gillybirds

What came first- the chickens or the blog?

Summer Reading 3

  

Most of you will at least have seen or heard of the Oscar winning movie The Color Purple, or even read the book it was based on. As a hen keeper I find friends will give me hen related gifts ( for which I thank you kindly) and this book  “the Chicken Chronicles” was a lovely gift from KA, long time friend and fellow hen keeper.

This is the account of the novelist herself and her hen keeping experiences. Having kept hens as a child, she decided to start keeping them again in her later years. The best thing about this book were the names she gave to her hens (Gertrude Stein, Agnes of God, Hortensia to name but a few), her excellent observations of quirky hen behaviour, and her personalisation of their individual characters but unfortunately I just didn’t warm to the voice of Alice herself. Those of you who read a great deal will hopefully know just what I mean.

The best paragraph, which was sweet and sad, was when she recounts how one of her hens may have been feeling after its hen friend has disappeared, presumably taken by a predator:

The hardest part was watching Gertrude Stein day after day, wait for, and look for Bobbie who had been her special friend. They had napped side by side in the heat of the day, their bodies half- buried in dirt and straw. They had hunted insects together under the wood chips in the garden; they had roosted side by side each night on the roosting post. Gertrude’s face was wistful, sad, waiting. I wondered if she had witnessed Bobbie’s disappearance; if so, it must have shocked and frightened her. I wondered if she was still pondering “death”, as she had seen it, the unexpected nature of this encounter we must all experience, the incredible mystery.

Advertisements
Leave a comment »

Summer Reading 2

Last year I blogged about “These is my Words” written by Nancy E Turner. 

I have finally got round to reading “Sarah’s Quilt”, the second instalment of the life of Sarah Agnes Prine, mother, farmer, rancher, widow, all round tough cookie of a woman living back in 1906 in the Arizona Territories who is actually the great grandmother of the author. 

Written in diary style, recounting the San Fransciso earthquake and fire, drought, a bit of romance, if you enjoyed reading the Little House on the Prairie, True Grit and like a strong spirited fiesty female character you will hopefully enjoy this book as much as I did, though not as much as I enjoyed the first book.

  

Leave a comment »

    Summer Reading 1

  

 

Mr G and I spent a week in Washington DC in early February and were stunned at the lack of shopping areas in the city. We found a fancy pet shop, a chemist and Kramerbooks. A book store. A fabulous bookstore. And of course I headed for my two favourite sections – craft and urban hen keeping. And found this great book “Farm City” by Novella Carpenter. 

Written in friendly, blog like style, Novella starts her urban farm in a inner city ghetto with hens, ducks and turkeys, fruit trees and vegetables and ends up rearing her own pigs for food. She experiments for a month by only eating what she grows herself. This book is funny, informative, gritty, moving and makes you think more about urban wastelan and its potential.

To this day Novella keeps us up to date with her adventures at http://www.novellcarpenter.com

Leave a comment »

An Evening with Paul Hollywood

IMG_0321.JPG
Last night my dear friend CC and I spent two hours with Paul Hollywood – you know-the one with the piercing blue eyes and silver grey beard from Great British Bake Off that isn’t Mary Berry.
It was £32 per ticket. If Mr H had got his way with us we would have spent a shed load more on his recipe book, aprons, tea towels, calendars, t shirts, fridge magnets…
Fortunately I only had my bus money home, and CC kindly bought and shared a minute bottle of white wine which we had to drink in the foyer before the show even started.
Others were not so restrained. At the interval and the end of the show there was a bit of a scrum and a scramble round the merchandise table.
It was a cooking show. However to take home the recipes you had to buy the programme. Oh wait. We spent all CCs cash on a thimble full of wine. So no recipes then. Oops.
Sure we could always buy his new book. Did he mention he had a new book out? Yes. About every sixty seconds.

IMG_0322.PNG
On the way to the theatre CC casually mentioned that Paul brings people up from the audience to assist him with the baking. Well, dear reader, my blood ran cold. On a previous night out with CC I ended up on stage as a magician’s assistant for the fabulous David Meade. (There are photos to prove it.) So the thought of donning a PH apron and massaging his dough made me feel quite faint. We were sitting in the balcony so I thought we were probably a safe enough distance not to be chosen.
With a nod to Christmas PH demonstrated four recipes. Chocolate roulade, baked brie, mince pies and Stilton, walnut and pear bread.
They looked easy to prepare, and smelt delicious even from where we were sitting. I’m not giving you the recipes. You’ll have to buy the book.
The audience, mostly ladies, were salivating. We were encourage to tweet and instagram (ask your grandchildren) live directly to PH himself on stage. He read out the ones he was able to. It was a family show after all.
At one point Paul accidentally dusted his immaculate black shirt with flour. “Get your shirt off” come a shout from somewhere behind us. I rolled my eyes. This was a baking show, not the Chippendales. But PH gives as good as it gets when it comes to banter from the adoring ladies in the audience. He strode about the stage wagging his rolling pin and those blue eyes looking menacing. The heat wasn’t just from the ovens.
Audience members also had an opportunity to ask baking related questions directly. The giggling ladies brought on stage managed their tasks well. And got to keep their PH aprons as a reward. The winner of the bread dough shaping competition even got a signed copy of…well, you guessed it, his latest book.
Paul spent most of the night telling us anecdotes about his side kick, the fabulous Mary Berry- or Maz Bez- as he calls her. And he encouraged more entries from our fair land for the next series of Great British Bake Off. Provided we didn’t throw our baking in the bin, referring to our local bake off contestant Ian who “lost the bap” as we say in these parts, and chucked his melted Baked Alaska into the trash.
When the bread was baked, Paul cut it into chunks and threw it into the crowd. There was an undignified scramble for a taste in the front five rows.
Us ladies sitting upstairs even got to sample the baked brie. This for me was the highlight of the evening. Made by PH himself. Even eating it with our bare hands off a paper plate it was delicious. Brie cheese, with Parma ham and cranberry sauce wrapped in pastry and baked for 20 minutes. Yum. It would have gone very well with the toothful of crisp white wine we had imbibed in the foyer before the show.
It was all great fun. Not perhaps the amazing baking demonstration I had been anticipating, but an interesting study of how Mrs Joe Public behaves when face to face with a TV baker oozing with charm just like his baked brie.
CC and I are booked for an evening with Michael McIntyre in Nov 2015. I wonder if he will have a book out too?

IMG_0324.PNG
Mr Paul Hollywood. To misquote Meghan Trainor for me “it’s all about the bake”.

Leave a comment »

Loved Long Ago

You stumble upon a random letter on the path. You read it. It affects you deeply, and you wish it could be returned to the person to which it’s addressed. Write a story about this encounter.

Today’s twist: Approach this post in as few words as possible.

Sorting through the shelf of tatty old romantic paperbacks so favoured by the old lady a faded envelope fluttered to the dusty floor.
Taking a mug of tea and sneaking a fag to the back door, she sat in the sunshine, absentmindedly scratching the cat’s ear.
Delicately removing the paper worn thin with age, it had clearly been read many times. It spoke of love and longing. Of a decision to part company. That the world was not ready for their love.
It was signed Joan.
She wondered if she had really known her grandmother at all.

IMG_0125.PNG

This blog post is fiction written as part of the Writing 101 course.

Leave a comment »

Kissing You, a song that makes me cry

IMG_0068.PNG
I don’t consider myself to be an easy person to cry. But certain situations can render me an emotional wreck in a matter of seconds.

At airports when families, lovers, friends are reunited. That intensity of joy. I may not know these people, or their stories, but my eyes fill in response to their meeting.
Watching One Born Every Minute on TV. Every birth. Every single baby born. I’m crying like the proverbial baby.
An early scene in the “a time Traveller’s Wife”- a favourite novel by Audrey Niffeneger when Claire meets Henry for the first time. The poignancy of their encounter touched me deeply.
What is it at these times that causes a lachrymal response? Why do I have to reach for the tissues as a wave of something very intense hits me where it really hurts?
Do I cry at airports because I remember all the sad partings and happy reunions in my own life?
Do I wail when babies are born recalling the births of my own children?
Does the first meeting of Claire and Henry remind me of seeing my husband for the very first time, looking at him and thinking what a very special person he was, only a few seconds into our meeting?
Who knows.

What I do know is that there are many pieces of music that move my soul, a real favourite is “Kissing You” by Des’ree. This slow ballad was written for Baz Luhrmann’s movie of the Shakespeare play Romeo and Juliet, starring a very young Leo Di Caprio and Claire Danes.
The song lilts through the ballroom scene where they first meet. You can actually see Des’ree herself singing the song in this scene at the home of the Capulets.
Des’ree has a very beautiful voice, her emotions seem very genuine. There is something very intimate and intense in her tone, in the way the music is scored with just piano and strings in a minor key.
Yet a quick perusal of the lyrics, written by the artist herself and Timothy Atack, are no Shakespeare!

Pride can stand
A thousand Trials
The strong will never fall
But watching stars without You
My soul cried
Heaving heart is full of pain
Oh, oh, the aching

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Touch me deep
Pure and true
Gift to me forever

‘Cos I’m kissing you, oh
I’m kissing you

Yeah hey
Yeah

Where are you now?
Where are you now?

‘Cos I’m kissing you
I’m kissing you, ohh

And yet, it gets me every time.
What wonderful power music has over us, to cause a physical and emotional reaction to a collection of sounds and silences!

IMG_0069.PNG
Today’s post is prompted by The a Daily Post “Moved to Tears”

2 Comments »

These is My Words

20140711-115908-43148468.jpg
Now that school is out and life is a little less frantic it is time to flex my holiday reading muscles.
First on the list was ” These is My Words, the diary of Sarah Anne Prine” by Nancy Turner.
I have blogged before about pioneer women – Laura Ingalls, and the sweet hen lady Nancy Luce, and now I have a new pioneer voice Miss Sarah Anne Prine. If you enjoyed the Little House books, and the sharp dry voice of Mattie Ross in True Grit (another great book) you will love following the journey of Sarah with her family by wagon from Arizona to Texas, and their trials and hardships as they settle to life there. Along with tragedy there is romance, courage, faithfulness, a desire for knowledge, a heart that seeks true love and an indomitable spirit. I loved every page. It made me cry several times. There are two great dogs in this story, and also Sarah keeps hens and is very worried about them when the weather causes trouble. (Sorry no spoilers)
I was thrilled to learn there is a sequel! Hoping Mr Postman with deliver it soon.
“My life feels like a book left out on the porch, and the wind blows the pages faster and faster, turning always toward a new chapter faster than I can stop to read it.”
― Nancy E. Turner, These Is My Words

This copy was sent to me as part of the Good Reads First Read programme. I can’t wait to pass it on to the next lucky reader!
Thanks Good Reads 🙂

Leave a comment »