Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Summer's Gone and All the Flowers are Dying...

It's Autumn and all the leaves are falling fast.  So where did the summer go? Because following that crazy unexpected heat wave in March, I could probably count the sunny warm days of 2012 on the fingers of both hands. 10 summery days?  Is that all?

Yep! That's all!  The weather this year sure wasn't summery.  It rained harder and faster than any summer since records began, apparently.  So I felt I was such a lucky duck, picking out day trips and away trips when the rain stopped: when that big yellow bauble in the sky peeked out and put a warm smile on the UK's face!
So, constant readers let me tell you about my glorious trips into the English countryside - not that I want to make you jealous or anything!

But first, let me tell you how my garden and my cats fared in this strange, cool and rainy summer season.

 The only things that suffered in my garden this summer were the fruits on my apple, cherry and pear trees.  Apart from that, the garden flourished with gaudy flashes of bright summer colour.

It was as though the sun had shone brightly from June to September though the summer had been a great one!  Go figure.

Living the Life of Riley!
And the cats?  Well, the cats enjoyed this summer as much as they've enjoyed all eight of them (they're nine next year) one of them living in the lap of luxury, calling the tune, having hissy fits, indoors and out. As ever! The other one did his usual tour of the garden, climbing up and down every tree and shrub, walking along the trellised fence, creeping through the privet hedge to his heart's delight!

I know that hey're a pair of wiley psychopaths, just like all the cats I've ever met in my life - but, you see, they both purr rather a lot which makes my heart melt.  Oh, I know they manipulate me.  Got me well and truly wrapped around their little paws ...

Wanna go for a Spin?

Thing is ... I've lived with cats just about all of my life - and every one of them has had me sussed as a complete pushover! How right they are!


Who would ever believe there's a beautiful 400 acre lush green oasis behind the Asda car park in Benton!
Right here, there's a lake, a pond, grasslands and wetlands, everything to satisfy the needs of our ever-dwindling flora and fauna.

There's even a bird hide overlooking the Swallow Pond where we were lucky enough to see swallows, ducks, coots, swans - and a cute, red-beaked moorhen guiding her young through the reeds and grasses.

An Arctic tern swooped down on the lake in a wild performance of a fishing trip to remember. His mouth full of flapping fish tails, he glided off.  Strange to see a sea bird so far inland, I thought, until I saw gulls in abundance swimming and diving on the water.

We watched a deer - complete with huge, gorgeous antlers - grazing in the field overlooking the lake.

We walked through a well-marked network of footpaths and bridle paths, lined with dazzling white marguerites and blue geraniums to complete this spectacular circular walk.



The 100 mile long Northumberland Coast is a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and has some of the best un-spoilt coastline in England.

We motored north, following the scenic coastal route, until we saw signs for High Hauxley and Low Hauxley.  We followed the Low Hauxley signs, by-passing the Nature Reserve to take in the beauty of the beach here.  Lined with pretty houses and bungalows where house martins circled and dived, showing off the midnight blue in their wings and tails, I thought I was in heaven.
And I was sure I was in heaven when we walked down the sandy lane to a deserted, white-duned beach with not a tin can nor a Coke bottle littering the scene.

Paddling in the shallows, we watched Arctic terns fishing, not even a hundred yards away.  Black-headed gulls, laughing gulls and herring gulls bobbed on the waves or screeched messages to one another overhead.  Coquet Island shimmered in its own sunny reflection in the wet sand.

I could have stayed there all day - but I'd heard some great reports of the nature reserve and I wanted to see it for myself.

And when I did see it - oh my, constant readers, it's a wonderful, magical place with woodland, wetland and the babbling River Wansbeck running through it.

From the bird hides, we saw blue-tits, sparrows, dunnocks, chaffinches, ducks, swans, Canada geese, sandpipers (see photo on the right) - and a lone stately grey heron.

Growing in the hedgerows and in the bogs and wetlands were sweet-smelling meadow sweet, teasel, wild orchids, bur-reed and loosestrife.
And all of this just forty-five minutes drive from home.  Unbelievable!


Well, what a find this was!  We were staying in Bishop Auckland one night, in readiness for the North East's most important ever annual rock festival - STORMIN' THE CASTLE (my husband was playing bass guitar over 2 nights in 2 bands, entertaining 2-5000 people per night) and I wanted to find a distraction to cool his nerves in the morning, in readiness for his biggest gigs to date ... I set about googling - and I found Low Barns: a 50 hectare wetland located adjacent to the River Wear.

There's also woodland and grassland rich in an abundance of species.There are three lakes with interconnecting streams - and bird hides overlooking the lakes so that we were treated to the sights and sounds of so many birds - including the elusive blue kingfisher.Oh, man, he was just beautiful.  No photo though, constant readers - pity huh?

Ah ... but what tickled me almost to death was the bird feeding station next to the Visitor Centre.

 Looking through the slats of the wooden fence, we saw blue-tits, coal tits, chaffinches, robins, a pheasant - and (glory be!!!) a couple of great spotted woodpeckers.

And in that small space, rabbits and acrobatic squirrels came a'calling for a quick nibble too!  It felt like we were in a children's story book and that the fairies and elves would be flitting around before long!  You may laugh, constant readers but it's true!

We took a look at Seaton Sluice too - and and had a whale of a time in the Yorkshire Dales.

Eee, bah gum.  'Ere we are in York-sheer - bar-t'at!!
 But those stories are for another day - perhaps on another website - like the day we spent looking around Tynemouth.  You can read the article on North East Life at the link below:

Top Town on the Tip of the Tyne



My writing life has taken a bit of a beating lately.  It's not that I'm doing too much - which has often been the case over the past couple of years - it's that I'm doing so little.  I'm trying to make sense of the way my writing has been going.  Over the past year or so, I've been spending so much of my valuable time on writing sites and social networking sites on the internet.  And it's not that I haven't enjoyed doing this: I've made some great writing friends from all over the world - and that's exciting.  But it was getting to the point where, if I missed a day networking and answering emails, I'd start to panic ... and that's not what is supposed to happen.  I should be getting pleasure from all of my writing projects. But sadly, I'm gettting stressed by the whole networking thing.  So, what I need to do now is to sit back, prioritise my writing and finish off the loose ends of my novel (just a couple of chapters and I'm done) then edit all the short stories and flashes that are lolling about in my computer documents, getting dusty and forgotten.  But the biggest, most important job I have to do is to finish my e-course and graduate from the Writers Bureau Creative Writing Course (I'm only 3 assignments away from completion).  When I've finished all of those 'priority' projects, I can take another step back, look at what I've achieved, and take time to re-think.
There's a little snippet that tells you more on how I feel about my writing.  It's on the Writinghood publishing site at:

It’s The Pits, This Writing Lark!

Rest assured though, constant readers, I'll continue to upkeep my blog .  After all, I'm WRITING FOR MY LIFE here on blogger! And it's such good fun telling you all what I've been up to and sharing my pix for you guys to take a peek.  And I'll write the odd thing for the internet and send messages to the writing fraternity I'm part of.  I'm not going to disappear, constant readers.  You'll just get less of me - and less is so often MORE! Like the title says - time to re-think, guys!


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Bird Tables, Birthdays, Bands and Boat Trips

Pine Tree on the Right - Spring 2011

We'd had the big old pine tree felled last November and we'd kept enough of the trunk to make a 'feature' out of it.  I was so upset when the tree had to go that I needed something to help me celebrate its life.

We couldn't keep it any longer - it had been destroying the earth beneath and around it for years and years, no matter how hard we tried to nourish it, re-shape it to let in more light, mulch its surroundings over the winter-time - you name it, we did it!   Anyway - it's gone ...

Before the Bird Table!

So I asked Dave to make a bird table (plain and olde-worlde is what I wanted).

Mr Jim - Get Down From There!

And once he'd finished the fence and the trellis, he set about making the table.  And it's a real rustic beauty!

The garden's been a real torment this summer, what with the wind +++ and the rain in torrential downpours +++ - but finally, after many weeks of blood sweat and tears, it's starting to look pretty neat.

My wall planters, tubs and baskets have a predominantly blue, blue, blue theme - with lots of sprinkles of bright colour here and there.

I'm pretty pleased - but there will be even more delights to come when the fuschias and the asters are blooming in all their glory. What beauties!

Passion Flower

And there are passion flowers and briar roses galore, all mixed in with montbretia and lavatera all over the garden.

Briar Roses

Our little 'tub' Rosie in among the TUBS

It's beginning to look quite spectacular with the changes we've made to the design.


It was Dave's birthday a few weeks back - and his mum had a cake made for him in the shape of a bass guitar. It looked gorgeous and it tasted heavenly - a real yummy beauty!

Then Dave, Phil and I went off to our local Indian restaurant in North Shields for a birthday treat. It's called 'Aramee' and produces the most amazing authentic Bangladeshi food.

We had a ball, the three of us.  Such a super night. What a beauty!

Accolades for the Gatecrashers

I went to see the Gatecrashers play a blinder at the Seven Stars in Ponteland.  The band are so highly acclaimed in Ponteland that the Seven Stars have signed them up to do a gig a month at this cosy, atmospheric pub, beating the Diamond pub up the road by a whisker! 

You see, the Diamond in Ponteland want the band too!  They're a popular 'catch' for parties of all descriptions in Darras Hall, Ponteland. 

Me and Boneshaker Ronnie at 7 Stars
 In fact, this band are worth all the accolades they receive - and they receive lots and lots, believe me! What a beauty!

I also called in to the cutest little wine bar in the North East - the Sour Grapes in Morpeth to see both the Gatecrashers and the Boneshakers: my two favourite bands - on seperate nights, of course, constant readers.

You can see the review of the fabulous Boneshakers amazing gig on my 'Rockin' with the Boneshakers' blog at the link below.  It's a beauty!

Sweet as a Nut at Sour Grapes

Gatecrashers sock it to 'em at the Sour Grapes

...and the review of the Gatecrashers rockin' an' sock-it-to-'em gig at the Sour Grapes will be published soon on North East Life Magazine online.
Gatecrashers Find Salty Nuts at Sour Grapes

 I'll give you the link when I've got it ... so,  



On a drizzly Sunday morning in July, we motored up the North East coast to Seahouses, to catch the Billy Shiels (MBE) boat out to the Farne Islands to see the grey seal colony - and the plethora of birds that come here to nest and rear their young, every year between May and July.

 It rained a bucketful as we boarded the boat.  I was just thinking that this might be a miserable day out on the islands - but then the sun came out! 

And the grey seals came out to play.  Ah, what a sight. And when we disembarked from the boat for an hour to walk around the nesting colonies of birds, the sun stayed put, bright yellow in a blue, fluffy-clouded sky. What a beauty of a day!

We walked among the Arctic Terns who sure told us who was boss - and it wasn't me! As we passed by their nests on the edges of the beaten tracks, they reared up, wings and tails outstretched to squawk in our faces and peck our heads.  I nearly lost the bobble in my hair, trying to sidle past them!

We came across family after family of puffins, taking care of their young in holes dug into the ground around the bright clumps of white campion flowers.

We gazed at cormorants and shags feeding their young in nests of bracken and twig, pushing small fishes down the gullets of their babies.  Quite horrifying to watch but so effective! The mums and dads preened each other and their young happily unconcerned about their human audience.

We came across hordes of razor-bills and penguin-like guillemots, flapping their wings on ledges of the sheer cliffs of the island.

We even saw a Mallard duck with her two fluffy ducklings in a tiny natural pond on Inner Farne.

I can't for the life of me understand how I could have lived in this beautiful North East corner of England and never been on this trip of a lifetime. 

Well, I plan to rectify this - and visit at least once a year. That's my promise to myself - a firm promise!

It hasn't been a particularly fruitful writing time since last I spoke to you, constant readers.  I'm still fighting with my novel - fighting against a strong desire to get way-laid and go online, visiting my writing buddies at Triond and Hub Pages, RedGage and Experts Column - and more!

I badly need to edit my chosen pieces for submission to  various publishers and get them sent off: badly need to get my novel completed and into the editing stages: badly need to get together a collection of short stories and flash fiction for Amazon publication - and a collection of poetry too.

So I decided, a few days ago, I needed to take a break - retreat from the cyber world, the great blue yonder, whatever you want to call it - and get stuck in to my writing.  So that's what I've done!  Denied myself the right to go online -apart from a couple of days a week, to call in and say hello -  check, write and answer my emails - and read through my writing friends' publications.

I'll leave you with a few bits and pieces I've written and published lately - mostly about the fabulous puffins and terns that caught my imagination on our trip to the Farnes.  Here are some links:

The Parrot of the Sea
Puffin Billy

Huffin’ ‘n’ Puffin

Ah! Look at the Ba-Ba Chick!

Chick-Time in Bird Land
Star Tern

These links to the RedGage site are published here especially for my online writing buddy, poet and photographic hero, Eddy, who follows this blog and also my website.  Thanks for everything, Eddy.
You can take a look at Eddy's online portfolio of gems at:

Talk to you soon, constant readers. I'm already collecting a bunch of goodies to tell you about next time I write my blog.