Saturday, 10 October 2009

Plan Ordinare.......

When I think of the time and effort I have spent on this
ungrateful, ungrape-ful vine this year, it's enough to make me weep into my wine....were I allowed any.

I've done everything by the book - pruning, thinning, training - and although it does have marginally more bunches than it had last year, they are still all fiddling and small. Grapes about the size of your little fingernail. Too small for eating, and too few for bottling.

There are a few scenarios that might explain this:-

i) The shock of being reduced by 50% in mass has affected its output, and it might be better next year.

ii) It's just not a big graped variety, and will always be more ornament than acheivement.

iii) It hates me.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Kew Gardens (iii)..........

Some of the tropical, sub-tropical and desert exhibits.

Kew Gardens (ii)....

One of the most impressive and popular attractions at Kew, is the swelteringly hot Water Lilly House..... Very much a case of "all of the colours in all of the sizes". The giant Vicotoria Cruziana waterlillies are removed and grown from fresh plants each year, as although heating is no problem, the British Climate does not provide enough natural sunlight to sustain them through the winter.

Also in this elegant, listed building are bananas, taro, manioc, Sacred Lotus, & Papyrus plants.

Kew Gardens.... (i)

Despite once having worked in London for over 10 years, and having paid numerous visits to the National Archives at Richmond, I'd never been to it's near neighbour, Kew Gardens. This was an oversight that I managed to rectify earlier this week, as part of my "staycation". I went partly to see the the place, and partly as an excuse for a photographic expedition. It's a huge site, with acres of parkland and arboreatums, as well as seperate themed garden areas.

It was a rather overcast day, with poor light a lot of the time, so several of shots that I would otherwise have taken, of classic Kew views like the huge Tropical House, and the ride down to theChinese Pagoda, didn't really lend themselves to the conditions. Other shots worked better though, and here are a few of them.

This is the Davies Alpine House, a fairly recent addition that opened in 2006. In the Background is the Princess of Wales Conservatory, housing 10 different climate zones, and currently home to the "India 250" display.
The Rock Garden contains Alpines, Mediterranean plants, and seperate sections for plants from each continent.

The Japanese Chokushi-Mon (Gateway of the Imperial Messenger) is four fifths the size of the original in Kyoto, and was originally built for the Japanese-British Exhibition in 1910.
It was reconstructed in the 195o's and extensively renovated to it's current impressive standard in 1995.

Kew Palace was built by a Dutch merchant in 1631, in the traditional Flemish Style. It first became a royal palace in 1728, was officially bought by George III in 1781, and housed various members of the extended family until well into the 18oo's.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

Season Of Mellow Fruitfulness?.........

.... OK, so perhaps it's a bit early for all that. But the blackberry that has been trespassing over the wall from next door's garden is clearly keen to get on with it.

I have been assiduously hacking it back for two years, on the assumption that it was a common (or garden) bramble. Not until I looked up from the sun lounger today, mid-chapter, and spotted a clutch of huge berries half way up a large bush, where I had missed it, did I realise that it's probably some kind of cultivar. The berries are much larger than I recall from the hedgerows of yesteryear, and exceptionally sweet.

Rather wish I had not been so eager with the secateurs now.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Be Careful What You Wish For...........

Having formerly bemoaned the lack of excitement in my life just lately, I suppose that I ought really to be grateful to the fellow motorist whom, whilst attempting to turn right yesterday morning, failed to see my bright red Fiesta of Doom bearing down on him.

The emotions I experienced in the split second between seeing him appear two car lengths in front of me on a major road, and then suddenly being face down with a mouthful of air bag, certainly fit the general description of "exciting". In retrospect at least.

Fortunately there were no serious injuries. (Although today my neck feels as if someone took it apart during the night and reassembled it without reference to the instructions.)

"Mon voiture" on the other had, has finally executed its last three point turn, now being a least a foot shorter than the designer intended.

The other party's insurers were on the phone to me within the hour, accepting full liability, and the normal formalities are in chain. It goes without saying of course that the "book price" of my 11 year old but very well looked after, low mileage motor, will not do justice to it; and I shall probably struggle to find a like-for-like replacement after the pay-out. But considering that I am still in a position to need another car, (i.e. breathing) this seems like a comparatively minor gripe.

I picked up the courtesy car they supplied today, and purposely drove past the scene of the accident on my way home, in order that no demon should remain unslayed. Considering it is the latest model of hatchback, built in a different century to my previous ride, I can't say that I'm very impressed with it. It has around 20 adjustable seat positions, none of which are quite right, suspension stiffer than a dead cat, and accelerates as if the engine were full of treacle.

The air-con though I will concede, represents a major technological advance.... As does actually being able to hear the engine, over 300 plastic door panels vibrating in dreadful symphony.

Somehow I expected something more though..... Something more.... "exciting"?

Monday, 20 July 2009

Nothing To See Here.....

Don't worry folks, you are not missing anything.

Work. Eat. Sleep.... That's what I'm about just lately.

Yeah, I know I'm not really selling myself, in terms of your continued custom, but the moment something remotely interesting happens, you'll hear about it.


Oh the suspense.....................................!

Sunday, 14 June 2009

The Definition Of Frustration Is........

.......Driving past this field every day, on the way to work, but with no time to stop and do anything about it.

Thankfully both the poppies and the good weather held it together long enough on Saturday for me to scratch the itch.

Sun?....They Never Told Me There Would Be Sun!.......

I have been away, and it was HOT. The unexpected conjunction of these two unusual occurences is a very rare thing indeed, and may have affected my head.

This is my excuse for not posting anything for weeks, even though I have been back a fortnight.

When I say I went "away" it was only to Devon, but you could have been forgiven for mistaking Dartmouth for St Tropez, such was the harsh brightness of the mediterranean light, and the hotness of the, er...heat.

A day on Dartmoor with my father, consisted of driving miles to find views I wanted to photograph, only to find I should have gone in the morning, or the afternoon, or just after lunch. Any time in fact apart from the time we arrived, when the sun was always coming from the wrong direction. I can see I must get hold of a "sun-compass"...(hint, hint, Sis!)

We took sandwiches and flasks and had proper father and & son type fun nonethless, even if having one of my parents on board for the first time did subconciously make me drive around all day as if I was taking my test again... ... though equally badly no doubt.

The Church above, stands on Brent Tor, and is a severe test for the faithful on cold winter's morning's I have no doubt...... Below is the inner harbour at Dartmouth.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Off The Top Of My Head.....

On the rare occasions when mother nature can no longer be denied and I need a hair cut, I would normally expect to spend the time fending off questions about my plans for the weekend, holidays, or being asked my opinions about people on television whom I have never heard of. (And I am not making any stereotypical insinuations the hairdressing profession….It just seems to be the law that you have to talk about this stuff whilst in the chair.)

So it was an unexpected change as I had my ears lowered yesterday, to find myself in a detailed conversation about white rot in onions, the best time to thin carrots, and many other matters vegi-cultural. The more so since the girl cutting my hair was in her early twenties, and yet mad keen on having an allotment. She has been sharing one with her boyfriend’s dad, but is soon to take over a plot of her own on a new site that is in the final stages of preparation in Northampton.

Which brings me to the second surprising point of this post, after the cabbage loving crimper; the fact that this new site has been reclaimed from the clutches of Tescos.

The Harlestone Road site in Duston, had been derelict for about 8 years, and was proposed for a new Superstore (Kenyan and Egyptians french beans available all year round doubtless), or alternatively for planting of another kind, as an extension to the local cemetery.

Fortunately Northampton has a very vocal and seemingly well organised Allotments Network group, who have successfully lobbied for the new improved facility, with roads, sheds, piped water etc, as well as upgrades to other sites.

Truly we live in strange but encouraging times, when the resurgence of allotmenteering has inspired so many diverse people, and has the power to see off big business.

Not entirely sure how I will feel about pinks sheds, and human hair mulches though……

Sunday, 10 May 2009

How The Best Laid Plans Of Mice And Men Often Go Awry......

1. Wash the Car
2. Go to Tesco
3. Cut the grass
4. Put the..........

......Oh bollocks to it!

Monday, 4 May 2009

Three Sheets To The Wind.............

Not an admission of failure relating to my lamentable beerless lifestyle, but rather, an approximation of yesterday morning's activity, in trying to cover a poly-tunnel in a blustery gale. (I say "gale", of course I mean "slightly stiffer than desirable breeze").

A couple of friends are in their first proper allotment season, and I have very helpfully been giving them the benefit of my deep font of knowledge, guesswork and general bullshit on all matters vegicultural.... Usually without even being asked! I am just that kind of guy.

They have also decided to erect a rather large & splendid poly-tunnel, using plans gleaned from the interweb, and materials gleaned from here there and every where.

So naturally, when it came to the tricky business of handling and fixing the polythene cover, I was just the man to turn to..... Not because I had impressed them with all the semi-plausible advice I had offered in the comfort of the pub, but because I had impressed them by being 6'3". As compared to their own joint altitudes of roughly five-foot-fuck-all.

After the potentially difficult job of unrolling a 12m x 7m sheet of polythene, and re-rolling it up along its other axis, in the "gale", getting it onto the frame turned out to be a doddle. All of the other lanky mercenaries they had on standby in the end were hardly needed.

Just at the critical moment, the wind got up, stretched the sheet out, flapped it up over the hoops for us, and then died away again.... exactly as I had planned all along of course.

The proud owners had already spent a lot of time, building the structure, and digging the trench to build the bury the plastic in, but the whole business of covering, battening and fixing the doors and windows only took 5 of us a little over 2 hours. (Including time-out for coffee and bacon sandwiches.)

The last picture is a carefully stage managed shot of me posing as if I know what I am doing, in a rather tallish way.

So if you want to build a tunnel of your own, rest assured that I have all the half-baked advice you could ever want.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

April Skies.......

Went for a bit of a walk on Sunday.
Nothing to write home about, or indeed to blog about, (I am a dull old stick at the moment) but saw this view and mused my annual muse about the proliferation of oilseed rape in the landscape these days....

A good thing, or not a good thing?.....

.......Such are the workings of the idle mind.

Saturday, 4 April 2009

How The Mighty Are Fallen...........

Along with a number of allotmenteers (or ex-but-hopefully-soon-to-be-again allotmenteers in my case) I'm normally utterly faithful to the creed of veg....and I DO NOT DO FLOWERS.

Very sensibly, Matron DOES NOT DO FLOWERS either!

However....... my tub grown veg turned out to be all work for very little reward last year, and I might just have an allotment before winter. (The council have relented on their previous rigid insistance on only letting full 10-rod plots, and have slashed the waiting list by suddenly handing out lots of half plots!) So I have decided not to bother with too much with veg at home this year.

Trouble is, I don't want to sit in a patio garden all summer, surrounded by barrels of bare earth, ringed with plastic netting to keep off the Phantom Feline Defecator. I need to put something in them to fill them up.

So along with some carrots, and a few ridiculously optimistic tomatoes, I shoved in some flower seeds today - in as brisk & manly a fashion as I could manage, whilst whistling the theme tune from "Match of the Day", to make me feel a bit better about planting Eschscholzias and....gulp....Sweet Peas.

So imagine my shock then, when I visited Matron's blog, to sheepishly confess the error of my ways, and found that she has only just gone and planted some bloomin' bloomers herself!

What is the world coming to?..... I blame Gordon Brown.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Oakley Races.....

The Oakley Hunt held it's annual Point-to-Point meeting today, just up the road from here at Brafield-in-the-Green. If you've never been to a point-to-point day, you ought to make the effort.There are dozens, all over the country.

They are generally very well organised, with trade stalls, things to do for kids, and get a good turnout of locals, country folk, the horse fraternity, and of course those who are only there for the betting.

They are invariably very easygoing family friendly affairs, without the rules and social regulations of formal Horse Racing meetings. The standard of racing is a little more agricultural was well, but that part of the fun I suppose.

I narrowly avoided losing my shirt by concentrating on my camera, and keeping away from the betting ring. And the beer tent, and the burger van.

I am a sort of abstemious, photographic martyr I am.

Sunday, 22 March 2009


I was up and out at 4:30 yesterday morning, to drive to Oundle, and shoot the sunrise over the water meadows between Achurch and Wadenhoe. Well that was the plan anyway, but its execution turned out to be easier in the mind, than in the marsh.

First of all, before dawn, it's like reeeally dark and stuff .....And then when the sun does comes up, it doesn't hang about (metaphorically if not perhaps literally speaking) so the best moments to photograph it low over the fields, pass by in the changing of a lens.

And it was misty. Not in a pleasingly bucolic "mist rising gently over the river" kind of way, but just a plain old "30 yard, mess up your focus" kind of a way. Suffice it to say then, there is a lot more to this particular discipline of landscape photography that I need to master, before achieving the sort of results I was aiming for.

So no fiery sunrise pictures here...... But, whist I was kneeling by my tripod, in the half light, in some mud at the water's edge, I noticed that where the river had risen and receded at some point, the ground was littered with the shells of tiny water snails.

I suppose we could draw some kind of Zen like conclusion therefore, about not endlessly chasing the elusive, big dreams in life, without stopping to see the beauty in small things, right under your nose.

But frankly I can't be bothered with all that hippy shit, so you'll just have to phrase it yourself, if enlightenment happens to be big dream that you are seeking...... (Insert own Karma statement here)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

It's A Small World, And A Weird One.....

So there I am sitting in my office in Northamptonshire, and I get a call from a bloke who has quoted to do some surveying work for us.... We've not used him before, and I've never even heard of him..... I don't know him from proverbial Adam.

But when I jotted down his phone number, I recognised the area code was for Maidstone in Kent - the area where I originally hail from. So just out of interest I asked him where he was based, and he named the village I went to school in..... So I asked him where exactly.....and he named the farm in the middle of nowhere that I grew up on...!

We lived in the farm house for donkey's years, and now this guy's office is about 25 yards away in the converted oast.

Of all the companies we might have chosen, and of all the people in my office who could have spoken to him etc, etc....

Well it's been freaking ME out all afternoon anyway....

Friday, 6 February 2009

Evil Genius.... ?

As more than a few of you who occasionally peer into this little space will know, being allotmenteers and gardeners almost to a man, 'tis the season for postmen to be groaning under the weight of unsolicited seed catalogues.

I've had a whole rake of them drop through my letterbox in the past few weeks. Kings, Marshalls, Suttons, T&M, Dobbies, in fact all the usual suspects. But currently being plotless (and potless) I just file them in the back of a cupboard, in case I should suddenly need to order some rhubarb crowns one day, or an emergency supply of fennel seeds.

Overall though, as a means for seperating me from my cash they have all been pretty much a waste of time on the part of their publishers.

Today though, I received another, from "J. Parkers", and this one is slightly different...

You know how they pump synthesised bread smells into supermarkets to make you feel hungry, ......well Parkers' seed catalogue fairly reeks of compost. And Bonemeal, and bits of old string. In order to check I was not mistaken I got the others out of the cupboard and sniffed them thoroughly, and nothing..... Just the normal inky, junk mail smell.

So, either Parkers is a small operation, and they really have kept the catalouges next to the John Innes all winter, or.....they have been deliberately impregnated with "Essence of Potting Shed".

I see it was delivered via those busy folk at DHL, and as I know enough of how high volume mailing works, from a former existence, I'm pretty sure they would go direct to DHL from the printers. I suspect therefore that I (we), are being practised upon by a piece of beautifully simple but brilliant salesmanship.... And it makes me want to plant something.

So if you have J. Parkers latest missive, give it a sniff and tell me I'm not wrong!

I've left mine out on side for the time being, within easy reach. Just until the musty thrill is gone.

...... Or perhaps I've simply just been snowed in here too long.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

Photo Tagged.....

It seems that it's time for another of those inescapable blogosphere chain letter things.... and I have been "tagged" by Frankie, all the way from her rural idyll in Herefordshire....a county that is proud to be "gastronomically great at any time of the year"....not just at Christmas, or for a few heady days in summer, but at ANY time!..... Hardcore.

Anyway, the mission appears to be... "go into your photo archive, pick the 4th folder in the archive, select the 4th picture in the folder, and write about it. A person then needs to tag 4 other people to do the same".

This resulted in a mind numbingly banal photo of the back of my car wing mirror that I took for evidential purposes after it was vandalised. Not wanting to be labelled a dirty low down cheat however, I was all set to lie about it ( lying's not as bad as cheating right ?) until I realised it was only the numerically chosen one if my photo folders appear in alphabetical order.

A quick , wholly unconnected decision that I really ought to be filing stuff chronologically, resulted in this shot of Edinburgh Castle.

I remember that I took it balancing on top of the back of a bench in Princes Street, in order to see over the railings. It was World Cup Finals week in 2006, it was searing hot, and I had a heat induced rash all over my face, which made me look like The Elephant Man. I was staying in a cheap hotel, that was 99% full of foreign exchange students, and was built over a massive 24 hour bar.

As a weekend away, this photo is about the only half decent thing I have to say about it.

My four victims shall be:
She Who Digs
...and right out of left field, as they allegedly say in those parts Jill Twiss who has nothing whatsover ever to do with growing vegetables (as far as I know) but is still very funny, despite this glaring oversight.

It's All White For Some.....

Too much snow to go to work today!......Who says there's no God?

Too much in fact to even get up the lane to the main road, which was equally blocked anyway.

I shovelled the path (another of those "grown up" moments) then went for a walk around the village.

This is the local pub, at about 10 O'clock in the morning. By lunchtime it was packed to the rafters with snowboarders, ballers, walkers, workshy skivers and the odd photographer.

And if there's one thing better in my book than an unexpected day off, it's when there is also a Test Match to watch......A chap could get used to this.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Patience, they say, is a virtue.........

Last April when I first put my name down on the local "Lottie List" (she's a busy girl is our Lottie) I was 36th. ... Out of 36, naturally.

Meanwhile friends of mine have secured a plot at another local site - after a very short wait- and have cleared it, cracked on, and been given a second one. Apparently I could get one there too.....But I don't want one there.

I want one at the OTHER (clearly more exclusive) site that I visited first, and which is conveniently on the way to and from work.

Having phoned he Council's "Allotment Office", which I bet is not really an office, but just a phoneline in some conglomerated department, I find that I am now 16th out of 54.....

So this time next year.......!!!

(Actually I'm rather glad they didn't say "Lucky you, one's just come up!".... It's far too bloody cold for allotmenteering just now... Or much else.)

Thursday, 8 January 2009

Recession Bites....

"A crisp, clean sheet of the finest quality stationery..... Carefully handwritten in the deepest blue ink, signed with a flourish, and lovingly wrapped in a handmade designer envelope.

This is no ordinary P45........

.........This is an M&S P45."

Saturday, 3 January 2009

Baby It’s Cold Outside………….

....And it’s none too toasty inside either at the moment.

No sign of Global Warming in these parts then, which is nice, as it’s one of the things I’m currently fed up with hearing about. There are quite a lot of these, too many in fact to ever list here, but global warming is right up there. The main reason for my disinterest is not that I don’t believe it’s real - I do as it happens - but rather that I just don’t really care any more. I seem to have green fatigue.

There are of course as many theories both for and against the warming phenomenon as there are worthy writers and credulous readers. Just pick your polemicist of choice. But for my part, as far as I can make out, I might just live long enough to see olive groves and palm trees around the M25, but not long enough to die in a horrible ball of fire, or drown whilst walking on the Pennines. Having no kids to fret over, I can happily live with that scenario. I don’t go about needlessly polluting and wasting energy for the sake of it, but I’m dammed if I’m going to let populist paranoia make me feel guilty for turning the heating up a couple of degrees.
When I was child I worried about going to big school. Then about getting a job. Now I worry over how I will be able to provide for myself in old age. As an individual, and as a people, we have enough to be anxious about already. I don’t make New Years resolutions but if I did it would be to do my living in the here and now.

You may think I actually doing my living in a state of denial of course, and maybe you might be right, but unlike a large part of the UK one place I will definitely NOT be living in the next couple of weeks is a Gangsta’s Paradise. (Go and google on “Coolio” if you are not up to speed with your faded 90’s Rap artistes.)

Yes…. hard on the heels of “Strictly Pointless”, TV now brings us “Celebrity Big Brother”! …… Your latest mind altering dose of cultural Mogadon!

Is this really what 3,000 years of evolution, education and artistic endeavour has brought us to? Seems to me that the overwhelming quasi-religious rise of celebrity driven, populist hysteria IS actually something worth worrying about. Something we SHOULD collectively feel guilty about.

Don’t obsess about other peoples lives, do something with your own for fucks sake…. Go for a walk, grow some seeds, read a book…anything! (Although on the subject of books, I do like the irony that those people who will hang on every utterance of Coolio, Ulrika et al, and allow a TV program to shape their free time, their conversations at work, and their personal value systems, probably have no idea where the name Big Brother comes from or what it implies.)

With systematic social dumbing down occurring at this rate, even if there is a terrible climate driven dénouement to our existence on this planet, at least we’ll be too fucking stupid to notice.
Global warming may or may not have played a part in the extinction of the dinosaurs, but I suspect it was really because they were too busy sitting on their leathery arses watching “The T-Rex Factor” to go out and get a life.

(….. So all in all then , I’d say the no drinking thing is going quite well wouldn’t you?)

Saturday, 20 December 2008

Despatches From The (Sofa)Bed Of An Invalid.....

Pity me gentle reader for I am ill.

My limbs ache, my head throbs, my breathing is wheezy and I cough like a car backfiring…. In short I have Man-Flu.

I undoubtedly contracted this most dolorous of maladies from one of my co-shirkers at the office. All week he has been coughing pathetically, and rolling his eyes in a most irritating and overly theatrical fashion, as if at death’s door. I have been tutting and flashing him dark looks intended first to convey “Pull yourself together man it’s only a cold”, until Wednesday I switched scowls to a “If your really that ill why are you still here infecting all of us” grimace. But to no avail, nothing would satisfy him but that we too must all feel his pain.

Although not a proper doctor, I feel I can state with some certainty however, that the disease has mutated in transmission (flu does that you know) as I clearly have a much worse strain than him. I shouldn’t wonder if it is not actually new to medical science. In fact, I do have a shred of supporting evidence for the seriousness of my condition, as the new drugs I’m taking for arthritis, work by suppressing the immune system, thus leaving me at increased risk of infections. Therefore I’m bound to be worse off than other folk aren’t I?

I have not presented this interesting case to my doctor yet, as in the past he has been, frankly, quite unsympathetic. Once when laid low by what any fool could see was a life threatening chest infection, he told me to “go home and rest” and added that “there’s a lot of it about”….as if becoming a statistic was likely to make me feel better!

I’m not at all sure he has found his proper vocation, but I don’t like to say anything.

Another thing that irks is the abject failure of modern science, in an age where Walt Disney can put men on the moon, and small Asian men can deliver pizza hot to your door in a matter of minutes, to find a cure for such a common complaint.

Or if not a cure, then why can’t Britain’s much vaunted National Health Service, the second largest employer in the world, (beaten only by the Indian Railways system) at least provide a little palliative care. Surely Myleene Klass in a nurse's outfit with a concerned look on her face is not too much to ask…...... I pay my taxes dammit!

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Cutbacks, Cutbacks......

Having read up on my viticulture, and discovered that now is about the right time to do it, I drastically "reduced" my grapevine today.

Actually, as I have no truck at all with the forthcoming Season of Stupidness, I was originally planning to do it on Thursday the 25th, if for no other reason than to freak out the neighbours.....

"Why are you doing that today?...It's Christmas!"

"Not in my house it's bloody not!"

Unfortunately you can't rely on weather these days, so seizing upon an uncharacteristically clement spell, and harnessing my new found interest in pub avoidance strategies, I took my courage, and my secateurs, in both hands, and set to with a will.

This (embarrassingly slapdash) picture shows the mound of material I removed, by rule of thumb, following the main vines, and cutting back the side shoots to two buds....God only knows if this is right, but it's about the only sense I could make of all the conflicting information on the Interweb.

As it had grown 30' up the fir tree on the right and was scaring airline pilots, some of it was quite thick, and most reluctant to be parted from the tree at first. Fortunately however, the task proved to be one of the few occasions in life, where having eaten more than ones strict personal allocation of the pies could be considered to be an asset.

Using my ampleness as deadweight, I hauled on the ends in a bell-ringing style-ee, until gravity finally won out over friction, and I got it all down.

I guess I will have to wait until March to find out if I've killed it or not, but given the vigour it has hitherto displayed, I am reasonably confident it will be OK.

All I need now, is to find something else, both mundane and yet suitably eccentric, to do on the Bank Holiday while you lot are all getting pissed and pretending to like pullovers.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Drugs Good, Beer Bad..........

So there I am at the hospital, listening to the (very pretty) Rheumatologist tell me how my immune system is attacking my joints, and therefore trying to choose my medication of choice from the menu they offered me (I kid you not!) when it suddenly dawns on me….. I could swear she just said “ No alcohol”.

Actually she was talking, and I was reading, so what I was hearing was “Blah, Blah, Liver... Blah, Blah, No Beer…Blah Blah, Blah Very Bad”

This distracted me a bit, as the likelihood is that when we hit on the particular drug that works for me, they will become a permanent fixture.

“I’m sorry, did you just say that once I start taking any of these I can’t drink again…… all?”

“Oh yes, if you take alcohol you’ll feel quite ill, and you risk serious liver damage. Why, is that a problem?”

“Er no..... not a problem exactly…. It’s just…. well it just seems a bit …… a bit depressing really”

“ Oh, don’t worry you’ll get used to it!”


PS. Don’t ever be tempted to waste £1.65 on trying so called Alcohol Free larger. It tastes like diluted sick.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Strange Fruit.....

The grapes on my rambling grapevine were very late ripening this year, due to the miserable summer-that-never-was, and now we have had some severe frosts, all the leaves have suddenly fallen off the vine this week, but before the grapes have all gone.

This has given it a sadly bedraggled appearance, but no doubt one that will appeal to the birds.

Over the winter when the sap is dormant, the vine is in for a very rude awakening, as I am going to chop it back dramatically, and cure it of its wild ways.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Henry, Nellie & Miss......

At the weekend, between the turning of the leaves, and the turning back of time, I went for a walk in Salcey Forest.

Situated near Towcester, just outside the village of Hartwell, this is a landscape with real history in it's sap.

It was first created, or "emparked", along with other areas locally, by no lesser rambling enthusiast than Henry VIII himself, for use as a hunting forest. King Henry came to the the Grafton area of the East Midlands frequently, and made a number of "improvements" to things, most of them not at all to the liking of the rebellious local populous who were suddenly excluded from the new royal parks, with the possible exception of rights in some areas to gather wood for their fires. (In fact it's thought that the phrase "by hook or by crook" stems from the wording of this legal permission to scavenge dead branches.)

More recently, during the Second World War, when timber, labour and petrol were all at a premium, circus elephants were conscripted to work in the forest, felling and dragging out logs. After work they were turned out to swim in a woodland pool now called, fittingly, if not very imaginatively, "Elephant Pond". This got me to wondering if there had been other elephant's bathing in the wild in Britain before this, and it turns out that there have indeed been remains found of "proboscideans-straight-tusked elephant Palaeoloxodon antiquus, woolly mammoth Mammuthus primigenius and also a smaller mammoth, unique to this interglacial period and often referred to in Britain as the 'Ilford' mammoth". Now Salcey is actually about 2 hours north of Ilford, but it is pretty much straight up the M1, and therefore quite easy to find; so whilst I can't absolutely prove it's the only spa in the country to be patronised by prominent Pachyderms for several millennia, it seems entirely possible woolly mammoths could also have rinsed out their trunks here......Perhaps on a day trip from the Essex marshes.

Nowadays, the main attraction in the forest is the Tree Top Walk, a bridge-like structure that twists and turns its way up into the canopy, and offers great views, both down on the trees, and out over the landscape towards distant Northampton. It's not the biggest wow factor in the world to be sure, but it is a bit different, thought provoking, and free.

My morning stroll was also enjoyed by the Deputy Head, who has been staying at Hotel Quotidian recently, and can be seen here, neatly demonstrating two very important messages....

1. Get your arses outside people. It's fun!

2. Though you may be a successful, thirty-something, professional, you are never too big to be a big kid......

.........Or somebody's little sister.