pear tree log: I started this blog to keep my younger son, Jonny, in touch with life in Lincolnshire, while he spent a year working in China. That year turned into five! Now he is home and training to become a physics teacher. This is simply a patchwork quilt of some of the things I enjoy - life in rural Lincolnshire, our animals, friends, architecture, books, the gardens, and things of passing interest.

Saturday, 31 December 2011

Going Gently set a Challenge...

Fans of Owl Wood please read!   Going Gently,  here is my two-pennyworth 

10 Things You Don't Know About Me
  • At the age of 15, while living in the Western Isles, I played the part of The Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe, on a carnival float.  Owl Wood, (he was once a child, shock, horror) was an extremely cute Little Jack Horner, one of my children!  There he is with a peach-coloured hat and a pretty neck bow on his broad white collar.  He was a good sport!  Bribery may have had something to do with it.

  • I cannot tell left from right.  I have tried.  I try every day.  Some days I know I have finally got it figured out.  Those are usually the days when I am dangerously wrong.
  • I used to be quite good at milking cows - by hand.  I love the sweet smell of cows.
  • I won a scholarship to a rather posh high school (they must have been short of applicants).  I used to get straight A's in elocution class.  I was amazingly good at 'Hot coffee from a proper copper coffee pot' and nonsense such as 'Betty Botter bought some butter, but, she said, this butter's bitter, if I put it in my batter it will make my batter bitter, so Betty Botter bought some butter better than the bitter butter...' you get the idea.   Such a useful skill!! 
  • My husband and I met on a blind date.  I almost didn't go, because the same couple who organised it had previously set me up with some dreadful man who had spent the evening trying to show me photographs of nude women.    I was not amused and left quite quickly!
  • When I was 16 I fell off a horse and was made to get back on; later it was discovered I had broken two bones in my neck.  I am still passionate about horses, but I don't ride.
  • I cannot ice-skate, I just seem incapable of staying upright.  I dread icy pavements, I have the same problem on them!
  • In my youth I was tickled pink to find that Donovan (remember him?) would be on board the same small light aircraft as my mother and I - disappointingly, he had his wife with him.
  • I used to be able to take shorthand dictation at 200/210 wpm.  No wonder my handwriting is so abysmal these days, my mind is always racing ahead of my longhand writing.
  • On my way home from work, about 12 years ago, I slipped and hurt my ankle.  I sort of knew I had really hurt it.  However, I had slipped in a public place right next to my car, so, being very stupid - stiff upper lip and British - about it, highly embarrassed, I got into the car, assuring kindly  and concerned witnesses that I was fine, then drove home.  It was my left ankle (yes, I am sure about that one - well, if it wasn't the left it was the right..) so I had to press the clutch pedal with it.  Home was 5 miles away, through the middle of town, up dale and down dale (lots of gear changes, hill starts, ouch, ouch)  I made it.  It turned out that it wasn't sprained, it was broken...   Dumbo me!

Friday, 30 December 2011

The Winds of Change Blew us Through 2011

As we teeter on the cusp between the new year and what remains of the old year  it is natural to have a glimpse over one's shoulder and maybe have a chat with family or friends, reviewing some events.

Sometimes we are happy to be leaving the old year and our old baggage behind us, moving on to fresh beginnings and new horizons; occasionally there is sadness at having to leave something, or someone, behind.

2011 was an interesting year in our household.  Without wishing to bore you with trivia I will stick to a few of the major changes.  George retired from work.  For many years he had worked away in Saudi Arabia, Germany, Holland, Kazakhstan, etc.  Suddenly he was home 24/7.  People shook their heads, muttered about how difficult it would be for us to adjust...

Well, 9 months on I am delighted to tell you all that it is fine, we really do still get on pretty well, we can work together.  Relax, be happy.  We are.

Jonny went to work in China and by all accounts he is working hard but having a great time.  Phew!

Davina is expecting her second child any time now and is taking a break from teaching.

Tim is doing well and is mulling over the pros and cons of returning to work in Canada again.

We lost poor old Pip, she put up a good fight and certainly had a great life.  Toby still misses her like crazy - which is surprising considering that she made his life a misery at times!

Bennie and Sparky came to live with us and have brought much fun and love along with them, they've proved themselves to be excellent ratters and mousers.  They earn their keep!

We still have three of the hens and now that they spend their days roaming around the little wood they are as happy as it is possible for ex battery hens to be.  They have a wonderful life.

I have discovered the joys of the world of blog and have had the privilege to meet so many new friends!  I thank you all.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Continuing the love affair, by candlelight

I love this character, he is an eccentric old dragon, who potters around his draughty old castle and spends his time reading.    Quite appropriate, given my post about books, see yesterday.  

He was created by my older son, Tim, who is a lead character artist in the games industry.  

Tim was destined to be an artist - even as a young child he could capture the essence of a subject in just two or three quickly drawn lines.

He knows how much I love his work - so, for Christmas, he had three of my favourite designs printed and framed for me.  I'll post the other two at a later date.

His work can be seen at

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

It was the start of a life-long love affair ...

...and it's not over yet.  I am still madly, passionately, deeply, in love with them.  I don't mind whether they are tall, short, fat or thin, young or old, tell the truth, or fiction.  Books, books, books.

I grew up in a family that loved reading; we always had access to books. We were not poor, but neither was there a lot of money to spare for buying a constant supply of books.   I can remember the day I was enrolled at the public lending library, which was a mere four or five minutes walk away from home, even for my chubby little six year old legs.  
Back in the late 50's, my mother decided that I could read well enough to qualify to become a reader at the local library.  It felt like such a privilege, an important step in becoming more like my very bookish, very bright, older brother, Steve.   (Owl Wood wasn't around in those days).  

The library was one large, quiet, gloomy room with very high shelving, lots of dark wood, and oh, so many books.  Aladin's cave doesn't even begin to describe that place.  I loved it.  

The librarian was a woman and she commanded great respect from one and all, silence was the rule.  Any necessary conversation with her was carried out in very hushed tones.

I wanted to be a librarian.  It seemed like the most wonderful job in the world.  The lending system was based on little cards and tickets.  I think we were issued with two little ticket holders, which we had to hand in whenever we borrowed books.  They were just little buff-coloured card corners with our name and the name of the library.
(I borrowed this image from

After browsing the children's books and making our selection we would take them over to the librarian and hand over our books and our tickets.  She would then take the little card out of the pocket in the book, slip that into our ticket, and then stamp the book with the return date.

Our ticket was then filed - and oh how I ached to be able to do what she did as she neatly filed them all away alphabetically.  It looked the greatest fun - more fun than the stamping of the date, in my opinion!!

I soon progressed from reading books about marmalade cats called Marmaduke (how I love those words which begin with mar...  I don't know why!) to books about Milly Molly Mandy, stories about elves and pixies, etc.  Anything and everything.  

Somewhere along the line Ian (Owl Wood) was born, but that didn't stop Steve
and I from taking regular walks along to the library.  By the way, Ian doesn't have a wart on his cheek, it's a mark on the photograph.

I progressed on to the Enid Blyton books, so frowned upon at one time, but such a delight to me.  I adored the adventures of Mr Pink Whistle, then discovered the Secret Seven Adventures and lived their exciting lives with them.

Not long after Ian was born we moved to Hong Kong for a few years.  I attended the army school at Victoria Barracks, but that is for another post.  Back to the subject of libraries and books.

We joined the army wives library (even though my father was a civilian who worked for the RAF) and that was a whole new library experience.  Much smaller, lighter, far less formal, children and parents could choose books and chat.  Once books were selected we could go across the room and a waiter would serve us with drinks which Mother would pay for with a book of vouchers.  All very different!

Of course, since then I have belonged to many different libraries and they have become computerised.  The space allocated to books has been drastically reduced to allow for talking books, music, records, computers.  Their opening hours are being reduced all the time and the number of books we can borrow at any one time is about 30, as though any of us could manage to carry 30 books around with us.

We live out in the countryside and there is a mobile library service which calls once a month.  My husband and I are now the only people who use it from the village.  To tell the truth, we use it because not using it would mean that we would lose it.  Three elderly ladies from the village used to support it, but one has moved into Alford and uses the library there, and the other two appear at very irregular intervals.  

It is one of those services which people can't be bothered with - but once the choice is not there they may feel differently.  Grandson Harry has now been enrolled to help swell the numbers, he loves books.

I won't get into a gripe about the decline in library services, I really wanted to celebrate books and the large part that having access to books played in developing my love of them.  

Apologies for going on so long, apologies for leaving so much out.  I am trying to find a balance and I fear that this may turn into a multi-page post.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Recycled Christmas Gifts ...

...and I don't mean those gifts which eventually make it to the tombola stall or the raffle table either!

Harry opens the gifts from Father Christmas at home, his own home.  Then he comes across the garden to see whether Father Christmas came down our chimney too.  Lucky boy, he finds another, much smaller, pile of gifts here.

We had our three children in close succession - so toys got played with very heavily for a few years and were then abandoned.

The toys which survived were still in amazingly good condition so I decided that we would store the best ones, ready for any grandchildren.  That was about 30 years ago.  
Among Harry's gifts this year we had wrapped this train which our three children enjoyed all those years ago.  He loves it.  It has become his Polar Express, and he and Toby play endlessly with it, at the moment.

Somewhere, packed away, are the animals which should go with it - but hey, he doesn't know, or care, it's a train!

All aboard!

Notes from Home, for Jonny

Hi Jonny,
Delighted to hear that you had such a great time at Bottle Beach.  I saw from your Fb page that you had moved on up the country in preparation for your trip to Vietnam.

Davina was pleased that you had asked after her - especially as she was over here with Harry when your message came through.

She is due to have the baby in just under 4 weeks, but as the baby is not growing very well it could be sooner.  No immediate plans for delivery though.  She is well enough in herself.

Young Harry had a splendid time over Christmas and behaved very well.  He went to the Crib Service in South Thoresby and really enjoyed it, he has been to the Tavern and enjoyed the atmosphere there. He also won a brace of pheasant, a pack of beer, a commemorative mug and something else which has quite slipped my mind at the moment, in the Christmas Draw!

Unfortunately our visit from Tim and Isis hasn't taken place yet.  They decided that instead of  coming to ours on Christmas Eve they would stay home and celebrate a quiet Christmas together (quite rightly) and instead they would come and visit on Boxing Day.  Unfortunately Isis became ill on the rich food they had eaten, and also developed a nasty cough, so they are now due to come and see us tomorrow.  I only hope we have enough festive fare left by then!   I am joking, as usual I have stocked up well enough to feed an army, very well,  for a couple of months.

You pa has taken the opportunity to do the channelling for the new lamp (a slightly tricky operation because of the thickness of the walls, complicated by where the utility wall joins the living room and so on and so forth) and so far it is looking good.  Photos will be posted for you to check on the quality of his work, so don't worry!

The cats haven't let the holiday mood interfere with their mousing duties, every day they line up quite an assortment on the patio.  We can always tell which ones Sparky has caught as they are partial remains, she like to eat the tasty bits.  Waste not, want not seems to be her motto.

The village reverberated to the sound of hounds barking yesterday, we didn't see the hunt but they were round and about somewhere.  Then today the shooting started, which set Toby a tremble for a while.  He is okay now though.

As soon as we have any news about Davina and the baby we will send you a text message, and I will also keep you updated on here, so one way or another you will hear about it.

Enjoy yourself darling.  I hope you are taking plenty of photographs?

Much love from everyone
but especially from your 


Monday, 26 December 2011

That Stiff Penknife

Sometimes it is very difficult to open a penknife.  The spring may be stiff or you may have broken a thumbnail so that you cannot open it in the ordinary way.

Here is a very simple way out of the difficulty.

Take a strip of fairly stiff paper, fold it across at the middle and slip the fold under the blade of the knife.  Then, gripping tightly the two ends of the folded paper, pull them up and the knife-blade will will be lifted sufficiently to grasp it and pull it right up.

Now aren't you pleased you read this little post?

This handy little tip is brought to you courtesy of EVERY BOY'S HOBBY ANNUAL, 1931

Saved by Her Hair

The Aged Aunt really didn't want to let us in, as she was watching television, but she brightened a little when we produced her gifts.  

She quite liked some, soon discarded others, and sort-of enjoyed looking at a framed collection of both old and new photographs we had assembled for her.
She quickly knocked back the two glasses of Babycham and then asked for more.  

So, perhaps it was the unaccustomed alcohol which made the next gift seem so wonderful, the perfect gift, the one gift which I can say truly made her happy.  

Two old fashioned hairnets!  Inexpensive, unlovely, yet exactly what she wanted!  Phew!

The television went back on, our audience was over.

We were free to go home and see young Harry unwrap some of his gifts.

Jonny, thank you for sending the text message yesterday.  We had a look at Bottle Beach on Google Earth - it looks a beautiful place to spend Christmas!  I hope you had a wonderful day and enjoy the rest of your holiday.   xxx

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Christmas!

Wishing you all a Very Merry Christmas!   Happy Yule!   Happy Holiday!

I very much appreciate each and every one of you - including the 'secret readers'.

George and I would also like to wish a Very Merry Christmas to the boys in Kazakhstan.

A special greeting to you, Jonny.  I hope your holiday in Thailand is going well. Everyone from home, plus several people from the village send you their love.
Big hugs and lots of love from your

I still have a couple of gifts to wrap and an old film to watch.

So, Goodbye for now,


Fancy Something a Little Different for Christmas Dinner, Dear?

Apparently only the most skilled cooks could roast a peacock and then re-dress it in its own feathers and skin...  

Bring on the vegetarian alternative!

Friday, 23 December 2011

Keep Calm, Be KIND

We have just had our evening meal.  I took the opportunity (while cooking) to oven dry a large tray of grated lemon zest to add to the jars of lemon-pepper seasoning which forms part of some gifts...

Well, I would have, George threw it all away when he stacked the dishes in the dishwasher....

A time for loving, a time for giving, a time for forgiving...

The holiday begins!

A Breakfast Meeting

Davina (our daughter) had asked George and I to take Harry to meet an old man dressed in red. 

All Harry knew was that he was going out for breakfast, so when he suddenly caught sight
of Father Christmas he was astonished, delighted, and then overawed.
Father Christmas was really lovely, working his way around the room and making sure that he had a good chat with each child.
Breakfast arrived and Harry tucked in.  He takes food VERY seriously.
Some serious munching took place and then Father Christmas came back.   Harry was the very first one to receive his gift - much to his delight!
It was a magical experience for the three of us.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

When You Knead Love

Today has been a good day.  

I decided to have a baking session, in preparation for the festivities.
I am a bit of a messy Tessy.

The solid fuel Rayburn was having a good day, and reached a really high temperature, so I decided to make some bread.  

Quite often I get rid of a lot of angst when I am kneading, but today I just enjoyed the process and sang along to a cd of Christmas Music by Steeleye Span.

I could tell by the feel of the dough that it had the potential to be great bread.

While I waited for it to prove I cracked on and made mince pies and then a couple of apple pies.

Finally, after proving and baking ...
I was able to remove this little beauty from the Rayburn!  

We tried a slice and it is wonderful - I know self-praise is no praise, but it really is good!

Made with love.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011


Then approximately thirty minutes later

The dawn of a new day, so much beauty, so much potential. 

Two Christmas Cards from Shanghai

When we arrived home, after our visit to the Aged Aunt, we found that the postman had delivered the new wall lamp (for above the sofa in the kitchen) plus several Christmas cards.  I'll post a photograph of the lamp once your Dad has finished fitting it.  I think you will like it.

Among the cards was this
spectacular one.  

Thank you Jonathan!    It is lovely... possibly the very first Christmas card (apart from schooldays) which you have ever sent  to us!  I shall cherish it.

Have a wonderful holiday, don't forget the sun cream, hat, and tee shirt!

Thinking of you.

Lots of love,

Mum & Dad

PS  Harry and his Mum have just been here.  Harry was proudly displaying his Christmas card.  To say he was thrilled with it would be an understatement.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Visited by The Damned?

The graveyard is a wonderful mix of drunken tombstones, large monuments, iron railings, and long grass, it is one of the most peaceful that I have visited for quite a while.  
Such a pretty village really deserves to have a beautiful old church, alas, this one has a church built of brick which dates from 1738.  An earlier, much larger church had fallen into ruin by 1735, more is the pity.
Once a year St Andrew's Church hosts the Christmas Craft Market, always a great place to pick up a bargain.
And the title of this post - well that refers to my previous post about the recording studios.  The Damned are among the many groups/singers who have recorded music there.  I just wondered whether they had walked a few yards down the road and had a meander around the church yard.

Monday, 19 December 2011

If I Knew What They Looked Like...

I could have such fun.  

Alas I don't know what The Artic Monkeys, Kaiser Chiefs, Funeral for A Friend, Paul Weller, or Skint and Demoralised look like...

We live in deepest Lincolnshire, right on the edge of nowhere.  A neighbouring village has two recording studios which are used by lots of groups and singers...
It is so successful that they are building a large new accommodation block.
Shirley Bassey, Wet, Wet, Wet, and Barbara Dickson, OMD, Ocean Colour Scene, The Propellerheads, The Damned... 
have all enjoyed the facilities in this lovely, leafy part of Lincolnshire.
Sometimes what gives them away is using an entirely unsuitable vehicle for narrow, muddy, country roads.    Sometimes it is the appearance of hoodie-wearing young men who dash around as though being pursued.  Ha! They should be so lucky!

The neighbours are quiet, the village peaceful.  No shop, no pub, no school.
Just lovely Lincolnshire - and a great recording studio.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

You Dirty Rat

Sparky and Bennie were shown the door last night.
George had spotted a rat having a feast on some birdseed which had fallen under the old apple tree.
The girls were having a nap - we cruelly woke them, and popped them outside, near to where the rat had been and then we nipped inside and shut the door, quickly!

Eventually, as it was a cold night, we let them back inside to warm their toes and fill their tummies before settling for the night.
Grandson Harry ran across to our house today, shouting that he'd seen a dead animal...  Upon investigation it turned out to be a very large, dead rat!  Unfortunately this isn't a photo of our dead rat, I forgot to take one.
Can't take the triumph away from the girls though, whether by team work, or one working by herself (they do both) they got their target!

Fish suppers all round tonight.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Top Secret Recipe - for Secret Agent Knatolee

I shall say this only once ... Secret Agent Knatolee ...remember this post will self-destruct in 10 seconds...your younger self longed for secret ink so I have trawled my books and found some very old (the book is dated 1755) versions of secret ink for you.

  • If you dip your pen in the juice of a lemon, or of an onion, or in your own urine, or in Spirits of Vitriol and write on clean paper whatever you intend, it shall not be discerned till you hold it to the fire, and then it will appear legible. 
  • And, if with any of the aforementioned you write on your skin, as on your arm and back of your hand, etc, it shall not be seen till you burn a piece of paper and with the ashes rub on the place and then it will appear very plain; and this I have experienced and try'd, and therefore can say Probatum est.
  • Another way is when you write a letter that you intend it shall not be discovered, but to those you think fit first to write your thoughts on one side of your letter with black ink, as usual, (but it ought to be on thin paper) and then on the contrary side, go over the said matter that you would have secret, with a clean pen dipp'd in milk and that writing shall not be read without holding it to the fire, as mentioned above, and then it will appear legible in a bluish colour.
  • Or, you may write to your friend in proper sense with common ink, and let the lines be at so commodious a distance, that what you intend to be secret may be written between them with water, wherein galls have been steeped a little time (but not long enough to tincture the water) and when dry nothing of the writing between the said lines can be seen, but when it is to be read, you must with a fine hair pencil dipp'd in Copperas Water, go between the said lines and so you make it legible.  
  • Note:  this way will give no ground for suspicion, because the letter seemeth to carry a necessary sense in those lines that are set at such a proper distance...
So, Secret Agent Knatolee - you have no excuses now.

To work!

Keeping the Home Fires Burning, for Jonny

This post is for you, Jonny.  

I know you will be off on your travels any day now, so I thought I would let you see a few photos of home before you head off looking for some sun!
You won't be cold in Thailand and all the other wonderful places you are about to visit, but it is cold and sleeting here at home and somehow it all seems much more festive with the open fire lit.
This year all the decorations are up high, out of the reach of the cats, fingers crossed!  No tree would be safe with them around so I have put greenery on top of the dressers and above the Rayburn.  It looks quite festive - and best of all the cats don't seem the least bit interested in climbing up to investigate.
As usual, I have got my 'Kitchen Guardian Angel' out to watch over my cooking during the festive period! 
So there s/he is, keeping an eye on me.   Poor thing got the short straw when I bought it!

I wonder where you will be having your Christmas dinner this year, and what it will be.  Whatever, and wherever, I hope you have a wonderful time.

Christmas here will be very different without you, but as we shall number around 16/17 for Christmas day, you may be rather relieved!

I hope you don't mind, but I am going to let Tim and Isis use your bedroom over the holidays.  They are coming up on Christmas Eve, probably quite late.  

On Christmas morning your Dad and I have to do the journey to visit Nicki so we'll be out for at least 3 hours (and that is if the roads are clear)  so it will be nice for them to be able to have a breakfast tray and stay in bed, in peace, for as long as they want.

Once we get back it will be all hands to the pump.

We have sent some money by carrier pigeon, it should be in your bank account by now.   A dull but useful gift, I hope.  Let me know when you receive it.

Try and keep in touch occasionally - please.  Even a one-line email would be good now and then.  

Oodles of love to you.  Have fun.


Thursday, 15 December 2011

£1,000 if not true!!

One of my most loved, seasonal books, is a leather bound collection of the Christmas editions of the Graphic Magazine dating from late 1870's through to the early 1890's.
George bought it for me, a number of years ago, and each Christmas season it comes out and I spend many happy hours trawling through it.  I love the illustrations, the stories, the advertisements, everything about it really.
The colours have stayed strong and fresh even after all this time.

The advertisements are terribly old fashioned, woefully non-pc 
so much so that I won't post the lower half of this one lest it offend...and that is Pears' Soap, for goodness sake!
OK, maybe it is Victorian sentimental mush, but if we can't be sentimental at Christmas...

The title of this post is taken from this Pears' Soap Advertisement, from the 1880's

Apparently, if you stare hard at the green circle for about 30 seconds and then transfer your gaze to the white circle you will get an impression of a pale pink circle with green lettering reading 'PEARS' through the middle.

I don't know whether they had to pay out.