SPRING has jumped the gun in many parts of the country, as flowers blossomed some bumblebees began buzzing months ahead of schedule.
A HUGE bumble buzzed right past my ear the other day. I ducked and swerved to avoid her landing on my rosy red cheek…might have thought me an early flowering spring bloom! I adore bees, even though one stung me, twice, as a child. Yes, twice. I was about 10 years old. Practicing handstands on the front lawn. And yes, shocked the hell out of an unsuspecting busy bee gathering nectar from a red clover. Stung on the palm, as I stood up, she buzzed her way up my long sleeve and then stung me again; just to make sure I didn’t miss her anger the first time. Something magical and mysterious about our bees.
Anyway…more than 64 records of early spring activity has been received by the Woodland Trust – the earliest in November.
The Trust encourages members of the public to send sightings of early spring activity through its Nature’s Calendar scheme.
Below: Photo taken by me
Mild conditions have seen flowers blooming this month (January), with insects temporarily disturbed from hibernation over winter. I have a couple of climbing roses still in bloom, and keep flowering each time I dead head them.
A small tortoiseshell butterfly was spotted flying outdoors on Christmas Day in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, and a red-tailed bumblebee was seen on Boxing Day in Somerset.
Meanwhile a red admiral was seen on December 17 in Cambridgeshire, five months ahead of schedule. The average date for snowdrops to appear is February 5, but there are 24 records of them flowering more than a month ahead of this – the earliest of which was in Southampton on November 30: according to local news.
And, though hazel trees (also my favourites) usually flower in early March, there have been 23 hazel records already, with the first on December 1. Even birds are ahead of the times – song thrushes have been heard in 11 places since December, despite the fact that they are expected to start their dawn chorus in March (besides my early morning wake up alarm clock… songbirds…bringing spring into my bedroom – and does help my S.A.D).
This month, snowdrops have already been seen in Yorkshire, Cumbria, Northumberland and Cornwall (I haven’t spotted any on my dog walk in Brixham Bay, as yet). Hazel flowered in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire…I may have to visit my local Garden Centre. Quite fancy a quirky shaped hazel tree. Catkins remind me of lambs tails.
Nature’s Calendar data shows buds are bursting into leaf earlier and leaves falling much later, backing up Met Office research suggesting the plant-growing season has extended by a month. I’ve noticed in my own gardens this to be the case.
Dr Kate Lewthwaite, of the Woodland Trust, said, ‘The more data we have, the better we will understand the effects of warm winters, cold snaps and heatwaves.’ Can’t argue with that.
Memories of an English childhood nursery rhyme I sang at primary school, suddenly flood my thoughts: after more than sixty years:
Hopefully NOT! But, people might think you have if you forget a simple comma. ‘Have you eaten, Granny?’ Sounds a lot better. Don’t you agree? Or maybe you did eat Granny *laughs* ~ joking, naturally.
Language is what makes us human. As the philosopher, Bertrand Russell, remarked one day: ‘No matter how eloquently a dog may bark, he cannot tell you that his parents were poor but honest. Only language can do that.’
Language is also power, and how we use it defines us. Think of Winston Churchill: ‘I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.’
And since the way we use language tells the world so much about us, it’s worth getting it right. Especially important as a writer. I’m a perfectionist. I edit and re-edit a zillion times, before sending my manuscript off to my publishers. There are NO typos in my books. Go on, check for yourselves: The Adventures of Eric Seagull ‘Storyteller’ 3-book-series
I’m a punctuation perfectionist. (That doesn’t mean to say I always get it right, but I always aim to).
As a child, I would often read (yes) read the Oxford Dictionary. So many words…I found fascinating. My eldest daughter often says, ‘why use that word when something simple will do?’ BECAUSE MY LOVELY DAD DID IT ALL THE TIME! When she asks, ‘what does that mean’ (and she’s nearly 42). Cough! Get a grip. Why use simple words…when a more complicated word slips so easily off the tongue… sighs! My lovely dad taught me so much. And like a sponge, I soaked it up.
Words have always fascinated me. So many meanings. When I lived at home with my parents, my dad liked nothing more than to stay up until 2am playing scrabble. I often won. He challenged most of my words. ‘Fair play’ he would nod, before heading off to bed.
I believe that people with better English skills are healthier and live longer lives because they (we) can understand and communicate better with doctors, nurses, and carers. And, alarmingly, good english is under threat. I blame most (not all) of this on mobile phone text messages! What kind of language is that? I write a text message in full, and with (ahem) commas!
And it is not only children. Three-quarters of adults now use emojis to communicate with one another. If a small digital image – designed by someone else and generated for you (reader) – can express how you feel, who needs words? I DO!
Punctuation is essential to clear communication. Without punctuation, no one knows what’s going on. It is crucial…but the rules are changing. Spelling is important today in a way that it wasn’t when Shakespeare was a boy. My main character in my 3-book-series could do with a few English lessons. But then, he isn’t human, is he? No. He’s a Brixham seagull, for heaven’s sake. But, a clever one. Reporter for the Brixham Times newspaper, indeed. You can take a peep at my books, just click the link: Amazon Book Page
Grammar isn’t set in stone. Once upon a time, to split an infinitive was wrong, wrong, wrong. Since the coming of Star Trek in 1966, promising ‘to boldly go where no man has gone before’, we’ve all been at it. So to speak!
Well, not all of us! A few!
The rules may change, but it is important to know then, nonetheless.
IN TEXTS and tweets and even emails, some people seem to think any punctuation unnecessary. WRONG! It may take you marginally less time to write, but it will almost certainly take the intended recipient marginally longer to absorb. That is why, for example, (smiles now) (i.e) or even (e.g) – in the age of the telegram, when you paid for each word used, senders were ready to pay to include the word STOP if it helped make their message more comprehensible. I remember when my dad received a telegram on Christmas Eve (when I was young and only 21) informing him his mother, my Gran, had passed away.
In a nutshell, in contemporary written English full stops are used: (take a breath)
To mark the end of a sentence that is a complete statement: You are reading my book. Thank you. (one hopes)
To mark the end of a group of words that don’t form a conventional sentence, so as to emphasise a statement: You are reading my book. My book. Wow. Thank you.
In some abbreviations, for example, Jan., if a full stop comes at the end of a sentence, you don’t need to add another full stop.
THIS won’t take long; it’s important, believe me.
Read that last sentence out loud and you should see exactly what the semi-colon is doing. It’s providing a pause that is longer and more significant than a comma, and less abrupt and intrusive than a full stop.
For those who relish nuance in their punctuation it’s the go-to punctuation mark. I love the semi-colon; for my money, it’s undervalued and underused. Many haven’t a clue when to use it, of course. Smiles broadly.
It should be used between two main causes that balance each other – or contradict each other – but are too closely linked to be written as separate sentences: I love my dog; she loves me. Yes, she does.
You must use a semi-colon when a comma is replacing a full stop in a quotation, or a quotation is linking two separate sentences: ‘I’m so sorry to have to tell you this,’ he said; ‘your cat has croaked.’
‘Would you like her cremated?’ his assistant inquired; ‘we have a special offer this month.’
With me thus far? Lips are getting dry. Nips out to put the kettle on.
I’m back in the, er, room.
Semi-colons come in handy, too, with lists, when a comma alone is not up to the job.
THINK of it as a pair of binoculars place vertically on the table. The binoculars (bins, ahem) will remind you of the colon’s core purpose. It is there to help you look ahead. I LOVE A COLON.
The colon does not separate or stop (like the comma, semi-colon, or full stop): it introduces what lies ahead: it takes you forward.
You can use the colon for three principal tasks:
To introduce a list: Five people walk into a bar: an Englishman, an Irishman, a Scotsman, a bishop, and an actress.’ No, it’s not a dirty joke I’m about to tell you all…though I know a man who would.
To introduce direct speech: “The barman asks: ‘Is this some kind of joke?”’
To introduce an explanation or summary of the first part of the sentence or to take it further in some way: “There are two problems with this joke: it is teetering on the edge of political incorrectness and it isn’t funny.’
ACCORDING to every public opinion survey, the misplaced apostrophe – are the two linguistic horrors that distress most of us the most. Probably authors.
LOOK around you as you walk down any street and they hit you in the face like a series of Smokin’ Joe Frazier’s left hooks. They’re unbearable – and everywhere. Incredibly, not everyone feels the same way.
My cuppa tea’s gettin’ cold – slurps! Translated – My cup of tea is cold.
‘Tis said, ‘a poem a day keeps dementia at bay’ ~ I read in my local newspaper this morning.
‘At whatever age you are,’ according to a professor, ‘you still have the capacity to learn new things if you put your mind to it. There’s no shortage of brain cells as you grow older.’ Well, I have to agree with him on that one.
And here’s one to get you started:
William Shakespeare – Sonnet 18
Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
Beatrix Potter, the writer of one of the most beloved children’s book of all time, The Tale of Peter Rabbit (1902), was a woman of immense talent, indefatigable spirit, and generous heart.
Helen Beatrix, the eldest of the two children of Rupert and Helen (Leech) Potter, was born on 28 July 1866 at 2 Bolton Gardens, South Kensington, London. Although Beatrix and her brother, Walter Bertram (1872-1918), grew up in London, both were deeply influenced by long family holidays in the countryside, first in Scotland and later in the English Lake District, and by their northern roots.
As was the custom in families of her class, Beatrix was educated at home by several governesses. An eager student of languages and literature, she grew up loving classic folk and fairy tales, rhymes and riddles. Her talent for drawing and painting was discovered early and encouraged. She drew her own versions of such stories as Cinderella
Pretty Brixham. I wouldn’t live anywhere else! And why would I?
Photos (and I have many) taken during my dog walk in the picturesque Fish Town of Brixham Bay.
All Saint’s Church situated just a short stroll from my home and has so much history. At 8pm each evening, we can hear the church bells ringing out “Abide With Me” (a Christian hymn) written in 1847 by Scottish Henry Francis Lyte. He set it to music while he lay dying of tuberculosis; he only survived a further 3 weeks after its completion.
It is most often sung to English composer William Henry Monk’s tune entitled “Eventide” composed in 1861.
Henry Francis Lyte
Shortly after Lyte’s arrival in Brixham, the minister attracted such large crowds that the church had to be enlarged – the resulting structure later described by his grandson as a “hideous barn-like building”.
Stunning view across the outer harbour.
Lucy and Rosie
So well-behaved off their leads
Oxen Cove. Battery Gardens. Furzeham Green
Stunning sea views
I tend to use my iPhone to snap photos while I’m out and about in the bay. It’s small, easy to put in my bag or pocket. I’ve got a ‘real’ camera 🎥 but it’s a bit bulky to carry round. I might get mistaken for a sight seeing holidaymaker 😎 *laughs•
El Galeón weighs 500 tonnes, has an overall length of 160 feet and a beam of 32 feet. Four masts hold 6 sails which measure almost 11,000 square feet.
I was there. Were you? To get me in the mood, we…
…wined and dined (with husband Geoff) at the ever so busy and oh so popular Prince William at Brixham Marina: husband Geoff’s rump steak was cooked to perfecto. So was mine. My large glass of chilled Chardonnay was suitably chilled. Husband’s 🍺 pint of Tribute quenched his enormous thirst.
A huge thank you to the lovely Emma, and staff… we were, as usual, well looked after today.
the Brixham Fancy Dress… pirate ship… pirates and wenches a-plenty! All willing to pose in front of my lens. “Thanks me lovelies!” Find yerselves, if you be brave anuff!
Below: El Galeon, a Spanish galleon ship birthed at the Marina.
And now for some ‘ansome pirates!
Busy times in Brixham Bay. Holidaymakers galore, me shipmates! And, The Prince William (my regular eatery when it’s not taken over by pirates, that is).There be that there ship, again! (me talking like a pirate)!
A sleeping pirut! (pirate) No doubt ‘e’ll be walking the plank later, me ‘earties!
What’s going on yer me ‘earties?
Below: And there I be… ‘having a quick photo with a pirut (pirate) wench! (I could get used to this pirate garb)
A pirut (pirate) serenade or three!
They do ‘ang ’em ‘igh in Brixham Bay! Did thee’st know? Anyone know what his crime was? Nor me, and I lives yer! (Bit of my pirate lingo)
They seems like a nice lot! (what a nice bunch)
Yer be another… been in that cage a long time! Aye shipmates!
An’ another…poor sod!
Busy town! Brixham quayside.
And they luvs a bit of sing-song! (great music, lads)
Pondering a bit of plundering, no doubt!
Oh dear, that li’l ‘un aint too ‘happy ’bout the music (bottom right) Never mind, it’ll be over soon anuff me lad. (little boy; bottom corner, not looking too happy)
Pirates love to pose, dids’t thee know?
Below: Happy to pose for me lens, too. Thank you shipmates.
Hey dudes! Looking good shipmates! Thanks for posing for me lens today! (if you be wanting a copy of yer photo, let me know!)
Well, someone has to work… Brixham Ferry Service…
A pirut taking a selfie… whatever next? (pirate taking his own photo)
Oops, that seafaring wench has summat in ‘er eye, me ‘earties! (Lady has a fly in her eye)
Couple of sea dogs, i’ll be blowed!
Below: A right ole bunch…up to no good… Pirates of Brixham Bay planning their next a-plundering, no doubt! Looking good me ‘parties! Good looking bunch.
Below: Brixham security! (Well someone’s got to do it!) handsome trio.
Where’s yer pirate clobber, me ‘earties! ‘ansum trio I ever did see. (Mia’s dad in the middle, all the way from Thailand indeed. Welcome to Brixham Bay!
Well… had to have me photo taken with Mia’s dad, didn’t I? All the way from Thailand too!
And so tall, I just had to have another picture! (Shut UP)!
Brixham harbour… oh so busy!
And then… home I did walk… back again Monday 7th May for some more pirate photos, and a tasty lunch at my favourite place, The Prince William, just the other side of the harbour. See you there!
A chill wind sweeps across the hilly South Devon landscape (where I live), causing me to shiver and shudder on my early morning dog walk with my two cocker spaniels. As we head down the winding road towards the sea, my eyes weep at the mercy of the coldest winds hitting me in the face. My dogs’ ears look ready to take off as they flap about. Lucy and Rosie stay warm and cosy inside their thermal winter dog coats. Yes, well, I’m wrapped up for winter even though it is supposed to be spring. I can feel my colourful bobble atop my woolly hat bobbing this way and then that. My pink giraffe scarf wrapped several times round my neck is also keeping half my face warm. If one has asthma, as I do, we’re often told to keep a scarf over our mouth to keep cold air out and warm air in; hence, stopping (hopefully) an asthma attack.
We arrive at the Battery Gardens overlooking the sea. Lucy and Rosie enjoy a run-about off their leads beneath the canopy of the tall tress, while I enjoy time off from the cold winds and take in the ambience of gardens natural beauty. A quick look out to sea, and not a ship in sight. Too rough even for the bravest sailors. Not long, and we’re heading home; this time the howling cold winds are blowing behind us and giving us a push upwards and along the pathway.
In the garden, the flowerbeds are looking sorry for themselves. My eyes scan the full bird feeders hanging on my gold coloured tall lamp-post in the corner. I’ve always fed the wildlife.
By now I would have expected to see all four types of early spring butterfly; the small tortoiseshell, peacock, comma and brimstone. So far, I haven’t spotted any at all.
Spring 2018 has thus far been a desolate one, and today those fluttering beauties will all be hunkered down, wishing they had never come out from their winter hide-holes.
Overall, it feels more like February than Eastertime. My winter clothes won’t be put away just yet.
On a lighter note, it’s lovely to have longer hours of daylight. March is one of my favourite times of year, even if it still feels like winter outside.
The Met Office uses March 1 as the official start of spring. Astronomers choose the spring equinox on March 21. Meanwhile, for most ordinary folk, the clocks going forward – as they did last weekend – is the most reliable indicator that winter is on its way out. Yet, despite all those milestones having passed, Mother Nature still doesn’t seem to have got the message.
The clocks have gone forward. I’ve seen narcissi, crocuses, even daffodils. Like sap, my hopes are rising. My S.A.D (winter depression) has finally diminished. **Smiles**
Could last weekend’s plummeting temperatures have been the final door slam of that long, cold winter? About blooming time!
Most of the country had snow. Our devon garden looked pretty wearing its glossy, white overcoat. The snow was powdery. Dogs loved to pee on it. But, they didn’t stay outside any longer than necessary. I didn’t venture outside at all, except to bag up ‘dog-poo’. Temperatures were freezing. And, so cold was the weather that my pretty pink Devon Palm went to Tree Heaven!
Sharing my Gran’s recipe with you today. Why? Gran gained a Diploma in Baking back in the day. Pancakes (she could toss them high without them sticking to the ceiling) as well as her Sunday fruit cake, were the envy of all her family and friends.
Gran’s perfect pancakes: (If you’re making lots of pancakes, as I do, you might want to double the amount of flour and milk)
100g plain flour (4ozs ~ in old money)
300ml semi-skimmed milk (just over 1/2 pint)
1 tsp oil for frying. (Gran used solid white lard)
Put the flour and a pinch of salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and crack the eggs into the middle. Pour in about 50ml milk. Start whisking/stirring from the centre, gradually drawing the flour into the eggs, and milk. Once all the flour is incorporated, beat until you have a smooth, thick paste. Add a little more milk if it is too stiff to beat.
Add a good splash of milk and whisk to loosen the thick batter. While still whisking, pour in a steady stream of the remaining milk. Continue pouring and whisking until you have a batter that is the consistency of slightly thick single cream. (Yes, I get lumps too…it doesn’t matter).
Heat the frying pan over a moderate heat, then wipe it with oiled kitchen paper, or add a drop of oil. The pan should be really HOT at this point. Ladle some batter into the pan, tilting the pan to move the mixture around for a thin and even layer. If you’ve added too much mixture, quickly pour any excess batter into a jug, return the pan to the heat, then leave to cook, undisturbed, for about 30 secs. Pour the excess batter from the jug back into the mixing bowl. If the pan is the right temperature, the pancake should turn golden underneath after about 30 secs and will be ready to turn.
Hold the pan handle, ease a palette knife under the pancake, then quickly lift and flip it over. Make sure the pancake is lying flat against the base of the pan with no folds, then cook for another 30 secs before turning out onto a warm plate (or FLIP into the air, if you’re brave enough). Continue with the rest of the batter, serving them as you cook or stack onto a plate. You can freeze the pancakes for 1 month, wrapped in cling film or make them up to a day ahead.
I’ll post photos of my pancakes on the day, so pop back. Better still, follow my website/blog and you’ll receive updates as they occur. I’m looking forward to hearing about your pancake experience.
February 13th, teatime at ours, and, I’m back in the room. A few photos of my pancakes 🥞 as previously promised. I doubled the flour and milk: we all love Granny’s pancakes! I made 8 pancakes 🥞 but I’m no good at ‘tossing’ them 😂 And by golly they tasted fantastical.
How did your pancakes turn out? I’d love to hear from you.
On a cold, not-so-sunny, winter’s morning, few sights lift my spirits quite as much as a robin hopping across the garden showing off its beautiful red breast.
Now and then it’ll fly up to a post and sing its delightful song, cheering me even more. I’m a sufferer of SAD (winter depression) so when creatures great and small visit my garden they always manage to bring about a warm smile to my face, and lift those winter blues and feelings of doom and gloom. I will quickly add, I’ve been taking a regular small daily dose of Vitamin D since March: (a) I didn’t get my usual October heavy cold and cough (b) winter depression didn’t kick in during October as it usually does, but, was delayed until December. In my opinion, this supplement has certainly helped me a lot.
Robins look to us for sustenance during cold spells, as their natural food of earthworms and other invertebrates can be hard to find. We feed birds all year round making sure the wild birdseed hanging containers are always topped up. Ours are squirrel-proof! Sorry if you’re a squirrel lover!
Most gardeners will agree, robins have struck up an extraordinary relationship with humans and will boldly perch on a bucket edge or spade handle ready to pick up worms that have been unearthed. They have such pretty eyes. These little birds are fearsome fighters with glorious voices and which, all too often, have a sadly short lifespan. They readily chase off blackbirds, sparrows, and tantalise my 2 cocker spaniels by hopping along the six foot tall wooden fence ~ chase me, why don’t you! My dogs love the banter too.
Our love of robins and habit of feeding them in our gardens goes back a rather long way according to legend.
Back in the sixth century, Saint Serf of Fife (most famous for slaying a dragon terrorising people near Loch Lomond) was apparently the first person to start feeding them.. His friends were so jealous they killed the bird, but fortunately it was brought back to life. I love a good ending, don’t you?
Stories about feeding robins are common because they are legendary for their tameness, and one of the few wild birds that will take food from the hand. I remember way back to when I was only about five or six years old, and my dad telling me to hold out my hand keeping my palm facing upward and flat. He would then place a few wriggly mealworms onto my hand. Well, as a little girl who loved to play in the dirt and have a strange fascination for huge long fat worms, that wasn’t a problem at all. I still rescue worms in the garden when they stray onto the patio. Yep, I pick them up by my fingers just as I did as a child and carefully put them back onto the garden. Some things never change. Teaching children to be kind to animals as well as creatures great and small was instilled into me at a very young age. My older brother would often rescue a frozen blackbird and bring it into the warm kitchen. Mother would make it a bed of straw or newspaper inside a cardboard box. Then, using a small glass dropper that she normally kept for putting olive oil into our ears to soften ear wax, she carefully applied a single drop of my dad’s best Christmas brandy onto its frozen beak. In no time at all, it’s eyes would open. Lastly, it’s wings would begin to thaw. I would always watch from afar: the bird would then hop round the warm kitchen delighted to be still alive. Only when it had thawed out fully would it be allowed back outside. The following day, we would do the same rescue for a frozen thrush or blackbird. I was five, and my brother would have been about eight at the time.
In the Twenties, former Foreign Secretary Edward Grey taught a robin to take food from his hand. He wrote about it in a best-seller, The Charm of Birds.
Recently, naturalist Hugh Warwick hand-tamed a robin in a few days. After a while, the bird would even come inside his home to beg for food, making him wonder who was in charge in their relationship. I could never do that…my eldest cocker spaniel is a bird fancier for all the wrong reasons!
We English love our robins. Two years ago it won a BBC television Springwatch poll to choose the UK’s national bird.
Robins used to nest in our evergreen holly bush, back in the fifties when I was a small child.
Another reason we connect robins with Christmas is that the early postmen wore red uniforms, and so were nicknamed ‘robins’. Anyone old enough to remember that? And, as the cards pop through your letter box over the coming days, note how many feature a robin! There are more than 300 different species in the family of birds known as old-world flycatchers and chats, including the redstart and the nightingale.
Like its cousin, the nightingale, robins often sing at night – especially in cities, where permanently lit street lamps fool them into thinking the sun is about to rise.
I see robins everywhere: especially in my beautiful Devon garden.
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Isn’t he stunning? I’ve named this garden visitor Vic. Well, I say visitor loosely. ‘Vic’ lives in the middle border of my garden enjoying the best coverage with ‘Creeping Jenny” an evergreen ground covering plant. He shares his home with frogs 🐸 big and small. Readers: Does anyone know if Vic is a toad or frog. I think toad. He doesn’t leap or hop. He struts! And boy oh boy can he strut his stuff!
I’ve adored frogs ever since I was a child. Our family garden was ‘alive’ with newts, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, enormous 🦉 owls: the owls lived at the bottom of the garden and would fly in for the bacon 🥓 rind my mum hung in the trellis outside the kitchen window. We kids would wait in the kitchen, lights off, and in he would swoop! Beautiful creature.
🐭 Mice! Now that’s a different matter. I’m scared of the little blighters. And that’s the very reason I created 🐭 Mouse Herbie. He appears in all my books. You can see more about my books here:
The Adventures of Eric Seagull ‘Storyteller’ 3-book-series, set in beautiful Brixham Bay! Click the cover for more detail.
I read somewhere that there’s a story behind the photo. And so it goes… Harper Collins UK made this postbox so that those who work in the building could post kind notes to each other: to coincide with publication of that little book on kindness. A lovely idea, don’t you think?
I spy with my little eye…something beginning with M.P ~ scrummymince pies! It’s not Christmas at ours ’til we’ve eaten our first ‘homemade’ mince pie of the (Christmas) season (oops…I mentioned Christmas and it’s only just October). Believe me mince pies and Christmas cakes will be hitting the shelves by the end of the month! Watch this space.
I’m a Lazy Baker. I always use frozen pastry.
Makes 16 mince pies, depending on the thickness of your pastry, naturally.
You will need:
375g plain flour
260g butter (softened)
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
Jar of mincemeat
Recipe: (Homemade pastry or of course cheat and buy frozen, as I do)
Pre-heat the oven to 220°C or Gas mark 7
Chop the butter into small cubes, and place into a large mixing bowl with the flour and mix together using your hands.
Work the lumps of butter into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs
Mix in the sugar and one egg, folding it together to bring it together.
Pop it in the fridge and allow to chill for about 10 – 15 minutes
Once chilled, lightly flour a work surface (I use a large wooden board) and sprinkle some over your rolling pin
Roll out the pasty to approximately 2-3mm thick
Using a pastry cutter (I prefer a metal cutter) cut 16 circles roughly 10cm in diameter
Place these into your non stick cake/bun tin and push down lightly into the base
Spoon 2tsp of mincemeat into each one. The mincemeat should fill the pie leaving adequate pastry around the edge for you to seal the lid to – about 5mm
Beat an egg in a cup and use to brush lightly around the edges of each pie
Using a smaller pastry cutter cut the lids for each pie.
Place the lids onto each pie and crimp together the edges with your fingers and seal the pie
Brush each lid with beaten egg, sprinkle lightly with sugar (I prefer brown sugar) and make a small cut in the lid to allow steam to escape – you don’t want your lovely pies to explode in the oven.
Cook for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Carefully remove them from the oven using an oven glove, and allow to cool.
They are delicious warm with clotted cream or hot thick creamy custard. Or on their own, of course!
IT is quintessentially English – and yet the scone is something the country as a whole simply can’t agree about.
So, is it Sc-oa-ne for you, or Scon? I know that it’s always been a Sc-oa-ne for me and my family.
Living in Devon, as I do, it’s always clotted cream on first, followed by a huge dollop of strawberry jam. And that is how it is. Unless, of course, you live or come from Cornwall. Then, it’s jam on first, followed by cream.
Is it that important?
It’s not just the argument about whether to spread the cream or jam first. Now, there’s an even more contentious question – how to pronounce the word scone.
If one isn’t from a posh background, it seems to be scoane! If one is posh, it’s definitely scon; as in gone! Where a person is from, or their social standing, also determines how we pronounce our English scone. So, which is it for you?
Thank you for dropping by today. Before you go off for a Cream Tea, do drop by my Amazon Author page to view my books.
Our four-legged furry friends never cease to make me smile. Love the cocker spaniel wearing his trilby hat.
Today, while my two besties, Lucy and Rosie, were enjoying a wash and brush-up at A1 Dog Groomers here in Brixham, I took delight in snapping a few photos: With the owners permission, naturally!
Firstly, let me introduce you to my girls…who said dogs don’t smile? Oh yes they do. Here’s my Lucy-dog…smiling for my lens.
Below, my Rosie…the frog hunter. She’s never caught a frog, nor would she. When frogs appear late at night in the garden, Rosie simply stands and stares. We see you Rosie…behind the shrubs.
Not a bit camera-shy!
Above and below. Nap time!
Loving a paddle
Dogs of Brixham
You’re just too cute. These cocker spaniels are besties, spending the day in Brixham. Love the shades!😎 (I offered to edit-out the owner, but, he too was happy to smile for my lens). Thank you.
And not far away, along the cobbled pathway opposite the harbour and enjoying the coolness of the shade… this friendly Golden Retriever’s warm smile made my day, while his little buddy wasn’t too sure what all the fuss was about.
Oozing with doggy character. And so friendly too!
Below: Behind that adorable face hid the deepest growl
Nice pirate hat
Little and large! Happy to say hi!
Lively brown and white Springer Spaniel who just loves the sea
Below: The most loving and obedient dog I’ve ever met. She’s gorgeous. Loves doggy gravy bones! Brixham’s local girl.
And now… After a feast of sardines and doggy biscuits, my girls Lucy and Rosie looking pretty dapper after their bath and tidy up earlier, they were ready for a nap.
July already…and our Brixham weather’s been superb! The parasols, all 3 of them, are UP!
Sharing my sunny terrace with you all today. Stunning colours. Heaven’s scents. Marvellous. While you admire the colours, plants, roses, and o’course my dogs who are never far away, I’m off to make a jug of pimms 💕🍷🍷
My Garden Diary
I’m definitely a summer person. Are you? What’s your favourite time of year?
Thanks for visiting today. You can read about my books here too… use the menu above.. Caz
My special guest has the twinkliest eyes, and the warmest smile. Meet my eldest Granddaughter, fifteen-year-old Sophie.
Sophie’s love of horses began when she was a little girl aged six-years-old. It began during a sunny day at the beach with her mum, dad, and brother. Noticing a sign, ‘Donkey Rides’ Sophie soon found herself enjoying a donkey ride across the soft sandy beach. She was hooked: and desperately wanted to try her hand at horse riding.
Sophie’s first horse riding lesson took her on a woodland trail of natural beauty. At age six, she was the youngest rider in the group that day. And now, a teenager, she’s a competent rider.
I asked Sophie how she felt the first time she sat in the saddle atop a horse. She told me, “I was so nervous, but, excited too. I rode one of the smaller horses.”
Today, we’re taking a trip back in time… in no particular order!
A younger Sophie…party time! And halloween!
When Sophie’s not riding or helping out at the riding stables… she holidays in style with her family.
Clothes shopping…always welcome! Fun times!
Teenager, at last ❤️
Had the nails done too! Sophie knows how to celebrate in style.
I asked if she’d had any scary moments while riding, she told me, ‘When I was about ten-years-old, I fell from a horse named Blue. My foot got trapped in the stirrup and he dragged me along the ground. I remember the fear, but, I got back in the saddle and continued my lesson. My dad was filming me jumping low hurdles at the time. I think he was as scared as I was when he saw me fall. It’s all on camera. It didn’t put me off riding.’
Some time after that, Sophie had quite a serious fall, which landed her in spiky brambles. She went to hospital that time. A scary moment for her family that time. But, resilient as ever, Sophie was soon off her crutches and painkillers; only to be back riding once again. We are all so very proud of your courage and commitment, Sophie! Though I have to say, the first time I saw Sophie on a horse when she was only six, it scared me silly. #ProudGrannyMoment
It hasn’t all be plain sailing ~ perhaps I should say, ‘riding’ ❤️ Sophie’s huge disappointment hit her hard when the riding stables she’d come to know and love for so many years, closed. A sad time realising she wouldn’t see her four-legged-friends again ~ she’d known them by name for so long
Sophie’s determined parents went on a search…and finally found riding stables not too far from their home. It wasn’t long before Sophie was back in the saddle, again.
A family fun day!
I’ve really enjoyed your Diary, Sophie. Hope you did too. #ProudGrannyMoments ❤️
He’s tall. Handsome. And looks fabulous in his suit. Meet my eldest Grandson, Kieran.
17 today! Happy Birthday, Kieran!
Kieran’s been a keen footballer ever since he could walk. Football crazy some might say. A great team player who’s already enjoyed enormous success playing in local football teams. Striker, he told me earlier, is his favourite position. Not surprising considering he scored a whopping 19 goals last season. Well done! He’s also an experienced left mid-field player.
kieran (4th from the left) with his team mates. Looking smart modelling their new kit ❤️
A much younger Kieran, below, …determined as ever to get that goal…
Kieran’s a Bristol Rovers supporter: same as his dad. But, his ultimate football hero is Cristiano Ronaldo. A Portuguese international who currently plays for Real Madrid team in Spain. I asked him, why this player? ‘He’s my favourite player because he used to play for Manchester United; a team I support now. He was my favourite player then too. I’ve continued to support him ever since.’
Today, we’re taking a trip back through the years…photos tell a thousand stories.
Proud moments! Fun photos! Family fun! In no particular order.
Photo: The Memorial Stadium. Kieran and Ollie Clarke. Bristol Rovers player.
Photo: David Beasant and a young Kieran looking excitedly proud. Football trophy Presentation at a local football club.
Photo: Year 6 Leavers’ disco at school (kindly arranged and organised by Kieran’s mum and her friend) A good time was had by all. Lots of friends joined Kieran for a fabulous party. (I haven’t posted any group photos).
Photo: Family fun! Celebrating Kieran’s dad’s 40th birthday, at the pub. And no, Kieran’s not really drinking that pint of lager. We all enjoyed a fabulous birthday meal inside.
Enjoying a pint (again) …with his dad…a pint of cocoa-cola! Holiday time, abroad, with his family. Sweltering heat by the look of you both, Kieran. (Pint of lager looks refreshing, Justin).
Below: A more recent photo: taken April 2016. My youngest Grandson, Ethan, with Kieran. A special photo of you both together. An early 6th birthday celebratory meal at the Prince William, in Brixham. Behind the camera and out of view; and probably at the bar **laughs** is Kieran’s mum, dad, sister, and grampy.
Below: A proud moment. An article published in the local newspaper. Kieran’s ‘hit the headlines’ Yep! That’s our boy in the photo wearing the yellow shirt!
Football is definitely Kieran’s game! A team photo-shot. Fun. Happy days. I’m not sure if this was take before or after the match. If it was after, I can only assume they Won judging from their smiley faces.
Above photo: A fun game of crazy golf with the family. Looks like you might’ve won.
I love these holiday photos. Especially as I’ve never been on a plane. Whenever there’s fun to be had, you’ll always find Kieran having a good time. Travelling by plane, and enjoying superb food and splendid views from their hotel…coming next.
And then the holiday begins…
Back in the UK and it’s time for more fun and laughter in Brixham Bay. Cousins enjoying a bit of a laugh on the beach. I love this photo. Taken April 2016 at the Breakwater.
Above: random footie photos. Left: Kieran soon joins the locals at his holiday destination for a kick around ~~ Right: watching Man. Utd. Translated for those in faraway lands, Manchester United. I did edit this photo. Kieran was actually standing with his friends at the time.
Love the football trainers!
And when he’s not kicking a ball about, he’s enjoying a game of tenpin bowling with his mates…
Look good in his football kit.
On or off the pitch, Kieran is never far away from a game of football.
Chillin’ and wearing his smart white football kit, Kieran’s watching a game on screen… as you’d expect.
Every picture tells a different story. Photo memories last forever.
Thank you for joining me on my blog today, Kieran. I’ve enjoyed every minute. I hope you did too.
Lastly, for those of you who appreciate poetry. A poem written by Kieran. Published by his primary school. Copyrighted to Kieran Payne 2017. No copying permitted.
I love your poem, Kieran. What’s more…readers…it was published before my poem. **smiles proudly** #ProudGrannyMoment naturally. ❤️
Tails a-wagging (my dogs o’course) Lucy and Rosie took me for a walk to the Battery Gardens. A short walk from my home. Beneath the most beautiful blue skies and occasional bobtail clouds over Brixham Bay, we took in the ambience of stunning sea views, salty sea air (that cleared my sniffly-hayfever-nose) which brought a peachy warm glow to me cheeks! As always, I snapped away on my iPhone. All photos are by me, Caz.
Brixham Battery Gardens oozes history. An open space on the seashore here in Brixham. A traditional observation point where locals, and holidaymakers (Grockles) gather whatever the weather. Come rain, shine, drizzle, sleet, brilliant sunshine (you get the idea) folk gather for the finest views across the Bay.
The 14-acre site of Battery Gardens was first used as a battery in 1586 during the war between England and Spain. The Battery was not permanently armed but was certainly ‘active’ throughout the American War of Independence during the 1780s and the Napoleonic War against France during the first decade of the 19th century. The Battery was also used by the Coast Guard for gunnery training during the 1870s. It’s no wonder visitors flock here in their droves during summer, mostly. Autumn at the Battery is just as magical. So many tall trees. I love to listen to the winds rustling the leaves to the ground. But, I am not a winter person. Summer is my favourite time. A refreshing sea breeze is guaranteed to blow away any cobwebs…clears my head. Refreshing. Good for the soul.
If you visit Brixham, do go along to the Battery Gardens. Lots of benches to sit down on and stare out across the bay. You’ll see ships, yachts, little boats, maybe the Brixham Ferry…exhilerating views. I love a ferry ride from Brixham to Torquay. Fabulous!