Tuesday 16 December 2014

100,000 Page Views

We made it! Thanks to all my readers, this blog passed the 100,000 page views milestone today. Better keep going then; cracking on.

On these long dark evenings, I find myself reading books as a way to pass the time, and enjoying it more than I thought I would - up to now I have generally read a book once and never touched it since. Compare that to Liz, the real reader in this family, who has hundreds of books filling half a dozen bookcases, many of which she has read dozens of times. This is particularly true of her favourite authors and series - the Lord Peter Wimsey series (Dorothy Sayers), murder mysteries, especially Margery Allingham's 'Campion' stories, PG Wodehouse, Georgette Heyer's stuff and currently various Nora Roberts and a batch of 50 books she inherited to her Kindle which make up the New York Times best seller top 50 (some good, some appallingly bad, apparently). My part in this, historically has been a small section of shelf by Maeve Binchy, a shelf full of books about Thames Barges, some natural history books, a lot on Westies, pigs, bees and small-holdering and the Terry Pratchett (Discworld) collection which we share.

Pirate Cat certainly likes his fish. This is all you get left if you
throw him a big salmon head, boiled up. Just keep your fingers
out of the way, is all!
Having got back into reading, I worked my way back through the Pratchetts but then decided I should spread my net wider and started plaguing Liz for books which "I might like"; I read a wad of  PGW (naturally including the 'Empress of Blandings' pig stories!) but then ran out of reading while Liz was studying a book by Diane Purkiss on the English Civil War. Now my family will know that I am not one for the History. I could not string 2 English kings together in the right order or give you dates to save my life. I hated the subject at school with a passion. It was taught in a dry and dusty way by a bloke who couldn't engage with kids for love nor money, just a series of dates, monarchs and battles which we were asked to learn by rote. One of the things that amazed me about Liz, when I met her, was that someone could actually love history, bubble over with a passion for its detail and could pretty much put every monarch onto a mental timeline, along with all the major events. She is currently coaching 2 young ladies, one on English Literature, one on History, so the books are out while she 'bones up' to get her facts straight before a coaching session.

Marzipan-ing the cake.
There I was, then, with an actual history book in my hand and found I was enjoying it as well as learning a lot. Purkiss's book approaches the Civil War from the angle of ordinary people struggling through it, their lives disrupted, their children off fighting or they off being soldiers and seeing their tiny perspective on things. You got a good idea of the mess and confusion of a war fought in the 1600s The 'big boys' don't get a look in unless written about by these 'lowly' letter writers or diary-keepers, unless Purkiss needs to slot in some detail by way of explanation or context. By the end of the book I felt quite happy that I knew a bit about history, all be it only the score or so years in the 1600s in which the war took place. Since then I have been handed a couple of novels which are from soon after, being Daniel Defoe's "Moll Flanders" and Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones". I have to admit that the 'Moll' was familiar territory-ish after the TV series with Alex Kingston, at least as to plot, but I was delighted to find that the real book was full of detail and context which I 'knew' from the Civil War book, especially around the way real life was organised, how people lived and ran the communities, law enforcement and so on. I have similarly loved Tom Jones, all 870 close-printed, garrulous pages of it. I am worried that I am becoming interested in history as well as a tiny bit 'well read' (!) I will be annoying Liz with my silly, simplistic questions. Perhaps I need some of this 'coaching'.

Strike is over. We are back in the egg game.
We run gently in towards Christmas. We have negotiated a settlement with the hens and they have started to go back to work on the egg laying. Thanks are due to Mentor Anne for an interim rescue - a quick dozen of her 'proper' organic eggs including one of her lovely dark-brown shelled ones now coming from her new Copper Marans hens. That let Liz go back into Christmas baking without us having to buy any more supermarket eggs. I now have 3 chooks in lay and more soon, I am sure. The 'negotiation' was possibly Liz walking round threatening them with the stock pot. It worked anyway, what ever she said to them.

Home made marzipan.
I have been marzipan-ing the cake. We have done this for this year with home made marzipan. The chef hates the taste of almond essence but has no problem with actual almonds themselves. We end up trying to peel the marzipan off the cake and then the icing off the marzipan. Not this year, we hope. The cake now gets a few days drying before we throw some icing at it. I have a design in my head based around the sheep 'logo' I used on the dustbin, but readers will have to wait and see.

Possibly a bit bigger than we intended.
They always look smaller in the 'shop'.
We have also finally brought the tree indoors. It had been outside, wrapped and sitting in a bucket of water, we believe that this helps with the loss of needles at the '12th night' end of things. We bought the tree on Friday morning but Liz then shot off back to Silverwoods for another quick burst of 'sitting' ('babies', school runs, houses, poorly parent in hospital, that kind of thing). She came back on the Monday and we like to 'do the tree' together, so I got as far as bringing it indoors to 'relax' from being wrapped up with its branches squashed upwards against the trunk.

We decorated it today. It may be a little bigger than we intended (especially width-wise); they always look smaller in the big perspective of acres of tarmac and big supermarket architecture, but it is OK. We don't really do 'tasteful'; the only house rule is that only white fairy lights and silver tinsel can go on the tree, no other colours and that the plain glass baubles are only silver or red. After that it all goes a bit wild with toys, bows, owls and stuff which we have accumulated down the years; we make a point of each buying one new one each year from craft fairs or what ever so our decorating is slowed down by exclamations along the lines "Ahhh look! Here's the crawfish one from New Orleans" and appropriate reminiscences.

I was off to 'bee school' for the last session before Christmas yesterday. This was going to be a very promising lecture by one of the National Committee boys on 'The Honey Harvest'. I was looking forward to it. I had the usual hour's drive out to Longford in the rain. Frustratingly, it all went a bit pear shaped, as the guy did not show and we all sat around wondering what to do. It turned out that the man got his dates wrong and came down on Thursday 11th but then, finding nobody about, went home again without contacting any of our people, which struck me as particularly dim. Our man had e-mailed him to confirm dates but he happily brushed that off with a "Oh, I never read my emails". Thanks, mate. We were left having a general discussion for a half hour or so before we all split up and the speaker has promised to try again in the New Year.

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