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, 30 April 2012

Dial 999 and ask for the Fire Brigade...

Last night we had a mini-drama, luckily all ended well and no one was hurt, the animals are fine and the house was not damaged.

Although we regularly have the chimney swept we had a chimney fire, well to be more accurate a fire in the flue from the Rayburn.  It began as what looked like lots of mist sweeping down from the roof - this effect was compounded by the fact that a lot of mist was also sweeping in and across the surrounding fields...  I remarked to George that it was looking rather like that old film "The Fog"!

A short while later we established that it was, in fact,  very pale grey smoke coming from the flue and in excessive quantities...a crackling roar could now be heard in the flue ... time to get the animals out of their beds and into safety and call the emergency services!  I saw to the animals and left George to do the telephoning and see to closing doors, and so on, then deal with the Firemen when they arrived.

My only thought was to  make sure the animals were safe and grab my handbag.  I had no thought for photographs albums, jewellery, treasured and cherished items.  Luckily our daughter and her family live just across the garden and they were kind enough to allow my menagerie and I sanctuary!  Davina was a star.  She plonked the baby into my arms and poured me a glass of wine then kept the conversation flowing.  Thank you, Davina!xx

Last night was one of those nights when I was happy that Toby is an old dog, he was happy to be where I was, no fuss, no nonsense.  Complete acceptance.

You can read an account and see photographs of the incident, if you are interested, on my brother's blog Owl Wood.  Thank you Ian for all your assistance last night.  You were brilliant.xx

The Fire Brigade did a wonderful job, minimal fuss, almost no mess whatsoever.  We were fortunate that it hadn't ignited after we had gone to bed.  Our chimney/flue was swept in October last year, the firemen said that there had probably been a build-up of residue in one particular spot and this had ignited.

So, I could launch into how lucky we were, endless possibilities.

I'll go back to that old chestnut - what do you think  you would you grab if your house were on fire?

All I could think of - knowing that George was fine - were my animals and their safety, I grabbed my handbag because that was on my route out - apart from that I walked away knowing that nothing else truly mattered.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Eating Cake with Wesley

It has been raining here since Christmas...well, a slight exaggeration, but it feels as though it has.  
It is cold, wet, miserable - even Toby doesn't fancy a walk.  
So I feel free to spend some time doing what I want.

Drinking tea, eating cake.  
I could have eaten a rich and gooey chocolate cake,    but  I settled for a slice of old fashioned treacle tart.  It contained next to no calories, because I  served it without cream.
(Dream on, Elaine!)
Now, eating cake and sipping tea is a wonderful occupation, but I feel there is something lacking...
I need a book, something to help me escape from the continual sound of rain, howling wind, gurgling and struggling downpipes and gutters, and
the steady drip of the leak in the conservatory...

Janet of Revising Life Blogspot very kindly recommended that I read "Wesley, the Story of a Remarkable Owl".  

Janet knows of my interest in the owls around here and thought I may enjoy it.
It is the story of how a four-day-old baby barn owl with a nerve damaged wing is cared for by a biologist.
She cared for him, and loved him, for 19 years.

I have a feeling that it will all end in tears
and some of those will be mine.

Thank you for recommending it Janet, it is a wonderful book.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Friday Fences - Lincolnshire

I am delighted to be participating in Friday Fences
 with lifeaccordingtojanandjer.

The wooden gate is locked, fortunately there is a useful wooden stile, with enough space underneath for a determined, medium-sized dog to be able to slither through!  
It is a public right of way, not trespass.

The fence sweeps down and around a large fish pond.
It is the lines, curves, shadows and highlights on the wooden bars which I find interesting.
Within the wooden fence are three strands of barbed wire and then at the lower portion
there is some metal fencing to prevent dogs and children from scrambling through to the pond!
A fence built to deter and to protect.

I like the way the sunlight illuminates the top surface of the wood and the contrast with the shadow fence, the barbed strands increase the width and we seem to have three fences.

The silvery wood has lots of "eyes" all different, all beautiful.

This shot shows a small stone which someone has carefully placed in the wire.  An orange coloured stone.    I wonder whether they will come back and look for it.  I wonder how far they carried it before deciding to place it in the fence... none of this matters, but it is the kind of thing I ponder as I walk the fence!

These beautiful swans live on the pond - seen over the barbed wire - I couldn't get them through it, sorry!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A Very Pretty Garden

The houses in our little village are a complete mix of styles and sizes.  So are the gardens.

Our own garden is a mixture... some pretty areas, lots of vegetable and fruit growing areas, dog friendly areas,  and dog-free child-friendly spaces.  Definitely practical rather than decorative!

One garden which I pass regularly on my dog walking route is very beautiful and belongs to a friend of ours.

How cute is that little island!
It has a table and chairs and  a lamp, I have no doubt that young Harry will be desperate to play 'pirates' there next time he visits.

She has a great eye for detail,  which even extends to the grassy lane outside the garden which is only ever traversed by (dog)walkers and the occasional tractor.

A bench is provided for the weary to rest a while!

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Two Steps to...

Work on of one of the shrub beds revealed this beautiful and mysterious set of steps.

They are constructed of huge and very heavy Yorkstone slabs - they go nowhere, as far as we can tell.

They lead into the shrubbery then stop.
Huge, old shrubs and trees surround them and block the pathway.

Could they lead to another dimension?
They certainly don't lead through to the other side...

Are they leading up, or are they going down?
Are they hiding something?

Somewhere in the garden there is an old capped well - could this be it?  

I doubt we shall ever know, but it is interesting to ponder.

Elsewhere in the garden the tulips are starting to come through - I planted these a few years ago and I still love their crazy colour scheme.

Amongst all my more sedate colour choices of pale pinks and lemons these tulips make an exuberant splash of colour which always makes me smile.
It looks as though someone has splashed red paint all over yellow tulips.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

The Sisterhood of the Travelling Apron

Borrowed image,  from Susan's blog

I rarely join clubs or societies, because I hate the commitment of my time.  So, it will come as a surprise to my family to learn that I am about to join a Sisterhood.

Meggie on the Prairie  (her blog is beautiful, and always interesting, so do check it out) was awarded the apron by
Susan, of My Mother's Apron Strings.  Susan's blog is full of wonderful word of advice, never read it when you are hungry.

This beautiful apron was made by Susan,  and awarded to Meggie.  Meggie decided that she would keep the apron for a couple of weeks and then pass it  on to a blog friend, and so on.  In this way it could be worn and enjoyed by many friends as it makes its way around the world and brings us all a little closer.

The adventures of this apron will be recorded in blogs, and also in a journal which will travel with it as it tours the world.

Thus was born The Sisterhood of the Travelling Susan Apron!

Meggie has very kindly selected me to be the next recipient..
 ...for once I am excited and thrilled to be joining a club!

Thank you Meggie!  Thank you Susan!
I am grateful to both of you for this wonderful opportunity to participate.

I'll let you know when the apron arrives and my part in the adventure begins.

Later addition:  You can read all about my adventures here!   I had a truly magical and emotional time.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

I Wish I Could Take A Hansom Cab Down Memory Lane

This little brooch is something I have always liked.  It belonged to my mother.  It is about two inches wide by two and a half inches tall, made of solid silver, hallmarked and dated 1913, the safety chain is missing and there should be a tiny citrine stone in each of the coach-lamps.   It is not a valuable piece, but it is precious to me.

How I wish I had asked my mother about it before it was too late.  From the date stamp, it is possible that it was her mother's  - but something I do recall her saying was that the only possession she had that had been her mother's was a saucepan lid!  This stuck in my mind because it was so bizarre, and also  because there was an old saucepan lid which she always kept.

The finer details don't matter, suffice to say that my grandmother was the second wife of my grandfather.    Ultimately two of the much older sons from that first marriage ended up living with my grandmother and grandfather and they, allegedly, claimed everything when my grandfather died...well, all but the saucepan lid.

Unfortunately, I will never find out the story of the hansom cab (or the saucepan lid)  because the last one standing, my mother's sister, has no memory of it at all.

So, the history of the brooch must begin with my mother, but that still leaves a lot of years where it was presumably enjoyed by someone else.    Hang on while I call a cab...

...And Then There Was One

Poor Sick Chick died last night.  
She was a lovely old ex-battery hen, the most vocal, and gentle, of the original four.  
She liked nothing better than to scratch around and chatter to us as we worked.  
We shall miss her, so will Little Red Hen.

She lies buried in the middle of Owl Wood.

I realise that to non-hen people this is a fuss about nothing.  Our rescued, rescue hens were great little characters who showed us that big personalities can also come in small, feathery packages.
A hen is not 'just a hen'.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Friday Fences

I am delighted to be joining in with Friday Fences
many thanks to Meggie on the Prairie for introducing me to it.

I often walk past these metal railings, I have always liked the juxtaposition of the metal, old wood, tiles and greenery.
Today I obtained permission to photograph the rails from inside the paddock.

I particularly like the patina on these old metal railings.    They have seen some life but they are sturdy and strong.    Our little village has an elderly resident blacksmith and I like to think that the railings were made by him, or one of his ancestors.

I love the textures, the wear, the rust and the tiles of this little barn which butts up to the railings...

and I like the way nature is doing her best to subsume the metal.
My antics with the camera on this wet and soggy day were overseen by dear old Arnold.  
Part of the function of this fence is to keep him safe from the lane.
Long may it do so.

The old brown horse has a shaggy coat,
But once he was young and trim,
And he used to trot through the woods and lanes
With a woman who was fond of him.

Excerpt from a poem by W F Holmes

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Three Village Elders at a Birthday Party

This marvellous man was 95 years old yesterday.  A party was hosted by the local Railway Tavern with fun and merriment provided by many of John's friends.  
There was a beautiful buffet and John was swamped with gifts and cards, enfolded in hugs and affection.
He must have been tired by the end of the evening, I know I was.
Some of you may remember our very dear friend Terry - ex Royal Marine who endured three terrible years as a prisoner of war during the Korean War.
This is Joan, you may remember that she grew up in Belleau and was able to give me lots of the history of the place, she also paints marvellous pictures and ices cakes, beautifully - despite very severe sight problems.

Three of my favourite village elders!

They put the rest of us to shame with their energy.
They are the most interesting people to settle down and have a chat with
 and I am extremely fond of each of them.

Yesterday morning we had to do a few things in Lincoln, the weather was awful, so I didn't take many photographs.
Here is a photograph for  Meggie on the Prairie  - with the promise of many more when we visit next time!

This quick shot shows the Castle and the Cathedral and the huddle of old red brick houses and shops.
It was a quick snap taken from the car park.
I liked the idea of so much history all in one frame.

There was a little sadness yesterday as I heard that another of my favourite people had died.  Sheila was a marvellous and strong minded woman.  She was very no-nonsense, having been a farmer's wife, but she was kind, always willing to help, or have a chat, she had a terrific sense of humour.
She will be missed.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Eggs in the Owl Box!

The Owl Protection people came today, to check on the owl box for us.  The news was mixed... it is inhabited again, but by Jackdaws.  There is a clutch of warm eggs in there.  Harry was thrilled to bits when he was allowed to briefly hold one of the eggs while the box was examined.
Des Res in the Owl Wood

The Ringers will call back in about six weeks to ring the young Jackdaws.  I hope to be home then and I'll photograph the procedure and post about it.  So, disappointing not to have the Tawny Owls in residence, but good news for Mr and Mrs Jackdaw.
Borrowed image

I am woefully ignorant about Jackdaws so I came in and dug out some old bird books to do a little research - books make a nice change from the internet.  Smaller than rooks these birds are social and gregarious.  They eat mainly molluscs, insects, and worms and they are particularly fond of sheep ticks and will sit on the back of sheep and pick them out.    They are also quite keen on  eating the young of other birds.

They often make their nests in cliff faces, woods, or ruins usually making use of holes or cracks in trees or masonry, although they will sometimes build open nests in a wood.  They normally build a stack of sticks and then line the cup with wool, fur, horse hair or grass.  All of which is readily available around here.  

The average clutch is four to six eggs.  According to the books eggs are normally laid towards the end of April, so these are a little early - probably due to that exceptionally warm weather a week or two ago.
Three years ago we had three of  these delightful creatures hatched and grown in the box - which was so special and exciting.  Perhaps one day we'll have the privilege of seeing some more.  
An Owl Wood Tawny
Another Owl Wood Tawny
Don't they look woolly and cuddly - watch out for their claws though!

In the evenings and during the night I often hear the call of both a female and a male Tawny Owl, so I had real hopes of a romance and some owlets.  Ah, well.  I'll keep you posted.

I found my first bluebell of the year today - isn't that a wonderful blue!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Aunt Sally and The Rising Price of Stamps

I recently came across some photographs of my Aunt Sally.
Here she is, in my old kitchen.

Each year the village of Tetney would hold a Scarecrow Festival.  It attracted huge crowds of people and was a great fund-raising event which brought together the various factions of the village.  As ever, there were a few who wouldn't join in, but we didn't miss them.

There would be a Flower Festival at the church, Cream Teas in the Village Hall, events on the Village Green and the Playing Field, Horse Rides,  Open Gardens, Tug Of War,  Tombolas, Raffles, Craft Stalls, etc, etc.

As with most villages there were the Village Hall people, the Mother's Union, the Church people,  the Women's Institute, and somewhere in the middle were the village people.   We all worked together,
but there were undercurrents...Midsummer Murder scenarios were never far away!

The idea was for every household to make a scarecrow or two and display them in their gardens.  Then the public would walk around and view them before being asked to vote on the 'Best in Show' ... and to spend their money on the many other attractions we had provided to empty their pockets, purses and wallets.

We had decided to do good old Aunt Sally and Worzel Gummidge.  I think we were rather more successful with our attempt at Aunt Sally than with poor Worzel.  This is how they should have looked...
This is how Aunt Sally and Worzel appeared in the TV programme
...but this is how poor Worzel ended up

..unfortunately I don't have a photograph of Aunt Sally in all her finery.  
The scarecrows were left out for the rest of the week and gradually the village returned to normal.  
Coffers had been filled, squabbles and resentments would fester ready for the next fundraiser.

I also came across a huge pile of old letters.  I'll do a post about the letters another time, but it is the price on the stamps which fascinated me today, especially given the enormous price rise which is about to hit us.
These letters date from the late 1960's when the cost of sending a letter was 4d. 
That is four old pence, as it was pre-decimalisation!   

The cost of a first class stamp is set to rise to 60p - that is 12 shillings, pre decimalisation - 144 old pence.
I wish I could get out of the habit of converting back to £ s d!

Thursday, 12 April 2012

The First Time I Drank Coca-Cola

Upon our arrival in beautiful Hong Kong in 1961, we were taken to the Ascot Hotel in Happy Valley.  It will have been demolished long ago, but it was a nice family hotel and well used to having bewildered, pasty children and parents dumped upon them while apartments and school places were found.    I was almost eight, my older brother, Steve was twelve and a half, Ian was less than a year old.  My father was a civilian who worked for the RAF doing highly secret things.   Life was too exciting for me to ponder upon that for too long.

We did, and saw, many memorable things during those early days, among them was being allowed to drink my very first ever coca cola!   They were different times, a drink like that was a treat to be savoured.   I can still remember the ice cold, greenish glass bottle, condensation dripping down the sides and two straws (the paper type) it felt like the height of sophistication and luxury.    The taste did not disappoint!
Borrowed image

A Sophisticated Young Girl About Town
The illusion was helped by the fact that we were sitting in the bar, on high bar stools.  It was so exciting.  We were having a drink before going into dinner.  We only stayed there for ten days, but I know that the waiters used to be highly amused because each evening I would order exactly the same meal...spaghetti bolognese with lashings of parmesan.  No matter the other tempting dishes, I had found a dish that I liked and stuck to it.  I wonder how long that would have lasted had we been there for three months.

Borrowed image

As we settled into our new apartment and our schools, we began to explore the island.  We had lots of wonderful experiences which always involved stopping off somewhere for a drink.

Another memorable one was the 7up float - 7up with a scoop of ice cream.  I didn't really rate that, as it seemed a waste of both 7up and ice cream!   Oh how I loved those beautiful green bottles with the red and white label.

It was an exciting time, riding in rickshaws as a treat, visiting fabulous parks, botanical gardens, the Tiger Balm Gardens with the weird and wonderful statues, the visions of Hell, grottoes and pavillions displaying effigies of Chinese mythology.  We travelled up The Peak on the Tram, got to play on some very beautiful beaches, visited a variety of parks, and crossed to the Mainland on the Star Ferry.

It became an established routine to go to Kowloon, on the Mainland, every Saturday.  We would go to the YMCA to buy our English comics and magazines  -  Bunty, Judy, Princess, Eagle, Dandy and Beano - according to what was available, then  we'd settle down for a drink in the cafe.  I'm not quite sure why, but we always drank tinned milk.  Ice cold tinned milk.  I think it was called Tongala - but I may be wrong.  I was always fascinated at the triangular punch holes which were made in the top, then a straw was popped in.  It was sterilised milk, but after the heat and bustle of the journey it tasted wonderful!

Quite often we'd go the Victoria Barracks Swimming Pool  and after swimming and splashing all afternoon our drink would be Green Spot Orange Juice.  Glass bottles, paper straws, ice cold.  It was wonderful.

One of the lovely parks which we visited regularly had a big pond in the middle with a cafe to the side.  After running around and letting off steam we go there for a drink.  We always had the Apple Float.  This was actually a pineapple float and was totally delicious, a mix of pineapple juice, fizzy water, tiny ice cubes, and pineapple pieces.

One drink I never got to try, but which always intrigued me, was a dirty milk coloured drink which came in the ubiquitous glass bottle of the time.  I think it may have been a type of soya bean milk, but I could be mistaken. My mother was quite adamant that I wouldn't like it and that was the end of that!

So there you have a whistle-stop tour of beautiful Hong Kong, via some of the soft drinks we enjoyed.  I could also have done a version describing the smells, but I thought this was more fun.  Without doubt, the best drink was that very first coca cola - not because of the taste - but because it marked a complete change in my quiet English life.  

One of these days I shall have to buy a bottle, see if it still tastes the same as in my memory.

Can you remember your first taste of coca-cola?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

My Favourite Place - The Western Isles

I am fiercely proud of being English, but my heart belongs to Scotland - The Western Isles, to be precise.  I was fortunate enough to spend several years living there when I was a teenager and I have also returned many times, on holiday. 
Stornoway Harbour
My parents, brother and I spent 6 months living in a rented bungalow in Stornoway before moving out to a croft house in Lochganvich for two and a half years.  I know we have lots of family photos of the place, somewhere, but this is a borrowed image
The house was small, two up, two down with a bathroom.  Water was pumped from a well but was not suitable for drinking, so drinking water was brought from Stornoway, by my father, on his return from work.  The house was heated by a solid fuel Rayburn and we had a flush loo.  Luxury!

The croft next door belonged to an older couple called John and Marion.  John would have been well into his seventies, Marion was probably in her late 50's/early 60's.  They were the nicest people you could wish to meet.  They kept a few sheep and a couple of cows and they were more than happy to let this eager young Sassenach go over there every day to 'help' them.  Whenever there was something different to be done they would let me join in and patiently taught me to shear a sheep, give them injections and treatment,  watch the dipping, etc.  Marion taught me to milk the cow by hand and generally make myself useful, well, I hope I gradually became more useful.  

They let us rear the orphaned lambs, one died, but the other, Betsy grew and grew and when we eventually left the islands John promised that she could live her natural life out on their croft.

Lochganvich was, and still is, a tiny hamlet of less than 10 houses.    We knew everyone who lived there and they were always happy to welcome us, share a strupak - a cup of tea (always the best china) and a plate of buttered Scottish pancakes/Battenburg cake, etc.   Sometimes there would be some crowdie with the pancakes.  Unsurprisingly, I used to love visiting people!

They taught us to cut the peat, lending us the cutting irons and showing us how to heave the great slabs and lay them out for the first stage of drying.  Later we were shown how to make them into little stooks, arranged so that the wind could blow through them to aid the drying process, then we made slightly larger stacks.  Weeks later, when the peat was deemed to have dried enough the village would come together and we'd spend a long evening collecting the peat for one of the homes, everyone working together.  A couple of the men would build the huge peat stack at the side of the house.  I always marvelled at the clever construction.  Each evening of hard work would end with a wonderful feast and lots of chat, as arrangements were made to repeat the process the following day for the next house.

Once a week Iain-Harry would trundle down the quarter-of-a-mile long driveway to our house, in his grocery van.  It was amazing what he could pack into that van.  My mother would have her list made out ready, then she'd go into the van and find out what was actually available and make adjustments as necessary.  One of the very nicest thing he brought was a wonderful, fresh 'Milk Loaf'.  It was our routine to have a thick slice of this, spread with butter, once the shop-van had gone on to the next croft house.

The beaches on the island are amazingly beautiful, clean and empty most of the time.  I don't mind the wind or the cold if I can have an empty beach.   
My younger brother, Ian aka Owl Wood attended a lovely little village school at Achmore, lucky thing.  I had to catch a mini-bus, which came to the top of the drive, and travel the ten or so miles into Stornoway to the dreaded Nicolson Institute, the only senior school on the island.   The education there was superb, but I couldn't get over the barbaric punishment which was meted out to some students by a few of the teachers.  The thick leather tawse was still in use as a punishment.  The fear of it blighted my time there.
Achmore School
So why do I feel such affection for the place if I spent so much time in fear?  I could say it is because the islands are so beautiful, the people are kind and generous, the roads quiet, the beaches breathtakingly beautiful, the seafood first class,    It is all of these things and so much more. 

 Go there yourselves, see if the magic of the islands finds a way into your soul.