Friday, 7 December 2007

About work and cycling

I recently changed my job - although I am still based in the same office and surrounded by the same people, I now work with a different manager with different responsibilities and a different role. I am really enjoying my new job - though I had quite a steep learning curve as my new boss went on holiday two weeks after I started (it had been arranged long ago so I didn't take it personally!).

I work in local government and everything is driven it seems by the ubiquitous "target". Some targets are good - to achieve more or to get better are good goals to strive for. However, we have been working towards a really unpleasant and negative target that makes me feel quite uncomfortable. We have been counting down to the end of the year the numbers of people killed and seriously injured on the roads of Essex. The aim was for the number to be lower than last year - and although we did manage to reduce the overall numbers from last year, unfortunately we didn't quite achieve the figure set for us by central government. It's been horrible to see the number posted on the office wall, gradually rising every day. Christmas and New Year are both very bad times for road casualties, and the most dreadful ones are those that involve young people or children. I have always loved that song by Chris Rea, "Driving Home for Christmas" but it is always tinged with a horrible thought that nowadays we make so many more car journeys at this time of the year, and at at the same time there will be lots of people on the roads who are on the way home from a drinks party or a night out. The floral tributes that you see on the roadsides are a dreadful reminder of the lives that have been wrecked and so often drink driving is responsible. I personally believe we should adopt a zero tolerance to drink driving in this country as they do in some other European countries.

I'm also very conscious of safety as a cyclist. I always wear a cycle helmet, reflective/fluorescent gear and have lights front and back (as well as assorted reflectors). You wouldn't believe the number of drivers who still don't see me (or perhaps choose not to!). I don't cycle on the pavement, and always stop at traffic lights, yet the number of times I get abuse, both from pedestrians and drivers, is unbelievable. My worst problem is with the dog walkers. Part of my route to work is along a shared cycle/footpath which is wide enough to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists but the problem is the dogs - I don't dislike dogs, but the dog owners who walk on one side of the footpath with their dog on the other side with the lead across the width of the footpath really take the biscuit. Oops this has turned into a rant - sorry! Pedestrians who step into the road just because they haven't heard a car coming are also a real hazard. I don't set out on my journey to mow anyone down, but pedestrians are always astonished that cyclists can't stop dead. In the Highway Code they give the stopping times for cars travelling at different speeds, and most people are aware that the faster you are going the longer it takes to stop but a cyclist travelling even at 3 or 4 miles an hour (which is slow) will need a few yards of stopping distance.

This is one of the government's Think campaign posters - it is aimed at drivers to make them more aware of motorcyclists, but cyclists are also very vulnerable. I have only been involved in one accident as a cyclist when a driver opened their car door as I drew alongside - I was very bruised and shaken but it was lucky that it was on a quiet road as I was thrown across the road - if anything had been travelling in the other direction it would have been much worse.

PS - the posting date for this is showing as 7 December - I started it then, but didn't get round to posting until today - 5 January 2008!

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Jumble sale bargains

Here are the things I bought at the jumble sale last week - total expenditure £4!

A pine beveled mirror, three books, a ball of wool - and for the rabbits, a blanket and a wicker basket to play with.

The blanket will be something to keep the bunnies warm in the winter - and I've painted the frame of the mirror and hope to hang it up later this weekend.



I love this time of year, leaves falling from trees, crisp frosty mornings, and lovely early sunsets. For some reason, I manage to find more time for crafty activities in the autumn and winter. I've just finished my apron for Rhonda Jean's apron swap and hope to post it shortly. This is another work in progress:

a knitted patchwork blanket from Woman's Weekly's Knitting & Cross Stitch Special magazine 2000. In fact it is the simplest idea - 4 inch squares knitting on the diagonal with a single bold unifying colour - the rest of the colour scheme can be pot luck (like mine) or you could plan it geometrically to create a repeating pattern. My main colour (as in the original pattern) is dark blue/navy, but I bet it would look lovely in pastel colours too. I've knitted about 30 squares so far - the pattern suggests 9 squares for a cushion cover, 24 for a cot blanket, 36 for a throw, but I'm aiming for 60 to make it single bedspread size (though I may keep going for the double!). I keep a few scraps of wool and needles with me wherever I go and can dash off a few rows if I've got a few minutes to fill.

For the first time yesterday I tried knitting using dpns but I was an utter failure and had to give up after about two hours. My daughter wants some fingerless gloves but I can't get the hang of the technique. I will try again, but I think I'll start on something simpler first.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

Bargain buys

On my way home from the hairdresser this morning, I paid a visit to the Salvation Army shop - principally to drop off a bag of shoes and clothes - and found myself a couple of bargains.

First was this butter dish for £1. I've been wanting to get a butter dish for a while as I've felt guilty about buying butter or margarine in plastic tubs for a long time as we have no recycling for any plastics other than plastic bottles (shampoo, milk etc). I have returned to buying block butter which is only wrapped in paper - and this can be folded very small before throwing away. I'm trying to reduce our household waste, and part of the exercise is to reduce the volume as well as the weight, so everything that can't be recycled or composted is squashed flat, folded down or crushed. In an average week, we don't have more than two carrier bags full of rubbish, in good weeks only one. OK, you spotted the immediate problem - carrier bags. I won't buy black sacks for rubbish and never get supermarket carrier bags as I always take plenty of shopping bags with me - but occasionally we do end up with bags from other types of shopping and these do get used for rubbish. I am sure the day will come when there are no carrier bags at all in our house, and I'm not sure I like the idea of putting loose household rubbish in the dustbin as this will mean more frequent dustbin cleaning. While I have carrier bags I will continue to use them to throw away rubbish, but eventually I'll need to find a hygenic solution - wrapping in newspaper maybe? Hmm; I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

See how small a butter wrapper is when it's folded up!

My other bargains were these two plates at 15p each. I love topiary (a long time ago I trained a bay tree into a lollipop shape, and it lasted for about 6 years, but sadly it died a couple of years back due to an infestation of some kind) and I just liked these plates. I don't really need plates, but these would be nice as cake plates don't you think?

I also got a couple of other items which might be suitable as Christmas gifts (so I won't post photos here).

There's a jumble sale at the local scout hall this week end. I may take a stroll round there this afternoon and see what I can find.

Monday, 15 October 2007

Blog Action Day - 15 October 2007

This post is part of Blog Action Day : thousands of blogs talking about the environment on 15 October.

I am trying to do my little bit to make a difference. Every year on World Environment Day I struggle to find a new pledge to agree to as I do everything I can to reduce, reduce, recycle, etc. We have facilities locally to recycle paper, cardboard, glass, plastic, metals, wood, textiles. I compost vegetable and garden waste, I cycle to work and have replaced light bulbs with energy savings bulbs. I try to dispose of unwanted items to charity shops or through Freecycle rather than sending them to landfill.

But having read so many amazing blogs by people who are really making big changes in their lives, I realise that I have a long way to go. I so admire those who spin and weave, keep chickens and have allotments, growing a wide range of fruit and vegetables. I can't do all of these things (at least not while I have to work full time to keep up the mortgage payments), but I am going to keep on trying to do more.

Let's hope that Blog Action Day increases awareness of environmental concerns.

Thursday, 4 October 2007

What did I just say????

Exactly this (only not quite so eloquently perhaps).

The Lovely World of Blogging

Or not so lovely it seems...

I read a broad range of (what I think are) very interesting blogs - my favourites are crafty and creative like Julie and Simmy or "green" and frugal living like Rhonda Jean, Meredith and Willow. I'm not religious, but I do read a lot of Christian blogs (because they have interesting things to say or are just very nice people) such as Marie and Jess. I like knitters, weavers and spinners, people who make bags and embroider, people who bake from scratch (is there any other way?) and I love to read foodie blogs such as Tea and get lots of ideas and recipes from so many different places. I like to hear about the ups and downs of people's lives and family situations, marvel at their creativity and learn so very many useful things. I even recently discovered Google Reader and saved myself hours (I know, I'm a bit slow on the uptake...), and I'm adding new feeds every day.
BUT, I feel so sad that people feel they have the right to criticise other bloggers. I have seen some very hurt feelings being expressed following some nasty comments and sadly some wonderful people have stopped blogging altogether (Natalie at Isabella in the 21st Century for one - and missed so very much).

I've seen some unbelievably evil comments made to people who've expressed horror at the war in Iraq (by Americans who presumably believe it is patriotic to send young men and women away to die for a conflict none of us should be involved in). If people want to "home-school" or be a stay at home mum, or make jam or conserve energy or buy exclusively from charity shops and boot sales (and blog about it) they should be allowed to do so.

It isn't the criticism itself that is the issue, but the sheer unpleasantness. I have been lucky and not received any negative comments (maybe because I don't say much and hardly anyone reads my little blog!) - but some people out there are making extremely hurtful comments, and causing a great deal of unhappiness. All I want to say to them is IF YOU DON'T AGREE WITH IT, DON'T READ IT. Just as you can turn off your television or radio if you don't like what you hear or see, you can also turn off your computer (or do something else like play online games or shop on EBay).

On the positive side of blogging, it warmed my heart to see how much support
Jane received from her readers after the vitriolic article in the Telegraph, and the enormous outpouring of sympathy when Alicia's dog died (and the hundreds of welcome comments when her new puppy arrived) was truly amazing and the unbelievable generosity towards Rachael when her cat Digit came back from the dead!

So it's not all bad...

If people do feel motivated to make critical comments, they should first consider what damage they might be inflicting. Here is an interesting item about how to give kind criticism - I also love all the useful tips I can pick up here about how to declutter and simplify my life (though I don't know if I can manage this , only 100 personal possessions? - I could manage to get down to 1,000 maybe!).

On a happy note - it was my birthday on Monday and these are just some of the lovely presents I received from my two wonderful, generous and amazing children:

But best of all was a lovely day out with my daughter - we went to the RSPB reserve on the Stour Estuary near Wrabness, followed by a lovely pub lunch. I love autumn, and crunching through the leaves underfoot was just heavenly.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

What I've been up to lately

I haven't been near my home computer much lately. I have missed reading all the lovely blogs I usually visit and hope to catch up in the next couple of days.

Meanwhile, here are some of the things I've been doing:
  • Making jam - for my friend who is fund raising for the hospice

Lovely Victoria Plum Jam

  • Blackberry Jam and Apple & Blackberry Jam (my favourite). These are the few I kept for me - about 20 pots of jam went off for the sale.

Spare blackberries were used to make crumble and stewed apple and blackberries - haven't the blackberries been amazing this year?

  • Making lavender bags - another fund raising idea

  • Taking two very cross rabbits to the vet for their Myxamatosis jabs. No photos of them I'm afraid - since their visit to the vet they are staying very firmly out of my way. Little do they know they're going back in two weeks for their VHD jabs. I expect after that I won't see them again till spring!

  • Making Bunny Manor fox proof in preparation for the long dark nights - it's turning into Colditz - photos to follow when all is complete.

  • Covering old box files to store magazines and knitting patterns in:



  • Painting my newly acquired EBay bargain - I got two of these basket stacks for a very reasonable £13. The other one has two drawers and they will be very useful for storing sewing, knitting and other such crafty things, plus all those odds and ends that we all have lurking in drawers! Also I've got a few charity shop bargains. I want to paint or decorate this little jug but need some inspiration first - any ideas?
Yesterday I had a flying visit to my mum and sister in Bristol - and to collect all the stuff my daughter left behind at the end of last term. When she came home from university in May the car was absolutely packed to the gills and we had to leave bulky things like her bike, bookcase, duvet and pillows behind. Now she's going to be at Cambridge for the next year doing a placement with the Autism Research Centre she will definitely be needing the bike! What a wonderful bike-friendly place Cambridge is (and much nearer home so we will be able to see her more often than when she was at Bath). I'm really looking forward to visiting lots of interesting places in and around Cambridge.

Sunday, 19 August 2007

Cake sale

Once a month in my office we hold a cake sale in aid of a friend at work's fund raising for a local hospice. Her husband was diagnosed with cancer shortly after they got married and he died not long after. She is going on a 10 day trek to South Africa in memory of her husband - it will involve walking for up to eight hours a day across rough terrain, in 30+ degree heat, camping with very basic facilities and finishing with a white water raft ride on the Orange river on the last day. She is trying to raise £3,000 for the hospice. She's very brave - in more ways than one, and I like to contribute to her sale by rolling up my sleeves and getting the mixing bowl out. The only down side is the amount of washing up!

This month's cakes were Banana Nut Loaf (my old standby), Spiced Apple Cake which was delicious but a bit crumbly, Jam and Coconut Sponge, Coffee and Walnut Squares, Anzac Biscuits and Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Next month, instead of the cake sale, there will be a stall at the hospice and I've volunteered to make jam. I'm going to pick blackberries and crab apples and another work colleague has offered to bring in plums. The only problem is where to get enough jars! I've put up a post on Freecycle and hope I get some responses (hopefully before the blackberries are all gone).

I may also knit some items for sale - I don't know what to make though. I thought hot water bottle covers, cotton dishclothes, or little toys. Maybe some of these little animals from this month's Simply Knitting. I'd welcome any suggestions... I have quite a large stash of knitting wool, and it would help to make a dent. Looking back on my blog, I realise I haven't really shown much of my knitting - when I see what other bloggers do, my attempts look feeble. This is a knitted Arnold the Pig I made a few years ago for my daughter. I wonder if it's the sort of thing that would sell at the fundraising day?

I've never been fond of knitting complicated lacy patterns - I prefer patterns that I can unpick when I make a mistake! I used to knit all the time when my children were young, school jumpers and cardigans, toys for school fetes, but I very rarely knit things for myself. I don't often wear knitted things, though when I see some of the knitted socks other knitters are turning out I'm tempted to try my hand at a pair - these look very cosy.

Monday, 13 August 2007

Finding new homes for things

I was busy over the weekend having a big sort out and found lots of things that are no longer of any use to me , but I thought someone out there might find them useful so I listed quite a few things on Freecycle - buckets and spades and sand toys, an inflatable shark (yes a shark!) and fun tyre, bats and balls, a child's bike seat, a couple of hideous brass plant pots, etc etc, as well as a lawnmower and garden roller for my next door neighbour.

Our local Freecycle has lots of members and most things were snapped up very quickly. I'm always in a quandry who to give things to, though I prefer to give things to people who are friendly and polite. If I list an item and get two replies, and one says "Yes please, when would be convenient for you, here is my phone number", and one just says "I'll take it" I have no problem choosing. Some of the replies do make you laugh - sometimes you get a long sob story, other times people email with their complicated reasons why they want it badly but can't pick up for a week, and others are just plain rude. I usually pick the one that causes the least amount of hassle. My daughter answered the door to one man who came to collect a stack of children's videos and he asked her out. We hadn't bargained for that! (In case you're wondering, she turned him down, very tactfully).

I still have a nightmare garage that needs to be sorted out and I can't imagine what is lurking in my attic. Rest assured, as little as possible will end up in landfill! If it can't be Freecycled, recycled, sent to the jumble sale, charity shop or sold on EBay (if I'm very lucky) only then will it end up being thrown away.

The important thing is, I have made some space in my shed and cupboards and even helped my neighbour shift a few items too. However, I have a confession, I took a bag of things to the local RSPCA shop today, and came away with a couple of little baskets and some holiday reading!

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Living with Autism

I have mentioned before that my son is autistic. He's now 18 and attends a foundation course at a local college. He has very long hair, dresses like a goth, enjoys heavy metal and power metal music, adores Transformers and Japanese anime. He doesn't think he has autism - he thinks he is perfectly normal. In fact he thinks everyone is trying to pigeonhole him into being a person with special needs when he feels he is just fine. This can be a problem as he shrugs off help of any kind and will not accept that he is a bit different.

I knew before he was two that something wasn't quite right but I didn't know exactly what was wrong, it just seemed strange that he didn't have any interest in talking. I actually thought he might be deaf but he was checked and found to have normal hearing at around 20 months. It was a real struggle to get anyone to take any notice - the health visitor said he was "a late developer" and the GP wasn't really interested.

Sadly, worry about my son's development took a back seat as just before his 2nd birthday he was scalded on his chest and upper arm which involved weeks in hospital and months of dressings and eventually pressure garments. In addition, around the same time my 4 year old daughter was diagnosed with a blood disorder that we battled with for the next 7 or 8 years. On top of everything, we also moved house, but at last I found a new health visitor who was more inclined to listen to my concerns about my son's development, and we were referred to a paediatric consultant who tried in vain to assess him. My son either couldn't or wouldn't co-operate, but finally there was recognition that something was not right. He was referred to a children's centre where he had weekly speech therapy sessions; there was very limited progress, and eventually at age 4 he was referred to an educational psychologist. She told me then that he had an Autistic Spectrum Disorder and decided that he would need to go to a special school where they would be able to carry out further assessment.

He was so difficult in those years, constant tantrums, impossible to communicate with, but so beautiful he could make your heart melt. He spoke in "echolalia", repeating parrot fashion whole episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine, but couldn't ask for food or drink, he had to be buttoned up tight and covered from neck to toe, couldn't bear to wear a tshirt or shorts in the summer and never went anywhere without a hat on. He would never try anything new - food, games, TV programmes, activities - even hated wearing new clothes. He lived in a little world of his own, almost as if he was a cartoon character - I'm sure he wished he was Toby the Tram.

To cut a long story short, I never imagined the little boy who lived entirely in the world of Thomas, Toby and James, would ever grow up to have any kind of independent life. It may be some years yet before he'll be able to live on his own, but he can travel to Colchester on the train by himself, can cook his own meals (a limited menu at the moment, but he's learning) and shops for his own clothes and music. Admittedly, he doesn't have good social skills but he has lots of online friends that share the same interests as him and most of the time he's happy. He loves shopping but is absolutely hopeless with understanding money though he functions well enough with a bit of help (he can always phone me on his mobile to ask if a £10 note is enough to buy something for £7.50!). And he is now one of the most talkative people you can imagine (admittedly, he loves to talk almost exclusively about things that interest him) but what an enormous change from that silent little 2 year old.

We didn't have a great experience with education; the local provision didn't really meet my son's needs at the time, but I'd like to hope things are improving. The National Autistic Society's campaign Make School Make Sense asks for improved training for teachers and better provision of schools. I hope that in time there will be more support for people with autism and their families. As the song goes: things can only get better!

Friday, 3 August 2007

Happy Bunnies

The rabbits have settled in really well to their new home, though I constantly confuse them by moving things around inside their little house. I have tried to create lots of dark nooks and crannies for them and the last few weekends I have tried various arrangements to find the most suitable. I have finally come to the conclusion that they actually like the excitement of new places to explore so every week when I give their house a clean I'm going to shift their "furniture".

They have their original rabbit hutch (which I am horrified to think pet shops sell as adequate homes for rabbits to live in - there isn't enough room to stand up, or stretch out). I have removed one door so they can hop in and out, and they can hide underneath or stretch out on the roof. Clover has eaten her way through all four legs, but is keeping her teeth nice and short in the process. They have a "sheepy" footstool (originally from Ikea, which I got very cheap off EBay) with Clover's habit of demolishing everything she can get her teeth in to, she's had a really good chunk out of it. They also have the little table and chairs that came with the wendy house when I bought it. With an assortment of old towels and blankets for them to dig into (and for Clover to nibble on) or draped over, they've got lots of hidey holes to play in.

I go out early most mornings and to gather a few fresh leaves and twigs for them to nibble on, hazel and beech are very popular, as well as dandelion leaves - Bramble likes to eat the flowers too. They also get a little cabbage, carrots, broccoli and an occasional apple or pear and Excel for dry food). All this love and care, but they are still totally terrified by the sight of a human. I did mention before that we got these two from the RSPCA, but I don't think they were handled much so they are very shy and Clover really hates to be picked up. Bramble tolerates it, but as soon as he is back in his own space he's out of sight, back legs thumping in a very cross way!

As much as I would love to have two cuddly rabbits, I don't mind too much, as I could just watch them for hours, particularly when they groom themselves or each other. There is no cuter sight than a rabbit washing its face and ears!

Thursday, 2 August 2007

Where did July go?

What a horrible month July was. I'm not a huge fan of hot sunny weather, but July was so wet, cold and miserable that even I was longing for a change.

I had planted tomatoes, courgettes, broccoli, cabbages and pumpkins and a few assorted herbs in the garden, but the wet conditions have meant that I have very little to show for my efforts - the slugs and snails just love the wet, and mildew seems to be spreading everywhere.

Work has been horrible, which I won't elaborate on but things have been so bad I even applied for another job and although I got an interview, I wasn't successful. I'm keeping my eyes open for other opportunities, but I'm the wrong side of 50 and it isn't easy.

Among my few entertainments this month, I decided to read all the Harry Potter books - well the first 6 at least. The final instalment still awaits me. I know, they are children's books, but I've enjoyed reading them, and it's been a bit of escapism. I loved fantasy books as a child/teenager, all the C S Lewis books, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, but I haven't really read much fantasy as an adult. I mainly read crime novels, psychological thrillers and modern and classic fiction. Maybe I'll dip into some adult fantasy fiction, and see it they are as much fun as HP!

Sunday, 1 July 2007

Banana Nut Loaf Recipe

As promised, here is the recipe for the Banana Nut Loaf

Heat oven to Gas Mark 4 350F 180C

Grease and line a 2lb (large) loaf tin

Mix together thoroughly

4oz (100g) soft margarine

4oz (100g) soft brown sugar

2 eggs

8oz (200g)self raising flour

1 level tsp mixed spice (or more if you like it spicy!)

1tbsp golden syrup

1 large ripe mashed banana

4oz (100g) sultanas

Finally add 2oz (50g) chopped walnuts and mix well

Bake for one hour, then reduce the oven temperature slightly for another 20-30 minutes until golden. To check the cake is done, insert a skewer into the centre - if it comes out clean the cake is done!

Thursday, 28 June 2007

When the diet goes out the window

I'd been very good for the past few weeks, trying to eat sensibly and hoping to lose a bit of weight. But I was tempted by the Strawberry Cheesecake Muffins I saw on Pink Purl's blog. My amazing daughter, now back from Romania, loves banana nut loaf, and so Sunday became a baking day.

Trying to multi-task I managed to make a mistake with the muffins - I omitted the egg and the first six were already in the oven before I realised (I only have one muffin tin). The recipe called for one egg, so I beat up an egg and put half of it into the remaining mixture. The two batches looked similar, but as it turned out I actually preferred the mixture without the egg - it was more like a scone, and you can't beat a good scone.

The banana nut loaf is always popular round here (I regret to say I like mine with butter on!). I've been using the same recipe, cut from the back of a flour bag, for many many years. Unlike most recipes, I've never seen any need to change it at all as it is easy, it works every time and I've never known it to go wrong (other than the time I didn't have any greaseproof paper to line the tin and couldn't get it out without breaking it).

So easy - if anyone actually reads this and would like the recipe I am happy to put it up - though I can't give credit to the originator as I can't remember which brand of flour I was using that long ago!

Sunday, 24 June 2007

Be careful what you wish for

I've lived in the same house for over 15 years. All that time, there has been a copper beech tree growing in the garden next door. Although I adore trees, this particular tree has been a problem for my garden, casting very dark shade for half the day and shedding leaves everywhere. Our gardens are very small and not really suitable for trees that potentially can grow to over 100 feet. In the past 15 years it has been "pruned" by previous owners on 4 different occasions and but every time it has grown back even more vigorously. This spring I've been complaining bitterly about it and wishing it gone.

I came home from work on Thursday and was startled by the amount of daylight in my kitchen and discovered that the tree has been lopped off three feet from the ground. I should be happy - but sitting on the fence were the pair of wood pigeons who had been nesting in the tree. I've watched them building their nest for the past few weeks and now they sit forlornly wondering what has happened to their hard work and their babies. Laying on the path I found two broken eggs - I feel so sad for them. I hope there is enough of the summer left for them to find a new tree, build another nest and lay more eggs.

On a more selfish note, whoever cut down the tree trampled all over my garden and broke off my two sunflowers - and this all happened without my neighbours even mentioning they would be cutting down the tree and would need access to my garden. I imagine my poor rabbits were very stressed by the entire experience too!

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Fathers Day

Remembering my lovely Dad, Ray, who died 27 May 1993.

Your three daughters are all thinking of you today.

Thanks for being a wonderful Dad, we all miss you.

Time away from the computer

I wish I could say that I had done something constructive in the past few weeks, but other than suffering from a cold that completely wiped me out, and then two migraines that each lasted several days, the past three weeks have not been very productive. I have done very little gardening (other than tending the few vegetable seeds I've sown), only read one book and my whole house is a bit of a disaster area.

My amazing daughter finished her exams on the last Friday in May and I drove up on the Sunday to collect her from university and empty her room in her shared house - she won't be returning to university for her third year as she has a placement in Cambridge. I should have taken a photo of my car filled with (almost) all her possessions (we had to leave her bike, a bookcase, and a few other bulky items in my mum's shed in Bristol for collection at a later date). It was a frightening sight!

AD had only two brief days to sort everything out, pack and get ready for her trip to Romania. On the Wednesday, I drove her to Luton Airport for her flight and then straight back to work for a tedious finance meeting. What an exciting life I lead.

I'm going to try to grow a few vegetables in the garden this year. Years ago (when my children were at school and I only worked part time) I used to have an allotment and would love to have one again, but know that I can't dedicate enough time at the moment. But I miss the satisfaction that comes from growing and harvesting your own food. I'm just going to grow tomatoes, courgettes, some salad vegetables and a couple of pumpkins (they make wonderful soup!).

Friday, 25 May 2007

Random End of Week Ramblings

It's been a very busy week work wise. One of the pleasant elements of my job involves writing a newsletter twice a year, which is great fun and a lovely change from the day to day routine. However, it's been tough to fit it in to the normal week and I've ended up staying late and even bringing work home in order to get it done. But my articles are all finished, and the draft has gone to the design and print company, who do a great job on the layout. I do feel a little bit of satisfaction when it is all finished.

We have had no hot water all week - amazing son discovered the problem on Sunday night - while in the shower - ouch! Cold water is far from ideal for washing hair that is almost elbow length (AS likes the goth look and hasn't had his hair cut for a couple of years!). However, we were able to get someone in to fix the immersion heater, and I had a lovely long shower this morning (as opposed to juggling with kettles and jugs of water every morning). Being a person who washes their hair every day, I read this with interest. I don't know if this is something I could try. I do try to cut down on blow drying my hair. When I was much younger I had waistlength hair, and I didn't even own a hairdryer, so it is possible to manage without. But the washing.... somehow I can't contemplate this at the moment.

AS is suffering with a very bad cold and sore throat and quite a few people at work have similar symptoms. Amazing daughter is in the middle of her university exams and has been struck down by a horrible bug too, though of the stomach variety. In addition this is the worst time of the year for hayfever, which another cross she has to bear. She has worked so hard, but is very worried that she will do badly this year (this is her second year).

Thanks to Willow for your comments on our rabbits' window box - the wendy house was bought from EBay, and had been built by a dad as a play house for his daughters, but they had outgrown it. It was originally painted blue, and the window box was already attached to one end and a trellis to the other. To me, it looks a bit like a prairie log cabin, you could just picture an old woman in a rocking chair on the porch shelling peas, or darning socks! It is just over 5ft high inside (I can just stand up in it as I am just under 5ft tall) but AS keeps banging his head! I liked the light colours - most wood preservatives and stains are quite dark, but having painted my fence the lovely light green, I thought the cream and more of the green as a contrast would look nice. I like the beach hut look too, so my poor old shed had better look out or it might get a lick of paint next!

I'm currently reading my way through the Rebus novels by Ian Rankin - 6 down, quite a few to go. I think I'll take a break when I finish the current one and try something a bit different. When I find a writer I like, I then try to read their entire output, but that doesn't always have good results. I'd read a couple of Joanne Harris's novels that I really enjoyed, but when I read a couple of later books I found them disappointing. I started reading the Ian Rankin books because I got a bargain paperback of his from a charity shop, but when I started reading found that I needed to know what had happened in the previous novels. I've gradually got through the earlier Rebus novels, and haven't been disappointed yet, but I do feel the need for a change of style for a while.

Thursday, 24 May 2007

Bunny House

Our rabbits have at long last moved into their new home, though there is still some work to be done. As mentioned in an earlier post, we really wanted to give our rabbits a secure home where they would be safe from extremes of weather, and most of all be protected from foxes, kestrels etc.

Anyone reading this who doesn't have rabbits might think this is rather excessive - you are probably right, (my daughter has begun to refer to me as the mad rabbit woman!) but if you are a rabbit, you like to have some private space as well as lots of room to move around, and space to stand on your hind legs and stretch out to your full length. Inside we have provided different levels, dark cubby holes and cosy places filled with hay to snuggle up. We have fixed wire mesh around the "verandah" but this weekend I hope to put the finishing touches, which will include fencing off a small area of lawn to the front for them to use. Another photo will follow when everything is done.

A couple of random photos of the two lucky rabbits - here is Bramble

and here is Clover washing her face. They come into the house sometimes for a few hours at a time, but are very shy and usually like to burrow out of sight!
We are very lucky that these two are very well litter trained, and cleaning up after them is so easy. I am looking forward to some excellent compost in a few months time!

Saturday, 12 May 2007

My Journey to Work

Although I am not originally from Essex, since I've lived here for over 15 years I have come to love many things about this county. I'm originally from the West Country, and much appreciate the drier climate here, and the distinct lack of hills (which as a cyclist I do prefer!).

One of the things I like about living in mid Essex is the proximity to the countryside. On my short journey to work each day, I am fortunate enough to travel along a very attractive path, which is surrounded by trees, with the River Chelmer running alongside.

Most days I cycle to the office along this path and cross over the river via a footbridge. It's very pleasant, and as the seasons change there are so many lovely things to see. I actually took these photos about two weeks ago, and in just that short time everything has become even more lush, there are even flowers opening on the water lilies in the river (the variety is Brandy Bottle - though I've never got near enough to catch a whiff of the scent that gives it it's name!).

Recently, one bank of the river was banked up with willow, which is a natural means of reducing erosion. It is quite attractive, and apparently in a couple of years there will be a lovely willow hedge holding everything firmly in place.