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.

Thursday 28 February 2013

Healing Hugs.

Despite the grey sky it hasn't felt that cold today. I taught in the afternoon (art again) and I have found that being among young children who know nothing about my personal sorrow has been incredibly healing. Because I haven't been around for a few weeks quite a few of them have run up and given me a hug, simply because that is how they express their feelings. And their  excitement when they know I will be teaching them  that afternoon, though it is mainly due to the fact that we do fun stuff like art and drumming, still makes me feel that bit better. Then there is the routine and the mundane to keep me grounded. 'My dog eats poo' was one 4 year old's comment yesterday after I read a funny poem about a goat. Thinking quickly I responded by saying that's what some dogs do so we don't let them lick our hands or faces and then went straight on  to another poem before we had any more revelations about dogs or especially poo.
This evening I had to laugh when Patch, the greediest of all cats, launched himself towards a counter where he thought I was about to pour some milk into the cats' bowl. Unfortunately in his haste accuracy got lost and for a few moments he was hanging by his front paws, frantically scrabbling with his hind paws before falling in an ungainly heap upon the floor. Not a cat's graceful fall, landing on his paws but a splat onto his side.

Wednesday 27 February 2013

Spring Approaches.

Going in to work this lunchtime the air was filled with the smell of fresh mown grass coming from the big playing field next to our school, which had just had the first cut of the year. The planters at school are filled with small, flowering narcissi and it won't be long before the clumps of daffodils along the school drive will also be blooming. I don't know how they survive the random picking by children walking along, with their parents! but they do. The first blackthorn bushes are flowing in the country hedges and in town the pink and white cherry blossom is appearing.
After 2 early risings it made a nice change to be able to close my eyes and get an extra hour's sleep this morning. Even better was the fact that I was able to lie on my side for that extra time. For the last 5 years or so my hips have been far to sore to allow me to sleep on my side (as I had been doing for over 40 years) but all my GP was able to offer me was a series of injections (cortisone) which had no effect at all. When I finally got to see a specialist at the hospital he gave me more injections which worked for a week and then things got worse again. I have asked to be referred back to him but I have noticed a slight improvement first thing in the mornings. So perhaps he just needs to up the treatment. It is very irritating when your mind feels as if you are in your 20s but bits of your body keep going wrong. 

Tuesday 26 February 2013

Deer, Dear.

It was a full day at school for me today.At least it kept me busy. In the afternoon I was teaching my favourite subject -art. The children were looking at and sketching animal profiles and it was satisfying to be able to sit with one lad who had no confidence at all and started by making a quick attempt at copying a picture and then crossing it out straight away but after some gentle coaching in observation was happily sketching and advising others how to sketch.
Before I left for work this morning I went upstairs to brush my teeth and spotted a deer in the deciduous plantation next to the garden. Originally this was a very wet field (Ron next door called it 'a bit o' moor') where a chap who farmed some miles away kept some sheep and cattle. They weren't very well looked after and sometimes strayed into our garden so it was a relief when he sold the land to someone who got a subsidy for planting trees. It has changed hands a number of times but the trees kept on growing, I think the subsidy would have had to be repaid if the trees were removed, and eventually deer found their way inside the deer-fence. There is very little woodland around here as every bit of land is owned and farmed but we do see the occasional deer which have wandered off Exmoor probably by way of the woods around Arlington Court.
This photo is very blurry but when I enlarged it I could make out another white rump in front of the first hind.  (Looks better if you squint.) It's a lot warmer today and the icicle fountain has all but gone.
After work I went into town to sort out something at the Post Office. First problem was that although I had printed off a form from my emails I had forgotten to write down a further number I needed. Well I hadn't forgotten to write it down, just failed to actually put it in my bag. Then I thought 'Technology!', no I don't have an i-phone but I could at least phone Peter at home and get him to find the note and read out the numbers to me. Got the form filled out and took out my driver's license card for ID. Oh dear! it's 2 years out of date and no I don't carry my passport with me (and ID cards for everyone were briefly introduced and then thrown out some years ago). So now not only do I have to find which folder my passport is in because I go on so many foreign holidays (ie never) but I need to update my driver's license pronto.

Monday 25 February 2013


It was hard to wake up before 6.00 this morning. Looking out of the window at my white covered car I thought it was going to be another freezing day but when I went to switch on the engine to give the car a chance to warm up I discovered it was not frost but little bobbles of snow that were easy to brush off.
It was the first day back after the half-term holiday for the children and my first morning back too. As I had thought, once I was back in class my mind was fully occupied. I have found that I am much calmer in the mornings, it is later in the day that there are moments of utter sadness. I found that at work I was able to cope with the brief kind words from colleagues who then understood my need to become focused on our school day (or half day in my case).
My car spent the morning at the garage. Last week the boys told me I had a brake light out, the tracking needed doing after bumping up and down the drive and it is hard to put the handbrake on. Today both the brake lights were working so that must have been something loose and the handbrake problem might be being caused by the cable being a bit rusty! making it hard to pull through whatever thingy it goes through. It's OK for the moment but I'll probably have the cable replaced soon and get new brake shoes at the same time. 
It was a bit warmer on the way home and a lot smellier as the the farmers have been muck spreading again. The grass looks almost black with all the slurry. The icicle-fall is still there but dripping from every point.

Sunday 24 February 2013


It is still bitterly cold and this morning it tried to snow but thankfully nothing settled. I'm keeping a check on the weather as I'll be driving up the hill early tomorrow for my first morning back at work.
I couldn't have a lie-in this morning as I had arranged for the chips in the micra's windscreen to be repaired. When the man got here it turned out that it was the same guy who came a few years ago. Also the chips were not new ones but simply the old ones from which the resin had fallen out of. Luckily I keep my paperwork fairly well organised (ie shoved into labelled folders), and it didn't take him long to re-do the paper?work on his mobile device.

Saturday 23 February 2013


It is still freezing here but we've got plenty of warm clothes and throws to wrap ourselves up in. Incidentally Dorothy Wordsworth also started her journal entries with comments about the weather before moving onto more  aesthetic subjects. Perhaps it is the unpredictable and often dreary aspect of our British weather that makes it such a subject of interest to those of us who live here.
The little pond is almost completely frozen over, not much hope for the frog-spawn that had started to develop.

Friday 22 February 2013

Very Cold.

It continues to be bitterly cold but thankfully dry. There was some mention of snow in the weather forecast but nothing for the South-West. Our icicle-fall keeps on growing and today the colder temperature gave it a frosted appearance.
Having time to rest is good for the body but not so good for the mind as there are too many moments where all I can think of is our loss. Peter went into town, mainly to advise a friend on a work problem and pick up a few things so I curled up in an armchair and watched some light tv.  
Vytas has been keeping in touch and right now he is in Melbourne and will be heading off to Auckland tomorrow.

Thursday 21 February 2013


All is very quiet at home now. We set off this morning while it was still dark to drive Romas to Exeter to catch a coach. The single rail fare was over £100 or £70 with a rail card and the coach from Barnstaple was over £60! so the Megabus fare of £27 was a lot more reasonable for a journey of less than 200 miles. I had planned to drive Romas myself but although I can get around Exeter by bus and on foot the often changing one way road system had me worried that we wouldn't make it in time. Many years ago when I drove Vytas early in the mornings to the bus station on the start of his trips to Poland I simply drove up the bus & taxi only streets but I expect they have cameras that would catch you now. So Peter drove and I went along for the ride.
And now I have a few quiet days before I'm back at work. Right now I feel as if I'm living in 2 worlds. For most of the time. I'm in a place where life just goes on. Most people don't know about our personal tragedy and even with those that do there are everyday things to be done and conversations to be had. And I can cope fairly well. But to one side is a window through which I can see the fact that Linas has passed out of this life. I am always aware of what lies on the other side of the window but some conversations both in my head and with other people push me closer to the window and my grief wells up. And it is in those quiet times, especially in the stillness of the night that I pass right through to the other side and I am confronted by all the possibilities that will never be and my heart breaks into a million pieces.
An icicle-fall caused by the dripping over-flow pipe and the freezing temperatures.
So as part of the healing process I feel that my blog should return to being more about what is happening around me rather than what is going on in my head. Unless of course I feel the need to have another of my rants.

Wednesday 20 February 2013

The Sweetest Sound.

I'm beginning to feel quite tired now. No doubt the strain of the last few weeks is catching up with me. And staying up till the small hours didn't really help. But as I sat at my PC in the living room it was such a pleasure to listen to the deep tones of Vytas and Romas debating the rules of a war game they were playing in the kitchen. Loosing Linas has made their presence even more precious and I wanted to savour every moment. We hadn't seen Romas for over a year due to his studies and busy working life in Stoke and Vytas may not be home for another 6 months or even a year depending on how things go in New Zealand. So I stayed up for as long as I could until weariness overcame me. Even so I took a few photos before I stumbled off to bed.
I took Vytas this morning to catch his bus to Heathrow from where he will fly to Auckland via Abu Dhabi and Melbourne. Incidentally if anyone is looking for travel insurance I wouldn't recommend Direct Line. Vytas took out a year's multi journey insurance with them but when he rang them to claim for having to return home they told him that not only will they not pay for his journey home (despite the policy saying you could claim if you have to return due to a family bereavement) but also the next 10 months of his policy have been cancelled because he returned to the UK. He's not going to let this go but what a set of bastards.

Tuesday 19 February 2013

Our Last Goodbye.

Today we went down to Putsborough Beach to scatter Linas' ashes at the place where he spent many happy hours surfing with his brothers. 
Even though we know that his spirit has left this world we can all feel that he is close to us wherever we live.
It was a beautiful time which we shared with Sam and Alex. Romas built a driftwood fire upon which we placed the basket the roses had been placed in, the rose stems and the box which had contained the ashes. Linas would certainly have approved of the fire. Although it was sad to say goodbye we also thought Linas  would have found it amusing to see us wading out, bare legged into the freezing water. 

Monday 18 February 2013

Farewell Linas.

The day he left for Belfast.

   Alter Bridge - Blackbird   (Link)

The willow it weeps today
A breeze from the distance is calling your name
Unfurl your black wings and wait
Across the horizon it's coming to sweep you away
It's coming to sweep you away

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

The fragile cannot endure
The wrecked and the jaded a place so impure
The static of this cruel world
Cause some birds to fly long before they've seen their day
Long before they've seen their day

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you've known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again

Ascend may you find no resistance
Know that you made such a difference
All you leave behind will live to the end
The cycle of suffering goes on
But memories of you stay strong
Someday I too will fly and find you again

Let the wind carry you home
Blackbird fly away
May you never be broken again

Beyond the suffering you've known
I hope you find your way
May you never be broken again
May you never be broken again

This is the song we had played today. Romas suggested it as they would play it together on their guitars.

Saturday 16 February 2013

Happy Birthday Vytas.

Life still goes on even in the midst of sadness so today we celebrated Vytas' 27th birthday. I woke him this morning with a phone call from Sally. Later he opened his cards and opened a present from us (a guidebook to LOTR locations), which I had carefully sent out to him in Auckland and he had just as carefully brought back to Devon. At lunchtime we all went to The Honey Moon Chinese restaurant in Barnstaple for  for their all-you-can-eat buffet. It has a great selection of dishes and at less than £7 each is very good value. I think the boys may have had 4 platefuls each! After lunch we strolled back down the High St where Alex bought Vytas some hand made chocolates and all 3 of the youngsters found some good bargains in the Saltrock sale. Right now the boys are playing yet another wargame (early Romans I think) and later on when we are feeling a little less full we'll have some of the chocolate birthday cake that is defrosting hidden away in the kitchen.

This was the year that Vytas finally completed his studies, his thesis was handed in and he now has his PhD.

After so many years 'up country' he and Sally fled gloomy Britain and headed off for sunny Brisbane.
After working first as a house demolisher, then a landscape gardener and finally a farm hand he was back in Sydney prior to flying out to Auckland where Sally had been offered a 'proper' job.
He was just settling into New Zealand life when tragedy struck our family and he flew half-way round the world to  be with us at this sad time. And it has been such a comfort to have both Vytas and Romas here. Their very presence brings normality and has put us on the path to acceptance. But today is Vytas' day so ...
Happy Birthday, Vytas. xx

Friday 15 February 2013

Busy Day.

I've been quite busy today without a moment to curl up in corner. Sometimes that's good, sometimes not. Mid-morning I drove Vytas out to Fremmington to drop off his lap-top to be repaired. He's been having trouble with the power cable but even with Peter's help wasn't able to resolder some of the parts. Luckily Peter remembered this chap who runs a small repair business and it won't cost too much to fix. With all his travelling Vytas needs a way of keeping in touch so his lap-top is less of a luxury and more of a necessity. I guess it's only the older generation (ie us) who still look upon such things as a luxury. 
Once home I decided to give my car a thorough clean. We will be driving ourselves to the funeral, not only to keep the costs down but I can't really imagine a gleaming limousine in our muddy yard. So my car was scrubbed inside and out and even the seat covers got thrown in the washing machine. There have been times in the last 2 weeks when I simply curl up and stare at the tv and others when I go into a cleaning frenzy. It's all part of the process I suppose. 
It's quite isolated living here but each trip to town has included a few more interactions so I am gradually finding it easier to talk to people. Today I talked to 2 of my colleagues, typical Devon fashion we stopped our cars side by side in the road and had a chat through our windows. I'm off out in a moment to pick up my friends' daughter who is arriving by train so that will be one more young person in the house. It's going to be a case of musical bedrooms for the next few says as people arrive and go so I'd better go and make sure Vytas has moved his things into Peter's study leaving the spare bedroom clear for Alex.

Thursday 14 February 2013

Slowly Emerging.

We are slowly learning to live with the loss of our middle son, Linas. Briefly, Linas passed away in his sleep at the end of January. The probable cause is an accidental overdose of the prescription painkillers he had for his severe migraines. The energy drinks he often drank may also have been a factor. It may take up to 6 months for the tests to be completed but it doesn't really matter. He's still gone. Our only comfort is that he did know the Lord. Although everybody has been very kind it has been hard to wait for phone calls from officials both in Belfast and here but at last the funeral has been set for the beginning of next week. 
We would have fallen into a black hole of despair if it had not been for the presence of Vytas and Romas. Romas came the next day, kindly driven down by his girlfriend's parents, and Vytas arrived as soon as he could organise a flight from Auckland. Not only have they provided us with emotional support, they have made all the meals and tackled various jobs around the place. Simply hearing them together has helped us to  emerge into some form of normality.
Today it stopped raining for long enough for the boys and I to go down to the beach. It was so good to be out in the fresh air. I was in town yesterday making various arrangements and I felt very fragile walking down the High Street especially as I wasn't wearing my dark sunglasses which have helped to shut out the world. 
Through all this time emails and Facebook messages have provided a way to hear and respond to friends at a time when talking was still very painful and we have been comforted by everybody's kind words.

Saturday 2 February 2013

Please pray for my family as we mourn the loss of our beloved son Linas.

Friday 1 February 2013


It's been a mostly grey day with some rain, some sun and some blue skies. So I did a little work outside before heading off to work at lunchtime. I had a pleasant afternoon and then I stayed on at school to paint some castle walls in my friend's classroom role play area. It's not brilliant and I wouldn't be getting any job offers as a set painter but hopefully the children will enjoy playing in their 'castle'.
This morning I found the first of the year's frog spawn in the small pond.  Not doubt as usual it will suffer in the February/March freeze but it does herald the coming spring. The first 2 daffodils are flowering along the stream bank though last year they were in flower before the end of December.
That greedy cat, Patch, had also noticed the frog spawn and was slurping down a few mouthfuls of the indigestible gloop before going back to his trout fishing. Yesterday he was sitting by the stream as I parked the car and before I had got out he was already disappearing under a tree with a trout in his mouth.