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Dance for Gaza

You may have seen in previous posts that Steve and I are both part of a group of local runners here that have become known as the 'Baggy Breakfast Club'. Earlier this year seven of us entered the Gaza marathon to raise money for the UN's humanitarian work with refugee children in Gaza.  
After several months of hard training we were all really disappointed, on so many levels, to hear the news that the UN had been forced to cancel the marathon after Hamas took the decision to ban men and women running in the event together.
Undeterred, we quickly focused on trying to find an alternative marathon and were amazed to find that just two weeks later was the inaugural 'Right to Movement' Palestine marathon in the West Bank in Bethlehem! Really sadly Steve is not able to make the amended date - which is really gutting!  
 On Friday night the runners, along with the Pickwell crew, hosted a local fundraising night here at the Manor called 'Dance For Gaza'.
 We chose a few themed elements to the night to try and give it a middle eastern feel. Firstly, we served Arak - a traditional aperitif from the region. A translucent coloured, aniseed flavoured drink of about 57%.... It is definitely an acquired taste!
 Mind you Katie definitely looks like she is making a good job of acquiring it! 
 So to go with the Arak a few delicious Mezze, courtesy of Damian & Ali (thank you guys!). 
Then to follow magnificent lamb kebabs, courtesy of the culinary skills of Tracey and Jake. 

"Oh no they've caught us.... quick back to the bar and look busy!"

 Sa'ad bought Fezes for the running boys on the bar. The look was much more Tommy Cooper than 'authentic Turkish headwear'! My favourite Tommy Cooper joke of the night: I said to the gym instructor 'Can you teach me how to do the splits?'. He said 'How flexible are you?' I said 'I can't make Tuesdays'.

It wasn't just the Fezes as uniform. Dave (our Kiwi runner) insisted on wearing his now infamous 'stubbies' for the night. A 1970's trend that perhaps should have been left there rather than resurrected!

If proof were needed it looks like Nige in his pullover is having more luck with attracting the 'ladies' than Dave in his stubbies!

The final key middle eastern theme of the night was our 'Shisha Palace' (lovingly created in Sa'ad's bell tent).
Many thanks to Medhat from Bar Venezia in Exeter for his very generous loan of the Shisha pipes and to Sa'ad for his kind donation of the tobacco.

Damian was a natural in his role as shisha host for the evening "You want hubbly bubbly?"

Anna looks like she was particularly enjoying the experience.

Nige adopted a less traditional grip on the shisha pipe.

Whilst it took Susie a while to realise that her pipe had got disconnected "This apple tobacco is so smooth... its like the air".

Damian's role as Shisha host made him the most popular man of the night. Men wanted to be him. Women wanted to be with him.

His popularity was closely followed by Pete Cox whose dance offs are not to missed.
Throughout the night great tunes were spun by DJ's Pete Robinson and Steve Baker. Thank you guys! It took a while but eventually everyone did 'Dance for Gaza'.

There were a couple of reminders throughout the night that this was all to try and help give Gazan children the opportunity to have some glimpses of the sort of childhood that our children take for granted.

Thank you to everyone who came and made Friday such a fun night and helped to raise over £1300.

So on Sunday 21st April we will be attempting to  run 26.2 hot miles around Bethlehem. If you want to check out more details or throw in a few quid you can find our giving site here.


You may have heard about the rain and the floods...mostly we have been unaffected, but today..

This is our wood.

The fog hung in the air and it was actually quite beautiful in places, if you didn't need to get anywhere!

This is Rock Hill, a road in the village...well its more of a stream than a road now really.

Hard to think it was only a couple of days ago when the weather was like this.

This month has flown by. 

We held our annual charity ball - this year it was the GOLD Ball. We raised money for 2 amazing surfing charities both at home and abroad. We have learnt much recently of how surfing can be used as a tool to give young people hope, self esteem and respite from difficult circumstances.

The night was an immense success and we raised £6,500 in total. As a team, we were blown away by the generosity of so many people in this community that made this night all that it was. 

So last night some of the Ball team went to the pub to celebrate. I think Tracey is regaling the girls with a story or two?

This week we also had lunch with our wonderful Pickwell team. It's these guys who keep everything looking clean and tidy, both inside and out. We are very blessed to have them.

Always ready to enter the spirit of things, Tracey sports the antlers to get everyone into the festive mood.

Also this week, the school had their production of 'Olivia'. Our kids did us proud! Pickwell has been full of song for the last month, to the extent that none of them can get to sleep at night. The words 'you can't pick a pocket or two' keep going round, and round....

The village hall was packed for both the performances. 

I have to admit I did shed a small tear at the end!

The school hold a great afternoon where the kids themselves design and run the stalls. Every stall is geared as a mini-fund-raiser to make some much-needed funds for the school. This is Liza and Molly's stall. Steve had to forage into the stocking and guess what was inside.

 I stayed up for hours getting things made for Zac's stall at the school fair. He did help for about 15 minutes...to be fair....

We also went to the Christingle service which the kids love...

especially the bit where they get to toast the marshmallows in the candles! (not sure i should be promoting that? - see how I cleverly chose to put someone else's child in the picture, rather than incriminate my own)

Our Pickwell Molly had her 9th birthday last week,

and Tracey and Rich ran a brilliant roller-booting party in a local village hall.

Tracey and I had a wonderful night where we learnt how to make these gorgeous angels,

all from this one piece of fabric. 

and a tiny piece of trim.

Thanks to the talented Emma Cocker for teaching us, and Jooley F-S for the cake and the styling :)

So that's it for this year. 
We are all staying around at home for Christmas as our house feels so special and well, christmassy! Our families are coming to us. Lovely.

We wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful new year. 

Hopefully we will see many of you in 2013...

The Pickwell Gang
xxxx xxxx

Bonfire Preps. Pickwell Style.

If you are a long-standing follower of this blog, you may remember that this is Steve's favourite time of year. The time of year when he walks round with a permanent smile and a spring in his step. 

Never is this more acute than when the lorry arrives to deliver the fireworks. He even tries to draw the kids in to checking them all off the list.

This is why he has been nicknamed Gandalf (thanks PT). 
So here follows the Pickwell recipe for bonfire night preps:

1. Prepare the bonfire. Start by forming a structure which allows for a series of tunnels 

through which the wind will blow thus 'fanning the flames' from below. (make sure you check for hedgehogs at this point as they like to make little houses in a wood pile). 

Then load on anything you have to burn. 

2. Make paper lanterns. 

Start by cutting up bamboo into short and long lengths.

These will form the frame.

Make a triangle shape and masking tape the ends together to hold in place.

 Take a candle, wrap in tin foil (to collect the drips of wax) and fix into place with wire at the bottom. Create a higher, smaller triangle of bamboo and Voila! 

Next, using pva glue, dab liberally over tissue paper and stick onto each side, allowing for lots of overlap.  

Only take the tissue paper up to the point of the higher bamboo frame so it allows for the smoke of the candle to blow out the top.

When they are dry, cut a small window in the side so you can light the candles. Poke wire through the top of the triangle in a circle shape. Wrap wire around the long length of bamboo and create a strong hook to attach the lantern onto. 

3. Make paraffin torches. Cut lengths of wood about 80cm long (Hazel is particularly good for this as it is long and straight).

Cut up felt (make sure it isn't fire retardant as so much is these days), or towelling (we find is just as good) into long, thin strips..

Wrap tightly around the end of the wood and secure well with wire. These will be dipped in paraffin on the night!

4. Go for a walk and find all things 'autumnal'. These will be used to decorate the Ballroom, alongside our beautiful 'pattypan' squash (remember them from a previous blog post?). The final look of the decorations can be seen on a later post.

5. Find friends to keep you entertained while you work (and not just for what they are wearing)

Whatever props come to hand, we don't care! Just keep the entertainment rolling!

6. Invite the headmaster to keep the 'entertaining' friends in order.

7. Get a whole bunch of willing friends to start prepping the food! Bean and chorizo cassoulet and roasted butternut squash soup takes a heck of a lot of chopping!

We are ready. Let the games begin! 

(We will fill you in on the night afterwards - sorry you can't all be here!)


September harvest

Look what we did!!!

The absolute joys of having a garden and a poly-tunnel and relentless watering each day, are realised in September.

Here we have corn-on-the-cob (a favourite),

raspberries, beans, tomatoes and courgettes. 

We are so blessed to have an orchard of trees which produce cooking apples, eating apples, plums, and quince.  

Apple crumble we love and is easy to make, but i think

Steve's baked apples beat even a great apple crumble (i have put the recipe from 'BBC food recipes' for this at the bottom of this post).

But of all our harvest this year, this little beauty (and many more like it) caught our eye. What the heck have we grown?!

Isn't it beautiful?! It looks like a cup cake! It turns out they are from the squash family and this one is a Pattypan squash, unsurprisingly. It comes in yellow, green and white varieties

and you cook it much as you would a courgette.

I have decided i cannot cook this one, partly because i have now read they lose their flavour if they are any bigger than 3 inches (doh!) and partly because i think it will make a wonderful bonfire decoration on our tables in November.

Where is this year going? 


Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/300F/Gas 2.
  2. Place the mixed dried fruit and the brandy into a bowl and leave to soak for at least two hours, but ideally overnight.
  3. After soaking, add the sugar, allspice and butter to the brandy-soaked fruit.
  4. Spoon the fruit mixture into the holes in the cored apples, pressing in to fill well and spread some more butter over the apples.
  5. Place the stuffed apples into an ovenproof dish, cover with aluminium foil and transfer to the oven to bake for 40 minutes.
  6. Remove the foil and cook 15-20 minutes more, until the apples are soft, but not collapsing.
  7. Place onto plates and serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt.



With all the Olympics going on, we felt we should continue the theme with a 'sporty' blog today! This is North Devon's weekly mini-olympics for our kids...

Surf Life Saving is an international organisation for 8 - 13 year olds, known as 'Nippers'. There are many Nipper clubs across the UK and the world. We hadn't come across them until we moved to Devon and then discovered there are 4 clubs in North Devon; Croyde, Woolacombe, Saunton and Bideford. We decided to join the Croyde Surf Life Saving Club, being our most local (and the best, of course!). 

We have 3 members of the Pickwell Family who love Nippers and go along twice a week; Zac, Molly and Liza. Zac has been a member for 2 years, and Molly and Liza started this year. Steve and Richard are adult members (more on that in a future blog post).

In the Summer, Nippers meet twice a week on Croyde beach. We all meet at the hut next to the national trust car park to sign in, get in to our groups, collect boards and then head down to the beach. Once there, everyone has to do a warm up run across the beach and back, before starting games and activities in the water and on the beach.

The children are taught about safety in the sea, how to cope in different conditions, what rip tides are, how to duck dive waves, how to wade, how to swim in the surf, how to body surf and how to ride and race on paddle boards. It really is great fun and the kids love it. Parents get involved and get in the water too. Sometimes you wonder who is enjoying it more? The adults or the children?!

There are 5 opportunities to compete in Nippers competitions throughout the year. The Devon Pool and the National Pool championships, the Devon Beach and the National Beach competitions, and the Goldcoast.

This years Devon Beach competition was held at Putsborough and Zac and Molly both took part.
Competitors have to wear their club hat - black and orange are Croyde's colours. If you think Zac looks funny, you should see it when the adults have to wear them for their competitions! Hilarious! Steve whipped his off before i could see and take a picture...boo...probably good for our marriage though on the bright side:)

The events range from swimming, paddle board races and relays to beach runs, relays and 'flags'. Flags are my favourite thing. Everyone has to lie down in a line facing away from the flag (which is a bit of wood or pipe they stick in the sand) then on the whistle they have to jump up, turn around and run to grab a flag. Its a bit like a beach version of musical chairs. Each round there is one less flag so 1 person goes out.  

The Pickwell gang ended up bringing home 2 silvers and 2 bronze medals. Well done guys! Obviously its all about the taking part and not the winning ;)

Overall at this particular competition Croyde came in 3rd place, behind Saunton and Woolacombe. At the end of August we go to Portreath for the Nationals. 

Come on Croyde!

Jubilee Celebrations Part 2

A Jubilee celebration would not be complete without a good old village knees up, organised by the W.I.

There were Union Jack flags,

Union Jack bunting,

Miss Summerville (our kids school teacher) sporting a pair of Union Jack sunglasses,

A picture of our Queen,

and a giant multi-coloured parrot?! What?! I don't remember hearing about that at the coronation!

The event was supposed to be held on the village green but with the dreadful weather, plan b was the village hall. It was packed!

The lovely Sophie and her mates from our local secondary school, made this sign and gave up their afternoon to face-paint our kids.

They poured over books of various designs.

Liza decided on an angel.

I love the W.I. They put on the whole event for no charge and

worked tirelessly to ensure everyone had a good time.

They really got into the spirit..

along with my gorgeous friend Lou (of the home-made bunting fame).

'Captain Coconut' entertained us with his bubble abilities while we all trekked outside to watch our kids perform the may-pole and broom dance.

My Zac (right) had spent the last week telling us how there was 'no way' he was going to be doing the 'Maple (as in syrup) dance'.

So imagine my surprise when i suddenly saw him a hop, skipping and a jumping around that pole! Apparently Mr Thomas made him do it! Good work Mr T.

The guy holding down the pole on the left side is our netball coach. For a small village it is amazing how many girls turn up to play on a thursday.

The may-pole took up half the road so we had to stop the cars and every-so-often let them come past. It was a bit surreal. 

Our Molly did a fab job thrusting each leg out in time to the music with gusto.

After the may-pole came the broom dance for class 4. I don't think i've ever seen a broom dance. It was great!

Ah, the parrot again. I can now see that I was a bit hard on this parrot. To be fair, he IS wearing a Union Jack flag as a cardi. Now that's creative.

Everyone is a bit nuts but I think thats why we love living in a village so much.

We all know each other's 'nutness' and thats what makes it real and special.

A good time was had by all!

Well, nearly all...for some it might have been a bit much?!

Thank You Georgeham W.I x