Monday, 8 February 2016

Getting Jobs Done

Jeepers, the wind is blowing furiously outside, and it's chilly to boot.

I just got in from exercising and stood under the shower to be soaked in cold have snuggled down in the snug well wrapped up whilst the boiler does it's thing and makes everything better again.

So a chance to catch up! For the last couple of weekends Martin has been back and forth to Drifter, painting and fixing and fiddling. Rosie was sweet enough to come back to help last weekend, so ended up painting anti-foul on the hull with two rollers at once!
Meanwhile I shopped and cooked and cleaned, so that by the time they came home we were ready to enjoy having friends from choir over for a meal. They seemed to have a good time in spite of me making them play Rapidough, and spilling white wine over some very expensive leather trousers.

On Sunday I had arranged to visit Victoria for a belated birthday delivery, and as it turned out it was cold and rainy so not worth going to the boat so happily Martin could come too. Rosie managed to sort out the odds and ends of ski kit we have, finding enough to help her brave the elements when she takes a short ski holiday with Susie next week (visiting Hannah who is currently teaching in Austria), so we left Max to take her back to the station.

Vicki was in fine form, her room looking uncharacteristically tidy. We popped in briefly to drop off presents then went on a windy walk around a reservoir, then back into Oxford for a warming pub lunch.

She is starting to think about what to do when her time at Oxford is over, a daunting prospect since she genuinely doesn't know what career path to take. A hard few months' work ahead and then doubtless something will turn up, she has so many talents.

Having completed the last phase of my CIM course I am now trying to catch up on the online navigation course that Rosie and I are supposed to be doing. Causing a bit of brain-ache, I'm afraid, all those charts and calculations which seem OK if you are led through them but befuddling when you look back. Not sure I will ever be confident enough to try it all in practice.

On the home front, our concrete wall has been rebuilt (despite trying to go off in various lateral and vertical diversions) and some missing roof tiles have been replaced. But the need for plenty more roof-work has been revealed, along with the enormous fascia that needs sorting out once the weather calms. Here's hoping we don't find any nasty surprises when we have a quick trip to France  shortly!

Meanwhile the hens have laid a single egg (unless they have hidden more) so they clearly think Spring is on its way. The snowdrops are flourishing and primroses sprouting up all over the place...and I nearly mowed the lawn at the weekend. Instead two machine-loads of washing blew dry whilst Max helped me sort out some fixing-up that was needed in the laundry, finishing off just as the rain started. So progress of sorts.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Dust and Song

So how do you stop a tree from continuing to sprout and disrupt your wall after you have had it decapitated? You drill out the stump.

This involves trundling a caterpillar-tracked piece of machinery across your lawn until it can reach its heavy-duty saw into the very heart of the stump, from where it disembowels its prey.
Now all that remains is a heap of sawdust. And a very broken wall, held together, I suspect, by the ivy clambering up the other side.
A propos nothing whatsoever, but because I want to remember some of these things, here are a few songs I am learning:
 Looking forward to Spring, tra-la!

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Frosty Garden

I dropped Max at the Priory this morning (then Martin and I went on to pick up his car after its  MOT) and am so glad I did: a crisp and blue morning with frost over the fields and hedgerows, I really should have taken my camera.

So after a meeting later, and still in my lovely new Christmas wool coat (with wellies), I took a couple of snaps in the garden. Unfortunately they show not frost but a bit of a mess, after the tree was felled and showed up the damage to the wall.
But here is Martin's woodstack showing a little more dedication to garden organisation. A great number of spare pallets have been removed and with a little more effort that end of the garden could look quite respectable.
My attempt at a selfie also requires some finesse.

Monday, 18 January 2016

Laundry Tales

Not many people can boast outdoors laundry facilities, can they?

Martin ran a whole wash outside the woodshed yesterday, with the machine linked up to water and electricity and looking mighty odd  next to the dustbins. Here's the end product:
Yes, ropes of course. I refused to let him christen the new washing machine with a heavy load of dirty old ropes, so he enterprisingly hooked up the old machine before it left for the tip. Now I think he is trying to work out where we can give it a permanent home.

The new model meanwhile hums peacefully along and plays a little tune when it has finished what it is doing. Just, in fact, as I do.

Elsewhere in the garden the woodsmen have been in to take out the thriving little tree that has burst through the breeze-block wall to the neighbouring garden, leaving us with even less greenery, but a decent heap of logs for the fire.
I put a whole load of stuff on Freecycle this week too: old desk and chair, sundry crockery and small electrical items, all of which have now been collected by happy wombles, leaving the barn a little less cluttered.

Or at least, it was until all the boat stuff came back to stay whilst Drifter is out of the water for a few weeks.

Meanwhile we have been sorting dates: for Martin and I to pop to Normandy, for Ben and Fran to do likewise, Rosie to go skiing, Mum to come for belated birthday treat. I also booked my car in for its MOT, and found that the children's car had missed its date by several months. Why did they stop the automatic MOT renewal reminder service I wonder? It seems lots of people are being caught out, with potentially disastrous consequences. Thank heavens I noticed in time. Time, indeed, to put it all on a spreadsheet for a household 'special days' calendar. Oh the fun.

Friday, 15 January 2016


Frosty mornings are back, the hens reluctant to leave their house and the puddles on the drive swirly with ice. Max has taken to driving to work since he got a nasty puncture on the way home a week ago, but I can't say I blame him.

I finally got my CIM Assignment completed this week, all tidied up and sent off, so I have been catching up on household chores (yes, windows again) and appointments. Turns out to be good timing as we had not realised MOTs are due on two cars. They have now been booked in for next week and doubtless will suck a chunk of money from our account, but at least they may better protect us against the weather.

Our washing machine has also died (or rather, is terminally ill as the bearings have gone and it makes an horrendous racket). I checked and we have had it for 8 years (John Lewis model) so felt a marker in the sand here would be a good gauge of longevity for the replacement due for delivery tomorrow.

Given that we have been back in the UK 17 years (so previous washer also lasted about that long) I suspect it must be true that white goods are now designed to endure no more. Foolishly, we seem to accept that. I read recently that someone has been making a fortune out of overhauling and re-selling old Kenwood Chef mixers, as they were far more sturdily built than modern designs. Certainly true of our own, a wedding gift that has seen plenty of use and marches reliably on. No wonder landfill sites are bursting at the seams.

On a less curmudgeonly note, Ben has started work from his Studio in Clifton, which looks a great place to host guitar lessons even though he has only had one weekend to furnish it. Great stuff!
Time to empty the washing machine, make a cup of coffee and then do my morning exercises (which I skipped this morning thinking the roofers were about to arrive...but they didn't). Martin has just called to say he is back in the country so I had better have something to show him I haven't squandered the week.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

Happy New Year

It's all gone. Christmas tree, decorations, lights all packed up, presents unwrapped and thanks given. Children back to their jobs and studies. Just the greenery remains, our wreath still looking fresh on the front door, though the birds have had the berries.

Ben went back with a couple of our spare chairs to use at his new Studio in Clifton, which he has rented for 6 months to provide a place from which to teach his guitar students. He took delivery of the keys this week and was spending the weekend getting it ready for use: an exciting new stage of his career for which we wish him the best of luck.

Max has been teaching his new boss the ropes and hoping he turns out to be a good 'un. Martin has just taken off for America for the week, having prepared four pheasants (given to us by Mandy and which have hung in the garden room since Monday) yesterday for the freezer, and cooked a tasty pie for dinner too.

As for me, I should be sending off my final paper for the CIM exam this week, so I can say goodbye to that end of the business. The results aren't out until June so I might as well forget all about it and focus on building a website and working out exactly what I can offer people. Exactly the right sort of project for a new year.

I have also been to a Physiotherapist, who reckons he might be able to do something about my continued sore arms and hands (which have disturbed my sleep for endless months). Who knows, but at least doing recommended exercises and popping in for treatment makes me feel as though something might work.

Added to which I have found a local Zumba class, which I intend to try this week. Despite my best intentions I am not getting enough exercise, so a weekly appointment with some music and fellow wobblers ought to be a good thing.

The garden thinks it is already Spring, judging by the flowering primroses and lush grass, which has prompted me to do a little Spring cleaning this weekend in the form of window-washing and pantry-sorting. And I may even give my car a wash this afternoon.

January sunshine, it makes you feel good.

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Warm Christmas

Martin put the Christmas lights up outside this week, I baked a Christmas cake and the children gradually started to return home: first Vicki back from Oxford on my birthday, then Rosie back from London the next day (swapping with Vicki who beetled off to meet up with friends in London).

So Rosie and I finished decorating the house for Christmas, bringing in greenery and belatedly making a wreath for the front door (where it can happily stay through January)
The kitchen is looking festive too, with replacement sparklies and some ivy candles
...and now all the presents are under the tree!
We treated ourselves to a 3D showing of 'The Force Awakens' (Star Wars), which of course became the theme for this year's cake: spot the penguinised characters (a clever creative team!)
Ben got the train back from Bristol after a medical appointment on Christmas Eve, so we all finally met up in Gerrard's Cross when the boys caught up with the girls and we all settled down to toast Christmas.

Mum and Dad, with Kerry, were staying with J and S for the week, and since Jenny and Ally were spending their first Christmas in their own home in Wingham (and Big Bro of course staying home in Rutland too) we were a manageable 11 plus 2 little ones for most of Christmas and were even able to sleep comfortably!

Youngest Nephew was really excited to see Ben again and the cousins all seemed to get along well, plus it was great to have our four together again. J had hired trestle tables to make up a huge square table in their large kitchen, which stretched to accommodate S's family too for Christmas Dinner.

A delicious meal on Christmas Eve turned into a carol singalong and once all the presents had been piled into the Christmas Wigwam (?) shenanigans with the boxes followed.

Christmas morning was the girls' turn to cook breakfast, so Rosie, Vicki and I conjured up some tasty hash brown egg bites with rocket and pomegranate, cranberry ice cubes in berry-bubbly, and fruits, yoghurt and granola.
It all went down jolly well, and after a quick clean-up we headed off to the local church for Family Service in light drizzle. It has barely been cold for the whole of December, not a scarf or mitten in sight, so our wellies went back in the car and pretty candles took the place of a warming fire.

J and S performed wonders with their single-and-a-half oven, serving Christmas Dinner for 18  early afternoon amidst champagne, G&Ts, plentiful wine and much merriment. The enormous kitchen helped, the inevitable hubbub effectively kept at bay to some extent by their island and the copious space beyond, but J marshalled his troops with impressively calm good humour.
The wee man was ever on hand to help with hand wrestling and licking...
...whilst little sister did her best to win the cuteness stakes.
The presents were opened in a whirl of wrap, lots of pleased grins and grateful hugs as we spread out on plentiful sofas in the huge sitting room. And we didn't do very much else for the entire day but sit and wallow in gifts and alcohol and snacks, rounded off by the Muppet Christmas Carol.

Boxing Day breakfast was the boys' domain and they did a tasty bagel bar with all the trimmings, proving our equal in the cooking and presentation stakes.
We left at midday, making a quick journey home and enjoying another relaxing evening in front of the fire. Sunday morning Ben went off to collect Fran, whilst we mulled cider and made sausage rolls then created headwear for the afternoon.

Sean had organised for everyone to meet up at Twickenham for Big Game 8, and when he eventually arrived (!) we indulged in a huge picnic along with his and Jenny's families, finally getting the whole family together at last. The food and drink went down a treat, the weather was still mild enough to enjoy being outdoors, and the rugby was great with a high score draw that kept us lively throughout.
Thanks for the pics, Jenny!
Back home Vicki cooked a superb veggie meal whilst we opened Jenny's present to the family which turned out to be a musical game, and since we had just been discussing what to play it worked out perfectly! Rosie introduced a variation on musical entertainment: gargling guess-the-tunes. You can imagine just how that turned out.

So by Monday morning we were happy just to go with the flow. Ben and Fran rooted out some old photo albums and watched the kids' Spy Movie, then went for a walk. I drove them back to Bristol in time to catch the new Star Wars film. Rosie and Vicki both left the following day, so we are suddenly back to a small, quiet household. 

With lots of happy memories.