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.

Tuesday 31 May 2011


It rained a bit this morning and although it cleared up it was quite cold and windy which probably accounted for all the traffic heading into town. I had various places to visit ending up at the dentists' to repair the tooth that broke on the Nightwalk (the filling fell out a few days later). I had gone in quite calmly expecting a quick clean up of the tooth and a new filling put in. Oh No! the missing filling was right down to the nerve so the first thing the dentist did was to give me 3 injections. I don't normally mind injections but one of them really hurt and still didn't deaden everything so that every now and then the drill hit a sensitive spot. One bonus was that because too much of the tooth had gone I had a white composite filling instead of the horrible grey amalgam fillings the NHS makes you have. Bad point is that should this filling fall out the only option is to have a crown. Even worse, because it goes right down to the nerve I might have to have a root canal filling. I mumbled through my numb lips that I hoped there wouldn't be a problem getting a root canal filling on the NHS. The dentist thought I had seen a recent Dispatches program about this and when I mumbled that it had happened to me at that dentists and I had lost the tooth because of it he was sure it was another dentist who had denied me treatment. I think it was him but you don't argue with someone who is about to wield a drill in your mouth. One cheerful moment, when I went to pay, because it was a repair of a previous repair there was no charge. Thank goodness for small mercies.
When I went into town I saved myself a parking charge and parked in the Lidls free car park and walked over the old bridge. The tide was low and there were a group of swans sitting on the sand banks.
When I finally got home I spent time working in the garden. My school work in the morning had ground to a halt as my PC can't read my documents that were written in Windows 2007. I had hoped Peter's PC used 2007 but he has stuck to 2003 as this was the requirement for the Open University. I'll have to resave my documents at work to make them compatible to 2003. I thought computers were supposed to make life easier!

Monday 30 May 2011

A Quick Stroll By The Sea.

It was raining yet again this morning so I finally got down to doing some school work in preparation for the final half term of the year. Our school issue diaries run from September to September and it is amazing how quickly we are coming to the end of yet another year. (It has been a very hectic year but at least we got outstanding for our OFSTED inspection.) Once the SATs tests are over and the reports done there will be lots of fun activities to do with the children including a whole school outing to the beach. (No going in the water because of health & safety rules! )

The rain was slowing down by mid-day so we went for a stroll down at Barricane Beach. I feel sorry for all those people who have come down to 'sunny' Devon for the half term holiday. There were lots of people at Woolacombe and we were very lucky to get a parking space on the road (£1 for an hour instead of having to pay the whole day charge in the private car parks.) When we left a man rushed up and asked if we would wait while he got his car as he was desperate for a space so we sat there ignoring another car that was waiting for us to leave our space. There were quite a few people out in the water but the waves were not that good either.

The tide was in so we couldn't walk along the beach but stood and enjoyed watching the waves rush in. We didn't bring sandwiches, only coffee which we drank while leaning against the rocks. The weather started to clear while we were there and it was quite warm on the sheltered beach.

Back home it stayed sunny for a while so I did a bit of gardening. I've been repotting my tomato plants into some big tubs which used to be outside but were so old and scruffy I had intended to take them to the dump. I'm going to keep all my tomato plants in the conservatory as our climate isn't good enough to grow them outside. So far all my seedlings are doing well in their individual modules but the test will come when I plant them outside. It will be interesting to see what some of my exotic leaves taste like. Peter went off for a late row with the gig club and has just come home, tired but happy.

Sunday 29 May 2011

Beer Festival.

Heavy rain again this morning. In the afternoon I drove Peter into town as he had selflessly volunteered to work behind the bar at the Beer Festival. Hard work but someone has to do it and the free beer might have been an incentive.
I did some shopping before returning home for more time on the jigsaw and a little gardening. Soon it was time to go back to collect Peter and say hello to people I knew (a lot of the gig club were there in their red fleeces and jackets.)
On my home in the afternoon I saw 2 deer in the field, they ran off as soon as they saw me and jumped over the hedge.

Saturday 28 May 2011

Too Wet.

It has been rainy for most of the day and together with a few aches and pains the result has been very little done. The only constructive thing I have done has been a little bit of sewing, repairing my favourite jeans. The rain even seems to be affecting the Internet which is running at a speed that would make a snail seem super charged.

Friday 27 May 2011

Another Holiday.

Much sunnier today. My morning was spent at school on an inset day. We had to split into groups and come up with phrases to define our outstanding learning/teaching environment. All the things we would expect to see, hear & feel. I think it was to make it clear to everybody what our agreed expectations are which will be written up as policy documents. I managed to squeeze in some time in my classroom making a start on a new display for next half term's topic which in our class will be Greece. Plenty of scope to motivate the boys with Ancient Greeck legends and volcanoes. For modern Greece we will be tasting food, learning a little Greek and of course dancing and planning our own Olympics.
I set our butterflies free, yesterday's wind would probably have pounded them against the nearest wall, and left the last few chrysalises in a sunny spot. Back home I spent some time out in the garden planting ..... canes, (they are nice long canes!) for the beans. At least it makes it look as if something is happening in my mini veg plot. The conservatory is looking quite bountiful at the moment but it's not yet time to plant things out.
This is the start of our summer half term holiday and , good weather permitting, I hope to spend most of the week out in the garden. There is also the small matter of starting to write comments for the end of year reports as well.

Thursday 26 May 2011


Still struggling with Blogger. The PC sits there ticking at me with a blank screen when I try my usual route which is rather irritating. Almost as irritating as waiting to talk to the student loans company to find out how I complete Romas' application for this year's loan. I had a helpful email directing me to a web site but when I got there I needed an special number ??? or if I had forgotten that I could give my secret answer. Only helpful if I knew what the secret question was. It's a good thing they don't record your comments while the cheery muzac is playing or the soothing tones of a recording tell you that they are very busy and you could go to the web site instead. I'm afraid my comments ranged from the not very polite to scathing sarcasm and finally inane babbling. When I finally spoke to a real person she helpfully agreed to resend my secret number and another secret question as well as sending me a paper form to fill in.
The weather today has mostly been rather stormy. Broken branches lie on my newly mown lawns and it feels quite cold. In class we have had great excitement over the last few days as our Painted Lady butterflies emerged form their chrysalises. Just 23 days ago they were 5mm long caterpillars that grew at an amazing rate before turning into chrysalises. It was a race against time to see if they would hatch before the half-term holiday which for the children started today (we have another morning of something? tomorrow). Of 15 caterpillars only 2 did not turn into a chrysalis and by the end of today 11 butterflies had emerged. It is wonderful for the children to be able to watch this happening. The other class haven't had any butterflies emerge, maybe due to the fact that their classroom is not as sunny as ours. So the children all came over to my class to have a look at our butterflies instead. (They have had much better bird watching opportunities as their hut faces bushes and large trees on one side and their many bird feeders are also visited by cheeky squirrels.)

Wednesday 25 May 2011

I'm So Happy.

The new improved Blogger wouldn't let me in yesterday and it has taken a while to get it sorted today. So Blogger wasn't what I was thinking! However when I got home today I was feeling as happy as this chaffinch that had been deafening me as I worked outside yesterday. The reason for my joy- a tiny box of wax that had come in the post. Dental wax to be accurate. My broken filling had been irritating my tongue and remembering the dental wax that the boys had for their braces I found and bought some on eBay and included a note to say how much I needed it. Last night the situation became desperate as the rest of the filling popped out leaving very sharp teeth edges that made it painful to speak or swallow. Such relief when I was able to put a little wax over those sharp edges.
More SATs at school today and much hilarity as we marked the short writing task this afternoon. Children inadvertently write such funny things, 'hand burgers and chips' was a good one.
It has been dry today so when I got home I  was able to mow all the grass and was putting away the cable when the promised heavy rain started. The farmers especially could with some rain and it was on the news this morning how badly they are being affected.

Monday 23 May 2011

Empty House :(

I felt sad this evening, knowing that I was driving home to an empty house as Romas and Vicky had to leave during the day to drive back up to Stoke. They have been such good company and helpful too. When I went indoors it was to find the kitchen all tidied up, dinner (fajitas) prepared and even the sitting room tidied and hoovered. Even before I went ondoors, Jack had come round to show me the new hound puppy which they are 'walking' for the hunt. She is only 12 weeks old and had arrived today. Of course being unable to resist puppies, kittens and most young animals I had to have a cuddle (funnily enough I don't feel the same way about human babies), and got licked in return. I can forgive her for belonging to the hunt, it's the humans I despise, not the animals following their instincts. A big fat tummy because she has just been fed.
School wasn't too bad though we did have a lot of rain in the afternoon. I let my children have a drama afternoon acting out stories from the Horrid Henry books which have been our literacy focus for the last few weeks. Linas turned up after school to collect the saucepan I had bought him and I drove him up to his doctor's appointment. This gave me the chance to drop in at the dentists' and book an appointment for next week to repair my broken tooth/filling. And as I was in the area I stopped at Homebase to see what they had in their garden section. I found some white trailing geraniums that I had been unable to find anywhere else, (expensive), an almost given away hydrangea bush which I think just needs a drink, an cheap value pack of beetroot seeds (lovely grated in salad), a small reduced pack of seed potatoes which were already sprouting so I've planted them this evening and a very reduced kit to grow courgettes of which I only want 2 plants anyway. This evening it has been windy but dry so I have been able to do some work in the garden.

Sunday 22 May 2011

A Busy Sunday.

It was still stormy this morning which gave a perfect excuse for a lie-in. By the afternoon the showers had stopped and it was lovely to find the whole family working outside on various tasks. Peter was chain sawing and splitting some logs which are now filling the sitting room with a wonderful beech smell from the fire which is making the place very cosy. I got more weeding done as well. Romas and Vicky have done lots of outside work for me including trimming the big leylandii hedge and the beech hedge. Now we have a much better view of the woodland field across the stream. They also pulled up most of the stinging nettles in and around the chickens' run.
This evening we all wrapped up well and sat outside enjoying another of Peter's excellent barbecues. 3 kinds of home made sausage with marinaded chicken and pork strips . It sounds a lot but it was a little of each to enjoy the taste with a big green salad. Now we are going to sit by a log fire and watch the extended edition of Avatar (not 3-D).

Saturday 21 May 2011

No Apocalypse.

It is 1 in the morning, the world is still intact and I've just returned home from walking 11 miles along the Tarka Trail with this happy bunch, and many more women, in aid of our local hospice and the Macmillan cancer charity. It took us 4 hours including a 20 mins stop at Fremmington Quay for hot soup (& toilets) so that wasn't too bad. I have to say the pace was faster than I am used too and I now know that my walking boots are too snug a fit to wear thick socks but it was still a fun experience. Despite the rain which started lashing down for the last half mile and the fact that I broke a tooth on a piece of chocolate! It was a ladies only walk and most people were festooned with plenty of glow sticks and flashing lights or even in fancy dress. Janet, who works with me in my class had thought to decorate herself with some battery powered fairy lights and once it had gone dark she rather resembled a Christmas tree. One of the marshalls did take a photo with me in it as well but it is too blurry to use.
It has been a very busy day for me. As Romas and Vicky are only staying until Monday we had a full day together. First the 3 of us went into Barnstaple to do some shopping mainly in the charity shops. We found 3 pairs of shorts for Romas for less than a new pair even at Primark, I found some t-shirts for work and Vicky also got a fun t-shirt. I even managed to get a saucepan for Linas (as requested) as he is coming up for a doctor's appointment on Monday. Peter spent the morning at an open session of the gig club meeting prospective new members and taking them for short trips in the gigs out in the river. In the afternoon we went over to Arlington Court to look around the house. Normally we do not pay to go in but walk in through one of the public footpaths that cross the grounds but you need a ticket to go into the house and the carriage museum. Vicky works as a volunteer at a National Trust property so has a card that gets her +1 in free so it wasn't too expensive and she was interested to see inside the property. The house had been the property of the Chichester family and was donated to the National Trust in 1949.

It has a large entrance hall with a grand staircase. The house is filled with many model boats and other nautical items.

Different views of the main drawing room which can be divided into 3 rooms by folding screens set into the walls.

To one side is the boudoir with silk lined walls. This is the room that the ladies would retire to after dinner while the gentlemen had their port and cigars.

The next room was filled with half unpacked travel boxes and cases and you are invited to handle the items and look through the photos, sketches, books and other items. It was a very nice idea to have such a hands on opportunity. In other places the notices requesting you not to touch things were very well worded explaining how fragile the items were and how they could easily be damaged if handled.

This was the nursery. The last owner, Rosalie Chichester had a marriage of convenience to a cousin who owned Youlston Park at Shirwell but lived the life of a single lady in Arlington which was her family home.

We just had time to dash up to the carriage museum to see the vast collection of carriages which brought to life the historical novels I sometimes read. We decided that they would probably all have been pretty uncomfortable to ride in. We also saw an enormous Gilded State coach which is currently on exhibition there but the govt has stipulated no photos of that coach.

The stable block which houses the carriage museum as well as the stables occupied by the large horses which are used for carriage rides around the estate driving displays, was the scene of a memorable all day 40th birthday party (of the then head coachman) which we went to about 10 years ago. Peter used to go over to play chess regularly with Michael who lived in a flat above the stables.

A few of the many coaches on display.

The tack room houses the tack for the working horses and had to be my favourite room of the whole place. The small of saddle soap and leather hit you as you walked in and brought back memories of my days working with horses. I'm sure we will be making another visit to Arlington when Romas and Vicky come back to visit later in the summer.

Friday 20 May 2011

Tarka Tennis.

A very pleasant day today. The weather wasn't so good but our morning was spent under cover at the local tennis centre where the children did all sorts of tennis based activities. There were plenty of youngsters there to run the activities and we just escorted the children around. In the afternoon I gave my class some handwriting to do before they had 'Golden Time' . Coming home tonight the lanes are full of flowers and looking lovely but when I stopped to take some photos I was quite shocked to see how the new wind turbines are marching across the sky line spoiling the rural beauty of the landscape. The 6th turbine is in construction and when finished they will stretch for 10 miles.
I suppose we will get used to them just as we don't really notice the telegraph poles that run along so many of our lanes.

This evening I pricked out some seedlings and planted a few more seeds before cooking an easy meal of mushroom and cheese tortellini with a fresh mushroom sauce that I bulked up with chicken and baby sweetcorn.

Thursday 19 May 2011


After a chilly morning the sun shone brightly for the rest of the day. The conditions were perfect for the children to investigate shadows in the playground. Armed with chalk they drew round their own shadow creations and any other shadows they could find. This was a welcome relief after an intense morning (for half the class) of sitting their maths SATs test. I've already marked their papers and they have done better than I expected. All the extra maths we have been doing must have done some good. Let's hope the children who take the Level 2 test do as well. Tomorrow we are off to the local tennis centre for a schools' tennis activity morning. I rushed home early from work today because Vicky and Romas were on their way down to stay with us. For once I cooked a meal (Peter is the cook these days), and we enjoyed a roast chicken with new potatoes and broccoli. Vicky made me some low calorie muffins with banana and yogurt and I'll have one with my bedtime hot drink as I'm full from eating an unaccustomed dinner.

Wednesday 18 May 2011


It has been drizzling for most of the day but finally cleared up late afternoon. There is a resident pair of Canadian geese on Paul's lake and this year they have successfully raised 6 fat goslings. This morning they were all in the ponies' field and decided to run across the road just as I was accelerating to get up the hill. Plenty of little stubby wings held high and flat feet flapping furiously and nobody got squashed. This evening they were spread out in a neat line working their way across the field guarded by their attentive parents.
I finally got the last of the digging done in the veg plot ready for all my little seedlings once they have been hardened off. It won't be self sufficiency but it will be satisfying to eat our own fresh produce.

I watched 'Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution' (or attempt) in LA, last night and it was horrifying to see the amount of sugar and processed food (like 100%) children there are being given in their school dinners. As one mother commented 'There is nothing fresh or even real.' I shall be interested to see if he gets anywhere in his campaign.

Tuesday 17 May 2011

Too Wet To Garden.

The drive home tonight was very romantic with low clouds sitting down on the tops of the hills. At school we had the fine wetness that you get inside clouds. Not vertically dropping rain or the all pervading damp of mist but a fine soft spray going in all directions. I wasn't tempted to head into the garden when I got home but opted for some early blogging combined with a little jigsaw puzzle solving while I waited for the photos to appear. All my newly sown seeds have germinated and I'll have to be meticulous with my labels as the spicy salads all look exactly the same at the moment.
Then I think it'll be an early night as it was a tiring day in school especially as trying to instill the mystery of doubles and halves into the heads of some of my class of 7 year olds seems to be the equivalent of teaching them quantum mechanics. Some of them do understand and think it's rather funny that I ask them 'what is 3x2?' straight after we have worked out half of 6 and written it up as a division sum but to others its still a mystery. For a change we have been 'saying tables' formally rather than counting in 2s and later 2 of my girls sat down in their free time and wrote out the 2x tables right up to 58x2 so I must be doing something right.

Monday 16 May 2011

Smile Please.

It was cold enough this morning to make me grateful for the sheepskin gloves and fleece knee blanket that I keep in the car. Despite promises from the weather girl the day never really warmed up. We had our class photographs done today. No longer do the children stand in serried ranks, tallest at the back etc but now they are photographed in artfully arranged groups of 5 or 6 and the shots then montaged together. Last year's photos came out well but I am not so sure about this year's as the photographer had them holding various bits of PE equipment. I suppose it needs to be different from last year's picture or the parents won't pay out for another expensive class photo.
When I got home at 6.00 this evening my friend Jack was already waiting for me so once I had changed out of my 'good' school clothes into my grubby gardening clothes, we spent a happy hour digging stones and raking the final part of the veg plot.

All that needs doing tomorrow is to use some string to position the front edge of the plot. I haven't yet decided if it will be parallel to the drive or to the back of the veg plot. Then once my plants have grown to a reasonable size they can be hardened off and planted out.

Sunday 15 May 2011

In With The New And Out With The Old.

It was much cooler today but the rain held off long enough for us to go for an hour's walk around Morte Point. Not so many people out today and we did get to see a couple of seals bobbing about in the water and people watching. The pink of the sea thrift made a good contrast against the grey rocks, sea and sky.
Back home my time was spent sanding and oiling a garden table and chairs that I had bought on eBay which was delivered in the morning. I had started thinking last year that my home made pallet table had had its time as not only was the rough surface quite splintery it was also getting very wobbly. I began looking for a second hand table (new being way out of our price range) some time ago and last week I found and bought just what I had been looking for. I wanted a large round, or possibly octagonal, table with good steady legs. So many of the new tables that I looked at had spindly or rickety looking legs which I thought would be a waste of time. I wasn't too worried about the chairs but these ones, though folding are surprisingly sturdy. The set also came with a parasol and the top part of a lazy Susan which I may convert into a small table if I can find a suitable stool down at the dump.

The set after sanding and oiling. While not looking brand new I am still very happy with my buy, the total price of which including delivery and furniture oil though still making it a big purchase for us was at least 1/4 of the price it would have been if we had bought it new. I organised delivery through Anyvan, a site which lets you post your removal requirements and then people give their details and make bids for the job. That worked well for us and it was cheaper and more convenient than hiring a van.

With the parasol and only 1 chair oiled before the rain started. I'm not sure how much we will need the parasol in this climate but it is fun to have. The old plastic chairs can go back to the dump and Romas can chop up the old table for next winter's firewood.

Saturday 14 May 2011

Will It Be Nul Points ?

I could hardly believe my ears when Peter offered to cut some lawns today. He's never taken an interest in the garden before (but he does most of the cooking). Is he mellowing in his old age or is it a result of not being so stressed since changing jobs last year? For a short while now the azaleas come into their own with a blaze of colour along the drive.
I can never decide which is my favourite, the subtle peach, the fiery flame coloured one or the 2 yellow highly scented ones. They are all a delight to have in the garden and are doing well in our acid soil.

The veg plot is nearing completion after I moved the final plant out (secretly rehomed on my neighbour's land). My new batch of seeds are looking promising but I shall grow the plants on to a decent size before planting them out where the slugs can get to them. I am so reluctant to use slug pellets because of the harm they do to other wildlife. Some plants just don't survive the slugs and I try to manage without them rather than resorting to chemicals. One exception are the flag iris which I brought from our London home. For years I lost every single flower so now they do get a small sprinkle of pellets so that I can enjoy the magnificent flowers.

The hens spend a lot of time camped at the gate watching the world go by. They have a much better view since the arch was removed and their view from the bottom of the run is currently restricted by the lush growth of stinging nettles the removal of which which better be my next job.

Tonight we are keeping up our family tradition of watching the Eurovision song contest. It's always good for a laugh and the voting is so politically predictable it's not surprising that Britain does so badly. We never have a good song anyway.