Archive for the ‘departures’ Category

I have just seen this trailer for a new series by Jane Goodall and it looks wonderful.

Although it seems dreadful to utter the C word, we have had our first Charity Catalogues come through the post already so I might as well put it out there that I would like this Series for my present this year:)


Then I can go back to enjoying our wet, Spring-like August and praying for an Indian Summer through September and October to give me some kind of harvest this year.  It was too cold, wet and windy to plant out early, not really until late May, and it has come back in July, making for such a short growing season on the top of my hill.  The shortest I have every known.  I have just germinated some more French Beans and Sugarsnap peas because the last lot have not done well: these will need a couple of days to harden off and then I will plant them out, probably with fleece, to see if I can possibly get a bit of a harvest for the freezer.

Yesterday a photographer from the local paper came to take photos of me and Eddie:  he behaved like a pro but I was not very happy about having my own photo taken.  The photographer was a lovely young lady who said it made a change from football matches!!

Today I have been clearing piles of papers from several years ago and researching suggested supplements online for therapeutic ketosis and immune support.

Life has thrown us another curveball in that a house we have long had in the back of our minds for our old age has just come on the market.  But we cannot bear the thought of leaving our present home for at least four or five years.  So what to do?  It is unique, as our present house is, has even better views than we do and is just on the edge of the village instead of down the lane in a small hamlet.  The last owners of this other house have been there for 35 years so if we do not take the plunge now, will we lose the chance?

It is very expensive which might just take the choice out of our hands; we are having ours valued on Monday.  This other house is modern, smaller, and we would want to spend quite a lot and make some substantial changes, but it is on fairly level ground, five minutes from the bus, ten minutes from the doctor and shops, yet has a paddock which would take the geese and ponies, a stable and huge workshop garage, garden shed and is fully dog proofed.

However, it has street lighting which I hate, a busy road running past, and is semi-detached which we are not used to.  Oh dear, this is so very hard.  I know what I would say to someone else, but it is quite different when it is your own home you might have to leave, which you have loved and rebuilt over 40 years and where all your pets are buried and which has all the plants and trees from friends and family now deceased.  Here we just walk out of the gate onto a lane with trees all round, where we feel totally safe, comfortable and at home.  But good sense suggests that we think extremely carefully about our decision as in all the years we have been here, we have never seen another house, except for the one now for sale, which has things that we both need and want.

We went to look at it yesterday: it is not surrounded by trees as we are here.  When I went to bed last night our owls were hooting and chatting in the big trees outside the bedroom window. Our pheasants and badgers creep over the fields and through the undergrowth and the hedges we planted 30 years ago and wait for us to feed them every evening. How can we leave them?

But, if things go badly for me healthwise in the next little while it would be much easier for me to manage in this other house, and if I die before my husband, he could actually continue on in this new house whereas he says he could not manage here alone.  Oh, how hard it is to grow older physically but stay young mentally.

You have to admit that life on this hill is varied!



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I’m off to Oban on the West Coast of Scotland to visit friends who have moved there to live: I have not seen them for over a year and the trip which was planned earlier in 2016 did not work out because of accidents to, and sudden and severe problems with, one of my knees.  It should take about nine hours to drive there barring severe traffic, bad weather, road diversions or road works.  But in UK most of these will occur so I am not expecting a hugely fast trip and anyway it will be more fun to take my time and see things that I want to see.  One thing I have learned this year is that we must take every opportunity to do things we want to do, never put it off!!

So . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

Dates worked out with friends’ timetable: tick.

Places I wish to visit en route: tick. (Ripon, Carlisle, Birdoswald Roman Fort, Loch Lomond, Oban, Killin, Stirling, Falkirk, the Antonine Wall, Hexham, Corbridge Roman Town, Middleham Castle, Richmond Castle.)

Route planned: tick. (Must include the A66 and the A68!)

(A few notes about my route.  I am basically travelling North up the West, and back South down the East, sides of the country, although I am not heading to the Western route immediately.

From home I am taking the A1 from here northwards to Scotch Corner.  The A1 used to be called the Great North Road as it was the highway from London to Edinburgh.  It has been superceded to some extent by the newer M1, the first motorway built in this country, but I suffer travelling the first part of the M1 northwards from here to Leeds as PTSD makes the journey distressing, both mentally and physically (some terrible things happened to me in Leeds many years ago) and anyway I prefer the A1.  Since becoming more of a secondary route it is not usually so busy, fast or intense as the M1.  Scotch Corner is so called because it is the point of divergence for northbound traffic which splits here to head either West to Glasgow [on the A66] or continuing to Edinburgh.  From Scotch Corner I shall take the A66 which is a lovely road over to the West through Cumbria and there stop over in Carlisle, thereafter joining the M6 leading North to the M8 taking me round Glasgow to Loch Lomond [another stop there] and then up the side of the Loch on the A82 to Crianlarich and on to Tyndrum, from where I shall cross West to Oban on the A85.

On my way home I shall cross Scotland from Oban to Stirling via a stop for lunch at Killin, coming back along the A85 and turning off at Lochearnhead on to the A84 and M90.  Then continuing on down to visit Stirling Castle and Falkirk [another stop here], M9 and A720 round Edinburgh and travel South on the A68 through Northumbria which is a road I love and which holds many happy memories, to Hexham [a stopover here too].  Thence continuing on the A68 all the way back to the A1 near Darlington, this time Southbound, Richmond and home.

Daily mileage worked out: tick.

B&B research re budget price, accessibility, ground floor rooms and walk-in showers: tick.

B&Bs booked: tick.

Plants planted: plants watered: animal food bought: husband food bought: lists of instructions for husband written: vet’s instructions for dog and gecko written out and medication  timetabled:  an evening out with each of two of the three grandchildren achieved: medications gathered in: physical aids gathered in: maps sorted:

Gosh, will I ever get off?

Yes, its Sunday lunchtime, I’m ready and I’m leaving.

First stop, Ripon in Yorkshire.  I want to see the Cathedral and especially the Crypt.  Apparently it is only an hour’s drive away from my home, according to Google.

I hit the motorway, sun shining, easy listening – Vivaldi’s Concerto for Flute and Oboe on the Radio.  Freedom.  I feel eighteen years old.

Ring husband – “Did I forget to collect my Magnesium oil from the kitchen worktop?”  (In this new car you can phone using the car itself, hand free, magic!!!)

“Cannot see it, you must have picked it up!”

Ring husband – “I forgot to mention the vitamin drops in the Gecko’s water, they are on the bathroom shelf.”

Ring husband – “I think I forgot to water the plants in the conservatory, would you mind giving them a little please.  Thanks.”

The traffic gets really bad, no chance to ring again, road works, diversions, everyone slowing down.

It takes me several hours to reach Ripon and I am shattered: from the driving and the leaving home.

The city of Ripon is located in North Yorkshire on the River Ure. Ripon is a beautiful market town that was founded over 1300 years ago, and is famous as an old Cathedral City where monasteries have stood since the 7th Century.

(from  http://www.ripon.org)

Find hotel which is in the main square, (the half-timbered building to the left of the obelisk at the rear of the square)


(photo from http://greatnorthartshow.co.uk)

 check in for their really cheap Sunday night special, park car, have bar snack, settle in room, unpack loo seat (from its three bags which are meant to camouflage its existence) and fall into bed by 8.0 pm and sleep.

Nine p.m.  Oh really, this is too much, I had forgotten all about the hornblower.  He blows his horn each night at nine in the evening, once at each corner of the square.  Four  times!!!

The following article is taken from the BBC in 2014,


Ripon hornblower, George Pickles

Ripon hornblower, George Pickles

Ripon’s hornblower

The watch has been set in Ripon every single night for well over one thousand years. The ceremony is one of the oldest still performed in England. George Pickles is the current hornblower and tells the story of this ancient ceremony.

The setting of the watch dates back more than 1100 years to the year 886. That was Saxon times, and also troubled times. The Vikings were raiding up and down the east coast and occupying parts of the country. The local thieves, rogues and vagabonds were taking advantage of the unsettled situation.

On the English throne at that time was King Alfred the Great. He had lost his father and three elder brothers fighting the Vikings, but he was intent on victory and bringing stability back to the country. In 886, at the age of 37, he recaptured London from the intruders and set about touring the country drumming up support and giving confidence back to the people.

The 886 Ripon hornThe original horn given to Ripon in 886

When he arrived in Ripon, he liked what he saw and decided to grant a Royal Charter to the settlement, which is all it was at the time. The only thing he had to offer the people as a symbol of that charter in those simple times was a horn.

On the advice of the King it was decided that the people of Ripon should become more vigilant and should always be alert to the danger around them. They could lose their settlement and the relatively good way of life they were enjoying, should an unexpected enemy descend upon them.

Setting the watch in RiponThe Hornblower sets the watch

It was therefore decided to appoint a wakeman. That was a man who would stay awake and patrol the settlement and the surrounding areas from dusk till dawn. He kept a watchful eye for any approaching enemy or troublemakers, while the rest of the people slept safely in their beds. It was further decided that the wakemen should put the charter horn to good use. He would sound it at the four corners of the market cross each evening at 9pm to let the people know that the watch was set and he was now on patrol.

Because the first wakeman of the day needed to be paid for his work it was decided to impose a tax on the citizens. After much debate it was decided they would be levied according to the position of their house door. If your door faced onto the market square, or a main thoroughfare of the city you were considered to be well off and were charged four pence per door, per year tax. If your door was down the side or round the back you were considered to be less well off and you were only charged one penny per door each year.

“If your door was down the side or round the back you were considered to be less well off and you were only charged one penny per door each year.”

George Pickles

It is still evident today that homes built after this tax was introduced were designed in a way that the position of the door brought them into the lower tax bracket. They were built with a very narrow frontage and most had a ginnell down the side leading to the door. There is still evidence if you look at the oldest properties in the city.

This system prevailed until 1604, when a second charter was granted to the city by James I of England, who was James VI of Scotland, and was the first king to reign over a united Britain. It was decided that the time had come to make things more democratic in Ripon. The wakeman of the day had become a very powerful man and was elected or re-elected annually by 15 of his peers, these being the most influential men in the city. These men were the city’s ‘police force’ and ruled the city with a rod of iron.

That year a mayor was elected democratically for the first time by vote, by all the people. The first mayor of 1604 was Mr Hugh Ripley who happened to be the last Wakeman of 1603. He lived in the house which still stands at the south west corner of the market square. Wishing to keep the setting of the watch ceremony alive, the mayor appointed a hornblower to carry out the duty of sounding the horn at the four corners of the market cross each evening on his behalf.

Because he didn’t trust him, and to ensure that the hornblower fulfilled his obligations, he imposed an extra duty on him. After setting the watch at the market cross, he must find the mayor of the day, wherever he may be in the city and sound the horn three times in front of him, raise his hat, bow his head and say the words “Mr Mayor, the watch is set”. This is to prove his duty has been done.

That ritual is still carried out at nine o’clock every night at the Obelisk and has not been missed, not for one night, in over 1100 years.

George Pickles

How on earth could I have forgotten about this.  But to be fair, it is not something I have given a moment’s thought to for over 40 years.  Back to sleep, too tired to stay awake any longer.  Lovely high bed, comfy mattress, no responsibilities except for myself.



View of Ripon Cathedral at night.





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Trying hard to exude confidence and calm I had a lift to the station and registered at the Assistance desk.

I was very heartened to be met by a young woman who greeted me by name holding a form with my details on it. I was whisked away in a wheelchair accompanied by a rather worried husband, and put on the train, followed by my suitcase. We set off gaily waving goodbye to ‘other half’ who says he is looking forward to some bachelor time!!

The first part of this trip was completely uneventful and when we drew into St Pancras there were two young women waiting on the platform for my coach. Apart from having to look in my suitcase to find my Eurostar ticket which I had mistakenly packed (senior moment/nerves) all went smoothly and I was wheeled straight to Eurostar Assistance.

However, here we met with a problem. My suitcase was weighed and came in at 21k. The weight limit per case had been changed (I was told it was hidden in the small print) and although I could have taken two cases totalling 30 k my one case was not acceptable. To have the case go with me on the train would be an extra £30.00 each way. To add insult to injury I had specially chosen the one case as being easier for those helping me. And it was half full of medical supplies, not geegaws or nicknacks!

I had a good chat with the luggage booking clerk the upshot of which was that he disobeyed all the rules, refused to take payment saying he felt it was discrimination and insisted on taking it to the train personally and putting it on for me. He said that some of them still had a heart despite the corporate ethos. We ended by discussing particle physics, the state of health of his mum (why does everyone appear young nowadays?) and he said what a shame I did not have longer before my train or we could go for a coffee and discuss string theory!

Once again I was helped onto the train and happily settled: my gluten-free meal came as ordered and all went smoothly until Paris where two gents were waiting for me as the carriage drew in.  They whisked me and luggage straight to the taxis where they had already booked me a taxi which was waiting at the front of the queue.

There followed a drive filled with panache, hooting and hand gestures during which I sat back and enjoyed the tree-lined Boulevards, the Circulation, the Seine, the bridges, and so many old haunts.  We flashed over the Pont Royal, past the Musee d’Orsay, down the Left Bank and turned into the 7th Arrondisement where nary a riot or strike was in evidence

Quel surprise!

My friend had arrived earlier that morning from the airport and opened up the flat and came down to open the door for me after the driver had reassured himself that someone was meeting me.  He held up the following traffic for me and the crutches to get out of his taxi insisting that there was no hurry at all.

So there we have it: all my fears were groundless and in fact I was bowled over by the kindness and patience of strangers (exactly as Jocelyn predicted, omniscient woman!)

So, here I am, back in Paris, with my great friend, and we will just have to see what I can manage. Or not.








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For over a year my friend from California and I have had a plan to return to Paris together this Spring, after the fun we had last Easter.

We have been organising a small apartment in a cheaper part of the city, buying cheap advance train tickets to other parts of France and booking Air B&B places to stay when we got there.

Deposits have been paid, flights and Eurostar booked and we were all set for adventure until this upset to my knee.  All through recent events I have been determined not to cancel but it was looking really impossible. So, after the MRI, I rang the Train company in the UK and Eurostar to examine my options for assisted travel. Everyone  I spoke to was sympathetic, helpful and went out of their way to explain what might work for me.

So, much against the advice and opinions of those around me, I have booked wheelchair assistance to all trains and connections with luggage being put on and off trains too. I have changed my seats to single, airplane type seats so that neither I nor anyone sitting near me might be inconvenienced by my immobility.

I have to admit to being afraid: of pain, of making things worse with the knee, of appearing a helpless old woman and of being  dependent on others. Of the reported strikes and being abandoned on a ‘foreign shore’ unable to help myself. It is salutary to appreciate that this is what many people must have to face for much of their lives if they wish to travel.

But I do not know what the rest of this year holds for me medically and I cannot bear to let my friend down so, with cold, clammy hands  and a tight fist round my stomach, I am going for it.  I shall wear a spotty kerchief and a hat and take some marmalade sandwiches in case I need rescuing;)

I have bought a snazzy, scarlet walking stick (with coloured spots all over to match my scarf) and will paint my crutches with the tricolour going for a ‘disabled chic’ look.

Mercifully, just in the last few days,  the swelling has subsided, finally, and with it much of the pain, all thanks to the ugly, ironclad but wonderful leg brace which is holding the knee together.

A young nurse friend has offered me a lift to the station and I was greatly affected when she hugged me and said she was proud of me for going. As against those who prophecy doom and gloom.

We have yet to see what help actually materialises.  Oh yes, and the State Department has issued a warning to US citizens to avoid the part of Paris we are going to because of riots, tear gas and ongoing strike action.

Wish me luck, because although I may appear intrepid, I always have to push myself to do things since I insist that fear will not diminish my life, and I am usually scared!!

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When I arrived at the flat at the beginning of this trip, one of the things I did was to buy a white azalea in a pot to decorate L’s room:

later on it had looked gorgeous in the sitting room.

With our imminent departure I was wondering how to find it a good home since it was still in full glory:  I had been watching out for the concierge who waters the plants in the courtyard in case he might like to have it, but I kept missing him.

This morning at about 7.30 am I heard him in the courtyard watering the plants so dashed out to catch him: I was actually still in my PJs which are more than decent, however, I don’t think that is what the fashion conscious Parisian woman would do!  On my way down the stairs with the plant I encountered a very distinguished grey-haired man coming up them with his morning baguette and a bag of croissants – incidentally smelling wonderful: on impulse I asked him if he lived here, and looking rather surprised (whether at the question, my clothing, or both I don’t know) he answered, “Yes”.  I explained that I was going home today and asked whether he would like the plant: he looked delighted, readily agreed and wished me a good journey:)  So that is one thing sorted at the beginning of a very ‘sorting-out’ kind of day.  Job done: but I wish I had not been in my PJs.

Looking out of the front window I saw the soldiers still on guard outside the Synagogue.  They had the plain-clothes policemen with them again: sad, but we have got used to their presence.

paris last days 2015 021.jpg 1.jpg 2

L and I have done most of our packing and since she does not leave until the early hours of tomorrow, 3.30 am to be precise, and I leave at 3.0 pm this afternoon, we had decided that we would try to do something this morning.  You remember me mentioning that French detective series Engrenages?  Well on one of our bus routes we had passed the Bistro L’Engrenage over on the other side of the third arrondissement,

paris last days 2015 022very close to the Police Headquarters there.

paris last days 2015 024

Therefore I rather fancied going over there for lunch, to scope out the area and see if it was named with reference to the Series.

We caught the 29 bus over to the Bistro only to find it closed until the early afternoon: I had not read the website correctly.

So I took a few photographs paris last days 2015 023

and then we caught the bus going back the way we had come.  We got off on the Rue de Turenne and walked over to the Italian Bistro in the St. Paul’s district where we had such a good meal a while ago, remember I had the aubergine dessert?  Well, we were the first there and the Proprietess who had been very friendly was not there and we were met by a surly chap who actually made us feel very unwelcome.  We tried to be pleasant and thaw the icy reception: I ordered bream with fresh orange segments, pistachio nuts, new potatoes and broad beans, and it was really wonderful.  The broad beans had been shelled and then had their skins removed so they were soft and delicious.  I have never had broad beans that tasted like that.  L had a pasta dish and this time the pasta was well cooked: clearly the chef was on form but we managed no improvement in relations with the patron and we felt most uncomfortable.  I hasten to say he was Italian and not French!!!   It was such a shame as it made it hard to enjoy our meal and we left as soon as we could, refusing coffee or dessert.

Not the most marvellous way to pass our last morning:)  Anyway, unwilling to give up we walked over to the super ice cream shop by the Place des Vosges, Amorino,


and bought one small tub each.

and spent a happy time sitting on a bench in the Place in the sun eating our ice creams, soaking it all up.

easter monday 018.jpg1

At 2.0 pm we reluctantly decided we had to drag ourselves away and go back to the flat.  We walked back past one of my favourite shops which contains bronze sculptures covered in some kind of enamel or resin and others set in glass/acrylic.

I have never dared to even go into the shop let alone ask for any prices

more richard and paris 106

more richard and paris 107

but I would love to have this one to take home

more richard and paris 105

We returned to the flat for me to pop the last few things in my case and make sure all was organised for the taxi.  This came promptly and by 3.45 pm I was at the Gare du Nord, through Security and waiting for my train.  The place was packed with Brits returning home after their Easter holidays, and a few French going over for a trip:  a kind woman budged up to make space to allow me to sit down beside her and wait for my train.

Eurostar left late and then waited for a further 15 mins outside the station, so we were over half an hour late into St. Pancras.  I was extremely pleased that I had not booked any particular train home as I would have missed the one I had been thinking of.  So I had time to buy something to eat on the last leg of my journey and I went into M&S to buy some gluten free brownies: normally I can buy quite a lot of gluten free things in M&S but this outlet did not have them.  A very kind Indian lady came out from behind the till and walked round the shop with me to show me the one thing they did have but it was a shock after Paris where there was always something, and it was always lovely.  It was strange being surrounded by the English language and suddenly, lots of fat people, and I felt rather ill at ease for a little while.  A quick coffee upstairs near my platform and then 8.0 pm found me on my next train bound for the North.  I eventually arrived home at 10.40 pm.

I have had the most wonderful trip: Paris just gets under your skin and it will always have a part of my heart.  I am so lucky just to be a couple of train journeys away, but however much I love going, I find it is never as pleasurable by oneself as it is if one can share it with somebody else.  And no-one in my family or circle of friends in England shares my love of France.  Thanks to the generosity and kindness of my friend L, I have had the opportunity for both the pleasure of her company and her equal appreciation of things French.

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