Saturday, 24 October 2020

Dewey's 24 Hour Read-a-thon


It's time for the read-a-thon. I have not joined in much the last couple of times, too distracted and unable to focus, or working, or just lazy. I have done quite a lot of reading in recent months but only in short bursts at bedtime. It's my long weekend off and a day of just sitting and reading sounds like a good way to avoid feeling like I should do some hoovering. There has been no advance planning so I will just gather a few books and get the kettle on. 
Well Claire woke me up with a text and I thought it was the boss asking me to come to work, so that was a relief. All set up for the day, though I will not stay up in my bed nook all day.

I am part way through 'A Thousand Moons' by Sebastian Barry that I bought from Chorlton Bookshop recently so that is first in the pile. I have poetry from Jack Mapanje and Imtiaz Dharker, 'My Dark Vanessa' by Kate Elizabeth Russell and 'When I was a child I read books' by Marilynne Robinson that is on my 101 books list and I found in a charity shop the other week. I downloaded an audiobook of 'Race Matters' by Cornel West after reading a fascinating interview in the Guardian the other day, so that can accompany a bit of crochet (still working on a sofa blanket for a friend's wedding present). I think we have something for every mood.

You can visit other people who are participating and see what they are reading here (though I am working my own schedule so it's not officially started yet). Hope everyone has a wonderful reading day.

Friday, 23 October 2020

100 Days - the magic that is the internet (day 68)


map of the internet
A young man came into the callers office today and asked me to 'go on the internet' and change the address on his parcel. I was momentarily confused. I asked for clarification. He said he wanted to send the parcel to the reception instead of his flat. The parcel had been dispatched and he was not able to change it, but I could, by some magic, alter the label that was on his parcel. I tried to explain in words of one syllable that this was not possible. He left making a sarcastic comment as if I had been unhelpful. 

The world is full of idiots.


Thursday, 22 October 2020

100 Days : Christmas posting advice in the time of Corona


Way back in 2012 I started posting some advice about using the postal system at Christmas. The traffic of parcels through the system has been akin to Christmas levels since the lockdown started back in March. People who couldn't go out and buy stuff suddenly found the only way to fill their houses with crap was to order it over the interweb. (The only perk of the situation was that everyone was at home so at least we got rid of everything and the number of packets being stored at the office plummeted.) Added to the extra parcels some staff have been sheltering or isolating, meaning people are often doing double deliveries and extra overtime. Consequently people are feeling stressed and exhausted, and as the Christmas pressure period approaches we are beginning to wonder just how much workload the posties and the system can handle. And what does Royal Mail do in this situation ... it introduces a doorstep collection service. So please forgive us if your postie is less than their usual chirpy self this festive season. 

So, to reiterate the recommendations given previously:

1. PUT A RETURN ADDRESS ON THE BACK OF EVERYTHING YOU PUT IN THE POSTAL SYSTEM. This is the cardinal rule. Things fail to be delivered for all sorts of reasons; incorrect address, insufficient postage, damage to the address, failure to collect from the office, so if you want to get it back we have to know where it came from.

2. PUT ENOUGH POSTAGE ON. A first class stamp is only suitable for a flat letter 24cmx16.5cm, anything bigger and you should consult Failure to do so will result in a surcharge. Only about 10% of people bother to pay for their surcharged items so the chances are that it will never arrive. Be wary of large or thick Christmas cards that will need a large letter stamp. Don't guess, just go to the post office.

3. PACKAGE YOUR ITEM SECURELY. Packages are sorted by machines and tipped in and out of bags, ensure the packaging is robust. 

4. USE THE POSTCODE, and most importantly, USE THE CORRECT POSTCODE. Large cities often have multiple roads with the same name so using the wrong code may result in delay and possible non-delivery. 

5. LAST POSTING  DATES are a guideline, post early to avoid disappointment as I anticipate the service will struggle even more in the coming weeks.

6. A final appeal to STOP buying shit that is not Christmas pressies. Let's be honest, stuff does not make you happy and the thrill of purchase is not going to alleviate the existential dread that accompanies the loss of reality in our current climate. Add to that the fact that the planet is well and truly fucked maybe if everyone just gave charity donations for Christmas instead (perhaps the Woodland Trust or Medical Aid for Palestine) we could all sit and feel smug on boxing day that we haven't made the world a worse place in pursuit of meaningless consumerism. (I have major cognitive dissonance as I rely on Royal Mail for my income but I really wish people would stop buying so much crap.)

(Disclaimer: This is not official Royal Mail advice)

Tuesday, 20 October 2020

100 Days - the books have to go back to the library (day 66)

'Apeirogon' by Colum McCann. I have been failing at not beating myself up, and the more I was beating myself up about my inability to settle down and write a half decent book review the less likely I was to actually do it. I renewed it again and still it sat there, joined by two more books, on my bed steps, getting in the way. This is such a wonderful, moving, profound, political book. I was just heart broken all over again to discover that it is about two real men and two real daughters. It is one of those books that your read, and get so drawn in to the lives of people that you stop thinking of them as characters. The inside cover calls it a novel, and no mention is made of the origins of the story, but I just searched the names and found them. It is a book that meanders to make its point, but coming back time and again to the moments of the girls' deaths. The story is told over and over, in the way that in their lives Rami and Bassam have come to tell their stories over and over; to share their pain in the hope of spreading understanding and shaping a new future for their country. It is both hopeful and depressing; the stresses of living in a militarised society is oppressive for everyone and the entrenched situation between the Israeli and Palestinian populations seems insoluble, but the friendship between the two men in the face of their terrible losses is remarkable, to come from such different places and experiences and find common ground. 

"Satyagraha: the revelation of truth and the confrontation of injustice through nonviolent means." (p.278)

I think literature helps you understand things in a way that mere information cannot. The history of modern Israel is complex and fraught with contradictions. Stories let you in to people's lives and give glimpses that political analysis somehow lacks. One quote from the beginning of the book, one from the end:

"Rami often felt that there were nine or ten Israelis inside him, fighting. The conflicted one. The shamed one. The enamoured one. The bereaved one. The one who marvelled at the blimp's invention. The one who knew the blimp was watching. The one watching back. The one who wanted to be watched. The anarchist. The protester. The one sick and tired of all the seeing.

It made him dizzy to carry such complications, to be so many people all at once. What to say to his boys when they went off to military service? What to say to Nurit when she showed him the textbooks? What to say to Bassam when he got stopped at the checkpoints? What to feel every time he opened a newspaper? What to think when the sirens sounded on Memorial Day? What to wonder when he passed a man in a keffiyeh? What to feel when his sons had to board a bus? What to think when a taxi driver had an accent? What to worry about when the news clicked on? What fresh atrocity lay on the horizon? What sort of retribution was coming down the line? What to say to Smadari? What is it like being dead, Princess? Can you tell me? Would I like it?" (p.33-34)


She emerged from the dark of the shop. Areen waited outside. Twelve times nine. One hundred and eight. Twelve times ten. A small bell on the door rang. The street outside was dusty. The sunlight swung underneath the metal awning. She tucked one bracelet away, handed the other to Areen. Twelve times eleven. Their shadows bobbed into the street. One hundred and thirty-two. The thud of a shell near the roundabout. Twelve times twelve. Her schoolbag swung as she ran.


One afternoon, in the Dheisheh refugee camp south of Bethlehem, Bassam watched four boys in white jeans and white t-shirts carry a single mattress past the low houses. They moved carefully through the narrow alleyways with the mattress propped high on their shoulders. Placed on top of the bed were four red carnations, arranged in a neat row.

It took him moment to realise that the boys were in rehearsal for carrying a bier.


The only interesting thing is to live. " (p.434)

'Where the crawdads sing ' by Delia Owens is, on the other hand, just a novel. I enjoyed the story but if felt predictable; the good people support each other and the nasty people get their comeuppance and the young woman has to have 'wild beauty' as well as being intelligent, but her poetry is really bad. I am not going to bother with more than that. I read it, now it can go back to the library.

'10 Minutes and 38 Seconds in This Strange World' by Elif Shafak was much more engaging. It reminded me of 'The Ministry of Utmost Happiness' by Arundhati Roy, because it is all about the people and how difficult lives can make for strong bonds of friendship. Leila is dead, but as her brain shuts down memories of her life emerge and we see them as snapshots that make up the significant moments and how she came to be friends with the group of people who then decide they must rescue her from an eternity in the Cemetery of the Companionless. The story is bitter sweet because the friends live at the bottom of society, each of them struggling with their own problems, but making life better for each other.

"Now, as her brain came to a standstill, and all the memories dissolved into a wall of fog, thick as sorrow, the very last thing she saw in her mind was the bright pink birthday cake. They had spent the evening chatting and laughing, as if nothing could ever pull them apart and life was merely a spectacle, exciting and unsettling, but without any real danger involved, like being invited to someone else's dream. On T.V. Rita Hayward had tossed her hair and wiggled her hips, her gown falling to the floor in a silken rustle. Tilting her head towards the camera, she had given that famous smile of hers, the smile many around the world had mistaken for lust. But not them. Dear old Rita could not fool them. They never failed to recognise a sad woman when they saw one." (p.183)

Elif has quite a back catalogue, many of which have been translated from Turkish, so lots to explore.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

100 Days : pretentious for National Poetry Day


I read about Ocean Vuong in the Guardian recently, though I think it was a novel review, and found his collection 'Night Sky with Exit Wounds' at the library. It is the kind of poetry to which one might attach the label 'pretentious'. It is very esoteric, personal, and uses language and metaphors in quite unique ways. There were some I did not understand and others that were very beautiful, but I give you this one, that struck me most forcefully with the images that it brings to mind, of an event that is both very familiar and very shocking (I won't try and replicate the page layout, which is something else he plays around with). 

Of Thee I Sing

We made it, baby.

We're riding in the back of the black

limousine. They have lined

the road to shout our names.

They have faith in your golden hair

& pressed grey suit.

They have a good citizen 

in me. I love my country.

I pretend nothing is wrong.

I pretend not to see the man

& his blond daughter diving

for cover, that you're not saying

my name & it's not coming out

like a slaughterhouse.

I'm not Jackie O yet

& there isn't a hole in your head, a brief

rainbow through a mist

of rust. I love my country

but who am I kidding? I'm holding

your still hot thoughts in,

darling, my sweet, sweet

Jack. I'm reaching across the trunk

for a shard of your memory,

the one where we kiss & the nation

glitters. Your slumped back.

Your hand letting go. You're all over

the seat now, deepening

my fuchsia dress. But I'm a good

citizen, surrounded by Jesus

& ambulances. I love

this country. The twisted faces.

My country. The blue sky. Black

limousine. My one white glove

glistening pink - with all

our American dreams.

Saturday, 19 September 2020

100 Days - 64th : supercharged flapjack


I have been learning all sorts of things while we have been gymming, mostly from Tish as she has been doing this stuff for several years already. I know the names of quite a few muscles, including the supraspinatus muscle, and how to stretch them. The stretching can take as much as 20 minute when we get home, but to be honest it is worth the pain because we have (mostly) not suffered from aches and stiffness from our efforts. The other important thing when exercising is protein. When you work your muscles you need to help them recover, and a hit of protein when you finish can help. I have always added bits to the basic Cranks flapjack recipe but it is a wonderfully easy recipe to supercharge with good things.

5oz margarine (butter if you fancy)

3oz dark brown sugar

couple of big spoons of golden syrup

big spoonful of molasses (for the iron)

4oz porridge oats

4oz rye flakes

2oz desiccated coconut

4oz combination of your preference: sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, linseeds (I whizz up the pumpkin and linseeds in the blender) or chopped nuts

This is way more dry ingredients than their recipe so it can be crumbly but I find theirs much too syrupy. Press firmly into a tin and bake 180 degrees 20-25 mins -ish. Keep an eye on it, it's a fine line with flapjack, I like it still a bit chewy, it's easy to slip over and make it too crunchy, unless of course that's how you like it. Chop into pieces while warm, it's impossible once it's cooled. Take some with you and eat as you walk home.


Friday, 18 September 2020

100 Days - sixty three

So much for trying to post more, that didn't last long ... or at all. Was going to post yesterday. Came home from Dunk's and hunted on youtube for a NestlĂ© advert that we saw on the telly but couldn't find it. They had a young girl having her hair plaited up and she was the spitting image of Greta and I was fuming that they dare try and associate themselves with her, this is a company that fucking steals people's water.  Am on leave this week and it has been so nice; Dunk and I took a lovely walk down to Sale Water Park on Tuesday and then rode our bikes up to the Gorton reservoir again on Wednesday. I was supposed to be holidaying in Cornwall with mum and dad and Claire, but the local lockdown spoiled that so I am trying to just enjoy the autumnal sunshine in Manchester.
Gym and swimming and volleyball stuff just gets dumped as we come through the door so the house remains a bit of a tip, but we are all pretty fit so I'm not beating myself up about it. We have done six weeks so far and have established a good routine. I am liking the gymming more than the swimming, but some days we have even done both. I still can't do a sit-up though.
Cute photo of Lyra in one of the craft boxes. We had a new puzzle out and use the lids for pieces so she has a new favourite place to snooze.
I found this blue tub out for the bin men when I was on delivery a few weeks ago. This is a physocarpus opulifolius, it will grow to six feet or so and provide some much needed height and bushiness. It will flower in the summer and then produce berries in the autumn. I ordered two bags of compost and the tub took almost a whole one so I can see I will need more pretty quickly.
Potted up the borage plants, which are now real plants, not seedlings. They have come on a storm, enjoying the warm weather on the kitchen window sill (outside) and am looking forward to filling the garden with them next year. 
I worked a day off last week so have had two trips to the garden centre; went back a second time (with the girls to help carry) and acquired several big preloved planters. I have been looking to buy some but terracotta is quite expensive and I did not want to buy plastic, but second hand is perfectly acceptable. Am thinking of looking for spray paint to jazz them up a bit. 


Tuesday, 1 September 2020

100 Days - 62nd : summer reading


Some members of the clan have been having an exciting time buying new houses in Devon with panoramic sea views and going on dappled sunlit bike rides with the oldies ...
some of us have just been going to work and coming home and not writing any book reviews.

This is a bad pile. I have had backlogs before but this is bad. From the top:
'The New York Trilogy' by Paul Auster. I read, and loved, 4321 back in 2017 but after I read the first two novellas, that were too alike in theme and character, I crawled to a halt on the third.
'Purple Hibiscus' by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie was quite a hard read. I found I hated the controlling and violent parenting so much that I was just angry at the situation while I read; angry at the mother for not protecting her children, angry at the respect for religious people that allows such behaviour to go unchallenged. Have read several others by her that I enjoyed more, here, here and here.
'The Bluest Eye' by Toni Morrison is another one that made me angry, but for the grinding and inescapable poverty of their situation as much as for the people's behaviour. 
"The Discomfort of Evening' by Marieke Lucas Rijneveld has just won the International Booker Prize but I bought and read it some time ago. I don't want to say it was another book that made me angry but it was. What is it with people writing about stifling religiosity, anybody would think that all religion is controlling and stifling ... oh wait, it mostly is. It is a story of loss and people crumbing under it. When Matthies dies the parents just kind of fade away, leaving their remaining children to emotionally fend for themselves. I cared about them and wanted to wrap them up and reassure them, to reassure Jas that it was not her fault. I loved the relationship between Jas and Hanna, her younger sister was the saving grace of the story, which made the ending all the more traumatic. I got to the last page, the last line, and cried out in horror, but of course I should have seen it coming. The naive, optimistic part of me wanted to believe the love of her sister would pull her through, but it didn't. 
'The Stories of Eva Luna' by Isabel Allende was just a lovely collection of stories, some funny, some a little dark, all about the characters and their intriguing lives.
'Arboreal' edited by Adrian Cooper, subtitled, a collection of new woodland writing, was a lovely collection of people just writing about woods that they know and love. Some were very lyrical or childhood remembrances, others much more scientific or expounding on the ecological significance. The sheer variety kept it interesting throughout. Having experienced much tree joy this year what's not to love in a book all about the joy of trees.

'The Terrorist at my Table' by Imtiaz Dharker. I came across one of her poems in the Guardian back in April and very much enjoyed the rest of her collection (you can read several on her website). Unusually for a poetry book it was punctuated by her atmospheric line drawings. I lost the paper on which I listed my favourites. They managed to combine the personal and the political with just lovely evocative images and use of language. I have to pick this one, just because ... tea (I also love the one entitle Tissue). Maybe the literature festival will invite her some time.

The right way

You call this
Black brew, no sugar, raw milk?
Let me tell you how it should be.
Put the water in the pan. 
Add sugar, more than that,
more. Then boil it
till it becomes quite syrupy.
Now add the tea-leaves,
let them boil, to get
your money's worth from them.
This is when
my wife would put in
ginger, cinnamon, or seeds of cardamom.
You have none of those?
No matter, let me show you.
Put milk now. Boil again,
yes, boil. Let it rise,
turn down the heat.
Turn it up, let it rise again,
sizzling. Blow on it to keep it
bubbling just inside the rim.
This takes skill, and shows respect 
to both tea and guest.

Then take the cup
and strain it in. No,
don't drink yet,
I am showing you the way
we drink tea in my village.

Pour it in
to the saucer, blow.
Now drink. Don't shake, don't spill.
Don't laugh.
Good, no?

'Why I'm no longer talking to white people about race' by Reni Eddo-Lodge is a highly recommended and thought provoking look at the race situation in Britain. So much is being said in the news about race in America at the moment that you sometimes find British people being a bit smug, but you know what, we are as fucked up as they are. Our history is as fucked up, our economy and education systems are as fucked up, our criminal justice system is as fucked up. There is no area of life where people of colour do not get the short end of the stick. If that's not systemic I don't know what is. People complained the other day about an Argos advert with a black family in it, and you want to smack your head off a brick wall. You know what, don't be sorry, don't be defensive, don't say 'yes, but', just accept that this is the reality of our society and see what you can do to challenge it. Reading books is a good first step because it's important to know what you're up against. 

I borrowed the Gardening with Containers from Julie and have enjoyed browsing ideas and learning about plants and compost and all that jazz. I also found 'How to Garden' by Alan Titchmarsh in the charity shop which has been great for all sorts of basic stuff about growing plants. I am getting much joy from seeing things grow and want to do more
I know I have gone back to living inside my own life recently, well, since I bought the house really. It feels selfish. Going to the gym and caring about being fit feels selfish. I could have gone and joined with with some XR stuff in Manchester but I didn't want to. I feel like I am hiding, but you know what, I am not beating myself up about it, it's just what I need to do right now.
Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Monday, 31 August 2020

100 Days - one and sixty: Dunbar number


I found 'This Book is Full of Spiders' by David Wong in the big charity warehouse when we went looking for tea plates. It is the second in a series, bit of a first spoiler for the first book (John Dies at the End) because John appears in this one too. It is a book that screams 'please make me into a film', lots of very tense scenes of people crawling into the unknown with flesh eating spiders that most people can't see. I really enjoyed it, which is strange because I hate horror films. Maybe I don't have a vivid enough imagination to transform the words into images in my head, though I did have to turn the light on when I went for a pee in the middle of the night (which I don't usually bother to do). David and John battle against both the spiders and the authorities who plan to obliterate the whole city to destroy the spiders. What was interesting about the story was the way people infected by the spiders were so quickly dehumanised and how it became acceptable to kill them rather than try and cure them. The infected people have their behaviour taken over and they are quickly described as zombies and combined with a news blackout where people inside the infected area cannot communicate with the outside so have no means to assert their humanity. David has a conversation with the doctor about the Dunbar number, a theory that primates have a limited number of individuals that they can include in their social sphere, and thus who they think of as 'real people', and how easily we ignore, or lack empathy for, the suffering or experiences of anyone outside this number. The wikipedia page is interesting but David Wong's article on Cracked called 'What is the monkeysphere?' is a more accessible explanation of how it operates in human society. 

Chatting to Monkey the other day she was bemoaning the fact that the most viewed articles on the BBC was Katy Perry and Orlando Blume's new baby and the fact that Sarah Harding had breast cancer. Then it occurred to us that of course people know so much about such celebrities that they actually consider them part of their own Monkeysphere. It is the other side of the same coin that saw a horrific response on the Daily Mail to reports of a migrant young man drowning in the Channel; people who not only lacked sympathy but actively dehumanise people who are so desperate. It explains the huge outpouring of grief at the death of celebrities, but the utter indifference to starving children in Yemen. Yet another aspect of how fucked up our society truly is. It's just taken me a couple of hours to write this drivel and I have not managed to articulate quite how the book, despite its style and content, was asking interesting questions about human beings and how they relate to each other. 

I have been feeling very despondent and unmotivated again recently. I deactivated my facebook this morning to try and focus on real life more. The gym is going well, the mutual support and encouragement is very important, but I am managing to go by myself on mornings when I have an early start. Tish and I went this morning and there were loads of new exciting machines moved into the space. The local lockdown might be lifted in the next week or so, but going to Cornwall seems unlikely. The garden is drowned. I had to empty water out of the pond as it was overflowing. The water butt is full, but nothing needs watering. 

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.


Tuesday, 18 August 2020

100 Day - sixty: the first rule of swim club


moss side leisure centre

The first rule of swim club is don't wear leggings to go to swim club. The second rule of swim club ... well you know the rest; getting them back on with damp skin is a bugger. So, we joined the gym. Oh no, I am now one of those people who go to the gym. The girls have been thinking and talking about it for quite a while, and what with the lockdown thing and not having their usual places to go life has become very sluggish (as in they behave like slugs, but not the ones in our garden which are pretty nifty). More than anything they need the structure and a reason to leave the house, besides the getting fit thing (or to be honest, getting fitter, because both of them were pretty active before lockdown). We are alternating gym and swim. I am wondering where all the people are who were complaining about everything being closed. This morning me and the real swimmer in the pink swim hat had the pool to ourselves at nine o'clock. The down side of having a job is that I will probably have to go by myself quite a bit as the others don't get moving so early. I have been going to pilates for several years now but I didn't manage to get myself motivated to do online pilates classes. I liked it for the sense of focus and concentration it gave me, and I love Sarah's voice (I would regularly do the whole class with my eyes closed). A few years before that I used to go to Zumba, which I enjoyed for the buzz. Structured exercise has felt a bit superfluous when you do a job as active as mine but in recent years I have begun to feel more and more worn out and have decided something that improves my strength and stamina could be a good idea. We will see how it goes.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Saturday, 15 August 2020

100 Days - 59: the second plague


Having dealt with the sawfly a couple of days ago we are now beset by a plague of fruit flies. They started, of course, in the Julian food bin, but by the time I put it outside the back door they were already well established in the house. Tish made a fly trap that worked really well. Then last night we bought some strawberries and raspberries to make Eton Mess, but when we came to make it the flies had invaded both boxes and swarmed on the fruit. Tish then made several more traps that are now dotted around the kitchen. The rice wine vinegar we bought to make the sushi is pretty effective and the numbers are now in decline. I will know in future to keep a closer eye on the flies. They are actually a fascinating species and are used extensively in genetic research because they have such a fast life cycle.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Friday, 14 August 2020

100 Days - 58th Taking the slugs for a walk


This is the improvised slug and snail transportation pod. Mum goes round her garden with a bucket of hot water but I find myself unwilling to kill stuff just because they are eating my courgette flowers. I need, she says, to get myself a decent torch, which is good advice because at the moment I am borrowing Tish's phone. I had been going out as it was getting dark, around 10pm and not finding very many. Then the other evening I went out a second time a bit later and commented to Monkey that it was as if they knew and were waiting for me to do my slug hunt before emerging. Initially I had just chucked them over the wall into the lane, but as I learned many years ago when we lived at Moor End, slugs have a homing instinct (I trod on the same slug several nights in a row in my bare feet, one of life's less pleasant experiences). I read somewhere that you need to take then more than 20 metres so they don't come back. So I now put them in the ice-cream tub and take them to the park at the end of the road in the morning. They are surprisingly nifty little creatures and will attempt to make a swift exit while you are hunting so you have to keep a close eye.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 13 August 2020

100 Days - 57th Water Butttt


Here is my lovely water butt from Even Greener, manufactured in the UK from recycled plastic. I think it's important, if you are going to bother sending your rubbish to be recycled, that you purchase things that are made from recycled materials. I found my worm bin last year at Worm City and Tish found a watering can too. I am currently on the hunt for some planters for the garden. Looking forward to a rain storm tonight now.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Tuesday, 11 August 2020

100 days - 50 six Another upcycle

 So, I found this nondescript little table in the front garden of a house (again) on Derby Road. The girl at the door said they had just moved in and it wasn't theirs so I bought it home. I have painted it with the outdoor masonry paint, so it will hopefully withstand the Manchester weather, and added some of the colours so it matches the rest of the yard. Just somewhere to put my cup of tea:
Claire sent me some sweet pea seeds that were really planted far too late, but they are coming along slowly, and if the weather stays nice might flower in September. I built them a little wigwam to climb up.

The oxalis is coming along fantastically and has these lovely delicate white flowers. I just love the purple leaves.

The red hot poker is in its new home and coming in to flower beautifully:

And I acquired two little specimens from the park, a tiny oakling and what I believe is a beech. Anything that sprouts under the trees will usually get mown down but they had both survived couple of months next to the railings. I will look after them until they are bigger:

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Sunday, 9 August 2020

100 Days - fivety five Sawfly

I worked hard Saturday morning and put together a second planter from scrap wood. Both have been treated and are ready to be filled with plants. All I need now is a new bag of compost. 

Tish and I sat out to eat our dinner this evening and I looked over and wondered what those random twigs were sitting in pots ... it turns out they were gooseberry plants, completely stripped of leaves:

On closer inspection it turned out to be sawfly larva, and despite the excitement of new life arriving in the garden I'm afraid they were squished. The gooseberry bushes will apparently survive such an attack, but the larva will pupate in the soil and then come out and lay more eggs so they had to go.

New life in the form of poppies is much more acceptable.

On leave this week. Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Thursday, 6 August 2020

100 Days - 54 : remembrance and commemoration

Browsing news today I learned that 6th August is the date that the Voting Rights Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson
wikimedia commons

It is also the day that we remember the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. These are important things to think about in the current political climate, both the long term effect of these events, and the ongoing importance of the issues that they raise. 
wikimedia commons

Today's Book To Make You Think (I know I forgot all about doing this) I highly recommend John Hersey's book 'Hiromshima' that was written in the immediate aftermath of the events.

Stay safe. See you tomorrow.

Wednesday, 5 August 2020

100 Days - fifty something : insomnia

I am bereft. My baby mango tree is shrivelling. The lovely people on the tree growing facebook page suggest both over-watering and sunshine damage. I have potted it up in fresh compost, in the process knocking most of the leaves off, (the compost was somewhat waterlogged) and moved it to the living room window sill (which is in the shade). Fingers and toes all crossed for some sign of new life in the next few days.
I am sitting in bed at 1am listening to other people's gutters leaking in the rain, and failing to go to sleep. In all fairness I gave up and decided to write a blog post but I'll probably have another try in a bit. It seems to go in cycles; a few days of being tired enough to go straight to sleep followed by a night of just being awake. I don't feel stressed by it particularly, it's just boring. It can be quite nice to open the blind and lie and look at the garden or peer down into the kitchen windows opposite. The air is lovely and fresh when it rains at night. Look at me being all positive-thinking. 

I started making a planter for the yard out of all the bits of scrap wood. It sat half made for a week in the front room but I did finish it this morning. It's a bit of a bodge job but whatever. Now I need another bag of compost to Tish can pot up the Red Hot Poker (I took both the girls to the garden centre so I had people to carry the plants this time.) I have started another planter out of the remaining wood, so that might be another week.

Stay safe. Am going to try and post more, I keep telling myself that it did help for a few weeks, so I will try again.

Stay safe.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

100 Days - fifty 2nd unfinished yard

It has been a source of disappointment to my mum, who used to run a specialised alpine plant nursery, that I have had very little interest in plants and gardens. I grew some cabbages many years ago when we lived in Pittington, and I have pretty much just mowed the grass everywhere else, but I think I am finally getting into the family groove. This tatty yard was what we acquired when we moved to Moss Side:

The business end, in the shade by the back door, remains home to the Julians and a large fern:
but the rest is now jazzed up and full of growing things:
The sunny corner has a selection of stuff-with-purple-flowers, kind of by accident, and some struggling courgette plants that need better protection from the snails:
The pond is settling in nicely and, thanks to all the rain, is now full, and even has some little wiggly things swimming around in it (not frogspawn, probably larvae of some kind of fly). 
The bug hotel is made from a chunk of old pallet and is gradually being filled with decaying wood, leaves, pine cones and moss. I made the roof from some sliced open coke bottles:
There are lots of new plants against the south facing wall:
but the snails have been having a lovely time there. I can see snail/slug patrols are going to become a feature of my evenings.
The herb bed is however coming along brilliantly;
as are the oaklings:
All in all I am proud of my progress and am enjoying going out and seeing how everyone is coming along when I come home from work. I am trying not to be impatient because I want big things with lush growth filling the yard with green, and it still feels very sparse. Time will tell.

Friday, 24 July 2020

100 Days - 51st Empty Nest

I have been brooding and feeling sorry for myself because it has rained the entire of July and so I have still not had to christen my red watering can, and the snails have been feasting every night on the clematis flowers, and I found one snuggled up in a courgette flower yesterday morning, despite them being surrounded by crushed eggshells as a deterrent  The pond is filling of its own accord but we have not been back for more plants. I want to post some nice before-and-after photos of the yard ... but I want it to be finished, or something, and the gate is too damp to paint it and there is not enough break in the rain for it to dry out. We had a fab trip to Chester Zoo on Tuesday, but Tish has all the photos. 

I got up this morning to an empty nest. I missed the youngest, Captain Tom, taking his maiden flight by mere moments. 
This afternoon they have been back and forth, with mum and dad still providing the fish.
Ospreys are amazing.

We had a queue outside the office mid morning today because apparently google maps said we were open 7-11am. The P739 card says to go the for opening times but who are we to argue with google maps, so the manager told Steve to open up and serve people. I mean, stupid people who don't read the card have been turning up at random times for the last four months and have been told to go away, but the gods of the internet decided we were open so we opened. 

I went to the library and got a nice book about creating a wildlife garden, though it is mostly full of stuff that I can't do. Hulme library is not open yet but the one near work is so I can get stuff there. Small steps in the right direction. We have masks, we can go to the shops. Tish's favourite place will be open at the weekend. Monkey and Toby are playing volleyball in the park, though probably not in the sports centre till September. Monkey passed her first year at uni. Life goes on. Not sure why I still feel so disconcerted.

Stay safe (no promises about next posting) (and not beating myself up about it).


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