Friday, June 30, 2006

June 30: Better?

E-mail now working again. Think I've found a grey hair!

Thursday, June 29, 2006

E-mail problem

Our e-mail has gone haywire. If you need to contact us, please use the phone.

29 June: Sunshine

It was nice enough to sit in the garden this afternoon, in shorts. The roses are looking good, and so is the clematis. Lots of foxgloves have seeded themselves in the borders, and the raspberries are growing larger, but not yet turning red. This year we have had some rhubarb off our single plant; it was planted 3 years ago, and we thought it had died, as nothing came up the first year - then last year a couple of leaves appeared, and this year there have been enough sticks for us to pull a few off once or twice.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

June 28: Work

Yesterday my work shoes fell apart. They were old, well worn, and very comfortable. Today I discovered that June is not the best time to find suitable shoes to wear for work - unless hideously uncomfortable strappy sandals are what you want.
As a vegetarian, I prefer to have non-leather shoes if I can, but if they have to be leather, then they have to last as long as possible. What I really fancied was a pair of pink and black check sneakers, but settled for a pair of black DMs; sandal sort of thing, but dead comfy. They will last me well past the end of my employed life, and will be OK to wear away from work.


Also yesterday DH chalked up 40 years service with his government department. Nobody noticed. Today I challenged him to get into conversation either "40 years service" or "40 years, man and boy" - and I'm pleased to say he managed to do so.
When he started there, it was a good career, and those who reached the grade he is at now were very well regarded, and well paid. Now he finds his years of specialist knowledge and expertise earn him just about an average wage, and has to cope with the constant major upheavals and job insecurity, plus of course hostility from the public, that are the main features of public service. When he is scrapped (perhaps next year, as his office is radically down-sizing) his work will probably be done by a temp hired from an employment agency.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

June 27: Tragedy

Just got home from work, and found a tiny dead chick on the drive.It must be from the house martins' nest above the porch. I buried it in the border, then looked carefully at the nest. There is enough mess on the porch roof to indicate that the eggs have hatched, but there are 2 more tiny bodies on the porch roof! I'll have to get the steps out later and remove them.
What's gone wrong? It's been chilly the last few days, and it's rained, but for 3 chicks to die is awful.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

June 25: The World Cup

As it's rained from dawn to now, and been rather chilly with it, we've had in indoors sort of day.

DH has been listening to some jazz, and watching an animated film (probably Japanese), and I have been hunched over a hot keyboard, doing some "armchair" family history research for a computer-less friend.

It's been really fun, following the clues he gave me, and using fairly limited resources, and coming up with a sketch of a family tree over 4 or 5 generations. Of course, I can't be sure it's all right, as I haven't been looking at primary source documents, but in the light of my previous experiences with this sort of research, it looks pretty plausible. I've parcelled up the pile of print-outs (needed a bulldog clip rather than a paper clip!), and crammed it all into an envelope for posting off.

Then to counter-act all that keyboarding, thinking, and peering at the screen, I've sat and spun half a bobbin of superwash fibre. I don't know if it will be machine washable when it's knitted up, but it doesn't half smell funny when it's wet!

And in another world, the football has continued without us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

June 22: Midsummer

The calendar says summer, but the thermometer doesn't! It was chilly enough for the central heating to come on this morning. So to pretend it's lovely and sunny, here are some colourful pictures from the garden earlier this week. The primulas above are seedlings from the original yellow one in the background - I was hoping it would cross with some of the others in that border, and it has obliged.

The rose on the pergola is now competing with 2 clematis - a large blue flowered one called Lord Nevill, and a small dark one called Etoile Violette. Both look good with the creamy white roses. Along the side of the path that goes under the pergola is a row of lavender -

The ordinary lavender just died, but this has done very well, and the smell and colour are wonderful!

When the Chelsea Flower Show was on, and there were endless TV programmes about it, one of the plants that seemed popular this year was astrantia. It's a plant I've only had for 2 or 3 years, and it seems to be thriving without any problem - just what's wanted in a good garden plant.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

June 20: Weaving and Packaging

This piece of weaving was not quite finished when we went on holiday, but now it's finished, fulled, and ready for use.

Perhaps the next thing to make on the weaving frame will be a shawl, using some nice soft hand-dyed and hand-spun yarn.


Regarding the NFWI's protest today about packaging - our local council won't recycle plastic, and they don't collect cardboard. Our solution to the cardboard, including much supermarket packaging, is to put it all into a box in the conservatory ("conservation" being an appropriate use for a conservatory), and when it's full, take it to the local tip and hoy it in the skip marked "cardboard". Any plastic carrier bags are saved and returned to the collecting box at Tesco's. Back in the 1990s I made a number of patchwork bags, which hang in the broom cupboard and come out every week for the supermarket trip. If we are going to the town centre shops, I take one of the patchwork bags, and try to refuse shop carrier bags.
There isn't a farm shop nearby - is it greener to buy at the supermarket, or drive many extra miles (taking lots of extra time too), and still have to go to the supermarket for the other stuff?

Sunday, June 18, 2006


Even though it was early in the season, it was still impossible to take photographs at tourist sites without including strangers. This is the acropolis above Rhodes town - there is a well-preserved stadium just below it, where one elderly Greek was jogging gently round, and another was stripped to his underpants, soaking up the sun. We left before he could take them off, too.

Not so many tourists here - it's the Archaeological museum. Had we been extra smart, we would have visited on Monday, as it was a Bank Holiday (as we discovered when we needed to change some money), and the museums were open but not charging for entry. We found that out when we went to the Grand Master's Palace.

There were few flowers about in the town, but they were very brilliantly coloured. The arches across the lanes are supposed to hold the buildings up in the event of an earthquake - would you like to rely on that?

And this is a typical lane in Rhodes Old town - cobbles, a scooter parked at the end, and a cat.

There were hundreds of cats, some well looked after, most not. One morning as we sat in a cafe with lemonade and baklavas, we watched a cat creep up on a parked scooter with a basket of shopping on the front. He reached up to the bag, but couldn't fish out whatever he was after, so he got up on the seat, then onto the handlebars, and reached his paw down into the basket. Unfortunately, he was spotted by a passer-by who tried to take a photo of him, and as he clearly didn't want to be caught (on camera or otherwise), he retreated under a nearby car.

Friday, June 16, 2006

June 16: Home again

From Mediterranean sunshine, it was a bit of a shock to arrive at a foggy 8 degree Newcastle airport at 5 a.m. yesterday.

Plan C ended up as a week in Rhodes, about which we knew absolutely nothing till we got there. We had a most enjoyable week, chilling "right to de bone", and doing what we do so well, i.e. pottering about. There was all the old town to explore, harbours, ruins, beaches, hundreds of eating places, all within easy strolling distance. There were even Greek dishes on the menu at many places. By luck rather than judgement, we stayed in an area sheltered from the wind off the Aegean Sea.

We took a couple of trips out, one to Lindos, which was a bit of a misunderstanding; and one a jeep safari (inevitably called "Off Rhodes"), which was very good, in spite of the obligatory stops at the businesses of several mates for them to try and sell us souma, honey, and wine.

The TV over there was interesting - the World Cup, of course, but not exclusively from the English point of view (where we stayed had a large proportion of German, Dutch and Italian guests); the only English speaking channel we found was CNN, but the soaps, sit-coms and "Who wants to be a Millionaire" (German version) were all instantly recognisable, even to us poor monolinguists.

Back home, some of the washing mountain has been tackled, and all our 174 photos have been downloaded, printed out and neatly labelled before we forget where they were all taken. If I can find the energy, I might even put a few up on the blog!

And after the vivid colours of the extravagant flowers of Rhodes, it was a delight to find all the roses in full bloom, plus the blue clematis, the oriental poppy, alliums, dianthus and foxgloves.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

7 June: Holiday!

Just a couple of flowers to keep you all going for a week or so, while we are away in sunnier climes. Actually it would be hard to be sunnier than it has been here for the last couple of days, but it's our fortnight off work, and we need a change. Plans A and B fell through, so a hastily arranged Plan C kicks off this afternoon.

The rose above is Old Blush, now fully out. Below is one of the first flowers on Mme. Alfred Carriere, who scrambles all over the pergola in unrestrained fashion - this flower is, of course, high up, and had to be photographed at arm's length, guessing where to point! Pity the sunshine wasn't on it. More when we get back. Now, where's the sun cream....

Sunday, June 04, 2006

4 June: Old Folkies

Having been nowhere near a folk club for years and years, last night DH and I went to see/hear Jez Lowe at Frosterley Village Hall - on his own, no Bad Pennies. Very good performance, and he's still writing excellent songs. He did one about the Durham Big Meeting that I need to get on a CD. One of his songs was about the shipyards, and as well as Tyneside and Clydeside there were mentions of Jarrow and Barrow.

My great-grandfather worked in the shipyard at Barrow, as did my grandfather and my two great-uncles. Grandfather was quite an athlete, winning 2 race walks organised by the company (Vickers, Sons and Maxim) in 1903. He and his brothers escaped from the shipyard onto the stage, singing in the Music Halls, which is where my grandparents met. One of the projects planned for my retirement is more research on their stage careers.

After an absence of some weeks, the ice cream van is back - playing the Blue Peter theme tune at double speed.

Friday, June 02, 2006

2 June: This week in the garden

This is the first rose of summer. Only a bud in the picture taken on Wednesday, but now fully open. It's a variety called Old Blush, lots of pretty flowers on a rather spindly bush - but perhaps that's just it's particular location.

Very near to that rose, but on the other side of the fence, is our neighbour's eucalyptus tree (and a bit of the buddleia nobody pruned this spring). It was planted by the previous occupants of the house, and it will almost certainly be chopped down when the new owners discover just how tall it's going to grow! 3 years old, it's about 20 feet high now. Most of the back-garden trees round here are chopped off at a height of 8-10 feet. This, of course, encourages the growth of multiple leaders, but the idiots who do it think they will just stop the tree growing any taller.

Under our young rowan tree, in the shady border, the pinkbells (they are bluebells, but the flowers are actually pinkish) look good against a background of lungwort leaves.

And over in the sunny border, alliums are spreading like crazy from a few bulbs put in a couple of years ago. Behind this one is a philadelphus bush, and one of those "lambs' lugs" plants.

The bird baths are doing a roaring trade. The one that is on a stalk (pedestal is much too grand for a plastic item from the garden centre) is quite deep, and the blackbirds have brought their youngsters there for a wash and brush up. The shallow dish of water on the ground, meanwhile, has been hosting a mass splash featuring 6 or 8 adult and juvenile sparrows - they don't stand still long enough to be counted. And the house martins definitely don't have chicks yet - no fecal packets on the porch roof, but the parents crap on the car every time!