Snow on Snow

We seem to have had plenty of the ‘white stuff’ this year and it is only the 19 January. We had near blizzard conditions earlier this week and I thought it was melting away but have just looked out the window to find the roads are covered again! At least my snow shovels are getting plenty of use but I will have to put off going to Galashiels to collect my Clark’s shoes a bit longer. Luckily they keep them at the store for 2 weeks.

Laurie has announced that he and Nicole will be getting married on the 4 April in Singapore so all my love goes to them for a happy future. Hyw is hoping to go out there to see them, probably June or September.

Last night was ‘ladies night’ at ‘The Daffodils’ and we had a very pleasant meal at ‘The Plough’. Hyw got his tie, a navy polyester job with an embroidered daffodil, it has a wipe clean surface so no worries about spilt egg!

I have started painting again after a break of almost 9 months. To start with, I am working on a decorative piece to get my hand back in, using gouache which is easy to handle. It is surprising how hard it is, as much of it is confidence as anything. Oh well, time will tell.

My daily walks have taken me along the river bank and with my new wellies I have been able to wade in and across the shallow bits of the river. I have been looking at the river bank with new eyes, almost beachcombing as the river ‘rises and falls’ quite dramatically, very suddenly. I have been finding bricks, and since visiting Katherine and Stephen, I have realised the significance of them. There are quite a few of them so I am sure I will build up quite a collection in no time. As well as bricks there are quite a few other oddities that turn up.

I would be very interested to hear from anyone where the EARL brick comes from and also any ideas as to what the cone shaped item is. I think it may have been a fire extinguisher but I would be grateful to have that confirmed.


Christmas Past

This has been our first Christmas in Town Yetholm and so I now feel as if we have made the ‘move’. All the family came from far and wide: Laurie and Nicole from Singapore, Gwilym and Fi from Taiwan, Xian from Manchester, Matthew and Maureen from London and Verity from Bath. The only person who wasn’t with us was my mother but she had at least visited a few months back. Everyone had a travel adventure to tell at some point, either coming or going.

I was fearful of snow preventing any of my children reaching me but in fact in the fortnight before Christmas we had unseasonably mild weather which continued for the all arrivals. What we could not foresee was that Verity, who would be last to arrive, would find her journey cancelled due to an aircraft from Frankfurt leaving the runway at Bristol. Fortunately no-one was injured but it left Verity on a bus, getting a text to tell her the flight was cancelled. There were a few hours of panic, a few hundred pounds expended, but eventually she made her way here, via an early morning flit to London. All were safely arrived.

We had rented the house next door so everyone was well accommodated and all had space to escape to when needed. Cooking was something of a challenge but I soon became used to travelling between the house and the cottage, where we ate, and it was no different from times of yore when the kitchen was separate from the main house, or even cooking in a big hotel. There was one night when I didn’t have to cook and we went over to the Plough for a meal, kindly paid for by my mother and Hywel. It was a splendid occasion to see all of my children together and their partners around one table.

The snow really made Christmas, and there were plenty of walks in it as well as walks beforehand, in the milder weather. Footwear was a bit of a problem but all in all they managed ok.

Marks cottage had suffered in the cold weather leading up to Christmas. We had been along and moved the paintings out of harms way but Hyw went along with the boys to cut up the downstairs carpet, which was sodden, and removed it, in the hope that it would give the house a chance to dry out. We have been back since and it is drying out but will need a lot of money spent on restoring the fabric of the building.

Everyone enjoyed themselves but all too soon it was time for some to depart. The snow caused a lot of worry but eventually Mo made it to her family in Ireland, Lol and Nic made it by the skin of their teeth to Singapore, having left baggage at Gatwick, which was subsequently restored to them. Xian had a hellish journey to Manchester, arriving home at 2 am and Matt and Verity went home via London. Fi and Gwilym went home after everyone else but their journey was far from ideal, the train was cancelled from Tweedbank, the flight from Edinburgh was an hour and a half late and they missed their connection at Schipol. They did have an extra day in Amsterdam though, so not all bad and everyone is home, some later than expected, and safe.

Happy New Year to you all!

Open Fires!

When we first moved into our new house we were delighted by the number of fireplaces ( actually its only 4 ) in the rooms. They have all been put in as a part of the retro fit but are in fact original fireplaces ( from someone else’s house) and would have been the sort of fire that would have been here originally. We have two other chimneys, one in the bedroom has been blocked off and the other one in the kitchen has the range cooker attached ( is that the right word?). Originally that would have presumably been an earlier version of a range cooker, but not oil as ours is. It might have been something like these.

Having an open fire is all very well, if inefficient, but it is all the palaver that goes with an open fire that you don’t think about initially. For instance, all the chimneys have to be swept, even the ones you are not having a fire in, or else you get damp. The chimney pots have to be seen to as well. Where we live we have about half a dozen resident Jackdaws so we have to ensure that the chimneys are covered with metal covers or ‘top hats’, if not they will nest in them. I thought we had only two chimney pots when we bought the house but in fact we have 5.

We have a very ugly coal bunker in the back garden but at least it is next to the back gate. We have been toying with getting rid of it but now the frosty snowy days are here it is coming into its own. Luckily Hyw made a new top for it and now it holds our winter fuel. This is a picture of it in the summer, when we first moved in.

We are jolly grateful for the range cooker as it keeps the kitchen nice and ‘toastie’, which seems to be a local expression.

And after much ‘umming and aahing’ about chimney fires we have finally lit the front room fire, and jolly successful it has been.

I am now working on having an open fire in the kitchen, or even in the bedroom!

Here are the other 3 fireplaces, the kitchen, the spare room and our bedroom.

London Trip part 2

Supper is over now so I can continue with my blog. Day two we had to ourselves. We had been given directions from Matt on the best way to get to Bow as we wanted to catch an exhibition, curated by Michael Rosen of a group of East London artists who were essentially untrained. The exhibition was at the Nunnery Gallery and was very well worth going to see. Matt claimed that Bow was a very ‘edgy’ part of town but I found it perfectly ok, especially as that’s where I grew up.

These are two paintings from the show

Afterwards we had a bit of a wander around the back streets of Bow and saw these two lovely cottages

We then headed into central London as I hadn’t been to the National Gallery recently. We had lunch in a pub, not far from Leicester Square and then headed off for Trafalgar Square. There were a number of new acquisitions as well as quite a few paintings on loan to the gallery. Of course there were the old favourites but we were also lucky enough to see a collection of Degas pastels on loan from the Burrell and a small show of Akseli Gallen-Kallela paintings. 

We headed back up to Bounds Green on the Piccadilly Line and arrived home about 5pm. That evening we went out to a cafe/restaurant nearby and then afterwards we went to a Greek Cypriot restaurant where they were supposed to be having Karioke ( they weren’t ) but they were celebrating someone’s birthday so there was much singing anyway. 

The next day we left the flat about 10.30 as we weren’t going to rush but when we got to Bounds Green the trains weren’t running as there was a signal failure. A young girl helpfully told us go to Finsbury Park and catch a train on another line but in fact when we got there Finsbury Park was closed too. So onto another bus and eventually we arrived at Kings Cross. This meant that our plans to visit the Wellcome Collection had to be abandoned as there was not time. I waited in St Pancras with the bags and Hyw took Matt his keys.

There wasn’t even time to have lunch so I nipped into Marks and Spencer for sandwiches, we had a quick glass of wine and then onto the train for home. The journey was very smooth and relatively quick, sun for most of the way but dark by the time we reached Durham. 

First Trip to London (from Scotland)

Despite my fears, the road to Berwick was frost free, which was just as well as we left at 7:15 am to be sure of getting a parking space. Needless to say it all went smoothly and we were soon heading south on a Virgin train. I was more or less glued to the window, as being my first trip, there were lots of new sights to take in. Newcastle looked as if it was made by giants, the buildings and bridges seemed terribly big and lumpen. Durham looked very small, like a model village and sadly, you don’t see much of York except for the station. The sun was shining for most of the way so we were really seeing the country at its best.

Matt met us at Kings Cross as we were having lunch with the O’Hares and didn’t have a lot of time to spare. We had a very jolly meal in the Starting Gates, a pub near Matthew and Maureen’s new flat. After the lunch we went back to the flat, the O’Hares were off to London City airport and M and M were going to see Stuart Lee. We had the place to ourselves and watched films!

I have to stop now as supper is ready…

Matt and Maureen’s flat 

The Shepherds Show, Visitors and Painting

The Yetholm Shepherds Show is the last in the season and it is here that the Shepherds crook is selected to go forward to the National competition. There were hundreds of crooks to chose from and I can’t say that I understood what was being looked for, they all looked as splendid as each other, but here are some of the ones I liked…

There was plenty to see, a dog show, a demonstration of hunting hounds, some fairground rides, races and various competition entries, such as cakes, knitted jumpers and flowers. 

There were also these old motor bikes and vintage cars, Dad would have liked them. All in all it was a good day and by the time the crowds had arrived, it was bright and sunny. Of course the stars of the show were the sheep!

Mark was staying at the cottage for a week so he dined with us several times and I took him back to Berwick as he had not been able to rent a car on this occasion. Justin also came to stay for a few days, having had a visit to his old friends and then touring around the west coast. 

Nice as it was to have Visitors it was good when life returned to normal and we could start painting the cottage, with our new ladder. Still a bit to do but the weather should be more settled later this week so two days should see it done.

I have been going for some walks recently, enjoying the last of the summer and the countryside round about.

We really do live in a beautiful place and as the evenings draw in I’ve got my new book to read…

And my new curtain to enjoy!

The picture doesn’t really do it justice, it is a very rare sort of blue, almost violet, it reminds me of the lavender fields Verity, mum and I visited.