Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Happy Halloween!


I decided that I wanted to post a Halloweenish sort of video for the occasion, but I'm a bit chicken so I generally avoid anything too scary.
With this in mind, enjoy these, they're my kind of spooky. ;-)



Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Book 67 of 2012: A Clash of Kings

Considering how popular my last book review of one of George R.R. Martin's book has caused such a spike in my blog views, I'm curious to see how this one affects it. This post will contain spoilers for the second book in the Song of Ice and Fire series, you have been warned.

A Clash of Kings is the second book in George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. It picks up more or less right where A Game of Thrones left off; King Robert is dead, his son Joffrey (who isn't really his son at all) has taken the throne, Ned Stark has been beheaded, Sansa is hostage, Arya has escaped, and Robb is leading an army in the north.

It's a story with such fantastic scope that it's easy to get totally drawn in. As much as I enjoyed the first book, reading this it feels as though it was all slowly setting things up for A Clash of Kings, so there's a lot more action and a lot less set up in this book.

Rather than chapter names or numbers, each chapter is given the name of the character whose point of view it is told through. I'll admit, at times this is a little frustrating because my copy is the Kindle version with the first five books/seven volumes in the series and a little glitch means there's no page numbers in this book, so it's hard to know how far through the book you are. But for the most part I like this approach, especially when I was reading late at night and wasn't sure whether to carry on going; if it was Theon or Davos's chapter I'd call it a night, Tyrion or Arya I would keep going.

The characters in this series are great, with so many it would be easy for them to become rather 2D (and while there are a few who kind of blur into one another - not helped by there being several names shares between characters and others who go by more than one name). As circumstances change, so do the characters. In the first book I wanted nothing more than to slap Sansa, in this one I actually put off turning out the light to read her chapters.

In this book the various religions of the world are explained a little more. I enjoyed that because it makes it feel more real somehow. The king adopting a new religion out of convenience or necessity made me think back to studying the Tudors at school.

My least favourite bits of the book are probably the battles, especially the one at the end. I prefer the character-led chapters rather than the ones describing fights and battles, part of it was probably because I wasn't feeling brilliant and it was late but I struggled to follow exactly what was going on at times and so I was quite grateful when the bits I'd missed we're explained to another character later on.

George R.R. Martin is really good at feeding you part of the story through one character's eyes so you find yourself believing one thing, then bringing back another character's point of view so you find out the truth or another perspective. It's quite clever and even though there were several occasions where I had it figured out, I kept on going to prove myself right (or wrong).

I'd recommend these books to anyone who likes a bit of fantasy, but also readers interested in political or historical-type stories. While there's an element of magic in these books, it's not been as prominent as in some fantasy novels. My one complaint? They're massive books, I'm very glad I went for the ebook version because they're not the most portable and my bookcase is already overloaded!

"The Wall stretched east and west as far as the eye could see, so huge that it shrunk the timbered keeps and stone towers of the castle to insignificance. It was the end of the world."Location 17030

Monday, 29 October 2012

A Statistical Interlude

I do enjoy checking the stats on my blog, it's really quite enlightening and amusing to see just what it is that gets people clicking over here.

Certainly some posts get a lot more traffic than others. It always used to be the Home Alone, The Grinch and Mr Bean film reviews that got the heaviest traffic (and by mentioning those here I've probably guaranteed that this post will get a sudden spike in search results). But some of the book reviews have given them a run for their money. Generally anything about a book by Terry Pratchett will guarantee a lot of hits, but I've discovered a new leader for most popular book review.

Pageviews per post as of 28/10/12
This is the page views for this week (though it's pretty much looked like this since I posted the book review for A Game of Thrones back in September). As you can see, the next highest post is around 70 pageviews less popular (and it's the Home Alone film review post, in case you were wondering).

It can also be a little alarming discovering what search terms are bringing people to your blog. Allow me to demonstrate:

Search keywords as of 28/10/12
The top ones as you can see are all about A Game of Thrones, so far, so good. Then we've got some random searches, but the one that really worries me is the second from the bottom 'men having a wee'.

I'm a little worried about this for two reasons: one, why has that search term brought someone to my blog (I'm guessing it's because of The Wee Free Men review, at least, I hope that's what it is), but two, why would you want to search for that?

On second thoughts, maybe I'd rather not know!

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Project 365+1: Days 287 - 300

Once again I'm behind with my photos. This time it's mainly because we had Tara spayed the other week and so we've mostly been at home with her. I've had opportunities to sort out my photos and probably could've gotten a blog post together but I've been lazy and working on OU and reading and reading and reading - I've been in a bit of a reading funk for the last month but I've blown off the cobwebs and I'm back on track.

So here come the photos.

Day 287: Moving On
I've been back at the books again during the last couple of weeks. Having time off work for Tara's recovery was useful because it meant I was able to power through some of the Duchess of Malfi stuff and get a rough draft of my first assignment on Othello written almost three weeks ahead of submission. Of course, my being ahead has led to a touch of laziness so I need to pull my socks up this week, but at least Draft 01 is finished now. By this time next week I'll hopefully have it all ready to go - the hardest part is always getting something onto paper to start with.

Day 288: Snow Problem
Mr Click picked up these lovely snowboots for me the other week. He'd got himself some ready for any cold and icy weather that we might have as I have welly boots and he doesn't. Of course I started bemoaning the fact that his snowboots were infinitely nicer for cold weather than my purple wellies (you can see his snowboots behind mine in the picture). So he got me these.

I was under instruction to wait to wear them until we had actual snow or ice. So when we did end up with a little snow flurry on Friday night, I was in such a hurry to get Tara out for a walk that I didn't actually put them on (well, technically I didn't really know it was snowing when I was getting ready to go and it would've been unfair to drag the dog back in so I could change from trainers to fleece-lined, fur-topped boots.

So I've been making up for it by wearing them all weekend. They are the comfiest things ever! It's actually like going for a walk in my slippers, and they keep my feet so toasty warm that I only need one pair of socks. The one downside is that all that fake-fur is shedding at the moment, so I look like a hobbit when I take them off. But now I can't wait to get some proper sticking snow so I can go out tramping in the snow with them.

Day 289: VIP: Very Important Patient
This is Tara on the day of her operation, by the time this was taken she'd been home for hours and had pretty much recovered from the anaesthetic. She got sleepy very easily, would sort of sit and droop or dribble (which you can kind of see in the photo). But she slept very well that night.

In all, the hardest part of her op has been keeping her occupied. She's used to getting walks somewhere in the region of three to five miles each day, while she's had her stitches it's been five minutes at a time. And she can't get them wet, the way Tara walks she kicks water up onto her belly if she's walking on wet ground, so even if it's not raining at the time, we've had to be very careful about where we walk her.

And by the weekend after her op she was pretty much back to her normal, cheeky self (I knew she was on the mend on Thursday when I caught her making off with a sock from the laundry basket, though she didn't have the energy to run off with it at the time). Which meant she's had her usual energy levels and no way of burning it all off. Thankfully the stitches came out on Friday and aside from the marks from the stitches themselves being a little bit red and weepy at times, she's been fine.

Day 290: Iambic Pentameter
And this is how I spent my day off while Tara recovered from her op. Basically I went over the text we're to analyse for the assignment and broke down the lines into individual syllables so I could look for the metre as well as making notes on anything I could actually use in the assignment.

It's been a long time since I last did anything like this (the last time being when I studied Doctor Fautus for my AA100 course about four years ago). But I remember that this was the technique I used then and it seemed to serve me well. The only downside to my attempts at a first draft of this assignment was that I very cleverly overlooked the guidance notes until after I'd actually written the draft so my Draft 01 is very heavily weighted in the wrong direction at the moment. Luckily it's also very repetitive so it shouldn't take too much work to slot some of those earlier points into later paragraphs.

Day 291: Reorganised
This was the other way that I spent my day while Tara was in surgery. I'm not used to not having her in the house (getting under my feet, running off with socks or bits of newspaper, letting us know that there's a car driving past outside just in case we hadn't noticed...) so when she wasn't there suddenly the house felt really quiet and empty and I couldn't focus on my OU like I'd planned. So I flitted from one thing to another.

And this was the first thing I flitted at. For the last few weeks or so I've been taking ages to get through books, struggling to decide what to read (even though I have a system where I read a book from a different shelf, occasionally alternating with a borrowed book or ebook in between shelves). Mainly the problem seems to be that I've ended up with a bunch of books that I'm just not in any great hurry to read and so I've not been motivated to get through the ones I do want to read because I'm not looking forward to what's coming next.

I've been holding off rearranging the bookcase until I finish the Terry Pratchett books - I'm so close to the end now. But I've been piling books on top of other books and everything's getting into a bit of a jumble. So I dragged everything off and now Terry Pratchett is followed by my OU set texts, linguistic books, Kathy Reichs (I've removed the other crime books for the time being, I'll get them back out when I'm done with the Temperance Brennan books), then a selection of children's and adults books covering everything from The Wind in the Willows to The Queen and I, I've located my copy of The Hobbit as well as some funny Tolkien-related books as well.

So I'm back on a roll again now. Whizzing through the bookcase again so quickly that another rearrange probably won't be far off.

Day 292: Comfy Cosy
My in-laws have let us have a  lovely new throw for our bed. Normally in winter we throw a blanket over the bed or, as we've been doing recently, using our 'lion rug'. Unfortunately Tara's been trying to sleep on the bed, though we've more or less broken her of the habit (again) so lion rug is looking a little hairy and needs a wash.

So we've acquired the one above. I'm very sensitive about covers on the bed, certain fabrics irritate me if they're touching my skin (the lion rug has to be pulled down slightly so he's not touching my face), but this one is so soft and cuddly that it feels lovely. It's a bit of a fur magnet, but it's thinner so won't be as difficult to get washed and dried (Scottish weather permitting) and considering how thin it is, it makes the bed lovely and toasty.

Day 293: Feeling Linguistic
Ever since I did (the now defunct) OU U211 course about the history of the English language, I've been fascinated by the subject. Actually, that's a lie, I've always had a bit of a geeky love for words, the way they're used, how they came into being and all that jazz. It's something that genuinely interests me and which I can talk about for hours (so please, for the sake of your sanity, don't ask me, unless you really want to hear a potted history on how the English we speak today came to be shaped).

Or better yet, read this book. I'll post a review of it sometime soon (I've got a bunch of reviews written I just need to get them scheduled), but in short it's a timeline of when particular words entered the English language. It's very interesting and it's part of a set of four so I'm curious to see what the others are like.

Day 294: Bedtime Viewing
This has become part of our bedtime routine now. The grey box lid is where my laptop goes and right now we're watching the Jeremy Brett Sherlock Holmes series. I'm enjoying these ones more than the Basil Rathbone one's we were watching earlier in the month, I think largely because they're closer to the books. They seem easier to follow somehow as well, so I can sit and read while we're watching and tune in and out as they interest me.

The downside to this is that it means some nights we've gone to bed at 8pm. Seems I can't handle my late nights anymore.

Day 295: All Creatures Great & Small
This is our other evening viewing, usually we watch one or two episodes while we eat our tea/I do my OU on an evening, depending on what shift I'm on or the time we have to get up in the morning. This was a Christmas present to me from Mr Click a couple of years ago and when I first got it we made it as far as somewhere around the third episode, before losing track of where we'd gotten to and setting it aside for some other time. Now we're almost at the place where we left off and I'm looking forward to seeing some new episodes.

The funny thing is, both of our regular evening programmes (this and the Sherlock Holmes DVDs) have featured episodes set at Christmas. The temperature drop has made me feel all festive and this has not helped to improve matters at all!

Day 296: Souped Up
With the colder weather (and windy weather which threatens trips off the island), we've been stocking up on soups and other tinned foods. This also helps to cover us in case of any more power cuts since my in-laws have a gas cooker and we can always use that to make hot meals. When our local supermarket had a sale on soup, Mr Click said he wanted to get a few tins to stock up. A few actually turned out to be three carrier bags full which left us with somewhere in the region of 45 tins of soup.

At least I don't have to worry about going hungry this winter.

Day 297: Puppy Dog Eyes
This is a look which probably says something along the lines of 'why do you keep following me around with that camera?' or perhaps 'please can I sleep on your bed' or maybe even 'but why aren't I allowed to eat the tassels on your new throw?'

I've actually got to put together a post of all of the really bad photos I've taken of Tara recently. Some of them are really hilariously awful.

Like this one, for example:
Day 298: How You Doin?
I can't help but think of Joey from Friends doing his chat-up line when I look at this one. I mean look at her, she's got the wink, licking her lips, Tara's got this chat-up thing down!

Day 299: Feeling Festive
As everything is pointing in the direction of Christmas right now (and that's my favourite time of the year) I've been preparing for our Christmas Movie Marathon which will be the same as last year but with three more DVDs. Of course there are certain films in our collection that you can watch before December, those being Holiday Inn, The Holiday, Hogfather, Love Actually and The Nightmare Before Christmas. The latter being set in 'Halloween Town' means that you can watch it around Halloween time without feeling guilty. Holiday Inn features a number of different holidays so can be watched at any time of the year, The Holiday and Love Actually are romantic comedies which just happen to be set at Christmas and Hogfather is about Hogswatch which is a fantasty holiday which just happens to be similar to Christmas.

At least, this is the excuse I'm using to watch Christmassy films all through November (we started with Nightmare Before Christmas yesterday). It's all part of the Christmas build-up.

Day 300: Christmas Crafts
The other night I dreamt that I was making Christmas decorations, using up newspaper and pages torn out of magazines to make collage-effect pictures. It stuck with me all day and I decided I'd have a go at making something along the lines of what I was thinking of, except I couldn't find anything star-shaped to trace/draw around and I no longer have the Christmas Crafts book I used to use for Christmassy templates. So I improvisated and made snowflakes by drawing round the lid of a glue stick.

They were very tiny and fiddly but it worked well as a prototype for what I was planning on doing. I'm thinking I'm going to play around with this a bit more, might make interesting Christmas cards. Hopefully we'll get a chance to stop in somewhere crafty when we go shopping next so I can get some PVA glue (I also think that using something a little more festive than the business and sporting pages will improve the newspaper background technique).

And that's me for this week. Coming up is National Novel Writing Month, my first assignment submission fo A230, Christmas shopping and lots and lots of reading for the HTV Reading Challenge. Phew!

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Book 66 of 2012: Last Bus To Woodstock

I've gotten more than a little bit behind on my book reviews recently (especially considering that I read this one between the 26th and 29th of August). So this is my attempt to get caught back up. Last Bus To Woodstock by Colin Dexter is the first of the Inspector Morse books and sees Morse and Lewis investigating the murder of a girl who is found in a pub carpark having been raped and beaten. There's the mystery of who she was with on the night that she was murdered which they have to figure out first before they can find out what happened to her.

This was the first of these books that I've read. I bought them for Mr Click from a charity shop when I was down south (they had about two and a half sets of the Colin Dexter books and the ones in the box that I got him were all jumbled up with doubles and some missing so I sat on the floor for about twenty minutes sorting them all out so he'd have a complete set). At the time he'd just read the Sherlock Holmes stories and I thought that these would appeal to him as he was a fan of the TV series and it would be a more modern sort of story, but still in a similar vein to what he'd been reading. It took him a little while to get round to it, mainly because he's been reading the complete Conan Doyle back catalogue, along with anything else Sherlock Holmes shaped. But as he'd started reading them, I figured that it was time for me to give them a go as well.

I really liked the writing style of this one. It's kind of what I was expecting, it was nice and simple and easy to follow. Generally the crime books I read are Lynda La Plante or Kathy Reichs, so I wonder if the fact that the author was male made a difference. Despite the fairly heavy content (a young woman being murdered doesn't exactly make for a light read), it was quite easy going, with short chapters, so I got through it very quickly.

As the story is set in the 1970s, the methods of investigation are somewhat different. It's something I've enjoyed when I've been rereading the Kathy Reichs books; watching technology play a bigger part in the investigations. In Last Bus To Woodstock there's no googling the suspect, or calling Lewis on a mobile phone. It actually took me a couple of chapters to adjust because I kept on forgetting that this wasn't taking place in the here and now. At first it was a bit jarring, like when I was watching The Sweeney with Mr Click one day and they had to run to a public phone box to call in help, but once I got into it was kind of like reading an historical novel and crime story in one.

One thing I like to do when I'm reading a crime story is try to solve the crime as I go along, which I struggled to do with this because it seemed as though Morse made some pretty big leaps in terms of solving the case. At one point he tried to narrow down the suspects by guessing how many people were in the town, how many were male, how many drove a red car, in order to work out who their suspect was. I think the point was that he was solving things in a way that was slightly beyond the book, but it did make it tricky to work it out for yourself as well.

On the whole, I did enjoy it though. And I did like the way it all came together in the end. At the moment Mr Click is just reading the second one in the series (Last Seen Wearing) so I'll move onto that one when he'd done. We're talking about watching the TV series at some point as well, which'll be good; I started watching it many years ago and got a fair chunk of the way through it before we got side-tracked - I enjoyed playing 'spot the really young actor/actress'. It'll be a while until then though, so I'll just read the books until we get to that point.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Project 365+1: Days 279 - 286

It's been a quiet sort of week here, with the cold dark nights we've not really felt like doing a great deal so on an evening it's been a case of walking the dog, bundling up in the warm with something good on TV and something filling on the plate, before heading to bed with the laptop and a DVD. We've been watching the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes films, which make for good viewing on a sleepy Autumn evening. They're pretty short and I can sit and write or study or read while we watch it, knowing that we won't be turning the lights off too late.

The weather's not exactly been brilliant (aside from one nice dry day when I managed to get all the laundry out and and dry and put away within twenty-four hours). It's been a bit dismal and damp, so hardly the right sort of weather for taking my camera out (so no more nice Autumnal photos this week).

Day 279: Fallen Leaves
I had a slight panic when I was getting ready to upload all these photos, because I was checking the dates and couldn't find the one for the 6th. I've been religious about taking a photo each day and so I was a little bit worried that I might have missed one nearly 300 days into the project. Luckily I remembered that I'd already edited some of the photos for posting online.

Of the thirteen photos from our walk, it was tricky to pick an absolute favourite for the day. I liked the trees and the blue sky with the leaves, but I think that this one of all the leaves is probably one of my top ones. I took a couple of snaps of these leaves and played around with the focus; in a couple the focus was right at the front, but I like this one where the focus falls in the middle.

Yesterday we walked with Tara back to Kerrycroy again (it's become a bit of a routine on days off now, we stay in bed late, then give the dog a nice long walk to tire her out for the afternoon) and there were even more leaves here (you can see a bit of grass poking through in the picture above, even that's covered up now). Tara just wanted to burrow in them all, which was fine but it'd been raining and so they were all damp so we spent the rest of the journey home picking bits off wet leaf off her face, collar, ears and halti!

Day 280: Ascog
Tara's been getting a fair bit of walking this week. She was being a big pest last Sunday at my in-laws'. They've sort of adopted a stray cat and it was in the living room and she just wouldn't. leave. it. alone. The cat kept on batting at her, which Tara didn't seem to bother with, but then she was getting more exciteable and the cat was getting more annoyed, so I took her out for a long walk to tire her out/give the cat, Tara and us a break.

There's a watertower about a mile away from my in-laws' house that we usually walk to/round before going back. But it was a nice day and once I'd gotten that far I thought we'd just keep going a bit further. So we got to the next landmark (a nursing home) and I realised that I could practically see the signpost for Ascog, so we kept on going. Of course, once we got here (about 1.5/2 miles away) I realised that we'd have to walk back, and I was hot and Tara was hot, and we wanted a drink, so I sent John a text and he came and got us.

But it certainly tired Tara out. And impressively, by the time you get to this point, you're almost halfway home. So I'm thinking I might try doing the whole walk home at some point (either with or without the dog), when I'm feeling brave enough.

Day 281: Top Shelf
This is the very top of our bookcase which has had a bit of a change just recently. John's degree certificate arrived this last week so he got it framed, so now from left to right we've got a photo from our wedding, our wedding gift from the drama group, John's graduation photo and now his certificate. I'm planning on getting a nice double frame for when I graduate, then we'll actually hang the degrees up on the wall as well.

It also shows how desperately I need to rearrange all of my books on my bookcase, almost all of the shelves look like this. Luckily I've nearly finished all the Terry Pratchett books (three more to go of the Discworld series) and so if I hurry up with those (oh dear, that means buying two more books, what a shame) I'll be able to get all those books reorganised. I've got a bunch of old children's books that I'm wanting to dig out to reread (among others, I've got a whole linguistics section to fit onto the shelf somewhere alongside my literature course books). It sounds a bit sad, but I love rearranging my bookcase.

Day 282: Book Post
I've been needing to take a trip to the post office (read: send Mr Click to the post office) for a few weeks now. The bottom parcel is to send on for the book tree, the top is to send on to Jen because we're doing a mini book tree between ourselves. I've sent a copy of The Adventures of Tom Bombadil by J.R.R. Tolkien, The Works of Robert Frost and Lewis Carroll's Jaberwocky; the top books are the ones that Jen has sent to me. I've popped them into alphabetical order (purely because that saves me from having to pick which of the three I want to read first) so just as soon as I finish The Duchess of Malfi I'm going to read Ted Hughes' Crow. I used to read a lot of poetry, but nowadays I only tend to read what comes my way, either from one of Jen's book trees, or which Jen has sent up like this, she's kind of my poetry guru.

Day 283: Late Night Movie
These are the films we've been watching in bed at night. They're grainy old versions which are in 4:3 format with a wobbly line at the top (and occasionally one in the middle) because they've not been digitally remastered. I never used to like watching black and white movies, though as I've gotten older, I've found them easier to watch.

We set the laptop up on a box lid (otherwise it gets really overheated), snuggle up under the covers and watch it. They're all set during the war (generally when they were made) and at least one ends with an advertisement for war bonds. Watson is kind of a bumbling idiot (though at times he kind of reminds me of Sam in the Lord of the Rings films); Holmes on the other hand is very Holmes-ish, I've always thought of him along the lines of Jeremy Brett's version, but Rathbone looks a lot more as I pictured him in the books - probably heavily influenced by Rathbone, even if I've never really watched these before.

We're about halfway through these right now and it's becoming a really good Autumn/Winter tradition, so I think we're going to have to find something else to watch soon. I think we'll probably go with some more of John's series because mine tend to be longer when compared to his, plus lots of my choices we have on blu-ray and until I upgrade my laptop we'll just have to make do with bedtime DVDs.

Day 284: Unseen Academicals
I took this photo to show have I gather quotes for my book journal while I'm reading. Before John got me these magnetic bookmarks for my birthday I would divide the number of pages by five (because I've got enough room in the quotes section for about five quotes - depending on their lengths). Then within each 1/5th chunk I'd have to remember which pages the good quotes were on, then copy them out when I got to the end of each fifth. It worked, but it wasn't alway practicaly, mainly because I'd get confused about the page numbers.

So John got me these bookmarks. I just clip them onto each page as I find a quote that I like and then go back through and choose the best of three at the end of each fifth (although with Terry Pratchett I struggle to just choose one and so ended up squeezing in eight quotes from this book instead).

Day 285: Yumminess
When Mr Click met me from work with a big bag of goodies, I had no idea that this was one of his treats. It's a Dairy Milk bar, with Oreo inside it. There's a sort of milk chocolate shell, then there's a white inside with the creamy stuff from the Oreo middle and bits of Oreo in that. It's just pure yumminess. I controlled myself and only ate some on Friday night (then polished off the rest while I was studying - because chocolate helps the information go in).

Unfortunately I have a dentist appointment in the next couple of weeks. And a crack in the enamel on one of my teeth that's been there for ages, but they monitor it to see if it gets any bigger and needs a filling. I had a dream last night that two of my teeth came out (plus the rebuilt bit on my front tooth where part of it chipped off). Hopefully that's not a premonition of what's to come!

Day 286: Saturday Afternoon Snuggles
This was my view on Saturday afternoon while we were watching Toy Story. Tara had been lying on the sofa while he cooked lunch and was a little bit put out when he came back and pushed her off. So when he lay down, she decided to make herself comfortable.

Daft doggy!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Autumn Walk

I've been wanting to take my camera on a walk with us for a while. First I held off because Tara started getting difficult walking on her lead again and she'd pull so much that it just wasn't practical, with two of us on a walk we'd have to keep swapping otherwise we'd end up all sore and achey after the walk. Then we got the halti and she learned to walk nicely, but then the weather turned horrible and so I would end up leaving my camera at home when we went out for our walks.

The summer has been so wet that I missed out on lots of photos that I would've liked to have taken, but I've been determined to get some of the pretty Autumn colours. We got up and walked Tara to Kerrycroy on Friday morning and decided to do the same thing on Saturday as well. So I took my camera on the second day, it was dry, fairly warm (if you kept moving) and Autumn was very definitely in full swing.

We wandered down the hill from our house. I've been watching these bushes change colour and I've been hoping to get a snap of it. Since we got Tara this hill has become less of an obstacle, I can happily powerwalk up it now, so I like to think that I've gotten fitter since we got her.

This is where the road forks, to the left of this picture is the road to the front gate (the hill we've just come down is on the right). Up ahead the road forks again, the right hand road leads back to the big house, the road we take is on the left. I keep on promising myself that Tara and I will walk straight ahead towards the beach, but the road that way can get a bit muddy and so we have to wait until we have a bit of dry weather; there's not been a huge amount of that this year.

I love that tree on the right, it looks like something right out of Lord of the Rings, the party tree perhaps, or one of the ones the Hobbits hang out under when they meet the Elves on the way out of the Shire. The one on the left Mr Click pointed out to me as looking a bit sorry for itself, I'm not sure what sort of tree it is. There are so many interesting plants and trees on the Estate, but there are really only so many photos you can take of them, so I'm trying to pace myself and not take too many photos of them all at once.
These pictures remind me of something out of a Pixar film, A Bug's Life perhaps. This tree shed hundreds of leaves whenever the wind blew even just a little bit. I stood underneath trying to snap photos of the leaves falling down, but the one on the left was the best I got (the others were all too blurred). If this tree carries on at this rate, by the next time we walk under it, it'll be completely naked!
This is another path/road leading down towards the beach. The gate here always used to be shut but I think they've done up one of the buildings down here because it's always open and we saw a post van down there. Tara's desperate to go down here but despite there being a signpost pointing out a trail down there (and seeing people walking down there at times) it's always had a sign saying 'Private' on the gate and I don't want to get into trouble. We always head along to Kerrycroy so from here you just carry on following the main road.
I quite like this picture, this is pretty much at the end of our walk. There's a bit of a slope down to the Kerrycroy gate (where there used to be loads of logs beside the road). This is a sign post which has, obviously, fallen over a little bit, and so has been propped up against the tree here. We normally turn around here if we don't feel like taking the walk back up the slope (this is where you come out of the trees and suddenly end up really really warm).
This was where we turned around on our walk (where the big logs used to be). This was one of the trees felled during the storm at the beginning of the year.
As I said, Autumn has well and truly arrived. If I didn't have my camera, I definitely would have been running and jumping in these leaves - Tara's discovered that this is a very fun game and so at some point I'm going to have to go wild in the leaves with her. Autumn seemed to hit here very suddenly, we've gone from having loads of green grass under these trees to nothing but brown leaves.
This is Tara modelling her new Halti. It's the second one, after she ate the first one, but it's made a huge improvement to the way that she walks on the lead. Plus it's stops her jumping up at random passersby, which has been great for when we're taking her walks when it's busy. She's still not totally keen on it, but even there she's improving, and if we don't put it on, she still walks pretty well on the ordinary lead (until she realises she's not wearing the Halti, that is).
I'm looking forward to taking some walks when the weather gets even colder, as long as it stays dry and doesn't get icy. I'd quite like to get some frosty weather snaps. Or maybe even some snowy day photos. Mr Click has found some awesome snowboots and I'd quite like to get some for myself in the hopes that I'll be well prepared if we have any snowy weather. As long as it's dry, I've got to remember to take my camera out with me a little bit more often.

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Project 365+1: Days 272 - 278

It's been a bit of an up and down week, what with Bell. It's also been a very busy week (for much the same reason) so I've been glad of a long weekend to relax and get over things (as well as a chance to get properly stuck into my OU stuff).

Day 272: Tuck Shop
Saturday, after work, I went home, got dressed up in a school uniform-ish outfit and went to the school campus here (not the same school I went to when I was younger, but for some of the people I work with, it's not been all that long since they were there themselves).

It wasn't until I came to actually pick a photo for my day's photo that I realised that they all contained people from work dressed up as school children and that they might not be too keen on me sharing them on here. With a careful bit of cropping, this one will do the job. It's hardly a brilliant photo, but this is the tuck shop that was put together for nibbles, carefully edited out of the top of the photo is my boss (that version is for our Facebook group ;-)).

Day 273: The Lost World
The Lost World & Other Stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has been my book of the week this week. It's taken me a little while to get through it because I've been trying to get into a routine with my OU as well as still getting to grips with the new shift schedule at work. On the whole I enjoyed it, I'm in the process of writing a review for it just now, so I'll get all of my thoughts on here just as soon as I've finished getting caught up with all my reviews.
Day 274: Stuffed Marrow
My father-in-law has grown marrows in his garden this year and so I begged and begged and begged that we might have stuffed marrow. I can't remember the last time I had it, though I have a very clear memory of being about seven or eight and tucking into it. Mr Click did a great job, and the marrow was fabulous. Unfortunately we've eaten the last of the marrows now, but I've already requested at least three for next year.

Day 275: School Ties
I went to two secondary schools and I've held on to both of my school ties, for some random reason, just in case I need to dress up as a school girl for a disco again I suppose. Technically I could have had three ties because the stripey one was from my old school and the one with the shield on it was my senior tie from my school in Scotland. The senior school here has both a junior and senior tie, when I moved here it made sense to just wear the senior tie otherwise I would've had to get a new one after a year anyway, but now I kind of wish I'd got that one as well, it would've completed the set somehow.

Day 276: Safe At Home
This was the little nest we made up for Bell when we got her home. There was a box with blankets inside and outside and a heating pad under the table. It was all nice and cosy for her and she seemed very comfortable. I'm glad that we had her here with us in the end.

Day 277: Ducks
The above picture is a gift from a family friend as a sort of house-warming gift. They came up to visit and take my in-laws out for an early anniversary meal (to the same restaurant that we're now planning to visit for our anniversary because they gave it a very good review). This was made by our friend and we've already got one of her pictures that she made for us for our wedding. We've just got to find the right place in the house to put it (or maybe take down another picture we've got hanging up and swap it for this one for a change in scenery for a while).

Day 278: Leftovers
We try to order Chinese as a treat roughly every other month. This normally works out pretty well, it's a Valentine treat, my birthday treat, a celebration of our courses finishing/exams, and then to celebrate the start of the next course and then again for Mr Click's birthday. Not having it too often means that it's a proper treat, but at the same time, you know you're going to be having it fairly regularly.

Generally speaking, we order a little bit extra, so we can have leftovers the next day. It means that we can have a bit more choice, because the portions are so large that we can never manage it all in one go and it'd be a bit boring just to have two things (plus, I used to be vegetarian and it meant that otherwise Mr Click would have to have lots of veggie stuff rather than things that he liked).

And, now I'm going to go and sort out the photos that I took during our walk yesterday. There are so many lovely ones that I'm going to give myself a week to decide which one will be the photo for Day two-hundred-and-seventy-nine.

Project 365+1: Oops

I was getting ready to post my current week's worth of Project 365+1 crop of photos this afternoon, but after a slight oops, I've managed not to save any of the edits I made.

I've also managed to delete all of the text if written to accompany them and right now the thought of writing it all out again is just making me want to cry so unless I get motivated to do it all again this afternoon, I'll do another two-week smush post next week.

I've also got a post planned with photos taken during a lovely walk we took yesterday. Lots and lots of Autumnal leaves. Luckily I hadn't even started that one yet.

In the meantime here's a photo from the 365+1 selection of my yummy Chinese leftovers waiting to be eaten.

Thursday, 4 October 2012

Sleep Tight Bell

My beautiful Bell rat slipped away in the night. :-(

She made it through the op and they got the lump. She took a white to come round from the anaesthetic so we visited her at about 5:30pm, then left her there until about nine. By then she had perked up and was doing her best to move around the box so we brought her home and settled her into our hospital cage.

She settled down and went to sleep, warm and safe, at home.

From the moment I saw Bell I knew she was going to be mine, we'd only planned on bringing home two rats and she was so pretty that I knew she would be one of the two (of course up popped another rat, and another, and we just couldn't leave anyone behind).

She was my BabyBell, my Beautiful Bell, my Silver Bell. She had a love heart between her shoulder blades and the fur there was velvet soft. When you rubbed her head or behind her ears she would brux and boggle like a mad thing. She'd always wash Carol's chin and neck if she thought Carol was being a bit lax.

The day we brought them all home we saw a lovely rainbow; driving Bell to my in-laws' to bury her we saw a hint of one in the sky.

She was one of a set and I've got a little rat-shaped hole in my heart right now, but she's at peace and that big lump has gone.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Good Thoughts Needed

My little study buddy, Bell, developed a lump a little over a month ago. We took her to the vet who said she was a bit fat and that due to the risk of the anaesthetic we should see whether it got any worse and try to slim her down a little bit.

Well, a month on and it's much bigger, so back to the vet we went today. The choice is really just to see if she can handle the surgery, or let nature take its course. We'd talked about it a lot before we took her in and decided to go for the op because at the rate that the lump has been growing, if we had her put to sleep when it started seriously affecting her mobility, I think we'd only have another two weeks with her and I'd hate for her to be suffering during that time.

She's only ten months old and is still just as keen on her food, climbs and burrows and snuggles with her sisters. She's my beautiful Bell-rat who snuffles and chatters and gives me kisses when I'm giving her cuddles. For a while if you searched for 'cute rat pics' on Google images, her picture was one of the top results.

So if you could spare a little thought for Bell tomorrow, I'd appreciate it. I know I'm going to be on edge all day tomorrow waiting to find out how she gets on. At least we'll know that we really tried everything for her and I desperately hope that we get to bring her home for more snuggles.