Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Can't stop...

I can’t stop reading, that’s what. My eldest son has been on at me for years to read Bernard Cornwell’s books and I have read a couple of his stand alone novels, Azincourt and The Gallows Thief, both excellent books.

A while back I watched The Last Kingdom on TV (based on the first two books in The Last Kingdom series). I liked it a lot and decided to start reading the books. The 10th in the series, The Flame Bearer, is out today.

I have never done this before (usually I like to vary my reading as much as possible), but I have read the first three books one after another and I’m well into the fourth. Can’t put them down! I’ve also read the first of the Sharpe books and I’m likely to get hooked on those too.

It’s a wonderful feeling to discover you like an author and know you have plenty of reading ahead! I am absolutely in awe of Bernard Cornwell and thanks to him I am reading about twice as much as normal. 

You can find his website here and on the home page it features a video about the making of The Last Kingdom which is interesting to watch.

I have mentioned the Fantastic Fiction website before, but it’s worth mentioning again. Just search for the author you are interested in and it will come up with a list of all their books which can be very useful. The page often includes a piece about the author and sometimes books that the author recommends. You can find it here.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

All Quiet

Well it is mostly quiet now, but it wasn’t very quiet when 7 year old granddaughter put her school shoes on and a huge spider leapt out of one and scurried across her foot.

I didn’t know she could scream like that. Apparently I screamed too, but I don’t remember it. All I remember is watching this huge thing bulldozing across the floor at speed before it shoved a couple of dining chairs out of its way and disappeared into the shadows.

I think it even looked over one of its shoulders and let out an evil laugh.

Dusty the Fearless heard the screams and ran into the garden barking at Moggy the Merciless before realising Harley was snoozing in the trampoline and Moggy the Merciless was nowhere to be seen.

He came back in all triumphant anyway and we had to tell him he was a good boy to rush to the rescue, even if no one out there needed rescuing.

Considering the spider had been in her shoe and had run over her foot, my granddaughter took it very well. I would have been a hysterical mess for hours if it had happened to me.

“I don’t want to talk about it ever again,” she said.

And she proceeded to talk about it all the way to school.

She says she’s not an arachnophobe, because she doesn’t mind small spiders, but that she is arachnophobish.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

Hot Dogs!

Dusty has found a new way to cool off now he doesn’t swim so often. He runs to the tap and sprawls out underneath it, has a drink, then wriggles round on his stomach until the water is running over his back.

I don’t throw the ball for him to fetch very much as he throws himself into it so hard, I’m afraid he’ll re-injure himself, but we do sit and stay and once I’m a distance away I throw it for him to catch.

He’s invented a game for himself. He runs round me in a wide circle waiting for me to throw the ball for him to catch. So when he does it, I say, “Go round!” Now he goes round when I tell him to, so it looks as if he’s been trained to do it, but in reality he trained me.

I’ve heard of dog ice lollies, but it was seeing them being made on For the Love of Dogs with Paul O’Grady that inspired me to give them a go.

They were a big hit on this very hot day, but I think I put too much food in so perhaps more water next time.

In the car with my daughter and two of her children, I had just stopped when eldest granddaughter looked above my head and said, “There’s a spider…” My daughter said “No!” But too late, I was already out of the car and sprinting down the road.

No I wasn’t really, but I did leap out of the car while my brave daughter knocked it out – well she didn’t knock it out as in hitting it over the head, but she did give the web a poke so it fell out of the car. It tried to climb back in, but I fought it off.

Hope you are keeping cool in summer's last blast.

Saturday, 10 September 2016


On Tuesday walking home with Dusty on a hot humid morning I felt an itch and knew that a mozzie had got me.

I react badly to mosquito bites – the affected part swells up like a balloon so you can’t even tell where the bite is.

So when I went to pick up the kidlets from school I asked, “Guess where I got bitten by a mosquito.” I should have known eldest granddaughter would quip, “On your bum?” Smallest grandson said, “Your ear.” “How did you know?” I asked and he smiled knowingly. By then it was as plain as the nose on my face - and probably three times as big.

I have generous earlobes but an insect turned one of them into a hideous rubbery thing that dangled down under my hair and stuck out from my head. It was the biggest earlobe I’ve ever seen. I had to keep throwing it over my shoulder to stop it smacking me in the eye every time I leaned forward.

Then my neck decided to join the party and I looked as if I’d got mumps.

I tried all the usual; antihistamine tablets, creams, painkillers and tea tree oil. Then I held a bag of ice on my neck and ear and tried a dab of hydrocortisone cream. It helped knowing the bite was somewhere on my massive earlobe so I knew where to put the cream. The next day the swelling had gone down considerably. Thank goodness. I didn’t want my granddaughters waking up and finding Grandma had turned into a barrage balloon overnight.

Otherwise it was a great week. The beaches and parks were empty, we didn’t have to queue for ice creams and I think they had fun.

Finding a jellyfish

Weighing things up

Dusty has had a great summer too. He's loved having the kids here and he goes crazy when they come home from school - I mean really crazy, as if he hasn't seen them for months. Poppy is a black dot in the distance in the photo!

Sunday, 4 September 2016

Selfies Only and Not Spiders

Really wish I’d had my camera with me last week. My phone camera has a fault and only takes selfies, so you have to be a contortionist if you want to take photos of anything not on your face.

So when we passed a giant red teapot driving along the M25 on our way to pick up the girls, I tried to get a photo, but the best I managed was a shot of the wing mirror and another of a red blob which could have been anything.

If you want to see the Pimm’s Giant Travelling Teapot Bar in all its glory (that’s right, I wasn’t seeing things), there is a photo here.

Another day last week I saw a campervan with a Dutch number plate in the car park near where I walk Dusty. It had a handwritten sign in one of the windows, “We are not German”. Intriguing.

I think having taken the girls crabbing last week (it was the first thing they wanted to do), it was probably our last time this year, although I do have some bait left….

My youngest son says crabs are just spiders with armour and weapons so I think he will be pretty impressed at how his eldest daughter (also scared of spiders) was picking up crabs and returning them gently to the sea. They don’t frighten me either – I think they are rather cute and not like spiders at all and let’s face it, you know where you are with a crab!

When she let this one go, he wrapped his legs round her fingers and held on.

The best way to hold the bigger ones is with finger and thumb either side of the shell just behind the nippers.

These two were the biggest we caught as we couldn’t get to our regular spot. We did get loads of smaller ones though with a variety of pretty patterned shells in all shades of green and red. We never keep them in the buckets for more than a few minutes and usually give them some bait to eat while they wait.

Four of my little people are back at school tomorrow (boo!) but I still have the girls here for a few more days and the parks and beaches will be quiet, so we won’t be saying goodbye to summer just yet.

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

It's That Time Again

At eight o’clock the street lights start to glow red and we’re closing the curtains and turning the lights on.

Early in the morning when we take Dusty out, the cars around here have that dewy coat so often seen on late August and September mornings. For me this can only mean one thing.

The invasion begins.

You know the invasion I’m talking about. The eight legged one.

Almost every morning I have to call for someone to come and de-spiderify the bath. Usually it’s those middle sized ones and sometimes a cellar spider. I don’t mind cellar spiders as they tend to stay put – I have one called Samantha living in the corner right next to my bed - but I wouldn’t want to pick one up.

The first of the big beasts appeared the other evening while I was watching telly. I’m not sure if it was the vibration from eight pounding feet I noticed first or the sight of it at the periphery of my vision in the glow from the TV.

By the time the light had been put on so we could see the enormity of it, it had gone under the telly stand. I swear it had to duck to get under there and probably had to lift the stand slightly with one of its mighty legs as it looked over one of its shoulders and barked out an evil laugh.

I watched the rest of Casualty with one eye on the floor, but the spider never reappeared. It’s still in there somewhere. Lurking. Usually we (I use the word “we” loosely – I only do it with medium to small ones) put a pint glass over the spider, slide a piece of thin card under and take it to the garden. I think a pint glass would have been too small – might have risked catching a leg or three and so it would have called for a small Pyrex bowl. But it’s still about, probably growing by the day. I daresay it will announce its presence one day by moving a sofa out of its way.

The next morning I went for my shower. I shook my dressing gown – I’ve been caught out like that before – and checked the bath and floor. It was only after I’d had my shower that I saw the large rusty coloured heap on the floor between me and the door. “It’s a leaf,” I thought as I peered closer (no glasses). It wasn’t a leaf. I managed to leap over it, grab my dressing gown and run for help.

There has been speculation that it was in the towel I dried myself with. Another theory is that it was in the towel I throw on the floor to stand on. It wriggled in the cupped hands of my rescuer as it was removed outside. And he said it was even bigger than the one in the front room.

A spider will eat about 2000 bugs a year I’m told. They’re more scared of us than we are of them they say. They are our friends. I have no beef with the spider and I don’t mind them sharing my home as long as they stay away from me. That’s not to say I’m not going to refresh my supply of conkers around the place.

I thought it was the conkers that were keeping them away, but with hindsight it was probably Harley and Dusty, mighty hunters as was. They’re not interested now. A spider could walk over Dusty’s paw and he’d just watch it.

This morning I walked in here in bare feet to switch the computer on – I always have bare feet at home – and I stood on something that felt like a spider and it stuck to my foot. You probably heard me screaming. Yes I know it would have been worse for the spider if I’d trodden on it, but logic has no place where phobias are concerned.

Dusty is always bringing things in from the garden, mostly stones and small twigs. It was a small twig I had stuck to my foot. Just a small twig.

And don’t even get me started on Crane Flies which, as far as my phobia is concerned, are flying spiders.

I'm scared of mozzies because of the reaction I have to their bites, but it isn't anything like my all consuming fear of spiders.

Anyone else out there dread this time of year - and the arrival of the big spiders?

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Just Dogs and Cats

This week I am mostly pet sitting!

Yesterday was too hot to take the dogs out. They flopped around all day and didn’t seem to mind missing a walk and I must admit I was happy not to go out with temperatures in the high twenties.

This morning I got up extra early and took them out before it got too roaring hot and we stopped by one of the beach hut taps so they could have a drink. If we go along the Essex Way we take a bottle of water for them. Dusty does everything at high speed so gets hot and tired very quickly.

We have an occasional walk towards country instead of beach, but the farmer is harvesting and I have a fear of tractors and farm machinery which I think is called ochophobia. My husband reckons it’s a throwback to all those public information films that used to be on when we were kids showing people having horrendous accidents with farm machinery.

Poppy and Dusty

Today and tomorrow is the Clacton Air Show, but I don’t think I’ll be going this year. I’ve seen enough of Clacton for one summer. I always find the pier hot, noisy and crowded, but the kids don’t seem to mind. And I can always find a quiet spot away from the amusements to have a drink break with one or other of the little people.

A quiet spot

I prefer the Ha’penny Pier - no thrills, but a nice place to be. The area below is known as The Pound and used to be home to our fishing fleet which was far more substantial than it is today. The Lightship is the LV18, occasional host to Radio Mi Amigo. It's interesting to go aboard for a look round.

The Pound

Fishing boat coming home

I’ve seen lots of young gulls this year. I think they are incredibly cute!

And I think there are pigeons nesting under the Ha’penny pier ticket office. I imagine they like their waterside homes.

Pigeons under the ticket office

It’s a lovely little building. Whenever I look at it, I imagine ladies and gents of old getting their tickets and waiting to board the paddle steamers. If you’d like to see a photo of it in those far off days, there is one here.

Former ticket office

I made the decision to take time off from writing while I had the children and I’m going to do the same when my two granddaughters from away come to stay as from next week. They’ll be here the following week too which is going to be hard for the four going back to school, but on the bright side it’ll be much quieter when we go out and about with all the schools back in business. The parks are going to be a lot less busy!

Not that I want to think about them all going back to school. I have never liked the summer holidays coming to an end.

I’ve never had such a long break from writing before though (probably the reason behind my waffly blog posts).

It’s been a lovely summer – all those things I had lined up to do on rainy days were never needed - but I’m certainly not going to complain about that and there’s always half term to look forward to.