Rain has been falling gently all day long. Peter went out early to row while I slept on. Later I couldn't let the rain defeat me so I put on a coat and had a good session in the garden chopping back plants. This is the start of the annual autumn clean up and today I cut down all the big crocosmia as well as the smaller clumps in the scree garden. Although it would be nice to keep the seed heads through the winter the leaves will quickly turn brown and look a real mess. Luckily the montbretia, the smaller semi-wild crocosmia, which grows in several areas of the garden, is a little more out of the way and can be left for the winter. The other plants that will need cutting back are still full of flowers, even the climbing roses are blooming so I will have to wait a few more weeks.
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, 29 September 2012
It has been another fine and sunny day with the temp going up to 14C. A steady breeze has made it a good drying day and I was able to get some sheets out on the line. Peter has been giving the Rayburn a service. After 20 years he is getting the hang of it though all the engineers he has talked to say our particular model is the worst one ever to service. Right now we are at the crucial stage of waiting to see if it will run at a working temperature now it has all been put back together. Sometimes it takes several adjustments before it is all up and running.
I've had a productive day too. First I cleared out all Linas' things from our best spare room (there are still 2 other bedrooms full of his stuff), and gave it a good clean. Then as it was such a nice day I went out and worked in the garden. I weeded the veg patch thoroughly and planted up more cuttings of some of my favourite plants. Really it is not a veg patch any more but a plant nursery. I just stick cuttings or self sown seedlings in the soil and see what will grow. From last year I have some very bright purple buddlia, aubretia, lamb's ears, sedum and ornamental grasses all doing well and ready to plant out next spring.
Friday, 28 September 2012
It has been very mild today with quite a lot of sun and occasional soft showers. I spent the whole day at home, mostly slowly continuing with my tidying up mission. Today I got into one of the lower cupboards and sorted through my motley collection of plastic containers. I will admit to being a hoarder, not like those poor people you see on TV but of useful items which can be very varied in my case. For a start I was brought up in a home where money was scarce (and it was not so long after the war), so it is completely against my nature to throw away anything unless it is worn out, irreparable or not suitable for projects/school. I do know people who chuck out stuff as soon as they stop using it, often into the bin rather than the charity shops or the recycling centre at the dump and I guess they have really nice tidy houses but to me that is so wrong and it's bad for the planet too. Our plastic box cupboard had gone a crazy, Peter cooks both breakfast and lunch at home and takes them in plastic containers to heat up at work and I know it drives him mad when he can't find box and lid to match. So today everything came out, got sorted and all the spare lids and a couple of lidless containers went in the bin. (Here they only recycle plastic drinks and milk bottles.)
This afternoon the plumber came back and replaced the broken part that caused the leak in the bathroom so that is another job sorted.
Thursday, 27 September 2012
A welcome break in the weather had me out in the garden getting rid of a few brambles that had snuck in among my flowers. Then I took my secateurs and bow saw and cut back a lot of the branches overhanging the road just above the drive. After that bit of exertion it was time for work, nothing exciting, just RE followed by PE. I'm not in the best shape to be demonstrating gymnastics but luckily the children are at such a basic stage that even I can manage to explain if not to demonstrate.
After work I had a few places to visit, a place where they print t-shirts (will show you that one in a few weeks), and Tescos to buy a new kettle as the one in our bedroom has started to leak. (We like an early morning cup of tea without having to walk all the way to the kitchen.) Somehow yet another orchid made its way into my trolley, a small flowered pink & white one to put in our bedroom.
Wednesday, 26 September 2012
This morning I heard that the WORST of the storm was now heading south. I thought that we'd had the worst! Leaving home at lunchtime the country roads were running with water down both sides and had the occasional puddle going right across - A Devon Car Wash. Guaranteed to leave your car an even shade of brown. The photo above was taken on the journey home when the waters had receded quite a bit.
We had our usual lunchtime staff meeting (planning is already in progress for all the Christmas events), and then the afternoon got a bit hectic. There have been a few changes to the Wednesday afternoon arrangements this term including having a sports specialist coming in to take some classes for PE. I had volunteered to take a different class for phonics but then all of a sudden I had to get 30 5 year olds changed into PE kit and down to the playground. It took a lot longer than the hoped for 5 minutes. That made me late for my annual performance review with the Headteacher. Not a good start arriving late, hot and flustered but it ended up being a constructive meeting.
Right now the sun is shining, some brown rice (much healthier than the oh so easy cous-cous), is cooking for my supper and I plan to spend the rest of the evening relaxing.
Tuesday, 25 September 2012
I was most relieved when I looked out of the window this morning and saw that there wasn't a big pile of gravel in the yard washed down by last night's rain. It had sounded absolutely torrential crashing down on the conservatory roof and the morning news said that some places had a month's rain in 24 hours. With more rain due today the advice was to check before travelling as some major roads were flooded and trains cancelled. Walking up the drive to feed the chickens I did see some damage to the drive but it only needed a little work with a rake to restore it. I went and checked on my soil dams and they were still intact but the small ditches I had dug discretely on my neighbour's land were filled with fine gravel washed down from the road. I cleared the ditches using the gravel to reinforce the dams so the drive should be protected from the next downpour.
It was back to work in the afternoon. Some older pupils from the secondary school came to talk to my class about the kind of stories and characters they like as part of their drama assignment. Later in the year they will come and perform their plays (usually pantomime style) to the Year 2 children. They come every year with their drama teacher who was Romas' Year Head and I still recall several visits to her office with Romas to explain lack of homework. We get on fine now and she is always interested to hear how the boys are getting on.
The school is right in town but we do have a small playing field as does the junior school which is on the same site. To one side are some mature trees and it is not unusual to see squirrels in the trees or even in the playground. But this morning 2 teachers saw a badger disappearing into the bushes. That is an unusual town animal. Foxes yes but not badgers.
Update - this storm is the worst September storm for 30 years. It seems to be worst in North Wales and northern England and there is still more to come.
Update - this storm is the worst September storm for 30 years. It seems to be worst in North Wales and northern England and there is still more to come.
Monday, 24 September 2012
Yesterday's rain continued until lunchtime. It was dry for the afternoon but very windy. The clouds were being blown so quickly across the sky that the occasional sunny spell lasted only a few minutes.
For once I was at home for the whole day so I was able to continue my gentle tidying up of the place. I thought I'd try a change to my fruit bread recipe and made gingerbread instead using more ground ginger and grated fresh ginger as well. I think next time I could add even more fresh ginger to give it a bit more bite.
By the end of the afternoon heavy rain started up once more. This morning's news had already shown flooding in some villages as the ground is saturated from our wet summer.
The plumber did turn up eventually but he needs to buy a new valve for the cistern and won't be able to come back until Friday. It's a good thing we have several bathrooms.
Sunday, 23 September 2012
Nothing but rain all day today. It was predicted and amber weather warnings are out for this evening but last night when the shipping forecast was for gales I jumped out of bed to reinforce the dirt dams on the road. (It wasn't raining at the time.) Peter went out rowing this morning and came back soaking wet but that never seems to deter him. I've just pottered about doing a few tidying up jobs. Peter made a temporary fix on the leaking pipe but until the plumber has been and the floors have dried out I can't put the bathroom back to rights. The downstairs toilet does need a new ceiling but it will be cheaper to get someone in than to pay the excess on the insurance. The whole room needs re-doing - tiles on the floor and the walls re-plastered. I think I may have come up with a solution to the problem of the too big washing machine that doesn't involve sawing bits off the door, I'll let you know if it works.
And because I don't like to publish a post without at least one photo here's a happy seal from yesterday.
Saturday, 22 September 2012
Woke this morning to absolutely wonderful weather. So off we went for a walk around Morte Point. There were still many people around especially as it was such a fine and warm day but even so there were plenty of lovely views. One lady we passed pointed out a group of gannets out at sea and although she was convinced there were dolphins there I think that was sheer optimism and the fact that she had been told they are often seen near diving gannets. We did see a couple of seals bobbing about in the water people watching as they waited for the tide to drop so they could sunbathe on the rocks.
Our usual coffee stop bench was occupied so we carried on around the headland and for once this sheltered spot was free. It was so peaceful sitting there in the warmth listening to the water (no waves today), lapping around the rocks below.
When we got home there was a bit of a disaster. Water was dripping down from the bathroom into the ground floor toilet. Unlike previous times this has happened it was not caused by the bath overflowing but by a leaking pipe. Our mis-matched plumbing system has always been a challenge and there was a lot of angry muttering from Peter as he tried to find the right valve to turn off and the tools to at least do a temporary fix. A plumber friend will be coming round to fix it properly but not until Monday.
It was a relief to me to be able to disappear off to collect my friend and go and watch the fireworks display in town. With the earlier carnival and the weekend fair (a tradition that goes back over 1,000 years) the whole town was in holiday mode. A fitting way to celebrate the autumn equinox.
After watching the fireworks from the bridge we walked with the crowd over to the fair itself. Past the stalls selling food and into the main fairground with all the games and rides. There is such a sense of excitement with the flashing lights, the screams from those brave enough to ride the dizzying 'big rides' and the music throbbing right through your body.
For me it is as much fun to simply wander through the fairground soaking up the atmosphere and watching everyone enjoying themselves. Many local people have visited the fair every year since they were small children and we kept meeting friends as well as many former pupils. It all added to the enjoyment of the evening.
While never being brave enough for the seriously stomach churning rides and not feeling mended enough to crash around in the dodgems I was perfectly happy to ride the carousel horses, twice. I waved gaily to a lad from one of my classes and the look on his face was priceless. I mean, how can an old person like a teacher be on a roundabout?
Friday, 21 September 2012
Today's 'occasional' showers would not have pleased the farmers who were trying to get the last cut of silage in. I certainly was not too happy when I got caught in the rain walking back from a lunchtime trip into town. In-between the showers the day was sunny and warm. I was very glad to get home this afternoon after what has been a physically hard week. I've worked everyday apart from Tuesday morning when I had that mad dash to the hospital and then lugged a big parcel to the Post Office and although I have enjoyed the teaching the early mornings were hard and I've been coming home feeling very tired. Thank goodness for my stash of extra strong pain killers. Luckily my cold is abating though I have generously shared it with Peter.
Thursday, 20 September 2012
I had another full day at school so I am beginning to feel quite tired. At least today, even though I was in 2 different classes, was a planned day which is much less stressful and my voice was so much better. It's not so croaky and I've moved onto the drippy nose stage. We have a tummy bug and a lot of coughs going around the school which is usual for this time of year.
This morning my progress up the drive was stopped when Ali (who works at the stables) appeared leading one of the ponies back down the hill from yet another escape attempt. And this afternoon work in my class came to a halt every now and again by the appearance of a squirrel raiding the bird feeders in the trees just outside the classroom.
Wednesday, 19 September 2012
I had planned a restful morning nursing my cold in bed but it was not to be. Instead a phone call at 7.20 had me flying out of bed and rushing off to work. The poor children had to put up with me coughing and croaking all day long. At lunchtime I popped out to the local garage to stock up on various throat pastilles which I then had to explain to the children were to help my poor throat (sweets are not allowed in school). The children were pretty well behaved and it was not until towards the end of the afternoon that I needed to be a bit firmer and had to resort to using some bells to get their attention. Generally I simply have to say 'Children' in a firm tone to get their attention.
On my way home I was looking out across the fields and enjoying the beautiful views when I turned a corner to find the road and verge crowded with horse boxes, 4WD vehicles and quad bikes. Aargh! We're back in the hunting season and all these happy people were out getting pleasure from killing an animal. I fixed a smile on my face and thought unkind thoughts as I drove past.
But once home there was just enough sun for me to sit out for half an hour with a cup of tea and watch the bees and butterflies feasting on the sedum flowers. Behind me I could hear a tapping on an old willow tree, not a woodpecker but the much smaller nuthatch, a small grey and orange bird which runs up and down tree trunks searching for insects. It was so peaceful out there and a great way to unwind from a busy day.
Tuesday, 18 September 2012
It was one of those mornings when my busy schedule fell to pieces. My first task was to package up some more of Linas' belongings to post off. They were slightly too big for the box so I had to make a few adjustments. Finally after using up a mile or so of packing tape I wrote the address, stood back to admire my work and realised I had left out all the monitor cables . No time to repack as I was due at the hospital so I got out the appointment letter from the file and found that although when I spoke on the phone the appointment was for 10.20 on the letter it was for 10.00, something I hadn't noticed when I got the letter. I sped off down the road and then muttered darkly when I got stuck in a convoy behind a slow moving coach. Parking a few streets away from the hospital (because on principle I won't pay their exorbitant car park charges) I semi-jogged to the hospital arriving only 5 minutes late but very hot and puffed out. I was seen 5 minutes later so I was still all flustered and trying hard not to cough. A few days ago I had got the usual back-to-work sore throat and yesterday it had developed into a full blown cold. Today I have been croaking like a frog but when the nurse filling in my pre-op form asked if I had a sore throat I smiled sweetly and said no. I've got 2 and half weeks to get over this cold so I should be OK. Blood pressure and ECG were fine and they didn't do an MRSA check because it is only day surgery. (What happens if they have to convert to open surgery? ).
As I didn't have Linas' parcel ready to post I went back home for an hour, re-did the parcel and had a breather looking at the planning for the afternoon before heading back to work. My voice was pretty croaky for the afternoon which is not the best thing when you are teaching but I asked the children to be extra quiet and listen carefully which they made a good effort at. And that included a PE lesson. After work I drove into town and lugged the 9 and a half kilo parcel up to the Post Office and it is now on its way to Belfast.
I stopped on the way home to take some photos of the sea shining in the sun. The wind was noticeably cooler and we are due a sharp drop in temperature tonight. Time to be getting out the fluffy pyjamas soon.
Monday, 17 September 2012
There were just a few breaks in the unremitting grey clouds today. The first was as I looked out of the window at the dawn where the tiniest of gaps in the dark grey clouds showed a blue sky streaked with gold and pink. And there were more blue streaks on the homeward journey.
I had been called in to teach all day in a class of younger children that I didn't really know so it was a lively and interesting day. Especially in the afternoon when the plans called for all the children to experiment and work with clay. Luckily I had a teaching assistant for the whole day and we got everything done. I was then expecting to attend a first aid course that was being run after school, 3 hours tonight and 3 hours tomorrow. While it would be good to renew my first aid skills the thought of over 11 hours in school did not fill me with great enthusiasm. So I wasn't unhappy when I got a message in the afternoon that I didn't need to attend. I felt worn out enough when I did get home.
Sunday, 16 September 2012
Although it wasn't sunny the weather was still good enough for us to go for a Sunday walk along the coast at Morte Point. When we parked in the village, looking at all the holiday makers in shorts and t-shirts I thought I might be a bit over dressed but once out on the Point the strong winds made me glad that I had on trousers and a jacket.
It was quite busy out on the path and as we walked along everyone kept telling us that there were seals down on the rocks. I guess if you live in a city it is really special to see seals but we have become a little blasé about the seals. That isn't to say that I don't still stop and check them out through my binoculars. There were 3 on this rock and another 7 on the rock facing them. (On the other side of the headland there was a dead seal washed up on the rocks.)
It was too windy to sit comfortably at our usual spot so we climbed down to sit in the shelter of this rock formation which I call 'The Castle'. (That's a path running in front of it.) We had our coffee and some of my spiced fruit bread there.
Back home I decided not to do any gardening as I had rather overdone things yesterday. Instead I gave the small spice cupboard a thorough clean.
My first job was to take down and wash all the china and my rabbit collection. I think it's time to wean myself off the rabbits so I packed away most of the small ones. Then maybe in 6 months or a year I will be happy to sell them or even give them away to a charity shop. So many of the things on this cupboard brought back memories; we bought the tiny pink glass elephant (bottom right) from a glass blower at horse show we went to before we were married and the blue rabbit which is a container with a lid, was one I bought to celebrate our move into our first home. Unfortunately it wasn't properly packed and was seriously crushed and needed careful glueing together. The pot of birthday candles brought back so many memories of birthday cakes carefully constructed to reflect my boys' changing interests and yes they do still recall many of them. Some of the spices brought back Christmas memories and I can still remember buying the star anise at an amazing spice stall in Palma market 30 years ago with my mother. (The anise smells and looks fine.) Looking at all the whole seeds and pods as well as ground spices my kitchen looked like an ancient herbalist's workshop. By the time I had collated the various packets and jars there were still 3 unknown spices which took us a while to identify by smelling and comparing them to the labelled jars. If we were to have some sort of global event I would still be able to prepare tasty meals with whatever basics I could find.
Saturday, 15 September 2012
It has been a grey but dry and fairly warm day today. A good day for getting on with some gardening. I spent my time sitting on the hillside continuing on with digging out the grass roots and the London Pride.
These shield bugs were the only ones I could see on this cornus, it looked like they were having a little conference. They didn't quite resemble the green shield bugs in my wildlife book but a look at a site which showed the many different British shield bugs identified these as the nymphs of the green sheild bug, nothing more exciting. They suck the leaf sap but I don't think they count as serious pests.
Tidying up my herbs and spices yesterday got me thinking about the days when I cooked nearly everything from scratch. A jar of bolognaise or curry sauce was a bit of a luxury then and I never bought anything ready made. Have we become lazier or is it just the increased availability that has led to a greater use of ready made sauces and whole dishes? At the moment on this fat free diet I can't be too bothered and I do like cous-cous or boiled potatoes with tinned herrings (I can eat fish for some reason, maybe fish oils are different.) However I did have a go at making a spiced fruit loaf in the bread maker leaving out the butter and most of the oil. It came out all right (so I'll stick to those ingredients), but it would taste even better with some butter spread on it.
Talking about going back to old fashioned values - I followed this link-handmade-gifts- to a site which shows you how to make 25 gifts for under $5. There are some brilliant ideas and I may well try some of them.
Friday, 14 September 2012
As it was wet and windy first thing this morning I awarded myself a lie in, it felt so good to be sitting there with a cup of coffee watching the tv. I did have lie-ins during the summer but they were literally that as I could only lie with my head propped up. Not ideal. The day then progressed to sunny and windy with only the threat of showers which never materialised. I decided it was a good day to give some of the kitchen cupboards a good turn out. Everything got a good clean (how do shelves get dirty on the underneath?), and a sort out. I hate to throw out food and don't take too much notice of sell by dates but the anchovies that were 8 years out of date ended up in the bin along with some half used jars of sauces etc. Peter and the boys are experimental chefs and we seem to have everything from nam pla to jerk sauce in our cupboards. By the time stuff had been binned, collated or put into more suitable containers my cupboards looked a whole lot better. I must have gone through a phase of buying in bulk because we have enough herbs and spices to last a lifetime.
Next door's horses had a rest today because part of the road down the hill was being resurfaced. I walked up the hill and asked the boss guy if he would come down and give us a quote for our drive or even just the bit at the top where the cattle grid used to be but he never appeared. He did mention that even the very short section he was doing was costing £4,000 as the asphalt now costs £1,000 per load. And that was only to stick it on top of the exiting road. To do our drive would need preparation work as well as it is only dirt and gravel. Either the guy couldn't be bothered or he got to the edge of the garden and thought 'No way.'
There were mostly bees on the sedum flowers but I did see the only Painted Lady I have seen all summer. There were a couple of dragonflies who came and basked on the hot paving before Speedy decided to try and jump on them. Speedy was in a playful mood and made me laugh as he sat on the chair trying to catch his tail and slipping backwards off the chair though the gap.
Thursday, 13 September 2012
The weather has been quite convenient today. The morning was crisp and sunny, perfect for boosting my energy levels. Later it became overcast but still dry which was fine for work and my drive home and now it looks as if we may have some overnight rain.
This morning I was finally able to give the kitchen floor a good wash. My men never got past a quick sweep with a broom and then only when the floor became 'crunchy' with all the mess they cleaned off the work tops. My revelation that there was a time when I mopped the kitchen floor every day was met with incomprehension and the thought that I am some sort of cleanliness freak which is far from the truth. I only try to keep things clean and often my place is grubby and messy though I am happier when I do succeed in having the place fairly tidy. Perhaps it is the legacy of my student days when I worked as a hospital cleaner.
The garden is still full of colour but in some places the carefully chosen palettes of pinks to purples and oranges to red have merged creating a colour clash.