The Live Parrot Sketch….

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The Live Parrot Sketch or The Mystery of the Bird in the Locked Room.

Most of the time, my pet sitting jobs go off without a hitch. Occasionally, I can’t find a cat, or have to take a pet for a vet visit, or I am locked out, and then there is this week.

I have clients who have gone away for a week. They have no pets left at home, so I am going in twice a day to open or close curtains, collect the post, put the bins out/bring the bins in.

A couple of evenings ago, I unlocked the door to the lounge to find a parakeet (see photo above for the offending beast) fluttering happily around the room. I gave a little shriek, backed out, closed the door and wondered if I had been hallucinating. I hadn’t and my clients don’t have a parakeet.

There was quite a bit of debris on the fireplace, so it would appear that the silly thing fell down the chimney. My problem was how to get it out of the house. I opened all the windows and stood at the opposite side of the room, flapping my arms, hoping that it would have the wherewithal to fly out. I was still standing there 15 minutes later.

I had telephoned my clients, and they called on some of their friends for reinforcements (I would have settled for a strong coffee at this point) and the three of us stood in the room looking at the bird flying around, completely unconcerned at the problem it was causing.

The problem we had was that when it flew to the window it sat on the curtain rail rather than on the window itself, so one of my client’s friends went to look for a sheet to see if we could persuade the bird to fly out.

It took some time.

I stood in the middle of the room flapping a feather duster (possibly not the best choice and the irony is not lost on me) while the two friends stood near the window ready to stop the bird flying back into the room. Finally, as the sun began to set, the bird was trapped in the sheet and eased out of the window. Off it flew without a backwards glance.

Phew, thought I, that is over with. Erm, no. When I went back the following day, there was a bird sitting on the fireplace. This time, I opened the windows, and as I stood behind it and flapped my arms, it flew to the window, stopped for a second, and then flew off. There were two more parakeets sitting in the tree closest to the house and they followed. I am hoping that that is the last I see of them.

 

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A salad for spring

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We have had some gloriously sunny days over the past week, and with signs of spring bursting out everywhere, it felt like the day for a healthy lunch.

This is my favourite salad at the moment. Little gem lettuce, with red seedless grapes, conference pear, some red pepper and a handful of walnuts all coated with a yoghurt, garlic dressing. It is tasty, simple and filling and very virtuous, and if lettuce is counted (and I am never sure) then it is a good step towards my 5 a day.

 

Signs of Spring

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Spring heralds new beginnings and there are early signs everywhere you look. Snowdrops and daffodils are blooming, and yesterday I spotted pale pink blossom on a tree. We have had a couple of beautiful sunny days too and the nights are getting shorter.

The house is not escaping either. I finished painting the walls in the hall yesterday. I still have the woodwork to attack, but I am really pleased with the way it is looking.

Having had a couple of periods of redundancy, the first for quite some time, the finances have taken a hit and the house has been rather neglected. It feels more like a house than a home and I have fallen out of love with it.

Over the last year, I have managed to build up a little nest egg so finances sorted, I am trying to spend a little on the house each month whether it is something like a tin of paint, a new blind or new bedding.

Now that the hall walls are painted it is starting to look like a nice space rather than somewhere to be ignored. Halls are funny places and are often neglected, being seen as merely a space to walk through to get from one place to the next. Mine is narrow and far too small for any furniture, but once the woodwork has been painted and I have sourced a radiator shelf it will be a room which should be a pleasure to walk into, although it would be helpful if the dog didn’t keep tying the rug in knots!

Next on the agenda is the bedroom. It is not currently a sanctuary, which is what a bedroom should be. I have some lovely new William Morris print bedding and a beautiful new lamp and I *think* I have chosen the paint colour for the walls.

Then again, sitting here looking around the lounge, this may be the next room I tackle. Oh decisions!

It’s the little things

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It’s the little things that make me happy.

I am not what you could call green fingered which, coming as I do from a gardening family, is sad to admit. There are a few plants that I manage to keep alive with ease (assuming that the cats don’t snack on them) and more which I keep alive but fail miserably to get them to re-flower.

I love orchids. They are gorgeous, exotic looking blooms which you can find in your supermarket, DIY shop or garden centre at really reasonable prices. I always like to have at least one in the lounge, their lovely colours brighten up any room, but despite doing what all the orchid growing guides tell me to do, I have never managed to get them to give me new flowers.

Imagine my delight then, to spot a new flower spike growing on one of the larger orchids, and then a few weeks later one of the tiny orchid plants I have has started to push out a flower spike too.

So, what have I done differently?

Well, the first thing I did was to move the plants to the kitchen windowsill after the flowers had died. I live in a terraced house, and the back gets little direct sunlight, but the windowsill does get plenty of light. The second thing I have started to do is to spray them rather than stand the pots in water when they need a drink.

I have always managed to get African Violets living on that windowsill to flower repeatedly and I have always assumed that they enjoy the steam from the kettle which is close by. Perhaps it is a combination of the kettle (which I have to admit is switched on quite often) ensuring that the air is not too dry, and lots of light which is creating the ideal atmosphere.

Whatever the reason, I go and look a couple of times a day eager to see the first flower buds appear. I can’t remember what colour the flowers are, so it is going to be a nice surprise when they do appear.

New Old Friendships

Friendships forged in the crucible of adolescence are not easily put aside.

I spent a day last week with a group of women who were classmates, some of whom I have not seen since the day we left school many lifetimes and a world of experiences ago.

Modern technology reduces distance and enables people to stay in touch, or get back in touch, and it was partly because of social media that we were all able to reconnect.

Our old school was closing after 100 years, so the day was a poignant one. We ate lunch while reminiscing. We talked of other classmates and teachers and of the silly things that had happened, and it felt like yesterday since we had walked out of the school gates for the last time.

We were a group of diverse women who had all chosen very different paths in life, but who had that one shared experience. The years dropped away as we talked and laughed and ate. It was a lovely day, and I hope it does not take us quite so long for us all to meet again.

 

The Sugar Free Mission Continues

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So far (almost) so good. It is nearly a week since I decided that I would try to cut down on sugar and I have been reasonably good.

With the exception of a meringue nest with tonnes of strawberries and some cream midweek (well, it had fruit in it so it is good for you, right?) I have managed not only not to eat anything sweet, but not to miss it.

Even in work, which is when I am at my worst, I didn’t feel the need to snack. Just as well because I didn’t take anything with me which meant I couldn’t be tempted.

This is definitely a case of mind over matter and although I am sure not every week will be as easy, it is a start. I do intend to have a sloppy cream cake as a treat from time to time, but I am going to try not to reach for biscuits as an easy fix.

Another reason for all of this, is that it is very hard to find something without palm oil in. This frustrates me enormously. Palm oil is extremely bad for the Orang-u-tan, indigenous people who are evicted from their land to make way for palm plantations and for the environment.

The more I think about what I eat, the more I want to move away from refined foods. If I want cake or biscuits, there is no reason why I can’t make it myself and use good quality ingredients like organic eggs and Fairtrade unrefined sugar (which I have been buying for years). Refined foods are said to make us age faster, and by the time you get to my advanced years that is not a good thing at all!

 

 

 

Summer

It would appear that someone has broken summer. Gone is the warm sunny weather,  to be replaced by overcast, cool, soggy, windy days. Hopefully, normal service will soon resumed and we can get back to enjoying outdoor living.

I have been doing a lot of mulling recently and want to make some changes, starting with what I eat.

I can be incredibly lazy when it comes to feeding myself, and part of that is that I just don’t like thinking about food. Eating, I certainly do enjoy as my racing snake physique can attest to, but planning what I am going to buy and cook I could do without. As a result, I rely too heavily on pasta and eat an appallingly low number of vegetables for a vegetarian.

I am also keen on cutting down on the amount of sugar that I consume. Although I do go through phases, I have a tendency to eat too much sweet stuff which is not good for me.

Sugar is in such a lot of things, for instance bread. Luckily, although I don’t eat a huge amount of bread, I usually make my own, so I know exactly how much sugar is in the recipe. Even making a tomato sauce for pasta, there is sometimes a need to add a touch of sugar if the tomatoes are too tart, so living completely without the sweet stuff will be impossible, and in any case I am not going to deny myself a treat from time to time.

My main downfall is that I tend to take something to snack on to work, and the easiest thing to reach for are biscuits, so this is where I will start. Summer is the best time for fruit, so I am going to try to remember to take some into work with me.

Naturally, because I am thinking about cutting down on sugar, I am sitting here craving it. It is far easier to develop a bad habit than it is to break it. We are all different, and have different ways of doing things and I just need to work out the best way of breaking the cycle of reaching for the junk food. I don’t think it is going to be easy.

 

 

 

 

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.

llanhaeadr waterfall10

 

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!