Welcome to family, friends and visitors. Here you will find interesting (hopefully) pictures of my part of the world, news of our household and probably, long ramblings about anything that catches my interest.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Proud Mum.

Who would have thought that this cheerful toddler........

........would grow into a 6'4" Master of Physics and now is starting a PhD, (something to do with condensed matter/micro technology).

I was such a proud mum at Vytas' graduation at Leicester University this summer. (Don't look at my hair, the rainy weather turned me into a total frizzhead). Vytas is still living in Leicester with Kate who is doing a Masters at the uni. Sorry guys, I just had to put your photos up. When Vytas told me this morning that he'd got his PhD place I was so excited. I celebrated in the accepted fashion at work by taking in cakes and chocolate biscuits.
The weather is wet, and very windy though the wind which was coming from the west was surprisingly warm. I taught in the afternoon, all the kids were dressed as gardeners or flowers or scarecrows to celebrate Harvest Festival. Although many parents like uniform I think it regiments the children and I much prefer it when we have non-uniform days.
Kids are funny, I was doing an RE lesson about Joseph and Jacob and they got fixated on the blood on Joseph's coat. They wanted to know all the gruesome details , we didn't go into that, and then someone said 'they murdered the sheep', so I had to divert into talking about the fact that meat on the table is the result of animals being killed. A difficult concept at the best of times and with a recent bereavement in the class it was a fine line between truth and skipping over the facts. I hope I got it right.
The wind is howling outside this evening. Soon it will be time to light the woodburner for some extra warmth. The cats are starting to curl up together cutely by the rayburn in the kitchen.
This morning Donovan was on the tv, promoting his new album. It's funny to see how much he has changed but when he sang the voice was still the same.As a child of the 60s his music brought back memories so I've included an old clip for anyone else who remembers those times.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Autumn Returns.

The weather was much cooler today, sunshine and showers. I was called into work for the morning and it started to rain just as I drove home. The lanes are beginning to look more autumnal, leaves turning brown and fewer flowers. At home I tried to get some work done in the garden but apart from burning up a big pile of brambles, rain kept stopping play. I had some urgent letters to post, (usually I just give my post to our friendly postie), so I drove to the nearest post box at East Down. The boys wanted to go to the pub so I drove them down and they walked home along the footpaths.
The Pyne Arms in East Down.
(The Prancing Pony?)

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Morning Visitors.

We were enjoying yet another sunny day with a lie in and a cup of tea when we realised that Coral and her foal were walking about on the lawn by the conservatory. Not a good idea, so I leapt out of bed, threw on some clothes and phoned next door before going outside and grabbing a bucket. Coral was quite skittish, cantering across the lawns, so I decided I would just calm them down and wait for my neighbour as I didn't want to send them flying up the road. My neighbour soon came and took them back down to the stables where they will be confined to quarters until the fence can be mended. Not too much damage apart from hoof prints in the lawn, but the grass will soon grow.
Went to church in Ilfracombe. Some of the youngsters raised money for a youth cafe that the church is opening in town, by auctioning themselves for a day. Their descriptions of themselves were very honest eg- not too good at cooking but willing to learn. it was all good fun and they raised a lot of money. Afterwards dropped in at Tesco so I could buy chocolate for yet another chocolate chunk cake.

The coast is on the right of the middle lamp post.

Then it was off to the car boot sale. I estimated over 600 buyers' cars in the field. I enjoy hunting for bargains though I try to be selective in what I buy. My aim is to declutter, not fill the house up again. I was especially pleased to get some Habitat paper lampshades that I had intended buying from Habitat the next time I went to Exeter or Bristol. I'm typing this post by the light of a touch lamp that a stall holder gave me last week because he just didn't want to take it home.

Not much else done today, the boys have just returned from a hike down to East Down and I think the cake is disappearing rapidly.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Friday's Walk.

Another glorious day, and it's the weekend. How good is that? As I lay in bed this morning with only the sound of birdsong I thought what a long way we've come from when we were first married, over 30 years ago. Our first home was a council flat, new and very nice but overlooking a motorway with lorries roaring past, 24/7 and just a 5ft square balcony. And now we have all this.
Jake is staying over for the weekend so that he and Romas can shoot each other with their airsoft guns. They've also been electrocuting each other with some laser pistols and if that wasn't enough they've had a few bouts with big wooden home-made swords. I can see a bit of a pattern here. Speaking as an ardent pacifist I don't think I quite got the message across. Oldest son, Vytas, often spends his weekends taking part in battles with pike and armour. Oh, and I've got two swords hanging on the bedroom wall but I abhor fighting, honestly.
Gardening today was more cutting back of summer growth and general tidying up. There is still so much in flower, even the climbing roses have a good display and the passion flower is still producing flowers. It was barbecue time again, very civilised. I freecycled a double mattress which was surplus to requirements which was collected this afternoon but the single bed I also offered has no takers, so if we can get it in the car we'll take it to the recycling centre.
Some pictures from yesterday's walk.

Morning sunshine across the fields.

A cattle track which narrows and falls steeply into our valley.

Down at the bottom of the track is the same stream which flows 3ft from the back of the house.

Let's be thankful for our beautiful world.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Silly Moos

It was a lovely sunny if slightly chilly morning so I decided to treat myself to a nice long walk across the fields, happy snapping as I went. Saving the rest of the photos for later as I wanted to post some fun stuff today. Spent most of the day working in the garden and enjoying the sun.

First the 'Silly Moos' seen on my drive around Shirwell.

I stopped in a gateway to check out the views and was spotted by these cows, (bullocks actually).

'Come on lads, lets see who that is at our gate.'
'You lead, we'll follow.'

'Careful, she might actually touch us.'
And then , on being offered a handful of grass, they all ran away.
Silly Moos.

More fun clips which hopefully will raise a smile.

This always made me laugh when I heard it on the radio.
This one gets Pete laughing.
When I first heard this I rang up the radio station to find out who it was by. The Youtube clip with Weird Al singing can't be copied but I found this one with the Lego people.
Enjoy. Back to normal tomorrow.

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Cow's Muck.

Today I worked all day, reception in the morning and year 1 in the afternoon. Lots of the staff have really bad colds and the children are starting to go down with tummy bugs. Pretty standard for this time of year. I would not be surprised to get a phone call in the morning asking me to work. Hope not because I suspect I may have caught a tummy bug from the children. Don't worry , there'll be no further details.
Birthday has just arrived back home with rather a whiff of cow slurry about him. That's because the farmers have been at their favourite dry weather occupation - muck flinging. I like the smell of cows but whole fields of it gets rather pungent. One of Romas' friends remarked that you know you are a true North Devon person when the smell of cows' muck through the car window reminds you of home.
Note the dark brown area where the muck spreader has been. I assume the seagulls, which only flew off when I got out of the car to take a photo, were feeding on the small creatures that live in the muck - nice! The buzzard that was feeding only 10 ft from the car also flew away but that is part of the buzzard saga which hasn't yet reached its conclusion. Watch this space.

Some views of hills.

I've tried to analyse why hills fascinate me and I think it is because of the flowing lines creating such strong shapes. My favourite views are when the sun is low and casting shadows that highlight all the contours of the hillsides. It shouldn't be too long before the best conditions coincide with my journeys to and from work and I may be able to get some decent shots. That is of course if it isn't raining .

I was standing with my back to a fairly new housing development on the edge of Barnstaple , looking north. The planning regulations are so stringent here that there is very little chance of any further building on these lovely hills.

Down in the back valleys behind Shirwell. These hills are really steep which doesn't show too well in photos.

Most of the land around here is only used for grazing cattle or sheep.

What a view.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Leafy Lanes.

Had a full day at school and I've just had a phone call to ask me to teach the little ones again tomorrow instead of going swimming with the year 2s as planned. Everyone at work is going down with sore throats and temperatures, that's fairly usual for the beginning of term. I can feel the beginning of a cold but I usually manage to battle on. I have the added incentive that if I don't work I don't get paid.

More pictures from yesterday's journey home.

A back road in the river valley near Snapper.

The main road ,(wide enough for two cars to pass easily), to Bratton Flemming is in between the hedges running across the picture.

A typical back road, if you meet another car one of you has to reverse to a passing place.

A farmer's track.

One of the many twisting lanes that climb the hills.

Another track; these are fine when it is dry or if you are driving a landrover but I wouldn't like to try them in wet weather with my little micra.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Local Valleys.

Looking across the tops of the hills of the hills towards Bideford Bay.
I'm a morning person so usually I don't have a problem with the 6.00 alarm. This morning it was pitch black, (we never draw the curtains), and I really didn't feel like getting up but it's no good breaking the routine and Romas would never get out of bed without several wake-up calls. I was planning a peaceful kitchen tidying for the morning when the phone rang with a call to work. So I've spent the whole day teaching and will be teaching all day tomorrow and Thursday. This morning was my first time with the new reception children (4/5yrs) and apart from a few tears when the Mums brought them in, we had a good morning. I've now been at the school so long that I could recognise family likenesses and even remember some of them as babies. So far this term I've had to try and remember the names of 120 children only 15 of whom I've taught before. I'm getting there slowly.
We had sunshine for most of the day so I drove a roundabout way home to take some local landscape pictures hopefully during the sunny spells. Today's series of pictures are of lush valleys with the trees just starting to change colour.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Shirwell Church.

Sunrise this morning on the way to work.
I was working all day and it was quite chilly in the morning. Later in the day the sun was blazing and it was positively baking as I was out on the field at school with my class playing tag rugby. I'm not naturally sporty so luckily for the children they had a proper coach and I was just the assistant. I took advantage of the sunshine on the way home to take a few pictures of the church in Shirwell. The boys went to the primary school there and I have fond memories of harvest festivals and carol services there. Also sad memories of local funerals. Shirwell alternates Christmas services with East Down which also has a pretty little church. We always go to whichever church has the midnight service, apart from the very first year when we missed the experience of snow falling and blanketing the church yard during the midnight service.
The church was originally built in the 15th century and many of the Chichester family including Sir Francis Chichester, are buried in the church yard. The grave stones are interesting but I'm a bit squeamish about possibly walking on peoples' graves.
Pete had a study day today and as he had completed and sent his assignment early he had a barbecue prepared for when I came home. (Spicy chicken thighs and grilled courgettes with roast sweet potatoes and onion, mm.) That man does like to barbecue.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Car Boot Sale.

Pete looked out of the window and saw this sparrowhawk eating one of the jackdaws. I hope it won't become a regular visitor to the garden as they go for all the little birds. The jackdaw was probably one of the birds that nested in the attic. When it was feeding time, upstairs it would sound like Hitchcock's 'The Birds'. Last year it was one nest, this year it was several including one in one of the chimney pots. Better not light a fire in the kitchen.

It was another sunny day today though with more cloud than yesterday. I took the opportunity to go to the Sunday afternoon car boot sale. It's held out in a field and is so big that it took me 2 hours to walk around. The car boot sale is the place to hear languages other than English possibly because recent economic migrants are on low wages and know it is a excellent place to buy things cheaply. Last week I seemed to hear people speaking in Lithuanian at every turn. Mine and Peter's parents came from Lithuania after the war though we were both born in the UK.( Pete in London and myself in Cornwall). Though Pete is fluent, I understand and speak only a little so I have never introduced myself to anyone I hear speaking the language and they do sound like quite a rough lot. We have a lot of Lithuanian migrants in the area who came to work here after Lithuania joined the EU. When we first came to Devon I don't think anyone in Devon had even heard of Lithuania.
A country lane on the way to the car boot sale.

The afternoon sun across my neighbour's field.

Part of the garden.


Carnival Fireworks.

Yesterday was a sunny, lovely day. The wings on this dragonfly looked as if they were covered in scales of gold. Why is it that sunshine is so uplifting ? When the sun is shinning my spirits are raised, I feel positive and energised. I spent a satisfying day out in the garden enjoying the sunshine,(reading) and getting some jobs done. I was painting a wall when Romas, who was cutting grass - for cash, called out that there was a pony out on the road. I grabbed a bucket and did the old stones in a bucket trick, caught the pony and using one of the headcollars that are left by the gateways, took it back down to the stables. When something like that occurs it reminds me of how much I used to enjoy looking after peoples' horses ( in the East End of London). We did ride at the stables next door but once the boys started riding it got very expensive to pay for 4 lessons at a time and I couldn't justify being the only one to ride. Pete barbequed some steaks and we had a leisurely outdoor lunch, that's the way to live.
Later in the evening Romas and I went into town to watch the fireworks. (Pete has a knee injury so needs to rest up. ) As we drove into town we just caught the tail end of the carnival. It's a fantastic atmosphere, crowds of people and lots of children everywhere either strolling back to the car parks or making their way towards the river to watch the fireworks or over to the fair. I tried to get some atmospheric shots and the batteries went flat and for once the spares were at home. The carnival floats congregate in the civic centre car park and many still had the music blaring out and lights blazing. There are always a lot of marching musicians and a salsa band was enthusiastically carrying on. Amongst the crowds were many people in their carnival costumes. The fireworks are set off from an old factory site on one bank of the river and everybody can get a good view, either from the Long Bridge or from the pedestrianised area by the river that used to be the old bus station. Romas and I found a spot on the concrete wharf where we could sit against some railings and have a superb view of the fireworks which as usual were spectacular.
As I failed to get any decent shots here are a series of pictures I took on a grey morning about a week ago. I always love the idea of looking through a tunnel of trees.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Indian Summer.

Today we had the most glorious sunshine. In fact it was positively hot. Just like a summer's day. In fact better than a summer's day seeing as it was grey or rainy for the whole of August. And what was I doing today? Soaking up the sun in the garden? Roaming the countryside looking for those special shots? No, I was teaching all day. An easy class and we had a fun day though the big topic of conversation is the fair. It's a really big event in their lives. One lad was telling the class how he was going to the fair yesterday but couldn't because his sister had broken the car window. I was rather surprised because his sister is a petite 10 yr old but it turned out that the window switch had broken. Dad was getting a new car today which was 'like a jeep'. 'Ah' I said, ' you're getting a 4 wheel drive vehicle.' I was treated to a very odd look and told ,'yes, it will have 4 wheels.' Obviously elderly teachers can get a bit confused about cars.

I couldn't resist taking a few shots of the flowers in the lovely evening light.

I walked round the garden yesterday, putting off doing some mundane weeding, and I counted 50 types of flower still blooming. Some ,like the aubretia,honeysuckle and the roses have just a few flowers left but others are still giving a lovely display.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Barnstaple Fair.

This morning was bright and sunny with a slight chill and mist lingering in the valleys. Having slight focus problems with the camera, or my eyes, so this is the only decent picture.
Back to Barnstaple Fair. 'The origins are lost in the mists of antiquity,' says the web. The fair is almost as old as the town and is reputed to date back to the time of Athelstan - 955. There are records showing it was well established in 1154. In those days it was a livestock fair with a day each for cattle, sheep and horses. The 'pleasure fair' originated in those days and later it was known as the 'saturnalia of North Devon'. They must have been a rowdy lot. The fair always starts on the Wednesday before 20th Sept with a civic ceremony and a mayoral procession from the Guildhall to the fair site.

The gloved hand in the upper window represents the hand of friendship.

The doorway of the Guildhall is always decorated with flowers .

" Now which ride shall I go on first?"

I took these shots just before the fair opened.

There's always lots of fast food at the fair.
The fair will stay open until late on Saturday. On Saturday afternoon there is a carnival which winds its way through town. I've walked along collecting money a couple of times when my boys were on the sea cadets' float. Children that recognised me from school were usually very surprised to see me in a different setting. After the carnival most people make their way over the Long Bridge to the fair and then as it gets dark they throng onto the bridge or beside the river to watch the fireworks. Like many people I like to walk around the fair watching the fun before seeing the fireworks. The rides are pretty expensive though, £5-£7 for the bigger rides. I don't know how families can afford it. My boys used to wander round with their friends but even if I gave them money they would just save it for something else. Pete has an OU assignment to do so yet again if I go, it will be on my own.