Monday, 29 April 2019

Doing the best I can

Right now I know I am doing the best I can, from where I am, with what I've got.

Dear Management is doing the same.

But it is hard, two months on it is still pigging, pigging hard.
I know this will pass, I know it will get better.  I'm not an idiot, we have done this before and I know where I am now is not where I am going to be forever.  It's just sometimes it feels like it.

I know I am not the only one of our loosely-knit little blogging family who has suffered loss, so I'm going out in the garden on a lovely Spring day to think about Daisy, and friends.

Friday, 26 April 2019

Another Ending?

Looking back with the advantage of hindsight, it seems we have always had a love for leisure vehicles of one sort or another.  Over two decades ago there was a little cabin cruiser on a local canal which we had loads and loads of fun with. However, it stopped being relaxing when Ollie joined our family - a dog who thought he was an otter and a water-based weekend toy were not a good mix. But he did love his swims, bless him.

After a far too long break we ventured into land-based toys with little Herbie. Little being the operative word as we rapidly discovered that our concerns about having a vehicle which was too big to easily manoeuvre meant we had a vehicle which was far too small to be any use.

When my darling Daisy came into our lives it did not take long to realise (a) she really needed familiarity, security, to know where she was and that rented cottages were not going to work and (b) she was turning into a much larger girl than we originally expected and took up a great deal of space. So after a massive amount of thinking, cogitating, researching, we became caravaners. Good grief, neither we nor Jeremy Clarkson ever saw that coming.

We have had two vans and some wonderful little holidays but things change. The caravans had two main purposes - astronomy and girlie holidays. Management has been rained off/snowed off/blown over at so many Kielder Starcamps that he’s now had enough. He prefers the little events at Bellingham and other locations which do, at least, have a mobile phone/internet signal for all the times when it is too wet/snowy/windy to do any astronomy (which sadly seems to be most of the time). I’m pretty much “astronomy-ed out” and Bill is quite large enough for him to do a solo trip.

Very, very occasionally the weather at Kielder took everyone by surprise:

More often, it did not:

And the girlie holidays are no more. Without Daisy, when I travel alone I really do not need the extra space a caravan provides, and going away in Bill is a much simpler exercise.

So, not only are we no longer dog owners, but we are no longer caravan owners.

I cannot pretend otherwise - it did make me sad to see the van pull away for the last time. We had some fun trips and it was hugely empowering to learn new skills and be able to manage it all on my own.  But we are not using the caravan often enough to justify keeping her, so this is the right thing to do.  I got all in a tizzy about the money side of things until I realised that what we have lost in depreciation is actually less than it would have cost to rent decent cottages for the same holidays.  So in the great scheme of things, we haven’t “lost” any money at all.  And then for kicks & grins I went and looked up what it would cost to spend a couple of weeks at a decent yoga retreat in India . . . Holy Hollyhocks . . . the caravan has been an absolute flippin' bargain!

At least there’s more space on the drive. If I could find the motivation to move that blasted pile of bark chip we might even look tidy - that would be a shock for the neighbours.  And I guess I now need to get on eBay to see if I can sell some of the accessories which caravanning seems to require, and motorhoming does not - I need to find someone who needs a barely used awning, levelling cushion, aquaroll and goodness knows what else.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Out of sorts

I am out of sorts, off kilter, not quite 'there', and I hate feeling like this. A malaise, down in the dumps, finding it difficult to take pleasure in all the things around me which should bring happiness.  I know that no-one can be Sally Sunshine all the time but right now it feels like I am nothing but a Grumpy Gertie 😢 .

I try and give myself a big kick up the backside - what on earth have I got to be glum about?  I have just had a great little holiday, the weather is outstanding, we are making progress in the garden, M. is happy making huge progress on his motorbikes.

It is not the first time I have felt like this, I fear it will not be the last and when I get like this I usually stop blogging, then I have gaps in the garden record which irritate me just as much as I now irritate myself for feeling whatever this is.  Some relatively inarticulate blogging is called for.  Despite great weather there hasn't been quite as much progress outside as there should have been, but little by little I have worked my way round nearly all of the Cottage Garden and the new bit next to it.

Lasagne bed:  weeded, mulched, box edge planted (and protected)

Front patio planters:  box

Heather beds:  mulch

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

Notre Drame

Watched in disbelief last night, trying not to cry.  Grateful to Sky for hosting France 24, I know you should not watch rolling news coverage of devastating events but I had it on for hours both last night and today.

I can only hope that as a result, every organisation responsible for the care of medieval / historic buildings everywhere are carrying out a detailed review of their fire/distaster planning.

I remember when Windsor Castle burned in November 1992 - I was travelling that evening and saw the fire and smoke in the distance.  Utterly ghastly but proof that restoration can be achieved.  It will not be the same, but these incredible buildings have changed time and time again throughout their history.  At one level, it is how they have survived.

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Coast by Campervan - Day 4, Conishead Priory

The third day of this trip was abandoned before it even got close. The original idea had been to head south to Southport but I knew I did not want to do another 70+ mile day. On Tuesday evening I changed my site booking for a return to Meathop giving me a chance to meander back up the coast and visit Conishead Priory which I had sadly driven straight past that afternoon. Whilst it might sound bonkers to retrace my steps I knew it was the right decision.

On Thursday I left the Morecambe site ludicrously early and parked up at the north of the town for a roadside breakfast - for which I was rewarded with another view of the Little Egret!

Arriving at Conishead it felt very ‘right’, and is somewhere I have wanted to visit for years. Very popular with dog walkers as the grounds are open to all and there are nice paths down to the beach.

Walking through the woodland adjacent to the beach was an absolute delight, spring flowers in abundance, crap photos because of the previously mentioned camera settings snafu.  I kept thinking how much both Ollie and Daisy would have enjoyed it, although in fairness Ollie would have spent half his time sprinting for the sea.

I was wandering along, all full of calm and feeling relaxed, came around a corner and "d'uh, how do I do it, every flippin time"?  I must have a hardwired ability to find the hidden corners - graves - and typically got a little upset reading 100 year old inscriptions;  Dogs, it's always the bloody dogs.

Absolutely joyous was the friendliness and openness of the Buddhist residents, a marked contrast to the way people behaved at Kagyu Samye Ling which I visited last year.  I got chatting to one of the monks who told me a lot about the centre, and how the style of Buddhism practised is considered 'modern' with more relevance to today's society.  Definitely less rigid and formal than the Samye Ling way, definitely a place of peace I need to revisit, next time staying nearby and spending many more hours there.

I could not get a tour of the house, wrong day, so that is another reason to go back.

Returning to Meathop was lovely, and I got set up early enough to have a good walk down the road towards Grange.  Rewarded once again with "small white dot in the distance" but this time a rubbish but enough to prove I saw it photograph.  Definitely my week for Little Egret.

😊♫ Happy birding dance ♫🙂

Wednesday, 10 April 2019

Coast by Campervan - Day 3, RSPB Leighton Moss & Morecambe

My second day out was infinitely more sensible - I only had about 30 miles planned, and one stop. But I changed that too. The plan had been a visit to Leighton Moss in the morning with an early afternoon arrival in Morecambe so I could wander around the beachfront. But I had a very slow start and did not leave the site until close to 11.00am.  Then I found the RSPB site was so lovely that I stayed there nearly all day so there was no time for an afternoon stroll around Morecambe, but in the end that did not really matter.

Leighton Moss was fabulous, even though I did not get to see the 'star performers' which attract serious birders from miles away.  Despite my pedometer telling me I walked 8 miles I was never in the right part of the site to see Avocet, and I did not get a glimpse of the otters who live there.  But I did see the most beautiful lapwings on their nests, close enough to a Hide to see eggs, I saw a couple of Marsh Harriers, and more other birds than I can recount.  With only a little camera to hand, there are no really interesting pictures, but MY, did I see some interesting cameras.

I saw enough massive photographic gear being carried around to pay off the national debts of a small nation;  pretty certain I saw at least two of these: gulp!

And one of these, holy ***

Which was carried by a lady who using both hands to support it (not something you want to drop!) and her husband was acting as sherpa weighed down by bags with [presumably] camera bodies and the tripod.

Despite being half-term, once away from the visitor centre Leighton Moss was quiet and peaceful.  I even had the SkyTower to myself.

I liked this circular area next to the cafe, reminded me of Ryton and the Biodynamic garden at their organic centre.

Eventually I tore myself away and headed a few miles south to Morecambe where I had chosen an unusual campsite.  Unusual for me in as much as once I’d seen it on Google Maps it was forever unkindly referred to as “the container park”, as this satellite image shows.  A mainly static site, but selected because it was within a few minutes walk of the seafront at Morecambe. And I have no idea why, because I’ve never been there before but I had a hankering to stay in the town and walk along the Prom.  The site was actually very quiet, felt fairly safe, and had what few facilities I needed.  It also had absolutely no ‘soul’ or charm but at least I tried something new, which was also one of the objectives.

Having arrived much later than expected, but Leighton Moss was worth it, my Promenade bimble ended up just being an hour’s stroll.  Morecambe was “interesting” . . . I wandered around pretending to be an anthropologist  and people watching, but felt very detached from it all. It is a funny little place, seems to accept itself for what it is - a rather faded seaside resort that has seen better days but is trying to rejuvenate. As the tide was going out I did have the pleasure of watching a curlew and pair of Little Egrets feeding in the mud, and felt sad that I was the only person I saw with binoculars. Ironic - I spent all day at the RSPB reserve and saw none of the buggers, then spotted two Egret 100 yards from the Prom at Morecambe; very beautiful and a birding ‘first’ for me.

Reflections on the Wednesday?  Only 30+ miles travelled and much more “do-able”. And therein lies the problem with “Coast by Campervan”. If I only cover 30 miles or so each day it is either going to take me bloomin' years (which I don’t want) or I am going to be almost permanently on the move (which I don’t want).  Further cogitating in progress . . .

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

Coast by Campervan - Day 2, RSPB Hodbarrow & Furness Abbey

No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy - or how a carefully conceived “plan” to travel around the coastline fell apart on its very first morning.

The idea behind this daft “Coast by Campervan” project was not simply to drive past all sorts of interesting places muttering a mental note along the lines of “that looks nice, must come back” which we all do and know we never will, but to actually stop and enjoy/experience some of them.  I quickly realised that my habit of thinking I can manage more in one day than is sensible or even physically possible (garden, anyone?) was going to have to be reined in. The first proper stop  (not a just-for-a-coffee-stop) was at RSPB Hodbarrow outside Millom. What a gorgeous site - a lagoon in an old mine.

I did the perimeter walk, supposedly three miles although it felt like less, but did it fairly quickly all the while thinking “I could really linger here …” but I “couldn’t” because I had more miles to cover to reach the pre-booked site at Meathop, and I wanted to stop at Furness Abbey on the way.  Long story short, the whole day was “short-changed” by my desire to fit in a couple of “tourist stops” and the mileage turned out to be more than I had predicted, and that was even after I missed the “bottom” of Barrow opposite Walney Island and skirted past Cark and Cartmel.

The other thing that seems to have gone skewed is my photographs.  Somewhere/somehow I must have changed a setting on the little Sony camera without intending to.  My RAW files are JPG's and the quality is decidedly pedestrian compared to that which I expect.  So just a few snaps as a flavour of the visits.

Hodbarrow:  I definitely missed more than I saw and I'd find it quite easy to spend an entire day here, which I plan to do.  Management might come with me, he might not;  he enjoys birding the same way I enjoy astronomy - just a little is quite enough :-)

Furness Abbey:  Absolutely "blew me away".  I had a wonderful time deliberately exploring the ruins without a guidebook and working out the function of each section.   The red sandstone has been badly weathered over the years and much of the carving is severely eroded, but in places absolute gems still remain.  The vaulting in the west end of the Infirmary gave me goosebumps.  It helps to have studied these buildings many years ago and have an idea of the construction techniques used.  Can you imagine what would happen if we tried to build like this now?  Can you imagine the budgetary overspend?

In typical fashion, there was one piece which moved me to tears.  Dogs, it's always the bloody dogs.

Much more information about Furness Abbey, and far better photographs are at Mike's "A Bit About Britain" site, which if you don't already know it, is a quite splendid resource.  His account and photographs are far more informative than mine, you should click the link :-)

I pulled into the Caravan Club at Meathop after 5.00, which is much later than I like to arrive on site. But what a little gem, they have an almost perfectly level tarmac area for motorhomers who are not going to try to hammer in awning pegs.  It is also the one part of the isolated site with a mobile signal, so I was able (just about) to get online after supper.

Don't get the wrong idea, I had a lovely day, BUT, it was not as good a day as it should have been, and that means the project has to change - drastically - because if I am not enjoying every single trip then there is no point in doing it.