Monday, 20 October 2014

Do you want to tell a story....?

As we all know up here in the Northern hemisphere it's that time of year. Memories of sunny days are just that. The magical colours and textures of Autumn are fleeing by and we are in that brief lull that this change of season brings - allowing us to readjust before the madness of the Christmas season takes hold. Cardigans are out of hibernation and snuggly blankets beckon us toward the sofa. Various of us have extolled the virtues of lighting candles and open fires, yet what better to accompany them than a storm whipping up outside, lashing rain against the windows and wind howling through the keyholes. The perfect setting, one might say, for a ghostie tale....

I've posted some of my ghostly experiences before here, and looking back the date made me smile. This urge that I have to hear more at this time of year seems as regular as wanting to plant the first seeds in Spring, or collect that first posy of flowers from the garden. I'm not a fan of those shows that claim to contact spirits for the sake of the cameras, but have found that over the years most people have a tale to tell. Often it might seem insignificant to others, but the impact it has on the bearer can be profound.

So this is what I thought we could do. For the next couple of weeks - leading up to Halloween - I thought we could share some stories. Preferably those of our own but may be passing on tales from others. No need for a mass outpouring of urban legends - often the slightest tale can be the most evocative. Perhaps somewhere you have been has just created a particular feeling. Our house is over one hundred years old and yet I have never felt at all spooked here. In fact as soon as we first walked through the door it felt welcoming - yet some places certainly do not. 

An example of this is the infamous Winter's Gibbet in Northumberland. I remember visiting the area as a child and our usually inquisitive dog, Prince, refusing to get out of the car. He shivered and whined until we left.

 Find out more about Winter's Gibbet here.

My contribution is tricky as I relayed most of my experiences here but I do have another. Mr K is the world's biggest cynic when it comes to the supernatural. And yet something happened to him many years ago that he still can't explain. As a teenager he set about cycling around the Lake District with an old school friend of his. One night as they were returning to their camp site from the local pub they heard an almighty rush of - well something - nearing them from behind. As the noise got louder it sounded like hooves and it was enough to make them pedal like the clappers to get out of there. Next morning they mentioned their experience to the owner of the campsite, enquiring as to what sort of animals there might be nearby who would be capable of making such a row. The owner blanched as he told them the name of that particular stretch of road - Devil's Gallop. 

Sorry - this was the only picture I could find of the area - from 1952!

If you want to join in you could leave a link to your post here in the comments section, and link back to this blog using the title 'Ghostie Post'. I'm not sure if this will work or not but I for one will look forward to having a selection of tales to be passed on to others on that most spooky night of all - Halloweeeeeeeeeeeeen.

And now I've completely spooked myself I'm going to put all the lights on and make a cup of tea!

Come on - share your tales .............!


P.S. Well done for those fruit detectives amongst you - the yellow fruit was indeed a quince. Brownie points all round!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Fruity Madness

When all around seems dull and grey

Pile up some fruit and shout WAYHAY!

All  produce kindly donated by friends and neighbours with the seasonal generosity that Autumn brings.


P.S. Brownie points for anyone who can guess the yellow fruit!

Monday, 13 October 2014

Brightening Up

I remember when Mr K and I got our first flat. It was on the ground floor which afforded us the most fantastic gift - a back yard. Now when I say 'yard' I don't mean the glorious American translation of a large well tended garden. Nope. This was a few paving slabs and very little natural light. So what did I do? I took up a row of slabs and planted some bulbs. We stayed in that flat for a couple of years and the sight of those red and yellow tulips each Spring lifted my heart.


Nothing as prolific as this - sadly way before the age of digital photography
Our next flat had a slightly bigger yard - a nice 'square'one. For what seemed like forever we would visit the neighbouring waste ground and return with old bricks and buckets of soil to make raised beds. This time I had more space, more chance to experiment, and so began my love for anything 'herb'.

A nearby allotment came up and together we made it our own, complete with a little rose garden. I remember our most prolific crop was 'mouli' - a white Japanese radish that we neither knew what to do with or could give away. Another move said goodbye to that one and by now we were cultivating a different type of crop - our gorgeous girls!

We tried and failed to keep another allotment going, sharing with other families to try and make it more manageable - but the girls being so young and the busy nature of family life prevented us from any long term commitment.

 Our small back garden became packed to the rafters with all kinds of everything. I've absolutely loved every minute of the last eighteen years seeing it develop into my own little oasis. But both of us knew it wasn't quite enough. We had been bitten by the growing bug many years before and never quite shaken it off. So when a nice lady from the council rang a couple of weeks ago to ask if we were still interested in taking on an allotment I almost cried!

We had almost forgotten that seven years before we had put our names on the council waiting list. There had been an opportunity to join a site on the other side of town some time ago, but we knew that if we had to make a special journey by car to get there that the novelty would soon wear off. 

We hung on. 

And it paid off. 

The allotment is about five minutes walk away, maybe ten if we take the 'scenic' route along the canal. Unlike our previous plots the soil is a dream to behold - it's been cared for over the last eighteen years and is packed with worms (at this point I realise I might be starting to sound a little delirious). All the ideas that I have nurtured are now becoming possibilities and I'm doing no end of little scribbles and list making.

Not that it's going to be easy.

My idea of a dream shed is this sort of thing.

A quiet spot surrounded by herbs with the scent of sweet peas wafting toward me as I recline on my Cath Kidston cushions to survey the land.

What I've got so far is this.

Perhaps a greenhouse dripping with vines and bursting with the possibility of exotic fruits.

Once we've got it on it's base and it actually has some glass in it.

I imagine serenely wandering through the bug free, organic produce - Alys Fowler style.

You can see we have a way to go.

But it's here.

And it's ours.

For now.

And this time instead of taking slabs up I'm putting them down.

Oh for the joy of a path ...

So that's what's been keeping me preoccupied of late. At a time when there has been a fair amount of uncertainty and upheaval it's been good to feel that some things haven't changed. And the future is looking a little brighter.

Much love to all of you out there - and a huge welcome to my new followers.


And hello from Oscar - our allotment neighbour.

Thursday, 2 October 2014

Thank you

Another short post. 

Thank you for all your lovely comments regarding Jessie dog. She's still with us - in fact she seems to rally back to puphood on occasion - but it's very much a one step forward, two step back time for her. Her sight has now gone completely so there's a fair amount of bumping into things, and her hearing has almost disappeared, but it's her back legs which are making things difficult. Mind you she soon regains her spark when she knows it's dinnertime (much like myself!) So for now we are just enjoying being with her and making her as comfortable and as loved as we can.

Mum has also had a bit of a rough time of it. Different complications following her surgery have resulted in a worrying round of hospital appointments, scans, blood tests etc. Things still aren't 'fixed' yet but hopefully heading that way.

So in one way we haven't done much but in another we seem to have been non stop. In between all this we've had a new bathroom put in (two weeks with workmen, an intermittent water supply and a slightly incontinent dog has been badly timed in more ways than one!) Now that's almost done we can breathe a sigh of relief and actually bathe in our own home again!

But Autumn is here. And I know I'm not alone in loving this time of year. The boots are out and the cardigans are on. We've enjoyed a couple of open fires so far and need to go candle shopping to replenish our stocks. Nights are drawing in but the future is looking brighter that it has done for a little while.

I do hope that you are all safe and well and able to appreciate the change of the seasons.

Back soon with 'proper' news.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Apologies .....

This weekend sees the second ever Yarndale event over in the beautiful town of Skipton. I was so hoping to attend and meet up with some fellow bloggers, but I'm afraid life's events have taken over at the moment and I can't guarantee that I'll be able to make it. 

Without going into too much detail we have a very poorly dog and her future looks a little uncertain. She might rally and, by Saturday, be bright as a button but I do feel I should be with her just in case. Several of you had expressed an interest in meeting and I apologise again for not contacting you personally, but I can't get hold of everyone's email. 

It would be lovely if you could still meet - 1pm at the main entrance - and pop some photographs on your blogs for the rest of us to see! 

I'm crossing everything that I might still be able to make it but the 'ifs' and 'whens' are unclear.

So once again I apologise. I don't like to let people down but sometimes it's unavoidable.

Thank you so much for understanding.


Saturday, 20 September 2014

The Company of Strangers

It's been another funny old week. Not straightforward. Ups and downs. It culminated with the realisation that our theatre visit on Friday night was to be scuppered. 

Several months ago Mr K and I booked to see a variety of performances at different theatres. Now classical performances are not usually at the top of our list, but when we found out that Nicola Benedetti would be performing Vivaldi we had to book. It was only the night before that Mr K reminded me that he would be in London that day and wouldn't be back until late. Stony silence. What to do? Little Sis was to be out for the evening. I face booked friends. No replies. So with a deep breath and a little trepidation I decided to go it alone. Radio Four have reported on solo diners recently, and also those who have gone to the cinema unaccompanied. I've listened with interest at both the positive and negatives sides of their experiences. It seems it is becoming more common and the stigma of being the pitiful loner is diminishing.

So off I went.

Stafford Gatehouse Theatre

At the box office I collected my tickets. I informed them that my husband could not attend so if anyone needed a free seat they would be very welcome to it. The foyer of the theatre steadily filled up. Friends met, smiled, embraced. I was on the edge looking in. But instead of feeling nervous or lonely I felt quite liberated. Instead of being socially involved I was now in the role of observer. I chatted to a couple of strangers who were waiting nearby and gradually relaxed into the bustling anticipation that precedes a performance. 

Once seated I took solace in the fact that I had a free chair next to me. The auditorium was packed but at least I didn't have to sit with my coat and bag on my knee. 

The lady to the my left offered me a mint and told me about her chest condition. We got into a discussion about Question Time and how she had heard that both the presenter and two of the panel were delayed on a train - chuckling as to what might happen with a studio full of people but no presenter. As we settled I was aware of a man hovering at the edge of the row. He was quite elderly but scrupulously smart in a navy blazer with brass buttons. 

He had my husbands ticket. 

As we moved aside to allow him to his seat it occurred to me that he too was on his own. A few niceties elapsed. He asked if I had seen Benedetti before. It turned out he was a regular visitor to the theatre and had enjoyed their classical seasons for many years. We began talking about our musical preferences. Did I play an instrument? What about my family? He had four daughters who had all gone different ways in the world. A banker, a brand designer, a photographer and a ballet dancer. One had recently recovered from cancer and was celebrating a year in remission with a trip on a private yacht. In turn I told him about my girls. Chalk and cheese I said. Wonderful in their own ways but still to find their own direction. He told me about his childhood at a boarding school in Dorset. About the time he saved some bantams from a fox.

Benedetti played and I was transported. Each of the Four Seasons was introduced by the relevant sonnet that Vivaldi had penned to accompany them. The conductor was Gabor Takacs-Nagy and his enthusiasm and spirit added an extra dimension. There was a sense of awe. The bond of a group of people experiencing the same emotive flow.

At the interval I went to stretch my legs. I no longer felt alone. I was part of a shared understanding.

On return to my seat I continued conversing with my new found friend. Why was it that more children wanted to play guitar than violin nowadays? And about the terrible local tragedy of a teenager recently killed at a level crossing.

The concert continued with Mozart. 

After much applause it was over. The lady on my left wished me well and said goodnight. I turned to the man on my right and did the same. I also wished his daughter well and hoped that her remission would continue. He thanked me kindly. And then we parted.

On leaving the theatre I had a wonderful surprise. Mr K had managed to get an earlier train and had hot footed it over to try and catch the end of the concert. The steward had kindly allowed him in but as there was no seat he had watched the last movement at the entrance to the auditorium. 

He was full of apologies, hoped it hadn't been too bad, had bought some wine and chocolates and so forth. 

He was surprised to find me so buoyant. I hadn't been lonely at all. Not only had I enjoyed the concert immensely but I had also been at liberty to enjoy a whole new experience - the company of strangers.

I'll probably never meet that elderly man again. I'm sure our paths would veer in very different directions and on a daily level we would probably have highly opposing views. But for those three hours I was allowed an insight into his life, and he mine. An insight that would never have occurred had I been swept up in conversation with someone more familiar. 

But already a treasured memory.


Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Around the block.

This morning I went for a walk. 

That's it.

Nothing remarkable in that. 

Not anywhere new or of any distance.

Just a little walk around the block.

But it was such a simple uplifting little walk that I found myself really appreciating what was around. 

Like the neighbours geraniums.

My favourite colour door.

Old Neddy. Not his real name I'm sure but suits him to a tee.

The luminous depth of this tree.

Down to the allotments.

And back along the canal.

Where the early morning mist had lingered - just enough.

Although at some points it still seemed like midsummer.

Small details.

And signs.

The perennial 'trying to get Jessie dog to look the right way when you are trying to take a photo of her' caper.

And home.

That's it.

A walk around the block.

Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did!


P.S. A sneak peek at a little project we have coming up. All very exciting but not quite ready to reveal yet.