Monday, 16 October 2017

Batten down the hatches

It's a bit of a glum start to the week at Bag End.

Driving Bill last Monday resulted in a sore left arm - we put that down to the fact that I've not driven a car with a manual gearbox for a couple of years, and even Management acknowledges the dash-mounted gear stick is in a slightly unusual place.  Things were not particularly bad, but not getting better, and on Friday I popped out to do some errands.  Must have lifted or carried a bag badly but from Friday night my left shoulder/upper arm has been hell.  Quite ironic really that the chronically painful right shoulder is behaving itself perfectly at present!  So it has not been a good weekend, with enough pain last night that for a brief and miserable moment this morning I considered a trip to A&E . . .

Fortunately once a healthy dose of painkillers kicked in the idea of spending half a day in an over-stretched Accident & Emergency department was shelved in favour of self-management😎    With the weather that is due in the next few hours it's not as if we were planning on doing anything much.

Over the weekend we moved anything which might get blown over and just have to cross our fingers that the 60mph wind which is forecast for this evening will not do too much damage.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017


I was tired yesterday after our brunch at the beach but made the effort to get outside after lunch and cut all the lawns, makes such a difference and is the easiest way to pick up all those pesky leaves.

Bloomin' good job I did, because for once the Met Office told no fibs and we had high wind and driving rain all night; the lawn is no longer a leaf-free zone.   Although parts of the garden are clearly saturated outside it is a different story.  The photos are rubbish and have had to be mauled about.

At the bottom of the drive: fortunately we don't tend to use the end of the lane very often, the water gets to at least 20 - 25cm deep.

This is the lane which runs up the side of the garden.

And this is why I need a little culvert in the Coppice, there was a steady stream (couple of inches deep) of water flowing through into the manhole.

Not surprisingly, Daisy was thoroughly unimpressed that her morning toilet included a free shower. 

Monday, 9 October 2017

Brunch with Bill [*] at the beach

After the slow start on Friday, we picked up the pace a little and put a few things into Bill over the weekend so we could go out for the first time.  Never ones to do anything by halves, my first proper drive of a six metre long big white van started with a journey to Workington, oh we know how to live!

First stop was almost too exciting to recount here - Poundstretcher for some storage tubs (sorry, mild note of silly sarcasm clearly brought on by being overcome with aforementioned excitement!)  Our lovely van has some huge cupboards and without a bit of organisation things are going to get lost at the back, possibly not to be seen again for weeks!  Management stayed in the van to ‘babysit’ and reported Madam.Was.Not.Impressed that I had walked off.

Then on to Solway Heaters to fill the LPG tank.  As we found Bill before her conversion was fully underway we had the opportunity to have an underslung gas tank fitted, rather than the more traditional gas locker with two heavy bottles.  Surprisingly our van came with nearly half a tank of gas (thank you, Devon Conversions!) but we wanted to start with a full tank to see how long it lasts.  The chap at Solway was so helpful showing me how to safely fill the tank without getting caught by gas blowback - I felt rather guilty that it only took 6 litres (at a huge cost of £3.72!) to fill up.  Picture nicked from their website.

Apart from the self-induced tension of driving our van through town there were two constants in the day - one is that the Met Office told fibs about the weather and two is that I took virtually no photos, and with one exception, the few I did take have gone straight to the trash bucket.

We then travelled half a mile down the road to Morrisons to fill up with diesel (another first, but a thank you to Devon Conversions because Bill came to us with at least half a tank of fuel) and a grocery top up.  Management and Daisy stayed in the campervan in ridiculous comfort whilst I pootled around with a shopping trolley.  There was chilling out (Management) and a lot of whining, complaining that Mummy had buggered off again and nose-art on the windows (clearly, not Management!)

With enough errands completed, normal people would have gone home.  If I was in the car I would have wanted to get back; I find this sort of shopping thoroughly tiring and after a couple of hours I have usually 'had enough' and need to bail out.  But thanks to Bill, we could stay out and play for a bit longer.

So off we went up the coast, parked in a favourite spot at Allonby and had a rather late but delicious "full English" for brunch.😊😊😊

Even though the weather was quite grotty and we got thoroughly damp and windswept when walking Daisy it was really lovely.  Management has commented before that there is something magical about being in the caravan that allows me to relax and it seems that the campervan is the same.  Although I knew we really 'ought' to go home and unpack the shopping I'd have been more than happy to put my feet up and study the inside of my eyelids for an hour or two . . . but that's for another day.

[*] Why "Bill"?

Well, for starters we've spent the last couple of years referring to our caravan as "the van".  Despite my attempts to associate a proper name to the Bailey (Rosie the Rimini ?) the name just has not taken and it is too late to try and change the habit now.  Unfortunately it also seems natural to refer to a panel van/campervan as "the van" and that's just too confusing, so a proper name HAD to be found, and quickly.

Bill is either called Bill because:

a)  I like alliteration and "Bill the Boxer" works - the base vehicle is a Peugeot Boxer.

b)  Peter Capaldi's last series as Dr Who proved that Bill is a thoroughly good name for a female companion . . .

You can make up your own mind as to whether (a) or (b) is the real reason!  Management is just not convinced, regardless of the explanation.  However, he did eventually come to refer to my Honda CR-V as "Hattie" so I am confident that he'll get to the same nomenclature page as me with "Bill"πŸ˜„ .

Sunday, 8 October 2017

A day on the drive

Apart from breaks to eat and walk Daisy, somehow we managed to spend all day on the drive.  The first hour or so was taken up with vehicular messing around - tyre pressures, windscreen fluid, rinsing out the big water tanks underneath the campervan . . .

. . . but what Management really wanted to do was see if the 'driveaway awning' that we bought to use on the caravan in winter would fit on the campervan which is what it is really designed to do.  It did πŸ˜€ so he was a happy chap but I forgot to take any pictures of it . . .

. . .  and then we "had" to fit it onto the caravan because neither of us could remember what tweaks we had decided we needed to make to create a good fit.

After lunch poor Management was kind/daft/long-suffering enough to ask "OK, what do you want to do next" and although it wasn't scheduled, I nominated removal of the large brick planter as the next thing I wanted to accomplish.  We had this built in April 2010:

In the intervening seven years I had never managed to plant it up - which should tell you something.  Right idea, wrong place, and it was time for it to go.

We had completely forgotten about the rather high water table.   It was back-breaking to dig out the heavy, sodden, clay soil which LP had filled the planter with (one of the many things he did to be 'helpful' one day when my back was turned ...) and I had never got round to replacing the soil with something which drained better.

By the time we'd cleared up we were cream-crackered, but it was a brilliant day and really good to get so much done.  

Friday, 6 October 2017


There is always a plan - but sometimes we don't stick to it.  I had hoped to spend today cleaning and tidying in our new baby but it did not happen.

There has been some cleaning, but the carpenter arrived this morning to fix up a couple of things in M's study which was far more distracting than expected, and after lunch a couple of motorhome-owing neighbours popped in to see our new baby and stayed far longer than expected.  By the time they left the sun had gone in and we were freezing cold - had not got far enough along in the campervan organising to have put the heating on  (d'uh?) - and tiredness from yesterday had caught up with me.

Looks like the roof could do with a bit of a clean, good job we've got some big ladders, ha ha.

It's going to be a very quiet night in front of the woodburner.

Thursday, 5 October 2017

Hello, sweetie :-)

An early (for us) start and a lovely run along the A66 in near perfect conditions, blue sky and sunshine, puffy clouds and a gentle breeze.  Daisy is really not so sure, she will never love the car like Ollie did.

An appointment at Ferryhill, to collect the newest member of the family.

A thorough handover:

Followed by a late lunch.  Not the most picturesque location, but Scotch Corner was a convenient place to stop and enjoy our picnic lunch.

A couple of hours later, home safely.  Very happy and very tired.  More tomorrow πŸ˜ƒ

Sunday, 1 October 2017

Running out of steam?

It's fair to say that the number of published posts from Bag End is not exactly at an all-time high ...  It's not that I don't care, because at one level I do, but when it boils down to "shall I spend an hour on the PC doing a blog, or shall I curl up with my book" then the book is winning, every time.

Previously when I have had peroids of non-blogging it has bugged the h*ck out of me because I did not want to have 'gaps' in our record of developing the garden, but now, with 95% of the garden completed and growing away like a Triffid, it does not feel as if I have much more to say.  How many times do I want to write (or does anyone else want to read) that I cut the grass, or trimmed a hedge, or messed around in the greenhouse?

I think that is the nub of it - I have lost my 'gardening voice' and don't have a great deal to say about it right now.  The other thing is that I am increasingly uncomfortable about publicly saying "we did this" or "we bought that".  I've just deleted the last five attempts to explain that last sentence, nah, not going to bother any more.

What I am going to do however, is stop beating myself up about not taking photographs of garden progress, or of Daisy, or of anything else I happen to be up to.  Retirement is a time for kicking back, relaxing, enjoying ourselves, and doing all the stuff which we have previously not had the time or energy for.  "If not now, when?" has become a little mantra which I often run through my head when considering whether to do something or not. 

I will continue to blog, but when the mood takes me. So it might be days/weeks between posts, and then like London buses, a few will come along all at the same time.

To end on something pretty, here's Daisy, finally recovered from the Hurty Paw thanks to a course of antibiotics and a bottle of Loxicom.  Yesterday afternoon was warm and sunny with hardly any breeze,  On the spur of the moment I decided to stuff the housework which was scheduled and jump in the car.  We had a lovely stroll through the grass-filled dunes north of Allonby.  Madam was clearly happy to be out and about properly and did lots of running around and jumping about, which was quite lovely to see. 🐾🐾

Forgot to take a camera, so only phone pictures.  Sad but unavoidable, I think she's starting to look her age in these.

When we sat down for a few minutes I am sure she was sunbathing with her eyes closed πŸ˜€

Tuesday, 19 September 2017

Unplanned progress

What's the forecast for tomorrow?

It's meant to be nice, possibly the best day of the week

What do you feel like doing?

Wouldn't mind getting those bulbs in, what about you?

Carry on tidying up in the garage if that's alright?

Which is about as far as Management and I ever get in the forward planning department.  Which is also about as far as we got Monday night until a flurry of text messages between me and the builder changed our plans;  I'm guessing that whatever he thought he was doing today suddenly fell through and fitting in a day with us filled a gap πŸ˜€

As so it was that Wayne and Keith arrived promptly at 8.00am.
First job, do "something" with the ground between our two main sheds to create an working area that we can sweep clean.

It turned out to be a marvellous way to get rid of old roof tiles, broken bits of paving slab and a couple of buckets of stones which hadn't been dumped somewhere else!

And an excellent use for a selection of paving slabs which have been laying around for ages looking for a purpose in life.  If there is one problem it is that Wayne has done such a wonderful job that it makes everything else look really shabby . . .

Swiftly followed by the job they originally came to do which was lift some slabs on the patio and relay them so that we no longer had a large puddle every time it rained.

As Management and I had been 'forced' into an unusually early start (by our normal standards) there was really no excuse not to get a fair bit done.   I had numerous tubs of Alium 'Purple Sensation' which did not do very well last year and should grow better in the ground, and despite being extra-ordinarily restrained and not buying hundreds of Dutch bulbs like I did last Autumn, I found four packets of gorgeous Fritillaria uva-vulpis in a BM store last week and couldn't resist - well, at 99p each it would have been churlish to leave them behind! They are originally from Iran and Turkey, really not sure if they will like wet Cumbrian winters.

Planting the aliums was remarkably easy - dig a hole, tip out contents of pot upside down onto soil, then tip it back into hole the right way up; they now have two choices . . .

And of course, after planting comes mulching.  A huge, thick, generous layer and as we were getting to the end of the bark pile some of the material had been sitting on our drive so long it was starting to compost into beautful crumbly stuff.  Once Management realised just HOW MUCH we were putting on the bulb bed I think a little light went off in his head .... and he decided that one way or another THE PILE was being cleared today.

So by the time we'd both collapsed the drive was clear (but he moved his car before I could photograph all the lovely empty space!) and not only was the bulb bed thoroughly covered but both small beds by the Big Pond, and a load of extra on the staggered beds by the lawn.

Finally, it would be inappropriate to conclude without issuing a bulletin on Her Majesty:   Daisy was fairly unimpressed with the day because I had the tractor out (she hates the noise) and Keith was cutting paving slabs with a massive Stihl saw (she hates the noise).  Her Ladyship graced me with with her presence for a little while when I was planting bulbs, but sulked indoors for most of the day until Wayne and Keith had left, by which time I think the antibiotics had started to work, she wasn't limping so much, and she wanted company.

I don't know that she was intentionally crashing my photos but I wouldn't put it past her ....

She did manage to leave her 'mark' on the pointing before it was dry.

If we had planned to do so much today we are unlikely to have achieved it, but no complaints that we've cleared the drive (possibly a few complaints during Bake Off about tired legs or aching muscles though!)   Tomorrow may well be very quiet.