Saturday, 31 December 2016

Going gently

This year Christmas was an exceedingly quiet time at Bag End.  We did not go anywhere, see anyone or do anything - absolute bliss.  Of course there is always something to keep me busy - looking after Daisy and lots of gentle local walks comes high on the list.  Relaxed ambles around the village lanes afforded lovely views of interesting clouds and pretty sunsets on more than one occasion.

Management seemed to chill out pretty well and spent much time engrossed in hobbies.   As he is unable to purchase a (fairly) historically accurate kit of a 3rd century Roman trireme he is making one from scratch.  Even with glasses on I can barely see the detail he is scribing into the plastic; it makes messing around with fabric seem easy by comparison.

And (At Last!!) there has been messing around with fabric.  The new furniture configuration seems to be just what was needed and I have succeeded in clearing out a lot of unfinished projects and making huge progress on one which has been sitting around for over 9 years.

The weather has been kind, mostly dry and fairly cold which enabled me to feel no guilt whatsoever about lighting the woodburner earlier and earlier each day!  Announcing 'Daisy looks cold' is no more than an excuse because I love sitting in front of the fire as much as she does.

All in all, a good Christmas, a gentle winding down of the year and a chance to recharge our batteries for the coming months.

Sunday, 25 December 2016


Is this the best Christmas song ever?  When I Googled to see when it was recorded (1977) I found with sadness that Bing died a month after filming.  Even more sadly, it was recorded on September 11th . . .  and 39 years later the message is just as valid.

Happy holidays to all :)

Friday, 23 December 2016

What does Christmas look like?

Everyone's  Christmas looks different.  This week I have spent much longer than usual at my neighbours house.  On Monday their daughter had to have unexpected surgery and with Mum at hospital in Carlisle and Dad in Euston trying to get a train home, there was no-one to care for their dogs.  I spent a fair bit of time walking two unruly but lovable hounds, and just sitting in the lounge with them for company. Their Christmas looked like it would be fairly jolly (hospital trips notwithstanding), a MASSIVE pile of wrapped presents under, around and in front of the tree and the contents of half an off-licence stacked up in the kitchen.

Later, some of the off-licence haul was delivered here as a 'thank you'.  I have already started enjoying it, and providing I only have a tiny glass with food it doesn't seem to screw up my bloog sugar levels. 🍷

Our Christmas looks rather more restrained πŸ˜€   Going shopping yesterday was absolutely the right thing to do.  Miraculously I picked the lunchtime lull when the roads were deserted and the shops really quiet although check-out staff told me it had been manic earlier.   Morrisons excelled themselves with more than a dozen different varieties of English apples - but no Spartan.

An impulse stop at Aldi on the way home paid dividends!   They had nearly as many varieties as Booths (but I couldn't sneak a picture of it all) and hidden behind an innocuous shelf ticket which simply read "English apples" were Spartan.  They're lovely, although a bit small and not really as nice as the homegrown ones but better than nothing 🍎

Our 'Christmas shopping' such as it is has been fitted into the normal weekly trek for groceries, so this was more of a topping up to ensure that, unless I want to, I do not have to go out apart from dog-walks.

There is another fridge full of vegetables, and more than enough meat and fish in the freezer to see us through this holiday and probably the next couple.  I never ever take for granted how fortunate we are to have all this to hand.

So our Christmas now looks like a full fridge, a peaceful house, and a dog who really does not want to venture out into the tail end of Storm Barbara any more than she has to.  On our late morning walk I recorded over 30mph winds within sight of Bag End, I feel for anyone on the western Scottish islands this week.

Despite having had four safe and secure years with us, Daisy still gets unsettled at night if it is wet and windy.  She will happily go into her own cosy bed which she needs to be as cave-like as possible (including heated pad on a timer!) but around midnight I'll hear her get up and start whining quietly, an anxious little cry that I cannot ignore.

She's invited up on the human bed, covered with a quilt, and tends not to move a muscle until the following day.  I made Daisy a promise when she came to us that she would never, ever be scared or cold whilst under my care; I hope I haven't broken it yet and that I never will.

Madam does not care to get up early at this time of year - well past 9.00 this morning she was still happily nesting  and snuggled in quilty warmth.

Daisy thinks Christmas looks like a yummy lunch in front of the woodburner, I'm usually secretly pleased when bad weather means I can justify lighting the fire even earlier in the day than usual.  Today it was 1.00pm!

What does your Christmas look like?

Thursday, 22 December 2016

There's a storm coming . . .

Solstice day turned out considerably nicer than expected.  Daisy and I had a good stroll around the lanes, although this lovely vista was not quite as bucolic as it might appear.  It is only 10 minutes walk from Bag End and the sun may have been out but the wind was strong and bitterly cold.

A bit further on, still lovely views and still bitterly cold

I've just been out with Daisy for our first* walk of the day.  We bumped into a friend who is a keen sailor and listens to the Shipping Forecast every night.  A few hours ago the seas around Ardnamurchan Point, an area which M. and I are very fond of, was "High, Very High and occasionally Phenomenal".  That's as bad as it can get - Hurricane force and you really don't want to be out in it if you have a choice.  All week the Met Office have been threatening us with the arrival of Storm Barbara tomorrow and it does look as if we will get something of a beating over the weekend.

So rather than leave the buying of fresh veggies and last minute holiday food things until tomorrow, I think it would be a good idea to toddle out now.  Once I am back, apart from looking after Her Ladyship, I really don't have to leave the house for days . . .

*  There was a day last week when Madam had six walks between getting up and going back to bed, which is not particularly unusual . . . only one was 'long' (2½ miles) and the rest were all 20 minute strolls around the green and along our road.  And I wonder why sometimes I feel like Daisy has full-time staff and I'm "it" ⁉️ 

Wednesday, 21 December 2016


It is finally here (beathes out with a big but happy sigh).
It is Winter Solstice today, and in a few minutes our little lump of rock will be at its furthest point from the sun (10.44 GMT).  🌞

Rain, wind and lots of cloud means that we won't get any views like this today.  These pictures are from April, sadly with the fields covered in stone left from the Storm Desmond flooding (blummin' photo processing backlong!)

This is when the World turns; forget 31st December and all the drunken midnight shenanigans - this is when the new year, the new season begins.  The time to put the last twelve months behind us and look forward to the gifts and opportunities that the New Year will bring.

Don't think we will even get a break inthe clouds today, unlike this lovely afternoon back in June

After a busy and sometimes rather stressful couple of weeks, I had planned to spend today driving through this beautiful county that we call home and make a long-overdue trip to Ambleside but I'm tired and the weather is rubbish.  Instead it is a day for hunkering down and enjoying the fact that the house is tidy, I have nearly all of Christmas food in the freezer/fridge/cupboards, and I don't need to go out again until Friday to get the last of the fresh vegetables.  Had a trip to Penrith yesterday and called in to Booths.  They sell TEN different varieties of apples, all British, but no Spartan πŸ˜•

Monday, 19 December 2016

You can run, but you really cannot hide

There is no getting away from the fact that we are well and truly in the middle of the silly season, and that Christmas is approaching at the speed of an out-of-control Hogwarts locomotive whether I am ready or not.  It is not that I am a Scrooge, but without small children shrieking excitedly (do they still do that anymore, or is it all quiet apart from the bleeps and buzzes from the latest iDevice that all six-years olds HAVE to possess) or a host of much-loved relatives crowding around a far too small and wobbly dining table, I cannot help but ask myself "why?"   I remember as a child, Christmas was hugely exciting because it was almost the only time new things got bought. Now, with 365/24/7 shopping and instant-everything, unless you have a strong Christian faith, what's the point?

I have no family except for a couple of distant cousins who are lovely, lovely people, but they are stretched to the limit with their own families and commitments so we never see each other.  Management has more relatives but they don't want Daisy in their houses (they didn't want Ollie either, some folk just ain't 'dog people') and we don't care for the drinking and sitting around which occupies much of their free time.

There is a huge upside to all this:  we get to stay in our own home, we eat what we want when we want it, we can go for walks in the most beautiful National Park in England, we can chill out and play with our hobbies.  We do not have to sit on crowded motorways, endure sleepless nights on badly sprung guest-bed mattresses, and we don't spend a huge amount of money!  In fact, now I've written all this down I am feeling far less bah-Humbug and I might even be looking forward to Management's ten-day break from work which will give us both a much-needed chance to catch our breath after another busy year.

Certainly making an effort and putting all our beautiful decorations out has made a difference, particularly as this year we can use the newly painted dresser to showcase my collection of Jim Shore santas and snowmen.   Pats self on back - it looks rather lovely πŸ˜‰πŸŽ„.


It is not like me to put lights outside, but these are for the little girls who live in the house behind us.

Even the kitchen has been decorated, and why not - I spend long enough in thereπŸ˜€

I managed to get out early on Sunday morning and was at the supermarket for 9.30 and ready to go through the checkout five minutes after they officially opened at 10.00. That little jaunt resulted in full cupboards and a rather well-stocked freezer, so all I have to do is get fresh veggies in a few days time and we're sorted. Completing that task, and being able to sit down and enjoy looking at the decorations has left me feeling surprisingly holiday-like. Goodness knows what's come over me!

Sunday, 18 December 2016

Homegrown delicious

My little Spartan apple tree is finally able to settle down and grow without continued disturbance to the roots.  This year I got the biggest crop ever, a whole couple of dozen beautiful apples.

With a hunk of cheese and some nuts, one makes a fairly low-carb but very satisfying quick lunch.  Shop bought apples come nowhere close.

Sadly I have reached the end of my little harvest, I will have a look in Booths to see if they stock Spartan but I'm not holding out much hope 😞.

Friday, 16 December 2016

Sneaky little b*st*rds - or a cautionary tale for anyone else who used to use (edit: or Firenet)

When our internet provider went bust on Tuesday 13th and cut off our broadband services, one of the first things I did was telephone the bank and have them stop all future payments to "Internet Services" - the trading name used for our debits over the last 9 years or so we had been with the company.    The next payment was due on Thursday 15th and as we paid in advance each month I felt quite within my rights to stop any further money going out to a company who were not longer providing me with the service they had contracted to supply.

I was, therefore, less than pleased when I logged onto internet banking this morning to do something completely unrelated, and saw that on Wednesday 14th, a debit had been made for the usual monthly amount by a company called Firenet.  Fortunately I knew that was another trading name used by

Thankfully, a few minutes on the phone to our bank has put a block on that little game, and refunded the money.

If they can try this on us then there will be THOUSANDS of other customers who have had money debited for a service that will never, ever materialise.

Should you have any friends with an email address from Firenet or "" please get them to check their bank account . . . 

Tuesday, 13 December 2016

It was all going so well . . .

Last week the decorating went so well, it looks terrific but you'll just have to use your imagination as to how nice Farrow & Ball Vert de Terre, Wimborne White and New White look together . . .

The weekend went so well during which we did virtually nothing but clean carpets (Management), re-hang curtains (Management) and position furniture, books, "stuff" and everything else (Me!)

This morning was going so well with a quick trip into town.  I planned to take Daisy to Crummock Water when I'd finished the errands, but found once home that our internet was 'down'.  Management was in the middle of a two hour conference call but spousal-shorthand refined over years of him working at home advised the connection had been gone for a couple of hours.

Long story short, our ISP went bust and pulled the plug on everyone at 9.30 this morning.  This is all have to say on their website:

If you're currently experiencing an outage with your broadband service please be advised that you will need to find an alternative broadband provider as we are unable to continue to supply your current service. 

 Right, thanks . . . .

A lovely neighbour shared her Wi-Fi as Management camped in their study and tried to do some work and I made the quickest decision in the world and signed us up to a new provider - which will take ten days to activate.  In the meantime, the same lovely neighbour lent us a wireless dongle-thingy (loving this new technology!!) and Management nipped to the nearest town and came back with a data-only-SIM-thing (more new technology. . .)

Unless I physically move my iMac I've only got connectivity via the iPad and we all know that the iPad operating system and Blogger do not play nicely together.  Plain text I can manage.  Photos?  Not even going to bother.

So to answer the friends who've been wondering why it was so quiet from Bag End - we're fine thanks, just a little disconnected.  In the great big Scheme of Things, it could be much, much worse. I am not complaining, just mildly irritated.

Monday, 5 December 2016

Here we go again

It is four or five years since the sitting room was last painted, and we have moved the furniture around at least two or three times since then.  I usually expect to wait months for a slot in Kate's schedule, but she unexpectedly had some days free so we thought "why not".  What could be more sensible than dismantling the two biggest rooms in the house three weeks before Christmas?

(note "patch of wallpaper shame" on far wall where we clearly couldn't be bothered to move a bookcase last time this was painted!)

At least we had a glorious sunrise to enjoy whilst we were taking down the curtains and blinds this morning.  One of those beautiful sunrises where gentle shades of apricot and pink spread slowly across the sky, and then all of a sudden were gone.

Sunday, 4 December 2016

You don't have to be mad to live here . . .

But if you are then putting up a caravan awning in the middle of the sitting room seems like a reasonable activity for a Sunday morning.

On our last visit to Kielder the chap pitched next to us had one of these awnings fitted to a tiny Freedom caravan.  Although designed for motorhomes we were really impressed with how it created a corridor (next to the van) and a separate room.  Keith had his annexe warm and cosy and it made a lot of sense as a winter set-up.  And then we found one half-price . . .

Daisy doesn't really care - she would just like us to stop moving things around.

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A spot of light pruning

Last week whilst LP was removing the willow fedge I embarked on a spot of autumn pruning . . .

The photo doesn't really show the extent of the wholesale slaughter which took place on inherited Lonicera involucrata which we allowed to grow between the laurel hedge and the actual fence.  I've had enough of it - horrible untidy habit, and blocks too much light from the laurel.  Getting the roots out should be fun . . . not  πŸ˜©

This morning I was in the mood to do a bit more πŸ˜€.
Rather drastic, but I meant to cut the Cottage Garden bed down twelve months ago and failed, it all needs a thorough overhaul and replanting, so at least I have finally made a start!  Fortunately*, LP is due here tomorrow and his first job of the day will be a great deal of shredding.

* not fortunate at all - deliberately planned this way 😍

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Two days in the garden

It's that time of year when days with LP get planned, and then cancelled as the weather decides otherwise.  Fortunately, this week was not one of those times and in two very cold but bright and sunny days we finally managed to "tick a few more things off the list".

Sadly, the willow fedge has outgrown its usefulness.  On the upside, it was fun, easy to plant and something I have always wanted to try. On the downside, it grew a least four metres every summer and was becoming a nightmare to control.  Took LP all of Wednesday to dig it out, but the fedge is no more:

On Thursday LP made one final pass down the lane and cleared up more leaves for us, and then set to on a section of footpath behind our garden which had become impassable.  Aged water mains are constantly leaking and the utility company come out about once a year to fix another section.  Unfortunately, until they repair/replace all of it, we have one area of the green which is a perpetual bog.  Yes, I know it is not our responsibility to clear the path, but no-one else is going to do the job and I want to walk along it,  only took an hour anyway :)

Once the sun had moved around to the patio LP was able to work on our penultimate raised planter without freezing to death.  He finished his task, I haven't yet managed to take a picture of it completed . . .

The final task was to shred some of the massive pile of pruning I'd generated.

I started out intending to give the Deutzia* bushes a good thinning out, but got rather carried away and decided to deal with the Lonicera involucrata which we inherited and I have come to thoroughly dislike.

* I think it is a Deutzia scabra but each summer I forget to confirm this when it is in flower.