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Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Pretending

We spent last weekend and today pretending to be something we are not. That would be pretending to be the sort of Grown Ups who have tidy homes & gardens and do not let things get out of control. Yeah, I know, "in my dreams"!

Himself started by taking stuff from the garage which had been kept for years "just in case" and we now agree will never be used. A car full of metal and things to recycle made their way to the local tip which has freed up a surprising amount of space.  He then set to with the chainsaw and dealt with a large bin full of old rubbishy wood that has no use in the garden but will be great on the woodburner.





I stacked the wood he cut and moved all of the logs which had been stored at the back of the house for a couple of years. If they are not fully seasoned now they never will be.





Rain stopped play on Sunday before we could get finished, and today is the first (and possibly only) chance this week to get outside - the forecast for Thursday and Friday is ghastly. But overall it's brilliant progress, we even made a small start on moving his supply of steel for future welding projects.



Tiring but hugely satisfying. There may have been ibuprofen and long, hot showers 😄.







Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Isn't a holiday meant to be relaxing?

I did not sleep too well last night and it took me until gone 2.00am to realise I was not warm enough - Summer is over and Autumn is definitely here. It has rained on and off all morning and the forecast is that it will stay very wet for the rest of today, so I prescribe a gentle day of putzing around on the computer - I have been back from Scotland a whole week and not yet made a start on sorting photos, so today is it:

My first reflection on the week was "Isn't a holiday meant to be relaxing?" Yes, supposedly, but dictionary definitions of "holiday" vary. I had a quick bimble around Google and came up with:

an extended period of leisure and recreation, especially one spent away from home or in travelling

A holiday is a period of time during which you relax and enjoy yourself away from home

a period of time when you do not work or study and do things for pleasure instead


But nowhere in my extremely brief bimble did I come across the definition "rest" and I got back in need of a really good rest.  However, the trip was not a total failure; despite returning home completely knackered I fulfilled the 'travelling' criteria, and definitely did things for pleasure.

Depending upon the weather it might have been my last "Coast by Campervan" trip of 2021 and before setting out the map of North East Scotland looked like this:



And upon my return the chunky marker pen gave me this:



Reflections first, and posts about individual locations later. Last time I went up to this part of the world was for another reason and I "tagged on" a couple of coastal days. This time, with a lot of land to look at it was decided that I'd have a go at a longer trip than usual. Ten days away, nine nights on four different campsites, the longest Bill and I have cosied up together. It was too long. Whilst I have the van set up to be as comfortable as possible it's not the same as sleeping in my own bed and nine nights took their toll. Apart from last night I have slept like I'm practising for being dead since I returned and been weary to the core, that does not happen after shorter trips.



I had no problems being alone for so long, despite having to effect a couple of on-the-road van fixes, and semi-warm campsite showers were not a major issue either. What is a problem, however, is food. Age has gifted me with not just diabetes but some other food-related issues which mean that grabbing a sandwich, pizza, burger, or any other form of sustenance that I have not prepared myself stands a very good chance of making me ill. Not hospital ill, but feeling bloody awful and experience has taught me it is just not worth it. So I either have to take enough breakfast, lunch and supper for the entire trip or set aside a day mid-trip to shop and stock up, which sounds simple but on a restricted diet that is not always as straightforward as I would like it to be.



Wonderful though Bill is, the fridge is limited and cooking/preparation space even more so. I decided to go the first option and just about managed to pack enough into the tiny freezer/fridge but it adds more work and stress to preparing for a trip.



I mentioned on-the-road-fixes. Day two I noticed in the side mirror that 'something' not normally visible was sticking out of the side of the van. I stopped as soon as possible and found that one of the read mud-flaps was nearly off. Age and rust are probably the culprit causing a couple of aluminium rivets to fail. Thank Crunchy for the cable ties I always keep in my "just in case" box. New kit is being ordered.



On about day five or six I put the usual bucket under the waste tank drain, turned the tap handle and "it all broke off in me 'and, Guv". Not being able to empty the waste water tank would have been ruddy awkward and inconvenient. I managed to get the entire tap off (and of course got thoroughly wet with waste washing up water as it all gushed out) and found it was completely knackered, probably UV degraded from being on the side of the van which is usually parked facing the sun. Eventually, when I had dried off and calmed down a bit I realised I did not need to drain the fresh water tank whilst away so I swapped the knackered tap to the clean tank, and put the still-working tap on the waste tank. New kit is being ordered.



I was pleased to have fixed things on my own and broken nothing more than a couple of fingernails. I cannot feel a similar sense of achievement when it came to the bloody Peugeot SatNav and my general route planning for the trip. I have grumbled about the SatNav before, so in order to maintain level blood pressure I will just say it is one of the most UN-user friendly, most inefficient, potentially dangerous pieces of installed technology I have ever been confronted with. If not for moderate driving skills and fairly steel nerves when absolutely necessary the dratted directions this unit provided could have got me into horrible trouble on more than one occasion. In one coastal town, having programmed my destination as the harbour, I was directed into a one-way street which suddenly narrowed to 220cm for over half a mile . . . including mirrors Bill is 205cm wide so one could argue the route was acceptable. Let's just say I did not enjoy that at all. When I am not so tired, research into a stand-alone unit that I can trust will continue.


Which segues nicely into research & directions. Normally I am so organised it {nearly} worries me, worries Management {ðŸĪĢ} and often causes concern in those around me! I research, I plan, I schedule, and whilst it won't work for everyone I generally know exactly where I am going, when, and precisely what I am going to find on the way. This time I took advice from others to "chill a little", "go with the flow", "take each day as it comes". I really should know better . . . Not planning exactly which bit of coast I was visiting and when meant I made some bad, on-the-fly decisions which led to my driving far too far on a couple of days, and on others arriving somewhere mid-afternoon and not being able to park whereas if I had pre-planned in my usual fashion I would probably have been the first or second vehicle to arrive that morning and had no problems. C'est la vie, first world problems et al. This whole post is pretty much a brain-dump to remind me what works and what does not, so that when I go away again I might not make the same mistakes.

But truly, since I returned the sky seems to have fallen in a little more than previously and whilst discussing politics is a dangerous activity in a public forum, Boris and his chums (such as Mr Sunak whose billionaire father-in-law is one of the richest men in India, and possibly the world, and whose wife has a personal fortune believed to be greater than Her Majesty the Queen) are p*ssing me off big-time.

No blood tests because of vial shortages 💉 (well, that will take some pressure off the NHS ðŸĪŽ), no fuel ⛽️ and price gouging by petrol stations which do have supply ðŸĪŊ, not a single item in the supermarket which does not cost more than a few months ago 🛒, gas and electric prices set to soar for everyone who is not fortunate enough to be on a fixed tariff, and goodness knows what else. Rumours have started that there may be a snap General Election in spring 2022** - am I a cynic to think that Boris would secretly like to lose in order that someone else can try to clean up the mess he would be leaving behind?


I took this picture on 17th September, diesel is priced at 133.7/litre.
Yesterday, the one and only fuel station in Cockermouth was asking over 145/litre



If a couple of bits of van maintenance and tiredness are my biggest problems then I am doing brilliantly! And that is the mindset I will hang onto . . . the alternative is too bloody depressing ðŸ˜Ŧ ðŸ˜Ī.



** UK Election next year?



Saturday, 25 September 2021

Naughty

This is a bit naughty and was quite rude until I edited it (I am sure you can guess what word I have covered up), but in light of our comments yesterday about panic buying, I confess it did make me laugh:





Friday, 24 September 2021

Not for the first time - oops!

I am slowly working through post-holiday everything: catching up on laundry, catching up on sleep, and this morning I headed out to finish catching up on grocery shopping and - yes - fill the car with petrol. But I would have done that anyway because I'm down to half a tank and that is when I always top up. The fuel station at Morrisons was quiet, every pump was open.

Morrisons shares its carpark with B&Q and I remembered that a can of spray BBQ paint was on the (invisible, never get round to writing it down) List.

Not for the first time in my life I walked out with a full trolley and NO paint . . . I may have got a little distracted.


  

In my defence, the heather plants were on the (invisible, never get round to writing it down) List and required for a small autumn makeover of one of the beds. I have no excuse, however, for the dahlia plants other than I love them. The garden headline for this year has been a greenhouse full of dahlias, and I've not yet shared a fraction of the photos I have of absolutely stunning blooms. I intend to go to great lengths to keep the tubers safe over winter and these beauties will join the others in {hopefully} frost-free storage. But until then I am going to have a few weeks of enjoying the flowers.



PS: Do not believe every frightening headline that the newspapers or mainstream media throw at you. I am starting to feel very angry about the constant onslaught of government propaganda, and I cannot help thinking much of it is geared towards keeping us all in line.

There were NO empty shelves in Morrisons, yesterday in Aldi there were NO empty shelves. There was NO queue or closed pumps at Morrisons petrol station or any of the others I passed this morning.

In January 1940 the government introduced food rationing, and one restricted item was eggs. However, at the same time "experts" advised that eating more than three eggs per week would cause constipation and was generally bad for you. What a load of bollocks (s'cuse me!): it is now admitted and accepted that this advice was nothing to do with the health of the nation and everything to do with managing the expectations of people in order to dissipate anger over the limitation of what was considered a staple food item.

If you have not seen the excellent comment Viv (Where The Journey Takes Me) left on my post yesterday about the shambles of food management at that time you might like to bimble back and have a read . . .








Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Back from a big trip

Bill and I pulled onto the drive at 4.30pm yesterday, exactly nine hours after leaving the Highlands. Tired. Actually, far more tired than I expected. It has been a Big Trip, my longest to date - ten days and nine nights and to be honest it was too much.

I think my 'sweet spot' might be five or six nights . . .

I've come back to many loads of laundry, much cleaning up, the need for a massive trip to the supermarket and a huge recognitition of how fortunate I am to have those as my current biggest problems. Err, umm, if you don't include the couple of small things which went wrong on Bill and had me laying on my back under the van in a couple of dirty places effecting on-the-road fixes which (pats self on back!) held up perfectly and safely. Or you don't include the leaking window in my sewing room which we can no longer ignore and I am dreading Thursday's visit from the builder and all the subsequent upheaval that we are going to have to go through, or the perfect storm of gas prices, HGV driver shortages, food security and going into winter with Covid cases on the rise . . .

But until I have straightened up a few things and have time to relax at the computer, a couple of pretties from the last few days:














The pictures are from: Cullen, Portsoy, Pennan, Balnauran of Clava


Sunday, 12 September 2021

Shopping and packing

Without fail, every single time I step inside this beautiful vehicle I take a moment to acknowledge how blessed I am to have her.






Au revoir . . .




Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Hedgemageddon

The Boys Are Back in Town (oh, go on - admit how pleased you are to have a 1976 ear worm for the next couple of hours!) ðŸŽĩ 🎞 ðŸŽķ
Of course, after my saying we'd missed the heatwave yesterday, the Weather Goddess stuck two fingers up at us and the greenhouse soared to over 100° (in old money) and the house thermostat went well over 30° (about 90°).



Simon and James were only able to give us half a day today, which given the temperature was probably a good thing - apart from endless bottles of water that had been in the freezer for an extra chill, occasionally desperate measures were employed in order to cool down:



Today was the turn of the front hedge which leaves the Cottage Garden and the fruit cage feeling somewhat exposed, but they will will survive.







I could manage the yew hedge myself, but it only took Simon 20 minutes with his Mahooosive hedge trimmer, so it would have been silly not to take advantage.



And at the end of it all an extremely full compost bay with lovely shreddings which will end up all over the beds to suppress weeds, and then rot down and put food and goodness back into the soil so the plants can grow even bigger and we have to have the boys back next year to cut it all down again . . . ðŸĪŠ






Once they left there might have been some relaxing:









Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Playing with paint

Although we have not enjoyed the 30 degree heatwave threatened for other parts of England, today The Shire was very hot and sunny. I went outside this morning with the intention of continuing to paint the front of the house but it only took seconds to admit there was no way I felt like doing the job I "ought" to be getting on with. No, what I needed was to be having fun and playing, so I decided it was time to use up all the leftovers and half-empty paint cans from last year and mess around with colour.



This is not Instagram perfection, it was a quick brush down to remove the worst of the cobwebs and then slosh paint around! The greenhouse staging got a freshen up (although not all of it, I do not have some of the colours), then there was a chair which did not get out of the way quick enough, followed by a small table which I think looks wonderful in orange and purple. The little 'purple' bed next to the shed got a freshen up too.





Even Management got in on the fun despite the fact that he hates the heat and does not cope well with it, but this siding already looks SO much better, and he has promised to do another coat tomorrow.



The coldframes have needed some TLC all season and I am bored with sensible, grown up green. This is just one coat, they need at least two more.



Where I had the paint I did some of the greenhouse beds, but there are still others to be done.



More than a little tired, and we both fell on our supper tonight like we'd not eaten all week but have had such an enjoyable time resulting in lovely eye candy - a much needed "play day".





Monday, 6 September 2021

That will do nicely

There are not (and never will be) 'before' photos of a pile of stained tea towels. Coffee, tomato sauce, avocado, something unidentifiable - and despite being thoroughly washed several times still looking remarkably suspect . . .

There is, however, evidence of what happens when you chuck the whole lot in the washing machine with a tub of Dylon.





Tea towels which might, in another time, have been relegated to garden or garage cloths have been refreshed and are ready for many more months use in the kitchen.




Sunday, 5 September 2021

Major incident

We have had a Major Incident at Bag End, but you can relax because no blue lights or sirens were involved. What was involved was this beast of a shredder:



Which was supplied with constant fodder by Simon and James: remember James, he of the awful mouthful of disgusting tree-stuff? Poor man I am surprised he was prepared to return! He's the victim on the right if you watch "video 22".


Three or four years of neglect and just "never getting round it it" and some of our laurel hedges had grown to a point where Management and I looked at them, agreed they needed a serious cut back, and then both our shoulders sagged as we considered the amount of sheer, damn hard work involved. However, when I returned from Scotland it was obvious that the outrageous numbers of sparrows, goldfinches, robbins, blue tits and blackbirds who have been born in this garden during 2021 had finally fledged completely and we were safe to start cutting into evergreens. I know the birds have buggered off because in June and July we were putting out between 6 and 10 fat balls per day and they were ALL being eaten, and since my return we're only needing two or three.

Management and I had made sure the middle compost bin was not only completely empty (something else which did not get blogged about) but has been repainted, refurbished and generally made good for another few years and by the end of the day is was almost full. Amazingly, thanks to much care from everyone the borage survived almost unscathed which is good because the bees are still very busy with the flowers.



The boys positioned their massive shredder very carefully and set about making a tremendous noise with their chainsaws. I supplied instructions, and Management got involved with dragging debris around the garden.



The general idea is that with Simon bringing the hedges down to a manageable height, and my having acquired a brilliant petrol-driven hedgecutter/trimmer thing earlier in the year, we should be able to manage on our own in future. And if that plan goes off the rails (as many plans do!) then I guess we can always bring Simon back next year although he IS coming back next week for half a day to deal with the hedges at the front.

I must admit it has been a bit of a shock to look at the before and after height but I know we've done the right thing, so much so that I am even eyeing up a couple of areas and wondering if we should cut them back even more. Just a few pictures (I was too busy to take many) but I'll give you a proper tour when it is all completed.























Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Keep blogging

Nearly twenty years ago to the day I made a late lunch and, as was my habit at the time, turned on the TV to see what was happening in the world. Only minutes earlier American Airlines Flight 11 had struck the World Trade Centre. I immediately phoned a dear friend who lives in America and together we watched 9/11 unfold, including seeing Flight 175 crash into the south tower. Since then we have been through a war in Iraq, the occupation of Afghanistan (a country which is fundamentally unsuited to a version of centralised Western democracy), economic turmoil, undeniable climate change, and more recently we have endured Donald Trump, Brexit, the choice between BoJo and Corbyn and now Coronavirus. It would be a strange soul who has not been affected by some or all of that - I know I have.

Certainly in the last year I've found it hard to keep blogging, which is sad because writing at Bag End has given me great pleasure over the years and brought into my life some wonderful people who have become real friends. In March 2020 Kate summed that up perfectly on her blog when she wrote:

"Blog - still blog, maybe your world has shrunk to the size of your garden, your flat, your bedroom.

Blog - still blog, keep that lifeline not just for you but for others.

Even a small post on that silly thing your cat did/yourhusband said/you saw on the internet will bring a spot of light to someone who is stuck at home.

Stay in touch."


Such wise words and still valid. However whilst I agree with everything Kate wrote I have not been good at following through and maintaining my own blogging.

It is not just me - since the pandemic hit our world I've seen a great decline in the number of us "old school" bloggers who used to post regularly. By old school I am not being ageist - I mean those of us who are not social media influencers, who do not publish for monetary gain, but who just chat to a small audience and enjoy the connections which are made.

However, I am often conflicted over whether I should share a glimpse of the incredibly safe, peaceful, beautiful life I enjoy when there are atrocities going on all over the world. I was no fan of Donald Trump and truly thought Biden was one of the Good Guys but I've not been able to watch news in the last week without almost crying every day - how was pulling out of Afghanistan like this ever going to end well? How on earth can the supposedly civilised West abandon local people who have fought with us, interpreted for us and put their own lives on the line and then have the gall to tell other countries what to do?

 

(Please hold your mouse over the picture above 😉 ðŸū 💚)

I am ashamed of how my generation seem to have ignored the clear messages about the effect our lives have on the climate and this small blue planet: in the billions-of-years history of this earth I can think of no other species which has had such a damaging effect on its environment.

I think I am so small that how can anything I do or feel make a difference?



That is the context in which I convince myself that my blogging is pointless. BUT I have been told (very forcefully 😉) this week just how much difference it makes to see some pretty little pictures and a few words from a 60-something old woman in a small market town in a small rural county, so I'd better carry on then!

I have resolved to really try to up my game and make an effort to get back to blogging frequently: new month, new season, new start and all that nonsense.







Be warned however, it is not all going to be flowers, fabric and frivolous trips in Bill. There will most likely also be ranting, there may be politics, there are most certainly going to be opinionated views. Reading each and every post is not compulsory but I hope those of you who like seeing life at Bag End will stick around and enjoy what I do produce,

and there endeth today's sermon.

On a slightly more cheerful note, as if the above random photos of Daisy were not enough eye candy, yesterday afternoon we found these little folk munching their way through the hornbeam hedge:







They are Buff Tip Moth caterpillars and have been left alone to feed themselves up, ready for overwintering. I really do not mind caterpillars and similar bugs eating my plants - they have just as much right to try to survive as the next creature and if I can grow something which turns out to be a useful food source then I am glad to do so, however nibbled it might look by the end of the season.