Monday, December 22, 2014

Season's greetings

The presents are wrapped, the car is packed and DH and I are about to leave for our family Christmas and New Year festivities. We’re looking forward to enjoying time with DH’s mother and our children and their growing sons, to good food and good company, carols and games and plenty of unhurried conversation.

But I can’t leave without wishing you and your loved ones peace and joy this Christmas and good health and happiness in the coming year. As always your blogs and your friendship have hugely enriched the past year for me and for that I thank you all so much.

Image:  Adoration of the Infant Jesus by Matthias Stom (c. 1600 – 1650)

Carol:    In The Bleak Midwinter
               Words by Christina Rossetti (1830-1894)

               Music by Gustav Holst (1874-1934) arranged by Harold Darke (1888-1976)

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Christmas busyness

After an unusually quiet beginning to Advent, life in the Transit household has speeded up considerably this week. This is partly, of course, because I have more to do as Christmas approaches and it all takes a long time to accomplish and partly because we’ve had several enjoyable days of visitors and visiting. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday I had the pleasure of long and chatty visits from two good friends, who came bearing very welcome gifts of home-made mince pies and stollen, exactly the kind of Christmas goodies I can’t make for myself this year.

Then on Thursday DH and I went to lunch with a former colleague of his who is a truly excellent cook. After a meal that would have put a West End restaurant to shame and a great deal of light-hearted conversation, all we could manage to eat at supper time were a few crackers with cheese.

Friday brought a kind visit from the vicar, who brought with her a lovely bottle of wine as a thank-you for my help while she’s been waiting for her new colleague to be appointed (we are a united parish consisting of a small market town and six surrounding villages). I still feel bad that I can’t help her at this very busy time, but some things really are beyond me at the moment.

Today I’ve realised that it’s only two days until we leave for our round of Christmas visits and I still have presents to wrap, cards to hang and the packing to do. Help! At least I don’t have a tree to decorate and a cat eager to explore it…

Image via Google

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Variety is the spice of life

As I slowly and awkwardly unpack and tidy up after our return home, blog inspiration appears to have gone missing en route from Scotland. However, in her recent comment my blog friend Dancing Beastie mentioned how much she’d enjoyed the contrasting musical items in my last two posts. To cheer us all up in the current miserable weather, I can’t resist sharing a very different seasonal offering by a group of American high school students, which has just been brought to my attention by Annieanother blog friend, and which had me wiping tears of laughter from my eyes. Enjoy….

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Time to go home

Gosh, it’s all go! From Advent quiet to ever-decreasing circles has taken just one day.

Yesterday DH drove me on the 170 mile round trip to the hospital for my check-up, from which I emerged minus the cast, but sporting a wrist splint, which I have to wear day and night for the next 4 weeks at least. My lovely surgeon was very pleased with my progress, but gave me strict instructions on what I can and can’t do until I’m seen again by a surgeon in Wales in the New Year. Absolutely no lifting or carrying with that hand and no pressure on the hand or wrist, so no Christmas baking and no clarinet practice. Sigh.... 

Today we went to visit a friend and it was on our return that I discovered that the Met Office had issued a snow warning for Scotland for Sunday, the day we were planning to make the long journey home to Wales. After some discussion we decided to bring our departure forward to Saturday, so while DH is out at a meeting this evening, I’m piling together  clothes and other items I can move one-handed, ready for him to pack tomorrow while I’m out in my turn at the monthly Eucharist.

So until we’re back in Wales, I’ll leave you with this seasonal offering, the perfect antidote to Christmas hype, from the wonderfully evergreen Tom Lehrer.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Advent quiet

Further south the country may still be reeling from the chaos of Black Friday and gearing up for the increasingly frantic countdown to the festive season, but up here in the far north of Scotland, the sum total of my Christmas shopping so far has been the church’s Christmas Bazaar in the village hall yesterday afternoon.

Thanks to my recent misadventure, Advent for me is starting on an even quieter note than it did last year. Not only can I not drive, I can’t even make a start on the baking, so I’ve been busying myself with writing Christmas cards and notifying relatives and friends of our new address at the same time. Other preparations will have to wait until my left arm is released from its plaster prison, hopefully within the next 10 days or so.

This means that yet again I have the privilege of savouring in tranquillity at least the beginning of this period of anticipation we call Advent, one of my favourite seasons of the church’s year. Later on I will begin to revel in the increasing excitement and busyness, but for now I can contemplate the wonderful landscape that surrounds us and ponder the meaning of it all.

Image via Google

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Life in the slow lane

Typing has never been my strong point, but at least I could get up to a fair speed with my two index fingers.  I  can now tell you that typing with one index finger is almost glacially slow. The reason for this diminution in my typing speed is that on Friday morning I had a fall and broke my left wrist rather badly.

I can also tell you that an 85 mile ambulance journey with a broken wrist over often narrow, winding and bumpy roads is not an experience to be recommended, but the paramedics were kindness itself, as were all the staff who looked after me in hospital.

Interestingly, in his pre-op visit to the ward, the surgeon asked me what my interests are now I'm retired. As soon as he heard that I'm learning the clarinet, he told me he would put a plate in, as it would give me the best chance of retaining flexibility in my wrist, though the risk of complications is slightly higher. I was also told that the plaster would only be on for two weeks, rather than the six I was expecting and I should then start to exercise the wrist gently but consistently. At the moment, though, it’s a rather painful nuisance, so you will forgive me, I’m sure if my comments and replies are rather shorter than usual.

Now to go and eat the soup DH has just heated up for us. Thank goodness I always keep the freezer stocked with soups and stews. DH has many talents, but cooking is definitely not one of them… ;-)

Image via Google 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

A little light relief…

…and I mean that literally. After several days of leaden skies, which necessitated keeping the lights on all day if we wanted to do anything, it was a joy to wake this morning to a clearing sky and watch the sun drive away the last of the clouds. Fired by all this unaccustomed light, I headed out for a walk to the post office to post some cards and buy a few items and took my camera with me. It’s still remarkably mild for the second half of November, though I hope I’m not tempting fate by saying so, and the stroll up the hill to the post office and back was sheer pleasure. Unfortunately my camera battery ran out before I even reached the halfway point, so the final photos are of the glorious sunset we had on Saturday before the cloud took over.

The last rose of summer?

At least the birds will be well-fed this winter

A real Highland cottage

Ben Loyal with his nightcap on

Sunset reflections in the Kyle

Red sky at night...

Nor sure about the sailor, but it was my delight...

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Hints of eternity

Family and friends sometimes ask us why on earth we make one of our twice-yearly visits to Scotland at the very tail-end of the year. What makes us, they wonder aloud, head north as the hour goes back, the dark evenings close in and winter approaches?

The answer is simple. This glorious, rugged and unspoilt landscape is breathtakingly beautiful at all times of year and in all weathers, and the warmth of the welcome we receive from our friends and neighbours is undimmed by the vagaries of the weather. The bonus is that there are no midges!

Because we travelled up by car this time, I’m able to drive myself about while we’re here and this morning I headed across the Kyle causeway to Knit and Natter. Halfway across I stopped to gaze at Ben Loyal, swathed in dark, turbulent cloud and to try, of course, to capture the scene.

After a very enjoyable morning of coffee and cake, chatting (and coughing) and even knitting, I headed home, but on a whim stopped in a lay-by to visit again what must be one of the most wonderfully located cemeteries in the world. It stands alone, close to the causeway, looking out over an austere but beautiful landscape of sea and mountains that has something of eternity about it. Like the war memorial, high on the opposite hill, at which I attended the service of  remembrance last Sunday, this simple cemetery, in its stunning setting, catches the attention and focuses thought in a very profound way.

Eventually I dragged myself away and drove quietly home, my mind filled with a kaleidoscope of images and impressions. This glorious corner of the country gives us so much enjoyment, but it also makes me think and that must be good.


Saturday, November 01, 2014

Northward Ho!

After a really lovely week of family visitors, culminating in the warmest Halloween on record in the UK, we’re suddenly being reminded that it’s November after all. DD and her family are safely home again and here in Wales the temperature has dropped drastically during the day, the wind is getting up and the rain has started to lash the windows.

It’s the kind of weather that usually  turns one’s mind to thoughts of semi-hibernation, but not in our case. Instead, as we recover from a busy week of talking and laughing and eating and playing board games, DH and I are simultaneously making preparations to head off on Monday on our autumn migration to the north coast of Scotland.

DD and I bonding over my fiendish birthday jigsaw

It will be a shorter visit than usual, but we’re really looking forward to the journey through such glorious scenery and to seeing our friends again. While DH is busy with the database project he’s working on for a local group, I’ll be settling down to knit and natter with the best of them, getting on with a sadly-delayed pair of socks for him, while catching up on all the news. I’ll also have lots of time to make up for my recent shameful neglect of your blogs and find out what you’ve been doing with yourselves whilst I’ve been otherwise engaged.

The very small campervan won’t be transporting us this time. Instead, for both speed and comfort, we’re travelling in the extremely small car. This means that I’m packing with great care and selectivity and DH is reconciling himself to not taking almost all his tools with him, as he usually tries to.

It will be wonderful to see the North-West Highlands again, knowing that when we return, it will be to the new house, which already feels as though we’ve lived here for much longer than three weeks. Who said retirement is boring?

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Feeling welcome

Well, I did it! DH left after lunch yesterday to collect his mother for her first visit to the new house, leaving the place not exactly ready for visitors, to put it mildly. They arrived back late this afternoon to find everything clean and tidy after a truly gargantuan effort on my part. I'm shattered!

Yesterday afternoon I was busy ironing some very creased curtains when there was a loud knock on the front door. When I’d finally found the key (we always use the back door) I opened it to see a very small boy holding up two pieces of paper for me to take. Behind him were two slightly older brothers, who had actually drawn the pictures on the papers, and their smiling parents with a box of chocolates for us.

They are our immediate neighbours to the left and had come to welcome us. The boys' mother said she'd try to keep the noise down, to which I replied that I'm totally inured to the sound of children playing and in any case am starting to go slightly deaf. Such nice people. I think we are going to be very happy here. It’s like old times to have children’s drawings stuck to the door of the fridge.

Tomorrow DD and her family arrive for a week’s stay, so I’ll be listening to music practice and playing board games rather than blogging for a while, but it will make a wonderful change from moving furniture and unpacking. See you anon…

PS  It was remiss of me to have omitted to mention (blame my bad memory) our first visitors a week previously, who arrived at the back door with a bottle of wine, just as we were bringing in yet more furniture. They are our next-but one-neighbours. We feel very fortunate to have landed where we are.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

The river of time…

…is running even faster than the stream behind the house after the rain of the past couple of weeks. I can’t believe it’s a whole fortnight since I last posted. You must all think I’ve fallen off the planet or got trapped behind the last pieces of furniture still waiting in the garage for us to have the time and energy to bring them the final few yards into the house.

Thanks to the sterling efforts of DH and my wonderful brother-in-law, the van with the magic tailgate was very fully utilised on Move Friday and by the time we had to return it, our capacious garage closely resembled a second-hand furniture warehouse. Sadly the weather hasn’t been very willing to co-operate and we’ve had a week of frequent and heavy showers, which we’ve had to dodge almost every time we decided to bring in another item or two.

Despite this, the fable of the tortoise and the hare has proved true yet again and we’ve slowly but surely moved all but a couple of very heavy items to their proper places. These will have to wait until half-term, which begins a week today, and the visit of DD and her husband and two strapping sons, who have rashly promised to help.

Only then, when the dresser is finally in place, will I be able to unpack the last of the boxes and put the living-room properly to rights.  Nevertheless, in spite of the residual chaos, the new house is already starting to feel like home, and the car and the very small campervan no longer twitch as they pass the turning which leads up the hill to our old house.

As for DH and me, we’re tired, aching and dotted with scratches, cuts and bruises from the unaccustomed manhandling of awkward pieces of furniture, yet there is a real sense of achievement at the end of every day. We’re definitely going to enjoy living in this house.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Betwixt and between

This expressive phrase sums up very aptly how I feel and what life is like just now. We got the keys to our new house last Tuesday morning and since then for me life has been a blur of packing and beginning to unpack at the other end, while DH gets on with all the little jobs best done before the furniture arrives. I’ve also filled the freezer with ready-made meals, so that no time will need to be spent cooking for the next few days.

I’m pleased to report that after visits on two successive days from the telecoms engineer, we now have a working telephone and a broadband service which will at least double and possibly triple our current speed. OK, it’s only from 2 to 4 or 6 Mbps, but it will seem very fast to us after so many years at the end of the telephone line miles from the exchange.

We’ve already made a number of trips up and down the hill, with the car and the very small campervan laden with boxes and bags and smaller items of furniture.
Now that I’ve finally managed to corral DH and get him to decide on a date, we’ve also started to take apart the heavy furniture as far as we can, ready for D-Day on Friday. This is when DH will be hiring the van with the exciting electric tailgate and, with the invaluable help of my very kind brother-in-law, will be moving all the big items of furniture.

It’s all very exciting and tiring and lots of other mixed emotions, but above all there’s a sense of relief that after all the waiting and preparation, the move is finally happening.

The view from the old house...

...and from the new. In the distance are the hills where we have lived for so long.

Our present surroundings. In the valley is the village we're moving to.

Our new surroundings, with the stream that runs past the garden...

...where I keep thinking I may catch a glimpse of Ratty....

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Images speak louder than words…

…or so I hope. Words seem to be in short supply for me at the moment, at least thoughtful, coherent, blogging-type words. Of course DH and I are exchanging a multitude of words as the move draws nearer, not all of them coherent - or even printable. In addition my ageing brain is having to organise lots of very different thoughts and words as I try to prepare sermons well in advance for four different Sundays over the next six weeks, to cover holiday absences in our group of seven churches.

Here instead are a few photos – snapshots of this busy period of preparation and change - in nature, as well as at home.

Season of mists...

...and mellow fruitfulness.

The hills we are leaving...

...and below, the valley we are moving to.

A moment of relaxation in my sister's garden, wearing her hat...

...and several more this week, looking at the view from my mother-in-law's garden.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

At sixes and sevens…

…is probably an understatement of the state of play in the Transit household at the moment. Life here is never totally predictable in any case, but just now we are facing an enormous change and while not exactly running around like headless chickens, DH and I are finding life more than a little stressful at the moment.

The reason for all this is that early next month we shall be leaving the hills to move a couple of miles to a house on the edge of the village down in the valley below us. After health scares for both of us in the past year we realise that perhaps the time has come to live somewhere more accessible and less likely to be snowed-up in winter

With the kind help of my burly brother-in-law we're planning to do most of the move ourselves over a period of weeks, just getting in outside assistance for the heaviest furniture. DH is rather looking forward to hiring a van with an electric tailgate to take the smaller stuff!  Even DD and her family are getting in on the act, since they are coming to visit during half-term at the end of October and have offered to help with moving things like books.

So if I become even more noticeable by my absence from the blogosphere over the next few weeks, you know the reason why. It will be a big wrench to leave our beloved hills, but there are compensations. The new house has a stream running along the back of the garden and we’ll have a stretch of river-bank of our very own. Wind in the Willows, here we come…

Image via Google 

Monday, September 01, 2014

A tale of four kittens

Long-time readers of my blog will know that the presence of kittens in the woodshed has become a regular, if not inevitable, feature of our summers in Normandy. However for the first few weeks of our stay it looked as though this year would be an exception. We saw the occasional cat making its way along the hedge or through the long grass, but there wasn’t even a glimpse of a kitten until one afternoon at the beginning of August, when DH called me to come to the window that looks across to the woodshed. 

After that nothing, until the very last Saturday afternoon of our visit when we were busy packing. Out of the blue the mother cat appeared on the doorstep with two of her kittens, who of course had to be fed. They stayed for a little while and then disappeared into their hiding place.

I’m handing over the rest of the tale to DH, who compiled a photo account for his mother which I don’t think can be bettered.

On Sunday four kittens suddenly arrived

and they even came into the house for some milk.

Four combined lappers soon finished the milk

and when they were full of milk they felt sleepy.

Then we noticed that one kitten was missing (look in the van).

Campervan carpets are warm and comfortable

and the view from this end is even better.

Where one kitten can go……..others will follow…….

I wonder how to drive this thing? ……

Masters of all they survey.

Time for a sleep on the verandah.

Meanwhile cattus sattus mattus……….

and Perpetua thought wistfully of how she would love
to take them home with her,
if catnapping weren’t a crime…..