In Fradley I saw 7 lots of Trick or Treaters. Some dressed as ghosts and others as ghouls. Personally I'd rather be caught by the ghosties.
Saturday, 31 October 2015
In Fradley I saw 7 lots of Trick or Treaters. Some dressed as ghosts and others as ghouls. Personally I'd rather be caught by the ghosties.
Friday, 30 October 2015
After lunch we walked into Lichfield for Daisy and Harper to spend their pocket money from helping with the talking news. Then we did a tour of the plaques on the walls all around Lichfield. Minster Pool was magical as the autumn leaves had all drifted to the Eastern end and the Canada Geese had arrived in droves.
It's a good twenty years since we went to New Lanark, but it still sticks in the mind. It was one of the first places I went to with animated explanation points around the buildings and displays. It would be good to go back, if only to see how they have progressed that idea.
Because it was raining, everyone decided to go to the Museum of Childhood at Sudbury (where Daisy could climb inside chimneys like a sweep) and that gave me the morning to myself. So I recorded the Stevenage Talking News and was able to finish off some paperwork as well.
Daisy came with me to the studio and helped (really) with processing Stevenage, Scotland and Gwent. When Wilf and Keith arrived, as well as Robert, she entertained us royally and amazed everyone with her reading abilities.
Pauline Mitchell and Deborah came to read. Keith led the team. Ben arrived nice and early and Peter Fox was there for the wrapping up process, so I was off the leash a bit and got a lot of work done, particularly for the SNA.
I only went there once. Anywhere with an RSPB reserve (or National Trust or English Heritage) is a likely stop off because I have membership. My image of Paisley stems from my early days at work when British Leyland had an operation there and the picture that was portrayed was of massive mills and heavy industry. Paisley was indeed famous for its mills, but the last one became defunct about 30 years ago, although the woollen mill heritage can still be seen.
Everything is about timing at theLochwinnock RSPB Reserve. It's one of those places you can go to throughout the year because of the changes with migratory birds, but this time of year (which is what it was when I went there) will let you catch a glimpse of twite, grey wagtail, scaup, Water rail, goldeneye and many other more common water birds in particular.
Thursday, 29 October 2015
On the way back I collected four mailbags of returns and Harper earned some pocket money by helping me sort them into colours, so that Lichfield, Gwent and Stevenage were kept separate. Later, after lunch, Daisy helped me process the returns, checking for messages in the envelopes, taking out the USB stick, turning the label and recording the number on the label. That 'help' meant I was finished in two hours.
I took everything, including downloaded news for Gwent and Scotland, to the studio and then carried on to pick up Rita. Gerard and Margaret joined us and we had a mini dinner party, something we don't do often enough. The meal was really good and the night was very convivial.
I only made one trip to this region. The House of Binns is a National Trust (Scottish) property, despite being the residence of the Dalyell family, and Lithlingow was chosen as a photo opportunity on our car launch drive.
The House of Binns is impressive. Established early in the 17th Century the house had a relatively untroubled existence and houses impressive displays of porcelain, furniture and artwork, including many family portraits.
Lithlingow Palace is a sad affair. A royal manor occupied the site from early in the 12th century. The palace was built to replace that and was a very important structure for two hundred years, especially during the 15th and 16th centuries. Its position made it important as a guarding post between Edinburgh and Stirling, but the Duke of Cumberland saw danger in its potential, so burnt it down in 1746.
Vandalism is nothing new.
Wednesday, 28 October 2015
Pauline needed to take Rita food shopping, but I was allowed out with Rob, Sheri, Daisy and Harper. The drive to the zoo takes half an hour, through lovely countryside, and the weather was kind to us. The sun made it through several times and our four hour stay meant that we were able to see about half of what's available.
They are big creatures to hide, but we didn't see an elephant. However, the primates more than made up for it and the antics of the Siamangs kept us entertained for quite some time. Two Siamangs were trying to swing on ropes and the bigger one wanted both ropes, but the smaller one wasn't going to be bullied. There were endless tussles with the big one trying to dislodge the smaller, but every time he lost his grip of the rope he managed to grab his assailant, throw himself above him and land on top of him.
In the end it was tiny tots who won.
There was a Halloween theme and Daisy and Harper had to get 13 stickers or feathers, so that determined our route. The Humboldt penguins were delightful, espe3cially as you are able to observe them above and below the water.
The Amur leopard is a sad case. There are ten times more in captivity than there are in the wild. There may be only 200 left uncaged. What are we doing to our world?
Tuesday, 27 October 2015
Robert, Sheri, Daisy and Harper arrived at lunch time. We followed that with another walk into Lichfield. There was a lovely dinner, and then I went off for a Lion's meeting at The George. Discussions were wide ranging and there were some good ideas to follow through.
Sunday, 25 October 2015
As I lie here in bed this extra hour I think - my kids are going through what they put us through over so many years. I know it's mean but it makes this extra hour doubly sweet.
The falls boasts a prime location just over three miles from the village of Crianlarich which makes the site a useful stopping point or brief leg-stretcher if travelling on the A82. Standing at 30 ft high and with the River Falloch passing through Glen Falloch as it makes its way towards Loch Lomond at Ardlui, Falls of Falloch is a truly entrancing site set in a peaceful glen.
Saturday, 24 October 2015
This was almost an old fashioned Friday. Pauline tidied whatever mess I had made whilst she was away and I took four sacks to the Sorting Office. From there I went over to Armitage to see a new listener. He and his lady were lovely people and it was a pleasure to spend time with them. From there it was another new listener in Lichfield, and that took the very last player that I have been able to salvage.
We went to Burton upon Trent to start our Christmas shopping. Under the pretext of taking a load back to the car I was able to stash away whatever I had bought for Pauline. Couples should have some secrets.
Back home there was a call from another listener in Burntwood whose media player won't charge. I drove over and all the way I was pleading "Please let him be using the wrong plug." When I got there, he was using the wrong plug! But could we find the right one? So I brought it home to charge and found a spare plug.
Dumbarton Castle stands on a site that has been occupied since the Iron Age. A castle was recorded there back in the 5th century, and with basalt rock protecting its flanks and the mighty River Clyde in front it must have seemed impregnable, but was actually defeated simply cutting off the water supply.
Friday, 23 October 2015
The Stevenage Comet and the Rushton Crow appear in my in-box around 8am, but before I can read those I have to download all the magazines (22 tracks this week) and sort out any messages and birthday greetings. Then it's a question of reading until the material runs out.
I processed another two new listeners and then went off to do the Live at Home Scheme run. I picked up Pauline from Boley Park and then went for Pam. She wasn't well at all. I could hear her breathing from the front door. She was waiting for the doctor to arrive. I then picked up Elma and that was it until it was time to take them back again.
At 5.30pm I was at the studio ready for all the copying and then the recording of the Lichfield Talking News. Wilf was off again tonight, Keith was back and read. Angela led the team with Jane. Ben turned up just as I was giving up, and Peter staggered in late to help with the copying.
My visit to Loch Fyne was orchestrated by Renault. We enjoyed a two hour tour of the Highlands and then found ourselves at a swish hotel on the banks of the loch. As I was sat in the restaurant enjoying a wholesome lunch one of the managers approached. "You," he said to me "are sitting where Tony Blair sat, and you" he indicated my co driver "are in the seat that Gordon Brown sat in for their famous meeting to decide the fate of the labour party."
Invarary Castle is beautiful, especially inside, although the gardens and grounds are a joy. The first room you enter is the Armoury Hall. This is decorated with over 1300 weapons, but arranged in the most artistic manner. Amongst the weapons on display are relics from the fateful Battle of Culloden.
You approach the castle over a covered bridge that is bedecked with flowers (but not the one shown in the picture). Once passed the armoury you enjoy true grandeur, especially in the State Dining Room and the Tapestry Room.
Thursday, 22 October 2015
That was the morning gone, although I had set the slow cooker up for a hearty boeuf bourguignon and that had taken 40 minutes. It was under way before 9am for a 6pm meal.
I collected the returns from the Sorting Office and processed those. That was most of the afternoon taken care of. Pauline got back from Helen just after 5pm, exhausted, so I let her settle before we got to the food.
I downloaded news for Scotland and Wales and took it to the studio. Peter O'Brien was there and so I was able to come home. I was so happy at that as I was as weary as Pauline was after a day's work and a tough drive home.
This is another place that deserves more attention, but most of what I have seen has been fleeting, and I don't see much opportunity ahead for further explorations.
Blair Castle is set in beautiful countryside with mountains in the background and forests all around. Home to the Clan Murray (and the Stewarts) the earliest part of the building - the Cummins Tower - is dated 1269. There were further structural changes and additions, notably in 1530, 1740 and 1860. The gardens on their own are worth a visit.
The Scottish Crannog Centre is a hands-on experience. Remains of many crannogs have been found around the lochs of Scotland, dating back to life 2500 years ago. People protected their families by building houses on stilts out into the water. At the centre you can turn your hand to some of the ancient crafts, or even take a trip in a dug out canoe.
Scone Palace was the crowning point of kings even before the palace existed. The Scone Stone was revered by the Scots, until it was stolen by Edward I. Perhaps it's time it was returned, although the last monarch to sit above it was Queen Elizabeth II. There are records of the stone being used as far back as the 9th century and Robert the Bruce (he keeps cropping up everywhere) was crowned on the stone in 1306. The palace itself is a delight to visit, especially if you are a lover of fine porcelain.
We have nothing in Britain to match the majesty of the major waterfalls in the world, but those we do have soon become tourist attractions. The Falls of Bruar are not as impressive as they used to be because of hydroelectricity plants up stream, but after a very heavy rainfall you can get the sense of why Robbie Burns wrote about the Bruar Water. Getting to the falls is not arduous. There is a visitor centre and car park on the A9 and it is a half mile walk.
Tuesday, 20 October 2015
I spent the morning on paperwork from all angles and then went over to Rugeley for our monthly meeting of the Staffordshire Neurological Alliance. The sun was low and Eastern Avenue was New England in Old England. Beautiful. There were only six at the meeting, but it's quality, not quantity that counts.
Tonight I went to an information event at the Wade Street Church where the local Clinical Commissioning Group was explaining why they are going to halve the service provided by the Minor Injuries Unit at the Samuel Johnson Hospital. It will be hard to argue with their logic.
Scotland is the place to visit for castles and Glamis, home to the young Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, claims to be the most beautiful of them all. The site has been occupied for over 1000 years but was a hunting lodge until gifted to the Lyon family by Robert the Bruce in the early 1300s. The family leader became titled Earl of Strathmore, and still is. The grounds and gardens are extensive and the castle is a must for any historian. The artwork and family portraits are found throughout the castle, particularly in the 17th century drawing room, Queen Mother's sitting room, Billiard room and the Victorian dining room.
Angus is a beautiful county to drive through, especially with the enigmatic glens and the beautiful Lunan Bay. On the one time we did a car launch through the glens we were an hour later than expected getting back, because we kept stopping to take in the views.
My favourite memories of Dundee stem from a three day stop there to celebrate a Lion's Convention. We had gone in numbers and were out to enjoy ourselves. The fancy dress theme for the Friday night was "Scottish Heroes". So I went dressed as a Red Indian Chief. It took them a long time to pluck up courage to ask me who I was supposed to be, but I did get my picture in The Lion magazine.
Hawkeye the Noo.
“James, take off my dress.”
“James, take off my bra.”
“James, take off my panties.”
“Don’t ever let me catch you wearing them again!”
Monday, 19 October 2015
I took my work down into the dining room so that I could watch for any wildlife in the garden, but apart from the squirrel stealing all the bird food and planting it in Pauline's flower borders, there wasn't much going on.
I walked into Lichfield to post a request for funding and to buy more bird and fish food. I met a friend I've known for 40 years but haven't seen for about five years. We chatted for a while and then he said "Must get off, I 've got to pick up my pills. Where do you get yours?" I told him I don't take any pills and neither does Pauline, though she does use an inhaler. He was amazed. "I just took it for granted that anybody your age would be rattling when they walk." It made me realise just how lucky I am, and hope to remain.
My conscience was bothering me. I had been asked to record a Lions publication called Lions in Your Community. 84 pages. I'd asked the Wednesday team to do it, so as not to have just one monotone, but what had been done was unusable, so I got down and did it myself. It took a full two hours and 83 tracks.
Fowlsheuth is the only place in Kincardineshire that I can remember visiting, and that because I am a member of the RSPB. It is a northern Mecca for twitchers, but this impressive headland can be alive or starkly barren, depending on the timing of your visit. Pick your moment and you will barely see the impressive rock face due to the colonies of razorbill, kittiwake, fulmar, guillemot and - if you look closely enough - puffins.
Our local rag & bone man had his house broken into and all his prized possessions stolen. He valued them at 50,000 balloons and a goldfish.
Sunday, 18 October 2015
There was a lot of fun in this show and one or two genuine moments, but I was disappointed at the over-use of bad language. There are occasions when it is justified or appropriate but I thought some of this was gratuitous. Nevertheless, it was a sell out and the Lichfield Operatics needed that.
I've made a couple of trips to Aberdeen since, but it's the first visit that sticks in my memory. But I did find out that they have three cathedrals, whereas my memory is of St Machar's.
Thieves have stolen all the toilets in Lichfield Police Station. The Police say they have nothing to go on but three prisoners were seen going over the wall
Saturday, 17 October 2015
Pauline did a food shop and then saw to Rita's needs, checking first on the church flowers (they were in need of replacement), then taking her to Tippers to choose tiles for her new shower room and finally on to another food shop.
I cooked tonight. I am very much a cook, certainly not a chef, and usually I am careful to pick recipes where I don't need more than two saucepans, but tonight I got adventurous, and I share the recipe because it worked.
I boiled new potatoes which I then mashed with a drop of vegetable oil, butter and chives from the garden. I poached a couple of eggs. I fried the skin side of cod fillets and then baked them for about six minutes with a topping of butter and lemon juice. I microwaved a bag of spinach. I made a sauce with shallots, garlic, white wine vinegar, white wine, thyme, butter and double cream. I spooned the potatoes on to the plate, spinach to the side, poached eggs on top and the sauce to keep it warm. I'd do it again.
Banff & Aberdeen
If you are interested in castles, you can spend the best part of a year in Aberdeenshire, visiting more than 300 buildings that are classed as castles. Looking back at my diaries and the limited number that I managed to visit, I was suddenly aware of how privileged I sometimes was. I realise now, though I didn't back then, that some of the places I visited and explored are not open to the general public.
I've had dinner in the palace at Monaco. I've slept in Hever Castle. I was with Bob from the MGMW when he said to someone serving us lunch in a Cotswolds stately home "So what's his Lordship like to work for?" to which the man smiled wryly and said "I'm told I'm actually quite good!"
My experiences around Aberdeenshire were quite limited, so maybe I'll go back and do a proper rummage.
Ballindalloch Castle is a very friendly place. The Macpherson-Grant family have owned the grounds, set in the mountainous region of Speyside and alive with salmon rivers, since 1546, and they make visitors very welcome. Even the ghost of General Grant is famous, as he searches for the wine cellar, and the beef cattle are the oldest Aberdeen Angus cows in Scotland, because this is where the breed was first developed. Aberdeen Angus is still the best beef.
Duff House is considered to be one of the finest examples of Georgian architecture. Designed by William Adam and built during 1735 - 1740, it has 50 rooms, many of which now display the art treasures of the National Galleries of Scotland.
Forglen House stands on the site of the original building that was constructed in 1346. The current building was completed in 1839 and this is one that is not open to the general public. The rooms were not to be explored but the walled garden was worth a visit.
Balmoral has had stately buildings on the grounds since 1350 but it was Queen Victoria and Albert who created most of the building that we see today. The house that was bought in 1852 was deemed too small and big changes had been made by 1856, and even more since as various members of the Royal Family have stamped their mark on the estate. Still very much the summer home to the Royals, the many turreted castle is open to the public from April until July, and there are also some winter tours. Inside the building it is only the ballroom that most visitors see, but the grounds on their own are enticing as the estate is set in beautiful romantic countryside.
Drum Castle was gifted to the Irvine family by Robert the Bruce in 1323, just before he began his well known study of arachnology. This is another place where the gardens can be as attractive as the house. Apart from the walled garden, the paths in the main estate meander passed colourful flower borders and in the spring they shine with bluebells and rhododendrons.
I went passed the Samuel Johnson Hospital and the sign on the gate said Guard Dogs Operating. I thought, what are these NHS cuts coming to. They're not coming near me with a scalpel.