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 31 December 2015

New Year's Eve.

So far today the weather forecast has been spot on - a dry morning followed by a band of heavy showers which hopefully will move on leaving a dry evening for the New Year celebrations. This morning we took Laura to the Valley of the Rocks. 
The valley was as impressive as ever as was the view out to sea. Unlike at home there was a bitter wind which probably explained the lack of feral goats. We saw a few but nothing like as many as usual. 
We walked around the easy asphalt cliff path first then climbed the rocky path up to Castle Rock. A sudden shower blew in when we got to the top so  we had our coffee in the shelter of the overhanging rocks. A robin flew down for the crumbs from our flapjacks and bravely hopped almost up to our feet.  
This rabbit was also on the top of Castle Rock and was unfazed by our presence.
There's my little green car behind the toilet block. We timed our walk perfectly as the heavy rain began as we were opening the car doors. We drove home through heavy rain which continued through the afternoon while we played cards around the kitchen table. Romas has lit the woodburner but then had to open the windows to clear the fumes from the stoveblack that I put on the burner in the summer. Hopefully we will go into town for the New Year's fireworks and general celebrations.

Wednesday 30 December 2015


It has been raining all day as we caught the edge of the latest storm to hit the UK. I went up earlier and my dams are doing their job. I could see a lot of road gravel washed into the field which otherwise would have been part of a torrent flowing down our drive. We had a hearty breakfast after which Vytas and Sally left us. Romas and Laura went into town for a bit while I did a little housework and a lot of lounging around watching tv and eating chocolates. Laura, Romas and I spent the rest of the afternoon watching Alaskan Bush Family while the rain thundered down on the conservatory roof. Right now Romas and Peter are preparing our supper of pizzas. They've added lots of extras to some shop pizzas I had in the freezer and made garlic bread.

Tuesday 29 December 2015


I looked through the window this morning to see that Romas and Laura had already arrived. As Laura wasn't confident about driving on the motorway especially merging into the traffic using the slip road they set off at 4.00am to avoid the traffic. Luckily I had made up their bed last night and the room was all ready for them. 
We're due some stormy weather but today was fine and breezy. In the afternoon Vytas, Sally and Romas decided to take advantage of the good weather and went back to the beach for some more bodyboarding. Sadly Romas' surfboard wouldn't fit in Vytas' tiny car and he had to make do with a bodyboard. Laura hasn't done any surfing/ bodyboarding so she and I will wait until the summer when it is warmer and I will introduce her to the fun of bodyboarding in more favourable conditions.
After a hearty dinner of our Christmas beef stew we played some family board games, Dixit - a new game where you have to come up with words or phrases to describe different pictures and then Balderdash. a bluffing game which is a favourite when the family visit. (I see that we are actually playing Beyond Balderdash.)
We did enjoy the Star Wars film yesterday and we are old enough to be fascinated by the 3-d effect. The film was sufficiently noisy to drown out any audience munching and crunching sounds. A couple of people sitting the row above us and slightly to the side kept on talking and if I had been able to pin point who it was I would have had a stern word with with them. We went to Tesco's afterwards and apart from picking up some late night bargains I got the tag taken off my cardi. I asked about some compensation for having to come back with the cardi and after phoning the duty manager the customer services girl offered me a box of chocolates which I was happy to accept.

Monday 28 December 2015

Early Post.

It's another grey day but no rain so far. Yesterday nearby Chivenor was the hottest place in the country with a temperature of 15.9C and it may be just as warm here today. Sally and Vytas have taken wetsuits, bodyboards and sandwiches down to the beach for a bit of  bodyboarding. We're off to see Stars Wars later on but the tickets were sold out so Vytas and Sally couldn't come and see it for a second time. I'm blogging early while I have a quiet moment.
Yesterday when I was in Tesco's I came across this chenille cardi. The original price was £20 and the ticket said £12 but when I ran the scanner over it the price was £6. At that price I was going to get a black one as well but the price on those was still £12 and I do have lots of black tops. I shopped using the scanner instead of going through a normal checkout. I did get a random check but neither I nor the staff member who checked a few of my items noticed the security tag on the cardi. It was only when I got home that I saw the big plastic tag. Now I'll have to go back and get them to remove the tag before I can wear the cardi. This happened to me once before. Following advice from a friend I made a fuss and tried to get some compensation for the bother of having to come back. After all the security system should have caught me as I went through the door. They said that if I had the receipt (which I had lost at that point) that they would have refunded me all the cost. I do have the receipt this time so maybe I'll get a refund of some or all of the cost.
 Still plenty of green in the garden.

Sunday 27 December 2015


Just a quick post as Vytas and Sally arrived this afternoon. It's been a grey and damp day but pretty warm. I went into town to get some supplies and it was t-shirt weather. Luckily we aren't affected by all the flooding that's hitting the north of the country. Over 5m of flood water in some places. Some people have been flooded 3 times already in December.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Boxing Day.

I heard a noise and found someone hiding behind the microwave. (He knows he's not allowed up on that counter.) 
It has been mild and windy today. After a relaxed lie-in listening to R4 and then doing my usual housework I went outside. I had a tidy up of one of the flower beds in the front yard, swept the path of pine needles and then had a thorough tidy of the concrete slab in front of the wood shed. The weeds and leaves had been getting on my nerves and we will need to put one car on there when the boys come down. Back indoors before having a shower I cut Peter's hair. I usually use a no 3 guard on the clippers but because I was talking about the no 2 guard I used that instead. So his hair is a little shorter than usual! He wears a cap most of the time and it will grow back soon so no major harm done.
 Some seasonal garden plants.

Friday 25 December 2015

Happy Christmas.

We've had a very relaxed Christmas day. We didn't go to the Midnight Service last night as I felt it would have been unfair of me to expect Peter to stay up so late. He has been so very tired lately and was asleep by 9.00 which was when I sent him off to bed. It didn't help that although he booked the time off and had it approved back in 2014, 2 months later his holiday was un-approved and some how he wasn't told (possibly not an oversight) so he was at work all day. The religious side is important to me so I stayed up and watched the Midnight Mass from Southwark cathedral. I turned off the lights, lit a candle and watched under a bright star shining through the window. Very high church (amazing how familiar the Latin is still ) but it is good to hear the readings and join in with the carols.
As it is just the 2 of us we opened our presents in bed along with our early morning cup of tea. It was supposed to be small presents so it was a lovely surprise to get these fighting knives which I have been eyeing up for a long time. I didn't sleep very well last night so after eating some chocolate I nodded off and slept until Romas rang to wish us Happy Christmas.

We're going to see the new Stars Wars film on the 28th so today we are going to start watching all the films, in the correct sequence.

Thursday 24 December 2015

Christmas Eve.

It was stormy last night with lots of rain that luckily did not carry on through to the day. The strong winds did continue to blow all day and brought a real chill with them. Most of my day has been spent preparing food. Some for our traditional Christmas Eve meal and I've also baked a Christmas cake and prepared everything for the beef stew which I will start off later on tonight. 
I did take the time to have a walk. Marching around town and shops is not quite the same thing and who knows when we will have another dry spell. I wrapped up against the wind and set off up the hill. At first it was a bit of a slog but half-way up the hill my muscles loosened up and my spirits lifted until I was almost striding along. I thought the sheep in the field looked rather sweet with their floppy left ears until it dawned on me that those are the ears with the tag in them. Maybe they had been done harshly and damaged the ears which is not such a nice thought.  
At the top of the drive I turned right and walked against the wind to Bowden Corner. On my return journey the wind at my back helped me along nicely. For the last bit of the walk down the hill I was sheltered by the high hedge.
Apart from cooking I've been cleaning the place so I can take a break for a couple of days.

Wednesday 23 December 2015

Back Into Town.

It's been a bit cooler, a bit brighter and hardly raining  today. The early morning sky (before the sun came up) was a deep blue with Jupiter and Venus shining brightly. It would have been a good day for gardening but I had other plans. First there was Peter's old chair to take to the dump. Then a parcel to post, the last of my eBay sales.  Instead of just putting the money into my account I plan to buy something special. To that end I've been perusing Etsy for LOTR stuff though I won't decide until after Christmas. It was really busy in town today but I didn't mind as the only thing I needed to get was some beef from the butcher's. Peter always buys his meat from one particular butcher's as the meat is good and is local.
Funny how we (or at least I) still stereotype people. I walked past 3 young men, in their 20s, dressed in fashionable clothing who would not have looked out of place in a club who were hanging out  on a corner together. But a split second later I almost did a mental double take, 2 of them had baby buggies which the men were peering into and cooing over the babies inside. Must try not to make snap judgements. On a sadder note among the buskers; one playing the sax and another playing something that looked like an upside down wok and sounded like a melodious steel drum, and the man from the owl sanctuary with a horned owl there were about 4 homeless men just sitting in doorways. I did notice the community police officer talking to one of them and asking him about where he would be on Christmas Day. I didn't hear all the conversation but I'm sure he would have pointed him towards the Salvation Army or other groups who provide support for the homeless especially over the holiday.
In the garden the first daffodils are flowering and being immediately eaten .
Both the boys rang this afternoon to chat and to confirm when they are coming down. It will only be for a few days but will be lovely to see them.
A little colour in tonight's sunset.

Tuesday 22 December 2015

Winter Sostice.

It's so good to know that although the worst of the winter is still ahead the days will now be lengthening. A little more light each day. No wonder neolithic man built Stonehenge to mark the day. I've spent a lot of the afternoon reading my blog from 5 years ago as I begin the task of updating my family journal. I began writing it in a beautiful hobbit journal in '96 but somehow it got abandoned in favour of the blog. I'll see how far I get this holidays. Anyway, 5 years ago we were cut off in our valley by snow and ice and then the oil ran out and the water pipes froze. It was an adventure but I'm glad it only lasted a few weeks. Today it's still mild with wind and rain that began at 9.00 this morning and hasn't let up since.
We're having beef stew for Christmas dinner and while I would be happy just to throw everything in the pot and hope it turns out all right when Peter suggested that we make our own stock using oxtail I thought I had better make the effort. I also boiled up some beetroot that a friend had grown which we need for the Christmas Eve bean salad. Then I got on with my knitting. I've finally got confident enough to remove the blu tack from the needles though I work over the table so the needles can't drop out. 
While I was being all housewifely a delivery man brought and enormous box with a new office chair for Peter. Since he kindly bought me a new pc I offered to treat him to a new chair for his study. In all the years we have been here we've made do with chairs Peter has brought home from work when surgeries he worked at were being upgraded. The chair I'm sitting on came from a skip at the back of M&S in town. He chose this one as it can be adjusted in all sorts of ways and looks to be very comfortable. I had to assemble the chair which was fine apart from one pair of bolts that joined the back to the arm rests which had already been bolted to the seat. It took some huffing and puffing to align everything but I got there in the end.

Monday 21 December 2015

A Day in Town.

I've had a very nice relaxed day today. This morning I met up with my group of friends for coffee and cake. This time though we met at St John's, a garden centre on the other side of town which especially after the change of layout is a lot nicer than the Ashford garden centre. People started arriving at 10.00 and we didn't leave until 1.15. We had a lot of catching up to do!
It rained very heavily through the morning but had cleared up by the time we left the garden centre. My next stop was to drive over to Lidl's where I bought vegetables and things before walking across the bridge into town. Town was pretty busy as children are now on holiday and people succumb to the advertisers' cries of 'buy, buy, buy.' I had 3 more small parcels to send and then I stocked up on holiday reading at the library. I still plan to go in to town on Wednesday to get cream and any ingredients I've forgotten as well as pick up some beef from the butchers. It's only the 2 of us so we are going to have a hearty beef stew cooked in the slow cooker. 
I stopped on the way home to take photos of the evening sky. This mushroom, about the size of a saucer was growing out of the hedge. 

Sunday 20 December 2015

Some Sun.

The sun made a welcome reappearance today mixed in with a few showers. At times it felt a little colder than recently but the wind is still blowing from the south-west.
Between showers I was able to get  out and work in the garden. I cut back the artemisia in the scree garden and chopped down the decaying brown stalks of different clumps of crocosmia. I left some a bit taller than usual to protect the new shoots that have already begun to appear. I don't know if they will survive any really cold weather. After that was done I began the long but satisfying job of cleaning the stones of moss and picking off all the fallen beech leaves not to mention a few weeds. 

Saturday 19 December 2015

Un-relaxing Knitting.

The rain today didn't stop until the light began to go today so I didn't manage to get out in the garden. Once again I've just been pottering about and tidying up. It's still unseasonably mild and last night the warmest place in the country was Chivenor, a few miles away, which had a night-time max of 14.5C.
One thing I did do was to start my latest knitting project. Last summer Peter had bought me the wool and knitting pattern to knit a pair of hobbit fingerless mittens. The wool is from the same farm that provided the wool for the mittens used in the film so I thought it would be a fun way to have a bit more LOTR memorabilia. What I didn't realise was that the mittens were knitted in the round using 4 needles. Something I've never tried doing. What a fiddly job. After I had lost a needle for about the fourth time I hit upon the idea of putting blu tack on the ends of the needles to stop the stitches from sliding off. Somehow I don't think this is going to be a relaxing activity but I shall persevere.

Friday 18 December 2015

Gardening Day.

I took advantage of a lull in the wet weather and spent a lot of time out in the garden today. I cut back all the buddlia bushes and a large fuchsia bush. Working outside brought to my notice all the other jobs that need doing especially the weeding. Plenty to be getting on with should we have any more dry days. This afternoon I had just enough light left to clear a whole lot of couch grass that was sprawling across the hardy geraniums.  
The mild weather continues and has fooled some of the Spring flowers into blooming early. 
It was a good evening last night. I enjoy going  out with my colleagues as it gives us a chance to relax away from school. There was a certain amount of alcohol involved which accounted for some extra liveliness though I was perfectly happy drinking tap water all evening. I get a bit of a kick out of walking up to a bar and asking for a glass of tap water or asking the sommelier for a jug of water to be brought to the table. Alcohol can give me a hangover headache that lasts for 1-2 weeks so I am a very infrequent drinker and I don't miss it. It was all 'works' Christmas dos and there were a number of other schools there. That and the fact that Barnstaple is not a massive town meant that there were familiar faces all over the place. Although the music was what I would describe as thump thump Ibiza style pop which I was mostly unfamiliar with it was easy enough to dance to and I was frequently out on the dance floor bopping away with the rest of our group. It was noticeable that there were at the most 1 or 2 men on the dance floor, they mainly seemed to congregate around the bar. At one point our youngest member jumped up onto our table to dance until she got told off by one of the bouncers who then stood by our table to make sure we behaved but it was all in a friendly manner. The food itself was a Christmas dinner with a choice of turkey or roast beef (or both) and a selection of vegetables. I had  the beef as I'm not a fan of turkey. As I've given up chocolate until Christmas my dessert choice was limited so I had a toffee roulade which was slightly disappointingly made with sponge cake and not meringue. But having a meal prepared by someone else is always a pleasure.

Thursday 17 December 2015

A Narrow Boat trip Down Memory Lane.

Last night Peter and I watched an episode of Great Canal Journeys following the actors Timothy West and Prunella Scales as they navigate down canals. It is interesting to see the places they travel through and especially poignant as Pru is in the early stages of dementia though it is not very noticeable. 
Back in the day my mother was friends with Tim and Pru. I recall going to Stratford upon Avon with my mother when I was about 10 where Tim showed us around the Royal Shakespeare Theatre. I remember the vastness of the rehearsal room and being allowed to go right out onto the main stage. We also watched a performance of the RSC which as there were Roman soldiers in must have been Julius Caesar.
In last night's programme they followed the canals around London, through Regent's Park, Camden Lock and down to Limehouse Baisin. When we were first married we lived in East London and I spent a lot of time helping on a city farm and looking after people's horses. Every now and again I would ride Cream Boy along the towpath next to those canals. And there was the occasion when I and a number of teenagers who hung round the city farm went swimming in the canal (shorts and t-shirts) next to one of the locks.
Last night's canal trip ended at Limehouse and featured Canary Wharf (with the pyramid on top) which was built when we were living nearby. At the time it was the tallest building in the country and it's now the 2nd tallest. There weren't so many other tall buildings around and when we returned from our re-enactment weekends and were approaching London from the higher ground to the north it could be seen from many miles away. In our family this led to it being called "The Big Building".
The programme ended with a visit to The Grapes or The Bunch of Grapes as it was known for most of the last 500 years. It's only 5 mins walk from the first school I taught in and we've been in there a number of times. Nothing much has changed probably not even since Dickens wrote about it. A bonus for me was that the landlord is Sir Ian McKellen (Gandalf). 
Back to Devon - it's still warm and mostly wet. I've spent the day pottering about, tidying up and sorting cupboards. Tonight I meet up with a lot of people from work for our Christmas do. Once again it's at The Motel. Hopefully we'll have a table in the main room near the dance floor and I might even be tempted to get up and dance.
I'm getting better at this IT stuff. This morning I found out how to fix Chrome so that all the pages I was viewing before I turned off the pc reappear when I turn Chrome back on. I had that before but not with Windows 10. All I had to do was type in my request to Google and follow the instructions on one of the many sites that came up. Simple when you know how but baffling when you've never done it before.

Wednesday 16 December 2015

Last Day of School.

This morning was my last session at school before the Christmas holidays. I've felt in holiday mood since last week with all the Christmas activities going on in school and a general feeling of relaxation, at least for me. I was asked to swap the morning for my usual afternoon as the children would be having their Christmas party in the afternoon. I was more than happy to do so. While the TAs changed things around for next term I had all my class with me in the classroom. I grabbed all the slightly bent or crumple coloured paper from the main paper cupboard and let the children cut, stick or draw on the paper. Some of the children were very inventive. There were other things out for the children including the pcs though not the one where a child has managed to delete all the software. I tried reloading some software but nobody seems to have administrator rights. As the children hadn't been able to go outside (nobody free to supervise them) I took them out for an extra playtime. Most of them spent the whole time racing up and down so I was glad that surplus energy got burnt off. All the children were all pretty excited as they had been allowed to come to school in their party clothes. 
At lunchtime we had our staff bring and share buffet and opened our Secret Santa presents. Somebody made a good choice for me as my present was 3 packets of unusual Old English varieties of vegetables; purple cauliflower, Red Russian kale and greyhound cabbage. I will try them out in Spring. After helping to tidy up the staff room I drove across town for yet more shopping. This time it was a relaxed stroll around BJ's. I'm not sure why I felt the urge to check out all the cheap Christmas stuff when we aren't putting up decorations or a tree (not for just the 2 of us) but somehow I came out with 2 new red and silver baubles now hanging in the kitchen to compliment the cards on the mantelpiece. I also picked up a couple of small fun presents. Then I dropped into Tesco's which thankfully wasn't busy and stocked up on things like cat food and vegetables.

I took these photos looking out towards Exmoor on my way home at about 3.30. The day has been mild, grey and dry apart from up in the hills.

At home I found a geek site that gave me a download and instructions how to add Windows Photo Viewer and make it my default viewer so I'm feeling happy. Peter has just returned home with the dehumidifier so I'm going to start that up in our bedroom.