Snow & Ice… But This Time Last Year…

More of the white stuff has fallen and is still falling this weekend.

It is bitterly cold outside – and in – as we are both confined to the one room warmed by the wood-burner. The rest of the house is cold on account of our ’emergency level’ of low oil. Unfortunately the long-suffering forgot to check the oil gauge as red light and pump sign flashed frantically on and off warning of dangerously low levels.


In his defence it is situated behind the door, not always visible, and this is our first whole winter in our house, nevertheless his shoulders are slumped as it is his job in our house to check these things.

A quick phone call to our supplier would not relieve the current situation for at least 10 – 14 days! The recent Beast from the East has meant delivery times have been extended to cope with the backlog. The present ‘mini beast from the East’ will no doubt have the potential to extend delivery times further still.

As I leave the comfort of the wood-burner and add some warm layers to make a hot cup of tea in our freezing kitchen, my mind drifts off to warmer climes……..

This time last year we had no such worries as we relaxed at the end of nearly two months away on a warm beach.

GROUNDS-11Thailand was the last leg of our indulgent long holiday after four weeks touring New Zealand in a Motorhome, followed by two weeks in Australia.

We stayed at The Shore Katathani resort for a two-week relax and unwind from an amazing adventure packed six weeks of travelling. Our villa – expertly researched by the long-suffering was a dream. Set into steep lush hillside with beautiful sea views and its very own private infinity pool he and I were not disappointed with his choice.


The steep walk up and down many steps/ramps gave us ample cardio in-between just lazing around and generally being waited on, and if the heat got too much and sweating man made an appearance we could always take the ever available golf buggy up instead. With high humidity outside and air-conditioning inside, drawing back the blinds in the morning revealed condensation covered glass doors out to the view. Luckily the Long-suffering duly obliged with his window cleaning skills!

Primarily Thailand was our down time however, we did do one all day excursion involving a ninety minute coach journey followed by a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

Maya Bay shoot location of the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo di Caprio was one of a few islands our tour guide took us to.

This island has recently been in the news, reported to be temporarily closing from June this year due to the extremely high visitor numbers – 5000 or more people a day.

From our experience last year, controlling visitor numbers can only be a good thing for the conservation of these beautiful islands and reefs.  Nothing prepares you for the sheer volume of people on what is promoted to be an idyllic beach. The posters depict it almost devoid of people and boats. The reality is anything but!

Brochure Picture………



There were quieter moments walking through the lush vegetation out to the lookout, a welcome retreat from the masses.

We also visited Monkey Island……

For our part we preferred to view the Macaques from the boat which was just as well as the shore was busy with other tour boats, although the monkeys from a distance seemed at ease with the attention!

Bamboo Island our first stop…….

and Ko Phi Phi Don………..


Sadly all the islands on our visit were just parking lots for the many boats lined up along the shores or bobbing in the water. I am sure in the non tourist times when the masses have left they would once again resemble the idyllic Islands the Brochures suggest!

An encroaching storm meant a rough and wet ride back to Phuket as we sped accross the water, even the plastic ponchos we were kindly supplied with were in danger of being ripped from us by the strong winds whipping around the open to the elements boat. Exhilarating to say the least!


Back in the vicinity of the wood-burner our time away from the british winter last year is but a distant, happy memory. Nevertheless spring is around even if it is currently under a blanket of snow!



Out from the Cloud!

This week I have been full of optimism once again at being able to continue my horticultural line of work. With a spring in my step and gentle warmth on my back I worked happily under the early spring sun reassuring me that a new growing season is just beginning. The gardens are full of promise as they wake up from their winter slumber.

Gone is the self-doubt and despair that winter always brings upon me as I tread carefully on slippery paths. Everything is heavier – soil, wheelbarrows and weed buckets. The cold and damp send my hip and leg into spasms. I lurch sideways as I over compensate for ‘being careful’. The dreaded limp becomes more pronounced and the familiar ache in my lower back groans with the extra effort of stability as I slip and slide. I question the logic of this labour intensive occupation!

I work less days in the winter now than before ‘The Accident’, such is my very real fear of damaging the good work my surgeon made putting me back together. I am lucky in that my regular clients are understanding, most have known me before and after. There is not so much to do, the gardens are for the most part winter dormant, nevertheless I still feel guilty every day I am at home.

Luckily some horticultural tasks can be achieved at the drawing board in the warmth of the dining room/office. A time to plan new gardens and borders.

In Winter my mood like the weather becomes unpredictable. Time alone becomes my friend and enemy in equal measure. I am either manic and ‘can do’ as I throw myself into new and put aside projects or the opposite as I head down into the pit of despair becoming despondent, reclusive and unable to concentrate or settle to anything productive.

A can do moment in January saw me enrolling on a beginners oil painting course. For the long-suffering any new hobby – there are many – give him welcome birthday present ideas and this year it was a floor-standing easel to assist me on another journey, this time as an artist!

The Kitchen has like the dining room become dual purpose, at least until the days are warmer when I will decamp out to the summer-house in the garden.

The class started with tonal studies, followed by gradually adding more colours. We have worked on portraiture, landscape and as now back to still life. Some are finished and some will need more work.

Efforts so far Portrait……

Still Life…….


I have even in past years been manic with knitting projects…………

In previous years for the Grandchildren at Mole Hall a blanket and toys!

This year a knitting project for a new grandchild due in June …….


My worry of retiring from a job I love is the catalyst for my despair days. Hours of on-line searching for a less strenuous way to earn a wage plunge me downwards and bitterness rears its ugly head once again.

But in the end gardening is all I want to do, still….. Gardening makes me happy, and is the one thing above any other that I feel confident at. This week my mood was instantly lifted I was outside surrounded by nature – birds, early insects, rabbit munching young shoots, hopping away as I arrived. The resident dog, dropping her ball on my trowel as I weeded, eyes excited, tail wagging, expectant for me to throw one more time. A different garden the resident cat sat on top of an arbour purring as he too enjoyed like me the warming sun, his eyes lazy, half-shut watched me as I toiled away below.

Moving out of the winter season will steadily see my hours increase as the mornings get lighter and the working day gets longer. There will be less time and inclination to spend on indoor pursuits, although I am determined this year to keep up with writing, painting and photography. But for now thoughts of changing what I do will become a distant memory – that is until the next winter when old doubts will rise again!


Snow days in Spring!

We are snowed in! Our rural village in a Valley makes driving conditions hazardous if not impossible madness. Luckily the long-suffering came home early from London on Wednesday evening his man-flu all the excuse he needed to beat the forecasters warnings of heavy snow.

This morning armed with a ruler he walked out the back door to measure the extent of the recent snowfall before diligently clearing the front path for me the resident hippie. The snow had drifted off the paving slabs last night and the ‘freezing rain’ had landed causing a skating rink effect. The long-suffering showed off his agility as he ice-danced his way to the gate. It turns out he had a depth of 16cm to clear.

Once the pathway was clear we both ventured out on foot to explore this winter wonderland while it lay still, pristine and relatively untouched except for the milkmans cart and a few tracks of hungry wildlife searching for food.


The ground beneath as our feet crashed and crunched down through the thick ice covering the powdery snow below, made for difficult walking. Our feet sinking with every step, we marched rather than walked. Every raise of our feet sent slivers of ice  skimming across the surface the smaller shards tinkling as they went.

Without the benefit of any sunshine, the grey skies and cold winds caused instant wind chill against any exposed skin although for the most part we had it covered. It was left to me to provide the sunshine and contrast against all this white and grey, as a marker/muse for the long-sufferings photographic hobby in my sunshine yellow coat.


and some from me….


Back home Whats App went into overdrive, the first photos – arriving from our son were quite alarming – ‘snow in the loft’ and required an immediate phone call to check all was well!

It was, apparently normal, for an Edwardian house exposed to the elements. My son and daughter-in-law still have a water tight roof just not under the eves if the wind is blowing the wrong way!

The next photos from the renamed family The House at Mole Hall……

formally at ‘The house of two halves’ was a more pleasant perusal. Grandchildren out playing in the deep snow!

IMG_2777IMG_2780IMG_2779IMG_2778The recent snow then, inconvenient for most, but great fun and free entertainment in the great outdoors!