Has Spring Sprung at last?

I have just got time to write and post this blog update before we jet off to the Cote d’Azur on Friday. It might well be posted a day earlier than usual, as we will be otherwise occupied, I suspect, on the 31st! We are so looking forward to seeing some blue sky and blue sea again…and hopefully feeling some warm sun on our faces too, although I think it is not that warm just yet. Spring is in the air here in Cumbria, but the warmth is decidedly lacking! There are daffodils everywhere and the trees are all starting to bud up. The other evening, I was in the garden listening to the blackbirds singing away…it was magical. However, it is still cold here, especially at night and so I’m in my usual dilemma of what clothes to travel in and should I take a jumper or two…just in case. Nothing new there then!

We have been our usual busy selves this month. Sometimes I wonder just when this lazy retirement phase is supposed to kick in! Geoff seems to have had a month of meetings to attend, some from church and a lot more to do with pickleball, where he seems to have “volunteered” to introduce pickleball to a younger audience at the Youth Zone here in Carlisle. He is enjoying it…I think…but he doesn’t always understand the behaviour of these youths! We have both enjoyed some nice meetups with friends and neighbours too this month. We were invited to a neighbour’s flat one evening, to watch a whole series of home-made films, which this couple show to groups to raise money for their favourite charity. The films were really interesting, lots of them showing bygone days in Carlisle, events that had happened here and one about the history of the mill complex where we all live when it was a working textile mill. It was a great evening. We have also had a couple of very nice meet ups for coffee with some people from church this month, which we enjoyed too. It is so nice that we now seem to have made some very nice interesting friends here and we loved hearing all their stories too. Thank you, John and Sheila and Jeff and Joan. Your friendship is greatly appreciated.

The second big meet up was in Preston where the annual gathering of the Hutton Grammar Old Boys and families took place in the Fleece at Penwortham for lunch, before the diehard Preston North End supporters went off to the match at Deepdale. It was a very good turn out this year and our family was well represented by our son, Matthew and his two kids and Hazel, Phil and the little one. Oh, and Xena dog was there too! The menfolk and Ethan all went off to the match and Hazel and I took Hadley, the little one and Xena off to Southport to a soft play…the planned walk having to be abandoned due to rain. It was a great day as usual and so nice to see everyone again…including our lovely friend Betty Stuart who is in her 99th year now. Big celebrations planned for the next year, Betty!

I have enjoyed going to a couple of quizzes this month too. I love a good quiz and I really missed them when we lived in France. The first one was at our church and was accompanied by a pie and pea supper…something else we never got in France! It was really hard and our team was surprised to come in a valiant second place at the end. The second quiz was in Cornerstone and was much more of a fun event, with some very interactive rounds which made the whole evening a success…although I (and my team of non Cumbrians) could have done without the Cumbrian dialect words round!

We have also done a couple of stints of babysitting for our daughter. The second of these was a full day event, to allow Hazel and Phil to go to the long-booked rugby match at Murrayfield, a couple of Saturdays ago. We managed quite well, but had to rearrange our original plans for entertaining the little one, due to a major grandparent/child equipment failure! Our car seat and push chair needed adjustments as the little one has grown somewhat and those proved a step too far for us. Since when did these things become so complicated??? Our kids’ advice from afar, to “press the button” was not helpful, as we couldn’t even find the ruddy button! So, we were mainly confined to barracks except for a few little jaunts up and down the Avenue and playtime in the garden! I have since become aware that we are not the first “oldies” to be defeated by modern equipment…in fact it seems to be very common!

Our Wednesday “date days” have continued this month too although we don’t seem to have ventured very far really. We made return visits to two of our favourite eating haunts, The Trout at Cockermouth as we wanted to visit an art exhibition in the town, and then a return visit to The Metal Bridge Inn near Gretna as we wanted to call in at Aero nursery on the way home to buy some earthenware pots for my two new garden plants (lovely Mother’s Day presents from the children). We also had lunch in the Crown and Mitre in Carlisle one week as I wanted to investigate a possible new venue for Linda and I to swim, and the pool there looks like it might meet our requirements. We need to discuss two new possible venues when Linda gets back from her trip to Oz and I get back from France. The other venue is Quarrybeck pool near Lanercost where Geoff and I went for a swim last week. I liked that a lot but it is further for Linda to drive of course. We will see. Hazel and Phil also treat us to lunch one day at Alexandros in Carlisle…another favourite of ours. This week, we have been back to another of our favourite places, Upfront Gallery where once again we enjoyed a really delicious meal. And of course, I enjoyed my Mother’s Day lunch which was cooked by Hazel too :blush:. So, all in all, we have been well fed this month! Next week we will be back to French cuisine again…bring on the moules frites I say!!

I took part in the Carlisle and District Music and Drama Festival a couple of weeks ago and really enjoyed the experience again after a long absence from performing in public! After doing some volunteer stewarding duties for the Festival last year, and after realising that I didn’t have to actually learn anything to take part in the Open Verse Speaking classes, I decided to have a go myself this year. I entered the bible reading class and three verse speaking classes and did quite well! I now have two shiny silver trophies which I keep for a year, one for winning the bible reading class and one for winning the verse speaking class where I got to read a Gerard Manly Hopkins poem - he is one of my favourite poets…but his poetry is never easy to recite. I also came second and third in the other two classes, so I was very pleased indeed. I used to compete in these Festivals a lot when I was young and so it brought back many memories for me. My mother was always very keen for me to do any speech and drama stuff like this and I think she would have been very proud of me still winning at my age!

The other new thing I have done this month is to start painting again. Only now, I am painting rocks! I joined a Facebook page called Carlisle Rocks and having bought some acrylic paint pens, I have been painting designs on big stones and leaving them scattered around Denton Holme where we live, for others to find. They then have a choice as to whether they take them home, re-hide them or just take a photo and hopefully post it on the FB page. It is great fun and I am really enjoying doing it. I have bought another set of pens to take with us to France where I hope to leave some painted rocks in and around St Aygulf in the next few weeks. I suspect the French will be totally bemused by the concept but it will be something different to do whilst we are there!

So, here we are at the end of March getting all the final bits and bobs done before we set off for a month of sunshine (I hope!) maybe some sand and coastal walks, and if we are very lucky maybe some swimming in the sea too…although the latter depends on the temperatures going up quite a bit! In any case, we are both ready now, for a bit of la vie francaise yet again. We are so lucky to have our own little bolthole in such a beautiful place…as soon as we arrive there, we just slot back into all our French living ways again, without thinking about it! We don’t have many plans for doing a lot but there are some meet ups with some friends planned which should be fun and for once we don’t have any work to be done in the flat, so a lot of sitting on the balcony enjoying the view is on the cards, I think. On that note, I shall bid you all adieu et

A bientot mes amis :blush:

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