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.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

Happy Weeding.

Some women go out and treat themselves to a new pair of shoes or a handbag but for me today it was a new gardening tool. I still love my heavy duty 18" screwdriver for digging out those long dandelion roots but I thought I'd invest in a daisy grubber. The postman brought it today so it was waiting for me when I got home after a 12 hour shift at school, (parents' evening). I chose a model with a long ash handle and a 15 year guarentee as I know I will be testing it to its limit with the amount of weeds lurking in my lawns. Here's to happy weeding.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

How Many ?

It was raining properly this morning as I left for work but fortunately it stopped mid-morning, just in time for the children's playtime. It all gets a bit frantic when they have to spend the day in the classroom. My children always start the day with a 'morning challenge' before we settle down to do the registers. Today they had to count some supermarket vouchers (that are being collected by the whole school) and put them in bunches of 10 secured by a paperclip. That then led to an impromptu maths lesson where we estimated and counted all the sets of 10 to see how many we had in total. Lots of estimation, multiplication and division going on before we finally found we had 1,500 vouchers. The owls are still bustling about in their nest box though I'm being very strict and switching off the screen if the children start to get too excited. It's the only way at the moment as they are still rather noisy and silly but today was a definite improvement, thank goodness. This recent rain is hastening the demise of the early spring flowers like this tulip at school. Travelling to school some of the cherry trees are already starting to look threadbare with swathes of colour across the pavements below. I'm so lucky with my journey to school, most of it is through farmland and as soon as I reach town I turn off the main road and drive about a mile through residential streets with large front gardens. At the moment colour is supplied by cherry blossom, tulip trees, forsythia, aubretia and magnolias and of course lots of spring bulbs. So much nicer than the dirty built up London streets I used to have to travel through.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Owl Viewing.

"The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles." I've just read this quote on a friend's Face book page and thought it very apt. I'm dreadful for moaning on about all the things that are going on and making myself more miserable in the process. So today was good in that all my parents turned up on time and I kept each meeting to the required less than 10 mins. Also when I found out that my poor TA (teaching assistant) has laryngitis and won't be in for the rest of the week, I was 'lent' a capable student from another class and was able to get on with sorting out books for the parents to see as parents would be arriving almost as soon as the children left the classroom.

Driving home with the gentle rain obscuring the hills, I didn't even bother to look in the mirror to see what was happening with the sunset. It wasn't until I was on the last stretch that I spotted the break in the cloud cover with the setting sun highlighting the tops of the clouds.

Too wet and a bit too late to finish the mowing tonight. I've eaten some of Peter's sausages which turned out well, will do a simple plan for tomorrow and head for bed. Currently my class are getting very excited watching a pair of Barn Owls on the Internet. I've found a nest cam (Barn Owl Trust nest cam)and for the last few weeks we have been forlornly looking at an empty nest box with just a few owl pellets. Yesterday there were 2 owls in the box which caused a great amount of excitement. Hopefully we'll get to see eggs and owlets in the future though owls do have a tendency to finish off the weakest chick.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Grass Cutting Begins.

It was a bit of a shock to the system to be getting up in the dark once more. That's the price of having an extra hour of daylight in the evening after the clocks went forward on Saturday night. At least when I got home I was able to get the lawnmower out for the first cut of the year. The ordinary lawns weren't too hard though I can see an awful lot of moss in the grass, never mind - it's all green, but the hard job was the yearly cut of the wild flower meadow patches. These are where I allow the wild plants to grow naturally just cutting paths around them to make them look part of the garden. However the matted grass needs cutting right down at this time of the year or the flowering plants will be smothered. It should be a job for a strimmer but that's not good for my back so I heave the mower around instead. No gardening tomorrow as it's the first of 2 parents' evenings. No more than 10 mins each and I will have the wall clock down on the table beside me to make sure I keep to time. Today in school the day was all mixed up as they were holding interviews for the Year 2 job (my class - and no I don't wish to be full-time forever). We did have the bonus of a nice buffet lunch to meet the candidates.

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Back On Line.

What a week! Monday started well with lovely sun that continued all week lifting every one's spirits and making it feel like summer. Then Tuesday we had the phone call ... the OFSTED inspection team would be arriving on Thursday! That's the big event everybody fears but knows will be happening one day, currently it's at 3 year intervals. After many late hours of hard work and a forest's worth of paperwork prepared the inspectors arrived. Although all the talk is very positive in reality you know it is more like an inquisition. Figures and results are all important and most decisions have been made before they actually turn up. We are not allowed to divulge the findings until the final draft of the report is done and released to the parents, probably in about a week's time but I can say that most of the staff were out celebrating on Friday night. Not me because I was feeling a bit rough, too tired and a nasty cold brewing. Also Linas was paying us a flying visit. Peter had to go back into town to collect him and we had a kebab meal to celebrate the end of a hard week. Linas is still waiting to hear the result of an interview for a job in Ivybridge that he would really like but is also halfway through the interview process for another job in Exeter. Keep your fingers crossed as it is so hard for youngsters, even those with good degrees, to get a job. Having got the OFSTED over my next trail was the phone line going down again. So no Internet. A BT man came on Saturday and diagnosed the problem as being 2,500m up the wires somewhere but couldn't deal with it then. Luckily another man was able to connect us up on pair of wires this afternoon but apparently the overhead cables from Bowden Corner to Indicott need replacing which would mean closing the road so it may be a little while before that job is done. We couldn't let the good weather pass without going for a walk on the coast. It was bright and sunny but there was a chill breeze and a sea mist.
There were a lot of people out today as holiday makers start to flock to the area so we headed for the high ground to find a sheltered spot to have our coffee. Looking down we had great views of the path we follow around the coast.

The gorse is always blooming but now the grass is dotted with bright yellow celandines and these pretty violets.

After our walk I continued with some gentle gardening work, mainly weeding and cutting back while Peter got on with his great sausage making project. Sometime ago he bought himself a hand mincer, just like his mother had, so that he could make his own tasty sausages without all the nasty additives that manufacturers put in. He's still at it but the results look good though I have been leaving him to work in peace.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Aaaargh !!!!

We had the phone call at school today. OFSTED inspectors will be arriving on Thursday for 2 days of inspection. So I'm stocking up on chocolate and signing off till the weekend by which time it will all be over and I'll be a gibbering wreck.


Monday, 21 March 2011

A Blanket of Fog.

It was rather cloudy and drizzly this morning on my way into school. Fortunately it cleared up later and we even had some sunny spells. By the time I was heading home, after a fairly non-descript day, it was quite foggy. I drove out of town with my lights on and limited visibility with the outlines of trees looming around me. As I got higher I noticed that it was getting lighter and I could even see the occasional patch of blue above. Approaching Shirwell I suddenly burst into bright sunshine. In my mirror I could see that the whole of the river valley was covered with a thick blanket of fog.
I stopped up by the Lewis' farm to take in the amazing view. I was bathed in bright sun looking down on a sea of fog that had obscured all of the valleys.

I was a bit later than usual as I'd had to go and buy some more cat food due to leaving the top off the bin that I keep the bags of cat food in and 2 of the cats spending a happy Saturday taking it in turns to climb into the box and stuff themselves full of cat food. Their bulging stomachs gave the miscreants away. The diversion to the supermarket made it a bit late to go walking today.
Rant of the day, am I old fashioned in objecting to nouns being used as adverbs? It really makes me cringe to hear such things as 'She sang beautiful(ly)'. or ' He played amazing(ly)'. I find this inability to add a suffix to be lazy speech rather than a natural evolution, on a par with saying 'we was'. Perhaps the English language is being dumbed down to the lowest common denomenator and I'm just a finickity old woman, after all I'm not above using a split infintive to strongly emphasise a point!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Where Did The Sun Go ?

We woke this morning to another sunny day. With the outdoor temperature at 20c we set off for another walk. I should have known that wearing shorts, applying sunscreen and opening the car sunroof was asking for trouble. Halfway to Mortehoe the clouds gathered and it started to rain. Luckily it had cleared by the time we got there and I did have a jacket in the car.We did the medium walk going first along the track to Bull Point Lighthouse and then swinging back along the top of Rockham Bay before going round Morte Point. It was too windy and cold to stop at our usual spot so we waited till we had turned back across the hill before we sat and had our Sunday lunch of coffee and bagels. I persuaded Peter to take a photo of me in my summer walking gear, it's the first time my poor little legs have seen the sun this year but they never feel cold so it's shorts from now on, unless it's actually raining.
The rest of my day has been spent doing school work, that never ending task of planning every second of every day.
(PS How does any of the above create a link to Transcendential Meditation, Funeral Arrangements or Waste Disposal ? Great Coffee deals I can follow but how did Google pick those as things I might be interested in ?)

Saturday, 19 March 2011

Bennet's Mouth And Rockham Bay.

This morning Peter had been invited to play golf which gave me the chance to go for a longer walk. First shock of the day, the parking fees had gone up from 60p for 2 hours and £1.20 for all day to £1.40 for 2 hours and £2.60 for all day. That's more than double! I headed out on the Bull Point track which does start off as a dark dank lane but soon opens up to this view of the cliffs and the sea.
I had intended taking the first steep path off the track down into the coombe but the presence of a vehicle and the sounds of industry below me lead me to believe that some repair work was being done to the path so I carried on along the main track. This lead me up onto high ground and magnificent views of Rockham Bay and the whole of Morte Point.
Instead I took the next path down to the coombe. This path is all earth and very steep and pretty treacherous in wet weather but today it was dry and I was able to carefully make my way down to the valley bottom with its stunted trees and rushing stream.
Alongside the stream there were swathes of native daffodils which are smaller and less showy than the garden varieties but looked just right in this woodland setting.
Out along the grassy valley to Bennet's Mouth where I made my first stop. As I sat I could feel the warm sun on my back and a breeze on my face. My ears were filled with the sound of the stream rushing out over the beach stones and in the distance I could see the occasional wave splashing over the rocks. And of course I had coffee and cake. A feast for all my senses.
Then it was time to hike up the side of the coombe. Mindful of my dodgy knee I am making a conscious effort to lead with my left so that I don't put extra strain on my right knee. It seems to have paid off as this evening my knee is no worse than usual despite the many steps I climbed today. Reaching the top of the cliff I had a great view along the coast towards Ilfracombe.

Round the headland by Bull Point and back to Rockham Bay. The tide was out so I decided to go down to the beach.
There were a few people on the beach and a lot of walkers up on the cliff brought out by the wonderful sunny weather. I began to wish I had, like my oldest son, declared the start of shorts season. (He will now be wearing shorts every day until the first signs of snow next winter.)

I had a walk on the beach, visiting the remains of a wrecked iron ship and walking to the water's edge before climbing back up the 92 steps. From there I carried on along the coast path soon coming to the point where we usually start our walk. I kept on going and stopped for a second coffee break at our usual bench near Morte Point. As I made my way up the final stretch I disturbed a 6" lizard which hurriedly scrambled back into the gorse. There is only one kind of lizard in most parts of the country so they are just called ....... lizards. We don't have many snakes either, only adders (poisonous) and grass snakes (not) which live in heath and scrub and not often seen with a third rare endangered species the smooth snake in only a few locations. We also have slow worms which look like snakes but are really legless lizards but again not often seen. So we are quite lucky here, not even any nasty bugs - midges, some mosquitoes, wasps, bees and occasional hornets are the worst that nature throws at us.

As I walked up the very final slope I turned to train my binoculars on Lundy and the Old Lighthouse when I spotted what looked like an enormous floating grey box. It was so big that it made a nearby container vessel look tiny. I went up to a stone wall to steady myself for a better view and fell into conversation with a couple sitting on a bench there who also had binoculars trained on the sea. They didn't know what it was either but pointed out that there was a helicopter hovering near the container ship. We watched both ships for a while and the helicopter moved right over the deck flying low, then moved astern. My guess was that someone, a medic? had been lowered onto the ship. In the meantime the big grey box carried on up towards the Bristol Channel. By zooming in with my camera and then zooming into the picture I got the above shot. A quick check on the web revealed that it was a Ro-Ro ship with this particular ship being capable of carrying 5,500 cars. The google image I found was of this ship entering Sidney Harbour.
I had a wonderful walk and was out for 3 1/2 hours. Even allowing half an hour for stops and chatting I must have covered a fair few miles. Maybe it is time to get myself a pedometer to see exactly how far I am walking.
Back home I did some weeding in the sun and have decided that it is finally time to chop down my big golden leylandii arch. I really like it and it only needs trimming 2 or 3 times a year but it is becoming too difficult for me to do the whole thing especially the very top. I'm scheduling that for the Easter holiday by which time I will have thought of some way of screening the scruffy woodshed behind it.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Red Nose Day.

Yesterday evening was a real pain. After a relaxed morning followed by an afternoon spent outside - hula-hooping first then a walk aroung the school grounds discussing what the children did and didn't like I then had a stressful staff meeting. Nothing major but as a result I've got lots of extra work to do and have to change a few things simply for the sake of doing the same as everyone else. Then the PC played up, I went upstairs and the light bulb in the bedroom blew and with it went my personal fuse. Today we all came into school dressed as 'book' characters for Red Nose Day and my choice of The Bad Tempered Ladybird (black leggings, a red fleece with added black spots, a black thermal snood and red fluffy deely boppers) suited me perfectly. The children came in a variety of costumes, many were Disney cartoon characters while Harry Potter, Where's Wally, pirates and ballerinas also featured. A couple of my boys came in full camo kit and justified their choice by clutching information books on military history but they did have to hand over their toy guns to be stored in my cupboard along with a plastic hand grenade and a sword( from Peter Pan). In this country Halloween is not a major festival so the children don't have a tradition of dressing up apart from birthday parties or special days at school. Adults in this part of the country however seem do a lot of dressing up, I think that starts in their student days and here the tradition of dressing up for carnivals has shifted to parties in general (especially hen and stag nights) and to New Year's Eve when the towns are full of people old and young dressed up and partying in the streets.
It was raining rather heavily this morning as we made a quick dash to the next-door junior school to join them (all dressed in red) to sing the Red Nose Day song after being told silly jokes by their Head teacher. Then it was back to school for more book related activities. Book week just happened to coincide with Red Nose Day hence the cross-over. Yesterday I had given my class the freedom to plan and write any book at all but I snuck in an educational slant by insisting that they wrote a plan first before letting them loose with blank books that I had made for them. My only rule was no violence ie killing etc and they worked on those for most of the day. One little girl, not in my top group, wrote an amazing book about Windsor Castle with lots of interesting information and beautiful illustrations. I've cleared a shelf in our book corner for all their books so that they can really feel that they are authors.
I stayed late after school making some of the changes that I needed to do so I didn't get out for a walk. I didn't get out yesterday either as a light rain was falling when I made my way home and the farmer was out muck spreading on the fields by the road which was consequently covered with a light layer of slurry and a much thicker layer of mud from the tractor tyres.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

****** PC

This bl....dy thing has just eaten an hour's worth of blogging! I'll put up one photo and then I'm giving up.

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

The Dance Festival.

It was another lovely day today, 16C (60F) which is good enough for me. The Dance Festival went really well with my class pulling off their country dance despite some children being away. In our last few practices I had concentrated on getting them to dance in any order and even to dance on their own if their partner was away, or in the toilet, or sitting down because of a stubbed toe and for 6 and 7 year olds they did brilliantly. It was a very informal affair , no audience, just the primary school children taking part and their teachers. The older children did some amazing dances, mainly compilations that had everything from the Can-Can to Ballroom to Modern danced to traditional music through to pop. That was the morning and in the afternoon I had PPA time with the other Year 2 teachers and finally after school I changed one of my display boards and put up some great pen and pencil drawings of flowers and various branches from the Secret Garden. That kept me at school till late but it was still mild enough to get out for my walk up the hill. All along the local hedgerows are splashes of bright yellow daffodils which have been planted to herald the spring. There are great swathes of them as you approach the villages and gardens are bright with yellow forsythia, pink camellias and pink and white blossom on ornamental trees. Every now and again in the country lanes you can see the white froth of Blackthorn blossom in amongst the still bare branches.
No clouds so no pretty sunset tonight, just a pink haze and the mist starting to obscure the hills.

As I was a bit later today I didn't go further than the top of the road, just turned around and headed back down the hill again.
Note - putting a baked potato in the oven for 11 hours does not work. Even wrapped in foil and at the bottom of the oven. I was experimenting to see if I could have a baked potato ready for when I came home as by the nature of things the Rayburn is always on. It only has one cooking oven, unlike an Aga and the lower compartment is only for keeping things warm, the cats especially if I leave the door open.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Jaws The Tragic Koi Carp.

This morning it was an organised rush to get the kids in early, registered, toileted and ready to walk to the local secondary school, just across the road, for a performance by the performance poet - Justin Coe. He was very good and the children enjoyed the whole event. There were almost a few tears at the Tale of Jaws the Tragic Koi Carp sung to the tune of Puff the Magic Dragon and plenty of laughs at the references to bums and pants. Back at school we had a final run through of our dances for tomorrow's dance festival. The weather was amazingly mild, as good as any (British) summer's day and the children were all out playing without jumpers. It was too nice to stay at work so I left school fairly early and got home in time for another walk up the road. It is good to stretch my legs after a day in school and let my mind wander in the relative peace of the countryside.
All around new leaves are appearing and even a few early flowers.

Once I got to the road I turned the other way and walked down past Ashelford Corner. When I'm out I do find it hard to decide when to turn round and head for home so I usually stop at a gateway and stare at the view for a while before walking back.
No spectacular sunset tonight, just a haze drawing over the hills and a darkening of the skies.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Stepping Out.

Not so sunny today and very frosty first thing but despite only having a few hours' sleep I've had a good day at school. I was my usual grumbly self to start with (a bad habit of mine) as it looked like I had lost my hall time due to a visiting writer but luckily by the time I dragged my class outside to practice their dances without any music the hall was suddenly free and we were able to have a long practice which certainly helped towards next Wednesday's performance. Last thing in the afternoon it was the first of 3 tennis sessions and the lad teaching turned out to be a boy who went to the local village school with my boys. Once again it was light enough when I got home for my brisk walk up the hill to be extended to Bowden Corner before I turned for home. It's no great distance, 1 1/2 miles in total but it blows the cobwebs away and hopefully the hill is making me fitter.
When we are out walking on the cliffs, one of the things I enjoy (as well as the beautiful views and lack of people), is the varied nature of the actual path. No concrete strip to march along once you turn off the road but the bare earth and rocks themselves. Walking down the coombe (a coombe is a steep valley leading to the sea), the path is a choice of stoney soil or rabbit trimmed grass.
The bedrock is so close to the surface that it often provides a better walking surface than the soil which being clay can be very slippery when wet.

Here a scramble over rocks before walking between the gorse bushes.

And every now and again are some 'never ending stairs' which wind their way up the steep cliff sides. Each step is a different depth and height which is good? exercise though not so wonderful for the knees.

At the top of the cliffs the path is simply grass. I like this stretch because it really does look as if you are about to walk off the cliff though in reality there is a steep stepped gravel path heading downwards.
In many places you have to walk carefully over the vertically layered slate, not too comfortable to negotiate in sandals but my new walking boots are now nicely broken in and support my feet well. I'm quite looking forward to the 11 mile Nightwalk in 6 week's time.
A sunset last week. Tonight the sky was soft shades of pink and grey, not dramatic enough to photograph. Coming down the hill a big hare ran across the road in front of me and into the field.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Back Again.

It was hard to look at the sun shining off the sea today and imagine the destructive power that has caused so much devastation on the other side of the world. Every day we hear of disasters and the suffering of people due to the vagaries of nature. It is hard to comprehend the extent of what has happened in Japan or what may still be happening. I can only thank God that my family lives in a place where our worries are about finding a job or our miserable weather. The weather here has been warming up though the snow has been falling heavily up in Scotland. With the sun out once more it was time to put our boots on and head out for the cliffs. At the car park when I came back to the car after buying a parking ticket (free car parking is a thing of the past here), Peter was still in the car accompanied by a small black cat! We quickly realised that it was neither tiny Elwen or that heffalump Patch but the question was - could it possibly be one of the stable's cats which had jumped in the car while we were loading the rubbish to take up the road? This cat was too comfortable and friendly and a little too big to be Patch and Elwen's mother so we presumed this was a Mortehoe cat which was simply extra friendly. It was quite relaxed and happy to be picked up and once I let it go outside of the car it wandered round then lay down in a patch of sunlight by a car. Everywhere spring flowers were drinking in the sun.

We took the longer route heading first towards Rockham Bay and then swinging back round Morte Point. It was warm enough to spend a while just watching the waves while we drank our coffee.
I'm pleased that I'm back on line once more. Peter cobbled my old pc together last week but I could only get Google Chrome which doesn't support Blogger. This week-end my new mother board arrived and I now have a brand new rebuilt pc. Of course it works differently and some of my usual stuff is missing which is intensely annoying but I'm sure I'll get used to it.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Saturday's Walk.

Hooray, now I can upload photos again so here are a few from Saturday.

Most of the pretty cottages in the village are holiday homes / rental properties.
One of the sets of 'never ending stairs' that are built into the steep hillside.
Going down the coombe towards the sea.

Gorse flowers glowing in the sun.

Rockhan Beach can only be reached by a steep wooden staircase built against the side of the cliff.

A different view of Morte Point which is such a beautiful spot for walking.