A couple of weeks back we had a lovely day with friends in Hastings & St Leonards - this is the outside of the Love Cafe where we had a really big brunch and loads of coffee.
Don't you just love the graffiti art (not sure of the correct term)? I reckon it would be a really good backdrop for an album cover.
I can see the Musician Husband leaning up against this wall with a red electric guitar, he'd be looking off into the distance in a Rock-God way...fabulous!
After the Love Cafe we had a quick look around St Leonards which will be our friends' new home in the next couple of months. They showed us this statue of Victoria with a bullet hole in her right kneecap. Apparently a WW2 enemy plane emptied some of its ammunition on St Leonards' seafront and this is a little bit of the evidence. I'm glad the damage was never repaired; it's all to easy to erase history.
In Hastings old town we found some great shops to wander around and rummage in - not too pricey either.
There was one shop that brought back a lot of memories of my childhood and particularly my great aunt who lived with us for many years. She was born in the late 1800's and was a very sweet, gentle person. She lost her 'love' in the first world war and was never married. We had the greatest of respect for her and in a real sense we thought of her as our granny.
When I was very young, she lived on her own and I remember specific items in her home that you didn't see anywhere else at the time: cedar mops, candles, paraffin lamps, jars of goose grease, enamelled dishes, strangely shaped brushes and Victorian glassware. I found some of these again in A. G. Hendy in old Hastings and it was a real memory-jerker.
It was lovely to see these items again but quite sad too. We live in a world where cedar mops and cabinet brushes are no longer needed. An era has passed and although I wouldn't give up my dishwasher for all the tea in China, I love the idea of having several designated items for cleaning. I know that in reality I'd never ever use them, but I'm sure it would make cleaning seem just a little bit more...personal! That might sound daft, but polishing a table with beeswax is a long way from running a plastic hoover over your carpet.
I know I'm romanticising cleaning, but seeing all of those items made me think about an age when you would buy a well designed, well made piece of furniture and it would be with you for a lifetime. Of course, it would need some loving care to stand the test of time - a million miles away from a quick wipe with a bit of kitchen roll and some Mr Sheen.
I'm not quite sure why this matters to me - the real truth of it (I'm ashamed to say) is that any cleaning needed in ToadRockStreet is fought against with a passion. I would do anything to get out of it and I often do! Life really is too short for any of it - it's official that cleaning is wrong - like a little black cloud on a sunny day or a black tulip amongst the white.
Enough said on cleaning.
From a woolly perspective I've been making some simple things but really enjoying them.
This is the front of a long pillow that's being made for our bed. It's purely decorative which I know will drive the Musician Husband up the wall as he hates putting the pillows on the bed in the morning then taking them off at night. He can't see that they serve any purpose so I remind him that they keep me happy and he looks at me in a way that says, 'This is complete madness but as it's the tip of the iceberg I'm saying nothing.'
The second Hedgehog Cuddle Blanket has been made (in green) and it's finally being blocked after sitting in a bag for several weeks. I'm working on a lavender one every now and then. I'm hoping Pembury Hospital are going to run an article about these blankets in their June/July magazine so that I can find some more knitters. It would be an absolute dream to make as many blankets as they need.
I'm going to leave you with a lovely rainbow moment at ToadRock Street. Our lovely old print of Toad Rock reflected the early morning sun and filled one corner of our sitting room with a tiny stripe of vivid colours. Aw! How lovely!
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It feels as though the transition from Winter to Spring happened overnight. One minute we're sitting in front of log fires wearing thick patterned aran jumpers, the next we're sitting out drinking coffee and wondering if we need to wear a coat. We were surprised yesterday when it rained...we had washing on the line. The Cow'n'Wolf whine to be let into the garden at every opportunity and stand with their noses in the air, sniffing dogs from the next village and closing their eyes to the sun above. We drink long drinks with ice.
I hear it's going to be colder in the next few days. One weather-person even mentioned snow. When the sky is this blue it just doesn't seem possible, although I remember snow in June several years back when I lived in North Wales, so anything could happen.
I finished the warthog cowl but it's not cold enough to wear it at the moment. I do love it though, the colour is just marvellous.
I've moved on to other knitting including a mint green Hedgehog blanket. I still have the Sunshine Day Baby Afghan to put together. I'm also thinking about buying a set of crochet hooks with contoured handles although I have no crochet plans in place at the moment. This may be something to do with how my brain works Month by Month.
It's also at this time of year that I have to visit the sea. I would live on the beach if I had my way but not in a summer suntan sort of way; I need crashing waves, pebbles or sand crunching under my feet, the sting of salt in the air. The wilder the better.
Late afternoon in Eastbourne was surprisingly windy with nice waves, and how about that swordfish cloud?
The light was so beautiful in the late afternoon. We walked along the pebbly beach and along the pier. We'd left the Cow'n'Wolf at home, so it was just the two of us. It was so lovely. We need to leave the children at home more often...
We obviously couldn't wait to be back on an island after leaving Skye. It was the Musician Husband's birthday in September, and, as it's always good weather on his birthday we spent it on the Isle of Wight.
I've only been there once when we sailed in the Cowes - Le Havre ocean yacht race about 10 years ago and all I saw of the IOW was the marina (we sailed from Gosport the day before, arrived in the dark and left at dawn). My job was mainly packing the spinnakers which meant little time on deck, so, I missed the Needles, the view of the island as we left, and the whole exciting start of the race. I was also a little bit sea-sick.
As we approached in the Red Falcon (I just love that name for a ferry), Cowes looked very welcoming with its tall ship in the harbour and plenty of stunning racing boats zipping around.
After arriving at Cowes we drove down the east side of the island to find dinosaur fossils. I just couldn't let the fossil thing go after failing to find the prints on the beach in Skye. There are plenty of places to find fossils on the IOW and this beach was mentioned several times for having a high chance of success. We started walking to the white cliffs at the end and at first it was quite nice, a little blustery but pleasant. Then is started to rain and a big black cloud rolled over us. We got soaked. The Musician Husband wasn't appearing to have a very happy birthday and I forget sometimes he's really a city boy. He's quite right though, what is pleasant about having rain hammering down your ear canals as you try to walk against a wind that permeates every gap in the weave of your coat?
After sheltering from the rain we wandered back along the beach looking for fossils. We didn't find any! We don't really know what we're looking for to be honest. Would help wouldn't it? Still, we came across some beautiful natural things in the sand - all just as we found them, no staging and no colour enhancement.
Truly amazing colours and textures! We also found some body parts on the beach...mostly noses...
...and some scary skulls...
I could have spent hours on this beach, but it wasn't my birthday so we moved on.
The plan was to drive around the entire coast of the island and stop when we felt like it. I had a few things planned just in case we were bored - the Jimi Hendrix statue, the Garlic Farm and The Orrery Cafe for breakfast. We didn't go to any of them. On the ferry I realised The Isle of Wight Festival was on so we avoided Newport and that was Jimi cancelled, The Orrey was shut and we completely forgot about the Garlic Farm.
When we came across Freshwater bay we had to stop though. It looked like something out of an Agatha Christie novel, definitely past its best but a little bit of classy Riviera-style still showing through.
This was a lovely beach with an intriguing house on the hill. There's a staircase from the beach up to a hole in the middle of the cliff with a door into...we don't know what! We presume it leads up to the house and I would have given anything to walk up there and find out. The Musician Husband did point out the PRIVATE sign and refused to go any further and he's right, there's nothing worse than nosey tourists.
Because of the rain I wasn't using the complicated camera with a good zoom, so you can't quite make out the staircase unless you look very carefully (far left, slight zigzag half way up the cliff). I will find out about it though and if there's any chance of getting in there...
The waves in the bay were quite mesmerising and we spent quite some time watching them over the sea wall, avoiding the spray every now and then. We realised later that this was very close to Tennyson's home and he visited the beach regularly to walk. A visit to his house was already on the list (the Musician Husband is a huge fan), and we did find it and have a good gawp from the car even though it's closed to the public due to renovations. You can stay close to his house in cottages designed by Clough Williams Ellis (Portmeirion architect). If only I'd known that prior to the visit we would have stayed as Clough is one of the Musician Husband's heroes as well.
Just lovely! Took about a thousand of these photos.
Walking back to the centre of the beach you can see these big rocks close to the cliff edge.
The closest is Stag Rock, named after a stag leapt onto it from the cliff during a hunt..apparently! In 1968 another huge slab fell off the cliff face and is now known as Mermaid Rock. I presume that's the one further out. Not sure to be honest, will look it up.
We also loved the little shelter next to the beach with its colourful sea mosaics including a gorgeous gull.
Even though it was quite cold we bought ice creams from the RNLI shop at the beach and ate them in the car.
We drove onwards around the west of the island to the Needles.
Just like Lands End in Cornwall you need to pay to have the privilege to park and look at the cliffs and sea. To get a really good view you also have to wander down towards the man-made 'attractions.'
Before you know it, you're in a horrific 'funfair' atmosphere of a contrived village set up purely for tourists. We declined spinning round on cups-and-saucers, avoided the themed restaurants, glass blowing and ye olde sweetie shoppe. We navigated through bus loads of tourists who looked as bemused and disappointed as we were, but, there was one fantastic thing to come out if all and it was quite unexpected in more than one way.
The chair lift!
These are my feet above some very tall trees that look like bushes.
Why it's remarkable is that the Musician Husband is scared of heights in a big way. A chair lift is one of the last things he would go near. Usually. But, it was his birthday and he decided he should do one challenging thing as he was a year older. I couldn't quite believe it. This was the man who froze part way across a viaduct in North Wales. A man who would not let me out onto the balcony of a Cairo hotel because we were 20 stories up. And he was about to get onto a chair lift on a very windy day? A chair lift that was to take him down the cliff face to the beach below then back up again?
So we paid the extortionate price and jumped on! And I was terrified. He loved it.
This is why I was terrified.
Can you see the connection between the chair and the cable? No? Neither could I. How is it possible? Surely it can't be safe...surely? When I looked down all I could see were shoes, sandals and hats nestling on the tops of trees and wedged in the rocks below and I started to wonder what I was doing up there.
But, I pretended I was fine to support the Musician Husband. His knuckles were white so we didn't stop at the beach, we just carried on up to the top again. But he was laughing as the wind blew the unattached chair around. God, it was terrifying!
Here's the heart-stopping journey. Watch for those sandals and a slight tremor in the hand of the camera holder...
As the wind picked up the camera was put away. I don't have photos for the top part of the ride. My knuckles went white as I clung on to the chair. And shortly afterwards it was over.
If you click on the image above (and the one with my feet in it), then zoom in, you can see what I mean about the sandals and hats.
It was worth it though when you see the beautiful views and the colourful sandy cliffs. When the Musician Husband was a boy he came to this beach and filled a jar with the myriad coloured sand. It was the tourist attraction of the day. You paid a small fee (there's a surprise), picked up a small glass bottle and went down to the beach to make your own layered marvel by filling it with the different coloured sand. The colours are quite beautiful, as evident in the photo of the cliffs as we were on the way up again. Whether it's too dangerous or too destructive now, I don't know! The cliffs were taped off and we never saw sand souvenirs in any of the shops.
I have to say how impressed I am with the Musician Husband; he tried something scary to challenge himself and actually enjoyed it. Sadly, I think I'm now afraid of heights...
We didn't have much time left to get back to the ferry but there was enough to have a coffee and wander through a small part of the town.
The view of the tall ship was still pretty.
It was around this time that we realised we only had a short while to get our ferry and also around this time that we realised we'd made a navigational error. We were on the wrong side of Cowes! We had to cross the river to get to the ferry terminal and the nearest place to do it was miles away, a drive down to the middle of the island and back up again. There was no way we could do it in time.
Luckily we'd got lost trying to locate the ferry terminal on the wrong side of town and noticed there was a chain link ferry. It was only £2 to cross in the car, so we headed back there. This was almost the highlight of the day for the Musician Husband. We'd never been on a chain link ferry before but there are plenty of films where we'd seen others do it and it's obviously nestled in my husband's brain and seemed quite attractive.
We had to wait for some boats to go past, then we were off. Within a few moments we were across to the other side and met the ferry on time.
And we were off home. A great birthday! Terror is always interesting when it comes to entertainment.
Happy Birthday Musician Husband. I'll take you to New Orleans when I sell my first book.
Just one small snippet of 20 minutes or so in Waternish, Skye.
It was slightly colder this year than last but the cottage had lovely warm wool blankets and a big tea pot, so I was fine. The midges were evident this year too, so when it was cloudy and the wind disappeared I had to come in for a while.
The Musician Husband (being a soft southerner) lit the stove and we were toasty warm (a bit too warm for me).
Can you believe the size of this coal? Being from Wales I thought I'd seen it all (when it comes to coal), but it seems that Scottish coal doesn't mess about on size.
On one of the numerous trips around the side of Number 19 to get coal or logs, I noticed these fossils sitting beautifully on the bank at the back. I must have walked past them a thousand times and never noticed them before.
They were the only fossils we managed to find, but next year we're going prepared to find those dino prints, no matter what happens!
So! Skye in one Summer day. I will get onto it! I'm just finding the blogging thing hard to be honest. It's now mid September and I've been putting it off. I set up several blog titles when I was in Skye but never found the time to actually blog much, there was always something else to do and I didn't want to spend the time staring at the laptop. My plan was to wait until I got home to complete most of my blogs. Big mistake!
I'm sitting at home now, and every image of Skye I look at is ripping my heart out. Not that I don't like lovely Toad Rock Street, my friends, my life here. I just miss Skye so much that it slightly hurts my chest when I think of it. I could cry at the drop of a hat to know I may never live there. It's totally impossible for us to move, so there's no mileage in us trying to work it out. I felt the same last year when we got home so I blogged about the good things that were here at Toad Rock Street and it really helped (Coming Home - the good bits). Maybe I should do that again to remind myself what a good life we have and how lucky I am to still be here with the Musician Husband.
Finally, Skye in one Summer day. It's taken a while to go through all of the images - there were hundreds - but here they are, photos taken at various intervals during a 12 hour period, showing how the weather here can turn on a sixpence.
What a day! It's like that all the time on Skye. Never boring. Proper weather.
I'm crying into my tea...
On one of the cloudy days in Skye we slept in a lot and decided to have breakfast at Jan's in Dunvegan. No plans other than cream with cakes added.
We had no idea that the drive we went on afterwards would be so beautiful and we never thought we'd find the place where the dramatic Volvo advert was filmed a couple of years ago.
Cakes first, then the drive.
By the way, my purse is not packed with money. It's full of small change, store loyalty cards and receipts.
The film had to be digitally enhanced later to make it look stormy as the day itself was quite sunny.
Surprisingly, the sun came out for mere moments when we were on the jetty checking out the water for swimming. I'd spoken to a diver earlier in the week who suggested Pooltiel (this bay) but we didn't realise at the time it was here at Meanish Bridge. We could have looked at a map but we were on holiday...
Then we were back to clouds.
But Skye is beautiful anyway.
Tide in at Stein.
Me in the water.
Musician Husband on the jetty 'coaching.'
Things brush past you when you're swimming in the sea, they wrap around your ankles fleetingly, they take on unrecognisable shapes and then morph into something else equally alarming. Imagination runs riot. There are killer whales in this sea. Yet, underwater evidence proves my mind is playing tricks...there are no worrying creatures caught on camera.
It's so liberating to swim in the sea and this time there was no sea-sickness. Walkers came to watch me swimming, wondering why on earth I would get in the water on a day when they were wrapped up in coats, hats and scarves. When I'm in my wetsuit (with my considerable padding) I'm toasty warm.
I was treated to a nice pint of beer afterwards at the Stein Inn. Plus a packet of crisps.
My life is endlessly fabulous...
The Cow and I had a walk to catch up on after the abandoned trek into the croft. My mind was mostly on swimming, tide times and sea swell, so, we headed down to Stein a couple of miles away. It has a particularly unpleasant history (clans carving each other up a bit) but then most of the Isle of Skye is the same.
We'd been told to head towards Camus Lusta (turn left on the beach) where the swimming is good. We walked along the beach and the tide was out so I had a good idea what was going to be underfoot when I ventured out to swim later. It also gave us time to look for beach glass and search the small rock-pools. The seaweed was particularly beautiful in its autumnal colours. I even thought I'd found a fossilised mammoth tooth but it turns out I know a big fat zero about paleontology.
We stopped half way back at the war memorial where the heather was in full bloom. It's going to be quite beautiful in the next couple of weeks when it's all out. The sky above was the loveliest blue with wispy white cotton wool clouds. We sat for a while and looked out over the isles of Uist and thought about the men who lived and worked in this place who lost their lives fighting in other countries almost a century ago. We wondered how we might feel if we could never come back to Skye.
Just before the last turn on the road for home is the school. Imagine turning up there every day! It would be pure heaven for me but hell for some. Apparently there are 3 pupils. Not sure this is true but, boy, am I jealous!
We didn't intend to have a dinosaur day.
Until it happened, we knew very little about Skye's history of prehistoric animals running about and leaving their footprints in the sandy mud. The photo above is Staffin beach - home of Skye's dinosaur prints - looking suitably volcanic. We'd sort of missed this beach in our wanderings around Skye on previous visits so it was great to come across it with no planning.
We started off with the intention of visiting the Skye Museum of Island Life, just outside Uig. We'd tried at least 3 times before (twice last year and once the year before) but we always get up later than usual on holiday (which is the law) and start off too late for places that keep strict times. Unless we've planned an outing the day before we invariably bowl up at 4pm to see something that takes a couple of hours at least and then wonder why it's closing.
The village itself is quite small and beautifully positioned on the Trotternish peninsula. Flora MacDonald is buried near by (yep! it's that sort of place). Thatched cottages are set up to reflect various areas of village life; blacksmith, community hall, barn, weaving shed and home. There may have been more but the dogs kept setting off the car alarm in the adjacent car park by jumping about and barking at every dog within a 5 mile radius, so, I was quite distracted and probably missed loads.
In case you're interested, the largest cottage (the old croft house) was inhabited by several generations of the same family until 1957. The last lady of the house made a very simple brown and orange bedspread for her wedding bed I think around the 1920's - check on the link and see how amazing it looks. This lady (in her youth) picked the plants/lichen to dye the wool herself then spun and crocheted the whole thing; a great example of all of the skills needed when working with wool. I can't tell you how incredible it was to see that bedspread in its own place, on the bed it was made for and probably in use within the family for a long, long time.
Sadly they didn't allow photography indoors (even flashless), so the link is all I can share with you. I wonder what what the lady of the house would have thought if she knew how many people from all over the world have stood in her bedroom, checking out her wedding bed (the bed she slept in all of her married life) and thought their thoughts about her lovely hand made bedspread.
I could have stayed in that cottage and the weaving shed for quite some time but the rule about no photography completely hampered my way of doing things. I like to soak in atmosphere and let my imagination take me back to how I think things were. I am quite sentimental. I love taking photos of small items or areas that capture my imagination, for example, in the weaving shed there was a complicated almost dessicated loom set up to weave. It really did need a good half hour to get to grips with what was going on and how it could possibly work. I'd usually photograph it and check it out later, cup of tea or glass of wine in hand. I still had the wine later though...
Anyway! We headed back home but decided to take the Portree road around Trotternish rather than head back on the same road. It was out of our way but we often drive just for the sake of seeing something unexpected, and on this occasion we did - Staffin beach!
We took a left turn because a small sign said 'beach' and we found ourselves in a huge bay with the promise of dinosaur prints and the remains of mesolithic settlement (I don't know what this means other than quite old). I've borrowed the following picture and information as it's so much better than anything I could have put together...
At the entrance to the beach Charlie was obviously concerned about what we would meet...members of the 6500BC settlement or a family of dinosaurs? Instead we met a handful of collies (not sure why everyone had this type of dog) and a handful of fossil hunters like ourselves who didn't have a clue where the prints were.
We all looked and looked. Every stone was checked and double checked. We all checked with each other as we went along...Have you found them yet? Can I borrow your map? Are we in the right place..?
Nothing!. The only prints we came across on the day were mine and Charlie's.
So, instead we walked along the beach and talked, the four of us avoiding the sea urchins (apologies for the blurry photo). We talked about swimming at this beach as it looked quite safe (only the sea urchins to maim the unaware). I've since found out that people swim over to Staffin island in the summer.
We left Staffin beach with the promise we would come back next year to swim here and to find those prints.
The journey home was as beautiful as ever with the sky darkening and The Old Man of Storr watching over all of Skye.
What a day! All unplanned but every minute loved.