Sunday 27 August 2023


Just two days after returning home from our recent trip, we were off on our travels again, only  this time we were flying. After a very early (even by my usual standards) start, we enjoyed an incredibly smooth flight, arriving in our destination of Belfast by mid-morning. Why Belfast? Well, quite simply because it was somewhere we had never been before :) And we had such a good time.

After a late breakfast, we checked our bags in at the hotel and went for a wander around. Again, we were blessed with some lovely weather for our sightseeing. This came as quite a relief, as in an attempt to get all my clothes into just my hand luggage, I had taken the unusual and possibly reckless decision to leave my waterproof jacket at home. 

Our hotel was down beside the River Lagan and we needed to cross over the footbridge, passing The Big Fish and The Beacon of Hope (or Nuala with the Hoola), whenever we went into the city centre. We didn't notice at first, but The Albert Memorial Clock, which came in very useful for helping us to find our bearings, has a slight lean to it.

The City Hall is such a beautiful building and it was here that we ate our picnic lunch in the garden each day. Inside, there is an exhibition outlining the history of Belfast, and gives a fascinating insight into the city and it's culture, with a rather poignant Reflection Space, where we were able to read individual's lived experiences of The Troubles. It is also well known for it's many stained glass windows, which commemorate various historical events, and contributions to the city by individuals and organisations. 

On our second morning in Belfast, we walked the Maritime Mile. This took us out towards The Great Light and beyond, passing Titanic Belfast, SS Nomadic and HMS Caroline. The last photograph above is taken from what would have been the slipway where the Titanic first launched. As is often a tradition these days, people have placed padlocks there, engraved with their names and significant dates. 

In the afternoon we walked back into the centre of Belfast, where we were able to take in the views across the city from the very top of the shopping centre. You can see the clock tower and the huge Harland & Wolff cranes, which dominate the skyline. The glass roof acted like a greenhouse and it was incredibly hot in there, so we didn't hang around for very long. Instead we went to indulge ourselves in a little bit of shopping. I know! I'm not entirely sure who I am any more ;)

After such a busy day, it was a relief to sit down and enjoy our evening meal, before taking in the sunset from down by the riverside. There was also a brief pause to experience a drink in McHugh's. A lively Irish bar and the oldest surviving building in Belfast.

On our final morning we visited Titanic Belfast. This imposing building, located at the side of the Titanic Slipway where we had been the day before, houses a brilliant and interactive exhibition telling the story of The Titanic. Seeing the exhibits and reading about the personal experiences from some of  the individuals on board the ship was a captivating experience, especially discovering certain details I hadn't been aware of previously.

Then all too soon, it was time to return home. We had a brilliant time in Belfast and I would definitely like to go back again some time.

After a busy couple of weeks it feels good to pause and catch my breath. The beginning of the school year is almost upon us, which means there will be uniform to sort out and a new daily routine to navigate. There is definitely a change in the air, and autumn is fast approaching. I have resigned myself to the fact that summer, this year, was in fact the three weeks of good weather we experienced back in June. 

J. X

Monday 21 August 2023

Hadrian's Wall

Only a few days after we returned from London, we were on the move again, this time we went just a little way over the border into Northumberland. 

For the last couple of years I have been promising Lily we would visit Hadrian's Wall but for various reasons it just didn't happen. I think mainly I had been waiting for  spell of decent weather, so that we could go camping. With this seeming more and more unlikely, I booked us into a Youth Hostel instead, still hoping the weather gods would be kind to us, so that we could at least enjoy a nice walk. 

The Youth Hostel is attached to a visitor centre and it's really lovely. Modern and spotlessly clean, it contained everything we needed and more.

After a short stop on the way, to meet up with a friend, we arrived late in the afternoon, but still an hour earlier than our checking in time. This worked out well, as we left the car at the visitor centre and walked up to Winshield Craggs, which is the highest point on the wall and on a completely clear day you can see for miles. Our view was still pleasant, however, and the many flying ants at the summit thought so too! Thankfully they didn't bother us, but we made a hasty retreat back to the hostel and ordered our evening meal. Fish and chips for Lily, vegetable lasagne and a glass of wine for me :)

After a good night's sleep - I got the bottom bunk - and a rather tasty cooked breakfast, we checked out of the hostel, and headed east, in the opposite direction to the previous day. Again the path took us alongside the wall, but this time passing Milecastle 39 and then on towards Sycamore Gap.

The heather was looking beautiful and the landscape really appears to be welcoming the late summer now.

We walked out as far as Crag Lough, then retraced our steps back to the visitor centre. Here we spent a while enjoying the interactive exhibits and walked on the living roof, before heading for home. We took the scenic route over Hartside summit, stopping off at The Village Bakery in Melmerby for some delicious cake. Well, it was my birthday after all. 

J. X

Saturday 19 August 2023

Summer in the City


Last weekend, Lily and I went on our previously postponed trip down to London, and even though we didn't get the high temperatures that had been forecast, it was at least warm and and sunny, which made sightseeing a far more pleasant experience than it would have been a week earlier.

Once we'd arrived and dropped off our bags, our very first stop just had to be the new water park on Clapham Common. Now I realise this wouldn't rank high on most people's London itineraries, but ever since our previous visit, when it was still in it's construction stage, Lily had been desperate for it to be open. This happened officially at the end of July and it has since proved to be incredibly popular. It is a great facility and Lily had a wonderful time running in and out of the various water features and fountains, while her big sister and I spent a lovely afternoon chatting in the sun.  I didn't take long before I decided that something fizzy was in order, and so we treated ourselves to some passion fruit martinis :)

The following day began with a trip on the cable cars at Greenwich. It was only a short ride, but was a lot of fun to do and gave us some amazing views across the city. 

I had been a little worried in that it was rather breezy that morning, but thankfully our car remained quite steady.

Moving away from Greenwich, we enjoyed a quick walk along an unusually quiet Oxford Street, then went for a wander around Covent Garden. It had been years since my last visit, but it hadn't changed a bit, and was still just as lively and bustling as I'd remembered. There were so many people milling around here, and lots more just stood about watching the street performers. It was nice for a little while but it felt good to then make our escape to Regent's Park, where we could relax and enjoy our picnic lunch and a much needed cup of coffee, followed by a walk around the beautiful rose garden. 

From there, our morning took on a more gentle pace. Away from the busy streets we walked along the canal to Little Venice. The tow path was lovely and quiet, and it certainly didn't feel like were right in the centre of such a large city. The slower pace was welcome and the brightly painted houseboats were such a delight to see. 

The next morning, we walked along by the Thames. Because we couldn't visit London and not see Big Ben! Stopping off at the Jubilee Gardens near the London Eye, we walked right along South Bank towards Millennium Bridge, then across to St. Paul's Cathedral. From there we headed to The Monument (on my list to visit next time), before catching the tube to Euston, for our journey home.

Being such a contrast to the slower pace of life I'm more accustomed to, I do enjoy our trips to the city, and yet, I'm often surprised at how easily we both adjust to it  when we arrive. 
But for now, it's good to back home,  for a short while at least :)

J. X

Tuesday 15 August 2023



I've received several lovely messages asking after Mog, so I just thought I would pop on with a quick update.

Early yesterday morning, I dropped Mog off at the vets for an x-ray. She hadn't had anything to eat since the night before - didn't she let me know about it! - and could only have water to drink until the time of her appointment. A nurse went through the details with me and double checked that all her information was up to date, and then I had to leave. It is definitely reassuring that all my pets have been registered with this clinic over the years, and I know they offer excellent care.

That said, it still felt like a long day, whilst  waiting for the phone call to say she was ready to collect. A house can feel very quiet and empty all of a sudden when there is no one pestering me for food and no need to step over anyone on the way to the bathroom :) Drowsy she may have been, but there was certainly nothing wrong with her appetite, as even though she had eaten a small meal following the procedure, she soon polished off a bowlful of turkey and then went upstairs to sleep it off. 

I thought there might be a problem that she would need to be kept indoors for the next 24 hours. It would mean keeping the cat flap locked (not easy with two cats) and I know she doesn't like to use the litter box. I decided to take a chance and leave it open, and Mog, being such a good girl, didn't go out anyway and I noticed she must have used the litter box just this once. I got up at 5am this morning just to check on her, and she was already waiting for her breakfast.

Having been heavily sedated, she still appears to be quite drowsy, even now, but she's definitely glad to be home again. Regarding her niggling issue, we are still non the wiser as to the cause. But what we do know is that the x-ray didn't show up anything of concern, which as you can imagine is a huge relief.

And as for the withering glares which are still being cast in my direction, I'm sure they will ease off eventually. A small price to pay for my peace of mind. 

J. X

Thursday 10 August 2023

August in the Garden


I must confess that I haven't spent an awful lot of time in the garden this year, whether it be for work or for pleasure. The constant rainy weather has meant that neither the sun shade nor the paddling pool have enjoyed an airing this summer, and I'm not sure they will going forwards. Until last week the lawn was ridiculously overgrown, and it was all I could manage to get it cut before a strimmer would have been necessary. It took me ages to mow, but looks so much better for it. I'll just overlook the bare patch beneath swing-ball!

I did replace many of the plants which had succumbed to the extreme cold last winter, so at least the border around the seating area looks much more pleasing to the eye. Most of the plants have finished flowering now and the purple lavender will need cutting back before much longer. The white lavender, which I grew from seed, has established itself nicely, and so I might need to split it again in the spring. The Hydrangea is just beginning to flower, and will probably be the last of any colour I get in the garden this year. 

My favourite little lemon trees continue to surprise me. One of them is much larger than the other, but they are both growing new leaves and I am excited to see whether or not they will produce blossom some time during the next few years. I planted them during the first lockdown, and I believe it can take around five years for them to produce fruit. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, so watch this space. You can see one of the apple trees, which I planted at the same time, next to the bird feeder in the top photograph. 

Having fully intended to leave the raised bed completely empty this year, I found three incredibly sad looking tomato plants in a cupboard at work, which someone had forgotten about, and I could not bear to see them simply thrown away. Somehow, I managed to revive them and I planted them out, not expecting them to come to much, but they are huge, and now appear to be producing a decent amount of fruit. They just need some more sunshine to help them to ripen. 

With the tomatoes on one side, the other half of the bed was looking rather bare, and so I picked up a very inexpensive tray of sweetcorn while I was at the supermarket, for Lily to plant just as a bit of an experiment. I suspect we were a little late in planting them, but they appear to be growing well, so we will just have wait and see if we get any results. 

On sunny days, the cats both enjoy being outside. Boo, especially, has a habit of sitting beneath swing-ball, while Lily is knocking the ball around at ridiculous speed. Luckily, the ball cannot reach him, but he doesn't even flinch! And talking of cats, next week Mog has an appointment for an x-ray, just to rule out anything untoward. Naturally, booking her in for this incredibly expensive procedure has resulted in her having no symptoms whatsoever for the last few days! :)

J. X

Tuesday 8 August 2023

A Change of Plan


Having been so very lucky with the weather for our camping trip, things took a turn for the worse, and so the plans I'd had for that following weekend were quickly put on hold. I have instead been keeping busy with some far less exciting activities, such as housework, gardening, sanding down the woodwork in the hall, and studying. I also think I may have pinned down a couple of tradespeople to take on some of the work I wanted completing by the end of this year. Happy days!

There has been some more decluttering. Lily's books have been sorted and a large bagful got delivered to the charity shop last week. The shelves are looking much clearer now, and it is only a matter of time before we sort through the toys. And even though I am fully expecting to come up against some reluctance with this, it is definitely time. 

For the first time in what feels like ages, we've been for a bike ride. It was good to be back in the saddle again, and even thought I had been a little bit anxious about Lily's confidence levels, she soon demonstrated that there was nothing to worry about, so maybe we can ride a little farther next time. It is easy to forget how much she is growing and it's a little scary to think that next month she will be starting her final year of primary school. Applications for secondary school are imminent.

With that in mind, my thoughts are beginning to turn to September. We've already been off school for almost three weeks! It sounds like a long time, but it has flown by. And if the next four weeks go by just as quickly, then it will be upon us before we know it. Blackberries and elderberries are beginning to ripen, and there are signs of late summer all around.

With the weather looking like it's beginning to pick up again, yesterday saw us back up in the fells. This time we were on the eastern shore of Ullswater, the opposite side of where we went camping at the end of July (We could see our site from the summit). With another four Wainwrights ticked off, our total now stands at 105, so I'm excited to be almost at the halfway mark. 

J. X