Blog Archive

Sunday, 26 August 2018

So what's new...

Following that marathon Christmas post (Christmas in August????), I thought I should post something slightly more up-to-date.

We had the most awful weather in March this year - snow for the first time here since 2010 and it was bitterly cold in the cottage, despite the central heating and the wood burner. Most of the cold was coming from the porch, a 1960s concrete block addition to the original cob section of the cottage. Totally uninsulated, prone to damp and mould, and to add to its woes, we had to put a cat flap into it to allow the cats to access their run and the litter trays (there was no other place that we could install one). We were also reluctant to cut a cat flap into the original inner door, so that had to be left open a cat's width, to allow them back in!

After consultation with a builder friend, we realised that the only answer to the damp problem was to insulate the walls of the porch so we ordered Celotex sheets, wooden battening, tongue and groove panelling and a huge tin of black bituminous paint.

I cleaned the walls down with bleach, followed by copious quantities of sugar soap and once the whole lot was dry, I repainted the white ceiling before Kevin set to with the black paint. The porch suddenly took on a sinister aspect - the Black Hole of Chilsworthy - and the smell was breathtaking (not in a good way, either).

Once that was dry, Kevin put up the battens into which the 50mm thick Celotex was fitted and then he clad the whole lot with tongue and groove, which we then painted with an off-white.

The floor of the porch had been laid with the same pavers that had been used for the drive, so we painted it with grey floor paint to make it easier to keep clean, then laid jute matting in front of the door.

The final touches were the terracotta owls, brought from our old house, an oil painting of a country cottage (painted by my talented great-uncle years ago) and the terracotta sign above the inner door, which reads Parva Domus, Magna Quies (Little House, Great Peace). The coat hooks were replaced and we stood back to admire our handiwork.

The porch felt cool during the recent very hot weather, so we hope that the reverse will prove to be true once the cold weather hits.

Next task is to insulate the fireplace in the sitting room - but that means moving the wood burner to remove what we believe is a gravestone screwed to the wall behind it (!)

A Very Late Christmas Post!

I really did mean to post about my National Trust volunteer role ages ago, but well, Life has a tendency to derail the best of intentions. However, last week I found the photographs that I took at Christmas at Lanhydrock House where I volunteered in the kitchens and the dining room and thought it would be lovely to post them before we get into the Christmas season there once more!

I began volunteering in October 2017 and had three weeks in the house before it closed for a month to prepare for Christmas. At the end of November, we had an orientation meeting so that we could see where we would be working and what we would be doing. We also picked up the costumes that the Trust was providing - a white high-necked blouse, long black walking skirt (slightly longer in back than in front) and a V-shaped belt.

Visiting children were able to dress up in Victorian costumes; in the Inner Hall, these were formal dresses, with jackets for the boys while in the kitchen, there were white pinafores and mob caps or chef's toques and striped aprons.

The dining room was laid out for Christmas 1887 when Mary Vere Agar-Robartes - the eldest daughter of Viscount Clifden and his wife Mary - was eight years old and permitted to dine with her parents and their guests for the first time. There was an extensive menu, starting with a consomme with tiny savoury choux buns, followed by salmon cutlets with Hollandaise Sauce, turkey stuffed with oysters and roast beef with all the usual vegetables, then Christmas Pudding, Twelfth Cake, cheese, gingerbread, nuts and fruit.

In the kitchen, the huge table was laid out with jellies and Christmas Puddings made in elaborate castellated moulds, mince pies, gingerbread, raised pies and beautifully iced Twelfth Cakes (a yeast-raised, fruited cake - a little like panettone with icing). All of this food was real, made by the restaurant catering team.
At one end of the table, we had oranges and cloves, ready for the visiting children to make pomanders.

The jellies were replaced every couple of days.
Beautifully iced Twelfth Cake with a raised pie in the background.

Oranges, cloves and spices for pomanders
In the bakery, there were hampers destined for the estate tenants, with bread, beer, Christmas Pudding, tea, pickles and preserves and in the meat larder, beautifully-crafted facsimile oysters, salmon, a turkey and a joint of beef.
Christmas Puddings and preserves, ready for the Tenants' Hampers

Salmon Cutlets - brilliant facsimiles!
Roast Beef with Horseradish Sauce
Oysters and the stuffing recipe!

Turkey and all the usual accompaniments.

In the dairy, we demonstrated how butter balls were made and encouraged the children to have a go.
Paddles for the Butter Balls

This is me, on Kitchen Duty!

Father Christmas visited just before Christmas, dressed in his traditional GREEN robes, and sat with his sack of gifts in the Morning Room where there was another huge Christmas Tree. The house closed at 4.30pm on January 1st and then the massive business of cleaning, conservation work and general refurbishment began, ready for the re-opening in March.

Phew - a long post with loads of photographs! It feels odd to be blogging about last Christmas but now that I'm back in the swing of it, I promise not to leave it so long. 

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

My Graduation Day

Should have posted this ages ago but life kind of got in the way!

On October 13th 2017, I marched proudly on to the stage at the Riviera Centre, Torquay to accept my First Class Honours degree in English Literature. After 5 years, one brief deferral and a house move, I had the degree that I had coveted for years.

I had the official photo taken,

 but I still think the ones that my lovely husband took are far nicer!

It was great to celebrate afterwards too - my friend and fellow English literature graduate,
Anne and I found the sparkling wine and made the most of it!

But... I couldn't have done it without the lovely man in this photograph - he listened to EVERY assignment (often more than once), encouraged me, created a quiet study space for me, cleaned and tidied the house when I was desperately trying to meet an assignment deadline and put up with my bear-with-a-sore-head moments while waiting for results. Love you, Kevin x

Saturday, 12 August 2017

What I found in the Slug Pubs.

Well...slugs, naturally! Lots of them and so disgusting did they look, that I couldn't bear to photograph them. I did wonder whether the birds would appreciate Slugs Marinated in Bitter, and might look later at the slab where I laid out their bloated corpses to see if there were any takers (not to mention watching out for inebriated birds attempting to take off across the field).

So, I topped up the Slug Pubs and then helped Kevin to move the mini Stonehenge from its location under the twin conifers that will be coming down in short order and put them on top of the landscaping fabric to help hold it down.  We also moved the potting table and various pots and buckets across to that side of the garden to give us a clear run at our soon-to-be raised bed area.

We are waiting for the spares kit to arrive so that Kevin can service the Mantis rotavator, and we've decided on a white picket fence with an arch to divide the plot - something like this, although the pickets are likely to have rounded heads and be a bit taller (I'd love these pointed ones, though, if we could find them):

Image result for picket fence and arbour

The pond will be just the other side of the fence, which gives us the opportunity to put in some taller planting - at the moment, there is nothing other than Creeping Jenny (masses of the stuff) and some saxifrages with the odd perennial geranium trying its best. The pond marginals are pretty much non-existent otherwise and the edge of the pond is mostly hidden by wild strawberry plants. Once the conifers are removed, we'll be able to move the pretty flowering cherry that Kevin bought me years ago as an anniversary present - it is beginning to resent being in the (very large) pot now and will do better once it can stretch its roots out.

However, the weather forecast for next week is not promising (rain, much like the last couple of years) so we'll turn our attention to the master bedroom, which really does need redecorating. We have the paint, just need to get cracking!