free counters


Leave a comment

Filed under General


I’ve just added a link on here to Etsy, where I’ve started to list some things that have beenBritish Life for listing handmade by me. There are two decoupaged canvasses and one other done on watercolour paper. The canvasses can be hung directly, but the one on the watercolour paper has been left so the buyer can chose their own frame.

More things will be added onto Etsy as I get the hang of it, so if you’re interested, ‘Fav’ it and come back.


Filed under General

The Right Clothes

Remember those competitions in girls’ magazines where you had to match the clothes to the event:

What would Cynthia wear to a Sunday picnic with her boyfriend? A family wedding? A day out with her best friend? A walk along the beach? Put them in the correct order – A, B, C, D

 Leather_Look   Shaking_the_night_away   In_Holiday_Mood  CoffeeBreak  

Well it seemed like I was that competition, except it wasn’t the winning entry.

Take my recent holiday in Cornwall. The first mistake I made was when it was decided we would to go to Trevaskis Farm.

I had heard mention of Pick Your Own (known to those in-the-know, as PYO) but it was somewhere in the back of my mind when we left the house. I thought we were just going to the Farm Shop for a look around; where we’d spend too much money on preserves and then go to the restaurant for coffee and/or lunch.

NOT go picking.  

So, I left the house dressed for a day out, which included a Monsoon skirt and black suede boots.

It had been raining. 

It didn’t take long to realise that we werein fact doing a PYO. Punnets were produced from the shop and we set off in the direction of the pigs and their piglets (photo here is from a day later in the week when we returned)

Pigs n Piglets

It was wet underfoot … very wet.

My boots, and therefore, my feet, were soaked.

At the end of the pigs all I could see was a muddy track. I headed to the poly tunnels to pick some raspberries. It wasn’t much better. It was muggy inside and the fruit didn’t seem that great. But that might just have been my mood. Picture proves this – (again, taken when we went back) Rasps 

The whole day had taken a downturn, simply because I didn’t have the right clothes. I was Cynthia, dressed in the wrong get up.

A few days later, we went back and despite it having been dry and sunny, therefore drier underfoot, I decided on leggings, big socks and walking boots. I was ready this time, and enjoyed it much better. The clothes maketh the man (or woman). The only problem is – and no one tells you this – once you start picking, you get carried away. So, be ready to faint at the checkout.


The next issue was the beach. I was still Cynthia in the wrong clothes. And once again, I turned up in a good skirt.

I was taking pictures of family members surfing, so first, took off my sandals (Birkenstock lookie-likies) and paddled in at the edge. Then I got over ambitious and began to get a bit closer to the action – I wanted to get some descent pictures. Well, as we know, waves are unpredictable, and before I know it the skirt, despite being bunched up, is soaked. Yet again – not the right clothes.

Going Surfing Going Surfing 2 Going Surfing 3

I’ve resigned myself to the fact that whether it’s climbing up sand dunes, walking over rocks or picking fruit and veg., it’s best to be casual and not dress up. It’s just as important as having the right footwear (or no footwear). I don’t even want to start on all the occasions when that particular problem’s been my downfall.

            So, what would Cynthia wear on holiday? …

            Answers on a postcard.

1 Comment

Filed under General

A Man’s Woman … With Drawer!

A dog in a bagRight – I’ll come clean right at the start of this – I don’t class myself as a woman’s woman. I’m not a girly girl, all sugar and spice and all things nice. I don’t dress in frills or pastel pink and I have no hankering for a cute little car or tiny handbag dog. No. I’m more of what I suppose you’d call, a man’s woman. I’d much rather have the company of men than a gathering of my own sex. My worst nightmare (and this has happened) is to be directed towards the area (in this case it was the conservatory), where all the women are sitting chatting together. No, I don’t especially want to talk about jewellery, holiday clothes, children’s development or the Marks and Spencer’s book (whatever that is – I never did find out and have no interest in doing so either).Jewellery pieces

I’m not decrying the conversation of women one bit or saying women have nothing interesting to say. It’s just that when you get a group together they do tend to veer off into the banal. Maybe it’s that old inferiority complex of not wanting to show up as being any brighter or more intelligent than the other. I don’t know. Maybe collectively, it’s the wife and mother nurturer coming out. Again, I don’t know. But no matter what, I’m not really interested in going there.

The one thing that made me literally stop in my tracks though, was something on TV last November. The television had been turned over and The Royal Variety Performance was on. I was making my way out of the living room at the time Michael MacIntyre came on. And it was something about his ‘act’ that made me halt. It was – The Man Drawer. Now if you haven’t heard this performance, I’ve posted a link from the picture below.


As he went through it, right from the – women aren’t allowed in the loft – it is the domain of the man. I laughed thinking, that’s me. I’m the one who knows where everything is in the loft. But when he came on to talk of, The Man Drawer, I came into my own. Practically all the things he spoke about – I had, and I alone knew where to find them … obviously in, The Man Drawer. I stood laughing and thinkingThe OCC – Oh My God … I’m a man!!!!

I will own up – I like Top Gear and will watch Dave (I’m not explaining if you don’t know what it is – ok), Megastructures, Worlds Deadliest Catch & The Teutals at Orange County Choppers.

My husband once told me I drove like a man – which I took as a compliment. Lately he’s told me I drive like a taxi driver!

I’m the one who has to remind my husband to put the bin out on a Monday night (sometimes I just do it though). We live in the country so (don’t be squeamish) I’m the one who has to empty the mouse traps. In the aforementioned loft (which we can just walk into, as we built a sitting room in the existing loft – so we still have half a loft with a door, if you follow) The Toolbox2I have a substantial and well equipped toolbox. At the moment, someone’s whipped my 7.5mtr tape measure. I’ll get to the bottom of it yet. Before Sky+  I was the one who did the pre-set recording first on the video and then DVD – actually, what am I talking about, I still do it on Sky! I DO NOT however have ownership of the TV control – that still belongs to my husband.

Until very, very recently, I was the one who knew how to use the computer and the internet, my husband wasn’t interested – Ebay might as well have meant a drug-runners paradise for all he cared. But now he’s slowly coming round. On a hot day I have been known to drink a glass of white wine (only at home), but usually it’s red. Recently I’ve discovered I like real ale. But to be honest, I’d much rather – by far – have a large glass of black rum. Before we had SatNav, I was the one to read the map, without getting us lost. And before you men ask the sacrosanct question I’ll answer it … yes, I do know the offside rule.

I realise at the end of this, I might have come off sounding a bit ‘butch’ to say the least, and rather boastful. But I like to think of it more as being independent – even though I do have a husband and grown up son. My daughter’s moved away from home and is ready any second to have her first baby – a boy. But thinking about it – she’s pretty much the same as me!

Bleed KeySo, c’mon women, get in that loft and get your toolbox sorted out. Really … stop hiding your light under a bushel and know where to go when you’re on your own and really do need to find that radiator bleeding key. Guess where mine is ….


Filed under General

Always the same Bit of a Do!


 I’ve definitely decided – I don’t want to go to any more dos. They’re all the same – they’re run of the mill, they’re formulaic and they’re downright boring.lights

     Take for example, the 30th birthday party ‘do’ of a cousin’s daughter. On arrival, the pub’s function room is already pretty full. Stand up and your seat’s gone. Disco lights flash in an effort to recreate sixties psychedelia, but in a poor cousin sort of way. Children slide across the floor with dayglow plastic bangles and neckwear, blowing up long balloons that burst with a bang and make old people jump. Stilted conversations, relations you rarely see (except at the previous and then the next event), drinking far too quick, and eating far too many nibbles from little white polystyrene bowls on the tables. Smiling inanely at unfunny jokes and the antics of old neighbours invited through politeness, who grin and gurn as events unfold.

     The music is mid to late eighties and too loud to be able to hear anyone speak. No one dances. Well, the children do, in between running and sliding. Surreptitious glances at the watch face. How long is the right length of time? When does rudeness become acceptability? Children pop up behind the seat and throw streamers around. You have to smile. Don’t youCatering_Photo_Party_op_800x531?

     Oh … then comes the buffet. And it’s the same thing, no matter where you go. Obligatory sausage rolls, pyramid sandwiches: grated cheddar, mashed egg and … is that tuna? Not sure. Best leave that one alone. Sometimes a vol-au-vent but there again, never sure what that funny coloured pasty stuff is inside. Skip those. And the old favourite, cocktail sausage. At the far end of the table there’s a variation on a theme – samosas, spring rolls, onion bahjis and breaded shrimp on sticks. Lights up, let the feast begin. Soggy, greasy, cold. Talking, eating, crumbs and flakes of pastry flick and ping around the table, the floor … clothes and faces! Nice.

     DJ comes back. Helloooo. Before we get started again, let’s remember why we’re here. Cake ceremoniously placed on table  –  Happy Birthday to You … Happy Birthday fun_birthday_caketo You drawl it out and singy song the name.  Happy Birthday to You. Clapping, some whooping, blow the candles out and make a wish. I know what mine is. Where’s the door? Then a speech. Thanking everyone for coming, all the effort made. Bouquet for mum and one for best friend who did the catering. Ahh … could’ve asked her if that was tuna in those sandwiches. Then the music begins – with bloody Stevie Wonder singing with a smile.  Happy Birthday to ya, Happy Birthdaaay to yaaah. Happy Biiirthday. And one from the archives – Clare Grogan. Remember her jumping around from foot to foot swinging her head from side to side as she sang,  Happy Birthday. Happy Birthday, in a slight stilted, Geisha girl way. And still we endure. Please, oh God, please let it end.

     Of course it does. That time finally comes. And what do we do? Return to being polite. We look sorry to leave, but well … it’s late, we have to go. Thanks for asking us. Hope you had a great time. Nearly there. If only it wasn’t for the relation near the door halting progression with a final chat. But there it is, the getaway car, engine running, turning over. Sigh, breathe that fresh air.

     Home. Cuppa. Feet up. Let the analysis begin. But no – I’m not going to another. Of course there’s that friend’s son’s wedding that’s coming up soon. And the other cousin’s daughter’s wedding later in the year…

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Over Gathering

Just sometimes, we take the hunter gatherer thing a bit too far. And believe me; it still exists, even today. For example: how is it we go for one thing, be it bread, be it milk, and we come out with a trolley load of shopping? Why do we feel the need to stock up on all and sundry when we don’t really need it? Well it appears the same thing happens when visiting the garden centre.

We were down at my daughter’s, who stays just outside Bath, and took a trip to the nearby garden centre to get a bag of compost and a small rosemary plant.

Marshfield MAY09 031This is what we came home with: A bag of Organic Compost, an 8” organic plant pot, some recycled free pots, a long self watering planter, a bag of hickory wood chips for putting on the barbecue, a wig-wam trellis stand, a telescopic clothes pole, a half price curry plant, a packet of carrot seeds, some tiny potatoes (to cook) 3 onions, a yellow pepper, a bottle of ginger wine and … a small rosemary plant.

But it didn’t stop there. On the way back, we needed to stop at Sainsbury’s. We had hickory chips for the barbecue, so that was the dinner sorted, but we needed to buy the food: chicken drumsticks & thighs, sausages (two varieties), bacon, mince (to make our own burgers), burger buns, plus charcoal, oh, plus the buy one get one free offer on 20ltrs of compost (yes more) for only £2.50 each, so four bags.May BBQ

However, the upside of this was; in the rare summer sunshine, we were able sit out and like all hunter gatherers, enjoy the fruits of our labours. And without having to even throw a spear.

Leave a comment

Filed under General

Cosmic Speculation

portrack-illusionSunday 3rd May 2009 was the afternoon I’d been looking forward to, since missing this occasion last year. It’s the day Portrack opens its gates, through the Scottish Garden Scheme, and allows the public to have a glimpse of the extraordinary garden designed by Charles Jencks and his late wife Maggie Keswick. 

I had already been told a bit about the ethos behind creating parts of it; parallel worlds, the structure of the universe and the changing nature of … well, nature etc., all of which came under the banner of: The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. A blow of scoff and derision resulted and needless to say, it all went straight over my head. I’ve never been a science person and went simply to enjoy the strange and outlandish designs.

portrack-greenhouseApparently people make a pilgrimage from all parts to see it, with some regulars attending from Denmark. It also attracts a lot of scientists who enjoy deconstructing and untangling the meaning of the universe and life, hidden in the many and varied symbols and angles of creation contained therein. One example you need to look up to appreciate is cut out of steel and runs along the top of the greenhouse. It is the mathematical equation that is: “the basic laws that govern and breathe life into the universe.” – Charles Jencks.  I imagine this decoding is a bit like attempting a large 3D crossword with very cryptic clues. And even when solved, wouldn’t mean a whole lot to the layperson. But reading more about the garden afterwards gave a better insight into what it was all about, and really should have been done before I went wandering with just my awe-inspired eye on the landscape. 

The one thing Charles Jencks has done, along with his wife the late Maggie Keswick, is turn almost 20 years of gardening into not only an art form, but a visible speculation.  He has attempted to lay out – in landscape form – what most of us tend to keep in our head. It is one of the basic questions of human nature; namely what are the world / universe / you and me all about? Why are we here? What is the meaning of it all?portrack-snail-mound

“A garden should present a puzzle to be fathomed, some things very clear and others veiled.” – Charles Jencks

This turns traditional gardening on its head. There is a long, very beautiful section called the Paradise Garden full of typical planting. But, taking the fact that most gardens are usually given to romantic notions of poets and tortured writers looking for solace, Jencks has then injected science into the equation. He has added the hard edge to the soft beauty and taken form and expanded it beyond our imagination. We may not be able to think about the complexities of this subject, but at least he is forcing us to look at it and interact with it. Climb the Snail Mound and find yourself amazed at the fact that, what looks like a spiral is actually a double helix. Those who do not cheat will find themselves returning on a different path to that they ascended on. The total garden amounts to 30 acres, and is really a huge … ‘what if’, and concurs exactly with its name. It truly is, a Garden of Cosmic Speculation.

“What is a garden if not a celebration of our place in the universe?” – Charles Jencksportrack-waterscade

portrack-double-helixWe have a natural connection to the land and therefore the landscape. We may not be able to readily identify with huge pieces of metal amongst the borders, but the idea of noting and appealing to, the senses also includes our sense of humour. Who said science had no right to be entertaining. It may not always be aesthetically pleasing to come upon these sculptures, but it stretches the possibilities beyond a neat herbaceous border.

So, next time you opt for a few pansies and marigolds, consider what it says. There is of course nothing wrong with traditional gardening. I do it myself.  But, the thing Jencks does is makes you think. Perhaps we could all interject a little bit of our own speculations into the garden. But remember, success is in the planning; the thinking it thorough first. And when you hear your first sniff of derision, imagine as I did, Charles Jencks standing up at one of the windows, watching us all wander around his little universe like the atoms that we are, and lamenting that … None of them really understand.


Filed under General