Friday, March 24, 2017

Spring is here

There have been a few flowers in the garden since January, but they are tucked away in the borders and are not always easy to see from the house.
Two months later we have lots of brightly coloured spring flowers, and to make sure that I can see them from the kitchen window when I am washing up the dishes or preparing vegetables, B has come up with a solution  - put some in pots, on a garden table outside the kitchen window.

We cheated a little. The hyacinths and pansies B planted up, but we bought the daffodils and snowdrops ready planted from the clearance section of the  garden centre.  I even managed to get myself in this picture.


These spring bulbs were planted at the front of the herb patch, which is opposite to the kitchen window, so there is plenty of colour still to come when the tulips are ready in  a few weeks time.

F did the major pruning jobs taming the larger shrubs and cutting the Apricot trees to a manageable size.  This year we are hoping for fruit - we lost last year's crop to a late frost.

G mulched the rhubarb patch with leaf mould last autumn to protect the crowns from the worst of the winter weather and the rhubarb s almost ready to harvest.  Some will have to be frozen as it is producing lots more stems than usual - I think the leaf mould fed as well as protected the plants.

We are looking forward to a more settled summer than in 2016, so that the plants don't get confused. B has made good use of the small greenhouse and it is filled with flower and vegetable seedlings ready for planting out in a few weeks time - hopefully. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Taking Stock

I am always surprised that being retired seems busier than when I was working full time. One of the many ways my time gets consumed is  studying with the OU, and the last two years have been demanding of more time than I can find so I have decided that I will take a break from my studies.

In trying to find more study time over the past two years I have cut down on taking part in the book club at the local library - I can find an hour once a month for the meeting but reading the chosen book from cover to cover is something that I did not always succeed in doing.  I meet up with colleagues for a pub lunch once a month and I've managed less than half the meetings in the past twelve months.  Other friends , I know I am neglecting, because I don't contact them for a chat or to meet for coffee.  I haven't attended all the concerts this season run by University of Keele Concert Society, even though I have a season ticket.

The things that take up my time are looking after home and family and that is too important to cut down on.  I also have a volunteer role delivering library books to housebound and that also matters to me.

So,taking time out from studying is my way of achieving a better work life balance.  I hope to read more novels, garden, meet up with friends, have more hours sleep, and post on the blog more often.

It may sound perverse, but the day after I informed my OU tutor of my decision to take a study break I enrolled with 'FutureLearn' to study for three hours a week, over the next six weeks on the topic of the six mass extinctions, a free course run by the University of Cape Town.  It somehow fits in with the studying I have been doing since 2009.


Monday, October 31, 2016

Summer holiday - belated post

In June F and G left the Isle of Man where they had spent a fortnight in glorious weather  watching the TT races.  From there they flew to Dublin and joined B and G for a tour around Ireland.  In the next fortnight the four of us stayed in eleven different accommodations, travelled over two thousand miles (I think), and G took in excess of 2500 photographs, though not every shot was a masterpiece.
How do you choose what to post and now it is so long ago since they were taken.

Resident seagull at Trinity College, Dublin

The above seagull robbed G of his lunch as he was sitting at an outside table at the Trinity College cafe.  He just swooped in, snatched the food from G's hand and flew on.  We watched as the seagull performed the same tactic with several other customers.

No holiday is complete without ice-cream
F didn't really eat both of them - but I couldn't hold my ice-cream and take a photograph at the same time.

The Giant's Causeway





One of the most famous tourist attractions on the north coast of Northern Ireland, this is a world famous site of geological interest. We braved the drizzle and the wind to walk around this extensive area.

The Peace Bridge, Derry
Another day, another centre.  In Derry we visited the Guild Hall, spent time in the Tower Museum, walked around the city walls, a complete wall surrounding the whole of the city during the middle ages and we ended the day walking across the Peace Bridge into another part of the modern city.

We left the North coast and travelled inland before making our way towards the Wild Atlantic Way -  but the weather was wet and misty. We couldn't see the Cliffs of Moher because they were shrouded in fog.

Travelling to the south-west the weather brightened and we were able to see some of the coastal scenery.  We visited the island of Valentia, getting onto the island via the road bridge and travelling back to the mainland by ferry, for the experience and to save miles of travel by road.

View from the top of Geokaun mountain, Valentia.
Travelling  along the south coast we visited the city of Cork, a bustling place with plenty to catch your eye.

A street musician with his own musical invention a violin cum trumpet.

From Cork we went onto the historic city of Waterford, home of the Waterford Crystal factory.  We toured the factory watching the different stages in the production of the cut glass.  We browsed the shop,but didn't buy
It is difficult to choose from so many thousands of items on display.

The holiday was coming to an end and we headed along the east coast towards Dublin and Dublin Airport.  On the way we travelled through the Wicklow Mountains National Park, and spent a little time at Glendalough, an area of early Christian settlement. The scenery was so beautiful - it was easy to see why the area had been chosen by the missionaries as a place of tranquility.  We walked for a little while but the weather changed  and we headed back for the car and onto our final Hotel.


So much more could have been included; a 'Hooley night' where we dined and were entertained by Irish dancing and a folkgroup; travelling through an underground cavern by boat and on foot at the Geopark in Northern Ireland; relaxing in the rose gardens in the town of Tralee;  and so on.
There's so much more to see and we would like to travel there again.




Monday, October 24, 2016

Tonight I burned the sprouts

For the first time ever, as far as I can remember, I left the sprouts cooking on the hob and managed to simmer them until the water evaporated and the bottom of the saucepan burned black.

I had left the kitchen for what was intended to be a couple of minutes, but got engrossed in another task.  It wasn't 'til I could smell burning that I remembered the saucepan was still heating on the cooker. I grabbed the saucepan off the stove top and put it on a wooden breadboard.  The bright green of the sprouts was in stark contrast to the blackness surrounding them.

The smoke alarm then sounded so I switched it off.

The sprouts lifted off the bottom of the saucepan quite easily, leaving behind the layers that were burnt onto the base, and they tasted fine, surprisingly, so we were able to have them as part  of our evening meal.

I left the saucepan to soak in cold water - much hissing - and have floated off the worst of the debris.

It was then that I realised this was the saucepan that was a Christmas present from A and R the first time they visited us.  I shall work hard with the Brillo pads to return it to a better state.

The main problem now is how do I get rid of the smell of burning that seems to have wafted through the whole house.  I can't leave windows and doors open tonight, but tomorrow I shall try that method.


Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Busy, Busy.

Time flies and the mundane jobs seem to pile up - well housework and washing up can always wait till another day

On Thursday, it was the last lecture of the season and the AGM of the North Staffs Group of the Geological Association. A journey to Keele University, and an interesting lecture on the Middle Earth  - not the Centre as I had thought - but the middle layers.  It was informative and helpful to me for when I have to do a Geology exam later in the year.  The lecturer has a similar lecture on Youtube so I shall be looking up that one.

On Friday evening, F and I went to a student production of Alan Bennett's 'History Boys', at Keele University.  Because we are members of the Keele Concert Society we get emails about all sorts of events taking place there.  When we arrived there, we found that we were the only adults in the audience (a couple of lecturers came in later) and when the performance was fifteen minutes late in starting we began to wonder what we had let ourselves in for.  The performance was very well done and we were glad we had made the effort to see this performance. Perhaps it was part of the drama course to produce live theatre - hopefully, the actors earned good marks towards their degrees.

On Saturday F and I went over to Wales - the roof of the chalet has been refelted and we had to meet up with the roofer to see the completed work and settle the bill.  We now have a sound roof.  We decided to go for a pub meal and it coincided with the England-Wales Rugby match in the Six Nations competition, so we ate and watched.  England won! 
As we left the pub we noticed that the cinema, opposite the pub, was showing 'The Revenant'.  So we finished off the evening going to the pictures.  A brutal and gory film in parts, but not gratuitously so.  If you haven't seen this film, then we can recommend it. The 160 minutes went by very quickly and raised questions that are pertinent today.

On Sunday, we went to church in Tywyn for morning service.  Then we went on to the ice cream factory - an essential part of any visit to the chalet.  We went back to the chalet to do some housekeeping jobs and by the time we were ready to go back to the Midlands it was the middle of the evening, so we stopped for some food on the way home. 

We arrived home in the early hours of Monday morning - and all the mundane jobs were waiting for us for the week ahead.


Sunday, March 6, 2016

Please excuse my grubby windows

The green woodpecker has visited our garden again, so I think he is local rather than passing through.

I happened to glance through my kitchen window and there he was, tucking into an apple.  I dashed to get my camera from another room and this time he stayed long enough for me to take a few pictures.

I didn't dare to open the kitchen door because the noise would have scared him away, so with help from F who pulled open a couple of slats in the venetian blind I was able to get the camera close to the window for the shots.




















Trouble is, my windows are in need of a clean so the photos are a little misty, but there is no mistaking what sort of bird he is.



Monday, February 22, 2016

A First

We have lived in our present home for 25 years and one of the things we liked about where we live is the garden.  The previous owner was a knowledgeable gardener and filled the garden with the sort of trees bushes and plants that would attract wildlife.  We have not changed very much because we appreciate this and we have continued the tradition. We get visited by squirrels who rearrange bulbs we have planted and bring us bulbs from other gardens. We have planted two hazel trees and of course, the squirrel harvests them for us. Occasionally there is evidence of hedgehogs, but not as much as when we moved in years ago. And of course there are the birds.

We make sure that in the winter the birds get fed and we leave water for them all the year round.  The surplus apples are very popular with the blackbirds.  A few days ago I glanced out of the kitchen window, overlooking the garden, and amongst the blackbirds feeding on the apples scattered over the lawn was a green woodpecker.  The bird is much larger than a blackbird and is so colourful with its bright red head plumage, pale green body and darker green wings that it stood out.  The blackbirds were not at all bothered by the visitor.   I turned to get my bird watching binoculars, kept close to the window, and by the time I turned back, the woodpecker had disappeared.  So no photographs, but I looked at the RSPB website and found a picture - it could have been the very same bird.  I have never seen a green woodpecker before in our garden - in fact I have never seen a green woodpecker before except in books and videos!

During the Christmas holidays my camera managed to get broken and the cost of repair was more expensive  than buying a new camera.  I now have replaced the camera with a similar model and so although I wasn't able to photograph the garden visitor I have taken some photographs of spring flowers in our garden.



The earliest of our daffodils

Proper primroses
I think I shall have to read up the manual to my new camera - these photos took quite a while to load.  I shall have to change the size setting.