You are currently browsing the monthly archive for January 2009.


I saw these daffs peeking through when Sparky and I went on Caulms Wood earlier this week.


Then came the lambs’ tails on the hazel, with their tiny red/ pink flowers at the top of each ‘tail’.


Lovely fluffy pussy willow.


Heather and budding rhododendrons on the open slope. I know rhododendrons are a pestilence in English woodland, but when they’re kept under control the flowers do make a striking addition to the landscape.


Lindt chocolate bunnies have also come out of hibernation.



A freshly ploughed field is a beautiful thing. A bitch to walk across, if you have to go that way, but fortunately on this day the path ran up the field the other side of the hedge so I could stroll along, admiring the turned earth and the way the sun glistened across the ridges and furrows. Then, if I turned to my left, I could admire the grassland.


I tried to take a pic of Sparky and Willis playfighting on the turf, but they kept running out of shot. Here they are silhoutted on another edge of the wood.


Yesterday I had an all day meeting in London. “Do you get paid for this?” my husband asked hopefully. No, it was another of those volunteer things I keep putting my hand up for. However my travel expenses are covered, and trips to London give me the chance to do things like see my uni friend Bella and nosy around my favourite bookshops undisturbed, so there are fringe benefits.

I looked at the time the meeting was due to start, looked at the train times and commute across London, and begged a bed from Bella. Bought my advance tickets online and, wonder of wonders, found that on the way down I could get a first class ticket cheaper than standard class. Yahay!

First problem: I forgot to print out the booking code which would allow me to collect my tickets from the station, and consequently had to buy another fricking ticket!  The man in the ticket office tried to get it for me, but the system wouldn’t let him in. I spent 10 mins on the phone to Third-and-final son (the only one at home) as he combed my email account looking for the code, but no joy. I spent the journey (in standard class) in mourning for my first class seat, and listening to the girl sitting next to me sniffing (I was going to offer her a tissue but then she started pulling her hair in front of her face so I assumed she was using that). When m’husband got home he had another look and finally found the email with the booking code – in a file I had created specially, labelled ‘orders and bookings’, and then promptly forgotten about.

Second problem: Had a comfortable night in Kentish Town with Bella, then pushed and shoved my way on to a sweaty and absolutely packed commuter train to get over to west London in time for the meeting. I made it in excellent time, only to be told that the meeting wasn’t being held at head office, but in a building near Euston Station! I could have bloody well walked there if I’d received the freaking email. So had to hustle to the tube station and still turned up late.

Third bad thing: Murder One is closing at the end of this month. Yah boo sucks. I bought a book but they didn’t have nearly as much stock as usual, understandably. However I rediscovered the Waterstones behind the British Museum and that has an excellent sf/ fantasy section, so I shall be spending more time there in future.

The journey home: No one turned up to use the reserved seat next to me, so I could spread out. However I did have to listen to the phone conversation of the man sitting behind me. He was calling his mother (which he did every day, apparently). He sounded like he was in his early 20s, informed her he had been to the toilet, and then gave a very drawn out account of how he had spotted this footballer in WHSmith’s and had stalked him around the shop until he found the courage to ask if he could take his photo.

I usually love my train trips to London. This one wasn’t quite up to standard.

The sun is shining, and as I scratted round in the big field trying to find Sparky’s ball-on-a-rope I could swear I could smell the clover growing. The season has definitely got a turned-towards-spring feel. Which means we’ll have a big freeze tomorrow.

Must go and sort out my seed collection. I have volunteered to assist SarahP with her allotment, seeing as she has a new baby and all. I wanted my own allotment, but as soon as I mention it m’husband groans and mutters about all the things that need doing around the house and garden. Maybe next year. Or maybe I could get one next door to SarahP’s and we could have chickens and vegetables!


I took this pic of the rhubarb in the back garden last year, in February. Not long to go before this year’s shoots should be appearing. Which reminds me, I was going to dig it out and manure the bed before replanting. I think I need to add some tidying up the garden tasks to my To Do list.

I think I need a better description to go with ‘Stroppy Brunette’s Stuff’. ‘People’ and ‘places’ – well, they happen, but ‘psychology’ seems to have mainly consisted of me whinging about my research project. I thought of these:

Stroppy Brunette’s Stuff: Diary of a Dogwalker

Stroppy Brunette’s Stuff: Always Under the Weather

I like the weather idea because I am soooo preoccupied with it. I am English, after all. But under the weather sounds like I’m even more miserable than in reality so… any other suggestions welcome. My sibs would probably support this one:

Stroppy Brunette’s Stuff: Way too much thinking going on

As they all complain that I think too much, even though they vary between not thinking enough and thinking as much as, if not more than, me.

I shall have to keep thinking about this strapline business. In the meantime, here are a few pics to support the first two suggestions:


Hazy winter sunshine, taken from the ruins of Howley Hall, last week. I, along with most other Brits, forget how far north our little island is. We take our temperate climate and the seasonal variations in daylight entirely for granted, then I talk to US friends who, despite living much further south, are shivering in winter temps of -40 degrees Fahrenheit. Thank heaven for the Gulf Stream.


Sparky sniffing round the ruins of Howley Hall. Nice place to go for a walk – it’s high up on the hill, so nice and bright in nearly all weathers. The only problem is in the winter when, as seen above, the sun is so low as to somewhat obscure your enjoyment of the view.


Sparky in the sun. I don’t know what I’d do without my beautiful dog. She gets me outside no matter what the weather or my mood, and she’s so happy to be out that her mood is contagious.


I made birthday cakes for firstborn and third-and-final-son, who share a birthday. Malteser cake for third-and-final and a chocolate Guinness cake for firstborn. Both recipes came from Feast, by Nigella Lawson.

Son-in-the-middle has to wait for his birthday in March, and he is always very conflicted on the January birthdays. On the one hand, when he has his birthday he is the sole focus of attention, which makes him very happy, but on the other he has to cope with very little attention on that one day in January – and he’s not good with that.

The sun is shining today, thankfully, as up to and around Christmas we had so much low cloud and fog I was nearly insane. I start to feel like the sky is a low ceiling pressing down on me. Unfortunately, although the sky has cleared the fog has insinuated itself into my head and I’m feeling rather low. I think I’m still feeling emotionally run down, and I can also feel the need for a career shift coming on. No dramatic action though; I’ll just keep my ear to the ground and stay calm. Inspiration will arise, I’m sure.

Here are a few cloudy pictures.


Visibility wasn’t too bad once we got into the field at m’sister’s, but I had to drive over the high ground behind Kizzy to get there. I nearly stopped dead on a fast road when I hit one particularly thick patch, as I could see nothing except a hint of kerb.


Alice says hello. She is weaned now, with Kizzy keeping her company while Doris gets a break from motherhood. Alice is a very friendly foal; she’ll say hello, then wander off to find food, then you feed a tap on your back and she’s right there behind you again.


The donkey lives, with his friends, in the field next door. The blurs on the right are Sparky and Willis having a mad half-hour.

Roll on summer.


As today was my birthday, as well as New Year’s Day, we spent it on the beach at Scarborough – in the North Bay, to be precise. Scarborough encompasses a north and south bay, with a prominent headland with a castle on top in between. The south bay is full of amusements, rock, candy floss and fish and chip shops; the north bay is a peaceful retreat from commercialism. In the south bay you take one step from the pavement onto the sand, and in large parts of the north bay you head down several flights of stone steps, usually with big puddles of seawater at the bottom.


But we made it safely through the puddle. Here’s a scattered family shot: firstborn son and girlfriend are on the far left; baby brother (Mattie Mumpo), nephew, Mattie’s fiancee, third-and-final-son, and Sister-In-Law in the  middle; m’husband and son-in-the-middle somewhere in the cluster on the right. Big Little Brother (Jimbob) is busily catching up on his sleep in his camper van. There’s the castle, and a row of hotels, up on the cliffs behind them.


Each family brought a dog: we had Sparky, Mattie Mumpo had Pippa (both above with firstborn) and SIL brought Willie, who kept wandering off in search of interesting smells. We also kept collecting other people’s dogs, such as this water-loving Springer spaniel.


A close eye (and guiding hand) had to be kept on nephew at all times, due to his tendency to spot the sea and run straight into it, roaring with excitement.


Although, when sufficiently distracted, he was fascinated by the sand and kept digging his hand into it before presenting everyone with small handfuls.




Scuffles at the water’s edge, as Baby Brother tries to force Firstborn into the water. Neither had brought wellies.


More scuffles, as third-and-final-son and SIL wrestle with nephew to keep him out of the wavelets.


Firstborn (“I don’t wear wellies”) tries to keep up with his girlfriend, who had happily borrowed a pair so she could paddle.


This hardy soul got around the ‘no welly’ problem by stripping off his shoes and socks. I didn’t see anyone else joining him though. It wasn’t particularly cold, but neither was it warm enough to want to expose any more skin than you had to!


Nephew tries to work out how to throw Sparky’s ball. Sparky ran after this ball for about two hours. Then she collapsed into the car in exhaustion, and we didn’t hear a sound from her all the way home.


Baby brother relives his childhood with a game of king of the castle on some slippery rocks.

After a lovely walk, where the sun very nearly broke through the cloud cover (you could see blue sky if you looked hard enough) all of us plus dogs squeezed into the camper van for spaghetti bolognese, hot dogs and birthday cake.


My brothers were supposed to be making it (I always make one for them) but despite Mattie Mumpo’s claims I strongly suspect his fiancee (above, with third-and-final-son) had done the deed.


Jimbob looking a bit grumpy. I think this was before his nap, however I don’t think a little snooze made him any less grumpy. At times it seemed to have made him even more so as he said we came back too soon. However, to give him his due he was working until the early hours of this morning, and yet he still came on my birthday trip with camper van, wife, son, dog and wife’s delicious spag bol, so I’m very grateful.

Happy New Year, everyone!