8 November 2015

Now that the excitement and adventures of our Chinese excursion have been accounted for, it’s “back to normal service” this week. Too bad. And, looking out my study window on a dreary grey morning with the wind howling and the rain sleeting down, I can see that the weather is back to normal as well!

Not much this week although we had a “lovely” day out on Sunday when we impulsively ventured forth on what turned out to be a soulless and dispiriting shopping experience. We went to Ikea in Milton Keynes.

We were after some book cases for the Snug – something cheap, cheerful and perfectly functional will do the job nicely and the ones we’d left behind in Byfield had come from Ikea and had proved very satisfactory. So, off we went.

I suppose it was a mistake to go on a moderately pleasant Sunday morning – everyone and their brother was there towing three or four kids through the maze that is Ikea. The place was packed! We had to (illicitly) park in the Walmart/Asda car park next door immediately adjacent to a notice warning us that the car park was exclusively for the use of Walmart/Asda customers and anyone else caught using the car park would face a £100 fine, have their car impounded, and their first-born sold into slavery. We risked it anyway.

Within about ten minutes we had found our way along the Ikea labyrinth to the bookcase section, confirmed our intention to buy the bookcases and were ready to leave. But, Ikea sucks you in. Because you can’t go back or deviate from the designated route (unless you’re a real rebel), you’re compelled to  wander through every department, as if on a conveyor belt or navigating the serpentine maze of an immigration hall somewhere. Inevitably, along the way, you spot one or twenty things you didn’t realise that you needed and which you certainly did not plan on buying but which somehow end up in your shopping basket! It’s a genius model for the retailer; it’s an unrelentingly crappy experience for the shopper.

After the excitement of the Ikea safari, we’ve been recuperating by indulging in some quiet bird watching following the erection of Penelope’s multi-purpose bird feeder and buffet bar. We’d not been able to have a bird feeder in Byfield – there wasn’t really any decent vantage points and the abundance of neighbourhood cats considered any sort of bird feeder as the opening of a new fast food take-away for their benefit.

Here we have excellent vantage points from both the kitchen and the conservatory and we’re not as overrun by cats as we were in Byfield so we erected a very sophisticated feeding and dining establishment for the neighbourhood bird life. It took them a day or two to “discover” it but since then it’s been like Heathrow Airport as they buzz in and out from all directions. The tits and finches love it and a couple of collared doves tried for some time to place a takeaway order but they couldn’t settle anywhere and eventually had to find alternative catering facilities. That didn’t stop one of the local jackdaws who simply plomped himself in the tray holding the mealy worms and made himself at home.

And, if that wasn’t enough excitement for one week, Penelope’s First Home Improvement Project (of what will undoubtedly turn out to be one of several hundred) is well under way at the front of the house. She’s excavated the front border and removed an old, overgrown gravelled path in preparation for a new path of Victorian pavers. I’ve assisted in a menial way when I could no longer avoid it, she’s sourced the pavers from a local reclamation depot and the rest of the materials are in the process of arriving in the next few days. If we get a half decent spell of weather this week she should have it finished by next time. I think there must be some sports I should be watching?

Just realised in my desire to let you all share in the Chinese adventure that I never included an account of our favourite granddaughter’s fourth birthday party a few weeks ago. In short, it was wonderful. It had a “Frozen” theme and the youngsters thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Even Grandpa dressed for the occasion!

Finally, no more of our China photos I’m afraid but I did run across some outstanding shots from the Siena International Photography Competition, a couple of which are from China! Enjoy.

Siena Photo Competition

Love to you all,



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