dear diary : a long lazy weekend

We are still here at the cottage in Scotland.  Maybe we will be stranded here if the petrol crisis continues!

Last Thursday we worked all day in the garden – I tackled the steep slope that falls away from the lane above.  Just to recap – this is how we left it at the end of July. You might remember that DH is terracing the slope with planks of treated wood but as usual we are only part way through this project as more pressing work has taken over. We have been building up the banking, which is quite loose sandy soil and easily erodes, by adding barrow loads of well-rotted compost from one of the large bins. So now it has become extremely fertile and the weeds and wildflowers moved in whilst we were away.

And this is what we came back to in the picture below……the self-seeded poppies have been spectacular though and I carefully weeded out the chickweed and bitter cress hiding amongst them but is probably also supporting them too. Hopefully sometime this next week DH will get back to the terracing.

This is the view from above standing on the lane looking down into the garden.

If anything is guaranteed to give me backache then this is the place.  Normally I hand weed kneeling down but on a slope this is barely possible and the uneven and contorted posture I end up in is a recipe for disaster and certainly mega backache.  .

By the weekend we had to finally acknowledge the weariness that had crept upon us after a very long and busy summer so during these last few days we have been relaxing….both in mind and body and have tried to ignore the problems going on in the wider world around us as sometimes they just feel insurmountable.  It feels like the country is in such a mess and so directionless at the moment the problems will never be sorted out and the worst of it is that every problem always seems to boil down to money – either tremendous costs or a lack of. 

So on Friday with a change of scene and a rest in mind we put the last of the celery soup into a flask and headed up the road to Portpatrick, a pretty little village with a harbour and usually this is where you find most of the tourists. 

Portpatrick faces out into the Irish Sea on the other side of the peninsula to us and on a clear day you can see the land mass of Northern Ireland looming in the distance 21 miles away.  Somewhere here is the spot that Boris proposes to build his connecting bridge (or was it a tunnel).  I for one would be strongly against the idea.  Why would you want to route thundering big juggernauts through this beautiful place.

There are a number of ‘touristy’ shops here, a café or two and a row of pubs with outside seating along the front……and believe it or not an amusement arcade (on the right of this picture). 

Luckily the place wasn’t very busy though which was nice.

We had a wander around the Lighthouse Pottery gift shop looking for possible gifts but I didn’t really see anything that would have made a nice present for anyone.  I have bought quite a lot of bits and pieces from here over the years but the stock has changed overtime and is not as ‘different’ as it once was.  Smuggler’s Cove was closed and the Lifeboat shop didn’t have anything appealing either so I just left a donation.

We walked around the back lanes to reach the main road in to the village.  This is where the churches are.  I particularly love the Episcopal Church and their lovely decorative sign.  

A little way further down the street just off one of the side roads is the really old church, a ruin now but the tower is still intact.  Some of DH’s relatives lie in the graveyard here. 

So far we have found two gravestones with his family name clan Kerr (from his mum’s side).   Kerr is from the old Norse meaning marsh dweller and they originated from Normandy (the French settlement of Norsemen). The Kerr’s have typically been associated with left-handedness, and some of their castles and tower houses have spiral staircases designed with this in mind as they spiral round in the opposite direction to most. DH though isn’t left handed and so luckily we have no need of a left-handed staircase!

Clan Kerr has 3 tartans the modern, (red, green and black), the hunting (blue, green and black) and the old colours ( a more muted red, green and black).  The coat of arms bears the moto in latin Sero, Sed, Serio  which means ‘late but in earnest’ and I would say that sums DH up perfectly (but don’t tell him I said so!!

Saturday we had planned to garden again.  But it didn’t happen.  DH felt out of sorts which is unusual.  Should I be worried – he is never ill with anything other than a cold once in a blue moon?  I suggested another lazy day for him whilst I made use of the time and cleaned the bathroom and tidied around.  We had lunch and once everything was washed and put away I got out the sketchbook again for a little practising doing a few quick 10 minute sketches while DH quietly read and dozed.  This was quite an unusual, but enjoyable, afternoon for us and I could get to like it.

On Sunday we continued with yet more ‘lazing around’.  DH made soup….tomato this time whilst I just pottered doing nothing in particular.  During the afternoon I spent a lovely couple of hours with my sketchbook and watercolours again.

We had a chat with one of the caravaners whose caravan is next to our boundary fence.  He is packing up and pulling off the site as a few of them are.  The new owner has made it impossible for them to stay with his new rules – he requires everyone to change their vans every 10 years and second hand ones cannot be sited. Eric has been here since well before we bought the cottage.  He lives alone now as his wife died suddenly (aged only 60) from a heart attack about 10 years ago and visiting the caravan and his friends here has been a big support to him.  His caravan is quite old now but still fully functional and as he must be around 70 a brand new caravan on a pension would not be a viable buy.

How does scrapping caravans after only 10 years benefit anyone especially the environment?  It only benefits the pockets of a few including the site owners who charge to have a van removed and then charge a large commission on a new one.  Caravans these days are built to last longer are well insulated and double glazed – there should be no reason to scrap them after ten years.  The site owner claims there is no market for second hand vans but I would challenge that.

On Sunday evening we had a long night of rain….continuous and quite heavy though we managed to sleep through the rhythmic pounding on the caravan roof and finally awoke to brilliant sunshine. We took advantage of the good weather and had a trip round the bay to Wigtown who are celebratng their book week though the events are much more limited this year due to Covid.

And now our few rest days must end and I need to work up some energy to get down to the gardening once again so that we don’t find that our list of tasks are increasing.

In and amongst my thoughts keep drifting away to Christmas.  I am trying to stop them but then I notice Christmas is creeping in at every turn.  All the Christmas magazines are on sale in the shops, the Lifeboat shop had a stand of Christmas cards, I received an email from Booths about their Christmas book and a few others about their mega advent calendars (at mega prices) and now my mum is asking me what we all intend doing at Christmas.  It seems Christmas and the planning of Christmas is almost unavoidable this early.  At least I don’t have to worry about a turkey – our Nut Roast will be made well ahead of time and be resting in the freezer.

seasons :: warm September days

Such warm and glorious September days at the moment; but without doubt the very last of summer is slowly slipping away. I never mind too much though and I look forward to this new season like I do every season as each brings its own rewards. Even though the last of the flowers are fading fast the hedgerows here are bursting with colour, bright red hips and berries, leaves turning to that rich golden brown and the majestic skeletons of thistle and cow parsley towering above the dying grassy verges. 

For me this is the season of gathering. 

Gathering in the last of the homegrown produce from the garden; tomatoes, apples and courgettes…. gathering free food from the hedgerows and restocking my pantry with dried fruits, lentils and chickpeas (shortages allowing) ready for those warming one pot meals that go well together with chunks of homemade bread.

But there is also a different type of gathering that I look forward to – gathering new recipes to try at this time of year – I probably do most of my baking during this season, gathering books to read – old and new and magazines that will provide inspiration for the coming months, and of course gathering together candles and my cosiest of blankets ready for those long lazy evenings by the fireside and best of all gathering the family together around the table sharing a meal and a bit of chit chat.

We have been at the cottage here on the Mull of Galloway for just over a week now, the village is sleepy quiet as most of the visitors have returned home. We have spent most of our time as usual in the garden and I can’t deny that it has been such hard work.  A mixture of old age causing tired and aching muscles and a garden far too overgrown through not having been here for the last few weeks.

I had planned to do some knitting and a bit of tidying in the caravan when it rains and we couldn’t work in the garden but guess what….it hasn’t rained yet other than a little overnight.

DH has spent most of the time in the garden trying to reshape the holly trees which is a mammoth task.  They have not been attended to as they should have been and are far too tall and a bit misshapen.  Getting them back into a pleasing shape is going to be difficult. There is much muttering going on.

Meanwhile, I have been crawling around on hands and knees weeding in all the borders. They need a good sort out this autumn.  Some plants need dividing, some are just in the wrong place, and some need cutting back drastically. There is an abundance of chickweed this year but it is easily removed along with the bittercress and red campion but the alkanet not so as the tap root goes down deep into the soil.

I have been snipping off the heads of the chamomile that self-seed around the seaside garden to put in the flower press, they make wonderful cards

Each morning we seem to be finding a cooking apple on the lawn which has dropped from the very top of the Bramley tree; it is too high up for us to pick them so we just wait until they fall off and hope we get to them before the wildlife.  Yesterday whilst we were roaming around the countryside we picked some blackberries too so I could put the two together and make a blackberry and apple crumble. I don’t keep flour at the caravan or have any sugar (I like my apples tart though) so I cheated and bought a packet of Tesco’s crumble topping and stirred in a handful of desiccated coconut for extra crunch.  It was amazingly good.

Once our evening meal is over and the washing up done we both flop for a while. I usually play a couple of games of patience but recently I have become addicted to those Codeword crossword puzzles. Normally I have just torn the odd one out of the back of my mum’s Woman’s Weekly that she passes on to me but this week I actually bought myself a book of them in Tesco.

After ringing my mum at 8 o’clock (when I know she will have watched Maigret which is being rerun at the moment) we settle down to watch a video which I can play on my laptop as we don’t have a TV here at the cottage and the radio is often not that entertaining.

Currently we are going through the Royale Family box set….howling with laughter – I know all these people in one way or another though thankfully I can say my dad was absolutely nothing like Jim Royale and luckily my daughters are not like Denise in respect of their childcare!

We did have a day off from the gardening last Sunday.  It was a gloriously warm and sunny day so we made mushroom soup, poured it into a flask and went for a drive along the coast road to the neighbouring village of Ardwell for a picnic.  We drew into the picnic site that overlooks the bay and watched the seagulls bobbing about on the waves.

Afterwards we did a couple of quick 5 minute sketches before moving on to the Castle Kennedy estate to the tea room for a cup of tea and a scone…..saying yes to both jam and clotted cream as a treat. I brought the little piece of dried seaweed home with me so I can have another go. The light sitting on the beach was so bright that it was hard to capture the depth of colour and often it is easier to see this in a photograph more than in real life.

It was too late in the afternoon to go around the gardens so instead we drove on to New Luce and had a pleasant walk around the village.  I feel every day of sunshine is now quite precious as all too soon the weather will change.

I love this wee cottage and the gardens beyond. Each of them displays the personality of the owners.

Not sure if Mary and Billy refers to the occupants, two dogs or maybe even two goats!

A cottage with a true upcycled garden full of repurposed artifacts. I especially love the fact that the owner has used the front of an old shed as an archway.

Yesterday we were in WH Smiths in town and I own up to the fact that I couldn’t resist purchasing this year’s Country Living Christmas magazine. Starting to think about Christmas this early does go against the grain a bit but I do need to think ahead and start planning especially as I want to make more homemade presents this year for friends and I need some inspiration.

Welcome as ever to new followers and readers – I am never quite sure why anyone wants to hear my ramblings but there you go – I know I always love to know what you are all doing.

back soon x

dear diary :: autumn closing in

Hello, remember me?…..It has been a while and far longer than I thought since I last ventured here into my quiet little space. I hope everyone is well and life is good for you.  For me it has been the usual comings and goings and the holiday season, during July and August, was a bit of a whirlwind…but I survived and now DH and I have retreated to our little cottage in Scotland for a long rest; well it might be a rest or not as there is a lot of gardening to do again.

We seem to have come to the end of summer now, the grandchildren are back in school and nursery and routine has come along once again. I can feel autumn closing in on us with the each new day – the morning dew soaked grass and the darker evenings. Everywhere is awash with the brightest red berries and a few dried leaves can be seen to flutter down. We are eating freshly picked apples from the garden and foraging in the hedgerows for the ripest, juiciest blackberries and those heady days of summer seem far behind us.

It is hard to remember all that has happened in the last few weeks, there has been a lot of visits here and there, so we have not been in one place long enough to really get down to blogging – I will fill you in briefly and I think the pictures I took along the way will speak for themselves.

I believe I left you abruptly back in June when we were at the cottage for 3 wonderful sun packed weeks, knee deep in weeds and with a task list the length of a fresh toilet roll, and no we didn’t get everything completed but then we never do and looking around now it is as if we never spent those 3 weeks in the garden everyday as everything has grown again but this time with a vengeance.

We began the summer in mid-July with a garden party complete with Disco Dome for Little L’s seventh birthday and her friends – as you can imagine it was a great hit with the kids. It was the hottest day of the year though and we had to rush out and buy a cheap gazebo to provide some shade for the guests. The soft drinks flowed all afternoon to make sure no-one became dehydrated and social distancing for the adults was observed.

There has been lots of cake too as the birthday continued over many days and two weeks later we had another get together with a picnic at Newby Hall to celebrate the birthday with family members. Another lovely day, the gardens (especially the two long perennial borders) were beautiful and the girls had great fun in the teddy bear house and the children’s play park and water fountains.

It is worth a trip here just to see the spectacular shell designs covering the walls of two identical summerhouses down by the river.

Somewhere in and amongst these events we had a quick trip back up to the cottage for a few days and managed to clean out the pond (more about this later). The rose was out in full bloom which I was relieved to see as I had hard pruned it later than I should have but it didn’t seem to mind.

On the way up to Scotland we took the longer scenic route from Gretna to Dumfries for a change and stopped off at the lovely little historic village of Powfoot (again I will tell you more about this interesting little place another day).

Back home and a quick turnaround to unpack and repack and we were off on our jolly hols with all the grandchildren and mums and dads to Scarborough for a week. It turned out to be one of those great British family seaside holidays and we had good weather which was a bonus and spent many days playing on the beach and in the sea.

And what a week we had – so much fun…but quite exhausting we did everything on offer from the castle to the Pirate Ship, the beach, the Spa theatre, shopping in the old market hall, picnics in the park and a ride on the little train and of course the donkeys and if that wasn’t enough we had a go at painting some pots.

We had one morning of torential rain but that was OK as we had booked the Spa theatre that day for the Teddy Bear’s Picnic put on by Scarborough’s resident spa orchestra (they are brilliant by the way and as part of the performance introduced the children to all the instruments and the sounds they make individually).

Here are some highlights of our week.

We mainly kept to the North bay side where it is often much quieter and you can catch the little train round to Scalby Mills from Peasholme Park but before we went home we spent a day on the south side where they have all the amusement arcades and rides. We could not miss going on a trip out to sea on the Pirate Ship even with a long long wait in the queue – all week Sweetie had been singing her favourite song – the Pirate Song she has learnt at nursery.

Note the hair in the picture above….Sweetie has certainly inherited the untameable wild hair of DH’s family. DH has always had fine flyaway hair that just does what it wants and no hairbrush has ever managed to tame it.

The week went so quickly, too quickly for the children who did not want to leave all this fun and the beach. We left with the intention of doing it all again next year. Our first night back at home in our own beds and we slept like a log probably from sheer exhaustion of a week with 3 grandchildren to entertain.

But the rest was short lived as once more it was all hands to the deck to unpack, wash, iron and repack ready to go off again. We had some of those passporting tickets for the Ryedale Outdoor Folk Museum in Hutton le Hole in North Yorkshire that expired just before the August Bank Holiday. We went there last year and everyone loved it so we spent a few days staying with my younger daughter and the two girls so we could go for the free revisit. And after the cost of Scarborough we needed free entertainment. The great British seaside holiday is certainly not a cheap option especially now that accommodaton prices and entrance fees have in some cases doubled.

The outdoor folk museum is a big hit with the grandchildren – they just loved the little old cottages and shops full of interesting old things.

The next day we drove up to Preston Park near Stockton and conveniently just down the road from my mum’s apartment so we were able to pop in to see her with the grandchildren (who she hadn’t seen in a long while due to the Covid restrictions). Preston Park is equally as good for kids as the Ryedale museum – they have an outdoor Victorian street with little old fashioned shops which includes a sweet shop and a toy shop where you can actually buy things. I chose the chocolate raisins (my favourite) from the rows of sweetie jars on the shelf. They are weighed out on the old fashioned scales by the ounce and poured into a paper bag – quite novel for little ones to see these days. There is also a haberdashery shop where you can try on old hats and the Police Station complete with a very harsh looking cell. They have now extended the grounds and have the most amazing walled garden and a woodland walk.

Decisions, decisions….

In and amongst all the comings and goings I hardly had any time for any craft work but had to carve out some time to make my sister in law’s birthday card and present for her 65th birthday. As it was a special birthday I made one of my concertina cards which some of my readers will remember from past posts on here. They are all watercolour sketches from my sketchbook over the years with a little poem running through and it folds into a tiny keepsake book tied with a ribbon. I have started a list now of who I have given these to so that I don’t forget and send them the same again for another birthday.

I finally got to finish this project I started last year which was turning some of my watercolour sketches into seed packets.

I dropped a picture of the sketch into a seed packet template and printed them out onto creamy cartridge paper to give them an old fashioned look. Then cut around the template to the form the packet shape. Once folded and glued together I filled each one, there were five in the set, with seeds I had collected and bundled them up and tied with rafia. I also enclosed a garden voucher for her to buy something for her garden.

We didn’t have much time to ourselves over the summer just an odd day here and there and in and amongst our comings and goings we spent a delightful afternoon in the beautiful gardens at Renishaw Hall in Derbyshire with our sketchbooks. I am certainly out of practise but intend to try and do more when time allows as it is such a relaxing activity.

I haven’t been buying books recently but these two caught my eye. The knitting one is from The Works and I am attempting to knit the little dress with a fabric skirt – the long sleeved version for the winter. I have some pretty floral soft lightweight corduroy for the skirt that I bought last year and never got it made into anything. I am aiming for Sweetie’s birthday in November (finger’s crossed). The novel is a true diary and part of the Mass Observation project during the second world war. You may remember the screen play about Nella Last, Housewife 49, played brilliantly by Victoria Wood – well this is the Dewsbury version (Dewsbury being only a few miles away from us) about a shop assistant called Kathleen Hey.

So there you have my summer in a nutshell, I hardly had time to draw breath until 3 weeks ago when I visited the dentist and afterwards promptly came down with a cold – annoyingly the first for many years and it meant we had to postpone our ‘respite’ visit to mum over the August Bank Holiday….to say she was disappointed is an understatement but I recovered enough to go and see her the following weekend. She is going downhill quite quickly now as her ability to move around is difficult and very slow. She has even allowed the carers to cook her evening meal now so things must be bad! We are in the throws of looking for a rise and recline chair….though mum is adamant she wants a settee – they are available in a two seater but are near on £3,000…..phew.

Must go now to venture into our jungle once again….there are beds to weed and a lot of pruning back to get the garden winter ready. I am unimpressed that the weeds thought they had free run of the garden whilst our backs were turned.

Welcome to my new readers and followers – it is strange that I acquire many new followers when I am not posting – perhaps my silence should be telling me something. And thank you for the ‘ hope you are OK’ enquiries from long time readers it gives me the prompt I need to restart posting and your concern is much appreciated. (And Jayne I know I owe you an email it will be coming soon and sorry I missed you on your last visit to the Mull).

Have a great weekend everyone…love to all x

PS: apolgies for any spelling, grammatical errors I have done this post in a rush!