‘Time Spent with Cats…’

‘…is never wasted,’ so quoted Sigmund Freud. Being an ailurophile (I had to look the word up), or a lover of cats, I wholly agree!

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For an early birthday celebration, I decided to treat my mum and David to coffee and cake at the recently opened Cat Cafe in Bold Street, Liverpool. I pre-booked our hourly session at the cafe, at £12 per person. This includes unlimited drinks while cakes and pastries were an additional cost.

Our time slot was 10 o’ clock, and even at this time the cafe seemed busy with parties coming and going. To keep the resident cats safe, there are three doors which patrons have to go through. After being booked in, a pass to note down any additional spends given and the dos and the don’ts listed, we were admitted.

The Liverpool branch is on three floors. We perused the decor and the many hiding places for the cats before pondering where to sit. On the first floor there were lots of comfy looking sofas but David chose the ground floor part of the cafe as this was where most of the cat action was happening!

We took our seats close to the kitchen. The choice of table seemed lucrative as I had not long sat down when Rose, a long-haired tortoiseshell came over and made a bee-line for my lap. She happily sat and suckled me for 10 minutes.

We ordered hot drinks and a selection of cakes. Mum had a toasted teacake, I a scone with cream and jam and David chose the cake of the day, which was a large slice of chocolate-orange cake.

Many of the cats as you can imagine were curled up asleep. All was quiet until the food was served and from a towering cat bed two cats emerged. Dobby the Sphynx and Sebastian the Siamese! The hairless Dobby sported a black jumper with orange bobbles to keep him warm while Sebastian cheekily tried his luck pawing at our selection of cakes. It was funny interacting with the cats who all seemed friendly.

We took many photographs and spent a full hour with the cats of Liverpool’s Cat Cafe. I am happy to report we all enjoyed ourselves and would definitely visit again, even if we were scratched and bitten for milk and food! :p

Have you visited a cat cafe? If so what were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

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My Birthday Swim 2018

For my 42nd birthday next week I want to go for a swim, but I am having trouble choosing the right one. So I need your help in making the decision. Below, find a selection of four swims, two from Snowdonia and two from the Lake District. Which one would you prefer?

Snowdonia:

Llyn Padarn

I attempted to swim in Llyn Padarn for last years birthday but found that it got busy later on in the day. If I was to go back again this year I would go much earlier. Perhaps see the sunrise?

Llyn Idwal

What better than to revisit the place where my wild swimming bug was born. Another one for an early start as the area gets busy. Do you know of any easy walks nearby? We’ve walked the circumference of Idwal and Ogwen in the past.

The Lake District:

Windermere

A perfect autumnal walk to Todd Crag would be a good accompaniment to a dip in iconic Windermere.

Angle Tarn (Langdale)

I first saw this swim/walk on swimmingthelakes, I didn’t know there was more than one Angle Tarn! This tarn is not far from Stickle Tarn which we visited in June. It has a similar look to Stickle.

Which swim would you like to see me do next?

Thanks,

Christine x

Scotland Wild Swims

Just a quick post today. A big thank you to David who slogged for over a month on a video compilation of my three loch swims. I think he’s done a fab job!

Thanks David!

Christine x

 

Colour Bingo – Autumn

27503153_10156137451853281_3427213563140472877_oThe first time I completed The Woodland Trust’s Nature Detectives – Colour Bingo, was in February this year, you can read that post here.

Since then, I forgot to participate in spring and summer. So I decided that I was overdue to do another one. I chose the glorious season of autumn in the hope of finding new variations of the colours.

The colours of the bingo are: red, black, white, grey, yellow, pink, cream, brown and green. Here’s what I came up with from my yarden for each colour.

The striking colour red features highly in the yarden this year. There are falling blueberry leaves, cotoneaster berries and ripening autumn growing raspberries.

Black is a hard colour to find. As it had been raining today I chose the black of wet soil. Not very imaginative I know, sorry!

White was a no-brainer. I picked the white of the late blooming dahlia. The hot summer of 2018 had severely stunted the growth of the dahlia, but I managed to get three flowers from it this year. Better than nothing!

For grey I chose the bark of the jasmine, while for the yellow I selected the lone honeysuckle flower still soldering on.

Pink was an easier colour. I could have chosen the pink of the penstemon or the delicate flowers of the verbena but I decided to go with the successful sedum.

The luscious petals of the fuchsia I chose for cream. This year has been the best showing of the fuschia. Perhaps the heat of the summer helped?

For brown I picked the brown leaves of the heuchera.

The colour Green, as you can imagine is abundant in the yarden. The ivy plant I deliberated was the best to depict this colour.

There were also the colour blue and purple in the yarden. For blue I chose the lithodora blue, while the purple I chose the beautiful salvia mystic spires. My yarden isn’t complete without this autumn flowering shrub.

Perhaps you too can join in the colour bingo? Let me know what colours you find?

Thanks for reading,

Christine.

Apples Galore!

The nights are drawing in, the geese are flying south and there’s a smokey chill in the air. Perfect time for an apple festival!

This weekend (13-14th October 2018) was the annual Apple Festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. The reserve has two orchards with more than 100 fruit trees, including apple, plum and pear. We first went last year, you can read about that visit here. This time we brought our parents along and had such a good time. The festival seems to just get better!

Being eager beavers, we arrived (on the Sunday) just before 11am when the volunteers were all having their huddle and pep talk in the barn. They were very welcoming and guided us through the displays of dessert and cooking apples. On the day there was an opportunity to go on a walk of the heritage orchard, spiralize apples and taste apple leather, a delicious cooked and dried delicacy. It made me think of stewed apples.

In a room adjacent to the barn there was a machine for pulping apples and an apple press. Here they offered apple juice to sample and purchase at £2 a bottle. In future they hope to also make cider from the apples that are left to waste. Sounds a good plan to me :p

Due to this years hot summer many of the heritage varieties had already been harvested, though there were a good number of Discovery Apples available. I promised myself that I would be more adventurous in my purchases this year. So after I had purchased a selection of Discovery and Ellison Orange, I went on to buy, Russets, Sunset, Lady Sudeley and Ribston Pippin. The costing of apples was very cheap (at 4 for a £1) and I wouldn’t have minded paying more.

I also purchased some cooking apple varieties such as the iconic Bramley Seedling, Lord Derby, Arthur Turner and the humongous Mere de Menage. I think I will be eating and cooking apples for the foreseeable future.

Mere de Menage

Mere de Menage

I really enjoyed my time spent at the apple festival at Gorse Hill Nature Reserve. I will undoubtedly visit again next year. I believe these heritage orchards are vital in keeping the history of British apple growing alive. It’s just a shame that future generations will mostly only know supermarket bought apples and not the variety, taste and texture of traditional/heritage apples.

What is your favourite apple? Have you visited a local fruit festival?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants!

This weekend, the streets of Liverpool have once again been taken over by Royal de Luxe’s giant marionettes. They first visited in 2012 and again in 2014.

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https://redpanda08.wordpress.com/2014/07/30/liverpool-a-city-of-giants/

This time David and I only managed to pop into town to see the ‘uncle’ giant asleep on his raft. The crowds of 2014, were more than topped this time around, which put us off.

uncle

Royal de Luxe

Did you manage to see any of the visits from the giants? What were your impressions?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

Christine Lucas

This weekend was a weekend much like David and I used to have before my Father passed. Maybe life is slowly getting back to how it used to be?

It was the weekend of Liverpool’s ‘Sea Odyssey‘ where the streets were given over to the puppetry of French company Royal de Luxe.

On Friday as David was in work all day with a headache, I followed, in anticipation online the progress of the Little Girl Giant as she walked through the city to King’s Dock and the ‘Uncle’, diver coming from the sea to walk the streets towards Stanley Park, Anfield. David being so kind later in the evening took myself, Daniel, his girlfriend Jo and my Mum around the city, to see the sleeping giants.

On Saturday, David and I got up early to head into town before the crowds, so we could get a good spot to see the Little…

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A Day on the Isle of Skye

I don’t know why, but I’ve found it rather hard to write this post. Perhaps this is due to the fact that the day was marred by the weather? Or that I was generally disappointed in not taking in a swim? Either way this post has been a long time in coming.

Skye was some three hours drive from our base at Fort William. On our drive west we passed many lochs, some more picturesque than others. I found the view of Loch Cluanie rather rugged and industrial. I later read that it is a reservoir for the generation of hydro-electric power.

eilean donan

Eilean Donan Castle

On towards Loch Duich, we passed signs for The Battle of Glenshiel, where British Governmental Forces faced and defeated Jacobites, who were supported by a Spanish regiment during a rebellion in 1719. During this insurgency Eilean Donan Castle, was partially destroyed, having been taken by the Spanish as their headquarters and subsequently bombarded by the British Navy. For 200 years the castle lay ruined until Lieutenant Colonel John MacRae-Gilstrap bought the island in 1911 and restored the castle to its former glory.

We crossed the Skye Bridge at Kyle of Lochalsh and progressed north towards Portree. On our journey along the A87 we stopped to admire some Highland Cattle. They drew quite a crowd!

From Portree we headed towards the Old Man of Storr. We got to this iconic rock formation at midday, and even though rain filled clouds obscured most of the Trotternish Ridge and the car par was full, we luckily found parking in a lay-by further along the road.

The landscape of oddly shaped pinnacles and rocky buttresses that make up The Sorr was created by an ancient landslide. We followed the path from the car park up towards these towering outcrops. As we gained height, swathes of cloud swirled around the Old Man. It made for very atmospheric pictures. The area had a mythological feel to it, and I could imagine armies of Orcs from Tolkein’s Lord of the Rings appearing from out of the mist.

During our two hour walk there were no views of the Sound of Raasay or of Loch Leathan as cloud obscured everything the higher we got. There came a point when even the Old Man was concealed. It was time to call it a day, so we headed back to the car. We found that on our ascent our backs got completely drenched by the rain, whilst on our descent our fronts got the same treatment. We returned to the car with three layers of clothing sodden.

I’d planned on a walk to Loch leathan to embark on another Highland swim. However the dark, dreary weather had taken it’s toll on me and I decided that a soaking at the Old Man of Storr was enough for me that day. We agreed to leave the area and head south, trying to escape the approach of tropical storm Helene.

Our final destination on Skye was Kylerhea, part of Scotland’s Forestry Commission. From the car park there is a short walk to a wildlife hide which overlooks the strait towards the Scottish mainland. The hide is billed as one of the best places in Britain to see otters, dolphins, sharks and the mighty white-tailed sea eagle. On this dismal day all we saw was a seal popping up for air, a grey heron and many sea birds that were too far away to identify.

On leaving a darkening Kylerhea, I felt that the visit was rather a waste of time. However on the three hour drive home we agreed that we had manage to see all we had planned with the exception of a swim. Though the weather may not have been kind to us on Skye we did enjoy the sights we saw, even if we were drenched to the skin!

Have you visited Skye? Any fond memories?

Thanks for reading,

Christine x

A Year in Books 2018 – July to September

the-year-in-books

A Year in Books

Thanks to Laura at Circle of Pine Trees for creating the challenge, The Year in Books.

The summer months for me always seem to be the hardest when it comes to reading. Even when we’ve had such a wonderful summer as 2018. This year, I’ve managed to sit in the yarden and sunbathe while delving into a novel or two, but my tally is still low compared to cooler months.

This quarter I have managed to read nine books. Much better than last years quarter but no where near my tally for April to June this year. Here’s what I read this quarter.

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine – Gail Honeyman

After what seemed like an age, I finally managed to get my hands on this Costa award winning novel and it didn’t take me long to love it! Eleanor is a young woman struggling to cope with a traumatic event from her childhood. She has been mentally and physically scared and her out look on life is shaped by her past. This book is not only about survival but about facing and dealing with daemons. It is funny and sad but ultimately it is about redemption.

What are your thoughts if you’ve read this novel?

Bird Box – Josh Malerman

As a suspense novel, the narrative just didn’t grab me. Perhaps it had a lot to live up to after Eleanor Oliphant? Even so, despite the tension, this Stephen King-esque failed to hit the mark. There were some weird episodes but I couldn’t feel for the characters and was left feeling deflated at the end of the novel. It felt like a poorly written M Night Shyamalan script.

The Ice Twins – S K Tremayne

This was a novel suggested by my mum. The premise was of twin sisters, where one had died. A year on the surviving twin begins to believe she is the dead sister. Did they get the identity of the dead twin wrong? The narrator, Sarah is estranged from her husband and still mourning her daughter. Angus (the husband) inherits a house on a remote island on the west coast of Scotland and moves the family there. This isolation brings the psychological drama to a head. It was a quick read but I didn’t enjoy it as much as Tess Gerritsen’s Playing with Fire.

Animal Farm – George Orwell

Surprisingly I enjoyed this political satire. George Orwell wrote his critique on the Russian Revolution but in theory it could be a reflection of any revolution. The animals of Manor Farm have had enough of being ruled by farmer, Mr Jones and stage their own revolution led by the intellectual pigs. However as time progresses, life under the new regime seems at odds with the origins of the revolution and to stop the dissenting farm stock the pigs unleash a brutal regime which cripples, maims and kills many of the cast. You can’t but be sympathetic to the likes of Boxer and Clover who are ground down by the machine that the pigs enact. The final act of betrayal is when the pigs are seen to walk on two hooves. This can be read that the pigs are just bad as the humans they hoped to replace. It is a piece of writing that makes you think!

Have you read this satire, what were your impressions?

Sarah Millican – How to be Champion

I am not a reader of autobiographies. I only downloaded this book as it was on offer for .99p. It took me a while to get into the narrative but I quite enjoyed it in the end. Sarah isn’t much older than myself and I noticed we did similar things and used the same items when we were both growing up in the 1980’s.

Outlander – Diana Gadaldon

I’m still slogging my way through this tome, and there are several more sequels in the series! Though a good premise, of a woman from the 1940’s travelling back in time to Jacobite Scotland, however I found the narrative boring. I don’t think I’ll be reading any more of the series. Perhaps the TV adaptation is better?

Have you read this book? What were your impressions?

Swim Wild – The Wild Swimming Brothers

I delved into the realm of wild swimming again. This time I quite enjoyed reading about the tales of the three brother’s expeditions, of swimming the entire length of the River Eden and the maelstroms around Norway and Scotland. The narrative is fractured by personal reveries and memories of growing up by the author, Jack Hudson, but I found it a nice book to read none the less.

If you’d like to read more of the Wild Swimming Brother’s adventures, then follow the link to their blog.

Me Before You – JoJo Moyes

I bought this book on the recommendation of comedienne Sarah Millican, from her autobiography (see above). I got into the first person narrative quickly enough and really enjoyed the banter between Louise and Will. Both characters are scared but in different ways. I liked how the writer sculptured their unlikely relationship and the ending had me shedding silent tears. I am a softy sometimes!

If you have read the book? Seen the film? What did you think?

The Girl in the Spider’s Web – David Lagercrantz

I thought I would give this sequel to the Millennium trilogy by Stieg Larsson a go. I really enjoyed The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, the other sequels not so. So far it seems a slow burn. I’ll let you know how I go.

Have you read any good books lately, any recommendations?

Thanks for dropping by,

Christine x