Thursday 31 December 2020

A Rose in the Snow


We had a little snow overnight, and again this morning and the last rose on Lady of Shalott was looking a bit sorry for itself.  My beautiful yellow rose over Tara's grave (she was the dog I had when we arrived here) still has half a dozen (frozen!) buds on it. The roses have appreciated being fed well this summer with David Austin rose feed . . .

Keith and I had a walk up the hill, as it snowed lightly, and although we couldn't see the mountains because of low cloud, there were still some lovely views.

Below: looking across the valley.

Above and below:  where we turn around - by the neighbouring farmland at the top of the hill.  Atmospheric this morning.

Also by the top of the hill - looking across the pond.  Towy Valley hidden in the clouds.

One last quick one - low cloud looking across the valley towards Park.

Tuesday 29 December 2020



This is an ancient Ash tree which grows on the boundary of our land.  It has been dieing all the time we have been here, although in the first few years it did manage to grow a few new branches and twigs. However, the last ten years it has been standing there rotting, and various big rotten branches have fallen/been snagged on the other upright trunks (it split into 4 different upright trunks - perhaps having been pollarded when a young tree - which was probably 200 years ago or so).  

Anyway, Tam was checking the oil tank for us yesterday when she heard a tremendous crack and crash and another upright of the tree fell down, bring two big snagged boughs with it.  We went up to check it out.

You can see the bit that broke off (and it's completely rotted through) and the tree next to it was decimated by the fall.  The wood has gone into the gulley beside our stream, and out of sight.  Below - close up shot.

You can see disease is rife in the tree - I expect some wildlife are taking advantage of this though.

Finally, a view of the back of our house from our top field.  The grey bit on the left are slates, put up in late Victorian times I think.  Lots of our family memories are tied up in this house . . .

Sunday 27 December 2020

The punishment of packing - and a good baking recipe


I was awake in the night again, and having bad dreams about people without masks on coming too close to me and breathing in my face.  Obviously my subconscious is struggling with processing the Pandemic again.

    We must have been right at the edge of Storm Bella last night - I remember it getting wild when I went to bed (earlyish, at 10 o'clock) but didn't hear any more till about 4 a.m.  Then I was awake awhile and came downstairs to read, an old novel by Phil Rickman - December - which is very good.  Then I just wanted to sleep and sleep and it was 10 a.m. when I dragged myself out of bed.  We had neighbours coming to pick up three boxes of good books which we hadn't got to the Charity shop in time.  They were delighted, and also went away with a big box of apples from our trees.  

It was a clear sunny day after the storm, though some clouds were piling up by the time Tam and I got out for a walk before lunch.  We dropped some more pots of plants off at my friend N's, for her to babysit until we have relocated, then we parked up at her cottage and went for a walk up the valley.  The sun was warm on our backs and it was SO good to be walking again, and out in the fresh air and looking at what was growing in the hedgerows - grass had suddenly shot up after being cut and there were fingers of Stitchwort starting to grow, and the overwintering leaves of Foxgloves were putting out fresh growth too.

It was a welcome break, but then it was back to yet more packing, which is starting to feel like torture!  I brought in things from the kitchen cupboards which I was unlikely to use in the next couple of weeks, and also emptied out my little pokerwork cupboard where small baking things live (muffin cases, sprinkles, vanilla pods, essences) and had a good sort out of the many out-of-date herbs and spices - there is a carrier bag full of outdated or unlikely to be used things.  Do I REALLY need 5 jars of pickling spices?  Especially when I can't make chutney any more (it irritates my lungs to boil up vineger).  I wrapped these on the ironing board as I watched the racing again, and did very well, although it is VERY difficult to try and pack away stems of dried Hydrangea!

Finally here is a recipe for a fruit and nut loaf I made as a gift for my friend N this Christmas.  I hadn't tried it before, but is smelt AMAZING when it came out of the oven so I shall probably make one for us, as something to grab a slice of when energy levels are low in the coming weeks (especially now we're out of Vimto Jelly Babies!)

The recipe was in this magazine - an American one bought at the much-missed Borders in Swansea. Some fabulous recipes in there but no time or reason to make any THIS Christmas.

Saturday 26 December 2020

Vimto Jelly-babies - Heroes of the Day!

 Today has been some Christmas Percy Pigs to keep the energy levels up (as it was back to work again after yesterday's rest).  Earlier in the week, Tam broke open her packet of Vimto Jelly-babies which lasted us a couple of days, having a few here and a few there when energy levels reached rock bottom.  If you have never had them, they are DIVINE!  I don't buy sweets but it's nice to have them given to you.

It has been a useful day - two more big cupboards completely empty and most of the china from the white dresser packed.  The new boxes that were delivered last week are only single thickness though, and we have to be careful what we put in them as they aren't up to much weight and the tape doesn't stick to them very well either. 

I watched the National Hunt racing as usual on Boxing Day (though working between races).  Wonderful to see Frodon (who I "knew" would win) leading from start to finish, with his ears pricked and obviously enjoying every minute of it.  Bryony Frost is a brilliant jockey too.

Tomorrow will be a full-on day of work - it would be good to mop up the odds and ends on shelves which need to be assembled as a motley crew in a big box.  Neighbours are calling in the morning to take away 3 big boxes of books which never made it to the Charity shop. They are great readers and will keep what they want and then disseminate the rest when Charity shops open again.

Perhaps Monday will feel like Monday - as yesterday didn't feel like Friday and today didn't really feel like Saturday - just sort of neutral days!

Keep safe when Storm Bella comes a calling tonight. 

Friday 25 December 2020

Christmas Greetings


Christmas Day sunrise.  A very leisurely start here as we don't have Christmas Dinner, we have our meal late afternoon (Salt Marsh Lamb again this year).  I have chatted with my dear friend in Dorset, and am about to go and make the Chocolate Roulade which is our Christmas treat every year.

    Yesterday was more packing, running round with cards and pots of jam for friends and neighbours, submitting my final accounts for my now defunct business, and then insuring our new house, which took a LOT longer than expected, but saved us £1,000 in one fell swoop over what we have to pay for this house (we have to have flood damage, because of the wee stream at the back - although the house has never flooded.)

    We will unwrap presents in half an hour or so, with Gabby and Danny on a video link.  Thank heavens for Technology.

     Hoping you all have the best Christmas you can manage, in these difficult times  Stay safe.

Wednesday 23 December 2020

We got that re-run I was dreading!


Yesterday proved that yes, Monday's sufferings could be added to and once again, we had SUCH a stressful day.  We finally got reams of paperwork from our solicitor which we then had to print off (thank goodness I had spare printer ink). There were several caveats which we had to process and make decisions upon, and all those reams of paperwork had to be read and understood by all three of us (my brain was in meltdown at that point).  Anyway, we ploughed on and finally signed the contracts and scanned them back.  Late afternoon, we got a phone call from our solicitor to say that she couldn't get through to one set of solicitors - no-one was answering the phone so she assumed that they had finished working for the Christmas break! We tried not to panic, but I have to say we thought it really wasn't going to happen.  Fortunately luck was on our side, and our Agents (WONDERFUL people) managed to get through to someone at the solicitors, and we EXCHANGED!!!  

    Oh My Goodness - the relief we all felt.  Tam and I had a glass of wine to celebrate.  Just the one, but this occasion has been a long LONG time in the making and we thought many a time that we would never be in this position.  The wrong people kept coming to view our house - because it has such character and has a couple of grand rooms, people expected it to be a mini-estate, not an old farmhouse next to a farm.  Time and time again it was the farm (or rather the cattle crossing outside our front gate) which was the deal breaker.  Although we had two that said the land wasn't flat enough (erm - this IS Wales you know, famed for its hillyness!), a couple said that the house was too big (look at the floorplans - it does say 4,500 square feet!) or the outbuildings not suitable for their needs.  None of them seemed to be interested in the land or having horses here - which we thought WOULD sell it.

    Then the right people DID come along, but you will know that the buying process was a difficult one as certificates were required for this, that and the other. 

    We raced round house-hunting in late September/early October and ended up offering on our new home almost from desperation, and it wasn't in Herefordshire as we had planned (or in Devon, as I'd have loved - though we did try) and it wasn't the house we had viewed twice at Bredwardine and would have offered on in a flash - that sold 5 weeks before we had our offer.   Yet I think that the house we have bought will suit us very well, and if I think back to the requirements I had in my head, goodness, it ticked all of them!

    We even got a pile of new boxes and bubblewrap yesterday so will carry on with packing today, and I think it will soon start to fall into place like one of those puzzles we got the kids, with one piece missing and you had to move the "gap" around the board until you got it all in place.

    Now I can finally start thinking about the bathroom changes (new bath needed and change of tiles) and what trees are going in the orchard we plan to plant, and I can't wait to see what is planted in the garden or what birds we will have visiting our feeders.  

    One thing is certain, we will NEVER move again!!!

Monday 21 December 2020

I never want a re-run of today, EVER


No, not flooding today.  This is a photo from a few days back.  Today made the idle juggling of a couple of plates on sticks last week seem easy-peasy - today the ante was upped and I had two dozen of them to keep on top of, and in different rooms, or so it felt.  Phone calls from both Agents, who have both been brilliant,  and chasing up Solicitors, and all sorts of other behind the scenes situations in an effort to try to get to exchange today.  Now hoping that the further round of discussions this afternoon have facilitated an exchange tomorrow.  We shall see. I shan't go into detail, but full co-operation was not evident . . . 

All this and packing too, and trying to remember to order my prescription (that took 3 calls, being in a queue of 3 each time), and then sort the meat order for Christmas.  After 4 p.m. when I remembered I was meant to phone them and pay for it, I couldn't get through so Tam drove us to Llandeilo and I picked up some huge Wild Boar Sausages, a lovely rolled shoulder of Salt Marsh Lamb, a kilo of top stewing steak and some kidneys and then pasties for tea because I was totally beyond cooking.

Now I am totally beyond, and there are other worries which I can't share here, but at least I didn't have time to sit and worry today.

More boxes packed (Craft Room today) and all the mouse droppings and a snug nest in a suitcase, removed from the under-eaves storage.  We are getting there but sometimes the mountain seems like Everest.

So, off to bed, and hoping I will sleep through. The wheel turning with the Winter Solstice brings us a move towards the light, and spring . . .

Sunday 20 December 2020

Full Lockdown here in Wales - as of midnight last night

 Hmmm.  Not a moment too soon, but I wonder if this will affect our move?  We will have to wait and see.  Not just the allowed to move bit, but the safety of moving of course, given our health issues here.  Not ideal, that's for certain.  

The tree finally got dressed on Friday evening.

The Lights and Larch in the hall is bringing great pleasure.

As you can see, much work has been done (lots of boxes out of sight too).

Friday 18 December 2020

Trying to move mountains

 I woke before 3 a.m. again and didn't sleep again, and so I am feeling just a tad worn out now.   Today saw lots more phone calls, chasing things along,  finding out the state of play and hoping we may, just may, exchange before Christmas.  But of course Christmas is the fly in the ointment as various offices close down early, stay closed down for a week (or even two in the case of the Removal peeps).  I have had to leave messages for folk out of the office and rely on the good grace of others to help in their stead. Very frustrating.

    Today saw another trip to the Charity shop - perhaps the last now.  3 more boxes of really good books to go somewhere.  We will sort that out next week.

    An Amber weather alert has been mixed up in all of this, which meant we had to go the long way round to everywhere, as the bottom lane is already under water.  We managed to do our good deed for the day when we had had to turn around before the Mill, and met a big Argos van heading for the flood - and even if he had gotten through that, he would have had to reverse back through it again as he was too big to go across the bridge. Poor chap had to turn around - I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say follow me home as he was heading for a neighbour beyond us, but by then my brain was cooked!

    Our river (the Cothi) is running very high and very fast.  I am glad we live a hundred feet above it and our new home is also situated well above the flood plain.  However, the steep hills in and out of here had turned into shallow rivers themselves, as the rain washed off the fields down onto the road, bringing rocks and soil with it.  The new folk will be glad of their Landrover.

    The Towy is of course spread right across its flood plain - sorry for no photos, but I was driving and it was chucking it down with rain.  If you go to Google and type in "Towy Flood Plain flooding" photos will come up, including several of mine!


    Now, if I can find some energy from somewhere, perhaps Tam and I can finally dress the tree . . .

Thursday 17 December 2020

Exhausted - too much plate spinning


Back to Carreg Cennen for this photo

Today I have struck a brick wall with energy levels reduced to nil.  Lots of things happening - phone calls, emails, people calling (including Gabby, who came up to do a present swap before Christmas). We had our usual Thursday Trip to the Tip.  Would you believe, when we got back I went to put an empty sack in the Chicken Shed and blow me down, there were all the  Carpet Washing bits for the Vax (which went to the Tip over a month ago and must be 40 feet down in Landfill by now) and which I meant to take today.  I said a bad word . . .

    We have loaded up the car with yet more boxfuls of stuff to go to the Charity Shop of our choice tomorrow, plus we've been running in circles over the legal details of the move and hoping we can push things into place this side of Christmas.  More phone calls and emails tomorrow.

    My good friend and neighbour N came down with a box of goodies for us, and I hadn't even remembered to write her card out, let alone make anything for her.  I will have to work the night shift I think.

    We've just about got the Junk Room of Doom sorted and then it will be the Craft Room of Doom but I'm hoping that looks worse than it is.

    My brain is struggling to function and I would love a day off, but that's not going to happen this side of Christmas Day.  Hoping that the Great Conjunction on the shortest day will see things fall into place and all the things which have blocked us from day one with this house sale will magically be lifted.

    Tam is playing her piano keyboard - something really beautiful (a Nocturne?) which she has just been given the music for.  Very peaceful.

    I shall go and rest now.

Wednesday 16 December 2020

Running out of boxes

 The past week has been one of going through cupboards and drawers, sorting and getting rid, which must sound boringly familiar now, plus  the weekly Trip to the Tip and the Charity shop, which seem to take up more time that we can spare.  No walks as it has been raining most days, but we did manage to have a good bonfire yesterday.  I was woken in the night by the staccato drumming of rain on the cat-slide roof over the craft room and everywhere is awash outside this morning.

It looks like a good day for making soup.  Here's a panful I made last week - Beef and Barley, and very good it was too, and mopped up a few more leeks from the freezer (I have been accused of hoarding leeks now, along with my many other shortcomings!) This was a proper stand-the-spoon-up-in soup, as you can see, made with the last meat and gravy from a casserole the previous evening.

I also made a couple of Chocolate Apple Cakes, one of which I froze.  With my brain as frazzled as it is from all the organization, I nearly forgot to double all the ingredients but made myself double-check.

If you can leave them long enough, these go wonderfully fudgy on top.

    We went to get more boxes (and ANOTHER giant roll of bubblewrap) from the Removal people yesterday, but were dismayed to find the dozen they gave us were the last in the building, because "everyone was moving" - yes, all well and good, but so are WE and paying them good money to do so.  Surely they must know when they are getting short and order a delivery of more. I have emailed and will be phoning today - they shut down for a fortnight at Christmas and I don't want to have to wait until the day before they start moving our stuff to pack the rest of the house! Ludicrous!   I think we'll have to go out for more banana boxes . . . but not before I've Had A Word . . .  MORE stress.  I can do without it.

Anyway, the Christmas tree has been bought and is a nice Nordman.  I don't do plastic trees.  It is in place and will be dressed today.

    We have had to arrange to swop presents with Gabby and Danny prior to Christmas and open them together via Skype on Christmas Day.  Gabby is coming up on Thursday for a socially distanced handover and then the presents will be quarantined until the 25th.  We have boxes of Danny's belongings to take down to him, along with his gifts, and wishing him a Merry Christmas will be done on the pavement outside his shared house . . .Carmarthenshire has a high number of cases now so we are not planning to venture to the shops any time soon.  No Christmas shopping trips here and I think the whole idea of 3 bubbles (or however many, depending on where you are) meeting up for Christmas is a blardy virus-explosion waiting to happen.  CRAZY.  Just for ONE year, cannot families stay in their own homes?  It's just ONE day - not worth risking lives over - however much you love your extended families and want to see them.

    Sorry, rant over.  Off to tackle another cupboard.

Thursday 10 December 2020

Laughter is returning

 I am sure anyone reading this will know what worry and stress does to you and one of the first things to disappear is happiness and laughter.  We haven't been doing much of that since this selling process began.  It has been GRIM.  The occasional grin or short laugh, but in the past week we have all seemed to be merrier and were hooting with laughter on one of the answers to a Pointless question tonight (getting quite addicted to that programme) - it was Philomena Cunk if you must know!  We got the giggles as it was just such an absurd name.

We have also been watching Shameless on Netflix.  It's not to everyone's taste - I'm sure some would find parts quite vulgar but once again, it has tickled our funny-bones and distracted us from reality and we have laughed until we cried sometimes when watching it.

We've been rewatching the 2nd season of Britannia too, which has lighter moments and some powerful character acting as well.  The Donovan music (Season of the Witch) and psychadelic bits take me back to the 60s! 

Earlier this week, I just missed the really warm light in the trees at the edge of our paddock and on the slope behind.  Not a view we will be seeing much longer.

    This morning saw another Trip to the Tip, and we had to have the windows wide open on the car as it contained an old plastic greenhouse cover which a certain wee mostly white tomcat had "annointed" in passing.  We got rid of broken mirrors and a non-broken one in a very heavy wooden frame, and something that Keith used when he worked as a Draughtsman - it was a solid steel (think it was steel though it felt heavy as lead) rectangle which was used to weight the paper so that you could draw very accurate straight lines along its edge.  Well, Keith said it must have weighed nearly half a hundredweight, though it was small and looked innocuous.  There were two lads who work there, stood by the metal bin which Tam would have thrown it in had she been able to get it high enough.  They saw her get it to her waist, and taking pity (and thinking she must be pretty feeble) said to hand it over and they would chuck it in.  The lad got the shock of his life when Tam DID hand it over and reckoned it must have dented the bottom of the skip!

    We thought we had sorted out all the things to go to the Charity shops, but just the start of a new Sweep (down in what was mum's flat and my larder) has already provided at least two boxfulls and there will be MORE!  1940s greaseproof paper anyone?! We need to get this sorted just in case they shut the Charity Shops/Tip soon.  They almost certainly will in January, as I am sure we will go into total Lockdown again then - just when we will be actually MOVING!

Current reading and re-reading

Blown the dust off this one:

Sorry, I took the photo twice and both were blurred!

    Here's an extract:

    CATS AND TOMATOES:  "Our cat's eagerness for the fruit caused a breach of its usually impeccable manners: it would reach up a paw and try to snatch tomatoes from our forks while we were eating.  Thinking to satisfy its remarkable appetite less expensively, we bought for the cat the cheaper imported variety.  Puss was neither amused nor interested.  We had to eat them ourselves." - E E Gilbert, Llangollen (1950).

DISCIPLINE (as it once was):

    "The records of the Sidcot (Quaker) school show that, in 1821, the governing committee was seriously concerned about the frequency of flogging.  Accordingly Joseph Storrs Fry, an active member of committee was requested to procure three boxes for the solitary confinement of refractory boys.  Seeing that these boxes measured 5' 6" high, 20" across and 21" deep, they might almost be described as coffins.  There was no seat, and not much air, though a boy was sometimes sentenced to "reflect" in one of them for two days."  (I would have thought the boys far preferred the flogging).

    Today I treated myself to this:

It's always good to learn a bit more about antiques (though the ones in here are generally WAY out of our price range!!) and I love to look at room settings in houses where antiques are collected and cherished.

    Well, looking up Donovan's Season of the Witch has led to lots more sidebar plays and I am currently greatly enjoying Peter Green's (Fleetwood Mac) The Green Manalish. Those were the days.

Monday 7 December 2020

. . . and the biggest roll of Bubblewrap you ever did see!!


Today has been a bit "full on".  We went to the Removal company today to pick up boxes and packaging and having asked for bubble wrap, came away with THIS huge roll.  I think that may see us through especially as I had already ordered another one (yet to arrive) as I didn't know how the removal shennanigans were going to work out (communication being slightly non-existent as they are rushed off their feet going all over the country.)

    I spent the afternoon packing the reference books from the main large bookcase in the sitting room and at 16 boxes, finally stopped to make the chicken curry for tea.  My arms feel quite feeble now - I should sleep well tonight!

    This little chair is one that Keith made during Lockdown using some of the Useful Bits of Wood he had in his shed.  Gabby has already spoken for it - we're quite surprised as she normally likes contemporary stuff, but good to know it will be appreciated.

    We are still hoping that we can exchange contracts SOON and then we will feel a bit more confident about the future.  When we were having trouble in getting the Removal people to answer the phone/reply to emails, everything felt VERY uncertain and I have not had an enjoyable weekend with all this up in the air.  

    Tam and I stretched our legs up the hill yesterday, as it was a crisp bright morning.  There was snow on Black Mountain, as expected.

Well, this won't do.  I will go and look at the handful of books I put on one side to look at this evening, before they get packed away too.


Sunday 6 December 2020

BRRRRRRRRR! The first proper frost of winter


This morning we woke up to the first cold snap of the winter and the first really hard frost of several winters I think.  Mild and wet has been the order of the day here in recent times.  Here is the view across the bottom of the yard into the edge of the field where there was an Iron Age enclosure (until Next Door "modified" it with a bulldozer.  

A corner of our paddock, which is about half an acre, but still larger than the little corner for the planned Orchard and wildlife area at our new home.  There the house and stables and garden stand in probably just under an acre with a big fishless pond which the wildlife love.  I'm looking forward to seeing what birds we will be feeding.  I wish I could feed the ones here, as always, but I don't know if the new people would be doing that, so don't want to get them to rely on feeders, only to have them removed.

I've just had two more or less resting days (watching the racing!) although I did some sofa cooking when I brought in a big wok full of windfall apples to peel, core and chop and then cook up yesterday. On Friday it was sofa baking, and I mixed a Lemon Drizzle cake.  My dear friend of more than 50 years has sent me The White Ship by Charles Spencer (as in Diana's brother) which I am looking forward to settling down with in a quiet moment.  Having read the Eleanor of Aquitane books recently, this dovetails in well.

Having nagged Keith to walk more, I now need to do the same as my steps are down this week, partly due to wet weather.  Today I have NO excuse but will wait until it warms up a bit.  I think this is a pan of soup day so will see what vegetable goodies I have in the freezer shortly.

Not a lot is happening at the moment, it's a case of plodding on really.  Putting this away, that out for the Charity shop etc.

    I hope we are at the final hurdle with the selling queries now, though I will not bet on it all going forwards without a hitch . . .  going from recent experiences as our buyer is just a trifle demanding.

    Now we are waiting to hear from the Removal company about when we can collect boxes and packaging.   Communication is not their strong point and it is VERY frustrating as you can't get through by phone and they have been lax at answering emails.

    Christmas is going to be something of an afterthought this year.  We have got some of the Christmas decorations down and put a couple of bits of tinsel up so far but as we always have a real tree I don't like to get it too early or it will be bald by Boxing Day!  We had a Nordman Fir last year and that must have been "old stock" as it dropped, and I've never known them do that before.

Hah - the view was meant to be the thing in focus through this cannon hole at the castle the other day!