New glasses and tiny piece jigsaw

Having had my eyes tested I ordered and then collected my new glasses.  The close sight in my left eye has got so bad that the NHS contributed to the cost of them – all of £37-40!  When I got them they didn’t seem quite right, but the girl persuaded me that it was because of the change and it would just need getting used to.

After a weekend when I could only read by letting them fall down my nose, I took them back on Monday and got them adjusted so they were higher.  I could then read but they hurt my nose!  Having taken them back twice more they don’t hurt my nose but maybe are not quite level.  I can keep taking them back until they are right…….

Only two people noticed the change, but they aren’t very different.  I suspect those two were just looking out as I had said I was getting new ones.

Not very different!  Old on the left, new on the right.

Not very different! Old on the left, new on the right.

Meanwhile I had decided to start one of the jigsaws that I got for my birthday.  It has 1000 pieces, but is only just over a foot in length each way  – 42 by 29 cm actually.  This obviously makes the pieces very small, so apart from the problem of dropping them, as they are very fiddly and the fear of losing them, as they are so small and will fall down the sides of the sofa, I was also having problems actually seeing them clearly!  I did manage to make a start though.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

Jigsaw started with ruler to show size.

The one advantage of the small pieces is that one can put out a lot so picking out the right ones is easier – maybe.

Lots of pieces to look at

Lots of pieces to look at

But I suspect it is going to take a long time – especially if the weather continues nice so I am wanting to go out to work in the garden.

So?  I expect the glasses and jigsaw will settle down and get sorted – I hope!  It is bound to start raining and get cooler again.

Keep up with Sudoku!

I was given a Sudoku book for my birthday with one to do each day – so I have to keep up!

Birthday present

Birthday present

There was about a month to catch up with first, so I did the right day and then managed to do extra, so within a week or two I was up to date.

They come in various levels of difficulty – Easy, Moderate, Nasty, Cruel, Deadly and X-Deadly.  I seem to be able to do all the levels – except the X-Deadly, which usually leaves me stumped at some stage…….

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

Pencil and rubber ready, but up to date

So – is this a good thing?   I don’t know, but it keeps me fairly amused.  I guess I might have a problem if I go away or get extra busy…….

A quick family visit

My oldest nephew, being in England from Spain for 2 weeks and on the way from Bristol to Chichester, asked if he and his family could come to lunch as I am sort of on the way and a good stopping point.  I naturally said yes, as I haven’t seen them for a year and then it was with a lot of others.

I spent the morning cooking, doing a bit of cleaning and a lot of tidying up so I was moderately childproof, so long as there was someone around!  They were due to arrive between 12 and 1 and they did!  My great-niece (who is 5) came in and said hello and things, although she admitted that she didn’t remember me – but daddy was around so it was not too scary!  She now has glasses and a patch on one eye (camouflage on the day they came to me) to correct long-sight, a slight squint and a lazy eye.  She is quite tall for her age.

Glasses and eyepatch

Glasses and eye-patch

Great-nephew, however , was initially not happy – strange house, strange person, mummy went out and back to the car to get warm socks and daddy took his shoes off.  This was on top of having a slight cold.  Once we got food on the table he was better, but it took a while for the vegetables to cook as I hadn’t wanted to put them on until I saw them.

Bit better when had some food

Bit better when had some food

The children played between courses – great-niece makes a very good and patient horse!

Horse and rider!

Horse and rider!

When we found second course was fruit we weren’t hungry – until we found there was cake as well!  The fruit has to be eaten first before we have the cake though and we did quite enjoy that too, really.  (Kiwis and mandarins.)

Cake is good......

Cake is good……

Cake makes us happier, too.

Cake makes us happier, too.

After lunch we did some drawing and colouring and my great-nephew found that he could play with me after all.  He understands Spanish and that is what he speaks, but he understands what he wants to of English!  My great-niece is fluent in both languages with only occasionally having to ask for a word when she only knows it in one language.  Very impressive!

They left sometime between 2.30 and 3 and I then washed up and put the house back to normal i.e. got all my junk out again!

So did I enjoy seeing them?  Yes, it was lovely – and to catch up with the children and with some of the adults news, too.

A different Christmas

As I still have shingles and my 17 year old nephew has not had chicken-pox, it was thought better not to spend Christmas with my brother’s family.  Chicken-pox when you are older and working hard for A-levels is no fun!  So I stayed at home.  This has several advantages, notably that I get to go to my own church at Christmas.  They also seem to be having fun with the trains – doing “improvements” to the lines – including in London, which I would have to pass through, so I avoid what is usually a bit of a problem journey at Christmas anyway.

Setting the scene for Christmas

Setting the scene for Christmas

I started by bringing in the Christmas tree – probably a bit early, at the beginning of December.  It is last year’s tree which was in a pot and has grown on, as it was kept in the garden (and watered in dry weather).  It is perhaps a little too large for the number of decorations that I have, so might not do another year.  I decorated it over newspaper, which I then removed – but put back a couple of days later when I discovered the tree was drooping sticky stuff onto the carpet!

The Christmas tree

The Christmas tree

For food, I thought about what I liked about Christmas meals and decided that one thing I enjoyed was “pigs-in-blankets”, so I bought a pack of 12!  On the 23rd I just had some of them with potatoes and vegetables.  Then on Christmas Eve I cooked a chicken and had that with roast potatoes (another favourite) and veg, so that on Christmas day I had cold chicken, pigs-in-blankets, roast potatoes and parsnips and baby corn and mangetout.  I followed that with raspberries (frozen from the summer – and I remembered to defrost them!) with ice cream.  All very enjoyable.

Christmas Eve was the Nativity service at our church – definitely one of the highlights of the year, with a real donkey and a real baby!

The donkey - Jasmine

The donkey – Jasmine

It was, of course, noisy and chaotic – but that adds to the fun.

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

Joseph, Mary and Jesus!

The main characters are played by adults (except Jesus, who was female and just over 2 weeks old!) and the children are encouraged to come dressed as a character and come and join in at the appropriate times.  The worship leader had acquired a beard and was dressed as a shepherd and the keyboard player was an angel in white jeans and t-shirt with wings and a halo.

The nativity scene with all the characters

The nativity scene with all the characters

Even the rector had a robe (angel?) and a halo.  The birth of Jesus was explained, with breaks for carols.  Jasmine the donkey behaved very well and was led down the aisle, joining Mary and Joseph and stopping to be petted!  (One could have a photo taken with her at the end of the service.)  The big sister of Jesus was an angel – and sat with Mary and Joseph – pulling off Joseph’s headdress near the end as she got a bit bored.

The holy family - with 2 Mary's!  One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was "Jesus" mother.

The holy family – with 2 Mary’s! One was the pregnant one (just a cushion) and one was “Jesus” mother.


The Christmas day service was equally noisy and chaotic and very full – extra chairs had to be added.  There were the usual carols and a reading and short talks and a video.  We also had party poppers which we pulled at the end after singing “Happy birthday” to Jesus.  It was then home for lunch and to open presents.

On Boxing day, I had booked a table at the local Harvester – The Old Castle, opposite Old Sarum.  I picked up a friend and made her go for a walk in Victoria Park first before we went on for our meal.  We had a very pleasant lunch – steak for her and gammon for me followed by ice cream  sundaes – before returning home.

The following day, 27th, the same friend and I were invited to another friend’s for a meal.  We exchanged presents and then had an excellent meal with pork and dauphinoise potatoes and beans and carrots followed by chocolate log.



On the 29th another friend invited me for what I thought was a cup of tea, but turned out to be afternoon tea, with egg sandwiches, cucumber sandwiches (both with the crusts removed!) and a cream filled Victoria sponge!  I had spent the morning finishing the cardigan I was knitting for her as a late Christmas present.  She had bought the wool and pattern but got stuck, so I did it for her.  She seemed to be pleased with it!

On the 30th, I took down the Christmas tree.  I know it was not twelfth night but there seemed to be insects and things coming from it and I was tired of chasing the wildlife.  I will leave the cards up until January 6th (or is it the 5th?) though.

Most of the cards

Most of the cards

So was it a good Christmas?  Yes, but now I need a rest and probably to go on a diet!

Another University Get-together

This year we stayed at the Greetham Valley Golf Club which, as well as 2 and a half golf courses, is a hotel and conference centre in Rutland.  I decided it was too far for me to drive, so went by train and was very kindly picked up at Peterborough by a couple who were going.

When we arrived we went to our rooms to unpack etc.  The rooms were quite large and had a view over the lake and golf courses.

View from my window.    We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View from my window. We later spent time watching golfers hitting the ball over this lake to the greens beyond.

View in the other direction.  I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

View in the other direction. I never did work out what the white things on the water were.

After a rest, I went down to the bar to join those who were there and have a pot of tea and catch up on the news.  Others gradually joined us as they arrived, although some people didn’t arrive until quite late in the evening.

I got quite tired, so eventually went to order a meal from the bar as I needed to go and rest.  The others then ordered from one of the staff who came to where we were sitting.  They also set out a long table where we could eat and the others came to join me as their meals arrived.

Dinner on Friday evening

Dinner on Friday evening

I stayed for a while and then retired to rest and sleep.

After breakfast on Saturday morning most of us gathered near reception and organised ourselves to take cars to Stamford for a “Blue badge” guided walk.  There were some problems with parking tickets at the car park – first in finding appropriate change between us and then because the ticket machines were playing up.  We found our way to the Arts centre to meet up with our guide.

Introduction - the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Introduction – the guide is the lady with the red folder.

Listening to the introduction

Listening to the introduction

Apparently quite a lot of the town was built in Georgian times.

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

I think we were told this was the first Georgian house in the town

Not all of the buildings are from that era, of course.

One of the older buildings - a coaching inn and the gate into the courtyard can be seen on the left.

One of the older buildings – an inn with the gate into the courtyard seen on the left.

The “great north road” runs through the town – what was the major route from London to the north (where does “the north” start?).

The great north road.  The arch in the distance marks "The George" a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

The great north road.  The bar above the road in the distance marks “The George” a major coaching inn on the route, I think.

We then went down and walked a short way along the River Welland and the flooding was discussed.

The River Welland

The River Welland

We went passed what was one of the earliest public bath houses – apparently the water was changed once a week!  I don’t think people really believed in baths in those days.

The public bath house

The public bath house

Near the bath house were three arches – all that is left of the original castle/fort in the town.

Arches from one side.....

Arches from one side…..

.......and from the other.

…….and from the other.

The most prominent church in the town - I can't even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower - an early example of this?

The most prominent church in the town – I can’t even remember its name now, let alone the details of the spire added on to the tower – an early example of this?

As Stamford was a wool town, there were lots of rich wool merchants at one time, so they built lots of alms houses, many of which remain.  We were shown one quite attractive one where there was room for about 12 men (I think) and 2 women – to look after the men!  As part of living there they had to go to the chapel to pray for the soul of the benefactor 5 (I think) times a day.

These alms houses today.

These alms houses today – attractive but too many steps!

The guide was good and had quite a lot of interesting information, but she was rather quiet so I didn’t catch all she said, especially when there were other people or traffic around.  I thought Stamford was a very pleasant town with character and I can see why one of our group is buying a house there.  Wouldn’t much like to drive through some of the streets though.

After the tour, most (but not all) people went on to Burghley House where we started by having some lunch in the Orangery.  I think we took up 3 tables with extra chairs on some.  Some people then did a tour of the house, others went back to Stamford and I had a bit of a rest!  Three of the others then joined me for a pot of tea back in the Orangery, before we went back to the hotel where there was time to rest before getting ready for the evening meal.

We met in the bar ready for the 7.30 meal and were shown to our own room.  Instead of the usual long table we had 3 smaller ones, which for some reason meant that we had less interaction with everyone (and were perhaps quieter?).  Maybe we should have swapped tables after each course?

Table at dinner.....

Table at dinner…..

......on Saturday evening.....

……on Saturday evening…..

....starting at 7.30

….starting at 7.30….

.....with lots more chat.

…..with lots more chat.

I left a bit early (again!) so as to have a rest and sleep – not very successful.

On Sunday morning we saw most people at breakfast and some went off to do various things, whereas I got a lift to Peterborough station and the trains home.  Many thanks, as always, to this year’s organisers, who did an excellent job.

Question of the year:  what was the most fun thing have you done this year?  I think that everyone I asked (and I am afraid I didn’t manage to get round to asking everyone) was able to tell me about something they had enjoyed doing during the year.  Many of the things I was told led to some interesting stories – which was at least part of the purpose of asking the question.

I wasn’t sure that all of them were “fun” though.  Doesn’t fun include laughter, at the least, and possibly a bit of risk or silliness or exhilaration or excitement as well?  I was starting to think that we have forgotten how to have fun and can only watch it in children or grandchildren, but then I changed my mind and was sure that some of us do still know how to have fun (as well as enjoyment).

So which of these were really “fun” and which just enjoyable?  Some of the suggestions were:   watching tennis – in Birmingham;  the French open;  going to Greenwich for the day;  taking the grandchildren crabbing for the first time and seeing even the 19 year old get excited;  going to the Boomtown festival;   walking behind a waterfall in the Brecon Beacons and getting soaked (with a daughter);  going on a wine tasting trip to France and bringing back the results (fun for months to come?);   going to Royal Ascot;  white water rafting;    a walking holiday – not especially for the walks but for the (fun) company.

Thanks for the other suggestions, too and I hope we all have a fun year.  Different question next year – but who is organising the event?

Try to make the most of the last warm days

As I can’t do much while I have still got shingles (I get too tired) and I have a friend who also is not too well and can’t do much, we have been having a few pleasant hours together trying to enjoy the (last of?) the warm weather.  We get in my car and I drive to one of the local(ish) pubs and have a drink sitting out in their gardens.  We have mostly been to the Victoria and Albert in Netherhampton, but have also been to the Fox and Goose at Coombe Bissett.

One pub

One pub

Mostly my friend has iced water and a lager or two and I have coffee (if we go soon after lunch) or a lime and lemonade.  I have even been known to have something to eat if we go in the early part of lunch time and I haven’t yet eaten.

The other pub

The other pub

The whole idea is to sit in the garden so we can enjoy a peaceful time and make the most of any fine weather while it is still warm enough to do so.  We have a pleasant, gentle chat – not saying anything of great note but just enjoying each other’s company.  Well, I enjoy hers and hope she enjoys mine!

So is this a good thing to do?  At the moment it feels like it, as it is about all I can manage.  I can enjoy it without ending up exhausted.

Get Shingles

This started with a pain on my right side on a Monday afternoon/evening which I assumed would go away overnight – as many things do.  It didn’t.  So I gave it another night then phoned the doctors on the Wednesday and they phoned back.  After discussing it they said come in at about 3.30, which I did.  A good examination later, there was no firm conclusion, but a possibility of gall stones, so I was to be sent for a scan.

On Thursday a rash/spots appeared, so I phoned the doctor again and after they phoned back I was again called in and shingles were confirmed (and the scan cancelled).  I was prescribed some anti-viral tables to take for a week and told to continue with the paracetamol for the pain.  Everyone I mentioned it to said I should also take things easy as that should speed up recovery – I hope.

Initially there were shooting pains along the nerves, but that subsided into stabbing pain where the spots were – waist at the front and where the bra strap goes at the back, but only on my right side.  This changed into more like a soreness of the skin, most of the time.  The skin is also very sensitive and clothing rubs, which is a bit of a pain!

After nearly 4 weeks, it still hurts – but most of the time it is just sore with a few stabbing pains.  I also feel really washed out and get tired very quickly.  How can I sleep for over an hour in the afternoon and still sleep at night?  I am also getting bored, fairly fed up and just want to get better!  I have been doing as I was told and taking things easy, too.  And I was just starting to get up my fitness at the gym and that has all gone – it will be like starting again.  I keep thinking that the spots are fading, but I fear that is wishful thinking……  It is now 4 weeks and I am fed up……

So?  Definitely not recommended.  I would avoid it at all costs!  Not that you can catch it – it just can appear if one has had chickenpox in the past.

Another 50th Birthday

One of my newer friends had a 50th birthday and invited me to join her and others for a meal in town to help her celebrate.  She had booked a table at Wildwood and we met there at about 7.30.

As we arrived

As we arrived

We were introduced to those we didn’t know, had drinks and……

......presents were opened......

……presents were opened……

……and we selected our food from the menu, while……

......and we selected our food from the menu.


I think we all chose something different.  Everyone seemed to enjoy their meals…….

......well, not much was left!

……well, not much was left!

Most people then has desserts.

Dessert for the birthday girl!

Dessert for the birthday girl!

Even though I only had sorbet for dessert I still was very full!

So was it a good evening?  It was very pleasant and I hope the birthday girl enjoyed it.  I probably ate too much.

“Let’s go fly a kite”

Having failed to get to my great-niece’s birthday – so I still had the present – and as my niece has been talking about bringing her children to Old Sarum for over a year, we eventually planned that.  The aim was to have a picnic there, with both of us providing different food.  She sent me a text when she left (a bit later than planned) with an eta and surprisingly we arrived within 2 minutes of each other.

It seemed that I had told my niece that it is always windy on Old Sarum (it is!) so she brought 3 kites that she has had for some time and which hadn’t been used.  So we found a large grassy area and put the kites together and then (attempted) to fly them.

Getting the kites flying

Getting the kites flying

Great-nephew was quite good, and improved; great-niece had more difficulty as she is smaller and started with the more difficult kite, but she did get the hang of it fairly soon and also improved with practice.

The orange kite from Vietnam flew more easily

The orange kite from Vietnam flew more easily

The bat kite was pretty good once it was up

The bat kite was pretty good once it was up

Once we were all tired out and starting to get hungry, we put the kites back in the car and fetched out the picnic.  We went to a different part of the hill to eat it.  Too busy eating to take photos……

.....but this is after packing up!

…..but this is after packing up!

We then went back to flying kites, but on the way the children were playing at being dogs (interesting as they, especially great-niece, are nervous around them).  I think it was because there are so many dogs there – a very popular dog walking area.  They were also…..

....irritating each other....

….irritating each other….

......and fighting a bit.

……and fighting a bit.

Boys always seem to show friendship by fighting and the boy is the oldest…..

The kites were flying very well by this time and the….. one went really high.

……orange one went really high.

I had a chance to fly the…..

.....the bat kite.

…..the bat kite.

The third kite was the small yellow, blue and red one in the corner above, but it didn’t seem to want to go very high and tended to spin and dance in circles and then go down.

When it was time to leave I passed the birthday present to my niece so it could be opened at home – LEGO on Old Sarum would not have been a good move!  The present was apparently a success.

Playing with my new LEGO

Playing with my new LEGO

I had to be sent photos of the first things that had been built!



Teddy bear (I think with Daddy's help)

Teddy bear (I think with Daddy’s help)



So was it a success?  I think so!  I enjoyed the kite flying – never having done it successfully before and the present seems to have gone down well, too.

Yet another holiday at Haytor

This was the holiday I booked when ‘hf booking’ said that none of the ones I wanted were available!  They didn’t tell me then, or in any of the information that was sent, that that the hotel – Moorlands – had been sold and hf would be using it but with different management and ideas about food.

I arrived on the Monday and we did get the cream tea promised, although rather later than planned.  This enabled us to meet the leaders and the other people who arrived on Monday.  I didn’t do the walk up to Haytor, though, as I have done it several times before.  The meal in the evening was OK, but there weren’t enough vegetables and it was a bit “fancy”.  That was true of all the evening meals during the week.

The next day we had to be ready for the coach at 9.15 which took those of us on the easier walk to the village of Easton from where we walked through….

.....what had been a deer park.....

…..what had been a deer park…..

……. set up in Tudor times. We then passed…..

.....over a stile.....

…..over a stile…..

……and through woods and down into the Teign Gorge.  We crossed the river…. a bridge....

… a bridge….

……. where we played “Pooh sticks” – before continuing beside the river in woodland.  The day being sunny and hot this was a lovely walk with……

......with the sight.....

…… the sight…..

……and sound of the river.

We reached…..

......the Fingle Bridge....

……the Fingle Bridge….

…….and stopped at the pub there for long, cool drinks – well, that is what I had anyway.  From there we climbed up an initially steep path……

.....still in woods....

…..still in woods….

……and stopped at…..

......Sharp Tor....

……Sharp Tor….

… have a look at…..

......the view.....

……the view…..

…..and then continued on to…..

.......Castle Drogo.

…….Castle Drogo.

This was built in the 1930s, I think, but I can’t say I was impressed as it is under repair and had scaffolding round it.  We had lunch there and more drinks – but I didn’t pay to go in.  This seems to have been a sensible move as those with National Trust cards said there wasn’t much to see as so much of it was under repair.

After lunch our route took us back down to the Teign Gorge, along this and then…..

.......across fields.....

…….across fields…..

……and eventually to…..



……..which had some interesting buildings, including…..

......a thatched bank!

……a thatched bank!

We had drinks in a pub there before the coach picked us up and took us back to Moorlands.

In the evening we did some origami – starting with making a jumping frog from a train ticket.  The idea then was to try to get it to jump into a glass or cup!

Jumping frog

Jumping frog

We were then given a sheet of newspaper and were shown how to make it first into a GI cap, the adapt it into a printer’s hat, change this into a mortar board and finally into a bishop’s mitre.

The final Bishop's mitre

The final Bishop’s mitre

While I could probably make another frog, I doubt if I could do the hats.

The following day the easier walk was dropped at Wembury, where we had a quick look at the church before going onto the coastal path.  Near the star we passed this field….

....of flowers....

….of flowers….

…..which didn’t seem to have any agricultural purpose.  Maybe it was conserving something?  The path continued by the coast (!) and after passing…..

.....this island.....

…..this island…..

…there was very little view, except of the hedges with a few gaps where we could see…..

.....the shoreline...

…..the shoreline…

…and eventually a view…..

.....of Plymouth.

…..of Plymouth…..

……not the nicest of views.  We did see one or two warships going into or out of Plymouth and passed a few places with coastal “cottages” and cafes and such like, but it wasn’t a terribly interesting walk.

When we reached Plymouth sound we just missed the ferry across, so had a drink in the hotel there and caught…..

....the next ferry......

….the next ferry……

…….across to….

......Plymouth Hoe

……Plymouth Hoe.

We then had time to admire the steps where the Pilgrim Fathers sailed from, have an ice-cream and other such things until the coach collected us.

In the evening it was the hf quiz. The team I was in came 2nd out of 3, so respectable!

On the following day the coach dropped the easier group near Dartmeet, although we didn’t actually go and look at it.  We followed the East Dart river passed…..

.....a broken clapper bridge....

…..a broken clapper bridge….

..and then…..

.....along the river....

…..along the river….

…….which was lovely.  There were…..


…..ponies with foals….

….near part of it.  After a while we followed a smaller stream which had a…..

.....complete clapper bridge....

…..complete clapper bridge….

……and headed up onto the moor.  The last part was through bracken and was a bit of….

....."Where is the path?"....

…..”Where is the path?”….

……up to Yar Tor, where we had….

.....a view and....

…..a view and….

.....lunch among the rocks.

…..lunch among the rocks.

We continued on passed a…..

.....stone circle...

…..stone circle…

…..(not quite up to Stonehenge!)  and this…..



……up to…..

.....Corndon Tor.

…..Corndon Tor.

We continued across the moor, doing some road walking, and came to….



…..which was the remains of a deserted medieval settlement.  The…..

.....outlines of some of the buildings....

…..outlines of some of the buildings….

…was clearly seen and there was a board and map to help us to interpret it.  Some people suggested that after it was excavated the stones had been moved to….

.....make the outlines of the buildings....

…..make the outlines of the buildings….

…..clearer.  I suppose they might have been.

From here we continued across the moor and eventually down to….



There was time for a drink at the pub – where they had ducks and hens (some all yellow and fluffy with fluffy legs) wandering round the garden, where we were sitting.

The coach picked us up and it was only a short drive back to the hotel, for dinner and to pack ready to leave the next day.

So was it a good holiday?  Yes;  the weather was good and on the very hot day we were mostly in shade and stopped at 2 pubs and a cafe.  The walks were pleasant and parts of two of them, beside the rivers, were lovely.  The hotel lunches were not up to standard, but were just about OK, so we didn’t starve!  The company was also good, but I suspect that was partly because there were not too many people, so everyone mixed in.