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

dear diary :: the final day

Our last day here at Beach Cottage and another blustery one.  DH was outside earlier sprinkling fish, blood and bone meal along what is left of our Rosa Rugosa hedge alongside the lane in the hope it might kick start it into action and regrow from the little stubby stems we were left with after the massacre.

Meanwhile I took cover in the caravan and made soup with all the remains of the vegetables…..

– ends of cabbage and celery, 2 leeks, 3 onions, 3 potatoes, half of this piece of courgette and half a small bag of frozen peas.  It will be like a leek and potato soup with a few added greens and some parsley.  I would have added a carrot and kept it in chunks for a bit of colour but DH put them all in the stew last night.

For lunch we had the remaining lentil stew from yesterday’s evening meal and as there wasn’t very much of it left over I chopped the remaining piece of courgette into chunks and cooked it quickly with a handful of cherry tomatoes and griddled a few slices of Halloumi cheese.

For our evening meal we had an easy meal of baked potatoes (done in the microwave), baked beans and grated cheese – all we had left to eat up.  Some of the soup I made will be transferred into a flask tomorrow and the rest transported home in containers in the cool bag.

We went back into Stranraer after our lunch to get another gas cylinder, we like to keep two full ones in hand and as the next time we come up the tourist season will have begun the extra demand for gas could see it in short supply again like last year, so it seemed prudent to keep stocked up in advance.

On the way back to our cottage we had a detour and went back to Portpatrick to do a bit of car sketching as it was certainly too cold to sit outside. DH did another quick line drawing of the cottages and guest houses round on the South Crescent part of the bay, (the photos are taken through the windscreen so a bit blurry).

Whilst I drew attempted to draw the Harbour House and Smuggler’s Cove cottage across the bay on the North Crescent.

When we are back at home I intend to do a quick sketch of something everyday to get in more practise. I do think it must help to understand how a building is put together and why DH finds it so much easier to draw them. When I am drawing flowers I always like to look at how a leaf joins a stem or a petal is formed before I begin – with buildings I find they are a bit of a mystery.

It was a quick 30 minutes sketch and then the rain came back and splattered across the windscreen obstructing our view so after a flask of hot chocolate we headed back to the cottage.

I had bought my little friend, the robin, a leaving present – a half coconut filled with all kinds of robin delicacies and hung it on the bird house which is well away from any boundary line down by the cottage and sheltered by the fatsia – I hope it makes amends for him losing his little home in the hedge.

I will miss seeing the snowdrops when we go home; there seems to be more than when we arrived and are spreading quite nicely throughout the woodland walk.  I hope I don’t miss seeing the daffodils though, they are just in tight buds at the moment, but given they have quite a long flowering period, they might still be in bloom when we come again.

It will be an anxious moment on our next visit, not only wondering what scenes of destruction are going to greet us, but finding out if any of the chopped down clematis that twined in and out of our trellis fence has survived the machete (he swears he used a hedge trimmer – but either way they were hacked rather than pruned) but to me he will always be Machete Man now.

As it is still winter I have to take a lot of the contents of the caravan home with us.  Mainly things that can go damp; even though it is double glazed the condensation builds up so we leave plenty of ventilation for air movement – all the cupboard doors, drawers and bedroom doors are left open so air can circulate well and the seating pulled away from the walls.  I place the pillows in the centre of the bed and leave the duvet over a clothes airer in the centre of the living room rather than on the bed.  The car would be just too full to transport these up and down as it is already half full with a lot of expensive tools that we need to use when we are up here.  We can’t leave them in the cottage in case of another flood and I am not happy at leaving them in the caravan in case it is broken in to.

I think we have more stormy weather ahead in both areas – here on the Mull of Galloway and back home in Yorkshire. Hopefully, we will be travelling before either area gets too bad.

Thank you for all the kind comments over the last couple of weeks and suggestions it really helps sometimes to be able to blog about bad times as well as good- you are such a caring community and as Lyssa (alias Whittering Sybil) would say… I feel hugged. x

dear diary :: a bit of meandering

The seagulls were having great fun gliding on the wind over the sea yesterday which was crashing about a bit here, somewhat in resemblance of my life at the moment I think!

We are nearing the end of our visit here, it has been a turbulent time and I am not referring to the weather, but we have managed to put a few bits in order in the garden in line with my focus word for this year of improvement.  So far we have cleared leaves and weeds and swept the paths and put the earth back into the holes dug out by the rabbits.  We have also managed to take the pile of old sheets of roofing felt to the tip left by the roofer when he re-felted the kitchen roof.

Luckily we have a small trailer to transport it to the nearest waste disposal and recycling point in Stranraer, which is an excellent place – well-kept and managed by a very friendly and helpful team.  Sadly, roofing felt is not in any way recyclable and will go to landfill.  It always makes me feel quite ill to see what has been put in the skip marked ‘non-recyclable items for landfill’ – usually plastic windows by the dozen (which incidentally are claimed to be about 70% reclaimable plastic – but no-one bothers to do this), old mattresses and general plastic based waste.

I was shocked however, to see a large plastic dog bed thrown in there – now what is not reusable about a plastic dog bed?…. surely a good wash with some disinfectant and it would certainly be reusable by someone, especially as in Stranraer the waste centre has a huge shed that houses a shop full of people’s unwanted items that are still useful.  They have anything from reconditioned bikes to books to china and I am sure there would be a place there for a dog bed.   I felt like lifting it out and taking it round to the shop myself but of course you are not allowed.

Ironically, for a much larger area, our recycling and waste point near to us in Huddersfield is just the opposite – managed by a team that seem to have a rather couldn’t care less attitude and is badly organised.  I often see people put the wrong items into the wrong skips even when being overseen by one of the ‘management team’.  Our area only accepts plastic bottles in the recycle bin at home, whereas, here in Stranraer, they will take all plastics, including food trays and yoghurt pots.  It is time there was a national policy put in place and one that includes businesses, especially pubs, restaurants and caravan parks.

We diligently recycle our very small amount of domestic waste here at the cottage into one of the local authorities three bins; plastics, paper and general waste and compost the kitchen and most of our garden waste; meanwhile the pub, restaurant and caravan site next door to us do not have to do this, so all the glass bottles, drinks cans, cardboard and plastics and all the waste from the individual caravans are just heaped unsorted into the general trade waste bins, presumably headed for landfill.  It makes little sense to me.

With the weather remaining unsettled and rather blustery yesterday we earmarked it a ‘rest day’ and decided a shopping trip into Stranraer to pick up some fresh bread and milk was in order. I subsequently forgot to pick up a couple of pots of ‘tete a tete’ to plant in the planter DH made last year, but never mind.

We filled the flask with soup, made some bread and butter, collected our sketchbooks and paints and jumped into the car; we intended to take a diversion out to Port Logan and Portpatrick before going on into town.

The scene that met us at the sheltered little harbour village in Port Logan (where 2000 Acres of Sky was filmed) was just how I love to see it – deserted, quite bleak and a raging Irish sea washing up onto the shore. The greyness of the sky met the greyness of the sea on the horizon so you could hardly distinguish where the meeting point was.

Someone there has a sense of humour!

It is not easy sketching in the car but we each did a quick ten minute sketch – DH drew the lovely line of cottages that wrap around the harbour, easy for him as he is an architect ….

– I chose the old light tower placed at the end of the curved harbour wall – not a good choice as it is a tricky building and my preference is always for flowers and I cannot compete with DH’s natural ability to draw in perspective. The picture I took yesterday was out of focus so this in one from a few years back on a sunnier day.

As you can see not a good result…oh well….I keep trying….

After having our picnic lunch we headed up the road a bit farther to Portpatrick another little harbour village. By now the Irish sea was in full swell, frothing like a Costa Coffee and roaring into the bay, the sea spray reaching quite spectacular heights as it hit the rocks – the most dramatic of them I unfortunately missed capturing on camera.

We had a brisk walk around whilst the rain had stopped and when the sun appeared it was so welcome as, believe me, the pictures may look pretty but ‘bitterly cold’ does not even come close in describing the temperature.

The odd bits of colour here and there helped to brighten up the greyness.

The whole place was closed up, including many of the hotels – such is the winter season in these tiny resorts.

We ended our trip out in Stranraer and went into a local coffee bar (Stranraer’s equivalent of a Costa) for a warm drink.  Whilst in there two young girls came in – one of them looked like she had just rolled out of bed…with tousled hair and clad in her PJ’s with a hoodie on top and some towelling mule slippers, even though it was quite wet underfoot.  In my head I could just hear my gran coming out with a few choice words about her appearance – she would have been shocked to see someone out in their nightwear in public at three in the afternoon!! How times change.

So today looks another gloomy one with continuous rain forecast so it will have to be spent indoors. We had intended to visit Logan Botanic Gardens today – they have a Snowdrop Sunday event running until the end of February but I think it is looking unlikely that the weather will improve. I shall prepare the lentil stew for tea instead to use up some of the older veg, no point in taking it back home with us.

dear diary :: here and there…

Hello everyone….I know I have been a little quiet in the last few days, but life here is as hectic as ever. 

We had one of those crazy weekends (two weekends ago now) starting on the Friday taking our grandson little Freddie to the park for a few hours.

He knows the routine well now – buy a 25p bag of duck food from the little cafe and go straight round to feed the ducks, then on to the fountain taking the short cut down the very steep grassy bank with grandad holding on to him for dear life, whilst I follow with the pushchair on the sensible windy path. We then walk round to the lovely revamped conservatory at the bottom of the park that has a cafe with an outdoor courtyard space – perfect to avoid Covid. We order tea (or coffee and Freddie has milk) and a couple of slices each of thick brown toast with butter and marmalade. Of course he always wants to spread the marmalade on himself even though it is tricky to handle the large knife ….ugh the stickiness.

We then saunter back through the park playing football until we reach the swings. This particular visit we saw a tight rope walker practising between two of the large park trees. Then it was back home to mum for Freddie and back home for us to start repacking ready for our next trip.

On Saturday we set off for North Yorkshire to meet my daughter and the two girls in Northallerton – one of my favourite market towns. We browsed all the shops on both sides of the main street plus the market stalls. The girls are always well behaved in shops and love to look at all that is on offer but never natter to be bought anything. I did in fact buy Sweetie some new shoes for her birthday in November but she is going to start wearing them now so her feet don’t grow out of them before she is three in a few weeks time; at this age, like little seedlings, they seem to grow overnight. She was delighted – they are a muted shade of pink with sparkly bits.

We stayed overnight with my daughter and had an early start on the Sunday morning to drive up to my sister’s village above Northallerton to see the Scarecrow trail which began at 10am. My sister was on her respite holiday so couldn’t be with us but she had baked some chocolate squares for the cake stall so we bought a piece each.

We had great fun spotting the scarecrows and eating the homemade cakes, though the chocolate topping fell clean off Little L’s piece onto the pavement. Here are just a few of our favourites.

Of course we had to stop Sweetie from helping herself to a banana!
The mole hunter made us smile!
Go compare
Paddington Bear – you can tell Sweetie is just eyeing up the marmalade sandwiches in the suitcase!
I just had to add this into the photos – I have never seen such a crop of mushrooms before on someone’s front lawn!

At 12 0’clock we said goodbye to Little L, Sweetie and my daughter and drove on another 10 miles to visit my mum (who is in an apartment near Yarm). For our lunch I had made a batch of leek and potato soup which we ate with some fresh rolls followed by a pizza and some pots of deli salads – coleslaw, beetroot and potato salad. I had not had time to make a pudding at home so I bought some fresh cream chocolate eclairs courtesy of Sainsbury’s. After lunch we had a long chat, did a few jobs, prepared some tea for her to have later and put her hair in rollers (she sleeps in them – always has) then said our goodbyes and drove home.

We arrived back quite late having been delayed on the M62 with the heavy traffic and felt quite worn out – I just put a few bits away and then went to bed.

On Monday morning we had to make the difficult and disappointing decision not to travel up to Scotland the next day to go and see Freda’s exhibition in Dunoon – given our comings and goings over the past few weeks it would have been a journey too far and I know my limitations.

So after a brief rest on Monday we spent most of the week table hunting…. which was long overdue.  We have a kitchen diner and when we had our new kitchen installed this time last year we enlarged the kitchen area by a few inches but this left the dining room side slightly smaller and our old and much loved pine farmhouse table no longer fits comfortably into the space. We knew this would be the case but gaining more circulation space in the kitchen has been well worth it and our farmhouse table is going to a good home.

After plodding around a few shops and searching on the internet we finally chose one we both liked and it is on order now with a 12 week lead time.   Our old table has quite a history as we bought it in 1979 just after we married and the children grew up painting and crafting on it, I have sewn and baked on it and I think it has even had hot pans on it.  We never really worried about having to protect it and just scrub it clean with soapy water – the many marks it has gained over time have just added to the well-used look.  It is essentially a kitchen table rather than a posh dining table so we ruled out glass tops or veneered wood for the new one as it would be impossible for us to have anything that isn’t robust enough to take whatever we or the grandchildren throw at it.  

The one we have chosen should fit the bill – it will be quite a change as the new table is quite modern looking (and won’t be to everyone’s taste) but will fit in better with the sleek simple lines of the new kitchen; it is also extendable so when the extra leaf is used it will come to the same size as our old one and when it is just the two of us there will be much more space to walk around it.   So now we just have to find a reasonable price for the chairs we have chosen and get them on order too.

Now that major task is a tick on the list and the weather not so suitable for gardening I have turned my attentions to the house and decided it needs a jolly good sort out….a major home edit and a good clean. 

Can’t wait to get stuck in.

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!

dear diary :: a nudge in the right direction

Saturday was hot. I started numerous jobs and then had to move to find more shade as the sun moved around the garden.

I have been scouring our garden finding more flat stones to lay down at the entrance to the lower wood that leads to the pond. They keep a lot of the weeds down in a place where nothing grows very much other than self seeders. Bark just rots down quickly and doesn’t stop the weeds as they just root into the bark but the flat grey stones have been really good at supressing them.

Before long the heat was far too intense and I had to abandon the job; instead I moved round to the patch beneath the holly and apple trees which gave me an umberella of shade to do some weeding. In this bed there is always a scattering of the sneaky self-seeder tellima nestling in alongside other plants and eventually overcoming them. To leave this part of the garden looking natural is actually hard work and requires more management than you might think. So very carefully whilst crawling around the bed to avoid the pain of kneeling on the fallen holly leaves ….ouch…. I managed to selectively extract the tellima that had muscled in on my delphiniums – well the delphiniums that the rabbits have not devoured yet.

After lunch I decided to tackle the curly wurly tree (corkscrew hazel) and give it a trim. It should have been pruned earlier in the year while it was dormant and leafless to reduce the height …drastically…. as it collides with the apple tree that grows next to it; but we missed the moment with the restrictions and a light trim is all we could do at this point. So out came the long pole that has some pruners on the end to reach the upper branches and that believe me is a job in itself and I gratefully passed the task over to DH. I love this tree as the canopy is low and falls over one of the entrances to the lower wood and woodland walk.

Sunday was much cooler and by teatime the rain had set in and we were treated to a glorious double rainbow over the bay in the early evening, unfortunately both didn’t come out on the photo.

After lunch on Sunday we set off to visit an Open Garden up the road high on the hill above the village with fabulous sea views. It was the very cottage we had looked around in 2004 just before we put in an offer on our cottage so it was really interesting to see what changes had been made. I remember it as being in need of a lot of renovation, probably more than ours, though it did have a new roof. The garden was just long grass at the time – not really a garden at all.

The cottage has changed hands since the original buyers in 2004 who did quite a bit to the place but the current owners have done a lot more and made it into a very desirable property whilst still retaining a lot of the character and cottage feel; in fact when we arrived we realised we knew the new owners from the caravan site – they have decided to up sticks from Halifax and live here permanently.

The garden is on a steep slope with steps leading down from the cottage above.

This brilliant two story Bothy that they have built in the garden and sleeps 2-4 people is a great place to put up visiting family and friends and they also let it out for around £40 a night. It has a fridge and microwave, composting toilet and washbasin and breakfast is provided by the owners.

There is a series of winding gravel paths cleverly taking you down and around the slope through the garden. The welsh poppies are scattered everywhere, little specks of brilliant orange and yellow dancing around in the breeze.

Although windy up above (they are much higher up than our cottage down by the sea) it is a very sheltered garden down below so they can grow the palms and more tropical plants quite easily and they do not suffer from the salt spray like our garden does.

They even have a tiny ‘beach’ at the very bottom where the burn runs through. It is much clearer water than ours as they are at the top of the hill and their burn feeds down into the harbour whereas we are at the end of the run and so we get all the run off from the farms above us which often makes the burn rather sludgy in the summer when there is little water coming down.

Since they acquired the cottage at the end of 2019 they have added an extension as well as the Bothy and now they have bought the adjoining cottage which they are doing up to let out as a holiday let. I was beginning to think maybe we had chosen the wrong cottage to buy!!

However, after visiting their cottage and garden and seeing all they had accomplished in so short a time we have been inspired and motivated to get back to sorting ours out. Since the flood we have really been muddling along not really able to make decisions and then Covid has certainly made things worse – but somehow this visit has really helped us turn a very difficult corner and as my title says it has been a nudge (no less a mighty big push) in the right direction!

Today we started on a project in the garden which I will share with you in another post.

Back soon x

dear diary :: roamin in the gloamin once again…

Just dropping by again to say hello from bonnie Scotland.

It has been a while but one daughter is now moved and settling in well and all the empty boxes have been passed onto to someone else – boxes are so hard to come by these days. Everything went to plan on the day and I was assigned the job of cupboard cleaner and organiser in the kitchen so now of course my daughter cannot find anything and when I go next time I probably won’t find anything either as she will have rearranged everything to suit her. Still the main thing was that all the boxes, but for a few craft items and nick nacks, were emptied and put away by the time we left.

We are now in Scotland once again with a to do list as long as a toilet roll. The woodland walk is in full bloom with pretty white sweet woodruff, pink dicentras and the elegant Solomon’s seal.

The pond is full of rotting leaves as we couldn’t clean it out last year because of the restrictions on our visits or put the pond net over last September to catch the autumn leaf fall. Thankfully, with little rain it is quite dry so will be easier to scoop out and clean then refill with fresh water though it is not a pleasant job and not one I look forward to. The primulas have multiplied and look stunning, I do need to plant some more of the deep orange coloured primulas though as they appear to have gone.

We have plenty of thick moss to scrape off all the paths and then we will spray some cleaner onto them to remove any residual bits. The cows have been watching our every move with curiosity all week.

After a mornings work we stopped for light refreshments! These small assorted danish pastries courtesy of Tesco are one of my treats when we come up here. There are five in a box so we always share the jam centred ones.

In the afternoon we visited Castle Kennedy gardens. (Jayne at The View from Bag End has more lovely pictures here from her recent visit to the area.) We always manage to fit in a visit when we come up and I really missed not being able to go during last year so it was lovely to see that it is open for visitors once again.

This is a very special place for us as DH’s grandfather was head gardener here from the late 20’s up to sometime in the 60’s when he retired. His granny and grandad lived in the head gardener’s cottage on the hill by the little bridge that takes you into the car park. DH stayed here for a while when he was younger with his mum and dad when they moved back from Ireland and he tramped daily around the estate trying to keep up with his grandad.

Because of our connection to the place we held our elder daughter’s wedding here in 2016 and had a marquee by the old ruined castle that sits next to the walled garden and the cute little wooden tea room.

The wedding was in July so the walled garden was at its best.

And the marquee took in the spectacular views across the estate and of course all our guests could relax and roam around the grounds during the afternoon.

And when it went dark in the evening it was quite magical.

Of course her wedding day would not have been complete without having the old tea room part of this big day. It has over the years had many coats of paint and also had the floor levelled so the tables no longer have blocks of wood beneath the legs to even them up. Today it has even had the addition of a disabled ramp.

The guests all enjoyed the afternoon tea provided on the picnic tables.

Everything was homemade and done on a tight budget – I made all the invitations, confetti, table flowers and favours….

…spent hours making yards and yards of bunting and a few hours decorating the marquee and putting up cheap white paper lanterns from a very wobbly ladder.

So it was lovely to wander around in the same warm sunshine that we had enjoyed that day with our memories and see that thankfully the place remains quite unchanged. We had gone specially to see the magnificent collection of rhododendrons that are in bloom at this time of year – they are renowned all over the world and they did not disappoint. They were stunning.

Many of them were planted by DH’s grandfather who also propogated many of the hybrids on the estate such as ‘Lord Stair’ and one named after himself RW Rye. He was awarded an RHS gold medal for them and of course we have his rhododendron in both our gardens. He is also credited as the person who propogated the pale lavender buddleia named ‘Loch Inch’ which many people will have in their gardens.

The round lily pond which is 1/4 of a mile across is another feature which is absolutely glorious.

The ‘newer castle’ built around 1860 is where Lord and Lady Stair reside and is situated between the two locks (the Black Loch – Loch Crindil and the White Loch- Loch Inch) and has magnificent views across the landscape.

We spent the afternoon sketching in the sunshine before treating ourselves to tea and scones – it was so nice to do something quite creative for once though I need a lot of practise I am decidedly rusty, especially the watercolour which is spectacularly bad – but at least I made a start – it takes time to get back into it.

We decided that today would be a ‘rest’ day and we are walking to the village and up the steep hill out towards the Mull to see one of the Open Gardens at a cottage that adjoins one we nearly put in an offer for, but we bought our cottage instead so it will be interesting to see what they have made of the garden.

The weather has been so hot here everything is beginning to look parched and dry and many of the flowers are soon over. Even the foxgloves have bent over heads from a lack of water. Our garden ranges from peaty and waterlogged to dry sandy dust and my style of gardening is just to let the self seeders find their own home where they are happiest.

So that is all my news so far which just leaves me to say a warm welcome to all my new followers and sorry for the lack of posts – life just gets incredibly busy and my energy levels incredibly diminished – but I hope everyone reading is enjoying the good weather, though personally I could easily tolerate it much cooler but at least the sea breeze helps to cool me down. I have had to garden all week wherever there is shade so I have been constantly moving around and consequently no one patch or task is fully complete. We have also spent some time over a concerning problem that has arisen because the new owner of the caravan site next door wants to put a locked gate at the top of our lane over which we have a right of access to our cottage. This would be very restrictive for anyone coming to the cottage if we had to hand out keys to everyone who has to have access, especially when we start to have contractors on site again to renovate the cottage.

Nothing ever stays the same for long these days and it is so easy to get swept up by other people’s agendas – I am feeling pretty upset by it all especially as it has been such a difficult time with the flood and then the Covid restrictions.

But tomorrow is another day as they say!

Back soon x