if I won the lottery…

I read a blog recently that mentioned a life long wish for luxurious bed linen if the writer ever won the lottery.

What would you do if you won the lottery?……

The first thing I’d do is give up my job, obviously because quite frankly, if you don’t, the winnings should be taken off you!

I’d have one major expense which would take the form of a farm estate with beautiful wooded acreage but I wouldn’t want a fancy car or lots of diamonds.

I think I’d adopt something along the lines of the bed linen wish and have fresh, clean bed linen every day.

I’d definitely employ someone to give me a full body massage every day & I think I’d like a chauffeur so i could drink wine whenever I liked.

Aside from that, the luxury of being able to do what I want with my time would be extravagance enough for me.

I’d want to potter around my little norfolk/scottish (the jury is out on the location) farm estate with my lovely husband and the furry_one. I’d set myself up with a work room for all my making in a light bright quiet part of the house, I’d tend my rare breeds, my orchard and my veggie patch not to mention squeezing in a bit of cooking and lots and lots of walking.

I’d feel like I could entertain my wonderful friends more often than I seem to be able to do at the moment and it would be a great pleasure to do so.

If I could bring myself to leave my little oasis, I’d go off thrifty shopping in France with my Sis, where we’d have an occassional treat at a spa after our hard earned finds then back home to tend to the stock and my lovely husband.  Heavenly.

I imagine that most people when questioned about what they would do if they won the lottery, wouldn’t have great extravagant wishes for their lives either,  I bet they too would have relatively modest requirements of their winnings.

What would you do?

so incredibly proud

I have blogged about my cousin’s son before.  I am astounded, on a daily basis, that he risks his life in the war in afghanistan alongside a lot of other incredible young men & women.

On the day that september the 11th events took place in 2001, we (family) had watched Steven’s grandad take his dying breath having been ravaged by throat cancer. Then, while his mum and gran were sorting out ‘details’, I went back to my auntie’s house with Steven and his younger brother Andrew, turned on the news and watched in horror as the first tower smouldered only to witness, with disbelief, as the second was also attacked.

Steven wanted to know why this was happening; the reasons would only came to light as the day unfolded; we saw the pentagon attacked and a hijacked plane brought down by the terrified passengers in a field in Pennsylvania.

Steven joined the forces the minute he left school and I think it was in large part due to what he had seen that very sad day. He must, however, also have been influenced by his great granddad’s army career and that of his dad’s uncle who is a glittering example in our forces.

My maternal grandad (Steven’s great grandad) was a Dunkirk Veteran. He had gone to war in september 1939 as a regular soldier. He was not a conscript as many later became, he had been a trainee plasterer but gave it up for a career in the army. Off he went, in 1939, fully trained and fully prepared in the fight for king and country. He was in WWII from the very first day but came home very badly injured after the battle of Dunkirk in June 1940 having managed (which would not have been possible, because of his injuries, without the help of his friends) to get on one of the last of the 850 ‘little ships of Dunkirk‘ when Dunkirk was evacuated; a private fishing boat called the Daffodil.

My grandad returned to active duty with shrapnel in his head that gave him blinding headaches and a knee injury that would plague him through the rest of his life. All the boys who helped him retreat to the boats waiting at the beaches of Dunkirk later died in active service, every single one of them! He found it very difficult to talk about the war so we know very little more than these details even though he is mentioned by name and deed in the 1943 book ‘with pennants flying‘. My nephew has all of my grandad’s medals and is also very proud.

Steven is in afghanistan on his 3rd tour of duty now and was involved in the recent battle of compound 62. The footage is frightening but I am so incredibly proud to be related to this brave young man, I can’t tell you.

He won’t like the newspaper articles or the publicity (like his great grandad!), he is doing a job he chose and loves but I sincerely hope he understands how often his is in our thoughts and how very, very proud we all are of what he is doing.

My Grandad would be very pleased to know that Steven is doing so well and carrying a bit of his own bravery with him into his career.  I hope he is looking after him.

sandringham game and country fair

On our way home from a few days away, we called in to the sandringham game and country fair.

It is one of a number of similar heritage fairs that are put on across the country and like the burghley game and country fair which we went to in May, it is full of displays of working dogs, raptors, ferret racing and many many interesting stalls to buy this ‘must have’ countryside items.

The idea is that they present some of the old skills and countryside pursuits to generate some interest in these buying arts. some of them can’t be seen easily anywhere else and it is particularly good to have the mall collected in one place, brit chainsaw sculptures, a prospectors camp or the art of building a timber framed house.

We watched the brass bands perform in one ring, the gymkhana teams whizz up and down another, a stunt motorcyclist and then settled down to be entertained by a chap showing you how to work with ferrets as a means to catching rabbit for your tea.

I’m sure that unless you are a bit of a ferret enthusiast, a display of hunting with them would be fun but not necessarily entertaining.  This one was though. The gentleman in question was of northern persuasion who was very self deprecating and presented with a very dry sense of humour. He was incredibly funny and had a collection of very cute ferrets.

We had a look at the stalls and JC got some new pigeon decoys to try out and then we headed off home.

It is a lovely way to spend a day wandering around catching the different exhibitions, competitions or displays. The setting is stunning and although the weather was a bit blustery, the sun came out and it was great fun.

We are hoping to go to the Hertfordshire Country Fair at the end of september too.

the hotel inspector

We checked into our next hotel on friday night and after enjoying a Mojito or two we settled down to enjoy an early dinner.

Titchwell Manor was where we would be based until sunday so we chose to explore close to the village and to walk the beach at Titchwell Marshes.  To get access to the beach at Titchwell marshes, you pass through the bird sanctuary which meant wading through dozens and dozens of twitchers who had gathered at the RSPB sanctuary. It is out of season and although many twitchers are retired, there are young twitchers so it isn’t really seasonal. It certainly seemed incredibly busy for a september morning. We discovered that they were there in their droves for the opening of the new award winning Parinder hides and the siting of a Bitten (had we known……) so our quiet walk was somewhat different to what we had expected.

We’ve heard different opinions about Titchwell Manor and I have to say that some of the decor just doesn’t work. As a designer of commercial interiors myself, I can completely understand what they were trying to achieve with the bar areas and some of the rooms but it just wasn’t convincing.  There are, however some lovely areas like the gardens, the new conservatory and the extensions in the grounds which are stunning.

The service, food and wine was incredible and it made me wish I was a secret shopper for the AA or Michelin food guides so I could enjoy such superb food all of the time. Compliments to the head chef Ryan Lee who’s food really can be described as ‘absolutely beautiful’ and it was the tastiest food either JC or I have enjoyed in a while.

best end of lamb with braised neck, crackling and pea & mint jous

The produce is all sourced locally (norfolk lamb, norfolk oysters & samphire are just some of the examples), they employ the skills of a forager, have planted an orchard to the back of the grounds and visitors with dogs are asked not to allow their dogs to wee on the herb borders because the herbs are harvested for use in the kitchen.

plaice with 3 beetroots, beans and baby shoots in a herb butter sauce

Breakfast at Titchwell Manor was also lovely (I had Eggs Benedict on Saturday and Smoked Salmon & Scrambled eggs on Sunday whilst JC opted for the benchmark full english breakfast each morning) although I think that The Ship may have had the edge on them regards the Full English breakfast.

On Saturday we met up with my sister, niece and their dogs for a long fun walk along Holkham Beach we were later joined by friends for a quick whistle wetter in the garden house at The Orange Tree before another stunning meal in the restaurant at Titchwell Manor.

Quite wonderful.

days away

It was our wedding anniversary on Friday, so we decided to spend a few days away and headed for the north norfolk coast.  Apart from the Teesdale hills and the Dorset coast, North Norfolk is about my  favourite part of the UK.

We had stayed at the superb The Orange Tree in Thornham in March for one of JC’s landmark birthdays and had a fabulous time. The food is outstanding, the pub environment convivial, service faultless and the rooms lovely.

It was very tempting to go back as it is so absolutely faultless.  We have had nice food at The Ship in Brancaster but not stayed there so we thought we would book in for Thursday night.

We checked in and headed off for a nice quiet walk along the beach at Brancaster. We often drive to Holkham Beach for a tonk about with the dogs, it never seems to get crowded there but Brancaster has become a firm favourite as you generally end up with it to yourself.  Not disappointed this time either, we were there with only a fisherman and his son as the evening sun decided to make an appearance.

The food at The Ship was a little disappointing compared to the sunday lunches that we had enjoyed there, the service left us without the milk we had requested for making tea and they forgot the dog bed, blanket and biscuits promised for the additional charge.  That said, the room was nice and the wine was wonderful so we still enjoyed ourselves (since checking out, The Ship have very kindly emailed to say they have refunded us the charge for the dog because the facilities were forgotten).

On Friday we ‘ discovered’ the joys of (and spent a lot of time relaxing on) the beach at Wells-Next-the Sea. We took the papers, some magazines and settled onto a rug in the sand dunes in the sun.  Wonderful! And what a view; open sea in one direction and the quaint colourful and stilted beach huts in the other.

We finished the day with a bit of shopping in Burnham Market before heading off to check in to our next hotel for the weekend………..

rubbish red letter day

When we got married in 2009, work colleagues of JC’s gave us hundreds of pounds in vouchers from ‘red letter day’ with the full intention that we take a balloon ride through the amazing skies of lincolnshire or to enjoy the coast of north norfolk.

We had a mimi moon in norfolk and days out doing different things along with pottering about and we just didn’t get around to booking it immediately.

We moved back to london for work once our month long break had come to an end and somehow mislaid our vouchers.

Some time later they reappeared and were just out of their ‘sell by date’ so JC rang them to see what could be done but all with little success. I subsequently wrote to them explaining the circumstances and appealed to them to renew the vouchers for us. That was in March this year and I have neither had a courtesy acknowledgement of my letter nor an actual reply.

By my way of thinking, even if you don’t offer replacement vouchers, you should at least reply to the letter.  That is simply appalling customer service.



burghley horse trials

catching the double

Like an annual pilgrimage that signals the start of our main annual holiday, we headed off from our little house in south lincolnshire this morning towards the lovely town of Stamford and the gorgeousness of Burghley House to enjoy the spectacle that is the annual horse trials.

The setting is fantastic and the course is vast. There are long stretches, woodland and water, undulations and some very tricky jumps.

the jump before the leaf pit (jump 4)

The riders walk the course to familiarise themselves with the intricacies and dangers lurking therein but not even that can possibly prepare you for how some of these terrifying jumps must look from on top of a 17 hander.

You just have to look at the expression on the face of the jockey above as he grazes the top of the jump that takes you into the ‘leaf pit’.

2011 course layout

The variety is huge whether it is jockey, horse, obstacle or the level of success over each jump.

We succumbed to the shopping temptations early on like most visitors but only for a very short while.  This year, after a nice frothy coffee, we hooked up with old friends for a catch up before we found ourselves a good spot on the opposite bank to the land rover jump.  We got perched on a rug with a picnic, waited for the whistle to announce the next jockey and watched a steady stream of horses take off over a land lover shaped brush jump. A favourite spot for lots of watchers.

There are some lovely traditions at burghley such as the bowler hatted stewards and the ever changing ‘look’ for the trendies.  This year’s happened to be short denim skirts, Rampant Rugby long socks, Hunter wellies, a Crew shirt and a Jack Wills gillet (no matter how hot it was!).

It was a lovely way to spend a Saturday afternoon, especially with a nice glass of chilled rose. Next year I think we will plump for the water jump as our picnic perch!