scribbles tagged ‘homestead history’


Saturday, June 15th, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

Foxglove drivewayI sprinkled foxglove seeds along the border of my gravel drive 2 years ago. They’ve taken the hint and I’m liking the new foliage that softens the border between the gravel and the wall.

Through the garden gateI’ve also sprinkled Poppy, Campanula and Forget-me-nots here. A couple of each have taken root and I’m hoping they’ll self-re-seed and spread to make a green foliage and blue summer border. A winter Jasmine is also beginning to settle on this border, to add some winter colour. I may try to train a Ceanothus up the wall to add spring colour and winter foliage.

From the drive you open my garden gate to see some more Foxgloves, Ferns, logs, a thriving Ceanothus and a white Wisteria that will eventually cover the woodshed and fencing.



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paper chase

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

Harry Tuttle wasn’t available, central services turned-up

My home insurance notifies a local heating engineering service. 5 hours later the service calls me to arrange and ’emergency’ appointment.  Emergency means within 24 hours, but no time specified.  We agree a visit time – 2 days out

The engineer quickly diagnoses the problem as a broken fan on a common boiler, tells me he’ll phone me when he’s sourced the part to arrange a fitting.  He can’t source the part there and then because he need clearance from my insurance company.

5 hours later, no call, I phone my insurance who know about the part and the cost but cannot approve it until the engineer tells them how long he was onsite. They can’t take my word for his time on site. The say they’ll follow up with the engineer.

2 hours later I phone again and find the repair has been approved.  The Heating engineering service won’t arrange a visit until they’ve actually picked up the part which will be within the 24 hour period, from approval, that their service contract with my insurer specifies as emergency cover.  That’s 24 hours to get the part, not to fit it.  They suggest that I call them back in 2 days time if I haven’t heard from them.

Effectively, 6 days after reporting the ’emergency’ problem to my ‘home emergency insurance’ provider – who subcontract out their service, I will be able to try and arrange a time to have the broken part replaced. UK emergency services are bogged down by organisational bureaucracy. More than 6 days to diagnose and get hold of a replacement broken fan seems rather poor to me. I’m anticipating they wont be able to get an engineer round to fix it within 24 hours of calling me ….   …and that I’ll have to chase them with phone calls.


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what’s hot and what’s not

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | tags:  |

fridge = Not Hot. Not Cold. Silent.

boiler = Not Hot.

wendy = Hot.

This morning I used Victorian methods to wash before dressing. I’m a rufty-tufty kind of a girl in a winter heating crisis.  I can leave the milk outside the fridge in the kitchen, confident that it will stay cold in this north facing, unheated room.

Apparently, the ancient combination boiler couldn’t go on without its friend the fridge. Suicide pact.

Not looking forward to the boiler purchase process…

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fridge is aired

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013 | tags: ,  |

The old fridge that came with the house 5 years ago has just reached too-much-rattling for my liking. Then it had the audacity to add squealing and leaking to its repertoire.

I wish the fridge had given me at least a week’s notice of its impending demise. Maybe sent me a text or a calendar appointment. A week is the time it will probably take to get one delivered, standard delivery. Meanwhile, I’ll improvise….


fridge is aired
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Education act

Saturday, February 2nd, 2013 | tags: , , ,  |

The Education Act of 1895 made schooling free for all children. Hoorah!

Several schools near the Wendy House were built around this time. The nearest one is where I go to vote, on the Wokingham road. The Alfred Sutton primary school.

Alfred Sutton ran “Sutton and Sons” which was the world’s largest seed firms at the time. Alfred donated 20% of his substantial income to charitable causes. One of these causes was funding the creation of local schools.

Alfred Sutton Primary School opened as the “Wokingham Road School ” with just over 100 children attending the first day in 1902, it was renamed after Alfred Sutton in 1920 when there were 528 children attending – 50 in a class. The red brick building is not just functional, it really seems to celebrate children and education.

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hot in bed

Sunday, December 23rd, 2012 | tags: ,  |

intelligent electric blanketI’ve got a bed fellow that responds to temperature changes while I sleep.

I’m not alone in seeking out something more substantially hot in bed than a hot water bottle. The online product reviews were posted by people over 55 years old – it’s better than their last electric blanket, it’s the best electric blanket they’ve ever owned. …ooOOoo…

It’s sold out online. I take ‘please me now’ action and walk to the local store. Yes. Satisfaction. My first ever electric blanket joins the single-skin brick wendy house. My bed has become cosy incorporated.

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the Gladstone club

Sunday, October 21st, 2012 | tags: , , , , ,  |

Gladstone Club Gladstone clubI’ve always admired the wrought ironwork on the porch of the London road side of the Gladstone club. It’s a grade II listed building.  The listing mentions that in 1887 the house was the home of the recently founded Reading High School.

It’s easy to notice the Gladstone club, without actually noticing it. It’s a substantial building in a significant location facing out onto both  Reading’s London Road and Kings Road. The club is next door to the Abbot Cook pub on the Cemetery junction on the southern edge of Newtown. Newtown is where the Huntley and Palmer factory employees lived.

Once it was a grand building. It’s namesake William Gladstone was a record breaking 4 times (Liberal) Prime Minister of Britain. The link with Huntley and Palmers is more than the proximity of the club to Newtown. The Huntley and Palmer website says:

In 1878 George Palmer became a Member of Parliament for the Liberal party. He was nicknamed the ‘silent member’, although he did make a few contributions to debates. In his maiden speech he supported a bill to grant women the right to vote “

The Acacias (London Rd)George Palmer lived on London Road in “The Acacias” about 500 yards west of the Gladstone club. An easy walk.

Sadly, the Gladstone building now stands empty with a for sale sign on it.  Until 2010 it was a delightful Indian restaurant and wine bar called the “Sardar Palace”.  Now it looks forgotten, overlooked. Grass is moving into the gaps in the forecourt paving.




the Gladstone club
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Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000

Sunday, October 14th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

The wendy house is south of Cemetery junction. Newtown is north of cemetery juntion. My neighbour! Several friends live in Newtown. I bump into them when shopping in the local Co-op or in the local Abbot Cook pub.

The Newtown area appears to be described by being bounded by:

  • North: the Great Western Railway (GWR)
  • South: Kings Rd / London Rd
  • East: A4 railway bridge
  • West: Forbury Rd

According to Wendy Hobson (1995), cited on the Reading Forum:

It was jointly owned and developed by John Sutton and George Palmer for their workers and by the 1870/80’s extended up to Cholmeley Rd, from there across to the railway was Suttons planted areas – this was then developed in the late 1800’s early 1900’s

It includes a beautiful primary school that looks much as it would have done when it was originally built in 1864.

Natural Gas StorageOne of the most striking visual features of the area is a disused gas storage tower that can be seen from the river Kennet, the train lines, and at the northern end of cumberland road. It’s diagonally opposite the Jolly Anglers pub. I find it strangely beautiful and peaceful. An architectural sculpture.

NewtownThe remaining original housing in this area is mainly small terraced house’s with walled gardens and narrow back lanes.  What I’d call ‘2-up, 2-downs’. Houses where you walk from the street, or forecourt, through the front door into a front room.  A staircase goes to 2 bedrooms and the 2nd room downstairs was originally the kitchen where the fire was used to heat water for a tin bath. The toilet was outside the house – at the bottom of the garden.  Newtown clearly includes some larger homes with forward facing gables more bedrooms, front gardens and downstairs hallways.

Many of the buildings nearer downtown, to the East, were knocked down and redeveloped as social housing in the mid 1970s. Coinciding with the closure of the Huntley andPalmer business.

The areas north of the Kennet and south of the Thames were developed with both private apartments for London commuter set and more modern social housing. It looks like this happened in the 1980s and 90s.

There are only 2 pubs in the Newtown area. they sit on the river (kennet) bank and look like they may pre-date Newtown. Perhaps being built to serve the canal traffic that would pass this way between London and Bristol. The pubs are:

  • Fishermans cottage
  • Jolly Angler

The Abbot Cook is on the borderlands, effectively south of Newtown and in either the “University District” or possibly “Earley

Fisherman's Cottage Jolly Anglers

Fishermans cottageRumour cited on Reading forums suggests that:

The story went that H&P realising that the workers, not being quite so ‘religious’ would go to the pub anyway, and rather than have the drunk / hung-over they would control it. They supposedly gave out rationed tokens as part of the salary that could be exchanged for a limited amount of drink. Enough to wet the whistle but not get drunk!

Note to self – must get a copy of: Terry Allsop’s “NEWTOWN A Photographic Journey in Reading 1974″ Two Rivers Press (cover photo at top of page)
Newtown in a new century – 1900 through to 2000
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behavioural and biscuits

Friday, October 12th, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

Or what I’ve found out about Huntley and Palmers so far:

Joseph Huntley and his son Thomas opened a biscuit shop at 72 London street, Reading, in 1822. As Quakers, the Huntleys believed in honesty, self-discipline and hard work. They used high quality ingredients and sold their cakes and biscuits at a fair price – passing on savings to the customer rather than accumulating unnecessary wealth. I like their approach.

Prudential HeadquartersIn 1846 the firm purchased a factory on Kings Road for £1,800. The factory was positioned on an island site between the River Kennet and the Kennet and Avon canal. It had a floor space of 5,000 square feet and was spread over an area of half an acre. The Island is currently the home of the Prudential’s headquarters.

In 1850 the working week for men was 58½ hours – 6.30am to 6.30pm.  In 1872 the working week for men was reduced to 54 hours, the same as for women. By 1918 it had been reduced to 48 hours. Huntley and Palmers employed about 10% of the whole Reading town workforce, 5,409 workers by 1918

From 1855 Saturday evening entertainments were held to keep people out of the public houses. A Mutual Improvement Society was started and all employees over 16 could use the library on payment of 1d per week. Weekly lectures were also organised during the winter months.

By 1860 Huntly and Palmers employed 500 staff who produced 3,200 tons of biscuits per year.  In 1861 the average weekly wage was 16s 9d for men and 8s 8d for women and girls. By 1894 this had risen to 20s 1d for men and 9s 3d for women and girls.

Between 1851 and 1901 the population of Reading increased from 22,000 to 72,000. Attracted by the jobs, migration from the countryside was playing an increasing role in the growth of towns across the country. Reading expanded its boundaries in 1887 to include Newtown, the Wokingham Road area beyond Cemetery Junction, and part of Tilehurst. It had the largest population of all the towns in the county and was the only one big enough to achieve county borough status in 1889

Huntley and PalmerIn July 1855 they arranged a boat Thames trips for about 200 employess and families to Park Place near Henley. In 1857 the firms first outing was organised when the employees went by special train to Crystal Palace. From then on every alternate year an excursion took place, until 1868 the sheer number of 3,000 employees made factory excursions impossible. In 1898 the Recreation Club was founded by George Palmer who had bought 49 acres of land (now Palmers Park) to provide sports facilities. The company provided all the equipment for cricket, football, hockey, quoits, bowls, tennis and athletics.

Palmer's park in Newtown - still used for football tournaments and more!By 1873 the company had become the largest biscuit producer in the world

The company enforced a behavioural code for its staff.  Fines for misbehaviour were paid into a Sick Fund box. The Fund was a scheme set up in 1849 to benefit employees or their families who had experienced a death or serious illness. Employees contributed sixpence a week, and received 12 shillings a week benefit during illness. This was before there was any form of national health scheme

Employees who had completed over 50 years service received a non-contributory pension. By the early twentieth century a pension fund had been set up but only men were allowed to join.

The Acacias (London Rd)In 1906 George Palmer’s son, Alfred, presented the college with the site in London Road which included The Acacias, his fathers former home. This became the University Library.

The decline of the companies fortunes can be aligned with many changing environmental and social conditions and coincided with the changing moral values of the family owners from Quaker to Anglican. The link may not be causal… I’d like to know more about the decline.

In 1975 the factory provided the location for the bar scenes in the Hollywood movie ‘Bugsy Malone’ with Jodie Foster and Scott Baio.

Production ceased at Reading in 1976

Good sources on Huntley and Palmers history

behavioural and biscuits
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bing bong cuckoo

Thursday, May 10th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

Time passes noisily in the wendy houseChime Strike

On the north wall a Smith’s clock from London with a 7 day mechanism shares it’s Westminster chimes every quarter hour

On the west wall a Saqui and Lawrence pendulum clock from London with a 7 day mechanism strikes every hour

On the stairway of doom a cuckoo clock from Lucerne with a 24 hour mechanism chirrups every hour

cuckoohey all have slightly different ideas about

  • when the hour should be called
  • the length of a minute

PorcelainOn the east wall a Donald Yule clock from Bath with a quartz mechanism silently moves it’s hands while a ceramic mouse watches

All the mechanic clocks tick tock, at gradually slowing rates

Around the hour, the house sings with differing overlapping strikes and chimes

I love the sound

It is the sound of home with all the clocks chattering the time away in their own idiosynchratic ways. They bring peace to my home in a way that’s probably similar to placing a child in a car to drive around until the child falls asleep

tick-tock tick-tick tock-tock tick-tock tick tick tick tock tock BING-BONG Cuckoo……etc

bing bong cuckoo
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more… …please….

Sunday, May 6th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

During a conversation about Reading town pubs, one fellow suddenly blurts out

 I love your house!  

wendy: that’s the right answer, me too (huge cheshire cat grin)

fellow: it’s like a secret courtyard hidden away from the city, in the heart of the city!

wendy: (HUGE Grin – pours the fellow more alcohol)

Door knocker

more… …please….
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Pop goes the weasel

Monday, March 19th, 2012 | tags: , ,  |

(warning: long budgety scribble heavily influenced by Excel)

Money’s not yet too tight to mention, but the UK budget announcements on Wednesday may tip the balance for many people . The average UK salary is near £26,000 per annum. I’m lucky enough to earn more than average, a ‘middling’ salary that helps me support my 1st luxury of living alone in a house that demonstrates my detachment. My purchase-ability has been steadily dropping since returning to England in 2007. My expenses have also steadily dropped. I am lucky enough to be able to live within my means, and like most people, my means are systematically shrinking

Once my salary has gotten into my bank account this is approximately how it leaves:

50% on home mortgage and insurances

Ground Floor PlanMy 4th mortgage. Each home more gorgeous than the last. This upscaling is why, after 20 years, I still only own half of my home. Some friends  have repaid their mortgages because they’ve lived in one house for a long time. In Reading town I’m primarily paying a premium for living near a station with a 25 minute one-stop commuter ride to London. Spending this money is both a ‘basic’ because I need a home and a luxury because I could rent, or live further from London,  in a place that would only take 25% of my salary.  Being able to  choose to live here and invest in ‘property’ makes me feel like I am a rich person

6% on home services

Water rates, electricity, gas, council tax for local services like rubbish disposal, police etc

12% on home maintenance and improvements

Replacing broken equipment (e.g. washing machine) paying for plumbers, electricians, roofers, cleaning equipment,  painting equipment and plants

12% on transport

Thomas V2Being able to travel any way other than on foot feels like a luxury. My 2nd big luxury expense is tanking Thomas for petrol, insurance, servicing and parts. Some money goes on public transport for holiday journeys like my train ride down to St. Ives at Christmas

10% on health, food and appearance

Toast, marmite, tea, socks, pants, shampoo etc  The stuff that makes up most of my weekly shops

10% on entertainment, friends and family – mainly eating and drinking

Pub and phone boxYAY! My 3rd luxury – a fabulous regular expense that brings me a lot of happiness….

0% on savings

Um never really managed to save. I have managed to get ‘Savings’ this happened when I started jobs that paid ‘Bonuses‘ for good performance – in 2000. This amount is nothing like the size of Bankers bonus! Normally, It could cover the cost of an extra pint of beer a week.


Before my salary gets to my bank account a lot is deducted in tax and:

20% on pension

I got my first job after completing my PhD in 1991. Having missed years of making pension contributions, which meant I had some catching up to do. I started by contributing 15% of my salary to my pension in1991. As pensions have become less reliable and effective saving schemes, I’ve increased my contribution to 20%


What do you do? How do families with only one income cope?  How do couples use the extra income that joint expenses release?  How can families earning less than average income afford to provide for children?

How will the budget affect you?

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living in a Klimt

Tuesday, March 13th, 2012 | tags: , , ,  |

alternative title:  upping the sparkle quotient (part 2)

The hallway is a little darker in gold than the original yellow. I find the extra contrast and toffee-shades pleasing:

Hallaway before painting hallway kitchen door

The bathroom is also a little darker in the gold than the original white and ‘plaster au naturelle’. Here you can see a little of the sparkle in natural light:

Bathroom paint peeled-off Bathrrom after painting

The gold and toffee shades seem to change with very subtle changes in the lighting. The walls seem to emanate warm emotions with thier photograph-eluding sparkliness. They make me feel like I’m living in a Gustav Klimt composition.  A very pleasing place to be:

Hallway after painting

living in a Klimt
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family traits

Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

KnucklesMy 90 year aunt rubs her distorted, arthritic, hands.  Despite this distortion I find her hands beautiful. Her gently winkled skin doesn’t betray her grand age

Knarled and dapper

Mumsie and her elder sister try to remember the names and professions of their long-past elderly relatives who were mainly females:

Even the married female relatives lived as-if they were unmarried – without their husbands, running thier own businesses:

  • a Milliner – HATS!!!
  • a sweetshop owner

family traits
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upping the sparkle quotient (part 1)

Thursday, March 1st, 2012 | tags: , , , ,  |

(WARNING: BORING – this is a DIY story)

  1. Paint tester potsDecide on a colour – Deciding what colour to paint the hallway and bathroom has taken 4 years. 4YEARS! Currently the bathroom is white – too clinical and boring. The hallway is a pale custard-yellow. Too insipidly polite for my taste.  The colours I like are too dark for these rooms which have small or north facing windows. Then INSPIRATION! –  during a particularly dark dream about people being abducted (for their body-parts on the healthcare black market) from an Opium den that I was ejoying – I saw the wall colour sparkling through the candle-light and smoke…. GOLD!
  2. Purchase 3 test paint pots – all marked as ‘gold’ looking like slight variations on the colour and damn sparkly. Each with a slightly different product names, produced by different companies, brands. Minor tea-fest to celebrate
  3. Move furniture and plants – out of the to-be-sparkled dark hallway and bathroom into the sun filled Orangerie. Had a cup of tea
  4. Sugar soap the walls – standing on my fabulous bauhaus bar stool to reach the high bits. Discover the bathroom was painted either before the plaster dried or without adequate priming….unexpected…. Chorus: wash hands, moisturize hands, have a cup of tea
  5. Bathroom paint peeled-offPeel-off poorly applied paint – peel the ploosely attached paint. A satisfying experience. Chorus…
  6. Paint 3 test squares on west, north and south facing walls then spend the daylight hours drinking tea and pondering how the natural light affects them at different times of day and artificial lights in the evening…  Chorus…
  7. Cut-in Hallway edges – a time consuming task because one of the main characteristics of hallways is that they have lots of doors (4 in this hall) and windows. Chorus…
  8. Sleep – overnight while the paint dries
  9. Cut-in the Hallway edges 2nd coat  and leave for 4hrs to dry Chorus…
  10. Prime bathroom bare wall. Chorus….
  11. Visit city recycle centre. Oh! Errrr! this is where the th 40-something attactive men hang-out on a Sunday afternoon….   ……I’ll be doing a tad more spring cleaning this spring…  Chorus…
  12. Paint hallway 1st coat. Then pack stuff away ready to finish with a coat or two next weekend Chorus…

 (DIY story on pause until the redecoration is finished… )

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Vieno Tuulikki Kolehmainen

Thursday, November 17th, 2011 | tags: , , , ,  |

Vieno Tuulikki KolehmainenI recently checked out a few details with my Dad, about his mother – Vieno Tuulikki (born) Kolehmainen. I met my her only once in 1968, when she visited our family in England for a couple of weeks. I was 4 years old. She was a quiet, affectionate, frail old lady

This is what I’ve found out about Vieno Tuulikki Kolehmainen:

  • Studied Medieval English (probably at the University of Helsinki)
  • First son, dad,  born when she was 24 in Viipuri – 1933
  • Arrived in England 1934 aged 25 when her Lutheran minister husband was posted to Hull
  • Daughter born in 1937, died less than a year later in 1938
  • Vieno’s home in Hull bombed in 1941
  • Russia attacked Finland in 1939
  • Finland attacked Russia in 1941. England was an ally to Russia. Russia declared war on Finland and Vieno was included in the exchange of diplomats. Pressumably returning to Helsinki
  • Dad evacuated to safety with a family in neutral Sweden – Linkoping
  • Helsinki home was bombed one month after the birth of her second son – 1944
  • Returned to England 1947 – suffered from clinical depression
  • Returned to Finland 1948 – without her children – divorced 1950
  • Visited England in 1968 – stayed with dad and met her grandchildren – but never met her second son who refused to visit out of loyalty to his father – Vieno’s ex-husband
  • Died from a heart attack following slipping on doorstep ice in 1969

I see so many unanswered questions in this storyine….

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gently swinging the house – 150th birthday

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

Birthday cake for a houseIt was the sort of party where the men wore ironed shirts, ties and jackets. When a new guest walked into the room everyone stood up and rearranged themselves so that the more senior people in the room were sure to have a seat, with no fuss. The host constantly circulated checking and filling people’s glasses and making sure they were introduced to people nearby. I was glad I’d taken the trouble to wear my smarter clothes, a tailored boating jacket over white Jaeger jeans

As the amazingly perky 90 year old lady next to me showed me the plaster cast of her broken wrist and listed other recently broken bones she  smiled, adding that she was glad I was wearing slacks too. The chirpiness of her conversation was contageoius, and inspiring given the clear deterioration of her body

A Magician moved from table to table, playing a range of tricks and gently encouraging guest to talk with those people near them.  He wore a black suit with pink pink shirt, tie and pinstripes. I watched the magician, found out how other people knew the hosts,  mingled…

It was a real pleasure to be part of this civilised event, so different from informal parties hosted by my peers

Today I’m carefully hand-writing the hosts a heartfelt thankyou letter

Magician's feet

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Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 | tags: , , ,  |

In the 1940s mumsie’s family moved into a 3 bedroomed rented red-brick terrace house

Three of the children shared one room, one bed. They slept sideways across the double-bed.  The only married son, a Naval rating, lived with his wife in the 3rd bedroom. The first time my aunt had lived somewhere other than an orphanage, sleeping in a dormatory

The 1890’s house had a luxury modern convenience, a flushing toilet in a brick outbuilding. One of mum’s jobs was to tear the Sunday newspaper into squares, thread the squares onto  string and hang them in the outhouse. Newsprint rubbed off on her hands. The damp air in the outhouse made the paper soggy

Even in this household of 7, there was never a queue to use the one toilet. Every bedroom contained porcelain chamber pots. Mumsie calls a chamber pot a ‘po’. You could do your business in the bedroom, leave the po under the bed then carry it to the toilet to be emptied. Mum and Dad agreed that it was important that no-one saw you carrying the Po to be emptied

Even though toilets were designed to be sat on and peed into, it sounds as if,  that’s not how they were first commonly used. I remember in the 1980’s that my grandparents kept chamber pots, a commode in their bedroom

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hatching the bottle

Friday, December 3rd, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Mirror above fireplaceSampo has developed an outstanding new skill. It’s as if she wants my hot water bottle to hatch. Even when it is hidden beneath a duvet and wooly blanket combination Sampo can find the bottle and lie on it. When I wake in the morning the bottle is still warm because Sampo has been incubating it all night.

Here we see Sampo trying to hatch a cushion infront of the Wendy House woodburning stove.

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bleeding radiators

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010 | tags: , ,  |

with a bleed screw and radiator key.

gas-heated hot water radiates from this little beautyThis is something that I do every year. It happened this week – bleed my radiators. Many of my US friends will not have heard of this charming old country annual tradition. Most houses I visited in the US were relatively new and had hot-air circulation systems providing the heating, not radiators.

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aspiring to floor level

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 | tags: ,  |

A common feature of English Victorian buildings is the tilework in the entrance and hallways.

The Wendy House doesn’t have this type of timework.  Adding it is on my list of those things that one day I might do….

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cold hearth

Friday, April 2nd, 2010 | tags: ,  |

Hailstones on the hearth.   Straight down my parents chimney the hailstones  bounce across the floor where the cats catch them before they melt.   But nothing interrupts the family Dr. Who Festival.   Dr. Who is on the Edge of Destruction.   Breaths are bated.

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Thursday, March 18th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

The new stovetop kettle on the verge of a  full blown  boil while the two mechanical clocks tick-tock and two organic kitties stretch-snore

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Sunday, February 7th, 2010 | tags: , , ,  |

Spoilt for choice in a local antiques shop

Picking a plain wrought iron poker for the to-be-installed over-hyphenated wood-burning stove

Breathing-in was required to walk between the goodies.    The tiny antiques shop brimmed with lovely practical gadgets. It was like walking through a museum store room. There were leather straps for sharpening razors, there were  copper kettles and iron flat irons. I was lucky to get out of the shop having bought only a poker

My self-control can be utterly astounding

stove accessories

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Avenue story

Sunday, March 1st, 2009 | tags: , , , ,  |

Avenue StoryToday is the anniversary of my arrival in the Wendy House of Dangerous staircase fame.

Locals on the Avenue are building a social history of the Avenue that will will be displayed in a local show this summer then  given to  the Berkshire County record office.   The local retired fellow who’s coordinating the activity stopped by with  a letter, to chat over tea.   I’ve contributed gossip, rumour and scanned copies of the house title deeds.   I have three things in common with all the previous residents of the Wendy House,   unmarried, working, girl.

I am looking forward to finding out about the:

  • gallows.
  • south american rancher.
  • telephone exchange.
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snow stopped school

Thursday, February 5th, 2009 | tags: , , , , ,  |

In December 1981 most of the 1000 or so pupils turned up at my school during the snowy week,   only a few teachers managed to get to school.  

Dec1981 school closed due to snow


The story was very similar to the current snow-stopped-school.     Except that the current snow brings the country to a standstill crisis because parents are having to stay at home to look after their kids,   in 1981 the kids stayed at the closed school and thrashed the proverbial ski-pants of each other.

In 1981 the few, local,  teachers who turned-up organised mass snowball fights between academic years.   In this photo the 3rd year students on the right hand side are advancing on the 2nd year students who are bravely running away to the left.  


The third year won thier foray.   I was in the 6th form.   The 5th year thoroughly squished snow down our necks, up our not insubstantial noses  and in our pants,   jolly good fun it was too.   Hot scrumpy all round,   Hoorah!

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meet the neighbours

Saturday, July 5th, 2008 | tags: , , , ,  |

One of the larger (circa 1862) houses in my street hosted a street-garden party  where I ate oodles of triffle and met dozens of neighbours who chose to buy homes  there because of the:

Each of us introduced ourselves by name and house number,  I became ‘Wendy at n(a)’.   My introduction received one of two common reactions:

  1. Oh,   the cute one that isn’t really on the street!   We knew Marion who lived there before you.
  2. Where is that?   We know [name] at n+1,   n,    and the empty new house n(b),   there is no house between them.

Uncommonly, the  Wendy House doesn’t have a frontage on the Street.    It is hidden behind n+1 with the pathway approach unintuitively placed between n+1 and n(b) rather than intuitively between n and n(b).    I discovered that  a prior resident of this Wendy House,   Marion:

  • moved in soon after the stable was converted to a house,   mid to late  1960’s.
  • moved out in 2002.
  • died in 2005.
  • was a kept woman,   no-one knew who her patron was.   My deeds show the house was owned by Brian during her time here.
  • would stand at the gateway and chat to passers-by.  

My plan to become the wierd lady with the hats was generally well recieved.    One neighbour may give me an old set of oak gates from a local house currently stored  in his stables which haven’t been converted into a residence for a working woman.

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house names

Sunday, January 13th, 2008 | tags: , , ,  |

Halifax House names survey 2003 doesn’t include The Wendy House.

Kent Junior School claim that the tradition of naming houses was introduced by Landed gentry and subsequently copied by peasants.

Here are the top 5 names for UK houses according to the Halifax in 2003:

1. The Cottage
2. Rose Cottage
3. The Bungalow
4. The Coach House
5. Orchard House

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Helsinki family fun

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007 | tags: , , , , , ,  |

1977.     In  Helsinki mum, dad, and  both brothers were  visiting dad’s family.

Dad took us all into  the Kalnuun Puukko shop and we spent the afternoon each choosing a Puukko.   After Puukko’s were purchased we went off into the woods around Helsinki to find fallen wood to wittle.   We wittled together.   All good family fun.   Result?   Lots of pointy small sticks left in the woods.   My psyche was forever scarred by this experience and I’m now totally undatable.

When asked for some clarifying points on this ”knife’ aquiring experience  Dad described the social-cultural significance of a Puukko beyond my constrained concept of a ‘knife’:

Knife in Finnish is veitsi – You should never call a puukko a knife – it is much more than that – it is the basic survival tool that you should have when you venture into the forest or into nature at wintertime or summertime. Its very name is associated with its prime use puu is tree or wood and kko implies a thing associated with the former – a woodworking tool. With it you can build a shelter in the forest, make a spear for spearing fish, use as an ice pick to drag yourself out of broken ice and much more. It does not weigh you down – it is essential in hunting and fishing. The original puukko had handle made of tightly woven young birch bark which often had a spell written on it before it was applied. This had to be replaced regularly – the modern puukko often has a solid handle often simulating the old type. Taken into cities and suburbia it becomes a weapon rather than a tool and it loses its basic character. In the Finnish – English dictionary the puukko is described as a sheath-knife as English does not have a separate word for a woodworking knife . It can and is used for stabbing by roughs and the verb puukottaa means stab with a puukko and the stab (noun) is puukonisku. The blade of the puukko is puukonterä. The man who makes it is a puukonseppä ( a smith) A true puukko should be bought from the man who makes it and you should visit him so that he can choose the right blade for you – However mass production does not allow for these old niceties and a tourist shops in the city is the source nowadays.

I wonder what equivalent stories with socio-cultural significance will be handed down to our next generations…

Helsinki family fun
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Tea is a meal

Thursday, August 16th, 2007 | tags: ,  |

forty-fifth in a series of posts describing the experience of taking  tea  English style.

Thursday Tiffin #45:  Tea is a meal

At my parents home my family had 3 meals a day:

  • Breakfast:   Toast and cereal with milk around 8am before school
  • Dinner: meat and two vegetables between 12 and 1pm
  • Tea: a selection of cheese and cold-meats Smorgesbord style to make Danish style  sandwiches with several  pots of tea shared after the BBC 6 o’clock news had finished.   This is not necessarily an English way of taking tea,   it’s a mix of  my  Yorkshire Mum and Finnish Dads food preferences.    On Thursdays the timing could seriously interfere with watching ‘Top of the Pops’.  
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