Garden Changes

The border along the drive is great when it is weeded however it has been a lot of work.

I’ve had a gardener looking after one section but there was still a significant area that needed attention.

Finally I decided I had had enough so decided to have some turf laid to take one more chore off the list of garden work.

I found a Landscaper who gave a reasonable quote and within 3 days of starting, the turf was laid. I think it will add about ten minutes to my lawn mowing which is a lot less work than the hours I put into weeding this space.

At this time of year the vegetable plot needs some attention. I’ve been digging and preparing sections to plant garlic, onions and peas. A week ago I planted broad bean seeds in pots in the greenhouse.

When the soil is wet it’s quite heavy going and I cannot dig for too long before the back starts aching. It’s a lot easier than digging clay.

The newly sown areas need to be covered before the woodpigeons and squirrels start to peck at them or dig them up.

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Photography Brief

It’s nearly the end of November so I’ve been busy taking and editing photographs that meet the brief of Food and Shallow Depth of Field. I’m allowed to submit 2 in each category so I’ve got to make a final selection in the next few days.

I’m not sure which of the egg images or honey drips I prefer.

This is a much harder choice. To meet the brief exactly there should be a very little in focus and the rest out of focus.

We can select our favourite photo of the month. This is mine, taken on my Samsung S22 phone at Battersea Power Station.

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London Visit

At this time of year I travel down to London to visit Jane’s brother. For the second year it was Helene and I. In the past we have booked a Shakespeare at the Barbican but there wasn’t anything we wanted to see.

We did go to the local cinema to see “Living” starring Bill Nighy. A very poignant film.

On Saturday morning we walked to Tate Modern to see the Cezanne exhibition. It was an interesting show but a little crowded. Shuffling around is quite thirst making so coffee is always on the agenda.

After Cezanne we caught a river boat up to Battersea. The waterfront is very interesting with superb ancient and new buildings. Buying or renting a flat here is undoubtedly very expensive.

It was an enjoyable journey up river.

Battersea Power Station has been completely refurbished and is a majestic building. As a shopping Mall on a Saturday it was heaving. All the eateries had queues outside and to get a late lunch we walked into Battersea park, found a food shack and sat on a park bench eating cheese sandwiches and sausage baps.

Part of the power station have been retained such as the control room. This has been converted into a café with all the original banks of dials along the back of the area.

As you can see from this image there are sales outlets underneath.

We travelled back to R&N’s home on the bus along many of the main shopping streets adorned with the Christmas decorations.

On Sunday we visited the Natural History Museum to see the Wildlife Photographer of the Year exhibition. It’s always an amazing event and the dedication of the photographers is mind-blowing.

After a very busy few days we headed home from King’s Cross with plenty to talk about.

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Gadgets Inside & Out

I first bought Dyson stick vacuum in 2016. Apart from replacing the battery after 3 years it has performed really well but some of the attachments were showing their age.

It was time for a new one. This one has a laser light for smooth surfaces which shows the dust and measures the size of particles it is collecting from dust to microbes.

It is very effective, quieter than it’s older brother but a little heavier.

I recently broke my 45 year old garden spade and replaced it with a standard spade. I used it to reposition a rhododendron however it was hard work digging through the tree roots than run everywhere. I decided I needed something sharper and built for the purpose. This spade has a saw edge along one side and a handle that absorbs the impact when driving into roots.

I look forward to giving it a test in the garden when the weather improves a little.

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Photo Themes October

This month’s photo challenges from West Wolds u3a are self portrait and cycles(bikes/motorbikes). There’s also the chance to submit a favourite photo of the month. We’re restricted to two in each category and only one favourite. Choosing is very difficult however I’ve come to the conclusion not to think about what others will like but which ones appeal to me.

Here are my choices for the month.

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Birthday 2022

For my 73rd birthday H and I went to stay at Rushton Hall and Spa. This was a complete indulgence and the most expensive hotel I’ve ever stayed in.

We had the swimming pool to ourselves and the food was superb. I’m afraid I ate far too much and put on 1.5 Kgs in two days.

We drove up to Harringworth viaduct for a walk and to get some views of this magnificent structure. It is the longest viaduct in the UK.

The weather was excellent for October so we had the Porsche roof down with the heater on.

A perfect day.

Since we joined English Heritage when we were in Pickering we are constantly looking for places to go. Bede House at Lyddington was in the area so we had a pleasant wander around this very old building which came under the control of the Bishop of Lincoln it it’s day.

It’s difficult to imagine how people survived these conditions of cold and damp.

I finished the week with a camp fire. We had the usual B’s – burgers, bangers, beans and baked potatoes. A no frills meal.

The weather stayed kind and the rain held off until we had packed everything away.

As always it was a smoky evening but I think everyone had a pleasant time.

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Leeds City Break

Many months ago I arranged for Dave & Lucie, Helene and myself to see James Taylor at First Direct Arena Leeds. We stayed at the Novotel Hotel because it was on the edge of the city centre and a short walk from the venue. Due to roadworks and closed roads getting into the hotel was challenging. I’m glad Dave was driving.

I haven’t been to Leeds for over 30 years and all I could remember was that it had some lovely Victorian arcades. The city is a delightful blend of old and new.

Prior to the concert we booked a table at Mowgli. H and I had tried to go when we recently stayed in Nottingham but due to a kitchen flood they cancelled us. As a consequence of the cancellation we were given 50% off our food. The food was very good and we will definitely go again if we’re in a city which has a Mowgli.

The corn exchange was a particularly beautiful building. The old corn merchants’ offices had been converted into small shops. There were market stalls and on the lower floor was a café.

We wandered around soaking up the friendly atmosphere and browsing the stalls to see if there was anything worth buying – cards, jewellery, etc.

The highlight of the weekend was seeing James Taylor alongside 10,000 other fans. At 74 his voice isn’t as smooth or strong as it was when he started 55 years ago. Despite that he soon warmed up and delivered several hours of his classic songs.

It was an event that will live long in my memory.

We finished the weekend visit with a superb breakfast at Olive & Rye. The café is in the Queen’s Arcade and we could sit outside and under the canopy of the arcade. The food was very good and the service was excellent.

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Home & Garden

I did undertake a deep clean of the double oven (gas) a few years ago but I thought it was time to get a professional to give it a good going over. They took the doors off and cleaned everything. It does look very clean.

I don’t particularly like the oven for a number of reasons. It doesn’t indicate when it’s up to temperature so I have considered replacing it. I’ll leave it to get dirty again before thinking about that.

Out in the back corner of the garden I came across this little chap scuttling about near the compost heap. Although nocturnal I think they are trying to fatten up as much as they can, ready for winter.

After a good summer of colour the bedding plants in the various pots needed refreshing. I always feel safe with pansies and cyclamen.

They will need a week or two before they fill out the space provided the local squirrels don’t dig them up. Twenty-four hours after planting them there were several pansies that had to be replanted.

Autumn is upon us and I’ve started organising the strawberry bed. It has been over run by borage plants so rather than try to weed them out I’ve decided to dig up the whole bed and move the strawberry plants to the back of the bed.

Helene suggested I cover the empty space with black plastic in the hope the borage won’t grow back. The roots go a long way down and snap off very easily so any small pieces of root will probably try to grow through.

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Whitby 2022

H and I booked a week away in Whitby. It was a small fisherman’s cottage 5 minutes away from the harbour and it has a dedicated parking spot.

On the way there we stopped off in Beverley and did a tour of the town and minster.

The first couple of days were very windy so our walks down to the harbour were quite breezy with waves crashing over the harbour walls.

It was great to be out and about without worrying about jobs to be done in the house or garden.

The last time I was in this part of Yorkshire was in 2008…

Whitby being famous for its fish & chips we just had to test it out. We managed to get into the renown Magpie Café and they were so good we made a second visit later in the week.

Our night time saunters around the town also allowed me to take some photos which was very convenient as the photography group theme this month is night photography.

Here are a few of the night shots I took of Whitby.

We visited Staithes on the Monday of the Queen’s funeral in an attempt to get away from the monarchic nonsense.

There are a number of delightful fishing villages along this coast and it was wonderful to spend some time in this quiet place.

A day on North York Moors Railway with a steam train at the front of the carriages was great. We spent 3 hours in Pickering having lunch and visiting Pickering Castle where we were persuaded to join English Heritage. The argument was we would reap the cost of membership when we visited Whitby Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey in the next few days.

With the weather being so bright we drove to Robin Hood’s Bay, donned our walking boots and set off for Boggle Hole along the cliff top. After lunch at the YHA café we headed onwards to Ravenscar. Plenty of ups and downs. We decided to walk back along the old railway track to RHB however it was a little further than I remembered and we cut it short by walking along a road to Boggle Hole and then along the beach and up to the car. By the end of the day we had walked over 11 miles.

By the end of the week we had seen some beautiful skies, many ancient buildings and had a memorable time.

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Hospice Garden

In 2016 St Barnabas hospice received an RHS gold winning garden donated and designed by Caitlin McLaughlin. Over the past 6 years the garden has moved on and the hospice decided to give it a makeover. I received an invitation to see the revamped space.

With support from Riseholme agricultural college (affiliated to Lincoln University) the garden has been transformed. The rabbit fencing has been removed and the borders have been joined with the rest of the gardens.

Jane’s ashes are around the trees and it was delightful to see the silver birches thriving despite this year’s drought.

I was quite emotional during the visit.

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Fungal Forage

On a foggy Sunday morning when I thought it was too damp to go for a cycle I decided to walk to Linwood Warren in the hope of getting some photographs of fungi and spiders webs. The walk there and back would also be a healthy start to the day.

The entrance to the heathland is very welcoming as you look through over-arching trees.

I’ll let you be the judge of whether I captured the atmosphere which can only be described as the first days of autumn.

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PC Problems

During the summer months I’ve been experiencing a problem with my PC (Intel NUC). It was getting very warm to the point where it would switch itself off. The frequency of this was increasing. It reached the point where I was thinking of having to buy a replacement

My brother researched this for me and discovered it could simply be dust. I took the plunge and dismantled the NUC. I’m not a hardware guy so felt very nervous about it but did so with the thought that at worst I would have to buy another one.

When I got down to the fan and heatsink that sits on the CPU there was a lot of dust. I blew and brushed it out with a fine artists brush. As a consequence of splitting the heatsink from the CPU I had to buy thermal paste as part of the reassembly.

After some fiddling around the NUC was back together and running very cool with a quiet fan.

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Cars, Punk, Bench & Curry

I enjoy driving the Porsche more than any sports car I’ve ever owned however the in car media system (or infotainment as the car pundits call it) was hopeless. It did have a 6 CD changer but who uses CDs any more. I carry all of my music on my phone.

I decided to replace the 14 year old system with something newer and better. The Kenwood has Android Auto so I can run everything from my smartphone – music, phone calls, sat nav and messages.

It blends into the car as if it was the original system.

The Bank Holiday was the annual Steam Punk event in Lincoln. Helene was staying with me so we went along when it was just starting on Friday afternoon. There weren’t the usual, jam packed crowds but it have us space to breath and reduced the risk of Covid transmission.

The revamped garden bench has been placed, with Helene’s help in the corner of the veg plot. I cannot recall ever sitting on it because there’s always something to be done in the garden but who knows, I might make the time to sit and admire the veg plot from time to time.

I have a reputation for always having curry on Friday night and it’s usually a ready meal from Tesco. Last Friday was a real treat because we went to the Gate of India with the neighbours.

I confess to eating and drinking far too much. It will take me at least a week to lose the weight I put on from this one meal.

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Keeping Busy

This old garden bench had several broken slats and I decided to repair it rather than cut it up and burn it. I used an outdoor wood filler, additional wooden battens and lots of screws.

After cleaning off the green growth I rubbed it down ready for painting.

I wanted to paint it a similar colour to the new bench, made from recycled plastic, I bought back in July.

It has a slightly green hue. I decided that a Sadolin Superdec paint that could be colour matched would be my best option. I travelled to a Crown Decorating centre in Grimsby to get the right colour but this proved more difficult than I imagined.

From the first brush stroke I realised this was the wrong colour. I confess I was influenced by the guy in the Crown centre and I should have stuck to my initial decision.

Setting all that to one side the paint job has made the bench look like new. I’m going to place it in the corner of the veg plot where the beehive used to be. I doubt I will find much time to sit on it and appreciate the garden because I will, no doubt, see weeds that need to be plucked.

This month’s u3a photography themes are Signage and Action. I like to try to be as diverse as I can in my thinking and the pursuit of a good set of images. The month isn’t over yet so I might improve on some of these.

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New Car

The Mazda CX30 will be 3 years old in January and with lead times on new cars 6 months or more I’ve turned my thinking to what car is going to be next.

The Mazda drives well however the media and navigation system (infotainment) has been a huge disappointment. It doesn’t have a touch screen and all selections have to be made by twisting or pushing a dial on the central consul. When connected to Android Auto it is quite difficult to move around the menu.

I’ve started my search by taking a look at the Kia Niro EV. I’m still having an internal debate as to whether I buy another petrol or a hybrid or a fully electric vehicle. There are plenty of arguments for each however I’m edging slowly towards an EV.

If I was to order a Niro today it wouldn’t be delivered until March 2023. The local Kia showroom doesn’t even have a demonstrator in stock. I will need to be very patient whatever I decided to do in the next few months.

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Doddington Hall 2022

The biennial sculpture exhibition is always interesting. The last time I visited the weather was very inclement with a rain storm throwing rain sideways at me. This year was entirely different as the cloudless blue sky in this photo shows.

I went with my friend Brian and as we are both part of the u3a photography group we were busy taking lots of snaps.

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Catching Up

After two weeks of being here and there I’ve taken time out to catch up with the website.

In the last week of July I took some of my redundant bee keeping equipment to my friend Gary in Banbury. I was pleased to find a home for it where it will be be put to good use. Whilst there we went for a walk around Great Tew (a Cotswold village where only the rich and famous can afford to live) and in the evening had a superb Lebanese meal at the Cinnamon Stick – good food and great company… you can’t go wrong.

On my way back from my overnight stay in Banbury I collected Helene and we stayed at the Sedgebrook Hall Hotel where we enjoyed the swimming pool, a pleasant dinner and a full breakfast.

The following day we repaired Helene’s fence. One of the posts had rotted through and was hanging by a splinter. We had to clear the hole, concrete in a fence post and then secure the fence rails to the post. Before I headed home we enjoyed dinner outside at a local tavern.

In the past week I met up with my college friends at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. YSP has to be one of my all time favourite places. It is expansive; the exhibitions are stimulating whilst the surrounding parkland is very tranquil even when it is busy.

I finally finished the job of filling the gap in the corner between the front wall and the side atrium window. I was reluctant to start the work because I had no idea how it might finish up however, despite my misgivings, I’m really pleased with the way it has worked out.

Using the same special, gritty paint that was originally used on the walls it now looks as though it was always like this.

Back in November I was going to treat myself to a new multimedia system in the Porsche however, despite my best efforts, I couldn’t find a company to undertake the work or have the Kenwood system I wanted.

At last I got round to following up with Audio Island based in Grimsby. They have one in stock and it’s booked in for the end of the month. Watch this space for how it turns out.

Like all gardeners, when things don’t go well I blame the weather. This year I have good cause because it has been incredibly dry and hot for many weeks. As a consequence the vegetable plot has suffered. The rainwater harvesting tank (3,000 litres) ran dry.

Despite this there are some potatoes, green beans and runner beans. Sufficient for a meal I’m cooking for the neighbours.

I’ve started making notes about my successes and failures in readiness for next year. I won’t be growing dwarf green beans again… the climbers have done far better.

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House Maintenance

When the house was first built the contractors were never happy with the way the architect had put the windows directly against the wall and said there should have been a return into the corner. This has proven to be correct because as the external boarding and the timber frame has moved slightly a gap has opened up. After several years of ignoring the problem I resolved to fix it. I used masking tape between frame and gap then filled it with expandable foam.

I have never used expandable foam before and wasn’t prepared for how much it expands as can be seen.

Once it has hardened I shall face the task of cutting it flat, possibly sanding it down and maybe even giving it a coat of the wall paint if necessary.

Finished job will be posted soon…

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Garden Bench

Over the last couple of years this garden bench has been falling apart. I had every intention of trying to repair it but the wood was so badly rotted it was going to be difficult to fix the broken battens.

It is a bench that was bought for our Rothersthorpe house so it is probably 20+ years old – it has lasted well.

I will attempt to repair it and will then put it at the edge of the veg plot where the beehive used to be.

The replacement is made from recycled plastic and therefore should outlast me. Recycled garden furniture isn’t as cheap as wood but it doesn’t require any maintenance other than a clean once a year.

I like the colour too. It was either brown or duck egg blue.

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Cycling

I continue to cycle on Sunday mornings. I’m only cycle when the temperature is above 10 degrees C and the wind is less than 10 mph. It doesn’t always workout and I have been caught out by an unexpected rain shower in the past.

I’m nearly back on form and this week I finished the circuit 30 seconds faster than last week so I’m definitely over the Covid infection.

My route takes me along quiet country lanes through some beautiful countryside with very few serious hills.

About half way round there is a ford which I could avoid by going over a footbridge but where would the thrill be in doing that?

At one point a hare leapt out in front of me and I followed it along the road until it decided to turn off into the wheat field at the side of the road. Early morning wildlife abounds.

I’m still using my 20+ years old bike which isn’t the fastest thing on two wheels but neither am I. I have considered buying an electric bike but what would be the point of that? I cycle to keep fit although I could go further with an electric bike without getting too tired. Maybe it is something for the future.

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