Frog blog

I spotted this little fella yesterday while walking Max in our favourite spot, Drumkeeragh forest.

a tiny brown frog on some stones

Little frog

He seemed quite friendly – Max hardly paid him attention, but I watched him for a few minutes before he hopped off and hid under some grass.

a brown frog hiding under some grass

bye bye froggie

We had a lovely walk: it really is our numero uno walkies destination, and well worth the 20 minute drive it takes to get there.  The weather was glorious: blue skies and wonderful welcome sunshine after all the cold and snow we’ve had.  And I came up with a plan – I’ll draw a map of this place, with our favourite routes, maybe little illustrations of where we found wild raspberries, and where the clearest streams are. Oooh, I love a good plan!

It’s not untidy!

A friend had been admiring the pictures of my new flat BEFORE I’d moved in, and had asked if it was still that tidy.  Well here’s how it looks this evening.

A living room with lots of items scattered around it

My lounge, my life.

I think I taught myself to look at untidiness a different way when the kids were younger – instead of seeing mess, I chose to see evidence of painting, homeworks, reading, music making etc.

So this isn’t untidy.  In it I can see:

1. Lovely tasty lemony olives as snacking material while I cook.

2. A Stig soap on a rope – bargain at the supermarket, early birthday present for Harry.  Stig themed presents are a long standing joke.

3. Dance Direct catalogue – for Jem and I to pore over all the lovely leotards. Next audition for Bird College in April.  Booked cheapo Ryanair flights today – under £90 for 3 of us.

4. Champagne – to take to my sister’s tomorrow for my niece’s birthday, where my parents will also be.  Sis is now a short bus ride away.

5. Cardboard boxes for when I move on again!  This place is a 6 month rent. which gives me time to sort out what the future holds, and do some unhurried property hunting.

6. Chief, our cuddly dog.  One of Matty’s presents to Jem – soppy gits the pair of them!  It’s no substitute for Max, but he’s quite nice to cuddle up to of an evening. Without a TV we watch quite a few DVDs together, which is so lovely, even if its only on a teeny pink portable set.

7. A fruitbowl containing both plastic and real fruit.  The plastic fruit was acquired from eBay to make a Carmen Miranda style hat for Jem doing a Caribbean number, where she sings “At the Copa, Copacabana, the hottest spot north of Fermanagh”.  Ah how we laughed!  And I’m always encouraging the children to eat more real fruit…

8. The balcony.  Well, it’s what estate agents call a “Juliet balcony”, meaning it’s patio doors with railings, but no actual outdoor space.  Having said that, I did open the doors this evening to enjoy the dusk falling through the trees, while I enjoyed a chilled white wine leaning on the blacony rails.

We’ve been here a month now, and it’s just so stress-free.  Jem, Matty and I all get on really well together, and no-body’s overly bothered by the odd bit of mess.  I’m re-learning how to cook for myself, so shopping trips aren’t totally smooth yet, but we’re getting there.  Jem seems to live on cheese, bread, ham, bacon, potato waffles, pasta and tomato sauce.  Could be worse, I guess!

Have just asked them what they think.

Jem: ” I love it – it’s just so calm”

Matty: “Amazing!”

The Gambia

a beach with palm trees

the view from our hotel

Gosh I’ve been back from the Gambia nearly 3 weeks now, but what with moving house, involving loss of internet access, I haven’t had much of a chance to get caught up on blogging. Those of you familiar with h2g2 will have been able to follow the journey of the 7 bikers in the Rear View series in The Post,

and what a real adventure it turned out to be, incorporating minus 10 temperatures across France, broken ankles in Spain, delays due to tyre changes, and ferries, and visa applications. Roger aka Thunder has done a detailed report on

I’d agreed to be one of the WAGs flying out to meet the guys – in the end there were only 2 of us, myself and Katherine, and we were on the same flight to Banjul from Manchester.  We’d booked on a cheapish package, as that was the best way to get flights, and were coached to our 2 star hotel, which lived up to its billing.  The rooms were basic, but it did have a lovely pool and a poolside bar.  We also found, braving the bumsters outsdie, that the view of the setting sun from Solomon’s Beach Bar down the road was wonderful, and that the mezze served by Shiraz, the resraurant opposite, was delicious.

We were picked up at 6 am the next morning by Musa Bah, so famous he even gets a mention in the Lonely Planet guidebook.  He parked at the eerily scray ferry terminal and left us while he went off to sort tickets (ie pay some bribes so that we could have a place in the queue).  It was a ferry journey like no other:  almost 3 hours we’d spent in teh queue, eventually being squeezed onto the boat with no room to open teh door to get out.  I was glad I’d bought some peanut brittle last night in teh shop, and I shared it with the others as a sort of apology for breakfast.  Barra, on the northern shore, was even dustier and more bustling, and we failed miserably in our attempts to buy some beer to take to the guys.  We stopped for lunch in Farrafenni, a border crossing which was just so unlike anywhere else I’d ever visited in my life that it rendered me speechless. Katherine and I took one look at the flies buzzing round the meat in the chop shop, where one knife and one chopping board was being used for everything, and ordered omelettes.

We continued down the dusty wide road, African scrub to either side of us, goats and cows crossing in front of us, and very frequent police checkpoints.  A few hours later Musa turned off the main road, and announced that the next part of our journey would be by boat.

a little boat on the River Gambia

N'fally's boat

N’fally was a sharp-eyed captain, and enjoyed pointing out local wildlife like pythons and chameleons, while we soaked up the sparkle on the river, and felt like we were in The African Queen.  On the far shore, we waited to see what our next form of transport would be – and Roger arrived on the back of a little 125, accompanied by a horse and cart!  Katherine took the pillion position and Rog and I and all the luggage piled onto the cart.  We trotted off to Sambel Kunda, waving and smiling to the many children who greeted us as we passed.  SK is home to the Gambia Horse and Donkey Trust, which is the charity co-ordinating the fund raising for the new Calum’s Road, but which also carries out veterinary and educational work in the area.  The 7 bikes were parked up outside the buidling, which had no electricity, a little bit of running water, but plenty of cold beer and warm welcomes.

Bikes in Sambel Kunda

More later….