Thursday, 30 December 2010

Twelve Days of Christmas

During the Twelve Days of Christmas our household has had many things to celebrate. For those who know me well my name gives one of the reasons. Although I feel that there is no need to count the years any more, I realise that I had been overestimating the years, and that I am in fact younger than I had thought! Of course, I feel even younger. So definitely no more counting....just celebrate! I think what had thrown me was my big wish to get the dratted bus pass, but it looks as if they are forever moving the goal posts, and who knows it may have to be completely withdrawn by the time I get there!

I've had the most wonderful array of presents, and some came through the post. I had a lovely book from my London Bread Guru, and then a big box from my Swindon Knitting Guru! On Christmas eve we returned from a walk at 11:45, to find a card from the Post Office to say that they had tried to deliver a parcel at 12:30! Well no chance of fetching it before the Christmas close down.....anyway on the 29th I very nearly had a tantrum on the floor at the Kenilworth sorting office, when they could not find my parcel.

I did not have the card on me, and they suggested that the parcel leaflet was from a different delivery company, but no I said that it was just like the ones on their desk. They looked and looked, and then they asked if I knew who the parcel was from. Luckily I had had a email heralding the parcel, and eventually they found my parcel filed under my friend's name. Well her name was on the parcel, but oh so my tenacity paid off.... and Wow how I've been spoilt, I love the cloth parcel covers, and the goodies, and after the consumables are gone, I shall have three little treasures of curved rosewood cable needles, and other treasures too. Until now, I've just grabbed a double pointed sock needle, but now I have THE RIGHT TOOLS for the job!

Christmas day started off with -10C at 9 in the morning, but the roads were clear. The day was spent in the midst of loved ones, with delicious food, warmth and love. All one could wish for. In the afternoon we set out for a walk, to enjoy the daylight. This lovely group of berries must surely have been devoured by now by the hungry birds.

Little Izabelle was a delight, and I could not resist getting down on the floor and having a play with her toys. The first course of smoked salmon, sour cream, and blinis made by Veronica was much appreciated, then delicious turkey, and vegetables and the best of roast potatoes cooked in goose fat...None of us managed any pudding, except for a piece of the apricot filo roulade I had made, and only when we got back from our walk. So I hope that the large jug of Brandy Sauce was used up with the pudding, the next day.

So from me to all my readers, and to myself here is my favourite Christmas Picture.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

It just keeps snowing

I've taken this pictures looking through the windows. Its really the thickest snow I've seen here. Its cold, so cold that there is no water to the washing machine, but we have plenty of clean clothes, sheets, and towels for the next few days. Maybe a little hand washing if absolutely necessary.

Panettone recipe from BBC Radio 4 Food Programme

Having heard the weekend Food Programme, I decided to try their Panettone, and downloaded the recipe. Monday I soaked the fruit and started the sponge. Yesterday I completed the mix, and found a warmish place for the 'cake' to rise. It took all day and then into the oven it went. This morning we had it for breakfast. What did it taste like....well Mr S thought it tasted like a big lardy cake....and I think I must agree with him. I do not think I would do this recipe again. Knowing what I like I'll choose my next Panettone recipe with more care. My pumpkin bread is far far better.

It may be that I added candied peel and not fresh grated, yes that might be it, then there was no spice or vanilla, that could be it, then it was probably too cool for a good rise, that could be it. Mr S and I disagreed over the crystallised ginger. I used goat's butter rather than cow's so there was not the added luscious butter flavour.....and I do like spices, and there were no spices. Cooking temp in the recipe gas 180C which I think in retrospect is a little too low. Again I have reviewed the recipe and there is no salt. This could have been it, just a little salt really does help the dough to develop and rise.
Here is the loaf rolled up and ready to go into the tin

Monday, 20 December 2010

Iced cake and The Sea House

This cake just looks like the real thing, by that I mean the view from my front window as children play out in the snow on the green.
Saturday was spent looking out at the snow falling from just after 9 in the morning till 4 in the afternoon, with about 5 inches of fallen snow. We had a cold winter last year, but this is the coldest and snowiest I've experienced in my life.
Ye four bright wires, so slender and so smooth,
How many wakeful nights y've helped to soothe!
Nor have you fail'd, through many a darksome day,
To keep the potent fiend, Ennui at bay:
Affording occupation mute and kind,
Taxing no powers of body or of mind,
Leaving them free their higher due to pay
Fresh air to breathe - to meditate or pray

When I read this short piece of poetry typed at the bottom of a page of knitting tips sent to me by Diane, and when Diane explained to me where she had copied it from and how much she enjoyed the book, I looked it up. Even though there were mixed reviews, when I saw that for Steerborough read Walberswick, I called up the Library Catalogue on line, and knowing there was a copy at our local library, went straight away to collect the book.
So in between cooking, cleaning, and knitting, I've been reading The Sea House by Esther Freud. Set in the fictional village of Steerborough, it follows the twisting paths that people take and the places where those paths meet...this is taken from the jacket of the book.


In the book Gertrude reads this to Max from an anthology of Suffolk Verse. Whether this is from an anthology or whether it is one of Freud's own I do not know....If it is her own then Esther Freud must be a knitter and a poet too.

We've stayed in Walberswick three times, and each time it has been magical, inspiring, healing, and it is as if there is a string which ties me to that village. As I read through the book, it was as if I was there. I loved each day to walk around to peer at the houses, to make up stories, to explore, and to marvel. Reading this novel has transported me back, and now I just want to plan my next visit there.


Memorable things which have happened to me whilst in Walberswick:

Meeting one of the nicest friends in the whole world: Vickie

Seeing a whole large patch of purple orchids

Stumbling onto a nest of eggs on the beach

Having to jump into the sea to rescue Jessie
Eating fish and chips on the beach at Dunwich
The vast skies with clouds and stars
Getting fresh fish from the quayside
Tea and gooseberry ice cream at the cafe
A whole shoulder of lamb slow roasted at the Bell Inn
Working on my first piece of lace knitting
Walking and Cycling along the quiet roads
Always stopping to watch the pigs and the piglets

Its a white out

On Friday we had a very fast downpour of snow lasting less than an hour, the final flurry was fast and furious and sounded like a downpour of hail. Then the sun came out.... all the while I was busy with the white stuff in the kitchen.

The previous week I had made the marzipan from scratch which makes covering the cake very easy, and set the cake to dry out, ready for icing. Since the very cold weather, I had also been spending my 'enforced' stay at home time cleaning out all the cupboards in the kitchen and around the house, so I knew exactly where to find the little box which contains my Christmas Cake decoration, first bought in Swindon in 2007.
This year, instead of the usual 8 or 9 inch fruit cake, I am making a 6 inch one. With my calculator I carefully recalculated the quantities for the cake, marzipan and icing, and with the little bit of marzipan left, made the most delicious little biscuits, called Sardinian Almond Biscuits.
I only had 100g almond paste left over, so again, made about a quarter of the quantity of biscuits. These also used up the remainder of the egg white left from brushing the cake before laying on the marzipan. I used to use apricot jam method, but the egg white method used by Delia Smith really works well. Last year I ended up throwing away the remainder of the marzipan after it had sat in the recesses of the fridge for too many weeks.
The recipe for the biscuits came from an early birthday present from my very good friend and bread guru Vicki: a book by one of our favourite writers Linda Collister called Christmas treats to make and give.
This year I have been given some wonderful home grown apples by various people. All different varieties having different flavours and uses. One big green apple from Julian was labelled as being dual purpose. It is really good used either way, and needs no added sugar when cooked, and I must try and get its name.
Since I have been making small batches of Gelato most weeks, I decided to try my own concoction, based on three egg yolks with 350 ml goats milk and sugar, I added about a cup of cooked and chilled apple pure and also some sultanas which had soaked in calvados overnight. Mr S was amazed and so was I, the sultanas were reminiscent of the raisins in rum and raisin ice cream, but with the flavour of the apple as well as the calvados came through. Together with the Sardinian Almond biscuits, it was a truly delicious desert.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

More Knitting and Baking

When some of our friends came up for Swindon in the Summer, I promised Maegan that I would knit her some more socks. I finally got round to asking for the measurements last week, and when I got my old knitting note book, I found the page where we drew round Maegan's feet in May 2007. As she was just a little girl then, there was plenty of yarn left over which I found in my stash. The colours are a little softer than above, and when they are tried on, and I have a report back on fit, then I'll be able to adjust my pattern if necessary, and made another pair in a different yarn.
I've started my Christmas baking and present giving, and baked these hazel nut and cranberry cookies which I took over to Rita's. Over a nice coffee and a biscuit, I then read her some poetry, from a little book we came across when I helped her sort out through some old papers. There is something wonderful about reading poetry aloud. Most old people of Rita's generation used to learn poetry by heart when they were young, and it really gives them a boost when they can remember some lines. Its certainly a lovely thing to have a picture of a host of golden daffodils on such a cold and dreary day!

Sunday, 12 December 2010

Caerphilly Castle

We were so lucky that yesterday was dry and warm enough for the thaw to have very nearly cleared all the snow even from the hills of Wales. Mr S and I had planned this little expedition when we saw this advertised by our favourite local coach company: Johnsons. There had been many cancellations from people wondering whether it would be safe to travel, so I suppose we were lucky that the trip went ahead.

Looking out through the windows over the hedgerows, the views of the countryside were wonderful. The low winter sun picked out the contours of the rolling hills.

This was our first visit to Caerphilly Castle, and we enjoyed the Medieval Christmas Fayre. There was a little of everything, and we found things to entertain us: a goblet of hot mulled wine in a tent warmed by a central brazier. Mr S was taken by the very beautiful dog curled up on a sheepskin rug. We spent time watching knights sword fighting in the central courtyard of the castle, and quizzed a group cooking up their main meal of the day....though I spied the bottle of olive oil from a local supermarket, and thought the pastry for their patties far too white and processed, they could have used wholemeal at least! We enjoyed large baps with hot roasted pork with stuffing etc. At Neil and Lesley Butler's stand, I bought a hand made leather journal and some oakgall ink with a nice hand blown ink bottle. We talked about the journals and I was so pleased to hear that the beautiful fly( is that the term?) leaf paper just inside the cover had come from the same paper mill which we had visited just weeks ago in Amalfi.

In the main hall I sat at the long trestle table whilst Mr S queued for another drink. We were joined by family groups, and two wonderful dragons came to talk to the children. Around us were various groups to entertain children with interesting activities including two potters wheels, face painting, and a circus training group.

We had a wonder round the castle, and from one of the tall towers had a clear view of the arrangement of the defences and extensive moats. Inside the tower it was much colder than the outside, the stone clinging onto the chill of previous weeks. Ice was still covering most of the water and ducks and geese were congregating in the small patches of free water waiting hungrily for any morsels to be thrown to them.

I suppose we have been spoilt by the Festival of History, and it would be less than honest to describe all the activities as having the Medieval Theme, but it was an enjoyable day out. Such Christmas Fayres seem to have sprung up over the last few years...I guess it is an opportunity for towns to market themselves and have shoppers leave their out of town shopping venues to return to town centres, and for small independent producers and artisans to have outlets for their work.
There was plenty of opportunity for people watching. The concentration on the children's faces as there were shown how to throw a pot, and the look of delight as they walked off with their creations was wonderful. The anticipation of children waiting for their turn to climb steep stairs to visit Father Christmas who had arrived at the same time as we did in his open horse drawn carriage was a marvel, was sufficient to melt any heart yet to feel the magic of Christmas.

The street market was equally interesting, and we ended up at the Farmer's Market, where we had more drink and food...

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Avec nos sabots

It may be that it is presumptuous of me, not quite the word I want, what I really mean is looking ahead....but when I saw these very small crocs at the Church Bazaar I just had to get them, especially as they were so similar to mine, in anticipation of my little Grand daughter coming to visit and wanting to go out and learn gardening.

Why 'Avec Nos Sabots'....There was a traditional song I was taught by my father, a French song called Avec mes Sabots Don daine...sabots meaning clogs. The tune is haunting me, but I hardly remember the words. So with our clogs on Grandma and Grand daughter will explore the wonderful world of the garden, with its secret parts, insects, birds, butterflies and plants. Mine are old well worn, and well can see that undercoat is impossible to remove, even after umpteen goes in the washing machine!

In this very cold weather I brought in some plants from the patio. I wonder how many that have been left out will have survived?

Cold weather called for New Tea Cosy

We became tea cosy fans when we moved to Kenilworth. The first one we had was sent by a friend and has graced both the teapot it came with and also our Large Wedgewood pot. I then bought a 'used' but nice wool one from the first Christmas Fete I went to at St Nicks. In the three years it has gradually got well worn and a little stained.

In just a short week, that it took from having the idea, borrowing a book, winding on some lovely yarn which was hand spun by Claire, and raiding my stash for some part used balls of wonderful English rare breed yarns, we now have a beautiful, fully fashioned, new cosy for our small teapot.
I made a knitted mat for it to stand on and insulate the base. It took only two days in the knitting.
The old one has been cut up and is now a warm insulation layer at the top of the wormery. So like all the tea leaves, the tea cosy will end up as compost on the garden some time next year!

Hoar Frost on a cold morning

I find it hard to remember when we last had a frost free night. On Monday we awoke to cold and freezing fog. It was -9C outside. As the day went on the ice grew and grew. I chose to stay inside and took some pictures from the bedroom window. There was hoar frost on the telephone lines too.

On Tuesday it was bright but still frosty, and so very quiet, so quiet that when I stood under the tree at the front of the house, I could hear the crystals growing and breaking, and when I looked around there was a sifting of icicles falling down on me, and were building up under the trees, and on the road like snow. The berries on the Cotoneaster by the front door gave a splash of colour.


As I went down the garden to fetch my bike from the shed, I saw a row of frost encrusted spider webs.

By the time I had cycled up to the Castle and stopped to admire the countryside, my hands were so frozen that it was really lovely to go into the shop and warm up on hot mulled wine.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Knitting and baking

I seem to gravitate towards Knitting and Baking when the snow and ice makes venturing out less attractive. On Wednesday morning, I was wondering what to make for our Gardening Evening Club Party. I just did not feel like going out shopping, so I went through my stash of ingredients, and came up with a tasty seasonal mix.


I made cake mix and added cranberries, chopped fresh apple, and slowly roasted pecans. As I used the whole 250g butter block, I had sufficient mixture to make 12 cup cakes and another small slab of cake. I sifted some icing sugar over the cup cakes. * Several gardening friends came up to ask for the recipe for these. *


In the afternoon, some of the slab was eaten up, when a few of my knitting friends came round for the first session of our lap rug project. We have worked on the pattern for the crocheted squares and under Jackie's guidance, we all managed to crochet similar sized squares, adjusting our tension by changing technique or hook size. I must say how much I admire Jackie, Nicki and Janice for braving the weather.


These little snow flakes have fluttered into my blog, and allowing the space between the paragraphs which I have trying unsuccessfully to achieve.

Winter Wonderland

It seems to be such a long time since the first snow fell. Today we have had a bit of a thaw, but we have been warned that the freeze will return soon. Our home is lovely and warm. I have had to retrieve all my plants from the Conservatory and scattered them around the house. We have no round the clock heating in the conservatory.
I took this photograph as we had frost inside the conservatory....the big snow flakes were made by Cynthia. She has been making these for the Church Fete, and having bought quite a few from her, I sewed them together and have hung them down the windows. When we first moved in we have a couple of birds fly into the glass so I have taken to hanging things up against the windows and since then we have had fewer accidents. I know when birds have flew into other windows. Sometimes I hear a bang, and then can see a dust image of the bird left on the window. So far the birds have managed to fly away.
I phoned an aunt who lives in North Lincolnshire, and she had not ventured out as there was about two feet of snow where she is. Here our road seems to be last to have cleared as it is not gritted and few cars pass by. Nevertheless, I've been out as usual on my bike.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

My Christmas Bread

Here is my home made Christmas Bread taken last year. Dusted with icing sugar and decorated with a bow, it certainly looks the part!

A talented friend has just asked me for my Panettone Recipe. With the proviso that it is not real Panettone, ie does not have loads of eggs or butter, and is made with no liquid, then here it is. I have decided to call it Kenilworth Christmas Bread for several reasons: Kenilworth is now my home, the pumpkin was grown in Kenilworth, and it is now our Breakfast bread/cake of choice for Christmas day! .
First bake your pumpkin, cut into pieces, and you can leave the skin on, in the oven till cooked and much reduced in size. When cool enough to handle you will find that the skin comes off very easily and you can also remove any stringy bits or seeds now, and for the bread any scorched bits too. Either refrigerate, freeze and use the pumpkin for various dishes.So I take 400g of my frozen and prepared pumpkin, and leave it overnight to come to room temperature. In the morning I warm it gently and add 50g butter, and about 50g golden caster sugar. If the pumpkin is very sweet this may be OK but if you have a sweeter tooth, then add another 25g. I then whiz it together to a smooth pulp.
Whilst this is warming gently, to baby bath temp, sift 500g strong white flour with 1/2 tsp ground allspice and 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, and 1tsp fine salt. You may need up to another 100g flour if the mixture is too wet!
Dissolve 20g fresh yeast with 1 tbs water.
Put the pumpkin, butter, caster sugar mixture into your large bread mixing bowl, gradually add half your sifted flour, spices and salt. Add the yeast and keep beating, maybe with a wooden spoon, or even your hand.
Add 1 beaten egg, and keep mixing, gradually adding the other half of the flour. The dough should be very soft, but workable. Add more flour if necessary to get a good working but soft dough.
Knead until it is smooth, then let it stand and double in size. How long this takes will depend on how warm your kitchen it. I leave it to rise and normal room temperature and am guided by look rather than time. It could take two hours to rise.
Bake a selection of nuts in the oven for 10 minutes at Gas No 1: I use 25g pistachios for the green colour, and 25 grams walnuts. Next year I would like to find a local walnut tree to give me special Kenilworth walnuts for my bread! I have my eye on a couple of trees, but there were no mature nuts this year.
For the fruit element, I use 30 g candied peel, 30 g dried cranberries, and a large handful of raisins. These I soak in some alcohol about 2 tbs, in a closed container overnight, I use calvados, but any would do. I only add the fruit at the last knock down. Here you can choose and replace with whatever 'jewels' you fancy: sour dried cherries, pineapple, for example. Each year your loaf will be unique!
Knock back the dough, and incorporate the fruit and nuts. Leave the dough to relax again and then shape and fit to your tin(s). I used a normal high cake tin 8 inches wide, lined with baking parchment, about four inches higher than the tin. Because I had to add the extra 100 g flour I had sufficient to make a second smaller loaf. An alternative would be to make a few small brioche type buns. Between the tin and the parchment I placed some thickish computer paper on its side to provide a collar. The dough should come about 10 cm below the rim of the tin.
Allow to rise again at room temperate, covered, until it is at least 2 inches above the cake tin rim. Put into a pre heated oven, Gas Mark 6, and bake for about 40 minutes. Check after 25 mins, and adjust oven or protect the top of the loaf with a square of baking parchment balanced across the top of the paper to prevent scorching.
Remove from the oven, and remove from the tin. Check to see that the loaf looks cooked and return to the oven for a few more minutes if necessary. When cool, and ready to serve, dust liberally with icing sugar, and decorate with ribbon if you wish. I tried the recipe again a few of weeks ago, and it was just as good as last year.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Completed Cushion

At the WI craft group, our Autumn project was a quilted panel. We were inspired by the quilts brought by a speaker earlier in the year. When we started the project, I had no idea what I would make with it.

On a visit to the Wastells, I realised that there was a rocking chair which needed a cushion, and had a crafty measure. As the original quilted square was not quite big enough, I added a darker border which I also used for the back. I had already quilted the central panel and luckily the backing and wadding was much larger, and I was able to increase the size of the panel.The fabric for the central motif was from my stash.

I love patterns made on paper from inks floated on water. There are shops in Italy which sell this paper for book binding, and when I saw it printed on fabric, I was immediately drawn to it. That's another craft which I would like to have a go at!

Last week I went to a local shop and got the cushion, so on Saturday, I set to after lunch. Unlike knitting when one can unravel and reknit, once fabric is cut that is that, and also 'unsewing' and trying to get things square is hard for me....but I am getting better at it! It really did take me about four hours to do the cutting and machining, and several more to add the patterned binding.....I was so engrossed in the project, that when I got round to getting us some super, I realised that we had forgotten about the concert we should have gone to! Too late though to go, and nothing much on the tele, so I stitched at the binding till my eyes were completely shot, but I managed to finish it off on Sunday in the bright light of the conservatory.

This is a really small project on the scale of things, and what I have learnt is how really skilled some of my friends are, several of whom have already completed magnificent bed sized quilts!

Monday, 15 November 2010

Kitchen Notes

Late Autumn, early winter, before the rush to decide what to make for Christmas, there is time to play around in the kitchen. With gifts of surplus produce I get out books, thumb through, then try to remember what I would have liked to have made this time last year, then get stuck in.

With some apples I have made a few jars of home-made mincemeat. My favourite use of this is stuffing the centre of apples before baking.

When Mr S rolled over the large pumpkin which has been sitting in the conservatory, and saw that it was creating a dent in the carpet, I realised that it was time to 'deal' with it. Having carved it up and shared it out with another friend there has been more than enough for us. I have baked it down in the oven, frozen pieces of the baked pumpkin for use later on, and made huge amounts of delicious soup flavoured with either chicken or ham stock and bits of meat, and finished with coriander.
I also decided to have a trial run of my version of Panettone, using roasted pumpkin flesh......delicious. This time I added green pistachio nuts, dried cranberries, citrus peel and sultanas soaked in rum. The large 'cake' was made in an 8 inch cake tin, with a tall collar of paper to hold the dough so high, and the small one in a steel storage container. The small one went round to Marie-Claire's. Spread with tangy homemade wild plum jam, and freshly brewed coffee, this is one of the most delicious breadkasts, and is now a tradition at home. I shall be making this again a couple of days before Christmas ready for our breakfast.
With having ordered double quantities of walnuts, I have discovered a wonderful recipe for walnut short breads. In the biscuit line, I have also made a good quantity of Amaretto biscuits, and having had the seal of approval from several people, I am going to make a second batch, then having checked the recipe, will post it here.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Short Interlude for Jenny en route to Southern Climes

After getting back from the Wastells, we went straight into hosting Jenny, fetching her from Birmingham Airport on Wednesday through to dropping her off for the coach to Heathrowon Sunday.

On Saturday we spent the day out in Birmingham, taking the train from Tile Hill.

We stopped to take pictures by the Bull, then we went on to see the Staffordshire Hoard, which Mr S & I had been wanting to see for some time. The quality of the work was breath taking. After that exhibit, Jenny went out for a walk and Mr S and I went on to look at other sections of the Museum, which we had not touched on previous visits.

After lunch in the Museum we went on a walk up to the Jewellery quarter. The route took us over one of the canals.

We had an interesting visit to the Museum of Jewellery but did not have time for the guided visit. On the route back we came across the Pen Room. Roni from the Kenilworth Knit and Natter group mentioned that she had taken some relatives there and recommended it. We had only meant to have a peep, but I think we must have spent at least an hour there. Certainly we shall return. The architecture of the area with its industrial roots is well kept, tidiness of the area, is certainly well worth the visit.

After dropping Jenny at Warwick Parkway


we had planned on going for a Sunday afternoon walk, and with the memory of Birmingham canal still on our minds, we opted to park close by the railway station and go for a walk along that part of the canal. Going up from the Lower Hatton Lock Keepers Cottage

The country side had that early winter feel to it, the air was calm, but the damp rising up from the canal soon got through our clothes, and the thought on a warm drink back home soon beckoned.

Spending time with Grandaughter

Whilst Mr S went on a boy's course, learning all about lathes, I got on the train and went to spend a few days down at my son's. It was great to see him, the lovely dil and delightful grand daughter . I had a lovely time playing with my fast growing little one. Usually sons visit Mums and do jobs around the house, this time it was the other way round. I had some gloss painting to do: sanding, priming, and top coats were completed in between going for walks through the oak woods


going to weigh in with coffee and chats with other Mums, swimming in the pool with Izabelle, going to music session at the library. I sang along with the old rhymes and enjoyed listening and then joining in with new ones. There was another Grandma there too!

I missed Halloween night back home, but Izi had her outfit on ready to greet any revellers who called.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Telephone problems - You might just need new batteries

I love chatting to people on the phone. Sometimes for too long - but recently I started to have problems even with short calls, or even just pressing the 'green button' would cancel the call. If you want to know the answer, by pass the following witterings and reminiscences and go to the last paragraph!

I really thought we would need to get a new telephone system. Well we have got used to 'systems' which means several hand sets, and charger stations, with answerphone, intercom etc.
If it was just me, I was thinking that I would have liked to have reverted to a standard plug in phone, with no batteries, and I can't remember when that was. Even our 'emergency' phone which is just a plug in has a battery for the memory function.

For sure my parents had the straight forward phone when I was really young. Just like learning your name and address, our telephone number in Mauritius : 939, is etched in my mind. I guess there were less than 1000 people connected to the system then. It soon changed to 43939, and the number kept growing and growing, as more and more people connected to the system. I can't remember what sort of phone it was, but I think you had to go through a telephonist.

In those days, children very rarely got to speak to anyone on the phone. Just in my lifetime, it has changed from this, to many children having their own mobile phone, and being able to be connected where ever they are. This is nearly as big a technology jump as the ones my grandfather lived through, well perhaps not so great, but it effects many more people on a daily basis. I was staying with my grand parents and I remember being kept awake by my grand father to watch the first man land on the moon. My grandfather was really excited, and I remember him explaining to me that as a a young man he had read in the papers about the Wright Brothers taking to the skies in a flying machine and in his own life time men were now travelling and landing on the moon. I guess there will be scientists out there, who would say that if it wasn't for the race to the moon, then we would not have satellites, and therefore super efficient telephone and computer systems owe much to the 'space race' .

So I started to look, and thought I would like a really simple telephone: one that just plugged into the phone socket, with no batteries etc. Then I thought eeekkkkkkkk I would have to look up numbers each time etc etc.

Having surfed the net and got pretty overwhelmed on what was out there, I reverted to the mind set of:

Is there a problem, can it be fixed, how can it be fixed, what must I do to fix it, and do then do it!

I found out that new batteries were needed. They only last between 1 and 3 years. I searched and searched for the original type of battery, but the new telephone systems take different powered ones. You need special batteries, and then you have to find someone who stocks them. I found a site on the web: Commutech which explained the symptoms and need for battery renewal, and had the type of battery I was looking for, though it was a generic type. The postage was free, and they were with me within two working days.

I was telling my friend Marie-Claire about this, and she said she wished she had known this as a relative of hers had just gone out to buy a new system, as she had been having the same problems. So if you read this, do pass on the message that if your phone is performing poorly then most probably new batteries will solve the problem, and hopefully there will be fewer phones being thrown away.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

78 Derngate, A day out to Northampton

On our Italian Holiday, we met and chatted to other guests at our Hotel, and spent some cheery hours with Mel and Annette. These 'gals' live in Northampton, and suggested we would like '78 Derngate'. Mel even reminded me of it and sent me a link.

Last Saturday morning, we pondered on what we would do that weekend, and since it was lovely and bright, a run out in the car, and a visit to Northampton was No 1 for the day. I downloaded the details and looked to see where it was on Google Maps, and off we set. I even sent an email to Mel, and for once kept my mobile on, in case they wanted to meet up.

I map read, as there were lovely sounding names of villages on the way, and they lived up to expectation. The Warwickshire countryside was rolling and we met very few cars on the road, right up to the outskirts of Northampton. There we negotiated the roundabouts....well, Swindon, has plenty of them, and parked up.

As we walked down the Street towards the Park, on the left hand side opposite 78 Derngate, I was taken with the block of flats called Bedford Mansion. The curved glass in what I take to be stairwells reflected the bright blue sky. This 1930's Art Deco Style block of flats, has a central area where there are three balconies, which taper up. I wonder whether there are any flats with original fittings?

Opposite is 78 Derngate. It is a narrow house, close to a large park, and I understand that at the time it was built, where these very stylish flats now stand,there were fields. The trust has taken over a row of houses, and this avoids entering by the stylish front door. This opens straight into the living room/hall. The house is 'one front and back', but four stories high on the back, with an attic for the maid in the roof space.

We were not allowed to take photographs inside, but there is an excellent virtual tour of the house on their website. Instead I chose a couple of postcards, and these have already been posted to friends.

We waited for a guided tour, and managed to book a table in the bright white dining room, with a view over the park. It was interesting to hear a little why this house had been redesigned by Macintosh for the Bassett Lowkes.

There was so much of interest that we spent the whole day there. Mr S spent some time looking at the Bassett Lowke models of various engines including steam locomotives, displayed in tall glass cabinets.

In their gallery space there was an exhibition, with artists present. I chatted with Kumi Middleton about the wonderful and unique bags she makes, she had some inspired by hedgerows. I was so taken by more than one, and guess what....Mr S presented me with this one. The rose hips and set on some fibres which remind me on old man's beard. The inside is lined with pretty Japanese patterned fabric.

As we went back to the car, we saw the Guildhall, and also peered into the local museum. There is certainly much more to see, and Northampton is certainly on our list for a return trip..