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Friday, March 07, 2014

Friday Five: Things to Buy This Weekend

 
1. Couple of large-ish Long Toms for my olive trees, currently wintering out in the glasshouse;
 
2.  Half a dozen large-ish terracotta pots for my tree saplings, currently wintering out on the terrace steps;
 
3.  Bags of charcoal and plenty of firelighters; if we're to have a warm weekend with Cs into the mid-teens, let's get cooking;
 
4.  Even more packets of seeds, specifically mini cucumbers so I can recreate my Jerusalem breakfasts...
 
5.  Another box of purple latex gloves; one must at least attempt to be stylish when sowing one's seeds.
 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day 2014: The Little Land of Me

 
I came across Naomi Johnson, creator of these gorgeous little artworks at her workplace last year. She is as lovely as her creations.  If only you saw her range of Christmas decorations, each one handmade to Naomi's meticulous standards. Guess the price of the red felt heart above; £3.00.

 
And this perky little key ring; £1.00.  Yes really, a pound! I've ordered several for little stocking fillers ready for next Christmas.


But the green wreath above is my favourite decorative item this spring, and is going to feature heavily in my Easter decorations in the weeks to come. 9cm diameter an absolute steal at £2.00.  Two pounds!
 
 
If we are to reflate our economy, we must support young, skilled British designers like Naomi.  For as William Morris so perfectly stated; "If you want a golden rule that will fit everybody... Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful."

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Sheffield Botanical Gardens; What Is This Plant?

 
Another trip over to the Sheffield Botanical Gardens this afternoon, after an arduous hour in John Lewis replacing half a dozen assorted pieces of Robert Welch cutlery that appear to have gone walkabout since the start of the year. It wasn't arduous at all. Quite the opposite, actually. John Lewis was pretty much deserted, so much so that I wandered up the escalators and bought some lovely little White Stuff woollies and an Alice Temperley dress. But back to the Botanical Gardens, beautifully stripped back by winter and experienced staff supported by tremendously knowledgeable volunteer gardeners...


Now, my charming, witty and erudite readers, I have a little task for you all. Hop in the car and belt up the M1 to Sheffield then career off at J31 along the A57; jump left onto the A61 and stay on it until you get to the big roundabout St Mary's Gate / Waitrose; take the first left onto the A625 Ecclesall Road, and stay on it until you come to the roundabout where you need to go right up the hill onto the B6069 Brocco Bank.  Follow the road up past the student uni flats on the left hand side and swing right as the road becomes Clarkehouse Road.  Near the pedestrian crossing you'll see free parking on both sides of the road.  Park up and stroll across to the Botanical Gardens. Free admission.

 
Walk downhill towards the fountain. Standing with your back to the fountain, sparkling droplets in the bright winter sunshine, walk up towards the glasshouses between the two large herbaceous borders.  About halfway up on the right hand side you'll see a gap in the hedge backing the border, where the following plant grows.  It's about 5' or 6' tall, woody and still with some crimson coloured racemes.  Those racemes would put you in mind of a Corylopsis Pauciflora.


At the end of last year I decided that I really ought to get my photos sorted out into some sort of meaningful order, rather than the strip-dumps of, "2013 summer?" "Sheffield 2013?" Some don't even have that measure of effort. Anyway, suffice to say I've dated, filed and shifted hundreds of photos from last year, and now I can't find a thing. Somewhere I have a picture of the fountain at the Sheffield Botanical Gardens; the one above's in Dublin.

Incidentally, the pictures above of the as-yet-unknown plant (which is just a thinly veiled plea to Helen Yemm to name it), which you'll see EVERYWHERE in Sheffield, were taken sometime in the Autumn.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Friday Five: Rod Stewart

What can I say? Rod is back BIGGER and BETTER than he's ever been.  I missed the Maggie May generation (thank goodness) and really came to know Rod via Atlantic Crossing and those big big romantic ballads.


1. Beautiful Morning
"Beautiful morning, on this beautiful morning, on this beautiful, beautiful morning here with you..."

2. She Makes Me Happy
"...She showed me loving is a wonderful thing; She makes me happy; want to sing, sing, sing!"  His joy in his relationship with Penny Lancaster just shines right through this song.  Just wonderful...

3. Its Over 
Beautiful arrangement. Lyrics choke you up. Gifted songwriter. Rod at his best. This whole album is his most autobiographical.

4. Forever Young
Perfect.

5. And pretty much everything else he's done, but at a push probably this, not least for the way his voice breaks as he sings, "I can tell by your eyes that you've probably been crying forever..."

6. And Some Guys Have All The Luck, because I just love the way one song segues into another and his blond saxophonist... classic.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

"A Life Lived in Perpetual Peril Can be Exhilarating..."

I'm freezing, and have taken to wearing a cashmere sweater and tomato red jeggings from Marks just to get through the day.  I did however, decide to leave my pashmina in the  car at Sainsbury's, as I thought that was just overdoing it when everyone else was in shorts and tee-shirts.  It always takes me a couple of days to acclimatise when I return from (and go to) the Middle East.

 
Hot, hot sun and bright blue skies. Sunnies and Factor 50. Flip-flops and bottled water in the car.

 
Olive trees full with fruit and the stony, weed-free understory.
 

Simply wonderful.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bread & Fish Roasted Over Charcoal


Pile the barbeque and set light. 
When coals white and ready to transform words into food, slip whole fish, cleaned and gutted, oiled and thymed, onto charcoal fire and roast gently.
Serve with bread you bought at 5am that morning, and consider the nature of friendship and overwhelming mercy.  
Dishes of chermoula, olive oil and za'atar optional.


Sunday, September 01, 2013

Arum italicum "Marmoratum" Italian Lords & Ladies

September brings the autumnal fruits of Arum italicum "Marmoratum" to delight the hearts of gardeners.  We are all familiar with the clumps of large, arrow-shaped, glossy green leaves veined creamy-white from whose depths shoot up these showy spikes of orange-red berries at this time of year. So easy to propagate too; either by splitting and replanting the tubers or culling these fleshy seeds and throwing into your beds to a depth of a few inches.
 
 
 
And here we have a clump of Lords and Ladies in their original habitat at the Sheffield Botanical gardens. Here they look a bit spartan, (that's the purpose of a botanical garden, after all), and in the domestic garden would look well under shrubs and roses to give some ground level interest.  Lords and Ladies will grow pretty much anywhere in your garden, as long as you can provide moist but well-drained soil and avoid planting in gardens where children have unsupervised access; all parts are toxic if ingested.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Next Month in The Holy Land: Palestinian Olive Oil

 
And given the appalling expense of Palestinian olive oil in the UK, it can't come a moment too soon!

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Drummer Lee Rigby; Son, Brother, Husband, Father, Soldier



https://www.gov.uk/government/news/drummer-lee-rigby-killed-in-woolwich-incident

 
"I can't call in sick on Mondays when the weekend's been too strong.
I just work straight through the holidays, sometimes all night long,
You can bet that I stand ready, when the wolf cries at the door,
And I'm solid,
And I'm steady,
And I'm true down to the core,
And I will always do my duty, no matter what the price.
I've counted up the cost,
I know the sacrifice.
And I don't want to die for YOU but if dying's asked of me
I'll bear that CROSS with honour, cos freedom don't come free."
 

Seemingly, the Help For Heroes website crashed Wednesday night, so many people were trying to buy tee-shirts and donate.

Get your plastic out, people.


Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Quercus petraea: Sessile Oak

I woke myself up this morning with a nightmare.  It's one I've dreamt before; no doubt I'll dream it again.  I'm strangling someone but with insufficient conviction.  I hauled my sorry a***, racked with a filthy head cold, sore throat and aching ankles out of bed and made a cup of tea and a couple of maxi-flu paracetamols.  An hour or two later and I'm feeling perky and ready for a longish walk and some fresh air.
 
Driving down the A38 listening to Classic FM on the way to the National Arboretum and the weather is cold and blowy with occasional snow flurries.  Perfect Easter Bank Holiday Monday weather.  And then this came on the radio ---->
 
 
And we walked all through the trees and as always here, found new memorials and plaques of remembrance. One tree on the outer edge of the Merchant Navy Convoy Memorial was dedicated to a teenager, a little naval apprentice who spent his 18th birthday floating on a raft after his vessel was bombed, and where he died 10 days later. 


This memorial is densely planted with 2,535 Sessile Oaks representing every British flagged merchant vessel lost to enemy action during the Second World War.  The Sessile Oak, Quercus petraea, is native to Great Britain and mid-Europe. Significant botanical differences with English Oak include the stalked leaves, and the stalkless (sessile) acorns. It is found more frequently than English Oak in upland areas that have a higher rainfall, but also the lighter soils, which it prefers.  The Royal Navy was once said to be founded on “Hearts of Oak” – a reference to the stoic nature of British seaman.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rose Balling: Rosa Eglantyne


 
What causes rose balling?  Rose balling is an annoyance that dominates in a damp, cool summer exactly like the one we endured in sunny Derbyshire in 2012.  Flower buds develop normally but fail to open fully.  Wet weather saturates the outer petals and when the sun finally puts in an appearance and scorches the flower dry, the outer petals are fused together preventing full opening.  These fused petals dry to a crisp, brown appearance.   
Rose balling can be a problem if you've planted roses in a partially shaded site, and you've got a penchant (as I) for roses with a multitude of thin petals.  Rosa Eglantyne and Geoff Hamilton are particularly vulnerable in my garden, whilst my peonies and camellias appear to be thus far unaffected.  Clearly the site is the predominant problem. 
 
Standard advice seems to be pruning to open up a lovely goblet shaped bush thus enabling good air circulation and rapid drying of the flower buds after rainfall; watering in the evenings only (laughable advice last summer); removing balled buds promptly before grey mould sets in and infects both host and nearby plants with a whole new set of problems; and rather drastically, removing or cutting back overhanging shrubs and trees.
 
Reading this advice last year on the RHS website finally prompted me to tackle my knackered old Warwickshire Drooper plum tree, stalwart of hundreds of jars of my world famous spiced plum chutney (thank you Delia.)  More of that in a forthcoming post.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

On Stalking Helen Yemm

I know, I can't believe I've written that post title, either... 
 All photos Daily Telegraph
Something else I can't believe is that Helen Yemm IS FINALLY BLOGGING AGAIN.  Well, not really blogging, just turning in her annual copy... Click on this ----> OMG!to read her latest article about her most recent book, Gardening in Pyjamas. This book will appeal to those gardeners, myself and all my charming, witty and erudite readers ofc, who like Helen, are, 
"Keen enough, daft enough, to get out there in all weather first thing in the morning (usually inappropriately dressed, hence the title) but didn’t quite know what to get on with and how to go about it – and why."  Buy it here...
 
Although I have to tell you, Helen, I know exactly what to get on with, armed with my secateurs and assorted WMD... indiscriminate pruning! 
 

Here's a lovely shot above of Helen pruning an offensive cat out of its lair.

Here's a lovely shot of Helen crushing the evidence.

Here's a lovey shot of Helen about to spread the crushed evidence around the roses and top fruit.

 And this is just a random shot of Helen being fabulous. 
 
You know, it strikes me that if Chief Warrant Officer Roy Miller had had a certain someone in his squad, he'd have found those WMD...
 
 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Slacker Diaries: Part 22

I love this picture.  It's Paula Hamilton falling through a window at a fashion shoot.  Because sometimes life is just like this.  Even when you're down, you can still make a few people larf. 
Photo: Daily Telegraph, photographer unknown

Sunday, January 13, 2013

On Separation And Loss... All Change!!

I've always had a bit of an issue with Separation and Loss.  Although I am ruthless about work-based separations and loss, (I never look back; once I'm out of there, I'm out of there) and house moves, (onwards and upwards, and anyway, I always take half my old garden with me to the next; I dragged my mulberry in a pot through three house moves, until I felt I had the right garden to plant it properly/forever...), I find some friendships very difficult to move on from.*
 
This requires no comment from me, stunned as I am. 
This required a comment from me, stunned as I was.
This beggars belief.
 
I've been reading Helen Yemm for years, and have loved everything she writes, except of course her liking for cats, which we all know really are the d****'s familiar.  I may yet fill the balloons with H2SO4...  As for Phantom and Angela, I think theirs is pretty much the first blog I stumbled into, and am utterly delighted that they are back blogging again after decades of neglect.  And the other thing is a real bollocks.  As I said, I've always had a bit of an issue with Separation and Loss.

Tuesday, January 01, 2013

New Year's Day 2013: Run Hide Fight


With thanks to Michael Yon for the heads up.
 
We are instinctive creatures.  If we think something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  If we think something just isn't right, it probably isn't.  So let's move forward into 2013 becoming more aware of our feelings and instincts.  Just be aware though, that if we have a gut feeling something isn't right, it could just be indigestion...