Monday 24 December 2012

Season's greetings!

I have not forgotten about you all and I thought that I would take this opportunity to give you an up date on things. We are still waiting for an estimate for the work that needs to be done to sort out our broadband problem. Nothing seems to be moving very fast right now. So it will be sometime next year when we get things fixed.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Monday 3 December 2012

Grinding to a halt

The last few days have been a bit grim. Last Friday our power was scheduled to be off from 9.00 am to 4.30 pm. In fact it went off about 9.30 am when the outside temperature was 3 degrees Centigrade (37 degrees Fahrenheit) and did not come on again until 6.30 pm by which time it was 2 degrees Centigrade and pitch black, there being no street lights where we live. When we received the notification of this power outage I did think to myself 'what bad planning'. Even if the power had come back on as scheduled, by 4.30 pm it would be starting to get  dark and the chances of the weather being mild on November 30 are slim. I amused myself, on Friday morning, by going to the supermarket to do the weekly shop then stopping off at a nearby garden centre where I had a walk around. It was stocked to the gunnels with Christmas decorations and paraphernalia. I can not imagine that they will sell it all. I took myself off out again in the afternoon, returning about 5.30 pm expecting the cottage to be lit and warm, but instead found it to be cold and dark. It was another hour before we were connected up. I spent that hour pottering around the cottage with my coat on!

On Saturday morning we had a visit scheduled from a BT engineer. This was about our fourth attempt at an appointment and this time an engineer did turn up. Over the last few weeks our broadband connection has been getting slower and slower and husband wanted our phone line checked. It turns out that the problem is in the cottage between the master socket and the study. It could be that the existing cable needs to be relaid, which will mean having floor boards and three carpets up. I do not think that the problem will be resolved in a hurry, given that Christmas and New Year are around the corner. At the moment navigating my way around blogs is a slow process as a result of the tortoise like broadband connection. Consequently I am going to have a break from blogging until this problem is sorted out. So for now I shall leave you with a photograph of a recent sunset taken from the back of the cottage.

Thursday 22 November 2012

The road to nowhere

A brown and muddy lane such as the one outside our cottage does not have quite the same ring to it as the yellow brick road. It does not lead to Oz and there is no rainbow anywhere around. We have the dairy farmer, turned arable farmer and the wet weather to thank for the state of it. Turn left out of our drive and the lane will take you into one of the farmer’s fields where he has been growing vegetables. Turn right and right again and you will come to one of the main roads out of the village.

 A team of men have been harvesting the crops in the field, which we were told would be potatoes and leeks, on and off since September. One of the fields can be accessed from the main road. So apart from the mud on the road when that field was harvested it did not interfere with our lives. But for several weeks now husband has been washing our cars every weekend only for them to get covered in mud within 24 hours. However, for the last two weeks the crop that was grown in the field at the top of our lane has been harvested. It is a long hard day for the team of predominantly Polish workmen. Husband has seen them arriving for work as he leaves home at around 6.45 am and I have seen them leaving at around 4.15 pm. Tractors and heavy farm machinery have been trundling and at times thundering up and down the lane from as early as 7.00 am until well after dark. There are no street lights around here and it must be pitch black in the field. And it is not just a Monday to Friday operation. They have been working weekends too. One evening I came home to find a farm vehicle of some description in the lane lit up with about six headlamp type lights. It was like the scene from ET. Thankfully they have now finished and life has returned to normal. If it is ever normal here, but not before a bit of drama.

A week ago I heard something heavy on the main road around mid-night. The following morning husband found his route along the road was blocked by wide farm machinery so had to make a detour around the village before he could effectively set off for work, making him late. Access to  our village is via two main roads one to the east of the village and another to the west. Last week the western road was closed going south for road works, which were scheduled to take two weeks. Then another sign went up in the village announcing that the access road to the eastern road was going to be closed this week for road works, leaving only one route in and out or the village. A concerned resident contacted the powers that be to point out that  delays caused by these road works could be a problem if emergency vehicles needed access to the village. Suddenly the two week closure became one week and the one week closure became one day!

Thursday 8 November 2012

Clothes horse or fashion victim?

Seasons like fashions come and go. Two weeks ago, here in the UK, saw the end of British Summer Time, as we put our clocks back one hour. Winter does not officially start until after the shortest day on December 21. Consequently, it must now be Autumn. Our first really cold day of this Autumn/Winter was two days before the clocks went back.  So I was rather surprised that afternoon,  to receive an e-mail offering me a preview of the Spring collection from a mail order catalogue whose clothes I sometimes purchase. Especially as earlier in the day a copy of their Winter catalogue had come through the letterbox. I know that fashion always has to work a season or two ahead but I have never bought my clothes much in advance of the current season. Now I find that I have to buy clothes earlier than I used to or I am left with very little choice. My initial reaction to viewing next Spring’s clothes was that I was not going to look. However, I did sneak a peek and even worse I saw some things that I liked, but I shall not be buying any Spring clothes until next year. We have Winter to get through before we even begin to think about next Spring.

Since retiring I have found deciding what to wear to be a bit of a headache. When I was working I had a ‘uniform’ of blouses, jumpers, cardigans and trousers that I wore for work. Those clothes were not usually worn when I was not at work. At home I would invariably be gardening, decorating or doing housework which meant wearing old clothes, that did not matter if they got dirty. Looking at my wardrobe, a year ago, I probably had more old clothes than anything else. I soon realised that I needed to smarten myself up. I noticed that many of those in my flower arranging class dressed themselves better than I did. It was not that I did not know how, it was more that I had got out of the habit. I have always had an interest in fashion and the challenge now is to dress fashionably without looking like mutton dressed as lamb. When I was a student my dress sense could be quite Bohemian and I could get away with anything such as purple velvet loons, home made smocks and a multi-coloured waistcoat made from oddments of wool.  Those days are now long gone and even if the clothes fit, they are better on someone else.

Fashion today is a mine field. There are so many different styles and looks, whereas in years gone by there would only be one.  When we were on holiday in Bordeaux, a few weeks ago, I noticed the young French women  wearing anything from shorts with boots to  scarves with  flip flops. So how does the mature woman dress herself? I am not sure that I know the answer. However, I do know that I am not yet ready to embrace polyester blouses, crimplene trousers and elasticated waist bands. I try to avoid anything that is too tight, too thin, too short or too cheap. Even if it does fit, it will not look good for long. I do buy a few bits and pieces from Primark, but I would never buy anything overtly trendy from there. The chances of seeing the item walking around on another are too great.  My aim is to buy well made and fashionable clothes at a reasonable price. Recently I have started to buy some of my clothes via the Internet. This actually came about when I needed some clothes to take on holiday and did not have the time to go shopping. It is easier than I thought, but I have to say that returning items that are unsuitable is a hassle, but then so is returning unwanted clothes to a shop. I do not end up cold and wet, hot and bothered, or worn out from walking around endless shops. I can do it all from the comfort of my own home. I understand that the Duchess of Cambridge is a fan of Internet shopping, but I suspect that she has a more generous clothing allowance than I do. I like to see what is in the shops and I do not think that you can beat feeling the quality and seeing the width. I am sure that most women get a buzz from shopping and we all have that impulse buy in the wardrobe that we never wear.

Years ago I was colour analysed. The concept of colour analysis was developed in the US.  At that time the colour palette was divided into the four seasons. Winter and Summer for the cool colours. Autumn and Spring for the warm colours. The concept of colour analysis has been further refined and is now categorised slightly differently, but the original principals must still apply. The analysis is based on skin tone and hair and eye colour. As it happened I was already wearing the colours from the correct season, but it is another aspect of fashion that we need to be aware of when we go shopping for clothes, as the wrong colours can be as bad as clothes that do not fit or a style that does not suit.

Then there is the thorny issue of make up. I am amazed by the number of women who do not wear any. The woman who looks good bare faced, has not been born. I need a bit of help to feel human. Hair is another dilemma, which is as much in the lap of the gods, and your hairdresser, as anything. It is a matter of what you are given and you have to make the best of it. However, we owe it to ourselves to look our best at all times.

I believe that some of you know that I have been having problems with my laptop, especially after I have been blogging. I wrote this post a week ago. I had intended to put the finishing touches to it and publish it last Friday but my laptop had other ideas and would not to work. Husband kindly sorted out my laptop and in doing so lost most of my settings which meant that I was unable to access my blog. It has taken a bit of time to find it and complete the post. I wonder if the laptop is trying to tell me something, but for now I will soldier on and hope that things work as they should.

Tuesday 23 October 2012

Time for a change

It is out of our hands. There are three houses in the lane where we live. Two of those houses are for sale.

The one that is not, is our cottage, which is the second house in the lane or the middle house. So sooner or later we shall have new neighbours on either side. We live on the outskirts of a rural village about four miles from Chester. Despite being so close to a city we are almost living in the country and are surrounded by farms. The lane where we live is unadopted which means that it is unmade. Our cottage is over one hundred years old and is actually two farm workers cottages knocked into one, but the other two house are modern and fairly recently built. We are biased, but to us our cottage is the most desirable property in the lane, as we prefer something older with character. There is a fourth house at the end of the lane, which fronts onto the made up lane that our lane is off and then on either side of our unmade lane there is a farm. Either you think that this setting is idyllic or you don’t. You are probably wondering what have we done to upset the neighbours? Nothing, we have just been minding our own business. We do not have pets, play loud music, have wild parties or wander around in the nude. The cottage is well maintained and we keep the garden tidy. I would like to think that we are the ideal neighbours. As we see things the present neighbours are the architects of their own downfall.

The first house  is owned by a couple and the wife’s very active seventy something  mother. When I first met them I thought that the husband must be a saint to have his mother-in-law living with him. A few years ago the halo slipped and he had an affair. Now he has gone, the couple are divorced and the house has been for sale for nearly two years. They are on their third estate agent, the price has been drastically reduced and they have, to our knowledge, had one very low offer that they refused. We shall be sad to see them go as they have been good neighbours.

The house on the other side is a totally different story. When we first moved to the cottage the couple that owned the other house both worked away from home and were hardly ever there. Then quite suddenly they disappeared and the house was for sale. It took over 18 months for a buyer to turn up. In that time we got used to the peace and quiet of an empty house next door. I was working in our back garden when our new neighbour-to-be took his architect round to discuss an extension on the back of the house. My sixth sense told me that they were going to be trouble and  it was correct, they have been. From picking a fight with the dairy farmer to leaving their dog 'home alone' to bark until the early hours of the morning. They do not fit here and have been trying to sell their house on and off for some time. More off than on actually and I do not think that they have had even one viewing. We are desperate for them to move. The sooner they go the better.

I do not envy either neighbour the stress of moving. However, if they are to go we are looking forward to some nice new neighbours. On one side at least. Who knows what we shall get. The devil that you know is often better than the devil you don't.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Off with her head

Ironically last week I was lent this mannequin’s head, by the flower arranging teacher, for this week’s flower arranging assignment. And I know that I have been absent again, for a goodish reason. Firstly, I had never done anything like a floral hat and I had to give some thought to what I was going to do. For a run of the mill arrangement I need to chose a container from my cupboard. Then buy some flowers and cut some foliage from the garden. That does not take long. However, a hat was going to be quite a challenge. It would be as much art, as flower arranging. By Thursday I had had an idea or two about what I might create, when fate or something stepped in, in the form of a bug which as it turned out  was all in my head. Sore throat, woolly head, blocked nose and soon a tickly cough. I was fine from the neck down. If someone had wanted to try out their guillotine on me I probably would have let them. Consequently their seemed to be a certain amount of irony in the mannequin’s head sitting in our utility room. I hope that I have had the worst of the bug and I have returned the mannequin's head. She never did get her hat.

Wednesday 3 October 2012

Escapades Francaises

The date is Friday 14 September. The British media is in a frenzy over topless photographs of out future queen that have been published in a French magazine and ten days ago three tourists from the UK were found shot dead near Lake Annecy in the French Alps. I am wondering what the France  of President Hollande will be like. Will we be safe and anonymous?

Two days later we drove to Portsmouth on the south coast. The hotel that we normally book for the night before our ferry crossing was full. So we had booked a nearby alternative, which was dowdy, depressing and musty smelling. The quiet room that we had requested had equipment running outside, that we did not notice until we went to bed and the curtains did not fit the window. I eventually fell asleep about 12.30 after stuffing ear plugs into my ears. We were booked on the 9 am ferry from Portsmouth to Cherbourg. For the first time in six years, security stopped and searched our car. This involved looking under the bonnet, which husband did not know how to open, as he has only had the car a few weeks and looking under the car with mirrors. As the car is new to us I did wonder if anything had been planted on it, but they found nothing. The crossing was uneventful and we arrived in a grey and cloudy Cherbourg from, for a change, a sunny Portsmouth. That evening we stayed in an hotel, in the sleepy little town of Saulges near Le Mans, that we had previously stayed in and liked. Everything was fine until 7 am on Tuesday morning, which to us, on our first day in France, was 6 am, when we were awoken by loud French voices which went on non stop for two hours. Do the French ever stop talking? Why do they use ten words when on will do? It was not the ideal start to our holiday.

Later that morning we set off into the Loire Valley heading for Tours. We stopped for lunch at Angers, famous for its' timber framed houses. The best of which is Maison d'Adam - pictured below.

As we sat down for lunch at a pavement cafe, I started to sneeze and continued to do so for the next 24 hours – a French cold maybe? From Anger we went to Saumur then on to Tours. But before we arrived there, husband had wanted to fill up the car with fuel. However, the fuel pump twice refused his credit card and he decided not to try a third time. By the time that we arrived in Tours, in the rush hour, the car’s dashboard display showed that we were on ‘reserve fuel’ whatever that meant. As a result of work to install a tramway, the centre of Tours was a sea of white and orange barriers.

There was nowhere to park outside our hotel except in a bus stop which husband did, leaving me  in the car while he went to the hotel to ask for directions to their garage. He had just gone when a gendarme knocked on the car window. I knew perfectly well what the problem was but pretended not to understand, reasoning that it was better to say nothing than, in the heat of the moment, select the wrong French words. I was in the passenger seat. They asked for my driving licence. I replied that I was not driving and pointed to the empty driving seat. By the time that husband returned a second gendarme was about to write a parking ticket. Husband quickly got into the car and we drove off. I have never been so glad to see the inside of a hotel bedroom. The alternative could have been a cell in Tours goal.

The following day was less eventful and was spent sight seeing in Tours, a cathedral and university city on the River Loire.

The next morning found us on the road to Chinon, after enjoying a bottle of Chinon vin rouge the previous evening. We were off to buy some at a vineyard. Chinon is a small old town with some lovely old buildings

and it was market day which is something that I always enjoy browsing. This was not without incident as an old lady tried to trip husband up with her shopping bag on wheels. Luckily she did not succeed.

In the afternoon we went to see the chateau at Cheverny stopping en route at Vouvray.

Cheverny is  a small privately owned chateau in which the current owner's family still live, but we did not see their apartments. Despite the splendour of the place, life before the days of electricity and running water etc. must have been uncomfortable. The above photograph is of the rear of the chateau which looks pretty much the same as the front. Flash photography was not allowed inside the chateau.

The next morning found us heading south to Bordeaux. A drive which was scheduled to take us around four hours on the toll road. Early afternoon we stopped at St.Emilion to stretch our legs and buy some wine. The heat hit us as we got out of the car. It was about 15C when we left Tours. Now the temperature had climbed to about 30C. Then it was back into the car and fight with Bordeaux's Friday afternoon traffic. That evening we had a pleasant meal at a pavement cafe. When we came to pay once gain husband's credit card was refused by the card machine. So I offered the waitress my credit card. She scrutinised it as if we were a pair of criminals. Anyway it worked.

We spent Saturday sight seeing. The residents of Bordeaux are not early risers and it was lunchtime before the streets became busy. Bordeaux's architecture is magnificent and really reminded me of the English city of Bath. Here is the Grand Theatre or Opera House which is reminiscent of Bath's Roman Baths with the figures at roof level. I do not have time here to do justice to Bordeaux and all of its sights and one day was certainly not enough time to take it all in.

Sunday we had ear marked to drive up into the vineyards to the west of Bordeaux, which produce some of the areas most celebrated wines. It was a fine and sunny day but being Sunday nothing much was open. So our plans to visit a vineyard were thawted. However, we did manage to take some photographs of the vineyards

and the grapes.

Back in Bordeaux on Sunday afternoon we joined the locals promenading by the River Garonne and took our lives into our hands amongst the cyclists, scooters, roller bladers and skate boarders. Or those that were simply walking on the water.

Later, showered and changed for the evening we decided to take the healthy option and walk down the four flights of stairs from our room to the ground floor. Husband was in front of me. After three and a half flights he lost his footing and rolled down the last flight of stairs. Luckily the stairs were wide and shallow and he was picked up at the bottom by an elderly English lady and the hotel's English/American receptionist with nothing more than a bruised forehead and scrubbed knuckles. He got little sympathy from me. This accident happened because he was looking at his mobile phone as he walked down the stairs. I think that watching it happen shook me up more than it did him.

The next morning as we were about to leave Bordeaux husband had a text and a phone call, on his mobile phone, from Brittany Ferries to say that our ferry crossing from Cherbourg to Portsmouth, the following day had been cancelled, due to industrial action by the ferry staff. Our ticket could be used on the P&O Calais to Dover crossing and any extra cost incurred could be claimed back from Brittany Ferries. Calais is a much longer drive than Cherbourg and we had an hotel booked in Portsmouth for the evening of the crossing, which we needed to cancel. That was the easy part. Then we had to find somewhere to stay for the night near Dover. How did we manage before the days of mobile phones, tablet computers and satellite navigation systems?

The ferry crossing from Calais to Dover was choppy but only one and a half hours as opposed to the three hours from Cherbourg to Dover and we were soon back in a very wet and windy England. That night we were kept awake by a thunder storm and the following day we had a very wet drive home. As  turned into the road at our end of the village we were met by a 'road closed due to flooding' sign meaning that we had to take a detour around the village to reach the cottage. It was good to be home. Once again the UK media are in a frenzy over an male English school teacher who has run off to France with a young female pupil from his school.

I must apologise to any bloggers based in France for not making contact. We unintentionally gave ourselves a very tight schedule with no room for flexibility.

Saturday 15 September 2012

The show goes on

While out and about, over the last few days, I have noticed that the trees are starting to turn and who came blame them after the miserable Summer, that we have had, here in the UK. However, the garden continues to perform despite the cool, wet weather. Many of the perennial flowering plants have flowered as well as they would have done in a good Summer, bringing some much needed cheer and colour to our garden. I wish that the same could be said for our vegetable garden which, by comparison with last year, is a mere shadow of what it was.

Here is what will probably be the last look at our garden for this year. These photographs have been taken over the last few weeks, but the first was taken some time ago. I had gone up to our bedroom to pack for a holiday and when I saw the neighbour's cat admiring our garden, I just had to get my camera out and capture the scene.

 There is not so much to see in the front garden. So I think that we'll start there. On the sunny side of the garden we have a phlox

and the white daisy that no cottage garden should be without.

On the shady side up against the front wall of the cottage there are Japanese anemone

and by the front door a hydrangea.

Now round in the back garden let's start with a dahlia, which this year has been in the  raised bed to the left of where the cat was sitting.

While to the right of the brick wall a buddleia or butterfly bush grows.

Then we'll turn back towards the cottage to see the black hollyhock that enjoys a sunny position against the rear wall.

From there we shall take a walk around the back garden starting with this fuscia.

Next is this perennial sweet pea which is situated at the back of the shrubbery bed.

After that comes a trellis with this clematis growing up it.

Turning the corner we come across an orange day lily or hemerocallis.

Moving down the garden it looks as if we are going to have a good crop of cooking apples this year.

And finally in the back garden we have a gladioli in the white bed.

I have had to give up on the idea of getting on top of the garden this year. The weather has been against me. So I am giving myself another year to achieve that objective. Now it is time to start thinking about dividing perennials and moving them and shrubs while the soil is still warm. Then it will be a matter of getting the garden ready for Winter.

Tomorrow we are going away. Bad timing I know.  Downton Abbey starts tomorrow night. Just like the garden, the show will go on without me. The recorder is set and it will be something to look forward to when we come back, in two weeks time. There I go wishing my life away! Back in October when I hope to have more time for my blog.

Wednesday 5 September 2012

The heat is on

Nothing last for ever and as things get older repairs are required. Some problems sort themselves out and go away, while others just seem to take ages to get sorted out. Recently we have had a spate of jobs which were beyond husband’s DIY skills.
This saga started in December of last year when we realised that the cloakroom radiator was not heating up. Husband phoned the plumber that we have used most recently who told him that he was busy - everybody wants jobs done in time for Christmas.  So it was  left it until January. Now he had flu and would phone when he was better. ‘Manflu’ lasts an awful long time as months later he still appears to be ill! By now we also had a radiator that would not switch off and the overflow was regularly overflowing. We clearly were not going to hear from plumber no.1 which meant trying plumber no.2 who took about a week to come to look at the job then about another week to produce an estimate which involved draining down our system and replacing a tank in the loft. It was March by now, still Winter and too cold in my book for draining a central heating system which would result in no heating. We  also did not think that it was necessary to replace the tank in the loft  and  thought that his estimate was rather high. So we decided to live with things as they were and the overflow has stopped overflowing.
Over the Easter bank holiday we did a stint of decorating which resulted in a leaking radiator after husband had removed it to get at the old wallpaper behind it and had not quite managed to tighten it up as much as it needed. Plumbing is not his strong suit. After attempting to fix a leak at my house before we were married I ended up with water running down the living room wall. And still I married him! At around the same time our waste disposal stopped working and the outside tap started to drip. We started our quest for plumber no.3. this time we tried a chap recommended by one of husband’s squash playing friends who actually came round to have a look at shopping list of jobs on the same day that I had phoned him. Sadly that was where the enthusiasm ended. Two unanswered phone calls later we were looking for plumber no.4.
In the mean time the thermostat in the main had ‘gone’ an had to be replaced. As had the washing machine pump. We are also having problems with windows that will not open and box guttering in the conservatory that leaks.
Anyway back to the plumbing problems. Plumber no.4 was recommended to me by the flower arranging teacher who said that he was a friend and expensive. At this point we were getting desperate and beggars can not be choosers. He came and produced an estimate which was on the high side but probably was no more expensive than plumber no.2. We asked him to do the work which he did ten days ago. He was quiet, clean and tidy and I hardly knew that he had been, but  I noticed, a few days after he had been, that the central heating was coming on when the system is programmed for hot water only. I phoned him about this and his reaction was that it was not possible. However, he did come to look at things this morning and now we need a new valve in the airing cupboard.

Wednesday 8 August 2012

Thirteen shades of grey

judgement dayNever mind gold, silver or bronze the ‘in’ colour seems to be grey. Just, how many shades of grey do we need? I ask myself. Last weekend we went to look for a ‘new‘ car for my husband and by new I mean new to him in other words second hand. On Saturday morning we started at dealer A. Out on their forecourt there were plenty of cars but they had very little choice of cars of the model and age that husband is interested in. After a quick look around we had a chat with a salesman and a look at their website and still there was nothing of interest. Husband’s present car is grey and he would like a different colour this time. We live up a muddy lane. We do not want black or white and we are both old enough to remember the post war years, when you could have any colour car  that you liked as long as it was black!  Blue would be nice, but finding a blue car is like finding a needle in a haystack. I should know. Mine is blue and it took me five months of looking to find it. So a car from dealer A would be grey and these are the options -  Cuvee silver, Ice silver, Dakota grey, Daytona grey, Lava grey and Monsoon grey.

After a quick lunch at home we set off to dealer B. Here there were not many cars at all on the forecourt. However, there were two possibles. The salesman let us have the keys to both, so that we could have a look at the inside.  We both preferred one to the other and decided to ask for a test drive of that particular car. Not possible on Saturday afternoon. They were busy. We could have a test drive at 11.30 on Sunday morning. The colour options here were Lunar grey, Stratus grey or Rhodium silver.

The afternoon was still young. Husband was not fussed about what dealer C might have to offer, but we had the time to drop in on them as we were passing by their showroom and forecourt on the way home. Here again there were not many cars on the forecourt. We went inside and asked to see a salesperson. They were all busy. One would come out to see us, if we had a look at the cars outside. Actually it was not long before a salesgirl or rather woman with bleached blonde hair  wearing a black dress and beige platform shoes appeared. She explained the layout of the forecourt, leaving us with the now familiar dilemma. All options were grey and there were no cars that fitted husband’s requirements. At this point husband was about to throw in the towel and go home, but I persuaded him to have a look at the sports version of the car he liked, as there is not a lot of difference between it and the saloon version that he had in mind. There were two, one was blue and the other the inevitable grey. We had a sit in both and plumped to test drive the grey. The main difference being that the grey has a panoramic roof which makes it a lot less claustrophobic. So off we went, husband driving, me bundled into the back and the blonde in the passenger seat. The back was quite comfortable. There are some advantages to being 5ft 4in tall and fortunately no one seems to have seen husband driving around with a blonde in the passenger seat. The car drove well and husband was impressed with it, but it was not the car that he set out to but. That I think was at dealer B. If not blue, the other colours available from dealer C are Tenorite grey, Iridium silver, Palladium silver or Diamond silver.

Sunday morning found us back at dealer B for the test drive. This time I got to sit in the passenger seat.  Again the car drove well but we both had reservations about it. We told the salesman that we would think about it and went off to have another look at dealer C. A chat with the manager, there, gave husband some more to think about. The car that he test drove was becoming more and more attractive. In fact it has become a case of once driven forever smitten, but it is not a vauxhall. Today he paid the deposit on it. Never mind that it is grey. Well actually it is silver.

Tuesday 31 July 2012


 Last week I was rather busy and did not have much time for thinking about my next post. So I have decided to take the easy option and show you some more photographs of our garden. I am not out of ideas for posts. Just short of time at the moment. These photos were taken a few weeks ago. I did try to take some photos yesterday but it was breezy and the flowers were moving around. Consequently all that I could manage to get was a series of blurs and this morning it is raining.

I am trying to create a typical English cottage garden to compliment our Victorian cottage. These white foxgloves are near the front door. I grew them from seeds that I collected and now in my haste to tidy the garden I have rather stupidly cut off the seed heads and thrown them on the compost heap.

Also in the front garden is the frothy Lady's Mantle or to given to her her proper name alchemilla mollis. It is a plant that no cottage garden would be without but she is one of the most promiscuous of plants seeding all over the garden if  the flower heads are left too long. As a consequence it is all over the garden and is a very useful space filler especially for the front of borders.

Another  plant that is found all over our garden is erigeron commonly known as fleabane.  This particular plant is the grandchild of one that was growing in garden of our first house. It spreads prolifically and is easy to propagate. The mauve colour contrasts or co-ordinates with practically any other colour which explains why it is all over our garden and it is another useful front of border filler.

Lavender is another plant that no cottage garden would be without. I have several different varieties around the garden. I am not sure which variety this is.

The soil in our garden is alkaline which means that we struggle to grow acid loving rhododendrons and azaleas but the upside is that we are able to grow wonderful blowsy paeonies. There are several around the garden. This is probably the most spectacular. When we moved here this sun loving plant was hidden in an shady, overgrown border. With tlc and the help the sun it has matured into this beauty.

Moving out of the sun into the shade this blue poppy or meconopsis which I grew from seed hides itself under an old apple tree. It is a shade loving plant and it was a struggle to find a suitable spot to plant it as all of our south west facing garden gets the sun at some point in the day, providing it is sunny.

Round the corner from the blue poppy is this campanula glomerata alba which was also grown from seed. It prefers partial shade which it gets from early afternoon as the sun moves round. It is in a bed of white flowers which I am developing in an area of the garden that is in the shade in the afternoon. White really stands out and sort of glows in the shade.

On the other side of the garden in an area that gets the late afternoon sun is the shrubbery. Originally this was a dumping ground for plants that there was not space for anywhere else in the garden. Now I have started to develop it into something more. Here we have fennel which I grow for its feathery foliage with red hot pokers or knifophia n the foreground.

Then further along in the bed with no name is this lovely red rose. I do not know its' name. Either it was in the garden when we bought the cottage or we acquired it as part of an offer.

Considering how unkind the recent weather has been to these plants I am amazed that they have put on such a good show.

Sunday 22 July 2012

Whatever the weather

I seemed to be packing everything but the kitchen sink. Two umbrellas, winter boots, anorak with hood and sunglasses - well you never know the sun might just put in an appearance. When we planned and booked last weekend's break, about a month ago, the weather was awful but we never expected that it would be nearly as bad by the time the weekend came around. We were late setting off, not managing to leave here until after lunch on the Saturday. We had decided that we would make a detour via Abersoch (otherwise known as Chester on Sea) on our way to Aberystwyth, to see what we were missing, as we had never been. It was the middle of the afternoon when we arrived at Abersoch and it was heaving. We could not park the car and there were so many people around that we could not really see the place. From what we did manage to see it did look quite attractive and I could not help but notice several expensive shops. Having made that detour it was late afternoon or early evening really by the time that we arrived at our destination on the outskirts of the Welsh coastal market town of Aberystwyth. We were staying in a Grade I listed mansion which has been renovated and restored and recently opened as a country house hotel. If it had not been for our sat. nav. we would still be driving around trying to find it as it was off the beaten track with absolutely no signs to it. Our late arrival meant that we had no time to explore Aberystwyth leaving us with little choice but to eat in the hotel that evening.

Sunday morning dawned bright and sunny for a change and Aberystwyth beckoned. First we went for a walk along the promenade.

Then we had a quick look around the town before setting off up the coast to Borth where we had lunch. In the afternoon we drove down the coast of Cardigan Bay. After visiting Aberaeron by mid afternoon we found ourselves in the fishing town and seaside resort of New Quay where Dylan Thomas reputedly wrote Under Milk Wood. Here we enjoyed a walk around and an ice cream in the sun.

By evening it was damp but we ventured out to dine in an Italian restaurant  in Aberystwyth.  Monday  was a very wet day. We drove up to Aberdovey where it was so wet that we did not even get out of the car. Cloud and rain looks pretty much the same wherever you are. After more driving around, in the hope that the rain would stop, we ended up in Dolgellau where we had lunch. Then having had enough of the rain we called it a day. Luckily by the evening the rain had cleared and much to the disgust of the hotel staff we went into Aberystwyth and ate at a Greek restaurant at the end of the promenade. We awoke to rain again on Tuesday. So it was a damp drive home.

We are gluttons for punishment. Our little break did not end there as we had tickets for the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show on Wednesday. Again the weather forecast was bad with heavy showers and possibly thunder storms forecast. The RHS website said that the show would go on regardless of the weather and suggested that visitors brought wellies and umbrellas. Just before we were about to leave on the Wednesday morning the heavens opened here and husband's resolve weakened. He was concerned that his car would get stuck in the mud in the field that they use as a car park. Anyway, the rain eased and we duly set off with our wellies in the boot. Tatton is about 40 minutes from where we live and we soon drove out of the rain. The car park was fairly dry considering the amount of rain that we have had. So husband was worrying unnecessarily. We decided to leave the wellies in the boot but carried our umbrellas with us, as the sky was grey and threatening and there was a chilly breeze. Once through the gate we forgot about the weather and enjoyed the show, which was televised by the BBC. We did not spot any of the presenters but did see this film crew attempting to film one of the gardens with visitors getting in their way!

Despite the poor weather forecast the day was dry and by late afternoon when we left it was blue sky and sunshine. How can they get the weather forecast so wrong?

This afternoon we went to a garden party by the river in Chester. So another wardrobe dilemma. The morning was sunny with a cool breeze. What should I wear so as to be not too hot or too cold? Would it be more or less sheltered by the river? I played it safe. I did not want to be cold.

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Flying below the belt

A day or two before we were due to go to the Lake District an e-mail was sent to husband from one of his Village Hall committee friends. The sender was going on holiday and was going to be unable to deliver some flyers (the village news letter) to what he termed the village outposts and asked husband to deliver them for him. Husband responded that we were also going away for a long weekend and it would be difficult for us to deliver them. At this point we were not sure quite what was intended by the village outposts. It was possible that it was just the half dozen houses around where we live on the outskirts of the village. So reluctantly after an exchange of several e-mails, husband, sort of, agreed to deliver the flyers in the hope that it was just the half dozen houses around us. We had not received the flyers by the time that we set off for the Lake District on the Friday morning and were hoping that another more willing committee member had been found to do the delivery. I thought that this was all a bit below the belt, as earlier in the year a social event had been cancelled when all the committee members scheduled to run it decided to go away.

Over our weekend in the Lake District we forgot all about the flyers. Consequently we were rather surprised when we arrived home to find that 100 flyers, plus delivery instructions, had been pushed through our very stiff letter box. I made it quite plain to husband that I was not delivering them on my own and that I had a busy schedule planned for the week ahead. As I saw things our options for the 100 flyers were to shred them, dump them or return them to the sender. Husband said  that no, we would deliver them although even he could not see when we were going to be able to do so. The following Saturday morning he bumped into the chap that normally delivers to the outposts. He had had an operation and had not been able to drive, hence the reason that the sender had been lumbered with them. Anyway he was now able to drive and offered to deliver any flyers that we could not manage.

That Saturday afternoon was damp and miserable after a very wet Friday night, but it was dry. Togged up in anoraks and boots we set off in husband's car to deliver as many flyers as we could.  Dodging the puddles and the mud, I did one side of the road and husband did the other. We ended up in roads and lanes that I did not know where there, delivering to houses that I did not know existed. We probably delivered to houses that we were not supposed to! I quite enjoy seeing what I can through front windows. It's a licence to be nosey. Also it is quite interesting looking as people's front gardens. Sometimes I get ideas. I was surprised how untidy some people are. Just leaving toys and garden tools cluttering up the drive. I know that we have had a lot of rain, but, oh the weeds in some of the gardens! It took us two and a half hours to deliver 73 flyers, which left 26 undelivered and one flyer for us.

Almost two months later the 26 undelivered flyers are still sitting in our hall waiting for husband to take them to the chap who normally does them or for him to collect them from us. I do not know what husband arranged. Now it is hardly worth the bother of delivering them, as most of the events have happened.

The following week I was idly looking at the waterlogged state of the farmer's field, at the end of our garden when I noticed this family of ducks squatting on the large puddle to the right of the end of our garden.

Here are the parents.

Once they realise that I have seen them they scuttle off to the established pond on the other side of our garden.

And here they are enjoying a swim back in the main pond.

I have not seen them recently. I expect that they have flown the nest or maybe it just got too wet for them. Anymore rain and I shall have webbed feet too!

Now  that Wimbledon Fortnight and my flower arranging class have finished I had hoped to get back into blogging, but I have been foiled again. We are going away for a few days at the weekend.

Tuesday 3 July 2012

Surprise, surprise!

Miracles take a bit of time. In this case about six to seven weeks. On Sunday evening I was reading the preview of a post that I had intended to publish on Monday and I noticed that it had comments attached to it. Yes, that is correct an unpublished post with comments. When I read through the comments I realised that they belonged to the post that had disappeared. Now that I had both the post, which husband had saved and the comments, I have resurrected the post that disappeared and have published in back where it belonged on May 11. I have changed the title around as Blogger did not seem to like the original title. So for any of my readers that wondered what I was on about, it is there for you to read.

I had not intended to take yet another break from Blogland, but husband and I had a deadline to meet, which really means that I had a deadline to meet as it was me that did the legwork and husband put his name to it. Hopefully the subject matter will make an interesting post when we know the outcome of the deadline. Now I just need to retype the post that I had to delete on Sunday evening so that I could marry up the disappeared post with its comments. Blogger must have read that post and thought 'I'll give her something to write about!'

Friday 15 June 2012

Four days away

When I posted the now disappeared post Inspiration or perspiration I mentioned that we were going away for a few days to somewhere that I had never been to and we had been trying to get to for a few years. Finally we made it last month to the Lake District which is less than two hours drive from where we live. For a change we managed to set off not long after we had planned to do so, leaving around noon.We had a good if slightly damp journey and if we had kept going would have arrived at our hotel before we were allowed to have our room. So we stopped for lunch at a pub/restaurant in the Lyth Valley. We just needed a sandwich and a drink. Having taken our order the bar maid asked where we would be sitting. I pointed to a table by a window over looking the Lyth Valley. We were told that we could not sit there as that side was for diners only and we were having food from the bar. It was Friday lunchtime, which I would have expected to be a busy time and we were the only people in the whole place! So we had to sit by a window over looking the road. We were not there long and it was only a short journey from there to our hotel in Bowness-on-Windermere.

By the time that we had settled ourselves into our room, from which we had this view of Lake Winderere,

the sun was out and we decided to go and do some exploring. Part of the object of this exercise was to find somewhere to eat that evening, as husband does not like eating in hotels in the evening. He also thinks that we get more of a feel for the place if we eat out. That night we ate at an Italian restaurant! But before we did so we worked up an appetite walking around Bowness and along the Promenade by Lake Windermere.


The next day was dry but cool with sunny intervals. We set off for a tour of the lakes by car. First we went into Windermere before heading off round the southern end of Lake Windermere. Then it was on to Coniston Water. The scene of  Donald Campbell's triumph and disaster on 4 January 1967. I remember watching it all live on black and white television. The terrible outcome took everybody by surprise. We stopped in Coniston to stretch our legs and take a few photographs mainly of Coniston Old Man, the peak, below, which overshadows Coniston.

Next we had a quick look at Hawkshead where there was nothing much to see. From there we headed towards Lake Thirlmere stopping at Thirlspot for lunch. After lunch we drove around Lake Thirlmere stopping on the way to take some photos.

From there we headed back towards Windermere, stopping in Grasmere, where the poet William Wordsworth is  buried at St Oswald's church. Below is the bridge by the churchyard in Grasmere.

Back at the hotel the sun was out and we decided to have a walk around the garden, right, which is opened under The National Gardens scheme.

That evening we dined at a French restaurant in Windermere recommended by one of husband's squash playing friends. We had taken the precaution of checking out the menu and booking a table during our visit to Windermere earlier in the day, which was just as well by evening it was full and we saw several people turned away. The first couple that had been turned away returned a hour later and sat at the table next to us. They were Americans from Boston and had only flown into Heathrow that morning. They had travelled by rail to Windermere for a few days. Then they were going back south and over to Normandy, in France.

Sunday morning dawned cool and grey and the weather forecast was not very good. We decided to take a drive up the coast. After driving for miles along a deserted country lane we came to the Sellafield Nuclear Power Station. It is not a pretty sight. Its' situation is desolate and bleak. In fact it looks rather like a prison - box like buildings and a tower surrounded by a wire fence with topped with coils of barbed wire. We did not try to take any photographs. We did not want to spend a night in a prison cell. The only other building in the area is a railway station. So we continued up the coast driving through St Bees, Whitehaven and Maryport before turning inland to Cockermouth. Everywhere looked grey and miserable. By now we were looking for a pub for lunch. We did not find anywhere suitable until we had driven to the bottom of Lake Buttermere.

Lunch eaten, we had two options, to go back the way we had come or along the more direct route which took us along the Honister Pass - a slightly scary single track road to Seatoller, which had this view.

That afternoon the rain set in and we decided to call it a day. We went back to our hotel room and read the Sunday papers. Later we ventured out into the rain, driving into Bowness for our evening meal.This time we tried an Indian restaurant. So our feel for the area gave us the taste of Italian, French and Indian cuisine.

On Monday morning before setting off home we went into Bowness to buy ourselves some souvenirs and Kendall mint cake for husband's work colleagues. The previous evening I had spied a rather nice art shop on our walk from the car to the restaurant. So it was to there that we returned to purchase a wall hanging wine bottle and a small blackboard to hang in our kitchen. One small problem. Over a month later I am still waiting for the blackboard to be hung up.

This was not the Lake District at its' best. Here is what it can look like.