Wednesday, 27 July 2016

A difficult day

This is what a very difficult day looks like.

It is the back of my car.  The big round thing on the left is where you plug in the caravan electrics.  The gap on the right is where the detachable Wittar towball should be.

The plans for today was so simple:  fit towball, hitch up caravan, drive to Penrith and leave the caravan to have her annual service.  We all know that PLAN is often a four-letter-word at Bag End and never was that so true as today. It wasn't catastrophic, or disastrous, or horrendous.  No-one got hurt and all the problems can be resolved, but it was difficult and stressful and I'm writing it down to get it out of my head and to move on.

So after a nice walk with Daisy I went to fit the towball.  And failed. It has always been a real pain to get the unit to lock into place but having never used this system before I knew no better.  With Management in London and an appointment to keep I came inside, made a coffee and had a look at You Tube.  When I watched this little film I knew I was in trouble

I had just spent 45 minutes failing to do what should take less than 45 seconds.  Houston, we have a problem.

So I phoned Wittar technical support.  20 minutes later their very helpful chap agreed that the unit was failed/bust/definitely not well.

So I phoned the car dealership in Carlisle who supplied and fitted it.  Thank goodness they have a branch in Cockermouth where I'm well known from our Honda days.  Thank goodness their wonderful service manager is familiar with detachable towballs.  He tried, he repeated everything I had already done, there was much WD40 and grease.  Eventually he got the unit into the chassis flange, and then I made him take it out because we could both see it wasn't 100%.  I happen to know he's a reserve fire-fighter and I asked him "how can we risk you getting a Shout this afternoon because the A66 is shut and you've got to cut someone out of a crushed vehicle because a caravan detached from a towcar and caused a pile-up".  Later this afternoon I got confirmation that the offending item is on its way back to Wittar to be repaired/replaced.

But in the meantime I had a caravan that needed to be 30 miles away for a service tomorrow.  So I called the only person I could think of with a towball on the back of their car - LP.  Who is recovering from minor surgery and not allowed to do anything strenuous but permitted to drive.  Bless him, a couple of hours later he came round and we proceeded to move the caravan onto the road, hitched it up and that was when we found that a modern caravan electric socket has 13 pins, but a van socket which is designed only to tow a farm trailer has just seven.

At this point I accepted The Universe really, really did not want me to take the caravan down the A66 today.

Thankfully the workshop I was taking it to is run by one of the kindest, most understanding people I have ever met.  I had kept Ron apprised of the days developments as they unfolded but the final call to say "I'm not going to make it" was hard to make.  We're booked back in, but not until the end of next month which was the first available day.

I've learnt a lot today.  I have learnt that this towball has probably been faulty from Day One.  I have learnt how kind people are when you ask for help (I'm not very good at asking for help).  I've learnt that, actually, I can keep my cool and a sense of proportion.  I've learnt that Daisy can be utterly selfish and not even remotely sympathetic when I'm having a tough day and she wants to play.

I don't need sympathy, it's only a bloomin' caravan.  After the events of recent days in France and Germany I am not going to get bent out of shape about this, although I am saddened that it is unlikely I will have the towball fixed in time to have a short break in the caravan next week.  I am starting to wonder if I am jinxed when it comes to taking our lovely Lunar away?

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Birds and bulbs

For some weeks we have had a swallow nest outside the log store/shed but I thought it may have been abandoned due to my fairly regular going backwards and forwards, and disturbing the birds.

I did try putting up one of the Trailcams but must have got the settings wrong because it recorded nothing.  But if you really want to know if a nest is in use - carelessly leave a wheelbarrow underneath it when you're too tired to empty it and put things away properly.

Bulbs - well, that's twofold.  I am currently deeply engrossed in the new J Parkers Wholesale catalogue.  Bulb heaven - prepare for tulips next Spring!

More immediately I have harvested the first of our posh 'Heritage' garlic.  The yield is OK, but not as amazing as I hoped for, although the greenhouse really pongs right now, it's lovely!

And just in case there is any doubt about what time of year it is - the school holidays have started, it is August next week:-)

Monday, 25 July 2016

Hinting at normalcy?

It's all about mindset.  For as long as I can remember my mindset has been one of being constantly active, getting things done, cheerfully achieving lots every day.  It has taken me a long, long time but I might finally have accepted that has to change.  Whilst I am slowly getting better and achieving more sleep as I have less pain, I have to give my bones and muscles time to heal.  I have to accept that whilst I have never actually looked ill, I've probably been quite poorly and convalescing will take some time.

Convalescing - defined as the gradual recovery of health and strength after illness or injury.  OK, (shakes head quietly to self), I think I can cope with that.  So the Cottage Garden beds are close to being feral, there's ground elder trying to take over the land at the back of the house, planting in the New Garden has been a chaotic failure which needs completely overhauling and the empty and unused raised vegetable beds are an embarrassment.  So what?

Baby steps, baby steps and it will all be alright in the end, and if it's not alright then it's not the end.

I had a lovely Saturday just bimbling around the veg beds and have about half the area ready for seeds.  The plan is to use some of the ground as nursery beds for foxgloves, wallflowers and the like.  Pottering around felt lovely, almost 'back to normal' - whatever 'normal' is.

Sunday was quiet but at least the ironing basket got emptied, so Monday morning Daisy and I shot off to Crummock Water after breakfast.  With frequent sharp showers it was surprisingly cold and we were both glad of waterproofs, if I had taken gloves with me my hands would have appreciated it.  Still a lovely outing, everything was so verdant with numerous shades of green and occasional flashes of purple from heather and golden yellow from gorse.

The showers had kept most people away and we had the boathouse beach all to ourselves.

Mellbreak was looking particularly gloomy.

And then we bumped into Maisie.  

When we lived in Cockermouth Ollie and I regularly used to meet her Mum walking a very elderly Beardie who is now long gone.  It was lovely to see Pat again, Daisy and Maisie got on very well and hopefully we'll meet up soon to walk together again.

The chaos in the garden is not all bad - I have deliberately not been cutting parts of the lawns which are full of flowers.  There is no way I can put the mower over a large area of clover when it is covered in bees, same for the self-heal.  I have been rewarded by the appearance of THREE orchids in the Cottage Garden lawn! 

And a Certain Small Person doesn't mind how the grass looks:-)

Friday, 22 July 2016

Day tripper

Thank you so much for the supportive and wonderful comments on yesterday's post, it is always such a delight to receive and read comments.  Does it make me sad and needy that I wish there were more?   (Yes, I am looking at a certain Mr Baker who is absolutely wrong when he thinks he has nothing to say/add/contribute!!)   It was so encouraging and heartening to read how well others understand the fatigue of chronic pain and sleep deprivation, although unfortunately that insight has probably come from your own personal experiences.

The original plan for today was to visit Kendal but I did not sleep well enough last night, so Plan B was initialised which involved a trip down the newly repaired A591.  After a brief stop outside Keswick (checking out a potential caravan site which turned out to be rather nice) I had a quiet and easy drive down to Ambleside.  It is a place which holds many happy memories of holidays and days out but my, how it has changed over the years.  Everyone who lives in or adjacent to the Lake District recognises that tourism is absolutely vital to the economy but it doesn't always make things better.  The town felt tired, and even though it wasn't too busy there was a feeling of traders bracing themselves for the school holiday influx which starts tomorrow.  A couple I chatted to actually said as much, recognising that the visitors who descend upon the area and have caused it to change so much are both a blessing and a curse.

Over 20 years ago Management and I nearly bought a tiny cottage in Ambleside but I chickened out - we couldn't really afford it at the time and I was nervous about owning property hundreds of miles from where we lived.  With the benefit of hindsight it would have been a hell of an investment but I'm not sorry that we did not go through with the idea, it is not a place I'd want to live these days.

To Management's surprise I didn't bring anything home from the gear shops (I think I only went into one) and my shopping for the whole day amounted to this fabulous lamp.  I have wanted a salt lamp for ages but wasn't prepared to pay what someone in Cockermouth was asking.  This little beauty came with three tea light holders for less than the price of a pub lunch, happy day indeed.  I haven't been in the Rock Shop for ages - next time I might not be able to resist the temptation of another piece of amethyst.

I had a pleasant bimble up to Stockghyll.  M. and I stayed here a couple of times - on one occasion in the apartment right next to the man-made fall.  Back then there were stepping stones above the concrete edge and every morning I crossed the river and went and raided The Apple Pie Bakery for the day's goodies.  (is that apostrophe in the right place?)

There are some lovely natural falls higher up but there were too many people around so I didn't go all the way to the top.

I pottered around the back streets, lovely aimless wandering feeling half like one of those 'tourists', but not really because I wasn't in the main street or shops.

Why can't all public buildings be this beautiful?

And then a quick visit to Hayes Garden Centre just for the sake of it.  I remember 25 years ago when all they sold was plants, now it is a 'destination' with masses of very pretty lifestyle unnecessaries.

Talking of unnecessaries - I wonder whereabouts at Bag End I could tuck this sauna?  It was forlornly on sale with a poster which said "offers invited".

and then home to Management and Daisy.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Absent Without Leave

It has been pointed out that this little blog is looking nearly as neglected as the large beds in my Cottage Garden . . . and I am very surprised how quickly I lost the habit of blogging, especially when I've managed to keep up a fairly steady stream for the past 8 years.

There is no one specific reason why I've fallen off the blogging wagon, just the usual cumulative effect of real life getting in the way of playing with the computer.  The biggest factor, however, has been my ongoing complete and total exhaustion.  I debated whether or not to write about this publicly but this is more honest; the honesty bit comes from my claim that the Bag End blog has always been a personal journal.

Winston Churchill said that history is written by the victors, of course we all know that he meant 'a version of history is written ....'  And such it is with a blog - it is merely a snapshot into or a version of the writer's life, rarely the whole entire messy nine yards.  But if I chose to ignore or otherwise pretend that the last couple of years have not been horrible healthwise then how much validity does this have when I look back in future years?  (And I know I will look back on the blog, because I regularly re-read sections from the early years and shake my head at how much we've done since moving here).

So, for those who have not already clicked away grumbling "too much information", I haven't been blogging because I have been too bloody tired.

I've been tired to the point of barely being capable of functioning because I haven't been sleeping for more than 3 or 4 hours each night.

I haven't been sleeping because I am in pain.

I am in pain because I've knackered my shoulders;  the most likely cause of the damage is doing far too much for far too long to create the garden.

If anyone would like to stand up and say "I told you so" then please form an orderly queue.  We'll be bringing drinks and buns to those of you at the back because it's a long queue, you might be waiting a long time for your turn. 

Right, that's enough belly-aching; ever the optimist I am moving forward.  Since about 2012 I have had shoulder problems - and I have also had one mis-diagnosis after another from the NHS.  At the end of March I went to see Liz Hunter, a highly respected private physio in Cockermouth and she not only came up with a diagnosis that made sense, but a treatment plan that is working !!!   Now whilst Liz is wonderful, she's not a magician so complete recovery is going to take time but I am definitely getting better.  This means I am sleeping a bit better - HURRAH!!!  because I cannot function on less than 7½ - 8 hours each night. 

So, to cut a long boring blog post short, all is (fairly) well, I'm making progress, Daisy is gorgeous, the garden is coming on slowly, and thank you to everyone who has been checking up to see that I haven't dug a big hole in the garden and fallen into it.

Here is today's little stroll near Lorton to prove that we are still in the land of the living :-)   Just a little bimble, 2½ miles up and down a track which used to be a road but is no longer maintained.  It was enough for Daisy who has aged a lot this summer, but I can write about that some other time.

Rubbish photos because I forgot to take a camera and only had the phone to hand.

Thursday, 30 June 2016

For the third night running

Oh dear, there seems to be a pattern developing.  For the last three evenings Daisy and I have curled up in front of the woodburner after supper because it is Cold.Outside!  Might be the end of June, supposedly the middle of summer, but the weather clearly did not get the memo.

I know I've been neglecting my little blog recently, but it was something of a surprise to log on tonight and see that my last post, just a fortnight ago, contained almost the same photograph . . . clearly There.Is.A.Pattern.Developing.

Sunday, 19 June 2016

T`was the night before Christmas

Oops, no, six months out! T`was the night before Summer Solstice:

and it's chucking it down outside so Daisy and I are curled up in front of the fire :(

Monday, 13 June 2016

Sorting out the "dumping grounds" (or - ANOTHER job started but not finished)

Every garden has (at least) one - an area which, despite the very best of intentions, is a dumping ground and always a mess.  In a garden the size of Bag End those dumping grounds go feral pretty quickly!  I have never managed to keep the area around the back of the big shed and log store from getting totally out of control.  In the twelve months since stumps were ground out we've added another shed and loads of mess too!

Now it is time to tidy things up for good (who am I kidding?)

At the weekend M. and I had a bit of a blitz and tried to move as much 'stuff' out of the way as possible in order that LP had a clear run at doing all the hard work for us.  On Tuesday morning we started between the new shed and the greenhouse.

A few very hot hours later we had (nearly) flat level ground and a new bed.  The bed came about because levelling off the soil would have badly exposed the roots of the little holly tree that, for no reason other than I can, I want to keep.  Conveniently we've also created a nice place to plant another Clematis montana which will be trained up the fence onto the metal trellis.  I suspect there will be other pretty things planted in this bed, even unfinished it makes me smile every time I look at it.  Just because this is a 'utility area' why shouldn't it have nice flowers?

Despite having had a huge stump ground out there were still roots in the way . . .

The following day we had a repeat performance at the front of the new shed.

The initial reason for a bed here was to support/strengthen one of the fence posts.  It's pretty solid now because this bed is tied into the shed base and other fence posts and eventually will brace across to the log store.  We're building for the long term!

The other lovely thing to happen was the completion of the bed behind the house (a necessity so that LP had somewhere to put the soil he excavated.  It has taken YEARS to get to this point but it makes such a difference - delighted with how everything is coming together.

Even the way LP works this was far too much work for two days so we tried again this morning (Monday).  The weather had other ideas and we were rained off after an hour . . .

I'm so fortunate to be doing this, but will be so very glad when it is all done :)