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.

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Bramble Rambles

Lest anyone would like to keep up with the happenings around this place,
try Bramble Rambles
for it is there that I now keep my sons updated about
our quiet life in Lincolnshire.

Thursday, 15 August 2013


Ming Ming and Jonny returned to Shanghai last week - how quickly those three weeks flew by.
The place seems very quiet without them.

Xitang - February, 2013

I often ask Jonathan to let me have some photographs - my requests fall on deaf ears.   
 Ming Ming, however, willingly shared her photographs with me.   
Thanks, Ming Ming.

I really like the look of this ancient water city, Xitang,
which is located near Shanghai.

I love the peace and tranquillity of this scene
 although I bet the reality was a bit whiffy and rather more noisy.

With so many lanterns, and such a lot of  red around
 it has the air of a festival of some sort.
As night falls it looks magical with the lanterns reflecting in the water.     

Lanterns everywhere.

See the tree growing through the roof of the porch?

The spirits of former inhabitants is said to come
back to reside in the grass growing on the roofs.

Back on shore all is hustle and bustle.

Xitang is an ancient water town dating back to around 700 BC.
It is built at the point where nine rivers converge
and is famous for the covered walkways, lanes
and beautiful bridges which
span the rivers.

Wednesday, 14 August 2013

My Brother and Toby Too

My older brother, Steven, and his wife had come to stay for a few days.  This was the first night of their visit and his condition had rapidly deteriorated, he was struggling with the mechanics of breathing and was going into crisis.

It was 4am and it felt like a cast of millions were bustling about.   Someone was ringing for an ambulance, giving clear directions on how to locate us, decisions were made about who should go to hospital with him, mobile phones found up, loose change located.  

George took himself off to wait by the roadside, armed with a large torch, determined that the ambulance should not miss our turning.   Others were hurriedly pulling on clothes,  preparing to go in the ambulance to be with Steve - ready to explain his condition,  for speech was beyond him.

As everyone bustled about Steve sat on a bench out on the patio,  struggling to hang on.   His desperate need for air had driven him out there to sit under the moonlit sky.    The coolness helped, a little.

How he kept as calm as he did, I shall never know.

I sat beside him and I knew the end was very close and there was absolutely nothing which I could do for him.     I can honestly say that I sensed Mr  De'ath was waiting nearby.    I silently shrieked at him to keep away from my big brother.

I held Steven's hand and told him that it was important that he knew how much I love him, then I lost the use of my voice.        I found myself tracing a pattern of small circles on his knee - each being one and a quarter turns - unconsciously using the technique which is so soothing and calming for dogs.    I was completely powerless to help, useless.

Rapidly progressing Myasthenia Gravis (bulbar) is a cruel disease.

Luckily, Steve did make it and has received wonderful treatment, for which I thank the NHS.   It won't cure him, but it helps to bring a semblance of 'normality'.    He lives to tell the tale, and I am happy that he has more time.     Our younger brother, Owl, has been there for him all this time.    Visiting, entertaining, keeping his spirits up, driving, fetching, carrying, giving support and showing his love in the most practical of ways.

I have two wonderful brothers...we don't always see eye to eye, we have vastly different opinions and perspectives for we are three very different people, but there is an extremely strong bond of love.

Talking of love - I found this photograph, taken on the preceding afternoon.

Steve had just met Toby Too for the first time...

Toby Too likes to take his time to get to know people and yet here he is snuggling up to Steven, after just ten minutes,  as though he has known him forever.      Poor Steve looks dreadfully ill in this photograph.

Do dogs show empathy?   I think so.

Moving on, my next post will be somewhat cheerier.

Ming Ming very kindly gave me lots of photographs before she and Jonny returned to China, I hope to share some of these with you.    I may even get around to showing you some of the wonderful meals which she cooked for us - thanks, Ming Ming! x

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Thank You for all Your Well Wishes & Help - an Update on my Brother

What a week it has been.     The much anticipated and planned-for visit from my older brother, Steve, didn't quite go as we had hoped. I had prepared a fridge full of very easy to swallow food, with lots of other dishes planned, ready to be created should he fancy any of them - and for that I must thank all of you for your wonderful suggestions.

Alas, it very quickly became clear that his condition was rapidly deteriorating as speech, swallowing and breathing gradually became more difficult than 'normal'.   At 4am we had to call for an ambulance.   

Because we live on the Edge of Nowhere that doesn't mean an instant response.   It involves careful explanation of how to find us, and someone has to go out on to the road with a big torch to help the driver locate our driveway.      It took a long time, more than half an hour - an unimaginably long time with someone who is struggling for air.   

Luckily, the call was also answered by a First Responder.   She arrived like the cavalry and got to work, spreading calm and creating a positive atmosphere.   I cannot thank her enough.

Twenty or more minutes later the ambulance arrived.

To cut a long story short, Steven is now in an excellent hospital on the other side of the country and is receiving virtually every treatment they can throw at him.   He has been fed through a tube in his nose and is being administered a whole concoction of drugs and plasma.   His condition is still very serious, but he is responding.

Ian, my younger brother, is over that side of the country too.   He is supporting Steve's wife, driving her to and from hospital and generally keeping things going.     I have no doubt that he is also keeping Steve entertained, with his wit and humour,  during visiting times!    

As far as Steven's condition goes - this is Ian's latest report on Fb...

Just got back from visiting Steve today, and he's well into his IVIg therapy and responding very well. His swallowing is going to be tested on Thursday and if he "passes" he may actually see some real food, albeit pureed or mashed - and the thought ischeering him up mightily! In hospital for at least another two weeks while he's monitored on this cocktail of drugs and IVIg. His voice has come back too, so long as he doesn't over-work it. So far so good! Fingers crossed for remission. Cheers guys'n'galleons, I've passed your kind comments on to him (after I explained what Facebook is)!

Monday, 29 July 2013

I Need Your Help....Please

As soon as Jonathan and Ming Ming head off to London I have to whisk off their bedding, air the room, and prepare it for my older brother and his wife who will arrive the following day.    They will stay with us until the weekend.

My brother has recently been diagnosed with a disease which is making it very difficult for him to swallow, breathe, or talk.     He has lost an enormous amount of weight in the last few months as he struggles to find any food that he can manage to eat.

During his visit I would love to be able to find something that he can eat and enjoy, so I am racking my brains to come up with suitable dishes for him.     Obviously the sweeter dishes are not too difficult to concoct, but I'd really like to have something savoury to offer him.

Does anyone have any ideas at all?      Savoury or sweet, I'd really appreciate your input.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

It is a Very Small World! (Ming Ming & Jonny in Lincoln & York)

This shot of Jonny and Ming Ming walking up Lincoln's aptly named Steep Hill 
really makes me smile
at the way it emphasises the difference in their heights.

The gradient is one-in-seven,
and it gets worse near the top.

There used to be a wonderful second-hand bookshop
about halfway along it.
You can imagine how popular it was!
Suddenly everyone wanted to browse.

Independent shops and restaurants line this
two thousand year old road.

They become particularly interesting when you find yourself out of breath.

Cathedral Square is full of delightful old buildings.

Including this one... Lincoln Cathedral.

When Jonny took Ming Ming to visit York
they both found out just how small the world can be.

They visited beautiful York Minster
and then headed for The Shambles...and the shops.

Imagine their surprise when somewhere along here they were hailed by one of Jonathan's
Shanghai University students.
He also happened to be on holiday and visiting York on the same day!
I don't know who was more surprised,
Jonny or his student.

All this tourism is hard work!

Sadly, Jonny and Ming Ming will be leaving us soon.
They will be staying with my older son, Tim, and his wife, Isis.
Ming Ming can then enjoy the delights
that London has to offer.

Surely not a patch on Lincolnshire...

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Des Res for Three Little Pigs (Claythorpe Watermill part II with Jonny & Ming Ming)

On the opposite side of the road from beautiful Claythorpe Watermill
 lies an Enchanted Forest.

While adults love the beauty and tranquillity of the watermill,
younger children love charging around this place...

..if they can find the courage to slip past the slightly scary blue wizard
 who guards the entrance.

There are cute little cottages

of child-sized proportions

all set in pretty woodland.

There are several magic mushroom houses,

and even a toy shop!

A cute row of terraced houses for the three little pigs..

Luckily for the pigs I didn't spot the Big Bad Wolf
but they had better watch out for
these rather fierce-looking

The horse in the paddock didn't seem too perturbed, though.

Later that evening we went along to our village pub,
The Railway Tavern.
The field next door is home to some cows - including this beauty.
See the heart shape on her head?
I wonder whether she is called Valentina.

The barley field opposite the Tavern is fringed with beautiful poppies.
Ming Ming was unable to resist picking a few.
Their beauty, and our freedom to grow them,
is a source of never-ending delight
and wonder to her.

Friday, 26 July 2013

Claythorpe Watermill

We live within a few hundred yards of the watermill but
I have never paid my fee and gone inside for a proper look around.     
 Instead I have been like a child 
standing with my nose pressed against a sweetie shop window, 
as I stood on the bridge outside 
and looked in.

When I am rubbernecking
I sometimes take so long
that Toby dog stands up on his back legs 
to peer over the bridge
eager to see what has caught my attention.

It is beautiful.

The watermill has recently been sold.
The new people very generously dropped off cards
to all the local villagers,
inviting us to call in and visit
for free!
That was an offer I couldn't refuse,
especially as it has coincided with Jonathan's holiday
at home.

It is no longer a working mill, alas.
However, there is a very nice bygones area.
The grounds are beautiful,
but the main attraction is the wildfowl
and animals.

Peacocks and other ornamental birds roam free
and look spectacular.
On more than one occasion they have called in to visit Pear Tree Log gardens.
Their keeper has had to come along on a motor scooter
to shepherd them back up the road.
It is amazingly effective
and great fun to watch.

Ming Ming certainly gave her camera a work-out!

When we reached this section I had to smile.
For a couple of years I was convinced that there was a pink flamingo
in the grounds because I could see one as
I walked the dogs past the trout farm.
Then I decided that it had to be a plastic one,
because it never seemed to move.
I felt a bit of a twit for having been fooled by it...

Dreadful photograph, for which I apologise, but can you see the flamingo?
It turns out that I was right first time round
it is alive and doing very nicely indeed!

Again, this photograph doesn't do this very handsome bird justice,
he is gorgeous!

We enjoyed coffee and cakes in here,
one of two beautiful tea rooms.
The great news is that our free ticket gains us admission for one whole year!

The only down-side, for me, is that there are birds, including Snowy Owls, caged in small aviaries.
There are two wallabies in a compound
and a pair of marmoset monkeys.

I have no doubt that they are all beautifully cared for,
but it is not how they should live.
That part upset me deeply.

I will reserve judgement until I see what the new people do to enrich their quality of life.

We have Jonny and Ming Ming with us for a few more days.
The weather has been superb, for the main part.
I will post about the tea ceremony and show you some of the wonderful
meals which Ming Ming has cooked
at a later date.

Thank you all for your comments, they are very much appreciated.
I know Ming Ming enjoys reading them too
(so does Jonny)
just don't tell him that I told you.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Jonny & Ming Ming in Lincolnshire

Here they are, the final people to come through Immigration and Passport Control.   All the hoops have been jumped through, the visa checked, questions asked - Jonny and Ming Ming can now begin their holiday in England.

Our tiny local airport was closing down for the night - the doors were locked behind us - as we made our way out through the car park.    
It was almost ten o'clock at night and the staff wanted to go home.   
So did we.

The young ones were up and about before George and I got up to let the hens out and see to the animals.   Their bodies were still on Shanghai time.    

Ming Ming has a particularly soft spot for Bennie, who adores all the attention.

Here they are trying to work out which hen is Xiaou Ji 
George is the only one who knows for sure.

Keeping in touch with their friends in China...

Hats on - and off to the fruit farm along the road, strawberries for tea!

The guardian of the gate, what a poser.

Despite my protestations that she is on holiday, and should be relaxing,
Ming Ming has been cooking some superb Chinese meals.
She is a far better cook than I will ever be.
Ingredients are beautifully sliced, diced, 
and beautifully arranged.
The food is spicy and delicious.

Young Francesca loves Ming Ming's meals.
The spicier the better, as far as she is concerned.

Harry hasn't tried one yet - it seems to be party season
amongst his many friends - so we scarcely see him.

However, he called round a little after 7 a.m. yesterday.
He wanted to see his two favourite people 
- and he didn't mean Grandpa or Grandma!

I couldn't resist taking a photograph of  Ming Ming wearing my special apron.

No doubt you are already on photo-overload, so I won't post any more just now.

It is wonderful having Jonny home and it is a genuine pleasure having Ming Ming here
 to stay with us for a few weeks.      
She is not only beautiful to look at, but she has a wonderfully bubbly personality.
There is no language barrier, despite the fact that our Mandarin is non-existent and Ming Ming's English
is slightly less than perfect.

Her smile lights up the place
and her enthusiasm is contagious.
She is great fun to be with.

The fields around our place are festooned with beautiful red poppies.
Ming Ming was amazed...
In China they are not permitted to grow them,
and if they did
the police would chop them down
and the farmer would be in big trouble..!

Most evenings we have been treated to a special Chinese tea ceremony.
I'll post about it, next time.

Apologies for not having the time to read or comment on many blogs right now - life is hectic and fun.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Pottering and Sipping Champagne

Here on the east coast of England we are baking...
The weather is glorious,
as long as you don't have to do any work.
It's most definitely not the weather to be baking  
except that I have just received a very special gift through the post.

I tried taking my own photo
in a mirror...

This beautiful apron was made by Susan. 
Each month she sews a new apron, in stunning fabric combinations,
 then pulls a name out of a hat for the winner.    
I was lucky enough to win this lovely one.
Her wonderful blog is here.
Bakers will be inspired...

then George came in and I was able to pose
in front of the Rayburn
The thing about these aprons is that they hold a little magic, 
 and, despite the heat,  I felt the need to bake
but what?

"Treats, please..."
I couldn't resist those brown eyes.

Dog treats it is!

Our brilliant dog trainer and friend, Jan, gave me the recipe.     
I enjoy making them, despite the fishy smell,
(I'm not good with smells)
I like knowing what is in the food
I feed to my dog.
They are also much more economical than commercial treats.

The recipe is very simple
and can be found
on the top button

So far this week the cats have caught five moles.
Four were in the woodland
this one was in the kitchen garden.
I have nothing against moles,
as long as they stay out of the gardens,
the cats don't feel the same.

The first sunflower has unfurled its petals,

the purple sprouting broccoli is looking wonderful

and the cucumbers are looking ... cool.

the latest addition to the garden is this little tub of seaweed...


It has been a seasonal favourite of mine since childhood, 
way before these fancy chefs began using it.
Our greengrocer has a man who normally supplies him with it during the season, 
last year I reckon he must have got a better price elsewhere, for we were left without.    

Now that I know it can be grown on the patio,
 providing you use salt water and never let it dry out,
I am giving it a go.    
I'll let you know how it goes.

Francesca has enjoyed a little pottering, too.

Followed by a visit to feed the hens with some spinach leaves.

All that pottering left me worn out and in need of a drink
How fortunate that the elderflower champagne was ready to be sampled...
My thanks to Cro Magnon for the recipe and the inspiration.
It is superb.
It is very easy to make and tastes delicious.
A light, refreshing, summery drink.
(Very low alcohol content)