Sunday, 18 September 2011


One year ago today my wonderful Armenian grandmother died. I miss her every day, especially now that we are back in the UK. She had longed for us to move back, and now we have, she's not here. She and I could chat for hours, it was never enough time, and she always wrote to me after I left, continuing the conversation with a list of questions. She was tirelessly curious and interested in people and understanding the world. The week before she died she finished reading a history of the Ottoman Empire, and asked my dad to buy her a more in-depth, five volume version. Her letters to me would always include newspaper cuttings of interest, and one of her own middle eastern recipes for me to try. She would type or write up notes for me on practical things like how to darn my ripped jeans, comments about my personal appearance (she didn't like me dying my hair so dark) and stories from her early years in Syria and the Lebanon.

I've sort of fallen into the role of family curator, and have boxes of old treasures and papers, textiles and objects. I found the letter my grandfather wrote to her gather asking for her hand in marriage. It was about 20 pages long and was hilariously quaint, and so sweet. He did exactly as he promised he would, and absolutely adored her until the day he died. I also have some intricate ink drawings from her biology studies, mostly of insects, also a wonderful collection of Armenian lace made by my Greek great- and great-great grandmothers, and an embroidered bedspread that was given to my great-grandfather in lieu of payment of a loan, over a hundred years ago, a special piece of work as the technique used required each stich to be sewn over five times. I'm not sentimental about stuff, but as she kept and preserved these family relics and papers so carefully, and at great cost (they were refugees for several years, and lost almost everything), I feel I must treasure them too.

I don't have loads of junk for my childhood, moving around so much forces you to be ruthless, but I have kept the gift that my pa gave to me when he first started travelling a lot for work. In 1984 he gave me 'Spotting Birds' and a watercolour set. It's at beautiful book, and although newer books might be more useful for identifying birds, aesthetically this one is my hands-down favourite. I remember him giving it to me, and my first attempt at painting a blue-tit. Even when I was that little I was drawn to colourful things. I'm a pretty pathetic bird-spotter to say I've treasured this little book so much. Even with the book, I'm still not quite sure whether it was a kestrel, buzzard or a hobby sitting outside the cabin this morning.

I should be identifying trees, thanks to a shelf's worth of books from the library of the now closed school where my mother-in-law worked. The Nature Trail Book of Woodlands, Eyewitness Explorers: Trees, The Easy Way to Tree Recognition. We have a pile of books with titles like these, which are sitting by me as I really want to find out the name of a tree I saw this week, which I've never seen before. The beetroot red leaves are absolutely gorgeous, and apparently it's a creeper that is kind to buildings. The leaves aren't shiny, like those of a Virginia Creeper, and they're more heart-shaped. Any ideas?

Blogging progress is hampered by a paintfully slow internet connection, one broken Nikon, one missing Canon charger, and an iphone which takes average photos that need to be converted for use on Blogger. Very frustrating!

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Little man on the moor

Sethie pacing out the land on a morning walk across the Begwyns with Ollie and Bo, just over the hill from Clyro.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Mushroom man

Seth was grinning from ear to ear this morning on a 7am mushroom picking outing, riding on the scrambler with the farmer, Ollie and Bo. Pearled spelt risotto with a hat full of mushrooms for supper tonight.

Grainy iphone pics with the occasional thumb showing will have to suffice for now because our Nikon has gone in for repair.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Food and gorging in Ludlow

Thanks to this lovely chap from San Pietro, Ludlow's Italian twin town, who sold me a bottle of wine at a greatly reduced price. I'd run out of money at the end of an afternoon at Ludlow Food Festival, having worked my way around the stalls in the castle grounds with friends from Argentina, Silvie and Henry. We left with bottles of cider and pressed apple juice, wild boar sausages (for breakfast), game pie (working back home in Clyro) a bag of nuts and dried fruits (for Seth and Bo), and our bellies full of tasty samples of local produce from around the Welsh Marches. This weekend: Abergavenny Food Festival.

Country air

I love a bit of country air, especially when it knocks out two energetic little men!

The view from here

Although the internet server here thinks we are in Italy, we are in fact here, on a hill top above Clyro village, near Hay-on-Wye.
Rolling hills stretch out from the front door, from the balcony and main room there's an uninterupted view of the Wye Valley, and a small plantation of Christmas trees brushes against the bedroom windows. Beside the cabin is a huge old Oak tree captures the wind making it howl around the roof at night, the only other sounds are from the geese, sheep and horses. It's so cosy, with a log burning stove and pine walls that make it rather like a sauna on cold evenings. We're here for two months, well, that's if we can bear to give up the views.