Life, photos but not the universe

Three days on the run*-*****

(Isn’t that a line from a song?)

And now I’m back to normal, more or less, whatever that is.  Barring a slight preoccupation with a  bit of a challenge casually thrown at me by Christopher.  One day, I may produce something in response that will satisfy me .  The simple answer** didn’t work  – even after googling some fifteen anagram sites***.  But that’s ok.  As I told someone the other day, if I get the answer to a single crossword clue I feel quite excited.  Similarly with quizzes, I know very little that everyone else knows, however, I do have a small number of obscure facts tucked away in some cave inside my head – the routes to which are becoming increasingly faint and overgrown as time goes by – and occasionally one of those facts will turn up as a quiz question.  This makes me very happy.

My husband on the other hand is a fount of knowledge about a considerable number of things, in fact he’s a serious anorak****.  Actually, I think he’s proud of it.

If you want to know about thatch, old barns, bricks, stamps, canals, 60’s music, folk music, guitar heroes, famous murderers, steam trains, wood or the dates when historical things happened he’s your man.  Usually.  And also, he knows a surprising number of things about obscure little islands and countries and Indian states – because they had commemorative stamps.  It’s a constant delight to me to ask him questions which might, remotely, be connected to any of these things and get an answer – also of course, ever so useful when writing a blog.  On some subjects, he’s better than google.  He’s not bad on current affairs either, since he tends to remember what he’s just read in the newspaper.  It makes him a brilliant quiz partner.  And, he can do arithmetic in his head.

This was going to be a short post, basically saying I can’t think of an answer to Christopher’s suggestion.  As you may have noticed, I have the same problem with my virtual mouth as I have just had with my innards.   Sorry.  Have some flowers fresh from the canalside.

Now I’m returning to my puzzle.  I’ve almost made a complete clue – it took me hours.

*run, trot, belly(no that doesn’t work), gallop, etc.  Feel free to insert city names, song titles, limericks (scatological) as you please.  I suddenly thought – perhaps in places like Delhi, they speak of the London Lurch.  Or the Cambridge Canter. Or maybe लंदन रन  (I’ve no idea how this actually translates – hope it isn’t offensive in any way.  It looks as if the words might have sort of alliterative or rhyming endings?).  Of course the simple way to satisfy curiosity on the subject of  how the rest of the world describes the effects of drinking foreign water would be to ask my doctor next week.  His name, accent and appearance strongly suggest that he will know at least one Asian language and he is after all, a doctor.

**One of the problems I’ve always had with problems is that when the simple approach doesn’t immediately give a solution, I tend to give up on good old fashioned thought and leap straight into the realms of imagination and invent an alternative.  Rarely producing a solution but often learning a lot about why other people have taken the trouble to learn the regular methods.

***What a fantastic discovery.  I could amble through crossword sites for hours discovering weird and wonderful configurations in the English vocabulary.  I did.  I particularly liked Faffle – to stammer.

****I’m not sure but I think this term may have derived from the wearing of the garment by train-spotters in  the fifties?  sixties?

*****Oh no, it was Five Days On the Road.

September 19, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I was supposed to be Grandbaby minding today

and tomorrow.  And I should be at Mrs Middle’s book club right now, or failing that, going out for dinner.  Or at least, preparing to eat something nice.

Instead, I’m languishing in the grip of some kind of stomach upset which may be a side effect of one of all those drugs which are supposed to be doing me good or an unwelcome development of the heartburn which has plagued me for years or a further attack of a dairy intolerance which I may or may not have had since we went to India two years ago.  Whatever the cause it’s infuriating and although even looking at food causes my innards to mutter rebellious things, I’m still hungry.   Especially after an evening spent in a manner which I will not detail since that would be more information than you need.

I’m just not accustomed to my stomach saying no.  Usually it says yes please and quickly.  The smell and thought of a  nice glass of wine and some kind of hot, tasty stirfry that Barney is making, are as inviting as ever but the minute I look at them there’s this weird sensation of absolute rejection.   Dry toast and tiny soup is the most it will let me have.  I feel betrayed!  And deprived.  And am a grouchy, (g)rumbly bunny.  Short pause for (g)rumbling and other unmentionable activities.

Anyway, the other day, luxuriating in free time at the computer (I actually miss the beast when I’m away) I found out how to make Photoshop resize a whole bunch of photos at the press of a button – something I already knew in theory but hadn’t put into practice.  So now I can just grab a picture, make it small enough for wordpress to handle and slap it in.  (there is some ironing of the details to do so some of them are still a bit big and some are a bit rough looking and I apologise if this means it takes a while to upload.  Who knows, I may even be able to fix that some time)

I will now grab and slap.

No canal holiday is complete without a heron, however tatty it’s looking,

or a kingfisher!

And though sheep are not a requirement, they frolic rather entertainingly.

It’s always a pleasure to see a horse with a view

But  a little disconcerting to see one step off the bank into the canal and set off along the water’s edge!  This is not normal or acceptable horse behaviour.  Unfortunately it wasn’t a place where we could reach the bank in order to let someone know about him and indeed there weren’t any houses to be seen.  Still, he seemed to know exactly where he was going!  One can only hope that he was a habitual escapee and his owner would also know exactly where he was going.

Speaking of which I am leaving now and I may be some time.  (But I will be back)

See?  Back.

Since I haven’t seen NGB for a very long time (and to avoid disappointing Christopher : ) I shall recall some of the ways in which we keep each other busy.  I expect NGB has now become more vertical in her traveling methods – a lot of our activities may have to be speeded up.  Imagine the following with a fast forward button.  I wonder if Mr and Mrs Middle’s living room will have acquired new configurations while I’ve been away.   As it’s been so long, it’s quite possible that most of the following will no longer be of any use so it’s also an opportunity to fix them in my mind in case of another GB arriving one day – who knows? After all, Eldest has a new girlfriend ….. *smirking* …. *

Putting lots of (toy) bricks into a container and letting small person take them out is entertaining for a while and so is picking her up and rushing out to touch, pat and taste** walls, fences, grass, stones and other such interesting things before rushing back in for a snack.  Outings in the pram, particularly to areas populated with cooing beaming people and decorated with assorted sparkly, dangly, shiny things like the beads at the local bead shop are usually nice for us both, though I recently detected a touch of impatience when I took too long choosing between colours and shinynesses for myself.

One of our favourite pastimes is her pressing any button on one of the appalling singing toys and me replicating the tune – she loves to press a button and make Grandma sing.  Or, when she hears a chainsaw or a drill outside, echoing the pitch, occasionally varying by adding an interval and watching out for the change of pitch when the tool wielder hits a hard patch.  Birdsong – a bit challenging for me but perhaps it will teach her something about octaves.  And then there’s “The ladies go nim nim…..”   Always a big favourite but hard on the knees after the tenth repetition.  And food of course.

Rhythm games, copying rhythms on appalling drummy toys, replicating hers when brick banging and beep button pressing.  Mrs Middle doesn’t have a piano but I seem to remember ours being a source of delight to the first  GB (a book of music adds to the fun but you have to bear in mind that the average GB will want to eat that and probably open it by tearing the back).

Hiding anyone’s head under a blanket or item of clothing will keep us busy for several minutes though I confess I get tired before she does especially as she doesn’t always wait for me to say “where is she???” before revealing herself and I get confused.  She, of course is not in the least bit confused – she knows exactly where she is.

Rolling and unrolling the enormous roll of purple plastic bags gives her enormous pleasure but has to be watched closely to avoid the risk of suffocation when she’s chewing it.  Also playing with the clothes dryer outside but you have to watch that she doesn’t get bits round her neck.  I’m sort of hoping these things will have disappeared by the time I next arrive as once she’s legging it round the house and garden it will be hard to watch out for them all the time.  Also hoping for a bit of matting on the stone step at the bottom of the wooden decking!

A standard favourite is crawling across the room at speed in order to remove as many DVDs from the shelf as possible before Grandma catches up and puts them back.  Likewise books, magazines (also good to eat and open in many ways – often destructive), Mummy’s press tags, Daddy’s hats and all the stacks of saucepans.  The tap on the wall outside is a magnet too, providing handholds for standing up and assorted textures and shapes and densities and even the odd drip.  A washing up bowl or bucket, with or without water is a good drum and hat and hiding place and chewy thing and always fun to throw around.  A passing cat or dog is a complete marvel especially if it will allow a bit of handling – this is also excellent Grandparent training in alertness and patience and second guessing since the wandering hands have to be guided and restrained to avoid mutual damage between animal and babe.

Climbing up and down the steps is an excellent time filler since it’s a slow and painstaking process and involves many reversals of direction and  sudden confusions about which leg is leading which hand and whether either should be going up or down.   Well I don’t suppose it will be any more, I expect it will now be over in a flash and I’ll be running up and down after her.

In theory, babies have a shorter attention span than adults.  In practice I’ve found NGB has more patience and perseverance than I have by a long way.  Most of the time, changes of  activity are instigated by me because I’m getting bored or tired except when I’ve offered her a game which will be restful and undemanding for me in which case she’s usually ready for a change before I’ve had time to fall asleep relax with my eyes wide open and all my faculties fully engaged!

Now I would like to know how to make floppy-eared rabbits out of handkerchieves please.

*OMG.  Not only am I becoming an anorak but a beady eyed potential MiL.  I’d better just shut up.

**I don’t do the tasting.  It’s very unadventurous of me  I know but I just don’t seem to be as interested in the taste of a wooden post as I probably was once.  Long ago.

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Expanded version of previous two posts. (you can just look at the pictures if you like)

I’m trying to work out exactly where and when we’ve been for the last two and a half weeks.  Do forgive me if some of this seems familiar.  I think I already wrote a post about some of it.  But there are place names you need to know – really – and naturally, a few more pics.

Dimly, I remember returning, exhausted and hobbling, from a very busy and enjoyable weekend which involved visiting an lovely old pub with a thatched Cruck Barn at Appletreewick in the Yorkshire Dales and a wander along the banks of the River Nidd which is worthy of note if only for its name.  Like Glasshouses, Smelthouses and Blubberhouses and the Timbles, Little and Nether, through which we passed.   We went to a fabulous restaurant in Leeds and I got to wander round the City  for a morning.  Best of all, we spent time with Barney’s sister and her daughter who are two of the nicest people we know.

This was followed by a journey across the Dales to Lancaster where Eldest lives, and then back into Yorkshire to visit the waterfalls at Ingleton.

Now my lovely sister-in-law fully understands that at least one of us walks best on flat ground at a very steady pace with frequent stops for photographs.  My equally lovely son also understands this but as the veteran of many triathlons and similarly grueling and lengthy endurance events, his understanding is of a completely different order.   Despite warnings about the length and severity of the walk and the drizzle which was falling with increasing wetness, he was confident that his aged parents and his beautiful and delightful Italian girlfriend would find the four and a half hour walk up one gorge, across a stretch of moorland and down another gorge easily manageable.    In fact most of us did manage it but I was saved the second half of the walk by the interposition of a road between the two gorges.  At this point, knowing that my knees and feet would not survive a downhill version of the uphill march we had just made I decided to wait by the road while the others descended and then returned with the car to fetch me.  As we had already done a two hour scramble and had apparently covered at least two and a half (often vertical*) miles I felt my honour was more than satisfied.  What’s more, as it was a typically beautiful wooded gorge with a number of splendid waterfalls and a ‘force’ at the top, I’d taken a sufficient number of photos to make me feel that the effort had been well worth it  and while I waited I was able to hobble (with a lot of  squawking and muttering) down as far as the first waterfall and back, have a short but cordial conversation with an elderly local and her dog and a longer but slightly exasperating conversation with a passing tourist and his family and take a number of photos of harebells, sheep and distant changes of light across the valley above the falls.

Later, we went to an Italian restaurant in Carnforth (better known for its station than its Italians) and ate delicious things and were entertained by the owners (who had, on previous occasions been charmed both by Eldest and by his lovely girlfriend and thoroughly enjoyed telling us their life story*)

Since then, we’ve rushed off with only a brief pause to repack and regroup, for a week on the boat, which was also very lovely and also exhausting.  This time, we were accompanied by a dear friend, who has terminal cancer, and his wife.  He’s too weak to do much walking or any locking but was able to steer from time to time so it fell to me and his wife to work the locks***, fortunately not too many – a route had been chosen which didn’t include Heartbreak Hill, aptly named for its many locks (29?) but did include an idyllic journey along the Macclesfield Canal and the Peak Forest Canal.   Glorious views across the Pennines, lovely treelined stretches and many rather imposing and splendid old mills.  We found another wonderful Italian restaurant rather surprisingly tucked away on the outskirts of Marple near the top of another flight of locks which we didn’t have to negotiate but were able to admire on the short walk to the restaurant.  Should you ever be in Marple and wanting dinner, I recommend Dolce Vita****, close to lock four, and a wander to the top of the flight where there is a magnificent example of a crossover bridge, designed to allow a horse, towing a narrowboat, to cross the canal without needing to be unhitched.  This is such a clever, elegant and photogenic design that you’re lucky only to have to see one or two photos of it.

Goyt Mill

Pennines from the Peak Forest Canal

Anyway, after this we might have been ready for a short break but there was the small matter of a visit from Youngest and all her family and Mr Youngest’s sister and her family.  We haven’t seen this couple since Youngest’s Ice wedding in Lapland but on that occasion, we got on so well that the opportunity to see them again couldn’t be missed (they live in the very far  frozen North of England – further even than Eldest or Sister in Law) .  The only difficulty being that we had exactly one day to arrive, unpack, prepare bedrooms, clean the house and do all the shopping, before they arrived.  It was a bit chaotic even before the gas ran out in the middle of preparing dinner (which was already running seriously late – nothing at all to do with everyone except me, going to the pub for a ‘quick’ drink before dinner nor the fact that one of the absent drinkers was also the head cook).  The dumpling cook  however, remained at home and it was gratifying that all the dumplings were eaten even though some of the beef stew was leftover.

Briefly returning to the Macclesfield Canal near Marple, I stuck my head out of the galley and look what I saw!  *Waving*  (you need to click to enlarge in order to read it)

Yay!  the new gas bottles have arrived.  I can put the camping cooker away.

* Vertical, with lumpy bits.  If you look at the google map link and zoom in, you can see the path up the left hand gorge and how it sweeps across to the right, through a farm and past another small group of buildings before descending through the left hand gorge.  I made it all the way to the second lot of buildings!  I am impressed with my endurance!

**She had hoped that when she married an Italian chef, that she’d be swept romantically away to live in Italy but instead, he moved to England and they have owned no fewer than 10 restaurants all over England.  I think she’s still hoping to get to live in the most romantic country in the world one day – perhaps when they retire : )

***Yes we could have steered but she finds it unnerving and I find it dull and stressful.  We both preferred shortish spells of enormous effort and a bit of time spent on shore occasionally chatting to other boaters.  And the feeling of virtue engendered by doing Exercise!

****Dolce Vita is at the top left hand corner of the map and the top of the flight of locks is near the bottom left corner.  You can see the junction of the Macclesfield and Peak Forest canals and the crossover bridge there too.  What you can’t see is the steepness of the hill alongside the locks – they’re all quite deep locks and I think the total fall in that section is about 50 feet.  Aah, and the distance from the top lock to Lock four is about 520 feet.*****

*****Why on Earth am I doing this?  Must be something to do with travelling up and down so many steep hills recently, in the company of an anorak .  Well, if you’re interested and you know how, you can work out the steepness.  ******

******Oh bother.  I must be turning into an anorak myself.  If I work it out using the method described by a lot of geeky bike people on Google, it comes to a gradient of 10.2%.  What on earth does that mean?  And WHY am I doing this?

September 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Busy busy – oh, I think we’ve stopped.

We’re back – I think?  Yes we really are.  I think my feet are on the ground (just checking).

Ok, so some time ago, Barney had his second cataract removed and now has two new eyes.  Typically, he finds coping without fulltime glasses a bit trying.  If you’re like me, a person who’s had to juggle glasses and life and different viewing distances for years, you’ll understand that it’s a big change from putting glasses on in the morning before getting out of bed and keeping them there till it’s time to put the light out.  Well my sympathy is limited.  Especially as I had to do the eye drops four times a day – again.  Never mind.  Now he keeps asking people if they notice something different and they all peer at him in puzzlement.  Haircut?  trimmed moustache?  Ear replacement?  Nose job?  To me, it looks as though he’s just woken up since all these years I’ve only ever seen his naked eyes in bed.

The week after the new eyes, we went to Leeds and Lancaster and two days after returning Barney went to a funeral in Bolton (a four hour drive) and the day after that we set off on the boat for a week.  Annoyingly, that was a two and half hour drive in the same direction.  Never mind.

A week of mixed weather and considerable energetic locking saw some of us (me) feeling perhaps a little over-exercised and ready for a break, only the day after we staggered in with our mounds of washing and unpacking, we had a visitation from Youngest, her husband and three children, Youngest’s sister in law and her husband, two boys and a girlfriend and the dog.   Yes we knew we’d only have a day to get ready for them but it was absolutely worth all the panic and hysteria as it was the only weekend we could all get together.  And they are the most delightful family.  It was a joy to see the parents again and to meet the boys and girlfriend and the visit went by in a whirl of merry chaos, culinary disasters and triumphs and general overspilling of good will and affection.

Since I am not one to spare the details, I shall probably repeat  all this in a day or two, with embellishments.  But meanwhile, the garden has survived our absence.  the herbs are thriving and so are a number of things that I feared might have been errors while one or two plants are looking a bit sad.  The cat clearly wants to keep checking that we’re staying by getting into places where she’s not allowed and looking smug when she’s rooted out.  The house martins have splattered the glossy purple leaves of the ajugans with white droppings and the white plaster statue with black ones.

On a less happy note, I keep driving past the road to the home of two of my best and dearest friends who have left the country to live in Europe.  They left while we were away so we didn’t get to say goodbye properly and I miss them – ridiculously, I rarely had time to drop in when they were there and now they’re gone I feel as if there’s a big gap in the woods, up their tiny lane.  (Thinking of you both and of course the big stripy fella.)

It’s good to be at home again for more than a couple of days and my word, haven’t you all been busy blogging!  Will take me another day or three to catch up.

Here are a couple more photos.

Cows (in case you couldn’t tell)

The Peak district

And some bridges – treated to a bit of photoshop displacement which was inspired by rosie.  (I couldn’t find a fractal button but displacement is quite fun).

(Afterthought:  We missed most of the 9/11 anniversary discussions and remembrances in all the chaos here but here and here are links to sentiments expressed so well and so much better than I could have done that I wanted to acknowledge them.)

September 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Been and gone again

We went, we had a good time shopping, eating, ambling along riversides and scrambling up waterfalls, we met Eldest’s girlfriend, who is both beautiful and delightful, we saw Sister in Law and her lovely daughter and now that we are completely knackered, we are off again on the boat.

Sister in Law is clearly a dryad at heart.


And here is an ‘Orkshire Dale.

And Ingleton Force which is in the ‘Orkshire Dale.  Actually I’m not sure whether it was really called Ingleton Force but by the time we reached it, after what seemed like a very long and mostly vertical climb, I didn’t much care.

And a penny tree.  I’m not sure what is the purpose of hammering pennies into the tree but an awful lot of people seem to have done it.

So Eldest did one too and Barney and the gorgeous Italian girlfriend watched.

See you soon : )




September 1, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments