoroughly in the mood now for a jolly festive time - just a shame I have to go to work tomorrow before thoroughly embracing the season of eating and drinking to excess!

Brown paper packages....

tied up with string..

Made a new recipe Christmas cake last night which involved a great deal of lining the tin and even wrapping it in brown paper and string. It smells pretty outrageously good, here's hoping it tastes good, if it does I 'll share the recip'

Friday, December 19, 2008

Christmas is coming

Kids have finally finished school for the hols (hooray!) and even though I still have to go back to work on Monday, it will be a breeze! At least we won't have any more missives from school asking for "a Roman soldier's outfit, King's costume, cakes for two school fairs and money for the school panto trip, plus contributions for the Tombola and confirmed numbers for the Christmas meal", all in one day!!! I kid you not, just over a week ago we laid out the bits of paper received in one day from the two schools and that is pretty much what was being asked for THAT day!!

But the magic of Christmas is not quite buried under all those demands. We got our tree last weekend - succumbing to an absurdly expensive one as I insisted on a 'nice' one. It's not yet fully decorated which is a bit tragic but nearly all of the lights from the last few years had finally had it and it took a while to find anywhere with any left in stock. Then G was performing at a concert in London and so the boys and I only dared put a few things on the tree when she was out - we still got a full on sulk on her return for daring to do that, and since then there just hasn't been time. So I have promised a full on decorating session in the morning, which probably means I will come down and find that she has done it tomorrow before anyone else is awake!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Tim Dowling - Saturday Guardian

If I only manage to find the time at the weekend to skim the papers - of which there are always too many - I absolutely have to read the food, gardening and Tim Dowling columns. The latter nearly always has me weeping with laughter by the end of the first paragraph and Michael has to submit to me reading out random sentences whilst hooting with laughter. It may be that you have to read it for a few weeks before you get into his groove, but I recommend you search him out for a serious hit of endorphins! This week's is a classic and I am still wiping away the tears!!

'I have known my wife for many years, and the children are right to be afraid'

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Fabulous Day

It's amazing what sunshine can do. My soul is recharged and uplifted.
The list of garden jobs was getting a little out of hand and with the next few weekends looking pretty hectic it was today or bust! I have conquered most of it. Dead shrub has been dug up, plants which I tolerated but did not love have been sent to the compost heap; I wanted a bonfire really but it was all too damp and would have invited the wrath of Knibbs if smoke had gone across his garden - not worth repeating, ever!
I have been painting with plants in my imagination, moving things and putting in new favourites and underplanting with lots of bulbs. I am bound to have forgotten some of the plants which have already died back, and there may be a little jostling and pushing in the spring, but nothing too disastrous I am sure.
Last night we went to the Mt Ephraim fireworks - first time we have been to a 'proper' display for at least 6 years! It was spectacular, truly beautiful and as Michael said, almost more exciting to watch the faces of Stan and Raff as they took it all in.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Raff - rock star!

Taken in the summer, but I love it and wanted to share!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Veg patch slipping into Autumn

Looks a bit sad, but it is still being productive. - we had a lovely salad from it yesterday and there are still leeks, beetroot and chard to be had, plus Raff's carrots and baby corn.

I have sown green manure on two of the beds - Phacelia on one and Hungarian Rye grass on the other. Next I need to get some Broad Beans in -they were rubbish this year as I got them in too late and in the old patch which I think has become truly exhausted. I have begun thinking about what to do with that bit, but can't decide between a meadow made up just from flowering annuals, inspired by Gardens Illustrated or the Derek Jarman inspired shingle garden that I had previously planned for that end.


I went to a Private View recently of a project called the 'Importance of Elsewhere' - the artists had worked with an anthology of Philip Larkin poems as their juming off point. Written on acetate in beautiful script and stuck to a window in an attic room overlooking the lights and buildings that make up the remains of Chatham's industrial past, was this poem. Apparently it's about Hull but it could so easily have been the Medway which is the 'widening river's slow presence'.
Getting home and reading it here, where the land also ends suddenly, it speaks to me even more and reminds me how much I love his writing and how I should go back to reading poetry amongst all of the fiction.


Swerving east, from rich industrial shadows
And traffic all night north; swerving through fields
Too thin and thistled to be called meadows,
And now and then a harsh-named halt, that shields
Workmen at dawn; swerving to solitude
Of skies and scarecrows, haystacks, hares and pheasants,
And the widening river's slow presence,
The piled gold clouds, the shining gull-marked mud,

Gathers to the surprise of a large town:
Here domes and statues, spires and cranes cluster
Beside grain-scattered streets, barge-crowded water,
And residents from raw estates, brought down
The dead straight miles by stealing flat-faced trolleys,
Push through plate-glass swing doors to their desires -
Cheap suits, red kitchen-ware, sharp shoes, iced lollies,
Electric mixers, toasters, washers, driers –

A cut-price crowd, urban yet simple, dwelling
Where only salesmen and relations come
Within a terminate and fishy-smelling
Pastoral of ships up streets, the slave museum,
Tattoo-shops, consulates, grim head-scarfed wives;
And out beyond its mortgaged half-built edges
Fast-shadowed wheat-fields, running high as hedges,
Isolate villages, where removed lives

Loneliness clarifies. Here silence stands
Like heat. Here leaves unnoticed thicken,
Hidden weeds flower, neglected waters quicken,
Luminously-peopled air ascends;
And past the poppies bluish neutral distance
Ends the land suddenly beyond a beach
Of shapes and shingle. Here is unfenced existence:
Facing the sun, untalkative, out of reach.

Philip Larkin

Friday, October 10, 2008

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Planning my mid-life crisis...

Don't say you haven't all been warned!
Georgia is 10 on Friday and whilst a very exciting and an amazing milestone, it is nonetheless causing me no small amount of reflection. Mostly on the subject of "where did those 10 years go and what did I do in them?". I remember so vividly turning 10 and how quickly after that 16, 18, 21 and 30. Is her life going to get up to warp speed now too?
Her birthday coincides with my first week working properly full time for the first time since before she was born - for the past 4 months it has been 4 days per week, but now I am a 5 day a week girl and that too is daunting; I have prized my Fridays, free to go for huge walks with the dog, visit friends, do things without anyone else and will feel the loss of that small breathing space keenly.
But, before it sounds as though I am disappearing down my black hole, I love my new job, it's fantastic, challenging and rewarding. I guess it's just all about adjustments and there have been so many to make recently.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Stan leaves home!

Well. it's finally happened, all my children have flown out into the world, I can no longer claim them as mine.

Of course what I mean to say is that Stan started school today. He looked great, all dressed up in his smart uniform and setting off very confidently (although he was holding my finger VERY tightly in the playgound). He was a little miffed not to be taking his new lunchbox, but they have a very slow settling in period; for the first 2 weeks they only stay until 12, then the third week they have lunch but go home soon after and then eventually stay all day. It means some canny juggling with work but hopefully will work out okay.
The after effects of his very busy morning reading stories and "playing with toys" were as expected, but on waking he did polish off a very respectable 2 helpings of supper.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

School trip to the woods

I went with Raff and all of the Year 2 kids to Kings Wood yesterday for a wonderful day of walking, looking at the sculptures and then making our own. It was fun, exhausting and thankfully sunny as the forecast had been for rain.
This is a piece called The RingRaff made a wonderful scorpion of which he was very proud, especially when we got to the 'show and tell' part of the day.

The end of a lovely day, thanks Raff for letting me share it with you x

Friday, June 20, 2008

raff's birthday

It has been drawn to my attention that I haven't posted recently (enough) for doting grandparents! And in particular that Rafferty's birthday has gone by without comment! It's all because of this full time working m'larkey you know, it does rather take up alot of one's time!
Anyhow here are some pictures of my lovely Raff's party at the 10 pin bowling place in Whitstable, much fun was had by all (small) people.
It was the first sunny afternoon for weeks so I was a bit cross to be inside, but we went to the beach afterwards for an evening pint and that cheered me up no end. The most important things though was that Raff had an absolutely top time and rather fortuitoulsy won!! Hooray !!

And hooray for Polly geting the beers in!

Phil thought Raffy might need to cool off after all his exertions...

Not sure if Stan is urging him on or rushing to Raff's defence!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Great Dixter

In amongst all this construction and earth moving I gave myself a treat, long promised, to visit the fabulous gardens by Christopher Lloyd at Great Dixter. It's only an hour away from here, but I have never found the time to go before. I went with Annie Mowll, and sans children - although we agreed afterwards that it is a magical garden that children would love exploring. Because we had to be back in Faversham by 3 we got there really early -the nursery opens an hour before the gardens, so we mooched around looking at the beautifully laid out specimens and glimpsing views to the house beyond. We had a chance to enjoy a coffee and cake in total solitude before the hoards arrived, a real treat.

One of my overwhelming experiences of the garden is that it is truly a work in progress, not a museum piece. Christopher Lloyd worked very closely with his head gardener Fergus to keep it fluid and since Christopher's death it is still always changing and moving forward. The gardens are laid out in amongst formal yew hedging and topiary but are not at all formal themselves - the only straight lines were in the kitchen gardens - even the buildings have wobbly edges - as with this amazing barn roof.

Another striking and well known feature of Christopher Lloyd's planting is the riotous mix of colours, none more so that in the huge collections of potted plants by the front door and on various terraces, I'm not sure I am brave enough.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Hooray Hooray Beds are all built!

Almost there.....
Georgia and Fintan got going with the planting in her bed - lettuce, a pumpkin, carrots a mix of annuals called "butterfly mix" and red cosmos, later we added dwarf sweet peas to a wigwam in the middle. Raff has runner beans, baby sweetcorn, carrots and a strawberry plant, Stan has courgette "for daddy" and baby sweetcorn to follow.

And I got going with my planting - some of Georgia's spare lettuce - she had sown a whole packet earlier in the year which I 'lovingly' and through gritted teeth, pricked out - I think there were 90! Mum has some in London, Dot has many more and I got the last 20 or so!
I also transplanted a load of leeks which our lovely Asparagus people, Peter and Carolyn from Blackbird Cottage had given me. Plus peas which I had sown in guttering a la Sarah Raven. Calendula Officinalis, self sown seedlings from the 'old' veg patch to add some colour. Also French beans went in, dwarf and climbing, various salads, beetroot and more peas as seed for succession. It has now rained for the last 2 nights and today, so I think it should all do very well - now we need a little warmth! The picture that follows is from the doorway of my shed where I sit ad drink tea and contemplate what to do next. I intend to keep taking pics from this spot to chart the progress.
And meanwhile in a parallel universe Michael has been progressing with the treehouse project. He has come up with an amazing engineering solution to the fact that it is very windy here and the treehouse platform needs to be able to move with the wind. I can't really show it with pictures, but the joists are only attached at one end to the beams so that they can slide back and forward without shearing the bolts. Isn't he clever!! By the end of yesterday he had completed the floor and a ladder - now he's working on the anti-falling off structure!
Treehouse building needs MANY tools!
Happy children!!