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Something stirred me on to get my house in order recently and I’ve been busy going through storage boxes full of stuff I haven’t seen for months or maybe years.

Clothes that had been stored for a summer day, a thin day, a rainy day, a grow into day found their way to new homes via charity shops or friends. Shoes were sorted, anything that was worn down, shoddy and scruffy, grown out of or missing its opposite number was binned.

Seeing the boxes flattened and space appearing was the green light and inspiration for sorting out the clutter that has taken over the house. A lot of stuff was rubbish, broken, beyond economical repair, missing a bit or had no upcycling benefit so it was binned.  The rest is sitting in open topped boxes ready to be taken to a car boot. I don’t need 9 Moroccan tea lights, 7 tea pots, 11 jugs, 3 cake stands, countless buttons, 5 glass bottles. I just don’t need it anymore.

I didn’t stop at that, oh no I carried on.  Under the sink cupboard, bathroom shelves.  Then with a clear space I sat down and felt a sense of calm and a surge of strength.  The strength to admit that some friendships have wilted beyond recovery.

This week has been cathartic.  Clearing out boxes has helped me to clear my head.

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It’s been a while since I last wrote to you or had a letter from you in your distinctive writing and I miss you. I miss your letters, your adventures, your wit, your friendship, your laughter, our conversations, our gatherings.  

I miss you.  It’s been a year since you died and I think of you lots. From the moment we met at school to the day I saw you before you died you were always there, just there.  In another dorm, on another table, in a different classroom, in another country.  Now you’re somewhere else.  As you said about dying you were going somewhere and it’s not going to be a case of being able to write home and tell us all about it.  You’ve gone somewhere we will all follow at some time and when we get there you will greet us with a grin and show us around. 

My world is very different now.  In your last months you softened me!  I was so angry that you had a brain tumour, but you weren’t angry – you were positive and in turn your positivity changed me and how I see things.  You didn’t just accept that your life was nearing an end you positively grabbed what time you had left and gave your family and friends so many happy times.  You never made us sorry for you, you carried on being you but you with a brain tumour – in a wheelchair at times.

Even when you were tired out and felt crap due do the medication or discomfort you never once said you didn’t want to see us, you always chatted on the phone asking about our lives and our families.  When you heard from people we’d long forgotten about you joined in with the banter we knew so well.

When I saw you that last time I knew your bags were packed and you were ready for the off.  You lay in your bed, eyes closed and they twitched, your hand moved in my hand and at that point I knew.  I knew that wherever you are you will always be in our hearts and nothing or no one would ever take that away from me.

Dear Charch – it’s been a year and I’ll speak for the others when I say we miss you.

Xxx

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Last night I thought of my role models, those girls and women who have made a positive impact on my life and I’m going to celebrate them on Mothers Day, Mothering Sunday, today, tomorrow, forever …

To L – who made me a mother 

To M & L – who made me a mother of two, then three 

To Dorothy, Clarkie and Mrs A – who made our childhood houses clean and tidy, never really complaining about the mess the children or grandchildren of the house might have made

To Joan and Marjie – two sisters in the village who showed me what companionship in advancing years looked like 

To Mrs B – who babysat and introduced me to Tales of the unexpected and Hammer house of horror

To Granny S – who taught me to cook, enjoy flowers, who listened to my every word, who would give up watching Wimbledon the moment I rang the doorbell 

To Granny P-G – who also taught me to cook, who shared her love of outside, who taught me to knit, who used to enjoy a day trip out just for the sheer hell of a change of scenery 

To Smart Liz – who was more than just Granny’s friend and neighbour to me

To J – my Godmother who told me off for cycling up the slide and who had clearly forgiven me by making my wedding dress years later

To Z, C, S, M, N, J and H – who are quite simply fairy Godmothers 

To my school friends – who will always have a place at my table, I’ll move up to make space not to make you hatch 

To my friends – who have always been there, just there, holding my hand, pushing me forward, giving me strength and courage when it was most needed, who listened, who joined in, who took sides, who protected me from myself at times, who as well as all that and more for being loyal, true, honest and constant

To C – who brought old friends back together and left us too soon

To my mother in law – who has to put up with us popping in and filling the house with inane chatter 

To my mum – who won’t let me forget I kept her waiting all day in the maternity unit

To these people – who have given me so much and taught me more than I can ever appreciate – thank you x

Who would you like to thank? 

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Back in October I had wrapped the presents, sent them to faraway lands, dropped them in on people we knew we wouldn’t see and put the rest in the box, now they’re under the tree together with presents from family and friends ready for Christmas Day and the straggly days after when we catch up with everyone.  I certainly didn’t feel smug, it was just the sensible thing to do and once I started the “oh that’ll do” I thought I may as well finish it off!

Last night we had a conversation about what we’re going to be eating over Christmas, what time we’re eating on Christmas Day and how long after we will be eating leftovers, coupled with the fact that our Leftover Lunch is later this year and we will have eaten everything!  Oh well, a few bags of Tortillas and some melted cheese it is!  It humoured me because as of last night we had no festive food in the house apart from a Christmas Cake I picked up at the Reading Rockets Christmas Market, the ingredients for mince pies and some Sloe Gin that is a present.

You see this year I am stepping back and I am not getting caught up in the panic that is normal for this time of year.  I ordered a veg box from Riverford as I had a £10 voucher to spend and I just thought well if they can deliver on Monday morning (which happened before 730am) then I can get on with a load of things I need and want to do without having to go actual big trolley shopping.

Big Welsh was delighted to hear I wasn’t getting the frozen parsnips I got last year, they weren’t very nice and I felt like I had not only cheated but I was cheated so there’s no shop bought frozen ready to cook vegetables in my freezer, there will be ready to cook potatoes done by me though as that’s time saving!  There will however be plenty of ice cream and ice.

Loops asked when I was picking the turkey up and I said oh probably Christmas Eve, she was amused by my laid back approach and asked where I had ordered it from.  Oh I laughed, lots!  You see this year I really am rebelling and I have not got a turkey, I’ve not ordered a turkey and I’ve not asked for a turkey to be put by – I’m going to go to the shops (be it farm shop, butchers or supermarket) on Christmas Eve to see what I can find.  If there’s no turkey then it’ll be chicken, if no chicken then it’ll be some meat  else, if no some meat else then it will be something completely different.

Don’t get me wrong, I do love the spirit of Christmas, the happy sentiment of goodwill to all men together with the celebration and traditions that have been handed down through generations but I’m just not going to get sucked in and subscribe to the panic shopping because we might run out of food, because we won’t.

We also won’t go cold, we won’t live in fear, we won’t go hungry, we won’t have to flee our home, we won’t have to bite our tongue, we won’t have to dodge the blows, we won’t worry about who we spend time with, we won’t be looking at our last Christmas, we won’t be in hospital, we won’t be working, but we will be together as a family and whether or not we have lobster thermidore or cold baked beans we will be grateful.

“Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants.”
― Epictetus

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There really is nothing nicer than a homemade coleslaw.  It is so easy to make, all you really need is white cabbage, carrots and onions or leeks with a sauce of your choice.  Other additions are red peppers, celeriac, celery, red cabbage (though don’t prepare it too far in advance as it’ll be pink), grated courgette and cucumber.

For a really zingy coleslaw mix together shredded white cabbage, grated carrot, celery, onion and drizzle over cider vinegar and sprinkle with paprika.  I’ve also been known to add in sliced tomatoes but that’s not really slaw material!

Mum used to add almonds and raisins to her slaw mix and then fold it in with salad cream

My absolute favourite though is white cabbage, carrots, leeks, celeriac, natural yoghurt and/or creme fraiche or mascarpone depending on how creamy you want it.  Finely shred the cabbage, cut the leeks in half and then thinly cut them lengthways, grated, julienne sliced or use a peeler to get the carrots how you want then, julienned celeriac and then a generous dollop of natural yoghurt, creme fraiche or mascarpone.  If you want to zizz it up then rub garlic around the bowl before adding the ingredients.  I make 2 bowls of this, one as is and then one with a sprinkling of dried chillies.

Serve as a side dish, fill a jacket potato or serve up in a pitta bread with spicy sausages – coleslaw is a winner in our house!

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Oh I do enjoy a good farm shop and Wellington Farm Shop is a good one.  Actually it’s not just good one, it’s a brilliant one!  It’s easy to get to, plenty of parking, a warm welcome guaranteed, lots of lovely food, a brilliant cafe and a shop full of taste and choice!

We’ve been nipping across the county border for coffee, lunch and shopping for ages now, it’s a really convenient place to meet friends as it’s not far from Reading or Basingstoke.  It’s not the little gem of a secret it used to be but it’s amazing how many people don’t know it’s there!

The farm shop stocks a huge range of fruit, veg, meat, cheese, ingredients and believe you me the sprouts are huge!

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Huge sprouts

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Largest ginger I ever did see

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It’s not a Christmas house unless there’s a bowl of satsumas or nectarines

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Cosy rugs

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Tasty ingredients

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Love the packaging! Every taste has a story to tell!

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Baking shelves, I need them all!

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Sweet treats, don’t mind if I do!

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Tins, I love tins and the contents of these!!

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More tins!

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I do love enamel and there’s a fine selection here!

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well funnily enough I do need a new tea pot and I think I have found it!

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Bath and body products

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Ideal jars for all those coins around the room! I’m thinking an ideal stocking present, must tell Father Christmas!

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Love the simplicity of this white china from Sophie Conran http://www.portmeirion.co.uk/shop-by-range/sophie-conran-white.html

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There really is something for everyone!

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Looking forward to Spring and planting these with my favourite, daffodils.

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Shelves and shelves of drinks for all ages and tastebuds!

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Delicious breads

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Looking very festive and jolly

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Love the window!

I’ll be nipping over there next week to pick up the ingredients for a pheasant dish I am making and will be stopping for a coffee and maybe a slice of cake!  Might see you there!

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Following on from my earlier post, these words just tumbled out in memory of my grandfather Captain Hugh Preston Wattis of the South Staffordshire Regiment

The photos and the diaries
All hold a life so dear
The telegram brought dreadful news
No wife should ever hear

Stiff upper lip and carry on
Is how it’s meant to be
Behind closed doors emotional
So no one else can see

So carry on with head held high
Life might not be the same
But tell the tales of your younger years
To those who share his name