Category Archives: The Big Smoke

Almost there…

A day old calf at Acton Scott Farm earlier in the year.

Do support National Countryside Week – we owe so much to the countryside and it needs us too!

This week is National Countryside Week and also our last in the Big Smoke.  Dear Reader, quite frankly both of these things have been horribly upstaged by the birth of a certain little prince!

Despite the distraction of #RoyalBaby or perhaps my personal favourite Twitter hashtag (from the farming community) #Katescalving, Margot and Jerry HQ is finally a hive of industry as there are only 4 days left in our little corner of suburbia. Jerry’s Lanny (Land Rover) purchased, an extortionate amount of money paid for a parking suspension for the removal lorry, 4 bags of clothes, toys and 6 pairs of shoes to the charity shop……it would seem I am on a roll now!  Panicking a little, I phoned the removal company twice just to check that they do actually pack EVERYTHING and to add to the list of jobs done, a new house ration pack has been ordered to arrive on day 2 of the move too.  Well, I have to make sure that there is plenty of gin in the cupboard….however even I am now worried about the level of efficiency I have managed to achieve, dear Reader!

To stop myself from getting too carried away with coloured stickers, labels and a nifty floor plan of the new house courtesy of Jerry, I decided that the only way to mark the last week in the Big Smoke was a glass of champagne at The Ritz…..would you expect anything less from Margot?!  In 1777, when Mr Johnson wrote “No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford“, he was probably supping a small glass of something in a well-known London drinking establishment too!  Jerry and I can’t be sad as we have enjoyed so much of what London has to offer for over a decade and the time is certainly right for pastures new.  So when the boxes arrive on Wednesday and we leave our dear little cottage for middle of nowhere ruralness on Thursday,  I shall be ready for another glass of bubbly.  This time though, our surroundings will be somewhat less grand than The Ritz.  Jerry and  I will be in our new country home and probably drinking our little bottle of fizz from paper cups after the colour coding on boxes will have inevitably gone wrong!  I am sure it will be bliss though, dear Reader so….please Thursday, would you oblige this batty townie and hurry on up?!  I am looking forward to having to negotiate vehicles like this on the school run in the mornings!

Beats sitting behind a row of cars in town!

Beats sitting behind a row of cars in town any day!

Messing about on the river

This is Jerry's joke not's 'oar' over now!

This is Jerry’s joke not’s ‘oar’ over now!

There is nothing more thought provoking than doing things for the last time.  As our move to the countryside becomes ever closer and more of a reality, Jerry and I find ourselves with a long list of Big Smoke must-dos and last time evers.  None more poignant for us than watching the annual Oxbridge Boat Race which passes by our very doorstep each year, dear Reader.  Jerry and I have ventured out every year, rain or shine, to stand by the water’s edge, cheering on the light and dark blues as they whizz past towards the finishing post at breakneck speed.  Messing about on the river is one of Jerry’s true passions and his glory days as captain of his university boat club are forever etched into the fabric of our everyday life with the presence of a sawn-off oar outside the attic bedroom.  In fact, it was rowing which made us visit our little corner of suburbia many many years ago before we even moved to London.  One cold and wet afternoon, a youthful Margot stood on Barnes Bridge cheering on a rather dashing Jerry as his boat and crew flew past under the bridge in the Head of the River race.  There is nothing like young love to make one stand in the pouring rain waiting endlessly for 8 lycra-clad chaps in a boat that resembles an insect from the air!  I thought the same then as I do now: rowing is a hopeless spectator sport.  Hours of terminal boredom as one marks time before a brief glimpse of a tiny human water boatman.  Blink and one has completely missed the crew which one has been waiting hours to see go past.  I did, however, change my mind, once, briefly, when I bumped into James Cracknell in his rowing lycra by Hammersmith Bridge.  I can only say that I was rendered speechless by how…..TALL…he was.  Never mind anything else, dear Reader!  Moving on from lycra…..the view from Barnes Bridge downstream towards Hammersmith Bridge and then upstream towards Chiswick is one of immeasurable beauty and is ordinarily tranquil.  I thought on that very day as Jerry sailed past all those years ago that I simply had to live on this stretch of the Thames at some point in my life and after 5 years of living a stone’s throw from Waterloo, we finally made the move to that wonderful piece of riverside.  I have loved living by the river ever since and have walked the tow path in many guises: holding hands with Jerry as his new wife, with a bouncing Primrose in her Baby Bjorn, avoiding splashes from Primrose’s first attempt at riding a tricycle, walking Barbara and Tom’s wonderful boy Tigga, waddling along heavily pregnant with Poppy hand in hand with my preschooler and finally holding Poppy’s podgy sweet hand as she tested out her first pair of wellies.  Memories shaped by such a small patch of riverbank….

….and that brings me to the 159th Oxford and Cambridge Boat race and our last, living in the dear old cottage.  Our ritual of waiting until the coverage shows the Chiswick Eyot and then making a dash to the slip duly completed, we stood to see the boats hurtling under Barnes Bridge in the distance and past our patch before the finishing line at Mortlake.

The fastest water boatman I have seen for a while!

The two blues – gone in a flash or splash I should say..

It never ceases to amaze me how many boats seem to follow the two crews.  The wake was considerable this year and all was suddenly awash with stormy water.  Poppy was delighted to be able to get her wellies well and truly wet!


Boat race over, we trudged home, the four of us, to sit by the fire, drink tea, eat hot cross buns and to ponder new beginnings.  For it would seem, that with last time evers, there must be doing things for the first time.  Moving to the countryside MUST be top of the list for first times and dear Reader, I may just have some news for you on that score!

And there you have, Margot is MOVING!

And there you have it, Margot is MOVING!

Dead wood in the park

So….the smell of autumn was in the air on Sunday and Jerry and I trudged the reluctant girls through Richmond Park in search of a bit of ‘fake’ countryside.  For some of us, it was the third visit of the week – the spaniels as I like to call them (Primrose and Poppy) needed to let off a bit of steam earlier in the week before I did!  Bumping into lots of dog owners on our way to ‘Fairy wood’ also gave me the opportunity to see if my drip drip indoctrination of Primrose asking Daddy for a dog was working.  Answer = most definitely.  “I really want us to get a dog.  Daddy, wouldn’t you really like a dog?” featured at least 6 times on our Sunday walk.  Good work Primrose!  Next brainwash tutorial: chickens.

Anyway, we noticed that there seemed to be a lot of dead wood about at this time of year in the park.  I wondered if we could just pinch it for kindling to use on the woodburner.  Jerry was not convinced that stealing the wood was allowed.  Anyone know the answer?  Research on this has not given way to any fruit unfortunately.  If this article is anything to go by (yes I know, the DAILY MAIL but one has to love the middle class drama of this), then taking wood from the park is off the to-do list.

Fancy INSECTS being more important than children building dens?!  I suppose a woman stealing wood with 2 children and a buggy might just be a bit more conspicuous than small children building dens.  Not sure that I could bear the shame of being accosted by men in high-vis jackets – yellow has never been my colour.

So…the question remains: Can you take dead wood from a park or woodland without permission?  Answers on a postcard please.