Archive for August, 2013

The Windmill

Happy Wednesday all. It’s time for Rambler5319 to take over again. Enjoy! 


Thought I’d start with a Henry Wadsworth Longfellow poem called The Windmill. Hopefully it gets you in the mood for my trip to the windmill.

Behold! a giant am I!
  Aloft here in my tower,
  With my granite jaws I devour
The maize, and the wheat, and the rye,
  And grind them into flour. 

I look down over the farms;
  In the fields of grain I see
  The harvest that is to be,
And I fling to the air my arms,
  For I know it is all for me. 

I hear the sound of flails
  Far off, from the threshing-floors
  In barns, with their open doors,
And the wind, the wind in my sails,
  Louder and louder roars. 

I stand here in my place,
  With my foot on the rock below,
  And whichever way it may blow,
I meet it face to face,
  As a brave man meets his foe. 

And while we wrestle and strive,
  My master, the miller, stands
  And feeds me with his hands;
For he knows who makes him thrive,
  Who makes him lord of lands. 

On Sundays I take my rest;
  Church-going bells begin
  Their low, melodious din;
I cross my arms on my breast,
  And all is peace within.

Today’s trip is to the windmill just outside the village of Great Bircham (Norfolk) about 13 miles NE of King’s Lynn. I’ve only ever visited a few windmills and apart from just 1 which was working which I was only able to see the ground floor inside, all the rest had to be viewed from outside; they were either derelict, not working or had been converted into living accommodation. However the one at Bircham is fully working and you are allowed inside and up the steep stairs to each of the floors. It’s really interesting to see all the different levels: the Ground Floor, the Meal Floor, the Stone Floor, the Bin Floor, the Dust Floor, the Cap Floor & finally the Cap.

Here it is.


This next one is a close up showing a rope coming down from the white cap on top to the verandah like walkway round the middle of the mill. This was built so that the miller could pull on it to apply the brake to the wind-driven sack hoist instead of having to go to the top to do it. (Hope you can see the light-coloured rope coming down from the wooden floor just left of centre at the top. The black line on the side of the mill is the shadow from it.)


Then the stairs inside up to the first floor.


Next is a pic of some of the workings on that floor. The gentleman in the cloth cap wasn’t very talkative and was still in the same position when I came down. He didn’t answer any questions.


You might notice to the right of him and down slightly is a sack with a round shaped cloth and a dark lump on it near the sheet of paper.

Here’s a close up.


I stroked him and he never made a sound.

As has become usual in anywhere the public can go there were the obligatory warning notices which the owners have to put up. Here are just a few:






I carried on climbing up through the various floors until finally I got to the top – the cap. If you remember the first pic there was a white cap to the windmill with a wind driven wheel. Here’s my view from the fan deck at the top by that wheel.


And a close up of the white wheel.

This is right at the top.


Reaching the top of the windmill is something of an achievement and I proudly took a sticker off the roll and here it is.


I climbed down and wandered round the rest of the site starting with the bakery on the ground floor.

First thing to notice outside the mill was the date stone – 1846.


The initials G.H. refer to George Humphrey who was the first owner of the mill as it now is. However it has a long history prior to him and the first mill on the site is believed to date from 1769. Robert Miller & his wife Temperance worked the mill until 1784 when Mr Miller died & Temperance took over. (Interesting name – Temperance; in my family ancestors I have someone called Prudence and another called Constance.) There then followed a number of owners leading up to 1845 when 19 year old GH took over just prior to its demolition & replacement by the current building; the original building was a post mill (in which the whole body of the mill revolves around a central post in order to move the sails into the wind) and the latter a tower mill (where the structure is fixed and the sails can be moved, via the cap on the top, independently to make the best use of the wind).

George Humphrey married a lady called Elizabeth and between 1851 & 1864 they had six children and Elizabeth was expecting their seventh. (Interestingly right around this time our poem writer, Longfellow, had become a major figure in America’s literary circle.) A census check for 1851 reveals GH as a miller & baker employing 3 men. His wife & 55 year old Mum were also living with him at the site. On Tuesday night (15.3.1864) GH and his wife Elizabeth were travelling back from King’s Lynn market on a horse and cart but it appears to have been very late. It was a journey of over 15 miles the way they went. The local newspaper at the time reports that the accident occurred around midnight. Apparently Mr Humphrey had had a bit too much to drink during the day and lost control of the cart at a crossroads in the village of Snettisham. It ran up a grass bank and turned over but as it did so it trapped Mrs Humphrey underneath. Mr Humphrey was either knocked out by the impact or just fell asleep perhaps due to having consumed too much alcohol. It resulted in him not being able to help his wife at all. When he did wake up and sound the alarm it was too late – she was dead along with the unborn child. (Looking at modern map it is not immediately obvious why he took this route. King’s Lynn to Great Bircham is almost like a straight line in a roughly NE direction – imagine it as the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle but going via Snettisham is like going along the other two sides and is therefore noticeably further. Perhaps some of precursors of the modern roads were not there in the 1860s; perhaps there was another reason for going through Snettisham. One for Sherlock perhaps?)

The effect on the family was immediate & even more heartbreaking: the mill was sold just two months later and by November of the same year Humphrey was declared bankrupt!

The mill closed in 1937 but the bakery continued until 1961. The story from then on is one of those restoration “labours of love”. In 1975 the derelict mill was bought by Roger Wragg and his wife. After many years of painstaking work and attention to detail the mill was fully restored to a working condition. In 2000 Roger handed the running of the mill over to his daughter and her husband and the business today continues to improve and expand: kids can play in their own area (slides, swings, ladybird trail etc), you can hire a bike, rent accommodation for a break (short or week long) and the mill hosts a number of special events such as craft demos, sheep shearing, wool spinning and many others during the season.

Near where they do the cheese making was this info sheet of “Cheesey Jokes”. You might not be rolling in the aisles exactly but I liked them.


Then it was into the gift shop followed by the café. A quick snack of some of the gorgeous food in there and it was time for home. Really enjoyed the day. If you’re ever in the area go and check it out. Great site to visit!


My gluten free failure

There was a disaster, people. A disaster! Yesterday morning, in work, the customers kept asking about gluten free options and I kept on saying, earnestly, “I’m going to make some this afternoon, just a few hours!”

As part of my Apple Challenge, I had made an almond cake with apples and gooseberries and it only had 40g of flour in it. So I figured it wasn’t that far off being gluten free. All I had to do was replace the plain flour with rice flour and I’d have a decent gluten free cake that was actually nice, as opposed to gluten free nice.

The afternoon came, I got my chef’s whites on and I approached the kitchen with gusto. I made shortbread biscuits and flapjacks and got some bread dough ready to start proving. Then I let my imagination run wild. Well, not really. I just got started on the gluten free recipe I’ve mentioned above. I was doing it from memory so I knew it might not be perfect.

I put in butter, sugar, ground almonds, rice flour, almond essence, plums, bicarb. It all seemed to be going ok. I put it in a cake tin and stuck it in the oven to bake then got back to my bread.

I looked in the oven at the half way point and it had risen a lot. I worried that it might spill out of the tin. When I checked ten minutes later, it had sunk and looked ridiculously flat. I took it out after it had finished baking and drizzled white chocolate on it and decided to rename it an ‘almond slice.’ It seems like it’s supposed to be flat then…. Doesn’t it?

As I walked home, I wrangled with myself about how to get on top of the gluten free challenge, about whether the rice flour ruined it or something else. Did I not put enough ground almonds in? Did I use too much bicarb? Why was it so flat?

I got home and went straight to the cookbook to figure out the mystery….

EGGS! I forgot the eggs. Dang it. What a schoolboy error. The bloody eggs.

So today, I will try again. Wish me luck!

Scandal and innocence at Ham House

Now, I know you all been on tenderhooks (what are tenderhooks, by the way?) waiting for me to give you some more of Scandalous Innocent. Let’s do a quick recap.

It started here with Phoebe and Leo. They hated each other and had a duel to sort things out. It didn’t really sort anything out. She was supposed to marry him if she lost. Instead he carried her upstairs, kissed her then he was like, “Whatevs. I’m not even going to marry you.” She’s like horrified and embarrassed cause she was totally getting into it when he was kissing her but pretending not to.

Then she realised she quite liked him and had quite wanted to marry him. So she goes to Ham House to find him. When she sees him, she starts flirting with someone else. He’s like, “What a div, get over yourself.” She harumphs about a bit then flounces off.

On her way home, he kidnaps her. Kind of. Says she’s staying until she agrees to marry him. She goes, “Never!” And he goes (paraphrased), “O please!” So she goes, “Ok.”

Then she’s like, “I hope you are not going to dishonour me before marriage, Sir Leo!” And he goes, “Nooo! No, of course not, my lady! Would I? Would I ever?”

They spend a few days faffing around making changes to the house and getting builders to do the garden up, etc. Then he snogs her in the little summer house gazebo thing and feels her boob and she’s all like, “….O, go on then!”

So they go upstairs and get friendly and then he’s like, “So I guess you’re going to marry me then?” And she’s like, “Totes!” So all that nonsense about him not dishonouring her before marriage, that was nonsense. Whenever she says something to him, he just goes, “Yeh but what about doing my idea instead?” And she’s like, “Sure thing.”

Next, they go to a jewellery shop in London that her parents used to run before they died and then her brother ran it for a bit but died in the Great Fire Of London.

Someone else is running the shop so she goes in and says who she is and the new owner is like, “Maybe you can help me figure out the mystery.” He brings a wooden chest thing out and hands her a parcel. She unwraps it and inside is a little gold heart with pearls set around the edge and the name “Phoebe” engraved on the back. She’s like, “That’s me. My brother must have made it for me.” He’s like, “Ah! The mystery is solved!”

Now, come on. If we’re going to call it a “mystery”, there’s got to be more going on than a gold heart with “Phoebe” written on it. It wouldn’t have even been that hard to solve. The shopkeeper only needed to check out the people who owned the shop before him and their children. One would have been called Phoebe. Mystery solved. (They do talk about the records and the shopkeeper says they survived the fire.)

When the shopkeeper said there was a mystery to solve, I really thought the book might get going. Maybe there’d be a suicide note. Or a small dirty child found living under the floorboards. It maybe the king was hiding in the chest. Or a skeleton in the wall. Or a diary from an Anne Frank-esque character.

Instead he goes, “There’s a pendant with Phoebe written on it.” She went, “Yeh, that’s me.” He went, “Fab. Here you go. Have it.” She went, “Thanks.”

Now, if THAT is the big mystery of the book, I’m going to be really gutted. Cause we’ll be back to Phoebe and Leo and their silly nonsense before long and I really need more story than that if I’m to keep reading.

The Apple Challenge

One of my neighbours has fruit trees in his garden. A little while ago, he gave me some cherries, which I put into a cake. Since then, he has given me bits of fruit and I have caked them.

About ten days ago, he knocked on the door in the morning and delivered a plastic bag full of apples for me to cake. And so, the Apple Challenge began.

Day one was an apple bread, a kind of cidery, honey-sweetened brown bread with grated apples that was crying out for some cheese. Day two was an apple crumble cake, which consisted of a sponge cake with apple chunks and slivers of apricot, with a light buttery crumble mixture on the top. Day three was apple scones, which let me down the first day but I attempted them again on day four and hit the nail on the head. Day five was an apple tray bake which had jostaberries and a mashed banana in it. Day six was a nutty appley raisiny loaf, spiced with cinnamon, which filled the whole house with lovely rich aromas. Day seven was an almond tart with apples and gooseberries.




And so it goes on, the apple cakes. Every morning. I get up, bake a cake, leave some on my neighbour’s doorstep then head for Ham House, where I leave the cakes in the mess room for the volunteers to eat.

I have enough apples left for about four more days and I’m running low on ideas. Does anybody have any apple cake ideas? Apple pie and apple crumble are out as they are hard to portion out without getting runny. Tomorrow is an almond cake with apples and blueberries.

But what next, people? What next?! Help me in my Apple Challenge or I shall be ideas-less and I refuse, refuse, to repeat a recipe.

An odd thing that happened

My friend, Vaughn, sent me a bracelet about five years ago. It’s just a thin scrap of a thing. A peice of black cotton and a peice of white cotton spun around one another. I was surprised it had been allowed to be sent out to me. He said most other people he’d tried to send them to hadn’t received them.

I tied it onto my wrist and it has never moved. It doesn’t come off for anything. For some reason, leading up to the day of Vaughn’s death, I felt like it would probably break after he died. I’m not really sure why. I don’t go in for a lot of spirituality and fate and bigger meaning etc etc etc. But I just kept thinking it in the back of my mind.

I wrote to him once, shortly before visiting him, and told him I still wear the bracelet he made me and he said I was the only one. The people who did receive them had either lost or broken theirs.

Then when I visited him, at one point, lost for words and overwhelmed by it all, I touched my hand to my wrist to show him my bracelet and he did the same on his wrist, as he was also wearing one.

The day after he died, July 19th, I was in work. I work with food. I had some of those thin blue disposable gloves on. As I took the left one off, the bracelet came off with it. It had literally never moved from my wrist in the five years I had been wearing it. I put it back on quickly but pulled it thinner a bit as I forced it over my hand. When I got home, I noticed the bracelet was now bigger so I tied another knot in it, to make it smaller.

Ever since tying this extra knot, I’ve felt like it was going to break. I’m not sure why, as it looked pretty secure. I just had this unexplainable expectation that it would break.

Then last Thursday, four weeks exactly since Vaughn’s death, the bracelet broke. It caught on the arm of a chair I was sitting on and snapped, flying off. I wasn’t surprised at all.

I have tied it around my finger, unwilling to throw it away, but I know it hasn’t much time there. It will probably fall off soon.


The first blackberry

A few days ago, I was walking home and I spotted a single ripe blackberry.


In my excitement, I thought about giving it to Danda…. But then I remembered what happened last year so I ate it myself….

(I posted this in October last year.)

This is a story. A story that I am calling Danda And The Blackberry. It contains adventure, daring, far away lands and valiant mission.

One day, a few months ago, I was out walking. I was listening to Vanessa Paradis’ ridiculous but catchy hit, Joe Le Taxi as I roved. I was pottering up and down hills and following the river through London and having a lovely time. The summer was at that lovely not-too-hot, just-a-slight-breeze stage. The leaves on the trees were green and I stopped often to photograph the beautiful flowers.

I was having a lovely time. That’s when I saw it. The single ripe blackberry on the blackberry bush…


Ah! I thought. Look what the summer day hath delivered unto me. I shall pick this single ripe blackberry and present it as a gift to somebody.

But to whom should I give this beautiful gift of the summer’s first blackberry? Hmmm.

And that’s when I thought, I shall give it to Danda. Because he is a taxi driver, he is quite often on the move and I thought he might be in the area. I gave him a quick call and he was nearby but he was taking someone to the top of the hill that I was at the bottom of. So, thought I, I shall race to the top of the hill and hopefully see him there.

Off I sped, bearing the summer’s first blackberry aloft. It was quite a long walk and really quite steep but I was on a Blackberry Mission and determined. As Danda drove up the hill, I walked as quickly as my legs would take me. He was held at a red light for ten seconds or so. This gave me the edge. Holding the blackberry gently, I power-walked through fields and past trees. I was determined. Danda’s taxi was approaching the top of the hill just as I hurried to the end of the path and out onto the pavement.

It was like someone had organised us, like chess peices, to collide at exactly the right moment. We reached the bend in the road at the same time and waved. Danda drove a little further down the road to drop the person in his taxi off while I stood panting a little and trying to regain my composure.

A minute or two later, Danda was back. He pulled over and I climbed in the back.

“Danda!” I declared with great aplomb, “I have brought you this blackberry from the Alaskan wilds, from whence I have come after my long exploration there.” (Not really, I had just been wandering around aimlessly by the Thames but that’s beside the point. Stick with me on this one.) “I have brought this, the first blackberry of the summer, to you, as it reminds me of your summery disposition and your great love of blackberries.” (He once said he’d had an apple and blackberry crumble which was tasty.)

He looked a little uncertain about the grandness with which I presented the blackberry to him but nevertheless, he took it, popped it in his mouth and ate it.

I waited, with baited breath for his verdict.


“Danda. What of the beauty of the blackberry? Do you approve of it?”

“Mmm….” He said, nonchalantly. “It’s a bit sharp….”


“Do you want a lift anywhere?”

An ode to the potwash boy

O, potwash boy, o, potwash boy,
How lovely are your teapots.
They are so sparkly and so white,
I wish that I could marry you.
O, potwash boy, o potwash boy,
How lovely are your teapots.
(To the tune of, ‘O, Christmas Tree.’)

Now, before you judge me, let me just ask you this. Haven’t you ever been overcome by the sheer sparkly whiteness of a well cleaned teapot? No? Well then, my dears, you have simply not lived.

A teapot is a difficult thing to get totally clean, due to the tea’s fondness for discolouring things. I love a good cup of tea. Love it. But sometimes the tea just makes everything brown and tea coloured – the teapots, the mugs, people’s teeth.

When the potwash boy came to work on Tuesday, I had decided that from this day forth, I would no longer stand dirty teapots. Poor potwash boy. As soon as he arrived, I was like, “Today, we must clean ALL of the teapots and they must not be tea coloured anymore!”

He said he could do it for me and I should leave him to it. I wandered off, keeping a sneaky eye on the teapot challenge, expecting them to be returned a little stained still but hopefully an improvement on the previous situation.

And my god, was I blown away! These teapots SPARKLED! They SHINED! They were like artwork. I fawned helplessly over them, like a lovesick teenager.



“They’re beautiful!” I gasped, looking at the potwash boy, with love in my eyes. “Thank you. Thank you.”

Every time I popped my head round to offer him a cup of tea (which he refused), he was scrubbing a wall down or taking apart bits of machinery to clean down.


I was left stunned, especially considering we’ve never taken that hot metal plate thingy apart before.

It was only shyness that stopped me from asking for his hand in marriage.

What if my teapots aren’t sparkly enough for him? I wondered. What if I don’t take my kitchen apart regularly enough to clean it? No, I’m not good enough for him. He’ll never marry me. He’d see my tea stained mugs at home and run a mile.

And so for now, I just dream. I dream about sparkly clean teapots and milk jugs with no dried milk crust around the edge, about soap and hot water and yellow washing up gloves.

And I am happy.

Unfinished books

It’s Wednesday and Rambler5319 is taking over to talk about a few (!) books he is reading….


I wonder when you look at your bookshelf do you see a book you never finished reading? Do you see more than 1, more than 10? Do you perhaps not put unfinished books onto your bookshelves in case they get forgotten? Perhaps like me you have a “not finished section” or maybe a whole shelf dedicated to them so you know that every one in that part is a not-finished book. Have any defeated you as it were? Any that you just gave up on for some reason?

I usually have more than 1 book on the go at any one time – my average is about 4 or 5. However recently I noticed there seemed to be quite a number which I haven’t got round to finishing. I thought I should do something about it so first off, as well as emptying the “special” shelf, I went round the house and collected ones I knew I hadn’t finished. Then I made a list and here it is (in no particular order):

1. A History of the World in 100 Objects (Neil MacGregor)

This one was a present and is very well written & illustrated and as I often listened to the Radio series of the same name was a great present. The difficulty has been that because the individual objects are a personal choice by the author & his colleagues there is no particular connection other than the historical timeline. (Neil MacGregor is the Director of The British Museum (since 2002) and was previously a director of The National Gallery.) The objects are grouped into “fives” (which relate to one period for each set) to fit the radio series as there was one broadcast each week day. It is rather like reading 100 short stories so I dip in and out. It will probably take a good while yet to conquer this one but I am over half way and heading towards 2/3 finished.

2. The Elizabethans (A.N. Wilson)

Well written by an author I have a couple of other books by. However the tiny print has made it a hard one to finish. Am almost ¾ through but have just stuttered a bit and it’s proving difficult to get going again.

3. And Now On Radio 4 (Simon Elmes)

It’s about a radio station I listen to a fair bit but not a normal chronological or biographical account starting at Day 1 up to the present although it does do various bits of the history. The text is interspersed with interesting short articles on particular subjects or people but it does mean continuity is interrupted as you break off from the main text to read a short article on the page above. Less than half way on that one.

4. God’s Undertaker – Has Science Buried God? (John C. Lennox)

It tackles the really big questions: Why is there something rather than nothing? Why does the Universe exist? Where did it come from? And where, if anywhere, is it heading? Anyone who believes the Big Bang Theory does have to answer the question, put by a child, to a scientist who after speaking on the subject asked for any questions. Hands went up and a child said: “But what went BANG?” You see the Big Bang does not explain how that original matter which went “bang” came to be there and it doesn’t claim to. Obvious really but something which is glossed over by many scientists. This book is a current one (“on the go”) being read but only just started. It’s worth remembering that Lennox is a distinguished Professor of Mathematics at Oxford University not some whacky theory protagonist and that he’s publicly debated with Richard Dawkins & Christopher Hitchens. He presents a very compelling case for looking at the alternatives to the commonly accepted theories of our time on the world and its origins. Love him or disagree with him you have to admit that the questions he raises (and which have been raised for hundreds if not thousands of years) will not go away. You may disagree with his answers but I reckon you’ll be hard pressed to come up with an alternative that will ultimately satisfy you.

5. The Language Wars – A History of Proper English (Henry Hitchings)

This is one about the way English has developed over the years. Have words come in via the Anglo Saxon influence or the French, Scandinavian, Latin or Germanic? Which is ‘right’? There are some writers who want to use only English words of a particular origin in their writing rather than those imported from other sources. It’s a current one and progress puts me just under halfway on this one.

6. Red Roses on the Veldt – Lancashire Regiments in the Boer War 1899-1902 (John Downham)

Covers some of the famous names associated with the period. We read of Cecil Rhodes founder of the Rothschild-funded De Beers Diamond Company and later founder of the country named after him, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). Then there is General Sir Redvers Buller KCB VC who was present at the relief of Ladysmith & the defeat at Spion Kop. Incidentally the “Kop” after which Liverpool Football Club named their old standing terraced area of Anfield was because the sloping area resembled the hill outside the town of Ladysmith. The author has researched his subject very well and there are brilliantly detailed accounts & photographs of the various battles and personalities involved. However military history takes a bit of ploughing through and I’m finding this one a toughie to get into although the subject is of interest due to a family ancestor who was involved in one of the Lancashire Regiments mentioned in the book. (If any of you know the film Zulu about the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, that was 20 years earlier in 1879.)

7. Albion – A Guide to Legendary Britain (Jennifer Westwood)

This is more like a dictionary than a readable book just because of the way it’s presented: legends by shire county or area of UK. Probably not one I’ll end up reading cover to cover but have already dipped in for areas I’ve visited over the last year or so.

8. Fitzroy (John & Mary Gribbin)

Am just under 2/3 way through this one. It’s a current one and making good progress. Robert Fitzroy is the reason why today we use things like barometers to predict the weather. He took readings of the air pressure and noticed how when it went up or down so the weather that followed displayed certain characteristics. He introduced the idea that you could therefore attempt to predict what might happen weather-wise. He was also a surveyor of hundreds of miles of coastline around South America. One of his voyages saw him & the ship away from England for 5 years! The guy was amazing at what he did. The Shipping Forecast which is part of the fabric of British maritime heritage has been broadcast for many years and is a direct result of Fitzroy’s work. In 2002 the forecast area called Finisterre (NW tip of Spain) had to be renamed because Spain was already using it for a more local area on the coast. The replacement name chosen was very fittingly – Fitzroy.

The Shipping Forecast has inspired some rather odd things. Would you, for example, go as far as the two sisters who named their children Shannon, Bailey & Tyne after those three areas in the Forecast? (Perhaps the fact that their husbands worked at sea at the time had something to do with it although initially they did not think much of the idea.)

One book I’ve read on the Shipping Forecast areas is Charlie Connelly’s Attention All Shipping. Really worth a read even if you don’t know about the areas themselves as he makes the info presented very interesting by finding curious people, things and events associated with them. I like his style, as they say, and actually have 3 of his other books.

9. The Chronology of Words & Phrases – 1,000 years in the history of English (Linda & Roger Flavell)

This is a really original book. The authors pick a year, give a brief paragraph on what was going on at the time and then list words which came about in the period around that time. They also go into detail about how words have come into our language and even how they’ve developed and changed spelling over the centuries to the modern day. It’s a fascinating insight and I’m really enjoying this one. It’s only a recent purchase so am barely 20% into it.

10. Motson’s National Obsession – The Greatest Football Trivia Book Ever… (Adam Ward & John Motson OBE)

Does what it says on the tin – it gives loads of info on really odd things about the game of football. By its very nature, being a collection of facts, it’s a dip in and out one.

11. Atlantis Found (Clive Cussler)

Now I like Cussler. He’s a great story teller. There’s always a twist and usually it’s a good twist in that you’re not expecting it. It’s one of a series with a kind of detective/James Bond type of hero in called Dirk Pitt and his colleagues from NUMA (National Underwater and Marine Agency).

12. Song of Redemption (Lynn Austin)

It’s historical fiction so the main facts are as per the written records but the characters and some events may have bits added to enhance the story. I’m sure the genre helps people learn more of historical figures but it runs the risk of people who don’t know the history just accepting the fictionalised bits as fact. I suppose it’s similar to films about history which make up bits to produce a good story on the big screen but may not have a basis in real fact.

You’ll notice these last two are the only novels I’m reading at the moment which I suppose says a lot about my choices and preferences.

There are a few more. I’m doing some research on 3 Old Testament prophets and have two books covering them. Both of these are only just started. There’s also the Dictionary of British Place Names which I wrote about in my post on 2.1.13 called Toponymy. Obviously as a dictionary it will never be a cover to cover book but it’s been well used so far.

(Oh, and almost forgot another 2 or 3 on the Kindle takes me to a total of about 15.)

As I’m not a “corner of the page folder over” each one of these has a bookmark in which is how I know they’re all still uncompleted. I do worry that the pile is growing and wonder if it’s my lack of perseverance that’s to blame. Perhaps it’s my need for variety.

One last question – do you have a bathroom (toilet?) book? Are you willing to let us know your bathroom book? There’s always one in there for me, otherwise what does one do? Do you stare at the towels hanging on the back of the door? Do you meditate on things to be done when you’ve finished? What do you think about for those 5, 10 or even 15 minutes? Me, I pick up my book and off I go – I’m in that very special place – “bathroomworld” – where the body does one thing and the brain something completely different. The only disadvantage is that if I get to a really good bit I might end up staying just a bit longer than I expected. Oops.

I’m determined to get the pile down so want to finish at least half of them by the end of the year. I hope to be able to report on progress between now and then.

I bet you thought it was just a cafe, didn’t you?

Oo, Ham House is nice, you’re thinking, aren’t you? The house is nice but you’re just in the cafe. Is that what you thought?

Well, let me tell you, all you doubters. It is not just a cafe. In fact, it was built in 1674 by the Duke and Duchess of Lauderdale who lived out their very extravagant lifestyles at Ham House. They had it built to house exotic plants, like orange trees (hence, it is called The Orangery) and lemon trees. They were kept in the Orangery over the winter to keep them alive then dragged out onto the long walkway behind the house in the summer to look pretty.


(view looking out from the Orangery to the kitchen garden)

It’s quite exciting to spend my working days in a place that was built 340 years ago.

Actually, talking of Ham House, does anyone remember me mentioning the Mills & Boon book that was written about Ham House that I’m in the middle of reading? Well, it gets hilarious-er and hilarious-er. (Chill out, that’s a word. Well, it is now.)

So we were up to the bit where she had run back to Ham House to look for the man she claims to hate, who she had a duel with and then snogged.

She keeps going to Ham House and he’s not there and she’s all heartbroken. And then one time, she goes and he’s there so she spends the whole time flirting with another man. When he pulls her aside and is like, “Stop it, you’re making yourself look like an idiot,” she gets all mouthy with him then strops off.

As she’s on her way home in her carriage, her friend is like, “Oo, guess who lives here?” Then the carriage door opens and she is lifted out and taken inside and it’s the man she love/hates. So she has an angry fit and says she’s been kidnapped and she hates him and this is against the law, blah blah blah!

He’s like, “you’re staying here for as long as it takes to make you mine.” She’s like, “I’ll be here for bloody ages then! In your dreams, mate!” And he’s like, “But I love you and I want to marry you.” And she’s like, “O, alright then.”

I’ve paraphrased, obviously.

That’s where I’m up to with that then. Isn’t it so fascinating and believable? That’s one thing that really draws me in about this book, it’s believability. Definitely. Definitely believable.

Memories of a smoothie maker

Smoothies make me think of two things. I first discovered them, while travelling round Asia with two friends. I had known of smoothies before then, probably drunk quite a few. But these were different. They were fresh and lovely and cold and perfect for a hot humid day in Thailand. I went crazy for these smoothies. We had at least one every day, sometimes two or three. It was a real treat.

Enter the second memory. I got home from Asia and the taste of the smoothies lingered so I went out and bought a smoothie machine and got smoothie-ing. Bananas were a staple. They went into every smoothie because their texture was so fantastic and smoothie-able. The rest was anyone’s game. Strawberries one day, blueberries the next. Kiwis in the morning, raspberries in the evening. I loved it. Couldn’t get enough of it.

One morning, after a bit of a crazy night dancing on chairs in the flat I shared with friends and, inexplicably, waving towels in the air, I woke up parched. I needed a smoothie. Needed one. So I shuffled to the kitchen, bleary-eyed, threw two bananas, some yoghurt and a blueberry or two into the smoothie machine and whizzed.

It was the loudest bloody sound in the world! And it was 7am. Everyone was asleep. But it was important for me to have the smoothie. I needed it. I poured it into a mug, shuffled back to bed and lay, cradling the mug and trying to keep my eyes awake. On finishing the smoothie, I promptly fell asleep again.

Then one day, I felt ill. Quite seriously ill. I kept vomiting. I was weak and exhausted. I got in a taxi and headed for A&E and they ummed and ahhed and stuck needles in my bum and asked what I’d been eating.

“Smoothies!” I panted, exhausted. “It can’t be that. They’re really good for you.”

“Yeh, you’ve probably gone a bit too crazy with them, I think,” was the doctor’s scientific diagnoses.

Something to do with acid…? Too much citric acid…? 500 bananas a day isn’t good for you apparently…?