Monthly Archives: December 2013

Thinking About 2013

This is it. My last blog of the year – 365 blogs, one for every day (not always published on the day, but I did always catch up). Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’ve become more observant from all my walks with Princess Ralphie on Vancouver Island…

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…more creative (I’ve written over fifty flower haiku which I’m now putting into an ebook)…

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… I’ve taken up photography (thank you Tootsie for all the photography books for Christmas!).

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I’ve lived in two countries (Canada…

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… and Britain)…

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…and travelled around Morocco with my dearest Berberman.

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…I have put out my novel to agents, had many rejections and some near misses, and it’s now on the “To Read” pile on a wonderful New York agent’s desk, having jumped the hurdle of her reader. So, that’s good. ūüôā

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…I’ve eaten some fabulous meals out and about…

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…and in the company of good friends and relatives¬†(thank you Jamjarjude, Tootsie, Wineguy, Hankenstein, Drumguy, Winehippie, Designergirl, Modman, Brewgirl, Socky, Magman, Cousin K, ¬†Tangogirl, Fieldpoppy, Spicegirl, Prince T, Craftgirl, Marky Mark and Berber Angel…

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…and played (a lot) with my nephew Hankenstein.

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I’ve met some animal friends…

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I went back to my Newfoundland roots…

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… and did some interior design…

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…and started jogging…

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…and dusted off my tango shoes.

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A new year looms ahead, and I’m packing (again) to move into a new place in January, away from the lovely swans…

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…and cheerful canal boats of the River Lea…

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… to a flat in Hammersmith or Brighton…we’ll see how it all pans out. Then, who knows? I’m ready for new places, new adventures, new experiences and making¬†new friends (human and otherwise). I’ll keep writing, and photographing, and tangoing, and I’ll put it all in my blog, maybe not every day but pretty often, even if my dog is in BC with Jamjarjude…

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… and my good shoes have now seen better days.

Keep moving, keep growing, keep curious and be kind.

Happy New Year to all my fantastic blog followers! Thank you for sharing the journey with me.

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English Country Pubs

I’ve spent a lot of very pleasant time in old English country pubs over the Christmas period, eating delicious hearty home-cooked food with very good rustic wines. Day lunch was enjoyed at the Jolly Sportsman in East Chiltington, East Sussex…

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…where I savoured game terrine followed by roast guinea fowl with lashings of French red wine…

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…in the jolly (indeed!) company of my sister Tootsie, her hubby Wineguy and my nephew Hankenstein. A brisk stroll on top of the Devil’s Dyke in Sussex ended up at the Devil’s Dyke Pub…

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…where we warmed up with steaming hot chocolate.

Off to visit my friends Modman and Brewgirl and her daughter Socky in Kent led (naturally) to a quick pint (for them) and a gingery¬†Whisky Mac for me at the Farrier’s Arms (circa 1606) in Mersham.

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The next evening we’d booked a meal¬†at the Black Horse¬†Inn which is basically in a field in tiny Monks Horton, Kent, and which ended up being truly memorable, with a bar billiards table to boot!

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The roast pheasant with peppercorn sauce was gamey and delicious, but, the Zuppa Inglesi (English Trifle Italian Style) was stupendous. Biscotti soaked in vermouth with a marscapone custard, cherries soaked in Amaretto, cream and pistachios — it was my dessert of the year.

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In Canterbury the next day, after a marvellous visit to Canterbury Cathedral we headed to The Foundry brew pub for delicious steak and ale pies and ale (for them) and red wine for me.

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You don’t need to be a beer lover (or even a drinker) to love English pubs. Or even human.

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http://www.thejollysportsman.com/

http://www.vintageinn.co.uk/thedevilsdykebrighton/

http://www.thefarriersarms.com/

http://www.theblackhorse.uk.com/

http://www.thefoundrycanterbury.co.uk/

Canterbury Cathedral

It was another beautiful blue sky day yesterday so Modman, Brewgirl and I headed into Canterbury for a wander through the medieval town…

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…and a visit to the famous 11th century cathedral of The Canterbury Tales. I’d always meant to visit (I’ve been in England over 20 years!) but never managed to. Here was my chance.

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The newly clean stone shone in the winter sunlight but nothing prepared me for its size. The towers are cleverly designed to make them look even taller when you’re standing directly in front of the fa√ßade.

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Inside, the cathedral seemed even more immense, the Gothic arches soaring to points overhead and fanning out like the branches of sky-scraping trees.

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We walked around the nave until we found ourselves under the main tower. Then we looked up…to heaven.

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Then through another archway, and the “newer” addition. more Romanesque than Gothic.

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The most touching thing is the candle lit to honour the memory of St Thomas a Becket http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Becket, the 12th century priest murdered on 29th December 1170 in the cathedral by knights of Henry II. I stood on the spot exactly 843 years later to the day.

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Every now and then my eye was caught by the swish of clerical skirts…

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…or a glimpse through a half-open door of life behind the scenes.

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The bright sun of the winter day filtered through the stained glass windows…

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…lighting corners and illuminating details.

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The sun wasn’t the only thing to sneak in.

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If you find yourself on English soil, do make a visit to Canterbury Cathedral. It is awe-inspiring.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canterbury_Cathedral

Dusk at Sandgate

We drove to Sandgate on the Kent coast to catch the last of the day before heading out to dinner at a pub in the Kent countryside. We had the pebble beach to ourselves and watched the distant rain front slowly approach as we wandered along the beach.

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There was a lone jogger, getting in a quick run before the rain hit…

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…and I was briefly distracted by the colours and textures of the pebbles…

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…but the luminous blue sky and the song of the water lapping against the beach drew me back to the sea.

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Christmas Tree Cats

I’ve been with my friends Modman and Brewgirl (not to forget Brewgirl’s 6-year-old daughter¬† The Sockless Wonder (Socky for short)) at their house near Canterbury for a few days. Oh, and the cats. Sminky…

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…who is very fond of chasing the sun…

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…and new arrival, 2-month-old Kipper, who, went not annoying Sminky or chasing tin foil bows around the floor, was usually found looking something like this.

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Except for this morning. When he suddenly discovered the delight of adding himself to the Christmas tree as a decoration.

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Sminky wasn’t going to be left out of the fun.

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“Have you seen the cats, Age?” Modman asked me as he wandered into the living room.

“No idea.” No point spoiling their fun.

Boxing Day in Sussex

After days of rain, the sun came out and the sky over southern England was blue. A fresh breeze rippled through the woods and fields, and we felt the call to head out into the rolling hills of the Sussex countryside for lunch at the Jolly Sportsman Pub http://www.thejollysportsman.com/¬†in East Chiltington. We headed down country lanes, through fields turned golden with the midday sunshine, past the red telephone box at the end of the lane (seemingly in the middle of nowhere), and turned into the drive of the pub, parking up next to the horse pasture. It’s innocuous, hidden behind a Sussex hedge… the kind of place you wouldn’t know was there, unless you knew it was there. No sign. No fanfare. A gem of a place. We couldn’t have chosen a better place to spend Boxing Day lunch.

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We settled down in the sun-filled conservatory and chose from a menu full of very tempting things…

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…and I chose the game and goose terrine with pear chutney…

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…followed by roast guinea fowl.

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…accompanied by fresh and apply¬†La Croix Gratoit Picpoul de Pinet wine and great companionship in Tootsie, Wineguy and Hankenstein.

After lunch we headed out to the Devil’s Dyke in the South Downs for a walk in the waning afternoon sun. We had views from Brighton and the English Channel on one side to Surrey on the other.

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Kite flyers and walkers were out enjoying the fresh winter and walking off their Christmas dinners.

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The sun began its descent, streaking the sky with fingers of pink and gold…

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…and we headed back, stopping into the Devil’s Dyke Pub for a cup of steaming hot chocolate before heading home.

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Christmas

It was¬† a day of food, family and fun. It was a little after 6:00am when Hankenstein discovered Santa had, indeed, managed to slip down the chimney, set the presents under the tree…

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… fill the stockings and eat the gingerbread man, drink the whisky and read the note H had left for him. Rudoph’s carrot and glass of milk were gone too. Before H went to bed we checked where Santa was on the Norad Santa Tracker — he was heading over Gibraltar and had hit the 4 billion presents delivered marked. No wonder he and Rudolph were hungry when they reached Sussex!

The presents were opened (yes, there were some for me!)…

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…the stockings emptied and breakfast eaten. Then Wineguy headed into the kitchen to prepare Christmas lunch (he’s a keeper!). The rain had finally let up, so Tootsie, Hankenstein and I headed to the local park for a walk (and so H could play of course).

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When we got back, the table was set (Santa must have left some elves behind!)…

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…and Christmas lunch was ready! There were chicken livers with balsamic vinegar (delish)…

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…then roast prime rib of beef with Yorkshire pudding and lots of veg…

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…followed up by home-made lemon and raspberry trifle.

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Then there was “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Ice Age 3” and “Arthur Christmas” and putting together Lego, and playing Mousetrap and Battleship, with some cheese and crackers, and a visit from Magman, and Whist and wine and port and…

…and wonderful Christmas was had by all! Now the sun is out and we’re off to a country pub for Boxing Day lunch and a walk on the Sussex Downs.