Monday, October 25, 2010

Not in the mood lately

Just haven't been in the mood to post to this blog lately.  I think it's because here is where I loved to write about life with Amy and Ben ... and of course now it's just Ben and I.  Amy has left such an enormous hole in our lives I think we're still trying to come to terms with her absence. 

We're feeling  like this!  I took Ben up to Start Point last week - we walked all the way round which Amy hadn't been able to do for a very long time. 

But as we climbed up towards the ridge we came to this point ...

... and the enormity of her absence took my breath away.  Amy wasn't part of my life for very long - just four and a half short years.  She was crippled when she came to me, and deeply unhappy - which she showed by withdrawing into herself, growling and biting (yes really) when I tried to show her life was worth living after all.  Perseverance paid off and over the course of about a year she became the most loving and loyal companion I could have wished for. 

That's not to say she was perfect - far from it!  She was the most stubborn, self-opinionated and frankly greedy dog I have ever owned.  She knew what was due to her as the most beautiful (in her opinion!) newfie that ever there was!  But she simply loved people, bustling up to all and sundry (particularly children) and collapsing at their feet in the hope of a tummy tickle.  Not to forget of course that she did once save a child's life, bringing a little girl in from the sea, in her long-ago youth.

Amy was also the only dog I have ever owned that would look admiringly at her own image in shop windows!  In fact she adored shopping.  She never had to be tied up outside a shop, but would wait for me as long as patience lasted - and if I took (in her opinion) too long then she'd bustle importantly inside to come and find me and tell me to hurry up!  I remember leaving her outside WH Smiths once, and coming out to find a total stranger tugging on her lead ... impossible to steal ... she wasn't going to budge an inch without me and at 147 lbs, no-one could make her!

So I've been immersing myself in work - which I love - not forgetting of course that the "Bustle" of Bustle and Sew was named for Amy ... and won't be posting here again for a little while.

Meanwhile you can keep up with some of the news (and the odd photo of Ben which creeps in occasionally) on Bustle & Sew, and I expect I'll be back again before too long with some new photos and stories about life here in Devon.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Been Away...

This picture, for me, depicts the two sides of Istanbul we saw whilst staying in the city last week.  There is the modern city that has grown up around the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque. Although these are ancient and beautiful, their impact is subsumed by the noise of busy traffic, clanging of trams and crowds of tourists. Then there is the human side of this beautiful city, traditional Turkish culture, bazaars, music, and the all-important family life.  Food is very important here, as people grow (or fish for!) the freshest of ingredients to incorporate into yet another wonderful dish enjoyed at leisure surrounded by friends and family.  

The city's skyline is truly beautiful, and I could only imagine how overwhelming it must have seemed to visitors a thousand years ago when most of us lived in mud or wooden dwellings.  This view was taken from inside the Hagia Sophia looking out towards the Blue Mosque.

The wonderful Byzantine mosaics - over 1500 years old, and preserved by being covered in plaster when the building was used as a Mosque.

And I'm rather proud of this picture which I took in the old cistern beneath the city - constructed in the sixth century it supplied water to the old city before the Ottoman empire.  There are now walkways so tourists like us can view this huge underground space - more than 300 marble columns and a vaulted roof about 20m high (I'm guessing here but it was amazing!).  The lighting was rather dim so I rested my elderly camera on the handrail for the long exposure, clutching it tightly so that it didn't join the large fish in the water below.

We had a wonderful time - a great way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, but soon it was time to return home, to be reunited with our furry friend who spent the week in his favourite kennels ....

And who joined us on a picnic in the warm September sunshine at Mill Bay today.  Lovely to go away, but nice to come back too...!

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gone away ...

When Amy left us the summer seemed to fly away too.  Ben took to moping on his bed and I missed terribly the round warm weight that used to settle heavily against my feet when I sat upon the sofa with my knitting or embroidery. 

But .. after all .. Amy would not have wanted us to be sad forever.  She had a tremendous zest for life, grasping every opportunity (especially if it involved food!) that came her way, and fortunately she slipped away so peacefully at the end.

So Ben and I decided to pick ourselves up and take ourselves out - on one of our favourite walks - around Snapes Point just across from Salcombe.  We set off from the carpark across fields that had already been cut ..

Close to where earlier in the year we watched the spring lambs at play. 

The day was overcast, but warm

and there was plenty of activity on the water.  Sounds of gulls crying, and outboard motors chugging along floated across to us from the Salcombe side of the creek .. the sound of the motor is so ubiquitous on the water now, I wonder how Salcombe sounded before the outboard became so widespread..

The long walk was clearly doing Ben a lot of good - he cheered up and began to act much more like his usual impatient self.  Doesn't the lane look autumnal? Check out the wind-sculpted trees - it can be very wild up here in the winter months.

Signs of autumn in the hedgerows - jewel-like haws and beautiful star-shaped ivy fruits.

And fruits in our garden too.  I am not at all fond of apples and always worry that, even after giving as many away as possible, as well making some chutney and also jellies,  a large quantity from our ancient trees either go to the birds or for composting - seems such a waste.  But this year ...

... the surplus are going for juicing courtesy of GreenJane - and we'll have some lovely juice to enjoy at Christmas.    It's the end of one season ... but the beginning of another... autumn leaves, bonfires and fireworks, choir and lunch-club, soups, casseroles and hearty warming puddings.... frosty mornings and toasted toes in front of the fire ... life goes on and though, like the summer, Amy has gone away now, she'll  never be forgotten by her family here in Devon. 

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Farewell Amy

June 2000 - August 2010
She was a much-loved friend to us and mum to Ben.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lions of Bath

We had a great time in Bath at the weekend.  As usual the city looked elegant and well-kept.  There was even a gentleman painting the details on the lamp posts in bright and shiny gold paint.  He was explaining to a couple of tourists that he was a volunteer - the council painted the whole post black and he picked out the scrolls and swirls and the city crest. 

We paid a visit to the Salamander - one of our favourite pubs .. and spent quite a lot of time in bookshops (spot Townie Husband above).  And slowly I began to see .. lions!  Yes, quite apart from the usual lions on pillars, posts and memorials, there were multi-coloured lions, each about 3ft tall, all over town.  In the parks, shopping centre, pubs and pavements ... even on scaffolding!!

I only had time to take photos of a few - every one was different and each had his name on a little plaque by his paws.  (I think Dandelion at the bottom left above was one of my favourites - he looked so friendly).   It turned out that they're all part of a public art initiative and you can read all about it here.

Also did some shopping .... will post more on Bustle and Sew later!  Orders to pack first - and poor neglected (ha ha think not) newfies to cuddle.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Today the weather is ...

Sunny!!! Yes, after the wind and rain we've been experiencing over the last few days the sun has finally emerged to dry us all out.  All over the village people have been out in their gardens repairing the damage - my sweet peas were nearly horizontal and the last of the roses were blown away in the night .. but if it stays warm then everything will soon start to grow again and we really did need the rain.

The sweet peas are wonderful this year ... I'm picking a bunch this size nearly every day ... it's important to keep picking so they keep flowering.  Their fragrance is wonderful -  I keep a vase on my desk and can smell them now as I'm typing.  Next to the jug of sweet peas in the picture above is a jar of sea-glass or mermaids' tears, mostly found on the beach at Lannacombe - our favourite.
And Lannacombe is where, after a nourishing lunch of cheese sandwich and homemade elderflower presse, we headed off to ...
Ben loves to charge around pretending to be a pirate's dog (after all his kennel name is Mileoak Captain Jack!), whilst Amy is happy to simply sit in the sunshine and soak up the atmosphere (plus a large amount of seawater and sand into her fuzzy coat!)  Feels like we've waited a long time for summer this year .. let's hope the warm weather continues now.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Busy times in the village

We're all so busy at the moment! There seems to be a fete nearly every weekend, caravans have appeared all over the place and our gardens need all our care and attention if they're not to run riot when our backs are turned. Then of course, there are dogs to be walked - and in my case at least two separate walks a day - one very small and gentle one for Amy, who, since her nasty turn at the weekend can now only manage a few hundred yards - and as many vigorous expeditions as he can persuade me to agree to for Ben who is eager to demonstrate to all and sundry that he is young, fit and definitely the most handsome dog in the village (in his opinion!).

I did wonder if it was kind to ask Amy to walk, even such a short distance, but on reflection I think it's better for her ... a little gentle exercise is good, and I'm anxious to keep her mind active, happy and involved... simply sitting on her bed is no sort of life - I think. Anyway, although she missed Stokenham fete last Saturday, it's Chillington's turn this week, and maybe, just maybe she might be fit enough to attend.

Oh .. and the picture at the top ... I've been helping Green Jane out at her Pick your own farm - it's a very responsible role weighing the strawberries and taking the money. And ... she is paying me in fruit and veg - wonderful bliss.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

If you go down to the woods today .....

... you might have seen two large black bear-like dogs enjoying the fresh air and warm sunshine. We headed off to our woods, just 5 minutes walk from home.

The sky was blue and the sun was shining when we reached the gate

Which way shall we go today?

Amy chooses the path ... but is quickly left behind.

Wait for me!!

The orchid glade

I think they're Lesser Spotted - the common sort - but very lovely anyway.

Come on girls! (Ben is such a poser)

Look - what's that? Is it a wolf?

Last one home's a sissy!!
A lovely, gentle afternoon's walk in the shady woods - perfect for Amy, though I think Ben will need another outing this evening!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Blissful Blossom!

When I first learned Amy was so ill I didn't think I'd want to carry on with this blog for a while - the idea of recording life during her final months seemed simply too painful. But now, having lived with the knowledge of her illness for the past couple of months, I feel differently. I want to keep a record of this, the very last summer the three of us will ever spend together, and make sure we enjoy every single moment.

I think it's helped that she is keeping very well (the photo above was taken only a couple of days ago). She's on much stronger medication now which is controlling her pain and has recovered from her operation. She's returned to being the Amy I love so much and it's tempting to think that she'll be fine. But although vet is very pleased (and surprised) by her, he has warned me that I mustn't expect to keep her through the winter.

So.... for the moment we are carrying on as normal ... and here in Coombe Leigh when the elderflowers are out normal means .... homemade elderflower cordial.

We have our own in the garden. I don't pick them all - leaving some to become berries for the birds in the autumn, but I do gather a good few handfuls.

For each pint of water add the juice and grated zest of a lemon, 1lb sugar, 2 teaspoons cider vinegar and a dozen heads of elderflower.

Lemons always remind me of holidays in the Mediterranean ....

Can't be bothered to grate .. always grate my fingers! So I use a peeler instead. You have to boil the water and sugar together then pour the mixture onto the elderflowers, lemon and vinegar. Stir well ...

Leave to infuse for 24 hours .. the kitchen smells wonderful!

Then bottle in sterilised bottles. Yes, they are wine bottles .. it was no hardship to empty them ready for the elderflower! The cordial has to be kept refridgerated even before it's opened, but it does keep for up to 3 months in the fridge. The taste of summer!

Friday, June 11, 2010

In the garden..

It's been so nice to be outside over last few weeks. The newfies and I love to sit in the gazebo until quite late on these long, warm evenings, and then Ben and I often go for a final walk up through the woods whilst Amy snoozes gently on the cool slates of the courtyard. I love this time of year when everything seems so full of new life and potential. The lanes are especially lovely at present - although the bluebells are over, the cow parsley froths along the verges, ragged robin and willowherb peek through the grass and the dog-roses are just beginning to bloom in the hedgerows.

In the garden we have geraniums in the old stone trough ....
Sweet peas and scabious in the apple crates...
and a newfoundland dog in the lavender ....(!)
Yes, it's Amy .... if it had been Ben it would have been an action shot of him crashing THROUGH the lavender. Happy days !!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Amy is ten today!!

Happy Birthday Amy- 1o today!!
Seem here with my daughter - one of her biggest fans.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Bluebells and the beach!!

Amy has been put on stronger medication and as a consequence is feeling much more like her old self again. Her operation wound has now fully healed and so we decided to go to the beach. It was just like old times .... the excitement barely contained... the anxious lookings out of the car windows ..... the exuberance when the road to Mill Bay was recognised ... and then .. the rolling on the sand in sheer joy at being alive and on the BEACH!!!

Then of course there had to be swimming .....

But soon the old lady was tired .... she can only manage about 20 minutes or so now ... so she was told to wait in the car, parked in some lovely cool shade, while Ben and I went off to look at the bluebells. After all, she couldn't manage this walk last year, so I know it's impossible for her now.
She watched us go ...

You can't tell how steep the path is here - but it is VERY steep indeed.

It's worth it when you reach the top .... the bluebells were lovely ... but we were only just in time I think, another week and they'll be over.

But so, so beautiful .. these are the true English bluebells, much more delicate than the cultivated Spanish bluebells, and a much deeper, richer blue.. carpets stretching away up the hill ...

And the view back along the beach where we walked with Amy earlier.....

A truly glorious afternoon. And so nice to be out with Amy again. The vet is very pleased with her, he's talking about the possibility of her being with us for the summer ... that would be wonderful ... keep your fingers crossed for her.

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