Monday, 31 December 2012

A New Year

Sydney has already celebrated New Year there.
Oh dear another year looms with - I dare not type anything anti anyone but put it this way, H1 is not the most exciting, romantic complementary person in town- in fact entirely the opposite.
oh well I hope yours is happy (and healthy) when it comes

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Where to start?

I have not slept a full night for months-could it be the tablets I am on? Thus I have lain in bed for some time gazing at the speckled, pixilated, creamy edge framing the curtains and trying to work out if it was a full moon lighting up the dark sky (when I went for a wee it was like sitting in daylight in the en suite!) and whether this was a blue moon- but the study calendar from Canadian N. tells me the full moon was on Friday night (28th) and 4 weeks before that would take us to the last day in November-tough......

December- in fact 2012- has sailed past so quickly and tomorrow is New Year's Eve and the man with as many noses as there are days in the year will be out and about. Let me know if you see him........
The Solstice means the sun is on its way back north to us- Hallelujah! May it dry up all the rain so Incy Wincy spider can climb the spout again.
A wet, windy month is coming to its end- like Janus I am looking both ways in this blog because I have not had time to think, let alone write, for weeks; I have planned a few things to blog but no time to type them up. So I shall look back then forward- actually though I am not a scatterbrain, I shall probably dot around all the many thoughts in my head and not put events in chronological order-bear with me.

Various health issues and the arrival of baby A. have absorbed the month till Christmas was upon us with a vengeance; the house hummed with visitors- a flurry of bedding, crackle of wrapping paper, broken baby nights -L and I tried to help out with late or early shifts-snap of crackers, flicker of candles, spices of mulled wine and lots of laughter. Smells are evocative aren't they? Nieces and their happy boys came- why didn't we get round to playing table football? Last night my nephew joined us watching Newcastle playing Arsenal then for a board games night. It took me back to all the many Christmases when we 'had' everyone in the extended family- my parents, my sisters, their husbands/partners, their children, my aunts and uncles, my parents' bestman, my parents-in-law, my sister & brother-in-law and Uncle Tom Cobbley and all!

I mentioned football! I shall not mention by name that wee Scotsman who is so full of himself as he plays mindgames with referees and linesmen then 'calls' Newcastle United- a wee Northern Club- us! has he seen or heard of our fan support? In 3 days we scored so many goals against his Man Utd and Arsenal and played such exciting football but.....

Now the holly which has decked the halls, is withered and crackly on the picture frames; the recycling bin is full of (non-metallic of course) wrapping paper and empty bottles; the chocolate boxes are discarded and the Christmas tree is devoid of chocolate ornaments.
We have eaten too much. We have walked from the Fish Quay to past the Grand Hotel while watching masses of  porpoise like surfers riding the waves. Unfortunately we had to call in for fish and chips- but it tastes better when I don't have to cook a meal myself.
The turkey carcase (or is it carcass?) is in 2 big pans downstairs ready to make broth; the jar of sauce is ready to make turkey curry; I am going to get on my bike today and splash through puddles to accompany D3 as she runs. Before the diet there is a hogroast at church and New Year buffet at the local rugby club then back to normal routine and thinner days!Then I will be able to get stuck into my books received at Christmas. I shall read everyone's letters again.

First we have friends calling in from Australia- just like that! The world gets smaller and families interconnect across the globe so easily now. A pantomime to stage. Ooh! 3 weddings coming up in 2013. The green spears of my bulbs are already pushing well up- Bring it on!
Really I need a new PC next year but money is a bit tight so this chuntering, achingly slow desktop will have to suffice.

I wish you all a happy, healthy New Year when it comes.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Our nativity

7-8 months of HG...... and now joy! Our first grandchild- a girl - was born at the weekend. What can I say but she is fine- a perfect little cutie. I can not believe it after all this constant poorliness. Thank heaven.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I have just had to poke Santa's eye out- on my Advent calendar- to open door / day number 3.

Glancing out of the window at a coal black sky and WOOSH! the silver trail of a shooting star leaves me in awe; beautiful,magical and so far away.

The oven is filled with trays of golden, sugar-sprinkled, sweet mince pies-almost time to take them out and put them on a cooling rack; then the freezer will gobble them up till later in December.

The Duchess of Cambridge and her Prince have announced her pregnancy and also her H.G. Hyperemesis Gravidarum is something our little nuclear family- and my son-in-law- know a lot about since D2 is/has been experiencing this in her pregnancy; until you have held an HG hand or head while she has thrown up day and night- do not say 'Oh yes! I have had morning sickness too' cos just morning sickness it ain't! Unfortunately many nurses in the U.K. do not know what H.G. is (the nursing profession in the Netherlands could provide some lessons) so disbelieve and are often unkind to those women who suffer it. Sorry Kate but the one blessing of your vomiting (Heaven help her- on the world stage not in the privacy of her own bathroom) is you may educate the NHS to provide more for those with Hyperemesis Gravidarum.  Meanwhile congratulations on your great news.

The oven and Newcastle United call.........

Thursday, 29 November 2012


November opens its arms rapidly to embrace December- where did the month go? Mainly to York? Where ever it went it dribbled on mainly in the rain; we have been more fortunate than many in Britain who have suffered again from flooding. Fields locally are harbouring ponds and lakes providing new homes for wildlife; lawns glisten with the excess of water lying on the surface as the aquifers  & underground reservoirs are filled to capacity. Tonight the temperatures are down below freezing and forecasts are it will stay below freezing for some days. It took tonight's visitors quite a while to de-ice their car in order to drive home.

The men who have grown moustaches for Movember, (sponsored to provide cash for research into prostate cancer) will certainly feel the chill when facial hair is shaved off on Saturday.

I baked three wedding cakes on Saturday; heck! I hope they are as tasty as the last three- the responsibility weighs heavy!

Sunday was StirUp Sunday but I was on the gallivant at Beamish Hall Christmas Fayre on Sunday so I stirred 3 puds up on Monday; they are now sitting chilled in the garage biding their time till their moment of glory on Christmas Day.

I bet you wondered where I had got to all this month; not much gardening going on due to abysmal weather conditions and so much on my plate- however I have cut back the buddleia, most of the roses (rain stopped play) and had lots of good physiotherapy sweeping leaves together across the lawn.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012


By crikey me keks are clarty from walking with the group these last few weeks; the highways and byways have been wet and muddy; I cannot be bothered wearing gaiters so i just clag my trousers (keks) in the wash to de-mud them. We walked along the old railway line from Langley station garden tearoom about 3 weeks ago- soaking underfoot but we only caught raindrops in the last 20 minutes.

That must have been around Hallowe'en- or to some of us- All Hallows Eve (October 31st). Though as a family we have always celebrated Hallowe'en with ducky apples, catch the doughnut as it is swinging - and gone out with snanny (turnip) lanterns haunting- and we always did a 'party piece'- a song/joke/poem,  a lot of folk have gone more American- 'trick or treating'. I also sent cats' eyeballs (silverskin onions), witches' fingers(hot dogs), giants toenails (crisps) etc into school for staff to dispense. Oh boy-we found hollowing out turnips (the yellow kind!) difficult- did you?

This year we went for a softer, easier option- carving pumpkins. We had a fun night on October 31st decorating pumpkins after D3 cooked us tea. Later that week D3 had a wonderfully decorated party attended by lots of witches, wizards, monks etc!!!! Everyone brought some food to add to what was provided- mmmulled wine is my favourite.

Definitely hard work preparing for Halloween.....

I recall it was about then we woke up to our first heavy frost; silvered lawns glinting in the morning sunlight. The trees had hung onto their leaves much longer than in most years but this cold snap and the snow turned my acer scarlet overnight.

Winter is approaching!

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Hulne Park

Hulne Park is the domain of the Dukes of Northumberland.
It is where part of the film 'Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves ' was made.
Virginia Creeper heralded our arrival; she will be bare now.

A search for a geocache brought no luck on the way in but then there were muggles around.
Here one can view the biggest bulls with the thickest necks......

jewel-coloured pheasants......

Medusa haired weeds

and an avenue of horse chestnuts

shedding leaves and conkers.

By now the conkers will have met their match in the school yards of Britain and been emptied from childrens' pockets into dustbins !


Saturday, 3 November 2012

Guy Fawkes Night

'Remember, remember the 5th of November....' so why is the dark sky outside lit with the glow of fireworks? Today is November the 3rd not the 5th.

The festival is called Guy Fawkes Night,  not Bonfire Night; I know it is  gruesome but it is an English tradition and to drop the celebration or hide its origins away is like....... not speaking to the French because William conquered us in 1066, or not speaking to the Scots because we constantly fought them here in the North- or them not speaking to us because we battled them at Flodden- or they hit us at Prestonpans. Life is too short! and tradition is about remembering the lessons and consequences of the past- passing culture and history lessons on - no matter how horrid the lesson may be.

We always worked hard at making a guy then put him on a bogey or old pushchair or pram and touted him around the neighbourhood shouting 'penny for the guy'.

Guy Fawkes was a Protestant who converted to Catholicism when his mother remarried to a Catholic; Guy was a mercenary (known as Guido when he swopped and switched sides and ended up fighting in Spain.) In 1605 a group of Catholics planned to blow up the House of Lords (the Lords and the King) to kill James I et al in order to restore a Catholic monarch to the throne; Guy Fawkes was found below Westminster Palace guarding the explosives; thus the rhyme goes on
'Gunpowder, treason and plot......'

If you plan to commit murder then you suffer the consequences of the time- regardless of religious reasons for the intended crime- and though a guy is thrown on the bonfire every year, actually Guy Fawkes killed himself before his execution.

So 'I see no reason why gunpowder treason should ever be forgot'.

We shall look for some fireworks to light on Guy Fawkes Night ie Monday night- November the 5th- but we will not be celebrating Bonfire Night tonight with the Round Table as we have done for years and years and years.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Snow before Halloween?

Yep! We have snow; I cannot remember ever having snow before Halloween; we went down to the Fish Quay at North Shields on Friday evening and glimpsed Admiral Lord Collingwood haloed by grey, snow filled clouds then he disappeared into a swirl of snowflakes.

A short while later we watched an interview on television which took place in Saltwell Park; a garden of Remembrance has been created of tiny poppy adorned crosses; caught between a bitter wind and whirling snow the interviewees looked frozen. Opening the curtains we realised how deep the white covering had become in under an hour.

The clocks went back last night so sunset is about 4.30p.m. tomorrow night. It is dark but at least the days of fog have lifted.

Needless to say, my red Christmas cactus and my unusual cream flowered cactus are both covered in buds ( I have told you before these plants must not be moved, even for dusting; get some- they are a perfect excuse- if you need one). So for these succulents, once again, Christmas will come early. Having said that, I realise Advent is not far away- but Marks and Spencer have already got reindeer striding through the mens' shirts and sparkly baubles suspended above the socks- NO! No! No! Not till December please.

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Conversation of the Year

Me- 'Darling- while I am washing up , could you run the hoover round?'

H1- ' I'm not a hoover man'.

Did I hear you say that you bet that went down like a lead balloon? It was like a red rag to a bull actually..... Was I born wielding a Dyson or an iron??!!
Where did I go wrong? I have taught him to do all sorts of things incase anything happens to me- he irons a great shirt- and several years ago I stopped ironing his shirts altogether as God made him equal to me in skills and now in time. He now has certain staple meals he can make; only convinced that he CAN do cooking by my insistence that this was merely domestic SCIENCE (does the word science convince men of things being 'manly'?) and he should just regard cooking as a physics experiment- AND everyone is allowed to make mistakes.... but the answer is to learn from them.

I now realise I do all the heavy work eg the gardening- digging, planting etc- he mows the lawn- while Newcastle United are playing away and the match commentary is on the radio which is plugged into his ears while Asperger's stripes are carefully ruled across the grass.

I shall not even describe barbecues in which I slave away over a hot stove while watching him through the window- he in the sunshine and with can in hand, requesting I bring the oven cooked food out to get a cremation over the hot coals.

So much for my New Age Man.

Saturday, 20 October 2012


The weather is holding -fine if chilly some nights..... so much so that I have given in and put the autumn duvet on- heaven is snuggling under the quilt with 'Voyager' third in the series by Diana Gabaldon.

There are just not enough hours in the day; I have been so busy eg helping relatives move up north to York and kicking up the fallen leaves in Northumberland and Durham.

H1 and I have been to see 'Untouchable' recommended by my cousin- and I can see why she thought it was so good. We have managed a family night of board games- why was it I could not remember the rules of Chinese Detective? It is hardly intellectually challenging but I was glaky last night when we got together. Never mind! We laughed our socks off at my faux pas (how do you plural that?)

Wednesday, 10 October 2012


There that caught your attention!
It is 7a.m. I have been awake since 3 a.m. It is a long night made longer by not being able to do anything as the body next to you chortles away, snoring, snorting, popping and fizzing like the Northern Sinfonia. I shouldn't complain as I am lucky to have H1 next to me but if I put the light on to read then he gets cross at being woken up.
Through the window a flight of birds heralds the dawn; coffin black trees poke into the peach-pink lights of early morning; above that hangs the blue sky of another cloudless, autumn, northern day.

Pink reminds me- Are you going to 'Wear it Pink' on October 26th? October is Breast Cancer Action Month so Breast Cancer Campaign is really mounting an awareness month- even Buckingham Palace turned pink on October 2nd. I think we are going to do a Pink Bake and stall at school on the 26th. I shall be in the pink.

On Friday gone H1 and I went to The Pink Gala at Whitley Bay Playhouse; fab! is the only way to describe our night. N. Tyneside have Painted the Town Pink for 4 years now but then they are a very pro-active Council. The Mayor and his wife were just 2 of masses of us who turned up 'dressed to impress' and ALL wearing pink somewhere. We bought a 'favours' box (a stack like a tiered cake stand of all black tiny treasure chests and each adorned with a pink 'jewel') which we found contained a pink and chocolate button AND a message to say we had won a prize- a picture. The all-female cast were brilliant; so much talent in dance, song and costumes; in the backgound the orchestra (such smart 'men in black' with pink ties) provided great and varied music. The night was certainly 'in the mood'. I tried to send E, Ds1,2 and 3 photos on this new mob- but nothing arrived- and nor do I know how to download the photos so I can show the Gala to you. Their swimming pool waves pink sometime this month.

I have yet another stack of bras gathered in from friends that I need to donate to Breast Cancer Campaign, who are pushing this month like fury. Normally you can take them (the bras not the friends) to places like Debenhams- ours has a box in their lingerie fitting rooms for your cast-offs! However the box had been filled last time I went so I await a renewed box which I will provide with more discarded bras for recycling in all sorts of ways. If you want to throw away your bras with gay abandon do get in touch, leave them on our doorstep or drop them into Debenhams for the Breast Cancer Campaign box; darn! I missed the BCC bra box in Eldon Square last week.
Lots of people have painted their pinkie- have you?
What are you going to do to be a superhero?
Check them out girls- and boys- be aware and keep abreast of the times!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Golden autumn days

I have sat outside for lunch for several days  in the last week- I love it! 'Sandwich in the sun' could be the title of a book.

Inspite of the warmth of the sun , the air temperature is cold; the leaves are colouring yellow, tan, gold, bronze, russet and scarlet. The flowerborders and pavements are drifting with leaves.

Many of the flowers of summer are dying; I have begun to deadhead a variety of phlox which have cast fragrance over the garden for weeks.

I wonder why a number of gardeners have asked me specifically for some of the one above-maybe the pretty foliage? and how do I give them some?

The poker straight, cardinal lobelia still pontificates that it will not die off yet. So too do the roses which often hold their heads up into November.

The troughs of geraniums are still hanging on in

and the begonias actually seem to have enjoyed the whole summer and are flourishing in these first days of autumn.
Under the siver birch, the bed of marguerites are playing host to earwigs; these daisies never inspire me to flower arrange them because of the creatures they bring in to the house.

I stuck (literally- pushed in with my finger) some of last year's nasturtium seeds in the primula pots since there is nothing there after Spring but greenery for most of the Summer- and their reddy-orange trumpets have graced the patio for ages; I must remember to collect up the nasturtium seed heads for next year.

We have given up and put the central heating on morning and evening

but when will I finally admit defeat and fight the winter duvets onto the beds?
The hydrangeas,


and buddleia are providing nectar for the last of the flutter-byes

But the glories of autumn are definitely on the way.........

Okey dokey I am off to watch television- D3 tells me I must watch the semifinal of The Great British Bake Off.

Friday, 5 October 2012


The broth is in the making; the pressure cooker hisses ,filling the kitchen with sound and steam. Chicken carcass, lentils, split peas, onions, turnip (swede to some), carrots- today a potato and some mixed herbs. My theory is whoever gets the bay leaf clears the table after our meal but invariably it is in my bowl- I think they all pull a fast one when I am not looking!
A few 'accumulations' of cumulus bubble in a clear, blue sky. I shall plant bulbs, sort pots and absorb some Vitamin D before ladling out a bowl of broth to eat outside on the garden bench.
An incoming lengthy phonechat- and the cloud is thickening up- better dash......

.......5 hours later H1 was back from golf to find me still in the garden but the 'beasties' were prolific for some reason and I gave up and headed inside; during the Little Theatre's 'Crown Matrimonial' I discovered I had been bitten but just once so I was lucky and the borders look tidy.

I reckon more of the same today (after a 'ladies who coffee') but where to put the rubbish since yesterday I filled the garden bin?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012


I have just found my photos of Rennington Scarecrow festival and realised I have not blogged about August Bank Holiday weekend.
A lot of the scarecrows were synchronised round the Olympics!
Where do the residents get their ideas from?Brilliant!
The Paralympics came over loud and clear too.

 Britain's wonderful coalition government took a slating.

 and of course our equally wonderful summer weather got hammered.

The weather was so bad that for the first time in 15+ years we did not get as far as the RNLI Fair at Seahouses- I will have to buy RNLI Christmas cards instead to make my contribution to the volunteer lifeboatmen. (No! This is not a member of the lifeboat crew!)
Nor are these three freezing, huddled cats who gave in to the driving rain and biting wind and headed for board games in their own warm abode.
Meanwhile the Queen reigned supreme with the help of Prince Philip and 007.

Durham and castles

It is October already and life still is not slowing down. Looking back we crammed so much into the summer holidays and I have not had time to divulge all on this blog.

The Ladies have been so lucky with the weather. We have been all over the place over the last few weeks.

We walked along the south bank of the Tyne via Bill Quay farm.


I have been to Warkworth twice- once with the Ladies on a walk (via Topsy Turvy in the village) round the coast.

We chose the most beautiful day- with sun, a blue sky painted with altostratus and a light breeze.

and found others enjoying a plodge too. Northumberland at its best then; it is chillier now and the nights have definitely drawn in.
Our Dutch friends B&E came a-visiting; E likes castles so , explaining that historically the county had been a war zone, mainly between England and Scotland, therefore we had an abundance of castles- we headed north to Warkworth,


Bamburgh and finally Alnwick.
Alnwick is still lived in- Harry Potter learned to play quidditch here on a broomstick!
Depending on the weather, the Ladies get up to all sorts. In torrential rain last week we went to the Laing to admire the Quentin Blake exhibition.

This week we lazed along the River Wear on a riverboat cruise with commentary about Durham;

in fact we have visited Durham City twice of late; we walked the streets of old Durham town the week before. Like Warkworth Castle, Durham Cathedral is built inside a natural moat- a river meander; then Durham Castle has been built on the neck of the meander to protect the monkish wealth from invaders.

Harry, Hermione and Ron were first seen coming into this snowcovered cloister (alias Hogwarts) clutching their books in -was it the Philosopher's stone?

We mooched around like tourists drinking in everything as though it was all new to us. Tired, I arrived home to find D3 had brought me a gift from work

which was spiky,(or was it spikey?) modern and lasted for AGES.

Sunday, 30 September 2012


D'you know hanging out with youngsters does have some advantages? By youngsters I mean 18 to 40 year olds- young enough to be techno knowledgeable and old enough to have patience with their technodinosaur elders(well- sometimes) - and they often have the financial back up to buy the equipment necessary to be technowizards. These Tweenies (ie between unsalaried scholars and pensioned silver surfers) have been educated in the computer world so are relaxed and informed there but are old enough to realise they are going to be elderly one day and beyond the optimism of Youth that says it will never happen to them..... They know about i-pods and i-pads and androids and laugh but kindly at my Nokia 33-10 mobile phone. I bought a new mob last week and I received more sweet smiles from the next generation down when I said I had to upgrade as my mob (which was safe as it would never be worth pinching at school- though I hear it has a cult following!?) was no longer holding its charge- so I had bought the next model up and it can take photos (not that I know how to download them on to my PC yet - but I am working on it!)

Anyway D3 asked if we wanted to go geocaching yesterday- is the Pope a catholic?- Yes! We are known for loving games and treasure hunts so (rain) coats, hats and gloves on (its blinking cold for September) and we were off; oops sorry- we downloaded the app (yes! as in application- you can tell me nothing now I have been geocaching- well! have you been geocaching?) on her phone. So off we go.....there are so many places where other geocachers had hidden 'treasures' for us to find and sign in on.
We found maps showing the location of several caches near us and headed off- in this case ie yesterday- to the woods. Today we got soaked in a rainstorm but there we were again, keen as mustard, clambering through wildlife reserves, locating wildcats in neighbouring estates, twisting and turning according to compass degrees, or striding out paces in certain directions- in order to find standard, small or even nano caches hidden in such inventive containers tucked away in exciting hiding places- if you can find them! We found 3 but had to search so hard for the last cache- the app recorded a family finding it 6 days ago but it eluded us. We signed in the logs inside the caches and later logged on to record comments online. The caches are hidden all over Britain so get cracking.

Yahoo! Northumbria University devised the geocaching app (c.geo) so one feels duty bound to show support....... actually no! Just do it because it is such good fun- your kids and grand kids would love it too- and their eyes might be sharper than yours for spotting secret treasures!!

Got to go- Downton Abbey calls- I love Sunday nights!

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Felton fox

Right now there is only me awake in the whole world; well, me and the wind rustling through the black leaves of the beech. I woke up a hot hour ago and having tossed and thought, I cogitated it was worth getting up, doing something and going back to bed later. I decided against the ironing (well you would , wouldn't you?); I wondered about sewing up the hems on those jeans but 4a.m. eyesight is not keen enough so in the staring glare of a desk light (which hopefully does not pierce the darkness of the inhabitants of the other rooms on the landing) I am quietly tapping away on a keyboard.
Why am I awake? Was it the stimulating company and conversation of old friends? the red wine I am no longer used to? habit as I find myself going through periods where I am awake in the early hours and other times when I sleep like a log? as I was reminded last week- 'too many birthdays' so maybe this is another thing which happens when one ages? but I don't feel old so I am going to dismiss that- after all I am not yet a daytime snatcher and snoozer..... as a fruit tea drinker I am gazing at the alarm clock probably as a result of taking a strange fancy to the strong coffee at the restaurant!

It is almost October, the autumn equinox is behind us and I need to alter the porch light to come on earlier. The harvest is in and I have the dried fruit bought for the Christmas cake.

I remember nestling in the boughs of an old, lichen encrusted apple tree in Felton; I holidayed with the grandmother of family friends; Nana Peat lived in a cottage terraced along Felton's main street; behind her home was another world- a big garden dominated by a gnarled tree heavy with fruit and us. Nana wore a floral pinny and checked, pompommed slippers which shuffled. We went to Felton recently to walk. We sipped in the heavenly smell of fresh baking in The Running Fox and bought a set of local walk booklets. Best foot forward and we were off........

Along the river bank, under the canopy of trees and past hedgerows of nettles entwisted with honeysuckle.
Past the gentle murmur of munching sheep not yet aware of the coming trauma of separation for market.

Had Ratty and Mole been there before us?

Much of the walk was through fields in which the harvest was being gathered and through some fields where the wheat was yet to be taken in.

Northumberland is host to lots of Halls tucked away in the countryside by Victorian entrepreneurs and now put to a different use; we have been told this Hall may be a residence for some kind of Christian fellowship or retreat house?

Meanwhile we move through the corn- well wheat- like girls in a Cadbury's advert

Where are we? The county we know so well still holds surprises as we march past drive entrances- what is up there?

and continue to wind along lanes hung with bells of fuschia

and butterfly enticing buddleia bushes

'Let's head for home via a cuppa in the village' so we leave the land and wander through the history living in the names of houses on the old A1.

A grand walk!
Now  'Home James and don't spare the horses'........