Sunday 15 November 2020

Catching up on October.

 Thank you for the kind comments on my last post. I feel I should clarify that we had already done a fair bit of clearing at the house in Margate when Himself’s Mum died a few years back. I guess what also made it easier was that she had been a heavy smoker so a lot of things were only fit for the bin. 

It has been heartening to know that so far just over £600 has been raised for the British Heart Foundation via the donations of goods and furniture (I love the fact you get updated when you sign up for gift aid) It’s fitting that it goes to that charity as well.

Other good news is there has been an offer on the house, it’s early days so we are not getting too excited just yet, but we felt it was validation of the careful research we did beforehand to make sure it went on the market for the right price. 

I also mentioned last post I had to collect new glasses. I was due an eye test in March but obviously that didn’t happen and I had finally got to the point where my eyes were hurting at the end of a long day over the laptop and also I couldn’t physically hold my book any further away (my arms are only so long!) when trying to read. I had had a gentle reminder letter from my opticians a few weeks before so I bit the bullet and booked in an appointment. This was pre-lockdown so I took the opportunity to do a couple of other bits and jumped on an earlier train to Oxford. 

I usually donate the paperback books I no longer want, to the book table at my home train station as they collect for a local children’s charity, but with the more academic, or worthy tomes, I donate to one of Oxfam bookshops in Oxford city centre. I had amassed quite a stack of books over lockdown which I lugged into town in a rucksack and sturdy shopper. 

 Rather than at a local chazza, I also dropped off 6 or 7 vintage handbags at the Oxfam shop on Broad Street (the oldest one in the world apparently) because I know they have a vintage section. I then dived into Marks and Spencer partly because my 2 mugs of morning tea was catching up on me and I know they have toilets, and partly to pick up a couple of food hall bits, before saving the best until last and giving myself a lovely browse around one of my happy places – Paperchase. When everything goes to shit at work, my lunch hour will inevitably find me seeking solace in their calming shelves of stationary. 

 It was really lovely to browse a few shops after all this time.

 When it was time for my eye appointment I was greeted at the door, guided upstairs and given a Covid questionnaire to fill out. The whole process went like clockwork and was extremely well managed. I felt perfectly safe and perfectly comfortable taking time choosing the new frames I most definitely needed. I was due back in Oxford 2 weeks later for my friend Charlotte’s leaving lunch (which I am still in complete denial about.) so I arranged to pick up my new glasses then. They had taken some careful measurements of my face which was kind of weird at the time but meant when I did go in the new glasses fitted perfectly and needed no adjusting, other than me getting used to being able to see clearly once more that is. As my Mother said when she got hers, she looked around and thought Jeez is my kitchen really that dirty?

 The next two weeks zipped by and it was soon time to head back into Oxford again. We were so lucky that we had had everything planned for the week before the second lockdown commenced! Again I went in earlier than 12 noon, firstly to collect my new glasses but secondly to collect The Peacock. I posted a while back now that I had *finally*  finished the huge embroidery that I had been wrestling with for about 9 months. 

I decided that it deserved to be framed and not just rolled up for the next 25 years, yes I genuinely had the kit over 25 years before I actually got round to starting it!?! Well it wasn’t going to go down quietly oh no. It nearly broke me to make it, and it nearly broke poor Richard the framer too. Absolutely and utterly my fault because due to it’s size I had stitched it on a tapestry frame rather than in a hoop, which of course pulled it out of shape. Unlike tapestry however every time it got stretched as soon as they took it out of the stretcher it sprung straight back to it’s misshape, in the end and after 2 months of trying, he had to use a new sort of plastic strip with teeth that you stick to the edge of the frame and kind of pull the fabric over then the teeth lock it in place. 

Anyway here it is, in all it’s glory. Now I just need to figure out where to hang it. 

Charlotte and I had met outside the opticians so after the market we walked into Jericho to The Gardeners Arms where we were meeting 6 other members of the team for lunch. As the maximum number of people who could meet was 6, we had spoken to the venue and asked to have a table of 6 and a table of 4 as near to each other as possible. When we got there sadly they had placed us at opposite ends of the room with a couple of tables in between. The food is all vegetarian and vegan (Charlotte is vegan) and was delicious, frankly anything called a mushroom medley is going to get my vote anyway!

The weather was meant to be bad that day but had stayed fine and sunny, that is right until we left the pub. We had literally walked to the end of the road when the heavens opened, there was thunder lightning and ferocious winds. Charlotte and I dashed round the corner and across the street where we found shelter under a shop awning, we realised we had lost the others and waited ages until they finally appeared completely bedraggled from where they had tried to shelter unsuccessfully by a wall. So I jokingly told them with age comes wisdom and you should always follow the oldies, especially if they know the area well! We ended up racing down to The Jericho Tavern (famous music venue of old and scene of many a drunken night out for me!) where we were able to secure two tables of 5 next to each other once we had done all the track and trace details etc. Our plans had been to maybe go for a walk then head our separate ways until the weather got involved. Instead we had a fabulous afternoon into evening sampling all the cocktails The Jericho had to offer, somehow so much easier when table service is involved. No idea when the others left but Charlotte and I headed off for 9pm trains and yes I was still lugging that huge frame about the whole time! It was so lovely to be able to give Charlotte a proper send off, a couple of other people have left and it’s just not the same doing a zoom meeting goodbye.


We’ve had some weather lately, the wettest Autumn on record apparently, which has meant no walks for me really and I have certainly noticed it. When we did have a couple of fine days I whisked myself out at lunchtime to stroll around the park just down the road from our house. The leaves were so lovely I nipped home for my camera.

We also took a stroll round the new housing estate on the edge of town They have a small Asda there and Himself called in for some beers to take home and I spotted they surprisingly had a really good selection of plants on 3 for £5. So 2 days later when it actually managed to stop raining for a bit I went back with a large shopping bag and bought myself 9. I’m planning a small rockery at some point when the weather lets me, I discovered a pile of big chunks of concrete rubble in the garden when clearing so I thought I might make use of them and the soil from the grow bags!

The garden is having a last hurrah. My delphiniums have finally flowered after getting chewed to within an inch of their lives by slugs. I ended up digging them up and popping them in a pot with copper tape around it.

The eagle eyed among you may have spotted the hedgehog in the top left of this picture. I was slightly surprised to see one too as they are nocturnal as a rule. Usually to see one in day time is a big red flag that they are in need of help, 

but at this time of year the adolescents will come out foraging in the afternoon as they are frantically putting on weight for hibernation. This chap was quite a good size so I was happy to let him go on his way.

I also have a late sunflower. I spotted it randomly growing in the middle of the lawn! So I quickly dug it up before Himself mowed the grass. Typical, I never seem to have success when I plant them deliberately but self seeded away the go.   

It's berries a go-go right now

though the birds have done a good job of striping the holly tree pretty much bare.

two colours of spiky bastard (as Vix & Jon call it)
this one self seeded itself so I cut it into a tree.
these chrysanthemums I bought last year for £2 in Wilko, they were teeny tiny then and I thought they had died, but suddenly in about August they roared into life and grew and grew before bursting into glorious bloom. So they are in completely the wrong place for their height and size but who cares.

This year does seem to have been a bumper year for fruit. We have 5 apple trees in the garden and they all fruited together this year so we have been switching between crumble, strudel and Dorset apple cake every week, no wonder my waistline is expanding!

So here we are in lockdown again. Oxford was on the brink of going up a tier anyway due to certain minorities, in particular some of the university students, just not doing what they are meant too. They even had the police involved at one college where students who knew they were positive had continued to go out into the town, as well as socialize, instead of isolate. It’s hard to believe that these are meant to be the next generation or leaders, but after a life time of working for the university, I can firmly conclude intelligence does not equal common sense. Indeed the more you have of the former the less you have of the later in many cases. SIGH


Halloween was our anniversary so we hunkered down with prosecco and films. 

I made a huge Spaghetti Bolognese and garlic bread so strong it made my eyes stream. 

The next day we took ourselves off for a lovely walk and did some of the Halloween trail the neighbouring village had set up for the children. 

The effort some people went to was immense 

but I particularly liked the skeleton in the hedge.

I have been slowly getting rid of my Converse as they wear out, and much as it breaks my heart not replacing them. With my achilles issues Converse are not the best kind of shoes to wear for more than short walks.  

I bought a pair of silver trainers in the 70% off end of sale page of the Debenhams website  

I need to wear them in a bit round the house but otherwise I love them.

I also bought another reduced Erstwilder brooch. I really can't resist them. I may also have just bought another one whilst doing some Christmas shopping but more of that another day...

Friday 23 October 2020

Tales of Lockdown Part Four or 9 Dresses.

Hello, I didn’t think it would be quite this long until I’d blog again but there you go. I’ve certainly been kept busy juggling various commitments, and to be honest those combined with spending so much time in front of a laptop for work, my brain is too fried to do anything other than veg. I’ve also been struggling with tired eyes and my current glasses, but that’s a tale for another day.

 Dress One - Hell Bunny Apple Print (Bought in their sale)

To head back to the scorching days of mid-August we finally heard from the coroner and were able to go ahead with the funeral as planned. Himself headed down on the Friday night, his sister arrived on the Sunday and I set off on the Monday afternoon. Travelling through London wasn’t too bad, the circle line was temporarily closed when I got there, but thankfully all my pre-lockdown work trips meant I now have a fairly good idea of that central chunk of the underground and I was able to find another route and still caught the train to Ramsgate with about 5 minutes to spare.

Himself’s friend Paul has been an absolute diamond and kindly agreed we could all base ourselves at his house for the week. Of course it had to be that insanely hot week which makes sleeping impossible and everything an effort.

We spent the Tuesday doing official stuff in the morning and started to clear the house in the afternoon. Our plan was to get as much done as we possible could that week as that was the only time Himself’s sister was able to get there. I decided the best focus of my efforts was to clear the kitchen which is huge with many cupboards, all of which were full. By the end of the week we completely filled a van with the charity donations of household goods, another was furniture, as well as separate piles for stuff to be collected by the council and finally the rest for a skip. What had seemed like an insurmountable task to Himself on Monday was done by Friday, yup we managed to sort the whole house. By Friday I was knackered and my back declared enough was enough. It was a good job we were going home on Saturday because my back had completely seized by then so I couldn’t have done anything more anyway.

 Dress Two - from Heyday (bought in their sale)

It was a strange thing doing a funeral in lockdown. Only 30 guests maximum at the church and 15 at the crematorium, with masks mandatory at all times. Ironically Himself had ordered 3 plain black ones for his Dad which arrived too late for him to use, so we wore one each. In an era when so few of us seem to have the time or inclination to get to know our neighbours it was heart warming to see just how many of Dave’s came to the church. The landlord, his son and the barmaid from his local came too, it really was lovely to hear how well thought of he was.

None of us was too keen to sit in a pub and Dave’s local is not exactly spacious, but on the plus side it is on the seafront in Margate and the weather was firmly on our side so we were able to sit outside and raise a toast.  

Paul kindly borrowed a small van from his work and drove us home on the Saturday with it completely full of everything Himself wanted to keep. Thankfully it all just squeezed in and saved us having to think about doing that at a later date. 

Most weekends since have been taken up with either trips down to Kent for Himself or stuff to do with the house there. Culminating with us both going down a coupe of weeks back to clean as much as possible now the house was empty, meet the estate agent and a couple of other appointments. Now that restrictions are ramping up again we took the decision to just go down over night, staying at the local Premier Inn do as much as possible in one day and catch a late train home. Travelling across London was not pleasant, the underground was full to standing which surprised me, obviously not to pre-covid levels but still… thankfully most were in masks.

We had an earlier start than anticipated when the stair lift removal company called at 7.15am to say they were en-route! Thankfully we were already up, so we packed up our overnight bags quick and dashed across town to be at the house when they arrived at 7.40am. It was a long hard day but we did manage to do all we needed too. The weather that weekend was insane, heavy rain and gale force winds. We literally had to battle along the seafront to the station being painfully sandblasted by the wind whipping off the sea and up the beach, it really hurt and you had to walk with your eyes shut as much as you dared. I have never seen waves like it in all my time visiting Margate. The trains were delayed because of the weather but thankfully running so we finally got home about 11.30pm. Straight into the shower and then bed. The next day when I emptied our bags there was sand all over the kitchen floor! 

Dress 3 - Collectif Leopard Dress (bought in their sale.)

In between we had our annual long weekend in Bournemouth. We thought about cancelling but Himself really wanted to have a break. We toyed about going to Cornwall because of the mad news stories with all those idiots cramming on the beach at Bournemouth but in the end decided to stick with it. We figured as technically kids were now back in school it shouldn’t be too bad, and also as it’s somewhere we know really well we would know places to go to avoid the crowds. As it goes whilst it was lovely to get away, there were a lot of people about and I did find it did make me nervous. It weird how much I feel that these days, when there are crowds of people.

Interestingly there were quite a few big groups of blokes out doing pub crawls. Bournemouth is a big stag and hen destination and I think the girls haven’t come back because they tend to go clubbing and the clubs are still shut, but blokes are more about pub crawls so surprisingly they were still out in force, at least we knew where to avoid!

Our usual B&B of choice was closed so I managed to find another that came recommended. It was in the stag do end of town and the room was tiny but very clean, they prepared your breakfast in a little brown paper bag which you went down and collected and had put a larger kettle and more tea/coffee stuff in the rooms so it worked well.

 The big sad thing was our favourite Restaurant has closed. It’s in a part of the town earmarked for redevelopment so would have had to close anyway, but with covid they just decided to shut now. Gutted. We arrived on the Thursday and it rained bah so we found a pub with table service until it stopped then bought a bag of chips and sat by the beach by the pier to eat them and watch the sea until it was dark.

Dress 4 - Collectif  (bought in their sale.)

For the Friday I booked us tickets for Brownsea Island. I stalked the National Trust website for weeks waiting for the tickets to come up! The weather was just perfect and to be deep in a pine forest with gorgeous fresh and fragrant air sitting looking at the sea, well there’s not a lot to beat it. 

Tickets included the boat trip to the island and you were limited to a 4 hour visit which was my only disappointment  otherwise everything was really well managed. Brownsea Island has a colony of rare Red Squirrels and this time round we got to see a few of them which made my whole visit, it was amazing.

You catch the boat from Poole so we booked a table in a little Italian restaurant on the quayside there for that evening. We killed the time in between visiting a few shops, which was weird but comforting too, I have missed shopping. We also found a quiet pub and had a drink. After a delicious dinner we caught the bus back to Bournemouth and retired to our room with a bottle of wine.

On the Saturday I caught up with my friend Alison for a couple of hours which was lovely. The weather was gorgeous again so the beach was busy. Instead we walked up and down a couple of the chines and went to a little café at the bowling club that she knew about. Definitely one to remember as the food was great and super cheap. In the evening Himself and I had an early dinner then walked away from the crowds to Westbourne where we had a table for two in one of the pubs there and shared a bottle of wine. 

On Sunday we checked out and wandered along the cliff top, they have been holding all the big cruise ships empty just off the Dorset coast and it so happened they were by Bournemouth when we were there. According to Alison some of the local boat owners have been doing good business taking people out to sail around them and stare up at them they are so huge. 

 We headed to the central park where we sat in the park reading and eating one last ice cream before heading to the station. The train home was surprisingly busy but everyone was masked up so all good. It really was great to have a break it was sort of long enough and not long enough at the same time.

 Dress 5 - Bought from a facebook sale page back in March (Trapped at my work due to lockdown and only picked up months later.)

I have been into Oxford a couple of times in the last 6 months. I had to go into work and empty my desk so they could clear our office to be used for a teaching space. That was kind of weird and I just had to grab anything I thought I might find useful at home and could physically carry on the train! 

Dress 6 - Seasalt (Bought in their sale.

We have also had a couple of days were many of my team met in this big café come restaurant come deli in Jericho with our laptops and kind of worked together, though to be honest we mostly gossiped. We also had a socially distanced picnic in University Parks before the rule of 6 came in as a farewell to one of our team who was going home to Australia. That was fun, we all brought our own drinks and snacks and sat in a huge circle. 

One of the girls from our office is 24 and had just moved to a shared house in Oxford in February right before lockdown. I hadn’t seen her since so asked how she was finding it, that it must have been hard and she was like “ Oh no, I have had exactly the same summer as usual, socializing, partying etc. It’s like covid doesn’t exist” and they wonder why our numbers are going up. SIGH. I was only half joking when I told her to stay sitting well away from me because her demographic was the reason mine were getting sick!

Dress 7 - Collectif  (bought full price rerelease that I missed first time round and wasn't going to miss again.)

When I have had any free time I have been pottering in the garden, I really find myself switching off and unwinding when I'm outside. I ordered more compost and re-potted more of my plants inside and out.

My tomatoes FINALLY started to turn but then so did the weather so I ended up picking them all and ripening them inside. I always collect my own seeds and have been really thrown by the huge yellow plum tomatoes as I only ever bought baby plum sized ones, no idea why they suddenly grew huge!

Dress 8 - Seasalt (bought on Ebay.)

 So that brings you up to October and the frocks I have bought up until now. Dress 9 was bought from M&S. I needed some undies and a new green cardigan and was idly browsing the website and fell in love so I just went with it.


Sunday 2 August 2020

Tales of Lockdown Part Three.

So I did have a couple of blog posts lined up, genuinely, but then we had some sad news. Somehow it no longer felt right to blog about handbag purchases and the like, nor did I feel inclined if I'm honest. 

Two weeks ago Himself's Father died suddenly and unexpectedly at home, it would seem he had a heart attack after getting up that morning, but we are still waiting to hear the final conclusion of the coroner's office. Due to the current covid times it takes a lot longer than before to get these things done. 
Himself rushed straight down to Kent but I was unable to take time away from work until the Wednesday. He quickly realised there wasn't much that could be done other than securing the house and gathering up a big bag of any paperwork that looked like it might be important so I didn't travel after all (no bad thing considering we don't have a car and have to travel by train in and out of London!) 
We spent the rest of the week sorting through the paperwork and making lists of what needs to be done and who needs to be contacted. We hope the funeral will be on the 12th but we have already had to cancel and rearrange it once, so things are in limbo. we have done all we can for now, and well, once the initial shock has passed, you just take a breath and get on with things. 

It had been my birthday the Friday before and I had had a lovely day. I have made it my policy not to work on my birthday since I turned 40 ans this year was no exception. So after Himself went to work I had a lovely lie in then made myself some tea and took it back to bed to open my cards and read for a while. Usually I would have met friends or my Mum and had a day out, instead I beasted in the garden for about 5 hours. I did more garden archaeology. I did take a before picture this time as you can see it was a bit overgrown.
Not only did I discover there had been some manner of edged flower bed

I also found two old hanging basket brackets on the fence and an old nesting box, which feel straight off the fence when the ivy was gone so I wedged it behind the tree trunk. 
I uncovered this pottery planter with a dead tree in it. I quickly cleaned it, and planted it up!
I had cleared two thirds of the area by the time I stopped, partly because Himself came home and insisted I stop working and chill for the rest of my birthday, but partly because I knew there were birds nesting in the ivy which I didn't want to disturb.
I had a shower and chilled with a book on a lounger in the garden with Himself keeping me well supplied with spiced rum and coke!
Decisions decisions... I also got another 3 bottles for my birthday. Nephew Number One is a huge spiced rum fan too and we often discuss different/new varieties, he bought me a bottle I haven't tried before (not pictured). My favourite is Dead Man's Fingers and they have started doing many different flavours so I spent some birthday money on a bottle of Lime and a bottle of Raspberry. They came with a free tiny bottle of hand sanitizer and a branded face mask, what a sign of the times.

I managed to get another compost delivery, so on the Saturday I re-potted some of my plants (when you rent, your garden lives in pots so you can take it with you!) I also decided to tackle the covered side passage which has had a few boxes in it since we moved here. Of course they were there because we were going to sort out the contents and of course we never did! 
However we have discovered to our horror we seem to have a colony of false widow spiders in the passageway so we decided the time had come to clear it completely so they have nowhere left to nest.
Yes, yes I know spiders are wonderful things and do great things, but I hate them and ones that can give you a nasty bite have absolutely NO place in my home.

Anyway I come to agree with the train of thought that, space allowing, you should leave things for a while before sorting through them. After 3 years, apart from a few random tools and a big padlock everything else went straight in the bin! 
I did rescue my wellington boots which I had left in the passage since we last had snow. They got quarantined and thoroughly hoovered out before I stuck a foot in them again.

When we did our weekly shop I spotted a pretty petunia in Sainsburys. It only had one or two faded flowers on it but I kept thinking about it, so I nipped back and bought it for myself as an early birthday present. 
After a couple of weeks it has just gone mad and I have loved looking out of the kitchen window and watched more and more blooms appear.

The garden really has been a sanctuary throughout lockdown and certainly in the last couple of weeks.
My vegetable 'patch' is going great guns.
From this to this
We have had salad leaves and peas, as well as some ball shaped courgettes. 
I had completely forgotten that I had bought these unusual courgette seeds until my Mum rang me up and was asking why her courgettes were growing ball shaped! They were some of my left over seeds from the old house.
I also found some anemone corms when I was sorting through the seeds. I have no idea how old they were but planted them anyway and to my delight they they have been just gorgeous. 

When I ordered compost during lockdown there was the option to have 5 trays of assorted annuals for £17 and as I had gaps I took a punt. 
I'm not a huge fan of  your average bedding plants but I have to say these tagetes have put on quite a show, the blooms are just ridiculously enormous.

There is a little cat who likes to prowl the garden and generally be a nuisance. I also have a pair of very stupid pigeons who do keep nesting in wide open places and having their nests robbed by the local magpie. Well they had built another such a nest and I noticed it when I was clearing the garden. Whilst I was out pottering about I glanced up to see if it was still there, did a double take and then went and grabbed my camera.
Not a pigeon but a cat in a nest.

Talking of cats. I went to visit my Mum with my brother and sister in law a few weeks back once the 1 metre distancing came in. I sat in the back of the car with a mask on. We had a lovely day sitting out in her garden, but best of all I got to have a play and make a big fuss of Bobby the cat who I haven't seen for months.
 Mum sent this picture afterwards clearly I wore him out.

It was Mum's 80th last Saturday. We had to change our plans due to lockdown and instead of a family trip to Cornwall we bought her a new i-pad and had afternoon tea at my brother's house. Of course it poured with rain so we ended up having to distance in the kitchen, thankfully it's a big room. We did manage to arrange a visit with Dad first and I nipped down the day before to leave a present and card for him to give her. We all had to be gowned and masked but at least they agreed to let us see him. 

I'll end with some handbags. First when I was rearranging my bags I discovered one had been chewed by a woolly bear. 
Once I got over being annoyed I decided to cover the holes. I cut out a scottie dog and stitched it on.

So you know I said I wasn't going to buy any more handbags? Well that lasted as long as it took me to bid on and win this job lot...
The bottom right was a separate purchase
As were these two. 

Oh dear so much for no more bags. 

I also bought a new bedding set
I could not resist the monkeys.

Not sure when I'll be back. We have some busy and difficult weeks to come