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 31 October 2017

Happy Birthday Romas.

It's Romas' 28th birthday today. This year he passed his driving test and he and Laura moved into their new house, They're still in Stoke in fact still in the same street. Because of the distance we don't get to see him that often plus with work, drumming and teaching he leads a busy life. Thank goodness for FaceBook.
Today has been dry and a bit warmer than yesterday. I went into town and had a frustrating time at the bank. Neither of us does on-line banking, not because we are old fogies but because we are only too aware of the fraud that can occur. In 2015 £750 million were taken fraudulently from UK bank accounts. Trying to keep your personal details private is just about impossible, even I could easily find somebody's address and date of birth and the criminals can get into all sorts of records. To aid security I wanted my bank to make it so that the only way my account could be made into an on-line one would be if I came in personally to the bank with proof of my identity. That way I could be sure that my account was really secure. Guess what? They can't do that. Which is a shame as I've been with the same bank since a teenager. I tried another of the High Street banks to get the same response. I might be able to find some sort of savings account at one of the Building Societies but today I was too exhausted to make any more enquiries. I'll have to do that another day. Also I wanted to make sure that my monthly payments for house and contents insurance were cancelled. I've already spoken to the companies but I like to make sure. But ...... as I need the November payments to go out before the direct debits are stopped the bank couldn't do that. They can only stop them from the day. Fancy not having the software to do that. Coming home I found Peter in a similar fed up mood as he had spent the afternoon on the phone trying to sort out the phone, internet and TV for here and the new place. They're so keen to keep you on as a customer they offer more and more complex deals until in the end he just the phone down on one lot.
Wandering around the garden looking for something new to photograph I spotted some antirrhinum seedlings growing in the scree garden. As they are descended from a couple of plants bought on the last day of the Chelsea Flower Show about 35 years ago I dug them up to bring along to our new home. The flowers are bicoloured red and white and breed true.

Monday 30 October 2017


Another bright sunny day with a bit of frost first thing. I don't think we were down to the -5C forecast for some areas of the country. 
I've been varying the jobs that I do with some outside work and some indoor as too much of either does my back no good. Indoors I wrapped up a large still life painting that was in our kitchen and replaced it with an overmantle mirror which I took down from a bedroom. Outside I sorted through my garden tools and plant pots, found 3 more large plastic pots which I planted up and have lots of small pots to take to the dump. I also swept out one of the outbuildings removing years of cobwebs and pheasant feathers. 
The removal firm being unable to do the date we needed turned out for the best as the cost with the new firm is less for both the taking stuff into storage and the whole house move than we were going to pay for just the house move with the first firm. I think we count as locals which generally helps. The chap came round and delivered lots of boxes this afternoon which is handy as I'm almost out of boxes. Peter went down and arranged the for the storage unit which is less than a mile from the new house. They have units of all different sizes so if we can't eventually fit everything into the house and garage we can have a small unit for the overflow.
If the frosts continue it will be the end of the roses. Looking around the garden there were 1 or 2 flowers on each of the different roses and I caught their scent as I was walking past. The winter flowering jasmine is flowering well but alas it has no scent.

Sunday 29 October 2017


We've had a bright sunny day with colder winds blowing in from the north. The clocks went back last night so it was getting dark by 5.00. Not being able to sleep in the night I was shopping on-line for a fridge freezer. Not only did I have to find one that was just the right size, I then needed to check what material had been used for the back. There have been a number of articles on consumer programs showing just how dangerous fridges and freezers with plastic backs can be. The fire brigade had to halt their test of a plastic backed freezer  due to the size of the fire. Sadly it is believed that the dreadful fire in Grenfell Tower started in a fridge/freezer. The consumer organisation have published a list of many fridges and freezers showing what the backs are made of and I made sure that I only considered models that had non-flammable backing. That's all sorted now and they'll be taking away our old chest freezer at the same time. 
Right now I'm focussing on packing all the things that are initially going into storage. Among them was the kitchen spice cupboard. All the china had already been packed so you might think it would be a simple job to undo 4 screws and take the cupboard off the wall. The first step didn't take long, box up all the herbs and spices, throwing a few very out of date ones away and combining duplicates.
First there was the nice surprise of the missing piece of the bone china tea-set (badly damaged when a toothpaste dispenser was used as a missile). I always wondered where it had gone and thought it might have found its way behind the kitchen units.
Then, having already spotted that the cupboard needed easing out from the plaster above which had been done after the cupboard was put up, there was the unpleasant surprise of finding that the plaster on the wall behind was blown. Not too easy to see but the shaded line to the left of the centre was where the plaster was bulging out  about half an inch.
Fortunately once I'd carefully taken off the blown plaster it was mostly a thin layer that had been done over the original kitchen wall. I can't do anything about the thick ridge of plaster above but I will paint the wall white when I do all the bits that need painting after mirrors etc. have been taken down.  
I'll also have to paint over the family's height marks on the wall by the front door. I've already printed off photographs to real life scale so they are not lost forever. 
My other jobs for today were to move some things I want to keep, in the outbuildings. A couple of rolls of insulation will come in handy for the new loft which hasn't got any and a large wooden shelf which will be just right to put the digital piano on. 

Saturday 28 October 2017


It's been a slightly damp, grey day today. Right now I can see the tree branches moving in the wind so who knows what tomorrow's weather will be like? I had my friends coming around in the afternoon for some of the many plants still left in the propagating garden. It's nice to know those plants will be appreciated and continuing on.
The visit was the perfect excuse to bake another cake, this time a very chocolatey marble cake, got to give people a choice and of course there is plenty left which Peter and I will just have to eat. Can't even freeze anything as we are working on emptying the freezer.  
Peter went out rowing this morning which he always enjoys. The tide was on its way out so the water was low making it harder to row plus they got stuck on the sand bars a couple of times. I'm sure he'll sleep well tonight.
This evening as I pedalled on the exercise bike I could see  a number of pheasants arriving in the garden and walking around on the back lawn before flapping their way up into the big beech tree. The females were first eventually followed by a couple of male pheasants. I wondered if the male birds were waiting to make sure it was safe before they made their move.

Friday 27 October 2017


After so long waiting it's suddenly all go on the house move front. Barring a major mishap we will be moving on November 10th. With such short notice it's going to be a hectic couple of weeks. The original moving firm couldn't do that date so we've had somebody from another local firm come to look around today and are waiting for his estimate.
Today the countryside has been bathed in sunlight. The sun shone brightly on the front of the house and also lit up a couple of the acers outside. However one of the drawbacks to living in a valley is that at this time of year most of the garden remains in dark, cold shade.  
Now that the cats are about to become town cats they need to be micro-shipped and vaccinated. Living in this isolated valley I've never bothered before, the cats have been healthy and I've saved myself a lot of money. This afternoon I packed the 2 of them up and drove to the vet's. I put Speedy in the white travel cage thinking he'd be better where he could have a bit of room while I stuffed Patch into the carrier that looks like a shoulder bag. Poor Speedy was completely freaked out, he kept emitting the sort of wails that sounded as if he was really in distress. In the vet's waiting room he jumped at every street noise and ignored the piece of cheese I gave him. Patch on the other hand was quite calm and happily ate all the cheese almost taking off my fingers. It turns out that Patch is 15 years old (I asked the receptionist) while Speedy is around 9. The vet agreed that Patch is a little on the thin side something we had noticed recently but when he weighed him he is only 200gms less than he was 11 years ago. I have been giving Patch extra food in the mornings and the vet said it could just be his age. The vet also noticed a heart murmur but with no other symptoms we don't need to do more than keep an eye on him. They actually took the cats away to microchip them as it is not so simple in older cats. Eventually they were returned to me, with Speedy in the closed carrier. All that was left was to pay the enormous bill and make another appointment for 3 weeks' time for their boosters. Once back home they got the ultimate treat of tinned cat food for their supper instead of the dry stuff.
The dog crate that I ordered arrived today. The delivery man seemed a bit bemused when I told him I didn't have a dog and he probably thought I was bonkers when I told him it was for my cats. That's another thing on my list that can be ticked off. This evening I also baked a banana loaf which smells delicious as it cools down on the counter. We're both looking forward to having 'real' cooker where you can adjust the cooking temperature.
Ponies in the field and a couple of riders going up the hill.

Thursday 26 October 2017

Town Day.

Today I had an early start waking sometime before 5.00. Eventually I put my earphones in and listened to the farming program on the radio. Then I thought I might as well do my floor exercises, in the dark and with the earphones. That involved a bit of manoeuvring so that I didn't end up dragging the radio onto the floor. I took the above photo at about 7.00 getting wet from standing in the cloud. Once the morning jobs were done, and a bit more packing, it was time to head into town. Not working in school anymore I hadn't realised quite how crowded it would be as it is the half-term holiday. I had to cruise around the whole of the long stay car park until I spotted another car on the move. Hoping it was someone who had left a space rather than looking for one I crept the wrong way down one section and luckily found a space. I had enough time before meeting my friends to drop off another bag of stuff to a charity shop and to post a birthday parcel. I used the (almost) self-service machines and if I had wanted to I could have made myself a profit because somebody had failed to collect their change. There hadn't been anybody using the machine when I came up so I looked around for the staff member who is there to complete the posting and to deal with any problems. She said people were always doing that and put the not inconsiderable amount (in my eyes at least) in a pot in her cupboard. 
As Lindsay's is no longer open  I met my friends at Tea by the Taw a vintage style tea room and café in the old bus station next to the River Taw. There is a good selection of home-made cakes to chose from and all the crockery is mis-matched vintage set off by pale blue painted furniture and a couple of sofas with cushions and crochet arm-rest protectors along with bunting on the walls and craft items and cards for sale. In all a very pleasant atmosphere and we had a lovely afternoon chatting and laughing as usual.
To finish off my town visit I dropped a couple of pieces of antique furniture at the Hospice furniture shop and went over to do some shopping at Asda. I like to change where I shop every now and again and I have to admit to a fondness for their floor surface. It's some sort of industrial lino which looks like grey marble and has an extremely shiny surface. It just feels nice to walk on and the shopping trolley glides over it.
The Muddiford road is still closed so our back road is constantly full of traffic. We're not on a bus route, apart from the school buses, but here are two of them. The road is so full of mud that before I went out this morning I had to scrape several inches of accumulated mud from the sides of my car.

Wednesday 25 October 2017


It made a lovely change this morning to look out of the window and see blue sky. With the sun came some warmth, note cloud of midges in the photo above. Thin clouds drifted across during the day often giving what I call a watery sky but not a drop of rain fell.
This morning I finally gave in and took down the hanging baskets. There were a few flowers in some of them but generally they were looking very sad. I tipped the plants and compost on the wild side of the bog garden, dismantled the baskets and gave the plastic inner baskets a good scrub in the stream. The straw baskets will go down to the dump but the plastic tubs with their inner water reservoir will make good temporary homes for more of the plants we're taking with us.
The front of the porch looks bare and will stay that way as I shan't be hanging up the wind chimes as usual. Instead I collected up all the wind chimes, most of which were broken, and gave all the metal tubes a good wash. As well as the two remaining intact wind chimes there are 48 tubes of varying sizes which one day I shall use to make more wind chimes. I won't be putting any up when we move to Pilton because I know that any noise that isn't your own can be intensely annoying to your neighbours. Hopefully the home after that will be secluded enough for my wind chimes not to cause offense.  
Having planted up the old hanging baskets I now have my capsule garden ready for moving. That's another job done. Later in the afternoon we had a visit from a census lady to ask us or rather Peter as the oldest of the household, a number of questions. This snap-shot survey is supposed to give the government an idea of the nation's views and circumstances in between the full national census the next of which will happen in 2021. Apart from the usual stuff about work, income and health there was quite a bit about use of the internet and also about smoking. I wish I had been the one answering as a lot of my answers would have been very different to Peter's. 

Tuesday 24 October 2017


It has rained all day long. However it has stayed reasonably mild. 
The oil man came this morning and with the ground being so wet and soft the tanker made a real mess of the garden in several places. I've detached myself emotionally from the garden so it wasn't a great disaster. I was able to repair most of the damage down by the house by standing on the sides of the ruts and using my weight to squish the soil back into place. One situation where being heavy is an advantage.
Looking at the number of leaves that have fallen I'm tempted not to continue with my daily clearing of the leaves in this corner. I'll have to think about that as I do enjoy the view from the kitchen when the stones are leaf-free. 
I got another couple of boxes packed today. What shocks me is the fact that nothing in the many boxes already packed is needed for our everyday living. I almost think life would be easier without all that 'stuff'. However apart from my mother's art which I feel responsible for there are items of beauty, things that hold memories, resources for future projects, equipment for occasional use and things we may incorporate into our home after next. So there won't be any major clearing away of stuff already packed. Not yet anyway.

Monday 23 October 2017


It has been raining steadily all day with no sign of the sun. When I drove up the hill in the afternoon it was straight into the clouds with very poor visibility. A quick look at the map puts the bottom of the cloud layer at about 200m.
I was off to town to visit the dentist but before that I stopped by a charity shop with yet another load of stuff to donate. As I pulled up by the shop I could see there were cars already parked in the 'loading only' space and was just about to sneak into the bus stop space which was a bit closer to the shop when I spotted a traffic warden. Fortunately there was enough space between the cars for me to fit into the loading space which brought me right next to the traffic warden. She could see that I was legitimately unloading and it didn't take long for me to empty the car. Then onwards I drove to the dentist. I was there  early as I planned to call in at the wine merchants next door to see if they had any cardboard boxes. Surprisingly they didn't, they get their wine on pallets and only have small 6 bottle boxes for their customers. However on the other side of the dentist is a paint and other decorating supplies place. The lady in there was only too happy to give me some large boxes.
At the dentist I was seen by a new chap who seemed very capable. Sadly the tooth where the piece of filling came out is cracked and he recommends having a crown. For the time being he put a temporary filling in as I haven't decided what to do. Not only does a crown cost nearly £250 compared to removal which is around £55 but there are no teeth underneath and it's quite far back. It's not so much the cost that puts me off but the length of the procedure that made me reluctant to agree straight away to have a crown. The other thing that I asked the dentist to check was what feels like a large hole behind another molar. Since I've been using some curved toothpicks I've been able to clean it out thoroughly but I was worried about the tooth. It turns out that the tooth is fine but the gum behind is ...... odd. He thinks that when I had my wisdom teeth out, 45 years ago, the gum was stitched in such a way to make a little pocket. Re-shaping the gum isn't something done under the NHS services but he will refer me to the dental department at the hospital. In the mean time he highly recommended the use of a water-pick (I know one reader who will be agreeing). I got him to show me which one to get and from which site as there are so many fakes around on the internet and something electrical which blasts my teeth needs to be of the highest quality. I've already ordered one, it should be very useful as I have odd gaps between my teeth which are difficult to keep clean.
When I got home everything was very damp. I had left a re-addressed magazine which had come for Vytas in the porch in case the post man came without us noticing. He hadn't but when I got home a large slug was on the plastic cover and had eaten its way though half of the label I had written the new address on, yuck. I threw the slug out and will have to write out yet another label.

Sunday 22 October 2017


It's been a day of very heavy rain and intermittent sunshine. 
For some reason I found it hard to get motivated today. By focussing first on some simple jobs that had to be done I found myself better able to do some more sorting and packing. I was pleased to find that a large box which I had assumed was for Peter's printer wasn't and could be used for more important things such as wet suits. Keeping a number of wetsuits shows what an old softy I am, thinking about my family's needs. I never wear a wetsuit just a rash vest over a swimming costume and I'm not sure what conditions would temp Peter into our chilly seas. He'd rather be rowing or that the water was at least 20C.

Saturday 21 October 2017


Today has been wild, wet and windy as Storm Brian rolls in from the west. There were some nearly dry spells during the morning but then the storm increased in intensity. The trees are swaying, the wind is roaring and whistling around the house and although the rain has died down for a moment earlier it could be seen falling in sheets across the garden and fields.
This morning some people came to look at an elaborate Victorian overmantle mirror which I had advertised on Gumtree. However they were put off by some scratches on the swan picture. The picture (or print) has been painted on some sort of metallic surface and I damaged it years ago when I was trying to clean it. I've been searching for any information about how to restore it but have been unable to find out anything about either the type of picture or this kind of mirror. I was showing Peter images of similar mirrors and got very excited when I did manage to find a picture of one like mine. It was only as I looked closely that I realised it was my mirror with the image I used for the on-line advert. Silly me.

With the storm raging outside I've done very little except more kitchen cleaning and a bit of packing. I wiped down all the sitting room orchids which was not due to excessive cleaning but more about dusty cobwebs not being a good look.

Friday 20 October 2017

Glimpses of Sun.

It has, at least been mainly dry today. In order to catch the brief sunny spells it was a matter of spotting the sun and rushing straight out to take a photo before the clouds rolled across the sun once more. Last night I was having one of my restless nights which ended up with me downstairs at 4.00 doing my on-line jigsaw. Outside the wind whistled, the rain clattered on the conservatory roof and a tawny owl contributed a few hoots. Fortunately I did get back to sleep and was thankful that I don't have to worry about getting up for work.
Wandering around outside this morning I took stock of the plant pots on the patio. Some were sporting weeds or self-sown aquilegias so they could be used to pot up more of my plants to go. I dug up one sedum Autumn Glow (like above). It's not my favourite but the dark red flowers do give some welcome colour at this time of year and of course are great for the butterflies.
I also dug up a knautia macedonia (below). The name alone makes me smile and the red pin cushion flowers are very cheerful right now. It was joined by both red and pink flowered schizostylis  lilies. That's nearly all my plants ready to go. 
I got another box of stuff wrapped and packed while Peter had an appointment with our solicitor. Thank goodness there's a standard charge for the whole process.

Thursday 19 October 2017


A damp, grey morning turned into a chilly, wet afternoon. I think Patch had the right idea sleeping pressed up against the warm rayburn. 
The first thing I had to do this morning was to phone the dentist. Yesterday evening a piece of filling came out while I was flossing my teeth. I've got an appointment but it's not until next Monday. Thankfully the missing filling is not causing any problems and I've got some dental wax which I'm using to fill the hole. The wax falls out when I eat but that gives me a chance to rinse with mouthwash.
While Peter went out, with instructions of where to pick up more cardboard boxes, I had a kitchen day. Alongside baking more chocolate cookies I set to work giving some of our baking dishes and oven trays a good clean. Although we have no need for a dishwasher I buy dishwasher tablets to use for soaking things with baked on grease. As Peter and I generally eat different food in the evenings we cook for ourselves. The washing up is not so delineated, whatever needs washing gets washed by either of us. This system works well apart from the matter of grease. Peter tend towards foods that have some sort of fat content while I don't use any fats apart from olive oil or when I'm baking. Because he places his food on baking parchment on a baking tray Peter feels that it's not that important to clean all the grease off the trays. I on the other hand have the view that if a tray or dish is stainless steel, as most of mine are, then it should be returned to its gleaming state every time, also the outside and bottoms of saucepans. I don't think we are ever going to agree on this so once in a while I scrub away muttering darkly under my breath. In return are mutterings about obsessive cleaning. After over 40 years together we're used to it.
It was too wet this afternoon to think about going out to take photos so it's just a contented Patch for today.
My all-time favourite fruit has got to be mangos. I know they're full of sugar but at least they are fruit and delicious with 0-fat plain yoghurt and I can kid myself they are a healthy treat. This week the usual green/red mangos have been replaced with red mangos. What a disappointment. The one I prepared first was a bit on the soft side, not too much a problem with the other ones but the red one was .... nasty. The other one which wasn't over-ripe didn't have much flavour. I think I'll wait until the usual ones are back in the shops.