Monday, 19 December 2011

Boiler Breakdown

"All things, earth, trees, wooden posts, bricks, stones become buddhas once this refuge is taken."

On Saturday morning I was woken up by the Baxi Solo 2 central heating boiler which is in the kitchen on the other side of the wall near where I sleep. It was making a howling screaming noise.
We are at the moment in a Level 3 Cold weather alert (temperatures 2 C or lower for 48 hours or more).
Later on that morning I noticed the boiler had not ignited even though it was on, and just making a low humming noise and the temperature was really dropping.
I phoned the landlord's heating and hot water contractor, Robert Heath, and the receptionist told me someone would be out later that day.
So I settled down with a hot drink, woolly hat and and extra warm clothes to wait for the engineer.
A young man arrived who looked like he should still be at school. Straight away after I had explained the problem he diagnosed a faulty fan. Off to his van he went to get a replacement and quickly repaired the boiler, it is now working very well and purring rather than screaming.
So thanks to heating engineer, thanks to Robert Heath and landlord, and thanks to dear old Baxi Solo 2 central heating boiler for warmth during the freezing winter.

"All things, earth, trees, wooden posts, bricks, stones become buddhas once this refuge is taken."
Partly about gratitude, also noticing the interconnectedness of all things.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Job ref for gutter

I called today to see if I could get a job reference for the work to be done on the overflowing downpipe or blocked gutter. At first I was told there was nothing on the system but when I explained what it was for I was told it had been put out for the Roofing contractors so would take more time than usual. The reference number is 30514811

Lots about food

I got a large bulk buy from
Suma today which should last a few months.
Food Co-ops can get the trade prices.
Some of these items don't seem to be available in any shops around here.

3 KG "Rice - basmati, brown OrGanic Fair Trade"
1 KG bicarbonate of soda (use with vinegar to unblock drains)
6 x 100g cacao nibs
8 x 15 bags yogi choco tea
6 x 270g organic tahini
6 x 1.5 L ecoleaf laundry
5 L ecoleaf washing up
6 X 120G Vegideli Beanfeast Pate
1 kg organic raisins
1 kg organic brown lentils
1 kg red split lentils organic
6 X 125G Yeast Flakes
12 X 400G organic chopped toms
1 kg organic figs
1 kg organic almonds
12 X 125G LOOSE organic tea leaves
1 kg organic fair trade beans
1 X 60 tea lights
24 x 1 suma handmade soap

On Wednesday the meditation group went for curry at
They have an extensive vegetarian menu with plenty of vegan options. I had biriani.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Vegan menu

People often ask what do vegans eat? I eat a lot of different foods, today I am having mushroom, almond and cauliflower biriani made with brown rice.
For lunch I had miso soup and rice cakes with caramelised onion hummus.
Breakfast was a pot of tea with soya milk and 2 home made fig and orange slices (similar to fig roll).
Being vegan I do have to spend a lot more time planning what to eat and cooking as most processed foods isn't suitable.
The biriani and the fig rolls came from linda majzlik "Vegan Taste Of..." recipe books.

This image seemed to capture the stillness and quiet of the peaceful December day.

Dark clouds and winter trees reflected in the river.
The parallel lines above the tree are power lines. Notice how they seem to be in a different place in the reflected image in the river.

Tyne reflections at Newburn

Pylons reflected in the still river.

More pylons and some driftwood which had been washed up on the landing slip during the storm earlier in the week.

Jeff and I went to Newburn Riverside on Sunday and the Tyne was like a mill pond with fantastic reflections of the winter countryside.
Here is the Carlisle or Hexham train passing on the south side of the river.

Gutters and downpipe (again)

If you have been reading my blog for some time you will recall all the bother we have had with the landlord not maintaining the gutters.
Since the contractor finished patching up the broken gutters which fell down last winter I have noticed when there is heavy rainfall the water cascading off the corner of the gutter instead of going down the drainpipe.
As the exact same symptom happened before and in 2010 contractors found the down pipe to be completely blocked and items such as tennis balls in it, I suspect a blockage has re-occurred. I spoke to Katie today at the contractor's office and she said they would look into it.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Gardens of the Future

This garden design we saw at Nature's World is recommended for being low maintenance and planet friendly. Not much watering is needed.

Well known Teeside landmarks have been painted on recycled materials to give a trompe l'oeil effect.

Returning to Nature's World

Jeff got the day off work so we took Mum out for the day to Nature's World.
We had a picnic as the weather was really mild and sunny, and we had cups of tea in the tearooms.
Jeff made Marmite and Tomato sandwiches and Mum had made some scones.
There is a miniature River Tees with many of the bridges and industrial features which have been constructed from recycled materials by local people from Teeside.

Queen's Court Recycling Bins

Just down the road in Queen's Court Newcastle City Council installed a new set of recycling bins with normal household waste bins.
There is also a bin for clothes and shoes, and a grit bin.

This encourages people to separate their recycling from the normal household waste, which does not happen much at our place, being a housing association the landlord seems to be able to get away with substandard practice, as the rules do not seem to apply here.
Here is how it should be done!
Note the aesthetically pleasing secure metal fence enclosing the bin storage area.

Complaints about rodents seem to have died down recently, maybe due to the colder weather.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Communal Bin Sheds 1

External side of bin shed with wooden doors which open to allow metal bins to be wheeled out for emptying.

Inside the bin shed there is room for one large metal bin open topped bin (no lid) which is designed to be attached to the bin wagon crusher when it does its rounds.

These shutes are open all the time and can't be shut. It would be possible for a small person to climb into them.

The purpose of these steps is so someone can climb up them and drop their rubbish down the shute into the bin inside the shed. Needless to say they are not very popular. In cold wet weather they can be difficult for people to use. Often the shutes are blocked with large bin bags which people have tried to shove into them.

On returning from Segaki Retreat

I felt really tired after returning from my week away due to not getting the large quantity of sleep I usually need, and all the emotional hard work of a week of intensive meditation. However I did feel much less stressed and in fact almost relaxed, but pretty soon after returning that went Pop!
My "retreat bubble got burst!
I had an appointment at the Royal Victoria Infirmary INR clinic on the Monday after I returned (stress index begins to climb) and on my way home I met our Estate Caretaker and stopped to ask him if he had any News.
First bit of News is we now have Emmanuel Spence contracted to replace the broken bits of gutter.
I have actually seen the workers from Emmanuel Spence using a powered platform to replace the broken gutter.
They have been contracted to replace the bits which fell down last winter and join it up with the remaining gutter and down pipes.
Hopefully it will do the trick but we will see what happens when it rains next.
The caretaker also told me that while he was taking one of the communal bins out of the bin sheds for the refuse collectors on Bin Day, a rat jumped out of the bin right there in front of him.
A number of fellow tenants have complained to me about the large quantity of large brown rats running about around the car park, bin shed area and children's playground.
So I decided to make a phone call.
Initially I wanted to speak to the local Housing Officer but he was not available.
The person on the landlord's helpline asked me if I had been in touch with the local council, so that was my next call, to Envirocall.
I explained to the operator that we were concerned about the large numbers of rats and that the landlord was just telling us to ensure to always put the rubbish in the bins, but this would not stop the rats visiting because the bins were out of date (I will post pictures later) and kept in sheds with open shutes and often the bins were left outside for a number of days over public holidays when Bin Day conflicted with days he caretaker was on holiday.
So I was told this was a matter for Public Health and Public Health would be looking in to it.
Later I got a call from the Housing Officer who told me that he had checked with the caretaker and in fact the tenants were leaving the doors to the shutes open!
This is absolutely ridiculous because I have tried to shut them and it is impossible, they are so old I think they must have rusted into the open position.
Also that when they get the new gardening contract the bushes around the bin sheds will be trimmed back so the rats cannot hide in them!
I pointed out that in fact it is the food in the open bins which is attracting the rats, not the bushes!
A person who I think was called June Alexander called me from Public Health, she wanted to clarify exactly what the situation was.

Spital Tongues Summer Garden

Jeff took this photo earlier in the year of one of the front gardens in neighbouring
Spital Tongues

Friday, 4 November 2011

Buddhist Training

This year I was able to attend the Segaki Retreat at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey for the first time.
It is a week long intensive meditation retreat in the last week in October with a number of ceremonies. One in particular is the ceremony of Feeding the Hungry Ghosts.
Hungry Ghosts are Beings, or aspects of ourselves, which are constantly craving, symbolised by ghosts with big tummies and tiny mouths and throats.
There are videos you can look at and listen to on youtube from various Zen monasteries showing this ceremony.
There is also a ceremony during which paper tombstones are burned on a special fire called a Toro.
Last weekend our Newcastle meditation group and the Teeside group met together with our group monk in Teeside for a day retreat when we spent the morning meditating, then had lunch together and later went for a walk to
Natures World, which is a permaculture orientated theme park on the outskirts of Middlesboro. I particularly liked the miniature River Tees installation. Check it out.
"This unique 400 meter long working model of the River Tees has been created from scratch from a good idea and a flat, boggy field! Thousands of Lorry loads of clay and sub soil where imported back in 1992 to create Upper Teesdale."
Wow! Thanks to the Teeside Group for introducing me to this fantastic place.

Holiday Caravan

At last I have some time to post some photos of our holiday in our favourite caravan park on the Colvend Coast, Dumfries and Galloway.
This year we has caravan D4 which was a Gold 2 bedroom caravan, plenty of room for the 2 of us as everything is so well designed. Here is our kitchen.

Woodland Path Near Castle Douglas

The woods inland from our holiday caravan on the Colvend Coast are so beautiful and green, quiet and peaceful.
Even though the weather was a bit stormy after the tail end of Hurricane Katia in September

Red Beauty

This red squirrel was part of the group which visited daily, to eat the nuts which we had provided.

Red Squirrels

Our caravan was visited every day by a number of red squirrels. At least one of them had the large tufts on the ears. They had different shades of red and brown on their coats and they were different sizes. We put some peanuts out for them which we bought in the pet shop in Dalbeattie.

Scotland in September

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Recycling in Middlesboro

Residents in Middlesbrough worked really hard to get recycling happening on their estate.
They even made a film about it, I'm impressed.

Furzey Gardens

If you visit the New Forest don't miss Furzey Gardens!

New Forest

Here are a few more pictures we took when on holiday in the New Forest earlier this year

Retreat Cafe in Grassington

In March Jeff and I visited the Yorkshire village (or town?) of Grassington. There was a vegetarian cafe we wanted to visit.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Dilston Road Artwork

Abdurhaman took this picture of the artwork in the Dilston Road pocket park when we went for a walk round the local area recently.

Fukushima response now

Invisible Snow from Reuters Tokyo Pictures on Vimeo.

A Buddhist monk in Fukushima is looking after the people who have stayed in the area for whatever reason. This short film shows the response of the local people to the terrible event.
Definitely pastoral care in action!
Thanks to Joyce for sending the link.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Lush Recycling bottle tops for seabirds

Lush is asking people to donate bottle tops at their shops, and they will recycle them. They are trying to raise awareness of threat to marine animals posed by the waste which ends up in oceans, and because seabirds are attracted by the bottle tops and eat them, they end up blocking their stomachs and killing them.
Other animals which the seabirds (fish etc) eat will also be attracted by the bottle tops and eat them, and because the bottle tops don't break down, the seabirds cannot fully digest the prey animal, so they will be consuming prey which has also eaten bottle tops.
Once we begin to recycle bottle tops, less will get thrown away and end up in the seas and oceans.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Decluttering the archives

I decided to finally put my undergraduate project in the recycling bin as I no longer have any need of it.
It was quite a long time ago... over 20 years now and the building we worked in has been demolished. I remember the outside toilets on Park Street with the spiders.
"Contingency shaped and rule governed behaviour: an investigation using disguise of a response contingency".

Abstract: "The role of awareness and rules in human operant motor conditioning was investigated. Subjects played a simple computer game for points. Masking instructions were given and a masked reinforcement contingency was in operation. The reinforceble response was either the instructed response, and here rule governed behaviour was produced, or movement in a swivel chair, of which the subject remained unaware. This behaviour was contingency governed. A post experimental questionaire was given to assess subjects' awareness of the masked contingency.Results were ambiguous for most of the 15 subjects used, but contribute to the debate on whether behaviour which is only governed by contingencies can occur in adult humans."

Letting things go, one file of paper at a time.
I'm going to take it out to the recycling bin NOW!

London's burning - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English

London's burning - Inside Story - Al Jazeera English

Running through riotous London - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

Running through riotous London - Opinion - Al Jazeera English

On Sunday I attended the Festival of Maitreya Buddha at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey.
As usual I found it really helpful. Reverend Master Aidan did a Dharma Talk on the meaning of Maitreya Buddha.
Not using TV or radio at home I sometimes tend to get cut off from current events, so when I switched the computer on on Monday morning I was surprised to find out about rioting in London.
I found the analysis of the situation on al-jazerra giving a deeper picture than what the UK news media is giving out.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Pot Marigold

Pot marigolds will grow in poor soil, and do not need either a lot of sun or a lot of water. They are pretty and birds can eat the seeds.

Lavender and Cleavers

The lavender has not been pruned at all and a lot of it died over the freezing winter, but we did get a lot of flowers on it. The cleavers have almost totally covered it, and when we pull the cleaver plants off, they come away very easily, and all the little seeds fly off.

"Therefore, flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them."

well established oregano

The oregano we planted in late
Spring is now well established with the pot marigolds and other herbs.


Planted seeds in April, this one got transplanted as seedling a few weeks ago.


Saturday, 30 July 2011

Rice Salad recipe request

Last weekend the meditation group had a half day retreat with our group monk at our usual venue in Newcastle.

I made a rice salad for the lunch and it was very popular, so I was asked for the recipe.
The vegans at the end of the table were able to get extra helpings of it as they did not have any of the cheese or Quiches which had been brought by the non-vegans.

(Quantities are approximate)
1 mug of uncooked organic brown basmati rice (I use Fair Trade Basmati rice from Suma);
1 desertspoon Marigold Engevita nutritional yeast flakes;
1 desertspoon sunflower seeds;
1 desertspoon frozen petit pois (small peas);
1 desertspoon frozen green beans;
1 desertspoon frozen mixed chopped peppers (Tesco or Iceland brand are what I usually use);
1 desertspoon french dressing;
1 desertspoon Mitsukan: Powdered Sushi Vinegar (Rice Seasoning Mix);
1 packet Cauldron Foods Marinated Tofu;
1 teaspoon Baron Green Seasoning;
1 teaspoon Amore Tomato Ketchup.

Cook the rice and frozen vegetables the day before, drain thoroughly, cover them and leave to cool.
Then put them into a large bowl and mix the other ingredients in well.
If you like you can add some chopped cucumber, lettuce and tomatoes, but the salad will then need to be all eaten within a few hours otherwise it will go off.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Healthy Lunches

We have been having lighter healthier lunches since our holiday. Here are 2 plates of blueberry, banana and apple, with a few nuts.

Land in Paraguay being stolen for cattle ranching

Brazilian beef barons whose illegal clearance of rainforest land inhabited by uncontacted Indians in Paraguay was spotted by satellites have now been charged with illegal deforestation. Check out the video above for more.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

update on gutters

This week I spent a bit of time on the phone with the landlord's repair contractor to see if I could find out what the progress was on the replacement to the broken gutters.
On Wednesday I spoke to a patient and kind person "Katy" who initially told me that the landlord was now dealing with the matter. When I replied that I had been told by the landlord's call centre that the repair contractor was responsible for gutters, and all enquiries had to go via the repair contractor (unless I was making an official complaint), she said she was going to put me on hold, to try to find the person in charge of the matter.

Eventually she got back to me to tell me that this person was not available at that time, and she would keep trying to get hold of him and would contact me when she had done so.

Having heard nothing since, I phoned again today. The call centre staff do seem to know what I am talking about as soon as I say the word "gutters" and my address, so I think they are keeping it up to date on the computer.

Today I spoke to "Richard", and explained that my next door neighbour and I were very concerned that there was no progress since the gutters came down last year and we were unhappy that we had not been kept informed about what was going on.
Richard apologised for this but said they could not give any more information out as there was "conflicting" information about the repair, and that he and Katy (I think) would keep trying to get through to this person in the landlord's office, this person who seems to know what is happening.

Go to any web site on the internet to find out about damp and you will get comments like these
"First ensure its not a simple problem causing the damp- leaky gutter channeling water down the wall etc, or ground water accumulating by the house wall on the ground."

Except for those sites which are selling damp proof courses!
Another neighbour has had the damp proof course replaced twice in one year, if they had looked up at the roof they would have see the cause of the damp- water running down the walls, pooling around the building, saturating the bricks.
If you look around the house you will see all the moss ad plants growing in the cracks where the water is running down the walls.

Wood Ants nests

I was happy to find some wood ant nests in the New Forest. Having seen them in Northumberland previously I was able to identify the odd pile of pine leaves in the top left hand side of the photo immediately. There are thousands of ants swarming all over the pile, each one bringing food home or busy rebuilding the nest. Just like us really.

New Forest Ponies

We had heard about the semi wild ponies which graze in the New Forest. This was one of the first places we stopped and the pony did not seem bothered by our prescence. There are also cattle grazing and in some parts I heard there are woodland pigs.

Friday, 1 July 2011

New Forest pics

We spent the whole of our holiday in the New Forest, except for the journey south, where we stopped off for a break in a Premier Inn in Harpole, and on the way back we stopped in a Premier Inn in Derby East.
The photo was taken one of the woodlands in the New Forest, where a log was becoming a frog.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Back from Holiday

We got back from visiting The New Forest and I felt the change of scene had been really helpful. Decided to put all guttering worries aside.
Jeff has a lot of photos of our holiday so I will post some in the next few days, with more info, in the meantime I found this video about the cleanup operation in Japan. It's awe inspiring, particularly for those of us with interest in environmental issues

Friday, 17 June 2011

repair reference number

Doing some decluttering of paperwork I found this note on my desk:

304 701 81
water coming in through ventilation unit.

***** to attend on Tuesday AM.

There isn't a date on the note so I'm not sure when this happened as there have been too many phone calls related to water coming into the flat when it rains (due to no gutter at that part of the roof).

Supposedly our homes are supposed to meet a minimum standard of being weatherproof, however if one needs to keep a bucket strategically placed in the event of heavy rainfall when one is not at home, its hardly weatherproof.

I have read a retrofit is planned at some point in order to make our homes more energy efficient.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Gutter lack of progress

This morning I phoned the repair contractor (a wholly owned subsidiary of the landlord but a separate legal entity) to ask about progress on the guttering.
After I gave my postcode and reason for the call the operator asked me if anyone had been out to see to it. When I confirmed they had indeed come out to look, and had just looked (the technical term for just looking is "Visual Inspection", she told me I was going to be put on hold, so I was on hold for quite some time.
Eventually she got back to me and said the matter had now been passed to the Planning Department, and "Shellie" would call me back (at some unspecified date and time).
I am now going to email the repair contractor the address of this blog so they can have all the info going back over the last year.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Holiday 2011

This year Jeff and I are visiting The Barn Vegan Guest House for our summer holiday.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Realizing Genjokoan

I spent a long meditation weekend at Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey recently and we studied some passages from the following translation of Great Master Dogen's teachings:
Realizing Genjokoan by Shohaku Okumura.
I was particularly fascinated by the following quote:
"Therefore flowers fall even though we love them; weeds grow even though we dislike them".
Flowers are things or situations we want, weeds are things we don't want... in my opinion anyway.
There are a lot of web sites devoted to English Translations of Genjokoan.

Guttering Repairs Reference Numbers

I now have 2 reference numbers for the repairs to the broken  guttering.
3044 1525 is the latest one.
A previous reference number was generated in May and is 3047 2102.
Neighbours can use these numbers when phoning the repair call centre to enquire about the progress of this repair.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Guttering Distress

I still have not had any news of  a start date for the replacement of the broken guttering, reported December 3. 2010..
I have had a number of visits from the repair contractors to address problems with the water coming into the flat via the vent hole for the positive pressure ventilation system.
First I was told in the winter, they had to wait for the weather, then they were waiting for the insurance company to pay out, because it was such a big job to replace all the flats' gutters, and now I am being told they just should be doing it.. but they are not.
Yesterday I found some rainwater coming in to the hallway despite having had a cover put on the outside of the vent a few weeks ago, and before that, some sealant put around the space where the new  positive pressure ventilation system had been installed a couple of years ago and was not properly sealed.
The rainwater is draining off the roof at exactly that point where the broken gutter is coinciding with the part of the wall where the vent exit is.
The purpose of the positive pressure ventilation system is to draw fresh air into the flat and push it through the flat, which it is why it is drawing the water in with the fresh air.

After phoning the landlord they again denied all responsibility and referred me back to the repair contractor. I have been told by the landlord if I am not satisfied I have to make a complaint about the contractor.
However I have no issues or complaints with the actual people I have dealt with and ultimately the people in charge will evade all responsibility and blame.

Late spring rhodedendons trees and oregano

We were given some free herb plants at Greening Wingrove Festival. This is an oregano plant, we got a curry plant too. The nasturtiums and pot marigold seeds I planted a while back have grown, but not flowered yet. 
Here is  is a fabulous reign of spreading rhodedendons at the front of the houses, which are at their peak at the moment in full flower.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Blossoms of Cherry and Plum Trees Herald of Spring

The blossoms are just starting to come out on the cherry and plum trees near Leazes Court

not sure if this is cherry or plum, but in late summer every year these cherry and plum trees  provide lots of fruit for the birds to enjoy

Gated Community (Leazes Court) on New Mills

Entrance to Leazes Court, aka Leazes Dwellings (New Mills Side) built around 1920

Benwell Cricket Club New Mills area

cleared land on the site of the Old Benwell  Cricket Club (Walter Terrace NE4) looking towards Spital Tongues and Jesmond (not to be confused with modern Benwell Hill Cricket Club, which is situated near Denton Burn, about 4 miles away)

Here we can also see Castle Leazes (University of Newcastle) Halls of Residence in the background on the right hand side
Does anyone know what is planned for this site? 

Saturday, 12 March 2011

George Shaw at the Baltic

On Thursday Jeff and I got the Quaylink electric bus to the Baltic to see the exhibitions by George Shaw: "The Sly and Unseen Day" and "Paine's Grey". The paintings were so wonderful, I loved all of them and could not even say which I liked best, probably the forest ones, not shown in the video. but if you do a google image search for george shaw sly and unseen  you will see them. Thank you George, Thank you Baltic!

Bizarre VAT rates

Anyone shopping at Lidl might notice weird facts about VAT as they itemise the VAT on the till receipts.
Food is zero rated and has a letter A beside it. Non food and luxury goods are charged at 20%.
So bizarrely, I see Energy Drink Light which is basically a chemical concoction soft drink  (sugar free copy of Red Bull) at 0.29 p, zero rated for VAT but multivitamin juice, which is pure fruit juice with added vitamins and minerals, is rated at 20% VAT and so more expensive, £0.99!

planting diary

Since a few years ago the communal gardens have become neglected. Contract ground workers come round a few times a year to trim the hedges and grass. No pruning or planting gets done.
So I asked our part time caretaker if he thought it would be OK if we did a bit ourselves, such as re-planting the lavender hedge under the kitchen window.
So when I saw blackcurrant and redcurrant bushes and climbing roses in Lidl at only £1.49 each, I bought them.
Wilkinson's had healthy looking lavender bushes at only £2.48 so I got one of those as well.
On Wednesday Steve from Time Exchange came round to help me with the planting. It looked like the soil was in quite good condition, but one of the Lidl bushes looked like it might be dead. We planted them anyway, and I did a bit of pruning on the leggy and  woody old lavender hedge, the bit that the winter frost and snow  had not killed off. Lavender plant went next to the old lavender  hedge near the kitchen window, climbing rose next to that so it can climb up the hedge, and the 2 fruit bushes outside the bedroom window.
So now we have to wait and see what grows.
The following day I heard a motor going and there were the contract gardeners, trimming the hedge, right above where we had just planted, covering the newly planted bushes in twigs and leaves!

Monday, 7 March 2011

Hunter's Moor

Approach to Crossroads at Hunter's Moor, junction of Ponteland Road, Barrack Road and Brighton Grove, with BBC building in the background

Early March Crocuses At Nun's Moor Park

more crocuses

Crocus carpet and Brighton Grove crossroads in the background

Nun's Moor Crocus Carpets

On Sunday Jeff and I made our first visit of the year to Nun's Moor Park. We had some bread for the birds.
The crocuses were in full bloom.

Friday, 4 March 2011

More on Gutters

Still no news about the renewal of our broken gutters.
On February 18th I received an email from North surveyor about the guttering.
Since I have not had any news, I decided to post it. 
If I feel the need to say who the landlord is, I will have it all here  in writing for anyone to read.

"we appreciate that you reported the broken guttering ...
in December 2010, and although these guttering repairs are still outstanding we would like to assure you that we are taking this matter seriously. However, we are not able to supply a start date for the repairs at this time, as due to the scale of the work required to carry out these repairs for the whole scheme, it has been necessary to refer the work to our insurance company for action."

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Broken crockery

A few days ago I had Paul the Painter in to paint and renovate the ceiling in the kitchen and long hallway.
I had some Ecos insulating paint left over from the bedroom ceiling so we used that.  I had to clear all the clutter off the surfaces in the kitchen. The pan of brown rice which was sitting on top of the stove got put away in the back of the cupboard.
Unfortunately I was not giving my whole attention when I got it out again, and the crappy shelf in the cupboard went askew and down fell my dishes and broke on the floor into many shards of glass and pottery.
One old casserole dish, maybe from ancestors in the distant past. One large  glass trifle dish, from Jeff's mother or maybe even older.
Oops, farewell to old dishes. Unfortunately now I have no casserole dishes at all.
I have been asked by Jeff to remind him to see if there are any spares in his kitchen or outhouse.
Also Deb gave me some scented candles in exchange for a radio I no longer needed, so Jeff is also going to look for old candlesticks lurking in the clutter hiding place of old dwellings.


I had an appointment to see the GP which I had made a few weeks ago when I was not feeling great. I had been short of breath and very tired. As usual last time I saw her she asked me to get a series of blood tests. So yesterday I went with Jeff to see her and get the results.
I had also been concerned about my ears.
 They hurt when I go out in the cold, I often have pains in them and I get drumming vibrating sensations when I hear certain pitches. So she had a look in my ears too. She says I have hyper acuity which is extra sensitive hearing.  My ears are so sensitive they overreact to certain sounds.
So everything else is ok and within normal ranges.

Duties of a Landlord Part 2

Paradoxically, I found that it would be helpful to put my letters about the poor state of the building on here, its as if I am putting it "out there" rather than hanging on to it.
So here is my letter of last year about the broken guttering, sent to the resident liaison officer of the landlord's repair contractor:

I am writing to ask if you have any more  news on the status of this repair.
We are into the third week with parts of the gutter completely missing and the part above the main door loose so you can see the sky through it when you look up. The rain and snow melt is running down the outside  walls, and onto the electrical cables which run above the main door.

In a recent leaflet sent by [landlord] we were asked to check leaking gutters and drains and report them.
We have reported them, so what happens now?

As they are attempting to meet Decent Homes Standards, this gutter problem will be compromising such plans and cause  the building to become increasingly damp and no longer weatherproof.

There are now at least 2 voids on the ground floor flats nearby, it is the ground floor flats (which all have concrete floors and poor ventilation) which will be affected by the broken guttering. My neighbour  next door and I have obtained dehumidifiers to help manage the damp conditions and are having them on all the time, also the heating bills are very high due to needing to combat the damp conditions.

As there are deadlines for completion of repairs, whether this would be classed as urgent or routine, my neighbours and I would appreciate an update on the progress of these works. 

The Duties of a Landlord

I have decided to post about what has been happening at home, with the state of the building.
It was strange that over the winter I was not feeling too good. There were a lot of things preying on my mind. Mum had a heart attack at the beginning of winter and we were all dealing with that. Then being stuck at home when the weather was so bad.
I went to see the GP and she said I was suffering from stress. 
I  decided to go to  Throssel Hole Buddhist Abbey for an intensive 3 day  meditation retreat...
Begin meditation at 6 am; Continue in different forms through the day, mainly in silence; Not much tea; lots of water; healthy wholefood, mainly vegan.
When I came home on Sunday I felt totally de-stressed. In fact I had forgotten what I was stressed about.
So now I am trying to change my life so that I don't react with stress. Not take on board worry work which is not my work. Let other people take responsibility for themselves and not try to conflictingly  "control" them. Take the advice of the occupational therapist and delegate more.
So, I am not going to try to do the landlord's job for them, and not worry about maintenance of the building . If they want to let it decay that is their problem.
Here is the letter I wrote a few weeks back.

 Dear Sir/Madam,
I am writing to you today to ask if you can tell me what is happening with the planned replacement of the broken guttering which I reported to [your contractor] on December 3, 2010.

As tenants we expect the landlord to provide prompt repairs to guttering and the external walls of our homes and this current  situation is completely unacceptable.

Earlier correspondence on this matter is copied for your attention  at the end.
I have now been told by
[your contractor] that the work is out of their hands, that all relevant personnel are aware of it  and [You] are now dealing with it.
The broken guttering is causing damp patches on the walls and on the floor near the external walls. At 3 points water came into the house after heavy rain and I had to get
[your contractor] to come out and fix the leaks.

I read in [your] Residents' Annual Report 2009/2010 North East:
95.5% homes meet Decent Homes Standard (weatherproof) and those which do not live in homes meeting Decent Homes  to be told why;
Residents to be involved in planned works.
[your contractor] staff have told me that:
1. we have to wait for improvement in weather conditions;
2. we have to wait for scaffolding contracts;
3.  it will be very expensive as both Newcastle [1] and Newcastle [2] estates have to have guttering replaced.

In the meantime while we are waiting (over 2 months now) our homes are deteriorating and becoming damp. My neighbours and I  have chronic health conditions and are  under the care of hospital doctors  and the damp is affecting our health, and making our homes very expensive to heat.

I would appreciate a detailed explanation in writing (email is preferable) as to why this work has not been carried out and to be given  a date for commencement.

Thank you for your assistance in this matter,
Your sincerely,

Monday, 31 January 2011


Pylon's Jewelled Sky Bracelets Shine in the Winter Sun.
There are a lot of electrical pylons at Newburn. You can hear them hissing if you stand near them.
The sky is such a lovely colour behind the pylons.
Pylon Buddha conducts Electricity to West End of Newcastle and Newburn

Tyne Riverside Country Park

Our first real walk of the year, we decided to go to

Tyne Riverside Country Park at Newburn

The River Tyne can be seen on the right of the path, on which some snow still lingers.

The river Tyne on the left, and you can see the tracks made by bicycles. Please visit there for latest news from Herbwormwood