Monday, 30 June 2014

A Few of my Favourite Things...

Well, not really my favourite things but I was just looking back over the photographs of the past year and I found these, which I haven't included in this blog to date.

Clematis outside the back door.

Daisies in the 'orchard' - pretentious, moi?

Sprocket the Dog

The Vegetable Garden - in our dreams! - at Night

There's something lovely about standing in the garden at night when the house is full of people and the lights are on.  Then it seems like home.

Blue skies and overgrown shrubs

Why would you fly away?  A sunny English spring.  Nothing better.

Toadstools (or mushrooms) covered in Leylandii droppings

The Shaded Path to the Unused Gate - will be the title of my murder novel when I finally get round to writing it!

Bread.  And more to come.  S has become a master baker in recent weeks.  He's fettling his sourdough as we speak.

Great British Bake-Off - my mum or Mary Berry?  It's a tough one.

Hot buttered bread for tea.

Sun rise over the Old Rectory garden.
First outside meal of the year.

Sprocket again.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Stoned...or De-Stoned!

Why have I never had a cherry stoner before now?  It is a truly wondrous thing.  Just put in your cherry, squeeze, et voila!  A stoneless cherry.  I got mine from Lakeland (ever eager to get some sponsorship for this blog!) for £7.59.  It does olives too.

A Sparkling Cherry Stoner
I love cherries!  My favourite fruit.  But only ever eat them when they are in season and English.  There is no joy in something that has been shipped from afar and is mean and sour.  My favourite dessert at this time of year is a bowl of berries: blueberries, raspberries, strawberries and cherries.  And, towards the end of the summer, blackberries too.  Yummy!

Berries in a Bowl
It's a time of year for salads too.  And I do like a good salad.  This one is from the Waitrose Magazine and is very delicious.  And healthy.  Recipe here.

To complement the salad, we have, of course, freshly baked bread.  S has turned his hand to baking, with great success, and I haven't bought a loaf in weeks.  Some examples of his prowess.

White Bread
Brown Bread
Special Bread Basket for Proving that Creates Those Concentric Circles on the Bread
The Bread Maker's Tools
Walnut and Honey Bread - a Triumph!

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Old Rectory on the Road

We had a few days away at Easter.  It's been ages since I went anywhere for longer than a day.  My brother came to look after our mum and his dogphew.  We headed off to Suffolk.  We've been before and we know the area so it was easy.  We wouldn't have to rush around sightseeing.  We could just relax, read and be.

It wasn't until just before we left that I noticed that the description of the cottage that we had booked said 'with no electricity'.  "It says 'with no electricity'", I observed to S.  "What do you think that means?"  "I expect it means that it hasn't got any electricity."  The man is a genius of no small proportions.

WHAAAATTTT????!!!!  That meant no lap top, no iPad, no iPod, no Kindle, no mobile phone charger, no hairdryer, no toothbrush, no television.  No. Electric. Kettle.  Tea!!!!  How would we survive?  Panic set in.  But instead of doing the sensible thing, cancelling immediately and waving our deposit goodbye, we set off.

The house turned out to be a gamekeeper's cottage set in a wooded glade on the outskirts of the small village of Yoxford.  Very Lady Chatterley's.  We woke the first morning to a group of deer peering at us from just a few yards away.  However, it was too chilly for frolics and daisy chains.

The cottage had open fires in the sitting room and bedroom and a wood burning stove, rather like an Aga but called an Esse, dealt with the cooking and heating.  Light came from candles.  (And a torch for the inevitable middle of the night trips to the loo.  It's our age.)  We got on well the first night.  I cooked a ratatouille on the hob and it was delicious.  Mellors, aka S, began to plan his first loaf of bread.

However, after that, we couldn't get the stove hot.  It was hot enough to heat the water for tea and to give us bath water but the oven wasn't sufficiently hot for bread.  Then it started to smoke from every orifice, setting off the carbon monoxide alarm twice, which made us a bit twitchy to say the least.  And it is wrong to claim that there is no smoke without fire.  We stank of smoke and there was no discernible fire in that stove.  Although we didn't realise how bad we smelt until we got home.  So, apologies to the delightful staff at the wonderful Crown and Castle Hotel in Orford, owned by Ruth Watson of Hotel Inspector fame.  We thought we were oh so elegant when in fact we smelt like we'd been standing beside a pile of burning old tyres for a week.

On the Saturday morning, we couldn't get the kettle warm enough for tea.  Disaster.  We headed to Snape Maltings, but too early for it actually to be open.  We were saved by the village shop.  It was the last straw and we called for help.  The estate managers, who look after the cottage, arrived bearing an electric kettle.  Yes.  An.  Electric.  Kettle.  They removed part of the wall with an allen key and there were the sockets.  The builders who had renovated the property had said it was mad to be 'with no electricity' because they wouldn't be able to use their drills to repair things.  And so there was, in fact, 'electricity'.  And I guess that explains the inverted commas.  It's to protect against charges that they are contravening the Trade Descriptions Act.  Because they say there is no electricity when there is.  I'm not bitter.

All this aside, it was a lovely place to stay.  Romantic and peaceful.  Some pictures.  And, if you want to book it, go to Best of Suffolk.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

Trench Warfare

Having been at it now for around eighteen months, it is evident that renovating a house is like trench warfare: long periods of inactivity followed by bouts of furious action.  It feels like we've been in the former state for some time.  We've dealt with some odds and ends as bits and pieces have fallen off, down, back or been soaked in leaking water but it seems ages since we did anything major.  Of course, there was the wall, which distracted us mightily just after we'd moved in, and the bathroom that we had to put in before moving in.  And the dog proof fence.  But it feels like we haven't done anything significant for some time, if you discount almost decorating the bathroom and the dining room, that is, and we're starting to feel frustrated with our lack of progress.

However, this phase is about to end and we are about to launch into action.  Builders and window repairers are on the horizon and marching towards us.  We have finally found a company to repair the five casement windows that overlook the gin terrace and the two in the so-called 'Long Room' on the top floor.  We love a bit of pretension around here!

This will enable us to finish off the bathroom at last and it will feel like a massive achievement to finally finish one room in its entirety!  Although come to think of it, the door still needs to be painted.  I quite like the shabby chic look that it currently has but S cannot abide anything that is not shipshape and Bristol fashion.

The bathroom windows are particularly bad, bent and rusted.  They will be taken out and replaced by a single pane of glass to keep out the weather, while they are shipped to Moreton-in-Marsh for their makeover.  Just waiting for a start date for this.

Bathroom Window 1

Bathroom Window 2
We have finally decided to remove the leylandii in the back garden.  Just after we moved in, if you remember (and I'm sure you don't!), the local arboriculturalist visited to advise on the trees and said straight away that he would give permission to take them down, if we wanted.  The lumberjack has been along to give his quote and agreed with the verdict.  They are planted close together, bald and twiggy on the inside.

Looking up from the outside

Looking up from the inside

As tall as the house

We have some qualms, obviously, not least the removal of this welcome habitat for wildlife.  It is always full of squirrels and flapping pigeons with a furious and barking Sprocket trying to jump up the trunk to get them.  His hunting technique leaves a lot to be desired.

And how much noise do they absorb?  This is a critical question as there is a busy road on the other side of the wall.  They block out the light and the garden will be all the sunnier for their absence but they also assure us of privacy.  However, we are also awaiting the arrival of the fence man who, we hope, will put up trellising on top of the wall, so we can grow climbers to soften the look whilst also shielding us from the public view and the paparazzi.

(Well, to be honest, the dog proof fence hasn't proved dog proof enough and with Sprocket constantly honing his jumping skills under the leylandii, it is only a matter of time before he leaps over the wall to fall twelve feet to the lane below where he will be run over by a passing car.  I just know it.  Thousands of pounds for a bit of fencing is a small price to pay for his safety.  Although S doesn't entirely agree.)

In addition, we will plant more trees.  We have two damsons in a holding bay, waiting to replace the leylandii, and we will plant other fruit and nut trees if we have the space.  (A medlar.  I've always wanted a medlar tree.  Their fruits were eaten at medieval banquets and favoured by the Victorians.  The shape of the fruit means that its Old English name was 'openaers' or 'open-arse' and in France it is known as 'cul de chien', dog's arse.  It has character, a medlar.)

A Medlar Tree

A Medlar Fruit

We have tasked our builders to undertake a couple of minor jobs for us that have been outstanding for some time.  The first is to repair the columns at the front door, which are being chewed at by wood weevil.  And the second is to repair the lintel that is jutting out above a window at the back of the house.

So, a bout of furious activity is about to begin.  And, once it does, we will probably long for another lengthy spell of inactivity and peace!

Monday, 2 June 2014

An Old Rectory Wedding: A Celebration in Three Acts (3)

Act III: Glamping

A marquee in the sun

Firstly - how long has it taken me to write this?!  We had our first anniversary in April!!  Anyhow to round off the memory of that lovely wedding weekend last June...

The morning after the wedding. The house was still full of guests so breakfast just seemed to go on and on as people came and went, calling in after checking out from local hostelries and before they left for home.  In the midst of all this, we unpacked our presents.  Our friends and family were so generous and we had the most brilliant, thoughtful gifts.

Once everyone had gone, we decided to have lunch.  Leftovers.  And as the tent was still there, we decided to dine in the marquee.  Of course, S set himself the challenge of emptying the beer barrel and there was still Prosecco to be drunk.

C, D and Uncle J

S - and Sprocket looks on

Guest of Honour

So we settled down, me, S, my mum, Auntie J and Uncle J, H and C.  And Sprocket the dog.  We were joined occasionally by H and D.  Sprocket thought it was great fun and had a whale of a time racing around both the inside and the outside of the marquee in one of his mad fits.

C blows bubbles

And more bubbles

Auntie J joins in

Heart Shaped Strawberry

Worth another picture

And in close up...

Heart Shaped Fruit in Tart

Rampaging dog and H's legs

That's not cricket!

Now you see him...

Now you don't!

Dog dashes by

Where's my ball?
With lunchtime long over, my cousin V arrived to take Auntie J and Uncle J home.  More leftovers for her - and we decided to have more too.  We then waved them off but sat on in the tent as the sun set.

It had been a wonderful weekend.  I've never been one for dreaming about wedding dresses, bridesmaids and grooms.  But I couldn't have asked for a better wedding.  Or a better husband, come to that.  Which is the point of the whole thing, of course.

S in Lay Rector Garb