Monday, 28 June 2010

Graduation Day

It's our middle daughter's Graduation Day up in Durham this Wednesday so I shall be away until Thursday night now. I do not envy my journey up there, which is going to take all day (8 hours or so), but I think I will set off early and break my journey in the Lake District as there's a castle I want to visit - Sizergh Castle, near Kendal. I was going to visit it when I was last up in the area returning home from G's, but I couldn't wait until gone lunchtime for it to open.

Right, I had better go and get my case packed. See you all when I get back. Play nicely!

Saturday, 26 June 2010

Kitten pics

Remember I said we have kittens? Well, there are three. Two black and white and one ginger and white (the latter has my name on it!) A friend's daughter is looking for kittens (note plural) so when I can tame the other two, perhaps she will have them.

I managed a few photos of them today, playing outside the old chicken cum junk shed . . . Their mother is blind in one eye and something has bitten her neck - she looks like she has had a tracheotomy - but as she's as wild as anything, no chance of getting her to a vet for treatment. As a feral, they would probably just say she should be pts anyway . . .

As I said, mum's neck looks horrid, its' possibly a burst abscess, but she is eating fine and has plenty of energy, so as she's young, perhaps she will mend OK.

Yesterday we travelled down to Devon, house-hunting again. We saw two absolutely stunning properties, and one which could have been nice with some tlc (had a lovely garden and workshop). We have made an offer on the middle property, not that I think we will get it as we're only just going on the market (because of all the delays with agents not knowing how to price this house!) We've made a closeish offer (promptly rejected), will let them stew a bit - they were on with a different agent and have just changed agents, so perhaps they are wanting the full whack - or will only drop a fiver . . . We probably won't be able to sell quickly enough to get it (unless, hoping against hope, the first person to see our house falls in love and is a cash buyer who have sold their house!!) But if it's for us, we will have it. If not, then there's another house out there waiting for us.

And yes, chicken shed waiting for a replacement door . . .

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

We have KITTENS!

Back to Devon tomorrow:

The kittens are not by choice, I might add. These are the children of Miffy (think white, with blobs of tortoiseshell on her) and blind in one eye from a fight with one of our cats, I suspect, and the Big Bad Grey Tom (Boldr) who would love to drive our cats off. He is a Problem . . . Anyway, we knew that Miffy had had babies, over in one of the farm buildings, but now she thinks we need to feed them, and has brought them to live in the old poultry house. We think there may be three, but only saw two playing out yesterday - a white with ginger blotches and a white with black blotches. They're about 5 or 6 weeks old and as cute as anything. I bewailed the fact of more faces to feed to eldest daughter, and said, "What am I going to do?" Her prompt reply was, "Keep them of course, mother dear . . ." Sigh. I would happily keep them if we can somehow trap and rehome their parents.

Tomorrow we are off to see more houses in Devon. We have three properties to view - a Devon long house, a smallholding with ancient house, and a former pub in a Devon market town. The same Devon market town we viewed in at the beginning of the month in fact. A nice place, but I'm not sure if the house is right, although it does have a good garden and outbuildings. It is practical and SENSIBLE, but I'm not sure if I'm grown up enough to be really sensible yet . . .

This morning it is overcast and looks like it may rain, which would be a blessing as the garden is cracking in parts where it is clay-rich and has been SO dry for all this year. I am having to water round every evening, and where I have seedlings in, in the morning too. Yesterday I finally got around to repotting all my Auriculas. I had two big pots absolutely crammed with them (bought for my birthday last year) and they needed seperating. I now, ahem, have 60 plants! I think I will let them grow on a bit and think about selling some to new homes at a car boot sale. I would prefer some different colours/markings than 60 in repeating colours. On-line, plants seem to be from £4 to £4.80 each, so I guess it will have to be seeds . . .

Monday, 21 June 2010

D Day . . .

. . . or rather V Day, as in Valuations. We have two agents coming today, so then we will be able to decide who gets sole agency . . . Pray that the first person who comes along to view is totally smitten and offers full whack!

I have some housework to do this morning (ongoing, as is the gardening). Yesterday was a busy day - think scrubbing floors (yet again), moving stuff out of sight, decobwebbing etc. I went over the sitting room with a fine-tooth comb, and still forgot the bit behind the tv (as OH was watching the racing). I've moved stuff round in there and by putting my little side-table in a corner, have been able to move the sofa down and make more room. I can't sew, and my cup of tea has to go on the floor, but the room looks less cramped. It looked like a Victorian parlour before. OH still has to sort through his "filing system" which is spilling out of its corner and he hasn't helped my cause by putting a whopping coffee table in the bay window and covering it with books to read, and bits of paper . . .

The roses are looking good. My Albertine climber over the bay has come into bloom now, Roserie de l'Hay (which starts end of May) is having a little rest now with fewer flowers, but New Dawn, a cream climber, a French-named pink rambler, Graham Thomas and Cardinal de Richelieu are in full bloom now, and The Garland (rambler) soon will be. There are buds on my lovely stripey gallica rose, Rosa mundi, which was one of the first roses I planted here, and through one of the apple trees, I have the pink cup-like flowers of Constance Spry reaching for the sky!

As you can see, the attic is looking good. Pale wishy-washy colours don't work in this house - we chose bold instead - though much of the house is yellow, to combat those grey rainy days.

We found another couple of houses in Devon worth viewing so hope to head Westwards again soon.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Window cleaning blues . . .

We do have just a few challenges when it comes to cleaning some of the windows here. This was the worst - and I made a hash of it trying to clean it from the inside - I needed arms like a Giraffe's neck! However, my menfolk rose to the challenge, and after deciding that the extending ladder wasn't going to do it safely, our son hung out of the window whilst my husband hung onto his legs . . . They thought it was hilarious. I was glad when they had finished!!

My Paul's Himalayan Musk is coming into full bloom now and as it stretches virtually the width of the garden, it is absolutely AMAZING. The perfume is wonderful too. I will have to have one in my next garden and will miss this one so much, as it is really well-established.

Below - this is The Garland, absolutely covered in buds last year. Similar again at the moment. It has a wonderful fragrance of Orange blossom.

More tomorrow, as it IS Father's Day and there is a bottle of vino with our name on it!

Saturday, 19 June 2010


I don't know why it underlined and blued my text when I cut and pasted it, but it will have to stay like that for now . . .

One thing that has been impressed on me in the past few weeks is my need FOR a garden and to carry out the act of GARDENING. It has been my reward for all the hours of hard labour put into the house - mind you at times, that reward has felt more like a punishment! I have been working flat out for nearly 3 months now (OH too of course) and the 8 - 10 hour days have been wearying, but although I'm a bit fitter, painting doesn't make you lose weight, sadly!

In viewing properties, both in the flesh, and looking on-line, what I have realized I absolutely MUST have is a garden, and not just any garden, but one that appeals to my senses. OH was keen on looking at a large barn conversion, which I found absolutely soul-less and - to be honest - a bit middle-class geriatric! in interior design. I really couldn't understand what he saw in it - apart from getting gigantic rooms - all apart from the kitchen, which was half the size of one of the enormous bedrooms. And the garden - well, it was planted up for ease of care - like, you could just more or less ignore it as it was mostly conifers in various shapes and sizes, and a few evergreen shrubs spaced about, and meant to look structurally dignified. It was HIDEOUS. I told him, if you insist we buy that place, I'd take a bulldozer to the garden. He couldn't understand it. "But you wouldn't have much to do out there, it would make life easier for you." Hmmm. I told him I rise to the challenge of a garden (this one in particular has been VERY challenging over the years). I like colour, and climbing things, and lots of roses, and different parts of a garden hidden away, like little rooms, and some perhaps needing low-growing alpines, whilst other areas could take a big bold herbaceous border.

We have viewed a property which we both like very much. It is impractical as it stands, as the rooms are smaller than ideally we would like (or indeed need, with the larger pieces of furniture which suit this big house), but there is an additional building which would work wonderfully as an annexe, subject to planning of course. And then there is the garden, such a beautiful garden, and it called to me (even OH, NOT a gardener, LOVED it too). As we walked around, it had EVERYTHING I wanted - room for a small orchard and a polytunnel, established plantings, lovely roses and borders (though overgrown), established soft fruit area and a lovely front garden too, sheltered and a real sun-trap. My hands actually ACHED to start work there, weeding the beds. In fact, they ached for a good 24 hours - how strange is that?

I daren't hope too much, so I have tried to put it at the back of my mind. But that garden keeps calling me, and although we have details of other - more expensive and much more sensible size-wise - properties to view, we BOTH keep returning to this other cottage, and have even spoken to a local architect about the difficulties of getting planning (it is Grade II listed, like this house). I think that on Monday we are going to speak to the local Planning Officer, he with the default of "no" . . .

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Glastonbury Abbey (I)

I was fed up with having this pelmet folded up, getting in the way, so thought the best way to keep it tidy was to hang it up - a moment of inspiration here - fits far better down here than it ever did over in the arch in the main hallway. This is the kitchen in what was my mum's flat downstairs.

I can finally say that we are seeing daylight at the end of our mammoth clean-up and decorating tunnel. I spent yesterday afternoon decorating the marine blue panels up in one of the attic bedrooms. I believe there were 45 of them, and because it's one of the half-timbered areas, I had to out line the edges carefully with a Small Brush to avoid getting paint on the wood, and then slosh some paint about in the middle with my Big Brush. Though I say it myself, it looks good. The new colour is a sort of Sky Blue.

I did about 4 hours in the garden yesterday, first thing, and excavated ALL (I hope) of the grass roots at the bottom end of my veg patch, where the Fennel grows. A little drain runs across that corner, and I usually bung in a few Courgette plants, but this year I have planted it up with grown-from-seed seedlings of Hollyhock, Double Blue Cornflowers and about 80 little Everlasting Flowers. I also put in (finally - poor things have been languishing for WEEKS) a row of Broccoli, and 2 1/2 rows of Leeks grown from seed. I was given some Monastic Coco pole bean seeds recently so I shall get those started off today, better late than never (and thank you Yarrow).

Now for some of the photographs from Glastonbury Abbey. I will have to post them in two lots as I took so many.

What a fabulous doorway. It reminds me of the incredible carvings at Kilpeck church and probably has the same French medieval inspirations.

Close up of the motifs, but sadly many are too weathered to see clearly what they represented.

Above and below - this is a room which is being restored (a small chapel) with wonderful wall paintings. It makes you realize how much colour was in the original churches - not just all the grey stone we see now.

Below - what a wonderful door. Solid oak and studded with huge blacksmith-made nails which had been hammered over flat at the back. Whoever put those in had some muscles!

I hope that this will blow up enough to be read.

This curious chap has been moved from the Square I think.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

House Hunting in Somerset

A Glastonbury shop . . .

My OH and I set off for the West Country early on Saturday morning. We had two properties to view.

The first one, in Somerset, was a lovely old cottage with a homely feel. I liked it a lot but OH was very sniffy about room sizes again (yet he'd read the brochure so knew what they were). Gloomy prognostications about having to get rid of 2/3 of our books and 3/4 of our furniture were made . . . I bet if it had had Gothic windows and features he'd have been singing a different tune . . . There was a useful outbuilding which could be an annexe with a chunk of money spending on it and the necessary planning permission. The garden had the lawns mown but the established borders had obviously got too much for the elderly lady living there, bless her, and were overgrown, but the plantings . . . It was half an acre of heaven. A huge pear tree entwined with an old rope-stemmed clematis; rows of blackcurrants and redcurrants, rhubarb, raspberries. Elder bushes at the perimeters. Not just one but two greenhouses (one huge and delapidated). Plenty of room for chickens and a polytunnel and a small orchard . . . She had some wonderful roses just coming into bloom including a rambler I'd wanted years ago called Rosa Veilchenblau . . . magenta-purple blooms fading to lilac-grey. I am definitely going to have one in my next garden. My hands literally ached to start clearing the weeds from the borders. Even OH (not a gardener by any stretch of the imagination) knew it was a lovely garden and fell in love with it too . . . If only the rooms in the cottage were a wee bit bigger. It would be too big a chance to take to (try to) buy it with the hope that the powers that be would allow an extension where a falling-down lean-to store shed currently was . . . (a nearby town is a Conservation area and I don't know if this village comes under the same umbrella). The stumbling-block, as ever, is our offspring and how long they will still be at home.

Sadly, I drove away. OH and I tried to work out a solution, but it's had to go on the back burner. The 2nd property was up near Glastonbury, and a really lovely cottage, though it had a tiny garden (too small for me - I like a challenge!) You couldn't fault the presentation and decor, but the garden was all at the front of the house and had no privacy (something we are not used to) and a 4th bedroom was - literally - the size of a broom cupboard - too small to get a bed in unless it was upright! Yes, we had read the brochure, once again, but you always hope that something can be done elsewhere to remedy the shortcomings, but in this case there were other negatives.

By this time it was well into the afternoon and we were absolutely starving - could have eaten a scabby horse between two mattresses as my ex-husband used to say! We made our way to Glastonbury and found a lovely deli we'd been in before. They had a really good selection of cheeses - OH had a Dorset Red, which was smoked, and I chose Sharpham Rustic - a semi-hard cheese made in Totnes (where I have Devon roots). We bought rustic rolls to go with them and sat in the churchyard of St Joh's church, in the sunshine (a regular picnic spot for folks, it would seem).

Glastonbury was seemingly unchanged from when we last visited a few years back. Hippies still throng there. (Here in Wales, the ones who arrived in the late 1960s are now getting quite geriatric, with long grey locks tumbling over their shoulders, and some even in wheelchairs.)

We fitted in a visit to the Abbey, and I will make that the subject of my next blog posting.

St John's Church, Glastonbury:

The alibaster tomb of John Cammell, who died in 1487. He is seen holding a purse and he carried out legal work for the Abbot. However, the Somerset village of Queen Camel traces its name from 'cantmael', its name in the 10th C (this possibly derived from the Celtic words canto (district) and mael (bare hill).

In this picture the finely-carved pulpit is kept company by an hour glass - marking the length of the sermon. Not a minute more - not a moment less - an hour to expiate your sins . . .

The beautiful stained glass window at St John's. HERE is a link for the subjects pictured in the window and a page of information about the church and its interior.

A close up of the detailed carving on a beautiful chest in the centre of the church. I think that the carvings are particularly West Country in style.

The Glastonbury Tribunal building.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Just a memory . . .

That's how our few days away last week feel now. Time is going past so swiftly as I am up early and then working flat out for most of the day. Below is a property we viewed and loved, but we couldn't make it work for us - not at all. No garden - only a yard - no workshop for OH, and street parking only. But the cottage itself was unspoilt and had good room proportions. Ah well, I daresay our dream house is out there somewhere waiting for us . . .

The new header for the blog now is a photo I took whilst we were in Devon last week. It's a little lane that leads to the village of Bridestowe. I was driving first time we drove down there, house-hunting, and we were late so I couldn't stop and take photos. However, we drove back across the moor after seeing the last property and as we passed this lane again, we stopped and I got my camera out. It was like being in a green cathedral - the beech trees were so vast. Whoever planted them must have been a person of such vision and I hope he (I assume it was a man) was able to live long enough to see their potential as fully-grown trees.

Nearby, in the village of Sourton, we stopped to take photos of a really quirky pub which had been "modified" to a highwayman theme . . . Not to everyone's taste, but it was done with families in mind I think, and the children-sized doors and Mother Hubbard's shoe would appeal to any smalls!

Across the road was a curious cross. There are plenty of wayside crosses on the moor and by roadsides - several books are written about them. This particular one was found in two halves, propping up a barn roof in the 1980s, and with the help of volunteers, was restored and erected on the green at Sourton. It is a Saxon cross, dating from the 10th century, and both faces have a design of crosses, circles and saltires (St. Andrew's Cross or cross decussata) Link:

The moor was beautiful, as it always is in my eyes. I feel so drawn there, so part of it in ways I cannot explain for fear of raised eyebrows at the very least. I suppose it is my Devon blood (my dad was born in Bovey Tracey and my Devon roots are in Hennock, Moretonhampstead, Stoke Gabriel, Berry Pomeroy, Littlehempston and Totnes, for the two main family lines. Various photos - taken whilst we were driving along, so any flaws are due to speed!

Last photo - the Powder Mills near Postbridge - the Hairy Hands (see earlier post) were seen nearby . . .

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

If I go any faster . . .

(The result of painting the wall last year, and then an extreme clear out and scrub-up today . . . Down in what was my mum's kitchen . . . )

. . . . I shall meet myself coming back! It is all hands to the pump here, as we paint the final bits - though I did have a sorry moment yesterday when I painted some needy patches on the stair wall (two flights) and it dried the Wrong Colour Yellow . . . It would appear we no longer have any Right Colour Yellow and so I now have to paint the whole blardy lot again!!! That will have to wait until everything else is done though, as it doesn't show too badly and I don't think a photo of the staircase will be necessary.

It is all coming together, and the most satisfying part of today was clearing out down in mum''s kitchen (her bedroom is still to be tackled). I took several boxes of china to auction yesterday, and have some frames and a couple of hunting prints to go too, and any car boot stuff has gone in the barn, along with anything which shouldn't BE in the room.

Though I say it myself, the garden is looking lovely this year - it has never looked so good in fact, and I am just about keeping on top of the weeds in the main borders. The veg garden looks a bit sad so far, but I have lots to go in - just trying to juggle it with the work in the house.

Foxgloves vie with Aquilegias for prettiness.

My big Oriental Poppies are just starting to flower.

There used to be a little pathway here . . .

This is a lovely little rambler which was given me by a neighbour, who said it was very old. It has the most wonderful perfume. I have some of its babies to travel with us to our new home. I've planted it down by mum's patio garden.

The house-hunting continues, although there is a real dearth of anything suitable for us in the area of Devon we want to move to. We've seen properties we would LOVE but they would take all of the money we would get for this house, and leave us with no savings, and we want to have a buffer in the Bank . . . We are currently looking further afield and saw several possibles in Somerset when searching on-line today . . .