Saturday, October 27, 2007

Catching up - Our New Car!

We finally have a new car. When we first came over here, we thought we would have to get one straight away, but our nephew, Nick, was selling his Rover and we bought it.

Ronnie the Rover did well for two years, but then things started to go wrong. We finally polished it off, as I mentioned in a previous posting, so we ordered a new Toyota RAV4 and were able to pick it up when we got back from Belgium.

Since then we've been driving around and really enjoying the luxury of a new car. The picture of John and the Rav was taken on one of our test jaunts. We took a day off from our computers, data bases and projects to go to Lake Vrnwy which is in mid-Wales. It's a reservoir that's managed as a nature reserve by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). They're doing all sorts of neat things there including managing a huge organic farm. We were able to buy some lovely organic lamb there. We've already enjoyed the lamb steaks we had and this weekend we're trying out one of their legs of lamb. If it's as good as expected we'll be ordering boxed lamb halves for the freezer.

While we were there, we had a picnic lunch of pasties by the lake, visited the various hides (not much to see this time, but we'll come back later) and took a hike up one of the tributory valles to Rhiwargor Falls. As you can see it was a beautiful day with lots of lovely sunshine and we really enjoyed it.

Autumn here is a long and luscious season. It's still progressing slowly with more and more colour developing as the days continue. It's also a time of mists and frosts and a few weeks ago we were delighted to see this hot-air balloon rising up out of the mists as it drifted slowly up the Carding Mill Valley.

We have a lot of balloons over the Mynd, it's probably the best way to view the whole spectacular structure, but not everyone is as pleased to see them as we are.

Many of the local dogs get spooked by the sound of the burners as the balloons pass overhead. Lovely Ella was so badly scared once that she took off and was found several miles away on the far side of the hill. Since we often see the balloons before our neighbours do, we phone them when there's one on its way and they take Ella inside till it's gone!

Please stay in touch!

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Our trip to Belgium

I've just been putting our photos from the trip to Belgium on CD for the Rayners, so I thought I'd share a few.

We went over on Eurostar, in mid September, for a few days and had a wonderful time. We arrived in Brussels in the late afternoon and picked up a hired car at the station. Things rapidly (but temporarily, I'm glad to say) went wrong after that. First I managed to get us completely lost. We found out later that we were heading due south out of town when Mechelen is north! Secondly, we were in rush hour traffic, so the car was doing a lot of stopping and starting. After about half an hour there were frantic beeping sounds coming from the dashboard and we realised that we were overheating.

We pulled over and then went through a couple of hours of pure farce while we tried to phone for help. The phone menus were all in Flemish so we couldn't understand them but we found some very kind people who helped us. There was the young security guard in the supermarket and the lovely couple who had been to a photographic exhibition and who got on their phones and called the rental company and gave them a good telling off! We thank you all!

Eventually the rescue truck arrived. The mechanic spoke excellent English and was able to show us that the fan had broken and fallen off its mounting!!!!! He did a temporary fix and then led us to the motoway so we could drive to the airport and exchange the car (by this time it was too late to go back to the station!). We finally arrived at the hotel in Mechelen about 10:30 and they were kind enough to arrange an afterhours spaghetti dinner for us.

The wedding, next day, was fantastic. A civil ceremony in Mechelen city hall, was followed by a long meal of many courses at the Montreal Hotel which lasted all afternoon and well into the evening. I pondered long and hard over which wedding photo to include here and finally decided on the one to the left. In all the others there are problems - eyes shut, serious faces, etc. etc. This one sums it up. These two haven't had it easy up till now and there's a long road ahead.

We really enjoyed meeting the Vankeerbergens and their family. Many many thanks go to Chantal and Jean for working so hard and putting on such a wonderful event. Everyone was kind and welcoming and the two groups got on very famously. There was lots of chatter in "Franglais", some of us tried to practice our french and others were working on their english.

It was very good to see the whole Rayner family together and having such a good time. Here's a picture of the three "kids" cutting up as they always do! Each one has chosen a different path, and each of them has found success and happiness. Looking back through my photos I'm struck by how radiant Caroline is. As we say over here - she's really chuffed!

On the Sunday many of the visitors and quite a few of the Vankeerbergens went to Brugge for "Moules et Frites" (mussels and fries). This is a picture of Bernadette's parents, Chantal and Jean Vankeerbergen, and John and Valerie Rayner. At the "girls" table (shown below) are Bernadette on the left and Caroline on the right.

Monday saw John and Valerie driving us to Brussels for the day. We visited the little pissing boy and the little pissing girl, but couldn't find the little pissing dog. Does anyone detect a trend here? We also did some rubbernecking, taking photos of interesting buildings, eating, drinking and shopping. We really had a jolly day, so decided to return the favour by taking the Rayners in our car to the Ardennes on Tuesday.

It was a fabulous day. The sun shone, there were hints of Autumn in the air and the scenery was wonderful. Here are a couple of pictures from that day. In the first, John and Valerie are enjoying a viewpoint and in the second you can see the view we were admiring.

Next day we drove into Brussels with no problems, returned the car, had lunch in a hotel near the station and then boarded Eurostar for the return trip home. We boarded just before 3 pm and arrived at Church Stretton station at 8:04. That's a tad over 5 hours for the whole journey - Brussels to Waterloo on Eurostar, tube from Waterloo to Euston, Virgin Pendolino train from Euston to Crewe, Arriva Wales local train from Crewe to Church Stretton. I think that's marvellous and a hell of a lot better than going by plane which scares me and is definitely more uncomfortable.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Old Codgers!

We've just filled out applications for our free bus passes and had to have photos taken. I thought you might enjoy these more serious photos of the two of us, hot off the press!!!!!

The reason we have to have photo passes is that we will get free travel on any local bus service in the country. It sounds like an amazing deal and I'm looking forward to using it. We might be able to gad about all over the place by hopping from bus to bus.

We already have free local bus passes for South Shropshire, but this will really extend the range for us.

We also have Senior Rail cards which enable us to get up to a third off all railway journeys. Do you get the feeling they're trying to get the wrinklies off the roads?

I'm going to use my photo as the one on my profile for this blog. It's a bit closer to how I look right now than the old pre-chemo one. Before I had cancer I had straight hair - now it's curly and I love it! It's still very fine and soft, like baby hair. I thought that would have changed by now, but it hasn't so I'm wondering if that's one of the side effects of the beastly Arimidex.

It's a dull grey day today - perfect for staying in and playing with computers. I've been updating the Scrappies web site and would welcome your comments and constructive criticisms. I've also added links to the Shrewsbury Museums, Food Fayre and Arts Festival Sites on the side bar so you can find out more about the things that occupy our time.

When you've time, drop me a note.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Summer Summary

It's actually been a long time since I posted any news other than weight loss on this blog, so I thought I'd give you a pictorial summary of the summer!

We'll start with the picture of John and Margot Hewings (from Toronto), with us, at the Studio. They visited in late May and early June, then the four of us headed off to Stratford for a gathering of some of our old Swansea friends.

Following that visit, we headed off to the Lake District for a few days on our own. We stayed at the Pheasant Inn which is located by the side of Bassenthwaite Lake in a place called Peel Wyke!!!!! Wyke (or Wick) means somebody's homestead and Peel is derived from Piel. We think that there was a Piel tower (a sort of fortified tower) at this spot hundreds of years ago.

Here's a picture of some Ivy-leaved Toadflax that we found growing on a wall. I really love the name of this plant, and it's pretty too!

After our trip to the Lakes, we welcomed Joy and Glenn Johnson from Sydney, Australia to our home. The weather was appalling and we don't have any photos. They were with us during the floods that took away the bridge at Ludlow. The bridge has been replaced temporarily, but it's a shocking sight that meets your eyes as you cross it. The house beside the bridge has lost one of its walls and is leaning into the river at a crazy angle. You can see right into the bedroom, where there's a beautifully made up bed and some of the furniture, still poised and waiting to slip into the river!

Early July brought the Church Stretton Food Fayre. We worked very hard for several days, moving chairs and tables, making tea, washing up, helping people in the craft tents, directing traffic, manning the entries, counting the money and doing whatever we were asked to do. We enjoyed it very much and the Food Fayre was a great success. More about that in future posts, I'm sure as I am about to become Vice Chairperson.

Late July brought the Arts Festival. Again, I was pretty heavily involved with the Arts and Crafts Exhibition part of the festival - doing the entry forms, data base and helping with setup and breakdown.

Before it ended I made a quick trip to Heathrow to pick up my twin Aunties - Sue and Lou. They came over for a three week stay which included a 5 day trip to Scotland. We stayed in a lovely hotel in Lanark and took the train to visit Glasgow and Edinburgh. The weather was kind, the people were friendly and welcoming and I think we all enjoyed ourselves very much. Here they are on a boat trip on Loch Lomond. Highlights of the trip included visits to Edinburgh Castle and Rennie Mackintosh's masterpiece the Glasgow School of Art.

At the end of August, Bill Fenner and Lois Tilton were over from Arden Road. We "did" Wales, with a day trip to Caernarfon (Carnarvon) through Snowdonia and an overnight trip to South Wales where we visited the "Big Pit" (the Welsh National Coal Museum, which includes a coal mine) and St. Fagans (the Welsh National History Museum). Both of these were great, and FREE!!!!!

This picture shows us getting back into the car during our trip through Snowdonia. You'll notice that we have a "new" car. It's actually a hired vehicle because we managed to kill our Rover by driving up to Liverpool and back with the radiator cap off!!!!

More later ..... I'm off to pick apples!


You've probably guessed why I have taken so long to send out my latest weight-loss update! I'm afraid I've been slipping backwards for the last couple of months. I'm still a stone (14lb, 7kg) lighter than I was when I started but I've just not made any progress at all.

I could blame it on all our visitors, but that wouldn't be fair. The truth is that I've been eating larger amounts of things and going for the high-fat, high-calorie foods whenever I've had the chance. So, if I want to make lots of money I'm going to have to be a lot more self-disciplined in the next 3 months. Wish me luck!!!!!

Life here has gotten a bit quieter in the last few weeks. The visitor season is mainly over now and we're getting on and catching up with all the work we didn't do during the spring and summer. Our volunteering activities take up a lot of time - mailing lists, databases, web pages, etc. The garden has been terribly neglected, too and we're starting to work on that. Today's jobs include making a new stick pile and picking apples.

The heavy rains of June and July have resulted in a bumper apple crop. I've already picked one tree. We gave some away, ate a lot and made apple sauce from the rest, now we're ready to bring in the best of the eating apples which I'll try to store "as is". Our Bramley cooking apples are ripening slowly. The outsides look a bit scabby, but the flesh is crisp, tart and white and they freeze well. In addition we had a good crop of crab apples and flowering quinces and I've cooked them to pulp. I had to freeze them because I ran out of time, but I plan to defrost them and make jelly as soon as I have a few spare hours.

It all sounds very domestic, doesn't it?

Hopefully, I'll have better news next time I write.

Send e-mail when you can!