Going down south – 17 July 2021

Driving down to our first family meet-up for a year and a half.

We had a funeral to attend in the morning for a friend of the family. After the service we drove home, changed and started the process of loading the car. Surprisingly we managed to squeeze all those bags into the boot and the back seat.

Drove down the M74, A74, M6 then the small roads under a blazing hot sun. After that, the smaller roads. Finally the tiny roads, nearly all single track. We’ve driven on single track roads before, we’ve been to Skye and know the way they work. It’s all to do with keeping a one eye on the road in front of you and another on the road a hundred meters ahead. We managed the twists and turns and the steep climbs with the similarly steep descents. I was amazed when the sat nav took us to the door!

Sent a message to the other family members who were driving up from the south. Hazy & Neil D were the next to arrive. By then we’d investigated the house and found out where everything was. So after showing them round and asking after Neil’s family the next pair arrived.

JIC & Sim were about an hour behind H&N ah, but now there were four of us to show them and Vixen round the house. Rooms were allocated and agreed and we sat down to talk as families do that haven’t seen each other face to face for too long a time. We also took some an opportunity to take in the stunning scenery of Cumbria, especially the hills on the other side of the Duddon Valley, oh yes, and the silence!

We had previously agreed that all six of us would take turns at cooking. Tonight I was cooking Chicken and Pea Traybake. It’s simple and easy to do and it does taste good. However, I’m used to cooking on a gas cooker and here I was faced with an electric one. Also our oven has gas marks engraved on the dials. This one had nothing. Luckily someone had made a sketch of where the cardinal temperature settings were and what the four clicks on the settings dial controlled, oven, grill, fan grill and cool. I’ve never heard of an oven with a ‘cool’ setting before. Maybe it’s an English setting. The meal was made, on time and it was ok, just ok. Everyone was very polite and nobody said it was awful, but it wasn’t the best thing I’ve ever made. We didn’t starve.

I think everyone was too tired and too hot to do much later and bed was calling us, so we headed to our room.

PoD was the view from the house across the Duddon Valley to the hills beyond.

Tomorrow we may go adventuring.


Butterflies, Viaducts and Beer – 17 September 2020

In that order!

The butterflies were feeding on ivy flowers on Frank’s Bridge in Kirkby Stephen. As far as I could tell they were all Red Admirals. They were taking a fair bashing from the honeybees whose territory they seemed to have invaded. The bees made their displeasure felt by apparently deliberately bumping them off the flowers. A strange behaviour I’ve never witnessed before.

Over the bridge, we were discussing which way to go, when a dog walker told us there was a great view from the hill beside the cricket ground. We thanked her and climbed the hill to the viewpoint at the top and she was correct. There was a great view all around from the top. Because the hill was fairly high, it was an uninterrupted view too. We met a couple from Durham who were also admiring the view. I took a few photos which turned into a 360º panorama which in turn would turn into a Tiny Planet. A bit of a cliché, but I haven’t done one in a long time, so that makes it ok. It became PoD, despite the fact that Scamp doesn’t like it.

Said goodbye to the Durham couple and walked down the other side of the hill and basically retraced our steps from Monday’s visit. Aha, but Scamp had other plans. After reaching the part where we would have turned right and walked back into town, we continued on using a wee lane to cut off a long corner on the road and almost reached a quarry entrance before we turned on to the old railway path. I like old railways, especially ones that have been turned into safe walkways that cut across country. It’s usually easy to imagine steam trains running along these arteries before Dr Beeching and his cuts destroyed the British rail network, back in the ‘60s. This one led immediately on to the Merrygill Viaduct over the Hartley Beck. We continued on to the Podgill Viaduct which crosses the Podgill Hole (!) which is another tributary of the River Eden.

There was a viewing gallery at the Podgill Viaduct, down 42 steps from the path. Fairly easy going down, but a killer coming back up. However it did give us a good view of the viaduct from below.

Climbed back up those 42 killer steps and walked back into the town. Got a seat quickly at the wee café Scamp had her eye on since Monday and had lunch there washed down with a half pint of Bitter & Twisted each, before heading back to the house. Well, we also had to stop for some bread and a cake each at the town bakers and some bulbs and another pot of marmalade from the deli.

Dinner tonight was a carry-out. Sim had phoned in an order for Chinese which JIC went to collect while I waited at Coast to Coast for three Fish & Chips. One door and a queue where you wait to place and pay for your order. Another where you queue to collect that order. One woman who shouts at you because you obviously don’t know how this works (she seems to be the only one who does) and one woman who for some reason treats you like a human. Good chips and excellent fish though.

More TV tonight and more pyrotechnics from the battlefield too.

Packing tonight, because it’s the long way home tomorrow.

The Grand Tour – 16 September 2020

Today the walkers were going ‘up the spout’ again. We were heading for Ullswater to find another waterfall, Aira Force.

We set off on our travels, off the narrow roads and on to the busy A66. Found Ullswater quite easily with the help of the satnav. The scenery looked interesting but the roads are narrow and twisty, so there wasn’t much of a chance to admire the views. Tried to park at Aira Force carpark, but it was a waste of time. Too many cars which meant far too many people, so we drove on to see where we would get to. Decided on Kendal which we hadn’t been to and we’d be driving on narrow roads again which are so much more interesting than the wide ‘A’ roads.

Climbed the Kirkstone Pass which I’m sure we’d driven before, many years ago. Stopped at the top to take the view you see here. I remembered that view looking down the pass to Brothers Water in the distance. Since I’d not had a chance to photograph the big waterfall at Cautley on either of our visits, I did manage a few slow shutter shots of a wee stream at the top of the pass.

Drove on from Kirkstone Pass, down the other side and took the turning to Kendal. Wandered round the town and then found an interesting restaurant called Comida which is Spanish for Food. Scamp had poached eggs on toast, I had poached eggs on toast with spreadable Chorizo and a side of Padron peppers to share, although Scamp wasn’t impressed with the peppers. She did however order some churros which came with a glass of hot chocolate sauce and were delicious. It was an excellent lunch and we’d definitely go there again if we’re in the Lakes.

Followed the satnav after an argument with it, but eventually had to give in and “perform a ‘U’ turn when possible”. Came back through Kirkby Stephen and stopped at the Coop for more provisions. JIC and Sim were cooking tonight. Naked Fish and Carrot Chips! Sounded interesting and was. Very tasty. JIC did a great job of cooking the fish. We really need to try this at home. Carrot chips could be the next big thing.

Another beautiful day weatherwise.  Sat at night in the living room listening to the gunfire and explosions from the army camp a couple of miles away.  Skies lit up with flares over the ‘battlefield’.  I don’t know how the locals put up with the constant noise.

Tomorrow the walkers are off to Wild Boar Fell and we are hoping to do the Viaduct Walk in KS.

Cautley Spout revisited – 15 September 2020

Hoping for better weather

In the morning Scamp read at the house while I tried another sketch, a rough, from a different angle. As sometimes happens, the rough turned out better than I’d expected, and became a shaded pencil sketch. I may have to give up the 20mm long Palomino Blackwing and release it from its pencil extender. It’s worked hard since mid April!

In the afternoon the two hill walkers decided we should revisit Cautley Spout, but attack it from a different angle. It was a much better day than the last time, so we agreed to have a go. Parking was a lot tighter than at our previous visit, but after waiting in the Cross Keys carpark, we managed to grab a space. The Cross Keys is a Temperance Inn where no alcohol is sold, or allowed on the premises. I didn’t know such places still existed.

Today’s walk started in the same direction as the last one, but then made a change of direction, going left over a narrow bridge and on at an angle up the hill with a dry stane dyke on our left side as we climbed gently round the edge of the hill. Great views of the valley below and lots of rustling from beech trees as their leaves were turning more brown than green in the autumn sun.

No rainy coat today, in fact I’d to tie my jersey round my waist and continue on in my shirt sleeves, the weather was so calm and warm. I began to wish I’d changed to shorts instead of jeans. After an hour or so of tramping along a path that started off almost as a stream bed with water running down it. Then through a field of grazing sheep past deep pools of running water where Vixen demonstrated her love of swimming. Eventually though the path started to lose itself to a bog and we decided that after a tangerine each for sustenance, we should call it a day and walk back down.

Further down the path, Vixen had another swim in the bigger stream which is the run off from the waterfall. She was on a long lead and seemed totally at home in the water.

Scamp was cook tonight and Holy Cow Chicken Curry was hotter than we expected it to be. Nice Stone Oven naan bread to soak up the leftover sauce.

A good day. Glad we did the easier of the two walks, but the weather definitely helped.

Kirkby Stephen on our own – 14 September 2020

The other two were off climbing mountains, we were being tourists, in the sun.

Parked at the car park JIC had used on Saturday and then headed along the main street, which didn’t take very long. There wasn’t much to see. Walked back and had a look through the Cloisters, went through and had a look at the old church behind them. Took the path round the lawn and then exited on to the path that took us over Frank’s Bridge. Don’t know who Frank was, but he made a good job of the bridge. The air was full of the buzzing of bees in the bushes beside the bridge. A few butterflies too. Lots of ducks swimming in the River Eden underneath, but we didn’t have time for ducks. Instead we were following the path we’d travelled a couple of days before, except …

Except, instead of turning right after crossing a bridge over a stream and climbing up, up, up, we turned left and followed the stream past pretty houses whose gardens ran right down to the stream. How brilliant that would be to have a stream at the end of your garden, until it floods, then it might be a different story. We walked on and took a left turn at what seemed to be the end of the village. That eventually took us round past the cricket ground back to Frank’s Bridge. Took some photos of the ducks in the river under the bridge and watched a dog called Betty charging into the water and scaring the living daylights out of the ducks. I know this is boring, and means nothing to you, but remember whose blog this is!

Back in the town again it looked like there had been a funeral because lots of people dressed in black and the men with black ties had commandeered all the tables in the café Scamp wanted to have lunch in. Instead, we had a lunch in a Costa across the street. After a toastie and a coffee for me and a millionaire’s shortbread and latte for Scamp we crossed the road again. Scamp bought a sieve for fishing out poached eggs (that’s the best description I can muster) from an ironmongers. Then we found a deli where I got some marmalade that didn’t taste as home-made as it was advertised and a couple of russets, plus some veg for tonight’s risotto. Walked to the car, drove to the Coop and got some nice beer Lost Lager, plus other stuff, as usual when in foreign climes.

Drove home, to our home for the week. I’d bought a sim card for my old iPhone and spent a lost half an hour trying to get it to accept my credit card details to top-up Eventually I got exasperated and after checking with my bank that I hadn’t been spoofed out of my worldly goods, I shut the phone down. Thank you ‘Kenneth’ from O2 customer help who did his level best to get me sorted out. Went outside into the sunshine and while Scamp read, I sketched Pinfold Cottage where we are staying.

Dinner tonight was Prawn & Pea Risotto, cooked by Scamp.

Tomorrow we are hoping to go back to the waterfall, but this time we’re taking the more leisurely route.

Ready for the off – 11 September 2020

Waiting, waiting, waiting for the party to begin.

Not exactly a party, but the start of a week in Engeland! We were leaving around 2pm to coordinate with JIC and Sim who would be leaving earlier, except, as usually happens, they were delayed, but we left around 2pm anyway, because we were excited and ready for a fun-filled week in the North Yorkshire Moors. Even the very name reminds me of The Slaughtered Lamb pub. Nah, it will be fine. Anyway, it was a chance to test out the new Micro, ‘Blue’ to put it through its paces and hopefully achieve a better mpg than the Red Juke was capable of.

We drove through the rain and little bits of sunshine all the way down until we nearly reached Penrith, that’s when the traffic started backing up on the slow lane of the M6, hundreds of yards before the first countdown marker for the exit. We didn’t mind all that much, we had plenty of time. The problem was two different diversions, both of them funnelling traffic into the exit we were taking. Coupled to that, it was Friday, early finishing day for work and school so once you’d factored that in, it was really surprising that only half an hour after we met the holdup, we were back on our way again after forcing our way through two roundabouts of merging traffic. Not an easy thing to do in a nearly new car with folk thinking they could cram you out of the way because you don’t want to scratch a new car, do you? I didn’t, but I hate queue jumpers too. So I did what I usually do in these cases and drove even slower to make them wait.

Got to the house and were just investigating the rooms when JIC and Sim arrived. That holdup had balanced our times so they weren’t that late after all. I’d grabbed the garage as our parking place to leave room for their Volvo. Only fair, I thought. To the winner, the spoils.

The PoD was the view from the upstairs lounge. As you might just be able to see, it was still raining.

Weather fairies say the weather will improve tomorrow. Let’s hope so.

Parrots, Pizza and Reverse – 12 February 2020

A strange mixture, but all in the correct order.

Last full day down south and my how the time has flown. All the things we were going to do and all the places we were going to see. Well we did do some of them and we did see some of them too. Today we were going to take Hazy to the garden centre, the same one Canute and Delia had taken us to, so I knew the route. We had some time to waste first, so I left Scamp to guard the house while I went for a walk in Horton Park.

Like I’ve said earlier, is a well kept park. Lots of little pathways going everywhere. Cycle tracks with obstacles to jump or ride over. Confusing signage which seems to point out five different ways to get to the same place, all in different directions and with different distances, and parrots! Well, actually they are parakeets, green ones that screech their way across the treetops, never coming close to the ground. Found lots of interesting little nicknacks all over the place. Rusted fenceposts that must have been pre-WW1. Little clearings in the woods and more parrots. I’d only been given an hour at most to investigate the woods, less than that once I’d navigated my way round a roundabout. Soon my phone was warning me that I’d used up half my time and it was now time to return to the house.

Managed to drive out the driveway and on to the road without hitting anything. For some reason the traffic was kind to me and allowed me a space to exit on to what is usually a very busy road. Followed the road Canute had taken and quickly found the garden centre without having to cross the standing water that had dogged his journey. Pizza in the garden centre is usually a must, but today it must have been the apprentice chef who was in charge, because when my buzzer announced its arrival from the oven, what I took charge of was a bit thin and scorched. I ate most of it. Scamp’s baked potato looked no better. Bought a few things then wheeled Hazy to the car and found out how to fold the wheelchair neatly into the boot. That’s when the trouble started.

We had to reverse out of the parking space, but every time I though I’d selected reverse, the car moved forward. I checked the gearstick to see if I had to lift the stick to select reverse, or push down on it, but neither of those was available, it was simply a case of push left, then forward … except that didn’t seem to work. Hazy even phoned Neil in Goa to find out if there was a magic word you had to use first, but he just confused me even more by saying that you moved the stick left, but kind of left and back, and then forward. If it had just been Scamp and I in the car I’d have started swearing then. If I had I’d have missed the sight of a beautiful bird, a Red Kite flying up out of a field across the road. I was half watching it the the stick slipped neatly into reverse and we were off again on our way. I was careful not to do anything stupid that necessitated reverse gear again until we arrived home and the passengers were safely in the house. Then I did the unforgivable. I read the manual. It said to use a dynamic movement to select reverse. More a curve left and forward, rather than two discrete movements. It worked like a treat. Now I saw what Neil had been describing. However, after I’d managed to get the car into the position it was in before we left, I got out, locked the door and walked away. I don’t think we’ll bother looking for a Mini as our next car.

PoD is one of the old pre-WW1 fenceposts.
SoD is a rose, using what I remembered from the technique I learned from an old man on a cruise a couple of years ago.

Spent the evening packing everything into two roll along cases one bag and a rucksack. Tomorrow we’re off home.

Kingston – 6 February 2020

Off on our travels again.

Today we’d earmarked Kingston upon Thames as the place to go. We’d been there before a few times, but that doesn’t mean we can’t go again and probably find new wonders to explore. Now that we know how to use Oyster cards and even simpler credit cards to pay on buses and trains, travel without a ticket is the way to go. Single price journeys are so much easier to work with too.

So it was a walk along to the bus stop, then the No 71 to Kingston as the lady’s voice from the speaker reminded us at every stop. Then a visit to M&S for a new bunnet followed by a coffee in Nero. After that, a walk round the market and then down by the Thames in the sunshine under a bright blue sky where we saw some cormorants drying their wings.

Lunch was Japanese street food in Itsu. Mine was a Chicken Noodle soup with lots of ginger and Scamp had a Chicken and Coconut soup. We both shared a portion of Chicken Gyoza. To finish off we had a beer in the Druid’s Head. Managed to find most of the stuff we needed for dinner in Waitrose and got the bus back to Chessington.

PoD was the Thames walkway at Kingston. SoD was a snail which was the answer to the “Crawl” topic.



Tunnels and Trains – 5 February 2020

Goin’ down south to have a good time …

Out early(ish) for the taxi to the station for the train, then another train, walked for miles through underground tunnels, then another train. Climbed the stairs and missed the next train (as usual). Got the next one and then out of the station in a strange land. Started walking to the house. Discovered I’d lost my old brown bunnet somewhere. Oh no! Thought about going back, but where would it be? At the station? On one of the many trains? In a tunnel? At another station? Impossible to work out where, so resigned myself to the fact that we’d be separated forever. Hopefully someone who needed one would find it and give it a new head to keep warm.

Got to Hazy’s house after the long walk along, almost overtaking some of the cars stuck in what seems to be a perpetual traffic jam.

At Hazy’s we met Tilly the new cat and Penny the aloof matron. It was pizza for dinner tonight. A big 12” anchovy and olive for me while Hazy and Scamp shared a mushroom, peppers and anchovy one.

PoD was a grab shot, taken at Vauxhall. SoD topic was Dotty. Two ladybirds making more ladybirds was my take on the subject.

Fairly early to bed tonight after a long day of trains, tunnels and lost bunnets.

Flying home – Going home – 27 December 2019

Today was one of those lost days.

All of us knew we were on a countdown. Even Vixen seemed to realise that all was not as well as it should be.

Jamie drove us all to a garden centre. I got some seeds, Scamp got a screen cleaner for her car and J&S got seeds of the planting variety and of the bird feeding variety too. We had coffee and cakes there, of course. That’s how garden centres manage to exist during the winter. It was good to see the Christmas decorations coming down to leave room for the spring plants, no doubt. Saw and interesting plant, the Paper Bush (edgeworthia chrysantha) and that became PoD. Also noticed a lot of dead fish lying around the fish pond. Various explanations were proposed, but my best guess was a heron.

Back home for lunch and to say our goodbyes to Sim and Vixen then it was the long drive to the airport. JIC doesn’t seem to mind the long drive and I used to enjoy them too. Not so much now, or maybe I’m just not so used to driving now that I’m not having to do a daily commute. When the days get longer and the weather gets warmer, maybe I’ll do a bit more.

Grabbed a quick snack at the airport and soon were called to the gate and on to the plane. Pleasant flight up. It’s strange to be on the plane for just an hour. We’re so used to the three and four hour flights to warm places, not to mention the seven hour flights to Trinidad. Excitement at Glasgow when the plane was met by four police who huckled two slightly inebriated guys off for questioning and a bit of finger wagging. When we entered the terminal, there they were getting a severe dressing down. While we waited for Scamp’s luggage they reappeared swaggering in the door. Not in the least looking worried and proceeded to take some selfies with a couple of older women who apparently had spoken up for them to the police. We hadn’t heard any commotion on the flight, so either they had been carrying on at Stanstead or it was just a bit of over reaction. Well done to the ladies for standing up for them.

Drove home and had a wee glass of G&T to settle us down.

Tomorrow we may need to go for messages.