Tuesday, 30 September 2008

book review...

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon.

Christopher is 15. He lives in Swindon with his father and Toby, his pet rat and knows "all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,507". He abhors all yellow and brown things, thinks he would make a good astronaut, and has never been further than the end of the road on his own until his discovery of the "murder" of his neighbour's dog turns him into an amateur detective.

Mark Haddon uses Christophers condition to show adult behaviours through the eyes of an autistic child. It is simple, effective and at times very frustrating for the reader who 'feels' for how Christopher is treated by people who simply do not understand or have time for him. It also highlights beautifully the confusing lives that adults lead! On the day he is told his mother is dead, he records his Scrabble score, and notes that supper was spaghetti with tomato sauce. But he isn't callous or indifferent. He can cope with facts, with concrete detail; emotions confuse and alarm him.

Charlotte Moore of the Guardian Newspaper says "Autistic people are not easy subjects for novelists. Their interests are prescribed, their experiences static, their interaction with others limited. Haddon ingeniously uses Christopher's admiration for Sherlock Holmes to lead him out of this stasis, not to effect some miraculous "cure", but so that a story can happen. Detective fiction, relying on the accumulation of material facts, is the only fiction that makes sense to Christopher. As he collects facts relating to the death of the dog, he unwittingly pieces together a jigsaw that reveals to the reader the lies, grief and evasions of his parents' lives."

Christopher's innocence makes him vulnerable, but it protects him too and at times I felt so emotional reading the book I just had to carry on and finish it! The book is sad, but also full of humour in the situation and observations of Christopher, such as when he observed his special needs classmates!

I loved this book and hope you did too? Please tell me what you thought of it by posting a comment...

Monday, 29 September 2008

we have no time to stand and stare...

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?

No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Leisure by W. H. Davies

Sunday, 28 September 2008

curry, cardigans and candlelight...

I have had such a lovely birthday and to top it off we managed a grown up night! an evening with some lovely friends, dining outdoors {yes in September!} under the stars!

a homemade thai curry and pilau rice, with sag paneer, naan bread and popadoms - yum! Just remember - don't tie up your tea lights with string, which is apparantly quite flammable, as it burned through, sending hot wax all over the table - looked good while it lasted though!

Saturday, 27 September 2008

birthday cake...

I love birthdays! this year's was made even more special with a surprise birthday cake from jenny, a spa treatment here and a birthday tea made especially for me by Alfie.

I am not one to be bothered by age and as I notch up another year, I notice that this year I do look older, I have laughter lines and look tired. The result of motherhood and lack of sleep and a year of worry at work. But I am sure for each line I have, it has been etched through tears and laughter (sometimes at the same time!) and like a tree adding a ring to its trunk, my face will reflect the joys and challenges that my journey holds before me.

Friday, 26 September 2008

nature club: making birdseed biscuits

there are plenty of seeds and fruits on the trees for birds at this time of year, but as it gets colder and the trees shed their leaves, we start to think about putting seed out to supplement the birds natural diet as winter sets in.

Making bird seed biscuits is a fun way to engage children with feeding birds, all you need is butter, flour and bird seed and make as if you were making biscuits. You put a hole through the middle before baking so that you can hang your biscuits up.

alternately you can make these in yogurt pots with some melted fat and seeds, pop them in the fridge to harden, again making sure you pop some string through, so that you can turn out of the pot and hang up your own fat ball!

They also make great gifts to bird loving friends and family!

Thursday, 25 September 2008

look what I've grown!

look what I've grown! , originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw.

and still our supply of courgettes continues from just one plant! Luckily we love courgettes and eat them fried in a little butter. They taste green and of summer, picking them from the plant before quickly cooking and serving within minutes. Food cannot get any fresher, tastier and without less food miles!

It makes me sad when I hear of children who don't grow vegetables and have the simple pleasure of watching their own seeds grow into things they can eat! This is why allotments, community farms and school grounds are so so important.

We have still heard nothing from our local council after requesting an allotment facility for our village, it has been two months now!

still waiting, emma x

p.s. guess who is playing rugby now?

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

flip flops in the rain...

these last few days have given us spells of bright sunshine and I have been wearing my flip flops! Today I knew it was a step too far as my toes got wet and cold in the rain! uurrrh it really must be Autumn and no amount of flaunting my toes is going to stop nature! In fact it just doesn't seem right to crunch leaves in flip flops at all does it? - it really is an activity best practised in boots! I tend to swing from flip flops to boots and never really do shoes at all. Oh well best put them away until next Spring - oh how far away that sounds!

Sunday, 21 September 2008

playing shop...

this was one of my favourite childhood games, playing shop and I love that my boys want to play too. We cleared out the treehouse and put the shop inside. We chose all the small stuff out of the cupboards {small cereal boxes, tea, baking powder, raisins and spices} to fit on the shelves.

We had shopping baskets and real money and even a queue! We had so much fun we may branch out and open a coffee shop too tomorrow!

Thursday, 18 September 2008


I love breakfasts; porridge on a cold morning, a fully cooked english breakfast {fried bread, eggs, beans, tomato, mushrooms, sausage and bacon}, a bowl of museli, croissants or some mushrooms on toast for brunch straight after buying them from the farmer's market on a Saturday morning, accompanied by a hot cup of tea (above).

I am not however, a morning person and given the choice would rather have breakfast a little later to enjoy at my leisure rather than the speedy ritual it has become as I prefer to spend every last moment in bed!

What's your favourite breakfast?

Wednesday, 17 September 2008

this is me...

... in front of the camera! I hate having my picture taken, but for the first time in an age I stood in front of it all smiley and happy {as I was at the circus} - but forgetting to set the distance on the lomo so I am all blurry - doh! the joys of an old film camera! oh well, better luck next time!

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

crumble time of year...

Some foraging in hedgerows for blackberries inspired some Sunday evening crumble cooking, with the usual excited hands everywhere approach {seen above}, who says "too many cooks spoil the broth?"

Our recipe for Fruit Crumble is as follows...

1lb (450g) apples, rhubarb, gooseberries, damsons, plums, blackberries or blackcurrants
3-4 oz (75-100g) natural sugar - depending upon sharpness of fruit
6oz (175g) wholemeal flour
3oz (75g) butter
2oz (50g) caster sugar
1oz (25g) porridge oats

1. prepare fruit according to type. Put into a 1.1 litre (2 pint) overproof dish in layers with natural sugar.
2. Sift flour into a bowl. Rub butter into flour until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Stir in sugar and oats - we like oats so always tip in more than the recipe says!
3. Sprinkle crumble thickly and evenly over fruit.
4. Press down lightly with palm of hand then smooth top with knife.
5. Bake at 190oC (375oF) Mark 5 for 15 mins, REduce to 180oC (350oF) Mark 4 for a further 45 minutes or until top is lightly brown.

serve with lashings of custard or cream, yum!

Saturday, 13 September 2008

launching a virtual book group...

It is the national year of reading this year and I have only just caught onto this fact! Apparantly the two groups less likely to read are teenage boys and mothers of small children. Phew, being the mother of small children I have an excuse and can justify my only reading material; recipe books, a skimmed sunday newspaper, children's books (on which I could write a thesis!) and my guilty pleasure - gossip magazines in the hairdressers - where I can be heard to ask for "only the most trashy please!"

Being an only child I loved books growing up as they were both good entertainment if you have no one else to play with but also exposed me to world's that I could only dream about. I read most books, but my main passion was Enid Blyton, the adventures, the close families and friends, a world that was so simple, when my world wasn't. In fact my ambition for many years was to go to boarding school like Darrell in Malory Towers and eat anchovies on toast!

As I am also the mother of two small boys I am trying to instill the same passion and respect for books that my mum did in me. They always have books at bed time and regulary read throughout the day and we have a bookcase packed full of fantastic books, so I hope that whilst they will be teenage boys, they will always read!

So to buck the statistical trend of mothers who don't read - I have decided to launch a 'virtual book' group here today - I know a few people are regular readers of this blog and am hoping that one or two of you will join with me too? I will list a book for the month to read and then in the comments section we can share thoughts and feedback on whether we enjoyed it or not? People who have already read the book are also welcome to comment and recommend future reads too.

The book to read for September is 'The Curious Incident of the Dog in the night-time" by Mark Haddon. This is technically a children's book but is one of those books that also appeals to adults and has even been published with an adult cover as well! It is the story of Christopher who has a photographic memory. He understands maths. He understands science. What he can't understand are other human beings. When he finds his neighbour's dog lying dead on the lawn, he decides to track down the killer and write a murder mystery about it. But what other mysteries will he end up covering? - I have chosen this as it is a book that is easy to read for busy people of all ages! Let me know what you think...?

run away with me to the circus and let's dine under the stars...

I am a huge fan of Giffords Circus, which tours the Cotswolds every summer. I have only ever been in the daytime with children, but last night we went in the evening and stayed for the meal afterwards... which was amazing. This is their last venue of the year and the weather was wet and the ground muddy, but inside the crowd cheered and the performers gave so much energy and enthusiasm, it was great and so nice to watch without a child sitting on my lap so I could clap, cheer and belly laugh to my hearts content!

The restaurant - circus sauce was amazing, you dine together on long tables, laid out with matching Emma Bridgewater crockery, sharing huge platters of seasonal food. The kitchen is in one of the Showmans waggons and then the dining area is under an attached tarpaulin. I just can't wait until next year!

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

camper love in the shop

camper love in the shop , originally uploaded by Emma Bradshaw.

I am adding new stock to the shop over the next month or so. So that can display a selection of my work and offer prints of my or your favourite photographs for sale.

The latest to be added is a set of these two camper van shots of Prudence the camper van, inside and out. Taken on my vintage Polaroid camera and printed out 5 x 5 square on matt paper.

I love square prints - the world is too standardised with 6 x 4 or 7 x 5 all the time so I love that Polaroid aids my breaking of the rectangle rule!

Sunday, 7 September 2008

the photo trade...

really hard subject for the photo trade this month - still life. Where oh where to begin and where to get inspiration. I took many Polaroids that I am just not happy with and will therefore not trade {apart from with my bin!}. I accidentally took this - these are the items I was trying to take a picture of individually, that I had put all together on a table, but I quite like them all together in a collection! So this is the one that will being posted shortly.

Saturday, 6 September 2008

River Cottage Festival 2008...

The forecast was awful; heavy rain and flood warnings, but when we arrived thankfully there was blue sky, at least for an hour or so... Pictured above is River Cottage HQ at Park Farm, look how the pathways have turned into streams!

For readers not familiar with Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (above) or the River Cottage brand, I'm not going to harp on instead refer to his website here, but will say, he is an absolute hero in my and millions of chickens eyes! He has also written many a good cookbook my current favourite being the River Cottage Family Cookbook.

The festival was a great showcase of the values of River Cottage, self-sufficiency, food integrity, and the consumption of local, seasonal produce and was packed with local producers and yummy food - although the cider had run out by 2pm before we even sampled any!

Friday, 5 September 2008

wildlife under threat...

this beautiful scene is under threat from a nearby canal development. This woodland is home to a population of the threatened dormouse, as well as otter. To redevelop a canal BIG diggers would need ro drive down here with dump trucks and many trees would be removed, meaning that dormice wouldn't be able to use the connecting tree canopy.

This development is controversial as it is very costly - over £20 million, tax payers money will be used, as I understand the original canal never held water - deep bore holes were drilled to replenish the leaks and 100 years later the water table is now lower than it used to be and anyway the canal was soon superceeded by the railway. Joining up two great rivers will also mean that non-native species such as the signal crayfish (present throughout the Upper Thames catchment) will be able to use these new water courses to predate the native white clawed crayfish.

It is argued that there are socio-economic gains to be made for regeneration, such as tourism for example, but at what cost and where will it stop? Wildlife needs protecting and we must make sure that scenes like the one above aren't lost forever...

Thursday, 4 September 2008

the joy of puddles...

My main philosophy when bringing up boys is to exercise them daily, remembering the mantra "there is no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes!", and I make sure I find the BIGGEST puddles and stand well back in the process. Then they will happily splash about entertaining themselves until hypothermia sets in!

My two are at their most happiest when they are covered from head to toe in mud, leaving you with the only option of striping them down to their pants to either cross the front door or get in the car! - this they find very amusing as you try to get all of their wet clothes off, whilst not getting yourself, the car or the house very dirty - I personally think this should be an Olympic sport! I cannot imagine having children who just don't like or are not allowed to get dirty!

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

nature necklace...

if you are going on a nature walk, why don't you make a nature necklace to remember your walk by? All you need is some string and some eagle eyes, to spot leaves, feathers, seeds, cones and sticks to adorn your necklace.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

back to school, back to nature

extract from a piece I have recently had published here...

It’s that time again when children go back to school, dressed in new uniform and stiff new shoes. But do you know much about the National Curriculum? Do you know what your children or grandchildren are learning at school? And would you be shocked if we were to tell you that environmental education is no longer a compulsory part of the national curriculum? Emma Bradshaw of Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust takes a closer look at the education system and what you can do to make sure your children have access to nature’s playground…

I was shocked recently when I received an email asking me to sign a petition to put environmental education back on the curriculum, as despite having a child at school I hadn’t realised it wasn’t a compulsory element and hasn’t been for ten years now. Teaching about the environment comes under the other subject headings of geography, science and personal, social and health education and according to curriculum guidelines can even be taught via a CD ROM. How it is delivered is entirely up to the teacher and what resources they have available, some children may have access to wildlife gardens and vegetable plots, but others with very limited school grounds may have no grass, gardens or fields at all!

I then read an article from the USA about how parental influence is threatening childhood, through not allowing children to roam as far as we did when growing up through our own fears and misconceptions, as it is statistically safer for children to play outside now than it was 20 years ago. Have the days of wandering the countryside like the characters in Swallows and Amazons or the Famous Five really gone? Climbing trees, making go-carts, coming home at dark in time for tea, with no access to mobile phones and chat rooms!

We are already seeing the effects of this change in society as childhood obesity increases, children have TVs and computers in their rooms rendering them immobile and school playing fields are built on with new houses.

So why is environmental education so important?

Experiencing the natural environment promotes a sense of awe and wonder in most young children, and reduces any innate fearfulness of the unknown and strange. “Learning in the outdoors is often felt by the children to be more fun than classroom learning. Repeated enjoyable learning experiences in the outdoors develops their respect for all living things and an awareness of the interconnectedness of the natural world with people. From this comes an understanding of the effects on the environment of humankind’s actions and thus a sense of responsibility for their own actions are engendered.” Margaret Westmore, Primary Schools Officer at Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust. Research also consistently indicates that frequent contact with and positive experiences in the natural environment also contribute to both physical and emotional well-being.

What can you do as parents? Ideas for Activities to do at home;
• Go for a picnic – you could have a theme or go to a special place
• Just stand in the wind/rain and savour the experience
• Run through/roll in and throw autumn leaves
• Build dens
• Make mud-pies
• Splash in puddles
• Play games such as hide-and-seek
• Grow stuff – outside and indoors
• Collect things – and treasure them
• Look for things under themes: shapes, textures, colours
• Collect groups of things e.g. leaves, feathers, stones
• Look for mini-beasts wherever you are (garden, park street, indoors)
• Make collages
• Use natural materials to draw pictures
• Offer to help your children’s teacher run a wildlife club or Wildlife Watch group – the junior section of The Wildlife Trusts.

For further information…

Monday, 1 September 2008

what are you dreaming about little one...?

I'm not quite sure how many hours I have spent watching my boys asleep, days probably even months. For when they are asleep they look like my babies again. Occasionally they will smile or sigh in their sleep and I cannot help but smile back. I try not to move, afraid of disturbing them. Soon, my little one will no longer need a daytime nap and I will have no excuse to sit and watch, sharing a sleepy cuddle on the sofa and some hot chocolate when he wakes!
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