Sunday, 28 February 2010

A triangle of terraces

A significant part of Old Trafford comprises a mix of back to back terraced houses with tiny back yards and rather unpleasant alleys (that would be ginnels in Manchester parlance), or high rise tower blocks. Towards the end of our years there, an urban redevelopment scheme worked its way through our big block of terraced streets; refurbishing houses and street furniture. The 'triangle' looks a lot smarter now than it did then!

In an environment like that, it is important to appreciate the little things. The wall of the house opposite the end of our street was covered with Virginia creeper which blazed fiery red in the autumn, while the house around the corner had a small front garden with a bright yellow laburnum. In my own back yard, I had a tiny patch of garden with a disproportionately big laveteria, sporting large pink flowers. On one occasion, it was even visited by a flock of blue tits who came to feast on the aphids! What a good reason not to spray!

And, in the warmer weather, people would sit on their front door steps and chat; kids would play in the street and, from time to time, the guy in the house near the end would entertain us all, whether we liked it or not, by playing his music full blast with all of the windows wide open.

Saturday, 27 February 2010


A honeydew melon
Flickering candle flames
Fairtrade bananas
Derby taxis
A blackbird's beak
Stripes on a bumble bee
First full-grade belt in karate
Double lines - no parking
High visibility vest :)
Egg yolk...

...and the first crocuses of spring!

All we need now is some bright yellow sunshine to go with them!

Friday, 26 February 2010

Washed clean

Somewhere on the premises, most Anglican churches have a font for sprinkling babies with water. We all love to ooh and ahhh, irrespective of whether said baby chooses to smile benignly or scream with the full force of it's lungs. St Bride's too has a font; the pleasingly simple wooden stand, adorned with a flying dove.

But wait! There's something more! Look closely at the carpet in front of the font. I'll give you a clue...When they were very small, my boys liked to bounce on that particular bit of carpet because of the satisfyingly drum-like noise they could create. The 'new' Worship Centre was built complete with baptismal pit! I'm not going to be drawn on the old chestnut of infant v adult baptism, but it's certainly a different experience to watch a baby being dunked!

One thing more. You know how Anglicans so often like to sit at the back? Take a good look at the rows of chairs :)

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Patchwork reredos

Collins English Dictionary defines reredos as
a screen or wall decoration at the back of an altar, in the form of a hanging, tapestry, painting, or piece of metalwork or sculpture

This patchwork quilt was stitched specifically as the St Bride's reredos. It was made while we lived in Old Trafford (so sometime during the 90's), by a lass who originated from the Derbyshire town of Wirksworth, but who was, for a while, part of our church family.

The quilt forms a stunning focal point for the Worship Centre and is particularly special in that it is unique. It was designed to be representative of God's love in Jesus Christ for the area and people of Old Trafford. If you look carefully, the brightness of the cross can be seen shining through, while the small yellow squares along the bottom depict the windows of the terraces and towers of the local area. In the bottom left hand corner is a small picture which is, I am almost sure, our church.

I have always loved the vivid colour and composition and, being something of a non-starter where needles are concerned, admired the skill in being able to design and create something so beautiful.

P.S. The quilt can be seen in situ on yesterdays blog. The cross is far more distinct at distance.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

From every tribe and tongue

This is the view looking towards the front of St Bride's Worship Centre. I love the wooden roof and the amount of light which enters the room. The music group lead sung worship from the slightly raised platform, while the main service leader and speaker take the chairs to either side of the communion table.

Notice the languages on the altar cloth. For a while, the local Korean community used our building for their services on a Sunday afternoon. I forget whether the other language is Urdu or Arabic, but it reflects the commitment of the church to working with the local Asian population; predominantly Muslim, and it's not unusual for one or more of the worship songs within a service to be sung in Urdu. As a visitor, it can be interesting trying to get your tongue round some of the trickier pronunciations :), but an English translation is always provided.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

St Bride's

Interlude over; back to Old Trafford and a photo of a place which, for our family, was a focal point of life and will always be a special place for me. This is St Bride's. It is one of very few churches bearing this name. There are a small number in Scotland, but the only other English ones that I know of are in Liverpool and in Fleet Street, London.

This building is obviously modern. It was constructed in 1991 and replaced the more traditional building which stood on this site from 1878 to 1989.

I have lived in Old Trafford twice. The first time was in the mid 80's and this old building was my place of worship. By the time I moved away in 1987, the chancel of the church (the area containing the altar; or communion table) had been cordoned off due to the risk of falling masonry. It was a hard hat only area!

My other memory of the old building was that the warmth of the people was only surpassed by the refrigerator-like internal temperatures in mid winter! Even wearing many layers, it was difficult to survive a service without being chilled to the bone. As a result, we took to closing the church for the winter, and our morning services were held in the Community Centre across the road.

Eventually, the church was de-consecrated and the Community Centre became our temporary home as the old building was demolished. I was back in OT by then, so watched it being taken down piece by piece and then replaced by the building which stands today. The rectory (to the rear of both photos) became a Parish Centre and a new rectory was built where the original church entrance had stood. The corner of the Rectory parking area is visible in my photo.

Although it is sad to see traditional buildings disappear from our cities, this 'new' Worship Centre is a flexible space which is practical, welcoming and a great place to meet with God. I still feel like I belong.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Looking more closely

The snow is gone for the moment. More is forecast, maybe… perhaps… later! But, for now, all that remain are a few scattered patches of slightly grubby white.

I’m not sorry to see it go, but it does bring a whole new dimension to the garden so, as well as enjoying the overall effect of the world being blanketed, I looked more closely to see what I could spot in among all the white.

This little leaf is still hanging on tenaciously (Friday, 5 February 2010). Slightly more battered, but continuing to pay tribute to the gold of autumn; nature's stained glass.

The snowdrops are thrusting their heads up through the snow, almost as if each is shouting out “Oi! Look at me! It might have snowed today, but spring is still just around the corner!” It's definitely becoming more than only a hint. (Monday, 1 February 2010)

And, over by the fence, one small splash of bright red, signals a berry which the birds have missed.

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Evidence of things unseen

Best laid plans and all that! Woke up this morning, pulled back the curtain and... Ooo-er! We've gone all white again! Quick, grab the camera!

So... This is not Old Trafford. - Interlude!

The table is two inches deep (sorry I still think in 'old money'), but the smaller birds will have been able to grab a mouthful from the feeders. And underneath is evidence of someone else who has been searching for food. My garden is criss crossed with tracks. Some of them belong to the local moggies, but a goodly proportion are fox; out on his nocturnal wanderings.

Interesting to follow them when there is clear evidence of passage. There doesn't seem to be a corner which they haven't visited; testament to a whole life and busy-ness in the garden, which is mainly beyond my experience.

And all the while, the signs of spring are coming.

Saturday, 20 February 2010


For around 13 years, this was our view as we approached the front door of our small, two bedroom terraced house in Old Trafford, and yes, being brought up on the edge of Derby with family scattered around the White Peak, I did miss the hills and wide open spaces. Living inner city can be extremely claustrophobic, with little strips of blue sky, enclosed back yards and the constant background of movement and noise which is inevitable when so many people live in such close proximity.

But city life can also be vibrant and full of opportunity. Old Trafford is a multi-racial, multi-faith community with a rich mix of cultures seeping through into everyday life. In general, people get along and many contribute to make the area an interesting place to live.

So, over the next few days, a bit of an insight into all things O.T.

Friday, 19 February 2010


I've never made a secret of the fact that I am not the world's best cook. Meals are OK, but when people start talking jams, chutneys and cakes, I am slightly out of my depth. So it was, quite truthfully, that I told a friend I wouldn't know where to start with a Christmas cake. He was surprised because it was, in his words, "Fairly straightforward". It wasn't meant, or taken, as a criticism, but it did make me decide to have a go.

I didn't tell anyone in advance. That way, if it had collapsed, exploded, erupted or incinerated no one need ever have known. At the last minute, I was forced to confide in one friend as I sent a panic text to ask "Which shelf?" Surprisingly, it turned out reasonable enough. My eldest son certainly enjoyed it anyway. It disappeared at a rate of knots.

Since then, I have started to enjoy making soups, but had not ventured into the world of cakes again until today. The 'Which shelf?' friend gave me a cake recipe book for Christmas and I thought it was about time I had a go. List in hand, I scoured Sainsbury's for the ingredients (Fairtrade wherever possible), brought it all home and set to.

It's the bit in the oven that worries me. The weighing and mixing, chopping and beating are fun. Before the hot bit, it always looks great; a sticky, sugary mass of delicious (if slightly sickly) goo. And then it all gets serious, the oven takes over and I begin to worry what's going to go wrong.

On this occasion, fortunately, nothing too drastic. It's a tad dry, but it's my first ever ginger cake and, all things considered, I think it tastes all right.

Thursday, 18 February 2010


Illness over, my younger son and I finally went to see Avatar! It was the first time for both of us in the city centre Showcase cinema. There is one much closer to home & with free parking, but the lure of the 3D was too great, so into town we went.

How many escalators?? The cinema begins on the third floor of the Westfield and continues upward from there. You don't have to look down, but...

It's certainly smart inside though! None of those lumpy bits in the seat backs where countless other bodies have wriggled, bounced and squirmed their way through films good, bad or indifferent. Nor were there the multitude of fizzy drink, sticky sweet or crushed popcorn stains. I know that a trip to the cinema isn't about the decor, but it is nice to come out from a film still feeling clean.

I'd heard a lot about Avatar. Not so much about the happenings, people have been very good about that, but more about the brilliance of the special effects and relative weakness of the storyline. I enjoyed it. The special effects were brilliant and the storyline was a little on the weak side; especially the more predictable elements (my son twice turned round to mutter "Told you!"), but overall we both gave it 8/10, which is pretty good for us. And it didn't feel like 3 hours. I suppose that speaks for itself.

Would I go and see it again? Maybe, but not just yet!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Play FAIR!

On Saturday, I bought some roses. I had to pick through quite a few red bunches to find the ones I wanted :p, but, eventually I spotted some which were a gorgeous deep orange; a colour I thought would complement my living room rather nicely. This little chappie was broken just below the flower, so I popped him into a beaker on my kitchen windowsill. He has rewarded me by opening beautifully.

I particularly wanted roses, because the ones sold by my local supermarket are fairtrade, and when I can, I prefer to buy fairtrade. Buying fairtrade ensures that, not only is the producer paid a fair price for his/her produce, but the community in which they live also benefits. In order to qualify for fairtrade status, a small producer must belong to a slightly larger organisation, such as a co-operative. The producer then sells through the co-operative and, in addition to the fair price paid for goods, a Fairtrade Premium is paid for investment into the local community. Typically this is used for such things as healthcare or education.

The whole system is regulated by the Fairtrade Foundation with their distinctive logo, and gets a particular push at this end of the year with the advent of Fairtrade Fortnight (starting this Monday, 22nd Feb). Each time this comes around, my supermarket add something new to their growing fairtrade range. I will be searching the shelves to find what is on offer this time.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Low profile span

Derwent Street crosses the river by means of Exeter Bridge. The original, designed by James Trubshaw in 1850, had 3 arches, but was demolished in 1929 as the first project in the Civic Redevelopment Scheme which (I am learning) saw so many major changes in this area of Derby. This single span concrete bridge was designed by Charles Herbert Aslin of the City Architect's Dept and opened on March 13th 1931 by Herbert Morrison, who was the then Minister for Transport.

Whilst digging through web pages (some extremely informative and others considerably less so) I have come across two gems which I found particularly interesting. The first is that the four posts at the ends of this bridge (two are just visible to the right of picture) are adorned with bas relief, head and shoulder sculptures of four famous Derbeians. I am beginning to think that I walk round this city with my eyes wide shut! In spite of having crossed this bridge on a number of occasions (including yesterday), I have failed comprehensively to notice these sculptures! I will investigate at my earliest convenience!

The other gem made me howl with laughter. During the construction of this bridge, the civil engineers conducted a test to ensure that it would be strong enough to cope with the anticipated volume of traffic. Health and safety buffs look away now! The engineers drove a procession of traction engines, steam rollers and heavy lorries across the newly constructed span. It does rather beg the question about what would have happened had the bridge NOT lived up to expectation!

Monday, 15 February 2010


By the time it meanders through Derby, the River Derwent is reaching the end of it's 50 mile course. In a few short miles it will reach Great Wilne on the border with Leicestershire, and mingle its waters with those of the significantly larger River Trent.

It is really thanks to the river that Derby exists at all. The Romans built a fort on it's banks, in the area now known as Chester Green; chester being a Roman word meaning 'settlement'. The Roman fort was named Derventio. Following on from that, there is evidence of Saxon settlement, but Derby really began to grow during the time of the Vikings, by which time it was known as Deoraby, meaning 'The Place of the Deer'.

At one point in its journey through Derby, the Derwent passes behind the Council House. From the steps here, can be seen the weir, which stretches the entire width of the river, and also the Inner Ring Road (at this point called St Alkmund's Way, after the church which had to be relocated in order for it to be built).

The old bus station used to be just down from here and a walk by the river (or, in my case, usually a hop, skip and jump from step to step) was often the treat dangling at the end of a childhood shopping expedition to town. These days, I tend to walk along here much more sedately!

Footnote 16.2.10 - The weir was built across the river to form the Derwent Basin, providing an access point for the now disused (and mostly eradicated) Derby Canal, which was built to link Derby with the Trent and Mersey Canal. I will investigate this further for a later blog.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

From QUAD to quad

Just across the road from QUAD is Derby Council House. Constructed between 1939 and 41, it has four sides built around a large open courtyard, or quad.

I've never been a history buff. Places are my thing, far more than the past. But a few months ago, I was invited to join a group being given a tour of the normally less public areas of the Council House. The tour was to be lead by the Mayor, Mr Sean Marshall and would include some of his experiences from his year in office. I accepted the offer because I thought it would be quite interesting. Actually, I was wrong. It was very interesting; much more so than I had expected.

I enjoyed our time in the main council chamber. By chance, I ended up in just about the right place on the benches. The ritual and etiquette required in such proceedings was, to a degree, reminiscent of what would be required in a more traditional church or a karate dojo. Interesting to consider the kinds of debates which had taken place, potentially affecting the lives of all of those of us who choose to live or work within the city boundaries.

But for me, the most fascinating aspect of the tour was to see the range of artefacts on display. Some were of monetary value. Others less so. But the stories which surrounded them gave a sense of the history of the city and of connections it has worldwide, both in the past and ongoing; things which have shaped Derby over the years and made it the place it is today; things which happen outside of my experience, but are still part of the life of this city.

Often, I go about my daily business without giving much thought to this place where I live and, although this blog will not focus purely on Derby, I see this as an opportunity for me to look around from time to time, and discover more.

Incidentally, Derby City Council were planning a move to a new location. They've changed their minds! Good!

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Like, but not like...

In Derby Market Place, just outside the relatively modern Assembly Rooms, is the Tourist Information Office. Someone obviously believes that Derby has enough of interest to warrant such as establishment - and actually, I think they're right.

Outside the Tourist Information Office is this:

Here, are displayed notices of the 'What's on?' kind. It could do with a bit of a polish, but there's something about it which looks vaguely familiar; as though I've seen something similar, but not quite...

Friday, 12 February 2010


A close next door neighbour to the Derby Guildhall is a building about as far removed from it's historic neighbour as could be possible. This is QUAD.

There was a bit of, what we in Derby would describe as, a 'muck up' concerning the land on which QUAD was eventually built. It is a prime location and, when the land was first earmarked for development, was intended to be a hotel. Construction began, the foundations were dug out and then it all stopped! We had a hole! A securely fenced in hole, but nevertheless, a hole! And a hole it remained for quite some time.

Eventually, the Council stepped in, filled in the hole and laid out a small area of gardens housing two memorials; the Korean War Memorial and a memorial to Sir Peter Hilton, a 2nd world war hero who became Lord Lieutenant of Derbyshire (1978-1994).

Although the Gardens were visited by ex-servicemen honouring fallen comrades, they were rather isolated, with a busy road to one side and the blank backs of buildings to another. As a result, they were under-used and, once again the Council intervened, revealing plans for a brand new multimedia centre intended to put Derby firmly on the cultural map. There was a bit of a stink, compromises had to be made, but eventually, in September 2008, QUAD came into being.

I haven't been in here yet, but people that I know who have, say it was worth every bit of the fuss. It certainly looks impressive from the outside and, if it's website is to be believed, what goes on inside is a bit special too, with a Cinema dedicated to independent and world films, an art Gallery, a Cafe-Bar and an area set aside for Workshops focussing on all kinds of creative media.

I admitted that I haven't been in here yet... I'm thinking it's time I put that right!

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Rising above it all

Behind the Guildhall is the covered market. Originally built in 1830 for the sale of foodstuff, it has digressed slightly and now contains an array of stalls, selling everything from vacuum cleaner bags to fresh fruit to dragons. A flight of stairs up to the balcony gives the best view of the market hall's most impressive feature; it's Victorian vaulted roof of iron and glass spanning 110 feet.

Although it doesn't sell the best coffee in the world, the cafe up here does give a sense of being above it all as you sit and sip. It is also a perfect place to indulge in a bit of people watching - something I used to enjoy doing with Mum.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Of oatcakes and catacombs

Derby is an interesting mix of the old and the new. Like most English cities, it has its share of planners 'mistakes', but it also has a fair selection of smart, modern architecture with clean lines and walls of windows; interspersed with character filled historic buildings.

This is Derby Guildhall. More accurately, this is the present incarnation of Derby Guildhall. There have been three previous Guildhalls on or near this location at the edge of the market place, the earliest on record being between 1530 and 1730. This one was designed by Mathew Habershon in 1828, but in 1840 was seriously damaged by fire. It was during the rebuilding that the 103 foot high clock tower was added.

Access at the front of the building is through a pillared corridor, with doors to the side leading into a small theatre, and an open courtyard at the end through which you must walk to reach the indoor market hall. The photograph below is taken from the courtyard, looking back out to the front of the building.


As a child, I remember the courtyard and the sides of this corridor being filled with stalls, one of which is where we used to buy our Derbyshire oatcakes - but only during the winter months, as they were considered seasonal. We would eat them fried, probably with bacon and egg. In these generally more health concious days, I have them grilled or nuked

Incidentally, if you are imagining little round biscuity things, think again! Derbyshire oatcakes are more like oaty pancakes and almost as versatile.

What I didn't realise as a child, was that under our feet was a series of tunnels. In Victorian times, these catacombs were used to ferry prisoners from the Police Station in Lock-up Yard to the Court of Assizes in the Guildhall. Where there are tunnels and prisoners, there are inevitably ghost stories and Derby sells itself as one of the most haunted cities in the country, with regular ghost walks around the historic lanes and ginnels to whet the appetites of the curious. Personally, I can't say that I've ever bumped into a ghost during my amblings round the city centre, nor do I expect to, but I wouldn't mind a nosy in those tunnels, just to see what it's like down there!

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Ground floor gallery

According to the Visitors Guide,

The 1853 Gallery is so named because that was the year the Victorian Mill was originally opened for manufacturing fabrics.

The Victorian Mill in question is that built by Sir Titus Salt close to the market town of Shipley in the West Riding of Yorkshire and alongside the waters of the River Aire. Now renovated, the ground floor is given over to the 1853 Gallery, which houses a permanent exhibition of works by the Bradford born artist David Hockney.

My first impression of the gallery was the airy feel of the large, high roofed room with its regimented rows of tall arched windows and beautiful stone tiled floor. The second was of colour. Many of Hockney's paintings are awash with colour and the vibrancy of the artwork gives a surprisingly modern feel to the historic building.

I'd be hard pushed to say what caught my eye the most, but I was drawn to this display of pottery; just one part of the much larger Burmantoft Pottery Exhibition.

There was something strangely satisfying about the combination of the pattern, colour, shape and size of the pieces, arranged in juxtaposition, which just made me want to look.

Monday, 8 February 2010

A brace of beautiful banners

After a week and a half of feeling flu-like, it is truly wonderful to regain a bit of energy, shake off the aches and pains and get out of the house. So it was doubly delightful, yesterday, to be able to fire up the car and go visit a good friend.

Part of the reason for the visit was study, but, as well as being satisfyingly productive, the day was also thoroughly enjoyable; including a visit to a rather impressive bookshop, my first time of eating chilli and coriander hummuos and a quick look round an art gallery - all in the setting of a beautifully restored textile mill. The day was topped off by calling into church for the evening service (a bit of a surprise for another old friend) followed by a rather tasty pork casserole.
My only disappointment was that I broke the rule which I am learning to be the cardinal commandment of the photo blogger - ALWAYS carry a camera. It wasn't the most photogenic day; dull and grey with a hint of drizzle, but I shouldered my camera all round the streets as we walked out for lunch, tried my luck with one or two inside the mill and even snapped a street sign. It was when we went to church that I made the decision to leave it behind.

What a mistake! My friend's church has a series of beautifully crafted banners and I so longed to be able to photograph them.

So, I have a confession to make. Neither of today's photos are mine.

After I had set off for home, my friend searched the hard drive of his computer and came up with the goods (just until I can return to take some of my own). I remain grateful for thoughtful friends and email technology.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

Remnants of red

In my garden, I have four pyracantha, ranging from pale orange to vivid red. In Spring, they are covered in a blanket of pure white blossom, while the berries give welcome colour during the bleaker days of winter. That is... until the blackbirds feast! Each blackbird is a miniature berry stripping automaton; peck, swallow, peck, swallow, peck... It is fascinating to see the speed at which one bird can de-berry a whole section of plant.

This year, there was added interest as the blackbirds were joined by another type of bird. I had to look it up. And even then, I wasn't convinced that I had actually got it right (until a friend confirmed sightings in her garden), but yes; the brownish speckled breast, the distinctive flash of red under the wing - I really had been visited by a group of around five redwings!

Being in a city, albeit fairly close to the edge, my garden is not often graced by unusual or rare birds, so this really was an unexpected treat!

Saturday, 6 February 2010


No photo today because I wouldn't want to point a camera at what I saw.

For the second time in as many months, the end of Stenson Road (a local through-route) was closed off because of a Road Traffic Accident. Judging by the number of blue flashing lights and the extremely mangled car, it was serious.

Anyone who lives locally, or uses the route regularly, knows that the bend just below Village Street is a potential death trap. It doesn't have to be, but the little row of shops encourages people to park and, even on the apex of the bend, there are no yellow lines to stop them. Those who know (and have a shred of common sense) take the corner at a cautious crawl. Those who don't, can easily find themselves swinging too wide and having to dodge oncoming traffic.

I always worry that I might know someone who was involved. But even if I don't - someone else does!

Friday, 5 February 2010

Tribute to tenacity

The sun came out this afternoon. It didn't last long, but it was still welcome and I took the opportunity to nip down to the very bottom of my garden to see what I could find. In a small number of weeks this area, over-shadowed by the big sycamore tree, will come into its own as the bulbs show through, stretch towards the light and then open up in a glorious show of colour. It's the time when my garden is at its very best and I can't wait.

Meanwhile, there are one or two interesting remnants from the autumn past - if you look closely enough. This tiny leaf retained it's autumnal golden-brown and survived the wind, rain and snow just long enough to end up being a photograph on here!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

May contain nuts

I know some people call them tree rats and they invade lofts and do damage etc, but I really like squirrels - even grey ones. My next door neighbour has a large leylandii tree which houses a whole colony of squirrels, so I am fortunate enough to see them on an almost daily basis. I particularly love to watch them chasing each other through the branches of the trees. The speed and acrobatics are amazing. My eldest son relates one occasion when the patio door was wide open and a pair of squirrels chased in through the door, round the room and out again, all at breakneck speed.
I must admit to having lost at least two bird feeders to gnawing squirrels, but the ones I have now are veritable fortresses and they seem to be standing up very well. To compensate for this lack of generosity, I keep a bag of peanuts just inside my patio door and tip out a small pile most days. Two autumns ago, I had a particularly cheeky character who would virtually push his nose up against the glass, giving me a less than subtle hint that he wanted feeding. The present bunch are slightly more wary, but still come to check the 'peanut area' frequently.
Once the nuts are discovered, it is not unusual to have a queue of squirrels waiting to help themselves. There is a definite pecking order - or maybe I should call it a 'grab and go' order. The 'top-dog' squirrel will be there first, while numbers two and three wait; one on the garage roof and the other on the fence. Once Top-Dog has stuffed as many nuts into his mouth as is physically possible, he will bound off to dig yet another hole somewhere nearby and bury them. Chance for number two to move in and do likewise. Number three now has to be very quick, because if he lingers, Top-Dog will be back for the next load. Crossovers do happen from time to time and always result in the lesser squirrel having to execute an emergency exit; claws scrabbling, fur standing on end - which, from my point of view is very entertaining, but maybe not from his!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


I've been feeling a bit washed out over the past few days. It's one of those infuriating flu type bugs which you think you are beating off, but then it suddenly jumps up and bites back. Today has definitely been a bite back day, but then a friend called round with these gorgeous tulips and brightened life up considerably. :)

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Chunal Vision

I seem to spend a fairly significant chunk of my time being taxi and, because today is a grey, mizzly day here in Derby and someone has no mudguards on his bike, I was talked into it yet again this morning. As I was driving through town, I was listening to a particular Brian Doerksen CD and it took me back in time to a rather more pleasurable example of being taxi.

During the summer, my boys do camp - except that, for the past two years, camp (singular) has become camps (plural) while they have been crossing over the age boundaries. The particular Venture they do is in Criccieth (N. Wales), but they are able to travel most of the way on the camp bus, which begins its journey in York and picks up just north of Manchester.

For me, this meant a series of runs over the tops to drop off and pick up boys and baggage (lots of baggage) and, last summer that co-incided with me hammering the Brian Doerksen CD to death. This photo was taken from the lay-by on the summit of Chunal Hill, just before the long descent into Glossop. Memories of the heather, the sheep and the wide open skies are a panacea on a miserable winter morning.

Monday, 1 February 2010


I've seen more snow this winter than for many a long year.

Of course I do realise that I am not unique in this respect, and I've been fascinated to hear lots of snow-stories remembered from days of youth. Snow and ice may cause havoc, but in many ways, the younger generation have missed out with our generally warmer, wetter winters.

I'm also well aware that winter is not over - by any stretch! February often has some ferocious weather to throw in our direction. It's too early to be complacent yet!

But, much as I have enjoyed the clear cold days, the blackbirds have long since stripped the bright red berries from my firethorn and I am missing the colours of my garden.

And then, this morning, there was a hint...

Snowdrops may not exactly be a blaze of colour, but I welcome them as a first sign that the garden is stirring and beginning to anticipate spring.