Tuesday, 21 June 2022

Summer solstice in the garden


I just love this time of year, love, love, love it. And yes, I know I say that every time. 

I pootled round the garden earlier with the dog, taking a moment to enjoy it all. I love how still it often is out there. I stood at the door in the rain at the weekend and it was magical. Summer rain is fantastic, making everything green, green, green.

The clover in the grass is doing beautifully and there are bees there all day long. The wildlife pond is full of frogs and newts, it's fascinating to watch them. It really needs to be bigger. Ten times the size. Twenty! And every garden should have one. Which is also something I say all the time. But they should! 

I picked some yellow and white solstice flowers and lit a scented candle, just to mark the occasion. The littlest boy and I watched the sun setting behind the distant hills on the other side of the river. That was magical too. All magical! All the exclamation marks! The sun literally disappeared as we watched. Well, of course it did, but the last bit was fast. You know what I mean.

Otherwise today involved a bit of overwhelm. Loads of phone calls and emails and trying to get plumbers and movers and decorators and so on to do small jobs and really, not being hugely successful and trying to shoehorn work in around it all and laundry and food and garden and dog and on, as life does. I am hoping to feel a little calmer tomorrow. Or at least more organised.

The toilet cistern has taken to pouring water constantly down into the toilet, which apart from being un-environmentally-friendly is a bit noisy. I am trying to view it like one of those indoor water features you can get (which actually I would probably quite like)(until it went green and had to be scrubbed). Maybe I will put some crystals about the place to add to the spiritual ambience. 

A plumber has said that he will come. At some stage. Maybe one afternoon. That was as much pinning down as I managed to do. I am hoping that he doesn't forget me and wondering how many afternoons need to go by before I can politely ask if he will be fitting me in soon.

I thought the fridge seemed a bit warm earlier, but I am ignoring that for now. If the worst comes to the worst I shall eat all of the ice-cream and try to formulate a plan.

Leaving you with an outtake from the solstice flowers shot and hoping that it was a good day with you. Enjoy the summer my friends!

Thursday, 16 June 2022

The Queen in wool


Goodness, I love this time of year. The Jubilee has made it especially nice, with bunting all over the place and a surfeit of cake. The town did of course celebrate by producing a knitted Jubilee scene, complete with the Queen done very nicely in stocking stitch, a range of teapots and some really good knitted cakes, all displayed in the window of the secondhand bookshop.

Elsewhere I came across this brilliant post box topper, honestly, in a league of its own. I see no-one has tried to tackle a corgi though, which is a bit disappointing.

The garden is all abundance and this is the time of year when the clover in the lawn flowers, which the bees love. My new neighbour has new pigeons and when I'm out there I can hear them cooing to each other, which is lovely. 

I have almost no news, which is not a bad thing. I'm working a lot, also not a bad thing, but hopefully I'll be able to take the odd bit of time off in the summer holidays. The eldest two are taking their A-levels and GCSEs at the moment. I feel I have coped with it quite well so far.

In between working I am clearing a property and it is really making me think long and hard about Stuff. At the end of the long day, I come home and declutter here a bit too. 

The Sort-It Centres are busy with people unloading mountains of stuff into the huge skips. I've found it all a bit sickening to be honest, although I am far from blameless. I do try to avoid buying too much, especially new and cheap things that won't last, but there could definitely be improvement. I am definitely resolving to do better and to try and reduce what I have. I may even get Marie Kondo down off of the shelf.

I have been trying to get rid of a piano, which is quite a feat. It turns out there are literally dozens of pianos on Ebay for 99p, buyer collects. It turns out no-one wants them any more. Some of them are lovely, all walnut burr and a high shine. I am looking at my own enormous old piano in a different light I can tell you. I have been quoted £225 to have the other one removed and recycled. If only I had played the cello instead.

How are things in your corner of the world? Good I hope. CJ xx

Saturday, 28 May 2022

Peak daisy


We have reached peak daisy here at Above the River Towers. The front gardens in our street are, as usual, a mix of solid concrete, plastic grass, a touch of rewilding and one or two beautiful patches of flowers grown for pollinators. The message doesn't really seem to be hitting home in most places. 

Down the back lane, men with strimmers and trimmers and too much time on their hands are hacking back the undergrowth as if their mission in life is to eradicate anything wild. I am grinding my teeth and working out how to politely bring it up in conversation.

There has been a casualty in the garden. I found a dead blackbird and I'm concerned that it's one of the cats that was coming in through the hedgehog hole. I haven't seen any since and I am on high alert now, poised to gallop out there and be frightening. A couple of frogs have also passed on, but that is fairly normal for this time of year. Dead frog scooping is one of my very worst things though.

My neighbour's garden is delightfully overgrown in places and between us we have loads of birds. A new family of sparrows was out there yesterday, with the babies fussing round the parents, pestering them for food. They were utterly adorable. 

Blue tits and great tits have been all around, picking juicy things off of the greenery. The snail damage as usual is vast. All of the beans that I grew from seed (from bean?) have gone and masses of dahlia has been eaten. The big dahlia reaches a point where it grows so fast that even the snail army can't keep up though, and all is well. 

The two biggest urchins are in the middle of A-levels and GCSEs. I am surprisingly calm and collected. Other than exams, they have pretty much finished school for now though. They will have a very long summer break indeed, I fear it may be expensive.

The dog is rather skinny, having been ill and then been sentenced to a low-fat diet. I think I underestimated the amount of food that he was being given by way of snacks by Someone. So I am trying to fatten him up slightly, while not actually giving him fat. He has also had a (much-loathed) haircut, which has made him look extra thin. He hates and fears the dog groomer so much that I have to carry him almost all of the way there these days. She says that as soon as he is in the bath he's fine and good as gold. It's all in the anticipation.

I feel that I need to do Something for the jubilee, it's such an amazing occasion. In my mind's eye I can see an outside table and red, white and blue bunting and lots of cake and strawberries and cream and maybe a scone or two with jam and clotted cream. Perhaps a jar or two of flowers from the garden and something fizzy made from elderflowers or lemons. And a proper floaty summer dress and maybe even a hat. It all sounds wildly unrealistic, given how much work I have on and the fact that I don't actually own a floaty summer dress or a hat, but still, it looks pretty inside my head. I can definitely do the clotted cream bit. Any plans at your end?

Saturday, 7 May 2022

Hedgehog week


In case I haven't said it before, I absolutely love this time of year. The green is all so new and astonishing, I find it requires a lot of looking out of the window every single day to adjust to it all. 

Mostly photos from the garden, but not the squirrel. There are loads of squirrels down on the streamside walks where there are happily lots of trees, but none at all in the garden. I have my hedgehog house in place now and there is a neat hedgehog-sized hole in the back fence (five inches square in case you were wondering), although there has been a slight snag with that. Much to mine and Bertie's horror, a small cat has come into the garden through the hedgehog highway hole. This is not the wildlife we were wanting at all. Although to be fair, I'm not sure the dog is entirely on board with Operation Hedgehog-Friendly Garden, he is more of a Mine, All Mine sort of a dog. 

I am not particularly in favour of cats. The RSPB estimates that they kill at least 100 million things each year, of which 27 million are birds. Plus the creatures that escape but subsequently die and the ones that are killed but not brought home. Up until I made the hedgehog hole, the garden was pretty much cat-free during the day at least. On the rare occasion that one did appear, it had to come over the fence, meaning it was more visible. The small cat can just sneak in on silent paws and creep up on things now. There are loads of birds in the garden and they are often on the ground picking up stray seeds.

The day I first spotted the cat, there were lots of feathers on the ground. No body though, so I am hoping that the cat just got a mouthful of feathers. The next time I saw the cat, Bertie and I trotted out to have a word. I kept Bertie on a lead, not wanting an actual confrontation. The littlest boy has suggested that we put up a sign over the hoghole saying 'Hedgehogs Only'. 

Bertie had a bit of a shout and the cat left in quite a hurry. Bertie's chum a couple of doors up joined in as well. Sometimes Bert just goes out into the garden and calls out, 'Oatie, let's bark a lot just in case there's something in the back lane.' And Oatie goes, 'I'm on it Bert,' and gets into huge trouble for being too loud. Don't worry, we're not as anti-social as I make us sound, Bertie only barks sometimes, and mainly to make people go away in case they were thinking of invading. 

I am currently reading Skulduggery Pleasant, which is recommended reading for 8-12 year olds. The littlest boy has read them all and was very keen for me to read it. In fact, I may have inadvertently said  that I'll read all thirteen when I was trying to get him to go to bed one night. ('Yes, fine, I'll read them all IF YOU WILL JUST GET INTO BED AND GO TO SLEEP.") I'm hoping he forgets that. It's actually quite a ripping yarn and a pretty fast read though, so hopefully I'll be back to more grown up murders before too long. Although maybe when I get to the end of volume one I'll want to read volume 2 and on it will go. It's certainly an escape from the real world. An actual walking talking skeleton!

How is all of the reality at your end? CJ xx

Monday, 18 April 2022

Trotting past at speed


                                                        Spot the dog... (above)

Isn't it all springlike and delicious out there at the moment? Birds busy nesting all over the shop, wall-to-wall blossom, big fat queen bumble bees, tadpoles getting chunkier by the day and green bursting out all over. I've spent most of Easter working away at the laptop, with the odd foray into the garden to sit in the sun for five minutes and drink a coffee. The dog comes and sits on the back step with me and we lean against each other and turn up our faces into the sun.

Hopefully I'll have a couple of half-days to do things with urchins this week, although it won't be terribly exciting and slightly chore-based. If  I throw in a slice of cake the youngest will come along quite happily though. 

I gave the eldest a lift somewhere the other day and, tired of his music blaring out in a wall of noise, I asked if he didn't have a motivational podcast we could listen to instead. Goodness me, he put something on that was beyond shouty, all sort of, 'Get your f*** arse up off of your m***f***ing couch and GET THE F*** OUT THERE AND DO IT.' I was totally swept up in it and shot past the turning I needed and nearly put my fist through the ceiling in a Hell Yeah. I listen to much calmer podcasts and it's clearly where I'm going wrong. I need someone yelling stuff at me, being that I fear I am fundamentally lazy. I can't remember the chap's name, I must ask the eldest. 

There is hardly any news at all here, which is a good thing, all things considered. The treasure of the normal day and all that. My heart aches for the people of Ukraine and the unending horrors. How does such evil get such power? I think about it constantly, the contrast of the beautiful spring we are having with birdsong and blossom, against the unimaginable hell. 

The littlest boy and I made a foray to the zero waste shop in Bristol the other day and saw loads of horses and carts trotting by really fast. It was quite a sight. A lot more eco-friendly than the car. No room for a pony here sadly. We did see a really nice pig at the garden centre the other day that we could have fitted in though. We are a complete sucker for animals, honestly, if it was down to us we would have everything. He is going to have a farm or a gigantic animal rescue centre or something when he is grown up and I am going to live there too and we will have all the things. Bertie will be horrified.

How is it all at your end? A good Easter I hope. CJ xx

Friday, 1 April 2022

No crisp left uneaten


The marguerite might look a bit ragged, but it has flowered through the entire winter. The garden has sprung into life, with plum and pear blossom and tadpoles and camellia blooms. And in an exceptional stroke of luck I have scored not only a free bird table, but a free hedgehog house as well.

Nice no? The hedgehog house is clearly homemade and needs some work - a base, some feet, hinges on the top, waterproofing and some roof felting, but it's a nice solid thing and a good start. Both were left outside houses with a note saying 'Free' on them. The middle boy found the bird table and lugged it all the way home. How well he knows me. Slightly disconcerting that people are giving away their wildlife stuff though. I like to think they have upgraded.

I have sown some flower seeds, imagining as I always do some beautiful summer garden, blooming in the way of, say, Sarah Raven's, but sadly, as ever, the snails have marched on in and helped themselves and now I just have a load of sad stumps. I really wanted loads of pale pink zinnias. I shall not be defeated.

The dog is not settling into his low fat diet very well and has taken to gobbling up literally anything that looks vaguely edible on his walks. There are a surprising number of crisps scattered about the place, as well as cheese and hairbands. He eats them all given half a chance. I have checked his weight and it's not going down, so I feel that he's being fed enough at home. The lure of street cheese is clearly just too much though. 

His labrador friend got a plastic ice-cream cone with chocolate ice-cream in it the other day, nose jammed right in, and ran around refusing to give it up. Everyone was beside themselves, it was quite a scene as you can imagine. 

The eldest boy had the chance to vote this week. There was a complicated local referendum that was something to do with a planning plan. Apparently there is a local plan which might slightly restrict the excesses of the planning, but only possibly and the feeling is that it is the lesser of two evils. And it is probably one of those things where the authorities just have an obligation to consult, which means they can issue a consultation document, ask people what they think and then ignore it and do what they want anyway. 

The Referendum on the Adoption of the Neighbourhood Plan seemed to be asking whether people wanted a say in things. I can't imagine anyone was going to say, no, thanks, that's fine, you just carry on and concrete it all over. The explanation was rather convoluted and said things like, 'The Neighbourhood Plan cannot cover how much development takes place. This is regulated in higher level plans.' 

I don't think we're allowed near the Higher Level Plans. It also didn't include anything about the High Street, which has had the entire town in uproar for months, since it was pedestrianised. If you plan on doing some shopping along the High Street these days, you need to factor in at least an extra twenty minutes to discuss it with everyone you meet. 

In other news the dog has had a birthday. The middle boy has some complicated calculation which means that he is 39 in dog years (5 in people years). He was allowed a modest-sized low fat snack and a lick of the baked beans that he found squashed into the path on his morning walk. I do wonder about people sometimes.

All good at your end? CJ xx