Is There Any More Tea In That Pot?

Everyday events in the life of a tea lover.

Monday, 6 June 2016


D-Day 65 years on...........

My dad and mum in 1941 on their engagement in March
My dad was just 22 when the war began in 1940. A young man.
He landed on Sword Beach in Normandy, at Arromanches, on 6th June 1944, and was in the fierce battle for Caen. 
He would never talk about his experiences, except the were funny little anecdotes, which we all now know so well.
The legendary story about the hen,Clara, which was taken from a farm by his army sergeant and travelled with their unit up through France and on into Germany, laying an egg for him each day!
He described the Mayor of Colleville- sur- Mer, wearing a big shiny fireman's helmet who was running up and down on the beach waving his arms in welcome!
Dad at some point on the way up to Germany, was given a jeep to drive, never having driven in his life, but not knowing how to stop it and driving it into a tree in order to do so!!
Here, in his own words of annotated text in the book he gave us to read about his Division, the description of the mayor.
" I finally hitched a lift on a Sherman (with its 105mm gun) on DDay, and after seeing "Fireman Sam" on the beach, jumping up and down, I saw an extraordinary sight, a French courting couple strolling along in the fields, oblivious to the shelling and bombing going on: not to mention the hazard of tiptoeing through the minefields!!"
But he has never been able to talk about what he saw............
I remember as if it were yesterday, when I was 16, and I was talking to him about the fact that he survived, and if he hadn't I and my sister would not have been born.
He took hold of my hand and and said he had seen things it was better not to talk about, and he had had to do things which he found so awful, that it made him cry.
He did say that he had helped to bury bodies in a concentration camp, and that memory was seared into his brain. He was 25 years old then.
Afterwards, he cried like a baby, which was quite shocking for me at the time, never having seen him cry, or a grown man cry before. He never spoke of those things again.
When I got married, we lived in Portsmouth for awhile and dad traced his old sergeant, who lived in Gosport. He went to see him with my mum.
I took him in the D-Day museum there at Southsea, at his request, but 5 minutes inside and he was reduced to tears once again. The memories were too painful.
So watching the ceremonies again today, is very moving for me. Matthew and I were planning a trip to the landing beaches for the October of 2006, but sadly we never made it as he was killed in an accident in September of the same year . I will go to pay homage to all those who went and fought and died or stop our country from being invaded, and to help to liberate another, which I have visited many times and where I now have friends.
We should not forget them.
My dad is a veteran, but a silent one.
I finish with his words, written in the flyleaf of the history of his Assault Division
"War is obscene and brutalising, if sometimes unavoidable. The only post-war celebrations should be in the form of Remembrance Services to the many who never came back.
Smith of Rossendale May 1994. 50 years on."

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Return to the Lizard...............November 2015 Retrospective.........

We are returning to the Lizard next week, just for a few days, once again staying at the Housel Bay Hotel, which holds so many, many memories for us. Family times, when we were complete. 

The Hotel is now up for sale, as I guess the owners, Alfred and Iona, are ready to retire.        


Housel Bay Hotel Terrace, Lizard Lighthouse in the distance.  


 So here are a few of the paragraphs from the old blog, written on October 10th 2009:


"What is it about the Lizard that it draws us back?

I never thought after our first visit to The Lizard in Cornwall that we would be returning year by year until now.
We went for the first time as my dad didn't feel like going on holiday on his own after my mum died in 1990, aged just 70.
When asked where he would like to go he pronounced "Cornwall, to the Lizard." As he and my mum had loved it there.
So began an annual trek, beginning in 1992. At that stage it was just ourselves, Alan and my dad. Matt at that time had gone to "Soul Survivor" at Shepton Mallett, a huge Christian gathering at the Bath and Wells showground.

How to describe it?
My dad describes Mullion Cove as "timeless" and on a wet windy night with the sea bashing over the breakwater, "primeval". His memories of the Lizard are special and vivid.
It is a timeless place.
The other side of the peninsula that is Land's End is much more geared to tourists. St Ives, Penzance, Carbis Bay, and the monstrosity that is the theme park at Land's End itself.
The Lizard is a peninsula which begins at Helston,passes RAF Culdrose, and then unfolds as you drive along its spine. Heathland either side, covered in wild gorse, wild fuchsias and tumbling hedgerows, scrub and stunted trees.

Cadgwith village.
The little villages that sit on edge in coves and bays are all different. Inland is partly a designated wildlife reserve, with Goonhilly in the centre and St Keverne's church a landmark. Other small hamlets dotted about.
Visitors emptying out of coaches at the Lizard village itself, wander along to The Southernmost point and to The Most Southerly Café. This in itself is not commercialised and although there are the usual gift and craft shops, the whole thing is very low key.
In spring now, the RSPB set a watch there as there are pairs of Cornish choughs breeding. They returned to the area after 50 years absence.
I was so excited when I saw them last May flying out of the cave in the rocks where they were raising their brood. I always have a pair of binoculars handy. There are usually seals in the water at the Lizard Point.
All this still does not describe why it draws us back. It stays in the mind visually, and as impressions, tumbling white surf, serpentine rocks, calling sea birds, the tang of the salt in the air on a windy day. Wide skies, turquoise blue of the water, smooth sand in little coves , the rough feel of the granite as you sit on a slab for awhile. The timelessness and the knowledge that year by year it changes very little.
Narrow coastal paths snaking their way along the edges of sheer cliffs or descending into hidden bays. Always always a delight. The scenery is superb on these coastal fringes.
And we have been there in all weathers and all seasons. Seeing the wildness of winter storms, and the abundance of spring flowers, the lushness of summer, and yes we have had some excellent summers there.

Sky endless blue, sea stretching to the horizon in a sparkling, ever shifting panorama, shimmering until infinity.
The scent of autumn, ploughed fields, brown bracken, a sense of the holiday season coming to a close and a quietness arriving.
Mullion village itself is the largest on the Lizard,and is a bustling community, with several artists in residence, which I enjoy. They actually work on site and it is fascinating to see their craft unfold in front of you. They are friendly and like to discuss techniques, offer suggestions and encouragement.
Matt and his grandad, my dad.
On the cliff at Lizard Point. September 2004
It is to Mullion we returned again this October,(2009) when we stayed at the Housel Bay Hotel once more, having previously stayed in various holiday cottages with the family. The last time we stayed at the hotel itself was 2005, when we had my dad with us.     It was like coming home. So many good memories there of family holidays, shared experiences, the voices and laughter echoed in my mind.........."

Lizard Point November 2011

So, we are back again next week, and hopefully, for as long as we are able to make the journey.

Lizard Point. Cornwall. 

Matt and my dad, on the walk to Kynance Cove. 2004.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

A step back in time

Me. Setting off to climb Cribden. 1971.   
Tuesday August 11th 2015.
 How is it that sometimes a random impression from the past will pose itself at the forefront of the mind?
It is not as though the train of thought had been on that particular track.
Out here in the garden, the air has been so still that no leaf stirs......
The washing hangs limply on the line, and there is a general silence  from the  long summer break. 
Less traffic, quieter roads.      
 As I write the sounds of children playing nearby float on the air......
Maybe, just maybe, that stirred my senses.
I was suddenly transported back into the past of my own childhood summers.
They always seemed so filled with sunshine.
I am sitting by a river, with waters so clear in places, that each pebble and stone looks up at me out of the shallows by the edge.
We are having a picnic.
It had involved two bus journeys and a walk to arrive with my parents and sister.
I am looking for minnows, small silvery fish which dart in and out of the translucent green water weed waving in the current.
There is an old stone bridge nearby where the river passes through two arches, creating a mirrored image in the water. I could sit here for ages watching...... 

Rawtenstall viewed from Cribden Hill. One I used to regularly climb.  
Other impressions come to mind.
I am sitting in a field of glorious golden buttercups, on a hillside, sunshine warming my face.
Mayflowers creating punctuation marks of colour in between.
The grass is rippling in the breeze.
Such a sense of freedom and sheer enjoyment in all that I can see.
   Childhood, at least mine, was like that....

Memory stirs again.............................................
There is rough bark under my hands, it's texture grazing my palms occasionally as I gradually climb upwards looking for footholds as I  move higher, the ground receding below.      How I love climbing trees! 

 I still love trees, their varied shapes and forms, the way the light dapples through the leaves in summer, and the skeleton outlines of wintertime.
 Now I paint pictures of trees.
     Random memories, snatches of the past whispering to me in pictures, like muffled conversations.
          And always, always the timeless hills which surrounded our valley. 

I used to follow the well-trodden field paths to reach their summits, looking down into the valley where the houses seemed so tiny and far away.
                      Up on the top where the air was pure,and other hills melted away into the far distance, you could hear the sound of a curlew.
             How did I feel? I felt very small in the timelessness of the moment.  

           I am so very glad I climbed them before their slopes became covered with more housing and the fields disappeared. 
             It is 41 years since I left Rossendale and it's hills, but they have left an indestructible mark on my formative years and beyond. 
                                      It was simply the best childhood.  

Friday, 5 June 2015

Back to the days of Billy the Kid! Texas makes it legal to carry a pistol in a holster.

Matt in California 1998
I was reading the Times on-line before breakfast when I read this article about the new gun laws in Texas. I found it chilling.
Our Matt went to the States for the first time, just after his graduation from university before he started his new job. He was staying in California at the invitation of an American friend he had made during a trip to Morocco. They spent 4 weeks travelling along the Pacific highway from San Francisco to Los Angeles and briefly into Mexico.
   What has this got to do with gun laws you might ask?!
It was his first introduction to American life and culture, and with it the ease at which people were allowed to bear arms.
We met him at the airport on his return and no sooner had he got through the door and begun to open his cases than he, literally, chucked a load of magazines all about guns, on to the carpet and said
 " Take a look at that lot!"
The fact that people actually could openly go into a store and buy one, off the shelf, as it were, never mind keeping one in the house, completely incensed him!
 The minute I read the that piece I could hear him going on about it!! It was still early as his plane landed soon after 6,00a.m.!
He never liked it and I guess any argument with him on the subject would end in stalemate!
Once he got wound up he was wound up big time!
So I'm posting this full article here as I have to say it had the same effect on me so many years later.
We have been to the States three times now, and  we have always felt safe, and never noticed any firearms, except those that the Police carry themselves. And we have met the most kind and generous people.
This is a cultural issue for me.      

Read it and think...................everyone is entitled to an opinion.........and Matt's voluble reactions still ring in my ears!

  • a gun-rights advocate carries a rifle on his back and a cardboard cutout of a pistol on his waist as a group protests outside the Texas Capitol, in Austin, Texas.
    A gun rights protester carries a cardboard pistol in his holster at a demonstration in Austin, Texas, earlier this year Eric Gay
Texas may be synonymous with pistol-toting cowboys, but for more than a century the Lone Star State has banned its residents from carrying handguns in plain sight.
That restriction is set to end with a new law that will make it legal to carry a pistol in a holster in Texas for the first time since Billy the Kid was making a name for himself in the wild west.
It has long been legal to walk around Texas with a rifle in hand, as long as the manner in which you do so is not “calculated” to alarm others. Since the 1870s, however, Texas has prohibited the open display of handguns, imposing an outright ban that today exists in just four other states.
Greg Abbott, the Texas governor, has promised to change that and will sign into law a bill that will permit the “open carry” of handguns.
“It’s a thumbs up for law-abiding citizens,” Debbie Riddle, a Republican who represents part of Houston, told Fox News. “Everywhere there is a denial of Second Amendment rights, crime is through the roof. It’s a deterrent. If someone is going to rob a convenience store and there are other people inside with guns on their hips, they might think twice.”
CJ Grisham, the founder of Open Carry Texas, a group that campaigned for the law, said: “Criminals aren’t afraid of prison, they’re afraid of getting shot.”
Members of his organisation made their views felt by holding rallies at which they carried rifles – a strategy that even met with rebuke from The National Rifle Association.
“To those who are not acquainted with the dubious practice of using public displays of firearms as a means to draw attention to oneself or one’s cause, it can be downright scary,” the NRA said. “It makes folks who might normally be perfectly open-minded about firearms feel uncomfortable and question the motives of pro-gun advocates.”
Texas is also on course to allow concealed weapons on college campuses for the first time. Opponents have suggested that allowing guns in college settings notorious for hard drinking and raucous lifestyles is a mistake. “I have concerns about introducing guns in a university environment already fraught with stress and often fragile emotions,” said José Rodríguez, Democrat state senator from El Paso.
However, a further ten states are weighing similar moves, with supporters arguing that allowing guns on campus grounds would deter rape.
Michele Fiore, an assemblywoman in Nevada, told The New York Times in February: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them. The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.”
The Texas law will allow private colleges to ban guns. State-funded colleges will be able to establish “reasonable” gun-free zones but not to issue blanket bans on firearms.
Andy Pelosi, executive director of the Campaign to Keep Guns off Campus, said he was disheartened by how lawmakers had turned “a deaf ear to the wishes of higher education officials, faculty, students, parents and campus law enforcement, who together made it crystal clear that they didn’t want guns on college campuses”.

Wednesday, 3 December 2014

December 3rd 2014.

Lichfield Cathedral  December 2014
                                                           December 3rd

Here I am sitting at the desk in our loft bedroom, which used to be first of all, Matt's room, then Alan's. So many memories contained up here.
  I'm looking over the rooftops and trees in the fading late afternoon light.
The birds have already gone from the garden, and apart from the pink-pink-pinking sound of a lone blackbird, everything is still.
The low sun, now sinking slowly on the horizon, is catching the rooftops and tips of the trees with a warm deep-golden glow.Some rogue rays glinting on the edge of one of the houses in the distance.
   The sky was a piercing cold blue earlier today, producing sharp edges and well defined outlines to trees and buildings in the clarity of the sharp air.
                      There was a glorious sunset last night, heralding the frost to come.
As I watch the light fade, wisps of white curl up into the atmosphere here and there, meaning most homes will be warm tonight.
                   The year has begun to leave us, just as December arrives.........
                   And with it the Christmas season begins in earnest.              
Minster Pool. Lichfield December 2014 
        As we walked through crunchy leaves, and damp woody smells this morning, I thought that, for me, to see light shining through trees, to smell the damp countryside and look at a glorious blue sky, is such an escape from the frenzy of preparations which I are taking place all around me.
                    Time to breathe, time to reflect, time to be thankful for all that we have, when so  many, many more have far less.
I love giving presents, and, yes, receiving them too, but not the the commercialism of Christmas as it appears today.    
It will soon be dark.
We are moving towards the shortest day in this part of the Northern hemisphere, when we pass the darkest point, and begin to move on into a new year and gradually lengthening days.
                                           Last weekend was the start of Advent.
A time of preparation, in the church calendar, including the remembrance of Christ's birth in Bethlehem.
     We went to the Advent service in Lichfield Cathedral, last weekend, on a clear, cold night. The Cathedral partly illuminated against the darkness.
       At the commencement of the event, all the lights were extinguished. and we waited for the first candles to be lit.
To sit in a totally dark, packed Cathedral, in silence until the first flickering flame appeared, was a very deeply moving experience. Gradually through the service, as the choir moved to different points in the nave and chancels, to sing each piece of music, symbolising the coming of Jesus, and His promised return again, more and more candles were lighted, until the ancient stones were bathed in their soft glow.
      Darkness to light so beautifully visibly demonstrated.
                                                    Extract from Advent 1955 
                                                          by  John Betjeman
                                                " An interchange of hunting scenes
                                         On coloured cards, And I remember
                                          Last year I sent out twenty yards,
                                          Laid end to end, of Christmas cards
                                         To people that I scarcely know -
                                         They'd sent a card to me, and so
                                         I had to send one back. Oh dear!
                                         Is this a form of Christmas cheer?
                                         Or is it, which is less surprising,
                                         My pride gone in for advertising?
                                         The only cards that really count
                                         Are that extremely small amount
                                         From real friends who keep in touch
                                         And are not rich but love us much
                                         Some ways indeed are very odd
                                         By which we hail the birth of God.

We raise the price of things in shops,
We give plain boxes fancy tops
And lines which traders cannot sell
Thus parcell'd go extremely well
We dole out bribes we call a present
To those to whom we must be pleasant
For business reasons. Our defence is
These bribes are charged against expenses
And bring relief in Income Tax
Enough of these unworthy cracks!
'The time draws near the birth of Christ'.
A present that cannot be priced
Given two thousand years ago
Yet if God had not given so
He still would be a distant stranger
And not the Baby in the manger."
Morning light through trees. 3rd December 2014

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Summer morning thoughts.................August 2014

One of the many pleasures I have enjoyed so far during this lovely summer, has been eating my breakfast at the patio table. The normal traffic sounds in August are muted and even now as I sit here at 8.00a.m. there is a stillness. 
 I am listening to the atmosphere......a distant collared dove, then the tick-tacking of our resident robin in the undergrowth, his spring song now quiet apart from a short phrase or two......    
A fat wood pigeon waddles in the grass under the apple tree, where some of the fruit is already scattered, early windfalls.  One or two are fit to eat, being very sweet and full of summer sun, but the apple tree now being quite ancient at well over 40 years of age, I usually leave them to the birds. The blackbirds especially enjoy them. 
A slight breeze stirs the leaves of the silver birches.
Honeysuckle scrambles..... I love the distinctive smell of the small box hedge in the warmth, bluetits churring, a wren flies past, darting off into nearby foliage, and the sense of stillness punctuated only by the occasional car along our road. 
Even my washing is hanging limply on the line. 
 We have had a "nursery" garden this summer, one of birds. A whole family of goldfinches coming to the feeders, their young ones have been amusing, fluttering their wings whilst making lots of noise pivoting from side-to-side at the same time......." feed me, feed me" ......was their cry.
A pair of blackbirds have been coming to the bottom lawn to feed their one offspring, who is almost as big as the parents! They have a penchant for sultanas, and as soon as I have opened the blind on the kitchen door each morning, they have times treating me to a burst
of beautiful song from the vantage point of the fence. I stopped dispensing sultanas after awhile     .  but they come and enjoy the birdbath, splashing happily and preening their feathers.
        They forage in the shrubs, where there are a lot of small snails about. I watched the male crack open a shell the other morning, tapping it repeatedly on the patio flags, extracting the juicy snail from its home.    
 I am glad we have one young blackbird, after the fox scrambled up our climbing hydrangea at the front of the house and took two fledglings out of the nest hidden there, notwithstanding it was at the side of our lounge window at the front of the house. The latest pair of blackbirds are different, as the male has slightly disheveled plumage. The bluetit family have also fed their young at the feeders and splashed in the birdbath.
The new wood pigeon nest being built by the summerhouse
 I love it out here. And yet, the stillness and quiet herald a shift in the seasons.By mid August the flowering plants are exhausting themselves, and we have had a period of days earlier on. where we had no rain for ages, days of endless sunshine and at times extremely warm. The flower beds were thirsty.
Nest building 
 I am economical with watering, as I try to plant things that in the main, tolerate periods of dryness.
The roses are very hardy, and love the sun. They have been glorious this year.
 It is in the mornings now that I am noticing the shift of the season. I walked in the garden early the other day, around 6.30 a.m. and the air was like the water of a cool clear pool, slipping over my skin. Dew on the grass. A clear blue sky.
Father blackbird feeding his offspring
                   I shift in my chair. The sun is now hot here in my garden retreat.
                                                          Mornings  to savour.

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Letter to my dad.....written in March 2010.

This is the last letter I ever wrote to my dad. He was never to read it. It was returned to me by the staff of the residential  home where he was living. The day after I sent it we had a call to say he was in hospital. So we left immediately for the long journey home.      
Versailles on his 83rd birthday weekend. September 2001 
Saturday 20th March 2010.

Dear dad,

I know someone else will read this to you, but I wanted to send you something from the "Housel Bay Hotel" so here it is!
I am sitting in the lounge having had my breakfast, overlooking the bay. The waves are heaving, and crash all round Bumble Rock. It was misty when we arrived yesterday, and the foghorn from the lighthouse sounded eerily through the gloom.
This morning the mist is intermittent and when you step outside, the wind is howling around the foursquare stone building.The seagulls are all wheeling round.
It is supposed to clear a bit later on, what mum would've called "fairing up a bit"!
But, for now, it's good weather for old smugglers!

We'll most likely go over to St Ives, as tomorrow looks as if it will be a better day, when we can do some walking along the coastal paths.
Dad on the cliffs at Lizard Point. 2004 
  There are daffodils out on the cliffs just below the hotel, and when we were eating breakfast, a rather fat rabbit was foraging in the garden here.
 Alfred and Iona at the hotel were asking after you.
It is the quietest here that they have known and we are the only ones staying at the moment. It's the result of the recession, which they said took longer to take effect in this area- hard to believe  but there it is.
I will try and phone again soon, as we are not in an area where our mobile phones work!
  They will work in Mullion.

We had our lunch in Mullion yesterday, before coming here mid-afternoon. We stopped at the complex next to Trenance Farm Cottages, where there is a nice café, and also the Trenance Chocolate Shop, if you can remember that.
It never alters on the Lizard, apart from the odd new houses being built. We love it, all weathers, from the warm and sunny, to the stormy and wild!

It is a unique environment.
Well, I'm running our of  this sheet of paper so I will end here.
Hopefully you will be all out of quarantine by now.

I'll be coming to see you before long,

Love Vivien and Stephen