Friday, 23 December 2011

Are you ready yet?

This is the question I hear whenever I venture out at this time of year.  And as I am an extremely disorganised person I am never ready, so I give a vague mumbly answer about 'IT' arriving whether or not we're ready. Then, I listen to the super organised person who asked the question tell me how they have been ready since the end of October, and you can guess how that makes me feel.

Yet the reason I delay is that I take pleasure in getting ready for Christmas in December. I like shopping as the nights draw in and the lights in the shops seem cheery and inviting. I enjoy meandering around the Christmas displays choosing presents and being so delighted when I spy just the thing.  Sometimes I make the posting deadlines and sometimes I don't, but either way friends near and far get a Christmas or at worse a New Years greeting.  We always put the tree up late, after the December birthday is out of the way and the birthday cards have been moved from the mantlepiece.

The advent calendar made at brownies.  Each numbered envelope contained a sweet and when turned over there was a letter to make up a famous Christmas saying.

The young Follies have been a great help this year and I have been able to delegate Christmas cake decoration and mince pie making.  They have enjoyed making paperchains and decorations in the weeks holiday from school.  We have an artificial Christmas tree due to allergies and asthma amongst many of the Follies, but this year there is not the space to put it up.  Yet it didn't feel right without the tree. So, yesterday 4 Follies and a Folly Friend made a dash to the DIY store where we found a blue tinsel tree and decorations all reduced. What fun choosing and colourmatching we had! 

The Christmas cake iced and decorated by Folly 3. It is the best decorated cake we have ever had!

And yes, the day before, the day before Christmas I am ready - and I think it is the earliest ever!
Local mistletoe bought just today from 2 young boys selling this from their garden in the village.

Monday, 21 November 2011

Room with a view

Or not as the case may be!

Four weeks into our 17 week project and the foundations have been laid, drainage dug and refilled and the ground floor walls built. So far no major hiccups but I probably shouldn't speak too soon on that one.  With progresss as swift as this it was time for the scaffolding to go up.  And so it did last week.

Now although the 4 Miss Follies had managed to play on the digger and dumper I found that these machines had disappeared off site before I got my turn and I was adamant this would not happen with the scaffolding.  So Saturday afternoon found me shimmying up the scaffold ladder (actually it was more of a painful easing with Mr Folly standing guard at the bottom of the ladder as I have quite a fear of heights).  It was fantastic seeing our garden and the fields beyond from such a vantage point and we positioned ourselves strategically to get a feel of the view from the bedroom windows.

not bad

quite pretty

oh dear

This will be the view from the side bedroom window - imagine when this lilac is in leaf!  We hadn't thought about this at all when planning the positioning of windows and there isn't really anything we can do apart from a little pruning I suppose.  Fortunately this room will be double aspect and so will have a view across the playing fields too and so there will be plenty of light.

I think scaffold climbing will now be curtailed as Mr Folly goes off on his work travels for the next few weeks and I don't want to encourage 4 Follies up to the heights.

Monday, 31 October 2011

I can't quite believe

  • that our building work has started.
  • just how many cups of tea I have made over the past week.
  • that my builder is called Bob (though he does not wear orange checkered shirts).
  • the sight of four girls on Sunday morning climbing on diggers and dumpers in their pyjamas.
  • exactly how our garden looked before this project began.
  • how quickly the holes and trenches appeared.
  • that I am already having to think about where to positon radiators and lights.
  • how long we managed to ponder over whether to reposition a door (and in the end didn't).
  • that every night Bob reconfigured pipes and electric to enable me to use my washing machine.
  • we have another 16 weeks to go (if things run to schedule).

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The calm before the storm

I got up early yesterday morning as I felt too restless to return to sleep. All was quiet and I was able to sit alone in the kitchen sipping my tea and thinking about the project that was about to begin ... 

... building an extension to the back of our home.  Our plan is to turn the old garages attached to the back of the house into an eat-in family area which will be knocked through into the kitchen.  Then the old outhouse will be turned into a study and a room over which there is dispute - dance room for some, home cinema for others and some have suggested a gym (though who would use that I am not sure)!  Above all this we will have 2 new bedrooms and one of our existing bedrooms will be turned into an additional bathroom. This will give Follies 1 and 2 a bedroom of there own whilst Follies 3 and 4 will share a large bedroom.

We have waited 18 months for this project, since moving into our hotchpotch house in the country.  I am certainly keen for work to start, yet I will be sad to no longer see the old and broken brickwork, the exposed rafters of the outhouse and the gaps and holes the reason for which have long been forgotten.  Mr Folly took photographs of the old place as we both know that once the new walls are up with a extra storey and new roof atop we will struggle to remember how our house used to look.

And so after my tea I take a wander amongst the aged building dating from the 1960's in part and the early 1900's in others. I say my goodbyes to the lives lived here before I arrived and prepare to face the onslaught of the day.

Thursday, 4 August 2011


I hadn't realised just how much I had got used to the sounds of the countryside.  Our summer sounds are usually a variety of birdsong (albeit at an early hour), evening cricketers with their subdued clapping and occassional shouts, children playing, and in my own garden the clucking of chickens.

one of the four chickens - Bonnie (I think)

8am the whirr of power tools started and now at 6.30pm all is back to normal.  The reason being that overlooking our fence are many tall leylandii which the parish council have decided must be brought to a more managable height.  Today was the day this feat was accomplished.

Poor Bess the dog was beside herself with anxiety and took to barking. I took her out on a long peaceful walk but we still had to return home.  I tried music on my I-pod to drown the sound, I tried going into competition working my sewing machine at full speed but nothing could defeat the drone.

I found myself unable to settle to list of tasks I had hoped to achieve today.  It is at distinct moments such as this today when I realise how I have gradually eased myself into this quieter country life and am now most comfortable here.

the newly chopped leylandii hedge

Monday, 1 August 2011


Finally the school holidays reach Hampshire.  I think we are the last county in Britain to break up but hopefully it follows we will be the last county to return in September.

Usually our holidays begin with a period of readjustment amongst the follies as we all get used to being home together.  This means we have about two days of arguments and resolution finding until we find our places, strategies and routines for days at home.  This year, however, has been different as immediately the holidays began we had activities planned.

Thursday and Friday was a tennis course and I did feel I had planned things to happen too soon as I had to wake up the follies and organise a packed lunch for them on their first day of freedom from routine.

This weekend we all went our seperate ways:
  • Mr Folly was off on a work trip to Ottawa Canada, although I am sure work will be punctuated with visits to our favourite haunts and friends from when we lived over there.
  • Folly 3 ventured into the New Forest with her friend on a family camping trip.
  • Follies 1 & 2 have been dropped off with grandparents in the Yorkshire Dales in preparation for a week long summer school in performing arts.
  • Folly 4 and I visited the other set of grandparents and spent a night in their caravan in the Yorkshire Dales before returning home.
Next weekend we all gather together again and I will be curious to see whether the adjustment amongst family members will occur or whether the time for us to explore our own space and interests will obliterate this need.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Quiet around here

After the hurly burly of half term it was time for the big send off for Folly 3 on her Year 6 residential to France. I have dutifully labelled clothes for every eventuality apart from snow and provided spares for the spares.  We saw her off on Sunday and my four young follies became three for one week.

It is always strange when one of the follies are missing as the dynamics among those left behind changes and there is a slight shifting of position.  The absence of folly 3 left folly 2 without a fighting mate so she moved to form a closer bond with folly 1 resulting in lots of sharing and conspiring between the two of them.  Folly 4 turned her attention away from the family and sought out friends from school who came back home for tea or were telephoned to make plans and plots together.

I found my week simplified somewhat as there was only two school runs to co-ordinate rather than the usual three.  There were several afterschool activities which could be forgotten and I didn't seem to be needed as referee quite as often. Things were quieter too and maybe our neighbours found that as well, for Folly 3 likes her music at volume.  However, there was a spirit missing. There was no-one to join me in the kitchen early in the morning as I made the lunches, no-one as eager to pop out with the dog to give her a run on the field.  There was no voice questioning my decisions and suggesting other ways I might have approached things.  There was no-one challenging my parenting in her own particular way and forcing me to question my handling of situations.

At times I felt guilty for enjoying a simplified life or for forgetting to think about what Folly 3 might be up to at any given moment.  Yet, now that she is home with her presents and tales of her exploits, I see my job more clearly.  I parent in order to send my children out into the world. I need to be confident that I have done my best to equip them not simply to cope, but to participate and delve in, able to make appropriate choices and evaluate risks.  I should not be continually thinking or worrying about my children for it is right that they and I should have our individual lives. I think back to my Montessori training and remember that our children are striving to be independent right from the beginnning.  Though I have no control over this vast and rapidly changing world, I can control how I prepare the follies to take on the challenges they will meet when they leave my side.  As they grow the follies will leave this home little by little until finally they have their own home and it is that they visit me.  So just as I enjoy the fun and chaos I will enjoy the quietness too and not feel bad about my own independence.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Best in show

Had a fun family morning during half term at a local dog show held in the grounds of an ice-cream parlour. It's hard to say whether it was the idea of ice creams on a hot sunny day or the chance to see cute puppies which attracted the follies most.

There was a list of possible categories Bess could be entered into and we managed to find 4 vaguely suitable so that each of the girls could take her for one event.  We started with waggiest tail which is hilarious considering Bess had her tail docked, but Folly 1 did the best she could to encourage the stump to wag. The dog next door did get a rosette so we felt pleased by association.  However, it was downhill from then on with the prizes (even for the dog next door). Each of the Follies took Bess into the ring (fenced area of grass) and led her round beautifully, they instructed her to sit and stay, and they answered questions from the judge but our dog was not up to the grade.  I just don't think we found the event most suited to a dog that puts up with this.

Sunday, 5 June 2011


After a lull of many years we find ourselves with invitations to a few weddings this spring and summer.  Of course just like the personalities of our friends and family they are very different in formality and occasion.  Today as a friend takes her vows and we are unable to join in their celebration I find myself thinking about these rites.  There is something extremely powerful about the moment in which two people willingly marry together.  I see such a sign of optimisim and hope whether in the pomp of a royal wedding, the intimacy of a family gathering, or in wedding photographs of those that we do not personally know.  I remember at my own wedding the strange feeling that everyone gathered at the church and reception was there sending love and good wishes to us. I think back to all those times we have attended weddings and feel so privileged to share in such a special moment. And so tonight as my friend and her new husband dance, eat and drink in celebration I send out my love to wish them a special future together.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Summer at the follies

The lack of rain and relatively warm temperatures here in the South indicated that summer was here and today we got the sunshine as well. It was gorgeous weather here in Hampshire and with the girls of the house currently home for half term holidays we were able to enjoy.  All friends from the previous days (and nights) sleepovers had left and all our appointments done, so today had a real holiday feel.

We put the splash pool up early in May thinking that we might have a repeat of last years hot weather.  There had been sporadic use especially from Folly 3 who loves the water, but today the girls were in and out all day.  We had synchronised swimming shows, handstand competitions and mermaid games.

   All our meals were outside today and after a full day of activity what better way to head into the evening than with a game of cards.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Yes or no?

I am embarrassed to admit that I always thought it would be a little thrilling to vote in a referendum.  I think it was the romantic in me thinking that there would be forceful debate about an issue we all cared about. Instead we find ourselves voting on whether to make a change about voting, and even the politicians are finding it hard to instigate intense debate.  I'm not sure that the 1975 referendum about staying in Europe faired any better in getting people motivated.

In respect to all the work of the suffragettes I always exercise my bitterly fought right to vote. Also, since we live next to the polling station excuses are somewhat limited. I do like to wait until 9.58pm though, just to make it seem worthwhile to keep the booths open until 10pm. 

So my excitable notions about a referendum have faded and I think the polling pole sums up the follies jaded feelings about politics just now.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Country mice visit the city

Mr Folly suggested the outing having himself watched that Fairytale wedding from a spot outside Buckingham Palace.  However, it was only in the last week that we convinced folly 4 that she would not actually have a prime seat in the abbey itself and would not be able to throw confetti on the bride.

Flags purchased, faces painted and picnic made we set off on the train from Winchester. We met other families on the train and the party atmosphere started here.  We are indebted to the family who lent us blue facepaint enabling the red stars on faces to be turned into union flags.

Organisation of trains and tube was amazing with instructions being put out over speakers and plenty of staff around to ask questions.  Mr F took charge as leader of the group and navigated us towards Pall Mall and we found ourselves outside Clarence House gates.  Here the follies discovered the magical properties of periscopes and managed to see Princes William and Harry leaving for the Abbey.  Follies 1 & 2 wriggled their way to a good spot and reported back to the crowd on the colour of the Queens outfit and details of the first glimpse of THE DRESS.

We ate our picnic during the marriage service, interrupting sandwich chewing for the big cheer as William and Kate were pronounced husband and wife.  Jerusalem was accompanied by not only flag waving but also crisp crunching, though more decorum was shown by us all for the national anthem.

By this point we had secured a length of railing running along the edge of St James Park behind the crowds at the edge of the Mall and all 4 Follies could stand on this railing holding onto Mr & Mrs Folly shoulders.  A perfect view for them but sadly it did mean that Mr & Mrs had to rely solely on the things they thought worthy of report. They really enjoyed seeing the little bridesmaids chattering and waving.

Once the procession was over the surge up the Mall began and this is where the country mice began to feel a little overwhelmed as confident older 2 follies strode into the throng while the younger 2 clung to parental trouser pockets. Pressing closer and closer to strangers did not feel comfortable to those girls used to wide open personal spaces and eventually we decided to give up on the chance to see the balcony scene and return home to try and catch glimpses of ourselves on tv.

Once home we immediately watched the tv coverage and so with camera images mingling into those watched for real we all began to believe we had that seat in the abbey - if only we had remembered to bring the confetti.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

The portuguese inventor

The first morning there was excitement in the air as Mario was keen for us to see his new invention for the mass turning of 600 bottles of wine and we were equally interested to see how this would be done.


Mario has created a beautiful sculpture like piece of equipment which enables him to turn a cage of 600 bottles in one go rather than having to pick each bottle up individually to turn.

We were not as quite as confident as Mario and thought perhaps experimenting with 600 bottles initially might be a little precipitous, but we needn’t have worried as everything worked perfectly.

Mario explained how he is always thinking of ways which might improve the wine or provide an interesting story for those who buy and drink Negreiros wine.  The marketing of wine from a small producer needs to be innovative and the stories Mario relates through blogs, pictures and video invite the wine drinker to take that initial taste.

Later in the day we learnt about  Mario’s impending trial of storing bottles under water to maintain a constant temperature. In order to do this the corks in all the wine bottles need to be sealed to protect them from the water.  This is done by dipping the neck of the bottle into wax and Mario encouraged us to take part in the dipping process.

It will be great to taste this wine in years to come and compare the flavour - who knows it could be the very bottles we sealed.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Portuguese chronicles

Mario Negreiros, our host for the weekend drove the car over the brow of the hill and
announced ‘Quinta das Amendoeiras’. From the hilltop we looked out across the valley to the Negreiros family vineyard and winery.

Through the darkening sky of dusk we could see miles of terraces cut into the hillside and the spiky silhouettes of the four vine varieties used in the Negreiros wines - Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Barroca and Tinta Roriz .

It then took some time for the car to descend the hill, follow
the curve of the land and turn into the roadway to la quinta. Eager to get some sense of the land in which we were staying, we walked to an area of olive groves, but with the light rapidly disappearing we were unable to appreciate the landscape surrounding us.

Having been shown our room it was time for something to eat and our first taste of a wine grown and produced on the very soil we were standing.

This was a perfect start to our weekend of tasting, particularly when eaten with our bacalhau (codfish). Here we also had the first taste of Mario’s wonderful storytelling.

He related heroic and funny tales of the expeditions taken long ago by Portuguese fishermen. He moved on to the history of the Douro region and finally his own family story. Mario explained how grapes grown by his grandfather were sold to make Port for the company Cockburns, how the winery became almost a ruin and how Mario made the decision to rebuild fusing old and new winemaking techniques.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

March Resolutions

Yes a strange month to make resolutions, but I think it is needed with so many posts unwritten over the past few months. 

I have found February a hard month in which to find fun. The days seemed dark and signs of spring hard to find.  However the last few days have been good and as our half term day out show signs of light, spring and blue sky do abound

                                         Corfe Castle