Saturday, 30 September 2023

September 2023

We had a heatwave at the beginning of September. It was quite unexpected after the mixed summer we've had this year but it was nice to get some good weather at last, especially as autumn has now brought cooler temperatures with it.

The weather perked up just in time for my birthday on the 3rd. It fell on a Sunday so we booked a table for a lovely Sunday lunch for the six of us at a very popular pub less than five miles from home which I mentioned when I wrote my post about St Mary's Church, Lead. Afterwards it was all back to our house where we enjoyed the sunshine in the garden, ate cake and ice-cream, and played games. I can't think of a better way to celebrate my birthday. I received some wonderful gifts, a few of which are shown above. Some more books to add to my classics collection from family members. The note book, yarn and chocolate were from my lovely friend, Maggie, who blogs at Black CountryWench. The notebook is lovely, it's one of those with the loose cover so that the book can be replaced when full. Thank you Maggie, such a lovely gift. I also received perfume, a new case for my iPad and lots of chocolate amongst other things.

We don't visit Lotherton as often as usual during the summer months as it's much busier when the schools are on holiday, but come September, we're back to our usual walks. The red deer have lots of fawns in their herd at the moment so are rather skittish but this beautiful girl was very inquisitive and wanted to know exactly what we were doing. Archie's happy to be back walking at Lotherton too, his favourite place.

I've read five books this month.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Bronte.

"This sensational, hard-hitting and passionate tale of marital cruelty sees a mysterious new tenant at Wildfell Hall, Helen Graham, unmasked not as a 'wicked woman' as the local gossips would have it, but as the estranged wife of a brutal alcoholic bully, desperate to protect her son.

Using her own experiences with her brother Branwell to depict the cruelty and debauchery from which Helen flees, Anne Bronte wrote her masterpiece to reflect the fragile position of women in society and her belief in universal redemption."

Anne Bronte wrote only two novels before her untimely death at the age of twenty-nine. I read Agnes Grey last year and enjoyed that so I decided to give her other book a go.

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall reads as two books. First of all there's the story of Mrs Graham, a mysterious widow who has come to live at Wildfell Hall, a dilapidated mansion which has stood empty for years. She becomes the subject of neighbourhood gossip but Gilbert Markham believes none of it. She eventually gives Gilbert her diary to read and this is where the second story takes over.

Dealing with themes such as domestic violence, mental cruelty and alcoholism, Anne Bronte touched on subjects which were considered taboo and many now consider The Tenant of Wildfell Hall to be one of the first feminist novels.

I loved this book, I read it much quicker than I expected as I just didn't want to put it down. It's so sad that Anne died at such a young age, she was obviously a talented author and I'd have loved to read more.

The Year at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Following a bitterly cold snap in January, winter at Thrush Green turns into a beautiful spring and a series of local dramas takes hold of the village community. Plans for the village fete are hotting up, the illness of Mrs Peters at the Fuchsia Bush restaurant makes the future uncertain for its staff, and problems concerning the Rectory Cottages prove difficult to solve.

Meanwhile, the arrival of a stranger from America excites much interest and curiosity - who is this blond giant, and what effect will he have on the village?

Set against the changing seasons, exquisitely observed, The Year at Thrush Green is a rural delight."

This is the penultimate book in the Thrush Green series. Written month by month, Miss Read takes us through a full year of all the happenings in the village. One of the wonderful things about these books is how the changing seasons are observed, and as the story takes us through the calendar year, we get to see the changes in nature which each month brings through the beautifully descriptive writing.

Just one more Thrush Green book to go, I'll be so sad when this series comes to an end.

Someone Else's Shoes by Jojo Moyes.

"Meet Sam...

She's not got much, but she's grateful for what she has: a job she's just about clinging on to and a family who depend on her for everything. She knows she's one bad day away from losing it all - and just hopes today isn't it...

Meet Nisha...

She's got everything she always dreamed of - and more: a phenomenally rich husband; an international lifestyle; but...she's just been locked out of all of it after her husband initiates divorce proceedings...

Sam and Nisha should never have crossed paths. But after a bag mix-up at the gym, their lives become intertwined - even as they spiral out of control.

Each blames the other as they feel increasingly invisible, forgotten, lost, and desperately alone.

But they're not.

No woman is an island. Look around. Family. Friends. Strangers. Even the woman you believe just ruined your life might turn out to be your best friend. Because together you can do anything - like take back what is yours..."

I reserved this book a long time ago at the library and finally got to the top of the list. I didn't even know what the book was about when I reserved it but I didn't care. I've read every one of Jojo Moyes' books and there isn't one that I haven't enjoyed. I suppose other people feel the same because it's taken a heck of a long time to get to the top of that library list.

Jojo Moyes comes up with some great storylines, her books are never 'samey', she's very original and this is why I look forward to her releasing new material. She also comes up with great characters who you always end up rooting for.

Another great book and another I'd definitely recommend.

Three Sisters by Heather Morris.

"Their story will break your heart
Their journey will fill you with hope
Survival would be their victory

When they are young girls, Cibi, Magda and Livia make a promise to their father: that they will stay together, no matter what. Years later, at just 16, Livia is ordered to Auschwitz by the Nazis, Cibi, only 19 herself, follows Livia, determined to protect her sister, or die with her. Together, they fight to survive through unimaginable cruelty and hardship.

Magda, at only 18, stays with her mother and grandfather, hiding out in a neighbour's attic or in the forest when the Nazi militia come. Eventually she too is captured and transported to the death camp. In Auschwitz-Birkenau the three sisters are reunited and, remembering their father, they make a new promise, this time to each other: that they will survive.

Three Sisters is a beautiful story of hope in the hardest of times and of finding love after loss, based on the incredible true story of the Mellor sisters, as told to Heather Morris."

I've read books by Heather Morris before and this one is just as harrowing. It's so hard to imagine the atrocities which were committed in the concentration camps. This story, and others like it, are important because we must never be allowed to forget.

This book is so well written and I like the fact that a good proportion of the book is about the lives of the Three Sisters after their time in Auschwitz-Birkenau, how they got their lives back on track and the obstacles they had to overcome. I know not everyone likes to read this genre of book but it's definitely one I'd recommend if you do.

How To Kill Your Family by Bella Mackie.


Meet Grace Bernard.

Daughter, sister, serial killer...

Grace has lost everything.

And she will stop at nothing to get revenge."

I'm sure you can guess by the title that this is quite a dark book, but written very tongue in cheek and with humour. There are some rather long chapters where the story seems to drag a little but it did keep my interest. I'm in two minds about the ending though, on one hand I found it a little lazy but then on the other, it's quite inspired. Contradictory I know. All in all I found it a good read, something a little different from the books I usually pick up.

We said goodbye to a very dear family friend this month. Although she'd been poorly over the last couple of years, her health had improved somewhat and so her death came as quite a shock. Apparently, she'd left detailed instructions on how she wanted her funeral to be carried out and so her family knew exactly what she wanted. We found this bookmark on our car when we left the crematorium.

Strictly Come Dancing is back on our screens and what a great start to the series we've had. There's some fabulous dancers this year, hard to guess who will still be there at the end. Once again, I'm joining in with the Strictly Sockalong which is being held on the Little Drops of Wonderful podcast. This is the sixth year that I've joined in, with those taking part knitting socks whilst watching the show, though of course, cheating is encouraged so I may end up knitting the socks at other times too.

As we head into October, it's all about preparing for winter. We haven't succumbed and turned on the heating yet but I doubt it will be long before we do. I don't enjoy the colder months of the year, and as the clocks go back at the end of the month, the nights will be drawing in too which is something else I dislike. I don't have anything planned for the month ahead so let's see what it brings.

Wednesday, 20 September 2023

Our Staycation

Mick took a week off work in August. Well, it was over a week really as he'd taken the Friday before off too and the August bank holiday was tagged onto the end, so he actually had eleven consecutive days off. We'd been umming and ahhing about whether to go away or not but at thirteen, Archie is really starting to struggle. He's healthy enough but very slow now and he definitely can't walk as far as he once could so we have to be mindful of his limitations. He always goes on our days out with us but a long day can wipe him out, so we tend to give him a bit of a rest the day following a full day out. In the end we decided to stay at home and have a staycation instead, going off for days but coming home again afterwards. It meant that it wasn't quite so full on for Archie and I have to admit that I do like my own bed so this suits me.

You'll have already seen my posts It's Scarecrow Time Again and Derbyshire Well Dressings, about the places we visited on the Friday and Sunday, so following a long day out we decided to stay closer to home on the Monday having a few hours at Cannon Hall in South Yorkshire before Mick and I had a meal out at a local pub in the evening while Archie relaxed after his walk.

On the Tuesday, following a more restful day for Archie, we had another full day out, this time in Chester. I've wanted to visit this city for a long time but I have to say that I was rather disappointed. The architecture is amazing, especially around The Rows with the Tudor style half timber buildings but many places we saw were so run down and frankly dirty, including areas around the river. I had imagined Chester to be comparable to York, though smaller, but what we saw definitely wasn't. Don't get me wrong, York certainly has its run down areas too, but on the whole, the touristy areas at least seem much better kept. It looks like Chester needs a bit of money spent on it and a some TLC. A bit of a shame but you can't win them all.

After a very long day we decided to give Archie a full day at home on the Wednesday to recover. It was a bit of a rest for us too if I'm honest, it was nice not to rush out of bed and get out the door.

We love the Yorkshire coast so no staycation would be complete without a trip to the seaside. We chose Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a small resort which still retains its olde worlde charm. It was a lovely day, not hot but warm enough and very still, so we enjoyed some time on the beach and Archie enjoyed a paddle. We stopped off in Pickering on the way home to have a meal in the pub we'd hoped to visit on Mick's birthday. They do the most amazing Yorkshire puddings with various fillings, Mick opted for beef. I confess it's just too big a meal for me so I had something a little lighter.

It was a slower start on Friday so that Archie could recover from his exertions of the day before. At lunch time we headed to Helmsley, a market town in North Yorkshire. Helmsley has a fabulous walled garden as well as castle ruins, neither of which we visited on this trip, but Friday is market day so we did have a wander around the dozen or so stalls and a mooch around the lovely independent shops. It's such a pretty village, we always enjoy our visits.

Mick was playing cricket on the Saturday so Archie and I stayed at home and then on the Sunday we ventured over to the east coast again, this time to Flamborough where I'd heard that seals were visiting. There were actually a great many seals that we could see, some sunning themselves on the beach and rocks and others frolicking in the sea. Everyone was being very respectful and viewing from the cliffs, leaving the seals to enjoy their visit without any kind of harassment. 

We ended our staycation with a trip to York on the bank holiday Monday. Although we visit often we love this city as it's close to home so we can be there and parked up in less than half an hour, and looking round the independent shops, visiting the historical places or taking a walk along the river are enjoyable ways to pass a few hours. We ended our day, and staycation, with an ice-cream, which Archie got his fair share of.

Mick's debating whether to take another week off work but the weather's holding him back at the moment. We've had quite a bit of rain and there's more forecast so he's just waiting to see if some better weather returns first. We usually get some fine weather in autumn so we may be lucky.

Sunday, 10 September 2023

Derbyshire Well Dressings

I'm going back now to August when Mick has his time off work. On the Sunday during his holiday we decided to have a drive into Derbyshire. This county has a custom which is known to be at least 300 years old, probably more, well dressing. The Peak District is made up of limestone areas where water seeps away through fissures in the underlying rock and there are few streams. Wells formed from springs and this encouraged people to set up villages nearby. The tradition of well dressing, or adorning the wells with flowers, appears to have evolved as a way of giving thanks.

The displays are made from a clay base with flowers and natural materials pressed into it. We managed to find three villages which were having their well dressing celebrations during the week we visited. Other villages have their well dressings at different times of the year.

Foolow well dressing theme this year is Foolow Wildlife. They selected some local fauna and flora in celebration of the natural world around the village.

You can see on this close up of the bullfinch how the picture has been created with flower petals, feathers, greenery, bark, lots of different natural materials. It's so clever how they're made.

We then visited Barlow where there are three wells dressed, the Valley Rise Well, the 'Main' Well and the 'Small' Well. The first well we came to was the Main Well and the theme of the display was Fragile World.

The theme of the Small Well, known locally as the Children's Well, was The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The third well, or Valley Rise Well, is commemorating the coronation of King Charles III.

Blackwell is a hamlet along the road to Taddington and their well dressing sits in the corner of a field belonging to a farm house. The theme here is caving, a very popular pursuit in the Peak District because of the limestone hills, there's plenty of caves to explore.

Onwards to Taddington, their theme was 'Unique to the Peak' highlighting some of the things which make the Peak Park a special place. Taddington's village fete was in full swing as we arrived, there was a brass band playing and stalls a plenty and we had a lovely time looking round.

We had a lovely day out, something a bit different from the norm. If you'd like to read more about well dressings, I wrote a post about our visit to the Tissington Well Dressing back in 2019.

Thursday, 31 August 2023

August 2023

The bad weather we'd had in July continued into August. There was plenty of rain at the start of the month and it's been very mixed throughout. We Brits don't let that stop us though, we've enjoyed plenty of lovely days out this month.

Mick's first cricket match of the month was cancelled as there was a storm forecast. Not wanting to waste the day, we decided to have a drive out and settled on Haworth as our destination. We love this quaint Yorkshire village where the Bronte sisters lived between 1820 and 1861. There was some rain about but we managed to avoid the worst of the downpours and we ended up having a lovely day. The steep cobbled Main Street is lined with some lovely independent shops, my favourite being The Cabinet of Curiosities, the inside of which can be seen in the photo above. This was the old apothecary shop but it now sells hand made soaps, bath powders and curiosities. It's very rare that you find the shop as empty as it was on this day, it's usually jam packed but the rain seemed to have kept many people away from Haworth on this particular Saturday.

It was Mick's birthday on the 14th. He took a day off work, we'd decided beforehand that we'd have a trip out to Whitby. When we got up that morning it was pouring with rain but not to be deterred, we set off for the coast. Luckily, the rain stopped as we arrived and it managed to stay dry for the time we were there. The rain began again just as we were leaving. The North York Moors are stunning at this time of year with all the heather in flower but it was not shown off to its best with the rain and mist rolling in. You can just see RAF Fylingdales in the distance. This site monitors the world's airspace and provides a continuous ballistic missile early warning system to the UK and the US.

We were going to have a meal at a lovely pub we've visited before in Pickering but unfortunately, that wasn't to be. We hadn't booked as it's one of those places where you can just turn up but we discovered that they'd had to close the kitchens as they were short staffed due to illness. We ended up eating at a pub local to home. The birthday celebrations continued the following day when we had another lovely meal out, this time with family.

I've read three books this month.

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

"Dickens's epic, exuberant novel is one of the greatest coming-of-age stories in literature. It chronicles David Copperfield's extraordinary journey through life, as he encounters villains, saviours, eccentrics and grotesques, including the wicked Mr Murdstone, stout-hearted Peggotty. formidable Betsey Trotwood, impecunious Micawber and odious Uriah Heep.

Dickens's great Bildungsroman - based, in part, on his own boyhood, and which he described as a 'favourite child' - is a work filled with life, both comic and tragic."

After finishing Les Miserables a couple of months ago, I hadn't intended embarking on another long novel again so soon but Charles Dickens is really calling to me after reading a few of his other books over the last year or so. Just shy of a thousand pages, David Copperfield isn't what you'd call a short story but I enjoyed it so much that the pages seemed to turn themselves.

The books I've read so far by Dickens contain some wonderful characters and David Copperfield is no exception. How I wanted the Murdstones to get their comeuppance, not to mention Uriah Heep. The less favourable characters were balanced out well with the likes of Peggotty and Agnes. This book introduces us to so many unforgettable characters, good and bad.

I loved Great Expectations when I read it last year but I think my enjoyment of David Copperfield exceeded even that. If you haven't read either of these books, what are you waiting for?

The Testimony of Alys Twist by Suzannah Dunn.

"Deeply divided England rejoices as Mary Tudor sweeps to power on a tide of populist goodwill. But the people should have been careful what they wished for: Mary's mission is to turn back time to an England of old. Within weeks, there is widespread rebellion in favour of her half-sister, princess Elizabeth, who is everything that Mary isn't.

Orphan Alys Twist has come a long way - further than she ever dared hope - to work as a laundress at the royal Wardrobe. There she meets Bel, daughter of the queen's tailor, and seems to have arrived at her own happy ending.

But in a world where appearance is everything, a laundress is in a unique position to see the truth of people's lives. Pressed into service as a spy in the errant princess's household, Alys herself must make a dangerous choice when the princess is arrested."

I've only begun to enjoy historical fiction in recent years and haven't read that many books in the genre. I enjoy the Tudor period so when I picked up this book, it called out to me. It started off well and though it did keep me wanting to turn the pages, my interest waned a little in the middle. 

The idea behind the story was a good one, I just felt that more could have been made of it. The ending was rushed and the writing a little weak I'm sorry to say.

Celebrations at Thrush Green by Miss Read.

"Although his statue has graced Thrush Green for many years, little is known about Nathaniel Patten until some of his papers are discovered and returned to his native village. As a young missionary, Nathaniel had founded a mission school in Africa, encouraged and guided by the then Rector of Thrush Green, Reverend Octavius Fennel. That was one hundred years ago.

The village school, home to so many children in its time, is also in its centenary year, so there is double cause for celebration. Preparations are beset with problems - Winnie Bailey's health, the suitability of the new headmaster, the mission appeal among them - but when the anticipated day arrives, there are more reasons for rejoicing than anyone could have imagined.

With this absorbing story of the Cotswold village and its much-loved residents, Miss Read's warm and humorous observation of the drama of country life will captivate her many readers once again."

Another book in the Thrush Green series where we catch up with the lives of those living in the village. These books are so easy to read and they hold my interest the whole way though. I love to find out what's happening in the lives of the much loved characters and can't wait now to read the next in the series.

We got Archie's pet insurance renewal through this month. Absolute madness! I thought last year's premium of £2258.14 + £15 admin fee was steep enough, this year the premium has increased to £2950.60 + £15 admin fee. Archie is on medication which costs us £74.89 per month, however, we have to pay an excess of £105 and 15% of any claim, so based on this we would expect to recoup £674.58, that's only just short of the amount the premium has increased this year. In the thirteen years we've been insuring Archie, we've paid out £11021.55 in insurance premiums and have claimed back £3888.19. If we'd put that money away instead of paying out for insurance there'd now be £7133.36 in the pot, and that's before this renewal is taken into account. It would definitely make me wonder whether taking out insurance is actually worth it if I were to get another dog. We're still undecided whether to renew or just take our chances. We can't shop around because once a dog is diagnosed with an illness, other insurers won't cover that existing condition, so they've got you over a barrel!

Mick had got a week booked off work in the middle of August but cancelled it as the weather was forecast to be rainy. As it turned out, it wasn't too bad so he still took the Monday off, which was his birthday, and also the Friday of that week when, as you'll have seen in my It's Scarecrow Time Again post, we visited the Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival. We had a full day out again on the Sunday, and he took the following week off work which was followed by the bank holiday. There are more posts to come about what we got up to.

We needed some new dishcloths knitting so I knitted a few for Jasmine and Daniel while I was at it now that they're in their new house. The basic pattern I usually use is the Grandmother's Favourite Dishcloth pattern, free on Ravelry. I also knit a couple from the Wondrous Dishcloth pattern. This is a double thickness cloth, textured on one side and smooth on the other. The pink and lilac cloths were knit from yarn given to me by my friend Maggie at BlackCountry Wench blog for my birthday last year. It was lovely yarn to work with and they're very generous balls, there's lots of yarn left so I'll be able to knit more cloths in each colour.

When I finished knitting my Winnie The Pooh Socks I was left with 46g of yarn which I thought would be plenty to knit a pair of shortie socks for Eleanor. Unfortunately, it wasn't. I think, perhaps, some yarn is wasted as you keep changing colour so whereas usually 46g would be plenty to knit a pair of shortie socks, it isn't when you're knitting stripes. I got as far as the toe and was left with just a few tiny scraps which wouldn't even complete one round. Eleanor had a good rummage in my stash and came up with a mini skein which was in last year's charity collaboration yarny advent calendar. It was dyed by The Fibre Fox and is called Fizzy Sherbet. I don't think it looks too out of place on the toe of these socks. Eleanor was very pleased with them anyway. The mini skein was only 10g and after knitting the toe, there was plenty left to add to my scrappy blanket.

It ended up being quite a busy August with Mick's holiday and our days out as well as a couple of celebrations. It was Jacob's birthday last weekend but he and Eleanor were having a city break in London so we had a family celebration and meal here after they'd all finished work last night. September should be quieter, even though it's my birthday month.

Friday, 25 August 2023

It's Scarecrow Time Again

I've blogged about this scarecrow festival before. For a week in August, the village of Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales hosts a fantastic event which attracts around 15,000 visitors every year. It's such a great day out which doesn't break the bank, just £3 for car parking and £1 for a trail sheet if you want one. We don't go every year but we've been quite a number of times over the twenty nine years that it's now been running. The themes this year were classic kids TV and 100 years of the BBC, and as Mick's holiday from work coincided with the festival, we decided it was high time we visited again.

Kettlewell is a village in Upper Wharfedale, North Yorkshire. The census taken a couple of years ago lists the population as 321. The Scarecrow Trail takes you right through the village so you get to see all the sights and beautiful scenery too.

It's a lovely quiet village with some pretty cottages.

The River Wharfe flows through the village.

Back to the scarecrows. There's usually a theme to entertain the kids and another for the adults. I wouldn't have known Mr Tumble, a children's TV character, but all the younger visitors were delighted to see him.

One for the children and the adults too, Dr Who. I'm not sure which Doctor this was though. Peter Capaldi?

There was another Dr Who. No mistaking which Doctor this was, just look at the scarf.

I think you'd have to be of a certain age to know about the test card. This was broadcast as a test signal when the transmitter was active but no programme was being broadcast, very rare these days when you can find hundreds of programmes 24/7.

The Fab Four.

Ken Dodd, minus his Diddymen. He does have his tickling stick though. He was one of my dad's favourite comedians.

'Bring me sunshine'. More comedians, Morecambe and Wise. My dad loved these too.

Elsa and Olaf from Frozen. Another one to delight the little ones.

Compo, Clegg and Foggy from Last of the Summer Wine.

The original scarecrow. Worzel Gummidge and Aunt Sally.

Status Crow!

Jim and Barbara from The Royle Family. I think Jim's just about to play us a song.

As well as single scarecrows there were some scenes too, such as this David Attenborough one, "BBC Bringing Wildlife Into The Living Room", with the cameraman filming him and the polar bear. It carried important conservation messages just as David would want it to.

This scene was the BBC Through the Ages with Dixon of Dock Green, Peggy, Grant and Dot from Eastenders, Noddy and Big Ears, Steptoe and Son, amongst others. This won Best in Show.

Nessie. Another one which really captured the children's imagination.

Even the church joined in. I've never been inside Kettlewell church before, it's absolutely beautiful. It was decked out in fragrant flowers, the scent hit me as I walked through the door.

You can't really see the window in the first photo so I took another photo of it. Stunning. This is the East window and shows Christ looking over the battlefield of 1916. It's a memorial to the novelist Charles Cutcliffe Hyne.

And another of the windows. I just love stained glass.

This was just a very small selection of the scarecrows, there were nearly two hundred all told. It was a great day out and I can definitely recommend it if you're in the area. Perhaps we'll visit again next year.