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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    are monks from within the monastery and they soon find themselves investigating a murder I find it much more relaxing to write fiction than factual stuff I can just sit down at my computer and let my imagination take over We ve had a bit of good news since my last report Eleanor our eldest grandchild has been offered a sports scholarship to a college in the States As you can imagine she s very excited and is spending all her spare time preparing for the experience Among other things she had to queue from 7am outside an office in Newcastle to do the required STAT test and then travel to the American Embassy in London for a visa She needs cash for air fares and passport so she s taken on several jobs She does a couple of mornings in a shop helps with a sports club coaches young tennis players and strings racquets for friends When she s finished all this she plays competitive tennis and goes to the gym to improve her fitness as she will be expected to play tennis for her American college next year We re all very proud of her achievement Eleanor s brother Angus is also a tennis whizz and has been picked to play for Yorkshire this season What wonderful sporting opportunities and facilities youngsters have these days Our youngest granddaughter Isabel was involved in celebrations when the Olympic torch came to York Twenty three primary schools took part in competitions on the Knavesmire racecourse and Rhoda went along to support them Izzy is in her last year at junior school and will join her siblings Anna and Angus at secondary school in September It doesn t seem any time at all since she was in her buggy they grow up

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-072012.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    lunch we spent a very pleasant hour walking around the water trying to spot something special from the hides We saw lots of gulls and waders but if there were any unusual visitors they were keeping out of sight Scaling Dam is open to visitors and is a popular venue for water sports and fishing We motored on avoiding Saltburn and bypassing Runswick Bay then just beyond Sandsend I turned right into the grounds of the superb new Raithwaite Hall Hotel which is tucked away in a pretty ravine We parked the car booked into reception and were shown to a very comfortable room with a splendid bathroom with walk in shower Rhoda was suitably impressed particularly when we went outside to explore the beautifully laid out gardens snaking through the ravine We had a very good dinner in the restaurant with a bottle of champagne and retired to our room with a DVD Next day we drove to Falling Foss near Littlebeck and had a pleasant walk through the woods The Maybeck here was not flowing very fast but when it is in flood the waterfall is spectacular For me the joy was walking through the tranquil woodland which is full of ancient moss covered trees A little further on from the waterfall is a huge hollowed out boulder known as The Hermitage Its interior is supposed to have been hewn out of the rock by a man called George Chubb His initials and the date 1790 are above the door We didn t manage to get as far as that but I m sure we would have welcomed a rest on the two wishing chairs inside the cave Instead we retraced our steps back to the car and drove down to the Bridge Inn next to the railway

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-052012.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    busy for most of Sunday morning shoveling snow from the drive Then I had to clear a path to the log store another to the greenhouse and the compost bins not forgetting a path to the front door for the newspaper boy All this effort got my circulation going and I was really looking forward to a nice mug of cocoa and a read of the Sunday papers Unfortunately I was thwarted as the usually reliable delivery boy didn t make it through the snow so I had to haul myself out of my comfy chair and dash down to the local shop before they sold out Sunday is not Sunday without a pile of papers to wade through Today however is an unseasonably warm winter s day and I ve just had a very pleasant wander around the garden in the sunshine The plants put on considerable growth during the mild weather we had at the turn of the year and the garden never did take on that dreary back end look Winter pansies and primulas have bloomed continuously and now we re getting all the delights of spring bulbs We always put out food for the birds and have been delighted to see a cock pheasant and a green woodpecker as well as the usual visitors We took part in the RSPB big garden birdwatch at the end of January and realised that we ve not seen the many greenfinches or house sparrows this winter and no siskins at all But we have had visits from a grey squirrel and no matter where we hang the feeders he always manages to get to them We ve also had a mysterious visitor around the compost bins but have been unable to identify it We empty our hoover bags into

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-022012.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    of us went off to investigate We discovered my birthplace is now a holiday cottage and was unoccupied but the kindly neighbours invited us in for a cup of tea and Christmas cake served with a slab of cheese in the traditional Yorkshire way After much reminiscing and chat we took our leave and headed off to Sandsend on the coast near Whitby I d promised Rhoda we d fit in a walk on the beach but as we parked up we noticed the tide was very high However it was on the turn and we were able to squeeze in a bracing walk much to Rhoda s pleasure A few days after this we had a major office panic Rhoda s computer crashed I ve got a blue screen and dire messages she said I went to have a look Hmm nasty I hadn t a clue what to do We tried all the usual tricks like rebooting and unplugging things but the blue screen kept returning to menace us In the end we capitulated and sent for Andy our computer chap and now we have a brand new state of the art Applemac The beautiful wide screen looks amazing and it talks to our new Ipad which is great but trying to get to grips with all the applications is challenging to say the least You ll fall for it and absolutely love it Andy was very reassuring So far this courtship is proceeding somewhat slowly and the next test of this love affair is to see if I can persuade our new toy to add a picture to this diary entry We ll see Computer savvy grandson No 1 is coming over on Sunday to take some photographs for his GCSE Fine Art exam so if I

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-012012.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    older I felt it was time for a history lesson in what these abbeys really were all about So I sat them down and asked them if they remembered our visits to Byland Rievaulx and Fountains Oh yes they said they were great fun Are we going again today I told them yes we were going to an abbey but not to a ruin This would be a very different experience and they wouldn t be able to run shout or play at soldiers This was to be a serious visit and they must be very quiet and respectful but they would find out what Byland Rievaulx and Fountains were like hundreds of years ago when they were thriving communities with lots of monks and lay people living and working there They didn t seem put off by this prospect so we set off to walk the half mile from our house to Ampleforth Abbey We entered by the huge south door and let them stand for a minute to take in the size and height of this impressive church Then we headed to the undercroft It is quite dark down there and they seemed impressed with the spooky atmosphere It s a bit like Hogwarts whispered Jasper We did a tour of the numerous chapels and then came up into the monks choir where I explained how the monks came here several times a day to recite their offices and prayers Then we climbed the stone spiral stairs at the rear of the Nave and they sat quietly in the gallery listening to someone practising on the huge four manual Walker organ They could see the monks coming and going about their daily chores and one came into the church to light candles on the altar After five minutes

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-112011.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    of tea Just yards away is the shoreline and at low tide areas of salt marsh and mudflats stretch out to the horizon The whole area is overgrown with sea lavender which looks a bit like heather and spends half its time submerged in salt water Mussels are harvested from beds here to be served fresh in local restaurants After tea we ventured out for a short walk and stepped straight onto the Norfolk coastal path that runs directly in front of the hotel The path meanders past pretty cottage gardens a small harbour and sheds where fishermen process and sell their catches I like to think this area has changed little over the years Just good sea breezes sunshine and the marvels of the natural world Brancaster Staithe remains a true working village where you can buy lots of locally caught fish crabs lobsters and oysters as well as cockles and mussels Returning to our terrace table for an aperitif before dinner we watched the sun sinking into a wide expanse of pink and understood why artists and painters marvel at the vast empty skies of Norfolk One of our reasons for choosing this particular area was to visit some of the spectacular nature reserves so next day we went to Titchwell This coastal RSPB site has featured on the BBC Nature Watch programmes and the centre posts a daily record of the rarities seen on the reserve and gives their location and the vantage point or hide from which the observations were made Armed with yesterday s sandwiches and a flask of coffee we wasted no time and set out with the intention of getting as close to the action as possible When the tide recedes at Titchwell acres of mudflats are exposed leaving rich feeding grounds for thousands of seabirds and water fowl Many are seasonal visitors and migrants but some have made their permanent homes in these wild areas In late summer an astonishing variety can be seen we saw redshanks turnstones knots and godwits to name but a few The keen bird watchers were looking out for the elusive bittern but as interested amateurs we were just bowled over to spot several Little Egrets a Marsh Harrier Little Stints a huge flock of dunlins skimming across the water at breakneck speed and some strikingly handsome Egyptian geese digging in the mud not forgetting a beautiful charm of goldfinches feeding on thistles The reserve path eventually led us onto the sand dunes and beach and we sat down to eat our snack Very soon we were joined by a rather inquisitive gull Not recognising it Rhoda thumbed through our bird books and decided this was something special She announced quite emphatically that it must be a Bonaparte s gull rarely seen on these shores according to the book I wasn t so sure but she wouldn t let me check her observations and later when someone asked us if we d seen anything of note she

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-102011.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    of miles to verify facts and visit churches and other buildings It s the only way to get to the heart of my subject but I m finding it quite fascinating albeit at times frustrating and exhausting My long suffering wife has been patient and helpful she s rather good at digging out obscure facts from the internet She s also very good at giving me space and protecting me from telephone and doorbell interruptions If I had a bigger garden I d take a leaf out of George Bernard Shaw s book He took over his wife s summerhouse for a writing studio at the bottom of his garden and when anyone came to call on him Charlotte could truthfully say Sorry I m afraid he s out When I ve finished my first draft then I ll take a break for a few days Rhoda has found a very nice family run hotel on the coast We ll spend time walking watching wildlife and indulging Rhoda s passion for visiting gardens Then in the evenings we can relax on the terrace with a glass of wine and take in the sunset while some clever chef conjures up a

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-092011.html (2016-02-17)
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  • Nicholas Rhea's Diary
    a tale about Claude s childhood dream of seeing the Flying Scotsman but even when he was fully grown he d never seen the famous green steam engine One night he was doing a spot of poaching and at 3am took a short cut home through Aidensfield railway station and the station master s garden Whilst he was trespassing on railway property he heard someone stealing scrap metal from a pipe wagon the station lights came on as he shouted at the gang of thieves They ran off but he couldn t hang around otherwise he d risk being suspected of the theft So he concealed himself as the lights blazed and then lo and behold the Flying Scotsman steamed through Aidensfield station It was on a secret test run after repairs Claude couldn t believe what he was seeing but he daren t tell anyone otherwise he d be accused of theft So he sneaked home leaving a brace of pheasants hanging on the station master s garden gatepost Ralph liked my story and soon I found myself in a meeting with staff at the North York Moors Railway discussing how to transport a massive 9 ton railway wagon from Pickering to Birmingham by road and where to obtain several dozen railway sleepers None of this seemed to faze Ralph and by the first week of June thanks to the generosity of North York Moors Railway volunteers the wagon a railway seat station lamp porter s trolley and other items of old railway equipment were delivered to the garden festival site Several metres of track and railway sleepers were provided by Doncaster Trackworks Then began the daunting and backbreaking task of putting it all in place Cue Ralph s friends relatives and anyone else who happened to be around

    Original URL path: http://www.nicholasrhea.co.uk/author/archives/archive-072011.html (2016-02-17)
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