Oh Deer

Oh Deer

Last night I cooked a venison stew.

This is one of our favourite meals as the meat is low fat and I can use the pressure cooker to ensure it is tender and not tough.

I cooked it with sweet potato, carrots, peppers, dates, celery, tomatoes, chilli, cumin and basil.

It was very tender and flavoursome but P decided to open a bottle of fizz - only prosecco as we don't run to champagne on our pensions. That was my undoing.  I managed to polish off most of the bottle and am now wondering whether my healthy meal was perhaps undone by the alcohol  consumption alongside it!


Snipe

Great excitement this morning.

I was loading the dishwasher after breakfast when P came into the kitchen holding his binoculars and calling "Come quick - a snipe!"

There was indeed a snipe down in the ditch which runs along the side of our garden beside the sheep field.  He or she (I think they both look very similar) was busily digging about in the mud and you could clearly see the long bill.

I understand that snipe are resident here, up on the moorland but this is the first time we have seen one down here close to.

The picture is not of today's visitor - he/she was moving about too fast to get a good shot.


Busy Doing Nothing

Thursday, and another glorious spring morning.

I had an appointment at the GP surgery to have a blood test for my 6-monthly check up, followed by the hairdresser for my 6-weekly haircut.

P dropped me off in town as he was going to pick up our new car. Well, not brand new, it's two years old, but we are downsizing to a smaller model.  I was in and out of the blood clinic in 5 minutes and so had a good half hour to kill so I strolled down to the marina and had a leisurely cup of coffee in the coffee shop at the Heritage Museum on the quayside, watching people coming and going.  The coffee shop is a popular place with local ladies of a certain age and a knitting group regularly meet there for coffee and to knit and chat.  Very jolly they are too.

After my hair appointment the sun was still shining so I decided to walk home along the coast road.  It took around 45 minutes at a reasonably meandering pace and I stopped a couple of times for a view break.  I enjoyed the walk, apart from the last stretch where there is no pavement and the cars hurtle past as though they are on the track at Brands Hatch. I ended up in the ditch at one point, luckily upright and not on my backside.

The afternoon consisted of the garden bench, a cup of tea and my library book (a rather strange Ruth Rendell, but then hers usually are).


Standing outside the coffee shop looking towards the castle

Stretch of road outside of town looking towards our house

Blue sea!

The final stretch, nearly there

Healing Hands

Yesterday was my usual weekly volunteering stint at our local Hospice. I help out in the Admin office with spreadsheets, databases etc to free up time for the paid staff for more patient-centred activities.

Towards the end of my shift, a lovely lady therapist popped her head round the door and asked if I would like a neck and shoulder massage.  Would I ever!!

For the past few months I have been suffering from a niggling stiff neck and shoulder. It just comes and goes but is always worse at night.

The massage only lasted probably around 5 minutes but it was oh so wonderful.  She was very slow and gentle but still firmly digging and squeezing the muscles that hurt.  Afterwards I felt so relaxed I nearly fell asleep.

If you ever get offered a neck massage, go for it.




A Pile of Sheep

We currently have a small flock of sheep (all males) in the field next door.  I expect they will be moved on soon to make way for the ewes with their lambs.

The field is just a small, scruffy area too boggy to do much with.  A few years ago the farmer allowed a young couple to use a section of it as a makeshift allotment but that only lasted a week or so before they gave up.  Not before they had a large mound of topsoil delivered, which is still there as a sort of mini-mountain.

The sheep, for some reason, all seem to want to be sitting on this mound when they are not mooching around eating grass.  It is quite funny watching them all jostling for position and having little arguments over who gets to sit there and who will be left at the bottom.

I don't suppose anyone could enlighten me as to why this may be so?





Snapshots of Florence

We spent a few days in Florence in early February - my first visit and inspired by my experience of the Rome trip back in December.

This time I went with P.  He had been before, but way back in 1975 with his first wife, so that doesn't count.

Florence is certainly a very attractive city with beautiful, slightly crumbling, architecture around every corner.  Even in a cool and sometimes grey February it is impressive.  We stayed in a hotel just behind the Duomo and so came out of the little alleway each morning to be confronted by the view of this most amazing building.  On the corner was the small workshop where we could stand and peer through the windows watching the craftsmen restoring statues and carvings.

My favourite time of day to study it up close was after dark when most of the huge crowds of tourists had disappeared.  I couldn't get enough of just looking up at the intricate carvings and the beautiful colours of the marble facade.

I am glad I visited and had the opportunity to appreciate all its glory.













A Walk in the Sunshine

Yesterday was a bright, sunny day so we decided to go for a walk around our nearest town, a couple of miles up the road.

P's knee was still a little painful so we only did an hour.  We drove to the car park on the edge of town and walked down the back streets to the quayside.  We enjoyed a leisurely stroll along the quayside, looking at the boats tied up in the marina and remarking on how blue the sea seemed. There were quite a few guillemots in the water. I think they are starting to nest there already.

When we got to the harbour entrance some of the crab boats were coming in; I think they must have just dropped their pots and were coming back empty.

It was very windy and the wind chill made me glad I wore my padded jacket.  We had intended to stop at Fenella beach, just beside the castle, to get some photos of the whitecaps on the sea as it looked quite wild but we couldn't even stand up so made for the shelter of the breakwater.

The lifeboat crew were out on their Sunday morning manouevres so we stopped to watch them for a while.  At the breakwater kiosk there was a crowd of bikers all enjoying their bacon baps, with the row of motorbikes all lined up along the breakwater wall.  

No seals in the harbour this time. Probably not the right time of year to see them in the harbour, although they are around when the fishing boats come in.

P is now outside chopping wood for this evening's fire - it is still quite cold at night - but it was so lovely to be out and about in the sun for a change.




Mothers' Day... bah! humbug!

I am probably going to come across as a mean and ungrateful person but this time of year always irritates me.

I see all those endless ads encouraging everyone to show their mother how much they  appreciate all the wonderful things they have done for them. Send flowers, chocolates or other considerate gifts.

Most people I expect do have or have had a loving, caring mother, however, my experience of motherly love was quite different.  So, if this post seems to be bitter and overly self-indulgent it is just how I feel about Mothers' Day.




Poor You...

I have a natural tendancy to want to offer help and sympathy when P is ill or injured.

As a keen fell runner, he is quite regularly nursing one injury or another. However, he is also fiercely independent and rejects any offer of help, unless it comes from one of his running mates.

His most recent problem started quite spontaneously this morning when he tried to get out of bed.  He awoke with a pain behind his knee and could hardly walk.  As a measure of how much pain he was in he actually allowed me to fetch the ice pack from the freezer, plus a couple of Ibuprofen.

I suggested that perhaps he make an appointment to see the doctor but that was met with a frosty reception.  He has now just left in the car to visit his sports physio who he entrusts with everything his body now throws at him.

I have my fingers crossed that his driving is not impaired and that any physio treatment doesn't make things worse.

Over the years we have been together I have learned to now just shrug and say "poor you" .  I hope that will be enough.



Our Wild Wallabies

Did you know that we have a small population of wild wallabies up here in the Isle of Man?

It appears that a few escaped from the wildlife park back in 60s/70s and have since thrived on their own out in the countryside.

Apparently the curraghs (the local wetland area) provides the ideal environment for them and their numbers are increasing.

We have even seen one ourselves, albeit fleetingly, and they have unfortunately been the cause of a few road accidents too, as this BBC New item describes ...

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-isle-of-man-45354514

Our local hospice has adopted the wallaby as the theme for this year's fundraising so we expect to see a lot more of them.



Let there be light...

The Met Office has reminded us that yesterday was the spring equinox.

We are coming out of the seemingly endless, dark winter and the days are now getting longer and the evenings will be lighter.  We had remarked this week how good it was to sit at the supper table in the evening now and be able to look out at the garden instead of the darkness of the winter night.

Our location up here means that, although our winter nights are longer,  we correspondingly experience longer days than the south of the UK in the summer and at the solstice will still be trying to get off to sleep whilst it is daylight outside.  Not that I'm complaining - I get so fed up with the long, dark days of winter.

Looking forward to some warmer temperatures now - bring it on quickly please Mother Nature.





Patience is a Virtue...

... or so they say.  It was certainly a challenge for P yesterday morning.

We went on our weekly pilgrimage to Tesco and found a checkout with only one couple - two young women - ahead of us.  They seemed to have a checkout belt full of tinned food and nothing else but it was moving along reasonaby quickly. We unpacked our trolley onto the belt behind them and waited for our turn.

When it came to pay, the two young women took out a white A5 size envelope and tipped out a huge pile of assorted coins.  There then ensued a rather long winded process of laboriously picking up each coin and counting them out.

The poor cashier seemd a bit bemused and had trouble picking up all the coins and actually fitting them all into her cash drawer.

By this time P was tutting and remarking quite loudly on why they couldn't have at least sorted out the coins beforehand into coin bags or even changed them into notes before shopping.

Eventually, after paying and then checking through the bill item by item (!) it was our turn.

It seems they were employees of one of the larger local companies who had organised a fund-raising event to buy food for a local homeless charity.  So, the intentions were admirable.

On our way to load our shopping into the car we passed the two young women loading their boxes of tinned food into a rather large van that they had parked at an angle across two parking spaces.  Another of P's pet peeves!!





When in Rome

Back in December I went on a girls' short break to Rome with 5 friends.

It was the first visit to the Eternal City for all of us and we were not quite sure what to expect. Obviously we had researched and read up on as much information as we could before the trip but the reality was such a revelation.

It is only when you are there up close and personal with the remnants of the ancient Romans that you fully appreciate the term *history*.

To be able to walk around inside the Colosseum and along the path of the Forum, to tread (literally) in the footsteps of Julius Caesar et al, is quite an experience - well, it was for me.

I wouldn't call Rome a beautiful city as such, but its sense of history and fascinating collection of ancient and renaissance architecture alongside each other make it a place not to be missed.

We walked all around the city each day, 6-7 hours a day, and only touched the surface.   







February - really?

It is hard to believe that these photos were taken on one of our walks only last month.

We walked from our house along the back lanes into town, had lunch then walked back along the coastal footpath.  The sun was shining and the temperature actually reached 20C on our back terrace that afternoon. We usually struggle to reach that temperature some summer days let alone in February.

The message engraved on the bench is Manx Gaelic which translates to "Time Enough".  Sitting there looking out at the view means that you can truly appreciate its meaning.




Sunday morning walk - or not?

Looks like this may be postponed....


Outlook


Into Sunday a day of sunshine and showers, and these could be a mixture of rain, sleet or hail, especially in the morning. Fresh to strong west to northwest wind and a maximum temperature of 8°C.
Becoming drier and brighter into Monday with lighter winds. Thicker cloud approaching from the west later in the day, however, may allow the odd spot of rain and drizzle, mainly over high ground. Top temperature 9°C.


Saturday - the weekend starts here...

I remember all those days as an office-bound 9-to-5-er how I longed for Saturday morning. No early morning alarm call to drag me from my sleep and propel me into the weekday working routine.

The downside in those days was that most Saturdays were spent catching up with all the boring housework tasks that I didn't have time for in the week.

The best thing about retirement for me is that I can laze in my bed dozing for as long as I like every day - well, within reason, as P gets fidgety if I am too late arising and tends to bang about in the bedroom, opening the curtains and rattling the doors etc.  So every day is Saturday now, except for my weekly Hospice day or a gift shop shift a couple of days each month.

Saturday mornings these days consist of lots of strong coffee (my favourite is Lavazza), a slice of toast and the Saturday edition of the newspaper with all those supplements to peruse.  We then share the crosswords, starting with the little easy one on the back page, then the cryptic one, then the large general knowledge one.

Bliss.



Do I have a Drink Problem?

These days I usually wake around 1-2 a.m. and find it difficult to go back to sleep, meaning that by 8 a.m. I am fuzzy headed and sleepy.

Online research - (I know 😒) - suggests that this is likely to be the result of the amount of alcohol I consume.  Most evenings I drink around half a bottle of wine and, although I always mean to have a couple of alcohol-free nights each week, this invariably never happens.  Common sense tells me that this is most probably not very healthy but, dammit, I enjoy my evening tipple.  

My father unfortunately hit the bottle fairly hard after my mother left us back in the 1970s and he suffered a pretty horrendous end as a result of that plus his lifelong heavy smoking habit, so I am fully aware of the dangers of drinking to excess.

I have taken note of the warnings and advice concerning my thyroid and cholesterol levels and am now on a very healthy low-fat regime - in fact I have lost quite a lot of weight as a result - so why do I not follow the same strict guidelines for alcohol consumption?

I quite often have this internal debate with myself - do I cut down/give up on my wine habit and feel less happy or do I carry on and just enjoy however long I may have left?  After all, the proverbial number 19 omnibus could still come along to mow me down once I become a teetotaller.



We shall starve!

One of the downsides to living on an island is the impact the weather can have on our food supply chain.

Although we do try to buy locally produced food whenever possible, it is difficult to source locally grown coffee, bananas, oranges etc.  😉

The ferry service has been cancelled over the past few days due to the gale force winds in the Irish Sea so supermarket shelves have become pretty empty.  Yesterday, a friend who lives in the nearby small town drove into the capital to visit the only large supermarket we have on the island to do his weekly "big" shop.   P arrived whilst he was still out and asked his wife why he had bothered as the boat hadn't been able to sail for a couple of days. She replied that they never listen to the local news on the radio so hadn't known about the cancellations.  On his return, P asked her what her husband's reaction had been when he arrived back home after a futile journey.  Apparently he was not amused.

A lesson on the benefits of keeping up to date with local affairs.

On the plus side, an additional freighter has today been put on to catch up with the backlog of supplies, so we shall not starve after all.

This week - 2 years ago....

This time we were in South Africa, visiting friends we hadn't seen for 25 years.

We stayed with them at their home in the Cape Town suburbs then they drove us across to the Eastern Cape to visit the Addo National Elephant Park, taking the Garden Route along the way.

It is such a beautiful country with an abundance of natural resurces, but I had mixed feelings about the obvious poverty and social issues we witnessed.

I have a lot of photos from our visit but have just added three here to give a flavour of our visit.




Fishy Pasta

My favourite 10 minute supper dish.

Yesterday afternoon I had an afternoon shift in the gift shop so, after cashing up etc. I got home ater 6 p.m.  A glass of wine and a quick supper was in order.

This is one of my favourite supper dishes when I am in a hurry - reasonably healthy and filling too.

Throw a large handful of wholewheat pasta into a large pan with one lump of frozen spinach and a handful of frozen peas and sweetcorn. Pour on boiling water and bring back to the boil.

Open a tin of sardines or mackerel, preferably in spring water or brine if not, and drain the liquid into the pasta pan. Lightly mash the sardines in a pyrex dish. Add a large spoonful of mixed seeds ( e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, flax, chia etc), some chopped mushrooms and some tinned chopped tomatoes. Add chilli flakes, garlic and dried herbs ( e.g. oregeano, rosemary, thyme etc). Stir well and pop into the microwave for about 6 minutes.

By this time the pasta should be cooked. Strain and tip back into the pan. Add the fishy pasta sauce and give a good stir.

That's it. 10 minues to prepare and cook.  And low-fat too.


Hurrah for Harissa

Following a concersation with my GP last year I am now following a low-fat diet to manage my cholesterol levels.

I am always on the lookout for something to raise my meals above the bland and always chuck in chilli, garlic and whatever else I can lay my hands on.

I have recently discovered the joy of harissa paste - I know I am a bit late to this party.  However, after dragging out my magnifying glass, I find that the handy jar from the local supermarket has an alarming amount of sugar so I am off to find some easy recipes to make the stuff myself at home.


Spring has not quite sprung

A little Sunday morning jaunt into town to look at a potential new car and got caught in a heavy hail storm.

Back home for lunch and the sun is shining.

A cup of tea out on the bench by the back door and it is sleeting.

Still, not quite as bad as March 2013, as this photo shows...


A Year Ago Today

My trusty Facebook page popped up this morning with a little reminder about what I was up to a year ago today.

I did warn you that I would probably bore you with some of our travel tales so switch off now if you like.

We had taken advantage of a British Airways sale offer for a week in Madeira  - a place we had never previously considered.  As it was off-season the price was too good to pass up so we decided to give it a try.

After an unscheduled overnight detour to southern Portugal due to rather challenging weather at Funchal airport, we finally made it.

Madeira is usually considered a destination for the more mature traveller and this was quite evident on our journey. However, as we consider ourselves to be quite mature adults, this suited us just fine.

Our accommodation was in a Quinta, a converted manor house on an estate which was the former home of a family of Madeiran wine merchants.  It was very beautiful, peaceful and relaxing but within walking distance of Funchal's amenities.

The weather in March is fairly unpredictable, being in the middle of the Atlantic,  but we enjoyed enough sunshine to take long walks with several coffee and beer-stops along the way.

I am not going to go on at length about our trip, you may be pleased to hear, but will leave you with a couple of photos.







My First Post:

Well, here I am with my nice, shiny new blog. What to write?

I suppose I should really set down a little about myself as, even though the blog is really to help me to get my thoughts in order, others may stumble across me and want to know what it is all about.

I retired at age 60 after 40+ years of the daily grind.  Varied jobs; nothing really remarkable but mainly admin and customer services, with some IT training thrown in at the end.  

After the honeymoon period of bliss at not being ruled by the alarm clock, I started to find the daily round of housework, shopping and the odd coffee morning beginning to lose its appeal.  I do volunteering work, at the local hospice and also our Wildlife Trust gift shop, which gets me out and meeting people.  P (my otherhalf) and I also regularly get together with our small group of friends for supper and a chat.

We offer B&B in our guest room between April to September which also gives us the opportunity to meet people, some of them from far-flung places around the world. There is not much call for B&B outside of those months, due to our location on a frequently cool, wet and windy little island, somewhere "up north".

Between October and April we generally like to travel. Now that we are both retired we can come and go as we please and have managed to fit in quite a few trips in the past year or so.  I may perhaps bore you with a look back at some  of them.

Well, March is here; Spring is promised; the daffodils and blossom are bursting forth, and of course it is pouring with rain.  Twas ever thus.

I leave you with a photo of our next-door neighbours.