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Friday, 29 August 2014

An apple a day.....

This year has been a very good year for fruit at the allotments. Pounds of blackcurrants, gooseberries and some lovely raspberries, especially the autumn variety which have a lovely flavour.
But this year, the apple trees and plum trees are the starts of the show....they are absolutely laden with fruit. There's two of each, and the first apples to pick have been these - I think they're discovery apples.

The fruit trees are on the outermost edge of the allotment site about ten feet away from the road. There's lot of nettles around, so even though it wasn't cold exactly, I had a thick pair of trousers on, boots, and a long sleeved jumper and gloves on as I picked the fruit.

Oh and sunglasses, even if the sun wasn't shining.....I'm so accident prone, I tend to get caught in the eye by a rogue, sadistic branch or two.

Luckily I escaped unscathed and came home with these....


These are  tasty desert apples, so what am I going to do with them, plus the rest on the tree that Laura ,my friend and co conspirator at the lottie doesn't want?
I've already made a rather nice tarte tatin, a big waldorf salad, and have been taking some into work to eat with lunch. Well, you know what they say..."an apple a day keeps the doctor away."
And apparently this proverb from Victorian times is right. Well, so researchers at Oxford University said last Christmas time. Apparently, they calculated that if all adults aged 50 and over here in the UK were prescribed an apple a day , there would be 8,500 fewer deaths from heart attacks and strokes each year.
That's good enough for me! But I need some more recipes using dessert apples instead of cooking apples. I've been looking in my two "must go to "books on fruit by the wonderful Nigel Slater and the late, great Jane Grigson, plus the Riverford Farm Book has some good apple recipes in too...but I fancy something new!
 What's your favourite way of using dessert apples?

As we're in the last days of August, I thought today's music track should be this...Choices. It's performed in a garden by To Kill a King (love), Bastille (love too) and some of their friends. The song builds up from two voices and acoustic guitar to violins, cello, brass section and Uncle Tom Cobley and all. Delightful....


Friday, 22 August 2014

The day of the flower show

It's been feeling slightly autumnal this week...a chill in the evening air, some rain, and leaves on some trees are beginning to change colour.

But last weekend, it still felt like high summer down in North Somerset as I went to see Mama for the weekend. On Saturday afternoon we went off to the annual flower  show in her village, which was like a trip back in a time.

The Tickenham Flower Show has been held since 1947....and the basic principles of the show haven't changed -it's all very low key. It's not a large or flashy show with fair rides, burger vans or any of that malarkey, but the showing classes are taken  seriously, and it's a chance for everyone to meet up, have tea, and bask in the success of winning prizes.

Mama headed straight for the village hall to do her stint serving teas with her friend Gwen and all the others in the kitchen

It's in the marquee that you see how creative villagers are...and green fingered...

They may be just raspberries on leaves, but I think they are utterly beautiful....

And this winner certainly knows how to style his vegetables.....

And look at the beautiful simplicity of these tiny chillies...

One class of flower exhibits were travel themed -I loved this interpretation of a Singapore sling....

A country tea...

I also liked the simplicity and sheer cheerfulness of the children's efforts....

There was also an art and craft exhibition....

Out on the field, everyone had cream teas or ice creams

while the  band played a selection of tunes from the hits of the 1940's to television theme tunes.

Young children played on the grass in fancy dress, babies sat on their mother's knees in the shade, and some of the men enjoyed  a pint in the cider in the sunshine.

And I won a coconut, which is the first time in my life that's ever happened!

Then there was the serious business of the presentation of prizes, before everyone drifted off  in a wave of  "See you next year"after a happy few hours on a summer's afternoon. A few hours away from the news, violence and crises around the world, a few hours of the simple traditional pleasures of a country village.

 Today's track is one of the theme tunes the Portishead Band played last Saturday. Imagine the sunshine, the ambience ...and this blasting out....Love this!


Saturday, 9 August 2014

A day of melancholy

 As  I look out from my kitchen window out over my garden, my little piece of earth , my home, I realise how lucky I am.

Yes lucky, and although the sun may be shining too, I'm also feeling rather melancholic this morning.
This week has marked the hundredth anniversary of the beginning of World War 1, a world I've been immersed in for quite a while. I've made lots of features about how the war affected people and places in Leicestershire and Rutland in those dark days and how millions of people worldwide  had to cope with loss and of their loved ones .

This week, I've also organised a series of outside broadcasts from around our patch to reflect what went on, and how the anniversary has been marked.

On Monday we were out in Loughborough at the Carillon, the monument to nearly 500 people from the town who were killed during the First world War.

A service of remembrance was held in front of rows and rows of personally inscribed crosses

On Wednesday we were at the War Memorial in Leicester's Victoria Park. Unlike most others, this beautiful monument, designed by Lutyens , has no names engraved on it, but there were about 12,000 men who died from Leicester .

And as you stand with your back to the memorial, you look down Peace Walk which goes down towards the city. All along the walk are other memorials, some very small, very simple,  to the Women of both World Wars, to the Indian men who fought , to those from other parts of the Commonwealth who fought, and there at the top of the walk is the Hiroshima Tree.  A tree to commemorate the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

And yesterday we were out at the small museum  in Hinckley  where a quarter of the town's menfolk went off to fight.

And as we've marked the start of what was called "the war to end all wars" and reflected on the senseless slaughter, we've been bombarded with the news from the Middle East where thousands are  being killed now. Men, women and children are dying because of what religion they follow, or simply because where they live, by those who don't care about human life or the consequences of their actions, today or in the future.

I abhor the violence in Gaza, in Syria and in Iraq and as I write this there are tears in my eyes as I think of what's going on those countries. I'm frightened for those ordinary people at risk there trying to live normal lives, or just survive, whether they be Palestinians, Jews, Christians , Kurds or Muslims. I'm horrified about what murderous acts are carried out in the name of religion or otherwise, by terrorists, governments or organisations , and wonder how peace can ever  prevail.

Not for the first time, I 'm thankful that I live in such a tolerant society here in England. There are many of us from different  faiths and cultures all over the world living here in Leicestershire -from war torn Europe, the Caribbean, and more recently, from Somalia, Ruanda, Zimbabwe, from India, Pakistan, from Afghanistan.

The thought that any of us could be targeted, punished or killed for who we are, or who we choose to worship here is incomprehensible, yet for thousands of people elsewhere  it's a harsh, evil reality.

And so as we've all be marking with sorrow those events of a hundred years ago, and understand the terrible consequences of that war, I shall pray to my God for peace today in 2014.

It 's difficult to see what can be done or how it will be achieved. It seems hopeless. I feel helpless  but I shall hope with all my heart  that humanity, moderation and sense will eventually come in Iraq, in Gaza ,in Syria, in Afghanistan.

In the meantime, the killing of innocent, ordinary people continues, so perhaps you'll forgive a not so normally cheerful blog today.



Saturday, 2 August 2014

The day Boo met Bow

So, today was the day.

A very handsome chap called Bow travelled down from Derbyshire to meet Boo for a date.

As his owners Natalie and Joe brought him into the courtyard, I liked him immediately. He has such a lovely nature, is very friendly, and as soon as he clapped eyes on Boo, it was obvious he wanted to be more than friends.

Boo liked him too.....



Bow felt very pleased with himself afterwards.....

And then both were relaxed enough to pose for a photo...and were remarkably affectionate with each other.

 But all too soon it was time for Bow to go to back to Derbyshire, so there was a quick goodbye at the gate.

Since he's been gone, Boo has been a little unsettled. She's on her favourite wicker chair though, asleep on her blanket, no doubt dreaming of Bow and a rather surprising Saturday morning...

Nine weeks to you'd better watch this space......
Today's track is from John Newman...."Love me again"

Friday, 1 August 2014

A day which redeemed itself eventually

Well, what a day!

I managed to leave work an hour over shift , and got to the car park opposite the BBC . When I say opposite, it is as the crow flies. It used be a quick little walk across by another little car park, but at the moment it's a longer walk.

The new Jubilee Square which is under construction  has cut off the entrance to our building, and we have to go around the block to go through the back door at the moment. Which is nice.

Anyway, I got to my car in the delightful NCP Car Park, walking up one flight of stairs, inhaling the revolting smell of urine soaked steps, and got to my car. As you drive out of the car park, you turn right  - you're on what is called St Nicholas Circle.  A huge traffic island  with a Holiday Inn plonked in the centre of it. Which is nice.

As I drove out around the circle, my car died . Just stopped, lights flashed on the dashboard, and that was it. No power whatsoever. You can imagine the delight of all the drivers coming up behind me. Despite my putting the flashers on, and gesticulating wildly for them to go around me, there were horns going, a few signs ( who knew two fingers or even one could convey such a fervent message?)
and I really did start to worry. How could I get the car to a safe position? Would my back end get shunted?

No one came to help....I was trying to phone for help without success, but then I gotr lucky. Help arrived - it wasn't the  cavalry, because he'd got out of a car, but he really was a knight in shining armour. His name was Paul Dickinson and he was  from British Gas...taking charge of the situation, he caught the attention of two Polish guys walking past .They couldn't speak any English, but with sign language he got them to help and all three of them pushed my around the traffic island to the hotel with the car park I'd just come out of.

Paul, thanks very much! And I'm sorry it took so long to get your breath back.And thank you to the car breakdown man with no teeth who arrived and was so cheery as he helped get the car started.

Three hours after leaving work, I finally got home, tired, and hungry.

But there was good news....for the last few months, I've been trying to find a suitable suitor for my lovely little dog Boo.  She may not be fussy, but I am, and I'd been looking for another black patterdale cross border terrier for her to have pups with. I'd even mentioned on twitter that Boo needed a dog....and I got accused of pimping her out on the internet!

Anyway, the problem has become a pressing one...Boo is in season and Shreddie, a lovely Jack Russell who also lives in the village ,is determined to have his evil way with Boo. He sits outside our gates howling to get in. He follows Boo on her walks with Mr Thinking of the Days, and today was lying in wait in the lane hiding in the long grass, and as they walked past, he pounced. |Boo had to be carried home held high so he couldn't get her.

Anyway, tonight I've sorted out the bridegroom (well it is "wedding season") for Boo. He's such a handsome chap , exactly what I wanted and he's so like Boo to look at , it's untrue.


They're meeting on Saturday and I'm going to be encouraging her to do what I told my children never to do, and that's sleep with someone on their first date. And apparently  their "date" is going to cost me seventy pounds.

Still, that's cheaper than what my car is going to cost me tomorrow, as I need a new starter motor, battery and a few other little bits.

But although I was so cross and flustered earlier ,stuck in the road in a car which wouldn't move, and cursing all the unhelpful people who honked their horns at me, it's a great feeling that there are genuinely nice ones who go out of their way to help someone. People like Paul Dickinson.

I'm also excited about what could happen in about nine weeks time. The patter of tiny paws that's a day to look forward to.......

Today's track is from the incredibly talented Jimi Hendrix...a song that I found myself singing as I drove home tonight - Cross Town traffic



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

One of the loveliest days ever....The Wedding

It's two months since my darling daughter was married. It's gone by in a flash, and there isn't a day that goes without me smiling or laughing at some memory of the day itself.

We woke to rain. I 'm not just talking about a soft refreshing shower. Or  a steady teeming of rain. Or even a heavy shower. This was an angry, persistent rain which showed no signs of stopping.

And it didn't. The windscreen wipers in my car couldn't keep up with the water and spray as Mama and I made our way to the hairdressers, and again on journey home. I'd also picked up my friend Dimple who was going to make up Lucy, Mama and I. She saw Mama's distress at the rain and told us that in India, when it rained on your wedding day, it was said to be heaven's way of showering you with blessings.

Mama smiled and said " We will be very blessed today indeed!"

And do you know what ?We were. There was one moment at midday when I saw Lucy's face looking through the window, and I nearly cried. How were we to get her to the church, and everyone across the field to the marquee?

I didn't cry but my son Billy did as he saw his big sister in her wedding dress. As did Mr Thinking of the Days too. She looked beautiful, stunningly lovely in her old lace wedding dress.


But miraculously, the rain stopped ten minutes before the wedding ceremony, and as planned we were able to walk down to church.

My boys and I 

At the church gates


And I simply adore this picture of Harry and Lucy with their bridesmaids, Ellie, Sarah, Emma and Grace as they walked through the village to the marquee

And this one is another favourite by the field gate...

And that's where I'm going to stop with the photos. There are so many of them, all so well taken by Matt Horan , if I included all of my favourites , this could just become the longest blog in history.
Instead, I'm going to leave you with a video taken by my gorgeous nephew Ollie. He's a photographer and videographer who made a short video of the highlights of Lucy and Harry's big day.
It captures perfectly the very essence of the day....the anticipation, the emotion, especially when Billy sees his sister in her wedding dress, when Mr Thinking of the days sees Lucy dressed up for the very first time, the fun, the laughter, the love, and some of the shenanigans which occurred later. The dancing...oh the dancing, where we danced all night to a brilliant disco from Alex Wright.And sharing it all with our lovely family and friends who came from far and wide.
The video  arrived today, and I've cried and laughed each time I've watched it. And above all, each frame shows off my darling daughter...beautiful, vivacious, unspoilt and so much in love with her new husband.
Why not sit down with a cup or glass of something and have a look....
The track "Into the Mystic "by Van Morrison was their first dance, and the other tracks were featured in a wedding soundtrack which were given as favours to all of our friends and family
So thank you Ollie....and here he is, strutting his stuff later....

Saturday, 26 July 2014

A day in the land of King Richard III

News of King Richard III continues to dominate in the city of Leicester. Plans are well underway for his reburial in the Cathedral next Spring, and his statue, which used to be in Castle Gardens, has been moved, cleaned and re situated between the Cathedral and the brand spanking new King Richard III centre which officially opens today.

On Tuesday though there was a press preview day, and at 8.55 am I was there live on air waiting to go in. Just before the stroke of 9am , I was invited in - the first journalist to enter the building.

The centre , which has cost £4.5 million , stands on the site of the mediaeval friary of the Grey Friars where the king's remains were buried over five hundred years ago. It's housed in the old Alderman Newton's School, which was then taken over by the Leicester Grammar School. It's a beautiful Victorian Gothic building which has been transformed.

So, I went in and during the morning, walked and talked my way through the centre in a thirty minute outside broadcast .

21st century technology is used to tell  the story of  our  mediaeval King's life and times in the War of the Roses.....

And the throne looked so inviting, I just had to sit on it for a while.....

Animations and displays tell the story about the Battle of Bosworth in 1485, where Richard became the last King of England to be killed in battle.

On the first floor, there's the incredible story of the most exciting archaeological find in recent years, which used modern science and technology to identify the bones of Richard III. It seemed surreal to be walking through the exhibits and photographs of the dig, which I visited  so recently here on display.

I interviewed Caroline Wilkinson from the University of Dundee who had come down from Scotland to visit the centre..she recreated the incredibly detailed facial reconstruction of Richard from his skeleton, which looks so remarkably like portraits of Richard.

Here she is on the left with Sarah Levitt, Head of Leicester Arts and Museums.
And one thing, I felt compelled to do, was take a selfie with Richard III himself.


I also interviewed Richard Buckley , Director of the University of Leicester's Archeological Services who led the search for Richard. He really is the most modest and self deprecating of men and always a pleasure to talk to. 

And on display was an amazing 3D replica of the bones of Richard III , created by Loughbrough University.

Dr Turi King was also there for the preview....she's the University of Leicester geneticist who  with her background both in archaeology and genetics, was approached in the very early stages of the dig. She was asked if the skeletal remains of a “good candidate” to be Richard III were to be found, would she be interested in overseeing the DNA analysis? Her answer was yes, and the rest is history!

And there was a fascinating computer generated animation which was developed by Steffan Davies and Jonathan Gration from de Montfort University. which shows a digital reconstruction of Grey Friars Church, where Richard was buried and his remains discovered, and the now-lost original tomb, which marked the grave.


Meanwhile, back on the ground floor , is the actual site where Richard was found. Instead of being outside  in the elements,  an indoor space has been created to protect the site and where visitors can sit in quiet contemplation

The architect who's done so well to create this centre yet sympathetically restore the Victorian building is Paul East

At the end of the tour, there's a chance to buy all things Richardian. Books about him, pens, mugs, you name it, it's there and all ready to buy.

But outside ,workmen were still building a wall at the back of the centre - I do hope they finished it before today!

 So, by now the new King Richard III Centre will be open and filled with hundreds of  people. It's well worth a visit, and as I left the centre on Tuesday, I was so sorry that my American Aunt Avril and cousin Melinda were still in Leicester to see it for themselves. they were here  only a few weeks ago., and would have loved it.