A temporary absence – off to Cumbria

Tomorrow morning sees the start of my 10-day holiday in north west Cumbria, camping at the same site I stayed at over Easter. Since late Monday afternoon the weather here has been abysmal with rain for most of every day so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that once I get up there things will change ; while I can’t expect to get the same continuously wonderful weather as I got at Easter I’m still hoping that most of the days will see some sunshine as there are so many places I want to see and explore.
The van has been packed up since Easter but it’s not as simple as just putting in a few last minute items and the dogs and setting off – my wonderful son has seen to that! After his night shift tonight Michael has four days off so he recently decided he would spend those four days over in Ireland ; with a relatively last minute booking his choice of flights was limited to early morning or late evening so to maximise his time there he chose the morning one, flying at 8am. And guess who he asked to take him to the airport?! So on the very morning I’m driving myself up to north west Cumbria I’m going in the opposite direction first!
Michael would normally finish his shift at 6am but he’s managed to wangle a 5.30 finish which will be better ; there shouldn’t be much traffic on the roads so early on a Sunday so unless there’s an absolute major motorway hold up I should be able to get him there in plenty of time. As it happens my pitch at the camp site won’t be available until 1pm so once I’ve dropped him at the airport I can have a good couple of hours chill out back here before I set off for Cumbria – and thinking about it, it seems weird that he will be on the coach to Roscrea before I even leave here, and he’ll be at the family home before I get to the camp site. Time and distance can seem so strange sometimes.
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At the camp site I’m booked on the same pitch I had at Easter so with good weather I should hopefully get more or less the same views as those above. I’ve been looking forward to this holiday for a while so with any luck I should be able to do lots of exploring and I’ll come back with a ridiculous amount of photos, many of which will no doubt end up on this and my other blog – so I’ll ‘see’ you all when I get back.
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Tom’s Midnight Garden – book & dvd

I’d never heard of Tom’s Midnight Garden until I read about it a couple of weeks ago on Shazza’s blog. Written by Philippa Pearce and first published in 1958 it’s a classic story for older children/young adults but it sounded so fascinating I just had to get a copy, and I read it in its entirety one evening earlier this month.
Tom’s younger brother Peter has the measles and so Tom doesn’t catch them as well he’s packed off to stay with his very dull aunt and uncle who live in a first floor apartment in what was once an old manor house. There’s no garden to play in, just a back yard where the dustbins are kept and where one of the other residents tinkers with an old car ; the only thing that interests Tom is a big old grandfather clock in the communal hallway which never strikes the right time. He soon realises that every night at midnight the clock strikes thirteen so one night he sneaks out of bed to investigate and finds that the extra hour takes him back to a time over half a century earlier where the old house is just one residence and the back yard is now a huge and very beautiful sunlit garden. There he befriends a lonely little girl called Hattie and meets her in the garden almost every night, where they play together and have different adventures which he gradually realises are taking place in the late 19th century.
No matter how many hours Tom stays in the garden he finds that when he goes back to his own time he’s only actually been gone for a few minutes, but time in the garden advances through the seasons and several years. Although Tom stays the same age Hattie grows up fast and as she grows older Tom seems to her to become thinner as though he’s gradually disappearing, then after one last outing together, where she begins to fall in love with a young man from her own time, Tom finds he has become completely invisible to her. He doesn’t see her again and the next time he goes to the garden he finds that it’s turned back into the modern day back yard where in a panic he runs into the dustbins, knocking them over and making quite a noise.
The following day it’s time for Tom to go back home but before he leaves the house he’s told that the elderly and reclusive landlady in the upstairs flat, who he’s never previously met, wishes to see him, presumably so he can apologise for disturbing her and the other residents during the night – and that’s when he discovers that she is actually Hattie, many years older than when he last saw her in the garden. After a long conversation, in which Hattie tells him about her life through the years between their last meeting and the present day and asks him to visit her again, they say a fairly formal goodbye to each other and Tom turns to go but at the bottom of the stairs he rushes back and gives Hattie a big hug, happy that he’s found her again after so long.
The story is extremely well written and the description of the beautiful garden is so detailed that I could really imagine myself exploring such a place. I must admit though that the time shifting aspect of the story seemed to ask more questions than it answered and left me a little confused. When Tom was in the garden no-one but Hattie and the gardener could see or hear him and as the story moved on through their adventures I found it hard to tell who was actually real and who could have been a ghost, or if the whole thing was just one of Tom’s dreams. Nevertheless it was an intriguing and fascinating read and left such a lasting impression that on learning that it had once been made into a tv series I was prompted to find out if there was a dvd version of it. There was quite an up-to-date one made in 1999 so I sent for that and watched it last weekend.
The start of the dvd is nothing like the start of the book and I initially felt a bit disappointed until I realised that it shows present-day events after the story has moved on, events which lead back to the beginning of the story. The story itself is told in its entirety as a flashback and the film is very true to the book right up to the last few minutes where it reverts to the present day and a continuation of the film’s beginning. Although the book doesn’t mention Tom’s age I got the impression that he was about 11 years old but the film portrays him as being 14. The book ends where young Tom hugs the now elderly Hattie and I was left with the feeling that there should have been a bit more, but the end of the film shows a now adult Tom with a wife and baby daughter, who they’ve named after Hattie, living in a cottage which is one of several built in the original garden of the old house which is now being demolished – and still standing at the bottom of their own part of the garden is the big tree where young Hattie had carved her own initials and young Tom’s signature drawing into the trunk so many years before. It’s a very fitting ending to the film and I think it finishes off the story very well.
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The house and garden in the story are based on the author’s own childhood home in Cambridgeshire and a bit of Googling discovered an article written in 2014, which included many photographs, when the actual house and over three acres of garden were up for sale. I’m not sure if the garden in the film is the real life garden or a bit of computer-generated imagery – or maybe some of both – but it’s a truly beautiful garden, and looking at the photos of the real garden it’s easy to see how it inspired this magical fantasy story. The book makes a lovely read and the film really brings everything in the book to life – certainly well worth anyone reading and watching.

Too nice to go on the floor

A couple of weeks ago when I went round to my friend Lin’s one evening I noticed that she had a new mat on the floor behind the front door. It was a mat with an animal picture on it and my immediate thoughts were that (a) even though it was washable it was too nice to have dirty feet and paws wiped all over it and (b) I just had to have one myself, so I asked where she got it from and was told that her daughter Dee had won it on a tombola stall at work.
Dee actually works at a local pet store not far from home and the staff there support my favourite local charity, Bleakholt Animal Sanctuary. Every so often they allow someone from the sanctuary to have a tombola/items for sale stall just outside the door with any money raised going to the sanctuary, and the mat had been one of the tombola items. Dee is usually quite lucky on tombola stalls and that particular day was no exception with the mat being one of the things she won, though as it was obviously a one-off the chances of me getting one like it were slim.
The mat was new but there was no clue as to where it had originally come from, though a bit of later Googling told me that mats like this are made in America and to get one from there wouldn’t be cheap. The ‘get lucky’ gods must have been smiling down on me that day though as I found a new one for sale on ebay at a very good price, and best of all the seller was in another area of my home town. I emailed her to ask if I could collect the mat rather than have it posted out to me and she was quite happy for me to do that so we arranged to meet the following day – and it turned out that she was the lady who had the charity stall outside the pet store where Dee works. Also any proceeds from animal-related items she sells on ebay go to the charity so I was more than happy to know that my purchase would, even in a small way, help the sanctuary.
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Apart from the colouring of the eye patch the little pup on the back right of the picture reminds me very much of my own little Sophie when she was younger. The mat is currently propped up on one of the bathroom units so I really need to find somewhere to put it, but needless to say it’s definitely not  going down on the floor!

 

 

A mixed up, muddled up weekend

Last weekend it was my birthday – Sunday to be exact – and as Michael was originally to be off work that day we had planned on having a day out somewhere and maybe stopping off at a car boot sale, but unfortunately it didn’t quite work out like that. When he got his shift rota for the week he was down to work that day and because of some stupid football match on Saturday no-one would swap shifts with him as they all wanted to go to the pub, watch it on tv and no doubt drink enough beer to render themselves unfit for work the following day. After working a 12-hour night shift on Friday Saturday was supposed to be his sleeping day but he said if I woke him at lunch time we could go out then instead of Sunday and he would catch up on his sleep later on.
So that’s what we did and we had a drive out to St. Annes as I wanted to go back to Ashton Gardens to take some more photos now the trees are in full leaf, except the weather was so dismally dull and grey that the photos I did take aren’t worth bothering with – most of them will be deleted and certainly none of them will make it into a blog post. After a meal in our usual café we just came straight back home, but because our trip out was something we would normally do on a Sunday I had the confusing feeling that it was  Sunday, although to be honest I felt like I’d only gone out for the sake of going out.
On Sunday itself, to make up for missing a proper day out with Michael, I planned on taking myself and the dogs out somewhere, however the weather wasn’t the best so with a cash gift from Michael I decided to go in search of a new folding camp bed, something I’ve been wanting to get for quite a while. The Blackburn branch of Go Outdoors is an easy drive away and not far from there is Witton Country Park so I could kill two birds with one stone – a look round Go Outdoors first then a dog walk round the country park afterwards.
I found the camp bed I wanted in the store but the one on display was the only one they had and there was a slight fault with the mechanism so they wouldn’t sell it to me, however the very helpful assistant phoned the Preston store to see if they had any – they had, so they put one aside for me to collect later on. Unfortunately when I came out of the Blackburn store it was raining hard – a walk round the country park was out of the question so I just drove straight over to the Preston store and picked up the camp bed from there. With the on/off rain and no umbrella there was no point going anywhere else so I just came straight back home and the dogs never got their walk after all.
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The camp bed – it’s a single but extra-wide as I like a lot of space (photo from the internet)
Michael arrived home from work at 5.30pm that day and we went to our usual eaterie, the Black Dog at Belmont, for a proper birthday meal. I don’t usually have a dessert but this time I did – salted caramel and vanilla ice creams with fresh cream, chocolate sauce and crushed Maltesers ; it was divine. Back at home I spent the rest of the evening reading a book which I’d recently got as a birthday present to myself. It had been an odd sort of day – well an odd sort of weekend really – but that was then, and I’m now looking forward to a nice long camping holiday coming up in a couple of weeks time.

 

 

Scavenger photo hunt – May

Well here we are at the end of May and the scavenger photo hunt has come round once again, with this month’s topics being – seat, view (from the seat), lunch, starts with ‘P’, transport, and my own choice. It’s been a difficult one for me this month – not because of the topics but because I suffered a major computer failure earlier in the month and was without a decent pc for over two weeks. Working on a borrowed laptop was okay up to a point but downloading and editing photos was a no-no so I thought I may have to give this month’s photo hunt a miss. However I finally got a new-to-me pc last week though I’ve had to find my way round Windows 10 which hasn’t been easy (and still isn’t!) but through trial and error I’ve managed to sort out some photos for the challenge so here goes.
I’m cheating a bit with the first and second topics as the photo I’ve chosen covers both. Back in the early to mid 90s, while on regular holidays in Norfolk, some friends of ours would often take us out on the Broads in their boat and one of the places we sometimes passed was the ruins of St. Benets Abbey on the River Bure. Somehow I never got the chance to actually go there but fast forward to just three years ago and while on my solo travels with the dogs I finally got that chance, although it wasn’t the easiest of places to find and get to by road. The ruins are quite fascinating and behind them a path leads to the riverside staithe and the seat which has a good view over the staithe itself, the river and the nearby fields – it’s very peaceful and makes a lovely spot to sit and watch the boats go by.
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Seat/view from – the staithe near St. Benet’s Abbey on the River Bure
The next topic was supposed to be a Sunday lunch but due to Michael working his day off it turned into Sunday tea, or dinner for those who want to be ‘posh’. We often go out for a meal on Sundays and our usual ‘go to’ eaterie is a pub just three miles up the road from home, however a couple of weekends back we decided to ring the changes and go to our local Toby Carvery which is also near home. Although I just had a normal meal Michael ‘went large’ and came back to the table with an absolute plateful – he’d said he was hungry after having just worked a 12-hour shift but I didn’t expect him to get that lot!
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Lunch – Michael’s man-size meal
The next category had me thinking for a while ; the obvious one was a photo of Poppie but I’ve used one of her before, however inspiration struck as I was driving to work the other morning – pigs! As soon as I got to work I wrote it on the back of my hand as a reminder – of course I got more than one person asking why I had PIGS!! written on my hand – then once I was back home again I searched my photo archives for an appropriate photo. I had the choice of several but finally went with this one – a little piglet at the North Wales camp site I stayed at a couple of years ago. He was adorable and I so much wanted to bring him home.
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Starts with ‘P’ – piglet
The next subject is so unusual I feel it deserves three photos rather than one, and though it couldn’t be used as transport in the general sense of the word it was  used for transporting things. My last partner was very clever when it came to dealing with anything mechanical – he was brought up on a farm in Suffolk and had been tinkering with farm machinery and cars from being quite young – and though we owned and ran full-sized vintage tractors he wanted something smaller which he could use at work and which could pull a heavy weight. A normal ride-on mower/garden tractor wouldn’t do so he designed and built his own out of any spare bits and pieces he had or could find in various places – he called it the A S P (All Spare Parts) and though it wasn’t the prettiest looking machine it did exactly what he wanted it to do.
The various parts he used to build this machine are far too many to list but here’s a few – the seat came from a café, the steering wheel off a go-cart, the bonnet was made from the side of an old washing machine, engine from a Honda C90 motorbike, steering mechanism an old Transit window winding device, hydraulics were a 2-ton trolley jack and the bull-bars at the front were from an Asda shopping trolley fished out of a local canal. Oh, and he also pinched some of my weights to use as counterbalance for heavy loads. We actually exhibited the tractor at several agricultural and tractor shows and it became quite a talking point more than once.
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Transport – a home-designed and built garden tractor
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And finally, from the ridiculously practical to the ridiculously cute. Back in early 2009 I took in a female cat which wasn’t being cared for properly ; the cat was pregnant and eventually gave birth to three kittens. Sadly two of them died soon after birth and though she looked after the third one he became quite ill after a few weeks. Several trips to the vet’s followed and Weeble, as I called him, had to be kept separate from my other cats so he was housed in a large pen. That was okay to start with but once he had recovered sufficiently he would climb up the sides in an effort to get out, and more by sheer good luck than anything else I managed to snap a photo of him on one of those occasions. He eventually grew from a tiny little scrap into a big beautiful cat but sadly I lost him four years later when he became the road victim of a boy racer.
Weeble’s one claim to fame though when he was tiny is that he was once held and cuddled by Helen Flanagan who played Rosie Webster in Coronation Street. I had just come out of the vet’s with him wrapped in a soft towel when I saw Helen just about to get in her car which was parked round the corner – her face lit up when she saw Weeble and she asked if she could hold him. I spent about ten minutes sitting in her car chatting to her while she cuddled him and she thanked me afterwards for letting her hold him.
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My own choice – Weeble on a great escape
Well that just about wraps up my choices for this month, and as usual I’m linking up with Kate’s blog to see what others have chosen for the different topics. My apologies to anyone whose post I didn’t get round to reading last time but I’m sure you all know how it is – life sometimes has a habit of getting in the way of everything else. Note to self – must try to do better this time!

No, I haven’t died a death….

Nor have I run away with a multi-millionaire to his private island in the Caribbean {chance would be a fine thing), I’ve been concentrating on my other blog.
While I was away at Easter I took a total of 365 photos over the course of the four-day weekend – of course those all needed sorting out and editing where necessary and it took me two days on and off to wade through them all. Writing the actual posts wasn’t as straightforward as it could have been either, as three of the days had to be split into two or even three separate posts to accommodate all the photos I was including. Add to that the fact that for some strange reason some photos included while writing a post often don’t look the same on my screen as they do when actually published so in many cases I’ve had to edit, re-edit, and sometimes completely scrap various ones in an effort to get things right.
Of course all this faffing about has taken time and also given me a couple of headaches but I’m finally almost there – only one more post to write now and that will be it until the next time I go camping. Hopefully I can write that post tonight then (hopefully again) I can resume my twice-weekly posts on here – and who knows, weather permitting I may even manage to do a Monday walk next week.
If anyone wants to read about my Easter camping trip and the places I visited then that section of the other blog can be found starting here – 

Scavenger photo hunt – April

Time flies as they say, and the scavenger photo hunt has arrived once again, with this month’s six topics being – edge, loaf, bridge, mine, black and my own choice. A couple of photos I took while away over the Easter weekend have lent themselves well to a couple of the topics so here’s my selections for this month.
Just a few days ago, on Easter Monday, I did a bit of exploring around the north end of Bassenthwaite Lake and a convenient parking place at the side of one of the country lanes gave me access to a lakeside woodland walk and several little stony ‘beaches’ where I was able to walk right along the water’s edge. Incidentally, Bassenthwaite Lake is the only body of water in the Lake District with ‘lake’ in its name, all the others are ‘waters’, ‘meres’ or ‘tarns’.
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Edge – the water’s edge at Bassenthwaite Lake
When is a loaf not a loaf? – when it looks like a loaf but is actually a birthday cake. This one was done for Michael a couple of years ago via the ‘design your own birthday cake’ gadget in our local Asda ; the photo doesn’t really do it justice, the cake was so realistic it really did look like a proper Warburton’s toastie loaf complete with tears and creases in the wrapper.
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Loaf – a cake made to look like a loaf
Off to St. Olaves in Norfolk now with a bridge I’ve driven over many times and which looks quite modern but is older than you would think. It carries the A143 over the River Waveney and is the first crossing point on that river south of Great Yarmouth. The road bridge itself was built in 1847 and is a very early example of a bowstring girder bridge with ornamental railing parapets ; the original decking was replaced with steel in 1920 and replaced again in 1959, with the pedestrian walkway being added in 1960. The notice on the side of the bridge warns boaters to ‘lower windscreen, keep off deck, sound horn’ – the river is tidal, and with ever increasing boat sizes there’s more than one holiday cruiser got stuck under the bridge in the past.
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Bridge – St. Olaves bridge over the Waveney in Norfolk
From east to west now with a visit to Anglesey and part of Parys Mountain copper mine. In 1768 a huge mass of copper ore was discovered close to the surface, a discovery which transformed the shape of the mountain and the fortunes of a nation. The Great Open Cast was created by miners using little more than picks, shovels and gunpowder, and what can be seen on the surface hides many miles of underground tunnels, shafts and huge caverns. I’ve walked round Parys Mountain several times in the last few years, it’s an amazing place full of amazing colours, and in late summer when the heather is in full bloom it’s really beautiful.
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Mine – the amazing colours of the old Parys Mountain copper mine
Closer to home now and the local hamlet of Firwood Fold, the town’s very first conservation area, and notable for being the birthplace of Samuel Crompton, inventor of the Spinning Mule. All the cottages in the hamlet are private residences and No. 5 is unusual in that it has two adjacent front doors. It was originally the hamlet’s school, with one door for the school itself and the other for the teacher’s house. Surprisingly, even though I learned about Samuel Crompton at school and Firwood Fold is less than two miles from home, I’d never actually been there until one day in March last year.
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Black – the two front doors of No. 5 Firwood Fold
Finally, and quite coincidentally, another bridge for my last photo. This was taken just a few days ago while I was wandering round Cockermouth, and when I downloaded it onto the pc (along with the other 364 I took over the four days!) I thought it looked pretty enough to be included as my own choice for this month.
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My own choice – riverside and footbridge at Cockermouth
Well there you have it, my selections for this month’s photo hunt ; as always I’m joining in with Kate’s link-up party and looking forward to seeing what others have chosen for their photos and stories this time – I’m sure there’ll be some very interesting selections.