Friday, December 30, 2011

Stately homes

To Crewe Hall, Cheshire, for an overnight stay, courtesy of my elder sister and her family.  Not that they live in this extraordinary mid-Victorian pile, of course; we were there for bed and breakfast on our way north to Cumbria.

This is an ornate interior, with every surface heavily encrusted with pattern and texture - a wonderful backdrop for weddings and big events.

A library, a Long Gallery, and its own chapel,  not to mention an extensive conference centre built in the stable quarter.

Before we left home, a surprise.  My younger sister is given to sending unusual vouchers as gifts, so I thought to return the compliment, ordering a selection of sausages and ham from a company called Dukeshill, to be delivered to her address on Monday, 19th December.  All morning I imagined her surprise on receiving the parcel.  Would she be able to fit it all into her freezer?  Would that much sausage be a welcome addition to their diet?

Just after lunch there was knock on our door: a delivery man with a familiar looking box.  Somehow the parcel had come to us, not to my sister, who lives in another part of the country.  In sorting out this problem, the company very generously sent another box to my sister, leaving us to wonder whether we have room in our freezer for all that sausage.  Not often that you get to give your sausage and eat it. 

In Cumbria, a combination of drizzle and high winds.  We did some of our regular walks under irregular conditions.  Sale Fell, above Bassenthwaite, in very high winds.  We thought it best to walk round the end of the fell and through the woodland, rather than going to the summit of even this modest fell.

Here, my husband at the site of the old Wythop church, a sheltered spot where we often eat our sandwiches.


And, finally another home - this time a deserted farmhouse, just beginning to lose its windows.  We often speculate as to which of a combination of factors - access roads, mains services, ownership - proved crucial to its abandonment.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


On Sunday, we gave the allotment a miss, and set off around a network of lanes just north of here.  It was sufficiently frosty to harden up the inevitable mud, at least on the way out.

There was still plenty of colour  - here, an oak clinging on to its Autumn foliage.

 And here, sloes, glowing surprisingly bright blue in a hedge.

Cascades of red berries - can they be honeysuckle?  The red here may be a warning of poisonous intent as these are remarkably intact.

 The gnarled bark of an ancient tree

And an even more fascinating stump, full of craters and caverns.

The most amazing sights have no pictures.  Not far out, on a roadside property, we saw a male peacock in full display mode, facing out a guinea fowl which looked singularly unimpressed. 
A blur of bird rose in front of my husband.  Just then we met a keen photographer equipped with tripod who commented that we had "put up a woodcock."  Not that we would have known.
Half way round our planned circuit it came on to snow heavily.  We were glad of all our hats, hoods and scarves which had seemed excessive as we set off.

Friday, December 02, 2011

Penny pinching

This week, a consultation with a financial advisor - a process I hate.  He needs a clear idea of my regular expenditure in order to advise me.  We run through what I spend on bills and petrol.  He comes to "entertainment".  I have nothing to say.  How to explain to someone the pleasure to be had from popping across to the Coop and finding the week's meat at half-price, or snagging a bargain in a charity shop?

I went off shopping on Tuesday, thinking vaguely that a brown coat would be nice, brown with a fur collar like the one I had ten years ago.  It would go well with my Autumn Leaves mittens.  But shops almost never have the thing you are actually looking for, especially if the colour or style is not of the moment.  But there, in a charity shop, was the exact coat I was thinking of.  It was brand new, but had no sign of a label that I could see.  It was lined with brown fur fabric and, curiously, had pockets on the inside too.  But it was said to be a much smaller size than I need.  However, it fitted like a glove.

Further inspection at home revealed that the label was in the pocket, because it was made to be reversible, so that the brown fur could be worn on the outside. Perhaps this is to allow for cold or rainy days. It explains the second set of pockets, too.  All this for ten pounds!

At the top, my most recent bauble, this time fitted over a styrofoam ball, which gives a better shape. This is destined for the Secret Santa at my local Guild, where I suspect there will be more than a few interpretations of this idea.