Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Some advice from the Victorians

I love reading books and one that I recently came across is called Aunt Epp’s Guide for Life – Elspeth Marr (1871-1947). It is a sort of journal with a mixture of knowledge, recipes and guidance that is quite refreshing and novel. Some aspects of it show just how worldly the Victorians were …

Here is one saying that caught my eye and I particularly like:

‘Keep active, even when you are ill, if possible, for there are vultures and jackals both within you and without, who take note when the lion lies down to die.’

The book also mentions Lifebouy soap and what it was used for … in the 1950’s or thereabouts Lifebouy or carbolic soap could be bought for just a few pence in a long maroon block. Schools would chop it into small squares for children to wash their hands with before meal times. Hospitals would have it at the washbasins in the wards and mothers would have it in their kitchens. My goodness, in those days their may have been germs but my how we attacked them!

The book is printed by Michael O’Mara Books Limited – ISBN 978-84317-343-4

It is worth checking your local library or book shop … if nothing else then at least take a glance at this lovely ‘old-fashioned’ book.

Aunt Epp's Guide for Life

White strawberry

There is a little known strawberry that comes from South America and has recently been snatched back from the very brink of extinction. It is white and has scarlet red pips and is remarkably beautiful. Unlike its cousin the red strawberry it has a flavour similar to a very mild pineapple and so children find it delicious. The wild plant has been rescued and is now being grown and promoted under another name. It is being offered as a ‘pineberry’ – so if you see it advertised and want to do your bit in promoting this rare plant then why not grow one or two in your garden. They are reputed to be hardy and because they are wild they will flourish year-after-year. All they need is a little space – a garden patch; window box; flowerpot; tub. They tolerate semi-shade so let’s all help this little plant and make it popular and more widely known. If you do see it for sale then please leave a little comment here so that we can spread the information and more of us will be able to grow it to make sure that it is not lost from this planet forever. Thank you.

White Strawberry White strawberry given the new name of pineberry

The Trap

The 21st brought the onset of Spring being noted as the very first day of the season. So it was lovely to find that the frogs had been busy and left bundles of frog spawn. Some of these had adhered to the protective netting that is used across the top of the pond so these little bundles needed to be extricated and allowed to sink into the depths.

Frog spawn - on nettingFrog spawn, trapped on netting 

Frog spawn close-up 21 March - 1st day of Spring Close-up of frog spawn

On the 22nd, the day after finding the frog spawn we counted 47 different frogs either in or surrounding the pond. This is the highest number of frogs we have ever recorded.

Yesterday, for the first time ever we found a frog that had become trapped in the net. She presumably had been laying some more eggs as their were large amounts in clusters near to where we found her. She had poked her head through the gap in the net and had both of her front legs in a gap either side of her but she had twisted them so that the netting held her bound. Somehow she had managed to do the same to both of her rear legs and so she was stretched in a crucifix position. We gently cut the netting around her – freeing first her head then her front limbs, followed by her back legs – before placing her gently back into the water. There is now a hole in the netting once more, which is why we replaced the original netting … at least the frogs can plop in and out of it as well as their entrances around the ponds edges.

The Trap

One of the wildest films that I have ever seen is called ‘The Trap.’ It was made in 1966. Beautifully choreographed against the wild and woody landscapes of Canada it both held and captivated me from the very first opening sequence until the credits began to roll. The story is a fresh change from most of the offerings of today. It stars Oliver Reed and Rita Tushingham, who acts as a young mute girl that is taken into the savage world of the wild Canadian trappers. The Radio Times film description.

The Trap - 1966 The Trap – 1966


I tripped upon this site the other day and thought I would share the secret with you. The idea is that every time you make a purchase you sign on to the site then go through their link this saves you money. Firstly it offers a cashback on every item that you purchase – usually of 3% then it also compiles voucher offers for different companies. The two are added together and the voucher is redeemed off the price immediately whilst the cashback is held in your account for one month before you can retrieve it. The site has been operational since the mid 1990’s and is growing both in members and also companies that are joining its ranks. So far I have tested it out just once and was impressed by how easy and smoothly purchasing an item was. I was able to retrieve both the voucher of 10% plus the 3% cashback … I only wished I had discovered this site years ago … This is one site that is really worth checking out ……………

Quidco Link …





March on to Spring …

The days are stuttering on to Spring with very small signs that the year is progressing onwards at a furious rate. Here are the only representations from the flower kingdom that are currently flowering in my garden.

Yellow crocus. Yellow Crocus

Dwarf daffodilDwarf Daffodil 

Double primula Double Primula

Wild primrose - struggling up through the groundWild Primrose struggling up through the soil with no sign of either buds or flowers


Over the years clothes pegs have changed. The early ‘Dolly Pegs’ made from one piece of wood were replaced with two pieces of wood joined together with a spring. When these were first produced it was considered to be a wonderful invention by the housewife and laundry maid. The wood used was good quality beech that had been well-seasoned, was hard and firm and didn’t split or break easily. Sadly, it appears that most wooden clothes pegs today are made from soft wood with weak, soft, thin springs.

In the Eighteenth Century and for most of the Nineteenth Century washing would be thrown over bushes to dry but when the ‘Dolly Peg’ and variations of these became available then the washing line was used not only in preference but also with much enthusiasm.

Dolly Pegs should always be soaked in cold water over night and allowed to dry naturally in the sunlight to not only lighten them but to also strengthen them. It is wise to add a drop or two of bleach to take out the natural dye that lingers on the fresh wood so that washing will not be marked by the pegs. My Grandma and Mother reminded me quite often to remember to soak my pegs over night … I have never forgotten their advice.

Dolly Pegs Dolly Pegs

Late 1950's early 1960's Clothes PegsLate 1950’s early 1960’s Clothes Pegs

1960-1970's Clothes Pegs 1960’s – 1970’s Clothes Pegs

Large Russian Storm Clothes Pegs - one normal clothes peg for size reference Large Russian Storm Clothes Pegs – one 1990’s normal size Clothes Peg at the top for size reference

I think out of all of the clothes pegs that I have had then those that were available in the 1960’s and 1970’s were the most reliable for holding washing firmly on the line in all weather conditions.


It is the Ides of March today. It was well known years ago that the Ides often brought some kind of change be it either good or bad. Julius Caesar is said to have been warned by a fortune teller or as they used to be called a seer that his life would be in danger on the Ides of March – it is claimed that Caesar laughed it off – but before March 16th Julius Caesar lay dead … murdered.

There is an Ides in every month – October, March,  May and July are all the fifteenth day of the month whilst other months the Ides are the thirteenth day of the month. During these days always look out for changes, closures, events, memorable happenings – it’s surprising how often that they occur during the Ides of the month!

Ides of March Ides of March


Today is Mothering Sunday – so ‘Happy Mother’s Day’ to Mothers everywhere. In the Midlands Mothers are often called Mom, whilst in the North of England, Scotland and Northern Ireland they are given the name Mam. The South of England would say that they called their Mothers Mum but the vowels of Londoners are either shortened, lengthened or completely lost so the ear picks up a million splendid variations. Some would say Ma and the Upper Crust supposedly Mater but at least everyone recognises the name that we all call Mother.

My own Mother is long since gone but I still thank her for the beautiful gift of life that she has given to me. For all of her struggles and heartaches; her tender touches; her scolds to keep me safe; her hugs and her kisses; her warm arms that rocked me; her sureness; the nursery rhymes that she would tell me until she was almost hoarse; her beautiful stories; the wonderful memories; her sweet smell; the manners that she taught me; the guide to life that she gave to me; the conversations we had; every precious minute that I spent with her … I am so grateful that she was my Mother.

Once I had a Mother;

    Beautiful was she.

She would kiss me on my ear

    And hug and tickle me.



Sweet LilyLarge Pink Oriental Lily 

Lily Sweet FragranceLily – large and sweet fragrance

Kite flying

I first saw a Red Kite a few years ago whilst on holiday near Mount Snowdon in Wales. They were hypnotic as they soared gracefully in the clear blue sky. They appeared to climb higher and higher and at times became dark moving spots in the skyline. They were one of the most common of birds during Elizabethan times and all through our Medieval history. During these periods they were noted for their scavenging tendencies and would pick at the rubbish that had been deposited in city streets. As the country became cleaner so the kites became scarcer. Eventually they returned to their hunting skills to survive and are now tenacious predators taking lizards, amphibians, invertebrates, rodents, medium and large birds. They leave both chicks and small song birds alone. The female is the larger of the two measuring 24 inches whilst her consort measures a mere 22 inches.

Here are two Red Kites in courtship flying above my home in Worcestershire.

Red Kites - soaring in courtship Red Kites soaring in courtship

Red Kites - high in the skyRed Kites high in the sky 

Pair of Red Kites flying in courtshipPair of Red Kites flying in courtship


After losing one of my goldfish apparently to a heron, I thought it was time to change the ‘safety net’ that we keep stretched over the pond. There was a tear near to the centre of the pond by where the fountain stood. This may have given a predator an opportunity to take a fish or two. All of the other fish have been accounted for bar the missing goldfish Muffin.

The new net is a much finer mesh than the original one giving a greater visibility to all the inhabitants of the pond.


hole in the netHole in the net

Little prayer

Don’t clone me when I’m done,

I am the only one.

God broke the mould when he made me;

So when I’m gone, I’m gone.


Awaiting Spring 2010

Always remember that there is nothing as precious as an individual. No matter who you are be yourself. We are all different and meant to be that way. That is why life is so rich and interesting. If we were all the same what a very boring place this heavenly planet might be.

Muffin topped

Spring will open its doors on the 21st of the month which means that Spring cleaning both inside and out is essential. The first place we usually begin with is the pond. It has spluttered and gurgled all over the Winter period as the fountain has pushed up the water through the ice, snow, wind and rain. The fish do not exactly hibernate but do spend a great deal of their time apparently dozing motionless or slowly swirling about swimming in an hypnotic daze that could sway a cobra into a trance.

All of the plants have to be removed and rinsed well to dispatch them of the blanket weed which slowly smothers them during the Winter months. Their shapes are hidden like barnacle covered shipwrecks by late Winter and although the fish will eat the blanket weed - they much prefer to lunch on the oxygenating varieties of plants that float about on their skyline. This is also the time when the bottom of the pond needs to be checked and decomposing leaves removed. It’s also a perfect time to make sure that the fish all look healthy …

This is when we first realised that -

one of our fish is missing! It is the beautiful, fat, large headed goldfish that we called ‘Muffin’. There is no sign of him … not even a bone!

We keep a net over the pond to protect the fish and this was left firmly in place all over the Autumn and Winter months … but something has apparently managed to get under the mesh and take away this lovely fish. We are still left wondering whether or not it was a heron.

Muffin the goldfish Muffin the goldfish

Golden orf - Comet and Muffin the Goldfish

Mr Mann

Here is a lovely poem that it is believed to be dedicated to a lovely gentleman by the name of Mr Mann of Worcestershire:

 Mr Mann

*  *   *   *  *

For those who wish to copy and share it – here it is in straight type:

Mr Mann

I once met a fat man, the kindest man I knew; He was always very happy and - never, ever blue. His eyes they always twinkled in a merry sort of way - And his smile lit a room up on the most depressing day. His temperament was placid, his beauty lay within; His door always open, he'd welcome you right in. Remember when you see him to offer him a wave; Say 'hello,' 'how are you?' you know how to behave. One day you could be like him - born in another life; You may be fat and jolly so don't pierce him with your knife. We all come from the heavens and all end up as dust; All like a good wine that's created from the must. Be wise, tolerant, kind and true to everyone you meet.... For - that fat person some day may be you people pass by in the street! Anon

The month of wind

They say that March sees the windmills sail and the kites fly. It is also the month of opposites. Whichever way the month begins it will end in a totally different way. If it is rough, violent and wet it will end calm, sunny and dry.

March is named after the Roman God of War ~ Mars – no wonder it is often such a volatile month!

There is an affectionate saying from the past regarding the month of March:

“March is the month of gusts and rusts.”

It is often the case that something will begin to go rusty in the month of March for the very first time … so it is the month to make careful inspection of anything made of metal.

Rusty nailsRusty nails