Monday, 30 April 2012

Lions of the Serengeti

Today was a proper Spring day.  Blue sky warm sunshine...   the Cats rushed outside - once they had finished their breakfast and had a little nap.

Wash decided to park himself in the long grass of the "lawn" He was hunkered down with just his eyes showing through.   By the time I'd got the camera out, changed the lens, and actully aken the photo he'd moved a bit...

He was happy with his face tilted to the sun, sniffing the spring air.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Lots of weather

I quite like April rain.  The sort where you have sunshine one minute, then a brief shower with gentle rain, then warm sunshine again.   The current rain is nothing like that, and I think I've had enough now.

Firstly, we're missing the whole *shower* bit - instead, we're getting persistent, stormy rain.   Next, we're missing the *gentle* bit - this rain is hard and cold, and is accompanied by a lot of wind.  Thirdly, we're missing the *sunshine* bit - all we're getting is cold and dull.

The grass is very overgrown, but it's just too wet to mow.  The grass in the chicken area is mostly OK, as they tend to keep it down... but we can't risk puttin gthem on new ground with the grass there so overgrown.   We can't get on with planting out.   Cleaning out the chooks on the allotment was actually a chore today, as I was wrapped up in a coat and struggling against the driving rain to carry the poo laden trays to the much heap.

I was actually OK about the weather until 2 days ago.  I kept thinking that at least it'll help.... then I heardan interview on the radio, which confirmed that it's not doing anything to ease the drought situation.  The water isn't going down into the aquafers, and it isn't replenishing the water table. 

It does make me appreciate the occasional dry spells hiatus though.

Friday, 27 April 2012

UNexpected loss

One of our Allotment girls died. 

She was one of last year's hatch, and was actually one we were planning to keep and breed from.

DH found her in the coop yesterday.  No outward signs of trauma or wounds.  No obvious cause.  The blue comb and wattles makes it look like a heart attack.  

Poor (not so) little thing.


Florence (big black Australorp) and Milly (Cream Legbar) are still broody.  They;ve both been crowding in to one nestbox, trying to claim sitting rughts on the eggs laid by the other Girls.

Yesterday, I shut everyone out o fhe nestboxes for the afternoon.  Today, I forgot. But I did hoik the two broodies outside, to make them exercise, drink and eat.

This evening I put the remiaining three ladies away, sprinkled some corn around. I then called Florence and Milly, rattled the corn,  and they burst out of the CUbe, down the ladderm and started scrabbling about for corn.  They've stayed out of the nest for half an hour now, I imagine they'll be back in there soon.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Smoke me a Kipper, and other famous Whitby things

Whitby is famous for many things, including:

It's a key location in Bram Stoker's Dracula.  We walked up the 199 steps to the graveyard.

It's the home of Whitby Jet which was prized by the Romans and the Victorians.  In its Victorian heyday, Whitby had over 200 Jet workshops.  Now there are only a couple, but there are a lot of shops selling Jet jewellery.

Goth Weekend happens twice a year, in April and October.   There are a lot of Goth (and Dracula) related events put on at those times,  and sme of the shops adapt their window displays to appeal to the Goth market (although some of the clothes looked more steam punk  to me.

Whitby Abbey, stunning ruins, at the top of the 199 steps.  We went there on the first evening, and didn't have time to go back.

Captain Cook is linked to Whitby.  Actually, he seems to be linked to a lot of places (born,  spent his childhood, blah blah).  Whitby is where he trained as a seaman.  

World famous Fortunes Kippers are smoked here.  Many of the restaurants serve Fortunes Kippers, or make pate from them. They are always listed on menus as Fortunes Kippers, not just "Kippers".

We bought some on our last morning to bring home.  Fortunately I had a cool bag I could zip them up in. They were freshly smoked and so the smoke smell was still strong.  I expect we;ll be having them for dinner tonight.

I think this is  the last of my Whitby related posts!

Museum of Victorian Science

8 years ago, when we were both working and had money to spare and as a treat for DH's birthday, we flew to Teeside airport, hired a car, and went to the Museum of Victorian Science at Glaisdale.   When we'd finished there, we drove back to the airport, and flew home.

It was such a fascinating talk, that we had been planning to go back again ever since.    

We kept in touch with Tony and Pat.  DH built his own wimshurst machine, continued to collect a few bits and pieces...

This year we decided we would finally do it,  but build a week's holiday around it. And that's why we went to Whitby.

We were really pleased to see Tony and Pat again.   

We asked him if he had built the replica machine at Staithes - and he had, of course.  We knew that - there aren't many people who would be able to build something like that.

Even more in his museum than last time, and the talks now take two hours.  So many things to be demonstrated.

Turned out that Pat and Tony are good friends with the people we rented the cottage from. Small world!

Whitby dining

I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the food and restaurants and cafes in Whitby.  Every place looked really clean and presentable.  Every place sold fish and chips (with tea and bread & butter).  I can imagine that at weekends and in the season, it's packed out.

Lovely food - lived up to high expectations:

First night, we went to the famous Magpie Cafe.  We walked from the East side to the West side, and looked at all the restarants en route.   There weren't many people about, and the restaurants were mostly empty (it was a Thursday evening).  We got to the Magpie...

(not my photo, I didn't take one, This is from

 ...climbed the steps.. to find that it was heaving inside.  Both floors, chocablock with diners.  Everyone who was out to dinner in Whitby that evening, seemed to be in the Magpie Cafe.

The fish availability changes daily, and is dependant on what has been caught.

We went there again later in the week as well. 

Biggest disappointment:
We had decided to have a proper roast lunch on the Sunday.  Sometimes, roast dinners can be disappointing, so we kept an eye out on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for options.    We decided to go to the White Horse and Griffin, as they were (alledgedly) one of the top 10 restaurants in Whitby and the menu outside promised much for it's (expensive by other restarants in the area)£12.95, including complimentary amuse bouches  and unlimited free coffee.
Sunday arrived, we had a light breakfast, walked it off, did the crossword, and then made our way to the restaurant.   

We were a little put off to walk through the first half of the restaurant which was completely empty.  A warning bell tinkled faintly.

At the back of the restaurant, where the bar was,  there was another couple seated.   They looked quite pleased to not be on their own anymore.

We sat down, and it went downhill from there.  The service was appalling.  Staffed by youngsters who had either had no training, or couldn't be bothered to apply it, the three of them spent msost of the time in a huddle behind the bar having a social.  We had to call them over every time we wanted something - like a wine list.  They didn't give us the correct menus, had no idea what the soup of the day was (and made the tinkle grow louder when one of them asked "is it still leek and potato?").  

The menus inside were different to the menu outside.     There were no amuse bouches.  Not that I particularly wanted them, but they had been promised, and their promise had suggested the restaurant might be worthy of its £12.95 per head for a roast lunch (not including dessert).

We made the mistake of ordering a bottle of wine. It was really rough, probably a £5 or £6 bottle being sold for £27.

We declined the soup. DH doesn't like Leek and Potato, and as I wasn't sure quite how old it was, I didn't fancy it myself.    The main course was reasonable.

We declined dessert.  Complete disinterest from the staff.   I couldn't even be bothered to let them know that their menu outside was misleading.

I know it's difficult to get good staff, but in all the places we ate, this was the only place where the staff were dreadful. I suspect that the restaurant was  trading on it's reputation...but it won't keep it for long at this rate.

Biggest Surprise:
We fancied "fish and chips" one evening, and picked this place...
 ...Mr Chips.  I picked it because it advertised more sustainable fish than just the standard cod, haddock and plaice.    Once inside, it was a bit of a revelation!   The menu was extensive, had really interesting fish dishes, and a lot of meat and vegetarian options too.  

A reasonable choice of wines, and every wine was also available by the glass.

The waitresses were young, but were really sunny, smiley, and chatty.   Food was very good, service was excellent.  

Definitely somewhere I'd visit again!

And Others
I'd also recommend:

The Black Horse - a proper pub with an interesting history, a lovely landlady, and a very cosy feel.
Good selection of beers, ciders and, most importantly for me, soft drinks.  I developed a taste for Fentimans Rose Lemonade here.  Food was tapas type stuff.

Sanders Yard Restaurant
This interesting place had a coffee lounge area, and a tabled restaurant/cafe area.
I had initially tried ot book one of their cottages, but it wasn't available for the dates I had in mind.

We finally got round to visiting their cafe on our last afternoon.  If we'd tried it before, I think we probably would have gone to it several times over our week.  The food was lovely, lots of homemade cakes, and they had some lovely coffees (spiced mocha, which had cinnamon in too, mmmm).

Breakfasts were much of a muchness.  Lots of places, all very presentable, all very edible,  all with cheerful service.

Little towns

Having spent a day exploring by train,  we decided to visit a couple of famous fishing villages.  

Staithes, just along the coast a bit from Whitby, was lovely.  Park at the top, and walk down a very steep hill into the village.

It was similar to the old-town of Whitby, although smaller.  Same sort of small tall cottages, all higgledy piggledy, with lots of alleyways and passages to explore.   Very picturesque.  Very steep.   I would guess that the majority of the houses and cottages by the harbour were second homes or holiday lets.  We started a clickometer, and sometimes we just couldn't click fast enough.

Staithes was originally a major fishing harbour, and would have been jam packed with boats and fisherman, and related industries.  Now it's a picturesque haven.
 The tide was out when we arrived, leaving a very sandy beach
I always feel sorry for harbour boats when the tide goes out...
Having explored the village, been to the craft cooperative, looked at the Lifeboat and lifeboat station, walked along the harbour walls,  we went back up the hill and stopped in at the Cook museum.   One of the exhibits was a replica electric shock machine,  and as soon as we saw it DH guessed that it had been made by the very person we'd come to Whitby to see.  More about him in another post later.

Embarrassed to say that on the climb back up to the car park, we had to make use of both benches that break the journey!

In the car park itself, fenced off, there is an old WWI army camp.  Currently for sale.



Of course we had to go on the North York Moors Railway.  The NYMR provides steam trains from Whitby to Pickering.  

We decided to go to Goathland,  which is also known as Aidenfield in the TV series Heartbeat.  Regrettably, we've never seen the programme so the excitement of seeing the Post Office, the Garage, the police Anglia, and the Aidenfield Arms was totally lost on us.

There is a waterfall just outside of Goathland, so we walked to have a look,=. It was a bit of a steep climb down, and a slippery walk along the end (it was raining at this point).  It wasn't a great waterfall to be honest. Still, the exercise did us good.

We sat in the Aidenfield Arms to have a bite to eat,  waiting for the train back to Whitby.  And we heard the same conversations over and over again. ("Do you think they did the fiming in here?"   "Do you think they did the filming inside the garage or in the studio?"  "I bet they made a packet out of it").  I bet the locals are tired of the same old same old stuff.

We got a train, and got off at Grosmont to have a look around (tbh I can't remember if these pics were of Grosmont or Goathland...).

On the other platform, a steam train with Pullman carriages arrived, and a weddding party disembarked.   Not uncommon, it turns out.

Seagulls, Heargulls

Blimey, the Gulls are sooooooo noisy.  They aren't like they are on the soundtracks - it's not just that gentle relaxing noise.

Some of them sound like babies crying; some like cats; some like cats fighting.  They start while it's still dark, at about 3am, and continue round to about midnight.

They roost on all the rooftops - and there are a lot of rooftops.

We did start to get used to them, a bit,  but it made me appreciate the noise my chooks make (or lack of it).

They also like to perch on cars.  Every car park, the cars in there had seagulls on. 
(these pics were snapped with my phone, sorry about the poor quality)

The record was three seagulls on one car,  I think the roof was particularly warm and cosy.

Happy Holidays

We went to Whitby for a week, staying in the old town.  Rented a really lovely cottage in one of the yards there.  The houses all have very small footprints, but are very tall,  and are jam-packed in.  

Most of the old-town properties are not accessible from the road. To get to them, you have to walk up steps and then down steps, through yards, and then up another set of steps.   It's very higgledy-piggledy, and gives Whitby part of its charm.
We were very lucky. Our property shared a small yard with three others and we had a shared patio area.  Inside it was fabulous - stripped floorboards, very tastefully renovated.

Lots of places to have breakfast, lots of places to have dinner, all within a couple of minutes walk. 

Wish we'd booked slightly later so that we could have enjoyed the Goth weekend as well.

Broody Chaos

We've been away for a week.

Our next-door neighbour has been looking after the Girls (we remove a fence panel so they can free range and she can keep an eye on them) and the Cats.  The day before we went, Milly decided to go broody. The morning we went, Florence joined her.

We got back yesterday. Three are now broody. They are squashed into one nest box, while the non broody Roobarb is in th eother nestbox trying to lay an egg.  Of course the Titan of chooks, Florence, is one of the three-squashed-in-one.

Tilda now has the run of the place, completely unmolested.  She's wandering around making sad little chirruppy noises.  Perhaps she misses the others, even though they are really horrible to her?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Goodbye Rose

Rose, one of our two lovely Welsh Black ladies had to be put to sleep today.
Prolapsed vent. Managed to get it back in, but she was still in a lot of distress. Couldn't keep it in.

Our chicken vet has a relief service over the weekend, and they aren't skilled with chickens. DH had to do the deed.
Very upset.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012


So, up early, let the Girlies out to free range before the Fenceman arrived.

9.30, we put them back in their run wuth some corn.  10.30ish, they had eaten all the corn and started objecting, loudly, to the loss of hthir freedom.

11.30, we supplied quartered cauliflowers.  

12.30, the din was getting rather irritating.

1.30, we fenced off a small area for them to range in, and let them out.

2.30 they were still whingeing (either at their reduced space, or because the hammering of the fence was worrying them. I have no idea what.).

3.30 I threw them an apple.  This created siulence for 30 seconds,  then we had a lot of disgruntled whingeing as they stole it from each other and ran around their alloted space.    When it had gone,  they lined up and all started to whinge, in unison, about the unfairness of it all.

5.00 it started again.
5.17, Florence decided to go into the Run for her dinner. She was closely followed by three of the remaining four.  DH remarked on it, so I moved to see. Florence spotted the movement and tore out of the Run, down the garden, to the edge of the fencing,   the others dropped what they were doing and careered after her.
They are now toing and froing, wanting to go into the Run but afraid theyll miss something.  I don't want to shut the door (I want to keep an eye on them to make sure no stray dogs get in through the open fence).
The noises range from pitiful burbling to angry screeches....  I'll go and shut them in the Run with some corn in a moment.


Tuesday, 10 April 2012


Do you remember the Charlie Brown cartoon character called PigPen?  He was the chap who was drawn as having a cloud of dust and flies surrounding him wherever he went.

Florence, my big black Australorp, was having a dust bath in the run. 

I walked to the kitchen door so I could watch.  She saw me, leapt out of the dust bath, and started thundering down the garden towards me.  

She was surrounded by a cloud of dust all the way.


April Showers

Proper April Showers today.  Blue sky, then sudden downpour out of nowhere,  then bright blue sky again and no rain.  

Final compost bin emptied, slabs re-located (or re-relocated in some cases). Just need to move the rest of the accumulated "stuff".  


..(or unluckily, depending on your point of view) the parcel was collected, and I was able to go and help.

We have 2 very full compost bins which need moving so that we can get to the fence.  Someone (someone not me) had previously decided to stack a load of slabs in front of them.  So, I moved one set of slabs (on to the other pile - yes, I know I will only have to move them again, but it was easier than asking "Where?") pulled the compost bin over, and started to shovel partially rotted compost into one of the already-moved-and-empty bins.

Luckily, I was just putting the last few shovelfuls in when it started to rain.

I've still got one more compost bin to move (and all those darned slabs!), but I can't do anything until the rain stops.Or lessens.

The Girls, who had been fenced off so they couldn't come and "help", were in full cry.  That competitive squawky/wail that they do,  gets louder and louder...I'm sure you've heard it.  I love my Girlies but, honestly, it's not an attractive noise is it?   

Thank goodness for double glazing (our neighbours double glazing!).


We're having a new arris-rail fence put up at the bottom of the garden. 

We are (or, specifically DH is - I'm wating for a parcel to be collected and can't go out) just starting to dismantle the current arrangement - two layers of willow screening, with weed control matting sandwiched in between to provide additional protection from prying eyes.

It's going to be a nerve wracking couple of days.  I'll feel very exposed while there is no protection;  we need to keep the hens safe - and hidden, if possible, while the work goes on.    

The Girls will most likely be confined to barracks, to protect them from nosy dogs.  I know they are going to love that. 

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Cruel Frost

We have a kiwiberry in the garden.  We planted it some years ago, but it has not yet borne fruit.

On Thursday, I remarked that the leaves were looking particularly gorgeous.  Light green, delicate, they were almost as pretty as flowers. Maybe this year?

On Friday morning, the Kiwiberry had been destroyed by the frost.  All the delicate pale green leaves were now shrivelled and dead.

It was such a pretty little thing.

Friday, 6 April 2012

Wedding Bells

My wonderful  one-and-only nephew married his radiant long-term-love yesterday.  Bride and Groom are independantly really pleasant people to be around, and they make a fantastic couple.

The day was lovely.  

I wish them everything they would wish themselves.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Yet more decorating

The kitchen needs repainting.  It's quite a big job, and the ceiling needs repainting as well.  I need to work up the enthusiasm to tackle it (it's not just the painting, it's the taking everything off the walls and putting it all back again. We have hanging rails everywhere).  Our kitchen is made up of the original kitchen, plus an extension, making an L shape.  The old kitchen ceiling is lower than the new kitchen.

Because both ceiling and walls need doing, it'll need doing in two goes (otherwise the newly painted ceiling paint will peel off when I mask the coving to do the walls).  I had the bright idea of painting the coving now.  I calculated that it would be relatively quick (especially as I had some one-coat white matt emulsion in the loft),  and then I could leave it for a week (or two. Or more.) to harden off before needing to mask it to do the walls.

So, I did it this afternoon. I masked the walls (just as well, as I got a bit drippy later) and started to apply the paint.  Part way round, I realised that it would probably be a good idea to "cut in" the ceiling around the coving,  so that I wouldn't need to do that whenever I ghot round to rollering the ceiling.  So I included a couple of inches of ceiling as well.

When I'd finished,  I decided that I might as well have a go at painting the old kitchen ceiling.  I couldn't face doing the covering up that rollering would require, so I used a brush.  About half way through, I decided it was possibly not my best idea, but I'd started so I'd finish.

Eventually it was done, and I spent the next 3 minutes trying to clean up the splatters.   I'd been fairly careful and tidy,  but as my arm had started to ache I was making more splosh.  Still, it's done now.

I really can't tackle the main part with a brush, so I'll do that some other time.  But maybe sooner rather than later.

And I'll work on generating the enthusiasm to do the walls.


Like most cats, ours love to sit or lie in the sun. We're fortunate to have south facing garden,  and the cats find plenty of places to doze.

Isabelle (Izzy) loves to lie on the warm soil.  It doesn't matter to her whether it's  vegetable bed, a flower bed,  a raised bed,  a planter... if it's in the sunshine, she'll lie on it.  

To protect the beds where there are seeds sown, DH put netting of various sorts over the beds.   Izzy took to lying in the planters,  so DH covered those with some plastic netting.

It didn't work...