Tuesday 29 December 2009

The Christmas Wilderness

Well December 18 has come and gone and Sir Terry Wogan has presented his last breakfast show, amid a fanfare of publicity. I have never been a TOG (Terry's Old Geezer). Somehow he has never been my cup of tea. Perhaps it is because I am not quite old enough. Or perhaps it is because my literary taste is somewhat more sophisticated than Janet and John. I have always looked forward to Terry's holidays, when the BBC Radio 2 breakfast show is presented by Johnnie Walker, whose calm and laid back style is exactly what I need to bring me to life in the morning. In his quiet and understated manner he is currently presenting the breakfast show, in the Christmas wilderness, (the time when most of us don't want or don't have to work) for the three weeks until Chris Evans takes over the breakfast slot in January, again amid the fanfare of publicity. But I have to admit that I am a recent convert to Radio 2. I have not always listened to it.

When we lived down in Surrey my radio was permanently tuned to London's Capital Radio. The move to Chester meant that I could no longer receive Capital and I had to find another station to listen to. In fact, in our area Capital's 95.8 FM frequency is used by BBC Radio Merseyside. Initially, I listened to Chester's local radio, Dee 106.3 and eventually got used to the presenters and their different styles. However, it wasn't long before changes were made. Progress I suppose. I tried but just could not get on with the new schedules and presenters. First thing in the morning I need a soothing noise to help ease me into the day. Conversation alone is not enough. What I had was two presenters with mangled grammar which really grated on me and I wasn't too keen on their choice of music.

One Wednesday, when I was at home painting the study, I decided to listen to the radio to help me keep track of time, as I find that I totally loose track of it when I am painting and I decided to try Radio 2. Throughout the morning I happily listened to Ken Bruce. I am not so keen on Jeremy Vine, but part of his show coincided with my lunch break. Then, Steve Wright provided the afternoon entertainment. After him was the Drivetime show. I was still busily painting and by now it was getting dark outside, but that did not matter to me. I was enjoying listening to Johnnie Walker presenting his Drivetime show. Not long after my conversion to Radio 2 Chris Evans took over the Drivetime show.

My radio is now permanently tuned to Radio 2, even though we are no longer painting. I always try to listen to Johnnie Walker's Sunday afternoon show or if I miss it I use the listen again option on the Internet. His warm and soothing voice has me hooked and his choice of music is often a trip down memory lane, reminding me of my days as a teenager, student and then the heady days of my first job in Oxford. If like me you are a child of the 60s and 70s, give him a try. I am sure you will enjoy him.

Apologies to my overseas readers. This post is about a UK radio station.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Merry Christmas

to bloggers everywhere. I had hoped to visit my regulars before Christmas, but I am very sorry I have run out of time and the day job beckons.

Thursday 17 December 2009

No need to get all steamed up

I have been busy with my Christmas preparations. The cards are now all written and posted, except for the local cards which will be hand delivered. The presents have been bought or ordered via the Internet. The tree has been put up by husband, for I think the first time ever, and I have decorated it and put up the decorations. Just to prove it I have included a photo of our Christmas tree. Tomorrow I shall make the Plum Bread that I normally make for Christmas then there is just the cake to marzipan and ice, along with the final preparations that I hope to fit in around working three short shifts, next week. Yesterday I went to the Christmas party at the home where my mother is a resident and met a lady that I used to go to evening class with a few years ago. She is several years older than me and one of her friends is a resident. It was good to see her and have a chat. The residents and their families were entertained by a choir from a local primary school singing carols. It was not easy to watch as I remembered the events or our summer. My eye was drawn to a blond boy in the choir. I was not sure why, but realised later than he bore a passing resemblance to the child who died, at that age. Afterwards I came home and made the Christmas pudding.

Last week when Jinksy posted about her Christmas preparations I commented that for some years now I have made a Christmas pudding that is cooked in the oven, rather than steamed and she has asked for the recipe. There is no need to worry about the pan boiling dry or boiling over and I did not even need to put the extractor fan on last night! Then to heat it up on Christmas Day all you need to do is to heat it up in the microwave. The recipe came from Ideal Home magazine about ten years ago. It is lighter than a conventional Christmas pudding and should be made at least one week before Christmas. There is no need for it to age or mature. So you still have time to make it. Ideal Home magazine have called it Boozy Christmas Pudding. This recipe provides six generous portions.

400g/14oz mixed fruit such as dates, apricots, cherries, figs, raisins, all roughly shopped
grated rind and juice of one small orange
8tbsp brandy
125g/4oz butter (at room temperature)
125g/4oz dark brown sugar
2 eggs beaten
25g/1oz toasted, chopped hazelnuts
50g/2oz self-raising flour
1tsp mixed spice
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
50g/2oz breadcrumbs

  • place the dried fruit, orange rind and juice, and brandy in a large bowl and set aside for an hour or two until all the liquid has been absorbed. Preheat the oven to 160 C, 325 F, gas 3.
  • in a bowl, mix together the butter and sugar until soft and well blended, then beat in the eggs, nuts and fruit mixture. Sift over the flour and spices and fold in the breadcrumbs. Spoon the mixture into a buttered 1 litre or 2 pint pudding basin.
  • cover the top of the pudding basin with greaseproof paper, pleated in the centre and tied down with string. Cover with foil. Put the basin in a roasting tin and pour boiling water into the tin so it comes about 6cm up the side of the basin.
  • cover the whole roasting tin with foil, making sure that the edges are tightly sealed.
  • bake for 3 1/2 to 4 hours until the pudding is just firm to touch, checking occasionally to see if the water needs topping up.
  • to reheat, cover the basin with microwave film and cook on medium for 6 to 8 minutes in the microwave, then rest for two minutes before serving.
And here is the proof of the pudding!

Monday 7 December 2009

Lighting the darkness

This was the scene in our snug late in the afternoon, last Monday.

Romantic, festive, cosy? None of these.

About four thirty last Monday afternoon, I was enjoying a cup of tea in the kitchen when there was a very authoritative knock on the front door. I did not dare to not answer the door and on opening it found that it had become dark, while I had enjoyed my cup of tea and the porch light was not on. Standing on the door step, in the darkness, was a man dressed in a boiler suit and wearing a helmet which incorporated a small light over his forehead. Not really what you expect to find on your doorstep at four thirty in the afternoon, but nothing surprises me these days. He resembled a coal miner, but even in the dark I could see that he looked too clean. He started by informing me that he was from Scottish Power. Cheshire, by the way, is not in Scotland but our electricity is supplied by Scottish Power and I do wonder what will happen if Scotland gets the independence that it is hankering after. He then went on to say that they were going to have to take our power out for about 20 minutes, in ten minutes time, because the local farmer had noticed that the power was flickering.

What immediately went through my mind was 'why now?' It was dark, the children would be just home from school and it was very cold. The first frost of the winter was forecast for that night. Why couldn't they have switched off our power during daylight hours? It would still have been cold, but it would at least have been light. Any way there was no time for dithering around. I had to find a torch, candles and matches. Then phone husband to ask what to do with the computers. He reckoned that if the power were only off for 20 minutes that the UPS (uninterruptible power supply) would look after the computers and I did not need to do anything with them. Ten minutes came and went and the power did not go off. I pottered around the cottage doing odd jobs. My list of power assisted, to do, jobs went out of the window. It was a bit like being in the dentist waiting room. Ten minutes eventually turned out to be about 30 minutes and suddenly it was pitch dark. Now I realised that I was the only mug around with candles and a torch in the darkness. One set of neighbours was out and the other set went out rather than face the reality of a power cut. When I was a student, when the power went off, we used to go to a pub in an area where the power was on, but there is something a bit sad about a middle aged woman sitting in a pub on her own at five o'clock in the afternoon. I had not drawn the curtains and looking out of our windows it looked as if there was a light, from somewhere, outside. An almost full moon shone out of a clear inky blue sky and the first stars of the night were up. Twilight, I suppose you could call it.

The 20 minute outage became 30 minutes, then 40 minutes, then eureka we had power again! Now I had the task of adjusting the clocks on the oven and microwave to the correct time, resetting the burglar alarm and altering the automatic timers. Then I had the computers to sort out. Surprisingly my laptop survived unscathed but the two computers that are connected to the desk top screen both had to be rebooted. The UPS is only good for about 15-20 minutes. All that nicely took up two hours of last Monday. I do hope that it is not going to be a long Winter.

Friday 27 November 2009


Whether we like it or not change has to happen. Sometimes it is for the better. Sometime it is for the worse. All change takes times to adapt to and any change can be stressful. This year my family has had to cope with a number of changes. Those that have affected husband and I the most have been moving, my mother the 250 miles from her bungalow in Sussex to the care home, not far from us in Cheshire, where she is now resident, and changes to husband's work contracts.

I have now got into a routine of visiting my mother, once a week on a Monday or Tuesday afternoon. When she has not been well, I have visited her more often. Since Mum came up here I have had to buy her practically a whole new wardrobe of clothes and seem to have spent more time sewing on buttons and doing running repairs for her than I have spent on my own clothes.

For the 21 months up until April, husband had been working away from home Monday to Thursday or Friday. From April to August he worked in Manchester, commuting from home. Then until two weeks ago husband was at home 'resting'. There will be more about that in another post. Now we are back to him working away from home Monday to Friday. While husband was at home 'resting' I decided that I would take some time off work so that I could be at home with him. Usually when he is home 'resting', I am busy working and it is a missed opportunity to get some jobs done in the house and garden. Now I have as much work as I want until the end of the year and I am also trying to catch up with all those jobs that did not get done when husband was home, that were put off, postponed or left until another day. So over the last few weeks it has been all change here.

However, there are some things, in this ever changing world, that do not change. On Tuesday the electrician came to do a job for us and was unable to do it, because our cabling is not up scratch and needs to be relaid and my laptop computer ceased up yet again. Luckily husband was able to sort it out, over the phone.

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Saturday Night Out

A few weeks ago on a Saturday evening we went to a concert in our village hall. The evenings entertainment was provided by the Daniel Smith Blues Band. They were very good and even though I am not a blues fan I enjoyed the evening. The purpose of the evening was to raise funds towards the refit of the village hall kitchen.

Our village hall is mainly prefabricated and probably constructed of a considerable amount of asbestos, although a small extension to it was built on a few years ago. The village hall committee have had several attempts at applying to the Big Lottery Fund for a grant to rebuild our ancient and much used village hall. Our village of about 420 homes, mainly occupied by professional people and farmers, seems to be viewed as being to prosperous and affluent to qualify for a grant. Just about every day the village hall is used by a variety of clubs, classes and meeting groups. The following Friday I went to a flower arranging demonstration in the village hall. This time the funds raised were for the local hospice.

At the moment the bulk of the UK lottery funding is going towards the preparations for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, which we in the north west are unlikely to benefit from, as the majority of the Olympic events are being held in London and the south of the country.

The village hall is at the heart of village life. If our village loses it, a lot of the community spirit will go with it. Perhaps in thirty years time when a clutch of the present residents die from asbestosis, a grant towards a new village hall will become a reality. Can the village hall wait until 2013? That is after the 2012 Olympics in London. I suppose that it will have to. In the mean time the village hall committee will continue to attempt to raise funds and to continue to patch up the old village hall when necessary.

Wednesday 11 November 2009

White crosses as far as the eye could see

Last month when we were in France we visited the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial at Colleville sur Mer. It is situated on a cliff overlooking the eastern end of Omaha beach and the English Channel and covers 172.5 acres.

As we drove back to the main road from Omaha beach we noticed a sign to the cemetery. We followed the sign partly out of curiosity and because we were there. Having parked our car in an emptyish car park we then walked initially in the direction of the coast before turning west to walk parallel to the beach. We must have been walking for a good ten minutes when the path turned to the left and there before us were white crosses fanning out in all directions as far as the eye could see. I was quite taken aback to see so many graves. There are 9,387 graves of American military and air force personnel who died as a result of the D Day landings and in the ensuing operations. In addition the Walls of the Missing bear the names of 1,557 service men
who do not have graves. Each grave is marked with an absolutely pristine white cross - the Latin cross for Christians and the Star of David for those of the Jewish faith. It was not possible to work out the age of the fallen servicemen as the crosses bear only their name and the date of their death. Even on a grey and windy day the cemetery looked immaculately groomed with the usual silence of a cemetery being broken only by the waves of the English Channel breaking on the beach below. This satellite photo shows the sheer size if the cemetery. We had not known quite what to expect as the only other war cemetery that we had visited was at Souda Bay on Crete, which is much smaller.

Friday 6 November 2009

It has become an obsession

Now, it is thank you to Helen P for this very sophisticated award, which she has passed on to me. The award stands for integrity, commitment to excellence and being stubbornly optimistic. Attached to this award is the requirement to list five obsessions. Identifying three obsessions was relatively easy, but the fourth and fifth were difficult. So, here they are, in no particular order:
  • Closing the curtains, when the sun shines, to stop the carpets from fading.
  • Keeping the house tidy. Husband's predecessor told me that my house looked too tidy to be lived in. I am a bit more relaxed about it now that I am married to the most untidy man in the world.
  • Our garden, I could be out in it 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Weeding, dead heading, tidying up and pottering around.
  • Neil Diamond - Husband and I went to see him at the MEN arena in Manchester last year. It was the best concert that I have been to and I could listen to him all day, but I don't.
  • Keeping up to date with all the blogs that I want to read and also keeping on top of mine.
It has been more difficult, than deciding on obsessions, to choose five bloggers to pass this award on to. After much consideration I have chosen the following five bloggers:

Sandi McBride
Sniffles and Smiles
Withenay Wanders

And I am also going to pass the award on to any blogger who is prepared to list their five obsessions, which I shall look forward to reading.

Tuesday 3 November 2009

To, too, tutu or two

I was set this challenge about two months ago by Catharine Withenay, to name my seconds. Who else could have originated this meme but, you guessed, the Dotterel. I promised that I would do it after we had been on holiday, so here is my attempt.

your second girlfriend - I don't think this is applicable.
your second day at school - I don't remember, but I do remember a bit about my first day at primary school.
your second best friend - I don't attach numbers to friends. If I am lucky enough to have friends they are friends full stop.
the second LP that you bought - a Beatles LP, as was the first.
the second house that you lived in - the house that my parents moved to when I was four.
the second car that you drove - a Wolsey Hornet, basically a variation on the old Mini.
your second favourite band - The Beatles who were also my favourite band. There was only one band in those days.
the second best book you ever read - difficult, maybe The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough.
your second favourite film - Dr Zhivago.
your second favourite blog - I am not even trying to answer that.

Now, the lucky, or unlucky, bloggers that I am passing it on to are French Fancy, Helen P, Moannie and Reasons and also anyone else who would like to have a go at this challenge.

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Impressions Francaises

I know that I have not posted for a few days and I suppose that you think that I am off on my travels again. Sorry you are wrong! I have been making the most of the mild weather, that we have been having, to get on with the Autumn jobs in the garden. By the time that I came in, late yesterday afternoon, our outside lights were on. We are making progress with our garden but we have along way to go before we reach the holy grail of a garden that we visited whilst in France earlier this month. It was a garden that I had never expected to see. It was cloudy most of the drive from Trouville to Giverny but as we approached Giverny the clouds disappeared and the sun shone out of a clear blue sky.

Monet's garden at Giverny is stunning, but at two weeks before it was due to close for the end of the season, it was past its' best. The garden has been restored to its' original planting scheme, using the notebooks of Monet's gardeners and the gardens do look like a Monet painting.

All the plants were big and tall. Far bigger than we manage to grow in the UK. In Monet's day the house garden was separated from the Water Lily Pond by a railway line and a path. Today an underground passage links the garden to the Water Lily Pond with its Japanese Bridge. Autumn is not the season for wisteria and water lilies but the pond and the bridge are just like the painting - perfect.

Giverny is a hamlet. There is more to it than I expected and I suppose that we should not be surprised that the whole area has been commercialised. We only had time to look at the garden. So the church, the museum, the art gallery, the restaurant and the hotel were all wasted on us with our whistle stop tour.

The previous day after walking around Trouville then Deauville in the morning we drove to the picturesque old harbour town of Honfleur in the afternoon. Here we bought a bottle of Calvados - a liqueur made from locally grown apples and wrote postcards while having a coffee at one of the harbour side cafes.

The following morning, on our way to the ferry, we managed to squeeze in a visit to the Bayeux tapestry. Bayeaux is a very old town with a lot of history to it, but we only had time to see the tapestry. Cameras are not allowed in the tapestry visitor centre. The tapestry which is 70metres long and 50 cm wide is stored behind glass in a darkened room with the tapestry illuminated for viewing.

It is not actually a tapestry - it is brown, green, khaki and black wool stitched on linen and is composed of 50 scenes depicting the story of the Norman invasion of England in 1066. It is thought to have been stitched by English nuns from 1070 to 1080. Entry to see the tapestry included a personal audio commentary in a variety of languages from a small hand held machine similar to a mobile phone. It was a very impressive experience.

Then in the afternoon we made our way to the ferry terminal, at Caen, making sure that we had time to stop off at the wine warehouse, so that we could stock up on our favourite French wines.

Monday 19 October 2009

Life's a beach

I know that I have now been away ten times this year. However, those of you that follow my blog will know that we have had several trips away this year that have were not really for the purpose of enjoying ourselves. Holidaywise we had a four night break in Kent and the New Forest in May, one week in Ireland last month and then three days in France last week. Our other seven trips have been to three family birthdays, two funerals, one trip down to Sussex to bring my mother up to Cheshire and another trip down to Sussex, to do some sorting out and cleaning at my Mother's bungalow, in preparation for selling it.

Our days of lying on a Mediterranean or even a Caribbean beach have gone, but we have visited several beaches over the last few weeks. The only beach that we saw whilst in County Clare, Ireland last month was Lahinch.

Last Sunday we stayed the night in the Southsea area of Portsmouth, and we managed to go for a walk along the sea front at Southsea, before going out for a meal in the evening.

On Monday morning we travelled by ferry to Cherbourg in France. That afternoon, on our way from Cherbourg to Trouville-sur-Mer, we stopped off at some of the D Day beaches. Omaha with its American memorial was the most impressive of the three that we saw.

Then we went on to see the British beaches - Gold, where the remains of the Mulberry Harbour can still be seen if you enlarge the photograph below

and Juno, which was actually the Canadian beach.

All the D Day beaches were wide, empty and golden with the waves rolling in and it was not difficult to imagine the scene on D Day, 6 June 1944. We missed the American beach, Utah and the British beach, Sword. However, the next day we walked along the promenade at Trouville

and then walked over the bridge to Deauville, where we also walked along the beach.

Friday 9 October 2009

French leave

I know that we have only just got back from Ireland but we are going away again this weekend to France. Husband has become partial to French wine and we need to restock the wine cellar or rather the wine rack that I bought for his birthday last year, which has languished unassembled in the box for the last thirteen months. With the nights drawing in and becoming chilly, last weekend I suggested that we might use it for fire wood if he was not going to assemble it and this week he has, at last, assembled it. This year's holiday arrangements have not been ideal, but we were asked not to go away while SIL was away, so that either husband or SIL would be around for MIL. However, SIL gave us the wrong dates and we were away, in September, at the same time as SIL!

When we return from this little break, which will be the tenth and final bag packing event of the year, the suitcases will be going up in the loft and the loft door will stay firmly closed until the Christmas decorations need to come down. We have got this bag packing routine down to a fine art now, but I would just like to stay at home for a few weeks and get on top of things instead of permanently trying to catch up with myself. So we shall be battening down the hatches and raising the draw bridge in preparation for winter. By the way we don't have moat - just a flooded path!

Back in about a week.

Saturday 3 October 2009

A white knuckle ride

Some of you may recognise the bridge in this photograph. For those that do not it is the bridge at Dolgellau, in Wales. A few weeks ago husband, when he was having a week off work, which became a month and is now two months, took me off to the archives in Dolgellau, to help with some more research into his family tree. This time it was the paternal, Welsh branch of the family that he was pursuing. Husband had previously been to the archives in Dolgellau, on his own back in April. He thought that I might enjoy he trip into Wales and that two pairs of eyes might be better than one when viewing the microfiches of the old parish records.

Our journey to Dolgellau was slow and we only managed about an hour in the archive before they shut for lunch. We ventured into the centre of Dolgellau for a pub lunch then it was back to the archives for more research into the ancestors. Security is tight at the archives. We had to sign in and sign for the microfiches that we looked at. Only pencils can be use for writing, not pens and eating and drinking is not permitted. We were looking at the parish records for births, marriages and deaths for the village of Mallwyd and the parish of Llanymaddwy for the 1770s. The quality of the microfiches varies and depends on the hand writing of the recorder, the condition of the paper and the binding of the pages. We were fortunate in that we managed to find the recording of the births that husband was looking for, amongst the pauper burials, illegitimate births and the issue born to concubines. Although he was surprised to find that the particular ancestor that he was interested in was born out of wedlock. Having spent a total of two and a half hours in the archive husband then wanted to visit the graveyard in the church at Llanymaddwy. There amongst the graves of the Thomases, Lloyds and Williams we were unable to find the graves that he was looking for.

The sat. nav. was given the honour of guiding us home and chose to take us via the scenic route of a single track road. If husband ever tries to take me via that route again I shall be walking home. Not only was the road single track but on one side the was a sheer drop down the mountain side which happened to be on the passenger side (i.e. my side) of the car. At times I was nearly in the driving seat with husband! My heart was in my mouth and I did not dare close my eyes. It was quite frightening and I thought that we might never make it home especially when we met two cars coming the other way. Luckily there was a passing bay.

The scenery is beautiful in a peculiar grey/green sort of way. On this particular day the sky was grey. The hills looked very green and the landscape was only relieved by the occasional traditional grey stone or white pebble dash houses with slate roofs. It is incredible to think that, hundreds of years ago, husband ancestors would have looked out on a countryside not too different from what we still see today.

For those of you who are wondering where this fits into a blog about renovation and relocation. This is relocation, which has allowed us to make day trips into Wales.

Sunday 27 September 2009

Back to his green roots

Click on the photographs to enlarge.

Two weeks ago, yesterday, we set off on our pilgrimage to Ireland. Husband had wanted to make this trip for some time. His maternal grandparents were Irish and he has got hooked on tracing his ancestors. This was our first time on the Holyead to Dublin ferry. When we had booked it, via the Internet, we were given the option of booking seats and we thought that we had better do so, otherwise we might have to stand. I vaguely remembered that one of the perks of booked seats was complimentary refreshments, which I expected to be a drink and a bag of nuts, similar to those offered by airlines. Well, we were amazed to find that the complimentary refreshments were a buffet fit for a king. Why had we bothered to bring our own sandwiches?

It was a fine sunny day and we had a smooth crossing to Dublin, followed by a pleasant drive to Ennis in County Clare, where we were to spend three nights. Ennis is the county town of Clare and we had chosen it because the county archive is located in the library there. It is an attractive medieval style market town of narrow winding one way streets on the River Fergus. That evening we ate at Brogans where we opted for the typical Irish dishes of Irish stew for husband and bacon and cabbage for myself. Later we had a nightcap in the hotel's bar and enjoyed the traditional Irish music played on flute, fiddle and accordion.

On Sunday morning we headed off to the village of Whitegate, where husband's grandparents hail from. Whilst taking photos he got talking to some locals sitting outside the village bar who gave him contact details of the local historian. From Whitegate we moved on to the nearby small town of Mountshannon, where we found the graves of several of husband's family buried in St. Caimin's churchyard. Then it was down to Mountshannon harbour on Lough Derg, where we came across the local historian who also runs boat trips to Holy Island in Lough Derg. Husband had a good chat to him and came away with a book that the historian had written about the area.

Our next port of call on Monday morning was the archives in the library. Amongst the documents that we looked at was a transcription of the protestant Church of Ireland vestry meetings to approve the church's annual expenses. Included in amongst the cushions, surplices, bells, lead and brushes needed for the church maintenance was 'a popes head for sweeping cobwebs from the ceiling'!

Tuesday morning saw us moving on to Doolin on the north west coast of County Clare. Now we had time for some sight seeing. Driving from Ennis to Doolin, we made a detour to the spa town of Lisdoonvarna, now best known for its' 'Matchmaking Festival' which is held during September. This was in full swing when we visited with posters all over for speed dating and dances. After lunch at Ballyvaughan we drove down the coast road to our hotel at Doolin. This area of County Clare, known as the Burren, is a limestone plateau of about 100 square miles with the appearance of a lunar landscape which varies between vast limestone pavements and areas of lush vegetation.

One of the must sees of the area are the Cliffs of Moher, to the south of Doolin which we visited on Wednesday. These 700 ft (200m) high cliffs which stretch for five miles (eight km) are particularly stunning with the waves of the Atlantic crashing against them. We climbed, along with a host of visitors of all nationalities, to the well organised viewing area to take the photo to the right.

The three Aran Isles lie off the coast of Galway Bay. There are boat trips from Doolin to see the islands. We saw one of these boat trips returning and the passengers that got off it were dressed for the Antartic. One of these trips was not an option for us as we had not brought enough warm clothing with us. Perhaps this explains the profusion of shops, in the area, selling Aran Sweaters.

By Thursday husband had found another archive to visit in Corofin. So we briefly stopped off there on the way to Galway. Unfortunately the records that he was interested in were moved to Dublin, for safe keeping, then in 1922 they were destroyed by fire. The drive from Doolin to Galway took us through some breathe taking scenery of wet lands, the greenest grass you have ever seen and grey dry stone walls. Sorry no photos. My little camera would not have done justice to the scenery.

On Friday we started our journey home, driving to Dublin where we stayed over night. The hotels in Ennis and Doolin had been surprisingly good. The hotel in Dublin was a disappointment, but we have learnt from the experience so future visits to Dublin should be better. And I know that there will be future visits, as husband is planning more research into his ancestors.

Monday 21 September 2009

Back and on the roller coaster again

On Saturday lunchtime, as we waited to board the ferry from Dublin to Holyhead, I received a text message from my brother informing me that Mum had had a fall and was in A&E at Arrowe Park Hospital, which is about 15 miles from where we live, waiting for the results of an x-ray. I have lost count of the number of falls that she has had. She has been like a cat with nine lives. Until now she has got away with nothing more that minor cuts and bruises. Her luck must have run out. Then just after we had arrived in Holyhead I had a phone call from him. Mum had broken a bone at the bottom of her back and the hospital would be keeping her in. He then went on to tell me that the consultant who had seen Mum had said that when she was able to be discharged, that she would need nursing care rather than residential care. The residential home that she is in had said that they would not have her back if she needed nursing care and that the nursing home on the same site as the residential home did not have a vacancy. It seemed to me as if I was going to be spending the next few weeks looking for another home for Mum, when I was not busy driving the 30 mile round trip to visit her at the hospital. Why hadn't they taken her to the nearby Countess of Chester Hospital, which is about three miles from where we live? The signal on my mobile phone in the Holyhead area of Wales was almost non-existent, so I was concentrating on listening to what my brother said and not really analysing what he was saying. It was not until we had got back to the cottage that it registered with me that the home have to give four weeks notice if they can no longer cope with my Mother. They can not just decide that they don't want her.

On Sunday morning, after about 15 minutes on the phone I managed to find the ward that my Mother was in and was very surprised and somewhat relieved to be told that she was being discharged back to the residential home later in the day!

Friday 11 September 2009

I'm leaving the country

That's it. I've had enough. I'm going.

On Monday morning I loaded up the washing machine and pressed the buttons to set it going. The lights came on, but it refused to work. This was all I needed as we are going away on Saturday and before we go there will be a fair amount of washing to do. Washing machine repair man No 1 said that he would be round on Monday afternoon but did not turn up. Repair man No 2 arranged to come on Tuesday afternoon and kept to his word.

Late Monday afternoon I had a phone call asking me to work on Tuesday to cover sick leave. 'Sorry' I said 'my car is going into the garage.' 'I am sure that we can pay for a taxi' the little voice on the other end of the phone said. 'I am not supposed to be working tomorrow. I've got a hair appointment and I have already had to cancel it twice.' I know how important these hair appointments are. I had a quick chat with husband and agreed to work a few hours to help out. About half an hour later both husband and I realise that there was more to Tuesday than a car and washing machine repair and that we have tied ourselves in knots. Never mind, we manage to work something out.

By Tuesday evening the driver's door window of my car was opening once again for an eye watering cost of £xy1.70 and the washing machine was repaired for about a quarter of the cost of the car repair.

Now we are just about all ready to go away and we shall be off to the Emerald Isle on Saturday morning.

Whilst I am away I shall leave you a photograph of this stunning dahlia which has just come out into flower in our garden. Hope it is still flowering when we get home.

Back in ten days.

Friday 4 September 2009

The roller coaster ride continues

Life has once again got in the way of my blog. I started to write a post about two weeks ago, but at the time I was also busy getting ready for the gathering of my husband's family to celebrate his big zero birthday. Trying to clean the cottage from top to bottom in four days ready for the sergeant-major's (mother-in-law's) inspection, then prepare a cordon bleu meal for Saturday lunch. Everything was going to plan. We had just returned from the supermarket and unloaded several bags of shopping from the car, when the phone went at lunch time on the Friday, which was actually my husband's birthday. It was the residential home that mother is in phoning to say that she had collapsed and they had called for an ambulance. Could I go to A&E at the local hospital? My plans to spend the afternoon cooking and preparing for tomorrow's lunch were suddenly up in the air. We did not want to have to cancel the next day's meal as it had taken us four years to persuade my husband's family to visit us up here in Cheshire. Then there was the food. I quickly worked out that most of it could be frozen, otherwise it would have to be binned as we were due to go away for a few days on the Monday. The home kindly sent one of the carers to A&E with my mother and I phoned A&E to enquire about my mother when I estimated that they would have done a preliminary assessment of her. I was advised that she would be having X-rays and tests and to phone back in four hours time. Phew! My bacon was saved and I could spend the afternoon in the kitchen as planned. When I phoned back four hours later Mum had been admitted to the assessment unit. It was then a quick dash to the hospital to visit her. This was all new territory to us and I had heard a lot of complaints about parking at the hospital, so my husband took me with the idea that he would sus out the parking whilst I visited my mother. There are several small car parks in the hospital grounds. Once in the one of the car parks the only way out of it is by purchasing a token from a machine in the hospital. To exit the car park you drive up to the exit barrier, open the driver's door window and put the token in the machine and the barrier opens for you. Fine in my husband's car. Small problem in my car as the driver's door window stopped opening in some time ago and I have not got it fixed as I so rarely need to open it. By Sunday it looked as if Mum would be discharged back to the residential home on Monday so we went away as planned. On the Monday Mum was seen by the consultant who ordered more tests and on the Tuesday I realised that my mobile phone was no longer working. Could anything else go wrong?

Mum is now back in the residential home and I have bought myself a new mobile phone. The driver's door window on my car will be fixed next week. The family gathering for my husband's birthday went well and they were all impressed with the work that we have done on the cottage and the garden since their last visit back in 2004.

So again I am behind with my blog - posting, visiting and everything in general. Husband had planned a week at home from August 7, which is when I last posted. I decided to have some time at home with him and the week has now become a month. If there is anybody out there still reading my blog please take this Spread the Love award with my love.

It was kindly given to me by Akelamalu some time ago. I have not obeyed the rules attached to the award but I am hoping that she will understand. Please display it on your blog and pass it onto ten more bloggers.

Friday 7 August 2009

Out of bounds

Summer, or should I say the better weather, is here in the UK and the neighbour's children are out in the garden attempting to hone their football skills.

A few weeks ago I had opened the gate at the side of our house in the expectation of doing some gardening in our front garden after I had done some work in the back garden. I was working in the back of one of the side borders, hidden behind the lilac tree when for some reason I looked up and saw a figure, clad in black, striding down our garden. At first I thought that it was the wife from next door who I had earlier seen in their garden dressed in black. I wondered what she could be doing in our garden, then realised that the hair was the wrong colour. It was not her. It was Del Boy Junior, the neighbour's son, from the other side. I was dumb struck! What was he doing striding down our garden? Eventually my brain engaged my tongue and I managed to stutter out something about asking before walking into some one's garden. He said something about knocking on the door and getting no reply. With an unanswered front door and the gate wide open I would have thought that it was obvious that we were in the garden. He had kicked a ball over the hedge into our garden and wanted it back. This was just one of several incidents that we have had with Del Boy Junior and a football.

The day that Del Boy and family moved next door we had a taste of what was to come. It was November and it was dark and wet but that did not stop Del Boy Junior and friends from knocking a ball around in their new garden, as Dad had rigged up some flood lights so that they could play football when it was dark. It was early evening when we had a knock on the door and a request to look for a ball in our back garden, in the dark. Reluctantly my husband put on his anorak and went out with a torch for a rummage around. But before he managed to get out there one of the football players was already in our garden flailing amongst the plants. There are no lights in our back garden and they couldn't find the ball. At that point we did not have the side gate and I have to say that this incident put the requirement for a lockable side gate at the top of our to do list, otherwise we could see that our garden would become a free for all scavenging ground for balls when we were not there.

We had had experiences of stray footballs at our previous house. Initially the children, who lived in the house at the back of us used to politely ask for their ball back. However, they became bold and one gloomy wet evening I saw them climbing over the fence in an attempt to retrieve a ball. How did I manage to see them? Their white trainers glowed in the dark. The next thing that I remember happened when we returned from holiday. As I walked from the hall into the kitchen I thought something was different. Initially I could not work out what it was. Then I noticed that there was broken glass all over the kitchen floor and a large, round, football shaped hole in the kitchen window. This was before we had done any work on the house and it was an old single glazed window. It was obvious who the culprits were. We never had an apology and they never asked for another ball to be returned to them. By the time that we moved from that house, about six years later, we had a collection of half a dozen balls which I gave to a charity shop.

So now we have some rules relating to the return of stray balls which are that we will return one ball per day before 8 pm in the evening, in response to a polite request for the ball to be returned.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Four Birthdays and Two Funerals

I am afraid that I have been absent from Blogland yet again, but on this occasion it has not been due to problems with my laptop computer. Sunday of last week found us packing bags, yet again, for a brief visit down to Sussex, which involved a family reunion. It seems as if almost every weekend husband has either been getting bags out of the loft or putting bags away in the loft. My husband tends to be a throw everything in the suitcase at the last minute sort of person whereas I like to be organised and work from lists. So I dislike intensely having to pack at the last minute as I have to when husband does not get the bags out of the loft until shortly before we are due to leave. Although in some ways I have had to get used to it, but it does not stop me sitting in the passenger seat of the car and worrying about all the things that I might have forgotten and the constant need to be rummaging in bag which sits on the back seat of the car, to check that I have not actually forgotten anything. In the past we have between us managed to forget comb, hairbrush, toothbrush, glasses, sandals and shirts. Now that my navigational skills have been replaced by a satellite navigation system I need to keep the old grey cells active somehow and there was also the desperate need to take my mind off the tragic affair that we were to attend the following day.

So far this year we have been away six times for one or two nights. There was the lightening trip down to Sussex to collect my mother and bring her up to Cheshire. Then there have been two funerals. One for my aunt in East Yorkshire and the second last week for a child. It was the saddest thing that I have ever been to. Husand and I have been to three funerals in the last nine months, so I am hoping that as things are said to happen in threes that, that is now that. The other three trips away have been to celebrate three of the four 'big zero' birthdays that are happening this year in our family. The fourth is next month when my husband will be celebrating and for a change the family will be coming to us.

On the journey home from Sussex we stopped at RHS Wisley, for a quick walk around, where I photographed these lovely blue agapanthus which will always remind of the events of July 2009.

Saturday 11 July 2009

Three strikes and you're out!

Not long ago I posted about computer problems which resulted in my absence form Blogland when Vista brought my laptop computer to a stand still. Unfortunately I have had more problems which once again have lead to my absence from Blogland.

A few hours after struggling to post Eros in a Small World my laptop collapsed with a high temperature (it had over heated). I poked it, prodded it, swore at it and nearly threw it out of the window. Husband was out at the time. When he came home he cast his consultant's eye (computer not medical) over it and phoned A&E (the local computer shop), who said to bring it in straight away which he did. I had expected that it was going to be rushed to ITU to be monitored overnight (they have some sophisticated monitoring/diagnostic equipment), so was surprised to find, when husband phoned the following day, that my laptop was still waiting, on a stretcher in A&E, to be assessed. It was not until the next day that a diagnosis of it needing a heart and lung transplant (a new hard drive) was made. Surgery was scheduled for the following day and after a speedy recovery, we had the laptop back home. It then needed a few days recuperation to build up its strength (while the necessary software was installed), before I could have it back to use.

I have told my laptop that to let me down once was unfortunate, to let me down twice was a mistake and that if it lets me down again I shall be replacing it with a newer, younger model.

In the mean time I have been using the desk top computer, in our study, to try to catch up with my visiting, when I have been able to get to it. Every time that I have nearly caught up with my visiting, several bloggers publish posts and once again I slip down the greasy pole. So I have given up trying to get my visiting up to date. Rest assured that if I normally read your blog and have not done so recently, that it will be on my list of blogs to read.

And now for something different - an award!

I was given this One Lovely Blog Award sometime ago by the multi-talented Janine at Sniffles and Smiles and have not got around to doing anything about it, because of being in and out of Blogland, at the whim of my laptop and a few other problems.

I have decided to give the award to fellow bloggers who are my neighbours here in the north west of England.So you see there are a few small benefits to living in this area and the recipients are as follows:

CG - the compulsive worrier who is also a librarian and photographer and mother to two lovely daughters

Helen P - who has recently ghost written the biography of local millionaire Rob Lloyd

Scriptor Senex - who rambles from his chair


A Brit in Tennessee

who is a Cheshire expat living in Tennessee.

Saturday 27 June 2009

Eros in a Small World

When I admitted in a tag, last Autumn, that I had met my husband on a Greek island, I was surprised by the curiosity, interest and requests for a post that this fact generated. I have waited until now to post about how I met my husband. Today is our wedding anniversary, so it seems as good a day as any for this post.

It was the summer of 1989. I was a single working girl with a mortgage around my neck and a hole in my finances, after having to pay a string of unexpected bills. I needed and wanted a holiday and worked out that I could afford one week in the sun. I decided on a week's holiday on the Greek island of Alonnisos with the tour operator Small World. I had been with them a few times before. Their brochure advertised 'social holidays for single people' mainly in villas, in parts of the Mediterranean which were only semi-commercialised.

I set off early one Friday morning in July, driving to Gatwick airport at the crack of dawn. The flight was delayed which meant that we were late arriving in Skiathos and missed the Flying Dolphin hydro-foil to Alonnisos. I and my fellow travellers had to sit around, for an hour or two, in the Greek afternoon heat, wearing clothes that were more suited to a grey day in the UK, whilst we waited for the next hydrofoil to Alonnisos. By the time that we reached our destination it was early evening. We just had time to unpack and have a shower before dinner.

Meals, which were eaten outside in a small courtyard, were prepared by the villa girls, known as Muribirds, after the founder of Small World, Colin Murison-Small. Some of the group were half way through a two week stay. For others it was the first week of a two week holiday and for those like myself it was the start of their one and only week. After dinner which was washed down with plenty of wine, all eleven (four girls and seven lads) of us, that were staying in the villa, walked down to the harbour for a drink. Husband to be (HTB) and I hit it off straight away. I could not tell you what we talked about, that first night, but I managed to establish that he lived not far from me back in England.

The next morning those on their second week showed the new arrivals the way to the nearest beach, which meant a 45 minute walk or taking a water taxi. The other three girls opted to take the water taxi but I decided that as I was holidaying on a shoe string that I would walk to the beach with the lads and save myself the cost of the water taxi. There was not much to do on Alonnisos, so most days we walked to the beach. Then late afternoon, on our way back from the beach, after a hard day of sunbathing, we would stop at one of the harbour tavernas for a thirst quenching and well deserved beer. Over the course of the week HTB and I often walked together. We got on very well and I remember thinking what a pity it was that he had a girlfriend back home as we seemed to be made for one another. Our relationship was totally platonic. HTB was the perfect gentleman.

Too soon it was time to return home. We were up early on the Friday morning to catch the hydro-foil to Skiathos where we had breakfast at a taverna before heading to the airport. At the time HTB was a smoker and I rashly agreed to sit with him in the smoking section of the plane. They say that love is blind, it must also have lost its' sense of smell. I have never smoked and HTB stopped smoking at the end of 1989. When we got back to Gatwick airport I offered him a lift home as he only lived five miles from me. We got to his house to find his girlfriend there. Goodness knows what she thought of me. At some point we exchanged contact details. The relationship with the girlfriend did not last but it was not until about a year later that we started to see each other on a regular basis. We got married almost two years after we met.

Although we only lived five miles apart, it is unlikely that we would have met, had we not chosen to go on the same holiday, as our social lives took us in different directions.

Wednesday 17 June 2009

Life's a trial

I hope that the title says it all. Recent computer problems and family issues that have demanded my attention are the cause.

About January time my husband bought himself a new lap top computer. He then installed Vista on his old laptop and handed it down to me. Right from the start the thing was difficult to use - slow, stiff, awkward and cranky. I was not sure whether it was the laptop or Vista that was the cause of the problem. Slowly it got worse until the point where it took me 45 minutes to navigate my way around one blog. Then it decided to switch itself off in the middle of the day. I could not blog, send e-mails or surf the Internet. We have become so dependent on computers that it is difficult to manage without one. My husband has now updated Vista to Windows 7 and the laptop is behaving itself.

When my mother went into the care home eight weeks ago now, the contract that I signed made it quite clear that the first six weeks of her residence would be a trial period. Yes, those six weeks were a trial and in some ways the trial continues. Not only has it been a trial for my mother, of which she is blissfully unaware, but it has also been a trial for me. Making sure that she has everything that the home requires her to have and most difficult of all sorting out her clothes. When I wrote in Eleventh hour booking that it was back to normality I had forgotten about the suitcase full of my mother's clothes that needed sorting out. All of the clothes needed to be machine washed then tumbled dried so that I could be sure that they would meet the home's requirements. Some of the clothes needed to be soaked before washing, to remove a variety of stains. Then the clothes needed to be named. The home had ordered some iron-on name tapes for my mother and had used them to name some of her clothes. One day whilst tidying her wardrobe at he home, I noticed that her round neck jumpers and cardigans had a strange square indent at the neckline. At first I could not work out why. Then I realised that it was the imprint of a hot iron used to iron on the name tapes. These clothes only needed a cool iron. I know that the clothes were not expensive and that my mother sees very few people but I was annoyed that clothes had been damaged before she had even worn them. I had taken the precaution of buying some sew-in name tapes for my mother as I realised that iron-on name tapes would not be suitable for all clothes. So it was back to sewing name tapes into her clothes. I did allow the home to name some of the clothes that I considered could not be damaged by a hot iron. Anyway, the six week deadline came and went with no comment from the home but an appointment had been made for a review meeting, regarding my mother, on June 15. It was a bit like a parents' evening in reverse. The home are pleased with the way that Mum has settled, which is a relief, although I would not say that she is totally settled. I think that that will take a few more weeks. I am pleased with the way that the home have handled Mum, as they too were on trial and if at the end of the six weeks they had asked me to remove her I would have seen it as a failing on their part that they could not manage her. If my mother did not settle in this home I could not see her settling anywhere.

Whilst computer problems and care home trials are going on life itself goes on or doesn't. Unfortunately my mother's sister died about three weeks ago now. She was quite a bit younger than my mother who was sixteen when she was born. My aunt was sixteen when I was born and she has been more like a sister, than an aunt, to me and I shall miss her. She was the only one that I could turn to, apart from my husband, earlier this year when my brother was being so difficult. The help and advice that she gave me in the search for a care home for my mother were invaluable. So ten days ago my husband and I returned to my East Yorkshire roots for my aunt's funeral. Then I had the unenviable task of telling my mother that her sister had died. She appeared to take it very well but in fact it did not sunk in and I still do not think that it has.

It would be nice to be able to get my head above the parapet and keep it there, with life on an even keel. However, I think, I might just find that a bit dull.

Friday 5 June 2009

Coming soon(er or later)

The return of Cheshire Wife.

Jobs that could not be put off and problems of one sort or another have got in the way recently, meaning that I have not had the time for my blog, but I do intend to return to writing it, when I have got on top of things. In the mean time I am going to try to catch up with my visiting to find out what you have all been up to. For now I shall leave you with this photograph, that I took at Great Dixter, of a stunning paeony.

Friday 22 May 2009

Wonderful last Thursday night

Late last Thursday afternoon I caught a train from Chester to Manchester to meet my husband. On arriving at Chester railway station, late courtesy of the taxi which arrived late to collect me, thinking that I was short of time to purchase my ticket I headed straight for the new fangled automated ticket machine. In my haste to buy a ticket I purchased a return ticket instead of a single.This is the third time that I have used this machine and only once have I managed to purchase the correct ticket. This machine has no instructions and could never be described as user friendly. Realising my mistake, I debated queuing at the ticket office to change the ticket but decided that I did not have the time to join the queue. The risk of missing the train was too great. At Manchester Piccadilly station I was met by my husband. Our intention was to walk towards Manchester Victoria which according to him is a 15 minute walk. Manchester was at its' best. It was raining heavily so I suggested that we wait until it slowed down, but he did not want to do that so we set off. I did manage to get him to shelter when the rain became even heavier, then he had the bright idea of getting a taxi. By now we were already half soaked. We clambered into the taxi and were whisked away to the restaurant that we were aiming for. The evening had not yet started and already three things had gone wrong. But now, that we were in the warm and dry, perhaps things would improve.

We had a very nice Chinese meal swiftly served but no so swiftly that by the time we went out it had stopped raining. Now for the purpose of the trip to Manchester. We headed for the MEN area. We were early. We had a wander around then made our way to our seats. The warm up act came on, on time at 7.30 pm to a half empty arena. Whoever they were, they were so loud that I was vibrating with the music, if you could call it music. After half an hour they left the stage. The lights went up and still the arena was not full. Amazingly for another half an hour the audience casually sauntered in. As I had nothing better to do I quite enjoyed watching them. They came in all shapes and sizes from teenagers, through heavily pregnant to senior citizens, with walking sticks, white sticks and hearing aids - I am not kidding. By 8.30 pm the arena was as full as it was going to get. The lights went out and Eric Clapton and his band took to the stage. For a 64 year old, who lived life in the fast last during his twenties and thirties, he looked very good, with a full head of glossy brown hair, his only concession to ageing appeared to be his trade mark metal rim spectacles. Wearing a casual black, short sleeved shirt and denims he spent two hours on stage performing from his repertoire of hits. My husband is the fan, so I have to say that I did not recognise some of the numbers that he played. However, I did recognise I Shot The Sheriff and Layla which was performed as an easy listening number rather than the raw version which was a hit all those years ago. Then he went on to murder Somewhere Over The Rainbow. Judy Garland would have turned in her grave if she had heard it. And of course, he had to play Wonderful Tonight, the song that he wrote for the model, Patti Boyd who he later married. After an encore, they were gone. Clapton was good and he is still master of the guitar but his voice is not what it was.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Eleventh hour booking

Last week's break had been pencilled in for some time. My husband had taken the time off work and we had planned to go to the Lake District. We had not got round to booking any accommodation and when it became apparent, earlier this year, that we needed to be 'on call' to get my mother into a home, we decided that we would have to do a last minute booking. Last year we made the same plans and were not able to go to the Lake District because my husband was not well. We stayed at home, gardened, went to Ness Botanic Gardens and visited Another Place. Hopefully next time, that we plan to go to the Lake District, will be third time lucky! We needed to go to my mother's bungalow in Sussex, to collect some more clothes and bits and pieces, which meant that the most logical destination would be in the south of England. We had decided on the New Forest and Tunbridge Wells. So we found ourselves, at 11 pm on the last Bank Holiday Monday, trying to book accommodation via the Internet. After a compromise we stuck a pin in the computer screen and booked ourselves two nights in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent and two nights in Lyndhurst, in the New Forest.

After a reasonable journey down to Tunbridge Wells on Tuesday, we checked into the hotel where we were given room number seven, which was called Victoria. It was almost a suite, with a separate sitting room, a good sized bathroom and a large bedroom with an enormous bed. Albert was the next room. After unpacking and a cup of tea we went for a walk around Tunbridge Wells eventually finding The Pantiles - photographed right. This hotel was a good find and we would go back again. The only criticism that I had, was on our first morning we were woken, half an hour before we had set our alarm clock, by an alarm call that we had not booked. After that I unplugged the bedroom phone each night.

On Wednesday morning we drove into Sussex to my mother's bungalow, where we spent a couple of hours sorting out her clothes and shoes. I didn't know that she possessed so many. We left with a suitcase full of clothes, a holdall full of shoes and several other bags of miscellaneous belongings and headed back towards Kent. We had lunch at the Swan at Lamberhurst, where my husband had a Stilton ploughman's and I had a ham sandwich, after which we both felt so full that we could never imagine wanting to eat again.

Then on a perfect sunny May afternoon we set off for Great Dixter - the home and garden of the gardening writer Christopher Lloyd. Over the past few years, as I have worked on our garden at the cottage, I have become a great fan of Christopher Lloyd. This was somewhere that I had never expected to see, as it is about 300 miles from our Cheshire home, so this was to be a real treat and it did not disappoint. From the village of Northiam we followed the signs that took us about a mile down a single track road
until we came upon the house that we have seen
so many times on television gardening programmes. Great Dixter is a 15th century timber framed hall house. We were allowed into three rooms. The construction and the beams are amazing. My husband was particularly impressed. Considering the time of year I had not expected too much of the garden, but it was an absolute riot of colour and the planting is exquisite. I took so many photographs that it has been very difficult to select just one for this post. It was the nearest thing to gardening heaven. After this anything else was going to be a let down.

On Thursday morning we set off for the New Forest. We were there by lunchtime and spent a cool damp afternoon wandering around Lyndhurst. It is an attractive little town full of estate agents, tea shops, charity shops, antique shops and gift shops not seen in the Chester area unless they are there and I simply do not see them, because I live here.

The following day the weather was no better so we opted for a drive around the New Forest to see the places of interest. The New Forest is England's newest National Park. It is busy market towns and picturesque villages of thatched cottages and old world charm with stunning scenery, but we were not seeing it at it's best. Nevertheless where ever we went we saw lilac, hawthorn, laburnum, horse chestnut, clematis, bluebells and rhododendrons in flower. Then there are the ponies and the cattle grazing freely. Pictured right is the pretty village of Burley, where we stopped for lunch.

There is history to the New Forest, too. In the churchyard in Lyndhurst is the grave of Alice Hargreaves (formerly Liddell) who was the inspiration for Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland. The village of Sway was the setting for Captain Marryat's Children of the New Forest and in the churchyard of the tiny village of Minstead is the tomb of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of the famous fictional detective Sherlock Holmes.

The hotel in Lyndhurst was not worth a mention. Needless to say we will not be going back there. We enjoyed our break. We had too much to eat and too much to drink and now it is good to be back to normality, whatever that is.