Sunday, 29 January 2012

This Sunday's Walk

It's been a bit of a shock to have such a dull grey day after all this fantastic winter sunshine.  Then it was doubly shocking to discover that the temperature wasn't much above feezing!  Anyway, Mark and I had committed some time to a decent length walk - and it wasn't raining or blowing a gale - so we put our boots on and 'got on with it'...

We started out by walking along some of the lanes to the north of our house.  To create a bit of motivation, we walked a route that we haven't done since the Autumn but it was still horribly like walking in a cloud.  After a while we picked up a lane that we've never walked which took us towards a National Trust dovecote.  We will have to walk the route again when the weather is better so that I can take some pictures.  The dovecote is really pretty but I couldn't get a worthwhile picture today.

We then moved off mossy tarmac lanes onto the seriously muddy stuff.  This is a bridleway so we knew that we were going to get a bit bogged down!

The amazing thing is that these unmade tracks are exactly the same size as the other local lanes - it's just that they've never been covered with tarmac.

After about a quarter of a mile we reached the Salwarpe river and the Droitwich canal.  This is the little footbridge over the Salwarpe.  The rest of the river is channeled into a mill race at this point.  It will be really pretty on a summer's evening!

I took this picture of a swan as we were walking back along the canal bank towards our lunch stop.  He posed for the camera rather elegantly here, I think!  As we got closer we realised that he was one of the youngsters from the swan family that live the other side of the mill.  We suspect that he has just been 'thrown out' to make way for the new cygnets.....

Mark thinks we walked around 6 miles today.  Not bad, considering the complete lack of motivation first thing!

Saturday, 28 January 2012

A little bit of 'me time'...

It's been really difficult to get quality time on the laptop for the last few days.  School has been great, but demanding... Options Evening took place at the beginning of the week and then I needed to give some quality thinking to some extended essays (c.45 pages each!) from my Year 10 Diploma students.  All the essays are marked now so I feel quite smug!  In the evenings Mark 'hogged' the home computer.  To be fair, I've helped him to set a website over the last two weeks and it's taken him a while to input everything accurately.  Nevertheless, it's not condusive to quality 'blogging time'.  Anyway, today I treated myself to some real 'me time' and took myself off to Woolwise in Kidderminster. 

It's by the far the best wool shop in this area.  As you can see from these pictures I pulled from their website, they've got a fabulous range of yarns and they've won regional awards.  I could have spent masses of money.  It's months since I last went to a 'proper wool shop' and there were loads of new yarns and colour-ways to tempt me.  I was particularly intrigued by this cotton mix yarn by Sidar..
.. but they didn't really stock a colour that suited my purpose.  In the end I settled on a terracota/cream/beige mix wool called 'Smiley Stripes'.  It's a Double Knitting wool for babies so it's REALLY soft.  I'm going to knit it up in a lacey pattern to create the first of my new cushion covers.  (At one stage these covers were going to be crocheted but, after repeated and embarrassing failures, I'm going to stick to what I'm confident with at the moment!)

Hoping that all of you are having a great weekend!

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Happiness is....

A broken necklace!  I found it on the path at the front of school at the end of work yesterday.   There was no-one around and lots of the heavier beads had rolled into the flower beds, so it was clear that it wasn't going to be reclaimed and resurrected by its owner.  I pottered around in the semi-darkness and collected as many beads as I could in my sandwich box.  I think they are really pretty and there must be a little 'crafty' use for them eventually.  After a couple of heavy days 'at the chalk face', this 'fortunate find' completely made my evening!

It's typical of the affluent area that I work in that someone would leave a broken necklace like this.  I'm always amazed by the amount of money and 'stuff' my pupils have.  It wouldn't cross their minds that these beads could easily be repaired.   Oh well - their loss is my gain I suppose!  At least Year 8 boys aren't going to find them and use them as missiles....  I might work in a 'nice' school but 12 year old boys will always give into temptation!!!!

For those of you who read my 'detox diet' post earlier in January.. today is my 15th day without caffeine!  I finally stopped craving it around Day 11 - so it's been quite a hard slog.  I've been off sugar and refined foods for the same length of time but a couple of glasses of wine crept in when we were socialising last weekend.  I guess the important thing is that the midweek drinking has stopped!  My colleagues are sceptical that I'm going to be able to maintain this.  They're not big into 'moral support'!

Sunday, 22 January 2012

Hiding away!

Here I am - tucked away in a corner of a second hand bookshop!  This is my idea of a heavenly afternoon.  My Mum was with me and she got bored of waiting - which is why she started taking photos!

I finished 'The Girl on Times Square'.  The ending wasn't even 'happy-ish'.  It's certainly not a book you would want to read if you were feeling slightly low.  I can't say that I enjoyed it that much really.  I have, however, started 'The Bronze Horsemen' and it is just a good as I remember it.

Today Mark and I went for another lovely long walk round our local lanes and canal tow paths.  This picture is of the furthest point out in the walk.  I live the other side of the hill that you can see in the distance.  It's no surprise that my legs are aching this evening!!

As we staggered the last few metres home (!) we met up with our neighbours, who were washing their cars.  We haven't seen them properly since Christmas so it was fabulous to stand for a while and a proper natter.  Anyway, I eventually raised the subject of my great crochet frustrations and it transpires that W. has been crocheting for years.  She is going to have a little practice in private (because she hasn't done it for a while) then she has promised to give me a tutorial.  I will master a granny square!

Seriously, thank you to everyone who commented on my previous post, especially Emma's kind offer to meet up.  Also, a warm welcome to Emma and Lily - who have joined my little gang of followers.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Getting in a Knot!

I decided recently to have a go at crochet.  So many of you make beautiful things for your homes and I was seriously inspired to make a few granny squares.... Oh dear.  I got in such a muddle...  For the life of me I couldn't get the stitches even.  In fact I ended up wrapping the wool round the hook as I would do when I'm knitting.  It was not an inspiring success.  I couldn't bring myself to take any photos of the muddle so you will just have to use your imaginations!  I felt like Bambi on Ice!

Anyway, I think I've mastered a form of chain stitch and I can do a very lumpy double stitch.  I was defeated by slip stitch.  It's clearly a very important stitch to know, but the pictures in websites aren't especially clear for a thicko like me!

All I can say is - it's a good thing I'm not relying on my crochet skills to keep me warm!

Having said all this, I love the look of crochet and would enjoy learning a new skill properly.  Can anyone suggest a good website?  Can anyone explain a slip stitch?  Is it the 'off-side rule' of crochet??

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Re-discovering old friends...

This week I've been reading a book by Paullina Simons - The Girl In Times Square.  It's a big, 'chewy' and very emotional read.  The heroine wins the lottery but then has to handle some really difficult health and family problems, which are described very graphically.  I'm about three quarters of the way through and I'm hoping for a happy ending.  (To be honest, at the moment I'd settle for 'happy-ish'!)

Reading this book reminded me of the first Paullina Simons book I read - back in 2000 - The Bronze Horseman.  At the time it was by far my 'best book of the year'.  Several friends (and most of my family) read it around the same time and everyone loved it.  It was one of those books that you wanted to read the end to find out what happened but, at the same time, you didn't want to finish because it was such a good read.

Anyway, I filed it on my shelves under Fiction/War/Romance in 2000 and it hasn't been opened since.  It's occured to me over the last 24 hours that my shelves are full of books just waiting to be re-read. 

So I've decided that 2012 is going to be the year of my great 'Re-Read'.  I'm going to crack on and finish the current novel then dive into 'The Bronze Horsemen' again.  If I re-discover some greats along the way, I may post about them from time to time.  I also thought that I'd pop a picture and list near my profile so you can see how I get on. 

I wonder how many of these books will stand the test of time?

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Weekend "Stuff"

On Saturday night I found myself driving a 'retired' London taxi belonging to one of Mark's petrol head friends.  He randomly offered us the chance to try driving it and, since Mark declined, I said "Yes".  After all, I wasn't certain that this is the sort of opportunity that would come up again in my life!  It's probably one of the most 'sedate' cars I've driven but it had an amazing turning circle...

On Sunday I made the mistake of going to my local Hobbycraft.  Somehow I'd forgotten how over-priced the stuff is there.  I walked up and down in shock.  The little local stores have better quality items for a similar price.  I left with six buttons... and felt like I'd been robbed! 

Last weekend I paid £3.00 for six buttons from the Cath Kidston store in Bristol.  At the time I thought they might be a bit pricey but it was a little 'treat' from our weekend away.  Now I think they were a bargain.  I paid £4.50 for the buttons in Hobbycraft - same number, same size, just wood rather than plastic.  Incredible!

However every retail cloud has a silver lining....  In the main garden centre I found some Heathcote and Ivory Christmas gifts reduced by 75%.  I quickly snaffled some more items for the 'Christmas 2012 Present Cupboard'.   As a result I didn't feel that I'd been quite so 'ripped off' as I walked back to the car!

Welcome to Scarlet and Patricia.  I really enjoy reading your blogs!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Blue Monday?

Thank you to everyone who has left lovely comments on my blog recently and a big warm "Welcome" to my new followers!  It means a lot that you've added me.

Today is - according to the government and the media - officially "Blue Monday".  According to the radio, this means that the people of the nation are at their lowest ebb.  We are stuggling financially; the summer seems a long way away and we are generally 'blue'.  Hmm...

I've been trying to banish the blues over the weekend by sorting our holidays.  I love the planning.  I'll spend hours on the computer trying to get the quality of accomodation, the right location and a fair price. 

Just before Christmas I was chatting to some-one who didn't really know me and she said "I bet you're the kind of person who jets off to exotic places."  I was really offended!  She seemed a bit baffled when I tried to explain that I like to call myself a " micro-tourist".   I'm happy spending my summer holidays in England and I don't feel the urge to drive very far to achieve that sense of 'on holiday-ness'.  For the last two years we've only driven 40 miles for our two week break.  This year we're really pushing our boundaries and I think we'll be travelling about 55 miles!

Once we're on holiday, we put on our walking boots and really try to 'get under the skin' of an area.  We shop at local shops and farm stores and eat local specialities.  England's different regions are so beautifully diverse that you don't need to travel far to find a whole new range of cakes, sausages and cheeses.  I'm a complete foodie and I love it!

This year we're going to base ourselves near Clun, Shropshire.  We're close to the Offa's Dyke path, the Kerry Ridgeway and an unlimited number of local paths and bridleways.  Our nearest town of any size will be Bishops Castle or Knighton.  In other words, we will be in the middle of absolutely nowhere and I can't wait!!!

Friday, 13 January 2012

First project of the year..

I've stuck to my New Year's Resolution and have made the effort to pick up my needle every day.  As a result I'm making good progress with another piece of silk tapestry.  Originally I was going to use it as a surround for a piece of cross stitching, but I think that it would work equally well as a mount for a photo.

I have a lovely darkwood frame that it can sit in and some little wooden hearts that should finish off the corners nicely.

I intend to give it to a friend as a birthday present in mid-March.  I have a great photo of her and her husband that I took last year which I know she will love.  The colours are all perfect for her new kitchen - the wood matches her cupboard doors, the shades of yellow match her walls, while the shades of green match her soft furnishings.

My next plan is to do something creative for some lovely heart-shaped frames that are hanging in the conservatory.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

12th January 1985

Mark and I met through a mutual friend in Sixth Form.  Mark had gone to another school and left after his CSEs.  As a result, he had been working for a couple of years and had his own car.  I remember car ownership being a pretty rare thing for 18 year olds in my area.  The boys I knew either cycled around, had a moped or borrowed their Mother's battered old Mini.  Anyway, Mark didn't just have a car... he had a sports car!  He was the proud owner of an almost new Inca yellow MGB Roadster.  Very nice!

(A pic I found on the internet of a car just like Mark's)

Anyway, we'd met at a couple of parties before Christmas and he had kept ringing through the holidays asking for a date.  Eventually I rang him and we agreed to go out the following Saturday.  He would drive over and pick me up, then we would decide where we wanted to go. 

(Did we really communicate using these things?)

The beginning of the date was full of those awkward moments. My first attempt at getting into a sports car was very inelegant.  Then Mark suggested that we could go into Oxford and go to a club.  I was horrified becuse I knew that my parents would be hysterical if I didn't get home until 2.00 am on a first date!  We settled on a few drinks at a quaint old pub by the river Thames.  To be honest it was the only pub I knew in the area that wouldn't be full of all my Sixth form friends....

(The Trout at Godstow - still a nice pub for a date!)

This date set plenty of the themes for the 27 years that have followed.. I suppose that I must have talked about my music, my A levels and the people that we both knew.  I know that Mark talked - for what seemed like ages - about banger car racing and I didn't understand a word of it!  We still go the pub and talk for hours about school and cars.  Sometimes I still don't understand what he's talking about if his descriptions get too technical! 

I'm glad that we made the effort in the early days - so that we can be where we are now...

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

January Blues

Like millions of others, I'm struggling a bit with my health at the moment.  To be honest, I started with a bad cold back in October half-term and I just haven't shifted all the symptoms.  I'm a great one for relying on caffeine and red wine to get me through the day - neither of which contribute to a great night's sleep.  I'm OK going to sleep/passing out, but just can't seem to get past the four hour mark.  You know that sort of thing...  Since we get up at 5.50, things are starting to get a bit serious in the 'sleep deprivation' department!

Anyway, I gave myself a massive talking to this morning at around 2.30 am... and today is 'Day 1' of a revised regime!  I'm going back on the 'Tired of Being Tired' diet.  The rules are simple
  • No Caffeine (Sob!)
  • No Alcohol (Sob! Sob!)
  • No Sugar - except natural sugars found in fruit
  • No Refined foods - back on the brown rice and pasta
  • No Fake foods (stuff like ketchup)

It's a diet for health rather than weight loss and I've done it several times before.  It comes from an excellent book called 'Tired of Being Tired', which I've had on my bookshelves for years but tend to forget about until times become desperate.  Sugar is particularly difficult to avoid.  It crops up in a lot of savoury convenience foods and even most shop-bought bread.  Basically the easiest way to follow the plan is to cook everything from scratch

Anyway, today I ditched the super-strength Colombian coffee which has been getting me off the horizontal for weeks.  It was agony and I've had a blazing headache all day.... I guess my body is trying to tell me something here!!!

I've read in several magazines recently that sleep deprivation is one of the main reasons for sustained ill-health.  Maybe if I can get some decent kip then I'll also be able to kick the 12 week bad cold!

Here's hoping.....

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Introducing Mark's "Girls"

While we were walking round Bristol there were periods of time when Mark didn't say much.  "Oh dear," I said to myself "I know these signs..."

It's got to that time of year when my lovely husband's thoughts start to stray towards his other girls... 

There are always weeks of planning and preparation (not to mention innumerable mugs of tea) before the season starts at Easter....

I am just about to become a 'garage widdow'...

These are the two other (extremely demanding) women in my husband's life...

This is "Annie" - taken on the track at Prescott Hill Climb

This is "The Kitten" - during a test drive to Aberaeron

To be honest, I enjoy being involved with these cars as much as Mark does.  We have a huge social scene round them and it's a fab excuse to spend days outside - doing nothing much - at racing tracks and other events.  When both the cars have to be driven to the same event, The Kitten is mine!

The only downside is the amount of time that Mark has to spend in the garage from January until March! 

While we were walking in Bristol he was planning steering modifications for "Annie" and a brake up-grade for "The Kitten"! 

It's a good thing that I love him!!!!!

Monday, 9 January 2012


This weekend we took my parents away for a weekend in Bristol.  This January 'mini-break' has become a bit of a tradition.  My parents started dating at the beginning of January 1961 and Mark and I started seeing each other at the beginning of January 1985.  We call this our 'Going-out-iversary' celebrations.  Bristol is fabulous for a January weekend away - especially if the weather is kind.  This is the second time that we've visited the city at this time and it just doesn't disappoint.  This year I got a fantastic deal at the Bristol Marriott Royal Hotel (£95 per room for B+B!)

This is the front of the hotel, facing on to the Cathedral Green. It's really conveniently situated for all the shops, but we spent most of our time walking round the city and making the most of the sights, free museums and galleries. 

On Saturday morning Mum and Dad used their bus passes to get up to the Clifton Suspension Bridge while Mark and I walked off our full English breakfast!  We met them on Clifton Down and went to explore this landmark...

I didn't know much about the history of the bridge until we walked over to the small visitor information kiosk on the far side.  The ladies there were fantastically friendly and helpful and there was loads of information to read.  It was free too!

I was particularly taken with the gorgeous carving on this house and the way it gleamed in the winter sunlight...

After we had crossed the bridge again we 'mooched our way' through the street of Clifton and back towards the Museum and Art Gallery for a light lunch.  Suitably fortified, Mum and I then tackled the Cath Kidston 50% sale... the only bit of real shopping that we did all weekend!

On Sunday morning we were tourists in the harbour area.  We visited the 'M-shed' - the city museum that was opened last summer.  This is the view from the top of the building.. 

I took masses of photos of the cranes that form part of the display outside the building.  I don't think I managed to get the right 'arty' shot but I enjoyed trying.

We then walked along the quay.  This was a view of the cathedral through the modern developments.  The picture probably needs cropping but I think it works...

We walked along to the SS Great Britain and I took some pictures through the gates. 

We didn't pay to go round the exhibition this time - we've got to save something for our next visit!

Thursday, 5 January 2012


Wicked was superb! 
There's a tremendous energy in these West End shows.

The set was fantastic - incredibly complex and constantly changing.
The costumes were cleverly fantastical too.
We had superb seats - Rows G - L of the stalls (on the right hand side of this photo)

It really felt like the actors were this close to us!
The Year 8s were bowled over by it all, but are exhuasted today...
Their Music Teachers are pretty shattered too!!!

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


Back to work today!  Nobody was especially pleased when the alarm went off at 5.50.  For the last week or so I've been terribly lazy and I've have been hard pressed to get up before 8.30.  Today I was sat in my classroom - in the dark and the pouring rain - at 7.30.  Grr!  Tom was particularly unimpressed with the early hour, the diabolical weather and the change in routine.  At least he gets the option of reclining in his cat bed next to a warm radiator.  I spent the day shivering in school because the cranky old 1950s boilers appear to have refused to work again. 

The stormy weather has produced some amazing skies again this evening.  These are a few photos that I took during one of our walks between Boxing Day and New Year.  We really made the most of the chance to get out and walk on a regular basis.  To my surprise we managed to clock up 40 miles by the end of the holiday.  I don't think we'll be going out tonight though - far too cold and windy!

Today was a training day (not terribly good, I'm afraid).  Tomorrow all the pupils come back but I'm only teaching the first two lessons.  After that we're packing 50 Year 8 pupils onto a coach and taking them to a matinee of Wicked in London.  I hope that we'll be back at school by 8.30, so I'm not home too late so early in term.  Despite the responsibility of taking so many 13 year olds to London, I'm looking forward to the trip.  We've got excellent seats in the theatre and the pupils should love the show.

Yet again my lovely husband is fending for himself.  It's a good thing that he's very tolerant about my job and the quirky hours musicians can end up working.

Monday, 2 January 2012

A little craft project.

My resolution for 2012 is to make more time for craft projects.  I suffered a cranky neck for years following a motor racing accident in my 30s (a long story for another blog!) and an accident with an amplifier as I turned 40.  Last summer I found a way out of the on-going niggling discomfort when my sister introduced me to pilates.  I go to a class once a week and also practise a couple of times at home between each session.  I always kept crafting through the discomfort but it's so much nicer to stitch for as long as I like without hurting at all!

This is a little project that I started in the busy times just before Christmas and finished the other afternoon.  It was a way of finishing off a few of the part-used silks that I've collected over years and years of cross-stitching.  I've worked a range of tapestry stitches on a fairly fine canvas.  I decided to make myself a pin cushion after 30 years of abusing the arms of the sofa!

The finished work before I stitched up the corners

The top

And the bottom!

In reality I think I prefer the bottom to the top so these labels are pretty arbitry!  Anyway, I was really taken with the effect of the stitch on the left.  As a result I've already started something new - a complete experiment - where I'm going to use this stitch to create a mount for a piece of cross stitch.  I'm making good progress down the first side already.

My new years resolution is to pick up a needle every day!