Life, photos but not the universe

Been and Gone. Back any minute.

I’m not normally a fan of lieder or indeed classical singing but eternal thanks to Christopher for sending me on the trail which led here.   It’s a quite gorgeous piece,  performance and recording.  Also, short : )

Meanwhile, I have acquired a book called 1421, the Year China Discovered the World.  Well that’s got to be worth a read hasn’t it?  I’ll let you know.

The sun is shining for all it’s worth just now as it sinks below the horizon and the clouds are white and fluffy and the general ambience is golden.  This is delightful but, ever the carping and grumbling one, I was hoping for PINK.  Sky blue or any other variety.  As tomorrow, we camp, perchance to get rained on.

I really ought to be packing or organising or something.  Instead, I’m, well… here.

Well I was.  Then we camped a bit and it didn’t rain, then we woke up next morning and it did rain.  Then I came home for Music Group for an afternoon (leaving all the other happy campers in the rain) and it isn’t raining now and here I am again.  Only for a little while but I’m hoping it won’t rain again when I go back.

Journeys in between rain.  Hope you’re in between rain too.

*There were people like that, way back then.

May 29, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , | 3 Comments

I am trying

To acquire the necessary skills to do all official paperwork either online or via a series of automated phone messsages.  Since it seems that any minute it will no longer be possible to communicate with a real person about anything of that nature in any way – not by phone or on paper or in person.

Last week I managed to register myself with the NHS and then order a repeat prescription. Big prize for getting it right first time (too bad I couldn’t also get myself to the surgery in time to collect it before they closed for weekend).   Today’s test was to renew my car insurance by phone.  (I could have opted for the online version except that I needed to check a couple of details and maybe change something).

It was going swimmingly for a while, the automated lady asked me to say things and gave me examples and I said my bit very slowly and d i s t i n c t l y.  Then we got to my date of birth.  By then, at 3p/minute, I guess we’d spent quite a lot of my money on the call.  Forgetting that the automated lady doesn’t, in fact, understand English however convincingly she might speak it I said, firmly, O one, twelve, nineteen, fifty.   The phone made a hiccuping noise even as I realised I’d said the wrong thing.  So I tried again o, I mean zero one one two one—-.

Yes.  Wrong again.  The automated lady politely told me she would now transfer me to a real person.  The phone then informed me that it was helping quite a lot of people at the moment and asked me to hold on(referring to itself in the multiple person or possibly with the royal ‘we’). It made horrible muzac at me for several minutes and then I put it down because I didn’t feel like paying 3p a minute for horrible muzac.

It’s all ok though because for several days, the Insurance company have been ringing me on my mobile and telling me not to worry that I’ve missed the call because they’re going to ring again.  Which they did this morning, shortly after I’d given up on my attempt.  So me and the nice young man spent quite a long time (on their phone bill) sorting out a couple of discounts and changes and renewal was achieved satisfactorily.

I apologise to all the people who had to listen to horrible muzac while the nice young man was helping me.

Speaking of phones, our old phone has been behaving in a manner which suggest a terminal condition (and which cause the termination of a large number of phone calls).  So I bought a new one.  Then Barney spent a long time trying to follow instructions which sound simple but don’t produce the results described therein.  There is a gap in the information, which is both dense and detailed when it comes to the dangers of putting your ear to the wrong side of said phone  (deaf threats! And not something I imagine people do very often) but a little skimpy about the precise order in which things should be plugged into the mains or each other.  I think the missing bit is a crucial one about fully charging the battery before attempting to register the handset with its base.

Having whinged about having to do official stuff on line, I have to add that I can see that this is a good way to avoid using precious paper.  Even though it took me and Barney 45 minutes to complete the process of paying VAT online the other day.  (It had already taken me much longer than that to register him to be able to do so).  Anyway, a quick glance at the Beeb  weather site tells me that the volcanic ash cloud from Iceland  has now reached North Africa.  It seems possible that the volcano in Iceland may be achieving what fear of global warming has failed to do, ie, cutting down some of the air traffic which pollutes our equally precious atmosphere. *

Here in the chilly wilds of Berkshire, we are also cutting down on pollution.  (as you will know if you have been patient enough to follow my endless complaints about the dead boiler – now replaced with a super efficient one.  So I’m told).

Anyway last night, we went to see Joe Brown.   Remember him?  He is still very cocky (in a gentle way), very likeable, and a very very enjoyable musician and singer with an equally good band (including his son, Pete).  No extremes, no excesses, no gimmicks, nothing overtly flashy, just a couple of hours of  solid, understated talent and skill.  Reminds me why I liked Rock and Roll.  Yeah!  Lovely sunny stuff.

*yes, I do see that the cloud is contributing to atmospheric pollution at the same time.

May 27, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Old, slow, unresponsive, inefficient

That would be me then? Or the dog?

No, it was the old boiler. (broiler? as in an old tough hen fit only for lengthy cooking – that would be me then, again?)

Funny how, as the difficulties of boiler installation increase and multiply, the fitters of said appliance become more and more chirpy about the advantages and wonders of the new one and more and more disparaging about the old one.

Funny too, how the more they witter earnestly on about  speed, efficiency, control (Huh!), temperatures and ease of operation, the more I find myself identifying with the old boiler (after all it worked inefficiently, slowly, expensively and uncontrollably for 25 years doing its best to keep us warm and comfortable and sometimes succeeding).

Will the new one last as long? How long will it take us to learn how to operate the controls?  How many ways will it have to thwart us in our desire for unacceptably hot water?  How difficult will it really be to find the little buttons that set the timings to suit us?  Oh and how long before we are told that quite frankly, a super, modern boiler like ours shouldn’t have to live and work with old, beaten up, out-of-date radiators and needs a whole new system installing?

Bah! Humbug!

Ok.  Enough grumbling.  To be honest I was probably just suffering from too much motorway aftersound and couldn’t hear properly what I was being told.  When I’ve found the manual I shall probably become less grumpy.  Perhaps even, surreptitiously, pleased with it.

smoke and sunlight

For now, there’s a misty moon shining and all the kitchen cupboards are clean.  Today I sorted out a whole lot of clothes to throw out and coincidentally we received a plastic bag from the Sally Army promising to collect it if we fill it with old clothes and leave it out for them.  (No, no, the promise was printed on the bag, it didn’t have a recorded message in it or anything clever like that.)And there’s a box of stuff that I couldn’t bear to throw out on the top shelf behind the washing stuff in the Utility room and I can’t remember what’s in it.  So if I could manage to gather it all up and hide it in a bag without looking at any of it I probably won’t miss it.  Could this be another manifestation of Spring?

misty bluebells

sunny bluebells

And now I shall go to bed.  The moon will shine across the carpet and In the morning the sun will shine.  Maybe.


May 26, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Moithered. No it’s not a mis-spelling or a typo.

So after a long, hot journey in which incidents on the M6 abounded and road signs confusingly warned me of impending delays and then told me the delays were ended and then told me again about the delays, I finally returned.  The trip can be done in about four and a half  hours but took me and the little car nearer six and a half.  The little car is a very nice way to travel in motorway jams as it’s automatic.  Wonderful not to have to play clutch and catch up!  On the other hand it fusses a lot about security when you stop.  As soon as I switch off the engine, it becomes alarmed and after only a couple of minutes it starts beeping to let me know that I just might be a thief or vandal and any minute now it’s going to wail anxiously to all and sundry.  Resetting the alarm gives me another two minutes or so and there seems to be no way to reassure it that it’s only me without getting out and locking up!  This is not a restful atmosphere in which to unwind and drink coffee!

I spent a little time with Eldest (who had trouble fitting me into his busy social calendar but made up by taking me to two very lovely restaurants and by giving up his amazingly comfortable bed*) and gorgeous Marmite**  kept me company when I wasn’t out scouring the hills for views and Lancaster itself for interesting shopping***.

Marmite - long suffering and reproachful and sharing the sofa.

The view from Eldest's attic. Mist rolling in across Morecambe bay

I got home, head buzzing with motorway noise and vibration  to find Barney and John and Terry still screwing things back and adjusting knobs and being tremendously busy.  There was an air of optimism and confidence, only slightly offset by Barney announcing that the shower was cold.  Never mind.  All sorted now and we have a nice little boiler and lots of stuff to clean and put away (or throw out if I’m really focussed about it).  The heater and the water are all available and doing their thing.

And of course, today is the hottest it’s been since some time last Summer : )  Ain’t that just the way?  But ain’t it just lovely?

More from the banks of the Bollin

My next three or four weeks (or is it five or six?  I’m not sure) are like pieces of jigsaw.  I know that for some of that time we’ll be camping and for some of it we’ll be embarking on the voyage up the Thames and for some of this time we will have the dog and for other bits we won’t and then in between there’s some serious (but not painful) dentistry to be sorted and one huge family party to be planned (oops, I need to email the family).  And at least one extra specially exciting visit to be arranged.  The cat and the house need to be booked with the neighbours for feeding and watching over.

Oh and I must get a hair cut.   I know other people get this sort of thing organised without making such a song and dance about it.  But as my Auntie Marie used to say, I feel all moithered!  Meanwhile, rather quickly, I need to get the house back into its proper places.  This isn’t helped by the amount of nostalgic stuff that was brought back from Braintree and which is now in boxes all over the dining room mingling coyly with the contents of the kitchen.  Thus, while searching for the non stick pan with a see through lid, I am quite likely to end up with a saucepan full of photos of very beautiful relatives getting married a long time ago.  Which would add something to the gravy but at an unacceptable cost.

I do love a good dead tree!

The Ashton Memorial Park, Lancaster

Now I need coffee and to rush (somewhat ponderously) about a bit.  Then I have to go to the bank and then I have to go and get a fitting for a new dental plate thingie.  Which will cost me lots and lots of money (gulp) and had jolly well better be really really good!

*I must investigate the costs and availability of memory foam mattresses – they are really quite astonishingly comfortable.****

**though he did fart a lot

***There are about six charity shops in Lancaster

****Yeah and quite astonishingly expensive too.  Oh well.

May 25, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Further North

I don’t know why the idea of going North seems so romantic to me but it does.

And it’s just been further romanticised by the recent presence of the lovely ILTV and her wonderful dancing friend, not to mention WDF’s connection with the place.  Also not to mention that lovely Ziggi’s father lived there once upon a time.  It’s as if half my friends here have passed through my real life world!

The River Bollin at The Carrs, Wilmslow

I’ve visited Elder Sister and enjoyed her company and the glorious sunshine and the River Bollin and also I went to the lake on Lindow common.  This is another place in the aforementioned* Weirdstone books and is described there as “garlanded with mosses and mean dwellings”  Now when I lived in Wilmslow, this was sometimes a very apt description except on days when people went to sail model boats there – as I did myself at least once.  The little sails and motor boats made it look quite bright and cheerful.  Sometimes there might have been thirty or more zig zagging across the lake.

Anyway, now it’s almost unrecognisable.  Trees have grown up around the lake and wild birds nest there and it’s clearly a place for the elderly of Wilmslow to walk their dogs, being still set in a flat heath and therefore a pleasantly gentle kind of walking area.  There are neat paths and copious notices about the wild life and the special scientific interests and the presence of poisonous blue green algae!  Sadly the edges of the lake are now garlanded with mean fencings – presumably to stop people disturbing the wildlife with boats and dogs and splashing children, though the mean dwellings are completely shielded from view by the trees.

The Black Lake, Lindow Common, Wilmslow

I could happily have spent more time exploring places I used to know but the time came to set of for the further wilds of Lancashire, bordering on Cumbria.

Lancashire, from Delph

Eldest wasn’t available till after work so I had time to get lost and drive in small circles around a place called Scorton until I’d got my bearings and after a wander round a rather fabulous picnic area with lakes, by the River Lune (?) I pointed the little car at the nearest steeply sloping hill and arrived at the most wonderful views across Morecambe Bay.  I also disturbed a young couple sitting in their car.  When I scrambled out of the little car, (feeling like one of the how many elephants can you fit in a mini joke) clutching my camera and started pointing it enthusiastically at twisted tree trunks and sheep, I could almost hear the rueful hilarity coming from the other car.  After a few minutes, they drove off, further into the hills.  Shortly after that, I also set off but when I saw them parked at another rather nice viewpoint, I forebore to park there but waved at them as I passed.  Kindness itself eh?

More pics tomorrow – time rushes on and I’ve rushed home only to find that the heating has taken a lot longer to fix than expected.  In other words I’m still picking my way round the kitchen and the bathroom all over the rest of the house.

I’ve just reread this post and it’s clear that the long hours of journeying on the M6 have scrambled my brain.  Much of what I wrote yesterday was not only ungrammatical but incomprehensible.  So much so that I can only offer apologies and abandon it.  Hopefully before posting again I will have become more er, less, er, well I’ll have had a rest.

*That’s aforementioned as in the day before.  Really, my head isn’t working properly!

May 22, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Sister Wendy’s Story of Painting

My Sister and her son retire earlier than I am accustomed to do and so, disconnected from the WWW as  I am, I have just spent some time looking at photos taken at Gawsworth Hall in Cheshire on my way North today.  I have to say, Cheshire was looking its best and the weather was hot!

Anyway, I’m now in bed and have reason to be grateful to Sister Wendy, not so much for writing about painting as for having her work published in a big book which will accommodate one little netbook and protect it from sinking into the mattress and overheating while I use it.

Me and Older Sis have chatted long into the early evening and shared a couple of tiny glasses of sweet sherry.  I fear I may be corrupting her. And now I shall have a look at Gilbert White’s Natural History of Selbourne on her recommendation.  So obviously she’s educating me 🙂

For once, I’m impressed with spellcheck.  True, it didn’t recognise Gawsworth but it did offer Galsworthy as an alternative which I thought was really quite erudite of it.

Since I am in bed so early I have hopes that I may also wake up very early and that the sun will be as hot as today and that I will go and walk along the banks of the River Bollin before breakfast.

(Oh, disappointing!  Spellcheck not only didn’t recognise  Bollin, it offered me Bollix.  Not erudite at all though surprisingly colloquial.)

You are all so lovely : )  I typed this in word last night at Elder Sister’s and am today using Eldest (son)’s internet!  It was so nice to see all your good wishes and made me feel quite not alone even though I had been left with the Dog (the gorgeous Marmite) while Eldest went to cause himself severe damage playing Rugby.  (little rugby?  short rugby? some sort of informal, friendly rugby anyway).


May 20, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Not whinging


It’s just that the scenario I had envisaged involved a morning spent with the kitchen full of oily fumes while the heating system was being ‘flushed out’, then a gap of a few days followed by a couple of days of dismantlement of the kitchen, replacement of the boiler and restarting of the system.  At least that’s how it was described.

Uh uh.

9.30 yesterday morning we learnt that the kitchen must be dismantled now – piece by piece and the boiler drained cold and removed and the floor taken up in the bathroom to accommodate new pipes and valves and so on.  The dining room is still full of breakfast stuff and now it’s full of kitchen too.  The bedroom is full of bathroom.  Then next Tuesday, the new boiler will get put in and eventually the kitchen will move back into the kitchen.

Now I’m not whinging about any of that, honest.  Just that if I’d known all this was happening so soon, we’d have had breakfast early and probably, would have emptied the kitchen the night before and stacked it neatly in the dining room so that Barney would be able to find everything during the next day or two.  Since I am going away to visit Elder sister and Eldest in the wild and windy North.

So the very good thing is that I shall go away, leaving chaos heaped up in the dining room and maybe return to a functioning heating system.  And that, anticipating some disruption and a lot of unpleasantness in the kitchen, I made myself a little flask of coffee in the morning even before I had opened my eyes properly.  Oh and also, we are spared the oily fumes, which might have resulted in the removal of bodies instead of boilers so that’s pretty good too.

Another good thing is that we’re learning a lot about the way our heating, water and pipework has been laid out.  Not brilliantly if the mutterings I overheard from the kitchen were to be believed.  (“never seen it done like this before”  and “usually it’s a bit more accessible”  “grunt” “cor!!” “oof”)  I might take some pics of the kitchen and then add useful labels to say stuff like “this pipe goes to the immersion tank/shower/stop valve/etc/etc.”  “These pipes have been cut off at the pass I mean wall.  They go nowhere – don’t worry about it.”

Soot!  Another thing I am not whinging about.  There’s a lot of it up that chimney and the work involved in removing the old flue, sweeping the chimney and blocking enough of it to stop rain coming into the new boiler sounds complicated and expensive enough that we can’t do it.  So the old flue will be blocked up and left there together with twenty years’ worth of soot.   And you just know that in another twenty years, someone will say “that really should have been cleaned out and removed twenty years ago”.  If I’m still here, I can whinge about it then.

Well the lads eventually reached a point at which they could go to the pub, the sun shone, it’s wasn’t cold (all the over-excitement made me feel a bit feverish actually : ) and my little flask was nearly empty.  There was just enough functioning kitchen left to make another one : )   I’d quite like to point the hoover at the lower reaches of the chimney and remove a bit of soot but I suspect that the result might be an avalanche so I won’t.  however, I have attacked the pipes and the floor that used to be completely hidden.  Soot, cobwebs, a multitude of sins, three dessicated mouse carcases, two birds and a shrew all found their way into the light or the hoover.

The dog temporarily left home.  He can’t see much anyway and now everything’s not where it usually is, he can’t find his way round.  So he lay outside in the garden which thankfully is pretty much as usual.  The cat brought us a shrew quite early in the proceedings and went off in a huff when it wasn’t appreciated properly.

And now I am going to plan and look at maps and pack.

I shall be away all week and I just hope Barney and the dog and cat remember to look after each other!  And, Oh won’t it be lovely to come home and find the heating working.  (Did I really dare to say that?  Well, we’ll see)

How could anyone whinge?

Look after yourselves while I’m away.

May 16, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments


Sometimes it’s not all gloom, doom and exasperation.

On recent dog walks I have seen a kestrel, arrowing across the field with swift, tiny wingbeats.

A hare, so completely immersed in May madness that he hopped right past me without realising I was there.

A buzzard, perched on a telegraph pole surveying the land with a fierce, wild eye.

Dandelion seeds, appearing ahead of me in the gloom as though a carpet of fluff was being laid down for me to walk through.

The tender green leaves, sweeping across paths that are becoming secret again as the season moves on.

Bluebells, a scented blue mist through the woods.

Pink violets.

A red deer, crashing away through the woods from almost under my feet.

The birds singing through the woods in the evening, so loud and multitudinous that I could hear them above the noise of the motorway.

The sun shining through clouds so dark and dramatic they were almost indigo and the leaves of the trees so bright they seemed to be alight from within.

A spring lamb.

My mad, bad  little cat, catching up on the walk


Coffee, frothing in a bone china mug.

Oooh yes!  Enough of this poetic stuff,  Coffee time!

May 14, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Lost and cold

There’s been an unattached dog wandering around here recently, rather a posh looking dog – Saluki or Afghan I think.  So, since it wouldn’t come and surrender itself to me I rang the police.  Someone must be wanting the poor thing back.

Looking up the local police on google, I was offered adverts for things such as government auctions online, telescopic police batons, police mortgages (specialist advice for the police) and a colonic irrigation clinic.

None of those are exactly what I think of when considering my local bobbies but colonic irrigation???  Baffling.

I wonder what I’d be offered if I looked up lost dogs.  Probably not dogs if the above is anything to go by but something much less pleasant.

Anyway, today I mustn’t spend too much time online.  It’s too cold to sit still.  Busy busy busy trotting around the house trying to keep warm.  Soon I shall go out – it’s much warmer outside!

We spent the weekend in Braintree sorting out one or two last things in Barney’s dad’s house.  Thank heavens, the heating is still on there.  Such bliss to get up in the morning to clothes which don’t feel chilled!  And we went to the recently discovered Italian restaurant (the only nice food to be had in the town as far as we’ve ever been able to tell) and that was warm too!  It also provided  entertainment in the form of the diners at the next table,  a nice couple, the male half of whom was Scottish, expansive and voluble, the female half being quiet, pleasant and perhaps a trifle reserved since her other half was company enough for two (or three or four or twenty).  After we’d discussed pudding, biking, life, the universe, Scotland and Braintree (which he praised in glowing and extravagant terms – most unusual and unexpected) he insisted in giving us each a taste of his tiramisu so that we could share the pleasure.  So enthusiastic and friendly!

Well, we’re still cold here, the boiler has been pronounced officially dead and now we are also running out of wood for the fire.  Barney is torn between the dining room table and the local small ads for wood.  When we were in Braintree I could see him eying up the remaining furniture speculatively.  Today I went for a quick amble in the woods and found myself absently feeling the odd fallen tree to see if it was very very very wet or just a bit damp.  And when I nip into the charity shops in town, I find myself feeling the woolly things to see if what sort of chill proof factor they have instead of feeling the cotton things to see if they’ll be nice and cool when summer comes (it will won’t it?)

Anyway, I’ve now written three posts and not sorted out any photos to go with them.

posh dog

the unseasonably cold winds of berkshire

A fat pigeon

a Mad May hare (of whom more another time)

Now I shall feed the wildlife (and the dog and cat, drink copious amounts of coffee, have a warm shower in a very cold bathroom and sew up the hem of a pair of woollen trousers so I can wear them.  (I’m really looking forward to that).  Oh and light the calor gas heater if it’s regulator isn’t stuck again)

See you soon!

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Embarrassed of UK

Oh dear!  Bad enough that all our political parties are either unacceptable, ineffective, or indistinguishable from each other (Or a combination of those).  Even worse that we’ve made international news because they’ve been spending our money on cleaners and duck ponds (or was it a moat?  I can’t bear to remember).

Now it seems we can’t run an election!

People queuing to vote turned away because we ran out of time!!!!!  In the words of the late, lamented Victor Meldrew “I don’t belieeeeeve it!

Meanwhile, my daughter is coming home from school with bruises.  No, not from playing bulldog in the playground (that’s been outlawed).  Not from bullying or accidents.  From her pupils.

She’s recently started as an assistant teacher to special needs children and it seems the school doesn’t send the kids home when they behave so disruptively that they have to be taken out of the classroom, instead, an assistant has to get them into another room and prevent them from leaving it till they calm down.  There are eight disruptive children in her class of thirty.  And they’re not tiny tots either.

I don’t belieeeeve it!!!!!

She asked for my advice yesterday.  Hah!  Me, I’d get Barney to come and sit in.  They’d soon behave, the little ******s.  (Darlings) .

Yes, that’s my new education plan.  Each school should loan each other a BIG STRONG SCARY parent to sit in the class and look benevolently on from the background.  Later, in the playground, said big strong scary parent would demonstrate his or her karate skills.  Or sheep wrestling or boomerang throwing or football tackling skills. Whatever).


Anyway, I got to vote.  I did have to queue while an elderly lady got sorted out – she’d forgotten something vital.  But I didn’t go away and come back later.  Just as well.  One presiding officer is blaming the voters for doing that.

And I don’t hear calls for a rerun.  But perhaps that will come?  I  do, however read that voters may sue the government (which government would that be?) for being denied their right to vote.  The new way to run a world, don’t put anything right, just blame somebody – anybody – and then demand cash consolation prizes.

I am now going to throw a little tantrum, have a shower and await the arrival of a man who will, perhaps, sell us a new boiler.

May 7, 2010 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments