Monday, 23 November 2015

Finally home!

The favourite storie "The singing merlaid" No that isn't
a spelling mistake on my part, nor the book's.

I had a lovely time with my daughter and her family in the Lake District. It was nice to relax with them and without her and her husband having to gather some energy together to do more renovation work on their house. The weather could have been better though. Tuesday morning we were very lazy and got up late – I was the last one up, which is rather unusual when I’m in the UK. I was treated to a full English breakfast, bacon, scrambled eggs, beans and sausage. We then set off for a soggy walk around the village of Grasmere where we were staying. I am surprised how many outdoor clothing shops there are in the Lake District, even in such a small place like Grasmere. I can understand the craft and gift shops, there are so many visitors mainly in the summer. Maybe the visitors are not prepared for the weather and need clothing shops, or maybe people combine their days out with stocking up, which I suppose makes sense.

First taste of baby rice. He didn't need
any convincing that this is the way to
go. He got the hang of it after the first
In the afternoon my granddaughter really needed a proper afternoon sleep and so my daughter, her little one and I left our son-in-law at home to supervise and so he could get on with a bit of work that had to be done. We went off to Ambleside in the, by now, torrential rain. Fortunately it eased off when we got there, which was a good job as I was struggling to pay for the car park with my card. In the end I decided on cash but didn’t have quite enough for the length of time I thought we might need. A young gentleman asked how much I needed and gave me a £1.10 that he had in his hand. I was quite shocked at his generosity, but it felt good to know there are people like that out there, especially after all the horror we have heard about this week. The rain held off enough to do some shoe shopping and when it started to pour down again we just headed for a coffee shop. We had an afternoon tea and I had a slice of Borrowdale teabread with crumbly Lancashire cheese. The teabread was a bit like a rich fruitcake, but not as rich as a Christmas cake and went well with the cheese. I do miss Lancashire cheese, as it is a cheese I used to eat a lot of when I was younger.

And of course if the camera is out, a certain little
lady wanted her photograph taking too
Wednesday was my last day in the Lake District and we had arranged to meet up with my parents since they travel up to The Lakes often to visit and I needed a lift to my son-in-law’s mother’s house where I would stay overnight before heading off to the airport the next morning, so that worked out nicely. I had fish and chips just to finish off my holiday and because I had been pretty good all the time I was in the UK and I shared an apple and cinnamon pie and custard with my mother – neither of us could eat much after our main meal. The weather though was dreadful, wet and windy. My parents told us that the rain on the motorway was so bad that people had slowed right down for quite a stretch of the time, which is really unusual in the UK. On our side of the hills the rain wasn't quite so heavy but the roads were starting to flood again. My daughter sent me a picture of what it was like a couple of days after I left, with snow on the hills and bright blue sunshine. Typical!

Not quite the UK, but a rather chilly Latvia at -9C (16F).
That is not snow on the ground but frost
We stopped off at my parent’s house for something to eat and to avoid the manic traffic around Manchester. I really do not miss the horrendous UK traffic. I much prefer the “four cars is rush hour or a funeral”, type of traffic. In fact we find from our home it is possible to go all the way to the outskirts of the capital Riga and only see one or two cars – a trip of 100km (60 miles). My parents dropped me off, spinning wheel and all – I hadn't had that long to see them, but it was all that was possible this time around. It is a little tricky trying to juggle who to see when my own family are growing so much. There was only time  to sort out the taxi for the morning and have a chat about our children growing up with my son-in-laws mother before heading for bed.

Some serious ice crystals
The next morning I was a little worried about the two dogs in the kitchen, not that they were aggressive or anything like that, but enthusiastic. When I went down in the morning they were very excited to see me at first and then I told them to go to bed and much to my amazement, they did as they were told and stayed there. I think they decided I was too boring to bother with. As I was eating breakfast I had a text to say the taxi was on its way – no time for toast then! About ten minutes later I then got another text to say the taxi was outside and gave me the details of colour, type and registration of the car. Much better than having to constantly watch for it and then wait for the horn to sound – which no one appreciates in the morning. The taxi driver and I chatted all the way to the airport. He would like to retire to somewhere hot and agreed that rush hour in the UK is not great. Taxi drivers in his company will only do one rush hour shift, they cannot take two, so they either start early and finish early or start later in the day and finish later, so that they only cover the one rush hour. Can’t say as I blame them really.

You get the idea!
Ian met me at the airport and as usual he stood near the back, but something was a bit odd. First he seemed to be holding something and also he was stood further back than normal. As I got closer I realised he was holding a paper and on it he had put Griezites Alpakas with the outline we use for a design and my name on it. Next I realised he was stood with all the other people who go to airports to collect visitors for companies and such like. I burst out laughing. He said it was so long since he had seen me, he thought he might need some help to find me, plus it was free advertising. Cheek of the man!

I love the picture of the frost on the fence posts 
Finally getting home has meant doing some ordinary things like spending time with my husband. We needed a bit of time to talk about all the things that have happened over the last month and our thoughts and plans. There was also the ordinary things like washing floors and washing clothes. Making meals. It has been nice to have some time off from all those things and in an odd way it is nice to come back home to them too. The spinning wheel I brought back from England seems to have travelled well, no breakages, but it may have swelled a little at my daughter's rather damp rental home. They will be glad to get out of there.

The frost has also transformed these logs
It hasn't all been getting back to the ordinary ways of life, we have also taken a day trip up to Estonia to see another alpaca farm. It was a last minute arrangement. They have had alpacas a little longer than we have and they have more infrastructure developed than we have. They also have a more positive local mayor who is willing to work with them and aid them in their development. Unfortunately I can't say the same about the local authorities around here. We spent a great time at the farm and chatted for ages. The Norwegian husband said it was good to talk with other "special people". We do indeed have to be a bit different to take the routes we are doing and it was wonderful to hear someone with a much more business-like mind, still working out where they are going as they go along without a preconceived plan. We all agreed that if we had done what we first thought we would do, we wouldn't be enjoying what we are doing now. The routes have taken some surprising turns.

The new fence posts in position around the paddock of the
newest alpaca house
I read a few blogs on a regular basis and one them is full of gorgeous photographs with inspirational or thoughtful quotes. The quote this week really struck a chord with me and went beautifully with the photo of the sea (so do take a look at the link and the photo).

I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter.
We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.
For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.”
― James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves
Just before putting away time the snow started. We maybe
have about a centimetre or two now.

Our youngest cat taking advantage of
the heater being on
On that note I shall finish and then take off to a friend's house who I have not seen in far too long for a nice chat and a cup of tea.

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Are we nearly there yet?

"We are going on holiday" but what does that mean to a
two year old? Hahaha
We are on holiday! We being me, my daughter, her husband and two young children. Being on holiday though is quite a difficult concept for a two year old - the baby is oblivious to this anyway, all he knows is he has the attention of three adults in rotation. My two year old granddaughter, however, hasn't quite grasped that we are on holiday, all day, every day while we are away from her home. She has somehow managed to mix up being on holiday with the holiday cottage and so she thinks we are going on holiday every time we set off to go back to the cottage.

A tad damp don't you think? This is Lake Windermere
The weather has not been particularly good. In fact it took us an hour and a half yesterday to do a thirty minute journey due to the number of floods. This meant there were several places with only single file traffic. There was also a lorry stuck at one place it meant the cars had to drive on the pavement to get passed. If you take a look at the video on this link, you can see the lorry and the cars trying to get by. It is a good job we came up in the Land Rover.

Painting a picture on the touch screen
We decided to go to the Beatrix Potter Attraction in Bowness on Windermere, since it was indoors out of the rain and might entertain a two year old. The place is only small but they do pack in a lot of little scenes and my granddaughter was quite happy to see them all. A more boisterous, active child might not, but she is into books and has a good level of conversation for her age and so we had quite a chat as we went round. Her favourite part though was a touch screen table where she "painted" a picture. It was amusing to watch her use her finger to pick up the paint and then dot it onto the picture. She kept looking at her finger as if she really had paint on there before daubing the picture with it. Being out of season it was also nice and quiet and she had no competition for the activity. I dread to think what it would have been like in high season. Since she is getting quite bossy just lately (over tired we think) she would have probably told everyone that they would just have to wait. She tells people this with an over exaggerated shrug of her shoulders and by flapping her hands to lend her full weight of authority to the matter, as only a two year old can do.

No pictures this time of the Duddon. It is a bit difficult from
the back of a car and the roads are too narrow to keep
stopping and I think it would have tried the patience of a
certain little lady. Anyway typical stonework from the
Lake District
Today we went to the Duddon Valley. It is one of the prettiest and yet under visited valleys of The Lake District. At one end it has two passes that are some of the hairiest roads in the country with so many tight hairpin bends, both of them are also pretty steep. Hardknott into Eskdale, which we didn't take is the steepest. Coming over Wrynose, the other pass, at the top end of the valley it is fairly bleak and open, with many of the traditional hardy Herdwick sheep determined to make life difficult for drivers by sauntering along the road or trying to dart out in front of them. We had to crawl slowly towards a cattle grid before they cleared out of our way at one point. I am very familiar with the Duddon (you can see pictures from an earlier trip here, including the Herdwick sheep), as my Godmother used to own a hill farm in the area and we would pay regular visits as a family during my childhood. I often wondered if I would have been able to cope with life as a hill farmer in The Lake District and would loved to have given it a go and I guess it is one of the reasons for having our land and alpacas now. Just need to spend more time there at some point.

The weather might be dreary, but I still
love the Lakeland scenes, this is
Grasmere near where we are staying
Despite coming in from a different road to the one I was familiar with as a child, I still managed to find the track to the farm where my Godmother lived when I first knew her. I say when I first knew her, I arrived as a little baby to see her for the first time. I took my little granddaughter for a little walk while her baby brother was being fed and showed her the beck (brook) where I would fall in on a regular basis whilst trying to "fish" - I never caught anything, except perhaps a cold, but I don't think it really did me any harm. It was too cold and wet to go on a hike with a toddler and a baby today, perhaps another time, so I couldn't show them the isolated farmhouse that my Godmother retired to, up the very steep track. We had a picnic in the car though further along the valley at Ulpha bridge, a popular spot for those in-the-know and then headed to Broughton where we had a drink and a piece of cake (I am on holiday and it is back to the cake free diet later).

She wanted her photo taken, but all I
got was this serious look. Those are
her paintings in her rucksack. All 4 of
Before we came up to The Lakes it has been filled with a similar routine to last week, with an activity in the morning such as toddlers, messy play or pre-school and then my daughter doing some more renovation work while I baby sat in the afternoon and the evenings. All of us, including my son-in-law who was working on the house in the evenings, were pretty tired by the time we stopped to come on holiday and although they have a lot of work still to do, it has been nice to sleep in a bit and not have to be up late in the evening trying to get things done. I did try and help my daughter whilst the two year old was at pre-school but of course the baby had other plans. At least I moved a pile of tiles and picked up the loose plastic spacers, the sum total of my physical work on the renovations to their home.

A walk home from pre-school on one
of the few sunny days
Back home in Latvia Ian has been trying to do some more sorting of the third alpaca house. He has bought fence posts and on a particularly rainy day went to Jekabpils the big town to get some U-nails to attach the fence and a hole borer to make putting fence posts in easier. The weather hasn't been kind to him either and so the top pond is full and he hasn't got the fence in yet. He has wired in some lights and sockets into the alpaca house - next will be the kitchen and bathroom - only joking. Our plan will be to have an area where we can support any pregnant female should we need to and so already having lights and sockets means we can connect up an extension cable from the greenhouse without a problem if necessary.
Looking backwards down the hill towards the town

The leaves are still on the hedges here,
but I am guessing back home they
won't be
Ian has also being helping some neighbours to transport a couple of wild horses. These must have been a little wilder than the ones I saw recently and one did not want to cooperate and go in. It did eventually but a rear triangle got damaged and our neighbours have taken the broken one away to get another. I do hope they do and don't forget about it.
I love the colours of autumn

A house nestled in the valley with the stone walls
He has also been having some minor issues with the newbies, which is only to be expected as they settle in. One issue though is not so minor and that is our largest female alpaca, Veronica, is still taking exception to one of the newbies. Ian has been locking Veronica away in the training pen or separately in the paddock while the others are out in the field until we find out a way of dealing with the behaviour. At least the rest of the herd have accepted the new ones though. Hopefully we will get a reply from someone who deals with alpaca behaviour fairly soon with some suggestions as to what we can do.

A fern growing naturally in the moss covered stone walls
As you maybe able to tell from the title of the blog, my little granddaughter was not terribly patient in the car on the way up. We were hoping she would sleep a little longer than she did. The refrain "Are we nearly there yet", uttered by so many children on long journeys could equally be uttered by many on their life journeys. For some the refrain refers to the idea that the world will get worse and worse and worse and then Jesus will come back and sort it all out. I confess I believed that once, but I don't now. I believe that Jesus wants to sort it out through people, just like he has always done, as far as I am concerned. According to statistics the world is not getting worse, it is actually getting better in terms of crime rates and poverty. The world has always been a dangerous place to some degree somewhere. Catastrophe, as we have unfortunately seen in Paris but also elsewhere in this world has been just around the corner, but so has goodness, so has mercy, so has love. There are real hurting humans out there of many colours, who need other loving humans to give them homes, food but above all dignity. If we stop seeing others as barbarous backward heathens, or some variation of that and try to see the humanity and the needs, maybe we will stop thinking that all we need to do is bomb the life out of each other.
Not sure how much longer the iconic telephone boxes will
be around and so I thought I had better take a picture

A house on a grander scale
When I was younger we were afraid that the Soviets would set off a nuclear bomb and obliterate us in our English homes. What I didn't realise was that the same fear existed on the other side of the Iron Curtain. Different groups of people expecting annihilation from the other, separated by fear and a lack of knowledge of who the others were. If I could say anything that might make a difference, I would say go into the highways and byways and invite someone from a totally different background to eat with you. Talk about hopes and dreams and aspirations and see how similar they are. One by one around the table discovering how human nature longs for safety, hope and like I've already said, dignity.

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

The joys of little ones

This is the spinning wheel I
purchased the other week. I
think it is an Ashford traveller,
although the pictures that I
could find on the net, show a
slightly different arrangement.
It has been the sort of eventful week that any mother of young children will recognise and all too familiar to me, if a little hazy due to being memories from the dim and distant past. My little two year old granddaughter was less shy with me than my little two year old grandson the other week, but that was because I have chatted a little more with her via Skype. However, early on in the week she came downstairs with her daddy crying her little heart out. Daddy was going to work and her mummy was busy, so I took her in my arms to give her a cuddle, but she was inconsolable. Mummy took over and gave her breakfast, but she was still not right, so she was given a dose of medicine and a cuddle with mummy. Next thing we knew my little granddaughter threw up all over the floor, narrowly missing her little brother. As I was due to go out to meet someone for coffee, we had a rapid re-think and I offered to take the baby with me, while my daughter cleaned up - generous offer heh!

The cards my granddaughter made
I haven't left my daughter to do all the cleaning up, honest! In fact I have spent quite a bit of the week babysitting and washing up while she gets on with some renovations, as it has taken them far longer than they hoped. As my granddaughter took a few days to recover and the baby is only a few months old, it has been a fairly easy job because they have spent much of the afternoon asleep and go to bed early. There has been just a little entertaining in the afternoons between my granddaughter getting up after her nap and mummy and daddy coming home. Today we made cards and did some glueing and sticking - something I haven't done with little ones in a long time and I was desperately trying to remember how to help a little one learn to use scissors. It was rather amusing though that she got far more absorbed in cutting up pieces of paper than actually sticking the paper onto a sheet of lining paper to make a picture.

Boots and wellies drying on the radiators
I had forgotten how many sets of clothes you can get through with little ones. My little grandson has puked up on me and peed into the turn ups of my jeans. My granddaughter has soaked me with jumping in puddles and it was so wet today on our walk that my boots started leaking and my trousers wet through again. In a walk to the shops the other day, my little granddaughter went through the biggest puddle imaginable and it went well over her little wellies, but oh she had fun! A couple walking past at the time laughed and the gentleman commented "Well what are wellies for!" Absolutely right of course. I have also been greatly amused by employing the tricks I learnt as a young mum. Little one walking and another in the pram plus a steep hill? No problem, ask the little one to help in pushing the pram. Little one giving up walking due to being tired? No problem, 1-2-3, whee and run a little way up. Hehehe! Little ones are so gullible - most of the time.

We eventually got some cut pieces of paper stuck on some
Little ones are also funny with the things they come out with. It was hilarious the other day when she sat in the pushchair and going round the shop saying "Happy Christmas Everyone." My daughter is not really sure where she got that from, probably a tv programme as she has quite a remarkable memory recall. I read her a library book one day and then the next day, she was reading a book to her little brother and recalling some of what I had read to her. She definitely wasn't reading the words, she is too young for that.

Who are you looking at? Brencis and Estelle 
Back tracking a little, I mentioned I was going for coffee with a friend. It was a facebook friend I had probably never met before, which might sound an odd thing to say. My facebook friend and I have many mutual friends and I used to live only a few miles away from where my daughter lives now, so we may have bumped into each other before but not remembered. We met up because we seem to often agree on issues we talk about on facebook and both think quite a lot about various things and so we had quite a philosophical chat for easily a couple of hours. A little different from the level of conversation with a two year old, although not always - you can have quite deep and meaningful chats with a two year old, but they haven't a clue what you are talking about usually and so it is great fun. The baby was very good whilst we were chatting and slept most of the time, he also happily gurgled to  one of the waitresses at one point, as well as joining in with our deep conversation, as only a baby knows how.

Ian has also been chatting for hours on end, mind you, it was all on one day when he took a trip up to Estonia to collect three alpacas and a friend had agreed to accompany him. We decided it was going to be too expensive to get alpacas from England and we hadn't heard anything from the farm that Ian had visited in England anyway, so he contacted the people we met back in August in Estonia to see if they would be willing to sell any. We wanted coloured alpacas to increase the range of natural fibres we could generate, because at the moment the choice is white or cream, in other words almost white. They agreed to sell us three alpacas, a dark chocolate brown, almost black, called Peedo (after a neighbour to the Estonian farm who turned 70 years old on the day he was born), a dark toffee coloured brown (Chanel) and a white with brown spots (Mari). By the time they are bred with our white alpacas we should get a fair range of colours along the spectrum. Exciting, but we will have to wait until next year to breed them and so it will only be 2017 when we get to know what colours we will get.
Although he looks sort of black, you can see he is not quite

Chanel on the left and Mari on the right

For the first day Ian put the new alpacas into our newly built alpaca house, to give them a little time to settle down from their trip and get used to him before introducing them to our herd. Ian then decided to introduce them in the evening on the basis that the alpacas often settle down for the night and they might be less likely to react to the new ones. First of all he took Peedo on a harness and tied him up behind the boys alpaca house. He put the boys away as usual and then waited for them to settle down before introducing Peedo. Tellus was not happy with the introduction and tried to mount Peedo, but Herkules our oldest alpaca got between them. He stamped his authority and wouldn't let Tellus do anything. So despite the fact that Tellus is our intact male, he is not the boss. Peedo is such a little fella though compared to our other ones. The girls were okay, but Veronica does not like Mari for some reason. I am sure they will settle down soon and nothing too bad beyond a bit of spitting has been going on.
I think this is quite a cute photo of Mari

Peedo and Turbjørn. You can see how much smaller Peedo
is compared to our other alpacas in this one. 
The next day the new alpacas had to get to grips with learning the ropes of being put away. Of course they did not get it at first. Peedo very nearly did but stopped in the door way then backed off. The two girls didn't even bother going in. Ian got the harness, a stick for guiding them and a long rope. He managed to corner Peedo and get the harness on him, then put him away. With the girls he locked the others on one side and opened the other door, Mari, bless her just walked straight in but Chanel just ran around the alpaca house making a noise. Ian tried to corner her with the rope but she charged through it and the end got caught on her leg which stopped her so he could get hold of her. She is a noisy thing though apparently. During the day I and the grandchildren had a lovely chat with Ian via Skype and we even got to see the new alpacas because Ian took the computer up with the mobile wifi. Neat!

Chanel and Snowdrop. Not quite sure who the other one
is, but probably Agnese
Ian also managed to shift the sheep, they escaped from the poultry fence again like the last time we moved them. The plastic its wrapped in was on the floor and the wind caught it and spooked them. However they ran right into where he was putting the fence and stayed there while he finished putting the wire on fortunately.

Veronica at the back and Estelle looking on with a good
deal of curiosity. We think Estelle might indeed be
pregnant as she is starting to fill out at the back now.
Besides settling in newcomers and moving sheep he has also had visitors. The visitors came the day after the newcomers arrived and were not allowed to actually go in and see them but were able to look over the door, at least they got to see that alpacas are not just white, but a variety of colours. There were 15 children and their parents and it sounded like they had a lot of fun trying to feed carrots to the alpacas. As expected the older boy alpacas were not terribly fussed with the visit but Agnese and Brencis were great with the children and allowed the children to pet them and feed them carrots. We know the children enjoy the visits as there was a lovely write up in the paper about the visit by one of the local schools. Three children had written their impressions of the day with one writing "Alpacas are beautiful, interesting, intelligent animals with a white fur coat." We are obviously giving them a good impression of what they are like then.

Monday, 2 November 2015

Still on the move

Playing in the sand
Three different locations for my travels this week. As I mentioned last week, I made it to my youngest son's home with a little adventure along the way, but at least I got there. It left a couple of days to enjoy his and his family's company. As neither of us have a huge pot of money, we went out on walks and went to the park, which suits me fine. It was half term and my son's fiancée pointed out that it was obvious that the park was the place to go for grandparents and their grandchildren during the half term holidays. I also took my turn on duty to watch over their little girl while they went to get some drinks and ice-cream (and no I didn't eat any, I have been very good and still not touched any cakes or biscuits since I left Latvia, despite the many temptations of some gorgeous looking home-made cakes in my travels).

A sculpture in the park
My son lives in Coventry and we went into town for a wander round. I visited the bombed out cathedral for the first time and it was quite sobering to see the remains. What was more sobering was the attitude of the people connected with the cathedral after the war. Instead of reacting out of hatred, they reached out in love to their former enemies that had caused so much destruction to the town and formed bonds with German towns. Not easy in the early days, but so necessary to bring healing and reconciliation to the traumatised continent of Europe. An attitude that even today is so sadly needed.

I also got to see more of my son's fiancées family. I had met her mother only once on Skype and never in person, so it was a chance to get to know each other and she treated us all to a meal out. That was partly because we are all pretty useless at deciding what to eat for the evening meal. I ducked out of the decision because I had no idea what the possibilities were - well that was my excuse and I am sticking to it. Still it was a lovely time and the meal was good. I also met another of her older sisters (I met one other on a previous visit), but there are still a few more siblings to meet yet before I have met them all, as she is the youngest of seven.

Autumn leaves
Unfortunately my journey onto my next stop - Cambridge was also eventful due to missing a junction on the motorway and having very little knowledge of the geography of that area of the country. I am fine up north and would be able to work out a rough direction to head in if I missed an exit, but no idea in the southernlands (no that isn't a real word, just in case you are wondering). I found a service station and decided to opt for the old school form of navigating and bought a map book. I had thought about bringing the GPS, but unlike a SatNav it doesn't talk to you, just beeps and my hearing is definitely getting worse. I got to the course about half way through the round of people introducing themselves, but didn't miss any of the actual coursework, so not an issue. It was made easier by finding a Park and Ride that meant I didn't have to drive into Cambridge and risk getting lost again. Unfortunately I didn't have a chance to take pictures of Cambridge, but I am sure there are plenty on the internet.

One of the old houses in the small town of Oundle
After day one of the course, I headed to my Aunt's house. I was a bit paranoid this time about ending up somewhere completely different and so after travelling for what seemed like rather a long time I stopped in a layby to get my bearings and find out how much further to the turn off. It turned out that the exit I wanted was literally around the next bend - typical. I was quite proud of myself that I found her house without any difficulty once I got into the small town, despite it being a very long time since I had last been there i.e. decades ago. Pity that hadn't been the case earlier on in the day.

I love the higgledy-piggeldy way the houses nestle next
to each other
It was a two day course and I felt much more relaxed on the second day, since I didn't have the nightmare of driving into the unknown. I decided to stay at my Aunt's for a few extra days after the course, since we haven't met in rather a long time and it was a time to catch up. It was a good decision, as it felt like being on a retreat plus I have been thoroughly spoilt into the bargain. We have had gorgeous weather and so it meant we had a chance to walk around the very pretty town of Oundle. It is an old historical market town with some wonderful architecture. Since it was half term many people were away and the place very quiet - not normal in a town with a huge public school (for my foreign friends, a public school is actually a private school, but open to anyone who has the money or a scholarship to attend - unlike the schools prior to these that were restricted to the nobility).

This picture looks like a painting, but that was an accident
not by design or any clever after processing
It was a lovely surprise to find that my Aunt attended a thriving Anglican church, I hadn't realised she was a church goer. For the first time in a while I therefore went to a church service. It was a simple enough service with a congregation that spanned the ages and they were a welcoming group of people - which I feel should be the most important character of any church, not how slick the presentation is, good though the morning service was. I feel that God speaks to me in my ordinary life through ordinary things and I do not have to be in a church service with special music to feel close to him and so it amused me that he chose to speak quite clearly through the readings from the bible in the service that morning.

A wooden swan sculpture
I have been struggling with the issues I am seeing in the area of my study whilst also trying to hold the complexity of the issues in my head.... well it was causing a bit of a headache. I was trying to process what the key barriers are that rural inhabitants of Latvia and Estonia face and yet fully understanding that it is never going to be a neat and tidy overview that could be presented to planners complete with a method for them to use to solve problems. What was the way forward? Currently there are also issues to do with the refugees and the real resistance to taking them in by the nation that seemed to be unsolvable and harmful for a nation. Hatred and fear are never good for the soul of a nation. The anger, particularly in governments in Europe over the refugee crisis is not healthy and it all seemed like a big black hole whirling around in my head. And how did the reading speak to this? Lazarus was in the grave four days, he stank, he was decomposing and Jesus called him out. It was hopeless and Jesus gave life. The impossible became possible. I like that!
A huge dragonfly sculpture

Blue skies in autumn
The second reading was from Revelations 21:1-6, one of my favourite bible passages and the foundation on which I am basing my work - transformation of the world is on God's heart and I want to partner with him on that in my own small way. Far better than the world is going to burn and to hell with it. More hopeful! It felt like a reaffirmation of what I was trying to do. There was also a video with music and in that there was an image of a man dragging the world with a rope. Hmmm! I felt like that. The world was then tugged off him by a huge hand - the best place for the world, is in the hand of its creator after all. I also began to realise that what I had been looking for was a way to solve issues and that was an impossible task, what is needed is a way of opening doors to opportunity and a way to find those doors. It will be different in different places, as each place is unique and each community is unique. And after all that I went out with my Aunt on a walk and solved the whole puzzle..... well no! I went and enjoyed a lovely time in the warmest November day on record.

Cyclamens growing wild on our walk

I think our cats tolerate each other these days! It is at least
warmer that way.
Surprisingly enough I have actually made it up to my daughter's home without any hitches. It is easier to travel up north as I knew where I was going and even the number for the road I needed to find. The car was safely delivered back to Enterprise, the car rental company. It had been nice to drive the Skoda Superb that I got as a free upgrade, it could certainly pull away very nicely in heavy traffic, but I was pleased to hand in the keys and think that there is no more driving for me now, until ..... no idea when. I don't drive often these days. They even offered me coffee while I waited for my daughter to arrive, and they were in the process of making it when she turned up. It was a nice thought anyway. My daughter picked me up from Chesterfield, a town where I used to shop every weekend and so a very familiar place, but also with many changes. We did a bit of shopping before heading for her home and I managed to actually find some jeans that fit and a nice top, so that is me sorted for another couple of years - I don't do much in the way of clothes shopping.
Ian has been putting the finishing touches to the alpaca
house. Soil has been piled up to the doorway, so there isn't such a huge step

Ian meanwhile has also been having an interesting week. Herkules has another eye infection. He seems particularly prone to those, but at least we know how to tackle them now. I will relate the tale of Ian's other adventures in his own words, albeit with a few amendments for privacy's sake.

Channels have been dug in the floor to help with drainage
"Its 2:30 and I have finally  got out to the land for good. I took some frozen parsnips up to our other apartment this morning (where our large freezer is) and the bath was 3/4 full of water, so I used the washing up bowl and emptied some of it down the sink in the kitchen only to see that outlet was overflowing onto the floor. So I went upstairs to our neighbour, I had to ring a few times, I had got him out of bed (it was about 8:30 at this time), I showed him what the problem was and we then had to empty some of his wood store to get to the down pipe to then get to the access plate. I then came out to the land to let the animals out and pick up tools and any thing else I thought might be useful. When I got back we managed to get the access plate off but snapped one bolt in the process. Of course the pipe was full of water so had to let it drain into a large bucket I had taken. We then tried with various wire etc to try and clear the blockage but they would only go so far and then stop. It was either a break in the pipe or a right angle turn at the bottom. He contacted someone with some drain cleaning rods but they wouldn't arrive till 12:15 which left me with about 45mins. So I thought I would come out to the land and check on the animals and let the chickens out as I didn't earlier. So I asked some of the neighbours if they wanted to come out and see the alpacas, One wasn't up to it but the youngest came, she loved them and took loads of videos. 

Hay has been added to the floor for bedding
When I got back Mr Smile-a-lot (our nickname for the one of the friendliest of our neighbours, not that he knows we call him that) and our neighbour from upstairs were having another go but no success, we had decided the blockage was somewhere between the bath down pipe and the toilet down pipe somewhere around this 90 degree bend, Smile-a-lot tried with the a hose and water but that didn't work and then tried with drain rods but they seemed to get stuck in the same place. So then I attached the handle to the end so you can rotate the rods and with me turning and him pushing them down into the pipe they got around the bend, we added a few more rods and then you could  hear the rods from the toilet pipe. Tried again with the hose and success the water was flowing away. You should have seen the relief on their and my face, it was high fives and hand shakes all round. Smile-a-lot had some replacement bolts and the the outlets were tested and no leaks. I did offer to help our neighbour from upstairs to put the wood back in the woodstore but he wouldn't let me, I think he was just so relived that they didn't need to dig up his woodstore's floor. So hopefully everything is ok till the next blockage.

Ian has been fixing his Stanley flask. The flask itself is
robust and still working well, but the handle came off and
needed fixing on, so he fixed it in style
Oh yes and the smaller of the two marrows has ruptured and leaked on the front room floor, but I did find one of the squash was going mouldy on the side so I brought it out to the land before it bursts as well. I think Sgt Wilson got his promotion papers through today. Just gone to put them away and he is nowhere to be seen. When I got back I went to let the girls out of the paddock where I had left them all morning as Aggie has a tendency to escape nowadays, the boys were looking towards the forrest and the chickens were hiding in the current bushes and the longer grass clumps. Now I realise the white chicken I saw in the current bushes must have been the one from ark 4 not Sgt Wilson as I thought. I have had a quick look around but can't see any feathers."

So not exactly a quiet restful time for Ian either.