Author Archives: JuliaH

About JuliaH

I teach history courses for the Workers' Educational Association as well as giving talks on various history topics across Yorkshire and the Midlands as well as talks about the history and creation of cross stitch samplers, blackwork embroidery and silhouette cutting.

Where’s the birdies?

IMG_9607As some of you will be aware HWIOO and I have become keen kitchen bird watchers.  It seemed only reasonable that we should venture beyond the comfort of our own kitchen table to see  more of our feathered friends and what better location to start than on the coast?  I was assured fine views of terns, birds with bills like an item of cutlery , avocets, redshanks, sanderlings and common seals – there might, I was informed by the handy brochure, also be small woolly Hebridean  s-eep (animal that tastes good after grazing on salt marsh. Remember that letter between o and q that’s missing on my keyboard).  I mean what’s not to like?

The sun was shining when we arrived and since some habits are clearly hard to break the first thing we did was have a mug of tea in the beautiful cafe and viewing deck which opened last year according to the brochure.  I can thoroughly recommend it.  The setting was delightful, the sun shone, staff were very friendly and the views out across the salt marsh were stunning. And it ‘s less than two miles from Skegness to Gibraltar.

So far so good.  You may be wondering at this juncture why I’ve not flooded this entry with images of dancing lovers (add the missing letter to the front of the word), a chorus line of linnets and sky larks and of course the much vaunted spoonbill (I’ve just discovered that predictive  text can add the missing letter (hurrah and why didn’t I work it out sooner? However I’m not changing the first two paragraphs- so that you can share my joy in having all twenty-six letters in place again.

The answer  is very straight forward to both questions and one of them casts doubt on my intelligence.  But back to the birds.  The avocets were stand offish.  Even the gulls were a bit on the snooty side. Everyone else was on their holidays having hatched their eggs and reared their young.  The waxwings and gold crests  seem not to have yet returned to these shores despite the brochure – unless they were all hiding.  There were a few starlings practising small scale murmuration but that was about it.  You’d have thought  that there would have been a professional stunt spoonbill on hand to pose for pictures at the very least. Clearly more careful reading is required if we are to see more birds and take pictures of them.  I did spot one bird watcher carrying a camera with a lens that looked as though it would need a team of porters to move it.

What there were, however, in numbers and close at hand, were these dragonflies who were very obliging on the photographic front. Further reading reveals that they are common darter dragonflies.

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Hot tubs and ice-cream

Its been a while since the Domestic Goddess attacked the keyboard.  I shall be avoiding the letter that comes between o and q as the letter in question is no longer functioning – which is unfortunate.  I do have a new device for communicating but the internet at Domestic Goddess Central is not what you might call swift.  I shall in fact either have to purchase a rather expensive cable or when I next visit Archie and Hattie will have to arrive with intent to borrow their wifi.

Since its been so long I think I should remind folk that HWIOO and I are working our way through the twenty-six letters that create our writing system.  We have already finished H but we’ve done it again.  We tried out a hot tub that came with the holiday cottage where we are staying.  Needless to say we didn’t select the cottage based on its existence but I did remember to bring swimming costumes.  It was a bit of a surreal event – a bit like sitting in a very large bubble bath outdoors.  It was a balmy 39 degrees in the water and a lot less warm out of it with drizzle and autumn leaves – in addition the sight of a squirrel and two hens going about their business was slightly odd.  None the less we will be trying the hot tub again before we leave our current venue.  It would be rude not to.  All I need to someone to turn the sheets of my book and another glass of bubbly.  The Number One Daughter when told about our afternoon demanded to know what had become of her relations. She felt we might have been abducted and that facsimiles returned where we should have been. She was reassured when we told her that we had been to Lincoln Cathedral and used our digital cameras rather effectively for not one, not two, not three but nearly four hours.  HWIOO has his fingers crossed that he hasn’t overdone it today but feels that the hot tub with its heat and bubbles was excellent for the aches that come with the CFS.  It was also very relaxing – though it would have been better if I could have read a book or done some embroidery at the same time!  HWIOO observed that if I was truly organised I could dictate the best selling novel and that would certainly have given the hens something to think about.

The ice-cream was not enjoyed in the hot-tub but now I come to think of it – what an excellent idea!  I think I could get the hang of decadence if I tried.

The week so far…

DSC_0010.JPGI’ve been without the Internet.  Apparently there was water in the works!  I suppose its one of the perils of country living.

I am now officially a churchwarden. I’ve been sworn in and have met the Archdeacon. I’m not sure I’m of a suitably serious disposition because on glancing through the order of service I noted ‘the Archdeacon’s charge.’  In my mind I imagined a sober cleric of indeterminate years (but preferably with a fine set of mutton chop whiskers) astride a hobby horse in full ecclesiastical regalia galloping down the aisle followed by a company of choristers – possibly accompanied by bugle and drums.  I clearly need to get a grip.  It turned out that charge is another word for sermon or set of instructions for what churchwardens might like to do – and I can tell you this, I shall not be inspecting the lead on the roof or dealing with the gutters no matter what the archdeacon might have to say on the subject!

And then I went off and attended a meeting.  Clearly I can’t divulge what went on in the meeting as that would be breaking confidentiality but let’s just say that I’ve probably joined the vicar on his mental list of ‘b****y difficult women,’ – but that’s his own fault for volunteering me for the role.

Whilst I was doing that, contemplating the scrapes I manage to get myself into, HWIOO was stripping the cloakroom of its carpet, wash basin and toilet.  I have a very fetching new planter and we have set five days aside where once two would have done for the tiling, flooring and refit of slim line wash basin with waterfall tap (will we ever get the Littlest Madam out of there?)  and low flush toilet.  We have also identified the fact that even with regular breaks and the occasional nap the following two or three days are going to be low key ones.

So all in all today has been a fairly busy one and that’s without celebrating the fact that I managed to install a Paypal button on my main website; send advertising leaflets for the WI to go into the school book bags at our local primary school and sort out my paperwork during the two days where all it did was rain and ruin the flowers.

Village life

scone and creamHaving complained that I didn’t seem to be part of the community I can now officially inform you that I appear to be blending in a bit better.  How do I know?  I’m being informed when people die, that’s how!  As various members of the community people are now telling HWIOO and I about their sad demises.  This is unexpected as we know none of the deceased but we do now.  I wonder if I should attend their funerals to make their acquaintance or at least the acquaintance of their nearest and dearest? There’s certainly always a large turn out for funerals.

Aside from that after a rather prolonged silence on the domestic goddess front I have partaken in the gentle art of serving afternoon cream teas on a bank holiday Saturday.  I have discovered that its an excellent way of bonding as a group.  I’ve no idea why people spend a fortune on team building exercises.  They don’t need to go paint balling or build giant, not to mention useless, structures out of paper and straws, nor do they need to go off on some “jolly” together – what they need to do is organise scones and then spend the day in a confined space preparing and serving cream teas to locals and holiday makers.  This also has the bonus of helping a worthy cause.

HWIOO is still pottering along.  As ever, we’re working at the pacing but we’re trying to cut out the afternoon nap very gradually as I mentioned in January.  HWIOO can now do two afternoons without a snooze so long as they aren’t in succession.  We have learned that if the Little Madams come that for two days after they go he has to revert to doing something for an hour and then changing activity entirely but that he can be more himself during their visit – so in other words to quote the Right Little Madam, he isn’t as broken as he once was.

Meanwhile we still haven’t done something nice beginning with I, although I have found out about the Information Commission Office (ICO) and its requirements.  I have also parted with my cash to register.  I don’t think this of itself is particularly nice but it is exciting that I am becoming more self-employed.  Now all I have to do is find a few more venues, complete the WI speaker course (don’t ask) and write a history book.  I may not move fast but I will get there in the end!

Card die delight …or possibly addiction

rabbit dieI am very lucky.  Hattie gave me a die cutter and at the weekend we may have purchased one or two dies – in the sale I hasten to add, just in case Archie or HWIOO are reading this.  I had a lovely weekend creating paper penguins and a striking Olaf snowman.  I thought I had it all under control when I arrived home, little did I realise that rather like an infection the desire to create from card and paper was fermenting in my head.

It started mildly enough. I made gift bags for the Little Madams’ Easter presents and then I thought, “I know what.  I’ll make them each a card.” This necessitated making nine Easter bunnies from the die shown in the image in this post – six looking forwards and three with fluffy cotton tails.  So far so straight forward.

Could someone tell me why, when I needed nine bunnies I have cut and assembled twenty-four in various shades of brown, pink and cream?  It wasn’t as though I had nothing else to do.  There was paperwork for next term, paperwork for this term, six thousand words and a synopsis to write, research for the next two day schools.  There are one or two weeds in the garden, housework to be done and novels to be written.  My only consolation is that HWIOO slept through the whole thing.

I also have a very nice tin filled with various letters of the alphabet, a box labelled “Easter,” with the dies and some spare parts neatly bagged and stowed.  The utility room has a fine layer of multi-coloured confetti that I need to sweep up and I have a little list of useful things that I need to lay hands upon – like teeny-tiny googlie eyes.

Hattie, if you’re reading this, your work is done. I have been infected with die-cutting mania.  Next time you visit, HWIOO may be carried out of the house on a tsunami of hand crafted cards when he answers the front-door.

It’s been a while and Spring has arrived.

DSC_0014Where on earth has March gone?  Come to think of it where has Harvey gone?  I like to think of the handsome little harvest mouse in a meadow chatting up lady mice.  He’s certainly not in the garage anymore.  We have installed a rather large rodent irritator purchased from Maplins which will apparently irritate all the mice and rats in a small family home so should do the trick in the garage which is not the size of a house. During March the bulbs I planted in autumn made an appearance- I was delighted by the fritillary which I wasn’t convinced would appear. I ordered a greenhouse (hurrah) and fell into the sea whilst collecting sea glass. It was surprisingly warm for the time of year.

 

HWIOO is contemplating the exterior woodwork with a view to painting it when the weather finally warms properly and putting up my weather vane, our greenhouse arrives next week and the dog from three doors down has taken to blessing the daffodils outside our front gate every morning.  This does not endear his owner to us – nor does the owner’s habit of standing and staring into our kitchen whilst his dog is about his business.  It’s not as though I’m wafting about in flimsy nightwear but equally when a woman sits down for her first coffee of the morning she doesn’t expect an audience unless she’s a Tudor or Stuart monarch.

And that’s about it – apart from the fact that I’ve got to decorate an egg for the WI.  I have looked on line and apparently with the aid of an old stocking, a flower and rather a lot of cabbage or onion skins I can create a dyed hardboiled egg with a flower on it.  I can see the potential for that to be very exciting.  Alternatively I can use card and paper to create a hen…the latter sounds more straight forward to me as I did once accidentally blow an egg up because I left it boiling for too long…the pan took some cleaning. I may take a photograph provided the aforementioned egg looks sufficiently professional – if it looks like something that a five-year-old wouldn’t want to own up to then I shall conveniently forget the whole thing!

We also need to progress to the letter i – ice-cream, Iceland, igloos, iguanas – shame the Rheged knitting and stitching event doesn’t begin with a letter i.  As you can imagine HWIOO is delighted at the prospect of going to a knitting event and it was only because Teddie expressed an interest in the event by social media that I found out that it was on.  For £2.00 I can go and look at wools and other needle based crafts to my heart’s content.  I have suggested that HWIOO could perhaps have a full English breakfast in the cafe whilst I browse – no this is not kindness on my part, its simply to prevent him looming over my left shoulder in the event of me making a purchase. It’s amazing how off-putting a looming spouse can be if he looms for sufficiently long enough.

Hattie, Harvey and Hopton Hall

IMG_8376.JPGA list of three! And they alliterate.  What more could I want?

First of all, an apology to Hattie.  We arranged to meet one another last week and she was hoping for snow.  It was a beautiful weekend but no hint of snow.  Today on the other hand it hasn’t stopped snowing all day.  We’ve had field fares, a linnet and ten blue tits at the feeder.  All I can say is that I will try and plan better next time!

Beatrix_Potter,_Two_Bad_Mice,_Frontispiece.pngHarvey is our lodger.  He’s small, brown and lives in the garage.  Naomi feels that I’ve travelled into a parallel Beatrix Potter universe on account of the fact that I see our bachelor harvest mouse as living a solitary winter existence before scampering back out to the meadows in the spring to find himself a lady wife.  Naomi, who offered me the mouse equivalent of zyklon b, is of the opinion that where there’s one mouse there are probably many more and I don’t think she was envisaging Hunca Munca or Tom Thumb, though I could be mistaken.  She has a point but he- and until evidence proves otherwise Harvey is a he- does look harmless as he scampers across the back wall of the garage when we take the car out.  He has very elegant tapering feet, a white tummy and a big ears.  My original plan was that as soon as the weather showed any sign of warming that HWIOO would be on hand with wire wool to block Harvey’s return after he exits one warm morning before a mouse’s fancy turns to whatever mice minds turn to in the spring as even I’m prepared to concede that two mice is one too many mice.

However, Hattie having seen Harvey had a tale to tell and I would have to say that just as soon as the snow goes, so does Harvey.  Apparently Hattie’s son had a mouse in the garage but rather than making himself snug – possibly in a miniature box bed with hand stitched quilt during the cold season- his mouse made himself at home in the workings of the car, had a gnaw on some rather expensive cables and eventually popped up one morning, through an external air vent,  as Hattie’s son was driving along the motorway.

The sight of a mouse scampering up the bonnet of the car before being spreadeagled, arms outstretched, nose whiffling on the windscreen must have been disconcerting.  There followed a mano a mano or rather mano a mouseo face-off until the vehicle was halted, a photo taken as proof that it wasn’t a hallucination and then the stowaway was ejected into the hedgerow – where it presumably needed a lay down and a strong cup of tea.

Having done my homework it appears that if you catch mice by friendly methods (and I’m not sure that the windscreen is an approved method) that you should deposit them at least half a mile from home or else they’ll probably get back before you do.

We’ve tried old fashioned moth balls which apparently act as a mouse deterrent and we have sonic mouse repellers – Harvey ignores them, apparently because harvest mice hear at a different frequency to the sonic devices.  I am equally informed that the garage will be a spider free zone at the moment. If blocking up the exit doesn’t work we will, as Fagin says, “review the situation” and perhaps consider Naomi’s solution, in the meantime the Mater has suggested that I might want to take pen and paintbrush in hand in order to tell the tale of Harvey. The Right Little Madam, on the other hand, is contemplating the hand stitched quilt and a bowl of food for our guest. We will not be mentioning traps, poison or even cats in her hearing.

Which brings me, last but not least, to our alphabet of delights – Hopton Hall in Derbyshire.  It has a rather lovely display of snowdrops and aconites during the early spring. We decided that we would go and have a look last Saturday.  The sun shone, pheasants showed off their plumage, birds sang – one of them sounded like a train going over points. I asked what it was and HWIOO said it was a lesser spotted ASLEF bird- and it was all very pleasant.  We shall return to look at the roses and to sample the delights of their cafe in due course.  There was, we noted, quite a substantial play park and we have added it to our list of possible places to take the Little Madams.

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