Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Singing Santa

Happy Boxing Day, one and all!

What would Christmas be without... Singing Santa?

Had a lovely time in the Hysterical City of Carlisle. I used to spend Christmas there often as a kid, but not since 2006 when, sadly, my nana passed away. Felt six years was probably a safe amount of time to try again! 

Managed to catch up with my cousins, Darren & Craig. Big northern lads - 'ard as nails, tough as boots. They all say words like 'boook', 'coook' and 'fil-em'. Hadn't seen Daz's daughter Katie (my first cousin once removed...?) since she was very little. Now she's 14, wearing makeup and talking about getting her ears pierced! Managed to catch a sneaky snap of her with her Great Uncle (my dad!). Don't think I ever met any of my great uncles or aunts, so it's rather an historic moment. 

Also managed a lovely one of her and Daz

Me + cousins Darren & Sean last year.

Mum's side of the family are hard to keep up with because there are so many of them. Dad's side, because I see them so rarely. The boys belong to my dad's sister, Jean. We also managed a jaunt up to Dumfries to see family. I'd always thought that their boys, Scott and Ross, were my cousins. Turns out they're my second cousins once removed... who invented this system?

Complicated, huh?

Still, a wonderful, festive, over-fed and flatulent (that'll be the mince pies) holiday. 

Incredible Christmas dinner courtesy of Lynne & Craig (and Ben!).

Not even going to mention Downton Abbey.

(Or, for that matter, Call the Midwife. What is it about Christmas and tragedy? 'Your dead child is right here, you're practically standing on top of her...' - seriously? Ho, ho, bloody ho!)

Anyway, Santa was rather lovely this year. I now have tickets to Bill Bailey in the summer, and a smartphone that's a lot smarter than I am! 

(May take me a while to figure out how to use it...)

It's also been a good year (yes, Frank, a very good year) for hats...

Top left: me scruffy winter hat. Top right, from Mum, bottom left, from Marilyn, bottom right: a loop scarf from Craig & Lynne that also doubles as a Mother Mary-style headscarf. I think this may just be my new most favouratist thing in the whole world! 

That isn't over-exposure guys - that's a halo.


Much head love people! Roll on 2013.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Saint Davids Weekend

Just had a lovely weekend in a cottage in St. Davids (Tyddewi), Wales. Britain's smallest city.

It was Dad's birthday on Saturday and Marilyn usually whisks him away to a Landmark Trust property. First time I've been around, so hopped in the car with them. Had a brilliant time, plenty of walks and open fires. Also, lots and lots of ancient sites. 

Those who remember my old blog may remember a distinct love of standing stones. The far South West of Wales is like the Mecca of prehistoric sites. We managed to get around quite a few - highlights in the video above. Pentre Ifan is just a stone's throw away from Foel Drygarn, an impressive Iron Age settlement. Going to be discussing all of these with my mate Paul, who runs The Northern Antiquarian (Facebook).

Had a wonderful pootle around Porth Mawr. I reckon it's Epona's holiday home, there are wild ponies everywhere. Plenty of dramatic seascapes and even a cromlech right up on the hill. Might even have stumbled across an unmarked circle.

I'd like to mention a couple of places we stopped for food, which were absolutely lovely. The first is Café Thirty-Five (Facebook) in Solva. Really friendly, yummy menu and huge fish tank. The other is The Sloop pub in Porthgain. It is awesomely excellent, brimming with local history and quirky nick-nacks. Well worth a visit.

The cottage itself had a perfect view of the cathedral, and a gorgeous fireplace.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Giant's Cave

Clifton Suspension Bridge
Fantastic weekend catching up with my friend Dan in Bristol. We've known each other since we were about sixteen, both BRIT school brats, but haven't really seen each other properly in years. I headed off to Africa, and Dan's spent the past four years teaching English in Taiwan. Met up briefly on his return, but this time we got to do the proper how-do-you-do.

Turns out he's moved from London to Bristol, which is only 45 minutes away. We drank copious quantities of wine, ate an extremely greasy yet satisfying Chinese, then headed out to Wonky, where we danced until 2am. If nothing else, it was nice to know I'm still capable!

Brilliant night, followed by a lazy day getting lost around town and eating at a fancy French restaurant. Highlight being The Giant's Cave, also known as Ghyston's Cave, beneath Clifton Suspension Bridge and the Observatory. Joke of it being, it's so narrow you have to bend down to climb the steps. No way you could get a giant down there!

Don't ask.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Armistice Day Walk

What better way to celebrate Armistice Day than a walk through the countryside?

Picture time - back to the Forest of Dean.

A love of leaves and lichen...

Not to mention my fixation with fungus...

Found a beautiful lake.

Stopped for a cuppa and a bap.

Look what the woman serving was reading...

Ho hum.

Also found some wildlife...

Also, very, very strange encounter with something remarkably like The Witch's Hill in Scotland. Seems this one is the remnants of an old stone quarry. Will be discussing this on the Northern Antiquarian's Facebook page. Perhaps theirs was a quarry for Castle Campbell, which might make the creepy chair Masonic, rather than neo-Pagan. Would explain all the stones littered about.

Lovely day. 

Wednesday, 7 November 2012


Welcome to Taurus Crafts

Well, I know you'll all be dying to know. I'm afraid Kitty did not repeat last year's MOT glory. Unfortunately she failed in fairly spectacular style. Everything that could go wrong with brakes unfortunately did. An expensive call to make... but she's my Kitty. We'll get another year out of her yet. 

A few more adventures left to come.

Started the Yule shop already. Headed out with Dad to Taurus Crafts in the Forest of Dean.

Cute stone carving.
There are some fairly militant sheep in the Forest of Dean. They've been known to don balaclavas and hold drivers to ransom.

Ended up at the Dean Heritage Centre. The trees are supposed to be 'on the turn,' but autumn's been swift this year and most are already bare.

There, we found a wonderful wood sculptor.

This last one is a tribute to one of the Forest miners, 'Big' Phil Bennett, who went back down a tunnel that had collapsed to rescue a man whose legs were trapped. If he hadn't pulled him out, he would have died. There's a strong freemining tradition in the Forest.

The sculptor has also created a Gruffalo walk, full of Gruffalos.

He's also a healthy heathen by the look of things. A chalkboard list of the Celtic Tree Calender. Click to enlarge:

Some more gorgeous stone carvings, including Pan and a visiting Welsh Dragon.

Finally, an old mine wheel, preserved.

Bromley Pit Wheel Headgear Monument

The above colepit wheel, believed to be the last of its kind in the Forest of Dean, was taken from the old Bromley pit headgear at Bromley Lodge, Ellwood, in the 1970s by Freeminer Rod Stewart for use at his own 'New Found Out' freemine near Edge End, Coleford.

The wheel was eventually donated to the Dean Heritage Museum by Maggie Stewart, and on Saturday June 16th 2007 was unveiled by retired collier Philip Parry, and dedicated as a monument to the miners, their families and their communities by the Reverend Tony Jones.

The wheel was raised by Dean Heritage Museum staff and volunteers with help from the Friends of the Dean Heritage Museum Trust, who donated the wood for the headgear. Local firms Forest Products and Tool Hire also made valuable contributions.
Nice little stream nearby, rather dwarfed by the tidal River Severn, the longest river in the United Kingdom.


River Severn

Lovely day. Extremely cold, bright blue skies and sunshine. Coffee, Victoria sponge cake and chocolate muffin.