Musings from Home

...on anything and everything

Wednesday 31 October 2012


 Indoors as well as out, the colours are rich

 As well as mellow fruitfulness it's also the season of silly spookiness

My beautiful family ...

... getting ready for a party

Wednesday 11 April 2012


I have never been good with numbers- I am more of a word person- but I am by no means proud of my "number blindness", and have never been able to understand why some people think it's OK to be innumerate, as long as you aren't illiterate. Because of my inability to "see" numbers, I usually cut and paste them, which is what I did- or at least it's what I think I did- with the ISBN for The Boy with Two Heads when I designed the fliers. However, I got one digit wrong, leading to at least one problem when somebody tried to order it in a bookshop, using the ISBN, only to be told the book didn't exist!

So- if you have got a flier for The Boy with Two Heads:- destroy it!

The correct ISBN is: 978-0956810441

My very humble apologies!!

Sunday 8 April 2012


We usually have a big family Easter party with at least a dozen of us in and around The Red House, hunting Easter Eggs and sleeping in every bed in the house, the cabin and the guests' caravan. However, this year, everybody is doing their own thing, and only Kate and her little family of two cats and a dog are in Cumbria this year.
Catbells and Robinson from Crow Park

For Kate's first day with us, we decided to go to Keswick, have lunch in The Dog and Gun, and take Wicket for a walk along the shore of the lake. Our usual route is to Friar's Crag and then along the shore to the east- in a clockwise direction round the lake. This time, we walked in the opposite direction, across Crow Park and through a mossy willow plantation to the boatyard on Isthmus Bay. Wicket had a wonderful time, meeting lots of other dogs, being ooohed and aaahed over by humans, getting wet and doing tricks by the lake.

Nothing much to report really - just some photos that record the beauty of the area we are so lucky to live in, and the joy of a small dog exploring an new landscape of sights, sounds and above all, smells!

Gossip by the Mountain












Wednesday 9 November 2011


My newest venture this year has been to join with 16 other artists and craftspeople in the Wigton area to open a new gallery in Wigton, The Fountain Gallery. The paintings cover a range of styles and subjects, and we also have pottery, basketwork and jewellery, as well as cards and prints. Sales are steady and interest and enthusiasm are great: "This is just what Wigton needs"

I am delighted to say that I have sold one painting and several pieces of jewellery. We are of course looking to increase our sales in the run-up to Christmas, so I have created a new range of affordable earrings, already packaged. 

The earrings- simple and pretty, with sterling silver and hand made glass beads   

 Each pair of earrings is displayed on its own greeting card- simple and easy: a pretty gift for under £10!

Come and see the full range of jewellery, cards, pots and paintings at our late night openings: every Thursday night until Christmas.

On Thursday 10th November, enjoy a glass of mulled wine as you browse!

Thursday 15 September 2011

Arequipa, a dazzling city, built of white granite with elabourite wedding cake churches; city of eternal summer, with only five days of rain a year; a startlingly European city in the midst of the Andes; apparently a centre of right wing politics- not hard to believe as it seems Spanish to the core, and the native population are mainly to be seen trying to sell their goods on street corners. This is a city that bespeaks the wealth and power of the ruling class, its massive cathedral tower over the little people.

We are now on the last leg of our Peruvian tour and have fetched up in this odd but beguiling place. Yesterday we spent a couple of hours wandering round the beautiful and peaceful Santa Catalina monastery, a small town within the town, where the daughters of wealthy and middle class Spaniards "retreated" in the fifteenth century. And who could blame them? What choices were offered them? Get married at 14 or so to a man chosen for dynastic or financial reasons, to be raped on a regular basis and get the chance to die in childbirth? Or go into a convent, and learn to read and write, have your own room with comforts of bed, chamber pot and small kitchen, and have the chance of power and influence as Mother Superior? Would you prefer to have your hand cut off, or not?

Tomorrow we get up at 2.30 am to take a bus to Colca Canyon where we are assured, we will see a some of the remaining few condors in the wild. I expect to be knocked sideways by this, as I have so many other experiences, but will it equal floating down the Rio Momon in the middle of the night, getting a first glimpse of the towering green mountains overlooking Machu Picchu, being hugged by a laughing woman who lives in a hut made of reeds built on a floating island on Titicaca, or even catching sight of the distant snow-clothed mountains of Bolivia across this great, high inland sea? I will let you know in future posts!

Friday 2 September 2011

Swimming with Piranas and Dancing with Dolphins

A small crack, only just audible above the pec pec pec of the outboard, sent the two guys dozing on the narrow benches at the front scrabbling on the mucky floor of the boat, using their mobile phones to pierce the thick dark. A grunt and a splash and the small fish who had made an unfortunate leap in the dark, was pitched back into the river. These guys, employees and freelancers of the Amazon Rainforest Lodge are relatively affluent: I sense their forefathers would have seen it as a gift from the river gods.

We set out in total dark from the lodge at 4.00 am, after a night of spectacular crashing thunder, rain and an amazing light show, but the river was still dangerously low, so the trip that would have taken about an hour in the metal speedboat with its big butch 70 HP Johnson outboard had to be done in a little wooden pec pec. These boats, mostly open, but a few with palm thatched roofs, have small and highly manouverable outboards with very long prop-shafts like cake whisks. They form most of the traffic on the Amazon and its tributaries and you see families pec pec pec-ing their way down river in the early morning to sell their goods in Iquitos: charcoal and bananas forming the main cargo, with boats loaded to an inch or two of freeboard. Often the whole family will go, to enjoy the day out and mix business with pleasure. Kids wave at passing boats and grannies shelter under multi coloured umbrellas and makeshift shelters: odd mixture of traditional and modern as palm leaves vie with plastic. (Plastic water bottles act as net floats and bouys, warning of sand bars and sunken logs. Little is wasted)

Our particular pec pec of this morning was covered with blue plastic which dripped condensation on us, but was a bit special, as the driver was a professional. Our personal guide, Jimy, stood in the prow with a flashlight, playing it across the surface of the water from one bank to the other, trying to pick out the standing ripples that warn of a sand bar just beneath the surface. We could occasionally make out a night bird´s call above the engine, and once or twice Jimy caught a white bird in his torch beam. It was an eery and tense experience, and I was thinking of it as a bit of jolly adventure, in a sort of Boys´ Own kind of way,with a nice feeling of peril, without any real danger, when we hit a sand bar hard, and the boat slewed round and tilted; the freeboard on my side reduced to about 2 centimetres. Then I really was frightened: were we going to be tipped into the muddy and probably freezing cold water? Were the piranas we failed to catch the day before waiting to turn the tables on us?

There was much rocking of the boat, plenty of prodding and shoving and lots of noise from the labouring cake whisk, as the driver put it into reverse, stirred  the muddy river up even more, and finally got us afloat again. Then I felt foolish- there really was nothing to worry about- these guys live on the river, and getting stuck on a sand bank was certanly no worse than us getting a flat, or needing a jump start.

Later that day, we emerged from the Rio Momon- "our" tributary onto the mighty Amazon itself, where our heroes of the dark night turned into our personal David Attenboroughs, and whistled up a couple of pink river dolphins for us.

I´ll try to post some pics- I have about 1500 so far, as those who know me will not be surprised to know, and add a few more episodes from my journal when I next hit a computer, and have some down time. We danced with the local morris team, shook hands with a spider monkey and stroked a 20 foot long anaconda, as well as examining the teeth of a small pirana: but that´s another story.

Friday 19 August 2011

Of Quality, Computers and Controversy

Local Quality
Local is a very important word in my vocabulary, and Quality is another, and for me, they go hand in hand. I have written about quality here, and it is the main criterion I use to select the books I publish. However, I recognise, seek out, and exploit Quality in all areas of life. When I find it I like to celebrate it.
Quality is the principle which governs the many small independent businesses in Wigton, and will ensure their success and survival in the face of Tesco and other powerful giant chains. A recent article by Sue Allan in Cumbria Life gave a good impression of a vibrant bustling and interesting town. I could write at length of the excellent greengrocer's (just one- Lightfoot's- selling a huge range of local and wonderful produce, including locally made cheeses and fiery chorizo) butcher's (several, all very good, and each with their loyal customer base) and baker's shops, but I want to mention a recent discovery.
Computer Magician
I have had a lot of computer problems recently- and who doesn't- and was in despair at the arrogant and hard-nosed attitude of Comet, so I thought I'd chance the unknown, and phone the person who advertised by means of a board on the Wigton by-pass. I had nothing to lose, and found, over several months, that I had everything to gain. Not only is James Percy, the proprietor of Cumbria Computer Consultants, a really nice bloke- he knows his stuff, and immediately inspires confidence. He has fixed so many problems for me that I even entrusted my new and precious Macbook to him, and he liaised with Apple to diagnose the problem. As all really good "fixers"- (I would include builders, plumbers and electricians)- he is a creative problem solver who thinks laterally. I have no hesitation in saying to anyone with a computer,"Try James first. He's Quality"
Emotive Energy Issues
On a different, but still local note, I received some interest from a tweet about the proposed Little Waver Windfarm, and for my announcement of the Nuclear Debate in Cockermouth on 17th September. A quick skim through the comments on this article in the News and Star, reveals the huge divergence of local opinions. Both issues are hot and topical, and divide people along non-traditonal lines: you cannot predict which way a peson you know to be "green" will go on either topic; and both issues are very local. Nor do people divide along party political lines. For my own part, I have always been anti nuclear, but people like Mark Lynas, one of the speakers in the Cockermouth debate, have made me stop and think, so that I will be trying to find out more; and although wind power sounds good in theory, I am appalled at the way many turbines seem to dwarf the landscape and buildings near them. More importantly, I am very shocked by the vast sums of money paid to landowners out of government subsidies. I also think onshore farms are inefficient, when winds are sporadic and inconsistent. Just as with nuclear power, we do not know either true costs or efficiency.