Saturday, 20 December 2008

A Useful Christmas Tip

I have been so lazy about writing this blog recently. Actually I was sick with bronchitis for about 2 weeks! But I'm happy to say I'm better now.

I was moaning to someone about how boring wrapping presents is. If I do the wrapping at the dining table, I'm comfortable, but I get bored.

If I wrap presents in front of the TV, I don't get bored, but I get uncomfortable sitting on the floor, and tend to get into a mess losing stuff etc.

She suggested wrapping presents in front of the TV using the ironing board as a table. I've tried it, and it's a brilliant tip. If I want to stand, I raise the ironing board. If I want to sit down, I lower it to whichever height is most comfortable for me. And the board is long enough that I can keep all the bits and pieces like scissors and tape handy and still have room to cut up paper and wrap.

Now why did I never think of that by myself?

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

La Gomera 2

One day we took a boat trip to watch whales and dolphins, and were surrounded by both most of the time we were out there. After a while the captain turned the boat back towards shore and we made our way to a bay with an abandoned tuna factory. Here we could swim while the crew barbequed fresh tuna steaks for our lunch.

La Gomera

I've been away for a week. I went to La Gomera in the Canary Islands. To reach La Gomera you need to fly to Tenerife, and take a ferry to San Sebastian. From there I went by coach to Playa Santiago, a journey that takes about 45 minutes through some spectacular scenery.

There is a small airport on La Gomera, with a short runway that appears to be balanced on the edge of a cliff. A nearly completed path runs between Playa Santiago and the airport, and I spotted this very delicate looking plant that had been planted in beds alongside the path.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

November musings

The days are decidedly shorter and the nights much much longer. Halloween's been and gone, Guy Fawkes night went up in a sparkle of fireworks last night, and Christmas seems to be just around the corner.

November is the month that I think I should start and finish writing my Christmas cards, although inevitably it comes and goes and the Christmas cards barely get done in time, if at all. I've been known to send them out as New Years' greetings.

We've had some frost, we've had one snowfall, and everywhere is damp and chilly. Some leaves are still clinging to the branches of trees, but they're displaying colours from gold to brown with every shade of red between.

To me, November feels like a lull, before the busy December festivities get going. A time to prepare and gather up energy. A time to take a deep breath and relax a little.

Monday, 3 November 2008

Computer Crash

A friend sent me the following in an e-mail yesterday

I can't respond to any emails today,
something has crashed
on my computer.....

... and the mouse is missing!
Just had to share...

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Hooli the Draught Excluder

My daughter's been visiting this weekend, and Hooli came along too. Last night I found Hooli fast asleep across the front door. How thoughtful of him to act as a draught excluder on such a chilly night.

Thursday, 30 October 2008


I came across this great video called the Eight Principles of Fun. I really enjoyed it, and so thought you all might too.

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

It snowed last night

.... and here's the proof. It isn't very much, but it's definitely snow. As you can see in the background the sun is shining and melting the snow wherever it touches, but my car is still in the shade, for now.

Despite the sunshine, it's still pretty cold outside.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


This morning there was a touch of frost on everything. Not a thick coat, just a frosty sheen like you'd get on a beer glass that's been chilled in the freezer.

The weather forecast is for a very cold week, and today's forecast is for rain .... and possibly snow (!) in some areas including the Chilterns. That's where I am, right on the edge of the Chilterns - well pretty close anyway.

I'm watching the sky: the sun is shining, the birds are singing, and the frost has melted. It looks like it's going to be a lovely day.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

I gained an hour today

I woke up this morning, bright and early at 7.30, and discovered that the clocks had been moved back and it was 6.30. I gained an hour today, hooray!

But that also means it's now officially winter, and the weather has responded by dropping temperatures and grey skies.

It's supposed to get really cold next week. Looking on the bright side, though: If we have a really cold winter maybe it'll snow.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Read the book

Well, I managed to finish reading the book in time for the meeting.
The Book: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon
My Opinion: Tedious
Consensus of Opinion at the meeting: two-thirds liked it, at least two thought it was brilliant.

I spent the whole weekend reading 450 pages of preparation for the last 50 pages of action and revelation, and by the time I'd reached those last 50 pages I'd pretty well guessed what was going to happen. The only character with any flesh on his bones was the really skinny one in the story. His name was Fermin and he had a huge appetite and was responsible for any lighthearted bits in the book. All the rest were like people that you're introduced to but never really get to know.

If you read the blurb on the jacket cover, it sounds so intriguing. For me, reading the book was a big disappointment.

Now I'm going to read something I chose..... until the next book club choice.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Lazy Days

There's a new book club in our village and the first meeting is this Monday. Since I was away for a couple of weeks at the end of last month, I missed out on getting a library copy of the book of the month, so I ordered it online last Friday. I waited all week and it finally arrived yesterday evening, leaving me only two days in which to read it.

So that's my task for today and tomorrow, to read a 500 page book. Can anyone think of a better excuse for a lazy weekend?

Now I'll just go back and get comfortable in my armchair....

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Inchmahome Priory

Inchmahome Priory is on an island in the middle of Lake Menteith. It was founded in 1238 by the then Earl of Menteith, Walter Comyn. I was quite impressed that so much of it was still standing.

The Chapter House, which actually had a roof, contained some interesting features, as well as an impressive ceiling and windows.
The couple featured in the notice are shown at the bottom of the picture, and you can see that the curved ceiling is being held up by the shape of the stones within it.
Items 4 and 5 on the notice. I found these quite fascinating.
The island wasn't very big, you could walk the perimeter in under half an hour even with stops and starts to take pictures etc. The only way to reach it was by boat, and no running water or electricity on the island, so no cups of tea for sale in the little tourist shop. What would happen if someone missed the last boat of the day, and found themselves alone on the island overnight? Scary thought!

Monday, 13 October 2008

Loch Katrine - (A week in the Trossachs part 4)

I took a boat ride on Loch Katrine one day. This was about one-and-a-half miles from Tigh Mor, and so we walked there. It was a nice calm day, and the surface of the water was smooth most of the time, and reflected the surrounding land and sky like a mirror.

Of course the boat we were on did a bit of churning.
This was the steamboat that we thought we would be going on, but it was out of action for repairs.
Two hours later, boat trip over, we set off to walk back to Tigh Mor, and came across a small herd of deer in the woods. They were very watchable...
We watched them, and then they watched us.
They were so beautiful.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

Birds of Prey (A week in the Trossachs - Part 3)

One day I visited Aberfoyle, and noticed a shelter with a sign outside saying there were birds of prey, some of which people could be photographed holding. There was no-one around, and no signs saying which bird was which, so I couldn't identify them.

I've tried identifying them online, but haven't had a 100% success rate, so if anyone knows which bird is which, and if I've made any mistakes, I'd love to know.

I think this first one is a kestrel.

And this is a peregrine falcon.
Another type of Falcon?
I'm not sure what this bird is. I thought it was an eagle, but apparently it isn't. Owl No. 1

Owl No. 2
Owl No. 3
These birds were quite beautiful to look at, and it seemed to be their siesta time. I waited around a bit hoping to see someone in charge who might be able to tell me a bit about the birds, but nobody appeared.

Sunday, 5 October 2008

The Falkirk Wheel (A week in the Trossachs Part 2)

I fulfilled a long-time ambition and took a 'turn' on the Falkirk Wheel. I first heard about the wheel when it was featured as a TV news item when it was opened, and thought it would be great to go on it (without having much idea about how or when). When I arrived in the Trossachs I realised that it was only an hour's drive from where I was staying, and the rest, as they say, is history.

The picture below explains how the wheel works. Just click on it to enlarge.....

It's absolutely enormous! You can just see a boat coming into the top gondola.
And then the wheel turned, and it headed down to the bottom. Of course I had to have a ride. I joined the Archimedes, which was one of two boats taking tourists that day, and rode the wheel up to the top. Then you go across and through the Roughcastle Tunnel to a pool where there are two locks to take you up even further. Since we were on a tour boat, we turned here and came back. Here's the view from The Archimedes as we came back toward the wheel through the Roughcastle Tunnel.
After getting off the Archimedes, I climbed up to the top and actually watched as it came up again, did its little turn, and then went back down the wheel again. Here it is, all ready to start turning.
One third of the way down...
Two thirds of the way down....
And here's it's sister boat, the Antonine, come to the top.
And it all happened using the same amount of energy that it takes to boil 8 kettles!

Friday, 3 October 2008

A week in the Trossachs - part 1

After leaving Aberdeen, I went to the Trossachs for a week. I stayed just by Loch Achray, which is between Callander and Aberfoyle. In case you're wondering where the Trossachs are, here's a link that explains what and where they are.

The early morning view from the house looked like this.

On my first morning there I took a walk down to the shore of the loch. The footpath from the house followed a stream that fed into the loch. It was so quiet and secluded.
There were some rowboats available for a small rental fee, but I have to admit I never got around to using them.
As for the accommodation - well see for yourself. It reminded me a bit of the fairy castles one finds in picture books.
It was absolutely gorgeous, and you'd no sooner finished looking at one breathtaking view, but you'd turn a corner and find another just as amazing as the last.

The downside to all these hills, though, is that I had absolutely no reception on my mobile phone. Luckily there was internet access within the house, and a direct phone inside each apartment, so I wasn't completely cut off. I was out almost all day every day, though, so wasn't reachable most of the time.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

I'm back

I got home last night after spending the last couple of weeks in Scotland and stopping in the Lake District on my way home.

I spent the first two days in Cove Bay, which is close to Aberdeen. This picture shows the view from my sister-in-law's sitting room in Cove Bay. Amazing!

I went to the Aberdeen area for a family wedding, which was held in a country house hotel nearby. The location of the hotel was pretty impressive too, with gardens that ran down into a river and a Templar cemetary on the doorstep.

Lots of kilts in evidence, complete with sometimes hairy, and sometimes dimpled knees on display (depending on the age of the wearer). We were all piped in as we arrived.

Just what you'd expect at a Scottish wedding. It was fun, and of course it's always great to get together with family.
I stayed in Cove Bay for two days, and then moved on to the Trossachs - but more on that tomorrow. I had a great time, but it's good to be home.

Friday, 19 September 2008

11 days to my first blogging anniversary

I've just noticed that my first proper post was on September 30 last year. If everything goes to schedule, I should wake up to a view of Ullswater in the Lake District on September 30 this year. I've never been to the Lake District before, so that should be a nice way to celebrate one year of blogging. Of course I'll post photos once I have them!

Thursday, 4 September 2008

A Photo for Sarah

Sarah, of Brit' Gal Sarah, commented in my last post that she had worked for 9 years in one of the buildings on the pedestrian bridge between Eton and Windsor, and that the photos I'd posted had taken her down memory lane. I did happen to take a picture of the bridge ( I think). Here it is, I hope it's the right one.

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Windsor and Eton

I went to a reunion near Windsor two weekends ago. Some friends and I went into Windsor on the Saturday morning and decided to do a trip on the tourist bus. It was a beautifully sunny and warm day, and we were very comfortable sitting in the open air on the top deck of the bus.

The tourist bus. It was very colourful, and there was a commentary throughout the whole journey.
Windsor Castle, as seen at the start of the trip.
Windsor castle at the end of the long straight drive.......
......and again across some fields, on our way to....
An interesting roof garden somewhere in Eton.
The famous playing fields.
A tilled field with feasting birds (think of Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds")
Our view of Windsor Castle at the end of the trip. It really was an interesting tour, and we all enjoyed ourselves. After that, well, does shopping and lunch sound familiar?