Thursday, 15 September 2011

The one that got away

Every day I drive north on the M1 to go to work. Around this time of year when the sun has just risen and we are in the golden hour there is one photo that I just cannot get!

It is not that I can't take it from a technical point; it is just that taking it would mean stopping illegally on the hard shoulder and, what with those Plastic Motorway Policemen driving up and down wasting fossil fuel, stopping would be inviting a big fine and points (maybe in today's police state; prison!)

The photo would be awesome though!

It is a farm field that has a gentle upwards and 'to the right' slope guiding the eye into the photo with a tree obeying the rule of thirds and a row of trees at the top of the field on the horizon that at certain times will either be perfectly silhouetted  or have gorgeous light streaming through them; lighting up the morning mist in the field....

It taunts me every day.

The one I want is better than this by a long-shot!

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Northumberland Holiday Diary- Day 7

Friday 26th August 2011

Final day today - booooo! Unbeknown to me, Anna changed the alarm time this morning from 0700 to 0730 - this left us with slightly less time to get breakfast, get the kids ready and pack up to meet Anna's sister at Berwick station. We arrived there just as the train was also arriving and picked her up. From there we went to Conundrum Farm which comprised a farm walk where you buy food and then feed the farm animals... Hmmm. That'd be a good little earner - I'll have to invest in a farm! a coffee shop and an indoor play area with about a dozen small pedal tractors for the kids to play on, a sand pit and a bouncy castle.

The walk lasted an hour and a half as it was punctuated with two children's play areas and a trout lake. Apparently there is an otter that is feasting on the trout! I wondered aloud what otter tasted like and got quite a few evil stares! - I'm now plainly a pariah in the borders area and will no longer be welcome there!

Lunch followed the walk and we sat on one of the picnic tables outside the farm complex. Post lunch, we took the kids into the indoor play area and they went wild for a couple of hours (well it seemed like a couple of hours...)

After looking around the shop and taking the time for a last-minute toiled break, we departed to head back to the cottage. Anna spent some time packing and I wrote this diary whilst Anna's sister played with the kids. The Girl had bought a knitting thing that had got four pins on it and apparently makes a tube... Whatever floats your boat!

I played the memory game with the Boy and comprehensively battered him - it'll do him good to lose every once in a while!

Following the game, I made dinner - Pizza for Anna, her sister and the kids and I had a Meatza

Anna's sister helped get the kids ready for bed and then I took her back to the station in Berwick before doing my packing - Only a 5.5 hour journey tomorrow to get to North Wales to see my parents for 6 days.

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Northumberland Holiday Diary - Day 6

Thursday 25th August 2011

I cannot believe that this holiday is nearly over - it feels like we only unpacked the car yesterday. I must say; we have had a fantastic time so far and with only a few drops of rain on the first day the weather has been faultless - to the point that I actually have a little sunburn... Darn!

We got up today and the Boy insisted that I make him some bacon and eggs - good lad! I duly obliged. Not only did he have the same amount as me but he then asked for a slice of toast - greedy little monkey! There were some grey clouds in the sky as we were packing up to go out so I put on some jeans and a black long-sleeved t-shirt fully expecting the weather forecast to be accurate - cool with a few sunny periods. There was a sunny period... It lasted all day!! Yup! Glorious sunshine all day.

As I mentioned yesterday, we planned to go to Ford and Etal which is an area of 2 small villages with things in them that it seems are relying on economies of scale and creating a 'tour' that, if you did all of it, would take about two days! In between these 2 villages is another tiny place called Heatherslaw which boasts a narrow-gauge railway that runs to Etal and a flour-mill that is driven by a large waterwheel. We arrived in Heatherslaw and had a look in the tourist office, a very small and friendly place, to see what we could do in the area. Following this, we decided to have lunch on the green, outside the mill - there was a sand-pit there that the kids enjoyed playing in whilst we sat in the sun / shade and enjoyed a more leisurely lunch.

When we had finished lunch, we packed the stuff in the car and walked over the bridge to the railway station, bought tickets and boarded the train - 25 minutes later we were in Etal - A lovely, quaint village with white buildings and a pub with a thatched roof. We stopped for an ice-cream and sat outside the village shop / post office / gift shop etc... After this we decided to go for a walk by the river. The Boy was whining that he was tired, which in fairness he probably is due to many late nights! - we really must get him to bed earlier - 2000 hrs is far too late for a 4 year old!

We walked for about a mile down the river and then turned round with the intention of getting the train back at 1530. We just made it with minutes to spare!

We went back to the car and then set off for Ford and in particular to a coffee shop named 'The Old Dairy' - It was a fascinating place; a tiny coffee shop with seating for about 8 people inside and about 8 more outside. There were lots of old out-buildings that would have compromised the milking shed and stables. The owners had clearly gone into the furniture restoration business and the barns were filled with 'old stuff' like fireplaces and fittings that wouldn't have looked out of place in a National Trust property! The stables had been converted into mini shops where local businesses had rented space to sell their wares - There were a few antique dealers there and a photography shop that the local photographer (I forget his name but his photography was inspiring...) all of his photographs were titled and there was a story behind each one! Whilst we were there, we had a coffee and the Girl had a glass of milk and the boy had an Apple juice! We must have stayed there for about an hour before leaving to go back to the cottage. I cooked dinner, chicken drumsticks and home-made chips with roast veggies.

I still cannot believe that tomorrow is the last day! Anna's sister is coming to see us tomorrow, from Edinburgh, and we are going to pick her up from Berwick station @ 1000 hrs! Early day!

Friday, 2 September 2011

Northumberland Holiday Diary - Day 5

Wednesday 24th August 2011

Woke up at just before 0700 and looked out of the window darn! - Grey cloud! Oh well, the nice Geordie bloke on the weather channel said that it was gonna be a nice day so off we went! Well, after we had had breakfast and got ready - Breakfast was a rather continental affair for Anna and the kids - croissants and jam. I had a 4 egg omelette with mature cheddar on it. Quite a filling breakfast!

After what seemed like an eternity, we were ready - People so underestimate how long it takes to get organised when there are two kids to take out - I have no idea how people with more kids do it - Mr Blick - I salute you! You truly are a hero in parenting!

We decided to go to the beach that the lady that Anna was talking to at the park recommended - Embleton or something like that. I programmed the sat-nav and set off. When Brian announced that we were at our destination, I realized that we weren't actually at the coast... Hmmm - let's do this the old-fashioned way - Map out and driiiiiive! We found the beach very easily - it was right by a golf course so I did what may be considered unsporting... I stood and watched amateur golfers tee-off from the first - Nothing like an audience to add to the nerves! hee hee!

The beach was awesome - lovely white sand and, after the tide had gone out about 5 meters, lovely shallow shelving water! Did I mention that the sun had come out by this point? It was a beautiful day and the only downside to it was the fact that there was quite a strong cool wind coming off the sea! - Still, I'm a real man and a little bit of wind will not stop me from having fun. We flew the kites until I realized that the wind was actually too strong for them (they were only small toy kites) and brought the one I was flying down before any damage was done! Anna wasn't quite as fortuitous and managed to get hers tangled beyond belief! I sat for a good half-hour trying to unravel it but to no avail! It was well and truly borked! In the end I decided to just cut the line and remove the humongous tangle that way! - the nuclear option!

Following the kite flying, Anna decided to get the kids an ice-cream so I stayed on the beach and read disclosure (another Michael Crichton) whilst the 3 of them wandered back to the golf 'whatever it is that golfists go to after a round.' I guess that they ate the ice-creams whilst walking back from the golf thingy because they returned empty-handed. I have decided that Michael Crichton is an excellent author but the people who make films out of them are idiots! - Disclosure is a fantastic book. The detail that he impinges on the page is breathtaking!

The sun decided to play hide-and-seek for a while after this and try as we might; we couldn't find him at all! Seeing Anna shivering (which apparently she had been all afternoon!!) made our mind up that we were going to dump all the gear at the car and go for a walk round the headland. We trudged back to the car past the golfists again and I uttered quite a loud ooooooooooooooh as one of them sliced his tee-shot horribly! I don't know why I hate golf as much as I do..... Wait a minute.. It is because I am crap at it! I can decapitate daisies all day long but as soon as someone puts a golf ball down I seem to develop a fear of it and somehow I must think that if I hit it; it's gonna retaliate and whack me back! Consequently I cannot hit golf balls!

We unloaded all our stuff into the boot and set off, a little lighter than earlier for our walk! - We must have walked for a good mile and a half before we rounded the headland and saw the next bay - We definitely chose the best beach today! On the way to the headland we walked over some sand that was really white and it squeaked as you walked over it - just like Whistling Sands in North Wales. When we turned round to go back, the Boy threw a major wobbly saying "I'm tired" After remonstrating with him for a while; I relented and gave him a shoulder-ride.... over the soft sand... My calves are killing me now! I suddenly realized that while I was carrying the boy;I had just gained all the weight I had lost on The Harcombe Diet. I have successfully kept this weight off now for 11 months and found it incredibly easy!

We got back to the car and drove back to the cottage. Apparently the chip van is coming to Lowick tonight and I've got some fish in the freezer so Anna and the Girl can have fish supper, the Boy can have sausage supper and I'll have haggis supper (I had a haggis in the fridge!) - Why does haggis have to be phase 3 cheat?! I love the stuff! Beef heart, lamb's lungs and liver with oats and spices! Delicious!

I have just had my haggis supper and I'm now replete! No wine left so I'm gonna have a sparkling water and then chill out and relax - How the heck can I have written 900 words about a trip to the beach!!??

Off to Ford and Etal tomorrow.. Whatever that is!