Tuesday, February 27, 2007

27 February: May contain....

There must be a word to describe that affliction when you read something that is written perfectly correctly, and your brain scrambles it ever so slightly.

Browsing a few blogs (over the Low Boredom Threshold again) - someone was querying nutritional content. What they really wrote was "carb and fat" - so why did I read it as "crab and fart"?

Monday, February 26, 2007

26 February: Coincidence

Funny how phrases you haven't heard for ages suddenly pop up again, and then again.

Twice in the past 24 hours I've spotted "the sword of Damocles" in different places. And it reminded me that I used to hear this phrase very frequently at work at one time.

In the magistrates' courts, the same solicitors are at court day after day, with a selection of their regular customers. You get used to their little foibles - the ones who have to say everything at least five times, even though they must see how everyone in court glazes over after the third repeat; the ones that always want to borrow a hanky; the ones who get animated only about football; the ones who've had their sense of humour surgically removed.

Anyway, solicitors have their favourite phrases too. One always mitigated using the expression "this unfortunate young man", and there was also one who spent much time trying to persuade the magistrates to impose a community penalty instead of a custodial one (he had those sort of clients), and always, always used the phrase "sword of Damocles".

Ah, happy days!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

25 February: Time flies

It's been a funny old week.

It must be an effect of retirement, because DH thinks it's been a long week, but I feel as if yesterday was Tuesday, when I made my bid for Wildlife Photographer of the Day.

So perhaps it's been a time-warp, or a worm-hole in the fabric of time, or I've been in overdrive and the rest of the world's been in slow motion. Whatever.

But I've been busy all week, and practically nothing to show for it. OK, I read a book one day, unable to put it down; and there are 2 scarves freshly knitted and dyed, now spread out to dry in the bathroom; and there are 2 waterbutts in the conservatory, waiting to be installed - now that could be a saga, or even a series of photos for you and my other reader to caption..... So, try to contain your excitement while you wait for that.

*And Google's top choice for "cat work in Consett"? Well, here, naturally.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

20 February: Feed the birds

On our edge of the estate, several gardens have bird feeders of one sort or another.

However, you cannot choose your wildlife - this bird was feeding in our garden yesterday.

The photo is blurred, as it was taken through an upstairs window, on maximum zoom, and the bird was sitting in the shadow of the aucuba. If the bird hadn't moved, I wouldn't have seen it. But it was tearing at something with its hooked beak. A movement from a hundred wildlife films.

When it flew away, I went to see what was left. Not a scrap of flesh, bone, or even beak or foot. Only feathers.

Not sure, but it might have been a pigeon that the sparrowhawk ate.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

18 February: Growth

The hellebores have been really lovely this year. This one appeared in the blog earlier in the year as a bud.

There are some paler ones too, but as the flowers hang down it was very difficult to get a good view of them. And no crocuses yet.

The seed potatoes are now nestling in egg boxes and seed trays in the conservatory, and the new shoots are already growing.

This morning we walked in Hamsterley Forest - in the valley there was still thick frost on the ground. As the sun reached it, the frost turned straight into steam.

Friday, February 16, 2007

16 February: The plot thickens

At the Spinners, Dyers and Weavers Guild meeting yesterday, I mentioned the newly dug bed in the garden to another spinner/dyer/weaver, and was reminded that potatoes are good for breaking up soil in a new plot. Good idea. That would deal with "what shall we plant till we can get apple trees?" and give me a good excuse for not digging it over again for a while.

And in a safe place was still a garden centre voucher given to me when I retired.

So today, after waiting in for a delivery (again garden-related), I set off in my little car - mine again - for the garden centre.

And I came home with bags of goodies, including seed potatoes, a new trowel, and some packets of seeds.

The crocuses are just about at the same stage as they were this time last year; last year, though, I photographed flowers on them on 18 February. They've got 2 days.

P.S. The house next door sprouted a "For Sale" sign last week; yesterday it turned into "Sold". DH's comment - *Far Canal*. Murph, your fame spreads.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

14 February: Overdoing it

Feeling a bit restless today, and being without my car - DH's car still at the garage after a fortnight, so he's been using mine to get to work - I walked to the shops for a few bits and pieces. It was so nice out of doors that when I got home I decided to make a start on the new border in the back garden.

The lawn was laid on top of a layer of sand, which in turn was on top of our lovely solid clay soil, so I knew it might be hard work. Making a start at the far end, I found it difficult to begin with. Then I discovered that the soil would hold together in blocks, and if I dug up a sort of cube I could replace it in the ground with the grass at the bottom and the earth on top. Once I got into the swing of it, it was easier to carry on than to stop.

I never expected to get the whole area dug over in one go, but that's what happened! And it only took a couple of hours - the bed is about 4 yards long and 4 feet wide. Obviously, it will need more work done on it before anything can be planted, but I'm feeling rather pleased with myself at the moment. Tomorrow my back and shoulders will almost certainly be immobile, but I can sit and knit tomorrow.

The lighter coloured soil in the picture is not all sand - some of it is dolomite. But it's not as solid clay as I expected. And lots of worms. After I came indoors the local robin dropped in and inspected it.

As I always say, if a thing's worth doing, it's worth overdoing.

And Hooray! Hooray! DH has got his car back. The bill was so big they felt guilty and valeted it for free.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

13 February: It must be true...

Sunday's posting was contributed by Time Lords, or Al Zheimer, it certainly wasn't evidence that I don't know what day it is!

Mumble, mumble, OAP, dribble, dribble, OAP, shuffle, shuffle.....

Anyway, when DH came home yesterday (which was, I think, Monday), he told me that people had been evacuated from houses very near our home, because of a gas leak.

There's possibly a certain former JCB driver going to sign on this morning, after smashing through a large gas main - aren't the mains coloured bright yellow so that you can see them in the ground?

Ceefax had a report that the road was closed; the local TV news programmes had live, on-the-spot reports from a frozen guy (who used to wear surprising red socks when he used to do court reports, as I recall) standing beside a pitch dark road in the wind (very exposed bit of road, that) looking very serious and telling everyone that the gas supply to thousands of houses in a wide area was off. The last of his reports I saw contained the promise that if you still had gas, it would be going off very soon, and might be off for days.

Funny - we haven't had any interruption at all to the gas supply yet, and Ceefax now tells us that the main was repaired early this morning. There do seem to be houses without a gas supply today, but it seems that the problem has been nowhere near as dramatic or widespread as advertised.

Why must the media try to make things sound so much worse than they might really be? Over-the-top drama belongs in the soaps.

Perhaps the media needs making healthier by the addition of a large dose of salt.

Bird flu? Looks like the slaughter of those thousands of turkeys stopped it before it spread to every corner shop in the land. David Cameron's drug-taking? Looks like it might have been just a bit of a schoolboy experiment. And let's not start on WMD...

Sunday, February 11, 2007

11 January: Birthdays, cat, hat. Well February, actually.

Happy birthday today to DDIL and happy birthday tomorrow to DD!

Now that the snow has cleared away, we felt like getting out for some fresh air. So we had an hour's hilly trip out on the bikes. Well, it'll help to counteract the effects of the enormous box of chocolates DH brought in yesterday.

Here's Jazz, DH's cat, examining a grubby T shirt. The guilty expression is because he knows he's not supposed to be on the bed.

Knitting alert!

And here is a recently completed cap I knitted from some odds and ends of Blue Faced Leicester wool. Just the sort of thing I really enjoy making - simple shape, simple stitch pattern, and the chance to put some colours together. (There are 7 different colours altogether.)

Things I enjoy - the process of spinning, plying and winding wool: the process of knitting: the serendipity of dyeing: putting colours together, and finding unexpected combinations.

Stripes tend to occur a lot (the Mick Aston effect), as they are a natural pattern for knitting, and I find that my more satisfactory items have mostly been made from my own designs. Anyway, hand spun wool doesn't always suit commercial patterns, which are intended for commercially spun yarns.

My excuse for buying lots of knitting books is to have access to lots of ideas rather than specific designs, and though I sometimes buy knitting magazines to see what is currently being featured and advertised, they are generally disappointing.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

8 February: Snow - and a surprise

On the TV a child from Birmingham was confidently declaring that we don't have snow in the winter any more in England. Perhaps the North-East is not really part of England any longer, as we do actually have snow just about every winter. Though of course, it doesn't count if it doesn't affect those media people.

And this winter (hooray! hooray!) I won't have to drive to work in Consett; up there, about 250m above sea level, it can snow a lot in the winter, and the direct road from here to there can sometimes be closed by snow, necessitating a lengthy detour.

Presumably it's the Global Warming that brings us winter after spring has started. Wonder what might happen if the Gulf Stream changes - winter snow might then be a little more frequent.

Anyway, this afternoon I was busy when the phone rang. Putting down what I was doing, I dashed to get to the phone before the answerphone kicked in. A message for you, she said. Press 1 to hear it. Very mysterious. I pressed 1.

It was Tom Baker, calling to remind me of my dental appointment next week! Wasn't that nice of him, when he's so busy with adverts and such.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

7 February: Huh?

Is it me?

Bird flu in Suffolk - now we don't want to spread it around, do we?

So let's take all the infected birds up to Staffordshire to incinerate them.

Then let's take the poorly vet up to a hospital in Nottinghamshire.

And let's have all the press in, milling around, then returning to their offices and homes.

Oh, and we're not actually sure how this is spread.

Is it me?

Monday, February 05, 2007

5 February: Durham

Not being familiar with the bus times, I checked Arriva's website; armed with a scrap of paper with the times on, I set off for the bus stop.

Every 15 minutes, they're supposed to come. It probably wasn't 7 and a half minutes early, more likely 7 and a half minutes late. I flashed my bus pass as I leapt on, and joined the 3 geriatric and 2 jobless passengers.

Give the driver his due - the speed he was going at, he must have made up some of the time before arrival in Durham. Not having been in the bus station for ages, I was slightly surprised to see it now has a roof and glass walls, but still has the same clientele as previously.

Having done my errands, I strolled up to Palace Green to eat my sandwich. A man hooked his dog's lead onto the bench and disappeared into the discreet public toilet. When he came out, and reclaimed the dog, which was by now drooling as she gazed at my sandwich, he suddenly exclaimed "I know you!"

It was the second time today I'd met someone whose face was familiar, but I couldn't remember their name or where we'd met. We had a pleasant chat, then I went into the Cathedral, intending to take some photos.

No cameras allowed. Oh well, a couple of outside photos, then.

The Sanctuary Knocker is well known. But the door of the Bede Chapel?

The arch has the same sort of zig-zag carving round the top as many of the arches inside the Cathedral.

Across Palace Green is the Castle:

On the other side of the Cathedral is a square with this archway to South Bailey:

From the Bailey, I walked down onto the riverbank, across Prebends Bridge, and along to the boathouse, from where I got this classic view of the Cathedral with the weir and the Fulling Mill (yes, that sort of fulling) in the foreground:

And on towards the bridge and up the steps, where this view of the Castle (Pizza Hut below) was taken:

Back at the bus station, I checked the timetable, which bore no resemblance at all to the information from the website, and seemed to indicate a long wait. Within a few minutes, though, the bus I wanted arrived, and I was on my way home to a nice cup of tea.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

3 February: Garden life

Yesterday afternoon was so sunny and mild that I spent an hour or so out in the garden. First I stuck some sticks in the lawn to mark out a projected new bed (currently referred to as "the orchard", as we plan to plant two dwarf apple trees). There may be some adjustment before digging starts.

Then I weeded all the borders, finding the usual willowherb, masses of shepherd's purse, and even 2 nettles. After 4 and a half years of cultivation, and plants crammed closely together, the weeds are now reduced.

All the bird feeders have now been moved to the pergola, where they hang from hooks and from branches of the rose tree.

This morning the birdbaths were frozen again, so I went out and broke the ice for the pair of blackbirds who like to drink and bathe.

There has been a pair of robins coming in to feed for a few days; to begin with, I wasn't sure there were two, but yesterday evening I saw the pair together. It seems too early for them to be pairing up.

And our regular dunnock has been in the border when the robin has been taking food from one of the hanging feeders, and is now copying, flitting briefly onto the feeder perch and snatching a seed or two. Dunnocks are ground-feeding birds, so perhaps there is not enough to eat on the ground. There have been slug/snail trails on the paving, and there was a dozy fly in the conservatory one day, but it seems too cold still for most insects. The casts on the lawn show that we have a healthy population of worms, though.

And the hellebores are out, and bulbs are putting up shoots, and it's all quite spring-like, and we haven't had winter yet.

P.S. The emergency mittens are finished, and have been fulled. As soon as they are dry, they will be posted off.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

1 February: Television

This evening, to accompany my mitten knitting, I was watching TV.

The news irritated me - there's recently been a tendency to oppose *British* and *Muslim*, as if they were mutually exclusive.

No, no ; *British* describes nationality, and *Muslim* describes religion. People can be British, French, Chinese, Indian, etc. and at the same time Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, or whatever, in any sort of combination of nationality and religion. Because people have non-white skins, they are NOT automatically non-Christian, just as white skins are NOT automatically containing Christians. Some white skins, including mine, conceal Buddhists; others contain Jews, Zoroastrians, or Muslims. Lots of Britons have no particular religion - the same probably applies to people of other nationalities too.

I would have expected better from the BBC.


Also this evening I watched a programme purporting to give the truth about food. It concerned dieting, and I was interested as currently I would like to lose large lumps of fat from where my waist used to be. DH would also like his belt to go round his stomach, not under it.

Some of what was being shown was not relevant to vegetarians, but much stuff could be translated into Veggie quite easily. DH was delighted that one of the suggestions was Soup, as he is very fond of soup. I can cope with soup, as long as it has no salt, but plenty of lentils.

Enter a Soup Dragon, left.