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Monday, 27 July 2009


Here is a picture of one of the best investments I ever made. She is such a character. She is a "people" cat and needs to be with me, particularly when she can hear me speaking. She follows me around the house and garden and explores inside all the doors I open. Luckily, J the electrician, who is also a "cat person, was careful, not to leave her exploring under the floorboards after he arranged for more wiring to be done.

Tomorrow, Npower should turn up to transfer the gas and electric meters from "pay-as-you-go" to "steady-as-you-go and sign me up for a direct debit". This will probably be worth more than the old-age-pension because it is a big house!

Tigger won't care. She has just discovered the delights of cat-tuna-in-jelly. Up till now she has lived on Iams, the biscuit with all a cat needs in it. Do I give her the soft stuff which she loves or do I stick to the Iams which are so much cleaner and easier? Please let me know what you do. She is spoiled rotten already so I suppose it doesn't really matter. She is booked into the cattery on Friday and howls miserably all the way there. I tell myself that she is happy enough there and the staff all seem to love her but I try not to think about her while I holiday without her.

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 25 July 2009


Seaham Harbour is a seaside town on the coast of County Durham.
As children we spent many happy days splashing in and out of the North Sea and searching the rock pools for creatures.

I went back yesterday for a Durham County Council guided walk to look at the changes that have and will occur. It was the first day of the school holidays and there were families sitting on the beach and children braving the chill of the surf.

We started at the memorial to the 1962 Lifeboat disaster. I remember sitting in the Harbour Master's Office for a couple of weeks in the summer of 1968 gathering information for a short thesis on the Economic Future of the port. Even though there was a new "unsinkable" lifeboat to replace the lost one, the disaster was as fresh in people's minds as if it had happened the year before.

We headed northwards and noted the site of the Vane Tempest colliery pithead. It's chimney was demolished in the mid nineties and I remember taking my Uncle to view its collapse, because he had worked there at one stage, deep down and far out under the North Sea.

From the middle clifftop car park you can see the old church of St Mary's and the old Hall which has been a private dwelling, then a remand home for girls and then a private dwelling again. Although not so private when it was the home of Gazza.

The front has been rejuvenated and gentrified but there are still reminders and memorials to the days of coal and colliers.

There are now plans to turn the old harbour, where the fishing boats used to be moored, into a marina! In fact they made a short news item for the BBC Look North programme and showed it the very day we had been for a walk. We saw ourselves on the telly walking along the promenade! Alas on closer inspection, we were not there. There had been a walk in the morning looking at the geology of the coast but we had missed that one. Nearly a celebrity.

Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 23 July 2009


Well here I am waiting happily in the queue for a trip down the mine. Sitting in the sunshine in my jaunty red helmet and enjoying the day. No ironing for me!

It was only a drift mine and we didn't go far or for long but it was agony. We had to bend double to walk down the waggon track and keep bent over while they told us all about the long hours, the wet conditions, the darkness and the lack of a toilet. I remember my uncles would take "bait" which wouldn't go rancid in the hot conditions and they would all chew "baccy" because they couldn't smoke. The safety lamps were not bright and conditions were very gloomy.

Enough!!!", my bent back screamed after a few minutes of polite listening. "Let me out, I have ironing to do!"

D was heartily glad to stretch to his full height and step into the daylight as well. The adit opening behind him was the highest part of the mine. Unfortunately it is not possible to really go down a mine in Durham. It is possible in the National Mining Museum in Wakefield so that is now on our list of things to do.

I love researching my coal mining heritage. There is little evidence left of the mining landscape of twenty to thirty years ago. Most of the slag heaps and all of the pitheads have been reclaimed and rehabilitated. They are now attractive parts of the countryside and most have been returned to their agricultural past. The landscape and the people are now cleaner and healthier but when an ex-miner was asked, yesterday, whether he missed those days and would like them back, he said simply and genuinely...YES.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 21 July 2009


This is what I think of ironing!
The poor sow doesn't deserve this but the similar view of the boar in the next sty would have been too extreme.

A visit to Beamish Open Air Museum yesterday reminded me of how lucky we are today. Ironing is pretty boring but the rest of the laundry is not really so bad. Washing machines are magic and now I've got the hang of sorting the coloureds from the whites and removing tissues from pockets, the only real chore is hanging it up to dry somewhere.

When I was very young, my grandmother lived in Albion Terrace in the colliery of Murton in Durham, in a cottage a bit like the one here. My Grandad and uncles were coal miners and she had to wash all their clothes by hand in a sink like this, with water fetched in jugs from the pump down the road.

She boiled the water in a copper heated over a coal fire in the scullery and agitated the clothes in a dolly tub, then rinsed them all by hand. They were then wrung through the mangle and hung out to dry in the kitchen, over the range or ,on a fine day, in the yard.

The irons were heated on the range and the clothes were ironed on a folded blanket on the kitchen table. JUST LIKE THIS. All these lovely pictures are from the rebuilt colliery village at the museum. It started me wondering if going down the coal-mines would have been a better way of spending the day so we set off for a visit. See next post.
The whole day out was a delight and the weather held out and allowed us to enjoy our picnic in the farmyard. There is so much to see and do that we were glad that we got a year's entry for the same price as a day's visit through some sort of tax-gift scheme. We are only 40 minutes away and shall return to complete our exploration of the site and sights. Beamish has been an enormously successful co-operation and collaboration. If you visit the north east of England be sure to consider it.
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Orange Mobile Phones Do Work

I can blog, albeit with limited decorations and sidebar adornments. I can google/research really well. I can internet-shop globally. I can use word, powerpoint and excel. I can teach classrooms full of kids on computers and monitor them and their computer use AND still have all the keys left on the keyboards when they leave the room.

Three days ago I tripped over the mobile phone charger-lead and the phone fell to the floor and spilled its guts. Very carefully, I picked up all the pieces and replaced them in the cavities that matched the dimensions of the fallen parts like completing a jigsaw. Optimistically, I opened up the phone but it was DEAD.

Today, I went to the ORANGE shop in Darlo and stood in line at the service desk for about 15-20 minutes. When it was my turn I handed over my Motorola and gave them the sad story. I said I hoped that, perhaps, I had returned the parts upside down or something like that. The woman (blonde, attractive, tanned and with long finger nails which were not her own) said "what happened when you tried to turn it on?"!!! She then pressed one, long, decorated thumbnail into a squishy button bit on the right-hand side.

What do you mean...turn it on! Hasn't it always been on? It beams a small screen at me every time I open it up. It does some very useful things like...1) send phone calls to people whose numbers I can remember off by heart or who were thoughtful enough to put their number in my phonebook. 2) send msg things to people who don't mind my sorry lack of punctuation and realise that a long space between words is as good as a full stop.
It doesn't take photos, play tinny music into my ears on the bus or alert me when something momentous is about to happen and last but not least IT DOESN'T ALARM ME WHILE I'M IN THE QUEUE IN ASDA. It is just a phone and I put about £20 in it every six months and use it mainly for calling tradesmen who don't know what a landline is.

Anyway the long thumbnail treatment worked a treat! The light came back on and it dinged a few times. She smiled at me as I would smile at a dear old lady. I celebrated by buying a wand attachment for the hose so that I can water the hanging baskets without climbing a ladder.

If I can remember how to use the new camera, I'll take a pic of those hanging baskets tomorrow or the next day. Tomorrow I'm off to an auction sniffing out some books and then off to Durham Hospital for my annual check-up.

The summer has disappeared. I hope it is short lived because I have some sun-burn that needs evening out.

Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 1 July 2009


Well this is the front of the house. As you can see, the central strand of clematis and yellow climbing rose has fallen from the tenuous grasp it had on the central guttering and is hanging by the phone wire above the central bathroom window. There are extensions of the growths of these plants, to each side. I realised that the whole lot needed to come down because it was taking the wiring down, invading the pebble-dashing, blocking the view and light from the windows etc.
The problem is that when the job has been done the house will have a very different facade.

The first cut of the gardener's secateurs went straight through the phone wire! The cost of a BT call out is £115+£99 per hour. The gardener did a repair job himself in the end rather than face that bill and it all seems to be working well again.

It does look a bit fact it looks a lot barer than I expected. Well not really. I knew it would be bare. I am having the window boxes on the first floor removed as well. They cannot be gardened from the windows which do not open on the lower level. The double glazing provides an immovable lower layer and an upper awning opening.
At the end of the day all the climbing stuff will be gone.

It was a very warm day and J the gardener also "pollarded" the old apple tree at the front which had grown up into the wires above.

D had already made the front hedge and gate much smarter last week and ...

the old pond and ungainly tree and
much more was was removed in and around the front door.
I have told the Phoenix Centre that I don't wish to be in their "bank" of supply staff any more. I feel a bit of a failure for not wanting to go there any more but each time they phoned I realised how glad I was to be too busy.
More to come on that later. This picture shows some of the damage done to the garden by local children when they thought the house was vacant. I can do without spending my days trying to cope with such behaviour.
Cheers Gillian