Monday, 6 December 2010

A winter scene

Fairly thick snow on the roofs is taking a long time to melt, at this secret location in the West End of Newcastle. Do you recognise the scene?

Icicles on most buildings

Icicles formed as the snow melted off the gutters and then froze as it melted. Some of the more badly maintained leaky and blocked gutters and drainpipes have a lot of water on both  the inside and the  outside of them which has frozen and damaged them. Gutters and drainpipes  which have water lying stagnant inside them will be damaged as the water freezes, cracking the plastic or metal as it expands and forms ice.
This one should be OK but some really badly maintained gutters in Arthur's Hill have broken off and fallen to the ground.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

staying warm

Today the snow melted a bit but we have more forecast and it is getting very cold at night. Cars are still getting stuck and having to be dug out. Maybe it would be safer to use the bus or walk, or not go out at all if you don't have to.
more about conditions on Tyneside
When trying to keep warm at home make sure you haven't got anything such as a sofa  blocking the radiators.

Monday, 29 November 2010

still snowing, and hailstones too

The snow and hailstones continue tonight.

pedstrian crossing on new mills

Saturday's snowfall made the pedestrian crossing on New Mills look intriguing for the boys.
I had a Tesco Home Delivery booked for Saturday but when I switched on my Mobile phone I found a text message from them saying they could not deliver due to weather. I have re-scheduled it for Thursday but I am prepared that they will cancel again.
The snow had been so heavy that it has squashed the thick cotoneaster hedge and the cars have been stuck in the car park and had to be dug out. We are supposed to be getting a visit from a snowplough belonging to one of the resident's relations, but the stranded cars have prevented access. The landlord has not provided any assistance, neither caretaker, cleaner nor contractor have been seen yet, despite the caretaker telling me on Friday  they received a deliver of Rock Salt!

November snowfalls

My neighbour's boys went out with my camera on Saturday and photographed snow. This is what it looked like on Saturday, on the path near Leazes Court (New Mills side). We have had 4 times as much as this since, it has snowed on and off every day and night since last Wednesday. This morning we had thunder and lightning, and more snow!

Thursday, 11 November 2010

buddhist altar updated

There are a few additions to the altar. I bought a small hand bell which can be seen in it's case under the kesa. There is also a large artwork from IKEA over the altar. It could be a lotus flower opening. I have had a birthday since I dedicated the altar and I received a wooden buddha statue and a buddha card, so they are both on the altar, on the left and right sides of the central buddha.

update to the buddhist altar

The altar with some additions

about the meditation chair

When I first began to meditate I learned that it was important to sit upright. So each time I began meditating I would bring a wooden chair in from the kitchen. It was awkward having to move the chair every time. So I decided to use what was  already in the room. So I put a big wedge cushion on the armchair I had inherited from Nana with the sideboard. Then I put an ergonomic spelt pillow on that. Then a throw made of recycled saris. Then yet another cushion. Once sitting on all hat lot, my spine is perfectly straight. The final cushion gives  little support to stop me slouching. Then there is a small hand cushion to rest my hands on. This was a present from Mum a few years ago.  

meditation autumn

Here is my meditation chair where I sit every day.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

CSR, retreats, blood problems

Recently I have spent a fair bit of time at the hospital getting my blood checked out and having anti clotting injections of Tinzeparin, and then we were all a bit shocked at the government's comprehensive spending review.
I was glad to get away for a weekend retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey and calm down  a bit.
On returning I found that people are starting to talk about some of the issues I care about, such as social housing and  the insanity of the UK property (speculator's) market.
I discovered a journal called Inside Housing, within which many people are discussing these matters. Also I found a blog in which someone is sharing knowlege on flat dwelling, so I added it to my blog list. 
I like living in a flat, and I like where I live, but sometimes we do feel we are not getting a fair deal.
We have a new housing officer, who is in the estate office  for  2 half hour sessions each week, and apparently he is keen to sort out some of the ongoing issues. I plan to call in and discuss the drain and gutter maintenance.
On the subject of fair deals I have been reading about certain practice s of the great Google, and have just changed my search engine to one called "100 search engines"

Thursday, 14 October 2010

completed sushi

The completed sushi is cut and arranged on a plate. So yummy!

The cafe usually serves between 20 and 30 people, including those who call in for takeaways, and there was enough sushi  for everyone to try. The  cooks had a special one with red hot chilli in!

 I made a small salad to go with the chicken dish which the non-veggies had, using the leftover vegetables and sushi rice.
If you are interested in learning more about this project
Arthur's Hill Time Exchange have a web site where you can find out more.

more sushi prep

The sushi contained marigold braised tofu, cucumber, red pepper, pickled ginger, and seasoned sushi rice, wrapped in nori strips which I bought from Tsang Foods on Percy Street.
Silvia is rolling the sushi with a sushi rolling mat which I got in a sushi making kit in Fenwick's Food Hall.
We served it with wasabi paste and soya sauce.

sushi preparation

I prepared some red pepper for the sushi by cutting it into small pieces, discarding the seeds and the white part inside.


Sharon  peeled and chopped lots of carrots for the sushi and the shepherd's pie.

peeled apples

All the apples were peeled, then cooked with cinnamon and raisins to make a pudding, which we had for dessert.

sushi making

On Wednesday friends from Arthur's Hill Time Exchange and I  made some vegan  sushi at the community cafe in Arthur's Hill.
There was also some baked apple pudding, made from apples from the Time Exchange allotment.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

genie lift clears gutters

The Genie lift platform was delivered last Thursday and a team of repair staff from our usual repair contractors spent most of the day going over the gutters with it on the whole of the building.
It was summarised to me that the original problem with the drainpipe and guttering by the bay window had not been finished the first time (a few weeks ago) because there was another tennis ball, and a plastic drinks bottle half full of water, wedged half way down it, and the contractors had to get the pipe apart in order to remove these obstructions. This is now cleared. The problem I was having on the other side of the building, summarised in my email to the company (personal data deleted for privacy purposes) shows how annoyed I was starting to get:

re. message sent on Saturday 2nd October:
Could you let me know if there has been any progress on checking the guttering and drainpipe as detailed below.
I have heard nothing back from xxxxxx
It is not acceptable that these problems relating to our homes being weatherproof  are not promptly dealt with, I would also like to  find out what job reference number has been assigned to this issue and why there has been a delay in informing me of the plan of action.
Please contact me by email , visit or telephone (not text message as I cannot receive them).
The tenants at xxxxx  have had many visits from xxxx over  the years about damp problems in our homes and a number of repairs have been carried out inside the properties due to damp damage.
I do not understand why the guttering and drainpipe is not maintained, as a priority, as leaking guttering is one of the main causes of damp in homes.
Checking and maintaining guttering and blocked drainpipes would save money in the long run because expensive damp related repairs would not have to be done and flats would not be left void due to no one wanting to live in them.

----- Forwarded Message ----Sent: Sat, 2 October, 2010 10:21:42
Subject: Leaking Guttering NExxxx

Re. Guttering and drainpipe on  xxxxx

There is  a blockage or leak in the guttering on the outside of the 3 storey block  between the kitchen and  the bedroom window, on the north east side of the building.
It has caused the brickwork  underneath over one foot from the ground to go green and black with damp. The paving stone underneath is also affected. 
It is pouring off down the wall in a stream when it rains and when it is not raining it is constantly dripping from rainwater left in the gutter.
Recently I noticed a lot of damp rot under my carpet and I believe the water is seeping under the building because the guttering is not working in so many places.
The drainpipe of the same  gutter which runs down beside beside xxxx, some yards along from where I have got the leak, may be blocked at the bottom, this may need checking as well.
If you could send someone to check this out and if possible fix it I would be grateful. It is all on the outside of the building.
I have been in touch with xxx xxx about the guttering maintenance contracts in general because I don't think xxx staff can clear or repair  guttering on a 3 storey building due to health and safety issues.
Thank you,

I am fairly happy with the work which has been carried out.
Apparently there was a broken part on the gutter above the kitchen. This had been causing the gutter to  leakon that side. That has been fixed.
Except that the gutters are "misaligned" (actual quote) and so are bowing and causing the rainwater to stand in them, which will leak and run off them when the rain is heavy.
This is a structural problem which needs  to be reassessed by the company. It would need fixing by putting up scaffolding and doing a lot more work on the gutters.
However I have been told there does  not seem to be anything wrong with the gutter or drainpipe on the north east side of the building by the boys' bedrooms. The drainpipe directly fits into the drain, which leads me to suspect that what is happening when it rains heavily is that the drain and  sewer into which it flows, are not draining away properly, so we are getting water backing up the drainpipe and causing it to cascade off the roof.
We are going to look into this possibility, maybe we will need to see hat happens next time we get heavy rainfall.
Apparently sewers built before 1937 (which ours almost certainly was) remain the property and responsibility of Northumbrian Water.

Jeff took me to Argos and I now have an Ebac dehumidifier, which is removing the excess  moisture from the air quite well.

Monday, 20 September 2010

Repairs again

On Friday the contractors came out in force to put some sealants on the cast iron soil pipe and the leaking drainpipe next door. In my opinion the drainpipe is probably blocked at the bottom, which is why it is leaking and why the water is dripping around the window. There is a lot of damp around the inside of the window and limescale and damaged paintwork on the outside of the window near the drainpipe.

Today I am having carpet tiles fitted in the hallway.
The carpet was looking a bit worse for wear after 13 or 14 years and I knew carpet tiles would be better as it is an awkward shaped hallway, being in the shape of a T. So today the carpet fitter from Westgate Carpet Centre is fitting the tiles. He has already  brought the tiles in, and  lifted all the carpet grippers. The carpet grippers had been put down 13 or 14 years ago with  the orininal carpet and underlay I had put in when I moved here. They had been stuck down with strong glue and nails.
Now they are up I can see what a poor state the floor is in underneath. In parts it looks completely rotted away.
This looks disgusting...  however considering the wait of a number of months I had to have the damp repaired very near this spot a couple of years back, also considering I was told at that time  there was not any problem with the flooring, I will just cover it up with some nice fresh new  Armstrong carpet tiles.

Autumn Holly

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Mysterious Case of Lost Repairs

I phoned the repair contractor today to enquire on the progress of the corroded cast iron soil pipe.
I was told this had gone out to a sub contractor called Lanes for Drains on 9th September.
So I got the phone number for Lanes for Drains off the internet and phoned them. Apparently this has been requested as a job to investigate a bad smell coming from the drain.
Not to replace a cast iron soil pipe.
There were no further details on the job sheet.
I emphasised this was outstanding work which had not been done  and finally found that in fact the work was scheduled for tomorrow.
So, once more we are having to wait and see.
Either it will all get fixed tomorrow, or we will be back to the original situation where no one seems to have any information about it and start over from the very beginning, get an assessor to come out again, get the upstairs tenant to flush the toilet to actually PROVE  that the toilet is leaking down the pipe, etc etc.
My upstairs neighbour informed me today  that when she spoke to the repairs call centre last Friday the woman she spoke to was clear that this was a job which they were aware of and were waiting to deal with.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Ask the New Government to consider the removal of Trident from the Budget

I wrote to the government asking them why they looked set on not including the cost (billions £££££ ) of Trident in the Defence review, considering that so many public sector cuts are being planned.

Anyone can easily write to them with  this link

Unitarian Church, Newcastle

Jeff took this photo of the Unitarian Church where the meditation group meets,  showing the adjoining buildings and the cherry trees which have not long finished producing their crop of street cherries.

Evening looking towards Manors

New buildings where the Manors Multiplex cinema used to be.

Ellison Place September evening

A couple of weeks ago Jeff gave me a lift home from the meditation group. It was a clear evening and he took some photos while he was waiting. This one looks towards Byker near Manors Metro and the new pedestrian Bridge

Corroded cast iron soil pipe

Yesterday my upstairs neighbour phoned the repairs contractor about the leaking cast iron soil pipe and was told the repair had been put out to a subcontractor.
Which is fair enough considering the work will entail taking the communal drain apart and dealing with raw sewage.
It will need to be done by specialists with proper safety gear.
However, on Monday it will be 3 weeks since the repair person inspected and made a report on it. And in the meantime 2 young girls are sleeping in a bedroom which is damp and mouldy and when we open a window and someone upstairs has had diarrhoea or vomited into the toilet it leaks through the corroded pipe and we can all smell it.
If I don't see anyone attending to this on Monday I'm going to write an email, and copy it to the landlord, and the Head of Operations.
As we are paying rent and service charge for such things to be attended to properly.
I am also planning on writing an email about the lack of maintenance of the guttering, leading to the damp problems in the ground floor flats, but will wait until the soil pipe has been fixed.

I'm reading a talk by Reverend Master Daishin at the moment about seeing from a point of view, of seeing the little picture and the big picture, so during meditation I'm trying to integrate these insights which I'm having. Also the fact that the universe is not answerable to my personal will. Just because I think something is shocking, or deplorable, doesn't mean it will suddenly change just because that is what I want!
Also if I am treating my campaign to keep the building properly maintained as work, then t would be inappropriate to obsess about work during leisure time or when sitting in meditation.

I've also just finished reading
The Children's Book by A.S.Byatt

Took me a long time to read it but it made a change from my usual mix of detective thrillers and Buddhist Dharma books!

Monday, 23 August 2010

Damp spreads brick to brick by diffusion

Recently our housing caretaker and myself had a look at some water dripping down the wall at the front of the building from my next door neighbour's
upstairs neighbour's bathroom. The maintenance operatives had fixed the overflow pipe from the header tank earlier in the year, but this leak appeared to be coming from the main cast iron waste pipe.
The wall under the waste pipe looks quite nasty, damp and with lots of insects enjoying feasts of slime.
For some time now my neighbours and I have noticed a bad smell coming from this area but we hadn't realised it was coming from the waste pipe.
However the caretaker and I both saw the water dripping from the pipe. He suggested that in addition to his written report I should ask my neighbour to request a repair.
So today the repair man came out to have a look.
Unfortunately it was raining heavily at the time so it was impossible to notice any extra water, but I was able to ask the upstairs neighbour with the offending soil pipe to flush the toilet a number of times.
Indeed the toilet waste pipe is clearly leaking, and the repair man has now seen it.
Now he needs to ask for backup: a replacement pipe and joints will need to be obtained, as will a dry day, a 2 man job slot as ladders are needed, and some brute force.

It appears that a cast iron waste (soil) pipe may be repaired with other materials:
learn one way

or this site explains exactly how to fit a new soil pipe on from an old cast iron one

A google search using the terms cast iron soil pipe problem leads to the possibility that the problem is a blockage in the pipe which is causing it to back up and force sewage out into the area under the building. This would account for some of the problems in the ground floor flats! Lets hope this is not what has been happening.

Whilst we were all having a look at the leaks earlier today we found yet another leak... this time the daughter drainpipe in the middle of the front of the building which drains off the gutter. It has some small holes in it and is jetting out of the pipe on to the paving. This will have to go on the list of jobs to be done.

The work which was done on my main drainpipe and guttering a week ago seems to be holding up quite well and there is much less water running down the window and wall. I think there will always be some overflow due to the poor design of the extension which was put on the building in the 1970's, which means there is a part of the roof not properly served by guttering.

This sort of issue is useful material for meditation practice. I was sitting in meditation recently and found my mind drifting on to these topics. At first I became critical, telling myself to try to ignore work going on outside the building on the guttering. Then I realised this is just showing me my connection with what is outside. What we do and think, is all linked up with what is outside us, as well as our histories, because everything is linked up. Drains, weathers, metals, materials, people! There is no need to push away thoughts or feelings, just notice them come and go, they will be different each moment!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Guttering and drainpipe

The operatives, M and C, have been out today making adjustments to the drainpipe outside my home.
They have opened up the drain and found that the drainpipe was not fitting into the drain at all. "Its just a dummy!" I heard one exclaim to the other. A "dummy drainpipe" is a "drainpipe" which does not drain into a drain.
The photo shows how the drain cover is positioned a few inches away from the bottom of the drainpipe. The bottom of the drainpipe was outletting directly onto the asphalt, which was effectively completely blocking it from emptying, as if it had been plugged at the bottom.
The picture was taken after the work was completed and shows the mortar where the holes have been filled in the asphalt and the position of the drainpipe in relation to the drain.
M and C had to puncture the drainpipe at 2 points to allow the water to empty out of it, which it did in a couple of long high pressure jets, wetting one of them in the process! They have done something to divert the drainpipe into the drain, which I think involved some new pipework. They also found a large bit of rock in the drain, and 2 tennis balls in the drainpipe, which were also blocking it.

Now the work is completed we just have to wait until there is some more rain, and see if the rain flows down the pipe (which means the work was successful) or off the gutter and down the wall (which means it was not)!

Monday, 2 August 2010

Leazes Park wild flowers

I liked these pink flowers in the wild area of Leazes Park.

I have just finished reading a very unusual and important book, Anthill a novel by the biologist E.O. Wilson.

Leazes Park Wild garden

Leazes Park is probably my favourite park, this part is the wild area, which has decking on it to allow people to walk around an area which would sometimes flood, as the Lort Burn flows through it (maybe off the Town Moor).
Here are some more pictures of the Lort Burn and artwork commisioned for it.

Lane by Framlinton Terrace

The Lane beside Newcastle University Medical School

Sensory Garden, Exhibition Park

I found a seat in the sensory garden, Exhibition Park and had a longish rest. I drank my Alpro chocolate soya drink and watched a young blackbird who was hopping nearby. He was definitely checking me out, maybe waiting for something to eat. He stayed with me for quite a while. He's well camouflaged with the ground, but his yellow eye and beak makes him stand out. The reason I think he's a youngster is his beak is a little large in proportion to his body.

Jesmond Trip

I had heard the Oxfam shop in Jesmond had some really good quality clothes, so I finally got around to a visit.
Very nice clothes in there, much more good quality than the charity shops in the town, but much more expensive too. I did not find anything suitable. Recent fashion for huge and low low necklines is not to my taste as I have no cleavage and do not like to show off all my bare chest.
I also spent some time in the Oxfam bookshop, just round the corner from Acorn Road, and managed to find the Mistletoe Bakery on Mistletoe Road, where I bought a small wholemeal loaf. I liked the shop a lot.
This part of town is so different from the West End it could be another city entirely. I did not hear any Geordie accents, house prices in an estate agent window at £850,000, whereas semi detached houses in some parts of the West End are almost unsalable.
Unfortunately I was now rather lost, as I don't normally stray far from the West End. I asked which way back to town centre, and eventually came to an area I thought I knew, and soon I was in Exhibition Park, where I had a rest in the Sensory Garden.

Friday, 30 July 2010

Blackout Curtains

Eventually I got round to replacing the roller blinds in the bedroom with blackout curtains. Thanks to Jeff for helping put up a curtain rain and hang the curtains.
Living on a main road, with high intensity streetlights, it was difficult to sleep at night with the traffic noise. There's flashing lights from emergency vehicles and nocturnal street sweepers; and other slow moving maintenance vehicles which seem to go on training exercises at night time here; and light pollution from the streetlights.
I have been asked to write where I got the curtains, so here is a link

click here for the curtain shop .
I was really pleased with them and they are only made over the other side of the Pennines in Lancashire!
They are very well made, arrived quickly and do what they claim to do!
So now its actually dark at night when we want to get to sleep, and hopefully will keep out some of the traffic noise too.
On the subject of traffic there are only 2 days left to object to plans to build a huge 24 hour Tesco on the site of Newcastle General Hospital.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Flat Dwelling

Last Monday I had a "Property MOT" on my flat, which is an annual inspection to sort out any minor repairs which may need doing on a periodic basis.
I got my kitchen door hinge fixed so it did not blow open when it was windy. It was annoying when I was in the kitchen cooking with the door shut and the window open, and the door would blow open and the window would blow shut at the same time. The repairman identified I needed a new mixer tap in the kitchen as it leaked pretty badly. So today he came back and spent a long time fitting a new mixer tap, hurting his arm in the process! I think I know how to fit a new mixer tap now but I know an intensive bodybuilding course would need to be completed first!
He also had a look at the seal on my elderly double glazing where water leaks in when it rains heavily, and he identified it is coming in via the window catch and running down inside the seal. Water was also coming in through the telephone socket and oxidising the copper in the jack.
All this is due to improperly fitting and blocked guttering, when the water runs off the roof into the gutter, it floods into the corner of the guttering and cascades off it, at the corner above my window and telephone inlet.
So we went outside to have a look. He thinks the drainpipe is actually full of water which cannot drain away, as well.
My telephone cable was improperly positioned, which means water was flowing down it and into the brick and the hole where the cable enters. He has siliconed the cable, adjusted it, and is going to follow up the guttering issue, because it is a Big Job which needs scaffolding.
On the subject of water getting into the building,recently there were broken pipes on both the odd and even numbers bathrooms, which were leaking down the front of the building for literally years and causing damp. We have now been able to get those pipes fixed, which involved getting into tenants homes and identifing where the leaks were starting from, but there is still a problem with another pipe on the even side near the ground, which we are trying to get fixed. Once water gets into brick it likes to spread itself around and find its level, so can wet a whole wall if not stopped.

Buddhist Altar

Not long after my week long retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey, I gave some thought to the Reverend's comment "If you haven't already got an altar, now is the time to get one".
So, looking around the room I found these items to put together to provide an area for Buddhist practice. The altar gives the Buddhist something to bow in front of, and bowing is very important to Zen Buddhism.

What do we bow to?

We bow to Buddha nature in everything, and our willingness to train. See the link above for more explanation.
The cabinet is an old teak sideboard which I inherited from my maternal grandmother some years ago. Maybe made in the 1950s?
In the centre is a photo print of Buddha sitting in meditation, which I bought in the bookshop at Throssel at the end of one of my retreats. It used to hang on the wall. The photo stands on a lace mat which came with the sideboard from my grandmother. They both sit on a CD player which I use to listen to Dharma talks and music which I like.
The Kesa (small ceremonial scarf) which I was given during the Jukai retreat, is stored in front of the Buddha when not in use, I think it will keep him warm if he feels cold.
In front of the Buddha is an aromatherapy burner with a scented candle inside it, sometimes I put incense in this spot instead but I have run out of incense.
On the left is a bowl of fruit, which I have just started to put on the altar as an offering. The fruit can be eaten normally, nothing in Buddhism is wasted.
Behind the fruit bowl is a photo of Jeff and I at Scotswood Natural Community Garden a few years ago. Some Buddhists put photos of deceased family members on their altars.
On the far left are some special papers with teachings in them that I was given.
On the right hand side there is a card with flowers on it which Jeff gave me when I returned from the Jukai retreat. I have learned it is traditional to put flowers on the altar. On the left of the flower card is a bowl of pine cones from Scotland, another kind of fruit. Mainly pine cones from Dalbeattie Town Wood, in Dumfries and Galloway.
We can put stuff we are going to give to someone on the altar before we give it, so there is a bag of tea lights to take to the meditation group tomorrow, and a CD which I was loaned, which I am going to return.
There is also a decorated pot with water in it, the water symbolises the refreshment of meditation and the willingness to offer hospitality and help.

Friday, 16 July 2010

More news on Plans for Tesco to develop Hospital Site

I decided to use today's post to publicise a few of the web sites and pages which relate to the plans to build a 24 hour superstore on the historic site of Newcastle General Hospital.

The most important one is a link to the planning department at Newcastle City Council, where people are putting their comments, both for and against the planning application
You can look at it here If you want to comment you have to request an account from the planning department and log in before commenting. It's quite easy but you have to provide an email address and then be patient while they send you a registration. The planning site will sometimes go "down" for maintenance during the afternoons.

There is a local campaign to stop the plans to build a megastore on the site
Here is their website

The latest I have heard is that there will be traffic restrictions on the West Road, thus pushing traffic out into the other roads, which are mostly terraces of high density housing and blocks of flats which are high density social housing: Leazes Court, Queen's Court, and Sutton Dwellings, social housing blocks on Stanhope Street, as well as polluting our green spaces, Town Moor, Leazes Park and and Nun's Moor Park with 24/7 traffic noise and emissions, and that means 24 hours a day, 7 days a week!

The campaign also has a Facebook page

And a twitter page

The consortium who wants to develop the hospital site uploaded a promotional video on youTube some time ago, showing a futuristic virtual world, which does not include either cars or 24 Hour Tesco superstore. Have a look at it here

If you have a youtube account you can comment on it.

Monday, 12 July 2010


I have not managed to get out and about with my camera recently, so I'm not posting any new photos today.
The trees and bushes around here have really increased in height this year, some by a few feet since last year, maybe due to the very cold winter and hot weather earlier in the summer.

There has been a blackbird family and a sparrow family nesting in the hedge outside my bedroom this year, and today I saw one of the young blackbirds foraging on the ground near the nest. The young sparrows have been out munching on the green dog rose sprouts (or was it the little insects they can see but I can't)?
On the subject of what I can see, I treated myself to some new lenses for my glasses, this year I got varifocals which go dark when I go out in the sun... since I read about spending too much time in the sun being a contributory cause of cataracts I am trying to protect the middle aged eyes a bit more.
Other news, Tesco have put in another planning application to Newcastle City Council to build a superstore on the site of Newcastle General Hospital.

Read about it in the local press

As I live in the area I received a copy of the planning application, I had not seen the newspaper article in April.

While walking through the Hospital grounds recently I felt somewhat sad to see so much of it closed down or demolished... canteen where I used to have dinner when I worked there, demolished, now a car park, pathology lab semi derelict and waiting for probably demolition, many outpatients services all closed up or demolished. Accident and Emergency Department still in healthy working order and doing a wonderful job, as I found for myself last year during an emergency admission at least as far as I can remember as I not in a fit state to make value judgements! I get the impression the hospital site is in limbo at the moment, since Tesco bought the land without planning permission, the NHS Foundation Trust cannot proceed with any plans for the site.

Look at the Foundation Trust site here
You will not see any of these plans, however you will see how many services have been removed from our so- called "General" Hospital

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Vegan Cholesterol

During a visit to the Lupus clinic a few months ago I was told my cholesterol level was 5.
Apparently this is sort of average or even good but considering I have other risk factors for heart disease and stroke, it is not very good at all.
After some time I eventually managed to bet a fasting lipid analysis done at my GP practice, it came back at 5.5. The Lupus consultant told me the "good cholesterol" level was not high enough to reduce the "bad cholesterol" levels. However it is not related to the diet. As a long time vegan and having been a vegetarian all my adult life, I was very surprised to find my cholesterol level was not ok.
So now I am now looking at changing my diet to avoid things which could increase the cholesterol. I already eat soya products and lots of beans, but I am going to have more oatmeal.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Red Squirrels, rabbits and birds

During our caravan park holiday in south west Scotland, we were fortunate to have visits from Red Squirrels, rabbits, Great Spotted Woodpeckers (maybe the same one visited each time), Blue Tits, Coal Tits, Robins, Sparrows, Finches of various kinds, and Wrens. We also saw the entrance to a badger's sett in the nearby woods, and saw a family of Herons getting fed in their nest by the side of a lake. The noise the heron chicks made as they clamoured for food could be heard for miles around.

Our Caravan Holiday

Another angle on the caravan we rented for a week in May. It was really nice to stay somewhere so well appointed.


The woodland was very beautiful. May is a really good time if you like to walk in woodlands.

Trees in May

This beautiful wooded walk was very near where we were staying.

Friday, 4 June 2010

carrot and coconut curry with peas

Fry 2 red onions, 2 chillies, and 1 clove of garlic, until they begin to brown;
Add 4 chopped carrots, a tin of coconut milk, 2 teaspoons of blue dragon thai green curry paste, and a cupful of dried texturized vegetable protein, continue to cook until soft, adding about 1 pint water;
Next, add 2 teaspoons of marigold vegetable bouillion powder and about half a pound of frozen petit pois;
Cook for another half an hour and serve with brown rice.

Gold Caravan in Dumfries & Galloway

Jeff and I enjoyed a week in May in our favourite area in Dumfries and Galloway, which is part of South West Scotland.
We had rented a Gold caravan, in a holiday park, which has technically 3 bedrooms, however 2 of them are the size of large cupboards.
This is a view of the main living area, just after we arrived.

Thursday, 29 April 2010


One of the most helpful and refreshing aspect to meditation is that we can allow our minds to let go of opinions, thoughts, beliefs, and attempts to analyse, compare, judge, learn, plan, achieve. Just to sit and allow our minds to let go of it all.

Neither trying to think, nor trying not to think.

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Gallowgate and Old Brewery area

If you walk up St Andrews Street you will see the Chinese Gate, which is at the junction of Gallowgate, St Andrews Street and Stowell Street. In the background on the left one can see the new building works on the site of the old Newcastle Brewery. It could be part of the new university development, or a hotel chain. We shall wait and see.

Recently, in March, I have had my Mum visiting. It was her 76th birthday. We went for luxury manicures at Savannah Lifestyle Salon and Spa, and then for dinner at Jack Sprat's Vegetarian Cafe and Restaurant.

Also we had a large family get together with the Australian contingent at Nudo Noodle House.

On the housing front, we had contractors on the estate to start replacing the old lead water mains.
They have dug trenches under a few of the blocks of flats, put warning notices up and now have gone away, and we have not seen them for weeks. At some point all the ground floor bathrooms will need the water mains inflow pipes refitting, which will involve digging a large hole in the bathroom floors, under the bath, as that is where the mains pipes enter the building.

More news... I was away for a week at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey. Much meditation was practiced, in the ceremony hall, in the kitchen, in the dining room, and garden.

Inside Newgate Street Co-op

Newgate Street Co-op has recently been re-furbished inside.
Today I got a trolley full of shopping and had it delivered.
The new part of Eldon Square is now completely finished. You can exit Eldon Square now and walk straight across the pelican crossing into the Co-op.

Unidentified flower

I have noticed this flowering plant in the wooded area near Leazes park,it has large waxy looking leaves and looks like the sort of plant which could be common in marshland.

Blossom trees neear Queen's Court

The trees are full of either leaf buds, new baby leaves, or blossom, at the moment. Here are some trees in full bloom on Barrack Road near Queen's Court.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Sutton Dwellings in February

The historic buildings of Sutton Dwellings in the New Mills area of Newcastle. AD 1915 means the building was completed in 1915.

Pitt Street, Newcastle Breweries Bath Lane

The old Newcastle Breweries site on Bath Lane is being developed now, this view looks towards the social housing flats on Pitt Street, which are sorely in need of modernisation by the look of the exteriors.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Bath Lane Construction Site

The construction work on the old Newcastle Breweries site on Bath Lane is making progress now, with the lift housing mostly completed and a few cranes on site.

Jasmine tea ball

Jeff and I had lunch at Nudo on Low Friar Street, and I had my first encounter with a Jasmine Tea Ball. Jeff had the mst delicious hot chocolate and we also had pan fried noodles, tofu and vegetables.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

More thick snow this morning

This morning there was a thick cover of snow on the roofs, houses, trees and everything to be seen. It is - 1 outside at the moment.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Kitchen Board

The area of wall above my pin board and cupboards needed a lot of coats of paint before it started to look a uniform yellow.
This is what I see when I sit at the kitchen table so it is nice to look at now.

Kitchen finished... again

At the end of December the motor on the extractor fan in the kitchen broke.
In January I received a new one, a Silavent, which was a lot smaller than the old one, but much neater and more efficient.
There was a large area of unpainted plaster around where the old fan had been removed.
The kitchen needed another coat of paint so yesterday I used a long handled roller and a small step to put on the last coat in the areas where it was needed. My neighbour's young son helped by climbing up on the counter tops to paint above the cupboards and around the extractor fan.
I have put the paint pot away now, at last.
The kitchen looks really nice now.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Ward Jackson's Park, Hartlepool

On Sunday we went to Ward Jackson's Park in Hartlepool, Jeff and Mum, Buster the dog and myself.
The lake in the park is still mostly frozen over.

Ducks in Snow

These ducks live at Byker City Farm. Here they are having a meeting about the adverse weather conditions.
The snow is all gone now, and I have managed to get out and about for a few short walks. On Monday earlier this week it was very bright and sunny so I decided to have a walk to the recycling bins on Dunholme Road.
About 1 and a half miles each way. Maybe I had forgotten how to walk (with staying at home all these weeks) because on Brighton Grove I tripped and fell over. I fell on my knees then flat on the floor. The pain in my knees and hand was so bad I could not move for a while. I am still in a fair bit of pain and have some really nasty bruises.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Byker City Farm in Snow

Jeff spent some time taking photos at Byker City Farm. The swine seemed excited to be out in the snow. Maybe it was a new experience for them. Please visit there for latest news from Herbwormwood