Friday, 25 January 2013

Diggin' for Pretty Nostalgic

You all know how much of a fan I am of UK publication Pretty Nostalgic. It never fails to delight and interest me when it lands on my doormat every couple of months. I find myself ripping it open, flicking through and then saving it for a quiet evening when I can fully indulge in each and every page.

So, imagine the squeeeeeeel I let out when, back in November, I was asked to write a feature for issue 5. I had already been in conversation with their fab team about potential ideas and they thought I would be perfect to write a piece about gardening.

Which floored me slightly, as I have only a small balcony to my name. I live in the constant hope that I shall one day have a garden with space enough for beds and rows and lots of bamboo canes containing the fruits (and veg) of my labour. But, for now, I make do with pots and a window box.

Which, it turns out, can be made the most of with a little thought. My research lead me down the garden path to the past (doesn't it always?) and the advice of the 1940's. I researched and initially wrote a piece that had all the detail I wanted, but read more like a history lesson. It made me blow a raspberry at my laptop and reach for a cheering biscuit.

The deadline hurtled towards me, and at the 11th hour, I re-wrote the whole piece and fired it off, crossing fingers and toes that it would be a piece they could publish.

And, whaddya know? It's in the shops -  WH Smith is your best bet -  and available from them direct.

Enter more squuuueeeeeeeeeeeeling.

Thank you for all the comments and email's I have had about this piece. 
Warms the cockles, so it do.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Summery Bike Rides

Whilst we are under a blanket of snow in the UK -  although as I type, the sunshine in the South is doing a mighty fine job of melting it all away, I know my Northern chums are not so lucky - and as much as I really do adore Winter - I can sometimes struggle to recall what warmth from the sun feels like during these months.

It may have been the wettest Summer on record, but there were some glorious days sprinkled into the deluge. Encouraged by my Vintage Style Cycle a couple of months previous, with my own bike fully restored to peddling glory and with a new seat under my rump, I headed off for a nice cycle to Epsom Downs one day in late August last year.

I took with me a simple lunch, a bottle of water, a table cloth to sit on and a blank pad of paper in order to get some book ideas down.

I spent a glorious afternoon in solitude, munching on banana, rolling the occasional smoke and writing a lot more than I thought I could. The grass was warm and dry, the breeze was welcome, a few horses were saddled and sauntering. In the distance someone was flying a model Spitfire.

It was a wonderful memory that has warmed me upon this chilly day and one that encourages me to remember that the sun does come out, the snow melts and the rain dries.

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Poppy Weekend - Trenches of Death - Dixamunde

Although the New Yar might well be under way and here to stay -  there are still some bits and bobs from last year that I have not told you about.

One of them being my brief weekend trip over to Ieper, Belgium for Armistice Day on the 11th November.

We crammed so much into 2 days, it is only looking back over the photos that I realise the planning and effort my Pops puts into these trips. Ain't he grand!

The morning began cold and with a  I'm-sorry-HOW-early??? early start as we headed down to Dover to catch the ferry. I love taking the waves over to France. It does take longer, but I like thinking about Gramps making a very similar journey way back in 1917.

Due to us going not only in Autumn, but during the week, the ferry was blissfully quiet of rampaging, bored children. In their place were many, many silently smoking lorry drivers. Who eyed us suspiciously. We returned the favour.

Our obligatory fry up digested and fuelling us forwards, we headed to the Trenches of Death and it's accompanying museum. Such a beautiful surrounding for such a horrid sounding place.

Located in Dixmunde, they are some of the best preserved trench networks I have ever seen, and they really gave me an insight into how complex trench systems were and how basic life must have been.

The museum was empty -  having just been vacated by what felt like a whole school of German teenagers - and I felt slightly lacking in written detail. That said, it is a very small building, as the main feature is the vast trench system outside. 

Perhaps I am just too much of a wordy gal.

However -  there are some amazing artefacts from the Belgian soldiers who held this stretch alongside the River Yser for the duration of the conflict. Four, long, terrible years of attrition with German counterparts some times only 100 yards away on the opposite bank.

The weather was bleak, but sunny, so I decided to head off on my own for a little wander. When I say that the trenches are vast,  I mean it. With replica concrete sandbags and look out posts, the trench seemed to stretch on forever in front of me. I was soon far away from the noise of the teenagers exploring the dark short tunnels.  

All I could hear was the wind whistling through the dead poppies. I felt that the remnants of these Summer blooms were incredibly poignant. 

With that in mind and thinking about all the men who must have lived and died here, exactly where I was walking, imagine my surprise to round a corner and see, perched defiantly upon an outcrop, a hearty and very much alive, bunch of poppies.

Not to get too poetical about it, but I really felt moved by them and all alone in that trench, I have to confess, I became a little tearsome. I rolled and raised a smoke to those men and their memory and wondered what the rest of the day had in store.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

Twenty Thirteen

Hello and a very merry New Year you lovely lot - especially you twinkly new followers! Thank you all for choosing to spend time with little old me.

 We might only be 3 days in, but already I feel like I am used to this new year of ours. Somewhere deep down, I have a good feeling about it.

The rain that dogged the festive season cleared away on New Years Day and the sun shone forth. For the first time in near on a week, I felt like I wanted to go outside for a nice long walk. We headed up to Epsom Downs and stood gazing at the London skyline. With The Shard dominating on the right -  I know a lot of folk are not keen, but I really do like it a lot - and the tip of The Gherkin, now blotted out by new buildings.

That is time moving on, I guess. Five years ago,  I could clearly see the whole of The Gherkin. I had not really noticed the other structures creeping up in front of and around it.

There were so many people out walking, all greeting one another, walking their dogs, wearing out their children and enviably, riding horses. My passion for ponies does not abate. Maybe this year I shall get back up on that saddle. We shall see.

  I felt a little fragile after the night before (do not be fooled by supermarket own "spiced rum" and think to ourself, smuggly "I have saved myself £5" as you stand in the queue -  it'll strip your innards and leave you feeling like you were hit by a vanilla drenched bus), so dressed comfortably and bundled up in a very nice navy coat of thriftyness. I grabbed it as the last jumble sale I attended for 40p. I know. Forty pence. I feel I am an accomplished Jumble Boogie-er now. 

I wish I had worn boots once I got out on the whiley, windy moors Downs, for it was far colder that I had bargained for. Thankfully the pockets on this coat are deep and snuggly, plus I always get hot whilst walking anyway. It was not long before I felt like I was wearing a hot water bottle.

It felt good to be out, with the breeze of fresh air in our faces and we talked of what this new 21st century year may hold.

Good things in abundance and that the bad stuff can do one.

And so may it be for you!


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