9 October 2018

A Good Read

The Outcast by Sadie Jones

The story starts in the summer of 1957 with Lewis Aldridge travelling back to his home in suburban Surrey. He is nineteen and has just been released from prison. No one was waiting for him. 

Over a decade earlier Lewis was awaiting his father Gilbert's homecoming from the war. Gilbert didn't know what to do with the seven year old boy except shake his hand and wish him elsewhere. 

Gilbert reverted easily to suburban life - cocktails at six thirty, church on Sundays followed by lunch. But his wife resisted the stuffy, stifling routines, escaping instead with Lewis to the woods or the river for picnics, just as they did in wartime days.

After one of their jaunts Lewis returns home alone after witnessing his beloved mother drowning. The emotionally disabled Gilbert is unable to cope with his own devastating loss let alone help Lewis, so, left alone with his grief Lewis descends into dark places. Only one person understands Lewis’s rage, Kit Carmichael. Kit has always understood more than most, not least from what she has to endure from her father. 

This is a harrowing read, almost every page turn reveals further setbacks, my heart ached for Lewis. How he was treated in the community, the injustice he was up against and how poorly he was treated as a young, sad and broken boy. People didn’t do emotions in those days, it was a case of pull yourself together and get on with it. 

Anyone under the age of 60 probably wouldn’t relate to the comfortable, suffocating suburbia of the 1950's, where everyone attended church on a Sunday, more as a ritual for appearances rather than a deep ecumenical belief. Then return to closed doors where a mother leaves the room when she knows her husband is going to beat her daughter with his leather belt because “Children must learn to obey and behave”. A place where the world could explode but Sunday lunch must go ahead as usual. 

It's a good story, beautifully written, and the ending I was hoping for.


~Happy Reading ~

Polly x

5 October 2018

Chelmsford

We are having some absolutely beautiful autumn weather here in the UK. Today's high was a balmy 20 deg.
I went to the Cathedral this morning to take some photos, but didn't stay for the concert. I wanted to do a bit of shopping, visit the market then get home. 

We are officially a city now but in all honesty the services and amenities aren't really up to city status, they are improving though. As well as the usual high street shops the town has had a major makeover with the development of Bond Street where we now have an Everyman cinema, John Lewis, The White Stuff, Kath Kidson, London Grace, The Cotswold Company, and many more. New eateries include, amongst others, Ask, Byron, Jamaica Blue.

Chelmsford was first built by the Romans. It prospered as a market town partly due to its position on a main road half way between London and Colchester. A leather industry, tanners and a wool industry also added to its prosperity. Probably its most famous claim to fame is as the birthplace of radio. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company opened the world's first radio factory here in 1898 and was responsible for some of the most important advances in radio and television.

We have a very nice museum that holds lots of interesting events. It has an impressive display of  military artefacts.


Our medieval Cathedral is very pretty inside

the ceiling is beautiful


Hylands House, built in 1730 is a beautiful Grade II listed property, restored to its former glory and situated in 574 acres of historic landscaped parkland. It has beautiful gardens, two restaurants, a lovely shop and a book shop and a great children's play area with a cafe. It's a lovely place to visit for dog walking, strolling round the lake and gardens, enjoying a meal or just a cup of coffee. They also have lots of events; food fairs, garden shows, dog shows, and it's a beautiful wedding venue.


This is a very pretty area along the river. 
It has been smartened up a bit, it wasn't in a bad way before but it looks very nice now. 


The entrance from the road has been opened up with stone cubes for seating, new trees, including dawn redwoods with uplighting to illuminate them, and new paths for pedestrians and cyclists. The children's play area looks the same. With lovely colourful plant schemes, meandering paths, picnic tables and benches it's very popular with office workers, families, and anyone who wants a nice quiet oasis to have lunch or just sit and watch the world go by.

The railway station is looking much better after a make over, and our very dated and tired ice and leisure centre is currently being rebuilt, it is due to be completed by January 2019. It's looking good so far, I'm looking forward to seeing the new build. 

People moan about the bus services but those that live in built up areas have regular buses into town, to the doctors and dentist surgeries, and to the hospital. And some tiny hamlets have regular buses en route to and from Harlow. It's only the outlying areas and villages where I live that are restricted to every couple of hours, but I manage with that on the occasions I use the bus.

We have two markets. The larger under cover one is open from Tuesday to Saturday with stalls selling fruit and veg, plants, cheeses, picture frames, material, handbags, greeting cards, gardening equipment and much more. On Fridays and Saturdays we have the market in the High Street, where shoppers are treated to a variety of local and international fare and gourmet produce. Breads, fish, pastries, olives, fruit and veg, hand-made sausages, award winning pies. And of course a well stocked gardening stall.


We also have a few individual shops selling international and Asian foods.

We still have the Odeon cinema for those, like me who prefer not to pay outrageous prices
to sit on a sofa hoping the guy next to me doesn't spill his beer!!



~Be well ~
Polly x

24 September 2018

Dinner Time

Dogs are not unlike humans in that they become creatures of habit and routine and know what they like. This is never more evident than when it comes to dinner time. Despite a few phobias Buster is a very laid back dog, he isn't bothered if he gets fed at breakfast time, dinner time or whenever. Rufus however is very specific about when he wants his dinner. 

The routine usually starts around 5.15 pm, he seeks me out (even if I'm in the garden) and stands nearby looking at me, if I make eye contact with him and hold it for a few seconds he lowers his front legs and does the mouth opening and closing with a funny not quite a bark thing. If that doesn't work he moves in a bit closer. If I'm busy I tell him "Not now, go and lay down" He goes away for a few minutes and then he's back to repeat the process. I usually start making tea around that time so I prepare their dinner as well. 



I start by getting their gravy (yes they have gravy!) from the fridge, Rufus wants to make sure that I know where it is in the fridge so he accompanies me. There it is, that's the handle of the Pyrex jug.



While the gravy is heating in the microwave I go to the cupboard for their meal, again he wants to make sure that I know which cupboard it's in so he accompanies me.



And finally he watches every move as I mix the meal with the gravy and add the tinned food!
He knows what he likes and how to get it! :-)

None of this was staged, it's Rufus, he is a real character. 
He also lets me know if their water bowl is empty by standing in the doorway 
with an eager look on his face.
If one of his toys has rolled under the sofa or cupboard he
does the same and then takes me to wherever it is!

And every morning he knows when I get up and how long it takes me to get dressed and appear at the top of the stairs, he is waiting for me at the bottom of the stairs. He then sticks to me like glue as I'm putting on my coat and boots.
He also knows when we're not going out (bad weather or I don't have time), 
I put on my dressing gown and go straight downstairs. 
He knows I haven't been moving around upstairs so he is still in his bed, or on a sofa!

I wonder if he would go for assistance if I had a heart attack whilst out walking!!
Hopefully that will never happen, and I always have my phone with me :-)


~Be well ~

Polly x


17 September 2018

A Good Read


The Cleaner of Chartres by Salley Vickers

Absence is at the heart of Agnes Morel’s life. Absence of a mother and father, absence of love, guidance and protection, and the most heartbreaking of all the absence of her illegitimate baby boy, taken from her soon after birth. Her story is beautifully written in fragments of the lives of the people she comes into contact with.

Beautiful and elusive Agnes was a foundling, discovered by a farmer, she was wrapped in a white tablecloth and placed in a straw shopping basket. 

In the present Agnes cleans in the Cathedral. Whilst happy in her own company others are drawn to her, wanting to talk to her, she touches the lives of pilgrims, tourists, artists, shopkeepers, priests and nuns. She is offered cleaning jobs outside the cathedral and finds it difficult to refuse new work or to demand proper payment.

Her vulnerability is the target for other people's unpleasantness and before long an accidental encounter dredges up tragic incidents from her past and nasty gossips are all too eager to spread their idle rumours. The most objectionable of these is one of her employers, the bitter, spiteful Madame Beck, an obsessive collector of china dolls. Equally vitriolic is Mother Veronique who displays the worst aspects of religious zeal - cruelty and sanctimonious hypocrisy. Screaming at the then helpless 14 year old Agnes who had been horribly raped and was now pregnant “You cunning little whore”. 

Eventually Agn├Ęs is forced to confront her history, and the mystery of her origins finally unfolds.

This is a gentle, compelling story of darkness and light; of traumatic loss, love and hope. A beautiful read.
~Happy Reading ~
Polly x

10 September 2018

This Time Last Year

This time last year we were clearing out cupboards in readiness for the old kitchen to be demolished. 

Oh My Word what a lot of stuff had accumulated. Some of it was good stuff still in use, but a lot was "What is this/Why have we still got this/This doesn't even work anymore, and the worst one - How long has this manky chip pan been at the back of the cupboard?"!!

Eventually the cupboards were emptied, good stuff packed in boxes, stuff taken to the charity shop, rubbish stuff in the skip, and demolition was under way.

Floor down and I started painting around where the new cupboards would be going.

The new units were delivered and stored in the kitchen

Poor Buster was in a state of turmoil, he doesn't cope well with disruption

This was the narrow space through to the kitchen and outside

Dear Buster, he needed gentle reassurance and guidance through the maze!

I too hate mess and disruption and thought it would never end
but of course it did
and before long we had a beautiful new kitchen




Those cupboards store recycling, outdoor stuff, kitchen gadgets, drinks, glasses, all sorts

A year on and we've only just got a blind for the window,

and we still need to replace the old stools that creak when sat on!! 
Does anyone else do that, finish the major project but still have minor things to do?


~Be well ~
Polly x

7 September 2018

A Good Read

The Tax Inspector by Peter Carey

Set in Franklin, New South Wales, Australia, Catchprice Motors is a dismal, run-down used car business run by Granny (Frieda) Catchprice with senility, cunning and a handbag full of gelignite. She runs her family the same way. Responsibility for the day to day running of the business lies with Frieda’s daughter Cathy, a sad aspiring Country and Western singer and her sleazy husband Howie, who sports ‘a secret rash which stops in a clean line at his collar and the cuffs of his shirt’. 

Cathy has two brothers, the odious and useless Mort who also works in the business, and Jack, who although left Franklin and the business, can never, by his own admission escape being a Catchprice – unhinged and damaged. 

Then we have Frieda’s grandchildren, Vish, who joined the Krishnas as a way of escaping his family, and Benny, who at sixteen is seriously psychopathic. He believes he can transform the failing family business into an empire, and himself into an angel. 

Into this melting pot of misery, anger and failure enters the beautiful and very pregnant agent of the Australian Taxation Office, Maria Tarkis. 

Although I didn’t like part of the conclusion, I really enjoyed this book. It's a good story with memorable, believable characters, black humour, compassion, and at times it was extremely painful. 


~Happy Reading ~
Polly x


1 September 2018

The Dolls House Bathroom

It's always a pleasure and a relief when I finish a room, not just for the satisfaction of seeing my ideas and work come together, but also because it means I can start the next room! I seem to have been working on the bathroom forever. One of the reasons for it taking so long is because I couldn't decide on the flooring, first it was wood, then I ordered some marble tiles online, but my maths skills are appalling so I didn't order enough and.... I didn't like them! So finally I decided on a sample piece of wallpaper from a DIY store. 

The curtain was a nightmare, I put a flimsy gold spotted chiffon type material over some lovely white silk material, which meant it kept slipping all over the place. I pinned and tacked then sewed and gathered the heading for the pole to go through and made the tieback with tiny gold beads. My first attempt was too short because the material frayed like mad, so I made the second one much longer and trimmed off the excess. The brackets to hold the pole in place were difficult to fix because of the angle.

I had the same problem fixing the taps, they weren't level, trying to drill a drilled hole a bit bigger on the bottom edge is impossible so I had to gouge out bits of the wall with a craft knife then plug up the excess with kitchen paper and super glue, insert the tap and hold it until it set!


The basin is a shell. I tried a couple of basins but they were just a bit too big.


The shower curtain was quite plain so I put a nice piece of chiffon on the top of it.

One thing I was really pleased with was the make over of this chest of drawers. 

It started as bare wood and I covered it with this lovely white and gold wallpaper. 

It was fiddly and tricky, I could have used thinner decoupage paper but I really liked this paper.

I bought a plain toilet and painted gold lines around it.

  
I found this gorgeous cabinet on Ebay, I think the starting price was £15, each time I put a bid in I was outbid so I thought "I can make one". I could buy a bare wood cabinet, I already had some white spray paint and I could buy some gold leaf paper. However I couldn't find a cabinet as nice as this one, and it came with all the soaps, bath products and pretty ornaments so I put in my top bid of £25 and I'm very pleased with it.

After making lots of towels for Miss Teen's en-suite I decided not to do the same with the bathroom, plenty of spare towels are stored in the chest of drawers :-)

I made the bath mat by sticking some tiny pom poms onto a material backing.


Window sills made from wooden spatulas

Time to get cracking with the bedroom.

Meanwhile....

The house is a mess because we have had some new doors fitted, three more to go so it's not worth trying to clear all the dust, I've done upstairs.

I'm taking advantage of the beautiful sunny warm weather to tidy the garden.

Going to a 70th birthday party tonight. I will be celebrating my own in a few weeks time!!....


~Be well and enjoy the rest of your weekend ~

Polly x


9 August 2018

This And That Catching Up

Oh dear, I have neglected my blog and I'm sorry for not visiting my favourite blogs. I do catch up on you all, but don't always have time to comment.

I see Rufus got his paws on the laptop again and brought you up to date with what I have been up to. He would have to mention my bowls matches defeats! I wouldn't describe myself as one of my clubs' best players but I do have times when I play well. I won my club's ladies singles competition last year and was in the winning team in the fours competition. I don't know what happened with the summer league singles matches, I think it was a combination of hot weather, hot flushes, and trying too hard! 

Rufus mentioned wanting some photos of their walking friends, so here they are


 Charlie and Norman 


Rufus, Norman and Ellie               Ellie, Buster and Norman


Treat time, and bribery to get them all together! except Buster,
he had found something interesting to sniff nearby!
Ellie lost her tail in an accident

I have been busy with dolls house work, the bathroom is nearing completion and I have made a start on the main bedroom. 

Painting (art not decorating) has taken up a fair amount of time because of my determination to get it right. Some I am pleased with, others have gone in the bin. The experts say don't overthink it, and I tell myself not to but then I do! When I do just do it without overthinking I am pleased with the result, like this one. 

I wet all the petal areas one by one then just dropped a tiny amount of pink in the inside and tipped the paper to let it run to the edges. I then built up the darker areas bit by bit. It can be difficult knowing when to stop. When it came to the leaves I built up the colour gradually and thought I had overdone it with the veins, but I think they look just about right. I might frame it.


I followed an online tutorial for this one and was quite pleased with it until I noticed the perspective of the pot's proximity to the window! I will keep it though, we learn through our mistakes.

And of course time spent keeping cool and reading. My current book is 'A Fine Balance' by Rohinton Mistry. A hefty 614 pages! It has been on the bookshelf for a long time, I think it's one that I inherited from number two daughter when she emigrated to Australia. I enjoyed his 'Such A Long Journey' and am thoroughly enjoying this one so far. 

In July we had our WI summer lunch, delicious food and good company made for an enjoyable afternoon. And last week for our August meeting we went to Papermill Lock, a tea room on the bank of the Chelmer and Blackwater Navigation. We had a lovely trip on a canal boat.


Little Baddow Mill House



 followed by a cream tea or cake and coffee (I had a cream tea)

I've enjoyed a few trips to North Weald market
and bought a couple of frocks there

this is the bargain I found in a charity shop in Fremantle last November. It has a lovely stretchy panel at the back which gives a fitted look whilst allowing for expansion if I over indulge!

On probably the hottest day of the year my friend M and I went to the Booking Hall cafe at Rayne. 


It's the old railway station on the Fitch Way. It's said to be a lovely walk along the old track.


There are a couple of carriages that have been converted into a charming small museum. 


This one has a lovely little model version of how Rayne was as a working station.


The crops are stored
blackberries are turning red, I have seen a few black ones
soon be time for blackberry and apple pies and crumbles, yummy :-) 


Well that's me caught up with what I have been doing.
I hope to get round to reading what my favourite bloggers have been up to.


~Be well and have a good weekend ~

Polly x

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