Wednesday, 10 December 2008

December update

Here we are at the darkest part of the year, cold too. I have not written since October because things were piling up.

The kitchen was is fantastic and we have done so much great cooking in it.

The Japanese grandparents came for a week and we had fairish weather. We did not get to do all that much as I was ill and in bed for part of the week. A day trip to London, a trip to Standen and lots of trips to Wickendens in town (the very old sweet shop).

In November Adam turned 17, we celebrated with a meal out at his favourite eatery in town. The girls bought him a beautiful blue Saimese fighting fish, which very distressingly for all, died only two weeks later. He was spotty, therefore ill.

I too, turned a year older and had a great day. John gave me perfume and a frozen (dead) rabbit that he bought from the Farmer's Market for me to cook. I love the idea of game and have wanted to cook rabbit for some time now. The kids are not convinced.

We had dinner at home on my birthday after dropping in to a Dutch friend's house where they were celebrating Saint Nicolas and Black Peter's arrival. John had been asked to pound on the front door, which made all the kids inside scream, while they were trying to see who was at the door, my job was to sneak around to the back of the house and throw handfuls of ginger cookies and chocolate mice in through the window. The confectionary missiles caused even more screaming, but they loved it.....
Now we are in the middle of Christmas planning, and we are having a big party for John's 50th in January, at home, so that too is very much on my mind. I am going to take a day off work next week to start cooking. First of all, pork and chestnut stuffing balls....they are divine!
Hope you are all well.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Polly the Mexican Red Knee

We took Emily to the London Zoo for her birthday out...
The weather was great and we enjoyed the whole day. Highlights were the Okapi (significant memories for the girls as the first Okapi came to Yokohama when we lived there), the poison dart frogs, (blue, red, yellow and green, gorgeous.), the aquarium and the meerkats. Emily was keen to see the Spider Show and I forced myself to join in as I have a well ingrained fear of them, the bigger they are the more scary, and hoped to overcome it in some small way. After 20 minutes I was converted...well almost!
Polly, the Mexican red knee tarantula was the star, she sat completely still on her keepers hand while we were told all about her habitat, life cycle and her character. There was a question and answer session and I got close enough to take a lovely photo of her. There is no way I would want a spider as a pet, nor would I encourage Em to keep one, but I was reassured that some spiders are quite good at just keeping to themselves and that they mean us no harm!

Friday, 3 October 2008

Stars - some wearing very little!

Adam has been assigned to his band, they are classmates, not friends and between them have to learn to play together, set up practise time, work out travel and other costs to get around and all in all be just like a band that is out there playing gigs. We are looking forward to the first performances!

The girls both auditioned for West Side Story as Hispanic chorus girls, but were not selected this time. What cool! Neither of them were phased, they just want to try for the next performance!

John's choir is planning a Calendar Girls type spread to raise funds.....tastefully naked choristers! Mmmmmmm.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Life with no kitchen

Well, week three and we are now at the thrilling stage where we can COOK on the new stove and wash dishes in the new sink, with extreme care as the silicon has not been put around the joints yet! There is light, the walls are painted, there are however, no handles, no tiles and the wiring is not finished. It has been a huge disturbance in the lives of this very busy family, but we have learned to cope and I am very proud of everyone. I do not miss washing dishes at the tap outside, but realised that this is how millions wash their food, clothes, bodies and dishes everyday, so it important to appreciate all we have.
I have not blogged much as we have had limited phone and internet coverage lately.
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Friday, 12 September 2008

Dust and grime and the ubiquitous charity shop trend

Work continues and by the weekend there will only be a shell left. The dirt is piling up, but now that it is happening I feel a bit excited about what will arise out of the rubble!

EG where we live, boasts 6 charity shops and as many cafes, two of which are chains. Today yet another charity shop will open its doors, directly across the road from a sister/rival cause.....obviously people in this country buy so much that the unwanted, replaced 'stuff' can drive this multi million pound trend. One does not even have to buy a wedding dress London, Oxfam has a shop that sells brand new, off the rack dresses for about a 10th of the price, all off-loaded from stores with excess stock or shops closing down.....

I am not knocking them, I am an avid fan of the charity shop and buy clothes, books, sometimes jewellery and things for the house. I also donate any unwanted items, especially children's clothes, that are in good condition that might have a second life somewhere else. Who needs retail shopping???

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

Men at Work

The kitchen/utility room has long been an issue in the house. It is not big enough for 5 of us in there at once, is old and not very practical. Since getting here in March last year we have been planning to make this very important space in the house a more family friendly area and we are somewhat nervous as work starts this week.
It means five weeks with no kitchen, no downstairs loo, no sink, in fact a hole really. The loo, washing machine and dishwasher are being relocated into a space taken from the garage. That will free up the utility room and then the wall between it and the kitchen will be knocked down and the new kitchen put in there. There will de French doors opening onto the patio, and even Bosley will get a new door!
We have been moving things out all weekend and have set up a temporary camp in the dining room, the fridge is in there, as is most of the food. The microwave oven will be in the conservatory and we will wash dishes in a bucket. Our neighbour has lent us two gas rings to cook on and if the rain would stop for a while we could use the barbeque!!
John has managed very cleverly to arrange go to the Middle East for 10 days on a business trip and Hannah is off to Holland soon for a 6 day Art Exchange.....Adam, Emily and I will be left with the mess for the entire time....

Friday, 5 September 2008

First Day of School 2008 - 2009

The girls started school on Thursday. Hannah goes into year 8 and Emily into year 7, she is now in high school. They looked very smart when they headed off yesterday and last night came home with lots of news and they seem to be happy to be back with all their friends and teachers. Posted by Picasa

Blackberry season

Just after getting back from the holiday I was walking along the bridle path and noticed the blackberries looking very ripe and ready. The next evening I took a small bag and collected almost a kilo of them. Not unlike kuwa, 桑, they make great jam, jelly and go well in pies with apples. I want to freeze some this year for those cold nights when a hot crumble goes down really well after dinner. Crumble is a desert. Fruit, like apples, apricots, rhubarb (ok, not a fruit but still used in deserts), strawberries and of course blackberries topped with a crumbled mixture of butter, brown sugar and flour. Nuts or oatmeal can be added for extra crunch. Superb hot with custard and or icecream!

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Tuesday, 2 September 2008

The Farne Islands

We visited the Farne Islands while up north. Off the coast of Seahouses (the town's name) they are low lying rocky islands home to tens of thousands of birds and less than a dozen humans. I had hoped to see puffins, but it was not the season.

The Farne Islands is also where Grace Darling lived with her father who was a lighthouse keeper. She is legendary in the area for rowing out with him during a storm to rescue stranded passengers from a ship that ran aground on the rocks.

Monday, 1 September 2008


What a wonderful place for a week's holiday. A small town at the foot of a hill with a reasonably intact castle on it. You can climb through the castle rooms and it is great fun. There is a river running through town and it is minutes walk from stunning beaches. The weather was not good! Rain daily, but in the end, none of us were bothered by it. We walked along the beach to the next town, Amble, but were foiled by the river which separates the two towns. We spent ages digging, as one does on the beach, in the rain and the girls rolled down some very impressive sand dunes. I intend to blog and add photos so that you can see this lovely part of the world.
Our cottage, the Old Coach House was delightful, clean, well equipped, tastefully decorated and the landlord supplied wine for us and sweets for the girls as a welcome! The cottage is the one with the blue door.

Friday, 15 August 2008

This is John and Adam on the top deck of the ferry returning from Calais. The wind was so strong they could barely walk into it and the waves were hitting the deck below this one! The moon is in the background, although it was not yet dark. The delay was more than 3 hours! All in all a pretty wild holiday weather wise! But it was a lot of fun. Looking forward to our next crossing some day soon!
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Windy beach at Le Touquet

The girls were nearly blown off the beach at Le Touquet. This is before the rain started on our 'one night away in France' holiday. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, 14 August 2008

People carrier

The Renault Clio has gone and has been replaced with a people carrier (like the one shown here). Ours is silver and it is, for car fans, a Toyota Corolla Verso! We are a one car family now with room for 7 people. John and I went to pick it up on Saturday then collected the girls from their Guides camp in it. They and Adam love it and despite its size compared to the Clio, so do I! It will have to work hard for us as we have already been to France in it and this weekend, head off for THE NORTH....In the meantime, John is taking it away over night to see some friends of his and to have a little 'me' time.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Wednesday ladies

Recently a postcard arrived from Kurita san, who has been in France. She mentioned that the Wednesday ladies sometimes read the blog. Thank you, I was delighted to hear that.
It means that I cannot be lazy and must always think of something interesting to tell you!
All the best to everyone, I have many fond memories of you all.

Thursday, 31 July 2008


The girls are getting ready for this big event, held once every four years, like the Olympics. They will be gone from Saturday to Saturday and parents, once we have said our goodbyes, are not allowed on site.
There are piles of clothes, naming pens, sleeping bags and mats all over the living room and as I will be at work on Saturday when they leave, it will be up to John to oversee the departure and the final flurries of forgotten items!!!
They are both very excited.
When they get home, they will both be very tired and probably very dirty!

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Continental weekend

Ushio took the girls to Belgium on Saturday morning to catch up with old friends and, he said, to help them realise how close we are to Europe. He has hopes that they will want to learn more languages. I agree. Why not?

I spent the day working on a translation, slow work as I feel rusty. John had an unusually quiet day, which did him good.

It was hot and Adam was having trouble with his dreadlocks. Too bulky and not evenly spaced. I offered to 'trim' some off, under his supervision, and he gave the thumbs up. By the time we had finished it looked as if we had fleeced a sheep and he was a different man! Some regrets of course, but at least he can start again and control the growth this time.

David came down and we had a rather adult barbeque, just four of us.

Sunday morning up at dawn to drive to Dover. We caught the ferry to Calais and then went on to Le Touquet, recommended by my colleague, Gill. Great choice. It has a trendy feel to it, is on the beach ( miles of it) lovely buildings and lots to do.

We had a birthday lunch there for David, the men having Moules et frits and I had a baguette. I also had, later from the patisserie, a superb strawberry tart.... worth that wait.

On the way home we bought some wine and beer and were back in EG by about 8pm. We now plan two nights there with the children over the summer. Will keep you posted.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Colette and the girls

Last week was wonderful in that Colette and her daughters came to stay for two nights. John, the dear (and WISE) man had drinks with friends in London one night and generally kept out of our way for the duration. Three years of face-to-face catching up to do while trying to fit as much into the two days as we could and quite a lot of Japanese made things noisy and busy....The girls simply picked up where they left off, with one big difference. They are all a lot more independent. Hannah cooked them pancakes for breakfast one morning and they all sat on the patio to eat. Not a mother in sight!

We caught up with Amy in Utsy on Skype and saw her cats Pumpkin and Radish in person, (well on the screen).

We shopped for chocolate, cider and other essentials. We also went to the rocks (see above) and that was so popular it was on the list for day two as well. On Thursday we went to the farmer's market (bit quiet) and Wickendens for a treat. The girls took some Japanese sweets in for the owner and he kindly gave out a few samples in return!
Then we headed off to Haskins to eat lunch and buy seeds. Colette is probably single handedly supplying all the growers of rhubarb in a certain archipelago with seeds.......A photo of the splendid gunnera (グンネラ) outside the shop (see above as well) has inspired her husband Masahiro to grow them in Japan too! After Haskins and pleas for 'the rocks' we left the girls at home and slipped off to Standen in all its summer glory. By tea time, colouring in and the imminent arrival of the girls' dad (my girls) from Japan got minds off rocks and onto other things.

Hannah Em and I picked Ushio up from EG station and took him to his B&B where he is almost a regular. Back home for some chilling, some girl talk and that wonderful feeling you get with friends.
Just wish they didn't live so far away.

Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Boot sale , the car was sold!

All five of us went to a car boot sale on Sunday and John sold the car!! The woman comes tonight for the test drive and she has paid a deposit. All part of the downsizing plan!!

Friday, 18 July 2008

Greased Lightning!

Em played the role of Headmistress in the school production of Grease last night and was (objectivity personified here), BRILLIANT. The whole production was fun and it was clear the kids got a lot out of it. John Hannah and I were very proud.
With only days before the end of term we seem to hurtling towards a flurry of events that I am not ready for!!
The girls are off to Belgium with their Dad next weekend. Colette (dear friend) is in London from Yugawara and I am counting the days til we can catch up and I can show her around this part of England.
WS2008, the guide camp held every four years, starts days after the girls get back and there is a list a mile long of things to prepare....including copious amounts of chocolate cake for guide leaders. One would think they might need something stiffer!
We are then going to attempt to go away for 3 days with all five of us. Problem is to where and if we chose a location will there be any accommodation left? Tough one.
Back at work for 2 days then off again for 10 days to Warkworth, where we have booked a holiday cottage and then a few days in Whitley Bay.
That practically takes care of summer. So much to look forward to, but it feels like it will be over in a flash. Time goes too fast.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

good things in small packages?

On Saturday afternoon, Em, John and I went to the local Smallholders Show. It was tiny in comparison to the South of England Show, but small is good as we discovered. It was very hard not to ooh and aaah over the piglets, chicks, ducklings and other fluffy and furry beasts. Em loved the bees, a hive was on display (behind glass), open, with all the workers actively feeding the larvae. The queen was marked clearly with a red dot on her thorax so that we could all see her.

The harderst part was NOT bringing home a chicken or two. John reckons he could rustle up a hen pen with a few planks of wood, but even so, with Bosley and two cats on either side of us, three across the road, not to mention those we do not know who prowl around at night, the hens would be too stressed to lay.

We consoled ourselves with bringing home pork and stilton sausages, some chocolate covered honey comb and some achillea for the garden.

Friday, 4 July 2008

Musical generation

Hannah took her grade 2 flute exam on Thursday in the very pretty town of Horsham. It meant a nervous trip for her, and one for me as it was a first to drive there. Hannah and Em are brilliant navigators, having a mother like me they are calm, prepared and resourceful!
As time wore on, Hannah became rather shaky, but seemed cheerful when it was over.
We heard at the weekend that she passed with 80%.....
Em is great on the recorder and Adam plays bass guitar and writes music.
My mother once told me musical talent always skips a generation!!! Not true. John can sing!

Monday, 30 June 2008

First dipping

I fell into the reservoir on Sunday. My first day out in a lightweight single skull and all was going well until about 30cm from the pontoon. How true it is that one should not let go of ones blades! Thinking it was close enough to grab the pontoon, I reached out and in I went!! It was far less cold than it looks and not green/smelly or slimey....all very good points as this is our drinking water!!
The Henley Regatta is on this Saturday and I would love to go, but work calls. Maybe next year.

We went to a huge car boot fair to see how prices are and what sells. We attempt one this weekend.

Between John my brother and myself we are trying to get tickets for the World Cup Cricket next year. Better still would be tickets for a 20/20 game, but they are like hens teeth.

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


The last introspective post resulted in emails from two very dear people who reminded me, by sharing recent events in their lives, that we ALL have those times when we may not love the life we live, but sitting around doing nothing about it is not the answer. It was a bouying experience hearing from them and they have inspired me to be, if not proactive about changing the things that I can change, more positive about the things that I can't change.
You cannot beat good friends.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

Navel gazing

Three years ago, I was in Japan, working in teaching and on cable radio, and here I am now in a very wet, very old, West Sussex town typing letters and answering the phone! The steps and choices that brought me here were all taken and made with open eyes and when I look at the children and how well they have all adapted to the new family combination, it makes me glow with pride and happiness.
However, this week, one of my colleagues pointed out that administration skills are something I seem to struggle with, not only that, she has a memory like a steel trap and I am still floundering in regard to all the minutiae of the job. It struck a chord. I have never had to administer, other than my own schedule and finances in any job I have done to date. While I enjoy the variety in this work, part of me feels puzzled that it is me doing it. I rarely speak Japanese now and fear losing it, although we watch the news and other media daily. Somehow, (navel gazing bit) I have become a different, maybe less accomplished version of myself in order to fit in here. I feel dumbed down. Again, though, my choice and it is proving to be a wily one as there is a lot of flexibility in the work time wise.
Before this gets out of hand, the point is, it just doesn't seem to gel, yet!
John is with me on this too, from inward investment in one of the most dynamic economies in the world to hot desking and short term projects in London...we are in a bit of a pickle!

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

High School/Sixth form college

With weeks now till the end of term, Emily is getting ready to make the move to high school. We have a series of parent meetings, visits to the school and a shopping day for uniforms to get through. Before she starts in September there are the summer holidays....and before the end of term, the school production of GREASE in which Em plays the Headmistress. Can't wait for that!

Adam has finished his academic life at school and is currently in Devon with friends. The term officially ends in a few weeks. He starts college in September. New freedoms and big changes for all.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Today is the London to Brighton charity bicycle race to raise money for the British Heart Foundation. Riders follow the A22 as do I usually on the way to rowing. At the usual turn off, police guided me into a seething throng of bikes! All colours shapes and sizes (one could say that for the riders too...). I puttered along with these things darting in and around me feeling a bit like a big fish in a shoal of little ones! Getting to the reservoir was a relief. Sadly, rowing today was not great. I re-cut my hand on the spot it was cut last time and it made for a painful, wobbly session. Hard on the other girls in the boat with me all over the place.
End of rowing and silly me was thinking that the bulk of the riders will have long reached Brighton, but no. It meant a detour, part of the way on the road with more riders where I had to pull of onto the verge to let an ambulance through, and then the whole mass of bikes was stopped by police to allow me to cut across them and escape onto a road that would get me home! Bet some of them were cursing.
Home, through fields of freshly cut hay, (some of it in odd pale blue plastics bales,) through part of Ashdown Forest, and past some of those quintessential English gardens with hollyhocks, lupins, delphiniums, roses, lavender and buddelia in blossom. With the sun roof open and Blake's Jerusalem on the radio, it was pure joy.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Good neighbours

Since John hurt his leg, our neighbours, Mandy and Dave have been wonderful. Mandy offered to drive to Whitley Bay with me to get the children on Sunday. We eventually agreed that not only was it too far, but that when we got there, there would be no bed for her to sleep in as we could not turn around and drive back in the same day! Anyway, as you know, John managed to get home as did the kids but we were pleased that they were both so kind.

This morning, very early, they came to the rescue again when John could not put any weight on his ankle. (It is actually a green colour now and still puffy). I called them to ask on the off chance if they had a pair of crutches lying around and they did!! (Tom, their very athletic son has had all sorts of injuries and happened to have a pair from the last one). John hobbled off to London and has since informed me that he is doing his best to reschedule a 10 day business trip to the Middle East that is to start on Sunday. I hope he can.

Monday, 2 June 2008

The Incredible Journey!

Some of you may know this story about a cat and two dogs (I has been a long time since I read the book) who cross the country (America) to find their owners. Well our three offspring made their own journey today. From Whitely Bay to Newcastle, then London, then home on the local train. They are safe now and looking well. All sorry that the holidays are over, especially Adam who has a horrendous schedule of exams this week.

While they were travelling news reached me that John has also left home and is heading back to us in the south, bruised and sore, he should be home tonight. I will be able to sleep well with them all back where they belong!

Sunday, 1 June 2008

athletes of the water

Don't you love it? That is what the rowing coach calls us. Today for the first time, he did not yell at me or call me a novice. We practised some technical stuff and then did some strength moves. It was exhausting and in the end painful. But what a feeling. In the lulls before the hard work we were drifting on the reservoir, surrounded by water fowl. We even got close to one small coot on her nest in the reeds. There were yellow flag irises in bloom in clumps all around the place too, and in the tall rushes was a heron. I am sure the rest of the crew is just like me. They love it out on the water as much as they love the work. Still a long way to go to get fit enough to handle the endurance training, but it was a therapeutic session!

News from the north is that the children are booked to come down by train tomorrow. The girls will miss a day of school. John is keen to get on the road, but he cannot risk hurting himself more. He will probably have to give it another day....tough as I think he is not naturally inclined towards sitting around!!

Ivan sounds robust and cheerful and is pleased to be home.

Saturday, 31 May 2008

If it's not one thing, it's another

John had a bad fall when out shopping up north with Hannah and Emily on Friday. X-rays to the ankle revealed no broken bones, but there is severe tissue/cartilage damage and he cannot walk without crutches, (although he tells me that Hannah and Em spend more time on the crutches than he does!!) He must rest if there is any chance of him attempting the marathon drive back down south from Whitley Bay. I tentatively offered to go up this morning to bring the children back, but wisely he pointed out I have never done the trip with him in the car, so going it alone would be very tough. If the kids have to come home by train and leave John there to get some more rest, so be it. But I want him home, and better. Poor thing, cannot stand to be idle and on top of that he is in pain. He needs lots of TLC.
On a brighter note, his father is due to be discharged from hospital today. That will cheer everyone up.

Friday, 30 May 2008

Worrying news

John's father had a mild stroke the day after we got back from Whitley Bay. He is doing well and has lost none of his mobility. John and Adam left at lunch time yesterday for the 6 hour drive to see him. Reports are that he is cheerful and well, still in hospital and likely to be there for a few days. Nancy is, as ever, positive and cheerful, but she needs to look after herself. The girls are fine, loving life up there and Em was disappointed to think that her holiday is nearly over!

Thursday, 29 May 2008

Ever growing family

It feels as though we have family all over. John, Adam, the girls and I are a unit. Then the girls have their dad and grandparents in Japan, the latter who are still to me, 'mum and dad'. There are my parents in Australia, then John's and my siblings and their offspring. I relished this thought this weekend when the girls spent hours with their cousins in Whitley Bay, mainly the younger one, on the trampoline, as well as fooling around with their uncle and their older cousin's boyfriend. There were no barriers, just everyone in together, laughing and talking. Who can beat it?

Saturday, 24 May 2008

Early start

It is just after 5 am and soon we will head north to Whitley Bay for the long weekend. It takes about 5-6 hours driving, and we have made the trip a number of times since coming to the UK. It is John's home town. My job is to make the picnic that we eat en route. Sandwiches, fruit, hot tea and always some interesting snacks. Today, I am making popcorn!

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Homestay with an English family

Laura, who is from Holland, has been with us for a few days now and she is a lovely tempered, quiet girl, with a good sense of humour. So far we have fed her Indian, Indonesian, Italian and Japanese food, but managed to make a good old apple crumble once! We have also taken her rock climbing at Stone Farm (see recent entry about fab local site) and to the vet!
Last night's outing was a trip to the vet to get Bosley seen to again. The girls piled into the surgery with the vet and myself and watched as Bos had a wound cleaned, his temperature taken, some injections given and lots of attention. It was an expensive trip out, but the girls all got a key ring each to take home! We were laughing about her 'English' family speaking Japanese and her outing to treat a sick cat. It may not be what she expected, but it seems as though she is fitting right in.

Saturday, 17 May 2008


Last week I got a rare chance to get back to Standen for a couple of hours of work. If you remember last year I wrote about the swimming pool and emptying it of newts? Well this time we were digging a retainer pond below the pool to be able to keep a continuous supply of water pumping between the two. It was very hot, sunny weather, but we were under the shade of a big tree. It was also dirty work, the mud is really clay, which became more slippery as the day went on. No matter how hard, heavy or grubby the work is, I always feel truly happy there. There is no telling when the next afternoon off will coincide with Standen, but I can't wait to get back.

Friday, 16 May 2008

International Colours

This week we host a young girl from Holland, who is here on an art exchange program with Hannah's school. She will be with us for about 7 days 6 nights and in that time will see a lot of galleries in London (all arranged by the school) as well as spend time learning about English landscape painting as well as doing her own work. Hannah will then go to Holland in September. I am excited to think that someone new will join us for a short time. I hope she finds it all she expects.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


The old garden fence was on its last legs, in fact it was almost on the ground, so we have had a new one erected. Gone are the holes that the local cats slipped through. Poor Bosley spent some time gazing at where there used to be a space this morning. He then walked in an un cat-like wobbly way along the top of the fence, marking out his border. Not a bird, squirrel or cat respects his space, poor thing!

Friday, 9 May 2008

Fabulous local site

My colleague at work suggested we go for a walk at 'the rocks' as she was sure that we would like it. We did. It is set in wonderful woodland and once you are through that, there is a fantastic view of Weir Wood Reservoir. Bluebells are in full bloom under the trees, climbers were using the rocks and not far from the base of them is an angling pond.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Ticking life's boxes

One of the things I have always wanted to do is rowing. I loved the idea of a four in a skull on the river in the early hours of the morning. Alas, the uni I went to had no river and no rowing club. But there a lots of both in England! Recently I had a rowing lesson at the Ardingly Resevoir and can now tick that box. It was the first in a series of four introductory lessons to see if rowing suits me and me it...the jury is still out on that. It was far more difficult than imagined. Hard to balance, hard to turn the blades etc but I did manage a few strokes and turned around and got back to the pontoon safely. Next week we use legs as well as arms.....

Friday, 2 May 2008

Potato crop news

The one and only row of potatoes I planted in March (well, it was very warm and dry then) looked as though it had rotted away to nothing with the recent snow and rain, but NO! Last night I noticed a small potato plant peering out. Such a thrill. I plan to put in another row or two this weekend. Will post photos later.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Car Boot Sale

After much talk and very little action, the girls and I finally made it to our first car boot sale on Sunday. It was at the same location as the one that had only three stalls last month, but we thought we would see what was going on this time. We were the ONLY stall for about a hour! We actually thought of going home, but as the two volunteers from the Lifeboat charity were all set up with tickets for sellers and shoppers alike, it was hard to say no. Five pounds per car, the pick of the car park and we laid out our wares. (I forgot the camera, it would have been good to show you all.) The one big advantage of being the only stall is that EVERYONE has a look at it and we ended up making about £40.00!! The girls were amazing at selling and motivated by the fact that I said they could keep what they made from selling their own things.

In the end, we got rid of about one large box worth of unwanted items. Not bad. We might go back next month as there seems to be no end of stuff to get rid of.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Branching out

It is a glorious Saturday morning and I am at the office, alone. Skiving, you all think! But the truth is that this is often the quietest day of the week. I envisaged droves of would be tenants looking for homes at the weekends, but so far that has not been the pattern. I took someone to see a nice house this morning and at the end of my shift will take someone else to see another one. Meanwhile, I type, file, answer the phone (when it occasionally rings!) and wait until the end.
I would LOVE to be digging right now. But having said that, the job is interesting, although there is so much detail and minutea, that until I have a solid grasp of it all, I will be floundering.

Monday, 21 April 2008

'I've been to London, to visit the Queen'

We went to Windsor Castle on Sunday with the girls' grandmother. Well worth the trip. The town itself is packed with interesting buildings of historic even boasts the Nell Gywn Chinese Restaurant! (In Nell Gwyn's former home.) Situated near the Thames River, and with the Long Walk and Great Park it has enough occupy anyone for a whole day or more.

Granny S has gone now, well for now at least. It looks as though we will have her and grandad back here in the autumn!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Business Class

The girls and their grandmother arrived back to cold windy England last night, having travelled business class as a result of a fortuitous upgrade. They loved it and now think that they will have trouble with the economy style of travel from now on!!

It was wonderful to have them all back here, excited from the holiday and full of news. This has trip makes me think they have grown up a little.

Friday, 18 April 2008

O hana mi....West Sussex Style

The longer evenings mean that now after a full day in the office, there is time to work in the garden. I got home last night to find John hard at work digging a spot for our cherry tree. After much effort and mind changing we decided to plant it in the back garden. The whole exercise has taken so long, there are buds about to flower, so in a few days time we can do our own little flower viewing ceremony! We can sit under the twig it is and hope that this time next year we will have a fuller sized tree.

Thursday, 17 April 2008


The dreaded atopi....excema in English... has struck. Years of living in Japan with so many sufferers always made me think how lucky we are that none of the family have it. Until now and I am the one who has it!! Of course there are no answers as to why or where it came from, but there are no rigid food regimes to follow and only a cream to use. Simple care will improve it and life goes on, only it is a bit more itchy than usual.

Monday, 14 April 2008


While the girls have been in Japan, John, Adam and I have had a good time as smaller unit of three. Adam studied for his GCSEs during the day and in the evening we all chilled together. One night Adam and I went to the local pool where I perfected my walrus imitation in the aqua-aerobics class while Adam dodged the tidal waves sent out by the ladies. It was fun and oddly he did not seem ashamed to be seen with me. A friend tells me this is because I am not his mother, sons get embarrassed about mothers, not step mothers...well not as much.

On Saturday I did my first solo viewings of a property, which remain unlet, and after work John and I headed for the south coast town of Rye. Highly recommended. It was once the home of what seems like most of England's smugglers as well as the author Henry James. His former residence, Lamb House, is now a National Trust property. Lamb House was later the home of EF Benson who wrote, among other things, the Mapp and Lucia books. He used Rye as the setting for many of his stories, and having just finished one of the novels, oblivious to this fact until we got there, it made the place even more appealing.

We stayed at Durrant House (rhymes with currant) a five star B&B which was lovely. Being on the coast, we went out for a sea food for dinner and had superb English mussels followed by grilled whole sea bass and plaice.

Ever since we moved to England, John has talked of driving through Kent, the Garden of England, and as promised, it is very beautiful. We walked along the cliff tops at Hastings Country Park on Sunday, where there were many happy dogs sniffing for rabbit holes and chasing balls. The sea was calm and blue. There is nothing I like more, water, fresh air and lots of space.

We took Adam back for his last term at Ardingly last night, after the ritual meal out on the way back to school. It was a big moment for him with exams looming and the end of his time there not far away, and a big one for John who remembers the little boy who waited outside with his suitcase packed for his parents to take him away, just days after joining.

A touch of empty nest syndrome last night. The girls have not called other than to say they arrived safely, so I phoned them today and it will be so good to have them home again on Friday. Although I do not want to detract anything from their valuable time in Japan.

Friday, 4 April 2008

Women of a certain age

The week after Easter we were visited by our good friend Francoise, from Belgium. Now that I am working full time, we had to leave her alone some of the time, but she sewed, read and did some of that mountain of ironing that never seems to get smaller!!
(John, rather cleverly, decided to take our queen sized bed to Whitley Bay that weekend, so that we could have 'girl time'. He rented a truck and between the two of us we got it all loaded up...HA! Only to discover 10 hours later that one rather significant bit of the bed was still in our garage!! )
The weather was horrible, but we managed to get to the garden centre to stock up on vegetable seeds for her garden. (She lives in a converted barn and has vegetables and an orchard).
On Sunday we went to a flea market to discover that maybe the English are not so stoic about their weather....there were only three stalls! We then went to Wakehurst place, part of Kew Gardens where the Millenium Seed Bank is housed. The gardens and house there are wonderful, and we were blessed as the sun came out and allowed for a very pleasant walk.
In the evening on Sunday, the girls' grandmother arrived from Japan, so we had two grannies in the house. John returned and we had to ask Adam to stay away as we are now one bed short! Em slept on a mat on the floor.
Francoise left on Monday and the girls, with their grandmother fly to Tokyo on Friday.
A sad time for me, but vital for them that they see their dad and get back in touch with all their friends.

Monday, 17 March 2008

slipping away

I am letting time get away from me and doing little about it. Tomorrow (18th March) we will have been here a year, and what a year. I am glad we did it the way we did, but do so want the next year to be different. Better. We had lots to contend with, job wise, at school, at home and of course personally. They never complain, but we think that the kids have coped with all that has come their way brilliantly, not effortlessly, they have all had to work hard to adjust, but they seem content and positive about what is to come. I hope that this year John and I find things here that give us joy (apart from each other!) and make it feel more like home.
My feeling at this point of time is ' we made it' and this time next year I hope it is more like 'that was a great year'. Up to us really.

Monday, 4 February 2008

February in short?

We have been to Richmond, near the home of Kew gardens, a lovely town on the Thames River. Virginia Wolf once lived here, as do now, other well know writers, actors and musicians.

We spent the day with friends and took a walk along the Thames, which when out of the city itself, is a very lovely river. There are lots of small islands, boats, and of course birds, many ducks and geese to feed, herons, egrets, seagulls and naturally, pidgeons! (I really want to cook and eat a wood pidgeon one day...more on that later.)

John and I really enjoyed the company. We feel a bit at a loose end here in the UK. As beautiful as it is, we have not really found our feet yet. It has proved to be somewhat hard to make new friends, odd for a pair like us, who will talk to anyone! My volunteer work has at least given me the opportunity to meet more like-minded people, but John has been immersed in work and apart from the very welcome, enjoyable visits from old friends, it has been a bit flat socially.

John has however, found a choir to investigate, I am toying with a couple of local groups to join, or at least look over. (They will need to look over me in return too!). One is the local allotment group, another the local bee keeping group. It has always been a dream to keep bees. I will let you know how I get on. Keeping them now is not really possible, but maybe one day?

Other news is JOBS. I have a new one at a property management company. At the moment my days off from the garden centre are being spent at the new office with the two other women who make up the company. There is a lot to learn and it will be some time before it is under my belt, but so far it is interesting. I will really miss the garden centre. It has been wonderful. The days off during the week have been a big bonus too. Now the hours are a lot longer, the pay is better but there is some flexibility. My days at Standen are not yet over.

The girls had their grandmother here from Japan two weeks ago. She brought the sun with her and it has been shining since. It has also been extremely cold at night, but all over the countryside there are flowers blooming, birds and other wildlife are stirring and the days are getting longer.

Now it is half term and the girls are in Whitley Bay, John's home town with his parents, who have stepped into the grandparent role wonderfully. They spoil the girls, who love visits up north and who now have three new 'cousins'.

Between us, John, Adam and I have been painting and the living room is almost done. It may be that we never really get this house feeling the way we want to, but we are getting closer.

Monday, 28 January 2008


With only days to go it is hard to summarise all the events of this month.
John has adjusted well to the commute to London and we are considering having only one car...
Hannah celebrated her 13th with a party at home. Way too many girls, mobile phones, squealing and dubious music, but it was a hit all the same! We are aiming for a small intimate (quiet) gathering next year.
I have been busy job hunting and am still reasonably bouyant about the total lack of interest in my skills in this just all seems to take so long and that includes being told, 'no thanks'! John is the one who helps here. Lots of boosting. He is good at that.
The weather has been dismal. We both look at the garden all the time, but even after a dry weekend, it is too soggy to dig. Still, we have selected our potatoes for this year....very conservatively we have gone for Maris Piper.
Em and Adam are both well. Em is not playing in the orchestra this term as it clashes with netball....and she is thinking about moving on to clarinet after many years with the recorder.
Adam had his GCSE mock examinations with good results. It bodes well for the summer.
We have had the kitchen looked at for a major renovation to be done mid year. It will be costly and messy, but we think worth the effort.
The girls' obachan comes from Japan next month and we have all sent our wish lists. We now tune into the online TV news every morning and get all the updates. It is good for our Japanese.

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Happy New Year

Happy New Year to one and all. The holiday is over, the Christmas decorations put away for another year and the children back at school! We celebrated in Whitley Bay, John's home town on the north east coast of England. A lovely place with long beaches to walk on and lots of countryside. It was a short trip. We drove up on Dec 30 and were back here on January 2, which is in fact, John's birthday. The few days away were spent walking, eating, drinking and talking to family and friends. The perfect holiday.
Back to reality and I am on the hunt for a new job. I love the garden centre, but it is not very viable financially. The weekends are not a problem for me, in fact the weekend is not a bad time to be working as we tend to be busy and time flies, but it makes it a bit harder to organise family life. As we are only ever all together at the weekend, I see a lot less of everyone.
So I will be peddling my CV around town and will let you know how I get on.