Herefordshire Week 003: Monday 13 – Sunday 19 January 2020

Another busy week of Sorting Stuff Out.

I think we both wish this stage was done and dusted, and that we could enjoy actually living here.

In no particular order here’s what the week held.

We found someone to come and clear the gutters. Chris from Cathedral Property Services turned up on time to take a look at the job and to give us a quote. He’s coming tomorrow [today!] to do the actual gutter clean.

Dad came over on Tuesday morning, in the rain, with two more bags of garden waste, and we fixed the fridge/freezer doors. Phil and I sorted out the extension cabling on Saturday. I cleaned the f/f on Sunday. We’ll turn it on on Monday!

Work week three went OK. The relentless rain and thick, thick cloud combined – I think – to make VOIP calls unworkable. Glad I have the work BlackBerry on hand as an alternative for making those direct and conference calls. I need to get better at ‘getting out of work on time’. It’s been 8pm finishes all this week.

I joined Wine Wednesday by phone and FaceTime. And, over the weekend, lined up Hazel and Catherine for an Easter visit. Brill!

On Thursday, in all the rain, we had a visit from the Western Power Tree assessor, who’d come to check how close to the power lines our trees are. Turns out they’re close enough to warrant a trim in the next few weeks. Not as close as the ones nearby that are regularly glowing mind you….

I’ve decided pre-work walks need to wait until early morning walks become viable. i.e. sunrise is earlier, and it’s lighter and warmer. I got out on Wednesday and Thursday, but once the temperature dropped Thursday night/Friday morning, I opted for mid-morning walks instead. Much safer underfoot.

Frosty Morning at Forty Acres

Highlight of the week was a day out in Hereford on Friday. After booking in for our “entertainment system” to be activated at the Nissan garage next Friday (turns out to be a more complicated job than we’d expected), we took boxes of stuff to the St Michael’s Hospice Holmer Road Home & Living Store / Warehouse, then toured the sheds on that stretch of the A49N. B&Q supplied a plug adaptor, mastic and a mastic gun – the door/window has a series of leaks along the top, Dunelm delivered a rimless sieve and a decent pepper grinder, Halfords provided a windscreen squeegee/scraper, de-icer, ice scraper, car washing liquid and recommended protective window washing/cleaning stuff, microfibre mitt.

We lunched, late, at The Beefy Boys (VG if you’re veggie/vegan, obviously VG if you’re not), then pottered around Hereford City Centre – Chapters Charity Bookshop, The Butter Market (discovered that the Fodder has a stall there where you can buy loose dry goods, there’s also a tasty looking deli, a coffee stand, a bakers, plus Timpsons, which is why we’d gone in there!), got cash (getting better at that!!), checked out Trekkit. Then back to The Old Market (aka the new shopping development, on the site of the old cattle market), for a coffee to pass the time before heading into the Odeon to watch Little Women. Then home…. via Waitrose – mainly for yoghurt so that we would have our first go with the Lakeland Yoghurt Maker on Saturday….

… which turned out to not be as nice and simple a process as the “bung it all in and switch it on” as the breadmaker. Sadly. Saturday morning’s “quick” go at our first batch required an hour or so prep – sterilizing the container, boiling the milk, allowing the milk to cool to 34C-42C. Our delayed trying out was due to the fact that you need a food thermometer to measure this temperature range, which we don’t have – have never had – and which the Lakeland online page/info doesn’t mention. We’d eventually managed to find a non-meat / non-jam food thermometer in the excellent Philip Morris & Son, on Widemarsh Street.

It didn’t help that Saturday was our first dry and sunny day here for over a week. A relief to be able to get outside and to stretch my legs, doing the Kerry’s Gate-Bacton-Abbey Dore walk before lunching in the conservatory. The first time I’d heard birds for a while, I realised. An afternoon of jobs – putting toys, surplus saucepans and flattened packing boxes into the roof, making cardboard filing dividers for dad’s desk, putting pictures away in the guest room wardrobe, catching up on computing and paperwork. We had a technicolor sunset at the end of the day too. Magic. And Ad Astra with pizza à la Phil for Saturday film night dinner.

Forty Acres - Kerry's Gate - Bacton - Abbey Dore Walk
Robin: Forty Acres – Kerry’s Gate – Bacton – Abbey Dore Walk
Skirrid Sunset
Skirrid Sunset

The spectacular sunset presaged a cold, cold night, and another day of clear blue skies, and sunny cold. Thick frost on the grass this morning, and icy roads as we discovered walking down to the Abbey. I spent the next few hours panicking about having to drive into town this afternoon and coming back again after dark. Even as we sat roasting in the conservatory. It all worked out fine. Phew. What will it be like once we get into proper minus temperatures…..? We’d spent the morning lugging garden waste to “mower turn”, and the fallen willow tree cuttings to the bonfire. Hot work.

Settling into Forty Acres: The fallen willow tree
Settling into Forty Acres: The fallen willow tree

The ponds are frozen. More snowdrops are coming through, and daffodil spears.

Second highlight of the week – our postman delivering a parcel for us while we were out, and leaving a message telling us where to find another item of post that wouldn’t fit through the letter box.

And looking through my diary, which doubles as my To Do List, and the photos I’m just getting up onto Flickr, I see that on Monday I did more sorting out in the kitchen – cleaned the chutney and jam store cupboard, pared down the frying pan and saucepan collection, reorganised what’s where on the worktop, decided which of the books on the bookshelf I’d like to keep and took down and photographed the pictures, paintings and plates that aren’t our style …. and went through my and Tom’s joint lego collection putting it into bags of the “same sorts of stuff”.

Forty Acres Plates
Forty Acres Plates: Nana Doris’ Welsh Ladies. Play spot the difference….
Lego
Lego sorting in progress

So, we really have got through a huge amount this week. Roll on week 4 – let the enjoyment commence! I need to take a leaf out of Phil’s book and get going on joining local groups to meet people. That’s No. 1 task for today.

Herefordshire Week 002: Monday 06 – Sunday 12 January 2020

Another week of slowing sorting things out here in Herefordshire. The snowdrops are out.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops

Monday’s job was to convert the dining room into the TV snug. A success. We moved the dining table and chairs into the “hallway”, and now have a large table where things come to rest. In time I’m hoping it will be a nice place for a leisurely breakfast looking out over the trees and what we euphemistically call “the rose garden”. We also cleared some of the sideboard – jigsaws will go to dad and Jean for their jigsaw swapshop; toys will go to the St Michael’s Hospice Warehouse, which we are planning to visit tomorrow (Monday). All the glassware remains, ready for the Annual Birthday Party in March.

Tuesday saw an early morning start to return the hire car to Enterprise. The A465 morning rush hour traffic jam started at Belmont and continued to the Asda roundabout. We had a couple of hours to use before our rendezvous with dad-the-taxi, which we spent fruitfully in B&Q, Waitrose, Curry’s and Wilko. The range of opening hours resulted in much walking alongside traffic on the A49. You can see why people drive. The price for our taxi back out to Forty Acres was to help dad load the trailer with garden waste and to transport it to the cottage compost heap. Most of the cuttings were from a bay tree, so I kept a few sprigs to dry the leaves for cooking with.

Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common
Settling into Forty Acres: Morning sun on Ewyas Harold Common

Tuesday afternoon was our first experience working from our new home; and my first real working from home ever. So far so good.

I’m lucky enough to be able to continue my existing part-time pattern – Tuesday afternoons, Wednesdays and Thursdays. Phil’s an experienced remote worker, but for me it’s a new experience. Most of the time I’m working with people in other countries anyway, so it’s not vastly different other than in terms of my working environment. I’ve booked my trains for my first week back in London – I’m going back roughly once a month to join our global team video conference call and for other key events. I see these return visits as being akin to the Keeping In Touch days people have when they are on maternity/paternity leave. I don’t think I’ll mind working in greater isolation – I’m not a very sociable person at work, at least in terms of seeking out chats, coffees etc. If anything I can get too engrossed in my work. I could do with more occasional interruptions to get up and move about a bit more. One thing I know already is that I’m going to get a better office chair.

One big question about working remotely has been whether we can get a good enough internet connection. It’s essential for both of us to do our jobs, and our part of Herefordshire is still waiting for Fastershire to arrive. The roll out was due to start in Q4 2019 (and was due to start then ever since we’ve been planning to move here – a good 18 months). Phil emailed for an update (we’ve both signed up for updates but none has ever arrived) and – surprisingly – got a response. We’re now scheduled to start Q1/Q2 2020. We’ll see….. Let’s hope it’s not a Crossrail schedule. For now we have 4G wifi courtesy of Three, and although it’s a bit patchy at times, it seems workable.

Tuesday’s trip to Curry’s provided the Roku Streaming Stick Plus TV plug-in. The cottage has no TV aerial, and we’ve zero reception. So, we’re saying au revoir to broadcast TV and moving over to 100% streaming – downloading and iPlayer-etc-ing. This week’s telly viewing comprised Dracula, Jonestown and Wisting.

Wednesday and Thursday were work-focussed; so much so that on Wednesday I totally missed Wine Wednesday. Hazel and Catherine sent me a photo – I do miss them! I was rarely the first to arrive at Bow Lane Wine Vaults, but if this week was anything to go by I really need to reestablish the WW finishing work deadline!

This week we also worked out our morning walk / run alternatives. I’ve a well established route from the Barbican to the London Eye and back, finetuned to last just over an hour, AKA 1 x In Our Time + 1 x The Allusionist in podcast listening terms. Before starting work on Wednesday and Thursday, and on Friday morning, I tried a few options for my early morning walk, Herefordshire-style. Headtorch on. The route to the Abbey and back proved relatively busy; the route to Kerry’s Gate, down to Riverdale and back proved much quieter – and hilly, which is good. Friday morning’s walk came with a technicolour sunrise and a massive moon, mewling buzzards and darting hedge sparrows. Magic. That’s the one.

Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops
Sunrise, Mistletoe, Snowdrops: Sunrise

With dad’s taxi service, we picked up the car on Friday – it’s a 10 year old Nissan Note, roomy for four tall people and plenty of space in the boot – and spent the rest of the day with dad, taking stuff to the tip and ferrying the fridge/freezer and washing machine dad and Jean had acquired for us back to the cottage. A lot of manual labour today!! More so for Phil and my dad to be honest. That done, Phil and I moved the remaining spare bed out of my office and into his more spacious office. And sorted the bedding. There’s a lot of bedding here…. much of it destined for the St Michael’s Hospice Charity Warehouse.

Saturday started with a wet walk, down to Quarrels Green and on to Upper/Lower Jury Farms, along the “main road” to the crossroads and back via Wellfield and The Foxes.

The rest of the day was dedicated to sorting out the kitchen, which was always going to be a mammoth task. As Phil says, this house is where things go when new stuff is bought so there is a vast collection of crockery, cookware, pots and pans – not all of which is required (or desired). Lots more things went into the charity shop boxes. We need dad and Jean to come and decide what they want to keep. They both say “get rid of everything” but I think our “everything” is rather more ruthless and widespread than maybe they’d expected. But that’s OK. Another of the tricky things has been working out where to have things, like where’s the best place for the kettle / tea / coffee etc, and where’s the best place for the breadmaker (and all its ingredients). I reckon we will be rejigging things for a while yet. We’ve confessed to moving the cutlery drawer….. And repurposing the main bin for recycling…..

Sunday – more kitchen clearance, plus our first weekly shop at Aldi and Sainsbury’s – where our amateur status was revealed by the want of a pound coin for a shopping trolley – plus a trip to Newtown Motors aka Hereford Nissan, to suss out getting the radio etc activated in our car. Then on to The New Barn for Sunday lunch with dad and Jean, and our Abbey Dore neighbours Peter and Suzy. Top tips on local hairdressers (Lucy’s in Peterchurch) and Thai Home Delivery from Sunanta’s Thai Kitchen in Ewyas Harold – two things we struggled with in the Barbican! Phil did the drive home.

Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!
Settling into Forty Acres: Our car!

Weatherwise we’ve had a lot of rain (with more to come). Turns out we need to get the gutters cleared. So far we’ve had no joy in finding someone to do them. That’s a job for next week. Friday and Sunday were lovely sunny days with beautiful blue skies. Gorgeous. I am looking forward to having finished all the “jobs” and relaxing / enjoying the area a bit more…..

To follow our progress moving to the country, check my Herefordshire Week Notes here each Monday. Phil is doing his version too. If photos suffice, mine are on Flickr: Adieu London; Hello Herefordshire.

(Don’t tell anyone, but I can hear mouse size scamperings in the roof…..)

Where next: Herefordshire

2020 is going to be a rather different year as Phil and I are moving to Herefordshire in January to try out the country life (but not Country Life). I’m still aiming to get a few trips in, but living in Herefordshire opens up a whole new world of walking opportunities, and travelling further afield means getting to grips with regional flights or factoring in a 3 hour plus train journey to/from London.

So….

Trip No. 1 of 2020: Relocating to Herefordshire

Destination: Abbey Dore, a hamlet half way between Hereford and Abergavenny.

When: January – June 2020, possibly long term. We’ll see how it goes.

What: Living in rural Herefordshire, with Phil. Working remotely for LW (I got the official approval this week).

How: With the cooperation of family, friends and work.

Why: I’ve spent a lot of my life in Herefordshire, whilst growing up in Solihull, studying at St Andrews and Chester, and working in London. We’ve had a holiday home there since I was tiny, which is where Phil and I will be based, and dad and Jean live half an hour’s drive away.

Forty Acres
Forty Acres

I did my first walking in the Black Mountains, up Skirrid and along Offa’s Dyke. I love the history of the Welsh Marches, and the fact that we have a Cistercian Abbey and a Saxon Motte and Bailey castle (remains of) within walking distance, and stone castles scattered across the landscape. Not to forget Bacton, Kilpeck, Craswall and Cwmyoy.

Skirrid sunset, from Forty Acres
Skirrid sunset, from Forty Acres

I’m ready to spend some time living in a green world rather than a grey one, with space to grow things and to make and store things. The preserving pan and sewing machine will be coming with us.

“But why leave London?” I hear you ask –

“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
— Samuel Johnson

Well, I am somewhat tired of London.

I love the fact that everything is on the doorstep, from shops to cinemas to museums, that I have family and friends within easy reach, that every Wednesday I can meet friends for wine and pizza, and that trains and flights offer a boundless choice of destinations near and far.

But I don’t love the noise, the early morning dustbin lorries and delivery vans announcing to all and sundry that they are reversing or turning left, the late night drunken revellers shouting and singing as they try to navigate the residential back streets of the Barbican, the police helicopters hovering over possible crime scenes in the middle of the night or monitoring protests and public gatherings during the day. The construction sites, providing relentless background noise of jackhammers and power tools at play, for new luxury developments in place of buildings with civic and social worth, signifying the Corporation of London’s distain for its residential communities and neighbours.

So. Watch this space.

Forty Acres sign post, Kerry's Gate
Forty Acres sign post, Kerry’s Gate

 

Back from Hong Kong…. finally!

My business trip to Hong Kong gained another six days thanks to the Eyjafjallajokull volcanic ash cloud and the closure of UK/European air space. I got quite excited at the prospect of rerouting to Spain and sailing back on the Ark Royal, or getting the Trans-Siberian train, but in the end the lovely ladies at the BA office in Hong Kong got me on the second flight back that left once the skies reopened. I landed at LHR at 6am this morning, and spent a fair chunk of the day completing expenses and insurance claim forms…..

The only downside about the extra time was that it meant I didn’t get to spend my birthday as planned…. no family brunch at The Diner in Shoreditch! But Simmons & Simmons friends in Hong Kong and London made sure that I had a great day on Sunday.

Getting a big bunch of flowers from S&S at the hotel was a great way to start the day and after a lazy lie in with newspapers and tea, I strolled down to central HK to meet Adam and family and Kelly and his wife for a lovely (“mostly veggie”) dim sum lunch, complete with a card and gift, cheesecake birthday cake and candles! I feel very lucky to know such lovely people in HK and in London.

Then over to Kowloon on the Star Ferry to explore the sights and shops. I phoned Phil en route and he told me one of my birthday presents is a “driving experience” – Silverstone Aston Martin here I come!

Strolled around Kowloon taking in the prom, park and night markets – and got a call from my dad and brother and families as I was perched on the prom taking in the harbour and the ferries, all lit up in their evening finery. Them singing Happy Birthday over the phone to me was a *lovely* end to my birthday.

Very glad of the BlackBerry too! Not to mention Twitter and Facebook for keeping in touch with friends, and tracking developments following British_Airways and HeathrowAirport on Twitter.

2007 round up

I didn’t do a round robin letter this year, but as I always enjoy reading the ones that I receive I’ve succumbed: here’s a very brief round up of my 2007.

Reading

68 books read – from S is for Silence to The Closers; mainly the usual mixture of fiction (predominantly modern / historical / crime) and autobiographical travel.

Travel / Holidays

Big trips

  • Iran – on a Wild Frontiers recce tour, in May. Fantastic.
  • China – an October fortnight travelling with Hazel from her dad’s Shanghai base; plus a week of work.

Short trips and weekends away

  • Brecon Beacons – bringing in the New Year with Phil’s Bristol crowd.
  • Forty Acres – for the annual birthday parties weekend.
  • Saltaire – to catch up with Cat in early June
  • Seville – with Fiona and Catherine in mid June.
  • Walton on the Naze – twice (May Bank Holiday weekend and the week leading up to the August Bank Holiday weekend); both times a bit on the chilly/wet side.
  • Bristol – for Tim and Helen’s wedding on the SS Great Britain. Glorious.
  • Milan – for Jess and Mike’s wedding. We travelled there/back by train. Altogether very lovely.

Work

Still at Simmons & Simmons where I spent the first nine months of the year as the elexica editor and the last three seconded to a new role of Knowledge Management Business Manager.

Home and family

Still happily esconced in the Barbican with Phil; still happily doing Aunty Mary duties to Barney (10) and Rosa (8). Dad and Jean both well. I’m off to Hereford for a relaxing weekend with them in January.

Plans for 2008

Currently only features travel – 2008 is the year I’ll finally get to see some of the Silk Road in Central Asia. Nothing booked yet, but it’s The Trip for the year. Hoping to squeeze in a week in Libya too to maintain my one a year quota of visits to countries in the Axis of Evil. Luckily work have introduced the option of buying additional holiday…..