So where's the snow?

Muddling through life from Austria to Wales; God, life and a small black dog

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The Journey#2

It was strange sitting so high in the van, but Mark is a professional driver, so I let go and really tried not to drive with him. He cut in and out in a way I’d never have the courage to do. At the border with Germany, we unexpectedly caught a jam. Two accidents, then we sailed through. We stopped after four hours as we reckoned that Swingle would sleep. After that, we made it every couple of hours. It was a warm day, and we made sure we kept her hydrated. She would be so pleased to see us, then leap out to all the great smells in the stops. I just loved all the changing scenery as we went through Germany and France. We reached Calais, after one major jam for a car accident. Swingle was scared by the sirens, but we couldn’t get her out and it took half an hour to find a place to stop, but she had calmed by then. Mark has been moving animals for years and he was completely right about how she would handle it. The dark place became safe for her.

We got to our hotel in Calais in good time as Mark knew a shortcut that by bypassed a load of traffic. We parked in a compound that housed all the vehicles for the Calais police force. They kept a van permanently parked there. During the night, they set off some alarms and there was shouting; I guess they had arrested someone. We saw a group of non uniformed officers going off on plain clothes duty. And in our room, Swingle’s water got spilled all over the floor! We went for a walk, but there were no parks. We couldn’t find an evening meal so ended up getting snacks from Lidl! The air was warm and it was a hot, close night. Despite having drinking lots on the journey, Swingle downed two bowls of water in the room. That resulted in two trips out in the night and a poop. We went to our rooms in the lift first of all, she scared herself by seeing a black dog in the lift mirror and looked for it behind the mirror. Then her tail stopped the door shutting. In the night, we took her to the huge roundabout opposite the hotel, so much traffic in the day she loved it. She had major sensory overload on each stop, from so many other dogs!

We were zombie like in the morning. We left for the P&O ferry at Calais; the tunnel having gone up hugely in price at the beginning of the summer. Mark was nervous as there had been so many problems with the border control over the Covid months, and he’d just heard that from the weekend, France would be only accepting essential UK travellers.

We went to the first booth, manned by two grumpy looking officers who wouldn’t speak but ordered us to the UK border control. There were various groups from Romania etc, who seemed to be having problems getting through. When or turn came, we had a smile and waved through. Mark had told us we had our location forms linked to our passports, so I guessed all was Ok. We felt a huge relief.

When we got to the P&O kiosk, the proverbial hit the fan. Inside was sat a poker faced guy, with long hair and glasses, and wouldn’t react to Mark’s politeness. We had to do all the forms, and he refused our location forms because I hadn’t put we had come through France, so our form was green for Austria, not Amber for France. I was getting my files and laptop to change it, but Mark did a whole new form. It got us through, but I’m having kittens that on Monday morning I’ll get a call from Gov UK demanding an explanation. Then the chip reader couldn’t find Swingles chip, and grumpy pants had to get another. We queued for the ferry, glad to have left grumpy pants behind. We guessed he was part of the French not liking the UK, and he didn’t want to do all these checks. Then as we were about to board, one of the Marshalls said we were missing a yellow sticker, Grumpy’s bloodymindedness or stress?

Once on, we left Swingle in the van and had breakfast in the lorry drivers’ café, the staff were so helpful and I even got some gluten free toast, eggs and bacon! She was fine, maybe the ferry’s engine’s made her think the van was moving, we certainly didn’t need to dope her. Once off the ferry, we sailed through customs  much to Mark’s relief. I felt a bit emotional at finally returning home, but was so tired, I remained calm. The journey to Wales was uneventful, with few traffic jams. We took all our furniture to the store, and they opened up for us. It seemed so little. Swingle was reaching the end of her tether with the box. She started scratching to get out of it each time we shut the door, only to quieten when the engine started. At the store, I tied her to a trolley and gave her a big chew that cheered her up. At the hotel she was out like a bullet, having been in the rattly, empty bus.

Then in Cardiff, the road was closed to the hotel, and Mark drove us around the block to find it He was so kind to do it, we were all geared up to catch the train into Cardiff. He made all the difference to the trip. I would have gone to pieces with the driving and the problems. But our troubles were over. When we checked in, our Covid tests hadn’t arrived. I rang the firm, who said they had been returned due to a wrong address. I had written in the name from the booking form and had been unable to find a number and had the right post code. The bloke was really helpful, although I was so angry. Why hadn’t I been contacted? I had been under such stress I’d forgotten that I should get a text when they were despatched, it seems royal mail didn’t even dispatch them and the man hinted it was my fault for not writing hotel on the address. He promised to get them dispatched asap Monday, but did hint it was my fault for not writing hotel! But I checked all the documents, and non had hotel on the name. It remains to see if they will turn up. And we won’t take the rest on Monday, He said it was okay to do it on the third, as it was due to courier failure. I just hope.

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The Journey#1

We have been packing for months and I have been missing my books for so long. Dave finished his job at the Castle. We had been dithering about what to do. We wanted to take a holiday and should we do it in Austria or the UK. We could store in Wales and then go off visiting. We prayed over it. We also couldn’t decide between driving over or to go with the man and van who could take the dog. So, I rang him, and he was free for the weekend of August 13-15th.

That Wednesday, I told the Docs that I would leave, regardless of what we decided, and drove home with the electric lawnmower in the back of the car. Over the railway line, and clunk! I lost all drive and drove the Panda right, fortunately off the road and into a car park. The OAMTC was called, and I was towed to the garage where we had bought it. They said they would diagnose and call us back. I lashed out and got a taxi home. When they called, it was the coupling between the gearbox and the engine. €900. It also needed €700 for a new timing belt, which we hadn’t had done after the last MOT. The next day, we sold it back to the garage for €2200, along with the trailer. A friend saw us at the bus stop, gave us a lift in and took all the gear from the back of the car home for us. The garage then picked up the trailer. We then took the train back after getting the money.

Stress went on up. In our last week, we had to do a changeover for a holiday house for a friend, but at least, he picked us up. Then it was a list writing time of all that needed doing. I had to order covid tests for us to travel, which would be done in Tamsweg. I had to fill in a transfer of residence form for the DVLC (thanks Brexit) which meant writing an inventory, so this couldn’t be done until we’d packed most things. Once the tests were done, I had to do a Passenger location form for travelling, and book  more tests, with proof for Day 2 in the UK.

On top of all this, packing up, and we had to leave so much junk, because we couldn’t get to the tip.I was overtired and got in a panicky stress about the timing of the forms. Dave said he was worried about me, as I struggled with all the information, but he wouldn’t lift a finger to help me do the things because they were on the computer. I had a complete meltdown, threw things at him, and stormed out. It was good to clear the air, but didn’t lessen the load, but at least he was good at packing.

We walked in the heat to the Covid test station at Tamsweg, to find they had only noted one appointment. I was really worried about doing the test, but they were helpful. The next day, while in the last flurry of packing, I left to meet my best mate, Jenny to have lunch and say bye, only to get a phone call saying the van man, Mark, had made great time and was nearly there. Dave wasn’t amused. I got back, asap. Swingle even got into the box in the van, so that worry lessened. Then Mark saw the pile of boxes and books and DVDs. We got them in, and he said he was worried that the van would be overloaded. So, we went to Lager haus, who had a weighbridge. The van was 400kg overweight, without most of the furniture. We had to leave one or the other behind. It broke my heart to think all my books that I had already missed for over a year, might have to be lost. Then I remembered some friends of our who run a freight company and rang them. They could get them back! So we piled them on a pallet ready for collection. Soon, the van was packed, but even so, we had to leave more furniture behind than planned. Door shut, Mark was off to sleep, only to find the bloke at reception of the village Pension I’d booked, hadn’t heard of the booking and for a while, we thought we might have to find another. We went on packing the last things, and putting rubbish into bags. I thought the vet had forgotten Swingle, and we didn’t get there till nearly nine to get her passport done. More stress. On top of this, the Red Cross had sent only one text for the results, and while the QR codes worked, I couldn’t tell which one belonged to who0. In the end, hoping I wouldn’t cause them to be blocked, I put one set of details in, then found which one was which. BUT, I needed to print them out, they were on the phone as PDF files, and I couldn’t get them to the PC to print. Finally, I found a way to convert them to word and could save them to email and print. Maybe if I had been less tired, I would have worked it out quicker. I had already woken early in the morning stressing that I hadn’t a QR code reader on my phone and didn’t know how to use one. It turned out I just needed to download the test company App, but as above could only do it for one test.

In the early morning, I got fed up at not being able to take so many of our things, hiding my favourite mugs in the bedding. Mark arrived at 3am, and in the darkness, we put the last things in. Swingle, with her smelly rugs, jumped happily into the crate. It was in the dark and padded with the mattresses, so she shouldn’t be too hot. I had filled out all the forms, working late into the evenings the night before, but I had it all ready in my folder. We left Madling in darkness and it wasn’t until about five it got light.

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Niedermohr – a place without culture

View from Guest house window

Niedermohr, the village we stayed in, I found fascinating and found out what all I could. The whole area is very low-lying and is obviously drained water meadows with thick black soil.  Yet at the top od the hills, the land is red, like in Devon, and I found they think it is full of sand, copper and iron. 

The houses I soon noticed had their cellar windows above ground and asked the Landlady if this was right.  She said the area is prone to flooding and where they are converting an old house, the earth cellar is constantly wet and they have to lag it.

She herself offered the idea that this area is without culture.  They local population was wiped out by every plague that has swept Europe, with only a resurgence in the 16/17th century before another bout of illness.  It’s not surprising with the low lying, swampy nature of the land. There  was a couple of battles there in the 18th century and a couple of castles still survive.  Farming is decline apart from growing Maize for heating fuel. So how do you attract people to an area where there is no culture?  Is this an attraction in itself?  The village looked just like a commuter belt place, no shop, just the station and many old farmhouses either abandoned or converted into flats. Most of the income in the area is generated by working for or coming from the USA airbase.There is the attraction of miles and miles of unlimited riding or walking.  But this would have to be marketed, with maybe a marked path such as the Niedermohr route if you see what I mean.  The couple who run the Guest house where we stayed have just built extra flats, and maybe they can bring the riders in if they create a riding centre – but the buildings at the Riding school require a bit of investment to get up to licensed standard, at the moment it’s just half livery,maybe if someone needs to invest in a whole new centre! Yet I feel they are on the right way, maybe Niedermohr will just have a horsey culture of its own!

Maybe you could visit to for a ride!

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So where’s the snow…….gone?


I’m sat here, feeling exhausted and really stiff after my trek into Germany.  Since I’ve been away, there’s been a major thaw, I can’t believe that my garden which was under a good two feet of snow now is only half covered.  The first thing I noticed when I got out the car was the sound of the waterfall.  Muted by the ice and lack of water, it’s now roaring and brown as the water escapes the valley.

 We made the news twice while I was away you can see thus clip above until Friday. The first night when the Firebrigade had to pump out properties in Tamsweg, including where Dave works, and lay sand bags. The snow was melting so fast but the ice was still blocking all the rivers and drains.  The next day, Madling made it too.  On the hill above us where in 2007 we had landslides, the earth was starting to wash down the hill which could lead to the same result, so again the Fireman were clearing the streams  down to the Thomotalerbach.  Now today its raining. I can hear the rain on our metal windowsills, which I love hearing when I’m warm and sat indoors!  Hopefully that means its snowing higher up, but there are avalanche warnings galore and someones been killed in one in Obertauern.

I’m really quite sad that it’s all disappearing so rapidly, I’ve really got into the snow this year!  Perhaps we’ve lost the snow  because its taken itself to other parts of the world instead – see articles!

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Having the rug pulled from under my feet?

Rodi and Lewis after a mock hold up of a train for someones birthday!


I have felt really sure that working at the castle was exactly where God wanted me to be, endorsed by the complete peace I’ve had in my life this summer.  My garden has been a constant source of joy, walking brilliant and I’ve made great new friends. Ididn’t miss working for Lewis and I had Rodi to ride when I wanted.  Rodi suffers from summer excema and so has to be rugged.  So I made sure I went there at least once a week to check, as after all, he is on  livery there and Lewis is paid to do the mucking out etc.  The owners live in Germany, a lovely family and they had asked me to do this when I was working there.  In a way, it was a link to the horses, a vital part of my life like an umbilical cord holding me onto one of the most important things in my life.   I’d given horses up once already when I left England, so it was the most beautiful blessing when I began to have them back in my life here. 

I havent missed the teaching the kids because working with Lewis was such a nightmare – long hours and seven days  a week, even when he was home from hospital. Lewis is 76, grumpy and autocratic.  Last year when we were in the UK for a wedding, he fell off  TWICE,broke ten ribs and punctured a lung.  When I returned it was to run the stables all summer, with him constantly on the phone, no breaks and having to go each evening to the hospital to meet him,cash up and do the next days programme.  When I asked for some time off later in September, he asked me why as I was only part-time, in the end I had to get a Doctors note before I could!   I worked all winter too, each month asking him how much work was coming in and he always bluffed, and of course he wasnt able to ride or even tighten a girth. I felt just a bit trapped.  The financial  dip was a disaster for us.  Then one day in March, without a word to me , he got back on a horse and began to take rides.  So I had half too little work, so I left.  Just one thank you would have made it all different…. I had no life last summer, no time with Dave, for walking or even looking after the house and garden, no life at all, I couldn’t face another summer like this.

So Rodi’s owners were recently here and we only met a couple of times, Dave had the car, or I missed them, but I saw them just before they left and all was great.  The one of their kids rang and said Gina ( who I’ve ridden with) had asked to look after Rodi as he always dirty standing in the stable.  I was so shocked I said yes, no problems. I still can ride him when I want. As I rang off, I felt real guilt that maybe I hadn’t been there enough, but of course when I had been to the stables mid afternoon, often no one was there….maybe once a week was being lazy, but he was fine and clean when I did go.  I really hadn’t  felt he was neglected. Then it hurt SO much, it’s not logical I know, it’s the best thing for Rodi and great for Gina who needs a horse.  I’ve also all along said I didn’t want to be tied to going to the stables so much and I wanted my life back.  But it hurts so much, losing that link to the one major theme in my life.

This Saturday we went to a wonderful party with lots of English people who live in this region, it was great meeting new folk and having a chance to share experiences, and just have fun.  Then the next day as I was cleaning the loos, it came to me that apart from Austria I had nothing in common with some of these new people, and ordinarily maybe our paths would never cross.  I felt a huge wave of almost homesickness for Edith and Rodi’s owners and the stables because I relate to them.  Have I after all  made a wrong turning in my determination to have time to be at home and go walking in the mountains, be  more with Dave? Feeling I’m on the right track has created  a sense of enduring peace that also lately makes me feel like a hollow vessel, with nothing inside , nothing interesting or vital inside, just empty. Maybe its just a waiting phase for when the new church begins to be planned in the autumn. If this is what we were called here for, it could be the mist important hing I’ve ever done.  I really couldn’t face another summer with Lewis.  Or was I meant to really go on with Edith and the horse therapy, was it laziness on my part?  What could I do with the state of our finances? Edith has said I’m welcome to ride her horse Luca anytime and I’m overwhelmed by her generosity as I’m now feeling so guilty about letting her down. How much of  my actions have been coloured by what is now clear to me as a fear of this awful tiredness?I’m going to see the Doctor as soon as he’s back from holiday, maybe I do need some HRT or something.   But most importantly I’m praying for some form of confirmation……………………..

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The valley if full of farmers cutting grass for hay again, after about two weeks of really cold weather. The Lungau is so beautiful, green and abundant.  My garden is blooming and we ate the first Kohl rabi from the veggy plot.  Wonderful.  Dave’s brother and wife come next week for a visit, so maybe not posting till after.  Bringing their 12 year old son with them, who asked if he could visit Hitler’s grave.  I just hope being in a strange land shuts the little blighter up!   Better still George is coming for three days in August with his girlfriend, and will be over his birthday.  Can’t wait.  The job is the easiest I’ve ever done and the weekends off such a bonus. Life is really great at the  moment and it just makes me so glad that when the joy bubbles that, I know where it is coming from.  And I can reflect how he loved me first, before I loved him, and this is how I know he’s with me, and I thank him in my spirit for this oneness we have.