Monthly Archives: April 2011


I don’t believe many people have this view as they drive to work in the morning.  As I come to the top of our lane and turn down towards the main (well in the general scheme of things!) road I am greeted by some of the most stunning views.

In the winter the haar settles over Durham, the cathedral tower just poking through giving an ethereal fairy-like quality, almost as if it is a magic floating island with no distinction between land and sky; the horizon just melts into the haar.

In bright sunlight you can see beyond Penshaw, the view stretches on forever and ever.

In the summer it becomes a multicoloured patchwork of grass, rape and wheat, speckled occasionally by little white fluffy dots of sheep.

And always, standing firm and proud is the cathedral, those Prince Bishops certainly knew what they were doing.

I may not always want to be up early, and depositing the dancer at the station for her school train at 7.30am is not my idea of fun but when this is my daily commute I realise just how lucky I am.



There are two points in the washing time line. The first is when you feel confident enough to hang the washing out on the line at the beginning of spring.  If you are lucky enough not to have to run in and out like an overexcited puppy every time the clouds poke out their fluffy noses then the chances are that you will still have to defrost the sheets before you can iron them

The second point in the time line is when you can hang out the washing, one load after another and know that it will all come in fluffy and dry and smelling delightful  (the only exception being if you are unfortunate enough to time your washing day with muck spreading day, but that can hardly be blamed on the weather).

This week we finally hit point two.  I have been filling my line with washing, load after load and it is wonderful.  I am full of joy and all I have been doing is hanging out the washing.  I can almost feel a song coming along …..”Twas on a Monday morning, when I beheld my darling, she looked so sweet and charming in every high degree …………..”


I love to cook, the chemistry, the experimentation, the taste, the excitement of a new dish, the cosy familarity of an old favourite, but most of all I love to share food.  To nurture and provide, to take raw ingredients and turn them into a meal that we can share.  My mother is a fantastic cook, in lean and in plenty she can provide a feast out of an empty cupboard, I have learned from her how to make a roast joint into three meals, how to stretch and make do without compromising on taste and pleasure.

Taking my cue from the wonderful Froogs I dug out a bag of chickpeas from my cupboard and have just made the most delicious falafel. There were four more, but I ate them!

Then I made humous.

We will have some of both tonight with an omelette made from these (thank you Hooter).

The flowers were a treat this morning from our lovely local florist and will brighten up our dinner table. I have to confess to being rather tired of our daffodils and wanted a change.


Personally it is many years since I have found joy in getting soaked at the beach on a blustery spring day.  But then I am older and creakier and I found joy in watching the runners and their friends shriek with laughter as they chased the waves with the dogs.

A slight diversion on the way north, not helped by the dubious map reading of runner number one (clearly used to tracks and well marked cross country routes rather than a map and a road!) but we arrived at one of our favourite pubs for a body building lunch (you needed strong arms just to lift the amazing chunky chips) before we hit the beach.

Our beach. There was NOBODY there but us.  Three miles of sandy beach and the North Sea and us.  The dogs went wild (except for River, who is well aware that I keep biscuits in my pocket and didn’t stray too far for fear of missing out on snack time) and the girls got wet.  Very, very wet.  Very, very wet indeed.  I could hear the sea in their wellies as we trudged back across the dunes.

They were happy and tired and wet.  I was happy and tired and dry.



Look around your house, or perhaps just a room you spend a lot of time in.  What do you like about it?  Is it the colour of the walls, the way the light comes through the windows, the comfortable chair, the memories of good times?  Probably all of these, yesterday as I sat at my computer I realised that there were three tiny and silly little things on my desk that I would miss terribly if they were not there.  They are valueless to anyone but me, and at least one is broken, but they are part of my study and I love them.

Meet Mr Frog, until an untimely accident removed him from the circus he used to slide down a sort of wooden ladder.  He is also the star of the famous Mr Frog stories without which the dancer and the runners would not go to bed.  The author of these stories masquerades during daylight hours as a doctor but is far better known here as the chronicler of the astonishing and wild life of the irrepressible Mr Frog.

Bear once had a tummy full of lavender but like Mr Frog has succumbed to the privations of old age and has lost his aromatic heart.  He was a gift from an old friend I’m not sure whether he was intended for me or the runners!  But he has done his best to keep me on the straight and narrow and not disappear off websurfing when I should be doing the accounts for many years and I think he is smiling.

Finally my chorister.  I made her and she reminds me of the runners whilst they are away at school.  I have made one each for them in the cathedral purple, but at the time I only had turquoise to hand,  I wonder which cathedral has turquoise cassocks?  I’ve never seen any.  Is there an approved list of cassock colours?

customer service

I’ve touched on this before (remember Justin at our local hospital) but yesterday was an example of how patience, a smile and unfailing customer service turned an irritated old goat (me) into a willing returning customer.  And so our story begins.

The runners are on holiday, although the dancer and the rest of the world are still at school.  Having had several days at home whilst I blitzed rooms, tried to catch up on paperwork and panicked about my inactivity in the garden I felt it was their turn to have some fun.  We settled on the cinema but a trawl through the various local options suggested that our local cinema going audience is aged about 5 with a penchant for blowing up the world in pixar.  Then we found a 10.30 viewing of Morning Glory, cost per ticket £3.  The timing was not ideal but we reckoned we could live with that for the £3.  I duly booked 1 adult and 2 children’s tickets.  A quick flurry of facebook messages later and another friend was coming and I booked an additional teen ticket.

The following morning I dragged the runners out of bed, poured some breakfast in them and headed to the Washington Services to pick up the friend.  We arrived in plenty of time at the cinema so I sent them off to wander around the shops whilst I picked up the tickets and enjoyed a quiet cup of tea with my book.  My suspicions were aroused by the free tea and biscuits and the somewhat elderly clientele.  I checked the website on my phone but could find no reference to a pensioners performance.  As the average age started to edge above 70 I got a little more concerned and asked a member of staff who said yes it was a pensioners’ performance but it was no problem if we were there too.

Oh yes it was.  The manager informed me that we could only attend if there was space.  I pointed out that I had booked tickets online and had numbered seats so unless they were planning on double selling our seats we already had somewhere to sit.  However, we didn’t really want to go now, the runners and their friend would have felt very out of place and I was cross.

I pointed out that there was nothing on the website that said it was for pensioners only, that I had booked seats for children, a teenager and a non-pensioner adult and the system had taken my money without question.  Ah ha – it transpired I had missed the little teacup icon, if I had passed my mouse over that I would have seen a little balloon containing the following words:

“ODEON Senior Screen is a season of films for our mature guests. Come along and meet friends for a mid-morning screening of some of the best recent films and some classics from over the years. Enjoy free tea and coffee before the screening and then relax and enjoy the film. The selection of films reflects the best of modern and classic cinema with a focus on story telling rather than all out action.”

Taking a very deep breath and making it quite clear that my gripe was with the website/management not the lady standing  in front of me I explained that we had got up early on the school holidays to travel some 30 miles and to be told that we couldn’t see a film that the website was happy to sell me tickets to because I hadn’t clicked on teacup did not leave me in the best of moods.

She refunded my tickets whilst I pondered what to do with the three girls outside (hiding in mortification at my complaint!).  Suddenly she offered us complementary tickets to see another film; we had already looked through the entire offering for that day and the reason we had opted for the somewhat early 10.30 showing was because there was nothing else they wanted to see.

“What about Chalet Girl at 12.10?” She suggested, “you could have a little shop first it’s not a long wait.”  Bemused that we had missed that on the film list we gratefully accepted.  In fact I felt rather guilty as complementary tickets were not what I had been after.

We returned later and the same lady told me she had emailed HQ to say that the teacup icon was insufficient and they should also consider only allowing pensioner tickets to be sold to those viewings.  She was charming and apologetic.

We were the ONLY people in the cinema.  I checked the webite on my phone.  There is no 12.10 viewing of Chalet Girl on a Tuesday.  Unless something had changed between Monday and yesterday the very lovely lady at Silverlink had put on a special showing just for us.

That was customer service above and beyond the call of duty.  But you know what?  Next time we want to go to the cinema I’ll look at the Silverlink Odeon first (I’ll just stand back from the teacups!)

Oh and the film’s not bad.  It’s not going to change the world or challenge your perceptions of anything at all – but it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours – especially if you get a private viewing!