Saturday, December 29, 2007

More Bloody Rain, Good Day Though, Sat 29 Dec 07

I suppose it is Ireland, the 'Emerald Isle' but there is a limit! It's rained almost all day today, but has stopped now and tomorrow promises bright and crisp weather so we may get outside at last.

Jim has decided to sell some of our willow cuttings on ebay so has been preparing and photographing willow sticks!

I hauled all the bits of wood left on the lawn into the barn and have been sawing some of it by hand. I enjoyed being outside all be it for a short while. We were very lazy this morning, took a cup of tea back to bed and were much amused by the cats leaping about on the bed and up and down the stairs to the room above. Sandy picked up a purple ribbon from the stairs and carried it up to the top room. I told him I wanted it up there!

We haven't heard from our neighbours today but they did go out in the car so are probably ok.

Last night I tried out some cardboard weaving. Thin strips of an old box of gingerbread biscuits (the soggy foreign sort), which I wove into a small container. It was quite difficult but good fun. I am going to have a go at a shopping bag which is in a book I have called 're-cycled containers'. Trouble is you need very long strips of cardboard and it's finding somewhere to cut them. I'm sure I'll work something out. We must have a go at weaving some of our willow now we have been on a course.

Friday, December 28, 2007

MORE Rain, Friday, 28 Dec, 2007

You'd think they sky would be quite empty by now, but no, it rains and rains and rains.

Jim gave Stanley a de-coke this morning as he's been going at full pelt for weeks. His chimney was a bit mucky but apart from that he wasn't bad at all. He did have a bit of a disaster the other morning. I emptied out the ashes, thought that the tray was a bit heavy and there was a large chunk of Stanley's grate lying in the ashes tray! Jim managed to find a piece of metal to fix the resultant hole and he's actually worked better since.

We walked down to our neighbours' house about 2pm, during a short break in the rain, the car was there but there was no sign of them. I spoke to Sandra on the phone about 5pm and they'd got so fed up with the weather they'd gone back to bed!

Quiet day apart from that. We sawed much wood in the barn for Stanley but need to collect some more fairly soon.

I've been trying to teach BlackJack to go through the 2 cat flaps. As long as I push it open a little bit he goes through, but it's just that initial shove with his nose that he's lacking. Sandy, on the other hand, bombs in and out like a mad thing. I'm also trying to teach them not to get on the table, but that's a bit harder. They are both still adorable though and we wouldn't be without them now.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

A Good, if Soggy Day, Thursday 27th Dec, 07

A much better day today, thank goodness! The atmosphere has lightened enormously. Phew. However, weather wise it's poured down all day. We decided to go to Limerick and look round the sales. Tesco provided us with 2 new pairs of trousers and a cardigan for me, all at silly prices. We bought wood at Woodys to put a door between the kitchen diner and lobby, much needed for the keeping out of draughts. The roads were all awash and when we got back to our little drive, the stream at the bottom had turned into a raging torrent and was pouring all over the road. We donned our macs and took torches to go and have a proper look. The sound was amazing, a real roar. We also have several small brooks on the land. They dry up in the summer but were overflowing tonight, and still it rains.

We treated ourselves to a MacDonalds in Limerick so didn't need much food tonight. A turkey sandwich with home made bread and salad sufficed, lovely.

There was a 'Holby City' special on TV which we both watched, and thought it was exceptional, with proper feel good emotions at the end. Brilliant. Talking of TV, I am not an Eastenders watcher, but have caught the last 3 episodes and have to say the acting has been quite superb. I still won't continue to watch it, but was glad to have seen those excellent episodes.

A BAD Day, Dec 26th 2007

Well, they say all the rows, divorces, etc happen at Christmas. We had a hum dinger today and there was much weeping and wailing and I spent half the day in bed. A BAD DAY.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Santa's Been Dec 24th and 25th, 2007

We've had a great Christmas so far. Instead of leaving all the food for Christmas Day, we've already feasted on some. Yesterday, Christmas Eve, we finished up our last bits of wrapping, Jim disappeared upstairs to wrap pressies and make my card. We called on our neighbours Sandra and Pete. They are both crafters and the run up the Christmas for them is chaos, with every weekend having 2 craft fairs. We took Sandra a bottle of whisky as it had been her 60th birthday last Wednesday and a couple of presents for today. I had also ordered 2 books from Amazon for Sandra to give to Pete, so took them and managed to hand them to Sandra without Pete's knowledge. We chatted and laughed, I drank tea and Sandra, Pete and Jim drank beer, wine and whisky!! Sandra is very funny after a couple of drinks. She invited us up for Christmas morning breakfast! We struggled home in the dark, finished our preparations and finally retired to bed.

9.30 saw us awake, I got up and made tea, fed the cats, then took the tea back to bed! When the cats had finished breakfast, they joined us. What a wonderful way to start Christmas Day. At 11, we went down to Pete and Sandras' house and had a fabulous cooked breakfast. Yogurt and raspberries to start with to 'cleanse our pallate'! Jim said ours wasn't dirty! We retired to the lounge and drank tea and chatted. Came back up to ours several hours later and opened our presents. Fabulous. Mostly fun things between us, I had many warm socks as my feet freeze with wellington boots on. A superb rucksack, the bottom of which stores cameras and lenses, ideal for our trip to Australia, some chocolates of course, smellies from my son and daughter in law and some still to come from my daughter.

As we opened our presents, we threw the paper on the floor and the cats had a fabulous time chasing it around and going in and out of a large carrier bag! They had some 'treats' too, which they loved. A trip up to the veg patch was required to collect carrots, leeks (our first) and sprouting broccoli. It was absolutely freezing and poured with rain after that and for the rest of the day, suddenly getting dark and very gloomy. So much for our Christmas Day walk.

Now sitting with a g & t. Lovely. Rang my son Ben in Spain and he was still in bed after a heavy night! Spoke to Kat (daughter) who has a rowdy houseful, 17 for dinner. Madness! Son 1 Jason didn't answer phone so maybe they'll ring later.

An evening of food and tv in store I think. What a great day it's been so far.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Windy Weather and Lumberjacks

Phew, it was really windy today but we still ventured into the orchard and collected up much of the wood we'd felled over the past day or so. Jim set about the hedge around the orchard, which is hugely overgrown. He's revealed masses more land and it looks vastly better. It'll also be easier to mow in the spring with fewer hurdles to go round.

The previous owner had made a 'living igloo' in the orchard. I''m sure it used to be lovely, but now it has grown all lop-sided and half of the struts have died. I've decided to have a bonfire in it, so much of the small bits of wood have gone in there. We now have about 4 bonfires to light at some stage. It's actually illegal to light them here, but how on earth you are supposed to get rid of all the green waste from 5 acres without one I'm not sure.

The goldfinches have been frequenting the nuts, together with, blue, great and coal tits, green finches and the inevitable chaffinches. With the cold spell we've been having, several of the annuals have died off, but the antirrhinums are still in full flower and primulas and violas are still in bloom.

Tonight we finished the decorations and it all looks very festive. I took some photos too.

My computer keeps switching itself off so Jim took the cover off and hoovered it all out. It was amazingly dusty.

My daughter texted me to say she had received a Christmas card from her Dad. They fell out some time ago and she was quite chuffed. Me too.

2 days to go!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Mainly Being Lumberjacks

It's been so cold lately that we've had to keep Stanley going at full pelt day and night. We seem to get through an amazing amount of wood, so the past couple of days we've felled an ash tree down the road to Sandra and Petes house and sawed off some big branches in the orchard. All this has to be lugged up to the cottage, then made into Stanley sized pieces. Having said that, it was lovely to get outside and do some work again, both Jim and I really enjoyed it. Although cold, we wrapped up warm and the work kept us cosy. My feet turned into ice blocks, sadly, as wellington boots aren't very good at keeping out the cold.

The 2 kittens have really enjoyed being in the big outside world and recently Missy, BlackJack's Mum has been up to play, so we've had 3 cats most of the time. Today, BlackJack had a terrible shock - one of the local farmers owns several fields near us and he came up with one of his dogs. Jim could hear this dog barking, then realised poor little BJ was cowering in the long grass, quite petrified. Jim of course rescued him, he was dribbling and shaking. ( BJ, not Jim) He was taken inside for safety and reassurance and when Jim offered him the outside world later on, he was having none of it! I hope he hasn't been put off altogether.

I have also decorated the cottage for Christmas. We decided it would be futile having a tree, which the cats would just climb up and knock over, breaking glass balls and electrifying themselves on tree lights, so have brought much greenery into the cottage instead. We have several boughs hung high up in the kitchen/diner, which have lights on them and I have decorated them with baubles and icicles. They look lovely. Will have to photograph them for all to see. We also have a little artificial tree in the snug, on a table high enough to be out of kittens' reach. All in all, it's looking pretty festive.

BlackJack is on my knee, purring happily, while Sandy is asleep on his favourite cushion, placed on top of 3 banana boxes full of books. Happy cats.

Jim has moved his office upstairs and is much happier in his own space. We're no good being on top of each other all the time and sharing a computer is a nightmare.

I've been a bit down recently in spite of, or maybe because of, the approaching festivities. Ah well, I'm sure it will pass, it usually does.

TV's been quite good recently with an adaptation of Oliver, serialised over 5 nights, the last one being tonight. It's been excellent, with Timothy Spall as Fagin, Sarah Lancashire and other famous faces. It was also the final of 'Strictly Come Dancing', a brilliant show that's captured the nation. The winner Alicia, a singer, was quite superb and a true winner. It's such a joyful show, there should be more of them. Bruce Forsythe (Sir), is a great all round entertainer and is just perfect to present the show with his TV partner the lovely Tess Daly.

Off to play a few games of Scrabulous on Facebook now.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Rain in Spain... 19th December 2007

Funny day on Friday. We had booked to go to see my son Ben in his new bar in Porta Banus, Marbella Spain. However, we hadn't received the usual email confirmation and Jim was pretty certain the booking hadn't gone through, so gloom descended like a black cloud over me and I went to bed in a black shroud. In the morning, Jim phoned Ryanair and, blow me down if we weren't on the passenger list after all, so we had to hurry and pack ready for the flight at 5.15pm! We made it in plenty of time and off we headed to Mallaga. We picked up our hire car, a fine little Golf diesel, and drove to Porta Banus, where we had booked into a hotel 'Bena Bola'. Now this is really weird. My son's name is Ben Bowler, say the hotel name and it's almost the same!

Having reached the Port, we couldn't find the parking spaces for the hotel and tried to go down to the marina, through a barrier. It had a buzzer so we pressed it and an irate spanish male shouted at us, in Spanish! He could obviously see us, but we couldn't see him! Eventually, after more shouted abuse, this extraordinarily large, long haired Spaniard appeared and shouted at us some more! We worked out that we had to turn round and go to an underground car park behind us. Why he had to get so excited I'm not sure! The hotel was clean and bright and our room, which we expected to be minuscule, was enormous. Settee and chair in the main section, plus 2 3' beds pushed together, an en-suite with bath and shower cubicle and wardrobes enough for the Spice Girls!

We phoned Ben and met him near his bar, 'Zoo Lounge'. It's a small bar but well kitted out. He and his partner Brett have bought and installed a pool table and it has an amazing sound system. This was Saturday night and the place was hopping! Unfortunately everyone in Spain seems to smoke and we must have inhaled the equivalent of 60 cigarettes over the next few hours. Ben seemed at ease and happy in his bar and Brett, from South Africa, is extremely handsome and knows it!

We headed back to our hotel in the early hours and happily collapsed into bed.

In the morning we had decided to head off to a lovely old town in the mountains called Ronda. Ben sleeps the morning away, not closing the bar until 4am, then having to clean it up. The drive to Ronda was fabulous, the scenery striking and the road incredibly winding. Luckily Jim had got to grips with the golf by now, and remembered for the most part to drive on the right!

Ronda is a beautiful old town with a huge gorge running through the centre, crossed by an old, enormous bridge. How they built it so long ago I can't imagine. It must have taken years. The views over the bridge are spectacular, see the photos for a flavour of the town. It also has a bullring and some interesting little shops in various nooks and crannies. We couldn't stay long as I had to get back to meet Ben for the afternoon. We had sunshine for most of the morning, but on the drive back, the clouds descended and it rained. Then it rained for the rest of the afternoon and evening!

We drove to Ben's apartment which he shares with Brett and a lad called Danny, who is a DJ amongst other things. 3 Lads in one apartment. Chaos. They also all smoke, so the air was thick. Washing up hadn't been down for some time and the ashtray overflowed. Washing was strewn around the floors or draped over the chairs outside. Presumably that was clean. Jim beat a hasty retreat to visit an old work colleague of his, Carol and I stayed and washed up while Ben and co washed and dressed. They had some shopping to do, so I went too and loved the huge department store in the centre of Porta Banus. I had taken Ben a present of 2 new jumpers and 2 shirts, all of which were too big for him. Ah well. He wanted a coat, so we scoured the shops and bought him one for his Christmas present instead. Jim has kept the jumpers and shirts!

We went back to Zoo Lounge for a while, then Ben, Sasha (another friend) and I went for an Indian meal in a restaurant overlooking the marina. It was quite lovely, so I paid for us all.

It was still pouring with rain as we headed back to the Zoo Lounge. Brett had taken 4 euros and spent just over that! Sunday night and torrential rain didn't do too much for business. Ben had a phone call from a friend, Sabrina, asking us to go to the bar round the corner, one of the many Irish bars in Porta Banus. So we did. Their bar was just as empty but Ben played pool with Sasha and beat him soundly. I chatted to Sabrina, also from South Africa and her friend who was from Ireland. I hung around for a while then decided to go back to the hotel and get a reasonable night. Unfortunately I'd left my mobile phone at Ben's apartment so had no way of contacting Jim in the morning, but he thought he'd be back to pick me up around 11. I was awake really early, worrying I'd oversleep, went down for breakfast but the cafe is 'closed on Mondays'. I was starving and thirsty so made my way to a pub by the marina and had toast, jam and coffee, which was delightful and watched the rich arriving in their cars in the rain. (oh yes, it was still raining).

Fearing I'd miss Jim, I headed back to the hotel and sat on the bed waiting. I dozed a bit, still no Jim, so I went down to reception and waited there. He arrived much later and I was not too happy! We drove to Ben's apartment, in the rain, and sat in there waiting for the lads to get washed and dressed. No tea of coffee available! We decided to go for a meal and went to an American style bar also overlooking the marina. All day breakfast was just too tempting and Jim and me indulged ourselves. Ben was then supposed to show us around Porta Banus but made a pretty crap guide!! Still, we did see some more of the place and I managed to take some photos in the gaps between showers!

We headed back to Zoo Lounge, had a couple of drinks, then made our way back to the airport. Well, we tried. Got very lost around Porta Banus and ended up in the golf complex, which made us very late. We had the car to drop off but couldn't find the right place to leave it. We decided to dump it in the car park we had found and just made it onto the plane. The following morning an irate assistant phoned and said 'why did you not leave the car in our place?' Well, if we could have found it we would!

My overriding impression of the Spanish is that they are surly, rude and dislike the English. The shop assistants in particular were unfriendly. I don't understand their attitude as in my experience, if you are pleasant to your customers, they are pleasant too and leave happy.

All in all I'm really glad we made the effort to go. I can now visualise Ben in his surroundings and will pop over again before too long. I think he'll make it in his bar, as long as he can survive the winter months. Fingers crossed.

It was lovely to be back in Ireland and the cats were overjoyed to see us. Danny, the lad down the road, did a sterling job of looking after them so we gave him 20 euros for his troubles. We had to take them to the vets this afternoon, Sandy for his 2nd vaccination and BlackJack for his first. 60 euros down the pan! After much playing out today and their trip out, they have slept all evening.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Cough Cough, Cats and Rats, Tues, 11th Dec, 2007

Not a great deal to report today. Dull and cold day, so no new photos. The ones here are from yesterday morning in the garden and one of Sandy in the barn in the morning sun. The bird table had more birds on it than I've ever seen. Loads of green finches, chaffinches, a lone robin, the magpies and a couple of siskin. Recently we've had goldfinches but I didn't see any today. The cats watched them from the conservatory windows, fascinated. It must be the cold that's forced so many of the birds to seek the extra food I provide.

Of rats, I went up to our old bedroom and Sandy followed me. I opened the little door to the roof space, which is where the rats run I think, but Sandy didn't seem excited at all, so I suspect they just come in at night. BlackJack also wanted a look but soon came out again. Probably scared of the dark! Major event, I have been pushing both cats through the cat flap to try and teach them to use it. Sandy keeps standing and looking out then I shoved him out on his own. I left him for a while and went back inside, then some time later he appeared! He was most excited. He's obviously conquered the cat flap. I think it may be a while before BJ does the same, as he is so much smaller.

Having been playing outside some time, they both rush in to use the litter tray. 5 acres and they come in to poo!!
We'll have to sort that one out. Going to Porta Banus, Mallaga, Sat, Sun and Monday to visit my son Ben, who, with a friend, has leased a bar there. I haven't seen it yet, only photos, so want to see it in person and see how he's getting on. I have bought him some clothes for Christmas and one of those really bad taste walking reindeer that plays jingle bells! It walks, wobbling from side to side, then stops, then sets off again. I must admit it did make me laugh and I can imagine, after a few pints, it will be a hit in the bar!

It's now 3.30am so I must to bed. I've kept Stanley roaring like a furnace all day and it's quite warm inside, except for our bedroom, so I'm warming it up with an electric fire for 10 minutes before I venture in there! The cats seem to have disappeared so must be up to no good.

For now

Monday, December 10, 2007

Cough, Cough Monday, Dec 10th, 2007

How on earth did it get to the 10th? Christmas has really crept up on us this year. Hopping between Ireland and the UK hasn't helped either. We gave up the idea of the photo cards as there just wasn't time. Especially as Jim has been in Worthing since last Friday and isn't back for a week. So we made the sad decision to go and buy some last Wednesday and wrote pretty much all of them that evening and Jim took his with him to finish. Breakneck speed cards this year.

I have now come down with a ghastly cough and sore throat. The throat not improved by all the coughing. My chest is rattling now, very rare for me. I have to say I feel pretty bloody rotten tonight. I did have a good day up until then! Hilary down the road invited me for coffee. Most enjoyable, especially the accompanying Christmas cake. Her lovely daughter was there too. Delightful company. When I came back I cleared some of the wood from the lawn (I'd done some pruning and clearing yesterday) and sawed yet more fuel for Stanley. I'm keeping him stacked to the brim as the weather's been awful up until today. Wet and windy most of the time. Today it's been bright and sunny but very cold.

The cats are delighted that I can't sleep much and was out and about at 8am. The sun was rising over Loch Graney. We now have a bit of a view of the lake through the bare trees. I was moved to fetch my camera and took some photos, displayed here. The kittens played outside on the lawn and are becoming more adventurous. I went into the barn later this afternoon to saw more wood and Sandy discovered the bird table and its occupants! He sat there for ages, watching, twitching and tail swishing. The birds, however, didn't seem to take any notice of this new threat. BlackJack soon got fed up outside and curled up on a carrier bag next to me while I sawed away.

We came in as it was getting dark, around 5pm and they both collapsed into their bed - and so did I. I hope you enjoy the photos. Must get the house sorted and some decorations up or it'll be too late! Tomorrow....

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Windy Weather and Wood, 4th December 2007

Phew, it's been so windy today and all last night. Apparently loads of people went to the west coast beaches because they had said the tide was going to be unusually high with 15' waves. Ferries to Holyhead were also cancelled. We cut lots of wood for Stanley as he seems to be eating an inordinate amount, then we are keeping him going 24 hours a day.

The kittens had a great day, ventured outside and into the barn. Sandy managed to climb up some wood and onto the top open ceiling, where he sat wailing! He did manage to get down eventually, then promptly did it again! Cat of little brain. (currently on my lap). We decided to go for a walk up the meadow but didn't get very far as Sandy followed a little way then howled in that miserable, cat like way! Jim actually carried BlackJack as he was too spooked to walk that far. What a pair.

So that's about it, keeping Stanley going, and the cats entertained. The usual bread making (yesterday) and eating.

Jim visited our neighbours down the lane and asked Jo to take a photo of us for our Christmas card. We're very late this year so a photo is the quickest option. Last year I made crafted cards, each with a little label attached. Each time they have to be different and several of our friends have kept them all!

Facebook is so slow it's almost stopped, especially Scrabulous, which is very frustrating.

Jim was quite poorly yesterday, he looked very pale and wan, but is thankfully back on form today. Cooking Toad in the Hole in the dual cook microwave at the moment, and I'm starving!

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Weekend Work, 1-2 December 2007

I seem to have lost Friday! We decided we didn't like our bedroom up in the poky upstairs roof room, where neither of us have been sleeping well. So, we moved our bedroom downstairs again! SO much better. We have more room, although it's still a small room, we can get down the side of the bed without banging our heads. Bliss. We both slept really well last night thank goodness.

The cats think it's great fun coming into our bedroom in the morning and chasing 'monsters' under the covers! As usual, they're both sitting on my lap, which sometimes makes typing a bit difficult!

Jim found a great website all about County Clare, where we'll be able to get our chickens when we come back from Australia in March and advice on tractors, etc. Could prove a real boon.

I moved my craft stuff up into the 'old' bedroom, so it's almost all together now. I do have rather a lot!

It's been an exciting day weather wise. Windy, raining cats and dogs and even some hail. A day for battening down the hatches. Jim did manage to dig up some chard and carrots for our dinner. Lovely. Can't wait until we can start again with the veg next year and let's hope it's a better summer.

Played much scrabulous on Facebook, now off to cut up some of the old jumble sale clothes I've collected ready for rugging or weaving, which ever takes my fancy next.

For now,