27 September 2015

Welcome to Autumn! It just doesn’t seem possible that we’ve passed through the Autumnal Equinox already – I distinctly remember it was just the other day we were looking forward to those long, lazy days of summer and the late light in the evenings. I guess it’s a pity that summer never really arrived in the UK this year. It’s definitely downhill from here.


We’ve had a busy, busy week! Up to London to organise our visas for China, an evening at the local cinema, a visit to another National Trust property, a morning with an incredibly knowledgeable sash window consultant and the village Harvest Supper! Whew! I need a rest.

Our new house has old sash windows with single glazing and Ms Playchute and I have been a bit concerned as to how we could improve their energy efficiency without replacing them with modern, PVC substitutes. Penelope enquired of Mr Google and on Friday we were entertained for about an hour and a half by a self-confessed sash window anorak. What he doesn’t know about sash windows isn’t worth knowing and he had a couple of suggestions which should make them considerably more energy efficient without ruining them completely. He was also able to tell us that the windows are not original to the house but were probably installed in about 1850 and that several panes of glass are original to that time. He also told us a tale which reminded me of the glass in the windows at the Tall House at Lake George. Some years ago Ragley Hall near Alcester had a fire and one (fortunately, only one) of their 3m tall sash windows had to be replaced. Naturally, as a listed building, the windows had to match (as near as possible) the existing windows and they sourced some “new” antique-style glass. When the window was replaced several members of staff commented that, for some reason, it didn’t look quite right even though it was a virtually identical replacement. Our anorak was called in to consult and spotted the problem straight-away – all the panes of glass were identical and therefore matched none of the other windows, all of which had had panes replaced at different times. I think he said they replaced six of the eighteen panes with alternative old glass and “hey presto!” the problem was solved. Fortunately, we will not need to be replacing the glass in our windows.

We had a great time with Ben last weekend. On Sunday we wandered across to Canons Ashby (it is wonderful having a National Trust property on your doorstep) to discover they were holding a Victorian Harvest Fayre. As well as the ubiquitous and terrifying Morris Dancers (a women-only group on this occasion), there were a number of stalls selling produce, local ales, wines and such. One stall which caught my eye was selling somewhat unusually named meat & fish pies. I couldn’t resist the Penguin Pie but I was mightily disappointed (I think Pen and J were mightily relieved) when the chap explained that the pie wasn’t actually stuffed full of delicately poached penguins. It was, in fact, a fish pie which would very probably be much enjoyed by the odd penguin or two.

Pen Ben J at Canons Ashby

Tuesday evening we (Pen, J and me) decided, on the spur of the moment, to make our way to the cinema to catch “A Walk in the Woods” with Robert Redford, Emma Thompson and Nick Nolte. It’s been trailed very heavily over the past few weeks and we went with moderately high expectations. I don’t think we imagined it was going to be an Oscar winner but we certainly hoped it would be mildly amusing. The book, by Bill Bryson, was tolerably amusing – not one of his best, I guess, but still humorous in places and certainly entertaining. Unfortunately, the film was pretty dreadful – one of the poorest films we’ve sat all the way through in a very long time. It felt like one of those films where it seems the actors are going through the motions, probably because they have a tax bill or an alimony payment to make. Redford was absolutely the wrong person to play Bryson and Nick Nolte was simply bad. Very little of the humour of the book came through and the whole thing was dull and pedestrian. As the Guardian commented, “Stripping out most of Bill Bryson’s prose and wit, this adaptation with Redford and Nick Nolte leaves us with a sentimental tale of two old geezers taking a hike.” I would argue that it wasn’t so much a sentimental tale as simply dishwater dull.


A great disappointment – The Moreton Pinkney Picayune



Thursday afternoon the weather was tolerable so we decided to take ourselves out to Hughenden Manor near High Wycombe. From 1848 to 1881 Hughenden was the home of Benjamin Disraeli, one of the UK’s most influential and charismatic prime ministers. It’s a lovely stately home in a lovely position, spoiled marginally by the view over the sprawl of High Wycombe. Even Disraeli had issues with the view and planted a large expanse of trees in a bid to screen the view of what was then a swathe of furniture factories. Hughenden was also home to a top-secret map-making base during World War II, the significance of which has only recently come to light, it seems. A lovely afternoon out.


Friday evening we trotted across the road to the Village Hall and our first social function in the new village, the Harvest Supper, which was good fun. We’ve certainly found everyone in the village (so far) to be very friendly and welcoming and this was a good opportunity to meet a few more people. The meal was tasty, the desserts were plentiful and everyone seemed to have a good time – we’re liking this village more and more.

We’re off on Saturday to China for Adam and Ava’s wedding celebrations so no Picayune for the next two weeks, I guess. We get back in the early hours of 13 October so will probably be largely incommunicado during that period. A great relief to you all, I’m sure.

Much love to you all,