It was crazy busy in the run up to Christmas and I was very glad when Christmas Eve finally arrived.

We’ve had a good Christmas break here at Boot Hall, but the seemingly constant grim weather has meant that we have not ventured outside as much as I’d have liked. That’s something I plan to remedy in the coming weeks – I need a big dose of outdoors.

Meanwhile, aside from sitting by the log-fire watching rubbish on telly, I have been drifting around the internet – more out of boredom than anything else.

However, some good did come of it as (via The Outdoor Blogger Network) I did discover a blog, Wild Tide which I like enough to add to my (select) blog roll.

It’s an outdoorsy Cornish blog featuring as you might expect surfing, kayaking and fishing stuff, but also includes some food and drink posts, the most bizarre of which has to be creating the Cornish Flag via the medium of crispie cakes.

It also includes some pieces on art and artists and I‘ve been introduced to the work of Clare Corfield Carr and Debby Mason, neither of whom I was not previously aware of, but like a lot. And I would love to buy one of Debby’s fish prints – if only I wasn’t skint after Christmas.



Over the last few months I’ve been doing a bit of writing.

First I put a ten-page entry into a sitcom competition run by Shortlist magazine. Alas, so did a large number of others and I didn’t make the cut.

Next I entered a travel writing competition in The Guardian. Results aren’t announced till next year and I have no real expectation of success, but I enjoyed writing the piece, so it wasn’t a pointless exercise.

A few weeks back I hastily scribbled a piece for the weekly travel tips, that paper runs. The subject was autumn walks, but as I attempted to submit it (half an hour before the deadline) my computer decided it didn’t like their site. So it was never submitted, but it is here in case anyone is stuck for an idea on how to get the kids out into the woods –

Having trouble getting your children to go on an autumn walk?

Soft ground means that now is a really good time for spotting animal tracks and making casts of them with your kids. Put some Plaster of Paris, a bottle of water, strips of cardboard and a few paperclips in an old ice cream tub and tuck it in a rucksack.

Look for animal tracks at the edges of paths and particularly where creatures have been making their way through fences and hedgerows. The margins of rivers and ponds are also good places.

Once some footprints have been found, make a loop with the card strips and paperclips and place it around them. Mix the water and plaster in the plastic tub with a stick and gently plop it into the cardboard circle. The lower the temperature, the longer the plaster takes to set, so unless you are prepared to hang about, it’s a good idea to do your casts on the outward leg of your walk and pick them up on the way home. Be careful to prise them up gently.

If you do leave them for later it adds to the fun to camouflage them with leaves them so that no-one else can find them. But be sure to leave a clue or sign so that you can find it yourself. A leaf threaded onto a stick makes a good marker.

Back home any mud can be cleaned off using an old toothbrush, and the casts can even be painted to bring out detail.

Three months back I expressed the intention that colour was to be 2010’s gardening theme here Boot Hall.

We’re doing all right. So far we have red carrots to add to the “Purple Dragons” we grew last year and yellow radish (Zlata) to add to the purple German and red and white French (Breakfast) ones we had in 2009.

In the last few days have been added some claret-flowered broad bans, purpley-black podded climbing-beans and seeds for a pink jumbo banana squash.

Another theme is also burgeoning – that of exotica, not only because for some reason I recently bought a packet of Mexican gherkin seeds, but largely because of the of the ongoing development of the jungle area and the office allotment. And, of course my new propagator has opened all sorts of possibilities.

I am trying, with only moderate success, not to buy every exotic seed I come across. This is not only tricky, but has had a small side effect.

Prior to Christmas, Little Boots was the recipient of a good number of parcels from various points of the compass. The munchkin now thinks every parcel that arrives has Little Boots written on it. So when two packages arrived yesterday that were both for the grown ups, and one of which also just contained banana seeds pronounced as “boring”, a minor sulk was apparently called for.

Luckily the second package contained chocolate for all and grumpiness, along with a telling off, was averted.

I mean, it’s not as if the little bugger has been short of presents lately.


For some people there comes a certain point in their life when all the Christmases they’ve experienced start to morph into one and they get fed up with the whole thing. But then children come along and it starts to come alive again.

I have found this to be the case and also that Christmas becomes a time when I remember past yuletides.

Despite my usual resistance to getting into the spirit of the season before my birthday I have been feeling quite Christsmassy for a couple of weeks. But this was driven home today by Little Boots announcing and singing a new song “Jingle Bells, Batman smells, Robin flew away” and then being delighted that I could add “The Batmobile lost it’s wheel and landed in the hay”

Nice to think that something we used to sing at school long ago is still going strong.

(I seem to recall that there’s an alternative version – something to do with losing his willy on the motorway – but I thought I’d better not try to remember that one)

Then at bedtime LB read the new school reading book straight through, which made me very proud and a bit wistful, as it was a story I remember from my own childhood, but haven’t come across, or recalled, for more years than I care to think about.

After reading the book there was a moment without words. I was wondering how long since I had heard that story and LB too was thinking.

“You know…”

“Uh-oh”I thought, “that phrase is normally a presage to some mad suggestion”

I wasn’t disappointed.

“You know, we should grow a turnip that big next year.”

I got caught in the rain last Thursday.

Not like me, as I normally have my umbrella.

It’s the one thing that cheers me up when it’s raining. Not because it keeps me dry – which it does admirably – but because it reminds me of Little Boots.

Last year, after I’d expressed some vague admiration for an umbrella featured in a magazine, the OH ordered one in time for Christmas.

Fortuitously it arrived when I was out and was duly wrapped by OH & LB.

From a child’s perspective this was clearly a rather crap present and, with some kind of pre-school kind of “do unto others…” thing troubling the conscience, said little mite marched up to the sofa where I was sat.

“Do you want an umbrella for Christmas?”

“That would be great,” I replied with a grin.

“OK,“ said shortstuff, clearly puzzled by an adult pleased with what was to the younger mind a really rubbish present, but also happy that it was a good gift.

“Don’t go in my wardrobe!“ warned the munchkin and marched off.

“Hmmm,” I thought. “So I’ve got an umbrella. Now how do I persuade the little beggar to inadvertently spill on the rest?”

Nothing worked.