Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Birthday surprises

Yesterday was # 1 son's birthday. Here he is on graduation day over 30 years ago. Both his children are now at Uni and he expected a quiet birthday week-end with his wife. As usual she met him at the station and they drove home. When they reached home my DIL asked him to get some things out of the boot. He said there wasn't anything in the boot but she insisted. He opened the boot and voila - out jumped his son Tom - all 6' plus of him
They had only been in the house a few minutes and in strolled his daughter - also escaped for UNI for the week-end.
I can't imagine any better birthday present.

Telling MTL about it we remembered my favourite 80th birthday present. Not the gorgeous ring from MTL - but the boys and their families had arranged a lunch at my favourite pub; the grandchildren wouldn't be able to make it of course as it was term time. The boys drove over to pick us up whilst my DIL's arranged the table and presents. I got up to date news of the children whilst we were driving and walked in to the room with dazzling sunlight so it was a miute or so before I realised that Tom, Sam and Alice were there with big grins on their faces.
It really made my day.
Have you had a lovely surprise lately? They are the best
I think.
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Sunday, November 27, 2011

The woodman didn't listen to Phil Harris.

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Lovely Day

Somehow MTL managed to get to the shops to buy card, chocs and champers and a delicate little silver bracelet which I really did not expect.

“Well you don’t have much silver.” It would have been churlish to remind him of the Greek and Canadian spoils and this has the added benefit that it can be manoeuvered on and off without fiddling with catches.

We had a quiet relaxing day with the good news that the French family are coming in February as is the Norfolk branch who are breaking their holiday to take us out to lunch. The Hertfordshire branch is coming in April and the Wiltshire branch any weekend now. We were delighted to receive an illustrated account of all the schools our Australian grandson had attended both here and in Oz.

The taxi arrived promptly and we found the bar at the Luttrell Arms buzzing with a larger shooting party (pheasants apparently), they must have had a good day because they were drinking champagne. The dining room is on three levels and they were below us but the waiter assured us once they had food silence would reign.

We chatted to a friendly couple who were staying at the hotel to book Dunster Castle for their daughter’s wedding in 2013. Is this normal now? I mean suppose they go off each other and their parents have spent the earth. I do think the wedding business has got a little out of hand and think sometimes the more it cost the shorter it lasts. But that’s just me.

I’d love to say the food was mouth wateringly good – we have had such great food lately – but it was disappointingly ordinary. The ambience was good, the staff were helpful and we still find lots to talk about so it didn’t spoil the evening.

Below see giant bellows in the bar and the middle section of the dining room.

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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Well said

The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

Thomas Jefferson

The most wasted of all days is one without laughter.


Dream as if you’ll live forever, live as if you’ll die tomorrow.

James Dean.

Wisdom is offtimes nearer when we stoop than when we soar.

William Wordsworth

Eighty percent of success is showing up.

Woody Allen

I count myself in nothing else so happy as in a soul remembering my good friends.

William Shakespeare

The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.

Helen Keller

We are not retreating – we are advancing in another direction.

General Douglas Macarthur.

No one can whistle a symphony. It takes a whole orchestra to play it.

H.E, Luccock

Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.

Henry Ford

Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, a touch that never hurts.

Charles Dickens

One should always play fair when one had the winning cards.

Oscar Wilde

Woody Allen
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Helen Keller
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Sunday, November 20, 2011

Rebecca Ferguson: she didn't win X Factor but she is a singer and songwriter par excellence.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Happy Endings?

I’ve just been reading http://avagabonde.blogspot.com/ post on the wonderful blog meets she has had. Actually I have only heard – not in any detail alas - of one ghastly one. One doesn’t have to actually meet fellow bloggers – I can think of at least three Americans - to feel a close bond, and the thought occurred to me: did anybody get married or form a lasting partnership through meeting a fellow blogger?

I’ve found my hairdresser – or at least her mobile number and she is coming on Monday to cut and blow dry - I’ll shampoo it first. This works quite well as Wednesday is our 32nd wedding anniversary and MTL suggested we dine at the Luttrell Arms in Dunster. We always eat well there but the last time we stayed the room was less than immaculate so it had to be changed, although when we had MTL’s 80th there, some of the family stayed and were quite satisfied. Possibly just a blip

M our handyman is due this morning to look over the hall, stairs and landings, and also the attic rooms with a view to painting and decorating. The problem is that at present there is a blending of shabby chic all over and any fresh d├ęcor is going to highlight the rest. And all those doors – even more than we had in my old Victorian house.

I’m re-reading ‘Wallis’ the infamous Duchess of Windsor who caused Edward VIII to renounce the throne when he found his beloved would not be tolerated as Queen.

Whilst on the Riviera one of the many places they leased was the Chateau La Croe.

Lady Mendl herself turned up to participate. Soon the house carried the authentic Mendl touch: a riot of mirrors, extravagantly elaborate gold and white mouldings, yellow, white and blue draperies and whirlwinds of satin, lace, lacquer and tapestries. The royal bedroom was a flourish of black, scarlet and gold, the furniture painted in trompe l’oeil.

Meanwhile the Duke was fraternising with Adolf Hitler – what a lucky escape we had.

Hurrah I‘ve done my 'abroad' Christmas cards. The next step is Post Office – weighing and stamps. As there are six different countries I’ll really have to concentrate and stamp then correctly – without my good specs. I meant to go and do this today but remembered the last time I did (the PO is in the Co-op) they were closed – it was about lunch time on a Saturday. The plan is to stamp them and post then at leisure so they don’t get there too early. One of these days I really will cancel Christmas.

The Windsors with Adolf Hitler
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Wednesday, November 16, 2011

These are pyjamas and dressing gown I'm getting for Christmas. Ironically after deciding what fun the spotty and tartan PJ's were, I chose these and a similar pair of PJ's in a plain blackcurrant colour.

Aren't women weird?
Mainly I'm trying out Mike's solution (Mike and Ann - side bar) to solve the photo problem. Fingers crossed
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Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Woe is me

I’m not talking plague and pestilence here – just a few little pin pricks which I could well do without. For instance I have been throwing myself wholeheartedly into saving the planet(unlike another house holder not a million miles away) washing plastic bottles, flattening shiny cardboard, reverently wrapping teabags, egg shells, and banana skins in the Daily Telegraph and depositing them in their respective boxes and then I went and cut myself washing out a tin of baked beans. I’ve had to ban MTL from doing the same- should it occur to him – as he is on Warfarin.

I was fairly confident when the optician summoned me for an inspection that my eyes were fine and sure enough the beginnings of a cataract hadn’t changed in two years and everything else was healthy (there is a special in- depth examination now which I had) but my prescription had changed. Recalling how much they cost last year I ummmed and aaahed and even quoted my son’s disbelief at how much they cost, whereupon I was reminded of the varilux lenses, the specially thin lenses, the titanium frames and the react- to- light lenses and if I left it longer than six months I would have to have another examination. So for the sake of economy I shall use the same frames, stick to varilux because they are excellent and dispense with the react- to- light which I don’t find very satisfactory - and it still costs a bomb! The big drawback is it takes about a fortnight to fit the lenses – they have to go away and I have to use old glasses meanwhile so be prepared for barely legible posts.

Mum always said ‘A woman’s hair is her crowning glory’ so I was concerned to return from holiday to find my usual hairdresser had disappeared. She only worked two days a week but for anything other than a straight forward shampoo and blow- dry I would always make a point of booking her. She has always been so kind and supportive I couldn’t understand why she hadn’t said anything but was told firmly she wouldn't be allowed to. There is talk that she is going to start again and meanwhile my hair is growing at a rate of knots.

I’m meeting the girls today and they have had far more important problems to deal with so I’ll get a grip and play some music. It will either be below or above this.

Below – nothing like a combo of Maria and Tosca to put thing in perspective.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Whitehall - this morning.

The first photo shows the Royal spouses of Prince Charles, Prince William, Prince Edward and Princess Anne.

After the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh respectively laid their wreaths they stood immobile whilst all the wreaths were laid by the various countries and organisations. Please someone persuade the Royal pair to be seated for the rest of the ceremony. Phillip is 90 for goodness sake.

I was amused to hear a rather beautiful historian comment on the fact that the Duchess of Cambridge and her mother recently shared hats and how wonderful that the Royal Family were recycling expensive clothes. Princess Anne has been doing that for decades and I’m sure HM would do the same - even more so having been brought up in wartime.

This young lady also said the Royal family had never been known as fashion icons apart from Diana. In fact the Duke of Windsor – the one who abdicated - was famous for the Windsor knot – a way of knotting one’s tie and also rather garish Windsor checks. He is the Prince of Wales in the article below.

"No one completely personified English qualities in attire than the Prince of Wales...Whatever he chose to wear was considered correct and in good taste and was accepted by millions of others in America and elsewhere. Following are a few of the styles that can be traced right back to the Duke of Windsor, either because he wore them first or was responsible for their spread..."

-they include such fashion innovations as:
*The Panama hat
*The spread collar
*The brown buckskin shoe
*The Guards Overcoat, to name only a few.

I missed Prince Harry – he must be serving elsewhere. Oh he is in California doing a two month helicopter training course.

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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alert - from a reputable source

A card is posted through the door from a company called PDS (Parcel Delivery Service) suggesting that they were unable to deliver a parcel and you need to contact them on 0906 6611911. That`s a premium rate number. DO NOT call the number, it`s a scam originating from Belize.
If you did call it, you`d hear a recorded message begin, and you`d already have been billed £315 for the call.
If you get such a card, please contact Royal Mail Fraud on 02072396655.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Queen ElizabethII is my fourth monarch; the first was George V followed by his son Prince Edward who found it impossible to reign without the love of his life Wallis Simpson – an American divorcee. He abdicated and left his brother George VI, to take over and see us through WW2. On his untimely death the young Elizabeth, his elder daughter started her rule which continues today.

It was her grandfather George V who specifically dedicated a day – Armistice Day as a sign of Remembrance to the veterans of WWI. On this day a scarlet poppy is normally worn. .Way back to the Napoleonic wars the destruction in the fields disturbed the earth and blood red poppies grew around the bodies of the fallen soldiers. This was repeated in 1914 during WWI and the poppies bloomed in the barren land.

John McCrae an exhausted surgeon angered by the slaughter at Ypres and after witnessing the death of a friend wrote:

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Some people prefer to wear a white poppy as a symbol of peace but to me this day is a day to remember and honour the men and women who spilt their blood so that we could be free and the scarlet poppy not only demonstrates this but also helps to support the veterans.

My first three monarchs - George V, Edward VIII and George VI
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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tomorrow: the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the eleventh year of this century

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

And Finally…

It was heartening to find that Ilminster still had good old-fashioned shops – in spite of the advent of Tesco. We visited The Minster which we first saw 26 years ago when we were house hunting. We so nearly bought a house east of the M5 but even then I found the main roads relentlessly busy. We lunched at The Dolphin where the roof was being repaired and I ended up in the men’s loo - the ladies being hidden behind a picture meant to portray its identity but too subtle for me.

Lunch was good – senior citizen’s rates for Seafood Florentine – salmon, smoked haddock, prawns, mash and cheese. The weather broke on the way home so we were glad of a comfy place to come back to. MTL remarked that the environs were how England used to be. We booked to have dinner at the Farthings restaurant in the village. We have stayed there a couple of times on anniversaries.

I wanted MTL to see the church and Chard’s grave although he said he had seen them before – possibly before my time. To make it easier for him we drove out of the grounds then down towards the village until we came to the entrance back in the grounds to the church. When we were ready to leave I discovered my camera was missing. I scooted on foot through the grounds to The Cider House, bumped into John for a quick chat and slightly panicked when I found my camera missing. Scooting back to the church I had a quiet moment to calm down and eventually found it in a pew where I had put it down to read the blurb to MTL. Phew!

Our plan was lunch at the Canal Inn Wrantage but they had cooker problems so we found the Bell Inn at Curry Mallet which did very nicely – Liver and bacon – mash for me but I noted that MTL’s chips were gorgeous.

On Wednesday – after a hair do (for me) in Ilminster where - so impressed with the heated styling brush the stylist used I bought one – Babyliss PRO which so far seems a good buy. The Square and Compass had been praised in the visitor’s book - at Ashill. A large notice said Park in Field. Ever obedient MTL – for some reason drove to the nether reaches and parked the car whilst I held the gate open for him. Unfortunately when I went to close it the heavy metal rung dropped on my left forefinger which elicited the odd adjective and even now looks slightly crooked. As we neared the entrance we saw a perfectly good open car park to the side of the pub. We were not thrilled to find it was closed for lunch. I even popped inside to check and found a bar lady collecting up last night’s glasses.

Thank goodness for The Ashill Inn which was empty but a pensioner’s meal was promised. ‘They come at 1pm!’ a pleasant lady told us so we sat with a drink awaiting the invasion. ‘I hope they don’t come before,’ she said’ I haven’t done the peas.’

That was a jolly lunch time.

Thursday I did some prior tidying so Friday wouldn’t be too arduous and - in our best bibs and tuckers we dined royally at The Farthings.

So many people had written glowingly of The Farmer’s Arms at West Hatch we saved it for Friday. We knew it was difficult to find with instructions such as – ‘If you see the RSPCA centre you have gone too far.’ (depends which way you approach it) and ‘It isn’t really West Hatch but another village whose name I have forgotten.’ We scoured the land and were about to call it a day when we bumped into a house agent (not literally ) who said she believed it had closed down - that it had been tremendously popular, the owners had sold up , left and took the custom with them. She recommended the Greyhound at Staple Fitzpaine. When she heard we didn’t have a Sat Nav she pointed out the Blackdown Hills and said it was that way slightly to the right. Miraculously we found it and even spotted a dilapidated Farmer’s Arms en route.

The Greyhound was marvellous – that and the Bird in Hand at North Curry were our best experiences. I wonder if we should get a Sat Nav. Would MTL listen?

To avoid the network of roads we asked the barman for a more direct route back to Hatch Beauchamp. I’m not sure who got it wrong but we ended up in Taunton in the rush hour and I will draw a veil over the next half hour. It was relaxing to have a last wander round John’s new walk and I was sorry to leave the utter peace and tranquillity. There is always a fly in the ointment. There were wasps – perfectly manageable – they were very dopey, didn’t sting us but would drop on us at odd times. I think it must have been the time of year and it certainly didn’t put us off. I’m tempted to book for next May but think it’s probably wiser to wait for MTl’s scan in February.

See Photos below.

BTW this post illustrates why I don’t write a book about the Inns we visit – it is such – as Ernest would say A Moveable Feast

Inside the Minster - Ilminster

A scary notice

Pumpkins in the Bell Inn

No lunch today thank you.

Outside The Bell Inn


The lovely pond

The Blackdown Hills

Skirting the woods

Our cluster of buildings

The Grehound Staple Fitzspaine

The grounds
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Sunday, November 06, 2011


Before the fall - all these leaves will shortly drop onto my lawn. Lovely colours though.

These were waiting for us when we returned from holiday. We're going green. The experiment was to try to go back to publishing from My Pictures but it was different to my recollection and I couldn't manage it.

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Friday, November 04, 2011


Thursday, November 03, 2011

The Cider House Rules Part 2

We weren’t expected until 3pm so decided the try the local Hatch Inn for lunch... Good sturdy cuisine and a useful place to have close to hand but in fact we ate in a different Inn every day except for Thursday when – dressed up – long skirt instead of eternal trousers we dined at Farthings; a superior hotel restaurant in the village where we had previously spent a couple of anniversaries.

It was always going to be a very relaxed holiday – the first day we slept till 9.30am with expeditions to various hostelries and some gentle exploring by me. I had noticed a sign to North Curry and remembered a friend recommending The Bird in Hand. Off the main roads are a network of tiny roads where the signage is often inadequate or just missing, so we saw Wrantage and beyond before turning round and finding the right road. Well worth the trouble; as someone said in the visitor’s book it’s the sort of pub one wished one had on one’s doorstep. I had bass and wicked potatoes which were like fat fleshy chips so had a modest honey comb ice for dessert.

To get some exercise MTL dropped me at the gate to the estate and I wandered round visiting the church and graveyard. John had said Colonel Chard’s grave was pink marble; the ground was very bumpy and I wished I had my pole. I found the pink marble but it was the wrong name so I had to start again and finally found it right beside the south wall of the church.

The Battle of Rorke's Drift, also known as the Defence of Rorke's Drift, was a battle in the Anglo-Zulu War. The defence of the mission station of Rorke's Drift, under the command of Lieutenant John Chard of the Royal Engineers, immediately followed the British Army's defeat at the Battle of Isandlwana on 22 January 1879, and continued into the following day, 23 January. Just over 150 British and colonial troops successfully defended the garrison against an intense assault by 3,000 to 4,000 Zulu warriors. The massive, but piecemeal,[11] Zulu attacks on Rorke's Drift came very close to defeating the tiny garrison but were ultimately repelled. Eleven Victoria Crosses were awarded to the defenders, along with a number of other decorations and honours.

Some of you may have seen the film Zulu where Stanley Baker played the hero. It’s a firm favourite with the men in my house. I took a photo of the window commemorating Col Chard but missed the window honouring Andrew Hamilton Gault a Canadian who married Dorothy Blanche Shuckburgh in 1923. Gault had fought in the Boer war in the Canadian Marked Rifles and in the Great War he raised and equipped at his own expense a full Canadian regiment which he took to France in 1914. A heroic and romantic concept from the past

By the way he lived at Hatch Court. He named the regiment Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry after the daughter of the Canada’s Governor General the Duke of Connaught. All week I felt as if I was living in an episode of Downton Abbey where I first heard of Princess Pat’s army.

Such was his drive the Pats were ready to leave Canada 17 days after the first call for rearming. Trained in England they crossed to France on 21st December and their war began at Ypres Jan 1915 and continued until they entered Mons11th November 1918.

Unable to fight in the front line after being wounded he continued to serve in France until the end of the war when he took the regiment back to Canada. He was MP for Taunton 1924-1935 and he and his wife used to fly small planes - DeHavilland Moths. True to form he rejoined the Canadian Army in WW2 until an accident led to his retirement in 1942. He died in 1958 and his wife continued to live at Hatch Court where there is a museum devoted to the regiment. Over the years many Canadians have visited to pay homage to a hero but I’m not sure what the position is now. I suspect it is just a private house.

I finished my wandering by the beautiful pond/lake and returned to The Cider House to tell MTL of my findings. I’ll include a few photos but if Picasa baulks at any words you’ll have to use your wits. More to come – not least a small snag.

Picasa baulked and refused to publish any photos until I split them and tried ten times. See photos below.

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