Hamble Campbell's Home Page

An occasional window on Hamble Campbell's world.

Friday, July 29, 2005

And some more.

I really must learn how to get the photos the right way up.

Pretty pickers.

I thought you would like to see some of my photos/water colours.

Basil! Basil!

We've not gone yet, you see.

Did you know that you don't need to keep buying those little plastic pots of growing Basil? Just buy one pot, or sow your own Basil seeds on the window sill. Then just cut a stem off the plant and put it in a glass of water. Quite soon it will have developed an abundance of roots and you can pot it up and so on and so on.

If you've got a little liquidiser or small food processor it is easy to make pesto sauce to mix with spaghetti. Just put 2 garlic cloves, 3oz walnuts and 4 fl ox olive oil in the machine and chop it all up small, add 2oz basil leaves and whizz til it's smooth. Mix this in a saucepan with 2oz melted butter and 2 or 3oz grated parmesan and then stir it in to the pasta. The sauce also freezes well if you leave out the butter and cheese.

We're going where the sun shines brightly...

Let us hope.

Anyway, I shall be nowhere near a blogging device and so there will be no more posts on this site for a week. I'm taking "Great Expectations" because it is good to travel hopefully, and "Lake District Natural History Walks, Case Notes of a Nature Detective" because that sounds just what I might like. I haven't packed much else as there are five of us and we've just got the little Yaris' boot to stow all our stuff in.

Now I mention it, I haven't actually packed anything yet. I HATE PACKING.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Planning, preparation, assessment.

If teachers weren't required to do so much of this they wouldn't need extra time to do it, and that strikes me as a better response to the problem of TOO MUCH WORK.

I cannot see the benefit, for example, of making an annual written report to parents on children's progress in anything apart from numeracy and litercacy, and maybe any subject they specially excell in - eg art/music/sport. Leaving out 36 (one class of primary school children) comments on geography, history, PE, IT, DT, PSHE, music etc in the annual report writing fest would surely help.

I also think, that apart from maths and English, the strict lesson planning requirements could usefully be relaxed and wouldn't everyone be so much happier. And maybe the resulting lessons would be more inspired and original - who knows?

Nosey parkers, enquire within.

Did you know that for no consideration whatsoever you can look up on www.nethouseprices.com how much your friends/neighbours/colleagues/any one else recently paid for their house? Fascinating. I think www.myhouseprices.com does it too, but there might be a fee.

Taser stun gun

I think most people's reaction to the news that a terrorist suspect was apprehended with the aid of a Taser stun gun was to ask why the police couldn't have used this device on the innocent man at Stockwell tube last week. Apparently there are lots of reasons why not, and various authorities have been given time to explain all of them.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

I probably knead more dough than you.

Unless you make your own bread, that is. I'm just off to the kitchen to make a batch of six loaves, which I do slightly more often than once a week (family of 4 to feed, all having sandwiches). I thought maybe some people would find it interesting/useful to hear my method, which I think is very efficient and has been developed over the last five years. This bread is really nice and that is why I haven't bought shop bread for years (except for emergencies). If is also much cheaper and I think on the whole it is probably more efficient than using a bread machine. You can also make rolls, if you want. This recipe would make 48 rolls. Change the amounts if that's too much.

Equipment: two large mixing bowls; six loaf tins of dimensions approx. w12, l20, d9 cm; baking parchment (it's non-stick).

Ingredients: 2lb wholemeal flour, 1lb malted brown granary flour, 1lb white strong plain flour,
4 teaspoons caster sugar
4 teaspoons salt
4 x 7g sachets fast action yeast
4 ox margarine
1 pint milk mixed with 1 pint water


1. Share the dry ingredients equally between the two bowls and rub in the fat, 2oz in each bowl.

2. Put a jug containing half a pint of milk and half a pint of water in the microwave for 90 seconds on high power and then add it to one of the bowls. Mix with a knife then turn the contents on to a floured surface and knead for about 3 minutes.

3. Divide the dough into 3. Put each third into a tin which has been lined with baking parchment. I find you get best results if you stretch the dough into a rectangle and fold the ends in towards the middle so the top of the loaf is nice and smooth.

4. Repeat steps 2 and 3 for the second bowl.

5. Leave the tins covered with2 tea towels balanced on four bowls of steaming hot water until they have risen nicely (maybe this will take 30 - 45 mins).

6. Put them in a hot oven (200C in our fan oven) for 12 mins then take them out of their tins and put them back upside down for 10 minutes. Put to cool on a rack and then wrap each one in an old clean Sainsbury's carrier bag and freeze them. If you take one out of the freezer just before you go to bed it will be ready for you to make toast in the morning, and then you can make everyone's sandwiches and then you can put all the breakfast things in the dishwasher, and get yourself ready for work, and don't forget to have some breakfast yourself or you won't have enough energy to complete all your chores, will you?


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

We are sorry to inform you that on this occasion ...

Mr HC's job application. Well, nothing came of that - too much travelling for someone with a family, apparently but maybe something else will come up in a few months. So he will continue working as a gardener, which is very nice, I should have thought.

There seems to be something of a social phenomenon in this village, that many of the men aged fifty(ish) and previously working in the IT industry, have been made redundant. Often they just don't work again (they seem not to need to), or they get low-paid (like us), or part-time jobs doing something completely different. Age discrimination is not yet illegal here.

On an unrelated matter, there is a lovely exhibition of botanical art at the Ashmolean. http://www.ashmol.ox.ac.uk/ash/exhibitions/exh075.html It has quite inspired me to purchase a Winsor and Newton Number 6 Kolinsky sable.

Monday, July 25, 2005


Oh rats, we've got rats. Our neighbour knocked on the door this morning with the news. We were just admiring another species of British wildlife, a stag beetle, and trying to photograph it, unsuccessfully as it happens, when the alarm came.

Apparently they are living just our side of the fence and had chewed a hole in the base of our shed, although they aren't actually nesting in the shed. They have been eating well on spilt bird feed that our neighbour puts out on his lawn/bird table. So you see it's not entirely our fault by any means, but we did need to clear out the junk from between our shed and the fence.

Luckily it is the first day of two weeks' holiday for Mr HambleCampbell so we were able to deal with the junk and one visit has already been made to the dump this morning. I think the plan is either to let our Jack Russel have a go at rat destruction, or ask some experienced rat-catching terriers that we number amongst our acquaintance, to assist. Our dog has never caught a rat before, and I have heard that they need to learn the technique of killing a rat from a more experienced dog, otherwise they just muck the job up and it can all turn very nasty.

On top of all this Mr HC has got an interview for a job in the industry he got made redundant from two and a half years ago. He's there now, so we shall see what happens. I am not sure what to hope for, so I am not going to even think about it, so there.

Isn't it funny how it has been so hot and sunny for the past few weeks and now our holidays have arrived, it's pouring with rain! Still, it will make transplanting the leeks much easier - a task that is long overdue. I shall go and do that directly.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

I look lovely

Following my unexpected success cutting my young husband's hair with the electric clippers, I thought I'd have a go at my own. Spurred on by the knowledge that I've got six weeks before I have to go back to work, I was bold. I took about two inches off so that now my hair is completely clear of my shoulders in a thick bob - and it was EASY, though I did have some help with the back of the neck. I think probably I'll have to go to the hairdressers when it needs it next time, because my hair is layered and I really don't think I could do the layers. But cutting the ends? - Pah! - it's a sinch.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Mary had a little watch, She wore it as a garter,

And when the boys asked her the time,
She knew what they were after.

But none of us was sure where the model in this advert was wearing her watch.

One of us thought it was the upper arm; another suggested it was a little above the knee; and one person rather lamely wondered if the lady had the watch on her wrist. Who can say?

Are all presents incorrect?

Friday afternoon saw me struggling home from school loaded down by the many presents I had been given from the children in my class. And I'm not even the teacher, I'm the teacher's assistant!

There were two pot plants, a bottle of wine, a useful hook for hanging keys on, assorted bathtime treats and many boxes of chocolates. The teacher had brought in a crate for her gifts, which included some imaginative items among the more obvious chocolates and flowers - a table cloth, a book, a magazine, a pedicure kit, designer perfume.

This scene is repeated at Christmas and Easter and I feel quite uneasy about it. Isn't this all so wasteful, in many ways. I wonder if the donors could not have given their money to a charity, instead of spending it on us. A lot of the items will probably find their way into the charity shop or jumble sale anyway, and there is an environmental cost involved in their manufacture and ultimate disposal. I also question the sentiments behind all this giving. Whilst undoubtedly many of the donors are giving to express their genuine wish to thank the teacher, I think some are giving because they think everyone else is and they do not want to seem mean or ungenerous; so some parents will be spending money they don't really have.

I remember when I was a child, at the end of term my parents would give the teacher a bottle of my dad's homemade wine, or a jar of jam my mum had made. One year the wine exploded -saving the recipient from any risk involved in drinking it.

I would be happier if the child and/or parent came to me and said thank you, if that is what they mean. Some children do do this and it is really so touching when they tell you they have enjoyed their time at school.

On a similar theme, at Christmas I only send out cards to people I can't actually wish a happy Christmas to, face to face. Even though I say I'd rather not receive a card on environmental gounds, I still receive loads. Its as if people can't allow you to go cardless, presentless, etc, for fear you'll feel unloved!

Thursday, July 21, 2005

End of term

News: Incredibly the terrorists failed to cause any fatalities today despite their further outrages on the London transport system. Also amazing that they seem to have got away, but I suppose people were in shock or terrified of being shot by the bombers. It made me think of the song we used to sing at school: Someone left their parcel of pop, on the upper deck of a 26 bus. Thank goodness it was only a pop and not like last time. Let us hope there are enough clues to catch them.

I've been to church this evening - which isn't something I normally do. It was my youngest daughter's leavers' service. She will be leaving primary school to start at the local comprehensive in September. She attends the local state primary school, but the land is owned by the church and so it is a C of E school. This means it gets a bit of extra funding, I believe, but at the price of having its governors loaded with unelected "churchy" people, who are not necessarily the best people for the job. I send my daughter to this school because it is the school nearest to us and I do not think that religion should play any part in its governance.

Ours is an over-subscribed school and people from surrounding villages send their children there rather than to their own local school. This means that those schools are under-subscribed and so have less funding. It also means that the roads around our school are clogged with parked cars belonging to parents/child minders delivering children to a school that is too far away from their homes for them to walk to.

The school now has a breakfast club, which will take children from 7.30 am until school officially opens. This complements the after school club with takes children until at least 6pm, maybe longer, I'm not sure. This is in line with British Government policy but it seems all wrong to me.

I've got one eye on the BBC news, which has moved on to the cricket. As we walked back from the church we went past a group of men practising their cricket skills in the nets in the park. What a collection of fatties! They looked like a male ante-natal class, nurturing their nine months'- sized beer embryos. Cricket and golf have never seemed like proper sports to me, offering little oportunity for improving the players' fitness levels. Golf seems like a long drawn out slow walk in a park and cricket looks like a lot of standing about with a short run for one or two of the participants every now and then.

Football is best. What a shame it is so dominated by men, especially at school level. I played a five- a- side game once with some work colleagues, and thought it was fantastic. Unfortunately by the end of the game one person had a broken leg and the boss's secretary had a black eye. I think perhaps we should have had the rules explained to us a bit more clearly.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Winged beasts

It is becoming obvious that serious athletes live here. The lawn is dying in specific patches where badminton oponents have faced one another. The apple trees are hung with shuttlecocks, waiting for a passing breeze, or autumn, whichever comes first - though to be fair, the weather was just right today - not too hot. Racquets lie ready in the greenhouse.

This evening we played till it was too dark to see. With dusk came a dragonfly and some little bats - pipistrelles, I would guess. I was surprised to see the dragonfly as I thought they needed hot sunshine for their muscles to be warm enough to work - but there you are - he was flying about most successfully. There is a lovely smell in the evening from the night-scented stock - it looks nothing in the day but in the evening the flowers open and a honey fragrance is released. I think the moths like it too.

Moving seamlessly on - at school yesterday the supply teacher, who has a passion for British natural history, was giving a lesson on garden birds. One of the birds on the children's list was a Stock Dove. I'd never heard of such a creature, but there it was in all the books, one of the common garden birds. I don't know how I could have missed it. It seems to be a combination of Collared Dove and Wood Pigeon. Maybe that's the one I hear each morning singing in the gardens round about, "You're very nice, ....... you're very nice." Sweet bird.

Monday, July 18, 2005

A blast from the past

This is the little wooden dove/pigeon I told you about earlier. He is looking at a pretty pebble someone rather naughtily stole from a beach.


You will be sorry to learn, I am sure, that the wren's baby died. I think he left his nest too soon and succumbed. I'd like to point out that when I moved him up to the branch I wore gardening gloves, as I have heard that sometimes the mother rejects her baby if it smells human. Who knows?

I was very pleased to hear a piece of music today I'd not heard for at least two decades. I had only partial success downloading it from the internet but even so it was a thing of joy for me. The music was Peter Howell's (?) "Greenwich Chorus" (BBC Radiophonic Workshop), written for Jonathan Miller's TV series "The Body in Question". I remember so enjoying that programme and wonder if it is really true that TV was so much better in the seventies and eighties than it is today. I was thinking this while watching Michael Palin's latest offering, a programme about a "Mystery" concerning the Danish painter Hammershoi. I found the programme almost insulting in its infantile presentation. It would make a nice introduction to the artist for a group of primary school children. On a more positive note, there are lots of great comedy series now - Black Books (set in a bookshop), Beast (set in a vet.'s), Chalk (set in a school), Little Britain (set in a Britain - and its always lovely to hear Tom Baker's voice - another echo from my TV-watching youth). Of course, Radio 4 stays just as good as ever (in my opinion), though I've given up on The Archers, after many years' devoted listening.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Hot dogs

These last few warm days, we have found ourselves often stumbling over the prostrate body of Doggy, who stretches herself out in shady parts of the house in an effort to feel cooler. This hot weather is, I feel, quite enervating. I feel disinclined to play badminton, do the gardening, etc until the evening, as everything seems to be too much effort in the day. This very hot weather seems to come more and more frequently now and we are beginning to take more seriously our plans to move north if we can when the younger people leave school. (Seven years' time - no need to rush).

This morning I found a baby wren flopped on the lawn, seemingly unable to fly. Its mother was cheeping loudly, which was what had drawn my attention to it. I put it in an abandoned tray of celery seedings and left it up in an apple tree in the hope that it would escape Doggy's attentions. I hope it is able to survive with a bit more feeding from its parents but I do fear the worst.

I've just been told my Sunday lunch has arrived on the table so I must sign off now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Up for sale

I went to the library today and the librarian told me that my neighbour's house is for sale. We are all outraged at this (can you tell I live in a village?). The reason for this sensation of outrage is that she only bought the house three months ago, for £265,000 and now it's on for £365,000. She knocked an internal wall down, installed a new kitchen and bathroom and let the garden go to rack and ruin (which she's now trying to rectify). I had a chat with my neighbour at the weekend and she breathed not a word of her plans.

We feel that behaving in such a blatantly speculative fashion is not quite the thing. It just seems wrong. Anyway, it's very unlikely her audacious asking price, or anything approaching it, will be realised.


On an unrelated matter, I feel frustrated at my inability to leave a comment on one of my favourite blogs, namely www.rereviewed.com. I have tried to leave a comment with rogue semiotics and failed on several occasions now. I am starting to get misgivings that maybe I am being filtered out as unworthy.

You will be pleased to know that the badminton is coming on apace. I sawed down a few branches from our apple trees and there is a lot more space now. I could almost convince myself that I am thinner. I even did a little skipping for a couple of minutes, after which I was exhausted.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Huge flies

Nature note part one:

Something was tapping at the window ... a huge insect, maybe nearing two inches in length, was flapping against the glass. I initially thought it was some kind of strange hornet (see my first post) as it shared the same colours, but it had a fearsome looking "sting".

Consulting my field guide to insects, however, I am pleased to report that the visitor was a Sawfly - a female Urocerus gigas. It is a native species and its "sting" was in fact an ovipositur. Apparently this creature"bores into pines and other conifers - usually ..unhealthy ones ..- and lays her eggs in them. It is thought that the larvae feed on the wood destroying fungi found in the tunnels they have burrowed out ..." (To paraphrase slightly).

Nature note part two:

I am worried that I may have been responsible for the death of a wood pigeon. It flew into the French doors and I found it dead on the patio when I came home from work. Quite beautiful and heavy - obviously well fed. I now keep my wooden model of a grey dove covered by day by a card in case it lured the unfortunate bird as it stood on my bookcase visibly from the garden. The model is after all a take on the traditional duck decoy, which were originally made for that very purpose.

Getting old, getting fat.

Sadly, my clothes don't seem to fit me any more. They are too small and this is sad for two reasons. Firstly, I don't want to have to buy replacement clothes and secondly, I'd like to be slim and lovely.

In an effort to diminish I have acquired a badminton set for the garden and hopefully I will be able to persuade others around me to hit the shuttlecock back and forth with me. I don't really fancy running, it hurts my shins (even after six months of trying); cycling is too dangerous; swimming is not available here; etc etc.

I blame my age (41), my sedentary job, too many glasses of wine and too much chocolate.

At work I have asked my boss if I can change the year group I work in as I feel so not-useful in the class I'm in at the moment.

Does anyone reading this think they have the perfect job, I wonder?

Friday, July 08, 2005

Only yesterday.

Watching the news on television, I was for a moment uncertain when the London bombings had actually taken place. Despite it being only yesterday, it seemed to me that much more time had elapsed since the atrocities. I think there has been so much spoken about these events that for me their chronology has become confused.

I would like the London bloggers to post soon, as I worry about why they haven't written since before yesterday. Although I wouldn't know any of the bloggers from a bar of soap, reading their words every day ties me to them in a small way. I also know that it is surely far more dangerous to travel anywhere by car than to travel on public transport in London.

Watching the news on television, young Mr Campbell quite rightly asked, "Why on earth are the leaders driving about in RangeRovers, while attending talks on climate change?" (He also noticed, as did www.blue-witch.co.uk , that the contact number for the London emergency had an expensive 0870 code).

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Dreaming of my hols

Mmmm... I'm thinking about my fast-approaching holiday. (Last time I was in the Lake District was 2003 so I'm looking forward to a return visit). This time we have, apparently, access to a rowing boat. I also hope to visit the house called Blackwell.

Maybe the north would be a good place to be in 2012. Not that I'm not delighted for all those in whose manor the Olympic games will be played. I'm just glad they won't be in my manor (We're all NIMMs here - Not in my manor).

Incidentally, I can't remember where I took this photo. I think it's probably Buttermere. If you know, do say; it took ages to download.



I've been out in the garden picking the sugar snap (mangetout) peas and was struck by how well they are camouflaged. It's almost impossible to say truly that you have picked them all because they virtually disappear on the plant. Maybe they could be engineered into a more noticable orange or red so that they don't merge into the stems and leaves quite so well. Though I think hallf the problem is their shape - nice and thin when they are young - which enables them to look like a stalk when looking down on them or from some side angles.

Redcurrants, on the other hand are easy to spot. Despite being so attractive to blackbirds there were plenty for us, and I didn't net them this year (two sparrow fatalities last season).

There are no strawberries this year as I dug them all up and burnt the plants as I thought they had a virus. I think I shall get some new crowns in this November. No doubt I have disappointed the birds in this, although the thrushes are happy and busy. Walking up our garden stepping stones is like walking on eggshells and the garden echoes to the sound of snails.