East Guldeford Church.

Having just written about this church in my last post I thought I would post some pictures that I took on my visit so that you can see how delightful it is. Do try and take the time to go and visit if you get a chance. it is maintained by Romney Marsh Historic Churches Trust and the Sussex equivalent. The RMHCT has used the angels on their Christmas cards.

A Fairly Busy Week!

All things are relative and when I say a busy week it rather depends what I am comparing it with I imagine. In my case it was because I went ‘out’ a few times and did some gardening of a fairly heavy duty kind. On Wednesday I was due to go for a longish walk (again the description relays on a comparison) from East Guldeford into Rye via the Military Canal path, have a bit of a mooch around Rye and then take a short mile long route back to the cars. It didn’t happen because both of us were pretty sure that in the heat we just wouldn’t make it. In stead we settled for a visit to the church at East Guldeford and a cup of coffee and a good old gossip at the nearby cafe at Salts Farm. the church is very interesting, not least because of the frieze of angels painted above altar. First painted in the late 19th century they have, fairly recently, been restored and are now much as I imagine they looked soon after they were first painted. On a side wall the Arms of Richard de Guldeford who had the church built in the reign of Henry VII. He was responsible for the ‘inning’ of the land here and transforming it from salt flats to productive pasture for sheep grazing. He did not live in the parish but rather like many wealthy landowners on the Marsh he lived on the ‘uplands’. This hutch is the only church on the Marsh that is located in Sussex. Nestled down a narrow track with part of a field for parking the churchyard is surrounded by sheep netting fence and stands tranquil and peaceful as I imagine it always has. We asked among the graves, old and not so old, amongst the high grass and looking out across the flat land dotted with sheep. It felt peaceful and as it should be. To make this place ones final resting place would be, indeed, a fairly good choice. Although the main road is only a field away the church and churchyard easily transports one back through the centuries to a past age of fewer people, less noise and a natural calm.

Once we had looked around we made our way back to the cafe. I can recommend the coffee and as we sat outside looking across to Rye perched on its hill we gossiped on and on. A day later I decided I needed to mow the larger of our two lawns. I had made a start the day before but it needed finishing. I trotted up and down until the grass was of a uniform height and looked rather neater than it has for a while. Himself made him self useful by emptying the wheelbarrow of grass cuttings into the field. Mower put away I turned my attention to the Plum tree that never produces any Plums and which cast a shadow across the rose border behind it. It had to go. For those of you who followed this blog throughout countless lockdowns you will be familiar with my enthusiasm for a power tool. My trusty cordless pruner was called into action. Boughs were severed with Himself holding on to them so that nobody was cracked on the head and then came the question of the removal of the trunk. That sounds quite dramatic and I would rather like you to think it was a sturdy obstacle that needed removing but to be perfectly frank it did offer me something of a challenge but it was in all honest only about 4 or 5 inches across. Nevertheless I have found out that Plum wood is fairly dense and doesn’t yield willingly to a short bladed pruning saw. I managed to chop off a fair bit but a stump remained. Nothing daunted I was determined to cut that off too. I managed to sort of cut through a section all the way round buttery as I might I could not severe the whole piece. Himself was all for leaving it. This in many ways was a red rag to a bull situation to me – I would not be beaten. What could I use to chop something of the stump away. I have an axe in the garage but rather think it would struggle to cut through butter and I don’t have the tools or skill to sharpen it. My hand bill stared up at me from the chopping block in which it resides – it too has not been sharpened since my father gave it to me many years ago but it does have something of an edge on it. Last used to split wood for kindling I wondered if it might do the trick. Nothing ventured I headed up the garden hand bill in hand ready to do battle. For those of you who have no idea what a hand bill is, it is sometimes called a ‘bill hook’ and vaguely resembles a short handled version of the medieval ‘bill’ that was used in hand to hand fighting. I chopped away at the stump, reducing it to a small core in the middle and then using the saw managed to take it off. It stands a little proud of the lawn but I have cut into it in the hope that it will gradually rot and disappear. Mission accomplished. Needless to say the next day I was shuffling and hobbling around, holding my back and groaning every now and then. Entirely my own fault and after a while the aches and pains subsided.

Our local council, in common with many around the country, have decided not to cu the verges in rural areas, particularly on the lanes and roads out on the Marsh proper. Those who did not grow up in a rural community or who have little sympathy with the ecological argument for this are not at all pleased. Some have complained that the lack of cutting back is dangerous to traffic and liable to cause accidents. I was pondering this as I drove around the lanes this morning on my way to get milk at the local supermarket. (The milkman has been ‘pinged’ and so no milk was delivered). My route took me along a winding lane that passes through fields of sheep, wheat, beans and tall grass pasture. Some of the road is bordered by ditches and other parts have netted fencing. The ditches are thick with the jade green spears of reeds pushing their way ever skyward and rustling in incessant whispers as the breeze rifles through them. They provide cover for a myriad of wild life – Dabchicks and Moorhens, dragon flies of all shapes, colours and sizes, reed warblers or are they buntings I never know, and the occasional Swan makes its nest there as well as a pair of Ducks who weave their way down the water course. On the verges proper the colours and variety of flowers changes with the seasons. Earlier in the summer these verges were festooned in Cow Parsley – white swathes of delicate flower heads hung like lace all along the road side. Now the colour has changed somewhat – the vibrant bright yellow of Ragwort is intertwined with tall statuesque white topped Hogweed. The Cow Parsley has gone to seed and now is skeletal in its biscuit coloured stems and seed heads. Away from the ditches and hedges the verge is a mixture of russet red Dock, tall yellow Sow Thistles and ragged grass heads, all vying for light, space and a chance to grow. Once back into the area where the verge is wider and the stands more open to the sunshine there are Teasels, bindweed garlands that blanket the hedge with pure white trumpet flowers and mauve Thistle heads. If those all grew in my garden – some of them do – I would be for ever fighting an endless battle to remove them – well except for the Teasels that I rather like – but here on the verge they provide a colourful display as well as providing a home and sustenance for a wide ranging variety of insect and bird life as well as small mammals. In one place today as I approached a great flock of small birds took to the wing, swirled around above me and once I had passed on settled again. I do not want them to cut the verges. If open is sensible in ones driving around these lanes then they shouldn’t present any real danger – and besides most if not all of the users are local and should know the ‘pinch points’ and where to drive more carefully. I remembered the other day that when I was a child and teenager growing up in the countryside the verges were never cut, never manicured and if they had been the locals would have thought that the Council had more money than sense. They also valued the wild flowers – we were encouraged to pick a few and press them, identify them and study them. Many a time and oft my Ladybird book of British Wild Flowers was consulted to identify a species. Interestingly the pictures and illustrations from said Ladybird books and the Shell Posters that illustrate flowers in their season that are posted on Twitter are universally popular. Yes it could be. Kind of nostalgia but perhaps more likely is that many are becoming far more aware of the necessity for plants and flowers that will sustain our insect life upon which we all depend.

In other matters, today I wandered down to the pond and the water level is extremely low. It is difficult to believe that in the winter the pond was full to almost over flowing and when it froze over the ice reached almost to the level of the lane. Now it is little more than a large puddle with bright green weed thick on its muddy edges. The garden is becoming overgrown and I am maintaining that this is just as I want it and that more especially it is typical of an authentic cottage garden and what I have always striven to achieve!

Another Rant I am Afraid!

This time it involves the inefficiency of retail outlets – most specifically those that sell Fridge Freezers. The kitchen is finished, the kickboards have been fitted and the builder has completed his tasks. It is lovely and we are very pleased but the old fridge freezer stands in splendid isolation here an American style fridge freezer is destined to stand. And so begins the tale of my trying to buy one. First of all I looked up what types there were, how much they cost and above all how much fridge and freezer space there is. After much ‘research’ I decided a Bosch one would be the Best Buy for us. Well, you might be thinking why didn’t you just order it then? I tried to, believe me I really did. I had heard that Curry’s customer service and delivery etc was fairly shoddy, I knew nothing about the purely internet companies and therefore rather shied away from them. It had to be John Lewis then. After all they are a company with excellent customer service I reasoned, they have always been really helpful. And so the saga began. I looked on the web site and found the item and prepared to order but just before I did noticed that it said that I had to ring a number if I wanted the old one taken away. I did, so ring the number I must. The number rang and rang and eventually after fifteen minutes a voice asked me if I wanted to order something. I explained that I did but that I would like to know when they could deliver. I needed a product number – eventually I found it. The question of delivery seemed to be an anathema to the man. He had no idea when they would deliver. Would it be a week or two? He had no idea except that it would be at least two! I stopped the call.I am very disappointed in John Lewis – I thought they prided themselves on customer care. My experience is not the worst one I have heard about and others that I have spoken too will never shop with them again. They have lost many customers through their apparent lack of care for their customers. It is so different to the service that I regularly received in my local store before it closed. It was never too much trouble for the sales personnel to explain things to you, to find alternatives, to show you a variety of products, to change items without a query or to be polite and helpful. It seems that all of this has now gone. I did but a cheap small item from them a little while ago and as a result they sent me a survey. I was pleased to fill it in and explain that the question that asked me about shopping in my local store was somewhat irrelevant now that they had closed it down and my so called “local” store was now approximately 75 miles away. Of course I am not going to go there. Equally, of course, I am not going to buy big ticket items from them when I can’t see them, can’t speak to someone who can explain the features of said items and who isn’t really interested in if I purchase or not. I shall, in future take my custom elsewhere – John Lewis is going the way of M&S I fear and I rarely shop there now. It wasn’t so very long ago that i would have wholeheartedly recommended John Lewis – now I certainly wouldn’t. Next I tried to speak to someone at Curry’s. It isn’t possible. Then I investigated an internet company called AO. But I wasn’t at all sure. The next day I asked the builder and he assured me AO were the ones to go with. The fridge freezer is now ordered from AO and the process was extremely easy and efficient. I could pick a delivery date, they would install and take away the old one. We will wait and see if it all works out well but I am fairly convinced it will. Rant over – let us hope I don’t have cause to rant on about anything else!

Today I went to Waitrose and although it is so called ‘freedom day’ with restrictions lifted nothing much had changed. In other news I did some ironing today and managed to iron part of my hand – it is now stinging and has gone a slightly red colour. Not as bad as it might have been and I guess it will soon be OK. The Hollyhocks are looking delightful, it has been a more moderate day when it comes to the heat and we even had a bit of rumbling thunder earlier this afternoon. The forecast for tomorrow is apparently for rain and more thunder according to Himself – how jolly! Oh well if it does rain it will save me having to water the Tomatoes I suppose. As long as it perks up for Wednesday because I am due to go walking with friend. We were hoping to be able to wear shorts perhaps but on present showing that might be a no no. Today I made an abortive stroll to visit a couple of people in the village – one to see if their husband could do my outside painting and the other o see f he would be able to install a drive gate. Neither person was in and besides as I walked away mission very much not accomplished it began to thunder in the distance. Instead I strolled down the lane to the sheep field where they were quietly grazing in among the tall grass. In the distance, some miles away, on the hilled edge of the marsh I could see it was raining. A dark cloud with streaks of greyness hung like dirty washing cloaking the distant fields. Here the sun was still shining if a little weakly and the clouds such as they were remained fluffy high and white. A couple of pictures taken and I turned tail for home with the distant ominous rumbling continuing. It never rained here but gradually the cloud cover increased and now as I write the sky is grey and the trees stand still and unmoving in anticipation perhaps.

St Swithin’s day

Today is St Swithin’s day and if the legend is to be believed we should have 40 dry days from now on. Today’s weather has certainly been dry but somewhat overcast at times with dark clouds coming and going but fortuitously not dropping any rain.

My daughter has been here for a few days and I had forgotten how delightful it is to have her around and how isolated and insular we have become. We had a couple of truly lovely days with very straightforward trips to Jempsons, a garden centre and a long walk across the fields but the enjoyment of such simple pleasures was very special after nearly two years of not being able to do such things. She has gone back ladder with a large bunch of lavender, and a number of items we purchased along with a chair that I was pleased for her to have.

I have done little in the garden and still haven’t ordered the new fridge freezer but that shall definitely be done tomorrow now my daughter has explained to me that they can take the doors off to get it through my kitchen door. I have heard of a local painter decorator who lives in the so here is hoping he might be able to do the outside painting before winter sets in. There are Hollyhocks popping up in rather unexpected places and in colours that we have never seen before. The original one has disappeared I think but in its place we have a pale lemon yellow – almost cream, a tissue paper pale pink and a far more vibrant pink one that has grown up through the patio and I haven’t had the heart to get rid of it. I suspect I shall live to regret that decision. A few others have appeared around the garden but are still very small. I rather like their blousyness and their papery flowers that burst forth from the tightly furled pale green buds. The sweet peas are nothing short of a ‘wash out’ this year. The bad weather meant that they have grown like weeds but equally it also meant I couldn’t get out there to tie them in. In consequence they are now a tangled mass of tendrils growing out over other plants and with very few flowers. What there are of the blooms are rain damaged and the plants have suffered bud drop. The few plants I gave to my daughter have been lovingly nurtured by her and she has some stems with four flowers. There is a lesson there for me!

Earlier today I heard the Prince of Wales speaking about farming on Radio 4. I only caught the tail end of his broadcast but The Times also ran an article on it. The Prince is championing the small farms in Britain and quite rightly points out that the future of good quality food production in this country lies with such farmers. More especially he is standing up for rural communities and points out that if the small farms go it will “rip the heart out of the British countryside”. Efficiency and the large conglomerates that continually practice intensive agriculture are inevitably destroying “precious landscapes”. Around us the fields that I love to walk are now enormous and there is no sign of any farmed animal life. This area of the marsh is slowly but surely becoming a bread basket with great swathes of the land given over to cereal production of one kind or another. Fields of the short stem wheat that long ago replaced that which had long enough stems for the making of ‘corn dollies’ have long since been the norm. In our walk yesterday we saw field after field of wheat, much of it infested with ‘black grass’ or flattened and mildewed, black and smutty. The barley was swaying in undulating gold tipped waves in the breeze in those parts of the field where it had not been flattened by wind and rain. Yes I do like to see some ripening corn but equally I like to see a field of safely grazing sheep or contented cattle. This obsession with bigger and bigger yields and cheaper and cheaper food makes me fear not just for the countryside and landscape but also for the very basic commodity without which we will have no food at all – namely the soil. Soil that has been grazed, cultivated and nurtured will have a rich soil that will produce good food. I am reminded of a comment made by one of Sheila Kaye-Smith’s characters when commenting upon the politician’s attitude to the countryside and agriculture and in essence Kaye-Smith noted that neither of the major parties is in the least bit interested in the plight of rural communities and/or those who live in them. Countless times this is referenced by implication when it is proposed that oil and gas heating should be phased out, electric cars should be the norm etc. Rural areas rely on oil heating and few have the wherewithal to convert to expensive other options. Most of us rely on our cars to get us about – there re no buses or any other form of public transport – many of our journeys are long and the charge in an electric vehicle would be barely adequate. We have SUVs not because we want to swank about in big cars but because come the winter and the lanes, that run between the deep ditches, are iced over or snowed up we need to get out to get supplies and a 4×4 is ideal. We don’t get roads cleared and the snow often turns to a sheet of very treacherous ice. Under the present plans we will pay a massive premium to run and travel in these vehicles and be effectively punished for living in the p laces we do. It is Ok for me in some ways because I can afford to pay if push comes to shove but what about young people who need a car to get to work etc, young Mums who need a car to get the children to school, and the pensioners who need their car for the weekly shop and getting to the doctors etc. With all due respect no bus company is going to run a service put to these villages and therefore public transport is very much not the answer.

As well as this I was glancing at the local community Facebook page today and noticed that someone had mentioned a planning ‘consultation’ meeting that had been held yesterday in a neighbouring seaside village. I had no idea, and suspect I am far from alone, that there was a proposition by a developer to build 132 homes on farm land on the edge of the village and thus extending the area of development by a considerable quantity, both in number of dwellings but also in extent of incursion into the farming land of the marsh. It transpires that the owners of the land, who are at present farming it and are devoted to retaining the nature of this land as uncultivated and as biodiverse as possible, knew nothing of this proposal until their postman told them about it in passing. They are proud that this particular field area has never been cultivated and thus has retained all of the attributes of stock grazed land. When I delved into the planning proposal rather more fully I found that the developers, among other things, were claiming that their development would “enhance the ecology” of the area. It defeats me how an estate of closely packed housing and ancillary building etc will any way be able to do this or can in any way improve on the existing ecological value of the land. The houses shown in the plan have tiny gardens, a comparatively small area has been given over to open ground for children’s playground and areas that are grassed. Yes there are a few hedges but these are not in fact normal on the marsh, ditches and open grass land are. All in alI suspect the local authority will give their permission reasoning that then they will gradually ‘join’ up the coastal communities all along the A259. What they also will have forgotten, perhaps, is that as with much of the marsh the proposed area for development is at or below sea level and with rising sea levels as a result of climate change the possibility of inundation by the sea is a real and present danger even though we have a relatively new sea wall. According to some authorities we can expect to have protection from this new wall for approximately fifty years or there abouts and after that the sea may have risen enough to overtop the wall and flood the marsh. With the run off water from the house roofs, roads and other hard surfaces the area will need excellent drainage if it is to be flood free. It is after all a marsh and although the system of drainage ditches is more than adequate for the drainage of agricultural land and estate of houses is a whole different prospect. As I look across the bean field at the back of my house I sometimes wonder if the time will come when this too will disappear under bricks and mortar and will be advertised as a development that has improved on the environment and ecology etc.

A new Project?

Well, its raining again and therefore I have time to write another blog post. I am sorry to all of you who have, maybe, missed the regular pieces on this site but while the weather is fine I have been full on gardening as though my life depends on it. Having said that the amount of work that has actually been done is not as much as I would have liked. I have been slightly interrupted by a few other things too. On Monday I had an appointment with a medical professional, an “Advanced Physiotherapist” according to her email to me later in the week. I must say that she did at least take me seriously and wrote copious notes but then offered me further physio and an appointment at a thing called a “Pain Clinic”. I am not at all sure what this is but will go along and then make a judgement. Her assessment was that I have a some ‘degeneration’ in the discs in my lower back and surprise, surprise, there is nothing much that can be done. In essence it is ‘self help’ all the way with regular exercise etc. Continually for the last eighteen months the various medics I have spoken to about my back have emphasised that I should at all cost stay ‘active’. This term has always been something of a mystery to me in that I have never known what exactly they mean. I have Googled the term and the information was to say the least vague. I asked the medic I saw what exactly this term meant – she was equally vague in some ways but suggested that it really meant “pottering about”. Later she sent me some online advice and literature – some from the NHS. There I found, I think, the nearest I am going to come to the NHS definition of being ‘very active’. I only found out somewhat by mistake really because one of the online pieces suggested I check my BMI and one question on the check list was asking how much exercise I did in a week. Apparently, according to this information, 30 minutes a day or 150 minutes a week is considered ‘very active’. On this criteria I must qualify as something near Olympic standard for leading an active lifestyle. In the past week I calculate I have completed rather more than 400 minutes of exercise assuming cutting the lawn, gardening, yoga exercises, using an exercise bike and walking count. For my age it appears it is something of an achievement if I can manage to walk between 3000 and 5000 steps a day. This makes the walk a week ago the equivalent of 4 days walks or more – I shall take it as that then! Now, of course, when the weather is inclement I probably don’t walk as much as I should but I do try to use an exercise bike.

On one of the less pleasant days I decided to have a go at sorting out a bookshelf full of maps, garden books and travel stuff. Among the maps were a large number of guides to long walks in various reasonably local places. Some I have used quite extensively and others were bought with an attitude of wishful thinking and with little regard to what I might actually do although I would still like to walk part, at least, of the Cotswold Way and the Wiltshire Ridge Way. Mind you I am a product of the flat lands and the hills might present me with some serious challenges I fear. A decision has been taken by me, and not shared, but I am determined that the back situation will not, under any circumstances, prevent me from walking fairly long distances. To tell me to “pace myself” and to reconsider my challenges when it comes to walking has been like a very large red rag to a bull. Once, many years ago, I was given a piece of advice from a rather fierce and indomitable teacher. She said that throughout my life I should remember I was born and bred in Sussex and that I must remember that I “wun’t be druv”. The same motto or saying is inscribed on the Sussex Pigs made by Rye Pottery at one time. The phrase comes from an Old Sussex Poem that states,

‘And you can pook

And you can shove

But a Sussex pig

He wun’t be druv’.

In the case of my walking it is very much a case of my being that Sussex pig and I certainly “wun’t be druv”. But back to the tidying up of the shelves. In amongst the walking guides I found a folder full of cycling routes across the Marsh and more exciting a set of circular walking routes – I had bought these some very long while ago when the local authority issued them a were presumably trying to promote Romney Marsh as a good place to walk. The routes are anything from 9 miles down to just a few so actually useful for all those who enjoy walking whatever their ability. A re-issue of them would be most welcome especially at this time when many people will be holidaying at home in the UK and when the local businesses that rely on tourism could do with a boost. I shall certainly be tackling some of the routes throughout what remains of the summer when the weather is fine.

As a result of the “snake” incident the overgrowth of Valerian etc around the water butts has been removed lock, stock and barrel. The long grass that was an experiment in re-wilding has also gone. The grass proved rather more difficult than the Valerian. Knee high, gone to seed and thick beyond belief it entirely defeated any efforts with the Strimmer. The mower was not “man enough” until I set it at its highest setting and cut off the grass by a series of cuts each time lowering the height of the cut. Now it is down to a manageable length and the next time the whole lawn is cut it will be the same height as all the rest. Copious wheelbarrow loads of grass have been wheeled and dumped in the field – I am persuading myself that this is very good for the relocated snake and that he is much happier out there with the damp piles of grass!

The floor is down in the kitchen and rather splendid it looks too. Today’s task is to paint the bits of skirting board that are yellow and need a fresh lick of paint. Masking tape has duly been purchased and crawling about on the floor will be the order of the day. At the same time I will have to move the fridge freezer to measure, yet again, the space for the new one. I have left a space to accommodate an “American Style Fridge Freezer” – basically a great big one. They trouble is I can’t make up my mind which one to get and I am fearful that unless I get the measurements absolutely correct I will end up with a gigantic ‘appliance’ that won’t fit and that the delivery men won’t actually be able to get through the door! Added to this fear, as if that isn’t enough, Himself has a prejudice against certain makes and also against certain companies who supply such items. I am, sort of, with him on the latter. I would really like to go and look at those that I have chosen as possible but the store of choice would be John Lewis and it is no more, locally. I draw the line at travelling nearly 100 miles to the nearest one. In the supermarket yesterday I got into conversation with a lady who said she had worked for Waitrose and therefore the John Lewis group for very many years and was very disappointed with them. So much so she has written to them to voice her concern. She had received no answer from them. Last week I received a survey from them asking me if I would prefer to purchase online or in my local store – I felt it incumbent upon me to point out that they had seen fit to close my local store and I was not at all happy with purchasing online. I suspect that my response will be entirely disregarded because they asked for my age group and undoubtedly I am no longer in their target demographic. However, they might do well to remember that those of us who formerly shopped loyally with John Lewis and bought “big ticket items” are very likely to now take our custom elsewhere just as we have with Marks and Spencer! Anyway time to stop and get down to preparing another lunch and wondering what on earth we shall have for supper as the world outside drips and flowers hang sodden and soaked.

As for the ‘new project’ of the title, I am at present reading John Lewis-Stempel’s new book “Woodston” in which he has set out to write the ‘biography of an English Farm’. The short part I have already read is delightful in every way and I d greatly recommend it to you if you are interested in such things. Like Lewis-Stempel I have been toying for some time with a writing project and now the pandemic seems to be even slightly fading in many people’s lives perhaps it is time for me to abandon this diary and move on. My idea is to write a ‘biography’ of my Comport family and along the way I will no doubt be exploring their close and intimate relationship with the land and farming. Another reason for my renewed enthusiasm for this project is the receipt of an email this week from a lovely lady who works at the Rye Museum and who has informed me that I am now able to go to the Museum and look at and work on the Comport Ledgers that date back to the early years of the Nineteenth Century. For most people I imagine this would not be the most exciting thing that has happened to them for some while but for me it very much is. Watch this space for what will happen next!

So sorry

I have just read through my most recent post. I am so sorry for the many mistakes and typos. I foolishly didn’t check through the text before I pressed ‘ publish’. I do hope it doesn’t spoil your reading of the piece.

Big skies and open fields

I haven’t been writing then blog very regularly as my readers will have noticed. I think that like most of you other things have ‘got in the way’ as a sort of truncated normal has invade most of our lives. Welcome as it is it has meant that I have been out and about rather more and have been deflected from my daily discipline of writing. Nevertheless I am back for today. The week has been an eventful one here. The new kitchen floor has been laid and we now have only the ‘kickboards’ to be fitted and some extra shelves to be put up and of course the acquisition of a new fridge freezer and then we will be fully operational so to speak. It is lovely and I am truly pleased with the new kitchen but the deciding of which freezer I get is a vexing one. Firstly there is the question of the space and making sure the one chosen is not too big or too small. That probably sounds simple and straightforward and it sort of is but the choices are myriad. Do I want a fancy make that might not have quite as much freezer space? Do I want a more prosaic one with better freezer space? Do I want an ice maker (what ever that is)? Last but not least if I don’t want an ice maker or water cooler can I actually get one without these things? I have looked at web sites until I am more confused than when I started. Once I made a tentative decision but the one chosen was only available from Currys and my daughter has had something of nightmare with them re slight damage when they delivered so maybe not them then. My sister favours the local retailer, quite logically arguing that they usually take far more care and are competitive on price. John Lewis would be my retailer of choice but lately they have severely disappointed both because they have closed my local store and secondly because quite frequently they are short on stock. I fear more trawling the internet will have to be undertaken. It appears that I am stuck fast in the previous century because I would rather like to go and look before I buy and would also like to buy in a store. The search continues….

All of these concerns were put far behind me yesterday when I went for, as it turned out, a day’s walking with a friend. As luck would have it we choose a good day weather wise which is no small achievement at the moment when almost every day is blighted at some point by heavy showers that are often quite persistent. So much of an event was it that I carefully packed my small ‘haversack’ with a rain wear, a fleece in case it got cold, a couple of biscuit bars, a bottle of water and sundry wet wipes, plasters and a phone and a map. In the car extra bits and pieces ‘just in case’. The parking place we had chosen is a pull off at the side of a tiny lane. Usually it is empty. Not yesterday. They are building some new houses nearby and the builders had obviously chosen this particular place to park their vans and cars. No matter we found room. I took a couple of pictures of the Military Canal in glorious sunshine and we began our walk. When I had left home to make the shortish journey to our meeting point it had been so misty that I couldn’t see beyond the boundary of the garden. It was cold and clammy and there was no sign of the sun. I decided that the better part of valour was to have several layers. Not unreasonable I thought! By the time I reached the parking place the sun was shining brightly and it was warm. I was far too hot. What to remove? The outer layer certainly but what else? The vest had to go. But how could I remove it. I took the plunge – looked around furtively to make sure there was nobody around and stripped off my T shirt, tore off the vest and put the T shirt back on. Thank goodness nobody saw this older lady apparently stripping off in a rural parking space! We set off in fine fettle. The first part off the walk was along a tiny narrow lane that served a few outlying farms. Past a turkey farm, chatting away we soon saw our final objective – Fairfield Church. There it stood hunkered down into the marsh lands much as it must have looked for so many centuries and certainly as it must have looked to my father when he worked in the fields nearby during the Second World War. Crossing the fields and the ditches that surround the church we finally sat on bench and ate a biscuit bar, had a drink of water and wondered what the buzzing mechanical noise was that was clearly getting louder. Try as we might we could not see any machinery and then glancing up we saw the drone. The weather had suddenly changed and the mists had returned. It was cold and clammy , misty and murky. Our greatest fear – that it would rain. There is no shelter out in the midst of the marsh and we were about to head out into the wide blue yonder of the open fields. The warning signs were all there. The finger post pointing from the road across the field clearly marked ‘footpath’ was surrounded by rambles; nobody had used this stile for many a long time. Nothing ventured we thought. I used my walking pole to beat down the weeds and climbed over. The drop on the other side was a great deal lower than I anticipated! Across the field of grass and out into the next one. No sign of any other way markers. Common sense and the map appeared to points on our way. Then the penny began to drop. We couldn’t cross the ditch. We headed for a pumping station and farm yard in the hope of picking up the path again. We did we thought. As we approached a rather ‘fancy’ looking bridge a heron rose up out of water and flew languidly away across the fields. A magnificent sight. The path disappeared and we wandered along the edge of a wheat field reasoning that there must be a way across the ditches. Readers, we circumnavigated the entire field – we walked the entire perimeter of that wretched field until we came back to the same bridge with the same heron taking tom the air as he heard us approach. From his aerial perspective he, no doubt, he could see our way out of this seemingly never-ending circular route but he dint share it with us! We decided to cut our losses and went back to the lane and walked back the way we had come. On the way we passed a pumping station built in 1909 and that appeared to still be functional. Beside it was a bird box perched on a tall pole and my companion spotted a bird flying into it. We waited to see of it would emerge but with no luck. We think it was a bird of prey perhaps a Harrier or a Kestrel. Across the field a skylark rose high into the now bright skies and sang as though its life depended on it, frogs lashed and cracked in the ditches and some kind of reed bird chirruped away in the reed clumps that run along the edges of the dykes. We were tired, hot and beginning to get sunburnt. No sun cream of course – why would we? I always use a walking pole nowadays and I found that I had been holding the top in such a way that it had rubbed against one of my fingers. We stopped, ate another biscuit bar, had a drink an, applied plaster to the finger and trudged on. Once back at the cars we decided to walk the few steps more to the pub. That ice cold pint of lemonade couldn’t have tasted better or been more welcome.

Home again and settled down when Himself came back in from the garden to say that there was a snake curled up on the patio, basking in the sun. If you are a naturalist you might want to stop reading now. Why? Because I hate snakes. I am unreasonably and illogically freaked out by them. I spotted through the window and went into a panic. How to get rid of it? How to identify it? I wasn’t going out there. The usually logical, sensible, level headed individual who is fine with killing a rat had become a quivering wreak. While I was in such a state it disappeared. Now I am nervous about going out into that part of the garden, Himself has vowed that he will cut down the long grass in the ‘wild’ area of the lawn. I shall wear wellingtons now – well until I go off the idea and take a more reasoned view of the while thing. Today I am recovering from yesterday but surprisingly my back has held up pretty well all things considered.

The Poetry Group meeting was called off – rain stopped play so to speak and therefore I shall share my two contributions on the blog on the theme of “Extreme Weather”.

Sleepless Summer Storm.

Pewter piled mountain cloud

Rages across the land.

Darkness carved asunder,

Fork riven by searing light.

All the world asleep except me.

Inky black, roaring, crashing

Drum beating loud.

Nail sharp rain pierces earth,

Rattles windows, beats a tattoo.

I can’t sleep for the pain.

Beside me he snores and dreams.

Transitory brightness lights the room.

Muttering tempestuous thunder explodes

With a cannonade directly above.

Legs cramped, jerkingly wrenched, muscle spasmed.

Razor sharp blade pierces, twists in my back,

Stabbing with precision. 

Darkness returns inky cloaked, 

No longer severed by flashing flares

Spearing diamond bright.

Rumbling fades, rolls away.

Water trickles, gurgles in drains.

I am alone in the growing silence

Until I fitfully sleep.

Grey dawn breaks on a washed world. 

I struggle awake to face a new day.

Summer Storm

Oppressive ponderous heat of summer
From a glassy azure vaulted dome, beats down.
The dusty earth hard with crack and fissure
Languishes exposed to August sun.
Pewter-black dragon clouds spread pinion wing,
Breathe sheets of forked ferocious flame,
Rumble, roar and rage in their thundering.
Clawing the heavens ragged, as onward come
Steel nails of rain pounding, piercing, stabbing,
Hammering deep into parched arid land.
Refreshed softer warmth returns again,
Busy buzzing bees and butterflies abound,
Until dusk when fiery sunset glow forsakes
The world to the silent, silken, swoop of bats.

A Day of Several Parts

Today has indeed been a day of several parts. The weather the last few days has reverted to the damp, raininess of previous times. So prevalent was the rain yesterday that it seeped, yet again, through into the conservatory and lay in puddles on the tiled floor. The joint with the house’s not been very water tight for some time but only leaks in earnest when the rain comes from a particular direction. It was from that direction. The usual routine was called in to play. Old towels spread on the floor and a couple of redundant washing up bowls placed strategically to catch the worst of the water. This morning started relatively early. The man was coming to do the new flooring in the kitchen and would be here by nine. Before he arrived I needed to empty the dishwasher – I meant to do it last night but completely forgot – sort out our breakfast and put anything we thought we might need into the dining room. I had no real idea how long he would be here – I know I should have asked but I didn’t. Kettle and cups in the dining room – I had ignored Himself’s suggestion that I make some sandwiches for lunch – and we appeared to be set up for the morning. The man arrived on the dot of nine o’clock. We had removed most of the furniture but drawn the line at trying to get the table out. He immediately set too ripping up the old floor and removing some beading that went around the edge. I was pleased to see the back of that to be honest. I thought, but was indeed completely wrong, that the range cooker would present him with an obstacle. He explained that he had to nip back to base to get a little more boarding and I took the chance of his absence to retrieve bread, ham and some yogurt as well as the milk (that I had forgotten, black tea or coffee not being to our universal liking) so that I could indeed make a sandwich lunch. When he returned he finished the boarding, skimmed the floor with some sort of grey ‘stuff’ that we needed to leave to dry before we could venture in and then he departed saying that he would be back tomorrow at eight thirty! What to do until it was dry? The sun came out and we retired to the garden bench.

Himself suffers from intermittent vertigo and had missed his more recent hair appointment. In lockdown we had acquired a hair trimmer and he decided now was a good time for me to trim his hair. Kitchen chair on the patio and a towel round his shoulders I set too. He has a great deal more faith in my skill as a barber than I do. After a couple of false starts and my fear that he would either be scalped or left with a few tufty bits that made him rather clown like I completed the job and he is very satisfied and I must say it isn’t too bad a job. The birds now have free nesting material if they want it and he has shorter hair. For awhile I sat on the garden bench in the warm sunshine. Not a leaf moved, in the distance the hills were veiled in a delicate mist and the blackbird was singing as though his life depended on it in the cherry tree. I saw a Chaffinch disappear into the leafy denseness of a bush and a Robin hopped around the lawn. There are some creatures that are invested, for me, with a mystical magic. The Hare is one that is at the top of the list, closely followed by the Cuckoo and above all butterflies. Today they were flitting around in abundance. red Admirals settling on my sleeve, weightless, lighter than a feather. Others danced around each other and the various flowers in an airborne ballet that had no discernible choreographed pattern to me but surely did to the participants. We sat for a while and then I noticed drops of rain splashing on the table. The sun was shining but it was quietly and delicately raining. I sat for a while longer but then came in. As I left a wren appeared from the field side bushes, hopped on to the rim of one of the pots and then quickly made for the bushes and hop bine around the well head. The natural world of my garden took no notice of the rain drops, only the humans decamped.

Once inside I realised that the kitchen floor was now dry and I removed the bis and pieces back to the kitchen. Then and only then did I realise that the cooker was still slightly ‘proud’ of the wall. The bottom of the tiling that had been revealed was mucky with grease, the work tops are covered in film of dust and the cooker hob is thick with it. All the hours of hard graft last week have faded and died into a layer of dust! I have to set too again it seems. I have cleaned the tiles and the side of the cooker insofar as I can. I have wiped down the the cooker in part and taken the worst off of the worktops. The conundrum is if I should do the job properly and then do it again tomorrow or if I wait and do it thoroughly tomorrow. The latter option is more appealing I think. I shall, however, make sure I make lunch tonight, keep it in the fridge over night and bring it into the dining room tomorrow morning before the man arrives. Likewise milk for coffee and tea and anything else I think we might want. For certain we won’t be able to walk on the floor for awhile after it has been laid. The rain has stopped dripping and the sun is blazing down. Hurrah. The garden calls, the hop has syphoned up vast quantities of water judging by its prolific growth that has spread across the drive and the brambles more than vaguely resemble some pre historic invasive and predatory species. Nettles are growing as tall as small trees, bindweed has wound itself around al and everything, particularly some of the roses, and the ivy has silently crept across the borders and bends as well as the vegetable garden small patio. War must be declared on them all. Much more pleasing is the flower bed full of self seeded plants. Nicotiana rubs shoulders with antirrhinums, Love in the Mist and Cosmos, foxgloves and violas, poppies in various hues ranging from a pale pink through to a deep purply red all stand shoulder to shoulder interspersed with fluorescent orange Californian poppies. A giant Hollyhock plant has appeared from nowhere, goodness knows what colour its flowers will turn out to be – those that have appeared in previous years in another part of the garden have been a tissue paper pink or a dark brooding red.

It is a busy week this week. I am not sure if I am in the majority or minority but I do get the impression that thins are beginning to get back to a more ‘normal’ way. I have taken to going to the supermarket each week now and we have been to Jempsons in Peasmarsh once or twice. On one of these missions yesterday I went to the local supermarket to get my hay fever medicine. It was my own fault that I had run out and I cursed my stupidity for not checking earlier in the week. They didn’t have my ‘usual’ one and I settled for a generic type. As it turns out it was the ‘wrong’ generic type – I should have bought ‘the other one’. Now, today, I have taken nothing in consequence I have been sneezing, have watery eyes and have debated long and hard with myself about the wisdom of going back to get the ‘right’ kind. I shall not go back, instead I shall wait until tomorrow and then go to the local chemist. Why? Because they will sell me the ‘right’ one but more especially because I have two bags of books in the car and the Hospice bookshop will only take donated books on a Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Two birds with one stone! Wednesday is Poetry Group, fingers crossed the weather will be fine, and Friday I am going for a reasonably long walk across the marsh with a friend, fingers crossed the weather will be good then too for there is no shelter once one is out on the marsh proper. The forecast is looking good so here is hoping. With a bit of luck I shall get some pictures and will post them here as soon as I can.

Yesterday I was pleased to see that The Sunday Times had an article about the Chief Medical Officer, Chris Whitty. He has become something of national treasure and for me a sensible, calm very credible individual amongst the craziness that has been the pandemic and the last few days. He is, the article indicates a thoroughly pleasant man who continues to work as a doctor. A very private man who is also highly intelligent who has used his spare time to gain further qualifications. (See quote below).

Cleaning marathon

The weather has continued to be less than what might be optimistically thought of as flaming June. Yesterday continued in at the rut of being wet, windy and in most ways unpleasant – not a resounding success for the longest day really. Today it has not actually rained although I did hear a very heavy shower round about six o’clock this morning, and I remembered the old saying of “rain before seven, fine by eleven”. Of course in recent days that has not been the case. More accurately it has been rain all through the night and continuing throughout the day! It has been fine all day here but it has been overcast and gloomy, sometimes quite windy and unseasonably cold. So much so that Himself has found his winter sweater and for a while this morning we actually put the heating on.

This inclement weather played well for me in one way because it allowed me to do the necessary deep cleaning of the kitchen without feeling guilty because I wasn’t in then garden. I started fairly early and had set myself the task of cleaning the Tiles and grouting, the radiator, the Cooker Hood and the stainless steel wall lights and then to get to painting the wall behind the fridge and the radiator if it needed it once it was cleaned. This proved far too ambitious. The painting has not been attempted and awaits my attention tomorrow. I started with the radiator and, unusually for me, I continued around the kitchen in a logical fashion. The radiator was stained and splattered with marks, and at the bottom it looked rusty or at the very least had lost its paint. With cleaning wipes in hand, recommended by the builder, I started. The marks came off easily and already the radiator looked. much better. The marks along the bottom also came off easily. The ends, however, proved to be much more of challenge – old toothbrush in hand I scrubbed away and they too came up clean. While cleaning the ends I peeped into the gap between the two parts of the radiator. The horrific scene of fluff, dust and yes filth was a disgrace but how to get it clean. The hoover made no headway at all, a toothbrush would only reach so far and the wipe cloth would only go as far as I could reach without trapping my hand. Lying on the floor I did what I could. There was still a mass of grey dusty fluff hanging on for dear life in the middle sections. I don’t own what I have now discovered is a special ‘brush’ to clean behind radiators but I was determined this would not defeat me. Garden cane and wipe wrapped around it I poked and prodded until the floor beneath was littered with balls of dusty detritus and I was blinking and sneezing. The radiator does not need a paint but the pipes that go to it do. When I wiped them down the paint flaked off leaving bare pipe. Not at all attractive! I wonder if I can repaint them with radiator paint without doing some kind of primer? I do so hope so but am fearful I won’t be able too. Anyway that is a job for another day not least because I don’t have any radiator paint.

Now on to the tiles and sockets and switches. The tiles were easy and incredibly satisfying. the switches etc likewise. They are now clean and bright. Along past the sink and then I remembered the two lights at the radiator end of the kitchen. The cleaning of these involved the use of a step ladder and balancing on the worktop. Too high for me to stand so kneeling or sitting was the order of the day. Now I don’t like heights and you may well be thinking that two steps up a stepladder and kneeling on a worktop hardly counts as ‘heights’. you would be oh so wrong for someone who is convinced that anything above one rung is very much ‘heights’. Brave as could be I carried on. The lights are fiddly but cleaned up rather well I thought. I finished placing items on the shelves at that end of the kitchen and then returned to the tiles that run all along the long sink wall. These were easy. Soon they were clean as clean and bright as new. The next light was a massive challenge. Nearer the cooker and therefore the miasma from cooking it was sticky with grease, but even worse in a way it was a bit wobbly. With ‘magic’ wipe I rubbed away until it too came up to respectable shine. It took ages and lunch called. Besides the next light was even worse and the tiles that form the cooker splash back were really greasy and discoloured. They could wait until after I had refuelled. A long lunch break and then back to it. After lunch I did, as I promised myself, launch into the greatest challenge so far. The light was in a difficult position to access, was down right filthy and refused point blank to cooperate. Eventually with scourer in hand and heavy duty cleaner I managed to see the shine of the stainless steel and I am pleased to report that it is now shiny and bright. The tiles of the splash back came up relatively easily but the grouting was another thing all together. Scourer, various cleaners, wipes and a mass of elbow grease and the grouting is now what can pass for white in the right kind of light. It was never going to go back to a pristine white and I am happy with the results of my labours. The painting must wait for tomorrow not least because I have to move the fridge to get in behind it to paint the wall. I have also spotted a hole or two that could do with some filler – al will be tackled tomorrow once I have checked what I need to do with the pipes.

As I type I notice that a weak and watery sun has begun to shine. The blackbird has taken up his roost on the cherry tree and is singing his heart out – pleased to see the brighter weather no doubt. A parcel came today. IT is the latest of my attempts to acquire a pair of navy blue linen trousers.My first attempt with “Lands End” was a disaster. They were massive in all directions and a strange shape too. They had to go back. I searched on M&S, found exactly what I wanted and started to order only to find they were out of stock online. No matter it said I could find out which store near me had a pair. Easy then! No. I typed in my post code and it told me that the post code didn’t actually exist. Nothing ventured I typed in Ashford – I know there isn’t a store in Folkestone – but even if the Ashford one had closed I, I thought logically, supposed the web sight would flag up my nearest store. Oh no. It told me that the location could not be found. What, was it saying that Ashford in Kent no longer existed? Next I tried Canterbury – yes that did exist and they hadn’t got any. I then turned to a so store called “Seasalt”. They had several pairs that matched the basic criteria. Eventually I settled on some and ordered – it said they were 7/8 length and because I wanted full length I ordered those for a ‘Tall’ person. They arrived very promptly, in environmentally friendly paper wrapping and are a pleasing colour. Although they are too long I think I might keep them and turn them up. I don’t think I can face re ordering in a short length and all the carry on that that involves. If they suit in every other way they shall stay.

My readership, understandably, has dropped off somewhat lately. I expect people have better things to do now that ‘normal’ life has begun to resume a little. Come the end of July I expect we will all be doing other things but in the interim I am wondering if I should use the blog site to start another project although to date I have no idea what it might be. A friend urged me to try and use my talents to make some money from my writing etc but if I do I shall have to go through the whole rigmarole of filling in tax forms etc and I am not sure it is worth the effort for a few pounds! Anyway it is a work in progress I guess. Watch this space for future stuff. Meanwhile you might like to enjoy these images of the garden flowers.