Thursday, August 31, 2006

Yes! Yes!! Yes!!!


I've just checked our Fantasy Football teams' scores, which were published for the first time yesterday. A, who is the (self-appointed) expert in the house, has scored 40 points so far, and is currently 253,873rd in the league. My team, chosen mainly, it has to be said, to allow me to spend £9m on the incredibly sexy Thierry Henry (in my dreams!) has scored 80 points and is in the heady position of 96,908th in the league.


Welcomed with open paws?

Well, I'd like to think so, but no... I've been welcomed by two very huffy cats, who've had about 16 hours of human contact in the last 6 days. A went to Belgium on Tuesday and isn't due back until tomorrow.

Today I got back after a 5 hour journey - oh, the joys of J12-16 on the M6 again! Although this time, I gave up on the motorway after one junction in the queue and explored rural Staffordshire and Market Drayton.

Will sort out some photos from Towersey soon, especially the new additions, which I haven't told you about yet!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006


Things Mum and I have been contemplating today:

Where do gulls roost if they are inland?

How far can a gull travel in one day's flight?

Since we are currently about as far away from the sea as one can get in the UK, could a gull get from Oxfordshire to the coast in one day under its own power?

Why do you never find copies of "Ultimate Carp"* magazine in waiting rooms?

Why do I always get hungry at the hospital even though Dad's appointment is less than 90 minutes after my breakfast?

* Please feel free to sustitute the title of any other publication that is not full of skinny C list celebs...

Monday, August 28, 2006


This weekend, A and I have been chillin', firstly on Saturday night with some of my cousins, then yesterday at Towersey Festival (are my folk roots showing?) More details on this to follow - Mum and Dad only have a 56k modem, so I'll die before I can manage to upload my photos!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Torn between two lovers...

Well, not really, but I bet that got your pulse racing, dear reader!

Today, Northwich Victoria played away at Oxford United. My current footie team, versus my first one. I was hoping to go with A and Dad, but A was too late coming down, so we didn't go. Maybe it was for the best, since the Vics were whopped by The U's. Divided loyalties in this case again! (When United played Macc Town in the FA Cup several years ago when we lived in Macc, A stood in the home end of the Moss Rose whilst I stood with the Oxford supporters in the away end...)

BTW, Dad's now had his first two sessions of radiotherapy. He seems to be bouncing since he's started on the hormone treatment, so I'm really pleased.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

How I love the M6...

Today I went to stay with Mum and Dad. Of course, the glorious sunshine of this morning had disappeared into the mother of all thunderstorms by the time I was ready to set out, but that’s just typical! Actually, the M6 wasn't too bad, it was the M42 that was swimming today. Lovely.

Dad has had a month of hormone treatment and starts his radiotherapy tomorrow, so I wanted to be with him and Mum for the first few slots, before term starts. This round of trips to hospital will be without marking though!


Our garden isn’t huge, but has lots of trees and shrubs – very green, but not much else in terms of colour! But I’m very lucky, because there are lots of little nooks and crannies for birds to nest in. We have had wrens nest behind the elder near the dining room window for several years (although they’re very shy and I don’t see them often), at least three different blackbird nests, several blue tit and sparrow families and a robin nest. There are also goldfinches nesting in the vicinity, although I don’t know if they’re in our garden or nearby. Since March this year, we have had three different sets of goldfinch youngsters coming to feed outside the kitchen window. Sparrows are in abundance here, even if they are in decline elsewhere in the country – at one point this summer, I saw a group of 23 sparrows on the patio. Last weekend I also saw two male robins fighting for territory – not a pretty sight.

And the best thing? Watching them laugh at Lilly and Stella, who have a very low success rate!

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The Agony and the Ecstasy

Time to stop for a beer and finish the fine detail filing tomorrow, I think...

Mmm... best laid plans, and all that. We had another bash on Sunday, then yesterday I sorted through drawers stuffed full of photos, my baptism record and health visitor record cards, old pens, enough ink cartridges to open a stationers' and this morning I put the vacuum round, but now....

(cue drum roll...)

It's done!! The office is tidy!! Hurrah!!!

So that's the ecstasy dealt with. Obviously.

The agony?

Oh, more than you could possibly imagine.

The last two days have been spent with Barry Gibb's voice running through my head, warbling "You're a Bunbury... I'm a Bunbury too..." over and over and over again...


Saturday, August 19, 2006

Part way there

Well, we haven't finished the office yet, but we have chucked a whole load of paper for recycling and A's had fun playing a load of old 7" and 12" singles he found once he got close enough to the stereo to find them. There's nothing like the crackle of vinyl, is there? I was quite impressed with his 12" of FGTH's "Two Tribes", since it was very warped - played really well! (and sounded better than his Bunburys single, too!)
Time to stop for a beer and finish the fine detail filing tomorrow, I think...


Yes I know I should be sorting the office out, and I have made a start, honest, but A's just got back from the supermarket, and he's very confused:

Wet Weekend

Well, this could describe the weather today, or it could just as equally describe me! It's too wet to go to see the Vics play and I feel a bit "urgh" anyway. There's nothing for it really, I'm going to have to sort out the office.

Now A found it very funny at the wedding to discover from some of my colleagues that the school caretaker has been giving them guided tours of my cupboard ever since I tidied it the day after we came home from the Walk (not something that I felt merited a blog entry really, even if I did turn a health hazard into a safe working environment). So he has decided that we need to build on this success and "sort out the Office". He makes it sound so easy. Actually, it will be a little easier because yesterday I gathered most of the papers up that were on the floor and put them into piles so I could actually walk across the room on carpet. But never the less, it is one of those jobs that you know needs to be done, that will give you a lot of satisfaction once you've done it, but doing it will be cack.

I will keep you posted. If you don't hear anything over the next few days, I have been buried under an avalanche of papers, old bills and schoolwork...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Wedding Bells

Yesterday I went to K's wedding and, torrential rain notwithstanding, I think it was one of the nicest weddings I've been to in a long while. There was no noisy disco to get in the way of converation (I'm SOOO middle-aged!) and there were games to play outside. Sadly, the rain was still going strong, so no-one was able to play before dinner, but afterwards, the bride and groom had a quick go on the Swingball.

I would have loved to have a go at the Croquet, but, knowing my prowess at physical activity (not) A heaved a sigh of relief that I wasn't given the opportunity to swing a croquet mallet around my head. Then a few of us checked out the Bouncy Castle. It was absolutely soaking and I made the discovery that although theoretically there is no upper weight limit on a Bouncy Castle designed for adults, in practise, I exceeded it, since I really couldn't bounce - I left that to the bride and bridesmaid, whilst I just stood there and wobbled. My hat never came off, though!! (I'm the figure in black lurking to the left).

Best wishes to K and R, may they have many happy years together.


Looking back at the photos I've posted, the seem to be rather cow-oriented. To balance things out somewhat, here is a short clip of some sheep we saw just outside of Haytongate on the Saturday morning on our walk. You might need to turn the sound up on your monitor, because I recorded it purely for the low level noise they were making, under the bleating!

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Holiday Snaps

Thought I'd put some photos up that we took on our walk. Doesn't really do anything to dispell this idea of me being a bit livestock obsessed, does it?

This little herd had appointed themselves guardians of the gate a mile or so outside Heddon on Wednesday morning. A got quite nervous passing through them!

As we got to the gate, this young calf appeared very interested in my camera!

In the interest of livestock balance, here is a sheep two fields later!

We walked past this herd of cows and their calves as we approached Turret 41a, just after Caw Gap early on Friday morning. We hadn't gone far past them when they began to follow us. A was convinced they meant us harm (townie!) but actually, the couple who were walking behind us had just disturbed them more than we had.

Looking back over the crags from Walltown crags. Over the Thursday and Friday, we walked over all the crags in this shot!

More calves - Cumbrian ones this time, about a mile after Haytongate on the Saturday morning.

The trouble with keeping free range chickens is that they sometimes choose really stupid places to lay eggs - like on the farm track outside your property! We counted three, plus any she might actually be sitting on as we passed this farm at Wall Head, just outside Crosby on-Eden on Saturday.

I'm rather pleased with this shot of a Peacock butterfly near the River Eden just outside Carlisle early on the Sunday morning.

This is Joe, the Kune Kune at the King's Arms in Bowness-on-Solway. If you ask nicely, the landlord will show him to you!

After all the misty rain on the Sunday afternoon, it was rather nice to see the view across the Solway Firth to Scotland in the evening as the sun began to set.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Holiday Diary

Well, as promised, here are details of our walk. It hasn’t actually taken this long to get the washing done, I’m just not sure where the last week has gone!

Sunday 30th August: Windermere

A little “mini-break” in Windermere, to see A’s sister and her family before we start. They’ve hired a cottage here, not far from the B&B we stay in when we come up for walking. We haven’t seen them since Christmas, they’re doing well. Bowness-on-Windermere is heaving more than I remember in high season, but it turns out that it’s the Windermere Air Show today, so we get an ace display by the Red Arrows!

Monday 31st July: Tynemouth to Wallsend (6 miles)

Just a little stroll of 6 miles, from the coast to the official start. A and I set out, with A’s parents in tow. A was thrilled that it started to rain as we were walking through some of the less savoury parts of North Tyneside, as you can imagine.


R: A and I about to set out!

Oh, and my £12, 1000 mile, no blisters guaranteed socks were so good, I got a blister. Great start!

Tuesday 1st August: Wallsend to Heddon-on-the Wall (14.5 miles)

The first section proper! The vast majority of this was along the banks of the Tyne and therefore on Tarmac, which is a bit unforgiving. Here is the Baltic Gallery and the Sage Theatre in Gateshead, from the Newcastle Quayside:

There were a couple of showers, but nothing too soggy, thankfully. About lunchtime, I realised I’d left my walking poles at my in-laws. I could live to regret this…The section between Newburn and Wylam was lovely though. This is where we turned away from the Tyne and began to climb to Heddon. We finished this section at the pub with another couple, Phil & Cooky, doing the walk with their two border terriers, Cassie and Buster. Walking this distance was fine, but I was a bit stiff this evening. The Compeed I put on my blister is great, it’s not changed at all. Compeed is amazing stuff.

Wednesday 2nd August: Heddon-on-the-Wall to Wall (14.5 miles)

Today we started off by finding the first section of Wall proper, at Heddon (see photo). How exciting! The first 2 miles today were breezy but clear. Unfortunately, the remaining 12.5 miles were in driving rain, with the final 6 miles or so battling against 40 mph winds too. Deep joy. Most of it was following the path of the Military Road, so it was fairly straight but quite up and down. A and I kept bumping into Phil and Cooky today, and by the end, it really was only Cassie and Buster who had any spring left in their step. It’s sounds dramatic, but I now understand how hypothermia victims feel when they decide to lie down in the snow. My brain was convinced that if I curled up in the Vallum (the ditch that is often the only part of the wall left in this section) I would get warm really quickly. Scary stuff.

An interesting aside here - the Military road was built at the time of the Jacobean Rebellion. The message came for it to follow the route of Hadrian's Wall, but it was taken so literally, that in many places, they built it almost on top of it, using the stone as hardcore. Oops.

The highlight of today was the Bothy we stayed in. The landlady is younger than me I think, and an absolute star. She showed us how to turn the heating up to full to dry our things out, gave us a lift down to the pub that night (having booked us a table) and told us to ring her anytime to come and collect us. Lisa Burrows of Kiln Rigg, we salute you!

A enjoying walking in the rain. Not.

Thursday 3rd August: Wall to Steel Rigg (Once Brewed) (13.5 miles)

The Wall stretching away from us, just outside Chollerford

I got out of bed like a little old man today! Nothing hurts whilst I’m actually walking; the stiffness kicks in when I stop! After yesterday’s downpour, today was glorious. Like a fool though, I didn’t put on enough sunscreen and ended up with the worst sunburn I’ve had in 20 years. My lower left leg is as tight as a sausage about to burst under the grill. This section was magnificent walking, but hard going, over crags. By the time we got to Sycamore Gap, after 12 or so miles, I had to crawl on my hands and knees up the steps to get back out!

Sycamore Gap - yes we did walk down to the tree then back up the other side!

Met up with Phil, Cooky and the dogs again today and we all stayed at Saughy Rigg Farm. This farm is really in the middle of nowhere, but it’s brilliant for walkers, as Kath the owner comes out to pick you up from the Wall and drops you off again, and offers a very nice meal!

Friday 4th August: Steel Rigg to Haytongate (15 miles)

Because we didn’t go for a walk to find food last evening, I woke up pretty stiff this morning and took about 20 minutes to be able to walk without a “sailor’s roll”. Today started off with another 6 miles of stunning crags as we walked over the Whin Sill. The photo shows the view of Saughy Rigg from the top, on a zoom lens. I had a low point at Gilsland, after 8.5 miles, when I wasn’t quite sure how I’d do the next 6.5 miles, but I rallied after I’d had lunch. Possibly it was knowing that we were going on when Phil and Cooky were taking 4 days to do the second half of the walk while we were only taking 3 days. They were really good company and we’ll miss them. Weather was dry but a bit overcast. We spent the night in Brampton, having crossed the border into Cumbria. There was a bath in our en-suite tonight – bliss! A complained about the noises my knees made today. There’s no pain, but a most horrible crunching noise when I walk up or down hill. The right one in particular has made noises like this for a while, but even I winced when I heard them today. A’s knees are silent, but painful, and his feet are a bit of a mess…

Saturday 5th August: Haytongate to Carlisle (13 miles)

Back to lower level walking today. A little bit of drizzle, but not too much. There’s no real stone parts of the wall left here; the Romans had obviously had enough by the time they hit Cumbria, since a lot of the wall was covered in turf here. There is a section of wall that was uncovered last century, but since it was made of sandstone, it was eroding quite quickly, so they covered it up again. The Vallum is often in evidence though, so you still feel that you are following the line of the wall. We arrived in Carlisle fairly early in the afternoon, but without the energy to go and explore. We were picked up from the Sands Centre leisure centre, which doesn’t look like it’s changed much at all since I left Cumbria back in 1995! I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for the Sands Centre, it’s where I fell in love with Shakespeare the first time I ever saw it performed live: Simon Russell Beale as Richard III.

Sunday 6th August: Carlisle to Bowness-on Solway (14.5 miles)

The final section today, starting with a nice stretch along the banks of the River Eden, the only river in England that flows north – now there’s a pub quiz question if ever I heard one! A has now discovered what the muscle on the inside of the knee does – it keeps the lower leg facing in the right direction. And his isn’t! Well, really, it’s only his right foot. It’s waggling about on the end of his leg like something not right, and he’s walking a little like a penguin. We got to Burgh-by Sands (6.5 miles) by 11.15am, so too early for the pub, to A’s dismay. It also started to rain here, the kind of rain that the Irish call “soft” that doesn’t pelt you but soaks you pretty quickly. There is a three mile section from Dykesfield to Drumbrugh that follows a dead flat, dead straight road that I found pretty soul destroying – I don’t know why but I would guess it was the rain – the mist was down low on this stretch, which is very open as it goes along the salt marshes. On a clear day, you would be able to see Dumfries and Galloway across the estuary and Skiddaw to the south, but the mist put paid to that! We stopped for a lunch break after 12 miles, at the Highland Laddie pub in Glasson. The mushroom soup is to be recommended (A says the same about the Stilton and Broccoli!) and we timed it so that we were able to see most of the Grand Prix. Well done Jensen! The final stretch was quickly covered and we were at the end in Bowness-on-Solway! And the pub was a Jennings pub!! Sadly, my personal favourite, Cocker Hoop wasn’t available, but you can’t have everything. They did have a beautiful Kune Kune called Joe, though!

So there it is – we finished it. We covered about 91 miles in about 33.5 hours walking time over a week, with the bulk of it (85 miles or so) in 6 days and 31.5 hours walking time). Something to be proud of, I feel. My feet were fine after that first blister, but my ankles took a battering and swelled up the day after we finished. A's knees are jiggered and his feet are a mess of blisters. He spent most of last week creaking around the house in much the same way as I did! So, the Ridgeway next?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

We Did It!!!

A and I have just got back from our jollidays, during which we spent 6 days walking the Hadrian's Wall Walk (84 miles from Wallsend to Bowness-on-Solway). The day before we walked the 6 miles from Tynemouth to Wallsend, so we have actually walked from one side of the country to the other. OK, it was across the thinnest bit, but you've got to start somewhere!

More details later, once I've sorted the photos out and done the washing...