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.

Monday, 31 October 2011

Meandering Round the Owl Wood

I took a stroll around the Owl Wood this morning

So many exciting colours and textures.

Then we looked around the garden for more colour and found one brave, confused bit of apple blossom.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

While Stirring the Witch's Cauldron ...

The day before our wedding the exhaust on George's car  (an old banger) gave up the ghost, and as he didn't have the money for a new one he went to the local garage to see whether it could be repaired in some way.  He explained to the mechanic that he was going on honeymoon the following day and the repair needed to be done quickly and cheaply.  

He was told to leave the car at the garage and come back in a couple of hours.  When he returned he found that they had replaced the complete exhaust and said that it was a wedding present and to enjoy the honeymoon.

An amazing and unexpected act of kindness by the garage owner!

During our early married life we lived in rented accommodation down in Hampshire, which was fine for the two of us.  Once we discovered that I was pregnant and would soon have to leave work we realised that we really needed to buy a house, and quickly, while my salary could be counted towards the mortgage.

The estate agency we approached happened to be a family run business, handed down from father to son.   George explained a little of our circumstances and the agent took us round to view some houses - but after the viewings he told us that there was no way that he would recommend us taking any of the properties we had seen.  

By then I was probably looking a bit green around the gills, as I was suffering from all-day 'morning sickness' because he took us back to his home, a beautiful old thatched farmhouse built in the days of Cromwell.  He kindly made us some tea and we had a chat.  He told us to leave it with him. 

He came back a few days later with the details of a maisonette which was empty and available as it had been repossessed.  He arranged a 100 percent mortgage, based on both our salaries, knowing full well that my salary would not be coming in for much longer!

The houses which he normally sold were top of the range houses, but he really went out of his way to help us.  A truly kind estate agent!  

Like most young families we struggled to make ends meet, especially when baby number two arrived just thirteen months after daughter Davina.  

We used to get our groceries in from a supermarket, shopping together and with the two babies in tow.  We hunted out bargains and lived frugally.  One of the dishes we ate rather a lot was Nasi Goreng (well, our version of it) which called for bacon pieces, a little egg, onions and lots of rice.  It was cheap and filling.

Mary was a wonderful woman who worked on the bacon counter and she knew that we only ever bought the cheap bags of bacon scraps.  She started to save us the nicest scraps and the choicest offcuts "for the cats".  Our silly pride wouldn't let us admit that they were for us, but red haired Mary knew, she was kind enough to keep the pretence going.

Thank you Mary!  

Our parents were wonderful, of course, and helped out in practical ways whenever they could.  My mother knitted so many wonderful outfits for my children, pram suits, cardigans, dresses, leggings, etc. that her knitting needles must have been glowing red hot.

One memorable year - and it still brings a lump to my throat - we were really struggling to manage and Christmas was on the horizon.   Mum and Dad came to us a couple of weeks before the big day and said that we could have our Christmas present early.  They handed over a small wooden box - when we opened the lid and found that it was filled to the gunnels with 20 pence pieces.  My parents had been saving them, from their change, all through the year.  I cannot tell you how much difference that made to us.  It was a true treasure chest given with love.

So many lovely people, so many acts of kindness - all brought to mind by something as simple as stirring a cauldron (okay, okay, a large pan) of pea and ham soup.

While chopping and stirring, I got to thinking about the cost of the ingredients and calculated that I had spent less than £4 on them, and most of that had gone on some Redhill Farm (a really good, local, producer) bacon scraps - in reality they were huge chunks of gammon.  So for less than £4 I ended up with 14 meal-sized portions for the freezer, made from top quality food.

I mentioned the bacon scraps to George -  and this led us back down memory lane to recall Mary and her kindness all those years ago...  

I suppose it is a sign of our impending dotage that we are so easily led down memory lane!

Saturday, 29 October 2011

Help! Help! Come Quickly!

My sleep was disturbed at around 2.30am, as I became aware of something rattling on the desk.  I sat up and quickly flicked on the light to discover a very calm Bennie staring at hard at me.

Assuming that she needed to be let out I stumbled down the hallway to open the outside door for her, but she dashed past me, through the kitchen and into the conservatory, jumped back on the sofa and curled up ready for sleep!  

It seems that she hadn't woken me up for herself - it was her chum Sparky who needed to be let out - and PDQ!  Sparky was off like a rocket as soon as the door was opened; Bennie went back to sleep until morning.
So, Sparky needed to go out but it was Bennie who came down to the bedroom and woke me on her behalf.  Animals are so much more intelligent than some people give them credit for.  


I hope you are having a great weekend Jonny.  We'll be at home all day tomorrow...  Did you get your Dad's email(s)?

Lots of love,


Friday, 28 October 2011


Crook-ed house ...

isn't it just wonderful with all of those wibbly-wobbly windows!  

Not sure just how old this house in Alford is, but you can see that it has undergone many alterations over time.

It is quite something, both inside and out, the interior is often used for magazine photo-shoots.  

The current owner is a television actor; we saw him on his hands and knees pointing the bricks on the side of the house - the band across the bottom which looks much lighter than the others.

We often see bus-loads of people taking photographs of the building, so it must be a point of interest on some tours!

It always makes me think of the old nursery rhyme:

There was a crook-ed man and he walked a crook-ed mile
He found a crook-ed sixpence upon a crook-ed style
He bought a crook-ed cat, which caught a crook-ed mouse
And they all lived together in a little crook-ed house

although I believe that the crooked house in the rhyme refers to the English and Scots having come to an agreement about the border between England and Scotland (crooked style) during the reign of Charles I!!

Thursday, 27 October 2011


Several years ago we offloaded very kindly gave a couple of squishy sofas to our newly married daughter and her husband.  Time goes by and they have now purchased something much smarter and they wanted to know whether we would be happy for them to dispose of the old ones.  We debated for a whole ten seconds before letting them know that we'd be be happy to have them back as they would suit this house perfectly!

Our daughter lives next door, so it was hardly a major move - distance-wise, anyway.  

The logistics of getting very large, squishy sofas through their cottage-size livingroom door, round into their hallway was an interesting exercise, especially when performed by George and son-in-law Jonathan!  

The rest of the journey was easy as we have double width doors.  I'd like to say this is down to good planning but it just happens to be because it was an old cow and cart shed  (stables, if we are being posh)  and had wide doorways which we took advantage of.

I tried to help with extra muscle-power where I could, but eventually had to scoot off in order to hide my laughter,  because they were like the chimps in the old PG Tips advertisement ...

To cut a long story short, the sofas are now installed, one in the kitchen, one in the conservatory.   Order was restored and we all enjoyed a jolly good cup of tea (glass of wine).

 The sofas now have old throws on them and the cats and dogs are loving the luxury!  They look pretty good - and talk about recycling!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Today was Farmers' Market Day in Louth, it's only held once a month so we always try to go when we can.  It is a proper outdoor market, so much nicer than those horrible indoor ones.

We usually park at the top of the hill and walk down past some lovely cottages (sorry about the shadows).

including this lovely one - check out those  wibbly wobbly windows, goodness knows what the floors are like.
The road leads down the hill past the auction rooms, a pub, a chocolatier, beauty parlour, hairdressers and nail technician all located in the wonderfully named Pawnshop Passage!  I'm not sure which ones were the old pawnshops.

until we come out in one of the main shopping areas.  Chuzzlewits is a fabulous bakery and coffee shop.   A short walk brings us out into the market square

with some lovely stalls dotted in and amongst the boring ones.  Our favourites are the wonderful Matt's Deli bakery (fabulous bread, rolls, etc) and Redhill Farm for their free range pork and Lincolnshire sausages, Belleau Trout Farm with their smoked trout, fishcakes, pate, etc. 

Shopping done,  we head back up the hill and take the scenic route home...
This lovely gateway is the entrance to an old Rectory.

Once we had turned off the road out of Louth we didn't pass a single car this morning - one of the many reasons why we love Lincolnshire!

I hope you have enjoyed seeing the old familiar roads Jonny - now let me see some more photos of Shanghai - please!!

Lots of love,


Monday, 24 October 2011


I took an awful lot of persuading, but in the end it was the sight of rats romping round the garden which tipped the scales in favour of adoption.

I made the telephone call, filled in the forms and underwent a home inspection.  We passed!  We were free to adopt a cat from the Cats Protection League.

I was quite adamant that I didn't want a house cat.  We agreed that a feral cat would be ideal.  CPL agreed that this was perfectly possible.  Indeed they had a couple of semi-feral cats which would seem to be ideal for our purpose of living outdoors (with shelter and food provided) to hunt down and kill mice and rats.

We arranged to go and meet the cats (female, I had wanted males) and found that one was reasonably friendly but the other was a hissing, spitting, scratching bundle of fury.  One out of two ain't bad, we thought.

We were told that they had to be kept contained for three weeks, so we had to hastily construct a house for them, build a run and make sure that it was cat proof.  We finished hammering in the last nail just as the cats were delivered. With a hiss and a spit (the cats, not us) they were 'helped' out of their travel baskets and left to rest and settle.  

For three long weeks they were kept prisoners and during that time we tried to think of alternative names to the ones they came with - Bennie and Sparky - but we found that those names really do fit them.  All Pip could think about was cat food and how could she break in to get some.

Bennie is laid back, relaxed, patient, quietly affectionate. She is my girl. Sparky (the hissing, spitting bundle of fury) became a very loving,  loudly purring bundle.  She is still more nervous than placid girl Bennie,  fine with us but she really dislikes children.  Deeply affectionate, she performs the most amazing feats of acrobatics to have her tummy tickled in just the right place.  Sparky is much more George's girl.  They are both lovely cats.

Joy of joys, they are brilliant with the dogs.  The dogs are used to cats - we have always had at least one, up until five years ago.  The cats are not shy with the dogs but they do have a healthy respect for their heavy feet and clumsiness.  It is a delight to see Toby romp around the wood, with the cats racing around chasing up and down the trees, cats pretending to be dogs, one dog wishing he were a cat..

(I won't bore you with yet more photos of the dogs and cats - see yesterday's post for a couple.)

What they are not, is feral.  Nor are they semi-feral.  They made that quite clear the first day they were given their freedom.  They wanted to be inside with us, eat inside, sleep inside, play inside... so of course they have found their way into our hearts and our family.  They have only been with us three or four months and yet they are completely at ease, relaxed, happy, cats, who earn their keep.

They are brilliant hunters and we haven't seen any sign of a rat since we let them loose.  We have seen lots of smaller furry bodies, most days they line a few up for inspection.  Those two little cats have brought so much fun back to the dogs lives - and a lot of love into ours.  I guess I have to say thank you to the rats.

Saturday, 22 October 2011


...but don't worry, Sister Sparky is taking care of them!


I hope you have had a lovely day with your friends.  Did you enjoy the hairy crab?  I know it is a speciality of Shanghai but was it any different to regular crab?

Did you take plenty of photographs of your visit to ...  sorry, I have forgotten which province you were going to!

The mice form a small part of the things I have made for the church bazaar which will be held in a few weeks time.  The cats may well claim a couple of them before then!

It has been a beautiful autumnal day, but the wind has been a bit wild and there's worse to come tomorrow.  I am not complaining though because I have been able to dry several loads of washing outdoors - when I brought it back inside just now I was treated to that wonderful smell which only outdoor drying produces. 

Your dad has been working on the shrub area where the laurels have been planted.  As a result of one of those 'surreal' conversations before he had his hearing checked, he thought that I wanted a very low brick wall around it (I actually wanted the bricks to be level with the lawn for easier mowing) and he has been working on that today.  In all fairness, although it is not what I wanted, it does look nice.

I managed to get in an hour of heavy duty weeding and clearing up in the vegetable garden.  A few more sessions like that should settle things for the winter.  The leeks are doing really well and so are the autumn carrots - and the weeds are positively flourishing!  

Drop me a line when you have the chance.  Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Much love,


Friday, 21 October 2011

The Art of the Stonemasons and An Endearing Squeeze

I confess I love worked stone, especially old worked stone.  

Lincoln Cathedral is a magnificent building, in a spectacular setting, visible for many miles in most directions, but Google can tell you all you need to know about it.  

I love the stonework. 

Here are a few photographs which George took during our recent visit.
Soaring arches, ribbed and vaulted heights, beautiful windows, magnificence.
The beauty of the choir stalls echo the beautiful sound of the Cathedral Choir.
Soaring arches, columns, patterns and repetitions everywhere.  So exciting for a visual junkie like me.
It pays to lift your eyes heavenward occasionally.
One very different look in a side chapel:
all four walls are painted in this style, it was done in the 1950's.

Then comes my very favourite bit...
see the arch on the right-hand side of the photograph!  Did the stonemasons suddenly go eek! as they realised they had run out of space and then have to hastily squeeze in that final arch?  

In this undoubtedly beautiful building I just find it so endearing to find this squished in little feature.  

Lincolnshire is home to some lovely churches, many of them are tiny and rarely visited.  I plan to visit a few of them in the coming months so that I can share them with you.  

There is so much beauty in the compact, unadorned buildings.  I also know of one 'restored' (by a Victorian architect) church which I really dislike.  You will see why, or perhaps you will love it.  We'll see.



I hope you enjoyed this quick trip around the Cathedral.  I must admit I was also thinking about you as we wondered around, remembering your graduation ceremony there.

Don't forget to let us know when you will be available for a Skype call; I know it is your birthday tomorrow so you will be having fun and celebrating, but try to fit us in, if you can. 

Have a lovely weekend.

Lots of love,


Thursday, 20 October 2011


Do not read any further, Ian.

An Inexpensive Breakfast Dish (cost 1/-)

Procure a sheep's head from your butcher, ask him to place this in his pickle pot for 3 days.  After that time, wash in clean water, place in a pan of boiling water for two-and-a-half to three hours, simmering gently.

The meat will then fall off the bones quite easily.  Skin the tongue, split length wise, place 1 half at the bottom of a cake tin, fill in the rest of the meat, lastly the other half of the tongue cut side uppermost.

Place a small plate on the meat and press until next day.  This is quite as nice as a bought tongue, costing five or six shillings.  (original)  Mrs Cawkwell, Eastgate.

Lucky Mr Cawkwell.

Lucky George:
  • I don't have a sheep's head
  • The butcher doesn't have a pickle pot
  • I wouldn't be able to cook it even if they were available 

NB:  If you do try this,  you will have a very smelly house so you may need this useful tip:

During the cooking time get a bowl of boiling water and put in it two or three drops of lavender water.  All the odour of cooking will disappear, and the air will be refreshed.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Handwritten Treasure from my Bookcase - A Commonplace Book, 1820

I thought you may like to have a peep inside this lovely old book, which I was lucky enough to buy a few years ago.  It is volume three (I don't know whether vols 1 & 2 exist any longer) and was started in 1820 by Robert Best.   He dedicated it to his wife, Mary Best.   

Unfortunately Robert died before he could complete it (I think he may have died around 1842).  His son Abraham starting adding to it in 1879 and re-dedicated to his daughter. 

It is easy enough to spot the change in handwriting, although I confess that at first glance I assumed that the change was due to illness and age!
I found an entry for our small local market town of Alford and got carried away at the idea of taking the book back to a place where it had been used almost 200 years ago.

Regrettably, the churchyard has been cleansed and sanitised and very few gravestones remain.  The dozen or so which do, are so worn as to be unreadable!  Oh well, I tried.

Along with the handwritten entries there are leaflets, engravings, sketches, letters, etc.

lots of epitaphs, poems, puzzles, mirror writing..

it is a little gem.

Several of the entries relate to murders.  One of these was of a young man, young woman and a three month old baby, another was of a man murdered by a Domestic Servant.

Other entries are much more light-hearted and probably meant to be educational:

Let a pair
Pare a pear
For a peer
At the pier

There is a page of musical notes for a song entitled:  The Wig, The Hat and The Cane
it goes something like this:

'By the side of a murmuring stream, 
An elderly gentleman sat, 
On the top of his head was his wig
And on top of his wig was his hat
The wind it blew high and it blew strong
As the elderly gentleman sat...etc, etc,


I know nothing of the life of Robert Best - other than that he had very fine handwriting, travelled widely throughout the country, he had a wife whom he loved (if this lovely book is anything to go by) and at least one son.  He had a love of poetry and a fine sense of humour.

Abraham seems to have been in his later years, when he began writing in the book in the 1870's.  His handwriting is large, not nearly as beautifully formed, and shaky.  I hope he enjoyed compiling his pages - and I hope that his daughter treasured the work of both her Grandfather and Father.

Sad that such amazing treasures get separated, for whatever reason, from the descendants of the author.  Can't blame it all on Flog It!



Still waiting for those photos!

Little Harry has just been in with his mum - they are heading off to visit Tim and Isis this weekend, apparently Tim is going to take Harry to the Natural History Museum to see the dinosaurs while the others go shopping.  Good luck Tim!!

Lots of love,