Tuesday 30 August 2016

It's That Time Again

At eight o’clock the street lights start to glow red and we’re closing the curtains and turning the lights on.

Early in the morning when we take Dusty out, the cars around here have that dewy coat so often seen on late August and September mornings. For me this can only mean one thing.

The invasion begins.

You know the invasion I’m talking about. The eight legged one.

Almost every morning I have to call for someone to come and de-spiderify the bath. Usually it’s those middle sized ones and sometimes a cellar spider. I don’t mind cellar spiders as they tend to stay put – I have one called Samantha living in the corner right next to my bed - but I wouldn’t want to pick one up.

The first of the big beasts appeared the other evening while I was watching telly. I’m not sure if it was the vibration from eight pounding feet I noticed first or the sight of it at the periphery of my vision in the glow from the TV.

By the time the light had been put on so we could see the enormity of it, it had gone under the telly stand. I swear it had to duck to get under there and probably had to lift the stand slightly with one of its mighty legs as it looked over one of its shoulders and barked out an evil laugh.

I watched the rest of Casualty with one eye on the floor, but the spider never reappeared. It’s still in there somewhere. Lurking. Usually we (I use the word “we” loosely – I only do it with medium to small ones) put a pint glass over the spider, slide a piece of thin card under and take it to the garden. I think a pint glass would have been too small – might have risked catching a leg or three and so it would have called for a small Pyrex bowl. But it’s still about, probably growing by the day. I daresay it will announce its presence one day by moving a sofa out of its way.

The next morning I went for my shower. I shook my dressing gown – I’ve been caught out like that before – and checked the bath and floor. It was only after I’d had my shower that I saw the large rusty coloured heap on the floor between me and the door. “It’s a leaf,” I thought as I peered closer (no glasses). It wasn’t a leaf. I managed to leap over it, grab my dressing gown and run for help.

There has been speculation that it was in the towel I dried myself with. Another theory is that it was in the towel I throw on the floor to stand on. It wriggled in the cupped hands of my rescuer as it was removed outside. And he said it was even bigger than the one in the front room.

A spider will eat about 2000 bugs a year I’m told. They’re more scared of us than we are of them they say. They are our friends. I have no beef with the spider and I don’t mind them sharing my home as long as they stay away from me. That’s not to say I’m not going to refresh my supply of conkers around the place.

I thought it was the conkers that were keeping them away, but with hindsight it was probably Harley and Dusty, mighty hunters as was. They’re not interested now. A spider could walk over Dusty’s paw and he’d just watch it.

This morning I walked in here in bare feet to switch the computer on – I always have bare feet at home – and I stood on something that felt like a spider and it stuck to my foot. You probably heard me screaming. Yes I know it would have been worse for the spider if I’d trodden on it, but logic has no place where phobias are concerned.

Dusty is always bringing things in from the garden, mostly stones and small twigs. It was a small twig I had stuck to my foot. Just a small twig.

And don’t even get me started on Crane Flies which, as far as my phobia is concerned, are flying spiders.

I'm scared of mozzies because of the reaction I have to their bites, but it isn't anything like my all consuming fear of spiders.

Anyone else out there dread this time of year - and the arrival of the big spiders?

Thursday 25 August 2016

Just Dogs and Cats

This week I am mostly pet sitting!

Yesterday was too hot to take the dogs out. They flopped around all day and didn’t seem to mind missing a walk and I must admit I was happy not to go out with temperatures in the high twenties.

This morning I got up extra early and took them out before it got too roaring hot and we stopped by one of the beach hut taps so they could have a drink. If we go along the Essex Way we take a bottle of water for them. Dusty does everything at high speed so gets hot and tired very quickly.

We have an occasional walk towards country instead of beach, but the farmer is harvesting and I have a fear of tractors and farm machinery which I think is called ochophobia. My husband reckons it’s a throwback to all those public information films that used to be on when we were kids showing people having horrendous accidents with farm machinery.

Poppy and Dusty

Today and tomorrow is the Clacton Air Show, but I don’t think I’ll be going this year. I’ve seen enough of Clacton for one summer. I always find the pier hot, noisy and crowded, but the kids don’t seem to mind. And I can always find a quiet spot away from the amusements to have a drink break with one or other of the little people.

A quiet spot

I prefer the Ha’penny Pier - no thrills, but a nice place to be. The area below is known as The Pound and used to be home to our fishing fleet which was far more substantial than it is today. The Lightship is the LV18, occasional host to Radio Mi Amigo. It's interesting to go aboard for a look round.

The Pound

Fishing boat coming home

I’ve seen lots of young gulls this year. I think they are incredibly cute!

And I think there are pigeons nesting under the Ha’penny pier ticket office. I imagine they like their waterside homes.

Pigeons under the ticket office

It’s a lovely little building. Whenever I look at it, I imagine ladies and gents of old getting their tickets and waiting to board the paddle steamers. If you’d like to see a photo of it in those far off days, there is one here.

Former ticket office

I made the decision to take time off from writing while I had the children and I’m going to do the same when my two granddaughters from away come to stay as from next week. They’ll be here the following week too which is going to be hard for the four going back to school, but on the bright side it’ll be much quieter when we go out and about with all the schools back in business. The parks are going to be a lot less busy!

Not that I want to think about them all going back to school. I have never liked the summer holidays coming to an end.

I’ve never had such a long break from writing before though (probably the reason behind my waffly blog posts).

It’s been a lovely summer – all those things I had lined up to do on rainy days were never needed - but I’m certainly not going to complain about that and there’s always half term to look forward to.

Sunday 21 August 2016

The Little Things

Last week we watched all 194,849 tons of the Maren Maersk being pushed and pulled into her space at Felixstowe by three sturdy little tugs.  For a moment, it looked as if she was heading straight for us.

The power of those little boats has always amazed me. They have names like Svitzer Sky, Svitzer Deben and Svitzer Shotley.

So wrapped up in watching a tug push the Maren Maersk into position from the side, I forgot to take a photo of it!

I did get more crabbing photos though - you must be fed up with them! Probably the last, although the holidays aren’t over yet.

Some time ago I posted a link to a flight tracker website. You can find it here. When planes go over, I sometimes look them up to see where they’re headed or where they’ve come from. As I write this a plane going from Bristol to Amsterdam has just gone over. As well as flight information you can find out more about the planes too.

There is a marine equivalent Vessel Finder here. It’s very handy for identifying ships all over the world. It even shows our little harbour ferry. I find these types of websites very useful for someone as nosy as me.

We finally got our trip over to Felixstowe on the little yellow Harbour Ferry which was a lifeboat on the SS Canberra in a previous life. It has replaced the Rotork Sea Truck which was a type of landing craft designed partially by James Dyson. The little yellow spot on the photo below is the ferry.

It was drizzling so my photos of over here from over there weren’t great. We couldn’t even see Walton.

It was lovely to be out on the water for a short while and the kids enjoyed picking a few blackberries at the edge of the nature reserve.

It was quiet and peaceful. We didn't see any wildlife, but we weren't there for long enough to explore properly. Maybe next time.

When we got home, I asked what they liked best – the ferry ride or lunch out. “Picking blackberries,” they said!

Friday 19 August 2016


Some readers of this blog may remember the extraordinary story of Tiger, my daughter’s beautiful tabby cat who appeared in my garden after he’d been missing from home for a couple of days two years ago (you can read about him here). He was only a year old at the time.

Sadly Tiger had a heart attack and passed away this week aged only three. There was no warning. One minute he was fine, the next he was gone.

Needless to say the children are distraught as are their parents. The other cats keep looking for him and I know Poppy will miss him too.

I’ve known some loving and affectionate cats over the years, but never one quite like Tiger - he really was the sweetest soul. We are going to miss him and we still can't really believe that he's gone.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Over Here from Over There

We spend a lot of time over here looking over there – at Walton. We haven’t been for a couple of years so took a picnic over yesterday.

I used to cycle over there with my friends when I was very much younger. We’d chain our bikes up outside the pier then go and have a day of fun before setting off for home.

Yesterday we walked round the nature reserve and observed some nature.

Red Admiral having a shoe stop

The tide was in, but we’d never planned it to be a fossil hunting day.

The Cliffs

I’m sure they are hollyhocks growing on the cliffs!

The Naze Tower

So this is how over here looks from over there.


I’m sure I’ve posted before about how strange it is to see something familiar from a different perspective - a bit like catching sight of your reflection in a shop window without the terrible fright!

Sunday 14 August 2016

Dusty Business

Here’s a gratuitous photo of the newest member of the family taken a few weeks ago. He’s not mine, but I have unlimited cuddles. He is a very affectionate and friendly little fella and he’s already grown big. So big that he’s booked in for his little operation in a couple of weeks! I have always had a big soft spot for ginger cats. I've had two and both were very special.

And here’s another gratuitous kitty photo – of my pretty girl, Harley. I have a soft spot for black cats too - Harley is my third black cat, fourth if you count Huggy who was mainly black with a little white. I really don't understand why black cats are so often overlooked.

It’s been a while since I blogged about Dusty. He’s been doing well, although still not up to the amount of exercise he was used to before his leg operations. It’s hardly surprising considering what he’s been through.

At the beginning of the summer holidays I thought it was time to take him swimming in the sea again. He enjoyed it – unfortunately his poor stomach did not! He swallowed too much sea and was hurling up gallons of water when he got home. In all the times he’s been swimming in the sea, this has never happened before. I made sure he drank fresh water little and often and kept a close eye on him.

He soon picked up, but wasn’t quite himself. He lost some of his bounce over the next few days and was leaving some of his food. It was hard to say exactly what was wrong except he just wasn’t right and when the vet checked him over, she said there wasn’t anything obvious and I could wait and see how he got on, or she could do blood tests, so I opted for the blood tests.

This brought back memories of how Tilly was when she first got ill with liver problems and how devastating the results of her blood tests were. I was so relieved when the vet phoned a couple of hours later and said the results were fine, but his white count was high indicating an infection somewhere. She said to take him straight back for an antibiotic injection and some tablets.

It was like a miracle! Within a few hours of that injection he was bouncing round again, keen for his food and so much better. Within a couple of days he was completely back to normal. He’s been back in the sea once since then, but only briefly! What and where the infection was is a mystery.

We usually take him to the recreation fields to exercise as they are nice and flat, but now we’re throwing in the occasional walk on rougher fields where he can go in and out of dirty ditches and enjoy a bigger variety of interesting smells.

I think what he loves most of all is being able to mooch about with Poppy again.

Tuesday 9 August 2016

More Beach Days

Sparkly Water

On Monday we went to the beach and planned to go to the cinema again today (Tuesday), but the little people wanted to go to the beach again. This time I wore my swimming costume and they persuaded (pushed and pulled) me to go in and join them. I’m glad I did.


I watched a Thames barge both days – they are my absolute favourite of all the sailed vessels and the photo just so happened to include the Stone Pier – taken from the Dovercourt side. And in the background you can see Landguard fort at Felixstowe. It’s right next to the port, but is a surprisingly quiet and peaceful place to visit. The Landguard Peninsula is a site of special scientific interest and we’re hoping to go over there sometime during the holidays, although the time is going so fast, I’m not sure we’ll be able to do everything we wanted to do.

Stone Pier, Thames Barge and Landguard Fort

I also took some photos of the Dovercourt leading lights which replaced those at Harwich – mentioned in an earlier post.

Two Lighthouses

Lots of seaweed on the shies

We watched some races. Well I did. The little people were watching jellyfish. A big one swam lazily by as if it had come to have a look at the odd noisy creatures in the water. I didn’t get a photo of it as I was in the water at the time.

While we were there, the Stena Britannica went out.  The Britannica and her sister ship the Stena Hollandica are the two largestsuperferries in the world and there are two sailings a day from Harwich to the Hook of Holland. They’re nowhere near as big as some of the cruise ships that have come in here, but they are big for ferries.



Almost gone

You can just see the ferry beyond Felixstowe on its way to the Hook. 

Hope you are having a lovely summer - after a shaky start, it's turned out really lovely.

Friday 5 August 2016

This Week We Have Mostly...

This week we have mostly been doing stuff close to home and the pace has been a bit slower. The park, ice creams on the Ha’penny pier, swimming and sleepover. We went crabbing this afternoon which rounded off the week nicely.

The sleepover was fun. Four kids and a dog all piled up together – once they had finished playing musical beds that is! Then they decided they could hear a ghost which turned out to be Harley – at least I hope it was Harley.

They were awake late and up by eight the next morning ready for pancakes for breakfast.

I have a tide table so I can calculate the best time to go crabbing. However, I forgot to note the height of the tide. Today full tide was 4.09 metres. On Monday it was 3.84. It doesn’t get that high where we go crabbing, but it was enough to make a difference.

There we were on our ledge merrily catching crabs when suddenly the ledge was awash. I grabbed my bag and the shoes and put them up on the prom out of the tides reach. Probably just as well as the two smallest ones were dangling their feet in the water by then and I was a bit concerned about their little toes. There is no danger of anyone being washed off the ledge – at least not in calm seas, although you do get the occasional swell when a ship goes past.

Dipping toes

We never have too many crabs in the buckets or keep them for too long before putting them back in the sea. I hate to see crabs piled up in buckets on top of each other.

People often stop to look at our catch and have a chat. Today it was visitors to our town and we couldn’t place their accent. They definitely weren’t German or Dutch or Scandinavian. They were very friendly wherever they had come from and warned me when one of the lines was gradually being tugged over the edge so I managed to save it. The kids showed them their catch and there was communication of sorts, mainly smiles and laughter. You can say a lot with a smile and children seem to know that better than anyone.

A couple of years ago when we went fossil hunting in Walton on the Naze, I took a photo of Harwich from there and was surprised when I zoomed in that I had got the Low Lighthouse in the shot. Today I took a photo of Walton and managed to capture a couple of the giant wind turbines that stand in the sea off Clacton. Some days you can see them very clearly from here. Some days not.

Walton on the Naze

In the foreground of the photo is Beacon Hill Fort and you might just be able to see the start of the Stone Pier and the barrier which warns people not to go out on it at high tide. On extra high tides like today, the pier is completely covered. When I was a baby, my grandad used to push me out to the end of it in my pram and as I got older, I often went out to the end. I even tried crabbing off it once, but the sides slope too much and any crabs used to fall off long before you’d hauled them in.

The Stone Pier was built as a breakwater. You can read a bit about it here and if you’re interested in fishing, here.

Beyond that with its landmark tower is Walton. You can read about the tower here.

Certainly can’t complain about the weather for the first couple of weeks of the school holidays. It’s been near perfect.

Monday 1 August 2016

Summer Means Crabbing!

Calm sea

Today was a perfect day to go crabbing. We went down an hour before full tide – you catch more crabs when the tide is coming in. Once it turns they tend to hide themselves away. The weather was lovely and although a few clouds gathered, it didn't rain.

I don’t know how many we caught. We didn’t count them, but we caught and released a lot of crabs while we were there. We don’t keep them in the buckets for too long and we give them bits of bacon from the bait bags to munch on while they wait. Their shells are so pretty with all sorts of different patterns.

We chose a spot in front of the Low Lighthouse. When it was in use, mariners used to line the light of the Low Lighthouse up with the High Lighthouse to find safe passage into the harbour. They were known as the leading lights.

Low Lighthouse

The Low Lighthouse is now a maritime museum and the High Lighthouse is the National Wireless and Television Museum, but was a private residence for several years.

High Lighthouse

The lighthouse that previously stood in the Low Lighthouse position was painted by John Constable and first exhibited in 1820. You can see it hereThe piece of land you can see poking out in the background of the Constable painting was later turned into Beacon Hill Fort which you can read more about and see photos of here

When I was a child the fort was fenced off, but we found a way in and back then it was virtually untouched since WWII and a great place to go blackberry picking, walk the dogs or just play!

The Harwich leading lights were replaced by two cast iron lighthouses which are something of a landmark in Dovercourt.

One of the Dovercourt Leading Lights

The gulls keep a close eye on us while we’re crabbing as if they know we’ll throw them the remaining bait. They won’t come too close, but will catch food on the wing sometimes – unfortunately not something I could get a photo of.

The water in the harbour was so calm and still.

And at Felixstowe it was busy as usual, but it was a nice relaxing day for us.