One thing or another

Quite a busy day was Monday. I took my early morning walk in the cool morning air, so cool I had to wear warm clothing but at five-thirty it was always going to be cool. The eighth day of April and the day looked very promising. After breakfast I spent a little time online before putting on my work wear to paint the garage door. With it being a gloss paint it would take hours to dry so the earlier I did it the better. When the door is fully closed it doesn’t make contact with the brick wall because I fitted spacers behind the door frame when installing it. There were however two bricks which were protruding very slightly which I had to dress with a chisel. I chose the mahogany colour as I said I would…

I also painted the concrete beam as I said I might do. The inside face of the door was left unpainted as I explained in yesterday’s post it didn’t need painting. When the door is fully opened I now have the complete width between the bricks to get the mower out with plenty of space either side. My next task was to get out of my overalls and drive off to the garden centre for I wanted to purchase some heather plants. I bought fourteen of them but on reflection I think I should have bought a couple more. I could always go again if necessary. On Saturday I was pottering about the garden later in the day and I removed the large overgrown and unkempt lavender shrub we had in the west wall border. When it was first planted it was small and compact but I didn’t realise it would grow much bigger though I should have pruned it back. I wanted to remove it anyway and replace it with heather which is why I planted them today, that is the same Monday as I write. They are small but will grow to around a half-metre in height and width. Hopefully they will fill the spaces in the border more effectively.

You may not be able to see them all but there are nine of them in this flowerbed. One is hidden behind the green foliage bottom left and two are further along out of sight. Another is in The Mound facing them on the right of the path and out of sight whilst the remaining four are also in The Mound out of sight. I will probably take pictures later when they all fill out. Once I had all fourteen bedded with bone meal and watered I gave the whole garden a good soaking too. It was a lovely sunny day throughout and I took advantage of it by relaxing on the patio for an hour or so but by then it was already three o’clock.

Earlier in the day I had received a letter from HM Revenue and Customs. It was a (short form) tax return for 2018/2019. As I have been retired for two years and my final return was 2016/2017 I should not have received it but with everything the tax office sends it has to be processed one way or another in case of incurred penalties. The form does say on it that if you don’t need to fill out a return then contact them. First of all I went online to make sure I was not required to fill in a return. That went well and confirmed what I had thought but how to tell them that? Option one do it online, option two telephone them, option three write them a letter. Well I tried option one and got nowhere. In frustration I opted to phone them. A complete waste of time. They have an automated response which uses AI (artificial intelligence). It is essentially voice recognition and you are asked to tell the machine what you are attempting to do. It just didn’t work though I tried several times. In the end the machine disconnected! So now it was old faithful, snail mail. I wrote them a letter ensuring all my details and concerns were listed. Sometimes the old ways are best.

Shirley Anne

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Settled? Unsettled?

Foul weather

We have crazy weather patterns here in the UK and even from county to county there can be huge differences in our weather patterns. For such a small island, and we are a small island compared to many others, we have such weird weather at times. Yesterday I was writing about mowing the lawn whilst the weather was favourable, and it had been so it was fortunate that I did because today it has been raining continuously and apparently will do throughout Sunday too. Monday through to Wednesday looks like we’ll be having a dry spell once again. That being the case I hope to be able to pour more concrete and finish the base layer of the ramp alteration project. You will remember that initially it would happen in two or maybe three stages but since saying that the goalposts have been moved and it will take a few more stages to complete. The reason for that is because I am extending the ramp further than I originally intended. Even with what has been accomplished so far we are finding the mower can now be pushed in and out of the garage with relative ease and that will only improve when the work is finished. I have been waiting for the weather to settle down for a few days to give me time to make more progress. Some things can get done despite the weather but certain tasks are simply impossible to work at if the weather is foul. One good thing about not being able to work for me is that I get the time to exercise more on our gym equipment and that is something I have been doing more of lately. I am keen nevertheless to carry on with the work in hand so roll on Monday!

Shirley Anne

Bit of a tussle

It is Monday 18 th Feb. The weather is in a bit of a tussle at the moment hovering between nice and warm and cold and windy. Despite that we are told to expect a warmer week. As far as I can make out the worst of the weather is behind us as we approach Spring. Well all I can say is wait and see. I am more concerned about any frost we may still get and by that I mean a hard frost lasting days. Why is that I hear you ask? Well after lunch today it became rather warm and sunny so I made the decision to remove the frost protection I had provided for the more susceptible plants we have in the garden namely the Phoenix Canariensis (palms). Last year they took a battering from the easterly winds which brought about a severe frost. We seem to have been fortunate this year and the weather has even been unduly warm. So off I went into the garden and guess what happened? The sun went in and the wind picked up and it became much cooler. No matter it was just cool and not freezing! After I had returned indoors say half an hour later the sun re-emerged the sky went blue and everywhere warmed up again. Just typical of my ‘good’ fortune. One of the bags in which the pebbles had been delivered came in very useful for storing the pieces of bubble-wrap I had used to protect the plants. They can be used again though I did purchase a large roll of bubble-wrap which would last for years.

Hopefully there will be no hard frost in the remaining weeks of Winter. This morning I had taken a longer walk than I had done for months and walked southward to Ainsdale taking the coastal road. I wasn’t that warm even though there was a south to south-westerly breeze. I walked down to the beach there, lovely at any time of year. The tide was just turning as I arrived and was beginning to recede but was still high upon the beach. I didn’t stop there too long because of the wind exposure and turned toward the dunes to make my way back home. It was the first time this year I had taken that route. There was far more shelter from the wind in the dunes though the line of trees and undergrowth on my left afforded the most protection. To my right were the main part of the dunes the other side of which lies the coastal road. By this time the sun had appeared and was warming by back from the right. I met a couple of people walking their dogs and one or two others out jogging. Finally I was back home and having an early lunch as I had skipped breakfast but feeling well and invigorated.

Shirley Anne

Them Thar Hills

I took to the road for the first time in a while on Saturday morning. By road I mean on foot. I haven’t been at my best lately and was in need of rest. It was such a beautiful day though quite cold in the gentle breeze or out of the sunshine where frost and frozen rain still clung to the ground. Down to the sea front only a half-mile from my door is usually my preferred route and about half-way to the shore I came across a guy locking up the building site there. I add that the picture shown is not of that site.

There is another building site a mere hundred metres or so further along but that hasn’t progressed as far as yet. The first site houses a new apartment block aimed at the older retired generation. The first thing I noticed was the absence of the tall crane that had stood there for more than twelve months. I asked the guy when it was that they took it down and he told me two weeks ago. Well I hadn’t been that way for two weeks so hadn’t noticed. We chatted a minute or two and he told me he would show me around inside when the internal work had finished. I thanked him and we parted. If I get the chance I will take him up on that invitation. I continued my walk passing the other building site which had closed for the weekend. This building is much larger and spread out. It will be a new ‘village’ for the elderly and retired though the apartments will be rented rather than owned. It will house shops, hair salons, medical access and all the things a small village would have but all under the one roof. The complex will be managed by employees of the organisation who will own it. I carried along and walked to the shore. Looking across the bay to the town of Blackpool and beyond to its left the mountains of The Lake District could easily be seen covered as they were with snow. Further to the right of Blackpool some of the hills along the Pennine Chain could also be seen covered with snow. Fortunately around Southport there wasn’t any snow. As I had arisen rather later than usual I had missed breakfast so on my return I sat and ate lunch instead. It was twelve-thirty.

Shirley Anne

A better day

I was wondering if and when my muscular problem would improve and hopefully disappear for good. When I arose on Tuesday morning it was still with me but a short time later after my prayer session (I have one every morning) everything changed – no pain whatsoever and it stayed that way throughout the day. An answer to prayer? I think so, though I know not everyone will agree. The day itself was wet, and cold as expected but that didn’t matter, I was staying indoors anyway. I wasn’t about to replace my lost aches and pains with a bout of cold! With not being so active lately I was inclined to stay that way I decided to remain that way for a few more days. Maybe at the weekend I would venture out on a walk once more. I value my health and like to stay fit as far as I am able so it is important to me that I get back into an exercise regime as soon as I can.

This time next month I hope to be able to report a healthier me, not that I am not healthy right now but it does feel that way for me.

As we get older it becomes more necessary and important to stay healthy if we are to live out the rest of our lives feeling the best we can. That is true for people of all ages and not just for older folk. I’ve not been totally inactive though, I have spent a little time out in the garden pulling out bluebells and montbretia as they appear. I mentioned a couple of years ago whilst digging out the many hundreds of them from our flowerbeds that it would take time to be rid of them totally.

Shirley Anne

Warm

Again I was tired when I went to bed yet found it difficult to nod off to sleep. Finally I did of course but ended up only getting five hours. That in itself was never a problem before as I had been very used to having only four and a half hours of sleep for a number of years. However on Friday morning when the alarm woke me at two I lay in bed for another hour! Now that was unusual for I normally get up straight away. I still felt tired and was about to go for my early morning walk. Despite it being an hour behind my normal routine I left the house only a half-hour later than I usually do. It was quite warm outside as I left the house and I could feel no wind at all. It was only as I reached the seafront later that I could feel a welcome breeze for by that time I was feeling too warm having walked briskly the whole way. By the time I had reached home I had cut around ten minutes off my usual time for that particular route. 

My tiredness had disappeared and I now felt great. How long would that last I wondered? When working at something I never feel tired until I stop and then I sleep well but if I have nothing to do I get tired yet can’t get to sleep. At the moment I am doing very little work at home except routine stuff. My latest project cannot be completed until I receive the pebbles I ordered which will be weeks away. I will need to find something to do in the meantime but the weather is warm and I don’t feel like it. 

Shirley Anne

Getting used to it

Once upon a time I used to arise about two o’clock in the morning and go for a run before my working day which at that time began at five o’clock. Quite often I worked well into the afternoon too. That’s like fourteen hours or more of activity and I was no youngster either, in fact I was in my late fifties and early sixties and working full-time. I was used to the lifestyle so it was never a problem, in fact I looked forward to the early morning exercise and the work which followed. Now I am in my early seventies I still find it uplifting to go for early morning walks followed by some work at home. I spend some time on the gym equipment too a few times each week. So getting up early doesn’t bother me except that I have to adjust to different meal times. Lately I have been getting up at two o’clock, partly because I go to bed early and don’t sleep long and partly because I want to go for a walk and do some work, especially as it is much cooler at that time of day. Of course it is usually after four or four-thirty before I venture outside for my walk. As for the work, well some of it gets done earlier than that and some later. I have been cementing in the gaps in the gym floor in readiness for painting as there is no noise made when doing that kind of work. Who wants to use a hammer, a saw or a drill in the early hours unless they are far away from sleeping people? When there is no background noise every other noise seems amplified. The old saying ‘it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop’ is true indeed. I live in an old Victorian house that has creaking floorboards in one or two places. Going to the toilet in the middle of the night is difficult to do without making some noise. What little noise the boards make sounds much louder than it really is because it otherwise so quiet. I will be able to do the work in the cellar as early as I wish in the knowledge that I won’t be disturbing anyone. If I choose to paint the floor I will need the outside door open to ventilate the room. Even though I will be wearing the special filtering mask it is better the room is ventilated too but having a light on will only attract moths and other insects into the room. I will probably therefore leave the painting until after dawn. So far I have completed about a third of the floor (see picture above) which I hope to paint before moving to the next area. It is the area beyond the kneeling mat.

Shirley Anne

Cross with my trainer

I don’t know what it is but my trainer and I don’t seem to be getting along as we should. Despite efforts from myself nothing seems to be working right now. No, I am not talking about a personal trainer here for I think they are an unnecessary ‘extra’ for most people. Instruction is one thing but a little education regarding the use of exercise machines and how to keep fit in general serve much as good if not better. I am talking about my elliptical cross-trainer and how my body is reacting to my use of it. As with any equipment it is wise to follow the instructions and users guide to get the best out of it. It must be stated that any new exercise regime should be approached gently and any equipment used cautiously until we are used to them. Nice and easy at first and then building up gradually over a period of time will be of greater benefit and do less harm than if we rush into things. Naturally for those who are embarking on an exercise regime for the first time it is wise to get a health check beforehand. For myself, I have been exercising in one form or another for many years but still approach new things with caution. This has been the case with my cross-trainer. As for the treadmill, well I am well used to running so it isn’t a problem. The new exercise bike is also no problem as I have done much cycling in the past and still own a road bike. However, the cross-trainer and I don’t see eye to eye for sometimes after using it my upper leg muscles and buttocks suffer. I have always considered the type of exercise provided by the cross-trainer to be unnatural. It combines the exercises provided by a bicycle and a treadmill at the same time and even the ‘peddling’ action isn’t the same as a bicycle. So it needs a lot of getting used to and though I have had the machine for six months I still find on occasion my muscles object. Obviously it is down to myself to use it more wisely. Today, Tuesday, I went for a five-mile walk in the heat of the sunny morning. Tomorrow I will face the machine again and see if we cannot make up.

Shirley Anne

All change

I could sense the possibility of rain as I looked out through the window from my bed. It was Saturday morning (16 th) and five-thirty as I lay there contemplating the day ahead. I decided a walk was on the cards but I was hungry so I decided to wait until after breakfast this time. I had just finished breakfast and saw that fine rain was falling. I would need to take a raincoat if I was to brave the elements as they say. It wasn’t a warm morning at all, in fact it stayed pretty cool all day long. It was 16 deg C but it felt more like 10 or 11 in the breeze. I had put on my walking boots too thinking that lighter footwear was unsuitable for what seemed like a late Autumn day which as it turned out was a wise decision. The outward part of the walk was pleasant enough but I was glad I had put on the rainproof jacket for it kept me warm in the cooling breeze. I had reached the half-way stage when the rain began to pour down in earnest. It remained that way until I reached home when suddenly it stopped! As soon as I went indoors I realised just how cool it had been outside. There had been quite a number of women out running on the route I had taken and none seemed bothered about the driving rain. I knew how they must have felt having spent many a time doing the same thing years ago. I sometimes wish I could do it again but then realise how unnecessary it would be at my time in life. I get my exercising in other ways now not least of all taking a walk. It was Saturday and the afternoon was beckoning more activity. Did I succumb? I’ll let you guess.

Shirley Anne

To the woods

I’m sure you’ve heard this little rhyme

To the woods, to the woods
I’ll tell the vicar
I AM the vicar.
The vicars wife wouldn’t like it
The vicars wife’s not getting it!

Well enough of that bit of humour. As was my want I went to bed early on Thursday evening but for two reasons, one, I was tired (best excuse yet!) and two, I wanted to go for a long early morning walk before it got too warm. After a little something for breakfast I began my walk, this time heading south. This time I took the main road as it led me directly to my destination, the little township of Formby or rather the northern part of it called Freshfield. We lived in Freshfield from ’76 till ’88 before moving to Birkdale where we are now. The main route through from Birkdale to Formby took me first of all through Hillside and Ainsdale before continuing down the Formby by-pass where I turned off into Freshfield. Once in Freshfield I headed along the main route (Victoria Road) which took me into the Red Squirrel reserve, all now maintained by The National Trust.https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/formby/features/red-squirrels-at-formby They look after all the woodland along the coast hereabouts. It is somewhere I am completely familiar with having spent much time either walking through the woods or running through them. I particularly enjoyed running through the woods in the hours before dawn when it was just about light enough to see where I was going. I often came across a fox or two and almost always a few rabbits. The owls I could hear but couldn’t see. The woods are special places at dawn. I usually saw the squirrels when out walking but only if one or two where at ground level would I see them when out running. I am guessing the distance to be around six or seven miles by the time I had reached the reserve. I stopped for a short rest at a picnic area where I could sit down before then walking through to the beach a further half-mile away. I stayed on the beach for only a short time but walked northward for a quarter-mile before climbing up a steep sand dune to return to the woods. Two steps forward and one step back was the order of the day climbing that sandy slope! I was exhausted by the time I had reached the top but soon recovered as I made my way into the trees and onto a small path heading north. I walked what seemed an awfully long way until I reached a little sign indicating that it was a mile and a half to the place I had just been, Victoria Road or the squirrel reserve. I walked along not coming across any other people at all, just me and the sound of nature. In fact it was totally quiet and a little eerie most of the time. Suddenly I appeared at the end of the track and was standing on the main track which circles the area. That part of the track runs alongside the rail tracks running between Southport and Liverpool. Every twenty minutes a train or two passes by. I was feeling a little tired once more so I made my way to another picnic area for a snack and a drink. I gave myself twenty minutes before I was off again and heading for the coastal road which would take me back home to Birkdale about four miles away. I hadn’t been walking exceptionally fast getting to the woods and walking through them but along the coastal road I picked up the pace and walked the four miles briskly. It was around twelve-fifteen as I went in the house feeling a little tired and hot. I recovered after a drink and prepared lunch with E. After lunch we spent some time doing garden maintenance and I watered the rear garden again. If the woods were closer to home I would most probably spend more time there. In some ways I regret having moved away all those years ago but that’s life.

Shirley Anne