Slow Lane Life II

How we moved to the West Country and learned to slow down even more


Baby creep

Like portion creep when you’re dieting, but more obvious. Baby-related ‘stuff’ is becoming evident all over the house.

And why?


Baby E arrives by train on Monday, travelling light, or so I’m told. Remembering what it takes just to get out of the house with a baby, I will believe it when I see it. We will ensure that he doesn’t miss too much from home, and can sit, bounce, sleep, play and bathe, and this means equipment. Not all of it is new. Thankfully, Clutterbusters (a less rule-bound local version of freecycle), borrowing from friends, and the local junk shop Upcycling Centre that was once the post office came to the rescue, as did my considerable bedding and fabric stash.

Slowly the house fills up; car seat, travel cot, bath, bedding, changing mat, nappies, toys, stuff; I have learned about disposable eco-friendly nappy sizing (being of the old terry nappy/drudgery school myself), and been glad that we haven’t yet emptied our storage unit, as there would have been Not Enough Room (our constant cry in this house) for it all.

The travel cot is made up, and inside it sits the lovely traditional teddy that my mother gave Baby E’s father all those years ago, ready to be handed on, the nicest kind of heirloom.

Not for Baby E the more traditional sleeping arrangements.


And no bouncer either – we received a little video the other day of Baby E in his bouncer, kicking so energetically that he looked almost ready for take-off. It looked like great fun, I must say.


Instead, he can have a slightly more sedentary form of seating, a borrowed (and unattractively-named) Bumbo. It’s soft, slightly squidgy, and evidently very supportive, and I rather wished they came in grown-up sizes too.

Baby E will be at the perfect height to alarm the animals.



The cats and Flossie are going to have a challenging time next week; Hamish may well leave home for a while. For us, the excitement is mounting….



Righteous Indignation

We haz it. Thank you for sharing mine; very uplifting, a good dose of supportive outrage.

Thank you for the lovely messages; they were a joy to read.

Onward and upward; we have a heap of stuff to unpack now, and quite a lot stacked in a little storage unit belonging to the intended removals firm. I have said to The Gardener in my Strict Voice that nothing is coming back into this house unless it has been ‘gone through’ and if not considered essential (well, maybe useful or beautiful, but essential is better in this instance) will be passed on to others with more space to hoard. No one with only one cottage needs as many chairs, desks and tablecloths as we have, or as many jugs. Or teapots. Or large cupboard-bursting men’s jackets.


Meanwhile, we are preparing for a special visitor. This wonderful little being is coming to stay with his mother in just over a week’s time. We have promised to get him out of bed early in the morning, as soon as he wakes up, so that she can catch up on sleep. This makes us sound noble and considerate, but in fact we are dying to have him all to ourselves. Of course, we won’t be spoiling him, oh nooooooooo……..



Staying home




The more observant amongst you may have noticed that I did not lock up this blog as intended. And why? I’ll tell you.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.


About a year ago, and completely out of the blue, we spotted an odd little house for sale in a rather interesting area, just a few miles from where we live now. A converted stable, once part of the estate of a large crumbling manor, set amongst trees, totally dark at night, no traffic, close to the sea, with a lovely garden and masses of potential. We loved it.

And we almost bought it. After viewing, we put our cottage on the market in April last year, and received an offer for it within a month. Our offer for the stable was accepted. But things didn’t work out as planned, and eventually, only last week, we put an end to what had become a painful and, to me, an increasingly distressing process, and withdrew from the protracted sale and indeed the market. The kind owner of the stable conversion, who had waited patiently for us all those months, and had really wanted us to have her house, sold almost immediately afterwards; we were all rather upset by this, as we had come to know each other and the house quite well by this time, but we were glad for her. We,  however, weren’t going anywhere now; that stable conversion had been our sole motivation for moving at all, and as it was gone, we had no intention of house-hunting.

The odd thing is, I am overwhelmed with relief. And some guilt. I feel as if I have been in a strange adaptation of Brief Encounter, but with another house and garden rather than a person, and have come back to my own familiar and much-loved cottage rather sadder and wiser, but happy.

The experience has not been entirely wasted, however, despite the considerable sums spent on legal fees and meeting (and also failing to meet) the demands of the prospective purchasers. All the hopes, energy and enthusiasm kept in readiness for our intended new home will simply be transferred back into the cottage; we will unpack, make some practical changes to bedrooms, decorate and catch up with the unavoidably-postponed outdoor work (the rain! the rain! have you ever repaired render, painted drainpipes, windows and shed doors in continuous pouring rain? Tried to tidy a quagmire of a garden? No, we haven’t either, but not for lack of will).

We find ourselves fonder of our cottage than ever before – selling up is such a good test of what you really don’t want to leave behind, and I found it especially hard to think of leaving the stone-flagged hall, the wonderful wood burning stove, the low-ceilinged square sitting room with its beams and two wonky windows, and the even wonkier kitchen doorways.

The support from neighbours up and down the road has been incredible, and their relief that we aren’t going to be moving after all is expressed daily, which is both comforting and heartwarming.

So why did I want to close my blog down? Well, it had been ‘found’ (I think via Google images of the road, but I don’t quite understand all of this) some months ago by would-be house purchasers, who considered that the incident of my old car, when parked outside the house and being hit by a passing lorry, and my tongue-in-cheek account of certain enmities amongst the old-timers, had affected the saleability of the cottage; the offered price had duly been ‘readjusted’. It gave me a jolt; to have such a personal blog, dear to my heart, read and interpreted so negatively, and, by implication, judgements made of my sanity as a future property seller in writing it at all, felt like a violation (I know this sounds terribly dramatic but it did). It tainted my ability to write about what we had been planning. It no longer felt safe to write honestly. And as time dragged on, things became even more difficult, until it was time to put an end to a problem we could not willingly resolve.

But now that our affair with the stable conversion has been brought to a conclusion, regret mixed with relief, I think I can just cheerfully pick up where we left off last Spring, and carry on the gentle rhythm of recording a not-very-exciting life in a sleepy backwater that I love, in a blog that I love, written in a home that I love, amongst bloggy friends. No need to close down after all!

And I can stop fretting about capturing that blasted Hamish in order to commit the unforgivable crime (again) of transporting him to a new home….


Hamish says he’s not moving, ever. So that’s that, then.


Hibernation plan

I haven’t posted much for months because we’ve been preoccupied with various commitments and plans too complicated or uncertain to share, but I know this doesn’t make for an interesting blog, for which I’m sorry.

In a few days, I’m going to suspend SLL II for a temporary period while we get on with things, and make it a private (i.e. rather than a closed-down-for-ever) blog, but I’ll be back, hopefully with all sorts of riveting news and accounts of daily life in soggy Somerset. Please don’t run away; you’ll see a “private’ message, but it won’t be for long. And I’m still a blog reader, so I will keep my beady eye on you all!

All is well here, and with baby E and his parents, who sent me this photo yesterday:


Yes, I said “Aaaaaawwwww…..” too.

All for now. Spring is coming.



Not going to plan

Be warned; this is a post with an undercurrent of barely-disguised, self-pitying misery and disappointment.

Christmas has been a rather dismal non-event this year. Very upsettingly, the planned visit from baby E and his parents had to be postponed, for fear of passing on illness. Instead, they have taken themselves off to Whitstable, and we have no idea when we’ll see each other. We were sent a photo though, so that we can see how much baby E has grown; unbelievably, he’s now 14 weeks old.  Already a master of the Serious Face.


A few days earlier, I had come down with one of those truly horrific colds that strike every now and again, the kind where the thought “Death, take me now” creeps in at 3 a.m. when you are up, coughing and blowing and disturbing the cats. A cold that simply would not go away. Will not go away.

Christmas Day dinner (a rather grand nut roast, home made by me to redeem the dreadful bought version of last year) was a somewhat reduced affair, although I was glad to have rallied sufficiently to cook anything at all. Not that I tasted much, but The Gardener said it was good.

Flossie rather liked her present; a corduroy penguin that makes a honking sound. Such a rewarding dog, Flossie, always appreciative of gifts!

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On Boxing Day The Gardener’s youngest, the lovely M, came to stay. As she already had a lingering cold, we thought, perhaps naively, that surely we wouldn’t cross-infect each other? Or would we create some nightmare hybrid cold?

We spent a pleasant evening talking about her plans for university next year, and researching the shocking cost of student accommodation in London, her first choice. Living as she does now in a smallish village with limited public transport and none at all on Sundays, her determination to ‘get away’ is entirely understandable.

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And then, inevitably, The Gardener came down with a cold too. Whether it was mine or M’s remains debatable, but he doesn’t seem as prone as I was to sudden collapses into bed, stoical chap that he is.

We continue to cough and blow; today’s recycling box was filled with an inordinate number of empty tissue boxes. We anticipate an early night tonight, rather than New Year revelries (although anyone who knows us won’t be surprised by that, virus or no virus).

But we would like to wish you a very Happy New Year, and a healthy 2016, filled with all that you would wish yourselves.



….you all a perfectly lovely Christmas and New Year, filled with everything good that seems to be in such short supply this year: peace, love, compassion, kindness, kindness and more kindness.

I’m closing down for just now; I’ll keep reading everyone’s posts, but I won’t be posting anything myself until after the lovely baby grandson has been to stay, after which there will be – you guessed it – photos.

And then we can catch up on news and New Year plans.


Happy Christmas, all.


Soup days

I love soup. I have many recipes, including a well-memorised one of my mother’s, a family favourite (vegetable and tomato, with a good home made beef stock) that we children had to put through all three meshes of the hand-turned mouli until it reached the right consistency. A substantial dish, a meal in itself.

Once the soup was cooked, little meatballs were dropped into it and simmered; we counted them in and counted them out again, so that everyone had their fair share.

Oh, those slow-food days with few electrical gadgets! We enjoyed the sometimes-laborious processes in which my mother involved us when cooking; she taught us (well, me, certainly; my sister remembers less of spending hours in the kitchen than I do) when we were very young, barely able to see into the saucepans, to make a roux, to stir sauces in a figure of eight, to brown meat, cook onions without letting them brown, make thin crepes, peel potatoes and other vegetables deftly with a small sharp knife. I have, and often use, my mother’s little vegetable knife to this day.

But those meshes were a nightmare to wash up afterwards….


In the depths of 1950s winters, a special soup would be prepared, perhaps no more than once or twice a year. It consisted of both beef and ham, boiled with chunky root vegetables, memorable because my mother included swede, not her favourite, and because it was eaten in a particular way, liquid first, with a soup spoon, then the meat and vegetables, with knife and fork. We loved it.

My mother’s cooking was always taken seriously, preparation and results discussed in some detail. She maintained that her own mother, my beloved grandmother, was a much better cook than she was; I remember them both engaging in lengthy serious discussions of recipes and ingredients. My grandmother would often make what she called “a green soup” – ad hoc combinations of a number of  ingredients fresh from the market, such as lettuce, spinach, sorrel, Spring greens, watercress, sometimes chervil, lightly cooked and pureed, fragrant and smooth. I make a green soup often in the summer, as it is a very good way of using up the tail ends of salad ingredients, with nutmeg and a tiny dash of cream.

I am grateful to have inherited their love of cooking, although I never matched their talent, especially that of my mother in the matter of steak and chips, so famously good that her son-in-law mentioned them in his eulogy at her funeral.

Nowadays the book I use most is this one, and there has not been a single disappointing recipe from it.


Today, as the rain lashed and the wind howled, I made a very simple one indeed: garlic and chilli rice with Spring greens. We ate the lot for lunch.

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Mine didn’t look exactly like the illustration, of course; I doubt if the soy sauce had been added when the photo was taken, but despite being a pale brownish colour, it was exactly what the weather demanded, warming, comforting, fragrant and subtle in flavour. I like the notion of eating it, Asian-style, for breakfast – perhaps one day!

This evening’s supper of vegetable lasagne included garlic bread – that’s garlic twice in one day; clearing the fridge triumphing over menu planning. If you’re intending to visit us, stand well back when we open the front door; we too are fragrant!


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