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Sunday, 30 January 2011


This has been a busy month. New activities have been added to the ongoing pastimes and more work is planned for the house. So we took ourselves off to Whitby and climbed to the top of the hill as many others have done before and let the sea breeze refresh us.There are outbuildings to the side of our house which are going to be refreshed as well. Fortunately the years have been kinder to them than to this old Whitby cottage but it will still be quite major with new roof, floor, walls and door! Then the inside tradesmen will arrive to swap their skills for a large slice of our retirement fund. The finished job will create a warm dry sitting-room to the side with a shower/cloakroom and a new entry with a porch, suitable for taking off muddy boats and hanging wet coats. The washing machine will also be allocated an inside spot and so will no longer freeze solid and be unusable for much of the winter. We washed clothes in the bath for a couple of weeks last month! The brochure for Spring Term courses at Darlington Arts Centre arrived. I have had a go at all the art and painting ones so I thought I'd better try something else. I chose "Art in Photography". It became clear at the first lesson that we were not going to be taught HOW to use a camera but WHAT to point it at. This in itself is OK with me but it does mean that I take a good picture only when my guardian angel is smiling, because I don't have a clue what I'm doing.

We were assigned homework. We had to produce a selection of urban close-ups for a group critique session next lesson. I don't really know how to take close-ups. There is a "macro" button that I employ but it doesn't get as close as I would like and I can depress the flash and keep the colour real BUT although I think I understand the term "depth of field" I've no idea how my camera copes with it.

This purely accidental shot of some wrought iron railings at the new free toilets in the carpark at Whitby was well praised for its composition. I'm still not sure why. I liked the rusty lamppost so much more. Anyway I have been sent back out to explore the chains further and add more fetters and vinculi to vary the presentation. I shall try to read the manual for my camera and learn how to get the blurry bits where I want them.
Apart from that we decided that long walks were not providing us with enough aerobic exercise. Well it was either that or gluttony which was causing our waistlines to expand. So we joined the local gym!!!
Now that I have been four times I can announce this publicly as being more than a nine day wonder. It is an hour a session and involves miles of cycling, rowing, treadmilling etc and you end up still at the gym! I'm trying to go twice a week. I hate swimming so I don't do that bit. People say that I'll be really pleased in a few months time.
Cheers for now, Gillian

Sunday, 23 January 2011


Hazel catkins grow along Burnshouse Lane at the bottom of Brusselton Hill, nearby. We walk the lane for a mile or so and then return along the ring-road footpath. We watch the seasons change, worry about the gypsy horses, wait for the first lambs, harvest the wild fruit and try to keep fit. Today it was very mild with no wind and slashes of blue sky in the light grey broken low cloud. These hazels have been coppiced in the past to provide new growth for interwoven fencing which is what they used before wire came along. There is also quite a lot of evidence of old hedge-laying along the lane. Hedge-laying is one of the traditional crafts that is being revived like dry-stone-walling. It is time consuming and slow to produce a hedge, but when it is done it provides hedging, homes for wild life and a softness to the agricultural landscape which lasts for centuries. The multiple thin stalks of the coppiced hazel can be seen here. They are regrowth from the base where a single trunk was cut. They were harvested when large enough and more would grow.Some colour is provided by xanthoria parietina, or golden lichen. It gets its name from the ancient greek for golden , so does crys(x)anthemum...its the "xanthe" bit which means golden and once upon a time all chrysanthemums were yellow.
Sadly a bit further on amongst the hedgerows we found a dead owl. Recently it seemed to have flown into a hawthorn and become stuck in the thorns and branches. It was impaled and the tree was strewn with feathers. It was too sad a sight to record on camera. The feathers were beautiful but I could not "trophy" them.
The little black cones belong to the Alder. An untidy tree which grows well in wet areas. Yes! Dear Reader, this is a wet area. I usually walk in gumboots.

As we returned along the ringroad path a large heron flew over towards the wetlands and reminded us of the wealth of wildlife near us. Even one heron means there must be some fish in the Gaunless River.
There is such a black, industrial history here that the river is still recovering and the litter and other debris can be depressing but a heron lifts the spirits because it indicates that the food chain is recovering.
And last but not least....the teasel. The forerunner of the hand carder, well known to spinners as a fleece loosener. These teasels were used to raise the nap on woollen fabrics and they exist in museums, mounted in rows onto wooden boards which were used for teasing out the wool before spinning it.
My sister is visiting and drawing up plans for re-jigging the outhouses. Last night she was on her way back from seeing a friend and encountered a large dog fox not far from our house. We have not seen one near here before but Tigger was behaving in a most erratic way last night and went off today with her bloodhound nose on, to follow the trail. She is back. Fortunately no fox with her.
We all went out for a Burns Night Dinner last night. We went to the Staincliffe Hotel at Seaton Carew.
There was no Burns Night!!! They said they were sorry but obviously no-one had informed us that it had been moved to next weekend. We had a wonderful time anyway. We didn't have to eat any haggis, the blokes were glad they hadn't sported their kilts and the pianist was really lovely and probably better than a piper. They gave us a free drink and we had a window table looking out over the North Sea with the lights of the shipping going past.
I can't wait to go again.
Happy New Year to you all.
Cheers Gillian