dear diary :: cherishing the last of the lazy days

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Goodness me, I don’t know about you but if I have to have one more conversation on the topic of the virus I think I will go mad! No matter who I phone or chat to the conversation always ends up, unintentionally of course, back to the virus – how we are doing, what we are doing, comparing notes and our understanding of the rules…..our lives are now defined by something we cannot even see and it is exhausting going over and over the same discussions.

I will say here in this post that we are all still well, still being cautious and ‘alert’ and that is enough on the subject I shall say no more!

So on to some much more mundane things – during the hot dry spell I had a tidy up in the shed – it always amazes me how much I manage to store in there and how many of the items I use most of the time. It certainly earns its keep. To free up a bit more space inside the shed some of the garden things that won’t hurt to be in the weather outdoors have now been reallocated to new places.

There is a space behind our shed out of sight where we store the bins, both wheelie and composting and the bags of potting compost, empty plantpots, and a stack of white plastic patio chairs for when we have garden parties. The fence between us and our neighbour provides a good vertical storage area as DH hammered in some nails to hang the wire netting cones and the riddle.

It is the same fence to which DH fixed the bracket for my hanging basket in the garden. I am well pleased, especially since the nasturtiums are now flowering at the same time as the foxgloves.

I do like a few strong clashing colours and they brighten up this corner of the garden as you can see in the longer view below.

We had a couple of very pleasant, lazy days sitting in the cool shade of the garden and sketching whilst it was far too hot to do anything else. It has been too long since I had my paintbox out and I am quite rusty. Foxgloves are the trickiest flowers to capture even after many attempts, but they were the only flowers near enough to the seat in the shade to sketch – I will persevere.

Something new is appearing in the garden daily now. The rose that I dug up and moved, because it always suffered from brown spot and never did much where it was, is now in a pot on the patio and is blooming. It has recovered well from it’s heavy prune – I felt I had been a bit brutal at the time but it has thrived with healthy green leaves and is in bud – it looks more like it did when I first bought it many years ago.

The petals of the peony above will have fallen now, swept away by the force of the winds last night. Such extremes of weather we are experiencing at the moment – one minute I am rushing around watering like mad and the next staking and protecting – but there is only so much you can do and then you have to leave the rest to chance.

The tall spires of the sidalcea in the sunny border are almost ready to bloom when we have the next bout of sunshine and will look like a mass of pale pink marshmallow.

For some reason the zinnias that I sowed indoors in April have not taken off yet, they have been quite reluctant to grow at any pace and may well miss the season altogether at this rate.

Whilst the cistus (rock rose) has been tremendous this year with so many continuous flowers appearing each day.

I have waited patiently for these little orange beauties to grow and open – Californian poppies – free Sarah Raven seeds with the May issue of Gardener’s World. I have not been disappointed, the colour is stunning.

Then there is the courgette plant which must like this position so much it has grown to giant proportions and producing flowers that are a full 10″ wide. I am not sure I will be decorating my salads with these – rather using them as the salad bowl maybe!

As we come out of our hibernation I know I will be sorry to leave this slow and leisurely time behind but we have duties to fulfil – a drive up to North Yorkshire to visit to my mum today – just for the afternoon, but it will give my sister a little time off – she must be quite exhausted doing all the caring. We will be travelling light but with a basket laden with all my mum’s favourite foods; a homemade quiche to have for lunch with salad and a few new Jersey Royals, a fresh cream chocolate sponge cake for afters and half a dozen small tins of creamed mushrooms to have on toast for her tea and a further half dozen tins of whole plum tomatoes, items I can get in my local Sainsbury’s that are unavailable where she is and will stock up her store cupboard for a few weeks.

Scotland is opening up too for travel from 3rd July so we will be making plans to go up to the cottage and stay in the caravan on site sometime soon – and I will get to see my beloved garden (or perhaps jungle) at long last. I feel a lot of hard work coming on.

Wishing you all a wonderful weekend whatever you may or may not be doing. Stay safe. xx

dear diary :: all about the garden

Back to rain and dull skies at the end of last week, but my lawns are loving it and have perked up a lot since that very dry spell we had a while ago; the ground had become quite hard in places and a drought on top of everything else is the last thing we need at the moment.

Thank you for all the comments and suggestions on my last post it is always interesting to hear how other people think and deal with life. Apologies for not answering each one individually. I will check out the Adriene yoga Jayne – it will be a while yet before my class begins again, so thanks.

It appears the world is in a big mess at the moment but then it always has been in one way or another – life is just messy and no matter how hard we work at trying to sort out the mess, more comes along.

I feel I had a very lazy week again last week and very little housework has been done, intended, but not done. A few hours in the garden, a lot of exercising and phone chats and a little time in the kitchen making a quiche is the sum total of my activity. I feel quite worn out – not by hard work but by the emotional turmoil we find ourselves in daily after watching the news – I don’t know about you but as the easing of lockdown and the relaxing of rules continues I feel as if I have been left stranded and need to find my way home – what is our new normal? – I need to know what I am doing and where I am going.

By last Friday we felt a change of scene was in order so we packed up a light lunch, put the sketchbooks in the car and set off over the Strines, part of the Peak district, that lies to the south of Holmfirth and the north west of Sheffield; a beautiful stretch of moorland, farmland and a collection of resevoirs – a haven for both wildlife and walkers. It was drizzling but we didn’t care it was just good to get out once in a while.

We sat in the car with our picnic admiring the view over Bradfield and then decided to check out the garden centre we once visited down the road at Loxley. We were in luck – the rain had kept people away and only four cars in the car park.

So we had a good hour wandering round ( following the one way system of course and distancing where necessary). They did not have the plants I wanted but I did buy some terracotta saucers, a plant pot, 2 bags of large cobbles and some seeds (White aquilegia, I keep losing my plants in the winter, and some basil). We were also given a free packet of lily bulbs that were going to be thrown away at close of day.

After a short walk to the village on Saturday morning to catch the post and a visit from the person who came to take our throat swabs, for the government Covid survey we have been asked to take part in, I went out in the garden. There was plenty to do; not much weeding but a lot of dead heading as the heavy rain had caught many of the flowers in the pots leaving them soggy and rotting before they had chance to open.

I played around with a few of the cobbles laying them out in different places – I am not 100% sure where they are going – it is just an idea at the moment and may not work out – luckily they are large enough to lay and then move, unlike the smaller gravel stones. I will keep you posted on this one.

The peonies in the sunny border have been gorgeous this year – the tight little buds unfold slowly to reveal such an expanse of froth and frills – sheer delight – though they continue to be at the mercy of the weather – the wind and rain are not helping them to bloom for very long but whilst they are still hanging on there I will savour every moment.

Yet more frills on the patio…..this is the clematis I bought last year with a token I had for my birthday, I planted it this year in a deep terracotta pot. Called Tranquilité it is a very compact plant only reaching about five feet making it very suitable for the patio. It does well in shady positions too so I can move it around the garden when I need to brighten up a dull spot.

As the honeysuckle flowers on the obelisk by the fence are beginning to fade and die, and before long the towering foxgloves will drop their petals leaving seedpods behind, this is one little corner that will need a new focal point. I found this old wicker hanging basket in the shed and planted it with the last of the Tom Thumb nasturtiums I grew. DH then made me a wooden bracket to attach to the fence so I could hang it up and let the nasturtiums tumble over the sides so that when the flowers come out (and I hope there will be a mass of them) there will be a lovely burst of orange hovering above the green foliage below, and if I am really lucky they will bloom whilst there is still the purple of the foxgloves to clash with.

There has also been a little maintenance required in the garden – reseeding in areas where the shrubs had overhung the grass; since March we have been doing some major pruning of the large shrubs in the shady corner, leaving us a bit exposed and overlooked now by the occupants of the house behind us but the viburnum and escallonia are both very vigorous so by next year we should be quite private once again. This is how it was before on the left – a very lush corner and now on the right with a bit of a big hole!

There is a conifer hedge beyond the shrubs that runs across the length of the bottom of our garden. You can just see a bit of it in the photo on the right – it belongs to the neighbour behind us and runs down the side of their garden as our two gardens meet. The face of the hedge on our side died years ago after a bad frost and not much of it remains in this corner – our shrubs always covered up the fact that the hedge is brown and quite dead leaving an unsightly hole in this corner. Unfortunatley, conifers don’t regenerate and as they have overgrown the boundary line we cannot put a fence there ourselves but once our shrubs regrow the unsightly mess will be hidden from view. I keep hoping one day our neighbour will have it removed and put up some fencing – at least a fence does not die.

Other little places are flourishing – this lavender and nemesia are many years old and they sit together like old friends in this vintage bread crock and keep on flowering every year.

This year I moved it from behind the rock rose which was overshadowing the pot; the lack of light had made the lavender a little straggly as it searched for sunlight. Now it sits on the patio in full sun and it must like its new home as the lavender has begun sprouting from the base again so next year I will be able to remove the long straggly older branches.

And this little space where I have the two mini greenhouses working hard this year is soon going to be the new site for…..

…one of these modest sized greenhouses. They are locally made and have real glass not styrene glazing and are quite well made for the price. It will be painted of course, as I want it to be as much a decorative feature in the garden as functional. We decided on a six foot wide / four foot deep (like the one on the right). Only having a small garden I don’t want it to dominate the space, rather merge into it.

So that is all my news of last week and I have no definite plans for the week ahead other than I need to tidy out the shed, order the greenhouse, definitely need to do some housework and sew together the little jumper I knitted. If I manage all that I will be a happy bunny.

Tonight we will venture out and go shopping, strictly the supermarket, we have not wanted or needed to go into the town centre yet – we have all we need and more to get by.

Have a great week everyone and stay safe. x

dear diary :: calm amidst turmoil

Hello everyone – I hope you are all well and safe. We are. Well safe at least from the virus and thank you for your messages of concern, I had not realised I had been away quite this long. Truth is my neck, shoulders and lower back have not been good again lately so I have been trying to stay off the computer and do more exercises to release the build up of tension I get in these areas; it seems most things I want to do, whether it be sewing, cooking or reading blogs, involve long periods with my head down – not a good posture.

It has also been difficult recently dealing with my mum from a distance as she goes into decline both physically and mentally and I am feeling the strain. Mum has just realised, now she is able to go to my sister’s house, that she doesn’t have the strength anymore to manouvre herself in and out of the car without the help of my sister’s husband and that shopping is looking like an activity she will not be participating in any longer.

The restrictions imposed on her, both from the Covid virus and her mobility, are now sending her into a state of depresion and witnessing the news on TV day after day of the recent events is making her feel quite angry. She is never able to disassociate herself from what is going on in the world, even though there is little she can do about it. The recent removal of the statue and the ongoing protests are causing her a great deal of irritation, though, I suspect this is an easy target for her anger at the moment when in reality she is probably angry with the fact that she is so immobile. My problem is trying to calm her down each evening when I phone her and we just keep going over the same topics with me trying to find a way for her to accept that people feel very strongly, enough to gather and protest even in these dangerous times with a killer virus still out there. I have always been a person able to see both sides of an issue – perhaps not always a good thing.

As the assistant in Sainsbury’s said to me the other day when I got chatting to him in the vegetable aisle “it is not just the case that Black Lives Matter but rather Every Life Matters”….he was black so had an interesting point of view on this and I tend to agree with him.

As for the fate of the statues – this is a hard call and I suspect will be yet another division in our society where we already have the north / south, rich / poor, leave / remain, black / white divides.

In our local town we have dear old Harold Wilson on a pedestal (for those overseas readers – a past Labour Prime Minister born locally of a working class family) located prominently just outside the railway station – I suspect many of the young people passing him daily are not even aware of who he was or what he is celebrated for. He took the place of an earlier statue of Sir Robert Peel who just crumbled away! Although Harold was a great campaigner for the rights of the underprivileged, like most of the people commemorated by a statue, he also had a few stains to his character. In Harold’s case, although far from being racist, he did authorise military aid during the Nigerian Civil War, an act that directly cost the lives of millions of black Africans (largely the Biafrans), in return for a supply of cheap oil. The photos of emaciated black children dying of hunger caused a huge political outcry when they were published in Britain and although the Nigerian Civil War of the 1960s is quite forgotten today it is still an episode in our history of overseas intervention by British military that remains.

Our local history is very much built on the textile mills owned by wealthy people like John Ramsden, Joseph Armitage, the Brooke and Brook families, John Crowther, Joseph Quarmby and many others. As far as I am aware there are no statues of them around the town, which is just as well as not all of them can be celebrated for their contribution to human welfare by any means; loss of life and limb for their mill workers was a constant daily threat, but they provided us with our many fine public buildings, schools and churches and were the major source of employment here.

In our little township one mill owner was quite philanthropic and like Sir Titus Salt of Saltaire provided homes, schools, a convalescent home and some pleasure grounds for his mill workers as well as good wages, a dining hall and baths. In fact one of these houses built in 1857 was the first house we bought after we married in the 70’s. It had a garden that stretched down to the mill stream and overlooked the pleasure grounds. The whole terrace has now been listed.

Originally built as under and over dwellings (quite a usual feature in the north) most of the houses, like the one above that we lived in, have been knocked through now to make one four storey dwelling. Sadly a lot of the original Georgian windows had already been replaced in favour of a more modern style, as on the ground floor kitchen window. As it was two houses originally we had a front door number 23 and a back door round the other side of number 21.

So our world is in a state of great unrest at the moment – but then looking at our local history I am reminded that it always has been in one way or another and I think about the words of John Ruskin, to the Merchants and Manufacturers of Bradford, regarding their plan to build a cloth exchange, 1864 during the time of the great wealth of the mill owners who were bringing about so much rapid change (rapid for those days).

“Change must come; but it is ours to determine whether change of growth, or change of death. Shall the Parthenon be in ruins on its rock, and Bolton Priory in its meadow, but these mills of yours be the consummation of the buildings of the earth, and their wheels be as the wheels of eternity ? Think you that ‘men may come and men may go,’ but mills go on for ever ?
Not so; out of these, better or worse shall come; and it is for you to choose which”.

So will we choose for better or worse?

And now we are preparing for the new changes allowed to our movements as shops open once more and tourism starts up again – I feel a sadness that our economy is so reliant on us once again going out to ‘spend, spend, spend’. We seem to go around in circles trying to balance the environment with the effects we have on it by spending and tourism.

I find the best way to overcome any feelings of hopelessness is to either go for a walk or go in the garden as nature is very calming and grounding. So a walk around the block is an excellent tonic.

This verge covered in spring by a mass of daffodils is now dotted with moon pennies and gardens that lay bare before are suddenly filled with all the delights of summer perennials.

In and amongst the exercising and walking I have done a little making and baking. A choclate cake for DH’s birthday…

……and trying out a new recipe I found on the internet using fresh raspberries. It is such an easy recipe – a deliciously melted chocolate brownie mixture, in to which you drop the fresh raspberries and bake in these tiny spring form tins…..

….and eaten when still warm from the oven and topped with fresh cream of course.

Not everything in the kitchen has been baking though – I had a roll of puff pastry and goats cheese to use up, so made my favourite savoury goats cheese and walnut tart – quick to make and always a favourite in summer to have with salad.

I also found time to finish the padded bench cushion so we can while away some time in the garden in between weeding and dead heading.

The large dish is beginning to fill out nicely now with the annuals I planted, brightening up a dull corner.

…and the peonies have opened at last. This is one I bought a few years ago with a beautiful yellow centre. I always think you can never have too many peonies in a summer garden.

So not a lot going on here – but enough at the moment – I am making the most of this time while I can to recharge my batteries. I have a hairdressing appointment booked for the middle of July – all being well – DH needs a hair cut even more than me! We look forward to the day we can go to Scotland and see our garden up there and also visit mum and the grandchildren for a hug – it is a bit of a strange time now when we are not yet safe from the virus but not quite as much at risk – I am not even sure what the rules are anymore, but then we have not introduced many changes here yet and the only shopping we continue to do is our once every other week trip to the supermarket. Maybe we will venture out more soon when I feel the coast is clear.

Stay well and safe everyone – I will be round to catch up with everyone’s blogs soon.

And if you are reading this Suzanne – I couldn’t leave a comment but I am really sorry to see you say goodbye on your blog – I will miss you. x