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.

Sunday 31 July 2011

Brotherly Harmony.

Romas and Vicky arrived in the early hours of the morning. Romas' band had been playing a gig at a festival which was why they couldn't start their journey earlier in the day. It has been good to have all 3 of the boys at home today. And of course Vicky and Sally are here too. One of the nice things about the boys growing up is that they bring their girlfriends to this once male dominated household. I like to see the family growing and I enjoy the girls' company. In the morning Vytas and Romas indulged in a little brotherly rivalry/ exercises out in the garden.

Linas offered to make lunch as he was keen to show off his sushi making skills and had brought all the necessary ingredients and equipment with him. As I sat at my PC it was lovely to hear Romas and Linas working together in the kitchen and they produced a tasty lunch for us all.

As well as the traditional sushi they came up with a few variants including bacon? sushi. Finally all my attempts to make the boys self sufficient in the kitchen seem to be bearing fruit.

Sally and Vytas.

After lunch Peter took Linas back into town to catch the train back to Plymouth and the rest of the youngsters went for a walk around Bull Point and Rockham Bay. I was a little upset by their (Vytas') refusal of my request to accompany them on the basis that I don't walk fast enough for the boys. Vytas and Romas do tend to run and race each other at every opportunity and even the fittest members of the family have trouble keeping up with them. I think the girls must have told him off for his behaviour because he brought me home some fudge as an apology.

Romas and Vicky attempting to reenact the Titanic scene.

We've just had a pleasant supper, the youngsters are washing up and everyone is about to watch a film. I shall listen to the film and do jigsaws on the PC at the same time.

Saturday 30 July 2011

Grey Day.

Not such good weather today but Vytas and Sally went down to the beach again. The waves were flat today but they live far from the sea so just spending time on the beach is a treat. Linas came up from Plymouth on the mid-day train so I went into town to collect him and browsed the High Street shops. Our friends who were planning to come down for the day had car trouble and couldn't make it which was a shame. Maybe later in the holidays or we'll meet halfway perhaps at Cheddar.
It has been very overcast all day with occasional sunny spells. I didn't get any gardening done but did manage to sit outside first reading and then chatting to Linas. Right now it keeps threatening to rain but Peter is soldiering on outside with his barbecue which we may end up eating inside.

Friday 29 July 2011

Another Good Day.

Having started the holiday so well I'm going to try and avoid being a grumpy old woman and count my blessings instead. So the 3 things I have most enjoyed doing today are ......

...... having a leisurely (second) breakfast with Vytas and Sally. Our boys all live away from home and we only get to see Vytas 2 or 3 times a year so time spent together is precious.

...... spending the day working outside in the garden and getting another flower bed and paved area clear of weeds.

...... sitting in the garden with a book and a cup of coffee listening to the sounds of nature all around.

Note that none of these activities involved spending money. I was listening to an article on the radio which basically said that everybody will have to manage with less money in the future. So my childhood in a poor family and my later lifestyle choice of staying home with the family and forgoing a second income have prepared me well for the type of future we all face. I feel really sorry for those people whose happiness is dependent on spending money for entertainment or the acquisition of more 'stuff'. There is no doubt that to be really hard up and to have to struggle to pay for housing, food or heating is not a good situation but for many people in the West luxuries have become necessities. We will simply have to learn to become more realistic in our expectations and to appreciate the things we already have around us.

Thursday 28 July 2011

Pond Tidy Day.

I had planned to give myself a day off today but the sun shone and the garden called.....

The forecast was for rain but apart from a few very brief showers it was hot and dry all day long. I managed to cut back the alchemilla around the pond, weed the path and weed all the pond planting. I didn't have time to do much weeding before my friends' visit so if you're reading this girls, this is how the pond should have looked. I'm sure that if I kept everything really tidy all the time I wouldn't have so much wildlife in the garden but it is good to be able to walk on the path. While I was weeding I uncovered a Great Diving Beetle, bright green and about 2" long. Apparently it is a ferocious predator and it is the first time I have seen one in the pond. I wonder how it got there as the pond is fed by water which drains naturally through the hillside. Did it walk from one of the nearby streams or the lake or was the egg carried on the foot of a visiting bird?

Fred the builder was plastering the last walls in the kitchen and the hall so it was good that I was able to keep out of his way and let him work in peace. It was from Fred that we got Speedy and he told me today that when they first found him he was half starved and couldn't walk properly with his back legs, maybe due to being kicked. He can certainly move fast now and is living up to his name. This morning Jack came visiting with Fred the Dalmatian dog (confusing I know). Fred leapt towards Speedy, Speedy hissed and they both ran away in opposite directions. Speedy returned in a while but neither would get too close. Jack is a font of tall stories and today as we weeded the vegetable patch he told me of a bean plant that he had grown. It grew so big that his Dad had to dig it up and plant it in the middle of the field! He's thinking of growing some potatoes but first he'll have to get one of those machines that digs the potatoes up.

Elora, did you ever identify the creature making those little soil mounds? I have similar mounds in a lawn and today as I was about to mow over them again, I saw something going down the holes. Zooming in with the camera is a great way to identify creatures.

My wildlife book tells me that it is a Field Digger Wasp and that it stores flies in the holes for its larvae to feed on. My mystery solved at least.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Hospital Day.

It was down to Exeter Hospital today to have a nerve block injected into my spine. Peter took the day off to take me as I didn't think I would be able to talk my way out and take myself home as I had done on all my previous day surgeries at our local hospital. Everything went well apart from my surgeon losing his theatre slot so that instead of being done within the hour I had to wait 3 hours before finally going to theatre. The injections didn't take long and were not too bad. I could see the x-rays of my spine but chose not to watch as the needle went in in case it made me flinch. It made me a little light headed but after coffee and toast I was ready to go. The RDE Hospital was Peter's work base for 12 years so he went off to catch up with old friends while I was on the ward. Conditions have got more stressful and the pension package reduced so they are envious he got out when he did. He came back to pick me up with roses and chocolate, how sweet!

Exeter lies in the hills of Suoth Devon. We took the back road out over one of the hills behind Exeter. The city lies in the valley and then spreads out to the left of these 2 pictures. It was a warm day but as we approached Exeter we could see a weather front which by the afternoon had moved across the city. For part of our drive home we were under an almost black sky and then at Lapford we emerged from under the front into beautiful sunshine.

We drove to Exeter along the Crediton Road which follows the same route as the train along the wide Taw Valley. The valley is full of lush water meadows and fields of ripe wheat and corn, very different to our hill farms. On the north side of the valley the road winds through some small forested sections which were very pretty with the dappled sunlight.

Again it is quite a different sort of landscape to our little corner of North Devon.

We did a little shopping on our way home and then Peter cooked up a barbecue. We still had plenty of salads from yesterday and I had bratwurst and courgettes. Courgettes are so sweet when grilled with a little oil and herbs.

I saw these unusual clouds yesterday evening. I could spend hours just watching the sky.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Let's Party.

What a wonderful day I've had. It was such a pleasure to spend the afternoon in the company of friends, chatting, eating and enjoying the wonderful sunshine.

I have every sympathy for those of you suffering in the current heatwave as I don't like being too hot but here in our valley there is always a cooling breeze even on the hottest day. Hot weather is such a rare occurrence in the UK that no one (except maybe the very rich) has or needs AC.
My friends are all fellow teachers with whom I have worked for many years and I thought it would be nice to celebrate the start of the holiday with a little get-together. We couldn't have asked for a better day and the parasol gave us some welcome shade as we sat out side enjoying a leisurely shared lunch followed by cups of tea and cakes. The cheesecake I made last night was a little soft, probably because I couldn't get curd cheese and used cream cheese instead and also I only had leaf gelatin and may not have used the right amount as the recipe called for powdered gelatin. It still tasted good as did all the other nice things that everyone had brought. Carol brought 2 of her daughters along and they went off exploring up the stream returning with squelching wellies and a handful of stones. Speedy was a big hit as he loves to play and doesn't mind being picked up. It was the first time my friends had been to the house and they appreciated the garden and kindly ignored the fact that there are weeds eveywhere. There just hasn't been time to keep up with all those little jobs while I've been working full-time.

Later we walked up to see the ponies. Sarah came up at the same time to turn Doris into the field and although she didn't have time to come back and join us for a cuppa she invited us back to the stables and introduced us to all the horses in the yard and the big barn. That was so kind of her and made me want to be back working amongst horses again. Maybe in September when I'm only working part time I'll be there volunteering for some stable work. For so many years looking after horses was a big part of my life that I do miss them.

Later after everyone had gone I sat by the scree garden in the evening sun and reflected on the day. It had been worth staying up till the small hours of the morning to get a second coat of paint on the kitchen walls so that I could return all the furniture, pictures etc and make the place more habitable. That made me feel more relaxed and now everything is ready for the rest of this week's visitors. Let's hope there will be more days like today.

Monday 25 July 2011

The Holidays At Last.

At last, the summer holidays begin. I went into school this morning to make up the required hours helping to prepare stuff for next September. Then it was down to the supermarket for a big shop, white paint for the kitchen from B&Q and up to the college. I see that it is no longer the North Devon College but has been rebranded as Petroc. Something to do with its link to Plymouth University though I thought St Petroc was a Cornish saint. It was third time lucky for me and I came away with 3 big bags of sweet smelling wood shavings from the woodworking dept. These free bags are in high demand and get snapped up as soon as they are put on the loading bay. Once home I gave the hens a new bed, not that they make much mess- there's only 3 of them and they spend most of their time outside. The dry day turned into a sunny afternoon so I was able to mow and strim most of the grass, making it look reasonably presentable for all the visitors that will be coming down this week. Then it was time to paint some of the kitchen walls and right now I'm taking a break before starting the next jobs.

I looked out of the window at 9.00 and saw a lovely turquoise sky filled with fluffy white clouds catching the evening sun. A good excuse to walk up the garden.
Just some cleaning and cooking to do and I'll be done for the day, hooray.

This buddliea bloom looks like some sort of sea creature, maybe a whale or a seal. Or have I just lost my marbles?

Sunday 24 July 2011

Where Has The Sun Gone ?

Back to grey skies and a drizzly afternoon so I couldn't even finish off the mowing. I'm not taking any more of the new medication because it is way too strong for me. I went back to sleep after Peter went off to row in a regatta this morning and didn't wake up till midday. That's from 1 tablet taken yesterday evening !

I haven't had too much energy today but I got a spare bedroom ready for Vytas' visit on Thursday and tidied up the conservatory. I'm still thinking about sealing the bare plaster walls in the kitchen so that I can paint them tomorrow evening. I have to go in to work in the morning and Fred will be finishing off the plastering anyway. He's not going to start on the sitting room until August because I've got various people coming to stay /visit next week and I don't want the sitting room to be out of action.
Nothing much else today. Peter enjoyed the regatta at Instow but he said it was rather cold and miserable for the spectators.

Saturday 23 July 2011


It's been a lovely summer's day today. Not too hot and with a good breeze that helped to dry the 3 loads of washing I got out on the line. My head's rather woozy from some new medication which I think I'm going to have to stop but boy did it send me to sleep last night. Not had any effect on the nerve pain though which which is why I was put on it. Well it was worth a try.

I set myself 3 tasks to do today and I managed to get them nearly all done with a few breaks to read in the sun. Just a couple of lawns left to mow tomorrow. Peter cooked up a barbecue so we ended the day eating a pleasant meal outside surrounded by cats waiting to share the chicken drumsticks. They do get given the gristly bits at the end. Speedy holds his own among the others and will even give Patch a good box around the face if he thinks he is about to steal some tit bit.

Friday 22 July 2011

Last Day of Term.

But not quite the end of school as the Year 2 team will be in on Monday. We were given the choice of coming in on any day during the holidays but it makes sense for us to come in at the same time and it is better to get things done first and then enjoy the holidays. Even though I have been bringing stuff home all week my car was packed tonight. I was given lots of lovely cards and flowers, chocolates and wine and other presents including a watch which I sorely needed as the strap broke on my watch last week and I've had to resort to carrying the watch in my pocket. Shame I don't drink but there will be plenty of people in the house that do and I'm already tucking into a box of pralines. There were also all my own things which I had bought to improve the classroom including 4 sets of square baskets which have been ideal for storing the children's work and making the place look tastefully tidy. These particular baskets are no longer available and I have even been asked if I wanted to sell them but they will do nicely at home keeping some of my mess under control. The classroom looked very bare once everything was down. It will be interesting to see how the new teacher arranges things. A classroom is such a personal statement as there is usually a wide choice of colours to use for the display areas and the tables and cupboards can be arranged in all sorts of ways. I tend to go for maximum space as I'm big and bump into things if there are narrow spaces.

It's been funny old weather today. One minute blazing sun and the next black clouds appear bringing heavy showers. I notice that we had a power cut this morning so maybe there was thunder around as well. The downstairs is looking very ethnic as the dark brown plaster dries to a pale terracotta. Once it is all dry I can paint it white. It will be such a relief not to have that tasteless 'Disney castle' effect that the previous owner was so fond of.

All the recent rain has boosted the growth in the veg plot. The mazuna is looking the best. The original courgette and squash plants got totally eaten up but the solitary courgette that I managed to find is hanging on, for the moment. The sugar snap peas are flowering but the french beans and the sweet peas are struggling. Most of the pak choi has gone to seed but I'm sure there will be enough to add to oriental dishes when my youngsters are here and the sprouting broccoli looks fine. Not bad for an initial go at growing vegetables.

The parent bush of this bright buddliea died after I pruned it but luckily a seedling was growing in another spot and I was able to take a number of cuttings which are also doing well in the veg plot. Off to bed now for an early night.

Thursday 21 July 2011

Off To The City.

The country mouse went up to the big city today. Actually Exeter is a very small city but still a lot bigger than Barnstaple. It's a university town so there are lots of young people around and a lot of tourists as well. It felt very cosmopolitan as all around I could hear voices babbling in french, Spanish, German, Polish, Russian and Arabic. I spent 20 years living in central London and another 10 in Greater London so I'm used to cities but for most of that time I dreamt of escaping to the country and now that I'm there a little dose of the city is enough.

Everywhere there were tempting cafes offering a range of delicious looking foods (not greasy fast foods) but being ever frugal I settled for some nuts and a creamy dessert from Sainsbury's which I ate sitting on the steps of a statue on Cathedral Green.
After the recent spell of wet weather is was good to feel the sun. The temperature was a pleasant 22-25C. Perfect for me.

Much of the City Wall still stands. It was built by the Romans in 200 AD and though since repaired by others some of it is still the original Roman workmanship.

The centre of Exeter is a pedestrianised shopping area which has had a lot of renovations in the last few years. All around are interesting views of the old mixed with the new.

I was in Exeter for an appointment at the hospital. That went well with many apologies being given for the delays. They aren't talking about an operation yet but I made my feelings known about how much my life is being affected. The consultant arranged, there and then, for me to come in next week to have nerve blocking injections into the spine which will be diagnostic even if they don't cure the problem. I've never had treatment offered so quickly before.

I wasn't going to miss a chance for some shopping and took an earlier train so that I could check out the shops. There were sales everywhere, signs of the times I suppose. I bought a new walking jacket, bright magenta with a brown fluffy liner jacket that can be worn on its own. That was reduced from £99 to £30. I also bought a black fluffy hooded top and some mad fleece lounging bottoms for the winter. They are way too big but I can take them in at the sides and they will be nice and cosy.

Wednesday 20 July 2011

One More Early Morning.

Yet again another rainy morning and overcast afternoon. I had my last PPA afternoon which I spent working quietly at the photocopier in the staffroom copying my PE lessons for next year.

After school the parents were invited in to look at all the art work we have been doing recently and to take home all this year's books. Most of the parents had been and gone by 4.00 but we had to stay 'open' until 6.00 so I was able to get on with taking down work from the walls ready for all the art work to be taken home tomorrow. In theory that should leave Friday, the final day of the term, clear for fun stuff but there will probably still be lots to do. I also have to go into school on the Monday to spend a day clearing up and helping the new teacher settle into her new classroom.
I still call these ponies 'the foals' even though Ben and Doris were born last year and Persey was born the year before. They are still very much babies and can often be seen having a little nap.

This is one part of the kitchen walls I shan't be painting. Not until we are actually leaving. I well remember those measuring sessions with books being tilted one way and another and breath held to achieve maximum height. Now all 3 of my little boys are over 6ft tall and tower above me. It doesn't help that I am getting shorter, what a sign of age that is.

As I don't have to get up at the crack of dawn tomorrow I've only got one more early alarm call left until ........ someone books me to work in the morning. Next term my contract is for 3 afternoons only, big pay drop but lots more time to work at home.

Tuesday 19 July 2011

End Of Year Treat.

Only a little rain at the start and end of the day but still cold and grey.

I spotted this bracket fungus growing in the hedge when I stopped to pick up the recycling box. I knew we were into autumn.

It was quite a fun day in school as today we took our Year 2s to the local bowling alley for their end of year treat. We are lucky in that we can walk there along a pleasant foot/cycle path that runs behind the secondary school playing fields. There were a couple of groups of youngsters down at the furthest ends who were having a quick cigarette (stupid kids), but they had the decency to hide them from our children. The children had a great time bowling apart from 1 boy who became quite ill with a headache and a temperature. He hadn't been well at the start of the day but was so keen to get to school his mum had given him some medication which of course wore off by the afternoon. Another of my class didn't even make it to lunchtime, he had come into school not feeling well and by playtime had thrown up and had to be sent home, poor thing.

Monday 18 July 2011

Brr !

At 9C (48F) with constant showers it does not feel at all like summer. I came into the classroom this morning to find Medusa still safely on the wall and now that his beard is firmly attached Poseidon joined her. Even though we are only a few days away from the holiday we can't start clearing the classrooms as we have an open evening on Wednesday where parents are invited to come in and see their children's art work (and talk to us if they have any issues with their children's reports.)

This evening I have only had time to paint half of the kitchen ceiling as I had to go to Tesco's first to get fuel and cheap vinegar which I use in the rinse water when I wash the carpets (just the vinegar not the fuel). And no the place doesn't smell like a chip shop afterwards.

Sunday 17 July 2011

Autumn ?

It has been quite autumnal today with strong winds blowing and sudden rain showers. Going out for a walk we needed fleeces as well as jackets. Today's walk was very different as we were high up on the moors over the iron rich red sandstone cliffs near Heddon's Mouth (Lorna Doone country). We are always drawn to Morte Point and have forgotten how wild and beautiful it is up on the moors. We plan to make a few more trips in that direction this summer as not only are there free car parks but there are fewer tourists. Our walk was on Trentishoe Down (hills are frequently known as 'downs' ) which we can see from the top of our drive. We didn't walk down to Heddon's Mouth and Hunters' Inn as we planned to have lunch at the Station Inn at Blackmoor Gate.
Typical moorland scenery with the heather just starting to come into flower.

Looking back along the path the sky was blue but overhead grey clouds loomed.

Peter had taken the precaution of booking ahead so that we would have a table by the window as he knows if I can't be outside I at least, like to be able to see out. The Station Inn is well known for its Sunday carvery and today it lived up to its reputation. We were lucky to get the last (enormous) portions of beef otherwise it would have probably been the roast pork. They are known for their pork from their own Gloucester Old Spot pigs which can be seen outside. I let Peter have my Yorkshire pudding and then you help yourself to the vegetables - boiled & roast potatoes, carrots, cabbage and broccoli. I had no room for a dessert even without any breakfast and we don't need supper either. The beef was so tender you could 'cut' it with your fork and we thoroughly enjoyed it. At just under £9 each it was the same price as the roast dinner we had at Mortehoe and much, much better.

I don't feel too comfortable taking pictures with the public in so I snapped off one just to give a feel of the place.

On the way home, driving through the narrow lanes from East Down I had to reverse a long way to allow another car to pass. Nothing unusual in that but when the car went past us it had Lithuanian stickers in the windows. That was unusual.

I'm on schedule with my decorating. Today I painted the areas of the ceiling that had marks on. Mostly water stains though Mr Greenslade, the farmer who lived here before the people we bought the place from, told us that one set of stains were from a failed (or too successful), chemistry experiment carried out by their sons about 40 years ago. The stain cover paint is very thick and had to be applied with a brush because of the textured surface of the ceiling so that job took quite a while to do.