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Thursday, 31 December 2015

One year ends and another begins

A long time ago soon after we moved here back at the end of 2008 we fitted a new light fitting in the bathroom to replace the horrid fluorescent one that was over the mirror.  This left a patch of bare wall being smaller than the one we removed and it obviously needed painting along with the patch by the wash basin where we removed the tacky brass toothmug holder we didn't care for.  Well you know how it is with these jobs they just never seem to get done and so having the Christmas period to ourselves would I thought be an ideal opportunity to get it done as the paint had been in the garage waiting for ages.  The walls behind and at the ends of the bath are tiled to the ceiling and there is a long splashback behind the basin too so I thought it wouldn't take me long to do the job forgetting that in a bathroom there are various immoveable things like the toilet and the piping etc all in difficult to reach corners!  It pays to be agile and supple to do this sort of job.

But it is done now and I am pleased with the result and with the newly painted shelves too.  I was limited to the colours I could use by the tiling which isn't quite as it looks in the photos but is a warmer beige colour with border tiles in greens and apricot colours,  So my new year will start with a job ticked of the "to do" list - always a good feeling even if my legs do ache from all that bending and clambering up and down the steps!

I wish all my readers a very happy, healthy and peaceful New Year and here's hoping that peaceful solutions to the problems which seem to have beset our world in 2015 will be found, that our beautiful earth will not be further destroyed in the name of progress.

I leave you with a couple of book recommendations - The Penguin Lessons a lovely story about aa rescued penguin by Tom Michell  and That's Not English by Erin Moore which would appeal to American and English readers and which I am finding amusing as well as explaining why we are so different even though we supposedly speak the same language!

Saturday, 26 December 2015

How was it for you?!

I mean of course Christmas.  I hope that you all had an enjoyable day as did we.

We had a quiet Christmas here just the two of us which in view of the boiler works was probably just as well as I would never have had chance to be baking mince pies and icing cakes and so on with the work going on till Wednesday lunchtime and being followed by my having to put everything back where it belonged and do some chores which I hadn't been able to do earlier, with  Mr M working on fitting the shelves in the cupboard where the boiler is sited which now didn't fit in the same places it was Christmas Eve before we were actually back to normal here.

The Wanderer didn't come this year, she is off to Vienna for the New Year weekend to stay with friends and the trains are always very disrupted anyway over the bank Holiday due to engineering works and so on and she decided to stay at home and is today and tomorrow volunteering to do an afternoon shift (3 - 11 pm) for Crisis at Christmas.  She said she would have done yesterday but there is no public transport on Christmas Day and she didn't fancy cycling home at 11.00 pm especially if it was raining.

Mr M's sister who often comes to us for Christmas also decided to stay at home alone this year and as she had the horrid cold virus I had recently it was again just as well.

We had the little tree decorated and enjoyed a roast chicken lunch using the best cutlery and the Christmas tablecloth we had bought in Germany many years ago and with Mr M's mother's china candlestick in the middle with a gold candle lit.  So it really wasn't all Bah Humbug here at all.

Today though I felt the need to go out for a breath of fresh air and the photos show my walk through the woods and onto the main road where I knew I would find daffodils in bloom.  Fancy coming with me?

Up through the wood and turn right instead of left as I usually do when going to the post office.

 We come out onto the A30 normally a busy road but as you see quiet this afternoon.

As was the A3088, which links the A30 with the A303 one of  the main routes from London to the south west - I don't remember ever seeing it like this long enough to take a photo! Let's walk down this road... a little further along there are hundreds of daffodils in bloom alongside it.

 Looks more like Easter than Christmas doesn't it?

 We'll walk back up the road the way we came but on the pavement side this time.

 It's very muddy in the wood so it is necessary to wear wellies!

The birds were not bothered though and were singing as if they thought it was spring and the wind was tossing the tree tops .  I tried to film a little video so you might hear the birdsong but the noise of the wind was so loud it spoilt the singing somewhat.  You will have to imagine it for yourselves!

 Nearly home now that's my house through the trees...

 Whilst wearing my boots I decided to have a look round the garden and discovered these hellebores hiding in the undergrowth.

And several brave little clumps of primroses too.  Time now to go indoors and have a cup of tea feeling much refreshed after our walk.  Where to tomorrow?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Christmas Greetings to you all

I wish you all a very happy Christmas and perhaps even more importantly I wish the whole world Peace in these difficult times.

One of my favourite books as a child was Little Grey Rabbit's Christmas by Alison Uttley with as always lovely illustrations by Margaret Tempest mine is a 1946 edition which I have had for more than 60 years.

This illustrationt shows the Christmas tree provided by the generous Moldy Warp who had decorated a pine tree in the wood for all the animals.

On every branch of the little fir-tree candles wavered their tongues of flame.  Little red and gold fruits hung from the tips of the boughs.  On the ground under the branches were bowls of hazel nuts, round loaves of barley bread, piles of wheaten cakes, small sacks of corn and platters of berries ......... Icicles and hailstones shone like diamonds among the branches ......  and chains of frozen water drops swung to and fro reflecting the candle light.  Through the tip top of this wonderful tree gleamed the Christmas Star.

Across the snowy fields padded little dark creatures, all filled with curiosity to see the glowing lights in the tree.  Some were thin, and some were lame, and many were poor for it had been a hard winter..........."Help yourselves," cried Mole waving his short arms, "it is Christmas.  Eat and drink and warm yourselves.  Take away as much as you want for your store rooms."  Then every little creature ate the good food, and drank the sweet honeyed ale and carried away little bags and baskets of meal and cakes and corn.  The birds filled their knapsacks, the squirrels tilled their pockets.  When they had finished there was nothing left except the glowing candles which the wind could not extinguish.

Does this little excerpt remind you of anything more recent?

The boiler work is finished we are warm and have hot water now - I realise just how lucky we are!  There are primroses in the garden and as I type the sun is shining - all's well in my little world.

Monday, 21 December 2015

In hot water - or not!

This is as far as I have got with Christmas!  The wreath is nearly 40 years old and was purchased in the USA on our first visit there back in 1977  I thought it unusual at the time as it had just natural looking nuts and cones and no red or gold sparkle and over the years I have sometimes added different bits and pieces to it and sometimes left it au naturel.  This year it has a ribbon bow and some orange baubles.  I have posted cards to dozens of friends and donated money to Medicins sans Frontieres and Crisis at Christmas, in lieu of sending gifts to friends who know the plan so don't feel obliged to send me gifts either, but cakes and puddings have I none, the tree is still in the loft,I have no turkey ordered nor crackers bought.  It is just as well we have no visitors arriving for the holidays as today at long last the heating engineers arrived to install a new boiler.  Ours was getting very tempermental and old (rather like me).

We had an appointment to have the work done back in October but the chap who was to do the job phoned at the last minute to say he had injured his back and wouldn't be able to come.  No real problem we could wait but we did expect to be kept informed and as the weeks passed and we could never get hold of him to find out what the situation was and if he was better or not.  We eventually left a message to say we would have to find somone else to do the job unless we heard from him by that evening as although we could manage with kettles of hot water for washing occasionally not always being able to get the water to run hot for a shower was not ideal.  So it was back to square one and getting other quotes although by this time it was well into November and everyone was busy.  We did get a quote from a firm who seemed professional and to know what they were talking about and a date was fixed for last week but would you believe it once again it was postponed due to the engineer who was to have arrived having phoned in sick that day.  We were given profuse apologies and kept informed as to what could be arranged and today two young men duly arrived as had been promised, though like policemen they do seem very young and I wonder if their mothers know they are playing about with gas and dangerous electrical tools?!!  I guess everyone looks young to us these days and they seem to be getting on quite knowledgeably.  The job however does mean that we shall be without heating and hot water for a couple of days so it's fortunate that the weather is mild for December.

The lack of water reminds me how lucky I am to have water on tap (pardon the pun) and of how it used to be when I lived with my grandfather back in the '50s.  We had no tap indoors but shared a cold tap in an outhouse with the neighbours and so for hot water it was a case of filling a kettle, from the bucket kept on the end of the table, and putting it on the fire.  As you can imagine showers were not an option and a weekly "bath" or actually a wash down in front of the fire was as near as we got.  Hair washing was a nightmare entailing pouring of hot water with a jug over one's head whilst leaning over a bowl.  No wonder it wasn't done more than once a week.  Not having any plumbing meant of course that there was no sink nor plughole down which the used water might flow so every drop of water that was used had to be either carried outside and round to the outside toilet or flung over the garden - not much fun in mid winter!  At least I have water from a tap to fill the kettle and electricity to boil it so washing ourselves is no problem and having washed my hair yesterday it shouldn't require washing again until the shower is in working order again. 

Modern technology is wonderful when it works but when it goes wrong it can be a real problem and not one that we can solve ourselves so I do sometimes think longingly of a life lived off-grid when heating was a fire which I could deal with myself and there was nothing to go wrong the only problem being having the money to afford to buy coal or other fuel though even then a walk in the countryside usually entailed collecting bits of wood and fallen branches to burn.

Luckily my cold is better and the grey blanket has lifted again so that I can see the funny side of life once more!  Thanks for all your good wishes.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Another little dose of spring or is it?

The grey blanket syndrome (when the patient feels as if they are struggling beneath a heavy grey army blanket like a bird caught in a net) which I know I am not the only one to be suffering from at the moment is not curable but there are things which like a paracetomol for a headache will provide temporary relief.  One such  remedy is a day out with friends and so I took myself off to Salisbury on Monday to meet a couple of friends.

We had met up at Fisherton Mill  a lovely gallery and cafe just a few yards from the station and a much more pleasant venue to wait for them than standing about on the their train had been delayed "due to a fatality" as they say (I always wonder why it is the inconvienence that seems so important when some poor soul for whatever reason has lost their life).  I enjoyed an hour by myself looking at the wonderful crafts on sale in the shop and then sitting over a coffee whilst I waited.  The reindeer above was just outside and was huge, apparently 4 metres tall.  If you click on the link you will find out more about him.  I didn't see him lit with fairy lights as it was not dark but he was impressive nonetheless!

When my friends eventually arrived we wandered towards the town and passed yet more weird and wonderful animals this time a trio of different sized sheep - the fleece was made of strips of twisted metal and not the heavy yarn I had thought it might be from the other side of the road.  alongside the sheep were a reindeer and a cockerel!  These were all for sale at a secondhand shop called Allsorts.

We didn't buy any of the animals but made our way along towards the town past the Bishops Mill which is now a restaurant/pub on the banks of the River Avon.  We enjoyed our day together sitting having lunch in our favourite cafe, wandering round the shops, chatting and enjoying each others company.  After sitting over a cup of tea we suddenly realised it was time to get back to the station for our respective trains home and I bid my friends goodbye as they needed to rush and I had half an hour to while away so could take my time getting to the station (I can't run these days and they are both younger than I am!).  No sooner had they gone than the grey blanket fell again and the little hole through which I had seen our time together was no longer in evidence!  But the several hours I had spent in the company of good friends had been a welcome relief from the winter blues.

This morning I wandered round the garden and discovered some little primroses in bloom here and there.

This little dear is going to get trodden on between the stones of the path so I picked it and along with tow or three more and a couple of leaves and have them on my kitchen windowsill to remind me that spring will come again one day!

No daffodils in flower in my garden as yet but there are signs.

And some periwinkles in bloom against the wall.

This afternoon I walked up through the wood to the post offive to post a birthday card to a friend.  It wasn't cold and although not sunny like Monday there was a pale sun coming through the trees here and there.  The birds were singing and it sounded like spring.  I do hope they won't be fooled into nesting as we are surely going to have some winter weather eventually!

I passed a tree stump beautifully decorated with fungi.

 This one made me think of crochet and with its white edging I thought it a real source of inspiration though whether I would ever attempt to recreate it in crochet with beads or maybe stumpwork for the little mushroom balls I rather doubt especially in my current state of mind!

 Near the post office I noticed this pretty pink chaenomeles japonica in bloom.

 And on my way back through the wood some blackberry bushes in blossom too - when will we get the blackberries I wonder?

It is all very heartening to see these signs of spring and yet it also seems all wrong too.  Should I be rejoicing or worried about the climate change which is making everything flower and fruit at the wrong time of the year, the seasons to be so different, the floods and torrential rain in Cumbria not to mention the weird effects elsewhere in the world. Although I don't want it to snow and to have to totter along icy pavements I miss proper winter weather with frosty mornings and birght sunny days when your breath forms clouds in front of you and your fingers and toes are freezing.  Maybe it is a case of wanting what I haven't got or just another symptom of the grey blanket syndrome?

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Trip to the seaside in December

Having suffered with a wretched cold for a couple of weeks which had left me feeling low and under my occasional "grey blanket" with absolutely no energy and all my joie de vivre missing and having hardly been out of the house with far to much time to think about the problems which beset our world at the moment I was keen to make the most of the sunny day we were forecast yesterday and to go out and get some sea air and a bit of a walk.  I think I have shared Wendell Berry's poem with you before but I make no apologies for doing so again:

The Peace of Wild things
By Wendell Berry
When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
The water was not still and there were no wood drake just happy dogs and sea-gulls but the effect would be the same.

The best of the sunshine was to be in the morning so we set off for Dorchester about 10.00 parked the car and then caught the bus into Weymouth - I love the place in the out of season months but we avoid it during the summer when the beach is packed with lobster coloured bodies!  The beach was almost empty just a few dog walkers - no dogs allowed in the summer months so the dogs were having a great time dashing in and out of the water -  I'd rather them than me though as in spite of the sunshine there was a keen wind and I am sure the water must have been freezing but they didn't seem to mind.

A little still life put together by the sea.

We didn't walk far just along the beach and round to the harbour and...

..... back along the beach to the bus stop  - it is hard to envisage this same beach crammed with holiday makers.

Not a soul to be seen - actually there were a few people who like us were taking advantage of the sunshine but not many. Back in Dorchester we had lunch and went to the library (living on the Somerset/Dorset border we are allowed to belong to both county's libraries) and then made our way home before it got dark - about 4.30 these days. I certainly felt better for the short walk and the sea air!  A sunny day is like a diamond at this time of year and being retired and able to take advantage of them when they come along is one of the bonuses of getting old!

 I spotted these cheery daffodils in bloom across the road on Thursday as I waited fot the bus to take me to neighbouring Crewkerne to meet a friend for lunch.  They are an early variety and I have come across them in bud late in December before but this early?!! 

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Wanderer's Return

The Wanderer arrived back in the UK yesterday evening.  We were able to watch the progress of her flight from Delhi to London Heathrow on Flight Aware website - not all the time of course but just to know where she was at odd moments during the day.  The most frustrating part was the delay once the plane was over Heathrow when it circled twice and then went for a ride round various places in and around London including the area where the wanderer lives - pity she didn't have a parachute as it was half an hour before they were able to land!

She had apparently spent the last week of her trip to Nepal in Pokhara which looks wonderful from all the pictures I have seen on the internet though she said it had sadly been foggy a lot of the time.  Do check out the link to seean interesting blog with photos.

So now I don't have to worry about her falling down a crevace or crashing into the mountainside flying into and out of Lukla airport or there being further earthquakes or anything but now it will be bombs and terrorists, vehicles whilst she is cycling to and from work and so on instead.  I guess one never stops worrying once one becomes a mother.

I am looking forward to seeing her sometime and to hearing all about the places she has been and the people she has met.