Friday, 31 January 2014

January, sick and tired, you've been hanging on me*...

January has been so wet. So much rain, and then the 'freak storm' or 'mini tornado' (depending on which version you read) that lasted only 10 minutes last Saturday - thunder and lightning, fierce winds, and hailstones! The wet weather, and how bored everyone is with it now, is even more of a topic of conversation at the moment. Pity the poor souls down in Somerset and Dorset who have been flooded out for a month now...

The market always struggles in wet or windy weather, and it was pretty much deserted the other week.

The high street was quiet on market day, with only a few hardy types scurrying damply from shop to shop.

But, a puddle on the lane declared its love - I 'heart' rain!

Down to the wildlife site, via the cemetery, and past some lovely crusted gravestones.

Noticed some lovely mushrooms on a damp log and, elsewhere, there was a bit of pond sorting. You might think that the amount of rain we've had would mean the pond would be full to the brim, but there are splits in the liner, and it needs to be replaced. Meanwhile, George of the jungle has tried to make a little bit more space for amphibians by clearing out some of the weeds.

With yet more rain it was time to make hearty veggie stews, huddle in front of the fire, and enjoy some cookies made by our junior chef next door. No great hardship!

* 'January' by Pilot

Wednesday, 22 January 2014

On the road to nowhere...

Out early yesterday morning to deliver the Wildlife magazine (a voluntary thing I do a few times a year) so spent a couple of hours wandering around in the fog - which was surprisingly pleasant!

The ends of roads disappeared, trees loomed out of the grey, and the ends of my hair, sticking out from under my hat, sparkled with droplets of water. Everything felt 'shut down'. I made a detour through the graveyard because there are loads of trees in there and, as I hoped, they looked wonderfully ghostly...

There was a bit of colour around, standing out against the murk, like this lovely little mosaic on one of the gravestones (I accidentally caught the two words on the bottom right - I need to go back and see what else is written there!) and the skeletons of Chinese lanterns in one garden tucked away down a long driveway.

 I had to deliver a magazine to the old vicarage, and the church looked suitably Hammer Horror...

Down towards the river, and over the bridge, where I stopped for quite a while - it looked so mysterious and beautiful. Meanwhile, trucks and cars thundered along behind me, over the bridge - quite a contrast. I crossed over, and on the other side of the bridge a lone duck paddled out from the bank and drifted, a little speck in the distance.

Then, just as I lifted my camera after taking a few shots like this, there was a sudden flash of bright iridescent blue as a kingfisher flew below where I stood and disappeared under the bridge. It's only the second one I've seen, and the first one in flight. So, of course, I crossed back over again to see if I could spot it anywhere on the other side of the bridge, but no... Back over again, for just one more look, but no flash of blue. Still, what a treat to see one!

On the walk home, all the magazines safely delivered, I passed this place - I believe it's now someone's home, but the etched glass in the windows has been preserved from when it used to be a pub. It would be absolutely perfect for me and Mr Drookit...!

Monday, 20 January 2014

Highs and lows...

One of those weekends when we're reminded why we are so happy to be living here, even if mice love living here too...

On Friday, some friends went to a comedy gig at the theatre, and a few of us met them afterwards for drinks in the theatre bar. Lovely to be out with some great women, for silly conversation and a catch up - something I should definitely do more often.

Saturday turned out to be a kitchen and shed day, with me making some bread, and a banana cake to use up the bananas that had been kicking about for just too long, and Mr Drookit out in the shed sorting out the devastation caused by dratted mice! Our stored apples and pears, and a dust sheet left over from decorating had obviously caused the local mouse population to think they were in heaven... A lovely toasty house and a buffet of delicious fruit right there, and no giant humans coming in to tell them to get lost - what's not to love?

So, the pears are no more, and lots of apples have gone. The dust sheet (a really good, thick one) is in the bin, having been chewed to bits, and used as a communal loo... bleugh! Hopefully they won't come back, but we'll just have to get out there more often and check, and hopefully scare them off. It makes me even more determined to build a better shed one of these days, with a brick base so that no pesky little creatures can get in...grrrrrr. Perhaps I should stop shooing the cats out of the garden (to protect the birds) and let them go and sleep in the shed to ward off the mice... Still, all the outdoor and indoor activity was followed by a lovely evening, curled up in front of the fire, eating Mr Drookit's home-made veggie stew with my bread, followed by banana cake. Simple pleasures!

This cat always miaows a hello as we go past. Not sure it appreciated having its picture taken! Rude
We headed out on Sunday to buy some coffee and bits and bobs, and went past St Peter's church - only to see that the doors were open, because it was 'clean-up' day, when volunteers come in wielding dusters and mops to do a spot of house-keeping! Off I went to do the shopping, whilst Mr Drookit went in to lend a hand. Of course, I had to go in and help out when I got back. Only one minor embarrassment when I didn't notice one section of the floor had been newly waxed and I ended up flat on my back! No harm done (except to my pride, of course) thanks to my bulky winter coat, bulky bag on my back, and general, natural, bulkiness... I got up, dusted myself down, and finally got on with dusting around the building once everyone had stopped asking if I was okay! Amazing how much dust and dirt accumulates - one junior volunteer showed me her dustpan with a couple of manky old Brussels sprouts she'd found in one corner, no doubt left over from the farmers' market.

Only the bit at the very end had been done when I slipped - even I would have noticed if it had all been this shiny!

The old place looked very lovely with the sun light streaming in through the windows - a job well done, I think.

Home again, and while I typed up my blog post, Mr Drookit did some piano practice - which always makes me happy. Then, drawing the curtains, and settling down with more homemade stew and homemade bread, was followed by an evening curled up in front of the fire - both of us saying how lucky we are to be just where we are. Bliss. x

Sunday, 19 January 2014

Weekends and more water...

Last Sunday morning was beautiful, bright and sunny, so we headed off for a walk across the meadows, hoping it might be a bit drier than the previous week. As we strolled down the hill, a couple were just getting out of their car and told us that a fox had been following us all the way down, and had just moments before gone off down one of the side streets! How could we know? From now on tho', I think we'll occasionally throw a glance over our shoulders just in case we're missing something!

The meadows, almost completely underwater last week, were at least visible, but still very wet under foot - and an occasional foray towards what seemed like a patch of dry grass would lead us into swamp. A father and son were out fishing, and swans were swooping overhead. Mr Drookit got the best pictures of them, looking impressive and big!

We followed a zig-zagging path towards the old railway walk which, while still muddy, was at least less wet. The birds were out in force, singing and flitting around from branch to branch. There were still apples on the trees and conkers on the ground for Mr Drookit to photograph, and our favourite place to stop and look at the swans had him taking more pictures - one can never have too many pictures of swans!

Lots of walkers and muddy dogs. Why are muddy dogs always so keen to rush up and say hello? At least the horses in the fields usually just ignore passersby, whilst inadvertently posing prettily for pictures...and inducing accidental alliteration!

Some folk were out riding their horses - including this one, with a little heart shaved into its rump.

Onto the railway walk, which wends its way through fields and trees, but also looks onto back gardens - like this one with a rowing boat, just in case the water gets high again. There are still trees waiting to be cleared after the storm back in October, but in the meantime making improvised bridges for wildlife.

Back towards the centre of town, and then home. Lovely!

Fairweather friends...

We have a couple of friends we visit, but usually only when the weather is clement... It just has to be dry, and not too cold, for us to visit them on the bike, otherwise they come to us by car. This time it was damp, and very cold, so they came to us, and we headed out to Boxford to find somewhere for a pub lunch.

We visited Boxford for their open gardens event last year. In comparison to then, when it was filled with little groups of people wandering up and down merrily ticking off one garden after another, it felt deserted - perhaps everyone had gone away for the weekend! We went to the Fleece, which was packed out during the open gardens. This time we had one of their rooms all to ourselves for a while.

It was originally a 15thC coaching inn and, although it was renovated a couple of years ago, it still retains its old wooden panels, and beams, and so forth. The light slanting low through the windows made for some atmospheric shots.

A really delicious lunch - I felt a little envious as three (non-veggie) meals were brought out for the others. My vegetarian choice of brie and roasted vegetables on ciabatta didn't sound hugely promising, being 'just a sandwich', but Mr Drookit agreed that it was even better than his!

We only had a quick walk round the village - it was bitterly cold - and headed home as the clouds gathered again.

Monday, 13 January 2014

New year, new stuff...

A quick stop in my favourite shop, AG Lifestyle, which has a sale on - not that I need anything, of course, but I occasionally buy a little something because I want the shop to keep trading. Buy local! A display dummy caught my eye - apparently just a normal run-of-the-mill modern one, but with this fitted linen shift on top, so that brooches and other jewellery can be displayed on the front. It's a lovely way of transforming something quite ordinary.

In complete contrast to all the sparkly loveliness of that place, I was at the wildlife site to help make some more hibernaculums for the lizards and slow worms. Probably a bit late for this year, but they'll hopefully be used next year. Lots of branches down after the storms of recent weeks, so plenty of material to use - weaving larger branches together, to give basking areas, and topping them with smaller twigs and leaves to make a cosy space for reptiles to hide away.

It was such a glorious day on Friday that I came home, covered in mud, and spent the rest of the afternoon in the garden, doing a little bit of tidying up - so good to be outside in the sunshine, even if it was a bit chilly. With the birds singing and shoots beginning to appear it felt like Spring - but there is colder weather on the way apparently, and we had a proper hard frost the other morning. This time last year we had snow on the ground!

Fingers crossed they all survive. As well as masses of primroses just waiting to flower there are still, what must surely be, the very last flowers left over from 2013. They won't enjoy being snowed on...

...and this miniature mossy landscape on top of the brick wall.