Check out my Finished Items on the second page

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Guess what I'm doing next

60 odd ft of second hand scaffolding boards from a local firm at the princely sum of 50p a ft. - So can you guess what my next job is????

Friday, March 30, 2007

Blog-a-long March 2007, My best holiday ever!

It’s hard to chose a favourite holiday! (hence it’s the 30th March and I’m only now doing my blog-a-long post!) – I’ve been really lucky and had some great hols in my time. I’ve been to Africa 3 times – which I loved, I spent my 21st birthday in Disney World Florida, with all my family. We all went to Australia for my Dad’s 50th and to New Orleans for my Mum’s 50th. I’ve been to Jazz festivals in Scandinavia and lovely Scottish islands, and I’ve had lovely weekends deep in the English countryside away from the rest of the world!!! – It’s all been amazing for different reasons.

But I have to finally admit that my favourite holiday was one, that not only was an amazing trip, but also a personal challenge to me, one which I took on and won!!!!

In 1999 I came out of a longstanding relationship, bought a house on my own, and started to enjoy the single life – not in a drunken orgy kind of a way, but in a “this is me” kind of way!!! I relish my own company, always have done. I am fiercely protective of my own space, and don’t welcome intruders easily!!!!!! After 2 years, and some stressful times at work, I needed a holiday. But whilst being an independent kind of a woman, I’m not independent enough to “go it alone”. I happened upon a travel company called Solo’s – trips for single people. – Not romantic, meet a partner type trips. Just normal holidays where you wouldn’t be set upon for being single!. Good Idea!! So I got the brochure – coughed and spluttered at the prices, and then decided that if I was to do it, I should do it properly! – I chose 10 days walking and whale-watching in the Azores!!!! The final point I should make before going into the actual holiday, is that whilst very independent, and a reasonably strong young (!!!) woman, I am scared to death of meeting new people! – No really!!!! – I would never start up a conversation with a stranger, not in a supermarket, on a train … NEVER!!!! – I hate going to places that I don’t know, and I break out in a sweat at the thought of having to introduce myself to people! – I am, quite honestly, a wimp!!!!!

So before I hand over to my diary of the holiday, and a few snaps, I will remind myself, that this holiday was the best ever, because it was an absolutely amazing holiday, full of sights and scenes that I will probably never see in my life again. But also because it was a HUGE personal challenge to even get to the airport!, and it was worth every bit of the sleepless nights, and the overdraft!!!! I should also remind you that this was the week of 9/11...... a scary time to be away from home, and a frightening time to know you had to get back on a plane!! and a hugely emotional time for the world!

The following is my diary of the holiday – be warned it’s long and quite photo heavy…… you don’t have to read it all – I won’t mind!

Diary of Azores trip September 7 – 16th 2001. Emailed to people I had met on the trip and friends and family.

To friends old and new,

Excuse the "one for all" approach, but just back from holiday and wanted to share with you all.

Obviously being away from home during the last week hasn't been easy. We heard about the tragedy in the States very quickly, and it had a deep effect on us all. I was privileged to be spending my holiday with a wonderful group of people some of whom I believe and hope will be lifelong friends.

For those that don't know - I went to two of the Azores islands. It was a singles holiday - so 14 of us, (11 women and 3 men - apparently usual statistics!!) met at Heathrow Airport a week ago last Friday. I can't say I wasn't apprehensive - didn't know if I'd be younger or older than all the others - if we'd have anything in common, anything to talk about.... a bit like starting a new job really...

I needn't have worried, the whole group were great, all ages, all walks of life, and one thing in common - all single and happy to be.

To get onto the holiday bit. The Azores are just the most beautiful islands. If you intend visiting you must be prepared to walk - there is no other way to see the beauty, and you would miss by far the best bits. Plus the exercise is good for you (or so I kept telling myself when I couldn't get out of bed on the second day!!!) The first day (after the journey from hell from London - at least we all got to know each other well during the various delays and disruptions..), we went on a fairly long walk - about 3 1/2 or 4 hours, round a crater (Sete Citades) on the island of San Miguel. The crater held a azure blue lake and was neighboured by a lake of green, there was a distinct line between the two colours, no merging, it was beautiful. The legend says that a young princess met and fell in love with a shepherd but her father wouldn't let them be together and when they cried, her from her blue eyes and he from his green - the lakes were formed. ..... The walk was long, and although looking back, not too hard it was tiring for our first day. We finished 4 hours odd later in a small cafe (which ran out of tea so we HAD to have a beer!!!!)

The second day was a further taxi ride - about and hour and a half in all, during which we stopped to see a few landmarks, and taste the flower of the Himalayan ginger courtesy of Milton the taxi driver who educated us all in the technique!! Our walk today was shorter, maybe about 2 1/2 hours, round lake Furnas, where we saw the cooking holes and mud geiser where people bury their Sunday dinners at 6 in the morning!!!! (strange lot - i'd rather be in bed!)
We spent the afternoon in a thermal spa and gardens - just what we needed after all the walking!

Dinner every evening was in a different local restaurant - the tour rep (great girl!) thought it a better way to get an idea of local custom - we did get the idea - slow service, and huge portions, but it was a social event and we soon got the hang of it.

On Monday we transferred to the island of Faial, where we arrived (just) in time for dinner at the "hot rock" restaurant where you cook your own food on a heated rock!!!! (funnily enough!) a wonderfully social evening and by this time we all knew each other well enough to have some good serious conversations ( and a good few laughs!).

Tuesday was another crater walk. We set of from the hotel chauffeured by Terry and his crew of taxi drivers, we stopped at the statue of Mary on the top of the hill overlooking the harbour and Terry explained how people come here to make their promises before leaving the island. Promises to return and look after their loved ones. He also explained how the statue was there to protect those travelling the seas - at the time we didn't know the magnitude of his words. 4 of us abstained from the days walking as the heavens had opened and the rain was torrential. We - in our infinite wisdom returned to the hotel for a warm lunch - and talked about the other idiots who were out in it! - we did have the decency to take back some towels with us when we were taken to meet them later in the day. We heard of the tragedy in America almost as soon as it happened..... no words can say how we felt, except that we were all away from home and away from loved ones.... I feel so lucky that I was with this group of people -- we cried together and agonised together..... some had family and friends in New York..........

In the afternoon we went to the site of the latest eruption in the Azores - as recent as 1957. An eerie place - still and quiet and surreal - a time for everyone to gather their thoughts, say their prayers................

Wednesday should have been our first whale watching day - but the weather wasn't good and we swapped our itinerary around and took the ferry to Pico, the neighbouring island. We went to a whaling museum and saw a video on whaling (not nice!) and then went on a 3 hour walk from a crater cave, downhill, back to the port for the ferry. This island was different again - all were green and lush - more than I had expected, and in some ways (with the greatest respect to the Portuguese) very English looking. In Pico the downhill walk was along farm tracks and through orchards of apples and pears. We saw citrus trees (unidentifiable - possibly clemantine) and what we believed to be olive trees. It was a long walk but easy and downhill. Our final walk together for the holiday. We got the ferry back at 6pm, and ate dinner in the hotel, finishing the day off with a quiet cognac in the hotel lounge - Nice!!

Thursday morning we had to be ready to leave for the whale/dolphin watching at 8:15am. (anybody who knows me well will know that a 7am wake up call is not my idea of a holiday - in fact it's not my idea of life at all !!!) The thing was we didn't even know if we would be able to go. The weather had got worse and we had spent most of the night being vaguely aware of a lightning storm around the island. So we got up at 7 - in the dark - and staggered to breakfast. We sat and watched the lightning all with our own opinions as to whether we would go or not, and took sea sick pills just in case. At about 8:05 we were told it was On - at least for the morning run as the weather was not expected to get better over the next few days so it was as well to get some time in straight away. There was a mass exodus from the dining room as everyone rushed back to their rooms to get every piece of waterproof clothing they could carry!!!!

Noberto met us at the harbour and explained that the weather may be around for a while but we would go out for the morning and see how it went. He was a typical sea faring chap - deep suntan - bushy beard, bare feet.... nice man. We were to have been going out in Zodiacs (yes big dinghies - I was scared at this stage!) but a tourist with his previous outing had put her stiletto through the wall of it (!) and it was being mended, so 10 of us got to ride in what we later termed the "gin palace". A proper yacht type affair that at least looked safe!!! - The other 5 had to ride in a smaller dinghy - holding onto ropes at the side - at this stage it might be worth mentioning that we didn't lose anybody!!!!! To be honest that first trip has faded in my memory - the gin palace made me feel pretty sea sick, despite being drugged to the eyeballs, and although we saw dolphin ( a small group of common or bottlenose I think!) the bad weather took away some of the pleasure. We sat through one bad rain storm - and not feeling all that good - I didn't even go inside to shelter - just got wet......

Lunch had been booked for us at Peter's - I haven't mentioned Peter's yet have I. Well, there is this small pub in Horta (actually Peter's is Horta really!) where it seems the whole world goes for lunch and a drink in the evening. It's always busy with people laughing, and most stand outside on the pavement or overlooking the harbour with their drinks. Everything happens at Peter's - they change money and travellers cheques - they sell clothes and souvenirs, they make a mean gin and tonic and they sell the best cognac.... it's just a "happening" place and we all loved it.

So we had lunch and tried to still our stomachs - and some were brave enough to see if the afternoon trip was on. Personally I'd had enough for one day, so bought myself a shirt in Peter's and went back to the hotel for a swim in the hotel pool, in the rain, and a sleep. As it happens the afternoon trip was cancelled anyway.

Friday was the same scenario - early up to wait and see if we were going out - we were!!!! - this time in the Zodiac. My opinions had been wrong - the zodiac was great... hardly any feeling of sea sickness, and a bit like a rollercoaster ride - fast and furious. Somehow I had managed to get the front seat -(You sit in two rows of one behind the other - on a seat that you sit on like horse - looking at the back of the person in front.), along with Matt. - Matt must have friends in high places because when I laughed at him getting wet, the next wave covered me from head to foot!!!! We still got wet, it rained on and off, and we were much more exposed in the zodiac, but it was much more enjoyable. It took about and hour or so to get to where the sperm whales had been seen earlier in the morning. As we approached the area the engines were cut and we just drifted around. None of us really knew what we were looking for so it took us a while to see them despite the valiant efforts of Sarah and the driver. Eventually we all caught site of the blow holes and saw two females blowing several times and then arch their backs and dive. It was amazing - so slow and graceful, almost like a ballet. Throughout the morning we saw three more females dive, and a few dolphin for good measure. I felt very privileged to have been allowed to see something so special. It had a calming effect on me - made me feel quiet inside ... and so close to nature. Amazing!

Again I decided that I'd been lucky in the morning - I didn't feel ill so counted my blessings and decided to stay on dry land for the afternoon. Matt and Sarah made the same decision so we went back to the hotel to get out of our wet clothes and then went for a short, 1 hour walk along the beach and up a hill to a crater lake that led out to the sea. The beach was lovely and, as the sun had come out for the first time on the holiday, we couldn't resist going in for a paddle. Actually i couldn't resist going in for a swim - shorts and all.......

Saturday- our final day. It should have been free but we had one 3 hour whale watching trip to make up from the afternoon of the first day - so off we went again at 8 in the morning - in the zodiac...... Today was different though - the sun was shining , the water was calm and everybody was so looking forward to it. We travelled about an hour and a half full tilt (I wasn't in the front so Matt and Elaine got wet this time!!) to see a male sperm whale. He was bigger (obviously I suppose) and alone but we watched him for about 15 mins, blow and finally dive - his tail was huge - magnificent.

We waited for a while but he didn't come back up. They can stay under for up to a hour and after about 20 mins with no sign of him (and no others around as males tend to be alone) the driver said there had been a sighting of a large school of dolphin and did we want to stay and wait for the whale or go to the dolphin. The dolphin won and off we went. The school was huge, and they were in a playful mood. A large group dived under the boat and we even caught them speaking a couple of times. They gave us plenty of photo opportunities and we stayed with them until it was time go back.

We had lunch in the marina bar and then toddled of to the beach to take full advantage of the weather.

Our final evening started at 6:30 with cocktails in the hotel lounge, dinner down by the sea front, and a night-cap at Peter's.

I hope this gives an insight into my hol. Suffice to say you can't get a week on to a couple of paragraphs, but I really did have a wonderful time. I met some great people, and saw things I feel privileged to have seen. The colours of the Azores will stay in my memory forever. The colour of the sea - the colour of the lakes, surrounded by lush green vegetation. The buzzards, (I saw one hunting, quite close up), the whales and dolphin. And the wonderful people I shared the holiday with - so much fun...

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


After a long walk this morning (and I managed to jog for 9 minutes!!! YAY!!! Applause please) I have spent this afternoon in the garden, so this is a very brief update before I take a long soak in a hot bath...

Firstly, what may seem like a pot of weeds to you and I, apparently constitutes an entire afternoon's entertainment for a chicken or two

I have planted up some runner bean seeds and sweetcorn in the greenhouse, and re-planted some sunflowers (grrrr!) The lettuce, rocket, spinach and cabbages are all showing too!!!! I've dug over what was a bramble area, and I hope to plant onions there any day now! Spot has been helping by constantly fetching my leather glove every time I put it down!!! - She's such a poppet (no photos of that .... but now I wish I had!)

Right off for the bath, otherwise I may not be able to move tomorrow!!!!

(p.s. thanks for the lovely comments on the birdsong - I may try a few more videos, they're fun aren't they!)

Monday, March 26, 2007

Birdsong - this is for the audio rather than the video!!!!!!

Stop the world.......

...... I need to catch up!!!

Wow, three days away from the PC, and it's taken hours to catch up. I've just read 43 blog updates..... and three pages of forum posts! (and have commented on neither because that would just have taken too long...... but I have enjoyed reading all of it!)

So, how comes I've not been around.....???? Well, on Friday Mr Noo and I went to Portsmouth for a couple of hours. We went to the Blue Reef Aquarium, and besides loads of fish, we also saw these....

aren't they cute?? (mind you they were making a horrendous din, and they didn't smell to friendly either! )

We had a lovely lunch out, and quite frankly just laughed a lot, and tried to stress-bust a little (I always find laughter works well for that!) Mr Noo has been busy of late and needed reminding that life is FUN!!!

On Saturday, I cleaned out the chickens, made a couple of Easter cards..............

and then some friends popped in for Coffee (well actually 2 beers and a coffee!) and somehow the day was over... I'm sure someone has sped up time these last couple of days.

Yesterday I went down to Ford market, in Sussex, where there is a really good butcher (it's a bit of a long trek but really worth it once every couple of months to fill up the freezer).... and I also bought some plant pots for some of my recent veg/fruit aquisitions. I had bought some meat for a friend too, so pootled straight to theirs from the market, and spent several hours there drinking tea and putting the world to rights...... so Sunday ran out too!!

Today, I have take Miss Spotley for a long walk......

(can you seen what we saw, trying clicking on the photo... - they were actually a lot closer than the photo suggests, as it was only taken on my phone! - we stood watching them for a good couple of minutes)

potted up a gooseberry bush (well twig really but it'll be fine!)

and some strawberry plants,

had 2 poached eggs on muffins for lunch (provided by BOTH my lovely hens!!!! - Yay for Molly
she's joining in!) and then promptly fell asleep for an hour and a half!!!! - Not quite what I had in mind for the afternoon, but sometimes you just have to give in!

This should give you a laugh...... on the left of my greenhouse, all my lovely salad leaves and the cabbages have just started to show....

On the right, I had started a few sunflowers, a bit early but I have loads of seeds and thought I'd see how they did starting in the greenhouse....... but when I looked on Saturday morning
a mouse had decided they would be much better put to use for his tea!!!!

Finally, a photo of my camelia,

I have seen many in blogland that are open and "doing it", but mine remains steadfastly dozing (bit like me then!) I'm surprised because my garden is full day sun with not a shady bit in sight, yet it just seems to think that it's not ready yet ....... wonder if it knows something we don't??