Tuesday, January 27, 2015


“As long as this exists, how can I be sad.” Anne Frank

A diary entry about a single chestnut tree that Anne could see from an attic window while she was in hiding.

I haven’t counted the numbers of trees I can see from my studio window but I appreciate every unique twig and even more so when I think about Anne Frank’s unreservedly thankful attitude.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Morning treat

This morning at breakfast I celebrated the fact that Doris has started to lay again! 

Winter can be lean time for eggs.
Doris had taken some time out over Christmas to reorganise her feathers.
Hulanicki is still too busy fussing over her spring wardrobe to even think about resuming production. 
Peggy MBE, my rescue chicken, however has a tremendous work ethic and has been laying all winter. 
So, two eggs a day now and I’m hoping that will soon increase to four.

I don’t think you’ve met my youngest. She’s a Vorwerk hen; a breed that originates in Germany (and coincidentally shares its name with a company that produces vacuum cleaners!).

Her given name is ‘Berlin-da’ to remind me of a memorable trip to the city last year. 
And of all my fowl I think she is the one, like dog owners who resemble their dogs, that I have an affinity with. She’s a neat brown bird with a black head and tail... and we converse in German. Take note, regularly speaking more than one language can apparently delay the onset of Alzheimers by up to five years. There is method in my madness!

Back to my egg... which features in the current Waitrose magazine. Over the last few months I’ve enjoyed illustrating some cooking themed snippets, like making dried apple rings and almond milk and, shhhh, how to spatchcock a chicken. 

Luckily for Berlin-da I don’t know the german for ‘spatchcock’!

Friday, January 9, 2015

A Guided Tour

I thought the new year would be a good time to take you for an unhurried stroll around my local market town. The impressive church dates from 1470, there’s a “butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker”, fish on Fridays and early closing on Tuesdays! 

It’s a wibbly-wobbly kind of place with many of its ancient and creaking buildings testament to the fifteenth century when East Anglia was, second to London, the wealthiest and most densely populated area of England! 

The narrow streets are a medley of tilting lintels and lopsided gables. Tipping facades are painted in elephant, caramel, turkish delight, turmeric, vellum, and candy floss.

When we arrived ten years ago cappuccino had not been added to the Suffolk dictionary. Now we have a heady choice of four locations to enjoy a decent coffee, and even better, if you’re around for the Wednesday morning market you can buy locally roasted beans that make the best coffee ever. 

Well, in 2015 it's a far cry from London and that’s the way we like it!

Thursday, January 1, 2015


Phew, that was a narrow escape. Mrs Mallard and I dread the festive season. 
All that roast turkey, stuffed goose and potted pheasant. Even Mary’s cats were dining on moorhen yesterday!

So with great relief and on behalf of Mary, we’d like to wish you all a very Happy New Year! 

Friday, December 12, 2014

Bah, humbug!

"On the motionless branches of some trees, autumn berries hung like clusters of coral beads, 
as in those fabled orchards where the fruits were jewels.." 

Charles Dickens 1812-1870


Amidst the jangling consumerism that has hijacked Christmas I am as content as Mr. and Mrs. Blackbird to simply enjoy the garlands of berries that festoon the view through my studio window.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Popping out for some veg

Recently I heard the inspirational Camila Batmanghelidjh interviewed on the radio.

Peppered in with more serious matters she mentioned that when she meets anyone for the first time she always categorises them in her mind as a vegetable. 

Well, we all have our own eccentricities! 

Don't you think she screams "aubergine"?
(Yes I know it's technically a fruit)

I was on the train home from London last night doodling fellow travellers. As I looked up and down the aisle I could well have been filling my basket at the greengrocers… 

What do you think of my selection?

Monday, December 1, 2014

A nip in the air

This autumn has been so mild, I still have geraniums in flower, salad leaves in the greenhouse, the odd rose determined to bloom and the occasional raspberry to pick.
But last week we had our first overnight frost and that always feels like the beginning of winter.  

The dahlias were blackened, their starry bursts of colour and peppery scent reduced to a memory. The sunflowers suffered shipwreck, although I won’t be cutting them down just yet. They’re still popular with the birds who twizzle round the broken masts pecking every last kernel from their stripy casings.

This weekend it was considerably warmer. Damp hung in the air neither falling nor ceasing, merely shifting the world quite beautifully out of focus. So I put on my boots.

I cut down the dahlias and gave them a good mulch. I squelched up to the veg garden. I put wood ash round the shallots and garlic, picked celery and pulled carrots and rescued some very overgrown beetroot... which would surely still be fine for chutney?  

In its favour the frost has eradicated the caterpillars from my brassicas. Like a gruesome game of pass-the-parcel I was beginning to tire of preparing cabbage only to find ugly forfeits tucked into the outer leaves.  

I’d also had my eye on some rose hips for weeks. There are still plenty in the hedgerows, enough for me and the local wildlife I concluded. 
So after an hour with my secateurs I’m all set to make my secret ingredient... and to contemplate those burly beetroot!