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Sunday, 28 November 2010


I'm fond of alliteration but DJ "the fire raiser" likes puns. Lots of Dickensian stuff was bandied around for a title and "all I want for xmas" and trite things like that were mentioned but I went with the pun in the end. The snow is quite a few inches deep around here and special toilet facilities have been set up inside (and well used! sorry bit too much info) for Princess Tigger. She still seems to like to explore outside between snow flurries.
Inside the house, she continues to attack all biros/ballpoints as if they are prey. She particularly like the clicky ones. Good fangs shown here. Dozens of biros lurk beneath large/heavy items of furniture. And it wont be long before she tries to get the bird at the top of this tree. We missed the Scarborough auction because of the weather, so we went into Watson's today to view Tuesday's lots. There is a "Braaq" similar to the ones we missed out on at Tennants a couple of weeks ago. When we got home, we put together the xmas tree, had lunch and went to Sainsbury's for milk, came home and then...DJ did a bit of fire raising in the kitchen range. It is its first use since moving in. We had the chimney swept a couple of months ago and we wanted to test the sea-coal.

We need a proggy mat in front of the hearth but they took each family a year to make and I want one tomorrow. We were advised by a bloke we met on the beach with his metal detector, while we were coal-gleaning, that we would need a spark-guard because seacoal tended to explode!!!

He was so right. We have contained some minor explosions behind our hastily bought "Argos" guard. The bloke on the beach said that some seacoal could cause damage to the far wall!!!
Well, we are ready for another winter like last one. Plenty of fuel and fireplaces.
Slow cooker is on with a casserole in it and I didn't cook it. Lovely life up north.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 26 November 2010


It's best to do this with gumboots on and thick socks for insulation, specially when the tide is on the turn and each wave surprises you with its reach.We had planned to visit Duggleby's at Scarborough, on Saturday, to check out their auction rooms on our way to visit friends holidaying in Whitby. The weather over that way has been terrible. They have been snowed in and are thinking of leaving for home as soon as they can. So we took off for Seaton Carew to check out our own bit of coast.
Snow on the sand of the dunes. Something I have not seen before.

Tankers lurking in the gloom below the thick roll of snow cloud on its way to North Yorkshire. They ride out the low tide a mile or so out to sea and enter on the returning tide. Sometimes they lurk out there for days waiting for increases in the price of crude oil before heading into Seal Sands.
Some lurk too long!This is the remains of a "collier brig" or coal boat. It is similar to common coastal trading vessels of this coastline a couple of hundred years ago and is exposed at low tide. Captain Cook favoured such sturdy vessels for his voyages. But obviously not this one.
Scarborough is still undecided. We shall see what the morning brings.
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 25 November 2010


Yesterday was a lovely end-of-autumn day.
Today it was the start of winter. It seems appropriate to me because it is also the start of my newly married life.
DJ and I and Tigger the bridesmaid took ourselves off to the Register Office at Bishop Auckland with a couple of witnesses, who were passing by on their way from Southend to the new Sainsbury's round the corner.
Actually we had to leave Tigger behind to guard the flowers and champagne at home, because we all had a booking at Headlam Hall to wine and dine in suitable style.
Back home now and on with life. And it's a good one. Especially because, even though we missed the first day of the Test Match because of the Nuptials, England are all out for 260!!!
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 11 November 2010

New Stuff!

These are the original floorboards in the kitchen. They have been sanded back, given a coat of old oak stain and a coat of matt polyurethane. I perhaps, would have preferred satin finish, but I'm thrilled with the colour and the overall effect.
So is Tigger! Cheers Gillian

Monday, 8 November 2010

Riverside Riches

Last Saturday the weather was so gorgeous that we were tempted down to the River Wear for a walk, where it skirts the north of Bishop Auckland. Autumn colours have been glorious this year. The viaduct in the background of this picture once carried the railway northwards. The line now stops at Bishop Auckland Station, about a mile further south. Fortunately, someone came up with the idea of putting a new road on top of the "Eleven Arches" before it got demolished. Much of the old railway and mining fabric of the north has been demolished or obliterated. There is no doubt that the countryside is now very attractive and eyesores were removed but the big D-for-demolition stamp was used frequently in the offices of the town planners in the 1960s and 1970s and some great treasures were lost in the haste to modernise.
The copse of trees lit up by the sun on the hill across the river to the north, hides the old site and remains of the Roman Cavalry Fort of Binchester. One of the forts on the Roman road from York to Hadrians Wall.The Gaunless (olde englishe for useless) River flows through Auckland Park and the grounds of the Bishop's Palace and then into the River Wear over this weir. The grand old trees of the park provide shelter for flora and fauna from deer to fungi. Deer are shy and move fast but fungi are a photographer's dream.

The weather has now turned and we expect snow on the hills soon. The driftwood and sea-coal look more attractive by the day.
Keep warm wherever you are.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 5 November 2010

Christmas Cake Craziness

I decided to make the christmas cake. Yes! I know it's a bit soon but there's a lot on between now and xmas chez nous. I got the fruit etc measured out and left it to soak in brandy overnight. Then I went to the cupboard to get the rest of the ingredients that Delia had listed as suitable for the cake tin size that I had.
I had quite an array of flour bags but Delia said I needed plain, plain flour. Not the strong bread flour, nor the bread mix. Not even the self raising flour suitable for cakes or the sack of Wessex Mill scone mix. So in the middle of everything, I had to go out for some flour. We have seven supermarkets within a mile or so. I had already been to Sainsbury's earlier for some milk etc and come home with three new tops as well, so I went to Lidl, the closest and top-less, and bought some flour. Oops! I came home with a bag of Self Raising!!!
After peals of laughter and much amusement at my silliness, I went out again. This time, I tried Aldi......and came home with a bag of Self Raising!!! I even got as far as weighing it out, sifting it and adding mixed spice and grated nutmeg. Then DJ kindly pointed it out to me.
My sense of humour evaporated, and DJ disappeared to the top floor. This time I decided to try Tesco but the car ended up back at Sainsbury's. Getting frazzled, I ignored the 25%-off sign pointing to the clothes and came home with some plain flour. I bought a small bag because I was worried about where to store all these new supplies.

The cake got made and came out of the oven looking OK. It is now bathing in a sprinkling of Southern Comfort, mainly because neither of us drinks it and there was some in the cupboard. This will be liberally applied weekly and the cake will be wrapped in foil until I get the urge to ice and decorate it.

More news later as long as I don't repeat my serial shopping too often and get carted off to a home for a "nice rest" before xmas.
We went coal and driftwood gathering again today and are looking forward to a great fire in the kitchen range grate on xmas day.
Cheers Gillian

Monday, 1 November 2010


Today was DJ's birthday and he eschewed the proffered lunch at the Morritt Arms, at Greta Bridge and opted for a trip to the seaside. The Morritt does a stunning three course "Credit Crunch Lunch", at £10 and it is available in the Dickens Bar where the walls are painted in grand Dickensian style by Jack Gilroy and the gardens are stunning too, if you are there in good weather. The link has a great slide show.
DJ chose a visit to Seaton Carew. The day was windy but the skies were blue. This is our nearest and favourite seaside, just to the south of Hartlepool and to the north of Teesside.
The tide was on its way out and we faced the wind to walk south towards the dunes. We followed the high tide line because I love to search for treasures. Coloured or shiny bits glinting in their recent wetness. A woman in front had a dog and a bag of stuff she kept gleaning from the berm ahead of us. I asked her what she was scavenging. "Sea coal" she said, and showed us how to identify the lumps and distinguish them from the black pebbles by their lighter weight and glimmer even when dry. She said she might as well gather a bagful while she walked her Scottie.

So guess what we did. It wasn't a great harvest because we only had DJ's hat to carry it in. But we shall return. We have seven fire-places and chimneys. We only use two and one has a wood/multifuel burner and the other is part of the kitchen range.
This shovelful is it! "Oh Yeah", you might say. "So what!"
Four miles and an hour and a half of walking! But it was such fun and the fruits of the footpaths.
Seaton Carew has a grand sea-front and a lovely stretch of Victorian buildings and hotels shown on this link. Its a grand walk along the front at low tide and then we enjoyed a "Ploughman's Lunch" at the Staincliffe Hotel overlooking the sea and watched an ocean-going tug bringing in an oil-drilling rig.
These are the treasures I garnered today. Blue was the dominant colour, but the green stone at the bottom right stood out too.
Tesco's and Sainsbury's have both opened around the corner. The Tesco is a regular big one and the Sainsbury is the largest I have seen, although a friend says she has seen a bigger one at Fosse Park near Leicester.
We went with same friends to a "Mamma Mia Mystery Night" at the Ramside Hall in Durham and I was going to blog about it. But I won't. Next time they visit we shall make our own costumes out of old curtains, paint on make-up and put wigs on our heads. We shall screech at them all night and make them eat some mediocre food as quickly as they can so that we can all go home to bed early and the disco can play loud music for them on automatic. We might get away with charging £20 too!!!
Cheers Gillian