Barrow’s Boys – Fergus Fleming

Barrow's Boys - Fergus Fleming
Barrow’s Boys – Fergus Fleming

If you can ignore the very bloke-ish blurb on the covers and the fact that Fergus Fleming is Ian Fleming’s nephew, this is a thorough set of biographical snippets on an Arctic, Antarctic and Saharan explorer theme. After all, what is a desert but a hot dry version of the icebound wastes at the poles.

I still delight in the fact that one of the earlier and most astute explorers was William Scoresby. For a long time I’d assumed Philip Pullman had made up the name Lee Scoresby. Perhaps he did – although I doubt it – but I like the idea that aëronaut explorer Lee and and arctic explorer William share a surname and a sense of decency.

Back to the book – worth a read if you’re interested in 19th Century English Explorers.

Publisher page: Barrow’s Boys – Fergus Fleming

Herefordshire Week 097: Tuesday 02 – Monday 08 November 2021

(Playing catch up)

VROOOOOOOM! Picked up my Mazda MX-5. How nice is this?

Me and my MX-5
Me and my MX-5

Tuesday was a gorgeous day, hard to believe November can be so mild and sunny, and – occasionally – hot. Phil and I had a lovely morning’s walk to Ewyas Harold and back – the Deer Field and Ewyas Harold Common there and the Common and Dore Abbey back. We sat outside on the patio for coffee once we got home, and had lunch al fresco too.

Hatterall Ridge and Hay Bluff from Ewyas Harold Common
Hatterall Ridge and Hay Bluff from Ewyas Harold Common
Holly berries
Holly berries

I’d peeled and salted a bag of pickled onions on Monday evening, which meant 24 hours later I put them into jars for pickling. Two jars got the vinegar from the Psycho Pickled Onions we’d finished off earlier this year (aka the EXTRA HOT CHILLI ones) and the third jar got normal malt vinegar. Should last me a while.

Onions, Pickled
Onions, Pickled

Usual Tuesday afternoon to Thursday evening: work, with VWW on Wednesday and Family Zoom on Thursday.

Obviously, the highlight of the week was heading down to Ross on Wye to pick up my Brilliant Black Mazda MX-5 from Bowen’s Garage, once I’d paid the balance and sorted out insurance (not so much of a highlight).

I cannot rate the team at Bowen’s Garage highly enough – great car, outstanding customer service from start to finish. Five Stars.

Not a practical car, but sometimes you just have to indulge….. and the drive back, under sunny skies with the roof off, was fab.

Me and my MX-5
Me and my MX-5

I had been a bit anxious about picking the car up this morning, wondering if I’d made an expensive stupid mistake. But having driven it home I don’t think I have – it even got two gents at The Forge talking when I pulled in for petrol.

Now I shall just have to work on looking glamorous.

After all the excitement, I spent the afternoon mowing the grass. The ride on mower wouldn’t start, so I did the edges etc with the Honda mower while the battery recharged, and then had a bonfire burning the stubborn hedge trimmings and the boxes of St Andrews-era letters that dad had been keeping in the loft. If you give things long enough, memories are enough. You don’t need “stuff”.

On Saturday morning I had my long awaited booking at Ledbury Repair Café to get the replacement motor fitted into Jean’s Kenwood Chef. I’d blown the motor earlier in the year. Phil persuaded me to drive there and back in the Mazda. Oh, alright then.

Vroooooom and Zooooooom.

Having left the mixer in the Repair Team’s capable hands, we pottered around the shops and calmed down over excellent coffee and cake in the The Malthouse courtyard.

Coffee and cake, Ledbury
Coffee and cake, Ledbury

Back home, mixer repaired, we had a late lunch and then I got stuck in to sorting out the last of my loft boxes, which had turned out to contain various scrapbooks and travel souvenirs, including the Queen’s Silver Jubilee (1977), Family trip to the Somme (1980), and Inter-Railing (1991).

A Duo of Domestic To Dos wrapped up a busy day – decanting this year’s Blackberry Gin into bottles and having my first go at making yoghurt in a thermos flask. Janette’s “recipe” – and careful temperature reading – meant the yoghurt turned out beautifully. A lot easier / cheaper than the yoghurt maker!

Sunday was another gorgeous day, so we did the Terrific Tremorithic circuit in the morning, and I mowed in the afternoon. The ride on mower started fine and I whizzed around – a lot of leaves, not so much grass at this time of year.

Tremorithic Tree Tunnel
Tremorithic Tree Tunnel

I even had time  before dinner to get most of the Thomas Medallion White porcelain dinner service listed on eBay.

We had Martin Watkins and Jon with us for most of the day Monday, installing the upgraded, updated fuse box, strip lights in the loft, a second set of sockets in the utility room and more. All very satisfying.

I left Phil In Charge for the morning and had a lovely walk – another dry day – over to Ewyas Harold via the Deer Field and the Common. A new route back on footpaths from the Recreation Ground to Home Farm, over Dulas Brook for a short stretch on the road, then through the grounds of Dulas Court and footpaths up through Witney Wood, sheep fields and Cott Farm back to the Common. Home via the Abbey and the footpath behind Abbey Dore Court, and the Canns Hill footpath. Magic.

Gardening in the afternoon, pruning the crab apple tree and the Herefordshire Russet sapling, and filling in the holes left by the garden railway infrastructure Phil’s removed, which involved hauling some of the bags of earth dad’s been gifting us from the orchard and across the front lawn.

In wildlife news, we’ve got squirrels and birds feasting on the yew tree’s red berries and seeds. There’s a great gallery view from the en suite. On Saturday morning we had redwings and thrushes bombing around, and a squirrel practising its acrobatic skills.

Squirrel in the Yew Tree
Squirrel in the Yew Tree
Redwing in the Yew Tree
Redwing in the Yew Tree

On the varmint front, Phil’s current hit rate – literally – on the garage mice is 1-a-day. Soon there will be none left. Surely! At least the apple racks are untouched.

TV: Happy Valley, Worzel Gummidge, Hip-Hop Evolution and The Last Dance.

Podcasts: Keeping up with regulars History Extra and Bookclub; trying out Answer Me This, Lingthusiam and Futility Closet.

Photos: Herefordshire week 97 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-11-07.

Herefordshire Week 096: Tuesday 26 October – Monday 01 November 2021

Home alone. Mouse-proofing the apple racks. Sunday lunch. A long walk. Torrential rain and glorious sunshine. T-shirt weather, in November.

Sunset over Hatterall Ridge, Canns Hill
Sunset over Hatterall Ridge, Canns Hill

Into Abergavenny on Tuesday morning to drop Phil off at the train station, do a top up shop and to get my flu jab. Back to 40A for the working week, with VWW and Family Zooms as usual, then back to Abergavenny in the sheeting rain to collect Phil late on Thursday evening. It’s quiet without him.

The walk back from coffee at K’s in Kerrys Gate on Friday morning provided the perfect opportunity for a spot of blackberrying along the lanes.

We were due to have the power off all morning while the electrician replaced the fuse box, installed the lights and the magic switch in the snug, LED lights in the loft plus a timer switch for the fly zapper and a few other things, but an emergency job meant he only had time to do the snug stuff. Still, having a light switch by the door in from the kitchen, without any wiring required, really is magic. Technically, it’s a wireless / kinetic light switch and receiver.

Headed back down towards Kerrys Gate in the afternoon and on round to Riverdale and back along the river. Lovely.

Back home, chopped up some of the small apples from the orchard and got them simmering with the blackberries (and then left them too long so that they burnt the bottom of the pan….) and had just enough time to start to look at car insurance before FaceTiming with S&S.

We decided Friday night pizza should be accompanied by a film but The Dead Don’t Die proved too much horror and not enough (not any) comedy for me so we switched to try out Paris Police 1900.

A very satisfying day Saturday – starting with mouse-proofing the apple racks, which have been relocated to the garage. A good morning’s work courtesy of the 6mm wire mesh, a staple gun and wire snips.

Mouse-proofing the Apple Racks ...
Mouse-proofing the Apple Racks …

Blackberrying in Thistly Field after lunch to get a replacement supply for tomorrow’s crumble, then restacked the apples into the relocated racks and then pottered in the greenhouse finally potting out the sage cuttings I’ve had growing roots in an old water-filled yoghurt pot, and applying the black, rubber nut & bolt covers dad had left over from Jean’s new greenhouse at the bungalow.

More tiny apple chopping segued into my cooking dinner (noteworthy as it’s not all that common an event) – Chetna Makan’s Black-Eyed Beans and Mushrooms – which we ate watching the first couple of episodes of Happy Valley, often recommended, and now on iPlayer.

It poured with rain overnight and all Sunday morning, with brief patches of blue sky and dry starting around midday. Very handily timed as Dad and Jean came for lunch, and they managed to get into the house with out getting drenched. A lovely lunch – leg of pork plus roast veg, all cooked by Phil. Jean brought a camellia and hydrangea from Dinedor, and some beautiful dahlias.

Washing up done, I spent a lazy late afternoon with the telly – I had completely forgotten that the clocks had gone back overnight and had got up at old time 7.15am / new time 6.15am. So that’s my excuse.

Hallowe’en Doctor Who then another episode of Hip-Hop Evolution. We’ve abandoned Paris Police 1900 and weren’t in the mood for Horrid James Norton / Happy Valley.

Out with the GVWC on Monday to recce next Saturday’s Challenge Walk: Eaton Bishop, Madley, Brampton, Cockyard, Wormbridge, Cobhall, Clehonger (17 miles).

GVWC Challenge Walk Recce: Eaton Bishop, Madley, Brampton, Cockyard, Wormbridge, Cobhall, Clehonger (17 miles)
GVWC Challenge Walk Recce: Eaton Bishop, Madley, Brampton, Cockyard, Wormbridge, Cobhall, Clehonger (17 miles)

A gorgeous day. I can hardly believe it’s 1st November. I spent most of the day in my t-shirt and got a rosy face. The only flies in the ointment were my Strava phone running out of battery – so only a partial map – and my feet / socks / boots getting absolutely sopping wet courtesy of a waterlogged farm track.

Strava Map - GVWC Challenge Walk Recce: Eaton Bishop, Madley, Brampton, Cockyard, Wormbridge, Cobhall, Clehonger (17 miles)
Strava Map

Back home for tea and Tunnocks in the conservatory, then out over Canns Hill to capture sunset over Hatterall Ridge.

Sunset over Hatterall Ridge, Canns Hill
Sunset over Hatterall Ridge, Canns Hill

TV: Four Hours at The Capitol, Nature and Us: A History through Art, The Dead Don’t Die, Paris Police 1900, Happy Valley, Effie Gray, Doctor Who, Hip-Hop Evolution.

Podcasts: History Extra, The Essay.

Photos: Herefordshire week 96 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-10-31.

Herefordshire Week 095: Tuesday 19 – Monday 25 October 2021

Back to the office. Utility Room revamped and loft boarded out. Tick Tick!

Oh yeah, and I bought a car 🙂

Never Say Never...
Never Say Never…

Yes, for the first time since February 2020 I spent my working week in The Office. Well, “An Office” as I headed up to Manchester for the week. Busy few days, but I did find time to indulge in a tour of the massive M&S Food Hall and to take a look at Uniqlo’s offerings. I got the TfW train up on Tuesday morning – not nearly as busy as the capacity checker suggested – and back again on Thursday afternoon. Shattered.

No VWW or Family Zoom though.

Friday morning, Neil came to start adding insulation in the loft ahead of boarding it out. We’re juggling a visit from the electrician as we’ll need to replace the ceiling lights before Neil lays the boards in the extension.

Spent the morning sorting out a few treats for December and January. We’ve rented an AirBnB flat back in Walton for a few days geared around a week in the London office for me and P visiting his folks, and a night plus dinner at The Angel Hotel in Abergavenny in January. I may have had some Autotrader tabs open too…

Into Hereford in the afternoon to the Hospice charity shop to drop off the unwanted stuff from the roof, then on to Screwfix and B&Q for DIY stuff. And a rat trap – it’s made itself at home in the compost bin if the entrance/exit holes are anything to go by 🙁

Pizza and Grand Designs in the evening. We rewatched one from 2001 set in the Black Mountains.

We had Neil and Sam onsite all day Saturday, but I spent the morning further up the Golden Valley with the GVWC doing a circular walk from Dorstone, to Merbach Hill and Arthur’s Stone. Good group. Good route.

GVWC Dorstone Circular - Merbach Hill & Arthur's Stone
GVWC Dorstone Circular – Merbach Hill & Arthur’s Stone
GVWC Dorstone Circular - Merbach Hill & Arthur's Stone
GVWC Dorstone Circular – Merbach Hill & Arthur’s Stone

Back for a late lunch followed by clearing cherry tree saplings and some brambles from the wooded slope below the solarium. Got quite a big pile for a bonfire now. It just keeps on coming!

Handyman Sam’s revamp of the utility room / downstairs loo was done and dusted by 4pm. It’s looking great; there’s so much more space. Now all we have to do is paint and find someone to tile the floor…  Sam and I spent a final 30 mins making the door for the apple racks. A much better result that I would have managed.

Utility Room Revamp - Handyman Sam Stage 2
Utility Room Revamp – Handyman Sam Stage 2 Complete

Dad called round to drop off 6 sacks of earth and stayed for a cup of tea. Lots of cars on the drive.

Neil was back early on Sunday to finish off in the loft. It is transformed.

Loft revamped
Loft revamped

Bit of computing and photographing the white porcelain dinner service ahead of an eBay bonanza, then down to Ross for my mammogram (the “feels a bit like when your blood pressure is taken” analogy held true), a mooch around the shops and a look at A Car. Back via Pengethley Garden Centre – nice farm shop, OK nursery – where I spent some birthday money on A Pot.

Slight hiccup getting back into the house after we realised neither of us had taken house keys, then lunch, log stove on – it’s a drizzly / rainy day – and reading.

Slow start Monday, and it was a glorious sunny day, blue skies. A bit of admin first thing, then Cockyard backwards in my T-shirt, arriving home just as Martin Watkins’ Jon arrived to replace various lights for us, and to install the magic light switch in the Snug.

Then down to Ross on Wye to pay a return visit to Bowen’s Garage, and to test drive the 2010 MAZDA MX-5 2.0 ROADSTER SE I’d spotted on Autotrader. I’d phoned up on Friday to arrange a viewing and they’d suggested I take a look on Sunday when the garage would be closed but the forecourt open. So I had, and I liked what I saw. And after today’s test drive I liked how it went so we did a deal. I’m picking it up next week.

Into Hereford for car key cutting and petrol and then over to Dinedor for tea and cake with Jean. Home for a mutual debrief. Adrenalin rush on the wane.

TV: Grand DesignsThe Get Down.

Podcasts: History Extra, History of JapanBookclub.

Photos: Herefordshire week 95 on Flickr.

Phil: w/e 2021-10-24.

Magic & Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Neel

Magic & Mystery in Tibet - Alexandra David-Neel
Magic & Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Neel

I gave up on Alexandra David-Neel’s account of her exploration – philosophical and physical – of Tibetan Buddhism in the early 20th Century.

The writing style’s so dated it’s difficult to discern what’s accurate and what’s orientalist interpretation.

Abebooks page: Magic & Mystery in Tibet – Alexandra David-Neel