Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Country life

Even though we have lived in a quiet lane surrounded by fields, with only a handful of neighbours, we now feel that we really have moved into the country. Before, as soon as we had cycled a couple of minutes, we were soon in a hodge-podge of lanes and houses built hugger-mugger, cottages tucked away almost in people's tiny back gardens.

Here, we have neighbours on each side, audible but not visible. Otherwise, huge fields stretch behind and in front of us, behind a bungalow, a stretch of land to the cliff edge.
Five minutes walk takes us to the coastal path.

Birds of prey have become a common part of our lives. Honey buzzards wheeling overhead, calling shrilly - one day, several pairs of them circling above the house. Harriers swoop low over the hedges. An owl perched on a post at sunset. And, sadly, today a blackbird's carcass on the lawn, evidence of a sudden aerial attack.

We face south, so we see sunrises in one direction, sunsets in the other. A ten minute drive to the beach saw us surfing as the sun fell behind the clouds into the sea. Sleeping this week has been interrupted by huge moons rising over the garden.
We explored many of the lanes over the summer, sometimes so narrow that a car creeps along, kissing the hedgerows on either side.

Cutting our hedge in company with our nearest neighbours resulted in a delightful impromptu tea invitation, coming home laden with home-grown tomatoes and courgettes. We bump into acquaintances as we walk the dog; others, already living in this remote part of Guernsey, invite us to supper.

Torteval is beginning to feel more like home.

Saturday, 17 September 2016

September reflections

Just over halfway through September and the warm weather continues.  Despite - or perhaps because of - the start of term, summer days have carried on as if there is no other way to be. Surely this is Someone's Law? The Law which says that September will be hot and sunny as soon as the children go back to school?  This year, more true than ever. The evenings have been incredibly warm: I have been reluctant to go to bed, sitting on the warm stoop at 10pm, watching bats flitting back and forth in the dark.

The mornings have been so beautiful that I have frequently scampered out of bed and along the cliffs before cycling off to school...

From the bedroom window

Gardening has been a delight: cucumbers galore, butternut squash appearing, leeks, spinach, curly kale, potatoes...

School is a new year's helter skelter: new Maths scheme, new English, new way of teaching writing, new children... the last 'new' is all good: it is such a privilege to get to know these intriguing personalities and journey with them over the year.

Richard has been so busy at home: laying new paving slabs for parking; cutting and trimming trees and bushes; fixing our broken bike barn, after the roof of it blew off in a summer storm; repairing my faithful food processor, which stopped working after 28 years...and celebrating 32 years of married life with a beautiful reminder from Cat:
And every weekend has involved hosting friends old and new, getting to know our lovely neighbours...such a privilege to be able to use this lovely house as a meeting place.

#blessed #contentment  #hospitalityissosatisfying

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.

The sun came up, the world changed...

...and then there was sunset.

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...