Tuesday, 6 April 2021

Sunshine and Snow

Hello there! I hope you all had a happy Easter / bank holiday. Here in the UK, restrictions have been eased to allow groups of up to 6 people from 2 households to meet outside. Consequently, Good Friday saw us driving to London to see L and J, in person, for the first time since early September. I was very happy!

I did have a moment's doubt en route, when I asked R what on earth we would find to talk about as we have hardly been anywhere or done anything for months. Luckily, they had acquired 2 house rabbits recently (we did try to put them off!), so Arthur and Luna provided the entertainment. L had been looking for sofas on Gumtree, when she happened to spot the advert asking if anyone could give 2 bunnies a new home. Their owners were moving into a flat without a garden and didn't fancy having house rabbits (very wise!), so L and J adopted them. They have a hutch and run on the roof terrace for good weather but spend the rest of the time hopping around the flat. They are both adorable - much smaller than Hamish, who looks like a were-rabbit by comparison. 

The roof terrace was a little bracing, but we got to admire the new cast iron railings. The old wooden ones that were there when they moved in needed to be replaced. One of the slats detached and, rather worryingly, fell into the garden of the flat below. Hopefully, the new bars mean that there's no longer a risk of re-enacting the Patrick Troughton scene from 'The Omen'!

We enjoyed a picnic lunch and then ordered a takeaway for dinner. It was just wonderful to see them again after so long. :O)

Easter Sunday saw us doing a circular walk starting in Oakley. I was taking it slowly as I had managed to put my back out that morning sowing some mangetout seeds - well, strictly speaking, I was lifting the bag of compost, but the seed scenario sounds more amusing! Matters weren't helped when we arrived at our starting point near Oakley church. We had just put our walking boots on, when an elderly gentleman came around the church in his mobility scooter. One of the wheels got caught in a rut and out of the corner of my eye I saw him toppling slowly sideways into the road. Between us, we managed to stop the traffic and lift him back into the scooter. I did it without thinking and my back didn't thank me! Luckily, he wasn't hurt, just a little shaken, and his wife arrived to escort him safely home. I really did think that those scooters were more stable.

After the drama, the walk was beautiful with glorious sunshine. It was so hot that at one point I was wishing that I had thought to take sun cream. By comparison, Easter Monday and today we have had snow!  

All Saints Church, where Jane Austen's father was rector before moving to nearby Steventon:

Deane House, where Jane met her love, Tom LeFroy:

Other photos from my camera this month:

Great Bedwyn Walk:

Emu or rhea?
Wilton Windmill, constructed in 1821:
Very visible mending. I think I may need a new pair! Please excuse the general grime - I had been kneeling down in the veggie patch planting potatoes!
Propagation Station:
Fergus, taking up his annual lady attracting position!
My ceramics classes have restarted, meaning a weekly Covid test:
Walking along the Ridgeway:
One of the great joys of lockdown for me has been 'Grayson's Art Club' on Friday evenings. Hosted by Grayson Perry and his wife, Philippa, each week has a theme and members of the public are invited to submit their works of art, some of which are then chosen to be put into a lockdown exhibition. I find it a wonderfully calming programme and was inspired to take up my tapestry again after watching Philippa complete a Nurture Nature one. Mine is made from car boot sale fabric and threads picked up at a charity shop a few years ago. It may be a while before I have a cushion!
Mma Ramotswe's Lemon and Condensed Milk Biscuits. Nestle have introduced a vegan condensed milk. As R has very fond memories of eating condensed milk from a spoon when he was little, we had to try it. My advice, if you're vegan, don't bother. It was a weird colour and nothing at all like he remembered - being overly sweet and without the characteristic taste. Having a tin of the stuff to get rid of, I dug out my Mma Ramotswe recipe book (based on the character created by Alexander McCall Smith) that L bought me years ago when we enjoyed the books together. The biscuits were remarkably nice - the lemon masking the weird condensed milk taste nicely!

The lovely CJ from Above the River very kindly sent me some baby Pilea peperomioides. They arrived through the post unscathed and are now getting established in L's old room. I may have squeaked with excitement this week on noticing some new leaves emerging. Thank you again CJ!
Trying to catch a rainbow. It looked better in real life!
Socks made using some yarn that I bought at the American Museum in Bath a while ago:
When we saw L at the weekend, she lent me last month's book from her book club. I put aside Jane Austen's 'Persuasion' to start on it and am thoroughly enjoying it so far:
Casting on for a Boxy Sweater made out of leftover balls of yarn. There are rather a lot of stitches and I was worried that I may have twisted them whilst joining in the round, thereby creating a mobius strip. Luckily, all was well!

Well, that's all for this month. Anything exciting happening at your end? I'm happy to live vicariously!

Toodle pip for now. x

Tuesday, 9 March 2021

Crazy Plant Lady

There was a time when we were students, and then pre-children, when we had houseplants galore. The largest of these was a Monstera Deliciosa (aka Swiss cheese plant) which, in our then south facing dining room, grew so enormous that we had to edge round it in order to access the kitchen. Going on holiday meant a toppling arrangement of pots on capillary matting, to ensure an adequate water supply during our absence. Then came first one and then another offspring and the plants became more of a chore than a pleasure. Gradually they dwindled in number until for many years our house was a plant free zone.

I dipped a toe back in the water so to speak, when L had gone off to uni and E was spending a week doing work experience at the Mary Rose Museum in Portsmouth. I was designated taxi driver and decided that it wasn't worth the time/petrol to come home in between dropping her off and collecting her again at the end of the day. I splashed out on a week's ticket and spent the time pottering around the historic dockyards. The weather was fine and every day I had my packed lunch in the small Porter's Garden; eating my sandwiches and doing a bit of English paper piecing. The porter had a stall of plants for sale and, at the end of the week, I bought a baby spider plant for 50p as a souvenir. That was about 5 years ago. The spider plant grew and produced numerous babies. Some were kept to replace the original one as it grew leggy and past its best, and some were donated to new owners. I still have 2 of the descendants. 

My 2nd 'Gateway' plant was probably the Flaming Katy that was a gift for babysitting my neighbour's grandchildren one night. Then E went off to uni and, probably as some sort of reactive empty nest effect, I developed the urge for more greenery. I was often found loitering in the houseplant section of the supermarket or Wilco's (always a cheap option) and a visit to the garden centre or Ikea could get me very excited indeed. Luckily for our bank balance, there are no local beautiful plant shops like the ones that I've spotted in London and Bristol, or I think R would have put his foot down by now. :O) 

So, gradually the house has taken on a more leafy aspect. I have the urge for more, drooling over pictures of various urban jungles on Instagram. I really want a Begonia maculata or polka dot plant - my mum had one many years ago and they remind me of her - so I'm on the lookout. Who knows, with Mother's Day looming, they might have some in B&Q; I'm sure we need more sandpaper! 

Here then, for those botanically inclined, are some photos of a few of my planty friends:

My Nerve plant (I always think of it as being pronounced 'Noive', like the lion in 'The Wizard of Oz'!). This one likes humidity, so is currently lurking in the bathroom. It's formed a little friendship group with 2 orchids, a bunch of air plants and a Devil's Ivy in a hanging basket.  It's a fine line between adequate water vapour for the plants and mould on the ceiling.

My little umbrella plant, closely guarded by Clarence the lion who came home with us from Cambodia:
The Yukka who likes it in the hall - our much hated glass front door has the one advantage that it lets in lots of light:
My Dracaena marginata, who is very tolerant of the central heating and doesn't mind the dining room now that it is lifted up out of the way of marauding rabbits - Hamish, I'm looking at you!
Herc, my Jade plant. The first time that I visited L at uni, I took her a small Jade plant. She named it Douglas and he kept her company throughout 3 years at Oxford - especially enjoying the 2nd year when she spent time in a room with a huge, south facing bay window. It was like having his own little greenhouse and he shot up. When 1 of his leaves was knocked off, she potted it up and gave it to me and Herc has developed from there. I bought another one for J when he moved into his 1st flat in Oxford (that one was Martin) and then one for E when she went off to Bristol -  Arthur. So that's Herc, Douglas, Martin and Arthur - 10 Brownie points to anyone who can guess the connection! 
Smeagol, my Gollum or Hobbit's pipe plant, who keeps Herc company:
1 of my Snake plants on top of the piano. I have another one lurking on the microwave in the kitchen amid various cuttings. Both are very forgiving and don't mind the shade too much:

A relatively recent acquisition. I only popped into Wilco's to look at bird food and Howard came home with me. Is it just me who names house plants? Please tell me that I'm not alone in my crazy anthropomorphism! I'm hoping that it will be a while before Howard attains the size of my old cheese plant:
Various plants in hanging baskets - that macrame workshop has really come in handy!
That's more or less it at the moment. There are a few pilea, tradescantia and more succulents dotted about the place, also more peace lilies than you can shake a stick at since I divided it last week. There is also Benjamina (variegated ficus benjamina). I did take her photo but somehow managed to delete it. Benjamina is a weeping fig with a tendency to the dramatic. Incorrect watering, light conditions or, heaven forbid, a draught and her leaves drop off. She is currently in E's room as the conditions there seem to suit her.
Do any of you have a favourite houseplant? I'm open to all recommendations! :O)

Plants aside, Lockdown #3 is proceeding in much the same way as numbers 1 and 2. Lots of walks, crafting, reading and the odd bit of gardening when possible. The kitchen needs decorating but I have to wait for the weather to warm up sufficiently for Hamish to be able to go outside for long periods. He can be dreadfully underfoot and a moulting rabbit and wet paintwork aren't a happy combination! 

Here are a few more photos from my camera this month:
Enjoying my Camellia:
Flowers from T. She went round the market at the end of the day and bought up all the flowers to give to neighbours to cheer us all up. :0)

Hungerford Walk:
Sneaky picnic spot!

More sock knitting. The yarn was from the American Museum in Bath last year:
Playing with clay. I'm not a huge fan of hand building and really miss going on the wheel but needs must. This is destined to be a hanging basket for more plants! 
Yattendon Walk:
Finishing my 'Weekender Sweater' by Andrea Mowry:

'Snickerdates' - dates stuffed with peanut butter and covered in chocolate:
Lots of snowdrops, although I've missed going to Welford Park to see them this year:
Highland coo on the Chaddleworth and Brightwalton walk:
Frozen water on the weir at Marsh Benham:
The canal was frozen too although it's difficult to see in the photo:
Well, that's all for now. R and I have our first Coronavirus vaccination booked for the end of the month. If nothing else, it will be a day out. Our nearest vaccination centre is in Basingstoke, so a fair drive. I wonder if they will have any good plant shops?! 

Toodle pip for now. x

Monday, 8 February 2021

February Musings

I was tempted to call this post 'You Have No Authority Here, Jackie Weaver!' For those who missed all the excitement, the quotation comes from a video of a Handforth Parish Council meeting that took place in December. It went viral this week, causing more of a sensation than any BBC drama. It makes you proud to be British and leaves you wanting both a prequel and a sequel. Some teenagers even set it to music! It did, however, leave me wondering who actually posted it online, as no-one involved seemed to cover themselves in glory. Still, it provided a bit of excitement and, I think we can all agree, that there's not much of that at the moment.

Not much to report here this month, I'm afraid. For what they're worth, here are a few photos of what has been keeping me busy during Lockdown #3:

Finishing my Christmas jigsaw from L. Sadly, there was 1 piece missing - the perils of purchasing from a charity shop, I suppose. I enjoyed the bird part but the sea of cream was a bit of a challenge. I have said that I will pass it onto L next time we meet, so that she can enjoy it too! :O)

Winding  up some yarn to make the 'Jason's Cashmere Hat' pattern:
The finished article plus a pompom that I had lying around:

Llama (or is it an alpaca?) spotted on our walk round Calleva:

The Roman walls were impressive:
We had snow earlier in the month and, as I write, there are more flakes falling, although it's showing no sign of sticking yet:
We went for a walk to Bagnor and the snow cleaned our muddy boots nicely!

Playing with my birthday underglazes:

Winding up the leftovers of my Advent Calendar from Barbara into a magic ball to add to my scrappy crochet blanket:
It formed the rows above the royal blue stripe:
Enjoying a spiced cranberry and walnut muffin whilst pondering seeds:
Finishing my Christmas Eve cast on socks:

A walk in Leckhamstead and Peasemore:
Cutting out pattern pieces for a Granny Chic dress:
Taking part in the RSPB garden bird watch. We were very big on mallards and great tits but the pheasants, moorhen, goldfinches and 2 types of woodpecker waited until I had submitted our results before making an appearance!
This deer crashed through the bushes at one point, scaring away all the birds. On a brighter note, Stumpy (our 3 legged deer) is still around. He was absent for a while and I was worried that he had died but I spotted him helping himself to the rosemary this week:
Vegan Twix, recipe to be found here. To be fair it tasted a bit more like Millionaire's shortbread than a twix bar, but it was yummy nevertheless.
Enjoying supermarket tete a tetes:

Well, that's all for this post. I hope you are all well and surviving lockdown. I'd love to hear what you are up to and how you are keeping your mind off the pandemic. 

Toodle pip for now. x