Monday, 30 December 2013

Season's Greetings!

Season's Greetings to you all from my poor neglected blog.  The last few weeks were SO chaotic (both in terms of a ridiculous workload at the end of term and lots of lovely Christmas stuff with family and friends).  My new year's resolution must be to post more regularly again.....!

Anyway, here's the edited highlights from December...  The harp moved out of the lounge so that the Christmas tree could move in.  I was very proud of the 'new look' silver and gold tree (63 baubles for £5 from a local Charity shop!)

The harp has taken up temporary residence in a corner of the dining room.  This photo was taken on Christmas morning.  There were five of us for Christmas dinner this year (my parents and Mark's Mum).  My sister and her family went to stay with her Father in Law in Derbyshire.

Thomas the cat has really enjoyed having his humans around.... in the form of open access to the sofa and an almost unlimited supply of treats!

On Christmas Eve we took my parents and Mark's Mum for a little drive around the Cotswolds.  This is the church in Temple Guiting.  Mum particularly wanted to see this village because she's recently read a murder mystery based in the area.

We then stopped off at the tea rooms near Broadway Tower..... A coffee break seamlessly moved into a lunch stop too!

The views from the windows were so gorgeous that it seemed a shame to move on..

Eventually we drove down the hill to Chipping Camden and stopped to explore another church.

The church was full of families rehearsing for the Nativity play and Christingle Service..... All very festive!

A very important, non-festive, development in our lives has been the arrival of another (!!!) Marcos.  You can probably see that it's another major project to entertain Mark for a few years.  (He gets as excited about Marcos parts as I do about wool and crochet projects!).  However it has to be said that family and friends are slightly bemused by the fact that this is Marcos number 3....

I hope that you are all enjoying the last couple of days of 2013
and all my best wishes for 2014!

Monday, 2 December 2013

Birthday Celebrations

I celebrated my birthday on Friday evening.
A few of my oldest friends came round and we had a little 'carpet picnic'..

On Saturday I continued to celebrate with a lovely walk round some National Trust land,
just to the south of Bridgnorth...

The sky was a fabulous colour...

There were shadows and reflections everywhere..

At the top of the valley we tried a new route, which extended the walk by a few miles..

We picked up an old lane, which was in surprisingly good condition..

Eventually we reached higher ground and the views started to open up..

These two cottages have a stunning view towards Clee Hill and the Welsh borders..

We picked up another old lane and dropped back down to the River Severn..

By this stage we'd walked about 9 miles and had a huge appetite
for the 'eat ups' from the night before..
I even had a small glass of 'drink up' red wine (birthdays and all that!!)

The end of November is a funny time to have a birthday....
My cards always have to fight for space with the early Christmas ones
and work commitments can be a nightmare.
However, I loved my 'low key' celebrations this time.
Winter picnics are really fun!


On other subjects...
At the moment I don't seem to be able to access any of the blogs that I follow through my dashboard.
I haven't a clue what's going on - but I just can't get to your latest posts.
Is anyone else having the same problems...
I wondered if I'd missed an update or something.


Monday, 25 November 2013

Routemasters and Other Things...

Things have been  'mid-term' chaotic here -
400 effort grades and levels to do...
130 Year 8 reports to write...
Endless coursework to mark (to the rigorous detail of a new specification)..
The final weeks before a school show (in which I'm playing the piano almost continuously for hours every evening)...
AND Ofsted are now 7 TERMS overdue..!!!
My Mother-in-Law came to stay for three days at the end of last week to celebrate her 70th Birthday..
and Mark's been really ill (but is fine now)
So it's the little things that are making me smile...
like my husband's deeply eccentric ways of showing affection.
At the end of last week I was moaning that our lunatic schedule of commitments was making it impossible to get any real exercise.
"If I keep on like this, " I moaned "I'll be like the back end of a bus!"
"Never mind," said my husband supportively "You're my cute little Routemaster!!!!!"
It's a good thing I share his sense of humour!!!

Monday, 18 November 2013

Out Takes

We decided to make a permanent record of my parents 50th Wedding Anniversary
by having some 'proper' professional photos taken at a studio..
There are loads of really nice 'serious' photos - but I'm rather taken with this group of 'out takes'..
All the girls (youngest niece, sister, Mum, me and eldest niece)..
A lovely one of H. and I.....

Sis and I in giggles....!

It's the first time that we've had some professional photographs taken since we got married.
Digital technology makes it all much more immediate and it was great fun.
Here's a more serious one of Mark and I..
..But I think my favourite is still the first photo...
What do you think...

Sunday, 10 November 2013

The Two 'Ps' - Pray and Panic!

What do you do when your husband is having a car accident in your rear view mirror.... Yesterday I discovered that I pray and panic in a ratio of approximately 80% to 20%!  Mark, I hasten to add, is absolutely fine.  The car is written off but, as one of my very dear friends said as he hugged me yesterday, "Never mind Jan - it's only metal".

Basically we'd done the food shop yesterday morning then went to collect this car from Gloucester.  It's a powerful old Japanese car that Mark only really wants for the engine and gearbox (to modify one of sports cars that we have already).  Nevertheless, the car appeared really well looked after and has a full service history etc.  To be honest I was upset with Mark that he planned to pull it to pieces when people seemed to have cared for it for so long.  (I'm a bit of a sentimentalist when it comes to this sort of thing).

Anyway, either we picked up a slow puncture in the 16 miles that Mark followed me home OR the tyres on the rear of the car weren't quite as well-looked after as they should have been.  When Mark went for a slow over-take (no more than 40 mph) on the A38 south of Worcester, the back end of the car stepped out, spun him round and took him straight through a hedge.  He came to rest the right way up about 200 metres into a ploughed field.  I watched the whole accident happen in my rear-view mirror (because I was leading the way in our other car).

Fortunately there were no trees on this stretch of road, no fence posts or wire in the hedge and the hedge itself was old and rotten.  Mark is one of the luckiest men on the planet. 

As you can imagine, I immediately slowed down to look for somewhere to turn back.  The car behind me had seen the accident too and very kindly held back the rest of the traffic.  As I turned in a gateway I saw Mark get out of the car in the distance but it seemed like an eternity as I drove back to the point of the accident (praying and praying and praying!)  Mark appeared at the gap in the hedge pretty much at the same time as I parked my car and got out.

The next few hours really brought home to me how kind people are.  It took about three hours to get the wrecked car out of the field and home.  Complete strangers stopped to check that we were OK.  People that we only know very superficially offered tea and a place to warm up.  Two of our oldest friends abandoned their shopping trip and came to tow us out in their old Land Rover.  I feel very lucky to have such lovely people in my life.

Mark (being the car-obsessed man I love) was determined to get to the root causes of the accident.  He's discovered that pressure in the rear passenger-side tyre was approximately half what it should be.  We're just grateful that the accident happened at low speed and on a quiet road.  The 'what ifs' really don't bear thinking about...


Monday, 4 November 2013

Sunrise, Sunset....

Here are a small selection of my favourite photos from last week's break in the New Forest...
Boats on the Beaulieu River - in early morning stillness after the storms had passed..
The hotel's landing stage and reflections of a deep blue sky..

Reflections further up the river as we walked to the little village of Beaulieu..

Peaceful lanes..

Sunset over the marina by the hotel...
..And a seriously dramatic sky (taken a few moments later)
Stormy skies over the Isle of Wight and the Needles...

..And the last sunset of the holiday at Lymington Marina..

I really didn't enjoy the transition back to work this morning.
The pupils were fairly grumpy too - I think we all wanted to be at home under our respective duvets!
After school we had a staff meeting about the latest changes to our pay and conditions.
Pay.... deteriorating (in real terms against the cost of living)
I've popped a couple of shells from the coast near Lymington next to my computer in my classroom.
A little reminder of the beauty of things when everything gets a bit complicated...

Friday, 1 November 2013

Excuses for my blogging break...

We just about scrambled to the half-term break this year.
I felt dreadful in the week before the holiday - suffering with migraines and stuff - while Mark was completely submerged in some major changes at work too.
You know you really need a holiday when it feels like there's no time to have one!!!
Fortunately I'd spotted a great deal at one of our favourite hotels and booked it way back in July.
We packed our bags, walking boots and the camera - and took ourselves off to the New Forest.
After the storm cleared the weather was perfect for dramatic photographs.
This was the view at the beginning of our walk on Wednesday...
(The view up The Solent from Lymington Marina)
We stayed at The Master Builder's Hotel in the picturesque hamlet of Buckler's Hard.
The hotel is the last two cottages on the left (plus some extensions round the back that overlook the river).  I was constantly rushing down to the water's edge with my camera to try and catch the changing light.

The hamlet is just the two rows of cottages and a marina, so it was the perfect tranquil 'get away'..

A couple of years ago we got a great deal on a room in the attic of the main building.
This time we got a sweet room in the more modern block for a ridiculously good price.

The hotel describes itself as having 'quirky luxury'.
I think it's a bit like staying with an wealthy elderly relative..
(Sadly I don't have one of these in real life!)

Red wine and an open fire completed the relaxation process!

We've come 'back to earth with a bump' today....
(Paperwork for school for me and changing the gearbox on the Discovery for Mark)
Never mind - we can still feel the residual 'chilled-ness' of our break!

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Now the weather's colder...

I lost some of my crafting 'mo-jo' over the summer - 
It seemed far too hot to work on large woolly projects,
 then I lost interest in a smaller-scale crochet bag.
The darker evenings and horrible weather have had one bonus -
I've picked up my hooks again!
Since the beginning of the month I've made these children's blankets.
(My Mum knows some-one who hands them out as part of a Charity project)
I make them with a large hook and chunky wool - so they grow quickly and are soft and snuggly..

I also made my first ever 'wave' pattern scarf.
I gave it too my younger niece as a birthday present because the colour was perfect for her and I know that she loves long 'Doctor Who' style scarves.
I've also finished my latest granny square throw. 
I've just got to get through the process of finishing off all those ends...

I've learnt a lot about picking up stitches, keeping my work neat and changing direction in this throw.
It's not perfect - but I'm pleased with the overall effect.

I'm wondering whether I've got the confidence to try making a jumper next.  I used to design my own knitting patterns so I've got some idea of where to start in terms of shape and tension. The wave pattern scarf has also convinced me that I can work neatly in lines as well as squares, which is probably key to making something to wear.  I love making the big, chunky charity blankets while we are travelling to work, but it would be nice to have a evening project for myself too.
In the meanwhile, I still don't feel like finishing the crochet bag.  Isn't it funny how some projects seem doomed to lurk for months at the bottom of the craft bag....!
PS - Yes - I really do play the harp!  It's been part of my life for so long that I rather take it for granted - but it is a rather nice thing to have in the corner of the lounge!!!  Thank you for all your lovely comments on the last post.

Monday, 14 October 2013

One Wet Weekend...

I'm still pinching myself..... but this tidy, co-ordinated lounge actually belongs to me!!!
On Friday evening I decided that the drifts of crafting stuff; the mountains of old car mags, DVDs and books; and the mis-matched soft furnishing HAD TO GO.
I wish that we'd taken a photo before we got started. 
Things weren't exactly in a complete state of chaos - but it had all started to 'bug' me a bit.
Here's the results of all our labours over the weekend..  A new lamp-shade and cushion covers.
The sofa has also been re-positioned so that the 'music end' of the room is more open.
I've kept all the things I love..
We found this pretty little cupboard in the basement of a junk shop years ago.
It hides all the wires and gives some useful storage.

The large bay window has always been a bit of a 'dead space'.
Mark spotted this bench and persuaded me to buy it at the weekend because he loves window seats.
I already had the scatter cushions in the back bedroom and
I was delighted to see the way everything fits with the new curtains...

We treated ourselves to a new light-fitting and the mirror.
The effect is quite 'Downton' (!!!) but it all came from Dunelm (pretty cheap!)

...and here's the finished room from the window seat.
All my crochet has been tucked away in a wooden box I inherited from my Nana
(under the lamp by the fireplace)

As you can see - I'm really into the 'vintage' style.
Almost everything you can see has been inherited, rescued or bought cheaply.
I'm not a very confident person when it comes to styling rooms - but I'm really pleased with how things have come together this time.
I hope that you've enjoyed a little insight into the things that have been keeping me from blogging recently!

Monday, 7 October 2013

Under a Huge October Sky...

I can't resist photos of dramatic skies....
These were taken at Castle Combe Racing Circuit over the weekend...

As the sun went down there were some magical shots to be snapped.
I'm not that keen on DeLorean sports cars but this one was posing nicely..

..and the curves and shadows of the fences were begging to be captured too..

The following day we were back at the circuit for a day of racing from
the Vintage and Historic Racing Car Clubs.
I'm always fascinated by the detail on the old cars.
The 'Art Nouveau' number plate on this little French car particularly caught my eye..

I also had a little play with the photo opportunities provided by two
Jaguar E-types with their huge bonnets raised.
Shortly afterwards the owner of the first car (Number 28) invited me to sit in the drivers seat.
It was a great chance to get a 'racing driver's eye' view of the world...

I love the way people with lots of different enthusiasms get involved in these historic events.
We found a group of Mods and Rockers at the back of the track, getting ready to ride display laps during the lunch break...

No fighting... Just lots of shiny bikes and scooters!

Here's Number 28 during the afternoon racing session..
..and the Vintage Sports cars lining up to take to the track

This is one of my favourite photos of the weekend.
These two Vintage cars were being raced at full speed round the final corner in the final lap
of their race, driven by two brothers.  The number 4 car just stayed ahead and gained third place.

And here's Mark - completely absorbed in a parts catalogue for a local
Automotive engineering company.

As I've been writing this I've had the poor people who were injured at the race circuit in America in my mind.  I'm also thinking of the 79 people injured, and the families of the 8 people killed by the Monster Truck at the display in Mexico.
We were lucky to have a lovely safe day.