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 October 2016

Happy Birthday Romas.

It's Romas' 27th birthday today (he's still my baby) and I'm sure he will be celebrating this evening with Laura. They're still living up in Stoke on Trent close to Laura's family. He recently started a new job as part of the help team for an on-line company. I've always been so proud of his work ethic and the way he has been prepared to take on any job that provides an income. He's still keeping up his music and besides doing gigs he also gives drumming lessons to a growing number of pupils.  

We woke this morning to beautiful blue skies and lots of sunshine. Not only that but it was very warm. I've just checked the official temperature for Barnstaple and it was 64F! This morning I had to get on with some school work but there was also time to do some weeding under the apple trees. I feel rather guilty at all the windfall apples lying there but I do have a number of tubs of cooked apple in the freezer so the apples didn't take priority.
Today Peter spoke to the estate agents and lowered the house price a bit. We only went with the price suggested by the agent but naturally they aim for the highest price as that gets them more commission. We felt that people were expecting more of a show home for that price which this place isn't though it is in generally good condition. That said we already had 2 viewings booked for this week before Peter spoke to the agent. 
We were both in an optimistic mood until I got in my car to go to work and ......... the battery was flat. We jump started the car but I dropped the car in at the garage when I got to school and they sorted out a new battery. I used to change the battery quite frequently in our last Landrover and that was a heavy old thing but with a minimal charge for the actual work I was happy for Alec to get the right battery and fit it.
It may be arts' week at school but I still did SPaG and PE with today's Year 2 class. After work I collected the car then went into town (bank and library) and did some shopping at Lidl's and Tesco's. I didn't do any shopping at all last week as I preferred to stay at home and be a country mouse. The clocks went back yesterday so it was completely dark when I drove home at 6.00.
It's been so warm that the primroses have begun to flower.
Also - I managed the whole month without eating any meat. At the beginning of the month I saw something suggesting people try going meat-free for October and as my diet is generally low on meat and I hadn't eaten any up to that point I thought I'd give it a try. I still like meat but it is healthier to eat other forms of protein and better for the planet. Also I'm a terrible softie when it comes to the idea of killing animals and I would prefer not to have anything to do with factory farming. I had fish a couple of times but mostly my protein has been from dairy products, pulses and nuts. I think I'll stick with avoiding meat where possible and trying to only buy free range organic meat. I know that dairy farming does result in the killing of male calves but you've got to start somewhere. Thank goodness chocolate is more or less okay.

Sunday 30 October 2016


We had a bit more sunshine today and it's still very warm. A day for leaving windows and doors open. I still smile when I recall the statement made by an architect I know who is very keen on passive houses. 'People don't really leave their windows open anyway.' People might not but I do. A passive house would not do for me.
I've spent a lot of time out in the garden today. First I dug up corms from 4 different varieties of crocosmia in the scree garden and replanted them in the propagating garden. Apart from 'Lucifer' I can't remember the varieties so they are labelled Crocosmia 1, 2 and 3 Weeds have flourished in all this warm weather and I haven't been keeping an eye on the propagating garden. Today I gave it a thorough weeding. I still need to buy more plastic plant labels not only to remind me what the different plants are but also to mark where they are. In the winter many will die right back so it will be good to know where not to hoe. Speaking of Christmas, Ho Ho Ho and all that, I've already seen decorations and trees in the shops and it seems like Christmas cards have been on sale since the summer. I try not to think about Christmas until after Bonfire Night but I have to admit to already be making plans. It gets ever more complicated as there are more family arrangements to be taken into consideration.
Just seen a little bat flitting about in the twilight.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Still Grey.

The weather has been much the sames as yesterday so I was able to get out and do a bit more gardening. Today it was the turn of the various crocosmia in the scree garden to be cut down. They've all done well so I will dig up some of the corms to put in my propagating garden. So far all I've done is the cutting back and then crawled cautiously under the pampas grass clearing weeds and leaves from the stones. 
Most of the afternoon was taken up by both of us fixing a proper drain to the 2 down pipes at the back of the house. The old arrangement of some bits of guttering nailed to a piece of wood propped up by stones was not exactly a good look. It was a long job made difficult by the fact that; the 25 year old drains were not the same size as the new drains and fittings, the stone wall is incredibly lumpy and hard to drill into, we both struggle with kneeling and bending and also we tend not to hear/listen to each other which makes things a bit fraught at times. On the good side we do at least have all the tools we need and between us we got the job done.  
Last night I reread 'The Path of The Son' Bryan Pearce's biography. It was so moving to read of the family's struggle to bring up 2 children with impaired development at a time when the cause was unknown and society's attitude to such children was very different. At times a very sad story but also uplifting in the way that Bryan was loved and supported by his family and the art community. (It was his first one man exhibition that was held at my mother's gallery rather than part of a mixed show.) I think it will be good for my class to hear about someone who persevered with his art becoming a world renowned artist and able to support himself and his parents despite having difficulties to overcome. It was also interesting for me to read about people and places that were part of my early life of which I have strong memories.

Friday 28 October 2016


It's been warm, grey and sort of damp today though my day was brightened up by a long phone chat with Romas.
Now that the viewing is over I went out and cut back the last of the sedums around the garden. Birds were singing and from the top of the valley I could hear a cockerel crowing. 
The autumn foliage in shades of red and gold is providing the main source of colour in the garden. However there are at least 20 different flowers still in bloom and while most are coming to the end of their season the winter flowering jasmine and heathers are just beginning to flower. There is always something to look forward to in the garden, as well as the constant weeding which is not such a pleasant prospect. 

Thursday 27 October 2016

Another Viewing.

One good thing about having our house on the market is that for the last six months it has been in a constant state of tidiness. And then when comes to the actual viewings even more stuff is put away and we see just how nice this place is. All it needs now is for the right buyer to come along. The people this morning sounded as if they really likes it but us Brits don't like to say anything negative so you never know. They were going to look at other properties today so it is all just a matter of this place being the right one for them.
As usual I took my car up the hill to leave the yard clear. The early morning mists had lifted and it was quite warm though rather gloomy again. The sun did come out during the viewing which was good and I always leave out my lovely book of photos showing the beauty of the garden through the year. There are still quite a few flowers out as well as all the autumn colour so it doesn't look too bad. Up in the field the markers are out which means that there will be the horrible shooting of pheasants again. Lots of pheasants hang around up there because there are feeding stations in the fields. 
After all the last minute rushing around, and the work done in the last few days, we both felt quite tired in the afternoon. We had the heating on overnight to make the house feel warm and welcoming and even though we turned it off first thing it still feels very warm. The only other thing I've done is to replace the drying pole over the rayburn. When we first came I drilled 2 holes through the bases of the cupboards on either side of the rayburn so that a wooden pole could be slotted through to make somewhere to hang washing or just the tea towel. I also put in a clip under  one of the cupboards so that the pole could be slid out of the way when not being used. It all worked fine apart from the fact that I used an old broom handle for the pole and it was only an inch or two wider than the gap meaning that it was quite easy to dislodge it much to Peter's irritation. As I was having stuff delivered from the builders' merchants I ordered a 2.4m pole (gone are the days of buying wood by the length you need) which I've now cut down and put in place instead of the broom handle.
The only other thing I've doing is thinking of ideas for school. The first week back is Arts' Week the main purpose of which is for each class to create something to put up on the main corridor display boards. (That's not my definition but just the way it is.) Through the week each class will be creating work based on a known artist. I will be teaching a Year 2 class on Friday and will also have to create work for display. A bit of a challenge but I've already got ideas flying though my head. The artist whose work the children will be looking at and using for inspiration is Bryan Pearce. I have a couple of his works and knew him and his parents. My mother was the first person to exhibit his work in her art gallery as part of a mixed exhibition and I've always liked his paintings especially those of St Ives. He originally began painting as form of therapy as he suffered from a mental disability due to phenylketonuria (that's the thing they test for when they take a blood sample from a baby's heel as soon as it is born.)
( A quick photo.)
The cats like viewing days because it means they have access to the bedrooms. When people look around there is usually at least one cat fast asleep on a bed. All the rooms have been checked and closed and right now I can hear Speedy snoring away on the sofa.

Wednesday 26 October 2016


All day long the air has been filled with the pitter patter not of rain but of dry leaves falling from the trees though there was the occasional light shower in the morning. My main outside job today was to clean the green concrete under the shelter. That was done the old fashioned way, first with a scrubbing brush and plenty of bleach and then with a mop and bucket. I'm so glad there is an outdoor tap up there because I lost count of the number of times I refilled the bucket. Now at last the concrete is back to grey with a bit of green around the edges rather than a large area of bright green. Each time I walked along to empty the bucket I couldn't help noticing the state of the scree garden. If it had only been leaves that wouldn't have been so bad but there seemed to be large weeds everywhere along with the moss and leaves. In the end I gave in and cleared a whole corner. I just have to be so aware that my back doesn't like that type of work down on my knees otherwise I would spend whole days weeding and leaf clearing. 
Peter went back into town and bought a strip of the stuff  to repair the inside of the conservatory. 
It took a bit of measuring and cutting to get the piece to fit around the roof bars but it looks a lot neater now. The new drain pipes and fittings from Wickes arrived this afternoon so that will be the next job to do. 
Winter Flowering Jasmine.

Tuesday 25 October 2016


It was much nicer this morning, warm and sunny with not a hint of wind. 
After hoovering everywhere upstairs I then went outside to do some much needed tidying up around the scree garden. My first job was to sweep up all the leaves especially those that had blown in under the shelter. Then I poured boiling water over the concrete to get rid of the green algae/moss growing there. I may have to go over that tomorrow with bleach as this is the worst I've seen it, all the warm weather has encouraged everything including the weeds to grow like mad. I also cleared all the leaves and weeds on the path that winds through the scree garden and pulled up the worst of the weeds elsewhere. I had just poured myself a cup of coffee, the first from the pot I had made in the morning when Peter arrived home from town. I abandoned my break to order the supplies from Wickes to be delivered tomorrow, iron a sheet that had been drying over the rayburn and unsuccessfully try and unblock the house phone number from my mobile. As I almost never use my mobile I have to remember to make a phone call once every couple of months so that I don't lose all my credit. I went to ring the house phone but somehow managed to block the number. Very irritating as the only numbers I can imagine needing are Peter's mobile, the RAC and our house phone. I managed to find instructions for unblocking a number but they were for a slightly different phone model and didn't correspond right at the end of the sequence. Perhaps one of the phone shops in town can help me.
A rather gloomy looking scree garden.

Monday 24 October 2016


After yesterday's great efforts I don't feel that I've achieved so much today. It's been one of those grey damp days that don't inspire me to be at all energetic. However we did go out and measure up at the back of the house so that we can replace the currently ad hoc arrangement of guttering that takes the water from some of the gutters out to the stream. As we can't get 2.5m lengths of guttering in either of our cars we have to get it delivered but I'm holding off ordering until Peter's checked out another place for some replacement trim for the conservatory and more importantly a length of plastic board to replace a piece that was broken off inside the conservatory. What's so irritating is the fact that I only threw out the broken piece in the last year as I found it lying around outside and didn't realise where it came from. If we still had it it could have been glued back into place. That's what happens when you start clearing stuff away.
My only venture outside was to drive the rubbish up for tomorrow morning's collection. Apart from that I've just been pottering about doing a bit of tidying up and cleaning. One thing I did was to pack up a small parcel which Peter will post for me tomorrow. Apparently the main Post Office has closed and instead has moved into W H Smith's in the High Street. Considering how long the queues used to be in the main Post Office I wonder how that is going to work out?

Sunday 23 October 2016


It's been windy today, a mixture of bright and grey skies but no showers. Having not done anything towards the house yesterday today has been much more productive. We were watching a program about selling your house when Peter suggested that it might be worth giving the conservatory roof a clean with the pressure washer. It was a good idea, just a shame that being in tidy mode I had already rolled up the extra long hose and put it and the pressure washer away. So up to the outbuildings I went and brought them both down. Before washing could commence I had to clean out the gutters and remove the build up of fallen leaves. I also removed the last of the damaged fleur de lis trim which over the years was the target for BB pellets or other missiles (thanks boys). That done I was all set, the pressure washer did the job but really needed to be quite close to the roof panels to remove 20 years of green algae. I found that by stretching as far as I could I still couldn't reach part of each panel. It was at that point I worked out that I could stand on the next to top rungs of the ladder in A frame mode (it's one of those handy ladders that can be straight or A shaped) so long as I had one foot on each side. That gave me a little extra reach but still not enough. So then I attacked the problem from a different angle ie using a mop while hanging out of the upstairs windows. That still left a few patches of green but determined not to be beaten I came up with the plan of fixing a kitchen cloth to the end of one of the longest of my garden canes. Success - I was able to rub away the last of the algae before a final rinse with the washer.
 Job just started.
The rest of the afternoon was spent in a more relaxed way, a cup of coffee followed by a bit of paint work, another coffee followed by hoovering etc. That way I got a bit more done without feeling as if I've been working flat out. Now I'm looking forward to an evening of watching Strictly with some fresh mango as a treat.

Saturday 22 October 2016


More sun today. Instead of a day in the garden we've been in town on a march to protest against the proposed cuts to our local health service, namely the loss of 400 beds in the local hospital and smaller cottage hospitals and the closure of the accident and emergency, maternity, stroke and paediatric departments at our local hospital. Instead we will have regional centres of excellence at Plymouth, nearly 100 miles away or possibly Exeter, 50 miles away. Presumably the advice to the 30,000 people living in Barnstaple is not to have an accident, stroke or even a baby unless you can wait an hour or two to be seen by a specialist. 
Although we are planning to eventually move out of Devon we felt it was our duty to support the march. Everyone had been asked to wear red to show anger at the proposals and as a demand for a 'red line' to drawn around vital services before financial cuts are considered. We were with a group of gig club members who along with Peter wore their red and black jackets and I borrowed a red fleece jacket of Peter's. Some of the shops had put red displays in their windows or tied red balloons to their doors. 
We made our way slowly up the High Street taking a detour through the Pannier Market, which was almost deserted, back up Butchers' Row and ended up at the Square. There we were handed out post cards to send to the Prime Minister and various people spoke including a young girl I used to teach. She and her twin sister had been born 6 weeks early and owe their lives to the staff at our local hospital.
We stayed  listening to the speakers for a bit then made our way back down the High Street and back to the car which was parked in Pilton. I felt surprisingly tired when we got home so refrained from gardening apart from sweeping up the leaves from the front patio. 

Friday 21 October 2016


It has been a bright and sunny day. It looked quite cold first thing but warmed up enough for the midges to be out again. This morning I came to the end of my slab washing and now the paving doesn't look so grey and grim and will lighten up a bit more as it dries out. 
Another parcel arrived today. A complete impulse buy as I was browsing eBay. It's another Per Una number so very well made, lined and cut on the bias. It's a stretchy velvety fabric in a dark burgundy lightened in a few areas to a deep red. I've no upcoming occasion to wear it, I simply fell in love with the back and at less than £11 (inc. p&p) I couldn't resist. (The angle of the photo has made my shoulders look broader than they really are.)
The day has been so nice that I've spent all my time outside. I've now started on working my way around the edges of areas and tidied up the whole of the rill. The honeysuckle has been clipped and I hung out of the upstairs hall window to get to the climbing rose stems that were covering the window. We've got another viewing next week so it's a matter of generally tidying up the garden.

Thursday 20 October 2016


It's been dry today and warm enough for the midges to still be out and biting. I finished washing all the paving today but it still needs some sweeping up and a final chasing of the muddy water into the drain before I will consider the job done. In between washing sessions I did some cutting back and weeding in the flower beds by the house. I also decided it was time to remove a lot of the pink hardy geranium that was taking over one of the beds.
Nothing much else has happened today except that the postman brought me the all-clear on my bowel cancer screening. Oh dear, here in the UK this is not a topic for general conversation but when you are offered free screening for something that is symptom-less until it is usually too late we should all be aware of the consequences of not being screened. I have an acquaintance who on receiving the 60th birthday letter said she wasn't going to take up the offer. I only hope my tale of how Peter had a pre-cancerous polyp removed after he took up the screening and follow up investigation convinced her to be screened.

Wednesday 19 October 2016


It's been a nice bright day but this morning I was simply glad of the chance to get an extra hour's sleep. My afternoon at school was with the reception class and yes, you've guessed it - we did PE again. It was only  on my way home that I remembered I'd forgotten to put the tub of beanbags and cones away in the cupboard. That was because at the end of the day my attention was diverted by one of my class who had lost her coat, a green one. First the caretaker looked everywhere and then I went and checked the cloakroom again with no luck. There was a green coat hanging up which the child said wasn't hers so I wondered if another child from the other reception class might have taken hers by mistake. We went to the other class but most of the children had gone home. Then when I took the child back to her dad guess what? It was her coat!
I was out of school promptly in a good mood because this is the beginning of the half-term holiday for me. Then before I could get out of town I got stuck at the traffic lights by the hospital. This is a staggered junction with filter lanes so you do sometimes have to wait a while but the lights in front of me seemed to have got stuck on red. There were 4 cars in front of me and the traffic behind me was stacking up for as far as I could see. Eventually the car in front of me moved across to the left hand lane and drove through the red light leaving the way clear for me to get up to the light. Then very cautiously I also turned left through the red light feeling a touch naughty at the same time. A good thing there aren't any cameras on those lights.
When I got home I was able to spend an hour working outside finishing off washing the paving in front of the conservatory and cutting back the bulk of the golden marjoram. Now there's just the paving at the side of the house to do as well as plenty of autumn work to do in the garden.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

A Long Day.

Another full day of teaching meant an early start. I think I'm so worried about not getting up in time that I wake up around 4, go back to sleep for half an hour, wake and sleep again and end up turning on the radio 15 minutes before the alarm is due to go off. 
It was a morning of minor nature encounters. While I ate my breakfast I fondly watched Squeaky chase a leaf across the room until I realised that it wasn't a leaf but a small brown frog hopping about. I rescued the frog as it tried to make an escape down the hall and put it out of the window by the stream. Then driving up the hill one of the group of pheasant hens that hang about on the corner crouched down in the grass at the side of the road before deciding to make a vertical take off as I drove past. Luckily she went straight up and not sideways across the car. And soon after that 3 smallish (blackbird sized) brown birds repeatedly flapped about wildly over the road in front of me as they tried to get enough height to fly over the hedge which they did in the end. That's what happens when you drive on country roads at sunrise.
I spent the whole day teaching the reception children which included PE and an hour of music and singing, all with my croaky voice. Luckily I had a CD for the music to help carry the tunes of my old favourites - When you're feeling blue & the Noah song each time accompanied by 7 or 8 children playing percussion instruments. 
After school instead of a staff meeting we all (teachers and teaching assistants) had a major clear out and tidy up of some of the storage areas around the place. I volunteered to tackle the science cupboard as once upon a time I was the science coordinator. It was surprising, or perhaps not, the amount of other things that had been chucked in there; 3 flat screen monitors, a tea urn and 2 electric radiators to name but a few. Some things were re-homed and an awful lot went in the bins. By 6.00 the bins were overflowing and there was a lot more space in all the big walk-in cupboards.
 I drove home as the sun was setting.

Looking east.

Monday 17 October 2016


It was a morning of sunshine and very heavy showers, too wet to get the pressure washer set up though I did cut down some of the golden marjoram. 
At school I had one Year 2 class for SPaG (spelling, punctuation and grammar) and PE then swapped to the other class for the last part of the afternoon. Despite spending time breathing in steam this morning my voice was still fairly minimal so instead of reading a story at the end of the day I let the children share their 'news'. They don't normally get a chance to do this in Year 2 but it is a good way to settle them right down (this was my very lively class) as I'm constantly letting them know I'm looking for sensible behaviour before choosing the next person to give their news. And although I let the child giving their news choose who is going to ask them a question I keep popping in reminders to look for children who are sitting and listening. This helps to motivate the children who would otherwise  be turned around chatting to the child behind or even lying down or crawling around.
After school I had an appointment for a dental check up. I got there in good time, booked in and filled in the same old forms again and it wasn't until after I had been waiting a while that the receptionist came over to let me know my appointment needed to be rescheduled. I'd had an email reminder for today's appointment but they said they had left a phone message on Friday on the house phone. In fact when I got home the message had only been left late this morning when I was out in the garden. My trip wasn't wasted as I went to the Lidl's that is right next door. I was tempted to buy some Polish biscuits to put away for Christmas. Hopefully I'll be able to hold out until then. I also popped into town to collect my treggings from M&S. They're not quite as tight in the leg as I would have liked but they will do for school.