Something that isn’t fiction

I have been posting a LOT of fiction lately. Thanks to everyone who is reading it, and commenting. Thanks also to all of you who sent (and are still sending) photos to prompt the current short stories. But this blog isn’t just about fiction, as regular readers will know.

So, what else is going on, in the world of beetleypete?

The short answer is ‘not much’. That said, One of Julie’s twin daughters presented us with a lovely new granddaughter on the 5th of the month.
Mother and baby (yet to be named) are doing well, I am pleased to report.

Ollie’s fur finally grew back, just in time to get a good soaking most days out on our walks in the various ‘Named Storms’ affecting Britain at the moment. He hasn’t encountered many of his furry friends lately, as many dog-walkers are avoiding the foul weather, and are wary of the numerous trees that have been blown down. Last week, we lost another one of his oldest friends, Paddy the Border Collie. He was owned by our next-door neighbours, and was one of the first adult dogs Ollie ever met. I used to walk and feed him when they went on holiday, and he was always pleased to see me. But his back legs failed not long after he was 15, and he made his last trip to see the Vet.

My Amazon Kindle Fire Tablet has been annoying me. After working well enough until the guarantee expired, it started to be reluctant to turn on. A factory reset was suggested, but it has to be on to do that! Anyway, I deliberately ‘over-charged’ it the other night, and it finally came on. Perhaps I have been lax in shutting it down when I should? I don’t know if that is a problem, but now I turn it off completely every night, and keep my fingers crossed that it works the next morning.

Loath as I am to mention it, we haven’t had too many issues with all these unusual storms. The shrubs and hedges have survived, the tall chimney for the wood-burner is still in place, and the recently-installed TV aerial has refused to budge in high winds too. It is best to be careful when out driving, as some minor roads have a lot of water on them, and some trees are down close to the road too. But I don’t have to drive unless I need to go to the supermarket, so I am currently only going out in the car twice a week.

Julie caught an awful cold, and has been off sick from her job. Her voice is croaky, and she is flitting between being too hot, or too cold. We are confident is is not a case of Corona virus, and as she works as a doctor’s receptionist, she can be sure of getting good medical care should it be needed.

February has not been very inspiring for photography, at least not for me. So no new photos, I’m afraid. I am hoping for better weather in March, so I can celebrate my birthday with a trip somewhere, and some photos of the occasion.

That’s it for now. Sorry it’s a bit boring, but I’m a retired old man

“Oi! Wake up! You’re at the end of the post now!”

Sleep is hard to come by

I have been complaining about the weather on this blog for seven years and more, so I see no reason to stop now.

After the wettest June on record, we are now looking at the possible highest temperatures ever recorded in July.

Not just in Britain of course, as this is happening all across Europe at the moment.

If this is Global Warming, it has arrived early, and without its invitation.

But before you all tell me that I moan when it’s cold, I know. I am not actually complaining about the hot summer, as at least it isn’t raining. (Yet)
The problem is that we are not set up for the heat inside our houses. We don’t have air-conditioning, and most houses still have carpets. There are no shutters, and many windows only have small openings.

We live in a country that expects the weather to be cold and wet, so plan for that when we build homes. Even with lots of windows open, the design does not encourage through-draughts. Fans are brought into play, with no less than four in action as I type. But they mainly circulate the warm air, only giving the perception of cooling, without the reality.

Nonetheless, I am still not complaining. Honestly.

But at bedtime, it’s a different story. With the temperature during the day around 33 c (91), it doesn’t drop much below 25 c (77 F) during the night. Even lying naked on top of the bed, (not a pretty sight, I assure you) and with a fan going like the clappers in the corner of the bedroom, sleep is very hard to come by.

On Tuesday night, I did manage to get off quite quickly. Then in the middle of a deep, dream-filled sleep, I was woken up by a thunderstorm. That set off all the local dogs, and it soon felt as if I was in a real-life version of Disney’s 101 Dalmatians. I checked the time. 3:15. I tried in vain to get back to sleep, but the thunder continued for almost another hour. It was almost daylight before I slipped away again, and I woke up at 8:00, roused by yet more barking dogs.

So this is my version of not really complaining about the weather.

Writing off a whole month

We only get twelve months, but this year feels like there will only be eleven. June has been a complete write-off, with the worst weather in recorded history for the month in the UK, and there are only five days left to go.

Remember when I kept posting blog moans about the rain? How it rained for twenty days and nights, and parts of the country (including my outbuilding) were flooded? How I longed for that glimpse of summer, and some warm days and evenings.

I should have remembered to be careful what I wished for.

A few days ago, it stopped raining. I was so excited, I even posted about that on this blog. Then it started to get warm. In one day, the temperature went up by 10 C, from 15 C to 25 C. I was out in my shorts walking Ollie, actually feeling quite uncomfortably hot.

There wasn’t much sun though, and the grey skies made it feel clammy and humid. So the fan had to be used in the bedroom, as sleeping was hard in temperatures that still felt like daytime. As the sun continued to refuse to appear, and the sky got darker, I had that sinking feeling. Thunderstorms. This was confirmed by the weather forecasters, people who excel at predicting bad weather, but never seem to know when it will be nice instead.

Now we have them. Rain all night, then thunder and lightning this morning, as the rain gets heavier.

June, 2019. Best forgotten.

It Stopped Raining!

After four solid days and nights of torrential rain, I have to note that it has just stopped raining!

Registered at 19:43 hours, on the 13th of June. (Yes, Summer!)

When the cessation of rain is worth a blog post, you truly know what it is like to have been under water for so long.

I don’t think for a moment that this is the end of it, but not having to listen to rain hitting the windows is a joy beyond compare.

So, for all of you perhaps tired of days that are too warm and dry. Be careful what you wish for!

It was worth using ‘bold print’, I assure you!

Waterworld

Not the so-so Kevin Costner film, you will be glad to hear.

Late August and September 2017 might well be remembered as a time of water. Many of the countries and regions on our planet are being consumed by water. Look at the news, and you will see floods in Texas and Louisiana. India, Nepal, and Bangladesh have been inundated with excessive rain, and the ensuing floods too. One storm after another continues to ravage the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico, bringing misery to exotic islands, and reaching as far as Florida.

States of Emergency, aid convoys, mercy flights, and evacuations on a huge scale. All because of water, and wind. No matter the achievements of mankind, we remain at the mercy of nature, year after year. The irony of course is that this water is arriving in places that already have enough. Those drought-stricken countries in the arid regions of the world stay dry, while other places fight to combat the rising floods.

Beetley has not been spared a taste of this liquid bounty. It has been raining heavily here since yesterday evening, and hardly light all day either. House lights on at 11 am, a familiar sensation. Looking out the window now, all I can see are raindrops hitting the glass. I am not trying to imply that this is anything like we have seen in the news. Despite our moans, we are lucky in these islands, as disasters are rare. The price we pay is to not have those wonderful summers, the blue seas and skies enjoyed by many. On balance, we are undoubtedly better off, I think.

Some believe that these weather systems are the result of our industrial folly. Carbon footprints, Global Warming, ecological upsets on a grand scale. They might be right, who knows? Others think we are being punished by some God or other, for living without enough Faith. That seems unlikely at best, but if that’s what they want to believe, who am I to argue? Whatever the reasons, and how varied the theories, we can all be certain of one fact.

We are going to have to learn to live with a lot more water.

Storm Over Beetley (Again)

The promised break in the recent hot and sunny weather arrived with a vengeance in Beetley today.
By midday, it was dark enough indoors to put on lights, and the rain soon followed, preceded by loud thunder, and lightning flashes. I was in the middle of doing some housework, and carried on, hoping it might clear up in time for the necessary dog walk with Ollie.

But it didn’t.

Despite the strong winds and deluge, it wasn’t cold. I left the house wearing shorts and a lightweight jacket, having to trust to my full-size umbrella to keep off the worst. After five minutes over on Beetley Meadows, I was soaked through. The rain was coming at me from all angles, driven by gusty winds, so the umbrella could do little more than keep my head dry. The water hadn’t had time to soak into the hard dry ground, so I had to wade through puddles fast-accumulating on the paths. My old leather loafers were soon saturated, and inside them, I was walking in a mixture of rainwater and mud that was squidging between my toes.

As always, Ollie was oblivious. Despite stopping frequently to violently shake the excess water from his fur, he was trotting around as if on a sunny afternoon stroll in the south of France. You would think that all that water would suppress whatever it is he likes to smell so much, but I had to presume that didn’t happen, as he happily sniffed at every overhanging leaf or plant stem. Fifteen minutes later, I was so wet, that I thought I might as well take him across to Hoe Rough for a while. Once we had arrived, I was a little concerned about being in an open area with so much lightning, especially as I was holding an umbrella tipped with a metal spike. The thunder crashed almost overhead, and made me wonder just what would happen if I was struck by lightning. With nobody else around, it would be a good while until they found my body!

The high grasses and low bushes there soaked my legs and hips even further. My shorts were heavy with water and translucent, stuck to my legs like cling film. I was having trouble staying in my shoes, and even my boxer shorts were sodden. The lightweight jacket was so wet through, it appeared to be black in colour, instead of mid-blue. Almost an hour later, I had well and truly had enough. The only diversion was the appearance of large numbers of small frogs, (or possibly toads) making their way across the paths into the longer grass. But even this brief natural wonder didn’t make up for being so wet.

When I stopped to put the lead on Ollie before heading home, he looked at me like a child told Christmas was cancelled. Anyone seeing me walking back must have thought I had been swimming in the river, fully-clothed.

The joys of dog ownership…

Goodbye, Abigail. Hello Barney

I had a bad sleep last night. Storm Abigail blew in to Beetley, and strong winds swirled the leaves, and battered the house. When you live under two large oak trees, one at the front, the other at the back, you can become very edgy about falling branches, as you listen to the smaller twigs and debris clattering down onto the roof. At times, I heard the gusts continuing to build, rattling windows, and banging outside doors in nearby gardens. The breaks in the wind only served to increase my trepidation of its return.

This morning, the wind had dropped significantly. The grey clouds have been moving rapidly across the sky until blue could be seen, and some brightness returned. However, it appears that this is the proverbial calm before the second storm hits. The BBC weather team have continued with their new idea of naming storms. In alphabetical order, using actual names, they have decided to call the next one Barney. Ten minutes ago, they were forecasting winds of up to 70 miles per hour. The warnings of damage to trees and houses, problems on the coast, and widespread disruption to roads were delivered almost gleefully. They love to have really bad weather to talk about, and they always seem to get it right, the worse it is.

So, we will be battening down for Barney tomorrow; watching the trees, and hoping for the best.

The real price of Summer

After spending most of the year complaining about bad weather, Summer has arrived once more in Beetley. The temperature is soaring, and thunder storms are occurring. There is still some rain, but it is intermittent, if no less torrential. We have achieved enviable temperatures in excess of 24C, with attendant blue skies, occasional breezes, and uncomfortable night-time humidity.

The plants over the meadow are at shoulder height, and the river water is achieving a bearable temperature. Plant life is blossoming, and insect life is notable by its abundance. The cold and wet of a few weeks back is but a memory, and we need the fan on, to get a decent sleep. In many respects, this is it. The reason for moving to the countryside, to enjoy the balmy summers of yesteryear.

But there is a price to pay for such luxury. As well as feeling uncomfortably humid, the nights restrict sleep. We need to have the fan on in the bedroom as mentioned above, and the noise is irritating. Open windows during the evening just attract endless bugs, and more biters. The contrast from the cold of only days ago, means that we are unprepared for the change to heat. Sleep comes hard, and both of us are tired. Ollie is too hot on his walks, spending too much time in the river, in an effort to keep cool.

Last weekend, a brief diversion into the woodland nearby, resulted in an inordinate amount of insect bites. Whether Midge, Mosquito, or unknown biter, I emerged with legs comprehensively overwhelmed by bites. On the left leg, nine, the right leg, seven. On my head, four, and all raging with itchiness. Creams and lotions applied, the relief is temporary. Trying not to scratch is a full-time preoccupation. The house feels warm, even with most windows open. Those same windows attract yet more biters, as well as irritating bugs, so the circle continues.

My much longed-for Summer is here, but the bill has also been placed on the table. Not one, without the other. I suddenly yearn for a return to milder days, less bothered by biting insects, and cool walks with Ollie. That is the paradox of the English Summer. You want it all year, but you cannot stand to receive the invoice.

Autumn is looking more inviting than ever.

Another afternoon out

Julie had to go and visit someone briefly today, to the North of Norwich. As it was such a sunny morning, and reasonably mild, at 10 degrees, she suggested that we could take Ollie along, and then go on to somewhere on the East Coast, an area we don’t often get to see. This seemed like a good suggestion to me. After weeks of rain and high winds, the prospect of a beach walk, in better weather, certainly appealed. It is also nice to go somewhere different with Ollie; though he doesn’t mind going to the same place every day, I sometimes find it tedious.

Once you are in that part of the city, it is easy to get out on the ring road, and head for the coast, particularly at this time of the year, when there are no holidaymakers around. I suggested Caister-on-Sea, somewhere that neither of us had been to, for many years. It is a small place, situated just above Great Yarmouth, and obviously less built up than its near neighbour, and a lot less commercial. The main attraction is the beach, which is long and wide, and stretches up to Hemsby, over two miles away. In West Caister, there is also a ruined castle, and a motor museum, but they would not be open this early in the year. Heading out from Norwich, onĀ  the Acle road, you turn off towards Caister and Hemsby, and pass through some nice areas of Broadland, crossing over one broad, and driving alongside another. Despite the recent heavy rains, the roads were good, and though some fields showed signs of being waterlogged, the journey was without incident.

Arriving at the town, it is remarkable how little it has changed. Popular with British holidaymakers taking caravan and holiday camp holidays in the summer, it is a small place, with a long heritage. There is a Roman archaeological site there, an old fort, built in 200AD, giving some indication of how long the town has been a settlement. Following the sign to the beach car park, we find it almost empty, and also free of charge, at least until April. Next to it is the large modern RNLI Lifeboat Station, which has a busy life, on this part of the North Sea coast. Ollie was pleased to be out of the car, in an unfamiliar place, full of fresh smells, and things to discover. On the way to the beach, he investigated the sand dunes, and ran around excitedly.

Once on the wide beach, you immediately notice a large offshore wind turbine installation, a short distance from the coast. This is called Scroby Sands, and boasts thirty large turbines, on what is known here as a ‘wind farm’. The beach had not been spared the damage caused by the winter storms. Stones and bricks littered parts of the area, and the former beach-side cafe has disappeared completely, consumed by the high seas in December. We carried on along the sands, and walked down to the water, to get our wellingtons wet. Ollie was wary of the waves, but followed me in anyway. The fair weather had brought out a reasonable amount of people, so we were far from alone on our wanderings. Ollie searched high and low for a dog to play with, but those he spotted were either indifferent, or on a lead, close to their owners. Twenty minutes later, we saw an old World War Two pillbox, part of the wartime coastal defences. It has been almost demolished by the encroaching seas, and has toppled forward into the sand. It looks as if it will not be long, before the sea reclaims it for good.

Further down the beach, and Ollie found a potential playmate. Alfie the Labrador bounded over to see us, and gave every indication that he was ready for a romp. His owner came over to chat. A local lady, she told us that the storms had caused much more devastation than was evident today, but the local Council, and some of the community, had managed to clear most of it away, returning the town and beach to some normality. The loss of some dunes, and the previously mentioned cafe, were irreparable, but Caister had fared much better than nearby Hemsby, where coastal homes had literally fallen into the sea. We walked with this lady, and her dog Alfie, for some time, before turning to retrace our steps. We had walked for well over an hour from the car park, so we knew that we had at least that long to get back, and we wanted to go and get a cup of tea somewhere.

After his play, Ollie was satisfied, and we gave him a drink of water, from his own bowl, that we had brought from home. There was a sign indicating a cafe that was open, at the end of one of the streets leading down to the beach. We set off to find it, and were surprised to discover that it was almost completely full, and doing a roaring trade. Luckily, not only did they have a spare table, they also allowed dogs, so we were all able to go in. As they were so busy, our order of tea for two, and some cake to share, took an unusually long time to arrive. We didn’t mind though, as everyone inside, and the owners, were friendly, and it was nice to sit for a while, after our long walk in the sand. After enjoying our tea, and Ollie being made a fuss of by all the other patrons, we headed for home, into the bright sunset.

It may not sound like much, but I can assure you, it was a really good afternoon out.

What’s next?

Believe me dear readers, I do not ask for much out of life. I have given up on the notion of holidays, home or abroad. I am content to pass my time in retirement, writing my blog, spending time with Julie, and walking my dog Ollie, in all weathers, usually bad. I volunteer in the community, and give my time freely, to help the disadvantaged, and local children. I try to be a good neighbour, and to support local businesses and endeavours. I do not claim to be a saint, far from it, but I do try my best to be a decent person, and to have a social conscience.

So, why do things keep going wrong, and mysteriously so? Is it bad karma, from a previous life, or retribution for forgotten bad deeds? Do I expect too much, from my relatively simple life? I rack my brains constantly, to try to imagine what would cause me to be plagued by such a run of bad luck, and misfortune. This may appear to be perceived, but there is plenty of tangible evidence to support my contention. I don’t like posting these ‘woe is me’ articles, I really don’t. However, I feel the need to share all this, in the hope that problems shared are somehow reduced in importance. Of course, I am well aware that many others, perhaps most others, have greater cause to complain than I do. I am not suffering from a serious illness, struggling to pay debts, or looking for employment, in a world where that is almost considered to be pointless. My life seems comfortable, compared to many, and my niggles and complaints no doubt appear to some to be churlish, and whining. None of this helps unfortunately, as the impact of these small events, running one into the other, has no less effect on me than one far more serious occurrence would create.

Earlier this year, I posted frequently about the rash that plagued me. It did diminish eventually, but never went away. It seems this itchy condition will stay with me for the remainder of my life. I just stopped writing about it, as there seemed to be no point going on about it. More recently, I wrote about bad luck with those things that make life more bearable, such as not having floods in your shed, and having a heating system that worked. On Tuesday, the engineer will return once more, in the seemingly endless quest to solve the riddle of my radiators and boiler. Meanwhile, we continue to burn expensive oil, to heat only two of the seven radiators, and to provide hot water. We have replaced almost all the parts that can be replaced, spending even more of our rapidly diminishing savings, to no avail.

We woke up early today, as the archaic practice of putting the clocks back one hour was once again enforced. To our surprise, and immediate concern, we saw water on the top of the wood burning stove. This is not inside a hearth, or fireplace, but free-standing, with extensive pipework going through the ceiling, and out via the loft. We had this installed, again at considerable expense, in September 2012, so the work is out of guarantee by twenty-eight days. Scrabbling around in the loft space did not show anything untoward, but there were discernible drips on the outside casing of the pipes visible in the living room. With precision irony, the wood we had ordered locally then arrived. Half a trailer load, enough to last the winter, supplementing the (not currently working) heating system. This was unloaded onto the driveway, and had to be manhandled piece by piece into the back garden, to fill the log store. The spare wood that was left over was stacked into the back of the garage. It was all spit hardwood, cut to size to fit in the burner, so we thought it a good deal. The local supplier even agreed that I would drop the money off next week, an example of trust in a small community.

After a couple of hours spent sorting the wood, I got changed, and took Ollie for a walk. the weather was dry, despite storms being forecast, but the strong winds made the long walk wearing and tiresome. By the time I got back, I had a bad headache, not helped by Julie’s report that the heating system seemed to have failed completely during my absence. I checked the stove once more. The water seemed to have stopped entering from its unknown point of origin, and I had the (very bad) bright idea of starting a fire in it, in the hope of drying out any water left inside the chimney pipework. Within moments of the wood catching, the room began to fill with smoke. It could be seen issuing from the joints in the pipes, and even from around the well-sealed door joints. As the fire took hold, the smoke got progressively worse. I shut down the valves and dampers, hoping to kill the flames, and eventually put the fire out. The living room was so smoky by now, that we had to open windows to clear it. So, now the wood burner isn’t working either, and we have a house that smells as if we have been in a fire. I have to spend tomorrow trying to chase someone down who is capable of fixing it, or at least diagnosing the problem. We now have no source of heating, and a forecast for the worst storm since 1987. The piles of newly purchased logs can rest easy, as they will not be consumed by fire anytime soon.

On Tuesday, I will stand watching the engineer struggle to come up with a solution to the main heating system, hoping my back isn’t too itchy, as it is embarrassing. And I will undoubtedly cast a glance at the stove, dominating the room as a centrepiece, a cast-iron ornament awaiting costly repair. I might even consider that the installation cost as much as Julie’s car, or that it failed one month after the guarantee period. I will hopefully have got rid of the headache, and the buzzing noise in my head by then as well.

But perhaps not.