Category Archives: days out

Where’s the birdies?

IMG_9607As some of you will be aware HWIOO and I have become keen kitchen bird watchers.  It seemed only reasonable that we should venture beyond the comfort of our own kitchen table to see  more of our feathered friends and what better location to start than on the coast?  I was assured fine views of terns, birds with bills like an item of cutlery , avocets, redshanks, sanderlings and common seals – there might, I was informed by the handy brochure, also be small woolly Hebridean  s-eep (animal that tastes good after grazing on salt marsh. Remember that letter between o and q that’s missing on my keyboard).  I mean what’s not to like?

The sun was shining when we arrived and since some habits are clearly hard to break the first thing we did was have a mug of tea in the beautiful cafe and viewing deck which opened last year according to the brochure.  I can thoroughly recommend it.  The setting was delightful, the sun shone, staff were very friendly and the views out across the salt marsh were stunning. And it ‘s less than two miles from Skegness to Gibraltar.

So far so good.  You may be wondering at this juncture why I’ve not flooded this entry with images of dancing lovers (add the missing letter to the front of the word), a chorus line of linnets and sky larks and of course the much vaunted spoonbill (I’ve just discovered that predictive  text can add the missing letter (hurrah and why didn’t I work it out sooner? However I’m not changing the first two paragraphs- so that you can share my joy in having all twenty-six letters in place again.

The answer  is very straight forward to both questions and one of them casts doubt on my intelligence.  But back to the birds.  The avocets were stand offish.  Even the gulls were a bit on the snooty side. Everyone else was on their holidays having hatched their eggs and reared their young.  The waxwings and gold crests  seem not to have yet returned to these shores despite the brochure – unless they were all hiding.  There were a few starlings practising small scale murmuration but that was about it.  You’d have thought  that there would have been a professional stunt spoonbill on hand to pose for pictures at the very least. Clearly more careful reading is required if we are to see more birds and take pictures of them.  I did spot one bird watcher carrying a camera with a lens that looked as though it would need a team of porters to move it.

What there were, however, in numbers and close at hand, were these dragonflies who were very obliging on the photographic front. Further reading reveals that they are common darter dragonflies.




Hot tubs and ice-cream

Its been a while since the Domestic Goddess attacked the keyboard.  I shall be avoiding the letter that comes between o and q as the letter in question is no longer functioning – which is unfortunate.  I do have a new device for communicating but the internet at Domestic Goddess Central is not what you might call swift.  I shall in fact either have to purchase a rather expensive cable or when I next visit Archie and Hattie will have to arrive with intent to borrow their wifi.

Since its been so long I think I should remind folk that HWIOO and I are working our way through the twenty-six letters that create our writing system.  We have already finished H but we’ve done it again.  We tried out a hot tub that came with the holiday cottage where we are staying.  Needless to say we didn’t select the cottage based on its existence but I did remember to bring swimming costumes.  It was a bit of a surreal event – a bit like sitting in a very large bubble bath outdoors.  It was a balmy 39 degrees in the water and a lot less warm out of it with drizzle and autumn leaves – in addition the sight of a squirrel and two hens going about their business was slightly odd.  None the less we will be trying the hot tub again before we leave our current venue.  It would be rude not to.  All I need to someone to turn the sheets of my book and another glass of bubbly.  The Number One Daughter when told about our afternoon demanded to know what had become of her relations. She felt we might have been abducted and that facsimiles returned where we should have been. She was reassured when we told her that we had been to Lincoln Cathedral and used our digital cameras rather effectively for not one, not two, not three but nearly four hours.  HWIOO has his fingers crossed that he hasn’t overdone it today but feels that the hot tub with its heat and bubbles was excellent for the aches that come with the CFS.  It was also very relaxing – though it would have been better if I could have read a book or done some embroidery at the same time!  HWIOO observed that if I was truly organised I could dictate the best selling novel and that would certainly have given the hens something to think about.

The ice-cream was not enjoyed in the hot-tub but now I come to think of it – what an excellent idea!  I think I could get the hang of decadence if I tried.

Hattie, Harvey and Hopton Hall

IMG_8376.JPGA list of three! And they alliterate.  What more could I want?

First of all, an apology to Hattie.  We arranged to meet one another last week and she was hoping for snow.  It was a beautiful weekend but no hint of snow.  Today on the other hand it hasn’t stopped snowing all day.  We’ve had field fares, a linnet and ten blue tits at the feeder.  All I can say is that I will try and plan better next time!

Beatrix_Potter,_Two_Bad_Mice,_Frontispiece.pngHarvey is our lodger.  He’s small, brown and lives in the garage.  Naomi feels that I’ve travelled into a parallel Beatrix Potter universe on account of the fact that I see our bachelor harvest mouse as living a solitary winter existence before scampering back out to the meadows in the spring to find himself a lady wife.  Naomi, who offered me the mouse equivalent of zyklon b, is of the opinion that where there’s one mouse there are probably many more and I don’t think she was envisaging Hunca Munca or Tom Thumb, though I could be mistaken.  She has a point but he- and until evidence proves otherwise Harvey is a he- does look harmless as he scampers across the back wall of the garage when we take the car out.  He has very elegant tapering feet, a white tummy and a big ears.  My original plan was that as soon as the weather showed any sign of warming that HWIOO would be on hand with wire wool to block Harvey’s return after he exits one warm morning before a mouse’s fancy turns to whatever mice minds turn to in the spring as even I’m prepared to concede that two mice is one too many mice.

However, Hattie having seen Harvey had a tale to tell and I would have to say that just as soon as the snow goes, so does Harvey.  Apparently Hattie’s son had a mouse in the garage but rather than making himself snug – possibly in a miniature box bed with hand stitched quilt during the cold season- his mouse made himself at home in the workings of the car, had a gnaw on some rather expensive cables and eventually popped up one morning, through an external air vent,  as Hattie’s son was driving along the motorway.

The sight of a mouse scampering up the bonnet of the car before being spreadeagled, arms outstretched, nose whiffling on the windscreen must have been disconcerting.  There followed a mano a mano or rather mano a mouseo face-off until the vehicle was halted, a photo taken as proof that it wasn’t a hallucination and then the stowaway was ejected into the hedgerow – where it presumably needed a lay down and a strong cup of tea.

Having done my homework it appears that if you catch mice by friendly methods (and I’m not sure that the windscreen is an approved method) that you should deposit them at least half a mile from home or else they’ll probably get back before you do.

We’ve tried old fashioned moth balls which apparently act as a mouse deterrent and we have sonic mouse repellers – Harvey ignores them, apparently because harvest mice hear at a different frequency to the sonic devices.  I am equally informed that the garage will be a spider free zone at the moment. If blocking up the exit doesn’t work we will, as Fagin says, “review the situation” and perhaps consider Naomi’s solution, in the meantime the Mater has suggested that I might want to take pen and paintbrush in hand in order to tell the tale of Harvey. The Right Little Madam, on the other hand, is contemplating the hand stitched quilt and a bowl of food for our guest. We will not be mentioning traps, poison or even cats in her hearing.

Which brings me, last but not least, to our alphabet of delights – Hopton Hall in Derbyshire.  It has a rather lovely display of snowdrops and aconites during the early spring. We decided that we would go and have a look last Saturday.  The sun shone, pheasants showed off their plumage, birds sang – one of them sounded like a train going over points. I asked what it was and HWIOO said it was a lesser spotted ASLEF bird- and it was all very pleasant.  We shall return to look at the roses and to sample the delights of their cafe in due course.  There was, we noted, quite a substantial play park and we have added it to our list of possible places to take the Little Madams.




F is not for felting, apparently.

DSCF2573.JPGIt was dark at five o’clock tonight.  The clocks have gone back, no more Bake Off and winter is on its way – bah humbug.  Its time for an open fire of an evening,  hot chocolate and marshmallows, and slow cooked stews – hooray!

We’ve had a lovely few days on the East Coast (yes, another e) with our friends Hattie and Archie.  We went hunting for sea glass on Maske Beach and found two different types of fossils as well as sea glass but the most surprising find belonged to HWIOO.  The tide washed up a bright yellow duck.  He (the duck not HWIOO) has been duly disinfected, we have speculated whether there might be a distraught merbaby or whether the duck had set out to see the world.  We suspect a duck race but the duck is anonymous so we can’t notify anybody of our find. The Littlest Madam has named him Redcar on account of the fact we’d been there that morning to collect two bin bags full of the finest merino felting wool.

HWIOO and Archie are wondering what we are going to do with it – the wool not the duck.  The obvious answer is felting and I did suggest that it could be F on our alphabet of nice things but HWIOO was adamant that felting wasn’t going to feature since apparently we both have to enjoy the experience.  Hattie and I have had a very nice time sorting it, bagging it and arranging it. We have plans – which are always dangerous. This post features my first effort at felting earlier in the year and I’d have to say I was very pleased with it.  I have plans for robins and red squirrels very shortly…I’ve added them to my list of things to do.  Sadly I didn’t feel I could note felting under urgent and important.

So exactly what might we do – perhaps a trip to the flicks to see a film; Flamborough and Framlingham seem a little far away at the moment or perhaps, and this is a definite possibility, we shall go to a fireworks display.  There’s one in Bitt’s Park this weekend themed around Carlisle’s industrial heritage – there’s going to be a 35ft steam train as well as several thousand people which might rather ruin the photographic opportunities.

Come to think of it my mother-in-law has already covered the fire angle.  She microwaved her ready meal for thirty minutes rather than three minutes last week.  Shall we just say that she won’t use the microwave again on account of the fact that she’s decided that it’s dangerous. And trust me when I say that the list is already pretty lengthy.


How to dry out a phone

DSCN0160The dropping of the phone down the toilet set the tone for much of last week.  Let’s just deal with the phone for the time being on the grounds it has a happy ending. There is no need for this post to deal with disappointing outcomes from literary agents; the diabolical deeds of estate agents or HWIOO knocking our wrought iron gate from its hinges.

Having retrieved it, the phone, from the toilet and spent the rest of the day compulsively washing my hands it turns out I did the right thing when I took the battery out as soon as I got the phone out of the water.  Apparently if the phone gets hot then the chances are that you’ve managed to fry the electrics. As we were out, the phone, the battery and the phone card spent the rest of the day in the boot of the car on a travel rug.  As soon as I got home I put it in the airing cupboard on a towel – I perhaps shouldn’t have done that but since I didn’t have a handy bag of rice  there wasn’t much alternative. The advice is not to stick it on a radiator or to try to dry it with a hair dryer.  The next day a bag of rice was purchased and the phone was stuck in some rice.  Forty eight hours later, by some miracle, it turned on but in safe mode having done all sorts of things I didn’t ask it to do before hand.  If you were in receipt of a random phone call I’m sorry – I didn’t do it.  It was the phone.  I then tried to ring the Pottermeister.  She said she could hear a voice saying ‘hello’ growing gradually fainter before disappearing altogether.  She wondered whether I’d fallen down a large rabbit hole…me too by the end of the week.

I now know I should have left the phone a bit longer to fully dry out because  having stuck it back in the rice on Friday I turned it on again more in hope than certainty.

It works ladies and gentlemen.  It works.  My delight knows no bounds.  I do not need a new phone and I haven’t succumbed to dysentery or typhoid which makes me even happier. We will not be eating the rice as I’m not sure that water absorbed from a toilet is what I need to be feeding HWIOO at this time.

D, for those of you following our meanderings through the alphabet, actually turned out to be dinner, which was very lovely,  overlooking Windermere last night.  I began with chicken liver and bacon parfait, progressed to duck (it wasn’t deliberate but it was delicious) and finished with a delightful mint mousse.  Tomorrow I start on another D.  Yes, that’s right – diet because we also revisited C and had a cream tea the day before.

D is for…

dscf2504Disaster!  D could have been for Derwent Water; Durham; Derby Cathedral; dandelion wine; digging the garden or even divining – but no, it turns out that D stood for dropping my mobile phone down the toilet.  Lovely.

I took the battery out as soon as I’d fished it out and it’s now sitting in the airing cupboard on a towel as I didn’t have any rice in the kitchen cupboard and didn’t think that spaghetti would have quite the same effect.  I once put my wristwatch in the washing machine and after a week in the airing cupboard it was fine. It wasn’t quite the D I’d been anticipating but apparently its a common accident.

We seem to be slightly stuck on b as we picked more blackberries yesterday and bilberries today.  The Littlest Madam is our number one forager but I’m not sure that her yelling at her sisters, “Pick more!  Pick more!” is necessarily the way to go but it was glorious weather; the skies were very blue – we saw bees, butterflies and an assortment of fungi (I’m not that brave a forager). Tonight there are more jars of ruby red happiness in progress but hedgerow jelly this time.

An A-Z of little adventures

DSCF2505.jpgMy friend Ivor recently told me of another set of friends who had recently retired.  They were concerned that they might turn into the kind of couple that slowly vegetated into old age so they came up with a superb idea for keeping themselves young and enthusiastic.

We rather like their idea as it is sometimes difficult with the CFS to think large-scale and it is rather easy to get stuck in a routine which revolves around sleep. This strategy seems like a good way of helping with the pacing, trying new things whilst ensuring that they are manageable, not to mention thinking laterally and having something to look forward to which can help with the depression that can sometimes creep into the life of someone with CFS who always feels totally tired.  It should also help HWIOO to develop a repertoire of seasonal activities which again should help with the pacing.

The plan is that you work your way through the alphabet doing something each week or every couple of weeks for the letter of the alphabet that you are on.  The key is to be flexible; it could be a place or any other kind of noun for that matter, an activity, or a food etc.  For example, A could be Arundel Castle, an art course, an art gallery or arts festival, apple bobbing, acorn collecting or aubergines for that matter!  What we actually did yesterday which was to go to an agricultural show.


You continue through the alphabet  thinking creatively on as small or large a scale as you wish.  Today we went blackberry picking in order to make blackberry jelly.  Having said that HWIOO returned from his blackberry picking and took himself off for a siesta so I began the blackberry jelly which is a magical process and the end product definitely counts as happiness in a jar.

Whilst I had hoped to do a chocolate making course  or candle making I am quite happy to go to the cinema next week though Ben Hur could just as well have been the letter B.  It would have to be said that we both discounted caving and canoeing as soon as the thought entered our heads. I don’t like confined spaces and the last time I was in a canoe I sank without trace.  The Number-One-Son was mortified because I didn’t sink quietly.  I squawked rather loudly, thus causing maximum embarrassment.  It didn’t help that he and his father simply stepped out of the boat whilst, because I was sitting cross-legged, I couldn’t untangle myself swiftly enough to make a safe exit.  Certainly I don’t think Daniel Boone would have made such a hash of it.  We also decided that a cable car trip was out of the question based on the fact that HWIOO’s labyrinthitis probably wouldn’t have responded well to that particular activity – abseiling and bungee jumping were also discarded based on a similar rationale.  On the other hand HWIOO was rather pleased to suggest doing one of the Sunday newspaper crosswords as this demonstrates an improvement in the brain fog situation.  Two years ago he wouldn’t have been keen on the idea as he just couldn’t focus but now he’s back to doing the quick crossword.


I can’t help wondering what adventures the rest of the alphabet is going to bring.