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 December 2010

And Then There Were 4.

Half of our visitors left today. Sam and Kate were driving Alex back down to PLymouth before heading home to Teweksbury and had gamely volunteered to take Linas down to Plymouth as well. I think that was before they realised just how much luggage Linas had with him. He had managed to carry an awful lot of luggage up on the train, after all you can't separate a man and his PC. It was an exercise in spatial logistics to get all the luggage in but with some bags sitting on the youngsters' laps and Milo the dog scheduled to be perched on Sam's lap it was all sorted.
L-R, Linas, Vytas, Romas, me and Peter.
After a chilly photo session, (a family tradition), we waved goodbye to the travellers and wished them a safe journey home.

As usual our boys like to pose some action shots to show their true characters.
The rest of the dismally gloomy afternoon is being spent with Vytas and Romas finishing off a wargame in the conservatory while I motivate myself for yet more school paperwork. We haven't decided yet if we will head into town for the New Year's Eve celebrations. I would as much like to stay home and relax as to go in, enjoy the ambiance and the fireworks and then come home. We'll see how we feel later on.

Thursday 30 December 2010

First Flowers.

A quick stroll around the garden revealed the first flowers on the winter flowering jasmine that grows by the kitchen window. Soon the bare green stems will be covered with small yellow flowers that will brighten up the grey wall.
The countryside was back to being damp and green as I headed off to the dentist in the morning. He's put a temporary filling over the broken one but the whole filling will have to be taken out and replaced, I fear for the little tooth that is left. No signs of the mysterious bump in my mouth now but I moaned on about the various aches that I still have after he 'dealt' with them 6 months ago so he took some x-rays. Being only the poor people's NHS dentist you don't get the results of the x-rays straight away. Instead they phone you if you need treatment or as in my case let you know at your next appointment. Naturally they don't do week-end appointments so the first appointment they could find to fit in with my work is in 2 weeks' time and that is only because I can leave school early on one of my planning afternoons. Otherwise it wouldn't have been until the end of January.
I then dropped into the High Street to check out a few more sales and in Millets I bought a light fleece hoody for work reduced from £20 to £6, a fluffy fleece for Peter (£35 to £16) and a compass for Vytas (£13 to £4).
After a robust evening meal of sausage & mash we spent the evening playing Balderdash, a word bluffing game which at times had us in tears of laughter.

Wednesday 29 December 2010

Rainy Devon.

A sleepy wet day today. Outside it has rained and/or dripped the whole day long. No signs of normal water service returning. If it is simply due to ice in the pipes then it should soon be back to normal but if it is the pump that needs replacing then that will be another hefty bill.
It seems strange to see the countryside in shades of green and brown after the pristine white of the last few weeks. However at least we have free access to the outside world which for me means a trip to the dentist tomorrow. A chipped filing needs repairing and a small bump in my mouth makes me think I've got another root infection. I'm taking immediate action because the last time this happened I ended up losing the tooth, and my patience with lying National health dentists.
Finally today I've knuckled down to sorting out my school planning. I've printed off pages of plans sent to me by my colleagues and then sat there looking glumly at the overall week's plan wondering how I can fit in daily literacy, reading, phonics, numeracy and PE lessons as well as Science, art, IT, RE, music and PSHE. It just doesn't all fit. History and geography already get merged into other subjects and there has to be some very creative timetabling so that everything is covered.
The rest of the household have been occupied with reading, drawing, painting & playing a wargame (lots of little figures and books of rules) as well as marching Milo the Jack Russell out for a long walk up the hill in the rain. A typical Christmas holiday.

Tuesday 28 December 2010

Bye-Bye Snow.

Last night's rain has washed away all the snow and not surprisingly it is so much warmer. Linas and I escaped to town, a relief to drive along ice-free roads, to do some shopping. The River Taw looked very dirty with all the ice , mud and branches being swept downstream as the thaw continues. Town was heaving with eager shoppers but despite all the publicity about the bargains I only bought a diary (to record each day's photographs as I down (up?)load them onto my pc. and a pretty child's necklace and bracelet half-price at Monsoon. I intend to re-make the bracelet into some long dangly earrings and the necklace will be fun for school.
Back home via the Co-op, lots of bargains, and the carpet warehouse to pick up some off-cuts to replace our downstairs hall carpet. It was quite old when we moved in 17 years ago and has become totally threadbare (and had a few cat mis-haps). To get a single piece to fit the L-shaped space would have cost £70-£150 even at remnant prices so instead I bought 2 pieces of the same carpet, one to cover the main section and another piece to fit the bit that goes under the stairs. The price of those 2 pieces was £23 and with a bit of sweet-talking I bargained them down to £20 for cash. Much more reasonable.
Once home it was a bit of a rush to swap bedrooms over (with a really bad headache) and do a quick tidy up before our friends arrived to spend a few days in sunny Devon. Luckily Peter has taken charge of cooking tonight's supper- roast pork, mm.

Monday 27 December 2010

Temperatures Rise.

It looks like the thaw may have started. The temperature has been just above freezing and the snow has begun to retreat, at least until the next cold spell. Maybe we'll be able to sort out the water before then as I'm getting a little weary of lugging buckets of water around the house.
Last night we all watched The Fellowship of The Ring (extended version), hopefully The Two Towers tonight and Return of The King tomorrow. I've always been a great Tolkien fan but what really fascinates me about the films is the design - architecture, costumes, jewellery, the whole other world aspect. I think my New Year's resolution will be to find more time for drawing / copying designs from the films.

I've made a start on the selection of Indian sweets (sweetmeats) that Vytas gave me for Christmas and thought I'd better photograph them before I ate any more. Barnstaple is very limited in the variety of multi-ethnic food available. A couple of Chinese restaurants and a few Indian restaurants are the limit of adventurous eating unless you count the odd Tapas Bar or Giovanni's Italian restaurant. Some Greek and Eastern European foods can be bought at Lidll's or at the delis and basic Indian or Chinese ingredients at the supermarkets but that is the lot. So something out of the ordinary is a special treat.
Nothing much done today, lie-in, reading and a bit of housework. The shops will be open tomorrow so we'll make a dash into town before our friends arrive in the afternoon.

Sunday 26 December 2010

A Minor Flood.

It still remains cold and snowy. The outside temperature has climbed to a balmy 0C after being -9C yesterday afternoon. The day has not been as restful as I had hoped. Due to a misaligned kitchen tap (which has to be left running to avoid freezing up) I came downstairs to find water across the kitchen floor and in the under-sink cupboard. That cupboard was a bit in need of a sort out anyway but the water made it 10x worse. A big clean up operation (by self) followed, including scrubbing things in the icy stream and now I'm determined to spend the evening relaxing.
The cold conditions outside have caused ice crystals to grow from the surface of the snow. Very pretty but hard to photograph.

Paul has finally put some salt down to make a clear walking path up the hill and has driven his Discovery down to his house. Our vehicles remain right at the top of the drive. We haven't walked up the hill today so don't know how much of the snow drifts remain on the drive up to the road. Perhaps an expedition up the road tomorrow to check out conditions.

Saturday 25 December 2010

Family Christmas.

A very relaxed Christmas Day. After a late breakfast of croissants and bacon it was time to open those presents so lovingly wrapped and placed under the tree. Despite appearances Patch was enjoying sitting on Linas' lap.
We like to give silly presents and generally attempt to disguise our presents using recycled packaging.
Vytas was very happy with his Dremmel (craft drill) which he wanted for his model making.

At the end of the present opening we sit amid a sea of wrapping paper, some to be saved but most destined for the fire. The boys spent most of the day attempting to repair the straps on the snowboard before hitting the slopes (Ron's field) and taking advantage of the snow while we still have it. A late Christmas dinner followed, it's hard to cook a dinner which mainly consists of items needing to go in the oven - bird, sausages, stuffing, parsnips and roast potatoes, when the rayburn with its tiny oven drops its temperature every time a new dish is added. Nevertheless it was a slap up feast and there is plenty left over ,( and from our fish based Christmas Eve meal), so that we won't need to do any major cooking for the next few days. Not to mention all the chocolates, German salami, Indian sweets and dried fruit that made up a large part of our presents to each other. I foresee a return to the diet in January but for the time being I'll enjoy the nice things that have been given to me. A wood fire and light tv viewing are now making for a relaxing evening.
(It would have been fool hardy to drive out to Shirwell for the midnight service so we listened to the morning service from St Martin's-in-the-fields.)

Christmas Greetings.

to all my friends and visitors.
Have a wonderful day.

Friday 24 December 2010

The Night Before Christmas.

T'was the night before Christmas
and all round the house
the garden was covered
with snow and with ice.
(Say that in a posh voice and it will rhyme.)The air was all still
as I marched round the hill
with cards from afar
left safe in my car.

Two sons then came down
with food bought in town
and stored in the car
by their Ma and their Pa.

Then off sons did trot
to the Muddiford Inn
but no bus to be got
so a bit more walkin'.

Not much to buy
when to town they did go,
but they gave it a try
before meeting big bro'.

Down motorways long
from the north he had come
for the call it is strong
to spend Christmas at home.

Now all are home safely
Christmas can start.
With Jesus and family
close to my heart.

Disclaimer - I'm not a poet, and I do know it.

Thursday 23 December 2010

Escape From Colditz.

I made a break for freedom today. The persistent low temperatures have kept us trapped by the snow and ice and there are no signs of a thaw yet. We are just unused to these sorts of conditions. It looked like my only way out would be to walk (6 miles). On my way up the hill I met Paul who gaily informed me that I would be able to drive my little micra on the road but when I saw the covering of ice I knew that wouldn't be a possibility. Walking seemed like a much safer option to me.
It was only another mile of ice before the road became clear and easy to walk on. I was wearing my new walking boots, a bit of a risk as this was the first time I'd worn them so I did put plasters on my heels just in case and they were fine.
It took me about an hour to walk the 3 miles to the main road during which time I was passed by 4 vehicles all going in the opposite direction. As I got to the main road a landrover came up behind me so I stuck my thumb out for a lift. Nearly got myself run over by another car on the main road but when I jumped in the landrover I recognised the driver and his passenger- Rob & Laura. They were the owners of our Rav (before Alice) and they had given me a lift in similar snowy conditions about 4 years ago (in the Rav). Small world! Another 15 minutes to drive the final 3 miles into town. Excellent.
Town was busy, busy, busy. There was no post at the Post Office because as I had already found out the postman was leaving it (and Paul & Sarah's post) inside the micra at the top of the drive. Then I went to my old dentist to find out what sort of insurance scheme they have as they only do private work (my NHS dentist is not very good) . Not a good deal really, you pay £13 a month for which you get you check-ups and hygienist's visits but you still have to pay 90% of any treatment. I had 4 1/2 hours in town to buy the last few presents etc before Peter picked me up on his way home. We called in at the Co-op to stock up on veg and other groceries. Most of that is now sitting in my car waiting for the boys to bring it down tomorrow on the sled. We finished off the evening with a 'kebab feast' which Peter had promised the boys. Highly unhealthy but a great treat and we had lots of salad with it.

Wednesday 22 December 2010

Snow Joke.

Same old snow keeping us stuck in our valley. I went for a walk up the hill to stretch my legs and see what the road at the top was like but there is no chance of driving out. I would just like to get those last few presents and collect any parcels and letters that are waiting at the Post Office and pick up some library books. I tend to leave that job till last and often end up with nothing new to read over the holidays. I'm hoping that Peter isn't working all day on Friday so that we could go in then. I haven't heard anything from Vytas who is due to drive down on Friday but the road conditions don't look very good so he might be stuck up North for Christmas. Sheep always look grubby and yellow against the gleaming white snow.
There were a few moments of sunshine but the wind was really icy. I could hear the Hunt's dogs down along the valley (must stop thinking evil thoughts about people who kill animals for fun). Some of their vehicles were parked up at the top of the drive, fleeting thoughts of flat tyres crossed my mind but I resisted.
Both Linas and Romas have got heavy colds. Linas spent most of the day under his duvet but Romas who is a hardy soul went outside to enjoy the snow and I could see him cutting swathes down Ron's field with his snow board. I'm trying to put school to the back of my mind and have spent time reading lots of blogs and checking out webcams around the country to see what the weather conditions are like.
Final job of the day was to bake a batch of Christmas biscuits. I don't know if it is due to me nibbling the dough but it always seems a lot of work for not that many biscuits (30) and they could still do with icing. That's probably the reason I only make biscuits at Christmas.

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Bonus Post.

Had to post a picture of my 'home-made' tree which I rather like though I could do with a chunkier star on the top. It is making the sitting room smell really nice, no need for pine scented candles or room sprays.
And just for fun some typical views of my kitchen Rayburn festooned with drying clothes & shoes. The cats have been taking it in turns to occupy the warmer oven and the boots were there to be made a bit more flexible by the heat.
Elwen doesn't usually get a chance to occupy this prize position and is making the most of it.


We are now officially trapped in our valley. Well not really trapped as Peter is still able to get to the big wide world (ie work) in his 4x4 but the boys and I failed to make our escape. It was much mistier today as we climbed up our hill. My little path along our part of the road is still clear and makes walking a lot easier but Paul obviously doesn't want any customers this week and has left the main part of the drive untouched.
I was a little dubious when we got to the car but with the boys pushing from behind and offering advice on gears and revs ? I slowly inched my way out to the road.
This was the drive that I had just made my way along,

...and this was the state of the back road. No way was I going to risk life and limb driving over that just for some shopping so I parked on the verge and we made our way back down again. Peter has access to shops on his way home and can pick up some things which he can then leave in my car for the boys to carry down tomorrow.

The walk down the hill provided an opportunity for some snow boarding and just visible in the above photo is Romas' track as he swung his way down the ponies' field. The boys spent some time outside (playing) in the snow and also chopped back the leylandii in the yard and brought in one and set it up for me to decorate with a million (at least 6 dozen) glass & plastic icicles and a tasteful (?) selection of silver and glass ornaments. There hasn't been any more snow so perhaps things will ease up soon. The weather man was talking about -20C which is Ice Age for those of us used to temperate Britain. After all this disruption it would be a shame not to have a white Christmas but I do feel sorry for all the people who are still unable to make their way home and slightly less sorry for those people who can't get away on holiday. Yesterday there was a 2 1/2 km queue of people trying to get tickets for the Eurostar trains to the continent. That would not be fun.

Monday 20 December 2010

The Sons Return.

This morning there was much checking of train delays and many emails & phone calls. First I checked the train delays, fine according to the information on the web. The Peter phoned to say he was at work and the word was out that the Tarka Line (Exeter to Barnstaple) was closed. I managed to get hold of Romas and advised him to delay until tomorrow. More phone calls to Linas and by mid-morning they were running one train every 2 1/2 hours so the boys decided to return to plan A. Latest update puts Linas at Exeter waiting for Romas as the trains from Stoke have been delayed. Have spoken to Peter who is waiting for an update on their arrival in Barnstaple. The weather has been the big news today with airports closed and many roads affected by snow and ice. The police have been advising people in the South-West not to drive unless absolutely necessary so I heeded their advice and had a day in our valley. After doing some hand washing of socks etc I walked over to our neighbours' to deliver a card and a present for Jack. Stayed for a coffee & a chat, admired the tree which Jack and Paul had decorated before heading back through the powdery snow.
The sun didn't come out until the afternoon so I made a second trip out to take photos.

The lack of perspective always flattens out hills but this road is really steep, 1st gear only. Good cardio-vascular exercise getting to the top of this.

Some views from next door when it wasn't quite so sunny.

My afternoon has been spent getting the bedrooms ready and more tidying up. As I cleared one of those 'piles' that appear by magic on any surface, I stopped to read the magazine sent out by the Co-op (a supermarket chain that is part of a group of businesses run on co-operative and ethical lines and owned by the members). I became a member when my local Somerfields store was bought up by the Co-op. I had a vague idea that it was run differently to the big multi-national chains such as the country dominating Tescos and Sainsbury's but wasn't aware of their ethical policies or support for UK and overseas aid/projects. I shall now be making the Co-op my first choice of supermarket and urge anyone else who has the option to do so as well. The prices are just as good and they have up to 75% reductions on fresh produce towards the end of the day.

Sunday 19 December 2010

Christmas Cake.

The snow is still with us but with little sun it was more on the gloomy side today. I've been rather busy as Christmas approaches with breakneck speed. I baked a Christmas cake today, tut tut the traditionalists would say. They made their cakes weeks ago , spent more weeks lovingly feeding them with brandy and then covered them with a layer of pristine white icing tastefully decorated with hand made icing flowers. Hopefully my cake will taste good, I soaked the fruit in whiskey (almost the last bottle of spirits in the cupboard and I didn't think Creme de menthe would do.) I had almost everything the recipe called for except glace cherries and the bottle of powdered nutmeg wasn't labelled but it smelt right. Perhaps a bit more whiskey poured over it now it is baked. The family are not that keen on icing so it won't matter if the cake doesn't have any.
The chickens have a big feeder of corn inside their hen house (shed) but I do feed the wild birds in this kind of weather. No sooner was the corn on the ground than a pair of robins were there helping themselves.

The powdery snow is easy to walk but soon compresses to treacherous ice. As Peter still has a week of walking up and down the hill in the dark I cleared, swept and salted a path all the way to Paul's bit of the drive. A slip and a fall could easily set off a flare up of Peter's arthritis and leave him in a lot of pain for several weeks.
I had planned to do the boys' bedrooms but instead put up decorations in the sitting room instead. I may be quite un-houseproud in terms of daily cleaning but even I could not put up decorations without a general clean-up. At least now the sitting room is ready for guests. I just need the lights and a tree. I'll get the boys to cut down some of the leylandii in the yard for my 'modern' Christmas tree. That has the advantage of not only being free but not having needles to drop. And they have to be cut back anyway.

Saturday 18 December 2010

A Walk In The Snow.

After what seemed like so many days of trudging through the snow, up the hill and back down again, in the dark it was lovely to wake to a winter wonderland and know that I had all day to enjoy the crisp powdery snow. After a leisurely start and getting the basic housework out of the way I pulled on my boots and headed off up the hill.
The snow was soft and perfect for walking on, no risk of slipping over and some sunshine to lift the spirits. Luckily there was almost no wind so it didn't feel cold.

I walked up to Bowden Corner to take in the views southwards across Bideford Bay and out to Hartland. In the distance I could see a snow shower falling near Barnstaple but fortunately it didn't come my way.

I had a lovely walk and took the opportunity to drop some cards in at friends' houses on the way. Several of my friends were at home and I spent some time with one of them catching up on things as my full-time working has not given me any time to go to the WI meetings that were a regular part of my life for so many years. It was a great way to get to know people when I first moved here 17 years ago but this full-time teaching uses up all my time and wears me out. I just do not have the energy to head out again in the middle of the week. The only place I head for is bed!
I came home to a lunch of baked potatoes (sweet and ordinary) which went really well with a selection of dips I had bought reduced the other day. Peter, being a man who likes his protein had defrosted some beef stew from the freezer and I had a little of that but could have done without. I had plans to bake a cake today but instead I spent some time wrapping Christmas presents. Linas and Romas plan to come home on Monday so that will be the end of our peace and quiet. (I love them really.)

Friday 17 December 2010

The Snow Returns.

We woke this morning to an inch of snow. That was enough for me to decide to travel with Peter rather than risk my little micra. Good thing too as we had to drive for about a mile of nearly zero visibility up on the top of the hill. Instead of waiting for Peter to pick me up for the return journey I got a lift home with a fellow teacher who lives nearby and whose husband collected us in their 4x4. Just a shame that the text I sent Peter didn't get through so he still called in at school on the way home.
My day at school has been very relaxed. We started with letting the children have a long 'News' time though I later scuppered one pair of lads' plan to play Call of Duty (a gory shoot-em-up game that is rated 18) later after school. I let both the mums know and I think that game would have been put out of bounds. I do know one of the mums outside of school and I knew that she wouldn't like her lad to play such games. For the rest of the day the children could chose to watch dvds in one class or 'choosing' in my classroom. I spent my time clearing their folders of this term's work, filing it away and putting up new displays. Despite my efforts to be organised it was only as the children were lining up to go home that I realised there were still hanging decorations for the children to take home so that was one major rush. As a staff we had our usual buffet lunch of nice foods from M&S, pates, smoked salmon etc and our jokey Secret Santa presents. A smattering of rude presents raised a laugh and I was given a pretty silver and purple bracelet which is just my style.
I'm now ready to relax with some of the chocolates given to me by the children, we've had fish & chips (which Peter was given by a friend who had over-ordered for a gathering) and our bedroom is warm and toasty. No school to think about for at least a week, fantastic.
Getting home early gave me a chance to take a few pictures of the snowy fields.

Looking west towards Ron and Marjorie's house at Indicott.