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.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Balmy Day.

The current heatwave continues much to everyone's joy. People were reporting temperatures up to 30C in Devon. The waves are 4-6ft and clean so I expect everyone will be flocking to the beaches tomorrow. I had a little painting to finish in the morning (Speedy has acquired some racing stripes of white gloss paint on his side), and then I took myself outside for a polishing session. The door handles were put on by the previous owner so they are not anything special but they do look a lot better for a proper polish. Now that I can work my MP4 player I was able to listen to an audio book, The Hobbit, to while away the time. I also did some cutting back of the purple loosestrife. I originally grew this from seed and apart from cutting it back in autumn, it looks after itself and makes a good splash of tall colour in the late summer.
The raspberries are producing some autumn fruit which the birds don't seem to have noticed so I am able to grab a tasty handful when I go to hang washing out on the line. The gate into the chickens' run is one of the last places to catch the sun in the garden and had attracted a few sunbathing butterflies. Here's hoping this weather continues for a while yet.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

What A Scorcher!

The exceptional weather continues. Today was the sort of day we would have been only too happy to have in the summer. I went to work this afternoon and then had to go into town afterwards but I plan to spend most of tomorrow outside. Might as well enjoy the good weather while it is here. I checked out the rumours of cold weather in Oct and it looks as if they are well founded. Snow is even predicted for parts of the country on 22-24 Oct that's only 3 weeks away! So now I shall be rushing to finish the warm weather jobs while making sure we are fully prepared for a cold spell.
As I walked around town this evening it reminded me of the lovely warm feeling you get when you step out of a plane at the start of a Mediterranean holiday. However driving back up into the hills it soon felt chilly in the shade. In some places the road was still wet with last night's heavy dew and it was the same in the garden.

The air is very humid and as soon as the temperature dropped things (including my washing on the line) became damp again. Going to collect the washing my feet became soaked just from brushing against a few plants.

This morning's 'house' jobs included more painting and laying new underlay in the hall. Tomorrow should see the last of the current batch of painting and then when the doors are dry I can relay the carpet.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011


The Indian summer continues. At lunchtime the garden thermometer read 24C which is hot, hot, hot for here at any time of the year. A good breeze made the day perfect so at school we made sure that the children had a nice long playtime. Once again we are advising the children to wear sunhats and I set a comical example in my battered canvas sunhat. The man from Sky came this morning to fix our satellite box (which was working again anyway) and said that he had heard several people saying that we are due for dreadful weather (snow!) in October and a really cold winter. Heating is expensive so it will be time to layer up first with all my fluffy tops, joggers, dressing gowns etc. Today at least I rushed home to change into shorts to take advantage of the sun and sat outside polishing brass door handles. A lot of the garden was in shade but the sunny patches were like being at the beach. In some places that had been in shade all day the plants and the ground were still soaking wet.
This morning at last I was able to start painting the downstairs woodwork. It is so satisfying to see the yellowing paintwork transforming into sparkling bright white. It took quite a while especially when some of the door frames are so elaborate. You wouldn't think so to look at them but I counted 13 faces on the frame of the bathroom door. Hopefully I'll get the first coat done on all of them tomorrow, then fill in any gaps that are still glaringly obvious and then I can paint a final coat and put all the door handles back.

As I stood outside admiring the butterflies, several landed in my hair and then this butterfly sat on my t-shirt. Luckily I was holding my camera and was able to get several clear pictures before it eventually flew off.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Greedy Speedy.

Speedy continues to live up to his name. His favourite trick is to leap up, sink his his teeth into something tasty and zoom off as fast as possible all in one move. Until he learns that this is not allowed he gets shouted at and thrown out of doors. He also wolfs his food as if he hasn't eaten for days. I had put this down to him being a starving stray before Fred gave him a home but I decided to worm him again just in case. A while ago I discovered worming granules that you simply sprinkle on the cats' food which was a welcome relief from trying to push a tablet down a struggling cat's throat. However today I only had a tablet so I tried to slip it into his mouth with no success. Tablet spat out on the floor and a couple of small scratches in my hand. Before I threw the tablet away I had a sudden thought and dropped it into Speedy's bowl in the dry food which he was gobbling up at his usual rate. A drop of milk to make it more palatable and in a few seconds the bowl was empty. Job done. Then 10 mins later he was up on the counter again munching his way through a home grown tomato! The weather has continued to get better and better. It was roasting in the afternoon and at school the children were complaining about being too hot.
In the morning I hung some washing outside and even the towels were nearly dry by the time I got home.

The afternoon golden sun was lighting up the tops of the trees and my neighbour's lake even though our house was already in the shade. It shows how important it is to chose a good site when building a house. (That's if you are fortunate enough to have a choice.) There are a lot of wild ducks on Paul's lake but there are not many of the call ducks left.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Warming Up

It has been very warm, humid and by the time I was on my way home, very wet. The black cloud seemed to follow me home so I gave up my plan to do a little garden work. The morning saw 2 sets of doors and frames washed, sandpapered and filled. Just the toilet door and the doors into the sitting room to prepare and then I can get stuck into the satisfying job of painting. I had the tv on in the kitchen and today's property show featured a kitchen with exactly the same wooden cupboards as are in our kitchen. They were described as 'tired' and by the end of the program had been replaced with a more modern kitchen. Apart from being a little old I don't think they look that bad. Our whole place has been looking rather battered, the result of bringing up 3 boys and having numerous pets. I haven't minded the worn farmhouse look and I wasn't going to expend energy on trying to keep the place pristine as that would only have led to rows and stress. But now we hope to sell in a few years time and I am only working part-time I can get the place to a much better standard while dreaming about a new home for the future.

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Sunday Stroll.

Woke up with quite a lot of twinging in my back so the jury is still out as to whether gig rowing will be for me. Maybe it was simply too much after the mowing. I'll have another go and then see what happens. It was beautifully warm today. Shh, perhaps we're having an Indian Summer. Anyway, I was glad with my choice of shorts for our stroll around Morte Point. With the bracken dying back everything looked very autumnal.
The waves looked good for surfing in the strong wind. The wind was still coming from the south and I nearly was blown into another walker when a gust caught me as we rounded the point. The walk got rid of the cobwebs and it was good to stretch our legs. Back home I finished off the day with some gardening. My first job was to sit with a cup of tea and prevent Speedy from eating butterflies by sending him to sleep with some cuddles. It was a good thing he had his eyes shut when a butterfly landed on his head. There were also quite a few dragonflies around. It looks as if one of the hens has decided to go broody. She was very free with her pecks when I lifted her off the nest only to discover zero eggs. Our 3 hens give us 1 or 2 eggs a day which is more than ample for our needs.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Gig Rowing

I had my first try at gig rowing this afternoon. My back is stinging like mad right now but as it was pretty sore this morning after yesterday's mowing I will give it another go before making any decision. Also I will ask to sit on the other side of the boat as I could feel my bad hip twinging. I would like to be more active and as Peter is so involved in the gig club it would be good to do something together (though I don't fancy blisters on the bum which is a hazard).
This is the gig that I went out in. It is plastic and easier to row than the Odessa (top picture) which is built of wood and much heavier. I quite enjoyed the rowing though there was so much to concentrate on. I found keeping in time not too bad and I didn't catch too many crabs. It was when the trainer sitting behind myself and the other person having a taster session started to instruct me to keep my arms straight and then pull my hand right up to my shoulder, that things got a bit unravelled. Too many things to think about at once! It was fun and at times we got into a steady rhythm and flew along.

Myself and the other newbie at the boat shed after we had walked the gig along the road.

Another view of the Phillipa Jay.

This was Peter's second row of the day so he was content. While he was rowing I went to the library and did a little shopping. Afterwards we stopped at the Co-op and got more bargains including some lamb bhuna and onion bhajis which we had for supper.

Didn't do very much earlier in the day as my back was bad and I had a nasty sinus headache. However Peter and I did remodel the cabinet that the tv sits on, or rather we hacked the back off to make it more suitable for the flat screen tv. The hardest part was replacing the wheels at the back as we needed a 12mm drill bit to make the holes to put the fittings in and we had to search high and low for one. (Tidying and sorting all our tools is on my to-do list but not until I've finnishe the current round of decorating.)

Friday, 23 September 2011

A Little Wildlife.

Once again the weather has been warm and dry so after a morning spent working on the hall (my carpentry is not very good and it took me a long time to tidy up some of the paneling around the pipes), I was able to get out into the garden.We didn't have as many butterflies as usual this summer, maybe because the sedums and the buddlia were late in flowering, so it is a pleasure to see clouds of them enjoying the late flowers. Speedy continues to catch and eat the butterflies so I ended up shutting him in the house. I almost wish he would get stung by a bee or a wasp to stop him from doing it. He did do a spectacular 3ft vertical leap into the air in an attempt to catch a dragon fly but it was far too fast for him.
After some weeding I cut all the grass first moving this tiny toad to a safe place. That job done I sat and watched the clouds going across the sky. The wind is definitely a southerly wind which would explain the warm temperatures.
All in all a fairly peaceful day.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Mixed Weather.

Sanding will be on the schedule for a while now as I am resisiting the temptation to paint as I go along. Instead I will fill and sand all the doors and frames in the downstairs corridoor before painting. I might even unscrew the door handles instead of trying to paint around them.I am so lucky to have this view from my PC. I tried to catch a sunny spell but as we are down in a valley we lose the sun quite early even when it is shining.

A little earlier the top of the garden was bathed in light,

which quickly turned to overcast again. It is still very warm with westerly winds so I don't know where the warmth is coming from. (I had a quick look on Google and people in the SE are saying it's really cold.)

Earlier on today, before I went to work, Squeaky and Smudge had decided that the best place was cuddled up to the Rayburn.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


It was really lovely this morning to wake to blue skies and sunshine. I felt so cheerful even though I was stuck indoors doing more filling and sanding on the woodwork. Even when my first idea to cover up several very big gaps didn't work and I wasted time cutting small bits of wood and screwing them into place I didn't get too cross with myself. I have a better plan to try tomorrow which might do the job. It stayed sunny all the time while I was at work and as I sat in the car park I even toyed with the idea of driving down for a refreshing walk by the beach. Then I compromised by promising myself a walk up the hill to enjoy the lovely weather. But only a few miles out of town the weather deteriorated, I lost my views of the sea and there was hardly any blue in the sky. So instead I took a few pictures in the gloomy garden and did some more filling of holes. Maybe the sun will come back tomorrow.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Wet Again.

More rain and more painting. I'm now on the boring job of filling and sanding down the the downstairs doors and frames. They are in quite a poor state and I can't get away with simply slapping paint on top. It has rained heavily all day long. The country roads already have twin streams of muddy water running down either side with some places flooded right across. At home I reinstated the temporary dam across the road. It's nothing much, just a piece of wood and some soil but it diverts most of the water into the field instead of down our drive. We can't put any permanent measures in place because both the road and the field belong to our neighbour. There is a drain across the top of our drive but so much water flows down that it goes across the grid and then starts washing away the gravel of our drive.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Car Panic.

It has been very wet, windy and remarkably warm today. In the morning I painted a final coat of paint on Romas' bedroom door. I wonder why there were so many chips in the paint? That door and the one to the bathroom are the original wooden doors made when the house was first built, at least a hundred years ago. Tall people have to be careful as they are low doors with a step down into the room beyond. Most of the other doors in the old part of the house are a few inches lower than normal which is a hazard for tall people. When I left for work at lunchtime it was straight into the clouds with quite heavy rain.
Leaving school before 4.00 is still a pleasant surprise though as a consequence when I got to the Co-op I was too early for the real bargains and had to be content with 50% reductions. As I put my shopping in the car I noticed a metal part hanging down underneath the car. In great trepidation I drove carefully to the local garage next to the school where most of us get our cars fixed and MOTs done. Alec crawled under the car and emerged with a long piece of bendy rusty metal. He assured me that it wasn't vital to the car , that I didn't need to have it replaced and there was no charge. I would recommend A&R Motors to anyone living in Barnstaple as they don't take advantage of their customers and always do a decent job for a reasonable price. You hear far too many tales of garages where unnecessary or shoddy work is done and top prices charged.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Stormy Day.

I woke this morning to a wild and windy day. The leaves were coming down fast and furious. How long before the bare trees stretch their skeletal fingers towards the sky? Peter went off to row in the morning and said it was exhilarating out on the river. As my consultant said it would be OK I'm going to try rowing next weekend when the gig club are holding more taster sessions. That way I will be able to find out if my back and knee can cope with it. It would be fantastic to find a suitable form of exercise. There were a few bright spells when the wind felt very warm but for most of the time it rained heavily so I pottered around indoors tidying up.

Lots of colour still in the garden.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Fair - Not.

I had hoped to be posting pictures from the annual Barnstaple Fair which is taking place this weekend but things conspired to end up with us not going. We were going to give the carnival a miss as that happens in the afternoon and I have watched or taken part in enough carnivals over the years but had planned to be in town for the fireworks (which are happening as I type) but that didn't happen. The day has been one of blustery showers so we might have been caught in the rain (or not), and then there was the new TV . We had been waiting all day and it finally arrived just before 5.00. The men were a bit taken aback by the size of the old TV which they had to take away. Such a shame to throw it out but Peter didn't want me to offer it on Freecycle as he is uncomfortable with people coming to the house. It took us a while to unpack the new TV and get it running (Peter got Sky working again) and it still has a blue/green cast to the picture. The help desk weren't surprised by this so it must be a fairly common problem. They've suggested some ways of adjusting the setting otherwise it will have to be replaced.

As well as missing the fireworks we would also have gone for a walk around the fair to soak up the atmosphere and I was looking forward to throwing my dignity to the winds and having another ride on the merry-go-round horses. Oh well, I can try to get there next year.
I did quite a lot of garden work inbetween the showers so the day hasn't been wasted.

Friday, 16 September 2011

Technology Failure.

The weather has been quite pleasant today despite the gloomy forecast. I spent the morning in town having a coffee with a friend and doing a little shopping. I wonder if Primark have some special knowledge about the forthcoming winter as they are stocking not only warm flannel pjs but even warmer fleece ones. I couldn't resist a pair of extra fluffy fleece pjs (pink & black) as there is nothing nicer than slopping about in pjs and dressing gown (the fluffier the better) on chilly evenings. They also have fleece all in ones for men and women. Novelty items I would have thought especially the tiger suits.
My only other purchase was an extra large mug for Peter from a charity shop. I was a bit taken aback by the price sticker saying £4.50 and when I queried it they said it was must have been a mistake and sold it to me for £1.

TV has been on my mind today or rather televisions. We like to spend a lot of time at home and do enjoy relaxing and watching TV. I watch more than Peter but there are some programmes we try not to miss such as Casualty/Holby City and Strictly or Dancing on Ice. The new BBC dinosaur programme was also excellent. We do also read and listen to the radio and of course there is the Internet (too slow for downloading TV). Radio reception is poor here and once the radio is on R4 it is wise not to change it. This is with the analogue signal which is due to be switched off in a few years. When that happens we will have no radio as my fancy digital radio cannot get a signal here even though it can get one in Barnstaple. I did try writing to the powers that be asking what I was supposed to do but never got an answer. We run 2 tv systems but we are forever having trouble with the Sky satellite. This week the picture started freezing again, we lost the signal last night, got it back by tweaking things but today we only got a picture for a few minutes. I spent a long time on the phone first to Sky and then to the company that we insure the box with and they are coming to fix it on ........ Thursday. So irritating especially when the new flat screen tv is coming tomorrow and my eBay purchase of a small CRT TV for the bedroom arrived today. (£18 and that was mostly postage.) So all tv watching will have to be done in the kitchen and there is less choice on Freeview, bah.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Garden Day.

I didn't quite make it out to the garden until the afternoon because I thought I would do one or two quick indoor jobs first. How silly of me. I was so pleased with the way the sitting room window sills looked after a coat of paint that I decided to paint the woodwork on the upstairs landing. Washing, sanding, washing and then painting 2 doors and their frames and a few other bits is not a quick job. I also tidied up around the big fireplace and discovered the reason that we had been getting smoke into the room was that a metal plate had fallen off the flue from the wood burner. Peter says this is not to big a repair to do, thank goodness. After my morning's exertions I had a long lunch break outside with a book before starting on the autumn tidy up. I try to grow plants that are easy to maintain but there a number that need an autumn cut back. Today it was the turn of the giant croscomia. I do like the architectural shapes of the seed heads but once the frosts come the leaves get horrible and slimy and it is a much nastier job to do.
I counted 4 species of butterfly feeding frantically on the sedum flowers. Speedy is fascinated by anything that moves and I saw him eat 2 butterflies which he had pounced on as they flew by.

Jack came by later on his quad bike and I was able to give him a shoe box of lego that was still left over from the boys' childhoods.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Mixed Weather.

That's my (paid) working week over. I stayed in school until 4.30! as I needed to type up some class lists for the 2 classes I'm teaching and also spent some time chatting to my colleagues. It was warm and sunny as I drove home, then I looked to the east - black clouds, and to the west, south and north. I thought this might be a good time to mow some of the grass as it has either been raining or just raining for a while and I haven't had a chance to keep up the mowing. As I pushed the mower along I kept trying to think of reasons why I should only cut half of the lawns today; my back was sore (a good reason I think), I would be having a 'garden day' tomorrow and ....... couldn't think of any more. On the other hand; how often was the grass dry enough, I shouldn't quit a job halfway through and if I did it now I wouldn't have to do it tomorrow. So I cut all the grass, bar a small bit by the yard because I felt a some rain and felt a great sense of satisfaction. In the morning I cleaned the 2 small windows in the sitting room of all the plaster and paint splashes though I was mystified as to how paint spots had got onto the outside of the glass. A fresh coat of white gloss paint on the sills and that's another 2 jobs I can tick off the list. The forecast is for another sunny day tomorrow but a continuation of the steady drop in temperature.
I stopped at the top of the drive to photograph the Himalayan Balsam that is making its way down the drive and out along the road. Paul drives his tractor mower right up here and makes it look like a carefully planted garden.

The boys and I enjoy popping the Himalayan Balsam seed pods which on a dry day will explode violently at the merest touch.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Back To Work.

Autumn is really blowing in now, one minute icy cold the next the sun burning down.

My morning was spent hanging pictures in the sitting room and the hall. A mix of watercolours, oils, photos and posters. In a way I preferred the sitting room with bare white walls but then I would have to find storage space for the various bits of art I have accumulated.

The afternoon saw me back at school working with the Year 2 children on various art activities. A quick walk to the post office to collect a parcel that had to be signed for and then home for a relaxing evening.

Monday, 12 September 2011

A Day In Exeter.

At last! I'm on the list to have my spinal surgery, spinal decompression to be exact. I went up to Exeter to see the consultant at the RDE (Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital) and report on the effect of the nerve block that I'd had and his conclusion was that I should have the surgery I have been hoping for for the last 2 years. I nearly didn't when he prodded the painful point on the side of my hip and suggested it might simply be an inflammation. It would be nice if that was the case but my GP had already injected steroids into the hips several times to no avail. So in a few months times I'll have the operation which might possibly solve the problem. Never one to travel to a new city without spending time exploring shops as well as historical sites I took the early train up. Exeter is a mixture of old and new and I was quite taken with these glass pebble seats. I would love to have them in my garden.
I planned to explore Exeter Cathedral but was somewhat taken aback to find out (after I'd gone through the one-way automatic doors), that it was £5 to go inside. So I made my way back out again.

I ate my lunch sitting on the steps of a statue on the Cathedral Green which seemed to be the meeting place for many students who are just starting their time at Exeter University. (We did look around Exeter University with Vytas and I don't remember any other big open spaces in the campus.) It was fun listening to all these hopeful youngsters though I didn't quite work out exactly what one student was investigating with eggs and jelly beans in class.

The day had started dark and stormy so I wore my jacket and left my sunglasses in the car at Barnstaple train station. Naturally by the time we got to Exeter it was sunny. I carried my coat in my bag for the whole day. It was very windy especially in the open spaces.

As part of my city exploration I went on a guided tour of the Underground Passages, a series of medieval 'tunnels' built in the 14th & 15th centuries to house the lead pipes bringing clean water from wells to the city. These were constructed by digging 6ft ditches which were lined with stone and then roofed (& earthed) over. The pipes were put in the passageways to make it easier and more economical to locate and repair leaks.

The original passages were 18" wide and about 5'7" high. In later years some of the passages were deepened to create more of a gradient so at times we had plenty of headroom while at others we were crouching and the hard hats were definitely a necessity. There was a point where we had the option to crawl through a 3ft section but most of us chose not to. The camera flash has lightened the picture but it was fairly gloomy in the passages and one lad had to leave almost immediately because it was too claustrophobic. The passages were so narrow for most of the time that you could not go past another person. During the war they were the only public air raid shelters and one raid lasted for 7 hours! We walked along under the High Street and could hear the traffic overhead. In the 1930s the public could visit by climbing down a manhole into the dark tunnels with oil lamps and no hard hats - ouch.