I keep my blog as a personal record of what I'm up to, which might be seen as working towards "An elegant sufficiency, content, retirement, rural quiet, friendship, books, ease and alternate labour, useful life"

I'm certainly not there yet.  There is quite some way to go!

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Wednesday
Aug262015

Normal life!

 

Back home again, life continues in a bit of a blur.  Catching up is always a bit of a challenge; getting back into the swing of things rather pleasing, in a funny kind of way.  I always come home eager to refresh and revitalise a house which has stood closed up for a couple of weeks, wanting to throw open the windows, get some air in the place and get it all shipshape again.

 

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This time, I really couldn’t wait to open the windows, because once again, our (spare) freezer let us down.  Thankfully, it wasn’t the freezer in the kitchen, which has our main stockpile, but the fridge freezer downstairs in our storeroom, which failed earlier in the year when we were on our cruise.  As a result, it wasn’t jam-packed, thankfully.  But it did have one or two larger pieces of meat in there, plus a few other bits we’d put in there as our confidence in the repair man’s work grew.

And of course, it takes only one large joint of pork to defrost and …well, I’ll let you imagine.

Yuk.

The repairman is coming this morning and we’ll give it another try, but I’m loathe to put anything in it which I care about until hopefully, our confidence is (again) restored or, more likely, we replace it!

 

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As we drove home along the M4, I’d listened to Pete Wilson’s Sunday programme on BBC Radio  Gloucestershire on my phone and once at home, was pleased to be able to listen again on a proper radio.  A couple of weeks ago, Marion and I met Pete at the Folk Museum in Gloucester, to talk about the WI Centenary exhibition.  Though I know Pete well enough to trust him to put together something good, nevertheless, there was that small niggle in the back of my mind that I might have said something daft, incomprehensible or simply been too relaxed to put on my best performance.  You know how it is.

Thankfully, the end result was respectable!  I think Marion and I gave a good account of ourselves and hopefully, our enthusiasm came through enough to tempt people to go along and see for themselves.  I believe it’ll be possible to listen again for the next four weeks if you missed it so far (but I don’t know if that link works outside the UK, sorry).

 

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Not all surprises on our return were nasty ones, thank goodness.  One nice one was a box of goodies from Citrus Twist following an email conversation I’d had with their owner whilst we were away.  For several years now, I’ve subscribed to a monthly kit for my Project Life from Studio Calico, who have recently changed their policies in a way I didn’t care for.  As a result, I cancelled my sub and moved my allegiance.  I’m now going to have fun with some new and fresh designs and think that perhaps SC did me a favour Winking smile

 

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One thing we miss whilst we are away is the occasional chatter from Edward, updating us with what’s going on in the world of our government affairs professional.  A recent source of much delight has been the publication of one of his books in Kindle format, the more so since it has been so well received.  Edward has always been a writer and enjoyed creating alternative history scenarios since he was at school, but so far, has restricted his publishing to an online forum and a few self published books for family and friends.  However, a group of like minded writers have got together and created a collection of their work and have started to market it under the Sealion Press imprint, with great results.

 

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OK.  I know, proud Mummy speaking here, but those rankings are pretty amazing, don’t you think?  (And not only did I not write the stonking 5* review, I didn’t pay anyone to write it either!)   Bravo Edward!

 

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Today, I’m at home, hoping to catch up (and maybe finish?) my American Road Trip journal.  I really wanted to finish it before we overlaid those experience with Irish ones, but you know what happens to good intentions?  My only commitment this week was a meeting at Denman College yesterday, where as I sat chatting over lunch I caught sight of a(nother) familiar, friendly face.  Claire Muir was teaching her Beautiful Butterflies and of course, having caught up with the gossip, I had to go over and see what her class was up to.  Such things always make me want to come straight home and get my machine purring away…but must get those journals done first!

 

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I’d already bumped into Janice, a GFWI colleague, who was honing her Jacobean embroidery skills in a class with Julie Walsby.  Sight of such things always reminds me of my C&G tutor’s comment regarding my own sub-optimal efforts at the technique: “not really your strong point, is it?”   Of course, Julie’s work is breathtaking and actually, that of her class pretty stunning too.

 

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So, no time for mischief around here, then?  hmmm… Winking smile

Back in the groove, I was mulling over the clothes I tried on in the Eileen Fisher store in Chicago and one item in particular stuck in my mind.  I kind of regretted not buying a long, sleeveless shirt kind of thing, thinking that it’d be ideal as another layer in this funny, chilly weather we’ve been having.  I went to look on the .uk website to see if it was available here but as I did, my eyes fell upon something else…

Now, the internet is a wonderful thing and yes, I could have bought this lovely boiled wool sleeveless coat immediately and had it delivered to me here at home – at a price.  But friends and honorary sisters are even better, especially when their plans for the day not only include passing an Eileen Fisher store but their travel plans include coming here in the next couple of weeks.  Time zones and suchlike meant that my late afternoon web surfing worked well with Mary’s early morning online reading and within hours, the deed was done.  My pocket money spent.

Yes, indeed, life is good.

With a working freezer, it will be even better Smile

Sunday
Aug232015

Drip drip drip

 

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And so ended our last few hours in Dublin.  To think, we’d hardly used our umbrellas and raincoats throughout the last fifteen days – how lucky were we?

 

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We wanted to get some fresh air this morning before setting off home though, so got all that hardly-used wet weather gear on and set off to explore a corner of the city we’d not visited previously.  This former market area had been regenerated, but sadly, progress has halted and what remains is a half hearted development awaiting new energy and presumably, new investment.

 

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To one side was the Jameson’s distillery, which drew us in to use the facilities but on this rainy Sunday morning was of little interest to us.

 

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We returned to the hotel through the Temple Bar, mostly quiet but with some brave souls starting the day early (or maybe finishing the night late?) 

 

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We bade Daniel O’Connell farewell thinking we’d get a coffee somewhere nearby, but with the football supporters arriving for the match things were getting pretty busy.

 

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Still, we walked up as far as the Post Office

 

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took a look up the Spire before returning to pack up, jump in the car and head towards the airport.

 

Our flight is supposed to leave at 3.20pm, but currently there’s a delay of at least an hour and we’re sitting in the lounge watching the match.  The rain hasn’t stopped since it started and we think that it’s time to go home.

What a great trip, though!

Saturday
Aug222015

Kilkenny

 

We’d really had it with the hotel here in Enniskerry, especially after a disappointing supper last night followed by late night entertainment from the people running up and down the corridors, slamming doors.  So we were there bright and early for breakfast and a swift departure.  No point in hanging around.

 

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We were soon on the road to Kilkenny, then.

 

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It wasn’t the brightest of mornings but the town was waking up by the time we arrived and outside the castle, the traffic bollards were decorated in an interesting fashion which provoked us to get our cameras out and start snapping!

 

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The castle itself was an absolute gem.  From the outside it appears dour and rather forbidding, but inside, the recent restorations have resulted in a colourful and lavishly decorated interior of just the right size.  No photographs allowed and from a quick peruse of the website it appears there are none to be found there either.  So, let me just say that each room was a delight and the picture gallery the highlight of our morning with a wonderful painted ceiling (rather like that of Windsor Castle).  What’s more, it was another venue which accepted our English Heritage membership. 

 

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We mooched around the town centre for a while afterwards, eyeing those darkening clouds and hoping we’d stay dry.  We’ve really enjoyed exploring some of these Irish towns with their rich selection of local, individual shops and characteristic atmosphere.

 

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Kilkenny has quite a few narrow passages such as this one, the Butter Slip.

 

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We couldn’t leave without visiting the cathedral though.  St Mary’s stands to the edge of the town centre and a steady stream of visitors was passing through the doors.

 

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Inside, a plain and simple structure was the perfect foil for the richly adorned altar.  Only later did we learn that the overall design had been inspired by Gloucester Cathedral.  Fascinating.

 

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We managed to stay dry, though as we drove out on our way to Dublin, the sky didn’t look so promising.  Our plans for an afternoon out might have been compromised as the rain came in, but we were so pleased we’d decided to change our plans and head back to the city.

Happier still then, when arriving at the hotel we were greeted by the charming concierge team who welcomed us back like long lost family.  “Hey, we didn’t think we’d see you again!” Well, neither did we of course, but it sure felt good to be back.

Friday
Aug212015

Nearing the finishing line

 

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That old Irish blessing about the road rising up to meet you was uppermost in my mind as we set out from Waterford this morning.  It was overcast and slightly drizzly and we hoped it would dry up soon.

 

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Our journey took us directly past the village of Avoca, which Lesley will recognise, I’m sure!  We thought we’d take a break there and maybe take a look around the factory.

 

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Sadly, we timed our arrival at the same time as several coach parties – aaaagh!

 

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We sweet talked a member of staff to take us around though and she did a great job at giving us a personal tour.  Oh, the colour!

 

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She showed us the range of different fibres used in the mill, plus a couple which are no longer in production.

 

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Next came the weaving shed.  This chap was weaving nine scarves at once, the warp separated by a plain thread which could be removed later.

 

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This huge roll of warping thread was being taken to the power looms, which was our next stop.

 

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Oh….I was hoping for something colourful.  Brown?

 

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Well, this was better…

 

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Aha…that was best of all!  Oooh, love that waste coming off the edges Winking smile

 

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Throughout the tour, we spotted small cards on the walls – we love the spirit; the design ethos here.

 

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Someone here has a great eye and a sense of humour!

We’ve visited several Avoca locations already of course, so the shop wasn’t our main focus, but we took a quick look before moving on and leaving all those coach party people in the queue for the loo.

 

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Our next stop was the Powerscourt Estate, where we looked forward to visiting the gardens.  By lunchtime, the sun had come out and we had a glorious blue-sky afternoon.  Perfect.

 

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The house is nothing special but the gardens are remarkable.  What’s more, although there were many people here, there was still space to lose them all!

 

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I really liked the Japanese garden, which was reminiscent of the garden Jane and Allan took us to in Florida last year, though this was definitely an “English” Japanese Garden.

 

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Some creatures were buzzier than others.

 

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I also loved the wet and drippy moss garden, where the water just dripped through the plants in a cool, shady corner.

 

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There was a rather more energetic flow of water at the Powerscourt Falls, just up the road, where some were picnicking and others simply seeing how near the water they could get.

 

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Feeling a little weary by now, we decided it was time to find what was to be the last hotel of our trip; to go and settle in and put our feet up for an hour so so before dinner.  Sadly, rather than the comfortable country house hotel we’d expected, we found ourselves at a rather faded wedding venue, with a view of what looks like a housing project rather than the lush green scenery we’d imagined.  I won’t identify it now – we are still here – but suffice to say we have cancelled tomorrow night and will head back into Dublin for the last night of our trip, where we can look forward to a last evening of craic and a fully functional bathroom.

Not only that, we read in tonight’s paper that Avoca will be sold to a US food giant.  We feel rather sad about that.

Thursday
Aug202015

Waterford Treasures

 

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We chose to have a car free day today and planned to explore the historic part of Waterford and the three museums which are so highly recommended.

 

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We began at Reginalds Tower where the story of Waterford begins.  Here, we received a warm welcome and the same happy news we’ve heard here and there throughout our trip – English Heritage cards allow for free admission.  What a bargain!  Except that for some reason, the reciprocal arrangement doesn’t work – the Irish Heritage members have to pay as normal when visiting English Heritage properties, which doesn’t seem right somehow.  Perhaps I need to write a letter…

 

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Anyway, here, we climbed another steep spiral staircase to the top, where we watched a good, clearly told video story of the beginnings of the city.  A few remaining Viking treasures are displayed here in a really well crafted display.

 

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One of the most important is this Kite Brooch from the twelfth century.  Not much more than an inch or so across, I’d have liked to have taken a closer look at the construction – I’m wondering if it’s hinged in some way, to operate like a clasp?  Or perhaps there’s just some kind of pin on the underside.

 

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All three of the Museums are within a small triangle of the city so it was only  short walk from the tower to our next stop in the chronology, the Medieval Museum.

 

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Here, a guided tour was available on the hour, so we joined half a dozen others and set off with Teresa, who gave us a great overview of the main exhibits in this modern structure.

 

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We started in the cellar and worked our way up, learning a little about the most treasured items in the collection as we went.  Here, amidst the stories of Kings and Queens lay the long Waterford Charter Roll.  I was struck by the way in which the pictures and text “pages” were sewn together in a kind of free form way and thought it really creative to combine so many pieces in this way.  Nothing new under the sun, eh?

 

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Glass surfaces and bright spotlights don’t make for the best photos, but it’s better than nothing!

 

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The other lovely thing here was this ring, a 13th century piece of gold with four glass stones set in it, to be worn as a brooch and said to be the oldest such piece in Europe.

 

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Actually, I almost forgot another of the treasures (what a good thing I take pictures!)  This was Henry VIII’s hat!  Embroidered with Marguerite daisies, it’s beautifully preserved if a little faded (it was red) and a really great shape for wearing with a crown (as you do). 

 

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Perhaps the greatest of the treasures were downstairs, however.  A set of cloth of gold embroidered vestments donated to the church in the late 15th century and the only full surviving set, we were told.   Remarkably well preserved, they had been hidden during a time of disturbance, each one placed carefully in a metal chest and buried underneath the cathedral.  Only found over a hundred years later when the church was reconstructed, the air and water tight chests had preserved the vestments perfectly.

 

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The colours were still surprisingly bright.

 

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The detail upon each one incredible.  I was also pleased to see them so well displayed, well lit and able to be seen from all directions.  What treasures.

 

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Close by was the chest in which one had been found.  Having completed the tour, we returned to our favourite things to take photos before noticing that it was raining pretty hard outside.  A good job we’d brought our raincoats and umbrellas, then.  We looked forward to visiting the last of the three museums, but even though we had enjoyed a terrific Irish breakfast this morning, complete with porridge served with a slug of Muldoon’s and a pouring of cream over it (!) we were getting a little peckish and in need of a sit down. 

 

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So we went over to the Bishops Palace and enjoyed a spot of lunch before the first afternoon tour began.

 

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We were greeted by Mr Whatwhy in the hall of the palace.  A charming man with a distinct Irish twinkle in his voice, he gave us some of the background to the building before introducing us to Mrs Rickard, the housekeeper.  What a delightful pair they were!

 

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I think I’ve said before how awkward I find interacting with re-enactors, but these two were incredible.  Between them, they told the story of the house and the contents in lovely lilting Irish voices. 

 

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Of course, there was plenty of Waterford Crystal to be seen, including a full dinner service set out on the dining table.

 

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Leaning casually on the case containing the world’s oldest surviving piece, Mr Whatwhy entertained us all with his stories and a wealth of information.

 

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My favourite piece had been the front door lock, which is a work of art in itself, don’t you think?

So that just about wraps it up for the city of Waterford.  It has proved to be the surprise of the trip – we had no idea there were quite so many riches to be found in such a small area and have loved finding out about them all.  Tomorrow, we’ll drive to our last stop of the trip and hope the weather will improve for us to enjoy the countryside and small towns of Wicklow.

Keep your fingers crossed for us please.