Saturday, 28 April 2012

Hands in the Soil

The resident (male) fox in the grounds at my place of work
Just finished a mixed week this week and ended up by yesterday (Friday) not feeling too good at all, mentally or physically. However having just completed four and a half hours in the garden including giving the grass its first cut in a month, I feel invigorated and energised and back to my normal self. I've taken a week off work next week to do some 'me' stuff.

Despite continuous rain and showers, the grass was dry due to quite a strong breeze last night yet the ground underneath is still fairly wet. Often, grass can go yellow with too much water, yet the grass has remained green and lush and looks good for a cut. 

I've potted up the last of the plants, some cactus dahlias and trailing begonias. A mixture of ground cover and medium tall perennials are now potted up outside. Lily 'Stainless Steel' and dahlia tubers are in pots along with some other begonia corms. Petunias and geraniums I planted up three weeks ago are looking well and are growing in the shelter of the greenhouse overseen by my lovely green man. Some trailing begonias I've ordered are not due to arrive on time, I think the late frosts a couple of weeks ago may have delayed them at the nurseries.

Being fortunate enough to be able bodied and reasonably fit for my age, I count myself lucky that I can get into the garden and do the things I enjoy. Being with nature is a wonderful experience even though in the domestic garden environment it tends to be a manufactured one. Nonetheless, to get  my hands in the soil brings me closer to Mother Nature and keeps me grounded. To be able to touch and admire trees, watch the wildlife and breath fresh air is so important to me and today I bought a small portable radio to take to my greenhouse to listen to when I use the warmth and shelter of the glass as a bolt hole, safe from being interrupted or being molested by domesticity.

I have a lovely family around me and some friends who I admire and adore but there's just something about my own company which attracts me. Is that being selfish or arrogant? 

American author Alice Koller (bn 1925) who spent many years deliberately living away from other human beings said, "Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement."

Chat soon


Sunday, 22 April 2012

Mushrooms in the Grass

Mushrooms in the grass - in April!

We prayed for rain and it's been raining ever since. Good on Mother Nature. I have heard loads of people whinging about it, but frankly, there's no point. April traditionally is the month of showers - live with it!

I haven't been able to get on my grass for a fortnight so it is getting long, but it looks great and green and it'll stay dry long enough for it to get cut before long I'm sure. I saw a farmer on the local TV news who was talking about the devastating effect of no rain and having driven past a few fields lately, the new crops are looking good, in fact the yellow rape-seed oil plants are in full flower in places.

Dicentra, love's bleeding heart
I went to the greenhouse to turn the paraffin heater off this morning and noticed mushrooms growing in the grass - another sign of the damp weather. The sun stayed out for just a few mintues, long enough for me to take these snaps.

Pieris Japonica, 'Forest Flame'
The London Marathon is on this morning and it looks like they've got good weather. My mother, as is her tradition will be sat in front of the TV in her dressing gown watching the spectacle and privately cheering on all those brave souls who run for charity. A colleague of mine, Ian ran the Hull marathon a couple of weeks ago and he raised several hundred quid for Macmillan nurses who care for people who are desperately ill with cancer. It was his first marathon but sadly, it seems the event was poorly organised and the course was too short so it doesn't officially count, but in my mind, he's a star anyway.

I've never ran successfully in my entire life, I guess my body was never made for it (I can hear the groans about that excuse) but I admire those who can and do run and who look after themselves. The added bonus of giving to charity for the effort is such a good idea and they have my congratulations.

I ran my first Reiki first degree class yesterday and had two successful students who I know will go on to use Reiki healing for the benefit of others. Congratulations to Ian, Nick and thanks to Linda for supporting the event. 

Chat soon


Friday, 13 April 2012

Spring Forces Way into UK

I hope this week has been fruitful and peaceful no matter where in the world you are. 

There are signs, despite a late surge in chill north atlantic weather, that spring is trying to force its way into our lives in the UK. Bring it on! The rain has helped of course and as the country in largely in a drought situation, every last drop is welcome even though my tan is rust rather then from the sun! The grass is green, the fresh green leaves in the hawthorn are very evident now and the tulips are abundent alongside the fading daffodils.

The marsh marigold in my fish pond is well and truly out and will last well into the early summer with flowering after flowering.

Today I potted fifty petunia palnts that I received in the form of tiny plugs from a famous seed company. So I turned this:

Into this:

In their latest catalogue, they enclose a small sachet of Tomato Powerfood with a  50 pence off voucher for a bigger packet of the stuff. The only problem is the voucher is only valid until 30 September 2009. Cheers.

Chat soon


Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Postcard from Cuba

Just a quick post today. I always encourage postcards from friends when they disappear to far flung fields. Most say they 'don't do postcards,' but even those that do more often than not take the effort. Friends Ken and Linda went to Cuba in the New Year and their postcard arrived today, 10 April. The postmark in Cuba - 13 February 2012. The price of postage of the card (0. 75 Cuban peso) at today's conversion rate is about 47 pence.

In the UK, Royal Mail has announced that from April 30 2012, the price of a First Class stamp for a standard letter will rise from 46p to 60p. The price of a Second Class stamp for a standard letter will increase from 36p to 50p. Even with my donkey maths, that's an increase of 30% and 39% respectively.

If I send 60 Christmas cards by post every year, mostly but not all second class, that will be £30 at the cheapest rate to send them. I have a decision to make and its not going to be favourable I don't think.

I hope you enjoyed your Easter break if you had one, this week is forecast sunshine and showers with cold nights. 

Chat soon


Sunday, 8 April 2012

Mad as Hatters

Normanby Hall
Good morning blogging friends one and all to this Easter Sunday. In 725, the Venerable Bede (a famous English monk) apparently wrote, "The Sunday following the full Moon which falls on or after the equinox will give the lawful Easter." Also known as Resurrection Day, this day celebrates the rising of Christ after the third day following his execution. This should be a joyous day for without the resurrection, there is no Christianity as we know it today. There are Christian religions and cults that treat this as a solemn memorial day without celebration. This is a real shame, for not to celebrate it if you are a Christian seems to ignore what sacrifice was done for us.

Anyway, moving away from this religious theme, I am a prisoner in my own home today. That's not as dramatic as it sounds, I simply can't get my car out because the local roads are closed for the Hull Marathon. 'Good on them' I say, mad as hatters*, but I secretly admire them for their fitness and courage to run the length of a Marathon. I've sponsored a couple of people at work who are running it so I am delighted that charities benefit from their perspiration and efforts (or in the ladies case - glow and effort.)

Yesterday I went to Normanby Hall which is a few miles north of Scunthorpe in North Lincolnshire, a short journey across the Humber Bridge and along pleasant meandering roads through the pretty countryside, occasionally with magnificent views along the Humber basin. Normanby Hall was once the home of the Sheffield family, Dukes of Buckingham. The hall is a square Regency style building surrounded by lovely grounds, a deer park, a Victorian walled garden (with hot houses), small museums of life in the hall at various times, camping grounds and good facilities with good toilets and a nice cafe.

The hall and grounds are now in the hands of the local authority since the family moved out in 1963. Briefly, there has been some sort of family home there since 1530s and the current hall, built in the 1820s replaced a 17th century building. Now here's something I didn't know until yesterday, Samantha Cameron (wife of the current Prime Minister) grew up in the grounds of the Normanby Hall Estate.   

Just a fraction of the extensive park surrounding the hall
The grounds are beautifully kept and cost £5.50 to go in with which includes parking and access to everything including the hall. The hall itself is warm and homely (you may remember this is one of my tests - does it feel like a home.) There are many rooms on two floors which we roamed around although there was a wedding there so one wing was cut off from us. The rooms are roped off but contain wonderful furniture, musical instruments, paintings and there are silk wall hangings in the music room. The bathroom was opulent to say the least and there was a nursery and a four poster bed in one of the many bedrooms remain in situ. 

One of two male peacocks I saw, this one meandering in the walled garden
This isn't necessarily a full days visit, unless you have children and you could picnic and play (as many do) in the extensive grounds, but I was there for four and a half hours and it was just about right. There is easy access to motorways and there are some disabled facilities although you should check with the local authority' website, for more details.   

Normanby Hall Country Park is a pleasant distraction on a nice day and worth while visiting.

Finally, apparently someone attempted to use my debit card to spend 19,000 rupees in India yesterday (worth around £235). Needless to say I now have a cancelled bank card which won't be replaced for seven days but at least there are two silver linings to this cloud, a) I can't spend anything for the time being and b) the bank's anti-fraud processes actually work.

I hope you are enjoying your Easter break and if you don't celebrate it, enjoy the time off courtesy of Christianity!

Chat soon
*"Mad as a hatter" is a colloquial phrase used in conversation to refer to a crazy person. In 18th and 19th century England mercury was used in the production of felt, which was used in the manufacturing of hats common of the time. People who worked in these hat factories were exposed daily to trace amounts of the metal, which accumulated within their bodies over time, causing some workers to develop dementia caused by mercury poisoning. Thus the phrase "Mad as a Hatter" became popular as a way to refer to someone who was perceived as insane. Courtesy Wikipedia

Friday, 6 April 2012

Bank Holiday Blues

Happy Easter. It's Bank Holiday weekend in the UK and the start of a short holiday for me. The last couple of weeks has been really busy both at home and at work and rather tiring hence no blog. I've done another Angel stall with my business partner Linda; and her and I have given free Reiki treatments on behalf of Hull and East Riding Breast Friends (HER Breast Friends) a group dedicated to supporting women who have or have had breast cancer. So weekends have become a bit of a premium. My son is home from University and it's a pleasure to have him back and today, we sat and painted with oil paints together which was really nice and relaxing. 

Now I'm sure you've noticed if you are in the UK that the weather has returned to what can only be described as wintry again. I was in Leeds on business on Wednesday. I set off from Hull in driving rain and sleet and the spray on the roads was terrible. There was gale force winds during the night, several trees had been blown down near us and in the north of England, 50,000 homes were without electricity due to power lines being brought down. Bear in mind this is the first substantial rain for several weeks, there was much in the way of standing water on the roads.

I had driven about 35 miles when all of a sudden, the verges and the hedges began to take on a white hue and as I reached the A1, there was snow as far as the eye could see. Just another 30 miles up the road, roads were blocked because of snow. It's April for goodness sake! Still, I made nice patterns in the car park.

Although winter is only recently demised, we need the rain and the water because in Yorkshire there is an official drought order in place. They haven't banned hosepipes yet, but it's only a matter of time I guess. Much of the south east of England have drought orders in place and they have hosepipe bans already and we're just into spring.

We're losing our electricity for a day next week whilst the local power company connect some new houses across the road. Time to spend a day in the garden, but the long term forecast doesn't look very inspiring. I do hope this late snow and ice didn't damage any crops or buds on the bushes and trees. I do recall having snow on Easter Friday when I was about 16 and that was in April too so it's not unheard of.

Forgive the language, but here's a little moral story for the festive season:

A little bird was flying south for the winter. It was so cold the bird froze and fell to the ground into a large field. While he was lying there, a cow came by and dropped some dung on him.

As the frozen bird lay there in the pile of cow dung, he began to realise how warm he was. The dung was actually thawing him out!

He lay there all warm and happy, and soon began to sing for joy. A passing cat heard the bird singing and came to investigate.

Following the sound, the cat discovered the bird under the pile of cow dung, and promptly dug him out and ate him.

Moral of the story:

(1) Not everyone who shits on you is your enemy;
(2) Not everyone who gets you out of shit is your friend;
(3) And when you're in deep shit, it's best to keep your mouth shut!

Have a great weekend of Easter bunny frolics, and if you don't believe in the Easter celebrations because you think it's all Pagan stuff, well just enjoy the weekend.

Chat soon