Another week of frosty starts, mince pies and mugs of tea.
And back to work.
Did the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Duffryn – Camp crossroads walk on Tuesday morning, and on the stretch from the crossroads I was kept company by three long tailed tits scooting along the hedgerows alongside me. Really lovely. And we seem to have lured a group of long tailed tits to our bird feeders on a long term basis (I don’t want to tempt fate and say “permanent”). So, thank you, fat balls!
Got through my first week back at work. I wasn’t looking forward to it to be honest – there was a chunk of “what’s the point” after R’s death, as in “I could be doing better things with this time”. Anyway, it was OK. I’ve really kind colleagues, which really helps.
As did the first VWW of the year on Wednesday evening, before belatedly catching on to the news coming out of the US Capitol. Incredible. Family Zoom also resumed in its regular Thursday slot.
Friday turned out to be a Day of Admin – clearly getting back to work has brought some further benefits in terms of summoning the ooomph to Tackle The To Do Lists. Got through a lot, even though it ate up most of the day. Our new Cast Iron Casserole arrived from ProCook, which brightened up the afternoon.
Friday Night Pizza resumed too, and we took it easy with the new series of Grand Designs (jaw, meet floor) and the new second half of This Farming Life, which starts off in February – so we are in the calm before the COVID Storm.
Allowed myself to get freaked out by how high the infection rates are in Hereford on Saturday morning, thanks to turning on Facebook. Walking the Bacton Square and visiting Dore Abbey to read R’s Requiem there got things back into perspective.
In the afternoon we made the most of the occasional patch of blue sky to lop some more of the brash, with Phil lugging the more distant stacks closer to the Quarry, then adjourned to the lounge for a lazy late afternoon/early evening featuring the log fire, a bit of a snooze and roast chestnuts.
After a leisurely start to Sunday, Phil and I headed out for a walk – deciding on the 12km or so Tremorithic route. Hatterall’s Ridge was under cloud, but there’s still snow on the lower slopes.
A bit more lopping in the afternoon, then a replay of yesterday evening with the log fire, a bit of a snooze and the rest of the roast chestnuts.
The early spring flowers are starting to emerge – we’ve got bright yellow aconites and more snowdrops showing up, and the daffodil shoots growing taller. I spotted buds on the “smelly evergreen by the railway that I cut back hard last year” too.
Monday morning was a relatively balmy 4C, which was perfect for chainsawing up the bigger chunks of brash. Phil sorted out the outside log store and the stacked wood in the garage. Computed in the afternoon. More “admin”.
Horridly hot and humid week, followed by a wet and windy weekend. But “good for the garden” (which has got even greener), and featuring a conservative conservatory lunch with dad and Jean.
It’s been WAY too hot and humid here this week. Thursday night was unbearable. Even after a 10pm stroll up to Kerrys Gate and back before bed, I ended up going to sit on one of the comfy chairs in the conservatory and slept there for for a couple of hours.
London would have been worse though.
Phil and I really don’t know how we’ll decide about whether “here” is the new “home” or not. Right now, we are loving it. But the past few months have all felt a bit unreal. That said, the only benefit of being back in London I can see is being able to see friends there. I’ll probably have to work from home some of the time, and our flat isn’t set up for that, and all the social/cultural things, even if they’re open, will be weird. I really can’t imagine going to the cinema, or going into a pub once winter comes. 2021 is going to be strange. Anyway, we’re here until the end of September, and enjoying ourselves – am I allowed to say that?
LED Trustee Meeting over Zoom on Tuesday, VWW with Hazel (v nice to catch up), Wine Zoom with Kirsten and Justine (and back to another 90 mins work afterwards; it was only a small glass of wine), Family Zoom on Friday. Socialising over the internet is still going strong.
We got an email about returning to the office this week – no dates and a clear message that it would be voluntary once the office does start to open up. It’s what seems to be the fairly standard phase 1, phase 2 approach, team/week 1 / team/week 2. The biggest hurdle is going to be the lifts. We’ve been allocated exclusive use of 2 of the 5 lifts on each side of the lift shaft, but with only 2 people allowed into a lift at any one time it’s going to take a while to get even 40% of our workforce to their desks – let alone “from”. All in all, I can’t see us returning to ‘normal’ anytime soon.
On Friday, out of the blue, I got an email from Ang Rita Sherpa, the current chairman of The Partners Nepal, asking if he could use some of my photos from Gokyo and Khumbu in a book he is working on about Climate Change in the Himalayas (A Case from Solukhumbu). The book is to raise awareness on Climate Change and its impact on the local environment and local livelihoods, and proceeds will go to The Partners Nepal’s projects in Solukhumbu.
I would have said “yes” in any event, but I’m even more delighted to as Val knows the family well and we visited his mum for morning tea when we stayed in Khunde towards the end of 2016’s Off and On the Beaten Track in Solukhumbu.
Fresher weather arrived on Friday, so I got out for a walk along the lanes in the morning and spent the afternoon pottering in the garden – planted my radish trays into bigger pots, and sowed some more lettuce.
The herb bed and extension are jam packed – lush and green. Lovely. The sunflowers have suddenly had a growth spurt and the pumpkin plants have flowers and a couple of small yellow orbs have appeared… I’m getting quite obsessed.
(Also getting quite obsessed with Mabel and Olive. But I’m not alone there.)
At least Sunday’s rain showers meant I haven’t had to water the lettuce and radishes in the “herb bed” (and extension) this week. We are certainly not going to run out of salad.
Phil’s mum turned 80 this week. Sue found a local lady who runs a cake-making business and ordered a birthday cake – it looked amazing! We FaceTimed at lunch to find Janet sat outside in the garden for a socially distanced birthday picnic lunch with some local friends and neighbours. Clearly big birthday celebrations can cope with COVID, even if they’re a bit different 🙂
Saturday started off badly. I deleted my Facebook account a long time ago and I loathe it as a thing. But we use it to keep friends and supporters updated on LED (Light Education Development, aka Val’s charity) activity and donations, and I had some posts to do following Tuesday’s Trustees’ Meeting.
I spent two hours struggling to do anything on Facebook. Let alone post anything. I’m getting “too many redirects” when I try to log in from Chrome or Safari from my mac, and the same on Chrome on my work laptop. In IE I can log in but the page doesn’t load.
…. Only for me to discover that it looks like we can’t schedule posts any more. So I ended up publishing the series of posts I’ve planned to space out over a couple of weeks all in one go.
After that I couldn’t face trying to fathom out how to fix the problem permanently. I’d already spent time futilely searching for help on Facebook and there’s no support contact details. Obviously.
I HATE FACEBOOK!
So after a stomp around the garden, I settled down in the conservatory and finished Hilary Mantel’s 900+ page The Mirror & The Light, which I started in the middle of May.
On Sunday, Dad and Jean came for lunch: quiche and salad, accompanied by the very nice bottle of white wine Annette and Michael gave us for Christmas / moving in back in January. It was lovely to see Dad and Jean, even if the patio dining plan was stymied by the heavy rainy showers that came sweeping across all day.
In between downpours we did manage to get out for a stroll around the grounds, and on Monday, after I’d done the Kerrys Gate – Cockyard – Camp Crossroads route and sent Ang Rita the photos in the morning, Phil and I staked up the dwarf apple tree and the growth-spurt sunflowers, and I took some photos of the pumpkin flower, the now-securely staked sunflowers and the red hazelnuts.
My dad keeps reminding me that the squirrels will harvest the hazelnuts and walnuts the second they’re ripe and that all we will see is the leftover leaves and shells. We’ll see…..
Another week of August weather. Too nice to sit at a computer working through photos from our final week in Nepal last November, so no week 22 photos yet.
Normal service will be resumed once the temperatures drop. And once I’ve done Nepal!
Tuesday morning, after we’d nipped out to Locks Garage for a fruit etc top up (and tomato plants) to tide us over until I did a bigger supermarket shop on Saturday evening, I took the strimmer out for a long overdue spin on the solarium. Very satisfying.
My working “week” is hectic. We’re seeing a lot more demand for KM support from the practice groups that don’t have a dedicated KM lawyer in place, and in those that do. It’s good to have evening commitments in place, to force me to stop. There will always be more to do at work.
As well as VWW and Family Zoom on Weds and Thurs, on Friday evening I sat on the patio with a beer and crisps catching up with a couple of London friends before Pizza à la Phil. This week, with spinach and jalapeños – TASTY!
It is GORGEOUS here at the moment, and despite the hot, dry weather, the grass is looking lush – and in need of a mow…. and gardening generally kept me busy on Friday and Saturday, and for some of Sunday. Not a chore – although Friday was a bit patchy in terms of focus and achievement (see below). I did spend a very satisfying Saturday, taking the big mower up to the solarium to pick up the grass cuttings, taking the Honda mower around the “edges” in the orchard, and pruning the wild plum at the bottom of the garden. Pottering around I noticed how much fruit is coming on the trees – apples, cherries and hazelnuts.
I am really enjoying growing things. My lettuces, sunflowers and pumpkins are already looking bigger! On Sunday, I planted the larger lettuces out in the herb bed, and on Monday, we had the first organic home grown lettuce with dinner.
Saturday morning started with great excitement, with a trio of early morning visitors… three deer, down by the log shed. They then headed over the train tracks and reappeared down by the sweet pea. Pretty sure they use the “path” under the Yew tree to get to the road and up the other side. VERY exciting.
We also got back into our bird obsession, watching gangs of blue tits darting hither and thither, checking under leaves for bugs and seeds, with two wood peckers dominating the bird feeder devouring the peanuts (which hopefully means they’re not devouring chicks), their left overs providing nibbles for nut hatches below, as chaffinches, greenfinches and coal tits sunbathe near by. And on Monday afternoon, sat on the “love seat” by the big pond, I watched a chaffinch having a bathe / drink on a lily pad! Magical.
Sunday and Monday we had our first foray into making ice cream in the Le Glacier, following the “egg yolk custard” recipe. Leaving the yolks chilling in the fridge together with jersey milk, whipping cream, sugar and Lindt 85% dark chocolate, destined to become the ice cream machine’s christening batch, I – literally (ha ha) – whipped up my first ever batch of meringues, to use up the egg whites.
We did manage to relax a little in between all this activity. Breakfasting on the patio, reading in the shade, down by the big pond. I made good progress through the third Hilary Mantel / Thomas Cromwell hardback I got for my birthday.
We also got out for a stroll to Bacton on Sunday, and I did some longer walks – the Army Crossroads & Cockyard loop, and yesterday I ventured all the way to Vowchurch for the first time, returning via Gwatkins and Riverdale.
In non photo news, the big shop on Saturday evening went fine. I had hoped that Aldi and Sainsbury’s would be relatively quiet – especially if folks were making the most of the gorgeous weather to have a weekend BBQ. No one wearing a mask, and not as quiet as I would have liked, but not too bad. And I found bread flour on the shelves for the first time.
Telly: Having watched BBC Four’s Storyville series OJ: Made in America last week, it was good to change gear to The Crown season 3. Nice to have a theme tune that doesn’t go all Game of Thrones. Looking at you, Westworld.
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.
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.