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, 31 August 2012

Sometimes Sunny.

It's the last day of summer and according to the stats it has been the wettest UK summer for 100 years and the dullest since records began. Today was a rare bright and windy day. Linas had asked if we could go to the zoo so we went off to the Exmoor Wildlife Park. As zoos go this one is excellent both in providing the best environments for their animals and  good visitor facilities. They also have a full programme of talks and feeding, (& sometimes handling) sessions throughout the day. Their pack of wallabies are used to having their paddock invaded by adults and children once a day and are content to be stroked. Yes I joined in too. Just for the fun of it I also held a tarantula, a small snake , which was surprisingly soft and stroked a skunk. 
 An elegant looking caracal,
and an amazingly cute sand cat. They have 2 sand cats and later the pair of them were curled up sleeping on the window sill. 
I don't remember seeing Red River Hogs before but they have the weirdest faces and ears. They are supposed to be the smallest African wild pig but these 2 were about 6ft from nose to tail.
The zoo has quite a few different types of tamarind and they were a lot of fun to watch. The tiny babies clinging to their mothers' backs were of course extra cute. We had a good day out though I am feeling rather tired now. 

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Day In Exeter.

Today I was back on the train to Exeter, mainly to see the surgeon who operated on my spine and while I was there to do some shopping as well. The day started in a bit of a rush as I had miscalculated my time and jumped into the car, in the pouring rain, without a coat or umbrella. Luckily by the time I got to the station the rain had stopped and once I got to Exeter it was warm enough to take off my fleece. I got on the train with only a few minutes to spare so ended up in the carriage where the seats face backwards. So I could only hear but not see the following incident which happened a while later. First I could hear an older lady advising someone, who was presumably waiting by the toilet which is at the end of the carriage "I hope you're not waiting to use the toilet. A couple went in there when we left Barnstaple and haven't come out yet." At this I, along with about half my fellow travellers burst out laughing though probably they were just trying to hide from the ticket collector. A short while later the ticket collector did come along and was informed of the situation by the original lady. Then followed some sharp rapping on the toilet door. Unfortunately, 'cos I'm so nosy, I didn't hear or see what happened next or who the miscreants were but it did keep me smiling for a while.
As usual I made sure that I had time to do some shopping before I needed to catch the bus to the hospital. I was standing in the modern, partly pedestrianised High Street when I looked down a side street to see this interesting building.
Beyond was the Norman gatehouse which was part of the castle built by ...... the Normans. The city walls themselves were built 2,000 years ago and quite large parts remain to this day. For more info click here Norman guard tower .
 This is the view from behind the oval building.
I ate my lunch on the windswept Cathedral Green as usual but today instead of a prawn sandwich I bought myself some sushi in M&S. I'm now examining food labels to find which foods have very low fat content so that I can eat them safely. Later in Tescos I found some things that look like pot noodles but have Bulgar wheat and stuff in them which I shall try. As well as peering at food labels I tried on some shoes (no luck), and did some clothes shopping. The Primark, that cornucopia of cheap clothing, is 3 times the size of the one in Barnstaple so I headed to my favourite section - pyjamas! After choosing some pj bottoms that will make great leisure wear my eye was distracted by some star spangled, bright pink pjs. Not only were they fluffy!!! but the top had a hood with 2 big pom-poms. I walked past a few times before deciding that I really could wear the top to work. I chose the biggest size, of which there was only 1 but it had a small split along a seam. I found a manager and offered to buy it if he would reduce it, so he knocked a couple of quid off. Later I bought a top for work and yet another pair of pj/leisure bottoms and some birthday cards.
But what of my visit to the surgeon? Well from what he said and didn't say I'm not too hopeful that the 'new' pain will simply fade away. I have to wait a couple of months then if it is still there I'll have another MRI scan, then an injection and then maybe surgery on the next vertebra up. The way these things work that might be next summer. Ho hum.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012


We've had almost every kind of weather today starting with torrential rain in the morning followed by brief showers and some sun. In between the rain I made a start on cutting off the dead flower stems from the santolina hedge. My day had started early so that Peter could drive me into town to collect my car. He had driven my car yesterday while his was being fixed and left the Micra on the street when he went to collect his car. It was so wet and miserable when I got home that I simply snuggled up on the sofa under a throw and watched TV. I realize now that a lot of the 'off' days I've been having this year, at least, have been due to my inflamed gall bladder which can give you mild flu like symptoms. Still nothing from the hospital. 
One thing to cheer me up today. Yesterday the postman brought me a photographic print on canvas which I had bought myself as a birthday treat. But when I opened it I was disappointed to see it was not the picture I ordered. I emailed the seller and today I had a reply apologizing and saying that they will send a replacement asap and that I can keep the picture I already have. So that's Minas Tirith and The Argonath. A double treat.
Linas and Shaslee went out for a walk and then phoned me to say they would be going all the way into town. I'm not sure how they are getting back as Peter came home before picking up a text asking him to collect them on the way home. And now he's gone out rowing so I'm hoping they come back with him and don't expect me to drive back into town to collect them.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Mostly Dry.

It's been a day of wind and clouds with 5 minute bursts of rain and 5 minute blasts of sun. It has been very quiet at home as Linas and Shaslee went in with Peter to catch a train to visit some of her relatives. It has given me the opportunity to do some tidying in the kitchen but only of the counters and above. I did hope I might get a phone call from the hospital asking me to come for my pre-op tests but nothing. Maybe a letter in the post tomorrow?
I finally bowed to the inevitable and ordered a new washing machine. There is no doubt the old one is kaput and I'm not saving any money by having it washing on and on until I can catch it after a spin cycle. I investigated buying a secondhand machine but in the end I went for a new one. I didn't go for the cheapest models from the supermarket as they only take 5kg of washing and I'm not confident about the quality so I went for a slightly more expensive one that takes 9kg. It's coming on Saturday, they deliver for free and take away the old machine too.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Heavy Rain.

It has been pouring all day long. That didn't stop Peter going out rowing in the afternoon. I think I must have overdone things yesterday as I've been feeling a bit rough all day. Nothing to do with drinking as I don't drink at all, just too much standing. When we were in the skittle alley I stood on a chair. It was initially to take photos but then I has such a good  view with a handy shelf to rest my arm on that I stood on the chair for the whole game. Or it might have been that last night for the first time I sat up in bed but had to stop as it set off the new pain in my hip. I'm seeing the orthopaedic consultant on Thursday and I was trying to find out if the operation had improved my ability to sit up in bed. As of now the answer is 'No' but I'm praying the new pain will wear off.
....... I've just got back from taking Linas and Shaslee into Ilfracombe for a meal (and will be collecting them later, good old taxi service of mum!). Coming down the drive there were not 1 but 2 buzzards sitting on fence posts on either side of the drive.

Sunday, 26 August 2012


I've had a very full day today. After years of waking several times a night I had just started sleeping through the night when this morning I woke at 4.00 with restless legs. I couldn't keep still even for 10 seconds so after half an hour I got up and came downstairs to read blogs. By 6.00 I was ready to go back to bed but the dawn sky looked quite interesting with black streaks across the grey sky. By the time I had put some clothes on over my pyjamas and slung my camera and binoculars across my shoulders, streaks of orange and gold had been added to the sky.
This was the first time I had been up so early this summer though I am normally a morning person. It was good to be out enjoying the first rays of the sun lighting up the clouds. But before I could set off up the hill I spotted Coral grazing on the unfenced grass between the fields. So I had to walk through the wet grass, catch her and take her back to her own field.

But when I returned from my walk she was out again. I put her back in the field again and tried to tie up the  (turned off) electric fence but she simply barged her way out again. I walked down to Paul and Sarah's house to let them know about Coral but only the dogs barked when I knocked on the back door. I knew that this is only day of the week that they get to have a lie-in so I went back home to ring them instead. That only got me the answer phone so out I went again intending to catch Coral and walk her down to the stables and shut her in an empty loose box but Sarah had got up and found Coral down by the yard. Coral is on a diet at the moment to lose all the extra fat she put on when she fooled everyone into thinking she was in foal which is why she keeps trying to escape.
It was such a lovely day that Peter and I decided to go down to the beach for an hour. But so did the rest of the world and his uncle. As we approached Woolacombe we could see that there was a 2 mile tail back so instead we took the back way down through Morthoe. We were lucky to find a small parking space along the road above Barricane Beach. On our return journey the tailback had increased to over 3 miles, right back to the veterinary hospital by Mullacot Cross.
The weather was absolutely glorious with the sun sparkling off the green and turquoise sea. The waves were coming in cleanly and looking towards Woolacombe the beach and sea looked as if they were covered with black ants.
 We sat up on top of the cliff enjoying the view with a cup of coffee.
We then walked down to onto the beach which was very crowded especially with the high tide. I wouldn't have minded the crowds if we had been staying because as well as the beach smells of barbecues and suntan oil there was the happy burble of families enjoying themselves (no radios thank goodness). I just wanted to wade into the water as this is the first time this holiday that I have even been to the beach. In the summer a tea hut appears on the beach with benches and tables, where you can have tea or coffee from china cups and and fresh made sandwiches and snacks. They were also advertising their Sri Lankan curry evenings. I can imagine nothing nicer than having a meal at the beach while watching at the sun set over the sea. Coincidentally I spoke to a friend later who ate there last Thursday and she said the food was wonderful. Naturally it is not an option right now but they will continue with their evening curries until the middle of September by which time I should have had my operation and will be able to enjoy the food.
And that was not the end of our gallivanting. In the afternoon we went to the gig club's barbecue which was being held at a pub in town. As I knew I wouldn't be able to eat any of the food I brought along a couple of wholemeal bagels and sliced tomatoes and red onions with a little pepper and lemon juice. So I was able to make myself some very tasty bagels and not feel left out. After the barbecue we sang sea shanties and then  it was time for a game of Killer Skittles. Skittles is the traditional pub game in North Devon and is taken very seriously. Every traditional pub has a skittle alley and will have at least one team that competes in the local league. 
Killer skittles is more of a fun game. Any number can play taking it in turns to roll one ball each. If you fail to knock down at least one skittle you lose a point and if you lose 3 points you are out. It differs from the serious game in that the skittles are not replaced after each player but only when all of them have been knocked down. So if you are left with 1 skittle it's that much harder than if the whole set is up. Mind you a number of people managed to roll the ball between all the skittles without touching any of them. 
It was a game of much hilarity and joshing, oohs and ahs. Peter hasn't played in a team for over 10 years but he managed to come 4th being beaten by 3 people who play regularly as team members. Even though I couldn't join in with the food or the skittles it was a fun afternoon/ evening and I got to chat with quite a few people. 

Saturday, 25 August 2012


The forecast for today had been really bad so the gig club's regatta had been called off at the last minute which was disappointing  especially when it turned out not to be so bad after all. We did have some torrential showers first thing but then it started to clear. 
Linas and Shaslee wanted to go into town so I took them in and spent an hour checking out the shops but not buying anything. I had to smile at this enterprising youngster. Having taken on the highly boring job of standing for hours with an advertising placard he had brought along a chair and a brolly. I couldn't see what he was doing, could have been sleeping, texting or playing on a game. Peter went in later to the gym and picked Linas and Shaslee up then. 
Apart from that I have done very little. I'm finding it hard to be energetic and motivated. I try and do as much as possible without pulling my back and then I worry about my digestion. I'm being more creative with my fat free menu. For lunch today I boiled up chopped onions and chestnut mushrooms with half a chicken stock cube and then dropped in some gnocchi. For dessert I treated myself to some Eton Mess using fat free Greek yoghurt instead of cream. Both were tasty but this restrictive diet leaves me feeling permanently hungry. For supper I've got chunks of sweet potato sprinkled with salt & pepper, baking in the oven. Hopefully this will only be for a week or 2.

Friday, 24 August 2012


The day has been sometimes wet and sometimes dry but always windy and overcast. It was an early start for me as Linas needed to be at the station by 8.00. He's been looking forward to this day for a while as his girlfriend was flying in from N. Ireland to stay here for a week. Linas went up by train to meet her at the local airport near Exeter and they were back in Barnstaple by 1.30.
Back home I decided to take myself off for a walk despite the occasional brief shower. It was good to be out especially as I had missed a couple of days of my 'exercise' regime. As it was so windy I walked down to Ashelford Corner and then down the rough lane to the gateways that overlook our valley. In the hedgerow were some hogweed plants some of which were white and a few were pink. At 6ft they are not as tall as the Giant Hogweed which can be double that but they share its toxic properties. They contain an especially nasty chemical which causes your skin to come up in a painful rash on later exposure to sunlight.
 Out of the wind it was pleasantly warm and I was glad I had changed back into my shorts.
The only problem was the mud on the road. It wasn't so bad on the roughest part of the lane but on the road itself, especially under the trees, where the mud kept flicking up onto the backs of my legs. That's what you get for wearing flip-flops. I like walking in flip-flops because they are the nearest to walking barefoot which I feel is the most natural way. I do wear proper walking boots when we are out on the cliffs because there are lots of stones and steps to negotiate and you need the extra grip.

PS Last night we had a lovely meal of new potatoes, broccoli and salmon steaks marinated in soy sauce, ginger and chilli. But we didn't get to watch Eclipse as the disk kept stopping. I'll have to wait until they send a new disk.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Not the weather but me ......  or I can think of other words to describe the way I feel right now but none of them printable. And why you ask? Because my GP was too tight fisted to send me for an ultrasound of my gall bladder when I first complained of severe abdominal pain about 5 years ago. Apparently it comes out of their budget which is why the initial response was 'wait and see what happens' and then the next GP took me off one medication even though I was complaining of chronic pain which it now turns out was due to a highly inflamed gall bladder. And how do I know all this? Because today I saw the consultant at the hospital after I finally had the ultrasound at the beginning of July. Not only did this show gall stones but that the gall bladder is very thickened which is a sign of long term inflammation and if it had ruptured that could have been fatal. The consultant said this is going to make the surgery more complicated as there will probably be adhesions to the surrounding tissues. Then he said I also have a hernia and then ....... he was concerned because he could feel the aorta and was worried that I might have an aneurysm PANIC!!! Luckily he had a further look at my scans and notes and although my previous MRI scans were not informative because they had been done to look at the spine a closer reading of the ultrasound report came across the reassuring words - no abnormalities in the aorta. A BIG sigh of relief there, I mean you die from a burst aneurysm! I am incredibly cross with my GP for 2 reasons, firstly because they took so long to send me for the correct tests which not only put me in a lot of pain but also put my life at risk but also the consultant said that I should have gone to hospital when I had the severe attacks and the gall bladder would have been taken out straight away. My GP never mentioned this to me, he only told me to take the medication he had prescribed so I did as I was told and lay there in severe pain until the attacks passed. Rest assured I shall not be letting this go but tomorrow, when I am not quite so angry, I will be writing a letter of complaint to the Practice Manager of the surgery and sending copies to the Patient's Association and the General Medical Council. 
But hopefully, hopefully the consultant said I might have the surgery next week. Though I will have to have the pre-op appointment first where they test for MRSA, and it's Bank Holiday next Monday so who knows when I'll get the surgery. The consultant will be doing the surgery himself ('cos it's so bad) and will fix the hernia at the same time. I think I'm going to referred for further checks on the aorta as well.
The weather today has alternated between sun and showers. I spent the morning writing up my journal notes. No sooner had I sat down outside but big raindrops plopped down and I had to make a run for the house. My afternoon has been spent at the hospital. Being the NHS I didn't even get seen until 45 mins after my appointment time. Yet if you turn up a few minutes late they give you a real telling off.

Look closely and you can see a second fluffy head in this messy swallow's nest.

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Mixed Weather.

The day started overcast and by the afternoon there was the occasional shower just as I was driving Linas into town for a second interview at the Building Society. I was regretting my decision to wear shorts to town but by the time we got there it was mainly dry and quite muggy so I was glad not to be overdressed. Linas said there were a number of people at this round of the interviews so we are not getting our hopes up yet.
Before our trip to town I made a start on one of the jobs I had earmarked for this holiday ie updating  our family journal which I started writing 6 years ago. I kept it up for a few years then it was put to one side, partly because I record the events of our lives in a free format; sometimes by season, sometimes by event or other category. I wasn't too worried about not keeping it up to date because this daily blog is a good record to refer back to. Today I skimmed over all 360 blogs for 2009. It was a real treat to relive all those memories. That was the year we had 2 weeks of snow in February, my first visit to the hospital for my trapped nerve problem, visits to the dental hospital in Bristol resulting in my tooth being pulled out, laser surgery on my eyes and Romas started at Keele Uni. And I made my first start at reading The Sons Of Hurin!
Another thing that made me really happy was discovering the video of Vytas 'killing' an officer at an SK muster because only yesterday I tried to look at this clip on YouTube and found that it is now for private viewing only.

Monday, 20 August 2012


Last night we were treated to a cacophony of sound from our local owls. Our bedroom has windows facing both east and west and from either side we could hear owls calling. Usually it is easy to tell which of our 2 species we are listening to, the Tawny owls do the standard whoo hoo while the Barn owls make a raucous screech, while last night we were hearing a lot of burbling followed by a screech that ended in a whoo hoo. I assume this is some sort of mating call, it went on for quite a while right next to the house before they went further up the valley. A quick check has found that Tawny owls make a higher pitched squawk (described as kweech) as well so I think it was a pair of Tawny owls that we were listening to. We rarely see the Tawny owls but occasionally we see the much larger Barn owls sitting on the fence posts at dusk.
The day started off looking as if it was going to rain but then it all cleared up and we have had a lovely afternoon and evening. The butterflies are finally returning to the garden. There were 5 different species on one bush and later I saw 6 peacock butterflies on a buddlia. Hopefully if this good weather continues we will have even more butterflies when the sedums in the garden flower.
I waited until the afternoon for my walk and took the usual route out to Okewill. I like going that way because there are some good viewpoints from field gate along the way. First from the top of our drive there are views north to Trentishoe Common and although it is hidden there is the knowledge of the sea just beyond. (On a good day you can glimpse the tops of the Welsh mountains from there.) Then after the road bends at Ashelford Corner there are great views eastwards with Arlington Court in the foreground and the hills of Exmoor beyond. I had my binoculars with me today and spent some time trying to place the various buildings seen from a different angle along the road out to Blackmoor Gate. Finally at the next bend in the road the views are southwards and if I climb up on the gate I can see Barnstaple a few miles away with a glimpse of the sea and then the plateau of Dartmoor rising up 60 miles away.
I've seen this family out before. Mum rides her horse while Dad cycles along with their baby in a child seat. A lovely way to enjoy a fine afternoon.
When I first passed the calves' field they were hiding in a corner but as I returned they were up by the gate. I spent some time hanging over the gate and crooning to them in a 'farmerish' fashion until they got brave enough to get right up close and one even had a good sniff of my hand.
Before my walk I had another weeding session on a bank means where I don't have to do much bending. Once my 'jobs' were done I was able to sit outside to read. I've read The Sillmarillion several times but but I've been saving The Sons Of Huron until I had a quiet time as it is a book that requires concentration. I love Tolkien but the linguist in him made the development of the numerous languages spoken by men, elves, dwarves etc an integral part of his books. Each character and place is given a name in several different languages and sometimes a second name after a significant event. Along with the long time span and the many characters I'm finding it helpful to write annotated family trees while I read. But yes I do enjoy it. I must be a real enthusiast because I enjoy the prologues and appendices as much as the text. When I finish this book I might reread The Silmarillion and then some of the Unfinished Tales and then finish up with LOTR & The Hobbit before the film comes out at Christmas.

Sunday, 19 August 2012


While the rest of the country basked in the hottest weather of the year we were stuck under the weather front. We had heavy rain all morning which as the front moved away turned to fog and finally by the late afternoon we too were in bright sun. I was able to do some weeding of a bank which didn't involve too much bending. Only this morning I was reminded by a sharp pain when I picked up something from the floor that my muscles are still not fully healed and I need to take things easy.

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Grey & Wet.

The day started grey and wet. Not the heavy rain of yesterday but a steady drizzle. Peter went off to row in another regatta at Clovelly. I thought about going along, if he could get another entry pass as however pretty Clovelly is it isn't worth paying £15 to walk down the cobbled street, but with the poor weather and feeling unsure about being out for a number of hours, I decided to stay at home. As part of my chores I did some serious saucepan and baking tray scrubbing. The men in this house see little point in scrubbing the outside of saucepans and as for cleaning the bottoms ....... well I must be stark raving mad. So if I want my expensive steel saucepans cleaned I have to do it myself. Then I got on with backing up all last month's photos because I keep forgetting to do it at the end of each week.
In the late afternoon the rain stopped and it became very warm once more. Walking around the garden the air around the buddlias and the golden marjoram was simply buzzing with bees and I saw my first peacock and tortoiseshell butterflies.
Peter came home tired but happy though they didn't do as well as at the previous regatta. Different crews as well as some suspect tactics by one of the other clubs.
Vytas put up a link to this Mars picture on facebook and Linas transferred the whole thing to the blog. I think it's so amazing to be able to look at the surface of Mars even if it is just an uninteresting crater. What progress we have made in one generation.

You can use the tool in the top left corner to move around or you can use the arrow keys on your keyboard and the mouse scroll button to zoom in. They also have other places (only on Earth though), on the site that you can look around. I found it all fascinating.

Apologies for the duplicate photo. I can't delete it for some reason.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Cold & Wet.

It has poured with rain for most of the day. Apart from going out to check on the dams on the road once first Peter and then the postman drove over them, I've done very little. There have been a few very brief dry spells but it has been much cooler. At one point in the afternoon the stream ran red where a lot of soil had been washed into the water. I did spend quite a lot of time battling with Google Chrome as many of my favourites had not transferred across from my broken Internet Explorer.


Got back to the old Blogger interface but apparently it will be shut down in a few months. My biggest complaint is the size of the photos. How on earth can it be better to have to go into the HTML of each photo and change the width and height measurements instead of having 3 options, small / medium / big ? Even Linas had to admit that was not an improvement. Although Linas moved my favourites over there has still been the fun of having to sign back into some of the pages. I mean who remembers all those user names and passwords? Right now my thoughts about Google Chrome and the 'New' Blogger are unprintable.


This is a test post because Internet Explorer has died and Linas has insisted that I use Google Chrome. I get totally fed up with the 'Oh it's new and shiny, got to use that.' attitude. Funny how something that is supposed to be all singing and dancing requires twice as many actions for the same result.

Thursday, 16 August 2012


Determined to be more active today I went out for my walk out to Okewill despite the high probability of rain. It was much cooler but luckily there were only a few spits of rain and the sun even made an appearance towards the end of my walk.
Walking along the same route each day there are still new sights each time. Since yesterday Andrew Lewis had turned out some calves into this little field. They weren't brave enough to come up to the gate and kept a wary eye on me from a distance. I saw the first ripe blackberries high up in a hedge but I left them alone as they were protected by stinging nettles. Also up in the hedge were the first wild honeysuckle flowers. Not only were there new sights but every now and again, as I walked along I was hit by the sweet scent of the Himalayan Balsam.

Keeping on with my more active mood once I got home I finished cutting back all the alchemilla around the pond. I have hinted that I would like half a ton of gravel as a birthday present so that I can top up the path around the pond but somehow I don't think that will happen.

It wasn't until Linas phoned me that I found out that he had gone into town with Peter (I thought he was having a lie-in). He had planned to get the bus back from town and wanted a lift from the main road. Then he discovered that the afternoon bus doesn't run anymore so as rain was threatening I went and picked him up. I've spent nearly the whole summer slopping around in short pj's only putting on 'proper' shorts & top for my trips to town. (So much more comfortable especially in this humid weather.) Today as I was only driving I threw a hoody on top of my pj's and drove like that.