Springtime walk – daffodils

Daffodils , Balbirnie

Over the past week my morning walk for the newspaper has been brighter and sunnier than usual. It’s the daffodils that are doing it. The poor things have been taking a wee bit of a battering from the wind, but they’re tougher than they look.

Daffodils, Balbirnie

These ones are at Balbirnie, a place that has become a lot busier since lockdown!

Daffodils , Balbirnie

A snowy walk in Fife

garden snow 2

Yesterday we woke up to about five inches of snow which had fallen overnight. The first real snow of the winter, prior to that we had only had sprinklings overnight which only lingered on the grass. I had been able to smell snow for a few nights running earlier in the week, but that must have been on its way to England as unusually they got it before we did. Above is a photo of my back garden.

Balbirnie Snow, Scotland

Balbirnie Snow, Fife, Scotland, trees

The walk for the paper was actually easier than it had been as for weeks on end we had had to walk gingerly on grass that was so icy it resembled an ice floe. I can’t honestly say it was cold either.

Balbirnie Snow, Fife

If you look at the right hand side of the photo below you’ll see some kids having a fine time sledging. There’s not much home schooling going on – and who can blame them, it’ll be the first real snow that these kids have seen in their lives probably.

Balbirnie Snow , Fife

Balbirnie Snow, Fife

It’s a strange sort of snow, I’m sure that if we got lots of snow we would have a special word to describe it but I can only say that it’s soft powdery stuff which is very pretty as it looks like individual snow particles are glistening in the sun instead of it all being lumped together and smooth.

Balbirnie, snow, trees

The Balbirnie estate gates are enhanced by snow, it settles on the stonework of the gateposts. It’s a pity there’s a car parked there otherwise it would look white Christmas card-ish.
Balbirnie Gates, snow, Fife

This morning there was even more snow, we now have about nine inches of the stuff!

Golf Course Walk

In normal times when we go for a walk locally on Sunday we rarely saw anyone else, but last Sunday we had to veer off the woodland paths as there were so many people on them!

a frozen golf course

We decided the golf course would be a safer option, there were some kids sliding in the bunkers as they are full of ice at the moment, but they were off in the distance, it was good to see them having some fun. The patches of ice in the photos are where the ground was flooded with all the rain we’ve had. The golf course is closed at the moment which seems a bit strange to me as I’m sure it’s very easy for them to play and stay socially distanced.

frozen golf course

The photo below is of a frozen water hazard which claims to be five feet deep and has a life belt by it, just out of shot. That’s some hazard.

frozen golf course

The grass itself was very icy but we managed to stay upright, as usual we weren’t all that keen to go out walking in the cold but felt we needed the exercise, we did feel virtuous when we got home though!

A Winter Walk

Our usual morning walk for The Guardian has been somewhat fraught this week as each day the ice underfoot just got thicker, smoother and more dangerous. Crampons would have been the best choice of footwear, but not having those we just had to hang onto each other and hope that we didn’t both skid at the same time. Thankfully neither of us fell as obviously a visit to hospital with broken bones would be even more dangerous in these Covid times.

The path across the nearby golf course resembled a bobsleigh run, and we stuck to the safer option of walking on the iced up grass.

Icy Golf Path, Balbirnie

The recently flooded area due to all the heavy rain that we had had was very popular with ice skaters and ice hockey players though, and the sparkling landscape was pretty too, but I’m glad that a thaw is predicted for next week. Apparently the temperature here is set to be around -7 overnight tonight, which is 19.4 Fahrenheit – according to the internet.

Ice Skaters

Ice Skaters, Balbirnie Park

On a similar topic, I’ve really been enjoying a BBC 4 TV programme called Winter Walks. It doesn’t seem to be on You Tube though. In each walk a well known person takes a winter walk in the countryside while holding a small 360 degree camera, this week one of the walks was through the North Yorkshire Moors, there was also a coastal walk in Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Dales and Cumbria in the north of England. They’re all such restful viewing.

Perhaps Winter Walks is also on a channel near you.

What’s going on?

In my very small and rapidly shrinking world there isn’t a lot going on at the moment. In Scotland we have a lockdown again and we’re supposed to stay at home, unless we need to go out for food. At this time of the year that’s not too awful, especially as we have really cold weather at the moment and our walk for The Guardian every morning (as essential as food) is a treacherous one with any paths we use swathed in layers of ice. It’s safer to walk on the crunchy icy grass when possible. Otherwise we are seeing nobody and giving any oncoming fellow walkers a wide berth.

Normally by this time I’ve read a couple of books, but I’ve been reading The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt since before the new year and I still have thirty or so pages to go, that’ll be my bedtime reading tonight. This is the first book by A.S. Byatt that I’ve read and I must say that I love it, but it is over 600 pages long and the print is quite small. I have already flipped to the back of the book to see if there was a bibliography because I am so impressed by the amount of historical detail in it, but according to the author she was greatly helped by knowledgeable members of her family, friends and acquaintances and she read too many books to mention them all, but she does mention a few. This one was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2009, the year it was won by Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall. How unfortunate for Byatt as surely in any other year The Children’s Book would have won it.

Anyway, more on that subject tomorrow. As it looks like we’ll be stuck at home possibly for months depending on what happens next to the stats, I think I’ll be catching up with my Goodreads challenge, apparently I’m one behind at the moment!
On a completely dfferent topic – I just have to tell you that today I spotted a red squirrel running around in the woodland this morning, that’s the second one we’ve seen within about ten days – and we hadn’t seen any for about three years before that. There are of course loads of grey squirrels which are nothng like as elegant and charming as the red ones. Of course, I didn’t manage to get a photo of it.

You can see some images of red squirrels here.

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year, I hesitate to say that it must be better than 2020, I don’t want to tempt fate I suppose, even although in some ways the news has been more hopeful in recent weeks, the new variant seems to be ploughing its way through Fife now so we’re still staying well distanced and safe – we hope.

But it hasn’t been all doom and gloom for me/us anyway as we were eventually able to meet Isobel Skye who was born last month. It’s great to be a granny!

Isobel

Anyway, like everyone I hope, we stayed at home on our own for ‘the bells’ at midnight.

Happy New Year everyone.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to you from me and my Merrythought Lads! It’s not going to be the Christmas that any of us were expecting or planning for, but there’s no doubt that keeping everything quiet and socially distanced this year is the sensible way to go. Then with any luck we can look forward to a more normal celebration next year.

Merrythought Bears

Geoff Farley on the left was named Farley by his original owner. I wonder if he was called after Farley’s Rusks. When I acquired him I added Geoff in memory of a great gardener – Geoff Hamilton. There’s no doubt that he is stricken in years, as many of us feel after such a rough year of bad news in the UK with Brexit and Covid to contend with.

Armstrong McGregor on the right is dapper and young in comparison to his companion, but not very young, and he’s been named after two great-grandfathers. Jack had one whose first name was Armstrong, and I had one whose surname was McGregor. I like the combination.

Fingers crossed that we all feel a bit more like Armstrong McGregor looks this time next year! Come on, own up – does your home shelter a teddy bear or two?

Meet Isobel Skye

A few days ago we were woken early in the morning with the phone ringing. The call was from our very happy eldest son to say that his wife had given birth to a wee girl, all are well and they’ve named her Isobel Skye. I particularly like the name Isobel. She arrived three weeks early and weighed in at 6lb 6oz. It’s great to be a granny at last! Here she is at just a few minutes old. She’s apparently a very calm baby.

Isobel

I never dreamed that our first grandchild would come along during a pandemic, the upshot is that we haven’t seen Isobel yet as we aren’t supposed to travel outside Fife. We’ll wait until the restrictions are lifted – and then we might be meeting her outside. In the photo below she is a few days old and looking like she’s wondering what’s going on. She looks very serious. We’ll make up for lost time when things get back to nornmal. How times have changed though as I’m 16 or so years older than my mother was when she first became a grandmother.

Isobel

Garden room

Way back in March we ordered a new posh shed – what the sellers all insist in calling summerhouses, and so began a four month long nightmare before the delivery (due to the pandemic). Then when it was delivered several of the parts were wrong, we were putting it together ourselves as we had done one before in the old garden and had no problem doing it. Irate phone calls led to new parts being delivered a week later – still the wrong parts!! Then exactly the same thing happened the following week, I think it’s fair to say I was fuming. So we demanded our money back – and got it. The only trouble with that was we had to start the whole thing again, but this time we chose a local company – not one in distant Cambridge, and they were going to erect it for us. Great, but the trouble was we had to be even more patient as – you guessed it – due to the pandemic the factory/woodmills had locked down. The upshot was that we had to wait until October before taking delivery of our posh new shed, which we’re calling a garden room. It reminds me of a wee Victorian shop, like something out of Cranford. We’re happy with it anyway, it fulfills two functions, blocks off a view of the spa tub next door and stores some things I didn’t want to get rid of and didn’t want to stick in the garage.

New Summerhouse/shed

This area of the garden is very much a work in progress – as all gardens always are I suppose. I’m getting rid of the grass here and extending the gravel area. That will still leave plenty of grass for the birds to mooch around on in the rest of the garden, but will make the grass cutting job less onerous for Jack, he hates doing it.
New Summerhouse/shed

I’ll have fun sorting the wee garden room out internally. If you’ve been reading ‘Pining’ for years then you might remember that when we moved to our present house we bought a summerhouse/shed, mainly because there had been one in the situation before and we couldn’t budge the concrete blocks that had been cemented in as a foundation, the previous people took their summerhouse with them. The photo below is from July 2014.

summerhouse (gazebo)

That summerhouse was a disappointment almost from day one as it leaked and leaked, despite having two layers of roofing felt on it. We had intended sorting it out once and for all over this summer but it rained and rained in June, July, August …. well it’s eaier to say that it was only in May that we had decent weather this year. But we did manage to get a damp proof membrane on the roof of that one followed by heavy grade roofing felt, no nails involved, only stapled edges and glue. Fingers crossed the wind doesn’t do its worst! I do think it’s crazy banging nails in roofs, having said that as you can see there are loads in the new garden room roof, but so far all seems to be well with it. I’m going to use the old summerhouse/posh shed as a sort of potting shed and for overwintering some not so hardy plants. It gets plenty of light and heats up quickly when the sun does come out, so it can double up as a greenhouse for germinating seeds, well that’s the plan anyway. We’ll see how it goes.

You can see what the old one looked like inside here when we first got it, it’s needing some TLC internally now, that’ll be the next thing to tackle. I had to take the books out as I didn’t want them to get damp.