Saturday, November 21, 2020


I've just been to Iona . Its not  the Isle of North Harris but will do for now. 
My screensaver reminds and enthrals. The one on my main PC does a slideshow of all my picture files , and I particularly like the way it gets many windows out of one picture by zooming in to bits of one . So one seemingly ordinary picture of a field, when seen another way,  is a fascinating collection of random items; bent grass stems, patch of Butterbur, spoor and droppings of Canada geese, rainbow, stream , stile and clump of earth . I then remember that the picture was taken just after dawn when I was trying to see a Corncrake  , could hear one  , but not see one .This time . 
So I've revisited Iona where I've been 5 times for week visits. One has to go  for more than 2 days to ensure at least sunshine on one of them . I've been back to my favourite "Bay at the back of the ocean ", Ive imagined the sound of the spouting cave , and the smell of rotting seaweed , and the inconvenience of the accompanying flies. 

These last two months I've been in the Hebrides nearly every day as neighbour has lent me the Lewis trilogy by Peter May . I'm on the third one now ,The Chessmen . Unlike many trilogies , and I should know, as spouse has just read the Hilary Mantel one , which got heavier and heavier , literally and metaphorically , the Lewis ones tick all my boxes. They are Murder mysteries, can stand alone, but better read in order, are well written , are about the sort of landscapes I love , are in the DNA, speaking as one whose forbears came from Skye, whose detective is flawed but  interesting, and best of all for me, a cartophile,  can be enjoyed best with a map. 
So I'm in the Isle of Lewis in my head. I know more than is recounted in the books , as I have explored all the other interesting places on the island , the brochs . the archealogical sites, the cafes and distilleries , the peat bogs and the flora. I've had a holiday all of my own choosing from my home . 
I've had many vicarious holidays this year. I've been round Australia with Arthur Upfield, a holiday I do every 2 years , binge reading each novel with my new map .The last 2 Australia maps dropped to bits from over indulgence. I've been again to Monterey with Steinbeck and Sweet Thursday and all over the rest of California with same map with Sue Grafton's  Kinsey Millhome (read 6 books so far). I gave Peter Robinson another go as the March cosy reading season began, got through about 5 of those, yes I quite liked them , but totally unsatisfying as none of the places are true to a map. They are hybrid . I shall only read when there is a famine of who dun its.

I've also been on holiday with Susan Calman on Channel 5. I could watch her all day . She is so clever and funny . Yesterday she too went to Lewis and Harris , so now I've been to see Harris Tweed made , and saved money by not buying any as I would have done on realtime holiday,  and then put the material in my sewing box for 40 years like the piece I found with the trade mark ,still waiting to be made into a skirt .

Just incase you are wondering about my fantasy holidays , Yes! I've been all round Middle Earth too  with Journeys Of Frodo , The Atlas of Lord of the Rings , and I would  quite like Rivendell for a quiet few days . 



Monday, August 10, 2020

Waiting for Ikea

I can't remember what day of the week it is , or the month sometimes. When I started this blog in 2006, everyone was at it. I can't bring myself to do podcasts because I don't listen to them myself. I am still a reader . 

  • My home is full of books waiting to be read for the first time, donated by kind friends when the library was covid closed. 
  • My home is full of books I have had since 1947: my childhood storybooks, my Milly Molly Mandy , my Children of the New Forest, My What Katy Did , my Snowflake by Paul Gallico, My first Bible AV with Horace Knowles illustrations with love from Grandma.
  • My home is full of books I have had since 1960: the teenager years, Pocket Guide to Wild Flowers (now disintegrating)McLintock &Fitter, Sweet Thursday by Steinbeck, Palgraves Golden Treasury,The Observers book of Lichens,The Drunken Forest By Gerald Durrell, a hopeful copy of The Odyssey 
  • My home is full of books I have had in adulthood, all Jane Austen, all Thomas Hardy , all Arthur Upfield (ALL now OP), and shelves of Local Topography, Florae, Poetry , Bibles ,  Novels I might read again , biographies & works of interesting(to me) Christians (Brother Lawrence, St John of the Cross, Corrie Ten Boom, Floyd McLung , CS Lewis , David Watson , Pete Greig

This is all about to change, EPIPHANY is upon ME.
I have been through all my clothes and only kept those I have worn in the last 2 years. (Except for My Wedding Dress and my Bruce Tartan kilt) . Daughter in Sussex is delighted to receive the beautiful dress my mother wore to my wedding in 72. No one wants  5 other kilts. I have had a massive clear out . I decided my dozens of scarves took up no room , so on a grand and sunny windy day I washed the lot , Im keeping them .
The books are all going except a few of the above.
The family have been offered my Edwardian Chair, my barley twist Legged Dining table all in the Office . They will be given to St Catherine's Hospice when they start collecting again . Grandsons are going to dismantle to pine Double Bed too in the loft for removal .I hope they can get the Mattress down the  spiral stairs of this 18th C cottage.

We are making the Office into a Single Bedroom . I've watched so many adverts recently on Talking Pictures that it took me 3mins to buy a wonderful single mattress. It came 2 days later in a box , and inflated within minutes. 

It took me 15 mins to order and pay for a flat pack single bed from Ikea. It will be here on the 28th August . 
I will know that date, I've put reminders on all my devices.

Saturday, June 20, 2020

June came quickly

“The nights will soon be drawing in “. We used to be infuriated when spouse’s father used to declare this every 21st June . I have to keep consulting my Eric Ravilous calendar nearly every day to check the date .I need the date more than  I have for years. The calendar is more or less empty of appointments, our next memorable date is in August and that is for the MOT on the car . After that comes the Dentist in November . 

We have some dates in our mind that don’t need a calendar, 
  • Sisters 70th birthday in August is the most important 
  • Daughters birthday in July precedes that but just an ordinary birthday 
  • Wimbledon ,last week of June and Ist week in July CANCELLED
  • Harvest Festival Flower arranging CANCELLED FOR ME ,I’M NOT GOING IN CHURCH THIS YEAR
  • Spouse’s birthday 13th September coinciding with the day we pay for our Car Parking space in the local Pub Car Park 
I need a calendar because I’m now writing cheques again  .I need a calendar because I’m now writing letters again using my fountain pen .

My concept of time has taken a knocking . I explain in detail .

Eldest daughter and family have taken the small allotment next to mine. It is a quarter plot and was left in great condition by the last holder . My daughter has never grown anything before. She planted packets of seeds in the cold greenhouse in January and was delighted with the results.
Her melon seeds astounded me,I never thought they would germinate in the cold , but now she is expecting Watermelons . What were the size of golf balls are now the size of grapefruit. Her onions from seed are as good as mine from sets, and she has got a row of parsnips which none of us manage usually. 
She  works from the ancient booklet Be your own Vegetable Expert ,  Bible of the 70s.
She told me yesterday that she was going to grow Leeks now. I helpfully thought it would be better to drive up to Reighton Nurseries together and buy a pot of seedlings , “too late to plant says I “ my timing is quite out . Mr Hessayon has told her to plant for overwintering , in July. 
She is right  and I am wrong . July is soon ,I’m astounded , I’ve not put my Chrysanth plants in ( from cuttings). My Anxiety Level  is high at present , I’m getting strung up about completely unnecessary things. I don’t need Chrysanths, I’m not doing Harvest Festival . It doesn’t matter if my plot is covered in Scarlet Pimpernel . It is delightful , easily removed and deserves its nick name of Poor Mans Weatherglass.
I go to Morning Prayer on Zoom Or Facebook Live every day at present  . It is so good to leave our small town too.
 I find this town an insular and parochial place to live . It can be small town minded , always congratulating itself . If I hear another person say Yorkshire is Gods Own County I shall scream . Have people never lived anywhere else or smelled the spliffs at the end of their streets . The smell of Fish and Chips is back and there are socially distanced queues , but underlying anxiety  is simmering . We need to be  REAL.  Golden sands and the Country Park are not the key to successful coping, they are just tools in the life drawer. 

Back to Zoom Morning Prayer. It has been the biggest tool in my life drawer. Especially going to Wydale for it. By hearing 27 other people in places like York, Beverley,Winteringham, Bridlington , Scarborough and Kirby Misperton, Share and pray each day has raised my game. Wonderful though it is, my allotment  can’t completely satisfy. It’s ok not to be ok , and sharing in a trusted  and confidential environment and giving  everything to our Creator  has kept me on track as I stumble through the calendar months. 

Right now Rotherham gets my praise as a good place to live , as it has wilded its road verges and brought the bees to town .

Memorable date Longest Day 21st June 2020 R.I P Win 

Thursday, May 07, 2020

When is a weed not a weed?

Sowthistle , Filey roadside
I've missed the Lily of the Valley season completely . I did plant some on my allotment last year in a damp and partly shaded place , but its not established yet  or seen fit to have just one flower. I'm surprised by this as plants will flower if in distress for lack of water just because they need to produce seed to maintain the species. We in the land that time forgot OKA Filey had no rain during much of March and all of April until its showers started on 30th April .
We are not allowed to use hosepipes on our plots  but may fill all our receptacles, baths and posh containers looking like the  water towers of flat Holderness. 
I digress here for the sake of my family. 
Family anecdote
We Bruces grew up in the east Riding of Yorkshire and would often have an afternoon drive out to Hornsea  our nearest small resort. From the age of 3 , in 1950, I remember the drive well, first in Grandpa Bruces 1930 Alvis , and then  the 1960s  in our family Ford Prefect. I can't remembered what the reward actually was, might have been a penny or might have been a piece of mint rock from the sweet tin , but our father would always call out
'First one to see the Water Tower gets a .............'
Then would come the explanation of why the countryside here needed a water tower, and how they worked. Great Grandpa Bruce had been the Chief Waterworks engineer for Kingston upon Hull so perhaps that story was played out as well . Sister Christine and I worked out why the whole family except our Grandfather emigrated to to the USA in the 1890s as the Stoneferry Waterworks were decommissioned and he would have lost his house and much of his job .

So you see I love nothing more than working out how to irrigate my plot , and cover my baths to satisfy SBC who own the land.
I'm really grateful for the  running water even though I'm as far as possible from the taps and my hosepipes are fixed to the fence of my neighbour  to lead to my plot . The Allotments in the Fulham Palace road don't even have running water. Filling my baths takes an hour as I have 3 and 2 water barrels. I prefer rain in my water butts however as its pure and better for my wildlife ponds (4 washing up bowls sunk into ground).This year I've managed to get tadpoles from 2 friends to mix the gene-pool so to speak . I'm trying to get as many frogs as possible as slug control . The nasty huge continental slugs are beginning to invade Filey . I have to resort to massacre at present .
I'm waiting now for the appearance  of my favourite wild plants ;
  •  Poor Mans Weather glass (Scarlet Pimpernel)
  •  Quaking grass
  • Mullein 
  • Chickweed (for Petes budgies)
  • Hop Trefoil 
and for my worst weeds
  • Horsetail
  • Bindweed 
  • Couch Grass
  • and was going to say Sow Thistle , but read to end of post 
The person on the allotment next to me is pleased with her Peppers, sown in February . She has really looked after them , pinched out the tops and potted them on . I watered for her yesterday in her absence and wondered how I was going to tell her that she was growing Common Orache , though may be eaten like spinach, is in my mind a weed.

I did my Dissertation on WEEDS in 1967. 

I was amused to hear that a friend in Sussex had been during this lockdown  watching a beautiful plant , now in full flower growing in her garden . So she googled it and found it was my enemy Sow Thistle.

What then is a weed, it is a plant growing where you don't want it , simple as that .

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

What to do with Spanish onions

I have a few old Recipe books which have been handed down to me: 

Last outing to Waitrose*
My grandmothers "Mrs Beeton",
the handwritten "receipts" of the Misses Hair, circa 1893 which includes the fascinating recipes entitled "What to do with Spanish Onions", and  "How to wait at table single handed" which ascertains in its opening sentence that any "intelligent person can be taught the art", 
and a couple of the recipe books belonging to my Mother , Margaret Viola Bruce nee Holding .

Interesting to me is the wedding present from her next door neighbours in  her home in Birkenhead . It is entitled "Advanced Cookery Recipes". She had just completed a cookery course on her engagement , or had maybe just bought the book, of the renowned Liverpudlian,  Fanny Calder , for it was "Recipes from the Calder School of Cookery "or some such title, I can't find the book .
My mother brought to her marriage , in 1946, to Yorkshireman Harold Gower Bruce always known as Bengy, a scant and basic knowledge of the culinary arts. She had of course watched her mother cook , and so knew perfectly how to order meat and cook it to perfection . 
I recall all she taught me too on buying meat . We have a great Butchers in Filey , whose meat is locally sourced and the producer named . 
Mother  loved a good butcher, and could talk Beasts kidney , skirt , feathering ,Aitch Bone and undercut to me well into her last months  . Beef of course was the flesh of choice , legs of lamb appeared on our Sunday Table occasionally in the Spring , Pork rarely , bacon every day , Black pudding often , and a a real treat would be a chicken , but these always came from our neighbour Mr Baston who was an egg producer. Our Butcher was Mr Hickey , whose van came up to our house a couple of times a week , or we would go to the village for mince or stewing beef. 
Mother had a limited range of "dinners"and all included meat  or fish .Cauliflower Cheese and Macaroni cheese did feature occasionally as meals.
We had

  • a wonderful joint of meat or a fowl on a Sunday
  • reheated meat and gravy on Monday (Daddy hated this)
  • Minced meat on Tuesday if any joint left
  • Braised steak -her favourite for visitors, served with Yorkshire Pudding , as was mince
  • Corned beef hash occasionally
  • Hash on Ash Wednesday (about 4 oz beef in a huge stew with potatoes and carrots and swede, not thickened, eaten in bowl with Brown or Worcester sauce to make it palatable)
  • Fish often , Fish pie, or Smoked Haddock with an egg on top, Fried fish often , lots fish caught by Daddy in season (and when he actually came home with some), which had to be eaten immediately as we had no fridge  , Trout or Grayling fried whole .
Sunday lunches were mother's triumph . We three girls will never forget them , or our childhood Sundays. Church in village with Daddy , drink at Church Mount afterwards , Sunday lunch , sometimes with rows about how  Daddy carved, and a pudding a crumble or a pie.  After the washing-up a walk up the lane to Fewlass' farm ,watching the Skylarks and Yellow hammers as Mummy had a quiet sit at home . Obligatory and awful Sunday School fitted in too , but not sure when in the afternoon that came.

AS a header on this post is a treasure for me on this day when Mummy would have been 100 years old  . Typical Mummy literacy , she had Dyslexia we now realise, as could not spell well, lots of underlinings, her characteristically stylish and bold handwriting and the recipes she wrote in the note section of  her wedding present  book,  her Mothers recipe for Fudge or Tablet as its called in Scotland . I can't make any today girls, as I'm not going to Spar for non essential Condensed milk , but we may all think about it !!

*been thinking about Michael Gove on TV the other day , talking to Jo Public about supermarkets with Waitrose as his example. Mr Gove, most people DO NOT GO TO WAITROSE 

Wednesday, February 05, 2020

I will refuse ...


Not a Hokusai wave , but a Reuben Ronnie W. wave. I just love this doodle done in a trice by grandson 2 , using my ipad when they were staying here with us at the cottage as Mum and Dad were at a birthday party . I have to watch boys these days in a way so different from the way I minded them when they were small.  As capable , bright , well mannered teenagers they now quite enjoy chillin' out with the OLDS. ( I think ).That is because they are tired at the weekend. They leave for school every day before 7.30am , return after 4.30pm, and have parents who get them out in the fresh air for a walk  of some miles every day . So a weekend slob with the over 70s is just the thing occasionally , they watch unspeakable stuff on the TV , Catchphrase, Red Dwarf , Room 101and a cartoon so rude I blushed to watch it , though Zak did say the episode I  watched was very very rude. When they have gone home there is a trail to remember them by ;
  •  files and downloads on all my devices, 
  • cocoa powder under the microwave
  • sweet papers on the floor
  • nothing in the wastebin in their loft bedroom
  • the chairs moved around in the office
  • BEST OF ALL  the beds so carefully made up and aired have been unused and the spare beds slept in , and the carefully folded clean linen for making up slept over. I'm monitoring this now along with ensuring they have washed , and not slept in their clothes

Watching the news yesterday young people were talking about Smartphones and how all over 10s had them these days. I am remembering when spouse and I looked after the 2year old Reuben for 1 day a week . I was so tired by the afternoon I always responded positively to the plea 'puter Grandma' long before ipads and tablets , but small boy happily found  the then free Poisson Rouge * and scrolled around happily. So agreeing with the young people on the News yesterday , they cannot really function these days without the internet , sad but realistic. I simply can't remember the  last time I  used an Encylopaedia . The boys don't even type a search into a dialogue box , they just speak and ask Google .
Im living in a house where one fossil of the two refuses to have an email, asks the other but much younger fossil to repeat to him all the Whats App interaction on the family groups, All the family, Mum and children, Three sisters, Imogen , Alice, Benjamin . 

I'm repeatedly asked if I will just look something up, message someone on Facebook, check the name of the actress we've just seen on Talking Pictures to see if she's dead, and get him something on Amazon Prime .

I am about to refuse to do this. I'm not a PA .

* Just found this