Winter Snow Arrives

The first of the winter snow has arrived with a covering of several centimetres.

The middle tree on the right should have been removed by now but the weather has held the tree fellers up.

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End of November

The tree removal should have been done and dusted over a couple of days but it hasn’t gone quite to plan.

I was heading off to London for the weekend and by 9.30 the beech tree was virtually removed. It seems the guys had a piece of equipment failure when working on the Ash tree and they didn’t finish it. One week later and it still stands.

They left me with a very large pile of wood chip which after a few days it started to steam in the freezing weather. It had to be spread out along the paths so that it wasn’t in the way. It took me a couple of hours in total to move about 2 tonnes of chippings. It tidies up the area and gives it a fresh look. All I need to do now is split the logs into fire sized pieces then it can season ready for next winter.

A weekend with Richard and Nicola is always a good time. On the Saturday Helene and I met up with her daughters at St Pancras for lunch before heading into the West End to see a matinee performance of Hamnet, at the Garrick Theatre. It’s an interesting play, well performed as one would expect from a Royal Shakespeare production.

After the theatre we headed back on the tube to King’s Cross, Coal Drop Yard, for dinner at Lina Stores.

After a pleasant dinner we saw them onto the train at St Pancras before walking back to Islington.

On Sunday we made our annual pilgrimage to Wildlife Photographer of the Year at the Natural History Museum. It’s always fascinating to see the expertise and patience the photographers’ have. We finished the day with dinner at an Indian restaurant in Islington.

It’s that time of year when the seal pups at Donna Nook are at their peak. On a cold Wednesday morning we travelled to the coast. We were delighted with the number of seals and pups that were close by. This one was suckling on it’s mum. After an hour spent out in the freezing temperatures we headed for Louth where we had lunch at the Mason’s Arms.

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Mid November Catch Up

Mid month I managed to catch up with my college friends. It has been several months since we’ve all been together and we had a great time over lunch at Wentworth Woodhouse. We had a walk down the drive to the lakes where there was a photo opportunity in the bracing wind.

One night the neighbours and I went to see an Ed Sheeran tribute band at Bath Hall, Scunthorpe. As the set went on he got better. This might have been due to the choice of songs or he simply got into the right groove or we became used to his voice. He wasn’t a perfect match but very few tribute bands are but he was good.

At last I’ve had the turf laid which extends the grass along the drive to alongside the garage. It used to be overgrown with self set trees and any branches I was temporarily storing before chipping them.

It does extend the area that requires mowing but it will only add 5 minutes at most to the time it takes to mow the grass alongside the drive. A drop of rain will help clean it up. Next spring it should really start to look good.

I’m having more tree work done. I received planning permission to reduce the Ash at the back and prune the Willow in the corner that shades the greenhouse. There are a few logs from the Ash and a large pile of wood chip from the brush. More work to follow at the front.

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Website Update

I have made some changes to the website. My interest in photography has increased since joining the West Wolds u3a photography group. As a consequence, I’ve decided to set up a separate menu for photography from which you can see photos month by month. I hope it works for you.

This function has been temporarily suspended because the month graphics do not look consistent. This is a work in progress.

Click here to see the monthly selection page…

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Slow November

It has been a slow start to November with very little out of the ordinary taking place. I did manage to catch up with Richard and Nicola as they raced through Lincolnshire on the RAC Rally of the Tests.

I did try catching up with them again in Rothwell later in the afternoon but the rally schedule was out by an hour and by the time I arrived it was in time to see the last cars going through.

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October Photography

October’s themes were Derelict and a short (less than 10 seconds) video. There are the usual two personal favourites.

I’ve uploaded the video to YouTube and it can be found here…

I’m always looking for something different. The thinking behind the posterized image of a mannequin in a scrap yard is a depiction of a derelict and redundant human being in a dystopian future.

The local disused, derelict garage seemed more derelict once I’d removed the colour and gave it a highlighted edge effect.

My favourites are always a difficult choice and I nearly included this one but thought it might be personal to me and not interest other people.

It gives context in terms of the place and the weather we were experiencing at the beginning of October.

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Birthday Week

Firstly, many thanks to all of those who sent me good wishes on my birthday. 74 years old and still going strong(ish).

Once again Helene and I stayed at Rushton Hall and Spa for my Birthday. We had a special deal because last year the bedroom had a roof leak so we managed to get 50% off the price.

We swam in the lovely pool and made use of the steam room and sauna.

We drove over to Anglesey Abbey near Cambridge for the day. On the way, there were spots of rain but it turned out to be a wonderful day. The temperature got up to a balmy 180C and by the afternoon we were sitting outside in sunshine with tea and cake.

We ended the day with a wonderful dinner at Rushton Hall

A birthday present of a cute hedgehog tea cosy is really useful (amazing what you can find on Amazon). It manages to keep the tea warm and at the same time the handle doesn’t get too hot.

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First Week of October

Climate change is a reality! During the first week of October we experienced some beautiful warm sunny weather.

We needed to visit Louth to exchange a pair of shoes. It was sunny and warm so we searched the town for outside seating in the sun. The Mason Arms was the only place available. We had a delightful lunch. The coffee and food were both good so will happily visit again.

Mid week we visited Gainsborough to explore Gainsborough Old Hall. It’s in the care of English Heritage and our membership runs out at the end of the year so we are trying to visit as many local places as possible. It was a very wet day and being inside wasn’t a hardship. The building kept us interested for several hours. We had brunch in the café and mid afternoon tea with cake before heading home.

We managed to find the time to finish tidying up the log boxes. Over the last ten years, since they were first put together, the pallets have deteriorated and needed some sorting out. I used some of the wood from the old shed to give the boxes solid roofs which we then covered in a weatherproof membrane left over from the house. We also moved logs that had been left in several of the bins into one box. Hopefully there will be enough space for when the next Ash tree is felled in early November.

I was considering changing my Lumix G9 for a bridge camera to avoid changing lenses. It would cost over £700 to make the change however my good friend Gary suggested I buy a second hand Lumix camera and put my telephoto lens onto it. I would then have two cameras with fitted lenses. I don’t think I will buy new photographic equipment again.

The Lumix G6 in the photo cost me £120 and has most of the features of my G9. I intend to keep the 14-45 Zoom on the G9 and a 35 – 100 or 45 – 200 on the G6

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Electric Vehicle Experience

After eight months and 5,000 miles of driving an electric vehicle , I thought it was about time I did a review of the experience. It takes three elements to charge the car at home, as follows:

Firstly there’s the electricity supplier. I’m a customer of Octopus energy and they seem to be a very “switched on” (no apologies for the pun) company. It has been said they’re more of a software company than an energy company. They have developed customer software which they now license to other electricity companies and they aim to be innovative with their pricing structure (advert over). I use an App to monitor usage, bills, etc. They recommended the home car charger from Ohme. It isn’t the most popular but it works with Octopus to make a seamless connection.

Then there’s the Ohme charger. Seems simple enough. It’s best to manage this from the Ohme app which leaves a lot to be desired.

It certainly isn’t intuitive and might baffle some people who are not tech savvy. I do need to use it because whenever I plug the car in, for security reasons, the App requires my approval before it will make the connection.

And finally there’s the car. I can run the charging process from the car or use the Kia Connect App. Currently (another pun) I’m having a running battle with Kia because the App sometimes gives me an error saying I’ve accessed the car system too often. They don’t tell me how often is too often and I’m sure that shouldn’t be when it’s 7 am and it’s my first access of the day.

Kia tell me I need to delete all Apps that might be accessing the car other than their own. I’m assuming this is the Ohme charger but I need the Ohme App to approve the charging process. All of this is a long way from ideal and I suspect these different companies look at the problem from their point of view and not that of a customer. This whole process is a lot more complex than driving onto a petrol station forecourt, taking the petrol hose, sticking it in the car and pulling a lever for less than two minutes.

Bottom line – I really like the Kia as a car… it’s the charging process that needs to be worked on. And don’t get me started on charging when travelling. Every single charging service is different… different interface, different pricing and different reliability. I’ll do another review in January after it’s first service.

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September Photography

This month’s photography themes have been: Three from One (had to extract two images from the original) and In Bloom.

When I was at Southwell Workhouse there was an embroidery exhibition and this elaborate piece of work seemed to lend itself to being split so there was the whole piece and focused in on other areas.

In Bloom was a much easier subject and in some ways it was too easy and too obvious.

Choosing a favourite is always difficult. This month I selected three images from my visit to Grimsby Docks. My friend Brian posed for me at a photographer’s studio at the Docks so I took advantage.

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Music, History & Garden

I’ve been a fan of Crosby, Stills and Nash since I was at college over 50 years ago. Jane and I went to see them in Birmingham ten years ago and when the opportunity arose to see Graham Nash on tour I immediately booked a couple of tickets.

Helene and I stayed over in Nottingham with dinner at Mowgli before the concert.

It was an excellent gig and the band managed to recreate the harmonies of CS&N beautifully. Plenty of nostalgia for the old songs and some new tracks from his latest solo album.

Southwell Workhouse

On the way back from Nottingham we stopped at the Workhouse in Southwell. We had managed to wangle a couple of free National Trust tickets for entry so it was a cheap visit. Brunch in the café before a guided tour of the outside of the building followed by a wander around the different settings within the infirmary and workhouse itself. The building was used to house homeless families in its later history.

There was so much to see we were there for over 4 hours and had an enlightening visit.


At long last the Alicante tomatoes have started to ripen and like a lot of things in the garden I now have a glut of them.

To use some of them up before they go rotten I’ve made a tomato and basil soup and put bags of it into the freezer, ready for the winter months.

This patch of the garden by the side of the garage had become a dumping ground for bits of wood, including old fence posts. It was overgrown with ivy so for the past couple of weeks I’ve been clearing it, shredding all the twigs I had dumped there and taking the rotten wood to the tip.

A little bit more work and I shall get landscapers to turf the area to match the grass that runs alongside the drive.

It has only taken me ten years to reach this point but I suppose a garden is never finished.

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Grimsby Docks

As part of the National Heritage Open Day events, Grimsby Docks was opened to the public. I thought this was a golden opportunity to take some photographs. I picked up my photography friend Brian and headed north.

It was quite challenging to take a shot that had the “wow” factor so I decided to use some post processing in Photoshop to see if I can find something that pleased me. I consider this a work in progress.

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Aviator Hotel

We attended the funeral of a friend of Helene’s on Thursday. We decided to stay overnight at the Aviator Hotel at Sywell airport. We were pleasantly surprised at the smart Art Deco design throughout.

On Friday I helped Helene with some jobs in her house and garden.

Next time we need to stay near to Northampton this will be our first choice. It was reasonably priced, the dinner menu wasn’t extensive but was good enough and the breakfast was included.

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Gardening Update

Towards the end of the growing season I try to compile a list of lessons learned however it is more and more difficult to do this with any certainty because the weather is becoming unpredictable. This year we had a long spell of dry, warm weather in June followed by a wet and cool July into August then September has started with a very warm, dry spell. Plants and insects are confused, as am I.

The veg plot has had its winners and losers and much to learn for next year.

Firstly I need to change my online seed merchant. Several of the seeds I bought from Seekay were not as requested – beetroot wasn’t Boltardy and the cucumbers were a thick skinned outdoor variety. I’m researching where best to buy seeds for 2024 – currently Mr Fothergill’s is my favoured outlet.

Secondly I shouldn’t plant the runner beans near to the greenhouse because they shade it too much.

Other lessons for 2024 are as follows: spinach isn’t worth the effort; Lima beans grow but the pods don’t have any beans in them; grow climbing French beans (Cobra) rather than the dwarf variety; sow carrots straight into the ground rather than tubs and mix with coriander seeds to avoid carrot root fly; try tumbling tom tomatoes outside; check the variety of onions (Hercules) because my onion harvest gets worse year by year; and finally dig-in more compost.

The flower tubs dotted around the house are changed a few times a year to keep them fresh and looking attractive. I’m pleased with the way they look at the moment.

The corner plot is my garden nemesis because it rarely looks attractive however it is improving and with Helene’s help I’ve got on top of the weeds and started to move things around to fill the gaps.

It is an area shaded by the mature Ash, Horse Chestnut, Lime trees and the recently planted Alder. The trees also suck out the moisture from the soil.

All of the trees in my garden have TPOs (Tree protection order) which means I have to apply for planning permission before I can do anything to them. The Ash tree on the left and the Beech tree on the right have not been looking good for several years. The Beech is definitely diseased whereas the Ash doesn’t have enough leaves on it to sustain it.

I’ve now been granted permission to have them felled which is likely to take place at the end of October. I will have to replace them and will probably choose a couple of small Hornbeams.

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August into September

I’ve been keeping busy as usual and I have been joined for the last weeks of the month and into September by Helene. I’ve tried to take more photographs in readiness for the u3a photo group meeting – see below:

The themes were favourite, craftsmanship and fill the frame. To view the full photo click on the image.

A couple of weeks ago I stayed with my friends Gary and Caroline. We had a couple of great meals out and went on a walk in the Cotswold countryside. It seems we chose one of the hottest days of the summer for the walk so it was tough completing the 4.5 mile circuit.

It was a great few days and on my way home I collected Helene.

Steam Punk is a big event in the Lincoln calendar and despite having been several times, Helene and I went into the city on the Sunday morning to capture the weird and wonderful costumes. The question that hangs in the air is why do people feel the need to dress up in this way?

We had a good time and wondered the city until late afternoon.

There’s a particular walk that Helene and I enjoy along the Lincolnshire Wolds from Tealby to Walesby and back again. On a glorious, sunny day with a slight breeze it was perfect.

We had an evening picnic with Dave & Lucie before watching Romeo & Juliet in the grounds of Doddington Hall. It’s a lovely Elizabethan setting for an Elizabethan play. It was presented by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men – an all male cast just as it would have been in Shakespeare’s time.

It turned into a chilly evening but the rain held off.

Another excursion was to Brodsworth Hall and Gardens. The weather was kind to us. The house and gardens are very interesting. Although it only dates back to the Victorian period there was plenty to appreciate.

Every hedge and small tree, including the holly had been shaped which made everything feel very tidy (something I appreciate).

And finally for this posting… we went to see Wishbone Ash at Lincoln Drill Hall. The most irritating part was that it was supposed to start at 7.30pm but the band didn’t get on stage until 8.30.

They were on their 50th anniversary tour and only one of the members is of the original line up. Helene went to see them when she was 15. I was never a fan however the music took us back to a time when rock bands were loud and fast. The music was good and we came out with ears ringing.

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Walks and House Upgrades

The last two Sundays have been too windy for a cycle and so I have taken to walking, usually for an hour and whenever possible from the house. Linwood Warren is a Wildlife Trust reserve and usually I’m the only person there, unless I go with Helene.

It always feels good to be out in the countryside. On the way back from a circular walk the public footpath went through the middle of a field of barley. Brushing my hands through the tops felt delightful.

The guttering on the house has always struggled to cope with the volume of water and it would rush over the tops in certain places around the house. After several years of thinking about it I have at last bitten the bullet and, at great expense, had them all replaced with seamless, aluminium ones. Those on the house are 15 cm and the garage has 12 cm, both with much greater depth than the old Upvc ones. I have hadn’t any heavy rain yet but I hope it has sorted out the overflows.

Sometimes one doesn’t have to go any further than the front drive to find wildlife.

This young hedgehog was rooting around on the neighbours front lawn. It didn’t seem too bothered as I approached and knelt down in front of it to take the picture.

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Photography July Themes

This month’s u3a Photography themes were fashion and macro with the usual couple of favourites – I’ll leave it to you to sort out which is which. The one thing I did learn is that I’m not a fashion photographer and probably never will be.

The challenge for me isn’t the photographic technical issues but being creative in what is photographed. Below are my entries:

There are times when I’m driven not to be limited by the photography group themes. On an early Sunday morning I drove up to Linwood Warren for a wander round in the early morning sunshine. It was very peaceful and not a soul in sight. I was hoping to spot deer or fox but I was out of luck. I did see a wren with her youngsters. She was making quite a noise for such a little bird and I think she was trying to draw my attention away from her brood. They are so small and hide really well so impossible for me to photograph. It was good to watch them.

I did like the light on these dead trees. I thought they looked like two stags fighting with antlers going in al directions.

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Richard and Nicola were on a Classic car rally in Lincolnshire. At the end of the 3 day event they drove to me and Helene joined us staying for a couple of nights.

Several times a year I stay with them in London so it was a great opportunity to pay then back for their wonderful hosting.

Visiting Lincoln is always a good thing to do with visitors. The cathedral is majestic and dominates the skyline.

Apart from the revitalised city centre there’s also the Collection and Usher gallery to visit.

Unfortunately the café in the Collection has gone downhill and I would no longer recommend it to visitors. There are plenty of other places to eat.

We walked the castle walls, something I haven’t done for over 6 years. Jane and I volunteered in the castle and could walk the walls for free now it costs £10 per person. For visitors it does give great views of the cathedral and views across the city.

One of the jobs on my long list was to paint the workshop door. It was showing a few knocks and the wood seemed to be swelling in places.

Miraculously the original paint was still usable after nearly ten years.

I used to say the only thing worse than watching paint dry was putting it on in the first place. This wasn’t too bad a task.

I’m really enjoying my involvement with the u3a photography group. At the last meeting we persuaded some of the members to come along and act as fashion models. We had a good number of volunteers and they had fun dressing up and parading on the cat walk.

My friend Brian decided to get a candid shot of me.

A quick update on the vegetable garden: broad beans have been harvested and are in the freezer; green beans have been on the plate for a couple of weeks along with courgettes and a few runner beans; greenhouse cucumbers are looking good however the tomatoes have been slow and still not red.

The red cabbage and broccoli are coming along provided I can keep the butterflies off them.

The crops that haven’t done so well are the carrots and parsnips; onions and garlic are never great; spinach failed completely;

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General Chit Chat

It’s been a couple of weeks since I got back from Scotland and so it’s time for an update.

At long last I’ve managed to get back on my bike on a Sunday morning and get round one of my regular routes. It’s just over 10 miles and takes about 48 minutes, or at least it did this month. At the end of last year I was completing the same route in 45 minutes – there’s work to be done.

I spent the first week after Scotland getting back into my routines and usual events, such as my Monday, Tuesday, Friday visits to the gym; and tidying up the house and garden.

Last week Helene came to stay. We visited Lincoln to have lunch at Stokes café on the Lawns followed by a trip into the city for some shopping.

I don’t often get into Lincoln so it made a pleasant change.

We spent the rest of the week gardening, dinner with friends and curry night at the Gate of India.

We do like our food. Helene offered to make a steak pie and I couldn’t refuse. We enjoy cooking and manage to bring things together as a team without too much discussion or getting in each other’s way.

One of this month’s photography themes is macro photography. A lot of people will be taking photos of flowers but I had this idea of capturing the human eye close up. Helene volunteered to sit still and try not to blink.

I like the effect.

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We stayed in a small guest house about one mile from the city centre. After a short walk round the city centre on the Thursday evening we had an early dinner at a small Italian restaurant.

First thing on Friday morning we walked back into the city to visit the Banksy Exhibition at Glasgow Gallery of Modern Art. Our phones were locked away in pouches when we entered but a member of staff was taking pictures with a Polaroid type camera. The quality was appalling but I’ve managed to scan it and improve it a bit.

The exhibition was superb. Banksy makes fun of the establishment and uses his graffiti to highlight injustices and social issues. We enjoyed it very much.

When we came out of the art gallery it was pouring with rain. Thankfully we had booked an early lunch at the Willow Tea Rooms on Sauchiehall Street. The building and interior was designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh.

It has been looked after and although the interior furniture isn’t original it has been carefully maintained.

The lunchtime menu started at 11.30 am and we sat down at 11.27 however the waitress wasn’t going to give us the menu until it was time. Helene explained that by the time we had chosen it would be 11.30.

Despite this minor irritation lunchtime was wonderful and beautifully tranquil.

We didn’t savour going out into the rain but lunchtime came to an end and we had more to explore.

On a visit many years ago in a previous life I had a tour of Glasgow School of Art. Unfortunately there was a fire and during the restoration after the original fire there was yet another fire which was even more devastating.

The building is now wrapped in protective plastic.

With the rain gradually soaking into our very souls we walked on down to the Clyde to see Glasgow riverside.

On our grand (drenching) tour we came across many interesting buildings and paid a visit to a synagogue (closed) as well as the cathedral which sits high on a hill and has several levels, as the hill slopes away.

After walking nearly 11 miles and being on our feet since 9am we eventually sought sustenance in the form of a curry at Mowgli.

It was the perfect end to a busy, exhausting and memorable day.

The following morning we headed south, visiting this delightful building on the outskirts of Glasgow.

It used to be Templeton’s carpet factory but looked like a temple to some obscure religion.

The Porsche (parked left) performed really well on the 1,000 mile round trip. We stopped for lunch on the A66 at Cross Lanes Organic Farm Shop which I highly recommend if ever you are passing.

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