Friday 31 December 2010

Bah humbug - an austerity Christmas

So Christmas is over for another year and the snow which had transformed most of the country into a landscape from a Victorian Christmas card has thawed and taken with it whatever Christmas spirt there was. To me and to many it has not felt like Christmas this year. Perhaps my experiences in the run up to Christmas had coloured my feelings.

I eventually manage to kick off my Christmas shopping, about two weeks before Christmas, with a trip into Chester. First I had to return a jumper, which had shrunk, to a well known high street store. Having explained the problem to a young assistant, she dawdled off to compare my shrunken jumper with one currently on sale. After about 15 minutes she returned agreeing that my jumper had indeed shrunk. She then smugly informed me that because I had hand washed rather than machine washed the jumper that she would not give me an exchange or a refund. I collected my jumper and stalked out of the store, ignoring the thousands of items on sale in the store. I had not anticipated that an exchange or a refund would be refused so did not have an argument prepared. If I had machine washed an item that required hand washing I could understand their logic. So no festive spirit there, then.

Next it was across the road to another well known high street store. Here I had hoped to buy my mother a cardigan. I spotted what I was looking for on a display high up on a wall, but could not see any to buy in the shop. Fortunately I managed to find an assistant who offered to take a cardigan off the mannequin for me. She warned me that the mannequins tend to be small which is fine as my mother is small. The mannequins may be small but they have chunky arms and the sleeves of the cardigan had been stretched. I asked if they would shrink when washed. The assistant did not know. The cashier did not know. The fitting room lady said that she did not think so and I decided not to buy it. With hindsight perhaps I should have asked them to put my shrunken jumper on the mannequin to see if it could be stretched.

Then I decided to try my luck at finding the book that husband's brother in law had asked for. It was nowhere to be seen in the well known high street book shop cum stationers that I tried first. Perhaps I would do better at the other well known high street book shop that only sells books. I don't often go into this shop. Not because I don't like books, quite the opposite, once inside it is difficult to get out. I was trying to find my bearings when a young man wearing a Santa hat asked if he could help me. I explained what I was looking for. He looked serious. I was out of luck he said. It was sold out. He took me upstairs, looked at his computer and made a phone call. Then pronounced that it would be 15 January before the book was available. I thanked him for his trouble. Still I had not bought anything.

Now I headed to that well known high street purveyor of all things pharmaceutical and toiletry in the hope of finding a gift set for my mother. They had everything but what I wanted. I did manage to find what I wanted in a smaller less well known shop. By now it was lunch time and time to go home. The idea of Internet shopping was becoming very appealing.

After a quick lunch I managed to find and order, on the Internet, the book that husband's brother in law had asked for. The automated response confirmed my order. Success at last! Flushed with success I  took myself off to the local garden centre in the hope of that they could furnish me with something off my  present list. In short no, but I did come home with some new Christmas decorations.

Back home it was time to check my e-mails and have a cup of tea. To my horror there was an e-mail advising me that the book that I had ordered was out of stock! All that effort and all that I had to show was a gift set and some decorations. Time was running out and Christmas was starting to look bleak. Once I got my act together the shopping did get done but there is more to Christmas than shopping.

A few days later I was annoyed to receive a letter from the nursing home where my mother is a resident, claiming that I had not paid an invoice sent out in July. I know that I have paid it and I have the proof. Not a very charitable thing to do just before Christmas and it left a nasty taste in my mouth.

The Monday before Christmas found me at the dentist's for an emergency appointment. More bad news from the dentist. Next year he is going to be my new best friend or he thinks that I am a suitable case to blackmail. There is never a good time for bad news from the dentist but at least he was nice about it.

Finally there was the icing on the cake. It was lunch time on Christmas Eve. I was in the utility room and did not hear the knock on the front door. Husband was home and he had answered it. As I walked from the utility room into the kitchen I heard voices. It was one of the neighbours and she had not come to wish us compliments of the season. It was the WAG from next door. We have complained to the Environmental Health department of the local council about their dog barking in the early hours of the morning. The council have written to them and have informed them that the are being monitored. She came round for a rant. She believes that the dog does not bark. I wish that it didn't. I decided to leave her to husband who eventually shut the door on her.

After all of that we had a quiet Christmas courtesy of a streaming cold. At least we got out of going to the in laws. That has been rescheduled for January 2. From now on things can only get better, I hope.

Happy New Year everybody!

Friday 24 December 2010

Merry Christmas

I emerged from the working frenzy a week ago and since then it has been eyes down to get ready for Christmas. At last I am done.

This is a photograph of the cottage's front door taken earlier today. Recently it has witnessed some interesting incidents. I hope that I shall have the time to write about them in 2011. But for now I wish you all a happy and peaceful Christmas.

Monday 6 December 2010

Work work work

All work and no play makes Cheshire Wife a dull girl. At the moment the chap that I am working for is in the middle of a five week holiday in sunny Oz, which means that I am working  extra days in freezing England. Consequently I am stretched to my limits. Really I could do without this extra work in the run up to Christmas, but this is absolutely the last time that I shall be covering his pre-Christmas holiday. (He goes away every year at this time.) Fortunately or otherwise, we have been lucky with the weather here and have escaped with just one inch of snow, so I can't even take time off work because of the weather. Right now I should be writing my Christmas cards, not this post. Then there are all the other Christmas preparations - making the cake and the pudding, buying the presents, putting up the  Christmas tree and the food shopping. I am not sure when it is all going to get done. Christmas will come whether or not I am ready for it and in three weeks time it will all be over.

Saturday 6 November 2010

Where the grass is greener

Back at the end of June we were lucky enough to have tickets for the tennis at Wimbledon. I have applied for tickets in the Wimbledon ballot for years and when we lived down in Surrey, where we were about 40 minutes drive from Wimbledon, we were never allocated tickets. Since moving to Cheshire, seven years ago, we have now been allocated tickets twice. I am not complaining, but to enjoy just one day of tennis it means three days away from home and two overnight stays.

When the offer of tickets arrived on a very cold day in February, the thought that the UK would be having a heatwave during Wimbledon Fortnight was the last thing on my mind. As we prepared for our trip south I began to ponder the sagacity of driving 200miles in a hot car and spending three nights in stuffy hotel rooms. Fortunately husband's car is air conditioned so the journey was not a problem. We made good time and managed to stop for a long walk around RHS Wisley finding some peace, quiet and cool where the garden backs onto the River Wey, before heading to our hotel.

I need  not have worried about the bedroom being stuffy as a fan had thoughtfully been provided to cool the room, which was just as well as the windows only opened a few inches - for our safety so that we didn't fall out!

We had decided to stay in the hotel on the outskirts of the village that we used to live in. That brought back a few memories. The village is as idyllic in its' own way as where we currently live, but it is more of a suburban location than our current country location. The village has always had a slightly dated conservative affluent charm of neat leafy lanes with well maintained houses set back from the road. I was interested to see if it had changed much since we had moved north to Chester, especially as Chelsea Football Club now have their training ground in the next village of Cobham. Many of their footballers live in lavish houses in the surrounding villages.Villages such as Cobham and Esher have always been upmarket and trendy with pavement cafes and expensive shops ideal for the WAGs. This post has been in my draft folder for some time but by chance The Times recently published an article about the prosperity of the area. I had hoped that our old village with its simple shops and absence of cafes would  be seen as too dull for the footballers and their WAGs. After seven years away it was inevitable that there would be some changes. However, I was very pleased to see that the changes were limited to a few new shops and some newly built houses and that much of the village remains as it always was. Time has almost stood still in this corner of Surrey. Someone once described it to me as a magical place to live. They were so right. It was. It still is and I hope that it will continue to be a magical place to live. I shall always have a soft spot for that village. So why did we move? Because we had to. Husband had been offered a job 200 miles away in Chester and we had been trying to move anyway, because of problems with our neighbours. Otherwise I would not have been prepared to move from a house and village where we had once been so happy.

To get up to Wimbledon we parked the car at the village railway station which looked cleaner and tidier than I remembered it to be, but maybe that is what seven years away does to the memory. We caught the Guildford to Waterloo train. (Yesterday's accident involving a cement mixer and a train happened just three stops down the line.) At Wimbledon we changed onto the District underground line which runs above ground between Wimbledon and Southfields, the nearest station to the All England Lawn Tennis Club. From Southfields to the tennis is about a twenty minute walk. Once through the gates our bags were searched and we felt that we had arrived. We brought a programme then had a wander around the grounds before buying ourselves a cold drink and making our way to Henman Hill to eat our lunch.

I had thought that we might be getting a bit old for going to Wimbledon but there were plenty of spectators considerably older than us. Just before 1pm, when play was scheduled to start, we took our seats on the No 1 Court. We had seats with a good view and plenty of space around. The present No 1 Court is modern and comfortable and has only been in use since 1997 when Tim Henman played the first competitive match on it. Wimbledon Fortnight is not the same since he retired. Our seats were in the front row of the second tier. Between the first and second tier is the wheel chair seating area. In front of us were two elderly couples who were enjoying a picnic as well as the tennis. Although I do wonder how much tennis they saw, as they munched their way through the afternoon. If you would like to apply for tickets to Wimbledon 2011 now is the time to do so. Details of how to apply can be found here.

The following day we treated ourselves to another visit to Christopher Lloyd's garden at Great Dixter, on the Sussex/Kent border. Our previous visit had been in May 2009 and we were both interested to see it in high summer. Sadly we were disappointed. Some areas were overgrown and untidy and there was no shortage of weeds. It is still impressive but I think that a garden, which the public pay for the privilege of seeing, should be better maintained. Maybe the grass is not always as green as we  remember it to be. That night was spent in a hotel in Sussex. No fan provided but we were able to open the windows as wide as we wanted and we didn't fall out!

Friday 15 October 2010

Tempus fugit

At the moment I normally work Tuesday and Wednesday. This week I am working Thursday and Friday, which means that I have just had seven days off. I thought that I would have plenty of time to do all of the jobs that I needed to do, get on top of my blog, catch up with all of your blogs, spend some time in the garden and have some time to myself. How wrong could I have been? The seven days have flown by and yesterday morning I returned to work with tasks on my list 'to do' still waiting to be done. In fact as one job got crossed off another one gets added. Where has the time gone? I could do with a bit more. Maybe just an extra hour or two a day and possibly another day a week.

You have probably noticed that recently I have been struggling to find the time for my blog.  This is  in the main due to one of the big decisions that I made earlier in the year. I had decided that I would stop practising and look for something easier to do but, a couple of months before I had planned to stop, I was asked to cover maternity leave of  two days a week for about a year, I think. After mulling over the offer, I agreed to do it and I now plan to stop practising at the end of the maternity leave. So since the third week in June I have been working a regular two days a week and I am finding it very difficult to get into a routine, as for about twelve years now I have worked as a locum doing a day here and a day there. It was rare for two weeks to be the same.

I used to work mainly for a well known supermarket, which meant that I did a variety of different shifts sometimes long, sometimes short, antisocial hours and unsocial hours, but it seemed to give me more flexibility and time to myself than working the 9-6 that I am currently doing. On the two days that I work I am lucky to have an hour to myself in the evening. After standing for eight hours I am always tired and often stiff, which means that I need to have a soak in the bath to prevent stiffness the following day and I visit my good friend the osteopath, regularly, for her to keep my creaking body in working order. Then there is the thorny subject of varcose veins. I had two removed from my right  leg about ten years ago and have continued to make more for which I have had never ending injections. Soon there won't be any veins left in my that leg!

When I decided to accept the offer of covering the maternity leave I was not sure if I really wanted to stop practising. Sitting at home looking for something else to do, in the winter time, in the middle of a recession, did not seem like a very good idea. Now I know that I am definitely going to stop practising at the end of this maternity leave and I shall do so without a backward glance, as I am now certain that it will be the right thing to do. Covering this maternity leave has made my mind up on this issue.

It is now 35years since I qualified, although in some ways it only seems like yesterday. When I look back at how things have changed I can see where the 35 years have gone. When I qualified labels were hand written and the few drug interactions were carried around in our heads. Now labels are computer generated and it is also the computer that alerts us to an interactions, for there are far too many to any individual to memorise. Most of the drugs used today had not even been discovered 35 years ago. The world and pharmacy have changed immeasurably and in some ways not for the better. I am now looking forward to the day when I hang up my mortar and pestle, but until then I can see that free time is going to be in short supply and I am not going to be able to visit or post as often as I would like, especially as I do not seem to be able to write a short post. I hope that you will bear with me over the coming months. 

Thursday 30 September 2010

A breath of French air

I know that it is more than ten days since I last posted. When I made that statement about being back in ten days I had forgotten that when we returned from our break, we were going to a wedding in Northampton, which meant we would be away again. I had not really forgotten. Maybe it was selective amnesia. How could I forget? It was the wedding of SIL's daughter. Mrs Bennet from the previous post. This was her one and only daughter's wedding and it is just as well that there are not another four to marry off! I am sure that when Kate Middleton and Prince William marry it will be done with far less fuss. At least the date had been set in stone for ten months so could not be subject to constant changes.

For our trip to France this year we had decided some time ago that we would go to Brittany, but we did not have any fixed ideas about where we wanted to go and as we found, when we set about booking the holiday, Brittany is quite big. One thing that was definite was that we would go with Brittany Ferries. So I chose a few hotels from their brochure. Then we selected what we considered to be the most suitable location, which turned out to be the attractive and genteel seaside resort of Dinard, on northern Brittany's Emerald Coast. We were pleasantly surprised. It was quiet, clean and tidy. Unlike most English seaside resorts there were no kiss me quick hats, candy floss stalls or cafes selling fish and chips. In the centre of the main promenade is a statue of Alfred Hitchcock who apparently based the house, in the film Psycho, on a villa which over looks the Plage de l'Ecluse but nobody is sure which villa. Dinard could not be better situated.  The wide clean sandy expanse of Plage de l'Ecluse is sheltered by cliffs to the east

and the west

and across the bay is San Malo.

Late each afternoon a quartet of men could be found playing boules at the top end of the beach. The sea is tidal and I could have watched it, going in and out, all day. Around the corner from where we were staying was the Clair de Lune promenade. Unfortunately the attractively planted flower beds were past their best. However, the view across the bay, from above the promenade looks good at any time of year. It could have been Cornwall.

We had one warm and sunny day, which we spent exploring Dinard. The remainder of our stay the weather was grey and windy - bracing as we English say. It was on such a day that we took the ferry across the bay to San Malo where we were deposited outside the walls of the old city. Inside the walls the streets are cobbled and the buildings tall and impressive, if a bit difficult to photograph. But a very windy walk around the city walls gave us the opportunity to take some photos, before we caught the ferry back to Dinard.

On our way back to Cherbourg, to catch the ferry home to Portsmouth, we stopped off in the very pretty medieval town of Dinan.

The photograph is courtesy of the Internet, as my camera refused to work. Here we visited a large open air market, where you could buy almost anything. I am sure that in the UK health and safety regulations would prevent many of the items being sold at such a market, but this was France. Something that I really noticed was how smart  and chic the French women are. All neatly dressed in jackets, trousers and scarves to go to the market. Sadly our breath of French air soon came to an end and we found ourselves on the ferry back to Portsmouth.

Saturday 11 September 2010

The Visit

My return to blogging has not been as quick and as smooth as I had hoped. I had intended to wait until after the Visit to return to my blog as I realised that preparing for it would be time consuming, but when two planned dates for the Visit were cancelled with no new proposed date I decided to return sooner rather than later. The Visit was my mother-in-law (MIL), sister-in-law (SIL) and her husband coming for lunch. They only come once a year and it has to be during the summer as MIL does not travel well in the dark. Originally the visit was scheduled for the first weekend in August and MIL kept telling my husband, who is her one and only son, how much she was looking forward to it. At the time my infected cyst was at its' worst and I could have happily cancelled the planned visit, but not wishing to disappoint MIL I soldiered on. The Friday before they were due I went off to the supermarket, in the morning, with my mile long shopping list. Half way round the supermarket, which had recently been extended and re-arranged, when I couldn't find an unfamiliar ingredient and wasn't feeling great, I thought to myself 'you should have cancelled this'. I did manage to find what I was looking for. That afternoon it was off to the hairdresser. Not in honour of the Visit but because I needed to go and it at least gave me a bit of time to relax while the hairdresser worked her magic. I returned home to find that while I had been out MIL had phoned to say that they would not be coming because her carer was going to be on holiday and there was no one to get her up! At this point I had done everything except cook the food. I wasn't terribly pleased but the reprieve was welcome and I managed to freeze most of the perishable food.

A new date would need to be arranged with SIL. The second weekend in August would not be an option because MIL's carer would still be away. Anyway about a week later SIL phoned my husband to say that they could come the third weekend in August, but that there was a slight snag in that one of her husband's unmarried brothers (BIL) would be staying that weekend and would have to come too. My husband tactfully explained to her that we had not invited her BIL and we would prefer him not to come. Over the course of the next few days there were several phone calls between husband, SIL and MIL. SIL kept insisting that BIL would be coming. Eventually she informed my husband that her husband would take his brother off to the local pub for the afternoon, when they arrived. How was this going to look? At this point I saw red and cancelled the second planned visit. For once in our lives MIL and I agreed as she did not want BIL spoiling her visit. Perhaps I should explain that if this were Pride and Prejudice, BIL would be Mr Collins. SIL would be Mrs Bennet and her husband would be Mr Bennet. Quite fitting as their daughter is getting married later this month. MIL would be Lady Catherine de Bourgh. My husband would be Darcy and I would be Elizabeth Bennet. I have the necessary green eyes. Oh dear! that was Scarlet O'Hara in Gone with the Wind.

I suggested that we re-arrange the Visit for the fifth weekend in August which was the bank holiday weekend, as the fourth weekend was not convenient for us. This did not suit SIL who, without checking with us, had moved her arrangements for the fourth weekend onto the fifth weekend in the expectation that they would come here the fourth weekend. After yet more toing and froing we re-arranged the visit for the first weekend in September, which was not ever so convenient for me, but it was either then or not at all. September is a busy month for us and I would have preferred to wait until October, but by then SIL will be house sitting for her newly married, honeymooning daughter. So the Visit took place last weekend and I am pleased to report that it went very well.

After all that we are going away for a much needed break. Back in about ten days.

Friday 27 August 2010

Accident prone

Now for a long overdue thank you to Carol at Not Only In
Thailand for this Beautiful Blogger award which she gave to me back in April. It is a good job that you can not see me as recently I have been anything but beautiful, more often than not cut and bruised!

Today I had my final dentist appointment and I am hoping that it has brought to an end the jinx of minor ailments that has haunted me over the last few months. Recently life seems to have a continual fly in the ointment. As healthwise, it just seems to have been one thing after another. The infected cyst was on the mend when washing my hair and trying to keep my neck dry, I either got shampoo in my eye or tilted my neck at an awkward angle resulting in a badly blood shot eye. The eye had about cleared when we had two fine and sunny days. I made the most of the good weather by spending time in the garden. My reward was about a dozen insect bites on my arms and shoulders plus two on each ankle. I looked like I had the plague! And boy did I itch! I took a leaf out of Maggie May's blog and found an ancient bottle of Aloe Vera Gel - purchased abroad several years ago when husband got sunburnt. It had no expiry or use by date but whatever its age it did the trick, for a time. Then I applied some more.

By the following weekend the bites had faded and I managed to bang my arm on the corner of a cupboard in our utility room, giving myself both a cut and a bruise in one fell swoop. Later the same day while eating our evening meal, extremely cold ice cream caught a sensitive tooth. An indescribable sensation travelled up my head like lightening and the next thing that I knew husband was picking me up off the floor. Two bumps to my head, a bruise on each shoulder and a whopping bruise on my left thigh were the result of this incident. Then on Tuesday afternoon, while at work, I noticed that one of my fingers was bleeding. I had not felt any pain. I am not sure if I have become accident prone or if this is some sort of jinx. Maybe I should simply stop getting out of bed.

I realise that by comparison with what some in Blogland have gone through or are going through healthwise, my problems are nothing more than minor irritations. Looking back this all started when I had swine flu back at the end if May and I had to stop going to the gym. So it is back to the gym and soon, hopefully, I shall be both fit and healthy.

Friday 13 August 2010

Paradise Lost

I expect that you are wondering what I have been doing with myself for the last few months. Well, I have been here in Paradise.

Earlier this year, I had noticed this sign outside a house about half a mile from where we live. It is not the name of the house, so I wasn't sure what it was all about. I had been intending to take a photo of the sign for some time. Eventually I remembered to take my camera with me so that I could take a photo of it. I made sure that I was alone on the lane, or so I thought, even though it is unusual to see company of any sort. As I pressed the shutter I heard a car behind me, turning into the drive of the house. The driver glared at me. Too late, I had my photo! The next time that I drove by the Paradise sign had disappeared. Now that I have had the chance to enlarge the photo I have noticed that it actually says Paradise Autos which was the name of a second hand car showroom on the outskirts of Chester.

Perhaps where we live is Paradise even if the sign has gone. I realise that we are lucky to live in a cottage up a country lane. When the weather is good, it is idyllic, although I realise that it may not be to the taste of everyone. However, I have been out with my camera and have taken a few photos of the area to share with you.

I have started with the view into the farmer's field from the top of the lane.

The next photo looks back down the lane.

Here are the dairy farmer's cows in the field at the end of our garden. Out of interest, it did not rain until about a week after the photo was taken. So much for the old wives saying that when the cows sit down, it is going to rain.

So far pretty idyllic, but half a mile away this is the scene.

The end of the nearby motorway. When the trees are bare we can see this from our bedroom window. So maybe it is not so idyllic after all and recently the idyll has been shattered from another point of view. There have been a spate of burglaries in the village. Our little community on the edge of the village had escaped the thieves until last Thurday when our next door neighbour was burgled in broad daylight. That evening the lane was a hive of activity. We had two visits from a uniformed police officer wanting to know if we had seen anything. Then early on Friday morning we had a visit from two female detectives in jeans and trainers. Not quite Barnaby and Troy/Jones.

Until last week life here has been fairly uneventful. However, there have been a few incidents which I shall write about in detail over the coming weeks. Happenings worth a brief mention have been written about below. As neither husband or I had to go to work the following day, we stayed up on election night to watch the results come in, going to bed at about 3.30am. Something that we had not done for several elections. I was laid low for ten days, at the end of May, with what I initially thought was a cold, but after six days decided that it might be swine flu. It certainly was no ordinary cold but six days in it was too late for Tamiflu, which I would not have wanted even if I had thought about it on day one. At the beginning of June we had few days holiday in Ireland. Two and a half weeks later found us on the road again. This time we were heading down south to Wimbledon for the tennis. And for the last six weeks I have been trying to get myself caught up with everything once and for all, while struggling with an infected cyst on my neck which has meant several visits to the GP and his nurse. Also I am in the middle of some protracted and expensive dental work. I seem to have been spending my life in doctor's and dentist's waiting rooms recently. I realise that I have been fortunate and have taken for granted good health and teeth that rarely need attention. I am too busy for all this hanging around in doctor's and dentist's waiting rooms and as Tony Haywood infamously said 'I want my life back'.

Over the next few days/weeks I shall try to visit and catch up with my friends in Blogland. I have often thought about you all and wondered how you are getting on.

Wednesday 14 April 2010


I am not trying to predict the result of the general election. At the moment I am snowed under with jobs that I have been putting off and trying to avoid doing - letters to write, phone calls to make, sewing, mending and ironing so that I have some clothes to wear. Then the cottage needs Spring cleaning. Everything in the garden is now staring to grow and needs attention. Also there is the day job. I know that it is only part time, but it can not be ignored. So reluctantly, I have decided that I shall have to have a break from my blog to allow myself to catch up with things.

For now I shall leave you with this recently taken photograph of daffodils in the lane where I live, taken from the opposite direction to the one on my side bar.

Saturday 3 April 2010

Say it with chocolates, flowers and sunshine

Happy Easter to bloggers and chocoholics everywhere! I snapped this blow up Lindt golden bunny a few weeks ago outside the Cheshire Oaks Designer Outlet. It does not look very happy but it is a bit cold up there at the best of times, so that probably explains the frozen smile.

For those of you who are not chocoholics or are maybe on a diet here are some daffodils. Not from our garden, unfortunately the wind and rain got to our daffodils before I was able to get out to take a photograph.

Now for what we would all like, some sunshine, which I am afraid is in the form of an award, for which I need to thank the delightfully named Strawberry Jam Anne.

I am supposed to pass the award on to twelve bloggers. I have noticed that several of you already have the award, so I am going to give the award to any blogger who commented on my previous posts, A Family at War and/or The home strait. Thank you all for your support. It is much appreciated. I hope that it will not be too long until we have some real sunshine to cheer us up!

Wednesday 24 March 2010

The home strait

Back in January, when I was visiting my mother at the residential home where she was a resident, the manager took me to one side and had a chat with me about my mother. She explained in what can best be described as carer jargon that the staff at the residential home were struggling to cope with my mother's 'needs'. At first I did not quite understand what she was saying. Then the penny dropped. The manager was telling me that my mother had deteriorated to the point where I needed to consider moving her into a nursing home. I asked if the could move Mum into the nursing home next door, which is run by the same company. Yes, they could do that, but would check all possibilities that could be behind her apparent deterioration before they decided to move her. The next time that I saw the home manager she said that Mum had improved, which led me to think that the possibility of a move to the nursing home had been cancelled or rather postponed .

On another visit I was a bit disturbed when the carers asked me to take my mother's rings off her, as they are now too big for the ring finger on her left hand. Apparently she had been playing with them and had lost her engagement ring down the back of a chair. I managed to get her eternity and engagement rings off her on the pretext that I would clean them for her. She still has her wedding ring. Now my jewellery cleaning solution looks as if a dust pan has been emptied into it from all the gunk that came out of the rings. It was a bit of a shock to realise that Mum will never wear her rings again. They have been valued and are now hidden in a safe place.

A few weeks later I suppose that I should not have been surprised, but I was, to get a phone call asking me to go and have a look at a room in the nursing home. Although not perfect the room is pleasant, on the top floor under the eaves, with a lovely view of the surrounding countryside, the Dee estuary and the Welsh hills beyond, but I very much doubt that my mother is going to notice it. I did try to take a photograph of the view but the window only opens about one inch and when I tried to open it further an alarm went off! I quickly shut it. However, the alarm continued to ring, so I think that something else must have set it off. The room was newly decorated and a bit bare, so I though what a nice touch, when I went up to Mum's room a couple of weeks ago, to see a rug on the floor. As I tidied up Mum's clothes I stood on the rug and again noticed an alarm going off. Thinking nothing of it I carried on. Then there was a knock on the door. It was carer come to switch off the alarm. The rug is more of a mat, there to detect when Mum gets out of bed in the night. Since then I have avoided walking on the rug/mat.

The move into the nursing home took place about a month ago and Mum now seems to have settled into it. I have been to visit her several times and have found that many of the residents from the residential home are now in the nursing home. It has a captive audience, but it has certainly made my life easier. As it was only a year ago that I was looking at residential homes for my mother. Choosing this particular residential home has certainly been the right decision and has saved me the hassle and aggravation of having to find a nursing home now that Mum's dementia has progressed to the point that she needs nursing care. Then there would have been the upheaval of moving my very confused and now practically immobile mother. Sadly we are now on the last lap, the final furlong, the home strait. However you look it, the end is coming into view. By anybody's standards my mother has had a good innings. She was born two months premature long before the days of incubators and last month she celebrated her 91st birthday. The nursing home staff are brilliant with her and we are not having to start all over again with the staff getting to know her likes and dislikes etc. I would hate to have to do their job, but I am so grateful that they are prepared to do it.

One crumb of comfort in this whole debacle is that my mother always knows me when I visit her once or twice a week. But she does not know my brother, the son on whom she doted for so long. He visits about once every two months and has been asked 'do I know you?' and 'are you my father/husband/brother?' So much for dementia being short term memory loss!

Thank you for all of your comments on the previous post. The DWP have taken four weeks to stop paying Mum's benefits to me. In that time I have hung onto what had been paid to me and have built up a cushion which I hope will last for as long as Mum needs it. I intend to send onto my brother the larger bills and invoices for him to pay.

Tuesday 16 March 2010

A Family at War

There must be something in the air and it is not Spring. It is just over a year since I wrote the post Happy Families about the turmoil within my family. Now I find myself penning another post along the same lines. What is it, I wonder, about this time of the year? After I brought my mother up to Cheshire from Sussex, in April last year my relationship with my brother improved and recently when he has visited my mother I have invited him back here for a cup of tea. Only a few weeks ago the two of us enjoyed a chat and a cup of tea in our snug. Little did I know that behind the scenes he was up to his old tricks. I now regret that second chance that I gave him. I should have known that a leopard does not change its' spots.

Last month one Saturday morning there was a telephone call for me, just as I was sitting down to breakfast. I know that we are not early risers at the weekend but this call was from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP). I thought that they were a Monday to Friday 9-5 operation. And this is the second time in a few months that they have phoned me at this time on a Saturday. It won't happen again. The phone now stays switched off, at the weekend, until after we have had breakfast. Husband watched with puzzled concern as he listened to my half of the conversation. My brother had written to the DWP asking for my mother's benefits to be paid to him. I was furious. When I managed to get my mother into a residential home near to me in Cheshire, he agreed that I would be responsible for my mother's welfare which strictly speaking includes her benefits. At that time the only benefit that she was getting was the state pension as my brother had not bothered to apply for the attendance allowance to which she was also entitled by virtue of being over 65 and having a long term health problem. So it was me who went to the trouble of completing the lengthy application form, on my mother's behalf for attendance allowance. After weeks of deliberation the DWP awarded my mother attendance allowance and decided to pay it to me, in the full knowledge that my brother was in the process of registering Power of Attorney in my mother's name. DWP rules meant that Mum's state pension would also be paid to me. Up until then that had been paid into my mother's account, which my brother had access to.

I use the money to pay for any clothes that my mother needs, toiletries, sweets, hairdressing, chiropody and dental charges and at the end of each month I have transferred the unspent money into my mother's bank account, which meant that my brother had access to it albeit a week or two later than if it was paid to him. But that is not good enough for my brother. He wants the benefits paid to him, which means that I have to spend my money, rather than my mother's money, on my mother. Then claim back from him what I have spent. Since I brought my mother up here my part time job has become very part time, as I have had to turn down some offers of work, which means that I really do not earn enough to support the level of spending necessary some months. As it is I have to buy everything for my mother separately and keep the receipts. Claiming back what I have spent is another unnecessary hurdle in my already complicated life. How much money does he need? He already has access to my parents/mother's savings and now that my mother's bungalow has sold, he has the six figure proceeds from that to think about. I know that he pays the care home fees out of the savings, but does he really need Mum's benefits as well? It is a matter of principal and I have to ask myself how much lower can he stoop?

The DWP have advised me that benefits do not have to be paid to the holder of Power of Attorney, but because my brother has asked for them to be paid to him they have to do so.

Monday 8 March 2010

Make do and mend

My previous post, Christo's Legacy, was a post too far for my ageing laptop computer. The photographs were slow to load and as I was putting the finishing touches to the post, blogger swallowed half if it. My attempt to resurrect it, from the ruins that I was left with, were in vain. I had to remove all of the photographs and start again, which meant that time that I had allocated for visiting was used for post writing. A couple of days later I had more problems when I was trying to re-arrange the widgets on my sidebar. The widgets were all over the place, including places that I would never get them into, if that was where I wanted them to go. At this point husband decided that we would look at blogger's help pages. We found that other bloggers were having similar problems but there did not appear to be a solution to the problems. Then just as we were putting the laptop to bed for the night it expired on us. The following day husband decided, after fiddling with it, that the hard drive had gone. Perhaps blogger was not to blame for the problems after all.

I was slightly dismayed when husband talked about repairing my laptop. This is the third time that it has let me down in the last nine months. It is husband's hand me down and is approaching five years old. I am not sure what that equates to in human years. About pensionable age I would imagine. Last time that it let me down, we had agreed that the next time it let me down, that it would be replaced. So husband reluctantly agreed that I could have a new laptop but he was also going to repair the old one and sell it. I was expecting a trip to PC World but no, husband maintained that a higher spec. less expensive laptop could be bought via the Internet, which is what we did with a two day delivery. I saw the brown and gold UPS delivery van reversing down the lane, from the bedroom window, and husband was standing on the doorstep before the driver had got down the path. The box was opened in the kitchen and as I was about to put the packaging in the recycling bag, I thought perhaps we should keep this in case it doesn't work. Husband set about commissioning the laptop, but you have probably guessed by now that it didn't work and it was soon back in the packaging which thankfully we had not had to fish out of the rubbish. So that hard drive, that husband had ordered, came in useful after all and my ageing laptop has had yet another reprieve and is back in business. But before it has chance to let me down again I intend to replace it. However, for now I am going to catch up with all of your posts.

Tuesday 2 March 2010

Christo's Legacy

Last year when I posted about a visit to the Great Dixter garden of the late Christopher Lloyd some bloggers said that they would have liked to see more photos of the garden. Today would have been Christopher Lloyd's birthday and I have decided to post some more photos from that beautiful day in May, when we visited Great Dixter.

Christopher Lloyd, or Christo to his friends, was born in 1921 and died on 24 January 2006. After gaining a degree in horticulture, he taught, then wrote gardening columns before writing his many gardening books and maintaining the gardens at Great Dixter, where he lived all his life. He developed a flamboyant gardening style, with a bold use of colour, which was widely admired by many in the gardening world. Today the garden at Great Dixter is in the capable hands of Fergus Garrett, the head gardener appointed by Christopher Lloyd. In September last year Fergus Garrett was the guest speaker at the local horticultural society, that husband and I belong to. He spoke passionately for, one hour, about the garden at Great Dixter with only the aid of slides. He had no notes and there was not one or

As it was the beginning of May at the time of our visit, I had expected that there would not be much to see in the garden at Great Dixter, but we were pleasantly surprised. The garden was a riot of colour with tulips, alliums, paeonies, honesty, lilac, bergenias, wallflowers and forget me nots all going great guns, and I was pleased to notice that there were even a few weeds!

Having paid our entrance fee, the first area of the garden that we came across was the Sunk Garden with the Barn to the side. (Please click on the photographs to enlarge).

To the side of the Sunk Garden is the Oast House

and the Walled Garden.

From the Walled Garden we went into the house, parts of which date back to around 1460. The house was extended for Christopher Lloyd's father, by the Edwardian architect Edwin Lutyens. We were only allowed into three rooms in the house and photographs were not permitted.

Outside the house and in the garden again, we found ourselves in the Topiary Garden.

From the Topiary Garden the path took us to the High Garden.

Then we walked through the Orchard Garden, which I do not appear to have photographed,and onto the famous Long Border.

After all that we made our way to the shop where we bought our first ice creams of the year, sat in the sun to eat them and resolved to return at a different time of year to see the garden when other plants would be in flower.

The Great Dixter house and gardens are now run as a charitable trust.

Monday 22 February 2010

The award season

Last week it was the Brits. Last night it was the BAFTAs and soon it will be the Oscars. Nothing so prestigious for me, but I have been given this Circle of Friends award by Carol at Not only in Thailand and Gilly at Winds of Change. So it is a big thank you to both of them. Now I have to post about five things that I like to do, then pass the award on to ten bloggers.

I suspect that the things that I like to do are pretty much the same as every other blogger. Anyway, here goes.
  • Having husband home - at the moment he works away from home Monday to Friday. So weekends are special.
  • Gardening - when the weather is good, reasonable or even just alright I could be out in the garden, 24 hours a day, pottering around, but there has not been much chance of that since the cold weather began in December.
  • Reading - another pastime that I could do all day, but at the moment there are too many other things that need doing and the only time that I have for reading is when I go to bed at night.
  • Cooking - I like to try out new recipes when I have the time, but cooking is not to be rushed and I don't have much spare time. So we live on tried and tested dishes.
  • Blogging - I wouldn't do it if I did not enjoy it and it is always a thrill to read comments. As with most things there are not enough hours in the day to do as much blogging as I would like.
Now I am supposed to nominate ten bloggers to pass the award onto but how could I choose just ten bloggers? I have decided to duck out of that decision. Any blogger who leaves a comment on this post is a friend of mine and may have the award.

Sunday 14 February 2010

Love in the cold and wet

Eighteen years ago, on February 14, husband and I moved into our first home. I know that this is the third post in a row about moving house, but I promise that it will be the last. I am posting it today because it is topical. At the time, everybody commented about how romantic it would be, but apart from a few minutes early in the morning, it was just another day.

When we married, in June of the previous year, we each had a small house that we were trying to sell. In fact, husband's house was under offer at the time, so we set up home in my house. Then husband's buyer pulled out. We were comfortable were we were, so we stayed in my house until it sold on January 31. Then moved into husband's house for the two weeks until February 14, when his house sold. The contents of my house had gone into storage for two weeks and everything had gone pretty much to plan, apart from the removal men putting some of my clothes into storage that I had intended to take with me. By the time that I realised that I was missing a bag of clothes it was too late to retrieve them from the removal van.

February 14 was a Friday. I suppose that we got up about 7 am and exchanged Valentine's cards over breakfast and then for me, from husband, there was an orchid, which was a surprise. Since then I think that I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times that I have had flowers on Valentine's Day. That was our romantic interlude. The removal men would soon be arriving. Long before mid-day we were all packed up and ready to go. First to take the keys to the estate agent then it was off to Leatherhead to our new house, or rather new to us, as it had been built in the 1930s. The vendors had lived there for some time and the internal decoration was a 1970s time warp of a bottle green ceiling in the dining room, dark purple hessian in the living room and a chocolate brown shag pile carpet in the bathroom.

The day had started grey and cold and by now it was raining. We were too early to collect the keys from the estate agent, so we parked in Leatherhead's Swan Centre car park to have our sandwiches. For those of you not familiar with the Swan Centre car park, it is a soulless concrete monstrosity in the centre of Leatherhead. This was a far cry from the circumstances in which we met. From the car park we made several trips to the estate agents in an attempt to get the keys to our new home. This is long before the days of mobile phones. The money had gone through and it was legally ours, but the vendor's removal men were still packing. Eventually the estate agent suggested that we drive round to the house and wait outside for the vendors to vacate the house and hand over the keys. By the time we managed to step over the threshold it must have been at least 3 pm and all thoughts of husband carrying me over the threshold had been long forgotten.

The next few hours passed in a blur of unpacking and decisions about where furniture would go. By about 8 pm we were ready for something to eat and ventured out into Leatherhead with the aim of finding a take away. We didn't know Leatherhead very well and were unable to find a take away, so we eventually decided that we would have to find a restaurant. There weren't many restaurants in Leatherhead then. Since we moved away several have opened up. Any way it was Valentine's Day, so they were all full, which meant that we had to queue, in our house moving clothes of jeans and sweat shirts, among the smartly clad couples out for a romantic evening. By now the date meant nothing to us after the trauma of the move. Once fed it was back to the house for more unpacking and sorting out until exhausted we tumbled into bed at about midnight.

Saturday 6 February 2010

Upping Sticks and Moving On

After the last post, in which I aired some of our dirty linen in public, I thought that I might be asked to pack my bags and go, but I am still here at Muddy Lane Cottage. This post is about different aspect of a long distance move.

When my husband was offered a job in Chester in April 2003, the fact that a house moved was involved was not really a problem. We had been trying to move house for three years. The problem was the 200 mile distance. My husband commuted weekly to Chester, staying in a B&B,while I stayed behind in Surrey. I had plenty to occupy myself. I worked and I had, hopefully, an impending house move to organise.

Shortly before husband started work in Chester the Iraq war began and the estate agent made mutterings about lowering the price of the house to help it sell. We resisted his mutterings. Seven years later the Iraq war and its' consequences are still rumbling on. We were lucky, within a few weeks we accepted a good offer for the house.

One weekend in June I visited Chester for the first time to see where my new home would be and to start looking for a house for us to buy. On the Saturday morning we did the rounds of all the estate agents. Over lunch we sorted out the details and in the afternoon we started to drive around some of the possible areas. It was all very new to us and we did not get very far we things. A few weeks later we looked again and decided that we would be better to rent initially, which would give us a good chance to look around the area.

The move form Surrey to Chester went fairly smoothly. Nothing got lost or broken. We had had three years to organise it, but it was at he end of the incredibly hot Summer of 2003 that we eventually moved house. I had just had to ignore the heat and get on with sorting things out in preparation for the move, otherwise we would have been far from ready when the removal men arrived. It took the removal men three days to move us. A day and a half to pack us up. Half a day to travel to Chester, then a day to unload and unpack. Finding the space for everything in the rented house was a challenge. We had estimated that we would be able to fit into it, but that it would be cosier than we were used to. Then there was the double garage that we could use for storage. When we had viewed the house, the previous tenants had had a sea of boxes in the garage. After a few days we were straight-ish.

The next challenge was to start integrating ourselves into life in Chester. Husband had taken to socialising with his work colleagues which has its limitations, especially as most of them were about half his age. I had decided that I would be a lady of leisure until we had moved into our own house. Hopefully this strategy would give me the time to find my way around the area and maybe to get to know some people. We decided to give evening classes a try. Husband went to woodwork and I went to flower arranging. We had both previously been to classes in these subject whilst living in Surrey. Woodwork was useful for getting things made but doesn't really have social side to it, whereas flower arranging has a flourishing social side and I came home, each week, with a different flower arrangement. This interest has now become a hobby, with my interest in gardening being an extension of it or maybe flower arranging is an extension of gardening. Now I regularly go to the local flower club and horticultural society in a nearby village. Slightly by accident husband has ended up on the committee of our village hall, as treasurer, for his sins. This was something that he had wanted to do along with living in a wisteria clad Victorian cottage. So he is in seventh heaven - well some of the time. Now he has a circle of committee friends plus the crowd that he plays squash with at the local health club. And one of his committee friends has now asked me to take her to flower club with me. At last we feel, as if, we are part of the community.

Now read the prequel.

Friday 29 January 2010

A wife's place is in the wrong

I have been a bit dilatory about visiting this week, as I have had some big decisons to make. Nothing is certain at the moment but I shall post about the changes nearer the time that they take effect, if indeed they do happen. This post has been in my draft folder, for some time, waiting for what I considered to be the right time to post it. The Hope Courage Faith award was given to me some time ago by Reasons and I have decided to post the two together. I am sure that Reasons will identify with this post and I thank her for the award.

Six and a half years ago, when we moved from Surrey to Cheshire I was not totally happy with what we were doing. I had my misgivings about the situation and my worst fears turned out to come true. At the time husband was very positive about the move but has since admitted that it was a mistake. However, it is all too late now. We are here and we aren't moving back south.

My husband's self employed status had been shaky for the best part of 15 months when a permanent post, came up in Chester, that exactly matched his skill set. In some ways it seemed to be too good an opportunity to miss. The downside was that it would mean moving 200 miles. I had some reservations. Which would be better? Chester with a job or Surrey without a job. We still had to live, eat and pay the mortgage. I also worked part time, but our financial commitments had been taken on, based on husband's salary. Husband was offered the job which he took. We sold our house in Surrey. Moved to a rented house in Chester before buying the cottage, which as it has turned out needed a lot more work doing to it than we originally thought. Houses always do, we ought to have realised that.

The job lasted two years! His employer a large American bank, expanded too quickly then had to shed staff. Husband was offered voluntary early retirement. In other words redundancy dressed up as enforced voluntary early retirement with a payment of one year's net salary, which was never going to last until he was able to draw his pension.

This American bank had no scruples, what so ever, about the fact that they had moved a couple in their fifties, 200 miles from their families, friends and the roots that they had put down, in my husband's case over his entire life. It did not matter to them that we had uprooted ourselves, moved house, rented a house then bought the cottage, with the help of a mortgage and were just being to find our feet in Chester when they swept the ground from under us. It had all cost us thousands of pounds.

I had suspected that something like this would happen. I clearly remember a conversation that I had with husband, before he accepted the job in Chester. We were in the kitchen of our previous house and I asked what would happen if once we had moved to Chester, he was made redundant. Husband assured me that it would not happen! And again I remember more conversations or rather heated discussions that the pair of us had in the kitchen of the cottage, which was the first room that we tackled when we started the renovation work on the cottage. Moving, back south, at this point was not an option. It would have been impossible to sell the cottage because we had started our programme of renovation work and the general appearance of the cottage was now worse then it had been before we started.

The timing of this early retirement could not have been worse. We had a builder booked to start work on the cottage and no salary on which to support the extension to the mortgage, needed to fund the building work. Luckily the early retirement payment came in handy to pay the builder. Fortunately for us, whilst we were wondering how we would pay the builder or manage some how to put him off, he had disappeared off the face of the earth. Eventually he resurfaced, four months later and announced that he was ready to start. His previous job had over run. After three months of twiddling his thumbs, husband went back to being self employed. Perhaps we should have stuck it out in Surrey? That is something that we shall never know.

Thursday 21 January 2010

Charity begins at home

Last week when I was confined to barracks by the weather I got round to unpacking a cardboard box that had been languishing in our utility room since the end of August. The two other boxes that had accompanied it were unpacked some time ago. Their contents washed and given a home. After four and a half months I was no longer sure what this box contained. As it happened it contained my parents' crystal glasses which my Father had promised to me some time before he died. Now everything was unpacked and my mind went back to the end of last Summer.

Late August of last year husband and I found ourselves on the road to West Sussex, yet again. This time we were going to my Mother's bungalow, in East Grinstead, to do some sorting out and tidying up. My brother had already started the ball rolling on getting the bungalow ready to sell, by sorting through all of my Mother's papers and SIL had done some cleaning. On previous visits I had sorted out my Mother's clothes. Before we got down to the business of cleaning, we had a good look at the contents of the bungalow and decided what we would like to have. It was like being a kid in a sweet shop. All these things that I had had my eyes on for years were suddenly there for the taking. I suppose because Mum is till alive, it was a strange experience. Would she approve? What would she think about me taking things? We placed our booty on the dining table then panicked that it would not fit into the bags and boxes that we had brought with us. Miraculously we just managed to pack up all of our haul. Then it was down to the job of cleaning. It was a chore, but I dislike intensely dusty, dirty and untidy houses and I have done it twice before when Mum had been in hospital. This was to be the third and last time. Once we had removed a couple of pieces of furniture that we were going to give a home to and I had rearranged the ornaments the whole place looked cleaner and tidier. Ever since my mother moved there, fifteen years ago, it had looked cluttered, with more furniture that she needed and too many ornaments, as she refused to part with anything.

There is still quite a lot of stuff in the bungalow and I could be tempted to give a home to some more of it but my brother has already complained that I have taken more than him. I have taken the view that our parents would rather we gave a home to their possessions than allowing them to end up in a charity shop. Otherwise it will be the tip, or for a few items an auction sale room.

The bungalow is now for sale. The Greenwich Meridian Line runs through East Grinstead and the bungalow is just to the east of it. There is a stone, photographed right, between my Mother's bungalow and the neighbouring bungalow marking the exact position of the Greenwich Meridian Line. Both the garden of my Mother and here next door neighbour are overgrown, but the Greenwich Meridian Line stone can still be clearly seen. I am not sure if there is any significance attached to the fact that the Greenwich Meridian Line runs through East Grinstead and I am pretty sure that the stone was not there when my Mother bought the bungalow.

Saturday 16 January 2010

A Hard Day's Night

At last, relief in the shape of warmer weather, for our hard working central heating boiler, which has been on day and night non stop, give or take a few hours, for a month now, because of the unusually cold weather. Let me explain. Our central heating boiler is situated in the garage and protected by a frost stat which has been a hard task master recently. However, the boiler has not always been in the garage.

When we first moved to the cottage the central heating boiler, which is oil fired, was in the utility room, under our bedroom. This meant that the second in the morning that it shuddered into life, we were wide awake. It sounded like a steam engine starting up. We thought about moving it into the garage, but were put off by the four figure estimates that we received for the work involved to move it. For a time we just had to learn to live with it. But undeterred, when the builder started on our alterations, I chanced my arm or my luck and asked him about moving the boiler into the garage. All the floor boards, that he was going to need to take up, were going to be up anyway for the installation of the new shower room and bathroom. He came back with a three figure estimate so we decided to go ahead and have it moved. Apart from the noise that the the wretched thing was making, it had a habit of going out what seemed like every time the wind blew across the farmer's field and up our garden. We hoped that by moving it into the garage it would be in a more sheltered position and be less likely to go out.

So the boiler was moved, solving the noise problem but leaving us with other problems. At our first house the boiler had been situated in the garage and had, had a frost stat wired up to it, so that it came on when the temperature dropped close to zero, to protect the boiler from freezing. Now the newly moved boiler needed a frost stat. The builder attempted to install one for us but unfortunately wiring it up was beyond his electrical skills. Twice in a period of 20 minutes he managed to fuse our electrics and he went off with his tail between his legs. We hoped that we would have more joy with our electrician but he could not come for a few weeks. When he did come there were no instructions with the frost stat, that he had bought, and he had to guess at how to connect it up, and having switched the boiler on, it would not go off. Luckily the plumber came, I think to sort out a leak through the shower room floor into the dining room, and he showed me the switch in the airing cupboard that switches the whole central heating system off. It is a last resort to use this switch as it switches off the time clock, which means that the cottage is cold when we get up, but after a week of unnecessary non stop heating we were getting desparate.

To cut a long story short, after several visits by the electrician and a change of frost stat, we now have a system which works reasonably well, although we do sometimes have to resort to switching off the whole system.

Sunday 10 January 2010

Sun, snow and salt

Cheshire is now famous for more than just Cheshire cheese. This week it has become famous or perhaps infamous for rock salt as the UK continues in the grip of of the freeze, that has taken hold of the country. Lorries from all over the country are queueing up, at two salt mines in the Cheshire towns of Middlewich and Winsford, for supplies of rock salt to grit the country's road. Despite the fact that the Cheshire salt mines are working at maximum capacity the country is rapidly running out of salt and the government has had to order stocks from abroad. Councils have been asked to reduce gritting levels in order to conserve supplies and we have been advised not to go out unless necessary.

As staying in has become the new going out I have decided to bore you with some photographs of where I live. In the past I have turned a blind eye to requests for photos as I wanted my blog to be read for want I wrote, also when I started my blog I did not have a digital camera. In addition, where we live does not look very pretty for most of the year but snow does a wonderful job of transforming an ugly duckling into a winter wonderland.

Let's start by turning right out of our drive and walking down the lane. I have used this view of the lane before but this is the first time since we moved here that we have had snow.

At the end of the lane if we turn left we can see the crossroads.

Turn right and we get this view in the other direction.

Then if we turn ourselves right again we can go back up the lane.

There are three houses in the lane and our cottage is the second house. It was originally built as two farm workers cottages for the farm that our garden backs onto. Previous owners of the cottage(s) have knocked the two cottages into one. It has also been extended and the inside rearranged it. It is not the prettiest of cottages. If you were expecting a thatched roof and wooden windows I am sorry to disappoint you. We live within walking distance of the Welsh border, so we have a slate roof and we have made the mistake of putting in UPVC windows, which we have to live with until the next time that the windows need replacing.