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.

An Unexpected Treat, The Journey Home and Something about Beer! 

Beer in Cologne is sold in small glasses, 0.2litre. They don’t ask what you want, virtually as soon as you take a seat a waiter is upon you and before you can say ‘what would you like’ to your partner you are presented with a beer each and the waiter has turned a Beer mat over and made two strikes on it. It is not that they are pushy, it’s just what they expect you to want. As soon as your glass is empty another is placed before you and this goes on until you take a Beer mat and place it on top of your empty glass. The waiters work for the self so obviously it is in their interest to keep you topped up. They carry the beer in circular trays with a handle and you can fit about fifteen beers in them so there is no problem catering for the large groups that came in after their days work. Of course you can have other beers but most places sell the Kölsch Beer and certainly it is the most popular.

On Tuesday morning we set out for the Wallraf museum, not really knowing what to expect, we had come across it the previous day but of course it was closed.

After a delicious breakfast in the museum cafe we went straight to the top floor and on entering the gallery were confronted with a wall full of Caillbottes, my favourite artist.

I took this to give an idea of scale!

Of course there were other paintings as well, several Caspar David Friedrich, some lovely Pissarro, here are some that struck me especially



And this lovely portrait by Ferdinand Hodler

After seeing so many excellent 19 and 20 century paintings the other floors really needed to be seen another day but their were some good Flemish paintings, and some Frans Hals portraits which were very fine.

After lunch we went to the Design museum, sadly the 20 century department was closed but there was some lovely glassware so not a wasted journey.
We were quite frankly by this time, all Cologned out so we headed back to our hotel. 

The next morning saw us up bright and early and making our way to the airport. We kept the sun with us and although we were there too early it was a very pleasant airport and easy to get around. Our flight was on time and for the first time we weren’t flying back to Bristol but Edinburgh. It felt very strange to be driving along the ring round looking out for signs to Jedburgh etc. 

We were back nice and early so I was able to rescue Flora from the cattery that evening. It felt good to be home.

Monday down time

Whenever you are in European cities you need to plan for Mondays as all the museums are closed. We decided on a day of shopping, we being the worlds worst shoppers, but we tried our best and went to the Apple Store to look at the latest purchase Gwil has made and marvelled at the lederhosen in the department store. Other than that we drooped around town, stopping for lunch ( unexceptional but pleasant) and beer, on the way back to the hotel.

Saturday in Koln, Sunday in Aachen

We decided to spend Saturday in Cologne and put off our trip to Aachen as we wanted to get the best value from our Cologne card. We went to an antiques/ bric-à-brac market first, by chance as we were on the hunt for breakfast. Loads of cds and records, lots of Tachen books and loads of wooden type in trays that Verity would probably have made a bid for. 

After a second look around we headed back to the Ludwig museum to see their collection of 20 Century painting and some sculpture. Very good art, well displayed in the museum with plenty of space for each art work. We were feeling pretty zonked by the time we had finished so we headed down to the water front and had starters and a drink as our lunch. I had herring and Hyw had salmon, it was delicious. We decided to walk back to the hotel but in fact it was far too nice so we went to the Botanic Garden for a couple of hours. Although it was the end of the season the gardens were still looking pretty smart. Later we went to the beer garden opposite the hotel and spent some time there. As it was getting on for 6.30 we caught the bus and headed straight back to the beer hall we had eaten at the night before. We were lucky enough to get the last table. We had another splendid meal washed down with their own beer, I also had a desert of ice cream and cherries as I was craving something sweet!

On the way to the Ludwig museum, round by the station. I didn’t take any photos there as I was too busy looking at the art!

The station is right next to the Cathedral!

So much space inside the Ludwig museum.

A well earned rest before we resumed our sight seeing

The botanic gardens, just next door to the zoo

Lots more to explore but I was well aware that Hyw was somewhere!

We had already bought our train tkts to Aachen so you can imagine our dismay to wake up to a thick fog! Nevertheless, we went  and in fact about half way there the fog lifted. We were very lucky with all our connections so the journey was pretty seamless. Aachen was a pleasant town but the old quarter was fairly modest and being a Sunday, most places were shut. Still, we saw the cathedral which is a Byzantine style with hundreds of mosaics covering the ceiling and three tiers of arches going upwards, supporting the central gold mosaiced cupola, much like the Hagia Sophia but smaller. It is a Unesco world heritage site. 

Example of some of the gold work in the treasury, much of it to do with Charlemagne.

Some of the embroidered Bishops cloaks which were on display in the Treasury

We had an excellent lunch outside in a small cafe and then wandered down to the bus stop for a twenty minute wait but we were lucky with the train as there was one in the station. We are back at the hotel now having a well earned rest ( again )