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Thursday, 29 March 2012


The glorious weather has had us out and about in the camper. Last weekend it was sunnier on the western side of the Pennines so we tootled over the A66 to Ullswater in the Lake District and had a picnic on the grass near the steamer pier...

We also visited Aira Falls on the way down the lakeside...

And took the Saturday papers with us for a good read and some crossword puzzling.

We have also spent days at Whitby and had picnics at Seaton Carew and Hardwick park near Sedgefield.

While at Hardwick Park we had a walk around the lake and spotted this enormous nest in the top of the trees which is actually a squirrel nest or drey.

The weather has been warm enough to bring out the good folk of Bishop Auckland, dressed in their "Resort Wear" and fake tans. The shortest shorts, the briefest tops and for the blokes no top at all.
Jackie, our neighbour walks her little dog a few times a day and at quiet times she has seen foxes, rabbits and even chickens around the shrubbery nearby....but coming home late last week she spotted an owl for the first time. She was so excited and went home to tell everyone. Then the next day when she was out for her early morning walk and came round the corner to go past our house she saw it again. Still in the same place! And it still is!
I bought it at a bric-a-brac shop and decided that it might frighten away the Jackdaws which are trying to nest in the loft. They get in under the gable of the top window and dig at a small gap between the roof and the flashing. We have tried many materials to fill the gap and deter them....expanding foam, lumps of timber, rolls of insulation etc, but the gap is impossible to reach from the inside. We use the loft for storage and are not keen to share it with half a dozen jackdaws.
So far nothing has worked. They arrive early in the morning and mine away at the stuff. By the time we get up the yard is strewn with specks of green expanding foam and wisps of insulation not to mention nest-building twigs and splats of bird droppings.
So...bring in the big guns. This is Nev in his cherry picker.

He lined the underneath of the overhang with chicken wire and jammed a ball of it up the inside where they had made most effort to get in.

Since then they have had a go at getting in each morning, pecking away at the wood and hanging on the chicken wire but it seems to be a success.
They will have to go elsewhere. The owl was no good for frightening off jackdaws but he can stay because the neighbours like him. Another neighbour mentioned him today while she was complaining about the damage the jackdaws have done to her roof. Like with ours they have had a go at lifting the flashing to get in so they must have considerable strength.

They will now have to nest elsewhere.

Hope you all had a good time during the lovely weather. It may have been the summer we wont get later.

Cheers Gillian

Friday, 23 March 2012

North Yorkshire Coast Is the Best!

The weather has been wonderful and so we have been taking our "transportable conservatory" away to the seaside. We have chosen to approach Whitby via the coast road through Sandsend. This allows us to check out how the parking-cliffside is going at Sandsend before heading off to West Cliff at Whitby to find a spot near the lift, toilet block and the benches. These are all desirable amenities. It's possible to walk down, through the town to the Eateries. We were disappointed , though, with Hadleys, across the Bridge.

I ordered the blackboard special of "our homemade fabulous fish pie".

It was £8.25 so I thought it would be a delicious combination of seafood and fish in a creamy white sauce topped with mashed potato. It didn't say it was going to be that. I just assumed it was by the blackboard description and previous deliveries in previous restaurants.

It was quite dreadful. I dug down into the brown pottery dish (best part) and un-rolled the bottom of a burnt fish. It continued, rather like unrollimg an old piece of carpet. There was no sauce, there were some green strands and some brown bits of fish fossil.

I went to the counter where things happen and told them that I was surprised by the state of the fish pie. They offered no explanation or apology but gave me the menu to choose again!!!

I ended up with some scampi. DJ had haddock as usual and declared it just fine.

The sea made wonderful patterns on the beach and I found some great pebbles, one of which is a beautiful ammonite...or will be if I can open it.

I shall have a go at paintimg all this seascape stuff.

Paul Dillon has said he will take me into his oil painting class next term so that I can learn some techniques and improve my practices.

This enormous piece of green rock is not native to these parts. I think it has probably broken away from the great dumps of rock from Scotland that are used along these soft cliffs as protection from the waves. It has touches of schist and gneiss about it indicating metamorphic influences. Must come from the north or west.

The weather has been great. Tomorrow promises to be better on the western side of the Pennines so it may be worth a trip over to the Lakes.

Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 18 March 2012

All Is Not Lost...There Is Amazing Aldeburgh!!!

Yes Thankyou!!!
I had a lovely holiday this time.
As a Geography teacher, I have spent a lot of time teaching physical, coastal geography. The chapter in which-ever text book I chose to use, has had the same famous examples. I taught them to Australians even though I had never been to some of the places in the books.
I have now.

The scallop shell is on Aldeborough shingle beach. The house is "The House in the Clouds" at Thorpeness a couple of miles north of Aldeburgh.
Thorpeness is really lovely and the Emporium is well worth a browse.
Snape Maltings are also worth a visit but take your purse because the major entertainment is buying stuff.

The lighthouse is at Southwold. It was really cold when we got there. But it would be a grand resort if the sun shone and no-one else knew it was there.

And this lovely lady is driving around on a Sakura moped. It needs no license, insurance, crash helmet!!! (we passed her while she was wearing a headscarf...QE2 style), or road tax. It costs £650 on road and goes 15mph max and carries 16stone max. I shall have to lose some weight so that I can get the shopping on as well. You can plug it in at home to charge it up for what seems to be very little money.

Aldeborough is famous for the fishing vessels that pull up on the beach and sell fish from the shed next door. We bought £8.50 worth of cod fillet and have had...pan-fried cod last night, fish cakes (cod, salmon, leek & potato) tonight, and probably Cataplana (fish, tomato, potato, spices) tomorrow.
We are so glad to be back,though, and basking in the comfort we have created here.

Cheers Gillian

ps... the wonderful hotel where we stayed was The White Lion.

Monday, 12 March 2012


Well it started off quite warm and sunny and we walked for miles along the promenade from Sliema to St Julian's Bay. We had expected Malta to offer us a warm and sunny break at this time of year.

We caught the bus (with everyone else) to Valletta and walked up and down the streets and visited the War Museum.

We looked at and into some Churches.

And sat in the sun outside the Caffe Cordina.

I had the best Insalata Caprese I've ever had. Freshly made, buffalo milk mozzarella, thinly sliced local tomato and rocket, beautifully dressed with olive oil and all mopped up with tasty bread.

We wandered the streets, cruised the bays and even took the sight-seeing bus round the island in the pouring rain. It was a tour that you could leave and then rejoin. At the start the weather was fine and we tolerated the sharp wind on the topless upstairs. At Mdina it started to rain so we sat downstairs until we got to the craft village. At that stage the next bus to come along was a topless coach! There was no downstairs and we huddled under a small piece of canopy behind the driver. The only other passenger alighted at Bugibba. We hung on grimly until we got back to the starting point and climbed the hill back to our hotel to nurse ourselves warm again.
The first couple of days were fine in the afternoon, though, and we were optimistic that the weather would improve believing that a night-time thunderstorm would have cleared the air.
We were fascinated by the saints in alcoves on the corners of streets. We assume this is Our Lady of the Wires.

And this must surely be Our Lady of the Convex Mirror.

But understandably, our favourite was St Francis of the Finger, because by the end of the week the weather had become a phenomenon. The view from our balcony changed from this....


All the boats were moved to a safer harbour. A storm was approaching. It was an enormous hot sandy air mass from North Africa meeting the cool wet air of the sea around us. It created a Cyclone.

We were on the eighth floor with the pool deck above us and the sun-loungers were careering around and "things" were crashing and tinkling all over the place.

It went on all night and we woke to drifts of red sand on the balcony and flights being redirected to Sicily. Winds had been recorded at 150kph and someone had been killed by the waves on the promenade. Seaweed was dumped well inland and waves were still breaking over the Marine Drive the next day.

As we waited for our flight the wind picked up again and so we were very relieved to actually get on the flight on time and reach the safety of Newcastle Airport.

Did we have a nice holiday? Not sure yet. The weather was obviously dreadful for more than half the time and one of the reasons for going was to get some good weather. I haven't been to Malta before and I'm glad I have now visited it but I found no wonderful things to remember for ever and spent more than I wanted to on ordinary getting by (wine, coffee trips) and one day sick in bed after something I ate!

OK. I'm sure now. It was probably very close to the bottom of the holiday list.

To add salt to the wound, it's gloriously sunny here and quite warm.

Cheers Gillian