dear diary ~ always the unexpected

Well it is in my life!

I thought things were going too well but after the last few days I am resigned to thinkng that my life is never going to be simple or straightforward.

Last Sunday night we made an unexpected trip up to North Yorkshire to stay with my younger daughter and our two granddaughters, Little L and Sweetie, as she was in a fix. Her car had broken down the week before and it was still waiting inspection at the garage it had been recovered to. It wasn’t evident if it was the battery or the alternator or something else and the garage were fully booked with work for a fortnight. Last week she managed to borrow a car from a friend but that was not possible for this week so it fell to us to help out as she had the children to get to school and nursery and herself to work.

We stayed until Wednesday night when she managed to hire a car to get her through Thursday and today until the car is fixed, hopefully by clse of play tonight. Before we came back down home we drove up to see mum with flowers for her birthday which was yesterday – it was a nice surprise for her as she wasn’t expecting us even though we could only stay an hour. I never make firm plans for visiting her now as she gets confused over dates and times so I tend to tell her the night before a visit but in this case I didn’t even mention we might call just in case we couldn’t. My sister took her out for a meal yesterday to celebrate her 97th birthday.

I was telling Sweetie who is only four that great granny has now had the pleasure of 97 birthdays and very soon in 3 years time, fingers crossed, she might be celebrating one hundred – she was impressed and keeps asking her mum now when she will be 100 (Sweetie that is not great granny).

So back home again and we found it had been snowing whilst we were away and it is mighty cold – not good for the heating bills. On totting up the receipts for the four days away we had spent the grand sum of £110, mostly on bits and pieces and buying snacks and drinks out to keep us going as well as bits of shopping for evening meals and lunches. DH also did a few jobs around the house for my daughter – one of them was replacing the sealant around the kitchen worktop and along the bath – the price of a tube of sealant now is £9.80. As he has only used half the tube I suggested he replaced some of the sealant in our shower with what is left before it goes dry in the tube.

I was amazed at how the money adds up so quickly. We didn’t have time to fill a flask on the way up and I need a stop to give my back a break from sitting in the car so our first spend was the motorway Costa – £9.20 for two drinks and a packet of oat biscuits which we shared. On Monday our daughter was working around Northallerton all day so after dropping her off we had a look around the town and then went to Strikes garden centre cafe just outside the town centre for lunch but what a rip off. DH had the cheese and chutney sandwich which was served with coleslaw and side salad but his double espresso was charged as 2 @ £2.25 making it £4.50 (most places charge about 70p to £1 for the extra shot of coffee in a double).

I am not a sandwich fan and prefer baked potato with cheese. Their menu only had baked potato with Chicken Tikka or a Butternut Squash Curry filling and they were both £8.95 and more of a main meal. I had wanted something a bit lighter so enquired if they did a plain baked potato with just a little cheese and coleslaw. Yes, the lady said that was fine but when it came to paying they charged me for a Chicken Tikka and I pointed out I was having cheese and coleslaw but she said it would be the same price as the Chicken Tikka as they had no other price point to press on the till. So our light lunch cost a staggering £22.55 – needless to say we will not be going again.

I bought mum a lovely bunch of mixed colour tulips and stopped to get her a take out cappuccino and a lemon tart (her favourite) from a local Costa. Unfortunately, although I asked for a lemon tart and they had plenty and it said lemon tart on the receipt, when I took it out of the bag to give to mum it was a cherry bakewell! Still she enjoyed them.

Today it is little Freddie’s 4th birthday – so we will be going to see him with his card and present. He is super excited to be having a Paw Patrol party with a few friends on Sunday and now my younger daughter is mobile again she will bring Little L and Sweetie down to join in the party.

So I had better get my skates on to prepare for their arrival tomorrow – I have beds to make up and food to prepare. We are on rations now until next week as part of the £110 we just spent on our travels was really this week’s housekeeping, so I will have to be very creative to conjour up some satisfying meals from very little.

I am a little disappointed that all my plans for January have already gone off course and the money I had saved from being very careful and not spending money unless necessary has had to go on eating out. Let’s hope February proves to be a bit better.

Welcome to new readers – you will notice a lack of photos until normal life resumes, and apologies for not being able to join in with the Scraphappy Challenge for January.

creating Christmas * day 1

December 1st – the day my Christmas preparations begin. It will be a simple Christmas for us this year but already most days on my calendar up to the 25th are spoken for….not sure how that happened!

I have started my Christmas countdown, not with an advent calendar – (we are sparse on those here this year – so I will find my little homemade one from years ago to put out on the mantelpiece), but with a Christmas treat – a day out. We actually went yesterday because we had a free entry voucher and it was the last day to use it. Many of the properties are closed now for the winter season but we found that Quarry Bank Mill in Styal, Cheshire was still open and not too far away.

We took homemade mushroom soup in a flask with chunks of bread and cheese. It was a very cold day so this made a good warming start to the visit. It is a fascinating place showcasing what life was like for the cotton mill workers in contrast to the affluent mill owner and his family. Styal village cottages were built for the mill workers and are still lived in today. The family home was originally a holiday home that they then lived in full time when the mill was built next to it. The complex is in a wonderful setting and quite different to many of the mills set up in grimy Manchester at that time.

The family were Unitarian so the house itself was very plain and simple compared to most National Trust houses where wealth is most certainly on display. I just adored this beautiful little writing desk.

We spent a pleasurable four hours there wandering around the house, the mill, the gardens and the village and afterwards dived into the cafe to warm up with a large cup of hot chocolate. As they close quite early we had to skip the Apprentice House but we have been round there before – I remember it was very bleak and cold inside and was set up to house orphaned children that worked in the mill and many ran away.

As we had a free entry voucher it seemed only right to donate something by buying a few things from the National Trust shop. It was hard to decide on just what as there were some lovely things on sale. In the end I chose a pack of National Trust Christmas cards and two fat quarters of the cotton fabric woven at the mill and printed locally. I intend to make a Christmas stocking with it – maybe not this year – time is feeling a bit on the short side already.

On our way home we called at John Lewis in Cheadle to order the TV table that we had decided on. We have quite a few vouchers for John Lewis so it cost us nothing. We bought the TV quite a while ago – it was bigger than our old one and has been balancing on the IKEA children’s table we bought for the grandchildren to play on when they come. Delivery will be next week. I am trying to persuade DH to also buy the little cabinet that I saw and is part of the same range….watch this space.

Today we have to go to town to pick up a few parcels from Next. We have been invited to a party on Saturday night and I really don’t have anything to wear. We have very few dress shops in our town now so to save having a trip out to Meadowhall, our nearest shopping mall, I ordered a selection of garments online which I have never done before for myself. I am keeping my fingers crossed that something will look OK and fit.

I have a present to buy too – it is a 30th birthday and I am not sure what to get – I am hoping for some inspiration when we get into town.

dear diary >> it’s been a while…

Somehow time escapes me and although I never intend to have a blog break I often find that my life is just not geared up for being consistent….about anything. I have quite a valid reason for my sudden disappearance this time…..at some point, just after my last post in August, before the sad announcement about our dear Queen and at the time when my back problems were much improved I fell….backwards…… from a height…..directly onto my back and not only damaged all that was nicely on the mend but I am now suffering more pain particularly around my coccyx area and the numbness in my feet and legs came back with avengence.

When I was checked over after the accident I was found to have a significantly raised blood pressure of 221/177 which would not come down again and was ordered to see my GP immediately! Daily readings had to be taken over a week or two and slowly the figures reduced to a more reasonable level and now after a lot of walking, rest and meditation it is back to my normal level of 120/70 for most of the time but for some reason my pulse remains a little higher than usual at 70 beats a minute rather than 50 to 60 beats per minute. The GP says that 70 is still good but to me it feels like it is going at a bit of a gallop, but I can live with that.

Last week we managed a trip to Scotland but had to have an overnight hotel stay in Carlisle both ways to break the journey – an expensive exercise but one that prevented further back problems as travelling in the car does bring on the pain and stiffness quite quickly.

As you might imagine after a few months of neglect the garden resembled a tropical rainforest which we had to fight our way into. So much had grown and many of the plants were laced with goosegrass. DH had to do most of the work on his own to try and tame back the overgrowth amongst the undergrowth.

Meanwhile, I could only potter but managed this one border that runs alongside the lane and was full of weeds, dying stems of plants that have finished flowering and grass from strimming the verge (which is done by our neighbour’s gardener but he only cuts it when it has grown long and then never clears away the strimmed grass). It took me all week in short shifts as gardening is the most difficult thing for me to do at the moment. So this was the before…

…and after….

Thank goodness for the colourful hydrangeas at this time of year – they certainly brighten up any garden and I cut a few of the heads to dry and bring home.

There was an abundance of apples on the Bramley tree and the Braeburn I planted a couple of years ago had born a wonderful harvest of fruit.

Surprisingly, we had little trouble from the new neighbour……there had been changes though and the bright yellow barrier has been put in place at the top of the lane that we share but it was open all the time we were there and no sign of a padlock…however, we cannot be sure if he still intends to lock this ‘gate’ in the future against our expressed wishes that we do not want a locked gate on our right of way unless he obtains a Court Order and it is unlikely from previous cases and the legal advice we have received that the courts would rule in his favour. A locked gate would prevent any of our guests and deliveries having access without being given a key and as a previous Judge said in a recent similar case ‘one cannot be handing out keys to every Tom, Dick or Harry that might visit’. Access for disabled visitors to the cottage would be far too difficult which would not be acceptable either.

It was good to be back at the cottage (for new readers – we presently stay in a caravan on site whilst the cottage undergoes some renovations). We had plenty of sea air and a few lovely walks around the sleepy village and down to the harbour and then along Shore Street to the Low Road that runs adjacent to the shore – it is much more sheltered along this pathway when there are cold winds. We cannot access the beach from our cottage at the moment as the winter sea moved some very large rocks around and cut off our access. Hopefully the winter sea this year might roll them back again.

So we are now back at home but it will be brief as we are now preparing to go and visit my mum for a few days whilst my sister is on holiday. Before we go I have soup to make and apples to cook and freeze so I had better get a move on.

I hope everyone is quite well and keeping warm. I am following along with you all on your blogs and will get back to commenting soon, I promise. If you are reading this I hope you are feeling better Lyssa and I am looking forward to your challenge Sue (we almost stopped in Garstang on Monday but decided on Chorley in the end) and love your new title Jules and the pictures of Mull – Scotland is quite a magical place isn’t it – I feel quite refreshed after our visit. And to everyone else have a lovely week and enjoy the sunshine…. if you are lucky enough to have some.

Back soon x

dear diary >> my first day out

Once again thank you for the lovely messages and advice / links and well wishes. It all helps.

I couldn’t help myself though in the last day or two and did far more than was good for me….so today will be a rest day to recover. I so want to get back to normal, but my back problems soon let me know if I over do it and put the brakes on or rather… turn the pain on, and that quickly puts a halt to any ideas I might have of attempting too many housekeeping chores. I find it more painful mentally not being able to do even the most mundane of jobs around the house and I cannot chance anything at the moment that might ultimately prevent me going on our holiday with the family and grandchildren in August. Being well enough for then is my priority goal.

This weekend we had planned a little test run of a short outing to the nearby village of Emley who were hosting an Open Gardens event. It was to be my first proper day out – well not quite a day – just a couple of hours.

Emley must be one of the highest villages in the local Huddersfield area and nestles besides the famous Emley Moor mast which is a Grade 2 listed building and the tallest free standing structure in the UK. The views from there are amazing. Emley has a population of just 1,500 compared with my own village of 8,500 and has retained that wonderful community spirit. As I knew I would not be able to walk around all of the gardens we chose a few clustered around the church so that when I needed to I could have a rest inside the church and a cup of tea. Before we left we drove to the last garden because it was a little way out of the village and this turned out to be my favourite.

As many readers may know wandering around the open gardens has become one of my leisure pursuits during the summer and has been the activity I have missed the most since I have been out of action. It was an absolute joy to spend a couple of hours soaking up the delights of each individual garden….I felt quite intoxicated by the time I had to finally give in and call it a day but the effort was worth it and any discomfort I had during the evening was outweighed by the pleasure.

Even though I have been lounging about DH has been busy and now I am able to help with a few more of the household chores he has been able to get back to his own mounting task list – one of which was to finish the little greenhouse that we had installed in 2020. He has added another shelf to the back wall.

This lovely poster came in a little pack of old gardening leaflets from the Preston Park outdoor museum and I have mounted it on cardboard to hang in my greenhouse – it seems a shame to keep it hidden away.

Last week he managed to recover an old pallet from a neighbour’s skip to put in some more staging. I love the vintage look of the wood from old pallets and even though we are going to paint the greenhouse the shelves will remain unpainted.

Yesterday, we bought the paint as it was on offer at the Crown Decorator shop in town and whilst the dry weather holds DH hopes to make a start.

The garden as a whole this year is a mess. The patio has a heap of stone on it that we found advertised on our local Freecycle site ready to build a small retaining wall around part of a border that slopes away so there is not much room on there for sitting out. Bit by bit with his help I have been emptying some of the many pots and planters that have accumulated around the garden. I can only manage to do one or two at a time so it is slow progress. A lot of the pots only contained self-seeded plants and weeds where the original plant had long ago died. I had decided to cut down on the number of pots we have at the beginning of the year BBP (Before Back Problem) mainly because there were too many for our lovely neighbour to water when we are away and with water in our butts being limited during these hot spells and too expensive from the tap it seemed a good decision.

I am at my limit now for sitting – I apologise in advance that it might be a bit incoherent and littered with any number of grammatical errors but it is an attempt to try and start blogging again and as my posts are certainly going to be erratic anyone who would like an alert when I do manage to write just click the follow button. xx

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