Thursday, 12 May 2022

One photo - twenty words


Here we have rarely seen footage of the grubby cavapoo, emerging from her natural habit after digging her escape tunnel.

Monday, 9 May 2022

Me on Monday


We had a weekend to ourselves this week which actually made a nice change!  I am very appreciative of being able to socialise again but sometimes just need some relaxing time at home.

As it is our anniversary at the beginning of September we usually try and organise a trip away somewhere around that time and so I used Saturday afternoon to look into finding a dog friendly cottage for us to book.  I found something that looks like it will be just right, dog friendly pubs nearby, interesting walks within a reasonable distance and in the area of the UK known as the Cotswolds.  On the subject of holidays, an ex work colleague of mine was on the ITV news on Friday, being interviewed on the subject of passport applications that have gone astray.  36 hours after her interview, her 'lost in the system' passport renewal suddenly arrived in the post.  Coincidence?  18 weeks and 3 days after she sent her old passport in for renewal.  It has taken her 400 phone calls, over 50 hours on hold waiting to speak to someone, many emails, a letter to her MP and a national television interview to finally get some action.  Just weeks before she is due to go on a big family holiday to Iceland to celebrate her son finishing uni and daughter leaving school to start.  All's well that ends well!

Lots of neighbourly speculation nearby too as work started on a house just around the corner from us.  As the days have gone by it has become obvious that the work that the builders have been doing bears no resemblance to the planning permission that was granted.  The people adjacent and behind the very obtrusive extension have complained to the powers that be and the extremely large new loft conversion has suddenly been removed.  You can imagine the local gossip!

So what does this week hold?  A real mixed bag.  Normal childminding duties, Zumba is back after a week's break and we are going out for lunch with friends on Friday. Saturday we will be going to a memorial service for an old work colleague of mine who died during lockdown restrictions.  Her daughter lives in New Zealand and this is the first time she has been able to return to the UK.  It will be bittersweet but I am looking forward to sharing memories of her with her other friends and family.  

I need to also crack on with my blanket making as I seem to have ordered some more wool in preparation for a new crochet-a-long that starts in a few weeks time 😀 The existing blanket is growing nicely

It sounds like we are in for a week of warm settled weather in this area so wouldn't it be lovely if some of that crocheting could be done sitting in the sun in the garden?  Sounds like a good plan to me!

Wednesday, 4 May 2022

What I've been reading in April

 opened book on table

photo credit: Unsplash

Usually I would start the month with my online book club choice but I chose not to read the designated book this month; the book chosen was The Diamond Eye which is set in Kiev in World War 2.  Like so many other people are finding, the news from Ukraine is just too heartbreaking and at times overwhelming so in search of something easier to read and more lighthearted I downloaded The Break by Marian Keyes.

Following the loss of his father and a close friend, Amy's husband Hugh announces to her that he needs a break.  Therapy sessions and medication have not helped him, he has decided that he needs six months on his own travelling in South East Asia.  He isn't leaving her, he just needs to get away. He promises he will come back. Six months is a long time, will he be the same when he returns?  How will Amy be feeling after that much time alone?  Amy's first husband left her and she honestly believed that life with Hugh would be very different so she is in total shock by his announcement.

I haven't read anything by Marian Keyes for years but I had a feeling that this book would be just the kind of reading that I needed.  I found myself reading this with an Irish accent in my mind because I've heard Marian being interviewed so know what her voice sounds like!  

I enjoyed this book, I wasn't sure how things were going to turn out when/if Hugh returned from his six month break; I wasn't convinced it would be a 'happy ever after' ending as the book progressed.  I also went from feeling cross with Hugh for leaving to sympathising with him and not being surprised that he felt he needed to go and put some space between him and Amy.  In amongst the various threads of the book the author moves between the amusingly surprise internet vlog sensation that Amy's mother unwittingly becomes to the serious issue of the problems encountered by Irish girls who find themselves carrying an unwanted baby.  Marian Keyes seems to have a knack for mixing humour and seriousness into her books and I enjoyed dipping back into her work.


By now it was the middle of the month and I needed another book to read so I have continued with the next in the Inspector Gamache series, The Cruellest Month.  (The fact that I was reading it in April took me straight back to A level English Literature when we studied TS Eliot's The Wasteland where he states 'April is the cruellest month ...') 

Honestly, Three Pines is a very dangerous place to live because, wouldn't you know it, there is another crime to solve there!  Is it possible to literally be scared to death? A seance in a deserted house has tragic consequences and Inspector Gamache is called to return to solve the mystery.

These books can be read as standalone novels but I am finding it interesting to read them in sequence, with each book revealing a little more about a past event in Gamache's career and also the people who have been sent to investigate and solve the case alongside him.  This part of Gamache's story takes up a lot of the last few chapters of the book and ties up many loose ends.  While I enjoyed the easy reading style of this book, I don't think I enjoyed the story line quite as much as the last ones.  It won't however put me off reading the next in the series!

So that one was finished on the very last day of the month and I have now downloaded May's book club choice which is a non fiction novel this time and it sounds like it is going to be very interesting and thought provoking.  Come back in four weeks to find out what it was!

Sunday, 1 May 2022

A sentence a day in April

Day 1 It was freezing cold, it snowed, we booked a holiday to Portugal and
 our daughter in law tested positive for Covid.  What a mixed start to the month. 

Day 2 Another cold day, walked into town with Coco in the afternoon - traffic was chaos so I'm pleased we hadn't gone by car

Day 3 Our pond is full of tadpoles - honestly there are hundreds of them!  How many will survive I wonder?

Day 4 Coco woke us up at 4am - felt tired for the rest of the day!

Day 5 Leo and Rosie here for the day, still full of holiday excitement so it was an exhausting day.

Day 6 I didn't have Max here today as his mum and dad both have covid and I didn't want to risk it in case he was a 'super spreader'!  Seemed odd having a Wednesday to myself as Paul was out doing his volunteer work over the park.

Day 7 Zumba was great fun, found out that we raised £1086 for the local hospice on our fundraising day

Day 8 Met up with an ex work colleague for a lovely 90 minute dog walk, Coco was thrilled to have such an unexpected long trip out in the afternoon, normally it is a quick half hour circuit for the 2nd walk of the day.

Day 9 Went to Saffron Walden in the morning then had friends over for dinner in the evening.

Day 10 We had Rachel and her family here for lunch, was lovely to hear all about their holiday

Day 11 A day to ourselves, we popped into town in the morning and relaxed in the afternoon, tired due to Coco waking us up at 2am to go out in the garden - Monday night again - coincidence?

Day 12 Leo and Rosie were here for the day, made gingerbread biscuits in the shape of the Easter Bunny, made a den outside and then came indoors to make Easter cards.

Day 13 Went to an evening event at our local book shop where my friend was promoting her new book and doing a book reading and signing.  

Day 14 Easter theme for Zumba today, bunny ears and everyone wearing yellow!

Day 15 Good Friday and we had everyone here for lunch - really sunny and lovely to spend the day in the garden

Day 16 Went to an arts and crafts fair in a local village, then spent the afternoon doing some gardening.

Day 17 Easter Sunday - cooked roast lamb puttansca which was delicious, there may also have been part of an Easter egg for dessert (quite a big part)

Day 18 Easter Monday and we went for a lovely dog walk through the bluebell woods in a nearby village

Day 19 Had Rosie here for the day and played hairdressers for much of the afternoon

Day 20 Max's turn to be here today, very excited to find that we don't only have tadpoles in our little nature pond, but a newt as well - Coco went to the groomers

Day 21 Missed Zumba today as I have 4 insect bites on my foot and I can't bear the thought of having a shoe rubbing on the back of my heel where the little rascal bit me

Day 22 Travelled to Amersham for our stay at The Crown Inn, fab meal at Hawkyns restaurant which is run by Atul Kocher   

Day 23 Explored more of the Chiltern area, visited Hughenden Manor which was so interesting

Day 24 Did very little!  Nice to relax and rest our weary feet after all that walking over the last couple of days.

Day 25 Went to the podiatrist to give my feet a little TLC and get them soft and pretty for when it finally becomes sandal weather! (I hate people touching my feet so this was not the relaxing experience you may be imagining)

Day 26 Rosie came for the day, she loves role playing and it is so lovely to hear her acting out scenarios with her dolls.

Day 27 Today we had Max here, his Mum is finishing her maternity leave in the next couple of months and when she returns to work Max will be going to nursery on a Wednesday and we will have his baby sister Olive instead so our Max Wednesdays are now numbered.  We will miss seeing him but will love to spend more time getting to know Olive.

Day 28 Our instructor really put us through our paces at Zumba today - at first I thought it was just me being less fit than I thought I was but at the end we were all exhausted!

Day 29 Housework in the morning and went to have drinks with friends in the evening

Day 30 What a lovely sunny day - parked my car just outside of town and walked the rest of the way to enjoy the sunshine and avoid the traffic, mowed the lawn in the afternoon as an excuse to stay out in the warm as long as possible!

Now for the roundup - 1 Second Everyday!

Monday, 25 April 2022

Me on Monday

 I mentioned before that our son and daughter in law gifted us a hotel voucher as a Christmas present, and we made our booking for last Friday.  Coco was booked into my niece's house for a couple of days and we headed off, bright and early, for the Chiltern hills.

When we were trying to decide where to go, we didn't want to go too far afield and waste our limited time away in the car so we chose Amersham, which is only about an hour and a half away.  Isn't it strange how we tend to venture further afield to discover new places and not visit places closer to home?  We based ourselves in Old Amersham at The Crown Inn.  If you've seen the film Four Weddings and a Funeral you will have already seen where we stayed as it was used as a location where Hugh Grant and Andi McDowell stayed there!

We started our exploration in West Wycombe which has close association with Sir Francis Dashwood who built the mausoleum dedicated to his family.

Quite an impressive structure!  Francis was a member of the Dilettanti Society and co founder of the Hellfire Club.  The Diettanti Society had a mysterious reputation and seemed to have an element of secrecy about it. The original club was disbanded but reformed under a different name 'The Order of the Knights of St Francis' organised by  Dashwood who arranged for the construction of a series of tunnels to be built beneath the local church and mausoleum so that they could have their meetings in complete privacy.  It was known as the Hellfire Club.

You can go into the Hellfire Caves to see where all the mysterious goings on took place and we kind of 'half explored' that.  

I'm not a lover of caves, but the entrance to them looked well lit and not too claustrophobic so I cautiously agreed to go in on the understanding that if I got spooked we would turn round and come out again!  The layout of the caves is not straightforward and you would go down a passage to be met with a choice of two directions to travel down.  Do you go left or right?  There weren't many other people around and we got about 3/4 of the way through when it seemed to get narrower, more steep, not so well lit, suddenly there was no one else in the passage we had chosen and water was dripping on my head.  I'm ashamed to say that this was my 'I need to get out now' moment!  So I've seen most of the infamous caves but not the inner sanctum!

So while I recovered from the stress we ate our picnic lunch we decided that we would stick to an afternoon of exploring open air places. We headed for Wendover Woods and enjoyed wonderful views over the Chiltern Hills.

Time to return to the hotel, have a shower and then head down the hotel restaurant, Hawkyns, which is run by Atul Kochar, a Michelin starred chef who specialises in modern Indian cuisine.  What a delicious meal!  Quite unlike any Indian meal I have had before and has possibly spoilt me for future Indian evenings with friends!  

The following day we headed up to Coombe Hills which has amazing views over the local area.  Apparently it is the highest viewpoint over the Chilterns.  Views too of Chequers, the countryside retreat that is used by every serving Prime Minister during their time in office.  

That's the house in the centre of the photo, isn't it a wonderful location?  

Next stop, Hughendon Manor. Now, those of you who follow Ruth's blog, will know that this is a favourite of hers!

What a beautiful house, with a fascinating history.  We have been to many National Trust properties over the years but I think that the volunteers who were available inside the house were the most knowledgeable and friendly we have ever met.  This was once the home of Benjamin Disraeli but holds a fascinating wartime history when it was used as a secret map making operation for the RAF with the codename 'Hillside', you can read more by clicking on the link.  The man in the short video is one of the volunteers who we met on our walk through the house.  

In addition to the house, there are more wonderful walks through the woods,

By then it was time to head home, having packed as much as we could into our couple of days away.  

So Monday finds me getting back to normal routine and not walking quite so many steps every day as I did over the weekend!  

Tuesday, 19 April 2022

Lucky Dip


Our little Easter 'bunny'

It would seem that at this moment in time I may be Leo's most favourite person ever (well apart from his mum, dad and sister!) and it's because of something that was completely out of my control!  I didn't want to go over the top with Easter eggs this year as the kids will get more than enough chocolate so I just bought them one small one, and put it in a colour yourself canvas bag with a little gift.  Olive had a egg shaped stacking toy, Max had a Spiderman in a car, Rosie had a Polly Pocket and Leo had a couple of packs of Pokemon cards.  

At 7 o'clock on Sunday I had a WhatsApp video call from an over the top excited Leo because in one of the packs was a very rare collectable card - what were the chances?  He was so happy!  Apparently they are so rare that they sell on eBay for about £350 - not that he will be parting with it any time soon, but what a lucky pack that was.

We had our Easter family day on Friday which was absolutely lovely, the sun was shining and we spent the whole afternoon outside in the garden with all the cousins playing so well together.  

Easter cake did not last long!

On Saturday we popped into a local arts and crafts fair as Paul's art teacher had some works on show in the painting exhibition.  It was in a little village out in the countryside (in the village where Jamie Oliver's parents used to own the local pub) and it was a lovely drive in the sunshine, then back to sit in the garden.

So what does this week hold?  Well, after we have our routine childminding days out of the way we are venturing away for a couple of days - shh don't tell Coco she is off on a little holiday to stay with my niece!  We aren't going that far from home but will be using the hotel voucher that J&S gave us for Christmas.  I'll share more next week but the weather forecast is looking good, there's a good restaurant attached to the hotel and hopefully we will discover some interesting places to visit in an area that we haven't explored much before.  It's been over six months since we had some time away from home so I need to dust down our overnight bags.  Having been made to stay at home for so long means that even a couple of days away feels like a big deal!

Monday, 18 April 2022

Me on Monday


There's something very special about walking through a bluebell wood in the spring.  Thanks to Coco for taking us somewhere different for our morning dog walk today!