dear diary >> looking forward

Thank you for all the kind comments and well wishes. I seem to be reporting a lot this year about illness, so I am hoping the start of next year will see a big improvement to my health. Illness of any kind can often drag you down and I do feel like each time I just get going again something else happens and like a game of snakes and ladders I find myself sliding back down a slippery slope once again.

This Covid virus has certainly taken its toll on both of us and the fatigue is only just beginning to go. Yesterday we managed another very short walk down the lane although it was quite miserable in the drizzle and eerily quiet – still it was good to be out in the fresh air and feel the weather on our faces. Each day I manage to do a little more than the day before so that is a good sign. I am lucky that I didn’t have a cough or breathlessness but I do feel very stuffed up and that peculiar taste and smell that developed still lingers.

Our homemade soup makes a satisfying meal for us as our appetites are slowly getting back to normal – today we will make a batch of mushroom soup between us – DH will do the chopping and I the cooking and then no doubt we will have a rest to get over the exertion! We have an apple crumble in the freezer but I am not sure I could do it justice yet so I will probably opt for a fruit yoghurt instead.

My life at the moment is as dull as the weather and I am looking forward to brighter and more productive days ahead now the worst of the virus is over and I am able to at least think about festive plans. This year our plans will be kept simple – often they are the best anyway. As some of my readers will know our family operates a Secret Santa – it is something we have done since 2013 and we have never looked back we are all thankful to spend less time shopping and it leaves more time to have family get togethers – eating, drinking, chatting and playing those all important party games.

It was quite encouraging to hear Martin Lewis give out a similar message last night on his program. Over the years it seems Christmas has become about the gifts and the shopping and very little else. When I was a little girl I always looked forward to going into Sheffield city centre at night to see the lights and the displays in the department store windows. Of course back then there were probably a dozen large department stores throughout the town and each put on a magical display. With all the council cutbacks our local town has a very poor display and somehow the new flickery LED lights don’t have quite the same impact as those old fashioned brightly coloured light bulbs that streamed across the road. We have no department stores left and hardly anyone has a window display. No doubt this is the reason that we now search out light displays to go to during the festive season at National Trust properties though they are a might more expensive than the free shows we used to have in all our towns and cities.

I always enjoy making a few little things for Christmas but this year I know I will be short on time. I am currently looking for inspiration for a Christmas card design – I quite often do a linocut – there is something quite simple and satisfying about this technique….ah well maybe I can magic up a little enthusiasm to make a start, after all Christmas waits for no-one.

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 >> just catching up

It has been awhile and so long since I have written anything very much that I am finding it hard to put pen to paper so to speak and my camera is feeling quite forgotten lingering on the office desk as I haven’t taken a photo for weeks….quite unlike me.

But firstly….how is everyone – very well I hope and enjoying the summer and getting life back to some kind of ‘after Covid’ normal. Though I know of more people with Covid at the moment than ever before. From time to time I manage to have a little catch up with the blogs I follow and find everyone seems busy in their gardens, or decluttering and I know some of you have even left jobs and moved house.

I am still hoping that normal or some kind of new normal will happen for me soon now I have my results, at long last. You may be curious to know what has kept me away so long (I know I would be); it really is no secret…..at the time whilst I was waiting for scans and results no-one had any idea of what might be wrong and it could have been anything from the return of the cancer or just something quite trivial – though my symptoms were not suggesting the latter. I came back from Scotland at the end of March and sitting in the car for such a long journey was the start of my symptoms as a day or two later I could not bear with pain all down my back and my feet and legs became quite painful and numb too, to the point when I could no longer function and just had to lie down.

Well, the results from the MRI scan have shown a right lateral extruded disc at L4 and L5 level but they also found something called a Tarlov cyst on the left at S1 level growing on one of the spinal nerves in the spinal canal. These cysts are quite rare, often don’t produce symptoms until they grow in size…. which is what has happened to me – it had been aggravated and enlarged quite rapidly. So presently I have a lot of nerve problems going on as both the herniated disc and the cyst are pressing on the nerves that run from my lower back down my legs to my feet making them both painful and quite numb in places. As the disc heals the feeling should come back to my right side but the cyst is not something that is easily dealt with as it consists of cebral fluid that fills the nerve root and expands to then compress on surrounding nerves. Removal of them as you can imagine is only done as a last resort and can cause irreversible paralysis, draining them is a more usual procedure but one that doesn’t have a good outcome as they just fill back up again over time. The cyst is aggravated by continuous sitting or standing – walking is not quite so bad and it is a condition that is managed rather than cured. When the discomfort gets quite bad lying down is my only release.

It is the reason that I cannot sit for very long these days to write a post, edit photos or read and comment on your blogs. At its’ worst sitting to eat a meal was too much but gradually this is getting a little better. I have spent so much time lying flat reading and watching mindless TV when of course what I would really like to do is cook and garden and even go for a day out somewhere. Travelling in the car is almost a complete no go area and the most I have managed so far is a trip down to town. We are not even able to go up to Scotland and I wonder what the future holds for us now with our retirement cottage. I am not sure at this point if gardening will ever be something I can do again and DH is finding it a struggle to keep up with everything himself both in the garden and the house, though I must say he irons beautifully (something I never knew!!).

I am now having physical therapy on my back for the disc problem and with a mixture of gentle exercise, plenty of short walks on the flat and rest periods during the day it gradually seems to be healing itself. I am hoping too that the cyst might settle down if I am not aggravating it anymore with constant gardening and travelling.

So that is my story so far and a big thank you to everyone for your lovely messages they have really helped to keep my spirits up and hopefully as things begin to settle down I will be able to post a little more often.

Until then have a lovely summer. xx

dear diary >> a big thank you

Sorry it has taken me so long to type this post and say a big thank you for all your lovely well wishes – reading them has been a much needed source of comfort at the moment. I cannot tell you much more, but tomorrow I see my GP, though I suspect she may not have my results yet so I am no further forward.

The last two months have been a bit of a blur with more than a dash of frustration thrown in. The wheels of the NHS are grinding slowly in our region with many instances of my receiving conflicting letters, messages and advice which do not help the situation – at some point I fear the disorganisation will come to a head which is a shame as the staff are obviously working hard but it seems a case of the left hand does not know what the right hand is doing.

I hope everyone is well and enjoying the holiday – it is quiet on our road and down in the village with most of our neighbours taking the opportunity to go away for the week. I spend my time doing what little I am able and find myself longing for the busyness of life that I once had (and probably constantly moaned about!) The phrase be careful what you wish for springs to mind as I remember only a couple of months back yearning for the quiet time we had during lockdown! Now it is here I am not so sure I meant quite so quiet – the difference in lockdown being that I was very able and productive.

Hopefully, I will be joining in again blogging and commenting, but until then take care everyone and have a great Jubilee. xx

dear diary >> just a quick hello…

Just thought I would pop by to say a quick hello. Life has been turbulent here – hence the lack of posts.

I apologise for anyone linking through for the Scraphappy Challenge and seeing nothing new – since my previous posts written from our cottage in Scotland in March I came home with lots of plans and raring to go only to be struck down with illness and I am unfortunately not well enough yet to carry on blogging. Hopefully, the results of both the CAT scan and MRI will reveal the problems and things might begin to look up.

I miss everyone so much and hope all is well with you.

Take care, xx

dear diary >> a play day

We have been home only a few days and already we are in great demand. I agreed to have Master Freddie all day yesterday from 8am -5pm so it was a long day. I had planned to finish the unpacking and the final bits to put away, so that has been put on hold now and I ‘ll get it done over the weekend – well we won’t be venturing out anywhere in this weather.

We had a great day though they are so cute at this age (he is just 3) and it is amazing how much they learn, and how much they copy. We did some water play with doggie and duckie (two tiny nail brushes in the shape of a blue dog and a yellow duck) that he became attached to when we looked after him during the Covid lockdown. Everytime he comes to play he searches them out and I get a small washing up bowl and fill it with water and he will play for hours.

We had a bit of a ‘crafternoon’ after lunch. His mum had sent a packet of coloured tissue paper circles and his tiny plastic scissors so we showed him how to fold the circles up and cut shapes out of them to make flowers and a kind of paper doyley like making snowflakes. We all made some but then what to do with them? After a little thought I had the idea to attach a piece of fishing wire to each circle and hang them on a paper band as a mobile.

I thought it looked quite effective hanging in our window moving in the draught. He has taken it home to show mummy – I am sure she will be delighted.

Once he had gone we whipped all the toys away, made some tea then collapsed on the sofa.

I am now trying to get my head into gear and plan for next week. We have had a call to say our new dining table and chairs have arrived – my brother is having our old pine farmhouse table. I will miss it – it has history marks all over it but it has always been too big for our little dining area and now the kitchen area is a little bigger and the dining area a little smaller we decided we would get something that would allow us more room but would be extendable when required.

We have to give the warehouse 24 hours notice before we collect the new table and chairs. We are not even sure if everything will fit in the back of our estate car and might mean two journey’s to Birstall near Leeds, but we will save £140.00 delivery charges (the table and chairs would have been delivered separately from the warehouse at £70 each delivery as we ordered the table long before the chairs) and that is a big saving for us at the moment.

I also intend to get going on finishing a few craft projects and start thinking about Easter cards. I don’t send many but I do like to make my own. I have more tablemats to make and the patchwork quilt that I began 2 years ago might get a look in again – I found some more fabrics to add to the ones leftover from my daughter’s wedding bunting.

All in all I am hoping for a productive week and I might even be lucky with getting some washing out on the line.

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 :: weeding, sketching, worrying

It has been very pleasant the last couple of days here at Beach Cottage but today we awoke to frost, a rarity in these parts.  We have been in the garden and the calmer warmer weather was quite welcome, though windier, colder weather is forecast for the next few days.  This picture was taken yesterday when the sea turned a very strange colour of green against the blue sky.

I have been working mainly in the pine tree border, removing a vast quantity of weeds and uncovering the perennials that are buried under a mound of leaves and pine needles.  There are tiny shoots everywhere and plenty of self-sown seedlings of foxgloves and valerian growing which I transplant to other more suitable parts of the borders.

I have a few shrubs and plants that need moving too; ones that are becoming a little overshadowed and I need to get these done before we go home.  The compost bin has produced some wonderful rich compost which I am using to mulch the beds.  Tomorrow, weather permitting, I really need to prune the new apple tree as this was one of the things that didn’t get done because of the lockdowns.  I keep putting it off this week mainly because I am not sure I know what I am doing!  The old apple tree needs a few branches off the top – that is DH’s job to climb up with the saw – it had never been pruned when we bought the cottage so is quite a large tree which bears most of its fruit well out of reach at the top.  We have been cutting it down gradually knowing that we will lose fruit but it will keep it in check.

Whilst I have been working in the garden my little friend the robin, who is never very far away, has been hopping around waiting for me to unearth a juicy worm or two, we have both been overlooked by the beautiful big rust coloured bull that has now appeared in the farmer’s field across the burn.  I am just glad the burn runs between me and him, though he does seem very placid.

We have seen very little of the new neighbour, but I would be keeping well out of his way anyway – I don’t want another confrontation with him.  DH has spoken to him since – just in passing, over the garden gate so to speak, he is a peacemaker and hates bad feeling and would never hold a grudge against anyone, but I know some people, like said neighbour, who might see this as a sign of weakness and think he can just do as he likes in future.  DH though has that knack of being able to tell people that their actions are not to be tolerated in a very calm and reasoned way that leaves them both unable to argue and in no doubt that he means business, unlike me of course who, like a bull at a gate would jump in and inflame the situation!! 

Over the years we have lost plants to the salty sea spray, the gales, the flood, and the rabbits but to lose plants because of the neighbour hacking away at them is far more maddening. It seems a bit sneaky to me that he chose to chop the hedges whilst we were not around! When we leave in a few days time I shall be wondering what he is doing next behind our backs.

I will say no more.

We are on our third variety of homemade soup now, tomato and red pepper today.  Just before I used them for the soup I decided to paint them – I find tomatoes quite a nice subject getting the shine and highlights is the difficult part and I certainly need a bit lot more practise. 

The next soup to be made will be our last batch before we go back to Yorkshire and I shall be using up some of the bits of veg left in the fridge – so pea, cabbage and leek with celery and onion it is.  We always eat well up here; I bring packets of lentils, chickpeas and brown rice to go with the veg I buy locally and keep the meals simple.  As the Calor gas is neither cheap nor readily available at the moment I decided all the meals we have should be ones that can be cooked on the hob, rather than in the oven, to preserve the gas. 

The energy price hikes are quite worrying – when we go home, where we cook by electric, I will be trying to use the oven as little as possible too.  Our gas and electricity prices will not go up until April as we are currently on a good deal until then so I have time to revise our meal plans and look at other ways to save on our fuel bills.  We don’t have a microwave at home so baked potatoes cooked in the oven might become a speciality soon. Luckily as we head towards warmer weather we will need less heating and can eat more salads.

I have very little data left now on my phone so there is a limit to the number of photos I can upload – so for a few days it might just be me and the written word.

dear diary :: moments of joy and a moan…

My, it has been a bit breezy here – the caravan rocking away each time a forceful gust hit us from the side, but at least the new felt on the kitchen roof of the cottage has stayed in place.  It was too windy to be outside so I snipped off a piece of Hypericum and settled down indoors to a bit more sketching and painting until the light became too dim.

Eventually a little sunshine broke through the heavy clouds and a rainbow appeared.

I also used the time to make more fresh soup, mushroom is one of my favourites and today DH made celery – one of Master Freddie’s favourites. It is very rare now that we don’t have homemade soup for lunch and it is a good way to get those five a day in one meal and leaving in some big chunks means we have the benefit of added fibre too.  It is one of my areas for improving; both trying new recipes and, rather than having bread with the soup, I aim to try out a few different garnishes like roasted chick peas.

In the evenings we have been watching Channel 4 catch up via the internet as we don’t have a TV here.  At home we had started watching the Danish program (with subtitles) ‘Seaside Hotel’ and we are addicted, we just had to continue through the series and tonight it is the last one – does anyone else watch it?  Such a shame it is a fictional hotel because I would dearly like to stay there.

I just love the bleak winter landscape up here – so many beautiful colours on the grey and blue spectrum, the most colourful object being the yellow buoy out at sea.  Being winter we are quite alone here nestled in our little hollow, the caravan site next door is as empty as the farmer’s field on the other side of us.  Only a handful of locals frequent the pub at the top of the lane, and then only the ones who are brave enough to face the weather and walk along to the outskirts of the village when there are two other pubs much nearer in the centre.

We have dark skies too as there are no lights nearby and the stars on a clear night are spectacular; you feel you could almost reach out and pick one.

The snowdrops are nodding away on the floor of the woodland walk in the lower wood and spreading nicely –the rabbits do not seem to have uprooted them like many of the new bulbs I planted in November, tulips and narcissus and nearly all have been dug up and eaten, only the hole remains as evidence that I did in fact spend a whole day planting out.

All the daffodils dotted around the garden will be next in line to burst into flower This time of year when everything is bleak and sleepy having these little pockets of new life and colour is magical.

Our joy at coming up here was short lived though.  Our new neighbour who has bought the caravan site, pub and restaurant had taken it upon himself to hack away at our Rosa Rugosa hedge and the ivy that grows alongside the lane down to our cottage.  This is the hedge in the summer in full bloom and many of the birds like to nest in it.

Rather than just taking off any overhanging branches along the lane (which he owns but we have right of access over it) he has chopped the plants back far beyond the boundary line which is to the edge of the tarmac.

We have been left with some rather short stumps which may or may not regrow as it is way below any new buds.

The ivy was even worse – he has chopped this right back into old wood and we know from experience this will not regenerate.

Worse still this part has no hedge left at all just a big gap.

The tragedy is that pruning the hedge was on our list for this visit as normally every two or three years we prune it down to about two feet tall and to a good strong bud and during the year it will make up its height once more but be much healthier and stronger and less liable to flopping over with the weight of the branches; then in the summer I go along the hedge and with a bit of light pruning make sure all the branches are well within our boundary and not liable to scratch any vehicles going down the lane.  It is a few years now since it had a major prune because of the lockdowns and then last year by the time we were allowed up here we had so many nesting birds in the hedge I could not do it.  We tried to say nicely that we were not happy that he had not, even out of politeness, told us it was a problem (which I am not sure it was) and allowed us the option to cut it ourselves.  What will the poor birds do now that their nesting place has been wrecked?

I could weep and did so.

If that wasn’t enough the little strip of land below us beyond the trellis border that once housed the 3 static caravans belonging to Eric, Joe and Les, our summertime neighbours, is now almost empty and only Joe’s caravan remains.  This has greatly changed the climate for our plants along this border which have been snug in the shelter of Eric’s old van.  The owners have decided to leave for one reason or another and we will miss them and so will our plants.  We had clematis growing through and over the trellis and this too has been hacked away.  Will any of it recover – I have no idea?  The new owner obviously wants every last millimetre of his land. 

Asking him to let us know in the future if the hedge is a problem did not go down well with him and ended in an argument, as did the previous conversations we have had with him about the bright yellow barrier he intends to put at the top of the lane and keep locked to which we have objected. He informs us he is running a business and he is entitled to do what he wants, he is not prepared to leave the hedge until an appropriate time just because I like birds. 

He also informed us indirectly in conversation that his new CCTV cameras that he installed on the outside of the pub look right across our woodland garden as he claims he has seen rats coming from the burn (and he might well have – rats are not far away from anyone and they will undoubtedly be heading towards his large commercial bins full of food waste).  I am not sure he should have cameras directly looking across our garden but I do know he seems rather paranoid and has an alert on his phone if we or anyone else drives up and down the lane.

On our last visit I am certain he sent someone down to check on us whilst he was away in Glasgow.  No matter how much we tell him we are just a neighbour and not part of his business he will have none of it.  Are we being unreasonable?  He says we are always complaining but in our defence it is not only us that finds him difficult – the lady and her daughter who sold the business to him agreed to carry on working for him but after only a few months they walked out on him and a lot of the caravaners have now left the site.

He has saddened me so much and with the added worry of the changing weather patterns we will have to rethink our future here.  Going to all the trouble and expense to reinstate the cottage back to liveable could be a pointless exercise if we are going to be so unhappy living here.

On a brighter note we are relishing the quietness and being able to work outdoors in the fresh sea air – up till today it has been cold but sunny.  Our intentions are to carry out a number of maintenance jobs around the wood and garden that are best done at this time of year and hopefully finish the boarding on the banking ready for plant for the spring. As for the hedge we can only leave it alone for now and see what regrows.