Monday, 31 July 2017

Tilly's garden playmates

Being an only dog, Tilly has to make her own fun when she's in the garden. This often includes barking at the neighbours, chasing those garden birds that have the temerity to encroach on her personal space and staring at the fish as they swim around their pond.

Tilly does have a couple of inanimate garden playmates, although she get's bored pretty quickly when they refuse to play chase. Here's one of them:

Happy Dragon
This one is Happy Dragon, I suspect you can work out why. Good job he's not real or I'm sure he'd be down off that wall making short work of his tormentor!

Sunday, 30 July 2017

In the chilly hours and minutes...

When the rain has hung the leaves with tears
No apologies for trampling over Donovan's Catch The Wind. I just love this time of day although for me it lacks the uncertainty of the song's lyrics.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

It's Tilly's sofa!

A little while back I invested in some rather chic Natuzzi Italian leather lounge furniture... well you have to have some comfort in your old age don't you? Should have realised of course that one of the sofas would be commandeered by Tilly for her chosen napping spot.

Sleeping Dog
Or the place where she just hides from the rain!

I just can't stand the rain...

Friday, 28 July 2017

Dinner tonight and I'm in a bit of a quandary...

It's Friday and that means it's the end of the week, a week that has seen being relatively healthy food wise, so I'm going to push the boat a little by way of celebration. I'll be preparing and cooking my take on some Greek cuisine for our meal tonight and this is what it'll be.

Moshari Kokkinisto 

Moshari Kokkinisto
Moshari Kokknisto sounds quite exotic doesn't it, but actually it's just a Greek style tender and juicy beef stew in a rich tomato sauce seasoned with cinnamon and clove.

Greek beef stew is typically cooked at a relatively low temperature (simmered, not boiled) allowing flavors to mingle. For juicier results, the key is to pick the right kind of meat. Go for choose large cuts of meat from either the front shoulder or the rear end of beef, which, when cooked for a long time become fork tender. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with some salty grated cheese and enjoy over a glass of good red wine!


  • 1 kg of quality stewing beef 
  • 2 small red onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp tomato paste, dissolved into a teacup of water
  • 100ml olive oil (2/5 of a cup)
  • a glass of red wine
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1-2 whole cloves, or a pinch grounded
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 400g spaghetti (14 ounces)
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • grated cheese (kefalotyri) to serve


  1. Cut the beef into approx. 100g pieces. Wash thoroughly and dry with paper towel.
  2. Heat a large, deep pot to high heat and once hot add the oil along. Brown the pieces of beef in batches doing one side without stirring, then turn and brown the other side. Do not to overcrowd the bottom of the pan.
  3. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pieces of meat from the pot and place them on a plate.
  4. To prepare the sauce for the Greek beef stew, add into the pot the chopped onions and reduce the heat. Sauté for 3 minutes, until softened. Stir in the garlic and saute for 1 more minute. Pour in the red wine, increase the heat and cook for 2 minutes, until it evaporates. Add the chopped tomatoes, the tomato paste (dissolved in a teacup of warm water), the cinnamon stick, the cloves, a pinch of sugar and salt and pepper.
  5. As soon as the sauce comes to the boil, add the beef and enough hot water to cover the 2/3 of the meat. Return the sauce to the boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and half-cover with the lid. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hour, until the meat is tender and the sauce thickens, stirring occasionally.
  6. If the meat is tender and cooked, but the sauce is not thick enough, remove the pieces of meat with a slotted spoon and boil the sauce alone until it thickens. On the other hand, if the sauce becomes thick before the meat is done, add some warm water or a little more red wine.
  7. When the stew is ready turn off the heat, cover with the lid and set aside.
  8. Cook the pasta; drain and place in a serving dish. Place the pieces of beef on top of the pasta and cover with the sauce.
  9. Serve the Greek beef stew with a drizzle of olive oil, sprinkle some grated cheese and enjoy over a glass of red wine.
Alternatively you can serve this dish with Greek lemon roasted potatoes... and this is my dilemma, do I go with the traditional pasta or these little beauties?

Greek lemon roasted potatoes
I think it may have to be the potatoes... my mouth is already watering at the thought!

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Music Festival Leftovers

I'm constantly amazed by the piles of stuff festival goers leave behind... boots and shoes... clothing... camping gear... cars...


Yes, cars. Well one car to be precise, on this occasion anyway. And what was this occasion? A weekend of music events held at Caldicot Castle, Monmouthshire.

It's starting to look as though live, open air, music will be an annual event at Caldicot. Regular readers may recall I attended the Status Quo concert held there last August. This year's headline act were Little Mix who I have no interest in whatsoever, but apparently the event was a sell-out. Back to the point of this story...

Tilly likes to visit the castle grounds at Caldicot because of the number of squirrels that live there so we're regular visitors. Contractors are ground staff were still in the middle of their clean-up operations when we popped in a few days ago and skip loads of detritus were being collected and sorted. Some of the waste is recyclable of course, though most of it looked destined either landfill or furnace. The one real oddity was this:

I assume this old VW Golf is in no way an original medical vehicle, despite the very convincing paint job, decals, blue lights, dash mounted radio, etc.

NOTRUF 112 (Emergency Call 112) is a firefighting simulation game developed in cooperation with and modelled on the fire brigade of Mülheim, Germany (Mülheim has one of the largest and most modern fire stations in Europe).

Someone obviously went to a lot of trouble rigging up this car to look like an artefact from the game, which kind of confuses me since it seems to have been abandoned on the Caldicot Castle FC pitch!

Looks terribly lonely doesn't it? I wonder if the owner has any plans to recover it?

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

In praise of 'Wonky Veg'

There has been a bit of a push recently in the UK for supermarkets to sell fruit and vegetables that don't meet the usual 'beauty pageant' criteria normally insisted on by both corporate buyers and shoppers alike. The truth is thousands of tons of perfectly edible foodstuffs are dumped every year because they are deemed 'visually unacceptable.' With so many low income families relying on food banks this wastage isn't just stupid, it's criminal!

I've been growing fruit and vegetables for my own consumption for over forty years and during that time have unearthed potatoes that look like aliens, carrots that look like people, parsnips that have divided, pears that have curled or bent into odd shapes, tomatoes that have odd projections, curly cucumbers, etc. etc. So they look a bit odd, so what? All my misshapen produce has tasted perfectly fine and because I'm not put off by 'natural' looking vegetables I'm more than happy to buy Wonky Veg from Asda, Morrison's or Tesco (other supermarket chains are of course available) and urge others do the same - it makes far more sense than paying double or triple the price for something that looks pretty, but frequently lacks in flavour.

The latest misshapes from the garden come from our courgette plants:

Whether uppies or downies, these rude-looking fellas will taste just fine and be enjoyed to the full. If you haven't done so yet, give some Wonky Veg a go and see what you're missing! 😀

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Is that a Triffid in my garden?

A large patch of my garden has been commandeered by a self-seeded plant. When we first noticed it growing we could see from the leaf that it was some kind of squash, so the decision was taken to leave it in the ground and allow it to grow... we had no idea back then how big it would get!

The (still growing) Beast
As you can see it is just starting to flower now so we should be able to identify the thing soon... I do wonder if it's a pumpkin?

For scale - my left hand against a leaf
I'm sure the leaves are too big for any kind of melon and they're the wrong shape for a member of the courgette or marrow family. It's definitely not a cucumber!

I'll keep you posted as the fruits develop, but mean time I'm thinking about having a go a cooking Muboora.

Squash & Pumpkin leaves are not only edible they are high in calcium and also are a good source of vitamins A, B6, C, protein, riboflavin, niacin, thiamin, folate, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium and manganese. They can be eaten raw but cooking brings out the true flavour of the leaf. The younger leaves are more prized during the beginning of the season as they are very tender. Larger leaves of certain varieties may need deveining. They can be steamed like spinach, sauteed in some olive oil with garlic and salt or used in a stir-fry.

Monday, 24 July 2017

St Mary's, Undy - a potted history

I photographed St Mary's church a couple of days ago and thought it might be of interest to add a little about our village church's history.

St Mary's church, Undy
St Mary's was erected in the early/mid 12th century, although the church we see today bears little resemblance to the original.

The chancel was added in the 13th century and later extended to its present size (date unknown). In 1880 a major restoration took place and a window was added to the north nave, though many of the other windows are much older. At this time a small central tower was removed and replaced by the bell turret we see today.

St Mary's church, Undy
The single bell housed in the turret dates from the 14th century and is one of the church's most valued possessions. The church also features a Norman font and an ancient west doorway.

St Mary's 14th Century Bell

Physiotherapy is such a confusing business

I had a session with a physiotherapist this morning and have to admit I came away just a little confused with life.

The therapist asked me all kinds of questions relating to my my current lifestyle, my hobbies, what exercises I had been given by the hospital and details of the things I had been up to since my plaster came off. He also queried what I had done for a living when I was still working and asked about any previous hobbies. I answered honestly, then had a good look at my hand.

I got a telling off for having made too much use of my right hand in the last week or so and also for doing a wrist exercise that I shouldn't be doing. But wait a minute, I was told to do the exercise by the physiotherapist at the hospital so surely it must be right? Oh no Mr Page, you shouldn't be using your wrist at all at this stage! Hmmmm.

The physiotherapist then demonstrated three new exercises he wanted me to practice over the next couple of weeks until I see him again. These new exercises are in addition to the exercises I had previously been given. Two of the new exercises involve putting pressure on the base of the thumb to prevent the joint moving. Finally he gave the scar tissue a massage and told me I should massage the area as many times a day as I felt comfortable with. He instructed me to wear a splint and use the hand as little as possible over the next two weeks. No lifting, no carrying. Don't even use the hand to lift a cup or hold cutlery. Bear in mind I had been told by the hospital only to wear a splint if I was in pain and to use my hand normally as much as possible, so the new advice seems a bit strange.

Now here's the thing, until I attended this morning's session my right hand was pain free. On a scale of one to ten where ten is the most severe I'd say my current pain level was eight. The base of my thumb has swollen, a purple bruise is starting to form and the knuckle joint aches. The back of hand hurts and I can no longer straighten my fingers without it causing a stabbing pain. In short I now have restricted movement and pain where previously I didn't. I'm not saying the therapist I saw today doesn't know his business, but to be given such conflicting information is somewhat confusing for the patient, isn't it? And what's the pain all about? Is this a case of "if it hurts it's doing you good?" Hmmmm.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Montage of St Mary's, Undy

Back in the bad old days before digital photography, electronic editing and photo-stitching I used to have a lot of fun shooting a series of images, which I would later build into a montage. I can't remember the last time I did this, but while walking through the village the other day with nothing but a 50 mm prime lens on my camera I decided to drop in on St Mary's and see if I could still remember how to do it!

Montage of St Mary's, Undy
Well the truth is I failed! I completely forgot to shoot the foreground so although I've captured the main part of our little village church in four images I had to chop the bottom off... stupid me, huh?

Saturday, 22 July 2017

The joys of dog ownership

Cream of tomato soup is a favourite lunch in this house...

...but if you want to finish your serving,  never leave your mug unattended!

Friday, 21 July 2017

Mmmmmm fresh vegetables!

I spoke about the abundance of soft fruit here in the UK earlier today and thought I'd follow the post up with a word or two about vegetables. If you're a regular visitor to this blog you may recall I photographed courgette flowers back in June and talked about stuffing and eating the male ones instead of wasting them, which I've tried and have to say they were fabulous! Anyway we started harvesting our courgettes recently and they are pretty damn fabulous too. So in just a few short weeks the courgettes have progressed from this:

To this:

Just a few of our wonderful yellow courgettes.

Look kind of cute don't they?

As well as courgettes we've also been eating broad beans, black kale, radish, spinach and mooli from the garden. Other crops are just coming into season and today we cut the first of our cucumbers from the vine.

Cucumber and courgettes from the garden
The cue is a little on the small side, but there are so many growing we decided to take this first one since we know they can go a little bitter if left on the vine too long.

I really love vegetables when they're this fresh, they have so much more flavour than anything you'll pick up at the market and watching them grow is so much fun too. 😀

The early bird...

It has already been a remarkable summer for soft fruit here in the UK with an abundance currants, raspberries and strawberries. Some varieties of blackberries are just starting to ripen now too and from the look of the bushes there will be a very heavy crop later in the season.

Ripening Blackberries
What has surprised me a little, given the various other foodstuffs currently available, was seeing a starling taking unripe berries off the bush. I'd have thought them to be both hard and unpalatable, but it didn't seem to deter the bird. On closer inspection I could see the removal of berries had obviously been going on for some time...

Unripe berry stubs
It makes me wonder whether birds ever suffer the effects of colic?

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Are you naturally drawn to the camera?

I've often heard it said some women are drawn to the camera, just get one out and they'll come running! At the risk of being sexist, could that be down to vanity? I prefer to think it's more about seeking fame. Well maybe the reason some women (and some men too!) are naturally drawn to the camera is nothing to do with either of those reasons... I'm sure that's true in Tilly's case!

Such a little poser!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Nature's Variations

This is an interesting time of year if you're a fan of Mother Nature's colour variations. Everyone thinks of Autumn as the time when leaves change colour, but in truth there are colour variations in plants, shrubs and trees throughout the year.

Just a few days ago these leaves were all green, not any more though.

And look at this teasel. A few days ago the head was green and in a few more days it will be covered in tiny flowers and look purple, but right now it's variegated.

Then there are the apples growing on my tree at home.

I wouldn't even like to try and guess how many hints of colour there are in the fruits, but as they grow and ripen they will transform from small, hard green lumps to delicious, sweet red-skinned orbs that won't last long in my fruit bowl!

Monday, 17 July 2017

Spot the difference

Three images, one subject, two different cameras...

Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Can you tell which of the images was shot with a DSLR and which with a compact camera?

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Pushing the boundaries?

I was fiddling around with one of my cameras this morning, just seeing how it felt in my hand really and trying a few things out. I hadn't had a DSLR in my hands for at least 12 months

It was just after 8:00am, windy, spitting rain. The skies were dark with heavy cloud cover, consequently the light was very flat so not ideal conditions for natural light photography at all. Undaunted, I ventured out into the garden and shot this:

ISO 2000, aperture f5.6, shutter speed 1/400 sec, focal length 300mm, flash did not fire
The camera was hand-held and I tried to focus on the stamen - not too easy given the flower heads were waving about in the wind. Here's another effort:

ISO 2000, aperture f5.6, shutter speed 1/400 sec, focal length 300mm, flash did not fire
The camera settings are a bit extreme for me, I rarely shoot with a film rating above ISO 400 and in the available light conditions I would normally use a tripod or some other form of camera support with a 300mm lens. However this morning's experiment was to see whether I could handle a camera again and I think the answer to that question is a resounding yes! Happy bunny. 😃

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Healing nicely

Just a quick update on my right hand. As of yesterday I'm cast free and as you can see from the image the scar has healed and it appears the internal restructure is healing nicely. I get the impression there will soon be very little external evidence of work having been undertaken.

So now the rehabilitation begins. I have some simple exercises to do, which will help to mobilise the hand/wrist following its six week incarceration. I'll also be attending some physio therapy sessions aimed at rebuilding strength in the wrist and grip and increasing dexterity within the whole hand.

I'm due to see the surgeon again in about two months time so he can monitor my progress and we can discuss getting me returned to his list for work on my left hand.

I won't deny there's currently a certain amount of discomfort as I go through my exercise routine, but that's to be expected at this stage. The really positive thing for me is the relative lack of pain when I ball a fist or close finger to thumb, especially when compared to similar activity of my left hand. I'm really very pleased with the progress so far.