Thursday, 28 October 2021

Squeee! that was me 🤩

Childishly excited.

For the first time EVER I decided to pop a photo onto the BBC "Weather Watchers" site, not sure what happened to put that idea in my head. It was used at lunchtime! Pure fluke that I saw it. No accident that I pressed rewind and recorded the evidence.

You may recognise the image from my earlier post today. 👏 👏 👏 (I wanted to be "Daisy's Mum" but that name was taken and this was the best I could think of in a hurry.)

Sadly this is tinged with deep sadness - once again our lovely little town is flooding. Maybe not as badly as in 2009 or 2015 [YET] but most traders in Cockermouth can no longer get flood insurance. It is not as if the premiums are too high (but they would be), it is that most companies just will no longer insure Cockermouth business premises against water damage. Covid and lockdowns have already forced the closure of some businesses, how many more we are going to lose?

Apparently over 12" of rain has fallen in Honister in the last 36 hours and whilst it has stopped for now we are due much more on Friday and Saturday. Most of which will drain into the River Cocker, which combines with the River Derwent in the middle of the town - and is carrying half of the water which lands on Helvellyn and so many other high fells. I really must get off my bottom and finish annotating a map of the catchment areas . . . now I've "put the idea out there" I might remember to get on with it.

Edit Friday: the video is hiding if you use a tablet . . . well, that is the case in this house, but on a desktop it is showing up fine. Oh, and it is STILL raining. 😟 😟 😟

Amber Warning

8.57pm last night . . . BBC weather forecast . . . apparently the Met Office had issued an Amber flood warning for parts of south-west Scotland and Cumbria.

Sadly they were right. It started raining earlier this week, has not stopped yet with much, much more forecast for the next few days. Praying that this does not turn into another 2015 "Desmond", or even 2009, I am not sure how I would cope with that again. I walked down to the river after breakfast with a neighbour and got thoroughly soaked. But of much more concern than drenched trousers and wet feet was the river level - it is nearly as high as in past really bad floods and will rise more. The catchment area for the River Derwent and River Cocker is massive, hundreds of square miles of massive and includes some of the National Park's highest and wettest places - Skiddaw, Helvellyn, Honister. Even when it stops raining the river continues to rise for a day or two whilst water drains from the hills.

All this water falling from the sky means that any outdoor activity has no chance of progress. So whilst Bill's brackets are rust-proofed and painted I have absolutely zero opportunity to put the tank pipes & taps back together again. Not that it really matters - I am not planning on going out in the van whilst the weather is like this. Similarly there is absolutely no likelihood of doing anything in the garden, despite there being much Autumn clearing up to do. Even filling the log basket is an expedition requiring waterproofs and wellies.

Instead I hunkered down in the sewing room. Back in 2018 I "borrowed" 16 tubs from Management in an attempt to sort out small half/completed projects and scraps. That has not worked well - instead of emptying those boxes the total has grown, there are now 20. How the heck did that happen?

So the current idea (which we all know will only last until I am distracted by something more interesting!) is to spend this Autumn/Winter working on the contents of the boxes. I have made a start with the blue and red plaid log cabin blocks which (to my surprise) have only been sitting around since February of this year. This is unusually speedy for me! You don't need to see the eleventy-seven discarded layouts which went up on the boards and came swiftly down again, but it's very time consuming and explains where at least three days went. I have settled on this and am currently piecing blocks in neutral fabrics to fill in the outside triangles.

The pair in the photo were just an experiment, the 'real' ones are much tidier. My table is now a lovely mess whilst I make 18 proper blocks. Then I will play around with the placement of the blue and red units so that I don’t have too much of the same fabric in one place and then sew them together . . . sounds so simple when you put it like that!

What are you working on this week?

Sunday, 24 October 2021

Bean-bag for Bill

No Apology for more Atrocious Alliteration (ha, see what I did there - rolling eyes emoji). Alliteration always makes me smile and that's never a bad thing.

Happily, the large online retailer (thank you Amazon) delivered my long zips. Since discovering I could buy zippers online my haberdashery stock has grown considerably. I used to expect to buy zips one at a time, and pay at least £2 or £3 for each one. Now Amazon deliver me multi-coloured bundles for a bit more or less than a tenner . . . I know this is how local shops go out of business, but the nearest place to me that sells zips is a 15 mile round trip and they have a very, very limited selection of sizes and colours. It is almost embarrassing to receive 48 zips, 2 each of 24 colours, less than 24 hours after clicking 'Proceed to Checkout'.

Earlier in the year I found a lovely lady, Svetlana Sotak, on YouTube whose tutorials are excellent and the one for making a lined bag with a zipper is the best I have ever found. Since then I have probably sewn 20 or more fabric bags of differing sizes, just because I could 😆.

In between continuing to paint brackets on the van, completely re-stock and pack my rucksack with the intention of getting off my bottom and doing some proper walking, dismantle a fence, do laundry and try to keep on top of all the work which a large house generates, I found time to finish my "not a bean-bag". It is really just an over-sized version of this YouTube video.

Bill is starting to feel very smart as she heads for winter. I admitted to myself last week that I was most unlikely to have any more overnights this year so the tanks, water pump and boiler are drained down well ahead of whatever below zero temperatures we get. Must go in the loft and find the fridge vent covers that need to be on when it is really chilly. For days out it is easier to take bottles of water for drinking and I always travel with a flask or two of very hot water which makes it easy to do a quick bit of washing up whilst I am out. Wonder where I should go first?

Unfortunately I have not made such speedy progress on completing the water tank hoses, taps and brackets. The last week has been thoroughly damp and autumnal and although all the painting is finally done it's far too wet to go outside and refit everything. Yesterday was damp all day but "proper" high wind and rain started about 8.00pm last night and shows no signs of letting up.💨 ☔️

This morning Pinterest sent me the usual selection of things I might be interested in and for once there was a lovely little quilt top shown that might be a perfect use for one of the (far-too-many) boxes of scraps waiting to be turned into something nice. Tonight's supper has been taken out of the freezer, the washing machine is on, emails have been answered . . . so that's me into the sewing room for the next few hours!

Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Today there has been sewing, and rain

We looked at Sunday's Countryfile weather forecast and said "OK, that will be fun: NOT" - a whole week of changeable weather, unseasonably warm with rain coming and going whenever it feels like it. And for once, that seems to be exactly what we are getting.

I managed a little time on the drive yesterday working on Bill's brackets (that can have a post of its own when the job is finished), and to my surprise it was dry enough for an hour this morning that I could do a little more. But it is a slow job - sand, prime/paint, leave 24 hours if the weather co-operates, longer if it does not. Repeat.

Confined inside this afternoon by "proper" autumn weather (wind, rain, more wind, so gloomy the lights have been on since 2.00pm) I pulled the brightest selection of fabrics I could fine. At the weekend I made Bill a new pillowcase in fabric which matches the curtain that covers the toilet, and I wanted a similar cover for my bedding (which doubles as a big comfy 'bean-bag-alike' cushion). I adore this multi-coloured fabric but there's no indication on the selvege where it came from - if anyone happens to have a couple of yards they are not using I'll swap good money for it!

I suppose this was [sort of] patchwork, but I've sewn all the seams on the overlocker because it is not going to be quilted, so it didn't feel like 'proper' piecing. Waiting for a well-known online retailer to deliver some 70cm zips, and then I can finish.

It is definitely a day when bright colour was badly needed, and this little project certainly delivered. Off to sit down now until it is time to start supper, and I won't need much persuasion to light the woodburner.

Friday, 15 October 2021

The North bit of north-east coast

Having covered half of this section of coastline in June, this was always going to be the more relaxing and easy part of the trip. It does not hurt that it is also much prettier and more quiet.

Last time I finished in Cullen, so that is where I started this time. It is a lovely town with easy parking, really interesting beach and its main claim to fame is "home to Cullen Skink". What the publicity conveniently glosses over is that this was a dish created in the face of starvation during long, dark, miserable winters when it is too dangerous to put boats out to sea: protein either from smoked haddock or beef scrapings and the potatoes which grow exceptionally well in this part of Scotland. On more than one occasion I found myself crawling along at 15-20mph behind a fully laden "tattie-wagon" (and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to go so slowly and look at the scenery, probably a view not held by the cars behind me).

From Cullen it was on to one of the highlights of the entire trip: Portsoy. The village had a wonderful feel to it and supports a thriving primary school, a tempting looking campsite, more shops & businesses than I expected and definitely seems like a real community. I can definitely see me returning here. It has been particularly difficult to select photos from the gazillions I took.

On another day I spent ages in Pennan. Reached down the narrowest, steepest of roads but happily there is a very large layby at the top of the village lane, big enough for two motorhomes and I stopped there. The walk down to the village was steep and I could have managed it in Bill but I am glad I chose not to. I had the best coffee of the whole holiday (other than that which I make myself) at Shona's Coastal Cuppie, played with her two awesome dogs, and had a most relaxing time. This might be the only time you see FaceAche at Bag End: link to Coastal Cuppie.

Not being very good with popular culture the fact that the film Local Hero was filmed here was completely wasted on me but that's what brings most visitors to the place. I am not sure you can call it a village - there are 11 fulltime residents in winter (there were 12 but Shona's daughter has moved) with the remaining houses being second homes and holiday rentals. The weather can be so foul that the coffee shed has to be physically dismantled and moved at the end of every season - the year the shed was left in place it was destroyed by the first big storm. Still want to live in a coastal idyll? It has been particularly difficult to select photos from the gazillions I took. 😝

I enjoyed Pennan so much I didn't feel the need to repeat the experience a couple of miles further on and visit Covie, which is even smaller and completely car free. Even residents have to park half way up the cliff. But I could see it from Gardenstown . . . maybe I will go back one day?

Gardenstown, another village which clings perilously to the side of a cliff and was reached down another endless steep road with a couple of alarming hairpin bends which turned out to be much easier to drive up than down. Go figure? Larger than I expected, welcomed motorhomes (unusually the carpark offered safe overnight parking for £10) but not a patch on Portsoy.

The last place I spent a bit of time in was New Aberdour. Long empty beach and as I arrived early it was deserted except for a motorhome which I suspect had stayed the night. Massive carpark in relation to the size of the place, so I guess it gets busy in summer. I walked east towards what I thought would be a couple of caves. The one of the left turned out to be a rock arch typical of the geology of this area (Bow Fiddle Rock is probably one of the most well known). At low tide I would have been able to walk through the arch but I wasn't in the mood to get soaked or wait another couple of hours for the tide to go out a bit further.

Whilst peaceful and beautiful, Aberdour was really smelly, very unpleasantly so . . . the strandline was full of feathers and bones. Later I heard a horrible piece on Radio 4 about hundreds of dead birds, mostly guillimots, washing up on the east coast recently. The wildlife expert being interviewed said the birds did not appear to have died of starvation, or been poisoned, and no-one knew what was happening. Whilst most of the casualties were being washed up much further south I had to wonder if something to do with the tide patterns had brought some of the problem onto this beach. Sadly my memory of this place will be the unidentified and very disturbing stench.

So, that's the north-east coast of Scotland from Dundee to Inverness completed, and possibly my last trip of 2021. The majority of campsites close on 31st October and this year that is the weekend the clocks go back.

I live in the place that millions of people make great effort to visit each year - Bill and I need to get back into the habit of days out.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Pain stops play

Whilst being twisted under the van on Wednesday was [sort of] fun and satisfying, it was also incredibly awkward and all muscles south of my shoulders and north of my hips have been complaining like merry-hell ever since. I made an Executive Decision on Friday that we are purchasing some decent ramps or jacks which can safely lift a fairly hefty campervan before I do anything else . . . research is underway and once again we have a job started and not finished, sigh, although Management bravely and kindly did sand down that first bracket and apply a couple of coats of Hammerite for me.

Rain normally delays things here but yesterday was dry, mild and thoroughly pleasant in the garden. As I had excused myself from van duties I had a day of Autumn gardening instead. In the greenhouse I have catalogued all the dahlia plants. They will have their own post eventually to act as a reminder for me - next Spring when confronted with dry tubers there's no chance of remembering which plant is which unless they are carefully labelled now.

Each plant has been numbered and photographed, then label in the soil next to the roots. All the greenhouse is done, there are a few outside worth saving, will try and do that today.

The squash crop is small but that is not surprising seeing as it has had virtually no attention. The Patty Pan squash look nice but I've not tried them yet - if they are foul to eat then I have grown Halloween decorations 🎃 🎃 🎃 . The Uchiki Kuri are gorgeous - a soft, creamy flesh which cooks beautifully and is lovely to eat. Sadly my entire crop was only four fruit. I'd definitely grow them again. The bed they were in has now been cleared out and can rest until next year.

Same with the runner beans. I am overwhelmed with them, the freezer is full to bursting and I have more than enough to fulfill my goal which is always to have sufficient to last until Christmas Day. I made the hard decision to remove all those plants too - they were showing signs of having got cold, and if I am not going to harvest any more crop there's no point the plants staying in the ground taking nutrients from the soil - and I nearly made it to the end of the bed before hunger took over and it was time to start supper.

Although I worked hard all day being upright and constantly stretching definitely helped remove some of the kinks caused by working under the van. Now, back to garage equipment websites . . . and whilst it was 'pain' stopping van play yesterday I have a suspicion that rain will stop garden play today.

Wednesday, 6 October 2021

In which an old woman learns something new

After what seems like endless rain (has only been four or five days?) today gave us an opportunity to go outside and lie on the driveway without getting soaked and filthy. Replacing the taps on Bill's water tanks is turning out to be nowhere as simple as I thought it would be because Devon Conversions seem to have used their own idiosyncratic method of connecting up to the CAK Tank, rather than that which the manufacturer suggest. It's not a big problem now that we can see how non-standard components have been installed, and apart from the knackered tap nothing has ever leaked, but sorting out what to do has taken longer than expected.

Whilst we wait for new taps to arrive, I got to learn how to clean the brackets right down to bare metal and apply rust preventative stinky-paint-like stuff. Trying to fit under the van wearing eye protection, a proper mask and wield unfamiliar power tools was a new experience for me - but life would be boring if you didn't learn new things after 60! It would have been nicer to remove the brackets and have Management blast and powder-coat them but the fixings are fairly inaccessible.

After doing one bracket completely, of course I downed tools and went to the hairdresser 🤗 .

And whilst I was out Management removed the rear mud flaps, decided we did not need to buy new bits after all, cleaned up the old brackets and re-coated them beautifully. Sometimes it is very useful having sand blasting and powder coating on site!

When I got back from town I cleaned up the mud flap mounting areas and my job tomorrow will be derust and prime them, together with the other water tank bracket.

I hope Bill appreciates all this TLC, coupled with a full service and new brakes yesterday she's getting a lot of attention this week. Fingers crossed the weather stays half decent and I can give her a good clean as well.