Wednesday, 6 November 2019

Sunday in October

Today saw the first sighting of the lessor spotted house cleaner. Such a beautiful sight with such a lovely call. Being a male version of the human race I could ignore the call from this rare creature. 
‘Glen, please help me take the curtain rail off.’
Oh, that joy of autumn when the female of the species starts cleaning up. I do not expect it to last as there is much living to do without the grind of an autumnal clean. 
We have never been terribly serious about cleaning, hence our house is perpetually in an untidy, slightly dusty mood, quite the avant-garde.

Wine, wine, fruit of the vine, when you going to let me get sober, leave me alone, let me go home. Words from a song of a long time ago, catching my sentiment exactly.

We dined with Kate and Michael just the other day - an Italian restaurant in Winton. 

At Bellaggio we are so proud of the quality of food we serve, our friendly servicemen and our vibrant atmosphere.

I mention it as the food was very good and service, typically Italian. Down to an old Italian gent, dressed in a white shirt and black longs with shiny black shoes. The place attracts university students, as the area is known for all the student's houses, so the prices cater for the hungry student with meagre available cash. I do feel Michael will take a while to throw off his university lifestyle, definitely worth a visit and we will go back sometime.
House hunting goes on with not much luck. We are getting bored with this whole process and just want to find a house that does not need major refurbishing and is sensibly priced. I do have a feeling most houses are overpriced by 10 to 12%. We do have three houses that might be of interest and will view them later this week. 

We have few birthdays coming up soon, Angela, Alex, David and Mika. Not sure what Matthew has arranged for Angela but knowing my daughter, it will have to be something special. Claudia wanted a bouncy castle for Alex and to have all his school friends over. A little ambitious but sense did prevail and I suspect it will be the traditional party with cupcakes and balloons. Mika wants a trip to Disneyland Paris or some other exotic destination. She also wants to hire the village hall and invite her school friends. That girls goes big or not at all. That is just for starters and my blog does not have enough room to cater for this bucket list. Being her mothers' daughter, one would expect this and more. In all fairness, dream high and you might just get what you want.

All this is very close to Christmas and as we are all saving to buy Christmas presents, I do believe the gifts will reflect the time of the year.

I would like to say happy birthday to you all and I hope you get the birthday you deserve. I will end on Alex’s take on his party.

‘Some of my friends can come and we can play on the beach.’


I woke this morning to torrential rain and high winds. It is the noise of the storm that always stirs the soul. The leaves protest and the trees sway in anger, the house creeks and the dog curls up and sleeps.

The circle road around the harbour to Sandbanks was a river. The storm winds and high tide coincided, pushing the waves over the wall and flooding the sidewalk and road. We drove slowly through the torrent of water, passed floating wheelie bins and debris from the harbour. 

The tide was pushing up to the promenade, the highest I have seen it. We had a great view from Sandbanks Cafe and enjoyed watching the storm slowly abate as we had breakfast. No doubt the cost of which will be counted tomorrow.

November for me marks the point in the year when the cold begins to set in. The clock has gone back and it is dark by 5pm. November is to me the quiet celebration of a happy festive time ahead. Now starts the hunt for gifts, bouncing ideas off each other, planning and dreaming. Enjoy this gentle time before things gather pace to the mayhem of last-minute Christmas shopping begins. When it arrives, it does pass in a blink of an eye. We rarely get that special gift but a gift can bring pleasure to the giver, when given with thought.

My feeling is do not try to give too much, give something you know they like. I, for example, really enjoy a selection of anti-pasta. I love putting all these tasty nibbles on the table and watching everyone dig in. Cheese, salami, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, craft bread and a soft red wine to celebrate the joy of sharing and eating.

I am not ashamed to say, I love food, but it tastes better with friends and family. Food is the most a basic form of comfort but the real joy emerges when you have someone to share it with. Someone to cook it for is also a passion I enjoy. I find myself enjoying just watching others eat the simple or complex dishes I have prepared. Good food brings out good company.

Christmas is all about children. Dylan Thomas wrote in the book ‘A Child's Christmas In Wales.’

‘All the Christmases roll down toward the two-tongued sea, like a cold and headlong moon bundling down the sky that was our street; and they stop at the rim of the ice-edged fish-freezing waves, and I plunge my hands in the snow and bring out whatever I can find. ‘

For me, that sums up what Christmas is all about. Full of dreams, wishes and imagination that runs wild through their young heads. I must get that book out again and read it, if only to remember the times I read it to the boys when they were young and full of fantastic ideas about Christmas and what Father Christmas would be bringing them. The times when they were so young believed.


How has this come about, just the other day it was summer. With November comes the rain and it is not disappointing us this year. The very unreliable weatherman has forecast high wind and rain for most of the month. Today being no exception, rain and wind accompanied our walk this morning. To be fair, Jenson does not mind the rain but is a little cautious of the wind, sand in his eyes as he is closer to the sand than we are.

Talking of Jenson, last Sunday a dog came out of the blue while we were walking on the beach and had a go at Jenson. Bit me in the process, not too bad but enough. We are unfortunate to have weekend or holiday dog walkers who bring their unsociable, untrained dogs to the beach. It always happens in the holidays or over a weekend when the weather is warm and sunny. At these times you cannot be too careful. 

Must admit this week walking on the beach has been a cautious affair, my confidence was blown a little, every dog I did not recognise put me back a bit. Happily, all those we encountered were socialised and friendly. Funny how we see the dark side when for 18 years I have walked that beach and it has never been a threat, more of an anchor. One nasty moment and you do see every day, a little different.

It did teach me one valuable lesson, be more dog. As soon as we walked away from the fight, he found another dog to play with and the whole episode was forgotten in a matter of seconds. I am still working out ways in my head to get revenge. I must be more dog.

I am off this coming week, we must find and buy a house before the week is over, this is taking too much brain time. Constantly looking at houses on the internet, driving around with an eye on any for sale sign. Estate agents phoning, viewing and making more appointments to view, takes up too much time.

Less than two months to Christmas, what to buy Susan? She will have her new car by then, maybe a car cleaning kit? No, the car wash is cheap and we have a quiet coffee while waiting. Cloths are not an option, perfume, I would not know where to start, maybe a cleaning lady to come in once a week and give the house the once over? Thinking about it, it would be great if they could do the ironing as well as the house. Worth looking into, and as we might be in a new house, their job would be easier.

Saturday, 19 October 2019

Dogs and other things

Dogs are for life. I have a cold, well the tail end, and after the session of coughing, Jenson came and lay at my feet. Looking at him, I would like to promise I will be there for his life and mine. At 68 it might be a big ask but I do hope this is a promise I can fulfill. 

Illness brings a reflection on a life lived. Susan and I have had a good life together. I have taken risks and she's been there by my side, I just hope I've been there for her risks. I've tried to push her to be better than she thought you she could be. I will continue doing that for her, somehow with Susan, life is just effortless.

Strange thing getting old - because I never thought it would happen to me. Well, it has, and quite suddenly too. Life these days is punctuated with little reminders. A certain reluctance, that I never had when I was young when it comes to looking in the mirror. Full body or face. Neither merits a second glance. Mirrors are in fact a perfect nuisance. In lifts, with mirrors all round, sometimes you catch a glimpse of the back of your head revealing your now strange shaped ears, too big for your head.
And a casual glance at a shop window as you pass by catches you by surprise, is that what you actually look like. Two choices. One, play the part. An elderly writer mulling over the present while constantly changing the past. Or you straighten up and walk younger, more youthfully, a sprightly step, just in case anyone else had noticed the elderly slouch. No-one has of course because no-one is looking. But I noticed. I do the elderly writer walk into the wind, still changing the past and oblivious to the here and now.

Things are changing, yes they are. Michael and Susan have bought Susan’s mother's flat and are decorating and bashing a hole through the wall to link the kitchen to the lounge. Gary has just moved to another flat in the same block, but this is on the ground floor and is not as expensive. 
Now that was a stressful day. Between Gary, Claudia, Susan and I, we moved the entire contents of their flat to their new flat in about 5 hours. Most of their furniture was new, there were more flat pack boxes in their garage than in IKEA. Dan skipped rugby and did a great job of building cupboards, chest of draws and beds. Is there no end to that boy's talent or enthusiasm? Mika's absence was a disappointment.

By sunset, I had reached the limits to what I could build, move, carry or unpack and decided to leave Claudia directing operations with the hoover tucked under her arm. The true hero was Gary, everything had to be moved at least twice on the day and then again, I would imagine, over the next few weeks until it was in that exact spot the lady of the house wanted it. One thing with our Claudia, she knows what she wants and when we are all exhausted, the flat will be the best it could be.
Moving on, actually, I do wonder if all those flat packs will ever be built.

This brings me nicely into the second topic I wanted to put down on paper. Writing is one of those tools we use to do almost anything. Normally we just fabricate the truth in our own way. Take the journalist, writes the most sensational headlines that do not have much meaning but are there to grab our attention. The true masters of deception are the estate agents. Did I say we are in the throws of trying to buy a home? Yep, hopefully, we will find that dream house we want to make a home. Getting back onto the subject of estate agents and their descriptions of a house. They are the true masters of deception. 
“Beautifully presented, detached house in a quiet area, just waiting for your tender loving care to make it home.”
Translate - a run-down house that needs a lot of work.
My favourite is when you ask them what the asking price is and they quickly say.
“£349950.00 and this one will go quickly.”
Actually worth more like £320 and that will be a hard sell. 
Am I enjoying the process, no, but then I suspect, neither is the estate agent?
In all fairness, we have seen some properties we could move into but that elusive must-have house still hides from our searching. Onwards and upwards, it is there.

Monday, 30 September 2019

House Hunting

Every time I sit in the garage enjoying a wee pipe, I am greeted with the sight of two bicycles, not ridden in a while, covered with passion fruit vines, leaning against a neglected conservatory. A dry out Christmas tree, lies discarded on the path, hanging on to Christmas past. The dry tree offers hope, there is Hope, it is just hiding. When I say hiding, it is on the right of the photo. Our Christmas tree from last year, still alive and with Christmas just around the corner of the conservatory, we are all much encouraged.

This is the first growing tree that has survived the year. The insane amount of tree just cut and used for Christmas does worry me, so that is why we always buy a growing tree.

A search for a new house, this time to buy and with our limited budget, Athelhampton House was a step too far. Yep, Athelhampton House has been sold for a mere £ 7.4m. A grade I listed building, the interior and exterior would need permission to alter. Not insurmountable but I would let someone else do the paper work.

We have spent many an hour walking around the gardens and the house. Very close to Puddletown and Dorchester.

Back to house hunting, we have seen many, have been disappointed many times and amazed at what people think their house is worth. We will find that house that has that wow factor, I have a feeling it could take a while.

There are certain features we are looking for, a feeling of space, good kitchen, at least 3 bedrooms, a reasonable garden and enough space to park 3 cars. Most importantly, we have been warned not to have a window from the hallway that might look into the bedroom. It is an Australian thing.

Australian are different, they do not have a window into their bedrooms from the hall way. Australians are always naked in the bedroom and if someone comes to visit they will be naked in the bedroom and the visitors will see them, naked.
Someone suggested a window from the hallway looking into the bedroom for more light.
‘No ways, what happens if you naked in the bedroom?’ Was the cry from an Australian expert in this field of Windows from the hall to a bedroom.
I think it was a question, but then Angela could probably enlighten me on the significant of why the Australians are always naked in the bedroom.
Now I am not averse to being naked in the bedroom, such fun but seriously you have to dress somewhere and your bedroom seems to me to be the sensible place to do that. One does many things naked in the bedroom and dressing is one of them, others are more about undressing than dressing.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Day one of the Cotswold

Day started in Bibury. Quiant, crowded, real cotswold stone buildings. Typical summers day, a little rain and several coach loads of Japanese tourists, filled the beautifully maintained village. Part of the village is owned by the National Trust. Yes, they buying villages now and in this case, conserving the original Cotswold style houses. Built with Cotswolds stone and unique to the world. 

The village was once described by William Morris as the most beautiful village in England. Everyone is allowed their opinion, it is very old, dating back to the Doomsday Book, 1086. That my fellow travellers is just under 950 years ago. We walked along the Arlington Row of cottages and then the village. I must admit I did enjoy walking around and although small, we never felt crowded. We had our solution to this, we had Jenson with us and most of those tourist are terrified of dogs, making our walk along the sidewalks very easy. The tourists parted, to allow us through, some even climbed up onto the low walls for fear of Jenson. We finished with a coffee at the Swan Hotel.

Made our way to the hotel in Shipton Oliffe, The Frogmill Hotel. Their website describes the hotel as “Renovated in 2018, the 16th-century inn boasts 28 boutique bedrooms, quality dining, country pub classics, and an event space worthy of any celebration.”
Good hotel and well chosen by Susan, also very dog friendly. Jenson, unlike Sam, thrived on all the attention and buzz the hotel held. The rooms were pleasant and far enough away from the hotel, for us not to worry about Jenson, if he barked.

We had just sat down to order our evening meal when the heavens opened and as you can see from the images, a real summer storm, fill of life and colour. Really loved the effect of the sun on the raindrops. A short down pour and the sun shone again on a washed hotel terrace, giving us time to take these photos. Robert arrived at about 9 and we enjoyed a good meal in the dog friendly pub, that was once we had settled JB down after the big excitement of seeing him again. That dog does have an affinity with the boy.

Robert joined us for a walk around the neighbouring Golf Course and then breakfast and we were off to Bourton-on-the-Water, a short drive from the hotel. Moderner then Bibury and much fewer tourists but we were there quite early. Took an amazing photo of Susan and Robert next to an Austin Mini made from a hedge. 

Being Roberts birthday, we strolled around like tourists and browsed the touristy shops and then decided to see what Lower Slaughter was all about. No parking so drove slowly through, 2 minutes and we were on our way to Upper Slaughter. Not  sure what happened there but we seem to have missed it completely. Anyway onwards we traveled, this time to Stow on Water, visited an interesting little grocery store and we were able to buy some much needed provisions. My brother would have enjoyed the experience as he is a big fan of Tesco.

Next was Sherbourne Lodge, sort of an old fashion corporate entertainment house of gambling. The card players also had the daily dog race. The dog chased a deer which would always outrun them but it was 1 mile and at the end there was a trench which the dogs could not jump but the deers could and this let the deer escape back into the estate and the dogs could be caught. The first dog to reach the trench was the winner.
Interestingly the lodge was built in 1632, South Africa was first colonised in 1652. 
Lodge Park is England’s only surviving and probably most opulent 17th-century grandstand. Created in 1634 by John ‘Crump’ Dutton, Lodge Park indulged his passion for gambling, banqueting and entertaining. That is according to the National Trust. 

Walking into the lodge and you could imagine the cheer of the crowds, smell the stale air of the gambling tables and hear the occasional shout from a winner. Only the top storey has been furnished and looked after. As can be seen from the photos I have inserted, still holds that air of the idle rich, entertaining themselves and someone getting rich in the process. Life has not changed, the stakes have got bigger and it is easier to gamble but we still want to  take the chances, bet on our hope of good fortune and pray that Lady Luck is with us. 

Made our final stop at the National Trusts Roman Villa. 
Cradled in a beautiful Cotswold valley rest the remains of one of the grandest Roman villas in Britain. National Trust's view.
We have two National trust cards and our merry bunch was three and a dog. Well you cannot take a dog in, so that took care of someone to keep the dog company. Susan was not too enthralled at the prospect of seeing a Roman Villa and kindly stayed with said hound. 

Robert and I ventured into this journey back in time. Robert was Mrs Susan Fay, well that is what his National Trust card said, tricky to explain but then we just walked in as though we owned the place. Quite remarkable to see the mosaic tiles and baths from the Roman era. They did have underfloor heating in 43 AD, quite clever those Roman fellows. Not to be confused with the Romany travellers that frequent the south of England in the summer.

Friday, 30 August 2019

Journey to the Cotswolds

Day before we go.

We will be joining Robert in the Cotswolds for his birthday. A 2 nights away, sort of annual leave for me and a short break for Susan and Robert. 
Now the Cotswolds is a place I have not been to so a new experience awaits. 

The name Cotswold is popularly attributed the meaning "sheep enclosure in rolling hillsides", incorporating the term, wold, meaning hills.

During the Middle Ages, thanks to the breed of sheep known as the Cotswold Lion, the Cotswolds became prosperous from the wool trade with the continent, with much of the money made from wool directed towards the building of churches. The most successful era for the wool trade was 1250–1350; much of the wool at that time was sold to Italian merchants. The area still preserves numerous large, handsome Cotswold Stone "wool churches". The affluent area in the 21st century has attracted wealthy Londoners and others who own second homes or have chosen to retire to the Cotswolds.

Susan remarked while wrapping Roberts present. “I should have done it on the dining room.” I knew what she meant but there is so many things wrong with that statement.
“I should have done it on the dining room table.”
“I should have done it in the dining room.”
Hey, ho, let’s not get picky, when you have live and loved together for a few decades, the odd grammatical error is not that important. Lady Vivienne excluded, that would be a step too far for this very important lady. Talking of Lady Vivienne, I do believe she is in Anglesey, angling? The word on the street is she has a cuddly companion. Yep, a real live, snuggle up to at night, partner. Go for it girl. Put those toys aside and let life take you for a ride.

Getting back to Robert and this wee break we are having to the Cotswolds. Famed now for the quaint little villages and wool churches, we are going to explore.  We have bought that wee boy a new pair of walking shoes, hiking boots, comfy trainers. Call them what you will, that will look great on him when he walks up Snowdon Mountain. Michaels is with him and he knows the right gear to have when one walks up a mountain. That boy has been most places and seen most hills, so is wise in the way of travel. 

Susan did buy me a pair of Cotswolds walking shoes, fine shoes and water proof as well. I look forward to my Cotswold walking trousers and North Face t-shirt, all water proof and breathable. My one concern, what socks do I wear? I take it philosophically. But I must warn you, I am not very stoical. Talking of stoical, Stoics believed that being open minded allows you to understand, which in turn allowed you to overcome negative feelings. I always thought stoical was another word for stubborn, shows how wrong even the learned amongst us are.