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Thursday, 24 May 2012


We have had the campervan for just over a year. We use it mainly as a mobile conservatory for days out. Lovely countryside or seaside and a picnic makes the day.
We have also stayed away in it and been to France, which we intend to do again this year. So....
I decided an awning would help to make it a better habitable space for a few days in the sun.We bought a large outdoor ground sheet, called optimistically in french "un tapis du soleil" which extends the territory and stops the sand getting trampled into the van all the time.
So the next stage was to have a simple awning fitted.
Over the A66 to the Lake District on Tuesday, and set up the mobile conservatory in a field for the day in the village of Pooley Bridge.
A coffee and toasted teacake at the bridge cafe overlooking the same.
A picnic under the awning and a ride on the Ullswater steamer down the lake and back admiring the wildlife and scenery.
Followed by a lovely meal at the Pooley Bridge Hotel.
Then home.
This seems to be a grand way to spend sunny days and the fuel prices have gone down a bit and petrol is now less than £1.30 a litre. Who'd have thought that would be a cheery thought!
Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

North of the Tyne

The area north of the Tyne has some lovely beaches and pretty towns. We parked in North Shields, near the Metro station so that we could catch the Metro into Tynemouth and go to the Flea market on the station platforms. The old Victorian station now has both platforms re-roofed with enormous spans of glazing and fancy ironwork. A fairly good variety of stalls but less than I remember from a few years ago. Still a grand place to visit at weekends. We then returned to the car and drove around North Shields and the Fish Quay and then up the coast via Tynemouth, Cullercoats and Whitley Bay.

Back to North Shields and a saunter around the Quay. The fish market was closed because of it being a Sunday but it looks interesting enough to return to. This old shop caught my attention.
Fish and chip restaurants were doing a roaring trade and from noon onwards it was very difficult to park. Nevertheless, we joined in and treated ourselves to lunch at Oceans. The fish was large and fresh with light, crisp batter. The chips could have done with a couple more minutes and the meal came with bread and butter and a cuppa as it always does up north. Mushy peas were extra.
My diet starts tomorrow.
We plan to take advantage of this fine spell and take "Van Persie" out touring. More news soon
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 18 May 2012

ALSTON STEAM GALA and other days out

 We seem to spend quite some time around old trains. The northeast of England is well supplied with "heritage" railway lines run by energetic volunteers in railway uniforms and wearing appropriate badges.
We drove the camper up and over the Pennines to Alston in Cumbria, again, and took a ride on the train to Lintley Halt and back. There was a lot of steam and smoke and shunting of engines and carriages backwards and forwards and the ride was lovely. The old line goes through countryside that would only otherwise be accessible on foot.
There was a steam day at Shildon a week before and we wandered around the bookstalls and bought a facsimile of Bradshaw's Guide, made famous and priceless in its original form, by Michael Portillo. And again watched retired men dress up and play trains with the real thing.
We keep trying to pretend that summer is on its way and at the slightest show of sunshine in the morning, the camper heads towards the seaside. We made it to Whitby a week or so ago and it was sunny for most of the day. These hardy children were happily running in and out of the waves. Do we get more sensitive to cold as we get older. I'd scream if I had to put a toe in that sea. I took this pic from the pier, looking north to Sandsend.
We had parked at Sandsend so that we could boil the "eggs from free roaming chickens" that we had bought on the way over the North York Moors. £4 for a tray of 30. Well 26 after brunch.
And lovely fresh bread from Lidl. We have a branch just round the corner and they pop loaves in the oven all day long and sell them most reasonably priced.
We await more sunshine and hope to get to Scarborough for fish and Hemswell for antiques and then to East Kirkby to see Lancaster Bombers from WWII.
Maybe next week summer will come.
Cheers Gillian

Sunday, 6 May 2012


It was a lovely mild and sunny day so we walked round the ring road, past Brusselton Hill on the left and along the old railway line path because I had seen a foal in the paddock as we returned from our day out yesterday.
I took this with the telephoto and then we walked round and over the stile and through the paddock. I was worried we would frighten the horses and they would move to the far end but they were not at all bothered. They had a good roll around...
...and then came over to see if we had anything to eat. The foal is only about three days old and still a bit wobbly on its long skinny legs.
The little one was quite happy to sniff a finger and let me stroke her nose.
Then we walked back past the wetlands to check out the duck family. Can you see them in this pic? Too far away to count the ducklings though.
Cheers Gillian

Saturday, 5 May 2012


We went over to Cheshire to view the kittens, now they are at the stage where they can be picked up. There are five. One male and four females. One of the females has been selected already (first deposit paid). We were second to select. Harder than it sounds when the other four gorgeous kittens are showing off in front of you.
I had secretly thought to myself that I would have the first one that approached me. This little one was it. She leapt up the barrier and clung on looking at me. I picked her up and cuddled her a bit but all she wanted was a look and she was soon off chasing tails again.
The next time she jumped up I gave her to DJ to hold. They got on well. She will be ours and we will pick her up after our holidays. She would be ready sooner but we can't take her and then put her in a cattery for a couple of weeks. She will stay at their home till we are all ready.
She ended up back in bed with her siblings and here she is biting her brother's tail and then within a few minutes they were all asleep.
Cheers Gillian

Friday, 4 May 2012


Mother duck heard us coming as we trekked across the wetlands today, and sped off leading her eight ducklings to safety. I hope that we see them again soon and that there are still eight. Another foal was spotted on the way home from the farm shop, lying down napping beside Mum. A walk along the old railway-line path will bring  us closer to them for a photo soon.
Cheers Gillian

Thursday, 3 May 2012


I want to be a real artist even though I'm not sure what that means. I'm retired now so it can't be defined by earning a living, although selling something would be esteem building, wallet fattening and would help to empty the now cluttered painting space upstairs.
I've tried everything. I've done drawing classes, pen and ink, watercolour, further watercolour, mixed media and art photography. All these classes were great fun and very rewarding and I was usually pleased with the output. But none of them became my "must-do" everyday and I flitted on as I am wont to do with all hobbies and pastimes. DJ calls me a butterfly. I must admit I like things to happen quickly and don't do "slow".

The christmas before last I got a set of water-soluble oil paints so that I could add another butterfly flitter to my week.
Then lots of things happened so I put them away.This year I got them out to try them and loved them.
The first one I did was Cockfield Fell Chickens, which as you can see was a straight copy of a photo I had taken. It was a bit like painting by numbers as I copied the shapes and colours as accurately as I could. It looks fine from a few feet away.

Then I did something similar with Waves At Staithes although I had more fun with the colours. My palette is strongly blue, purple and sienna.
 At that stage I relied on artist's magazines for advice and step by step guides and some worked quite well ( I think) like this sheep one on the right and others looked badly copied like the scenes above and the terrible tourist style Ozzie landscape on the left. Tigger will get finished soon.

So I decided it was time for more lessons. I signed up at the Darlington Arts Centre for an eight week Further Acrylic and Oil course. The tutor knows me well and added me to the daytime group. I'm the only one with oils because it is quite difficult to move the canvases around. Acrylics dry so much faster and can be worked on quite well in a two hour session. Oils take about two weeks!
He gave us all a small picture to inspire us and started on his own canvas showing ways of doing sky and mixing colours to get the effects. I used a small canvas that would lie at the bottom of a basket to get carried safely home. Others were working on giant canvases with painting knives and I was immediately envious of the size and scope and have vowed to do bigger stuff at home. 
The lesson was great, the tutor is very encouraging and helpful, the company was great and I loved seeing how varied the interpretations were. Looking forward to much more. I feel that this last picture is getting away from "copying" and more like my own work.

Cheers Gillian

Wednesday, 2 May 2012


 After the recent heavy rains we headed up the dales to see how the river was. Whilst still in the Gaunless valley, we spotted the first foals of the season. Each one matched its dam. As we approached they rapidly moved away and herded the babies in amongst themselves for safety.
 The River Wear was in full flood, moving quite large tree trunks as it went. A tragic accident happened a couple of days later and a young lad fell in to the river and was swept away.He is still lost.

The waterfall at High Force lived up to its name. We continued up Teesdale and over the top of the Penines to Alston for a "Full English" breakfast and then onto the railway station.

The station is home to the South Tynedale Railway. There are quite a few of these old railways in the north. They seem to be run by retired men who enjoy playing with real trains. We have happily caught their enthusiasm and shall return in a couple of weeks to ride the trains up and down the valley and join in the festivities of a Hog Roast and a Real Ale tasting. 
Cheers Gillian