South Elmham Minster


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It was our 26th wedding anniversary the Thursday before last and we had intended to go out for a walk and take a picnic with us.  However, the morning was very wet and, even though the rain had stopped by midday we decided that walking through long grass and along overgrown paths and then trying to find somewhere to sit and eat our lunch without getting wet would be too difficult, so we put off the walk until the following day.  I did the ironing instead.

Friday was a much better day for a walk, with warmth, some sunshine and a fair amount of cloud.  There was a light shower of rain mid-morning and another just as we approached our picnic spot but not enough to dampen our spirits or make the going, or sitting, any trouble.

As usual, I took my pocket camera with me and looked out for things of interest.  You will have to excuse the quality of the photos; I have to take the pictures as quickly as possible so that I am not left behind.  Also my camera has decided it doesn’t like pink and has changed all the pink flowers to blue or purple.

The beautiful almond-scented Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) was already in bloom along the lane just a few metres from our house.  This is a native plant.

I quote here from my ID, ‘Harrap’s Wild Flowers’ by Simon Harrap ” The name (Meadowsweet) refers to its use in flavouring mead and other drinks, rather than a predilection for meadows, and also used as a strewing herb, scattered on the floor to freshen up the house.”

The Dogwoods (Cornus sanguinea) have been marvellous this year. Most were past their best already but I felt I just had to record this shrub’s swansong.

This is a plant I have known since I was a small girl. It used to grow prolifically in the places I played. Pineappleweed (Matricaria discoidea)

The plant gives off a very strong pineapple scent when it is crushed.  It is an introduced plant, coming originally from east Asia and was first recorded in the wild in this country in 1871.

Shepherd’s Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris). This tiny little plant was right next to the Pineappleweed (which you can see bottom right of the photo). It gets its name from the shape of the seed pods.  You can see them surrounding the upper white flowerhead; they are grey-brown in colour and triangular.  Shepherd’s Purse is an ancient introduction to this country.

Hedgerow Cranesbill (Geranium pyrenaicum). This is one of the plants my camera decided should not be as pink as it is. It has rather lovely darker veins on its petals. This is yet another introduction, this time from southern Europe and was first recorded in the wild here in 1762.  I have added a link for you to see the usual colour of the flower.

Creeping Cinquefoil (Potentilla reptans). I love the zingy lemon-yellow of this flower! Next to a buttercup it looks too bright but on its own backed by its lovely soft green leaves it looks glorious.

Italian Alder (Alnus cordata). Halfway down our lane a row of Italian Alders were planted as a windbreak. What attractive trees they are! Here you can see the substantial heart-shaped glossy leaves, dark cones from last year and the new green cones. This tree has beautiful long catkins in the spring which flutter in the strong winds that blow here.

Pretty pink and white striped Field Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis ) along the edge of this crop of Field Beans.

As you can see from this photo, it was quite breezy during our walk; not the best conditions for getting good pictures in a hurry! In amongst the grass you can see the brown seedheads of Ribwort Plantain (Plantago lanceolata).

Common Knapweed (Centaurea nigra). The hard flowerheads of this plant have given it the name ‘Knap’ weed; ‘knap’ meaning knob.

In olden times, this flower could be used to tell a girl whether she would marry soon.  She had to pull all the expanded florets off the flowerhead and then put the rest of the flower inside her blouse, next to her heart.  After an hour she should take it out again and if the previously unexpanded florets had blossomed, that was a sure sign that the man she was going to marry was soon coming her way.

By this time we had left the lane and were walking along a footpath between fields.

Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare). Sitting on the flower on the right is a Thick-legged Flower Beetle (Oedemera nobilis).  Only the males of this harmless shiny green beetle have the distinctive swollen ‘thighs’.

Lady’s Bedstraw (Galium verum). This is the only photo I managed to get of this pretty plant and most of it is out of focus because of the wind blowing it about.

Harrap’s tells me it is ‘honey-scented when fresh but smells of new-mown hay when dry.  Formerly believed to discourage fleas and was incorporated into straw mattresses, especially for the beds of women about to give birth, hence its name.’

I cannot confirm the information about the scent because: 1. I would have found it very difficult getting down low enough to smell the plant and would then have struggled to get back up again, so I didn’t. 2. The wind was blowing too strongly for the delicate scent to be discernible and 3. I haven’t got a strong sense of smell, anyway.  We’ll just have to take Mr Harrap’s word for it.

Lesser Trefoil (Trifolium dubium). This plant with its three leaflets joined together is widely believed to be the true shamrock.  There are other plants which are also thought to be the shamrock; white clover, black medick, watercress and wood sorrel.

This plant is one of the hop trefoils; its seedheads look like tiny heads of hops.  Once the seeds begin to ripen the petals don’t fall off the plant but turn brown and the standard, the upper petal of the flower, folds down on either side of its centre line over the ripening pod like a ridged roof.  If you click on the photo above to enlarge it and look about a third of the way up from the bottom, you will find a seed head in the centre.  Does that make sense?

Pyramidal Orchid (Anacamptis pyramidalis).

Another not-as-pink, pink flower.  Here is a link to images of what a Pyramidal Orchid really looks like.

I believe this plant might be Oxford Ragwort (Senecio squalidus). The leaves look too evenly-branched to be the native Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea) though the latter plant is what I would expect to find here. Oxford Ragwort is found mainly in urban settings. It escaped from Oxford Botanic Garden in 1794 and then spread rapidly via the railway network. It sounds like the main character in a John Buchan novel!

Ragwort is poisonous, its leaves containing an alkaloid poison that can remain in plants that have been dried with hay.  Animals are not aware they are eating it when it’s in hay (though they will avoid it when it is growing in the field) and the alkaloids will destroy their livers in just a few months. Understandably, farmers will try to get rid of all the ragwort they find.

Our aim was to picnic at South Elmham Minster and we discovered it surrounded by trees.  It is on private land but the owners allow walkers to visit it as long as they respect the place.

Here is Elinor discovering and photographing the entrance to the site.

Richard, Alice and I had been here before, when we walked to it from St James in April 1995, nearly two years before Elinor was born!  We hadn’t been back since, though it is only half an hour’s walk from our present home.

The entrance and path leading to the ruins of the ‘Minster’ were very overgrown which somehow added a frisson of mystery to the occasion.

To the Minster

There was a lot of Comfrey growing next to the path.

Common Comfrey (Symphytum officinale). These flowers were lavender-coloured.

And there it was!

South Elmham Minster

Instead of me writing screeds about this interesting ruin I will recommend this article for you to read, if you so wish.

Here is an information sign with the ubiquitous ‘artist’s impression’ of the Minster.

Here is a message we found. We have no idea when the damage was done or when this sign was put up. It looks fairly recent.

We wandered around for a short while and then sat on the bench provided under the trees and had our lunch.

Our picnic spot

Below are a few photos of the ruins themselves.

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An interesting tree-trunk.

Many of the trees surrounding the Minster were Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus).  Hornbeam trunks are said to be ‘fluted’ which might describe the tree above.

Hornbeam pleated leaves with bunches of fruits

The Hornbeam nut forms with a three-lobed bract attached that sometimes grows as long as 5cms.  This acts as ‘wings’ when the nut is released from the tree in the autumn.

I think the Hornbeams have been coppiced in the past though Hornbeams are usually pollarded.  Local children have been making dens under the trees.

Lesser Burdock ( Arctium minus)

Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine)

Above are two different plants with fruits covered in hooks.  The stems and leaves of Cleavers also have bristles that cause them to stick to anything that touches them.

An enormous Bramble patch! (Rubus fruticosus agg. )

A bird had made a nest in one of the hollows in the wall. It was empty.

Another enormous Lesser Burdock; it must have been almost 2 metres tall. By this time the sun had come out and the air was becoming warm.

There was another exit path from the Minster which crossed the wide surrounding ditch.  This ditch is fairly deep though my photographs do not show this at all clearly.

A Hoverfly, I’m not sure which one, on a large Buttercup flower; again I’m not sure which buttercup.

Hedge Woundwort (Stachys sylvatica). In reality this flower is a little pinker than this photo shows.

Woundworts have been used to stem bleeding and treat wounds since the time of the ancient Greeks.  Formally, the leaves were usually used as a poultice.  Ointments and infusions were also made with the leaves and the flowers made into conserves.  In fact, the volatile oil in Hedge Woundwort does have antiseptic qualities.

Dog’s Mercury (Mercurialis perennis)

The Dog’s Mercury was all in seed. This one appears to have lost a few of its upper seeds.  Dog’s Mercury is extremely poisonous to animals and humans alike.

We left the Minster and walked home in the sunshine.

Mayweed.  I wasn’t able to check to see if it was Scentless or Scented Mayweed.  The white outer ray florets were just emerging round the central disc-florets of these daisy-like flowerheads.

Lesser Stitchwort (Stellaria graminea).

Field Rose (Rosa arvensis).

Field entrance

I didn’t take many photos of our surroundings as we walked and most of those shots were not suitable.  I am glad this one came out as it shows the countryside through which we walked.  Old-fashioned small fields with high dense hedges.  Lots of birds were still singing and wherever we walked we heard numerous skylarks.

A drainage ditch

Richard pointed out the cracked clay sides of this ditch.  The water though not deep, was running quickly along and was particularly clear.  We saw small fish swimming in it.

Further along, the ditch was crossed by a small bridge with what I assume is a gate to prevent sheep from crossing from one field to the next.

A cart pond.  In former times, when carthorses needed to drink, the cart drivers could get into these ponds and out again easily without having to take the horses off the cart.

Pyramidal orchid

Field edge full of orchids…

…and yet more

A selection of different Vetches

Hedge Bedstraw ( Galium album)

Borage ( Borago officinalis)

Agrimony ( Agrimonia eupatoria)

A field full of wild flowers

Unfortunately I couldn’t get into the field because of a deep ditch around it.  I had to take my photos using the zoom on my camera.

Sainfoin ( Onobrychis viciifolia)

I think the pretty pink and white clover in the centre of the photo is Alsike Clover ( Trifolium hybridum)

I think the owner of this field has sown some wildflower seed mix here.  I have never seen so many different flowers all in one field before.  From what I hear from the stories of the elderly people I know at church, all the fields were covered in wild flowers like these when they were young.  Intensive agriculture was becoming the norm thirty or forty years ago: hedges were ripped out and everything was sprayed to kill off the wild flowers and most of the insects.  This was still being done when I moved to East Anglia in 1988 and the birds I heard regularly then and the quantities of moths, butterflies and other insects I used to see then are much reduced.  I especially noticed the difference when I returned to East Anglia in 2006 after our 18 months in Somerset.  Far fewer insects certainly.  However, we had got used to hearing and seeing Buzzards during that 18 months while in Somerset and I was greatly surprised and excited to see and hear a Buzzard in Suffolk for the first time in 2007.  They are well established here now.

Common Mallow ( Malva sylvestris)  The Common Mallow is an ancient introduction to this country.  It seems to line all the lanes at this time of year.

This is the rather handsome caterpillar of the Peacock butterfly . I found it crossing the lane as I was nearing home.

You will be glad to know we all got home safely having met no-one on our walk and only saw a lady driving her pony and trap and I think a couple of cars along the lane.You will be especially glad to know that this is the end of the post!

How I Spend My Days


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This post, again, won’t be a normal one for me; not that I have been posting very often over the past few years so ‘normal’ is probably not the correct word to use, but that’s by-the-by.

Just like many people, I haven’t been able to concentrate, especially when it comes to reading the books I would normally choose to read.  As well as anxiety about the virus I have had a bad flare-up of my osteo-arthritis in my hands and feet which has meant I haven’t been able to do much housework or gardening, any sewing or knitting, typing or writing for any length of time, or walk far without pain.  (Fortunately, after over a month, the discomfort is now ebbing away.)  However, I have been doing a lot of thinking.  I have also been sitting with Elinor while she works at her university projects.  She suffers from chronic anxiety and this virus has made her unhappy and she too, has found concentration very difficult.  If I sit with her at the kitchen table she is more likely to get on with work than if she stays in her room where there are distractions aplenty and opportunities to slide into despondency.  She is also aware before I am when I start to drift off to sleep and she gives me a helpful nudge.   She has introduced me to many things during our companionable vigils in the kitchen and not all of them are to do with graphic design and graphic illustration – her degree subject.  Her on-line ‘research’ has led us down many winding paths, admittedly some more interesting to me than others.  We have found many Covid-19 articles as you have too, no doubt.

First, this article from Robin Hood’s Bay in North Yorkshire.  Please watch the video in the article.

Norfolk takes things a little more seriously.

If that was too gloomy then there is always this from Wolverhampton…

If you think that too silly here is a ‘cute creature’ story.

We have also visited Horrible Histories many, many times.

My thinking has revolved around memories, as in my last post, and our strange predicament.  One poem has stuck in my mind.

I think all of us who are especially vulnerable will find our situation similar to that of the Lady of Shalott.

I have been listening to music.  I have been reading poetry and short stories, essays and children’s books.  Everything that doesn’t need me to concentrate for too long.  I was rather pleased with my choice of Lent reading this year.  The first book I read was ‘Simply Good News’ by Tom Wright.  I started it before the pandemic got going and even though my reading slowed down I was able to finish it and read my second book, ‘Luminaries: Twenty Lives That Illuminate the Christian Way’ by Rowan Williams, before Lent finished.  Tom Wright’s book explains why the Christian faith is ‘good news’ and shows that many Christians over the centuries have lost sight of this.  It is an exceptionally easy book to read and explains our faith, or what it ought to be, very clearly.  Rowan William’s book is an excellent read with twenty short essays on different people from St Paul to St Oscar Romero who are inspirational role-models.  I see that this book has been chosen by the Bishop of Ipswich and St Edmundsbury as recommended reading for this month.

I read and enjoyed Margery Allingham’s ‘Flowers for the Judge’.   Allingham’s plots are better in some of her books than in others.  However; I don’t read her novels for the plot but for the atmosphere she creates and her excellent descriptions of London in the 30’s and 40’s and 50’s, of her characters, their mannerisms and names, of the weather and how it affects towns, country and people, of the countryside, especially the East Anglican countryside.

I am currently reading ‘A Literary Pilgrim in England’ by Edward Thomas the war poet.  This is a book of essays by Thomas about many of England’s (and Scotland’s) most famous writers.  The book is over a century old and was published in 1917, the year of Thomas’ death; he was killed while fighting in the Battle of Arras.  He talks about the influence ‘place’ had on all these writers and divides the book into areas.  For example, ‘The West Country’ has pieces on Herrick, Coleridge and W H Hudson; ‘The East Coast and Midlands’ features Cowper, George Crabbe, John Clare, Fitzgerald, George Borrow, Tennyson and Swinburne.  I am enjoying it very much being a devotee of Edward Thomas’ writing.

Our rector, Leon has been working hard to keep us together and in touch as a community of worshippers who cannot worship together in the same place and whose churches are locked.  Apparently, worshipping together in church will be one of the last things we will be permitted to do once the lockdown eases.  Singing is the main problem as this forces globules supposedly full of virus out of our lungs just as much as coughing and sneezing does.  Even if we decide not to sing hymns there will be other considerations that would probably make going to church difficult.  Leon puts a short talk on YouTube each Sunday and has also begun midweek services from one of our churches.  For the past couple of weeks some of us have been having a Zoom chat for 45 minutes at the usual Sunday service time.

May you all keep safe and well.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Psalm 23





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I have been considering how much and how quickly our lives have changed recently; as no doubt most of you have, too.  I am hoping that some of the positive changes we have witnessed in our communities will continue and flourish ‘post-corona’.  I am not going to discuss the pandemic here as I have nothing new to add and frankly, it just gets me worked-up and anxious just thinking about it.  I will be mentioning it, no doubt, in passing in other posts, as it affects my day-to-day life.

After thinking about current changes, I then began recalling some of the big changes and events in my life.  Moving house is a major upheaval whenever one does it and at whatever age.  Big events for a child are going to school or changing schools.  I was fortunate in that I lived in Bromley in Kent all the time I was growing up and attended just two schools in that time.  My Primary School was called Burnt Ash and had an Infants School and a Junior School in the same building.

Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Burnt Ash Junior School

Above is a school photograph of mine taken during the summer term of my first year in junior school.  (I am of an age where class photos were all done in black and white!)  This must have been in May or June 1967 and I was eight years old.  I am in the front row, third from the right.  I had my hair in plaits with red bows and the two girls either side of me were both called Julie.  The school I went to was built on the edge of an enormous housing estate.  Some of the pupils were extremely poor and Rosemary (second from the left, front row), Shanie Edwards (forth from the left, front row) and Michael Collins (furthest right, back row) in my class didn’t own proper shoes and didn’t have coats, either.  I liked Rosemary (Porter, I think her surname was)because she was quiet and Michael too.  His hands were very hard and rough, I remember.  Many fairly affluent families lived in houses close to the estate and the school, being the nearest one to where they lived, was the one their children attended as well, so we had some girls and boys in the class who were quite comfortably-off.  Bullying went on, as it did in all schools and still does despite all the ‘we don’t tolerate bullying’ hype, but I don’t think anyone was picked on especially for being poor or wearing ragged clothes.  We all played together and learnt together and we all liked our lovely teacher, Miss Gloria Hitchcock, very much.  Isn’t she gorgeous!

Below is another school photo taken about eight or nine years previously.

Burnt Ash Junior School

The boy who has been highlighted is, of course, David Bowie or David Jones as he was known then.  As you can see from the photo, all school pictures were taken in the exact same place; just in front of the veranda.  Click on the link below and you will see what my old school looks like now.  They have enclosed the verandas and have made the classrooms bigger. At present the school is closed temporarily because of ‘you-know-what’.,0.0124713,3a,75y,22.01h,89.88t/data=!3m7!1e1!3m5!1sAgNZwuslE0lJ4gYpdWmSaQ!2e0!!7i16384!8i8192

Going back to my school photo; look at the blonde girl, third from the left on the front row.  Her name was Vanessa Jaye and her father was Bobby Jaye, a radio producer who became Head of Radio Light Entertainment at the BBC.  Vanessa was a friend of mine and I went to tea at her house.  I remember she had a crazy cat that sat on the stairs and leapt on people as they passed by.  Absolutely terrifying for me!  I had no idea at first that her father was well-known but eventually she spoke of her family knowing Peter Glaze who presented Crackerjack! with Leslie Crowther.  I was never keen on Peter Glaze – he annoyed me.

The girl standing second from the right in the middle row was Samantha Parry.  She was another friend and I and my brother and sister went to parties at her house.  Her brother Andrew was in the same class as my brother Andrew and her brother Benjamin was in the same class as my sister Francesca.  We all trooped off to their house and played party games, had tea and then listened to their dad, Gron (short for Goronwy) play guitar and sing songs.  He always sang ‘Little Boxes’ as far as I can remember.  Sam’s mum was Alison Prince who, until she died last October wrote lots and lots of books for children.  She also wrote the animated series’ Trumpton and ‘Joe’.

I was aware of all this at the time but I didn’t think about it much; most children take life as it comes and accept it (though don’t always like it) good or bad, interesting or boring, calm or frightening.  The fact that some of my friends were very poor and some well off didn’t occur to me at the time.  That some of my friends’ parents were well known or had written books was no more interesting to me than the knowledge that my mother had been a Woman Police Officer in the Metropolitan Police Force in the early 1950’s and that my father had joined the Friary near Cerne Abbas in Dorset after he came out of the Air Force where he had done his National Service.  I just though of all these children as class-mates, some of whom I liked and the reason I didn’t like some others was mainly because they enjoyed calling me names and making me cry.

My mother when she was in the Metropolitan Police Force – and no, she didn’t drive motorbikes!

Click on the link below and you will see the house I was born in.  It has rose bushes in the front garden.  Mum and Dad bought a newly-built house in Barton le Clay in Bedfordshire shortly after they got married in 1956 and lived there for just under three years.  Despite me being Mum’s first baby she gave birth at home because the house had a bathroom and a water supply.  I remember absolutely nothing of this house.  Mum and Dad decided to move back to Bromley as Dad had another job there.  They would also then be nearer to their parents.  Mum was eight months pregnant with my brother Andrew when we moved and I was approaching my first birthday.,-0.4246467,3a,75y,270.83h,96.06t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sBPuRe2NkGDDIFIjaV9MXLA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

Click on the link below and you can see where I lived from 1959 for eight years until just after that school photo was taken in 1967.  Our house was the one with the pale silver-blue-grey car in the front garden.  When we lived there we had a front fence with a gate, a front path with a flowerbed alongside and a little bit of grass where that car is now parked.  The house had black paint on the door and window -frames and there were steps up to the front door.  It was a very small house with a small back garden which was made smaller when Dad built a garage and an extension to the house.  There was a back lane behind the houses that we children loved to play in when we could and an area of waste ground called ‘the dump’ – I don’t know why it was called that – and at the top of the road a fenced off hill, or what I thought was a hill but was in fact a reservoir with grass over the top.  The house next door to us on the right, as you look at it – number 137 – used to be the last house in the road on that side and had a large garden.  This has now been built on, I see, and another house added to the road.,0.0164684,3a,75y,61.49h,84.11t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1slKfNgwFFrLS7FTkUAr7B2Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

We moved in September 1967 on the day before my ninth birthday to a much bigger, detached house with a much larger garden.  My sister decided to take her beloved collection of garden snails with her in a bucket.  Dad found this in the boot of the car when we arrived at the new house.  We over-looked the churchyard at the back of the house which had an enormous copper beech tree in it and crows nested in it every year.  We used to get lots of different birds in the garden and Mum was able to enjoy gardening, though she never liked the house and Dad built a workshop.  The house was haunted, though I never saw or heard anything.  Dad saw the woman a couple of times; dressed in a crossover apron, she stood by the kitchen window and stared at him.  She seemed sad, or so my father thought.  My sister heard someone clearing the grate in her bedroom; she heard it a couple of times, I think.  Click on the link below and you will see our second house in Bromley.  It was nearer to the town centre which as a teenager, I really appreciated.,0.0137968,3a,75y,119.86h,88.73t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sA8nuSfDSOIZQpzLSj5eZbQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Click on the link below to see the building that once housed the school I attended from 1970 until 1977.  It had been called Bromley Grammar School for Girls until just before I joined it when it changed its name to Ravensbourne School for Girls.  I think the only well-known woman to have belonged to the school when it was known as Bromley County School,was Dora Saint, or as she is better known, ‘Miss Read’ who wrote the Fairacre and Thrush Green series of books. The two Ravensbourne Schools (the girl’s school and the boy’s school) amalgamated many years ago and now occupy the building that was once the boy’s school.  My old school building has been used for many different purposes since then and by different groups of people.,0.0320173,3a,75y,230.86h,90.41t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sKP9LIp9Do9Q6o0Glh9Eaug!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

Fifth Form, May 1975 Ravensbourne School for Girls

Here is my form at Ravensbourne in 1975.  Two girls were off sick that day.  I am in the middle row, fourth from the right.  My dear friend Wendy, is in the same row on the far left and our form mistress, Mrs Shoubridge is on the far right.  She was a lovely lady and taught mathematics and rode to and from school on a motor scooter.  We were all just about to take our O’ Level exams and eight of the girls, including one of the absentees were to leave school in a couple of months time. I and the rest of the form were to carry on into the sixth form and the pleasures of A’ Levels.

Mum and Dad moved from Bromley in 1987 to the house Mum still lives in, in Suffolk.  By that time all three of us children had married and moved out; click the link below to see my first home with my first husband.  The large Victorian house in Forest Hill in south-east London with the black iron gate and the holly trees in the front garden had been converted into four flats; a basement flat, the ground floor flat, the first floor flat (where we lived from 1982 until Christmas 1984) and a top floor flat.,-0.0529742,3a,75y,299.39h,89.22t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1ssC7_2Ofh6k48txuJkE4pYQ!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

My marriage fell apart in 1985, just after Alice was born.  I lived in New Eltham, where her father and I moved to from Forest Hill until the summer of 1988 when Alice and I moved to Suffolk a year after my parents had moved there.  Click on the link below and you will see my house in New Eltham; number 54.,0.0721311,3a,75y,45.64h,88.83t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1spjKZ0joyWIxwAfKatJhiyA!2e0!7i16384!8i8192

A very long post, I’m afraid but I thought I would put all the house moves, pre-Suffolk, together.  Sometime, I may go on to talk about what I had wanted to do with my life and what I ended up doing instead.  I may show you the houses I’ve lived in in Suffolk and the short 18 month move to Somerset between 2004 and 2006.  We will see.

Well, I’m young and healthy. What could this Coronavirus do to me?

Read this account of a young French woman who is beginning to recover from Covid-19


I got it. Yep, it had to be this way. When you live in the most impacted region in France and that your colleagues and relatives start having symptoms, you just pray to be asymptomatic. Yep. I got it.

After slowly witnessing people get sick, I thought I would most probably develop mild symptoms of it, as I’m young and healthy. Sometimes I allowed myself to believe I would not even get it at all. And even if I would get flu symptoms, it would be ok.

Am I a lucky one? Nope.

It was like a domino chain. One colleague announced she had fever, another had clearly a bad flu. Then others started feeling sick and some were already coughing strongly. But hey, you know why? At that point it could be the real flu.

Well, I’m young and healthy. What could this coronavirus do to me? Let’s see.

View original post 1,064 more words

An Update


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This will be a strange post with links and no photographs.  I have accumulated a collection of links and titbits of news and thought I would share a few of them with you.

Well over a year ago I wrote a post that included, among many other things, some news about my niece, Natalie.  Natalie works for a firm of specialist silk weavers in Sudbury, Suffolk and she does some extremely interesting work and has a few very important clients indeed.  My brother shared a link on Facebook yesterday and I thought you might be interested in some more details of Natalie’s work.

125 years of the National Trust; Heritage Fabrics


In January this year Richard and I took a walk and I posted about it.  In the post I mentioned a book called ‘The Easternmost House’ written by Juliet Blaxland.  The book tells of the trials and tribulations of living in a house on the edge of a cliff; among many other things.

Here is a further installment.


My sister, Francesca is the Operations Manager for the Kent Ambulance Service and works very hard caring for her team of skilled paramedics and for the patients in their charge.  At present, testing for Covid-19 Corona Virus is an added pressure on an already over-stretched and under-paid profession.  Here is a short film about one of the call-outs her team had to deal with recently where a man went into cardiac arrest and was given 21 shocks and then clot-busting medication.

There you are!  A couple of good news items with a bad one sandwiched in the middle.

No Time to Stand and Stare


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Both our cars are covered in mud all the time; they are in a worse state now than in the photo! Most of our lane is inches deep in sloppy mud and it is hardly worth our while to wash the cars.

This year has been crazily busy so far and there has been no time for even a short walk since the new year.  At last, I have managed to catch-up with all my blog reading, I’ve sorted out all my bank statements and receipts and have got rid of large amounts of paper.  I have even spent a little time in the garden weeding and tidying-up the flowerbeds; there has been very little cold weather and the weeds have grown and grown!

Rosemary ( Rosmarinus ‘Miss Jessup’s Upright’) in flower in January

Witch Hazel; the stems covered in lichen.

Snowdrops. These and the crocus above grow under the crabapple tree. It has got somewhat weedy there in recent years!


I have taken a Morning Prayer service at church and attended a meeting with others in our Benefice who take church services.

Plough Sunday Service 12th January. Richard took this service very nicely. Much of the congregation is made up of members of ‘Old Glory’ the Molly Men and their friends and supporters

The decorated plough; the star of the Plough Sunday service.

Look at these beautiful horse brasses!

Most of my time has been spent in the car, taking Elinor to the station on her university days, taking Mum to her many hospital appointments, taking myself to hospital and doctor’s appointments, dental appointments, eye clinic appointments and grocery shopping trips.  Mum has had both her cataracts removed and such a load has been lifted from her and my shoulders!  She has so much more sight than we thought and the fear that she may not be able to look after herself and live alone as she wishes has receded for a while.  She is approaching her 90th birthday and though she tires easily and is somewhat twisted and stooping because of arthritis, she is still able to cook and look after herself.  Richard and I had to visit her the week before last to repair her hedge and fence, damaged by the first of our storms.  Mum hadn’t been able to do any gardening for some months because she couldn’t see, and the garden has become overgrown with brambles and nettles, thistles and other unwelcome weeds.  I had done a few jobs for her and so had Richard but the weeds had taken over and the fence that broke in the storm was covered in enormous brambles.

A rather beautiful female Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus ) who observed me taking her photo

This coming week I only have three appointments to keep and none for Mum except for taking her to church on Ash Wednesday.  I’m at the hospital all day on Tuesday having eye pressure tests, I have a hygienist appointment at the dentist on Wednesday and a hair appointment in Norwich on Thursday.  Housework has been a bit hit-and-miss lately and I hope to be able to catch-up with all my chores at home very soon.

This is just a short post to let you know what has been happening.  My next post will probably be about one of our days out last year, or even the year before that!  I have plenty of old photos but hardly any new ones!

January Music



I find listening to music such a comfort!  It soothes and calms me, it invigorates and excites me, I couldn’t be without it!

I have spent hours this week driving myself, my mother and my daughter to appointments in Norwich.  I am tired and recovering from a head-cold and a migraine and would like to write a post but haven’t the energy or the time.

Here are some pieces of music inspired by the month, the season and or the weather.  Some are long pieces and some are short; some are classical pieces and some are not.  I hope you enjoy listening to them.

Nova Scotia January – Waltz from Cape Breton played by Helicon.

Winter from The Seasons by Antonio Vivaldi

The Skater’s Waltz by Émile Waldteufel

The Snow is Dancing No. 4 from Children’s Corner by Claude Debussy

Winterlust, Polka schnell by Josef Strauss

Der Schneemann by Erich Korngold

Lieutenant Kijé Suite by Prokofiev

Snowbound by Genesis

January by Kristina Train

White Winter Hymnal by Fleet Foxes

And to finish, an excerpt from the first Pink Panther film from 1963 set mainly in the ski resort of Cortina D’Amprezzo.

Did you spot all the stars?

Happy listening!

A New Year’s Walk at Dunwich


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I hope you all had a merry Christmas and that you will have a blessed and healthy new year.  I apologise if I haven’t visited your sites/blogs recently but I will endeavour to do so very soon.

I would like to thank all my kind followers, readers and visitors for continuing to support me despite very few posts during the past couple of years.  I am just embarking on my 7th year as a WordPress blogger, which amazes me and dismays me at the same time.  What on earth have I achieved in those six years since January 2014?  Not much, I think!




My daughter Alice and her husband Phil came to stay with us this Christmas and Alice brought her cat Mona with her as well.  Mum came for lunch on both Christmas Day and Boxing Day so our house was nicely full of family.  I took Mum to Midnight Mass at Eye church on Christmas Eve getting back home at 1.15 am.  Next morning I went to our church at Rumburgh and helped Richard get it ready as it was our turn to hold the Christmas morning Communion service this year.  I also stayed for the service and helped tidy up afterwards.  I had put the turkey in the oven to roast before leaving for church and by the time I got home again it was time to take it out.  Alice had prepared all the vegetables for me while I was out so I had no trouble getting on with the meal on my return.  Boxing Day was easier as I didn’t have to go out in the morning but I had just as much food to cook.  By the time we had finished lunch and I had made us tea and coffee I was ready for a rest.  Richard did a wonderful job clearing the table and doing all the washing-up and dishwasher loading and unloading on both days!  Phil went back home on Friday 27th but Alice and Mona stayed on until the following Monday which was lovely!  I was so happy having both my daughters with me this Christmas!  We all went out for lunch in Halesworth on Saturday and then drove to the seaside at Southwold.  We walked the whole length of the promenade and back again and then to the end of the pier and back before returning to the car and going home.  It was very busy with other walkers, chilly and breezy, fine and dry and we were glad of the walk.  I took no photographs.

I spent most of Monday and Tuesday shopping for Mum and us, doing the washing and putting the things back into the spare room that had been removed to make room for our guests.  Richard and I both felt we needed to get out of the house again but wanted to walk somewhere different.  On New Year’s Day we decided that Dunwich Heath would be a good place to go and thought that it would have less mud and puddles to wade through than most walks.  However, when we got there the crowds were so great that there was nowhere to park and a queue had formed so we turned round and drove to the beach car park.  We found a space, though that car park was very full too.

Here it is on our return from our walk.

Here is a view of Dingle Marshes over the tops of parked cars.

We started off by walking down to the beach to look at the sea.  The beach was quite busy with walkers and dogs and the wind off the sea was biting.  We didn’t stay long.

A sepia view of Dunwich beach.

We left the beach and walked up towards the main part of Dunwich village.  We turned off the lane and took a footpath that climbed up through Greyfriars Wood.  At the top of the incline the path then went along the edge of the cliff.

The disconcerting sign.

Most of the East Anglian coastline is eroding fairly quickly.  After every storm we expect to find that large chunks of the cliff have broken off and fallen onto the beach.  Our friend Cordelia’s daughter has written a book about what it is like to live in a house on the edge of a cliff in Suffolk.  The book is called ‘The Easternmost House’ and is available in paperback and on Kindle.

Here is a view from the path. See how close the edge of the cliff is!

I always like to see what plants are growing wherever I walk, as you know. This is Stinking Iris (Iris foetidissima )

This plant has many names; Roast-beef Plant, Gladdon or Gladwyn, Bloody Bones, Blue Devil, Dragon Flower, Dagger Flower are a few of them.  If the leaves are rubbed they give off an odour like stale, raw beef.  The flowers are pale mauve/purple, sometimes with some yellow colour as well and are veined with darker lines.  It comes into its own in the autumn and winter when the seed pods burst open and reveal these glorious orange seeds.  The leaves are evergreen, typical iris leaves.  The name Gladdon or Gladwyn comes from the Old English word for a sword.

Beautiful orange seeds!

Further along the path at the edge of the wood I saw this rotting tree-stump with toadstools on it.

Woods near the coast are very rare as trees do not usually fare well in salt-laden air and suffer in the wind and storms.  This mixed woodland was planted in the eighteenth century by the family who owned the village at that time.  The Dunwich Greyfriars Trust which manages the wood today say that only Sycamore trees (Acer pseudoplatanus) are hardy enough to grow on the side of the wood nearest the cliff edge and that there are no young trees in the wood.  They are trying to overcome the latter by fencing off areas where large trees have fallen and open glades have appeared.  The fences prevent deer from destroying all the seedlings and saplings that will appear in the sunlight and it is to be hoped that the wood will begin to regenerate.

These are the ruins of the Greyfriars Monastery.

All that is left of the 13th/14th century monastery are these ruins, thought to be the refectory at the southern end of the complex.  The cloisters, with accommodation for monks and visitors, and an enormous church were further to the north and were all destroyed during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.  The nave and chancel of the church together were about 58 metres long and up to 17 metres wide (190 feet 3.5 ins x 55 feet 9 ins).  There is a perimeter wall around the site of the monastery which was built sometime after the main buildings were constructed and has been repaired and rebuilt many times in the intervening years.  There were three gates into the complex; two which still stand on the western side allowed access to the main road that ran into and away from the medieval town of Dunwich.  The third, now lost to the sea gave access directly into the town with its large port which was also lost centuries ago.

The western gates

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It is always interesting to see how these old buildings are constructed and with what materials.

The Dunwich Greyfriars Trust work hard conserving what they can of these ruins.  They have capped off most of the walls to prevent rain and frost damage.  If you look carefully at one of the photos in the slideshow you will see a sign asking visitors not to climb on the ruins. You can also see in my other photos how much notice the visitors take of the sign!

Greyfriars ruins

Part of the complex showing the perimeter wall

The perimeter wall comes to an end here at the cliff edge. Much of this part of the wall is original 14th/15th century work and hasn’t been rebuilt.  Eventually the whole monastery complex will end up in the sea.

We re-entered the wood near to the cliff edge

The sad but beautiful trunk of a long-dead tree

We found a little bridge, built fairly recently.

There is a lot of Holly (Ilex aquifolium) in the wood

The leaves on this dead holly branch were shining like bronze.

We emerged onto the road next to the perimeter wall

An interesting mixture of flint, beach pebbles and pieces of stone recycled from elsewhere

We stood in the main gateway and looked across the area that had once been monastery land. A pony now keeps the grass in order.

The smaller west gate as seen from the road

A very nice example of flushwork over the gateway

In the gateway

You may have noticed how green everything is. This is Alexanders (Smyrnium olusatrum)

This plant is an ancient introduction, probably at the time of the Roman occupation.  Its unusual name refers to its Macedonian origin, Alexander the Great’s birthplace.  It is wholly edible and the name Smyrnium is from the Greek word for myrrh and refers to its myrrh-like taste.The leaves can be made into a white sauce or used as a herb.  The young stems can be cooked and eaten like asparagus, the flowerbuds may be used in salads and the roots cooked as a substitute for parsnips.  I read that an old Irish recipe lists alexanders, watercress and nettles as ingredients for ‘Lenten pottage’.  In the 17th century its black seeds were sold in apothecaries’ shops as Macedonian parsley seeds and Nicholas Culpeper the herbalist listed many uses for it including the power to cure not only flatulence but snakebite too!  Until recently Alexanders was only to be found in the south and east of Britain and close to the milder coast.  However, I have noticed its spread inland and northwards of late.

The Greyfriars Trust have been trying to manage the spread of Alexanders in the wood.  It grows so densely it prevents seeds from germinating and smothers other plants.  We have had a mild winter so far with some frosts that have melted by midday and no snow as yet.  We have had lots of rain and so many plants have continued growing through the autumn and winter and plants, like Alexanders that died after flowering in the early summer have new plants growing from seed already.

This is the lane that passes along next to the monastery wall and enters what is left of the ‘town’ of Dunwich.

This is near where we first entered the wood at the beginning of our walk. You see how Alexanders is spreading everywhere.

Dunwich village.  Lots of cars parked in the road and many of the cars’ passengers are probably in the ‘The Ship’, the inn with the tall chimneys just beyond the black car.

I am indebted to the excellent website belonging to the Dunwich Greyfriars Trust for much of the information in this post.  My other reference books have been the Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Wild Flowers of Britain, Reader’s Digest Field Guide to the Trees and Shrubs of Britain, Culpeper’s Colour Herbal published by W Foulsham and Company Limited, Collins Complete Guide to British Wild Flowers, Collins Complete Guide to British Trees, Flora Brittanica by Richard Mabey, Vickery’s Folk Flora and Harrap’s Wild Flowers.  The photographs are all my own.

Our Church


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Quite a lot of our time is taken up with the church.  Not just attending services, fund raising, going to meetings and social occasions, but dealing with the crumbling fabric of the church building.

A beautiful spring day with the churchyard full of cowslips

St Michael and St Felix priory church in Rumburgh

Here is the church that Richard and I belong to in the benefice of The Saints in NE Suffolk.  This photo was taken in the middle of April this year and work had just begun to restore the porch roof which was in great danger of falling down.  It takes such a long time to instigate any repairs to the ancient churches in our benefice, I am always worried in case the church collapses into ruins before we have firstly, raised enough funds for the task, then filled in all the endless forms and lastly, all the numerous visits from the authorities have taken place.  Our church is old.  It had its beginnings nearly one thousand years ago, though most of the church was built in the 13th century.

The porch

Quite a lot of rotting timber was removed from the roof.

We are waiting for the inside to dry out now that the roof is watertight.

The builder’s excellent work under the eaves.

The opposite side needed just as much work.

The finished porch

The gate also needed repairing.

This photo was taken towards the end of May this year.  The metal bars sticking up in front of the gate are an attempt to stop thieves driving up to the church to steal parts of the building.  We can unlock the bars when necessary.

Gate one….

…and gate two.

You can see how well these gates have been repaired, all the rotten wood removed and new parts inserted.  We could not afford to have new gates made.

We have had some problems with damage and vandalism in the church this year.  We keep our church open and unlocked so that it is accessible and available to all who may need to visit and use it for prayer or for peaceful meditation.  Fire extinguishers have been set off in the church, mud smeared over the furniture and other minor damage has been done.  On occasion we have had to lock the church overnight and sometimes during the day.  This is the first time in living memory that Rumburgh has had to deal with this problem.

In August of 2017 I published this post in which I spoke about the retirement of our vicar, Richard.  From that moment on we had to run ourselves, all eleven parish churches in our benefice.  We have had to organise our services and make sure there were priests available for communion services, for funerals, for baptisms and for weddings.  We couldn’t have done this without the organisational skills of Maurice, our Elder (who has just retired) and without the kindness of a team of retired priests and the hard work of our one Reader, Lynda.  Many of us were roped in to take Morning and Evening Prayer services, Harvest Festivals and Carol Services, Richard and me included.  We still had our PCC meetings to attend, repairs to our ancient churches to arrange, fund raising for said repairs as well as trying to find our Parish Share each year. At the same time we had many discussions about the future and whether we would be able to get a new priest at all.  All eleven churches provided a wish list; what we wanted in our new priest.

This collection of eleven different pictures of an ideal vicar was read by the Rural Dean, his Assistant Rural Dean and by the Archdeacon who sent them back to us with lots of red pen all over them and a few ‘see me’s.  Eventually we produced a booklet describing our benefice and all the churches within it.  We stated what we thought our new priest ought to be like and asked potential vicars to come and live with us.  We were told at first that we probably wouldn’t get a full-time vicar but the Archdeacon then said he thought that as we don’t have a ‘mother church’ (we are all small churches in small villages; no town church with a larger congregation) and the benefice though sparsely populated is large in area, we needed a full-time priest, or at least two part-time priests.  The Archdeacon got his way and we advertised for two part-time ‘house-for-duty’ priests.  The priest would be provided with a house in exchange for working in the benefice.  The Archdeacon, the Rural Dean and his assistant also all took turns in taking services in our benefice during the interregnum.  The Archdeacon played the organ at the services he took, so we didn’t need to find an organist or arrange a karaoke machine for the hymns.  Sadly, the Archdeacon who wasn’t in the best of health and was just about to retire early, became very ill and then died a few weeks ago.  He lived long enough to see that we managed to get one of our two house-for-duty priests who was licensed on the 5th of September this year.

Leon was born and grew up in this benefice and is the son of a farmer and his wife who live in Ilketshall St Margaret.  Leon’s mum is the Church Warden at Ilketshall St Margaret church.  Leon has been a priest for some years, maybe nearly twenty years, as I remember him at home before he went off to college about a year after Elinor was born.  He is married with two young children.  He originally wanted to give up the priesthood completely and return home to help run his parents’ farm, full time.  But he changed his mind and took the part-time job as our priest and works with his parents on the farm for the rest of the week.  He now finds himself doing two jobs which ideally need to be done by two people working full-time.  We are still wanting another part-time priest so a lot of the duties we carried out during the interregnum we are still doing now.  I took Morning Prayer two weeks ago and Richard and I took the Harvest Festival service together.

Rumburgh church filling up with people ready for Leon’s licensing service.

The clergy congregate at the back of the church before the service. The Bishop is the one with the red over his shoulder on the left of the photo.  He is talking to Maurice.

Unfortunately I became too busy to take any more photos at the service, which went very well.  Afterwards we all went to the village hall for food and drink.  We had all provided one savoury and one sweet item of food and had delivered them to the village hall before the service.

Here is the cheese and broccoli quiche I made.

Mum cooked a tray-bake fruit cake for me to take.

It is good to have a priest in the benefice again.  The PCC meetings and the benefice meetings continue and we are now planning our Christmas services.

Richard and John (another member of our PCC) have been working very hard for  months to get major repairs done at our church.  At the beginning of this year I showed you, in a post, some photographs of large cracks that had appeared in the east wall of the church.  These cracks have become larger and pieces of masonry are falling down inside the building.  Builders have been approached but very few are willing to do the work or, if willing at first, then had to back out because of the length of time it took for the authorities to give us the go-ahead.  A visit was made to the church by a group of people who were very concerned at the state of the church and wished to help but insisted that the gutters should be repaired first before the cracks in the wall are tackled.  The gutters definitely need replacing/repairing as the walls are so damp inside the church they are green.  The visitors said they would give us a grant to get the work done.  A local retired builder who has worked in many of our churches was approached to do the work.  He agreed, but last week the poor man became ill and can no longer help us.  We have to start looking for another builder and the time is running out.  To claim the grant the work has to be done by February.

We must support Richard and John in their work, say our prayers and trust that something will turn up!

As an antidote to all this frustration, here is a festive song.



Let’s talk about things …

A wonderful post from MTM who also writes the funniest fantasy novels I have ever read.

M T McGuire Authorholic

Wow, I have a whole gamut of stuff washing around to talk about this week. I’m not sure if I’ll get through it all or do it justice but off we go.

First of all, last week, you’ll have noticed there was a break in transmission. Yep. No blog post. I meant to do one but then it was time for the Christmas Fayre I was getting all my shizz ready and … er hem … I forgot.

In my defence, my father’s memorial service took it out of me. It was wonderful but blimey I was knackered afterwards. Lots of emotional stamina required. Which reminds me, I should write and thank a lot of people. Yet more stuff to add to the gargantuan, War And Peace-length list of Shit MTM Hasn’t Done. Gulp.

The fayre was kind of a mix. It was the first time in a new venue…

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