Herefordshire Week 048: Tuesday 24 – Monday 30 November 2020

Frost. Fog. Stollen. Greenhouse construction parts 6 & 7 – now with added glass.

I clocked up some TOIL time at work this week, working Tuesday and Friday mornings. Had my appraisal on Thursday. “Glowing”.

A chilly night Wednesday gave way to a cold and frosty Thursday morning, with a streaky sunrise over Garway. Gorgeous, so we went for a pre-work stroll over to Thistly Field and back for photos.

Frosty Morning, Phil on Thistly Field
Frosty Morning, Phil on Thistly Field

The fog rose up from the valleys and over our ridge overnight, settling in for what turned out to be a few days. And Friday was cold too, so I broke out the fatballs for the birds.

Fatball Friday Five!
Fatball Friday Five!

Phil and I headed back to Thistly Field for a walk after lunch – and more photos – doing the loop back via Wellfield. The dad we’d met out on Tremorithic Road last Sunday drove by and stopped for a chat. Lovely.

Foggy Friday, Thistly Field
Foggy Friday, Thistly Field

Following the fatball logic, Phil and I broke open the Mini Stollen at teatime.

Saturday was fog bound from the start, and I felt ropey with a tension headache that lasted most of the day. (No, I don’t think it was penance for Starting the Stollen before the Festive Season officially starts.)

Still, that didn’t stop me making three and a half jars of grapefruit marmalade in the afternoon. That made up for a slightly frustrating morning trying to turn my Forty Acres 2020 blogposts into a Blurb Book.

Leaving the marmalade setting in the conservatory, I finished off Lost Acre sat in front of the log stove, and discovered that getting cold fingers and feet during the morning meant a return of my chilblains.

Sunday morning and lunchtime were spent working on the greenhouse construction, getting almost all the glass in, which was very satisfying.

Greenhouse construction, part 6
Greenhouse construction, part 6

Over a late lunch, we’d also spotted two Long Tailed Tits visiting the bird feeders. Magic! Then, in what was left of the afternoon, I did the Cockyard walk enveloped in fog. Enjoyable all the same. And I pulled the barbed wire out of the hedge / style into Thistly Field.

Tasty Hot Pot for tea, with more of The Good Lord Bird (not gripped).

Monday, the fog had finally – FINALLY – disappeared.

More greenhouse in the morning. Got all the glazing done plus we discovered a box with all the drainpipe kit in. A water butt is planned… Still got to build the “staging” (or shelving, I’d call it) that goes inside.

Greenhouse construction, part 7
Greenhouse construction, part 7

Afternoon: Bacton backwards, then bramble snipping, barbed wire winding and some hauling of big branches of brash to the bonfire.

Evening: Caught up with Hazel and Helen over Zoom. It was St Andrews Day after all.

In COVID news, we’re in Tier 2 from Wednesday/Thursday (confusion reigns as to when, precisely). I’d be more aggrieved, except that there are only 3 places in Tier 1… and two of those are Islands.

Telly: DNA (a great final episode), Intelligence (for light relief), Educating Greater Manchester(the big reveal), 12 Puppies & Us (who knew there were so many different types of Spaniels?), Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge (we both now REALLY want a pint) and The Good Lord Bird (still not gripped).

Podcasts: more History Extra episodes plus some Shedunnits.

Photos: Herefordshire week 48 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-29.

Herefordshire Week 047: Tuesday 17 – Monday 23 November 2020

The last of the lettuce.

A couple of good walks.

Greenhouse construction part 5.

I spent some of Tuesday morning weeding my recipe folders before heading out for a walk. I had a good seven mile leg stretch to Kerrys Gate – Stone Street – Cockyard – Duffryn Farm – Camp Crossroads – Wellfield.

Low cloud but warm, and the hedgerow shrub that has the funky pink flowers now has red / orange berries, which means I now know it’s a Spindle (aka Euonymus europaeus).

Pink flowers + Red / Orange berries in the hedgerow = Spindle tree
Pink flowers + Red / Orange berries in the hedgerow = Spindle tree

Opening the downstairs curtains first thing on Friday, I saw a buzzard down by the log store. After a microsecond Mexican Stand Off, it flapped off slowly up the slope and towards the rope swing. Amazing.

The rest of Friday was a getting things done day: fixing a Contract Express glitch at work first thing, then into Hereford with Phil for a big shop (Aldi, Sainsbury’s, ASDA), flu jab, petrol and library click and collect (by the skin of my teeth, having run all the way there from the ASDA car park).

Got the wood burner going as dusk fell for a lovely FaceTime with Janette followed by Blackberry G&T then pizza plus Pubs and Puppies.

G&T - It's a small bottle, not massive glasses ....
G&T – It’s a small bottle, not massive glasses ….

On this day in 2019, we were crossing the 5,780m Amphu Lapsta pass in Nepal – crampons, ice axes and ropes on the way up, carabiners, ropes and abseil descent.

Our porters start their descent from the Amphu Lapsta
Our porters start their descent from the Amphu Lapsta

Caught up with Rachel and Carl on Saturday – a grey day. Hoping to get down to Wilts to see them in December.

Sunday provided a pick-me-up: a gorgeous sunny morning and Phil and I did a smashing walk up to Kerrys Gate – Bacton – Tremorithic Road – Cwm Hill – Abbey Dore. Super sunshine and technicolour colours.

Horse, Fair Oak Farm
Horse, Fair Oak Farm
Phil, Tremorithic Road
Phil, Tremorithic Road

Home for lunch then an afternoon of bonfiring the brash followed by an early evening FaceTime with Jenny over in Silicon Valley.

I picked the last of our lettuce and dug some ash from the wood stove into the soil of the “herb bed extension”. Felt like A Good Idea. Who knows….

A quick trip into Hereford on Monday morning to deliver hotel toiletries, chutney and boxes to Hereford Food Bank, and more Greenhouse Construction in the afternoon.

Greenhouse construction, part 5
Greenhouse construction, part 5

We got the bloody doors on. Next up: installing all the glass….

Telly: more of series 2 of Educating Greater Manchester, Intelligence, DNA (top tip from Catherine), plus the aforementioned 12 Puppies and Us (sob) and Saving Britain’s Pubs with Tom Kerridge.

Podcasts: A whole slew of excellent History Extra episodes plus dogs on The Essay. I think someone’s trying to tell us something….

Photos: Herefordshire week 47 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-22.

Herefordshire Week 044: Tuesday 27 October – Monday 02 November 2020

November already.

Greenhouse delivery. Pizza with neighbours. Office swap.

MORE unpacking – but the end is in sight….

… unlike COVID: the second England-wide lockdown announced (eventually).

My birthday / staying greenhouse from dad and Jean was delivered on Tuesday afternoon. It comes flatpack so now all we need to do is build it. Dad’s happily perusing the instructions.

The Greenhouse has arrived
The Greenhouse has arrived

We need more insulation added to the existing 100mm in the loft and want to get the “extension” section boarded out so that we can use it for storage, and on Wednesday evening a local property maintenance man came to take a look. A much more positive experience than the home energy solutions team. So, fingers crossed for a good quote and timetable.

Other admin: The box of “cottage folders” wiped down and shelved, and the folder of 40A instructions manuals deduplicated (with dad’s input). Landlords insurance sorted, eventually. Dore Abbey crockery returned. Paper form completed to get online patient access at our local surgery. Shower upgrade recommendation / quote pondered. Phil fielded a few calls from Frank Harris – keep your fingers crossed.

Dore Abbey Crockery
Dore Abbey Crockery

A sociable week – VWW on Wednesday, Zoom with Helen and Hazel on Thursday, tea and hot cross buns at Dinedor on Friday morning (after returning library books and trundling around Asda, hence HCBs) and then catching up on the phone with Steffi in the afternoon.

The highlight – novelty! – was having our neighbours from down the road up for pizza on Friday evening. A late night, and two bottles of red between three. Not quite WW standards, but better than I would manage on my own.

And two more Zooms over the weekend – with Hazel and Cat on Saturday, and Rachel (and Carl) on Sunday.

The weekend’s main event was scheduled in as “sort office”, which morphed into “swap offce”.

New office
New office

As the nights had started drawing in, and the central heating is now on, I’d been rethinking our office allocation. I can’t remember why we initially decided I’d have the “small” bedroom and Phil the larger one (formerly home to dad’s train set), but 10 months in, we both agreed we should swap.

Phil uses his computer for work and play (and Pepys, which is a blend of the two, I’d say), and his office is home to his piano too, so he’s in his office a lot more than I am. Which means being warm while he is in there is important. As readers of my trekking posts will know, I “run hot”.  Phil doesn’t, so it makes more sense for me to be in the larger, colder room in the older part of the house.

A secondary reason is that the larger room doubles up as the spare room (or will do, when we’re allowed to have guests….) if we need to use the twin trundle beds. I’m at my computers less, ergo it’ll be less disruptive for me as and when guests need to use “my office” in “spare room” mode.

(As an aside, in these unprecedented times, I do wonder if it’s timely to revisit Pretend Office….)

Although it was a bit of pallaver moving the furniture around, which we did on Saturday, it did mean I tackled The Boxes over the weekend.

As well as more cards and postcards, this week’s rabbit holes included my primary school reports. There’s a theme:

Mary needs to take more care with her handwriting. (July 1978)

She still needs to practise her handwriting. (February 1979)

My only complaint is that the quality of her handwriting still leaves much to be desired, but doubtless she will rectify this in time. (July 1981, in Mr Whittington’s beautiful cursive….)

I’ve now got 3 1/2 plastic boxes ready to go into the roof. Once we’ve got the loft sorted …

Phil and I did the Bacton Square on Sunday morning, a little earlier than usual so not quite as sociable. Grappled with the boxes for most of the afternoon, pausing for a Zoom with Rachel accompanied by a cup of tea and a hot cross bun. The imminent COVID-19 lockdown couldn’t have come at a worse time, but I’m determined to manage a trip to visit them both before Christmas.

Monday brought showers, with bright sunshine in between. I abandoned the idea of going for a walk and spent most of the afternoon making more chutney to go into Hereford Food Bank’s Christmas Parcels.

Telly: Roadkill (so so) plus the first series of Gomorrah. I didn’t watch the Lockdown press announcement.

Podcasts: History Extra (lots to catch up on)

Photos: Herefordshire week 44 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-11-01

Herefordshire Week 043: Tuesday 20 – Monday 26 October 2020

Packing up Walton; driving to Herefordshire; unpacking and finding a new homes for more stuff. So Much STUFF.

Plus lots and lots of washing.

Busy week!

Oh, and the mice are back.

So, yes, we managed to get everything done we needed to in Walton, and saw some of the neighbours to say goodbye.

Tuesday and Wednesday were spent packing up our flat, getting rid of surplus stuff (mainly via Facebook – a relief to find someone who wanted the king size mattress I can tell you) and cleaning.

Packing Up Walton
Packing Up Walton

On Thursday morning we headed up to Hythe (Colchester) to pick up a hire van from the ever reliable and good value Enterprise, and loaded it up over the course of the afternoon. January’s van was largely filled with boxes, which were easy to stack. Furniture proved trickier, but Tetris-like we just about managed to fit everything in.

Stormy seas on Wednesday had made for an exhilarating walk to Frinton and back, and we had beautiful weather for loading up on Thursday and for most of the drive back on Friday – heavy rain just before our lunch stop, which was good timing.

Walton Waves
Walton Waves

We’d walked to the beach hut and back before setting off; it was one of those gorgeous sunny mornings the Sunshine Coast does so well, so we got to see Walton at its best.

Our drive started off well but somewhere around Banbury Apple Maps decided to take us north to Stratford upon Avon and then west via Worcester and Hereford. WHAT THE WHAT?!! That’s not a direct route at at the best of times (and driving through Hereford at rush hour would have taken ages) and all the more so for me as an inexperienced Vauxhall Vivaro van driver.

What I’d really like in a sat nav is the ability to specify which motorways I want to avoid (M25) and what else (town centres, and roundabouts, which proved a particular nightmare), and what I’d like (Major A roads). I particularly hate the fact that it’s really hard to tell which route the sat nav has got in store for you once you’re actually driving. I’m a “plan the route on a map, then follow it” person.

But we made it, and unpacked before it got dark. Then 10 minutes of fun and games locking the van – turned out we always had one door not quite closed, and we kept setting off the alarm as we tried to work out which one. Very, very hard to find out what the problem was and how the van should lock – no manual in the van and no customer support number to call.

After all that we slept really well on Friday/Saturday night….. although we did both wake up to the sound of a mouse meeting its end in the roof 🙂

Better than an alarm clock!

Handy too as we had early start so that we could return the van before the roads jammed up, and do a supermarket shop. All done by 10am.

The rest of the day was spent reassembling the beds and chairs, unpacking and sorting….

Unpacking our Walton stuff
Unpacking our Walton stuff

And by the end of the day the spare room and the lounge were starting to feel “done”.

In London news, Terry sent us final photos of our flat, now redecorated from top to bottom. It was a bit more than “just painting”: walls and ceilings were prepped and painted throughout and water stains sorted, wooden doors and window frames prepped and varnished, dints in plasterwork smoothed out, gaps in coving and skirting filled, wardrobe doors repainted, bathroom silicone redone, a broken wardrobe rail replaced, a kitchen cupboard repaired and curtains dry cleaned! We got regular progress photos plus the whole flat was dusted and mopped clean once done.

Now we just need Frank Harris to rent it out 🙂

Sunday was a bad day. We are both really fed up with spending all our spare time unpacking, and are resenting it. Even a walk up towards Kerrys Gate didn’t help. Sausage, chips and fried egg for tea did though, and the fact that we’d “done” the sewing area, got the spare room looking less like a junk shop, put the Muji shelves into the garage as an “outside pantry” and cleared away all the packing boxes.

And we found a drowned mouse in the dustbin that catches the rain water from the leaky garage roof. Phil disposed.

I did a third (fourth?) drive down to the hospice donation station in Ross on Monday morning, then rattled through a whole load of “jobs” that I’d had on my mental to do list: called a builder about insulating/boarding out the loft, checked our Landlord’s Insurance cover, paid Terry, found a home for a big bag of hotel toiletries (Hereford Food Bank – who also want our packing boxes and some smaller jars of apple chutney – triple win!!!), arranged to return the Dore Abbey Crockery (very impressed by the new Dore Abbey website), looked into getting an eye test and flu jab in Hereford, put painting and decorating boxes and greenhouse stuff into the shed, relocated empty jars (for future marmalade, chutney, pickles and preserves) into the “garage pantry”, deduplicated the spices and condiments and put spares out in the garage pantry too, refilled the bird seed and peanut feeders (the birds are busy as I type – although the new bird seed doesn’t seem to be as popular as its Aldi predecessor), cleared weed from the pond, dismantled the tomato canes and picked and washed the final crop, pruned back the chilli plants ahead of winter ….

Chilli crop
Chilli crop

Being outside was lovely. It’s beautiful here at the moment especially when the sun comes out, which it did, lighting up the autumn leaves and their rich and wonderful colours. I’ll add some photos once I’ve put them on Flickr. <– Done:

Montage: Forty Acres Autumn Colours
Montage: Forty Acres Autumn Colours

Once the daylight went, I made a batch of Holly Jones’ Spiced Apple Chutney for the Food Bank Christmas parcels: 9 small jars.

We’re getting there… I shall be so glad when it’s all done. It feels like we’ve done nothing else for a month. We’re both ready to spend some time on other things.

I’m looking forward to getting out and about a bit more, weather permitting. There are plenty of footpaths we’ve not walked and although Wales is off limits for a while, the Black Mountains which we can see from the house are just – just – within England. The border, and a section of the Offa’s Dyke Path, go along the top of Hatterall’s Ridge that runs from Abergavenny to Hay on Wye. Next summer I’d like to walk it.

I envy friends who know their local hills already, so that heading out for a proper walk is less of an unknown (when did I lose my DIY walking – navigating mainly – confidence?) and having people to walk with.

Telly: Ghosts seasons 1 and 2. Easy viewing, which was just what we needed.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 43 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-25

Herefordshire Week 042: Tuesday 13 – Monday 19 October 2020

Blackberry gin, more boxes and a bonfire.

(I’m using my 2012 iPad to publish this week’s post, so you’ll have to wait a few days for the photos and links to materialise) <– Now done!

Felt a bit down on Tuesday morning – too much to do and all unpacking / flat renting related.

Never helps when it’s a sunny day and it felt like it’s been forever since I got out for a long walk and off the roads. So I took the morning off and went for a walk along the lanes to Cockyard and back. Beautiful morning, and felt a bit better by the time I got back, and even more so after ticking off a few jobs – including “making” blackberry gin stage 1: 300g blackberries, 100g caster sugar and 500ml gin. Stage 2 onwards is: Shake daily until the sugar has dissolved. Leave for 1 month In total. Strain / decant and drink! I think we can manage that….

Forty Acres Blackberry Gin: Stage 1
Forty Acres Blackberry Gin: Stage 1

A longer working week this week as I was running two half day team meetings over Zoom on Thursday and Friday. They went really well, but I was shattered by the end of Friday afternoon. That said, I did manage to stay for 2 hours at the Zoom social later that evening, and I’d only meant to stay an hour!

Glad I’ve got next week off, even if it is for more flat moving.

Thursday’s post brought an unexpected delivery – a belated Birthday parcel from Emma, with a whole host of lovely treats.

On Saturday we did the final bits of sorting out in the lounge, and went through the To Do Lists for WON, BJH and here. But most of the day was spent sorting out the boxes that have been taking up most of the room in my “office”, unearthing old photo albums from leaving school to turning 30. Some gems in there…. Three boxes-worth are now taking up a shelf in the TV room.

As well as photos, the boxes also held cards from key birthdays and other events, and postcards from dad and Jean’s holiday travels. Plus the souvenir pen “stolen” from the Lil Al’e Inn on the Extraterrestrial Hwy, Nevada.

"Stolen from ... Little A'le Inn" Pen - World Tour, US leg 1997
“Stolen from … Little A’le Inn” Pen – World Tour, US leg

I still have a couple of boxes of old papers to go through and to shred (it was so much easier when I could dump it all in the confidential recycling bins at work) and mouse proof plastic boxes of memories to go in the roof, once it’s had the insulation topped up and been boarded out.

We both celebrated getting through a bit more unpacking with Phil’s Pizza, the tail end of a bottle of red wine, and a film.

We decided to take the day off on Sunday, and this week’s Bacton Square was even more sociable than last week’s. We met lots of people we’d seen before, but had longer chats, which meant we found out more about the cider apple orchards and where the apples go, and how, and Ryeland sheep. We also fixed up an evening to catch up with the couple down the road.

Ryeland sheep
Ryeland sheep

When I mentioned the sheep to dad he told me that the Cistercian monks at Dore Abbey sent their wool via the Cistercian’s Monastery network all the way to Florence to be sold, where it was highly sought after because the wool is so fine. One of the ladies at Tan House a Farm had also mentioned that there’s an old document in France that recommends shearing sheep the Dore way.

After a late lunch spent the afternoon bonfiring branches that the power people had chopped down to keep the overhead cables clear. Very satisfying. Still loads left…. we may get the wood chipper chomper out….

In between leaf flare ups I dug a bag load of shredded paper and some cardboard into the grass cutting heap at Mower Turn and picked apples from Egremont and its neighbour before arming myself with the step ladder, and Phil plus bucket, to pick some of the ripe apples on the upper branches of the tree over the herb bed in the orchard. We should have armed ourselves with hard hats as I got bonked on the head when one apple gave in to gravity, and Phil’s had to dodge lots more fallers. Lesson learned, we only put the picked apples, and not the fallers, into the apple rack.

Thankfully the new COVID tier regime hadn’t ended up putting the kybosh on our plan to travel to Walton to clear the flat there, even though Brum, London and Essex are subject to tighter lockdown than Herefordshire.

We spent most of Monday on various trains making our way to Walton via Birmingham, Euston and the Barbican where we popped in to check on how things were going with the BJH redecoration: it’s looking great. We saw the lettings agent too, and got that ball rolling …. and we even had time for coffee and cake sat outside Fix before heading over to Liverpool St.

Now we just have to hope that COVID doesn’t kill the City lettings market completely. I keep telling myself: normal people who rent in London move from time to time and they might fancy renting in the Barbican. It’s not only people who work in the City who want to live there. We’ll see.

Ben Jonson House Redecoration: Final pics from Terry
Ben Jonson House Redecoration: Final pics from Terry

A windy evening in Walton. Having prepared our plan of attack for Tuesday’s packing, Facebooking and hut relocating tasks, we settled in with books, beer and crisps.

Photos: Herefordshire week 42 on Flickr.

Phil: Weeknotes for w/e 2020-10-18