Wednesday, 19 June 2019

2 Get Wet in Somerset

It's become a bit of a tradition that when exams are over, we try to get away for a couple of  days to celebrate. Nowhere exotic, just somewhere relatively close, preferably by the sea. Last year E and I visited Weston Super Mare, the year before that it was Hastings. This year, following her finals, we decided that Burnham on Sea was the place. I'd never been before and it was chosen because I looked at the UK map, thought I could pick her up from Bristol and let my eye travel down the coast; it wasn't too far. 
Lily (my car!) had been making a funny noise. R had already replaced the front nearside wheel bearing (remember that!) but the offside one was now playing up. He had the part and said that she would be fine and he would do the work the following weekend on my return. So off we set.
I had booked a small B&B called Bramley Cottage on the outskirts of town. The owners were lovely, it was spotlessly clean and considering we were their first vegan guests they did brilliantly. We had a whole vegan breakfast menu to choose from, including a choice (note choice!) of 2 different vegan pancakes (the owner had been practising!).
Burnham on Sea itself was, if I'm honest, a bit of a disappointment. It had a beautiful sandy beach, which I'm sure is lovely if it's sunny, but we had wind, cloud and rain. There was a slight air of rundown retirement town about the place. We cheered ourselves up with chips on the beach and a trip to the cinema to escape the rain. The Ritz was a highlight - a tiny cinema, £4 per ticket and, after we had watched the trailer of forthcoming events, a man appeared with an usherette's tray and asked if anyone would like an ice cream;  it was adorable. Here are some photos:
The view from our room:
Walking into town along the estuary:

The beach. You can just see the baby pier in the distance. It held one of those amusement arcades that somehow always make me feel uncomfortable and depressed:
A brilliant idea - making beach litter picking fun:
So cute!
On our second day, we decided that we had experienced all that Burnham had to offer, so drove to nearby Glastonbury. We had been before and seen the Abbey and climbed the Tor, so this time we just pottered around the town itself. At one point it was warm enough to actually remove our coats! There were some beautiful, old buildings: 
......and lots of yummy food:

Tofu hot dog:
If you've been to Glastonbury you will know that it's all a bit hippy - E was in her element and bought a rather glorious pair of trousers, some pick and mix incense sticks and some colourful acrylic yarn (she really does do the whole vegan thing!) to make a long cardigan. I bought a remnant of fabric from the same shop. 
Then it was back to Burnham for the evening. The following day, we had breakfast, checked out and had planned to visit Brean Down (which is supposed to be lovely) on the return journey. Unfortunately, we had to get back to Bristol earlier than planned - E received a message from her tutor who wanted a meeting to discuss her masters options for next year and could only do midday. The aim had been for E to have her meeting, return some library books and then she would come home for a few days. She came out of her meeting looking a little pale faced - they had loved her final year dissertation, wanted her to publish it and she had a meeting with RH the following week to discuss Masters dissertation ideas which she could possibly extend to a PhD. Needless to say, she had to hit the library instead of coming home. 
Disappointed though I was, it turned out to be very lucky that she wasn't in the car on the way home. Driving along the M4 in the pouring rain, I had got used to the noise from the wheel bearing,when suddenly the steering wheel developed a tremor. It was only minor initially, so I kept to the inside lane and carried on. Suddenly the shaking became a lot worse and I was just thinking that I should pull in at the upcoming services when the front nearside bit of the car dropped down dramatically. Easily panicked, I was amazed at how calm I remained - braking gently so as not to skid, I hit the hazard warning lights, indicated and moved onto the hard shoulder where we came gracefully to a standstill. This is what I saw when I got out:
Now, I'm not much of a mechanic but I knew it shouldn't look like that! I called the AA and stood in the rain on the other side of the crash barrier waiting for them to arrive. The wheel was nowhere to be seen - I assume it had bounced over the barrier and is now lying in the bushes somewhere near Swindon. Lily and I came home on the AA truck - she was very excited! The AA man spent the journey telling me that I was lucky I wasn't killed and that someone was obviously looking out for me. I didn't tell him that I thought it was Lily. I was actually very proud of my reaction - you can see the mark where we had scraped along the road and it was a beautiful gentle curve onto the hard shoulder. Had E been with me though, I think I may have panicked more. Ringing R when I got home I asked him which wheel he had been working on. Yes, you guessed it, it was the front nearside one. We can only assume that he hadn't tightened the bolts enough. I won't be going skydiving any time soon!
Aside from the delights of Somerset, there have been a few more happies this month:
An evening talk with a local bat expert, followed by a walk along the canal at dusk to see and hear them:
 A brilliant bat detector allowing you to tune into their echolocation frequencies so you could hear them as they flew over the water. Different bats have different frequencies. We saw and heard Common Pipistrelle, Soprano Pipistrelle and Daubentons. It was magical.
A trip to Stratford Upon Avon to see this:
 
It was brilliant and their portrayal of Hymen was a triumph.



My hands have a tendency to develop eczema and I can usually only use boring, non-perfumed soap. I have used goats' milk soap in the past, but it tends to be pricey and doesn't really fit with the whole vegan thing. Then I found this - it smells lovely and (touch wood) so far, no eczema:
 Making another hanging basket! L came home for the weekend and she is making one too!
 More rhubarb and ginger jam:
 A trip to Oxford:



 Getting my fused glass back after firing. I've realised that my rainbow is actually upside down as I didn't want to put the wire hanger at the end with the glass tubes in case they rolled out. Never mind - at least the tubes did actually turn red in the kiln!
  Attending a mosaic making workshop at a nearby town:
The green bits of glass were some that E and I collected on the beach at Burnham. Now I just have to hang it:
 Making more energy bites - I haven't made these for ages:
Cutting out fabric for a dress. I'm not the world's best sewist and I have to take things very slowly:
 
Finally, I'm just off to finish making a loaf - it's so cold this morning (call this June?!) that I had to sit the dough on a hot water bottle to get it to rise properly!
Well. that's all for this week. Wishing everyone (especially those in Glastonbury!) a happy summer solstice on Friday.
Toodle Pip for now. x

Wednesday, 29 May 2019

May Happies

Hello there! I was tempted to title this post 'The End of May' but was worried that people might think I was getting all political, so went with 'May Happies' instead. I hope you all enjoyed the good weather last week. With my usual impeccable timing, I had dedicated the week to decorating the study. It's quite a small room overlooking the back garden and I sweltered away, looking out at the glorious sunshine longingly. Now that I've finished it, of course, it's pouring down again. Hey Ho. R decided that he wanted the same colour on the walls, which made it relatively easy in one respect - it covered really well. The problem was remembering which colour we had painted it last time! I finally had a flash of recognition in Homebase and so found myself painting the walls in Farrow and Ball's 'Theresa's Green' on the very day in May that our Prime Minister announced her resignation! 
Apart from the decorating, the last few weeks have seen a few happies:

There was a local macrame workshop. Here are some of the examples that the tutor brought in for inspiration:
She taught us a few basic knots and then allowed us to design our own using a choice of coloured cord and pots. Here is mine. I am rather pleased with it, even though R declared it very 70s. I enjoyed the process so much (although it is quite tough on the back and upper arms) that I've bought some cord online and plan to make more.
 Enjoying the sight of my crocheted blankets on the washing line:
Attending a free ceramics workshop with R at our local college. There were various classes that you could try. After finishing my pot, I tried my hand at needle felting and made a small rabbit. It's currently living in the car and I forgot to take a photo. R made a jug - he didn't like the handle shown here and the finished article is much smaller.
 I made a slightly wonky thumb pot:
 ..... and a small tile. As we have enough coasters I thought I'd use it as a spoon rest next to the cooker. I'll show you the finished articles after they've been fired.
 The rhubarb is galloping away, so I made a batch of jam:
 I finished my Sockhead Cowl. The yarn is Hedgehog Fibres' 'Copper Penny' which I bought at Stephen and Penelope's in Amsterdam:
Here is the one remaining duckling from the flock (is that the collective noun for ducklings?) that I showed in my last post. We named him 'Archie' after a certain Royal baby. His parents are completely hopeless and he is pretty much left to fend for himself, poor thing. I thought that something had eaten him after I hadn't seen him for a while, but he turned up last week looking a bit bigger so I'm hopeful.
 Finally finishing my 'Garter Breeze Shawl'. This is a pattern by Stephen West and it took me ages. It was only when it was off the needles and blocking that I realised why - it's huge! 

 A trip to the local Arts Centre to see Gyles Brandreth. I never used to like him when he was a politician, but E and I saw him when we went to see an episode of Radio 4's 'Just a Minute' being recorded and he was lovely. This show was all about the theatre and was hilarious. 
A trip into London to deliver L's bedside table. R did a couple of DIY jobs for her whilst L and I rearranged the furniture and fitted a bird feeder to her window - easier said than done threading the string up through the sash window of her 2nd floor flat! We also paid a return visit to the Van Gogh Cafe - yum!
I picked up an Open Studios brochure from the library. Every year, they advertise free workshops (or cheap ones where you just pay to cover the cost of materials) and I signed up to a glass fusion one at a nearby village hall. Here are some of the tutor's pieces:
We had to come up with a design beforehand and I had decided that I wanted to make a simple rainbow hanging to go on my cherry tree by the kitchen door - it has wind chimes and various twirly things hanging from the branches and I thought a rainbow plaque would fit in well. I hit a slight snag though on the day - probably because it was cheap, the samples of glass were all quite small and ............there was no red! That made a rainbow quite tricky! Luckily, I managed to find one tiny piece and she also had some thin glass tubes (I forget the actual name) which look white, but (I am assured) turn red in the kiln. So, here is my attempt at a rainbow:
 
 Again, I'll show you the finished product in a few weeks after firing.
A trip to the Watermill Theatre to see this:
It was absolutely brilliant (do go and see it if you are local and get the chance). The butler stole the show proving that the old adage 'there are no small parts' is true!

Finally, some vegan chocolate chip and pecan cookies. I don't tend to bake much when the girls aren't home but R was complaining about the lack of biscuits in the house, so I dusted off my pinny!
Well, that's it for this week. Good luck to all those who have children currently coping with exams - I recommend lots of comfort food for the offspring ...... and alcohol for the parents!

Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Just Mooching

Hello there; long time, no see! It's been a while since my last post - they seem to have been few and far between recently. I hope you all enjoyed the Easter holidays. I was spoilt by having both girls home again. L, just for the bank holiday weekend, and E for about 3 weeks as it was uni end of term. 
E was snowed under with work, unfortunately. Her dissertation deadline was noon on May 2nd and she eventually submitted it at 11:20am on that date. I was more stressed than she was. If you are 1 second over the deadline, you are automatically docked 10%, and I think it increases the longer you miss it by. R was telling horror stories of a colleague's son who left his dissertation submission to the last minute. There was a computer glitch and it was sent 15 seconds too late with the resulting automatic penalty. Our internet is hit and miss at the best of times, so I was more than a little relieved when it was finally sent off. She had 'pulled an all nighter' in order to get it finished, so had a celebratory G&T in the bath and then crashed out! She's now back in Bristol working hard for her finals. 
Aside from my role providing reassurance, calming thoughts and endless meals and snacks, there have been a few happies throughout April. Here are just a few of them:

Walking back from town one day, I passed a flyer for a 'learn to meditate' workshop at our local Elizabethan manor house. Run by a Buddhist Nun (who knew?), it sounded fun, so I bought tickets for R and myself. Needless to say, on the night, R got on the wrong train from London, ended up in Didcot and missed the whole thing (if I were the suspicious sort, I'd say he did it deliberately!). Luckily, there was someone there that I vaguely knew, so I sat with her instead. It was very relaxing. On the few occasions that I have tried meditation in the past, I have failed dismally, my mind monkeying around thinking about what to make for dinner etc. This time I was fine initially, but for a first session it went on a little too long for me and I got a bit fidgety towards the end. The talk was good though. She had a very relaxing voice, and I considered it worth the £10 ticket price ........ possibly not the £20 though!
Coming out of the workshop, I saw an advert for their food and craft fair. R and I went along at the weekend and it was quite fun.There were various animals - kune kune piglets, donkeys and the like, which were very cute. We also bought a few plants and a small pot of wood 'butter' for oiling dried out wooden spoons etc. My kitchenware is now more moisturised than my face!
One of the craftsmen was advertising his copper foiling workshops. I signed up for one and went along a couple of weeks ago. I had expected more people to be attending but, weirdly, it was just him and me. Still, one to one tuition isn't bad and it was great fun. Here are my attempts:
 
 
It was a really quick and easy technique - much easier than the leading that I have done in the past.

I had a pair of jeans that were getting rather worn out at the knee - not designer tears,  just worn out! I thought I'd try sashiko darning and I'm rather pleased with how they turned out. R looked askance at them when I planned to wear them out in public but I have no shame!
Attending a joint dog and garden show at the showground. There were 2 queues to get in - the garden one, which we wanted, being £2 cheaper than the dog show entry price. Strangely, once you got in, the 2 were mixed together. It worked out rather well; the garden bit was a tad disappointing, but the dog show was great fun. You could 'hug a rescued pug' in a tent. Myrtle with a sticky out tongue stole my heart. The nicest bit was that the dogs were all having so much fun. They all seemed thrilled to see each other and could enter pens where they could bounce all over hay bales etc. I had to look twice at this particular one - initially, I thought it just had a strange fur do!

 Blossom and blue sky - one of my favourite sights:

 
Pre-slug hostas:
I do love a nice skip (the rubbish containing kind, not the method of locomotion!) I'll always have a nosy if we happen to pass one and one of my favourite finds was a small table in a skip outside L's college in Oxford. It's referred to as the 'Merton table' and is a nice memento of her time there. A couple of weeks ago, I happened to notice the bedside table below dumped by a bin close to our house. The bin was in someone's garden and we were on our way somewhere, so I didn't think too much about it. Forward a week and L and I were popping to the shop to buy emergency ketchup for a BBQ. I mentioned that our walk would take us by the garden where I'd spotted the bedside table (L being in need of one). It was still there, but as it was 9am on a Saturday morning, I thought it would be a little thoughtless to knock on someone's door so early. We returned at 11, and the lady said she had put it there whilst it was waiting to be taken to the dump and we were welcome to it if we wanted it. Result! I carried the drawer and L carried the rest -  fair division of labour! I had thought that she might want it painted, but after we had dried it out in the sun for 2 days (it had been left out in the rain for a week) and sanded it to get rid of some felt tip marks, she decided that she would like it waxed. Some Briwax and elbow grease later and she has a 'new' bedside table. Admittedly, it is currently cluttering up our hall. She came home by train and didn't fancy the return journey with a rather hefty piece of furniture, so we will take it when we go to London in a couple of weeks.
 The ketchup came in very handy for the first BBQ of the season:
 The Easter weekend was glorious and even E was persuaded into the garden for a change of scene. You can study just as well in a hammock!
 We also went for a picnic by the river and a walk in the woods to see the bluebells:




 I find that they never show up very well on photos:

 When we were looking at houses to buy many years ago, the thing that swung this one was that it backed onto  a river. When we walked to the end of the garden there was a duck and some ducklings sitting on the lawn. The girls immediately wanted 'the duck house' and every year since then we have been lucky enough to have ducklings coming up to the back door to be fed. It can be heart breaking at times though as they are vulnerable to all sorts of predators - the neighbours' cats being top of the list! Some ducks make better mothers than others. The one below is, sadly, down to 1 duckling as she seems to be in her own little world, forgetting that they are there, flying off with the male, and eating most of the food provided.
An evening at the theatre. Based along similar lines to the old television programme 'Whose Line is it Anyway?', it was an impressive and very funny evening's entertainment:
 Getting my Green Man back after its fiiring: 
 Finally, the 'Crafty Craft' Race. A local, traditional event held annually on the first bank holiday Monday in May. Teams raise money for charity by racing homemade craft along the Kennet and Avon canal. They have to pick it up and carry it round whenever they reach a lock.
Well, that's all for this week. The weather is supposed to be rainy for the rest of the week, so I'm just off to plant out my cavolo nero and chard whilst it's still fine. Enjoy the rest of the week.

Toodle pip for now.x