Fruits of my Labours

Warm wet weather brings the vegetable plot into its own. Despite my concerns the onions are filling out; beetroot is being harvested; potatoes are ready (one plant produces enough to feed me for a week); and the runner beans are taking shape although Nick and Val have already supplied me with some from their plants.

In the potting shed I’ve got a number of cucumbers coming. I grew the same variety last year and they were delicious – looking forward to some more salads before the summer is over.

And so onto my pickling adventure. When preparing the beetroot after cooking them it does appear a bit like a bloodbath. If I walked out into the street mid preparation I would have looked like a mass murderer. I did miscalculate the number of beets required to fill a kilner jar so I’ve got to pull up some more and go through it all again. It’s easier than I thought…

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Car Fest Weekend

Sometimes car events come along like buses, nothing for years and then two in one weekend.
On Saturday I went as a guest of my friend Tony to the Lotus 7/Caterham sixtieth anniversary at Donington Park. The drive there was exciting in itself and the weather was superb. It was great to see so many enthusiasts with their Caterham and Lotus 7 cars firstly all parked up and then be put through their paces on different track events. All the trials were just for fun so there was no timing or judging – just for fun.

On Sunday I was asked by a friend in the U3A to be navigator in his Austin Healey Sprite on a non-competitive classic car rally. I’d never navigated before using Tulip course notes so I was a little nervous but I needn’t have worried. From a field of approximately 70 cars we started early and before long we were catching up with those in front who allowed us to pass. I had a great time and only missed a couple of turns but we stayed on course and came in second at the Old Tile Works in Barton Upon Humber.

Not all the cars were true classics and included Porsche, BMW, MX5 etc. My Lotus Elise wouldn’t have been out-of-place so who knows, next year I might be driving a similar course through the Lincolnshire Wolds.

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Wildlife and Top Gear

While putting out the washing this morning I heard a strange squeaking noise and wondered what it was. I looked in the almond tree but couldn’t see a bird so I went back to me pegging out the bedding when there it was again. I looked down near the fence and there was a grass snake with its jaws around the back-end of a medium-sized frog. I rushed off to fetch Dave & Lucie and Nick & Val because this was very unusual.

Slowly the snake engulfed the frog as it tried to crawl away and in the second photo you can see the frogs front legs with two sets of eyes – snake and frog. And as if by magic the frog was no more and the snake slithered away to digest a very large meal. David Attenborough eat your heart out…

This afternoon I took the Mazda CX5 for its first service and while I was there I was tempted to test drive a Mazda MX5. A quick (very quick) drive across the Wolds and back to Grimsby within an hour – phew. The Lotus is a wonderful car, frighteningly fast (and I mean that literally) but it is a struggle to climb in and out and any journey over two hours is bone shaking. Perhaps I should be considering a vehicle with a similar attitude but some of the creature comforts I have in the CX5.

Should I? Would I? Could I? Watch this space for the answers…

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Everything and Nothing…

After a weekend spent in the garden I’ve almost caught up with the essential weeding but the closer I got to finishing the flower beds the more excuses I found not to finish off. Says something about my personality – a degree in procrastination.

On Monday I went on a U3A trip to Humberside Airport – it has to be the quietest international airport on the planet. We had a guided tour of the control tower and the radar room. It’s interesting that NATS (National Air Traffic Service) operates as a commercial company and sells it’s radar data to privately owned regional airports. Our air safety has been sold off to the highest bidder!

We had a demonstration by the airport fire service and this was followed by a tour of the Coastguard station which is also run by Bristow, a commercial company. The pilot was fascinating and had an obvious love of the helicopter.

And whilst I’m busy watching people play with fire Nick is busy building Tawny Owl boxes. I helped him (held the ladder) to put this one up. There are Tawny owls in the area because we have seen them on a number of occasions in the trees along the drive so fingers crossed we’ll have an owl nesting in the next few years – fingers crossed.

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Still Here…

This week I met up with my ex sister-in-law and her sister-in-law in Lincoln. Marjorie lives in California; she had returned to her native Scotland to do some ancestry research and was travelling down to Suffolk. We had a coffee at The Collection; a tour of the cathedral and lunch in the castle cafe. The weather was described as dreich (Scots word meaning dreary or bleak).

Don’t worry you’re not drunk the last photo was taken by a young person in the castle cafe and they had a strange idea about vertical.

 

 

This week I received my new office chair. I’ve waited for over 12 weeks for this to come from Hong Kong. It’s based on a classic Charles and Ray Eames design. Not an original but still a lovely, comfortable design.

The old office chair will find its way to the Hospice charity shop when I get a spare moment next week.

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Visitors Make Life Better

This weekend I had Tony and Jude staying with me. On Monday I took them to see Jane’s memorial garden at Louth Hospice. The beauty of the space and the location will always affect me.

This is its first summer since it was moved from RHS Tatton Park at the end of July 2016. In the bright sunshine the garden looked stunning with daisies dominating most of the garden and the hedge has thickened enough to act as a beautiful back-drop.

As the garden matures it might require some additional work especially as one of the small Yew balls seems to have died. There are only a few foxgloves in the hedgerow and in the original design there were foxgloves around the silver birches.

Before Tony and Jude headed home there was a BBQ at Dave and Lucie’s with Nick and Val and it was a bit of a Ballooning Business reunion. After a very hot day it remained warm enough for us to be sitting outside until 11.30 – talking, drinking and laughing. A good time was had by all…

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Walk on the Wildside

I was in Sheffield at the weekend with a friend. It’s an interesting city and very close to the High Peak area. On Saturday we visited the David Mellor cutlery factory near Hathersage where there was a wide range of cutlery and other designer goods. We were lucky enough to get a factory tour although there was nobody working at the weekend – fascinating.

On Sunday we walked from Derwent Reservoir up to Alport Castles, a natural land formation with the intention of having a picnic at the top. Once the path left the shelter of the woodland on the way up from the reservoir we started to feel the force of the wind.

By the time we reached the top of the ridge the wind was probably gusting at up to 30 mph and it seemed very unlikely that we would be able to have a peaceful picnic.

Thankfully somebody had erected a hide to watch the peregrine falcons and ravens nesting in the cliffs. With the gusting winds there were no birds flying and this little hut was rattling away. It had been tied down with cables so there was no chance it was going anywhere.

It made a noisy haven from the wind for our picnic but it was better than being outside.

On the way back the heavens opened and we got soaked through but we felt a sense of satisfaction that we had completed our walk.

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Another Phase

Several people have mentioned that the frequency of my posts has declined over the past month or two and the reason for this is that my life has entered a new phase.

Those who have followed me through my grief know that it’s been a struggle but I think I’ve managed it quite well (with the support of friends and counselling) or as well as anyone can when they lose the one they have loved deeply for over 45 years.

We only live once, this isn’t a dress rehearsal, so a couple of months ago I decided it was time to move on and started online dating. I’m not going to go into details about my experiences however I will say that after 16 months of being alone and having carved out a life that I was reasonably happy with I now find it quite chaotic to be dating and having a “stranger” in my life.

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Gardening Again

After a week away and other activities the garden has been somewhat neglected and so I’ve commenced a weeding onslaught which will probably take at least a week to complete. There’s so much to do it’s difficult to know where to start but I’ve started…

The before and after along the woodland path. It took two hours and I’m only halfway along the path so more to do here…

In amongst the weeds there is still a good display of flowers…

Not everything in the garden is blooming. The Rhododendrons amongst the trees struggle to get going and one of them died last year so I’ve decided to take one out and put it into a pot where I can give it special attention.

There is new growth therefore I live in hope that it will revive.

And finally I had a colourful visitor the other afternoon in the shape of a Great Spotted Woodpecker. He was busily rooting out grubs from a rotting stump. I had every intention of cutting this stump out so I’m glad I haven’t if it attracts this chap back.

The garden is full of birds at the moment but when they start singing at 04:30 and wake me up I sometimes wish they would sleep in some mornings.

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Herefordshire Holiday

A week away with the Usual Suspects staying in the lovely Stocks Barn a few miles south of Hereford. The barn is open plan upstairs with steps up to a landing and dining area with more steps up to the kitchen to the left and sitting areas to the right. Lots of steps but very interesting layout.

A trip into Hereford was a must although the town is like most market towns these days with many boarded up shops amongst the regular traders one finds in most places. A visit to the local waterworks museum gave the techies amongst us the delights of seeing late Victorian steam and Lister engines with a large team of veteran volunteers keeping them all in working order.

 

A visit to a city and you have to visit the cathedral. Part of the attraction is the Mappa Mundi however at £5 to see it and having seen it before I decided not to bother. The depiction of the world as understood in 1300 Britain leaves a lot to be desired. It’s a case of the ignorant misinforming the uneducated with depictions of the voyages of Jason and the Argonauts along with the Red Sea being parted and Rome at the centre of the map.

Midweek found us in the Elan valley looking at Dams which help to supply water to Birmingham and a special treat of seeing Red Kites being fed at Gigrin Farm.

A trip to Hampton Court Castle is a must if you’re ever in the area. It’s a pleasant mixture of formal, walled gardens in an impressive estate setting. The design is really impressive and the work that goes into keeping it maintained is incredible.

And finally a drive to Abergavenny. A small market town but the surprise was found in the Market Hall. These owl creations were hovering above the market stalls and were, without doubt, the most impressive point of the whole place.

 

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You’ve Got A Friend

In the middle of last year I booked to see a Carol King/James Taylor tribute gig for November but it was postponed until April. The usual suspects attended Grimsby Auditorium for the first time. Unfortunately the event was poorly attended and there were only about 100 people there.

The singers were excellent and gave very good renditions of Carol King and James Taylor with a narrative about their lives and how they intertwined. I really enjoyed it and any fans should keep an eye out for this gig if it gets a showing near you.

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Hepworth Gallery Wakefield

Another busy day meeting with my college friends. It’s amazing that we first met each other in 1968 and whenever we get together we revert back to being teenagers again. Silly jokes, weird humour and a certain confidence of opinion that only teenagers dare express.

The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield is an interesting place. It is the home of the sculptor Barbara Hepworth but regularly displays a variety of artwork. At the moment it is Disobedient Bodies and I found it fascinating. The contrast of form, material and design kept me intrigued. One of the really good things about the Hepworth is that you’re allowed to take photographs and interact with the exhibits. A thoroughly enjoyable day…

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Bonnie Scotland

Once again I found myself driving the 450 miles from home to the Moray Firth. Despite the journey taking over 8 hours it doesn’t seem too onerous because the Mazda CX5 does most of the work. Turn on adaptive speed control, set it to 77 mph and drive.

I love the Highlands – friendly folk, beautifully striking scenery and clean air. The week with Tony and Jude just flew past with loads of laughs, great discussions and excellent food. What’s not to like…

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Choo Choo Trainee

Okay, the title isn’t exactly my description of a day driving a steam train but that’s how some people viewed it.

It was a great experience and there were strong similarities to flying a hot-air balloon because there’s a delay between the action you take on the controls and what happens – this is true for the regulator and the brake.

 

This event was a gift from Richard and Nicola and it was made all the better because they shared it with me. Here we are about to undertake our endeavour along the 8 mile track from Loughborough to Leicester North. We managed to stop the train at every station and was aligned on the platform with a degree of skill.

Lunch (all day breakfast) in the dining car afterwards whilst we travelled the route again was delightful in such good company.

 

Two happy boys having played with their over grown toys with our ever patient train driver in the background.

And to finish with a short video of me doing a hands-free bit of driving.

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Garden Flowers

I thought I’d walk round the garden and take some close-ups of the different plants in flower. Here are my results…

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Keep Taking the Tablets

After 4 years I decided to bite the bullet and replace my Samsung Note 10.1 Tablet with the new Galaxy Tab S3. Okay it’s another tablet but it is so much faster than my old one. It’s also thinner and lighter and as an early adopter I got a free keyboard cover.

After only a couple of days of using it I can see that it may replace my laptop. Android is so much better than Windows 10. The handwriting recognition using the S pen is brilliant straight out of the box.

My experience of moving across my Apps and data has been seamless – maybe, just maybe technology is starting to become user-friendly but it has taken a very long time to reach this point. Long may it continue…

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Gardening Day

As the weather continues to improve so I can spend more time out in the garden. I don’t tend to plan where plants are going to go – I wander around a nursery (today it was Pottertons) and just purchase plants that look good and will grow in shade or partial shade bearing in mind that the mature trees on the site are a significant canopy over the garden.

After much procrastination I’ve now moved the ornamental Acer out of the pot where it was struggling into the raised bed near the dining area bifold doors. The root ball and pot was very heavy but with some help from Lucie I managed to get it out of the pot and into a wheel barrow.

I just hope the new location will give it a chance to grow and flourish.

And finally I put a collection of plants along the driveway but don’t ask me what because I cannot remember their names. I have left the labels alongside them so I can always remind myself.

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Sunshine Tinged with Sadness

I think my natural state is melancholy but it’s difficult to remain down when the sun is shining. On a Sunday without anything in the diary (and I do like to keep a full diary) what does one do. I couldn’t avoid my domestic duties so I changed the bedding with some new white bedclothes. Jane loved colour but I like plain white – it’s my bed now so white it is.

I took the Lotus out for a spin (not literally) and called in on a U3A friend who hasn’t been too well. Then off across the Wolds, zipping along with the sun blazing down but still a nip in the air.

After lunch I blew the cobwebs off my bike to see if I could still make the ten-mile circuit that Jane and I used to do within an hour. Considering I haven’t been out on it for over 5 months I was pleased with my performance although my legs were like jelly when I got home so I made a cup of Earl Grey, sat outside the front door and contemplated. I can only avoid thinking about “stuff” for so long but eventually I have to. Is contemplation good for the soul? I don’t know.

The Almond blossom is out and the tree that we planted together is doing really well.

And to finish off the day I’ve invited the neighbours round for dinner. I enjoy days like these…

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Spring has sprung

I’m still managing to keep busy meeting friends and hosting visitors. Last weekend I was visited by Helene, Caitlin and Tessa. First on the itinerary was a visit to the Louth Hospice garden so Caitlin (RHS Young Garden Designer of the Year) could see how it had fared over the winter. There is some work to be done on pruning the hedging plants so they start to bush out. A job for me I think.

We then drove up to Barton on Humber for a bite of lunch and a visit to William Blythe Pottery where they make roof tiles and also some wonderful terracotta garden pots. The ladies went home with several in the boot of the car.

With some improvement in the weather by the end of the week I was outside preparing more seed beds, trimming the lawn edges (the bits piglet misses) and sowing vegetable seeds.

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Phew – What a Week

There’s nothing more satisfying than a busy week. Between collecting logs with Nick, gardening, shopping, cleaning, washing and visiting friends there isn’t a lot of time left.

I’ve spent much of the week dealing with West Wolds U3A stuff. Any similarity between their website and my own is purely intentional. I was chairing a committee meeting on Monday, Coordinating the Ethics group meeting on Wednesday and introducing the speaker to the membership on Thursday morning. We had over 160 people out of a membership of over 300 attending – the event went really well.

On Friday evening the “usual suspects” went to a gig in Brigg to see Anna Pancaldi, a young singer/songwriter, and because I know Emma who runs the venue (Steel Rooms) I volunteered to put Anna up overnight. It was a great evening, I really enjoy live music.

 

 

Supporting live music and young people is so important. We chatted about life, her music and where she finds inspiration for her song writing. Anna was amazed by the house which was lovely. What’s not to like?

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