Sammy – International Hound of Istry

Dogs, being pack animals, like to have a pal. So, with the loss of Sam, we have been on the look out for a new friend for Daisy. We looked online and applied for several dogs from various rescue charities, but had no luck and then, by chance, the friend who fostered Daisy before she came to us, was contacted by an acquaintance asking whether she knew anyone looking to adopt a dog. And so, two weeks ago we travelled down to The Mumbles to meet a dog called Johnny. A successful afternoon, an application and a few days wait for approval, including having to submit pictures of the garden, and the following Thursday, Mr Snail went back down to south Wales to collect our new pack member.

I couldn’t cope with the confusion of a Jon and a Johnny in the house, and anyway Mr Snail calls all his dogs Sam, so Johnny is now Sammy. A tiny bit of research reveals that Sammy is probably at least partially an Istrian short-haired hound. He’s a refugee from Bosnia, but his English is coming on nicely.

He’s very skinny, but we’ve managed to increase his weight a little in the past week, with extra-big meals, and, as you can see, he’s already settled in his crochet-lined bed, so he’s fitting in well.


When we moved into Chez Snail, the back garden simply consisted of a lawn, a patio and a paved path, There were literally no plants other than the grass in the lawn. A bit of investigation revealed that there was also almost no soil, and after the first heavy rain we discovered that the water from the field behind rapidly flowed, river-like, into our garden, formed a lake and then progressed into next door’s garden. Our solution was planting and soil-building – a willow hedge, raised beds, composting. We whittled away at the lawn until, eventually, there was none left, although we did keep part of the patio so that we could sit outdoors. Then, six years ago, we had the limery built and our outdoor seating space was greatly reduced. We managed and it didn’t seem like much of an issue until covid and the need for space outside in which to socialise.

So, earlier this year, and setting aside my reticence about lawns**, we made some changes to our garden. Mr Snail removed two of the long thin raised beds from just outside the back door, and created a single deeper bed on the far side of the garden. We levelled the former site of the beds (well, sort of) and I ordered some turf becuase that seemed like the quickest way to establish our new grassy patch. We didn’t return the area back to it’s original level, but retained about six inches of our homemade soil on top of the original ground level, surrounded by the bottom layer of old railway sleepers that had formed the raised beds. Ten days of excluding the dogs, and we had achieved our aim.

In fact, we don’t intend to have a pristine grassy patch – we’ll let the wild flowers grow and Mr Snail will be scything it when necessary. Around the edges I am planning to seed some native wild flowers. The soil will act as a reservoir for some of the excess water when there is heavy rain and the grass is cool for feet and paws (unlike flag stones) when the weather is hot. It’s been in place for a couple of months now and has been well-used… it’s even hot enough at the moment to have dinner out there in the evenings.


** “A lawn is nature under a totalitarian regime”

In a rut

I don’t know about you, but 2020 has been something of a challenge here. Whist I like my home, and being confined within it is not a terrible thing, being obliged to stay there all the time has been difficult. It is incredibly easy to get into a rut and to develop habits that you’d rather not have… over consumption of cake and chocolate, for example. One of the things that I have missed most this year is spontaneity. No one ever calls round unexpectedly for a cuppa; we can’t wake up in the morning, see it’s a lovely day and decide to go and visit my mum; for quite a while we couldn’t even go anywhere in the car to have a different dog walk. So, what to do?

Recently, Mr Snail and I have decided to make the effort to do some different things… and to plan to do different things, even if they are not very exciting. For example, on Wednesday we set off early and went to the fruit and veg merchants in Carmarthen, where we stocked up… now we are in the process of making big batches of soup to go in the freezer. It’s the first time we’ve done this for months and months. We’ve also been down to the beach a couple of times recently with Sam and Daisy. It’s fun for us and they have certainly enjoyed themselves:

Beach time

The other thing that I did earlier on the the autumn was to take out a subscription to “Little Box of Crochet” – which means that once every two months, a project with all the materials arrives on my doorstep. In the past, I’ve felt that I don’t need to be given a project to work on, being quite capable of thinking of things for myself, but sometimes inspiration wanes and maintaining creativity over recent months has sometimes been hard. So, I decided to to let someone else do the thinking for me, and enjoy a parcel every now and again. I met Amanda, creator of Little Box of Crochet, at the first Crochet Sanctuary that I went to a couple of years ago and I know what care she puts into the boxes, so I was certain that I wouldn’t be disappointed. The latest one arrived just yesterday and will challenge me to learn a new skill: Tunisian crochet. It’s not something that I would otherwise have tried, but sometimes it’s good to get the brain cells working and have a go at something new. So far I’ve had three of the boxes and the two previous ones have resulted in a duffle bag (which I’ve shared pictures of previously) and the most lovely pair of fingerless mittens made with wool from Baa Ram Ewe in amazing colours.

I’ve spent no money on going out for the past 10 months, so it’s nice to use some of my savings to support another small business.

So, what have you been doing to amuse/inspire/motivate yourself in 2020?

Lockdown Dinners at The Dogs’ Diner (and other suspiciously similar-looking places) — writinghouse

Mr Snail has saved me the bother of describing our eating adventures during lockdown – do check out his post:

PROLOGUE There are three things that you need to know about Chez Snail: There is an attention-loving, and hence pesky, spaniel-based lifeform called Daisy who is involved in the day-to-day running of some eating and drinking establishments shown here. There is a squeaky-ball-obsessed terrier-based lifeform called Sam, who also appears to be involved in self […]

Lockdown Dinners at The Dogs’ Diner (and other suspiciously similar-looking places) — writinghouse

Posh shoes

Here in Wales we are still staying at home… some of the lockdown restrictions have been eased in England (or didn’t actually count if you were a government advisor), but here things continue pretty much as before. We walk the dogs everyday and, as a result, encounter people from our local community. We pause for a distanced chat… sometimes there’s a gift of a plant (I came home with a spinach seedling the other day), or a request for help (“Do you have any spare knicker elastic? I’m making face masks”). We tick along, I have lots to do: my editing work was always done at home, and there’s plenty of that to keep my busy; I have completed several crochet projects; done lots of sewing and mending and failed to keep on top of all the jobs in the garden; I bake and try out new recipes; and I chat to friends regularly on Zoom/Skype/phone. But I’m sad that I can’t have my monthly shared lunches with my permaculture friends (hello to Sharon, Ann and John if you are reading this), that Sue (Going Batty in Wales) and I can’t sit together and put the world to rights over homemade soup and (always) cake. I’m also sad that Mr Snail can’t be away in Reading, having the mental and physical space to write and seek out a literary agent, to play pool with his friend Martin and go to the pub quiz he enjoys so much.

We have found a way through. Tuesday night is pie night, Thursday night we take part in Jay’s Virtual pub quiz whilst Mr Snail chats with one of his quizzing friends via WhatsApp, we watch The Great British Sewing Bee on Wednesday night, we play Scrabble. Food has become a particular focus and we eat in the limery every night, enjoying the long evenings and watching the birds and (later) bats swooping over the house and garden. Perhaps it sounds idyllic – perhaps we should feel that it is – but we always know that we are restricted and our choices constrained. I think our mental well-being is compromised… of course it is, it’s a challenging time.

However, sometimes on a Saturday night we get dressed up and “go out”. I cook a nice meal, and we eat out at The Bistro Chez Snail. And for this, I put on a nice frock and proper shoes – with heels. The rest of the time I’m either wearing slippers or walking boots, or have bare feet. But to go to The Bistro I wear posh shoes… and strangely it’s remarkably good for my state of mind.

Bags of Gratitude

Towards the end of last year I had a health scare and there was real chance that I might be seriously ill. There were trips to the gp, blood tests, a scan and then an appointment on Christmas eve with a consultant at the the hospital, who took a biopsy. In the end I was fine and there was nothing seriously wrong, but I had several very stressful weeks during which I hardly slept or ate… and, you may have noticed, did no blogging. Fortunately three very dear friends helped me get through it – without their support, love and reminders to eat (apparently it’s fine to have chocolate for breakfast in such circumstances), I’m not sure how I (and Mr Snail) would have coped.

The consultant reassured me, but it wasn’t until the results of the biopsy came through and I knew all really was well, that I was able to relax once more and my creativity (which had all but deserted me for the duration) returned with abundance.

So, how do you thank such good friends? I know they would have been there for me no matter what, but I wanted to demonstrate to them how grateful I am. I looked for presents to buy, but in the end I decided that I really wanted to make them each a gift… they all either knit or crochet, so I settled on my other main interest at the mo

I don’t normally name names, but I would, publicly, like to thank Sarah, Kt and Joëlle for their friendship… I love you ladies and I hope you like your bags.

Watching the world

Four times a year Daisy goes to have her hair done. She’s a very woolly spaniel and without grooming, she gets matted and this causes skin problems, not to mention discomfort. When she first came to us the fur on her ears was very tangled and the only way to deal with the problem was to have them clipped – it was impossible to get through the mats even with a specialist ‘rake’, and attempting to do so caused her pain. So, every 12 weeks or so I take her to Vicky, the groomer at the vets, and she is transformed from a woolly bear:


To a sleek, shiny spaniel:


Whilst Daisy is being washed and clipped, Sam and I have an hour to spend. Since, it is often raining, we have got into the habit of going to a dog-friendly pub. I buy a coffee and Sam has complimentary dog biscuits, It’s a rather nice building, with big windows that have wide, low sills – just perfect for a small dog to settle down on and watch the world go by:

Sam is happy to be entertained this way for an hour, and she usually gets some fuss from other customers, but I try to take something to occupy my time. One or two of you have received a letter that I have written in this very spot, and another one of you will be the lucky recipient of this my latest epistle. In fact, from the perspective of letters, I could do with weekly trips to catch up!

Sometimes it’s good to have time out like this… and you will notice there was a letter involved, so I’m getting over my writer’s block – hurrah!


Much as I like cooking, I’m not always very good at eating, at least not when I’m at home on my own. I often just don’t feel like bothering. I get distracted by something I’m doing, in the evening particularly, and by the time I think about eating, it feels like it’s too late. A few weeks ago, I was so remiss that I ended up rather unwell and having to visit my doctor, where I was prescribed something to help calm my digestive system. This seems rather silly, since the issue is completely avoidable – I just need to eat!

The solution (obviously) is to have things available that I want to eat. Things that can be prepared quickly, but that are nutritious and appealing, especially since I frequently can’t even think of anything that I actually fancy.


So, over the past few weeks, as well as making lots of individually portioned soups for the freezer, I’ve been cooking extra so that I have some home-made “ready meals”. I’ve now got several portions of bolognaise, pork casserole and lasagne all waiting for evenings when I can’t bring myself to prepare anything. As you can see, there’s some room on the shelf for more – I’d like to be well-stocked with lots of variety.

It’s not the prettiest meal I’ve ever cooked, but it served its purpose

Indeed, yesterday I found myself not wanting to cook and not in the mood for food. However, I was able to extract a lasagne, defrost it and then pop it in the oven to warm up without really having to consider that I actually didn’t feel like eating. I’m making sure that all my ready meals contain lots of vegetables, so I get some nutritional balance. Hopefully this will prevent further medications and trips to the GP.

And now I am looking for suggestions and recipes: what do you suggest I might include in my ready meal repertoire?

Growing and groaning

The saga of the tooth continues – the first part of the root canal work has been completed, but it has awoken the infection and so I’m back on antibiotics. Hopefully the stuff I’m taking now will have less of an adverse effect on me than the last lot. Anyway, I have a few weeks to wait before the procedure can continue. In the mean time I’m sitting here, moaning gently and watching my garden grow….

I’ve photographed the good bits and carefully avoided the jungle elsewhere!

Making memories

It’s all too easy to get into a rut.

Mr Snail has been working away from home for 11 months now (with the prospect of at least six more to come) and so we are used to the routine. The trouble is that “the routine” has got so routine that we’ve rather stopped doing anything novel. Last week I decided, therefore, that we ought to climb out of our rut.

Mr Snail gets home any time from about 4:30 on a Friday afternoon, but the traffic usually means that it’s later than this, sometimes much later. It does, however, mean that there is time to do something in the evening. Having checked the weather forecast, I discovered that it was supposed to be a beautiful evening, so at about 6:30 we got in the car and drove the 15 minutes to New Quay, where we had (plastic-free) fish and chips on the quay from a great place called The Lime Crab… actually it’s quite posh, so Mr Snail had mackerel goujons and chips with tartare sauce and I had tempura prawns and chips with sweet chilli sauce. And then, we went on a sunset boat ride to see dolphins. I don’t have any pictures of the dolphins (we saw several), but there were other gems that I did manage to photograph.

The company who run the trips have a lobsterpot on the reef, which you can see being lifted in one of the pictures, and this is where the lobster came from (it was released after we’d had a few minutes to look at it). Actually there were three lobsters and a spider crab in there… all released after their brief visit to the surface. The cliff ledges were teeming with razorbills and guillemots as well as various gulls. The (unpictured) dolphins were happily feeding over the reef and we saw three species of jellyfish. In total, we spent a delightful hour and a half on the boat, and it was a great way to round off a rather stressful week.

It’s easy to forget what a beautiful part of the world we live in… I think we need to make a little more effort to enjoy it.

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