Tuesday, 26 May 2020

Weather

The first Summer's day we have had here.   Early high cloud melted away and since then it has been hot and sunny with a modicum of breeze.    Shorts, short-sleeved shirts and panama hats have been the order of the day - and that's the men.   On the whole the shorts have been just below the knee length.   Ladies on the other hand have gone for much shorter, bottom-hugging shorts (and do bear in mind that a large number of people on this estate are over retirement age).    And of course today nobody is complaining about that ghastly gale blowing everything over, instead everybody is complaining about the trials of watering newly-planted bedding plants.   As a nation of gardeners we do love to complain.   Plants are growing so quickly you can almost see it happening.  I am delighted with the Pinks I bought from Allwoods last year - a special offer of nine different varieties of plug plants,   They have done exceptionally well - two are struggling a bit but still alive and the other seven have a mass of buds.   You will see them in due course.

It looks as though the weather is going to stay like this into next week so it will be out with the watering can  daily and when you feel like throwing in the towel remember that they will repay you tenfold in the Summer (fingers crossed)
Oh, and by the way, I can't find out from looking back who it was who told me the variety of my purple and yellow iris but you were quite correct thank you.   I sent a shot to Claire Austin asking what it was and saying I had expected it to be Pink Lady.   She tells me they have never sold a variety called Pink Lady but this one is Edith (sorry can't remember her surname).

Monday, 25 May 2020

Bank Holiday

Really what's a Bank Holiday at the moment - we are all basically 'on holiday' and our Barclays is only open for a couple of mornings a week.   So what's new?   Well the one thing that is new is that the wind has finally almost died down - and what a relief.   I have been unable to go out with Percy for days - Percy and the wind do not like one another.   And the first day I could have gone out I have not felt well.  I awoke with a bad headache, took a couple of Paracetamol with a cup of tea and went back to bed and slept.   I didn't get up until 12 - had my shower and got dressed ready for my Zoom 'afternoon tea' with P and D in Windermere and W and I over here in Wensleydale.   All very civilised and enjoyable.   Now, in the early evening, I feel more like my normal self and hopefully will be back to normal tomorrow.

And, after watching Dominic Cummings this afternoon, I have more sympathy for him.   Maybe it was a silly thing to do but am not sure he broke rules (and if he did there are plenty of others who went off to their holiday homes for the duration). And when I think of all the stupid things our politicians do and all the U turns (or not as the case may be) they make I think maybe he is more valuable at the moment than things would be if he resigned.    You may disagree with me - but that is your right, just as it is my right.   Thank goodness we are lucky enough to live in a free country    where we can say what we really think.I think we now need to get on with more important things after three days talking about it  and nothing else.

My garden still looks great but then if you can't get a colourful garden in May you never can.   I haven't been up the top of the garden to see - I am not steady enough on my feet - but I suspect the Mares Tail will be peeping through.   It is actually quite a pretty plant - pity that like Ground Elder it is hated so much in gardens.

I shall now go and make myself a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits - then I shall settle down to watch the first episode ever of 'All Creatures Great and Small'.  See you tomorrow.


Sunday, 24 May 2020

Mindfulness

we
Sorry about the blurred photograph but I had several tries and this was the best.   Many, many years ago, during my first marriage (my husband died in 1991) - also a very happy one - my husband always used to joke that I had a 'butterfly mind'.   He was quite right - I do find it difficult to keep my mind on the same subject for long.   One morning when he brought me my early morning cup of tea he put this in my hand.   He had seen it in a Jewellers somewhere and bought it because it reminded him of me.

Often I have difficulty getting off to sleep - mainly because my mind is too active.   I intend to access infinitywellnessproject.co.uk and take their Programme to see if that helps.   I have been  trying on the advice of my Physiotherapist to do breathing exercises when I go to bed.   Keep my mind just on breathing in through the nose and out through the mouth twenty times - if my mind wanders 'pull it back'.   So far I can only manage five breaths without having to do that.  Hopefully this will improve if I keep it up.

I do also have incredibly vivid dreams most nights - not nightmares - often very amusing or very pleasant dreams of walking in the country - rarely if ever anything unpleasant.   Last night/ this morning was a case in point and  is what prompted today's post.   When I was growing up in Lincolnshire there used to be Lincoln's April Fair which was held on the South Common every year.  It lasted several days and everybody went - it had all kinds of things (many would not be countenanced today, quite rightly) - lions, elephants (they used to parade through town the day before the Fair opened - my grandfather once came home and said to my grandmother 'there's elephants in town' and when she asked him how he knew he said 'I've seen their droppings'), clowns, fairground rides - swing boats, cockerels and horses and such like, and awful sideshows mainly of deformed people,  roll the penny games - many many more.   You could hear the noise and the music from far away.

The reason I tell you this is because last night I dreamt of the April Fair, of going round it, of riding on the rides, of watching the lions , of buying a stick of rock and walking round eating it.
Then - later in the night, just before I got up in fact - I dreamt I got onto a bus and everyone but me on the bus was from the fair.   There was a man in a black and white costume with half his face painted white and the other half black, there was a clown with a red ball for a nose,  there was the lion tamer with his whip.   They were all there.   I got on the bus and sat down.   Nobody spoke, nobody moved, all were like statues.   Then I awoke.

I can't help wondering what an interpreter of dreams would make of it all!


Saturday, 23 May 2020

Saturday

My gardener came to mow the lawns this morning.   It is very windy indeed - hardly able to stand weather.   I had also asked him to empty my two tubs by the front door and pot them up with something for the Summer.   I knew he would be pleased to choose what he fancied and I must say - now he has done them they look well - a fuchsia in the centre and trailing lobelia round the outside.  And now, later in the afternoon , the wind has dropped considerably and apart from my iris and one of my aquelegia nothing else seems to have suffered too much damage.   The perils of gardening are always with us.

We had our Zoom Coffee Morning as usual - I slipped off mid coffee but was able to get straight back on so only one hiccup today.   It breaks the day up nicely.   I also made a chicken, tomato and courgette sauce for pasta - it was nice and garlicky and has left a good smell everywhere.   And the added bonus - there is enough for tomorrow  too.
The recipe is from a Slow Cooker book friend S bought me - this recipe is not quite as tasty as the sweet and sour chicken but it is a good second.

Has the risk of frost passed?   Isn't this the question all gardeners ask themselves this week every year?   I have antirrhinums to plant out in my herbaceous bed - there is one bed on the flat that I can manage myself (all others are on too steep a slope)  and I have nine plants to put in various gaps - and they are half-hardy.   But I have carefully nutured them for the past month - shall I risk it or wait another week?   None of them will be really exposed because all the herbaceous stuff is well up.   Perhaps a still,warm day will persuade me.

Enjoy the rest of your week end.

Friday, 22 May 2020

Gale

Gale is almost an understatement for the conditions  outside today.   My poor iris that I have been nurturing for months is laid flat in all its splendour and many of my Acquelegia are also flattened.   But this is life for the gardener - we pick up the pieces, survive and carry on.

I promised my friend W that I would tell the story of her cat today.   This is a cautionary tale for all of you - cat lover or not.   W has had Jack Russell terriers for years but lost her last one a few months ago; deciding she would not replace Sophie with another dog  she decided she would get a cat from Cat Rescue.   Eventually, after a wait, she took on a tabby cat - she christened her Milly.   This wasearly Winter and throughout the season Milly showed absolutely no desire to go outside, being perfectly content to claim any knee that was around, purr loudly and generally take over the household.  'Thank you for giving me this house,' she seemed to be saying, 'I am happy to take it on and own it.'

Then last week came the almost forgotten phenomenon of warm sunshine and one day, when the conservatory door was open Milly decided to investigate the great outdoors.   W didn't miss her for a while but when she did she searched the house and realised Milly must have gone out.   Would she come back?    No worries, a couple of hours later Milly returned, settled down on the sofa and went to sleep.   All was well.   She had really settled in and knew her way around.

How have things gone over the last few days?   The first day Milly brought home a baby rabbit - and when I say home I mean she brought it into the house.   Then the next day she brought W a shrew, a fat mouse (pregnant?) and a baby rabbit.  After getting thanks and praise for her offerings she sets to and eats them - but - and here's the rub - she eats everything but the eyeballs, which she leaves for W to dispose of!   Anyone got a recipe which include mouse eyeballs?

Thursday, 21 May 2020

The Invaders

Some days, right from the outset, do not quite go according to plan for me.    Is it the same for you?
Right from the moment I got up things seem to have gone wrong all along the line.   Two long phone calls, a bad attack of the shakes (I have an annoying condition called Essential Tremor, not at all dangerous, runs in families, just jolly annoying).  I had several 'business' e mails which needed answering but each time I got part way through an answer I hit the wrong key and sent the e mail off into space and had to start again.  Then after lunch instead of my usual walk I decided that there were one or two jobs in the garden I could manage.   I did manage them but with difficulty because my balance is not brilliant and I can't walk without a stick.   Still, I got the fresh air and I got the jobs completed eventually.   Anyhow enough of that - let's have a look at these 'invaders'.

I love invaders.   My gardener does not.   There is nothing he likes better than going around with the hoe chopping them off as soon as they appear and the only reason he doesn't do it is that he would have me to contend with - and I wasn't a school teacher for nothing D.

The first of these invaders, just coming into bloom as I write is the Aquelegia.   Last year I bought a pretty two coloured (deep pink and yellow) large flowered one and a smaller flowered double purple one.   This  year they are popping up all over the place - some like the parent and some unseen before - seeds which must have come in from somewhere else.   My neighbour H has plenty of diferent ones in her garden and in an effort to curb their enthusiasm she chopped a whole lot of creamy-pink ones off this morning and brought me a bunch to put in water.   I took a photo for you but even my camera is refusing to cooperate today.

Already the next invader is beginning to pop up everywhere.   Last year I did allow my gardener to hoe some up until one escaped his beady eye and I realised just how beautiful they were.   This year they are everywhere - large, deep pink, poppies.   Their foliage is a greeyish green and I noticed at least twenty this morning, some between cracks in the paving, others in the garden itself.   Everyone is staying.   They can give me maximum pleasure.

I wonder what else (other than the dreaded Mares Tail)  might arrive.   We shall have to wait and see.
**Something went right - at last my photograph printed.

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

A Hot Day at Last

Yes, at long last the hot weather has made it up here to North Yorkshire and it has been a day of pure unbroken hot sunshine.   Dare I say far too hot for me and I have been unable to do anything but sit quietly and rest.   But on the plus side I do know,and can pass on to you, the fact that my Iris, which I bought as Pink Lady, has been brought into flower today by the sun.   Pink Lady
 she isn't but he is rather splendid (and no way from his size and majestic stance is he a she).


The rainbow that appeared on my door step the other morning has been definitely identified as the work of friend G, who painted it and put it on the step for me to find.   It is beautifully done and has given me a lot of pleasure.


In these rather trying times such small things can give  one a lift and I have needed it today because I have to admit that this very hot weather just does not agree with me at all.   I have found it very difficult to keep going today and think with hindsight I should have been like Rachel and 'gone to earth' more.   A good book and a quiet room is what is needed, and speaking of a good book I have another one to recommend, especially if you are a musician.   It is 'Grace Notes',another book by Bernard Maclaverty and was shortlisted for The Booker Prize in 1997, so    not a recent publication, but  readily availably on Amazon. I don't know when I have enjoyed a book more.

It is a beautiful evening, the heat has gone out of the sun,  the air is clear and it will later be a beautiful starry night.   Sleep well.

Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Rain at last.

Alright, 'purists' would hardly describe it as rain, but from around eight o'clock last night until well into the middle of the night a gentle rain fell.   It might not have gone down very far into the incredibly dry soil - but the leaves would be receptive and would accept whatever came their way and the soil looks damp still now in mid afternoon - so definitely for us 'thirsty' gardeners it was a bit of a bonus.   And, sadly, the warm sunny weather forecast has just not reached us here.   It is still very windy and cloudy - occasional bursts of sun - and not all that warm.

It was our Zoom virtual coffee morning this morning - five of us for forty minutes - and as usual very pleasant.   Then a ten minute chat with neighbour H who is helping me to control my hair (it is not behaving) and a lunch cooked in my Remoska (Cumberland sausage with onions, apples, herbs and a tomato/garlic sauce.    I ate it with a jacket .potato and it was delicious.

Now at around four o'clock I have arranged to chat with friend on the phone - we chat about once a fortnight.   Then the day will be gone and I shall settle down for the evening. 

Now that my cleaning lady is not coming I try to do one housekeeping job a day - or at the most two, that is as much as I can manage.    Today's major job and the one I find the hardest work - strip and change the bed, wash the sheets, dry them in the tumble drier, iron them and put them to air.   Leave the bed to air for a few hours and then make it up again with clean linen - that is the best - getting into the bed at bedtime with fresh, ironed, sweet smelling sheets - makes the whole job worth while.    I have got to the stage of folding and ironing the sheets - I shall fold them before I ring my friend.  Shall I iron them today?   Time will tell.

When I look out of my window there is a slight hint of sunshine - still windy though.    Better luck tomorrow when it is supposed to be the warmest day of the year so far.

Monday, 18 May 2020

Monday

Mondays come round with increasing rapidity - I for one don't find that time goes slowly at all; the days simply fly  by.   Friend W and I have just had virtual tea with crumpets and honey with our two friends P and D in Windermere.    They actually had the crumpets there to eat - we just imagined this end.   As I have sat here at my lap top the sun has emerged at last and it is a bit warmer but the wind is still strong.

The long grass on the piece of waste ground opposite has been cut today and I must say that it does look a whole lot neater - and the cut has removed a whole lot of dandelion 'clocks' before they have had a lot of time to seed.   So just in time.   But really I feel sorry for the poor old dandelion - it is much maligned.   Individually the flowers are really very pretty - as are the seed heads.   It is just their invasive quality which puts us off them.

Our friends in the Lakes said it had rained steadily there for several hours when we met them on Zoom.   No such luck here; the day has now (2 hours later) gone grey and chilly.   If only those clouds would drop a good rain for an hour or two.
It is so easy if one is a gardener to become obsessed with looking at the sky and asking repeatedly for rain at this time of the year, particularly in a year such as this when we are so confined with what we can and can't do.

There doesn't seem much to write about today - or maybe it is just that I have a day when I don't feel particularly inspired - so sorry folks - that's it.   See you tomorrow, when hopefully there will be something which catches my imagination. 

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Round the block.

Percival and I have just been round the block after our lunch.   I call him Percy when he is good and Percival when he is naughty and today, in a sharp wind, he is quite naughty and doesn't always go where I ask him to.   Blown off course by the wind on a sharp corner he tends to go off at right angles.   But he is better than a walking stick for all that and I did have a necessary walk.

Something went wrong with Zoom - probably my fault (in fact almost certainly my fault as are most problems on computers) and last evening I  wiped the whole thing off and started again.   I have a 'date' tomorrow afternoon with friend W and friends P and D in The Lakes (tea and crumpets at three since you ask) on Zoom and W is Zooming me at three thirty this afternoon to make sure I am 'contactable' before tomorrow.   Oh to be in such demand in these lockdownable days!

Has it struck anybody else that if our present situation was a Science Fiction film we may possibily make fun of it saying that it was just 'too far-fetched'?   And if a vaccine is never found (think of the common cold) then at what point do we start going out into society again and 'risking it'?   And will I still be here when that time comes or will I be in 'semi-lockdown' for the rest of my days (after all I am 88 in six months time)?   I really have got to the time when I can't be bothered to even think about it - I am still here, I have good contact by phone (3 one hour calls this week end with niece, friend and god-daughter) as well as Zoom meetings (fingers crossed), chats over the garden wall and e mails.   Life isn't all bad.

My son is calling in half an hour to water my outside tubs for me (can too heavy for me to use), Zoom with friend W in four minutes, it's all go here in North Yorkshire.   Have a nice evening.

Friday, 15 May 2020

'Scary or what?'


On my wrist I wear a Lifeline button.   Many of those of pensionable age on our estate wear one and they are all connected to a central 'station'.   If we fall, or feel ill we press the button and the lady in charge connects us to our designated person - in my case my son, who lives near.   It is a sensible service to have and costs around £28 a month and that includes a visit from the warden once a month for a check up.

Now and again I am a very bad sleeper - perhaps about one night a month.   Last night was the night.    Nothing unusual about the evening, sandwiches and a pot of tea at 5pm and a mug of milk at bedtime.   Could I sleep?   Afraid not.   At 2am I was still awake and decided to get up and make myself a cup of comforting cocoa with milk - a real treat.   Then I took it to bed along with my book ( a superb one 'The Hired Man') and read for an hour.   At 3am I put out the light, sure I could go to sleep.

I was just drifting off (bear in mind I do not wear my hearing aids in bed) when there was a loud knock on my bedroom door which opened (it was still dark bear in mind) and there was a man in a head torch!!   Luckily I know my son has a head torch and at this point he put the light on.

The Lifeline service had rung him because I had pressed the red button.   I had no idea i had pressed it, it had slipped round my wrist and I must have been laid awkwardly.   They had first
of all rung me (without my hearing aids I am almost totally deaf) and getting no response had rung my son who had to get up, get dressed and come round to check that I was alright.

All's well that ends well as they say and as Dom said - now we have had a practice run and know that the system works.    But that knock on the door gave me a bit of a shock!

Thursday, 14 May 2020

Thursday


Nothing much has changed here in my household after listening to Boris's instructions for a slight lifting of things yesterday.   I am not missing much during lockdown - I have largely adjusted to it and shall for time being continue as I always have done.   If I was of working age then things would not be quite so simple.   I am not sure how I view going back to schools from the point of view of being a teacher, which I was for most of my working life.   I am thinking of Primary Pupils here and I believe many parents are doing their best with home teaching.  It will be such a short time to the end of term and teachers are in quite a dilemma when it comes to balancing the needs of their pupils with the needs of their families.   I am glad I don't have to even think about this.   I am of the firm opinion that the good teacher teaches pupils how to learn rather than facts.   I cannot tell you how many times in the past I have come across ex pupils of mine, pupils who really struggled with maths and english, and where have I come across them? Often working on the check-out in one of the large supermarkets - working efficiently, smart and alert and so pleased to see me and to show off their skills.   But parents have to balance their need to get working again with whether to send their children back to school or not - and that is a dilemma I am pleased I haven't got.

I have had some really nice surprises this week.   When one lives alone and has plenty of time for thinking about things, nice surprises are wonderful for keeping things moving along nicely.   Yesterday a lady called Jean Rumbold sent me a lovely newsy e mail from Australia saying that she followed my blog.   It was a delight to read - and to answer.   Then at lunch time yesterday, when the post came, there was card number eight from my friend D in the Lakes - he has sent me a card every week since lockdown began and I really do appreciate it.   We have also, along with friends W and P, had a Zoom coffee afternoon and intend to have another one shortly.   Then this morning, when the Times came, the paper girl rang the bell to say that a card was stuck in the letter box.   It was a card of a Matisse cut-out 'Blue Nude' - one of my favourite works.   The card was from Rachel, who knew how much I admire the work of Matisse.   Then this morning when the postman came there was a nice newsy letter from a friend and a Premium Bond.   Apart from the Premium Bond all acts of kindness that make a huge difference to my day to day life and I hope they all know just how much I appreciate their kindness.

In my garden Pink Lady is definitely Purple Lady as she has enormously long legs.   My large pot which holds a Pot Magnolia was dead - or so I thought until today when I see it is covered with leaves - not dead after all.   My pinks are all well in bud and the hellebore seedlings I pricked out are doing well.   So everything is designed to keep me going - I can't do anything about the threatened recession which is expected to hit us, I can only do my part in keeping my distance from others and I can also go out and applaud at eight o'clock tonight, applaud for the NHS workers - the doctors, the nurses, the auxiliary staff, the ambulance drivers, the paramedics, the  cleaning staff, the kitchen staff who keep the meals coming, and the many, many thousands of workers throughout the country who are working to keep things going - they need our thanks s o let's all get out there at eight - only a tiny thing to do - but better than nothing.

*****It is half past ten and I have just drawn the curtains after watching Marigold Hotel.  The sky is by no means dark yet - there is a golden glow on the horizon and Venus is incredibly bright - still like a giant torch shining in the sky.




 

Wednesday, 13 May 2020

Wednesday

My Corsa and I had a tootle into the centre of our little town at lunch time to give it a run out after it had been static for a week .I had also missed today's post from the box opposite my bungalow.   The town was almost a ghost town.  Four people queuing outside the hardware shop, which was open.   The bakers and the Co-op also had small queues but other than that everywhere was closed, the Market Square was deserted and there were unlimited car parking spaces.   What a strange time it is.   Shall we ever get back to normal?

Isn't it great when books one has ordered arrive?  I have ordered three - all second hand from Amazon or World Books - and two came this morning - 'A Time to Dance' a book of short stories by Bernard Mclaverty and 'The Hired Man' by Aminatta Forna.  I read a couple of short stories over my lunch - I do admire his writing and it did strike me that in both stories the reader learned as much from what was not said as from what was said.   I think that maybe this is true of all writing but in a short story the brevity of the work makes it more noticeable.   In the title story 'A Time to Dance' we read of a young teenager play ing truant from school, totally disenchanted with school, already wily in ways of getting bits of extra money out of his mother.   She catches him one day and has to take him to 'work' with her where we learn she is a stripper and how desperate she is for him to go to school and learn.   We only learn all this indirectly but the end of the story does leave us with a lot of unanswered questions.   The art of good writing?

The field behind me has this week been cut and gathered up.   There is a beautiful smell of fresh grass and the contents of the huge red trailers will now presumably go into whole crop food or silage.   I get my milk from the cows who eat the silage from this field  which is rather a nice feeling and takes me back a few years to when the farmer had a milking herd (pre foot and mouth) and our milk used to come to the table still warm.   That was the start of me no longer taking milk in my tea - and I have never gone back to taking it now.

If you are a watcher of 'Sewing Bee it is Sports Wear night tonight - the very thought fills me with horror.

Tuesday, 12 May 2020

Still chilly

My sturdy antirrhinums are staying outside tonight in a sheltered position - the weatherman says there will not be a frost - so I shall trust him.   My garden man has just been and mown my lawns and I must say they are looking better for the feed he gave them a couple of weeks ago.   All they need now is a good rain.   But as all gardeners know only too well - the weather is never right;  either we need rain or there is too much rain.   One thing is for sure - however dry the soil gets I really can no longer water it.   The task is beyond me.

I have just had my tea - two lovely brown eggs lightly boiled and eaten with brown bread and butter.   They were delicious.   I don't have them very often and whenever I do I always think I must have them every week.

Nothing much is happening to write about at the moment as we are all still social distancing.   It is now seven weeks since I went out other than just into town to give my little car a run.   And really it has become a habit to stay in and  I think it will be rather difficult to get into the habit of going out to lunch again once it becomes possible.   And because there is so little to do (or so little that one can be bothered to do morelike) I think that on the whole I have eaten better than when I was going out for meals.   I have certainly eaten more vegetables and salads and what is more I have varied them so that every week I have had a variety of colours in them - the red of tomatoes the orange of carrots, the white of onions and celery, the red, orange and green of peppers, the green of courgettes, the white of cauliflower, and all the varied greens of lettuce, broccoli, sprouts, green beans and peas

Today I intended to make a ratatouille but ran out of time because of a couple of long telephone calls so instead I cubed a courgette, a red pepper, a couple of sticks of celery, a red onion, two tomatoes and six  rather sad tips of asparagus and made a quick version in a saucepan with a dash of sesame oil and a knob of butter to start them off.   Three rashers of streaky bacon quickly fried, broken up and scattered through at the end, plenty of seasoning - and it was delicious.   And enough left for tomorrow with a jacket potato.

All the time I have been typing this 'my' blackbird has been singing his beak off.   What joy he has given me in this trying Spring.

Monday, 11 May 2020

Monday

From here in my computer room window it looks a nice day outside.   There is a bit of a breeze blowing but the sun is shining brightly and puffy white clouds are scudding across the sky.   It is only when you step outside you realise that the temperature has gone down by at least ten degrees.   Folk going past on one of their 'allowed' walks  are no longer in shirt sleeves; anoraks, woolly hats and scarves seem to be the order of the day.   Last evening I brought my antirrhinum 
plants indoors on to the garage window sill and I have left them there all day today.   They are getting plenty of light and a sharp frost is forecast for tonight. 

And while we are on the subject of gardening - remember when I told you my Iris Pink Lady was about to come into flower.   Well - disaster - she is not out yet but her buds are beg inning to burst and there is absolutely no way she  is going to be a Pink Lady - her buds are a dark purple.   She is a healthy specimen but looks like an ordinary everyday common or garden purple iris.  A bit disappointing I would say.   But still on the subject  of gardens - that blackbird never stops and as I type this he is singing his beak off as he has been doing since daybreak.

My reading material is getting thin on the ground.  Yes, there are a hundred and one household jobs I could find to do, but my enthusiasm is lacking.  Living on one's own and being by nature a tidy person, all that is urgent seems to be a run over with the vacuum cleaner and a whizz round with a duster, two or three times a week a smart clean around the bathroom and kitchen and a once a week switch on of the washing machine.

I have ordered several used paperbacks by my favourite authors and they are promised for the weekend and in the meantime I am reading another of my old favourites - last week it was Bernard Maclaverty's 'Midwinter Break' and this week it is Aminatta Forna's 'Happiness'.   Both books easily merit a second reading  and both are brilliantly written.   If you haven't read them do give them a try.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

75 years

I watched the film about Winston Churchill last evening on  BBC1.   I found it most interesting and it told me so much that I didn't know - I don't know how absolutely true it was to events (the incidence of the journey on the tube was a case in point) but although I was almost seven when the war started I remember the day it started and I remember Dunkirk (my brother was there) and after that I remember quite a lot.   Parents were good in those days - they kept the very worst news away from me and I don't remember any sense of fear at all in those early days when the threat of invasion must have been so very real.   They seemed to open up once it became evident that there was a real chance that we might be going to win.

Kippy, answering my yesterday's post, spoke of the noise the bombers must have made.   That I do remember during the latter stages of the war - again once the tide had turned in our favour.  Living, as we did, in the middle of one of the flattest counties in the country - Lincolnshire - we were surrounded by airfields and airfields mainly full of Lancaster bombers.   When they took off nightly on their bombing raids they would pass over our house and my father would remark that they were probably going to Dresden or to Hamburg.   The fact that they were going to drop bombs and actually kill people never crossed my childhood mind.

But now we have had the 75 celebration - and once we have had a similar celebration for the end 
of the war with Japan in a few months time - maybe it is time we forgot it, put it to the back of our minds, remembering the many, many thousands who gave their lives but no longer reliving it.   It is pointless saying hoping we learned the lesson that it really must never happen again - because clearly, judging by the many conflicts since that time, by the advance of sophisticated weaponry, by the continuing disregard for human life and dignity throughout the world such a hope is not on the agenda.

Friday, 8 May 2020

Beautiful day.

It has been a beautiful day here today and so warm and sunny.   This morning Percy and I walked down to put a cheque through the door of the lady who sometimes does some shopping for me.    As usual we came back the long way round - too far really and quite a strenuous walk but I must somehow increase my strength.

This afternoon a 2pm we had our little neighbourhood tea party - just ten of us altogether - we began to break up at around a quarter past four.   We had all taken a drink of some kind and a sandwich;
 we really had a jolly afternoon while observing  social distancing.   I tried to take a few photographs - I couldn't get any nearer and I promise you I never noticed the lamp post prominent in the picture!!!  Sorry they are poor photographs but you get the general idea. This is M my immediate neighbour doing a dance and singing as she came out to join our party - dressed very patriotically.
J from over the road with her dog Meg ad sitting outside their garage door M's immediate neighbours.   We are in M's garden which is decorated with Union Jacks.
NNeighbours from the opposite side of the road.


And there you have it - eleven of us (I am missing of course) all enjoying an afternoon in the sun, made all the more enjoyable by a long period of social isolation and the fact that the weather is so beautiful.
 

Thursday, 7 May 2020

Dunkirk Spirit

If there is one thing this wretched virus has brought out  everywhere it is a sense of friendliness and cooperation.   Whoever I pass on my daily 'allowed' exercise always speaks - just to say hello or remark on the weather or say something about Percy.   And of course because it has been pleasant weather this week the sunshine has helped to raise everyone's spirits too.    But, this being the UK and a Bank Holiday week-end, the weather is set to change with the temperature on Sunday set to be at least ten degrees colder everywhere as the wind sweeps down straight from the Arctic.

Earlier the nurseryman who is usually on our Friday market called and dropped me off two bags of compost and a dozen sturdy young antirrhinum plants.   They are half hardy so they will stay out tonight but then I shall have to bring them in for a night or two until the temperature goes back up again.

Tomorrow is, of course, the 75th anniversary of the end of the  Second  World War in Europe.   My first husband was on the Death Railway in Thailand and my mother in law used to say how horrified they were at the celebrations when two of her sons were still prisoners of the Japanese.  But I was thirteen at the time and remember the day well (and the American soldiers with their nylons and their chocolate - my mother issued stern warnings I remember).   I have very mixed feelings about the celebrations -maybe it is not a good idea to glorify war in this way.   I would be interested to hear what others feel about this.   But I did watch a half hour programme on Dame Vera Lynn this evening - about her childhood and then her professional career.   She went out to Burma to sing to the troops in an area where it was very dangerous.  She is now 103 and chatted away just as she always has done - her faculties seemed in no way to be diminished.   Amazing.

Wednesday, 6 May 2020

Thoroughly cleansed!!

Do you accumulate rubbish?   My garage is attached to my bungalow and my kitchen door opens into it.   I am almost obsessively tidy - I admit to that - I like everywhere to be neat and tidy before I sit down to read or to watch television.   My freezer and my tumble drier are both in the garage so I have to go in there often and I am ashamed to say that it is not tidy.  Because my mobility is limited I keep my boxes for newspapers/cans/plastic/bottles and cardboard in there to save me having to go out (and it also keeps them dry when it rains).  Well today is recycling day and because the men come early, the rubbish has to be put out last evening.   Yesterday my mobility was better than it has been for weeks - so there was no excuse.   I spent a couple of hours (with many sits down) working in there.

Tins, bottles, plastics - these were all in one box  - I separated them (they were all washed out before going into the boxes) .   My son called for some newspapers because he intended to defrost their freezer - I put the papers in a box I had (that got rid of one box easily!!) and that left room in my newspaper bag for a big plastic bag of shredded paper from my shredder.   I labelled it with a sign saying 'Shredded paper - please take' because it was in a large black plastic bag.   There was also a huge cardboard box that my new television came in two years ago.  I 'unravelled' it, flattened it and put it outside at the top of the drive and put my boxes and bags on top of it.   The men come very early - but the first thing I did when I got up was to go out and see it they had taken it.   I can't tell you the feeling of satisfaction I got at bringing in the empty boxes!!   My son brought the box I had given him full of paper back - I made him take it away again!    Am I crazy or what?

No weeds in the garden, no rubbish in the bins, a tidy garage, the sun is shining, a blackbird is singing in the hawthorn, and Percy and I are going
 for our morning walk in the sun.   The wretched virus continues to wreak havoc throughout the world leaving thousands of families mourning the loss of loved ones - that just makes it all the more poignant.

Tuesday, 5 May 2020

The Fickle Finger of Fortune.


Nowhere is this more apparent than in the British weather and its 'on'/'off' relationship with the British garden as I am sure every gardener will agree.   Last Autumn (in fact July onwards) saw the wettest Autumn for many a year, particularly up here in Wensleydale when it started with the horrendous afternoon storm which resulted in the foundations of some houses washed away, dozens of houses badly flooded, farm yard stocks ruined, unbelievable damage done to crops.   My back garden was under water for a while and my patio flooded until it all ran off into poor H's garden next door and luckily down her drive rather than into her garage.

Now crops are planted in the fields as they have dried out and milking herds are out for the Summer, full of the joys of Spring to be frolicking in the green, green grass..   Not a care in the world as the farmers now worry that it is so long since we had a 'decent rain' that the grass isn't growing fast enough to keep up with the speed the cows are eating it.   Last year in the early part of the year Derek worried about the way the Reserve in Kent was drying out and there were huge cracks in the ground.   Then as the winter went on the rainfall caught up, the channels were full, everywhere began to look right again.    Now again the land is beginning to dry up.   Last week - magic - a really good rain down there in Kent - just to coincide with young fledglings of the ground nesters beginning to hatch out.   And so it goes on - nothing is ever as we wish it would be.

Of course for us gardeners nothing is as important.   We might think it is but for most of us it is not our livelihood.   But that doesn't stop us worrying about trivialities like whether to protect against a possible frost on tender plants, whether to water or let a plant take its chance, when to stake.   My Pink Lady iris is in deep bud and every day I hope it will burst into bloom and I can take a photograph to show you (I shall be mortified if it isn't pink).   But it does not bloom and in the meantime it grows taller and taller.   I got D to plant it up against a South-facing wall with plenty of shelter against the wind and in really good soil.   Now the buds stick well above the top of the wall so I am hoping there isn't a strong wind!

But this is not just recent weather.   Friends S and T called this morning and we chatted from my doorway to the middle of the lawn where they stood.   They are keen gardeners and we talked of the weather and the coming forecast for this weekend.   I was telling them of the year 1951, the year of my first engagement and the year before  my first marriage.   It was the Sunday of Whitsuntide and M, my husband to be, took me to a little Lincolnshire town called Sleaford to meet his dearest friends for the first time (to get their approval?) and I remember I wore my best Winter coat which was a peacock-blue Windsmoor creation with a huge shawl collar and I was frozen.  So much so that the memory of that has remained  with me all these years.

 

Monday, 4 May 2020

Monday

Sad little story this morning.   A lady just down the road has a business which does shopping for us and leaves the bill in the box to be paid within seven days.   The same business also delivers milk, so there were two bills to pay this morning.  I decided to walk down and put the cheque through the letter box as she lives quite near to here.   In actual fact the walk was a little too far and down hill all the way there and uphill all the way back - not all that good for my ankle and knee,   However, I survived.

But on the way back I came upon a sad little scene.  On the side of the path was the body of a tiny swallow.   I wouldn't have thought the swallows had been here long enough to rebuild their nests, lay eggs in them, hatch and then fledge them.   But this was without doubt a swallow and it was a fully fledged swallow, far too small to be a last year's bird.   It was totally unmarked and so beautiful, so have no idea how it had been killed.

After lunch friend W and I had a lovely Zoom meeting with P and D, the two friends we usually meet regularly for lunch in Kirkby Lonsdale, so that passed a lovely three quarters of an hour of pleasant chat.   Now all that remains to be done today is a pile of ironing and I intend to do that now.   So until tomorrow.

Sunday, 3 May 2020

Sunday

I had a gentle walk with Percy today round the estate.   All the gardeners were out in force - many raking the moss out of their front lawns; yes the very wet winter has played havoc with our lawns here.   We had a short, sharp shower just after I got back home - only ten minutes or so - but added to a similar one we had in the night it is better than nothing and the plants are definitely looking pleased about it.

When I was getting Percy out of the garage but before I had raised the electric doors I heard the unmistakable sound of young birds just outside - loud cheeping, that 'I might have left the nest but I still want help to find stuff to eat' kind of cheeping.   I went back into the kitchen (the garage is attached to the kitchen) and through to the front of the bungalow and there on the fence sat three young blackbirds making such a racket - fully fledged and flying well (they flew off when they saw me) and it did make me wonder about the blackbird I thought had been killed a few weeks ago.   Every day now a blackbird is singing for most of the day and I would guess these three youngsters live close by my bungalow so I am hopeful their parents are the same pair.   What a joy to see young birds at close quarters -wish I could have photographed them for you.

Big black clouds overhead - another shower maybe?

 

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Markers.

In the old days (pre Covid) I had plenty of markers to keep me up to date.   Mondays my cleaner came, cleaned through, made us both a coffee and brought me up to date with all local news (gossip).
Tuesdays into town for coffee with E,L and sometimes C and then money for the week from the bank and bits of food I needed.   Wednesdays nothing much but lunch once a month with D.   Thursdays has been hair day for years (I wish) and usually followed by a wander round the shops, especially Milners (our local 'store' with lovely clothes, handbags etc), Friday market day and coffee with 'the girls' in The Post Horn - often as many as ten of us, Saturday a free day but sometimes into Richmond with son and wife to their favourite cafe, Sundays I would collect W (98) and take her up to friend W's where we would transfer to W's four-door car for the short journey to the Golf Club for a leisurely Sunday lunch.  There was never any chance of not remembering what day it was.

Now there are no such markers.   But it is odd how many things happen at the same time each day.  I suppose it signifies that folk are trying to keep to some kind of routine.   Regular as clockwork a runner in black running gear and a black baseball cap runs past my bungalow at about half past eight in the morning, passes me three times so I assume he is 'doing a circuit'.   Smarty, the Labradoodle, passes me every morning at nine with his 'Mum' and every afternoon at five with his 'Dad'.  And how very well trained he is - always on a lead and always trotting behind , never in front.    L and M, who live just round the corner, go for their bike ride in their yellow anoraks, every afternoon after lunch.   They always wave even if they can't see me and if I happen to be in the doorway they shout a greeting.   J with her Schidzu (sorry about spelling) walks past every morning at half past seven - a gentle, slow walk but the same route each morning.   Certain cars go past at certain times - certain dogs go past with their owners at certain times.   There is still a routine and now that lockdown has gone on so long I can almost map my day out by it.

Cloud is beginning to build up here so I must keep an eye on my washing which is blowing merrily on the line.   Also, after reading my Times this morning (gardening page) I am going to go out and cut the flower stems off my hellebore.   I have around twenty good healthy seedlings around the mother plant waiting to be potted on and the gardening page tells me that the plant is seriously weakened by letting it go to seed each year.   As it was so generous last year I shall give it a year's break.   My spirit is so willing in the garden but my flesh is weak - very frustrating but just one of the problems with getting old.   At least I have got D - a sympathetic gardener - who does everything I ask him to do without question.

Our virtual (Zoom) coffee morning went well this morning - six of us and a nice forty minute chat - so thank you W for setting it up each time.
 

Friday, 1 May 2020

Friday Again

How quickly Friday comes around. And the first of May .   Not a lot done today except the month's bills sorted and paid and a couple of letters which have been waiting a day or two answered.   Doing jobs like this is actually quite satisfying I find - typing the letter, filing it, putting the original in its envelope, addressing it, stamping it and walking over the road to the post box, which is opposite my bungalow, and posting it.   Job done.

Then, sitting at my computer I heard a strange noise and after listening, puzzled, for a few minutes, I got up and went to the window.   And, yes, as it always is, it was D - the man who keeps my garden trim - cutting the lawns.  The man from the council came this morning and mowed the grass verge opposite (you may remember earlier in the week I photographed the thousand or so dandelions growing there).   For at least a couple of days there will not be a dandelion to be seen - either on my lawn or on the verge.  (sorry bees)

A whole  hour's gardening with Monty Don on television this evening - bliss.   Half an hour before it starts so just time to make myself a cup of something and settle down to enjoy it.  Until tomorrow.....virtual coffee morning at ten.