Saturday, December 14, 2013

Gas mask required...

They say that life gets in the way of things, but in truth it has been death that has stopped me blogging for so long. I love doing my blog and I really appreciate all the comments and (nagging) emails when I don't update my blog often enough :0) however, the past few months have had their ups and downs.  Mainly family related with a couple of relatives causing problems that I won't go into.  

Just for the record, I am absolutely fine.  I can't tell you how much I miss giving Mum a call and just chatting to her, but I need to stop talking about that before I start welling up.  You've all waited long enough and a tear splattered ipad isn't going to help me publish a post!  Yes, I have finally worked out how to write/post from my ipad (so no more excuses),  even though the layout is a bit weird on here, I'm trying! 

As usual there is always some kind of drama happening at Bramble Cottage, but nothing too sinister and nothing that a few strongly worded emails to a door and window company won't sort out. Eventually. 

So, here we are in December! My favourite month.  Been busy doing craft fairs and steaming what seems like hundreds of Christmas puddings! All have now been dropped off/posted/delivered.... trouble is, I have even sold the one I made for me, so it looks like I'll have to buy one. 

Bento box madness has arrived at Bramble is the only reason I actually look forward to going to work. 

Talking of work, it is hideous at the moment.  The atmosphere is worse than a hog roast at a vegan convention. I can't say too much, but I have taken a paycut decided by a group of people on a different pay structure to me.  The company Gestapo are probably monitoring this (paranoid? Me??) but I am just so angry.  Changes came into effect on the 1st of November, which means my November allowances (paid at the end of December) are a couple of hundred pounds a month down!  Happy Christmas Christian!  Now I have said too much.  Will have to go out in headscarf and dark glasses now.  Anyway, work is work and it keeps Bramble Cottage warm.  I've only got 6 more days on from Monday and then I'm off until after Christmas.

I have been having a bit of a saga with a window and door company.  They have so far been here FIVE times and my windows and front door still aren't fixed.  Things are looking better though and the kitchen is like a sauna now.  I needed a new lintel above one of the kitchen windows and a large chunk of wall collapsed.  All fixed now with Flint and lime mortar, several cups of tea (for the builders who pulled the window company out of the shit) and numerous calls to the MD. 

I have been assured the mortar will fade! 

Just the windows to be painted white, the kitchen needs a touch of re plastering due to damage, the front door painted green, locks changed, new letter box and something sorted out about the gale blowing under the new oak door.  

I found this picture of Milo the wonder dog when he first arrived from Ireland, before he went to the foster carers.  Look how small he was.  

..and him having a nap on my bench! 

It's blowing a gale out there tonight, so the fire's been lit, slobby gear on, Furface walked and currently snoring on the sofa next to me, doing little barks in his sleep and the odd fart. Bless him. He isn't actually allowed on the sofa, but I am weak when I see those big brown eyes looking up at me.  He has been such a comfort to me (and Dad), just a great friend when you fancy a cuddle.  Even though his farts are like napalm. 

Time to head off to bed now, but it will be back soon.

C x x x

p.s I had to email this post to my Macbook as it wouldn't post from my ipad!!  Any bloggers know what error 403 means? 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The kindness of Strangers

Afternoon everyone.

I'll start with the news that has changed my life.  A few weeks ago my Mum started getting really tired. it got to the point where she was so exhausted that she had to go into hospital.  Numerous tests were carried out, as her liver stopped working and her kidneys were failing.  She became jaundiced as her liver was not processing any toxins and she started to get weaker and weaker.  The Doctors were stumped, but did so many tests, scans etc and they all came back negative.

On Saturday the 10th of August they did a liver biopsy to see what might be wrong.  My Mum died in Intensive care on Sunday 11th August with us all around her.  We received the results of the biopsy 3 days later, confirming that her breast cancer (that she had received the 5 year all ok for, 4 months earlier) had spread to her liver.  There were no cancer markers in her blood and nothing came back showing that this dreadful disease was back.  But she knew it was, as did we.

My Mum was so brave, and as I sit here typing this, tears are running down my cheeks, I realise just how much she cared for us all.  She knew that things weren't right, weeks before the blood tests started and she was taken into hospital.  Like all Mums they protect their family.  A rock, always there for support.  Not wanting to worry her children.

The Sunday that we spent in ICU - in the special relatives room, was so hard.  I kept having to go outside to the car park to get a mobile reception to keep my Uncle and her best friend updated. When I came back, I had a chat with the Doctor and he told me that Mum was fading fast and it wouldn't be long until she left us.

The funeral was on Thursday the 22nd August and I even managed to read a eulogy that I had written.  My voice cracked on the last word, but I think she would have been proud of me.

Everyone has been wonderful since the funeral.  The staff where we held the 'wake' (hate that word), were lovely, setting everything up for us.  Waitrose (obviously) delivered the sandwiches and I made a few little posies for the tables to cheer things up a bit.

We set up a just giving page for Cancer Research UK, as we feel that the research done gave Mum an extra 5 years with us. :0)

Mum's just giving page

I will miss her so much, but at least I was able to tell her I loved her and we were all there with her when she died.

I will be back with happier tales soon.  I promise.  However at the moment I need a bit of time to come to terms with things, look after my Dad, Brother and Milo the Wonder Dog of course!  Here is a picture of him, snoozing on the new bench in my court yard.

C x x x

Thursday, July 04, 2013

The menagerie is growing....

Forgive me Father for I have sinned.  It is nearly 2 months since my last blog post.  

I couldn't stand the emails and comments you guys were leaving!  I'M BACK, ok? ;0) 

Been a busy time here (again) 2 months, I have lost 1.5 stone, given up smoking and cured my hay fever.  Ok, so only one of those is true.  

I bought local honey in the garden centre and am taking a teaspoon a day.  Every morning I retch at the thought and swallow a small amount in a vain attempt to get the pollen in my system.  3 days on and it is definitely doing something (apart from causing diabetes).  It could just be that it has been cooler and windier, but I am sticking with it for now.  

On to the new arrivals at Bramble Cottage!  Meet Myrtle (light Sussex) and Oona (Calder Ranger).  I kept them separate from Agnes, Cornelia and Pru for a couple of weeks, but they are all together now with minimal squabbles.  Saying that, Chief Bully Cornelia is currently broody and in a foul mood, so will have a go when ever she decides to lift her behind off the nest.  

The Wonder dog has been completely obsessed with the new hens.  Howling and whining to see them.  Am guessing it is the new smell and bite sized portions, as they are a fair bit smaller than my other 3.  Here he is, 'just watching'.....

After 14 months of near perfect behaviour - apart from selective deafness - Little Furface decided to nip my old neighbour who was putting up the fence!  Admittedly, he was on a sensory overload week, what with new hens, hammering, sawing and general noise, but I wasn't happy about it.  He and I go to a school on a Monday night, not Higher Maths, for problem dogs.  3 weeks so far and things are going well.  His recall is better and when I see the other dogs biting their owners, howling at people and generally acting appallingly, I really haven't got much to worry about. 

......relaxing in my Niece's chair....hard life isn't it Milo?

Work is now finished on my new fence in the courtyard garden that I'm not sure I have mentioned before?  It is a small area off the lounge that was a bit of a mess. Mainly due to my neighbours complete lack of cleanliness.  They kept their 2 dogs next to the area and it was covered in god only knows what and overgrown with weeds.  The dogs have now been rehomed and a 5' fence and trellis put up, so I can use the area.  It's a real sun trap, the only down side is that next door's kitchen window faces onto the area, but I can tuck myself away in the corner and not be seen!    

You like my attempt at a Country Living magazine picture? 

 A neighbour that I have started dog walking with, was having a bake sale at work to raise money for Charity.  Out came the scales and cooling racks and i whipped up a batch of hobnobs.  It has been a while since I made them, but they went down a treat.  The neighbour said that one woman asked for another batch when I get a chance *watchoutMcvities

 ..And on to the conservatory (why are they now called Orangeries)?? Never, I repeat never, paint a white wall red.  It will need 37 coats until you cover every last square centimetre of white!!  However, it is now done and i love it.  Heritage Red from Farrow & Ball and it looks lovely and warm.  Remind me of that fact when I am freezing my bits off in January....

The table was from Snooper's Bazaar down the road.  They changed the top to sanded scaffolding boards and put drawers in for me!  It is lovely and a perfect fit.  I have even made a space for MWD underneath as he likes to rest his chin on my foot.

Now I believe I have mentioned my (undiagnosed) OCD before?  I don't think I am at all like that, but the following pictures won't help my cause.  Bento boxes are a Japanese idea.  You cram the shallow boxes full of food, so nothing moves and I love them! I ordered a box from ebay and - can't believe I am writing this - actually looking forward to going to work, so I can make a packed lunch!  *ShockingIknow

 The little compartments are silicone cup cake moulds.  Twee but adorable.

 So, the jury is out.  OCD nut job or a healthy lunch?  Answers on a postcard please.

 I really need to go to bed.  Back to work tomorrow and need to be up at 6am (it's now 23.39)!! But one last picture before I go.  Great idea and will be on the lookout for funnels now!

Night night All!

C x x x

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Those pesky dangly bits....not what you're thinking...

Hello after a long break. I'm sorry.

Things have been a bit chaotic in Christian's world of late. Mainly work, illness, work, illness and antibiotics.

It all started when I fell out of bed in Budapest. (Wouldn't that be a cracking line to start a book)?? Reaching for my cigarettes whilst in bed with David Attenborough, (on my ipad before the tabloids get ideas), I misjudged where the edge was and fell out! Cue lower back pain (same place as always) and me reaching in a frantic panic for the pain killers. Off to Dublin the following day and that's when the pain really kicked in. Flew home and had to explain why I couldn't possibly go to Aberdeen and back.

I was even in too much pain to pick up Milo, so he spent another few days at Mum and Dad's. Through gritted teeth I whizzed around Sainburys to get essentials as the home cupboard was bare. Milk, bread, chocolate, nurofen, paracetamol, chocolate and some medicinal chocolate. Oh, and chocolate. Went to bed with a sore throat just to make things worse.

Next day, woke up, reached for the paracetamol and nurofen breakfast cocktail and realised I couldn't really swallow. Tonsillitis. Great. Now, my local Doctor's surgery is great. The longest I have waited for an appointment is 3 hours. The benefits of living out in the country. I called and was told the Doctor would call me to decide if I needed an appointment. Strange, I thought, but ok. Doctor called 3 hours later. Doctor Frobble. I kid you not. A 'Carry on Doctor', I'm convinced of it. In his opinion, it was a virus and did not warrant penicillin. I would be fine in 5 days.

It is at this point that I need to explain that I am somewhat of an expert when it comes to tonsils. Apparently, it's a Taurean thing. Weak throats (along with a weight problem, so spot on there). I have had it 12 times in 18 years, so think I know a tad more than a Locum doctor, with a silly name who hasn't read my notes.

3 days later with a more or less liquid diet, apart from the pain killers, a back that kept cramping, I started to lose it. I drove to Mum's and picked up Milo, just to give me something to do. It had the added benefit of getting me out of the house, as I had to walk him.
Time to call the doctor back as I was feeling worse. To cut a very long story short, (not doing very well at that so far), he agreed to give me penicillin there and then.

Offering to come down to the surgery and cough a tonsil up on his desk had nothing to do with it.

Within 2 days all was much better again and I cracked on with dog walking, pottering, garden and general stuff at Bramble Cottage.

Back to work and the throat started playing up again....tighter than before and lower down. A voice like the love child of Barry White and Bonnie Tyler. I made it through the last few days and went back to the Doctor.

Laryngitis. Cracking, just what I needed.

'Just rest your voice and drink plenty of fluids'.

Marvellous. For those of you that don't know me, I am a quiet little mouse who rarely speaks up. *cough* so not too much of a problem. (He lied). He did give me penicillin for emergencies as he noted on my file that I am prone to tonsillitis. Well done that man!

So here i am in Basel, Switzerland. Got here yesterday afternoon and am due back at the crack of sparrows tomorrow. I packed my gym gear on the off chance that a fit of madness would tempt me and it did. Once again, for those of you that don't know me, I hope I am conjuring up visions of a toned Adonis, with abs you could grate cheese on. Just go with that thought for now. A warm up, 30 minutes of running, cool down, water, Marlboro gold and some stretching and I hope I can walk in the morning.

You might have noticed that there aren't any pictures with this post. Let me explain. I bought an iPad and I love it. It is so much easier that lugging my MacBook around Europe. However, I haven't figured out how to add pictures to my posts......I am officially technologically retarded.

I will post pictures on my next blog, when I get home. Loads of great pics, namely of my new lunch box (not in any way connected with the title of this post). Bentos are all the rage in Japan and I am loving the shallow boxes that you pack really tightly to stop everything moving around! I am going to try and put a picture on now. No idea where it will end up on this page.......Nope, bugger. Not there....oh well, you'll have to wait a bit longer for that.

Elsbeth, my oldest hen sadly passed away at the weekend. She had been slowing down for a week or so and went to the coop in the sky on Saturday. She was the feisty one, who rugby tackled her way to the spinach and chard, and was respected by my little flock :0( My lovely neighbour found her and took her out of the run. Glad I didn't have to do it. She will be missed.

I really should get a couple more hens as Pru is 6 1/2, Agnes and Cornelia are 4 1/2. Just not looking forward to the introductions. Glad that I had an extra panel built when the walk in run was put up. I can now separate them for the first couple of weeks until they get used to each other. After that, my trusty broom will stop any chicken squabbles......

Time to have a soak in the bath to ease my weary (incredibly toned) muscles before the cramp sets in.

C x x x

Monday, March 18, 2013

Baby face..

Hello everybody!

2 weeks off now which means I have time to write.  Being somewhat of a perfectionist (who me)?? I find it really difficult to write all the time, sometimes it won't just pop into my head and flow naturally.  You have no idea how many blog posts I start then delete....and now that I sometimes (!) go on Facebook, I  don't want to repeat myself.

Anyway, all is well at Bramble Cottage.  Apart from an empty oil tank, non existent log pile and a dodgy back that is.

I spent a few days in Germany, at my Parent's house up in the mountains.  Milo came too and we used his passport for the first time.  Dead easy and we'll definitely do it again.  Lots of long breakfasts, walks, dinners out and weight gain, but nice to get away.

The Village isn't that big, but has the most essential shop; a bakery!  Fresh rolls are a must for breakfast, loaded with meat, cheeses and washed down with plenty of tea.  I find it hard to eat first thing usually, but it didn't take much arm twisting in Germany.

The views all around are stunning, but Mum and I (well Mum) thought it best to leave Milo on his lead.  He isn't renowned for returning on command (or at any time really) and with wild boar in the woods, it was probably best.

A view of the top of the village.

One thing I have noticed is that country folk 'make do and mend'.  A prime example are the steps down to Mum and Dad's cellar.  An old metal water pipe has been used as a hand rail!  

I saw this when out walking Milo; Why spend money on wooden post caps when you can nail an old tin on instead?? 

Something else I saw, was beautifully stacked wood.  Not high on most peoples holiday photos list, but I am slightly obsessed by wood. Serious log envy.  It puts my 7 logs to shame. 

(This picture did involve some curtain twitching by the owner). 

Today started out dry, so I dashed to Danebury Hill fort with Milo and walked him for a couple of hours.  Once he was dried off and safely tucked up in bed, I headed to the local garden centre for compost, farmyard manure and a few terracotta pots to replace the ones broken over winter.  
Spurned on by the dry sky, I dug over all the raised beds and replanted the spinach and chard that had made it through winter.  This will be for the hens all summer/winter and maybe a bit for me.  Don't you all have a separate bed for your hens' food??? 

I love getting my hands in fresh compost.  Maybe it's just me (probably) but it 'feels' nice to start a bed off with fresh compost, breaking up the lumps and making it level (OCD).  Ah, just need to work out what to sow this year....

So having lifted 3 bags of compost, 1 of manure and several tub trugs of weeds and crap from the garden, I can safely say that my back is knackered again.  Not bad enough to stop me seeking comfort in a Cadburys creme egg that had somehow managed to get wedged between the fridge and the wall.  I got that sucker out though!  Hot bath and lots of drugs later. 

The past two weeks I have worked like a dog.  Well, for me anyway.  6 days on, 2 off, followed by a 7 day block.   I was hanging by the end of it.  It was worth it though as I am now off until the 28th and just hoping for a bit of good weather.  Dog walking in monsoon conditions isn't fun.  Milo doesn't even fuss when I dry off each paw, every time we come in the house.  

A couple of weeks ago I noticed that Pru and Agnes's combs were starting to turn red again after the long winter break.  So far, all have started laying again, except Elsbeth.  She is the oldest I think at 6 1/2 with Pru a close second.  Agnes is laying like a trooper and I've had 6 eggs from her in 7 days (plus 4 that my neighbour pinched when I was at work and he was looking after them).  Plus one egg from Cornelia who will probably lay 2 more then go broody for the summer...

It won't be long before I start putting the old wicker basket outside the front door with 'eggs for sale'!

Earlier this week I was asked for ID in Sainsburys *faints in shock* I bought a bottle of red wine (not for me, I have plenty of addictions, but vin rouge isn't one of them) and the cashier said that anyone that looked under 25 (really???) had to show ID.  I said that I would give her ID if she let me stroke her guide dog.

It seems my skin care regime of Marlboro Gold, PG tips and Aldi Q10 face cream (yes really, it's dead good), is paying off.  Either that or she was having a bet with the other cashier?

Time for a quick walk with Furface and then dinner.

Bye bye all!

C x x x

Friday, February 08, 2013

A Dream come true...

I have met many of the greats working on flights.  Dame Shirley Bassey, Victoria Beckham (nice, but not that great) and even that Woman from the OXO ads, Linda Bellingham.  Today however was one of those moments, that you see someone and do a little wee in your pants. Ok, too much information, but you catch my drift.

Walking down the cabin on a Geneva flight this morning, I stop and stare.  Miss Kirsty 'turn a jumper into a vintage hot water bottle cover' Allsopp is sat in the last row of Business class.  To say I was moist with excitement is an understatement.  It was too good an opportunity to miss.  I LOVE KIRSTIE and had to tell her so.

I can honestly say that she is lovely.  We chatted about hens and my rescue terrier!  What a fantastic lady!

Now, you remember the wartime quilt I started in this post? Well, It is too small!  I love it, but it needs to be bigger, seeing as Bramble cottage has no proper heating, I am freezing my bits off most nights and a family of polar bears are thinking of moving in!

So I look through my tiny *cough* fabric stash and realise I don't have enough of the fabrics I need.  Typical.  Great that I can go fabric hunting all over Europe, but not so good when the shop is in Stockholm and you aren't going in the foreseeable future!  Bugger.  So, nothing else for it.  Unpick the odd squares from the HANDSEWN quilt (unpicking is my most loathed job, next to cleaning the oven) and substitute it for new fabric.

Going well so far and I realised that Margery the sewing machine has been neglected of late.  So lovely to sew a few pockets upstairs, then head to the lounge, light the fire and stuff said pockets and hand sew them together.  With a snoring, farting terrier serenading me from his basket.  My life is just crazy.

I am waiting for my lovely carpenter to come round and sort out shelving in my spare room.  The craft bits are becoming hazardous, to the point that an avalanche is imminent.  Due to the mess, I have temporarily misplaced my camera, but have found a couple of pics I love.  Upcycling or whatever it is called!

Desperate to find an old rake now -

...and I have the perfect place for these old tin can tea light holders.....

I am in Copenhagen now and really need to go to bed.   Late shifts kill me as I am used to being in PJs by 8pm, not serving drinks at 37,000 feet.  However, it does mean that I can head to Stof 2000, my favourite fabric shop in Scandiland.  

Before I go, I just need to say that if you are heading down to Meadowbank Miss Allsopp, I am just a slight detour off the A303!  Hot scones and home made jam a plenty!  Plus you will get to meet Milo the wonder dog! 

C x x x 

Monday, January 21, 2013


Good evening everyone!

Back again after a blog break.  To be fair, after the last entry which was far too personal, I feared I may lose some of my loyal readers.  Is honestly a good thing?  Hmm, will think about that one as still debating the 'delete' button for that entry.  Seeing as I am the number 2 hit on Google when you type in 'Christian's blog', it can't be all bad.  New year and work, (well a bit of work, don't like to over do it), got in the way of Blogland, then snow (yippee) but am off for a week, so time to write.
(You will be pleased to hear that the results came back negative, so Thank you for that valuable life experience Doctor!  Something I do not wish to repeat).

One of the last things I made before Christmas festivities hit, was a double batch of pistachio fudge.  A friend ordered 5 bags, so I got my trusty Nigella book out and made a mountain of the stuff.  2 hours later and waking up dribbling on the kitchen floor from a sugar induced coma, it was bagged up ready for collection.

The big news (well to me anyway; not much happens in my village) is my new bathroom windows.  I still hate the bathroom, with it's corner bath, bidet (I mean really, why?) and awful tiles, but the wooden aqua-marine-blue wooden windows are now gone.  Replaced with UPVC (as it is the new part of the house) and they have made a huge difference to the temperature of my bathroom.  Water no longer turns to ice on my nipples as I step out of the shower - see, done it again!  Personal stuff!!

Milo has now chosen to sleep downstairs at night.  Not sure if my snoring keeps him up, but, surprisingly, I am missing his mini barks and whimpers when he dreams.  Every so often he will come upstairs when I go to bed, which then involves me coming down again to get his big basket.  He has a bed at the top of the stairs, but that is for 'power naps', not proper sleep apparently.  (He didn't tell me that, I am just surmising)!

He does like to wake me up every morning.  Now, if you have never been woken by a terrier tongue licking your armpit, you aren't missing much.  However, that is preferable to opening your eyes and having a furry face millimetres from your face.  Just staring.  I have actually screamed on several occasions.  

He was at Mum and Dad's for a week as I had a busy roster and I missed the daily walks, as did my body.  After a week of driving to the airport every day, living on crappy food and no exercise, plus the stress of my annual check, my work waistcoat was noticeably, erm, more snug.  

There is no improvement to his recall. I wouldn't say it is worse, but no better. I know he will come back, but it is becoming a game of 'where's Milo'? This is the wood where I like to walk him.  Can you spot him in the distance?  No?  Me either.  That is because when I finished taking pictures, he was sat behind me. He is like a stealth canine.  

When the snow hit on Friday, I couldn't wait to get out and walk him.  I took a Thermos of tea with me just in case I twisted my ankle and had to wait for help.  Sad, but you never know, it is quite remote where I walk him and my organisation and planning skills do well when the country heads for meltdown mode.  Not quite sure how my Elmo flask would have helped, but the thought was there. 

This picture was taken in the same place as the one above.  It was so magical walking around the woods. I almost expected to bump into Mr Tumnus...

We walked for nearly 2 hours and then decided to head back.  For some reason I came home a different way, then realised the road was flooded.  It was a small stream that had burst it's banks and was flowing quite quickly across the road.  It was at this point I discovered a hole in my welly. 

And a hydrophobic dog.  

Cue me, wading through the stream, holding a wiggling mutt with a welly rapidly filling with ice cold water.  Then another mile and a half walk home.  

Once home a quick towel dry and he was happy again.  I lit the fire and thawed my frozen foot out.  Milo got a marrow bone (with a tea towel to save the rug) and was very content.  I love this picture of him.  

The hens aren't too chuffed with the snow.  I did put up extra shades to try and stop the snow getting in the run, which seemed to work out well.  The snow was around 6-7" deep when it finally stopped, (I used a tape measure, so no comments about men please) so the roof of the run was completely covered and dark.  They didn't come out of the coop until 10 on Friday morning!  Still no eggs, but moulting is over and they seem ok.  The run needs a thorough-backbreaking clean out this week and then the countdown for eggs in February I hope! 

I bought an electric cigarette a few weeks ago.  Seems pretty good and was helping me cut down, until I threw it out of the window on the M3.  Yes, I actually did that, much to the hilarity of my Facebook friends.  Have since ordered a new one online and loving it!

I planned for an early night tonight, but the lure of a good film, fire roaring, freezing cold bedroom and a box of dark chocolate Lindor has kept me up.  I'm a sucker for Lindor.  In fairness, any cocoa based confectionary will do.  *Ignore previous comment about waistcoat* 

Time for bed, but will leave you with a picture of Furface with one of his favourite treats, a carrot.  He has now developed OCD and will head straight for the tea towel on the rug. I've trained him well....

C x x x