A Day of Two Halves

It’s been a day of two halves today, literally poles apart. The day began beautifully with bright sunshine and some big fluffy clouds in the sky which was a godsend to us as we packed up to move on to the next stage in our holiday. As anyone who has ever been camping knows, it’s rotten to set up or strike camp in the wind and the rain as canvas tends to act as sails making folding tents a nightmare. We were fortunate this morning that the weather was in our favour.

But then we set off and things quickly changed. My dad developed an electrical problem on his car, which meant that he didn’t have a connection to his nearside indicator on his caravan. We usually lead and dad usually follows us, but because of this problem we went behind today because at least we knew where he was heading and the chances of annoying other motorists were reduced if it was us behind him.

If we hadn’t done that then what happened next might not have been quite so catastrophic…

We crossed the border into Scotland, and we met Weather with a capital “W”.

And unbeknown to us at this point we were developing our own mechanical fault of our own. We stopped for lunch at a service station and it was pouring down with rain so didn’t stop long, but when we set off again it was like armageddon out there.

We had a slight argument with the satnav as we wanted to follow the road signs to the Forth Bridge but Tom wanted to take us through Edinburgh City. Erm, no Tom, not a great idea when towing a couple of caravans in convoy, one of which can’t indicate left.
So we found ourselves on the M9 (which I thought was the M90) going round a huge left hand bend coming onto the main carriageway when we heard a big bang, and then a grinding noise from behind us. The car felt like we were dragging a dead weight behind us and so we pulled over onto the hard shoulder. We were just about at the end of the bit where we could have pulled over because there was another slip road coming in to our left. Not the best or the safest place to have an emergency stop!!

Still pouring down with torrential rain, the three of us got out to check what had happened and oh boy…

The nearside wheel had come OFF the van, breaking the wheel arch in the process and leaving the hub dragging into the tarmac. All four wheel bolts had come off (how, HOW?!?!) and the tyre had shredded inside the archway, giving off plumes of burnt rubber smoke inside and outside the van.

We rang for the RAC, but as the problem was the caravan and not the car, they told us they might not be able to help but would get someone to us within an hour. They told us to wait by the side of the carriageway away from the car. The weather was appalling and we got very wet very quickly, but we were “rescued” by two men in a BEAR Scotland truck after about 20 minutes.

They weren’t supposed to help us, but they were fantastic and got the caravan jacked up for us so we could get the weight off the hub. While they were doing that we saw that the bolt holes in the wheel had all become enlarged, possibly as the bolts had worked themselves loose, rendering the wheel useless.

Kevin had an amazing light bulb moment when he realised that as the car had 4 safety bolts on the wheels, we were carrying the extra “spare” ones, which we could use to attach the spare wheel. Hurrah!!  Problem solved!!

Looking forward to getting warm and dry and on the move again, once the spare wheel was attached with the spare wheel bolts, we got on with the job of rehitching the van,  lowering the legs, upping the jockey wheel and restarting the engine.

Only to find that the battery was dead because we’d followed the RAC ‘s instructions to leave the hazard warning lights on and the side lights on. Very embarrassing to have to ask the BEAR men to give us a jump start as well. Oops!

Those men were fantastic and really
helped us out, and although their advice to “get on a plane somewhere hot next time” might not be taken up, they were brilliant with us throughout it all.

Finally back on the road and we eventually found the campsite, getting the whole party back together again. Obviously, being stranded on a motorway, dad couldn’t stop to help us and had to carry on without us.

So here we are at the end of a difficult and very different day. What started out as beautiful weather, gorgeous driving conditions and a calm and peaceful camping party has turned out to be very very wet, dangerous, difficult and stressful journey and tetchy (!) campers at the end.

It is still torrential rain out there and we have not got a dry coat between us after the debacle on the road and setting up in the torrent, but we have had a great time in our awning this evening playing cards, telling daft jokes and having a sing song.

It’s great this camping lark isn’t it??!

Last Day of Northumberland


This is my favourite picture from today. Taken this evening on Bamburgh beach, it shows my husband and my son flying a kite near the water’s edge. I have deliberately taken a wide shot so you can see the glorious blue sky above and the amazing colour of the sea beyond.

We have loved it here this week but we are moving on tomorrow morning and leaving this stunning part of the country behind…for now. We’ll definitely be returning, it is too beautiful to ignore.
We are heading north in the morning, and will be taking the high road into bonny Scotland. I’m looking forward to staying in Fife and doing some sightseeing up there. We might even get to see some dolphins if we’re lucky!

Northumberland Holiday, Part 3

Today we visited the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, making the crossing across the causeway with literally minutes to spare!

We have been there a couple of times before and each time we go we manage to see something different or to have a different experience of it. This time was no exception because we visited the oft photographed castle at the end of the island. It was a garrison from around 1500 and a coastguard lookout post until the turn of the 20th century when it was bought by an Edwardian gentleman who converted into a holiday home with the help of his friend Edwin Lutyens, who also designed the cenotaph in Whitehall in London.

We also visited the ruins of the abbey, founded as a monastic site of contemplation by St Cuthbert in the 7th Century. I managed to do a little sketching while the others toured the site, which was lovely and peaceful to enjoy.


Here is my mum and dad in front of the recognisable ruins of the abbey, with a newly commissioned statue to St Cuthbert in the background.


And here is the statue in close up. I love the juxtaposition of the ancient and modern in this picture. A tale of modern Christianity of ever there was one.

We are currently sitting out a storm and we are having to shout to each other to be heard over the noise of the rain on our caravan awning roof. Don’t you just love the Great British weather?!!

Northumberland Part Two

It has been a gloriously long day today, with our alarms going off at 3.30am for a 3.45am get up. I had planned to go and catch the sunrise on the beach at Bamburgh with Kevin this morning, and we were going to do a bit of experimental photography while we were there.

Oh boy!

We got some absolutely beautiful shots and I managed to get two decent time lapse sequences of the dawn breaking and the sunrise over the Farne Islands, just off the Northumberland coast. I have tried to upload them to share with you, but as wi-fi is a bit intermittent I might have to wait until I get home to share them properly.

For now though, here are some of my favourite shots taken this morning.

The sun rising over the Farne Islands

The sun rising over the Farne Islands

Our beach setup to take the time lapse video

Our beach setup to take the time lapse video


It was so worth the effort of getting up and out so early today. Not only for the photos but for the spiritual experience of sitting on a beach in the shadow of a 1200 year old fortress, with the tide coming in and the sun coming up. Priceless.



Holiday in Northumberland – Part 1

We travelled to Northumberland on Monday and have spent the past few days relaxing and unwinding. We have been a couple of times before and this area is one of my favourite places to be. It’s full of big skies and open fields and the sea is literally a stone’s throw away from where we’re camping.

We’re on a site that is part of a working farm in the village of Elford. I say “village” but really it is a crossroads with a farm, a manor house and a small row of cottages tucked in behind one of the farm’s barns. We’re about a mile and half from Seahouses, and about 4 miles from Bamburgh, and we visited both of those places yesterday while out on an 8 mile bike ride from the site.

This is a view of Bamburgh Castle that we stumbled upon from one of the country lanes:

View from the road over the fields towards Bamburgh Castle

View from the road over the fields towards Bamburgh Castle

You can see the wheat fields in the foreground and the sea beyond the castle. Just to the right of this are the Farne Islands, which look like a good Spring tide would flood them out of existence but are actually home to thousands of seabirds, seals and puffins and also house 3 separate lighthouses. I think a boat trip over there might be in order later in the week.

Apart from the bike ride yesterday morning, we had a lovely relaxing lazy day yesterday. We were blessed with sunshine all day long and it was lovely to sit outside the caravans to just chat, crochet, do puzzles and drink tea together yesterday afternoon. Today has been a slightly different story, beginning with thunderous and torrential rain pretty much all night long. It has been raining most of the day today and even though there are some blue patches in the sky, the angry grey clouds are chasing them away almost as soon as the torrents slow to a drip, as they are doing now and again.

We had a little drive out to Coldstream today on account of the weather as it is the home of the Coldstream Guards and promised a museum to go and visit. It’s about 20 miles or so away from here and the journey was a lovely toddle through the most beautiful countryside we can boast in England. I got a small shock when we crossed over the River Tweed, and passed over the border to Scotland (I didn’t realise Coldstream wasn’t in England – oops!), but the countryside on the Scottish side of the border was just a beautiful as it was on the English side.

The Coldstream museum is a very small affair, but it fairly comprehensively gave the history of the Guards and explained how they came into existence and the role they have played in British military history. There was also a room of exhibits that gave a bit of the social history of Coldstream too, which was interesting to read about. A highlight for me was when a couple of currently-serving guardsmen came in to have a look around. Obviously on “downtime” they were having a bit of a laugh and larking about, which was nice to see. They were just young lads really and it was a strange feeling to realise that they were probably older than some of the soldiers that were killed in the First World War, which we have been commemorating recently. One of the lads tried on one of the display tunics which was an example of a uniform from about 100 years ago. He was amazed that it was basically the same as the one they wear on duty nowadays, except this one was missing its buttons. “Quick, to the stores before we get put on a charge for that!” he said to his mates. We had a little chat with them and they were very friendly and informative about their uniforms and their guard duties down at Windsor and Buckingham Palace. An unexpected bonus which brought the past and the present to life for us in the tiny museum.

Outside, the driver showed off his “prowess” at driving the minibus away…only, he forgot he’d put the handbrake on and was very embarrassed in front of us (and no doubt came in for some extreme ribbing from his pals). I don’t doubt he can drive a military truck or a tank, but a minibus was a bit beyond him today.

After the museum we had a little walk through the town, having a spot of lunch at a tea-shop called “Mad Hatter’s Tea Shop”, which was lovely, and into a remembrance garden next to the Tweed.

Remembrance garden in Coldstream

Remembrance garden in Coldstream



Curve in the River Tweed

Curve in the River Tweed

This is a curve in the Tweed, which looks superb for fly fishing, if you’re into that sort of thing. Looking at the peace and tranquillity of it I wouldn’t mind giving it a go myself!

On the way back to site we stopped off at the Flodden Battlefield. I don’t fully understand how the two armies came to be fighting on that day, but basically the English took on the Scots and even though the two sides were hugely mismatched in terms of weaponry, artillery and manpower the Scots suffered a huge defeat and the English “won”. I say it in quote marks like that because in just a couple of hours in the afternoon of 9th September 1513, nearly 50,000 men were slaughtered on the battlefield. Many more would have died from wounds later on, and several lords and noblemen subsequently lost their heads as a result of their poor decision making or outright cowardice during the battle. Good old Henry VIII. Not even there yet still demanded the execution of those that “failed” in the battle that day.

Flodden Battlefield looking at Branxton Hill

Flodden Battlefield looking at Branxton Hill

Here is a view of Branxton Hill on which the battle took place. I was standing where the middle of the English front line was judged to have stood. The Scots army would have been in that field directly opposite and as they were on the higher ground they should have been victorious that day, but they weren’t because of the boggy ground in the middle (where the small humpy ridge is before the hedge line halfway up the picture).

I find it amazing that so much bloodshed could have happened in such a short space of time and in such a small area as this. Flodden is thought to have been the last major medieval battle and just being on the site today gave me shivers thinking about the lives that were lost.

Back at the campsite now and I’m off to try and find a spot where I can connect to the wi-fi for long enough to post this, then it’s back to the van for sausage casserole for tea. Might have a bit of a leg-stretcher on the bikes later, or we might have a drive up the coast to find the tide times for the crossing to Lindisfarne tomorrow or Friday. Bliss.




Daybook Entry – 28th July

021114_2314_DaybookEntr1.jpgFOR TODAY

Outside my window… it is cool and dark

I am thinking… it will be easier to sleep tonight!

I am thankful… that my daughter didn’t have to have an operation today

In the kitchen… are random piles of laundry waiting to be done tomorrow

I am wearing… green t-shirt, grey shorts

I am creating… a wish-list for my future

I am going… to the doctor’s in the morning for a follow up on a scan I had a couple of weeks ago

I am wondering… what he’s going to say

I am reading… I’ve just started reading “Torch” by Lin Anderson. It’s the second in a series about a Scottish forensic scientist and I really enjoyed the first one so I’m looking forward to getting into this one

I am hoping… for a couple of clear nights when we are on holiday so we can do some night-time beach photography. Having just booked our second stop about 100 yards from the beach in Fife I am sooooo excited!

I am praying for… a quick recovery for my daughter; my gran’s health; the horrific violence against children in Gaza and Syria

I am looking forward to… my holiday next week

I am learning… how to deliver a sermon. Yes, that’s right! I gave my maiden sermon yesterday at St Peter’s Church, our sister church in Blackley. It felt amazing to do it and the feedback from people who heard me has been very encouraging.

Around the house… are signs that a camping trip is imminent

I am pondering… an early night

A favourite quote for today

One of my favourite things… is brie on crusty bread

A few plans for the rest of the week: church meeting tomorrow, visit to the GP, clothes shopping for holiday for Ethan (I’m sure he sleeps on a stretching machine each night), band rehearsal Friday night, special band rehearsal on Saturday morning for a WWI Commemoration service on Sunday

A peek into my day…


Homegrown cucumber from my Dad’s greenhouse. Very tasty!!











Come and join us at  http://thesimplewomansdaybook.blogspot.com/ and join in!!

Man Talks To Goats

Probably the most pointless blog post you’ll read today, but this video clip really made me laugh and I thought you’d like to see it too.

A man talks to some goats…and they answer him!!

Daft, but harmless I guess. Hope you enjoyed those 25 seconds of silliness *hits replay…



Wednesday Hodgepodge – 23rd July


1. When I look at the sky I feel ______________________________________.

…infinitesimally small. And I like that feeling.

Sometimes we need to reminded that we are just a tiny speck in this world, and though we might believe ourselves to be important, and vital, and necessary etc, we really are not those things at all. Looking up at a huge sky reminds me that there is so much more going on in this world than we can ever imagine, and I like that feeling of being small.

2. If you had to run for political office, which one would you run for? Do you have any real desire to actually do this?

British politics are different to the American system, so our terms of reference might be a little different too, but I would like to be a local councillor rather than an MP or cabinet minister. My concerns are for my local community and the people I see and work alongside every day and if I were to run for any sort of political position that’s where my heart would lie.

I don’t have any real desire to do this though, my church life and my community work is too valuable to me to put aside to become mixed up in the world of politics. I’d find it too negative and combative and I would hate that.

3. What scent makes you think of home?

Might sound a little bit gross, but the smell of my husband’s work clothes. His scent after a day at work reminds me of the security and acceptable and love that lives in our home.

4. How often do you take a step back to think about where you’re headed in life? Do you need more or less self-reflection?

I used to me manic about self-reflection, and wondering where I’m headed in life etc, but over the last four or five years my outlook has changed. As I have come to faith more and have found myself immersed in community work and outreach from my church I feel I have found my place in this world (at last!) and have never felt more contented in my life. I have got a lot of things still going wrong in my life, but they don’t seem to be as important just now. I am happy to let my path be guided by God and I have complete faith and trust that wherever I’m headed it will be for the best. It might not feel like it at the time, but I’m certain that whatever happens in the long run it will all work out fine. I don’t need to step back and think about it, I am happy to just let it happen (or not, as the case may be).

5. July is National Ice Cream Month…besides a cone, what’s your favourite food item to top with ice cream?

You can’t beat a slice of hot apple pie topped with vanilla ice-cream. Unless you present me with a bowl of hot apple crumble instead then it would definitely be a toss up as to which I would go for first!

6. What might your autobiography be called?

I would go with something like “Drifting, drifting”. All my life I seem to have been drifting from one thing to the next and as I said earlier, it has only been in the last few years that I have stopped panicking about it and learned to embrace it, trusting God to get me where I ought to be.

7. Your least favourite mode of transportation? Why?

I love most modes of transport – I love journeys full stop!! I love travelling by car, by train, by bike, by boat, by ferry (sorry Joyce!), by coach…I love them all.

However, if I had to choose my least favourite it would have to be walking. Urgh. If I can bike it rather than walk it I do! Walking is too slow and for us ladies of the larger variety it is not as pleasurable as it probably is for others. Having said that, I do enjoy it once I can get over the initial “awww do I have to?!”, and I do like getting out and about in the hills and canal tow-paths locally for walks.

8. My random thought for today:

It’s that time of year again folks! It won’t be long before we hear of the first teen drowning in a reservoir or flooded quarry “because it was hot and they needed to cool off”.

Stay out of the water chaps.




Pork and Peppers

Got to share this with you! We had this for tea tonight and it was gorgeous.

Literally. I could have gorged myself on it! Apologies for the messy plate but I was too keen to get stuck in.DSC_0583


2 x pork loin steaks (£4 for 6 at Asda, cost for this meal approx £1.33)

1 each of red, yellow and greenpeppers (99p for 3 at Tesco and Asda)

200g mushrooms (£1.37 for 650g from Asda, cost for this meal approx 45p)

1 onion, sliced (approx 20p)

2 portions of fine egg noodles (Sharwoods used tonight, cost for this meal approx 50p)

1 chicken stockcube (I use Knorr stock pots, cost around 25p each)

Smoked paprika, olive oil, garlic powder and lemon juice (combined cost no more than approx 50p)

(TOTAL COST = £4.25 approx, giving 2 generous portions)


1. Slice peppers, onions, pork steaks and mushrooms into strips.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a frying pan and add a teaspoon of smoked paprika and about half a teaspoon of garlic powder (use fresh if you prefer).

3. Add the pork and after a couple of minutes add the onions, peppers and mushrooms. Stir it all round until all the paprika juices coat everything.

4. Make half a pint of chicken stock (I just put a stockpot into a mug and topped it up with boiling water). Add to the frying pan and give it a good stir.

5. It will need to simmer for about 15 minutes or so to give the stock chance to reduce slightly and for all the pork and peppers to soften and cook properly.

6. While that’s doing put a large pan of salted, boiling water on and cook the noodles according to the pack instructions. I used dried fine egg noodles and they only took 3 minutes to cook.

7. Taste the gravy round the pork and the peppers and add lemon juice, salt and pepper as required.

8. Drain the noodles and divide between two dishes. Add the pepper and pork mixture on top (share it if you must!) and dig in.

I was thinking as I cooked this one tonight that if I did it up to the adding the stock stage, this would do very nicely as a filling for tortilla wraps. Just add a bit of sour cream to the wrap and Bob’s your uncle, as they say. Nice!