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Wednesday, 30 December 2009

More of the same.....

We are still battling the bugs. Mum seemed to improve but then had a bad night on Monday - I asked for a house call yesterday - she now has new antibiotics. I can tell she is not so well because she has stopped telling me how to do everything!!  It's peaceful but worrying.
It rained today, but there is still a lot of ice around, and our drive is potentially lethal.
The birds are keeping us entertained as they come for food.  I saw the first siskin of the season today. They usually don't come until January.
Sorry it's mainly a miserable post.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Boxing Day

Thick freezing fog here this morning.  It may be fairly local because our village is near to the river North Tyne.  I don't think I'll go far to check.  Mum and I both had bad nights (separately). She was coughing for 2 hours while I was asleep and I was awake for 2 hours from 0400 - sore throat and ear and still coughing a bit.  Here's hoping that we are both well by 2010!!
Yesterday was very quiet. We managed a game of Scrabble  (I won) and watched a bit of TV, but retired by 9pm.  I played a few carols and Christmas music on the piano.  Mum worked hard to eat a small portion of the meal, but complained I had done 4 veg.  Mine didn't taste wonderful.  Still, "in the greater scheme of things", we can't complain. We are warm, well fed and we didn't have to cope with a large tribe of argumentative relatives.......!!!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Snow, snow, snow

Here are some photos from Sunday's walk from Kirkharle.

These boys are the tired tups who have been busy serving the ewes since early November.  The lambs are due in April.

Some of the suckler herd who were very interested in our presence.

The ambulance car stuck near Kirkwhelpingon.

Ailsa with one of her magnificent Zwarble sheep.

Our happy and select band of walkers who braved the snow and ice to be on the walk.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Walks, snow and the bugs

Sunday was a beautiful white day.  I was due on a Shepherd's Walk from Kirkharle and thought it would be cancelled due to the poor road conditions.  Most walkers cancelled but Jon still held the walk. The drive on the back roads across country for fairly hairy, but no one else was around so that made it easier than it might have been.  The walk was super - lovely views in the snow. 
I'm actually in one of my photos this time - that's me with the red jacket and navy fleece hat.
Today I was due in Haltwhistle at 0930, but at 0830 there was a white-out here.  I decided not to go, but then the snow stopped and the sun came out, so I sallied forth.  The Military Road was treacherous and I nearly turned back a couple of times.  All went well until I caught up with a very nervous driver who was going too slowly and using his brakes all the time. I wasn't sure he would get up the hills because he had so little momentum, and I had to hang back and stop a couple of times to let him get ahead.  I think we need a Public Service broadcast to explain how to drive safely in the snow and ice.
Arrive Haltwhistle for committee.  More frustrating delays in the system to mean we can't get our programmes out on time.  Keep smiling.
Home again where Mum is still quite poorly with pleurisy. Now I'm snuffling and coughing again.  You can't win.  Keep smiling!

Saturday, 19 December 2009

North Tyne and Redewater Choral Society Christmas concert

Went to hear the North Tyne and Redewater concert in Humshaugh tonight. The weather had been good until the afternoon when there was heavy snow.  I wonder how they will all get home tonight.  The concert was poorly attended but I think that regulars from further up the North Tyne would think twice before turning out to drive on treacherous roads.  It had frozen over by the time the concert finished so extra jeopardy.
They sang an interesting cycle of songs by Geoffrey Bush in the first half. The new deputy organist at the Abbey accompanied beautifully. I was less impressed by his improvisation on Little Donkey. Eric hated the organ and they were played on the organ, and Eric didn't really like Little Donkey (although it paid the bills for years). Also Eric had campaigned to have a piano in the church to no avail, but for the concert a piano was hired and in situ - just one week after Eric's funeral. Some irony there.
Overall I think the choir did well with the odd little blip.  It was a very enjoyable concert.
Then to D and P's Christmas party. Lovely food and good company.
Now to bed......

Friday, 18 December 2009

Pleurisy hits

So just when I thought it was safe to pop my head above the parapet - feeling so much better by today - but Mum has gone down with pleurisy. She's not at all well, having been fine while I was ill.  So I called our GP out today. Mum has started on antibiotics and we'll just have to see how she gets on over the next few hours. I can see another hospital admission looming if things don't improve quickly.
The snow and ice today have been pretty unpleasant, so we are holed up in a toasty warm house.

Monday, 14 December 2009


Trying to write the cards, and get ready for Singing for Pleasure tomorrow, and write up my walks for the Walking Festival brochure for the Spring. I have too many walks to write up - make a note not to volunteer to prepare as many next time!!  Glad to be feeling a bit better, and resisting the temptation to go back to bed again.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

"Swan 'flu"

Just surfacing after a miserable week with swine 'flu.  Mum, who is prone to Malopropisms, called it swan flu one day this week, so the name has stuck.  Much nicer than swine.  Of course I can't be sure it was swine flu - it was proper flu, and I'd had my ordinary flu jab last month, so I had to assume the porcine variety.  The real challenge was negotiating the Swine flu online advice and trying to find out where to get the Tamiflu from.  I thought it was the fever that prevented me from finding Northumberland in the list, but no, there was nowhere to go for Tamiflu. The nearest place is Byker in Newcastle, not the easiest place to find for my "flu friend" who is 88 years old. I decided in the end to send her to Brampton - easy journey from here - and then did not see that she needed to be able to prove who we both are.  Thankfully the pharmacist was kind and helped to sort out this glitch, but she contacted the GMC to prove who I am.  Do the powers that be think there is big business in getting one script of Tamiflu illegally???
Won't go on, but it is a very debilitating illness and I'll be glad to get going normally again.  Missed Bellingham Christmas play last night, Farmers' Market and Abbey Fete in Hexham today.
End of moan.

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Is it swine flu?

I hope not.  I started with a sore throat on Sunday evening, yesterday the temperature and aches and cough arrived. Feeling very miserable - had to get up to do an essential printing job for my Singing for Pleasure Group this afternoon.  Thankfully our concert is next week not this week.
Back to bed!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Funny old day

Good intentions - if only I had managed to follow my good intentions this morning. I intended to set out early and call in at Hexham for petrol and to deposit all the bottles in the boot of the car into the bottle bank at the Wentworth. Didn't manage that. Set out for Rothbury - definitely enough petrol to get there, but would need to fill up at the Rothbury service station. This turned out to be a figment of my imagination! No petrol in Rothbury. I was in good time so started to drive along the Morpeth road, but no petrol station and both time and petrol were getting low. Asked someone in Rothbury who said there was petrol at Thropton - just 2 miles - so set off there. "To take immediate effect, this petrol station and shop are closed on Sundays in the winter months" Had to go to start of walk. Seemed the nearest place for petrol later would be north on the A697, about 10 miles away.

Lovely walk. Took lots of photos. Gathered a few mosses and lichens for tomorrow's class. Learnt a lot about clouds and weather.

Then set off north. Gauge now reading 0 miles before filling up. Drove carefully. Following fire engine. Wondering if it would have been better to head for Otterburn - or was the petrol station there also a figment of my imagination? Fire engine was going to car crash - followed my 3 ambulances, police cars....... Most cars in the queue turned around and headed south. I could not risk it. Listened to Tinker Tailor on Radio 4. Alison came and chatted and said she would stay to make sure I was OK. Delayed by about half and hour. Then to petrol station - no credit card in purse (on desk), but had £20 to buy petrol.
Have you ever felt that you were in one of those dreams where you cannot achieve your goal??
And so to bed.......

Saturday, 5 December 2009

Weather Walk

I'm going on a Shepherd's Walk from Rothbury led by Richard Holmes today. He get's the opportunity to talk about clouds and weather and suchlike. At the moment it is pitch black outside and the forecast is for rain, clearing at lunchtime. We'll see. Full wet weather gear definitely.
Maybe some photos to share later.
I'll be glad to go walking today. Yesterday I stayed at home and cleared the garage to make space for my car to be housed for the winter nights.  No more ice scraping in the mornings! I was busy all day and then caught up on some of the tutorials on Photoshop from This is an excellent resource, but not free and I've paid for a month so I need to pack in as much as I can.

Thursday, 3 December 2009


Pretty quiet day today. Went to Hexham to go through the Christmas music with P who plays for our group.  I think we have plenty of material now and it should be a good show.  Lots to do in the last rehearsal on Tuesday.  Messed around with homework photos this afternoon.  Have to have 2 holiday photos. Of course mine are mainly holiday snaps, but I've found a couple to work up. Here is one of them converted for the web.  I took it on holiday in Slovenia when we visited Lubjliana

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Christmas party for Rings Walkers

Today was a brilliant day for walking and 47 (yes 47) walkers set out from Sainsbury's car park in Haltwhistle for a short walk up the burn to Aesica and back via Cawfields Quarry. (NB Looks like a good route for the Singing walk in April.) It was a fine, sunny day and so much nicer than yesterday.
We had a short coffee stop at the penny altar and were back in town in good time for our Christmas "do" at the Comrades Club.  There was a lovely cold buffet as usual and a great buzz of conversation.  By now our numbers had risen to 62!
Maureen and I had made photo presentations which I showed on the computer as people queued for lunch - a great success to do it that way.  Then we had a poem from Lesley, a caption competition organised by Maureen and Brian, and then awards given by Brian W and Tony, leading up to the presentation to Colin and Audrey to celebrate their Golden Wedding.  We gave them vouchers for the Centre of Britain and an original painting commissioned for them. (Mum did the painting and people seemed genuinely to like it.)
It was a delightful day.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

1st December

Very frosty this morning with a glorious sunrise. I was still in bed - too late to use the camera to good effect. Busy rest of morning with website and with music for Singing for Pleasure. Needed to lift car bonnet to fill up water reservoir, but the release handle did not work. Delayed me for a while, but then I went to Haltwhistle to deliver the painting to M and B ready for the presentation tomorrow to C and A. They seemed pleased with the picture so that is great.
Just in time for U3A lecture on wild flowers in China. Arrived on 2pm, but the computer and projector were not talking to each other so spent 20 minutes sorting it out.  Finally got the speaker underway. He was not pleased. The images were overall very good, especially the close ups of the flowers. I'd love to go.
Came home but decided to go out to Wall Garage to see if the car could be sorted. The lovely man there looked at it immediately. It wasn't straightforward but he managed to get to the cable release which had come apart.  Now I can top up the water and put screen wash in ready for the next icy day.
Just in time to make the meal and get out to Photo Club where we had the annual auction. I love auctions and there was a lot of gear available for very low prices. A lot did not sell and we had to take all our goods away again. This was tricky because I'd bought lots of things to! C kindly helped me carry my booty to the car.  I started the bidding for a metal camera suitcase thinking that was all I was doing - but it was soon mine.  Also bought a set of goblets from the Isle of Mull brought in by HS. And so it went on.  Found a great monopod, brand new, and a small printer for Mum to use with the laptop.  Even bought a biography of Wainwright I'd been wanting - disappointed that it smells musty......
And so to bed.......


Funny old day.  Started with trip to Freeman with Mum to pick up her new hearing aid moulds. They are much more obvious than the last ones, but are hypoallergenic. Sadly they are not comfortable and she could hardly hear when they were in.  Back to square one. We were there for about 2 hours.
The to the Metro Centre and M & S. It took ages to find a parking space - everyone is Christmas shopping - and then the queue in Marks for lunch was very, very long. We ended up with a picnic on a bench outside Boots - sandwiches and drink from Boots. Even that took ages to buy due to queues.  It all reminds me of why I don't go the the Metro Centre in December!
Back to M & S where we found a pale blue twinset for Mum and I tried on loads of trousers with no luck. I'm just not the right shape for their trousers - but at least I'm a lot thinner than last year.
Then to picture framers' to choose mounts and frames for 2 embroideries. Mum's commission was taped into its frame.
Home very happy, and just had time to eat before going to the Hexham Art Club preview for the selling exhibition. It's a lovely exhibition with some very good prices.
And so to bed......

Sunday, 29 November 2009

New printer

Spent most of today trying to sort out the new printer/photoshop interface.  The prints looked dark and rather flat. I've tried all sorts of combinations of settings, but finally, when I was just despairing, I think I've cracked it.  Now need to sort out profiles for the papers I'm using and ultimately to get a continuous ink flow system. What an expensive hobby this is, but very addictive!

Managed to print a photo of a candle snuff fungus set amongst a beautiful moss. I don't think it will look like anything on the stand at the photo club, but I'm pleased with it.  Perhaps I'll save up for a macro lens next year......

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Alex Rider

Read the first Alex Rider book on Thursday. I can see why Anthony Horowitz is popular with young readers. The style is simple, easy to read, but despite this he achieves brilliant, exciting descriptions, equivalent of a James Bond movie.  I'm now reading the seventh adventure (don't feel the need to read them all) and I think that will be enough for me. Still putting off reading the last Stieg Larsson - may try to keep that for a Christmas treat.

Camera gear

Treated myself to a new backpack for the camera. Seems excellent - have to get used to all the zips and pockets. I'm sure I'll be losing things in there for a long time to come. Then had a real splurge and ordered a new 50 mm lens. Can't wait.
Off to St Cuthbert's tearoom for their Christmas fair. I've printed cards and notelets for them to sell and more for the village shop.  Hope they go well.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Quorn and Haltwhistle Burn

My first experience of cooking Quorn tonight - made a sort of vegetable stir fry. Quite successful and very tasty. House reeks of garlic AND soy sauce!!
Went to Haydon Bridge Nature Club tonight to hear CM speak about the Haltwhistle Burn. Much more interesting than I imagined, but awful technical problems with the enormous Powerpoint presentation. It contained a large number of images, probably uncompressed, and the images seemed to be different sizes, but the projector also showed the images to one side -very odd and never completed solved. The second computer brought in proceeded to crash and needed a system repair.......The technical gremlins were having a great time tonight.
D came and tidied the garden - delighted.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Edgar Allan Poe

Heard Gail Nina-Anderson speak at the Laing this evening about Edgar Allan Poe. She said that many people think he lived at the end of the Victorian era but he was earlier: 1809 - 1849.  I thought he was writing into the 20th Century.  She spoke about the illustrations linked to his work, most of which were made after his death. It was fascinating. Then we had a pleasant supper and a lively chat with the other women at our table.  Discovered lots of similar interests.
Before that I was out walking with the Haltwhistle crowd. We did an 8 mile circular from Haltwhistle to Greenhead, Walltown and back via Hadrian's Wall Trail.  Wild, wet and windy this morning; just wild and windy this afternoon, but very clarty underfoot all day.  Felt much better after the exercise and all the chat.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

What to read?

Have to decide what to read next after the second Stieg Larsson.  Hmmmn. Maybe just the Observer tonight. (Bought this in village shop today, a) because I wanted part 2 of the Kings and  Queens of England, b) because i needed to prove I do not take the Sunday Express!  Last week a Sunday Express had my name on it; I didn't collect it of course, but it has taken a few goes to convince various volunteers in the shop that I do not take a regular Sunday paper, I have never taken a regular Sunday paper, and, if I did, it would not be the Sunday Express.  (Could have been worse and my name might have been on The News of the World!)

Went to craft fayre at Wentworth while Mum went to church.  Enjoyed it and spent some money on this and that.  Came home with 2 ham knuckles which are ENORMOUS and weighed me down as I went around the stalls. Also bought a bottle of delicious Porto wine.  It may spoil me for my usual cheaper choices.

Very wild weather here tonight: high winds and rain.  Still better off than the poor folk in Cumbria.

The Girl who played with Fire

Just finished reading the second in the Stieg Larsson Trilogy.  Could not put it down! It's a long time since I've found an author who makes me want to keep reading in such a compelling way. Love the unexpected twists and turns all the way through. I'm going to create a gap before I embark on the third book - something to look forward to for a quiet weekend. Hope the fourth book gets published.

Pride of Tynedale awards

Busy day on Friday. Rehearsed with the Unlikely Ladies. We have a new member and are starting new repertoire for our next gig in February. Lots to do and good to have new stuff to prepare.  Left early to go to the Pride of Tynedale awards at the Racecourse.  This was my first awards ceremony and, since I am highly unlikely to be nominated for an Oscar or a Bafta (!), probably the only one I will attend.
The volunteers for the Festival were shortlisted in the Tourism Category. The others on the short list were JM of Shepherds Walks and the volunteers at Vindolanda and the Roman Army Museum. Our category was last to be announced.  I was sure that JM would win because he has worked so hard to build up his business, and been very successful.  So I was quite taken aback when we were the winners.  Ian, Colin and I were there to represent the volunteers and Maureen and Brian were there because of M's Haltwhistle Column. We were so excited.
The overall winner was Eileen Charlton of Haydon Bridge for her work on the Haydon Bridge by-pass. Well done to her.
At the end we all received a goody bag (like they do at the Oscars) but ours contained a Courant, a pen, pad of paper and 2 toilet rolls!!! (The joint sponsors were the Courant and SCA at Prudhoe.)  Great story? Wonder if they will publish that in the Courant?!
It was such a happy lovely do and we are thrilled.
I had to go and do the shopping before coming home to teach M's flute lesson. The others went back to Haltwhistle and had bubbly.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

I have just succeeded in cutting my first mount with my new Logan cutter - bevelled edge and all! Delighted, although I can see that I need practice to achieve a consistent pressure.  At the top is the duotone print from my homework for tonight's class.  The lith print was taken in Barcelona - don't think the subject was ideal but I've followed the instructions.  There is a lot to learn!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

New printer

Had an anxious time installing my new photo printer.  It took over 45 minutes to install.  How can anything take so long in 2009?  It's an Epson r2880. Have I made the right decision?  Only time will tell.  I'm very vary about the amount of ink they are said to use.  Have to sort out the proper profiles for my photo paper now. It's all getting a bit technical.  Have been trying out duotones and lith prints for tomorrow's class.

Quiet Wednesday

Enjoying a very quiet Wednesday at home. Still nursing the cold, but it's not too bad.  Picked raspberries from my garden this morning. I grow only autumn fruiting ones, and it is always a joy to be still picking into November.  In truth they are not as good as a few weeks ago - not as big or juicy, but still pretty good.
I fed the birds, dealt with the rubbish, did some washing, talked to Marjorie, Paula and Lesley on the phone, went to the village shop for milk. All very mundane.
Carla caused me some anxiety because she did not come home this morning and stayed out until lunchtime. She has a habit of doing this when Mum is away. Whoever heard of a cat who is so fixated on one person. She does come to see me occasionally and eats the food I put down, but I know she will be straight onto Mum's knee on Friday evening!
Now I'm tacking the photo homework: I have to produce a lith print and a duotone print.  Interesting but since I'm not very good at monochrome I think I have a lot to learn yet!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Pride of Tynedale awards

The volunteers who help to run the Haltwhistle Walking Festival have been nominated for a Pride of Tynedale award. I'll be one of those attending the lunch on Friday when the awards are announced.  Sounds exciting.  We had wonderful publicity in the Hexham Courant this week too. The editor recognised how important the tourist industry is to Haltwhistle and acknowledged the efforts that people there are making.
My Singing for Pleasure Group worked very hard this afternoon - and they were really up for it. Having something like a concert in December does concentrate everyone's minds. They love the Calypso Carol, which rather surprised me, but they sang it lustily. Just have to work on Still, Still, Still with the various parts for next time.
Just heard that my friend Pauline needs a mother of the bride outfit for next year. Lovely news.

New printer arrived safely as did the mount cutter that went to Pratts Bottom yesterday!

Just printing off final version of carol for this afternoon.

First experiment with uploading photos to the blog. This was taken during the Wooler Walking Weekend. I like the subtle colours and the way the sheep almost blend into the landscape
Sunny and windy here today. My cold is developing - very irritating. Have to sort out music for this afternoon's Singing for Pleasure group (Hexham U3A). We are preparing for our Christmas afternoon when we invite the rest of the U3A and our friends and family to join us. It's always a lovely afternoon. People bring poems and readings and we sing carols and Christmas songs.
I'm enjoying having the house to myself for 5 days while Mum is away on a painting course. It's very quiet here - although she is not exactly noisy!! Feel a bit guilty about enjoying the time alone.
Now I MUST sort out that music.

Monday, 16 November 2009

Phone call today from UK Mail. They were trying to find my house to deliver a parcel. Unfortunately the postcode indicated Pratts Bottom, Orpington. No wonder they could not find our house!
Spent the weekend in the Cheviots, staying at Wooler Youth Hostel, and walking each day in the hills. It was my first experience of hostel life - found the room tiny and stuffy - so glad I did not have to share! The place was very clean and food hearty and good. Both walks were excellent: one with Richard Holmes and one with Peter McEwen.
Back home on Sunday night to look after the cats. Mum is away at Higham Hall on a painting course with Tiane Marie. Looking forward to seeing the outcome.
Had a very lazy day at home today - not sure if I'm going down with a bug or not - might just be tiredness.
Must get ready for Singing for Pleasure tomorrow.....

Friday, 13 November 2009

Glorious day. Off to Wooler for walking weekend. Patio and front path completed and look great. Even managed to get Barclays to take the fraud block off my card which they put on due to "unusual activity" last weekend. Only me trying to buy something on line. Good they look after us, but it takes ages to get through to the right person to sort it all out.
Now all is well.

Thursday, 12 November 2009


Completely hooked on "Collision", drama on ITV all week. Will have to record tomorrow night's episode to view later - can't wait.

Busy Thursday

I originally planned to go to Richmond today to buy new walking boots at the Altberg factory, but there is too much to do before I go off for the Wooler walking weekend tomorrow. Also Dosser and his mate have arrived to finish off the patio (hooray), so it is good to be here to answer any queries.