Saturday 28 November 2015


A couple of weeks ago I took the boys to the country park and paid a visit to the orchard. I have a bit of an obsession with orchards, especially when they're full of fruit. So many windfalls go to waste, it's a shame. I picked up a bagful of the not-too-bruised ones and took them home for crumbles. I wish the trees were labelled, but the varieties are probably long forgotten.

Down at the supermarket there are bags of delicious little English apples for sale very cheaply. They also buy apples from Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Chile, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, the USA, South Africa and Australia. AUSTRALIA. What sort of madness is this? Our orchards will all be ripped out if we don't support them. And replaced with goodness knows what. Wherever we are in the world, we should be eating local fruit where we can.

I've ranted on about Pink Ladies before, but maybe you'll forgive me if repeat what I said about them once before. Pink Lady is not an apple variety, it's a commercial brand owned by Apple and Pear Australia.  UK farmers are not allowed to grow it, and yet our supermarkets are full of it.  Each and every apple shipped here from far away, each and every apple pushing the market share away from our fantastic British orchards.  The marketing behind Pink Lady is phenomenal.  It has a logo, a slogan, a club and an all singing all dancing website with a blog and a whole section aimed at children.  The apple itself, in its plastic wrapper, with its countless food miles, is available all year round.  Don't buy it.  Have a lovely British apple instead.

I really feel passionately about saving our remaining orchards and supporting our farmers. I love the sight of rows of fruit trees in spring, a mass of blossom and bees, and heavy with fruit in autumn, ready to fill our stores for winter. I hope you'll forgive me for banging on about it a bit, but orchards really are one of my favourite things.

Thursday 26 November 2015

Colour Collaborative: November: Wood

Wood is such a fundamental part of our homes and lives, even in this age of modern fabricated materials. Despite man's synthetic inventions, there is nothing which comes close to the beauty, usefulness and versatility of wood.

There is a colour of wood to suit everyone, from the palest maple and light oak through the warm middle ranges of cherry and hickory to heavy dark walnuts and the pitch black of ebony. Every wood has its own qualities. Soft pine for simple furniture. The exquisite distortions of burrs, polished into table tops. Durable oak, lasting for centuries as building timber.

Around the house I have an eclectic mix of light and dark, old and new, practical and pretty. My old piano, bashed by children and nibbled by that enemy of all things wood, the woodworm.

The sun has faded it in places, but the wood still holds a soft beauty, from its paler tan sides to its rich cherry lid.

A chopping board, bleached and scarred over time. The natural antibacterial properties of wood make it perfect for use in the kitchen. I'd never swap it for a manmade material, the wood is perfect.

Knitting needles, warm and smooth and quietly clicking. I love the feel of a natural material in my hands while I work. Why oh why do they make plastic needles for children? I always think children should have nice tools to start with, to inspire them.

An old table, bought years ago from a shop in Tetbury. Nothing flash; scarred and pitted. But a practical thing, that one day could be just returned to nature when its days of usefulness end. That is the main beauty of wood, that it is part of the environment. There don't need to be any harmful contaminating processes in its production or finishing, and it need never end up in landfill. The growing of trees is about as sustainable as it gets.

And in almost every room here, wooden bookcases. Somewhere for all those stories to live, while they're waiting for someone to escape into them. Somewhere for a plant to grow or a candle to flicker. And while the small people are at school, it's somewhere for a bear to take a rest.

Wishing my American friends a very happy Thanksgiving, I hope you have a lovely day.

To visit the other Colour Collaborative blogs for more of this month's posts, just click on the links below:

         Annie at Annie Cholewa                                  Gillian at Tales from a Happy House

         Jennifer at Thistlebear                                      Sarah at Mitenska

         Sandra at Cherry Heart

What is The Colour Collaborative?

All creative bloggers make stuff, gather stuff, shape stuff, and share stuff. Mostly they work on their own, but what happens when a group of them work together? Is a creative collaboration greater than the sum of its parts? We think so and we hope you will too. We'll each be offering our own monthly take on a colour related theme, and hoping that in combination our ideas will encourage us, and perhaps you, to think about colour in new ways.

Sunday 22 November 2015

Weekend light

I love the late afternoons at this time of year. Long shadows, low light and muted blues and greys. The lights in the shops look inviting and in living rooms lamps are lit and fires are flickering. The first picture was taken in that moment just before the sun sets. The town lit up in apricot light, It was gone in a minute.

I watched the sun rise as well today, on a run. I headed out into the countryside and saw the sky turn pink over the bare fields. The trees have mostly lost their leaves now. It's good for birdwatching and seeing last year's nests appear. Winter is on its way and I really rather like it.

We had the second consecutive football free weekend this weekend. Didn't know what to do with ourselves. The littlest boy and the biggest boy have horrible colds, so in fact we didn't do much. We did manage a bit of fresh air each day though. I think it helps with sleeping. It's one of the reasons I run sometimes. I'm very good at falling asleep, but I always wake up too early in the morning. The more exercise I get, the longer I sleep.

The garden has been battened down for winter. I put the tayberry back up today after its hazel wigwam blew down in the gusts of wind last week. Everything has been cleared from the raised beds now, the hedge has been trimmed and the raspberries have been cut down. Inside the candles are out on the kitchen windowsill and we've even had the heating on a bit. I'm eating extra chocolate to get me through the dark days. All those chocolate stimulants and chemicals, 300 or so of them apparently. It's an enchanting and mysterious substance. Who am I to fight the power of the bean?

Have you watched any of the new David Attenborough series, The Hunt? Honestly, the BBC are in a league of their own when it comes to wildlife documentaries. Watching seals hunting sardines is utterly mesmerising. Quite amazing what goes on in the deep blue sea.

I'm off to look for more chocolate now. Wishing you all a good week. CJ xx

Friday 20 November 2015

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy for Five on Friday.

1. Photos from a walk a couple of weeks ago. We haven't been on a proper walk since. Maybe this weekend if the weather is nice. I hear the sun may be shining on Saturday. I do love to walk at this time of year, and through the winter. I like to feel connected to the seasons and to the outside.

2. Imagine drifting downstream on one of those narrowboats. Intrigue or Destiny. Maybe even Petronella. (Anyone remember Blouse and Skirt on Brothers and Sisters? Only me? It probably is. I watched all sorts of rubbish in the casino staff room in the middle of the night. Prisoner Cell Block H!) I digress. I used to want to run off with a gypsy violinist. Still do a bit. Remember the girl in the Flake advert sitting on the back of the vardo? That was how I hoped my future would turn out.

3. For anyone thinking about advent calendars, I can do no better than point you towards Belgian Waffle's post about this year's selection. She has thoroughly analysed the market so you don't have to.

4. Please don't judge me too harshly on the Prisoner Cell Block H thing. The television is on all night in the casino staff room and it's impossible not to watch.

5. I shall leave you with a clip from the local free paper about new mayoral candidates for Bristol. The first one "is very much a one-ticket candidate". The second one "was thrown out of a council meeting by security staff in March". And the third one, oh the third one. You will love this one. He "has declared that he has given up making p*rn movies so that he can concentrate on his election campaign.  Mr L---, otherwise known as Johnny R*ckard, said in a statement: "For the time being at least my adult movie interests have been shelved because, quite frankly s*x has become boring and every day is like Groundhog Day. It has reached the point where I simply can no longer cope with having too many women in my life, both directly and indirectly.""

Stiff competition no? Sometimes it's so hard to know who to vote for.

Wednesday 18 November 2015

Yarn Along

Joining in with Ginny's Yarn Along at Small Things.

No sunny outside picture of the blanket this week, rather an inside sofa shot. The best place to be when it's wild and windy. The funfair at the Christmas lights switch-on (I know) was cancelled yesterday evening because of the high winds. The lights are on now anyway, and probably will be until halfway through January. That's two months. One-sixth of the year. Seems a little excessive does it not.

I'm still knitting up and down these long, long blanket rows. The balls of wool are disappearing fast, I think I only have three left. Might need more. I have discussed the colour of the last stripe (at length) with the littlest boy. I think we are agreed, although I cannot for the life of me remember what exactly it was we agreed on. There will be trouble if I get it wrong.

I started reading Case Histories by Kate Atkinson, but I fear it may not be the book for me. Such misery and gloom. I really don't have the patience for it. I know lots of people love Kate's books, so I'm trying to give it a fair crack of the whip, but there are too many excellent books out there waiting to be read for me to press on with such dismal fare. Women who don't like their children (any of them), who don't like having more children, who don't like life, who are just really, really glum about everything. No, I don't want to hear about you, go away.

If I should stick at it, please let me know. I shall listen to you, you know I will. But I'm casting longing glances at the next book in the pile.

Friday 13 November 2015

Five on Friday

Joining in with Amy and Five on Friday.

1.  The dregs of summer in the garden. Beans and peas and flowers are hanging on in there in this unseasonally warm autumn. I went down to the allotment today and the strawberries are flowering like mad and there are even green berries. Too little too late.

2.  I have changed the photo of me to one with a coat on in deference to the onset of winter. The other one was making me feel cold. The littlest boy is still in shorts though, even for school, which is highly forbidden once the Winter Uniform Decree has been issued.

3. The other half sometimes thinks the boys have too many shoes. But I'm thinking he might really have something to complain about if they were girls. At least their shoes are all functional (and well used). Studded boots for football on grass, bumpy bottomed boots for football on astro turf, trainers for whatever it is they do at school that doesn't involve kicking things and for the street and the park, school shoes for all day every day, walking boots for going up mountains and wellies for muddy stuff. As far as I can tell if you're a girl you need vast amount of ballet pumps in pink, and with flowers on, and covered in silver sequins. Then you need fancy boots for walking down the road and Lelli Kellies for going to parties and cool trainers for hanging out in. It's a whole different ball game.

4. After a conversation with a friend I'm wondering if I can get away with sending the littlest boy to school in an evacuee costume for Tudor Day... I've stretched it to Victorian Day, but I didn't think it would pass as Tudor. It's sludge coloured cotton trousers and a beige shirt. But really, urchins have been dressing like this since time immemorial haven't they? Grubby urchin clothes. And the children themselves don't seem to be entirely clear as to when anything was anyway. It's not as though he'll ever wear an actual Tudor outfit again. It's probably different for girls, I expect they like to skip around in fancy dresses, but there's less scope for dressing in royal blue pantaloons when your day involves climbing trees and kicking brothers footballs. Although the littlest boy does like to wear the evacuee flat cap about the place, along with his cool yellow tiger t-shirt and action shorts. Not everyone can carry off a look like that.

5. Finally a thank you to you all for coming here and reading and commenting and encouraging and allowing me to wax lyrical over a particularly fine acorn and have a favourite firework. Oh, and to moan a bit sometimes. Thank you, you are all cracking, and I'm wishing you a top weekend.