Rustic Spooks

Our patch of the countryside has its share of  loitering spirits and ghostly legends. The stories shared by down-to-earth, country folk who are oft inclined to cynicism, which makes their recounting all the more chilling.

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In the neighbouring village where I grew up the spirit of a desolate vicar was known to haunt the church. His only son had perished in an outbreak of cholera which claimed the lives of many villagers. The source of the outbreak was traced to the churchyard well and it was believed that the water had been contaminated by sewerage run off from the vicarage.

In the depths of guilt and despair, the vicar sealed the door to the chancel which he and his son had used. The door remains closed to this day, and only the vicar’s tormented spirit has passed through it since.

Following a spate of sightings in the early eighties (including an incident in which the church warden’s dog greeted and jumped up at an invisible being, resting its paws on apparent thin air) a service was conducted to offer our restless spirit forgiveness and eternal peace.

Control Tower

A more recent ghost is the headless airman who thumbs a lift on the road which passes alongside our farmland. Once a USAAF airfield, legend has it that if you glance in your rear view mirror as you drive across the ‘drome you may see him sitting behind you.

The lady from whom we brought this farm was a sharp, forthright sort with a no-nonsense outlook on life. She had purchased the land and the Tudor farmhouse from the War Ministry when the airfield was decommissioned, and she recounted to me that when viewing the property she had clearly seen the ghost of an American Airman hanging from the farmhouse rafters.

Tudor Farmhouse

Whatever she saw that day must have seriously scared her because she demolished that farmhouse and built a new one further along the lane.

I could go on. It seems every pub in the nearest town has a resident spook… Cromwell’s mistress, a maid known as Nellie Ketteridge… and that’s before you travel on to the mansion house…

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Take care out there people!

 

 

Barny Update – another comparison shot

I missed this one yesterday but it’s too good to leave out (so many pictures to trawl through – the joys and tribulations of trigger happy digital photography).

The before picture in this one was actually taken in 2012 when the barn was in use storing hay for the horses (who had also kept the grass in the paddock trimmed!)

Hmm… we might need a horse or two in that paddock again 🙂

Barny Update – Then and Now

Barny Update – Then and Now

Midway through (our budget at least) I thought I’d share a few ‘then and now’ pics of our barn conversion.

All this has happened in the last six months…

We’ve kept the door on the left (an upcycling project maybe, any suggestions?) and the Sister covets the nifty (temporary) sliding doors for her shed.

The beautiful bricks are insulated now (and waterproof too!)

Almost unrecognisable! The inside has changed a bit too – upstairs…

… and downstairs.

But it’s the outside that knocks me for six every time I walk past it.

I can’t wait to see what the next stage brings.

Barny Update – Interior Design

I’m not getting ahead of myself. This isn’t me adorning my 3D designs with cushions and trinkets (though I might confess to having played that game. Once or twice).

No, the plumbers have to know where to run the pipes (all 400 m of them) for my bath and everything plumbery (including the kitchen sink) before the floors are laid. The electrician will thread cables through our walls ahead of plaster-boarding (I think they call this the ‘first fix’. Get me, learning the jargon.)

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It all feels rather premature, but I need to decide what I’m having and where I’m putting it all. Right now.

What fun! Let’s crank up the 3D designer.

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The 3D design of my bathroom had everything slotted in, but it was quickly pointed out  by the experts that I’d altered the room’s dimensions to suit my intentions. Apparently, that doesn’t really work.

Back to the drawing board.

This is when those quirky features I thought were so cool come back to taunt me. Like the full height vista of rolling fields I’d imagined myself enjoying while I steeped in my bath with a view. What I hadn’t imagined was a garden table below a picture window which beautifully framed my upstairs toilet.

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We played ‘puzzle-my-bathroom’ for several days, me and the builders. We shifted a couple of walls (the builders’ idea, not mine. Bless ’em, they’re learning). They even made plastic templates of basins and bogs and bath tubs in an effort to hasten my decision making. I’d love to show you a photograph of the ‘hallelujah’ templated bathroom but no sooner had I said “That’s it!” than they ripped up the temporary floor to start shoving the pipes in.

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Do it quick! Before she can change her mind!

And so… on to the kitchen.

I’ve found a nifty online kitchen design app…

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… and I’ve cautioned the builders that my initial ideas may not take full account of the room measurements.

Another bloody great window. Sockets to place. A feature wall and feature stairs to accommodate and the wishlist is long. I might need more templates… dishwasher, fridge, cooker, sink, island, larder unit, microwave, spice rack…

Hell. And I thought the bathroom was tricky.

 

 

 

 

Why an allotment?

Are allotments a particularly English/British thing? Or do they exist in cities and towns worldwide?

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So, how did my allotment learning discovery begin..

Hmm….might have to go back a bit and dredge through my thoughts.

Often I have a dream of escaping the world. Or at least, many of the modern trappings, some of our western ways of living. It occupies a lot of my ‘musing’ time.

Trying to find a balancing solution to life…

There are of course many things I appreciate – light and warmth and protection from the elements are particularly useful!

But houses? Not so much. They take an enormous amount of striving for.

Be it rent or mortgage, there will always be a lot of effort involved to keep a house going.

Electricity and gas and oil. Logs and coal and chimney sweeps. Insurance and telephones and internet. T.V and washing machines, fridges, freezers and cookers. Floors and lighting, wall coverings and furniture, curtains, vacuum cleaners,….ornaments!

Then of course –…

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Rustic Guest Eve – Autumn in the Greenhouse

Rustic Guest Eve – Autumn in the Greenhouse

17342725_10208442691045415_4717142129990079088_nI’m welcoming my lovely sister, Eve, to the farmhouse kitchen this week. She’s the one who got all the green-fingered genes. It has been said that farmers don’t make good gardeners, and I’m no gardener (good or otherwise) so consider myself well blessed to have a sister who not only keeps me fed with the sweetest of fresh produce from her allotment but also scents the farmhouse with the pick of blooms from her garden. Lucky me!

This post was originally shared on Eve’s Lots of Pots blog. Do pop over and visit her there.

As you can see from the pic, we both got our share of the tea-drinker genes so I’d better get that kettle on.


I love my greenhouse.

And recently I had a slightly sad/slightly cathartic day clearing out the bleached cucumber stems, the almost naked tomatoes..

Rescuing the drought ridden scented geraniums… (I took my eye off the ball on the watering front –  forgetting, in my autumnal self -pity, that there were still a few plants in there which needed me!)

…..picking smelly (in a nice way!) leaves to dry – lemon verbena, rose geranium, mint…

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…finding small, hidden late summer gems among the drying foliage… still glowing with summer colours.

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Eventually it was swept – and clean(ish)  – and looking rather bare.

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I am trying to think of winter as a time for rest, a gentle slowing down for the plants and for me… so convinced myself to plan ahead, create my winter haven.

So a kettle – of course! …and a spare kettle just in case…

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A fire – bliss – and a good store of logs…

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A bit of rug (not too muddy yet).

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and a favourite armchair – hoping that it won’t get too damp as I love it so.

Which reminds me – make a plan to stop the roof leaking!

A few late blooming summer plants…

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They will need to be re-homed somewhere warmer before long. I very often lose my scented geraniums – house is too hot, greenhouse is too cold… so I hope to find a better place for them this year.

And last but not least – a pair of woolly socks and a bottle of wine. 🙂

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So here I sit, writing this, in my – at least for now – comforting greenhouse.

Ah….cosy.

Barny Update – Weatherproof by Winter?

Barny Update – Weatherproof by Winter?

With the days drawing in the push is on to wrap our barn up snug before winter arrives. Waterproof, windproof and hopefully a bit more comfortable for the builders who will be working away in there through whatever the dark months throw at us.

I got up close and personal with our beautiful corrugated-steel roof this morning.

That meant scaling this ladder…

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… and taking lots of photographs because that climb was only happening once.

Except I forgot to take my camera up.

So I had to do it again, to gather proof that I’d braved the scary ascent.

Here’s me scampering about like I was born to be off the ground.

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I wasn’t and thankfully they didn’t photograph me trying to get back on the ladder. Coming down is the worst. I’ve promised the builders they won’t have to nurse-maid me up there a third time.

BIG TICK – roof finished and conquered. (NOTE TO SELF – chase guttering order while the scaffold is still in place.)

The gutters are going to be galvanised steel as well, and we’re slightly concerned that we might have gone a bit too cheap rustic with them…

 

… but, hey,  this is meant to look like a barn, right? (And have you seen the price of cast iron or aluminium gutters??) At £5 per meter for steel versus £27 per meter for ali or iron, they’ve got to be worth a shot.

Next BIG TICK, the gorgeous, feather-edge cedar has been delivered to clad the external walls. Our most expensive single purchase so far, but just take a gander at this:

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The barn is stacked to the rafters and it smells like an evergreen forest but the builder’s aren’t getting much chance to appreciate that. They’re masked up and spraying all 1118 linear meters of it with a weather protection oil. And it’s all got to be done twice… front and back. I feel like I should be apologising.

By the next barny update I should be able to show you some on the walls. 🙂

But it’s a BIG (angry) CROSS for the windows. After six weeks of chasing with no encouraging response from the suppliers (they were “very busy” and it was “mad there”) I finally got my order confirmation with a delivery date 7 weeks later than originally promised. Which takes us to the end of November. They’ve allowed me a generous 4 days to confirm the nitty-gritty or risk losing that slot…

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… measurements, colours, handles, trickle vents, fire escapes, transom and mullion alignments (no, I don’t know either).

So that’s probably what I ought to be doing right now, instead of writing a blog post. I do hope that winter holds off. (NOTE TO SELF: order scarves and gloves for the builders.)

 

 

 

Rustic Nostalgia

Rustic Nostalgia

I wrote a post about corn dollies a couple of weeks ago and it inspired a very old friend of mine to Google the infant school teacher she and I both remembered so fondly.

Here’s us, back in the day.

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My friend is second from left. I’m not in, it I must have taken the photo.
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That’s me on with the grin and friend diving behind me. (We actually got drummed out of the Brownies but that’s a whole other story.)

I wanted to include a picture here of  the very first book I wrote. It was part of a trilogy entitled Walks Along the River Bourne. But I’ve wasted too much time hunting for it in the attic and come away with only a cobweb cardigan. I’m sorry, you’re missing a treat it was beautifully bound with original artwork on the cover 🙂 Self-published, of course. By an 8 year old.

Anyhoo, I digress. One thing led to another, and we arranged to get together to revisit old haunts of our primary years and retrace our steps along the river Bourne, where we’d spent so many happy hours.

We set off on our hike, and immediately lost our way because the beautifully descriptive print-out of the route was rather too wordy for our basic navigation skills (and we were gabbing too much to concentrate).

“… passing hedges, into the next field, through another hedge, the path turns left on a walkable field-edge beside a hedge of hawthorn [a confusion of hedges].The heavier clay of this side of the parish can make it heavy going in wet seasons. But it’s a pleasant downhill trek through a gap over a rather wobbly stile [we never found the stile] into a long, narrow slipe of a meadow, then over a step-stile [nor this one] into a bigger meadow and down to a little footbridge…”

The directions got waylaid in the wonderfully detailed wording, and some of the landmarks had changed:

“Passing the last cottage, go through the gate, closing it carefully as there may be stock in the meadow. The high bank may be the lynchet of the old lane. This is a fine spacious meadow dotted with oaks, populated by rabbits, with views of distant wooded hills…”

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Ploughed… but still a view of distant wooded hills.

It didn’t matter to us. We found ‘our’ river Bourne.

And remembered, and played silly buggers on the fallen logs… just like back in the day. We even took a selfie in front of our primary school.

Here’s to rustic nostalgia, a lovely day and the dear old friends who keep us young. I don’t think we’ve changed at all.

Barny Update – my stairway to heaven

Barny Update – my stairway to heaven

I’m all about stairs this week. It started so well because, for once, I knew (almost) exactly what I wanted. And I thought my vision was simple:

  • Black
  • Metal
  • Open treads

Like these pictures I pinned to my Barn Living board…

 

Aren’t they gorgeous? And not too complicated. It’s not as if I’m asking for this…

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… or this.

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I liked the original stairs.

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But they wouldn’t meet building regs and I’m not sure I could scale them balancing a tray of hot choccie and biscuits.

This is a budget staircase for under £2K

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It gets you to the first floor and it looks perfectly nice. If I wasn’t hung up on my ‘vision’ I’d happily settle for that.

But onwards and upwards. The first quote for my visionary staircase came in at £18k. And it wasn’t even truly bespoke, just off the shelf parts screwed together. I should have been alerted by the supplier’s Kensington address and the website with artful pictures but zero information.

And as if the price wasn’t outrageous enough, when I told them my budget was less than half the figure they were quoting they offered to meet it! No, thank you kindly. I’ll find someone who hasn’t set out to shaft me.

I’ve whittled it down to four options now…

 

  1. Buy a cheap (all things being relative) wooden staircase. Paint it black, fit and add the balustrade ourselves. My guess is about £3k all in. Yay, under budget.
  2. The only ‘economy’ metal staircase I found online (Max Stairs). They measure and fit but it crept over budget (plus, I don’t really like it).
  3. This beauty from Challenge EngineeringI’m still waiting for the quote. Pigs might fly, but I’m hopeful.
  4. And my current favourite from Abbot-Wade (by far the most efficient of the companies I’ve spoken to). It comes measured, engineered and fitted by them. A quality product in black stained oak… and well over budget.

I’ll finish off with a news-flash pic of our barn wearing its shiny-new, under-budget roof. Hmm, maybe I can afford that Kensington staircase after all.DSC_0272

 

 

Writer’s total lack of inspiration

Writer’s total lack of inspiration

Ah, book three. It’s not so much a question of ‘will it get finished’ as ‘will it ever get started?’

I’ve dropped right out of the habit of sitting and writing this summer. There are a lot of reasons for that. My physical fitness is back after years of being limited by a dodgy hip and subsequent surgery. There’s a puppy in the house to make full use of my time (and my resurrected walking skills) and we’re converting a barn on the farm to be our new forever-home, which is keeping me mentally occupied and absorbing every drop of my creative thinking juices.

I’m walking and riding and project mismanaging… I’m loving the time away from my desk. I’ve shed half a stone just by being more active (author’s bottom be gone!) and in my downtime, I’m reading lots of lovely books that other people have written. (It’s so much easier than writing one yourself).

I’m asking myself some deep and meaningful questions:

  1. Does it matter if you never write another book? (Answer: No, not a jot.)
  2. Will your finances be adversely affected if you give up writing? (Answer: No. The opposite is true, in fact.)
  3. Do you want your author’s bottom back? (I don’t need to tell you the answer to that one).
  4. Does anyone but you give a fig whether you’re writing or not? (Answer: Yes and No. A dozen or so people do. I was accosted this week at an Uncle Funk gig by a couple of  mates avid fans of my Draymere Hall Series who wanted to know when the next book would be out (Er, probably not this week). That happens surprisingly often and I’m always terribly flattered. But, contrarily, the Farmer is happy that I’m back in the real world; that there’s dinner on the table and the washing is getting done).
  5. So… WILL THERE BE ANOTHER? (Answer: Hell, yes! Just don’t ask me why. Or when.)

I know there’s another book in there. In fact, I’ve started several…

  • A tentative foray into detective stories with a nerdy (female) PI and a dollop of quirky love interest.
  • A WWII historical Anglo-American romance set on a USAAF airbase.
  • Another Draymere Hall romance (with Zoe as the heroine, you’ll have met her if you’ve read Brambles. You know, the one who worked with Hettie… one of Julian’s ‘volunteers’.)
  • A brand-spanking-new contemporary romance series.
  • A complete departure from any genre, with a narrator who’s already dead…

Dear Lord. What I need to have written is several K words of one book, not one k words of several. Is it any wonder I’m in a muddle?

I’ll pick it up in the autumn.

Oh, hang on, that’s today.

But the sun’s still shining and I must walk the puppy down to the barn. There’s a tractor parked up outside with my name on it and I’m riding this afternoon…

Maybe this winter, then. Watch this space (but not with too much anticipation).