Monday, October 21, 2013

Happy 40th Anniversary to one of the world's most iconic buildings.....

.. The Sydney Opera House!

Our first proper glimpse of this wonderful building followed a walk through the Botanic Gardens in Sydney, a few years back, and as you round the headland edge of the Gardens towards the bay, there it is, this immense building, stood off in the distance, just waiting to impress.

As you approach the Opera House, you begin to realise just how wonderful it is.
I always imagined that it was pure white, and rendered flat. It isn't. It has an incredible mosaic of tiles, in pale pinks and whites and creams. The building almost sits, brooding, just waiting. You can image that the great curls of concrete and tiles could fold back to reveal an enormous seed pod, or fold forward to create an impregnable, beautiful, fortress.

It deserves all its accolades, and the memories and efforts of all those involved in its making should be trumpeted loud from the very tips of the building that they helped to create.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Sunday Morning Musings - Part 144

What the hell, it is Wednesday, and 4pm... where's the Sunday or Morning in that?

Look, I can't help it, I could blame it on latent jet-lag (more about that later), living in a time warp, or cabin fever, or dammit, I could just be being spontaneous (which I don't mind as long as it doesn't include combustion after it)

Now is it me, or do we bloggers all get to that point when making a things to do list, and "write up blog" gets written down. Suddenly it is there, written down in your best handwriting (or spider crawl), in your favourite ink, in pencil, eye liner or crayon.... whichever, it is there, written alongside things like, tidy "that" drawer in the kitchen, sort out a shoe rack in the hall for goodness sake, and clean the inside of the windows as you can't blame the hazy grime purely on condensation any longer.

Written down it suddenly comes under the "chores" heading, and that feeling creeps in.... I can do it tomorrow, does it "need" doing, should I clean all the windows, even including the conservatory, first.. can I even find another job to add to the list and do first, I could even make dinner, bake a cake, frame a photo.....

And "write up blog" gets further down the list. You check your blog stats, just in case 100,000 followers signed up overnight (you know they haven't, but you secretly wish they had). Then you feel you are letting down those people that always check in, these friends that you have been discussing recipes with, illness, life and love, ups and downs, and any manner of things, across the ether and airwaves all these years. And then that programme you like comes on TV, dinner is ready, and it is dark outside, and "write up blog" gets further down the list.

And all this while, you still haven't read that article your sister sent you, or sorted out all those CD's in the box upstairs, or framed all the pictures you want to, or written up all those cut out recipes (or even cooked an "nth" percentage of them... but they look so nice and you tell yourself you will cook them all) and still there on your list of things to do getting further down the list is "write up blog".

So then you think, right, get to it, write up that damn blog, get it off the list, get the laptop open, get your brain into gear, and you do... you turn on the lap top, and you want to start , and you sit there and think, what the hell do I say.
You have a thousand and one things careening around your head, you scream at yourself, pick a subject damn you, and you think, well,...  do people really want to know that we need a new back fence, and that if only I could find a damned reliable electrician we could get the lights sorted in the kitchen, so that we don't sit in some sort of twilight zone when we eat at the table.
Do they want to here about our latest trip (probably, you posted the photos everywhere says your inner voice).. and then, when you look at things in the cold light of day (and it is getting colder and the light of day shorter, as we enter Autumn) that new blog post doesn't look so bad after all, and you make a start, and suddenly things come together again, and you wonder if it will be read, and you realise, it doesn't matter if it is read, it is the writing that is important, because you can mentally clear house, and you think, I'm not bothered if the Pope reads it, (although if he does, I will be more than a tad surprised, and I hope he leaves a comment)

And we find ourselves, here, a few paragraphs later, and yes, we do need a reliable electrician to come and sort out the spots in the ceiling in the kitchen, as neither of us "does" electric... that is someone else's purview.

I think a touch of cabin fever comes from the fact that I have been off since the middle of July, so about 12 weeks (as I am between contracts, in other words unemployed) and I honestly have read enough now, and while I have done a number of odd jobs around the house, I still look at my "things to do", all those odds and ends that go on the back burner, and wonder how I haven't managed to do them, and feel slightly guilty... ho hum.

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Bab al Shams Desert Resort

Lists notwithstanding, we have managed to get away for a break, staying with our wonderful friends T&S and their daughters, in Abu Dhabi. We had a super time and saw some incredible architecture, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai (about an hours car drive up the road from Abu Dhabi)  is so tall, the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi was just incredible, and the Viceroy Hotel on the Abu Dhabi F1 Circuit was ultra modern.

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The Viceroy Hotel, F1 Circuit, Abu Dhabi

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View from the Burj Khalifa Tower

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The Grand Mosque - Abu Dhabi

There are more photos on my Facebook page and Flickr and probably Instagram ( I know... really!), feel free to take a look, as there are too many to paste into this post. If they only impart one thing on you, then it should be that the Emirates are a land of contrasts. I think to fully understand this, you would need more time there than we had, just for everything to sink in. We did manage to catch up with our good friends, and we can't thank them enough for their hospitality, and hopefully we can return the favour at some point, thanks T&S. 

We had a visitor too, Huw (Peter's stepfather) came over from Spain to stay for a week. It was a nice week of easy meals and laughter, tempered by a trip down to Somerset to inter Peter's Mother's ashes. Is was a sunny autumn day and with a simple ceremony and a few old friends in attendance, we, each in our own way, said our final goodbyes to Anne. Before Huw left, we promised we would get out to Spain in the new year, an easy "top of the list" thing. 

So that's it for now, I'm off to let the hens have an hour or so scratching around before the night sets in. Pudding for dinner has just come out of the oven, wafting delicious warm scents across the place, and one last thing before I go, I must cross "write up blog" off my list......

Take care folks, enjoy the rest of the week. 

Monday, September 02, 2013

Sunday Morning Musings - Part 143, a return at the end of summer.

Shall we start off with flowers?

Happy Anniversary to Lee & Chuck, have a great day! (again)

So I'm back..... 

Javea June 2013 - Blue Dome
Ok, now I know I have probably been missed by the mass ranks of readers out there, but fear not (or fear, if you feel that is the right response) I have returned.

I am also more than aware that when I say massed ranks, I may be exaggerating, as although I would like to believe that thousands hang on my every word, and that I have a trillion followers, I know deep down that I don’t (actually I know from the stats, so who am I trying to fool).  So where have I been? well not hiding out in a little church in Spain (above, however the blue tiled roof would have won me over long before religion got a look in)

I think with all bloggers, on one occasion or more,  the will to blog deserts you... phuth... there it goes, no explanation, no marching band, just a "meh" and it's off, your blogging mojo goes on an unexpected vacation. When it does come back, you feel like you have let your readers down, and although I do though have a tight band of loyal followers (you mad fools, you know who you are), I know that I can't just wing it on charm, grammar, wit, photos, decent punctuation, but there has to be something of my own chutzpah in there and if that feeling deserts you for a while, then until it comes back, everything goes on hold. 

There is a feeling with me too, that all the varieties of new media can take some of the blame as well, and I am happy to put my hand up (although still feeling guilty - damn that catholic upbringing) to using it. Why post chapter and verse, when an Instagram photo and one line can suffice, or a status update on Facebook can convey a mood, your life, your liking of bacon. You can even tweet your life on Twitter (which I have forestalled so far)


Posting on my blog, is almost like writing a letter to a friend. It is more personal and while I know a picture can speak a thousand words, I honestly feel that the written word can convey much more than emotions as well as feelings, it can help to unravel all the junk sloshing around in your head, but maybe that is just me. Coincidently, and strangely enough, I wrote the first letter to a friend for the first time in years just this weekend, and there was something very comforting in doing so.

I do think there is room in this day and age for the mass of media available to us all, however I think that before we engage with it all, we think beforehand, because in many instances, we care not one wit if you like bacon or not..

Garden from Hedgerow

So the twinned mysterious worlds of LalaLand and Weenworld have been watching planet Earth (from our embassy in the truly sunny MK) suffering from a somewhat strange series of meteorological fluctuations recently. Allegedly this has been caused by something in the Earth’s solar system, called the “Sun”. 

In simple terms, this “Sun” is apparently a raging ball of flame suspended in the centre of the known universe, and heats the variety of planets within, with, what the inhabitants of Earth call, “Rays” (we’re keeping it simple space cadets, so no prizes for knocking the physics on this). Anyhow, the knock on effect from this raging ball of flame is felt as this thing called “heat” and it is having such an effect on some of the inhabitants of Earth, during this season called ”Summer”.

Some of the population choose to bare white stick like things, called arms and legs, and in some cases, over 90% of their body mass. Then they actively attempt to roast themselves, by rubbing unguents into their flesh and lying completely still. Similar activity has been seen on numerous Sundays across the land, when pieces of ruminant flesh are cooked all over the country for consumption. Others opt for cooling beverages... bet you can guess what I go for, bearing in mind I am from "Up North", we are not used to Sun.

Javea June 2013 - Ice. Cold. Beer

More frighteningly, the mass exodus of the population to the coastal areas of the country will surely result in the whole of the mass tilting to a dangerous level, whereby whole parts of the land mass will sink or slide into the sea?  It is all very confusing!
There are even some Earthlings (under 30 years of age) that say it is a warning, or omen, as they have never seen such a bright shining hot ball in the sky before!

Meanwhile here in jolly olde Great Britain, sceptics amongst us are bracing themselves for the inevitable Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse to ride out across the country laying waste to the land, as who can truly ignore the signs?
  1. The British Lions won the rugby in Australia,
  2. The English Cricket team have won the Ashes series (against Australia again),
  3. An Englishman has won the Tour de France (it’s always jolly nice to hear “God Save the Queen” being played on the Champs Elysées),
  4. And behold, a Britain has won the Men’s final at Wimbledon. Strangely, the chap that won it seems to have two identities as when he loses a match he is a “plucky Scot”, when he wins, he is a “British Hero”…….
  5. Oooh and we’ve just had a Royal Baby.. You just know that Burger King will probably bring out a Big Baby Royale or something just as tasteful. (Never thought I’d use the word tasteful when talking about fast food, but hey)

With all this goodwill and luck running around, the blue bird of happiness is bound to be sucked into the jet engine of the nearest passing Dreamliner.... finally giving them an excuse to have  a fire on board!

Javea June 2013 - Morning Sail II

Here at home life has been ticking over, and while nothing can take away the pain and upset of losing Peter’s Mum recently, the sad news is tempered by the fact that we will be Great Uncles again later in the year, as my niece and her brilliantly talented (chef)  boyfriend are expecting a baby.

Life does throw curve balls at you though, and sometimes it can be relentless, it can sap your strength and leave you feeling confused and dazed. However, the friendships and bonds we form throughout our lives, with our friends, and our families, should be enough to sustain and support us, and that my friends, is a very great gift.
We are extraordinarily fortunate, Peter and me, that we have had the love and support we have had these past 18 months or more, and I hope in time we can reciprocate to everyone.

Hover Fly001

So moving forward, we are planning some vacation time. The contract I was working on ended some 6 weeks ago, so there are still a number of plans to sort out in the garden, or chores around the house, (depending on the “Sun”, but secretly I am looking forward to opening the back wall of the kitchen, sitting on the deck, and watching the wee mouse that lives in the shed, for a while at least, before I have to actually tidy out the shed!

Have a great week folks, it is nice to be back :o)

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Birthday Wishes

Happy Birthday to Sue & Lee, thanks for your best wishes today, and for all the encouragement over the past few years, you've both been great followers of the blog, thank you so much, and have a great day each of you

Pretty in peach

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Photopost 001 - Spring

Spring blossom

                   Spring Blossom

                   Hedgerow floor

Snakes Head Fritillary
                   Snakes Head Fritillary

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                   Buzzy Bee

English Bluebell
                   English Bluebell

Fern I

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Variety is the Spice of life

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So, since February I have been languishing in the land of the un-contracted contractor. If I was an actor I would be resting, as it is, I sometimes think I am only play acting at my job, as it still surprises me that I can keep down a day job, when I think personally some of my best thoughts are when I am shaving... but hey it takes all sorts.

I decided (with Peter as back up) to start looking at contracted work after resigning my full-time post last June, and yes, we are lucky that we can make that sort of decision, especially in this day and age.
It was similar to the time that I decided to leave the Hotel and Catering trade behind, I was worried that making such a jump would herald a whole host of issues, insecurities, and a gnashing of teeth, but to be honest, now that I have dipped my toe in the water, and have had six months with another company under my belt, the idea of being in-between jobs isn't as daunting as I had anticipated.

Herbs & Spices 009

As of tomorrow, I start a new contract for the next three months, based close to home too, so no sitting in a car for three hours a day! It'll stop me thinking about all the stuff I said I would do and never got around to.. so no probs there either.

Herbs & Spices 007

One thing I did do while I have been at home, was to sort out all the crap in the pantry... all those half empty packets, out of date tins, and packets of unidentifiable things that lurk in the back.
Now, instead of shifting twenty things to get to the tin you want, everything is gently ordered into pull-out containers and baskets. It also means that all the stuff we go to regularly, is there in front of us, not on the bottom or very top shelves like they were. You'll have guessed by the pictures that the spices and herbs took some sorting!

At one point nearly every surface in the kitchen had stuff on it, with the overspill being stacked on the floor. It looked liked we had been robbed by a team of chefs with slight OCD.

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I also managed to make Marmalade for the first time in ages, and we tried it with breakfast this morning, and I have to admit, it's pretty good. Top tip from my friend Glen on the sugar, and it worked (preserving sugar).


Personally, I think the new contract will break me out of this snap of domestic God-ness, just so I don't go overboard and start my own tea room, or start giving the WI a run for their money.

Right, short and sweet (and spicy too) Have a good week folks.

Colour in the Kitchen

Monday, March 25, 2013

20 Years


So what were you doing on the 25th of March 1993?

Well I was gearing myself up to meet the man of my life. We hadn't met before, we knew only the briefest of things about each other, and yet, by the time the evening was over, we knew everything we needed to know.

In the following 20 years, we have learned more about each other, we've grown together, become Civil-Partners; become God-Parents, Great Uncles, and Best Men. We've learned to grieve together, laugh together, and make the decisions jointly, that have affected our lives.

In all of this we have had the support of our family and friends, without whom, we would be lost. We are lucky in life that we are surrounded by these people, and I am more than lucky as I have my man by my side.

There are two people to thank for giving both me and Peter the impetus to make all this happen, one we lost touch with and one we don't see enough of, so Paul, if by any chance you are out there and here of this, then thank you, and Bruce, well it has to be, cheers Marmite. 

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Anne Griffith 1936 - 2013

Javea 001

Anne regularly read my blog, an achievement in itself for me, as I only ever think a core of less than half a dozen people actually do read it, and I never realised Anne was one of them.

Unfortunately, after a diagnosis of Cancer late last year, Anne passed away peacefully in a wonderful and caring place, not far from her home in Javea (Spain),  a home she had made with her husband Huw for the past 15 years or so.

Anne was Peter's mother.

We attended Anne's funeral in Spain last week, along with Peter's two step-sisters, and to our comfort and joy on that sad day, along with many of Anne & Huw's friends, that they have made since moving to Spain so long ago.

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In conversation later, Huw mentioned that I had not been keeping my blog up to date, and I asked if, to kick start it again, I could start with a copy of my part of the Eulogy, that I read at the funeral, and he said by all means. So here it is, my words for a woman I grew to love.

"Although I had met Anne & Huw on previous occasions, I like to think that the first time I actually met my "in-laws", was when Anne & Huw came to visit Peter for his 30th birthday, and where he was going to tell them about our relationship.

You can imagine, I was understandably nervous, and to be honest, I remember very little of the day itself, but for one moment, which will stay with me forever.... at the very end of the evening, just as we where saying our goodbye's, Anne gave me a hug and a kiss, and looking me straight in the eye, kissed me again and said "Welcome to the family".

Not long after that I was invited down to the family home in Axbridge, to stay for Christmas. 
Peter had already gone down a few days earlier, and so I found myself on a bright, crisp and very frosty Boxing Day morning, motoring on down through the Somerset countryside, wondering, with a little trepidation, what the next few days with the family would be like.

I need not have worried.... from the moment I stepped through the front door, I was enveloped into the warm and welcoming embrace of a family at home.

There were gifts to be exchanged and opened, Champagne to be drunk, dogs to be petted and fussed with, lunch to be prepared, guests to arrive, tables to be laid and lunch to finally be served....

...... And throughout all this jovial chaos and merriment, Anne sailed her ship, acquiescing here to a suggestion, making sure something else was 'just so', and more often than not, delegating by stealth..  such as "Peter.. Darling.. would you be a dear, and sort out the gravy, as you do it so well".. who could refuse?

All this until such time that she could sit back, look around her dinner table, and take pleasure in the happy and replete family and  friends, secure in the knowledge that her, and Huw's, hospitality had been well rewarded.

When it came to her work, Anne applied the same love, care and attention.  From the very beginnings of teacher Training college in Bath, to all her years teaching Drama, and in time, many other subjects on the curriculum of the day.

Anne always said she had taught every age, from 2 to 92 year olds, and this was particularly true, when, after many years teaching, Anne moved on to take up her role as Co-Ordinator for Adult Literacy for the county. 

All this experience led her to devoting further periods of her time to work teaching Vietnamese Refugees, that had settled in the county, and even more time working with Youth Training.

And then, if this was not enough, there was the total immersion in life in Axbridge.

In her time there, she was Chair of the Town Trust, she also found time to be the Chair of the Board of Governors for the local Primary School, and Anne also became the founding Secretary of the Friends of Houlgate Society, which was the local twinning group for Axbridge's sister town, Houlgate in France.

.... Take all this, then add in the fact that she also Produced the town Nativity plays each year, and you get the impression that Anne's calendar was pretty full. Then I haven't yet mentioned that she also produced the Historical Town Pageant...

... Performed every ten years, with a cast of hundreds, and with two years in the preparation and planning of each one, Anne managed to produce the Pageant three times, 1970, 1980, and 1990.

And then.... beyond everything else, Anne still managed to maintain her deep and unwavering love of her Husband, Huw, her 5 children; Hannah, Rachel, Peter, Jonathan and William, and then her friends and ever increasing social circle, and possibly, the odd dinner party or two!

Inevitably, there came a realisation that some day, Anne would eventually hand over the reigns of all these events and projects, and her family and friends knew that Anne & Huw would finally bid Axbridge "Au Revoir" .... and head for "La belle Francais"...

...... or so we thought!

Before I hand over to Rod, who will talk about Anne's life with Huw, here in Javea, we all recognise today that we say goodbye to a wife, a mother and a friend. On a very personal note, I will be saying goodbye to my mother-in-law, and where there will be an empty space in my life, which should be filled by Anne, I am happy in the knowledge that there is a warmth and depth of love left with me that will stay with me forever, because I am part of this family."

Javea 006

Thank you to everyone for all their wishes and thoughts. We are still surrounded by family and wonderful friends, I wouldn't change any of them for the world. 

The new header picture and the pictures in this post, are from Javea.

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Javea 008

Javea 007

Saturday, December 01, 2012

World Aids Day

Do your thing, but whatever you do, and how you do it, do it safe! 
World Aids Day is today, but for a lot more people, it's every day.

BBC News Article The number of gay and bisexual men being diagnosed with HIV in the UK reached an "all-time high" in 2011, according to the Health Protection Agency (HPA)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Sunday Morning Musings - Part 142

Well, My man is in Madrid until Wednesday, then back for a night until he goes off to visit the folks, back in Spain, (don't ask why he couldn't just fly from Madrid on an internal flight, as that would mean a rant cursing the short-sightedness of his work's travel agency... the useless bast*rds).... so anyhow, while there is a Thai green curry heating up in the oven, I've got just enough time to post these pictures,

And sign off until next week... short but sweet. Have a great week

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sunday Morning Musings - Part 141

Well for the first time in a long time, I made bread today, the old fashioned traditional way (sans bread-maker).

I had forgotten how satisfying bread making is, as usually Peter makes bread if there is any needed, that can't be got around by using the bread-maker.

Inspiration for today's loaf came from a super recipe in yesterday's (Saturday's) Independent newspaper magazine. For some years I have read the "Indie", ever since it was launched. What struck me the most was the extent of it's photojournalism, that just had an edge, that I had never come across in a newspaper before.

Now reading it as a weekend regular, there is usually at least once recipe that gets torn out, tried, or (and mostly) stored in an ever increasing pile, ready for the day I finally decide to put a scrapbook of recipes together.

One cookery columnist that I regularly read is Dan Lepard (not in the Indie though... in the Guardian magazine.. bad me), and most of the recipes I try tend to be his, and while there is a good mix of others too, his recipes consistently catch my eye and tend to be tried out, and posted about (of course, it goes without saying there is always always something to try, when I catch up with Ilva's blog, Lucullian Delights)

I love this transition we have between the seasons, as they alter our perception of food and the way we look at it. As the light of summer fades into Autumn, we begin to eat less "al fresco", and close the doors on the coming chill, and begin to hunker down with more robust food, letting crisp leaves and delicious dressings fade, just as the light fades over the day, and the evening creeps closer to the afternoon.

Pulses, and delicate tiny pastas come out of the pantry to fortify stews and soups. Earthy and heart warming root vegetables make star appearances, and become more of a meal themselves.

This wonderful Nordic Muesli bread (and thanks to Bill Granger from the Indie for the recipe) is just such a thing. Filled with dried fruits, oats and seeds, it will make a delicious breakfast, toasted, buttered and served up with a thick jam, or warmed and drizzled with honey. Add thin slices of Manchego cheese to the warmed and honeyed bread for a more filling treat!.

It bakes well, and more so, doesn't take too long to prove, so if you want, by the time you pour another coffee and finish off the weekend papers, it is almost ready to knock back and finish off.

I wouldn't be too worried about the types of fruits, nuts or seeds that you add too. As Bill says in his article, it may be that he hasn't made the bread twice the same way, it all depends what is in your larder.
So, if you want to give it a go, here is the recipe;

Muesli Bread


100g / 3½ oz Porridge oats (rolled oats), plus 1 tbsp for sprinkling
150ml / ¼ pint Natural yoghurt
1 tbsp honey
450g / 14½ oz plain flour
100g / 3½ oz Rye flour
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Fast-action dried yeast
1 tbsp Light-flavoured oil (corn oil or similar)
100g / 3½ oz Toasted hazelnuts, and/or walnut halves
75g / 3½ oz Dried apricots, chopped
150g/ 5oz Dried berries (Blueberries, Sour Cherries, Cranberries, etc etc)
1 tbsp Sesame seeds
2 tbsp Sunflower seeds


tbsp - tablespoon
tsp   - teaspoon
Imperial measures - UK measures
And - I have made this with strong flour (for bread making), but looking again, it does state plain flour in the recipe, so it will be interesting to see what difference this makes to the texture etc.
Feel free to mix up the seeds /nuts/ berries as you like, as long as the measures remain the same, however saying that, I think my loaf looks like it could have more "bits" compared to the recipe photo.
Also, I used naturally dried apricots that are a lot darker than the usual ones, so my loaf doesn't have that jewel like quality that the recipe photos have.


Pre-heat your oven!

Combine the oats, yoghurt and honey in a bowl and set aside for 15 minutes.
In a large bowl, mix together the plain flour, rye flour, salt and yeast.
Add the oat/honey/yoghurt mixture, add the oil, and add 300ml/ ½ pint warm water (not too hot otherwise the yeast won't work as well)
Knead everything together, until the mixture comes to a soft sticky dough (add more water if needed)
Now cover with a wet cloth and set aside somewhere warm and draught free for an hour, or until the dough is doubled in size.

Once your dough is ready, turn out onto a lightly dusted (with flour) surface and gently knead in the nuts and fruits.
Shape into an oblong and place onto a lightly oiled baking sheet (feel free to use a baking liner if you are more used to one).

Scatter the top with the seeds and some more rolled oats (I added the majority of the seeds into the mix for a crunchier texture).
Cover with a damp cloth and leave to prove for another 30 minutes.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 220C / 425F / Gas mark 7 for 10 minutes, and then reduce the heat to 180C / 350F / Gas mark 4, and bake for another 30 to 40 minutes, until the underside of the loaf feels hollow, when you tap it. Cool on a wire rack.... or scoff it warm until your stomach hurts, and you wonder where a pound of butter has gone!

Have a great week folks, tuck up warm as the chill begins to bite, or snuggle up to your loved ones. And Chuck, no more acrobatics with ladders! Glad to hear you are on the mend ;o)