Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Still at Large

Have you seen this cat?

Well we hope he's still at large somewhere because he's still not here.  It's been over a week now since he was last seen by a neighbour over the road, he jumped over their wall and was believed to be heading in the direction of Eggerslack Woods and Hampsfell, both of which are places where a bonkers cat could easily live off the land for a while.  Apprarently it's really common for cats to go AWOL for upto a month or more when they've just moved house, which is comforting in some ways, but to be honest we're finding it hard to buy that one.  Monty has always been a very home-loving cat.  Even after he'd spent 6 weeks cooped up in Delores with us last summer he spent every night of the next week still sleeping on our bed.  Still, we haven't given up hope just yet, there are posters of him up around the village, he's got his own twitter account, we've distributed nearly 200 leaflets and spoken to many of our new neighbours, he has a slot in the local village magazine out this week, all the local vets & rescue centres have been informed, Animal Search UK have him on their website, we've spent countless hours wandering through the woods shaking a tub of his favourite treats and we have told *everyone* we know, so at least if he doesn't return we'll know we did absolutely everything we could to try and find him.  After a week of frantic activity trying to find him and pursuing activities to distract ourselves today we're having a very lazy day crashing out and watching movies.  This easter break was supposed to be all about relaxation and settling in to our new home, but life often doesn't work out the way you planned, does it?

Hospice Hamspfell
Apart from hunting for Monty we've tried to take full advantage of the fabulous weather and have been out and about exploring The Lakes.  First off was a trip up Hampsfell which is right on our doorstep.  A 20 min walk brings you to the very top of Hampsfell, a place with magnificent views from Blackpool Tower in the south across to Skiddaw in the north.  At the top of Hampsfell is the Hospice which is a large stone shelter with some very rickety steps up the side to a viewing platfrom on the top.  From here you can gaze out at the glorious views and make good use of the mountain identification contraption which consists of a large wooden pointer mounted on a plinth with degrees marked around the side.  When you swing the pointer to aim at a given peak in the distance you can check the degrees reading under the pointer and cross reference this with a list of peaks handily attached to safety fence to identify which peak you're peeking at.  We've been up and down Hampsfell a few times over the past week but I don't think it's a place you're easily bored with...

Our yomps have also taken us over the fell to Cartmel with it's fabulous pudding shop and even more fabulous cheese emporium.  I'm glad we can walk over there as I quite fancy a trip to Cartmel races but it's a tiny little village and I can only begin to imagine what traffic chaos ensues every time the races are on.  We have one of those amazing picnic backpacks so we can fill it with goodies and a bottle of something pink & fizzy and spend a pleasant afternoon/ evening at the races before taking a lovely evening stroll home over the top of the fell.

Heading further afield we've been up to Rannerdale in search of their bluebells, unfortunately we were a little early for them but we're planning to head back later this week to try again.  Our search for the bluebells took us to the top of Rannerdale Knott where you are perfectly positioned to see Buttermere spreading out below you to one side, Crummock Water wrapping itself around you on the other side and Lowes Water twinkling away in the distance.  Beyond there, on a clear day, you can see all the way across the Solway Firth to the hills of Scotland on the horizon, so close you can almost smell the haggis.  We actually made the drive to Rannerdale on the lovely warm and sunny Easter Sunday, all the locals had warned us about the traffic and our planned route took us right through the centre of Bowness, Arnside and Keswick, a slightly mad idea but we wanted to see what "bad traffic" looked like up here.  I think our verdict is that although the traffic was undeniably heavy, for two people who've spent the past 20 odd years of their life tackling various routes around the M25 in the rush hour it was always going to take a lot to impress us on that front.  Yes, the journey times are longer but I'd rather work my way through heavy traffic up here when I've got gorgeous scenery to look at along the entire route than sit in 4 lanes (or more) of stationary traffic on a wet Friday afternoon on the M25.
Crummock Water

And that's about it for now - hunting for Monty has taken up a lot of our time this week, but it has meant we've got to explore bits of Grange that we wouldn't ordinarily have found and has given us the chance to get to know many of our new neighbours, most of whom are utterly delightful.  Of course there's been an emotional impact to losing Monty, mostly an understandably huge wave of sadness.  This is also tempered on occasion by anger at the thought someone may have taken him, or know where he is and also hurt at the thought he may have been adopted by someone else who he prefers to us.  Either way it's not pleaseant and we'd really just like him to come home.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Blogflash - Missing Monty


*** OLD POST  Monty turned up alive & well 2 weeks after vanishing. ***

I know it's a pretty long shot that someone reading this will live near enough to us to help, but life is just wierd like that sometimes, so it's worth a go.  The eponymous hero of this blog, Monty, has gone missing.  We kept him indoors for over 2 weeks before finally allowing him out and about last week and at first he was very jumpy and took things very carefully. However he's now not been seen in over 24 hours, which isn't like him at all - he's a home loving cat even if, like most cats, he often only appears to love his home because that's where the food is.

There's a few pics of him already on here and I'll upload a few more - but if you know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who lives near Grange-over-Sands in Cumbria, can you let them know to be on the look out for a British Blue cat with a stunted face and a small baldspot in the middle of his back.

As Clarkson might put it "Some say he's nothing but a furball who eats all our food, and others say he has deluded dreams of one day leading a pack of big cats across the plains of Africa, all we know is he's called The Monty and we miss him."

Thank you.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Home, Home on the Range.

View from the kitchen at the front.

We may not have deer & antelope, but we do have a deranged cat - will that do?  Well I think I can finally say "welcome to our new home" properly.  Not that I've just recovered from a speech impediment or traumatic trip to the dentist, I mean it more in the context that we finally have all our stuff up here and it really feels like "our" home now.  As promised all boxes have been opened and dealt with, many have been unpacked, but others have been opened and stashed in our dungeon.  Depending on the weather this weekend I may spend a chunk of time down there sorting through them in greater detail and making a list of their contents on the outside of the box to allow for easier access over the next couple of years until we can convert the dungeon and finally release their contents back into their natural habitat.

To fill you in on what's happened since the last blog, we spent the Monday frantically packing things onto the big yellow removals van and cleaning the floors and skirting boards till the place sparkled.  We then raced north arriving home (!) around 8pm.  On the Tuesday the removal guys arrived and by lunchtime it was all done.  Waving them off on their long journey south we set to it sorting the boxes.  It took a couple of goes to get the furniture layout just right, seeing what would fit and what needed to be stored, but with that sorted the box-fest began in earnest.  The frantic box opening lasted until the weekend and gave us the opportunity to discover the location of the nearest dump where we quickly realised we're now in the land of "It's only open on...".  It feels rather lovely to be somewhere where many shops and amenities are closed on Sundays (bar the tourist places of course) and where you have to travel some distance to find somewhere open 24/7.  I know of at least one family member who will recoil in horror at the very thought, but it makes us very happy.  I've always worried about the people who have to work all hours in those places and have known several people in the past who rarely see their spouses for weeks at a time when they're on opposite shifts - that can't be healthy, can it?
Our new garden

After the frantic unpacking, phase 2 kicked in - notifying everyone of our change of address.  Most of our friends and family were easy enough to do as we could just drop them an email, but then all the official places needed to be done, and there's just no consistency in how they need us to do it.  My bank refused to let me do it online so I had to nip into a local branch with my driver's licence whereas Steve's bank were happy to let him do it online.  Some places were happy with an email, others required a letter.  Some were happy with a phone call, others required a form to be filled in, in triplicate, in blood.  OK, I may have embellised that last part a little, but anyone who's ever had to go through this will understand exactly what I mean.

Then finally, in amongst all of that, the internet arrived and we were finally reconnected to the outside world.  It's an absolute joy to be able to surf the net and catch up with everyone without sitting in a bar with a football match going on over our heads. (The only sensible place to plug in at the campsite was under the large TV that always seemed to be showing some footie game or other, and here's me thinking they only played on Saturday afternoons!)  I can now officially surf the web, catch up with my friends and write this blog whilst sitting at my dining table wearing my PJs. It's the little things that make me happy.

As well as unpacking I've been getting used to my new commute, which has been complicated by the temporary closure of the Kent Estuary viaduct and means I have the pleasure of a bus replacement service until the middle of July.  It's turned a 50 minute train ride into a 90 min journey, but rather that then plunge into the Kent Estuary from a poorly maintained bridge.  It's given me the chance to get to know the geography of the area a little better, plus, as the bus drops me off at Carnforth station, I get to run up and down the ramps pretending to be Celia Johnson.  (If you've never watched "Brief Encounter" now's the time to do it - a large part of the action takes place at a busy railway station and Carnforth is where they filmed it.  If you're interested they've restored the tea rooms and have a small but lovely visitor's centre.)

My next mission is to join clubs and find friends.  I've tried chatting to all the shopkeepers when I pop in for things and I've tried looking in the local papers for clubs and stuff, but we've moved to a retirement community and many of the activites they organise take place during working hours.  I'm thinking of advertising for friends, but doesn't that look a little desperate?  I'm sure there are loads of lovely people around here who will be happy to welcome a freindly, if slightly bonkers, 40-something into their midst, all I need to do is find them.  I guess the first step would involve me getting out there and looking as opposed to sitting at my dining table writing my blog - so I'll be off then - Grange-over-Sands, brace yourselves, I'm on my way!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

This blog has been intentionally left blank.

Well not completely blank - but isn't it annoying when you see that written on a page?  By it's very existence the phrase contradicts itself by rendering the page not blank any more.  Anyway...

I'm only trying to help!
This weekend is all about the big move.  After another bonkers week at work we drove all the way south on Friday (via my Mums) and arrived with Steve's parents around tea time.  It's so good to call it tea time again, I've spent 22 years living in the land of "breakfast, lunch and dinner" and now I've finally returned to a land where it's "breakfast, dinner and tea", although quite where a chip supper fits into that I'm not entirely sure.

Yesterday we returned to the house in Fleet, the first time I've been back there since we left early on 2nd Jan.  It felt a bit wierd at first but then I realised I didn't have time for feelings as we needed to get stuck into some serious housework.  Thankfully Steve's parents helped out by sorting the garden for us, Steve emptied the loft and the sheds and I cleaned everything.  Twice.  The place now glistens and sparkles with the exception of the floors, but I really didn't see the point in cleaning those when they're going to be trampled all over by removal men tomorrow. Tomorrow!  The big day is finally almost upon us and it's going to be big in every sense of the word.
Can someone give me a hand with this?

We'll need to be up and off from the parents soon after 7am, the removal guys are arriving at 8:30am, the final bits will then need to be packed and the lorry loaded before I can crack on and clean all the floors and skirting boards and leave the place in damned near perfect condition for our tenant who arrives on 15th April.  We'll then need to race the removal van 300 miles north and collapse in a heap with pizza and garlic bread (already and waiting in the freezer - I do like to plan ahead!).  Then on Tuesday we need to make a few minor tweaks to the furniture we already have in the bungalow and eagerly await the arrival of all our goodies from Fleet.  There will then be a period of intense nesting which will continue until all the boxes are opened and the contents properly dealt with.  I've no idea how people can still have unopened boxes 5 or even 10 years after moving.  Surely you've proven you don't need whatever is inside and can just donate it, unopened, to the nearest charity store?

In preparation for the events of the coming week we're spending today relaxing with family, eating huge amounts of food and playing silly games.  It's possible there may be a glass or two of wine as well.  Over the past few months there's been so much to think about, worry about and plan that each day I've restricted myself to planning and worrying about only the tasks that are due to occur that day, otherwise I'd have gone nuts ages ago.  Those who know me well would argue it would have been hard to tell if I had.  So today it's really nice to have nothing more to worry about than writing this blog and having fun.  And on that note I shall take my leave and wish you all a very Happy Mother's day!

Don't forget me!