Monday, November 30, 2009

First floods, now snow...

There was snow on the fells on Friday night. It's not the first they've had but it may have been the most so far since there was quite a covering - enough to turn them into surprisingly Alpine peaks.

We bowled over to Keswick for the day and had a smashing time. It's pretty much business as usual in spite of the floods, apart from a couple of road bridges which are still closed for safety reasons. We had a lovely walk down by the lake, which has emptied out massively but left a ring of debris at an astonishing height above the usual level - and the Theatre by the Lake smelled strongly of pond water when we popped in there. It's good to see everyone pulling together to clear up and get back to normal and we were glad we'd made the effort to go and spend a bit of money in the town.

We took some photos of the amazing weather. The snow was causing sublimation clouds to form over the fells so it was quite hard to catch more than a glimpse of the 'white stuff', but the overall effect was still very scenic.

Skiddaw looming over the town:

Looking across Derwentwater to Cat Bells and the north-western fells:

And again, with some of the half-flooded piers in the foreground:

A couple of local residents tucking into Saturday lunch:

Friday, November 27, 2009

My memoirs

Anyone who's ever seen the hysterically black comedy film Kind Hearts and Coronets will know all about the significance of 'my memoirs', which must be one of the most delicious twist-in-the-tail endings of all time.

You'll be pleased to know I haven't backed myself into that sort of corner. But I have been trying my hand at something rather unusual for me - a series of brief memoirs for the forthcoming Leaf Books writing contest. It's not something I've ever tried before but it sounded interesting and I'm rarely one to turn down a writing challenge, so I scoured my memory for suitable incidents to write about and set fingers to keyboard.

Oddly enough, all the ideas that occurred to me are from my early childhood. I'm not sure what that says about me, but I do know it's a lot harder than you might think to write them up in a way that's entertaining and doesn't use the word 'me' every other word. One of my writer friends is also having a go and mentioned something about 'so very few words' (the maximum is 1,000 for each memoir). At the moment I'm having more trouble expanding my ideas up to fit anything like the 1,000 words but I'll keep pegging away at it. If I can come up with three workable ideas I'll be able to submit under the 'three for a tenner' offer which should save some dosh.

I'll let you all know how it goes.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Decoding the forecast

You only need to spend a short amount of time in the Lake District to realise that it generates its own weather - which usually has nothing to do with the national, or even regional forecasts.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know the area well, I thought I'd post a quick translation of some of the terms the forecasters use, to give you more idea what the weather is really going to be like.

'Occasional showers' - almost incessant rain
'Frequent showers' - incessant rain with some bits heavier than others
'Light rain or drizzle' - rain that only bounces four inches off the ground
'Rain' - rain that bounces six inches off the ground
'Heavy rain' - be afraid, be very afraid
'Torrential rain' - start building the Ark.
'Sunshine' - sorry, no translation possible.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Photos of the floods

I took a few pictures of the lake overflowing at Bowness-on-Windermere on Saturday. You can see for yourselves just how much water there is everywhere!


The minute the roads opened again we dashed up to the Lakes to check the cottage. And the good news is that both we and it are fine. Roads and properties nearby had suffered some problems and the lake at Bowness is feet above its normal level, but we're on higher ground and a slope and the water simply hasn't affected the place at all. We're very, very grateful because lots of people haven't been so lucky.

We drove out yesterday (using only the main roads that were marked as open - we don't want to get stuck and add to everyone's problems)and the rivers are still raging torrents. The River Leven, which drains Windermere itself, was frightening - hurtling along at about five times its normal speed and well over the height of its banks. A couple of the roads and bridges were closed for safety and we really weren't surprised.

Everywhere is still sopping wet and there's more heavy rain forecast for tomorrow but fingers crossed the worst is now over.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Eeek, flooding

The good news is that we're fine here in Birmingham.

But it's time to let you into a secret. A couple of months ago we bought ourselves a holiday cottage in the Lake District, and have been dashing up there every spare minute we can, furnishing it and enjoying living in a beautiful corner of the UK. It's partly why I've been rather hit-and-miss about updating this blog lately, because we had a Very Long Wait for broadband and I had no internet connection for several weeks.

We were all set to go up there again today in order to spend Dave's birthday in the area - and, hopefully, get a door fitted on the guest bedroom in time for our friends staying at new year! But we can't go. The area has had absolutely terrible weather for the last couple of days, with as much as twelve inches of rain falling on the central fells in 32 hours (quite possibly a new record for England) and it's caused floods.

Not just a few minor floods - we're talking about pretty much the entire county being under water, and most of the towns and villages being cut off. We checked the local travel news first thing this morning and found that all the roads are closed so we have no way of getting through to the property, and no way of checking if it's still dry. Ordinarily it wouldn't flood because it's on sloping ground, away from rivers and streams, and up the hill from the main lake of Windermere. But these aren't ordinary conditions; storm drains are overflowing and water cascading off any higher ground. The main road just yards from our front door is listed as 'just passable due to flooding', and the school across the road is closed.

We're keeping an eye on the travel news and the minute it improves we'll jump in the car and see what's what. We're going to pack extra supplies, too. If all the roads are closed that means no deliveries for local shops, and our neighbours might be running out of food. And we're dashing out in a minute to buy ourselves some cheap wellies, as I don't fancy wading about in all the muck and water in my good shoes!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Queer Dimensions is here!

My trib copy of the anthology turned up late yesterday and I must say it looks a well produced book. The cover art is subtle and attractive (no man-boobs here), it's bursting with stories, and although I've only had a chance to dip my toe into the contents, so far I'm impressed with the quality of the writing.

The first story, by Jaques L Condor, is set in Alaska and involves two grumpy old men. It's so vivid that I had the feeling I was right there in the cabin, listening to them bicker and watching the snow whirl down outside.

I'm really looking forward to reading the rest of the stories and will report back on which ones I liked best once I've finished.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Invasion of the... ladybirds?

Last night I happened to glance up to the top of the window in my study, and noticed something strange. There was a small heap of ladybirds clustered together in one corner of the window frame, looking as though they were huddling together for warmth. A quick headcount revealed at least a dozen, perhaps more, all apparently asleep. Slightly further along the frame I spotted another bundle, and then a couple more by themselves in another corner.

I called Dave in to look and he said 'oh, how sweet, they're over-wintering. Leave them be.' But I wasn't convinced. It's not quite bodysnatchers, but there's something slightly sinister about insects in those numbers, and besides, I had visions of them waking up in spring, breeding like fury, and us arriving back one day to find millions of the little blighters. I do hate killing things, though, so I prepared to 'leave them be'.

Until a few minutes later when Dave poked his head back round the door and said, "Um, slight problem. They're Harlequins." He'd been on the net and found some information, and apparently Harlequins are the only sort that deliberately move indoors to hibernate over winter. A quick check through a magnifying glass and we were certain - they were definitely Harlequins.

For those of you who don't know (which included me until last year) Harlequin Ladybirds are an invasive species. They're much bigger than any of our native varieties and they're forcing the smaller types out. For some reason they had a bumper year this year and apparently some people have hundreds or even thousands of them clinging in bunches to south-facing internal walls and windows. Ours was only a small-scale plague. Even so, we took a deep breath and got the vacuum cleaner out. I still don't like killing things, but Harlequins are classed as a pest and I was even more concerned about them breeding next spring and filling the whole place. So we're officially Ladybird Murderers, but hopefully it was in a good cause.