Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Farewell 2011 - nearly :o)

Well, 2011 hasn't been my favourite year. I had high hopes for it after 2010 was so horrible, but alack & alas, 'twas not to be !! :o)) For 20 plus years, around the end of December, my MiL has always said  *the new year is going to be GOOD for you & Shaun*, but after so many disappointments, I told her I was going to gag her on Christmas Eve & not take it off till after Twelfth Night :o) Maybe if she kept quiet, things would be OK. However, I live in hopes, not miracles !!:o))

From redundancy to paralysis, from tribunal to family break ups, from hospital, doctor, clinic & nurses (110 appointments in total just in 2010) we've lurched from one disaster to another & it's only been the love & support from good friends & family that have saved me from going completely doo-lally & from doing my ravin' nana more than I have done :o) A good scream & a cry followed by a hug & a laugh & I'm soon back to dangerous, ready to take on whatever problem rears its ugly head next. But you know, it wouldn't 'alf be nice to have a year full of happy instead of a year full of stress & worry. Though, to be honest, I don't think I've been stressed enough - I'm still far too fat & it seems that most people say *ohhhhhh, the weight has FALLEN off me, I've been so stressed this week/month/year* :o) IT'S NOT FAIR !!!!! WAAAAAAAAAAAAH !!! :o)

But anyhoo, I digress :o) 2011 is nearly over & although I hate New Year - why celebrate a year that you know is going to be just as c**p as the one that's just gone - I'm going to TRY to be more positive in my outlook. Life has enjoyed kicking us when we're down so maybe it's about time we started kicking back. By *we*, I mean me - if Shaun tried kicking, he'd fall flat on his face. That's if he could even lift his foot to kick in the first place !! :o)

My New Year resolutions - I always try & fail, but this year, THIS YEAR,  . . . I will try harder :

The usual lose weight (ZZZzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz !!)
To cook from scratch more & not eat junk as often as I do
To do more in the garden - it's been so neglected :o( - especially in the veg patch
To walk more - me on Shanks's & 'imself on his mobility scooter. Seaside air is GOOD for you !!
To find at least one lost soul in my family tree, though more would be better :o)
To prepare for Christmas 2012 in plenty of time. This year has been so busy & chaotic, it got pushed aside until the last minute. Rush, rush, rush is SO not a good look on me !! :o)

So, there we have it. As I finish off the Christmas chocs & biscuits & prepare for the year to come, I say *Goodbye 2011 it's been great - NOT - & hello to 2012.*  I greet you with fear, trepidation & a sense of *uh-oh, here we go again !!*, but I'm smiling through gritted teeth as I do it !! :o)

To finish, here's a Christmas Kiss from me to you & I hope you had a fab time, surrounded by those you love. Here's to 2012 (gulp !!) & God Bless all who sail in her !! :o))
MWAH !!!! :o)

Sunday, 27 November 2011

And so to bed . . . dear garden :o)

This past 16 months, my poor garden has been sadly neglected. My time has been taken up by *circumstances beyond my control* & although those circumstances are unlikely to improve, I am determined to exercise my green fingers once again & try to keep the garden looking as good as it should next year :o)

I made a start yesterday & put the garden to bed for the winter. I gave all the bushes a rather drastic hair cut - they now have 2 choices in the spring: to grow or not to grow !! :o) The bushes in the rockery were lovely & bushy, but all the leaves were at the end of 3 foot branches, so I decided to hack them all off & now, my rockery is see through :o) I cut so much off all over the garden, the entire length of the decking  - over 20ft - was covered in a waist high rubbish pile. We have a dumping area at the end of the garden, so that's where I lobbed it. My brother in law helped & he went over the fence & jumped up & down to squish it into a more manageable pile :o)  It might look a bit of a mess, but I'm not getting rid of it cos it's a real little wildlife haven  - I've seen hedgehogs, foxes, various butterflies & birds flitting around there. It's my little bit of *back to nature* :o)

This is just some of the stuff I cut back :o) That's my brother in law cutting it into smaller bits to bung over the back :o)

The see-through rockery with the hacked back bushes :o) A few months ago, grandson no. 1a helped me plant 200 or so bulbs in the front & middle. It looks like I may have to get something for the back, a splash of colour for early spring before the rose, choisya & whatever the other bush is, grow back.

Goodnight fruit cage, thank you for the lovely raspberries, blackberries, loganberries, red currants & black currants you supplied us with this year. We had a real bumper crop :o)
Goodnight veg plot - we'll try better next year, won't we ?!! :o)

 Goodnight Seaside garden/mini-Dungeness, Kit's Korner & bench. It won't be long before I'm back bird-watching from the bench with grandson no. 1a, looking through  *noculars* made from loo role tubes:o) Grandson no. 1b may even join us, if he can sit still long enough :o)

Goodnight, greenhouse. Sleep well because you are going to be VERY busy come the early spring :o) Don't worry though - you'll have a good wash & scrub before I expect you to do your thing :o)

Over the years, we've come up with little garden projects,  so maybe over the winter, we'll be able to come up with a little something for 2012 :o)  Something with an Olympic flavour, perhaps ?

Hmmm . . . what can I do with 5 coloured rings in a garden ? Answers on a postcard please !! :o)

Monday, 21 November 2011

Family History

One of my hobbies - obsessions :o) - is Family History & although I've been climbing my family tree for over 12 years, there are many, many things I don't know. There are archives & sources I wouldn't have a clue about, but what I do know, is that family history has to be one the best & most exciting things you could ever do.

I've met some of the nicest people in the world through family history, some have turned out to be distant cousins & others have turned out to be the best friends I could ever wish to have. I sometimes find it hard to remember what life was like before computers helped make the world a smaller place :o)

As a child, I always knew my Mum was from Birmingham & my Dad was from Ramsgate, but as I gradually climbed my tree, I found that my Mum's family had Kent, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Somerset & Gloucestershire links & my Dad's had Surrey, Somerset, Channel Islands, Oxfordshire & Middlesex links. In fact, in one census in Surrey, a family with my maiden name is living next door to a family with my paternal Nan's maiden name, which made me wonder if there was a connection, but so far, I've not found it :o(

For people who don't do family history, it's hard to explain the thrill of getting a birth, marriage or death certificate, of coming across someone you didn't know existed or someone who's been *missing* for a long time . My husband just nods & smiles knowlingly when I get so excited that I jump up & down & squeal :o) He knows that I'll be walking around with a stupid grin on my face when I've made a discovery, even if it's something so small that most people would just say *oh, is that it ?* & walk away.

But, for me, one of the best things is knowing that I'm walking along the same streets or looking at the same view that my ancestors did. Some of the houses they lived in are still standing,  I take my grandsons to the park where my great grandad was a corporation gardener, I walk along the front where, when I was a kid, I used to see my grandad working - he was also a gardener. Everywhere I turn, there are things to remind me of growing up & although, like many, we weren't rich in money, my brothers, sister & I did have a very happy childhood. Looking back now, I wonder what on earth I found to whinge about & my school friends would tell you that I DID whinge at times :o)) 

Old photos are one of the best things I could ever receive & thanks to my parents & other family members, I have copies of so many.

These are my Dad's side of the family -  my great grandad Charlie & great grandma Edith with my grandad & great aunt. The photo was probably taken about 1916, just before great grandad Charlie went to India.

This is my great grandad Charlie (on the right) with his lawn mower !! :o) He was the corporation gardener, mentioned above.

My Mum's side - my great grandma Miranda & her youngest child, Margaret. Miranda was my Mum's paternal grandmother.

Emma Jane,  my great gran, my Mum's maternal grandmother, with my Nan & great uncle. This was probably taken about 1917/1918. My Nan was born in 1915 & she looks about 3 here :o)

Some people seem to be afraid of researching their family history, for fear of uncovering something horrible, but I say if you do, it just makes the list of names you've gathered more real.  It makes you realise that the people who came before you were once flesh & blood, they had feelings & emotions, they had good times & bad times, in fact, everything we go through as we wander through life,  they also went through. It's because of them that we are who & what we are today. A piece of all our ancestors, no matter how small, lives on in us.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Mary Poppins & Cuddles

On Saturday, I babysat my grandsons. When the 1 year old had a nap with Grandad Comfy-Tum, I decided to introduce the 3 year old to my all time favourite children's film - Mary Poppins. I just love that film - I watch it when I'm ill (hardly ever !!), I watch it when I'm feeling down & I watch it when I want something to sing along to. It's my ultimate *feel good* film, closely followed by *The Railway Children*.

I'd promised myself that when the boys were old enough, they, too, would fall in love with Mary Poppins. Unfortunately, it turned out to be the one film their Dad really can't stand :o(  HOWEVER - did that faze me ? Did it eckerslike !!! What happens at Grandma's, stays at Grandma's !!

We sat & watched it, the little fella was intrigued with the dancing & talking animals, but the bit he REALLY loved was when I got up, held his hands & we danced & sang along with the chimney sweeps as they danced over the roof tops of London :o) The only downside was that he couldn't understand why I couldn't jump in the air & spin round & round & round like Mary Poppins !! I told him I wasn't THAT magical, one jump & half a turn was all he'd be getting from me !! :o)

When my daughter came to pick the boys up, he was so excited & couldn't wait to show her how he could kick his legs up like the dancing sweeps :o) I just hope he doesn't expect me to try to do what Spider Man & Iron Man - his favourite Super Heroes - do :o)

Earlier in the day, he & Grandad did some jigsaw puzzles, something they both love to do together. As they were doing them, a little voice said *Grandma, you're not good at puzzles, are you ?*, to which I replied *No, I'm not*. He then said *But Grandad is & I am, too. You're good at knitting things, you are, Grandma. And cuddles.*

So, there we are.  I'm good at knitting, dancing on the roof tops & cuddles :o) Maybe I'm getting the hang of this Grandma lark :o)) I must be living up to my fridge magnet :o)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Remembrance Day

I have very strong views about Remembrance Day & Remembrance Sunday - I think buying a poppy should be made law :o)  I think every school should teach children the history behind wearing the poppy & why it was chosen to be the symbol of remembrance & I think that every family should ensure that their children grow up with respect for, & knowledge of,  what service men & women did for us. Not that many families went through the two world wars unscathed in some way & many have lost loved ones in the wars that have followed & those that are still going on. History is supposed to teach us lessons from the past, but I fear, when it comes to war, we'll never learn.

I hope whoever reads this will observe the 2 minute silence at 11am today & on Sunday & remember those who gave their lives in the past & in recent years. Two minutes really isn't much to ask for, is it ?

My Grandad - born 1917, killed in action 1944.

Remembering all those in my family, however distant a relation they are :

CF Brenchley 1888-1916
EJ Brenchley 1889-1916
CF Buffee 1919-1945
SJ Buffee 1894-1916
CF Fuller 1925-1944
EHF Hammon 1920-1941
HT Hammon 1885-1917
AWJ Hammond 1895-1917
FG Hammond 1897-1915
GT Hammond 1890-1916
SF Kingsford 1891-1916
WJ Lawrence 1889-1918
J Munday 1885-1917
J Munday 1987-2008
WJA Munday 1923-1942
WG Peale 1897-1915
ESM Pettman 1896-1917
EA Read 1897-1916
NFM Waddoup 1917-1944
RS Wells 1912-1944

and those I've not yet found.

I took this photo a few years ago in Nonington.  I think the poppies & the barbed wire fence are quite appropriate for today.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Christmas Stockings

I love knitting :o)  However, as I said in a previous blog item - I have no patience & I'm not very good at it.  I don't *do* complicated patterns or big things, I like small things, things that knit up in no time at all, simply because I want to get on to the next thing & because I get bored easily !!

When my first gorgeous grandson was born, I wanted to make a little Christmas something for him & came up with 5 mini stockings pegged onto *splarky* pipe cleaners, each one with a letter of his name on it.

When my second gorgeous grandson came along, I did the same for him, but as his name is only 3 letters long, I couldn't just give him 3 mini stockings, that would seem like favouritism & I don't like that, so I knit 5 & just put letters on the middle 3 :o)

I also made some for a friend's grandaughter when she was born in 2009 . . .

. . . . and also for her new baby grandaughter who was born just last week :o)

They're all the same, but just slightly different - for my friend's grandaughters, I plaited & crocheted the *string* that the stockings are pegged on because I didn't have any more pipe cleaners :o)

At the moment, I'm trying to get a pair of fingerless gloves finished for Christmas, but time is fast disappearing & I fear I shall soon be WAAAAAAAAH-ing for England & turning it into an Olympic Sport !! :o) So, I'd better finish this, get my day started & get on with all that needs doing :o) Still, at least the Christmas cakes are cooked & brandied, they just need marzipanning & icing. But those are jobs for another day or 2 :o)

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

The Shell Grotto

One of the big mysteries on the Isle of Thanet is the Shell Grotto. It was discovered by James Newlove in 1835, when he was digging out a duck pond. He could see that it had the potential for making money, so he opened it to the public in 1837. It's always been privately owned, but English Heritage keeps an eye on its preservation as it is now a Grade 1 listed structure. They entered it onto their *at risk* register in the 1990s because damp is a major problem.

When the Grotto was discovered, it was big surprise - no one seemed to know of its existence, it wasn't on any map & there were no local tales of a hidden place covered in shells. Its age can't be determined by carbon dating as the shells are covered in carbon from the gas lamps used to light it before electricity & its use can't be determined either. It may have been a pagan temple, a meeting place for a secret sect, a smuggler's hidey-hole, or even something to do with the Knights Templar, but the most recent discoveries point to a sun temple. The sun enters the dome - which extends to ground level & has a small circular opening - just before the Spring Equinox & forms an alignment at noon on the Summer Solstice with what might have been part of an altar & it disappears just after the Autumn Equinox, which indicates the fertile season.

Looking up through the dome to outside.

There was some belief that the grotto may have been a rich man's folly - there are loads of follies around, but they're on top of the ground, not hidden away underground. Follies are also normally associated with large country estates, but this grotto is on what had always been farmland.

Looking back towards the stairway down into the grotto. This is a subterannean structure, with a fairly steep sloped walk way into the actual grotto itself. To visit the grotto, you enter through the shop & the stairs down are at the back by the counter. When I was a kid, it was a poky, dark, tiny little shop, but when I went 4 years ago, the then new owner had opened it right up & had a lovely little cafe area & all sorts of grotto associated items for sale.

At one time, it was thought that the grotto was built in the 1700s, but that thought was dismissed because it seemed impossible that no one in the town knew of it when it was discovered in 1835 . It would have taken a large workforce & a lot of time & work to excavate it & stick over 4½ million shells on the walls. Keeping a project like that secret would have been nigh on impossible.

This is thought to be part of the altar. The shells used on the walls are mostly those found locally - oyster, cockles, mussels & whelks. They're glued on with a type of fish paste glue that also has traces of volcanic elements. No one has yet been able to identify exactly what it's made from, but it's pretty good !! :o)

The shells form patterns that may point to fertility, the circle of life etc.

If you look closely, you can see gods & goddesses, phalluses, flowers, stars, trees of life, that sort of thing, so it seems that the thought behind it being a sun temple may be the right one. However, nothing is 100% certain & I think the research is ongoing.

The passageway is approx. 70 feet long & 8 feet high. At the end of it is a rectangular shaped room, about 15 feet by 20 feet, where the altar is. Roughly in the middle, the passageway splits into 2 so that you can go around a circular column called the rotunda.

Almost every square inch of wall & ceiling is covered with shells, but unfortunately, in places, they've come off. Whether that's due to age, atmospheric conditions or visitors touching them is unclear.

The arched doorway, very reminiscent of churches & catherdrals, so maybe the grotto was a religious meeting place. Like Stonehenge, I don't think we'll ever know for sure exactly what the grotto was built for, but it really is worth a visit.

Monday, 31 October 2011


In November 2006, we went to a place I'd always wanted to visit - Stonehenge. When I was a little girl,  I read & re-read a book that my Mum had got for me at a jumble sale. I can't, for the life of me, remember what it's called now, but if I remember correctly, it was written or set in the 1930s. It was about a girl called Molly Kendrick who went to live with her cousins & they either lived in or visited Wiltshire & went to Stonehenge. For some strange reason, that really stuck in my head & ever since then, I wanted to go myself.

Nearly everyone who's been there mentions the feeling & the atmosphere surrounding the stones & I have to say, there really IS an amazing atmosphere. We visited on a very blustery, windy, Sunday & I can remember driving along a country road & suddenly seeing the stones in the distance. I literally squealed with delight - I don't know why I was so excited, but  I just couldn't stop smiling.

The entrance is across the road from the stones, so after parking, we had to go through a small underpass under the road & then followed the roped off walkway around Stonehenge itself. 

The first view really took my breath away.

The sky was dark & overcast, the wind was really blowing & that
all added to the atmosphere, I think.

As we walked around, we could hear the guns from the Army Range on Salisbury Plain. The muffled sound seemed to carry for miles & reminded me of *Great Expectations* when the guns were sounded to let people know that the convicts, Magwitch & Compeyson, had escaped from the prison hulks & were roaming around Romney Marshes.

This is the Heel Stone which lies just outside the main *entrance* to the stone circle.
If you stand in Stonehenge itself, facing north-east through the entrance, looking towards the heel stone, you will see the sun rise above the stone on the summer solstice. There are legend & folk stories about the Heel stone & one of them is that the devil bought the stones from a woman in Ireland, wrapped them up & took them to Salisbury Plain. One of the stones fell into the river Avon but the rest of them rest were carried on to Salisbury Plain. The devil is said to have cried out:  "No-one will ever find out how these stones came here!" A friar replied, "That’s what you think!" & the devil threw one of the stones at him which struck him on the heel. The stone then stuck in the ground and is still there to this day :o)

Finally, this is me, just to prove I really was there :o)

To me, visiting Stonehenge was a bit like going into a church or cathedral, there was a sort of awe about it, a sense of peace & tranquility, but I think a lot of that had to do with the time of year & the weather. When we went again the following July, the feeling wasn't the same, but I think that was more to do with the fact that the place was heaving with tourists & it was a hot & sunny day. It wasn't as easy to take your time & wander around, it wasn't as easy to get photos because people kept popping up all over the place & it was a lot noiser with all the chatting going on. In November, the pace was definitely slower, it was quieter & I really felt that atmosphere that the stones give off.  It  was magical & I'd love to go back one day.

Friday, 28 October 2011

Smallhythe Place

It's been a busy few days here, but I've got 5 minutes to myself now :o)

In June 2010, we pootled along to Smallhythe Place, the home of Victorian actress Ellen Terry. Small Hythe is a little hamlet near Tenterden & stood on the Rother estuary. In the 15th century, before the Romney Marshes silted up, it was a shipbuilding port. Looking around today, it's hard to imagine it being a port, because whichever direction you look, it's all lush & beautiful countryside.

Ellen Terry, said to be the most famous Shakespearean actress in Britain at the time, was born into a family of actors & her great nephew was Sir John Gielgud. She lived in Smallhythe Place from 1899 until her death in 1928. The National Trust own the property now & it's open to the public.

Smallhythe Place is a 16th century building. The front garden is quite narrow, so to get a front-on view of the house, you need to stand across the road :o) This pic was taken from the garden, which is why it's side on, really :o)

The house from across the road.

The back of the house.

This is the Barn theatre in the garden. Ellen Terry's daughter, Edith Craig converted the barn into a theatre as a memorial to her mother. To raise funds, Edith suggested that people paid £1 for a chair commemorating themselves or a friend.

The pond. Good job it has a wall around it, otherwise, with all the algae on top, you'd not know where the grass stopped & the pond began :o)

The little herb garden.

The *doorway* into the orchard & grounds.

Side view of the house from the rose garden. It's called the rose garden even though it has other plants in it. It's fairly small, but very beautiful.

The wild flower part of the gardens.

You can't really see a galleon in full sail making it's way along here, can you ? But, this is really all that's left of the Rother in Small Hythe. It continues across the road & sort of disappears from view after a while, but it's very pretty to look at.

The 16th century meets the 21st century just down the road from Small Hythe, on the Romney Marshes - wind turbines :o)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Things You See On A Roof :o)

Twice last year, I had a bit of a surprise when I opened my bedroom curtains & saw what my neighbours had on their roof !! :o) Not just the usual tiles, aerial or sky dish for them, oh no :o)

In February, they had a big, brave cat crawling, commando style, up the roof to try to catch a seagull !! Of all the birds he could have gone for, he had to try for a big'un !! :o)

I'm gonna get you, not-so-little birdie !!!

Ummmmmm, where'd he disappear to ?

How do I tackle this ? Do I let him dive bomb me & then roll him, or do I leap, ninja style & meet him in mid air ?

He decided it was better just to let the seagull go his own way & jumped down into the garden, while the seagull flew off into the early morning sky.

Then, in May, there was a huge racket going on - squawking & hissing, mewing & a sort of barking. When I had a look, I saw this:

A young fox. Just sitting on the roof, being watched by some crows & . . .  

a load of parakeets :o) They were making a heck of a racket & the fox just sat there, ignoring them.  I think he saw me at the window though, because it looks like he was actually looking right in to the camera lens :o)

After a while, he thought it'd be a good idea to try to get down, so he had a good look around & came face to face with  . . . 

 commando cat !! :o) Uh-ohhh, he'd heard all about commando cat from the seagulls. His reputation as a warrior was legendary in the animal kingdom !!

By now, though, the parakeets were getting bored & started flying off .

In the time it took to take this pic, the fox had leapt off the roof & was gone. Just like that. So quick, I didn't get a chance to see in which direction he went. The cat was still there, looking left & right, no doubt wondering if his warrior reputation was going to be in tatters once the parakeets & crows had told everyone that he hadn't managed to catch the fox  OR the seagull a couple of months earlier :o)