Winding Down

The summer is winding down, although it doesn’t seem to have received the memo. For the last couple of weeks, we have had plenty of lovely sunshine and blue skies with a bit of rain, mainly overnight.

The leaves on the trees are becoming tinged with reds and browns and are falling to the ground, perfect to kick your way through. Nights are drawing in and geese are preparing to fly to wherever it is they go for the winter. I watch them go and wish that I could travel with them.

Winter is not my favourite season, and although we are only just into Autumn, the voices of doom are already saying we are heading for the coldest winter in 50 years. Mind you, someone always says that as soon as Summer is over.

I hate it when the pavements are slippery and seem to spend most of my time on my bottom. I would never have made an ice-skater so difficult do I find it to keep my feet in snow and ice; think Bambi but with less poise, and you will come close.

The one thing I do like though, is lighting the fire and sitting in front of it with a hot drink and a good book. I light scented candles and curl up on the settee to while away a few hours. Bliss.

I need to get a few things sorted on the house before winter arrives with a vengence, starting with the bathroom. It would be nice to have it finished and be able to have a lovely soak in comfort. I can’t decide what colour to paint the walls. I tend to get a colour in mind, and then can’t find it which is helpful. I am limited in terms of colour pallet because I have a blue tiled floor which I don’t intend to change. Thinking cap on.

Pistyll Rhaeadr

llanrhaeadr waterfall

 

Turning off the main street, we drove, past the row of pretty cottages, up the road which would ultimately lead to a dead end. Victorian Villas came and went as the road narrowed and started to climb into the hills.

Through gaps in the trees we could snatch glimpses of the Berwyn Mountains, purple  in the distance. The sun was shining, in a blue sky peppered with fluffy white clouds, intensifying the colours of the countryside.

On we drove, the road becoming steeper, and so narrow in places that it was impossible for two cars to pass. More farms whizzed past as the trees began to thin, unlike the sheep who were everywhere.

We were now up in the Berwyn Mountains, gorgeous in the early summer sun. As the road started to drop, we got our first glimpse of the silvery ribbon running down the face of the rocks. As we got closer, so more of the waterfall came into view.

The road ends in a car park, and as we got out of the car, we could hear the unmistakable thunder of water, although our view was masked by trees. A few yards walk and there was the beautiful Pistyll Rhaeadr, said to be, at 240 ft high, the UK’s tallest single-drop waterfall.

 

Afon Disgynfa

This is a place where myths were born. The land above the falls is called Rhos y Beddau, the “moor of the graves”, where can be found plenty of references the “the old people” and is believed to be the location of Annwn, the Celtic Otherworld, land of the spirit folk.

We used to come here when I was a child, but I doubt I ever really looked at the falls, I was more interested in climbing on the rocks. Half way down the falls there is a stone arch, which you can imagine is a bridge used by the spirit folk. It is a beautiful place, and even when there are hoards of tourists it has an air of peace. I heartily recommend a visit to this enchanting place.

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Families

Funny things, families.

One branch of mine has always been a bit of a mystery, so a number of years ago, I decided to do my family tree. I have a very common surname so it is not the easiest thing to do, especially if you don’t have any information to start with.

When I was a child, I spent a huge amount of time with my paternal Grandfather, a quiet, gentle soul who loved to take me blackberry picking, and tell me stories. He and my grandmother were an odd couple. Where Granddad was sweetness personified, my Grandmother could be fierce and combative with an opinion she was never afraid to voice. When I was small, she had annoyed me so much one day, I walked down the road barefoot in the snow just to spite her.

Granddad and I never had a cross word. I revelled in his company and I remember him telling me to never be afraid to ask questions, advice which I took to heart and  have probably annoyed a huge number of people as a result.

My Grandparents came from very different backgrounds, their relationship crossing the class divide. My grandmother came from a distinctly middle class family. Her father had his own business (although he started with nothing, and was probably not a wealthy man when my grandmother was born) and when he died, he owned two properties, had money in the bank and his business was in two premises.

My grandfather on the other hand came from a working class family. His mother was illiterate and his father an illegitimate Blacksmith Journeyman from Anglesey. The only thing I knew about him was that he was raised by his nain (Welsh grandmother). What came as a complete surprise to me when I asked my grandmother was that he was one of 5 siblings. I had always assumed he was an only child.  This really piqued my curiosity and so I started digging.

There is only so much you can do with an illegitimate Jones, and I have hit brick walls a plenty. Then I came across a grave in which not only was granddad’s grandmother buried, but also his uncle and father. This led me to the date of their deaths.

Today, my great-grandfather’s death certificate arrived, and to my surprise there was an inquest. Now all I have to do is see if I can get hold of the records of the inquest to see what happened.

I do love a good mystery!

 

 

 

Giant Couscous

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salad

As the days grow longer (although they don’t seem to be getting much warmer) I have started to think about eating a bit less stodge and preparing something tasty and healthy instead.

I love chargrilled vegetables, something about that method of cooking really brings out their sweetness, and I love couscous. I looked in the cupboard and the only couscous I could find was a packet of the Giant variety I had bought a little while ago, so put it on to cook.
While it was bubbling away in the pan, I chargrilled a selection of vegetables including mushrooms, red onion and peppers and set them aside.
I love yoghurt based dressings so I put some Greek style yoghurt into a bowl with plenty of chopped coriander, grated garlic, a squeeze of lime juice and chipotle chilli paste and mixed it together. It was a tiny bit thicker than I wanted, so I thinned it with a tiny dash of water. Perfect!
By now the couscous was cooked, so I tasted it. Oh boy! It was horrible. It was like frog spawn, so in the bin it went. Now, I was in a bit of a quandary because the vegetables on their own would not be filling enough. I searched the fridge and found some paneer, that lovely Indian cheese that is a great substitute for Halloumi and which is incredibly easy to make, although this was some I bought. I quickly sliced some and popped it into the chargrill pan.
The vegetables were plopped into a bowl with the paneer and smothered with the garlicky, spicy dressing. Heaven.

 

 

Fidget Part II

The vet visit this morning went well and she was very pleased with his progress.

He didn’t flinch when the dressing was removed and it didn’t look anywhere near as bad as I thought it would (although they removed a couple of his whiskers which I think most unreasonable).

I think that the dressing must have been annoying him because as soon as we arrived home, he was off doing “stuff” that he had not done since before he damaged his eye. He was climbing up the oven, hanging off the back door and generally making a completely nuisance of himself. I could not be more glad.

I can start to take off the cone in a couple of days, and see how he goes. The problem with that is that if he starts picking at his eye I have to try to get it back on again, which will be a difficult task.

He is back to the vets next Friday, for a progress check and all being well, that will be that. She is still bemused about what he did to his eye, and I think we have to accept that he is never likely to tell us. I just hope that this is the last problem he has. Silly sausage!

 

 

Fidget

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I am sitting in bed, very early on a Thursday evening, with a ginger cat on my knee.

That cat in question, Fidget, is feeling very sorry for himself. About 10 days ago, he poked himself in eye with something, and on Monday it went downhill dramatically.

I ran him to the vets who looked suitably horrified and suggested I dash to the Opthalmic Specialist 35 miles away, and dash we did. He took one look at the eye and told me that he could try to save it but it was unlikely that he could, and that if Fidget was his, he would have the eye removed.

So, Tuesday morning, I was on my vets doorstep when they opened, to ask if they could take out the eye. My poor boy!

He is now wearing the “cone of shame” much to his embarrassment. To add insult to injury, the other cats won’t go near him in case he wallops them with the cone, so during the day he has no-one to cuddle with, which is making him unhappy.

My evening duties therefore involve getting into bed very early indeed and making up for a day devoid of cuddles.

Tomorrow, the pressure bandage is removed and I will, for the first time, see the eye without the eye.

I don’t supposes anyone knows where I can get a cat-sized pirate patch?

 

 

Betwixt and Between

I always think this is a funny time of year, a bit like that brief time before dawn when you are just waiting for the daylight. It feels like we are in limbo

The days are lengthening, and there are signs of new life everywhere.  It is daylight until after 6.00 in the evening, blossom is starting to show on the trees and snowdrops and daffodils are  appearing. I know that we are moving towards spring, and yet it seems like time is standing still.

I can’t wait for warmer weather. The layers can be cast off, windows and doors opened and the cats can go and sleep in the plant pots outside. They are shameless sun worshipers and love lolling about in a shaft of sunlight. I wish I had their care free attitude. They eat, they sleep, they loll, they gallop around at a rate of knots and then they sleep. They have a fine life.

The dog is not much better. She eats her body weight in carrots, takes over most of the bed and would go off with anyone in a car. Ingrate!

What they fail to understand (or don’t care about) is that I work pretty much 7 days a week, 52 weeks of the year to keep a roof over our heads. It is my choice to work for myself, (with a couple of days a week in an office to make sure the mortgage is covered), but it is not easy. Money is not regular, and it can be difficult to cover the bills, but, and this is huge I have freedom.

I am not very good at taking orders, I don’t enjoy routine and I hate being on the hamster wheel running just to stand still. Being in an office full time feels like I am trying to breathe through a plastic bag, so although I have less money that I have ever had, the positives completely outweigh the negatives. That said, a win on the lottery would be helpful.

 

 

 

Sunshine in the Park

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A beautiful, bright sunny morning found Bracken and me wandering around the park. At least, I was wandering and she was charging around at full pelt. She exhibits such joy to be alive which makes me smile, especially when I consider what she must have been through as a puppy.

She is a rescue, and it took a long time to build her confidence until she was not afraid of people and other dogs. Now she would be happy to go off with anyone she meets and will happily walk in to someone’s house if they are stupid enough to leave the front door open.

The park is beautiful at all times of year, but particularly so in Spring. There are early daffodils peppering the ground, and a carpet of snowdrops under the trees. In a couple of months, the native bluebells will be flowering in a glorious show, scenting the air, a clear indication that we are heading towards warmer weather.

We have finally had a couple of consecutive dry days. I can cope with the cold – just – but the interminable wet weather has been, well interminable. I don’t remember it ever being as wet as it has been for such a prolonged period, and enough is enough. After a few wet days, my front door refuses to open or close without an amount of force so it is rather a delight to be able to get in and out of my house without kicking, thumping and a deal of swearing.

So hopefully we have seen the last of the wet stuff for a while. The days are also getting longer and, you never know I may be able to put away the hot water bottle soon.

 

 

 

Storm

Animals bring so much joy to those of use who choose to spend our lives with them. They give unconditionally – well as long as they are fed, watered, cuddled and have somewhere warm to sleep – so not quite unconditionally, but you know what I mean.

As a cat/dog mum, it is so difficult when your furry companion is unwell. You know there is something wrong, but as they can’t tell you where it hurts, you don’t know what the problem is, and sometimes the vets are not sure either. Ahead of you lies the possibility of having to put your furbaby through a battery of tests to try to get to the bottom of the problem. All the while you feel completely helpless and all you can do is try not to panic.

There is a little kitten called Storm who has stolen the hearts of many people on a Facebook group I am a member of. He is a delightful little bundle of loveliness who is currently unwell and the vets don’t really know why.

The poor little thing has been ill pretty much since his Mum adopted him, so his condition is not covered by insurance. It is possible that he has neurological problems, but only an expensive MRI will show if this is the case. Over the last couple of weeks, Storm has made great strides, with his gastro problems seeing a huge improvement, he has put on weight and been growing like a weed.

Last night he has a seizure and had to be rushed to the emergency vet for an overnight stay. The vet now wants him to have the MRI as a case of urgency to try to get to the bottom of poor Storm’s problems. This is going to cost a great deal of money, and a few weeks ago Storm’s Mum Carol set up a funding page (link below) to help.

This little boy has such will to live, and is fighting for all his worth. He deserves a chance to grow up and get into mischief with his furry sister. If anyone is able to contribute to his medical fund, that would be lovely.

https://www.gofundme.com/stormkitty

Wistful.

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Britain is currently experiencing a cold snap, and it is hard to believe that a year ago, I was enjoying the warmth of Australia. Where does the time go?

As a fabulous 50th birthday present, for my friend and me, my friend’s husband flew me to Australia to spend the best part of a month relaxing and seeing some of the sights. I had a few days in Singapore on the way out and then on to Canberra to see my friend.

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Emerald Hill, Singapore

 

Chair at Kampong Glam

Kampong Glam

Orchids, Chijmes

Orchids, Chimes

Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam (2)

Sultan Mosque, Kampong Glam

Singapore was sunny, beautifully warm and slightly humid. I walked so far that blisters the size of golf balls formed on the souls of my feet, and there was not enough time to do and see all that I wanted.

I have the need to wander, and Singapore was the perfect place to do just that. I left for Australia knowing that I would love to come back and see more of this fascinating place.

It is only when you fly over Australia that you realise how big the country is. Five of the eight hours it took to fly from Singapore to Sydney was over the Australian land mass.

Lanyon Homestead, Canberra

Anzac Parade, Canberra

I knew nothing about Canberra before I got there, except that it is the Capital of Australia. It had a relaxed atmosphere and reminded me of Washington DC in that, because it is a city that was planned from scratch rather than grew organically, it has wide streets and lots of open space.

Lake Burley Griffin is the lungs of the city, and around it the buildings housing the Government have been built, plus art galleries and museums. I had three days to myself and spent them having a fabulous time at those museums and galleries, looking at artifacts from around the world and some absolutely beautiful Aboriginal art.

Food in Australia is healthy and tasty, and the portions rival those found in America. Tasty, fresh fruit salads topped with a dollop of plain yoghurt provided a great breakfast or light lunch, muffins the size of small boulders provided sweet treats, and sandwiches packed with lovely salad and vegetables kept me well fed, and I don’t think I had a bad coffee.

My friend, Carol, and I had a week in Melbourne and a week in Sydney both vibrant, multicultural cities. Melbourne seems to have more of a bohemian feel to it with some stunning architecture, particularly the houses in Fitzroy. Sydney is a busy metropolis, but head to the Rocks and you find a quieter part of the city, in the shadow of the famous bridge, steeped in history.

Australia has a huge amount to offer, and I did not even scratch the surface. So, twelve months later sitting here in the cold looking at the photographs of my holiday, I wonder when I will be able to go back.