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.

Wednesday, 31 October 2012


Happy Birthday to Romas.
We haven't seen Romas since last Christmas as he has been busy up at Stoke, studying at Keele University, playing in his band, skateboarding and working 2 jobs to support himself. It is very hard to think of your children as adults whose lives only occasionally cross yours. Romas is now studying for his Masters which hopefully will give him a better chance of finding a job once he has finished university.
No he doesn't have a twin, just some digital trickery. (I save any pictures of the boys that are put on Facebook.)
Romas is the cheeky lad with the striped jumper in the front row, probably age 6. It was only a little village school with just 2 classes for all the children. His brothers must have been in the junior class by then. At that time the school consisted of one large room with a partition to separate the 2 classes and outside toilets. Since then classrooms and toilets have been added but it is still only a 2 class school.
Romas can't come down for Christmas as he has to work but might be able to visit the aged parents afterwards.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


Today has been overcast but almost completely dry. A contrast indeed to the conditions in America right now. A sure sign of climate change, we can only hope that the global weather does not continue to deteriorate in this extreme fashion. We have been here nearly 30 years and for the first 17 years we only ever had a day or 2 of snow each winter but each of last few years have seen us snowed in with snow on the ground for several weeks at a time. 
I spent most of the day in town but I did manage to get an awful lot done. Best of all I had coffee with my friend at our usual spot and it was great to catch up on all our news as we haven't got together for quite a while. I also posted several parcels, visited the bank and took back all my library books. As I had paid for all day parking I checked out the charity shops and some of the clothes shops. I don't actually need anything but it doesn't hurt to look. Somehow I always end up looking for fluffy fleece tops, a bit of a weakness of mine. I was drawn to an oversize top in one shop but as it was more than 3x the price of fleeces elsewhere it soon went back on the rail. I did try on a fleece in another shop but it wasn't quite right. Finally I found just what I wanted in Next but not in my size in the right colour. Fortunately I was able to order the size I wanted and it will be there this weekend. After all that shopping I went to the Barnstaple recycling centre and got rid of another car load of metal and stuff. I had also been able to sort out a couple of bags of tools to give to a charity shop. I love clearing out stuff.  
On my way home I stopped on the drive to take some photos of a low flying plane when I spotted a buzzard up in a tree.
Apologies for what the buzzard is doing (his comment on would be nature photographers perhaps?) but of all the photos I took from across the field this was the only one that was clear enough to be enlarged. 
Once home it was time to relax with a pain  au chocolat and the latest episode of Downton Abbey. I'm not usually a fan of period drama but this is so well done that it's a must for me. 
Keep safe everybody.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Sun & Showers.

All day I've been watching the news and my thoughts go out to everyone in America facing this dreadful storm. I may complain about the miserable weather here in the UK but we never have extreme weather. Keep safe all of you.
Here we had a slight improvement in the weather and by the afternoon the sun broke through between the light showers. 
I've had a busy day and got most of the floor of the back room cleared. I took the rubbish up to the road for tomorrow's collection and on my way back I spotted the end of a rainbow out towards Kentisbury.
Friends and family should be quite impressed with this view through to the old back door. Having moved a lot of stuff out of the back room I gave the carpet a clean and of course I couldn't stop there. The door got a wash but then I noticed, as I went out to wipe the windows from the outside, that the front door was quite grubby. A result of my summer of rest when only essential housework was done. After washing the front door I had to do the door frame and the other side of the door and the door into the kitchen and .... then I stopped. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012


We had forgotten about the clocks changing to winter-time so this morning it was a nice surprise to find that it was an hour earlier than we thought. It will mean that it won't be so dark for Peter when he sets off for work but then again the evenings will draw in that much earlier. Right now it is 5.00 and almost dark outside.
The back room is looking a lot clearer as we had a good session sorting a lot of the 'stuff' that had accumulated in there. On the other hand the kitchen is full of boxes and bags but once things have been dispatched to the bin men or the recycling centre I can organise what is left. Because our climate is so damp we can't keep metal things in the sheds as they eventually go rusty so I have to find storage space in the house.

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Cold & Sunny.

It's been a bright and sunny day though quite cold so we went for a walk around Watersmeet. (Lorna Doone country.)
The sun was lighting up the tops of the hills and when our path climbed the slopes it felt very warm as we were sheltered from the cold wind that has been blowing all day.
The first path we walked took us high above the smaller river which has a number of waterfalls along the way.
Later we walked along the River Lyn which is more level but still flows with great force.

As usual we took along a flask of coffee and some flapjacks which we ate sitting on some rocks next to the river just downstream from the nice but expensive tea house.
It made a nice change to be walking in these steep valleys on the edge of Exmoor but we tend to be seduced by the call of the sea.
Peter has gone out rowing and I am hoping that he is going to bring home some kebabs for our supper. An extremely unhealthy but tasty meal to celebrate Vytas' PhD.

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grey & Cold.

Today there was a definite chill to the air and the frequent light showers felt as if they were at the point of turning into sleet.
In the morning I loaded up the car and took more junk down to the recycling centre. Things have changed a little since the last time I was there and they no longer have the big compactor for general rubbish. Apparently people were not separating out the recyclable stuff so now they only take sorted items. I was able to get rid of the small electrical junk and metal bits but had to bring home one bag of rubbish which I will leave out for our general roadside rubbish collection. I also got rid of 2 chairs from the kitchen. Despite repairs they were both quite rickety. One to the point where only the cat could safely sit on it and the other one was only suitable for light people who didn't wriggle too much. We still have 6 chairs around the kitchen table and an oak bench that seats 2/3 so we won't miss those 2 chairs. 
Later in the afternoon the postman brought me the cheque I had won simply by asking for an insurance quote. Although it was a reputable company I had still wondered if the cheque really would arrive or would it simply be something like money off vouchers if I took up their insurance. It's enough to go towards a holiday next year, that will be something to look forward to.

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Yesterday I could see the beech leaves falling like golden rain. All very poetic but today my more practical side thought I had better check the gutters at the back of the house. I've been trying to avoid the more strenuous chores so soon after my operation but I didn't think climbing the ladders would be too much. Indeed it wasn't and a good thing that I checked the gutters as they were full of leaves. Golden leaves on top and a nasty slimy sludge underneath. Although it is 2 stories high, being the old part of the house the back is not so high and I keep the roof ladders in position. Its only a matter of up and down the ladders a few times and shifting one of them along so that I can reach right to the end.
However being up the ladders gave me a good view of the stream. I could see that Vytas had made a fine job of piling big stones over the water pipe but the recent flood had brought down a lot of smaller stones and gravel. These had been deposited on the bends in the stream and while curves are aesthetically pleasing they change the dynamics of the stream which then starts to erode the banks. (When I did geography at school I found it very depressing that landscapes are constantly changing.) So I put on our only pair of wellies that don't leak  and spent several hours shifting gravel and stones from one place to another. Now the stream has been straightened up a bit, Vytas' hard work covered with more stones and the eroded spots filled in. Not a permanent solution but it should keep things under control. Oh and I still managed to fill one boot with water as much of my work was done crouching in the stream. I saw a few small fishes in the stream and disturbed a couple of frogs as I worked. 

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Proud Mum.

Right now I feel that I am bursting with pride. Vytas had his viva this afternoon and now he has his PhD. 
He has been moving in this direction since he was very young. Before starting school he told the teacher that he only drew rockets, not people. He and his brothers watched their Star Wars videos so many times that the tapes wore out and all their drawings and games were based on science fiction. (A quick glance at our bookshelves filled with Asimov to van Vogt will show where this may have come from.) At school Vytas did well but he has always made time for other activities, perhaps sometimes at the cost of his studies but maybe that attitude has made him a more rounded and happier person. At primary school his headteacher suggested we consider sending him to Space School  (at the National Space Centre, Leicester University) which we did a few years later. After that his heart was set on studying at Leicester where he got a Masters in physics. He then did his research at the Open University in Milton Keynes and now ........ he has his PhD. And in a week he's off to Australia for a year. I am so happy that the first of our boys has achieved his goal. His brothers are still working towards their goals which I'm sure they will also eventually achieve.
I haven't done much today, just baked a batch of flapjacks for Peter and completed this little project. I bought the wool many years ago and have been trying to find a way to use it which would make the best use of the changing colours and textures. Neither knitting nor crochet gave the result I wanted so I used a hot glue gun to stick it onto the hard cover of a sketch book. It has been my first attempt with a hot glue gun and it has been difficult to keep the strands of glue away from the top of the wool. Maybe I'll get tidier with practice.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012


It has been exceptionally warm again today. Overcast for most of the time, right up until late afternoon when some patches of blue appeared. It felt as warm as any summer's day but the changing leaves on the beech trees showed that autumn is truly here. 
I have continued on with the job of sorting out the junk in our back room. It is part of my thrifty nature that I cannot simply throw  away the tubs of oddments but instead pick out all the nails, screws & bolts because you never know, they might come in useful one day. I'm slowly making headway and there is a pile of old wires & useless electrical stuff that Peter has okayed to chuck. Now all I need to do is get him to go through all the plumbing oddments because I'm sure most of that can go too. He did give away a load of useful bits to a plumber friend and all we need to keep are enough spares for essential repairs. 

Monday, 22 October 2012


Today it has been overcast but warm, dull weather and a dull day generally. I've done some housework & some tidying and a lot of resting. It seems that's what I need at the moment.

Sunday, 21 October 2012


Everything in the garden is very wet underfoot but the day has been sunny and warm with some breeze. Nice enough to hang some sheets outside.
I must has overdone things a bit yesterday which resulted in not a very good night but while Peter was out rowing I couldn't resist doing some garden work. It wasn't too hard to cut back one of the stands of purple loosestrife. The hardest part of the job was dragging the 7ft stems up the drive to the rough ground and avoiding the midges under the trees.
That job done and the washing hung up I washed my hair and settled down to enjoy the sun. I did have to keep chasing the sun around the front yard but it was worth it to sit out in shorts and soak up a little more vitamin D. 
Squeaky found herself a sunny spot though later she settled on my lap. When I finally lost the sun I came inside for some ironing. I watch Ice Road Truckers as I iron because it doesn't matter if I don't see all of it, though I did spot an error in the subtitles when 'your' was used instead of 'you're'. I've seen that a lot recently, one of those errors that won't be picked up by spell-checker. I've been watching the South America series and the scenery is spectacular and scary while the ironing helps me ignore the overly dramatic commentary. This evening we'll watch last night's Strictly followed by the results. This is the time of year we become ballroom dancing experts, or at least pretend to be.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


We woke this morning to yet more gorgeous sunshine. From the bedroom window the trees were lit up with their patchwork of green, yellow and brown leaves shining in the sun. Sitting on our windowsill we could also see Elwen. She has given up looking at us begging to come in as muddy paws don't go well with cream bedding and she bullies poor confused Squeaky if we are not around but instead her eyes were fixed on her own reflection in the big mirror on the opposite wall of our bedroom. She spent quite a while staring at herself and meowing (probably death threats), silly cat.   At this time of year the sun still reaches down to light up the front of the house and looking out of the kitchen window the red acer shines like a beacon in the sunlight.
Weather like this was not to be wasted so off we went for a walk around Morte Point in the warm sunshine.
Even with the naked eye we could see some of the bigger buildings on Lundy. (I have looked into the possibility of going over to Lundy for Christmas but everything apart from the Barn, sleeps 22, and Big St John's, sleeps 4, was booked and even Big St John's was over £600 for the week.)
We had our coffee right out at the Point. I can think of nothing better than sitting in the warm sun with a gentle breeze blowing across our faces and the sound of the waves lapping below.
Back home, via Tesco's, I waded into the stream to sort out the wire boundary fence that had caught all the debris washed down in the flood. As Paul hadn't got round to removing the fence I cut it myself and cleared all the wood out of the stream. I did find all the logs which had been washed down from their temporary place on the far side of the stream. We were giving Paul a chance to claim them as it was technically his tree we had cut down. He obviously doesn't want them so I'll put them in our shed. I also cleared part of the 18" of mud and sticks that had covered the steps down to the stream. That was more than enough work for one day.

Friday, 19 October 2012


It has been very warm today. Not exactly sunny but with not a breath of wind. That's very unusual for up here. I have managed to get a few small jobs done today, washing a corner of the sitting room carpet with the vax (thanks Elwen!) cutting back the honeysuckle on a garden wall and finally some tidying up of the back room. The oil man came today to top up our tank and I talked to him about the difficulties the insulation chaps thought they would have. Well, his tanker is 71/2 tons and only has rear wheel drive but according to him our place is one of his easier deliveries. He also said there is more than enough room to turn in our yard. I rang the insulation company to give them those details and hopefully when a new crew come in a couple of weeks they won't have any problems. 

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sun & Showers.

It's been a day of hot sun and heavy showers. Perfect conditions to spotlight the stones in the raised bed under the sitting room windows. 
After a long peaceful time at home I had to go into town to do a few things. Even when I am working I only skim the edge of town but today I had to drive right through the built-up areas and once again I was reminded how  lucky I am to live in this peaceful valley. 
My first port of call was the doctors' surgery to pick up a form for work. I was not best pleased when I found that the surgery was closed and would only be opening for the 'flu jab clinic. I waited until they let all the clinic patients in, they were getting through them like a conveyor belt. Literally - roll your sleeve up in the corridor,  into the room for the jab and out again. Luckily someone came by who was able to find the correct form for me at the unattended 'Help Desk' so I was able to fill it in and send it of to work. Next stop was the post office. Once again I had to post a vital possession to Linas in Belfast. Unfortunately, despite phone calls, emails and even a photo I could not find the required tool in the chaos of Linas' belongings. But by then he had thought of some other things he needed so those were packed and are now on their way to him. 
Finally I called in at the supermarket. Even though I now have no restrictions on what I can eat my only treats were a pizza (reduced), some vegetable crisps and 2 individual gooseberry fools. When I got home I had a rather indulgent late lunch and a good rest.
In between showers it has been blazing hot. For a while the sun was lighting up the side of the back lawn by the stream. Caught in the bright light were many midges looking like golden fairies dancing in the sun. You can just see how such legends evolved as each darting creature was so bright the individual features could not be seen. Even as the sun went down the sky was filled with a golden light. Such a nice change from gloomy grey days.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Sun & Evening Torrents.

It's been a beautiful sunny day today. Just the right sort of day to spend all my time working outside but I have learnt the hard way that I need to pace myself. The only thing to mar the day was hearing the hunt roaming around the valley. I made sure all the cats were in the house before several hounds came running into the garden. I got so cross I went and got a shotgun (not loaded but nobody knew that), and stood at the top of the drive making myself very visible to some of the riders and hunt followers. Soon after that I heard the whipper-in calling away all the hounds, good.
By working in 3 separate sessions I was able to clear the leaves in the yard and on the raised bed. Session 1 was with a brush and pan, then as the sun and wind dried the remaining leaves I was able to use the leaf vac and finally in the afternoon I was able to pick up the rest by hand.
The weather was so good that I was able to sit outside and read for 2 hours before the sun left the garden. Since then we've had some heavy showers so I've been up and checked the road dams as I don't want to be repairing the drive again. Later in the afternoon I had a surprise phone call. I get several 'junk' phone calls a day so it took a few moments to realise this wasn't one of them. Some months ago I had rung a few insurance companies to see if I could get a better quote for our house insurance, which I couldn't. One of those companies was running a draw for all enquirers and I have a won a cash prize.  It's a reliable firm and the cheque is supposed to be coming next week, how good is that?
And then a delivery van turned up. I was so surprised when I was handed a big bouquet that I even asked if he was sure it was for me. The bouquet and a box of chocolates were from all my work colleagues (cards had arrived with the postman). What a lovely gesture.
Oh my! the rain is absolutely thundering down and the TV signal keeps dropping out. Better check there's no thunder, it's even worse now!!!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Fleeting Showers.

I felt quite tired after our busy weekend but I was up bright and early as a firm was coming to squirt insulation (polystyrene balls which are set solid in a special liquid) into the cavity walls of the new part of our house. At 9.30 2 chaps came walking down the drive and they were like a comedy duo. Shaking their heads they explained that they couldn't possibly get their van back up our drive should they venture right down to the house. In fact they didn't know if they would make it back up the hill, (they did). They had a 3 1/2 ton van with front wheel drive so maybe they were right. And I don't think their engine could have been much good because they had got stuck trying to get up Whitefield Hill. The company surveyor had been here and taken photos and measurements of the house so it wasn't my problem. The men said they would have to phone their office but they didn't have a signal on their phones. I did offer our house phone but they declined, I think they wanted the morning off. They also grumbled about the plants growing up the wall even though the surveyor had said they would probably do most of it from inside. So now I'm waiting for the office to phone and arrange another time with another vehicle which has 4 wheel drive.
As it was a bright day with only occasional fleeting showers I thought I might as well get on with cutting back the honeysuckle, roses and wisteria that grow on the front of the house. It's a job that has to be done before winter anyway. I managed to do nearly all the pruning and most of the clearing up. I still need to sweep up all the leaves in the yard and tidy the raised bed before the job is complete. There are also a few branches at the very top which need the 3-part roof ladder. That ladder is too heavy for me at the best of times so I shall have to wait until one of the boys comes to visit.

Monday, 15 October 2012


Well that's it. Vytas left this afternoon and in a few weeks will be in Australia. I held it together while he was here but once he drove off the tears flowed. Which is silly I know. It's been 8 years since he went off to uni and has visited us only 2 or 3 times a year but there is a big difference between being 5 hours up the motorway and half way around the world.
To remind myself that he is now a grown man I took this picture of our hands together with the hospital wristband they put on him when he was born. (I've got the wrist and ankle bands for all 3 of them.)
We had a good day together. In between the showers Vytas raked and barrowed up the gravel that had washed down the drive in the last storm. (It's exactly 25 years since The Great Storm when I stood at the bedroom window with Vytas in my arms and watched the neighbour's garage roof blowing off before all the lights went out in London.) While Vytas worked I took down and emptied the hanging baskets by the front door and replaced them with 2 sets of wind-chimes. Work done we drove down to Woolacombe for a beach walk. Before we could get there we had to take a detour due to a flood before Indicott. Vytas had run past there the other day and been forced to climb along the hedge to get past but today it was even worse. I drove up to it slowly with another car behind me but then I decided not to take the risk. The car behind had been waiting to see what I would do but then we both reversed until we could turn. Instead I went back to East Down and out that way. Much longer but with only a couple of small floods to drive through. Down at the beach we had a windy walk along the sands before dropping into The Red Barn for lunch. It's a surf themed, slightly touristy pub/restaurant but the atmosphere is very relaxed with dogs under most tables and a great view of the beach and out to Lundy. Vytas had cod & chips while I had the vegetable lasagne. Time was running short and we were quite full so we passed on dessert.  
Back home Vytas put his things in his car and was soon gone, cue tears. He has left me with one problem though. After he downloaded some photos (of his warhammer figures that he wants to sell) by a different route to the one I usually use, my pc no longer recognises my camera as a camera. At least we think that is the problem. It still downloads the photos but won't put up thumbnails, only blank squares or the folder icon. A bit of a nuisance. I'll have to see if Peter can sort it as I do download my photos daily.
PS I didn't take any photos when we were out as I was too busy talking with Vytas.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


Last night Vytas and I were waiting for Peter to come home from rowing when the phone rang. It was Peter "I'm at the top of the drive and all the heifers from the field are out and trying to escape down the road."  Being on his own all he could do was stop them from heading out on to the road and wait for help. Luckily I knew whose heifers they were and was able to ring Debbie Lewis and tell her what was going on. I didn't walk right up the hill in case I spooked the heifers (they are only just calves) but Peter had to stay up there until Debbie and Andrew arrived with some feed and sorted the heifers out. It was really lucky that Peter had been coming home at that time, it was pitch dark and with their farm being over a mile away the heifers could have wandered anywhere and people do drive fast around the country roads at night. 

Today we treated Vytas and ourselves to a carvery lunch at The Station Inn. Here Vytas is demonstrating the art of piling as many vegetables as possible on to his plate, and that is before I gave him my Yorkshire pudding. Today's vegetables were spring cabbage (oh so tasty), mashed swede with cream and carrots. We all had beef and pork and left there full to the gills.
We were lucky in that it was a really lovely day so after our lunch we drove to The Valley of The Rocks for a gentle stroll.
I love the scenery in the valley which is wild and rugged but sometimes it feels like a theme park in that the wilderness is only as far as the eye can see. Climb the rock strewn hill and beyond is farmland, still stunning but not wilderness. And half a mile from the entrance is the small town of Lynton. But it is still a lovely place to visit.
We climbed up Castle Rock to enjoy the view across to Wales, It was exceptionally clear today and with binoculars you could see individual buildings and the mountains beyond. It was when we were at the top of the hill that my camera battery ran out and the spare was ..... in the car.
Back home Vytas helped me do a major fix on part of our bed frame  When I had moved the bed to paint the room last Spring I had done it on my own by pulling the bed from side to side. This had put a strain on one of the joints and eventually some of the fixing dowels had snapped. Today we drilled out the broken dowels, glued new ones in and added some extra fixing plates. Right now the bed end is leaning up over the Rayburn to help the wood glue set before we put the whole thing together so we can sleep on it tonight.