Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's Thanksgiving day and John and I have just finished a wonderful dinner cooked by John. His pumpkin pie was to die for!

Here we are, sitting in our easy chairs in the living room, "protruding our stomachs" (as my Mum used to say) and sipping our home-made gooseberry liqueur. Life has been good to us this year and we have much to be thankful for.

We're happy, healthy and comfortable. We have a lovely warm home and a beautiful garden. We live in one of the most beautiful spots in the country and we are surrounded by kind people. In addition, we have many good friends scattered all over the globe who write, phone and e-mail and thus bring us great joy. Our pleasure is compounded when they come to visit. Several have come this year and we're looking forward to welcoming others to our home next year.

So, as the rosy glow of our dinner takes us into this rather rainy evening in the borderlands we want to wish all our friends, wherever they may be, a very Happy Thanksgiving!

And ..... don't forget to write!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Animated Cat!

This is a test to see if I can put an animation on my blog. I think I can, although when I uploaded it loads of copies were uploaded too and there were dozens of cats rowing away on this page.

The animation was made with a sequence of still photos of an automaton that I made a few years ago. The cat is smuggling cans of tuna fish! There is a handle at the bottom which you turn to get the cat to row the boat. The whole thing is made of thin card which is preprinted with the design. You cut it out and glue it together.

The reason I wanted to test this is that I have just made another one and I want to post a similar animation of it. I didn't want to go to all the trouble of photographing it if I couldn't put it up.

Stay tuned..................

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Catching up with the news

The weekend after we got back from York we had yet another set of visitors! These people didn't come from as far, though. They were John's sister Joy, her husband John, her son Nick and Nick's girlfriend Sam. On the left is a picture of Sam and Nick with one of the carved bears on the Allen Coppice trail. Nick is a real ham and a good mimic, so he's always doing and saying very funny things. We had a lot of good laughs over the weekend.

I've put pictures of the carvings on previous posts, but we still love to take that trail and search for new things. The artist is David Bytheway. Some of his things are nature inspired, like the otters running down a log and others are mythological, like the green man hidden in a crack in a tree.

We had a good walk along the trail after lunch at the Long Mynd Hotel and then we wandered around the shops for the rest of the afternoon before coming home to a smashing roast pork dinner and an evening of badger watching. The next day we all went off to Rhyadder to see the feeding of the red kites.

The next day the painting of the outside of the house started. This necessitated some work by us to remove the vines and branches that were growing all over the house and the upper garage. Here's a before picture of a mass of jasmine and clematis that was clambering up a trellis between the living room and dining room french windows. There's actually a light under there, but we'd never seen it and just a dappled glow would come out of it at night!

I had a helluva time getting this stuff down as it had grown up under the roof tiles and into the soffits and vents under the eves. I've cut it right back to the trellis now and will have to try to keep it under control. I hope I haven't killed it completely! I shouldn't think so, everything seems to grow like the clappers in this climate.

Here's an after picture of the same part of the house. That's Adrian Dann the painter man up the ladder. He's quite a character and we've enjoyed having him around the house for the last couple of weeks.

On the picture you can see the newly exposed light. It's VERY powerful and now we have a floodlit patio! It's also rather old and ugly and we're now starting to think about how we want to change the outside lighting around the house. We have a couple of security lights that are on and off all night because of the badgers and foxes - so they are a bit of a nuisance - and they're also very bright. They're too bright really and tend to blind you as you approach them. In addition the lights around the house don't cast a nice glow, they tend to give you bright spots and leave the rest in shadow which is not good. Then, also, the lights up the driveway end too early and leave the top of the drive and the garage up there in darkness! So I think we're going to have to get the electricians in fairly soon to get this all sorted out. And I suppose, while they're at it, we'll have them run electricity to the other end of the garden so we can have power in the shed and a possible water feature in the pond that we're planning.

The painting is now pretty well done except for a couple of patches on the fascia boards where there was some rot. We're waiting for the builder to come and replace the wood and then Adrian will finish off the painting.

We decided to leave the trim white as we have the white patio doors, but we changed the color of the garage doors a bit from green to bluey green - kind of a teal colour. Terry Olive would love it!

One of the benefits of the new bright light on the patio is that we can see the badgers much more clearly. They don't seem to be bothered by the lights, in fact we've seen them ambling by quite casually as we've been sitting at the dinner table or watching the telly after dinner. We don't even bother to turn off our indoor lights any more.

So the other night I attached my quick cam to my laptop, put the quick cam outside on the step, closed the curtains and waited for them to come for their peanuts. I was amply rewarded! I got lots of pictures and a few videos. I wish I could post the video because it has sounds and you can hear the badger sucking up and crunching down on the peanuts!

So that's all the major news. We're settling into a quieter winter routine now. We try to get out for walks between showers, and of course we're starting the winter clean-up in the garden. Work also continues at the Museum, John has become the web master for the Food Fayre and on the actual day I will be working with the Crafts People at the fayre, although at present I'm just a volunteer doing anything they ask me to.
John has gone back to cataloging his slides and I'm making Christmas cards. This is a coloured pencil drawing I did of some holly and a computer modified version of it will appear on our cards this year.
So that's all for now! It's a great relief to have caught up with all this - jobs like this become daunting when you leave them for a while and then realise how much you have to write! Now I feel guilt free and very relieved! My next task is to try, yet again, to catch up on all my e-mails!
Stay tuned and write when you can!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Our Trip to Yorkshire

As promised in my previous post, here's the sequel to our October adventures:

On Wednesday October 18th we headed off before dawn. Our first stop was Manchester airport where we dropped Julie off for her trip back to Columbus. Then we carried on across the country and further north to the City of York. Our main purpose for that trip was to complete another part of my 60th birthday present, but we decided to combine it with a few days at a B&B and some exploration of this lovely old town.

On our way to York, completely by chance, we stopped in a very interesting country park - The Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Outside, the grounds were full of sculpture, including a good few Henry Moores and inside there were several exhibitions and installations. We really enjoyed our afternoon walking around and exploring the various exhibits.

Our B & B was very good. Clean, comfortable and welcoming with a smashing breakfast. We'd recommend it to anyone. It's called the Bloomsbury. We were able to walk into town and back each day with no trouble at all.

On our first full day we walked along the river to the National Railway Museum. Then we spent the whole day there! It was absolutely fascinating. There were trains from every era of the railways and from all over the world. In addition there were special trains, like the carriages used by the Royal Family and other equipment used by the railway industry.

This first picture shows the complete time span. In the foreground is a full sized model of Stephenson's Rocket. The first steam train ever. The original is in the Science Museum in London.

Behind that is the lovely, streamlined Mallard. This is also a steam train although it looks like a diesel because of its streamlining. It holds the world steam speed record set in the 1930s.

In the back ground you can just see part of Eurostar. This is the train that runs through the Channel Tunnel. In fact there's even a piece of tunnel so you can see how it's made and what goes into it.

Another fascinating thing about this museum is the storeroom and workrooms. A lot of these normally "behind-the-scenes" places are open to the public, so you can wander around a vast hall full of railway memorabilia which still have to be put on show or are just waiting for their turn in a display. If you click on the picture to the left, you'll get an idea of the scope of the store room. It's actually a panorama from three images.

In the workshops we were able to see the famous "Flying Scotsman" engine. But you wouldn't have recognised it - it's been stripped right down to its chassis. The wheels are in one corner, the carriage is somewhere else and the whole thing is being renovated.

Next day, we headed off for our big adventure. This was the trip to the skidpan. It was great fun and a terrific thrill to drive a breakneck speed and learn how to control skids and use ABS brakes. I don't know if I'll remember everything we learned, but it was really exhillarating to do it.

In the picture to the left, I am in the car with my instructor, Andy. As you can see, I have a crash helmet on, but they told us it was almost impossible to roll a car doing any of the manoevers we did.

We did the course on an airfield and the track was laid out with cones, so even if we did go out of control we couldn't actually do any damage. Well. of course we went out of control. That was the point of the thing! It was such a blast! I could do that every week and not get tired of it.

In this last shot I'm doing a "controlled" (sort of) skid around the track - spray is shooting out from the back wheels and if you could hear it the tires would be screaming!!!!!

The rest of our trip was quite tame by comparison, but we did enjoy it. On the Saturday we spent the whole day browsing around the shops and on Sunday we made our way back home via Mytholmroyd where we met up with Pam Jordan (my college flat mate), went for a walk in the Pennines and had a very nice Sunday dinner in a country pub.

So that's it for the Yorkshire trip. I tried to load a few more photos to show you what we've been up to since then, but the blog site won't let me, so I'll save them for the next post.

Take care of yourselves, and don't forget to write.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Waiting for the results

Tonight we're up late, we're going to turn the tv on at midnight so we can see how the US election is going. I thought I could pass the time by catching up on my blog a bit. I'm afraid I've rather let it go over the last few weeks.

I guess I'm going to take you back to mid-October and the end of Julie's visit. After loafing about in south Shropshire for a few days we took Julie off to stay with Joy and John in Nuneaton and then on up to Lancaster to visit Barry and Sheila. These were the people who made up the crew of the Narrow Boat "Serenade" when we did our momentous tour in 1993 with Ken and Julie and they were anxious to see Julie and reminisce about the great time we all had.

The first picture is of Joy, Julie and the two Johns in front of the moated manor house at Baddesley Clinton. We visited it and then went on to Packwood House. Unfortunately, we were too late to tour Packwood, but were able to wander around the lovely gardens. This is just one snapshot taken there.

Up in Lancaster we took a long walk along the canal (of course!) with a nice drink at the far end!

The next day we drove around a bit of the Lake District, visiting Grasmere and Windermere. The weather wasn't wonderful, but it didn't rain and so we were able to get out on Grasmere for a voyage on beautifully restored Victorian steam gondola. Here's a picture of that.

We drove home after that, and spent the next day lolling about and packing ready for ........

That's the next story ..... stay tuned!

And please stay in touch!