This was the coldest morning since we are back in the Alsace. I should have worn some gloves on our early morning walk but I do not like wearing them and also, I wanted to take some pictures because it was gloriously sunny although the north eastern wind was very cold. In the shade there were still some patches of frost. Fortunately the fruit trees in the garden do not seem to have had any problems with this. The cherry blossom is nearly finished, the apple blossom out in full and the plums on the way back. So, hopefully we will have some fruit this year because the freezer is running pretty low now due to the fact that we had nothing last year! Normally, when we come back to the Alsace in early April the mirabelle trees behind the house are in full bloom - this year they had finished flowering already! Last year everything was at least six weeks late - this year they are a few weeks early!
Since we are back we have been able to take Tuppy out for a long walk every morning - no rain! She particularly likes the first part where we walk up from the house to the field. There is always a lot of scratching going on and grass and soil is flying all over the place. This is probably where all the smells are of the animals that come around during the night like badgers (you can see the track where they come down) and probably some other night creatures like house martins. I know these little creatures live arounf here and they have cost me a small fortune: I had to have a special ultra sound device put in my car to stop them eating through the cables. Further on in the field you can see where wild pigs have been rooting and of course there are the deer.
This morning I had to take my camera with me to take some pictures:
Alan standing in front of a pear tree gone wild.
Tuppy, curious about what I am doing.
All the yellow patches in the field are cowslips. It is too early for the dandelions to be open and there do not (yet) seem to be many buttercups.
Tracks of a tractor.
Patches of wild orchids. (15.04.14 I now know the name of this orchid: harlekijn in dutch or green winged orchid in English - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anacamptis_morio)
I would love to know the name of this orchid. Every year there seem to be more and more patches of these orchids although the field has less wild flowers than when we first came here. Artificial fertilizer was used about ten year ago. I think it was used only for one or two years but it has taken a long time for the wild flowers to come back again. When we first moved here I could pick armsful of wild flowers and decorate the whole house with them. Now, more and more fields are used for agricultural purposes.
I do not know the name of these little blue flowers but there are patches all over the field.
I know the German name for these: gewöhnliches Seifenkraut.
View of the village.
Violets under the trees bordering the field
as well as these little white flowers. Can anybody let me know what these are called? In spring you find them all over in the shade of trees.
When Aischa died she left a great gap in our life which we wanted to fill. Not to replace Aischa, which would not be possible because she was such a great little thing and gave us so much love and pleasure, but to fill the empty space she left behind. I suppose just like the empty nest syndrome when the children leave home.
I looked on the Internet and found a lot of puppies but because we will be leaving for France at the end of March we were very restricted in our choise. You cannot leave a young puppy overnight in a (still) strange car on the ferry and you cannot take any dogs into your cabin. We found out from Aischa and Krümmel that the kennels on the ferries are very stressful, even more so than being left in a car they knew. Also, because we are travelling a lot by car, I did not want a large Yorkshire terrier, not more than 3 kg when fully grown and it had to be a bitch. So when I found this ad about a 2 year old Yorkshire terrier bitch in Leeds, we called to find out why they had to get rid of the dog and were told by the son that it was his mother's dog. His mother was 85 years old and had been in and out of hospital since Christmas and he did not have the time to look after the dog.
The next day we went to Leeds to have a look. As Leeds is about a 3.5 hrs drive from where we are in the Scottish borders we set off early in the morning. It turned out to be an even longer drive than anticipated. We were stopped by the police just before the english border and told that there had been an accident further on and that the road would be closed for at least another 2 hours. We had to make a detour which put more than an hour onto our trip but I did enjoy it and saw an area I had not seen before - the Kielder water. A huge lake in beautiful surrounding but with mostly secondary roads!
With the help of my newly installed Tomtom on my iPad we reached the address in Leeds and saw the dog. A little beauty, very sweet tempered, still very playful, about the size of Aischa but a different colouring. There was no way that we would leave without this little treasure.
When we came home that evening and put her on the grass for a weewee I could foresee problems with long walks because her legs looked very short and I also thought that something had been done to her tail because I could not see it porperly. The next morning, however, she looked completely different and I realised that she was keeping her tail between her legs and crouches down when she is frightened.
That morning we took her for a longish walk around some fields and there was no problem of her not following or not wanting to walk. She loved it! Only when a particular scent was too strong she was more interested in that than in us. She took to walking like a duck to water. I don’t think she got a lot of proper walks up to now but was used to being a lapdog. She has a beautiful coat more silvery than Aischa and Krümmel had.
We took her to the vet yesterday where she got a thorough health checkup, part of the injections she needs, a microchip, etc., all she needs for cross border travelling.
She can jump higher than Aischa could and has no problems finding the best places for a nap in the house. She follows me all over. When I get up and think she is asleep she is already standing behind me. At the moment she is curled up behind my feet so that I have to be careful getting up-
Aischa, our great, couragious little Yorkshire terrier left us on February 27.
I went to France for only a week and when I left on the Wednesday she still looked okay. However, thinking back her deterioration started already on the way from Ireland to Scotland and probably even before that. When we spent the night in a B&B before taking the ferry the next morning in Belfast, she did not want to eat. I thought this was because I only gave her the biscuits and not the home cooked food, which she normally had. She also started drinking more than she used to do.
As soon as we arrived in Scotland we took her to the vet because she had been coughing for quite a while. She got antibiotics and cortisone and stopped coughing very quickly. She still did not eat as she normally did but we put this down to the medication.
Coming back from our morning walk and while we had our breakfast we used to give her a few of her biscuits which she normally ate very quickly but did not want to have the two days before I left. However, she wanted her bits of banana, which she always got from Alan.
While I was in France, Alan told me that she was getting very weak and he would take her to see the vet. The next time I talked to him he told me that they had found out that she had kidney failure und had put her on a drip. When he picked her up on the Saturday she was much better but on the Sunday she was deteriorating again.
When I got back from Edinburgh airport on Wednesday late afternoon I was picked up from the bus stop by Sheila, our next-door neighbor. She told me that Aischa had become so weak that day that Alan had taken her to the vet to put her to sleep. There they told him that they would put her on a drip again so that I could say goodbye.
As the vet surgery is more or less next door to the bus stop I went there immediately. The surgery was already closed for the day but they let me in to see Aischa. As soon as she saw me, her front paw came up so that I could tickle her tommy and when I picked her up she clung on to me.
Alan had arranged to pick her up the next morning and talking to the vet he advised me to enjoy the next day with her and have her put to sleep late afternoon.
When we picked her up she was not too bad. Coming home and putting her on the grass for a wee, she started sniffing about and was interested in what was going on around her. Once inside and put into her bed, she jumped straight out again and went to the kitchen to have a drink and Alan gave her some food, which she all ate. She even started following me when I went into another room.
We took her into the garden later on for another wee, but she did not want to sniff around any longer. We carried her through the garden, showing her all her favourite places for a last time. After that she was fading very quickly and at 3 PM, when the vet came she was very weak. Then it all went very quickly and I suppose we did the best for her but it was very difficult to let her go.
While I was in France, Alan had already made her little coffin and we buried her on Friday, in the rose garden in a beautiful sunny, privat little corner. She wore her little Crinch vest, which we bought for her in November. Sheila was with us and afterwards she invited us to her place for a celebration of Aischa’s life.
For non-pet owners all this may sound a bit over the top but she had been a part of our life for nearly 10 years and it was good to talk about Aischa and Krümmel, what they did, liked, their funny traits, etc. Afterwards we all felt better even though it still hurts thinking about her. Also, the flat feels very empty and I still keep looking down to see if Aischa is in front of my feet, especially in the kitchen where she was always hoovering the floor.
Casting my mind back to what all happened in 2013 I must admit that there were some very sad moments. First of all my mother died in February. Not unexpectedly, she was nearly 95, but it still comes as a shock. However, I was happy that I managed to be there with her.
Than, in April, Krümmel, one of our Yorkshire terriers, died. Also, not unexpectantly as he was nearly 16 years old. Still, he had been a part of our family for a long time and is still missed. This also brings home the fact that Aischa will be 15 at the end of January. I hope we will still have her for a few years but I also realize that it could be next year.
On the positive side - I started my bag making business and have been quite successful. Not that I could make a living out of it, which I do not need anyway, but all in all I have sold about 30 bags since I started end March 2013, and I enjoy what I am doing.
And than of course, to crown it all, Mark, my youngest son, got married end of August and they had a fantastic wedding party. Two of his nephews came from Holland with their partners and of course David, my eldest, came from Australia and stayed with us for a week.
So, I think I can say that all in all, the positive and the negative kept in balance.
Have you ever dreamt of having a holiday place of your own? Be careful what you wish for – you may get it!
No, it is not as bad as that. There are times when it really is bliss. You can go there whenever you feel like it and you can do in it what you want because it is yours. However, this is only true when you have lots of free time and the holiday place is not too far away. On the other hand, you always go to the same place and if money and free time is not available in abundance, it may be difficult to spend your holidays anywhere else. On top of that, there are always things to do, like fixing a dripping shower or tap, a leaking roof, painting the woodwork, the outside, the inside and if you have a garden, it is even worse! Whenever we come back the garden is a jungle because the soil is so fertile. We can only tame the growth with a powerful strimmer. We have been trying for years the get rid of the montbretias, which are beautiful flowers in their own right but have compeltely taken over the garden.
Do you want a holiday place to go fishing? Go to a hotel or B&B. Do not buy a cottage, because you just will not have the time to go fishing, unless of course your time and money are limitless. There are too many things to do in the house and garden.
We are the lucky ones! We own a small cottage in the south west of Ireland and we are retired. Alan bought it in the early 70s and has been renovating it ever since. When he bought the cottage there was no water, no toilet, no heating. There was electricity – two sockets in the whole house. He bought the house because he likes fishing. He used to go fishing years ago but has not done so for many years now.
There were times when we arrived at the cottage, tired after a very long trip and found that there was no water. Alan had made the water supply himself by laying a plastic (or whatever) tube in the stream that runs past our cottage, high up the hill. He explained the whole process to me but I am not very technical. All I know is that after 20 years of working perfectly we suddenly started arriving here and finding that the water supply had dried up. We had to get buckets of water from the neighbours until Alan found the break in the tube, which meant that he could be walking and standing in the stream for days on end. In the end, we had a well drilled and at least that works – unless there is a very severe frost, which is seldom in this part of the country.
Last year, after a few very wet years he had to open the front door with the help of a piece of wood and a sledgehammer because the door had expanded due to damp.
We arrived here again last Sunday. After a tiring ferry crossing from Liverpool to Dublin (getting up at 4:30 AM), we arrived here at 12.30 after having stocked up at our local supermarket. When putting the key in the lock it did not turn! After trying several times, even with the help of a wrench, which bent the key, it was clear that we could not get in through that (only) door.
Alan managed to open an upstairs window but even from the inside, it was not possible to unlock the door. A different and more destructive method was called for.
We never leave many tools here because when the house is empty everything gets damp. Therefore, when we go to Ireland the car is always packed to the roof (and we have a big car!) and there is just enough space left for Aischa, our Yorkshire terrier.
As the tools are the heaviest part of everything we take with us, they were at the bottom of the car so that nearly all the luggage had to be taken out, before he found the tools he needed. We were lucky that it was a dry day because our possessions were strewn all over the garden!
I tried to stay invisible and not to come up with any suggestions or even asking ‘are you sure the door is locked’ because a neighbour had switched the dehumidifier on the previous day which meant that he had come in! Aischa and I stayed in the car under a nice warm throw and I even managed to get some sleep!
At 4:30 PM, I was told that the door was open and I could start putting the luggage inside.
After having fixed the door and doorframe Alan is now replacing the lock so that tonight we can hopefully get a good night's sleep with both our eyes closed instead of only one and get rid of the axe which has been decorating our bedroom.
However, things have a habit in coming in threes! After all the work Alan had done, we were ready for a cup of tea (funny British habit but we love it). However, the electric kettle did not work so that we had to boil water on the gas ring and that takes ages!
I tried to get connected to the internet on Monday but did not manage to get it. I had been using a Three dongle for quite a few years and never had any real problems so I decided to try the new IT shop I noticed when we drove through town and am now the proud owner of mobile Wi-Fi also from Three and it works great. Faster than the dongle and I can even use my iPad! I am thrilled!
So much for the bliss of having a holiday house of our own.
... by a less than 3 kg heavy creature! But, of course, we do, at least, most of the time. However, I draw the line at going to bed at 9 PM!
When Aischa tells us at about 9 PM that she wants to go out for a wee, I take her outside so that she can do her business. And she does, at least when it is not raining. When it rains, I might have to send her back two to three times before she finally gives in and goes to do her wee. However, when we come back in she knows she will not go out anymore that day so she is ready for bed. Which means our bed but it also means that she expects us to go to bed as well as she will not stay there on her own. Of course, we cannot give in so in the end she settles down. However, it is the same every night. She keeps on trying.
In the morning, at least when we are in Scotland, we take her out for a walk at 8 AM. She does not like to get up. When we get up, she crawls under the duvet and when we are ready to go, we have to drag her out of her little hole. When we put her on the floor, she may or may not, want a little drink and then she will hop in her nearest basket (in Scotland we have two). Most of the time I have to carry her down the stairs because she will just be dragging her heels and try to postpone the whole procedure. When we get outside and I put her down she will wee and either try to run back to the door or just stand there and watch us. In the end, she knows she will have to follow.
We used to go straight into the field and this was fine as long as the grass was dry. However, after the frost and the rain we realized that for a small creature as she is, it may not be great to be dragged out of bed and then get your belly wet as soon as you are outside. Therefore, we decided to walk down the drive and then turn into the fields. By that time, she should be wide-awake. However, Aischa had a different idea. In the afternoon, we just walk her around the block so at the end of the drive we turn right but to go to the fields, we have to turn left. Aischa was not having this; she wanted us to go right. The first few days we had to carry her to the field before she accepted the fact that she had reached the point of no return. After a few weeks of going this way, she has now at last accepted the fact that this was the way.
On the way back she is normally pretty quick because she knows that she will get her reward when we come back home. Last year we found out that we had to change her food from home cooked meals to hard dog biscuits instead. She was not having it. She, who loves food, was not eating. In the end, she got her way. It is a compromise from our side. She will not eat the biscuits when I put them in her bowl. However, when we come back from our walk in the morning she gets a small handful of the biscuits and gobbles them up in no time because this is a treat! In the late afternoon, she gets her home cooked meal but less then she used to!
She was at Sheila’s when we went back to France for a week and she spoilt her rotten. She got used to Sheila’s new throw! I had to buy her one as well! When I sit on the sofa, she likes to sit on it as well and that used to be fine. Now, when I put her on the sofa she just sits there and looks at me as if she wants to say ‘Is that all? Where is my throw?’ As soon as I out the throw on the sofa, she gets hold of it and builds herself a little nest but goes barmy until she has it just the way she wants it!
There is something, however, that I have still not understood. She loves to come with us in the car and she is fine when we are driving at a speed of over 70 or 80 km/hour. As soon as we slow down, like driving in town or over narrow winding country roads, she starts moaning. Or, when we stop! I remember the time that we were looking for a hotel in France and our navigation system had taken us to a very rundown part of that particular town. We were trying to find our way on the map as well as trying to phone the hotel. She was moaning on and on and did not stop until we started driving again. At that moment, I could easily have wrung her neck.
Yesterday we had to go to Galashiels and on the way back, we stopped in Selkirk. Somebody had told me about the Borders Scrapstore, which is a charity shop. This shop collects, sorts and redistributes surplus materials from industry, which are safe to use creatively for art, craft and play. Entering the store was like walking into Aladdin’s Cave. It was difficult to know where to start. In the end, I walked out with two different tweed fabrics, cotton tartan, lining fabric to go with the bag I am in the process of making and many zippers.
When we left the shop, we noticed a mill shop in the building opposite and had a look in there. I was not quite sure what to find but they were selling beautiful tweed fabrics, which were woven in their mill. We were the only people in the shop (which was above the mill) and we had a very interesting conversation with the mill owner who told us all about tweed, wool, weaving and weavers, etc.
I must have sounded very naive thinking that with so many sheep in Scotland they would use the wool from these sheep. However, that did not seem to be the case and thinking about it later, it made a lot of sense. The sheep in colder and wetter climates produce a different, coarser fleece than sheep living in a dryer and warmer climate. Their wool is a lot finer. In the old days, the coarser wool of the local sheep was used to produce the woollen cloth but as time went on and people had more money they wanted the finer quality. The wool of local sheep is now mostly used in the carpet industry. Apparently, for Harris Tweed they still use wool from local sheep.
We had a very informative and interesting morning.
Driving home the weather was fantastic and the forests looked particularly glorious in all the colours between gold and green.
I do love the Scottish borders. Having grown up in Holland where the highest mountain is less than 200 m above sea level I still marvel at mountains and hills. I love the Swiss Alps but could not live there. It gets too depressing after a few days and they make me feel too closed in. I have always loved the Jura and still love living there but the hills in the Scottish borders are different. They are more rolling; in a way, they are softer. You do not even have to be too high up and you can see miles of rolling hills.
When we first came to the borders, I did not know much about Scotland. I was always under the naive impression that Scotland, Wales and England were the same (North Ireland was different because it was on a different island) and used to talk about England when I meant any of the three. Never having lived in the UK and having obtained British citizenship through marriage, I used to call myself English, which is wrong. I now call myself British. I have also learned to be extremely careful to make a distinction between Scottish and English when I am in the borders.
I also did not know that Hawick used to be and still is to a certain point, the capital of the cashmere industry. Companies such as Hawick Cashmere, Hawick Knitwear, Johnstons of Elgin, Lyle & Scott, Peter Scott, Pringle of Scotland, and Scott and Charters, all have had and in many cases still have manufacturing plants in Hawick, producing some of the most luxurious cashmere and merinowool knitwear in the world today.
In the time we have been here, I indulged myself in buying cashmere wear. It is beautifully soft and warm.
After having bought some tweed fabrics I am planning to make some bags specifically for the next Presents Galore fair in Kelso and market this as locally produced cloth for my bags. Anyway, that is still a long way off. I have to first think of my summer 14 collection. The tweeds will be for my winter 14 collection.
I know, I have not been writing much on this website and seem to be doing more on my blog: http://pagehirst.blogspot.co.uk/. I have not even had much time to read all my emails except for the very personal ones. I have been using my time on trying to find out the best way to promote and market my bags. It is very interesting to find out how all these social media work.
In the week before leaving for Scotland I did not have much time to do any advertising on my Facebook page or on Pinterest and looking at the Facebook page graph the drop in visitors was quite dramatic. Also, if I do not put a lot of pictures of bags or jewellery on Pinterest, I can see an immediate drop in visitors to my ETSY shop!
This means, of course, that I have to spend more time on social media. But, on the other hand I need my time in making bags and jewellery. I wonder how other people go about that. In fact, I should have somebody to do all the advertising etc. so that I can concentrate on creating the products I want to sell. Talking about needing somebody - I would also need somebody to do the cleaning, escpecially after finishing a projet.
Of course, there is also the photographing. I want to spend more time on doing that and really getting the hang of a camera, which is still trial and error for me. I am even now thinking of going to a photography course. Migros, in Basel should have something! And of course writing. I should be able to write better descriptions for the products I am selling!
Anyway, at the moment I am concentrating on the Presents Galore show in Kelso, in the Scottish borders on October 7 and 8 (see my blog http://pagehirst.blogspot.co.uk/), and after that I will concentrate on the rest.
I have been quite busy lately. Sold three bags to Paula, two to Tania and I am in the process of making one for Jenny. I have also been to town to see if I could find an outfit for Mark and Daniela's wedding but was not very successful. I will have to go to town again when it gets a bit cooler. Jenny and I decided that it would be Germany as soon as the weather changes.
Last Friday we attended Martin's memorial service. It is very sad to see somebody who has never smoked and always led a sportive life die of lung cancer. Later that evening we went for our yearly asparagus meal in Grenzach. This time, of course, it was without Harold. Last year he announced that he would have his 100th birthday in that restaurant!
Today we had lunch with Tania, Jenny, and Eric. It was nice to see Tania again. She has her head screwed on right. She seems to know what she wants and how to get it.
Here some pictures of what I am doing now:
We had quite a busy weekend again. We went out on Friday night for a Greek meal in Badisch Rheinfelden at restaurant Dionysos (www.hotel-saengerhalle.com/). It took me a while to find the restaurant. I looked it up on Google Maps before going and thought that it was quite straight forward to find: drive through Swiss Rheinfelden, across the bridge to Germany turn right, drive under the railway bridge and it would be just on the left-hand side. I did not realize that I had not been in Swiss Rheinfelden for at least 7 or 8 years and therefore, did not realize that the bridge was now only for pedestrians! We had to drive back direction Augst and turn off to the motorway going to Germany. I had never been there before and had no idea where it would lead me to. It is not easy if you do not know the road and have to look at the traffic as well as at the signposts. On top of that, it had started raining on Thursday night and by Friday evening, it was still raining in a steady downpour. When we finally found the restaurant there obviously, was no parking space available near the restaurant and I had to park some way away. We got soaked walking to the restaurant, which did not lift my mood.
The restaurant was packed full. We had been sitting at the table for at least 30 minutes and even than it was difficult to get the waiter. At least it gave us sufficient time to choose what we wanted! The food was very good and plenty which is normally the case in Germany. However, I have seldom experienced worse service. The waiter never even came to ask if we wanted anything else to drink. The same thing happened with the desert. Somebody had asked for the desert card but the waiter never came back to ask if anybody wanted a desert, coffee or schnapps. As it was, nobody was interested in a desert and as we all expected the coffee to be the German sort (you get very spoilt living in Switzerland!) nobody wanted any coffee either. I do not think we will be going to this restaurant again quickly.
On Sunday, we had a barbeque at the ‘Waldhütte’ above Oberlarg.
For the past few years, some people from the council have been organizing a "Mai Bummel" in Oberlarg. I think Alan has been to all of them and up to now, I have only joined them at the Waldhütte for the soup and barbeque afterwards. Alan went for the walk with Leslie and Pauline, but Jenny, Eric and I came later by car. As we have had a lot of rain lately, we hoped that the weather would be at least dry. It was dry and not cold but we were still sitting inside with the wood burner on. Of course, Jenny brought far too much food with her so that I had to take all our sausages back home again. It was good fun and we all enjoyed it.
Going back home I took Leslie and Pauline to their cars which were in the village but Alan decided to walk back home and take Aischa with him. The walk from the Waldhütte to our house should not take him more than 20 – 30 minutes. I asked him if he wanted to take the mobile with him but he said he would not be long. After his last episode when he lost Aischa, I should have known better and insisted. After I had been home for about an hour, I started wondering where he was! I went outside to see if I could see them coming but saw no sign of them. I decided to leave the gate and the front door open just in case Aischa should come home without Alan. They both came home together after more than 1.5 hours. Alan had decided to not go straight back home but go for a much longer walk! Next time I will insist that he takes the mobile with him!