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
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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. 
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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.