Thursday, 24 April 2008


'I heard a robin singing, and ever as he sang, methought the voice of angels from heave'n in answer rang'
but I suspect the angels were hiding amongst the daffodils and snowdrops. Both photos taken at Sissinghurst aardens Spring, 2007

That's my bit of whimsy for this blog.

I died have a photo cf a bumblebee doinvg his thing amongst he apple blossom but it seems to havr vanisheed into cyberspace. Ah well, c'est la vie!

The point of the vanished bumblebee was so rhay I could tell you how much I like bumblebees. I have often pondered over their name and have come to the cxonclusion that they are so named because they do t3nd to bumble around, falling through the air onto flowers, rather than being graceful like honeybees. They are also solitary cratures who livwe alone in holes in the ground, I believe. I was so excited when I saw my first ever bumblebee in Hyde Park. I got to know a little more about them when we stayed at a bed and breakfast on th Isle of Skye. Our host and hostedss were both naturalists, and we were admiring their garden when I spotted a bumblebee. Oh joy, when mein host said that I could pat him - the bee if I lked. If the bee didn't like, he would wave his back leg at me. In fear of being stung, I gently ran my finger over the bee's furry stiped body. No reaction. I was delighted and bent o stroke sgsin st which stage he waved both back legs at me. 'Careful, cautioned our host. That means he is annoyed. So off I went, absolutely astounded that I had stroked a bee! Up close and personal with the wild things. Some weeks later we were at a B &B in Cornwall and an apiarist joined us aaat breakfast. So my knowledge of bees waas extended by somewhat by the tme I escaped.

Gues what? I was able to go downstairs and sleep in our own bed last night! What a good night's sleep. NIne montha or so since I hads slept there. Ray woke me at 10am rtis morning.

The theme' Where am i from has been suggested.'

I am a MacNicol of Lewis, a sept of Clan McLeodof Dunvegan. I checked out he family seat whilat I was on Skye. Our MacNicol chieftain liveas in Sydney, which takes some of the glamour away, I feel I am froma the dales and moors of Yorkshire. I believe the forbears were weavers who emigrated to Australia when the new machimery threw so many out of work. I am from the dark times of WW2.My parents married in haste and repented at leisure when tomorrow came.

So now I am from the sunburnt country, a land of sweeping plains, of great mountsain ranges and sudden summer rains. (Of which there were none this last summer) We are now into beautiful autumn weather, crisp mornings and nights and still no rain.

So now, I am just me. A mixture of strength and inherited weaknesses. The Scot and English heritage runs deep in my veins. Which no doubt accounts for my kinship with things of the U.K.

My historical roots are deep in Btitish soil. I dona't feel that I have any history here as yet. I am 5th generation Australian, but this is not where I belong.
Nut it is all my children know, so I stay he4e with them.
EDon't bounce, Gina, I am fully aware that this is the besat place on earth! MY ribal memory places me firmly in England. I belong to Cumbria wih its lakes and forest too. My paternal forebears came from there and settled at Alan's Flat near Yackandandah in cxountrry vwey like Cumbria. I just love it up there in the north east of Victoria. Beautiful country.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Easter Already?

Heavens. where did the last three months go? I have been so immersed in learning to walk again, that it has ll zipped by, but, Ray brought the Easter goodies for the little ones, so I hope we get to see them all tomorarow. Our grqand daughter is now taking and interst in the real Easter, which is encouraging. Thinking beyond Ester Bunny now. We were in Essex for Easter last year, and it was so lovely celebrating Easter with all the new life bursting forth around us. I think we should start a movemetn to move Easter to September aed Spring in the southern hemisphere, so that we can all be reminded of the real meaning of Easter. Mind you, my cousin had lots of little rabbits hoppinsg around her garden so it was all very fitting. WEewent to a servicce in a church morwe than 500 years old, all brautifully decorated with dffodils and other spsring blossoms.
Remember rhe song we lerned at primary school. 'When the daffoils dance in the sun and the rain, then we know hat the springtime is coming atain. TRa-la-la-la,la,la then we know that the Springtime is coming again. When the bees in the blossom trees busily hum etc. I used to lve to sing that when I spotted the first daffodilss. I was prety much a joydul child./ Like to think that I still am!
We have dug a hole to make a water feature in the back gareen and put in a couple of ornamenal water holders. Like little ponds. The possums clamber down their tree ach evening andd balance themselvew on the edge to heave a drink. We had three kookaburras doing the samre this morning. They were actually having a s bath then sitting on the nearby fende to dry off. It was delightful watching them. I certainly don't want to move from here anymore, and who needs pets when you can have posnums and birds. Wonderful!
WE have been having a terroble run of hopat weather, which seems to hve gone now, thank goodness. I was nice to snuggle under the doona again. Ssstill no rain, but our garden seems to have survived fairly well, considering. We had the hottest Marxch night on record recently. NOt too much of that, please.
Anywy, I am bwginning to waffle, never a good idea.I hope you all have a blessed Easter and don't get sick on too much cholcolate.'Here comesa Petr Cottontail....
Now, I am off foe a raevivig cuppa and aomw saimnel cake, which I made. I made my own marzipan because Ray won;t eat the almond pste from the supermarket.

Friday, 22 February 2008

Home Sweet Home

Home at last - no more wandering for me!

This is an Australian native Donkey Orchid that we photographed in the wilderness in W.A.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

There goes another Christmas

Some of the family at Christmas dinner. Real food at last!

Hi there bloggers I an back, pro tem The hospital let me out for Chrstmas!

Now am home for New Year,. It is so nice to be back ib my own surroundings, eating nice food again. Th above photo is nr with the grandchildren on Christmas night. I hope you alol had a wonderful Christmas. I certainly did. Daughter ibn lawim, made all my Christmas cakes and a ftiend made the puddin. We went to no.2 son for lunch and then everybody came back here for dinner. The gitls did all the work and did very well, cobsidering that I kept trying to do my own thing! It wsather marvellous. N[o,1 son threw a bit of aobbly after he had volunteered to do the dishes and found that the dinner service was not dishwasher safe. However. he stayed at the sink and everythong was done in a flash. I ferll into bed exhausted after all the excitement. We started the day with breakfast with friens wgich has become aa tradition now. Fresh berries and croissants. There is usually chanpagne, but I am not allowed to have alcohol for 12 months (Sob!) I have only faorly recently been able to drink tea! It was all I wanted after the stroke/ Yes, I could have a cuppa, if I didn't mind it thickened!! They were worried that I might choke at that time. abd I was on a mush diet. Urk!

T)hank you for all your good wishes for my recovery. They have worked as I am making excelleny progress. I am even taking steps with the help of the physiotherapist and a walking stick and am gradually regaining use of my left arm. I can lift a glass now, but I don;t think you will trust me wih the Waterford crystal just yet! Hoever the light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter! I am looking forward to a wonderful 2008. I will share some wildfloers in my next blog. Our short stay in WA netted some lovely flora. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!
zforgivr errors. One handed typing is not easy for a former 100 wpm person.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Arachnophobia? Not me!

I noticed a post that commented on disliking spiders. I must admit that I am not very fond of these odd, hairy creatures either, but...

A not very good scan on the left, shows, if you look very hard, the beauty of a spider's web. They are fascinating things to look at, best seen when said spider is not in residence, and especially lovely when gleaming with dew drops, when they tend to look like crystal Christmas decorations slung between branches on trees. They can also form a sticky barrier when spun across the front verandah and one unwittingly walks into them. It takes forever to become unstuck, so I can imagine how impossible escape must be for an insect unfortunate enough to be caught. This ability to adhere is why they were/are sometimes used as wound dressings. They don't come off!
Peg Maltby, in her Fairy Book had a wonderful painting of the Cobweb Lace Wedding Dress. I have hunted high and low for a copy of said picture to post, but have had no luck to date.

In the picture above is a 'huntsman' spider. In my youth I would go completely hysterical if a spider came within six feet of my, and as you know, it is sometimes hard to spot a spider from this distance, but I always knew when one was around. Urk!! However, I 'grew up' and had children, and realised that I should not pass on my phobias to them so I learned to pretend that spiders were not a problem, indeed they were our friends, because they caught germ laden flies and ate them, and were really rather useful creatures. (I also learned to quell a very real fear of thunderstorms for the same reason). Time and again somebody in the house would point out where a hunstman spider had taken up residence and with a shudder I would say: 'It's okay, kids. He will catch the mosquitoes. Leave him be' And there he would stay, safe as houses as long as I could see him. It was when he disappeared that I became paranoid. If the creature was foolish enough to enter my bedroom it had to be removed. And who had to remove the critter? Brave me! Himself heartily dislikes spiders, the boys always said that I was such a good spider catcher they wouldn't even try! Up the ladder, or on the chair, wide mouthed jar in hand, I would carefully, nervously, inch the container towards the spider and wham! there it was, rearing up and threatening to have me for breakfast if I should just let it go.
A piece of cardboard carefully slipped under the container, a quick tip upside down and voila! one captured spider, duly carried out with great ceremony, to be emptied onto a shrub or dropped onto the ground. Oh, I was so brave!! Until the time a friend was living with us for a few months. She too disliked spiders and she appeared in the family room one night to inform us that a spider - a huge hairy beast - was lurking over her bedroom door and she couldn't get in. Don't be so silly, I scoffed and armed myself with the widenecked jar and chair, and very bravely caught the spider. I descended from my chair and - oh my! 'What did you do with the spider?' I gasped. It was nowhere to be found. A fairly thorough search was fruitless. Perhaps it is on your skirt, suggested the friend. I shook my head and lifted my skirt. It was a very brightly coloured floral skirt and was exceptionally full in shape. Carefully we moved the skirt through our hands and then, there it was, swinging gently from the hem. Oh horror. We both learned to do a quick and noisy tarantella as we headed for the door and outside, where the creature was brushed to the ground with a leafy twig. I must confess to not being quite as brave since this incident, but before I was very brave! I would pick up Daddy Long leg spiders from the bath, where they always seemed to congregate, and fling them aside, hoping that their legs would not come off. But they always did, and lame spiders would hobble in all directions seeking a dark hidey hole. I removed a huntsman spider from my youngsters head without turning a hair, just so that he would not be terrified.
I once, in my terror days, watched a couple of aunts in law play ball with the biggest tarantula/huntsman spider I had ever seen. We were at a family gathering and this foolish creature scuttled across the dance floor, to be scopped up and sent flying through the air by one aunt to the other. She caught it deftly and hurled it back. I was cringing in the corner and screeched when dancing feet squished the poor thing. They thought it was hysterical, especially my hysterics. But, in 'grown up' times, I was having a quick clean up one day, in an area that didn't know what a duster was, and I had to move some old bills to dust properly. As I picked the bills up into my hand there was an explosion of itsy bitsy spiders. I reckon at least a hundred, if not more, and they ran all over the shelf and my hands. Hysteria was lurking, until I spotted a beautiful, white silken circular object, about the size of a twenty cent piece, and realised that, because it was considered a safe place, a huntswoman spider had laid her eggs and encased them in this beautiful silken container. They had been lurking and scattered as I moved the papers. No, I don't think many survived because it was a long time before I saw another hutsman spider, but a short time before I dusted again in that particular spot.

I wonder if, to the right, you can make out the Eiffel Tower. In my not very good photography days, this was taken as the tower was lighting up for the night. It was one of the many magical moments in my life. I tooked as though a billion spiders were spinning molten gold webs around the structure. It was so beautiful, I cried. Amazing what a bit of light on an old metal structure can do. But spiders were the first thing I thought of to describe what I was seeing. I missed the rest of night time Paris, because I was so spectaculared out that I promptly fell asleep in the tour bus. It never does look quite as good in the daylight. Neither does the tower on our Arts Centre. It needs the night lights to show it as a thing of -well almost- beauty.
We are off to Western Australia for a couple of weeks, so I will not be blogging until October. I guess there will be lots of other blog news for me to catch up on when I return. I hope to have some impressive photos to post and share with you.
Cheers everybody.

Friday, 14 September 2007

Do I hear a waltz..

(The above picture is by Di Colman and titled 'Rhapsody')
I love to waltz! In fact, I just love to dance! But I do most of my dancing alone, especially the waltz as I am married to 'the man who will not dance' - if it can be avoided. Sometimes he cannot avoid his obligations, but he certainly tries. My first romantic attachment was to a boy who had learned to tap dance, and played the piano. Ipso facto, he could dance. Couldn't he? Well... the few times we went dancing, no matter what the music might be, he would steer me up one side of the dance floor, turn sharply, and steer me along the other. Sometimes in time to the music, but mostly just a quick march! So embarrassing! Then he would glare so savagely at anybody else who approached me for a dance, that it just wasn't worth the angst.
Eventually I convinced him that we should have dance lessons. With much muttering he agreed, so twice a week we would attend "Arthur Bosley's school of ballroom dancing'. Problem! I became so good at dancing with the instructor that I couldn't dance with anybody else. Ane then the boyfriend go jealous and refused to go dancing anymore because I only wanted to dance with the teacher - not him! Needless to say, dancing was soon off the agenda, so I would dance alone. I would have been a dead cert for Hollywood stardom if only Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire had spotted me! Eat your heart out Ginger Rogers and all you others who were spotted and became stars. I am still the greatest!
If I hear a waltz on the radio in the morning, I know I will have a good day. I used to love to hear a waltz on my way to work, especially for the few months before I retired. There was something about that old 1, 2, 3, that set me up for the day. Whilst on the way for a blood test this morning, I was lucky enough to hear the waltz from Der Rosenkavalier. It is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard. One really has to listen to the orchestral version of this waltz, because Richard Strauss wrote singing counterpoint to this, and the voices tend to drown the beautiful music. Same as Puccini with Mietta's waltz song, from La Boheme. Ah well, the singers have to shine as well, I guess.
Needless to say, when we have been to Vienna I have been in waltz heaven. Himself, in a truly aberrant, but exciting, moment, waltzed me to the door when we went to a Strauss performance at the Schonbrunn Palace. This was a magical evening because, apart from himself dancing with me, it was so romantic to stand on a nearby balcony, with a full moon shining down and lighting up the gloriette in the distance, all to the background of a Strauss waltz! Oh yes, the stuff dreams are made of. There are just so many beautiful waltz pieces written and I couldn't even begin to list my favourite pieces, I have so many. Just play on, and I will continue to be a happy little vegemite!

And, after all that strenuous activity, I wonder
should we dare to drink tea from the pictured cups. I suspect they are just a bit of whimsy on someone's part, because I really can't see them being used. But dear friends have each presented me with a cup, and accompanying spoons in this very delicate china. Not English, of course! But, they look very pretty in the crystal cabinet or on the table when I decide to display them.
Cheers fellow bloggers.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Nan's Kitchen

Most of my young growing up was spent in the family kitchen, ruled over by my dearest Nan. She was the chief cook and bottlewasher, and none dared interfere when she began her baking. She cooked every day, of course, as women did until feminism saw them leaving the kitchen in droves. (Gotta admit to leaving my husband to it sometimes, when the boys were young, as I had become very involved with various organisations, which is probably why he won't cook now, unless I am too ill to do so. Can't remember when that last was!)
Sunday morning was THE cooking time. We always had visitors in the house on Sunday. I would waken to the crash and bang of cooking tins and utensils being banged around in the kitchen. In fact, the entire household would waken, because Nan always made an early start on this day of rest, and could never do it quietly. I can still hear my uncle groaning and asking why she had to cook on a Sunday. She was always in a hurry. I was usually the first to enter her domain, and she always greeted me with a smile and a chat, and breakfast. I was never allowed to miss breakfast and, if I was lucky enough to catch Nan just taking scones from the oven, she would butter one for me, and I would carefully eat the hot morsel, butter dripping down my chin, because Nan never skimped with the topping on scones. Then I would sit at the table, amongst the teetering pans and bowls, and watch as she made fruit pies, cakes and biscuits and a pudding for lunch. There would be flour and icing sugar dusting the table top and spilling over onto the floor, and I would sometimes lick my finger and dip it into the spilled icing sugar, or honey or golden syrup, or whatever tasty ingredient had missed the mixing bowl.
Nan would have every item available spread around the kitchen and was always pushing things onto the floor to make room for rolling out the pastry or cutting cookies. It was a fascinating place for a child to be. It may also account for why, even now, I am an untidy cook! Then, when the last item of baking was out of the oven, Nan would put the Sunday roast in, dutifully sitting in half a container of dripping so that it would bake nicely. (And I wonder why I have a weight problem now!)
then there would be more banging and crashing as she hurriedly washed all the dishes -and believe me there was always a lot of washing up to do. Then she would make a cup of tea for herself and cocoa for me and I got to sample all the goodies she had made.
My Nan was known far and wide for her beautiful scones. There never seemed to be any rhyme or reason to the way she made them. I have watched her rub butter into flour, I have watched her use an egg and cream, and I think I even remember her just mixing SR flour, (well, on her time it was plain flour with baking powder and carb soda added) sugar and milk one time. But no matter what, the scones were always declicious. Now all of this remembering is because Alice asked me if I learned to cook by show and tell, or by following written down recipes. I think it was mostly show and tell, because I don't ever remember not being able to cook a roast, or make scones. Sometimes, if somebody asked, Nan would quickly pencil a recipe onto a piece of paper and put it in the dresser to pass on, or for my aunt to use. Never a book, just pieces of paper or an old envelope. Her shortbread was the best in the world, and I put her recipe on my last blog. I have only been making for the last few years because I never had her recipe. I mentioned this to my aunt one day and she was amazed. She promptly produced it for me, written in Nan's hurried, but ligible, script. But nobody had her recipe for pastry or her meat pies. I used to watch her make these pies, but have never been able to reproduce quite the same delicious recipe. Mind you, my family always liked my meat pies, and the grandchildren do now. Minced steak and vegetable filling encased in purchased puff pastry. Nan's pies would be made from scratch with the beef being minced in the old fashioned mincer attached to the old wooden kitchen table. She had a large aluminium (or something like, rectangular pie dish. Into this she would put the ground beef, any grated vegetables that she could lay her hand to, salt and pepper, and then pour boiling water over the lot and mix vigorously with a spoon. Then she would cover the lot with her very own pastry. She never had a failure. I used to be amazed that the meat would cook, but now I realise that it was the action of the boiling water that helped it on its way. Family still talk about her pies. All I know about her pastry is that it was made with dripping!
The pie would be served, and I would smother my
portion with Nan's delicious home made tomato
sauce. I have never tasted sauce like this for years. She made the best sauce, and pickles and preserves. Her cauliflower pickles were better than shop purchased. Her green tomato pickles were beautifully flavoured, and I didn't eat tomatoes because of the seeds. It is very hard to pick the seeds out of tomato pickles, but I used to manage. I had a terrible aversion to seeds, and I was in my thirties before I stopped deseeding tomatoes for my own consumption. I have only recently come to passionfruit. But I make sure that I don't crunch the seeds. A cousin asked if I had Nan's recipe for the tomato pickles as she could remember her own mother frantically making them, but I don't think the recipe was ever written down, or if it was, it got lost somewhere along the way. It was a recipe that came from my great grandmother, and presumably she had it from her mother, who emigrated to Australia from Cumbria, so I suspect it is an English recipe, just like last post's shortbread recipe.
I always make my own conserves, having watched Nan for many years making a variety of jams. It is something that I always seemed to know, although I had to check the first time for quantities. The only jam that Nan made that I haven't attempted to make,is melon and lemon, and melon and pineapple, because a) those melons are awfully big and b) who on earth knows what they are these days. I remember that Nan sometimes used to let me get the seeds out of them before she chopped the melon, but I was too slow for her. I always got the seeds on my toast! But, I shall never forget the warmth and generosity that came from her kitchen, because she showed her love for family and friends by feeding them. She would be wounded if anybody refused any of her fare, but honestly, it is very hard to have yet another helping just to show someone that you love them back, when you feel that you are about to burst. I wonder will we ever return to the days of everyone being involved in the cooking. Christmas is the closest I come to all the bustle, but that doesn'thappen every year, now that I have daughters in law, and extended family have all grown up and like to play host to the family Christmas. Mind you, I am not complaining!
Catch you next time, folks.