it’s great being back..

One of the first things I noticed when we arrived at our new home in Hay-on-Wye, just over two months ago, was this stone doorstop covered in a crochet cozy by my dear friend Em who had found us this flat in the first place.

It is always a bit worrying when you rent a place sight unseen and although the flat has a few small downsides it has turned out to be a great, little bolt hole.

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And it is wonderful to be back in Hay!  Really so good.  We arrived back to a spectacular autumn, warm and beautiful.  Our house lacks a garden so we have to walk our dogs a lot and we have visited quite a few of our old haunts, up on the Begwns (where it is possible to see all of the Brecon Beacons National Park from the roundabout at the top), Cusop Dingle where I was happy to greet my favourite, majestic Copper Beech, and the castle at Clun on the way up to Montgomery.We live close to the Wye River so that is the default walk of the day.

 

Two months has been enough for the weather to slide into winter and so far we have had one furious storm and yesterday and today the temperatures have dropped to well below zero and even though the sky is clear blue and sunny  the frost stays on the ground all day.

Our flat is in an old, stone building that used to be the work house, it has massive thick walls and is amazingly warm so that even though it is minus 5 outside I don’t need to have the heating on.  I was not best pleased to hear of the buildings horrible history when I got here but I like to think that we will be adding some happier atmosphere to it, besides Em tells me she smudged the place before we moved in to clear any negative energy and whether the smoke helped or not it’s the intention that matters.

Mr T is working back in his old job and has found a welcoming chess club based in a pub in Presteigne, not far from his work.  I am back making things to sell and consciously working on keeping the Black Slug of depression at bay, which is made easier by good friends, beautiful surroundings, our lovely dogs who need lots of walks in the fresh air and it’s nearly Yule!!

This weekend the Christmas lights were turned on on Friday night and that plus the Hay Winter Festival, Food Festival on Saturday, Vintage Market on Sunday meant that the town was full of happy wanderers even more so that usual.

It is lovely living here, we are so very lucky..

 

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Happy Samhain all..

 

And happy Beltane to those on the other side of the world..

Our clocks changed at the weekend and this evening while out walking Toastie and admiring the neighbourhood pumpkins I realised that if I didn’t move my ass I would be walking in the dark.  Sure enough it was full dark shortly after we got home at 5.20.

Although we have been having some gloomy days we have been blessed by incredible autumn colours.  Everywhere there are fiery glowing trees.  I walk in wonder..

Tonight is All Hallows Eve/ Halloween/Samhain.  A night to remember the dead and to light fire.

Lighting our Samhain fire

 

Lighting candles for the dead - among them my Father, I miss you Dad..

 

 

 

And the wheel turns..

 

 

..you can have the spiders

The spiders are coming inside..  It’s a sure sign that  summer is on the wain.

I had noticed an extra few about the place a couple of weeks ago.  And then Mr T commented on a particularly large one he had seen run under the sofa – and the one he had seen in the bathroom running under the cabinet… and then that night, as I was getting ready for bed, I noticed Toastie staring intently at something on the floor by my bed side table.   I couldn’t find anything crawly on my search but then spent some time lying in bed in the dark feeling imaginary insects creeping on me..

I have been stewing plums, making plum jam, and caramelised red onion relish.  Very soon our apples will need picking and as our tree is over loaded we will be eating them for quite awhile to come.   I once had a recipe for spiced apple preserve which has disappeared so I will have to try and make it up.  I know the apples were cooked in orange juice and a little bag of spice but that is about all I can recall..except that it was heavenly.

I have been eating home made muesli, Rachel’s Full Fat Organic Yoghurt and my own stewed plums for breakfast and enjoying every last bite.  Mr T has taken up making sour dough bread so for a change I eat the most wonderful toast with my jam on it of course.

I am getting even fatter..

 

Stewing Plums

 

On the other hand I am getting way more exercise now we have Toastie and that is a very good thing both for my body and for my mental health.  There are a lot of walks to choose from in this area.  Cusop even has its own little packet of trail maps that we bought from the Information Centre in Hay .  One map points out Badger sets which I had walked past before and not noticed.

 

Cusop Walks

 

Although our weather is on the turn it is still warm and last night as the dog and I sauntered out for our evening constitutional we stopped to watch the wee bats stealth diving around the street light at the end of our terrace.  Although the light and warmth make the days seem lazy  and slow, with the Dingle sluggish in places, the animal life is in a mad rush to eat and/or store away as much food as possible.  Nut trees are stripped in days by ravening hoards of squirrels.  Flocks of birds are migrating as well, our most noticeable visitors from afar – the Swifts, have disappeared in the last couple of weeks.

We have been on several long walks lately but the longest would have to be to visit The Begwns – a lovely stretch of open access land owned by the National Trust.  We wanted to walk to The Roundabout, a small group of trees planted on a hill to mark Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee.  Toastie is sporting her mohawk which is has got thinner as the summer has gone on.  So far we have resisted efforts to get us to dye it pink.

On the way to the Roundabout on The Begwns

 

Showing off her mohawk

 

Mr T and The Toastalator on finally reaching the Millennium Circle wall that surrounds The Roundabout. Wonderful 360 degree views - but a bit hazy on this day.

 

View from The Begwns - spot the sheep

 

I do love late summer – except for the spider bit that is..

A Fine Start to a Year..

Question

What has three bedrooms, one of which is the entire attic area with velux window, which will make a mighty fine studio.  A large bathroom (well large compared to the closet which we have at the moment).  And A BATH!  And a wood burner. And a dog door. And a garden, with a glass house and an apple tree and a walnut tree. And it backs on to fields and Mouse Castle woods.  And it has its own car park. And it is furnished so we will have proper  double beds in all the rooms, And has walls so thick you can’t hear the neighbours hoick.  And costs exactly the same as the one we are in now ???

Answer – Our new house, of course!

Yes we are moving yet again, only this time it is just about as close as can be to where we are now –  five minutes walk away in Cusop Dingle.

This is the New Years Good Things post, and about time too.

I feel bullet points coming on

  • I am really loving our Stitch and Bitch group.  Just getting together with a lovely bunch of people purely for the sake of sitting and crocheting and talking and laughing.
  • A British winter – well, what a winter!  It’s still grey and manky outside BUT the signs of spring are already here, snowdrops, lambs, budding plants.  And I can smell it in the air.  Our town has got ridiculously quiet, almost empty pubs and streets.  It is amazing to think that this is the same town that just six months ago you had to walk off the pavement to get around all the people.  And soon it will be like that again – perhaps I will just enjoy the quiet for the moment.

  • A week after we move we are to be visited by our friends Julian and Kath.  This will be their first visit to us in Hay and I am just so happy that it will be at our new house.  Not only will we have a spare bedroom to put them up in BUT also we will have a proper bed for them to sleep in.  Hurrah!
  • Books – oh the books.  I try not to go into the book shops here to often, just because it is torturous to the financially embarrassed person but – sometimes you just have to.  On one of my trips I came across Paper Cutting Techniques by Sharyn Sowell which I just had to have as I have been wanting to have a go at the craft for some time now.   Then I found Shoot the Damn Dog by Sally Brampton, an account of the writers journey through and out of severe depression.  This book is well up there on my list of best depression books and reading it has helped me hugely.
Paper cut by Julene Harrison. Just imagine cutting this! There are some amazing people out there
  • Carol Shields’s Unless, is another book I just had to own.  I think Shields was one of the best novelists in THE ENTIRE WORLD – sorry about yelling but golly.  If you haven’t read this or the sublime The Stone Diaries, well then – you should 😉
  • After she threw the baby in, nobody believed me for the longest time. But I kept hearing that splash...     These sentences  come from my best read of the new year so far –  The Well and The Mine by Gin Phillips.  This doozy flew across the sea to me at the behest of an American friend Robin who I met last year at my local pub Kilvert’s, just up the road.  She was on her first solo trip around the UK and being a book seller, had to pay a visit to Hay-on-Wye.  The lovely Robin along with my friend Jenny and I spent a fabulous evening bonding over real ale and in the process I found out that not only was she from the southern states where I would just love to visit, but she was also a huge fan of Fanny Flagg, author of Fried Green Tomatoes as well as some of my other favourite books.  Robin, sadly, had to leave the next day but we have been in email contact since she got home and just after Christmas a package arrived from her.  Not only did it contain the latest Fanny Flagg hardback I Still Dream About You but a copy of The Well and the Mine which is the authors first novel – I can’t wait till the next.
  • Just before Christmas I had received another package in the post – this time from Amazon.  I hadn’t ordered anything and so I gave it to T who promptly put it away.  It turned out to be a rather wonderful, and strange book entitled The Complete Book of Retro Crafts which I suspect was sent to me by blog buddie Katyboo.   Full of the most wonderful, crazy stuff that humans can make it includes how tos on every kitsch craft you can think of – including glitter encrusted pine cone elves, Bottlecap man, Pantyhose Poodle and festive Reinbeer.

  • On Saturday afternoon I was in my kitchen making a Spiced Apple cake, the first baking I have done since we came to this country, and listening to Graham Norton and then Tony Blackburn on Radio Two, grooving away to 70’s funkiness when I suddenly realised just how happy I was feeling, one of life’s golden moments had just enveloped me and given me a big kiss.  I believe you must have had depression or been through some other terrible stress to understand how incredible it felt.  I am getting better…
The best cake I have ever made

We are moving on the 11th Feb and I have packing to do.  You have no idea how much I am looking forward to having a garden again.  I have to try to not get too over excited about it all otherwise I will have to go and sit in the corner, cover my head with a towel (remember you should always carry a towel – check your Douglas Adams)  and squeak.

Cusop Dingle..

Cusop Dingle is where we spent yesterday afternoon.  It was our second visit, I wasn’t really able to appreciate it fully last time as I had worked the previous night at the pub and was shattered.  This time was so much better!

If I could, I would live in the Dingle.  It has that fairy tale, deep green, deep history feeling that lulls you and makes you feel like the rest of the world can go hang.  Or that if you should doze of on the lush grass by the brook, you might well wake up in another time.  I was amused to read that it was the last recorded place where fairies have been seen.

I discovered a frog which I captured to show Tudor and let go in the brook, and we returned home with enough blackberries for a apple and berry crumble and enough wild flowers to fill my biggest vase – a blissful day really.  Even taking into account the attack of a nettle while I was reaching for flowers 😉  And by the way – the dock leaf did not work.

Nothing is ever as good as it seems, or as bad as it seems, but I really can’t see how yesterday could have been better – I am thankful for it..

The following is nicked from Wikipedia – just for interest.  Oh and if I had known about the oldest resident I would have paid a call on it.

Cusop is an English Victorian village that lies next to the world-famous book town of Hay-on-Wye. It is reached by driving out of Hay towards Bredwardine, and turning right into Cusop Dingle, locally known as ‘Millionaire’s Row’, because of the large, Victorian houses which line the route up to Offa’s Dyke Path, one of the popular walking tracks in the West of England.

Once documented as the last place in England in which fairies were seen, the Dingle is a single track road running alongside the Dulas Brook (forming the border between Wales and England) into the foothills of the Black Mountains. With a multitude of waterfalls, the Dulas Brook is home to trout, otter and kingfishers.

Cusop was home to the poisoner Herbert Rowse Armstrong, the only English solicitor ever hanged for murder, and the grave of his wife Katharine is in the parish churchyard. His former home, originally Mayfield but now The Mantles, is currently owned by Martin Beales, a solicitor working in Armstrong’s old office in Hay. Beales believes that Armstrong was innocent and has published a book arguing his case.[1]

The writer L.T.C. Rolt lived here between 1914 and 1922, in a house then known as Radnor View, in a development locally called “the Forty Acres”. Spending his early boyhood here, he went on to co-found the Inland Waterways Association and the Talyllyn Railway Preservation Society, and to write many books on transport, engineering biography and industrial archaeology.

Cusop’s oldest resident is the Cusop Snail, dating back to the Stone-age.

Recorded in The Doomsday Book as “Cheweshope” from the Roman name of “Kyneshope” meaning Hollow Hill.

The Manor of Cusop formed part of the Ewyas Lacey One Hundreds and was once owned by the Clanowe Family, Edward III, Henry ap Griffith, Vaughans of Moccas and the Cornewall Family.

My neighbour gave me these bits, found when she was doing her garden. I am hoping to make a mosaic to go on our blank garden wall - See next photo..
A mosaic should look good on here.