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 30 September 2014


Yet another dry and warm day. All areas of the country have had less than 20% of the rainfall usually expected for September (I can hear the weather lady saying it has been the driest since records began in 1910.) but I expect rain will arrive eventually. I was at work all day with the little ones again but once I got home I still had time to fit in a couple of hours putting mortar in between the slabs and repairing broken corners.
I always enjoy my drive to work, such a contrast to biking through city streets or battling the crowds on the underground. This morning on the first half of the journey along the lanes I passed: my neighbour out walking his dog and chatting  to someone in a van, somebody out for a morning ride and a dead rat. There were a few more cars out on the main road but I didn't really come across any traffic until I got to the traffic lights at the edge of town. I love my country life.

Monday 29 September 2014

Still Warm.

Why is it that on a day when I'm not rushing on to work I wake up at 5.00 and then can't get back to sleep? My own fault for overdoing things I suppose and in the end I got up at 6.30 and had an early start to the day. I had time this morning to mix up another bucket of mortar and fill in 1 more row of pointing. I'm pinging out as much as I can of the old mortar to get a more consistent if not exactly tidy finish.
It was very misty on the way to school with my views being limited to the first line of hills and not a sign of the sea. I did wonder if I had been unwise in not bringing a coat but it soon warmed up into a lovely afternoon. I was working with the little children again. This was their first day of staying for the whole day and during the afternoon there were a few voices asking if it was time to go home yet. I worked with 3 children making a junk model train assessing how well they could work together, use equipment etc. 
After work I walked into town to change my library books and visit a few shops. I'm afraid that for the first time I gave in to the lure of reduced cakes at the bakers. From about 4.45 one of the staff from Warrens stands at the corner of the pedestrianised road calling out the end of day bargains. They bake fresh goods daily so you can get loaves of bread and cakes quite cheaply. I bought a muffin for Peter and 2 fresh cream choux buns for me all for a £1 and very indulgent. 
Peter had a physiotherapy session for his shoulder this afternoon which was painful but he came home feeling positive. He was lucky enough to be with a senior physiotherapist, who remembers him from his IT days and is making a special study into shoulder injuries so he really knows what he is doing. Peter has some exercises to do at home but the important thing is to rest his arm and not be tempted to use it when the pain dies down.
I stopped up by the Lewis' farm on the way home to take a few photos. Looking southwards the setting sun had turned the sea golden while in the other direction all the farm machinery needed for silage making was tidily parked in a field. 
These calves in the field were a bit scared of me but they could have been as young as a week old. Mr Lewis has a dairy herd so male calves are killed at birth while the heifer calves are taken away from their mothers to grow up into more milk producers. It's a harsh world but I do eat dairy products, and meat so I should stop being such a sentimental softy. At least these calves will spend their lives living in grassy fields apart from the worst of the winter when the cows live in barns. 

Sunday 28 September 2014


It's been another warm day with the sun making an appearance every now and then. 
First thing was to clean up the bricks and then I was ready to make a start on re-pointing the slabs. So where should I start? In a discrete corner on the assumption that my pointing skills will improve with practise or out in full view so I can admire my work? I opted for the full view option and one bucket of mortar was enough for 1 row of slabs. I was so tempted to mix up another bucketful but my knees were complaining before I started so instead I did some grass cutting with the long handled shears. If this warm weather keeps up and I am not too busy at work I should at least get the front yard done. Bit by bit gets the job done as my mother used to say. (Actually she would say Drop by drop makes a hole in a stone, an apt sentiment for a sculptor but it's the same thing.)
The swallows have gone and now it seems we have seen the last of the butterflies. There were plenty of bees on the sedum but just 1 lone butterfly. I guess autumn is really here. The back lawn is covered with brown leaves, an incentive for me to get the mower out. Always something to do in the garden.

Saturday 27 September 2014


Last week's hectic schedule finally took its toll on me and I found it hard to get going this morning. However it was a perfect day for working outside, overcast but warm so after the downing of a pot of fresh coffee and some extra pain killers I got on with repairing the path. Stage 4 was mixing up some standard concrete ie greyish, and re-pointing the bricks that flank the path and make up the steps. I cleared out all the loose pointing so there was quite a bit to do but already the path is looking a lot better.
When I first came downstairs this morning a family of blue-tits were foraging in the honeysuckle that grows up the house wall. They were very welcome as I have noticed that being in a sheltered position there are usually a lot of whitefly and other  aphids in the climbers growing there.
This miniature rose is only about 2 cms across. 

Friday 26 September 2014


Another full and busy day at school. In the morning it wasn't too bad but the afternoon was pretty hectic. Mainly because I couldn't find some stuff the kids needed to complete some art work and ended up cutting out new speech bubbles while they all milled about. We did find the stuff I had been looking for behind something else and after the children had gone home. As usual I was on my own on  a Friday afternoon and one lad who has behaviour problems kept running off. By the end of the day I was shattered. Still it's all money in the bank, very useful as the work on my car was completed today. The garage cost and the bill for the latest oil delivery have used up all this month's pay check and I've still got the car tax to pay. It's a good thing I did so much extra work at the end of last term.
Although it had been raining lightly when I left home it soon turned into yet another sunny day. Once I got home I took my camera up for a walk in the sunlight to see Coral and Boris. Boris came racing over to say hello and to see if I had anything for him to eat. Horses that get fed treats soon learn to nip so all he got was to sniff my hand. He kept using his lip to try and pull my hand into a nibbling position, he's going to end up with a stretched nose like an elephant.

Thursday 25 September 2014


I've had a very busy day at school which at least has made the time fly by. The children who have recently moved up to Year 1 (5 years old) now have to get used to doing one subject- maths, before playtime and moving to another - literacy, after playtime with almost no time for 'choosing' other learning activities. Last year the same age group did one subject spread over the whole morning but the introduction of the New Curriculum apparently means that work has to be done at a much faster pace. Luckily I don't have to do the planning for maths and literacy so I just carry out whatever the class teacher has planned - usually. At least the afternoon was a lot more relaxed with the children making sculptures/pictures with natural objects in the style of Andy Goldsworthy. 
I put my little car in for its MOT today and as I was teaching I got a message to phone the garage. That's a sign that more work is needed but when I phoned it wasn't too much work. I do need a new (secondhand) axle but when I went to collect the car the part hadn't arrived. The car is okay to drive so I'll have to put it in tomorrow and find out the exact cost at the end of the day.
Traffic hold up on the way home. 

Wednesday 24 September 2014


I woke up this morning to pouring rain so I went back to sleep and didn't get up until 8.00.  
The rain had eased off and I was able to get on with stage 3, repairing the broken bricks that run along the edge of the path. I had some red sand left from some previous work and I used this to make up a brownish concrete. Last night I had been wondering if there was enough of the red sand but when I counted out my scoops and added the cement my bucket was almost full. (I was doing the job my style; in a bucket and using a garden trowel with an old kitchen knife.) I hadn't noticed before how much the dry mix contracts when you add water but I still had a good quantity of cement. There was enough to do the job and I used the remaining cement to fill a hole in a brick wall. 
When I got home from work I loosened the wood and odd bits of old pointing that I had used to shape the cement and tidied up the 'bricks' with the knife in an attempt to make them look a bit better but I had to leave these paw prints 
I was teaching all afternoon and we had a staff meeting which was mostly about how we are implementing the new curriculum. It was lovely and bright as I drove home. On the way in to work I had great views across to the sea and a container vessel right on the horizon. That got me thinking about how strange it is that although my brain knew that I was above sea level my sight could not process that and however hard I tried it looked as if the sea sloped upwards from the land.
Photos taken at 6.00.

Tuesday 23 September 2014


Up early again and when the sun rose it was to reveal a very foggy morning. As I drove under the tunnel of trees at Ashelford Corner there was a wall of sunbeams streaming through a gap in the trees. My journey in to work was sometimes through the fog, sometimes above it and sometimes beside it as it formed pillows over the fields. For a lot of the time I could not see anything past the hedges on either side of the road and Barnstaple itself was shrouded in greyness. It soon cleared and we had a warm if hazy day. I did much the same as yesterday but with the other reception class. It's now been decided that I will work both afternoons with that class and I can plan my own creative activities. That will be fun.
Yesterday evening there was a butterfly on the kitchen window sill. Peter told me that he had rescued it from a spider's web but that it was dead. This morning the dead butterfly had hidden itself and when I came home it was resting by the blue glass bottles. It has lost most of one wing and part of the other so I didn't think much of its chances if I put it outside. Instead I gave it a piece of cotton wool soaked in honey water (we used to give the school butterflies sugar water on cotton wool) and currently it is hiding behind the bottles again.. 
When I got home from my lovely morning with the little ones I got on with my latest project - repairing the path to the front door. Here is stage 2 complete, I've cleaned out all the debris; leaves, moss etc from the bricks. Stage 1, buying sand and cement, was done yesterday. That was a lot of kneeling and bending so afterwards I did some grass trimming with the new shears. Good edges do make a lot of difference to the look of a garden. And after that I peeled and chopped another pan of apples. There are a lot of small apples on the trees, maybe I'll use those for more apple leather. In the middle of all this activity I had a phone call from the dentists' Practice Manager. There wasn't much she could say about the dentist only that he wasn't aware that I had been in so much pain - duh, he did say sorry each time but now I've been moved to another dentist who has just come back from maternity leave. I've still got to wait 6 months though before getting a new crown fitted.
PS We had a nice surprise with today's class - they were sitting in a circle and the planned activity was to pass a toy around the circle counting up to 10 and then starting again. They did this all the way around and then the teacher changed the direction. All went fine as they went from 1 to 10 and the next child said 11, the next 12 and they got all the way to 30 with only a couple of children needing a little prompt. Nice to see they are so confident with the number names already. They are only 4 years old, some of them only just 4.

Monday 22 September 2014


There are 3 good things about getting up early. Firstly, you get to see the sun, then jobs are done early - even though I was going to work today I had time to clean and hover up before leaving and finally you appreciate all the mornings you don't have to get up so early. I spent the morning being an extra person in one of our reception classes. That involved supporting one child who responded very badly to being told no or to do something, taking 10 children around the school for a 'listening walk' and then supervising a painting table.  The children could use brushes or fingers to paint with and one quiet little boy had a wonderful time painting his nails all different colours. Then as it was the first time the children would be staying for lunch I helped settle them down in the hall and chopped up sausages for those who wanted. Then I drove to the builders' merchants for some sand and cement for a couple of repair jobs around the place.
Although it had been hot and sunny all morning the grass was still wet when I got home but I got the mower out anyway. Yesterday the grass was nice and dry but I knew the mowing would be too much for me after Saturday's exertions. The grass steps up the hill had become rather overgrown and hazardous so I went over them with my new long handles shears as well. So much easier than strimming or even cutting with ordinary shears. Then there was still time to sit outside with a cup of tea (and a few painkillers) before the evening cooled down.
I also made 4 phone calls to try and clarify the whole dentist debacle. The various NHS people I spoke to were helpful and the last one gave me some very good advice. It seems I can change dentist even in the middle of a course of treatment. My final call was to the Practice Manager at the surgery to ask why the 6 month delay and to say that I wanted to change dentist. She was very pleasant and explained that 6 months was their standard to make sure the treatment had worked- okay I'll buy that and yes I can see another dentist instead. She's going to phone me tomorrow after she has spoken to Saturday's dentist but I guess I'll never know if it is the practice's policy to hurry things up or if my chap was too impatient. At least I may save some other victim from such an upsetting experience.
Sudden thought, would they offer me free teeth whitening as recompense? I doubt it seeing as they charge £500 for that. 

Sunday 21 September 2014

Blue Skies.

If the sun hadn't been shining so brightly today I'm sure I would have lazed around 'resting' my back. Instead I gave all 12 of the buddlia bushes their autumn trim and most importantly cleared away all the branches. I find it's best not to cut the buddlia right back until the spring when I can see the buds emerging from the stems. Then I cleared some ground and planted 2 cuttings from each of the different colours of buddlia apart from the white one which I'm not so keen on. I'm not sure if the butterflies go for it either. I also had a quick try out of my new long handled shears. They make the job of trimming the grassy bank much easier. I left it to grow wild so it only needs to be done once a year as using either the strimmer or the mower was just too hard a job for us old folks.
I think I saw more dragonflies than butterflies today. Still quite a few bees but no honey bees. I've just been out to check and the swallows seem to have left us. From the smell there is a dead something in the outbuilding. Perhaps Patch has got fed up with me disposing of the dead rats he brings back to the conservatory. If I leave it long enough it should dry up and be less nasty to clear up, once I've found it of course.

Saturday 20 September 2014

Busy Day.

I've been into town 3 times today which is very unusual for me. The first time was my dentist appointment which was not a pleasant experience. I think I may have to call in and leave a note in the comments book suggesting that the dentists wait for the injection to take effect before poking at exposed nerves. My chap seemed to think that he could could get on with things as soon as he gave me the injection. I raised my hand to show he was hurting me not once or twice  or even 3 or 4 times but at least 5 or 6 times accompanied by flinching and some whimpering. I don't even know how many injections he gave me but when the numbness finally took over I was so relieved. ( Reading this it sounds terrible, I think I need to write to the Practice Manager because now I am even more wary of having any treatment.) Eventually my re-root canal filling was done but I won't have a crown on that tooth for 6 months. The dentist said it was to make sure the root canal filling had worked but with only some amalgam on that tooth I can't use it to chew. So now I have no teeth to chew with, only my incisors and canines to nibble like a rabbit. For 6 months! I think I will check that out too.
The second trip to town was to go with Peter to man the gig club 'stand' for 3 hours. I spent the first hour and a half going around the shops before going to join Peter fortified by some fudge from Roly's Fudge shop where they make the fudge in front of you.

This was the view from the gig looking up The Strand. Not a lot of passing trade for the Guides, roller skaters or Conservatives publicity stands. There was a children's carnival, basically a fancy dress competition but I only saw about 20 kids dressed up. Most people were either at the fair or shopping in the High Street.
We left at about 3.00. More people were starting to gather for the carnival which was due to start at 6.00. That's a proper carnival with bands and decorated lorries and is generally quite a spectacle. Walking back to the car park we could see tractors and lorries heading for the civic centre car park where the judging takes place. 
For us it was home to rest our weary legs and after some tea, painkillers and a choux bun I was ready to drive back into town to meet my friend. 
I caught the tail end of the carnival and then my friend and I walked with all the crowds over the bridge to the fair. No fireworks this year. The story is that they couldn't get permission from the new owners of the wasteground on the other side of the river  but I suspect it was more to do with saving money. (I hear that London is going to charge the 100,000 people who go to watch the New Year fireworks.)
It was a warm evening for walking around the fair, the second biggest in the country, greeting acquaintances and seeing lots of kids from school. I have no desire to go on the big rides but it is fun to watch other people enjoying being spun upside down and bounced around.
The carousel was back again this year so we had gentle ride and great fun it was too.
So  bad start but a good end to the day.

Friday 19 September 2014


Heavy rain this morning kept me working inside today. Or at least for the morning, until the sun came out again. I worked on my journal and then gave in to Squeaky's demands that I provide a warm lap for her to sit on. 
Once I was able to get outside I focused on weeding the rest of the stone wall. That job is finally done and I did a few more cutting back and sweeping up jobs. Another down-side to gardening in flip-flops is when you discover a slug under your heel, yuck! My poorly foot is no longer painful and the bruise is changing to yellow with a couple of red marks.
I had been working in the shade so once the garden work was done I sat out in the last patch of sun in the scree garden for a cup of tea. There I was joined by various flying creatures. First a bumble bee sat on my t-shirt, then a butterfly sat on my fingers and stayed there while I raised my hand to have some sips of tea. After that a honey bee sat sunning itself on my forearm and refused to move even when I blew gently at it. My last visitor was a white tailed bumble bee that sat for a while on the page of my book.
Supper tonight is the last of the home grown peas and beans cooked up into a soup.  Peter tells me he had noticed the new mirror, just kept forgetting to mention it.

Thursday 18 September 2014


A whole day at home and it has been warm and dry. It did rain for all of 10 mins, long enough for me to run and take down the washing that was on the line and hang it up over the rayburn. My task for today was to weed all of the wall by the scree garden. 
I was doing really well until I got distracted by cutting down the rubus hedge behind the wall which has spread into a thicket. The long handled branch loppers that Peter got me are perfect for the job and I was able to cut through the runners as well. To do a proper job I would have to dig over that bit of wasteground and get out all the runners but at least it is a bit tidier. Half the wall has been done and I'll try and get the rest done tomorrow.
It was while I was pulling at some rubus that had grown into the stone wall that I dislodged a stone, about the size of half a brick, which fell on my foot. Fortunately I din't swear but only said OW very loudly. Sound carries in our valley and I know there were kids at the stables. The above photo ('scuse grubby feet) is after taking a break with an ice pack on my foot which reduced the swelling. The perils of gardening in flip-flops! After said break I pulled up the rest of the peas and beans in the veg plot and dug out the weeds. Now that rain is due I can have a go at dividing some of my favourite garden plants.