Monthly Archives: May 2007


went to

and saw lots of

I took most pictures of

so here’s a little quiz for you. Please identify the trees by their bark.










Extra Quality Bonus points to anyone who can recognise them just from the pictures, but I think some of them are quite hard, so I’ll put up the names later for you to match them up. Some pictures are of tropical trees. Some are of trees that were planted when the gardens were first established in 1759 – I think there are three of these, f,g & h

Later – answers, not in order, but I’ve put in the Latin name if I know it

a bamboo (don’t know variety)
b banyan (ficus benghalensis)
c silver birch (betula candida)
d Japanese banana (inedible, apparently)
e pond cypress (taxodium ascendens ‘nutans’)
f locust tree (robinia pseudoacacia)
g maidenhair tree (gingko biloba)
h pagoda tree (sophora japonica)
i ebony (diospyrus ebenum)
j spindle palm (Hyophorbe verschaffeltii)

Thirty-four today!!(!)

On 24th May, 1973, I didn’t think ahead to an anniversary when I’d be 53 and the Sage (though he was simply the Sprout then) would be, gosh, well, we don’t talk much about that. However, I never doubted that we’d get there.

And we have.

So what did I do? I went out for a jolly, of course. I didn’t take the Sage, but I did take Another Man, Darling Friend S.

When I arrived home, steak was sizzling and champagne was cooling. And, would you believe it (for I hardly did), a present was on my desk from lovely Stegbeetle. I’ve written, of course, but thank you Steg – I’ll enjoy listening to it so much.

I got up when I woke, at 5.30. Now, I know you hard-working types … er … Boy, anyway … think that this is half way through the day, but I am not accustomed to hanging out my washing at twenty past six in the morning, and I am a little sleepy and more than a little drunk. So the little Q Quiz I might have for you on my camera must wait until tomorrow.


Z’s day

The study was created from a little ante-room off a passageway, opposite the dining room, which used to contain cupboards for china, plus a small lean-to conservatory/back porch. Small birds can get into the roof space, and I often hear them scratching away. At present, there is at least one nest of bluetits, and I hear them cheeping all day. It’s one of life’s small pleasures.

On the other hand, when I went outside this morning, I was sorry to find a young fledgling thrush dead outside the porch. It must have misjudged and crashed into the window.

By the time Al left the house at 7.30, I was ready for some company, so joined him at the shop for an hour. The first customer arrived at 8, so it’s just as well he was early. There is such a demand for plants that I decided to sell some of the ones I’d reserved for ourselves – I think 12 sweet and 22 hot pepper plants is more than enough, to be honest (4 each of 7 varieties and 6 of another, which doesn’t seem to be popular, being a milder chilli).

After lunch, with which I drank a glass of wine with soporific intent (works better than lettuce, I find), I went and potted up chilli plants in a very hot greenhouse. After an hour of this, I was able to fall asleep with no trouble. I lay back in Tilly’s armchair in the study, put my feet on the piano stool I use to sit at the computer and slept for an hour and a half.

I have a churchwardens’ meeting tonight. The Rector is hosting it at the Rectory, which is very hospitable of her, and which means I don’t need to spend half an hour setting it up. I will go and buy more cucumber seeds (I was able to save 3 plants, but haven’t got around to sowing any more yet) and then spend another hour or two in the garden.

As soon as I’ve finished my tea and cake.

Wide-eyed and staring

I’ve lost the knack of sleeping. I’ve been waking around half past five or six for a while and since I’m rarely asleep before midnight and often up much later, it’s not quite enough. This morning, I woke at half past three. It was quite pleasant, watching the sky lighten and hearing the dawn chorus from the start – a pheasant was the first bird to wake – but I’ve had less than three hours sleep and I love to sleep.

I’ve eaten breakfast, tidied up a bit and I suppose there’s no reason not to paint on a cheerful face and start the day.


Al’s shop gets busier all the time. This morning, we found it hard to put the new stock on the shelves, there were so many customers. Working conditions are still a bit awkward, as we’re continuing to rearrange things and we’re just glad that Eileen is still on holiday – she hates anything being out of order and it’ll be enough shock to her to find everything in a different place and if it’s untidy too, she’ll be quite distressed.

I’d been going to stay all day to give Al an afternoon off, but he decided he’d rather stay, so I babysat Pugsley instead. This turned out to be an easy and enjoyable job. He happily sat in his pushchair watching me scythe long grass and then, when it became too hot (what a glorious day), we went and sat on the lawn in his garden. He ate a biscuit, showed me how well he can clap and posted shapes in his shape-sorter (he knows the blocks go through the holes, but getting the shape to match the hole is a bit random).

I thought it was time to change his nappy, so fetched a new one and took the old one off. He lay back gazing at the little weeping tree that shaded us and a huge grin spread over his face. The remains of his chickenpox spots have left his skin dry and a little sore, and it must have felt so good. I spread the nappy (a cloth one) under him (he was on a blanket I didn’t really want to get wet) and he lay there cheerfully chatting to me for the next half hour, until his mother and sister arrived home.

I don’t think I’ll be needed tomorrow, so I’m planning to do some pleasurable gardening. On Thursday, I’ll be at Kew. No Chelsea for me this year – I used to go for many years, but it’s so crowded and so hyped I haven’t been for a while. The last few times I did go, I arrived mid-afternoon. Much more pleasant. Noontime at Chelsea is intolerable to someone who finds it hard to breathe in a crowd.

Time for me to water the greenhouse. Ro is going to babysit and Al and Dilly are going to bunch asparagus, as there’s no time during the day. Dilly offered to go, as it’ll be her only opportunity to spend some time with her husband, and they are going to the pub afterwards. The Sage is also going to the shop, to put up shelving to display the honey.

I might potter gently in the garden after watering. It’s a lovely, tranquil evening.

Krakow – pictures 6 – finis

The Barbican was at one end of our square. It contains the remnants of the city wall, although it’s so carefully restored that you don’t get any feeling of age about it.

St Florian’s gate led from the barbican to the basilica and the main square and cloth hall.

I can’t remember what battle this dramatic scene commemorated – it was in the middle of the square

And the church was at the far end (I might remember the saint it’s dedicated to at some point),

opposite our hotel.

Just down the road, and past the Pearl Jam poster, was a startlingly modern shopping precinct. I bought chocolate there, and presents for the babies. Funnily enough, I saw no places to buy children’s clothes and toys – I found a chemist that had a small toy section.

Most of Poland is given over to agriculture – a poor photo taken from the coach on the way to the airport.

It was raining when we arrived at Luton Airport. I didn’t take a picture.

Krakow – pictures 5 – the opera

On our last evening, we went to the opera. It was a Polish opera called ‘The H@unted M@n0r’ by Stanislaw M0n1uskzk0 and it was splendid. We all enjoyed it immensely, although I was quite glad to have seen a synopsis of the rather complicated plot.

The cast was very good, and vast. Photographs weren’t allowed during the opera, which was fair enough, but I touristly snapped the theatre itself. The size of the cast was really rather impressive, especially when some fabulous dancers came on at the end – including the 30-strong orchestra, there must have been 100 people giving their all for my entertainment.

Apart from the stalls, all the seating was in boxes, which was immensely cool. If I lived there, I would have a season ticket. Wine was included, brought to your box in the interval. It was all wonderful.

Afterwards, we all started to walk back to the hotel until some friends called to me that they were going to have a drink – would I care to join them? The alacrity with which I exclaimed “yes!!(!)” and shot forward will, I fear, cloud my third (and last) year as chairman of the society.

My reputation is ruined.*

*heh heh, you know me too well. You know I really mean ‘enhanced’…

The Street Market

My local town holds three street markets a year. The May one is for plants, there’s one in the summer for antiques (well…muck’n’tat ‘n’ stuff) and a Christmas market. One of the main streets is closed off for the day. It always goes really well, especially if the weather is good, and today it certainly was. The sun shone warmly all day, but there was enough freshness in the breeze for it not to be stifling.

Not that I had time to enjoy it – though I did have a splendid bacon roll from the local butcher and caterer, who can always be relied upon for tasty food.

Not good photos, but I was in a hurry. A jazz band, lots of stalls and a queue for icecream

Al had decided to give the shop its spring clean. I happened to be up at 5.15 this morning, so I went in at 8 for a couple of hours to help.

The reason I was up at 5.15 is that the Sage snored. He rarely snores, and if he does, I kick him (as gently as possible, of course). But this snoring was extraordinary. He started gently and quietly and crescendoed to the sound of a car revving. Honestly, just like – vroom, vroom. Having the car in neutral and putting your foot on the accelerator. He’s never done it before and it was too interesting to stop. But after a few minutes, I knew I wouldn’t sleep again this Sunday, so I got up and make a nice breakfast of toast, butter, pineapple and ginger jam and Lady Grey tea (I only really like poncy teas).

I left Al at 10 o”clock to go to church. I was making coffee, so I bought milk & biscuits. When I arrived, I remembered I should have done the flowers yesterday. Bum! Ah, joy!! The flowers from the wedding last week were in pretty good nick, and how nice of the family to have left them. I watered, deadheaded, judiciously refilled from one container to another and no one knew I’d forgotten the job.

I made a cafetiereful of coffee and ate a biscuit. Now, this turned out to be a good move, because a nice young couple turned up to hear their marriage banns being read, and I was able to demonstrate how welcoming and unstuffy we are by giving them coffee and assuring them it was fine to take it into the pew. I was startled to be greeted by name by a chap I didn’t know – fortunately, I later worked out that he and his wife (whom I also didn’t recognise) had moved away about 12 years ago and have just come back to the next village. I greeted them by name after the service and remembered their daughters’ names too, which is not bad going for an old girl.

I’d finished by 1 o’clock (3 hours in church, no wonder life is so good to me, God thinks I need a treat after that) and went straight back to Al, on the way taking the photos above. He had been (considering he wasn’t open for the purpose of greengrocery) amazingly busy. He had plants to sell, surplus peppers, aubergines and courgettes, as well as the usual herbs etc, but sold lots of fruit & veg too. I should think he took at least £300. The last customers came at 5.40. They were a couple just on their way home from Jersey, who were happy to find a shop open, and a man who bought 100g of mushrooms (he put a couple of handfuls in a bag and that was the exact weight). We were not finished however, and I left at 20 past 6, abandoning Al to the final clearing up.

I poured a half litre of St Peter’s Brewery Organic Ale. I quaffed a quarter of it thirstily and went to greet Dilly and the children, who were blowing bubbles on the tennis court. Al arrived home, looking knackered. I passed my beer to him and went to find another bottle.

I’ve finished that. Now I’m on Sauvignon Blanc. I asked Ro to cook dinner. He has put a pizza in the oven. Al has come through to say they are ordering a Thai takeaway. I’ve said I’ll be ready for that after the pizza. Joy.

Al had queues too

And unsuspectingly happy to be photographed customers. Sorry, I should have said you were to be immortalised on the internet, on Z’s internationally read blog. Thank you, and if you want to be taken down, do tell me, but I think you were lovely and I’d like to keep you here if I may.

While I’m about it, I’d also like to thank the lovely lady who thought I was Al’s wife not his mum.

Krakow – pictures 4

I hoped that, when I enlarged it, the bugle player would show up, but you can’t really see him. However, trust me, he’s there. The open window, right below the elaborate spire. As soon as the clock has chimed the hour, he opens the window, plays a jolly tune, waves, closes it, opens the next-but-one window, plays the same tune and repeats until he has covered all four directions. This happens round the clock and is, apparently, in commemoration of a buglar who saved the city from invasion many centuries ago by sounding the alarm.

Nowadays, two buglars climb the tower and stay there for 24 hours – it’s a long way up and, I suppose, that’s better for them than more frequent changes of watch.

The main square is enormous but is divided by the Cloth Hall. Which had some repair work going on around it.

Scaffolding all over the place, but it’s repair and not replacement – although there is new building outside the old part of the city.

The university courtyard.

Another hourly ceremony. Ro asked why I didn’t film it rather than take a lot of still pictures. Good question.

The city used to be surrounded by a city wall and moat, but when this fell into disrepair and stagnation, it was decided to replace it with a green belt around the city centre. It’s a pity that virtually none of the wall was kept, but what a good idea, to keep a band of cool greenery safe from development.

It was also useful for helping you in keeping your bearings…

Krakow – pictures 3 – an interlude

I had been told about the smoked cheese that looked like a small loaf of bread, so I was pleased to find an old countrywoman selling them. I bought one for 7 zlotysch, which is about £1.40 (5 zloty to the £ is fairly accurate and easy to convert). I wrapped it in 5 plastic bags so that it would not infuse my suitcase and brought it home.

It’s very tasty and I can recommend it. Slightly salty, pleasantly smoky and it did, indeed, fool the Sage into thinking it was bread. I produced what was left at dinner tonight – my daughter El was here, visiting a friend just out of hospital and the whole family, except Phil, were here for dinner. Toothless Pugsley chewed happily on shreds of chicken and parsnip and Squiffany tucked into everything, although she had had her tea at 5 o’clock as usual.

They all went into fits of laughter. They found it a Rude Cheese. Prompted by her father, Squiffany observed “it’s like a willy, it looks like a willy”. Anything I said made matters worse. Such as describing it as ‘semi-hard’ and saying ‘it looked different before I cut off one end’.

Okay, I can see what they mean, but really me*…

And this is for Badgerdaddy. I was there a month too early. Bet it was already sold out though.

*The Sage finds it very hard to be cross and this is about his strongest expression of annoyance. And my gentlest.