Friday 5th June 2020 – Alter Ego (Part 3)

I am having my weekly day off today. I need a rest from all this researching, writing and reading. My eyes are positively hurting. That book with no punctuation was the final straw. It has worn me out. Bit miserable as well today. The weather and my mood. We should have visitors this weekend. Instead just an empty house for us to rattle around in. Him Indoors is taking over the blog again today. Wink, wink Best Uni Buddy. I’ve asked Him to drop the Scottish though as some of you cannea understand Him.

What a strange week this has been? A mixed bag of weather and I’ve felt a bit tired all week. More like my age. Her Indoors has been at me all week. Can we do this? Can we go there? Can I dig this and move that? Non-stop. Monday was like being back at work. She had me dragging rocks about all morning to finish off the garden before lockdown drinks with the neighbours. And she wanted me to dig big holes to plant some herbs or they might have been hebes. It would be easier if we had a dog to dig the holes but oh no! We have to wait until after the wedding. I’ll be too old to bend down then and pick up the dog poo. However, She did pick a good night for drinks in the garden. The weather was brilliant, sunny and warm. Just right for a few cold beers and a full bottle of red. Albeit she was shouting at me before our neighbours arrived. Normally she shouts at me for not emptying the dishwasher, this time it was because I was. Something about nibble bowls and a hot wash and less chance of contamination. She was funny though after the first bottle of white. Slurring her words, wrapped in a blanket, sat in the dark, because she still hasn’t ordered any solar lights. Drinking guests couldn’t find their way to the toilet even if she had been prepared to let them in the house. It would be far easier if Northumberland County Council did glass recycling bins. Next morning the utility looked like a bin end of assorted bottles. Just more embarrassment when she makes me go to the bottle bank. I thought she would have been really sick on Tuesday. She does projectile vomiting really well when She drinks too much. She sat about moaning a lot about having a hangover. Who’s fault is that love? I stopped you having any more! At least one of us knows your limit. She was also moaning all day that She needed to finish the book. Another excuse to drink with the girls. Actually though She/We have had two dry nights after the mammoth Monday session. She cracked though last night. I had messaged No. 1 Son and told Him to waft a beer or a glass of red around on Family Quiz Night Facetime. Any sign of someone else drinking and She will buckle. It worked after about 30 minutes. I actually used that Zoom thingy last night. We had a good long (corporate account) Zoom chat, the quiz and a few drinks with my son, his fiancee and my favourite dog, laid upside down on the sofa between them. Apparently the dog was tired. Just like Her Indoors this week. Drinking takes it out of her for days. She came last in the quiz last night. One of the questions was a riddle. It went. “David’s father has three sons: Snap, Crackle and blank?” Do you know what she put for the answer? Pop! Snap, Crackle and Pop. When the answer was in the question, David! Mind, She did get one more spice than me in the question about, “Which 5 spices make up Chinese Five Spice?” She was struggling with the other four though. I decided to write “Rum, Vodka, Whisky, Brandy, Gin.” Much more entertaining than that star anise thing She wrote. I’ve managed to get out golfing twice this week. I won one game and came second. Doing a three ball though this afternoon. Don’t tell the Mrs though. Branching out now it’s allowed. I went out on my own one of the days and found eight balls. Ironic really as I had just ordered some new ones that morning using Her Indoors credit card. She’ll not notice. She’s too tired. We also had a bit of a domestic over shed guttering. She’s been banging on about it for over a year. Needs guttering to collect water for the garden. Problem is it’s not a normal shape as it slopes backwards and it needs mini guttering. Credit to Her she’s researched it. Problem is She has a hissy fit when the parts don’t fit or the corner bit is wrong. She also wants black to match the overpriced black water butt She bought. What is the matter with green? Anyway we sat on the sofa, side by side, nicely shouting at each other, over slip connectors and end caps. She ordered a mini guttering set and some extra bits to make it work. Modification I think it’s called. Click and bloody collect only, from the edge of Newcastle, over the border. Contamination zone and possible trip to a garden centre on the way back if She disnae need the loo. More bloody money spent. Ten minutes after clicking I ask, “You did order that extra corner piece as well?” World War three went off and She stormed upstairs to iron my golf trousers. Always works a treat. She placed a second order later having clearly not read my mind. We’ve not collected yet. Screwfix have to assemble the pieces of mini guttering, from around the North East, in one location. Better warn the neighbours that there could be a domestic brewing when the extra bit disnae fit. She dragged me around that wood at Howick yesterday when I could have been on the rower. I’ve not been on it for days. Too much hole digging for Her Indoors. And She suggested that I was over 60 to the women hiding behind the glass screen. Discount She said. How dare She suggest I’m a pensioner. She’s just suggested we need another big rock off the beach. Bucking carry it yourself love if I’m that old! Now she wants me to take her for ice cream at Spurreli’s. God this woman is needy. Better keep her sweet though if I want that game of golf this afternoon. Sorted.

I have really enjoyed my day off other than the walk of shame back and forwards at the bottle bank. I have done the weekly shop (whilst He sat in the car playing bricks and balls) and disinfected it on return home. I’ve made a courgette cake because it’s been miserable and I needed some calories. Best of all though we went for ice cream at Spurreli’s for breakfast. Rhubarb and ginger tub. One portion. Magnificent. Invisible calories. Him-in-the-car had Alnwick rum and raisin, in a chocolate cone. Double portion. Great to see them re-open for takeaways. We had planned to stroll around the harbour but it started to spit and Him-in-the-car didn’t want to get his hair wet before golf this afternoon. I do wonder how he finds time to write my blog? Stay safe everyone and have a good weekend. Hope the weather improves.

First Spurreli’s ice cream of the summer
“Sorted”- Him Outdoors
Not a great afternoon for golf!

Thursday 4th June 2020 – A United Nations of ….

Today we took the car for a spin up to Howick Hall, Gardens and Arboretum. It was ready for a day out. Just 9 miles up the road and only recently re-opened to the public. The drive up to Howick was a real treat. I felt like a tourist visiting after months away. Out of the village, past Alnmouth looking splendid in the early morning sunshine, through Lesbury and Longhoughton. The trees and hedgerows were alive with colour after the recent rain. Everywhere looking bright and fresh. We nearly squashed a family of rabbits playing in the road oblivious to the dangers of traffic. A couple of new housing developments have sprung up since our last journey up this way. We were early and first in the car park. I managed to get Him Outdoors in for a reduced pensioner price. I don’t think he was amused. We wandered around the gardens, woodlands and pastures without seeing another human being for two hours. Extreme social distancing. The Arboretum is described as the ‘United Nations of Trees and Shrubs’. All different species (some 1,800), from many different continents all rubbing their branches together, living side by side. No rioting. No protesting. Perhaps some battles over root growth and canopy spread. Nothing too serious though. Him Outdoors managed to see a grey squirrel and a red squirrel living side by side, and a large deer. All too quick to capture on camera. I saw just some branches moving and the flick of a tail in a bush. The only thing I caught were two protein enriched flies. Sadly most of the spring flowers had faded but the wildflower grasslands were showing a glimpse of summer. The smell of fresh pine and damp undergrowth was everywhere. My feet were also wet and filthy as I wore walking sandals.

The best bits for flowers today were certainly the Bog Garden, the Borders around the Hall and the Sensory Garden. The Borders has squirrel feeders and bird tables but all were eerily quiet today. No wildlife prepared to come out for the big camera. Hiding due to the return of paying visitors. Still the herbaceous borders were awash with alliums, roses and sweet smelling mint covered in bees. The Bog Garden was stupendous. Full of flowers every shade of yellow. Him Outdoors providing great contrast in blue trainers, blue jeans and bright blue jacket. Little Boy Blue in the Bog. The sensory garden was perhaps my favourite today. It has only been in place since 2018 and was designed for the local branch of the National Autistic Society. Designed especially for those with autism and their carers but open to all who visit. The flowers as you will see from the photographs are exquisite. Many different colours, textures and sensory smells. Tall grasses, herbs, stepping stones, bug houses, climbing roses and sculptures. I love a bit of tactile sculpture in a garden, something to catch the eye and run a hand across. No touching today though. Even the gates to keep the rabbits and deer out were propped open. Sadly no Earl Grey Tea Room at the end of our walk. I had packed beef sandwiches so we didn’t go hungry and a flask of decaffeinated coffee. We did sit on a picnic bench. I figured it had been washed clean by the rain last night and still only 12 cars in the car park. Mightly relieved to find the toilet open though.

Just like at Howick today I am always interested to see what sculptures or smaller ‘ornament’ versions people have in their own gardens. In the village is a house with a big black gorilla. It has an aggressive red mouth and white fang like teeth. It has a hostile stance and is tethered with a big chain in the front garden. Don’t ask me why it is tethered because it’s so massive I don’t think you could easily steal it away. I also don’t know why it’s in the front garden. I know not, but they have a dressed skeleton as well in the porch. Best not to ask. Unfortunately I haven’t photographed the gorilla as I feel I would need permission. I am fearful of offending and it has big teeth. Visitors and locals will know which one I mean though. I do have another offering below of a garden gorilla called George and a monkey called Rafiki (from the Lion King). I don’t have any exotic ornaments in my garden but I do have a romantic looking stone lady holding flowers. A birthday present from my late mum, so very sentimental. What do other Guiden 10 crew have I asked? Further up the road we have a beautiful bright blue Budda which is a reminder of a colourful 18th birthday celebration. The blue Buddha is yet to fly the nest and find its own garden. Another garden has curling stones used in a competition in the last Grand Match in 1979 on The Lake of Menteith (it hasn’t happened since as the match requires 13 inches of ice!) There is a lucky horseshoe in one garden given as a gift from a pony driving charity for disabled people. Parsley Pig is also very attractive and so useful! An ornament with added value and a much loved present from a daughter. One garden has many ornaments from family members but a favourite is a little flower girl planter. To the best of my knowledge we don’t have gnomes on our estate or skeletons in our cupboards. We do have some other weird and wonderful things around other parts of the village also. At the far end, as you come down from further Up North, there are three scrap metal sculptures. They are made from lawn mower parts and agricultural machinery. They look like metal scarecrows. One holds a notice saying, “Slow Down!” Whilst the other two are fairly new and need further investigation. They may be siblings or children of Road Safety Metal Man. I know not. I think however, garden ornaments say a lot about their owners. Playful, cute, blue, rusty, useful, romantic, heavy, fierce! Certainly we have a ‘United Nations of Ornaments’ in our village. Stay safe everyone, remember no clapping tonight but be grateful to those key workers who continue to keep the country ticking over. Keep your gnomes safely hidden as well.

Howick Hall and gardens today
East Arboretum today
Sculpture at Howick today
A bevy of garden ornaments

Wednesday 3rd June 2020 – Cyanistes caeruleus away

The blue tits fledged yesterday. They have flown the nest. We know of three – Sylvia, SJ (Sidney Junior to Sienna) and Stephanie. There could well be more but we can only verify three. Sylvia fell out first at about 10.30 a.m. Not on the cushioning of the freshly placed bark chippings but straight onto the gravel. Beak first. Then SJ followed swiftly after. Same route. Stephanie stayed at home much longer demanding loudly to be fed. Sylvia flapped about a bit between the potatoes and the onions. Then after a quick feed from Sienna flapped into the safety (or danger if the cat is about) of the wildlife corridor. SJ decided to explore next doors garden seeking sanctuary through the gap behind the miniscule fruit trees. OMG. I hear a strimmer and fear the worst. Heart beating I realise it’s the other neighbours. Thank goodness for that. The thought of SJ being strimmed to death so quickly after leaving home was just too much. The good thing about having a hangover from hell yesterday was it meant we stayed at home all day observing the bird life, talking photographs and for Him Outdoors learning more about blue tit behaviour. He was obviously concerned for the safety of the fledglings, they looked almost too small to be on their own. Him Outdoors was reassured to learn that they do tumble out of the nest and don’t properly fly for sometime and it takes around four weeks before they are fully independent and able to food shop for themselves. Stephanie remained in the nest box all of Tuesday and we think into today. It’s hard to say without having a camera on the box. Can you imagine though the nightmare of having at least triplets and each one being metres apart? Trying to feed and care for their safety, day and night. It is hard enough caring for one child safely strapped into a Mothercare high chair. I am sure if Spring 2020 had been ‘normal’ then we would have been more than thrilled with the nesting blue tits but only in passing. Due to lockdown they have become a big part of our daily life over the last few weeks. Better than brooding over not seeing No. 1 Son for 101 days. Trying to make sure there is water in the bird bath and a constant supply of juicy fat balls. Trying to keep them alive when danger lurks everywhere. We had a moment of terror this morning when several jackdaws made their way into the tree, then one climbed down onto the bird box top, then leaned down to look in the hole. It was wet and windy but we think Stephanie and any other S Club siblings may still be in the box as Sienna is still going in and out. Not quite ready to step forth. Not ready to take that big leap into the sea of red granite chippings. I chased off the clattering of jackdaws. No murder on our patch thank you. The murder though might be inside, over mini guttering for the summerhouse.

I spent most of yesterday (and today) trying to finish reading ‘Women, Girl, Other’. I was still only at 52% by lunchtime yesterday and Book Club was last night. Still if my glass was half full I might finish it by 7.30 p.m. in between nursing my hangover and tit watch. Then Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be sends me a message asking, “What do you think to this hair piece for the wedding?” She didn’t actually add the ? I replied, “My eyes hurt. I can’t see.” Later I remember I haven’t checked Instagram for any updates from No. 1 Son. I am not his friend on Facebook. HIM not me. I can stalk him on Instagram though, like a Jackdaw stalking a tasty tit. All I see is black voids from No.1 Son, Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be and Lewis Denny. My eyes are sure playing up today, I think. Perhaps I have no internet connection in the garden or it’s just the sun? That blinding sun that makes you type rubbish. BlackOut Tuesday apparently. I know it is Wednesday but this was yesterday. Too much happening to fit into one blog. I felt rough all day yesterday. Hungover and dehydrated. The birds were also making too much noise. Large groups of starlings chattering in the tree and much jumbled warbling. A cacophony of raspy screeching. Not good with a hangover from hell. I am clearly not used to all the noise and excitement of entertaining humans. The amount of wine that flowed was just a minor issue. I did not finish the book in time. Just too many pages and the author uses no punctuation. No full stops at all. Great storytelling but murder to read. Hope for me yet if a Booker Prize Winner can get away with wonky grammar. I was advised by one of the Guilden 10 to skip to the last chapter to get a feel for how the mini stories come together. I did just that, to tie up the loose ends of 12 different characters. Interwoven stories of identity, race, womanhood and the harsh realities of modern Britain. A book about being different, being black, chosen a month before the need for Blackout Tuesday and millions of black squares. Just a coincidence. I fancy a good murder mystery for July.

Today has been extremely cold and windy in contrast to the hot weekend. A day to make a slight dent in the ironing pile. Not a day for sitting in the garden sunbathing or on bird watch. I have though used my time wisely. Firstly I have sent in my photograph for the first Warkworth show ‘challenge’ event – wildlife in your garden and I have answered Facebook questions about, “Where did you get that lovely bird box?” The ceramic Casa de el azul la tota has proved very popular. Even my sister was impressed. Well, it has certainly served Sid and Sienna well. We can only hope though that the brood don’t get the virus. Not COVID19 but Suttonella Ornithocola. Nothing to do with a famous drink or Sutton-in-Ashfield. According to OneGreenPlant thousands of blue tits have been affected by a pneumonia-like virus. 13% of blue tit deaths in the UK can be attributed to this virus. How do they get those figures? Blue tit symptoms include loss of appetite, breathing problems and ungroomed pyjamas, sorry I mean feathers. How ironic that these plucky little birds have to run the gauntlet of a virus as well as the dangers posed by cats and other higher pecking order birds. I have also used my time today to set up my new wildlife trail camera. The box has a picture of Blackbuck Thomsons Gazelle on the front. I am hoping for proof of hedgehogs rather than African crested porcupine or the big grey cat that lives at the top of the garden, hopefully not mauling a baby tit. The instructions are complex so it could take sometime before I am able to share my successes (or failures). For now a few bird photographs will have to do. Stay safe everyone, thankfully it’s mid week and the weather can only get better.

Sidney Junior and Sylvia 2.6.20
Jacky Dawes 1.6.20
Starlings waiting to be fed 2.6.20

Tuesday 2nd June 2020 – The day after the night before

I had every intention of writing about ‘ailments’ today and experiences of the NHS pre and during lockdown. It would have been a good topic as I have a hangover from hell after having a responsible gathering in the garden last night. My head feels like a squashed plum. One of those headaches where it hurts to open your eyes. I am propping my head up whilst I type with one finger, careful not to move my eyes or head too much. It’s not as if I haven’t had drinking practice. Perhaps I had too much sun yesterday. Yes, let’s blame the big yellow sun. I had to force myself out of bed at 8.00 a.m. I was happy to stay laid flat with my head on a soft fluffy pillow. It is bin day, recycling bin day and I certainly didn’t put it out last night! I don’t even remember going to bed. Did I clean my teeth? I had no makeup on so that is a good thing. No black glue sticking my eye lids together. Drinking (excessive) alcohol on a school night. Shocking. That’s what happens though when Boris relaxes the rules on a Monday. For the last 9 weeks we have not broken any rules. We were also socially responsible last night. A different way of entertaining. I had pondered half the day about unpacking the glasses from the dishwasher or leaving them until the last minute? If only someone had written a helpful guide. Would I need glasses at all? Would our guests bring their own? I had left that choice to them. I had power scrubbed the table and chairs just before the guests arrived. They were of course more than welcome to bring their own chairs. So many decisions just to have a couple of glasses of wine in the garden two metres apart. If only Boris had paid a Townhall Mandarin to write a guide to the new rules of social distancing whilst gathering in the garden or park. The four guests had been explicitly informed they could bring whatever they felt comfortable with. Their own glasses, nibbles, wine, ale etc. Or they could use our Dettoled wares. Perhaps I should write about alements (I meant to spell it that way) after all, following too much Northumberland ale and wine.

Whilst sat on the leather sofa this morning propping up my head I checked the Guilden 10 WhatsApp chat. I need to download some new Zoom software for Book Club tonight. That will certainly have to wait. Too much eye movement needed. I still haven’t finished the book. Then another message with a link to the BBC News and an article on Social Distancing: a practical guide to how to socialise now. Wow. How useful is this? Just a day bloody late. I could have read that and saved hours pondering the do’s and don’ts of having guests in the garden. The BBC asked doctor and TV presenter Xand van Tulleken (what a name to type when you have a hangover) for his thoughts on ensuring gatherings are as safe as possible. No. 1 Think who to invite? I would have liked to have invited No. 1 Son but he lives too far away. Dr. X (I can’t be bothered to type his full name as it’s too painful) says if I am inviting anyone over the age of 70 and overweight then I should “consider having quite a detailed conversation about the risks they were prepared to accept,” How rude would that be? It also gives a reminder that those shielding obviously can’t attend. This had eliminated quite a few of the Guilden 10 already and reduced the gathering to a responsible number anyway. Consider how guests would arrive? If they have to go through your house to get to the garden do so “as quickly as possible.” Skateboard down the hall? Not an issue for us as we have a gate. Apparently Dr. X believes you need a garden space the size of a quarter of a tennis court to remain safe. I’ll skip the advice on parks and picnic blankets as we have chairs. However I like the idea of a bamboo cane for measuring. What if I use the 6ft standard fig tree as a distance monitor. Horizontal of course not vertical. Dr X suggests using chalk or masking tape to mark out zones. We have no tiny children and therefore no chalk. We have no masking tape left as it has been used on the summerhouse grand design. We have a massive table though and plenty of gravel to spread out on. Dr. X says if you are slim, young and female you are probably Ok to share a the spoon in the potato salad. If you are older and overweight bring your own cutlery and your own (reduced fat) coleslaw. No meal involved so cutlery not needed. Wow. Would never have thought to ask guests at staggered 45 minute intervals to sanitiser their hands! The use of the toilet is not an issue as we had agreed they can go home. Save on my Toilet Duck and buying paper towels. Who even sells paper towels? No. 7 Reunions with children. No. 1 Son isn’t coming so not an issue X. My head still really hurts despite the toast and paracetamol. OMG X has even written a section on alcohol breaking down inhibitions and people getting more tactile. “Flag to people that this is not a normal gathering.” Clearly it’s not if you have a standard fig tree laid between you and the Aldi bamboo pot laid prone. Dr. X says to make sure you get your cleaning products out when people have left. All very sensible. If only the Guilden 10 shielding member had found this a day earlier!!!!!! So what really went down last night…..

We assembled at 5.00 p.m. to make the most of the good sunny weather. Thank you BBC Weather. For once you were spot on. Just a couple of hours in the sun and a few drinks. I had scrubbed all of the chairs and the table within an inch of its life. The gate was left open so no touching of latch or skateboard required. Two guests came with their own chairs and a tray of nibbles, two glasses, wine and baby wipes. Two guests came with a two person cool bag containing their own glasses and wine and used our disinfected chairs. They did offer to go back for chairs but that would have been a waste of my 3.00 p.m. scrubbing. I wore my glittery sandals and pink three quarter length trousers. Him Outdoors put on a short sleeved shirt for the special occasion. We sat 3 metres apart admiring the new fig tree and watched the baby blue tits poking their heads out of the hole. We talked about distant holidays, distant careers, distant family and friends. The guests were impressed that the nibble bowl clutched in my disinfected paper towel had just come out of a boil wash in the dishwasher. So had the olive picks. I enjoyed having a 2 metre stroll around the garden, showing off my dahlia buds and pokers. As the night wore on guests disappeared to their own toilets and reappeared with a further bottle of white and a fleece. At some point it grew dark. I am not sure when and how it grew dark as my head was a little dizzy. Apparently I was slurring my words. A sure sign that I should stop drinking. I apparently asked for more instead. I must have realised that it was dark and time for bed because I apparently, according to Him Outdoors (currently watering the fig tree), suggested it was in fact “time for bed.” Sorry guests. I vaguely remember six people walking down the path, two metres apart, no goodnight hugs, just a cheery wave. Perhaps I was seeing double. I don’t remember clearing up or Dettoling. That’s because I didn’t. Some litter louts left their bottles as well. Even more for us to take to the bottle bank. Him Indoors wondered if our noise had disturbed the neighbours? I was equally worried about Sid and Sienna and their brood. What a great safe night though. Social distancing at it’s best. Can’t wait for the paracetamol to kick in. A memory from a year ago has surfaced on Facebook. A video of me drinking shots celebrating with friends Liverpool winning the European Championship final. Not really it was just a night out with the girls in Chesterfield initially, away from the boys watching the cup final and then a few too many shots as part of a large group, in a packed bar. What a messy night. How things can change. Stay safe everyone. If I have wonky spelling today – please forgive me! Don’t drink on school nights and read Dr. X’s safe social distancing rules.

5.30 p.m. Monday 1st June 2020 @ home.
8.00 a.m. Tuesday 2nd June 2020 @ home with hangover from hell.

Monday 1st June 2020 – Live colourfully

After thinking ‘white rabbits, white rabbits, white rabbits’ three times in a row early this morning I saw a religious post on Facebook that read “Laundry is the only thing that should be separated by color.” It made me think about colour and the impact it has on our lives and Him Indoors odd coloured trainer sock. Clearly the message in the quote has deeper meaning because of what happened in Minneapolis last week and the protests and rioting that has followed. This, is at the same time, that I am reading our latest Book Club book ‘Girl, Women, Other’ by Bernadine Evaristo. A book about a group of women from many different backgrounds, beliefs and colours. I do not though want to write about colour in the sense of people, as I would struggle to relate that to life under lockdown in rural, largely ‘White British’ Northumberland. I want to relate to the colours around me. Living breathing, ever changing colours. The first colour I spotted this morning before the quote and the photograph of the white toddler embracing a black baby was grey. Thick grey FOG! No blue skies. No yellow sunshine just a blanket of pale grey. Not even a nice shade like Smoke Grey. Just dense, damp nothingness. The type that sends my hair frizzy and wild. It was only 6.00 a.m. but this is not what I expected for June. There was also no need to water the lawn last night, everywhere is soggy, damp and dismal. As you have probably gathered I like grey as a colour. Both in paint colour and my choice of tea. My last item of clothing purchased (not including the toe correcting sandals) was a grey pre-loved shift dress. I do not normally find grey to be drab but the colour of the sky is truly drearily dull this morning. A real contrast to the blue skies and hot orange sun of yesterday. The weather forecast is hopeful that by 8.00 a.m. we will have bright sunshine and light winds. Note ‘winds’ not summer breeze. It looks like being a mixed bag of weather for the rest of the week. Lots of different colours. The Smoke Grey trainer sock and the off-white one have gone in the grey bin. Let’s hope we can move on to a different colour as the day progresses.

We decided to take the car to another beach today. The first time in 9 weeks. We went to Druridge Bay to do the same walk we did just prior to lockdown. That day the beach was packed with people trying to escape urban areas. The start of the pandemic. We were at the beach by 8.30 a.m. and it was warm, warm enough not too need a fleece. The sea was a bright blue and the sky a pale baby blue. It was quiet when we arrived but Him Outdoors managed to touch another human being. A lady struggling to get off the pebbly beach needed a hand. An act of kindness and an offer of hand sanitiser from her. Before our walk we (I) reclaimed a boot load of beach cobbles that had been moved down the River Coquet during the Ice Age. We rescued them to return to the village, to use in the garden, the last piece of landscaping needed. (We got caught unpacking them though by our neighbours). Caught in the act of theft! The beach walk was fantastic. It looked and felt Mediterranean, with a coolish breeze. Enough breeze just to blow loose tissues from the dunes. Unfortunately not everyone had taken their rubbish away. Bright colours of packaging, bottles and a bright blue broken bucket littered the golden sand. I know most will have taken their rubbish home but it was evident some morons had not. We walked in silence down the long stretch of beach. A handful of families enjoying the summer sun and dog walkers. We both stare intently into the middle distance. A man appears to be “walking two ponies” according to Him Outdoors. It is one of those moments like the Man-walking-the-saddleworth-pig by the river moment. Is it a small pony or a very large dog? Maybe the man in the distance is small making the dogs look big? No it was a normal sized man walking two ponies along the beach. I bet he doesn’t let them off to play fetch. I wonder if he has oversized poo bags. We also saw five horses being ridden and loads of springer spaniels. A reminder of Top Dog who will have forgotten us. Two paddle boarders added a splash of colour to the bright blue sea. It was also good to see the brown and white sandmartins nesting in the steep sand banks. Absolutely gorgeous. A wash of beautiful water colour on what started as a grey day. Him Outdoors also had his pink shorts on to add more colour. My own little rainbow.

This afternoon turned into a heatwave. No signs of any wind and highs of 18 degrees. A perfect summer day. A little bit more gardening after a quick trip to Morrisons on our way back from the beach. Somehow, we managed to find room for a six foot standard fig tree and some small hebes. Along with another 6 bottles of wine and 4 beers. The garden is certainly looking more green but I love a splash of colour. The fiery red hot pokers are just coming out. They remind me of childhood holidays spent at Reighton Gap near Filey. The garden of the ‘tin bungalow’ that we stayed in every year had them growing in the seaside garden. What plant brings memories back of your colourful childhood? The acer from our old garden is shimmering purple. The bright yellow, red and pink gerbera, only recently planted, are adding a much needed splash of colour. Life Up North is like a box of crayons. All different shades, tints and combinations. Just like my hair. Today has been a bright day. Sometimes you need a bit of gloom in the morning to appreciate the colours of the day. Stay safe everyone, enjoy the colours around you and enjoy the pigments on my palette of photographs.

Druridge Bay 1.6.20
Human colour.
Fiery red hot poker.

Sunday 31st May 2020 – Fade to Grey

Most of this weekend has been spent pottering and doing jobs around the house and garden. Nothing really exciting, all a bit dull and grey, so if you are short on time you can be forgiven for skipping today’s read. Some of my friends though like it when I write about the mundane every daystuff. Since the start of lockdown I have had a mental list of jobs that needed doing whilst we had all this surplus time imposed on us. Paint the front living room a light grey. We purchased the paint but on the whole the weather has been far too nice to start. The summerhouse has been painted a darker shade of grey instead. Inside and out, following a Guilden 10 tip off about a stash of Silver Copse. Job done. Well done Him Outdoors. The landscaping in the garden is now complete, although we do need a couple more bags of red granite chippings to fill a few shallow spots. We still need a lot more plants but the garden is no longer a building site. Tick. Job done. Cleaning the oven was on the mental list of things to do. I have lacked momentum and motivation on this job. Everytime I have looked for one of those wonderful bag thingamajigs in Morrisons the shelves have been empty. Everyone has been cleaning the oven. I feel sorry for Bobby Dazzler Oven Cleaning, they will have no work in the North East after lockdown. I might just wait and give them a call. Not my favourite job. I have cleaned the tea and coffee cupboard. That was a right dusty affair. As well as finding some lady grey I didn’t know I had and some Rennies that should be in the medicine cupboard, I found some posh white drinking chocolate. I pondered when and where we bought it? On a trip to London perhaps? OMG. Use by date of May 2015. That drinking chocolate has lived in three houses and is still half full, or half empty depending on your outlook on life. That is terrible. How did it ever get packed for the first house move let alone after the rental? I think it was too posh to part with. It has now gone to drinking chocolate heaven along with a packet of 2018 cough sweets which should have been in the medicine cupboard. I have cleaned the inside of the windows downstairs AGAIN! It’s ok having tri-fold doors open all the time but so many flies get in. Amazing how they so easily get in yet never seem to find their way out! Leaving their yellow juices everywhere. The windows looked like they had acne. I don’t mind cleaning windows but that moment when the sun hits the right spot and you realise … they are smeared. So frustrating when they don’t gleam as promised. It’s easier just to move seats on the sofa than fix it.

On my mental list of things to keep me occupied I had early doors decided to dye the parasol cover on the outdoor table. Some may call it a brolly. It’s big whatever it is and cream. Although we do use a protective cover it has over the years gone a little mouldy in places. I discovered last year, after 18 months in garage storage, that it would survive a wash cycle. So it is less green than cream but grey would be better. I had plans to dye it to match the summerhouse. Everytime I placed an order with Lawrence’s for compost I forgot to ask for an essential dye thingamajig. Yesterday when risking my life in Amble picking up Him Indoors prescription I joined the queue at Lawrence’s. I purchased a Dylon dye and an essential spirit measure. We needed one for quantity control. Smoke Grey dye. Perfect. The dye is in a plastic pod that you simply ‘place in the washer’ with the damp garment you wish to dye Smoke Grey. The dye has an outer plastic wrap. It is unclear for a good ten minutes if this is to be removed before being placed in the washer or left to dissolve like gelatine? So whilst the cover rolls around on its pre wash for 59 minutes at 30 degrees I read the small print. Boy is it small! It is condensed onto something the size of my eyeball and even my supersonic eyeballs are struggling to see. The plastic sleeve needs to come off. Ok. The pod goes in with the damp cover for another 59 minutes at 30 degrees, which is acceptable according to the miniscule label which I need to put near the smeared windows to read. I see grey appearing in the drum. Mottled at first. More like tie dye. Then eventually a nice shade of light Smoke Grey. Bingo! Success. Next I need to add detergent and run another 59 minute wash at the same temperature. Good job I have nothing better to do. Plenty of time to cook a chicken as for some reason I don’t fancy a takeaway tonight. 30 minutes later I check on the chicken which is nicely browning. The brolly cover looks surprisingly light but then there is a flash of dark grey in the soap suds. I go off and potter. At the end of the wash cycle I have a perfectly clean cream brolly cover with a few fade to grey Visage (remember them?) watermarks. What a waste of time I think as I stainless steel myself to tell Him Outdoors, still painting the summerhouse. Perhaps it’s old stock I ask myself? I then realise that is not the case because I find one perfect Smoke Grey trainer sock just as I put the washer back on again for a ‘cleaning’ wash of 59 minutes at 30 degrees.

How long is an acceptable time to have a sprinkler on? Him Outdoors thinks the answer is hours whilst he sits with a beer talking shite to his brother. It didn’t matter at our old house as we didn’t have a water meter. That has just reminded me, The Old Boat House have a sign saying, “Keep 2 Meters Apart.” I wanted to correct them but who am I to criticise. It even had a copyright symbol on it as if downloaded from the internet. You just can’t rely on the world wide web of downloadable stuff. Anyway I consulted Google on the issue of how much is enough. Usually about 30 minutes of watering. I rap on the smeared window and give him the wrist watch sign. I am not actually wearing one but he knows that sign. He gives me the finger in return. The lawn is on the list of essential jobs to do but we can’t afford this much water! He continues talking shite, rather too loudly and comes inside when Little Bro starts swearing a little too loud. I ask Alexa how long is long enough? Alexa said, “As long as you have the correct adjustable nozzle fitted. Was that helpful?” Not really. I really wouldn’t mind but it’s the front lawn that looks half dead (or half alive depending on your outlook on life) and needs the water. HE didn’t give life to that lawn though. The back lawn is HIS baby. If only I hadn’t wasted 177 minutes of water on my desire to achieve a Smoke Grey parasol we could afford to have the sprinkler on the front lawn. Surprisingly I have managed to cover 6 miles just pottering in the back garden this weekend! Healthy life, healthy mind. Stay safe everyone and I hope your weekend has been a little more exciting than mine.

Summerhouse 31.5.20

Fade to Smoke Grey
Sprinkle, sprinkle, shades of grey.

Saturday 30th May 2020 – Beauty and the breast

Have you ever stood on a nipple before? No? We have but unfortunately not for sometime. Another place that we had planned to revisit this year, which is just down the road, Northumberlandia – the Lady of the North. Perhaps not as famous as The Angel of the North (blog Thursday 23rd April 2020) and certainly not as photographed but just off the A1 again, near Cramlington. A piece of public art in 46 acres of community park. The centrepiece is a landform sculpture of a reclining lady made from 1.5 million tonnes of rock, clay and soil. It could have been modelled on the reclining Daisy Edgar-Jones but that would be weird as it’s been a part of the landscape since 2010. Northumberlandia was built by the Banks Group as part of the restoration of the adjacent Shotton surface coal mine. The land was donated by the Blagdon Estate and the sculpture was designed by Charles Jencks, an American with landscape vision. Take away the giggles as you stand on her ladies garden, fairy cake or love button or whatever you call your private bits (only applies to ladies) and the Lady is truly a stunning piece of art. The Lady is 100 feet high and reclines into the landscape for a quarter of a mile. Grass and wildflowers adorn her curvy hips and long legs. On the left of the Lady are a series of ponds, unless of course she has had an accident! There is a fantastic viewpoint from her head, looking over to the working mine. A massive deep scar on the landscape. Beauty comes at a cost. Her shapely breasts are a series of circular paths which are considered to be ‘moderate’ in steepness. She has no hip replacement scar though. Just flourishing verdant foliage. We intended to take Mr & Mrs Tulip Brownie on their next visit Up North. Mr Tulip will appreciate the photo opportunities offered by the naked landform. I can hear him chuckling now and sending a snap off to his daughters. We still do intend to take them. Will it be July? Will it be 2020? Who knows but the lady will still be reclining.

Last week the Guilden 10 clapped for the NHS on our doorsteps for the last time, respecting that it has probably run its course. Next Thursday some of us may sit in each other’s gardens. Obviously, no more than six people and 2 metres apart. If it is my garden I will expect our garden guests to take their rubbish (wine bottles) home with them … but more on this later. The Banks Group (who funded the 3 million cost of Northumberlandia) last week arranged their own tribute to the NHS. Instead of clapping at 8.00 p.m. (when actually they are probably not digging essential minerals from a MASSIVE hole in the ground) they spelt out NHS over an area of 4,200 square metres with 30 plant fleet vehicles. Dumper trucks, tipper trucks and trailers with a combined weight of 2,000 metric tonnes. A public relations exercise for them no doubt, yet an impressive one. Obviously I couldn’t take a photograph myself as a) I don’t have a drone and b) there are no public toilets open and c) they didn’t invite me. Social distancing and all that. I have therefore stolen the Banks Group photograph. Open cast mining is a controversial subject and I am not sure how those who live local feel about it? I suspect it is one of those things that people live with, eventually. Banks do though put 35 million into the regional economy each year and they have established a healthy community fund. Even more controversial is that they have been trying to gain approval for a new site near one of our favourite walking and beach sites, at Druridge Bay. There has been a massive campaign to stop it, with petitions signed by locals and tourists alike, including ourselves three years ago. Coronavirus seems to have halted the ‘imminent’ decision. I don’t think it will halt progress. Credit to them though the dumper trucks looked pretty impressive from the air. I wonder if they have ever consider recreating the Lady in tipper trucks and cranes for nipples?

Returning to the issue of wine bottles littering the garden, Northumberlandia only re-opened to the public last week and they are already threatening to close due to litter louts. The site is home to many different birds and animals with areas of grassland, wood, scrub and hedgerow. I am sure if you take your binoculars you may even see a pair of coal tits! That is if you don’t trip up first over piles of rubbish. So this beautiful community space has been re-opened by a small team (some of whom are volunteers) and some dirty gits leave behind filthy nappies, dog poo bags, pop bottles, milk cartons, pizza boxes and a trainer. Now I understand when I am beach cleaning why I find washed up shoes, flip flops, sandals etc but how can you go to a country park and forget to take your size 10 trainer home? It’s not like a baby in a pushchair losing its Clark’s Little Mermaid City Shell canvas size 4 is it? At what point on the way home to Byker (or any area of Newcastle) do you think, ‘Where is my trainer?’ This litter was abandoned across the site. Not even left at the base of an overflowing bin. I lose heart at the photographs of litter being left at beauty spots and beaches across the country. I fail to understand this mentality of ‘leave it for someone else to sort out’. Red squirrels have a hard enough time in our County without getting their heads stuck in empty beer cans as photographed this weekend. An absolute disgrace. Tufty the safety-conscious squirrel would turn in his grave at such irresponsible behaviour. We are in the middle of a pandemic that can linger on Lucozade bottles and mindless morons leave their redundant crap for others to deal with. Makes my blood boil. Anyway the moral of today’s ramble is mining can be beautiful, but leaving litter on the tits isn’t. Stay safe everyone, take your litter home and recycle your own wine bottles. PS. Just 30 minutes after I posted the blog Northumberland Aerial Views posted a great shot of Northumberlandia from yesterday on their Facebook page. If you have access to Facebook check it out.

Our only shot of Northumberlandia May 2017
Copyright The Banks Group
Playing petanque at beautiful Druridge Bay August 2018

Friday 29th May 2020 – A Day Off from Him Indoors

Yesterday Him Indoors left me. Don’t worry he didn’t go far and returned for tea as I was cooking steak. I did however have about 6 hours to myself for the first time in months. Three hours longer than rowing a marathon or playing 18 holes. He went walking with Him-Across-the-Road. Two separate cars and social distancing applied. That’s fine as Mrs B and I had gone for a walk the day before. We didn’t feel the need to take two cars but walked from the house instead. It was lovely to have an intelligent conversation with someone (else), someone other than Him Indoors. So as Him Indoors packed his walking poles and his sandwiches in the car, I went off in search of wildlife along the river and much needed milk from the village shop. I noticed as I walked to the top of the estate two Aldi centre aisle planters just like mine. Damn. Luckily mine are in the rear. I then bumped into the Spurreli girls out for a ramble down St. Oswald’s Way. I spotted a really nice dusky pink poppy and made a mental note to pinch some seed heads later in the summer. I bumped into two teenagers on the corner of Watershaugh Road where the bumble bees are nesting in the wall. I am unsure which is the worst to bump into. I breathe in the scent of flowers and life feels good. No unnecessary chatting to villagers. Just a nice semi-silent walk. I did say hello to a woman with a square squat waggy tailed dog called Amber. Could be easily mistaken for live ambergris on the beach. Down by the river I saw no one. Just me, the birds, flowers and too many protein enriched flies skimming along the water edge. As I reached the end of the river near the village I stopped to take a photo of some flowers. There flapping in the flowers are several baby wipes none of which are pure white. Dirty gits! Terrible! I don’t drive to Byker Grove and crap in your garden! Disclaimer – I haven’t been to Byker it could be very nice and I only know Ant and Dec from there. Use a dock leaf next time. No seriously this was awful. Disgusting. I carried on around to the Village Store. Whilst queuing Mr Painter and Decorator and Egg Man was re-painting The Greenhouse sign. He waved to me which was nice. The Bar Maid from The Mason’s was checking on who I think is Granny? Or Aunty? Or Friend? I have no idea really. Lovely girl though with beautiful long dark hair and long tanned legs now. When I had purchased my milk but failed to secure any parma violet sweets (disappointing), I came out of the shop and started my walk back up towards the castle. It was still before 10.00 a.m. and boiling. 15 degrees and hot for Up North. A middle years woman was walking a short distance ahead. I quickly caught up but she was hogging the path. I could only pass by going onto the road. There are more cars about now. Best not get run over by an Asda delivery van. She was walking really slow. Dawdling. Patience I think to myself. By the time we reached the top of the hill she must have felt my breathe on her neck. 2 metres away of course. She turned round, slightly acknowledged my presence but kept walking in the middle of the path. At least I thought she might quicken up now she knew someone was behind her. The milk felt heavy and was curdling in the heat. I was aware my cheese delivery could be going more mouldy on the doorstep. I was also holding a postcard and looked too much like a tourist. She dawdles a bit more taking up the whole path which is too narrow to pass. The path has only one passing place between the last house and the locked castle toilets. She ignores the passing place and saunters on. Slow down any more and you will be stationary, I think. As in, still, not a box of pencils. My blogger’s elbow feels heavy with the milk. Hurry up for gods sake women, I think. A man with a dog is coming in the opposite direction. He backtracks to allow us both to pass. Slow Woman does not thank or acknowledge him. I do of course then have a little exchange with a lady with a friendly cockapoo. At least Slow Woman may quicken up by the cricket ground, I think. Did she hell as like. When you are behind someone it is so difficult to get safely past when they are taking up the mid ground. I waited patiently until the end of the cricket ground. Thankfully she took herself off for a triangular chat with two other women talking over the garden hedge. I ploughed on home dripping in sweat from the heat. The postcard was a bit soggy but my cup of tea with warm milk was excellent.

The rest of the day I pottered slowly around my garden annoying no one but myself. Him-in-the-garden had removed the wasps nest to paint inside the summerhouse. I moved it with my foot and jumped when the nest blew away. Embarrassing as I screamed as well. On my way back indoors I tripped on the garden hose curled like a snake ready to attack. I know his ploy, I think. Break my neck for the insurance or leave it lying about until I finally buy him a new one. “I was out My Lord when Her Outdoors fell in the garden.” I chatted out front with a non-Guilden 10 neighbour about the perils of meeting family in the village and the mother looking for a toilet open for their child (to poo presumably). I then chatted to some of the Guilden 10 on WhatsApp and enjoyed the pictures of one eating weetabix complete with milk for breakfast on the beach. Well, why not? We at least live here. Not sure about the added sand though. I washed and hung out some clothes to dry whilst waiting for my cheese to arrive. I re-stocked the bird feeders (again). Suddenly there was a lot of bird chatter. Thinking it was a cat I went to explore. A family of goldfinches on the fence. Babies fluttering their wings, demanding to be fed. Those nyger seeds were worth the money then. If only I could find the camera. I do a bit of gardening, tidying up, here and there. I road test my new leather gardening gloves. Perhaps white leather was not the most practical option. I jump when Mr Navy Man speaks to me through the gaps in the fence. I am not used to hearing voices or perhaps I am more jumpy than I think? As I prune here and there, I realise the jackdaws have been in my plant pots again, soil everywhere. Jacky Door is sitting on the fence mocking me. If you want to keep both legs I would stop doing that Mr or Mrs Jackdaw, I think to myself. I make myself a pot of Earl Grey. Well I think it’s tea or it could be potpourri with the amount of flowers floating in my Northumberland Tartan mug. It is so quiet. So peaceful. Too peaceful. I have no one to boss, no potential blog material, no one to scare. I think I might be missing him, just a little. Then my phone pings. “You don’t fancy nipping down and get a few cold beers for me do you 😏 Gagging 🍻🍻 Just about to head off back xx.” Bloody cheek. I’ve been busy all day (doing nothing) and he wants me to risk my life for beers. The answer was simple. “No. Get some on your way back. Waiting for cheese.” He never asked me if I’d like to go walking to Thrunton Woods. ☹

He comes back from his 10 mile walk, “too steep” for me apparently, and asks if I dinnae get his message. I say, “Yes did you get mine?” He uploads some photos from the big camera (that’s why I couldn’t find it) and gets settled in the recliner, taking in the late afternoon sun. I let him get really, really comfy and say, “Have you forgotten it’s your turn to do Family Quiz tonight?” He asks for a pen and paper. What did your last slave die of? I leave in him the garden sunbathing and writing quiz questions, whilst I unpack the dishwasher and start the tea. Back to being a normal day really. Me Indoors (mostly), Him Outdoors. I think he deserved a day off though after all that painting and hole digging. Stay safe everyone and have a lovely weekend in the sun. Remember no back garden extended family BBQ’s until Monday!

The killer snake.
The Goldfinch Family.

Thursday 28th May 2020 – Coronavirus cancellation

Being a clipboard and calendar type of person I could have cried last week. I was reminded of the tragedy again yesterday when the ‘Dawn French Fan Club’ run by someone on Facebook who is not actually Dawn French but possibly her biggest fan, posted that “Everything for summer is cancelled, may as well just put up the Christmas tree and call it a year!” Just before I move on to the tragedy of Coronavirus cancellation, what is this travesty? I have been following what I genuinely thought was Dawn French’s own witticism for about two months and it’s not really her! Just an alter ego with 1.2 million followers. Should have read the small print sooner. Anyway back to the continuing saga of Coronavirus cancellation. Firstly, I hear that the 149th Warkworth Show has been cancelled and I will not be able to defend (or move up from third) my award winning double chocolate chip brownies (which we had warm last night with Morwick Dairy ice cream) and that they have cancelled the Alnwick Christmas lights already. Both pieces of news are devastating but the latter will also come as a blow to Best Uni Friend, as she plans her Christmas shopping around that trip to see us, up North. I am aware we are in the midst of a worldwide pandemic but it’s only May! There are six whole months before the lights need to be switched on. I could flick the switch myself if necessary. It’s like a late April Fool’s joke. I physically wanted to cry. Has everyone just given up on 2020? Where is your ‘Jar of Hope’? Next, someone will be telling me Santa doesn’t exist! The Chairman of the Lights Committee announced they have taken the early decision due to “the current difficulties in organising the display and ensuring the safety of all involved.” Their only plan is to put up a tree with some lights. Well, you can imagine there has been public outcry on Facebook to the news. “How can you give up on Christmas already,” the locals have been shouting via social media. So much so, that the Chairman has had to issue another statement, defending the committees position. Apparently the team have furloughed themselves because of the need to social distance. They are all volunteers of a certain age that should at this point in the year be refurbishing the lighting frames and creating new ones. So that is it. No big light switch on in Alnwick town centre. We can only hope that our village holds on to some level of hope and doesn’t cancel Christmas also. Best Uni Friend and other half, will be fraught if they can’t do their Christmas shopping. That I suppose is making the big assumption that we will be allowed to have someone other than immediate family staying in our house by then…..

The other cancellation issue is the Warkworth Show in August. Actually this is not totally cancelled. It’s now ‘Virtual’. This could actually be in my favour as some people of a certain age might be put off. Last year the show schedule was 44 pages, this year it is 20. Much reduced but still going to happen, just in a weird way. Credit to the Committee they have adapted to the “current difficulties” and come up with a plan. The show has been going for 161 years and it has only ever been cancelled during the two world wars and the 1960’s foot and mouth outbreak. So to participate this year in the Art, Photography or Writing classes you will need to photograph and upload your entries. Judging will take place virtually and then the ‘virtual’marquee will be open on show day – 22nd August 2020. There will also be some fortnightly ‘challenges’ from June onwards. The first one is take a photograph of the wildlife in your garden. Plenty of that in our garden and I can even supply their names. On a technical point though, does the photograph have to be snapped that fortnight? What about my wonderful Sienna (or Sid) shot from this week? Will I be disqualified if I send a May shot in on Thursday 11th June? Should I just risk it? Technology these days though can pinpoint the tree, let alone the date. Wednesday 22nd July is -“Who has the most impressive compost heap?” If I could get some more Silver Copse then the bee hive compost bin could be a winner. Good artistic shot, steam rising early morning from teabags and rotting banana peel. Sure winner, chicken dinner! I have the challenges in hand and my creative head on. I read the schedule further. Let’s have a look at the Horticultural classes and Baking. What the DailyJEF! “Most exhibits will be photographed at your house (front door step, garage, shed etc) by a team of photographers at a time agreed well before Show Day.” So my 4 identical cheese scones are going to be photographed in the garage whilst Him-in-the-Garage is rowing a marathon surrounded by empty wine bottles and next doors boxes? (Honestly Next Door, your boxes are fine). There is a positive. No entry fee this year …but no cups, trophies or prize money. No tasting of cakes either. This certainly is going to be a different type of show. I don’t think the photographer in the garage will prevent some unscrupulous person going to Morrisons and buying 1 cauliflower (class 260) and 6 pods of peas (class 264). Bakewell tart with feather icing (class 446) could be a winner if presented in the posh summerhouse. If I could get Him Indoors outdoor rowing on the lawn, I could crack class 422 (in the garden) and 423 (people) and 417 (frozen in motion) in the same photograph. I have this sussed. Just gutted that chocolate brownies have been dropped. Who makes swiss rolls these days when you can buy a perfect one from Topsey Turvey? Just on that point Mrs Turvey was robbed recently. Shocking someone on a cycle stole the money from her unlocked honesty box. Apparently Him Indoors says it’s theft not robbery, as no force was involved. Just a minor technical point which I will ignore. Outsider definitely.

Our calendar is clinging on to a handful of dates. Book Club is still on the first Bin Day of every month. We will carry on via Zoom but it will be so nice to be in everyone’s company again. We still have a few guests pencilled in and athletics in August!!! Really! Don’t know why they haven’t jumped on the bandwagon and cancelled it yet. If November light switch on isn’t doable and the village show is virtual, how do they expect to do socially distancing relay? I am sure the email will arrive soon. I will wait to see what Boris has to say later. I don’t really care about Cummings and his goings Up North in Durham. I hope Boris and those reporters don’t waste precious time. I want to know if by mid June No.1 Son and Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be can sleep in The Earl Grey bedroom? They can’t have their favoured back bedroom as it has no curtains. Can Top Dog return to downstairs sleeping and his cage? Which reminds me I need to order some settee covers. I also want to know if to expect a half decent birthday mid-summer? Answers please. Stay safe everyone and apply plenty of suncream whilst the heatwave lasts, unless of course you have thick fog down South.

Wednesday 10th June Challenge – photograph of wildlife in my garden.
Wednesday 22nd July Challenge – Most impressive compost heap.

Wednesday 27th May 2020 – Slightly spooked

This is the longest period since we moved here that Him Indoors and I have been on our own. Our last visitors left on 2nd March 2020. I know this not from the calendar but from our visitors book, started after a suggestion from a visitor friend. It’s a great way of looking back and remembering when the house was packed with more than just Him Indoors and I. We seem to be rattling around a little. Just the two of us. We have become stealth like, moving quietly between rooms. So much so one of us is going to have a heart attack. I was minding my own business stood in the utility, hand washing Him Indoors Hugo Boss jumper (in cold water) or something similar. Could have been the grill pan. I was harming no one, just thinking about how rubber gloves are always yellow, when I only like black ones. Black rubber ones are now unavailable as people are wearing them to go shopping in. My washing up gloves are now a strong shade of violet not Marigold yellow. Presumably no one wanted to go food shopping in violet. Anyway, I was contemplating my gloves with my hair up in a clip (this is important not because of my roots but what came next) and I felt a cold breeze across the back of my neck. The hairs on my exposed neck stood on end. It felt as if someone had walked across my grave, as the saying goes. I shuddered internally and physically shivered. I turned my head and screamed out loud. Soap suds from my flapping violet Marigolds went left, right, across the Coronavirus bingo calendar and up onto the ceiling. Him Indoors yelped like a puppy with its tail trapped in a door (courtesy of Mr&Mrs C). OMG! “What are you doing?” I screamed at him, heart racing like a overindulgent hot flush. Soap suds are now dripping everywhere, sliming down the walls like a frothy slug. Now bent over double he gasps, “You scared me.” I scared you! Bloody hell. I don’t know how he dare? He’s just sent a tingling shiver down my spine from getting too close to my neck and he’s telling me I scared HIM. I am sure my scream could have been heard by No. 40 at the top of the estate. Followed by a, “Don’t do that! DON’T DO THAT EVER AGAIN!” in a very large bellowing voice from me. What did the near neighbours think? We have this oversized house and Him Indoors just feels the need to be too close to my neck when I am away with the rubber glove fairies. What was more funny though was when he went outside after his heart had returned to a healthy resting rate of 53. As he walked around to the bin he forgot we had a new black BBQ cover, surprisingly on the BBQ. The wind caught it and made it billow. Him Outdoors jumped a mile. Frightened by his own BBQ cover. Accidential shock happened again when I was minding my own business with my head between my knees, blow drying my roots. The blood had rushed to my head and as I resumed normal height he was stood there, really close, lips moving but unheard over the dryer. I jumped backwards and fell over the iron. I was in the small junk room, minding my own business. Everyone has one. Gasping for breathe I switched the hairdryer off. His lips were going on about how many knots I had in the cable and “Look at that dangerous exposed wires!” We have no ghosts or ghouls in our new house but we are clearly not enjoying our own company. Either that or Him Indoors has found the life insurance documents.

I am not a huge believer in ghosts. I would never say they don’t exist but on the other hand I would never claim to have seen one. I have however had a few uncomfortable encounters that left me feeling I was in the company of an invisible presence. On the Isle of Skye, when I was pregnant with No. 1 foetus, we were staying in a B&B. At the end of the bed was a big oak chest, years old. I slept fitfully. The chest with its rusty hinges and big padlock worried me all night. I saw nothing but the next morning I mentioned my unease to Him-on-Holiday. He had also had a restless night and weird dreams. We left after breakfast and cancelled our second night on the grounds of foetus giving me indigestion. My next encounter was years later when we were living in my granddad’s old cottage. That home had seen many births and deaths over 150 years. I was in bed on my own, Him Indoors must have been on shifts. I could feel my old childhood dog Fred, a chocolate poodle, curled at my feet. I could feel his weight and the safety of his being. I of course switched on the bedside light to find nothing. Not even No. 1 son curled up in a ball. I remember though smelling parma violets. I love parma violet sweets and so did my granny. As a small child I once thought I had seen God dressed as a risen angel, with huge white wings walking across our Nissen hut garage roof, our Morris Minor inside. I think that was a dream. Too many bible stories before bed. So, all in all, I am not a huge believer in ghosts because I haven’t seen one. It doesn’t mean to say that you still can’t be frightened by things that go ‘boo’ in the night.

One of the things that I have liked about being retired in Northumberland is doing things that we wouldn’t have done before. We had a castle in our town in Derbyshire, right on our doorstep, yet we never once went on one of their ghost tours. Always too busy, too tired or it clashed with shift work. So our first Halloween living in Northumberland we decided to book on to a vampire tour of Alnwick Castle. Small group tour after dark and to areas of the castle not seen during the day. Should be a laugh we said. So off we trot, clad in big coats and warm boots as instructed. It did say in the small print it wasn’t suitable for the faint hearted, anyone suffering from claustrophobia or a nervous disposition and photography was not allowed. Anyway we turned up (early as that’s what I do) and soon discovered that Him-on-Vampire-Tour was the only male in the small group. Just lots of young and middle aged females. Now being the only male you can either fade into the scenery or become the hero or perhaps the villain. I will explain shortly how this unfolded. Firstly though I was really impressed with the actor all dressed in black with silver grey hair and such a soothing voice. An older talking version of Milk Tray Man. He explained about the history of the Alnwick Vampire and showed us around parts of the castle never seen. This was actually quite educational and Milk Tray Man was easy on the eyes. No wonder there were so many women on the tour! Nothing frightening about it at all. Then he took us outside, in the dark to the castle wall. I looked down and caught a glimpse of a dark caped figure running at the base of the wall, the only light coming from little handheld torches. Milk Tray Actor Man goes to explore and promptly gets his throat cut and is dragged into the cellar by the vampire. A women three up from me screamed and then a Mexican Wave of piercing screaming began. The nice informative actor was gone and he was replaced by a short fat Van Helsing, dressed in leather and a tall young blood dripping vampire. The pace picked up as we were dragged into the dungeons and the underbelly of the castle looking for safety through rowan stakes and doorways covered in juniper. Well you can imagine that there were things coming out of cupboards and at one point we are running down a tiled tunnel, a smaller version of the London Underground. As we ran our footsteps echoed off the walls. My heart was actually pounding. I switched between crying with laughter and real heart racing fear. Remember it’s dark and we have no idea where we are or what will jump out at us next? Him-on-Vampire-Tour does the brave thing and takes up the rear position to protect all the females in single file in front. What does he do? Starts to stamp his feet really hard (I only realised this after) as if we were being chased by the vampire who was actually hiding ahead. I screamed so loud along with the rest of the women. Terror back and front. I was so relieved when the tour came to an end. I am sure with some light bulbs on that tunnel would have been absolutely fascinating. We didn’t see the nice actor again. Such a shame they killed him off so quickly but a true story of two halves. I don’t think I could have coped with a full hour of screaming. We were so spooked we had to go to The Dirty Bottles for a drink. Now that is really haunted, cursed two centuries ago when the innkeeper dropped dead interferring with some bottles in the window. His widow declared anyone who did likewise would suffer the same fate! The (very) dirty bottles were sealed between two panes of glass and have remained there ever since. Can you imagine being haunted by empty bottles. What a nightmare? Stay safe everyone and sleep peacefully.

Alnwick Castle October 2018 (Day time)