Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Endless. summer.

Nearly the end of August, and the summer continues. We have seen rain on approximately four occasions since the beginning of July, although Cat and Andy had a couple of damp days during their visit. This was due, in part, to being away from Guernsey as the island endured fog and rain for several days, but since we have been back we have had a morning of rain and a thunderstorm. Otherwise, one sunny day stretches into another...

Bliss. I am into my ninth week of school holidays - unprecedented, I think, in my career - and enjoying every minute. Cycle rides - some functional, running errands; some social, visiting friends; some just for fun, exploring the nooks and crannies of parts of the island I've rarely ventured into. Cliff walks - first one way from our house, then another: we are five minutes' walk from the path. Sea swims, although it is never 'warm', just tolerable. #LovelyOnceYouAreIn
Rocquaine in the evening

The Cup and Saucer - Fort Grey. #MartelloTower

So warm on the rocks

The time to relax. Gardening: planting vegetables, trimming shrubs, filling pots with compost and herbs, preparing a compost heap. Beach: with husband, with friends, soaking up the sun in sheltered spots. We even helped as marshalls in the car park for the North Show, visiting it afterwards to look at all the amazing produce and creative displays...
Large vegetables

A very hungry caterpillar. Half the length of my hand.
This morning, I woke before the sunrise. Too good an opportunity to miss, so within minutes dog and I were out of the door. It is a five minute stroll to the cliff path and the sky was beginning to lighten.

Mist lingered above the dew-dampness, the gorse and heather glistening in the pre-dawn light. Silken nets, spider-laid traps, waited for flying insects to be lured into captivity. My feet stirred dust up lightly from the rocky path, its dryness a stark contrast to the moist green of bracken and bramble.

The dog was in heaven: more interesting rabbit smells than she knew what to do with, each leading off fruitlessly into tiny runs through the undergrowth.

Then the sun came up, the world changed...

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

The Return. Catching Up. Settling In. Etc etc.

Cat and Andy left... and so, the following day, did we.  Our venture into France and Spain has been more than adequately documented in Travels With Pickle. Yes, Pickle went on holiday too...

Good to be home, though, especially with Jonny and Adele still with us. The washing machine went into overdrive...perhaps only seven loads in seven two days, but it felt like more.

The garden was a pleasant surprise. Andy had cut the grass for us before we left and it had barely grown in the month we were away; the baby cucumber plant had a baby cucumber on, thanks to Kareena's faithful watering; the hedges were...somewhat overgrown, but that hadn't changed much - we knew they needed cutting down to size.

So that, with Jonny's help, is what we have been doing. He loves wielding cutting tools, so was in his element with the hedge trimmer, chainsaw and strimmer and now the garden looks much more manageable.  Of course, he still managed to surf, cycle, kayak, fish and catch up with best friends - scrambles down the cliffs (and back up through the brambles in the deepening twilight - almost dark), hanging out on the beach and sleeping out in the garden.

We were so glad to have him stay on, and the weather was glorious.

We've made the most of it: cycling from one end of the island to the other, exploring lanes and footpaths we'd never before ventured down,catching up with friends for beach sundowners. (And getting lost in the moonlight, pedalling down lanes so dark and narrow that the sky made a tunnel over our heads.)

Inbetween, we're slowly by slowly getting little jobs done around the house: preparing beds for vegetables, organising cupboards, getting ready for painting, working out how to install a wood-burning stove... lots to keep us busy.

Vazon at sunset
Tess at L'Eree

The gang eating supper. So warm, we stayed resting on the rocks, which radiated so much heat that it was still comfortable at 9.30 that evening, long after the sun had finally slid beneath the covers to sleep.

Beautiful weather. Beautiful island.

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

End of term catch up

Summer accelerates.  The last term of the year is always incredibly busy and time rushes by faster and faster. By the end of the term, I feel like the cartoon character running off a cliff, its legs still running in the air before it realises there is no solid ground beneath its feet and it goes crashing down.

It’s a good metaphor, actually. Adrenalin keeps us all going and we manage to fit in the sports days and swimming galas, concerts and prizegiving, leavers’ service and parents’ lunch. 

This year, our two deputy heads decided we needed more training in essential subjects in the last week of term.  They benefit from belonging to a dedicated, professional, highly supportive and polite staff team, because this really was a big 'ask' in the last few days before the holidays.  Class teachers were literally frantic with ensuring that the children ended their year with satisfaction and contentment but there were no complaints, just faces growing ever wearier by the day.

Oh well. Holidays now. I’ll get to tidying up my classroom properly shortly before the new term, read through the new curriculum and create new planning for the new system and resources.

Not much to do, then.  #ironyandsarcasm   Now, I need to rest and recuperate.

But the best bit of the end of term was Cat and Andy’s visit. Arriving earlier than originally planned, we were blessed to have them for a whole ten days. TEN DAYS!  It went by in a blur, of course, but it was such a special time as we caught up with one another and just enjoyed being together. They saw our new house and entertained around thirty or so of our close friends who also know Cat – it is over nine years now since she left Guernsey.  Andy insisted on cutting hedges and lawns before he left: we know, already, that he is an extremely capable and kind man but were touched by his thoughtfulness and willingness to help.

Apart from sharing chocolates, chatting, hanging out together and drinking lots of coffee and tea, we went on an epic bike ride through the lanes of Torteval and St Peters; cycled into town to catch the boat to Herm; strolled round the harbour in the evening, wandering up the pier at Castle Cornet; and explored various cafes dotted round the coast.  
Andy and Pickle become acquainted with each other

Drinking tea and planning
Cat and Andy ran most of the cliffs, up and down countless steps; went shopping for clothes for his brother Jon’s wedding in Ireland later this week; and visited the ancient burial tomb of Le Dehus,  one of my favourite spots to show visitors.  (It is a many-chambered burial mound made of ancient stones, completely covered over with soil and turf.)
Guernsey cows

Slope soaring off Torteval cliffs

A restored World War II gun emplacement

Last brunch at L'Ancresse
Supper at L'Eree
We feel we have given Andy an overview of some of what Guernsey has to offer. Fortunately, the weather turned from rain and fog to bright, sunny and warm: for the first couple of days of the visit, our Guernsey summer had resembled winter in New Zealand – never a good thing.
Moulin Huet - after the cliff run.  #CatandAndylookingridiculouslyfresh
Fish and chips on the beach

On the Herm ferry  #rememberingouttriptoWaihekeisland


 Their visit was over all too soon. I can’t explain the depth of sadness I felt on waving them goodbye.

Sometimes, tears just aren’t enough.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Finally Morningstar

The last week slowed down after Wednesday, when we finished cleaning Barnsfield - oh, it was pristine, immaculate, beautiful by the time every cupboard had been cleaned, the windows sparkling and the grass freshly mowed.

The last of the furniture had gone to the charity shop, even my grandmother's super heavy lead-lined trunk. I felt a little pang, but glad it had not just gone to be recycled. It must have been, conservatively, at least seventy years old, returning with my grandparents from India when my grandfather retired from Government Service at independence. Or, perhaps, it accompanied my grandmother in 1920 when she went out by ship to meet and marry my grandfather. But that is another story, and I have kept another piece of family history, a similar cedar trunk with my grandfather's initials on, which sits, where it has done in every house since it has been in my possession, in the hallway.

The pot plants were moved. The garage swept clean. Last photos taken.

And we got up at 4am one day to go to fetch the motorhome. We had travelled only a few yards when we had to pause: the lane was blocked by the poo truck, visiting the neighbours:

Only in Guernsey.

And there, in the background, is the large field we would walk across to the garden, searching for orchids, and 'our' trees, the Leylandii which blew over in the winter storms and were generous with firewood.

No longer our home, but the sunrise at Morningstar an hour earlier had heralded promise of a new and different life...and with it, roses...

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Settling in

After a couple of weeks of gardening/pruning/clearing/labouring/navvying/rockcrushing - most of which I have done, but the bulk of the heavy work has been done by my beloved husband - we have finished.

For now.

The aim was to get the rock pile off the drive so we could park the motorhome. Achieved. Rock distributed, with only a small pile remaining for the last of the parking provision.

So I turned my attention to the house. Having slowly moved all our belongings here over the last couple of weeks, everything was piled up in an (un)satisfactory mess. But now the kitchen cupboards are filled and the surfaces are clear, suitcases have been unpacked and clothes distributed in wardrobes and, finally, we have distributed seating and put rugs down in the sitting room. Our large African pictures are up and, for the first time since leaving Africa, the room has a truly African feel.

Large woven baskets from Pokot serve as occasional tables, graced with lamps made from gourds we bought at the side of the road in Machakos, as we drove down to Mombasa one time.

Heidi Lange's beautiful prints hang together near Robin Andersen's silk screen print of a Masai boy herding his goats. A David Shepherd print of elephants, one which many of our friends whose roots also lie in Africa own as well, dominates one wall.

A trio of elephants, carved from coconut wood, sit on the windowsill. A metalwork scorpion, made by Jonny, and a zebra made in Zimbabwe wait to join them, along with various other artefacts. A large grey rhino, created in Tabaka from Kisii soapstone, marches near the fireplace.The acacia root lamp, which we made before we left, lights up our dining room.

There are many other things which we will unpack later. Books wait in boxes for the shelves we need to buy and put up in one of the spare rooms, soon to be called the 'office'. Files ditto. Stationery, too. These things can wait.

Meanwhile, my canary-yellow kitchen gladdens my heart, my blue and white china finally comfortably at home in these echoes of Sweden.

And, on Moving In Day, I was blessed to receive these beautiful flowers: not as a moving-in gift, just a 'thank you'...but what wonderful timing.

And, best of all: photos start to appear...

Friday, 10 June 2016

It never ends....the stone pile chronicles continue.

OK, cleared the plant border yesterday. More houseleeks, some hostas, a large clump of unidentified but ubiquitous orange lilies which refuse to look good when cut for a vase,  a few daffodil bulbs and tough creeping geranium. The latter more than strengthened my arm muscles and did little for my back.

Came back home this afternoon to find that Richard had tilled the remaining soil and scooped it out onto a board on the lawn, sifted and ready for refilling the hole once the hardcore had been put in.

The trouble was, the hole wasn't big enough. The edge of the flowerbed curved into the lawn, leaving soft spots which had to be squared up to take the plastic mesh. More digging required: not a problem, but the pile of earth next to the hole had to be moved before we could widen said hole. Because the earth was piled up on the edge. Clear? As mud, actually, but the short story is that I moved a pile of earth so that we could dig out more earth to pile next to the hole and then hope that the hole is now wide/square/big enough....

It was. After more tilling, more digging, more spade work, we had a good rectangular shaped hole to fill with hardcore:

Then I had to start moving the stone into it: the aim was to get the stone pile Off The Drive:
The stone pile, a third of its size after half an hour of frequent trips with the wheelbarrow. Wish I'd taken the photo earlier when the pile was HUGE!

Not much left to do now.

Thursday, 9 June 2016

Gardening. Gardening. GARDENING!

While I have been out at work, Richard has been home at work. There is so much gardening to do - a busy time of year anyway, let alone our wish to get the garden sorted so that we have enough parking. He has been cutting back shrubs, mowing the lawn... and creating more hard standing so that we can manoeuvre the cars.

It's feeling a bit like the Flanders and Swann song "The Gas Man Cometh":
'Twas on a Monday morning
The Gas-Man came to call;
The gas tap wouldn't turn - I wasn't getting gas at all.
He tore out all the skirting boards
To try and find the main,
And I had to call a Carpenter to put them back again.

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

'Twas on a Tuesday morning
The Carpenter came round;
He hammered and he chiselled and he said: 'Look what I've found!
Your joists are full of dry-rot
But I'll put it all to rights.'
Then he nailed right through a cable and out went all the lights.

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

'Twas on a Wednesday morning
The Electrician came;
He called me 'Mr Sanderson' (which isn't quite my name).
He couldn't reach the fuse box
Without standing on the bin
And his foot went through a window - so I called a Glazier in.

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

Twas on a Thursday morning
The Glazier came along,
With his blow-torch and his putty and his merry Glazier's song;
He put another pane in -
It took no time at all -
But I had to get a Painter in to come and paint the wall.

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

'Twas on a Friday morning
The Painter made a start;
With undercoats and overcoats he painted every part,
Every nook and every cranny,
But I found when he was gone
He'd painted over the gas tap and I couldn't turn it on!

Oh, it all makes work for the working man to do!

On Saturday and Sunday they do no work at all:
So 'twas on a Monday morning that the Gas-Man came to call!

So, we decided to clear a few shrubs to make more parking. But then the soil was too loose.
We had to remove the top soil to put crushed rock down.
Then a thin layer of soil back on which to lay plastic parking mesh.
Then we had to find somewhere to put all the rest of  the soil before we could put it back into the mesh...
and the mesh had to be stored somewhere until the soil was cleared.

But the flowerbed we cleared wasn't big enough to take all the extra crushed rock.

Now we have a pile of soil waiting to be put back. And a pile of surplus rock pieces. And some spare pieces of mesh. We can't turn the vehicles round easily. And there is a motor home to park.

So, we need to clear some more shrubs, dig up some more soil, put down the rest of the rock, to clear the rock pile so that we can manouevre the motor home in to its parking space. And we'll have space for guests to park, too.

But it's a lot - a LOT - of work.

Guess what I've been doing since I got home...?  #keepingfit #makingahome #gettingitalldonebeforeCatandAndyarrive