Monday 29 June 2015

Girlie Catch Up

I can't believe it's only been six months since I last caught up with these lovely ladies in Gloucester.  It seems like absolutely ages.

This time both of the boys came too and both have really grown lots since I last saw them.  Archie has most definitely found his running legs and Catherine spent most of the day chasing after him, trying to make sure that he didn't take an early bath in the docks.

Charlotte, on the other hand, spent most of her day picking up random bits and pieces that Nate decided it would be real good fun to throw. We were all just that little bit too slow to stop Archie's tiger from taking a dip and none of us fancied the climb down to pick him up.

Fortunately, Archie was otherwise engaged and we don't think he noticed.
We were really lucky again with the weather and had a lovely relaxed (well mine was anyway!!!) stroll around the quay watching the birds and the boats before ...........
..... managing to sit and eat lunch outside in the sunshine.  I did seriously consider opting for the less than 550 calories pizza but, in the end, I just couldn't do it.  I wasn't that good when it came to dessert either, but both were lovely, all the better for being ate in the warm sunshine with good friends and a good old girlie catch up.

We had another lovely day and the time came around too soon to be heading back to the station for a very quick dash for my train.

Thanks for a lovely day ladies, we must definitely not leave it so long next time.

Monday 22 June 2015

Getting Organised

This is a post that I've been waiting for ages to share with you, but something else always seems to feel a bit more interesting.

Whilst on holiday in The Peak District, back in March, I stumbled across another blog that I really like, and have continued to follow since.  Attic 24 is always really colourful and inspiring.  In the main, it is all about crocheting, with a bit of Lucy's love of her caravan and the English countryside thrown in.  Lucy has made some really impressive stuff and is clearly very talented. 

Reading the blog inspired me to want to do more with my own crochet and, while we were away, I ended up ordering some books to help. They were there waiting for me when I got home, but I have to be honest, other than a quick flick through, I haven't really spent much time looking at them, I seem to have gone my own way with my crochet, which is really coming along nicely and I have a couple of finished projects which I hope to share with you all soon.

One of the blog posts, though, was totally non-crochet related. It was about getting organised around the home, something very close to my own heart. 

Since leaving work I no longer have an excuse for not getting things done and I've been trying to get into a routine for both generally keeping tidy and clean, but also those once every three or six months jobs, like turning the mattress or washing the duvet. 

Even with all the lists I have made myself .... I do love a good list ..... It is hard to remember everything and I have been falling behind, in favour of more interesting crafty activities. Lucy's blog post referred to two other websites ... Fly lady and Bullet Journal .... which I had a really good look at. 

Whilst Flylady seems to be aimed at the someone who has seriously got behind the type of person, you know ... the kind you see on fly on the wall TV shows, there were some good theories that I fancied giving a go. 

The bullet journal, on the other hand, I just loved everything about. I know, in this digital age, it may seem a bit archaic going back to notebook and coloured pens (but hey, I'm a girl with a great love for stationery). Martin had bought me some lovely Laura Ashley notebooks for Christmas which would fit the bill nicely, I had been wondering what to do with them. 

I spent Easter Saturday having a really good read of both sites and set up my first 'bullet journal' which I love already. Martin thinks it a bit freaky, but I am a real list girl. Now, all of my lists and activity are captured in one place, rather than in different notebooks, on the iPad and post it notes. 

The first page is an index page and then I started, as advised by Lucy with an annual planner, so I can see certain events across the year at a glance. You can find examples of printable annual planners here.
For my monthly calendar I just knocked up a word document and coloured the entries that were pre-planned before printing this and sticking it in. 
The next page is a monthly task page, followed by daily task lists throughout the month. I've then included all sorts of other lists including general garden and house maintenance activity, pages where I can capture blogging ideas and craft projects I want to have a go at.
I've also set up some pages to capture lists of things that friends and family like, as I hear about them. I am hoping this will come in really useful at birthday and Christmas time. I've also done some pages for stuff I like ..... Which I will make sure Martin is aware of. 

I've then left space for my Flylady routines and will see how that goes. It took a while to set up but as time is going on it isn't taking that long to keep going and I am really getting on well with it.

I've also found a few of Flylady's sayings really useful ........
  • You can do anything for 15 minutes (yes, even going for a walk!)
  • You are not behind, just jump in where you are
  • If you make it fun, it will get done
  • Babysteps
It might not be for everyone and it does take a little while to get to grips with the Flylady's routines, there is a lot of information to take in, including flight plans, reminders, zone missions and detailed cleaning lists, but it's working for me and, hey, who knows, maybe some of it might work for you too.

If your home is in CHAOS (can't have anyone over syndrome), then it might just be worth a look.

Wednesday 17 June 2015

The Thistles are out!

Firstly, yes ...... I know ..... I should be ironing.  But hey!  Life's too short!

Following my Daily Constitutional earlier this week I was keen not to miss the chance of getting some good pictures of the thistles once they were in flower.

On Monday morning I decided to start my walk down the back alley and were pleased to see that they were, indeed, starting to flower.

Tuesday morning, I headed the same way with the camera hoping for some good shots.  I didn't want to carry the DSLR so just took the Lumix, my small digital camera.

There were plenty of flowers and lots of bees gathering pollen in the warm sunshine.  I did manage to get a few good shots, but we have never really mastered the macro function on this camera so I ended up being quite disappointed.
The one thing this little Lumix is brilliant for though, is zoom.  It knocks the standard lens on the Canon into the park.
Wednesday morning and I decided to take the big guns.  So it was out with the Canon and the macro lens, something that I hardly use as I seem to struggle with it.  Whenever we need a close up shot I tend to just call for Martin.  But he was at work, so I was on my own.

Anyway, I took loads of pictures, most are on the cutting room floor.  I really struggled with the macro, I took lots of shots of bees, but in the majority of pictures the focus was on the thistle and not the bee. The breeze didn't help, as every time I was ready to shoot, the thistles just swayed in the wind.

Here's the best of what I ended up with, but I definitely need to put in some practice with this lens. Martin is definitely the expert when it comes to the macro.

I couldn't resist just a couple more shots of some yellow daisies and foxgloves on my way back. You just gotta love a foxglove!!
Now, I suppose you'd better point me in the direction of the ironing board!

See you soon.

Monday 15 June 2015

My Daily Constitutional

For the last few weeks I have tried to be very good and go out for a 15 minute walk every day.  I mean, you can do anything for 15 minutes can't you?

It's something I've wanted to do for a long time but, while I was working, never really fancied it in the evening after work, as I knew it was something I would have to do on my own.  No way would I drag my dear husband out for an evening walk, just for the sake of a bit of exercise.

Well, a couple of weeks ago it suddenly dawned on me that, now I'm not working, it's something I can do whenever I want.  So, the first thing I've been doing each morning since, is heading out, setting the timer on my phone for 07.30 minutes and just walking until it goes off.  Then I know it's time to find a route home.

Obviously I've not ventured very far in just 15 minutes, but I have been very pleasantly surprised at what I've found on my wandering.

Whilst I have gone a different way every day, I have discovered a local nature reserve, literally at the bottom of the street.  Who knew?

On my wanderings through the nature reserve I have seen lots of really pretty and interesting things and one day last week I decided that I'd take the camera and capture some of the things I've seen, pretty much right on my doorstep.

I'll start off by showing you a picture of the street where we live, just so you can see that we don't live in the middle of beautiful countryside.  It's actually a pretty traditional street, a no through road for traffic now, but there is a walk through at the bottom, into a new estate. There are lots of traditionally built terraced houses down the one side and old semis down the other, with not much off street parking.

Right at the bottom of the street, just before the walk through, is a church, you can just see it in this picture, on the right of the street, behind the white car.  It can be a bit of a pain for parking on a Sunday, or if there's a big funeral on, as there's another church at the other end of the street too, but quite picturesque seen from the right angle in a good light.

It literally sits in between a block of pretty ugly garages and some terraced houses.  I think it's a really unusual looking church and it's surrounded by a tiny strip of garden, which is always beautifully kept. I sneaked in and had a walk round to take some photos, something I've never done before, even though I've lived in this street for over 20 years.

A really short walk through the new estate brings you to the nature reserve, which pretty much consists of a field with hedgerows and a lake.

Whilst the signs of civilisation are never far away and you can constantly hear the sound of traffic on the A5, at times it is hard to believe how close the humdrum of normal daily life is.
As well as the constant sound of the A5 you can hear the birds singing, the bees buzzing and, when you get to the lake, the ducks are definitely quacking.

I chose a really lovely day for my wander with camera and managed to get lots of pictures of the wildflowers in the hedgerows and around the lake.

The ducks were also happy to pose and perform for me too.

The light was brilliant.  It cast a lovely dappled glow through the weeping willow, it even made the nettles look prettier than normal.  Just stood feeling the warmth of the sun, whilst listening to the birds sing and watching the cow parsley waving in the breeze, it was easy to forget that the A5 was literally just the other side of the hedge.
It was soon back to reality and the bridge that leads me back home, in a roundabout sort of way. I wandered up the cycle path and came across this patch of thistles, which are going to look pretty darn spectacular when in flower, and in my favourite colour too.
I was soon back past the church and up the street and back home.

I'd been out for far longer than 15 minutes, but I'd enjoyed every minute and it really does go to show, you just don't know what's on your own doorstep, so get out, go down those back alleys and have a look.

Monday 8 June 2015

Will Sidney's War - November 1917 - The Long March

I can't believe it's been so long since I've done a Will Sidney post.  With holidays and garden activity to report on I'm afraid Will has been a little neglected.

The last time we encountered Will it was November 1917, and Will and the 9th Yorks & Lancs had just arrived in Italy.

According to the Battalion's War Diary the men spent 16-18 November billeted in 'good' billets in Ceresa, before starting out on what would be an incredibly long march, a 12 stage route march from Mantova to Ciano (over 100 miles, due North) to the front line.

I have managed to find some maps which give a really good visual representation of each stage of the march, annotated with commentary from the official Battalion war diary.  I have included links to these for information, as being able to see these is more interesting that me just writing how many miles were walked each day.

The maps were provided by Jono Wood for use in another WW1 blog, WW1: Experiences of an English Soldier, which is made up of transcripts of Private Harry Lamin's letters from the first World War.  Harry served in the same Battalion as Will, so his journey will have been very similar.

The Long March 1, 15th -21st November 1917

The Long March 5, 28th November - 3rd December 1917

Sadly, Jono Wood passed away in 2009, but you can read a bit about how he got involved in this mapping project here and here.

Extracts from Will's personal war diary, giving his own view of the journey, from the point of view of a man in the ranks, rather than the purely factual account of the official war diary, can be seen below.

"18 Sun - Church Parade 9.30. To a non conformist, to their church."
"19 Mon -  Rev 6, Parade 7. Skeleton order. B 8. Parade for marching order. Skirmish felt. Got back @ dinner time. Rest. No letters from anywhere."
"20 Tues - Rev 5, B 5.30. Full marching order. Marched through Mantova. Got a big time reception whilst marching through the town. Marched 12 miles. Landed at 6 o’c & slept all night in a field."
"21 Wed - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 5.30. Full marching order. Marched 6 miles & received 3 letters & C.L.C.L. paper. 1 from Ethel, 1 from Ernest , 1 from Chuck."
"22 Th - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 5.30. Marched 22 kilos (12 ½ m). Very tired when I got there. No letters from anyone. Thinking of darling Ethel. God bless her & protect her."
"23 Fri - Rev 4, Parade after breakfast 5.45 & marched 27 (kilos). My feet very sore & my shoulder very painful. No chance to write even a PC. Thinking of Ethel. Sent 5 F? cards off."
"24 Sat - Rev 5.30, B 6, Parade 6.30. Marched 18 kilos. Had dinner on the road. Landed @ 2 o’c. Very tired & feet ache. No bread, plenty of army biscuits. No milk. Thinking of Ethel. No blankets. Bitter cold night. No sleep, too cold."
 "25 Sun - Marched 13 kilos. Very nice letter & paper from Ma & Ada with Edna’s programme."
 "26 Mon - Rest all day. Inspection of rifles & equipment. Writ to darling Ethel & Ma. Also Ada, Edwin & Chuck, Ernest & Uncle in Leeds."
"27 Tues - Another day’s rest. Parade for Coy drill & R I & B fighting. No letters from anybody. Writ to Ethel & Ma, Ada & others. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"28 Wed -  Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade. Full marching order and marched to fresh billet. 16 miles. Landed @ 5 o’c. Very tired & foot sore. No letters & no chance to write any."
"29 Th -  Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 7 o’c. Full marching orders. Marched 14 kilos. Very tired. Glad to get a bath & eat. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"30 Fri - Rev 4, B 4.30, Parade 7 o’c. Full marching orders. Marched 14 kilos. Very tired. Glad to get a bath & eat. No letters from anybody. Thinking of darling Ethel."
"1 Dec Sat - Rev 6, B 7, P 8. Drill order. Finished @ 12 noon. No letters. Thinking of Ethel. Bless her & God protect her. Wondering whether they have got my letters."
On 2 December, Will writes of marching again and being 'very tired, absolutely fagged out" and on 3 December he confirms that they joined the support line.

As ever, whilst posted abroad, Will continues to send Ethel postcards from the places he has been. Could these have been sent as he marched through Italy?

Read more about what happens to Will and the 9th Yorks & Lancs upon their arrival on the front line in my next post.

Wednesday 3 June 2015

In the Garden - May

May - In flower .....
We were away on holiday for the first week in May, but we couldn't believe the change in the garden when we got back home.  This time of year, a week makes a massive difference in our garden, with lots of new things starting to look really good. 
The salad bed has also come on leaps and bounds.  It will certainly be a while before we need to buy any salad leaves.  The herbs are also coming on really well.
May - What we've been up to .....
Even though we lost the first week of the month through being in Scotland we seem to have managed to get quite a bit done out the back.

The main (pretty much the only really!) focus for Martin was the beer shack.  He's built a base for it, given it two coats of paint, built it, shelved it out and filled it!!  This took up quite a few weekends as you can imagine.

It does, however, look fabulous, loads better than that area did before, and it gets lots of 'stuff' shifted from other places, which is a massive bonus.  I love the beer shack, but not as much as Martin does!

I didn't take a before shot, so I've raided the archives to see what I could find.  The picture on the left was taken in pretty much the same spot in February last year (the compost bin on the right is still in exactly the same spot).  You can kind of get an idea of how much better it looks.
I've also done lots of planting and potting.  The hanging baskets are up, though as I write this post, they are being buffeted by the wind!  I've also potted the tomatoes on and some have made their way into the tomato greenhouses, which Martin did build for me ..... only once the beer shack was finished though.  I've also planted out the French climbing beans.
May - Coming next .....
The pots on the patio are definitely ready for their Summer refresh, with the Spring colour now having been and gone.

So far, I've potted up two pots of sweet peas and started to tidy up the wallflowers and Spring flowering bulbs in readiness for the next wave.  The lily pots look like they are going to give us a real good show very soon.

I've bought some more daisies to pot up as they were so successful last year, giving us colour right through until early Winter.  I also need to get my home grown Zinnias planted out, though I'm not sure how well they will do.

The Morello cherry and the strawberries are absolutely laden with fruit, so a jam making session is definitely on the cards some time soon.
May - And finally .....
Do you remember Poor William.  The most loving cat in the world with one blue and one green eye?

Well, meet Harry ....... William's brother (I know, clearly his owners are very fond of the Royal Family!)

Harry has taken to popping round for a visit from time to time, and even spent an evening sitting on Martin's knee, very much like William used to.  I'm trying not to encourage him as him and Captain don't seem to see eye to eye.

I'm hoping for some good weather in June so we can get out and keep on top of the jobs that need doing, as these seem to be stacking up a bit.  It's definitely time for the clearing away of the Spring show to make ready for the Summer.  Watch this space.

Monday 1 June 2015

'neath ancient Roslin waits .......

Day 8, Friday
We were up, packed and ready to head off, bright and early on Friday morning.

We had one last big adventure planned before finally making our way back home.
"The Holy Grail ‘neath ancient Roslin waits.
The blade and chalice guarding o’er Her gates.
Adorned in masters’ loving art, She lies.
She rests at last beneath the starry skies."
I loved reading Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code book, in fact, I've really enjoyed reading all of his books.

A good few years ago now I made a trip to Paris, with my brother, on what we called 'The Davinci Code Trail'.  We visited The Louvre and looked at all of the paintings and took pictures of the final spot in the film.  We also visited the San Sulpice Church and followed the Rose Line.

I've always wanted to visit Rosslyn Chapel, it's on my list of 50 things to do before I'm 60. 

Unbeknownst to me, my lovely husband had picked up on my wish to visit here and when he was last up in Scotland working, he'd sussed out where it was.

As it happened it wasn't even really a detour from our route home so this was where we were headed on the Friday morning.

We drove down from The Cairngorms towards Edinburgh and crossed the Forth before wending our way to Rosslyn Chapel, which is just South of Edinburgh.

We parked up and headed towards the Chapel.  We couldn't see that much from the front, but decided to have a walk right round the outside before heading into the recently built visitor centre and into the Chapel grounds.

I wanted to see the view that I'd seen in the film, where you got to see the full Chapel on the top of the hill, in all it's glory.  We headed down to the left of the visitor centre and found a small path, which ended up taking us right round the Chapel.  We are so glad we did this.  We definitely got the best overall views of the Chapel from the outside and it's only a short walk.  From our point of view if you are visiting, you must walk round the outside of the site .... you are missing out if you don't.

Having had our wander we headed into the visitor centre and into the Chapel grounds.  From inside there are some good views to be had of the outside of the Chapel, though there isn't that much greenery to add interest and there are lots of people wandering about, so it is hard to get a good shot.
When we arrived there was a 'tour' taking place of the inside of the Chapel, but we were told we could just go in and look around anyway.
After having a good look around the outside we decided to head in.  We were really surprised, the place was jam packed full with people filling all of the pews and the seating around the outside. The guide was in full flow and, I have to say, sounded like she'd done a really good talk.  She was bursting with enthusiasm and passion and we wished we could wait for the next tour.

She was nearly at the end of her flow and we soon got chance to wander around inside with the rest of the throng.

You can't take photos inside but the place is beautiful, with every piece of stone covered in some or other meaningful carving.  We saw the 'starry skies' mentioned in the riddle and we went into the crypt ... though I think quite a bit of artistic licence has been used when adapting what this looked like for the film!

Overall I would guess we stayed for about an hour, which was just enough to have a real good look around.  There is a cafe in the visitor centre, but we decided not to eat here, but to head back off home and find something along the way .... maybe another visit to Shap Services was in order.

I am so glad we visited.  The place definitely has a magical and intriguing feel about it.  Who really knows what will have taken place here over the years, we can only really leave that to our imagination.

Before we headed for home, Martin succumbed in the gift shop and bought this cheeky little green man that I'm sure we will find a good home for in the garden at number 27.

It was a lovely end to another lovely week's holiday, now point us in the direction of the M6!!