Sunday, 31 January 2010

winter sunshine walk, signs of Spring

Last night it snowed, so this morning was beautiful in a white sort of way.  I love the appearance of pristine snow just glistening and waiting for the first footprints, don't you?

The sky was that dirty white that promises there may be more snow to come, but by ten o'clock, there was a brighter white glow which indicated that the sun was burning its way through the cloud.

Sure enough, after lunch it was glorious., so I took the camera for a walk.  I thought I'd look for signs of Spring, and I'm pleased to say I found plenty.

New growths on bare twigs are promising to burst into leaf. 

The gorse bushes, above, are bearing cheerful yellow blooms.

There were a couple of different bulbs poking their tough shoots through the dead leaves which have been sheltering them all winter, and, of course, some of the perenniel weeds are stealing a march on all the more sensitive plants.  They are survivors for a reason, after all!

There are some dainty white florets on an evergreen shrub which I haven't identified - anybody know what it is?

I'm really pleased I went for my walk.  Fresh air, sunshine, and crisp white snow underfoot.  Lovely, but I was glad I was wearing gloves and a snug hat to keep my extremities warm!

I wish I could manipulate my photos easily, they seem to have a mind of their own:(

Friday, 29 January 2010

Friday shoot out, look up, look down

This innocent looking drain cover is the beast that caused me to slip in the garden, resulting in a broken wrist.  Feel free to throw rotten tomatoes and such like at it to your heart's content!! 
This one, however, which I am not afraid to set my boots on, is outside the driveway, and belongs to the telephone company, as it proudly boasts along the side opposite my boots :)

Looking across the park, I loved the delicate tracery of the tree branches against the, albeit gentle, sunset.

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

It was quite a good day, until ...

It was quite a good day, until I slipped over on the drain cover in the garden on the way to the garage.

I'd got the washing out to dry on the line in the sporadic sunshine. 

I'd walked up the road to take some packs of Valentine cards for posting to customers.  Not only that, but as it was such a pleasant morning, instead of returning home with an empty rucksack, I continued down to the local supermarket on the docks, and found some lovely plants in the "reduced for quick sale" section, which simply need a little tlc to restore them to full vitality.  Bizarrely one was soggy and some plants were rotting, whereas the other was bone dry!

Enthused with gardening fervour, I then dead-headed some plants in the bed against the side fence, and got out the pruning shears to remove an intrusive brance from a lovely willow tree with golden branches.

I made a simple salad for lunch to accompany some left over pasta with broccoli and carrot in lime juice and olive oil that I'd eaten for supper the night before.

As I said, the day was going well.

I read over a hundred pages of a book on Victorian life and literature, one of my modules at uni, and still all was going well.

Then, I remembered. 

A card had been slipped through the letterbox on Friday, assuring me that someone would be along to read the fuel meters on Saturday between 8 and 12.  I waited in, but nobody appeared.

So I decided to do my duty and go and read the meters myself and enter them on-line, like the good little consumer I am.  That's when the day ceased to be a good one.

I took the garage key from the basket, and the keys to the outside conservatory door.  So far, so good.  The doors opened without any problems.  I'd remembered to take the little card and a pen with me, and even a torch to help me see - I was sooooo prepared for my little venture.

Four steps later I was flying through the air, deciding in less time than it takes to think it how I should try to land to minimise the damage to myself - as there are all sorts of bricks, stones and granite sets piled up out there on which to damage oneself!!!!

I opted for landing on my bottom - it's well padded - but somehow my left hand managed to insert itself into the equation.  So I sat for about five minutes unable to restore myself to a standing position - the pain was ridiculous!

I finally managed to pull myself up with the aid of my right hand, gathered together the now torn reading sheet and other bits and pieces, and carried on with my simple mission.

I suspected I may have broken my elbow and my wrist, as neither would bend properly, but persuaded myself that it was only shock and bruising.  I decided to wait and see, and dosed myself with some paracetamol and strong coffee.

I went and did some more reading, and gradually the elbow eased up, though still swollen.  My wrist, however, I became quite certain was broken.

So, when David came over that evening, I told him of my adventures and he was all for taking me straight to the Emergency department.  I, being practical, decided to have a bath first, as bathing with a plaster cast on is not an enjoyable activity.

Anyway, at just before midnight I finally arrived back home.  I was right, I'd broken my wrist, which is now strapped up.  The good news is, that instead of a plaster cast I have a mesh, metal and velcro strapping on, which can be removed for washing etc, which is so  much better than the plaster cast I had wrapped round my wrist last time I broke it:)

Well, technically, I didn't break it, it was another car driver, but that's another story!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Friday shoot out, noise

A few days late, I know, but I know you'll forgive me, I'm still not 100% :(

So ... noise - in a photograph!  You know, one of those one dimensional things that just show a picture.  There's no sound facility on my photos, I'm still in the C21, not the C25!!!!!

Ok, my children, imagine yourself lazing in the sunshine in a typical English country garden, eyes closed.  You are deliciously warm, almost hot, but there's a gentle breeze wafting the scents of the flowers tantalisingly across your nostrils.  Can  you smell the lavender and roses mingling?  You can?  Brilliant.

You might, who knows, have a little something cool in a glass to hand ... a refreshing G & T, or a lightly chilled white wine, or lager, ice-cold from the fridge.

You're on the edge of drifing off into that pleasant state half awake, half asleep, when something impinges on your consciousness.  A sort of humming, buzzing that draws nearer.  You feel a gentle fanning on your face as the sound increases.  Your hand rises, of its own volition, and waves in front of you, the droning fades and you settle back down to doze.

The wasp flies off to investigate something, or someone else.  Or perhaps he returns to the nest, taking much needed material to enlarge it.

You see, I got there eventually:)  Noise, in my garden, in my town.

We took down a wasp's nest which was built last year, the top phots shows it in use.  I want to share with you the beauty of the delicate paper layers.  The subtle shades in undulating lines of soft colours. 

Can you imagine the buzzing as those workers strove to create this masterpiece of technical prowess?  Of course  you can, you've got imagination.  And the arguments over whose angles were neatest as they made the fantastic little hexagons?  Oh yes, I'm sure it was bedlam in there!

The photo with my little finger is just to give a senst of scale - I suppose I should tell you that I have quite small hands, that will help you to visualise it!

Oh well, that brief glimpse of summer is all you get, back to winter again and reality.  Hope you enjoyed it while it lasted:)

Monday, 18 January 2010

When your stomach rebels, starve it!

So I started with the virus which has closed over 100 wards in Lancashire - I assume some careless person just left it lying around in the pharmacy for me to pick up when I went in.  Kind of them.

So, unbeknownst to me, I gathered it up and nurtured it.  However, it proved ungrateful, causing me to lose a day's food all in the space of fifteen minutes.

I've shown it who's boss though, I didn't eat or drink anything, so it had nothing to play with.  It grumbled, so I went to bed and slept most of the day, and the next night.

It still reminds me it's around, but I'm winning - just don't invite me out to dinner, that's all, I'd hate to shock you with a refusal!!

Ah well, another early night beckons, tomorrow I'll be fighting fit again - and probably very hungry!!!!!

Six word Saturday

Sick of it, roll on Sunday!

Got sickness bug, supposed to last a couple of days - hope that's true :)

Friday, 15 January 2010

Pigeon, Friday shoot out

So I thought I’d try to do this Friday shoot-out, I really ought to use my camera more. The subject was birds – no problem, I thought.

So I took my camera for a walk to the docks when I went to the supermarket – there are always hundreds of birds around the water. Not today, there weren’t! I can only assume that they didn’t like the ice floes too much and had elected to fly elsewhere, for warmer pickings.

I did manage to get a couple of pigeons, very rare birds, these pigeons, seldom seen near public habitation and shops, so boy was I lucky?

Actually, I do like the way the red berries tie in so well with their little red feet, and the red banding around the elegant black rubbish bin – so I’m submitting it anyway. We all have to start somewhere!!

How the mighty are fallen – my story published a week ago in the local paper, such a high, now pathetically sending off a picture of pigeons, such a low. Oh well, next week will be better :-)

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Bruges mini cruise photos

For years I have longed to go on a cruise. Long sunny days and dreamy, balmy evenings - the sussuration of the waves, the clinking of ice in glasses, perhaps a little dancing ... oh, yes, for years I've had this dream.

My brother retired last year, and took off on a cruise over Christmas to celebrate it. He returned and, after telling me how much he's enjoyed it, he told me in no uncertain terms that a cruise would drive me mad and give me several migraines. I love my brother:)

No, to be fair, he was warning me "for my own good". He knows that a buzzing fluorescent tube, a whining fridge, the ticking of a clock, anything like that, can bring on a migraine, and he didn't want me to waste my money and be disappointed.

So, for quite a while now, I've been on the look out for a "mini-cruise" to go on, so that I could get a feel for it, but with the knowledge that it would soon be over if it was unsuccessful. Shortly before Christmas I was on a cash-back website when I spied just such a thing - what's more, it was a BOFOF offer - music to my ears!!!

Last weekend we drove across to Hull to board The Pride of York on a voyage to Zeebrugge, then on to Bruges. We would spend Sunday evening and night on board, be driven into Bruges on Monday morning, be collected again late Monday afternoon, and spend Monday evening and night on board, waking up back in Hull early Tuesday morning.

We set off in plently of time to allow for problems with the dreaded white stuff on the roads, but arrived safely in Hull with no mishaps. We ate an early meal in a lovely Indian restaurant, then off to the port to park the car and board our floating hotel.

I'm vegan, David's almost, plus, annoyingly, I'm allergic to wheat. To counter the problems we foresaw with eating, we packed a small suitcase with: a full size kettle, two baguettes, two packs of wheat-free crackers, four avocados, a punnet of tomatoes, four pears, three apples, countless satsumas, several packets of crisps and hoops, a bag of roasted peanuts, plenty of tea bags and sachets of instant coffee, and half a dozen cans of energy drinks (it's still so near to Christmas that I want to add "and a partridge in a pear tree, but I won't, I promise!!)

Anyway ... we trundled our luggage along to our outside cabin, and set up home. That evening we punished ourselves listening to an abysmal person playing the piano and singing for half an hour - sincerely believing he would improve.
He didn't, so we absconded from the bar on our blue level, and descended to the red level, where a guy with a slightly better voice was strumming his electric guitar along to a recorded sound track. This was jollier, so we stayed, playing cards until about ten, by which time I was feeling slightly queasy.

The sea was rolling quite a lot, but I wasn't sure whether to blame that or the flat diet Coke I'd bought at the bar. Whatever it was, I didn't eat, but went to bed, and slept pretty well. Next morning we discovered that we'd sailed through force 8 gales!!! So I think I can handle a cruise :)

Bruges was cold. They had had snow and ice, and the canal was frozen in several places - sufficiently so that we witnessed several brave, or foolhardy, people standing on it. I could have walked for many more hours taking photos of the beautiful architecture if it had been warmer. As it was, my fingers were painfully cold, but it was worth it, and I want to return in warmer weather to enjoy it again.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

new short story, I'm in the local paper

This is another of the reasons I've not been blogging! I sent it off to a local newspaper, and they're printing it today as part of their Saturday short story series - wow - I'm about to be published! You can imagine the way my face split in two!!!! Anyway, here it is, for your delectation and delight:

Daniel’s Trip to Blackpool

The day we went to Blackpool started out like any other day of the summer holidays; I wish it had ended that way too.

We had toast for breakfast. I had peanut butter and Marmite on mine – one of my favourites. I like it with chocolate spread too. The peanut butter, not the Marmite, of course. I caught sight of Mark, next door, waving. I waved back.

I looked at Mum, and she smiled. ‘Yes, you can go and play with Mark. Make sure you clean your teeth and straighten your bed first, though.’ ‘OK. Thanks Mum.’

# # #

We decided to play football on the green at the end of the road. There’s a small estate down there, and usually quite a few kids about.

‘Mum, can I go down to the green to play footie, please?’

‘Yes, OK; but stay on the green. Don’t go playing in the road. Promise?’

‘Yes, of course. We always stay on the green, you know we do.’

‘I know, but I also know how easy it is to be distracted. So, be careful.’

‘OK, Mum. Can I take some drinks with me? And some crisps?’

‘You can take drinks, but no crisps. You’ve only just had breakfast!’ She put her arm round my shoulders, and gave me a squeeze as she said it. I shrugged her off, of course. I’m eleven now, just, so I don’t need hugs any more. Mark doesn’t let his mum hug him.

I grabbed a couple of cans from the fridge door, and stuck them in a carrier bag with my old football. Then Mark was knocking at the door, and I was off.

# # #

‘Let’s play cricket.’ ‘But I’ve brought my football. We said we were going to play footie!’

‘Yeh, but I’ve changed my mind, I’d rather play cricket. Let’s get the wickets in, then when the other kids turn up, we can get on.’

The expression on his face told me that he’d get his way, as usual, so I just grabbed some sticks and rammed them into the baked soil.

That morning, however, there weren’t any other kids about. We soon got fed up hanging around with no-one else to play with, so we went back to Mark’s to play with his new Wii game. His mum said I could stay to lunch, so I had a toasted cheese sandwich with them.

After lunch, we went back to mine. The house smelt like Mum had been polishing; you know - that sort of warm smell that means the house is loved. Mum wasn’t one of those really house-proud women you see on the telly, but she cleaned up thoroughly once a week or so. Anyway, she was sitting down with a cuppa when we got there.

‘Hiya, did you get a good game in?’

‘Yeh, Mark’s Wii is fantastic. His mum had some really tasty cheese. You should ask her what it was, Mum; you’d like it.’

‘Why didn’t you ask her, then, silly? You were there eating it!’

‘Just thought I’d tell you, you’re always on the phone to each other, anyway.’

‘True enough, I’ll try and remember to ask her. Thanks.’ She smiled, and put down her cup. ‘I thought we’d drive out to the sand dunes for a couple of hours. What do you think? I mentioned it to your mum, Mark, and she said you could come with us - if you’d like to, that is?’

‘Thanks, Mrs Johnson, yeh, that’d be cool.’

‘Great, Mum. I’ll go and grab my camera.’ It was my birthday last week, and I’d got this neat 10 mega-pixel camera.

Mum gave me the keys so we could go and get in the car, while she got the picnic rug out from under the stairs. The cool-bag was by the door, so we took that out with us. We stowed the bag in the boot, but I kept my camera with me.

Mum was out with the rug in no time. She tossed it in the boot, and slammed down the lid. ‘Belts on? Ready to go?’

‘Yes, Mum. Ready to go.’ I kicked Mark’s leg, and nodded at his seat belt. He shrugged, and pulled a face. But then he put it on.

The weather was just right for the dunes. It was sunny, but there was a light breeze from the sea. We found a sheltered spot and spread out the tartan blanket. It has a waterproof layer on the back, which is really useful; you don’t end up with a soggy bum if the sand’s still damp. Mum had brought chilled juices, with a family size bag of Kettle chips and some fruit, so we had a little picnic.

I took loads of photos. One of those I took of Mum hangs on my new bedroom wall. She looks happy, shading her eyes from the sun and smiling at me. I can look at it now, but I couldn’t do for ages; it just reminded me of that never-to-be-forgotten trip.

# # #

Mark killed Mum on the way home. We were nearing Preston when he dropped his i-Pod. He took off his seat-belt to pick it up. A few minutes later, some pratt drove into the back of the car, and that’s how we found out Mark hadn’t bothered to put his belt back on. Mark went shooting forward and crashed into Mum, forcing her through the windscreen.

I could see Mum lying across the bonnet of the car, with Mark on top of her. It looked like he was hugging her. But everything was red and shiny and wet. Mum’s hair was spread out around her head like a halo.

My seatbelt held me in place. It took me a lifetime to undo it.

It was really weird. Like a film. Flashing lights. Men in uniforms. Ambulances and police cars. I didn’t hurt. Nothing was real. The front of a black car was inside ours; it was pushing my seat forward.

The driver was struggling out of his door, past a white balloon. He was shaking his head, his mobile held to his ear.

Everything was silent. They said it was shock. I could only hear myself, screaming like a girl, ‘Get my mum! Mum’s bleeding - please get her out.’

They did, but it was too late. They put a blue blanket over Mum. Over all of her. Mum wasn’t there any more.

I watched them talk to Mark. They put him on a stretcher, covered him with a blanket and gave him an injection. They put a mask over his nose. Why were they making such a fuss over him? I wanted to scream ‘He’s just killed my mum!

‘What’s your name, son?’

‘Daniel.’ Mark’s just killed my mum. She’s dead. Mark killed her.

‘We need to take you to hospital, Daniel, to check you over.’

‘I’m alright. Where are they taking Mum?’ They can’t take her away; they haven’t tried to help her. But they’re helping Mark.'

‘Is that your mum, then? What’s her name?’

‘Amanda. Amanda Johnson. Where are they taking her? I want to go with her.’

‘Daniel, we can’t let you do that. You can go with your friend.’

He’s not my friend.’

‘Have you got a dad I can phone for you? He could meet you at the hospital.’


‘Do you know his number?’ ‘

What?’ They’re closing the door. They’re taking Mum away from me.

‘Daniel, what’s your dad’s phone number, love?’

‘It’s in my mobile.’ I took it out of my pocket and handed it over. None of this is real.

‘Hello, Mr Johnson? This is the emergency ambulance service. We’ve been called out to a road traffic accident. I’m afraid your wife and son were involved. I have to warn you, it’s a serious accident.’

I’ll wake up soon, and it’ll just be a normal day. ‘DAD! They won’t let me go with Mum. Tell them to let me, Dad! TELL THEM!!!’

# # #

I woke up in the hospital; Dad was standing next to me. His red eyes cried out the truth. He put his hand on my shoulder and squeezed. Something trickled down my face. I thought I must be bleeding, but my hand only showed wet. Then I was sitting up, and Dad had his arms round me, and we were both crying. A nurse put a box of tissues on the stretcher, then drew a curtain round us.

Dad said the police had told him that the driver of the black car had been chatting on his mobile, and not concentrating. He hadn’t seen Mum indicate for a right turn, and had crashed straight into the back of us.

If Mark had been wearing his seatbelt, Mum would still be alive. Now I wanted to kill Mark. How could he have been so stupid?

# # #

Everyone says it was “just one of those things”, and that “he’s paid for it”. He spent weeks in hospital; and he’ll always be scarred. Doesn’t change the fact that he killed her, though, does it?

Three weeks ago, a lady from Oxfam came and collected twenty black bin liners of Mum’s life. Our stuff went in a huge van. We followed it in Dad’s car. I looked back over my shoulder and could see Mark and his mum standing at their gate, watching. She waved, but I turned my back on them.

I like my new school, and I’ve got some new friends.

We never go to Blackpool.