Friday, 18 November 2016

August, September, October 2016

August, September, October - summer slips into autumn

You would imagine that over the number of years that I have kept this blog that I would be used to coming back to it and being astonished by the fact I hadn't visited it in three months.  Not so.  Here I am realising a new month has begun and thought I had better write up last month.  Hey ho, it seems I have three months to tackle.  It is lucky that us oldies don't seem to do a lot.


My daughter, husband and baby arrived for a five day stay right at the beginning of the month so we could help her celebrate her birthday.  Sitting around the table we all remarked on the endless surprises that life brings us and how none of us can ever predict what we will be looking back on when we toast her next birthday.  In the last three years she has married, moved house and had our wonderful baby O..... who'd have thunk it!

My other half also has his birthday in August, so, mid month we were off to Lymm Hotel for a short stay for his birthday dinner along with two friends.

Lymm Hotel

We began in rather an odd way as Ken and I wanted to visit Arley Hall as neither of us remembered ever seeing it.  Our friends wanted to visit Dunham Massey (which K and I know quite well) so we decided it was fine to make our own way to the hotel via our own Stately homes of choice.

Arley Hall

If you want to see a bunch of photos just click here:  Arley Hall

I have to admit to not being particularity overwhelmed by Arley Hall and gardens though I hear its praises sung far and wide, so don't use me as the yardstick.  I think I am a died in the wool Regency fanatic.  I did, however, love the little tea house in the gardens.

sweet little tea house

The following day we were off to Tatton Park for my companions to have a whale of a time riding Segways.  They have done it quite a few times in different places but all agree that riding in the sunshine in Naples (Florida) probably wins out.

We went into the park half an hour before it opened to the public, so off I went to wander the gardens.  I can honestly say it was one of the most wonderful garden visits I have ever experienced.  I had the whole of Tatton to myself.  It began with the the best wildflower meadow I have ever stood in.  Waist high with every flower you could imagine and full of bees and butterflies and sunshine and silence!!!!  It is very hard to share via a photograph as this was an 'experience' not a snapshot.

heaven on earth

Again if you'd like to see more, click here:  Tatton Park

I could wax lyrical about my couple of hours alone in Tatton's wonderful landscapes but I am aware I am trying to just 'list' the things I did and saw over a three month stretch.  So....onwards and upwards.

We got in a lot of our usual lunches out and even a movie - the latter being so tedious I don't even recall what it was!  Maybe a Bourne something or other?

We visited my (slightly confused) aunt on her 84th birthday and set up a Skype to my sister in Canada - this, as you can imagine caused quite a few laughs.  At one point Jean, finally managing to see her own small image in the corner of the screen asked,  "What am I wearing there?".  This took a bit of explaining,  She was also pleased we were 'filming it'.


We drifted into September and our major buy this month was another car.  We changed our car earlier in the year, having been seduced (we now think) by the colour of the new one!!  After a few months of running around in it we discovered a lot of things which didn't suit us, so off we went to swap it.  We now have a decent size seven-seater (!) to carry us, plus two, plus baby in car seat,  plus all the other baby kit when we go any where.

At the beginning of the month we were back in Edinburgh and we started our visit in some style with a stay at the Melville Castle for dinner and overnighter.

Melville Castle Hotel

Our four days in Travel Lodge after that was a bit of a contrast.

We travelled up to the hotel, in our new big car, with a ton of space for our bags and baggage and a dolls house.  Have dolls house, will travel   The story being I had bought the house in a mad moment late one night from EBay (as you do) and on consideration realised it was a really daft thing to do - lack of space and a project already on the go.  Luckily someone bought it from me for what I paid and, even more luckily, she had a husband travelling through Edinburgh, within shot of the Melville on the day were were there.  He dutifully arrived and collected said house from us.  Serendipity.

Our visits to my daughter's often consist of much food and ice creams, walks along the front at Portabello and garden centre visits (these also seem to include eating).  This was such a visit.  Lovely it was too.

The difference this time was, when we left my daughter and baby came home with us.  Technically, Ken drove on his own and I sat in S's car as 'nanny' while she got O and me back home.

We had a lovely week with them at home in the sunshine.  It included a walk around Burrs Country park (almost our neighbour) and a drink in the Brown Cow beer garden - almost a first for Ken , not being a 'pub' type chap.  It is waaaay to complicated to explain why reading this again will make S and I laugh, but it will.

We took O swimming.  He is such a great baby, nothing phases him and has been swimming each week for a while now and it seemed a shame to miss his outing.  I have no idea how mom's manage all this single handed - the dressing, undressing, drying, etc etc etc.  It seemed a challenge for two people to manage.

My son-in-law came down for the weekend on the train so they could all travel home together in the car after Sunday lunch.

My lovely grandson left us all with his cold.... this lingered for a month - what an efficient little chap.

Some friends celebrated fifty years of wedded bliss this month and my grand daughter, Lucy, turned six (!!)  I have no idea how in both cases.

The last day of the month arrived and we were ensconced in the Holiday Inn at the NEC, Birmingham ready for the show the next day.


Such a great way to start the month for me as I was spending a couple of days at the NEC to take in a pretty big miniatures show.  Miniatura is held twice a year and any time we are around I get to do it.  Usually for the past few years I miss the autumn one because we are in Naples Florida - with that home gone now, our year is adjusting to a slightly different pattern.  If you have any interest at all in my miniature passion there is a show blog and a current project blog you can trail round.  There are links to them on the left of this blog.

A week later and my best chum and I could be found in Manchester Art Gallery.  If any of you ever make it to this neck of the woods I commend it to you.

  It is an interesting building with some lovely permanent galleries - especially the pre-Raphelites for me - and often hosting great temporary exhibitions.  The one we had gone to see this time was  the Vogue exhibition.  It is the oddest feeling to see much of your life turned into historical displays.  So many of the famous people of the fifties and sixties zeitgeist seem to be intrinsically part of  who I am.  Going around the exhibits was less about observing and more about reminiscing.   

can I claim this as me on a night out?

It was, of course, followed by a scrumptious lunch - always great food at the gallery - and with the best of company.

Couple more piccies for those of us of a certain age:

Mid month and I was in a huge 'shop' (Boundary Mill) being reminded of how much I hate clothes shopping these days - what a contrast to the Vogue exhibition and remembering my younger self loving all things sartorial.

Mid month and we were doing our (now becoming usual) trip to Edinburgh.   

We did manage to get back in time for our friends Golden Wedding celebration and caught up, as you do, with the people you see at these gatherings now and then.

I am writing this on 2nd November and wondering how many things November will bring.

Friday, 5 August 2016

July - new point on the globe

July started with a couple more days with my new grand-baby and his parents before they decamped to Scotland.  As soon as they leave I am trying to work out how soon we can get back together.

I then had a flurry of shopping to do for gifts for my other grandchildren ready for our trip to Newfoundland on the 7th.

We can't get a direct flight to St John's; our choices being flying out of Dublin or London.  London for me is never a choice.  Distance, cost of an overnighter if needed and the sheer hassle of dealing with Heathrow or Gatwick makes it a no-go choice!

So, on the 7th, we were off to Dublin.  We had to stay overnight as we couldn't get a connecting flight the same day.  The St John's flight out of there leaves at 8.30 am, there was no way we could get there before that.  

Flying backwards in time we arrived in St John's about 10 am.  That made our first day a long one for me.  It was so lovely to see my son waiting for us at the airport that I was paid back ten-fold for every mile travelled.

We picked up the hire car.  It was also lovely to be back with 'American-style' cars and roads and no traffic.  Over to the hotel to drop off stuff and then we picked up the girls from Day Care and hung out with them for the day.  In the evening we had the best pizza I have had in a very long time at their local (new) pizza restaurant.

On Saturday we hung out with them again - which was the whole point of the visit - Chris took us on a whistle stop tour of the sights with the girls while Gayle happily built flat-pack from Ikea (Toronto) which had been delivered the day before.  Newfoundland is an island so, of course, almost every little thing has to be shipped in.  Not a place to live if you are impatient.

We visited Signal Hill - On 12 December 1901, the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here by Guglielmo Marconi in an abandoned fever and diphtheria hospital, which has since been destroyed by fire.[1] The transmission, in Morse code, originated from his Poldhu Wireless StationCornwall, UK.

one of the views from the top of the tower

Cabot Tower, Signal Hill

Guess who didn't go up the tower

We also stopped by Middle Cove Beach, a small bay, which is about ten minutes from their home and one they use a lot.  The capelin were due in.

We missed them by a day.  They arrived the day after we left.

Sunday arrived too fast; we all had a huge brunch at Mallards cottage down in Quid Vidi Village which pretty much lasted me all day. We went round a lovely crafts centre there and off to a bookstore.  Gayle's parents and sister arrived later for dinner at the house.

Quidi Vidi village

Sunday was pretty much an at home day of playing games with the girls though Ken and I did take Lucy to the movies in the afternoon.  (Finding Dory)

On Tuesday Ken and I left St John's for a four day road trip around the Irish Loop.  We decided to stay in one place and split the loop into three parts, doing a section to and from St Mary's each day.

We stayed in the Claddagh Inn which was a very pleasant small hotel with an interesting history having first started its life as a convent.

St Mary's Bay

Pretty much our view from our room over the bay

The Claddagh Inn

a new take on a church bell

Wednesday and we set out on the first leg of our road trip

frantically busy (!) TCH
The road surfaces were incredibly bad, full of potholes and rough tarmac patches.  Part of the reason is simply the lack of people in the province and therefore lack of funds to maintain them.  The Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) running across the top of the island is well maintained but even that is pretty empty much of the time.  We barely saw a car on the rest of the roads.

We decided to cross the penninsular to Plancentia.  Our GPS wanted to send us miles up the road to the TCH and then down again when, 
on the map, we could clearly see a road running straight across from us to Placentia .  This turned out to be a 31 km gravel road.  An experience we didn't repeat coming home.

The next day we drove a long way up to Bay Bulls to do a whale watching trip.  As the capelin were late coming in this year, the whales were not in the bay so we had to go out into the Atlantic to find them: but find them we did.  We had a spectacular time closely surrounded by a dozen or more hump backs and their young.  I am so glad I did it; I very nearly didn't as the weather was windy and the sea choppy.  I am not especially nervous of boats and don't get sea-sick but common sense dictates you can't drown if you don't go in the first place and the sea is notoriously unpredictable.  It was choppy but a great skipper and a catamaran helped hugely.  Should you ever get in that neck of the woods (and for those of you there) Gatherall's would be hard to beat for a wonderful experience all round.

no whale photos I'm afraid

Friday and we were back in civilisation (Holiday Inn) in St John's and back with the Chris, Gayle and the girls.

Saturday Ken, Chris and I went with the girls to the Botanical Gardens

In 1954 the Newfoundland Cabinet designated the pitcher plant as the official flower of the province.

I will be writing a post in my garden blog showing the photos from the gardens so visit Bury Gardeners if you want to see more.

We stopped by the little bay again as the capelin rumour was circulating - there were a lot of people with nets and buckets but still no fish.

We finished with dinner downtown to end a busy day.

Sunday and we spent our last day with the family.  We left them after a lovely family meal and made our way to the airport and the trip home via Dublin.  This time we had an overnight flight and then an early morning second leg to Manchester.

Home by UK lunchtime and settled back in.

Some foot notes from our trip which, as my (nearly six year old) Canadian grand-daughter says...'well you don't see that every day'...

fish n brewels with schrunchions
This delicacy is stale bread, salt cod and pork fat.  Note the five year best before date
a tiny town
Like a lot of North America and Canada this province is not big on having gardens  This is at the side of house visible from the road.  We were told it is a perfect replica of the small town where its maker was born.  If you get homesick..... make a teeny copy.....
not seen on our supermarket walls

Nine days later and we were off to another 'wilds' - this time the Brecon Beacons to visit Ken's daughter for her birthday dinner.

We stayed at the Usk Inn.  We have stayed there before but I had forgotten how 'faded' it was.  A very low level Fawlty Towers.  Nothing very wrong but a lot of tiny things that would make it so much better.  I get in Hotel Inspector mode and get very worked up by people not being able to see how the detail of something might make all the difference.  I understand the struggle of running a small hotel almost single-handed - well couple-handed - and wouldn't do it for a pension, but....  individually owned British hotels do seem to be a law unto themselves.

We ended up having dinner there too as the three other places we tried couldn't feed us for a myriad of reasons, wedding reception, chef scattering mother's ashes, repairs.... you couldn't make it up.

On the way home we stopped by my favourite garden.  I always struggle between my passion for Hidcote, Kiftsgate, Snowshill and Wollerton Old Hall but Wollerton usually wins.

I have blogged it in my garden blog, so go there if you want more pictures - Bury Gardeners

Writing this at the end of the month sees me getting reading for a four day visit from my daughter, husband and baby .... so we end the month as we began....

Thursday, 4 August 2016

June - more minis

Beginning of the month was a two night stay to get in the York show.  This is a luxurious way of doing it as I get to wake up in York on the morning of the show and go to bed there after a long day trudging around.  Beats dashing up and back in the car which we can (and have done) from where we live.

Ken is more than OK with the arrangement as we get to eat at our favourite eatery any where on the planet - Trinacria - and he gets a surfeit of great ice cream from the same place.  Not known as Grandad Ice Cream for nothing.  I became Nanny Magic as I managed to pick up Oscar at a fretty moment and he shushed (pure luck I assure you).  You can count his frets on one hand - he is a lovely calm baby.

Mid month and I was playing with my, now, favourite mini, the lovely Oscar.

Our house was pretty much completed by now so we had an estate agent in to value it as we keep toying with the notion of moving to Scotland so we don't miss out on this grandchild.

We are trying to keep the brakes on so we make a sensible, rather than an emotional, decision; but it is very hard.

On the 18th we had a day return to York again and, yes, we included a meal at Trinacria.  This time it was to collect a lovely dolls house kit I had bought in a mad moment on EBay.  I am writing this post in July and currently trying to sell it!  It is a gorgeous house but totally crackpot of me to think I can work on two projects - not enough time or money.

rare Parkside made by Honeychurch

interesting interior

At the end of the month my daughter brought the baby down for a three day weekend with her husband coming down by train the following day.  She was totally unfussed about a four hour drive with a two month old baby.  Great to get my hands on him again.  Our solemn little grown up persons' house begins to look like a day care for tots.  Yeah!!

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

May - more baby

By 10 May we were back in Edinburgh for the stay we had planned around Oscar's birth.  We always knew it would be a movable feast but we didn't know it would move by a month early.  

When we were visiting in April we had managed to give him his first trip out - to a garden centre for lunch - start him off the way you mean to go on.  This time, we marked his first trip to the seaside.  Being Edinburgh, it was duly blowing a gale.  A planned seaside stroll quickly became a dash along the front at Portabello before diving back into the car.

Later in the month we took a cottage at Coldingham for a couple of days with the intention of a proper little seaside break for the five of us.  This time we had a wettish blustery visit to St Abbs and environs with our wee chap.  Roll on Summer

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

April - Surprise!

The very next weekend we were off again to Birmingham NEC and the terrific Miniatura show.  If that interests you you can read about it here:  NEC show

There was still a lot of work being done at home - bathroom being ripped out and replaced - but we sort of had time to catch our breath for a few days before we were due to go up to Edinburgh to help S and S get the final touches ready for the baby who was due on 7th May.  So much for that idea.........

10th April and we were in Scotland ready and waiting to meet our wonderful new grandson who decided not to wait until 7th May!

brand new

The second I picked him up it was love at first sight.

It was so hard to leave him and his new mom (and dad) just a week later.... but only for a weekend to get our house ready for the decorator to arrive on Monday - he arrived and we left for Edinburgh again for another week of soaking up our lovely little chap and hopefully lending a hand to the new parents.

Monday, 1 August 2016

March - anniversary month

For our wedding anniversary we did another hotel package deal this time in Grasmere at the Wordsworth Hotel and Spa.  This time we had opted for the Gourmet dinner - an eight course 'taster' of what they do.  

I am not a huge fan of the Lake District - well not for about thirty years now - like everywhere in this tiny overcrowded island it used to be lovely in the 'olden days' when I was young and there were less people marauding around the place in cars.  It is so busy now it makes it impossible for me to enjoy it.  That said Grasmere in March was not packed to the gills and it was a lovely couple of days.  

It is 'famous' for being where Wordsworth lived.  I loved the irony of (during our visit) the Daffodil Garden (full of daffodils) being closed.  Only in England.

Two days after getting back Ken was off on a week's skiing holiday.  When he left we had our sitting room of many years standing when he returned the old furniture had gone and the new stuff had arrived.

Easter came right at the end of the month and my daughter and her husband and my returning husband all arrived on the Saturday before Easter Sunday.  So we had a lovely couple of days catching up and eating eggs!

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Playing catch-up February

Following my last post in January I had actually decided to stop writing Clavering as our lives should 'quieten down' from now on - one home in the UK, kids and grandchildren miles away and probably doing less travelling around - settling for proper holidays a couple of times a year like 'normal' folk.

Needless to say the last six months hasn't been much like that.

February was taken up with more house fettling.  We decided when we came home to get the house sorted once and for all - so a few changes like new en suite, sitting room furniture and so on plus decorating throughout and new carpet through the house.  It all took months and much cussing and spitting.  February got a good deal of it but it ground on way past that.

We managed to get a nice dinner and overnight stay deal at Ednam House in Kelso with my daughter and husband.  Hotel, food and town all proved a hit with us all.

Saturday, 30 January 2016

End of an era

The upside of an 'end of an era' moment is the frisson of wondering what the next era will wheel in.

We completed the sale on our condo in Naples on 28th January so for the first time in seventeen plus years we have just the one home.  It already feels rather odd, as if I have forgotten something or lost something; not in a major way, just that niggly feeling you get in the corner of your brain which keeps saying something indefinable has slid out of reach.

The house I was quite literally born in. No UPVC porch seventy years ago!
Home for me is really where your 'birth' roots are if you are lucky to stay there long enough.  I have always felt that I am a Brummy and my heart is decidedly in the  Birmingham of my childhood.  If it (and my mom and dad and others) were all still there I would be back there in a nano-second.

My next home age 11 to 19.  Not how it looked when my mom had it; it always had a lovely front garden

I was uprooted all of about five miles when I was eleven and the next house was always my 'mom and dad's house' in my head.  Five miles might as well have been another planet as far as an eleven year old is concerned.  I suspect this began my 'gypsy' lifestyle with houses.  The roots were already damaged.

At nineteen I married and moved into a flat (no photo), still in Birmingham but again a few miles from my mom's house.  

No outside photo f the second flat.  This was our junk shop furniture we had re-covered.  Note the record player and fireplace very sixties.
A couple of years later we moved on to a better flat and, again, in another part of Birmingham.  By twenty-four my first husband and I had moved to our first house in Lakenheath in Suffolk. (no photo)  I was now truly severing all connections with any residual concept of home that I had remaining.

By the time I was thirty and had my first baby I was living in another part of the country and had fetched up in Royton (no photo) in Lancashire.  I was more and more isolated from that first ideal of home - the loss of friends you had grown up with and family all around you was now firmly established.  I am sure some people don't feel this privation and others will never settle themselves to it.  All I can say is that I reached an 'acceptance' of it before I was twelve, so every move after that seemed to matter less and less, the loss had already happened.

watching my 'next home being built

 By the time my son was nearing school age we moved again; this time to an area with a good school.  This was the only other house I spent a lot of years in and I made many, many memories of life there with my children.  It was certainly bought as the forever house and therefore the future home for us all.

Life often takes turns we don't plan on and my husband and I divorced and the children grew up and I eventually moved on to another life with Ken.  This began in his home and then we bought our first house together; and so our collection of houses began with our giving up the two we already had.

our lovely first house together

After we were married we bought a lovely house together and settled down to a normal future of work and the hope of retiring early.  Then we went on holiday!  In 1999 we did the classic thing - we went on holiday to Florida and bought a house while we were there; three bedrooms, swimming pool, the works.

Queens Park home

For a few years we worked in the UK and escaped to Naples as often as we could.  My spunky eighty-plus my mother often came with us... and all was well.  Very soon we decided we wanted more of the Florida life so we retired early and downsized our UK home.  Indeed the sale of our big house and the purchase of the tiny bungalow all happened courtesy of the internet - leaving us actually without a home in the UK for a couple of months while we soaked up the Florida sunshine.

our tiny but perfectly formed bungalow
Eventually the upkeep of a single family home in Naples all year became a chore so we sold it and bought a 'lock and leave' sort of house.

The Shores

By now my mother had stopped coming to Naples with us so we decided to sell up yet again.  We thought we would find a slightly larger home in the UK as we would be spending more time there and also buy somewhere in Europe.  this would be an easier commute for us all.

In the UK we bought a wreck of a house a few doors from our bungalow which we then completely refurbished.  Never let me get started on that story unless you have a few hours of you life to donate.  Never again!  The sales picture here is from further down the line when we sold it on

for sale

After a protracted search in Spain we ended up buying a lovely farmhouse and nine acres in France!  Most people's dream home.

leaving Les Roches
I never 'settled' there.  I loved the house and land and trees(!) to smithereens but I hated being so alien.  My French is very, very basic and though I am used to be isolated it felt intensified when I was surrounded by a world I couldn't even understand aurally. 

In the UK we had also found a better-fit house - we realised how much we both needed to return to a detached home - our own fiefdom - and with enough room to cover our needs without too much compromise.  So we bought our current home.

 In Naples, around the same time, we found the condo we have just sold

These addresses have been the story of our lives now for more than ten years. Roughly six months of the year spent in each of them.

By now I have enough sense to know 'you can never go home'.  It no longer exists.

Ken and I have been together for almost twenty-three years and have run through eleven homes together here, America and France.  I think it is time to try and make a proper home for us both here in Bury.  

So the new era begins.