Is There Any More Tea In That Pot?

Everyday events in the life of a tea lover.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

That darn cat! (Or.......return of the Tiger.....again!)


  It is a well-known fact in our house that Tiger always has some kind of sixth sense whenever we are off to other places for a few days, or a week or more......I don't even have to get out the cases for him to somehow know that things are afoot. All my best laid plans can come unstuck if I forget to make sure I cut off his escape routes, or his hiding places!   

Come the morning of  the day when I take him to Posh Paws Cattery, I sometimes 
have had to phone them and say " I will be coming later today, he has gone to ground" Then I attempt to coerce him back indoors with bribery and corruption! Tempting titbits, a rattle of a favourite cat biscuit packet, and even on one famous occasion I switched on our electric carving knife, leaving the back door open, and sure enough, he came hurtling down the garden path and into the kitchen, to come to a halt at his dish and find it empty......not replete with the remains of the Sunday roast!
Well, it worked didn't it! Just don't report me to the RSPCA!   

He has his various strategies for coping if I manage to close all the external doors before he can bolt outside and disappear over next door's hedge! Or on the garage roof! 
You can't catch me!
One of his best hiding places is under the pine stacker-beds in the loft!  He knows that I cannot lift them and fish him out at the same time! It takes two of us and Timelord being at work until the day of the holiday,I am the one who takes Tiger to his billet.  
Posh Paws itself is at the end of a rural country lane near Lichfield and as you can see in the  

 photo I took this morning, it consists of a number of pine chalets, enclosed with a fence, and the owner's housetop is peeping above the dense hedgerow.Each pen has an inside space and an outside "run" which Tiger likes.  He never makes a noise when we are making our way there in the car, enclosed in his cat basket. And goes straight into his pen. When I go to collect him, he is not really bothered about coming home! The owners look after their charges very well.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             
An outside "run"

Tiger in his pen. Too cosy to move!

So, I was driving along earlier today, surrounded by the onset of the autumn colours, russet red berries now on the hawthorn, flame orange red on the rowan tree, lime tree leaves beginning to turn yellow, and bracken in the hedge going brown. I thought about all the miles we drove yesterday, home from a family wedding in Yorkshire. We passed through several English counties along the way, and rolling fields newly cropped, with their hay bales dotted about. Some fields have round ones, some rectangular, and others I saw had them stacked like a game of Jenga!  Novel!  But autumn is definately here to stay, and September around the corner....... a sense of summer finally beginning to fade..........and at least, I for one, feel as if we, at least here where we live, have enjoyed a bit of summer this year. So, Tiger is now home, having inspected all his favourite places in the garden, and  is curled up, completely oblivious, (yet!) of the fact that he will make the same journey again soon, when we take ourselves off to (hopefully!) autumn glory in the Lake District!      

Saturday, 13 August 2011

"Rising early in the morning, we proceed to light the fire" Apologies to G and S!!

1950's. East Street
The daily ritual of lighting the fire each morning.

My sister has recently been to Rossendale from Yorkshire to take part in the filming of the dvd about Woodcroft in the 1950's and early '60's. A documenting of our childhood. 
(This particular photo was taken outside the house, number 12 East Street, in June 2008, when I met up with my childhood friends. I am on the left and  Maureen (née Fisher) on the right. I was born in that very house and stand beneath the bedroom window!)    

Shirley then had the excitement of a tour around the house where we used to live! (She writes her own blog about Woodcroft at (  The owner had come outside and asked why people were there with cameras and sound equipment, resulting in an invitation to go inside.
She then took them round the house as it is now. A day to remember for her for a long time to come.
Here I am on the right sitting on the wall outside!  
Inevitably, it sparked off more memories for me as I looked back through time. And thinking of each room in the house, two up, two down, an out-kitchen, and a toilet down the yard.The attic, which was hot and musty in the summer, and freezing in the winter, then the damp dark cellar, where the coal was stored, with various household cleaning tools at the top of the cellar steps. Brushes, buckets, and mops. 
The door to the cellar was to the right of the fireplace in the living room. A fireplace looking something like the one in this picture, but obviously still intact!  
There was no central heating, which set me thinking about how we got hot water into our taps in the kitchen and also the bath, which sat in glorified state in a corner of our back-bedroom.        
   We did not have an immersion heater, nor an electric wall water-heater in the small out-kitchen. So how did we get the hot water?
Then I remembered...............
At the back of the fire grate, behind the fire itself, there was a small water tank. It was known as the "back boiler". When the coal fire was burning away merrily in the hearth, it heated the water contained inside. There must have been a cold water supply pipe, or the tank wouldn't have functioned. There was a flue which was behind it and also at two sides, so air could circulate. Then the hot water would be carried by convection through such pipes as there were, to the kitchen taps, and the bath taps.
We only ever had a bath once a week up there, and when we were small, in a tin bath in front of the fire. The upstairs bath probably needed so much hot water that eventually it ran cold. (Which inevitably it did, meaning that if you had put too much cold with the hot, there wasn't enough left to warm it back up! And you ended up with a lukewarm bath, brrrrr!) 
So, for my dad, who was first up each morning, about 6.15am, as he caught the early X43 limited  service stop bus to Manchester at 7.05am. It was a chilly start in the autumn and winter. 
No fire, and no hot water, so washing and shaving took place in the kitchen, having boiled the water in the kettle. 
Before all that took place, there was the matter of cleaning out the fire-grate of all the previous day's ashes. No good doing that in a suit!
These were deposited in the dustbin, or ash bin, as the "dust men" then were known as "th'Ash chaps" in common parlance. 
Having cleaned out the grate, the fire would be "laid", using small wood pieces, kindling, which could be bought for the purpose. These came in bundles tied with a band of wire. They were also stored at the top of the cellar steps. There were one or two shelves there.
Old newspaper was scrunched up and layered with the wood. The coal was put on top, using "slack" and "cobs". Some coal was known as "nutty slack" !! Cobs were more expensive. 
If you were in a hurry, you could use "fire lighters". I liked the smell of them, as they gave off a tarry odour. 
Once lit, dad would sometimes put a large metal square, like a lid, up against the fire grate, and put paper over this too,(this was not then immediately up against the fire itself!) It had the effect of "drawing" air into the flue more quickly, and it had to be watched carefully, as many a time the paper set on fire! And at other times set the chimney on fire, as the soot would burn. You would be told about this by neighbours, who could clearly see flames coming from the chimney pot! We did have chimney fires, but doused the coal and waited! Others were not so lucky, necessitating a visit by the fire-brigade, which events were always of great excitement.  
Once the fire was crackling and burning, the initial sooty smoke having given way to yellow, red and orange flames, the sound was cheery and made a comforting glow in the hearth.
So, when we came downstairs, we were met by a warming room. 
In winter, the fire was "banked" up before going to bed, and the fireguard replaced. Then at least the downstairs room remained heated for awhile longer. 
But I loved to sit by the fire, and watch the flickering of the flames, and even now, a cosy coal, or log, fire crackling in the grate, can be so relaxing. No need for anything else for a time.........