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!
Hey, I am supposed to be retired but I seem to be busier than ever before. The mornings start with taking Aischa out for a walk - however, only when it is not raining because she refuses to get out of the door when there is a chance of getting wet. When we come home, we have breakfast while we watch the news on TV. After breakfast, I open my laptop and first have a look if I received any emails. After that, I look into my shop to see how many visitors I had and if I sold anything during the night or to add any new items. This takes more time than I imagined because I decided to do the Dutch and German translations as well. When that is done I post the new shop items onto the social websites and this is where at the moment I spend a lot of time because they still confuse me. I have the hang of Facebook now and I just started on Twitter, which is still very confusing, and then of course there is Google+ but I am still leaving that on the side for the time being. This all needs a lot of reading up. I suppose that once I get the hang of it, it will become easier. At least I hope so! Of course, there are also the links to other websites you have to keep up to get the customers into your shop. However, I have realized that you have to do something every day to keep people coming or coming back. However, it is fun.
In the afternoon I start with the real work - my jewellery and bag making. That is not work though, it is fun.
Then, last but not least, there is our social life, which seems to take up a lot of time in summer. With social life I do not mean the virtual social life. No, this is going out for a meal in the evening or at lunchtime (all possible when you are retired) and of course shopping with girlfriends. And this shopping could be anything - from charity shops to IKEA to property searches. All this makes our season in France fly. The days seem to be too short as are the weeks and months. But as from September this changes again to a quieter pace when we go to Scotland and Ireland.
So, I am not complaining, just wondering how I ever found time to hold a proper job!
Last Sunday we were invited in the village to a 40 years wedding anniversary. We had a great time, the food, the company, the music, the entertainment and obviously, the drinks were fantastic. The invitation was for 'as from 11.30 AM' and we were there about midday. We did not come home until about 7.00 PM and Alan decided to go for a long walk to get the alcohol out of his system which had slowly been building up as we had been out the previous evening as well to a function from his shooting club. As he is not used to having a mobile with him, I specifically told him to take it with him this time. He also decided to take Aischa, our little Yorkshire terrier, with him.
When it started to get dark, I was worried and phoned him, however without success. I tried several time and each time had the same result. I was getting frantic, thinking that something might have happened. In the end, I went out of the house hoping I could see him coming. I saw him coming around the corner and he was on his own! He told me that he had lost Aischa and was very upset, especially as we had just lost our other Yorkshire terrier Krümmel, albeit through old age.
We left the doors to the garden open in case Aischa would find her way back and left in the car. However, where Alan had been walking was cross-country over dirt tracks. My car is not built for tracks like that and the Landrover had been taken to the garage the previous week. The tracks were full of holes and by this time, it was dark. We stopped at places where we thought she might be and called her. We went up and down the tracks and were stuck a few times. In the end we gave up and drove back, hoping that she would have found her way back home on her own. And she had!
When we arrived back home she was trying to get into the front door and the gate to the drive was closed. I wondered about that and then I saw the girl next door. She was still shaking when she told me that she and her boyfriend had come around the corner when Aischa ran in front of the car. They only just missed her! She took her to the front door and rang the bell but nobody opened and all the lights were on!
It was than when I turned on Alan, who was still upset. He very seldom looks back when he takes the dog(s) for a walk. He just assumes she will follow him, which she normally does. However, sometimes she takes her time to sniff at things and is left behind. In addition, why did he not answer the phone when I called him? He had left it in the garage before he left. He put it down to get his coat on and forgot all about it. I just hope this has taught him a lesson but all the same I' pleased that all worked out okay in the end.
At last, I have started putting my jewellery into my Etsy shop. It takes up most of my time now, trying to sort out which ones to use, which to put into the shop first and taking the right photographs. Taking the right pictures is not easy at the moment. By changing rooms, I have provided myself with quite a good photo studio because light is coming in from three directions. The only problem is that for the past week we have not been able to see the sky. The whole valley has been in thick fog all this time, which obviously diminished the light coming in.
Have a look at my Mini Etsy at the bottom of this page for the first few necklaces I have put into my shop.
I finished two further bags today and put them into my Etsy shop.