Wednesday 28 December 2022

Keeping out the Welsh


Glimpses of Berkeley Castle, built in the 12th century to keep out the Welsh, which clearly hasn't worked. It's also where Edward II is believed to have been murdered in 1327. It's pretty much been in the same family the whole time, although it's a wedding venue as well as their home now and also does a bit of jousting and that sort of thing from time to time. It's basically like Lower Loxley, if you are familiar with the Archers.

The white house nearby was the home of Edward Jenner, 'father of immunology' who pioneered the concept of vaccines. He also created a vaccine for smallpox which had killed around 10% of the global population. He experimented with it on his gardener's 8-year-old son. Good job it worked.

Check out the glasshouse round the back. I reckon I could grow my own pineapples if I had something like that.

Did we all power through Christmas okay? It has been nice to have the biggest boy back, although I had forgotten how much space he takes up and how much food he eats. He came home and opened the fridge with a happy sigh, saying, 'The good thing about being at home is there's food in the fridge. Oh.' Turned out it was disappointingly empty.

He texts me and the littlest boy photos of his meals sometimes. The littlest boy looked at one of them and said, 'His food looks so much better than ours mum. How is he outdoing us?' Sigh.

Did I ever tell you about the food shopping insurance? Some student insurance provides £200 of cover in case you are robbed on your way home from the supermarket and all of your shopping is stolen. This type of thing is not reassuring to a mother, imagining some post-apocalyptic urban hellscape where you cannot even get your soya milk and organic lentils and Morrison's vodka home safely.

The dog pretended he couldn't see him when he first came home after three months away. Literally turned his back on him and studiously ignored him. I think he may have forgiven him now. 

Thank you for all of your bench commiserations and pep talks. I love the sound of subdued aubergine and also embracing Mediterranean tastes and stepping out of my comfort zone. 

On another garden topic, I have finally found a use for figs. I usually pick off all the small fruits that are left at the end of the season, but I couldn't reach the high up ones and ladders made me very nervous, being highly clumsy, so I left quite a few this year. It turns out that the birds really like them, or at least they did during the cold snap. Which made me think that maybe I could freeze some of the ripe ones and bring them out for the birds in the winter. They've also been getting through loads of sunflower seeds. 

The local garden shop has just closed its doors for good which is a shame. They sold beans and peas and onion sets loose and you could just put as many as you wanted in a paper bag. They grew all of their own beddings and vegetable plants and the rest of their stock came from local nurseries. And apart from pet food and food for the wild creatures, it was all plants and no novelty hot water bottle covers or peanut brittle. 

The urchins had a go at skiing the other day on the dry ski slope. I say dry, but actually there was biblical rain, so they got soaked. Someone accidentally slid backwards into a row of new skiiers. Honestly, is there anything funnier than seeing a bunch of people who can barely stand up themselves trying to stop someone sliding away by all holding onto a bit of their anorak. And probably nothing much more annoying than seeing someone who is sitting drinking a nice hot flask of coffee and laughing instead of actually getting off their arse and giving it a go. 

Hope you all had a good festive blast and are ready for the clean, clear energy of January. I also hope American friends are all okay in the storm. CJ xx


  1. Your photos are gorgeous. I love seeing the bits and pieces of Great Britain through the lenses of those that live there.

    The skiing sounds pretty hilarious. Wishing you and yours a very happy New Year.

  2. How lovely to have your son back for the holidays and I'm so glad that the cooking is going well. :O) I knew that Bertie wouldn't be able to keep up the cold shoulder treatment for long! Good to know about the figs - especially with sunflower hearts being so expensive at the moment. I've just battled through a birthday as well as Christmas, so am very ready for a fresh year. Have a good New Year; I shall probably be in bed by 10! xx

  3. A most enjoyable, and interesting, post with good pictures.
    I've always wished I could grow pineapples on the plot. Shame about the local garden shop closing.
    I had a quiet, relaxing Christmas which suits me. Happy New Year. xx

  4. Sad about the garden centre. Ours are dreadfully commercial. Yours sounded lovely. Glad you are enjoying eldest. Yes they do eat you out of house and home. And did he bring his washing for you or is he ultra organised.
    I would love a large conservatory like that to grow pineapples and all sorts. Would love a fig tree too for the birds. Glad you enjoyed some down time while the boys dry skied. Sounds far too dangerous for me. B x

  5. Your photos are wonderful. I am sorry to hear about the local garden centre they are a dying breed aren't they, we had one that sounds just like yours which shut last year. So glad to hear you are enjoying having your eldest at home, fleeting moments to treasure. I think I too would have the one chortling instead of ski-ing too.

  6. Lovely to have children home for Christmas, and very happy to hear you have given the bench a second thought. Regarding figs, we have dried figs (along with apricots and grapes) for eating in the winter. You might be able to dry them in the sun on a warm Autumn day, or failing that, maybe there are directions for oven-drying online? There is also a delicious fig jam found everywhere in the Eastern Med, topped with dried raw walnuts and served after breakfast, which might interest you next time you have an overly-abundant tree. if you'd like to see the recipe, search for Lebanese or Turkish fig jam and it should be straightforward. Very ready for more sunlight, longer days again (even if the temperature lowers!)

  7. I'm laughing re the dog ignoring the biggest boy and him gazing into an empty fridge! All the very best for

  8. This is the post I needed to read today! It’s given me and mine a laugh - he’s trying to make us drinks but I had to read the bits about the student looking into the fridge, to the dog turning his back.

  9. He’s made the drinks and brought nibbles. And we’ve both laughed at your post. Thank you

  10. The Jenner museum is a great little place - or it was the last time I went, which was a number of years ago. Actually preferred it to the castle, which was already in the process of maximising profit (not that I blame them - can you imagine the energy bills?). Your dog turning his back on your son made me laugh out loud, Animals are surprisingly sulky creatures: Mabel gives us the cold shoulder when we go away too.
    Have a great NYE. Txx

  11. I had also forgotten just how much space grown up children take up! Sam and Annie came home, plus a cousin with mum and dog. It was all good. Jenner was quite a character and a product of his time. Another similar example (although a bit later) is Sir Patrick Manson, who back in those dark days when ethical approval was not required for medical studies experimented on his gardener (whom he kept in a cage) to determine if mosquitos transmit filariasis (a parasitic infection)... obviously knowing how it is transmitted goes a long way towards preventing it but what a price to pay! Anyways, I am being side tracked. Your jewel orchid cuttings produced a flower stem. It will burst open any day now I think. Thank you. Have a wonderful next year xx

  12. CJ I am howling laughing as my girls go to a dry slope every Saturday and I do exactly the same!! My top teen read your paragraph on request by me and said 'Do Wilberforce and Walden go to their ski slope too!!!' W&W are two annoying boys who go to their class sometimes, never listen to the instructor, whizz off down the slop in brotherly competition and both of them have pollaxed my girls at some point over the last two months only to hear their parents say to them. 'Are you alright darling' as my girls get back up, swipe me a side eye and then call them bellends in the car on the way home. I hope I have returned the lols of your ski story. It made my day.


  13. What a beautiful place, showcased by your gorgeous photos. I’ve been listening to the Archers for more years than I care to remember! Shopping insurance, fancy that. It’s very sad that so many small independent shops are closing. I remember my first encounter on a dry ski slope many years ago. I loved it and did quite well, it was a good introduction to the boots, and I did very well a few weeks later on the real slopes.

  14. Happy New Year. I would definitely be sitting alongside you on the bench laughing. Regards your figs, we always have so many each year that despite us and the birds eating so many I always have mountains left. We make a delicious fig chutney for Christmas and freeze them too. We do then use the frozen figs in casseroles or for more chutney. Hopefully will give you ideas for the surplus.