What are you doing, up so late?

My mother's been gone 25 years - a quarter of a century - it doesn't seem possible, but this year, I realised, I've lived longer without her, than I did with. I don't miss her every single day any more - but I miss her a lot. I have Boo, who is a lot like her, but that doesn't alter the fact that I have lived all my grown up, married, child raising years, without my mama. And my dad, come to that.

And yet. I still hear her voice (and her voice went before she did) - especially when I'm up at 1.20am. Just what am I doing, up so late?

Well, since Neil is still out working, I've been doing some Christmas preparations, and doing a little sewing.

Putting together the 'top' of a stocking - I really love the ideas of personalised stockings, hanging on the chimney breast, so I've started using scraps to make something for each of the girls. What do you think?

It's such fun to make things from scraps lying around - and to personalise them a little bit.

It couldn't be easier - I'm thinking I might put together a little tutorial, but I'm not sure anyone would need one!

The Rain Stopped

I think it may be a temporary state of affairs, but today , the sun shone, and a slight chill touched the air - it was almost like a normal autumn!
It was a good day to let Smartie and Cormi stay out all day - and that meant not only did I get some bread made, I also managed to clear another bed in my little polytunnel, and add copious quantities of manure to the section. In my dreams, my polytunnel produces year round - last year I wasn't organised enough to fill it with winter goodies, and more to the point, I was too dim to realise that of course, even if they are not planted up, polytunnels require water in winter - so come spring, it was like the Gobi Desert in there.
This year, thus far I have plenty of lettuce and some rocket, and I am getting on top of the beds, clearing and adding manure as I go, and the ancient lawn sprinkler Neil found in the shed, is turned on for a few minutes, every other day or so, which keeps the soil nice and moist.
Made bread, and yoghurt - not one of my skills, but since I gave in and bought a little electric yoghurt making gizmo, it comes out perfect every time - and fetched Buttons and Arch in so that P (the littlest livery) could ride.
I've listed the seeds needed for the Dig for Victory garden, and am now just trying to decide - should I do as I threatened, and plant the whole thing from the cheapest available Lidls seed - certainly, I think in wartime, we would have used what ever was available, and unless we had been enthusiastic gardeners and plant breeders before the onset of hostilities, I don't think we'd have been fussing too much about varieties, and all that fancy stuff! Food on the table, that was the plan.
Until I started dabbling in the Dig for Victory leaflets, I had never grown savoys

but this beauty now awaits in the veg garden - they are cold hardy and should be a real winter standby, though they did not survive sitting under 6" of snow last year. They're delicious, and their dark green colour tells us they are rich in nutrients:
Cabbage is a good source of vitamin C, one of the most important antioxidants. It is packed full of lots of other nutrients too, including vitamin A (which supports eyes and skin), vitamin B1 (energy release), vitamin B6 (nervous function), folate (heart health and foetal development) and iron (oxygen transport round the body).

Like all other types of cabbage and also broccoli, Savoy cabbage contains a cancer-fighting phytochemical called sulforaphane, which is also an antioxidant and natural detoxifier. Research shows that sulforaphane may help to prevent breast, prostate and colon cancer. One study followed up over 100,000 people over six years, and found that those eating the most vegetables had a 25 per cent lower risk of colorectal cancers. Those who ate the most cruciferous vegetables, e.g. Savoy cabbage, had nearly a 50 per cent lower risk of those cancers.

Cabbage also contains a group of phytochemicals, called glucosinolates, which the body changes into cancer-fighting substances called isothiocyanates. Research suggests that these could be helpful for protecting the bladder, stomach and lungs against cancer development.

From the I'm in season Site

Little Experiment - Please Help!

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So I've been driving networking working arranging hosting administrating all sorts of lovelies this week. For Guides and Pony Club. Yes, you're right. Those are both volunteer jobs. Not going to put a crust on anyone's table.
So I'm needing a business boost, and I'm asking all my friends if they will help by:

  1. Visiting my website
  2. If you feel able to purchase some lovely high quality books for Christmas presents, go ahead and do so!
  3. Post a link to my website on your facebook status, tweet it, or pop it on your blog.
  4. Ask all *your* friends to consider buying some books, and pass on the link.
Yes, it is just for me. But it's the first time this week I've had time to do a single thing for me. So I'm relying on my friends to help me make up for lost time!

Thanks guys, don't hesitate to ask if I can do the same for you some day soon.

A list of my shortcomings, and a special offer.

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Well, not so good at this diarising thing, obviously.

The weather is wild and wet and windy and most of my time seems to be spent hauling horses around into a headwind. It's tiring and sends me slightly do-lally. Quiet please at the back, no heckling if you don't mind.

Last night at Guides, we were fortunate enough to have the very wonderful Lucinda Fredericks come to talk to the girls. She was very inspiring, and told them all to know what they wanted, focus, work hard and aim for the top! Quite a few of them were a bit awestruck, and a lot of autographs were signed.

Unfortunately, all this toil and mixing with the stars is hampering my mission to plan my Dig for Victory garden for next year before Christmas - I was hoping to have my seed list up here by now.

I also have lots of Make Do and Mend posts on the back burner, but at this rate, they will boil quietly dry and have to be rehydrated before they get to you.

I have just taken time to upload a fabulous special offer onto my Usborne site so I thought now would be a good time to remind you to go and do some Christmas shopping!

Today I would just like

for some of my sidebar friends to meet.

'PlainJane' - who lost her beloved Peanut a few months ago and my dear friend Ellen, whose beautiful Lily passed away on Thursday.

Hugs to you both. Dogs are so loved, so integral to our families. How hard it is to part.

If you are feeling strong enough, maybe share with another sidebar friend, the beautiful poem which was posted when the guys at La Ferme de Sorrou lost their beautiful Border Collie, Max.

Ellen, if you still feel weepy, maybe leave it for another day.

So Yesterday

is gone already! While I was being it, I had all kinds of wonderful prose to share with you, about the hammering, blinding rain, the traffic lights and gridlock outside the school, the long drive home, and the joys of a Pony Club Parents' Evening.
But now, I can barely remember a thing, but that my friend Ali and I reminded ourselves that in this season of our lives, it's about the children, and I reminded myself, that every year I want to have a magical and hospitable Christmas, and every year I don't, because I don't prepare!

So I'd better start on today, which once again dawned extremely wet, and was a challenge, pony wise. Mac and Smartie have been out for a couple of hours, Archie and Buttons stayed in - tomorrow they forecast gale force winds, so if I have to leave them in tomorrow, I had to get the Ballistic Brothers out for some time today!

Hannah came around for coffee, and to have a mini Usborne meeting, we reorganised our schedules and tried desperately to figure out how not to cover the same ground. Then Cynthia and P came to spend time with Buttons - it was just too wet to ride, so they groomed, and I taught them how to clean tack, and they took their tack home with saddle soap on their shopping list, and a song in their hearts! (P is the little girl who now 'loans' Buttons as her very own. He is impressed!)

And now I am about to go and pick up children from school, and feed the family. Husband is out driving taxis tonight, and I have to get H and friend into Trowbridge to the theatre for a Pantomime (aren't they usually AFTER Christmas?!) - thankfully the friend's mum is picking up!

And I am going to attempt to clear out the understairs area to make an office. Or, if it is cold damp and horrible, I am going to watch 'The Pursuit of Happyness' (yes it has a Y) which is an assignment from my Homemade Business course, and write Christmas Cards!

Dear Diary ....

I am pondering on the tagline of my blog ... 'the well thumbed diary of a quiet english village family'.

And that was what I intended it to be - there are lots of philsophising, thought provoking, issue discuss ing blogs I really like, and I'd even quite like to have one of them as well - but this particular blog was meant to be an account, a day by day, blow by blow, remembering of stuff, for my benefit, really, more than anyone else's.

I started it in secret, two years ago when we first thought the unthinkable - that we might send the girls to school! - and I started to break away from a - I hesitate to use the word cult, but it's tough thinking of a different one! - which I had become part of via the internet - that of the New Christian (neo-con?) conservative (largely American) housewife.

Let me say that there is nothing wrong in being any of those things - but there is a distinct grouping online, and it is huge, and strong, where you can be led from idol to idol, with a verse from scripture at every stop along the way, and never know how far off track you are.

Anyway, it was important to me that it was English, that it was the village life I really know, and that it made no pretence to be a mid west homestead tale, and that it was a diary.

I am an admirer of diarists, in particular as you know, Nella Last. If you read her wonderful war and post war diaries, you certainly will get a lot of opinion, and philosophising - nothing wrong with that - but it appears after the mention of the dusting and what was for lunch, what she did at Center or Canteen, and the latest news from friends and family on foreign and home fronts.

So I am restarting (I hope) with a bit of a mission to record what's going on first, and what I think about it only afterwards!

Unhelpful Attitude

How do you lose an unhelpful attitude?

I know I suffer from a kind of prideful vulnerability to hurt, and try and pray as I might, I can't seem to lose it.

Yesterday, I went to a Guide Training. On Friday we had rehearsed for Remembrance Day, on Saturday we had a Training Day, on Sunday, Remembrance Day (for which I miss attending my own church) and tomorrow it is Guides.

It is also my 50th birthday, which will actually go unmarked, because I am busy doing things for other people.

On the way home from the training, one of the other leaders chose to share with me that one of the Brownie parents had, upon hearing my name, opined 'Can't stand the woman'

Every bone in my body longs to pack up my uniform, and the eight years of giving of my own time and energies to people who are so downright lazy they won't even help out once a term, and walk quietly and sedately away, and let them get on with it.

Now I know this is an unhelpful attitude. But I can't shift it.

Not long ago, one of the Guides had left, and another said to my daughter 'She left because she didn't like your mum.' This made my daughter cry.

Perhaps I am just not cut out for it, and ought to leave, and go and do something else. If I am not liked, would that count as throwing my toys out of my pram, or just a public service?


Tonight the girls had a friend around for a bonfire tea (sausages, baked potatoes and baked beans, followed by baked apples and cream) and a few sparklers round the bonfire, it was lovely to do something to mark this special English festival - next year maybe we'll make a party of it!
Things are tough around here at the moment, and we are pretty close to deciding to get rid of all the goats, many of the chickens, and a lot of the sheep. The exhausting schedule, and the financial drain, are doing for us here.
When we began, we had a lot of high ideals, a lot of beliefs, which, maybe in another time and another place, were valid, real things, but in this time and this place, are delusions.
Maybe it's the tough financial climate, maybe it's the children growing up, or the move to school, but suddenly, it feels like all we've done is create a millstone for our necks.
I know I'm struggling now, as I approach a particularly big birthday, and I feel as if it's all over bar the shouting, and yet my precious days are being absorbed with endless pointless chores and trivia. The golden hours I want to capture forever, are nothing but driving, washing up, and endlessly moving junk around from one place to another!
I wonder if this time we really will let it all go, or if this time next year, I will still be slogging through the mud, wondering why?

The Bluestocking

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This was a comment on my friend Ellen's blog, The Bluestocking Belle (check by sidebar) but grew so long, I kind of wanted it on my own blog too!

I first encountered this delicious term, aged I should think about 6. My parents were very careful never to argue 'devant les enfants' giving us a somewhat unhealthy formative view of relationships, in which strained silences and gritted teeth featured prominently.
However, on one memorable occasion, my fathers sang froid was heated a little by mother's continually comparing me to my loathed cousin, 'Judith Darby' and finding me wanting.
Judith Darby was not in fact my cousin, but the daughter of family friends, Edna, who was thin lipped and withering, and Eric, who was disabled and wore a leg iron, and with whom my mother undoubtedly flirted.
She was called 'Judith Darby' because my sister is called Judith, not that anyone ever called her that except my mother, she is universally known as Jude, but anyway, it was to distinguish her from the lesser mortal who was my sister.
Judith Darby, if my mother was to be believed, learned Greek, played the piano wonderfully, was going to go to university, and had, furthermore, made an entire ZOO from origami.
My own efforts, on the other hand were slow and displeasing. Maybe Judith Darby's acidic mother helped her with her blasted origami rather than criticising her all the time, who knows, but my tongue pinchingly best effort at making a paper Nativity (no one had taught me origami, and I was only six, remember) ended up in a telling off for making a mess.
'Why, oh why' uttered my mother, through a martyr's teeth 'can you not be more like Judith Darby?'

In one of his many appearances as my knight in shining armour, my father, breaking all the rules for once, changed sides.

'Why on earth would you want to be like her?' he twinkled at me, roguishly, and then, to seal the pact, he raised his voice, to reach as far as the flounced into kitchen and boomed 'Judith Darby? Judith Darby is... is a BLUE STOCKING'

And that settled it.


I also wanted to point out though, that the lovely Ellen, self confessed bluestocking, is not in the least Darbyesque, and to the best of my knowledge, does not excel in Greek or Origami, though I could be wrong.

And that my next encounter with the word, involved Vera Brittain, of blessed memory, so of course, despite my father's relishing of the term, it cannot be a bad thing to be!

Such a long time

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since I posted!
Hmmm. Life. Lots of possibilities, which aren't really possibilities, have been and gone, and it goes on, and in the end, you slowly start to realise that this is it.
It has a sadness, and a mellow peacefulness, all rolled up into one.
Half term has been frustrating, we didn't really know how to 'do' it - we'll know better next time! - and yet it's been restorative for us all, to some extent.
The divine Pandora has taken our tiny pony on a share agreement, and comes to ride him two or three times a week. This little gem of a girl, with bucket loads of instinct and natural ability, has been coming for about three weeks, and has taken to it like a duck to water, her tiny, gymnast's body turns and speaks to the pony, her hands are like velvet, her balance near perfect. Another star is born.
Meanwhile, the very very beloved Smartie is suffering more and more with his COPD, and Boo has not been able to ride much. Our beloved boy owes us nothing, and as long as we can afford to feed ourselves, we will keep him, he'll never go back to rescue. He has taught both our precious daughters to ride effortlessly, in a way that my years of training did not provide!
H's new boy, Cormac, is just style personified. No really good photos as yet, but what a pony! We are so blessed, to have been LENT this absolute superstar.
Of course, we can't actually afford to DO anything with them right now! Autumn is a hard time for us, and Neil is driving Taxis into the night as well as shepherding, while I work with my Usborne books business, and try to be Mrs Frugal McDougall (c) and hold it all down.
School. School is great, Boo played in a soccer tournament. They lost, but they loved it. H has become Mrs Academia, and is loving the high stress, high achieving culture. Last seen researching a paper on the history of the Aramaic language. Don't ask.
And that, for now, is my update.
Back to school tomorrow.
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