My Childhood Home
The Reports of My Family’s Demise are Greatly Misquoted!
I am writing this blog a bit prematurely, in fact it was not a story I would have under normal circumstances put on my site, but I feel my hand has been somewhat forced; by a newspaper article that went viral… About a poor old eccentric pensioner who tried to turn his drab bungalow into a Venetian Palace. You should know I am rolling my eyes right now! So here, I am going to “modify” the true tale to fit my sites demographic! The reality of my childhood is somewhat more complicated and resembles something of a black farce! I will tell that story another time… Here .. I feel the need to defend myself, my mother and brother who have once again been written out of our own history that was so ‘endemic’ to all our lives. I should point out that neither my mother or brother, have any part in this post it is strictly from my point of view … But I want to put the story of Dutch Gardens - ‘straight’ it is part of who I am and I refuse to be simply anesthetized from the equation that is/was my life!
“Just because a picture happens to be erotic, does not make it pornographic”
Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh
I was alerted by a family member to an article that appeared in a national paper about the house I grew up in, by the time I read the feature… It had gone viral.. ”How I turned my £13,500 bungalow in Staines into a £4 million Venetian Palace” … At first … I was shocked by the article.. I mean I know the story well .. And I never thought the old boy would sell the place as it is central to his life, his existence, nothing else matters to him apart from that house – Dutch Gardens, he has given up and lost everything to build this monument to himself… Some would rename it – The Hammer House of Horrors, particularly if you happen to be one of the neighbours! As he has been building there for the last 50 years relentlessly.. The man at the centre of this spin is Mr Trevor Wynne-Jones, how do I know him? .. He is my father… Although for various reasons we are very much estranged.. But that is another much more complex story..
“If you knew the power of the dark side .. I am your father… “
Star Wars – Darth Vader
Here is the original article which is very good by Fred Redwood for the Telegraph … I think his comment … A first class fake! Speaks volumes!
So let me tell you a bit about the current Dutch Gardens, which as the article suggests is as far away from Italy particularly in terms of a Venice location … It is stuck in between two large towns called Staines and Slough, that is not a particularly inviting start. Granted there is water at the property more than is required at times and the River Thames runs on the other side of the road, but it is not quite the same as Venice and you rarely see a Gondola! However this so called Venetian Palace, built by a self-obsessed megalomaniac, does indeed have its own versions of Tintern Abbey, Rapunzel’s Tower and Dutch Architecture, the Gothic windows which are newly sited next to French style doors, suits of armour and paintings copied from the old masters in oils in the style of fresco’s on the walls; not to forget to mention the hideous commissioned ill proportioned copies of paintings of monumental battles with Trevor sitting at the helm… I cannot tell you how funny I find these paintings.. Everyone that worked for Trevor is in these paintings including family members, even though some requested not to be in the pictures, that made no difference to Trevor you either bend to his will or you were fired! .. If you look at them it is obvious who is in Trevor’s favour and who is not.. I should point out that I am not in any of the paintings as I am Trevor’s least favourite and he had long since air brushed me out of his life!
The current decoration and design of Dutch Gardens is eclectic to say the least, whatever takes Trevor’s fancy he builds, whatever he wants he does.. Simple.. Trevor’s every whim is indulged, he has been building at this development continuously since he purchased it in the late 1960’s.. Trevor’s passion for knocking things down and rebuilding is legendary he gets bored of things/people and so just moves on to the next thing/person… Don’t get me wrong, Trevor has an ability to see and recreate architecture, but he spins from one design to another and thus creates a mishmash of designs all fighting for their place against each other… Losing any sense of style or cohesion and more often than not he will push these design conceptions to their limit so that it no longer works. Most things became a parody of themselves.
As a teenager teetering on my high stilettos, swearing under my breath as I tried to make it unscathed to the front door without falling or shredding the leather from my shoes on the London cobbles that Trevor had laid with such undulations and gaps between as to make the cobbles impossible to walk on … Really the only thing that was lacking in this particular phase of his design creation of the Dickensian London cobble streets was his impression of Dick van Dijk singing ‘Me ol Bamboo’ as he tap dances down the walkways chasing after Mary Poppins!
“Toad talked big about all he was going to do in the days to come”
Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
The property was purchased for £12,500, in 1968, by my young Nouveau Riche parents, they saw it as a massive stepping stone to improve on their lives and make a new base for their family, but most importantly to fulfill their dreams. And why not! They were up and coming and my mother was certainly nubile, they were taking on and embracing a new world of opulence on a scale that they had never experienced before. Prior to the purchase of Dutch Gardens, we lived in a two bedroom second floor flat in a house in Finchley, North West London. This was certainly a change in circumstances for us all.
When I first set eyes on Dutch Garden as a young child; yes it was a pretty dowdy pebble dash bungalow but it was surrounded by overgrown gardens that reminded me of the film Secret Garden, it was all very exciting and to me the house was enormous, full of dark corridors and rooms that smelt of rotting damp; it reminded me of the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho; I speak retrospectively here as I had not at that time yet seen the film, my parents were ‘way out there’ but not that far, well not at that time anyway!! Dutch Gardens was owned by two old ladies…. I had no idea we were going to live in this place … I just saw it as another old house that my parents were looking at, it seemed to me, at the time that we spent an inordinate amount of time viewing old musty houses and having tea on the lawns with strange people, this particular tea party was not much different than the others except we had tea and sandwiches in the old ladies small sitting room.. Having got bored of the adult conversation … I was let out of the rickety old French windows into the gardens to explore on my own… My elder brother had been recently exiled off to a boarding school and so I was somewhat bereft and had to make my own entertainment…This I have never had a problem with!
The bungalow was set in the middle of the plot and there was endless paving stone walkways to follow through the rambling gardens. Eventually I came to the corner of the garden were there was an old wooden gate covered in cobwebs, it was clear that it had not been opened in many years, I peeked through the wooden key hole and there appeared to be a gravelled drive on the other side and a few houses. This drive was actually the back entrance to the property that had not been used in many years, but all was about to change and this little drive way was about to be subject to relentless building delivery lorries that would cause great controversy including punch-ups between irate neighbours and workmen, not least on one occasion a neighbour pouring boiling fat over a delivery lorry engine, which inevitable, started yet another punch up… All in a normal day at Dutch Gardens and the pattern of how we lived our lives.
After peeking through the old door, I forged my way between the perimeter fence and a thick high hedge and followed the route for a while until I could not stand being whipped in the face with any more sticky spider’s webs so I made a break for it under a hole in the hedge back into the main part of the garden. Utopia!! I came across a large collection of animal pens and even better a horse stable, every child’s dream even though all the huts and cages were empty. I could now hear my parents calling for my return, I chose to ignore their polite calls, I was not to be removed from my investigations! After a few more calls of my name,they seemed to be getting closer, I decided to continue on my quest and move forward along another path around the other side of the house away from them, I picked up speed in order to make sure that I saw as much of this property as possible, I was now running toward the most beautiful purple flowering tree with enormous tendrils dangling down the intertwining branches. In the middle of this beautiful creature was an arch and I made my way through it to find myself back at the front of the house.. I now know that this magnificent specimen was a very old and impressive Wisteria, which was kept in the gardens until the gardener over watered it one year and it died of those injuries.
“We all go a little mad sometimes..”
Psycho by Alfred Hitchcock
So, my bourgeoisie parents, having purchase their new property, went on a frenzy of major renovation. They knocked down and rebuilt most parts of the property within pretty much the same footprint of the original building but on a grander scale. They were creating their perfect dream home. And why not? The ‘new’ Dutch Gardens was in the style of a 1970 – 1980 Spanish Hacienda. I mean there is a theme going on here! How many other countries architectural influences can we include in this property? The old bungalow had an enormous ‘lounge’ situated next to the small sitting room that we had had tea in with the old ladies. The large lounge had a shiny polished wooden floor, which my brother and I made the most of before it was demolished, by sliding up and down on the floor boards, before we complained of being covered in splinters… This large lounge and its small sister the sitting room next door was kept and modernised fully, with floor to ceiling panelled windows and shag pile carpets and the ubiquitous 1970 style purpose built bar in the corner of the room… Which was slightly unusual as my parents did not really drink at the time although later Trevor became rather partial to a nice warm ‘little hock’ … Or even the odd bottle of ‘Blue Nun’ …
Like all houses built near the River Thames, the building regulations stated that the property had to be elevatedfour foot above ground level, to prevent flooding … This afforded an enormous amount of interesting opportunities for me when I looked down before the floor boards were laid, I would see large rats down there dead and alive. Very exciting when you are young, at the time I had not developed enough other hobbies to keep me occupied!
The rebuild took just over three years and we would travel backward and forward from our flat in London, to this large house set in three quarters of an acre of land in the country. We never once slept there overnight as back then the commute was largely without the traffic troubles that it suffers today so the journeys were easy. Whilst I was at Dutch Gardens I spent most of my time playing by myself in the large garden mostly in the water sprinkler that my mother had brought to the house to entertain me. On occasions the workmen played with me, throwing me in the air when no-one was checking on them and I ate more than my fair share of egg sandwiches sitting in the old horse stables in the garden.
When I got too wet and cold I was despatched by my mother to change in the old pantry which was small and three steps down from the level of the main house, ignoring the rules about the water table and potential flooding! This room contained shelves with chicken net fronted cupboards in which there were old empty jam jars with their lids in neat piles and other empty dusty containers relics of a life lead before we purchased the premises, the jam jars were repatriated to my paternal grandmother who was an avid jam maker. In the restyle this small room was converted into the boiler room, were I was again despatched some years later to do my ceramic enamelling on an electric kiln, with the washing hanging over my head. Considering the electric fired kiln issue and that I was only ten, by today’s standard there seems to be a health and safety issue here... But that was never a consideration for my parents.. I was out of sight and therefore out mind! But it worked for me … Nothing was normal in my life…
While the house was under reconstruction, one of the places that I was not allowed to go near was two very large barrels in the corner of the garden, behind the garage… My name is Natalie and therefore I am naturally inquisitive and rarely to be put off the scent, particularly if I was asked not to look…I had to look … Obviously!! ..Of course I was going to inspect the barrels when no one was there to tell me off… I realised as I got a closer to the barrels, not least because of the smell… That they were the workmen’s toilets… It occurs to me now that perhaps the budget could not stretch to a Portaloo? Quite disgusting!
“It was as though the world had had a fresh coat of paint, and every heart acquired a store of illusions that made the burden of life less hard to bear.”
Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier
As the house transformed in the very early years, and when my brother was occasional released from his new school, we would play together on what was a building site. Once, we were allowed to go upstairs into what was to become my parents’ bedroom. We were told that we were only to stand on the joists as the floor boards had not yet been laidand the plasterboard of the ceiling below would not be strong enough to take our weight. My brother being oldersprinted across the joists to investigate the rooms. I attempted to keep up, my only problem was that I could not span the joists as easily, being much smaller. Having negotiated yet another joist, without falling through, I glanced up and thought that my brother had stepped on the ceiling boards, brilliant I thought and immediately did the same. It was instant, the ceiling gave away with the most almighty crack and I descended through it, hearing my mother scream from below as she fled not knowing what was happening… I landed cross legged on the floor and looked up to see my brother’s face peeking through the hole I had left above, it was brilliant…. Despite the trouble I was in.… This accident created yet another explosive tantrum from Trevor, not because I might have been hurt, but because I had damaged the ceiling.. Trevor was and is the most incredible tantrum thrower on a spectacular level… To see his temper tantrums is to behold.. A man who is out of control in his rage! Quite terrifying at times, albeit we were used to it… I come from a long line of over-reactors!
On another occasion early one morning… My brother and I came across one of the many motorised diggers that were used in the landscaping of the gardens. My mother is the most wonderful landscape designer as you can see from what is left of the gardens in the newspaper articles. As luck would have it some kind person had left the keys in the ignition, so my brother decided that we should take it for a spin … I eagerly clambered into the back of the digger … As my brother took the driver’s seat.. We were having great fun doing a tour of the garden at speed, enjoying the moment then my brother came up with the ingenious idea of driving the digger up one of the large mounds of sand and building gravel, obviously to add a bit of extra excitement and danger to the fun! It was going quite well until the sand gave way under the pressure and weight of the vehicle and it flipped over sending me flying into the air out of harm’s way but trapping my brother underneath… You know those moments as a child when you hope that if you shut your eyes tightly for a second or two, that when you open them again very quickly all would be back to normal and the damage you had just created would have gone away.. This was one of those moments.. But it was not to be the digger was definitely upside down and we were in trouble! My brother then emerged with a bloody nose from under the digger, but otherwise unscathed, as he got to his feet, he let out any number of swear words to illustrate his feelings on the matter… Which secretly I was very impressed by, I saw this as being the height of growing up!…. However there was no way we could rectify this problem and I can assure you that this evoked yet another ’Mount Vesuvius’ explosive tantrum from Trevor .. Perhaps fair under the circumstances! To some degrees ..
“Anyone for a bit of Denis Roussos?”
Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh
When we finally moved in to Dutch Gardens in the early 1970’s, I had assumed we were going to live in a tent in the dining room as to me the house was so big, the dining room was about the size of our flat in London therefore a perfect fit, and I could not conceive in my mind that we would need all this extra space, apart from to play in … It came as a surprise that I had my own room, predictably painted in a revolting shade of pink, a colour I would never have chosen, then or now! … But this was my parents dream not mine… Mostly the house was finished, their Pantile Spanish Hacienda dream house was about to take wings, it was really quite “on trend” at the time, believe it or not, as my mother was involved with the design there was cohesion and a trendy flow to the house… Venice was “still” a long way off and there were no medieval suits of armour anywhere, and most importantly we lived above ground… Not in the subterranean dungeons that you see in some of the pictures in the article..
The outside rendered walls were painted white with floor to ceiling panelled windows in every room, some walls were just windows, all very on trend … It had 3 inch high white shag pile carpets in the big lounge and my parents’ bedroom, so trendy was my mother that there were shag pile carpets in their bathroom and that carpet went up the walls! .. As Austin Powers would say, Shagadelic …. Yeah Baby!!
This carpet however, later became the bane of my family’s life when I took up sewing and continually dropped pins on the floor … Never to be seen again until someone stepped on them with bare feet.. Mostly my brother was afflicted with this torture, usually on one of his exeats from school, on one occasion the pin had embedded itself so deeply into his heel, that Trevor was forced to remove it with plyers and I was banned from doing any further sewing in any areas that were carpeted.. Of course I ignored this command, as no one was ever there to inforce this new and in my view largely irrelevant rule. However the shag pile caught me out too, on one of many occasions when I sneaked into my mother’s dressing room to paint my toe nails with her red polish.. When I swapped feet to paint the other foot, I did not notice that I was wiping the polish from the first foot all over the carpet…When I saw the mess I had made of the white carpet, I came up with the genius idea of trimming the carpet with my mother’s nail scissors to hide the damage except I got caught in the act by my mother! Not so Groovy Baby!!
“Oh lovely” she says “Cos Laurence likes a drop of wine, actually. Oh it’s Beaujolais.. Fantastic! .. Won’t be a sec, I’ll just pop it in the fridge”
Abigail’s Party by Mike Leigh
My mother, a traditional follower of fashion, saw my father at this stage in their relationship more as a Roger Moore than an Austin Powers, which when I think about it is quite sweet as he is only half the size of Roger and does not really have the same physique? It must have been love as she would dress Trevor in Roger’esque style Safari suits, with the same comb over hair style, albeit Trevor’s hair was sparser… Trevor would wear this suit with his self-styled pocket watch and chain which sort of spoilt the look! My mother’s style and costumes became the stuff of magazine articles, whatever you saw in Vogue or Tatler … You would see on my mum .. A stunningly beautiful woman, with her own agenda… Most importantly they were enjoying being the ‘it’ people of Dutch Gardens and so they should have been they had worked hard to get where they were… Every weekend they would be designing the garden or a part of the house or visiting country homes or stately gardens… This was their life and Dutch Gardens was at the centre of it…
All the mod trends of the moment were applied and added to the design, including avocado suites in the bathrooms, including bidets, which were never used, well not for their actual purpose … I found them a source of great entertainment.. The sprinklers in the bottom of the pans were so powerful that they would water the whole room, subsequently I was banned from using them! As it would drench the carpets in the bathrooms… Can you imagine carpets in a bathroom now …. Yuck … All the tapsand faucets were gold plated, which very quickly discoloured and corrodedcovering the metalwith unsightly lime spots, which ultimately made them hard to use…
In the morning room next to the corridor kitchen was a glass circular dining table supported by tripod chrome legs and matching black leather chairs, which were lethal if you leaned too far back as they would slide on the tiled black and white floor sending the sitter flying … There was a lurid pink wall, and the very height of modern ‘chic’ was the 3D handmade wall paper of different sized pebble protrusions all painted in white.. My parents understandably would go mad when my young cousins came to stay and delighted in punching and squashing the protrudingpebbles… It was my job, with the aid of a screw, to pull theegg box pebbles back into shape, then the permanent on site staff would come in and repaint and fill the damage … It was also my job to repaint the chips in black and white floor tiles in the morning room, the damage being caused by the movement of thechrome chairs legs rubbing backward and forward over the surface of the tiles.
The house was full of Casa Pupo items, there was at the time a shop in London which my parents frequented, the house was stuffed with their lamps, vases, object ‘dart including metal bird cages and waist height china wild cats and snow leopards, all dotted around the house, which after parties would need to be washed down as my young cousin insisted on feeding them with cake.. In the wooden panelled dining room, which looked a bit like a set from the programme Columbo, one of Trevor’s favourite TV series at the time. In the room there was a black and white synthetic floor with inlaid black dots, it was synthetic because my mother having seen a TV programme had investigated into getting a special treatment for the floor, which involved coating the floor with a substance that would allow it to be used on occasions as an ice skating ring! This was in the period when my mother had visions of turning me into a top British ice-skater.. My grandmother had been billeted into knitting me a red ice-skating dress, which was hideous and stretched when it got wet because I kept falling over! I was forced to take weekly skating lessons, which I was extremely bad at and hated particularly as it was not my idea in the first place! … Thankfully eventually my mother gave up on this plan and turned to other ideas and formulas to plan out my future! And there is another story!
On the top of the black and white floor was a large Casa Pupo vivid green and white fringed rug, placed on top of this was the massive wooden candy twist refectory table, purchased from Harrods, which was now fast becoming their new ‘go to’ corner shop… Trevor was making money by the bucket load… My ever more wealthy parents, were making their mark on the world and Dutch Gardens was at the heart of their lives? Good luck to them I say ..
“That is the last time I play the Tart for You – Jerry” Margot – The Good Life
Later in Dutch Gardens design progress we had a full time architect who had an office attached to the garage, my mother worked closely with him whilst the never ending gardens and house works continued, changed and progressed. My parent’s lives were beginning to take different routes but Dutch Gardens continued to be their great love and perhaps the only thing that now cemented their fracturing relationship. The landscaping was now on the most epic level, with diggers and machinery excavating / creating more waterfalls and ponds, into which, my mother was introducing Koi Carp shipped in from aboard at great cost. To my delight all had to be named!
One day a selection of mature trees was delivered to the end of the road because the lorry could not make it down the road as the trees were too tall and where knocking the overhead cables out, Dinky the gardener was dispatched to collect them, however my mother negated to advise him that they were full size and he turned up with a wheel barrow instead of the fork lift truck!
Everything was on full scale.. Bling! They never stopped working on the place, it was relentless, and the hammering, drilling, digging and sawing continued; the gangs of workmen, the endless changes went on and on. My parent’s design styles were beginning to rupture and they no longer saw eye to eye, on most things. And the neighbours hated us with a passion.. At this stage it had been over eighteen years of continuous building works .. Little did the neighbours know … There were many, many, more years of building to come… Which continues to go on to this day….
Trevor was sighted in two divorce cases, by neighbours due to the stress of them permanently living next to a building site. One weekend we were barricaded into the house by the neighbours who in their frustration erected concrete bollards to blockade the delivery entrance to the house. Undeterred but furious Trevor ripped them out and threw them back into the neighbours gardens, another quiet Sunday Lunch!… But to me it was all just normal …. Sort of … On the surface at least!
“There is nothing in human affairs that is a true subject for ridicule. Beneath comedy lies the ferment of tragedy; the farcical is but a cloak for coming catastrophe”
Clochemerle by Gabriel Chevallier
Trevor decided to close up the back entrance to the property and replace the gate to the back drive, it was time for him to seek his revenge on the neighbours. He built the base of the tower that you see in the newspaper article. A very large rockery was already built around the ‘Tower’ with stepping stones to the back entrance. The entire garden was flood lit in colour lights. It was the ultimate party house and it was at that time still alive.. Albeit that more cracks were beginning to show.. Trevor put in a planning application for a forty-five foot high‘look out’ tower which was to be constructed over the back entrance of the house, the prospect of which, understandably terrify and agitate the neighbours.. Once again! He wrote to every house in Wraysbury, the area, looking for support of his design and planning application, enclosing a stamped addressed envelope for their response! We were inundated with press attention, again! Dutch Gardens was once again on the national news, everyone had an opinion about it. We were door stepped by press as we left the house, everyone likes a nutcase …. The Telegraph article success proves that...
At the planning meeting to determine the planning application, which was held in nearby town of Windsor, police had to be called to deal with the crowds baying for Trevor’s blood and more punch up’s ensued between rivalling camps in support and against. We made all the papers and the press the next day! One Westminster MP who was interviewed by the press stated, “The whole thing is getting more like a scene from Clochemerle” – A French comic novel written about the battle between the Catholic and Republic locals over the erection of a urinal being built in the local square!” Very apt! Finally the planners decided that Trevor could have a 25 foot tower, much to the dread of all the neighbours and who could blame them! Once he had finally got permission, Trevor did what he always does and lost interest in the project, until some years later. …More divorces and new sets of neighbour replaced the last, like a never ending supply of new people for Trevor to irritate. My mother as ever was social climbing and moving on to her ‘new’ life seeing a better future for herself.. She wanted to move on to bigger and better things. Trevor saw this as a betrayed and refused to be moved and so the building went on … As the relationship faltered..
“Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll … Is all my brain & body needs ….” By Ian Dury
Massive pumps were incorporated into the ponds to create the streams which ebbed and flowed night and day. Super powered switches were wiredinto a control panel housed in a cupboard in the house so at the touch of a button you could ramp up the volume of the water and the noise should you wish… It was very Rock & Roll! ‘Knock me down with a feather.. Clever Trevor…Ian Dury & the Blockheads’… As wild young things.. My brother and I took advantage of all the facilities whenever our parents were not there; although my mother did sometimes join in our partying.. The house continued to evolveand devolve as Trevor began demolishing finished area’s to create his new found artistic design tendencies, this was a cause of much tension between my parents … Amongst other things!
After a visit to a golf course Trevor noted the beautiful lushgreen fairways, despite it being a very hotdry summer, all made possible by the golf course irrigation system. He decided they had to have the very same “commercial” sprinkler system, installed at Dutch Gardens. Trenches were dug into the lawn and pipes were laid, at strategically placed intervals prehistoric lookingsprinkler headswould emerge from the ground whenever the system was switched on. The first attempt at running the sprinklers, which was all very state of the art as it was unforgettable… The ground literally vibrated with the power of the water, there was the most wonderful whoosh sound as the long neck sprinklers emerged from the lawn making ticking sound as they rotated backward and forward. All very exciting the only problem was, no-one thought to investigate the power of the sprinklers or the coverage of water they would emit.. They were after all designed to water the vast acreage of the golf coursenot asuburban garden… To late … So powerful were the jets of water, they were knocking the garden staff over like nine pins as they tried to run away from the soaking .. The sprinklers built up to full power… Pandemonium … The window cleaner who had just finished cleaning the vast amounts of windows, was nowbeingpinned to the window panes by the force the water. Leaks of water were entering the house as the sheer pressure of the water was now unstoppable. I watched from the large lounge as water smashed through some of the panes of glass. I could hear my mother screaming in hysteria… Eventually someone managed to get to the switch and turn the system off…. The water jets from the sprinklers slowly decreased in power, the ticking sound slowed up and then the spouts disappeared back into the ground… Dutch Gardens very own Tsunami …
It subsequently transpired that one sprinkler put on top of the house would have watered the entire property, Trevor had installed eight in just a quarter of the garden! More complaints filed in from the neighbours, as we had soaked them, one man had left his open topped sports car outside his home only to come out and find it filled with water! Another day with all the madness!Over time the sprinklers would periodically have a mind of their own or Trevor would take revenge on someone and my mother would issue further apologies to the neighbours as their barbeques were ruined.
In my late teens on the long summer’s evenings, my friends and I would sit in the grounds, smoking and drinking and just having fun, enjoying the environment with the haze of the outdoor lighting and the sound of the waterfalls all around us. Trevor would return home from work hear us laughing in the garden and set the sprinklers off to ruin our fun, he hated anyone enjoying the space.. Everything was only on his terms …. As the sprinklers rained down on us, we would attempt to run for cover…. Usually into the house … Dripping water all over the place, which would further enrage Trevor into one of his legendary tantrums…He would evict us all… I was glad.. The house was losing its glory… My mother had moved on to social engagements of her own and only occasionally lived or visited Dutch Gardens ….. Their relationship like the house was descending into the stuff of nightmares …
“The Madness of King George” By Alan Bennett
If He swears and indulges in MEANINGLESS DISCOURSE... He will be restrained. If He throws off his bed-clothes, tears away His bandages, scratches at His sores, and if He does not strive EVERY day and ALWAYS towards His OWN RECOVERY... then He must be restrained. George III: I am the King of England.
As Trevor madness and megalomaniacal tendencies became more prevalent and the money continued to roll in, which saturated his wildest dreams, and now there was nothing and no one to restrain HIM. He was possessed by what he could create constantly changing what he had already created, turning what once had some cohesion as a fun ‘home’ and transforming it into a gauche pastiche of miss matching homage to Trevor’s ego. It was now the only thing that Trevor could fully control.. Things that were unfinished remained unfinished … My bedroom for example, had been subject to a number of my mother’s interior design projects, much to my irritation as I grew up. It was never finished, the new lighting now consisted of a half-finished florescent tube fittings all around the top of the walls, hidden behind a half finished pelmet that flashed on and off incessantly. When I switched it on the continuous strobing effect, was like living in George Orwells 1984…
We were all at war …. These were corrosive times.. Yet the building went on …There was no stopping the madness …
Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
“You still wake up sometimes, don’t you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs”
Trevor’s obsession with living underground had taken hold, he continued digging under the house now obsessively, 14 Irish labours dug and dug at any one time, more skips of soil were dispensed with, more aggravation for the neighbours. Inevitably the hole under the house filled with water. Trevor got bored again and works stopped and he started digging somewhere else… Where there was once a beautiful landscaped garden now half the garden was just a collection of big holes filled with water and half finished … Soul destroying for my mother..
I spent a great deal of time on my own in this property, everyone else was always out and about, I was used to my own company. One night, I was sitting in the big lounge with my stash of snacks ready for the evening, I did this so I didn’t have to venture back into the house, the two dogs who were with me were going mad, barking, growling, and digging at the shag pile... Dutch Gardens could be a very scary place to be inat night, particularly as my parents had an aversion to curtains, so you always had the feeling that you were being watched through these enormous floor to ceiling windows. Which I later found out was exactly what was going on .. But that is another story.
I was trying to ignore the dogs and watch TV but they were not going to have it, fussing and barking, this meant only one thing … I was going to have to make the very scary run, through the dining room into the hall then hang a quick left into the kitchen to get them some treats to shut them up, I was not keen … On the TV was a programme called Police 5, presented by Shaw Taylor, it was about catching criminals, this episode was a special on man dubbed, The Black Panther who had kidnapped a young heiress, it was all quite scary … Suddenly there was a massive whoosh sound and the floor gave way under me, I was thrown back onto the leatherChesterfield sofa by the force, the dogs shot out the room screaming and urinating in terror as they ran for cover …The naff 1970’s bar in the corner of the room moved and clunked as the glasses clattered together from their position on the shelves in protest, dust filled the room then the floor came to a short but abrupt halt and everything shuddered. Good old Shaw Taylor continued to give details about the Black Panther albeit that the TV had now moved position… I glanced around the room through the haze of dust nothing in principal had changed, but instinctively I knew it had. I pushed myself off the sofa; Shaw Taylor was doing his signature sign off of Keep ‘em peeled… Dust was sparkling in the light, looking up I saw a large gash in the wall above the bar, at some points at least four inches wide, the plaster that had fallen from the crack was now decorating the black bar top. On the other side of the room was even longer and wider crack, the sliding glazed panel door that separated the lounge from the adjacent small sitting room was hanging at a slight angle. Looking down at the floor line, there was now a gap were the wall and the floor had divorced each other, the skirting was splintered and cracked but still attached to the wall but not the floor, the black tile grout, that circled the bar was still attached to the skirting yet the tiles had remained unseated and scatted haphazardly to the floor. There had been a serious parting of the ways!
What had happened? The team of Irish navvies, Trevor had hired to dig the massive void under the house in order to create the underground dungeon’esque area, had not adequately propped up the structures and the floor under the house to sufficiently hold the house up! Only a minor detail, but as ever a crucial one! The water from the nearby River Thames had seeped into the void raising the level of the natural water table. The sheer force of the water whooshing and swirling around inthe large holehaddestabilised the stone and sand sides of the excavationthusdestabilising the foundations of this part of the house causing the groundfloor of the house to drop accordingly! Never a dull moment, but this, could not be blamed on me! But none the less there was the inevitable blood chilling tantrum from Trevor!
As the years rolled on Dutch Gardens imploded asTrevor’s obsession with living like a mole underground continued, digging endlessly under the house to create his own new space, creating issues with the water table and creating his own artesian well, the pressure of which causing theground water to increase to such a pressure that it forced the next door neighbours garage out of the ground. All in a day’s work! As you have seen from the article and VT on the net … Trevor has over the last thirty years created whatever has taken his fancy, with total disregard to some of the most basic design ethics and lack of care to many people … That said, some of his work is extremely clever … But to me none of it really works.. It looks like a theme park … The only thing that really works is the original bit of the garden and waterfall which was part of the redevelopment that both my parents undertook … But then it is not my house it is his and this is his baby – Dutch Gardens…
“Well, Clarice have the lambs stopped screaming..?”
The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris
This was a house that was once lived in, it was alive it had a pulse and a heart of sorts. Now in my opinion it has descended into one wealthy man’s mental health issue /disorder.
I hope I have given you a small flavour of what it was like to be part of Dutch Gardens, it was an amazing house of its time and its period, and it was a credit to both my parents despite the darkness that lurked in every corner. I have a lot to be grateful for, for a start … I got out alive with a story or ten to tell…. Dutch Gardens in its ‘hay day’ featured in a number of television adverts and was very on trend for its time despite its very odd location in Wraysbury or Toilets-Ville … Which was my pet name for the area as a teenager ….
My mother had moved on, as had I. Trevor became more entrenched and more obsessed in his madness like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, said. “I knew who I was this morning but I’ve changed a few times since then”… He has made his way through tens of millions of pounds, recreating a property that he loves and turning his back on all else … And in that vein … Everyone should be able to create their own madness …. To a point ….
“You would have to be half mad to dream me up”
Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
Having read the article Trevor has once again changed the facts, to me it was like we were all airbrushed out of our own lives. As the article pointed out Trevor has based himself on Napoleon, a man who was exiled from all reality; and was eventually confined to the island of Saint Helena to live in a rat infested house called Longwood. Napoleon managed to persuade the Governor of the island to allow him to build a new Longwood House, a new beginning, if you will, but like Trevor he negated to reflect on the past? Napoleon died just before the house was completed and after the Second World War … It was demolished…. Napoleon is remembered as a tyrant ….
I will keep you briefed on the full story …
The Easy Life of Food…!
I am blessed with three beautiful children, a girl and two boyz, this means a house full of teenagers, for some reason they do not live in the same time zone as us! Therefore once they are on holiday away from the confines of a normal timetable.. It becomes an epic to try and feed them all. So what can happen is the fridge gets raided at all times of the day and night, and their choice of food is what is ever easiest and quickest to quell their instant hunger! One will just fill up on cheese, another on crisps and biscuits and one on endless bowls of cereal… This is of course is fine for the occasional meal but not good on a daily basis… Particularly as their mother likes to cook!
So here is my tasty sausage and beans recipe, it can be cooked in advance left in the fridge and then reheated in the microwave at any time of the day …. And if you are going to serve this to adults look out for my tip below!
Sausage & Beans – My Way!
Sausages – any type you like
Onions – quartered
Squirt of Tomato ketchup
2-3 Garlic cloves
Salt & Pepper
This is a one pot cook, no ‘faff’ recipe. Cook the sausages in oil in the pan give them a good healthy colour, bung in the onions, and cook letting the ingredients stick a little to the pan, brings out the flavour. Don’t let the sausages and onion burn, when it looks like they are going catch, pour in a little water, stir making a sort of gravy out of the fluid. Once the sausages are cooked….
Add the rest of the ingredients. Heat through and Da-Da it is done!
This is how my children eat it!
In the mornings:- This could mean in the middle of the night in the wee hours!
Heated up with fried eggs on top… And crusty bread…
At Lunch or Dinner:- This is any time after 12 noon…
Heated up – Topped with grated cheese served with chips or fried potatoes and a crisp green salad…
Tip – Conversion for the adults!
Serve with roasted peppers and rice…. And for my husband …. Fresh chillies … You can of course roast chillies in the conventional way, heating them over a flame until the skins become black and then putting them in a plastic bag to remove their skin… But this is supposed to be an easy recipe … So for a quick flavoursome way of adding some heat… Cut the chillies into rings cover them with cider vinegar and add caster sugar to balance the flavours… Let the chillies rest for 20 minutes, to take on more of the flavour… Delicious sprinkled over the sausage and beans… This chilli recipe can be used with all sorts.. Really lovely with cheese …
To be honest with you … Anything goes with this recipe .. In terms of the ingredients … Whatever you feel in the moment.. I have ‘poshed’ it up on occasions for an easy adult supper… Adding chorizo sausage, chopped fresh herbs… Adding butter beans and kidney beans… If you reheat the recipe in the oven, it gives the flavours a much deeper expression. Just before serving sprinkle spinach over the top… Serve with crispy garlic bread and rice …. Delicious ….
And now for a Quick Desert …..
Banana Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
My son is either non stop eating banana’s or he leaves them in the fruit bowl to wither and go black! … Not to worry… ! This is the best way to deal with them…
250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
125g butter or similar
250g caster sugar
4 black bananas – mashed into a bowl – Or what you have
2 eggs – beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
175g chocolate broken into pieces
Heat the oven 180C (350F / Gas 4)
Mix and mash butter, sugar, bananas, eggs, extract.. Don’t over mix.. This recipe is better on the rustic side! Add the dry ingredients and chocolate with a quick mix and pour into an oiled loaf tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes or until the skewer test works! Leave to cool in the tin for about 5 minutes and then turn out… If your children happen to be around you can serve it warm …
In the mornings:-
Serve with butter … With a cup of tea or coffee….
At lunch time or Dinner:-
Serve a slice with vanilla ice-cream …
This cake really lasts well … Well it would if it was not eaten so quickly!
Enjoy …. X
Caramelised Onion Tart
As I have said I loved to cook, I don’t mind what I cook as long as I am cooking….
I don’t eat meat and I can’t eat flour products …. But I don’t care because I can cook them! I have a keen sense of smell and that is how I flavour my food…. I then have a household of willing participants to check my seasoning … So all is well!
As you might imagine meal times are a bit of a marathon in this house as everyone has slightly different tastes and favourite meals … For me this is a good thing … It means that every meal time I get to cook many different meals .. Not everyone’s idea of fun … I realise … But it works for me!
This onion tart can be used for any season and is great if you are entertaining a vegetarian, just melt some goats cheese over the top for extra pizzazz. The tart works beautifully as an accompaniment to any meat dish and I also used it in packed lunches … So in brief it is a great all-rounder!
The best tip about making this tart is the painting of beaten egg over the base of the tart to stop it having a soggy bottom! A tip for all tarts if you ask me!
But no it is not one of my recipes it belongs to Delia! Here is the link:
CARAMELISED BALSAMIC AND RED ONION TARTS WITH GOATS' CHEESE – Just Google it!
The sauce in the picture is my recipe and it goes beautifully with this zinging tart.
Natalie’s crunchy mayonnaise
Judge the amount of ingredients to suit your needs and the amount of people you are serving.
You don’t have to use mayonnaise, sometimes I use yoghurt! Use what you have nothing is written in stone. Just mix them all to taste. Here is what I put in!
Good glug of Olive Oil
Dijon mustard tsp or so
Squeeze of lemon
Chopped spring onions
Cornichon – Gherkins
This sauce, is quick and easy and works so well, with so many other dishes. The caramelised tart is really quite sweet because of the balsamic vinegar. However if you use this sauce with another meal such as beef or fish, you can sweeten it with a dash of honey or even a squirt of tomato ketchup! Enjoy X
Flourless Chocolate Cake
I am not into cake or chocolate really for that matter... I know … I know… I am a freak of female nature! When I was a child my mother would have made for me the most amazing cakes for my birthdays in a desperate attempt to normalise me into being a standardised female, in her eyes. My mother the ‘Super Model’ loves a cake .. She is one of those breeds of women who can eat any amount of cake without it having any effect on her waistline whatsoever..
….The cakes she had made for me, before it was even fashionable to have cakes made into items/objects that do not resemble cakes at all … I had cakes made in all styles, one was in the shape of pond with frogs seated around the edge, playing musical instruments. This was when I was going through my frog spawn phase; like all children I was fascinated by the change of squidgy, sticky mases of clear baubles containing a tiny black dot that relatively quickly transformed & grew tails & limbs & heads & then jumps out of their containers, springing around our garage attaching themselves to dust in their journey to escape their confinement from me. I loved the cake, but I never wanted to eat it! On another occasion in a determined effort by my mother to bring out a ‘sweet tooth’ in me she had a Hansel & Gretel cake in the shape of the witches house, it was quite beautiful, the roof was covered in smarties held in place with icing sugar, the little house had decorated marzipan panels all around the edge of the chocolate building. Icing sugar icicles hung from the edge of the roof & beautiful handmade summer flowers decorating the garden, all in full bloom …. Yes it was not lost on me that this cake had an issue with its seasons … But it was quite a masterpiece…. Did I eat it? …. ‘No’ … I ate some of the smarties off the roof & took the cake to school, to share the main body of the masterpiece with my school mates …. And many happy teachers….
So despite all my mother’s best efforts … To turn me to the ‘sweet side’ …. It never worked …. I say …. ‘Let me eat cheese!’ …. However I have always loved to make cakes, it was just the need to find someone to eat them for me … I forced these cakes on my friends, boyfriends, the gardeners at my childhood home and the window cleaner, who was extremely partial to a cake and would most often leave the house after polishing the windows, with a sizable chunk of cake for his family wrapped in tin foil for a safe journey home. My mother started to change her view of me … If I could not eat cake .. Then maybe I could make cake .. Best of a bad job … & I can make cake! …
Understandably my husband on the grounds of health and safety, his health and safety, was reluctant to consume entire cakes just as a means to keep his cake cooking wife happy. So I looked for other avenues to consume my passion for cake making… My sister-in-law and niece were always eager to comply, so there was a bonus! When we had our daughter and subsequently two sons, they all had the ability to eat cake, which was a great relief for my mother & me … I would make the most elaborate cakes … Quite ridiculous really … But the children enjoyed the spectacle … Now I am lazy [cake wise] … I just like to make ‘easy’ cakes and this recipe is one I often like to make..
Obviously this flourless cake is ideal for people who love cake but are intolerant to gluten, it is also very much a cake that can be enjoyed by all, that is the beauty of it … I like to make it with dark chocolate [70% solids], however, when we have had an excess of Easter milk chocolate eggs in the past & I became fed up with the children attaching themselves to the ceiling on another sugar high. I would use [steal] the left over chocolate from their eggs to make this cake. Obviously this is not an ideal ingredient for an adult cake, but you can freeze it and bring it out for a children’s/family gathering. [Just be careful how you defrost it].
This cake lends itself for all occasions and seasons, if I want it to look posh over autumn, winter gathering … I hide the natural cracking on the surface of this cake behind some skilfully piped design made from ganache mixed with a bit of icing sugar to make it stiff and take on the shaping of the piping…. In the summer, spring I serve it either just dusted with chocolate powder and cream or adollop of silky ganache over the top allowing it to spill over the edge of the cake in a decadent way & serve it with vanilla ice cream …. Beautiful ….
So the recipe I hear you cry …. Which is taken and slightly adapted by me, as we all do with our favourite foods, to suit our family’s tastes. This recipe is taken from Amy Willcock’s Aga Baking. [Don’t panic you do not need an Aga – it cooks just as well in a conventional oven too!]
Serves 8-10 [I also make this cake in half the size too]
I use a spring bottom tin 22cm 8.5”
Pre-heated oven 180*c / 350*f / gas4
350g good quality dark chocolate, broken into small pieces
175g unsalted butter .. I use whatever I have [don’t panic if you only have salted butter]
235g golden caster sugar [I sometimes use just caster sugar – I am beginning to think I a bit of a cooking slut!]
1. Grease tin.
2. Melt the chocolate & butter together.
3. Whisk the eggs into a frenzy – So they become fluffy & pale.
4. AGA – Roasting oven – 20 minutes, turning the cake half way through cooking. Then transfer into the simmering oven for another 20 minutes. Check the consistency of the cake with a skewer, when you poke the cake some of the cake should come away with the skewer, unlike a ‘normal’ cake! Cool completely in the tin..
5. Conventional Oven – Bake in a bain marie for 45 minutes. Turn off the oven & leave in the oven with the door ajar. Remove from the oven, remove the cake from the bain marie and let it cool in the tin ….
All I can say is ….. Enjoy ….. I know you will …..
Let me know what you think …..
Turning Grandma into a Mud Pie….
I have thought long and hard about writing about some 'bits' of my life. If I should? .. If I can? Like most people’s lives it has been an interesting journey, particularly with regard to my family and extended family. I have a great memory for detail sometimes the memories are too vivid, however and even better I have a good sense of the bizarre and the humour that is required to go along with it. Some of my stories are very black, but my survival technique is comedy. Turning Grandma into a Mud Pie, is the first of my stories, to be committed to public scrutiny. Here I can introduce you to some of the characters in my life! Enjoy ….. (I hope)…So welcome to my musings on a mad world …
Turning Grandma into a Mud Pie
So, for this momentous family gathering various members of the Jones family clan were shipped in from all over the UK and from far flung corners of the world. The party was to be a two day event… I did not attend the party on the Saturday as Trevor was attending… He cannot abide to be in my company … And it felt fair to me to give him and his long term partner Hilary some space with his siblings and others. My totally eccentric aunt Elvira kindly invited my mother and I to meet up with the rest of the family on the Sunday, as Trevor would have left the proceedings. So I took my mother and my nine year old daughter to meet grandma’s children, my aunts and uncles and her great aunts and uncles. I thought it would be an exciting occasion for us all … If not illuminating…
Grandma I was told had thirteen pregnancies and seven surviving children, five boys and two girls. Which, in itself is quite an achievement as my grandparent’s contempt for each other was so extreme that they could not bear to be in the same room together, in their own home, so as not to come across each other, with the exception of bedtime, she had the front room he had the back room… When they were out together in public there was a heartfelt and palpable atmosphere of utter disgust between them… One of my earliest and most shocking memories of my grandma Doris Margaretta Jones was that she would regularly have outbursts of a varying pitch and level at my grandfather publically. Saying in response to any comments he may have made…. “He makes me spit! He makes me SPIT!” She would during the day repeat this comment with unfettered distain toward him… As a young child this was quite shocking and alarming, as to me grandma was a pillar of society and the matriarch of the family, whom I felt safe around, which in my childhood was rare at times. To me she had the highest moral values. It was out of character to ever imagine that grandma would lower herself to spit… Like a navvy in the street! Simply shocking! … Although being the type of child I was, I was kind of excited to see her do it and wonder what effect it might have on my mother’s sensibilities … Wicked child I am! I can confirm that to the best of my knowledge grandma never did spit and over the many years I just came to accept that is what she said when grandpa was around..… Another childhood dream of seeing her spit was dashed!
It was a further source of equal bewilderment to me that grandpa, with equal regularity, when we were all out, in a restaurant, in an airport or any public place, he would hold up his hand and point out the signs to the Ladies toilets? …Raising his pointed finger at the sign of the WC and booming at my grandmother ….. “Doris there’s the Lavatory, ….. THERE… The lavatory Doris …The lavatory’s are there Doris.” I realise now, it was his way to irritate her and embarrass her…. But as a child it seemed very strange that grandma could not see and read the signs for herself and why would she not be equally interested in where the restaurant was, for example? I mean she was partial to a cup of tea?… Never once did he not do this …. He would then slide up behind me, grab my arm with the most painful iron like grip, which made my legs buckle under the pressure… And hiss his laugh in my ear through the front of what I think were his dentures, this gesture always ended in a quiet throaty whistle… Her obvious response was that he made her spit! But still, to my irritation, no moisture was ever forthcoming!Growing up in this strange world, finally at the age of about four I realised that my grandparents could not stand the sight of each other but were tied to one another in some form or other … Possibly because it was a generational thing … ? They were never to my knowledge kind to each other, except on two occasions, Grandpa was knocked over on his bicycle on the North Circular Road, on arriving at hospital he was given a pain killer for his injuries; unfortunately he was allergic to the drug and he had a major stroke, which rendered him unable to speak … He would stutter, stammer and shake, however I do remember on occasions he was able, under his breath to hiss the audible words, at grandma .. Bitch and Fuck … At times of his frustration … Despite this …. She sat with him day after day, for over a year, such was the determination of my grandmother to coax him back to health. Writing endless sentences and doing sums for him to copy and say to her out loud.
She would put a heavy glass ashtray in front of him to pick up, to try and reverse the paralysis in his arm and hand. After a year or so …. I think in order to get away from her he made a full recovery… He wanted to get back down the bus depot where he was a bus conductor and where there were men and free whisky! She had done her job and he was off her hands again. The second time there was some kindness from him was when he was dying and she was at his hospital bed and he wanted her to hold his hand …. She refused …
For the party grandma’s ashes must be found … So the search was on … To put you in the picture and describe Elvira’s and Uncle Doug’s wonderfully shambolic and rambling home. You approach the property via a joint driveway shared with the large old house next door which has been converted to an old people’s home, their house is on the right as you approach. This Sussex property has beautiful views over the adjoining countryside. The house has a large number of rooms on the ground floor, on the second floor is a more open planned area, stuffed full of their life’s accessories, bits and bobs. To the back of the house there is a large acreage of overgrown scrappy lawn that has been vaguely tamed into walkways by a ride on lawn mower, to be frank it is really too much for two people in their seventies to handle, but this is the way they want to live their lives. To the left of the house, on a lower level is a 1970’s style building housing a very old and rather frightening swimming pool, with water that has more than its fair share of shades of green and in one corner looks slightly like a swamp.. Beyond that is further bumpy scrubland lawn with a five foot hedge denoting the perimeter of their property to its neighbours, the old people’s home. However the hedge just stops and you can walk around it onto the neighbouring lawn. To the right of their property there are a number of scattered outhouses one of which is a dance studio, where my aunt has been a very successful dance professor. There are many glasshouses scattered around the main house, that are filled to the brim with overgrowing plants that have pushed their way out through smashed windows. Other outhouses are filled to bursting with more relics from their past, Doug who was in the film industry, has containers of scripts and reels of films billowing out of boxes in these storage huts. Under the house is my aunt’s collection, thirty plus years of The Telegraph newspaper, bundled into piles tied with string. Elvira needs these newspapers just in case she may require an article contained in these precious documents, she has a penchant for cutting out snippets of articles and sending bits of news to you in order to demonstrate a particular point or to inform you of something you might not have known or understood, in a previous life! I have received a large number of cuttings over the years as have the rest of the family. Nowadays Elvira sends the information via email. Interestingly the emails arrive in the most unusual staccato format that is sometimes difficult to follow, she uses stars, exclamation marks and full stops like some people use emoji. Without exception Elvira always signs off her notes or emails with; ‘So busy’ or ‘In haste’. Both ‘sign off’, comments over the years have really irritated and infuriated her brother Trevor. Because he likes to think that he is the more important and busier than anyone else! Families and their foibles … Don’t you just love ‘em! It makes me laugh!
Back to the party …. As ever with all families there is always a back story, ours is a black comedy drama. Grandma's final resting was agreed to be in the back garden of Elvira and Doug’s house. A marquee had been erected and vast amounts of food had been ordered from Marks and Spencer to see us all through the weekend, as Elvira now refuses to cook. Grandma's seven children and their respective wives and partners and some of the eighteen or so grandchildren and any vague relatives with the similar surname were wheeled in for the event. The Jones have a strange ability and need to find distant relatives to enthuse over, I think this is mostly as they don’t particularly like their actual close family who have seen them for whom they really are! Therefore new shinny relatives are always handy and welcome at any event. Having the common surname Jones you can imagine we have a lot of potential new family members to choose from!
The final resting place for Grandma was to be under a newly planted tree, by the hedge adjoining the neighbouring property. The placing of the semi-mature tree turned out to be significant and was to be paid for by Trevor. Uncle Doug had confided to Trevor that the position of the tree was critical, as he and Aunt Elvira like to sunbathe in the nude, this had sometimes confused the old people in the nursing home next door. Particularly the Captain, who resided at the home, and whose window looked down on to my aunt and uncles back garden. Confused or not the Captain sometimes with other occupants of the home would wonder over into the garden, to join the fun, possibly in the hope of something more than your average cup of sugar? If you get my drift? ..
I suppose, if you think about it, sometimes the days in an old people’s home must drag a bit so the occupants must look for other ways to be amused? Elvira and Doug provided perfect adult entertainment in this regard! …. So to avoid unwanted guests the tree needed to be placed in a precise location. Some of Trevor's many staff were dispatched prior to the ceremony to plant the ‘modesty’ tree.
On the day we were there, drinks were flowing well and my uncles were making a great deal of fuss over our daughter who is always rather pleased to be the centre of attention and enjoying the fuss, and why not! As ever in the UK the weather was living up to the “not as summery as it should be” factor, in fact it was quite chilly and there was a hell of a wind. So instead of eating in the marquee, which was bellowing in the strong breeze, we were to eat in the main house. One of my cousins, Elvira’s child, was entertaining me, telling me all the gossip about various members of the family and all the goings on at the party the day before. Really is that not the point of these meetings … The gossip? My cousin told me to look at the fireplace, “we could not find grandma’s ashes anywhere in the house or in the out buildings!” Elvira had put grandma somewhere safe but she could not remember where? Therefore Elvira had had no choice and was forced to scrape out the ashes from the fire place for the event until she could lay her hands on the real grandma! I told you at the beginning of this story … facts or reality rarely affects what the Jones do! Totally irreverent of both us, but it added to the humour of what was to come! And it was most probably true!
After lunch we were all forced out of the house to undertake the main event and indulge in a little mud pie making! My beautiful mother dressed as always like a supermodel was asked by Elvira to make her way to the back of the marquee, where my mother came across a wheel barrow of soil and another wheelbarrow filled with dried manure! Elvira holding grandma’s ashes in a canteen in one hand and a desert spoon in the other explained to my mother that she had worked out, presumably into a kitchen bowl a night or two before? That each of the family had two and a half scoops of grandma’s ashes, to mix. The plan was to scoop out your allotted amount of grandma into a Tupperware box then take two spoon full’s of manure from the wheelbarrow deposit that on top of grandma and then sprinkle an appropriate amount of soil of the top of the mixture! Yes really!! There was a watering can on hand so you could pour some water over the grandma mixture and combine her into a smooth ‘roux’. Finally, the wet human slop was to be deposited in another wheelbarrow located nearby, which had a net covering it, containing the contents of the day’s before ceremony of grandma’s “bake-off” mix congealed together by other members of the family! … Quite literally turning grandma into a mud pie!
I could tell something was up as I could hear shrieks of hysterical laughter from my mother, there is no stopping her once she gets started, and then you could hear loud chastising from my aunt who was trying to control my mother’s guffawing. To my aunts horror and my mother’s lack of reverence in the face of the ensuing ludicrous task. My mother’s attempts to deposit two and half scoops of grandma into a Tupperware box was being hampered by the wind and the ashes were being blown away. My mother, due to her violent laughter attack was not quick enough to secure grandma’s ashes under the manure and soil and slosh her with a gloop of water.... So as a result some parts of grandma became unattached, blown away by the wind and are now residing somewhere over the Sussex countryside, a lucky escape for that bit of grandma if you ask me!
When it came to mine and my daughters turn .. I went all haughty and said that I could not be involved in turning grandma into a mud pie, the idea was quite ridiculous! In hindsight, writing this, I think this was wrong .. And I should get a life! Perhaps grandma would have found it quite acceptable ….. And funny … Let’s face it some memorials are boring!
The interesting thing was that once we had a barrow load of grandma’s mud pie mix. It sort of just sat there and no further progress was made on that day…. We just got chatting and the scattering of the ashes got put to one side! Grandma was immortalised into a mud pie, so I guess she could wait, other things were going on.
A bit later, having gone into the house to hide from the weather, I had an interesting if not surreal conversation in the kitchen with my aunts and uncles, with the exception of Elvira and Doug, they took me to one side to discuss on where my aunt kept the breakfast cereal? Not exactly a scintillating conversation, but each to their own! My aunts and uncles, knowing how close I am to Elvira told me of her habit of repatriating the breakfast cereal back to the bottom cupboard in the kitchen, they were all taking it in turns to put the cereal into one of the top cupboards. However each and every morning, the cereal would find its way back into the under counter cupboard! … As you might imagine, I could not quite grasp the importance of where the breakfast cereal was housed, I mean did it really matter? But they were most insistent that I discuss the matter with her! Delving further to see what the actual problem was, why does it matter where the cereal is kept? Well you would think!!?? It transpired that Elvira has always kept the breakfast cereal in the lower cupboard… For my Uncle Doug’s delight and personal enjoyment!
Then the penny dropped … It emerged that my aunt does not wear underwear in the mornings a long standing arrangement between her and her husband, she wears the equivalent of what we would call a baby doll nighty, I guess having being a sex kitten of the 1960/1970, why not??.. Incidentally, to her credit at the opening of the premiere of the film Entertaining Mr Sloane by Joe Orton, produced by her husband July 1970, Elvira knocked Princess Margret off the front pages of the newspapers at the premiere … So beautiful is she?
However back to #cerealgate. In the mornings when Elvira enters the kitchen, to her siblings and respective wives horror, who are happily sitting at the table eating breakfast …. Elvira bends down, full ‘flash’ to get her breakfast cereal!??… What can I say??? And indeed that was my question to my aunts and uncles….. What do you want me to say to her? The general consensus was that I am close to my aunt and I would be able to make her see sense … Christ this is my family, no one sees sense! But okay … I will give it a shot …!
Elvira came into the kitchen to collect some more food so I seized the moment and took a deep breath. Whilst my uncle and aunts shuffled conspiratorially behind me to see what the response would be! “Elvira!” I gesticulated toward the assembled members peering on with childlike interest. And they shuffled back slightly, again! “Elvira why do you or Doug keep moving the cereal from the top cupboard where your guests are putting it, back to the under counter bottom cupboard? Did you realise they can all see …. Well, em see your naked bottom?” She turned around with condiments in her hands and stared at me, seemingly with her mind elsewhere, so I continued, as if to try and point out the obvious … “these are after all - your brothers?” Without even a blink she shrugged her shoulders, glanced at the assembled crowd and just confirmed.“ Oh they never see my front bottom they only ever see my back bottom, I do it for Doug!” And off she went out of the kitchen … To stunned silence … What can you really say? Well I am sure we can say a lot …. But I suppose the nub of the matter is that it was their home and she can have her cereal in whatever cupboard she wants to put it … I guess?? …. Each to their own! … I turned to my aunts and uncles, picked up my glass of wine and attempted to copy my aunt’s aplomb .. Suggesting that they admired the ceiling in the kitchen when Elvira was deciding whether to have Rice Crispys or Co-Co Pops! What can you do! … Clearly they are nudists!
As I said, grandma, or what was left of grandma thanks to my mother’s hysteria was never on that day, consigned to the ground as on this family occasion talking and musing on life had taken over and the weather became windy and dull so grandma remained quietly in her wheelbarrow… As it turned out this happened to be a good thing … As some weeks later the ‘modesty’ tree which had already been planted with a hole left to one side for grandma’s ashes… Died before the ashes had been scattered! It had been planted over a Nissan hut which had restricted its root system and killed it off. I have to say another bodge-up by Trevor.
So some weeks later another tree was purchase and delivered to the house for replanting in the same location… Two more Polish workmen were dispatched to my aunt’s house to undertake the planting of this fine new specimen. However before planting the Nissan hut needed to be dug out first, as you can imagine a fairly major job, particularly by hand! These poor men dug and dug, extricating chunks of concrete as they went. The weather had improved, it was now a heat wave and the sun was shining down upon their backs, making it not only back breaking work, but they ran with sweat in the heat. They dug and dug and dug over a number of days.… Eventually they were close to the end of the job.. Back filling the hole with manure and soil ready to plant the tree. The hole was deep enough at this point for the men to stand with just their head and shoulders above ground level….
In the house there was a knock at the door and it was Elvira’s teenage granddaughter; who had been taking a student gap year and had turned up to see her grandparents. To see her granddaughter was a great excitement to Elvira. She wanted to show her the progress of the final resting place of grandma, which her granddaughter had missed due to being abroad … In the ensuing excitement Elvira on the way out of the kitchen door to the garden, grabbed a canteen that was on the shelf, proclaiming to her granddaughter that she too could be part of grandma’s final resting place as these were grandma’s ashes … Elvira ran toward the two workman, slogging away, digging in the hole, glimmering with sweat … And in a moment of supreme dramatic gesture, ripped of the lid of the canister and threw the contents into the air directly above where the two workman were digging, both who had stood to watch what Elvira was doing…. Too late to get out of the way, the men were open mouthed at this performance, yes grandma’s ashes flew into the air in a blacken smoke only to land on the sweaty workman … Sticking and clogging to their wet skin …. The men spat and gasped and spat again trying to rid themselves of the dried ashes of grandma … Scraping at their bodies trying to brush off the dried powdery residue of grandma off their shiny wet bodies ….
To this day I am unsure if the two workman were fully aware of what was thrown at them, really not nice … But a number of things spring to mind? Firstly, I do wonder at the quantity of ashes grandma managed to create, she was only a small woman. There was the measured out number of spoonful’s at the earlier family party occasion and a further canteen of ashes thrown at these two unsuspecting workman. And secondly, I feel somewhat gratified, as grandma had spent most of her life announcing that she wanted to spit and to my knowledge never managed to carry out this threat.. So at least in death she managed to make someone else spit and I secretly think that she would have been pleased…
As a footnote to this story, some years later when my uncle Doug had been diagnosed with a mild form of Alzheimer’s. I called the house to speak to Elvira and Doug answered the phone.. We got chatting and he advised me to his delight that Elvira was riding on the lawn mower … Presumably mowing the lawn? He then told me that she was knicker-less! This is not the sort of thing he would have normally said to his niece under ordinary circumstances therefore I was desperately thinking of ways I could divert this type of conversation and so to speak … Get him off topic!! …. Then he announced that he was sitting watching Elvira with his Percy … To this day it makes my toes curl.. I mean what the hell do you say to that? I was stammering over my words .. Anything to move on with a different conversation …. One of those dying moments… I carried on chatting about whatever came into my mind other than my uncles Percy! … Then over the line I heard a meow…. “What is that Doug?” … “It’s Percy my new cat … He was a stray and he has adopted me…” Well as you can imagine not only a welcome relief to me … But a lovely moment .. As Percy gave them both such delicious joy in the years to come and Percy, I am guessing had no problem with where the cereals were kept!
I guess all families are like this right! ?? ….
NP/ME Style collaboration with
The Speed of Sound …
The making of affordable Art
If you follow the NP/ME Style blogs you will know that my mates at The Speed of Sound and we have worked together before … We created art back drops for two of their songs, checkout .. Checkered Land, January 2014 and Shut All The Clubs, February 2016.
Asked by The Speed of Sound if they could use this shot, we had edited for their song video.…. For a promotional T-Shirt …. Obviously the answer was “YES”…. what a compliment … A new string to our bow …
Here are some fun shots of the T-Shirt, which you can purchase from The Speed of Sound for £15.00. [It is great quality] .. I have one …
So if you see a picture on the NP/ME site or on my twitter feed @NNpme that you like or you would like me to take a picture specially for you let us know ….
These are the links to The Speed of Sound site:-
The Egg Game
Warning … This can provoke mass hysteria …
[You have been warned!! Tears have been known!]
The Origin of the Game
When I was young my parents made friends with a German couple and their children on a Holiday to San Sebastian … [Which incidentally I won in a raffle at my school, the two week holiday that is!] My ‘father’ who has a penchant for collecting people he thinks he can impress and influence, took a liking to this German family. Thus they were incorporated into his collection of miss-fits … Not because they were not nice they were .. But they just did not fit with him! Anyway I digress.. One Easter the German friends and their two children were billeted to Dutch Garden our family home in order to entertain my ‘father’..
They arrived to stay one Easter bringing very many generous gifts for all … One of which was a packet of thin papers in an envelope decorated with pretty shiny Easter eggs… It turned out that decorated real hard boiled eggs at Easter was a tradition for them. I was hooked from the off you dropped these pieces of paper in with the boiling eggs and they would turn the boiled eggs into the brightest full-on colours, which we shined, (back then), with bacon rashers.
I loved the look of them and they sat pride of place on the table until Easter Sunday came… Then we were introduced to the egg game … Which was basically to smash the eggs to see which egg remained intact at the end of the game … I know I am easily pleased! A simple person that’s me … Not!!
Over the years that followed I have played this game every single Easter .. However I have developed the game to make more sense for us …. This is how it works!
The aim of the game is the last person standing with an intact egg is the winner … (Intact means that one side can be cracked, so long as that egg has cracked both ends of all the other eggs.)
1. Hard Boiled Eggs are essential, at least 3 per person .. More if you like! (We have about 6 each!)
2. Decoration of the eggs … See notes …
3. Everyone chooses just 1 egg each at the start of the game. The rest remain in the bowl until needed.
4. A coin is flipped to see who goes first then all persons taking part stand in a circle.
5. The person who has won the toss, turns to the person on their right. Both hold an egg each, pointy end of the egg out.
6. The winner of the toss, has first hit of the other person’s egg. Just one hit at a time!... If the hitter cracks the other egg, (pointy end). The egg that is cracked has to be tuned to blunt side of the egg. The person that has cracked the other persons egg gets to hit their egg again. (So the second hit can be pointy to blunt end or any combination). Whichever egg has annihilated the opponent’s egg. (Both ends of one egg cracked). The winner moves onto the next person. The person that has lost this round chooses another egg, and waits their turn as the egg games goes around the circle of players.
… Are you following? The new opponent must use his pointy end first …
7. You follow this procedure until you have a winning egg .. Even if that egg has one end broken .. But has destroyed all other eggs at both ends ..
Okay it is a bit mad! But it is very funny and strangely competitive … For those of you that are going to complain that it is a waste of eggs .. Use the broken eggs to make egg mayonnaise sandwiches which you can enjoy later with your ‘High Tea!! …
Some Tips …
When my children were young they loved to decorate the eggs .. They used to drop them and crack them before we even started the game, so a good way for small children to decorate them is once boiled to put them back into the egg carton and get the children to stick transfers and stickers on the eggs. Then once they have done one side you can turn the eggs so they can be decorated on the other side.
Without the special egg colouring papers provided by the German friends. You can colour hard boiled eggs by using food colouring and vinegar with boiling water. If you want to be really arty-farty then you can decorated them in all manner of ways, we like to draw faces on them and personalise them…
The winner gets …
Well when the children were younger it used to be a chocolate egg as a prize to add to all of the other bits of chocolate they already had. Now they are all teenagers.. It is money!
So there you go …. The Paddick Family Egg game ….. Enjoy …
The Speed of Sound – Shut All The Clubs
For the second time NP/ME Style has had the opportunity of working with The Speed of Sound, we provided the background pictures for their heart felt writing about the loss of privately owned and council run venues across the country, which limits the stages bands can perform on.
The song Shut All The Clubs points out the sad fact that these valuable culture social meeting places are being shut down and bulldozed to make space for developments of flats, corporate buildings, restaurant chains and the ubiquitous coffee houses and designer celebrity ‘chef’ restaurants.
The song alludes to a time when these spaces had a personal identity within their community along with the people that inhabited them. Culturally now we seem to live in a world that is all the same, every town centre mirrors the last. The high streets are full of the same corporate companies all with their special personal relationship with the tax man!
We happily loaned some pictures that we had taken to be used in this video:-
The strange fact is that these pictures were taken in a derelict house that we demolished to build two new five bedroom luxury homes. It should be pointed out that the demolished property had been condemned and could not be rebuilt, so we believe like The Speed of Sound that if you are going to redevelop then it should be done with an eye for style that works within its surroundings, complies where possible with modern ergonomics, but overall maintains some character of its own!
It is inevitable that our urban environmental needs must change and be upgraded as time moves forward and modern life dictates a different pace and style of living. But do we really need to rape and pillage, architecturally speaking, our towns, cities and villages of their identity?
NP/ME Style likes all types of design as long as it is done well and considered within its surroundings, but I totally empathize with The Speed of Sound lyrics in Shut All The Clubs. Please let us all be individual and leave some doors open giving us an element of freedom and choice. Letting us breathe the fresh air of individuality!
To order please click here:-
How to have fun with Demolition ….
Family Entertainment my style …
I thought I would have a bit of fun with these pictures …
They are now two beautiful homes …
Right said Fred, both of us together, one each end and steady as we go
Tried to shift it couldn’t even lift it, we was getting nowhere
And so, we, had a cup of tea
Right said Fred, give a shot to Charlie, up comes Charlie from the floor below
After straining, heaving and complaining, we was getting nowhere
And so, we, had a cup of tea
Charlie had a thing and he thought we ought, to take of all the handles
And the things that hold the candles – but it did no good (well I never thought it would!)
Right said Fred, have to take the feet off, to get them feet off wouldn’t take a mo ….
Took its feet off, even with the seat off, should have got us somewhere, but no!
So Fred said let’s have another cup of tea, and we said “right-oh!”
Right said Fred, have to take the door off, need more space to shift the so-and-so
Had bad twinges, taking of the hinges, and it got us nowhere
And so, we, had a cup of tea
Right said Fred, have to take the wall down, that there wall is gonna have to go
Took the wall down, even with it all down, we was getting nowhere
And so, we, had a cup of tea
Charlie had a think and he said look Fred, I’ve got a sort of feeling
If we remove the ceiling,
With a rope of two we can drop the blighter through ….
Right said Fred, climbing up a ladder, with his crowbar gave a mighty blow
Was he in trouble, half a ton of rubble, landed on the top of, his dome
So Charlie and me had another cup of tea
And then we, went home!
I said to Charlie we’ll just have to leave it standing on the landing, that’s all.
You see the trouble with Fred is, he’s too hasty.
Now you never get nowhere if you’re too hasty …..
Cheers!! To my great friends Craig and Tessa, who have allowed me to style these pictures of their fantastic Gastro Pub. Designed by Hennessy Interiors; @Hennessyint. My only warning is ........ BOOK FIRST!!
Party Time Starts Here!!!!!
Wool Bowler with Embroidered Badges To Set The Mood!
Antique Chinese Beads to Add A Touch Of Class!!
Porcupine Quills! Not One for the Faint Hearted!
Metal Filigree Felt Hat...I Just Love It!!
Bold Leather Chain Necklace...For Impact...Obviously!!!
I Just LOVE the Look of this Hat!! A One Off!
AND I LOVE THIS ONE TOO!
Them Chinese Beads Again In Their Full Glory!
Amythist and Coral Necklace with Leather and Silver Loops..Party Time!
Body Armour! Black Chain and Beads....Simple!
Double Looped Leather Necklace! For Pure Statement!
Stainless Steal, Silver And Gold Cuff...NOT TO BE MESSED WITH!
Those Beads Again!
All out Killer Style! Pearls, Stones, Wood, Silver and Leather...All in the Mix....And Why Not!!
It's Worth Another Look!
Hand Stiched Leather Bangles......Pile them high!
A Real One Off! Leather, Wood and Silver Cuff!
SO LET US PARTY!!!!