The Cruel Way – Ella K. Maillart

The Cruel Way - Ella K. Maillart
The Cruel Way – Ella K. Maillart

Another wonderful Virago Modern Traveller’s tale, as Ella Maillart, last seen travelling from Beijing to Kashmir with Peter “brother of Ian ‘James Bond'” Fleming, travels from Geneva to Kabul with her friend and fellow traveller, ‘Christina‘. It’s 1939, and they make the journey in Christina’s Ford car. The book focuses on their friendship as much as their travels, and has been made into a film, The Journey to Kafiristan.

I love reading about adventurous women travellers of the last century, and before. Yes, they come from privileged backgrounds, even when they claim not to, but they are going against the expectations and conventions of the age, plus they are still making the effort to get out and explore the world and encounter different people and cultures, and all this at a time before Lonely Planet or the internet. One of Ella Maillart’s main sources for her journey was the 7th century Chinese Buddhist monk, Hsuan Tsang.

Much of the book follows their experiences in Persia, and Afghanistan – and it makes me long to go back to the former (and the north western areas of Pakistan –  ‘Kafiristan‘ was Maillart’s ultimate destination – ultimately unrealised on this trip, once World War II started), and saddens me that realistically I’ll never get to experience the ancient wonders of the latter. I love that part of the world, its ancient cultures and kingdoms, its place at the centre of the Silk Roads and encounters between east and west, north and south.

Abebooks page: The Cruel Way – Ella K. Maillart

Herefordshire Week 017: Tuesday 21 – Monday 27 April 2020

A good week. A long weekend of gardening galore in the strange summer weather, with a Zoom to celebrate my my niece’s 21st so that all could see presents opened, cake candles lit, and slices cut.

The garden is in full bloom – everything’s Gone Green, flowers are blooming, shrubs are flowering and trees are covered in blossom. Some – like the bird feeder pear tree – have even gone past that stage. Bees are busy.

Also managed more of my early morning walks.

Telly = Baghdad Central. VG! Finished Toby Clements’s Kingmaker: Divided Souls and started The Cruel Way, Ella Maillart‘s account of her journey from the Tirol to Kabul and Mandu in the company of ‘Christina’. Both also VG.


Friday featured an extended early morning walk, after the farm dog near Riverdale came racing out after me. Not keen on getting bitten, I continued on to complete the Bacton route. Later that morning, dad came over to build the raised bed in the Orchard. Phil had dug out the 140cm square last Monday.

The back story is that Dad and Jean couldn’t find a raised bed to buy us, but spotted a neighbour had wooden boards on their bonfire pile and salvaged the wood with their permission. Dad “made” a raised bed surround with it, and came over to build it for us. P and I kept clear while he was here. I still feel guilty that dad and Jean can’t enjoy Forty Acres in full bloom “due to the current unprecedented circumstances”.

While dad was DIY-ing, and before/after I did a spot of secateuring and lopping, clearing dead branches off the trees in the orchard, removing dead vines from the clematis that climbs into the yew tree above the log store, pulling up the sticky burr weeds that have gone into overdrive, and snipping the small saplings that sprout in the quarry. I also tied up Jean’s everlasting sweet pea, and checked her wisteria for frost damage. Some of the new growth has headed up into the branches of the ex-Christmas tree that’s next to it.

After an al fresco lunch, I opened the last of my birthday cards – lettuce and chive seeds from Helen (I fear my green fingers need quite a lot of work! But I have planted some out into a trio of recycled containers. I am encouraged by seeing seedlings emerge from earlier plantings) and presents – a fabulous handmade driftwood clock from the Abercrombies.

Towards the end of the afternoon, we forked beautiful rich compost from dad’s compost heap into the raised bed, and planted out my birthday herbs: mint, tarragon, sage and two small leafed mystery ones (one of which I now think is thyme). Well watered!

Phil waters the herb bed
Phil waters the herb bed

Phil and I ticked off a few of the bigger gardening jobs on Saturday and Sunday: replaced broken fence posts around the pond, which entailed clearing lots of the vegetation that had grown up alongside the ornamental fence; used the remaining three stakes plus a roll of wire mesh fencing to corral the compost heap in the orchard, and mowed.

Goodbye wildflower meadow.

I left the patch where the orchids are, and took the Honda for a spin on Sunday to tidy up the edges and hard-to-reach grass,

Orchard compost heap corraled
Orchard compost heap corraled
Cowslips, Dandelions & Daisies - white, puffs and yellows
Cowslips, Dandelions & Daisies – white, puffs and yellows
Orchids galore - lost count at 20...
Orchids galore – lost count at 20…

Still getting lots of birds on the bird feeders, and zipping around the garden, flying fearlessly between leafy-clad trees. I’ve tried learning how to recognise the bird song, seeing as we hear A Lot. Even with the help of The Guardian’s “Home Birds” article and RSPB audio files, I’m not sure I’m remembering many new ones.

THAT said, I do now recognise the “soft farting” of the long tailed tit, and on Monday I FINALLY saw one, and managed a quick snap, enlarged here so that we can see the noisy little bird in all its fluffy-headedness.

Long-tailed Tit - Enlarged

And we’ve been listening to a cuckoo calling all week.


Almost forgot – created a ‘Week Notes’ tag in Flickr, so that I can link to each week’s photos, like this: Herefordshire Week 017.

Kingmaker: Divided Souls – Toby Clements

Kingmaker: Divided Souls - Toby Clements
Kingmaker: Divided Souls – Toby Clements

1469, and Thomas and Katherine’s settled family life on the Fakenham Estate is turned topsy turvy alongside one of the Wars of the Roses‘ periodic political upheavals as Warwick “the Kingmaker” decides he likes the power of controlling the King (of being the King?) far more than he likes King Edward’s new in laws….

Yes, it’s the famous Elizabeth Woodville and the equally infamous Woodville clan. Not that we meet any of them in the third in Toby Clements’ Kingmaker Quartet…. but there’s plenty of plot here to keep us entertained!

Publisher page: Kingmaker: Divided Souls – Toby Clements

Herefordshire Week 016: Tuesday 14 – Monday 20 April 2020

Big “Lockdown” Birthday could have been a Big Letdown Birthday, but I have an amazing husband and I had an amazing day full of video chats and phone calls with family and friends, every one a surprise!

I ended my birthday feeling very loved, and with a bit of a croaky voice.


Bit of a bumpy start to the week, with a bad case of the blues on Tuesday. But a morning walk from Pontrilas – Rowlestone – Dulas – Cwm Road – Abbey Dore, mainly along footpaths (courtesy of Around & About Ewyas Harold & Abbey Dore Yellow Map), sorted me out.

Skirrid, on the footpath from Rowlestone to Wigga Farm
Skirrid, on the footpath from Rowlestone to Wigga Farm

Got great views of Skirrid and Hatterall’s Ridge, and spotted wild flowers galore on the road up from The Trout, and wild garlic down by Dulas Brook….

And the tiny lambs were still in residence at Upper House Farm.


Birthday preparations by Phil went up a gear on Friday, while I spent the morning doing a Big Shop at Aldi and Sainsbury’s. Had to queue to get into both. But succeeded on the saucisson-for-dad front, and bought birthday food treats for the weekend. Dropped essentials off with dad and Jean, and collected a crate of birthday presents, and a cake and candles! Plus stakes for the pond fence…

Big Birthday Coronavirus Countdown...
Big Birthday Coronavirus Countdown…

Saturday was brilliant. I need say no more.

Phil has covered the dining table with birthday cards and boxes!
Phil has covered the dining table with birthday cards and boxes!

A sunny stroll on Sunday, and a quiet day to recover from all of yesterday’s virtual socialising.

Sunny Sunday Stroll: Our Sign
Sunny Sunday Stroll: Our Sign

Lots of cute sheep, and long shadows:

Sunny Sunday Stroll: Tree shadows
Sunny Sunday Stroll: Tree shadows

And back at Forty Acres, I spotted Orchid No. 3 on the front lawn…

Orchid No. 3!
Orchid No. 3!

Monday afternoon I walked our Sunday stroll in reverse, and picked some of the roadside wild garlic that we’d spotted en route. An old Aldi Wonky Apple bagful produced four small jars of Wild Garlic Pesto (adapted from this BBC Good Food recipe).

Wild Garlic Pesto
Wild Garlic Pesto

And, seeing as I have a large bag of Almond Flour to use up, I’ve made a note of this Ask MetaFilter post suggestion For Next Time:

Almond flour works great as the nuts ingredient in any riff on “pesto” or “romesco” sauces – sometimes I toast it first, and I usually puree all the other ingredients and then just stir in the almond flour at the end so it doesn’t end up turning to almond butter in the blender/processor.

And as the shadows lengthened I planted out some of the seeds Jean had put into my Birthday Crate: sunflowers, pumpkin and marigolds.


All in all – A Good Week.

CUCKOO!


28 April 2020 Update: Easy access to my Herefordshire Week 016 photos on Flickr.

Kingmaker: Broken Faith – Toby Clements

Kingmaker: Broken Faith - Toby Clements
Kingmaker: Broken Faith – Toby Clements

Back to the Wars of the Roses, in the second of Toby Clements’ Kingmaker Quartet. I’d bought books 2 and 3 in Frinton ages ago, and had kept them to take to LA on March’s now “deferred” work trip. I reckoned I’d need something to keep my spirits up, and myself entertained during evenings on my own.

Anyway, COVID-19 put paid to that trip, and so I decided NOW was the time to read them in Heavenly Herefordshire. We’re not a million miles from Mortimer’s Cross.

Enjoyable as ever, and I’ve just started the next one… but – oh woe – I don’t have the final book* yet. Keeping my eye on AbeBooks for an inexpensive second hand copy….

Publisher page: Kingmaker: Broken Faith – Toby Clements

* Well, I think it is…