Midsummer Pimms & The Impossible Garden Picnic

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Every year, since we moved to this house, we’ve had a party in our garden to celebrate Midsummer. There was one year when we changed the date, so that Susie, the inventor of the Sugar Wolf (possibly the most dangerous cocktail known to mankind) could still join us for the fun and fire jumping, but other than that, always Midsummer.

We make all our favourite foods, including some Harvey family classics – the secret recipe chocolate cake, camel dropping biscuits, and the most recent edition, the (kind of) Portuguese custard tarts. Adam brings back loads of continental beers, we pick up a few kegs from our local brewery and bring out the Polish vodka collection.

Susie normally strolls in with a crate of champagne and cider, because she’s a classy chick and she like to mix it up a bit. Last year Aoife made a special Midsummer potion for us all (whilst wearing the most fabulous ‘Margot from the Good Life’ dress) and there’s always a massive jug of Pimms, usually attached the the end of Lisa’s arm!


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Friends pitch their tents in the garden, or bagsie beds in the house, we light a bonfire and sit round on some old pieces of oak sculpture we have in a circle round the fire pit – Wood Henge! Sometimes there’s music, sometimes there’s singing, sometimes Adam plays Guns N’ Roses on the sitar.

Sadly we didn’t have a Midsummer gathering this year, but we did light a bonfire under the full strawberry moon at the start of the shortest night, and ate ice creams as bats circled above our heads. None of them attacked us though, which was good!

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Have I told you about time I got bitten by a bat?!

It was a normal afternoon, late July, a few years ago. Adam saw something moving in the dining room. ‘A bird!’ he said, putting on his sunglasses for protection and pulling the door to.

A tiny, speeding dot of black was circling the room, occasionally it stopped to hang off the chandelier for a short moment, before swooping off again. A bat.

We both stood in the room, Adam bracing himself, me laughing at his protective eyewear. ‘Bats have got built in sonar, he’s not going to go for your eyes!’ I said, as it dive bombed me in the head, circled a few more times, and then flew up my dress screaming it’s tiny furry face off. Out it flew, continuing to circle, occasionally brushing my head. Eventually it stopped, and climbed under the stereo.

As I scooped it out, and held it’s tiny body in my hands, exclaiming ‘Take my picture! Take my picture!’ it bit me on one hand, and then the other. Eeeee! It hurt. Tiny fierce pins for teeth. We got it outside, and set it free.

I thought it was funny, amusing, but a couple of people kind of worried me with, ‘Ew, what if it was diseased?’  So I thought I’d set my mind at rest with a quick call to NHS Direct. Ha!

I explained what had happened, and was put on hold. Coming back on the line the woman said, ‘Erm, I’ve spoken to my colleague, and, we think you’ve got rabies. Can you go to A and E please?’

At the hospital they ran through some questions with me, ‘Where did you get bitten?’ – ‘In the dining room!’ ‘Where are your injuries?’ – I held up both my middle fingers. Apart from the threat of a deadly disease, the whole thing was pure comedy.

I was rushed through to see the doctor immediately and assured that whilst Rabies doesn’t exist in the UK, I should take these special antibiotics to fight off any other dangerous nasties that the furry bullet may have been carrying.

Coming home, in the dark, I stood outside the back door as Adam unlocked it and, Whack! a bat (THE bat) hit me in the head! Revenge.

(I did get very sick about a week later, and for roughly four hours thought I was going to die a slow and intensely painful death, but after that I was fine! The lesson here – leave the wild animals alone, Karen!)

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Anyway, having felt deprived of our full Midsummer experience I thought a garden picnic on a warm summers day would be a simple delight to enjoy – just roll out of the back door and no need to worry if it started to rain.

I hadn’t considered what the chickens would think. To be honest, it was April who was the worst. Once she’d got a taste for patisserie, there was no stopping her. Whilst the other distracted me, and my back was turned, she lunged in for a pomegranate seed. The others were encouraged by her efforts. I tried waving my Birkenstock at them, but they just thought I was beckoning them over for more!

At one point, lying on the ground, appreciating the little bee that had come to inspect the flowers that I’d proudly cut from amongst the weeds, I felt an unusual rubbing sensation on my left leg. Turning slowly to see, it was April, gleefully wiping her custardy face on my clean clothes.

Once they’d had their fill of sweet treats, they retreated to the flower beds, occasionally patrolling past to make sure there was nothing left for them.

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I’ve been enjoying some wonderful books lately, but Shadow Catchers is just bursting with the most beautiful and inspiring camera-less photography, and I fully appreciated being able to sit and just stare into it’s pages without worrying about the time.

I’m not much of a cocktail drinker, but when the guys at thebar.com asked me what my favourite summer cocktail was, it had to be the good old-fashioned classic, Pimms and lemonade.

I didn’t even realise Pimms was alcoholic for a while! (But yes, this is coming from the same person who got bitten by a bat in her own dining room, so, you know!) It’s a proper summer drink when it’s full of fruity bits.

We usually make big jugs of it, but I thought the carafe would be fun and stop the flies from popping in for a swim or a loll on an orange-slice lilo.

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The Pimms recipe from thebar.com recommends mixing it per glass, but as we generally only have drinks with friends, I just like to sling it all together in one go – 1 part Pimms to 3 parts lemonade, a handful of ice, some slithers of cucumber, sliced orange, strawberries and mint. Some nice tall glasses are also handy (these beauties belonged to Adam’s great aunt), as are straws, so that you can use them as a tool to get all the fruity bits without getting your hand stuck in the glass. (I’m full of life lessons me!)

Sometime you only have to go a few steps outside your door to find something lovely, and even very persistent chickens can’t fully sabotage that!

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This post is sponsored by thebar.com All words, thoughts and chickens are my own. Lucky me!

Lotus Cup UK Speed Championship 2016 – Blyton Park (Round 6)

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We checked in at the Wortley House Hotel. They took a swipe of my card, just incase I tried to steal a tele. Getting to the room, Adam realised he’d forgotten to pack my special driving shoes (clapped-out old Converse). ‘It’s okay,’ I said, ‘We’ll go and find a Tesco’. I’ve never had supermarket shoes before, but I know that they are cheap, and I also know that they are probably made by children.

We got in the car, and, almost immediately, we got out again. The battery was flat. After a few minutes of flapping, I phoned Mark. ‘Any chance you could pick us up a battery charger?’ I asked, half joking, half desperately hopeful. His response was quick, of course he would, he was near Grantham and would take a detour. ‘No Problems. Anything else you need?’ he asked politely. ‘Yeah, could you get me some shit shoes?!’

An hour later Mark and Phoebe arrived bearing gifts – a battery charger, and £10 plimsolls from Sainsbury’s, gratefully received.

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We had dinner, we had drinks, we chatted with other LCUK Speed friends, and then we headed off to bed. On our way up Phoebe noticed flyers on the windscreens of the cars, she suggested we go and remove them so our windows weren’t slurred with papery wet stodge by the morning. I handed them to the guy on reception, they were from a rival hotel. He seemed unfazed. ‘But they’ve spelt corner wrong!’ I prodded at the capital K. ‘No, that’s how they spell it,’ he said, matter-of-factly. ‘This isn’t the nineties!’  I said, as I stomped off to bed.

We slept to the hum of the battery charger and woke to the thought of breakfast.

I couldn’t get the room door to lock as we left, so I told reception that it was still open, and that if anyone had done a dump on the bed, it wasn’t me. I mean, they already had the idea that I was illiterate and might do a runner with the tele, so I was just forestalling any other judgements they might have made of me.

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We arrived at Blyton Park. The grey sky hung over us, still and unmoving. As the first practice got underway, the rain started to fall. Lightly at first, but as we queued, it got heavier. My optimism turned into disappointment. 87.21, slow coach.

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The rain stopped play, and we all gathered under the gazebo for shelter. I shuffled round, trying to avoid conversations about Brexit. The rain began to slow, Xav brought out the chocolate brownies (props to his lovely daughter for sending them along with him) and we were told we could take our second practice, if we wanted to.

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It was wet. I eased my way round the track, splashing through puddles and taking in the view. 100.41, surprisingly not the slowest car out there.

After lunch the sun came out. I actually shouted ‘Sun! Sun!’ and might have come across a little bit deranged. Again.

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The track was still slippy, and my shit shoes were giving me gyp, sliding around on the grass and mud covered pedals (thanks Adam!) and feeling like I was wearing heavy cardboard shoe boxes, not shoes. I got an 83.09 and Adam got a DNF as he wasn’t fully on the track as he crossed the finish line. We cleaned the footwell with an old towel and vowed to be better organised with shoes and useful things in future. (Who are we kidding?!)

The track was dry for the second timed run, but I just didn’t feel that confident, until I’d gone all the way round and was back in the paddock wishing we could have another go. 78.47 for me, and another DNF for Adam. He was going so well, I mean soooo well, but then, just a second from the finish line, he spun off, firing a cone in the air like some kind of disappointing £3.50 fireworks finale.

I was 9th out of 13. Adam was 13th. Unlucky.

And now, over to the winners enclosure…

Production: 1st Nigel Hannam, 2nd Xavier Brooke, 3rd Richard Hardwicke

Production Modified: 1st Stephen Morrison, 2nd Andrew Pidgeon (Coincidentally, both the fastest and the slowest drivers of the day – unless you count Adam of course, who didn’t even get a time!)

Supersport: 1st Andy Hughes, 2nd Martin Roberts, 3rd Russell Whitworth

Supersport Modified: 1st Duncan Fraser, 2nd Paul Neale

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We drove home, weaving along the country roads across the fields of Lincolnshire, and, as the lights faded we knew what was to come. Bloody alternator!

The rest of the journey involved poor Adam pushing the car uphill, the most massive disappointment in the AA, a recovery driver who couldn’t recover the car the 8 miles we had left to travel because his tacho had nearly run out, a taxi ride, picking up the Mercedes, and limping the Elise home.

You know how some days you realise that you should have just stayed at home?!

These Recent Things (Peonies & Power Cuts)

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These recent things don’t feel so recent, time is getting away with itself. I do remember the beginning of June, but everything was so different then. (This is not meant to be a pre Brexit reference, but seriously, Brexit?! I’ve only just stopped having nightmares).

The past month has been hectic, more so than usual, and strangely I find that I’ve been taking the most serene and calm photos – perhaps in an attempt to balance things out?

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I know I’m not the only one who gets ill at the mention of holidays, not because we hate them, but because our bodies go ‘Hey! Time to relax!’ and then they let their defences down, welcoming virus’s and injuries like VIP guests to a 24 hour party boat.

Usually it’s when I’m going on holiday that I get sick, but this time it was my colleague who took the trip. There I was lying on the clinic bed on an ECG machine whilst concurrently he was lying on a golden beach in the south of France sun. Damn it! (He did bring me back a lavender bag though!) It was some kind of virus, I was told to rest.

There was no time for rest, onwards!

Have you even seen Leepu visualising a car? That was me, in some kind of art induced trance, conjuring up three coherent exhibitions from several hundred entries. Bloody hell I’m good!

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We launched three exhibitions across three venues in the beautiful city of Cambridge. The first, at Hot Numbers, was rammed – a relief as even though I’ve done loads of these events, I still get nervous that no one will turn up to the opening. The second night was at Novi and… no one turned up! Ha! Well, that’s not true, but I was really worried for about 20 minutes as the sky opened up and threw torrential rain and hail at the earth, crashing thunder down and bringing the brightest lightening.  Then the clouds broke, and the crowds came. Then there was the power cut. Guests used their phones as torches to view the work as they stumbled around in candlelight. It was quite romantic, I suppose. Finally we opened at Stir, with another good turn out and an enjoyable evening. Phew!

There are loads of great events for creative people happening in Cambridge throughout July, most of them are free, and also amazing. Come along if you can, and please spread the word!

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Baby Ruth Sultana has left home. Some might say ‘flown the nest’ but that might sound too cliched. It seems she’s just decided to go it alone, Adam says she’s a free spirit. She’s been gone for five nights now. At first I felt bothered, and Ginger Margaret (Ruth’s ‘mum’) was beside herself, I had to hide biscuit crumbs under peony petals to keep her occupied (and it looked nice). One afternoon she came back, appeared at the front gate, and I let her in. She rushed from food bowl to water bowl and back. Margaret ran to her, bounding across the grass with joyous vigour. Then a couple of hours later, she’d gone again.

We went out at night and searched the neighbourhood for her, but… nothing. No sign, no clues. I’m testing out the new CAT S60 phone, it has thermal imaging. Thermal imaging! So, of course, I took it along to aide my investigation and help me look like even more of a weirdo to my neighbours (they’ve already laughed at my ‘missing brown hen, not dangerous’ notes.)

There was no sign of Ruth, but look at this! You can see the other four are tucked up in bed all nice and cosy, with their hot brains!

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In other big and exciting news, my brother and his family moved back to the UK… hooray! They’ve bought the most beautiful home up in Cheshire, and even though all their things were still travelling across the oceans on a container ship when we visited, it still felt like home. Lovely, lovely home. I’m looking forward to seeing them more, to visiting and spending time with my niece and nephew, and to being opinionated about home decor!


We sprinted with LoTRDC at Silverstone and it was brilliant, joyful, challenging and nerve-wracking (full story here). I had no idea until it was announced, but, I won a trophy – MG Car Club Best Lady Driver. Go me!

I attended an event at Burberry in London, not because I am a fashionista (you know me!) but because I was invited along to find out more about a mentoring scheme for women in business. I already mentor through Inspiring the Future, and of course, Shutter Hub, but this is something different… that I can’t tell you about yet!

As I was sauntering down Regent Street I spotted a comb on the pavement, ‘Excellent!’ I thought, as I squatted down to get my photograph, creating a human island in a sea of Penhaligon’s and Liberty bags. No shame. #combtheory

I came home with my own little bag. “What have you got in there Karen?”  My reply, “jam and biscuits!” and, most impressively, I was telling the truth!

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We celebrated Midsummer’s Eve with a bonfire. No party. Just Adam and I, bats circling, bonfire blazing, ice cream in hand, under the massive full moon.

It sounds a little bit more magical than it was. Adam kept finding random things to put on the fire, and I had poked this dead little bird in there to give it a ceremonial send off. Fen life.

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I think, I hope, I will always  keep looking for the beauty in everything around me. This old shopping trolley lay dead in the river, whilst the reed warbler sang it’s way back and forth through the long grasses. It’s all there to be found. In the fallen flowers, in the light, and the empty train station. In the ugliest or most boring moments, you just have to look for the joy!

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Please can I go back to bed now?