Who ever said making preserves was an Autumn occupation? This year we started in July with the first batch of Plum jam and continued through to mid November. 

For the last few months our kitchen has been on a seemingly endless cycle of coring, peeling and slicing apples: spicy apple jam; pickled apples; frozen apples; stewed apples; apple and tomato chutney, apple and tomato soup. Apple strudel, apple crumble, apple juice and just plain, fresh apples have added a desert course to our evening


We recently assisted a Mexican migrant enter the UK and settle in Staffordshire. The migrant left Mexico in November 2019 and spent 8 months in California. Several earlier attempts, including via the Netherlands, to get her into the UK failed because coronavirus disrupted the travel routes. When she eventually arrived she  had to spend a mere 24 hours in quarantine and that was only due only to a mistake in the paperwork, otherwise she would have been waved through. She has been granted


The recent upsurge in the Black Lives Matter campaign reminded me of the time we met civil rights campaigner Annie Pearl Avery at her Ancient Africa, Enslavement and Civil War museum in Selma, Alabama. It was only three days after a far right white supremacsist had killed Heather Heyer in Charlottesville as she demonstrated against a Unite the Right rally and with Trump seemingly emboldening such racists (a view now supported by the data), the importance of Annie Pearl's project couldn't have


It's Monday. The Webmaster's discarded clothes from yesterday are on the bedroom floor, next to the laundry basket.  The basket is empty, the contents dumped on the utility room floor the previous night. "We have a laundry basket" I shout. He's in the next room tapping away on his keyboard and letting out large, loud sighs. "Yeah, OK," he calls back, signalling his total ignorance of what I'd said.

"So why don't you use it?" 

"I've found the problem but it's a bastard to fix."


After a cold, wet, windy and bleak winter which saw floods in many parts of the country and waterlogged gardens in many more, this week has given us a taste of what we can only hope will be brighter days ahead. With the current coronavirus pandemic and the fear of its effects and consequences stalking many of us anything to bring cheer and distraction had to be welcome. 

Each February since I retired and began to pursue the good life my house begins to fill with seed trays. This year has been no exception, albeit with a greater degree of organisation and a little more technology as I attempt to learn the lessons from previous years. So each morning for the last four weeks I have done the rounds to check on my gradually enlarging collection of seeds and seedlings. Which needed watering? Which should stay in the propagator or on the heat mats and which should be


I was in Syria for only one week in 1993. A long time ago.  Every time I transcribe another section of the diary I kept for that week in 1993 I am saddened. I wonder what happened to the people I met. The children I saw then may be scattered refugees now, or grieving the loss of their own children or struggling to keep them safe and warm. Something I can say and know but which I struggle to understand. 

Over the last month, while the dismal weather limited activities in the garden and the dog preferred to lie curled up with his nose under his tail rather than venture out for a walk, I distracted myself with family history research. I started building the family tree of my daughters more than twenty years ago, and over that time many names have been added to it: some famous, most not. 

It's coming up to the 2nd anniversary of my retirement and already I can't imagine going back to work, or at least working for someone else. All those cliches are right. Retired people are so busy they can't understand how they ever had enough time to work.

Now Boris Johnson is off to find a ditch we may still have time to finish upgrading the insulation and replacing the storage floor in our loft before he delivers Brexit, although personally I hope he never does.

Late last year I needed to climb in to the attic to retrieve a couple of old suitcases. The attic is poorly lit and dividing walls and narrow walkways make it difficult to move around. To reach the suitcases I had to wobble past the water tanks, climb over a one metre high dividing wall and jump down into the boarded area where the "junk of ages" is stored. As I approached with only the dim light from my headlamp and its drained batteries I could hear a distinct buzzing. 

As I reached for the


The local common where we walk our dog is known as 'Marshes Hill'. My grandmother used to claim it belonged to our family once upon a time, before it was lost to another family through death and a second marriage. For years I could find no evidence of any such connection despite easily tracing my Marsh family ancestors to the local area. Earlier this year I finally found probate documents showing that in the early nineteenth century one of my Marsh great-grandfathers occupied property -


I didn't know it was a thing, but there are apps which introduce people who like looking after dogs to people who need someone to look after their dog for a few hours or days. 

But I do now. The former Student has signed up to one to earn herself a bit of extra cash and she is doing a reasonably brisk trade. 

I was worried about it at first. A succession of strange dogs coming to stay in my house. What if they pee on the floor or chew up my precious belongings? What if they don't get on with my dog


It's raining again. Looking at the weather forecast it will be overcast and wet until the end of the week, so instead of out working in my garden I'm sitting in front of my computer typing this.

It's my second year of gardening since I retired and I've been a lot more ambitious this year than last; my expectations are higher and my disappointments more acute. Last year my attitude was, well I tried, I'll find out what I did wrong and avoid repeating the problem next year. This year I'm trying


Doesn't time fly when you're fighting against Brexit? Well, here we are in the middle of April and two Brexit days have come and gone and the Brexit mess is no nearer a conclusion. Now we have the European Parliamentary elections to look forward to next month. I hope all the psychologists are ready to cope with the country suffering a mass attack of cognative disonance when they turn out to vote to elect the unelected dictators.

But then again, Brexit has already driven most of the country