Caught 2 mice in the loft this week. Big news in the Loosemore Gyford world. Nature in tooth and claw.
More flowers and leaves after a warm and sunny (albeit windy!) weekend.
And, hallelujah, a ride on mower revival.
Tuesday morning I headed out across Thistly Field, down to the Army Camp crossroads and around the Grey Valley lanes past Duffryn Farm and Jury Farms. Hedges greening, and blossom on the old apples trees on the last day of March.
Thursday evening I marked the end of my working week with a G&T. Hard to get my head around the fact that it’s only three weeks since Janette came for the weekend. As she says, my sense of time is really distorted. I would have been in LA for work this week, if we weren’t in the throes of a global pandemic, and spending the weekend walking with Steffi. And drinking more gin, no doubt!
It’s felt strange, deleting all those plans from the diary. A bit like when you finally delete someone from your contacts a few years after they’ve died.
Friday had two highlights: a morning walk to Ewyas Harold via the Common to collect our 1kg bag of Formula 6 coffee beans from James Gourmet Coffee. I checked the Village Shop for yeast (no joy), and came out with 6 hot cross buns and a copy of the “Around & About Ewyas Harold & Abbey Dore” pocket map, and so I varied my return route back over the Common, dropping down to Dore Abbey along the footpaths from Box Tree Cottage. And the final section back to Forty Acres I retrod the overgrown footpath up from Cherry Burton. Lunch in the conservatory.
And in the afternoon, lawnmower revival!
My favourite family of petrol heads had suggested putting the battery on to charge for another day. That’s done the trick!
We completed series 1 and 2 of The Crown this week, and so on Friday evening we settled down to watch the NT YouTube screening of One Man, Two Guvnors WARNING: autoplays with an ad), one of the few plays I’d wished I’d been to see in London. Glad I didn’t: we didn’t last more than 10 minutes, neither of us is a fan of farce it turns out.
We returned to the final season of Homeland instead, which is a weekly ration, so we’ve started watching His Dark Materials, recorded at the end of last year, as our nightly viewing. A good choice – just the right sort of escapism.
On Sunday I caught Two Woodpeckers ( ah — Two Soups. How I miss Victoria Wood) on the bird feeders, one braver / greedier gorging on the peanuts, the other more wary / subservient, sticking to the trunk of the pear tree.
And down at the bottom of “The Grounds”, the bluebell bed is coming into bloom and there are patches of purple wild violets everywhere. I’m really enjoying being here and seeing all the small changes that happen day to day.
Main events this week: Mowing + Shopping. The hedges and trees are coming into leaf, and blossom is spreading from the hawthorns to the fruit trees. Primroses, Cowslips galore, although the early daffodils are dying down. Stillplentyofyellow out there to brighten up the days.
When you have weather like we had this week, there aren’t many places I’d rather be…. So the first photo of the week is Tuesday’s lunch al fresco. Perfect weather for drying washing too 🙂
We had lunch on the patio Wednesday and Thursday too.
Continuing the food theme for photo no. 2 – Friday night is pizza à la Phil night!
Dough in the breadmaker, sauce on the stove, and a pretty consistent set of toppings: mozzarella, peppers, black olives and a healthy sprinkling of grated parmesan:
There are plenty of quiet lanes around Forty Acres for walks, and after a “working week” which meant we missed the best of the sunny weather on Friday, Phil and I did one of the regular routes: Kerrys Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore. Rewalking the same routes at least once a week gives me the chance to follow the gradual changes in the natural world. This week it was noticeable how many of the trees had started coming into leaf, courtesy of the sunny spell. And the hawthorn hedges are a blizzard of blossom.
Although C-19 restrictions mean we don’t do the small detour to visit Dore Abbey, you do get a lovely view of it from the Bacton road. Catching sight of it, in the distance across a field of rapeseed starting to turn yellow, I picture medieval travellers making their way along the Golden Valley to the Cistercian abbey in its heyday, and the lay brothers and labourers out in the fields tending the sheep.
After a grey and blustery Saturday indoors with the log stove on and plenty to read (I’m powering through our LRB backlog), P and I spent a large chunk of Sunday mowing the grass…. and there’s A LOT!
Usually it’s manageable, but the ride on mower wouldn’t start, even after we recharged the battery, so we had to make do with the normal mower – at least that comes with “cruise control”, although I would construe “control” loosely! We both had trouble starting it, which meant we got better at working out how to stop it stalling (key culprit = long, wet grass/leaves).
Who needs the gym!!!!!
On the plus side, being out in the “grounds” as my mum was wont to call them, meant we got to spot more signs of spring.
And in non-photographed news…
I emailed a few friends, mainly replies I should have sent a while ago. I have to be in the right mood to write emails to friends and family, as opposed to admin ones where you can rattle off something in a minute or two.
The LED Fundraising weekend got postponed to September (fingers crossed….), and May’s St Andrews Ladies Weekend moved to next year. Just like the Tokyo 202 Olympics. Did a lot of train ticket refund requesting as a consequence.
I had my first Virtual Wine Wednesday with Hazel and Catherine this week, and Skyped my dad and stepmum on Tuesday. FaceTime Beers with my nephew got kiboshed by work on Thursday (it’s been a crazy-busy few weeks, and next week’s likely to continue in the same vane/vain/vein/ (!)) but we had them on Friday evening instead. Better timing for a pre pizza beer and crisps too… And the three-way family Skype on Saturday – Dinedor-WIV-40A. Lots of fun.
More sociable than I’ve been for weeks!
I also ventured into Hereford for the first time since the lockdown came into force, to do a big shop for me and Phil, and for dad and Jean. Lock’s Garage is a reliable source of eggs (and fresh fruit and veg), and thankfully there were no queues to get into Aldi, Sainsbury’s or Asda, and Aldi came up with most of the goods. Loo roll has returned to the shelves, but dried yeast and tinned tomatoes are the new elusive items. Nice to have a good reason to see dad and Jean, at a safe distance.
And finally, I have chilblains in my hands! After all those high altitude cold treks too…. No photo – too gruesome. But very glad of Jean’s remote diagnosis.
Another weird week – Sunday 15 March I’d dropped off Janette at the train station after a weekend here; Sunday 22 March was the day after I’d been to see see dad and Jean for probably the last time until we’re through all this.
And, yes, another Tuesday weeknotes. Not sure I’m going to continue them – it feels like a bit of a chore, and I’m not sure who’s reading them, and I’d rather spend my screentime emailing / video chatting with friends and family. Phil suggested picking four photos a week instead – so I’m going to do that from now on, and it’ll be a Tuesday morning publication 🙂
Last Monday, walking the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Quarrels Green lanes, I saw a lone vapour trail crossing the clear blue sky, and it reminded me of the scenes at the end of 28 Days Later, and of a deserted Central London at the start. And of the 2010 Icelandic volcano eruption that kept mein HK rather than being at home to celebrate my 40th. And indeed, it looks like my 50th is going to be a similarly memorable non-event.
But it lifts the spirits to be outside with the clear blue skies overhead. The sun is shining and the birds are singing and busy building nests. We’ve had chaffinches and the red woodpecker establish themselves as nut feeder regulars, and there are greenfinches flashing between the hedgerows.
Saturday was supposed to be the Annual Birthdays Party, which has been held at Forty Acres since …. I don’t know when. “Ever since we’ve been here” in my memory. It’s when my mum and dad’s crowd gather to celebrate shared March birthdays with plenty of food and drink, and a pre-dinner trip to the pub for the Rugby fans (and beer and crisp fans). Some years we’ve had snow, otherswe’ve beensitting outside in the sunshine. This year would have been one of the latter.
This year is the first year we’ve not The Party, so I can’t post a photo of that.
Instead, here’s Mum’s Camellia. It was a gift from Ken and Gay, with the siting carefully selected, as always, by Annette and Michael. The beautiful pink flamboyant flowers are always on show.
As are the daffodils.
Saturday night I drove down to The Old Stables Fish & Chip shop in Ewyas Harold, ordered 2 large fish and chips and a pineapple fritter, then drove FAST over to dad and Jean’s for a one day late birthday celebration for my dad and a one day early Mother’s Day celebration with Jean.
Lots of people waiting outside the chippy, and weird to see both pubs shut on the other side of the road. Thinking about it I bet some Friday regulars at The Old Stables would normally while away their wait in one of the pubs 🙂
Even at the time I wasn’t 100% sure I should be visiting dad and Jean. Today, I’m glad for the clarity of last night’s lockdown announcement. It’ll help dad understand why they can’t come round – that’s hard. And I got quite upset yesterday at the thought that there is a chance that I may never get to see them again.
Yesterday morning’s walk turned out to be my last before the lockdown. A beautiful seven miles into Ewyas Harold via Abbey Dore – Cwm Hill – Old Trout Inn – Dulas, and back via Ewyas Harold Common.
So, yes, I’ve slipped by another day. I didn’t anticipate my Hereford weeknotes being Diary of a Country Lady during a Global Coronavirus Pandemic…
Looking back over the past week just shows how quickly things have changed. And how unsettling that has been, and how uncertain things are ahead. With typical Brit Humour, Phil and I can say we’ve been pretty much self isolating since January, but the biggest challenge of moving to Herefordshire was always going to be “settling in, meeting people and making friends” – and with social distancing now the norm, this isn’t going to be the 6-9 month trial I’d envisaged. So far we’ve had:
January: Unpacking and settling in
Oh well. Better here than in London.
Monday morning started with the gym, then I did the Forty Acres – Cockyard – Kerrys Gate (no apostrophe) walk, i.e. the other way round from normal. Decided the views are better going in the “normal” direction. Also realised that Kerrys Gate isn’t The Gate of Kerry – the signposts don’t have the apostrophe. Down by Jury’s Farm there was a whole field of completely black sheep and lambs. Sadly my iPhone 4 photos are too blurry to include. You can see them on Flickr though. There’s a video too. Cue baas and bleats, and bouncing lambs.
First thing Tuesday I battled with technology to buy train tickets to travel back to London after the LED weekend in May. Something’s changed on all the TOC websites which means they don’t work for me (Chrome / Mac). OK in Safari though – just a pain to have to switch browser. Went out for another walk along the lanes to stomp out the frustration. Bacton this time. I can’t wait for the ground to dry out so that I can get out on footpaths and into the hills. If that’s allowed. I work Tuesday afternoons and the mornings are always a bit of a listless time. In London I had my silver surfer sessions, then an hour or so of admin before a friend came round for lunch. I was planning to talk to the team at the Pontrilas Community Cafe about offering something similar there.
So instead I fed Ken & Gay’s Camellia – it’s looking fabulous. Wrote up February in the Forty Acres Diary. Finished Lancelot (smashing).
Awake early Wednesday, so did an early morning walk down to Riverdale and back, accompanied by a super sunrise and sheep and lambs out in the fields past Camp Wood. More signs of Spring!
I did the same on Thursday and walked back in heavy sleet. Got soaked.
We had a series of emails at work about getting set up for working from home – so in some ways I’m ahead of that game, albeit unintentionally. I’ve never had a problem concentrating wherever I am provided there’s peace and quiet, and working remotely from Herefordshire has been fine on that front. Plenty of calls in the calendar that provide social interaction. More of that ahead.
FaceTimed with Hazel and Catherine in Pizza Express on Wednesday evening. Might have to make that a regular event, albeit virtual evening but with actual wine and pizza (or alternative).
Friday morning I went to the gym, while Phil joined the Virtual Shepherdess, then pottered around getting things ship shape for our first guest – and quite likely our last for a while. Stopped off at Aldi en route to Hereford Train Station – no loo roll, but they did have a Rectangular Dolly Trolley which will be a perfect birthday present for dad!
Janette arrived on a 4 carriage GWR train in the early afternoon. From London to Ledbury she’d shared her carriage with a hen party, and while I was waiting there were a bunch of 30something chaps who were meeting up to get the train somewhere for a stag weekend. Plus lots of older ladies dressed in purple and red started arriving on different all en route to gathering at the Warners Hotel in Holme Lacy. While waiting I’d collected all the tickets for my upcoming train trips from the ticket machine – 11 sets, most of which I’ll not now be able to use.
Lovely sunny afternoon meant we were able to sit outside on the patio for tea and cake, and plenty of chat, before walking to Ewyas Harold via The Trout (as was) and old Dulas Church. The churchyard was covered with daffodils – beautiful. A drink in The Temple Inn, then ordered “fish and chips” from The Old Stables having phoned Phil first for the pre-arranged pick up.
Saturday was cloudier, but we had a lovely stroll around the lanes and a mooch around Dore Abbey followed by a leisurely lunch in the conservatory before driving cross country to Ross on Wye for the afternoon. A bit too cold and damp to be really enjoyable, but two highlights were the wood engraving shop, aka Crossfield Creations, and whiling away an hour and a half in the warm with an early meal at Leonards at 39. Then the last of our Borderlines Film Festival viewings – Bait at St Mary’s Hall (once we’d found it – we’d expected a traditional church hall – victorian or more modern incarnation, instead we found it in a Georgian Terrace house to the south side of the church). The screening came complete with an interval, and a table offering chocolate bars for 50p at the front of the room. 25p for the small Kit Kat. The Film Festival organisers must be thanking their lucky stars that their fortnight fell between The Floods and The Virus. Back at base, we got the log fire going and sat in the lounge with a supper of cheese, biscuits and wine.
Sunday morning started with brunch, and then a leisurely couple of hours in the lounge with the log stove on again. The rain eased off just before we had to leave, so Janette got a tour of the grounds.
Dropped off Janette at the train station, and called in at Aldi (max 4 of anything posters now up, and shelves surprisingly well stocked – but still no loo roll or bread flour!) and Sainsbury’s (ditto) before heading over to see dad and Jean for a few hours. That’s when we decided to postpone the Annual Birthday Parties Party, and came up with the Indian Takeaway Alternative. Not sure that even that will go ahead now…
As of Friday, P and I were still planning to go back to London at the end of the month for one of my supposedly monthly visits back to the London office, and for Phil to see his folks and to check on the Walton flat. As the Government’s pronouncements veered rapidly over the weekend / Monday from herd immunity to social distancing and isolation, that plan changed.
But some things don’t change – there are still lots of birds visiting the bird feeders and wolfing down the bird seed and peanuts. My bird spotter skills are somewhat lacking and so far I’ve failed to identify anything further than the blackbirds who tidy up the fallen bird seed (r)ejected by the over-excited blue tits, coal tits and great tits in their over-enthusiastic eating acrobatics. I think we might have chaffinches, bullfinches and greenfinches – I certainly seen the latter perched on hedgerows around and about. Time to get out the Usbourne Spotter’s Guide to Birds.
Monday started with GV gym and a bit of gardening, and glorious weather. At Last. Lots of yellow daffodils in the garden and roadside, sun above. Lunched in the Conservatory, and spent most of the afternoon in there reading (finished Lethal White by Robert Galbraith; started Giles Kristian’s Lancelot) and watching the buzzards play.
The evening featured the first of the week’s films: Parasite. The drive in featured the usual painfully slow progress from Belmont to Asda, but we then zipped along to The Courtyard, loitering just long enough to get to 6pm for the cheaper car parking charges (takes some getting used to, shelling out £3-5 each time we go into Hereford). Plenty of time for our pre-cinema dinner at Wildwood in The Old Market (which we’ve christened “Food Street”). Won’t be going back, and very glad we had a 50% voucher code for our two lacklustre burgers. Had a chat about how our first two months in Herefordshire had gone.
Enjoyed Parasite, but not sure what all the Oscar fuss was about, and it does indeed feel like a belated attempt to compensate for the lack of diversity in the nominations. That Oscar did deliver a full house in the main cinema / theatre though.
Headed out for a walk on Tuesday morning. Lots to ponder on my route. Grey skies overhead as I walked down to Abbey Dore, up Cwm Road and onto what Google Maps tells me is Tremorithic Road, and along towards Bacton before turning left and coming off the ridge, rewarded with smashing views of Skirrid and Hatterall’s Ridge before dropping down to The Old Trout Inn (as was) and Dulas Brook. The road into Ewyas Harold was busy (as always), so I opted to return to Abbey Dore via Ewyas Harold Common – VERY muddy still.
The day’s strolls didn’t end there, as after lunch (and John Lewis delivery – new bedding, a pizza cutter and noodle bowls), Phil persuaded me to try the footpaths past Cann’s Hill down to the post box at The Foxes / Wellfield. Lovely – even though the road and the footpath run pretty much parallel, the views differ markedly and are much better off the road, even if the final section past Cherry Burton is through a very overgrown copse of thorny trees with low sprouting branches and rampantly spreading saplings. Should have taken my camera.
Tuesday afternoon, as always, saw the start of my work week which then continues over Wednesday and Thursday. Thursday brought the firmwide email saying due to Coronavirus / Covid-19 all non-essential business travel prior to 15 April has to be deferred, which means I won’t be going to LA at the end of the month after all. I’m still planning to go to London for the previous “week”, unless spending 3 hours on trains to London and back again becomes unnecessarily risky over the next couple weeks. Wine Wednesday is a big attraction!
Postponing the trip to the US meant I could revive Steffi’s planned visit too. Smashing….
… Unlike the Doctor Who season finale, watched on Thursday evening (having finished Snowfall over the course of Tuesday and Wednesday evenings). Yawn.
A busy Friday, starting with early morning admin buying train tickets from York to Hereford for part of the return leg after May’s St Andrews weekend. Hope LNER timetables play ball. Likewise Avanti for Seascale to London the Sunday before… getting slightly paranoid about that one.
Gym then back to clear more of the brambles in the aged shrub/tree that’s home to the everlasting sweet pea. Lovely and sunny outside after an early morning frost. Hedges and trees starting to go green. Snowdrops are fading, primroses and cowslips emerging. Still squelchy underfoot though, so I reckon we’ll be doing some road walks when Janette’s here next weekend. Our first Guest.
In the afternoon, dad came over and he and Phil manhandled the old washing machine, and the broken plastic table, into the back of dad’s car to take to the tip, which involved the very satisfying smashing of one of the concrete stabilisers to lighten the load. At the tip, the man in charge of “our skip” wheeled out a lift trolley which made transferring the machine machine from the boot of dad’s car and into the skip much easier.
Back at base, I spent the rest of the afternoon in the lounge with the log fire on and Lancelot until Friday pizza which provided the perfect opportunity to christen the new pizza cutter. The Big Sick provided the evening’s TV entertainment.
Saturday started with more reading, then the drive to Grosmont – under cold grey skies – for a mooch around Grosmont’s Spring Market held in the nave of St Nicholas church. Smashing – we came away with two pies but resisted coffee and cake….
A speedy drive into town for a very tasty (and consequently quickly demolish) quiche and salad lunch at The Courtyard meant we had time to kill before our second film of the week, so we popped into Waitrose and saw for ourselves shelves stripped bare of Coronavirus-related purchases, primarily loo roll, dettol wipes, paracetamol and own brand bread flour…. Sainsbury’s shelves provided similarly sparse when we did our weekly shop on our way home after the film with the added irritation of finding no lentils for love nor money. On the plus side, we remembered where to find the lever to open petrol cap, and filled up. Based on the two months so far, we’re using a tank of petrol a month.
The film? The Lighthouse. Looks and sounds lovely, but I found the theme totally tedious: two men getting drunk, waggling willies / fighting. If I could have walked out (and had something else to occupy my time), I would have.
Back home we settled in the lounge and spent a snug couple of hours in front of the log stove with the wind howling outside, before adjourning next door for a supper of cheese and biscuits, with a glass of wine for me, and Nought & Crosses.
Rounded off the week with a leisurely Sunday, which was a day of sunshine, showers and rainbows. Satisfyingly managed to submit LED Trustee data to Just Giving (their Charities admin module is generally underwhelming, and this exercise proved no exception), then strolled down to Abbey Dore with Phil and got rained on on the return leg. Checked mouse traps in roof (no mice, no peanut butter) and then read (snoozed) in the lounge soaking up the sun on one side and enjoying another log fire on the other. More Lancelot…. but mainly snoozing. I can see why cats do it.
To Dinedor for a late lunch with dad and Jean and Nic and Trish comprising lovely roast veg, a smashing cheese board and a little bit of both puddings – rhubarb crumble and tarte au citron – all accompanied by a glass or two of wine courtesy of Warwick and Nic. Stuffed to gills, Phil did the drive into Hereford for our third and final film of the week: Portrait Of A Lady On Fire. A more colourful, almost all female counterbalance to The Lighthouse, and far more enjoyable for me.
Big moon and clear skies for the drive back to 40A.