Tag Archives: New Year

A Year to Remember

There’s always an ending and a beginning as the twinkly lights of Christmas are packed away once more.  Lists of things left undone, things achieved and dreams and hopes for the year to come.  Then January sets in and I’ve forgotten all about what it was I wanted to do, what I’m supposed to be doing and the things I should have done by now……including writing this message to you, dear Reader.  You know what they say though.  Better late than never.

2017 was a year of beginnings for us.  We met and fell in love with a farmhouse, decided to undertake the biggest project we’d ever tackled, turned a tired lavender field back into production and generally everyone we knew thought that we had finally lost all our marbles.  Move to a derelict farmhouse you say?  Why ever not?  Now our first Christmas here has been and gone, it’s hard to imagine that just a few weeks ago the farmhouse was still rather more of a shell than a home.  No clean drinking water, no heating, no functioning plumbing….the list is endless.  There wasn’t much of a kitchen either as it had been stripped bare before building work could start.  The steel skeleton was still firmly in place around us and our view of fields also included a few builders’ bottoms.  Not forgetting a bloody great Bake Off tent in the back garden that served as our makeshift kitchen for three months when the mouldy old kitchen was removed and the oak flooring went down.  Disappointingly, it was minus a chirpy Mel and Sue or even Sandi and Noel and it was completely devoid of showstoppers.  Well of the baking kind at any rate.  I’ve never been on safari, dear Reader but I am pretty sure tents in the bush are distinctly more glamourous and less functional.

As the weather closed in and the list of disasters from crumbling chimneys to water pouring through the kitchen ceiling (not once but twice) grew, Jerry and I lost faith in our ability to tackle everything that the old girl needed to bring her back to life.  I can’t tell you the waves of tears wept and a long list of expletives grew as for the millionth time I forgot to shut the curtains before venturing to the loo and remembered that I was visible to all on the scaffolding.  Nothing seemed to be going right.  My poor Pa who is in charge of all our electrics almost had kittens at how unsafe the wiring was (and in some parts still is) in the house.  Then there was the time we had been using the open fire to keep warm whilst we were without any form of central heating and the lovely chap who came to check the chimneys told me that I had been effectively poisoning us all as smoke and fumes were being channelled into Primrose’s bedroom.  Every day became a diary entry of disasters.  Working from home has some serious disadvantages when renovating a house.  Each little detail becomes a mountain to climb so that by the time you reach decisions about door handles or paint colours or whether or not you need a Hobnob biscuit or a Jaffa cake to get through the next hour, you are beyond being given any form of choice.  None of these things are the end of the world but after months of effectively camping in your own home, there’s nothing like a deadline to force you towards getting things done.  What better deadline is there than hosting Christmas and Boxing Day, dear Reader?!

All good things come to those who wait, dear Reader.  There is drinking water coming from the tap once more, there is heating, there is an Everhot, the builders have moved out and we can finally say goodbye to the Bake Off tent in the garden.  Getting the kitchen finished has meant no more cooking on a camping stove (a massive thank you to Alresford Interiors for all their hard work, beautiful carpentry and coping with a complete redesign at the last minute – for all the little extras and more we couldn’t be more grateful) and life at the farmhouse is becoming more and more ordinary again.  Whilst upstairs, bedrooms and bathrooms remain wholly untouched, downstairs is beginning to look complete.  Distressed oak floors in the hallway, kitchen and boot room sit alongside the original parquet flooring everywhere else.  Arts and Crafts colours reign supreme as you might expect – olive walls in the dining room, library red in the study.  The only room that has escaped something darker is the kitchen and that’s because limewash was needed it for its light reflective qualities.

Thank you to Quirky Interiors for our beautiful bespoke brass splashback too – the pictures don’t do it justice.

We haven’t finished by any stretch of the imagination.  The kitchen walls are still a bit bare.  Bathrooms will have to wait so washing hair with the aid of Tupperware boxes remains de rigueur for 2018.  The hallway still has its 1968 Laura Ashley wallpaper and I can’t wait to rip off the carpet on the stairs but perhaps not just yet, Jerry tells me.  We’ve already had more than one disastrous afternoon where we lost a cat under the upstairs’ floorboards.  Window panes in our leaded light windows have been replaced and new guttering and replacement roof tiles have seen us finally dry inside the house.  A shiny new boiler now heats the house after almost a decade without heating and cosy woodburners have ensured that even on the coldest days of winter, our little farmhouse has stayed toasty and warm.  I’ve also realised that I am far more resourceful than I ever thought I was.  Being able to bake bread and make pizza in a gas barbecue is a skill I may one day need in an emergency.  I’m not sure what sort of emergency….but you never know, dear Reader.  I think that Jerry is breathing a sigh of relief that my Ebay and salvage yard addiction is having a little break too.

Our clutter is at home here.  It belongs.  The furniture fits and as I wander through each room switching on lamps in the early evening, I feel as though at long last that I belong too.  Something which makes me very happy indeed, dear Reader.  We needed this house as much as it needed us.

A lot of amazing things wouldn’t have been possible without the help of lovely friends and our amazing farming neighbours who have given up time to help with fencing and much more besides.  They have rescued me from drowning under the weight of many a practical catastrophe and made us feel extremely welcome.  There is no doubt in my mind that they think me completely mad almost every day of the week and that they may well regret inviting me into their WhatsApp group dear Reader, but I’m ever so glad that they live on the doorstep and hope they don’t mind too much when they get a distress call from the mad lady at the bottom of the lane.  I’m glad too that in my own small way, I’ve been able to help them with their some of their plans for the future too.  Their festive farmers’ market before Christmas was one of most marvellous things I’ve been involved in organising in a long time – a huge thank you to all the lovely producers, suppliers and farmers I called on to come and make the day so special.  I can’t wait to see what new ventures are afoot for all of us.

So what does 2018 hold for us you might ask, dear Reader?  Well I think that we may have already hit the ground running….  We’ve started to resurrect the old pond which silted up years ago.  It will be given a new lease of life with our latest arrivals at the farmhouse.  It’s amazing how quickly the monsoon weather of late has helped it fill up again and although it looks more like the Somme than idyllic wildlife pool now, we have hopes that it will soon be rather more picture perfect.  However, I digress.  The mention of new arrivals will not have escaped you.  Well, you know how things always seem to happen to us by accident, dear Reader.  I promise they really do.  I’ll prove it.

One minute I am talking to our local log man commenting on his lovely geese and the next, I am receiving texts not about our log delivery but about ducks that need rehoming.  To cut a long story short, we are now the proud owners of 2 Runner duck drakes (Ferdie and Francis) and 4 Khaki Campbell ladies (names still being debated).  See what did I tell you?  A complete accident.  We won’t even mention the fact that I may have discussed goslings as well but mercifully, it isn’t spring yet and Jerry has a little more time to get used to the idea of those.  To be honest, he really didn’t take a lot of convincing when it came to the ducks and they have proven to be the best farmhouse addition yet as far as we’re all concerned.  They are definitely Jerry’s favourite.  Walking wine bottles – what could be more apt for our household?  The four of us can be found pressed up against the kitchen window most mornings just watching their ridiculous duck antics.  The perfect antidote to anyone’s January blues I can assure you.  So with ducks on the pond, some news ideas involving the lavender field, the gentle baa of some sheep on the horizon, a kitchen garden to plant up and a finish line to cross at the writing desk, it would seem that 2018 is shaping up to be a busy one already.  Oh it’s a quacking start, one might say……  I just hope you’ll still enjoy following us on our country living journey.  I hate to say it, dear Reader, but it seems that these days Jerry and I are much more Tom and Barbara that we ever imagined we’d be.  A belated Happy New Year to you all.




Ring out the old

Dear Reader, 2016 may have had its ups and downs but here at Margot and Jerry HQ there has been plenty of fun, frolics and feasting and much to be thankful for.  Primrose asked me earlier what my best thing of the whole year has been and honestly, dear Reader, I couldn’t pick one particular thing.  2016 has been the year of piddling pups

piggies (Huff, Puff and Snuff)

then there was Provence

and Potter (of the Beatrix kind).

Not forgetting plenty of beautiful views……dear Reader, better ones you’d be hard pushed to find.

Little shoes joined big ones for the first time at school

(Disclaimer – not in shoes below – Poppy’s not THAT small.  I just couldn’t resist adding this picture from a few years ago when Poppy got her first proper pair of shoes, dear Reader. How time has flown)

and wiping away tears, Margot tried not to lose her cool.

Long held ambitions were conquered and even bigger plans made

not least selling the old cottage where our country foundations were laid.

With dogs and cats each up to two and hens now a four,

you may be wondering dear Reader, in 2017 can there really be more?

With Jerry’s patience reaching its peak, I’d be wise, dear Reader, of no more animals to speak.

So Christmas over, it’s time to bid 2016 adieu

Let’s ring out the old year and welcome in the new.

Apologies for the AWFUL rhyme dear Reader – Jerry tells me I must try harder next time.  A very heartfelt thank you to all you faithful followers for reading, commenting, following on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.  Jerry is always very pleased when someone informs him what they’ve read on the blog or in my columns as in his words, he’s always “the last to know”.

Happy New Year to you and yours – may 2017 bring you all you desire and dream of, plus the standard gin accompaniment.  Over and out, dear Reader.








Seeing through the blue

keyboardApologies for the interruption to transmission dear Reader, but I have been enjoying a little break from all things writing over Christmas and New Year.  I was in danger of being renamed “Mummy’s on the computer” by Poppy and Primrose (although this would make a change from “Mummy’s in the kitchen”) and felt that it was high time for a little sojourn from all things scribbly.

Settling back into the daily routine has proved shockingly difficult after such a lovely Christmas and mine and Jerry’s first real few days off since the summer hols.  I must remember that I’m only supposed to be cooking for 4 and not preparing the gargantuan feasts a la festive period and that I can no longer stay up until an ungodly hour trying to finish my latest good read (Jerry bought me a TON of fabulous books for Christmas) or the end of Mad Men, Season 6.  Trickier than I thought it would be….. Continue reading

A countryside Christmas

church flowersIt seems so fitting to be sitting here writing this post in the first days of January after our first countryside Christmas, dear Reader.  2013 was such an eventful year: swapping kaftans for tweed and heels for wellies, leaving behind the Big Smoke for rural Hampshire, getting a gundog pup, Primrose learning to live with mud, Poppy learning not to eat it, Jerry living out his dream of driving his own Lanny, CHICKENS……I could go on.  Not to mention the beginnings of Margot Tries the Good Life world domination in written form.  So one couldn’t blame me dear Reader, for half expecting Christmas to be a bit of let down after all that!  Amazingly, it wasn’t.  However, most of December was rather bumpy with Poppy succumbing to a hideous bout of the hand, foot and mouth virus and the four of us having to live in quarantine with the sign of the plague daubed on the door.  After two weeks of illness, followed by Poppy turning 2 and then the mad dash to prepare for Christmas, we were all looking forward to a bit of festive peace and quiet.

Luckily for us, the week of Christmas proved less fraught.  Never have we felt more at home than here in our little old country cottage.  Rather spectacularly, the village seems to have well and truly embraced us and the whole of the festive period felt as if it had been stolen from The Archers’ airwaves.  My contribution to the church flowers was infinitely better than my first attempt at Harvest time, Poppy and Primrose dressed as angels to form part of a tableau around the crib with some dear little village shepherds and everyone roared with laughter when a grumpy Poppy yelled (rather loudly I might add) in the middle of the prayers “I don’t love you Mummy” when I ran out of sweeties to bribe her silence.  I turned my hand to Christmas wreaths and even managed a bit of countryside recycling when my dear Pa turned up with this……



and I fashioned it into one of these!

A bit of countryside recycling!

A triomphe de plumes!

Jerry’s family – I do promise (truly) that I did not feed you what was left of the pheasant when you came to lunch….thought I had better declare that……just in case, anyone was worried….!

Our dear little tree!

Our dear little tree!

Moving on…  We enjoyed the hospitality of several villagers and settled in to the swing of all things Christmas.  I was accosted to form an impromptu choir for the service – only to find that there were quite a number of villagers who have been hiding their musical lights under a bushel.  One even turned out to be a recorded artist and entered the choir practice in full voice, trilling vocal warm ups.  Amazing, the things one doesn’t know about one’s neighbours.  Christmas Eve proved to be a wonderful evening with Ma and Pa in tow, children snug in their beds, stockings hung by the fire and a magical walk along the starlit lanes to Midnight Mass.  A goose from our local farm shop went without hitch and I even managed to churn out a cake with the girls.

Edible glitter and edible spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Edible glitter and edible gold spray in the hands of a 5 year old!

Say nothing about Robin Pinkbreast, dear Reader – Primrose was utterly delighted and I spent the whole time telling Christmas guests that it was all the children’s work…
With 2014 ushered through the cottage door, I have had time to think on resolutions and wishes for the new year.  More tweed is certainly on the agenda, learning to shoot a gamebird is well and truly up there and tackling the awful jungle of a garden has to be priority number one.  Meeting one of the organisers of the New Forest Show over lunch, I was almost persuaded to enter and ‘show’ my chickens.  Oh and the vicar already tried to twist my arm to join the Parish Council to represent the young people.  Not quite sure that I am ready for the challenges of either of those yet!!  Apparently, Jerry says we have to start sorting out the cottage and redecorating too.  Perhaps now would be a good time to lock myself away in the study and pretend to pen a little chapter of a book or two?  Sounds like 2014 is going to be just as hectic as 2013….  Dear Reader, I do wish you and yours a very happy and prosperous 2014.  Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading, supporting and telling others about my little blog.  Without you, 2013 really wouldn’t have been half as brilliant!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

Happy New Year from the countryside!

Margot’s New Year’s resolutions

Not burning the candle at both ends.....

Not burning the candle at both ends…..

Happy New Year to you dear Reader!  Rather unlike the whizz bang kaleidoscope of colour that was the spectacular fireworks display in London, 2013 limped in with a little whimper for dear Jerry and I.  Our New Year jaunt to Tom and Barbara’s ended with illness and midnight arrived with all of us (plus 3 small babes) in bed asleep with various ailments.  Sadly, on this occasion, I can’t even blame the sloe gin fizzes for my lack of stamina!  Jerry agreed that maybe with 2 children in tow, we were just getting too old to ring in the New Year with the same alacrity as seen in previous years.  I spent the wee small hours of 2013 trying to console a snotty and very teary Poppy before lying awake thinking of how much I had to get on with this year!  Find job, sell house, up sticks and move to rural idyll……..

In true Margot style, I thought that the only way to prepare myself for all this change was to write a list.  A list of things to do in 2013…resolutions of sorts.   I found the perfect starting point for the forthcoming year.  Thank you dear Country Life!  Yet again, you saved my bacon, so to speak!  Originally published as Country Life’s pick of essential skills for our nation’s youth, the full list of Country Life’s 39 steps to a Better Life can be found here Indeed, I was very surprised to see that I had accomplished a few already!  Although, I am not sure I would call my completion of no.24 a 10 shot rally…more Margot struggling to keep a volley going!  Here are some of the rejects which didn’t make it onto my list of 2013 to-dos!

1. Cook three different dinner party menus (Margot’s weekly kitchen rituals are all about dinner parties – so this one is too easy peasy to add to the list)
3. Play a musical instrument, even if it’s just the tom-toms or a mouth organ (I can strike this one off as I can tinkle the ivories in a passable fashion and I did once play the cello reasonably well)
6. Talk about five classics of English literature with authority and passion (I could bore you to death, dear Reader, with my love of Milton’s Paradise Lost, Forster’s Howards End, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden, Woolf’s Mrs Dalloway and of course, almost anything by Jilly Cooper…)
12. Taste the difference between Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and know how to mix a mojito or margarita (This formed part of Margot’s basic training years ago)
17. Sail a boat across the Solent (Accomplished with several layers of sailing gear and the help of Jerry’s family)
19. Tell the difference between Gothic, Baroque and Palladian architecture  (Thank you National Trust.  Without you, I might have had to delve into Architecture for Dummies)
24. Sustain a 10-shot rally at tennis (as I said more terror at missing a shot than rally)
26. Perform three good card tricks (I’m not sure cheating at Gin Rummy should count for this)
30. Uncork and pour a bottle of Champagne (Oh dear Reader, if one hasn’t managed this one by 32, then one hasn’t lived)!
32. Amuse small children for at least an hour with magic tricks and storytelling  (That is precisely what I went into teaching to do)

After much debating, some help from Jerry and taking into account the splendid advice from Country Life, here is Margot’s top 20 list of things to do in 2013:

One of Margot's top views for 2013!

One of Margot’s top views for 2013!

  1. Ride a horse
  2. Grow my own vegetables from seed and dig a vegetable garden from scratch
  3. Identify a hawthorn from a hazel and try not to poison the family when selecting edible flowers/plants using my new River Cottage Hedgerow book
  4. Learn how to handle a shotgun, shoot a clay, skin a rabbit and go hunting with hawks
  5. Cycle 5 miles along a river, repair a bicycle puncture and fix the chain (might help to learn how to ride a bicycle FIRST!  Yes, I really can’t ride a bicycle…)
  6. Attempt basic DIY skills such as putting up a shelf and changing a plug
  7. Learn how to light an AGA and cook on it
  8. Build a bonfire
  9. Use sewing machine to make a dress
  10. Go glamping with Poppy and Primrose
  11. Walk MY OWN dog
  12. Attend a henkeeping course
  13. Make my own cheese
  14. Brew a pint of homemade beer with Jerry (Jerry’s secret desire is to run his own micro brewery)
  15. Meet a real farmer
  16. Catch a fish
  17. Bake a decent loaf of bread (I am now armed with a very good recipe from dear Mr Blackbird of Blackbird Bread)
  18. Knit a tea cosy
  19. Procure a stylish country hat
  20. FINALLY move into my own farmhouse complete with Aga, log fires, beams (and prerequisite spiders), HUGE garden and views of open fields.

Jerry wouldn’t let me add: ’21. Rear pigs and make my own bacon’.  Disappointing.  I thought that I might be quite good at keeping livestock.  I had also mentioned chickens and ducks – both of which were given the big veto by Jerry.  Spoilsport.  In the meantime, I have already made a start on the list….dear Mamma bought me a knitting kit for children aged 8 years and up.  Well dear Reader, I had to start somewhere……


Tea cosy anyone?