Note Number 50…It’s Always Easier for Men…

Apologies in advance for embarrassing any members of my family with this little post and if you don’t like discussing anything of a delicate nature then don’t read on.

beautiful day

Generally the roads around here are lined with impassable hedges…hmmm

I don’t wish to stir up the gender equality debate, but I’m sorry, it’s a FACT — no fake news on this blog — a man can take a pee in several other places rather than a loo, far more easily than a woman can — and what’s more, it’s accepted.

The pee debate for me began when a male friend of mine (who shall be nameless but lives in Burton Bradstock) posted on Facebook about seeing two woman on a country road squatting down, baring their backsides, to pee on the side of the road.  They were, I told him, obviously desperate and he had no idea how difficult it can be sometimes, for a woman to find anywhere to ‘go’. I told him that, when I was out walking the dog, I often found it impossible to find a place where I could hide away and not to be spotted, where there would be enough room etc. If I were a man it would be so much easier. No, stinging nettles to worry about, no panic about snakes, rodents or other small wildlife, that might be lurking in the long undergrowth etc., etc., His sister was with us at the time of this discussion (she shall also be nameless, but lives in North Devon) joined in the conversation and with great gusto said, ‘Oh but you must get a Shewee!’

‘A what?’

‘It’s a gadget that you can use to have a wee like a man.’

Well, I thought, I must get one of those. So duly got on to Amazon and ordered one with a carrying box. The first time I used it, it wasn’t too bad, but it did feel very weird and there was some leakage. Also it was quite bulky to carry in my bum bag. I discussed this whole thing with another friend, (who will also be nameless but comes from Bristol). She thought it a brilliant idea for camping, walking the dog and using some unsavoury public lavatories. She of course, because she’s like that, bought a more superior one called a Whizz Freedom. It was pliable and small and comes with a discreet carrying bag rather like a pencil-case.

‘I must have one of those!’ I declared. Quickly ordered on and then I took it out on my next long dog walk.  

DISASTER!! I should have practiced with it first as I found it so pliable it wasn’t effective enough and I ended up with wet knickers and wet trousers and I was only half way round my walk! I might as well have just wet my pants! Lesson learnt, I went back to the Shewee so that I could practice with the Whizz Freedom at home.

Alas and alack…today, whilst out on my 6k walk, I inevitably needed to pee after 3k, so I went into my usual hidey-hole, which is through a gate and round the corner a little bit. I stuck my walking stick through the handle of the dog lead, so she was ‘tethered’ so to speak and prepared to pee. A few feet away on the road I had just stepped away from, a woman walked past with a dog that barked at Jpeg, who duly barked back and pulled on her lead threatening to escape! I was interrupted at the most awkward time and yet again had to walk home with my dog walking trousers soggy. I think I’m going to give up and just squat in the corner of the field and hope that the man from Burton Bradstock isn’t lurking somewhere close or out in his car disguised as a driving school instructor!

Jpeg Tethered

Jpeg, patiently waiting whilst tethered, it didn’t last…

Note Number 41…Sober October and more…

nawineLining up the non-alcoholic wines…they’re not bad. Not too sweet. The two on the right I bought from Waitrose and the one on the left from the Co-op (yet to be tested)

I spent from the end of September until Saturday 4th November without a drop of alcohol. When you tell people this the first thing they ask is, ‘do you feel any better for it?’ The honest answer is that I’m not sure, because I think the autumn weather (wet and windy), and preparing myself for the clock change at the end of October…do not bode well for me. I like warm sunshine and dry fields and whilst I love sitting by the fire in the dark evenings, reading a book and watching a film on the telly I find myself feeling ‘wintry’ as in not inspired to do very much but hibernate. Is that a good way to feel? I think not. Something has to be done about it.

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I love the wood burning stove…a necessity for hibernating. 

Get out and about, visit Bridport, attend some writing workshops, go to the library, walk the dog and don’t succumb to the winter blues. So that’s what I’m planning and have already implemented as far as I can.

First workshop attended was at Waterstones, in Dorchester. Organised by the Dorset Writers’ Network and led by Rosanna Ley. A group of twelve writers of varying experience, spent two hours listening, creating and having fun on the subject of ‘Sense of Place’. Making sure that your writing gets a true picture of where your story is set and bringing reality to the internal and external scenes that you write. I came away feeling inspired and keen to get on with at least one of my half-written novels, so that has to be good. I began reading through a manuscript this morning…or should I say trudging…think I need to make some drastic changes! Open book with glasses

We are members of the Bridport Film Society (in fact I’m on the committee, not wanting to boast or anything) so every other Tuesday from now until March we can go and see an International film at the Bridport Arts Centre. This week is is Julietta ‘an exquisite study of a mother-daughter relationship tested though trying times…’ Sounds interesting eh? It’s a Spanish film with subtitles. I know some people hate subtitles but I love them because I love watching foreign films and I hate it when they’re dubbed.

Walking the dog has become something of a difficulty because of the muddy fields when it’s necessary to wear Wellington boots. These are hard to step out in and generally I end up with back ache at the end of even a half-hour walk. My decision is to put on the Wellies in the morning,  take the dog to the nearest field, let her run for 5k while I walk for 1.5k then bring her home. In the afternoon I will put on an ordinary pair of lightweight walking shoes, take to the roads and do another 3k. This is my plan but we all know about my plans and how they can change depending on my mood and the weather.

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My daughter striding out in the muddy fields last Saturday, complete with baby on her back! Oh to be young again….(she did get wet feet though) 

Going back to the alcohol thing, when I did drink that half glass of red wine on Saturday 4th November, it was Ciu Ciu Gotico (if you’re interested) which, usually I adore…I didn’t really enjoy it on this occasion so the other 5 bottles that I brought back from Italy will probably sit on the rack for some time to come. I have found a couple of reasonable alcohol free or de-alcoholised wines and I’m going to stick to them for a while. Although a gin and tonic does sound rather tempting at around 6pm in front of the wood burning stove while I contemplate my next day’s writing challenge.

Watch this space for some Christmas poetry come December or I might record them on my other blog www.shortstorypods.com

 

 

Note 24…I’m Just a Walkin’ the Dog…

up and down

View across to Axen Farm

Nearly every day I walk with the dog at least 1.5k and today I decided to go a bit further so got The Man to drop me in Symondsbury Village so that I could pick up the Monarch’s Way and walk back to Wooth. I tried measuring it on the map and it seemed to be 8k. It was in fact 7k but felt like 10k. This is because it was cross-country, up and down hills, muddy footpaths and really a bit of a ‘hike’. Nevertheless I enjoyed it and so did the dog.

centre of Symondsbury

Centre of Symondsbury Village Where Our Walk Began

I wasn’t sure of where we were going so I did not let the dog off the lead until we were nearly home and in a field that we knew well and no possibility of sheep. Also, I could see no other dogs at all. I have to be a little bit careful with her because she’s a bit unpredictable and although she’s not out to kill another dog, she does like to show them who is boss. A bit like most women I guess. But, it can be a tad embarrassing when she ‘goes’ for them even though it’s all noise and not much else. I tend to warn people who appear with their dear little doggies off the lead and charging all over the place. As I may have said before, at least I can say I’ve got control over my dog (to a degree) whereas they haven’t.

Well Cleared and Signed Bridleway/Footpath (I think this must be a cross-country course too).

This brings me to a little bug bear I have about other owners. We are so lucky to have a multitude of public footpaths in this area and most of them go through farmland. They are often clearly signed with, ‘please keep your dog on the lead’ and I am staggered how many people don’t bother.

keep dog on lead

This Sign is at Pymore Airport 

Unless your dog is highly trained, which is quite rare I think, there is always a risk they will run off through a load of sheep.  They also run over newly sown fields and generally run amok. A relation of mine in Buckinghamshire has a farm with public footpaths and he’s forever moaning about the ‘bloody walkers with their dogs off the lead and running all over the place.’ I can understand now exactly how he feels.

 

View Towards the Sea (left) and View Towards Home (right) 

When a loose dog comes hurtling towards me I usually call to the owner and ask them to get them back before my dog decides whether she’s friendly or not. But dogs generally ignore their owners it seems. Secondly I’m fed up with reading signs in villages about ‘clean up’ after your dog, when there is no bin in which to put it when you have collected it. I ALWAYS pickup after my dog even when we’re in the middle of the countryside,  if she decides to empty herself in the centre of a public footpath then I don’t leave it for someone to tread in.  I have bio-degradable bags which I then bury or make sure I put deep in the centre of a very big hedge. If necessary I will walk with it until I find the right place. Sometimes it’s easy to ‘stick and flick’ to get rid of it. But why? Oh WHY, do people bag it and hang it in a tree?? What is that all about?

Colmers Hill

Looking Back To Colmer’s Hill – Which was Close to Where Our Walk Began

By the way…on today’s walk I didn’t see any litter, rubbish in the hedgerows, not one bit and I never saw any ominous black bags hanging in trees. So a good morning all round!

 

 

 

Note Number 15…Logs…Targets and Totals…

I have been trying to walk further with the dog, Jpeg (note number 16 will tell you why she’s called that) and The Man introduced me to Strava. It’s an App you can get on your phone and it’s really for people who run, cycle or swim but, he kept on at me, (as men do) because he uses it for cycling and he was convinced it would get me walking more. So I downloaded it to my smart phone. Strava logs your activity for you, making a little map, it gives you information such as the time you take to cover a kilometre or mile, how far you’ve travelled, etc., etc., Then you load it from your phone onto the Strava website and everyone can see what you’ve done. You get a little ‘personal best’ cup if you walk the same bit of road in a faster time and you can follow people and they can follow you, it’s a kind of Facebook for athletes. I feel a bit stupid on it really because I’m just walking the dog and others are swimming the channel, running 10k and cycling a 100k – sometimes all three in the same day! BUT, it has worked to a certain extent as I now think about how far I’m walking each week and trying out different places to go. So thumbs up to Strava…oh and other people can give you kudos so you feel good about yourself, which is always good for the self-esteem.

index

Please note the Running shoe on the Icon…I am invariably in wellies or walking boots. See below.

welliesI don’t think Jpeg cares about targets except how many birds she can chase

hill

One of the many, muddy hills I struggle up, fighting against the strava clock ….phew!

I have also been trying to lose weight and get fit after Christmas, along with The Man, who is wanting to do lots of long cycle rides in 2017, some of which will take him over the Alps so he has to be ‘superfit’. Making a note of how much you lose every other day, and writing down what you eat is so helpful. Checking calories – it’s amazing how they add up, 50 here 50 there, soon become 200 or 300.  I haven’t got an App for this but I know there are plenty around.  But, the diet is going well, I’m 6 pounds down and The Man is 11 pounds down, going on a stone…so happy bunnies all round.

Things we’re not eating right now…

 

Things we are eating right now…note, no grapes The Man says, “They are sugar bombs!”

My other aim is to finish this novel ‘Oh, we’ve heard all that before!’ I hear you cry. But, honestly, I am getting down to it, aided by a programme that I have for writing called Scrivener. I love it and I can set my word target for the whole novel and a word count for each session that I type and watch it going up. I have it set for 2000 words a day, and when I’ve completed that number a message pings up on the screen – You have reached your target – which is a great feeling. Of course, half of what I’ve written is probably rubbish but, nevertheless I’m writing!

target

Whoops! Look at that…not a singe word yet today…and my deadline for 85,000 words is the end of March. Now you ALL know about it,  I will have to get on with it!

Note Number 13…Winter Walking and Wildlife…

My sister-in-law came to stay for a few days over New Year and I took her out walking with me and the dog.  She comes from Carrickfergus NI and she walks more in the town than the countryside.  She bombarded me with excited comments on all the flora and fauna we saw whilst we were ambling through the lanes and over the fields. Actually she was ambling I was trying to keep up a good walking pace.

On our little outing she noticed every blade of grass, each leaf, all the ferns, the wildlife and the pièce de résistance…the mole hills. She had never seen one before. apparently they don’t have moles in Northern Ireland. That did surprise me. More information if you have it please?

 

The point is, it made me think about how lucky I am each day when I walk out with the dog and that I must never take for granted the things I see.  This last week I have seen, two rabbits, a fawn, several pheasants, squirrels, a heron, many, many birds that I should be able to identify but cannot, a hare and of course sea-gulls. I also saw a dead fox and a dead badger.  If you add to this the domestic animals I see, that would include, dogs, sheep, cows, cattle…all different breeds of course, and today I saw geese, beautiful and noisy they were, even Jpeg decided not to get too close!

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The lovely geese we met on our Sunday morning walk today (8th January 2017)

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If you look really closely you can see the deer, probably better in the top picture. I wish I could take better photographs but t I only ever have my phone on me and I’m never quick enough! 

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Even though I keep Jpeg on a long lead for most of her walk she has a wonderful time, there are so many smells, noises and things to see on our walk she’s never bored and we always go for at least 3k Today we did 8k a record! 

While we were in Italy there was a definite lack of wildlife as the hunters shoot practically everything that moves between September and February but we did see porcupine and once I saw a fox in our field, but generally, there was little, but I would be pleased to hear differently.

rabbit-copy

Sadly I can’t take the credit for this photo but it is cute…

Note Number 8… These Boots were Made for Walking but not in the rain…

 

In October last year (2015) I bought a fab pair of Joules wellies in Mole Valley Farmers in South Molton. I loved them, all purple pink and flowery and they were fun to wear. Sadly, less than a year later they leaked, I couldn’t believe it and they’d hardly had any use.

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I’d even put plastic bags in the boots but, socks and feet still got wet. 

I tweeted to Mole Valley and to Joules and was impressed by the speed with which they replied and I was offered a full refund on said wellies and managed to replace them with another pair which were twice the price but did the job properly. The power of the Tweet eh?

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New wellies, boring colour but lined, practical and dry. Jpeg had to get a foot into the photo…typical! 

I don’t like walking the dog in wellies I prefer walking boots as it’s much easier to stride out around the countryside, but, of course one needs waterproof walking boots in this climate so I bought a pair of Hi-Tec Borah Peak Waterproof, Women’s Hiking Boots.

boots-copy

The important word here is WATERPROOF… which they were for about three walks. I sprayed them with a waterproof spray but that didn’t work so I phoned Amazon and was told to send them back for a refund. Fortunately we’d kept the box. This was back in March 2016 and we were about to head off to Italy – where the sun shines most of the time incidentally – so I didn’t bother to replace them immediately.

Back in England at the beginning of November, having replaced the wellies,  it was time to also get sorted with new boots. I decided to go the whole hog and buy an expensive pair of Ecco boots, waterproofed with Hydromax© lovely but £160. They were really comfortable and I loved walking in them…but, you can guess what I’m going to say can’t you? I couldn’t believe it the first time when I took them off after a walk and my socks were wet. I decided I must have imagined it and that I had stood on the wet doormat in my socked feet after I’d taken the boots off. So the second time I made sure that I didn’t do anything like it that but…my socks and feet were WET!

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More leaking boots…*sigh*

Back to the shop I went and to the very helpful staf.  They thought the boots were faulty so took them back and said they would send for another pair. Needless to say, I had lost confidence and insisted they replaced them with a different pair of boots made from Gortex©…this they duly did (at the same price). Success!  I am now able to walk over the muddy wet fields and in the puddles along the road with my feet staying dry. How wonderful.

new-boots

Love my New Waterproof Boots with blue laces…

But, wet shoes were only a part of this November. After a weekend away we returned to a cottage with a completely flooded ground floor. Apparently the rain had come down persistently and then in bucket loads of biblical proportion, the road looking like a river, and being the first house after the corner and at the end of a slight downhill segement of road, the water had nowhere else to go but in through the side gate, filling up the garden like a lake and found its way into the cottage under the door…

Lefthand photo…carpet with muddy water partly sucked out…the dark bit was what the whole carpet looked like before any removal of water.  Righthand photo…rolled up carpet ready to be dragged out and thrown into the garden. (it was very heavy!)  It’s hard to see how wet it all was from these pictures. This was with about 2 inches of water, I cannot imagine what it must be like when houses are flooded half way up the walls…horrible.

Ah well, at least I could wear me wonderful wellies to paddle about in the house.

In case you’re worried, it’s all dry now and we await a new carpet which should be down by Christmas. Thank goodness for good neighbours who came to the rescue with hot meals and comforting words. The dog had to stay in the kennels for an extra night, but I don’t think she realised this…she doesn’t seem to know the days of the week very well.

So far in 2016 we’ve suffered from earthquakes in Italy and flooding in England…what next I wonder?

 

Summer Fruits, Friends and Gardens…

There’s nowhere better than the English countryside in the summer when the weather is good and in Dorset, at the moment, the sun is shining and the breeze is warm. My friend Jan from Bristol, came to stay for a night while The Man was away visiting London including a quick visit to Brand’s Hatch with FMS racing.

herbaceous border

We decided to visit Forde Abbey near Chard, which I’ve been itching to visit since we first arrived in Dorset. Originally a Cistercian monastery and dissolved by order of Henry VIII in 1539, the estate has changed hands many times over the years. The first private owners were the Prideux family in 1649 and the design of the house and gardens have been added to and altered over the years. We took a walk around the impressive gardens commenting on what a pleasure it was to be able to walk on the well groomed grass and appreciate the fantastic herbaceous borders. They were full of multitudinous colours, scents and a variety of flowers too numerous to mention (actually I hadn’t a clue what many of them were, but let’s not go there). I have only recently become interested in plants and flowers as we do have a small but attractive cottage garden with lawn and flower beds. This year has been a bit of a discovery waiting to see what came up but I did plant half a dozen roses, some of which are turning out to be wonderful and a couple that have been drowned out by some enormous perennial dahlias … at least I think that’s what they are. Any gardening tips would be most welcome.

Hard to tell the difference between my garden and Forde Abbey really…(NOT)

There is something about water that is mesmerising and I love rivers, streams, the sea, in fact water in any form. Strange, because I’m not good in boats and I’m not a great swimmer, I suppose I just love being nearby this basic element. At Forde Abbey we sat for a while by the Long Pond and watched the magnificent Centenary Fountain on Mermaid Lake close by. The fountain was installed in 2005 to celebrate 100 years of ownership by the Roper family. It is the tallest powered fountain in England reaching 150 ft. They don’t have it running permanently but for about fifteen minutes several times a day.

fountain

The Centenary Fountain

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The Long Pond

After our tour of the garden we entered the house via the Grand Hall. There was an overwhelming smell of beeswax and carpets, not unpleasant at all but evoking memories of my childhood when I took ballet lessons in an old mansion in Eastcote Middlesex. Forde Abbey is not an enormous house and not at all museum-like, but it does have some great pieces of old furniture and several bedrooms with four poster beds and grand soft furnishings. Jan and I decided we could easily live in the place – for a couple of weeks anyway, but after that it might be a bit difficult just sitting and sewing samplers and not doing the odd job around the house or cooking the meals. Actually Jan said she would be quite happy not having to think of what to cook for dinner every day, but I pointed out that she’d probably still have to think of meal plans but then leave it to someone else to prepare, which would suit me!

frontof house

Front of the House

It wasn’t hard to imagine life for the women in the families who had lived in the house in the past. We could visualise them strolling across the lawns with lace parasols keeping their delicate fair skin from burning in the mid afternoon sun. From one smaller bedroom at the back of the house, I could picture a young seventeen-year old girl in the 19th century, sitting on the deep wooden window sill gazing down to the kitchen garden below and eyeing the muscular, tanned figure of a young gardener, possibly stripped to the waist…Mills and Boon here I come!

kitchengarden

The Kitchen Garden and Back of the House

Forde Abbey has a ‘pick your own’ farm about a mile or so from the main house and grounds so we jumped in our cars and headed off to gather some fruit for jam. Sadly, the strawberries had come to an end but there were plenty of raspberries, if you looked for them.
‘Lots of people don’t bother but if you lift up the branches you’ll find loads underneath’ suggested the girl at the farm shop and she was right. ‘Walk right down to the last two rows’, she added.
It was a fair way to walk but not for hardened pickers like Jan and I who have, for the last few seasons, spent our time in October picking olives. Raspberries are a bit easier and obviously we could just harvest what we wanted with the added bonus of being able to eat them as we went. Definitely something you cannot do with an olive!

And finally…..

The Jam!

jam

Oops…forgot to mention that we had a lovely lunch in the cafe, at Forde Abbey, jacket potato for me and quiche for Jan with salad…all from kitchen garden.  We looked but sadly we never saw any young, muscular gardeners…I think they keep them hidden from visitors. 😦