Archive for March, 2012

Today has been the best day.

Sunny all day and warm in the sun, although the air’s still March-cold.

Boring things were ticked off my To Do list: boiler service and chimney survey.

I spent most of the day outside in the garden, waiting for Owen and Ben to arrive; doing a bit of weeding before the weeds get a chance to get too established, making a huge mess with bits of dead tree and then sweeping up loads of dry earth. I picked some narcissi from the garden for the living room, which doesn’t have a view of the garden, and cut a few branches from the little cherry tree, which I’ve ignored since I’ve been here. Annoyingly it now has two trunks, effectively, as it divides very low down. I’m not being nobbish, saying ‘narcissi’; it’s just that there are so many varieties out there, including double headed ones, and I just know that they’re not all DAFFODILS.

There was a fabulous moth thing – ok, ok, I’m going to look it up in a minute… (Actually, I didn’t have to look it up because a kind reader commented that this is an Orange Tip butterfly – and when I looked it up, it says it’s one of the sure signs of spring, as it’s one of the first species to emerge.)

Back to the mundane, the chimney needs quite a bit of work but the chimney man has various ideas about why it might be leaking water and is going to try the least major first. I like.

As always, I’d forgotten how nice Somerset people are. Just so, somehow, likeable. I had a long chat about buzzards with Owen, the boiler man. There were six of them wheeling above Higher Close, the bare earth no doubt a good background against which to spot their prey. We stood outside and watched them hunting and picking on one of their number. They always seem to be falling out. Not everyone’s work is the same, I thought, reminding myself that I was in the office until 7pm yesterday.

Ben, the chimney man, was very admiring of the bread oven, so I took advantage and asked him how it would have worked – although I sort-of knew. I really wanted to know if it was original, as someone had once said they thought it was fake. It’s real, he said. I was a victim of their bread oven envy.

As to how it worked – think pizza oven: in the evening, when your fire had burned down, you’d take the embers and put them into the oven at the side of the inglenook. Then, when the bricks were hot – not quite sure what o’clock that would be – you’d rake it all out and put in your bread dough, which the residual heat would bake, presumably in time for the morning. Sounds a very sensible use of energy but I’d rather be sleeping myself.

Ben, the chimney man, by the way, was really charming (I feel like my own grandmother to describe someone as such) and is the first buildery person I’ve ever come across to say things like: “Well, one might take out the liner and insert a new tray…” and then give you a big cheesey grin, while being covered with soot and bits of rubble. Yes, I like. I definitely like. Although, actually…come to think of it… there was once a chap called Colin, who did a nice line in marble tiles… but that’s another story.

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This says so much that I agree with, that I thought I’d re-post it here.

Originally posted on Never Knowingly Underwhelmed:

It was new year, 2008. I felt it was time to “solve the problems of the world before it’s too late.” I know, a lofty ambition. But I’d worked out that we held the key to making the world a better place and that waiting around for politicians to sort it out for us was going to be a long one. I was pretty concerned about the environment in those days (still am, but I’m rather more fatalistic about the planet now – it’s clearly too late to save it), and none of what I went on to propose was going to mend the sky or wash the oceans or slow down the melting of the ice caps. It was simply a desire to adopt Derek Batey’s famous sign-off from Mr & Mrs:

Be nice to each other.

What followed was The Manners Manifesto. I felt then, and…

View original 3,328 more words

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I seem to have lost the power of words. In my third year at Spring Cottage, I’m finding that I want to post images rather than write anything. So here are a couple of things I snapped last weekend.

I took this picture of some deer from my bedroom window. I rarely see so many at once, partly because they don’t hang about in the field all day waiting for me to come along and partly because I don’t hang about in my bedroom all day waiting for them to appear. Sometimes, we happily coincide.

About an hour later this happened:

I’m so struck that this picture of the clouds just doesn’t seem to have any colour in it. But it’s a colour shot.

That was followed about half an hour later by this amazingly baroque bit of rapidly moving cloud. I almost expected some putti to appear:

wonderfully baroque sky with clouds

Now, I think that’s more interesting than hearing that I’ve got to have the boiler serviced next week, or that I still haven’t managed to get my chimney fixed, but am hoping to get the guy Rachel recommended to come by on Friday and have a look.

I worry sometimes that I’m only happy when I’ve achieved everything on my To Do list. Which means I’m never happy because that that never ends, does it?

Have a nice weekend.

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Sometimes you see something just have to photograph. Sometimes over and over again. I just couldn’t decide which of these pictures I liked best. There was just something about the light and the colour of the trees. If I were a fabric designer, they would become a pattern.

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I have two friends who  live near Bath and for the last three years, since I’ve been travelling back and forth from London to Somerset, I’ve intended to visit them. This has proved easier said than done, since I’m often travelling at odd times of the day or night and usually have the cats with me. However, this weekend I took the Bath turnoff from the motorway and found myself in the delightful stone village of Marshfield to visit one of them.

After lunch, during which we caught up on the year since we’d seen each other – a year during which there’s been a house move from London to the country and a new baby – Amy and I went out for a walk around the village. I could only take pictures with my phone camera but it’s enough for a flavour of the place.

I was told that the village had been razed to the ground by Oliver Cromwell, so, when it was rebuilt, it was built entirely of stone, which gives it a completely different look from the villages near where I live, only an hour’s drive away. Near me, the houses are built of a mixture of red sandstone, brick and lime rendered, roofed with tiles or thatch. Here, most of the houses in the High Street are reminiscent of the Cotswolds (on the edge of which the area is), with the heavy, old stone tiled roofs that I’ve also seen in Montacute in south Somerset. I don’t know why exactly, but parts of it reminded me vaguely of France

The house below was once the vicarage. Whoever had such a living in their gift must have been very wealthy indeed.

Marshfield has its quirks…

This is the petrol station – still in use. It reminds me of a pump I saw in Langport, which is just set into the wall of a house on the main road, but which is no longer in use.

Marshfield has a couple of old toll houses; typical in shape and set close to the road, so that the tollkeeper would be able to see whoever was coming along the road.

It was really nice to get away from my immediate area, with which I’m now so familiar, so on the way home, I stopped briefly at Dyrham Park, a National Trust property very close by, but more about that another day…

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I’m sitting here with a headache today, finding it very hard to motivate myself to do anything active. So I’ve been looking at some old photographs taken in Nether Stowey, which has some lovely examples of typical English housing from the eighteenth century. I say typical but what I mean is typical for this area. The red sandstone is very common around here at it’s the underlying rock – an extension of Exmoor. I find it a bit gloomy compared, perhaps, to the lighter, creamy, hamstone of southern Somerset and northern Dorset houses.

As you can see, it’s a place where a lot of people leave their outer doors open, so that it’s possible for the nosy passer-by to catch a glimpse of what goes on inside. There’s usually a secure inner door though. And those crazy little stones? That’s actually the old pavement (sidewalk, for American readers), which still exists in several parts of the village.

I’ve blogged about Nether Stowey before, and here as well, as I’m quite a frequent visitor.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet, spent a couple of years living here and, if it weren’t for our ruddy cars dwarfing the houses, you could imagine that it’s not so changed from his day. And then, of course, there’s always something that predates even those old houses.

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Smells and deer

There has been quite a strong smell hanging over Spring Cottage this weekend. It hit me as soon as I stepped out of the car. I looked into the field at the back of the house and, sure enough, it had just been ploughed up and fertilised. Luckily, it’s not a chemical smell. It’s organic but stinky all the same.

ploughed field

If you enlarge the picture above, as I just did, you can see a small herd of red deer in the field just to the right of the trees. I didn’t even notice them when I took the photograph. Only yesterday I was telling someone that I hadn’t seen deer from the house for quite some time. It may be true, but it doesn’t mean they’re not there.


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