Sunday, 22 December 2013


I have mulled over whether or not to write my blog tonight- literally! I went to a mulled wine & games party last night and laughed myself silly (after a family Chinese meal- a tradition to us and a Newcastle match which was smashing to watch) . This morning I served (& drank some) mulled wine and sweet mince pies; this afternoon we relaxed at a neighbours' house with mulled wine and mince pies so I am celebrating the return of the sun and longer days with family, friends and food and drink!

I am struggling to find time to scribble - well- type- as life is so enjoyably busy.

One of the friends I met last week gave me Philippa Gregory's new book 'The White Princess' which is finished already! I don't buy books in hardback but wait till they come out cheaper in paper back- but H did so I devoured it- my period of history at 'A' level. H also gave me 'The Kingmaker's daughter'- but I think I have read it already- must check- though with my memory these days I could probably read most of it as though it was new to me. Then the third book awaits......

You will gather I have put Nelson Mandela aside  for a while- friends reassure me they had to do the same as it is heavy going- whereas Elizabeth's problems with Henry VII and other pretenders were pageturners so the book was grabbed at every opportunity.

Wrapping mainly done; the house needs a good hoover- but the  recorded final of 'Strictly ...' and a cuppa await before somebody tells me the result- my money is on Abbey (or is it Abbi?) so when you've got to go, you've got to go.......

Monday, 2 December 2013


 Last  Saturday we decided to blow the cobwebs away by visiting Northumberlandia; she is an earth sculpture created from the debris of the Shotton surface coal mine by the Banks group on land donated by Blagdon Estates. There are innumerable paths to walk round the parkland, hillocks and lakes.

Entry was free; Northumbria Wildlife Trust were in evidence selling postcards from their small hut. The base of the new Visitors Centre has been erected- upon completion the cafĂ© will be manned by Azure.

The afternoon was that of typical northern December; blue sky, cold wind and sunshine; the cloud formations were magnificent- like sand ripples left on the beach by a departing tide.

We climbed first to the viewing points, placed like trigonometrical points at the top of circular paths.

Oh Lady of the North what will you look like from a plane above you?

We clambered up the breasts of this female figure and took the gravel paths most carefully on the way down! Erosion was evident. So where was the Angel of the North that was directed to on the pointer at the top? Next time we will choose a crystal clear day in order to see Lindisfarne and the Angel. We identified other landmarks- we think! Urban lights began to switch on below us like the lighting up of a Christmas tree.

Ye Gods and little fishes! Circling up the approaches to the face, the temperature dropped; agh! it was so bitterly chilly. Gloved hands pulled my hat further on to stop earache... I hugged myself to keep warm while viewing....

From her forehead we were taken aback by how large the opencast site below is. H1 took off in descent before D3 and I- like a cat on hot bricks- to get back to the car, courtesy of the cold and to get to a Newcastle United football match; the Toon has this effect on us Geordies! the stoic pair left uptop took in the 360 degree panorama (First to see the sea!) then we too scuttled back to the warmth of our car.

The photographer was illdressed for the cold but I could see why he was waiting patiently for the sun to set behind Northumberlandia. We left him to it and viewed the winter evening from a snug kitchen.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Christening piece

An old tradition in the North of England is a christening piece; after a child is baptised, the father or godfather takes a christening parcel and gives it to the first person of the opposite sex to the baby (any age) and asks will they accept the baby's Christening piece. It brings luck to the giver and receiver.

Inside the parcel should be

salt- a preservative and hope for a long life
egg - sign of new life
savoury food- that the baby will always have food to eat
sweet food- that the baby will have a sweet life
silver (coin)- that the baby will not be poor in life.

I put an egg sandwich in the parcel I made up recently.
Myself and the Godfather of the baby's mother went out looking for a man! We had a giggle but we did manage to accost a youngish man on the village High Street who accepted the christening piece with a bemused smile- and wished the baby good luck- bless him!

Sunday, 17 November 2013


We have been globetrotting this week;
down to Yorkshire to help relatives move house....
helping another relative move furniture in order to lay carpets......
and been over to Cumbria for the wedding of old friends then went back over (after the Ball) to their reception the following day.
I am delighted, stiff and aching but I refuse to feel my age! I prefer to be busy and I have never been a ' sitter' when the world has so much to offer and explore.

The Grand Black and White Ball

I am run off my feet with so much going on....and this is all in November (or Movember) before the run up to Christmas starts in December.
We have been to a ball in the Old Assembly Rooms in Newcastle; four of us danced the night away in aid of fundraising for a new Breast Cancer MRI Scanner for the Royal Victoria Infirmary (RVI) in the city; this scanner will pick up in High Density, the tiniest cancer cells I believe- which means biopsies can be done even if ultra sound cannot pick up a potential problem accurately as it is so small; that will get to identifying a problem much more quickly before it gets real growth going.
The Wedgewood ceilinged ballroom looked beautiful with tables surrounded by white and black bowed chairs- if you were sat on the pink bowed chair on each table you got a prize! The black, silver and cerise balloons floated above each magnificently laid table. All the ladies got a tiny gift (Ferrero Rocher!) and there were dozens of sponsors providing money donations, raffle and aauction prizes- and hard work!
Long frocks and dinner suits on- well you don't get to do this very often- and for such a good cause!


Why oh why did I encourage H1 to grow a moustache to lift the profile of prostate cancer?
Yes, I think men do not do as much as women who work so hard in so many ways to highlight the need to be breast aware and also to fundraise for research into and care of breast cancer but I am surrounded by hairy men who have decided to grow moustaches of all shapes and sizes- I think it ages them all so much- and I am put off by lots of men giving me bristly kisses!

I didn't like to tell this old friend that his beard was a lot whiter than when I first knew him- he thinks he looks like he did in the 60s


The last day of October has been and gone...and I am haunted by the fact that I have not blogged our pumpkin carving team

with 2 new members- one only 11months old and dressed as a pumpkin!

The door bell rang regularly with little people dressed in all sorts of weird garb.

Eeh! We were all 'terrified'!!!!! So paid them off with sweets. I prefer the kids that come with a Halloween poem or joke to earn their treat.

Then D3 had a party with all the usual friends so easy to relax with and pumpkin cake so easy to eat!

Westonbirt Arboretum

Some years ago we took D3 to be a bridesmaid at a wedding held at Westonbirt (Gloucestershire) Surrounded by trees of every variety known to man -this is the National Arboretum- I was entranced.

The acers (Japanese Maples) were pretty and manifold.

I kept reiterating that I would like to return in the autumn as I knew the colours would be glorious- but when exactly to pinpoint the best time? Particularly when the south was due to be hit by the 'St Judas' storm- which in fact missed us & the arboretum....

With so many other things going on is our lives, we combined a visit to another friend who shares the wish for the forest's seasonal colours, with both a trip to Wales and the Arboretum.

The photos which you can click on to enlarge- do not show the colours as brightly as I would like- the glades of multi coloured acers took my breath away.

Rumour hath it that England's autumn colours are better than the Fall in New England this year- due to our sunny Summer; certainly the change in colour has been late this year, or so everyone thinks.
But now the temperature has certainly dropped; I have even given in and put the autumn duvet on so the nights must be getting chillier; Durham had its first snow fall while we were down in the South West.

Monday, 28 October 2013

The Lake District

We had a few days in Grasmere recently and met up with friends. We arrived in rain and left in rain- well that is the west side of Britain! On the leeside we are more sheltered and receive less precipitation from the prevailing winds from the SW.

Eeh! The four of us laughed our way along Loughrigg Terraces,

 sang in caves giving echoes of the Welsh National anthem across Rydal Water

and got lost coming off the 'coffin walk'; This lot were happily sitting on the stone used to rest coffins as the dead were carried from Rydal to the church in Grasmere;

we were bathed in the warmth of the sun and the company of each other.

We did encounter two money trees- they seem to be the thing to do now on various popular walks. Does the money get collected every so often and go to charity?

Finally the leaves are turning and pavements are covered in the rustling carpets of brown, russet and bronzed debris dropped or blown from nearby trees.

The forecasters reckoned the isobars were going to bring a ' STORMY MONDAY' but the ensuing chaos stayed in the South while the North ambled its usual late October self through the day, oblivious to London's tree covered train tracks.

I am having a serious think! I wonder how much it would cost to take this awful Windows 8 hard drive and get a PC company to wipe Windows 8 and put on Windows 7. THAT folks, is what I am going to do........

'Wear it Pink'

Each month seems to have been claimed by some charity or other eg November sees the growth of bristling, male moustaches earning donations in Movember for funding research into prostate cancer.

October is a month nailed by breast cancer charities and the last Friday is 'Wear it Pink Day' for Breast Cancer Campaign. Wear it Pink- so I did! This year I did not fund raise due to a big fundraising coffee morning for MacMillan 3 weeks ago- perhaps next year.......

Gateshead's Millennium Bridge lit up pink for Breast Cancer Campaign's Wear It Pink campaign
The Millennium Bridge lit pink on Friday October 25th 2013
The Tyne Bridge lit up pink for Breast Cancer Campaign's Wear It Pink campaign
The Tyne bridge highlighting the importance of research into the causes and treatment of breast cancer

Apologies! Try as I might ,I am unable to give you the whole photo which I have on the draft blog -yet when I go to print it does not produce the whole photo. In fact I cannot get out of this photo frame- and cannot scroll down the blog. Aagh!

'Sunshine Over Leith'

Well that was unexpected! I didn't realise it was going to be sung all the way through! I used to line dance to the Proclaimers. The Ladies went to the independent cinema- The Tyneside- after a rainy day when we definitely did not walk 500 miles. Luxurious, ample seats with a huge screen that if I sit too near , makes me feel queasy.

I jotted notes every few days in my writing notebook but have been so busy I did not get the chance to get on here to blog.... so tonight is the night.

Thomas Scheibitz I am not a fan! We viewed this gentleman's exhibition at the Baltic on the South bank of the Tyne; not memorable and not understood; last of my thoughts on modern paintings are that I could do better- ie produce pictures that were at least recognisable.

'Rough Justice'

Tom Conte left us with a real dilemma- guilty of murder? or not? As an audience we were the jury and we had to make a decision; he claimed he would not have a chance if we were all Catholics- who probably believe in the sanctity of life. Surely it matters not how disabled someone is-  holding a cushion over their face while they struggled till movement ceased , has to be deliberate so is murder? It was noteworthy that many of the women in the audience voted 'guilty'; H1 disagreed with me and considered the main character 'not guilty' Apparently Glasgow audience said virtually unanimously 'guilty!

The Theatre Royal is a beautiful theatre but sitting in the stalls, many of us could not dwell on or consider the importance of the British Jury System because we were dwelling on our personal discomfort- our posteriors were in such pain from the uncomfortable chairs; we all ended up making our coats into cushions-the prices for such very expensive tickets should provide soft seats for patrons' bottoms!

Are we the only country which operates the jury system? As the film states-   '12 good men and true'? (or women!) It is such a responsibility, holding someone's life in your hands. As yet I have not been called to serve on a jury. Have you?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

Hips and Haws

The hedgerows are full of fruit; hawthorns' haws, rosehips, elderberries, blackberries (brambles to us Northerners).....

Tucked away out of the wind we walked from Craster, sheltered behind the Whin Sill ridge; it was amazing how much there was to pick if we had only brought receptacles in which to put all this natural treasure.

The harvest was in and stored ready for winter bedding.

Looking right and left, we used the public right of way across Embleton Golf Course; we slithered down onto the beach and headed back south with a strong wind coming in off the North Sea. The sands were lashed by white water; we put hats on, hoods up and heads down as we explored along the Bay.

One by one, we clambered up smooth, rounded rocks and arrived back onto the links. Looking back, the tideline of shells and bladder wrack marked the shore. Waves crashed and pounded in while the backwash hissed as it washed back down the strand.

 Before us Dunstanburgh Castle stood proud against an almost cloudless, blue sky.

We skirted below the stonework and dodged the startled sheep.

Surf coughed up a spume of  shivering foam into the rock crevices below us. How I wish I'd been able to conduct a field trip to demonstrate folding with the cracked peak of an anticline and obvious sedimentary layers buckled in a syncline.

With all that fresh air I slept like a log.

We were back within 24 hours to harvest blackberries; purple fingered we headed home to welcome visitors for a dinner of mince and dumplings and banana custard.

After so many years counting calories, it pays to have visitors round for meals- then you have to widen your menu and in this case, I went back to family meals served in days of yore. Now- who's for apple and blackberry crumble and custard? Will this get me the title of 'Star baker'? Move over Ruby!

Thursday, 26 September 2013

Great North Run

Autumn- season of mists and mellow fruitfulness- crab apples

The beech is yellowing; chestnuts, always the first to bud, are also the first to die off: they are drifted gold and crackling crisp already; conkers spike between the withering fingers. In a matter of days the trees have decided winter is coming and leaves are falling.

Berries on the holly - a sign of a bad winter to come?

We had a few cold days; it rained during the Great North Run; since then we are experiencing a glorious, Indian summer of blue skies and warm sun.

Standing at the 11 mile point, our hands got hot, voices hoarse and arms ached- but it was worth it to see the lift our applause gave to runners.

D3 had previously done the Great North Run twice and The Marathon of the North so this year decided to do a Northumbrian Run of 10K at Matfen; We sipped a cappuchino  at the old School tearooms while waiting before heading for the finish to welcome runners in; then we used the day to backtrack along the route and found the tiny church at Ryal; I wonder what height the benchmark records?

The view from the entrance was a vista over the Tyne valley... breathe deep, see pistachio coloured fields drying khaki or ploughed umber and ochre....recognise the change of season.... and smile in welcome....

We also went to London and wandered along the South Bank;

we gazed up at the London Eye,

sipped Pimms in the sun while the Thames moved majestically under Big Ben's stare before sliding off downstream under bridges we country cousins cannot name.

We located ourselves near the 'Lying in Hospital' near County Hall- Florence Nightingale had been there before us.

We added to the day's excitement by having a late night Turkish meal while D3 glimpsed a shadow which hardened up into a mouse!

Though not back to rough ground/distance walking yet we went to meet ' the gang' at Frenchies' tearoom in Wylam- a delightful, catch-up rendezvous.I carefully indulged in just a cuppa as we had arranged to go for an Indian meal with a friend later.

Once again Windows 8 has thrown me- I cannot download my photos from my camera so must seek help. Agh! It used to be so easy. With advice later I shall fill in the blanks!
A suggestion- do not get Windows 8- it has not speeded anything up which was the reason we saved to buy a new hard drive; it takes much longer to go through all the click processes to get to the folders you want for pictures- and though they are loaded from my camera and stored up right- some of them import to my blog or emails on their sides- aaaaagh!

I am going to calm down with Downton.