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.

Monday 31 December 2012


Yet more heavy rain this morning. Peter went off for an early morning row and he reported that the flooding on our local roads was the worst he has seen. The flood point at the junction with the main road was starting to fill and a veritable river was flowing down the road from the Lewis' farm. The surrounding fields are so wet that the water pours straight off them onto the roads. Luckily our stream didn't rise any higher than this so the house was safe. The postman, bless him, didn't want to drive over my wood dams and walked down the road in the rain to deliver some letters. I told him he was welcome to drive over the wood and assured him that there aren't any nails sticking out to catch his tyres. Our postman is so helpful, taking our letters out as well as delivering and leaving parcels safely in the porch or taking them to the neighbours. Not like in the cities where they ring your bell then stick a card through and leave before you can even get to the door so that you have to trek all the way to the sorting office.
The rain stopped in the late afternoon and we are promised a dry night for the New Year festivities. If I wanted to go into town for the free music event and fireworks I would have to go by myself which is not so much fun. It would be nice to welcome the New Year properly and not just see other people celebrating on TV.

Sunday 30 December 2012


The weather closed in this morning before we could stir ourselves and get out for a walk. I've just pottered around the house, doing a little tidying up. In between rain showers I went and did some work outside. Mainly digging gravel from the stream and dumping it up on the drive at the spot where groundwater is making a bit of a channel. My wood and mud dams are working well up on the road but there is nothing we can do about the water that seeps out of the ground lower down. While I was a digging in the stream I had a chat with my neighbour, mostly about eating too many chocolates and needing to loose some weight. So it's been another quiet day down here in our valley.

Saturday 29 December 2012

Heavy Rain.

It has been a day of extremes. One minute torrential showers the next relative calm and blue sky showing above the hills. Peter went out rowing at 7.00 when it was dark and raining while I lay in bed listening to the rain lashing against the windows. I had a nasty sinus headache so I didn't enjoy my lie-in as much as usual but it was oh so good not to have to get up.
During a dry spell I did some work in the yard and checked on the stream which was flowing strongly but not too high.
The little pond has filled right up and at least looks tidy now that the path has been refurbished. I preferred the old grey stones but they had mostly sunk into the underlying clay and I had access to a pile of black gravel left behind after some roadworks so that's what I used. (We did check with someone who works in the highways dept. and they can't re-use the gravel on another job.)
During this rather rainy holiday we have enjoyed watching TV, mainly films that we have recorded on the Sky box but sometimes you come across some unexpected gems while randomly checking out the channels. Last night I watched a programme about 2 people driving through rural Georgia, up mountain passes and onto the high plateaus. It was incredibly beautiful, stunning views dotted with medieval fortress villages. (It can be seen for the next 18 days at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b01pp7ps  ). And then today I chanced upon Stomp on Sky Arts. Despite my poor knee I love dance and have taught stomp dancing to one of my classes before but this show takes stomp dancing and junk percussion to new heights. Who could have thought that you could have a performance piece accompanied only by the sound of sink plungers or newspapers. Yes - newspapers. That piece was so funny Peter came in to see why I was laughing so much and even he was impressed by the kitchen sinks + cups & saucepans piece. I must see if I can fit in a bit more junk percussion for my Year 2 classes. 

Friday 28 December 2012

Wet & Grey.

It's been a miserable grey day with constant drizzle that is forecast to turn into heavy rain. This morning I went into town to do a few jobs and check out the sales.I din't find much but at least I had a look. In the days when I had 9 youngsters to buy birthday and Christmas presents for it was worth buying things during the sales (as long as I could then remember where I had put them). I've still got cards and wrapping paper bought last year and I certainly don't need any more Christmas decorations. I had hoped to change my books at the library but it was closed. The only things I bought for myself were a pocket diary to record my daily photos and a soft zip-up hoody from a charity shop. But I do like to check out the sales at least once just in case there are any bargains.
In the end I thought the decorations on the fireplace beam looked silly so I hung them on a few branches cut from the garden. Here Speedy is doing his best to knock a glass bauble onto the floor.
As it is such a drab day I thought I'd post another photo from yesterday.

Thursday 27 December 2012


We took advantage of a break in the weather to go for a walk. The tide was quite high but it is always good to wander about on the beach breathing in the fresh air.

We watched a coastguard helicopter hovering near the cliff and then sending down a winch-man onto the rocks below. They didn't seem to be rescuing anyone so it was probably only a practise mission.
 It wasn't me kicking up all the sea foam so that it flew through the air, honest.
We had a wander about on the rocks seeing what the tide had brought in before sitting up on a cliff-top bench to have our coffee. The waves were too blown out for surfing but there were a lot of people out walking on Woolacombe beach. We did watch a lone surfer attempting to get out into the better waves but the best he could manage was one 5 second ride.
After our breezy walk we dropped in at Tesco's on the way home but as usual there weren't many bargains. We did get a half price fresh chicken which will last us for several meals.
When we got home we found that Elwen and Squeaky had put aside their differences to snuggle up next to the warm Rayburn chimney.

Wednesday 26 December 2012


It's been a day of heavy showers so it was nice to sit at the PC listening to the wind howling in the trees. Apart from checking how everyone is I do enjoy doing on-line jigsaw puzzles. Peter always used to buy me a jigsaw for Christmas but it is so much more convenient to have the pieces up on the screen where I can enlarge them to suit my eyes and you don't loses any pieces. During a break in the weather I drove the rubbish up to the road for collection tomorrow morning. I only hope the bags don't blow off down the road but if I put them around the corner the dustmen don't always collect them. Peter and I made an attempt to put up our new tent in the sitting room to familiarise ourselves with it and also to give the top an extra spray with waterproofer. I say attempt because it has a combination of fibreglass poles and metal poles which provide stability across the tent but the lengthwise stability is mainly provided by the guy ropes which obviously we couldn't secure indoors. So the tent kept concertinaing flat and falling down. We'll wait for a dry spell (if one ever happens) and put it up in the garden to give it a good airing as well as spraying it. The tent is a bit awkward to fold up but I wanted one where the groundsheet is sewn in as our other tent which had a separate ground sheet got rather draughty with the wind whistling in all around the edges. Also we needed a tent that you can stand up in as Peter's knees didn't cope with crawling around in a lower tent. 

Tuesday 25 December 2012

Mainly Dry.

 A Happy Christmas to you all.
For us Christmas started with our traditional fish meal on Christmas Eve followed by Midnight Service at our local village church. There were about 40 people in the church which is a sad decline from our first years here when it was hard to find seats at the Midnight Service. While waiting for the service to start (and doing a quick head count), I thought what an achievement constructing such a building in the days when everything was done by hand. Parts of the building are 13th century, others 15th century with major restoration in the 1880's. And I thought too of how the whole community would have been standing there (no pews in the early days) celebrating high days and Holy days. I know that people of many faiths, or of none celebrate Christmas and that it has been tacked onto the winter solstice celebrations but after all,
My inner child woke me at 5.00 but much as I was looking forward to tucking into some chocolate (I have been restrained through December and cut right back on chocolate and sweet things), I didn't want to wake Peter by crashing around and making a cup of tea so I turned over for a few more hours sleep. The very best part of today was to speak to all the boys. I phoned Linas and Romas and had a long chat with each of them and then to my surprise Vytas phoned from Australia. The farm work is not quite as imagined. They are on a farm about an hour from the coast in a fertile area and they are mainly doing fencing and weeding. Nothing wrong with that but I was surprised to hear that today has been no different from any other day. They worked until 9.00 pm and there was no special meal or even a barbecue to mark the day. Considering they are working without pay I think that is seriously mean minded. 
After our Christmas lunch, boef bourginion with mash, red cabbage and swede & carrot mash, I went for a walk up the hill to Bowden Corner. I spent a while watching a flock of starlings flowing in and out of the trees. 
The sun was trying to peek through a few holes in the clouds and the undersides of some of the clouds were lit with a soft dusky pink light.
 Finally a shot of some cute chocolate decorations sent to me by Romas. Almost too nice to eat.

Monday 24 December 2012


It's a good thing that Romas isn't coming down to visit us as both the main train line and the branch line are closed due to flooding. It hasn't been too bad here today. I've done a final clean up and everything is ready for Christmas. Not only will it be the first time without any of the boys it will be the first time with just the 2 of us. We will still have our traditional Christmas Eve meal though not the 12 dishes that we usually have. Smoked salmon to start and spiced herrings and salads for the main course. Then we'll be off to the local village church for the Midnight Service.

I walked over to our neighbours' to deliver a present for Jack, a book of 200 printed paper aeroplanes to make and a card. I stayed for a while, after all who can resist the offer of a glass of Bailey's (the only alcohol I drink). They have 2 tabby kittens that are just so cute and then I had to inspect the Christmas tree decorated by Jack. Sarah said there are a couple of Red Deer stags in the valley so I shall keep my eyes open for them. We're not having a Christmas tree this year but I have put up a few decorations just to make things look a bit festive. Usually I got to town with tinsel, lights and decorations in abundance but this year I thought I would go for a more subtle look. (Less to clear up at the end of the holiday.) I'm still deciding if the glass drops and silver decorations hanging from the beam across the open fireplace should stay or not. One of my favourite Christmas ideas is a wooden bowl filled with satsumas and gold covered chocolate coins and I shall do that for when our friends come to stay. 

Sunday 23 December 2012


 It has been dry and remarkably warm today. Peter was off out rowing again today. He was with the social (ie non-competitive) rowers which would have been easier than a training row but for the fact that some of the crew's rowing wasn't very effective. They went a mile and a half down river which left them with the task of rowing back against the tide and the flow of flood water still making its way downstream. The latest news on the local flooding is that Barnstaple escaped unscathed due to the high banks around the lower part of the River Yeo but the new flood defences in Braunton collapsed and many of the businesses in the High Street were flooded. That's all they needed in this time of recession.
I did a little work outside then retired to the kitchen where I made a couple of meatloaves which are now cooking in the oven and rearranged the freezer so I could get the last few things in. And now all of a sudden I feel quite weary. Now for a relaxing evening watching the finals of Strictly. Unfortunately I did hear the result mentioned on the radio last night but it will still be enjoyable.
Just found this picture of the main road just past Shirwell. Our turn off is to the left of the picture. This was taken yesterday morning. When we came through at 1.00 there was a Highways man prodding the drains and the water had all gone but it must have flooded again which is why we were stopped from driving that way.

Saturday 22 December 2012


It's been an exciting day. Woke up this morning to heavy rain and the stream behind the house flooded up to the top of Paul's culverts. My wood and mud dams across the road were doing a good job of protecting the drive so we weren't too worried.
By mid-morning the stream had dropped from this to at least a foot lower. Big sighs of relief. We had tickets to see The Hobbit in the afternoon but went in a couple of hours earlier as Peter was rowing first. I went to the library and the bank and checked out the shops but then the heavy rain drove me into Lindsay's for a coffee  .... and a slice of white chocolate and raspberry cheesecake. Really enjoyed the film and as it is still a novelty to me 3-D impresses me no end, and better definition  too! I did mutter darkly at the plot changes but they are only to be expected. A bit disappointed to see a 'Spielberg moment' ie characters sliding down a steep slope but there you go. Everything else was pretty good and I've already printed off the sheet music for the Dwarves song. 
Driving home we were stopped by the police at the hospital traffic lights and told there was no way through. The Muddiford road which runs along a small river was flooded for a considerable distance and there was flooding on the Shirwell road where we turn off. We couldn't even go the very long way round through Braunton as that was cut off by floods too. The police advised that we go back into town and spend a couple of hours in the pub! Even as we were turning round a fire vehicle towing an inflatable dingy came past on blue lights. We went down to The Reform and exchanged flood stories. High tide will be at 1.00 am and the people in one street by a normally small river have been warned that they will be flooded then. After a few beers (Peter) and coffees (me) we set out again and this time although the cones were across one side of the road we went round and I drove carefully through a number of not so small floods. Coming home I was thankful that there hadn't been any flooding at home and I went out and added more reinforcements to my little dams on the road. 
Brayford (near school) earlier today. Photo from the Web.
Flooding at Braunton. Photo from the Web.

Friday 21 December 2012


 And we are still here!
Woke up this morning to find Peter still at home. Why haven't you gone to work? ..... 'Cos it's Saturday!!? He had me fooled for a moment but actually although he used up all his holiday days after I had my operations he was given the day off so he doesn't have to go back to work until after the New Year. Today is Factory Friday when traditionally all the local factories shut at noon as a start to the Christmas holiday. Nowadays the number of factories have greatly decreased but the tradition carries on. From lunchtime the pubs and clubs in town are filled with happy folk partying. I had a peaceful day at home. It was good that I started by clearing the silt (from the last big flood), from the path by the bog garden as my knee has now stiffened up after last night's dancing. But I have made a big pot of Boef Bourginion which is simmering gently on the stove. That will be frozen in 2 portions one of which will be for our Christmas dinner.
Peter went rowing in the afternoon and came home with lots of mincemeat from his favourite butcher. Most has gone in the freezer and tomorrow I'll use up the rest.
The latest news on Vytas and Sally is that they are on a cattle farm/station? for a month and will be mending fences and herding cattle on horseback. So I guess they will be having a genuine Australian Christmas.

Thursday 20 December 2012

Very Wet.

Today has been a great start to the holidays. I was in school all day which meant an early start driving through the dark & rain trying to spot the floods on the road, back home in the dark now with fog and then back again into town for our staff night out. Got home a little before 2.00 so technically it is tomorrow but that doesn't count if you haven't been to bed.
The last day of term is always a bit of a rush with final touches being added to the presents they were taking home (painted coil pots with glitter around the tops - of course), as well as seeing that everyone had their cards and all the other bits they had made to take home. I had some great help in class so I was able to finish the last few reading assessments. It rained so hard the children couldn't go out all day not even into the covered outdoor activities space and the server had crashed leaving only one of the class computers even able to access the desktop. But the children got on with lots of cutting & sticking and playing together fairly amicably. In the afternoon just before the children were about to go into the hall for Captain Coconut (an entertainer who does a lot with giant bubbles) the message came to get to the front playground quickly where the children waved to Santa as he flew past several times in a helicopter. The evening do was great fun, an excellent meal followed by much dancing, well I had to burn off those calories. Out came my 2" sandals which have only ever been worn for previous staff nights out and I certainly used up lots of energy. One group at the dinner were the local jive club and they were very impressive with all their twisting and twirling though I didn't see any of the kicks and flicks we're used to on Strictly. Must be a different style.
Came home and there was some good news from Vytas & Sally. They've been looking hard for work in Brisbane after their last job ended, without much luck. But now Sally has accepted a job in Aukland. So they should be off to New Zealand in the New Year which is where I was trying to persuade them to go in the first place. First they are off to work on a farm for a few weeks which should also be a great experience.

Wednesday 19 December 2012

Wild. Wet & Windy.

I had a satisfying morning giving the kitchen a good clean. Although it will only be the 2 of us for Christmas it's nice to have the place fresh and sparkling. That included hoovering the stone wall. I always smile when one of those house buying programmes is on TV and people rave over bare stone walls in country properties. I smile firstly because I hope that when we eventually come to sell the place that will be the reaction of any prospective buyers. It's also a wry smile as I reflect on just how hard it is to keep such a wall clean. I don't mind the summer spiders, they do a good job catching flies, but by winter the cobwebs are all dusty and wouldn't hold anything so down the hoover nozzle they go. People also like the idea of a range in a country kitchen and yes ours keeps the kitchen warm and the damp at bay while providing ample hot water but cooking on it requires much patience and the oil bill ...... is horrendous. I was so inspired by my morning efforts that I carried on after I got home from work and washed all the blue glassware on windowsill. I've also had to move all my orchids into the kitchen as the cold in the other rooms was beginning to make them very sad and leaves were beginning to fall off.
We had our usual Christmas buffet at lunchtime, the food was all from M&S, very tasty indeed and there was so much that the staffroom fridge with is filled with food so none of us need to bring any lunches tomorrow. We also had the fun of opening our Secret Santa presents. I made a good choice for my person and the extra fun item was something she really liked. The Hobbit calendar was exactly the right present for me too. In the afternoon the children had their Christmas parties and I was down with the young ones in reception. I love seeing them in their own clothes rather than the monotony of school uniform and they looked so sweet when they were dancing, every style from holding hands and skipping round to one pair who were attempting a ballroom hold. (Must watch Strictly at home.) The party went well with almost no tears though the surprise fly-by of Santa in the rescue helicopter was cancelled due to the bad weather. They will try again tomorrow afternoon though the forecast is not good.

Tuesday 18 December 2012


It is still warm and I ended up driving home from school with my car window open though that was more to clear the moisture off the insides of the windows.
My music (drumming) lesson was being observed by the Head Teacher in the afternoon so I spent the morning double checking my plan and resources and pottering around in the kitchen. I'm the sort of person who goes all jittery when being watched (I hated playing the piano in public) but I think the lesson went well. The Head Teacher had to leave before the end and I haven't had any feedback yet but I'm hoping that she thought it was a good lesson. It's the time of year when lots of exciting things are happening and the usual routine flies out of the window. So the children were quite hyper to start but I think I got them to a reasonable level of focus and I was able to follow my plan without too many interruptions. We did our usual drumming activities including drumming to some Zulu music then I introduced the concept of counting a pause and playing different parts and then eventually adding chanting voices. This was to We Will Rock You by Queen. I had downloaded a backing track and written some simple words about being happy drummers which I thought more appropriate for 6 year olds. I was so glad that I had taken the precaution of emailing the download to myself as well as putting it on a pen drive because when I tried the pen drive on the class lap top it wouldn't read so I used the emailed version instead. My Head Teacher wasn't in the class for that bit but it made it much more exciting for the children and that was important to me. Drumming is now finished and next term I'll be teaching art, another favourite of mine.

Monday 17 December 2012


I managed to get an early appointment this morning with the dentist as my toothache (gum/jaw-ache?)  had worsened since the tooth was removed. As I suspected I have an infection due to a 'dry socket' (no blood clot) which was probably prevented from forming by my other medication. She gave me a prescription for antibiotics and this time I got charged a small amount because I hadn't had to pay for the last 2 visits. I did a bit of shopping afterwards and sent off the last of my Christmas post. There are still 8 days to go but one parcel might not make it in time. Luckily it's not actually a Christmas present, just a few treats.
The day has been mainly dry. Sunny one moment and black clouds the next with a few showers. I spent the rest of my day shovelling gravel from the stream. I'm not surprised Patch has been catching trout. I saw several and heard more making their way upstream. As far as I can tell they are not spawning so I don't know why they are trying to get up the dangerous shallows. At least with all my digging the stream is a bit deeper.
I'm not sure if these sheep were making a bid for freedom or simply looking for tasty morsels.

Sunday 16 December 2012


It has warmed up in the last few days so when Peter went off early for a morning row I got up, started pottering about in the kitchen and then decided to do some outdoor work. I spent couple of hours digging gravel and stones out of the stream and dumping them on the soft places in the yard where we park the cars. It was more effective than any work-out at the gym, got a good part of the yard sorted and cleared up as well as clearing the stream. And I didn't have to pay for a delivery of gravel. I was just putting my spade away when the rain started in earnest but I felt I had done a decent amount of work.
Just had to interrupt my blogging to rescue yet another trout from the cat. This is the third one that Patch has caught and brought into the conservatory. I had felt so guilty at killing and eating what was a very small trout that I now get them back into the stream as quickly as possible. This one didn't look so lively and lay on its back washed up against a rock for quite a while, then with a little assistance from me was washed down the stream on its side. It was beginning to make some swimming movements so maybe it will survive. Once they leave the lake the stream is only a few inches deep so no wonder that greedy Patch is able to catch them. Maybe next year they will have grown to a decent size in which case they will end up in the oven.

Friday 14 December 2012

Too Sad.

This is not a day to blog. Only to say prayers for all the suffering families in Newtown.


It been very wet and consequentially a bit warmer today. The only time my class got outside was for morning playtime. They also had to spend time in the hall as seating arrangements were sorted out for the Reception class' Nativity and later to practise the carols. Most of my morning was spent writing instructions with those children that didn't do it yesterday. Friday afternoons there are no teaching assistants in the Year 1 & 2 classes so when one of my boys, who supposedly had been playing, sorry - participating in outdoor learning activities, in the covered area, managed to fall in a puddle and soak his trousers up to the knee I wasn't able to leave the class. He naturally did not have his PE kit in school so I sent him with another child and a note to the school secretary who found him a spare pair of trousers. Trouble was he didn't want to wear them. He put on the dry trousers but then  cried and pointing to his wet trousers which I hung from one of the many washing lines that criss-cross every classroom (to display work), could only say "I want those ones". The dry ones felt different and were grey rather than black. All this while I was still trying to assess children as they wrote. Luckily I was able to get him laughing as I deliberately misunderstood the instructions the children were writing and once they had dried off a bit he got his own special trousers back. After a slightly hectic afternoon things calmed down as the children sat in a circle to receive Christmas cards from the class post box. A bit of time to tidy up and then down to the Co-op for yet more bargains. Our big chest freezer is nearly filled right up but with friends coming to stay in the New Year we need plenty of supplies.

Thursday 13 December 2012


I was teaching all day so it was an early start for me this morning. It was cold but the road was dry which gave me a safe journey in to work. 
Today the children were writing instructions for making cornflakes cakes ( which they had made earlier in the week) but as this was the final piece for a block of work they had to write independently and we could only remind them about sentence structure and strategies for spelling. This is to give a clear picture of what the children have learned and of course we did lots of talking first. I worked with the children who are only just writing and it really was like pulling teeth! But it has to be done. After school I stayed and gave all their delicate painted clay animals a coat of glue to 'varnish' them. No matter how careful I was the odd leg or wing still fell off so I must remember to take some superglue in with me tomorrow. I finished at just the right time to sweep up some good bargains at the Co-op including a whole fresh chicken, smoked salmon, mushrooms and a pork joint. Perfect for the holidays.

Wednesday 12 December 2012


It was just as frosty again this morning. I didn't do much outside, just moved the wooden table from the patio up the drive to the shelter by the scree garden. It is very heavy but if I turn it on its side I can just about roll it up the hill. I kept an eye out for cars on the road and was relieved to see 4 cars driving down so I knew I would have no problems getting out to work. This evening I've left the micra up at the top as it's still cold, there was snow on Dartmoor today, and I don't like to take chances. The weather is set to change on Friday, wilder and wetter due to a low pressure area that reaches right across the Atlantic to N. America.
I love my afternoons down in Reception with the little children. Today they were writing their names on gift tags and I was making notes on how well they could write their name and if they could hold a pencil correctly. We had staff meetings at lunch-time and after school, there is so much still to finalise about all the Christmas activities and planning has already started for next term. After work I drove across town so that I could go and get our tickets for The Hobbit. It opens today but already the best seats for both the Saturday and Sunday afternoons had sold out (we don't fancy driving home late at night). But it is worth waiting  another week so that we can sit in the comfort of the best seats which are more like arm chairs with a gangway in front of you so there is plenty of room to stretch out and you don't get people trying to climb over you. We are very lucky in that although our cinema has been converted to a multi-screen cinema the main screen is in the original auditorium and is a decent size. Also the sound system is very good.

Tuesday 11 December 2012


We had our first hard frost of the winter. As I wasn't going to work until the afternoon I wasn't too worried about getting up the hill. All was fine until I turned into the road where the car went into a bit of a wobble. Once I had got to Ashelford Corner the road was dry. Naturally everything on the south facing side of the hill was clear and there was not a sign of frost in town. When I returned home I could see that the frost was still there from the morning.
Driving to work each hill in the distance was a different shade of bluey grey. I'm so lucky to drive through such beautiful countryside each day.
My afternoon at school was mainly taken up with the children's first performance of their Christmas production. Apart from babies wailing and parents talking through the performance I found just having to try and maintain a semblance of good behaviour among the children seated at the side of the stage was much harder than teaching in class. One class I didn't know at all so it was difficult to make eye contact and glower when they chatted, sang through other children's solos and generally fidgeted and while I was facing them there was almost as much going on with the older children who were sitting in front of me; shepherds taking off their head cloths which had been tied in a special way that I couldn't reproduce,  another child decided to take off his school sweatshirt and wear it on his head like a wild turban and in the front row right in front of the parents one boy punched another in the stomach. I'm not complaining, just thankful that I hadn't been expected to stay in school for the 6.00 performance. And then they do it all again tomorrow morning but I shall be at home.
This morning I cooked up a big batch of sweet and sour red cabbage. The cabbage is cooked in white wine vinegar with bacon, onion and apples and flavoured with allspice and honey. It's now all in containers in the freezer, part of my cunning plan not to do any actual cooking on Christmas Day.