Friday, 17 January 2020

Preserving and pampering (and pets)

Mr FF is in Tenerife, as you do he has taken himself off with one of his groups for a weeks walking at a large all inclusive hotel.  I was of course invited but the thought of mouching around all day, maybe having to be pleasant to strangers and listening to the walking chat all evening didn't really appeal and of course my life is never lacking sunshine so I am enjoying the winter here in Ilkley.  The 425 bedroom hotel with two pools, entertainment, so far including a nightclub, bingo and an Elton John tribute show,  made up my mind.  Last night I watched a programme on tv about a similar hotel in Spain, I was a bit shocked by the group of ladies who drunk 5 vodkas before lunch and then switched to cocktails and the fact that chicken nuggets were the favourite meal on the menu.  
So Mr FF is enjoying the sun and scenery when he can tear himself away from the buffet.  The island does look very pretty, he's sent plenty of photographs and the group are certainly getting away from the crowds.
I have been enjoying lazy baths, face masks, a pedicure, late night and early morning reading, too much time on the internet and strangely a lot of tidying.  I've also made the marmalade for another year, 9 jars and a small sample pot.  
I'm feeling relaxed and happy, particularly so as this morning there was an email from Mario with a photo of one grey cat.  We have no idea which one it is or if there are more but we have a cat and it looks like some sun.  

Friday, 10 January 2020

Back over the border

Since we left Scotland back in September 2014 Mr FF has returned a couple of times, I had never been back.  Until this week that is.  
A good friend of Mr FF died just before Christmas, he had been ill for a while, it wasn't unexpected, and we returned for the funeral in Greenock.  We were invited by another walking friend also attending the funeral to stay with him the night before, which was a big help. The funeral was a positive celebration of John's life, complete with music from the Goons, Abba and we left the service to the sound of Ken Dodd signing Happiness which put a smile on everyone's face. 
Then we stayed two days with our dear friends Pam and Andrew in the village where we lived for more than 20 years.  
So how was it going back you ask.  Well it wasn't as cold as I expected, I took plenty of layers but despite some awful wet and windy days I didn't feel the chill.  I had forgotten how beautiful the Scottish hills are, I love where we live now with our views of Wharfedale but the Borders are dramatic and majestic, I needed a reminder of that.
The boys had a trip into town for curry, the girls a much more girly day out with bookshop and gallery shopping, lunch and coffee and cakes.   In one shop I met the wife of a man I used to work with, I was surprised and pleased she recognised me and reminded of my days working in Edinburgh.  
We caught up with friends who live in the same little development of 9 houses where we were, we got the warmest of welcomes and time flew by as there was so much to talk about.  We did of course sneak down the road for a look at our old house and were rather shocked to see the state of the garden, and not just ours.  Many of the gardens were totally overgrown, unkempt, walls and fences falling down, it looked truly awful and must effect the value of property.  It made me very cross that people do not care for their own environment, what hope for the world if they can't see what is on their own doorstep.  I was rather pleased we left when we did before the decline.
We had a leisurely drive home that involved brie and bacon baguettes and coffee on the side of Lake Ullswater, a stock up at a farm shop and a round of applause from me as we passed the Ilkley sign as we entered our town.
Despite the sad occasion it was nice to reconnect with people, I miss my friendship with Pam and all our chats, knitting together and her listening to my rants.  We keep in touch with email and rather infrequent phone calls but being together was so much better and of course neither of us has aged a day over the last 5+ years.
The day after we left I had an email and a photo from Pam of their lovely garden that morning, I think we did rather well to avoid this.

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Another one over

I think its safe now to think about taking the decorations down, such as they were.  Despite the inspirational stately home visits, in the penthouse it was mainly greenery and candles with of course cards everywhere.  
Before you ask, yes the £5 stocking rule still applies though this year Mr FF failed miserably and ended up buying me a couple of magazines which even as an offer exceeded the budget.  I of course did brilliantly, knitted him a hat with a couple of balls of pure Falklands wool I'd found for less than £1, a book about Pompeii £1, a British made leather belt that he liked very much from the charity shop £1.99 and stuck for something to spend the last pound on I gave him a big bag of savoury snacks, normally food and drink are not allowed, snacks were this time.  Job done.
We had a calm quiet time with the nicest walks ,Mr FF out with his groups, or just he and I wandering round the town and over the river,  gazing at the really  expensive houses or sometimes up onto the moor.  New Years day there was the traditional plunge into the baths at White Wells, we walked up to see people taking part and shivering a lot.  There is a little video here from the Yorkshire Post taken this year, you get the idea of how horrible it is, by mid day when we arrived the water was filthy and 4 degrees, but Yorkshire folk, you know.
In a few days we are heading back to Scotland, sadly for the funeral of one of Mr FF's walking friends who had been ill for some time.   Afterwards we are staying a couple of days with Pam and Andrew in the village where we lived.  It will be the first time I have been back since we moved to the penthouse.  
I hope you had a wonderful time, that normality is returning and that 2020 is everything you want it to be.  Happy New Year.

Friday, 20 December 2019

The festivities go on

Having so late in life discovered the pleasure of excessive stately home Christmas decorations yesterday we visited Harewood House which is not so far from the penthouse.  We met up with our friends Roger and Christine, started with coffee and chat then took a walk round the beautiful grounds, I am not a fan of formal gardens but for some reason I loved this one.  

The parkland is glorious, we walked round the lake through the Himalayan garden then took the little ferry back across the lake to the bird garden, which I felt was unnecessary and rather depressing, I am not a fan of captive creatures in small spaces.
The decorations in the house were not as opulent as Castle Howard, obviously everything was on a much a smaller scale and there were a lot of animations that I didn't particularly enjoy, talking statues that kind of thing, which involved the rooms being quite dark.  We need to go back again at a normal time of year to see the property fully.  
Fortunately I did see the painting of Seymour Worsley, the Scandalous Lady W.  If you haven't seen this BBC film you must watch it.  I watched it in 2015, have been waiting ever since to see the portrait, now I need to see the film again.

The below stairs part of the tour was delightful, you could just imagine the hot and steamy work involved to prepare elaborate meals.  There were a lot of cupboard doors that could be opened to reveal beautiful glassware, china, pots and pans. I came away thinking that I too probably need about 4 dozen individual size cut glass decanters.
And no library, there are 3 in Harewood House, should be complete without a Christmas tree of books.
This weekend we will travel to my brothers for the Santa drop and to attend the carol service in the village where he and I were born.  Another Christmas, another year almost over, I hope you have a happy and peaceful time.

Saturday, 7 December 2019

Christmas at the Castle

We are just back from a couple of nights staying with friends in North Yorkshire.  They had been to visit us while we were in Lazio and wanted to give us a treat as a thank you, and what a treat it was.  They took us to see the festive decorations at Castle Howard.  We started with coffee, then a tour of the house gazing upon the decked out bedrooms, study, the long gallery, dining rooms, a massive tree under the dome, it was fantastic which coming from someone who is always so bah humbug about Christmas is praise indeed.  We had lunch, took a walk round the beautiful parkland and the walled garden, it was a bright sunny day and everything looked as it should under blue skies.  We left at dusk just as the trees along the drive were coming on, it was beautiful though my photographs probably don't do it justice.

Oddly I came home quite inspired to make the penthouse feel festive.   I am currently sourcing battery candles, for safety, and these two red birds came home from Castle Howard, they've settled in well on the minimalist tree we put up in our hall.  71 and suddenly there seems to be a turn around, it may not last. 

Saturday, 30 November 2019

A new family member

Whilst we were driving through France on Armistice Day we were blissfully unaware that our youngest niece was giving birth to her first baby.  We didn't know until we were home the next day that baby Isla 7 lbs 1 oz has arrived safely on 11.11.2019.  She and Mum were in hospital for almost a week as baby was jaundiced but after they settled in at home we visited.  Isla is adorable of course and while we were there very well behaved, apparently the nights are not quite so calm and daddy when he came home from his first day back at work was looking more than tired.
I quickly knitted up a little gift for the baby in a lovely soft cashmere and silk yarn.    I've used this pattern many times, its something for when she is a bit bigger.   I love knitting for children and have plenty of plans, fortunately she has other great aunts who knit and crochet so Isla will know the delights of hand made garments and already has hats and blankets.
Isla is welcomed into a large extended family with grandparents, great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, cousins and half cousins who all live within an hour or so.  She will be loved and treasured.  Our other grand nieces Amelia and Esme were quick to visit and apparently delighted though the younger, aged 8, was a bit apparently rather disappointed the baby didn't actually do anything.    
On the other side of life we have had a couple of deaths here in our building since our return, one sudden and quick the other after a long illness.  It makes me very aware of the passing of time, things move on, new lives take over and suddenly here I am the older generation.  We all get our turn and its up to us to make the best of it.  I had an letter this week from friends in Canada who had settled into retirement, only for the husband to be offered a fantastic job that suits him well, brings in a great wage and has turned their lives around, they plan big celebrations this Christmas.
So after a couple of weeks back we are rested, settled and getting out and about.  Next week we are staying with friends for a few days, today Mr FF is out with his walking group.  Have a good weekend doing whatever makes you happy. 

Thursday, 14 November 2019

Armistice Day

We left Lazio around 7 on Sunday morning for the long drive home and made it into France that evening.  Monday was a national holiday in France to mark the Armistice, an agreement to end the fighting of the First World War as a prelude to peace negotiations, begun at 11 am on the 11 day of the 11 month in 1918.  
We agreed that we would stop at the appropriate time for the 2 minute silence and fortunately found it convenient to do so in a small town in the Alsace where we watched the formal and respectful ceremony that involved lighting a flame beside the town war memorial, the laying of wreaths and much singing of the national anthem by a choir of school children.   It was very moving and for some reason my thoughts turned to our very different journey home last year when the yellow jacket protesters blocked our route and went on over many weeks to cause disruption and riot in Paris defacing buildings, damaging property and looting shops in their own capital city.  Today it seems there is much to complain about in such a hostile way, I wonder how it felt to be a 15 year old boy leaving the UK to go off to die in battle in a foreign country.  
Before we checked into our hotel later that day we took a detour to Arras, the site of a national war memorial designed by Edwin Lutyens that has etched into its stones the names of nearly 35,000 UK and commonwealth soldiers who were declared missing as well as 2670 graves in the beautifully maintained cemetery beside the memorial.   
As well as the official wreaths from the town mayor, the war graves commission and the like,  many ordinary people from all over the world had been to pay their respects.  Family of the fallen, generations who never knew the soldiers but knew of them, left poppies and flowers and notes of thanks.  I was touched to see someone had left a poppy for both their grandfather and the grandfather's brother, they had died together.   I'm glad we too found the time to pay our respects.

Their name liveth for evermore