Monthly Archives: May 2010

Birds, mostly

Some highly magnified and, therefore, nvg photos – but I found the situations interesting and entertaining, so please forgive their quality.

The first two were from Scotland. We were staying in a modern hotel some 15 miles from Glasgow, with a golf club, health spa and all the usual malarkey attached. The staff were delightful – I must tell you about Tracy, whom I kissed – remind me if I forget in the next few days.

One evening, we heard a lot of noise from some birds, clearly an alarm call. We saw a pair of oyster catchers chase away a crow. The next night, the parent birds were out foraging for food for their babies who, presumably, had left the next the previous evening and were in need of protection. It was very entertaining to watch – the parents seemed to find plenty of worms on the golf course, and they flew up to the ridge of the roof where the three babies were waiting, who then legged it enthusiastically to their parents to be fed.

Today, I saw a French partridge (this is the breed, not the nationality, I expect it was born here) on the garage roof. It stood watching the world go by for a few minutes, so I took this snap – this is the same picture in each case, but cut down and therefore enlarged in the second version.

What amused me was its descent to the ground. Clearly unconfident of its taking-off ability from a roof, it carefully sidled down the ridge towards the gutter and then hopped off, using its wings for balance. It looked as awkward as I would have in the circumstances.

I only discovered a few nights ago that Mike, whom you probably all know as Troubled Diva has been, this month, doing his “which decade is tops for pops?” poll here on Freaky Trigger. Now, he put me on to this excellent site some time ago, but what with going away and all, I’ve fallen way behind in my reading and it was only by skimming through before a hasty delete that I found it. Actually, watching and listening to several sessions of chart top-tenners from 50 years has left me more than a little jaded, being done over two nights as it was, but I enjoyed it vastly, as ever. I am probably Mike’s most ignorant fan and one of his oldest, but I am unperturbed by that. And I’m immensely grateful to him for introducing me to Shearwater’s album “Rook”, which is entirely divine (particularly if you’re expecting a falsetto countertenor very high voice, which I wasn’t). When I enthused to Ro (this is going back a couple or more years) he kindly told me all about it and said he thought I’d like it because of my fondness for Okkervil River – so why didn’t the child tell me himself?


In other news, Al has bought a new (second hand) shop counter. I haven’t seen it yet, but it sounds splendid. What? Not interested? Oh. Sometimes, I don’t understand people at all.

Tilly pwns Z

A lot of work went on here today. Weeza turned up at 9.15, when I was making cakes for church (yes, darlings, I know) and she and the Sage disappeared into the dining room to get the china in order for the next sale. I made and iced 33 fairy cakes and took them to church and, when I got home again, W & the S were just finished and ready for cheese and biscuits, which was my apology for Sunday lunch.

After a short break, we spent the next three hours doing the descriptions and condition report. I left the latter to W – I need to go out into the daylight to be sure of spotting every little mark, but she’s got fantastic eyesight. I did the typing.

We’d normally spend 3 days on this. But this is the only day that Weeza has free.

I do need to check what I’ve written, particularly that I’ve got all the estimates correct, and I’ll probably do a bit of tweaking to the words, but I’d got every morning next week marked down for doing this work, so giving up a Sunday was certainly worthwhile, especially in view of normal Bank Holiday weekend weather. That is, it hailed this afternoon.

Tilly decided that she was ready for her dinner at about 3 o’clock. She came and looked at me. I gave her a Tilly-treat, aka a Bakers Allsort, sometimes known as a Scooby Snack. She looked at me again. I explained that it would be dinner time soon and she’d already shared our lunch and that one was enough. She looked at me. I said no. She looked at me.

I gave her another Tilly-treat.

A few minutes later, hungry again, she came back, but we were part-way through a tray of china so I explained that she’d have to wait. She sniffed the china, to our alarm. She never goes near it. When told not to, she went and sniffed the other trayful.

I went and got her dinner ready.

Later again, I was nosing in the freezer, wondering what to cook for dinner. Suddenly, there were two peremptory barks.

Tilly had waited long enough and wanted to go and lie on her sofa. I opened the door. I apologised for keeping her waiting.

Z is keen to start pruning

Behind Al and Dilly’s house there is a fairly uninteresting piece of ground, then some fir trees and then a field that doesn’t belong to us. Back in the 60s, outline planning permission was given for housing on that field, so the Sage’s parents hastily planted the firs – but the permission was allowed to lapse and now the field is ‘outside the village envelope’ and so there is no likelihood of houses being built there, not for some years at any rate. Our land is in the same category, by the way – of even less value in fact, which is why we can have such a big garden. We let the farmer put cows on the field for no rent to keep it in good order, although we do get a grant for its environmental value.

Anyway, a few of the trees have died off over the years, but they have all been looking past their best and, if they were to fall, they could damage the bungalow, so we’ve had them cut down. Although they weren’t ‘that’ close and on the North side, it’s lightened up Al and Dilly’s bungalow no end. Today, the stumps were being removed, and we found that some of the roots were quite rotten, so it’s just as well we’ve acted now. I went to inspect the area. Al and Dilly are planning to sow grass seed and have it as an area for the children to play on. I also looked at the scrubby shrubs and trees at the West end (which adjoins our house – some of you won’t know that the bungalow was originally built, some 25 years ago, as a granny annexe to our house). These shrubs darken that end of our house and don’t let any evening sun on to the area that’s been cleared. There is a lot of dead wood and whole lots of brambles.

I’m itching, positively itching, darlings, to get going with my pruning saw.

I won’t, yet, of course, as it’s nesting season – but I have plans. I’m not letting the Sage have unfettered access, as he will take down too much, but I want to thin it out a lot.

It’s not that I have time yet, in any case. I’m starting to cautiously enjoy gardening again, and we have a catalogue to put together, and I’ve got lots of school and Nadfas work to do. But it’s so much more fun to get going on a project than just do the routine stuff, isn’t it?

Later, Squiffany phoned to tell us that the bantams were all on the patch of cleared earth, pecking away busily. They must have smelled it, as it’s well away from their usual stamping ground and around the corner of the house. Squiffany was concerned that they might get lost – but they were all home for supper as usual.

You might like to see the wisteria. I didn’t put up a picture last year, as it didn’t flower particularly well – don’t know why, as there weren’t any late frosts – but it’s back in form again.

Bringing on the wall, Day 36 – Dave tops out

Dave soon got to work this morning, doing the capping on the first part of the longest stretch of wall. It had been lovely to see him – last time was back in October when I dropped in some shopping as he was under the weather with an illness from which he’s still recovering. We stopped abruptly, having hoped to finish that section before the winter, but no harm has been done by the frosts.

The tiles underneath the final capping are the original ones from this house – we had it re-roofed, with hand-made traditional tiles from a firm in Sussex; the Sage went with a lorry and fetched them himself. We kept the old ones of course, and are really pleased to find such an appropriate use for them.

Then he got on with the next section – as you see, the first level of tiles is in place, to be followed next by the second tiles and then the capping next time.

I, meanwhile, had twigged that there wasn’t a job for me. The Sage doesn’t believe in talking things through in advance, and I’d cancelled my usual Friday session at Year 9 music – if he’d said, I’d have gone along as usual. I’d been working in the garden for quite some time already in fact, as I had a sleepless night, awake after half an hour’s nap at 1.15 and up from about 2.30. I did a particularly boring bit of work on the computer that I’m rather pleased to have got to grips with, well before the deadline, and was out before 6. It was a lovely day and I enjoyed planting the squashes that had been waiting in their pots.

I spent the rest of the morning forking over and weeding the next bed, in preparation for more squashes. I was quite tired and my back ached and the Sage was going to help me, but first he needed to make a phone call and then some people arrived to see him. How lucky can a man be? Anyway, I got it done. I was interested to note that I have become a left-footed digger, having been right-footed all my life. For the last two or three years I haven’t been able to dig at all, having not enough strength either to put pressure on the spade or stand reliably on my right leg. I carefully placed all the plants with the use of a yardstick. The ground is very dry – I’ve watered thoroughly this afternoon. I’ve also weeded the greenhouse. I’ve put tomatoes, aubergines and peppers, sweet and hot, into pots this year, which are filled mostly with very well-rotted and completely odourless manure, and only planted the cucumbers direct into the bed. I found it impossible to keep up with the watering last year and am doing it differently this time. The pots are bottomless, so the roots can find coolness and moisture in the bed beneath.

There’s still loads to do, though. I’ve got a busy weekend to come.

We had lunch on the lawn, with bantams, the cock pheasant and a large rabbit wandering around. They hardly bother to move out of the way when we approach.

Burrelling again

I’m still not thinking straight, yesterday was quite draining. So you can have more pictures of the Burrell Collection.

Although it’s not large, there’s a lot to see. One of the things I liked was that it was the collection of one person, in the main (he left an endowment for future purchases, but his collection still makes up at least 90% of the whole) and he kept it at his home, so they are incredibly rare and precious pieces, but not grand – you can live with them. Apart from one large tapestry, they are all quite small. His stained glass collection was fitting in the windows of his house, until the war when there was danger of bombing.

The terms of his will were that the collection should be housed in a woodland setting in Glasgow, which wasn’t easy to manage until someone left a suitable parkland area to the city, and that it should not travel overseas, for fear of a ship or plane going down. So items can be lent out in mainland Britain but nowhere else. There are about 9,000 pieces, of which a third are on show at any one time

I want to go back and have another browse. However, at least I bought the guide book – which I haven’t unpacked yet. All that’s been taken out of my case are clothes to be washed and clothes to be hung up. And my toothbrush.

Anyway, here are pictures.

I thought, irresistibly, of Reeves and Mortimer – a Ponderer, for anyone who remembers Big Night Out of about 20 years ago (we taped it for Ro, who was too young to stay up and he was the coolest kid at the Middle School for watching them before anyone else had heard of them) and the Dove from Above.

I can’t remember who she was – but a lovely piece of stained glass.

Three more cabinets. The simple silver brooch appealed to me.

Eugène Boudin – The Jetty at Trouville, I think. Being a seaside girl at heart, I loved this. The hugging oneself against the wind.

An early self-portrait. Doesn’t he look spiffing? We saw a couple of Rembrandts later, in his less confident and hopeful older age. Fine.

Remarkably, these are Chinese, dating from between 1550 and 1650. Incredible condition and looking far more modern. Beautiful. I want.

A wonderful and witty tapestry, which bears long and close study – though not from this photo which isn’t clear enough.

Tomorrow, weather permitting, Dave will come over and we’ll return to Bringing On the Wall.

Art in a woodland setting

It was worth the journey for the Burrell Collection alone. It was a delight. Since I am too tired, as I predicted, to write anything much (although I have drunk enough wine to make my typing a whole lot more accurate than it was an hour ago), I’ll give you some pictures, mostly of animals. These are all Egyptian or Chinese, I think.

The nuisance of Blogger now is that you can’t type while pictures are uploading, although I’m sure the blurb said you’d be able to. Anyway, here are the photos. I’ve got lots more, darlings, in case I’m similarly afflicted by an inability to form coherent sentences tomorrow.

Happy joy

I’ve actually been singing the song … which reminds me, whatever happened to Ren and Stimpy? They were ace.

There is a reason – there’s always a reason, darlings. The Sage has just left for a meeting…a PCC meeting…a meeting of a committee of which I was a member for many years, first as secretary and then as churchwarden, so I’ve always had a lot to do. The last two meetings, I’ve taken minutes as well as giving reports on churchwardenish stuff – and now, nothing. Poor lovely Sage hasn’t got out of its clutches – but I HAVE.

There’s another reason too. Home grown veggies. Tonight, we had the first courgette, as well as asparagus and coriander, and radishes that Squiffany grew at school. And the wisteria is beautiful. I’ve just been out to take pictures. Not that we’re going to eat it.

I’ll get pictures up in a day or two. Probably tomorrow, I’ve got a busy day tomorrow. The lovely and wonderful business manager at school has left – it’s a terrific promotion, so can’t begrudge her it but we will really miss her – and we’re interviewing tomorrow. Presentations in the morning and interviews in the afternoon. The School Council are also meeting the candidates.

There have been letters in the papers recently about the thing of getting school pupils involved in the interviewing, but they’ve partly got the wrong end of the stick – and partly, they have a point as it appears that some schools haven’t explained to the students what their brief is. It’s not a talent show, it’s a job interview, but it won’t be their choice, it’ll be down to the governors and Head; who will, nevertheless, look carefully at the students’ findings and use them to back up their own judgement.

It’s normal to involve pupils at our school and they take on the responsibility well. Teaching assistants, for example, work closely with children with learning or behaviour difficulties, so it’s entirely appropriate for them to show the candidates round the school and give their opinions afterwards. It is not at all uncommon for their markings to be much the same as ours. They are often very perceptive.

Anyway, that’s how I’ll spend tomorrow. Tonight, I’ll … oh. I don’t know what I’ll do. Something frivolous.

Oh, another bit of good news. I just got a bank statement. Last month, I spent less than came in, which has to be an excellent sign.

From square to prime

I’ve been home for an hour. The Sage came to Norwich to fetch me. I’d said that I’d probably eat en route, but I wasn’t hungry at the small transport caff, so I was by the time we got home.

What is it with (some) men? There was hardly a vegetable in the kitchen. I found garlic and three tomatoes and that, literally, was it. Not an onion, nothing green. In the end, I chopped a couple of cloves of garlic and two tomatoes, fried them a bit in olive oil, added some dried chillies and some salt, opened a tin of chickpeas, rinsed them and chucked them in and, since the Sage entered the room at that moment to offer me some hot-smoked salmon, put in a bit of that too.

The only other remnant of vegetable I found was a single chip which had fallen unobserved to the edge of the counter.

Sad to say, I’m too tired to write anything more, but tomorrow I shall upload pictures and may post a few. Or whole lots, who knows?

Oh, you may wonder about the title. It’s our wedding anniversary. I’ve brought him back some fudge.

Catching Oysters

There’s a pair of oyster catchers staying at the hotel. Not in one of the rooms, you understand; they have nested in the garden and are rearing three babies. A couple of nights ago, the parents were calling and flying about agitatedly, and last night the youngsters were on the ridge of the roof waiting for their parents, who were foraging for worms for them. We watched for some time and it was most entertaining to see because of the scuttling of the chicks as they legged it along the ridge tiles towards the parent bird who had landed, worm dangling from beak.

I’ve taken some pictures, but I don’t know how clear they will be. If they’re any good, I’ll put them up here in a day or two.

We’re off tomorrow morning at 8 o’clock. It has been a lovely visit and we’ve seen some beautiful things and enjoyed good company. I am not marvellous at too much togetherness and did need some solitary time yesterday but, as I got it, I’ve felt thoroughly sociable again today.

Z suns herself

I’m sitting on the grass outside the National Gallery in Edinburgh, all alone apart from a few hundred other people enjoying a relaxing lunch hour. The rest of the party, apart from another eight who have similarly opted out, are on the coach being given a tour round the city. I like to explore cities on foot and, besides, it’s a gorgeous day and I’m not spending it in a bus.

There are, in fact, notices which politely ask people to keep off the grass but we are, quite properly I believe, disregarding them. Everyone is just sitting or lying apart from some well-behaved little children running up and down the slopes, the older ones looking after the toddlers – it does an elderly maternal heart good, to see children being kind to their smaller fellows.

It was suggested by my friends that I was being overly optimistic, bringing sun cream instead of an umbrella, but my prescience is now commended.