Cat Sat

Chatty Bit: We have been on a birding and family visitation to the Southeast of England, namely Kent. This has been followed by a week in our daughter and partner’s house, cat sitting etc, while they enjoy the sights abroad. By this weekend we were well frazzled, and went into permanent chill-out mode, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone. I thought I’d take a series of photos of the garden here, which I could use for a Facebook post to show them how nice their garden is keeping, and a post here to show everyone I’m still awake, and thinking of you all.

Piccy Bit:

690 Chaenomeles japonica
We know this as Japonica, which is only half of it’s name. I discovered today that it is Chaenomeles japonica, an ornamental quince.

691 Chaenomeles japonica
A macro which has highlighted some dust particles, but they are between the glass works of the camera !!

697 Rhus
This is the flower (?) and new leaves on a Rhus. They have gorgeous autumn colours and need to be well pruned to keep them to a manageable size.

699 Bluebell

700 Bluebell
Bluebells of course, but these are the typical ‘garden’ ones, being Spanish or a Spanish/English hybrid.

728 Bee feeding on a Pulmonaria - Lungwort
A bee (?) feeding on a Pulmonaria (Lungwort) flower. It’s got a massive feeding tube, which is why I question it’s insectorial nomenclature. I had loads of fun trying to photograph all manner of bees and insects, with a success ration of 2%, LoL.

752 Pulmonaria - Lungwort
Pulmonaria in close-up.

748 Blue Tit at the bathing pool of the water feature.
A Blue Tit not bathing!! but some have been, plus Great Tits, Robins, Dunnocks and a Goldcrest, and on a daily basis too.

781 Pond and water slide
The pond and water feature with a Fan Palm of some sort against the fence.

756 Mahonia
One species of Mahonia.

766 Mahonia
A shrubby version of Mahonia.

767 Mahonia
Fruits on the Mahonia.

790 Daffodils
The Daffodils are at the end of their season, but a few still look very pretty.

794 Daffodils
A welcoming sight at the front yard / garden entrance.


Father’s Day Treat – but not on Father’s Day

All these special days are on Sundays, which might be fine for most people, but our Sundays are quite full already. Regular readers will remember that I adore Sundays, because it’s my day in the kitchen, and I do the English cooked breakfast, dinner and tea, and get to pamper Julie all day. We normally have breakfast in the hobby room, and Julie spends the morning working on her cards. I pop in and out with breakfast and coffees. After breakfast I logged on to Facebook, and discovered it was Father’s Day. When I mentioned it to Julie she said that she had meant to ask me if I wanted pampering today – well, too late now, and besides, not taking over the kitchen is not a bonus. The GUKs – Grown Up Kids – all rang during the day, which was brill, and we had nice chats, which are always a treat.

At the end of the day, Julie asked if I would fancy going on the steam train to Porthmadog. There was a train leaving Caernarfon at 1115, it gets to Porthmadog at 1345, and after a 25 minute break, it heads back to Caernarfon, arriving there at 1640. The steam trains are on the narrow gauge tracks run by the Welsh Highland Railway. It sounded like a nice idea – and I must admit that Julie does do pretty well in the ‘nice idea department’. The weather guesstimate for the Monday was pretty good too.

The Welsh Highland Railway poster

We awoke Monday to find the sun shining and birds singing, all presaging a wonderful day ahead. We got to the station at Caernarfon thirty minutes ahead of the departure time, so we were ready to start taking photos as soon as the train arrived from the garage(?) at Dinas. The train duly arrived, and the first job was to unhitch it from the front of the line of carriages, and go back to the other end. The back was about to become the new front. The driver was so nice, because after disconnecting, he stopped the train to let people photograph it, before steaming off to swap ends.

Train and carriages arrive
The Train pulls in from Dinas

We found a carriage near the back (the new back, for the outward run to Pothmadog) and it was less than a quarter full, so we had plenty of space and we used adjacent seats on both sides of the carriage, so we could photograph the scenery on either side of the train. The scenery on the way to the first stop at Dinas, is rural farming land and woods, with views across to the Irish Sea. From Dinas to Waunfawr the scenery gradually becomes hilly, and from Waunfawr we run through a valley at the bottom of Yr Wyddfa (Mount Snowdon) through forests and moorland and lakes through Rhyd Ddu to Beddgelert. At Rhyd Ddu the up trains and down trains rendezvous before continuing on their way. This meeting of trains allows people from both ends of the line to do short distance return trips with no waiting. At Beddgelert, we turn right into the Afon Glaslyn gorge, or more properly the Pass of Aberglaslyn, through wooded hillsides, tunnels, and out onto the floodplain to Porthmadog. Even the flat bits are pretty.

Our 3rd Class carriage
Our 3rd Class Carriage, ample space and comfy

So how did our day go? Julie had packed up a backpack with some biscuits, and snacks and two sealed mugs with coffees in them. We didn’t touch these at first, but got coffees and fruit cake, and would you believe it? no barra brith on a Welsh train, hence the next best thing, the fruit cake. The rivers were very full today. We drank our coffee and ate the cake as the train went through the woods bordering the river from Llyn Cwellyn. Julie spent some time trying to get a photo of the train across a corner of the track, but trees and things would get in the way, or the track would veer the other way and take the train out of sight. I thought we could apply the classic pincer movement, and attack the job from both sides, and that didn’t work either. We solved the problem by waiting until we were riding high along the valley side, away from trees and forests, and besides which, I new that near Rhyd Ddu there were a couple of ‘Ess’ bends, because we had watched the trains trundle along them from our car on the road. Nothing like local knowledge is there.

Craig y Bera
Craig Y Bera

Nice photos got at last, we trundled into Rhyd Ddu, and I was hoping to catch the inward train as it came into the station, but it got there at the same time, so no luck there. There was always another chance on our return journey. As we left Rhy Ddu we ordered some bacon baps, and we started on the coffees in our steel thermos mugs, which were still nice and hot even after waiting for us a couple of hours. We entered the forest of Beddgelert, which has been a favourite spot of ours for years. Ironically, as the forest has recovered from it’s last harvest, a dozen years ago or more, the trees have grown and obliterated the beautiful panoramas. Today, on the train with trees just feet away, the forest beauty appeared in it’s own, inimitable way. Every so often the mountains and valleys fleetingly appeared, almost defying Julie’s attempt at scenic photo.

Train in Beddgelert Forest
Dropping down through Beddgelert Forest

Our bacon baps arrived just after leaving Beddgelert, where we left the forest and headed into the gorge, looking down on the pretty Afon Glaslyn. The track runs along the route of the old path, which hikers once used to traverse the Pass of Aberglaslyn, which, before that, was the route of the old slate train tracks to Porthmadog. We had walked these paths too, in the past, and through the tunnels, with Julie’s dad and sister, to meet Mick at a car park just past the end of the gorge. Amazing to think we did it without a torch! Back to the present; so out of the tunnel and through woods onto the flat hinterland, and on to the next halt at Pont Croesor, where the RSPB Glaslyn Osprey project is run from.

Rapids in the Pass of Aberglaslyn
The rapids in the Pass of Aberglaslyn

We go to Pont Croesor a couple of times a year, to see the osprey on their nest. Even with telescopes they are small blobs, so we had a nice surprise when we saw the nest from the train. We could see the female osprey on the nest, just, but with our binoculars we had a nice view of her, which was better than we get with scopes at Pont Croesor, which is mile from the nest. The hills and mountains around the flat lands going into Porthmadog, kept us occupied for the last part of the this trip. When we got to Porthmadog, it was a bit of a surprise to find us travelling over a main road to get to the terminus. The train has to go along the cob, to give it room to reverse into the terminus. A shunter did some of the work to enable our loco to unhitch and position itself ready to take the front spot again on the return journey.

We had twentyfive minutes at the terminus, so I pottered along the train to look at the Observation Car. It certainly has lots of space, and if you got one of the best seats, it would be well worth the £8 for a seat here. While it was in the station, the windows were cleaned ready for the next clients, which I thought was a nice touch. While at the terminus, I nipped into the café, and got a couple of hot cheese and onion pies, and a portion of chips, which I took back to our car to eat. The pies were big and tasty, as were the chips, and the other choices at the café all look appetizing. The pies and chips came to £5.60, $8.72, €6.95, which I thought was excellent value for money – I like a T-bar with user friendly prices, LoL.

Porthmadog harbour and marina
Porthmadog harbour and marina, viewed from the station

Just after 2 o’clock we were pulled back onto the cob, and our loco got hitched up, and off we set, along the road, and back out onto the hinterland. The return trip was just as delightful as the outward one, and this time I spent more time looking than taking photos, just concentrating on a few areas where I felt I could get some better pics. The male (guess) osprey was on the edge of the nest as we went past, so perhaps he’d brought fish for the female and chicks. My hopes for getting a photo of the opposite train coming into the station at Rhyd Ddu were thwarted again, as we made synchronous arrivals. Never mind, we go past Rhyd Dhu quite often, so I’ll just have to time a visit appropriately, and get that pic.

Train heading north out of Rhyd Ddu
Heading North out of Rhyd Ddu, along the lower slopes of Snowdon

The ride back to Caernarfon was as delightful as the rest of the journey; the sun had moved round, and the scenery took on new shapes and hues; the stewards were very polite and friendly, and they plied us with delicious coffee; the train driver had to swap ends again, to take the carriages back to Dinas, and once again, he paused during the manoeuvrings to allow us to take more pictures of his beautiful loco; it all typified a delightful day out, what more could we want?

The Stats. £60 on tickets and £20 on coffees and food, so £80, $125, €100.
Clicking on any picture, apart from the poster, will take you to the Flickr pic, and you can view the other thirty+ pics there, or use the link in the side panel.

Xmas Fun

Xmas turned out to be a very happy occasion. We had a bit of a panic in the last week, as we discovered we’d bought the wrong present for Dawn, but luckily, Amazon came to the rescue, and delivered the new present on time. Bry and Dawn came home a couple of days before Xmas, so they visited some friends and we all played lots of Wii. We all popped over to see Ann and Pete, and Enuerin of course, and got treated to a gorgeous meal, and lots of chat. Their new fire is a super focal point, and Bry and Dawn got to catch up on all the modernising to the flatlet.

Gra arrived at breakfast time Xmas day, and every one had a snacky breakfast before opening our presents. We didn’t buy as many presents this year, but it didn’t make our enjoyment any less, as we all managed to come up with some surprises for each other. Julie cooked dinner, but it turned out to be a joint effort. Julie did most of the work, but we all helped with things like the washing up, laying the table, taking the food; probably not a lot of help, but it felt nice, every one being with Julie at one time or another as she cooked us a delicious meal.

We spent a lot of time playing games, and Jayjay had given us a new game too, called Bezzerwizzer, (a game of trivia, trickery and tactics), so we ended Xmas day playing it. It turned out to be a lot of fun, and we Played oldies versus youngsters. We oldies won the first game quite substantially, but the youngsters just beat us on the next one, but they whipped us very well on the deciding game.

Boxing day was a fun day too, as Ann, Pete and Maria came, and Julie did a buffet meal. A day of lots of Wii games and chatting, and we introduced our lovely guests to a game called ‘Apples to Apples’. ‘Apples to Apples’ is a sort of word association game, but it gets it’s fun and interest from the interaction and repartee of the players. It’s quite addictive, and the more players there are, the more fun it is.

Dawn left on Tuesday, and the boys left at different ends of Wednesday. It was a super Xmas, sharing so much time with each one; I lent Dawn the iMac so she could work from home, Bry helped get Dawn organized, and helped me with some iMac things too, and Gra helped me with some Jewelry, & he showed us some of the gorgeous items he’s made. I even managed to get Julie a decent surprise present. Last but not least, we had mum with us, in the form of her Order of Service sheet, with her photo on the front (page 1). We put her in pride of place on our unit in the lounge, and she figured in some long conversations, plus lots of little cameo roles as we played games and stuff. Mum loved games, and she was so funny, leaving us with anecdotes and memories by the bucket load.

Finally, the end of year balance check. I weighed in, our rather out, at 12 stone 4 lbs on 30th December 2011. This is the heaviest I’ve been for two years. The year previously, on the 29th Dec 2010, I was 7 lbs lighter, but I was still one pound lighter than on the 29th December 2009, so bad news good news then. I hate being over 12 stone, in fact, I hate being near twelve stone, but it’s all self inflicted – and so stupid. Have a super 2012 everybody.

Conwy Valley Geocaching day out

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if Mum had her first annual review, to check that her care in her Care Home, was needed and suitable. Daryl went down to Kent for the meeting, and she and hubby Stuart came to us for a couple of nights on their way home. A bit of a detour, but we are worth it (LoL). The weather had been a bit wet and dull before they got here, but the day out was very nice and sunny.

We did ask Daryl what she preferred to do; stay in and chat and chill out, or go out for a potter.
“Lets go Geocaching” she said, and so that’s what we did.

Julie made up a picnic lunch of filled rolls, slices homemade sponge cake and some fruit, and we headed for the Conwy Valley. We picked the Conwy Valley for a few reasons; it is very pretty; it is stuffed with geocaches, several of which we have done already; it has a very pretty church where hawfinches are sometimes seen, and the church would be nice for a picnic while we bird watch.

We headed for Conwy, where we picked up the B-road that follows the west side of the valley to Betws-Y-Coed, but in typical dawdle fashion, we skipped the main road and went via the Sychnant Pass; it’s so pretty, and worth a photo shoot any day of the year.

Sychnant Pass heathery tint
Sychnant Pass, still heather covered

Jules and I had a few caches that we wanted to get, but before we reached them, we passed some caches we’d got already. We stopped at various caches, and let Daryl and Stuart out to find them, which they did of course. The first cache we wanted was at the pretty village of Rowen, and the river and village looked glorious in the sunshine that we were blessed with this morning.

Stuart and Daryl
Daryl and Stuart at Rowen

Ty Gwyn hotel at Rowen
The Ty Gwyn Hotel, Rowen

We found Daryl and Stuart some more caches, including the church of St Mary near Caerhun, where we had our picnic, and no, we still didn’t see any Hawfinches. The breeze was blowing thistle seeds across a field behind our car, and Daryl and I spent more than enough time, trying to catch one airborne, but I think it’ll need some Photoshop sleight of pic to capture that one artisticly.

St Mary's Church, Caerhun
St Mary’s Church with no hawfinch

We found some super new caches after lunch, and because some took a bit of finding, we eventualy decided to head for Snowdon, and show Daryl and Stuart our favourite road, the Clegir. So we nipped into Betws-Y-Coed, and out for a coffee stop in the forest just north of Swallow Falls. We headed next for the Nant Peris Pass, but detoured to the Snowdon view point first, stopping to photograph a para-glider on the way.

Para Glider in snowdonia over Glyder Fach
Para-glider over Glyder Fach – where else!!

Llyn Gwynant in Nant Gwynant
Looking down Nant Gwynant, and over Llyn Gwynant

We skirted around Llyn Padarn, by cutting through Llanberis and up the Clegir road, down past Bryn Bras Castle, and then east to the north west end of Llyn Padarn. We had numerous photo shoots along the way, with the last one from the bridge that marks the end of the lake.

photographer at work
That’s me, trying to get that special photo – of a quarry lake!

sundown under the arch
The setting sun painting the underside of the bridge

Once back home there was only one thing to do, and that was to go out for a meal. It was our treat this time, as we were celebrating Daryls birthday, which we had only just missed. Daryl and Stuart tried to fight this idea, with an offer of a meal of their own; being on our home ground, we won – LoL. The meal was followed by a bottle of wine back home, a gift from Daryl and Stuart. It was a super couple of days, with lots of chat of course, and hugs, and more chats. Daryl and Stuart left the following morning, the dry and sunny weather of the day before, having given way to a drizzle. The weather didn’t dampen our spirits, as now we are looking forward to a rematch in Scotland.

Girls Visits

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We are forever complaining that we don’t get very many visitors here in this beautiful corner of Wales. Until now. We went to Kent for a few days and came back with Julie’s sister, Jane. Two weeks later, Julie’s other sister, Meg arrived. The boys had arrived the day before, and stayed for the weekend. Mel arrived the day after Meg, and stayed for five days. We took Meg to Crawley, so her stay was two and a half weeks, and then carried on to take Jane home, so her stay was four and a half weeks. We stayed a few days with Jane before RTB, and the whole period had covered just over five weeks. During this time Julie had a birthday, so all in all we, we had a super time.

So what do you do for five weeks to pass the time with one’s relatives. Well, you do a bit of bird watching; days out in the mountains, just enjoying the gorgeous Welsh scenery; picnics at the beach; evenings out geocaching; a few gaming sessions on the wii when it’s raining, and go visiting family.

Photo from the passenger seat - sunset in the mirror
Sunset on the M40 on the journey to Kent

There are lots of very pretty places in North Wales, and we are lucky in that a lot of those are with an hour and a half drive from Llanfairpwllgwyngyll. If we fancy a coffee beside the straits, to watch the birds and scenry, then it’s a fifteen or twenty minute drive to our favourite spots. We did lots of mini trips in the first two weeks, saving the longer trips for the second half when we had Meg, and Mel too for some of it.

Mermaid jetty - Menai Straits - Foel Y Don / Tal Y Foel
View across the Menai Straits from the Mermaid

Sundown in Eryri / Snowdonia - with Yr Wyddfa / Mt Snowdon
Snowdon seen on an evening drive and geocaching run

Once we had a full compliment of girls, we got on with touring around some of our wider haunts. One day trip out,was down the Lleyn Peninsular. We stopped for a coffee at Trevor, south of Caernarfon; it has a car park overlooking the harbour and and sea and breakwater. There is space to park at the breakwater, but we normally park at main car park, as it has a high viewpoint. Julie found an enormous caterpillar in the himalayan balsam. We spent more time here than usual, as I got into the business of photographing nature, and Meg got into photographing the scenery.

Cloudscape over Yr Eifl
Yr Eifl – the mountain just behind Trevor – well worth a wander to the top

I haven’t done it yet, but people who have tell me it’s a super walk. Anyway, we headed off to Aberdaron at the end of the Lleyn. It’s very pretty. and it has a hotel that overlooks the beach and bay, and the food is yummy at a reasonable price. There is another harbour / haven on the way down the coast, but we had spent too long at Trevor to do that one. I dropped the girls off at the hotel and discovered the car parks were chock a block. I eventually parked in a field with an honesty box in it, half a mile up a hill. The meal was scrumptious as usual, so it was all well worth it.

Aberdaron beach
Aberdaron Beach from the hotel

We pottered around the end of the Lleyn and up the coast to Pwllhelli. It has a harbour which is mostly mud flats, and great for watching birds. As usual with birds, sometimes you get lots, and sometimes you don’t, but that’s all part of the fun. Not a lot about on this day, but still a nice place for another coffee break and an ice cream. The ice cream shop was streets away, and they were beginning to drip in a serious manner by the time I got back to the car.

The Blues in Pwllheli
This is where the mud flats are, but I forgot to mention, they disappear when the tide comes in!

On another day, the day out was to drive around Ynys Mon – our island home, Angelsey in English. I adore the Welsh names, as they are so magical to my english ears. Looking at our photos, it looks like we had a couple of trips around the island. The weather wasn’t so good in the second half of the holiday. A lot of days started off wet, but improved in the afternoon, so we adapted out technique to suit. Jules would pack a picnic tea, and we would go out from mid-afternoon to sunset. We even used this technique to go for a drive through the Gwydyr Forest near Betws-Y-Coed. I’ll close this blog with a few photos giving a taste of our beautiful Welsh

Sunset at Din Cligwy
Sunset over Din Cligwy, on our way back from a picnic at a nearby mudflat

"More tourists", "Too many cameras, and no apples!"
Horses on Ynys Cybi near South Stack and Holyhead.

yatch in the menai Straits
The Menai Straits, snowdonia behind the yacht

The Gwydyr Forest from the Ty'n Llwyn picnic area
The Gwydyr Forest

Relatively Nice – Max brings his friends

You’re going to get used to these titles aren’t you. Yes – we have had more visitors, or rather, the same visitors again. But this time, they brought an extra friend, Max, whose acquaintance we were privileged to make, not so long ago. Max is a gorgeous collie, and although we don’t do pets ourselves, we had no worries about inviting him into our house, (we had offered our services you see). It’s an accolade for Ann and Pete, who have trained him so well, because this is a first, for many years, having a dog in the house. When he goes for walks, he rarely has a lead on; he stops and sits at the kerbs, and waits for the command to cross; while on country lanes without paths, he sits at the edge of the road, or on the verges, when commanded, until the car or problem is past. He is a joy to watch.

Ann and Pete? They are quite good too – LoL. I’m not into blokey things, meeting up with the guys down the pub, and doing that ‘male bonding’ thing; but Pete is nice, and I like his sense of humour, and we walk Max together, and have interesting conversations. Ann? She is just so gorgeous and fun and humourous too, but you’ll know all these things if you’ve read my earlier blogs.

Pete, Ann and Max, on those stepping stones.

Ann and Pete were up here house hunting, and Julie and I were expecting to keep Max company while they went off and did house things. Ann and Pete always mix business with pleasure, and they invited us along, and so, between houses, we had coffee breaks and did some geocaching. Day one was very wet, and after the last house, we went and did a couple of geocaches I’d earmarked, and Pete got soaked looking for the first one. Geocaching is lots of fun, because it’s not just the thrill of the hunt, it’s also going to places never seen before, and so it was today. The cache was on the edge of a car-park, overlooking a beach; ok, so it was pouring down, but the beach has now been added to our list of coffee stops, and a bonus today, was watching two gannets diving for food. Gannet spots are always worth knowing, as they are such entertaining creatures. Our next cache was on one of our regular routes, and finally, we stopped off at a third cache that had eluded our hunting attempts a few days earlier. Ann showed us where it was, and it was well camouflaged, so that’s our excuse sorted out.

The following day dawned exceedingly sunny. Each day had a pattern; go for a walk with Max, and Ann and/or Pete; have breakfast; get the picnic basket primed, and head out for houses and caches. Julie did the honours with breakfasts and picnics. Today, Friday, after Pete had rung round, and organized a house visit, we had a spare hour, and Ann wondered if we could visit a cache at some stepping stones; a quick calculation confirmed we could. Car loaded with us, Max and picnic, we headed west. The cache and stepping stones were three quarters of a mile from the lay-bye suggested as a good parking spot. It was a super walk to the stepping stones; bugs, wildlife and butterflies everywhere. The stepping stones weren’t exactly stones, nor where they concrete blocks, as I expected; they were 24 three ton granite blocks rough hewn into huge cubes, and plonked across a small tidal river. Max had a go at the mud, much to Ann’s annoyance, but he cleaned up quite well with a walk through some cleaner water.

We found the cache after a bit of searching, but that wasn’t what delayed us the most; stopping to look at all the insects and flowers and swans and taking photos, that’s what probably did it. It was well worth the trip, because an hour later, we were at the house they wanted to see, and only five or ten minutes late. Julie and I lounged in the car, but the lady of the house eventually convinced us to join them, and we ended up being treated to tea and cakes. It was a delightful bungalow, with super views, and lots of sheds, a garage and a spare houselet too. We eventually left the charming lady, with much chatting about the houses pro’s and con’s, but not too much that we couldn’t collect another two caches. We had to picnic at the second one, until the muggles had got out of the way. Finally, it was off home, but I drove a route past another cache, a surprise for Ann and Pete you see; Pete got the details off the net – he’s so technoskilled, it’s either frightening, or he’s a god! With the info at Pete’s fingertips, we soon had our cache.

It was well into the evening when we got home, and then Pete and Ann treated us to a very tasty meal at a new Indian Restaurant not far from home. It turned out to be a bit dearer than we are used to, but it was very nice – I guess we owe Pete and Ann a rematch somewhere, sometime.

Pete and Ann, not on the the Coastal Path.

Saturday saw Pete and Ann heading off home, but not before we had a pre-breakfast walk with Max, but this time we did a circular route, which took in three caches. The walk along the Menai Straits was super; it was warm; a bit of a breeze; sunny and in great scenery. Between cache 2 and 3, Pete decided to see if there was a shortcut, closer to the high-tide line; I’d done something similar some years ago, and it’s not a good idea, but I couldn’t spoil Pete’s fun, and he did actually find a route through the undergrowth, back to the tide line. The tide line here is pure jumbled rocks and boulders, and a right scramble it is too, and it’s not a quick way to travel, but we got to the other end without having to retrace our steps – so good on you Pete. There were another couple of caches after No 3, but we didn’t have all day, so we went home for brunch.

Sadly, after brunch, our relatives and friends and playmates had to go – but we’ll get more playtime again – soon!

PS:- Left click on a picture, and it will open full size. Use the back button/arrow to return to the blog.

Kent and Lincolnshire circuit

It being that time of year – Christmas – we thought that it would be nice to nip around the closer relatives and say ‘Hi’. Using the word ‘closer’ in it’s looser form, as the closest ones are 250 miles away. Visiting Lincolnshire on the way back, is a 100 mile detour on top of the 348 mile return journey. Funnily enough, it’s 348 miles to get to Kent in the first place. But that’s journeys for you, it’s the same distance both ways.

Julie had the bright idea of treating her sister, AJ, and Dot, my mum, to a Xmas dinner. Having had this rather nice idea, it meant taking virtually the whole meal with us. This actually worked quite well. We headed south east on Saturday morning, fully loaded, and stopped off at Dawn’s to leave presents, and have a meal. Jayjay was missing, which was a shame, but she was in the Med on a boat – working. Jayjay is a superp cook, so as she was missing, and Dawn hadn’t got any victuals in, we went to a pub. We got back from the very nice meal, a treat from Dawn, watched Strickly Dancing, and headed off to Kent.

The next day, we were up, fairly early, and I set off to get mum about 11-ish, leaving Julie doing the dinner. Mum was in good form today, and she gave us lots of laughs and repartee. Dawn joined us at lunchtime too, so it was a nice family party. Julie had brought presents fo AJ and mum, and we had Xmas crackers, jokes and all. We took mum home in time for her evening shower and tea. She was well ready for bed by the time the carer came.

Monday saw us spending some time at Dungerness RSPB reserve, looking for new birds, and anything feathered. We saw a pair of glossy ibis and a great white egret, plus lots of regular species; we like them all equally; new or old; rare or common. In the afternoon I went to mum’s to meet a guy from the masons, who do a grand job of helping out with problems or just geting things organised. Mum was in quite good form, but it wasn’t to last.

Tuesday we went to mum’s to chaperone the plumber, organised by the masons to sort mum’s washing machine outlet. Mum wasn’t very good today, she was a bag of worry and nerves, looping frequency down to seconds today instead of minutes. She had a dimentia appointment at the hospital, so that didn’t help. While the plumber was there, water started running out of the ceiling light, and with his help we tracked it down to the bath surround leaking. Mum must have turned the shower on, and the build up of water made it into the kitchen. In the afternoon, we took mum to hospital, and updated the specialist on mum’s current health, and mum was alot better when we came out – she was worried that they would keep her in. We got a KFC takeaway as it was now gone 3 pm, and we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. We stayed with mum until the carer came, as we wanted to make sure they new that the shower was out of action..

Wednesday saw us back at mum’s to fix the bath surround, and a seep from the toilet down pipe. The latter got worse before it got better, and hopefully it still is.

Thursday evening we headed for Lincolshire, hoping to miss the traffic, and be at Sandies about 2230 – wrong! it took nearly two hours to do the 6 miles from the M20 to the tunnel, hence we didn’t get to Sandie’s until nearly midnight. We had a very nice few days with Sandy, Becky and Jack, including lunch out on Saturday at the cafe at Gibralta Point wildlife reservre. We left on Sunday after brunch, just as Sandy had to start getting Becky ready to go out to a carol service. We got home just before 1700, having had a very reasonable journey.

PS. I’ve just found this, 2 days before the year ends, in a draft folder – but there you are – sometimes you get a quick blog, and sometimes you don’t.

We wish every one, relations, friends and readers, a grand 2010.