I've been a little quiet of late. But then my world has seemed a little more quiet as I appear to have lost some hearing in my left ear. No quantity of ear drops seems to be changing things and despite ear syringing no longer being available on the NHS, I'm struggling to get an appointment any time soon.
Anyway, last weekend we headed over the border to the rugged coastline of Ceredigion and Aberystwyth in Wales (known locally as "Aber" and meaning mouth of the river Ystwyth). We were there to visit the University open day, but made the most of our time there by immediately seeking out the charming Wetherspoons adjacent to the railway station on Friday evening.
The temperature on arrival was mild enough to sit outside under the canopy with a prime view of the station platform - a train spotter's dream. We had to laugh when an elderly gent unexpectedly decided to share our table (others were available). At this point we were nearing the end of our meal (cauliflower and spinach curry for me, chicken burgers for the boys) and as we got up to leave, Gareth noticed that he had the tell tale spotter's book in hand. Our theory is that we had selected his regular table.
After a brief but bracing walk along the windswept seafront, boasting the oldest pier in Wales (built in 1864)...
...vibrant seafront properties....
...and this impressive war memorial depicting an angel appearing to fling a laurel wreath onto the head of a naked woman emerging from a thicket below (to spare her modesty and because the light was dying and there was by now an icy breeze, here they are in silhouette form)...
...we headed back to our car, pausing only to ogle this feline beauty, who appeared to be trapped inside the shop front of a hair salon. We checked. She wasn't. There was a door open at the rear of the salon, but something had her transfixed.
Our Airbnb accommodation was warm, cosy and comfortable and the welcome pack from Karen was hugely appreciated.
It even had a kitchen and a TV! My first Airbnb booking back in 2021 came with unexpected challenges. My top tip. Double check the small print with Airbnb bookings. Luxuries like kitchens and TVs are not a given. We managed a few days away "self catering" with the aid of a hastily purchased sandwich toaster and an ancient laptop with audio issues to watch the few DVDs in our possession.
Saturday was largely consumed by the University's open day activities. Kicking off at 9 am, we were handed a welcome pack including £20.00 worth of food vouchers for the day before heading into a lecture hall for the welcome talk. This was followed by a visit to the town's Arts Centre, a handsome building housing an accredited museum, for another subject specific talk and tour.
What an inspiring place to learn! There was antique equipment, beautifully maintained and still in use...
...and a room - the artists' studio - I could happily have made my home. Check out the view!
We politely refused the shuttle bus and elected to walk back up the steep hill to the campus, earning our lunch in the Arts Centre Cafe, before heading over the road to talk Medieval History. We ended the day with a tour of the student accommodation before being released into the community. Just before we left, I spotted a ceramics exhibition and rushed in to grab a couple of photos.
We spent the remainder of the afternoon visiting Aberystwyth's highlights, including the National Library of Wales (an amazing building and the only legal deposit library in Wales, giving it power to request a copy of everything published in the UK with thousands of new publications arriving every week).
The exhibits, including ancient manuscripts, photographs and works of art, could easily have kept us occupied for a day, but sadly we were rapidly running out of time. I managed to snap this painting by Claudia Williams, c 1980, a highly regarded artist in both Wales where she moved in 1953 and in France where she lived for 15 years, but spent much of my time studying the photo portraits of famous Welsh people.
This gave me severe cabinet envy.
Library door patina.
Onwards to the 13th century castle built by the English to keep the Welsh out. The castle ruins provided glimpses of Aberystwyth promenade.
There's a great deal more to Aberystwyth, but we were flagging and so headed back to the comfort of our digs for food and wine and the prospect of a lie in. Ordinarily, we would have been expected to vacate by 10.30, but as the clocks had been moved on an hour overnight, Karen kindly suggested we stay until lunchtime. We were away late morning with plenty of food for thought.
Talking of food, back at home, I've purchased some new reversible bed linen covered in gorgeous Sicilian lemons (a 70% off bargain from Ian Snow). We always have lemons in our fruit bowl and to keep the vampires away, often knock up a simple pasta dish dressed simply with grated garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper and lemon juice.
What else have I been up to? Well, I've had another hair cut! I can't believe how quickly and dramatically my hair grew after the last one. Unfortunately, my layers grew out too, so they're back in place and my love affair with seventies styling continues.
I've also read Gold Dust Woman, a well researched Stevie Nicks biography by Stephen Davis, watched the Amazon Prime series Daisy Jones & The Six, which takes inspiration from the turbulent story of Fleetwood Mac (worth it for the fashion in my opinion) and gone down a gold dust rabbit hole in my photo edits. This is an old photo of the boy that was. Where did the time go?
In between seemingly incessant rain, we managed a walk from our house and discovered a secret water tower up on the hill, masked by trees and unknown to us until now.
The garden is slowly coming to life from Euphorbia to tulip bulbs.
Spring is the season our garden has the most colour. Our beloved and ancient magnolia tree is also on target to bloom over the Easter weekend. On Wednesday night, there was a chorus of six frogs croaking, their bulbous heads poking out above the surface of the pond water. Unsurprisingly, this was the sight on Thursday morning.
Gareth's potted Gunnera Manicata are bursting into life (not to be confused with the invasive and illegal Gunnera Tinctoria).
I've also noticed the arrival of more than one bulb in the post lately. Gareth's informed me that said bulbs are Voodoo Lilies. They sound evil. Apparently they smell like rotting flesh for 2 days when they first bloom in order to attract flies to pollinate them(nice), but we're meant to overlook all of this because of their exotic beauty. Looks like one has already claimed its first victim!
The birds are yet again losing out to not-so-secret squirrel.
The planned photoshoot didn't happen. Here's a potted history.
Casting call yielded two models - let's call them Jack and Jill.
The first date in February was postponed due to sub zero temperatures.
I purchase shoes and jeans for Jack to protect his modesty in an otherwise revealing outfit.
Jack drops out of the shoot after booking a lads' holiday.
An alternative model, Pandora steps in. We now have two brides.
They say lightning doesn't strike twice, but Jill pulls out three days before the shoot, citing a hospital appointment.
Catherine, our French jewellery designer exclaims "Oh my God!" and "We should do a bride jilted at the altar shoot."
I am forced to cancel the shoot.
Pandora persuades her boyfriend (with previous modelling experience) to participate.
We're now trying to find a date to suit all. So, if you can be bothered to keep up, watch this space.
In the meantime, I've been tinkering and can now create a semi-realistic lightning bolt in post edit, something I think could work for this troublesome shoot. If it ever happens.
In other news, my Mom was given the all clear last week and we went out for coffee and cake at Enville's Archie's Attic to celebrate. I had a catch up with my namesake, the business owner, Claire. She had been given the heads up on my last shoot (see above) by a customer who had visited that very day and announced excitedly that he had just seen a woman in a wedding dress up on the hills. Much speculation ensued about where the couple had married - the church bells hadn't been ringing that day. Claire had smiled and said "I bet I know who that was." There are no secrets in an English village.
Archie's Attic was dressed for Spring....
....and Mom was looking happy and healthy.
Inspired by the prospect of better weather, the wreath on the door and cafe craft workshops on offer, I found my scarcely seen crafting mojo and made a rag wreath for spring from some old scarves.
Spring sunshine let's be having you!