Wednesday 31 December 2014

Happy New Year

Technology is wonderful when it works and if you are reading this then it has worked, as I scheduled it a few days ago and should now be enjoying myself in warmer climes than the frozen UK. Our week away will go all too quickly and we shall soon be back home in Chester. Alternatively I may be spending New Year at Manchester Airport if the weather is bad and we are not able to fly.

Wherever I am I wish you a Happy New Year

Wednesday 24 December 2014

Season's greetings

 I had not intended to leave it this long before I got around to posting again. Life has been rather busy doing nothing special or worthy of posting about. The last few weeks seem to have been a marathon, but at last most of the necessary preparations have been done. The tree is decorated, I have made my final visit to the supermarket and the presents are wrapped. I just need to ice the cake. But before I go off to do that

   Happy Christmas everyone

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Last month

Recently the weather here in the UK has been wonderful - dry, warm and sunny.  However, I can not pretend that I like this time of year when the days get shorter and the evenings draw in, the leaves turn and fall off the trees, the garden looks permanently untidy and the new series of Downton Abbey hits our television screens. I will admit that I am a fan, but alas Matthew is still dead. OK, the early Autumn colours are good this year, but we are desperately short of rain and I am having to water some of our established shrubs, that are struggling with the dry conditions. The prospect of Winter being around the corner is depressing. Yesterday morning in the post office I saw a pile of boxes of mince pies for sale and then  in  the afternoon I saw my first Christmas tree!

Regardless of all this the garden continues to be a source of colour. I have been making the most of the good weather and spending time in the garden, so rather than bore you with another post about a holiday here are some photographs taken in our garden during September.

The first photograph is the only one from our front garden and is of a fungus which I think is honey fungus. It is growing out of the stump of an ash tree which was cut down several years ago. Since I took the photo the fungus has disappeared.

Round in the back garden we still have lavender in flower.

Along from the lavender is Dahlia Bishop of Llandaff

and Crocosmia Lucifer which grow along side one another.

In the bed that we call the shrubbery is this perfumed rose whose name we do not know.

Then if we turn back in the other direction we have Dahlia Melody Gipsy


and a peony in its Autumn colours.

While further down the garden the sedum is coming into flower and it looks as if the wasps are enjoying themselves.

Finally in my white border the Japanese Anemone are looking very graceful.

In the vegetable garden we have had a good crop of mange tout, runner beans and courgettes. The tomatoes are now doing well. These are a trailing tomato that I have not grown before. They have been very easy to grow requiring only the minimum of attention unlike conventional tomatoes.

And we can not forget the apple tree which is still holding on to its bumper crop, despite the fact that there are wind falls on the lawn every day at the moment.

Thursday 18 September 2014

Third time lucky

I have been trying to write this post for three months now, since we returned from this trip to Ireland back in June, but have been unable to finish it because of the problems that I have been having with my laptop. I was determined that it would get finished, as you will see from the photographs the west coast of Ireland could not have looked better.

We left home on a Saturday 14  June around ten o'clock for the 90 minute journey to Holyhead ferry terminal on Anglesey. Our route took us along the coast of North Wales to Anglesey. It's famous royal residents, William and Kate have moved away, now that William is no longer working as a Search and Rescue pilot based on Anglesey. We arrived at Holyhead in  good time and after a short wait boarded the ferry to Dublin. The sea was calm and we arrived in Dublin ahead of schedule. We soon disembarked and were on our way from Dublin to Ennis in County Clare where we were staying the night. As we left the outskirts of Dublin I looked at the map and wondered why we were heading to Ennis and Doolin for a third time, as there is so much more of Ireland that we have yet to see.  By the time that we arrived in Ennis the sun was out. After a cup of tea and a quick unpack, as we were only staying here for one night,  we went out for a walk around and booked a restaurant for our evening meal.

On Sunday we made the short journey from Ennis, north west to Doolin on the west coast, where we returned to the delightful country house hotel, about three miles outside Doolin that we have stayed on our previous visits. Now I knew why we had returned to the west coast of Ireland for the third time and to this hotel in particular. The weather was glorious - warm and sunny and forecast to get even warmer.  Here is the view of Doolin from our hotel, with the Cliffs of Moher in the distance.

On our previous visits the weather had been cool, grey and damp, which had prevented us seeing some of the local attractions. The hotel is a bit quirky, but so quiet and comfortable and the food is good too. So everything was looking good and it certainly seemed to be third time lucky with the weather. We settled ourselves into our room then headed off down to the harbour to investigate the boat trips that we had not done on our previous visits, because of the miserable weather.

Not having been to Doolin over a weekend before, we were in for a surprise. The good weather was also playing its' part. The place was packed! We just managed to find a space to park the car. We are not lazy. It is too far to walk. There was also a lot of work going on in the harbour area with a new coast guard station being built and construction of new piers for the ferries. With leaflets about ferry times for the different boat trips we retired to one of the pubs, just along from this pink thatched cottage, for refreshment and a sit in the sun.

For Monday we had decided to do the Cliffs of Moher cruise. Previously we have walked along the Cliffs of Moher, but you see them from a different perspective from the sea. The cliffs stretch for 8 km/5 miles and in places are as high as 200 m/700 feet. They are sheer walls of limestone with shale and sandstone on top and are home to a variety of seabirds. On the return half of the cruise the boat took us in close to the seabird colony. I had just lined my camera up to take a photograph of the birds standing on a ledge when the boat moved with the swell of the sea and all I got was a line of feet.

We went on the mid-day cruise and did not realise until we were out on the water that the cliffs were in the shade. Had we gone later in the day the sun would have been further round and the cliffs would have been in the sun, which would probably have made for better photographs.

Back on dry land we had a pub lunch, sitting outside in the sun. Then we went for a walk along the road at the top of Doolin, from which you have a good view of the centre of Doolin (photograph below) and it eventually leads to the Cliffs of Moher walk. 

By now the sun was at its' highest and hottest and we were not kitted out for a long walk. So we turned back when the road became a track and found another pub for refreshment. This walking and sight seeing is thirsty work.

On Tuesday we had decided to take a ferry again to the smallest and nearest of the three Aran Islands - Inisheer. It is 1400 acres with a population of 300 people. All three of the Aran Islands have a barren virtually treeless, cracked limestone terrain

and simply built dwellings.

Amazingly to the side of the harbour the limestone terrain is broken by this lovely white sandy beach which is as good as you will find anywhere in the world.

After a lunch eaten while sitting in the sun, it was time to return to the harbour to catch the ferry back to Doolin.

Wednesday morning found us making our way back to Dublin. Our route took us north towards Galway, then eastwards. We drove through some absolutely stunning scenery, which unfortunately it was just impossible to take photographs of, through the mucky windows of a moving car. We stopped in Athlone to have a spot of lunch in a local hostelry and returned to our car approximately one hour later to find the temperature gauge reading 29 degrees Centigrade - that is high for Ireland in June.

The purpose of our visit to Dublin was for me to go to the World Flower Show at the Royal Dublin Society and for husband to go to the Library of Ireland to do some family history research, which we did the following day. There were over 600 exhibits at the flower show. I am not sure that I managed to see them all. This exhibit won the prize for Best in Show.

It was not all serious flower arranging - these two exhibits caught my eye although neither received any sort of prize or commendation.

There will not be another world flower show, so close to home, for some years to come, so this was not an opportunity to be missed.

We had perfect weather for these few days in Ireland and it made the holiday so much better than the two holidays that we have had there, when the weather has been miserable.  

Friday 5 September 2014

With thanks to Mary Berry

I am happy to report that the commenting problem has now been fixed. It seems that blogging about my problem has prompted computer wonk husband to sort out the problem by using this link here to enable the third party cookies. Whatever that means. I think that he has secretly been watching the Great British Bake Off. So that issue is fixed, but as one problem is resolved another raises its' ugly head. Next problem was that I could not find my photographs, which meant that I still could not finish the post that I had been trying to write for about three months now. That was easier to resolve. Now I have the problem of being out of time, as we go away tomorrow. And there is no way around the fact that I now need to pack. Back in ten days, I hope.

Sunday 31 August 2014

Trouble at the Google Mill

Just when I thought that all of my problems were behind me, I now find that Google will not allow me to leave comments on some blogs. Over the last few days I have left several comments on several blogs only to see the comment disappear when I press the publish button. The blogs that I am having problems with have the reply option in the comment section. Husband, who is a computer wonk, has looked at the problem and can not work out how to get around it. We use Firefox as a browser and it may be that Firefox has instituted an update which is causing the problem. If anyone can explain in words of one syllable how we can resolve this issue I would be grateful. I fear that at the moment Google has gone beyond my computing skills, but I always have plenty of things to do. So maybe I am going to have to occupy myself elsewhere.

Tuesday 19 August 2014

Permission for absence?

I know that I have been absent for a while and with pretty good reason. For the last six weeks or so every time that I tried to use my laptop it decided to have a strop. This meant that I was spending a lot of time without access to a computer, while husband was spending a lot of his time trying to nurse my laptop back to health. About two weeks ago now I decided to have a play with husband's laptop, while he was commandering mine with the aim of fixing it. By comparison with his laptop, which handled like a finely tuned athlete, mine handled like an arthritic 80 year old. So I suggested that maybe it was time that my laptop was replaced. After all his previous laptop, which was the same age as mine, had been replaced six month ago. I know that his laptop takes a real hammering as he use it for work. His current laptop is a model called Envy and envious I was.

So a new laptop was ordered for me. Not an Envy, I hasten to add, and within a few days I was the  proud owner of a shiny new laptop. It was great to be back in business but Google had other ideas. I could not access my own blog. After having a verification code sent to my mobile phone and some fiddling around I managed to work out what Google was up to and get into my blog. But now there were other demands on my time. The annual visit of sister-in-law and her husband was fast approaching and I needed to spend my time sprucing up the cottage for their visit, which was last weekend. As it happened we spent most of their visit sitting in the conservatory, which had only had the most cursory of cleans by comparison with the rest of the cottage. The meal went well and eveybody had a good day. Now I can relax until the next time. I might even manage to finish the post that I started back in June.

Saturday 26 July 2014

A July afternoon in the garden

I have been trying to write a post for some time now, but have been hampered by a temperamental laptop and erratic broadband. Hopefully the problems have now been sorted out. At the moment I am enjoying the good weather that we are having here in the UK and spending quite a lot of time in the garden. So I have decided to take you for a walk around our garden.

When a visitor enters our drive the first things that they see are the woodland bed and the rockery, which are both currently resting. In other words they need weeding.

The first plant that catches the eye in the front garden is this lavatera. Several years ago we bought its' ancestor from RHS Wisley and it has been propagated many times.

Next in line of sight are these daisies

and I could not resist this Nigella, which is self set so I can not take the credit for it.

On the other side of the path we have a hydrangea

and then there is  Rosa Handel  which grows by the front door.

Now round to the back garden. From the kitchen window I can see these blue violet pansies

and this dahlia which has been flowering for some time now. It is a patio dahlia with small but perfectly formed flowers.

Then around the corner by the French windows we have hollyhocks

and an agapanthus.

A short distance away on the trellis we have a clematis, which I was carefully tying up every week until we went away, when it arranged itself into a rather attractive cascade.

Hidden behind the trellis the day lilies are in full flower.

While on the other side of the garden in my white border, Hydrangea Annabelle is blooming.

Then finally towards the bottom of the garden the apple tree looks to have a bumper crop of fruit on it.

 I just wish that I could bottle the weather and share that with you too.

Wednesday 2 July 2014

Stop the world I want to get off

Wouldn't it be great if we could press a button and stop the world from spinning.Time to step off the roundabout, slow things down and catch up with ourselves. The last few weeks seem to have been manic. This feels like the first evening that I have had to myself for weeks. I know that I should not really complain. Life is treating us fairly well at the moment by comparison with what some have to cope with.

Three weeks ago I was getting ready to go away. If only it was a matter of packing a suitcase and walking out of the door. The week before a holiday always seems to be a frantic rush of jobs that have to be done. During the run up to a holiday I often think that it would be so much easier just to stay at home and wonder is it really worth all this hassle?  Then there is the problem of which clothes to take and the right clothes always need washing. Also at this time of year there is always a mad panic to get as many plants as possible into the garden, so that the rain will water them. Whether or not you get the jobs done the end of the week comes and it is time to pack and go away. The holiday was good and my next post will be about it.

Now fast forward to the week after the holiday, which is not quite as bad as the week before the holiday, but can be nearly with yet more clothes to wash and a lot of catching up to do. On sunday we had visited three gardens in our village which were opened under the National Garden Scheme, with proceeds going to the local hospice. On tuesday and wednesday I had appointments of the hairdresser/dentist variety - both necessary. Usually I try to have only one of these sort of appointments per week. Then on wednesday evening we had tickets for a concert in Manchester, which we had booked about six months ago. We expected to be late getting home from the concert and we were.  On thursday evening we should have gone out for a meal which I had won in a competition, but we decided to turn it down as trying to do too much. Then on friday, which happened to be our wedding anniversary, I had to make a special trip into Chester to see our MP at one of his surgeries. Finally on saturday evening we went out for a meal for our wedding anniversary. And then there is Wimbledon Fortnight to watch as well.

Thankfully this week has been quieter.

Wednesday 25 June 2014

Growing the family tree

Living here in Chester, my husband is in his element.  He has got into researching his family tree. His mother's family were Irish and his father's family were Welsh. As you will know from my last post we live not far from the Welsh boarder and we have made several trips to Dolgellau to research his paternal family tree as well as last month's trip to Aberystwyth.We have just returned from a trip to Ireland, which for husband included a visit to the National Library of Ireland, in Dublin, for some family history research. So for those of you wondering were an earth Cheshire Wife is, I am sorry, but I have been away again. You can be forgiven for thinking that she is never here. The last twelve months have been rather like this and my blog which started out about relocation and renovation has almost morphed into a travel blog. So I was not surprised to find that my blog had had a mention on this travel blog website. Now we are home with no plans to go anywhere in the immediate future and I shall post about our trip to Ireland as there was a lot more to it than a visit to a dusty old library.

Tuesday 3 June 2014

Over the border

I know, a couple of  days away and I have not posted for four weeks. When I decided  to return to blogging I had time on my hands. Since I made that decision life has taken a few unexpected  twists and turns, which I shall write about later as some of the events are still up in the air. Husband is now back working and after four and a half months at home the study looks like a bomb has hit it. The cottage needs cleaning from top to bottom and the garden is full of weeds.

For our two days away we had decided to go over the border into Wales. We live 
about two miles from the England/Wales border. There are no immigration officers or border police. You simply drive along the road past a sign which says England on one side and Wales on the other. Once in Wales all  the road sign are in both English and Welsh. We left home at lunchtime on the Friday driving south down the A483, through April showers even though it was May, via Wrexham, Oswestry and Newtown before turning off west on to the A44 to Aberystwyth.  We had decided on this route which initially weaves it's way in and out of England and Wales, as we had not driven it before. I thought that it was more attractive than our usual route west through North Wales to Dolgellau, then south to Aberystwyth. Even on a good day the latter route can look grim, as it did on the Sunday when we returned  that way as it is a slightly quicker route. The rain was pouring from a very grey sky. The black tarmac roads were awash with water and despite everything looking very green the dark grey stone cottages with their black Welsh slate roofs completed a depressing scene.

It was late afternoon when we arrived at the inn in Aberaeron, where we were staying, which allowed us time for a quick cup of tea before a stroll down to the beach where we were nearly blown away by the strong and chilly wind.

Both Aberystwyth and Aberaeron had suffered in the winter storms earlier in the year, but you would not have known. We had spent a  long weekend in a very wet Aberystwyth a couple of years ago, when we had stayed in a very nice and newly renovated country house hotel outside Aberystwyth. Since then husband had been wanting to return to the hotel and to visit the National Library of Wales for some family history research. Unfortunately the hotel that we had previously stayed in was fully booked for the nights that we wanted. So we found an inn in Aberaeron,to the south of Aberystwyth, which seemed to be suitable. It was less expensive, but I have to say that the hotel outside Aberystwyth, despite being more expensive, was better value for money.

Our plan was to go to the National Library of Wales, in Aberystwyth on the Saturday. The library itself is a very impressive building (pictured left) with dark wooden floors and an aroma of soap. The weather that day was cold,very wet and windy and not suitable for doing much else. At times like this I cannot help but think about all the rainy day jobs that I could be doing at home, but when I am at home it is never the right sort of rain. However, my time in the library was not wasted. Whilst husband ploughed through old records I drafted some blog posts. As well as all the myriad of records that are held there it also has a shop and a cafe where we had a sandwich for lunch. The visitors book in the reading room had comments from visitors from as far a field as USA, Canada, New Zealand and Japan. Husband found some useful information and as usual when he makes one of these family history research visits he comes home with a sheaf of photocopies.

Not a very exciting weekend I know. It was a change of scene. We drove through some scenery that was new to us. Visited some places that we had not been to before. We are now both members of the National Library of Wales and husband's family tree has another twig.

Thursday 8 May 2014

Plan B

I expect you are thinking that I have changed my mind about returning to Blogland.
No, things just have not gone to plan recently. In fact I am wondering why I ever make plans as they so often have to be changed or modified. Husband spent July, August, September, November and December last year working in Munich and we spent most of October on holiday. So he decided that he would have a month off in January. Well before we knew it one month had become four. Then four became four and a half. On Wednesday morning, of last week, he went off  looking very smart in a suit and tie for a change, (so many companies now have a dress code of business casual) expecting to start a new contract for a bank, who have an office on the business park on the other side of Chester. Within an hour he was back. They were not expecting him until May 12. So what was he going to do for the next week and a half? I always have a list of jobs for him to do. He has managed to do a few things that were on the list and have been there for a long time, such as my request to have a hook on the back of the door to bedroom 2. Anyway, hopefully he will be back working next Monday, but before then we have decided to go away for a couple of nights.

Sunday 13 April 2014

Up to the Arctic Circle

The holiday started with a Sunday morning flight from Manchester to Tromso in the Arctic Circle. Arriving mid-afternoon in a cold, grey and snowy Tromso, we settled ourselves into our hotel room then dressed for the cold and went for a stroll. By now it was late afternoon and the temperature was staring to plummet, consequently it was not long before we found a pub for warmth and liquid refreshment.

Tromso is the largest city in Northern Norway with a population of 71,000, 11,000 of which are students. Here there are reputedly more bars per person than anywhere else in Norway and the city has the nickname of 'Paris of the North'. It is also known as the 'Gateway to the Arctic' as many of the Arctic expeditions originated here. Today fishing is of prime importance and it's most interesting landmark is the famous architectural masterpiece - the Arctic Cathedral, which was built in 1965, and has northern Europe's largest stained glass window.

Monday morning dawned bright, sunny and cold and we took ourselves out to do some more exploring before joining a guided walking tour, which took us round some points of historical interest before concluding in Tromso's oldest pub where we sampled beer from the world's northern most brewery, Mack. Finally we had a quick walk in a snowstorm to join the cruise ship which was to be our home for the next three nights.

When the ship left Tromso heading north, in the early evening, all was calm, but as evening turned tonight the weather became wilder as we sailed through a violent storm with winds of gale force 12. We along with many other passengers did not have much sleep that night. By Tuesday morning the storm had blown itself out  and we docked in the small port of Honningsvag as scheduled. However, despite the clear blue skies and sun, our planned excursion to the North Cape was cancelled as the night's storm had left the roads impassable. Instead we went ashore at Honningsvag to have a look around. Here the air was very cold, clear and invigorating which we only very rarely experience in the UK. About a foot of snow had fallen overnight and husband enjoyed himself immensely watching the snowploughs clear the snow into the harbour. There were a few shops open mainly selling Christmas paraphernalia - late for 2013 or early for 2014?

Thankfully Tuesday night was calmer and after a good night's sleep we were up early for our morning's excursion  to the Russian border. The ship docked at Kirkenes (pronounced chickness) the only town in Norway where East meets West. Our coach journey to the border station of Storskog took us through some grim

but stark

and stunning scenery.

 At the border

we were allowed to take photographs

 and buy souvenirs, which were mainly Russian priced in Norwegian krone, but we were not allowed over the  border into Russia and nobody made a run for it.

On the return journey to Kirkenes we stopped on Prestfjellet Mountain for this photo opportunity of the port and the waiting cruise ship.

Alternatively some of our fellow travelers had opted to visit the Snow Hotel, but we decided that the Russian border would be more interesting. Others left the ship at Kirkenes to spend a night in the Snow Hotel before returning home. The temperature there is sub-zero and I like my comforts. Even a rocking bed is preferable to a cold one.

By lunchtime we were back on board the ship. At this point it turned around and we began the return journey south to Tromso. Around 4 pm that afternoon the ship docked briefly at Vardo the most easterly town/port in Norway. Here some very brave or foolish soles went ice dipping in the Barents Sea. We went ashore to stretch our legs and even dressed for the weather this was quite the coldest place that we visited.

That evening we had just begun our starter at dinner when an announcement was made over the tanoy system that the Northern Lights had been sighted in the sky. On hearing this 90% of diners put down their soup spoon and rushed to view this phenomenon. We finished out soup before joining our fellow passengers. There were some faint green smudges in the sky- nothing like the photographs that you see promoting the Northern Lights.
Our third and final night on board the cruise ship was again rough although not quite as bad as the first  night. Just winds of gale force 9 this time. Well one night's sleep out of three isn't bad is it? After the first night I had resigned myself to not having much sleep this holiday. What amazed me was that some passengers slept right through these stormy nights oblivious to the mayhem outside.

Our final port of call on Thursday morning was Hammerfest- the world's most northern town.

Here it was noticeably warmer, but sleet was falling from the leaden skies. We had a short stroll to this unusual church

then visited the Polar Bear Society museum.

Back on board the cruise ship we spent our final afternoon sailing on calm grey water through the dramatic black and white scenery of the fjords.

Shortly before midnight the ship docked back in Tromso and our cruise was over. The final night of our holiday was spent back on terra firma in the same hotel that we had spent our first night.

The whole trip was a new experience for us. We did not see the Northern Lights in all their glory which was the initial objective of the holiday and we are not sure that cruising is for us. The cabin was small or perhaps cozy, with foldaway beds that I had expected and an ensuite the size of a broom cupboard.  We did not expect this particular cruise to be luxurious, but had higher expectations of it. If we are to cruise again we would definitely expect something of a higher standard and it would need to be a much larger cruise ship.