Packing it in!

Ah yes! The days before luggage restrictions!Packing is a bit of an art form. You’re either a natural, or you’re not. I confess to not being the world’s best packer. I start off with my empty suitcase yawning in front of me, huge and cavernous – loads of room! With careless ease, I place clothes and shoes inside – and then suddenly… it’s full! At which point I discover I haven’t got in half of what I need to take, so pull it all out and start again… after about the fourth attempt I am hot and bothered and end up cramming everything in and have to ask Richard to lean on the suitcase lid as I battle to secure it! Oh dear, Joanna, must try harder.

Like a lot of art forms you can, of course, train yourself to improve your skills and I was intrigued to read a How it should be done…list of ‘top packing tips’ online. Some of them are so very sensible (and obvious!) I can’t think why I hadn’t used them before! Anyway, here’s my selection of the best ones that I hope you might find useful…

  • If you can manage with a carry-on, do it. Try taking half of the things you need and twice the money. You can make buying a few new items a fun part of the adventure.
  • Pack a sleeping mask and earplugs. These can be very handy on a plane, train or in your hotel room.
  • Capitalise on empty suitcase space and roll your clothes, instead of folding them. Stuff socks, underwear, and accessories inside your shoes.
  • Keep a sarong or pashmina in your carry-on. They can be used as a blanket on the plane, a scarf, or a shawl on an evening out.
  • … how it is more often done!Kitchen sandwich bags can be used to hold your accessories, vacuum pack bags can be space savers, and bin bags have multiple uses (laundry bag, shoe covers).
  • If you are travelling as a couple, it is a good idea to split your clothes between two suitcases on the off chance one of them gets lost during the flight.
  • Bring a multi-socket extension lead. Although newer hotels have USB ports in rooms, it’s best to have an extra outlet to charge all of your electronics at once. This is very important if you need to work on your laptop or phone, as I often do, and (thankfully!) one of the tasks I leave to Richard!
  • Make photocopies before leaving home. If you’re travelling out of the country, make two photocopies of your passport.
  • Use your smartphone to take pictures of your car in the airport’s car park and do the same for your luggage and its contents in case it gets lost. So simple – and something I will definitely be doing… no more wandering around Bristol airport car parks at 3am wondering where we left the car!
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A fun card that’s simple and effective!

I thought this card might make a change – it’s not feminine, glamorous or tricky to make. It’s possibly the simplest card I have made in a long time. But Emily, my 23 year old daughter, absolutely loved it and said she would treasure it.

The scuba diver came from our Signature die range and the exotic seabed came from Googling ‘underwater scene’. I made sure that it contained a turtle (her favourite) and then printed it out to about 7” x 5”. It was then matted and layered onto pink and yellow card to reflect the colours in the seascape.

All onto an 8” x 8” card I had handy and then cut down to size as it was a rectangular picture rather than square. The diver was attached with double sided tape as I was in a hurry to post and Pinflair needs to dry. I used a tape dispenser and just covered as much of the diver as I could – remarkably easy I have to say.

And there it was done! I posted it in a hard backed manila envelope for a bit of extra protection having added a black silhouette diver inside and some nice words. Just the kind of card I knew she would love and a simple but effective design!

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Mini marvels!

Top: Bekonscot, a fantastic world in miniature! Centre: The famous house on fire which, now I come to thnk about it looks worryingly like Victoria Farm! Bottom: No detail is too small…When I was a child growing up in Buckinghamshire, one of my absolute favourite days out was a trip to the nearby model village of Bekonscot, near Beaconsfield. It seemed such an entirely perfect world to me, I would spend hours crouched down, peering in through the windows of the houses or watching the train come past again and again. I never tired of it!

What is our fascination with things in miniature? A friend of mine seemed to spend almost all her early years hunched over her dolls’ house, my brother was besotted with his train set, while another friend had a Britains model farm which I was rather envious of! I am guessing our fascination comes from being able to create a world just as we want it, and that we have control over, something we rarely get to do in real life. And as we get older of course it becomes a huge nostalgia trip too. 

Even in these days of computers, smart phones and CGI, I was delighted to discover that about 160,000 people a year still visit Bekonscot – I just hope they aren’t all people of my age, and that it includes plenty of youngsters! It is a1930s-styled village, with around 200 buildings, including a house on fire and an operational coal mine.

There’s also a model of ‘Green Hedges’, the home of Famous Five and Noddy author Enid Blyton – don’t get me started on the Famous Five or we’ll be here all year! Generally accepted as the world’s first model village, Bekonscot opened in 1929 when Roland Callingham – under strict instructions from his wife – moved his model railway from his home to a neighbouring garden. How wonderfully British!

Surprisingly, the UK is home to over 30 miniature villages, ranging from hobbyists creating their own tiny worlds in their gardens, to big tourist attractions employing professional engineers.

Babbacombe, just down the road from me here in Devon is a grand affair with its new fishing village being a mix of three real villages in Devon and Cornwall. It is home to what was the world’s smallest working television, as well as a miniature Stonehenge and a fire-breathing dragon! It opened in 1963 and it still attracts 150,000 visitors a year, wonderful!

But Babbacombe will never be as dear to my heart as Bekonscot because I never knew it as a child. And in a An amazingly detailed Britains model farm garden.way, I think that answers my query on why we like miniature things so much… it’s all about our happy childhood memories!

Did you visit a model village when you were young? Did you have a dolls’ house – or do you still have one?! Come on, tell me your memories – such fun!

 

 

 

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Seaside memories – help the National Trust celebrate caring for our coast!

Sand between my toes, shivering (and slightly terrified!) in the waves and enjoying a fast-melting ice cream – just a few of my cherished childhood memories of seaside holidays! This year, The National Trust is celebrating 50 years of caring for the coast with the Coastal Festival. It is collecting stories from people who love the coast and are asking them to take part by answering seven coastal questions and then posting their answers on their blog or Facebook page.

So, here are my seven answers.

Teignmouth Beach… complete with groynes!1. What’s your favourite beach?

Now remember we are talking about British beaches here, I will pipe down about Caribbean sand(!). I think my favourite has to be my closest as that’s where we have built so many memories. Teignmouth beach has a lovely long promenade and so has been useful for newly walking babies, elderly folks who can’t walk far and dogs that need to use up some energy!

2. Sea or sand?

I like damp, firm sand, but the kind that gets in your sandwiches … mmm not so much! So I’ll go for sea.

3. Tell a memory of being by the sea.

I have happy memories of my girls playing on the beach but the most amusing was probably Emily when she was little, bouncing along the beach with Richard until they got to a wooden breaker water – I think the official name is groyne … but anyway a strip of wood that runs up the beach to help keep the sand in place etc. They were both running and jumping, they ran up to it, jumped over it … but, unfortunately, the level the other side was three feet lower and it was full of water … so they had an early bath that day!

Ah, the good old 99!4. What’s your favourite seaside food?

Favourite seaside food … ooh what to choose? Fish and chips or a 99…? Hard choice, can I have one of each please? 

5. Favourite ice cream flavour?

As this is talking about the seaside I will restrict the range to choose from (ie skip all the Ben and Jerry ones on my list!) and I would say coffee followed by chocolate – but to be honest, if you are offering I’ll be thrilled with any of them

6. Have you lived by the sea?

Does three miles from the beach and one mile to a panoramic vista across the coast count? I would love to live actually on the edge of the beach (assuming I had double glazing) I think a sea view is wonderful.

Fossils on fascinating Lyme Regis beach.7. Favourite place on the coast?

I chose Teignmouth for my favourite beach so I don’t think I would choose it a second time and I would probably opt for Lyme Regis as there are such exciting fossils to entertain the children with – happy memories.

I’d love to hear your memories too, and so would the National Trust! It asks that you take part now with 7 questions tag – coast facts. Post with answers on your blog or Facebook page and then tag 7 friends or bloggers. 

 

 

 

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Kitty Jay’s grave – the making of a Dartmoor legend

Hound TorThere is a very pretty drive that I enjoy up over Dartmoor that is especially lovely just now with primroses and gorse in flower. It takes you down winding narrow lanes and then up over wild stretches of moorland, and past some of the best know tors such as Haytor and Hound Tor. Abount a mile from Hound Tor, I always glance to my left as we go past a small junction to check that there are flowers on the grave… and there always are! This is Jay’s Grave (or Kitty Jay’s grave), supposedly the last resting place of a young woman who is thought to have died in the late 18th century. It has become a well-known landmark and is the subject of local folklore, and several ghost stories…

Since it was first set down in the late 19th century, the story attached to the grave has changed and been greatly embellished, as these things so often are. An early newspaper account of the discovery of the grave appears in the North Devon Journal for 23 January 1851, under ‘County Intelligence’: 

Kitty Jay’s grave, complete with flowers, when I drove past earlier this month…“In the parish of Manaton, near Widdecombe on the moor while some men in the employ of James Bryant, Esq. of Prospect, at his seat, Hedge Barton, were removing some accumulations of way soil, a few days since, they discovered what appeared to be a grave. On further investigation, they found the skeleton of a body, which proved from enquiry to be the remains of Ann Jay, a woman who hung herself some three generations since in a barn at a place called Forder, and was buried at Four Cross Lane, according to the custom of that enlightened age.”

There are numerous other reports, with the name changing from Betty Kay to Mary Jay and then Kitty Jay. But the unchanging fact is that it is the body of a young woman who took her own life in tragic, if sadly predictable, circumstances.

As told by one ‘Granny Caunter’ the sorry tale was:

“Mary Jay was the poor maid’s name. I heard my mother tell of it, when I was a li’l maid. Her was an orphan from the workhouse, ‘prenticed to Barracott Farm between Manaton and Heatree. One day, when her was quite young, her tooked a rope and went to the barn there on the Manaton Road, and hanged herself from a beam. Her was quite dead when the farmer found her. Us reckoned ’twas the same old story – a young man, who wadn’t no gude to her, poor maid.”

HaytorBy 1965 Jay’s Grave had become a major Dartmoor attraction, with tourist coaches stopping there while the driver related his own version of the story. The mysterious appearance of fresh flowers upon the grave was always mentioned. 

Recent versions of the legend include embellishments such as the orphaned baby being taken into the Poor House in Newton Abbot where she was given the name Mary Jay. She sometimes acquires the name Kitty after being sent to Canna Farm as a teenage apprentice. In one version she is wronged by a local farmhand, in another, she finds romance with the farmer’s son. Either way she becomes pregnant which results in her being thrown out of the farm. Such is her shame and despair that she hangs herself in a barn, or perhaps from the great kitchen fireplace lintel, or else she drowns herself in a shallow pool.

It is said that the three local parishes of Widecombe-in-the-Moor, North Bovey and Manaton all refused to bury her body within consecrated ground, so she was buried at a crossroads, which was standard practice for suicide victims at the time.

There are always fresh flowers on the grave, but how they get there is the subject of local folklore – some claim they are placed there by pixies. By 2007 the placing of flowers had expanded into all sorts of offerings: coins, candles, shells, small crosses and toys. Motorists, passing at night, claim to have glimpsed ghostly figures in their headlights, others report seeing a dark, hooded figure kneeling there.

All I know is that whenever I have driven past, and that is quite a few times in the past 25 years or so… there are always fresh flowers there. So who knows, perhaps it is the Dartmoor pixies looking after the poor girl… 

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