Monthly Archives: September 2016

walnuts-october-2011I say “our” walnut tree but, really, we are just its current guardians.   When we arrived in our present home in 1985 a tree surgeon told us that the tree was then around 150 years old, so that it was probably a young sapling when the Blue and the Grey were waging Civil War in America.

One of the joys of having such a tree is that it is an indicator of the passing seasons.  The walnut is one of the last trees to come into leaf in the spring and when the new leaves emerge they are pink-tinged and remind me of the colours of a Cox’s Orange Pippin apple.  The aromatic scent when the leaves are gently pressed between the fingers is a delight – a shame that some avant garde perfumer hasn’t turned them into scent.  But as we all know, the scents of nature are very rarely captured in a bottle.



The leaves do not remain this gorgeous colour for very long, a couple of weeks at most and then, like the vast majority of trees, the leaves turn green.


What is wonderful about having such a tree is not only the welcome  shade we receive from its branches and leaves in the summer – we would certainly not be able to sit outside in the heat of the day without it – but that it is also a haven for wildlife, if you don’t mind that wildlife being mainly grey squirrels and pigeons!

As spring turns to summer, changes also take place in the tree.  Catkin-like flowers appear and as they fall, the fruits begin to develop, tiny walnuts.  The amount of catkins that we sweep up is a good indication the forthcoming havest – more catkins, more nuts.   Some years we’ve had as much as 30 to 40 pounds of walnuts, others hardly sufficient to fill a small paper bag.

In June, there is what is known as “the June drop” when the tree sheds some of the small walnuts in order for the others to mature.

As summer progresses, the walnuts grow …


It is now that Mr Squirrel can be seen bounding up and down the tree, often chattering (my husband recently mimicked the noise and, to his surprise, a squirrel came down from the tree and looked directly at him as if to say, “You speaking to me?”)  and then burying his precious finds in the garden, in pots or even in the grassy bank at the front of our house.




I know many people regard the grey squirrel as a pest, as vermin, but we don’t mind them.  We like to think that it’s only one squirrel family, Mr and Mrs Nutter and their children,  but no doubt the ones we now see are the grandchildren and great grandchildren of the squirrel who we first saw here more than 30 years ago.

As the nuts fall from the tree, the green husks split open and we are able to collect the nuts for drying.  The only drawback, apart from the vast volume of leaves that need to be swept up and bagged in the autumn – far too many for compost for such a small garden, so they are taken to the Green Waste section of our local recycling centre –  is that every part of the walnut contains a yellow dye which, if it comes into contact with anything, will leave an unmoveable stain. We have sometimes found this out to our cost.

After we have collected the nuts, they are laid to dry on the sitting room windowsill.  We first lay black bin liners, bearing in mind that the white paint could be so easily stained, and on top of the bin liners, we spread thick layers of newspaper before placing the nuts in a single layer, turning them regularly.


Drying takes a couple of weeks and then we are able to distribute them among family, friends, and neighbours, there being far too many for our own needs.  I have to say, though, that a walnut straight from the tree is sweet and juicy, but not as strongly flavoured as the ones you buy in packets in the shops, or the large Californian walnuts which are available in the supermarkets at Christmas.  But they are tasty and they are free and sometimes they find their way into a walnut cake!



(Sorry, I’ve cheated here! These are commercially grown walnuts – as I say, our walnuts are small and not as strongly flavoured as commercially grown ones.)

We are now waiting for the walnuts to fall, what I call the “nuttage” , and our collecting will begin.  If Mr and Mrs Nutter have left us any.




I have been thinking about my blog and the direction I would like it to take.  I think the answer is:  in no particular direction other than I would like it to look like an online version of a rather nice glossy magazine with articles on all kinds of topics, homes, fashion, food, books, places to visit, sometimes social commentary, so that every post will be quite different, from a countryside or seaside walk, to something on antiques and collectables.  From a books article to making soup (see previous post!)

And so this post is about a rather special book, Knickers Model’s Own by Caroline Jones.  You might already be aware of this book but as I don’t follow Twitter or have a Facebook account or post on Instagram or Pinterest I have come late to this gorgeous book.  I was made aware of it in last week’s Stella, the fashion-based magazine of The Sunday Telegraph.  

In October 2014 (just as my husband and I were celebrating our Golden Wedding anniversary) Caroline lost her mother to cancer.  On 1st January 2015  she decided to wear – and to also post online – “a different outfit acquired from Cancer Research stores every day for a year.” 

In doing this, Caroline has raised over £60,000 for the charity and this is why the title of her book of her year in pre-loved clothes is called Knickers Model’s Own, mimicking what is often said of models in magazines and newspapers. 

Caroline has been featured in The Guardian, BBC Radio 1, BBC Radio 5Live, The One Show and in magazines and newspapers.  How come I’ve missed all this?  Well not any more: thank you, Stella magazine!  I swiftly bought the book (the proceeds of sales will go to Cancer Research UK) in which Caroline has been beautifully photographed.  Each day she put together an outfit from the clothes found in Cancer Research UK charity shops – and I would suggest that all charity shops might benefit by Caroline’s attitude.  We  mightn’t be able to live for a whole year in pre-loved clothes but we can all certainly support them.  Not every town will have a Cancer Research UK charity shop, but it will have others – I love the items I have found in a branch of Devon Air Ambulance and also in the Rowcroft Boutique (which supports our local hospice.) 

On each page of this book you will see the outfits Caroline puts together with panache and wears that particular week with, alongside, descriptions of them and their ‘labels’ which include the Brands, A-Z, from Accessorize to Zara – indeed, she wears her lovely Zara trench on more than one occasion, with different accessories.  Some of the clothes are quite up-to-date, others are vintage.  I really don’t know which is my favourite, but a lovely accessory, a Pucci scarf, is pretty close to the top of my list!

As well as the lists of clothes, and the photographs, Caroline also offers Tips, such as to wear a nude bra under white tops, and to choose a base colour and build up from there, or think about adding a pop or colour such as neons or metallic.

As well as supporting a very worthwhile charity, this is also a lovely book on how to put a  wide variety of clothes together, often with some delightful, often quirky, accessories.  Indeed, is shows new ways with old clothes.  I shall now be searching yet more often than before in the charity shops, so inspired am I by Caroline and her year-long venture.



It’s that time of the year again when salads begin to take something of a back seat in our house and out comes a large saucepan for the making of soup.  Both husband and I love soup, but it must be home-made, there really is nothing you can buy in tins or cartons which comes anywhere close to home made. Well, not in our home.  I’m not good at many things, I can’t knit or sew, I can’t swim properly or ride a bike, but I can made good soup.  And there is nothing nicer on a cold day than a bowl of hot soup for lunch or supper.  Well, yes there is. Two bowls of soup.

Above is one of my favourites, minted pea soup.  It’s so easy, you don’t really need an actual recipe, provided you have some frozen peas (use the best quality, if possible; I use petits pois), a large onion, and two medium or one large potato.  Finely chop the onion(s) and saute in a little oil. I use cold pressed rape seed oil.  Now add a peeled and chopped potato (or potatoes) and finally add the peas, as many as you need to make soup for how many people are going to enjoy it.  I make sufficient for at least three meals (it freezes well) as there is only myself and husband to enjoy it, so a good 3/4 of a 907gr pack (2lbs in Imperial measurements).  Give this a good swirl around in the pan with a wooden spoon and now add sufficient boiling water to cover the peas/onions/potatoes.  Now add some veggie stock cubes – I use 4 x Veggie Oxo cubes but you can use Swill Bouillon if you prefer, and some springs of fresh mint if you still have fresh mint available or, failing that, two or three teaspoons from a jar of mint concentrate.  This is much a matter of taste preference, so always taste the soup before you add more.   I love lots of mint but you might not.  Also,  I find that with using veggie stock cubes I don’t need extra salt, but you might like to add a little pepper.  Bring it all back to the boil and turn right down and simmer (with the lid on) for about 15 – 20 minutes.  Now, turn off the heat and add some crème fraiche or single cream, just a dessertspoonful, and blend, either in a liquidizer or with a hand-held electric blender.   This is a very simple and easy soup to make and will take no longer than 25 minutes, from start to table.  I like to serve it with cheese scones, as in the photo above.


Longer to make but worth the wait is vegetable soup.  Unlike the pea and mint soup, this takes between two and three hours to cook, so if you want it for your lunch, make it as soon as you can after breakfast or, better still, make it the day before, allow to cool, keep in the fridge overnight and re-heat thoroughly the next day, for the flavours will have really mellowed by then.

For this I start with a very large saucepan to which I add about 2.5 to 3 pints of water.  Start the ball rolling by putting the hob on and getting the water hot and while it’s heating, chop a large onion or two smaller onions and add to the water.  Now you can add whatever vegetables you have to hand, but please don’t think you will make really good soup with any old odds and ends that have been lurking in the bottom of the fridge for the past few weeks.  You can only make good food from good ingredients,  I know there are some out there that will argue against this, but if you want good food, use the best ingredients you can lay your hands on.

Right. You have your pan of water on the hob, you have chopped and added our onions, now chop your other veg, but go easy on the cabbage otherwise this will turn into cabbage soup, ditto parsnips which have a very strong slightly sweet flavour, so just one small parsnip is advisable.  I add chopped carrots, leeks, celery, green beans (sliced), pepper (any colour of bell pepper, green, red, orange, yellow, whatever you have), some small florets of broccoli or cauliflower if you have some but these are not essential, courgette (zucchini) and chopped spring (salad) onions.  Make sure everything is quite small, and add to the pan.  I now add anything which will bring up the protein value of the soup, to make it a meal in itself, so I might add lentils, a couple of tablespoons, or a can of rinsed and drained beans (cannellini or haricot – butter beans are a little large for soup, I think).  Now add your seasonings, some Veggie Oxo or Swiss Bouillon to taste – these things can be a little salty, so keep tasting, even season towards the end when the soup is cooked so that you don’t over-season.  Add some tomato puree, about a tablespoon, any fresh herbs, such as chopped parsley, right at the end of the cooking time and the same goes for dried herbs which aren’t ‘woody’, so add your Oregano or Sage now, about a teaspoonful, whatever flavour of herb you like.

This soup must simmer for at least two to three hours, the longer the better, but stir it every so often so that veg do not stick to the bottom of the pan.  This is a soup that does not require blending.

This might seem a long-winded way of making soup when you can open a van of veggie soup, but once you’ve had good home-made veggie soup you won’t buy any more cans or cartons, I assure you.

Serve with crusty bread, wholemeal bread or, as I have in the photo above, cheese and chive scones (home-made, of course!)






I will state right here and now that I’m not particularly a fan of cricket but there is something rather pleasant about it, something quaintly old fashioned in this day of the iPad and other such gizmos, none of which I have I might add.  I have the computer on which I’m writing this, and an old fashioned mobile – it takes photos but I’ve yet to find out how to download them to my computer and, after seven years with this mobile (it is very old fashioned) I don’t think I’m going to learn any time soon.  But I do have two cameras:  my trusty Nikon – which also serves as a weight training device, and my small Pentax which I carry with me at all times and so I managed just a few pix with my blog in mind.   Of course, a cricket match is notoriously difficult to photograph, even in such a picturesque setting, because it’s very linear and if I zoomed in on the players, the general appeal, the ambience of the setting, would be totally lost.


Two years ago a dear friend died suddenly and her husband presented a trophy to the village cricket club in her name, the match to be played annually between the Chairman’s Eleven and the Captain’s Eleven.  The teams are drawn on the day, a mix of old boys, those who claim to be a tad younger, and youngsters from the local village school who are encouraged because having youngsters coming along is the only way a village club such as this not only survives but thrives.

The cricket club was formed in 1984 – our friend was a founder member – and cricket has been played on The Meadow in the heart of the village for the past 32 years.  Today was the last match of the season.


Just before we left this village 31 years go, The Meadow had just been transformed from an actual meadow into the lovely cricket field it is today.  Our younger son, then a pupil at the village school, recalls that one day all the school children walked down to the meadow, with their teachers, to help clear the soil of stones before the topsoil was laid and the grass seed scattered.  By the entrance to The Meadow there is now a huge oak tree which was planted for Her Majesty’s Silver Jubilee, and as backdrop – what could be more English? – there is the ancient Church of St John the Baptist, which dates from c1450, and the village pub, The Church House Inn, which has a reputation not only for good beer but also for fine dining.


After watching several overs (for those who don’t follow this game, an ‘over’ is then the bowler hurls the ball on six separate occasions to one of the two batsmen, each placed at either end of the ‘crease’ which is the 22 yards, which is an old fashioned measurement of a ‘chain’) we walked around the ‘boundary’ of the cricket field, and then made our farewells to our friend before strolling back through the village to our car.

This is a typical Devon village with cob-walled (cob is a natural building material, a mix of clay, water, sand and straw) cottages and it looked even prettier than ever in the late September sunshine.




To many, the game of cricket is totally unfathomable, but even I can enjoy sitting on an old wooden bench in the sunshine while grown men and boys attempt to hit sixes (when the ball leaves the bat and goes over the boundary without touching the ground first.)  Today, in memory of our friend, it was a very special last match of the season.





Yesterday we went to Totnes.  I didn’t take this photo then, but a year or two ago, but this is exactly how it looked, with the bright blue sky. Totnes is a lovely historic town and the Elizabethan jettied building you see here is the town Museum.


About 25 years ago, this arch was destroyed by fire, but it was rebuilt and I find it impossible to tell the difference between the (relatively) new one and the old one.  Many of the buildings have had their facias decorated with slates, and look very attractive.  Also, many of the buildings, regardless of their overall shape, have been painted black and white.


There are various areas of the town we enjoy – the high street with all the shops (there are few chain shops, with the excepiton of a branch of W H Smith and also Fat Face, and you can buy items from Joules, White Stuff and Barbour in one shop); then there is the Plains area, close to the River Dart; and then there is Longmarsh where we sometimes go for a walk, also by the River Dart.

Yesterday I was on the hunt for a present for our future daughter-in-law’s birthday and decided upon some small, silver earrings in the shape of tiny hearts.   The shop where I bought them sells the most  lovely modern jewellery, not what I call chunky-clunky stuff, but really beautifully crafted, elegant pieces.  Indeed, I’m almost tempted to return and treat myself!  I fell in love with all the narrow silver bangles!

After my purchase, husband and I went to one of our favourite little tea rooms, Anne of Cleves.  This establishment has been there for many years and sells delicious scones (and cakes if you  wish to indulge still further.)  There are so many eateries in Totnes you are really spoilt for choice – I would like to try some of the more ethnic places, but husband is more conservative (with a small c) than I am and it’s either Anne of Cleves or Grey’s Dining Room at the top of the town.

This is the window of Anne of Cleves, with some of their delicious cakes on display:



And here is tea as it should be served, in Grey’s Dining room



One area I love is by the River Dart, by an area known as Vire Island (although it’s not really an island as this small portion of land is attached to the mainland).  Here old warehouses have been transformed into flats, they overlook a small tributary of the River Dart.



Many years ago my mother fell in love with a pastel ‘painting’ in a lovely art shop in Totnes which, sadly, is no longer there.  It shows this area before it was regenerated and I now have it hanging on our kitchen wall.


This will give you just a ‘taste’ of the lovely old town of Totnes – I’ve no doubt I shall return again and again, with more to tell you about this lovely old town.  It is often buzzing on Fridays, which is market day, and of course along the River Dart you can embark on a pleasure cruiser in summer for a day trip downstream to Dartmouth, about 12 miles away, passing Greenway en route, the home of the late Dame Agatha Christie.

Have a lovely weekend, do drop in again soon.






I thought it was high time I changed tack, if only momentarily, and wrote about clothes.  We all have to wear them and personally, I do like to try and look my best at all times even though I’ll not see size 14 again, nor sometimes even a size 16.  But … a dear friend of many years standing has said to me, “Yous beautiful, yous clever, yous special”, which is something the nanny says to her little charge in The Help (or perhaps I’m paraphrasing, my friend and I mightn’t have it quite correct.)  And so, even at my age, and my size – not ginormous but certainly not slender – I like to look good.  Or as good as I can and on a limited budget.

Three years ago I was desperate for a new winter coat.  I had saved my pennies and husband and I went to a branch of House of Fraser where I tried on and bought not one  but two winter coats – I couldn’t make up my mind which one I liked the best so thought I’d have them both.

I have to say, dear friends, that both were a mistake.  The company who made them isn’t exactly known for its fashionable look but somehow the sales assistant assured me that I looked good in the coats. One was a classic camel colour with a fur collar – fur collars were very much ‘in’ that winter – and the other in teal, a slightly more modern shape – i.e. to the knee and A-line – and with a funnel-neck.

With me so far:  coat 1, camel, full length, fur collar; coat 2, teal, funnel neck. 







I have short grey hair (well, it was at the time; I’ve recently had blond highlights and it looks great.)  Camel and grey do not look good together.  I felt like I had stepped into the shoes vacated by Hyacinth Bucket.  Furthermore, I have a shortish neck.  The funnel neck provided me with the less-than-attractive tortoise-look (in the photo the teal coat is shown with a shawl-scarf which I have also since discarded, it was by East, rather too bright for me and the material was scratchy.)

And so today I despatched the camel-coat-with-fur-collar to my favourite charity shop.  The assistants were delighted at the beginning of autumn to receive a quality coat with fur collar, worn on only three occasions.  Believe me, I had tried to like it; I wore it with black polo neck and black jeans or with black polo neck and black cords, also with coffee culottes and cream jumper and the chocolate brown heeled boots in the photo – but those, too, have been despatched to the charity shop:  I can no longer cope with heels.

If you have been reading my posts since the beginning, you might recall the shoe hunt?  I was on the look out for shoes for our elder son’s wedding.  I managed to get the shoe problem sorted but then I decided that the dress I had bought did my body shape no favours.  Indeed, while the top half looked gorgeous, from the waist down – a slightly bell-shaped skirt (ending at the knee) – it looked decidedly frumpy.  It would’ve looked stunning on someone over 5ft 10in tall and a size ’emaciated’ but I’m 5ft 2in and with a bit of padding here and there.

Yes, this is about coats, but all in good time.

Husband and I went along to Marks & Spencer.  I was on the hunt for another new dress for the wedding.  Now, in the past few years this English store hasn’t been known for being at the cutting edge of fashion, indeed, it’s come in for some stick.  Therefore, we were truly amazed because everywhere we looked we saw lovely clothes in lovely colours in what looked quality fabrics (OK, we’re not talking haute couture, we’re not talking exquisite fabrics, but simply everyday clothes at reasonable prices) and then I saw it.  By “it” I mean a lovely inky navy lace dress. 

I took it down from the rail, took it to the changing room, and when I emerged (so that husband could have a look-see) two assistants and a customer said how good I looked.  I’m not green, I know assistants are supposed to sell things and occasionally tell porkies, but I think on this occasion their compliments were genuine. 

I bought the dress.

On the way to the Pay Desk I happened to see a coat I liked.  Navy, tailored, no fancy collar, single breasted (concealed button placket) and in a lovely soft fabric, what the label said was “Italian fabric” (a mix of man-made fibre, wool and cashmere.) 

And so, friends, having bought this navy coat, I was able to despatch the camel coat. Furthemore, the assistant who saw me put it on over my Crew Clothing navy and off-white striped dress said, “My goodness, that suits you … but then, navy is your colour!”

And  so I now have four navy coats in my wardrobe:

1. The navy coat mentioned above;

2.  A Marks & Spencer navy trench for showery weather;

3.  A French navy pea coat;

4.  A navy quilted Crew Clothing jacket.

Well, you can’t have too many navy coats, can you? 







The gorgeous sunny autumn weather has stayed with us today and so we have made a start at tidying the garden, or as the gardening gurus would say, “putting the garden to bed for the winter.”

Having only a small garden for us it’s simply a case of cutting back the herbaceous plants and emptying the pots that held cosmos, heliotrope and pink geraniums.  Our garden is so tiny that we have no room for a potting shed or greenhouse – we have a summerhouse but a greenhouse requires light, and there is no area suitable for such a building, even a small one – so each season we buy new plants. This is costly and wasteful and yes, it means we’re not ‘real’ gardeners, but it’s what we do because I do not wish to have rows of cuttings in pots on all the windowsills in the house, and that is what it would mean if we took cuttings.

Time in the sun-warmed fresh air today has been wonderful.  It was even warm enough to have our lunch outside on the garden table which, last week was almost baled in tarpaulin for the winter.  I made tomato and courgette soup into which I put a small dollop of crème fraiche, some torn-up basil leaves and a sprinkling of freshly-grated parmesan, and served it with croutons – small cubes of bread I’d sautéed in garlic butter and dried oregano.


But what we do enjoy – or rather, what I enjoy, because husband is the grass-cutter and the cutter-back, while I’m the pot-person – is emptying the pots of their summer bedding and changing the compost so that the pots are ready for the arrival of the tulip bulbs (I can plant the narcissus bulbs as I have those already, but first we must go to the garden centre for compost, a job for another day.)

I expect you’re wondering why we haven’t got a compost heap?  Surely, with a huge walnut tree there is a lot of leaf mould? Yes, there is!  A massive amount.  But when the canopy of the tree covers about half of the garden, you can imagine the amount of leaves that fall.  We sweep them and bag them up and often there can be as many as 60 sacks of leaves. Where on earth would be keep them in our small garden?  So we buy compost when it’s required and the walnut tree leaves go to the recycling centre’s green waste area.

Having a small garden means that there isn’t space for a cutting garden and so for flowers for the house I have to rely on the supermarkets – I would love to buy from dedicated florists, but when I see the eye-watering prices for humble bunches of spray carnations I’m afraid I choose the supermarket (but I do my best always to buy Fair Trade blooms.)



However, it is possible to make pretty arrangements with just one or two bunches of flowers and a room without flowers somehow lacks life. It is there very ephemeral nature that is so special.  More than a week ago I chose two-for-£5 bunches of alstromeria and with care they will last for a good few days more.  They are in shades of autumn rust and gold.  On Friday, thinking the alstromeria mightn’t last much longer (I was wrong) I bought two-for-£5 bunches of roses, in similar shades to the alstromeria, so that in vases in the sitting room, the two kinds of flowers aren’t ‘fighting’ each other for supremacy.  They look as if they have been chosen to go together.

In the some of the arrangements above, I have not only relied upon bought flowers from the supermarket, but added foliage from the garden.  It can also enhance a simple bunch of flowers if you can place it alongside something which is in keeping with it, in colour or style – above you will see some yellow chrysanthemums alongside a piece of Moorcroft pottery.


I am not particularly fond of bright red flowers but if they have sufficient green foliage to balance the bright colour they, too, can look attractive in the right setting.

I am sure you will know a few tricks of the trade to keep your flowers looking good for as long as possible:  when you have bought them they need a good long drink, so cut half an inch at least off the stems, remove all leaves that will be below the water line and plunge them into a deep bucket of water for a couple of hours.  After you have arranged them, make sure you change the water regularly to help prevent the build up of harmful bacteria and don’t place a vase of flowers in direct sunlight or close to a heat source such as a radiator, an open fire or wood burner.   Do you know any other wrinkles to keep cut flowers looking good for as long as possible?  Do you, in fact, buy flowers regularly?








We were up early this morning and in Torquay by just gone 9 am.  We parked our car near the sea front and walked through Abbey Gardens, passing this pretty little duck pond.  This is a very tranquil part of the gardens, few tourists make their way here.  In the background, almost out of sight, is Torre Abbey, about which I will post on another occasion, no doubt, but this morning we just strolled through the gardens which were beautiful in the early autumn sunshine.



These manicured flowerbeds are in the style of a sunken Italianate garden and beyond them is the sea, part of Tor Bay.  The bedding plants are changed throughout the growing season so there are early spring flowers (see below), then summer flowers and even autumn planting (above).


Once through this garden the stylish Abbey Sands building comes into view.  The building was completed in the late summer of 2014 and houses holiday apartments, with top floor penthouses and, on the ground floor, four bistros/cafes/restaurants.  Our favourite is Le Bistrot Pierre, the only eatery set over two floors and, at the weekend, it is open for breakfast (it normally opens at 12 noon each day) and so we went in and found a table on the balcony, overlooking the sea.



The sunlight was rather too bright this morning for me to take photos from the balcony, so above is a collage photos I took earlier in the year.  Top left is the ground floor of Le Bistrot Pierre; the middle photo on the left is the first floor restaurant with the balcony beyond the windows, and bottom left shows the balcony where we had our breakfast.

I’m afraid my willpower was non-existent.  I had almost made up my mind to simply have a bowl of fruit, as I would’ve done at home, but instead I had an English breakfast – it was delicious but I shall have very small meals for the rest of today!  (This, by the way, is the small breakfast, which consists of toast, bacon, sausage, mushroom, tomato, egg and black pudding. I dread to think what a large breakfast looks like!)


We had just begun to eat when we recognised someone passing our table!  It was our elder son and his friend who had just finished their Saturday morning round of golf, after which they come to Pierre’s for breakfast.  They tee-off very early morning so that they are well ahead of the Saturday competition, and they had completed 18 holes before 10 o’clock.  They said it was still dark with the moon ‘out’ when they arrived on the first tee and had to wait until dawn broke – around 6.55 am – before they could start their round.

And now we’re home again.  I have to say a walk and breakfast at Pierre’s is a lovely way to start an early autumn Saturday morning.  I wonder how you’ve spent, or are now spending,  your September Saturday?

* * * * *

Just a thought:  while I accept that the road traffic noise can make conversation a little difficult while sitting on the balcony at Pierre’s, one family in particular – a young mother and father, their two small children, and a chap who joined them for breakfast – spoke in VERY LOUD voices.  As I am someone brought up in the 1950s, when we were told in no uncertain way that we mustn’t shout as not everyone cared to hear what we had to say, this seems a habit of those much younger than me (although I accept that some elderlies also shout!)  This family and friend, no doubt pleasant people in every other way, were three tables away from ours, the father was speaking on his mobile some of the time (when are people not speaking on their mobiles?) and their voices were far louder than was necessary – even taking into account the traffic noise – to hold a civilised conversation.  I wonder why people feel the need to shout rather than simply speak these days?  Is it because we are assaulted by noise from every angle so that we become used to all volume being turned up, including our voices?   Sadly, we live in an increasingly noisy world.  It seems wherever we go, there is an accompaniment of background noise – I won’t call it music as I associate music with something pleasant, and much background noise, whether in cafes or on TV programmes, is most unpleasant.  Indeed, it is unusual these days if you see a family, or even a group of under 50 year olds, who are not shouting.  Can we not exist without some kind of background accompaniment?  The radio or a CD playing,  ear pieces plugged in so that even if someone did speak to us, we’d fail to hear them?




One of the joys of Autumn is afternoon tea by the fireside and while I don’t always prepare a full traditional afternoon tea, with sandwiches, scones and jam and cream, and then cakes and pastries, even crumpets with either quince jelly or honey, or toast with a savoury spread such as anchovy or Marmite, I do like to prepare a combination of these, choosing the food appropriate for the seasons.  In spring and summer, perhaps cucumber sandwiches and lemon sponge, in winter, toasted tea cakes and a coffee and walnut cake (see below).  And although I love to bake – for no bought cake, no matter how smart it might look, tastes as good as home made –  I’m not a fan of cupcakes.  I like a ‘proper’ cake, one you can slice into portions for your guests.



After first serving sandwiches, scones are always nice to have,  perhaps with a choice of jams (I like blackcurrant or raspberry), and always with  whipped double cream (never whipping cream.)

For a change you might prefer to serve small savoury cheese scones, especially if you know your guests do not have a particularly sweet tooth.   I split-and-fill them with cream cheese and a few leaves of watercress when it is in season (salad cress isn’t quite as nice as it doesn’t have that lovely peppery taste of watercress).


I like to finish the meal with a slice of cake.  It is hard to choose a favourite when I love so many but in autumn I like to bake a toffee apple cake in which half the portion of flour is exchanged for ground almonds and, once the cake mixture is in the prepared tin, sliced Braeburn apples (or any other kind of slightly acidic apple) which have been sautéed in butter and Muscovado sugar in a frying pan for a few minutes until they are well-coated with the toffee mixture, are placed on top of the cake mixture before baking.   It’s a nice touch to sift some icing sugar on the top before service with whipped cream.


Another favourite is a chocolate sponge.  I always used the same proportion of ingredients and it’s so easy to remember.  Just weigh four fresh eggs and  whatever their combined weight is,  weigh out the same amounts of golden caster sugar, butter or margarine (I prefer soft margarine) and self raising flour.  Melted, rich dark chocolate makes a delicious ‘icing’.


Part of the fun of afternoon tea is using your prettiest china.  And by prettiest I don’t mean expensive.  All my tea services are 2nd hand, some inherited and some bought from charity stalls or antiques centres for very little cost.   In Autumn I like to use this one in shades of brilliant orange, with white and gold.


My husband complains that you “don’t get much tea in the cups” but I tell him he can always have a refill!  The size of cups has been passed down through the generations from when tea was a very expensive commodity and was often kept by the lady of the house in a special caddy, sometimes under lock and key.  Indeed, afternoon tea isn’t about having a mug with doorstop-size sandwiches; save those for when you are working in the garden.

Afternoon Tea must not be confused with High Tea.  Afternoon Tea (or Low Tea), is served around 4 pm,  and is traditionally eaten seated in comfy chairs with small tables placed conveniently for cup, saucer and plate. It is tradition to serve the tea first, offering two types of tea, perhaps Earl Grey and Indian, but the choice is entirely yours.  High Tea, taken around 6 pm, is eaten seated  at a dining table and is a much more substantial meal – perhaps granary or wholemeal bread, slices of ham, cheese, pickles, and a rich fruit cake.  Even if you are on your own, it’s fun to make afternoon tea a special treat.  And for supper, eaten later, you might find that all you then need is a bowl of soup rather than another main meal.