Sunday, 21 May 2023

Up in the air


Vertiginous shots from the top of St Mary's Church at Hawkesbury. It doesn't look that high from the ground, but it felt a bit scary up there to be honest. And it was a very tight squeeze going up the stairs and out of the tiny door at the top. Lovely views though, so all worth it. I didn't go too close to the edge, the parapet wasn't very high and I'm definitely one for keeping below parapets whenever possible.

No Mow May is in full swing in the garden. There are all sorts of flowers coming up, which is nice. There is a tiny scrap of grass near here and I have counted at least 12 different wildflowers in it. It's around one metre by two metres and just stuck at the edge of the pavement. But so much variety in there, it's wonderful, I have been fascinated by it.

The wisteria is in full swing in the garden and I have spent far too long looking out of the window at it. The dog keeps standing right under/in the flowers wagging his tail because of the loveliness of it all so that the petals fall off on him, then he brings them all into the house on his fur and they fall off all over the carpet. And the littlest boy dropped a cactus in his bed this morning. So all of the usual clearing up to be done around the homestead.

I took the middle boy to an author book signing thing last week. The author has a book on astropolitics out and the event sounded really interesting. In fact it was a big disappointment. The interviewer was a young chap from a local paper who just asked a load of questions about the author's childhood heroes and how he got into journalism. Astropolitics was hardly mentioned. There must have been almost a hundred people there and I bet they largely felt the same. Of course we all clapped politely at the end. It's like the green bench all over again. Which incidentally has not faded in any meaningful way and is still really shiny and really bright. 

I have been hedge trimming today, but the battery will only hold enough charge to trim for two minutes at a time. I am taking the hint and giving up. I did make sure there were no nesting birds before starting.

I discovered The Glucose Goddess the other day. She is all about keeping glucose levels steady, which is something I struggle with sometimes. I remember years ago going to the doctor about it and she had absolutely no idea what I was talking about. There seems to be a lot more knowledge and understanding about it all now.

The Glucose Goddess has lots of simple recommendations for avoiding glucose spikes, such as drinking apple cider vinegar before meals and adding more fibre to a dish and eating things at different times than you might otherwise - such as fruit after a meal and not on its own. It's all been very enlightening. 

Right, I am off to do a final two minutes of hedge trimming now, then it will be weeding the strawberries and then maybe going to the shop and buying some strawberries that someone else has grown and weeded and watered. I hope all is well at your end and that you have sunshine and some berries. xx

Sunday, 16 April 2023

42 notebooks


I have just uploaded all of the above photos to my blog in one fell swoop and it has made me so happy. I used to be able to do lots at once, then something weird happened and every single one had to be done individually. I just tried it the old way and hurray, it is back. All in a random order, but I'm not complaining.

The magnolia in the top photo is a stunted little tree in a pot. It was supposed to be a white one, but it was grafted and the grafted top died, so I was just left with the root. Every year it hardly grows and snails eat at least half of it and all summer it just looks sad and I think, 'I'll compost it and move on", and yet I never do. And then in spring it pushes out a handful of flowers and I vow to look after it better. 

The middle boy loves a bit of philosophy and the dog likes to visit his room and bring his toys with him. In this case a zebra with no ears left. Or any other parts either really. That is the joy of a dog toy to Bertie, taking the bits off of them, one by one. And when it comes to new dog beds, the real pleasure is discovering what the stuffing is like. 

He had a bit of a disgraceful walk this morning, just for a change. First of all he ate something before I could call him off. Okay, I wouldn't have been able to call him off, but let's just pretend I could if I'd spotted it all in time. Then he found a pigeon's egg and ate that and it didn't smell fresh. At all. Then he spotted his friend and ran to catch up because her person has a pocket full of really big dog treats. He sat down in front of her so that she couldn't keep walking and felt obliged to get the treats out. He gulped his down in one, then when his friend popped hers on the path for a minute so that she could readjust it, he ate that one too. It's not the first time he's done it either, he has form. She's a rescue dog who used to live on the street in a far-flung country, but to look at the two of them you would think he was the one who was worried about where his next meal is coming from. She is all dainty and polite and he is a grabber and a stuffer.

The younger two urchins were away on a school trip last week. Oh the peace. Literally not one raised voice all week. Teachers are utterly marvellous aren't they. A whole week with other people's children. I got so much work done. Which is just as well as I've got stacks of it at the moment. All good, but a bit wearing. The odd afternoon off would be nice, but I'm pretty much working every day, have been for ages. It makes me slightly stressed when I think about the other things that need to be done, but it's nice to have the work and I'm not complaining. 

I am reading Ninth House and avoiding David Copperfield, which is what the middle boy says I should be reading, before I get to Barbara Kingsolver's Demon Copperhead, which I am very much looking forward to. David Copperfield has a lot of pages and all of them have a lot of words on them and they are printed in a very small font. I wouldn't mind, I do like Charles Dickens, but my reading time is short and David would take up all of it for a very long time. 

I fear the cricket season is on the horizon. Grass has been mowed, boundary netting is up, white lines are being painted. There are four pairs of cricket pads in the house (at least) and the littlest boy claims that none of them fit him. It will pain me to have to purchase more. And we are running out of storage space. There must be at least seven golf bags in the garage and three giant cricket bags in the house as well as a piano and several guitars. I take up almost no room in comparison to everyone else. Just a small cardigan collection modest capsule wardrobe, a jar of kefir and 42 notebooks. 

How is everything at your end? Lots of space or all crammed in amongst the cricket gear? Hope all going well. CJ xx

Sunday, 26 March 2023

Anything worm


Lovely to feel a bit of spring in the air is it not? On Sunday evening after the clocks sprang forward, the dog walk in daylight was absolutely blissful. Suburbia was so quiet except for birdsong, everywhere. And me yelling at the dog not to eat random stuff that he finds on the pavement.

I emptied the liquid out of the bottom of the wormery the other day. It's excellent for feeding plants, but very stinky, although in a good organic sort of a way. A bit like pig manure for example. All marvellous and natural, but a bit on the pungent side. The dog thinks it is all utterly delicious. He found a tub of worm liquid with an ill-fitting lid and drank a load down. Sigh.

In fact, he likes anything worm. He often finds one on the grass and rolls on it. A bit like other dogs and things left behind by foxes. Bert doesn't do that. He has other plans for that. Then he eats the worm. I think he views them as tasty little bits of ready-to-eat meat. Like teenage boys and Fridge Raiders. Vaguely edible, although not really advisable and of relatively unknown origin. (I don't buy Fridge Raiders, for the record. Hopefully you knew that. In fact, my fridge is generally of very great disappointment to the family. Full of aubergine and kefir and kimchi, which is all viewed with a huge amount of suspicion.)

Did I tell you that I nearly superglued all of my fingers together? I am a great one for mending stuff and much of what I own is held together in various way. I was repairing my watch strap and I couldn't open the superglue. I stabbed at it and without my realising it opened and went all over my hand. By the time I noticed, I was very nearly glued solidly to both the watch strap and my own fingers. It was a very close thing. I remember when superglue was first invented, people were always gluing themselves to stuff. Now most people seem to have got the hang of it.

Apologies if I have told you that tale before. I don't have much actual news. A couple of weeks ago, two loose Alsations ran up our road. The dog was watching in the window and went absolutely beserk at the post-apocalyptic horror of it. He doesn't do well with Alsations. And they were big, and in a pack of two and completely free and alone. They trotted into the front garden of the house over the road and set off their Tibetan terriers just for the hell of it, then on they went. It was all so fast that by the time I had my shoes on and was out the door, they had vanished. I think the police rounded them up later on.

Anyway, I told the biggest boy when he rang. And then a week or two later, I told him again, in a breathless and excited sort of way. He politely told me that I had in fact already mentioned that. I was a bit deflated as that was literally all of my news. 

I have given up sugar for Lent. I always feel better for it. And also salty snacks. Oh how I love a salty snack. I have found a brilliant sugar-free flapjack recipe though. I am still having a tiny bit of dried fruit, so I am allowing myself that. 

Recipe here if you are interested. I put the soaked dates in the food processor with most of the oats and blitz them that way and it works really nicely. And I put vanilla extract in instead of cinnamon. And I don't cook them for too long. And I don't use the dried apple, but a bit of dried apricot. And sometimes some nuts. It's absolutely scrumptious. I have been looking for a good low sugar flapjack recipe for so long. 

On the 30th I believe it is my blogaversary. Ten years of blogging! That has seen the urchins through from 9, 7 and 4 to 19, 17 and 14. Oh my. And it is also the dog's birthday. Six! I am getting him a new dog bed. And if he finds a worm, maybe I won't yell. Hope all is well at your end. xx

Thursday, 16 February 2023

In praise of big trees

Photos from a glorious afternoon dog walk with the middle boy on his birthday the other day. 17 no less. He keeps muttering things about motorbikes. I pretend I haven't heard.

We were driving home the other day and we spotted a car that someone had driven actually into the front door of a house on a neighbouring road. The house was on the corner so I'm guessing someone went around it a little too fast. Very annoying for the homeowner who had no use of their front door for several days until it was removed. When we got home we found a brown envelope on the mat containing the middle boy's provisional driving licence.

Locally, it seems to be all about trees and hacking things back at the moment. A large number of mature trees have been removed, many of them ash trees with ash die-back I think. A few saplings have been planted to replace them. Fair enough. But the local authority is absolutely obsessed with cutting back hedgerows to almost nothing which is a bit rubbish. I just wrote, 'I am in a permanent fury' and then deleted it. Wouldn't want you to think I am all cross all of the time, but it does REALLY bother me.

Out of the window I can see a wonderful tree. Pictures below.

I always look at it when I get up to stretch and procrastinate. It's lovely and so many different species of birds use it, including for roosting at night and for nesting. There was another one, but it has been removed. I live in fear of this one going as well. But for now it is there, in all its glory. It amazes me how much habitat a single tree provides. It only takes up a few square feet on the ground, but in the air, a whole world of wildlife. Absolutely wonderful. 

Over the past two or three days the frogs have started getting out and about again. The littlest boy and I saw three on the evening dog walk alone today. Sadly, they are struggling to find garden ponds these days. I think about putting one in the front garden sometimes, but then I would worry about the traffic if it attracted frogs. 

I dragged the dog (literally) to the vet the other day. Have you ever wondered why the floor at the vet's is so shiny? It's all the cockapoos being slid along the lino. He didn't seem quite himself and the vets do love to get stuck into tests and things. He was squeezed and prodded and as usual refused to show anyone his gums. I provided a (very small) urine sample which they said they would send off for analysis.

After I chased them up a few days later, they rang me back with a conversation that started with, 'Unfortunately, ...' My heart actually skipped a beat. In fact, the unfortunate thing was that they had failed to send off the urine sample which was now no longer fresh and they wanted another one. It was quite a good tactic because after the initial shock of thinking that he had been diagnosed with something dreadful I was happy as a clam that it was just an administrative snafu. So we went back out on the streets with our pot. It didn't go quite as well the second time to be honest. I didn't really want to go down to the bus stop and have an audience of 15, so we went somewhere else, and the dog wasn't keen about the pot and then there was some leakage in the bag and all in all it was a bit disappointing. Anyway, all seems well and I was promised some sort of small refund because of the failure, which was a surprise.

The two younger urchins had another ski lesson the other day. The middle boy slalomed past some little people at an odd angle so as not to canon into them and ended up hurtling into the netting at the end of the ski run, handily placed to stop skiers from hurtling off the end and into the car park 30 feet below. Both of his skis shot through the netting and he was briefly wedged, which the littlest boy quite enjoyed. At some stage I shall have to buy them all of the things on the list of clothing. I hadn't quite appreciated how much is involved in skiing when I blithely signed the initial form. 

All good at your end? CJ xx

Saturday, 21 January 2023

All the things I'm going to do the week after next

How are we enjoying the fresh January energy? I always love this time of year with its lovely cosy winter days, long dark evenings and fabulous skies. I love the excitement of a new year and I am still ever-optimistic this will be the year that I will get ALL of the things done. 

I've realised that I always genuinely believe that just as soon as I get this particular pile of work done, I will have time to make a start on everything that I want to accomplish. Somehow, I imagine that if I can just get on top of stuff, just clear this work away, then I will be in charge and free to achieve absolutely everything.

I know this about myself, and yet I still believe it somehow. I actually will have more time the week after next, I just know it. I can't fault myself for optimism.

The upshot of this is that I don't really have any news, except that I have my nose to the grindstone. It's good to have lots of work of course and I am very glad of it. And very much looking forward to the week after next. Or maybe the one after that.

I have returned the eldest to university. The most interesting change I noticed was that he now enjoys country music. The littlest boy found a secondhand guitar in a local charity shop, so we bought that for him and he is happy as a clam. I told him that we should go to Nashville. I have always fancied a trip to Nashville. I don't know the first thing about it really, except that there will be guitars and cowboy boots and I imagine loads of creative energy. And I believe it is really expensive. 

The books are from the local community bookshop. I popped in and it started raining. As time went by, the deluge got worse and worse and so I was forced to stay where I was and buy books. It was dreadful. I've read Sharp Objects before and really enjoyed it. The others are new to me. It's a brilliant shop, and very cheap. Just 50p a book, with all proceeds going to the local community. I've taken quite a lot in over the years as well. It's good to have a nice secondhand book shop as so many are closing. The big Book Barn I used to go, with over a million books, closed down a while ago. 

I think I shall start with Lessons in Chemistry, which I've heard quite a bit about. I think I shall be able to start it the week after next.

Do let me know your news. And I shall try very hard to do something newsworthy to report back next time. Although most of the things on the calendar are appointments such as 'optician', 'dentist' and 'vet', so I can't exactly pinpoint where the excitement will come from. 

Wednesday, 28 December 2022

Keeping out the Welsh


Glimpses of Berkeley Castle, built in the 12th century to keep out the Welsh, which clearly hasn't worked. It's also where Edward II is believed to have been murdered in 1327. It's pretty much been in the same family the whole time, although it's a wedding venue as well as their home now and also does a bit of jousting and that sort of thing from time to time. It's basically like Lower Loxley, if you are familiar with the Archers.

The white house nearby was the home of Edward Jenner, 'father of immunology' who pioneered the concept of vaccines. He also created a vaccine for smallpox which had killed around 10% of the global population. He experimented with it on his gardener's 8-year-old son. Good job it worked.

Check out the glasshouse round the back. I reckon I could grow my own pineapples if I had something like that.

Did we all power through Christmas okay? It has been nice to have the biggest boy back, although I had forgotten how much space he takes up and how much food he eats. He came home and opened the fridge with a happy sigh, saying, 'The good thing about being at home is there's food in the fridge. Oh.' Turned out it was disappointingly empty.

He texts me and the littlest boy photos of his meals sometimes. The littlest boy looked at one of them and said, 'His food looks so much better than ours mum. How is he outdoing us?' Sigh.

Did I ever tell you about the food shopping insurance? Some student insurance provides £200 of cover in case you are robbed on your way home from the supermarket and all of your shopping is stolen. This type of thing is not reassuring to a mother, imagining some post-apocalyptic urban hellscape where you cannot even get your soya milk and organic lentils and Morrison's vodka home safely.

The dog pretended he couldn't see him when he first came home after three months away. Literally turned his back on him and studiously ignored him. I think he may have forgiven him now. 

Thank you for all of your bench commiserations and pep talks. I love the sound of subdued aubergine and also embracing Mediterranean tastes and stepping out of my comfort zone. 

On another garden topic, I have finally found a use for figs. I usually pick off all the small fruits that are left at the end of the season, but I couldn't reach the high up ones and ladders made me very nervous, being highly clumsy, so I left quite a few this year. It turns out that the birds really like them, or at least they did during the cold snap. Which made me think that maybe I could freeze some of the ripe ones and bring them out for the birds in the winter. They've also been getting through loads of sunflower seeds. 

The local garden shop has just closed its doors for good which is a shame. They sold beans and peas and onion sets loose and you could just put as many as you wanted in a paper bag. They grew all of their own beddings and vegetable plants and the rest of their stock came from local nurseries. And apart from pet food and food for the wild creatures, it was all plants and no novelty hot water bottle covers or peanut brittle. 

The urchins had a go at skiing the other day on the dry ski slope. I say dry, but actually there was biblical rain, so they got soaked. Someone accidentally slid backwards into a row of new skiiers. Honestly, is there anything funnier than seeing a bunch of people who can barely stand up themselves trying to stop someone sliding away by all holding onto a bit of their anorak. And probably nothing much more annoying than seeing someone who is sitting drinking a nice hot flask of coffee and laughing instead of actually getting off their arse and giving it a go. 

Hope you all had a good festive blast and are ready for the clean, clear energy of January. I also hope American friends are all okay in the storm. CJ xx