Friday, 26 August 2022


 Whilst I do say quite a lot on here about our lives and things that happen, it's only half the story.  There's a lot about my life that I don't talk about on here, or even to people I know in my life (my 'real' life as opposed to my online blog and blog friends).  It would be stupid and very naive of me to reveal absolutely everything to everyone, even more so on a public blog that could be read by anyone.  So you will have to accept that there are things I may allude to or hint at that I won't be elaborating on.  And sometimes my emotions get the upper hand and I might blurt out or touch on something that would be better kept quiet.  There are things going on in my life now that have become more and more of a problem over the past few weeks, it will unfortunately get worse, and there's very little I can do about it.  But I won't be giving details on here.  Being able to talk about things that worry me with someone who understands helps me a lot, even if there is nothing that anyone else can realistically do to help, other than provide a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on and a hug.  But it seems that's been cut off, things have been said on both sides that are probably insurmountable.

Following on from this, because of the things on my mind for the past weeks/months, I've taken my eye off the ball financially somewhat.  Having had a quick look at our bank accounts in the past few days, I've been worried to note that our outgoings are more than what we have coming in and, as a result, the remaining balance of the pension windfall money that husband had 18 months or so ago is dwindling quite fast.  The fact that prices of pretty much everything have risen so much lately, and this is ongoing, is a contributory factor.  So now I'm going to have to do a big revision of our accounts and spending, get a firm grip on the finances again, and see where we can make savings.  The caravan is non-negotiable as far as I'm concerned, it's my lifeline, I would feel (be) totally trapped if we didn't have it, and it's our only means of having a holiday.  The site fees are paid up until June next year, as is the van insurance, and I'm on track with my savings towards the following year's fees....actually, I'm about 3 months ahead with the savings, so that does give me a bit of leeway.  We are in credit with our electricity (there's no gas in our hamlet), oil for the central heating, and the water - we do have quite a bit of credit with the electricity, but that will be swallowed up with the big price cap increases.  And we're with Bulb, who went into administration a few months ago - they haven't yet folded, administrators are apparently looking for someone to take it over as a going concern and in the meantime, things are carrying on pretty much as normal with our Bulb accounts (we also have them for the caravan electricity supply).  But who knows what will happen in the future?  If they do fold and we're passed over to another energy supplier, it's a certainty that our monthly payments will skyrocket.

We are on fixed incomes - husband has the State pension and 3 small private pensions....the 3 of them together only amount to around a week's shopping.  I'm not State pension age for another 3.5 years, but I do have a monthly private pension which amounts to slightly more than husband's 3 private pensions.  Then we have husband's dwindling lump sum, a relatively small amount in premium bonds and my 2 savings accounts.  And that's it, we neither get nor are eligible for any benefits (I know that for a fact, I've checked).  I can't really get the financial side of things sorted whilst we're here at the van, my internet isn't good enough and paperwork etc is at home.

So there's the financial stuff to worry about, as well as the private stuff.  And this is all on my shoulders, husband, for various reasons, is unable to help.  I WILL get through all of this, I always do - I've had a hell of a lot to cope with in my life (and entirely on my own) since the age of 12.  

So I'm not going to apologise for being moany or snappy - we all cope in different ways, we're not all robots (or blameless!), and if people don't walk in my shoes or take the time to find out what's wrong, then they're in no position to criticise or be self-righteous.

Wednesday, 24 August 2022

Bargain plants for the garden

 Still muggy today, but not nearly as bad as yesterday, there have been a few showers and no sign of sun or blue sky today.  By lunchtime I was beginning to feel a bit cooped up and in need of some fresh air away from the park....much as I love it, I don't really want to be here inside the caravan 24/7, whereas husband would quite happily doze in front of the TV all day every day, unless it's hot and sunny, when he'd be flat out dozing in the garden recliner chair!  I know a lot of his sleepiness is to do with some of his heart meds, but he'd sleep his life away if I let him.

So I suggested going out for a drive, which he did grumble about a bit but agreed to.  We went first to a garden centre near Cheddar, at this time of year they have a big plant sale on, lots of plants at greatly reduced prices.  I got 6 plants for the (home) back garden beds, at full price they would have cost £65, in the sale I paid just £18 for all 6.  Two are tall flowering shrubs - a choisya (we have one already in the front garden, albeit a different variety) and one I've never heard of, Pavonia Praemorsa, an evergreen which has yellow hibiscus-type flowers.  There are two small to medium size grasses, and a couple of Ajugas - edging plants which have purplish foliage and blue flowers.  So that's a good start for the new flower beds.

We then went for a drive, basically doing a big circle, driving through some pretty villages and countryside.  Betty was sitting up in the back, taking in all the scenery too.  It was a nice couple of hours.

We're having a day out tomorrow, a beach day probably as the weather is forecast to be good.  Probably at Portishead, we've been there before, sea and promenade one side of the road, boating lake the other, wooded areas to walk the dog, open air pool (not that we'll be using it).  And it's free parking, which is a bit of a rarity for beach areas round here, being a tourist area.  

More van owners have arrived today, so the park is quite busy now - well, half full.  Getting ready for bank holiday weekend, no doubt.

Tuesday, 23 August 2022


After several days of practically perfect temperatures, today has been horrible - not blisteringly hot and sunny, quite cloudy in fact, but really sticky, humid and muggy.  I hate days like this (so does Betty actually), it leaves me feeling totally drained and unable to do anything.  Poor Betty has been lying in front of the fan most of the day (still is), she's drunk loads of water and moped around, but at least she's not panting anymore and seems more comfortable.  Whereas I feel like a limp wet rag.  Actually, Betty's just jumped up and run outside, doing her guard dog bit - she heard neighbour C folding up his recliner chairs.  So she's clearly feeling better.

Husband finished off the plumbing work in C & J's caravan this morning, they were very pleased.  We went to do a top up shop afterwards - inside the store it was quite cool, coming out of there when I'd done the shopping, the humidity hit me full on, it was like walking into a sauna.  I really hope it's not going to be like this tomorrow, it makes me feel quite ill.

I've finally ordered a new phone, having saved up for it, mine really is on its last legs.  I've had Motorolas for several years now, they're a good budget smartphone, easy to use and familiar for a technophobe like me, I just get an updated version every few years.  

I'm having an early night, this horrible sticky weather has done me in today.

Monday, 22 August 2022

Reading time

 Our lovely next door van neighbours, C & J, have a plumbing problem with their caravan.  As they are both elderly (C is 86, J is 77), although very fit and relatively healthy for their ages, husband has been helping them out - at 71 he's a spring chicken compared to them!  Yesterday afternoon he measured up in their van, made a list of things required, and took them off to the DIY store to get the necessaries.  He was supposed to go home last night, taking Betty with him and leaving me here, but as he'd been busy all afternoon and early evening with the neighbours, he decided to put off going until this morning.  He left at 07.30, got home at 08.15, did all he had to do (including going to the nurse for another toe check) and got back to the van by early afternoon.  Meanwhile, the gas man came here and serviced our van boiler - all was well, although he did find a small gas leak (outside the van, fortunately) which he easily rectified.

Husband then spent this afternoon in the neighbours' van, dismantling and rebuilding the plumbing bits.  He's not finished yet, some of the bits had to be glued and they'll need time to set, so he'll finish it off tomorrow morning.  So I've had a fair bit of time on my own the past couple of days - that's fine, I've got a really good book....well, it's a series of books by the author David Baldacci, thrillers with the same central character.  They're very good and I've spent loads of time just reading, drinking coffee, eating what I want, when I want (cheese and crackers with a bit of fruit, mainly) and just relaxing.

I'm hoping husband will finish the plumbing stuff by lunchtime tomorrow, as I do need to go and do a bit of shopping - husband brought some food items back from home, but despite me giving him a list, he did forget a few things (like milk!).  He did, however, bring back armfuls of garden produce again - mini cucumbers, loads of tomatoes, even bigger loads of runner beans, and courgettes - I'd thought they had finished, obviously not!  I've shared them out with neighbours again, far too much stuff for us to get through ourselves.

Joy, you asked if we'll grow tomatoes next year.  Honestly, I don't yet know.  Husband certainly has lost his enthusiasm for veg growing, I can't make him do something he doesn't want to (nor would I even attempt to) and I don't want to take on the veg growing myself - it would be just another job to add to the long list of things I already have to do.  However, we do eat a lot of veggies, and with prices going up all the time, growing anything edible at all would help.  But there's the problem of us not being at home half the time to water and look after things.  So I really don't know, I'll wait and see how things are next year.

And Chris - yes, the van certainly does feel like - no, is - home.  Partly I guess because we only rent our house, whereas we own the caravan.  And partly because I don't have the same responsibilities here at the van, or the amount of work, and I just love the lifestyle, surroundings, peacefulness and community spirit.  I'm certainly in no hurry to go home, we'll be here for another two weeks at least.

Saturday, 20 August 2022

Filling up and garden plans

 Over the last couple of days 8 or 9 other van owners, including our lovely neighbours C & J, have arrived, some of them with children or grandchildren, so the park is now bustling with activity again.  I expect another few may arrive today.  It's fine though, this is as busy as it gets, and when the weather is good (as it is now), lots of them, especially the ones with children, go out for the day.

We went home yesterday morning, I did a bit of washing on the quick programme and dried it in the tumble dryer, husband watered the garden and picked produce - loads of tomatoes, cucumber and runner beans.  We brought them back with us and have shared them with some of our van neighbours.  

Talking of the garden, I've been thinking about what to put in the vacated (well, they will be) raised veg beds for next year.  One of the beds has asparagus in it, we'll be keeping that (of course!).  There will be 10 raised beds of different sizes, 2 of which have fruit trees in them but plenty of space underneath the trees.  I think I'd like a rockery with succulent plants in one of the smaller beds, a larger bed filled with roses would be very nice, I do love roses.  Husband (well, and me) likes dahlias, they remind him of his father who grew prize dahlias, so a bed full of those would be nice too.....although we'd have to dig up the tubers to overwinter in the shed, as our back garden isn't particularly well sheltered and can get quite cold in the winter.  I might have a bed of ornamental grasses.  I'm doing a lot of googling and making lists of drought tolerant plants, perennials that will cope with cold and windy winters (our back garden gets a lot of wind coming off the Bristol channel), and perennials that need little attention.

Husband was exclaiming over the cost of filling all these beds with shrubs and plants - I have pointed out that we don't need to buy all the plants at once, it's possible to buy plants cheaply at boot sales, and stores often sell them off at greatly reduced prices at the end of the season.  There's a large garden centre not far from the park that has a big plant sale at the end of August, I bought some plants there last year for the shady bank at the back of the van, they're still going strong.

Thursday, 18 August 2022

Damn wasps, and staying indefinitely

 Somebody on one of the blogs I read (I forget which one) mentioned a lack of wasps the other day.....well, all I can say is, we've got all yours here at the van.  We have all the windows and both doors open, we do keep most of the curtains (including the door curtains) closed when it's sunny, but if there's a bit of a breeze it blows the curtains open a bit, and the wasps take advantage of that to fly in and annoy us.  Betty tries her utmost to snap at them but obviously I don't want her doing that, she's not yet been stung but if she manages to bite one I certainly don't want her stung inside her mouth, it could prove fatal if she turns out to have an allergic reaction.  We are having to get rid of at least 2 or 3 every day from inside the van, and batting away lots more outside.  Blimmin nuisance, having been stung by wasps or bees several times over the years, I'm not a fan of them - what are they even for, anyway?  I get bitten a lot by various flies etc too, I'm obviously super tasty 😒.  Whilst I don't get anaphylactic shock, I do often have an allergic reaction to bitey things - red patches and swellings that take days to subside even after using antihistamine cream and taking a/h tablets.  My sister got stung by a wasp a couple of years ago and she also had a nasty allergic reaction, which culminated in cellulitis, which took weeks of seeing the practice nurse to get under control.

We went to a local car boot sale this morning.....nothing of any interest (husband didn't even get any tools, amazingly), other than a pile of those square carpet samples, I bought 2 large ones for £3 the pair, they make good cheap doormats.  All the stalls seemed to be either traders selling overpriced house clearance junk, or mums trying to get rid of all their kids clothes and toys.  None of which was of any interest to me, obviously.  There's a big boot sale on a farm near Cheddar every Sunday, we've been a couple of times.  The trouble is it's just too big - there are 3 or 4 large barns full of mostly traders but some ordinary booters as well, plus a huge field with dozens and dozens of booters and traders.  Takes absolutely ages to go round even half of it.  Dogs are allowed, but Betty gets anxious in crowds so she has to stay in the car, which means one of us has to stay with her, sitting in the back with the tailgate open whilst the other looks round, and then swapping over.  Which means it takes even longer to go round as we have to do it one at a time.  I like little village boot sales best, generally they don't allow traders so it's genuine householders selling off their unwanted things, and usually at very cheap prices.  You get a better class of junk at posh village boot fairs 😉😁 and people sell their stuff off cheap as they no longer need it and just want the space, they're not in it to make money.

We're popping home tomorrow morning to water the plants, pick some veg (no doubt there'll be a glut of beans) and collect a couple of parcels that have been delivered (both small enough to fit through the letter box).  We'll give Betty a run in the field behind the house too, and collect a few more ready meals out of the freezer.  Our lovely van neighbours C & J are arriving in the afternoon, so we'll have their smashing company for the next couple of weeks, really looking forward to that.

We're so settled here at the moment and really enjoying the peace and relaxation, I've decided we'll stay indefinitely, with husband or possibly both of us popping home once or twice a week.

Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Quiet as the grave

 Yesterday the only other static resident went home, leaving just us here out of 36 statics 😲.  Oh, apart from the site manager who lives on site in a static, there was also 1 seasonal tourer occupied (they seem to pretty much live here permanently during summer) and 1 holiday tourer, which left this morning.  So it's as quiet as a cemetery!  The occupants of another static on the lower half have just turned up though.

As I've said before, it never ceases to amaze me how few static owners are here at any one time, and how rarely some of them come.  Even more surprising considering probably at least half to two-thirds of owners live around the Birmingham area, which is a very easy journey away.  And probably 2/3 of the owners are retired, only a handful are younger working couples with families.  I know that a few of the older owners are in ill health, which explains why they don't come, but you'd think they'd either pass the vans on to family or friends, or sell up - what's the point in keeping on something you're not likely to use anymore?  And every owner still has to pay the annual site fees, whether they use the van or not.  This is a lovely, quiet park situated in a good area within easy reach of beaches, lakes, woods, lovely little towns and villages, theme parks for those who want them, countryside walks, plenty of shopping areas only a short drive away.  Beats me why more people don't come.  But then I'd probably not like it as much if EVERYBODY came!😂😂  

So the site owner and site manager (who are both very nice) are earning money from the site fees and have next to nothing to do!  Except a quick clean of the toilet/shower block - which is open to everybody but mainly used just by the touring vans, and an occasional bit of lawn cutting on the ride-on mower and strimming - not that there's been much need for lawn cutting this season, it's been so dry the grass has hardly grown.  Oh well, I'm not complaining, just curious.  I'm just glad we found this site, we are extremely happy here.

We've had more showers today and whilst it's not overbearingly hot anymore, it is a bit muggy and humid.  The kind of weather that makes you sticky without you even doing anything.  We're not doing anything or going anywhere today, tomorrow though we're going out to do a little bit of shopping.  Thursday we might go to a local car boot sale, it's not far away so we'll probably leave Betty here in the van (with all of the windows open) - we'll only be gone an hour and she's not keen on walking amongst crowds, she gets quite anxious - she likes wide open spaces.  The temp is forecast to be 21 deg with sunny and cloudy spells, so it won't be too hot for her.  When we go shopping we take her with us, husband opens the tailgate and sits with Betty in the car watching the world go by whilst I go in the store.  Suits us all.

Monday, 15 August 2022

Cooler at last

 We arrived here at the van around 6.30 pm yesterday, we had the air con on in the car to keep Betty comfortable and, although it's only a short journey, we stopped halfway to give her a bowl of water and check she was ok (she was).  The temperature inside the van was 37 when we arrived....having opened all windows and both doors and closed all the curtains, the temp slowly dropped throughout the evening.  Outside (we sat outside all evening) it was much cooler and fresher, as there was a bit of a breeze.  By the time we went to bed, the indoor temp had dropped to 29.  I dropped off to sleep almost immediately and slept for 5 hours straight, waking up when Betty, who was in the lounge, had a very loud dream.  She seemed quite unsettled afterwards, so I sat up with her for a while.  I was relieved to note that the temperature had dropped considerably, it actually felt quite cool - blissful.  Went back to bed and slept for another couple of hours.  When I got up around 6.30, the air had that lovely 'just rained' smell, although it wasn't raining but there was a bit of dampness on the grass.  The temp in the van now is 25, just right.  There are showers and even thunderstorms forecast for the next couple of days, but apparently they're going to be hit and miss so it's anybody's guess whether we actually get any.

Husband is off home for another nurse check on his toes, and needs to get something to mend the van kitchen tap, which is coming loose.  So I have a couple of hours here on my own with Betty this morning.  It's exceptionally quiet here, I reckon there are only 2 other statics occupied, 2 of the seasonal tourers, and one holidaying couple in a tourer.  Perfect peace and quiet, other than the rumble of the traffic in the distance, which I hardly notice anymore (one of the advantages of having 25% hearing loss!).  I'll be quite glad when husband goes, as he's already got the TV on doing the man thing of flicking through all the channels, watching a couple of minutes of some god-awful crap here and there 😠

Never mind, soon I'll have a couple of hours of peace!

Sunday, 14 August 2022

What to do?

 The heat really got to me yesterday and I felt just plain ill.  Went to bed around 8pm.  I sleep on top of the duvet, haven't slept under it for weeks, Betty slept on the floor beside my bed, she seemed to find it cooler there.  I went to sleep virtually straight away (sheer exhaustion I think), woke up after about 3.5 hours and slept fitfully after that.  Feel a bit better this morning (as in not quite so ill) and it's cooler at the moment, although it's forecast to be 30-31 deg again.  Thankfully though, today is the last of the high temperatures.  We're back off to the caravan early this evening.

We've been thinking about what to do with the back garden next year, seeing as we've pretty much decided we won't be growing veg next year - well, hardly any.  Husband has lost his enthusiasm for veg gardening, and if the climate change hot summers trend continues, then it's hardly worth growing anything much, our harvest this year (apart from the dreaded courgettes, and even they're dying off now) has been dire, most things just haven't survived the heat and the fact that we're not at home half the time.

I think part of the problem for husband's (and my) lack of enthusiasm is the weird layout of our house and garden.  I suspect that when the houses were first built, in the early 1950s, there were no back gardens, the houses down our little lane all back onto the fields belonging to our landlords.  Consequently, we don't have back doors - I think the back gardens, and a little service road leading to the back gardens, were created later.  What is effectively our back door, the door leading out of the utility room (the utility rooms on each of our houses were added at a later date too, we think) open into the front gardens.  Therefore, to go into our back garden, we have to go out of the side gate in the front garden, down the little service road and into the back garden through the back gate.  So our back garden is almost detached, as it were, from the house, there's no direct access into the back garden from the house.  Why the builders/architects didn't put the door from the utility room at the BACK rather than the front, I don't know!  Unless the utility rooms were added before the back gardens were created from part of the fields, perhaps?

Anyway.....I went off at a bit of a tangent there.  If we don't grow veg next year, then there's the problem of what to do with the back garden, I don't want it left to become a jungle.  It's partly lawned with several (8 or 9) fairly large raised beds, and compost bins/storage areas down the bottom.  2 of the beds contain fruit trees, but with plenty of space underneath them.  I've been thinking about putting flowering shrubs that pretty much look after themselves out there, we could perhaps have a different theme for each raised bed - perhaps roses in one, flowering shrubs in one colour only in another, mixed colours in another, that sort of thing.  Something that will look nice from the windows at the back of the house, but won't need a lot of maintenance, perhaps just pruning once or twice a year.

Saturday, 13 August 2022

Limp rag

 It got up to 30 deg in our lounge yesterday, even with the fan on and curtains closed.  Upstairs in bed last night, it just seemed to get hotter and hotter, Betty had already gone back downstairs about an hour after we went to bed, and I ended up following her, it was just too stifling upstairs.  I dozed, woke up, dozed again on the sofa for a couple of hours, then went back up to bed finally around 3.30 this morning.  Couldn't get any decent sleep though, it was still too warm, so I just lay there and read my book.  I'm really feeling the effects of little sleep and being too hot already this morning, think I might have to take a couple of showers throughout the day and try to have a snooze later.  Betty finds all the coolest places in the house, like under the stairs in her cage - perhaps I should get in there with her!  Thank goodness the temperature is forecast to drop quite a lot from Monday, and we should have some rain.  I don't think I could stand much more of this heat.  Being blonde (well, out of a bottle nowadays!), fair skinned and freckly, and prone to burning in the sun, I'm really not equipped for dealing with heat, it makes me feel quite ill.

Husband had a phone call yesterday from the hospital podiatrist - that was much sooner than anticipated, he'd been told it probably wouldn't be until next week.  The podiatrist asked him loads of questions and then said that the symptoms he's experiencing, i.e. the swollen toes and weeping, sound perfectly normal and that it's likely his toes will take another 3 to 5 weeks to heal properly.  He told him to keep his toes covered with light dressings.....the GP practice nurse husband has been seeing each week had said to start leaving them uncovered - a difference of opinion!  However, I'm sure the podiatrist knows best - he said whilst they're still weeping then infection could get in if they're not covered.  He also said to keep an eye on the swelling and redness - if it goes further up the toe, past the knuckle, then it's likely an infection and he should see his GP for antibiotics.  So husband just has to be patient a while longer.

If I could hibernate somewhere cool and dark for the next couple of days, I would.  I feel like a limp wrung out rag.  

Friday, 12 August 2022

Holidaying at home

 I'm so glad we came home yesterday evening.  I've just been outside to look at the garden thermometer - it's already 39 deg C in our front garden and will get even hotter this afternoon.  We have all the curtains closed, the windows shut at the front (south facing) side of the house and open at the back, where it stays cooler, being north facing.  The large upright fan is going and it's comfortably cool indoors at the moment.  The caravan would have been unbearable in this heat.  We're all in holiday mode and not planning on doing anything much today or over the weekend, just as if we'd been at the caravan still.  I've got quite a few homecooked ready meals in the freezer, so have no cooking to do - just microwaving and serving with salad.  Betty is happily snoozing in a cool spot indoors and seems very comfortable.

Our neighbours, a young couple, slept last night in their summer house in the garden (oh to be young and adventurous again! 😂), they thought it would be cooler than sleeping indoors.  Well, apparently they had to get up and go back indoors around 03.30 this morning as it was still too hot!

Aren't all the wildfires going on frightening?  The one in southern France in particular, apparently they've had to call in firefighters from 6 other countries to try and get it under control.  We're surrounded by fields and farmland here, the farmers must be worried sick, there have been several reported instances of local field fires and even farm machinery (combine harvesters etc) catching alight.  Crops are failing, so that'll mean shortages both for us and for animal feed during the winter, leading to ever higher prices.  All we can do is prepare as much as possible by getting in good store cupboard supplies.  I'm sure we'll be fine, we're fortunate, but many are not.

Husband's big toes aren't getting better as well as he'd hoped.....the nurse said this week that his toes are swollen and they're still weeping, despite it being almost 6 weeks since he had them done.  He's been in touch with the hospital to see if he can go back and see what the podiatrist thinks, they'll be ringing him early next week, hopefully.  He says they're a bit sore, but not exactly painful.

Thursday, 11 August 2022

Change of plan again

We're going home this evening once rush hour has died down, it's just too hot in the van for Betty, despite having 3 fans going.  Ironically, it's much cooler outside now, but is like an oven inside.  And it's going to be just as hot for the next 3 days.  Betty is our priority of course, so we think it's safer to be at home in the heatwave, lots of cool spaces at home.  We'll come back Sunday evening.  No worries, I'll be happier knowing Betty is safer at home.


And relax.....

 We're here at the van, easy journey with no holdups, I've already unpacked and am now relaxing.  It's quiet as husband's not yet put the TV on but has instead gone for a snooze!  We've got 2 fans going (we have a 3rd if necessary), all the windows open and curtains shut, and 2 sunshades up in the garden for shade....for once, miraculously, Betty is actually lying in the shade.  She drinks copious amounts of water when it's hot, sensible girl.  The fridge is full of frozen ready meals, cold drinks, large bottle of water and icecubes.  I have half a dozen new books to read, 2 or 3 puzzle books, pack of cards and several DVDs.  I forgot to bring my art supplies but never mind, I can always get a few pens/pencils and a drawing pad locally if I feel the need.  There was a time years ago when I would always buy a few magazines to read on holiday - not anymore, the price of magazines is horrendous, and not something I would waste money on now.

It's exceptionally quiet here at the park, hardly anyone about.  One of the nearby vans is occupied, although they've gone out for the day.  Our lovely neighbours C&J texted me yesterday to say they're arriving next week.  We know one or two other neighbours will be here next week as well.  We've arranged for our van gas boiler to have its annual service whilst we're here, they will also be doing 2 or 3 others at the same time - we all have the same gas man, a nice friendly young man called Jake.

Annabeth - thank you, I'll give the hand held scanner a go the next time I go to Sainsburys.  I've seen the board with them all on in our store, although, as it's about to have a major refurb, perhaps it might not have them for much longer!

Wednesday, 10 August 2022

A day's delay, and a very good book

 Yesterday for most of the day I didn't feel very well.....nothing serious, just a tummy upset and feeling nauseous, it had worn off by the time I went to bed.  However, I didn't get much done.  Consequently, we didn't go to the van today as planned, I spent the morning doing the jobs I meant to do yesterday - packing the clothes, toiletries, dry foods and dog food.  I was finished by lunchtime so we could have gone this afternoon, but I didn't want to travel in the heat of the day, just in case we got stuck in traffic or broke down - being forced to sit in a hot car for x amount of time wouldn't have been good for any of us, especially Betty.  So we're going to go tomorrow morning now, before it gets too hot.

I took the opportunity of a spare hour this morning to make a big batch of cheese scones, I've frozen half of them.  They'll be nice for lunches with a chunk of cheese and some homegrown tomatoes and mini cucumbers, quick and easy (and no cooking).  Husband's coming home on Monday to go to another nurse appointment, he can collect the rest of the scones and a couple more frozen meals and pick some more salad veg.

I'm a big fan of Val McDermid books, I've read all of the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series and a few others.  I've just finished one of her stand alone thrillers, A Place of Execution, it was one of the best books I've ever read.  She is very good at producing a twist in the tail right near the end of a book, something (or someone) you'd never have thought of or guessed, and this was no exception - I certainly didn't see the surprise in this story coming, although I had guessed that the murderer was possibly not a genuine killer.  How writers like Val McDermid and others like James Patterson who are so prolific and write dozens and dozens of books can manage to keep coming up with different plots, I don't know.  They must have very vivid imaginations!

Thanks for the comments re scanning your shopping in Sainsburys.  I like the idea of using the scanner rather than my phone - my phone (it is a smart phone) is dying a slow death, is temperamental and doesn't like adding any more apps!  So is it possible to use the scanner without downloading an app onto my phone?  I suspect not.  There are rarely any staff around in our store to ask, they seem to be very short of staff.

I shan't be posting every day whilst we're away, but will try to post every few days. 

Tuesday, 9 August 2022


 Went to Sainsburys this morning, to get a few things needed for our caravan stay.  For the past few weeks, it's been clear there's something going on in our store (a large one), there are fewer and fewer tills open, big gaps on the shelves, a cordoned off area at the front of the store, the cafe is no longer open (it was shut all through lockdown anyway, but I think it did open up again briefly earlier this year).  This morning there was only one manned till open.  I asked the checkout operator what was going on - she said that they are planning on doing away with ALL manned tills, meaning everyone will have to use the self service ones.  The cordoned off area will be an Argos store (Sainsburys and Argos are of course amalgamated now), there's a large Argos store on the same retail park but that is to be closed down.  The cafe is to be refurbished and will be simply a coffee shop rather than offering meals as it used to.  The entire store is being refurbished too, all works should be completed by November apparently.

I don't mind using the self service tills for just a few things, but not for a trolley load - the reason being their self service tills constantly flash up messages basically saying you're doing something wrong, and a supervisor has to be called - this happens almost every time, sometimes 2 or 3 times in one shop - and not just to me, I see it happening to everyone else too.  It's downright annoying.  I went into Matalan the other day - they've had self service tills for ages and they are a total pleasure to use - easy, no fuss and I've never needed a supervisor.  So why Sainsburys are such trouble to use I don't know.

The checkout operator said that all supermarkets are moving the same way - no manned tills.  That's all very well, but I think it's going to be awful for older people, or others who have learning disabilities or anxiety problems, e.g..  I know for example that my mother would NEVER have coped with a self service till.  And there are still people who pay by cash (I rarely use cash nowadays) - will the self service tills accept cash?  Or are they planning on phasing cash out altogether too?  I know things change and we have to move with the times, but it seems we're being railroaded into accepting big changes.  And it's not even as if we can boycott one shop if we don't like what they're doing and use a different one, if they're all moving the same way.  No doubt conspiracy theorists will have a lot to say about this!

It's going to be hot again for the next few days, it's already hot again now.  Fortunately, it shouldn't be as scorchingly hot as last month, and there is some rain forecast for next week, thankfully.  We're still going to the caravan, we have 2 fans there and are taking a 3rd, Betty has a cool mat both here at home and at the van (not that she actually lays on either of them!  She might put her head on one occasionally).  We have 2 sunshades in the garden, I'll put tea towels wrung out in cold water on her when she lies down (she does shrug them off after a few minutes though!).  She has unlimited fresh cold water, which she does drink regularly, and I give her diluted chicken stock frozen ice cubes which she happily crunches.  So I think she'll be fine.  Obviously, she only gets walked early mornings and in the evenings, if she needs a wee during the day we take her in a shady spot for just long enough to do her wee.  We put a towel on the fake grass for her to lay on in the van garden - not that it gets excessively hot anyway, husband put a deep layer of sand down when he was laying the fake grass.  I'm sure she'll be fine, we'll keep a good eye on her.

Monday, 8 August 2022

Pains in the neck!

 Over the last 2 days husband has brought in from the garden half a dozen large yellow courgettes (they're so large we only have 1 between the 2 of us) and 2 green courgettes that are the size of marrows.  Why he doesn't pick them before they become marrow sized I don't know, he claims he doesn't see them (what, when they're THAT size?!).  They've joined the 6 or 8 (slightly smaller) yellow courgettes and 3 green marrow-sized courgettes that are already in the utility room veg basket.  He's also now bringing in a large handful of runner beans every day, at least they can be frozen easily.  That's the trouble with the homegrown veg, it's all ready at once (husband's not much good at successional sowing).  Well I've told him to dig up all the courgettes and put the plants on the compost, I'm fed up with them, don't want to eat them every day, there are several tubs of cooked ones in the freezer already, and I haven't got the time to deal with any more.  And there's no point in them continuing to grow when we won't be here for a fortnight.  Most of our neighbours grow their own veg too, so we can't even give many away.

Today I made a tray-sized tortilla containing sliced potatoes, onions, courgettes and cheese, cut it into 8 portions and froze it.  I'd mistakenly bought a dozen eggs the other day, forgetting that I already had a dozen, so needed to use up the older also usefully used up a couple of courgettes.  I'd already made and frozen a tortilla the other day, but now there's loads so that's plenty of lunches, or even dinners with chips or salad, already prepared.  I'd bought a pack of Staffordshire oatcakes yellow stickered down to 10p a couple of weeks ago and froze them.  We had them for dinner today, I defrosted them, stuffed them with cooked frozen mixed veg and chopped ham from yesterday's boiled gammon, rolled them up and put in a dish and covered with cheese sauce.  Could have used homegrown veg but that would have meant chopping it all up, so used the frozen mixed veg for convenience and time saving.  I also made a sausage and mushroom pasta bake and froze it.

Husband had another nurse appointment for his toes today, then he had to see the GP as he's been having a lot of pain and stiffness in his neck (I thought he was my pain in the neck 😂😂).  He's seen the doctor before about it, it's arthritis, the doc gave him a load more painkillers and a website giving details of neck exercises to do.  I shall have to try and make sure he does them.

I've been using my mini pedal exerciser every day and I do think it's helping to relieve my painful knees and hip and night-time restless legs.  It's small enough to take away with us and use in the caravan too, which is good.

Thank you for the comments - I know I'm a bit fanatical about getting stuff done in advance and being organised, but I do it for my sanity - if I'm not organised (and have organised husband too) then it makes me very stressed and irritable.

Sunday, 7 August 2022

Final bits of prep

 This morning I put the overnight washing out on the line, then put another load in the machine to do overnight tonight.  That's the washing basket completely empty now.  Then husband took me up to town, I needed to stock up on toiletries....I get them from Wilko about every couple of months.  We got there for 10 am when it opened, to avoid crowds.  Back home by 10.45.  

Prepped and boiled a load of our homegrown spuds for mash.  This is the last time we're growing spuds - well, certainly in the ground - so many of them were tunnelled, eaten and had scab, it's a right pain in the backside cutting all the bad bits out, and such a waste.  I've said this to husband before, but he still continues to grow them - well, not anymore, I'm saying NO, it's just not worth the effort, considering we don't eat spuds every day (unlike years ago when I was a child).  I made enough mash for today's dinner (boiled gammon and veg), enough to cover 2 cottage pies (the mince already cooked and in dishes in the freezer) and a plastic tub full for another meal.  Prepped the rest of the veggies for dinner - bought long stem broccoli, homegrown runner beans and the inevitable courgettes.  I've done a whole trayful of courgettes for roasting, there'll be enough for tomorrow's dinner too.  Made 2 apple crumbles, one for husband to have today and tomorrow (I'll just have stewed apple and yogurt), the other to be frozen.  That's it for today, I shall go upstairs and read for an hour or two now.

I have two more days of batch cooking, baking and garden veg prepping and then that will be it - I'm having a fortnight's holiday after that, I shan't be doing ANY cooking!  There'll be sufficient home cooked frozen meals to last a fortnight in the caravan, they can all be microwaved.  Lunches will be a sandwich, homemade quiche or tortilla (both already made and frozen) with salad, or something on toast.  Husband can get his own breakfasts.

Saturday, 6 August 2022

Busy weekend, power cuts and a mini exerciser

 Lovely day yesterday, we arrived at the van about 10 am, husband switched on the electricity and water then watered all the pots, whilst I unpacked and put away the bits we'd taken over there and made a coffee.  Friendly neighbours had watered some of our pots so they weren't too bad, other than the 2 pots of Cosmos which were keeling over, they seem to be suffering the most in the heat.  We then did all the deadheading, weeding and tidying up, which took about an hour.  Sat in the sun for a while with a cold drink, then had lunch.  Spent the afternoon catching up with fellow owners and reading in the sun, Betty alternating between lying in the garden and moving indoors to lie in front of the fan.  We left about 4 pm to come home.  One good thing about the current hot dry weather is that the grass doesn't need cutting!  What grass there is left is mostly dead - it will revive in due course, once we have some decent amounts of rain, nature is wonderful.

I made a list of things to stock up on for the next time we go, which will most likely be the middle of next week, we'll nip to the town for Wilko and B&M tomorrow as soon as they open, they're quieter on a Sunday morning before most people have got up.  I've got a few more meals to cook and freeze, so then I'll have a good stock of meals to take to the caravan.  We're planning on staying at the van for a fortnight or perhaps longer, as the weather is forecast to be very good (not so good for the parched gardens, though).  We'll pop home every few days to water the veg and pick up some more meals from the freezer - our van fridge only has a fairly small icebox so we can't fit loads in it.  It's such a boon having the microwave in the van now, I can't think why it didn't occur to me to have one earlier.

We had a couple of minor power cuts yesterday evening, the power was only off for a minute or 2, although apparently nearby villages had outages for a few hours.  We have outages frequently here, probably 1 or 2 in the course of 10 days, they don't generally last long though.  It's a constant amazement to me that we have these frequent power cuts when we live only about 2 miles as the crow flies from a massive nuclear power station - we're so close that we can see all the cranes for the building work that's going on for the new Hinkley Point C from our bedroom windows, and hear the end of shift least I think they're for shift changes, not alarms! 😳  So we constantly have to reset all our clocks, landline, etc....well, I say all, there are some I don't bother resetting, only the ones that annoyingly flash.

As my 2nd hand treadmill packed up (and we've come to the conclusion that it's probably not economical to have it repaired), I bought one of those mini pedal exercisers, like a miniature bike but just for your feet.  I get very restless legs in bed at night and figured that whilst I'm sitting relaxing in the evenings (or even when taking a break during the day) I could be using this, so at least I'm getting some exercise still, and burning some calories.  Hopefully, it will help with the restless legs.

Friday, 5 August 2022

A van day

 So we're off to the caravan for the day, to prune and tidy up and water all the pots, both ours and C&J's next door.  After lunch we'll just sit in the garden and enjoy the sun, and catch up with any fellow owners who are there.  I love that we're near enough to go for the day, although the price of fuel nowadays dictates how often we can do that.

I need to take a notebook and go through the kitchen and bathroom supplies, to make a note of things we need to stock up on for our next stay.  I do like to have a good stock of tinned and packet food and toiletries there, so if we should decide on the spur of the moment to up and go for a few days, there are always enough supplies to see us through for a couple of days before going shopping.  We also keep a couple of changes of clothes there, and I have 2 boxes of spare bed linen and towels under my bed.  We don't leave the fridge switched on unless we know we're going back there within a couple of days.

Must ring on Monday and arrange for the fitters to come and do the annual boiler service at the caravan....that's supposed to be husband's job (arranging it that is), but he keeps forgetting despite my several reminders 😒.  So another job added to my list!

It's a much nicer day today, beautiful blue sky but it's so much fresher than the past few days, which were very uncomfortably muggy and sticky.  Forecast to get very hot again from the middle of next week!

Thursday, 4 August 2022

Rethinking gardens

 We spent a couple of hours yesterday afternoon dealing with the front garden, which was a horrible, overgrown, mostly dried up jungle.  Virtually all of the bedding plants and most of the perennials were dead, the shrubs and roses were just about alive but brown, dry and struggling, the roses had just a few very small flowers, some of them hadn't survived the bud stage, shrivelling up in the intense heat we've had.  The lawn is dead straw, the soil in the pots and flower borders has dried up so much it's shrunk and turned to dust.  I can't remember the last time we had any decent rain - even yesterday morning, the few showers we had were barely enough to wet the concrete, they certainly didn't do anything for the beds.  I pruned the roses (2 shrubs, 2 climbers and a compact but out of control rambler) and the clematis/honeysuckle hedge, there's 2 clematis, a Spring flowering pink Montana and early summer yellow Tangutica.  After some thought, I told husband to just use his strimmer to cut down everything in the borders except for the 3 hydrangeas, a hardy fuschia and a couple of geraniums.  Everything now looks tidy, if somewhat decimated and dried up.  All of the bedding plants I put in pots in the Spring have died.  Come the winter/early spring when everything is dormant, we'll put a few bags of compost on the beds to pep up the soil.

Trying to maintain 2 flower gardens and a veg plot, in 2 separate places, is proving very challenging - too much so.  We've already decided not to grow many (if any) veggies next year - they need regular watering, weeding, tying up and picking, which we obviously can't do when we're not here.  Our immediate neighbours are a young busy family who work full time and have numerous after school activities, our other neighbours are elderly or infirm, so there's no-one we can ask to water regularly for us.  We also know it's pointless trying to grow any veg again at the caravan, for the same reasons.  I love having pots full of colourful flowers, but they need daily watering when it's hot.   So we're going to have to rethink for next year - less flowers in pots, less pots in fact, and the ones we do have will have to be planted up with shrubs or perennials that can look after themselves.  Same goes for the borders - at least plants in the borders are better able to survive less watering.  Unfortunately, we can't be in two places at once.  So our goal for the rest of the year will just be to try and keep everything tidy and not worry about trying to actually grow anything else.

Thank you for the courgette suggestions, I've done some googling as well and have found a couple of ideas that sound good - courgette and blue cheese frittata, and griddled courgette ribbons with tagliatelle, goats cheese, walnuts and honey.  When I use some of the mince I'm cooking today to make a lasagne, I think I'll use sliced longways courgettes instead of the pasta sheets.  I've got a lovely shiny purple aubergine, I bet that sliced thinly and layered up with thin sliced courgettes on a sheet of puff pastry, with crumbled feta or goats cheese and maybe some pine nuts and honey drizzled over would make a lovely tart.

My arms, shoulders and back don't half ache this morning following the garden tidying yesterday, so I won't be doing much today.

Wednesday, 3 August 2022

Change of plans, and blimmin courgettes!

 We've decided not to go to the caravan today - rain showers all morning so as we were going for the purpose of gardening, there's not much point.  At least the pots won't be drying out!  Can't go tomorrow, as Betty has a grooming appointment right in the middle of the day.  Friday looks good though, no showers forecast (at the moment!).  That's one of the joys of being retired.....our plans aren't set in stone, other than medical appointments (and even they change/get cancelled at the last minute), so we can please ourselves what we do and when.  The rain is due to stop this afternoon, so hopefully we can do some tidying up and pruning in the front garden, so at least the day won't be wasted.

Regarding my back & hip problems when standing for ages in the kitchen doing food prep....some of you suggested a stool.  Good idea, a foldable bar stool would be great, I'll order one, thanks very much.

I'm going to make a big pan of minced beef, onions and tomatoes tomorrow, to be portioned up and used for lasagne, cottage pie, spag bol, jacket potato topping.  I also need to do something with the courgette mountain, even if it's just slicing, frying lightly and freezing.  They're mushy when defrosted, but they're fine for adding to mince, stews etc or making soup with.  I'll grate 1 or 2 of the bigger ones into the pan of mince.  I did make a chocolate courgette cake one year, but it wasn't really a hit.  Any other ideas for courgettes, preferably using more than one!, I'd be grateful for.....we're getting a bit fed up with fried or roasted courgettes as a side veg.  Even husband, who loves all veggies, said the other day "Do we HAVE to have courgettes with every meal?" (a slight exaggeration, it's not EVERY meal, we don't have them for breakfast!).  My reply was "Do you HAVE to grow so many of them?!".  I did see a recipe online somewhere for lightly frying grated courgettes with finely sliced onions and bacon bits and stirring through spaghetti, topped with parmesan - that sounds good, would make a nice quick lunch.

Tuesday, 2 August 2022

Beetroot football

 Another day spent in the kitchen - all this standing around isn't a lot of good for my back and hip, both of which pain me terribly by the end of the afternoon, but it's only for a few days and it does cut down on the time I have to spend preparing meals later, so it's worth it.

The cauli mac n cheese made 6 portions yesterday, so 4 have been frozen.  I also did lots of dog food to freeze.  Today I've made sausage, cheese and sun dried tomato pasties and a cheese, onion and grated carrot flan, using homemade pastry.  Did a chicken, mushroom, onion and brown rice traybake for dinner tonight, double quantity so half can be frozen.  Also made a bowl of potato salad with our homegrown spuds.

Tomorrow we're spending the day at the caravan, the morning is for gardening, then just lazing around in the garden after lunch.  Lunch will be the pasties I made today, with potato salad, followed by fruit.  Dinner when we get home will be half of the cheese & carrot flan with salad.

Husband's asked the landlord about decorating our hall, stairs and landing, he said he'll discuss it with his brother the co-owner, who's currently isolating at home with his family as they're all unwell.

It's been a really muggy sticky day, the sort of weather I dislike the most.  I hope it gets a bit fresher tonight, or I won't be sleeping much.  Betty doesn't like this humid weather either, she's very restless.  She does like the fan being on and lies in front of it.

Husband brought in a beetroot that was practically the size of a football today, plus more marrow-sized courgettes.  I've told him not to bring in giant vegetables anymore, they're usually woody or watery and tasteless.  I said he's not entering some 'biggest vegetable' contest, beats me how he claims not to see these giant veggies, he reckons they're hidden behind leaves.  He just doesn't look properly is more like it.  Next it'll be the turn of the runner beans - I only like them when they're young and tender, but no doubt he'll be picking them when they're a foot long, tough and stringy. 😒

Monday, 1 August 2022

One declutter done

 Husband got on and decluttered the utility room this morning without any hesitation or grumpiness (makes a change), he'd finished by 9.30 am, well done him.  He then hung the washing out on the line - he volunteered, I didn't ask him to.  To be fair, there wasn't much of it - just 2 dog towels and 4 fleece blankets she lies on, on my bed and the sofa.  But still, brownie (scout?) points to him.  

I suggested he dug up the rest of the potatoes - our ground is very slug and wireworm infested, so the longer the spuds stay in the ground, the more likelihood of them being eaten.  He's layered them in buckets with compost, so they should last a while.

I spent an hour peeling and slicing a load of apples.....about half of the 5kg box I got from the farm shop the other day, husband doesn't like Cox's unless they're cooked and there were far too many for me to eat raw.  I cooked them in my Multichef then portioned them up, some for us to have for breakfasts or desserts with Greek yogurt, the rest frozen.  Had to stop for a rest after that - standing in one position kills my back.  So I sat for 10 mins having a coffee, then went on the treadmill - only it wouldn't work, it switched on and the display lit up, but the running (walking in my case) belt wouldn't move.  Husband clueless, so I had a quick google - seems it may be the belt motor.  I haven't got time to think about what happens now, i.e. do we get someone (who?) to look at it or try and buy a new motor, so it will just stay in the corner of the lounge for the time being.  Well that didn't last long, that's the trouble with buying stuff 2nd hand from a private householder I guess, no guarantee or warranty.

Did a freezer inventory and menu plan - not a firm 'we're having this on that day' plan, but a list of dinners to make using what we've got, that can be doubled up so half can be frozen for caravan meals.  Made cauli mac & cheese with chopped bacon for dinner today, enough to freeze as well.  Also made dog food this afternoon, minced chicken with grated courgette, butternut squash, brown rice and a couple of eggs to bind, enough for about 8 meals.

Husband went to the nurse for his toes, the nurse says they're healing fine and she only needs to see him once more and will then sign him off.

My best mate popped round this afternoon, we had a lovely catch up.....we don't see enough of each other, busy life intervenes.