Thursday, 25 June 2009

Fannie's First Egg

I had a serious woman-to-hen chat with Fannie yesterday, when she was pecking my bare toes. I explained that we were off on holiday on Friday and that she would have to get a move on if we were to see any eggs before we went. Please try very hard to oblige, I pleaded.

And this morning - wooopeeee! she laid an egg! Small, but perfectly formed. She did look a bit sheepish, if hens can look sheepish. At least it will be something of a reward for the lovely lady who will be keeping an eye on them while we're away.
Don't you think that's the most perfect egg you ever have seen? I do!

loops on flickr

feelin' loopy

1.adulteration 2.growth series: creep red 3.mobiles

4.sketch of something 5.loopy 6.pebbles

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

what to do with 4 spare hours in Peterborough

From its foundation in 655 AD Peterborough Cathedral has withstood attacks from Vikings, Normans, conflagration and Cromwell. But it was an oasis of calm yesterday when I had to while-away 4 hours waiting for my passport to be rustled up at the Passport Office round the corner. I discovered that Katharine of Aragon, Henry VIII's first wife, is buried in the cathedral and so was Mary Queen of Scots until her son JamesVI/I removed her to Westminster Abbey.
A cup of coffee with Anne, who had kindly agreed to hold my hand for the day, a trip round a Chinese supermarket admiring the great packaging and the strange contents (I bought a big bundle of the world's hugest cinnamon sticks) and then a seat in the sunshine to listen to a free concert by a string quartet playing everthing from Vivaldi to Mack the Knife. What a great way to spend the day. Oh, and I did get my new passport too!

Monday, 22 June 2009

Romantic bridge .... and a narrow escape!

This time next week, with luck*, we'll be staying just ten minutes away from this romantic bridge. It's the Pont Valentre over the river Lot at Cahors in south west France. We love this region and invariably stray back there when it's time to think of summer hols. A fortnight of reading, swimming, visiting the street markets, sampling the local wine, gorging on the sweetest melons and white peaches, playing Scrabble, jaunts into the local countryside. Can't wait!

* I say 'with luck' because I discovered on Saturday that my passport would expire on Sunday. How could I be such a twit?! So, armed with a photo that makes me look like a wild-eyed axe-murderer, I'm off to the Passport Office tomorrow to pay a huge amount of money for a same-day renewal. At least I didn't discover my omission as we sat in the queue for the Channel Tunnel.

Tuesday, 16 June 2009


Oh dear, I'm turning into a hen-bore! Promise-promise-promise I won't make a habit of this, (well, except for 'first egg', but you'd expect that, wouldn't you?), but just wanted to show you Madge and Fannie exploring the Big Outside World today. I even left them on their own for a while and they didn't stray very far - certainly no bids for freedom, but we did do three-times round the weeping-willow when it was time to go back in the coop.

vintage haberdashery

Been a bit yukkie for a few days, so just posting a pretty picture for you. I love a bit of vintage haberdashery!

Monday, 8 June 2009


Well, Madge and Fannie have been with us for a week now and all the signs are that they are happy to stay a while longer! They came with their own hi-tech hutch (called an eglu!) and integral run, and have to stay put in there for a week or so until we are confident enough to let them out in a larger run. They're plumping-up nicely, like little soft feather cushions.

We thought that we would immediately resort to foodie-bribery in order to have some sort of control over them and raisins have done the trick. They are complete dried fruit junkies! As soon as either of us appears they decide a treat is in store and I think they would probably come running from the furthest corners of the garden if they thought they'd get a raisin reward. We are trying to be sensible and not issue treats until they have had their proper breakfast and lunch of layers pellets. But they supplement their own diet by chasing any wayward greenfly that innocently flutter into beak-range. I can't understand the fascination - greenfly are so tiny, how does a hen know that they taste good? They certainly seem to be worth a dash to the other end of the pen in hot pursuit. (They're watching a fly in the photograph!) The other big attraction is anything shiny - my wedding ring, Richard's watch, drips on the water bowl. Those ladies love a bit of bling!

I'm really trying not to anthropomorphise them - I know they're hens not people, really I do. But they do seem to have their own little quirks and personalities. Madge is not quite so brave as Fannie, but she's really greedy. Fannie doesn't seem to be much of a morning hen. While her companion is rearranging her feathers and having a hearty breakfast before scratching up the bark chippings, Fannie stands blinking in the sunshine showing only mild interest in Madge's fussy activities. She might stretch out one scaly leg behind her, in a kind of Darcy Bussell balletic pose, but that's about it.

We've already had a lot of fun watching their antics and their madcap ways. I've asked my experienced hen-keeper friend Anne to come and see them and confirm whether they are completely barmy. She said, "I can tell you without coming to see them - all hens are barmy." But she's coming to see them anyway - who could resist?

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Invasion of Painted Ladies

Britain is apparently, as I write, being invaded by Painted Ladies from North Africa. No, that's not a polite euphemism, but the name of a beautiful butterfly. There are meant to be millions of them about, from Dorset to Dumfries, but I haven't seen one yet! So here are a few butterflies from UK Etsy sellers to console me until I spot the real thing -Blue ceramic butterfly brooch from Karen at HodgePodgeArts. I love Karen's ceramics - she has lots of lovely heart-shapes, in buttons, pendants and charms, which of course I covet! There are also some beautiful little porcelain bowls and dishes with relief patterns of vintage lace which are so delicate and delightful.

Being a felter myself, I know how much work Hazel has put into this charming bangle on sale in her Trinket Tree shop. I think the combination of colours (no doubt inspired by her Scottish surroundings) is perfect and as I do like my jewellery to move about a bit, the dangly filigree butterfly charm really fits the bill.

Mixko have a world-wide reputation for brilliantly simple and innovative design and their work is displayed in the V&A Museum in London and MoMA in New York. I adore their butterfly lampshades - you must visit their shop and have a look at them yourself. This pretty felt ring is stunning, and so affordable you could have them fluttering on every finger!

Monday, 1 June 2009

'Bulky Waste' to 'Bulky Waist'

Living out in the sticks, as we do, the local authority makes it up to us by, four times a year, coming to collect our 'Bulky Waste'. It's very good of them, but I wish they could come up with a less unpleasant-sounding name for this service. A big munch-all parks itself at several different places round the village and all and sundry come out with barrows, trolleys, armfuls of unwanted bulkiness. It's a strangely fascinating parade. Some of the stuff never makes it into the jaws of the muncher because someone else wants to give it a good home (well, until the next collection anyway). I have myself 'rescued' an old treadle sewing machine base which has become an invaluable place to rest the washing basket while the clothes are billowing on the line.

This weekend, we got up quite early to get our items ready for collection. We dragged a king-size mattress to the end of the drive by the pavement and piled on eight old chairs that we hadn't been able to give away and which were taking up valuable space in the greenhouse. There was a manky, large and very heavy nylon carpet which I had used to kill the weeds in the veg patch a few years ago, a bundle of brittle bamboo canes of varying lengths, quite a lot of woody hedge prunings and a couple of broken casserole dishes. We stood on the pavement to admire our impressive haul and husband disappeared indoors to get some cold refreshment while I hurriedly stuffed some more hedge prunings into bags before the muncher arrived. I heard giggling behind me. "Chrissie, it's next week."

We needed cheering up a bit after we dragged our mini Steptoe's Yard back down the drive. So we decided to go for a drive through one of our favourite areas of Cambridgeshire. "Are we anywhere near Grantchester?" I enquired after we'd been driving for about half-an-hour. "We could be" came the reply, "Are you thinking of a visit to the Orchard Tea Gardens?" That man is a mind-reader. The tea gardens were established early in the last century at a time when Rupert Brooke and his chums were lodging in the area and writing poems and having earnest discourses. Students would punt up the river from Cambridge for a refreshing cuppa and it became a haunt of Virginia Woolf, even Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes have consumed the odd beverage there.

Husband didn't complain at all when we arrived at the village and found that most of the population of East Anglia had got there before us and were queuing for a cup of tea, but I think some irreverent sprite invades him just when he oughta say no. We joined the queue and instead of being really British about it all and silently shuffling along, husband decided to read, out loud, some of Rupert Brooke's poems which he'd found in a leaflet provided by the tea rooms for the entertainment of long queues. Not only did he read the poems but proceeded to give them a robust critique too. I was just hoping that anyone within earshot was a visitor to these shores and couldn't understand a word he was saying. When we finally got close enough to the counter to see the scones and clotted cream, he changed his tack. "60p for a teaspoon of strawberry jam!!! Let me get the bank manager on the phone and check my overdraft facility." Mock horror. That kind of thing. I had to laugh.

It had been 25 years since I'd visited the tea gardens and my memory was of a ramshackle old hut, mismatched china and a few tables and chairs spread out under the apple trees. Things have changed. There is a corporate theme now - green wooden tables and canvas deckchairs, matching white crockery, black plastic trays. Unfortunately, it was such a blazing hot day, all the shady spots had been taken and we sat in the full glare of the sun to eat our cream tea and watched our foil-wrapped butter-pats run away into greasy puddles. Husband wished he'd picked a scone with raisins in. He wondered if there was honey still for tea and was it ten-to-three yet.