Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Bees & butterflies

I was about to write 'last Sunday' but I really don't know where this month has gone and it was actually the Sunday before last that we attended an introduction to bee keeping taster session organised by the West Norfolk & King's Lynn Beekeepers Association.

Bee keeping is something I've thought about for years but it wasn't until we visited friends earlier in the year, who now keep bees, that I decided to do something about it. Although bees don't bother me (as opposed to moths!) I have never been close to an open hive so we thought the taster afternoon might be a good start. We were a little worried about the weather as the previous day had been very thundery, which leads to unhappy beees, but we were fortunate that the rain dried up and the temperature dropped a little.

After being kitted out in bee suits and a short, but important, health and safety talk we headed out to the hives. I'll let the photographs do the talking.

Bee proof
Off to the apiary

Lighting the smoker

A big thank you to all the association members who gave up their Sunday afternoon (and I suspect a lot more time in organising the event) and showed such enthusiam for bee keeping.

So what next? I'm hoping to do the theory course next February, followed by the practical. My only concern is that I start my own hive just as we think about moving to France, but as Andrew said you can put things off forever.

We've noticed quite a lot of bees and butterflies around this year. On Sunday we came across a section of overgrown hedgerow in the orchard covered in butterflies and I managed to photograph two.

Finally, something I don't usually do, a plug. Anthea is an interior designer friend of mine who has just opened an online home accessory store - if you love dogs you'll love some of her items! So have a look at Anthea's Home Store.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Too darn hot!

No, this isn't a post about the hot weather that we're experiencing here in the U.K, it's way more convoluted than that. Just stay with me…
Andrew and I both enjoy the Rick Stein food travel programmes and we've been re-watching the Spain series on the BBC iPlayer. One of the things he's been raving about is Spanish bread, those lovely crusty, chewy loaves with the big holes. Like this:
So I went in search of a recipe and this one from the Hairy Bikers seemed to fit the bill, promising chewiness and that slightly sourdough taste I was after. I'm a competent bread maker and love baking so off I went, making the starter in advance, kneading & stretching, stretching & kneading. It looked and smelled good when it came out of the oven but I was disappointed. It tasted great but it didn't have the holes and chewiness I wanted. So if anyone out there has a perfect recipe or technique tips then please let me know.

Looks OK
Not what I'd hoped

All this watching of Spanish food put me in mind of my brief recce into Andalusian property that I undertook at the beginning of the year (remember all that cold,wet weather we had? I was drawn to the sunshine and colours of the south). Was I wrong to be considering northern France? Was my heart really in the olive and orange groves of Spain? One town that I had really fallen for was Iznajar, a pretty town by a lake, good for tourism and a great location. I had another look and found this for €55,000 (£45500 at current exchange rates) in excellent condition. Who could resist?

Iznajar property for sale

I started to persuade myself that we could sell up, buy a couple of properties to rent out and live a simple life in the sunshine. Sunshine I thought - what's the weather like there now?

At 7 p.m. - yes it's in centigrade
At this point my dreams fell apart, there's no way I could live here. Anything over 25c I start to go limp,  I can't do it. I really think I'm just a northern European at heart. I stopped my Andalusian property search and went back to Montreuil, so much nicer. So there we have it, just too darn hot.

Talking of hot, Mortimer cooled off on the beach the other evening. Anyone want to give a home to this horrible hound?

Wet & sandy - but happy!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Reality at Nelson House

When I started this blog it was to share the tales the restoration of Nelson House and the ups and downs of living here. It was not to be one of those 'lifestyle' blogs where people seem to live perfect lives. You know the sort, perfect houses where they waft around perfect gardens, cutting perfect roses and arranging them into a perfect still life. Constantly immaculate, when not at home they are visiting friends who live similar perfect lives.  Now life at Nelson House is nothing like that but looking at our last few blogs you may be fooled into believing it may be. So time to put the record straight.

Work on the 'orangery' has been frustratingly slow. We laid the concrete floor ready for a push forward that sadly didn't materialise. I spent the morning on my knees levelling out wet concrete as Andrew wheeled in barrow after barrow.

Man & machine in perfect harmony



 Finally, three weeks on, Andrew has managed the time to start framing out the walls. You have no idea how many re-designs this space has gone through, but eventually we agreed.

Taking shape

I'm tackling another one of our internal doors. The previous owners, probably in the 1980's, decided to strip all the doors, as was fashionable at the time. The problem is that these doors were made to be painted as the wood is not of the quality to be seen. So for each room we tackle I have to sand all the orange-red varnish off, fill the cracks and apply a total of four coats of paint.

Phase one

Then there is the varnishing of the garden furniture. If I don't get couple of coats of yacht varnish on each year then the chairs just look horrible.

After rubbing down

Next on the reality list are the adventures with wildlife. First it was wasps. We'd come back from a dog walk and were in the sitting room with a cup of coffee when an unexpected movement caught my eye; there was something in the log burner. Further inspection showed a dozen or so wasps. We went outside and stared at the chimney and saw quite a few circling the pot, obviously intent on nest building. So. on the hottest day of the year thus far, Andrew had to light the smelliest, smokiest fire to get rid of them. Lord knows what our neighbours thought as black smoke billowed forth.

What next? The other night we were in bed reading when a huge, and I mean huge, moth came in and fluttered round my head. I really dislike moths and panic when they come near me, bees and wasps can land on me and I'm fine but moths. No. So I threw the duvet over my head and shrieked. Andrew responded with a 'what the *********' and next I heard a thumping of his book, to which my response was 'not on the duvet!' It all went quiet and Andrew said it was O.K to come out. Now what I didn't know was that Mortimer had come wandering in from the hall, woken by my yells and had come to see if I was okay. Unfortunately, as I gingerly came out from under the duvet, his tail caught my bare arm. Convinced that it was the moth and my husband had lied, I shrieked again causing the dog to bolt and Andrew to laugh.

Finally there was the incident last Friday morning. Our usual routine is that Andrew prepares breakfast as I faff about and feed Mortimer. Our cereal was on the table as I opened the kitchen door to let M into the orangery and onwards to the garden. However he stopped between doors and stared into the corner of the room, I caught a glimpse of something move. Leaning forward I found myself staring into the eyes of a small brown rat. And guess what readers? I screamed. Dragged Mortimer into the kitchen and yelled to Andrew to get out and deal with it. He seemed perplexed that I didn't want the dog involved, more so when I said that I didn't want Mr M. to get bitten. No I wasn't worried about him at all.
We think the rat was unwell as it was very sluggish and when Andrew got it onto a shovel it didn't attempt to move.

So there we are, real life at Nelson House, warts and all!

Oh! nearly forgot. I hadn't posted the annual Mortimer birthday photograph. Here he is, now aged four.

Is this my best side?

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

London with the top down

The weather was so nice as we started our journey north last week that we decided to drive through London with the top down - much to Mortimer's delight as a pizza delivery motorcycle pulled up next to us. Our route took us through Victoria, Hyde Park, Marble Arch and the Edgeware Road. Each time we stopped I found myself gazing up at the skyline and thought a photographic mini project might be fun. I would liked to have spent more time photographing buildings as some of the detail on the brickwork was superb but a strange thing happened. You know the law that dictates a dropped slice of toast always falls butter side down? Well, when you have a camera in hand, all traffic lights turn to green on your approach!

1930's Tudorbethan glimpsed through the trees

Art Deco entrance

What was established in 1444? *

Once a cinema now a church

Beautiful carved brick designs
* Don't you just love the internet? The answer is the Red Lion Hotel, Kilburn - although probably an inn or hostel in 1444