Friday, 27 May 2011

Hoopoe!

The most exciting thing happened this morning. I was sitting having some breakfast with Wonderwoman, and she suddenly said, “What’s that extraordinary bird on the lawn?” I looked out and saw what I initially took to be a greater spotted woodpecker but it looked too exotic for that – and I realised we must be looking at a hoopoe! I grabbed the camera and took some photos, and then she suggested I did some video, but I only managed a couple of seconds before he disappeared.

Looking him up on the Internet, he definitely was a hoopoe! This is a very unusual occurrence in Britain – they do occasionally appear in the south of England during the early summer, but usually live in Mediterranean regions – I was also reminded, in my researches, that the hoopoe is Israel’s national bird. They are very dramatically marked, with a long beak and a magnificent crest which they sometimes raise on their heads.

My mum is a keen bird watcher, and I immediately rang them to tell them what we’d seen, thinking she’d never believe me! Once, I saw a pair of quails in the garden, and when I reported this to her, she said loftily, “Oh, they wouldn’t have been quails – more like young pheasants, I should think.” I knew they weren’t pheasants, though, and next time they came over, my mum suddenly said, “You’ve got some quails in your garden!” “I told you so!!” I said.

My parents have only ever seen a hoopoe in Spain. Seeing one in a Devon garden is very exciting!

Here’s the video slide show (which includes the mini-video clip) which I created of our exotic visitor. I’ve added his distinctive (although not very exciting!) call, which he did not deign to sing for us today!

 

What a lot of excitement we’ve had this week!

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Silver Wedding Celebrations 5/5: Presents!

On the morning of our Silver Wedding anniversary (the second day of our holiday), after breakfast we all met in our room, and my hubby and I opened the cards and presents we’d given each other. Having recently discovered how to use the video feature on my digital camera, I used that, but the result wasn’t marvellous, because it’s not as good as my dedicated video camera, and also, the sun was streaming in through the windows. I should have drawn the curtains really… anyway, I managed to get some video footage, and my hubby did a bit of me, although he failed to capture me opening my present which was a shame. I’m doing another blog post about the card I made him, so there will be photos on there, and I’ve already blogged about the present I made him.

He has given me the most beautiful silver necklace with long strands that remind me of a coral necklace.

He managed to find a perfect box for it, the box it came in not being very nice, he said. He wasn’t to know that the theme of my present and card for him was dark blue, but he chose a dark blue leather box! I am so thrilled with it, and know that it is going to be a special favourite and will be worn a great deal.



At dinner on the anniversary day, the staff gave us a card that they had all signed, which was so lovely. They were all so pleased for us, and we received many congratulations.

My parents have given us a silver jug, and as a special present for me, my mum has given me one of her “treasures” which I have loved ever since I was a small child – a little glass and silver perfume bottle which has always lived on her dressing table. I am so thrilled to have this and will treasure it always.

We have been blessed by so much kindness, and everyone has been so happy for us as we celebrate 25 years of marriage. Most of all, I am grateful for such a wonderful husband who puts up with me and does so much for me, and for all that we share and enjoy together, for our home and extended family, for our lovely kitties, for the things we both enjoy doing, and for all the fun we have.

For more pictures, see the sub-albums in my Photobucket Album:

http://s496.photobucket.com/albums/rr328/shoshiplatypus/Silver%20Wedding%20Anniversary/Holiday%20at%20Woolacombe/

Silver Wedding Celebrations 4/5: Exploring the Hotel

In addition to the health suite, the rest of the lower ground floor, at the further end of the slope into which the hotel is built, consists of a fabulous dining room/ballroom where they have weddings, which has steps up to double doors which lead into a lounge, which reminded me of a gentlemen’s club, with its separate areas and dark, sumptuous look.

Everywhere in the hotel, including in the corridors, there were mirrors and beautiful chandeliers, which made the place sparkle and add spaciousness.

There were also interesting paint effects and textures.

The hotel wasn’t terrifically wheelchair-friendly – my hubby had to drag my wheelchair up and down the few steps up to the dining room each time, but there was a lift up to the bedroom floors, and our room was close by. Everywhere else was accessible; the Brasserie was all on the level, and there was level access to the outside via The Mews, as the main hotel entrance was up a flight of steps to a revolving door.

Here’s a link to the hotel’s website:

http://www.woolacombe-bay-hotel.co.uk/

On the final morning there was a very strong wind (too strong for my hubby’s kite!) and the surf was up.

We returned home on the 26th May after our last breakfast and some considerable time packing everything up! My hubby had borrowed a trailer from a friend, so all the luggage went in there, giving plenty of room in the back of the car for my mum and dad. We stopped in mid-Devon for our final meal together, a lovely lunch at Bickleigh, and then we drove back to my parents’ house where we had a cup of tea, before we returned home to two excited kitties and back to normal again!!

We’ve had a wonderful mini-break to celebrate our Silver Wedding, staying in a very expensive hotel – not something we can do every year but for such a special occasion it was well worth it; it was an anniversary to remember, and lovely to share it with my elderly parents as well.

For more pictures, see the sub-albums in my Photobucket Album:

http://s496.photobucket.com/albums/rr328/shoshiplatypus/Silver%20Wedding%20Anniversary/Holiday%20at%20Woolacombe/

Silver Wedding Celebrations 3/5: Out and About in Woolacombe

My parents went off for walks and we did some exploring. My hubby flew his kite on the beach before breakfast each day which was a great success with the wind that we had. There is a lovely expanse of grass between the hotel and the sea, and I took lots of photos.

These huge sand dunes are off to the side of the hotel, and are anchored by sharp marran grass. When we were here before, we clambered all over them.

On another day, my hubby went off exploring with my mum and dad, and he took these pictures:

I just love the wild seaside with nobody about! My favourite time is the middle of winter, when the wind blows your socks off and your anorak inside out and takes your breath away, and all that ozone blows the cobwebs to Timbuktu! Oh for the days of running across an vast empty beach, picking up shells and pebbles and driftwood, and coming home sweetly exhausted and full of sun and sea air!

Oh well, have to be satisfied with different stimulants these days, such as discovering Art in quirky textures and patterns in places that are more accessible to me!

Forgive me while I indulge myself here (gooey textures coming up!):

Outside the hotel I found a pair of old metal urns, painted in a sort of sea-green-grey, which were so corroded that they had holes in them, and the paint was bubbling off and creating gorgeous patterns like growing mould patches. Irresistible.

Further on, I found a small hut or shed, probably for the storage of garden tools. It had been painted with pale green wood stain so that the knots and grain showed through, but it had become worn, and when the light caught it, it had a strange, iridescent sheen.

At the corner, the boards were beautifully joined, and I loved the patterns the end-grain made, with the tree rings, where they had cracked in a radial pattern.

Bordering the garden, and hiding the outdoor swimming pool, was a low wooden fence which made a nice pattern, and great shadows in the strong sunlight.

I took a photo of part of the hotel roof at the full extent of my zoom lens and then straightened it with my photo editing software. I love the terracotta tiles with their regular, man-made pattern and gently curved top surface, and the random sprinkling of the natural, yellow lichen. Gorgeous colour contrast, too.

The following afternoon my hubby and I visited a local art gallery which had so many pieces in it that you couldn’t hope to see them all unless you had at least a week, and many different styles, too. The owner was sitting in the window working on a pastel piece, and she showed us some of her other work – she had a great gift for capturing the wonderful skies over the sea in Woolacombe. In the corner of the gallery was an ancient wooden filing cabinet which she said had come with the premises, which had previously been the local bank. She had removed the brass handles and distressed the drawers, adding rope handles, and I fell in love with the gorgeous colours and soft patterns she’d achieved, simply by painting and rubbing down. The corners were delightfully distressed and worn, too. With use, it was gaining a nicely ingrained dirty look too. The whole effect was reminiscent of the ocean.

I love the way the brass keyhole is still there.

Last one – honest!! – but don’t you just love the way these twisty black railings overlap each other and show smaller versions of themselves through the different layers, and cast interesting shadows on the ground?

There is a Brasserie on the end of the hotel where we had lunch there each day. Since we were last there, that end of the hotel has been roofed over and the Brasserie eating area extended into what they call “The Mews” which is a lovely place to sit and eat.

Opening off The Mews is a fabulous shop which we visited last time we were up there, full of wood carvings and other artefacts, mostly from South East Asia – last time I bought this carving of two ducks which intrigued me; they are twisting around each other, and carved from a single piece of wood, which must have taken some doing.

I didn’t buy anything this time, but I fell in love with this glass sculpture in the window:

It was made of sheets of glass cut to shape and glued together to form a wave. The glass was a beautiful sea green and the edges ground into interesting facets. The whole thing was set on a black plinth over a slit through which a light shone. When we went into the shop I couldn’t see a price, and thought “If you have to ask how much it is, you can’t afford it…” which proved definitely to be true!! Waaay out of my range! Still, I got the photo, and it’s given me some ideas for a paper sculpture I’d like to attempt.

For more pictures, see the sub-albums in my Photobucket Album:

http://s496.photobucket.com/albums/rr328/shoshiplatypus/Silver%20Wedding%20Anniversary/Holiday%20at%20Woolacombe/

Silver Wedding Celebrations 2/5: Life in our Hotel

From the lovely big window and balcony, our room overlooked the sea, and the view was magnificent.

Woolacombe Bay has a golden sandy beach which stretches literally for miles. The first day was very cold and windy and when my hubby opened the door onto the balcony, the curtains blew horizontally into the room and the door into the hall banged shut, so he shut it again very quickly! Not a day for balcony sitting! The weather improved no end for the rest of our stay, however, and we had some lovely sunsets. On this photo, if you look carefully, you can see Lundy Island on the horizon. It is not always visible.

Again, on this one, you can see Lundy. Note also the vapour trail which is catching the last rays of the sun.

Each evening, we changed and went down for dinner. It’s lovely to stay in a hotel where there’s a dress code for dinner, although most of the men were not wearing ties, which I thought was a shame. We get so few opportunities to dress up these days… The dining room is beautiful - really elegant, as is the rest of the hotel.

Our evening meals were all marvellous – four courses but not enormous portions, so one felt satisfied but not stuffed, and every mouthful was delectable. Here are some of the dishes we had:

This was one of the most attractive starters – a filo parcel of quail meat served with various garnishes.

This dish of sliced roasted duck on a bed of bubble and squeak had a piece of crisp bacon inserted vertically like a sail! I have never tasted bubble and squeak like this before… The diced roasted butternut squash was delicious, too.

We were delighted to discover that most of the waiters and waitresses were from Romania. My hubby always calls Romania his second home – over the years he’s been there over 20 times and has many, many friends there. He has done aid work, and travelled throughout most of the country and knows it well. I went with him one year, to celebrate the wedding of the son of one of his best friends, which was a fascinating experience. Imagine our waitress’s delight when I asked her where she was from, and she said Romania, and immediately my hubby spoke to her in Romanian! After the meal we had such a nice time with them all – the two girls were great friends, and the two young men were brothers – one brother is married to one of the girls, and the other is engaged to the other! They all came over together, and they were all so lovely and friendly and fun. It was very nice for my hubby too – he knows Cluj, where they all come from, very well indeed.

After dinner we adjourned to the lounge where we did word puzzles my mum had brought, and with my hubby dropping off in the chair on the first evening – he had had a very busy week, and then all the driving to get us there, and packing and unloading the car, so he was pretty tired. We all felt sufficiently rested on the next day to enjoy our BIG DAY.

Breakfast was served buffet-style in the dining room, with a huge selection. I thought – to heck with the diet – I’m on HOLIDAY!! - so I indulged in a full English breakfast the first day, but was a bit more restrained for the other two days, although I did enjoy a croissant or two! There was lots of fresh fruit, including watermelon, and berries, and yoghurt, and as much coffee or tea as you wanted.

On the last day, my hubby went out and bought me a rubber ring and some arm bands and took me down to the fitness suite in the lower ground of the hotel, and we went in the pool, the Jacuzzi and sauna (unfortunately the steam room was out of order) – when we were staying in the hotel before, I spent every afternoon down there! These days my swimming can hardly be called swimming at all – floating about is more like it – a far cry from my mile-a-week that I used to swim before I became ill. However, it was lovely to be in the water, although I wasn’t that pleased with the photos my hubby took of me – definitely need to get some more weight off – he said that I looked like a little seal! (Very flattering… I don’t think!)

As you can see, the pool is very elegant (even if its occupant isn’t).

For more pictures, see the sub-albums in my Photobucket Album:

http://s496.photobucket.com/albums/rr328/shoshiplatypus/Silver%20Wedding%20Anniversary/Holiday%20at%20Woolacombe/