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 >> mud, glorious mud…

Today we woke up to sunshine, the pea green coloured sea was much calmer with a half hearted little ripple on the surface, obviously too lazy to create the forceful waves of yesterday but not sleepy enough to stay calm. When I took this picture later in the afternoon the tide was out and it had changed to this lovely deep blue.

Although it looked like it could be a promising day weatherwise and one for going out in the garden – in fact we ended up playing at weathermen all day in and out as we had one or two sudden showers.

There is plenty of tidying up to do but not everywhere as some little corners I leave for nature to take over.

I have pruning to do on mass – far too many hydrangeas and buddleias to get round and plenty of rosa rugosa along our stream bank.

DH managed another 3 metres of ditch yesterday and today – he hasn’t yet seized up and can still move this evening so I reckon he might do a bit more tomorrow and finish it.

This is part of the ditch above and the resulting mud pile below. The mud is being used to build up this part of our stream bank which is the lowest point and where the water seeps over into the garden when we have too much heavy rain – hence the temporary sandbags to the right of the picture..

We might, just might, have found a new gardener – she seems keen to come but having vehicle trouble at the moment (aren’t we all). She is a lady that has helped out here many years ago and remembers us too. Our garden requires someone in tune with the slightly wild side of gardening and know when to leave some of the wild flowers in place and when to remove some so they don’t overpower and become invasive, it is a fine balance and one I still battle with.

The daisy path looks like it will be a glorious sight this year when they come out, they have multiplied over the winter but presently they are still in slumber and I am waiting patiently for their awakening – it is one of my favourite parts of the garden.

The large rhododendron will be missed this year as it had a hard prune last year and there is rather a large gap at the entrance to the woodland walk. There are encouraging signs of new growth and maybe a little more food might encourage it to regrow faster. Whilst I have the fish, blood and bone out I will scatter handfuls along the rosa rugosa hedge that the new caravan site owner cut down and cross my fingers that some of the stumps left will reshoot.

Tomorrow I am taking part in the Scraphappy Challenge with a few other bloggers – so my post will be of a more crafty nature. x

dear diary >> a warm welcome

I am writing my posts from Scotland at the moment and as I gazed out of the caravan window this morning at the sea I am reminded of this passage from Marcel Proust –

But before all this I had drawn back my own curtains, impatient to know what Sea it was that was playing that morning by the shore, like a Nereid. For none of those Seas ever stayed with us longer than a day. On the morrow there would be another, which sometimes resembled its predecessor. But I never saw the same one twice.

After a hard night of howling winds around the caravan that kept me waking on and off I too was eager to know what the sea would be like today as it is usually an indication of what weather we might expect for the day. On drawing back the curtains it was no surprise to find it quite choppy with white frothy waves rolling up onto the shore creating a bubble bath of foam – definitely a stay inside day and quite the opposite to yesterday when, after a night of heavy rain, I opened the curtains to find a calm sea that was glinting in the morning sunshine….and I knew from this that it was going to be a good day.

And it was…..I spent the morning yesterday having a leisurely breakfast and doing a little planning – not that planning is easy at the moment – these troubled times make me hesitant to look too far ahead, so only looking to the end of March seemed practical. We don’t have TV here so any news can only be heard on the hour on the radio and the sense of the war is quite different without the pictures but no less shocking; I fear for the life of the captured Mayor of Mariupol – I fear for Zelensky and I fear for us all.

By eleven o’clock we were both out in the garden; DH on ditch clearing duty (though he was under strict orders to only clear a small part of it – mud is heavy when you have to heave it out of a ditch to higher ground, and myself….I knuckled down to weeding the trellis border.

We have a new neighbour in place now on the other side of our trellis in a touring sized van, much shorter than Eric’s static van so our plants in the border are not quite so sheltered from the sea wind and have wind burn.

When the clematis comes out we don’t see the caravan though we had specially left a little window in the planting so Eric could sit out in the sunshine and wave to us.

This is a picture from last year with Erics van behind the trellis and his little peephole. You can see the beautiful Montana clematis that grew up and over the trellis but was so ‘kindly’ hacked down this winter on the otherside by the new site owner… AKA Machete Man.

So now we are left with this a lifeless bunch of stems as they have been cut down at low level on the other side of the trellis and the top part here of intertwining stems are quite dead.

The winter has taken its toll all around the garden this year; the north westerly winds and salt spray from the sea has burnt many of the shrubs and it will take a while before we know what will spring back to life. As the snowdrops are fading away the daffodils are in full bloom, scattered around the garden creating little splashes of colour. The new bulbs, tulips and narcissi, I planted last autumn have all been dug up and eaten by the rabbits…. apparently daffodils are not to their liking and so have been spared.

Everywhere there are little signs of plants waking up and the springtime flowers about to emerge.

My spirits as ever were lifted as my little friendly Robin bibbed and bobbed around me with such a warm welcome back. He had polished off all the food we had left him on our last visit and was eager to follow me about visiting each newly dug patch of earth for worms.

We are eating well here at the caravan and choosing hob based meals to save on the Calor gas. Our only oven meal so far was the nut roast which I brought with us cooked, but frozen and I could have chosen to reheat it in the microwave but I had left over parsnips to use up from the fridge at home and not wanting to waste them I had to put the oven on to roast them…note to self not to buy parsnips when we are about to come up to the caravan.

I needed tomato paste at the caravan because at home we buy it in a jar, then spoon it out into ice cube trays and freeze it. I usually buy those tiny pots to use in the caravan as they keep well but couldn’t find any on the shelves – luckily in the little Sainsbury’s at Newton Stewart on our way here these little cans were on clearance at only 8p each. Another bargain.

Today the winds are not settling – DH has braved the weather to dig out another few feet of ditch (this carries the rain water that drains down through the upper wood across to the burn). It gets rather clogged up with the fallen leaves from the trees and the resulting mud has to be cleared every so many years. I am not venturing out but instead will be catching up with some reading and making notes on some cost cutting ideas for when we return home.

I may even get my paint box out. X

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.

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