Monday, 28 October 2013

Big Storms

After the Big Storm forecast overnight and today (27/28 October 2013) I started to think about other big storms I had experienced.

The most scary was probably the 1987 Hurricane which hit around this time of year (a bit earlier I think).  We lived in Norwich then and were suddenly woken early morning by our open window being blown off its catch and crashing wide open!  Being woken like that was frightening and disorientating and initially we didn’t realise what had happened.  We did realise quite quickly when we heard the noise, first by the wind in the huge oak tree in our garden and then by the noise in the house.

Our big concern was the oak tree as if it came down it would be straight on to our roof!  Clothes dragged on quickly and ran downstairs.  Our cat had come in through the catflap with her hair standing on end but because the wind was rattling and clattering the chimney lining she was petrified and tried to rush out again.  I had to grab her as I thought she’d be safer with me than outside.  The wind was so strong by now that she could have been blown away.

I can’t remember how long it lasted but was probably only a few minutes and was so hard to believe what was going on.  When it stopped we took stock and thank goodness there was no damage – the sturdy oak tree had remained standing.  We debated whether to go in to work and decided to have a go, obviously cautiously.  One of my staff rang to ask if I could pick her up as she was scared to drive.  There were one or two trees down on the journey across Norwich but only about six people made it in to work – many of them being stuck in the countryside because of blocked roads.

The following spring, we were in awe, as we travelled south, to see the line of fallen trees through the forest around the Newmarket area.

The next memorable storm was in November 1993!  We were on our boat for the weekend and having moored at Womack Staithe and gone for a walk, we decided to go to Ranworth for the night. We moored side on to the left of the dinghy dyke and settled down for the night.  We woke to strong winds on the Sunday which gradually increased during the day to force 9/10 (that’s what it felt like anyway!).  There were one or two incidents on the moorings of ropes being broken, boats crashing together with broken windows etc and when one boat tried to leave the moorings, even on full engine power they couldn’t pull away!

Although we should have been home that night, ready for work the next day, we knew there was no way we would get off the moorings.  The waves across Malthouse Broad were so strong that the water was coming through our hopper windows!  All the extra fenders we could find were put out, ropes checked and adjusted and we settled down to sit it out.  We were prepared for some night navigation if the wind dropped but it didn’t, keeping us pinned to the quay all night – we didn’t get a lot of sleep!  At 5am we decided the conditions had improved enough to allow us to get off the mooring and in a carefully planned manoeuvre we managed to get away!  Phew!

It was with some anticipation that I waited for the storm to hit today and having heard from family in Kent that it had been horrendous, I was quite concerned.  The media were hyping it up of course, with trains being cancelled and advice on travelling being given.  Everything moveable in the garden was put in the garage, all windows securely shut and we waited!  And waited, and waited …. around 9 am the rain started lashing down and the tall trees started bending and I thought “here it comes” but by the time I’d got my camera set to video, it had gone!  I’m sure we were very lucky in south Norfolk as I understand there has been some damage in the rest of the county, but it did turn into a bit of a non event.  Thank goodness!!

Thursday, 12 September 2013

Traditional visit south

Well, it’s that time of year again, when we travel “south” for a couple of weeks on the beautiful southern rivers of the Norfolk Broads.  It’s becoming a bit of a tradition and we look forward to it.

We travel down one weekend and back two weekends’ later. This year the low tides were at slightly awkward times for us, being very early morning or early evening.  It meant either an early start or a shortened journey the other side of Breydon Water.  After some discussion, we opted for the early start but decided to travel halfway on the Friday evening, to leave at 04.45 to do the rest of the journey, aiming to go through Great Yarmouth around 06.30!!

We arrived at Lady Louise early Friday evening, in pouring rain and having loaded enough stuff for a siege, set off.  As we travelled down the River Bure, the rain cleared through and, although there were still large black clouds around, it became a reasonable evening.

Travelling at the maximum allowed speed limit we reached Stracey windmill just on dark and quickly moored up away from other boats so as not to disturb them with our early start.  Supper, a glass of wine and early to bed which meant, of course, that I couldn’t sleep!

I managed to doze for a couple of hours until the alarm on my mobile phone buzzed at 04.15 and we struggled out of bed.  First job was the kettle, then have a look outside but it was still very dark!  Checking every five minutes it started to get light but the skipper wasn’t confident enough to travel safely until about 05.15.  When we set off, the sound of birds singing in the reeds was amazing – I should have recorded it.

I have to admit we did break the speed limit a bit on the journey down – our concern is not travelling against the tide but the height under the poxy bridges at Great Yarmouth.  However, there was a lot of mud showing at the sides of the river and the tide was still running out so we felt fairly confident.  The first height board read 10ft and we needed 9ft 3ins so we went through with no worries and turned by the new yellow post to head across Breydon Water.

(Photo taken on a previous trip I did in August, with a friend)

The sun was just coming up behind us and silhouetted Gt Yarmouth with Breydon Bridge looking quite spectacular.  The trip across Breydon was magical, almost flat calm with the glorious morning light reflected in the clouds.  Only a couple of other boats were making the crossing, going the other way to us.  Brilliant!

The trip up the Yare went without incident – not a lot of wildlife, or other traffic, about at this time of the day but some interesting clouds.

We reached Reedham Bridge, checked the height marker, which stated 11ft 3 ins under the bridge.  We needed 10ft 6ins with the radar arch up so had no worries so you can imagine our surprise when the top of our anchor light grazed one of the bolts in the underside of the bridge.  I leapt out on deck and watched with bated breath as we cleared the remainder of the bridge without touching – not sure if we were lucky enough to go between the remainder of the bolts or whether the bridge ‘slopes’ a bit but the height board is not to be trusted!!  We’ll make sure everything is lowered for our return journey!

We arrived at Cantley around 09.00, feeling as if we had been up for hours (which we had!), moored up and had a leisurely cup of coffee and late breakfast.  It was sunny, but very windy and one or two brave sailing boats were out.

We tidied up the boat then relaxed, watching the river cruisers arrive for the Cecil Howard Memorial Race the next day.  Quite nice to have a race named after you I think.

About 6.30 we strolled down to the Reedcutter pub and met up with some friends for a drink and chat before having supper, which was very good!  I couldn’t keep my eyes open by about 9.00 o’clock so we walked back to Lady Lou and crashed out.

Waking next morning about 07.30 we looked out to see the morning mist just clearing and the sun coming up to greet another good day.

There was plenty of activity on the moorings with boat owners preparing their sails and generally chatting with friends.  Friends visited us and the kettle was kept boiling for a couple of hours, on and off.

Eventually sails started to be hauled up the masts and the first set of river cruisers got ready for the start.  There were five starts to this race with a good entry and we enjoyed seeing them crossing the start line and heading off up river.

After a while, we decided to set off ourselves and see if we could catch them up and after a gentle cruise in the sun we caught up with the tailenders nearing Brundall and Coldham Hall, the finishing point.  The wind had dropped by then so the last leg was a bit slow but they all made it to the pub for lunch.

We motored on to Surlingham Broad and dropped our mudweight amongst the other boats enjoying the day but after an hour or so had to close everything up as a thunderstorm came through!   Around 5.30 pm we set off for Trowse, where we had been allocated a mooring for the week and were met by another great sunset.

Can’t wait for next weekend – the Yare Navigation Race!

Monday, 17 June 2013

Lovely day for a walk!

I have been planning a riverside walk for next year's schedule for my walking group and decided to try it out on Saturday.
Having had some rain during the night and early morning I carefully listened to the forecast, studied the clouds and decided that 09.30 was a good starting time. Just in case I put a lightweight raincoat in my backpack and also a polythene bag for my camera.  Walking boots on and off I set.

The clouds made some interesting skies but nothing threatening.  I met a man walking his two beautiful alsatians and passed the time of day but no-one else was out and about.  They don't know what they're missing, I thought.

St Benet's Abbey ruins, with the base of the old mill appeared in the distance and I was enjoying the scenery.  A number of small brown birds were flitting about, singing loudly and I promised myself to try and identify them in future.  I was on the lookout for marsh harriers as I knew there was a nest on the other side of the river but no luck.
Reaching the main river, I turned right to follow its course and had gone about half a mile when my mobile rang.  Tempting not to answer but I did, only to hear the skipper saying "there is a huge thunderstorm with hail and heavy rain in Norwich".  Looking to the west I could see an enormous black cloud but it seemed to be moving slowly and I felt it could go south of where I was.  "Thanks for the warning" - and continued my walk.
I reached an old pumping station on the riverside which was where I had to turn inland, back towards the village.  The cows were still standing up and didn't appear to be concerned about possible rain so I confidently walked on, keeping a weather eye to the west.

When I glanced up after a few minutes, I suddenly realised the storm was heading straight for me!  What should I do?  The first thing was to put on my lightweight raincoat and wrap my entire backpack (camera included) in the plastic bag.
To walk on would be into the wind and all the rest of the rubbish but would complete the planned walk but to turn round and head back would probably mean I would miss the centre of the storm.  Being a wimp I turned back with thoughts of maybe getting into the lee of the pumping station to avoid the worst of it.

Walking fairly fast, trying to avoid potholes, I reached the pumping station only to realise it was fenced off!  The hail had started by then, stinging my face and the wind was ferocious.  All I could do was walk back along the riverside path until I found a large bush, where I stood, facing the river and the passing boats, hoping that the bush would give me slight protection.  By this time my trousers were soaked and sticking to my legs but my trusty lightweight raincoat (very old and never before used in anger!) seemed to be doing its job!  I got some strange looks from passing boats - luckily my raincoat is pink as if it had been black I think I would have looked a bit sinister, especially so close to St Benet's Abbey ruins.  Hmmm, maybe something for the future hahaha!!

I wasn't thinking along those lines at the time, concentrating on other things, hoping that the lightning wouldn't strike anywhere near and bracing myself for the thunder.  After what seemed hours, but in fact was only about 10 minutes, the rain eased off a bit so I started walking again only to find that my walking boots had filled with water which was squelching through my toes with every step!  Nothing I could do, just keep walking, wind and rain hitting me sideways but blue sky was getting steadily closer.
When the storm eventually passed, I rang the skipper to confirm I was ok and took a quick photo of the departing cloud.

This photo really doesn't show how ominous the cloud was when it was overhead but gives an idea of the size of the storm.
The plan now was to get back to the dry as soon as possible but I was mortified when a marsh harrier flew over me, low and leisurely, as if to say 'ha, you've put your camera away'.  #%$£&*!
Compensation came with a glorious sunset and the walk can wait for a calmer day.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Will I ever pirouette?

This is going to be a small moan I think - so I'll apologise before I start!

From an early age I can remember having problems with my left ankle, always turning or twisting it and it being painful for a day or so and then recovering.  I never thought about the future at that age, nor in my 30's, 40's and 50's when I continued to occasionally fall off a high heeled left shoe, with a wince of pain.

Well, it's come home to roost now!  For the last eight or so weeks I have been getting increasingly worse pain in my left ankle, in fact so bad two weeks' ago that I had to withdraw from my usual 5 mile ramble with the U3A group.

I think I knew what was wrong but needed to have it officially confirmed just to ensure that, by continuing to carry on as normal, I wasn't doing further damage.

After a bit of manipulation and painful prodding, the doctor confirmed that it was arthritis, which was what I had anticipated.  He offered me an x-ray but I didn't feel that there would be any advantage in knowing exactly which joint was affected and also bearing in mind the state of the NHS I felt that I should do my bit in saving costs.

In fact, when the doctor offered me a prescription for paracetamol (which appears to be the only relief) I said I would buy my own.  This led to a lecture from the doc on how cheap these drugs were and how I wouldn't be breaking the NHS if I accepted a few pills!  I have to admit to giving in and walked out of the Health Centre with 200 paracetamol!  

So far I have completed a 5.5 mile walk on Tuesday plus a 2 mile walk today with no further deterioration but I do feel a little depressed when I realise that this is how it's going to be from now on, probably with other joints beginning to go the same way.

The only bright thought is that in my 40's I was diagnosed with arthritis in my shoulder and couldn't raise my arm above said shoulder but I can now clap my hands above my head with the best of you!  How this happened I have no idea so perhaps in another 30 years I will be able to pirouette with the best of you!

Move on up there please.  Sheep seen on my village walk today.

Monday, 22 April 2013

The other car

How many people do you know who have broken two vehicles within four days?  None?
You do now!!

As my poorly car was still in hospital with no release date and I had to attend a meeting in Ludham (26.3 miles from door to door - why is Norfolk so big?) I looked at bus timetables as I had traveled this way before. It had been a fascinating journey, through all the villages and, sitting upstairs on the bus, being able to see over the hedges and into peoples' gardens.

I realised that things had changed and there was no longer one route for this journey, but I would have to take two buses, with a change in Wroxham, which was no problem except that the one from Norwich arrived at 9.18 and the one from Wroxham departed at 9.20.  Two minutes to find the bus I needed and what would happen if the first one was late - did they wait?  All seemed a bit dodgy to me, especially as the next one from Wroxham was 11.30, the time my meeting started!

This was when the skipper came to my rescue and suggested that if I rode into Norwich with him, I could then borrow his vehicle to go on to Ludham.  Great idea!

This was achieved smoothly and coming out of the meeting/bbq (Hunters Yard AGM) around 1.30 I confidently set off for Norwich to collect the skipper and then head over to Lady Louise for the weekend.  As I pulled away from a junction in Ludham there was a horrendous clanking from beneath the vehicle, but the noise almost immediately stopped. My first thought was that I'd run over something metal but could see nothing in the road and as I had traffic behind me couldn't stop suddenly.  I drove about 500 yards up the road, hearing the occasional 'clank and scrape' and pulled into a layby.  Getting down on hands and knees I could see that the front part of the exhaust system (the big oval bit) had broken away from the pipe and was dangling down on a flexible hose - not actually touching the ground but enough to cause the noise when I drove over a bump and setting up a swinging clank when I cornered.

My conversation with the skipper started "you're not going to believe this ...."  and he did find it difficult!

After explaining the problem to him, he thought that I could probably get back to Norwich but to call him again if it got much worse or anything fell off.  I drove no faster than 40 mph all the 20 odd miles and felt like one of those tractor drivers who hold up the traffic, with a stream of cars building up behind me.  I felt obliged to pull over two or three times to let the queue clear and was quite relieved when I reached the city traffic which was traveling around my speed.  I did attract the puzzled attention of pedestrians at the occasional series of clanks and scrapes .....

Luckily the skipper has a mate who owns a business SCA Performance Centre and he got one of his mechanics to patch up the system - thanks Alan, not many places who would be so obliging on a warm, sunny Saturday afternoon.

I was being picked up by a couple of friends on Sunday for coffee and a chat and kept my fingers crossed as we drove to Ranworth.  When I told them what had happened, they had to think hard about whether they drove me back to LL or left me to walk!

NB  A friend at the meeting told me that I wouldn't have had to change buses, as the bus just changed its number and continued on the route!!  Why didn't someone tell me earlier?

View from LL

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My car

My car ‘broke down’ today!  Well, I say broke down but it didn’t actually stop – it just started going slowly.  I was in a 40mpg limit but the car didn’t know that and even if it had, I wasn’t exceeding the speed limit.  I went down a gear and the car momentarily speeded up but then started going even slower, at which stage the adrenaline kicked in and I thought ‘I’ve got to get home’ which was only about half a mile away.  It was then I noticed the nasty little orange light on the instrument panel and a slight smell of burning and realised that I should probably be stopping very soon.

With traffic disappearing off into the distance in front of me and gaining very fast behind me, I had a sudden revelation … about 200 yards further on was Coopers Peugeot garage and although my car is a Fiat, there were a number of things which convinced me they were my salvation.  My car had been serviced and MOT’d there last year, I knew the owners well and best of all they were close!  I crept on to their forecourt, switched off and abandoned!

After being gently ribbed by lovely Diane, Ivan and son Ben for breaking my car, the mechanic plugged in his little box and pronounced an ignition coil had burned out.  Phew, not terminal then!

I left my car in their very capable hands and lovely Diane even gave me a lift home.  I am just so grateful that this didn’t happen on the by-pass!

Friday, 12 April 2013

Barking mad!

A programme on local radio today, discussing the annoyance of constantly barking dogs, reminded me of an incident which happened last year.

It was a Bank Holiday and we had been away for the weekend, returning on the Monday evening. Within a couple of minutes of arriving home, one of our neighbours knocked on the door to ask if we knew where the dog lived, which had been barking, whining and howling all dayAs we spoke, the next door neighbour to the dog owners came out and said that the owner had sent her a text earlier saying they were out all day and the dog was in the garden, with access to the conservatory.  Apparently she had had words with the dog owner before about the dog being distressed when on his own.

As things were getting a bit heated, with a lot of concern for the poor dog, I volunteered to talk to the owners when they returned.  I felt that as I hadn't been subjected to the noise all day I would perhaps have a different perspective on things.

The owners returned a while later but as it was then quite late, I decided to leave it until the next day.  I duly went and knocked on their front door, with no result - I couldn't even hear the dog barking.  I did this two or three times during the day; I believed they were at home as their car was in the drive.  By evening time I decided to telephone them - again two or three times over that evening and the next day, with no reply.

So I wrote them a letter, I quote a piece of it "I hope you won’t mind me writing this to you but I think it’s best that everyone is upfront and honest about these incidents, especially on a small estate like this; "

The entire letter was quite mild and, in my view, placatory.  I heard absolutely nothing for a week or so, not even the dog barking!  However, on a trip back from the local shop, I passed the neighbour walking the dog and spoke to him, as usual - 'morning, how are you'.  His response was to blank me, cross the road to the other side and carry on walking!!

I was very surprised and told him he was rude and then, as I continued walking home, became angry so knocked on his front door and when his wife appeared I asked what I had done to upset her husband.  She was obviously quite embarrassed and said she would speak to him.  I told her not to upset her neighbours as she might need them one day (I should add that her husband has heart problems and has been 'terminal' for about 11 years).

He hasn't spoken since, to any of the neighbours, but she waves to me from her car when we pass.  People are strange ......

BTW the dog disappeared for a while and when he came back didn't bark anymore, so I can only hope he had some anxiety training.   

Thursday, 4 April 2013

My shoes

My shoes won a prize this week!

I have had a pair of Cotton Traders suede slip-on shoes for a number of years and just happened to notice that they were offering a prize for one of their items "which had stood the test of time" so, on impulse, I snapped my old shoes and sent them the photo.

I was quite surprised to learn that my shoes had won and today I received a leather holdall and some "travel accessories" (a luggage weighing thingie, a suitcase locking thingie and one of those neck shaped blow up cushion thingies).

What a shame that I hardly ever travel anywhere, but I doubt Cotton Traders knew that. 

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Nut loaf

I made a nut loaf on Monday but because of a power cut that evening, I couldn't cook it until last night. Having eaten some of it for supper, my original view has been reinforced - nut loaf is rubbish!  How can that be, when the individual ingredients are all so good?
My loaf contained nuts (cashew), red lentils, red pepper, onion, leek, mushrooms, spelt breadcrumbs, egg and the appropriate seasoning - all good ingredients but when mixed together ended up being totally tasteless and bland!

The only redeeming feature was the tomato sauce!

Anyone got a good nut loaf recipe, as I do like the idea of it?

Friday, 8 March 2013


I heard some shocking news yesterday!  Our village Post Office/store is closing in early April!

The owners are retiring, although I find it hard to believe they are retirement age - they assure me they are over that age but .... hmmm, they don't look it.  They intend to incorporate the business portion of the bungalow into their own home, which is quite small at the moment and I would image will be pleased that people will no longer drive all over their front garden in their attempts to park as close as possible to the shop door!  I wish them all the best.

However, this is going to cause a complete change of life style for numerous people in the village, me included.  The daily visit to the shop for a newspaper will be gone, so I will have to find something else to get me out of the house for a walk every day - if I run out of anything, or have an impulse to bake a cake, there will no longer be a shop just round the corner to buy the butter, cream, jam, flour, cheese etc.  

The wonderful spelt bread which they collected from the bakery every weekend, and kept two loaves for me in their freezer if I was away, will be gone.  There will no longer be the possibility of a sneaky bottle of wine last thing before they close when I find we've run out and all our parcels will have to be taken a mile and a half down the road to the nearest Post Office.

There are a large number of very elderly people in the village (apart from me lol!) and quite a few disabled ones as well who have counted on the shop as a lifeline and quite probably people who only bought in this village because it had a shop.

During the snowy weather (still some more to come I understand) the shop was a lifeline and virtually sold out of everything.  Queues were coming out the door some days!

It is a sad moment for the village and will certainly affect a lot of people's lives.

On the positive side, there are some nice walks nearby, we live five minutes from a main bus route (buses in either direction every half hour) and perhaps I will subscribe to an on-line newspaper (save the trees!). 

What I, and I suspect everyone else, will miss is the camaraderie of the shop, chatting with the owners, meeting people - both those we know and new acquaintances and the feeling that the heart will be gone from the village.  

Maybe it's time to move .....

Monday, 14 January 2013

Christmas card audit

Cribbing an idea from Tim when I picked up the bag containing 2012 Christmas cards to dispose of them (recycling) I decided to do a quick audit of the subjects.  Here is the result:

SCENERY  -  10






BOATS  -  2


ROBINS  -  4
WORDS (e.g. “SNOW”)  -  1

I can't compare with last year as I didn't categorise them but please have another look next year to compare results (if I remember to do the audit).