Wednesday, 25 June 2014

AROUND BRITAIN IN SEVEN EASY STAGES

At last I can get down to a new blog - if I still have any faithful followers!   I don't deserve you, really I don't!

We have just come back from a cruise round the British Isles - in the company of a great many Americans, a large contingent from Japan and Korea and a good sprinkling of other nationalities.   And this was the biggest ship I have ever been on!   Don't think I would go again on such a big ship, but the cruise was great.

We left Southampton and headed for Guernsey, which was lovely, and full of bright sunshine.   



There is a big French influence in all the channel Islands.   Many street names are French



Guernsey has a beautiful harbour.   Very popular with sailors of small ships!

Leaving there we went off to Ireland, and berthed at Cobh.   From there we rejected any excursions provided by the Cruise Company, as without exception, they were horrendously expensive.   We therefore took the train to Cork.   I am sure Cork is a lovely city, but unfortunately it was very wet!    A little mooch around, and then we took the train back to Cobh and our ship.



 Cork was very wet.   And had unusual street lighting




But it has a great indoor market, selling all sorts of goodies, which I would love to have bought and taken home.   But alas, they would never have stood being stored on the ship for another week!

Up on a balcony floor there were a couple of cafes, where you could have lunch and look down on the shoppers.


 Thick home-made tomato soup and soda bread strengthened us for the afternoon!

From Cork we sailed for Dublin.   Now Dublin is a beautiful city, and was not wet!   We found an open-topped bus to take a tour of the city, seeing all the sights this way (which is great for me, as walking is not too good). 
  

I loved this statue of the woman and her dog.   I have no idea who she was!



Because we were on an open topped bus seeing the sights!




We walked down the famous O'Connell Street, scene of big riots in the 60's

From there we sailed up to Belfast ( change of currency back from Euros.   I think the Americans got a big confused).   It was a Sunday, and I had thought there might not be much to see on a Sunday, so we did take an excursion, which took us round the Antrim coast to a pretty seaside village, stopped at a Cafe in a Forest Park.   Poor souls, they were overwhelmed with two big 60-seater coaches all coming in at the same time for free tea/coffee and a scone with cream and jam!   But I think most people got their very big scone and tea and we set off back to the ship.




Some really lovely scenery from the Forest Park.

The next day we berthed at Greenock, which was advertised as "for Glasgow".   Glasgow was a 40-minute journey away, and not all that easy to get to unless you went with the excursion.   Of course, we did no such thing, and went round the coast to Gourock by bus, and then took a ferry ride for 20 minutes to Dunoon, a little seaside town on the River Clyde.   Dunoon had, I think, seen better days, but we pottered round the shops, had an exceptionally nice lunch in some tea rooms, and then ferried back to Gourock, Greenock and the ship.



Greenock had some interesting old buildings.   This had been a sugar warehouse.




The ferry looks small, but took a very large number of foot passengers very comfortably across the Clyde.

Dunoon was very welcoming, and had some very interesting spots and corners!



At every Scottish Port we were welcomed in the morning (rather early) by a piper, and then "piped away" as we left.   Some towns even produced marching bands.   I'm afraid bagpipes are not my favurite instrument!

By this time we had travelled all the way up the west coast of the British Isles, taken lots of photographs, seen some great places, and enjoyed ourselves.   I'll leave the North and East coasts for my next blog!

Sunday, 20 April 2014

MORE WINDS, MORE SHOWERS AND NOT A LOT OF SUN!

Despite the above there has been quite a lot of colour in the garden and the Park.   Also on roundabouts in town, and in odd little corners.   The Council does try to make the town look beautiful, I will give them that!




In the Park, and around town, the flowers that have done best this rather wet winter have been the polyanthus.   They have really sung out from the beds, and make such a cheerful show just when we need it!    The pansies have not down so well, though last year they were splendid.



However, in my own garden the little Violas have done splendidly.  I was really doubtful about them, as contrary to what I expected the on-line garden centre from where I ordered them sent me plug plants, which I had never dealt with before, but I planted them, and the finally came through with three troughs of gorgeous colour, which I can see from the kitchen window.   My favourite is the velvety dark purple one.   My photograph doesn't do it justice, I'm afraid!

I think I might have mentioned in the past that I go to a Creative Writing class twice a month.   Its a bit of a laugh really, as we don't get any instruction - its part of the U3A movement, and their theory is that once we get to a certain age (about Retirement age!) then our wisdom and experience can be passed on to others in an informal setting.   In other words, we learn from each other.   I enjoy writing, and each fortnight we have a subject to write on.   Sometimes I do a story, sometimes a poem.   But I do wish those there would give me some feedback, instead of just saying "oh, that's brilliant!" and leaving it at that.   I know I write fairly well, but I would like to write better, and how can I if no-one ever tells me what they really think??

This week's subject was to take one of the verbs we had previously thought of that end with -ate.   I don't think anyone is going to enjoy my poem, as I took "violate", but it relates to women and feminism and so I thought it had to be said.   Next Friday I will honour those there with my brilliance and see how they like my hard-hitting poem.

I can't print it here, I think some of the words might trigger filters!

Sometimes I write "weird" stories, not mystery, or horror, no sex or violence (well maybe a bit of sex!) but just weird.  

I'm thinking of finding a "proper" Creative Writing course in September.   My sister went to one once a week, with a teacher, and she loved it, even if she found some of the subjects hard.   But I think finding a hard subject is good for us - it makes us think around the subject, and sometimes really good writing comes out.   (Not always, though!)

I was asked, well, I offered really, to review a book for one of the quality monthly women's magazines.   I got the copy sent to me last week, and I must say I really enjoyed it.   It was called "The Silence of the Sea" by Yrsa Sigurdardottir.   Yes, she's Icelandic, and the book is set in Iceland mainly, but it has been translated!   Now I have to review it without spoiling the end!   Its described as "chilling" on the blurb at the back, and I have to agree with that - its sent in Iceland in the winter!!

Thank you my faithful followers for your patience in waiting for me to write another blog!

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

MARCH WINDS......

Well, actually, it was February winds, and not so much winds, as hurricane force blows!   If you are in the UK reading this, then you will know all about the gales and the torrential rain, and possibly have been affected, in which case, I hope things are improving for you and that not too much damage has been done!   If you are in the States, or anywhere else, you may have read about our gales and resulting floods, but have had your own unprecedented cold spell to cope with, with deep snow and ice!

What we really want is some warm sunshine and settled weather!



We did get a lot of rather wet areas in the Park

  
Which meant you couldn't really walk across the grassy bits!



 However, we did get some better weather for a while, and took the opportunity of going over to a neighbouring town.   Congleton is another mill town, like Macclesfield, but they also wove cotton, as well as silk.    Its a bit smaller than Macclesfield, but has a great market on Saturdays.   We went over and I could have bought pounds and pounds of vegetables, they all looked so fresh and nice!   However, there are only two of us, and we would never eat it all!   We did buy some lovely fresh shrimps (caught in Morecombe Bay!) and some fish cakes.   Next time we go over, I will plan my menu carefully and buy some of their wet fish.


There are some old buildings still standing  - above is the Counting House, now a Bank, and just above here is a very old public house.   It always amazes me how small these old houses look - they are totally dwarfed by  the modern buildings either side, which actually are not particularly large by today's standards.    I imagine the adult people were perhaps smaller on the whole, but that little pub has two stories!

 Back in the Park, feeding the ducks is as popular as ever!   Those ducks seem to thrive on nothing but bread!

Though they do dive for other titbits!     

Now we are getting older, we seem to find it difficult to raise enough enthusiasm for "going out". Eating out is not easy - Mr.G is diabetic, and I am trying to lose a bit more weight, but hopefully with better weather coming, I can persuade him to get out to some of the surrounding towns.   He enjoys looking for odd bits and bobs in the Charity shops, and I just enjoy an y shops, just prowling round, and taking my camera to find the odd shot!

Maybe April's post will be a bit more scintillating and literary!

Saturday, 8 February 2014

FEBRUARY FILL-DYKE ......



February fill dike Be it black or be it white; But if it be white, It's the better to like.

The above is a very old weather proverb, of which we abound here in England.   Our weather being notoriously variable, there are plenty of proverbs telling us what to expect if this or that happens!     The black and white refers to rain or snow, but as either makes the ground wet, it doesn't much matter.   The Meteorological Office tell us that February is normally one of the driest months.   Not this year!   We have suffered storm after storm, with torrential rain, and considerable damage.   I feel so sorry for all those people who have been flooded out of their homes.   It will take ages to get the water, smell and dirt out, and there is always the chance it will happen again.


Luckily we are not threatened in any way up here.  Macclesfield is a hilly town, originally built on what you might call the foothills of the Pennines, and any river that has thoughts of flooding has had its defences strengthened!  

I took my camera found the Park this morning as it was nice and bright, though there was a very strong cold wind.   Good reason to walk briskly.   But you can see from the above picture how muddy it is.   There were daffodils on this bank last year, but I rather think they might have rotted this year!




Looking from the further end of the lake you can see some of the ducks, gulls and two swans we have here in the winter.    We used to get a lot of Canada Geese, but the male swan is very aggressive and chases away anything bigger than a mallard!




Near the Pavilion in the park is a stone which marks the site of St. Anne's well which was established for the residents of the main road where the park entrance is.  It is dated 1844, but the well is no longer there, and we all have mains water now!   Our dog wouldn't get out of the way, but I think actually he adds something to the photo!




The Park workers, of which there is now only one, and he works part-time, try to keep the beds looking as colourful as possible.   These primulas are the ones making the best of the bad weather!



And although it was a bright morning, with some sun, the rain clouds were already gather!   I took this from our gate in to the Park, as the wind was so strong I needed something to lean against to take the shot.

Good day for going back indoors, and writing a new post!

Tuesday, 21 January 2014

A BIT PAST THE NEW YEAR !

I fully intended to post this soon after January 1st, and wish all my readers (if I have any left by now) a Happy New Year!

However, we are well into January now, so I suppose it is a bit late!   I thought I'd post some of the photographs I took over last year, some good, some not so good.

Last winter, in contrast with this winter, was very cold and we had a lot of ice and snow.   It was very pretty when it had just snowed, but you can have enough of a good thing!




Squirrels and Blue tits amongst a host of other birds, came to feed on the food we put out for them.


But the Park looked very bleak!


Tulips and later


Foxgloves soon made the garden look a bit more cheerful,  and although the wet summer soaked things, autumn brought some spectacular colours 


especially on our Chinese Rowan tree, which I found several years ago as a tiny seedling, and managed to coax it to full adulthood!


It continued to rain


and by December, the shadows were long again over the Park on my morning walks with the dog.

Still, the days are getting longer now, and bulbs are coming up in the garden already.    I have planted a lot of daffodils that were in troughs on the patio so I am hoping that some at least will come up and make themselves felt!

I love tulips, so I have got more planted in big containers on the patio, and have planted the ones that were there last year in the garden.   Unfortunately I didn't make a note of where I put them, so I will have to have a good hunt round in April and May to see if any have survived a second year.

We don't seem to get out much these days, put it down to old age, but I still go to Creative Writing classes.   Well, classes is perhaps a misnomer, we are a very cheerful group of would-be writers and always have a good laugh!   Does you good, laughing.   Its been proved!

Do leave a comment if you read this - its always good to know someone is there!

Happy 2014!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

CHRISTMAS TIME IS HERE AGAIN!

Well, its Christmas Eve now, and I hope you are all ready for the occasion, and I wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful 2014.

We will be on our own this Christmas, just the two of us, which means it probably won't be much different from any other day!   But I insist on putting up a few decorations, plus all the cards we get, plus my little Nativity scene.   This was made in Peru, and as well as Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus,  includes a sheep and a very surprised llama!

The dreadful weather the UK has been experiencing this week has mostly missed us by.   We have had torrential rain, and very high winds, but it is sunny now, even if the wind is perishing cold!   Hopefully the snow, which is forecast for Cumbria and the Pennines will pass us by!

So all I can do is to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year, and I promise to try and publish more blogs in 2014!


Sunrise taken earlier this month from the bedroom window

Thursday, 28 November 2013

DULL DAYS OF NOVEMBER

November days here have been rather dreary.   Two spells in hospital, one involving an operation have meant I am unable to get out much.    I can't even take the dog for a walk, so everything that is going on in the Park has to be relayed to me by a rather tired husband!



When I came back from hospital the first time I was astounded by our Chinese Rowan Tree!   In the week I had been away all the leaves had turned bright orangey red and the berries were scarlet.   It stood out like a beacon and was absolutely amazing.   The photograph doesn't really do it justice, but its hard to show the depth of colour.


After a bit the leaves fell off, but the berries are still there - its looking rather Christmassy now!   The birds are gradually getting interested, I think it will have to get a good deal colder before the blackbirds descend and strip the tree.   Meanwhile, I enjoy looking at the berries!



And just to remind us that Spring will come again, this is a picture of some of the tulips I planted in pots last year.   They were very bright and cheerful, and I saved the bulbs and have planted them again this year.   They probably won't be as good, but a bit of brightness is what we need at all times!

Everything now is geared towards Christmas - all the ads on TV, in papers and magazines and in the shops encourage us to gorge ourselves on chocolates and loads of sweet things.   Recipes for ways of cooking turkey and ideas for other things fill the magazines.   At first I felt quite hungry but now I don't want to see another picture of a huge turkey, brown and steaming, leering at me from the page.   Mr.G and I will be by ourselves this Christmas, so we can enjoy it as we wish!

To my followers - I don't deserve you, but thank you for hanging in there!