Friday 31st July 2020 – 130 days

Today is my final daily blog. I know some of you will be sad and some of you will be clapping. Probably not like, on your doorstep though. Not that enthusiastic clapping please. 130 consecutive days of blogging. Nearly 160,000 words. Over 3,000 views and 545 visitors. So many visitors from different countries though. Hello Ecuador, Romania, Czech Republic and Pakistan. Where did all those words come from? Sometimes wonky words but you carried on reading and encouraged me to continue. I still intend to blog but just twice weekly. Every Sunday and Wednesday at around 4.00 p.m. I will though be venturing into the world of the “longer read” with the big boy bloggers. 10 minutes of your time instead of five. You might see a bit of a new style as well. If you are signed up via email you will continue to receive a notification. If you have had enough of my whingeing and moaning thanks for reading this far, you can drop out now. If you haven’t signed up for an email alert it is a good way of keeping abreast, particularly if I get put in quarantine. Then I will be back daily moaning about being stuck indoors with Him Indoors!!!!! Thank you Coronavirus for giving me a voice and the confidence to write so publicly for pleasure rather than for work. It is difficult to blog each day when you are entertaining guests. I just can’t keep it up! I am though thankful we have not gone to stay with N&N this week and they are here. Greater Manchester is now in local lockdown with new additional restrictions. 4.5 million people who now need to keep within their own household again. Going out for a meal with friends is not allowed and we would have had to returned home before midnight like Cinderella, having drunk several glasses of wine. Coronavirus is not going away, so for now I will carrying on blogging. Just not so often.

Today I have submitted my entries for the 149th Warkworth Village Show. Of course though this time is different. It will be a ‘Virtual Show’ held on the day of the original planned show date. Photographs and emails entries instead of real flowers, vegatables, baking and crafts. No tasting of the baking either.The dog that stole the lemon drizzle cake last year will be bitterly disappointed. I have entered the writing competition this year. Something I would certainly not have done last year. I need to write and submit a prose entry of no more than 200 words (so few) entitled ‘heatwave’. Well today we have had a heatwave and it has provided inspiration to go with my new found Coronavirus writing confidence. I expect nothing from my effort but will have a go. I will also be submitting entries for the photography section. I really expect nothing from that as last year the winners all looked highly professionals. Proper professional. As Him Indoors always says it’s the taking part not the winning, but he won the seniors game again on Wednesday. He’ll be getting thrown out soon or they will change the age range to 65 and above.

Today we took N&N up to Howick Hall and Gardens. The weather was gorgeous. A proper summer day. We took in some of the normal sights and explored some new areas of the woodland. There were two standout highlights and two minor ones. The first was chatting to Lady Howick who was tending her private garden which she opens up for a small donation towards the upkeep of the estate church. What a lovely lady. Him Indoors stood chatting to her for ages about her four children who have 14 grandchildren between them. He then reported back to us. I then asked about one of her splendid plants. Charming Lady. Her dog was running around her herbaceous border much like Top Dog whilst her brother was taking photographs of the bees on the lavender. I was hoping we might get invited in for afternoon Earl Grey tea but alas a step too far. The second highlight was watching Best Uni friend run around the circular pond eating her toasted teacake with jam, pursued by wasps. She hates wasps and they didn’t appreciate her flapping. They were after the jam she managed to get in her hair. I just sat giggling eating my coffee and walnut cake in peace. I am sure Lady Howick would have served my Earl Grey in a proper China cup though, instead I had a cardboard cup eith ‘Eg’ on the side. The two minor incidents involved a nest of swallows. Baby swallows that were far to big for the nest and fledged whilst we were there. The second minor incident nearly ended up in a fist fight. Two elderly people pushing into a rather long socially distanced orderly queue for the toilets. The women in question had no intention of waiting behind everyone else and vocally made that quite clear. I left the woman behind me to sort it out. I am old and grey and needed a wee badly. We did also spot one deer on the way round munching on one of the Arboretum trees but no red squirrels. Our lovely day was finished off with a quick visit to Craster to pick up some kippers and for the men to have auchermuchty for lunch. The Husband approved. Him Indoors appreciated a return visit. It was so busy in Craster and the queue for the laundry fresh toilet was very long. Thankfully I didn’t need to go. A beautiful Tourist Friday day. Well, that’s the last daily blog (fingers crossed) and a little shorter than normal. I need to go and wash my hair as we are heading out to The Old Boathouse tonight for a least one seafood platter. The sun is still shining and the evening looks like being gorgeously warm. Thanks for sticking with me through 130 days of Coronavirus. Thanks so much for your lovely feedback. Thanks also to Him Indoors for becoming my official proof checker and providing so much funny blog material. I hope your big toe gets better soon. I will be back on SUNDAY. Stay safe everyone and have a great summer weekend. Let’s hope the weather is good. PS. New blog can be found at http://www.thejef992955831.wordpress.com

Howick Hall and Arboretum 31.7.20
Craster 31.7.20

Thursday 30th July 2020 – A slice of life

There are a few benefits to being awake at four in the morning, the best being the magnificent sunrise that greeted me and the second best, that I have time to write my blog. I really didn’t want to be up that early as we have guests and it will be a long day. I had been awake since 3.30 a.m. and there was zero chance that I was going back to sleep. I was thirsty for a mug of tea and too hot. I had to creep downstairs trying not to wake our sleeping guests N&N, aka Best Uni Friend and husband. Apparently I don’t mention The Husband much in my blog. Probably not at all. He’s just the other half of N&N. Due to Coronavirus we haven’t seen them since February which is much longer than normal. These are guests, that were guests, long before we started receiving seaside guests. We exchange visits three or four times a year and occasionally go on holiday together. It was supposed to be Maderia this year which seems like a world away. Anyway, back to the sunrise at 4.00 a.m. As I was waiting for the kettle to boil I decided that it was too good to miss. That emerging red and orange horizontal flame across the eastern sky would make a gorgeous photo. I contemplated which door would be the quietest to open? The patio door opens quietly but clunks noisily on closing. The side door is less noisy but then I have to negotiate the gate into the back garden which is creaky. It needed to be the side door. I put the key in and turned it very, very slowly. The morning air was fresh, still and cool. Before I tackled the gate I considered getting a shot from the road looking down to the sea. A perfect opportunity as everyone silently slept. That was the moment I found myself stood in the middle of the road in my dressing gown and flip flops with the milkman turning into the estate. Hair tousled and bare unshaven legs. OMG! I had forgotten all about the milkman in my quest for the perfect sunrise. I legged it back up the drive and I just managed to jump back in the house before the van went by. A close encounter with the milkman. Too close for comfort. I waited until it was safe to go back out into the garden. It was well worth it though. By five o’clock I had my second mug of tea and a view of a brilliant bright orange-red sky. A perfect, if somewhat early start to the day. I could have done without the sudden jog down the drive though.

I hope everyone appreciates the efforts I went to this morning to capture the perfect sunrise. Not only did I do impromptu jogging but I was already injured as well. Before I disclose the nature of my injury I need to jump back to last weekend when Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be was here. Obviously my No. 1 Son was here but he wasn’t involved in this incident. BDILTB was watching me make my famous chicken and broccoli lasagna. If there was a category for best ‘tray bake pasta dish’ at the Warkworth Village Show, I would win a prize. She has been wanting my secret recipe for years and I have conveniently forgotten to give it to her. Just like No. 1 Son forgot Top Dog’s sleeping crate. BDILTB is hovering around me claiming to want to help, asking questions about how much milk I use and how do I make sure there are no lumps in the sauce? Little did she know that my intention was to give her the recipe on her wedding day. My gift to her, as well as my son. Ruined my plan BDILTB but anyway more about my injury. So whilst making the lasagna I was also making coleslaw with my Chinese mandoline. I said to BDILTB that it was sometimes difficult to get the last bit of cabbage sliced and I am often tempted to push the cabbage through with my fingers rather than use the ‘safety’ device. I don’t know its technical term but it looks like a flatten mini top hat with prongs to hold the vegetable whilst whacking it down the slicer. BDILTB jokingly told me to watch my fingers as that could be nasty. Well, fast forward to last night. I had consumed a fruit cider in The Mason’s and hadn’t even started on the wine and that is when the injury occurred. Too busy talking, preparing fish for the BBQ, slicing bread and then slicing my digit on the mandoline whilst cutting white cabbage. That little bit of cabbage that was stuck just needed a little gentle push. Numpty. I knew straight away that the sliced thumb was going to bleed profusely and it did. The white cabbage became red cabbage as blood dripped from my throbbing thumb. Bloody Chinese crap. John Lewis you have let me down. Other retail outlets sell them with chain mail cut proof gloves. Best Uni Friend had to come to my rescue with the plaster tin. I had to have two to stop the flow. The coleslaw was tasty though. I tried later in the night, after a glass or two of white, to send a photo of my injury to BDILTB. It is my right thumb though. The digit I use to take photographs on my phone. I found it almost impossible to take a photo with my left thumb. Him Indoors had to come to my rescue. BDILTB replied, “It was only a matter of time!” Then in her next breath asked if I had folded her wedding invitations yet? Does she not know how busy I am making coleslaw for a stream of guests? And I have an injury! I couldn’t even take photos in the garden this morning as my double plaster was hiding my finger print. I had to use two hands and another digit. I have learnt my lesson though. I am not messing with the mandoline again.

After what looked like such a promising day, the weather failed miserably. By 6.30 a.m. it was raining and there was no sign of the gorgeous earlier sun other than on Facebook. Somebody had been down to take a photograph of Warkworth Castle at sunrise. A stunning photograph. If only I had a full set of clothes downstairs. I am not sure a Barbour jacket and skin tone underpants would have been acceptable. After breakfast we took N&N to Newbiggin- by-the-sea. The Husband took us in his new flash car. A quick spin down the coast. Best Uni Friend’s mum had stayed once at Newbiggin before children but hadn’t been back since. It was a grey old day and the photographs sent to Uni Friend’s mum will not do it justice. Jackets and umbrellas needed. Big fat clouds and choppy water. The ‘Couple’ had sea water lapping their toes. We all agreed that perhaps the Guardian art critic was right. Perhaps it is not the best sculpture in the world or even the North East. It drizzled as we walked the length of the promenade admiring the views and taking in the blog (21st July 2020) tourist hot spots. The latte and cake at Cafe Bertorelli’s hit the spot. As we drove from Newbiggin the cloud started to clear just a little. A quick visit to Morpeth followed to buy a birthday gift and a baby-to-be gift from a rather nice shop. I was getting quite broody but then had a hot flush in my face mask. It was time to leave. Time to head back for a mug of tea and prepare some coleslaw for tea. Plasters at the ready. Stay safe everyone and keep your fingers away from the slicer.

4.00 a.m. in Warkworth 30.7.20
4.30 a.m. in Warkworth 30.7.20
5.00 a.m in Warkworth and the birds are up 30.7.20
A grey Newbiggin-by-the-sea 30.7.20

Wednesday 29th July 2020 – Bon voyage

When I worked, I was known for travelling abroad on a regular basis. “You away again?” Was a familiar question uttered by many. We both had busy lives and stressful jobs. Him Indoors worked erratic and sometimes unpredictable shifts. I worked long hours and could not stay awake beyond 10.00 p.m. Booking a holiday and time off work was the only way to guarantee time together, either as a family or a couple. In order to go on holiday and totally switch off, I needed to have cleared all my work, everything needed to be up-to-date and shipshape. I have been known to ring work from the airport departure lounge having forgotten to issue an instruction or to send a last minute email to colleagues reminding them that something needed to be done. Once everything was out of my head then I could relax and flick into holiday mode. I love travelling abroad. City breaks, cruising, beach breaks, sightseeing and mini (thoroughly safe) adventures. Nothing too extreme. No diving or kayaking for me but I have been in a hot air balloon over the Australian bush at sunrise watching a mob of kangaroos race through the scrub. I love and miss that sense of experiencing something new. It might be a shoal of tiny silver fish swimming in the crystal clear Mediterranean sea. Or bright white architecture in the middle of a busy bustling city. Seeing a brindled coated mongoose in the wild for the first time in Hawaii. Watching a massive harvest moon setting over forest clad hills in Corfu. These are the things that make memories whilst spotting Judy Murray in our hotel lobby just makes a half decent story. I am happy that we have been able to have a little staycation in Scotland but it doesn’t stop me missing being abroad. Waking up in a different place and feeling that sense of anticipation as to what the day might bring. A new building, a beautiful beach, an ice blue sea, a black dormant volcano, an aromatic garden or a historic monument. I thrive off sensory experiences that awaken a passion. It does not have to be monumental, it can be a small thing like the feel of smooth granite, the smooth song of a wild bird or the smell of Cypress pine. When abroad my senses seem to be amplified. Don’t get me wrong, Northumberland has provided much amplification and that was one of the reasons we moved here to experience a different way of life, a fresh adventure. I do though miss the anticipation of a trip abroad. I am not sure that I could cope with the disappointment of yet another cancelled holiday this year though. I saw the disappointed look on the face on No. 1 Son and Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be who had planned a weekend in Spain with a group of friends next month. The news of the recently impossed quarantine was not received well.

After months of lockdown so many people will have booked holidays abroad and started the countdown clock. Five weeks until we fly to Spain. Can’t wait. Four weeks today and we will be on our way. Then bloody Coronavirus cancellation kicks in again, just as a reminder that it is still here. It may be the summer but it’s not gone away. It is lingering around like a summer Grim Reaper lurking in the cool shadows, hiding from the hot sun but still ever-present. The chat over the weekend as news broke about Spain, after the UK government imposed a 14 day quarantine on arrivals back due to a spike in new cases. Would their flights be cancelled? Could they just quarantine when they got back home? Would the key workers in the group be OK as key workers are exempt from quarantine? How mad is that? They may be exempt but not from catching Coronavirus. However, when you look behind the headline the Spanish government has issued ‘stay-at-home orders’ for 4 million residents in Catalonia, which includes the whole city of Barcelona. With threats that even stricter lockdown measures could be re-imposed if infection numbers do not improve in the next 10 days. When people are excited about going away it is easy to concentrate on how to get there, rather than the practicalities of what you would face when you get there. In Amble last weekend at about 4.30 p.m. there was a permanent queue for the one public toilet. 12 people in total waiting patiently for the only cubicle. The Cleansing Operative was waiting patiently also, to lock up the toilets so he could go home and enjoy the rest of his weekend. He had already experienced abuse from tourists as he locked up the men’s convenience. I know this how? Because he was on the phone to his boss asking what he should do about the queue of women, some with small children with sandy feet and ice cream smeared faces? A town still not ready for mass tourism. Tourists arriving unprepared thinking everything is normal because ‘I am on holiday!’ Well, it isn’t normal here or in Spain. No. 1 Son and Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be aren’t going to Spain now. The decision was made for them as their flights have been cancelled. So much wasted energy though for anyone wanting to travel at the moment. Too many plans ruined.

From having just a few holidaymakers a few weeks ago we now seem to have lots in the village. Our Covid related death rate in Northumberland was always low and there have been no deaths for 24 days. An ideal place for a staycation. Some friends from Nottinghamshire should have been in Sri Lanka but came to stay in Amble instead for their annual holiday. We invited them up for a socially distanced BBQ and a few drinks in the garden last night. We didn’t hug as I had confessed to hugging No. 1 Son days earlier. The hug seems to weigh heavy upon me, like a sin. Yet the bar staff in all the restaurants we have been to recently rub shoulder to shoulder for full shifts. I am not sure any of it makes sense any more. I asked our friends if their holiday felt the same as previous trips Up North. Lacking atmosphere at night apparently as everyone eats for nourishment and no longer for pleasure. I saw a Facebook post yesterday that announced one of the local holiday lets had removed all towels for the foreseeable future. Guests need to bring their own. Our BBQ guests had asked that their motel room was not to be cleaned. Something I had considered in Scotland had it not have been for the grab and go breakfast festering in the bin. Hopefully there was a little more atmosphere in our garden last night. There was certainly a strong wind whipping around all evening. My lettuce kept blowing off my plate and my wine got knocked over twice. Plenty of atmospheric pressure. Our friends also have a Top Dog. A very well behaved springer spaniel named after the famous detective that lived on Baker Street, who also likes a good Northumberland sausage. The dog not the detective. It was lovely to catch up with them and we actually chatted a lot about holidays abroad and some shared experiences. We have never had a hippo though trying to unzip our safari tent. Our county needs an injection of tourists at the moment for our businesses to survive. So we can keep as many pubs as possible open in the village. Next week we will be using the government’s ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ scheme. I like a bargain and I like eating out! For now I need to drive to Turnbull’s Food Hall to stock up on BBQ meat ready for our next visitors. Stay safe everyone and staycation this year.

Beautiful Northumberland

Tuesday 28th July 2020 – Alter Ego the Finale

When I woke this morning the sun was shining bright although a cool breeze was whipping from the West. I was up at 6.00 a.m. fairly fresh of face but exhausted from my own snoring. These last few years I have turned into a sleeping piglet. Grunting through the back of my nose and throat. Not a pleasant sound or sight I would imagine. I wake myself up repeatedly. Him Indoors doesn’t find it appealing either. Not my best quality. I keep thinking I must do something, like buy some nose clips or use a clothes peg. I just wake up and never get round to sorting out my snorting. Anyway, I was drinking my second cup of tea looking out of the window, with my tablet on my knee when I realised I didn’t have anything to say. I had no planned blog and a pile of ironing. I pondered if anything funny had happened over the weekend or any interesting gossip was acquired at the birthday bash. I had gossip but I couldn’t use it. I was blogless for the first time ever. As I drained my mug I started to type about holidays abroad and then I thought to myself, “Keep that one for tomorrow. Have a day off to garden, iron and prepare for our next visitors. Let Him Indoors have one last finale.”

Well, what a surprise! I didn’t think she was letting me do another blog. She told me I was retired, redundant, furloughed on no pay. I don’t know how she thinks I have time to write her bloody blog today. I have jobs to do and I told her so last night before she started planning my Tuesday out for me. I was very polite about it. She looked a bit shell shocked when I announced, “I just want you to know that I have plans tomorrow. I am going to clean my car, mow the lawns, play a round of golf and I’ll be back for the BBQ.” Silence. Followed by more silence as she digested my plan. Wow! I should be assertive with her more often. I wanted to add that I wasn’t doing Tourist Bloody Tuesday like normal but perhaps that was a step too far. “OK” was all she said. Bloody hell. Bingo! I can have my life back after all. She was up of course before me this morning. Three loads of washing done before I was up. I stayed in bed longer to actually get some sleep. She was snoring like a Gloucestershire Old Spot. How can such a guttural noise come from such a small being. She has though put some weight on around the middle. Not as small as she was. Anyway, as I make my cup of coffee she announces that she is going to do some gardening first and then have a shower before food and beer shopping. Good. A bit of peace and quiet and she will never know that I have had two cookies for breakfast. She made them for No. 1 Son the other day. Rock hard frisbees. Not her best offering. Off she then goes dressed in black to do the gardening. She looks like a fat stick of liquorice. I have to say though that her herbaceous border is looking pretty good. Even No. 1 Son showed mild interest and the odd compliment about her gardening abilities. Then after my second cookie or was I just about to start washing the car? I don’t remember but tragedy had struck again. Her little wrinkled face looked really sad as she told me there was another dead bird in the garden. A jackdaw. No wonder she dresses in black to do the gardening. She’s a Grim Reaper. I did worry for a minute that it might be Jacky Dawe or Door or whatever she bloody calls it. She told me it wasn’t, as its feet looked normal for a dead bird. I went to pick it up and she screamed at me to leave it. Apparently I need gloves to pick up a dead bird. I have picked up worse than that love! “Do it yourself then!” I shouted and stormed off. I have jobs to do. As I started washing the car the frigging hose pipe was a mare. I’ve been wanting a new one for over a year and she’s full of false promises. I pull at it, hiss a bit and threaten to drill holes in the wall. That did the trick. I can apparently look online after pension pay day or we can visit the garden centre. I can have a new one as long as it is aesthetically pleasing to her eye. She hates yellow hoses. I’ll look online. It will be cheaper as she will just fill the car with plants otherwise. And I’ve just cleaned it. I might not be able to walk around anyway. My big toe is still killing me from my hoovering accident and I’ve pulled my back uncoiling that bloody hose. Might not be able to play golf after all.

How sad today to find yet another dead bird under the window. I expected to find an odd slug or a snail when gardening but not a deceased jackdaw. I was back to the same dilemma. Is it dead or stunned? I poked it with my hoe. A repeat of the woodpigeon. I moved the bench and chair out of the way for a closer inspection. It didn’t appear to be breathing. I fetch my trowel and a plastic fat ball tub. The bird felt fairly rigid. Its black feathers glinted green in the sun. It had perfect claws. How sad. I gently placed it in the tub and took it over to the dustbin. I thought I saw its eye move just a tiny fraction. The pale eye was beady but dull. Its chunky beak was still. I left it there for a while, just in case it woke up and wanted to fly away. It didn’t and looked stiffer. A fat meat fly buzzed around its head. A little life lost but this time it went in a bag in the bin before our visitors arrived for a socially distanced BBQ. Stay safe everyone and watch out for those black birds.

Washing the car
New garden plants

Monday 27th July 2020 – Family fun in the sun

We have had a fantastic weekend but it disappeared too quick. Speedy just like Spike. We have had a fun filled family few days. Now they have packed their car and left, I have time on my hands to summarise our weekend. Plus it is raining so our day will be limited by the weather. Plus I have a mild hangover which in all fairness should be massive. Talking about ‘masive’, Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be stole my word yesterday. We had kindly received an invite to birthday drinks from one of the Guilden 10. Luckily the weather yesterday was good and warm enough to wear a sun dress and have social distanced drinks outdoors. As we stood in the gorgeous garden that faces the fields Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be exclaimed that the sky and views were “Massive!” That’s my line BDILTB. Don’t start stealing my ramblings. She may be getting my name next year but get off my words! I heard also that one of my many phrases, ‘Bloody Tourists’ is now being commonly used amongst one Guilden 10 family. Being widely used to describe those annoying people who loiter in the village around the cross and clutter up our beaches. Glad to know 126 days of blogging has left some mark on the world. Apparently though some people are going to really miss my daily blog. Their lives will not be the same. We had a smashing time drinking too much white wine in the sunny garden, admiring the prized dahlias, whilst Top Dog remained firmly on his leash. It was good for No. 1 Son and Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be to meet some of the Guilden 10 and their lesser halves. It was also good to catch up with people who have been shielding. I was just grateful that Top Dog behaved himself and didn’t poo in their herbaceous border. Birthday girl apparently enjoyed the gift of award winning triple chocolate brownie. Always happy to spread a little joy around the estate.

The Mason’s has played a big part in our weekend. No. 1 Son and Him Outdoors managed three visits to my two. As you will remember we went down for a late drink on Friday night and ended up as last ones seated in the beer garden. On Saturday night the boys snuck off down to The Mason’s on their own whilst BDILTB and I cooked and drank cocktails in the summerhouse. Yes, the summerhouse has finally been christened with alcohol. BDILTB was in charge of making espresso martinis. We had two followed by lots of wine. Just for clarity the cooking was done in the kitchen not the summerhouse. The boys made friends with a family from Gateshead that have a caravan and a daughter in Derbyshire. Also a couple from Cambridge whose sister lived in the village but they were stopping in a cottage for a few days. Obviously, bloody tourists. Apparently it was the dogs that started the conversation. Two springer spaniels called Top Dog in the same beer garden. Could have got very confusing. It is a good job they didn’t get too drunk and bring the wrong dog home. BDILTB would not have been happy at all. I just wondered if the other Top Dog was better behaved? Anyway we missed all this action but made a repeat visit Sunday teatime after the birthday drinks. It was packed and we ended up in the beer garden again. I had been fancing Sunday roast. Sunday roast though should be eaten indoors not outside in the sunshine. I still somehow ended up ordering lamb roast (small portion). It was the best meal I have eaten post Covid. I even ate BDILTB Yorkshire pudding whilst she had my mash. A fair swap. Really delicious and we drank more white wine whilst cooing over two spaniel puppies on the next table. No. 1 Son had the massive fish and chips. Best fish he has had apparently in a long time. Him Outdoors had lamb roast also but of course the big dinner man version. A highly successful adventure to The Mason’s and we even had a little wine left in the bottle, which I carried drunkenly home for consumption after two Alnwick Rose gins. No wonder I had a headache this morning.

The weather has done us proud this weekend. The original forecast for Saturday was bleak and we expected to stay in watching Hawaii Five-O all day and drink tea. Then just like that it changed and we managed our 6 miles on Warkworth beach. Yesterday we headed up to Embleton bay. Bloated after a full cooked breakfast. We arrived at about 11.30 a.m. expecting it to be busy but not yet packed with bloody tourists. How wrong. We drove down the narrow lane thinking we could get parked at the Golf Club. The whole lane and the club were packed with cars. Golfers were having to wheel their trolleys half a mile down the lane to the course. I bet they were seriously moaning about (in the words of Aunty Mary) bucking tourists! We eventually did get parked at the top of the lane. Never, ever seen it so busy. Half way down the beach lane we found a small lending library. Bring a book, leave a book complete with baby wipes. I will know for next time. The beach was also really, really busy. Dogs, children, towels and pop up tents everywhere. We had a steady walk down the bay to Low Newton. Top Dog went in the sea again, a little further out this time due to No. 1 Son’s over enthusiastic ball throwing. BDILTB screamed a bit when she thought Top Dog was going to be washed out to sea by a massive (6 inch) wave. Her Top Dog baby got pretty wet but survived the ordeal. Top Dog was very well behaved on the beach and only stole one ball off a small child for a very brief period. In fairness Top Dog did exchange his ball-on-a-rope for the cricket ball. He didn’t get away with the theft though. We couldn’t have wished for better weather. Some clouds but lovely sunshine. No. 1 Son likes a bit of sunshine. That and food keeps him happy. And the odd beer or three. It is always sad though (for me at least) when they have to leave. We have had a fantastic family weekend which was over too quickly. On the whole Top Dog was very well behaved. Much improved on last time despite the cat poo fight. No. 1 Son was forgiven for ‘forgetting’ the crate. Given we had torrential rain forecast all day here today, we set about deep cleansing the house ready for our next visitors. Him Indoors-in-charge-of-the-hoover nearly broke his big toe. Stupid numpty picked it up with the handle and the bottom fell clean out. “Is it broken?” I asked giggling somewhat as he rolled about clutching his foot. “What my toe?” No idiot! The hoover?” He then nearly had a heart attack at the top of the stairs. We are rattling about again like two peas in a pod, frightening each other to death when one comes out of a bedroom unexpectedly. Stay safe everyone and make sure you do a risk assessment if your Him Indoors is involved in the cleaning.

The Mason’s roast and espresso martinis.
Embleton beach lane
Top Dog after the massive wave incident.

Sunday 26th July 2020 – Look sharp

Given that we have visitors and are busy entertaining this will be a quick blog. One I prepared earlier. A grab and go blog like a grab and go breakfast in Scotland last week. I have also decided to return to the garden for a slice of blog action. When we came back from over the border last week I went for a wander around the garden at about 9.00 p.m. It was still very light and I was contemplating putting the wildlife camera out again. I walked to the side of the summerhouse and looked up towards the fruit trees. I heard rustling. There at the tip of the summerhouse, amongst the leaves ripped off the tree by the savage wind, was a hedgehog. It was Spike I could tell by his snout. I couldn’t at all. They all look the same. Sharp and brown. Spike looked me up and down as if to say what are you doing here? This is my garden get out! “Him Indoors. Him Indoors.” I gesticulated through the patio doors. Of course I used his real name but funnily enough I do now call him Him Indoors/Him Outdoors in my thoughts. When buying coffee and cake at Newbiggin I thought to myself, I’ll take Him-sat-outside a slice of carrot cake. He’s lost his identity since I started lockdown blogging. Anyway, back to Spike. By the time I had gesticulated to Him Indoors to come outdoors the little bugger had vanished. Disappeared into thin air. Him Outdoors looked everywhere but no sign of Spike and his 7,000 spines anywhere. We have a race horse hedgehog or perhaps a speedway hog. I Googled to see if there was such a thing as hedgehog racing (of course there shouldn’t be but I have raced ducks, snails and crabs in my time) and found a brand of Speedway merchandise. I could buy Red Hog gloves with knuckle and finger protection and suede feel palm, ideal for picking up hedgehogs (if I needed to). I loved going to the Speedway at Sheffield with my brother-in-law when I was younger. That distinctive smell of the bikes on the track. Sorry I have digressed. Spike has a new name. Speedy Spike.

Hedgehogs are fascinating little creatures that Shakespeare called ‘hedgepigs’ but their Latin name is erinaceus europaeus. I am always disappointed to learn that hedgehogs aren’t very loyal. So although I lovingly put out dry food every night (for the pesky black and white seagulls to eat) Speedy Spike will, most certainly be visiting other gardens as well. However, on closer inspection the following day after the 9.00 p.m. garden face off, I found a small indentation in the gravel under the side of the summerhouse. We had deliberately left a gap down the side as I would sooner have critters under the summerhouse than chewing into it. Now bear in mind that the luxury hedgehog house with the felt roof is nearby, but no! The bloody hedgehog is going under the summerhouse. No pleasing some critters. I managed to get video footage the night after as Speedy went to bed at 1.34 a.m. and didn’t appear to come back out again. Isn’t that early for a hedgehog to go to bed? I suppose judging by the 9.00 p.m. sighting it could have been out 5 hours. Half a shift. If Speedy Spike put a bit more effort in he/she could find the evil weevil or slimy slug that is still causing havoc in my garage border. It’s not my best example of glorious green fingers, with one dead honeysuckle and four ravaged flowers. By-the-way I still have blue feet from getting wet on Wednesday. A multi coloured JEF. What I really want to know is do I have two hedgehogs and if so when are the hoglets going to show up? Apparently they are quite solitary creatures that only pair up for mating. It is therefore extremely rare to see multiple hedgehogs in one place. No chance then of capturing an array of hedgehogs on the wildlife camera having a mass rave. They can though travel up to two miles in one night on their tiny, but speedy legs. I am happy that one has taken up residency as I have plenty of scurrying spiders for it to eat and but I don’t appear to have too many slugs unlike Mr B across the road. He needs to trade his field mice for an erinaceus. Talking about food do you remember erinaceus crisps in the 80’s? They were actually flavoured with pork fat until they were taken to court on a charge of false advertising. Interestingly, the makers then commissioned a flavouring firm to duplicate the flavour of baked hedgehog that gypsies (long ago) ate. That was when gypsies were gypsies and not travellers. They then changed the labels from ‘hedgehog flavoured’ to ‘hedgehog flavour’. I think they went rolling downhill after that.

So the big game camera and hedgehog food has been out several nights but unfortunately no decent hedgehog footage has been captured. Well, that is not true. I have some great video footage but I can’t upload videos as I have to pay a subscription to WordPress to do that. Anyway I am more of a photographer than a videographer. I didn’t even know there was such a thing as a videographer until Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be told me they were essential to any half decent wedding. I digress again but the current guidelines of 30 people per wedding includes the videographers, photographers and the officiants of the wedding. That doesn’t leave much room for the rest of the family! It’s a good job hedgehogs don’t get married or that would be an array. A gathering of hedgehogs. Anyway, Top Dog followed the usual path of the hedgehog all around the garden this morning. Nose to the ground. Doing what gun dogs do best. Sniffing. Round and round at 6.30 a.m. It was exhausting just watching him and I was in need of another cup of tea. Top Dog was fine until I turned my back and then found him having a big poo in my herbaceous border. Little bugger. Top Dog not the hedgehog. Stay safe everyone and buy some hedgehog food.

Camera shy – Speedy Spike making a quick exit.
Top Dog looking for Speedy Spike
Top Dog sniffing out Speedy Spike this morning

Saturday 25th July 2020 – Top Dog Rules

It was about 7.00 p.m. when the call came. No, not ‘track and trace’! No. 1 Son ringing from Scotch Corner to say they had a problem. I thought at first their car had broken down and he was ringing to say it was being towed home to Derbyshire. He was laughing though. Long and short of it, they were driving along in the car thinking how much stuff they will need to bring when they have kids, a dog and golf clubs. Yes, No.1 Son plays golf as well. That’s when they realised they had ‘forgotten’ Top Dog’s sleeping crate. The crate he used no problem in November up here but by December it was under their stairs gathering dust. Never to be seen again whilst Top Dog snoozes under their duvet. Until of course they should have packed the crate for the journey Up North. “Is there a Pets R Us on the way up?” No. 1 Son says laughingly. As if it is going to be open at this time and secondly he knows full well I want him here as quickly as possible. I do some swearing down the phone at him and threaten that if his dog chews anything during the night HE will be in trouble. He laughs at me some more. Kids (and dogs)! Who would have them? I did consider driving to Alnwick to buy one but the shop would be shut. They eventually arrived safely and we greeted a very excited Top Dog on the drive. He literally was beside himself with joy at being back beside the seaside. No. 1 Son apologised for ‘forgetting’ the crate and Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be said she would sleep downstairs on the sofa with Top Dog. As if I am going to let that happen. In fact they could both sleep downstairs and save on some washing. Anyway Top Dog’s first night went OK with no major incidents. He had a walk to The Mason’s for a late pint or two in the beer garden, becoming the last dog in the beer garden at dusk. We walked back along the river and heard an owl very close by but couldn’t see it. Back at home a few more beers were consumed and a couple of episodes of Hawaii Five-0 were watched, in stop-start mode as we chatted about things that had happened. It was fairly late when we went to bed. I forgot to mention that the wildlife camera was set up in the garden and managed to capture a black and white Top Dog and a ghostly women by the tree.

I think it’s fair to say I had a sore head on Saturday morning at 7.00 a.m. when I took command of Top Dog from No. 1 Son who I sent back to bed. One glass of red too many. The sky was grey but the house felt too warm. So I took my cup of tea and Top Dog out into the garden. The one thing in the garden I was worried about was my herbaceous border. Top Dog has a courtyard type garden aka backyard. He’s not familiar with the concept of garden with plants. How do you teach a dog that they can only go on the lawn and the gravel but not on soil? For the first 10 minutes he was fine. He played nicely with his toy on the lawn. The only minor problem was he confused some artistically placed driftwood for a stick. Just a minor misdemeanour. Easily confused. Then he started sniffing around the edges of the raised beds. His sniffing intensified. Then all of a sudden Top Dog is in the middle of the herbaceous border sniffing out the hedgehog trail. It’s still early and I don’t want to wake the neighbours. I try but fail to get the little shit out of the soil and back onto the lawn. I had come out in the first pair of flip flops I could find. They belong to Him Indoors. They are white leather and not suitable for trampling over wet soil. I am now hissing at Top Dog to get off the soil and onto the lawn. He then trampled over my peony which was already a little flat. Bugger the neighbours. I screamed, “Top Dog get here!” Did he listen? No, because by now he had picked up another scent. A cat had crapped in my freshly manicured border. Top Dog decided to eat the crap. I had no choice but to step into the border and drag Top Dog back onto the lawn. We then had a wrestling match, fighting over the cat poo. I am not sure who won. I think it was a draw at best. I have a granddog that can’t tell soil from lawn and eats crap. My imaginary dog, Mason is much better behaved and knows not to tread on soil. My head was pounding from too much movement and too many wines. I hope the neighbours didn’t witness the wrestling match. I have mismatched pyjamas on as well for some unknown drunken reason. I badly needed to sit down. Time for Top Dog to go inside I think. As I let him go through the patio door with his teddy in his mouth he looks up to me with those big sad brown eyes. He wags his tail as if to say “Ha ha. I ate cat poo.” He then walked round and round and round the butchers block and dining table leaving behind a trail of muddy paw prints on the cream floor. How can one small thing create so much mayhem? It’s not even 8.00 a.m. Thankfully he had exhausted himself and got down on the sofa. Until he starts sniffing again, this time down the corner of the sofa. You may remember that I had purchased some ‘Made in China’ stretch covers to protect the two leather sofas. The fabric is held in place with thin tubes of foam. Top Dog has one in his mouth. OMG. Not another wrestling match. My head hurts. Dogs and hangovers don’t mix well. Not this bloody dog at least.

When we had all recovered from our mild hangovers and eaten strawberries out of the garden (yes we have some) we drove down to our beach. We remembered to take the ball thrower and water for Top Dog. No sooner had we got out of the car it started spitting with rain yet the sun was out. I was so pleased I had taken my hoodie. At least I could stay dry. The beach was a little busy but as we walked a little further the tourists started to disappear. Then the sun came out and it was hot. Too hot for a hoodie. No. 1 Son couldn’t believe how hot it was and regretted wearing skinny jeans. Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be couldn’t believe it was vest top weather. Occasionally you see, we do get good weather. Him Outdoors was in charge of the ball thrower and Top Dog was running wild. He wasn’t too fond of the sea last time bit we did manage to get him into the surf. He clearly loves the beach. Backwards and forwards he ran. Within two miles he had managed to destroy his ball on only its second outing and then tormented Him Outdoors for another four miles wanting the thrower. All was good until he spotted a young boy further up the beach with a ball. Off he went like a rocket. No amount of shouting would stop him. I had visions of him knocking this random child over. It wasn’t until Top Dog got up close to the boy that he realised it was actually a football and too big to steal. Thankfully he came back and no child was harmed. He did attempt to eat a few dead crabs and some seaweed. Luckily we steered him away from a washed up jellyfish. We walked six miles but he must have run ten. Back home after a late lunch we sat in the garden hoping that Top Dog would nap. Instead he tried to eat my expensive bamboo and chew up the bark under the tree. His name being repeated constantly by one of us for a good hour. Until finally he settled on the decking and everyone could have a well earned nap knowing he wasn’t eating something he shouldn’t. Stay safe everyone and I hope you are having an active weekend.

Top Dog
Top Dog enjoying the beach

Friday 24th July 2020 – The new normal

I am now 123 blogs in from the start of our Coronavirus lockdown. I am starting to question are we still in lockdown? Do I need to change my blog strapline yet? My plan is to move to less frequent blogging from August but do I change my title? Is it over? Has Coronavirus Calendar Bingo finished? It has certainly ruined most of our 2020 plans but thankfully not our lives. Also I have a big question. Will the Oxford English Dictionary change forever after lockdown? Will the 2021 version have an extra defintion under shielding which says, “A term used during the Covid 19 pandemic for those vulnerable and high-risk people who needed to stay at home for months on end.” Will ‘flattening the curve’ become acceptable every day work speech? “Morning John. Today we are going to flatten that curve in rat infestation in the barn.” Who would have thought ‘self-quarantine’ would become a thing? “Hi Joy. (Cough, cough) No I can’t come into work again this week. Yes, I am sorry but I need to self-quarantine (again) as I was tracked and traced after the illegal rave in the park at the weekend. Yep. I realise I had Coronavirus last month but I have repeat symptoms. Yep. I will be off (again) for two weeks. I need to self-quarantine. Can you make sure I get paid please? No need to furlough me. Cheers! (Cough, cough).” Can you imagine what the dictionary will make of ‘furloughed’. An ancient word for missionaries or sailors being granted leave of absence turned into 9.3 million people absent from work at the beginning of July, many of whom will have no jobs to go back to. So at the moment we seem to have ‘eased lockdown’ but ‘local lockdown’ is now possible. Good to know though that ‘shielding’ will pause from 1st August and government support will cease. Shielding friends will at long last be able to go out and about, if they feel safe to do so. So, 1st August 2020 will see a new look DailyJEF, on a not so daily basis. I know some of you will be sad but some of you will be utterly relieved.

Despite the easing of lockdown I am now worrying each time my mobile phone rings. My phone hardly ever rings. If I am going to speak to someone for any length of time (like a girly chat) I tend to use the house phone. Call me old fashioned. I tend to text and message (silent speech) all day, but I am not a chatter box like some. Too much talking over the years at work. Too many hours spent on the phone with disgruntled customers or grunpy employees. So everytime my mobile now rings I immediately think it is a ‘track and trace’ or ‘test and trace’ call that will throw my life into turmoil for two weeks. Not just my life but those I have come into contact with. Those ‘close contacts’ that include Him Indoors and anyone who has been within 2 metres of me for more than 15 minutes, as per government guidance. The circumference around me though is 1 metre as per the July changes. So if I am having a safe 2 metre chat on the front garden with any of the Guilden 10, I really should keep that chat to 10 minutes for their own protection. My phone rang yesterday and I had an automated type voice telling me I had some form of … tax error in my favour. Really! Of course I discontinued the call but it had my heart racing. No. 1 Son, Best-Daughter-in-Law-to-be and Top Dog are due for their first visit today since November. Coronavirus had ruined all of our previous plans. Then Top Dog took poorly. So everytime my phone rings I don’t want to answer it. Go away ‘track and trace’. No. 1 Son says not to worry if it happens. Just go and get tested. How does that work then? I need symptoms to have a test and I have no idea where our drive-through testing site is? Probably in the city conurbation. I could Google it but I don’t want to tempt fate. I want No. 1 Son and crew to arrive safely tonight and stay the whole weekend. I know people who have been shielding have been indoors for months but I can’t imagine being indoors for 14 days now. I would be suggesting Zoom parties and quizzes again whilst all of our family and friends are out raving in parks and going to the seaside on staycation. I would have to get the cookery books out but have no way of getting the exotic ingredients as Mr Sainsbury’s is still not delivering to us (and will never do again). I would have to call the village COVID19 Helpline for help with my shopping and Virgin Wine for essential deliveries. Other wine merchants are available. I can’t imagine going to that backward place for 14 days whilst others post on Facebook their plans for 14 days holiday in Turkey in September. Perhaps I am being too harsh on Sainbury’s. I may need their succulent pork ribs at some point delivered from Heaton, Newcastle. Anyway, can you imagine being stuck indoors for 14 days and possibly poorly! I think I might just keep my phone on silent until after Easter 2021.

Today I have been food shopping and had my mask on throughout the ordeal. In the early days of Covid I wore a bandit bandana but only for a few weeks. We of course wore face masks in Scotland but for no more than 5 minutes at most. Today was horrible. I want my Sainbury’s on-line shopping back! Is a panic attack a legitimate reason for not wearing a mask? I was certainly distressed but it is for my own good apparently. To keep my horrid germs locked in. Today I needed a big shop to cater for the weekend family gathering (all four of us). In future I might return to little and more often shopping. We have time on our hands after all. It will stop me Googling ‘summer holidays in the sun 2021’. Luckily Morrisons was not too busy and had everything I needed. I was amazed at the variety of different face coverings. One man had a bright yellow one with big smiling red lips. One man had music notes and instruments. A woman had some kind of small dog coming out of her mouth. I saw those on Facebook last week. Mine in contrast looked like white M&S knickers. Three for £12. I must put some effort in and find a childs floral mask. Mine is still too big. Well, I survived and was pleased to get out and breathe in some fresh Amble air. If only two smokers were not blocking the exit puffing away! Another new lockdown experience. Things are certainly changing. Northumberland has had no Covid deaths for almost three weeks. Let’s hope it is on its way out. Stay safe everyone and have a great weekend. We intend to have a cracking weekend whatever the weather throws at us. Watch out for Top Dog antics tomorrow.

The new normal – 2020

Thursday 23rd July 2020 – Fairytale Castles

With the exception of about 10 years of my life I have lived in a village with a castle. When we moved up here I just swapped one English Heritage castle for another. As a child I thought everyone had a castle in their village. My junior school backed onto the castle and I saw it every week day. We would hang over the castle wall, scuffing our shoes looking for the ‘Grey Lady’. According to Google it is one of the spookiest castles in the UK. People regularly report seeing a women disappear through a wall and a ghostly little boy trying to hold the hand of unsuspecting visitors. We saw the Grey Lady all the time floating by the windows. “There, there, there!” It was a wonder we ever got any school work done and no wonder I didn’t pass the 11-plus exam. Our annual school trip didn’t need any coaches. We all walked down the drive to be welcomed by Peggy White, the castle custodian for many years. Incidently Mr B across the road was related to Peggy and lived (in his youth) in the same village as me. How spooky is that? After junior school I walked by the castle every day to go to the ‘All Girls School’ or the ‘Big Girls School’. Until the education system changed and we were moved to a mixed comprehensive aged 14. My first real experience as a teenager of boys! That school was in the opposite direction and the castle was out of view for a few years. When you see a castle most days, you largely just take it for granted. As adults living in our old village we would occasionally take visitors and once a year we would go to the firework display. We went to see an open air opera one summer evening with my immediate family. I remember it was August and it rained persistently. The castle was always a big part of my life when I was growing up, then as I grew older we went less and less. It is still pretty poignant to me as we scattered my mum’s ashes on the castle field just below the base of the old walls. I still take flowers whenever I can. So when we moved I simply swapped one castle for another because everyone has a castle in their village don’t they?

Warkworth Castle is more compact than my childhood castle. It dates from around 1200 but it is likely that there was some stronghold on the site before then. It sits in the loop of the river and on a high artificial mound. So high that visitors can see down into the bedrooms at The Sun Hotel. Remember to close those curtains when you are in the roll top bath! The castle played an important role in the long running war between England and Scotland. A bit like our house. Throughout the Middle Ages (pre-Elderberry) it was the favoured residence of the Percy family. The 1st Earl of Northumberland, Henry Percy did most of the building work. Not himself of course. The Percy Lion can still be seen on the Lion Tower. Lots of boring stuff then happened during the War of the Roses. Loads of people got killed and different people ruled the roost at Warkworth. The castle went downhill though and needed lots of repairs. I now know though, why Montagu Avenue was so named? The castle has a Montagu Tower. My history lessons are so informative. Fast forward to the 9th Earl and the castle was in need of a makeover. Charlie Luxton was not available and apparently the 9th Earl was imprisoned for his part in the 1605 Gunpowder Plot and therefore couldn’t spend much money on renovation. The castle became ruinous and was not then rebuilt until the late 18th century. The then, Duke and Duchess of Northumberland, used the castle for picnics in the summer and brought visitors from Alnwick to their fairytale castle. Even then Warkworth had bloody tourists! Every castle has to have a ghost, of this I am sure. According to Google Warkworth Castle has the ghost of Margaret Neville, known as the ‘Grey Lady’. OMG! Not only have I swapped one English Heritage castle for another, but I have the same ghost to haunt my Elderberry years. Margaret, who was the wife of the first Earl of Northumberland, wanders around one of the towers. The ghost of a young man has also been seen running along the castle walls. He has grown up a bit but presumably he’s trying to find a tourists hand? Are all castle ghosts stories the same? Visitors to the castle have reported an unsettling presence in the wine cellars. Too much drink at The Mason’s at lunchtime probably. I quite like the cool wine cellar. Some have claimed the castle possesses a ‘chilling aura’ that affects animals and children. Dogs that enter show signs of distress and children have become ‘silent and contemplative’. Personally I would like to check this out but a) it is still closed b) I have no dog (but could borrow Top Dog) c) I have no small child. If I was a parent though of a small child, I think it would be a great place to take them for a bit of peace and quiet. Take a picnic blanket and let them contemplate. Well, the castle is still locked at the moment and does not open its gates to villagers and visitors until 1st August. I just hope they get the grass cut soon.

We regularly walk around the outside of Warkworth Castle and see it most days. I only actually have to look out of the back bedroom window if it’s raining (like today again) and I don’t want to go out. We have probably been inside the castle about six times. English Heritage allow visitors to the Warkworth Show free entry. Not to be this year. No axe throwing, archery or crossbow. I really like the danger involved in axe throwing. The odd sliced toe or smashed stone lintel when the axe acquires a mind of its own. Perhaps that is why the young man is running along the castle walls? We have taken a few visitors inside and during the hot summer of 2018 we actually attended a few events. The best was a Medieval themed thingy. They had a falconer and birds of prey. The lady falconer was dressed in heavy period clothing and it was sweltering. She had a really nice voice. Like an actress reciting Shakespeare. Her voice made you contemplative and sleepy or was that the aura? She had some stunning birds of prey and we took loads of close up photographs. The pigeon population went into decline also. The castle is a little jewel. Very photogenic all year round (when the grass is maintained) and worth the money if there is some axe throwing thrown in. I love living in a village with a castle. I can’t imagine living in a village without one. Stay safe everyone and support your village castle. When it finally opens.

Views from Warkworth Castle August 2018
Warkworth Castle August 2018
Falconry- Warkworth Castle August 2018
Warkworth Castle October 2019

Wednesday 22nd July 2020 – Wet Wednesday

After Limbo Day Monday I decided Wednesday was going to be planned a little bit better. I had a ticket for Alnwick Garden and a long list of a variety of things to buy, from a number of different shops. Wednesday was to be a pleasant day in Alnwick without Him Indoors. Him Indoors was off to play golf with the seniors in a competition. As he got dressed in his new golf attire, black on black, he looked like he was going back to work. He just needed a truncheon and cuffs instead of a club. I also made an effort as well. I got up early to wash my hair and let it dry naturally whilst I drank my second cup of tea. As I looked out the window it looked a little bit grey but at least it was fine. I straightened my hair until it was silky smooth. I put on a clean pair of grey three quarter length trousers (short length on most people), a Seasalt blue patterned top and my new navy Barbour jacket. I was a little indecisive about footwear. Best blue sandals now it is summer? My Hawaiian yoga mat sandals in delicate shades of yellow and grey? Yes they would be fine but I would take my blue suede shoes as I am a firm believer that flimsy sandals are not safe for driving. I hadn’t had any breakfast but that was OK because I had plans to have Earl Grey and a cheese scone in Alnwick. I had it all planned out. I even had a shopping list clutched in my hand as I left the house. Totally organised. Now those who know me well, will know that I always check the tides and weather forecast in the morning before leaving the house. I didn’t do the tide as I was going inland and I gave the weather a cursory glance. Slight chance of rain all day but it’s the summer so it would just be a shower, if at all.

Off I go in my car with four new tyres all of which are now legal. After new tyres and a service, my car passed its MOT with flying colours and made a dent in our bank account. As I was driving through the village my windscreen wipers came on. It’s raining. I heard Him Indoors muttering about not wanting to play in the rain but to be honest that was His plan, not mine. I was going for a lovely stroll around the garden under a canopy of grey clouds. The windscreen wipers started getting faster. It was raining heavily. By the time I reached Alnwick and parked up the car it was torrential, with streams running down Bondgate Without. I am not sure what was happening in Bondgate Within as I didn’t go in but turned right at the tower. I only had my lightweight Barbour. I forage under the seat and in the pockets for a brolley or a scarf. Instead I found three pairs of sunglasses and a fossilised piece of fudge. OMG. What an idiot! Then I had a brilliant light bulb moment. I had an emergency ‘snow pack’ of clothes in the boot. A bright orange rain jacket some 20 years old at least. It’s funny that I still have a ‘snow pack’ as my car hardly goes out the garage in summer let alone winter. It is still pouring down. The orange jacket comes out of the plastic bag. It smelt a bit musty. I figured the rain would wash away the smell. It was better than nothing and after a short time walking in the heavy rain, I just smelt like a wet dog. My blue suede feet were wet within minutes. The garden was full of puddles, children in wellies and golfing umbrellas. All the flowers looked sad and floppy. The Grand Cascade was on full pump with all 120 water jets going. Let’s just wet everyone a little more! I decided to check out the bamboo labyrinth thinking it might be dryer. I was wrong but surprisingly I found the middle as I was wondering how much all those bamboo plants had cost? I have never found it before. The middle. A first for everything. The labyrinth has some bronze bamboo leaves welded to the stone floor. I always like to see people trying to pick them up and failing. I took the opportunity to walk around the Serpent Garden which is full of water features. Yes, more water but very few people about so better photographs. I recently watched a video on the development of the garden which was a walled dumping ground before Duchess Jane started work on it. They actually grew Christmas trees within the walls. An absolute makeover. The herbaceous garden looked a tad miserable as did the roses today. The smell of wet roses was better than wet musty jacket. It never stopped raining. I felt sorry for the families who had paid good money to sit under the veranda eating their summer picnic. I eventually left via the plant centre and the shop, with two red plants and a bottle of limited edition Alnwick Garden Rose gin. Only one of those three items was on my shopping list.

I went back to the car and decided that my planned leisurely walk around the town to visit the independent shops was not such a great idea. My feet were squelching. I still had a long shopping list which included vodka, Baileys and beers. I went into Aldi just for a few bits and came out with a car boot full. I was soaked to the skin from the waist down and looked like a wet tangerine. Next stop Homebase. Why is it that some shops use sanitiser that resembles washing up liquid? I had rainbow coloured bubbles all over my trolley handle. I needed a nice colourful planter as a present for one of the Guilden 10, who has had an operation. Everything outside though just looked unappealing or dead and wet, or all three. Nothing that hit the spot but hedgehog food and bird seed was ticked off the shopping list. Now I needed to go to the pet store. I had the choice of two and needed two things. A dog bed and a collapsible water bowl for the beach. Fingers crossed Top Dog is coming to visit soon. I chose the wrong store. They only had a bed and not a bowl. Off, to the other one, I go. In and out the car like a wet version of Big Bird from Sesame Street. Then I had to come up with plan B, for the ‘speedy recovery’ present. I knew the garden centre just out of Alnwick was closed, so M&S it is then. I queued outside in the rain with 10 people in front of me. Water dripping from the overhanging roof. This building wasn’t built for Covid queues. Water dripped from the peak of my orange hood and down into my blue suede shoes. At least the smell had washed away. I finally drove home after lunch with a car full of bottles, boxes, plants and bags. My phone was showing that my Virgin Wine had been successfully delivered. It was still pouring down. After unpacking the car I searched the back garden for my box of wine. My hair is now positively frizzy and my feet are blue (with dye). No sign of any wine. Had it disappeared just like the stunned blue tit? I gave up. I was just putting my Smurf feet up with a cup of tea, when I got a call from next door. They have my wine but the bottom has fallen out of the box. Can I come and fetch it? Off I go retrieving a few bottles at a time, in the rain. Why didn’t I just stay at home and iron? Him-on-the-golf-course had a mare also. One ball into the potato crisp field and two into the yellow gorse bushes. Two others lost somewhere else. Five new balls lost in total. His new waterproofs came in handy though and his new freebie brolley. If only I had taken one with me. Still I am sure my orange jacket brightened, if not blinded, someone’s day. The water butt is probably full which is one good result from Wet Wednesday. Stay safe everyone and plan your days (in accordance with the weather) carefully.

A wet Alnwick Garden 22.7.20
Bamboo Labyrinth
Water, water, everywhere.