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 July 2009

It's Raining Again.

The rain held off till 3.00 though there wasn't a lot of sun. I worked up at the scree garden again, scraping moss off the paving slabs and getting rid of the weeds that are growing between the slabs. When it's all clear the paved area needs pressure washing, if we can fix the pressure washer, and a lot of re-pointing. When my knees started to protest I worked on one of the walls. Already it is time to start cutting back the valerian that has finished flowering and a few weeds had crept in as well. Luckily with all this rain the soil is very soft and it's easy to pull out the weeds. This strange little butterfly sitting on the buddlia is a Large Skipper.

When I cleared some of the moss on the wall I found this little toad sheltering between the stones. I'm not sure why but I find blue/green toads and brick red toads in the garden. They are all the same species, it must be either to do with their diet or the soil they hide in.

Once the rain arrived the cats and I moved indoors. The cats were busy cosying up to the rayburn and I fixed the painted wood above the microwave. We had a lovely piece of local lamb slow roasted with garlic and rosemary, for our supper.

Thursday 30 July 2009

A Garden Day.

After telling us that we were due for a hot summer the met office now says that August will be WET. Surprise, surprise. When I woke this morning there was a bright blue sky quickly followed by grey clouds. The forecast was for sunny spells and showers so I decided that I would try and have a gardening day in between the showers. During the wet spells I got on with the housework and painted a piece of wood to go across the microwave niche to match the kitchen tiling. From lunchtime there has been no rain though there have been cooler spells. I managed to do as much weeding as my knee would allow and also fitted in an hour of reading at the end of the day. While I was deadheading the hanging baskets I found this Silver Y moth sheltering from the rain.
Up in the scree garden the cabbage white butterflies are about. They only seem to like the nasturtiums which are self seeded escapees from the time when I planted lots of them to provide colour in the scree garden while the planned plants were very small.

This is the first view of the garden as you approach through my neighbour's fields.

Some more of the different varieties of crocosmia are coming into flower. One clump has disappeared altogether, one more of last winter's casualties. The solanum crispum on the end of the house is definitely dead and so is the phlomis italaica which admittedly was a tender shrub.

It was so good to see blue skies again.

I suddenly noticed that the rowan tree behind the outbuildings is full of berries. Is that a sign of a hard winter to come ? Plenty of food for the birds anyway. It is so peaceful at home with none of the youngsters around. Scout camp week has always been my 'holiday' when I can relax in peace and quiet. It's my reward for the years when I went to camp and spent the whole time working in the 'kitchen'. I did use to enjoy the evening camp fire with lots of singing. Because Lithuanians, besides drinking and talking and eating like to sing, it's in our blood.

Wednesday 29 July 2009

Too Much Rain.

It's been pouring with rain all day. The met office gave out a severe weather warning this morning and overnight there was a tornado in Stornaway and a waterspout seen this morning in the Bristol Channel. (Couldn't find any pictures to post of the waterspout.) So I've been forced to do housework all day long. Peter had to go to Exeter for a work interview which is all a bit stressful. I decided to tackle the tidying of the kitchen In our family there is always lots of stuff lurking in every corner. Five people's stuff totals a lot of clutter and mess. Every work top or cupboard top collects piles of important but unidentified objects which might come in handy one day. I started my work by writing a list on the whiteboard of each area to be tidied. Then I could have the satisfaction of crossing the jobs off. I didn't quite make it through today's list but as there is nothing on tv tonight perhaps I'll get a bit more done. I did get to de-clutter the mantelpiece and even polished it with some bees-wax polish. How very domesticated of me ! I also hoovered the stone wall which tends to accumulate cobwebs and lots of dust. As nothing else has happened today I'll give a run down of the things in the picture. First there's the obvious LOTR interest, that's me. The banner was a 50th birthday present from our close friends and the flag was a present from me to me. The card is one I drew for Peter from Alan Lee's designs. The bronze is one of my mother's and the painting came from her house as did the dutch inkwell. The antique candlesticks were a wedding present from a lovely couple . She was a concert pianist and he was an architect. They lived in a beautiful house in Chichester with at least 3 baby grand pianos. The boggart money box is Romas' and is full of coppers. The blue glass vase and the flowery jug came from car boot sales and the old blue jug probably came from my mother's house. I love the shape of jugs and have quite a few around the place. The small brown thing is a carving of a scarab beetle brought back from a holiday in Egypt by our friends' daughter. Removed in the de-cluttering process were: photos of Vytas' graduation, models of Minas Tirith, The Argonath, a witch king, Pippin on a pony, a big fat elephant money box assorted sewing needles and a craft knife. Just shows how cluttered our place is.

Tuesday 28 July 2009

Just The Old Folk At Home.

It has been another quiet day today. I took Linas into town this morning to catch the train back to Plymouth. His tenancy runs out in the middle of August when he will be home for good. No job and although he has been accepted to do a Masters from January the £3000 fees would not be covered by a student loan. Lots of rain again today. I feel so sorry for those people who have come down to the West Country for their holidays. When we were driving north up to Bristol on Saturday the southbound side of the motorway was almost solid with caravans and holiday makers. At one point the traffic was stationary for several miles. At least when I drive up to Hampshire very early Sunday morning the roads will be clear. I did some shopping while I was in town including some cheap (99p) reading glasses to leave scattered in all the places I might need them. I also bought a pair of extra strong glasses for close work such as my jewellery making. The one disadvantage of having my eyes done is that I have lost my very clear close up vision. I did know this would be the case and my family always laughed when I peered over the top of my glasses to see things close up. Playing the piano is still a little strange as the reading glasses make the music nice and clear but if I shift my eyes to look at the keys there is a bit of a wobble. I shouldn't be looking at my hands anyway. I get a lot of pleasure out of playing the piano but I'm not very good so I'm trying to do some sight reading every day to keep my brain and hands working. I also intend to learn a few more pieces by heart instead of just bits and pieces. The road at the top of the drive almost looks like a private garden now that my neighbour has driven his mower over the grass and the himalayan balsam is flowering.
Looking the other way down towards Bowden Corner. I though about going for a longer walk this afternoon but rain clouds were threatening and I didn't fancy getting caught in a heavy shower. I read a bit outside and did a little gardening before the rain started. The swallows have another brood of youngsters in the swimming pool house (pool is now the scree garden). I tried to take some pictures of the parents feeding the young but the light levels were too low to get a clear picture. The adult birds were not too happy with me sitting there with my camera and darted around outside waiting for me to go. Last night I was sitting at the pc when I heard lots of bird noises close by. Went into the kitchen to find 2 swallows swooping around watched by 3 sets of feline eyes. I didn't dare leave the room to get my camera so I turned off the room lights and waited for the birds to fly out through the front door, which they did. We are very disappointed that for the first time in 15 years we have not seen any house martins. We have always had several nests under the eaves by the bedroom windows but this year there have been no birds at all. Checking out the wildlife forums other people have noticed a drop in numbers though some people are still seeing them.

Monday 27 July 2009

A Quiet Day At Home.

The weather today has alternated between torrential downpours and blazing hot sunshine. I've spent my day tidying, cleaning and doing some work in the garden.
Later in the afternoon I took some time out to just sit in the sun and read a book by the scree garden.

The buddlia and lavender are attracting many bees and some butterflies. I was intrigued by a number of these large bees ? which were nearly 2 cms long. Their eyes give them away as flies. I've looked them up in my handy wildlife book and I think they are a bumble bee mimic, Volucella bombylans.

Sunday 26 July 2009

New Eyes - £1000 Each.

It cost a lot but I'm glad I had my eyes done.
Before ...... ........... immediately afterwards.

The whole procedure went well. I'd had a phone call a couple of days ago form the clinic saying that they wanted to change the procedure from LASEK to LASIK. LASEK is the basic procedure which has a longer recovery time and LASIK is the next grade up . I was a bit concerned because I felt rather a spendthrift having the procedure at all and I wasn't sure about an extra £200 -£300 per eye. Luckily the clinic said there would be no extra charge. The surgeon explained to me that he doesn't like to do LASEK on patients over 40 which is why he changed it. The whole procedure was pain free, hardly even uncomfortable. First, after having gone through the possible things that could go wrong, (scary), and signing the consent forms, the nurse went through the aftercare,2 kinds of eye drops every 2 hours for the first 2 days and then 4 times a day for the next week. No swimming, scuba diving or contact sports for the next 4 weeks and eyes shields to be worn at night to stop me rubbing my eyes inadvertently. I kept having anaesthetic drops put into my eyes at intervals. Then the area around my eyes was painted with an iodine solution, not surprisingly there are no mirrors at this point and I didn't have the nerve to take a photo. Then it's into the treatment room onto a swivelling bed for the actual procedure. The surgeon had explained that even though my head would be supported and he would have his hands on my head it was vitally important that I didn't move my eyes. If I moved my eyeball while the first laser was cutting a flap in the cornea of my eye it could result in the whole procedure having to be abandoned. There was a little pushing on my eye as a cone thing was place on it first but then the only difficulty was really concentrating while the laser did the flap. It was also important to keep the eye still while the second laser reshaped the eye. (Your eye lids are kept open with a thingy so you don't have to worry about that.) The surgeon kept telling me to look at the flashing red light which was difficult as I could see 2 lights. Anyway all went well and it was over in 5 mins. I then had my eyes checked by the surgeon , sat with a coffee for 10 mins and that was it. My sight was a little unclear, not blurry, at first but by the check up today my eyesight is better than 20/20 vision and I am clear to drive. I was warned that once the anasthetic drops wore off my eyes would feel very gritty and would probably stream with tears. I did have some grittiness but not much watering and by this morning there was just a little grittiness in one eye. I still need reading glasses but I can work at the pc with or without glasses. Peter is already very keen to have his eyes done especially as he found out that you can pay off the cost in instalments without any extra charge.

We arrived in Bristol a couple of hours early so that we could have a bit of a look around the area. When we parked by the clinic we were surprised to see the pavement covered with a long queue of people. At first we though it might be something to do with the university which was across the road but then we realised it was the queue to get into the museum to see the Banksy (a street artist now establishment,) exhibition. I have planned to visit the museum when I go up for my check up in 10 days time. It shouldn't be so crowded mid-week.
This is only part of the queue, it stretched all along the street where the clinic was and also for about a 100 yds down the main road.This mural a little further down the street is one of Banksy's works.

Peter and I walked down the hill in the warmth of the sunshine to have a look around Bristol Cathedral.

The cathredral is surrounded by some other lovely old buildings.

Inside the cathedral it was so peaceful but very grand with all the stone arches beautifully carved. Some parts of the cathedral are 800 yrs old while other parts are less than 200 years old.

This little dog was carved 700 years ago for the statue of his master (dressed in chain mail) to rest his feet on. It is a very welcoming cathedral with few restrictions for visitors and I couldn't resist giving this pug dog a little stroke on the nose.
There were lots of interesting memorials on the walls and floors and I liked this one in particular. How nice to be remembered for your beautiful character.

We went through this lovely old door down a twisting stone staircase to the old cloisters.

And eventually found ourselves in this beautiful garden. There were plenty of benches to sit to enjoy this peaceful oasis in the middle of a city. There is a tea room there as well but we didn't have too long as we needed to go back up the hill to the clinic. While we sat in the sunshine music floated out from the rooms above the cloisters which house the choir school. We were treated to a superb rendition of Pie Jesu sung by a chorister.

After having my eyes done we drove up to Cribbs Causeway, an enormous out of town shopping area. We went into Asda which was at least 4 times the size of the biggest supermarket in Barnstaple. I had to get a hairband to keep my fringe out of my hours and we had a little explore of the aisles finding a better range of Indian spices and extras as well as some good sauerkraut and dill cucumbers. I had a good wander around the clothing section while Peter kept himself amused by finding cheap dvds which he just had to have. After a coffee and a snack in the cafe we drove up to Tewkesbury to stay the night with our friends. It was so nice to be looked after for once. Today we went back to the clinc for a quick check and then back up to Cribbs Causeway where we finally found the main shopping mall. I had fun trying on clothes but didn't buy anything. A very wet journey home, and I don't like being driven at 90mph in heavy motorway traffic. It got wetter as we got nearer home !

Finally, I had to include this moth, a Large Emerald, that I found on the stair window.

Friday 24 July 2009

Off To Scout Camp.

Romas and I managed to leave on time this morning. Off we went at 5.00 driving into the sunrise on reasonably empty roads. After a couple of hours we had left the Devon hills and climbed up to Salisbury Plain. The underlying rock is chalk and the landscape is totally different to the deep hills of Devon.
Not only is the topography different but so are the roadside plants and the crops in the field (mainly wheat I think) and even the houses in the few villages I went past.

Driving up onto the Salisbury Plain there are some amazing panoramic views over the countryside but not many lay-bys with good views. The journey up took 4hrs 15mins because even though we drive that road every year Romas and I still managed to go down the wrong road a few times and have to retrace our way. I did that on the way back, it was quite annoying because there are these wonderful roads you can zoom along at 70 mph but they have no signs telling you which road you are on and the roundabouts are not very well sign posted. If you go wrong and head off down the wrong road it might be 5 miles until you can turn around. The journey home took 5hrs 45mins mainly because for about 20 miles the A303 was crawling. Literally stop and start. At least I was able to stop when we were going past Stonehenge and take some pictures. Nowadays it is all fenced off and costs a fortune to go and see. I remember the days when a drive down to Cornwall included stopping at Stonehenge to clamber all over the stones. It's amazing to think that these stones have been here for 4000 years and that the site was used for 1000 years before that.

We passed through some heavy showers on our way up to Sodyba. One of the good things about the site is the sandy soil which drains quickly. I remember many years when hot weather was broken by sudden thunderstorms but generally all activities take place out of doors.

Camp does not start till tomorrow , Romas is part of the group who come down early to tidy the site and start setting up the 4 camps (boys, girls, family & seniors). There will be lots of chainsawing of trees and not a hint of health and safety. Even with a camp full of teenage boys attempting to be macho with machetes and assorted knives building all sorts of high structures nobody ever gets injured.

Romas is waiting in the 'kitchen' for the rain to stop. I spent several years helping in the kitchens cooking on giant gas burners in very basic conditions when Romas was old enough to join in with the camp activities but not old enough to stay in the boys camp. I think Romas was about 3 when I first started taking them all to camp and now he and Vytas help run the camp each year despite the fact that I have failed in my duties to teach them Lithuanian. (Peter speaks it but I only understand basic 'household' language.)

This is the communal dinning table which will be decorated with natural objects, probably by the girls. Romas' tent sits on its own in the boys camp which will eventually have fence, gate and flagpole built from tree trunks and string.

Across the road is the house, Headly Park, which is run as a country club. I have many memories of staying there over the years for cultural (drinking) weekends. In the house are 2 bars, Lithuanians don't do anything without drinking, not even going to church. Yes, the Lithuanian church where we were married has a bar !
The back of the house sits right on the road with the scout camp across the road. I stayed and helped Romas get his tent up before the rain arrived and then set off, in the pouring rain for the long journey back. Luckily I was driving Peter's car which has all mod cons. We passed the journey time by listening to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. It is very easy listening and each cd of 6 runs for 4 hours. It was that or Aristotle or Homer which I didn't think would be so entertaining. When I finally got home after 10 hrs of driving I managed to do some gardening. After getting up at 4.00 I think I need an early night , at least Peter will be doing the driving up to Bristol and then Tewksbury tomorrow. I don't know how my eyes will feel or if I can get onto my blog tomorrow so I'm signing out till Sunday. See you then with my new eyes, hopefully.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Getting Ready For Camp.

This morning I woke up without the usual burning pain in my arm . I think I have finally found a way of supporting my arm so that it's not pulling on the damaged shoulder muscle. Let's hope so. I've also been trying hard to maintain good posture and not hunching forwards.
This morning I took the boys into town. Linas had to have a blood test and Romas needed more clothes for camp. Luckily trousers, shorts and sacks were all cheap enough at Primark and Peacocks sale. I always worry about the low prices at Primark, are they at the expense of child labour in the third world ? Today I saw that they had a sign up giving a website and stating that all their goods are ethically produced. True or just canny marketing ?
My task achieved today is clearing a big section of the paving around the scree garden of the weeds and moss that spring up between the slabs. The weather today has been warm, windy, and sunny mixed with sudden showers. I did take some time out to sit with a cup of tea and read a book.

The butterflies are gradually beginning to appear. This one has the lovely name of The Gatekeeper.
As I sat enjoying the sunshine and a cup of tea I spotted some successful colour combinations in the scree garden.
Two shades of purple form the buddlia and the lavender against the grey foliage of the lavender and the santolina.

The tomato red of crocosmia lucifer against the foliage of a white buddlia, (white leaves and flowers).
And a couple of photos from yesterday.

A piece of sheep's wool caught on a seed head and blowing in the wind. This almost looks like a studio shot.

Bird's foot trefoil already going to seed.
Off for an early night in a minute leaving Romas to pack all his stuff in Pete's car ready for our early morning departure.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Glasses Retrieved.

Did 2 things of note today.
First I went to school to retrieve my glasses and did a couple of hours of work for next year's class. I actually love being in school when it's so quiet. I can just focus on the task in hand and I didn't even mind when I was caught in heavy rain going to and from the staffroom. It's been very warm today so getting wet didn't really matter.
The other thing was to go on a lovely walk down at Braunton Marshes. Now that it is the holiday season there are lots more cars as well as the cyclists and runners. The only thing I didn't like was that the road verges have been mown so many of the flowers have gone and I didn't hear any crickets though that could have been the overcast weather. Also cutting back the plants reveals the litter. There is not a lot but it spoils the feel of the place.

The sky was looking good this evening over the marshes. I only caught a glimpse of the mother swan and her cygnet at the end of my walk but I did come across some of the other waterfowl.

I finally found my friends the 2 greedy swans. They were at a point where the road is on a hump-backed bridge so I was able to get more overhead views.

Then on my way back I spotted the duck who still has her 5 ducklings.

As I walked back to the car I noticed a moorhen on the water. I stopped to throw her some bread and realised I could hear a chick cheeping. When I looked closely I saw the chick in a nest on the other side of the waterway. It was quite ugly and might only have been a few days old.

The mother moorhen collected the bread I threw her and took it back to the nest to feed the chick. I was lucky enough to have a clear view of the nest so I stayed and watched for a while.

It's going to be a lot of rushing around for the next few days. When I got back from school Romas had just found out that (Lithuanian) Scout Camp is from this weekend not next. To be fair it was Vytas who had told him the dates as they had been planning how to get from camp to a Sealed Knot muster on the 8/9th August. The route to camp is along the A303, a major holiday route down to the south-west. Originally I said I would drive Romas down on the Thursday to avoid the holiday traffic but he needs to organise his stuff and pack so instead we'll be leaving by 5.00 on Friday morning. It's nearly 4 hrs drive but hopefully even with a short break at Sodyba I'll be on the return journey before the bulk of holiday traffic clogs up the road. This does mean that I'll have to pick him up at the end of camp and then there'll be a separate trip up to Weston for the muster.
Only 3 days till my eyes get done !!!