Saturday, 21 May 2022

Lost dog!


Sunday 8th May

Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month and I had their breakfasts ready when they returned. Then we set off for an amble around the lake and Perla looked as if she wanted nothing more than her bed. Next time I looked round she was at the far side of the field nosing around the compost heap. I set off to persuade her away from it, and as I watched she walked around it and disappeared behind it into the woodland. Argh!

I got there as fast as I could and stood where the spring starts but could not see a splodge of white anywhere. Usually she is easy to spot in all the greenery around us, but not this morning. Bill and I searched various directions but not a trace of her. He checked the tracker we bought for her and ran for the car. “She’s up at the top of the hill near Le Granges and still moving.”

We got there, turned left and headed for the monastery at La Peyrouse and there she was - coming off the big field toward the road. I got out of the car and she came straight up to me, wagging her tail and looking surprised and pleased. “There you are!” she seemed to say.

A person, no more than a silhouette against the sun, stood 100 yards away, a small cat curling around their feet. Obviously they had either chased Perla or tried to catch her, but I don’t know which. I seem to remember that Perla hates cats, but the little cat looked happy enough, so hopefully there was not “an incident.” We bundled her into the back of the car and came home.

She had travelled more or less in a straight line up the hill through the woods, crossed the road twice – thank goodness it was Sunday morning and no white vans whizzing about – investigated the big house at the crossroads and then crossed back again. Thank goodness we found her when we did! And thank goodness for Bill’s foresight in buying the tracker to fix to her collar!

Wednesday, 18 May 2022

Lunch

 

Monday 2nd May

Planted some small primroses, cowslips and something unnamed but pretty in the patch of rockery I have cleared over the last few days. I considered irises, but suspect they like somewhere damper. One has gone in. Hopefully it will flourish.

Friday 6th May

After several days of working hard to pull out all the bramble canes, periwinkle and nettles from the area where the hazel trees edge the garden border, we had a day off on Friday to go and have lunch in Lalinde. (Thursday is market day, so we waited the extra day.) We walked by the side of the canal until we reached the Intermarche, and decided we would not shop there as we would have to carry everything back and it was hot, hot, hot.

Back in the shade in the corner of the old hall we discovered the dish of the day - the plat de jour – was fish and chips with goats cheese salad. Perfect. Beautifully cooked with a light batter, dressed salad and big, solid chips. We spent an hour there, watching the world go by. Even Perla is a people watcher, possibly because everything she sees is new to her. Big lunches in the middle of the day are not for us. I soon retired to bed and slept for a couple of hours! Woke up in time for dinner.

Saturday, 14 May 2022

A la Mrs Strawbridge

 Friday 29th April

on Friday we made our second visit to the restaurant Chez Julien at Paunat,
not far from Tremolat. There is the most imposing abbey church in the valley which was open. I lingered in the doorway, felt the chill air and did not go inside. How did people live, work and pray in such frigid temperatures? 

The village itself is worth at least an hours stroll around but it is hilly so be prepared. Many of the buildings were once attached to the abbey and are gloriously medieval in appearance. The gardens are mostly terraced and there are many curiosities to keep the interest. 

I ate a smoked saumon starter, cabillaud and chorizo as a main course and crème brulee for dessert. All beautifully presented and very tasty.

Streams run right through the centre of the village and this picture shows a rather more complex place than usual to do the washing in the ancient style.  The lavoir is almost Roman in appearance, but then the abbey has a hint of Roman architecture about it, too. I took lots of photographs so more might show up on Facebook in the coming days.

Sunday 1st May (May Day Bank Holiday)

While in the shower this morning I found a small tick attached to me but soon detached it and I am afraid its destiny is life - if it has one - in the septic tank. The tiny critters are everywhere here in the long grass. I may have got it from Perla, or from ripping out the nettles in the lower patio – or even from the bedding which we line dry in the sunshine. I have known them drop from trees and wriggle down inside the collar of a shirt!


One other thing – I have begun wearing a scarf around my head a la Angela Strawbridge, though mine are not quite as crisp and stylish as hers. I wonder if her reason is the same as mine? Every morning when I wake, my hair is standing on end and refuses to lie down no matter how much I wet it. Must be the damp air pf France.

Friday, 13 May 2022

Lalinde

 

24th April

The weather has turned ugly. Constant rain and no chance to get anything dry. One good thing is that the lonely dog on the hill has stopped howling, for which I am glad.

25th April   The "Bastide" towns of southwest France are a remnant of the medieval townscapes six centuries ago. The layout has remained virtually unchanged and many of today's buildings have walls that date back to sometime between 1200 -1400.

The kings of England in those days were  French speaking Angevins, one of the four great French dynasties. They brought the population together in centres called bastides which could be more easily controlled and defended.

Lalinde was the first 'English' Bastide town, built by Henry III (the grandson of Eleanor of Aquitaine) and the Château de Lalinde was built by him in 1267. The foundations and cellars/dungeons still exist from this time.

It is one of our favourite places and  we sat and had coffee in

the wonderful sunshine. Perla watched everyone with great interest  and then walked with us around our favourite spots. The river, the great Dordogne, was in flood right against the walls of the chateau. No swans or sandbanks in sight, just a rolling brown swell of water rolling down to the sea.

I discovered  New Aquitaine courtesy of a wall decoration. I had heard of Aquitaine, who has not? After all, when Henry II married Eleanor the region belonged to England.  It was  vast  then, but now covers an eighth of the country of France and came into being on 1st January 2016,. The new region merges the old regions of Poitou, Charente, Limousin and Aquitaine. It covers 450 miles of the Atlantic coastline and stretches from Poitou to the Pyrénees.

Plaques informing the discerning tourist of the history of certain buildings such as the Governor's House and an old auberge called Le p'it Loup were new to me. I took pictures, so I could read the info at leisure. I am consumed with curiosity about the name the Little Wolf. If anyone knows the story, do tell!









Thursday, 12 May 2022

Lake adventure

 

Perla is still not speaking to Sam the lovely chocolate Labrador. In fact she shows her teeth, growls and tells him to stay away in forceful fashion. She is difficult to settle. She wants to be on the bed, the chairs, tried to settle on the tarp that covers the swimming pool, and wanders disconsolately around. Then she ate some of Sam’s biscuits. Poor Sam. He doesn’t deserve this nasty lady and is still trying to be nice to her.

Given that she only came to us on 16th February she has hardly had a chance to settle before we’ve whisked her away to a new environment. There is little wonder she is unsettled.

Monday 18th April

Until yesterday evening, when everything clouded over and the wind turned cold, we’ve had glorious sunny weather and made a start on the gardening. Not sure that “gardening” is is absolutely the right term, but it describes things like weeding, cutting the grass and hacking out brambles. Imagine all of those on an industrial scale!

The tractor trundled out of its two-year enforced lie-up with a splutter and a hiccup, then roared off and tackled the meadows around the house. I pulled out weeds from the cracks in the lower patio and then turned my attention to the brambles – so huge they grow right over the top of the hazel trees and bend them into poor hunched things struggling to grow. Four days on and we still have hundreds of the wretched things to clear.

Yesterday’s adventure involved the lake and Perla. She has discovered there are, or have been, crayfish in the lake. Some creature catches and eats them on the bank, discarding the head and claws. We suspect a coypu but cannot be sure of the culprit and there are some pretty huge frogs around. For some reason, Perla finds these discards tasty, scoffs them down and then goes hunting more. This time she went too far down the bank and either jumped or slid into the water. In she went, head first, and under the surface, then emerged spluttering and thankfully started swimming. Unhappily she headed out into the centre of the lake. Desperately shouting her name, even though I know she is deaf and doesn’t hear me, I waved my arms and thankfully she turned for the shore, swam for twenty yards and then got her back paws on the bottom of the lake.

She trundled out a very sad and sorry girl. We hurried back to the house where I dried her off and huddled her in blankets.  Her teeth chattered so much I squeezed into the basket and hugged her tight. I think she was shocked as much as cold and wet, poor thing.

She woke up this morning seemingly none the worse for her adventure and as I write this she is beside me on the chaise longue on the lower patio, soaking up the sun which has just poked out from behind a cloud. I sit here surveying a scene of utter tranquillity with the leaves on the trees unfurling almost as I write. In the distance a tractor works the fields, but it is far enough away not to be a disturbance.

Somewhere out on the hillside behind me, a lonely dog howls. And howls. It is upsetting. Fortunately, Perla cannot hear it.


Wednesday, 11 May 2022

 Like kids going on holiday we were awake at 5.30am and on our way by 6.30.  

The journey was uneventful but tedious because of road works but we arrived at Hatfield Forest in good time to give Perla a chance to pee or pooh or whatever she wanted. We ate a sandwich and walked a mile or so with her, and admired the ancient trees - evidently it is the best preserved royal hunting forest on the planet with over 1,000 acres of coppice and wood pasture. Henry I made it a royal hunting park but its history goes back much further. There is a herd of fallow deer somewhere in there but although we see the cows, and avoid their splashy droppings, we've never seen the deer. The forest came into the National Trust in 1924 and those ancient trees are well worth a visit. Lucky are they who walk their dogs there every day!

             The M25 was as it usually is - busy.  We were advised Junctions 8-11 of the M20 were closed and that we should follow deviations. So we did, and as DH put it, we saw a lot more of Kent than we had ever seen before. I think the lorries were stacked between the closed junctions, and seemed to be moving in relays – probably a Tunnel trainload at a time. We finally arrived at the Tunnel and got straight through to a train an hour earlier than we had booked. So we had time for a coffee and then on our way.

We took Perla to the park in Abbeville and then had dinner in the Ibis, with Perla beside us and enjoying an occasional piece of pasta from my Carbonara. Room 33 is my favourite, not only because it has a sort of Tardis bathroom in an egg shaped plastic bubble, but because it is located on a downstairs corner far away from reception, and with much less disturbance from those going to sleep much later than we did. 

We slept well, and admired the renovation that has been undertaken while the hotel suffered a forced closure due to the pandemic. The old hotel next door has vanished, and the grounds have been opened up and cleared. It always was a pleasant and convenient place to stay with crisp white sheets and duvets and it has improved during our absence.

Wednesday 13th we set off about 8am and trundled south through mist and banks of fog. Fog, in France! Unheard of! I’ve never been in April before and the trees are just budding, the verges are filled with cowslips and primroses – those lovely flowers we seem to have lost in England.

We scampered through Rouen but took a road we didn’t really want out of the city and then deviated all over the place – Evereux, Orleans, Blois, Tours, Limoges and then Angouleme, Brantome,  Perigeaux and south to the mill by about 5.30pm. A long two day’s driving for Bill since he won't let me drive any more after I fell asleep whist driving the yellow Honda. Michael Mosley has a word for it, but I can't remember what it was. The brain trying to catch up on lost sleep. 

Monday, 11 April 2022

Getting ready to travel

 


There is a rumour that there may be no internet facility when we get to the mill this year as there is a telephone system change-over happening. I will not know until I get there. If the rumour  turns out to be true, then all I can do is keep a brief diary and load it here when I return.

Looking on the bright side, it means DH and I will have time to talk to each other!

And since we are there to work after the mill has been unattended and unloved for the whole of the Covid restrictions, I imagine we shall work all day and fall into bed and sleep very well indeed.

The younger generation in the family say “Find a McDonalds and use their wifi” as if there is a big Mac around every corner in France.  I suspect the nearest is Bergerac, a good 25 miles from us.

So today is packing day ready for an early start in the morning. Wish us luck in getting to the tunnel on time.

Thursday, 7 April 2022

First bath

 The dog groomer was awake and ready for us when we arrived at the unearthly hour of 7.45am. We had  done a swift recce of the field so Perla could have a pee, and I left her accepting welcome strokes from Robyn. 

Twenty five minutes later I went back to collect a sweet-smelling dog.

Robyn's report? "She loved it, was no trouble, loved her biscuits, and liked the dog basket." Perla was waiting in the basket - watching the gate where I vanished and then re-appeared. 

So that is one more hurdle overcome without disaster. Perla is now resting indoors, cuddled in the blanket I knitted for her, until she is completely dry. (It is damp, cold and wet outside - not the weather to romp around in when you've just been in the bath!) 

Later today I shall seek a new collar for her because the tracker we have bought does not fit very well on any of the four dog collars we already have. DH says I should get her a pink one because she is a lady. 

The tracker will help keep track  (sorry!) of her when we get to the mill in France, because there are so many rooms, exits, and places where she might not be visible to us even though she would be within thirty feet of one or the other of us. If she could only hear when we call her we would not worry, and though she shows signs of having some rudimentary hearing, we have to treat her a totally deaf and make adjustments to ensure her safety. 

Yesterday she came back to me 3 times when I "called" her in sign language and two of those were in the big park field, rather than in the dog enclosure. Delighted that she seems happy to come back to me - or the chicken twists I offer as a treat!



Saturday, 2 April 2022

Mud and Puddles

 Our rescue dog Perla is turning into a bit of a diva.

As mealtimes approach, she now *demands* her food. When I try to hold to the set times, she barks at me! The same happens for walks. If she thinks I'm a bit tardy on getting up and out, she stands in front of me and barks. 

Who would have believed it? In five weeks she has turned from a shy, timid dog into one that is quite willing to assert herself. Of course, we stop her from barking. (Or we try to - but yes, on the whole she gives in to us.)

The weather turned rather suddenly, as you will all have noticed, over the last few days. We have had freezing temperatures, snow, hail, rain and wind -  none of which lasted or stayed very long, but which turned the ground wet and muddy on a lot of our walks. 

It amuses me me to notice that instead of ploughing through all the mud and puddles, as Tim would have done, Perla edges as far away from the mud as she can. She usually comes home with clean feet. A ladylike trait! Coupled with the fact that she doesn't shed hair all day long as dallies do, our Perla is far less work in the house and I heartily approve!

Saturday, 26 March 2022

We are leaving!

Early morning in France
 Sunshine all week since 21st March. 

Hard to believe of mid-March!

I began weeding the first fine day and now I am continuing because we have made the happy discovery that since Perla has a Spanish passport she is free to travel anywhere in the EU. This is one of the unexpected perks of taking on a rescue dog from Save a Spanish Spot. 

All her medications and shots are listed for the last ten years, and her rabies shot is up to date and valid until October 22nd this year. We have been advised to get the rabies shot updated while we are in France, as that means her passport remains valid and she can keep travelling. It will cost less in France than it would in England. Perla has been Drontalled today and I am going to book her a bath (a proper one with a groomer!) a day or two before we set off. It will be nice to have a sweet smelling dog in the car with us for two days. It is a 16 hour journey door to door and we do it with one overnight stop in Abbeville where the Ibis accepts dogs - even in the restaurant.

We plan to leave for France mid April and will return when we feel we want to. So now I am vindicated in having done all that weeding. I shall continue with the rest of the garden so that when we do return, the place will not be overgrown. It might not be warm enough for swimming in April, but if the weather in France has been anything like England, then it may be warmer than we expect!

Monday, 21 March 2022

Going to get used to it again

 Back breaking days in the garden are here again.

Not that I do anything more strenuous than weeding. you understand. Its the stretching that does it. The muscles have hibernated all winter and now I want them to stretch in all sorts of odd positions and they don't like it. Too bad, muscles. You are going to have to get used to it again.

Three days of brilliant sunshine had us contemplating sitting out on the patio for dinner this evening, but then common sense prevailed. The sun may be exceptionally warm for Mid March but after four o'clock everything cools down very quickly. We had frost this morning and the temperature was forecast to drop to -1 overnight. Summer is not actually here yet, however much it feels like it at mid day.



Wednesday, 16 March 2022

Publication Day

 The Elsdon Affair hits the market today (16th March, 2022) in e-book format.

When a handsome stranger knocks her off her feet, Rose Brewster is dazzled and curious…handsome flirt Archie has already stolen her eldest cousin's heart along with jewellery from their neighbours, and he has an uncanny knack of disappearing…can such a man be trusted?

When her parents threaten marriage to an elderly peer, Rose’s fine principles vanish like smoke in the wind across the moors of Northumberland…she may have found herself a young husband.

Harry Stewart visits his cousins and shocks Rose with his likeness to Archie … dazzled by them both she finds Harry has secrets of his own and knows that a lifetime of happiness and passion awaits a good decision. Do nothing and disaster awaits with the wrong partner and the risks are unthinkable. How will she decide?

The Elsdon Affair UK : https://tinyurl.com/2p8dfu36

US: https://tinyurl.com/3kyys7fs

If you love Regency Romances, then this is for you!


Thursday, 10 March 2022

Involving a deer leg

 It is a fine, bright day and I am going to take Perla to the exercise park where she can be off-lead but safely enclosed.

I always knew Tim would never run away from me - not unless we were in France and a deer leg was involved, and even then he would dodge by me and run home to the mill with it in his mouth absolutely delighted with his prize.

 Occasionally he found a deer leg here at home on one of our walks, but I managed to get it off him before he ran. Poachers don't clear up after themselves but leave the bits they and their dogs don't want lying in the fields to make gruesome finds for dog walkers.

But with Perla I am not sure. We are heading toward three weeks together (tomorrow) and if she gets a good strong scent of anything I am scared she will take off after it. There are so many woods, fields and main roads around here that she could be lost within seconds. So I shall test her recall in an enclosed place and see how well she responds.

It is approaching crunch point with the new book too. Publication day is Wednesday 16th March, and I have to upload the final, final version to Kindle by midnight on Saturday 12th. It is on pre-order now ~

https://tinyurl.com/yw5p4vzh so click on the link and order it now!

"When a handsome stranger knocks her off her feet, Rose Brewster is dazzled and curious…handsome flirt Archie has already stolen her eldest cousin's heart along with jewellery from their neighbours, and he has an uncanny knack of disappearing…can such a man be trusted?

When her parents threaten marriage to an elderly peer, Rose’s fine principles vanish like smoke in the wind across the moors of Northumberland…she may have found herself a young husband.

Harry Stewart visits his cousins and shocks Rose with his likeness to Archie … dazzled by them both she finds Harry has secrets of his own and knows that a lifetime of happiness and passion awaits a good decision. Do nothing and disaster awaits with the wrong partner and the risks are unthinkable. How will she decide?"


Thursday, 3 March 2022

Clandestine relative

 

Perla is getting brighter (and hungrier) by the day. My elderly Spanish rescue enjoys her walks, her meals and is beginning to enjoy cuddles. Scratching behind the ears was allowed from day one, but I was obviously a stranger and cuddles were a step too far. It is good to see her relaxing into our home and oh so tentatively leaning against me, or coming to find me when she wakes on a morning.

As for my new book - I have edited on the screen several times, edited a print out and now have the last two chapters to do on a computer voice read through. It is true what they say - I am still finding errors. I am still convinced that as I correct one mistake, formatting creates another further down the page.

I am aiming for publication in March, sometime around the 16th. An announcement will come soon!

As a Christmas present I got  My Heritage done via Ancestry. The result says all my results are 60% English, 20% Scottish, Welsh or Irish and 16% Italian and 5% East European. Maybe the Italian connection explains the Italian violin my grandfather took as payment for a drink one night back in the 1800s! Perhaps I have a clandestine Italian grandfather though I rather doubt it.
I constantly get notes from My Heritage claiming they have discovered  somebody with whom I share "0.5% shared DNA (34.5‎ cM) suggests the following estimated relationships:

3rd - 5th cousin"

I cannot even work out how far from me a 3rd cousin would be, never mind a 5th cousin.


Wednesday, 23 February 2022

Seriously windy

 According to my Fitbit, my step count has suddenly jumped by 17k and a week with Perla has not gone by yet. Just think of all the calories that has used! Not to mention how much fitter I will be in a week or two! I am sleeping better, and the only downside is that I seem to have little time for the The Elsdon Affair

That is not a bad thing because I need a little space before I do the final check and then publish. I am thinking of the first week in March as a deadline.

Today was seriously windy, which meant that Perla's coat was constantly blown away from her rump - and hiding most of her in the photograph! On a couple of occasions I got blown sideways for a few steps. I am only present in shadow form, but I liked the colours in this picture, so decided to use it. Consider it as an abstract!

Saturday, 19 February 2022

New Distraction

 Stayed awake until 5am on Thursday night. All because Homeward Bound Animal Transport  delivered Perla to me. 

She came under the auspices of Save a Spanish Spot and had a long, long journey : Salamanca to Alicante to meet with HB and complete formalities, then north through France, the Tunnel and England to Newcastle, with stop offs on the way to deliver the other eight dogs to various parts of the country. She must have found it stressful, for she slept most of Friday with two short walks for doggy relief. Today she seems brighter and we've already been out for a longer walk this morning.

So Perla is my new distraction. My new hobby, you might say. A pointer/Dalmatian cross, she has been in an outdoor sanctuary all of her eleven years, so many things are strange to her. We are slowly getting to know each other and she is very different to Tim. Playing with toys doesn't seem to ever have been on her radar, but I am looking forward to seeing her interact with other dogs, which I could not do  with Tim. After the age of five he was aggressive to other dogs. Perla has already found the place where she might be able to sniff noses through the fence with Twiglet, Julia's dog in one of our neighbouring gardens.

Saturday, 12 February 2022

Sporty things

Kitchen now painted, and the most dreaded corner of all -

the cupboard under the stairs. 

Otherwise known as the repository of junk and anything we cannot find a home for elsewhere. In other words, things we no longer need, or even have never needed! Those things that highlight our lack of decision making, too.

I am now looking at the rest of the house with the remainder of the paint in mind. Which room needs doing and is there enough paint left to complete it? Will it match the curtains? Tricky balance!

I've watched a lot of people doing sporty things on snow and ice this week. To the point of the groans oh, not curling again! It is not just curling (though I fear I think it is a poseurs sport and boring in the extreme) but too much of anything can bring on the groans. DH likes the luge and sliding, but even he got to the point of oh no, not more.... whereas I got very little of the men's figure skating and feel short changed, though that could have something to do with Yuzuru Hanyu's 4th position. If only he had ignored the quad axel and gone for other jumps, he would have won for the third time.

The pic illustrates how good it can be to go out for a meal and sit beside the water admiring the big boats moored alongside....

Monday, 7 February 2022

Sunhat, Australian style

 Over the last two days I have  done as I threatened. 

Paint has been sploshed over the utility room, which badly needed it as it was where Tim and I used to come barrelling in from all the wet, muddy weather and toss all our coats and wellies - not that he had wellies - aside. A nice shade called nutmeg white.

I have already painted around the corner into the kitchen, because kitchens are always grungy places. So are showers and bathrooms. Anywhere that water can get into always seems to produce grunge. A giver of life but not always the kind of life you want.

Is anyone else on a Spring Clean kick?





Friday, 4 February 2022

The Spring Cleaning Urge

 The Spring Cleaning Urge has struck.

I look at my little writing room, see all the files, folders, notebooks and think I could possibly ditch the lot and never miss them. I'm one of those people who loves notebooks, and I have several, brand new and untouched, that I bought a long time ago. One day, I tell myself, I will use them. 

The thing is, when I take down one I have used and scan through the pages, a lot of what I thought was new and useful has now become old hat, or to put it another way, I have absorbed whatever it was and it is now second nature. I no longer need to refer to notebooks about it. 

I did ditch some A4 plastic file folders last week. I also threw a few books into the bin. Another armful I took to our local  household refuse collection point because I recently discovered a bin for Books, Media ad DVDs. The newest books I knew I would never read again I took to the library for addition to their stocks if they deemed them worthy. So one way an another, I have whittled down my shelves and made space in my room. I even discovered the plastic washing basket (which I hunted for when we came back from Australia and couldn't find)  it was so packed ad overflowing with the books I did not wish to keep that I could not see the basket itself.

Next thing you know I'll be sploshing paint around.


Saturday, 29 January 2022

Blown out of place

Thank goodness we did our last lateral flow test on Thursday. A nasty business sticking things in your throat and then in your nose. Fiddly, too and time consuming.

We've had  quite a few tests since December, one way and another and all of them have been absolutely clear. I suppose that is reassuring.

I miss the warmth of Australia now that we are living in the low figures, around 3-7 degrees. DH says his fingers didn't ache while we were there,  but now we are back home, they ache on a morning and are very stiff. Now I think about it, my back didn't ache as much on a morning either, but it does now we are  home.  Perils of getting older, I think, to be matched only by worsening eye sight and crumbling teeth! I am off to the dentist this afternoon so I suppose health is running in my thoughts.

I have a couple of chapters to do to round off my new story, so I shall get on to that next. That will take my mind off teeth and health problems.

Saturday morning update:
There's an 80-mile-an-hour wind shaking the windows this morning, but I cannot see any damage to us or any of our immediate neighbours.

I saw one blackbird cowering under our garden shrubbery hoping for some peanuts so my first task was to put some out for him. The trouble is they get so territorial about it. Probably the same blackbird chased two females away from the spot yesterday and some years ago two males fought - one broke the other's leg. He didn't last more than a couple of days even though I tried to keep him fed.

 A few things blown out of their usual place, but nothing disastrous. So it might be a quiet day indoors or me, which wouldn't be a bad thing. I still have the last two chapters to finish! and lots of other work to do. Researching key words, smartening up the book descriptions, checking over the washing basket. Riveting stuff, but so necessary.

Monday, 24 January 2022

The days we sailed

 When I look back at pics of the splendid days we sailed out on Paul and Kathleen's boat, I wonder how I managed to get my knees so sunburnt! (I was not wearing long trousers all the time!) It doesn't look good weather at all - but then I remember that the temperature was probably around 25 degrees and because Sydney harbour has sheltered little bays all around it, there was very little wind. If you Scroll down you'll see a sunnier pic  - and five minutes later I scrambled back under the canopy because a rain cloud burst over us. Happily it only lasted five minutes.

Covid test number 4 due today. So far we have been clear, but we are socially distancing - as we have done all the time this virus ha been at large.

 We've missed the odd dinner (not that the dinners were odd!) with friends and neighbours and we have not been into Newcastle for close on two years but really that is the only change we have made to our lifestyle. We didn't venture into Sydney centre this year for the same reasons, which was a pity. We saw much more of the outskirts this time and it is a very pretty city with some beautiful trees offering shade along the streets.

I am happy to report that I finally plucked up the courage to try another themed layout for my blog and this time all seems to have worked well. People with phones, please check it out and let me know if it is OK. 



https://jenblackauthor.blogspot.com




Saturday, 22 January 2022

Pinged

Adapting to colder temperatures now.

Frantically Housecleaning to remove a month's dust,

the washing mountain has diminished and

we've been pinged.

We were tested for Covid before  we were allowed on the plane leaving England. Once we landed in Australia we had to show our vaccination certificates and take a test on day 2 and day 6. Day 2 in particular involved us in a 3 and a half hour car queue which took up the entire morning as Australians rushed to be tested after being told that Covid infections were escalating. Day 6 was much quicker. 

All our tests showed that we were clear. Coming home, we showed our certificates and got on the plane. 14 hours to Dubai, 9 hours in the airport, and 7 hours to Newcastle. Seating capacity on both planes 853+550 or say 1400 people. In the airport we social distanced and it was in no way crowded. Yet someone in that number has tested positive for Covid and we were pinged. I assume all 1400 would get the same instructions.

Picked up lateral flow tests courtesy/free via the NHS, did the first one last night and we are still clear. Whoever manufactures these tests is probably a millionaire by now. We have to do 6 more tests this week to be sure.

Pic shows some of the houses around one of the smaller bays of Sydney harbour.

Tuesday, 18 January 2022

Mountains of washing

 Working my way through the mountain of washing/ironing every holiday entails, and at the same time, reminiscing - the pic today is of Port Macquarie beaches. It is the largest town in the area and it was stonking hot that day, which made walking around quite a challenge.

There are two long breakwater/harbour walls and it seems as if everyone has made their mark on them. Back in 2012 we inscribed a small Black family shield, but either it has been painted over or  more likely we simply couldn't remember where we had put it! Either way, we never found it!

 

I suspect we'd be accused of vandalising the town if we did this in Whitby, but Australians are much more relaxed about such things. Sometimes the lack of formality can seem a bit too loose, but it is basically a country for young people and they love the no ties, no business suits, very few high heels and in fact, very few dresses - everyone wears shorts and what I call flip-flops but they call thongs. My eyebrows lifted the day Paul told me he always wears thongs, but we soon understood each other's linguistic problems. 

OTOH, I saw many, many dress shops in Mosman and they all sold very elegant dresses that I would have been happy to own if I had the figure I had when I was 20!

My current story has reached 51k, and now I have to decide how to finish. Another 20-25k should do it. I hoped to tie it off while I was away, but there were so many diversions it didn't happen. Building jigsaws with the kids, for one. That evoked a forgotten skill. As always, I'm torn about revealing the plotline of my story. Part of me says I should tell people and part of me wants to hug it to myself and keep it secret - not a good move if I want to sell any copies.


Sunday, 16 January 2022

Travelling highlights

 Currently sitting in the Emirates Business Class Lounge and catching up on e-mails and stuff. Thank goodness it was open! The Emirates Lounge at Sydney was closed and we had to used the Plaza Premium lounge, so we had fears about this one, but it is the major hub of the airline, and it is open.

The flight was OK. 7,600 mile in 14 hours. I watched the new James Bond and could hardly hear a word for the gunshot noise on screen and the general airplane engine noise. Good, but puzzling as to plot until I can hear the dialogue/ I thought the slender dame in the black dress and heels was the new 007 but evidently not. I think I need sub titles! Ben Fogel's wilderness retreats entertained me through all 6 episodes, but I must admit I kept nodding off and waking up again. Next leg I plan to watch Bear Grylls. I kept seeing chunks of it on a seat ahead of me and it looked interesting.

We shall be here for 9 hours, and will get something to eat and find the comfy "beds" to have a sleep. Maybe soon I shall hear news of NoVaX....


Thursday, 13 January 2022

 Our Australian adventure is drawing to a close.

Now back in Mosman, where there seems never to be less than 3 lanes of traffic hurling around junctions and turning at right angles in the face of those 3 lanes. Scary stuff. Last night we decided to take our hosts out for a meal. We had all had a long day, but they had driven back from Brisbane to pick us up in Redhead and then driven down to Sydney the next day. Almost 800 odd miles.

A meal at a restaurant on Chowder Bay called Ripples seemed a good idea. The bay used to be a naval establishment - in fact it still is. I chose Barramundi as my main meal and enjoyed it. A chunk of fish that was moist, sweet ad succulent. I can honestly say I have never tasted a better chocolate mousse with cherries on the side plus a portion of ice cream. Two bottles of Cape Mentelle Sauvignon Blanc-Semillion blend from Margaret River and I was in heaven.

Today, Thursday, we walked up Brady Street and onto Military Road. We walked to the cricket ground and then then along the other side of Military Road. Almost every shop is a dress shop, and each seems to have selected a certain colour as their Window display of the week. We ordered a Salami Baguette for Bill and a chicken and Arvo ( Advocado) baguette for me, plus a Florentine to share and we ate it on the bridge between malls (it was peaceful and cooler there with air con working) that crosses Military Road while we sat and watched the traffic flow beneath us. Three lanes heading in one direction, three in the opposite direction and it never stops. A fire engine bundled its way through, and we knew when cars appeared with headlights shining that the  storm was getting closer. We walked around the cricket oval and then headed home. We only just reached shelter in time before the rain came pelting down.

This evening, Monopoly is the game of choice, much to the delight of 7 year-old Alexander. 

Tuesday, 11 January 2022

The Strawbridge Hat

 What with wind, rain, the NoVax situation and the Omicrom virus, the last few days have been memorable, but possibly for all the wrong reasons. 

Talk of summer in Australia and you expect hot temperatures. Well, we certainly have those. I have gone around in bare feet since I got here and have never worn a jacket, cardigan or anything approaching such a garment. But...there have been some torrential rain storms, and days spent watching dark clouds drift about all day long. Nights have been sticky and hot, which isn't good for sleeping and if you sleep with an open window then the wind screams around the corners and there is a constant roar of the surf hitting the beach. 

We've spent the morning in brilliant sunshine sitting on the beach and dipping our toes in the incoming tide. Yet step out on the balcony to eat lunch and the wind almost takes my sandwich off my plate. One day I spent on the beach with my sun-hat (which you need here otherwise you might end up with a cracking headache or sunstroke.) securely tied on with a chiffon scarf - as you see in the pic. Bill found his Dick Strawbridge hat worked extremely well.

Omicrom is escalating here in spite of all the restrictions people in Australia have put up with for so long - which is why they are so cross with NoVax. If he actually steps on court in the Open, the crowd reaction will be interesting. One commentator here says "he has no idea what he's in for." We had to jump through endless hoops to get here and we are  hoping there will be no sudden changes in plans as we think about returning home at the weekend. having spent 18 hours in Dubai airport on the way out, we know our way around now. 9 hours there will be a doddle and I know where the champagne bar is now!

Friday, 7 January 2022

Welcome to Australia

You probably won't believe me but there is a stonking wind howling around the balcony and it is so unpleasant we are sitting inside. Dh is reading Musk's book about building Tesla cars and me writing  this and then going back to my story. I thought Australia was this pleasant, sunshiny country where tennis players melted on court because the weather was 40 degrees and climbing.

Well, I kid you not. I would not class outside as cold. Not exactly. But it is not pleasant to be out. If you find a sheltered spot out of the wind, the temperature makes you break into a sweat. Beaches must be wind tunnels of stinging sand, and we know from yesterday's walk that the sea is not for swimming as it is too rough. 

The waves may look innocuous from high up
where we are, but down on the beach they are breaking at heights that would be well over my head and the undertow is powerful. Stand still when the waves retreats and you find yourself toppling over with its power dragging you out into what we should never forget is the Pacific Ocean. There are sharks out there, and Southern Right Whales. Life guards say No swimming. Bluebottles inhabit the waters, blown along the coast from northern beaches. Evidently they look more like lobsters than the bluebottle we know, and they sting and if too many sting you at once you are in deep shit.

I remember that old ditty "Welcome to Australia..." Click here

Monday, 3 January 2022

Time to Relax

 Apologies to anyone who is confused by the appearance of my blog in the last few days. When I arrived in Oz, the family told me they didn't follow it because they couldn't read it easily. The blue background took over the screen. So I decided to experiment with backgrounds and have now got myself in a tangle. Hopefully more of you will be able to read it now, but it certainly isn't the kind of "look" I wanted. (Evidently it depends on which browser the blog reader uses as to how it looks on screen. Most of the time I favour Google Chrome.)

The odd weather continues with really heavy surf that takes over the entire beach at high tide, storm clouds, heat and occasional torrential burst of rain. It is all very restful, actually. The life savers bright orange high perch is in its usual position, but I don't suppose he is lurking there. No one is supposed to be in the water at the moment. (The pic is of a calm day at the beach.)

There is a vast store of books in this house. So far I have indulged myself and read Maeve Binchy's last book A Week in Winter, Adele Parks If You Go Away and for a complete contrast, James Rollins Excavation. Easy to guess which book belongs to which member of the family! I am now embarking on another Rollins Ice Hunt. I've dipped into the presidential chapters of Becoming by Michelle Obama, looked through James Martin's new book on Butter and I'm planning on flicking through the many Nigella Lawson books here before I leave. I enjoy her writing as much as the recipes. 

Lost dog!

Sunday 8 th May Slow start to a sunny day with a promise of high temperatures. Bill took Perla out at 7.30 as he has done all this month ...