Obscure jewels

The great thing about Cumbria is that you can find almost unknown treasures just off the
beaten track.  Sometimes you wonder how they survive; others seem to be thriving
despite not being anywhere obvious, nor well-signposted.

1. Brampton to Longtown (7)An example is the delightful little museum at Bewcastle – out in the middle of wild, almost-unvisited, haunted Reiver country.  It doesn’t take long to look around, but it tells the story of Bewcastle for those lone visitors who trek up to this remote part of north Cumbria.


Today we went to Threlkeld Mining Museum, which sits within the Lake District National Park just outside sometimes-crowded (relatively speaking) Keswick.  It represents one of the contradictions of the Lake District, even of Cumbria itself: this now idyllically rural county once made its wealth from industry, the landscape being gouged to free various valuable minerals.  Copper, lead, slate, graphite and even coal have been taken from the fells, valleys and coast that sheep now roam over and walkers ramble across.

Threlkeld Mining Museum appears not much more than a collection of rusty excavators in a quarry at first glance, but spending some time there is rewarding.  There’s a short ride on a narrow gauge steam train which takes you up to a quarry which is still worked – perhaps recently most significantly to help repair the road past Thirlmere (Keswick to Ambleside) which collapsed when the side of Hevellyn suffered a major landslip in the floods of December 2015 – and a tour of the old mine workings.  The guides are informative and enthusiastic and you come away with an enhanced understanding of how unsafe and unhealthy conditions were working underground – children carrying large tubs of excretia away at the ends of shifts; pit ponies and men falling down shafts, to be left at the bottom to rot; poisonous lead; children laying explosives, made from goose quills filled with powder, at close range because they were more expendable than adults… the social history is fascinating and humbling.

The Museum has no flash modern cafe facilities but during the gap between our train ride and our underground tour, one of the Museum staff pointed us in the direction of the cafe in Threlkeld village (the excellent Village Coffee Shop).  This was another ‘find’.  The village is bypassed by the A66 but if you bother to turn off the main road and head into the village there is a sign for a cafe.   This is situated in a beautifully refurbished village hall with superb views across to the quarry and the fells beyond.  It’s a community enterprise project (I can’t remember the exact name) so the cafe is run by paid members of staff but any profit it makes is ploughed back into the community.  It’s no amateur tea-room either: the coffee was lovely, the cakes looked superb, and the toilets were clean and nicely decorated with fresh flowers.

And friends I Threlkeld Mining Museum April 2017 (1)worked with at British Waterways may be amused to see that one of BW’s rusty excavators now lives at the Mining Museum!



Half term with the kids

Half term has been and gone in a flash.  Last weekend was David’s turn to have the children, although I had them on Friday night and Saturday night, which meant that I had time for a run on Askham Fell with Penny on Sunday.  Both of us had work to do so after a late lunch at the cafe at Askham Hall, it was time to head home.  I drove back over the hills rather than up the motorway, and came to the conclusion that one day I shall live in Penrith or Kirkoswald, high up a hill and with a view.

On Monday Edward and Bella were keen to go to Energi, the new(ish) trampolining place in Carlisle.  I jumped too… I’m not very good as whilst I don’t mind jumping high, I’m not very brave at jumping over on to the next trampoline – though I did manage it a few times.  I also landed on the hard bit in between a couple of times, which is rather jarring on the ankles.  I wonder if I was the oldest jumper in the place?  I’m now thinking it would be good to go to one of the ‘Energi Fit’ classes.

Tuesday I had a conference and choir, so the children were with David Monday night and Tuesday night and back to me on Wednesday morning.  We had various dentists and opticians appointments all week, Edward had a swimming lesson every afternoon, and Bella was booked on to a Robotics course on Wednesday.  She found it boring as all they did was make robots out of cardboard, but at least she didn’t learn how to hack the school computer and write rude things on it, which was what happened after the Coding course… we also did some cooking that afternoon – she made a flourless chocolate cake and I made banana cake.  As nobody wanted to eat the banana cake (none of us is a fan of bananas, it seems) we gave it away, and I understand it was enjoyed by the recipients.

On Thursday the ‘treat’ was the Lego Batman movie, along with popcorn and hotdogs.  It hasn’t been a particularly healthy week food-wise, the more so as the kids seem to be rebelling against my tendency to want to eat fish as my main protein rather than red meat.  So this week we have had spaghetti bolognese, chicken curry, and chilli with tacos – I’ve also made lamb tagine which I’m going to add butternut squash to before serving it with couscous, but I’m not sure what the trio’s reaction will be to that.

I had arranged to meet a friend at Whinlatter on Friday and as we drove down there the weather was colourful.  The sky was bright azure blue, the main central lakeland fells were covered in snow, and the plantlife was a mix of golden russet brown and vibrant-about-to-be-spring green.  The kids had a good time running around in the playground, although Alex tried to be too old and too cool for it.  Judging by my garden, spring is definitely on its way, and despite Storm Doris (a bit of a non-event up here in Cumbria), the weather hasn’t even been particularly cold.

Not until today, that is – and even then it was only cold on Talkin Fell.  Alex had a friend, Luke, to stay for the weekend.  We had a militaristic day yesterday with a visit to Carlisle Castle and the Regimental Museum followed by the Roman Gallery at Tullie House and then today decided we’d walk up Talkin Fell.

It all started well enough but became windier, wetter and wilder the higher we got.  Bella then fell over in some mud (as happened last time we went up there as well – spot the brown-ness of her black jeans), and the happy mood of the day changed to grumpiness.  As by then we were all getting colder and wetter we decided perhaps we wouldn’t go all the way to the top and eat our picnic up by the cairns: and the two older boys suggested sensibly that we should walk back to the car and eat the picnic in the car.

Edward has got happily filthy every day this holiday week; they have all eaten a lot of rubbish food (as well as plenty of good food as well) – and despite the inevitable arguments, anger and tellings off – it’s been a fab. week.

Time with the kids

views-from-mama-cakes-new-location-6I’ve had some fab. times with the kids recently, and the beauty of where we live has been emphasised to me once again.  When I think that back in the early spring I thought I might lose them all together… it’s not that we don’t have a lot of shouting and turmoil (Bella still tells me she hates me from time to time), but I’m now confident that I am who I am and that being me doesn’t make me a bad mother.  I’m their mother, and whatever I give them will be exactly that – something I give them, which nobody else can.  I may be volatile, emotional, frequently broke, money-wise (and therefore stressed) and – as they once said in a card to me – ‘the shouty fairy’, but I’m their Mum and I’m Me.  My way of dealing with life is not the same as their Dad’s, nor as some other people’s parents, but it doesn’t matter – it’s my way.  Some people will be similar to me – some won’t – and there’s not a right way nor a wrong way.

Over half term we went out and about: I know I’ve said it before here but the weather really has been fantastic recently.  We walked to Lanercost via the Ridge and Quarry Beck woods – my ex father in law picked up the boys from Lanercost but Bella and I walked back again; we went to Edinburgh and met up with my parents and went in the place that’s similar to the Puzzling Place; we went to Acorn Bank = spot the photo which is similar to one from when Edward was only two! – which was fantastic (and followed it with Rheged, where we had an argument but resolved it with ice creams).

More recently I’ve had a long weekend in London with Bella: thanks I have to admit to my generous parents, who paid for us to stay with them at the Regents Park Marriott, which was fab. (it has a Carluccio’s as a dining room and such, such fantastic and friendly service).  It was great to cover old stamping grounds and exciting for both my daughter and me.

I haven’t had much time for writing recently so I’m just including a whole load of photos.  It perhaps says something for my mental and emotional state that I haven’t written much – writing for me is a release in times of emotional turbulence (not always very appropriately, but it’s what helps me – I perhaps just need to remember not to be too public) – and generally (other than HMRC, grrrrr….) things have been pretty good recently.

Which reminds me that I must get on with some professional writing…

Heroes in boats!

It was late on an August Friday evening that three excited children and I sat at Newcastle airport waiting to fly off on holiday.  We weren’t going abroad but to Exeter – it just seemed so much less hassle to jump on an aeroplane and arrive in Devon an hour later instead of being stuck on the M6/M5 with three children who were likely to get bored and start fighting.

I have to admit I’m not the world’s best flyer.  Like so many people, I think, there’s something completely illogical about being in a metal tube in the sky, even though I’m the daughter of an aerodynamicist so know the basic principles of how these things work. However I love the vantage point of seeing the world lying beneath you like a map: on the way down we flew over Leeds, Liverpool and North Wales in the dark, the lights of the Wirral divided from those of Liverpool by a dark band of river.  On the way back it was light so the distinctive shapes of England and Wales were even more clear.

My sister met us at Exeter airport and we drove down to the English Riviera – to Paignton.  It’s part of the world which my crowd-hating parents steered us clear of when we were younger even though we only lived an hour or two’s drive away.  We were staying in a house which had been recently completely refurbished to provide accommodation for 10, and was on a site with the owners’ house, three other cottages and a swimming pool (Blagdon House Country Cottages).  Needless to say whatever the weather the children insisted on going swimming at least once a day, and several times I had a battle to get them out when my fingers had turned green with cold (‘Yoda fingers’ according to Edward) and it was time to get on and do something else.  I’m so proud that my oldest two are such confident swimmers though, and that Edward is getting there – I was still nervous into adulthood.

As you’d expect from an English summer, the weather was mixed but on the whole most days were dry and several were warm and sunny.  There was only one day, when we went to Agatha Christie’s home, Greenway, when Bella and I did not take jumpers or waterproof jackets and both suffered (not in silence, in her case!).  It struck me how much National Trust properties have improved since I was a child.  You no longer have to traipse round looking at paintings, china and furniture in museum mode, but the experience has become more interactive and also the outdoors seems to have more on offer as well, with playgrounds and games.  This was especially the case at Killerton, which we went to on our last day.

Although we didn’t play on the beach at all we went on steam trains and boats and explored castles and houses.  Dinner in Brixham near the Golden Hind was popular, where we watched a dog on a first floor windowsill (now called De Locus Dog by Edward and Alex), as was crabbing from the quayside in Dartmouth.

And the heroes?  While we were crabbing Bella managed to drop the bucket in the water, which was several feet below us, and Edward burst into noisy tears.  On hearing Edward, a lovely man in a pinkish coloured T-shirt with pointy ears (the man that is, not the T-shirt – I think he may have been an elf) manoeuvred his boat to fish it out for us, throwing it up to a cheering crowd on the quayside and to an impressed five-year old boy whose tears had been stopped by this hero.  Then on the ferry back to Kingswear, as we went past the Royal Navy ship anchored in the river and I was encouraging Edward to wave, two Royal Navy officers looked through their binoculars at us and waved back – and one then raised his cap and saluted (I think my Mum was a little envious as she said something about liking the Royal Navy uniform best of the forces uniforms and how smart it is… which is similar to my boss assuming that I like going on inspections of Fire Stations because of the firemen in uniform.  Actually I’m not a great ‘uniform’ fan – it’s a bit too formal and smart for me – but it was rather an ego boost being saluted).  Having a five-year old, like having a dog I guess, can be quite an ice-breaker…

We finished the holiday with a lovely few hours and an al fresco meal at my Uncle’s and his wife’s.  They have a fantastic garden, including a stream and an adjacent field with cows, for the children to run around in and there are all sorts of things to discover including wooden statues carved – impressively – with a chainsaw.  My uncle also has an infra-red camera so was later able to send some images of a fox and a hedgehog eating our leftovers that night.

It wasn’t exactly a highly relaxing week as the children fought and wound each other and everyone else up (especially my parents) – but it did make me think that the French custom of taking the whole of August off is rather a good one, and if I can afford it next year, that is what I would really like to do – and spend time going around and about doing exciting things and exploring places with my children.

I even have a bit of a tan.  And when Edward found he had left Darth Vadar and Chewbacca at the holiday cottage, the obliging owners posted them back the following day.  There’s service!

Schizophrenic life; schizophrenic weather

It struck me, as I had a week without the children while they were away on holiday with their father, how my life seems to fall into two extremes.  I am either child-free and single, spending a lot of time on my own doing my own thing; or I have three children around creating a lot of noise and havoc.  I don’t prefer either over the other – but they are very different and sometimes adjusting from one to the other isn’t straightforward.  I’ll have got used to having the house to myself, the quietness, peace and tidiness – and in the three of them storm, dropping things, losing things, demanding things, fighting: and giving mammoth cuddles and (in Edward’s case) sloppy kisses.

Then they vanish, it seems almost as quickly as they have come, and I walk back into a house which suddenly seems too large and quiet for one person.  At least because David and I share childcare 50/50 it’s never that long before my mini whirlwinds rush back into my life – and because we live near each other the time at each house is rarely regimented, and we’ll both borrow a child or two at times so the other can do something with the others (I took Bella and a friend of hers skating one weekend; it took me back about 12 years to when I first knew David, and recalled memories such as the time David and I were driving up to Hemel Hempstead for my lesson but never got there as it had started snowing that afternoon.  The snow was so heavy it was causing problems on the A41 and M25 and roads around north London.   The next day there were news stories of people who had slept all night in their cars).

The weather has been as schizophrenic as my life.  Working at home I get really cold, and when the children were away I even had the fire on a couple of evenings.  Then the sun will come out for a few days and the temperature soars and everybody strips off their jumpers and lets their arms go brown in the sun.   Fortunately a couple of days I had with the children were exactly the latter, and we took advantage of the weather to go to Lowther Castle one day and Mirehouse on the other.

Both places are great for the children to have a good run-around, and both have play areas as well as the general grounds.  Lowther was somewhere I had been thinking of going for ages but what especially prompted me was the fact that I had read about it not having the largest wooden play structure around.  It’s something like the ruined house, with a ‘tower’ type building on three floors and other parts to run around on two floors, plus a zip wire and an under-5s area.  In the wood nearby is a wiggly footpath created out of fallen logs, with a ‘wobbly bridge’, boardwalk, upended logs of various heights to jump from one to another – etc.  There are also lots of tree swings as you walk through the parkland to get to the play area, as well as ponds and gardens to discover as well as the ruins themselves.

15th Aug Lowther Castle (19)

We took a picnic and spent several hours there, and it’s clearly popular – I was talking to another mother and we agreed that actually the wider appeal of the gardens with the play areas is probably financially more sustainable and successful than just restoring the 15th Aug Lowther Castle (15)gardens, which had been the plan several years ago.  There are bits of garden: I didn’t get a chance to look around the exhibition or the shop, but did get time t
o read the boards in the memorial garden which is a touching tribute to men from the Lowther estate who fought in the Great War.  There is also an area of formal garden and a lovely colourful area of wild garden which greets you as you first enter the park.

A couple of days later and we headed down to Mirehouse, on the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake.  I really like the Old Sawmill tearoom next to the car park (you have to park in the car park for Dodd Woods) but I wasn’t feeling particularly affluent, so we took a picnic again (I must get myself one of those backpack picnic hampers though – my cool bag is not comfortable to carry for any great distance or time).  It was also a relief that the price of admission was far less than it had been for Lowther.  At Mirehouse there are several play areas, including a small wooden fort, a steeplechase course, an assault course ending in a zip wire ride over a stream, and an area for younger children.  You can also walk down to the Lake – we didn’t make it more than halfway before we sat down for lunch – and look around the Bee Garden, which is lovely and peaceful unless disturbed by Briggs children.

Lowther costs almost 3 times more than Mirehouse and whilst the café is lovely, that is also on the expensive side.  It’s definitely worth going but only if you are prepared for it to be a relatively expensive day out (from memory it was £30 or so to get in and despite having a picnic we spent about the same on tea and cake in the café – but parking is free).  Mirehouse and the Old Sawmill tearoom are cheaper and just as good, but you do have to pay for parking – with any luck the Forestry Commission will introduce those numberplate recognition machines soon so that you don’t  have to remember to take cash.  It’s a long walk from the far end of the car park to the tearooms and back in order to pay for a parking ticket, and also of course you then have to estimate how long you’re going to be.

I’d recommend both, particularly on a fine day.  Remember the backpack for a picnic, and it might be worth taking a change of clothes and a towel to Mirehouse.

Sea Therapy

“The most important step out of the karmic law is forgiveness” – Eckhart Tolle

I found this the other day – I had saved it somewhere and had fully intended to write a blogpost about how appearances can be deceptive and how the way in which someone comes across may not always reflect how he or she really feels or feels about him/herself (this has especially come across to me when people have described me in ways which have surprised me – for example (sorry Eloise, I hope this won’t embarrass you) I always looked up to Eloise at Railtrack who appeared far more confident than I was.  Apparently she remembers me as someone who was really kind towards her – I thought I came across as rather reserved and not very sure of myself…).

Anyway, I have started writing this blogpost with absolutely no idea about how I am going to tie karmic law and forgiveness in with writing about recent events in my life but I’m sure it will become clear.  If it doesn’t at least it’s a good quotation with which to start the post.

I’m generally feeling quite upbeat.  I imagine that two glasses of kir-boosted prosecco have helped, but on the whole I’m finding it easier to enjoy life and have mostly these days returned to my usual optimistic self.  I was discussing with a neighbour today how money always turns up when you really need it: this is despite the fact that I have agreed with my soon-to-be-ex-husband that I will pay him 15% of the value of the house when I sell it, which will go on the market at the latest when my eldest turns 18.  This is in only 5 and a half years’ time – time that will zip past, and my youngest will still only be in his final year of primary school at that point – but I feel happy with the conclusion of the negotiations with my ex and I think he does too, which means we are now getting on OK again.  I hate not getting on with people who are an important part of my life: but boundaries have to be drawn sometimes and none of us can – or should – always just give in to what other people want.  I’m not sure that there’s any karma involved with my ex but a certain amount of forgiveness on both sides has been necessary I think.

What is lovely is that as far as my in-laws (now out-laws, I guess) are concerned I am still part of the family.  I was very keen to meet my new not-a-niece and so yesterday I took Younger Son up to Sandyhills, on the Solway Coast south of Dumfries (so only about an hour and a half’s drive from here) to meet up with his grandparents, uncle, aunts and cousins.  It was real family time: we arrived in time for Younger Son to meet his newest cousin on his own and give her plenty of cuddles (he loves babies – she’s six months old) and then we headed down to the beach with Scotland Nanny to have ice cream, build sandcastles, paddle and dig holes.  The older cousins all came down to join us when they got back from mountain biking, including Older Son whom I hadn’t seen other than briefly for about a week, and then later I took all five boys swimming.  It’s great that my three children all get on so well with their cousins.

Sandyhills itself is lovely.  There’s little there: it’s not your average seaside resort with piers and fun fairs and stacks of shops.  There’s one very small shop, which smelt pleasantly of new paint, a relatively small but sandy beach, a caravan/campsite and some holiday chalets which have their own swimming pool and restaurant.  The ‘only’ occupations are cycling, walking/running, playing on the beach… the TV didn’t work and the children are going to have a week of very little screen time.


It was Sea Therapy at its best, and followed a visit to small-but-perfectly-formed Aydon Castle (near Corbridge) on Saturday where we had been greeted by friendly medieval people including a lady wearing an amazing dress sewn out of glorious bright blue cloth of gold: it really shone in the sunlight.

I drove back home – with a diversion of several miles as there had been an accident on the narrow road to Dumfries – listening to U2 and feeling fairly relaxed about life.  And karma?  I don’t know.  I feel I’ve had a bad enough time recently that any karma must have been repaid.  I feel ready for my life to pick up momentum and get exciting again!

Three weeks of (not) blogging…

It’s been three weeks since I last wrote a post.  When I started to write this post two children were upstairs shouting and the other was downstairs watching some rubbish on television… by the time I got round to finishing it, the following day, I had the house to myself and all was quiet.

I haven’t felt terribly inspired to write, do much singing practice, do marketing and promotion for either of those things, nor indeed be motivated to do much other than the day-to-day things I have to do, recently.  I’m not depressed – I have moments of sadness and of tears and also moments of joy and I have three musical/singing projects to start work on – but I do sometimes just feel tired, and sometimes rather devoid of any emotion, or at least any emotion which takes any energy, whatsoever.  I work; I look after my children; and I try to sort things out in terms of pensions, house, divorce… oh, and I must sort out my broadband and phone (landline and mobile) provider…

So what have been the highlights recently?  Well, the children all got good school reports, which was great, and we had a lovely weekend down in York at the Royal York Hotel with my parents – thanks to my parents.  I don’t think I’ve ever been somewhere where the service has been so consistently brilliant.  The hotel staff gave the impression that nothing was too much trouble and that loud, bouncy children were no problem whatsoever (in fact when I discussed it with one of the waiting staff in the restaurant he said that a drunk stag-party reveller is worse as at least my children are polite).  Bella rated the food as the best ever (and only days before she had been saying that Capernaum bistro in Brampton was the best ever – my cooking gets 7/10 compared with Capernaum’s 10/10, whereas the Royal York exceeded even that!).  Maybe it’s Yorkshire (or York) people generally as the staff at Pizza Express were also lovely.  Everybody seemed happy, and to be enjoying their work: perhaps the hot sunny weather had something to do with it.  Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed spending the time with my three children and we all enthused about the hotel.

The weather has been incredibly changeable – hot and stuffy for a couple of days followed by chilly and rainy.  Perhaps the most striking – and exciting – days were when we had thunder.  Edward and I had been feeding the neighbours’ fish while they were on holiday and for several days the weather had been almost perfect: dry, sunny and warm without being too stuffy.  Then it got heavier and thunder was forecast.  I woke up one morning to an amazing sky: dark, dark grey clouds but the morning sun making the houses shine red-gold.  I took a photograph, but it really doesn’t do justice to the incredible light and the contrast between the lowering sky and the brightness of the brickwork.  Just moments later the entire sky had darkened, the sun had disappeared, the rain was pouring down and it was thundering… exciting stuff!  (I love a good thunderstorm, particularly when we really need one when the air feels oppressive).

On another day when the outdoors was calling loudly to me, instead of being inside working I had cabin fever, and by the late afternoon/early evening I decided I had to go up Talkin Fell.  Previously I have described how the sky was blue above me but that I could see a band of rainclouds in the distance: it was similar this time but the other thing that struck me, which often strikes me, on starting the walk, is how noisy it is.  Not the urban noise of traffic and people and resonance from hard surfaces, but birdsong, dogs barking, cows mooing and the odd aeroplane high up but quietly clear.  I suppose there’s not that continual hum of background noise you get in a city so the individual noises are that much more distinct.

Once you’re at the top of Talkin Fell it’s quieter, and I know I’ve described before that ‘top of the world’ feeling.  This particular day I experimented with different settings on my camera, taking photos of the lovely white cottony flower thing (I have no idea what it’s called), which Phil Robbins used in the foreground when taking those fantastic photos of me on Caldbeck Fell.  My camera has loads of different settings and I have used only a few of them, but I want to get more experimental – I’m hoping I’ll get some good photos when I’m on holiday in Italy in September.  I particularly like the dark, almost black-and-white one, for this particular plant, though it looks better taking up an entire computer screen than reduced to fit in a blogpost.

Before I go to Italy we have the school summer holidays lying ahead of us.  We’re well into week one (week three for Alex) and with any luck we’ll get some decent weather and be able to enjoy being outdoors – or perhaps, as we did today, enjoy being outdoors even without decent weather: splashing in puddles remains fun even when you’re 12, and Bella’s white leggings had to go in the bin as I could not get the grass stains out (even with multiple doses of Vanish) from where all three children had repeatedly slid down a grassy/muddy bank at Carlisle Castle

My divorce has turned painful and costly; but even though I’m worried about how much it’s going to cost me in solicitor’s fees and whether I can really afford to go on holiday, I’ve blown my savings anyway on fulfilling a long-held ambition of going to Italy to learn Italian and then my birthday money from my Mum has been spent in advance on a holiday to Lanzarote later on.  I’m hoping getting away in the autumn will prevent any autumnal blues or depression… and money always turns up from somewhere when you really need it…  I can’t wait – it’s been 6 and a half years since I’ve had a holiday without the children and more than eighteen months since I went abroad skiing with them.  Last time I went to Club la Santa on Lanzarote I was pregnant with Alex.  I’m really looking forward to once again doing aerobics outdoors overlooking the Atlantic, and swimming in an outdoor 50m pool in November!

So however difficult things may feel from time to time, I have plenty to look forward to: and can’t help thinking that somehow everything has a way of sorting itself out for the best.  Such a change from how I felt even only two or three months ago!  Look out for news of my two new music projects on my ‘projects’ page before too long (and fingers crossed I also get more writing commissions soon).

Meanwhile from time to time… dolce far niente!





A Medley

Edinburgh April 2016 (2)A friend commented recently that the Easter holidays seem to have been quite long this year.  I think she’s right – they’ve also been a bit strange as I hardly saw my children for the first week and then this week has passed a lot more quickly as I’ve been trying to work and do things with the children as well.  My parents have been here, and Alex was up in Scotland, so I’ve been working a bit but also took a couple of days off.

The first was to go up to Edinburgh with my parents and Isabella and Edward.  I hadn’t been to Edinburgh Castle for years, literally, and we spent several hours wandering around and clambering all over bits and pieces.  I’m sure there weren’t any cafes inside the castle last time I went and of course with children it’s almost obligatory to stop for a drink and something to eat.  The cafe stocked some freshly-squeezed fruit juices, which went down well, and a range of rather nice-looking cakes.  However it’s perhaps indicative of the age in which we live that what Edward and Bella have talked about most since coming back home is the Apple shop (as in iPad etc. etc.).

On Friday we then went to Glasgow, in part to meet Alex at the Science Centre, who was being ‘delivered’ there by David’s parents.  Cynthia has recently broken some bones in her shoulder and not been terribly mobile, so it was good to see her and to hear that the repair is progressing steadily: I don’t think she would have sat in the car for the journey a few weeks ago.  When we arrived and saw Alex it was lovely that Edward rushed up to him to give him a big hug – followed by Bella.  They do love each other really…

The children loved the Science Centre and I’ve promised them I’ll take them back again sometime soon.  The ‘explosions’ session in the lecture theatre went down particularly well with Edward, as did the Under-7s water ‘play and learn’ area, and there is loads of interactive stuff all over the place – including a whole floor about the human body.

We’ve also eaten out a fair bit – thanks to the generosity of my parents.  As we were child-free on Wednesday evening we headed off to the Golden Fleece at Ruleholme.  Last time we tried to go there they were closed: this time unfortunately they were full.  It’s great to see a local place so popular – I haven’t eaten in there for ages, but will definitely go back sometime as the staff were so friendly as well as being professional – we were told they were full in such a pleasant, polite and almost apologetic way!  So, having read on Trip Advisor that the food at the Greenhead Hotel was good, I suggested we tried it.  There’s a bar- (almost pub-) style eating area as well as a more formal restaurant area. The staff are really friendly and the portions are generous, and overall it was good value for money.  My Mum’s ‘Sea Bass with crushed potatoes and asparagus and cherry tomato dressing’ looked particularly good.  However we all agreed that the best place to eat locally in terms of the quality of the food is still Capernaum bistro in Brampton.

Having said that, I then was invited out to Theatre by the Lake on Saturday night.  The cafe/bar there has always done good food and I’m keen to go back and try out one of their Lebanese flatbreads – last night we just had wine and ice cream in the interval.  We saw Shepherd’s Life: I’ve read the book and quite enjoyed it, but I think I enjoyed the play even more.  The puppet sheep and dogs were brilliant.  I’d done a 7-mile run earlier in the day and seen lambs, so somehow seeing this particular play seemed appropriate… and coincidentally enough, towards the end of the play the lead character (James) states that we sometimes get snow in April in Cumbria.  As I drove back along the A66 from Keswick towards Penrith it was snowing and snow was already lying at the side of the road – and when I drove into Carlisle this morning there was a thick layer of snow on the Lakeland Fells and a slightly lesser layer on the Pennines.

Playmobil garden man


Today was then glorious and by early afternoon it was about 16 degrees, so I’ve been out in the garden planting things – and rescuing a Playmobil man from being buried alive… he’s now in the dishwasher…