Tales from Fraggle Towers

Now that the abominable 365 has ended over on the Universe blog, it’s time to re~open The Other Place and pop in with some thoughts and pictures.

January has been a fairly busy month, Phil had 2 weeks annual leave and has done house jobs in between playing his bass and starting a new big tank, not sure where he is going to put it when it’s finished.

Big Stug Little Stug

At the beginning of the month we bought a new mattress for our bed, it’s very high-tech compared to ye ol’ spring and bounce jobbies. Memory foam sort of stuff. We paid a bit extra to have our old one taken away when the new one was delivered, but that all went tits up and we ended up clambering over our old mattress for a week, no small feat as it is 6’6″ x 6′. After a couple of back and forths with the delivery company and a reply of not much use from the mattress company, Phil’s final email is a masterclass in getting things sorted out…

Allow me to explain the facts again. The mattress I purchased from you was scheduled by Route 1 to be delivered between 10.00 and 1300 on Saturday 15th of January. I had also paid for the option of having my old mattress collected. The driver turned up at 0900 which we were unprepared for (we were still abed πŸ™„!)but nevertheless we were able to take receipt of the mattress. However, the driver explained that as the truck was full of deliveries there was no room for the old mattress. It would seem the transport manager at Route 1 was more focused on profit and efficiency than sticking to the pre arranged agreement. Being sympathetic to the driver’s predicament, I agreed to his suggestion that as he would be travelling through my area upon his return from Scotland’ he would call back for the mattress and gave me his word he would return. He didn’t, not even a phone call to explain why. I am now left with a super king size mattress that I have to clamber over to enter the bedroom. Further to your above email that Route1 would come on Thursday, I have since received a generic delivery of goods email from them claiming the next delivery date is Saturday 22nd which I have declined, I have no wish to have another weekend ruined by their incompetence, and in the meantime have received no apology or explanation despite responding to their feedback page. I will attempt to contact them again but would appreciate you explaining my situation to them  directly.Thank you P A Hyslop.

They came on the Thursday 🀣.


Phil also decided it as time for a new kitchen tap (faucet USA folks!) as our old one was looking shoddy, so he purchased a new fangled jobby that has a hose and spray integral to the unit.. Our plumber couldn’t come for a couple of weeks so Phil decided he could save himself a few quid and do it himself. With me as his trusty labourer. Winnie was surprised!

Plumber Phil

So far we’ve had no leaks so a job well done and Β£60 saved on a proper plumber! Reee~zult!


I’m continuing to de-wax the ears of the nation, and last week our boss has gone and got herself a new puppy. Regular readers will remember her Billy, her lovely deaf spaniel who died a couple of Christmas’s ago. This time she’s gone for something called a Pomegranite or similar crossed with some other breed, I can’t remember which one. His name is Teddy.

Teddy on our office manager Lynn’s desk

He is very cute and funny, but he also chews things a lot and barks at clients, and his toiletting is a bit hit and miss as well. The Boss is going to Grand Canaria on holiday next week so the girl who works in the printers opposite our unit is taking him for the week, but as the printer also brings a dog to work, will leave him with Lynn and I during the day. That’s going to be fun. 😳


We’ve watched some movies and there are a couple I’ll recommend for anyone who likes true story spy movies.

First up is Mr.Jones.

In 1933, Gareth Jones is an ambitious young journalist who has gained some renown for his interview with Hitler. Thanks to his connections to Lloyd George the former British prime minister, he is able to get official permission to travel to the Soviet Union. Jones intends to try to interview Stalin and to find out more about the Soviet Union’s economic expansion and its apparently-successful 5 year development plan. Jones is restricted to Moscow but jumps his train and travels unofficially to Ukraine to discover evidence of the Holodomor (the devastating famine in Ukraine in which millions died) including empty villages, starving people, cannibalism and the enforced collection of grain. On his return to Britain, he struggles to get his story taken seriously.

The director is Agniezka Holland, and it stars James Norton, Vanessa Kirby and Peter Sarsgaard who are all top notch, as is the ciematography. Most excellent movie.

Then we did The Courier

Directed by Dominic Cooke and starring the ubiquitous Mr.Cumberbatch, Merab Ninidze, Jessie Buckley and Rachel Brosnahan it recounts the activities of British businessman Greville Wynne in helping MI6 with the penetration of the Soviet nuclear programme during the Cold War. Wynne couriered information from his Soviet source, Oleg Penkovsky (codenamed Ironbark), which provided crucial intelligence about Soviet nuclear capabilities and the cuban missile crises. Again, superb acting and faultless cinematography, another Most Excellent.

Both of these are on Amazon Prime, Mr.Jones is free, you have to rent The Courier but it’s under a fiver and very well worth it.


Last weekend we had our pals Paul and Lorraine over for the first time since lockdown 1. We used to have each other over to dinner quite often before the plague so it was good to get together as if everything was normal. I cooked a chinese feast which went down well and everyone had too much to drink but we had a good time and will look forward to our next happeniing.

Paul and Lorraine

WInnie has been a constant source of amusement. Does anyone remember the Andrex Puppy?

Designed by Winnie.

I’s been quite cold of late and she has found a new way to warm up after she’s been out and prior to having a snooze.

Hot botty.

She hasn’t caught any birds of late (that we know about) however, I heard a cafuffle in the garden one day which sounded like an unhappy animal and when I went out to look, saw Winnie coming back across next doors fence and on our conservatory roof, and this..

She must have chased him but there’s no-way she can climb that high. At least I don’t think she can! He stayed there a good 1/2 hour and I kept her in until he turned round and scarpered.


Finally, we’ve had some cracking sunrises and sunsets this month, so I’ll say ta ta for now, and leave you with some spectaclier skies!

Not the 365 ~ Storm Arwen

Arwen was a beautiful elf lady who was in love with Aragorn in Lord of The Rings by J.R.R.TOLKEIN (for heavens sakes NOT G.R.R.Martin you complete numpty Fraggle!) On 27th November Arwen was a storm, with winds hitting 90-100mph up in Northumberland and not much less than that a bit further down here in Tyneside. Scotland and the North East were hit the worst, but most places had it pretty bad. Lots of homes still without electricity, 8 days later, and you can’t book a roofer for weeks at the minute. We did OK, lost a few branches from the jasmin plant, one of the hedgehog’s water dishes is M.I.A presumed dead, and we gained a grey plastic lid of indeterminate origin. The lady in the corner shop told me it was like the Wizard of Oz movie in her garden as first the roof and then the sides of her garden shed went flying through the air, followed by it’s contents. She did hand movements and everything, and she was laughing as she did so. People are resilient here.

I’ve seen a couple of trees uprooted on my way to work since the storm, one ripped up the pavement (sidewalk) and was leaning against the house it had been in front of, it’s naked branches holding on to the roof, but I couldn’t see any damage to the roof at least, the tree though. So nothing hugely bad, and nothing in the same league as Hurricane This, That or The Other in America.

Today Sophie and I went off to Chillingham Castle, and as it happens it was closed, but on the walk to the car park to the castle we were astonished at the carnage that Arwen has wreaked upon the ancient trees in the grounds. Blocked pathways where bits of woodland walk have collected debris, a tree completely blocking one of the entrances to the grounds. No-one died, the castle is fine, no-one lost their home, but it saddened me so that these trees that have been there for hundreds of years, will no longer reach for the sky.

Not the 365 ~ movies, cats, stuff.

Another catch up post, as it’s been a couple of weeks or so since the last one. First let me tell you about the movies we’ve watched of late.

On Netflix ~Black Hawk Down (2001) Ridley Scott has to be my favourite director and it’s easy to see why in this movie. Based on the real life event of the US Army raid on Mogadishu in 1993, it stars Josh Hartnett, Ewan McGregor, Eric Bana, Sam Shepard, Tom Hardy and Tom Sizemore. Delta Force, the 75th Rangers and the 160th SAOR (Night Stalkers) get into terrible trouble when one of their helicopters is brought down in the middle of Mogadishu. It’s ‘on the edge of your seat’ stuff and a part of history I knew nothing about.

Fraggle rating~ bloody brilliant. )Also Josh Hartnett, he’s so cool 😍).

Next up and also on Netflix is the fantastic Ed Harris in Kodachrome (2017) directed by Mark Raso and also starring Jason Sudeikis and Elizabeth Olson showing her acting chops when breaking away from the Marvel franchise. It’s a road trip sort of movie and deals with the failed Father/son relationship. Ed Harris is the irrascible Father dying of cancer, and he asks his son Ben (Sudeikis) to drive him to Dwayne’s Photo lab in Kansas as it’s the last shop able to develop rolls of Kodachrome, and Dad has 4 old rolls he has to get developed before the shop stops doing it. Olson plays his put-upon nurse. It’s all a bit predictable, I’d guessed what was on the rolls of film 5 minutes into the movie, though you don’t find out why they’re so important until the end, but Ed Harris, I’d watch him act the telephone book and he is SO good in this. Nice cameo performances from Bruce Greenwood and Wendy Crewson as Dad’s brother and wife who brought Ben up.

Fraggle rating: Excellent for Ed Harris fans, good enough for anyone else who wants a nice looking American road trip movie with smiles and pathos, good acting and a well cool car.

Phil dug out his old DVD of Stigmata (1999) directed by Rupert Wainright and starring Gabriel Byrne, Patricia Arquette and Jonathon Price. It’s a supernatural horror film about an atheist hairdresser (Arquette) who gets given a Rosary once owned by a dead Italian priest who was afflicted with stigmata. Somehow the Rosary has the same effect on Arquette and we get to see her beaten and bloodied by something invisible, all stigmata marks. She also has flashbacks of Jesus getting the same wounds she receives. Bryne plays a Catholic priest & scientist who investigates miracles and the like, and is sent to see her. At first sceptical he comes to see that it’s all happening for real and has to find out how to stop it before Arquette dies. It’s all to do with a lost gospel written by Jesus himself, that the Catholic church don’t want people to know about, as Jesus writes there’s no need for church buildings and preachy priests etc as God is within you and everywhere. Some nifty special effects in this without CGI so kudos to them for that. Byrne and Arquette have a good chemistry but the plot really is a bit daft. (Says she who loves Marvel movies πŸ™„ ) I should imagine it naffed off a lot of Catholics but it did really well at the box office, not so much with critics.

Fraggle Rating: Not so good for Catholics. Not so good for horror afficionado’s as it’s probably a bit tame by today’s gory standards. Good for horror-lightweights like me though.

Last and possibly least, Wild Horses (2015) written by, directed by and starring Robert Duvall. I found this when looking for Josh Hartnett movies and he is in it too, as is James Franco. I think this must have been a vanity project for Duvall. It’s a Western Crime movie and also stars his wife Luciana Duvall as a Texan Ranger investigating the 15 year old disappearance of a young man who was found by Duvall in bed with his youngest son (Franco). Hartnett plays his older brother, and Devon Abner as the eldest brother. Duvall’s character is the main suspect for offing the missing young lad, as he hates gay people. The gay issue is actually well addressed, and Franco makes his gay character just a normal guy, no camping it up.

Fraggle Rating: Apart from those wishing to ogle Mr.Hartnett, I can see no reason to recommend this one for anyone really, the script is hokey and the acting wooden in places, perhaps because he gave some parts to actual real people not actors. You need subtitles to understand Mr.Duvall’s mutterings, and the plot has more holes in it than a packet of Polo’s. There are a few scenes with the brothers and Duvall, collectively and individually where it’s really good to watch them play off each other, but they can’t save this from being a dud.

OK onto Books I have read.

I’ve just finished reading for the second time Child of The Morning by Pauline Gedge. Never mind your Cleopatra/Anthony/Caesar romp, this is about Hatshepsut, one of the first female Pharaoh’s and lived 3,500 years ago. Her life is equally fascinating as that of Cleopatra (who’s been done to death) if not more so, and deserves a great movie, but so far no-one has picked this up. Gedge’s writing is just beautiful, lyrical yet straightforward, and reading the book is like stepping back in time. The characters come to life in your head as you read it, and you can feel the breeze from the Nile. It’s impeccably researched and I highly recommended this for anyone who loves tales of ancient Egypt.

A short story from blogger Mae Clare called In Search of MacDoogal about a chap who sells his girlfrends favourite painting, and then has to retrieve it. This took me an hour to read, and I smiled or laughed all the way through it as he and his friend encounter much upheaval along the way. A fun read on a rainy afternoon.

Work and life go on much as normal. We’ve managed to visit Shelley and the kids last weekend and sat in the garden in a cold wind with a flask of coffee. It was nice to see them though, it had been quite a while.

Livvy egging it.

We still have Sophies cats, and still don’t know when Sophie will get back. They’ve been indoor cats up to now, but Winnie has been trying to escape, and has managed a couple of times. We’ve got her vaccinated now and so are allowing them out. We thought Vinnie wouldn’t be so bothered as he never seemed to be interested,but boy were we wrong! He loves it! He has a little patrol he does around the back garden, then down the side of the house to the front where he sniffs every plant and bush, then he comes in for a snack or a kip and then does it all again, all day long. Winnie is beside herself, climbing fences, on top of my shed, on top of next doors fence and shed, but she runs in every 30 minutes to make sure we are still here, and then goes out again. Everyone happy, and we can now have our doors and windows open when the weather gets warmer!

Prowler
Basking

Most of you who visit here also know my 365 is going on over at the Universe Blog and have seen the Blossom tree doing it’s thing and Lucy the visiting Hedgehog, so I’ll skip those but it has had me off on walks for photographs and Phil and I trotted over to the Nature reserve, and I went one day to the secret lake, so here are a few from our wanderings.

The Blackthorne blossom was in full bloom when I went over to the secret lake, lovely to walk through.

A procession of Blackthorn

Some of the route is lined with gorse bushes.

Gorse

Mr.Lonely at the secret lake, hope he finds a mate.

Mr.Lonely.

Phil has had to take time off work as he is having great problems with his eyes, possibly a flare up of his glaucoma, so we went out for a walk to the nature reserve to get him out for some excercise.

The male ducks were all chasing the lady ducks at the pond, and this lady was not in the mood. Well maybe she was but playing hard to get! 😊

the chase

Two swans live on the reserve and have swanlets every year, I think Mr. Lonely must be last years offspring. Lady Swan was hidden in her nest, could only just see her, but Lord Swan was patrolling the perimeter and keeping an eye on her.

On Patrol

When we got home my little 500 looked so cute next to the Happy Eater tree.

Minty and tree

and lastly, this little long tail tit is a daily visitor the the H.E.Tree

Mr.L-of-the-T

So that’s my catch up for now. I’ll be back at some point .

Stay frosty people! 😊

The Corona Chronicles ~ 2

Well that’s my first week of isolation done, and no symptoms so my clients at work were presumably all clear, at least when they saw me. Phil of course is still going into work. Although there have been 3 C19 deaths at his hospital so far they haven’t had to use the Operating theatre staff, but they are wearing protective eyeware, plastic aprons and gloves to deal with the emergency operations they have to do. When he gets home he heads straight to the shower, puts all his clothes in a bag and they go straight in the washing machine. I open all the doors so he doesn’t have to touch the handles. Any shopping is disinfected and decanted into clean pots where necessary, and the kitchen surfaces disinfected afterwards. Bags all discarded, hands scrubbed with soap. I haven’t been out except once to the local shop and though we shoppers stood 2 meters apart, the corridors are thin and the lad filling the shelves brushed by everyone on his way, sigh.

Last week the nation stood outside their houses or leaned out of their windows and clapped and wooted and banged saucepans to applaud our NHS staff. When we heard it was going to happen Phil said he didn’t need people to clap for him, he needed the NHS to be better funded, have personal protection kit, and for people to stop voting for the Tory Bastards as he calls them. But when it kicked off and we could hear the amount of people on our estate who participated he was quite surprised, and a little chuffed I think. It IS nice to be appreciated.

Luckily we have had some sunny days, even though it was too cold to bask in it, and I turned my camera on now and then and took some photo’s. My blossom tree is shedding petals now in the wind and looks a bit bare, but it was lush when it reached full bloom and I sat and waited for the blutits to come so I could get a picture of one amongst the blossom.

bluetit and blossom

I turned the Helios loose on the tree too,

Last year I bought a Japanese maple which doesn’t like wind and as we had a surfeit of that last year it promptly died, or so I thought, but it appears to be working again so I thought I’d best catch it quick.

Resurrection

Mum’s plant is firing up, I can never remember the name of it, though someone tells me anytime I post a picture of it, it will always be just Mum’s plant in my head.

Just before the red leaves appear, it produces tiny bell shape flowers which the bees seem to love.

Bee bells.

There’s a lot of huge bees around this week, mostly getting trapped in our conservatory and having to be rescued and released. Maybe Queens looking for places to nest. I found one in our water barrel on it’s back, flapping it’s wings and buzzing for all the world like it was having an angry swimming session, I rescued that one too. πŸ™‚

The conservatory plant, another resurrection, is up and running with new leaves

Wait for me!!

and my Mothers Day flowers from Shelley and the kids are still going strong after 3 weeks.

Phil finished his labour-of-love tank last week, most of you have seen the work in process shots I’ve taken along the way last year. He photographs it against a white card backdrop which he tapes to the conservatory table and pegs up on the clothes drier. On Thursday he went to take his shots of the finished tank, and when he’d finished, cleared away the drier having forgotten the tank was still on the table. ‘Oops’ was not the word I and the rest of Gateshead heard as it shimmied off the paper and crashed to the floor.

He’s had to put it all back to rights of course, but was not a happy person for a few days while doing so. All done now though, and the little men in, I’ll get a shot of it when it’s sorted and on the base, (before he drops it hopefully πŸ˜€ :D)

At the weekend we had a video call with Phil’s son and daughter which lasted an hour. It’s a good way to keep in touch and just have a chat and a laugh.

I’ve decided to work on a couple of books of photos I’m planning on doing, and that will take some time to sort, so I’m definitely making the most of the lockdown, just got to decide what I’m going to do, I’m thinking of a book on the castles I’ve photographed for one, arty farty flowers for another, and maybe Newcastle, but I’m not sure which to choose first, if at all. I don’t suppose it matters, they’re only for me.

I am restricting my input of news, reading the paper each morning and hear the odd snippet on the radio, is bad enough and I may have to stop reading the paper and go straight to the crossword, as mostly it’s bad stuff and there’s nothing much I can do about it. Instead of the 6 o’clock news we watch Narcos on Netflix, before that it was Narcos Mexico so I’ve learned a lot about how not to run a drug cartel πŸ™‚ and am not adding Mexico or Columbia to my list of places to visit before I die. Though at this rate I won’t be visiting anywhere except the back garden and my shed.

I started doing excercises last week. Most of the country and lots of people in other countries have been doing the Joe Wicks live stream excercises on Youtube at 9am here. He started doing it for kids, but because he looks like a cross between Jon Snow, & Heathcliffe all the Mummy’s hearts went a-flutter and now everyone’s joining in and he’s getting famous. Yes he gets revenue from adverts on his channel but he’s donating 100% to the NHS so he’s nearly a saint now. I did his workout last Tuesday afternoon, and couldn’t walk without ouching for 3 days, sitting down and standing up was like a knife sticking in my bum, and I’ve just about recovered enough to sit on the sofa and watch him! πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€

https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=joe+wicks

So week 1 over, and as Phil is not at work today we are planning a walk into the greenery around where we live this afternoon, if the rain holds off, and I’ll take a camera with me. Hope all my pals who visit here are keeping well and sane,

stay frosty my friends!

Jan 25th ~ Tales from Fraggle Towers

Today was the beginning of the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) garden watch, where anyone and his dog is invited to sit in their garden, a park or outside space, and spend an hour exactly counting and registering the birds they see. You can join in or read about it HERE. Herds of people take part every year and it helps the RSPB monitor bird populations across the country. I of course sit and take part, camera to hand. I was a little excited as for the past three days a Greater Spotted Woodpecker has been visiting the Happy Eater tree, which was such a surprise as we’re quite suburban here, and I hoped he’d turn up again today.

I saw sparrows, blue tits, great tits, long tailed tits, blackbirds, collared doves, a woodpigeon, a robin and the beautiful woodpecker. Unfortunately the woodpecker has made a quick getaway everytime I lift the camera, but I did manage one shot of the back of him.

Bird watch day
Greater Spotted Woodpecker

Did anyone else get given a mountain of chocolates for Christmas? We were given loads from family (they know Phil is a chocoholic) a huge box of Lindts, and a tub of Hero’s, a client gave us all a little box of posh chocs each (still in the fridge) also my boss at work gets migraines if she eats chocolates so she gives all that she gets to Phil. This year his favourites were given to my boss by a hearing aid company, and they are still undergoing consumption.

The Wreath Box
yummy’s
more yummy’s

This winter has been quite mild so far, though the nights are cold we are not dropping much below 6 Β°C (42.8Β°F) but even so I think the Happy Eater tree is a bit keen, or is confused.

Too soon little flower.

Film Friday will resume soon, I’ve sent rolls off to be developed. I gave up on the instants as I’m also doing the 1 second a day video thingy again this year and it’s too much overlap to do both.

I’ve started another mosaic project, this time a jewelry or nik-nak box, which went quite well, until the grouting when it all went pear shaped. That does seem to be a thing with me, but it’s sortable, fingers crossed.

urk.

It’ll look nice in the next picture! πŸ˜€

Day 325~ it’s the big things…

It’s been a while since I focused my big lens on the Happy Eater tree, but now all the leaves are gone it’s easier to get some clearer shots of my little visitors. The branches still get in the way a bit, but I’m loathe to chop any off, can’t hurt a tree FFS, not even for photography πŸ™‚

SO I spent an hour this morning watching the comings and goings of the usual suspects, blue tits, great tits and sparrows, hoping something different might turn up. There was a fleeting visit from a coal tit, but I didn’t get a decent shot of him sadly. So this was going to be my shot of the day

Great Tit

but just as I was about to get up and make a cuppa a big splodge landed in the tree, I wasn’t sure what it was at first as I was looking through the viewfinder when it landed, but I shot off a few rounds and then stopped and had a look. I couldn’t believe it as I am pretty sure this is the local sparrow hawk. You might remember (probably not 🀣) I got this shot of it back on day 218

day 218

so I am cockahoopy about it landing so close in my tree and getting a few shots of it. It didn’t catch any of my little birds, they skedadled toot sweet, but it didn’t look bothered, sitting there being all magnificent. Wish it had been facing me instead of the other way, but you can’t have it all I guess!

Day 325 ~ Killer on the loose