Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Catton Place Sealed Knot Event

Well, all Knots as we call them are different, and we kind of expected this one to be as well. Mainly because we were there to do admin stuff, go to meetings, catch up with the our Regiment, the Kings Guard, get problems sorted. We arrived to a packed camp site at lunchtime Friday before the Bank Holiday, got set up with help from Knotters in our regiment. It was a squeeze but we were in.

Not being able to get our cats into the cattery as it was fully booked, we left them on 48 hour feeders with biscuits and loads of water due to the predicted heat of the weekend.

We had a frustrating and fun time chasing people around to get stuff done, and eventually we had time to go to Traders, beer tent, friends and relative's tents, then we went to the SK AGM, the Leven's Company AGM, The King's Guard AGM, and on Sunday about 11.00 we set off home. The caravan was packed up ready to go, hitched to the car, the hitch tested as we always do on a Knot (uneven fields) and off we went, a bit reluctant to miss the big party that evening - but our animals come first.

We got about half a mile away from the campsite when we felt the car judder, and turned our heads to see our caravan cross the carriageway of the A513 and head dive into a hedge.   At that time there was no one around.

I went into must do something mode, and phoned my sister as she has a 4x4 and I thought with some Knotters to push we could get it out.  I looked at the time. They were all on the battlefield now! 

I called the Automobile Association accident line, our caravan had applied the brake on it's towbar and broken away from our car and careered into a hedge blocking the A513 to Catton Park and the National Arboretum.

After frustratingly pressing the Number 1 seven times we got to a call centre advisor, and after going through the necessary ID's I asked for help, she asked if we had AA insurance, I said yes, and the next thing I know is that I am talking to an insurance assessor asking me numerous questions, and when I said I am on pay as you go on my phone, he said he didn't have my number, but would ask the call centre to get back to me. I had almost run out of credit on my phone. But they still didn't send an AA Recovery Van.

In the meantime we suddenly had a queue of traffic in both directons as our caravan was halfway across the A513 which was very busy due to a dog show, horse trials, and a Sealed Knot event, all taking place within half a mile of where we broke down.  The AA Emergency Breakdown still did not respond, or call us back, and my husband and myself were left alone to try and manage the situation.

Luckily a gentleman called Eddie Hammond from the horse trials brought a tow rope to enable us to pull the caravan more in line with the direction of traffic, thus opening one lane of the road, and then stayed to direct traffic.

A group of  about 12 cyclists helped lift the side of the van that was embedded in a gulley, so that we could get chocks under the wheels, which meant that the caravan was no longer grounded and sat on it's frame.

A lady from the dog show Jacky Motts - pulled us out of the ditch  with her vehicle and got us back on the road.  What an Angel!

We called the AA after 12.03 to ask advice if it would get us back 50 miles to our van storage and all we got was a recorded message yet again. We drove to the caravan storage site in Warwicks. Very very slowly as we didn't have any advice on whether the tow bar would hold, we kept stopping in laybys to check if it was all right.

Luckily for us we met with some fantastic people who need not have helped us but DID.  

THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Really can't thank you enough!!
To all the Lovely People who literally got us out of the mud - thank you all.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Flint House

Went to see Flint House, the Grand Design winner 2015
Didn't look like this when I saw it yesterday it was almost buried in thistles going to seed, about hip height. 

It was supposed to have been a wild flower garden, but it had no flowers at all, however, it did have an electric fence around it that we were warned not to touch. 

The huge glass windows made the house interiors really over hot and stuffy, even though the back and front doors were open. Apparently the heating was on and couldn't be turned off.

It is a fantastic work of art. But it's not a place to live in my opinion. The flint tiles leading to the front door were coming up and were wobbly, just the place to turn an ankle!  We were warned about this as we went in.  Also about the slippy slate bridge without handrails over the moat around the house, and the uneven nature of the steps and level changes.

The house had sunken baths that looked impossible to get out of. The decoration of the house was quite random, coloured giant building blocks were mixed with antiques in the bedrooms, 2ft high tin soldiers stood in the upper walkway intersperced with knitted Thai
tiger heads.

The trendy chairs that looked like cotton reels outside were standing like plant pots at the edge of the patio. The kitchen would not work for someone who loves to cook like me. It had a flat screen tv a kettle and a toaster, and the obligatory bowl of colourful fruit to "dress" it.

I tried to walk to the annexe, but by this time I was feeling sick and getting dizzy again and the flint and grass railway tracks leading up the slope outside the house were difficult to negotiate, not able to step between the tracks, or walk on the flint, I decided with my dizziness, that coming back down would be an accident waiting to happen for me.

What is it there for? It was a present for one of the family - but they didn't want it. So now it
may house VIPs or visiting academics. It may be open to the public, it may not. It may be a weekend private retreat - it may not.  It can't be let as a holiday let. 

Along the North Norfolk coast, many houses wear flint dressings, here's a holiday cottage
and I bet they are a lot more user friendly.  They may not be full of expensive art but
they are near the beach, and I bet you won't break your neck negotiating your way to the
bathroom up and down steps in the middle of the night!

Horses for Courses naturally.   I do like modern buildings, not brutalist style, but buildings
that have a "wow" factor, that make you think, "I'd love to live here."  For me Flint House left me cold. How such an impractical piece of work won a design award is beyond me. The winding stairs to the bedrooms were tiny wooden and dangerous, as a piece of modern art I suppose it can sit and be admired amongst the overgrown thistles and electric fences.

And another thing!  One of the house guides actually apologised that some of the bedroom articles came from John Lewis!! Quel damage!!

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Le Weekend

Hopefully it won't be too wet although torrential rain is predicted for Saturday, my friend and her hubby are coming over, originally for a barbecue - but it might have to be an inside one!

Still a bit dizzy, six weeks now, doctors are not worried - but then they're not the ones walking round in circles. Tablets not helping really.

But the weekend! One day to go!

Weekends go too quick, seems you just get to Friday night and suddenly it's Monday again.
How does that happen?

 A couple of weekends ago we were at Waddesdon, where I work, for Andy to look round the Kate Malone Exhibition.

 These are some of the plums I turned into jams and coulis last weekend
 This is how the garden looked for my last BBQ about 3 weekend ago!

Off again to the shops for some last bits and pieces.  

Last week I realised that my book The Women of the English Civil War was released 9th September last year, and since then every day, I have worked promoting it, as well as writing my Hilary Long Mysteries. It's now in the Commandery in Worcester - my first museum bookshop sale!  Hooray!

I just want to say folks, thanks for reading my blog, for me it's a way of practising my writing,
venting my feelings, right or wrong, and being out in the world again.  

Have a lovely weekend everybody.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016


kinda sums up how my virus makes me feel - the chorus - nothing else.

Neighbours are sawing down my trees so I must go. Doesn't help my head.

Sick and Angry  today.

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

BBC's Versailles

Athough not historically accurate, Versailles is very pretty to look at. The clothes, the surroundings, the intrigue. The sex.

I love the shoes particularly, I like the men wearing them. I like that when they kiss do not leave beard burn on the ladies. I do like a shaved face, smooth, smelling of aftershave. I like the waistcoats, the shirts the cravats the jackets. Well everything really.  I like the men with flat stomachs and shapely legs. 

Just wondering if my new tablets are having an effect on me? 

Perhaps I'm just getting old, in my teens my boyfriends all had long hair, were slim, wore tight trousers, and either old regency jackets or old red guards jackets at parties. They smelt of Old Spice.  Later when I was slightly older, they were still slim, but looked Adam Ant-ish or Goth, and smelt of Brut. 

My hubby is determined to keep some hair somewhere so it's on his face in a 17thc goatee style. I can go with that - he wears Beckham aftershave - I buy it for him, left to himself it would probably be old mice.

 In his very best Musketeer Kit
He's a bit Poldark in this one

1940s dontcha know there's a war on?
The beauty of the beast - if only all men could look like this! 

Friday, 12 August 2016

Gilberto Ferraz

One of my first jobs in the BBC was in the World Service Audience Research department. We used to get very busy, and quite often had interesting and exotic additions to our staff to help out. Dor ki Nu was one, a beautiful Indonesian woman who was married to a diplomat based in London.  Another was Gilberto Ferraz, a stocky important little Portuguese man.

I woke up thinking about that time this morning, I met friends in that office that I still have today. 

"I am Gilberto, to my wife only," he would say, "I am Mr Ferraz to you. Please treat me with the proper respect."

Mr Ferraz would come in and help us open the post thousands of letters to the BBC many of them starting, "I am poor boy in Ghana please send £10 or a poppy."  A poppy was a BBC badge! We sent out hundreds of them. Then he would go back to Bush House to the Portuguese section to check in. What he actually did was go to the BBC Club and drink strong black coffee and smoke little black cigarettes and talk to his friends for about two hours. One of us were often sent to get him back for the 12 o'clock post.

Lunch for Mr Ferraz usually started at one, and finished around three. He would return to us to compose letters for about an hour or so before going back to Bush for his tea break. One morning he came in with the sleeve of his tweed jacket torn from the shoulder and hanging half way down his arm, and looking as if he's been dragged through a hedge.  

"What happened to you?" I asked, "are you all right?"
Portuguese swear words, I think followed, then "A dog got hold of me and wouldn't let me go, he was shaking my sleeve."
I stared at him in disbelief. 
"I'm NOT pulling your hair." (Our version is I'm not pulling your leg - a joke!)
"I believe you, but so many things happen to you on your way to work Mr Ferraz."
"That's because God has cursed me." He spat. "Me and my wife."
"Come to the tea bar, let me buy you a coffee." I offered.
We sat in the cream tiled tea room in a corner, it was quiet being early. Mrs Martin, the tea lady, a large Jamaican woman was "cleansing" the tea room talking to her spirits as she often did, and swiping the air with a brush made from horse hair.
"When I met my wife I was a priest in a little town in Portugal, and she was a nun.
It was love at first sight, we knew it was wrong to harbour such thoughts. So I left the priesthood and she left the nunnery." He sipped his coffee thoughtfully, "We came here
to leave the past behind, but God does not forget."
"God is forgiving surely?"
"We had a daughter, and she is horrible, we are good people yet she is not." He sighed.
That was true, Mr Ferraz's daughter was about thirteen, and she was always getting arrested for something or other. I knew Mr Ferraz for about five years and he was always
going to sort her out. He took to driving her to school, escorting her to the classroom, and
as soon as he got to work he would be called to say she'd run away AGAIN.
Quite often he would come to work in a state.  So it wasn't really a problem his long coffees and lunches - he kind of deserved them.

He taught us how to cook cakes in a fridge, he took it in good part when one of the secretaries called Sheena, decided he was her "Bunny Boy" and put him through all sorts
of hell by asking him to dance for her and pinned a fluffy rabbit tail to the back of his jacket
when it hung over his chair and he went home on the tube wearing it.

He actually was a good man, funny, informative, interesting, he really deserved better. I hope God forgave him for falling in love and leaving his vocation.  I hope he had good life.

As for Sheena, Steph, Jean, Marion, Dy, and all the others, happy travels everyone.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Back to Mongo

When our ship landed on Earth, what, some seventeen years ago now. It seemed to us a pleasant enough place for a sojourn.

Mongo had become toxic, the infighting of it's many tribes and the madness of poor Dr Zarkov made it impossible to stay.

That gave you a brief idea what was going on - we left the apple core which was what was left of Mongo and waited for Dr Zarkov's signal that his invention to grow Mongo back into it's usual globe shape, and even add a couple of moons for good measure, to come.

It didn't, the contacts were erratic and despite sending minions disguised as bin bags into the space around Earth, (we were told this planet sent rubbish into space) we had no response.

In the meantime we were becoming aclimatised to this planet and a liking for beer, wine, chocolate was born.  We became worried when it was time to send the Crown Prince of Mongo to university, we needn't have worried. He didn't learn anything he didn't already know. On the good side his list of concubines grew considerably.

Ming considered changing his name to Mong as he had now become good. I his wife Dale,
still tried to keep an edge, but found myself working for various charities, and even worse raising loads of money for them.

The signal has finally come, broken crackling slightly mad, but then Zarkov was always a bit like that. So now we have to leave this little blue planet and go home. Just as well it seems it's going the way of Mongo, there'll be nothing left of this one though pretty soon. Well done  Earthlings!   Killing each other in interesting ways saves us a job!

We're loading the rocket as we speak, just a few essentials, a box set of Call the Midwife,
a mahout and elephant we bought when we first arrived, even cured the poor animal of
crumplehorn by tying plastic bin bags round it's knees!   The Sennen mermaids refused to come. Strangely they still have hope for mankind, the Loch Ness monster was a bit of a squeeze, but after using the shrink ray he fitted quite nicely into the fish tank. 
Here's the prototype you can see it's taken 15 years to build!
So goobye Earthlings and Good Luck - you'll need it...

Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Just finished the latest Hilary Long adventure....

I have been writing like mad to get the latest Hilary Long out on Kindle, the writing has finished now, but the polishing has not! It needs proof reading, so I have to wait for this to be done, and sew up any plot holes I might have made when they are noticed.

This one is a gamut of emotions, sad, funny, sexy, scary, it ties up some loose ends and leaves others waving in the breeze!

I am still in production with two other books and a finished short story which I'm waiting to be illustrated. I always seem to be waiting for something!

I'm frustrated though, still haven't finished my Regency dress or my 17c Riding habit, both  are cut out and waiting to be put together. Had to put it all away as I had visitors last week and boxes of materials and cottons take up a lot of room! 

Then I got side-tracked by plums, and they're still coming! Over 3lbs picked yesterday through a blizzard of loud drunken singing and abusive language by the neighbours having a barbeque which smelt like they'd poured petrol over a tyre and were burning it.

Today - gosh - look at the time! I've been chasing payments from bookshops, and I've got a timesheet to fill out for my real work or I won't get paid.

I had less work to do when I was in full time employment. At least I could escape by going home at the end of the day.

Thursday, 4 August 2016


I spent the day standing in beautifully furnished 17th and 18th Century rooms watching the priceless artifacts and paintings lovingly collected by Baron Ferdinand. Trying to help visitors enjoy their time in this amazing place. It was hot, 28 degrees in the house, and crowded. Outside children were screaming with delight as they ran about, rolled down hills, clambered up the new "Alpine" climbing frame, and tormented their brothers and sisters.
In the courtyard of the Stables at least 3 people fainted in the heat.  Chinese tourists photographed absolutely everything in the house, but unfortunately rather rudely barged other visitors out of the way to do so. 

At one point I had to stop a Canadian tourist from sitting a tired old Teddy bear on top of the Louis XVI desk and leaning it against a piece of priceless porcelain to hold it up! Teenagers with offensive tee shirts lurked about heads down, 'bored'. One girl had a sugar pink tee shirt that said  "See me bitch, Wanna be me ?" she was about 10 years old. Another one just had the slogan "I'm better than U - don't you wanna be me?" She was about 12 years old.  What is that all about?  I just don't  get it. Trying to build self esteem?

To top it all at 4.15 the last of the visitors were still walking round, I was in the West Gallery then, "And who's this by then?" an old lady asked snappily.
"Watteau." I replied. She walked on a bit. 
"Who's this by then?" She pointed to a different oil on the wall.
"Pater." I tried to walk back to my station, I wasn't going to walk round the house with her.
"You do know the house closed at 4 o'clock?" I asked.
"Yes. But I like to take my time." She answered.
"What time did you come in?" I asked.
"Three." she said wandering off to ask another House Host "Who's this by then?"
She had walked through three rooms in a hour and fifteen minutes!

I was hot and exhausted and my feet hurt as I walked down through the trees to the staff car park after a very busy and challenging day. 

Then I had the most beautiful moment. It was suddenly silent apart from a few birds chattering in the trees. A warm wind blew through the yews, pines and laurels and rustled the leaves of the taller oaks, limes and ashes. I felt the breeze lift my hair, and a beautiful perfume filled the atmosphere, fresh and flowery, mixed with pine fragrance. The trees waved and danced around me, the sky was startingly blue with white fluffy clouds, the world did not stand still. It moved. It reminded me I was alive!  I was so lucky to be alive and in that wonderful moment where everything living was moving, the clouds the trees, the birds, and the perfume drifting in the air. I felt young and optimistic again. 

Thank you, I said to the world, thank you so much for that gift. 
The walk to the staff car park seemed shorter after that.


Monday, 1 August 2016


The kitchen looks like a bloodbath, the smell of burning sugar welding it's self to the bottom of my pans fills the air - it's jam time again!  We picked kilos of plums yesterday and I rifled through all my cookery books to see what to do with them.

Dear Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall's early "River Cottage Cookbook" and my 1976 "Food for the Freezer" were dragged out from the hundreds of books in my little library.

Food for the Freezer only has one paragraph on plums:
"Once cooked will keep for 12 months, good freezer life, best stored without stones."

Good, with any luck I won't be allergic to them by then.

Hugh who seems to be able to eat anything dead or alive - suggests boiling them whole with a kilo of sugar and then getting the stones and skins off in the sieve.

I compromised, having tried Hugh's way before a few years ago while living in Cornwall, I found it to be a real faff. So I decided to take the stones out. I had done about twenty plums
when a pretty in pink caterpillar waved at me from inside one of the plums!

About five more - eek it's moving OMG !!s later I was SO glad I didn't use Hugh's way of not
preparing the plums!  

No you can't eat them Hugh, even if they are fat and juicy, I started to wonder if I'd eaten them before and then reasoned I couldn't have as I'm still alive.  Oh NO!!  Hubby had taken some plums to work with his lunch, he NEVER looks at his food, he'd eat a sock if I put it in his lunchbox. His eyes are on his computer as his hand goes into the lunchbox. Oh well,
I washed the plums at least they'll be clean caterpillars. Urgent e.mails and phone calls,
he rang back - he'd eaten the plums - hadn't noticed anything. Phew!

The freezer has plum coulis and plum compote in it and the next lot of plums will make some chutney when they ripen.  It's early to be picking plums but they just seem to fall off when touched. Like unwelcome uninvited guests they invaded my kitchen, and I was totally unprepared, which is why they are frozen and not jammed. My next foray out I'll buy some jars to put the chutney in.

I'm cooking slow roast boned leg of lamb for tonight, with new jersey royal potatoes and broccoli, with ice cream and home made strawberry sauce for dessert. Yesterday I made a loaf and some shortbread biscuits, I love cooking, but there's never enough time to do as much as I want. Just as well, because resisting fresh bread is almost impossible.

I did say almost.