101 Uses for a toenail

Those of you who read this blog regularly will know that I am really, really drawn to the idea of green living.

I’m just not that good at always living the dream.

But I do try. I Do. Honestly.

And I take my hat off to those people who manage to remain steadfast in the face of the myriad temptations of Amazon.

Who do not succumb to the lure of ready-made biscuits and cakes for the kids packing up.

Who handmake everything and just say no to convenience and packaging.

I am not worthy.

And the doyen of them all?

Zero Waste Home aka Bea Johnson.

This is a woman who reuses her toenail clippings and the hair from her hairbrush (they are put out for the birds to use for nesting material), who makes putty from the lint collected by her washing machine, who collects dead flies for composting.

Gentle reader, that “thunking” noise that kept disturbing my reading of her book Zero Waste Home? that was the sound of my jaw hitting the floor with alarming regularity.

The book


is an inspiring and thought provoking read.

But I fear my toenails (and any dead flies I come across) are destined to remain bin -bound for at least the foreseeable future.



A Bower

I know what it looks like.

But I am not becoming a Morris groupie.

Really, I’m not.

It is a total coincidence that just recently wherever I go, the Morris goes too.

And it has to be said


this weekends offering was a particularly fine example of the discipline.

And it also has to be said that yes, that really is a tree participating in this particular Morris dance.

And no, you don’t see that every day 🙂

That is the Lichfield Bower. We were in town for a family wedding on Sunday, but Monday? Monday we were exploring the delights of Lichfield





Fine architecture


Samuel Johnson (not sure what he would have made of the fairground that had sprung up next to his house for the weekend)

And of course, The Lichfield Bower.


The tradition traces it’s origins back to the Twelfth Century and the Courtes of Arraye. But nowadays it’s more in the way of an excuse for a jolly good knees up


And an excuse for the Morris



and their dancing tree


Every town should have one 🙂


I looked out of the window today.

I really wish I hadn’t.



You know what that means…

The whole garden has gone “thppppppttttt”

And that, my friends, is the sound of vegetation expanding exponentially (wow, my old English teacher would be proud 🙂 )


I am still trying the old “eyes tightly shut, fingers in ears, “la la la” I can’t see or hear you” trick

But it won’t be long.

It won’t be long before I have to go out there


In the immortal words of Swans

“In my garden….
Things grow in my garden”



Me and Mr Dentist

Yesterday I went to the dentist.

Now, for most people this would not be a big deal.

Most people would turn up for their appointment, perhaps with a resigned, possibly slightly Gallic shrug of their shoulders and then continue on their merry way.

I, on the other hand, approach each appointment with a dread, nay fear, that borders on the phobic.

A dread, nay fear, borne of two events

Event one
Being taken to the dentist as an innocent 8year old and being held down in the dentists chair whilst a gas mask was clamped over my nose and mouth. Waking up some time later to find all (ALL) my back teeth had been extracted and I was forced to imbibe soup and Weetabix through a straw for several days afterwards. Whilst my Dad noisily and enthusiastically chewed toffees in front of me. Bless him.

Event two

Plucking up courage at 17 to go back to the dentist after a gap of nearly ten years to find that the routine filling I was expecting actually involved hot screws being inserted into root canals.

And so I approach dentists with caution.

And as I was sat in the dentists chair yesterday, cotton wool packed between gum and upper lip, clamp attached to tooth causing the occasional slight gag, dribble coming attractively out of the corner of my mouth, I thought…

Why would anyone want to become a dentist?”

Who would choose to spend their working life poking at rotting teeth and causing fear and pain?


And then an image popped into my mind…

Two words

marathon man

And then another thought

Quentin Tarantino?

A dentist before he became a film director.

Um well I haven’t actually checked out that fact. But if he wasn’t then he should have been.


Strange Stuff

It’s been one of those weeks.

A catch-up week.

Washing, ironing, cookingzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Not the most riveting of things to blog about

So this is by way of a catch up post.

So many people have asked me about the weird customs I go to.

And the main question is

“but, how on earth do you find out about them?”


These help 🙂

My collection of books about interesting and/or frankly bizarre stuff in Britain.

I have a separate bookcase to house all my Pevsners (county guides to the architecture of Britain) and Mee’s (county guides which you have to read whilst mentally adopting the voice of a 1950s BBC announcer).

The collection includes some fab general guides to weird customs in Britain


And veers wildly from the profane


To the sacred




To High Church


Lots and lots of weird and wonderful stuff to learn about, look at, and, occasionally, participate in.

Or you can just save yourself a lot of research time and go straight to my friend and fellow weird customs fan Averil’s cool web site Calendar Customs. Pick an area, or a month, and be amazed 🙂

Grasmere Gingerbread

It’s actually sunny outside.

Sunny! On a Bank Holiday weekend!

All this sunshine has started me thinking about summer holidays.

Even though we all know that the minute the schools break up for the summer, the storm clouds will gather and Britain will disappear behind grey and wet mist and murg.

But, hope springs eternal.

And this year we are staying in Britain and heading to the Lake District.

And so I started thinking about the Lakes, and Cumbria, and Grasmere.

And Grasmere Gingerbread.

Which is unlike any other Gingerbread in the world.


If you have never tried it, it’s quite difficult to describe.

Thin and crispy and chewy and not quite a biscuit and not quite a cake. Sort of flapjacky and possibly a bit treacle-tarty. Sweet with a lot of fire.

The recipe is a closely guarded secret, but you can order the authentic gingerbread online from the Grasmere Gingerbread shop.

Or turn up at St Oswalds Church in Grasmere on the Saturday nearest St Oswald’s day in August when the gingerbread is given out after the rushbearing ceremony.

Or you can have a bash at making it yourself.

There are loads of attempts at the recipe out there. It seems like everyone from Jackie Kearney to Jamie Oliver has had a go.

So here’s mine.

You will need

125g plain flour mixed with 125g fine oatmeal.

Add 5 tsp (yes you did read that right) of ginger and 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda. Mix well.


Melt 150g of butter and add it to the dry mixture until well combined.


Stir in 175g brown sugar

Then stir in 1 tbsp of golden syrup.

Or, if like me you discover that the tin of golden syrup you knew was lurking in the back of the pantry was actually a complete figment of your imagination, then add whatever gloopy syrup type substance you actually do have in the pantry. (In my case 1 tbsp treacle and then 1 tbsp maple syrup because the mix had gone a very scary colour).

Mix well.


Line a shallow baking tray with grease proof paper.

Pour the mix into the tray, even it out and flatten with the back of your spoon. Don’t make it too thick – this should have more of a biscuit depth to it.


Bake at 180C for about half an hour.

Cut into squares once it’s cooled down a bit but before it’s gone completely cold.


Munch contentedly



Yoga today.

You know how last week after yoga ( after the beginners yoga ) I expressed the hope that I had, at last, made a breakthrough, passed the pain barrier, actually improved?

I was wrong.

Those hopes?

They are lying dashed and broken on the floor.

A bit like me.


Ouch, ouch, ouch.


A happy Beltane, and joyous May Day to you all:-)

To finish off an action packed few days we ended up in Glastonbury.


To celebrate Beltane.

But really, any excuse to visit Glastonbury 🙂

After the dry start to the day at Cerne Abbas, it rained.

And rained.

And rained.

But that didn’t put the revellers off.



We saw the arrival of the Maypole



Heard the Glastonbury Bard and the drummers



By which point we looked like half drowned ladies of the Lake and called it a day.

Till next time 🙂

Bring it on!



It was very, VERY, dark.

A figure dressed in a cloak of rags looms out of the shadows.

In near silence ( and the dark. Did I mention the dark?) we followed him up the Giant’s Hill.

At the top we stood, gasping for breath and looking out over the countryside and the village of Cerne Abbas, way, way below

20140501-152142.jpgthe view from the Giants Hill at 4am

Then, in the distance, we heard them.

The bells.

The Morris had arrived.

And with them the other mad people who get up in the middle of the night to watch the Morris welcome the dawn on May Day on the Cerne Abbas Giant.

As the Morris side got ready to dance we heard a cuckoo.

Fab sense of timing and occasion.

Then the Morris did their thing



As dawn broke.


And the bell rang in the start of summer


It didn’t rain 🙂

Then it was back down the hill ( a bit easier in daylight let me tell you)

And the arrival of




The Dorset Ooser

A procession into the Village with the Morris playing and dancing.

The villagers, I am sure, were delighted.