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.

Saturday, 31 March 2012

Jobs Done.

As was forecast we are back to the grey days with little sun. At least it was dry so I was able to cut all the grass. This is a must-do job that I don't enjoy so the best thing is to just get on with it. As we haven't had any rain the grass had not grown much since the last time I cut it but the weeds were flourishing so it was good to have given them a trim. I didn't feel too energetic today even after lie-in but I carried on with my job list and swept and tidied the conservatory. The final job on the list was some sewing; repairing a zip on a sleeping bag and stitching on the camera strap for the big Nikon. Last time I sent it for repair they cut my extra long strap off so this time I unstitched it before taking it to the shop. I ended the day by burning up the pile of brambles that has been sitting there for over a year. Each time I wanted to burn the brambles they were too wet from our (usually) constant rain. At times this afternoon it felt like it was going to rain but nothing is forecast for the immediate future. The little stream that runs at the back of the house is very low right now.
Peter went off rowing in the middle of the day. Only a month before the championships so they are going to be training IN EARNEST now. They don't have any hopes of taking any prizes against much younger and/or more experienced crews but it is a matter of personal pride I suppose. Peter on the other hand can't understand why I am already thinking about packing. If it was just a matter of throwing everything in the car I wouldn't feel the need to plan in detail but as we have to get everything in 4 bags, that includes all the camping equipment, I need to think carefully about what we take. Luckily we do have some very large kit bags to pack our stuff in.

Friday, 30 March 2012

End Of Term.

It was quite a chilly misty morning. The day finally brightened up at lunchtime and as long as you were out of the wind it was warm. I had a good day at school working with the small children again but being eager to catch the last of the sun I was driving out by 3.40. Naturally with the start of the Easter Holiday the forecast is for the weather to take a turn for the worse and go back to being gloomy and grey. I did need to do some shopping but I was still home by 4.30. After sitting for a while outside I headed up the hill for a walk. I talked to Paul who was out on his ride-on-mower and he confirmed that Coral is back in foal again. So there will be a new foal in June.
I didn't stop when I got to the top of the drive but continued down the road for a short way. Once again I could hear a single skylark singing high above me but even with my telephoto lens I couldn't get a good shot.

Everything is very dry and although we didn't have a lot of cold weather this winter there is a lot of talk of drought and farmers especially in the east of the country are getting worried.

Now to relax and enjoy the start of the holiday.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Working All Day.

It's been a busy day in school today. I had the youngest children in the morning and it was great to be back in Reception. The teacher of that class is very organised and as I have worked with her many times and taught her class when she had maternity leave it was easy to slot back in. My main job was to work with children who had just made chocolate nests (shredded wheat, chocolate and mini eggs), to talk about and stick down the instructions in the right order. Though by the time it got to the 4th group my enthusiasm may have waned a little. In the afternoon I was back with the Year 2 class. First phonics, (we were looking at kn so they ended up writing knock, knock jokes),then we carried on with the Easter story. After a team quiz to see who could remember the events of Palm Sunday I read and talked about the rest of the story. I had to cut back on some of the violence that was even included in the Usborne Children's Bible I was using but of course the children do show an interest in the gruesome details of any story. Not many of the children go to church or Sunday School so it is good to be able to teach them some of the basics of Christianity. But as teachers we do always have to add that this is what Christians believe and that other people have other or no beliefs. After school I went into town to collect my camera as the bug has finally been disposed of. Although the little Nikon is handy for snap shots it felt good to have more options again. I also spent some time looking for a pair of loose black trousers to wear for work as my joggers are too warm to wear in this sunny weather. They need to be loose as I seem to spend a lot of time sitting on low chairs or the floor and sometimes I can be seen leaping about doing action songs or PE. I didn't find anything I was happy with so I may have to continue wearing trousers that are a bit of the large size from my fat days.
More and more flowers are appearing in the garden adding splashes of colour around the place. The rubus hedge that marks the top boundary of the garden stands about 5ft high and right now the bare branches are studded with magenta pom-poms up to 2" across. The colour matches the flowers of the common flowering currant which stands next to the original clump on the other side of the scree garden.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Easter Bonnet Parade.

Another beautiful day so I was up early putting more curtains in the washing machine. I was washing down walls in the bedroom when the phone rang. Could I possibly come in to teach straight away? 'Of course' I said cheerily thinking of the money. Within 10 mins I had hung up 2 loads of washing done last night, ironed some trousers, straightened my hair and jumped in the car getting to school just after 9.00. We had a fun morning, singing songs and writing our own versions of Baa, Baa Black Sheep. In the afternoon parents were welcome to come and look at the children's books (not too many did), and then we had the Easter Bonnet Parade. Because of more staff sickness I shall be working for the rest of the week in different classes. As soon as school was over and I had tidied up the classroom I rushed home to spend some time sitting out in the sun. I didn't do much gardening as my back wasn't too good by the end of the day.
This evening I've ironed and hung the second pair of bedroom curtains and all that's left to do is some hoovering before I put the furniture straight in the bedroom. Then I can have a rest.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Good Drying Day.

Another fine day. I was so full of enthusiasm that I leapt out of bed at 6.30 and took down some of our bedroom curtains to put in the washing machine. That way I got 2 loads washed and hung out before I had to go to school. This is the first year for long time that the pale daffodils have looked good. They seem to be more porous than the bright yellow ones and as soon as it rains they droop and get attacked by the slugs.
Before heading out to the garden I decided to take advantage of the warm weather and start washing down the walls of our bedroom. Hopefully I will be able to repaint the walls during the Easter holiday. It will be the same colour, cream (not magnolia), but the preparation; washing, filling and resticking some of the wallpaper, is the biggest part of the job and will take quite a while. Especially when it is a slightly messy room that you are living in.
My afternoon was mainly spent doing PE with the children and then I rushed home to do another hour of gardening. I finished off the afternoon by washing my hair and letting it dry in the sun and warm breeze while I read a book. I save an awful lot of money by never going to the hairdresser. If I did have a fancy cut I would still want to run a brush through it and tie it back in a pony tail or plait. If I want curly hair I don't brush it but let it dry naturally and if I want it straight I brush it when it is wet and then finish with hair straighteners.

Monday, 26 March 2012

How Long Is Lent ?

This year has been the first time I have given up something for Lent. 2 things in fact, meat altogether (but not fish) and a serious cut back on chocolate. I consider my 2 squares of dark chocolate that I eat each night to be 'medicinal' but recently there has been a lot of extra chocolate. So for the first half of Lent I cut out everything except the 2 squares. Then for the next quarter I went down to 1 square each day and for the final quarter proper cold turkey and no chocolate at all. Being the kind of person who likes charts I made myself a chart so that I could cross off each day. However as I near the end of my chart I realise that we haven't even got to Palm Sunday. How could that be? Had I miscounted? I checked with my diary and was surprised to find that there are 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday. A little research revealed that when Lent was first formalised and people were expected to do pennance and fast for 40 days Sundays were excluded as the Sabbath was a day of celebration. Now I have to decide what to do with those 6 extra days. It won't do me any harm to carry on I suppose.

Today has been another wonderful 'summer's' day. I spent the afternoon in school making yet more Easter hats with a different class. Even though we had a staff meeting after school it was still sunny enough when I got home to run and change into shorts before relaxing with a cup of tea out in the garden. So peaceful listening to the sounds of birds, munching ponies, buzzing bees and a children's riding lesson. Not to mention the rebelious owl that insisits on hooting during the daytime. Once the sun had gone behind the trees I thought I would move down to find the sun at the back of the house. First I decided to walk up to say hello to the ponies, but then then I felt energetic and carried on walking right up the hill and on to the top of the drive where I was rewarded by the sound of a skylark singing above the fields.
Let's hope this weather continues for a while.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Summer Time.

With the clocks going forward last night we seem to have rushed straight into summer. Another beautiful day today that lulls you into thinking our weather is wonderful. Our 'summers' tend to be so miserable that we intend to take full advantage of every sunny day we get. Peter was up early for a row out on the river and came back thoroughly worn out. They started out on a normal training row but then it was decided to race against the A-team. That's a 3 1/2 mile sprint! Even after that he was game enough to go on a long walk with me. We took our longest route first going down to the little wooded valley that leads out to Bennet's Mouth. It is too early for the bluebells but the celandine's and wild daffodils are being joined by the little wood violets. The warmth had brought out a pair of magical brown butterflies that danced around each other under the trees.
There was a slight sea mist so there were no clear views across to Wales or later on to Lundy.

After a brief stop at Bennet's Mouth we took the high path to the top of the cliffs round to Bull Point Lighthouse and then carried on round to Morte Point. We both found the steep stepped sections quite hard on our knees but managed to keep up a good pace on the more level paths. By the time we stopped for coffee at Morte Point there were quite a few people out enjoying the good weather and lovely scenery.

Back home I washed the large fluffy bed throw that I had left soaking in the bath (it is too bulky to put in the washing machine). It was as I struggled to wring out the water from the throw that I remembered why I had decided last time that it would be better to take the throw into the launderette in town. To add insult to injury as I hung it out to dry I realised it could have done with more rinsing and I am still going to have to take it into town to do the job properly. All that time and effort wasted! Feeling somewhat worn out I then mowed all the lawns before collapsing for an hour in the sun while Peter cooked up another barbecue.

We ended our evening watching the final of Dancing on Ice but it was too warm to think about having a wood fire.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Beautifully Warm.

We woke to a warm and blissfully sunny day. It got up to 20C during the day, perfect for spending the whole day outside. Gardening wear was t-shirt and shorts with flip-flops and sun hat. First thing this morning a sparrow was hopping about on our window sill. It may have been a youngster born last year in the hole in the stones just above the window.
Although it did not stay sunny in that corner for long I persevered and carried on tidying around the pampas grass. Now instead of a mess of leaves and last year's growth there are clumps of green spears of the different types of crocosmia and a much tidier pampas grass amongst the stones in that corner. I said goodbye to the woolly white buddlia which had been slain by the snow 2 winters ago and threw the dead shrub on the bonfire pile.Linas came up for the day, mainly to stock up on frozen meat, now that he has to watch his money. Peter has some kind friends who pass on free meat that they are given but can't use which is great for us. Being a sunny day naturally we had a barbecue. Having given up meat for Lent I had to be satisfied with grilled courgettes to go with the salads but it was still good to be eating outside and to have at least one of our boys home.

Linas only came for the day as the day return ticket from Plymouth is just 10p more than one way but double if he went home tomorrow. I drove him down to the train station and on the way home there was a pretty sunset.

Friday, 23 March 2012

A Warm Day.

It has been a beautiful day today, the warmest day of the year so far. I've been at school all day. We finished off the Easter hats in the morning. The standard of the hats varied depending on which adult the children were working with. It was supposed to be the children's work so apart from the more difficult construction I let the children get on with it themselves. In the afternoon the whole school took part in a Sports Relief Mile which was basically a walk around the grounds of the neighbouring secondary school.
Coming home it was lovely to see blue skies once more. Everywhere there are signs of spring. Out here in the country they are more subtle signs than in the town, pale primroses in the hedgerows and the trees beginning to change colour at the edges. Its hard to see from close up but from a distance the beech trees have developed a maroon tinge while other trees have the slightest hint of green. At home some of the willow trees were surrounded by the sounds of buzzing bumble bees visiting the newly opened catkins. I got in an hour's work in the garden this evening clearing the old growth from the pampas grass.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Sad News.

I have just had the sad news that another of my uncles has passed away in Canada. Although we only met him a few times we did keep in touch and it is sad to lose a member of your family even with faith and the knowledge that death isn't the end. The strange skies I saw this afternoon seem an appropriate accompaniment to such news. I was teaching this morning, making Easter Bonnets - oh the stress and the mess! Then in the afternoon I returned some library books and did some shopping in town. My poor feet are worn out.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012


It has been one of those sunny/ not sunny days. Sunny at 8.00 but not at 9.00 so my morning was spent working under clouds. The afternoon, when I was at work, was beautifully sunny but as I rushed home the clouds were making their way back. Luckily there was still some sun so my evening gardening was quite pleasant. As I had yet more leaves to clear I thought I would get out my garden vac. But as well as being noisy and heavy it doesn't cope well with leaves that are wedged between stones. After clearing some of the bigger piles of leaves with the vac I went back to the good old fashioned way of down on my knees picking up the leaves. That way I could clear each section completely including pulling weeds and getting rid of the moss.
Winter flowering heathers looking good in the evening sun.
After work I still had an hour to work in the garden. Once the scree garden has been 'tidied' I will move some plants around to fill the gaps. It looks as if the artichoke (cynara) I planted last year has died back so instead I'll put in a buddliea grown from last year's cuttings. I don't intend to buy any more plants for the garden but will be doing lots of propagating this year so that I will have plants to take with me when we do move.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Zoom And Up.


No Sun

But No Rain

So Can't Complain.

Being a young cat Speedy still lives up to his name. When he is out in the garden it is more like having a puppy with you. He zooms from one interesting spot to another and often straight up trees as well.

My morning gardening task was to pick leaves from the stones in the scree garden. At least the leaves were beech leaves and bigger than the ones I was picking up yesterday which made my job much quicker. It sounds like a silly thing to be doing but the stones lose their beauty if they are covered with leaves and moss. The scree garden is still very much my favourite part of the garden. Partly because I love stones but also because of the great views you get from up there.

This afternoon in school my class designed the Easter Bonnets that they will be making on Friday. The Easter Bonnet Parade is a school tradition and we used to let the children make their hats at home. But to make it fair and for the hats to be the children's, rather than their mums', work we make them in school. I foresee a messy Friday morning.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Being a Mum.

Part of being a parent is that you suffer when things go wrong for your children. It's poor Linas again. We had thought he had a good 6 months to go in his IT job but Head Office decided to outsource his job and he has been made redundant. They did give him a generous redundancy package considering how short a time he has been there but of course it doesn't make up for losing your job in these difficult times. At least he has more work experience and projects to add to his CV and he is with a specialist IT job agency so hopefully it won't take so long for him to find another job. But of course as his mum I will worry.

It was a clear starry night last night which led to a fairly heavy frost in the morning. Luckily I had heard the weather forecast and moved several tubs of trailing geraniums back into the conservatory after the recent milder weather had fooled me into thinking it was safe to put them out.
It didn't take long for the morning to warm up and I sat on the front doorstep with a cup of fresh coffee revelling in the warmth and peace. It is at times like these that I find it hard to imagine leaving this place and I have to remind myself about the cold winters and the LARGE bills.
Now that the biggest garden jobs have been done I can generally find something to do in the sun. Today's job was to tidy up the stones on one of the raised beds. This involved picking up every leaf and worse still all the little sticks that were once the honeysuckle leaves. If ever there was a good example of 'A stitch in time saves nine.' it is those leaves. Once fallen each very quickly decays leaving a number of these small sticks. I so should clear them while they are all in one piece.

It was off to school for work in the afternoon and then while my colleagues stayed in school for the first of 2 Parents' evenings I popped to the shop and then came home to enjoy the afternoon sun streaming through the windows. As I sat typing an email I noticed a movement out in the trees beyond the garden. Intrigued I grabbed a pair of binoculars and went outside. At first I could see nothing then suddenly something moved across my vision. My first thought was 'It's a llama's bottom! Then I revised that to 'An ostrich?!!' then I realised my brain hadn't quite calibrated the scale and I was looking at either an escaped chicken from the farm up the valley or more likely a fat hen pheasant. Whatever it was then moved out of sight and hasn't made an appearance since.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mother's Day.

Happy Mother's Day to everyone who is either being celebrated or celebrating/remembering their own mother. My boys are not at home but Peter sent them reminders yesterday. Peter brought me croissants for breakfast in bed and some fudge on behalf of the boys (bad move giving up chocolate for Lent). I had a brief email from Linas in the morning and Romas has sent me an email saying that he has been trying to phone but we were out. Vytas phoned in the efternoon and it was good to have a chat. This family have never been into making Mother's Day special once breakfast has been delivered and cards given so as usual it's back to normal for the rest of the day.

It was sunny first thing this morning so we went to Barricane Beach. It's so refreshing to watch the waves and feel the sea air.

The tide was still coming in so was no rock pooling today so instead we walked around looking for shiny shells and small pieces of sea glass. Not for any particular reason but simply because it is there, a kind of magpie instinct.

Too soon we could see a shower approaching from beyond Morte Point. We just had time to drink our coffee before the rain began to fall.

Back home it cleared up again and Peter went off to row. I got on with more gardening for a couple of hours until another shower sent me running to take in the washing from the line. Peter has just got home and it doesn't look as if there is any special dinner planned so I shall get on with making some supper before we settle down to watch Dancing on Ice. But it has been quite a nice day.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Good Gardening.

It hasn't been as wet as forecast but we have had a number of showers. It seemed that each time I put on my gardening clothes the heavens would open. As I do most of my gardening either kneeling or sitting on the ground the old pair of joggers I put on over my normal clothes tend to be too muddy to wear in the house so I have to take them off if I am coming back in. Eventually it cleared up and I was able to complete my task of clearing the leaves and moss from the aubretia circle in the scree garden.Flowering currant buds almost ready to open.

Working in the garden gives me plenty of time for thought. Today I have been trying to focus on enjoying the moment rather than wishing each day away as I look forward to some future event. This could be anything from the week-end, school holidays or the next showing of a favourite tv programme to more distant events such as our trip to the Scillies or my back operation. If I only see each day simply as time passing and taking me closer to one of these events then those days are wasted. I should learn to enjoy the 'now' for after all who knows what the future holds. End of self motivational talk.

As I gardened nature provided a symphony of sound around me. The wind rushing through the trees formed the rhythm and base notes. The thrush took on the role of first violin as it warbled its varied song from the top of a tree. A flock of small birds whizzed by adding harmony and enriching the melody. Wood pigeons chimed in with some sotto voce base notes and finally the star of the show, a small operatic bird sang clearly and sweetly in a tree above my head. And for the interval refreshment Peter appeared bearing a cup of coffee. It was a good gardening day.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Another Garden Day.

It has been overcast for most of the day. There was a brief 10 mins of sunshine in the middle of the day and then the black clouds started rolling in. I was sure it was going to rain but as the evening approached there were a few very small patches of blue sky. The forecast is for rain tomorrow which would be welcome as I moved more plants today. There was a big patch of purple ajuga growing in the bog garden path which I used to fill some empty spaces around the garden. Some of the lawn grass had grown down into the ornamental grass on the bank so I had a proper clear out of the roots and filled any gaps with plants that had grown down on to the path. There were also a number of tunnels in the soft soil, possibly left from the last mole visit .I need to sort out the over-hanging trees soon so I spoke to Paul when he had parked up his tractor by his outbuildings. We do have the right to do it but it is good manners to check with him first as they are his trees. He was fine and even offered to come down with his chainsaw but I would prefer Peter to do it as then I can make sure my plants don't get damaged when the trees come down. With the trees down the bog garden will not be so shady in the summer and I might be able to establish some other plants around the astilbes that are already there. The far side would be the perfect spot for a gunnera but I really do not like them.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Gardening Day.

It has been a grey misty day but I have still spent most of my time outside working in the garden. It was very peaceful listening to the birds and picking off the moss that was threatening to smother the plants on the rocky hillside. To make a change I spent the afternoon in the bog garden. There was still some clearing to do and also some planting. I moved some of the prolific scrambling purple geranium from the raised beds by the house to an empty bank and having cleared one end of the bog garden completely I replanted a creeping plant (it has small blue flowers) that had taken up residence in the gravel path. I have tried several times to establish water mint there but it has never survived. I finished my day sitting outside, well wrapped up against the damp, enjoying a cup of tea and a detective novel.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

The Dance Festival.

We took the Year 2 children to the Dance Festival today. It was at our local secondary school so it was only a short walk to get there. Children came from a number of schools but ours were some of the youngest to perform. Although I was not AT ALL biased I think our War of the Worlds dance was excellent. We even got to got to put on a second performance in the afternoon, to the rest of the children in our school. I was so pleased that all the children in the class took part with enthusiasm and felt very proud of themselves afterwards. Although the day had started overcast by the afternoon the sun had appeared and it felt lovely and warm. When I got home the grass was dry enough to get the mower out to give it the first cut of the year. This was one of those jobs where I started enthusiastically thinking how nice it would be to see the grass neatened up but soon I found working my way through the long grass somewhat tedious. I did keep on and cut most of the lawns because it might be while before the grass is dry enough again. I thought I had beaten Paul in the grass cutting stakes but when I looked up the hill he was out on his tractor pulling his big agricultural mower. Paul is 50 today and I know this because when I drove to work this morning there was a birthday banner made from a sheet tied to the hedge at the top of the drive. I wonder what he thought of that.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012


The weather report today was a single word - dull, and it was - with a thick mist everywhere and nothing dramatic. My first job in the morning is to feed the hens. No sooner do I put down some corn than the robin flies in waiting to gather up his courage to help himself. Today he was joined by a pair of chaffinches. If I'm not rushing to work I like to savour the morning sounds and wander around the garden for a while. There is a thrush which alternates between the 2 tallest trees and warbles all day long from his vantage point. The robin keeps me company with his clear song and today a wood pigeon was cooing away in the woods.
While I was working in the garden I saw that the aubretia I planted last year had opened the first of its flowers. Another warm day or two and it will be covered with flowers.
I taught in the afternoon, phonics followed by Mothers' Day cards and then after play I swapped classes with another teacher so that I could have a final dance rehearsal with the Year 2 children.

Monday, 12 March 2012

More Mist.

It was a misty start to the day but it soon cleared and I was able to spend a satisfying morning working in the bog garden. It was so warm that I left for school without a jumper or jacket. As I drove down to town I could see a bank of sea mist over the river and began to wonder if I had been too optimistic. Luckily Pilton is on a slight rise and we had sunshine for the whole afternoon. It was only after the staff meeting that I began to wish I had a jumper with me. The sun had gone and an icy grey mist hung in the air. Driving out of town the mist got even thicker and soon I could hardly see the trees or hedges on either side of the road. Then things began to lighten and all of a sudden I burst through into bright sunlight as I drove through Shirwell. I stopped at some of my usual vantage points and could see that the whole of Barnstaple was buried under a thick blanket of mist.
There was also thick mist in some of the other valleys. This was looking towards Arlington where the mist was following the main road as it headed north to Exmoor.

Coming down our drive I could see that this mist bank covered a large area but fortunately our valley was still bathed in sunshine.

Sometimes I feel my blog has morphed into a weather report but we have such changeable and interesting weather I feel it is worth recording. Not only does the weather dictate what I do during the day it also affects my mood while extreme weather poses new problems as well as interesting photo opportunities.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Sea Mist.

We woke to a lovely sunny day and about time too. It felt so warm outside the house that once again I set off for our coastal walk with bare legs and arms. I began to get a bit apprehensive as we approached the coast. First we could see that the horizon was obscured by a large cloudbank and then as we came down the hill into Morthoe we could see billowing sea mist in front of the cloud bank. It was a very different scene that greeted us as we walked down the combe. The horizon had gone and thick mist was blowing from the sea. In the mist it was a bit chilly but we discovered that you could blow puffs of steam in the cold spots. Luckily there was no-one around to see and hear us puffing away like a pair of kids. As soon as we walked out of the mist it was remarkably warm.
The tide was at its very lowest so we had a good view of the rock formations that are usually hidden underwater.

Being creatures of habit we stopped at our usual bench for a cup of coffee. Today we noticed a couple of benches had bunches of flowers on them. People remembering loved ones who also enjoyed this beautiful spot.

Back home it was bright and sunny so I had a worthwhile afternoon out in the garden. I have made a start on clearing the streamside bog-garden which needs a bit of a clear up. I will also have to talk to Paul about cutting down a couple of his overhanging trees one of which will put my eye out if I try walking along the path. I have in the past simply chopped the trees myself but they are on his land so I ought to clear it with him first. In fact he should chop them down but we can easily do it ourselves.