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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Seaside

With the summer proving to be a scorcher Helene and I decided to drive to the coast and spend an afternoon on the beach at Sutton on Sea.

The trip was all the more enhanced by taking the Boxster for a run. It certainly helped to cool us down.

I packed up some homemade mackerel pate sandwiches for a picnic and we took plenty of water.

I was very dubious about the temperature of the North Sea however Helene convinced me it was warm and as if to prove the point she donned her swimsuit, waded out into the depths and attempted a bit of body surfing.

As you can see from the image I did manage a paddle and was surprised it wasn’t too cold. I wouldn’t stretch the truth by saying it was warm.

At the end of a pleasant day we drove home and joined the neighbours for an excellent barbeque.

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Nottingham Visit

Helene and I went to Nottingham to see a recording of BBC Radio 4, I’m Sorry I Haven’t a Clue at the Royal Theatre. On the evening they record two thirty minute programmes however it takes a lot longer than an hour because of retakes and there is more content so only the best is chosen. It was an hilarious evening.

Prior to the theatre Helene had booked dinner at Mowgli which is an Indian restaurant that she had visited in other cities and it was highly rated. Sadly thirty minutes before the booking she had a phone call cancelling because they had an emergency. We have been offered 50% discount on our next booking.

The morning after the show we wondered around Nottingham and took time out to visit the castle.

The castle was an interesting couple of hours with plenty of displays on lace making, pottery and works of art.

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Covid Aftermath

After 9 days of Covid isolation I eventually tested negative. It wasn’t a terrible time however it was uncomfortable and I wouldn’t make light of it. The aftermath of the infection has left me with slightly blocked sinuses and a grumbly stomach. This is slowly settling down and I’m physically returning to normal.

It has made me even more cautious.

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Covid

On returning from Scotland I was feeling a little unwell – blocked sinuses and a headache. Initially I put it down to sitting in an air conditioned car for too long. I did lateral flow tests on Monday and Wednesday… both negative however Helene tested positive today, Thursday morning and so I tested again and here’s the result – positive.

I think I’m through the worst. The headache went on Tuesday, my sinuses cleared yesterday and the aches are easing today, Thursday.

I’m annoyed with myself because I’ve managed to get through 2 years without catching it. I think the latest versions of Omicron BA.4 and BA.5 are far more infectious so it was only a matter of time before I caught it.

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Scottish Tour

We had been planning our Scottish tour for several months. Our plan was to stay overnight in Stirling so we could visit the Kelpies, Falkirk Wheel and Stirling Castle. These are all sites I’ve wanted to visit on my previous trips over the border however I’ve never found the time to stop.

The Kelpies are awesome. Their size, design and structure is incredible and we wandered around and between them for almost an hour.

As you can see from our attire it wasn’t particularly warm and we were prepared for the Scottish weather.

A fifteen minute drive from the Kelpies is the Falkirk Wheel. We were very fortunate that, despite it being late in the day, we saw the wheel in action. On the left hand side of the wheel there are two narrow boats coming down from the canal above and an empty chamber on the right going up.

We were fascinated to see it in action.

An overnight stay outside Stirling and then a visit to the castle. It’s a magnificent building with views over the surrounding countryside. We learned and promptly forgot all about the Jacobite rebellions. There were simply too many King James’s of Scotland and England.

After several hours in the castle and a brief lunch in Stirling itself we headed north to stay with Tony & Jude. I introduced Helene to my favourite places around Forres and Elgin. We had a very pleasant few days before we headed south to Dundee.

We arrived at our Dundee hotel in a downpour. There was also an odour of sewage with a sludge gulper outside the entrance. Not the welcome we were hoping for.

The main attraction of Dundee was the V&A building. It is a wonderful piece of architecture with a massive space inside however the content was somewhat disappointing.

Next to the V&A was the Royal Research Ship Discovery as used by Captain Scott in his expedition to Antarctica. The inside the V&A was equally exciting and very different.

I chose the hotel because it was quite central and looked grand as can be seen above with Helene on the staircase, however it was a little tired and tatty at the edges. Our room had a sloping floor which was a little disconcerting. It was very reasonably priced and generally speaking, you get what you pay for.

After a single night in Dundee, next stop Edinburgh. We parked outside the city and caught the tram into centre with a 15 minute walk to our hotel.

I know my way around the city quite well after several visits to the Fringe and it was fun showing Helene the highlights, or at least the parts I think are interesting. We walked our feet off.

The weather was good enough to sit outside for coffee (Cockburn Street) on some occasions but most of the time we were wearing light raincoats. We visited the Parliament building, closed on Saturday and walked around the castle.

Finding places to eat around out hotel was not as straightforward as we had hoped. The hotel itself couldn’t recommend anywhere nearby so we ate at The Bombay Bicycle Club on Friday night, we were the only diners; and chose a little Syrian restaurant on the Saturday evening. The latter was a real experience… the menus were tatty A4 pieces of paper stained with food, the waitress was less than helpful with the menu and the food arrived on paper plates with plastic knives and forks. Despite this the food was good.

After two nights in Edinburgh we headed south on the final day of our tour. We stopped off in Berwick-upon-Tweed where we ate brunch before walking the walls and defences. Berwick has been on the front line of disputes between England and Scotland for centuries.

We travelled over 1,000 miles on our tour and enjoyed every moment.

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Hi Brow & Lo Brow

This week we went to see Julius Caesar performed by the Globe Theatre at Doddington Hall. The weather was near perfect at we sat down in our fold up seats to eat our picnic prior to the performance.

A two hour Shakespeare play is not everyone’s cup of tea or glass of wine or whisky chaser however it was well performed and most people know the plot so it’s no secret the Caesar is assassinated by his closest allies. It is somewhat similar to current politics with the Tories turning on their leader. Alas, Boris is still Prime Minister as I write this.

The following day we travelled up to Scunthorpe to see Top Gun 2. The contrast between Shakespeare and this was extreme. This was pure escapism with rampant egotism and machismo on display throughout the film. As Helene pointed out “boys and their big toys”.

It was a good film, edge of the seat stuff, and the flying was breathtakingly scary. I’m not sure how much of it was real flying or CGI but it was all very good.

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Garden, food & honey

Now the bee hive has gone I’ve taken back control of the vegetable plot. It is still early in the season and not everything is growing as it should but it isn’t doing too badly.

The sugar snap peas that have grown have been pecked to pieces by the wood pigeons. It was suggested I should cover them however to keep the wood pigeons off I would need to cover everything.

One of my favourite places in the garden is the greenhouse. I spend many a pleasant hour sowing seeds, potting on the young plants and generally tending to the tomato, pepper and cucumber plants.

As more plants are moved out into the garden the greenhouse becomes empty. I’m thinking I might start sowing bedding plants for next year.

It’s been a while since I’ve cooked Tuna and sesame. This time I paired it with green beans I froze from last year, on a bed of pearl barley. The green beans were not great and I won’t freeze them again however the Tuna was good.

I do enjoy cooking when it goes right.

Although the bees have gone I did rescue the honey they had stored. This is a good frame with capped honey. The process of extraction is long and somewhat tedious but it’s worthwhile.

This is the last time I will do this and therefore the honey will have rarity value. After several hours of hand spinning the centrifuge I had about 25 jars worth of golden honey.

It has to settle for a few days before it will be ready to put into the jars. The big clean up then begins – work surfaces and floor. Everything gets covered in a thin film of sticky honey and it isn’t easy to remove it.

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