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Monday, 26 December 2011

Lumix Me Up

We went down onto the beach to join the crowds. It was quite windy up on the esplanade and not much better below. This year the brave and foolish started from the Staincliffe Hotel so they had quite a jog along the top and then even further down the beach because it was low tide. Some started on the beach!

Getting up and down to the beach is still tricky cos there are limited stairs available and the longer they leave it the less there are! These new ones are half under sand and disappearing fast.

Well, I'm very pleased with the new camera. It takes pics quickly and in focus. These were all done on "intelligent automatic" and needed no tweaking. The ones from the fuji were getting dingier and gloomier and I was having to do quite a bit of restoration using the windows photo package to liven these up. I can now go back to honest shots. At least until I've worked out all the wonders the software can perform!

Cheers again



Kelly isn't the only person at our xmas eve party. Some have been and gone on to a club, some have gone home to babysit grandchildren and some are in the snug having a go at the target shooting game. But it was grand and we got to bed later than usual and so rose late on xmas day...very slowly and carefully. The pressies were duly unwrapped and the garments put on. I think the hat has a moose on it and of course the apron has a grand Santa. Tigger didn't get any gifts so I shared my "angry bird" with her. If you squeeze it, it makes the sort of noises that fascinate cats.

I stand here, blocking the view of the xmas tree and ready to have a go in the kitchen. A turkey is over the top for a dinner for two so we roasted a lovely bit of sirloin and all that goes with it.

It is now Boxing day and after watching a couple of hundred fancy-dressed people plunge into the sea at Seaton Carew we have returned to have tea and xmas cake and complete the procedure for putting the old Fuji camera away in a drawer and installing the new Lumix.

These are the last of the fujipics on this blog. I hope that the new one will produce better close-ups and clearer images generally. The human factor will still be important, but the new camera does seem to have "greater intelligence". The big question is "Can I match it?"

Hope you all had a great xmas day.

Cheers for now Gillian

Saturday, 10 December 2011


DJ has been training Tigger to climb the loft ladder and do sentry duty at the small hole which is attracting the Jackdaws to enter the roof space. She is being praised and rewarded with Kittie Treats. In the mean time she is also demonstrating a willingness to have a go at rounding up sheep. I think the black and white dogs attracted her.

For those of you unfamiliar with this TV show....It is called One Man and his Dog. It shows off the best skills of the shepherd and sheepdogs. "One Man" will have to be changed soon because more and more of the younger competitors are girls.
Tigger loved it when the rounding up and driving of sheep into pens, took place.

And she couldn't resist giving the dog a helping hand.

Cheers Gillian and Tigger

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Yesterday was Addison's Winter Auction and so we braved the weather and went and watched the bidding. We had pre-viewed and selected interesting lots and done some research into probable artists, fakes and values so we were ready to wave our bidders number.
I lusted after this terracotta reproduction of Madame Recamier, made to look like the original bronze by Chinard but worth far less than $500,000. Madame now adorns the sideboard in the sitting room and it made me clear away all the things that end up on sideboards when they haven't got a bust to display.

DJ fancied Frieda. Well that's what she has been named because she was painted by Pal Fried, who signs all his paintings as Fried Pal so that he makes people think of cooked dogfood. This lady is wearing clothes. Many of his don't. And she has a nice bit of Paris in the background like they tend to. There's some space on the wall beside her so she might get a friend at the Spring Auction.

There were some very interesting paintings "in the manner of" various artists that I liked. They look pleasing on the wall, are real paintings and don't need six figures to buy. A dealer was snapping them up and I missed out on a painting "after Boudin" which had a lovely seaside scene. But you never know how far other people are willing to bid so he got it for the next bid after I stopped bidding!

It snowed this morning so we got the xmas tree out. Well we were going to anyway, but it made it feel like winter is really on the way.

The lights still work, the baubles all hang well and the corner will glow for a few weeks.

Xmas approaches.

Cheers Gillian

Friday, 2 December 2011


It was a sunny day so Seaton Carew was on the agenda. The local council have nearly finished the seawall and esplanade renovations, or would have, if the stormy tides hadn't brought all the sand back up the beach that the summer tides took away.The hand rail at the bottom of the steps is not of much use right now! At the next flight, along the prom, they had a digger moving sand by the giant shovel load and scattering it down by the retreating waves, so that the new steps could be accessed. And at the carpark steps a large lagoon welcomed people to what was a vast sandy beach just last month. Trying to stop the sea having its way is futile, but local councils still waste money trying to stop the action of the waves rather than changing their rigid coastal paths.

This afternoon was spent warming up at home.
At the top of our stairs is the den, and I suppose it is like having a shed/studio/office. There has been much in the news lately of the benefits to men of having a shed. I think this is what this area is to DJ cos his shed is only big enough for some tools, a couple of bikes and the empty paint tins. I'm having a go at oil painting at the moment. That means taking one of my photos and copying it. I read some how-to-do-it books and have a couple of good ones which show how to get from blank canvas to finished picture in step-by-step pics and I'm following the method, sort of.

I was doing mixed media last month and watercolour the month before. I'm too much of a butterfly to get into anything in a serious way but I'm enjoying it.

I like the way you can tweak oils. I have scraped off the chicken's face, cos it looked gormless and shall have another go tomorrow at making it look more like it has a personality. Also its tail needs more tarting up .
DJ's desktop and printer are up here, and so are lots of books, comfy chairs, lots for Tigger to play with and the only window that gives a view of farm animals on a good day.
Apparently cats and dogs can see digital TV much more clearly than the old sort. Tigger is certainly an avid TV watcher and is engrossed in it as I write this blog. At least it stops her from trying to share the keyboard with me and keeps her off the desk and away from the pens. She is especially fond of soccer and loves Sky news and seems to read the "breaking news" strip as she follows it across the bottom of the screen.

Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Lights Lots and Mid-Week breaks

A couple of weeks ago, Durham had its Lumiere Festival. We drove to the park-and-ride and found that hundreds of others had too. The queue for the bus was long enough to fill three buses so we walked into town and struggled up the hill and onto the Palace Green outside the Cathedral. Thousands of others had done the same and it was pitch dark so that the lights would show up better.
They did. The cathedral was bathed in glorious scenes from the Lindisfarne Gospels. We watched awestruck before flitting off down a side alley and skirting the thousands more still climbing the hill to see the next show.The Market Place was decorated with a giant snow dome and there were other installations all over the city. We didn't stay for much that evening because the crowds were overwhelming but we came in on the Sunday for Comedy Store at the Gala Theatre and battled the numbers again, but saw some more displays on the way.There was criticism of the crowd management and it was so poor that it can only be improved but Durham is a city with narrow, winding, steep city streets and not much can be done about that.
The village of Blanchland in Northumberland also gets crowded on fine summer days but last week it was almost empty. It has parts as old as Durham. All its front doors are painted red because the whole village is owned by Lord Crewe, just as the Lord Barnard (Raby) properties up and down Teesdale which have dark blue front doors.Much of the original mediaeval layout remains. The post office is housed in the castellated gateway and the pub has a fine reputation for its food. We were staying nearby at Derwewnt Manor Hotel on a bargain midweek break.

We were upgraded to a suite with the largest bed I've ever seen and a balcony with a view and a sitting room etc. The food was good, sometimes "very" and sometimes "quite". We enjoy cooking and it made us glad to get home and get on with some of our own.

Talking about bargains before I get on with the food... I bought a job lot of boxes at auction which had lots of railway memorabilia...old pics, pamphlets, way-bills etc. most of which I have since re-listed on ebay but the pics are not very interesting so on with the food.

When I first moved in here there were some good supermarkets handy. Lidl and Aldi were both within walking distance. But there was nowhere which sold good fresh bread. But now Sainsbury's and Lidl have in-house bakeries for par-cooking fresh bread and the local farm shop has started to produce really great loaves. Left over bread can now be a problem. Fresh bread odours waft around all our favourite shops. So it was time to make some bread pudding.

Lovely stuff.
And DJ caught a snippet of arvo TV which showed the Hairy Bikers de-boning a chicken and stuffing and roasting it so....

Off to the farm shop for a chicken. The farmer and his son were both grinning broadly as we left at the thought of the mayem about to occur in our kitchen. Both had expressed extreme reluctance to do it for us and were really glad we didn't want them to.

DJ sharpened up the knives and set to following the guidelines he had found on the internet. Getting the leg and wing bones out was the worst bit but the final effort was one piece of skin and meat, a pan of meaty bones for soup and a very happy cat. It was covered with a layer of stuffing made from pork mince and a gourmet packet mix and then sewn up with a bodkin to resemble a chicken shape. Roasted for an hour, it came out looking like this and beat the restaurant food at Derwent Manor, hands down and thumbs up.

Cheers Gillian

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


I went to Watson's Auctions this morning to buy a large brass Asian statue which I was going to use for hanging my jewellery on. It lives in a tangled mess in a basket on the chest of drawers at the moment. Buddhas and similar statues were fetching quite a high price so I bought a job lot of railway memorabilia instead. It was much more fun and sorting through all the boxes on return was like christmas in the old days.
One of the old books is shown below. I shall tell you more about the railway stuff in another blog because this book has enthralled me.

It was published in 1927 and tells the story of two children going for their first ride in the car that Daddy has bought. Gender roles are clearly stated! Men were easily flattered at an early age. And quite good at pretending they knew what was going on by mentioning magnetos whilst looking under the bonnet of a car.

I suppose Dolly got quite good at making sandwiches and setting out a picnic in much the same way.

The earlest campervans are also demonstrated as are many "other" sorts of vehicles.

Even way back then, Ozzies were visiting "the old Dart" and travelling around in jolly charabanc loads, landing on distant rels for a feed and stop-over for a month or two, visiting old buildings and pulling beers in the local for a job. Americans wisely stayed home. Luckily they ALL enjoyed camping out in the woods, regardless of the grizzlies.

And as for those Africans. They were always smiling even when they were the butt of a bad pun and the whole village was loaded onto a mere two wheeler.

Cheers for now Gillian

Sunday, 6 November 2011


"Limestone Landscapes" is a project, currently being run by Durham County Council and they put on an education day. The morning was spent in the classroom being taught all about the Magnesian Limestone unique to Durham and its place in the geological history of the world. There was a lovely power-point display, free map posters and lots of rock samples to covet.
Then we all trooped off to Coldknuckles Quarry for some fieldwork.
At the bottom of this quarry is a deep layer of sand known as The Yellow Sand. It is the remains of Permian sand dunes formed about 250 million years ago when England's climate was dry and tropical. It is mined and used as building sand. It can be seen in its dune layers, cross-bedded from the changing winds of the desert. At the top of the sand is a thin grey line of Marl Slate which forms the boundary between the sand and the Magnesian limestones. It is about halfway up the picture and above it are the layers of limestone.
It's the Marl Slate that has the fossils in it and the quarrymen dig it up and pile it out of the way as they go down for the sand. Lots of folks come round and fossick in the dumped slate, including me.

The aim is to find a fossil fish. People do, and so did I. Well a good bit of one. I'm not sure if it's the tail or some fins. I shall have to do more research.

At the top right is a piece of plant, then something unidentified, then some sand balls and then some calcite but on the left is the big trophy. I knocked the edge of the block of slate with the hammer and it split open to show the fishy tail.
We then went down to Blackhall Rocks to study more of the limestone in the cliffs, but the tide hadn't gone out far enough to see the best bits.

A bloke in the carpark was exercising his Harris Hawks and held them for me to photograph. He has a couple and takes them along the cliff top each day training them to return for their food. He said it is all done by making sure that the bird is hungry enough to return and he ensures that by weighing them between flights and feeds. Then we decided to drive down the coast a short distance to Seaton Carew to catch the fireworks display. We arrived in time to get a seat at "The Almighty Cod" for a fish and chip supper. When we went in there was a queue outside the take-away section, about twenty people long and when we came out it was well over twenty yards long and more. All three fish and chip shops had enormous queues and there were thousands of people milling around waiting for it to start.

It was short but grand.

Today is a well earned rest and newspaper day before we head off to the Comedy club at the Gala Theatre in Durham.

Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 30 October 2011


There was nothing on the calendar this week so we were able to do what we wanted every day. The fire in the snug got lit to make sure it still worked after being taken out and put back in during the renovations. It was so lovely we lit it again last night just to make sure. It shows off the picture so well

On Friday night we went on a "Ghost Walk" set up by Hartlepool Council. It was around the old Headland area. We heard all about the history and ghosts of the past inhabitants and other members of the group were encouraged to share their stories of poltergeists and ghosts of their own. One woman had lived in the area as a child and had some hair raising stories from her childhood. In one street we were warned that the ghosts of mischievous lads might undo our shoelaces as we walked. I looked down and one of mine was already undone!!! They have never come undone before but blaming them on a ghostly prank is not my style.
The Headland is the home of the old HEUGH BATTERY which defended the port and shipbuilding areas in wars. In the WW1, German ships fired shells onto the area and the first British Military death on British soil happened just outside the gates. Many civilians and soldiers were killed during the shelling. During the Napoleonic wars a French ship was wrecked just off the coast and a monkey in a French uniform jacket was the only survivor. The locals, supposedly, tried and hung the monkey as a French spy. Therefore Hartlepudlians and their football team are referred to as monkeyhangers.

The buildings exposed to the sea are painted with black, salt resistant paint and in the evening this makes the area quite dark and spooky. When I was a child there was a West Hartlepool and a Hartlepool next to it. Hartlepool is now called The Headland and the old West has been dropped and the larger main town is now, just Hartlepool. I must admit, when I came back from Oz, I wondered what had happened to West Hartlepool.

Yesterday was a fine morning so we took the camper up to the top of the Pennines at Westgate in Weardale. Nothing but sheep about.

And some of them quite orange. There has been so much sheep rustling up on the moors and in the isolated villages (because of the rising cost of lamb) that some farmers are dipping their sheep in a dye to deter theft. At least they can be easily spotted. Large texels like these are very valuable. They seemed to be a bit self conscious, but at least they were at home.

Today's extra hour has already been wasted lying abed with tea, coffee and now juice. I might as well give up and get up.

Cheers Gillian

Monday, 24 October 2011

A Knitting Success

I haven't knitted a successful garment for a long time. I took some sock knitting to France in the camper this summer but I had to give up because it was bamboo. It was so slippery. All went well till I made a mistake and correcting made all the stitches ladder.
The fabric below is a combo of Wensleydale Longwool and Lion Homespun.It is my new winter cardigan. I got some lovely vintage brass buttons on ebay and the heavy knitting has good drape and so the collar fell into place well.

Then... I put it on. It's so very big but warm and comfy. I could pretend to be a sylph like figure below all the miles of knitted yarn but I'm not. It is soft and snuggly and will be well used if the weather turns into the winter they have forecast.

It is mild today and I have trouble believing that it will soon be cold enough to need it. We walked to the farm shop and it felt like early summer instead of early winter.

Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 15 October 2011

The Circus Came To Town

It was a gorgeous day today so we did the usual and headed off to Seaton Carew. The tide was on its way out and had left great swathes of seacoal on the sands. Much of this is just gravel size.

But some pieces are worth stopping to pick up, specially if you have a coal fire or two. This is the size of piece that we gather. I have left my foot in the pic to give some scale. Today we found the largest piece we have ever come across. It was the size of a brick.

It is on the right of the collection which we brought home today. It won't see us through the winter but it will add to our pleasure when we light a fire, to know that it was "hunter-gatherer" gained. We will save the large piece for the New Year fire. I never finished the Geological Map of England jigsaw which is why you never saw it finished on my blog. I couldn't cope with all the unmarked white pieces and put it away. But this one I'm proud to say...I finished. It was a special one with a fancy edge. It was advised by the instructions (Yes Dear Reader! A jigsaw with instructions) that you start from the large centre piece and work outwards. So I did. It took three days. This pic below shows how to remove the edges when you have finished so that it is ornately self-framed.

This is the whole, finished, done thing. It comes with varnish so that you can adhere the pieces and arrange for framing. No thankyou. It is now back in its box, ready to be returned or forwarded to another afficionado.This is the first time I've loaded a you-tube clip so I hope it works and thankyou to all appropriate people. I had trouble placing it so you might like to read the rest first...or not.

The circus came to town at the start of the week. It set up camp in a field at the bottom of Brusselton Hill, just over a mile away. So we went! It was called Circus Vegas but didn't seem to have anything to do with Las Vegas except for some amazing American style trucks. When we were in France we saw a circus moving along the autoroute in the opposite direction. It seemed to go on for ever; truck after truck towing trailers and caravans all highly decorated and very garish. This was much the same but I have no pics because I forgot to take my camera.

The acts were great and in the second half "Captain Munoz" was shot from a cannon just a few feet from us, right up to the apex of the Bigtop and then landed in a safety net on the other side of the Ring. Captain Munoz was shaped very much like a cannon ball with limbs and a head, so I suppose he wasn't destined to go very much further. The finale was the you-tube clip you see above (I borrowed it from GRMAINS, who filmed it the month before in Middlesbrough) and on the night we were there THREE riders rode around inside at the same time. Two lads and a lass. WOW!!!

The only animal in the circus was the dear little spotted pony who gave rides to toddlers around the Ring in the interval. All the risks were taken by the clowns, the strongest man in the world, the girl who put herself into a fourteen inch perspex cube and the man who balanced atop a whole dining-room full of chairs without falling off. I fall off even when I climb on one chair to fix a light bulb.

We walked there and back because parking was a risky option on the ring road. Fine going there; forgot the torch for coming home, but we scuttled along briskly behind the couple in front following their chattering sounds and the faint glimmer of his pale slacks in the total darkness. Gosh! we are such urban folk, expecting street lighting everywhere.

Cheers Gillian