Leaf Collecting

This is one of my least favourite jobs in the garden.  I quite enjoy weeding and cutting the lawns (when I get into it) but collecting leaves is just a chore.  And there are thousands of leaves fall onto my garden from the trees behind it.

A few of the thousands of leaves

A few of the thousands of leaves after collecting one bin load

So I fill the “green bin” with leaves and push them down and get more in, leave it a few days to settle so it is…..

......nearly full....

……nearly full….

……refill it with some more leaves and wait for the two weekly collection and repeat he process.  I mostly use a rake and my wonderful……..

......leaf collectors....

……leaf collectors….

….but a brush is needed for the paths.  I do have a leaf blower/sucker but that isn’t really needed until there are just a few left and I am nowhere near that yet.  Even then there are…..

......more leaves.....

……more leaves…..

…waiting to be collected.  I have had the bin emptied 3 times and there are still more leaves and as most of them are beech leaves which are very slow to break down I will need to remove them from the boarders as well as the lawn according to “Gardeners’ Question Time” on Radio 4 – but where is the time and energy to come from?  They are ruining my lawn and smothering my bulbs and I have already got one large garden bag full of leaves in addition to the bin.  I despair….

So what can I do?  Keep collecting, I suppose, as the trees are not even in my garden.

Put up the Christmas Tree

So on Wednesday 2nd December a friend and I go out and buy our Christmas trees – hers is a big one with no pot and mine is a small one in a pot that I hope will last at least 2 years and possibly 3 or 4.  Together we put hers up and then I take mine home, get a plant saucer to put the pot on, put it in the right place and look at it.

On Friday I get the decorations down from the loft, clean the outside of the pot and put the coloured paper round it.



Then I test the…..



…….to check they are working.

The following afternoon I put the “star” on the top of the tree…….

Probably a poinsettia not a star!

Probably a poinsettia not a star!

……..then the lights……

......go on the tree....

……go on the tree….

…..and the decorations are removed from the boxes and spread out…..

Decorations moved from boxes

Decorations moved from boxes

……so I can choose them one at a time to……..

.....put on the tree.

…..attach to the tree.

Then I finished off with the tinsel – there seemed to be a lot – did I buy more last year?

(Nearly) finished.

(Nearly) finished.

Minor adjustments over the next few days for the bits I didn’t like, and there we are!

AND I beat my friend to finishing by 4 days – but hers is much bigger!  Hers is the tasteful type with 2 colours (gold and black this year)…….

Big Tree

Big Tree

…..but mine is the sort where I use all the different decorations given to me or acquired over the years.  I quite like the tasteful types, but then I like tradition, too.

So how did we get a big and a small tree in my car?  With the back seats down and the big tree sticking in my friend’s ear!

Go to a funeral and a Christening in one week

Funerals and Christenings are not regular activities so to have both in one week was “different”.

Lesley was a “gym changing room buddy” from about 12 years ago, but I lost track of her when I moved away and failed to meet up with her again when I moved back.  It was a shock to hear that she had died at the age of only 41.  I also know her mother (in a different context) so I wanted to go and pay my respects at the funeral.  The crematorium was full to bursting, which was good, and the service was a “celebration of her life” – as much as these things can ever be.  There were some good memories and recollections of her.  I still have problems coming to terms with the idea that she has died as she was one of these people who was so alive.

Funeral programme

Funeral programme

I had the invitation to the Christening weeks before and had replied.

Invitation to Christening

Invitation to Christening

I spent a lot of the rest of the week making 2 batches of cheese straws (which I had never tried before) and 2 batches of flapjacks to contribute to the “light refreshments”.  To get there on time meant leaving about 7.45 in the morning so getting up considerably earlier.  This was not quite such a shock to the system as it might have been as it was the day the clocks changed, so I was leaving at 8.45 by the time of the previous day.  Even though there was a 50 mph speed limit most of the way up the M3 I did arrive with plenty of time to spare.  The Christening went as these things do and Caleb didn’t cry, which was probably because his father held him all the time.  He is quite old as he is nearly 2 and so quite active!

Christening programme

Christening programme

As the Church hall is in the process of being rebuilt/extended/refurbished, the after Church coffee and the “light refreshments” were held in the City Freemans School which adjoins the churchyard.  I spent some time catching up with people I had known when I lived in the area and went to the church, which was nice.  Didn’t really know that many of the people from the Christening, so I didn’t stay too long – especially with the thought of the M3 to tackle again.  I had taken my camera, but the battery was almost totally flat, so I didn’t manage to take any pictures!

So how were these events?  Much as one would expect, I think.  It was lovely to see Caleb’s parents and sister and some of the people from that church, though.

Look at the blood super-moon!

I think that was how I heard it described.  Basically it was an eclipse of the moon, when the Earth comes between the Moon and the Sun.  Light is refracted round the Earth and the Moon appears red.  The “super” bit is because it occurred at a time when the Moon was closest to the Earth in its orbit, so appeared at its biggest.

This happened on the early morning, between 3 and 4 a.m., on Monday 28th September, 2015.  I had heard about it on Radio 4 (where else!) and thought “That is interesting”, but had no intention of setting an alarm to see it.  However, I found I was awake at around 3.30 on the morning in question and noting the time thought “Let’s see if it is there”.  So I put on my glasses (always helps) and went to look out of my bedroom window – and there it was!

This is roughly what I saw

This is roughly what I saw

I didn’t spend ages waiting to see if it would all go red, just had a good look and then back to bed and to sleep.

So was it worth looking at?  Well yes; it was interesting and I haven’t seen a “blood moon” before and the sky was clear so it was a good night for it.  Not sure it would have been worth setting an alarm for, but as I had woken up anyway…..

Go on (part of) another university reunion.

This year the reunion was at a hotel in Birdlip – the highest point of the Cotswolds, I believe.  I only went for part of it as it was quite close – only about 1½ to 2 hours drive away – depending on how many tractors and horse boxes one gets behind.

Most people went on the Friday (except the couple with a ticket for World Cup Rugby on the Friday evening) and went out for the day on Saturday.  I left mid-morning on the Saturday and went to have lunch and a catch-up and play, with my niece and family.  I am not very good at football!

I then went on to get to……

....The Royal George Hotel.....

….The Royal George Hotel…..

…..at about 4.00 – tea time!  I was just booking in when the 2 men who hadn’t brought their wives turned up, so the message I had been left, about where people were, became irrelevant.  I gathered that most people had been to Sudeley Castle – and learned more than they ever needed to know about Katherine Parr.  The couple who had been on an alternative trip on the steam railway then arrived.  They went because there was a special Thomas the Tank Engine day, which they (or Ken anyway) couldn’t resist.  Did sound more interesting than the Castle!

Having booked in, I went and found my room and unpacked some things that needed hanging up and then went down in search of a cup of tea – and guess what? – lots of the others were just doing the same.  Thanks to Sue’s competence, we managed to get pots of tea instead of just a cup and took them out into the garden as the weather was warm and sunny.

Tea in the garden.

Tea in the garden.

Some of the others came to join us……

More people!

More people!

……and we grabbed more chairs.  There was, naturally, lots of chat.

Plenty to talk about.

Plenty to hear about.

We stayed out until it began to get a bit chilly – it was September after all.  Time to go to our rooms and get ready for dinner, after arranging a time to meet for drinks.

When we got down Japan were beating South Africa in the rugby, so we had a change from talking about soccer!  After drinks we went to the table that had been set for us for dinner.  I wonder why they always put us at the end of a room?

Table at the end of the room for dinner.

Table at the end of the room for dinner.

Chat continued throughout, of course……

Conversation and eating

Conversation and eating

…..but there was some complaint at the start that we didn’t manage to go alternately male /female.

Failure in the seating

Failure in the seating

Can’t see that it mattered so long as we had a seat, food and our usual good company.

The gap was my place!

The gap was my place!

We had coffee and tea at the table and that was when Hugh was “practising his Czech” (was that the right language?) – or was he chatting up the waitress?  When they were very obviously trying to clear us away, we went.

The next day most of us got up for breakfast and guess what – there was more conversation.  So what did we talk about?  Well lots of stuff but the things that seemed to get repeated over the weekend were:  Radio 4 – especially the Archers; road kill; garden pests – seems badgers might be the most destructive; politics – good range of opinions there!

Then time to finish packing and check out and as most people were going to Gloucester for a guided tour, they met in the entrance hall.

Waiting to go to Gloucester.

Waiting to go to Gloucester.

But there is always one…..

.....who won't join the others for a photo!

…..who won’t join the others for a photo!

Having waved them off, I went for a walk……

.....in the woods......

…..in the woods……

….attached to the hotel grounds.  It was very pleasant and there were quite a few dogs to say hello to.  Reaching the end of the wood there was a good……



…..across the valley.  It was a bit misty, though.  Returning….

.....through the woods....

…..through the woods….

…..it was time to get in the car and go home.

So was it a good weekend?  Yes.   It was great to see everyone, but not really enough time to catch up with how and where everyone was.  But then it is always better to be left wanting more rather than have too much!  Thanks to Heather and Brian for the organisation.

Saying “Goodbye” to Archie.

Archie, having reached his 15th birthday started to go downhill a bit.  His bowel movements became a bit uncontrolled and he couldn’t always manage overnight.  His joints became worse and he found himself sitting down unexpectedly, more often.  His owner eventually made the decision, with the vet, that it would be better to put him down.

Archie was a much loved dog and had many friends and quite a few dog walkers and his owner invited us to come and say “goodbye” to him.  I think most of us were a bit wary, but went anyway, out of respect for his owner.  We met outside a chapel (which I understand is no longer used) close to his home and was part of the psychiatric hospital.

Archie with "mummy" and some friends outside the old chapel.

Archie with “mummy” and some friends outside the old chapel.

Archie was quite interested, but it had to be admitted that he showed……..

......most interest.....

……most interest…..

……when he discovered that someone had his favourite treats!  Lots of people were…..

.....taking his photo.....

…..taking his photo…..

…..and talking to him, but he was still most interested……

......in the treats!

……in the treats!

He continued to resist having a decent photo – turning away or moving at the last minute.

The final part of the gathering was taken by the assistant pastor at our church.  He gave a little talk, saying how Archie had saved his owner’s life and also the story of how his male instincts had overcome him!  There was then a tape of a lovely version of “The Lord is my shepherd” and a prayer giving thanks for Archie’s life.  It was a lovely thing to do.  Even Archie……

.....listened like a good dog.

…..listened like a good dog.

Archie was then taken to his “grandparents” for a last night and was put down the next day.  His ashes are now in a lovely wooden box on a shelf with his photo near by.

So was I glad I went?  Yes, definitely.  Both for the lovely way we said goodbye and as encouragement to his owner, who misses him – “best friend”.

Go on holiday to Shropshire

Another walking holiday; same company (hf holidays) as usual but different location.  I decided to go by train as that only involved one change and was probably about the same cost as petrol for the journey and the road route seemed quite complicated when I looked it up.  Perhaps I should invest in a sat nav?

The journey was as easy as it seemed and the taxi was at Church Stretton station to meet me and take me to the Long Mynd Hotel.  Looking from the train and from my room, the hills looked a lot steeper and higher than I expected!

View from my room

View from my room

Arriving on the Friday, there was a “Drinks Reception” and time to look round after the meal.

Saturday’s walks started from the house.  I went on the easier walks every day and that started last on Saturday.  There were so many people on it that it was split into “faster” and “slower” with leaders for each.  I went for “faster”.  We started by walking down “Rectory Field” and headed onto the Long Mynd by going up the Batch Valley.

Going towards Batch Valley

Going towards Batch Valley

Start of the Batch Valley

Start of the Batch Valley

We stopped for elevenses part of the way up…..

......by a stream....

……by a stream….

……and continued up (quite steep) so that we had amazing views.  With larks singing overhead it was lovely.  We had…..

......lunch near the top....

……lunch near the top…..

with views over the valley and hills which…..

.....I thought looked like giant lizards.

…..I thought looked rather like giant lizards.

We then came down the very steep……

.....Carding Valley.....

…..Carding Valley…..

……with time for a cup of tea on the roof terrace of the café at the bottom.  Then we walked back to the hotel with plenty of time before dinner.

The second day (Sunday) we took a coach just into Wales and first walked to some standing stones – not terribly impressive.  The rest of the morning was mostly through fields….

......with some good views.....

……with some good views…..

and on to have lunch at tables outside the…..

......Bog Visitor Centre......

……Bog Visitor Centre……

……which contained information about the local geology and mining areas.   From there we walked up……

...again getting good views.....

…again getting good views…..

......onto The Stiperstones.....

……onto The Stiperstones…..

…….which has quite a lot of……

.......piles of scree.

…….piles of scree.

We had between one and two miles of walking on…..

....a path of very uneven stones.....

….a ‘path’ of very uneven stones…..

……which needed quite a lot of…..

.....care and concentration.

…..care and concentration.

I think it was fortunate that only one person fell over.  Some of the stones had some…..

......nice lichen....

……nice lichen….

…..but I am glad we did the walk in dry weather.  So much concentration was needed on the path that we could only really enjoy the excellent views when we paused.  The way down was also…..



..and the path stony so we were glad to get to the pub to wait for the coach back to the hotel for dinner.

The next day, Monday, was our “day off”, when some people leave and others arrive.  I went down to Church Stretton and decided there was probably not enough to do for a whole day so got the train to Ludlow which is famous for its….

......black and white buildings.

……black and white buildings.

I walked through the town and to the castle, but decided not to go in.   Instead I walked round it.

Looking at the castle from the back - the river side.

Looking at the castle from the back – the river side.

Having got right round I ate my picnic lunch in……

.....the very pleasant gardens just outside the castle walls.

…..the very pleasant gardens just outside the castle walls.

I explored the town a little more, looking at and round….

......the church.

……the church.

I also went down through…..

.....the remaining town gate....

…..the remaining town gate….


…and down to…

......the bridge over the river....

……the bridge over the river….

…..then back….

.....up through the gate...

…..up through the gate.

I also walked along the river before getting the train back to Church Stretton.  I even had time to write some postcards before dinner.

The next day, Tuesday, was back to organised walks and we started by coach again and the easy walk was along Wenlock Edge.

Wenlock Edge

Wenlock Edge

Most of the walk was……

......in woodland shade....

……in woodland shade….

......but gaps in the trees gave views over the countryside.

……but gaps in the trees gave views over the countryside.

The first part of the walk was along an old railway line going passed…..

.....the old quarry.....

…..the old quarry…..

….which showed…..

..... various types of rock (I think!).....

….. various types or formations of rock (I think!)…..

….and then passed…..

.....the lime kilns....

…..the lime kilns….

…..which we could see from both above…..

......and below.

……and below.

We passed……



…..and looked down on the site of the more recent……



We continued through….

...the woods.....

…the woods…..

…..where we had lunch and saw….

.....a different type of orchid....

…..a different type of orchid….

…..before going on to Much Wenlock, the “home of the modern Olympic Games” – or so they say.  There was time to admire the….

....clock tower....

….clock tower….

…..look round the museum, giving some history of the games, look round….

.....the town....

…..the town….

…..and still have time for cups of tea and a toasted tea cake before getting the coach back to the hotel.

In the evening a local male voice choir performed.  They had their own local words to the songs and were good (as far as I can tell!) and very amusing.

The next day was forecast to be very hot and we were told that the walk was totally exposed, without shade, so I decided that I couldn’t cope with that and opted out.  In fact it actually clouded over so I might have managed, but it was very hot.  Instead I went down to Church Stretton and looked round the town and found a place to get an excellent iced coffee, then looked round…..

.....the church.....

…..the church…..

…..which had a surprising and very attractive modern re-ordering inside.  I then took the main path into Rectory Wood……

......round the edge of....

……following the stream….

.....then into Rectory Wood....

…..and woodland path….

......until I came to this pool.

……until I came to this pool.

I then walked upwards and…..

......and came out at the top of the wood....

……and came out at the top of the wood….

…..where I found a bench and had my lunch….

.....looking over Rectory Field and towards the hotel.

…..looking over Rectory Field and towards the hotel.

I then returned to the hotel and spent the afternoon reading in the lounge.

There was the “HF quiz” in the evening and I was asked to join a team.  I was, as usual, hopeless on the music, film and TV parts and moderate on the rest.  As the rest of the team were not much better we came joint last in that hotel!

The final day initially followed a trail starting in the hotel grounds.  We passed various….

......carvings of animals....

……carvings of animals….

….and then went down into the town and through the back streets and headed for Caer Caradoc.  The easy walk didn’t go to the top but it was initially……

.....up the slopes of the hill....

…..up the slopes of the hill….

....and was quite steep.

….and was quite steep.

We followed round and along the slopes on the far side from the town, still…..

....going upwards....

….going upwards….

…..and then continued on….

.....round the hill....

…..round the hill….

and still further, ‘admiring’ the sheep…..

.....until we started to go down again.

…..until we started to go down again.

We stopped for lunch when we were part way down and it rained a bit.

Moving on after lunch.

Moving on after lunch.

The final part was across a railway line – a train came just after we had crossed over – and then a very boring walk from All Stretton along the road.  There was time for a pot of tea and a toasted tea cake in the café I had been in the previous day.  It started to rain hard while I was there, so we got very wet on the way back to the hotel.

In the evening, as well as dinner, we looked at the 6 word statements about the holiday and made contributions to the “Pathways Fund” by the ones we liked most and then had an interesting talk on bees and bee-keeping.

The next day was return home by train, which was fine, except for the Hen Party that were in the same carriage as me for part of the way.

So was it a good holiday?  Some of the walks and the scenery were very good, but I think the hotel is probably too large and it was difficult to get to know people well.  The weather was dry and sunny until the last day, but maybe a bit hot and humid a couple of days, so overall it was only a satisfactory holiday!

“Celebrate” the Magna Carta

As “we” have the best preserved copy of the Magna Carta and on June 15th it was 800 years since it was signed, there have been celebrations in the city.  I can’t really imagine why.  King John appealed to the pope and tore it up within 3 months and most of it is now totally irrelevant.  The copy is written in Mediaeval Latin and uses abbreviations that most of us cannot understand so we can’t actually read it.  I believe 2 clauses still have relevance:  one saying in effect that the king is not above the law and the other that freemen must be judged by their peers – in effect trial by jury.  The second would, at the time, not have applied to the vast majority of people who were peasants and almost certainly not to women.  I am told that all this (eventually) led to our democratic system and fair trials.  Maybe – but it took a long time and a lot of other things before it got there.

The big celebration was a “pageant” through the streets of the city……

Start of the pageant procession

Start of the pageant procession

…..to the Cathedral on the evening of the 15th.  Each of the community areas of Wiltshire had…….

....a puppet baron.....

….a puppet baron…..

...although I thought Royal Wootton Bassett's looked more like a king (King John?)....

…although I thought Royal Wootton Bassett’s looked more like a king (King John?)….

…….and paraded them through the streets with…..



.....with designs appropriate to the area....

…..with designs appropriate to the area….




.......of sorts.

…….of sorts.

There were also various other……..





.....historical representations......

…..historical representations……



.......and delights.

…….and delights.

There were some interesting things represented.

Bit different

Bit different

They finished in the Close, where there were speeches and music and (after a long wait for it to be dark enough, I am told) a firework display.  I watched the procession, but didn’t go on to the last part as I had a busy day next day.  It was quite fun.

There have been 25 “barons”……..

A Baron

A Baron

………placed at various points around the city – they have all been painted by local people and come in a variety of designs.  They were apparently “delivered” by the fire service on the night between the 11th and 12th June.

Fire Station Baron - front

Fire Station Baron – front…

.....and back.

…..and back.

There is a trail to follow to see them all and I saw many as I have gone about as normal.  Some were relevant to the place they were in, such as…….

Salisbury Market Baron

Salisbury Market Baron

….but others showed different Salisbury features, such as the one showing the story of…..

......shooting an arrow from Old Sarum....

……shooting an arrow from Old Sarum….

……..to find the place to build the new Cathedral.  Some were quite amusing such as the back of Busy Bee Baron, showing……

.....a monk resting under a tree.

…..a monk resting under a tree.

Tom. a friend of mine, painted……

......the Runnymede Baron.......

……the Runnymede Baron…….

……that was actually relevant to…..

.....the signing of the Magna Carta....

…..the signing of the Magna Carta.

Someone else I knew painted a baron representing……..

.....the peregrine falcons...

…..the peregrine falcons…

…….that nest on the Cathedral.  Both said how long it took – but then it was equivalent to 2 large pictures.  The varnish on the top was also a bit of a problem, causing smudging in some cases.

I used the afternoon of bank holiday Monday to look at the remaining 8, visiting some places that I have never been before despite having lived here for over 20 years!  There were some I hated and some beautiful ones and some that were just OK.  The one painted by Terry Pratchett’s illustrator was good (if not relevant to anything much!) and was supposed to look like…..

.....Terry Pratchett from the front......

…..Terry Pratchett from the front……

…….and the back showed illustrations of…..

.....the Disc World characters.

…..the Disc World characters.

Schools produced smaller barons which were displayed in the Cathedral for a while.  The larger ones will be auctioned on 1st October for the Trussell Trust.

And so…?  Well, I am not convinced that either the pageant or the barons had much to do with the Magna Carta but they were both quite fun and provided things to entertain tourists to the city – as well as locals.  There do seem to have been more tourists this year which hopefully has been good for local businesses, although is quite annoying when one is trying to do ones shopping!

More Knitting

A friend suggested that we got together to make a “Cosy for Christmas” – which is a sort of dressing gown made from knitted squares.  I think we only started in November and as we needed either 79 or 112 squares we started knitting hard.  It soon became apparent that we wouldn’t be able to get it done for Christmas, so relaxed and took things at our own pace.  When we had got quite a lot of the squares, I started to sew them together and my friend continued knitting…….

It was after Easter before we finished all 112 squares, plus an extra as a pocket.  I then finished sewing it up and did a crochet border.

My friend models the "Cosy"

My friend models the “Cosy”

Back view

Back view

It was then ready to send off to the organisation that suggested it.

I then got a polite request from my three year old great-niece for a T-shirt for Charlie – or even better, 2 T-shirts – one in blue and one in red!  Charlie is a doll, who was female and had a pink dress, but it turns out that he is male, so the dress has gone to Millie (I think) and Charlie has no clothes.

I made the blue one – well it was actually a jumper from a pattern I had for dolls clothes and was also really for a female doll – but don’t tell Charlie (or Sofia).  I sent it off to make sure that it fitted – which I am told it did – before making the red one.

Red T-shirt

Red T-shirt

I then also attempted a pair of shorts, for which I had no pattern so it was all guess work.  I got onto the mark 3 version before I thought they might be O.K.

Shorts mark 3...

Shorts mark 3…

Although I have been given all the relevant measurements it is another question as to whether they will actually fit.  That will have to wait until they are tried on the doll.

They seem to fit!

They seem to fit!

In addition to this there is a project locally, mostly from our church I think, to knit blankets for Syrian refugees, so people are knitting squares.  We have been given the sizes and the number of stitches and rows, but if my trials are anything like that of other people they will come out a mixture of sizes.  I offered to sew up (some) of them and was almost immediately given a bag of squares that someone’s mother had made.  They don’t match the sizes given and are not of uniform size, so I have worked to patch them together to make a blanket of the appropriate size – which has included knitting some extra bits, most of which are not squares but strips of various sizes.  We were asked to use bright colours and the squares I was given are a bit dull so I have used bright green for sewing up and my extra bits are mostly bright colours.  I had to do a crochet boarder too, to make the size roughly correct and that is bright red as there was not enough of the green.

Guess which bits I added!

Guess which bits I added!

Now I am knitting squares while I wait to be given others to sew together and red shorts to go with the red T-shirt for Charlie.

Do I like knitting?  Well, completing something is quite satisfying and it gives me something to do with my hands when I am listening to the radio.

Celebrate Archie’s Birthday

Archie was 15 – I am told that is 105 in dog years.

Archie - 15 today!

Archie – 15 today!

He got six cards – not bad for a dog.

Five of the six cards - one was a day late.

Five of the six cards – one was a day late.

He also got lots of presents – mostly treats of various sorts……..

Testing one of my presents.

Testing one of the presents.

The one from his “cousins” Phoebe and Rollo (spaniels) was a voucher and with that he got a new collar, a portable water bottle and dish for hot weather – and more treats!

With "mummy", Sophie and cards

With “mummy”, Sophie and cards

Did he have a good time?  Don’t ask me – he is a dog!