Life, photos but not the universe

Cabbages, Kings and Castles*

Yay!  I got my moon calendar back.

We had a busy weekend!

It’s all Barney’s fault.  He likes to go to ‘Somewhere’ when it’s a bank holiday weekend and look at ‘Something’.  And this weekend it’s been villages.  Friday was the thatched village of Blaise Hamlet designed by someone in Bristol probably for estate workers and then across the road to Blaise Castle which involved a steep climb in the hot sun and some quite impressive views.

Not all thatched but all different – this was the prettiest.

Distant thatch

Steep hill and castle on top.  Built so that the owner, who had made his fortune in the slave trade, could watch his ships coming up the Avon to Bristol.

On Saturday, it was a sort of model village in Pendon** and trains at Didcot.  I have to say they were all good choices though the heat was quite punishing for the time of year.   The model village wasn’t so much a village as a small scale representation of the whole of the Vale of the White Horse and very beautifully made it was too.  It was begun, eighty odd years ago by a young man called Roye England, who was much taken by the scenery and the old buildings which, due to depression and economic crisis in the countryside were gradually falling into disrepair and being replaced with modern houses and concrete and tiles.  He made a couple of models and then a few more of the old cottages and then displayed them in his house and then conceived the idea of making a bigger creation which would preserve the memory of the whole Vale.  It’s still under construction but is already a wonderfully detailed and accurate representation of many lovely old farms and cottages and streets now gone from the large scale world.  Oh and a railway runs through it.  One scene, of an old farm with barns and surroundings, took 15 years to make which gives you some idea of the level of detail and delicacy required and delivered.

Barney had a long conversation (with a man who was busy mowing a freshly glued field with a razor blade) about the hemp which was used for fields and also for thatch.  And then I asked about the trees which, it turns out, are all made from a kind of standard modellers’ ‘tree foliage’ set on wire trunks and branches.  We agreed that it would be wonderful if someone could find a way to make horse chestnut leaves and on the way home I spent some time trying to think how this could be done.  And also thinking that willow and birch would be good things to add.  The cabbages* in the garden plots are all hand made from tissue paper (hand cut pieces about 1 & 1/2  millimetres in width).  To make enough horse chestnut leaves to leaf a whole tree (or several) with leaves a millimetre or so wide would be quite a daunting task!

And then there were trains at Didcot.  Two Kings* in Steam.

Donnington Castle*

And the Wisteria is out.

Oh and so are the bluebells.

*Sorry, I already half used this title – Lewis Carroll has a lot to answer for.

**No flash allowed so all my photos came out gloomy and blurred and sadly, no glossy brochure to take home.

Another photo of the Kings, showing numbers, for those of you who need to know these things : )

April 27, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

I’m waxing meteorological

It’s something to do with all this sunshine – I’d forgotten how nice it is to be warm.

We’re having a little Summer.  This evening it’s warm and balmy and I keep going outside to check that it’s still mild and scented out there.  Also, huge  moons have been shining.  I know this because people have mentioned them.  (And because I’ve seen one or two) (And yes, I know it’s the same one).  It’s just that I’ve never quite got to grips with the behaviour of the moon.  I am aware that it waxes and wanes and mostly I sort of understand how.  What I fail to grasp is why it’s trajectory varies so wildly, from high above to barely skimming the horizon and yet, reliably, whenever I see a particularly good one, it seems that everyone else does too, not just over here but in France and the USA too.  One of these days I’m going to try and work it out.  Anyway I’m sitting with windows and doors open and wearing a vest top and enjoying it while it lasts.

On the way home from town today, I noticed that parts of the sky had gone pinkish.  Not the parts where a sunset might be coming from though.  So I guess it’s some kind of pollution, catching the low sunlight.  Very weird but not like this!  Which I thought the ‘experts’ dismissed rather casually.  After all, if dayglo pink clouds had a habit of drifting over Mayfair at night you’d think people might have noticed it before.  This reminds me of an occasion some time in the sixties?  seventies?  when we had some spectacular green and coppery sunsets.  Something to do with dust storms in the Sahara I think.  I seem to remember that a few days after the sunsets, we had rain full of red sand which was incredibly difficult to clean up.  And then a fugitive memory of raining frogs flits (or flops) through my mind.*

Meanwhile the trajectories of our family are equally confusing.  Some of them (including New Gorgeous Babe) are coming over for Easter Lunch.  Some of them might be but the grandchildren aren’t as they’re visiting their other parents.  One of them, as usual, is distant and silent.  Probably not coming down?  He’s probably spending the holiday doing something strenuous and dangerous, involving mountains, snow, ropes, boards and bikes.

Now I have to decide what to have for dinner tonight.  I need something quick, easy, simple, which Barney will like.  And it can’t be Chilli because we had left-over cassoulet last night.  Too many beans.

Oops and tomorrow’s Good Friday!  Better think about that too.

*Aha!  Found it.  Raining frogs in Croyden, raining drink cans in Iowa and raining red dust in England but no mention of multi-coloured sunsets.

April 21, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Over the Edge

We spent the weekend on Barney’s brother’s (1/12th of a) boat*, on the Lllangollen canal.

There were a few bridges of course and water flowed under them.

On this blue and green morning in Ellesmere, there was a tree house.

And inevitably there were reflections- with condensation.

We had a fabulous drive up, avoiding the M6 and instead driving through the Vale of Evesham.  The light and the weather in both directions was absolutely stunning and made me wish that we didn’t have to arrive anywhere on time but the journeys were enlivened considerably by passing a number of place names which desrve to be recorded.  For instance, Quatt (where we found a farm shop which sold delicious pies and amazingly large breakfast sausages which we had for breakfast the following morning on the boat).  We also passed Wyre Piddle, Peopleton (close to Wolverton which must once have been a source of anxiety for the people of Peopleton), Pinvin, Wigwig, Atch Lench and Sherrifs Lench as well as Church Lench, Rous Lench and Abbots Lench.

We drove close by the Wrekin on the opposite side from last time (and close to, it was very large and imposing) and went through Much Wenlock, which one assumes might be close to Wenlock Edge, immortalised by AE Houseman and Vaughan Williams and frequented, so we’re told, by the ghosts of Ippikin, who will push you over the edge if you say the wrong thing and of a horse belonging to Major Thomas Smallman, who, to save important dispatches from a pursuing horde of Roundheads during the Civil War,  leapt his horse off the edge (200 feet high).  The horse, alas, died but Major Smallman was saved by landing in an apple tree and presumably delivered his dispatches safely.  And if you’ll believe that you probably believe all sorts of interesting things – do let me know.

On the homeward trip, we enjoyed the place names all over again and were treated to the sight of an enormous, pale orange moon, wreathed in violet grey cloud and infuriatingly looming over a long long windy stretch of road with a 50mph speed limit and double lines all along its length – no place to stop.  So no pictures of any of these wonders.   I may have to return, slowly, stopping and diverging often from the main road.

But not wishing to deprive anyone of moons, here is this one which looks a little like a diseased orange.  Quite a big orange though.

*Not the same boat as that of which we own 1/12th but another one – the inspiration for our venture in fact.

April 20, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Taking the weekend off.

Phew!  Coffee!

I needed that.

I looked at a facebook link today – apparently I have messages waiting.   I may have mentioned before that I don’t like facebook – the interface confuses me and I find it only too easy to get lost.  Also I’ve heard a lot about ways in which personal details can be handed merrily around the universe if you use any of its games and things and I must say, the first thing that I saw today was pages and pages of people I might know who have mutual ‘friends’ on facebook.  So many that I couldn’t scroll to the bottom of the page to look for  a way out of it.  All people I’ve never heard of of course (except a large number of a certain very large family to which I am rather tenuously linked).  And no exit on the page anywhere.

Oh I can see the atraction – nowhere is the the universalness of the web more clearly demonstrated.  Clearly I’m not a universal type!  My hair stood on end – oh well to be fair it was doing that anyway, it’s one of those mornings.

Anyway, to see my messages and get out of facebook I had to close the page, open another one and search several baffling options.

Meanwhile, every so often I get messages saying that some complete stranger wants to link with me on Yahoo.  My only reason for using Yahoo is because you have to have an account to join Flickr.  So I delete them with a small apology in case they are actually people I’d like to link with if only I knew who they were.  Oh and if I knew what linking on Yahoo entails – or even means.

Ok.  Grumble over.  The sun isn’t visiting today but that’s good because I seem to have suddenly acquired a large number of tasks to be done before tomorrow.

But here’s a few sunny bits and bobs

And now I ought to make dinner and be organised.  Hard, that last bit – today I ‘mislaid’ my glasses (not the same ones as last time) and then spent several minutes crossly trying to get my remote key to unlock someone else’s car.  Didn’t work.  Fortunately, before getting cross enough to kick it, I noticed that the stuff on the front seat didn’t belong to me.  I blame facebook.

Have a lovely weekend – see you when I get back.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Come for a walk?

There must be an easier way to reach the church than through a wooden fence, laced with barbed wire, on top of a bank and through the overhanging branches of  a beech tree?

The sunshine of the last three or four days is becoming patchy and might go away soon.  There’s still blossom everywhere and the daffs, celandines and violets are out.  Also an unusual number of Wood Anenomes Amenones Anemones* which I love.

So after the last few days, my feet hurt, my back aches and my camera batteries are all flat.  And I seem to have encountered a number of brambles.   All worth it in the interests of being out in the sun.  Yay!

Quick, before it goes away again.

Got to go in search of magnolia now.  Enjoy the walk : )

*Spellcheck hasn’t heard of them but offered me Amenones.  What on earth are they?**

**”Any one of numerous species of soft-bodied Anthozoa, belonging to the order Actrinaria; an actinian”.  Oh but wait – those are Sea Anemones aren’t they?

“Sea Anemone.
Phylum: Cnidaria
Class: Anthozoa
Sub Class: Hexacorallia
Order: Actiniaria
Family: Stichodactylidae”


Edit:  And then I spelt it wrong!  Would maybe be best just to call them little white flowers with yellow middles.

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Spring shopping

The return of sunshine that shines for more than ten minutes at a stretch is having its effect on my activity levels.  Suddenly I see into dark cluttered corners and think something a bit like “Tidy!  Clean!  Sort out!  Need to!”

Also I notice for the manyeth time, things that need replacing, like the enormously useful little rubbish bags with a sticky strip on the back which can be stuck to the walls and doors in cars and boats in places where otherwise rubbish might end up on the floor.  And the corks in rather nice oil and vinegar bottles and tea caddies and coffee jars which being difficult to clean have ended up somewhat stained and sticky and not as nice as they once were.

Lakeland Plastics no longer sell the little sticky back bags and I know of nowhere where corks of random sizes and shapes can be bought so I went googling off into the wilderness and discovered that there are replacements out there.  Wow!

And now I’m off to have a hair cut in preparation for a wedding tomorrow.  Isn’t the weather simply heavenly?  It’s actually warm in the house.  And when I go outside I shall need to remove layers!


Short pause while hair is removed


And how is a playtex bra like a sheepdog?*

Well I also need to replace my support system but my local department store no longer stocks the kind that does the sheepdog bit.  This could be a more difficult search but what with the sunshine and the removal of the sticky-out and dangling-in-the-eye bits of hair that were beginning to infuriate me, I’m feeling adventurous.  And meanwhile, I’m cooking tandoori – not in a clay oven sealed with ropes of fresh clay though I have occasionally wondered if there was some way in which our oven could be temporarily sealed?  Not with clay anyway so I’m cooking the tandoori under the grill and the naan bread in the oven.Then I shall try and think of a solution to the perennial problem of the left over marinade which ought to be transformable into some kind of delicious juice but isn’t unless you turn it into a butter sauce.  I don’t want to do that but I am wondering if I could turn it into a coconut sauce?

Not bad.

I seem to have run out of inspiration so I’ll leave you with some reflections


*Ah, I see that the very old joke has been updated to wonderbra.  Perhaps there was an even earlier pre-playtex version.

April 7, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments


This is a sticky post.  Apparently this means it will stay at the top till I get bored and choose some new wallpaper.

600 pixels wide

April 6, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Spring change.

Just struggling

a bit with this new look

Um – Oh, ok.


Right.  That’s done then.  See you tomorrow.

April 4, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Number One Barney

As we sailed towards the sunset, a week (or two?) ago, one of the things that bothered me slightly was that we would be on our own from Sunday as Mr and Mrs Marvellous and their dog Jack could only come for the weekend.  On one hand this meant that we would be able to spread our belongings about the whole boat, which was nice, but on the other hand, there would be no one to share Barney’s insatiable enthusiasm for working locks.   Locks are best worked by more than one person as a rule – there are awkward moments when the boat is at the bottom of a lock and the paddle gear (naturally) is at the top.  In theory, someone needs to be down on the boat and up at the top winding the paddles at the same time.  Not to mention opening and closing gates.

I dislike steering because although there is very little to do for most of the time, you have to concentrate on doing it nearly all the time*.  And then after longish periods of doing very little and concentrating on it rather hard, there are suddenly brief flurries of intense and quite stressful mental activity.  Also you have no access to loos, coffee, food, cigs or anything else unless you brought all of them up with you or you have a person available to fetch them.  Further, and worse, taking photos is almost impossible – the amount of time needed to focus and frame is just long enough for the boat to wander bankwards and anyway, the view from the back is full of boat*.  Fifty eight feet of narrow boat roof palls after a while. I like the view from the front.

So Barney steers.  He seems to like it.  And  I work the locks.  I have to say that locking is very hard work.  There’s a lot of heaving and rushing about to be done but at least there are pauses while the lock is filling or emptying when you can rest or take photos.  If there are lots of us, all the various tasks can be spread among those who enjoy them but if there’s only us two, Barney misses out on all that winding of paddles and heaving at gates which he also likes.   To be honest, I never considered, when we became part owners of the boat that we might be doing trips all by ourselves.  I just assumed that we’d always have a happy crowd on board with us but the shortage of storage space and of other peoples’ holiday allowance may mean that we spend quite a lot of time alone.

Um.  I didn’t sign on for that!

Well, in the days of commercial canal traffic, there were quite a few solitary boatmen – called ‘Number Ones’  -who managed on their own and had a number of tricks** to make it possible so after I’d done all five of the locks in the Tyrley*** flight, Barney began hopping up and down the ladders in the side of the lock chamber to do a bit of winding and such like.  And eventually, he did a whole lock by himself while I did something useful inside the boat.  It looks as if we can do this without either of us being deprived of our rather different desires on canal holidays.   And of course I can steer if it’s absolutely essential and I don’t mind doing half a dozen locks – but I might dig in my heels at the Wolverhampton 21****.

The Tyrley flight wasn’t too much of a problem anyway and came with someone in a nice red jumper.


The first evening, on the Staffs and Worcs canal.  The sun shone in a cloudless sky

and the moon came out

And we reached Penkridge at night.

*Unless you look backwards in which case you are even more likely to find yourself wedged into the bank by the time you’ve looked forwards again.

**Nudging the lock gates open with the boat’s nose, using a quick blast of water from the engine in reverse to close them, nipping from one side of the lock to the other across the top of the boat, letting the paddles drop instead of winding them down.  All kinds of clever stuff.

***Aha!  Peter Warlock – Tyrley Tyrlow.   I love Warlock.

**** 21 locks and nowhere to stop or turn till you reach the top or bottom lock.  Too many for me.

April 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I still lost my glasses

And thank you all for your many and creative suggestions as to where I might have put them.  Alas, none were correct.

But the internet did indeed come back yesterday morning, pretending that it had never been away.

As to the glasses, isn’t it a good thing my vision has become so much worse, between the missing pair and the ones before, that what used to be my distance glasses are now just about adequate for middle distance music and computer viewing.

And the sun came out.  This was particularly helpful as last night’s searches were severely hampered by the fact that the landing light bulb blew some days ago and so the sunshine revealed with clarity the fact that my glasses aren’t hiding there.  Well it’s nice to know.

Meanwhile, I am amassing a small collection of low energy but extremely poisonous light bulbs which, contrary to the hype when they first appeared, seem to last only a little longer than the old-fashioned high-energy-cost variety.  And which, of course, mustn’t be disposed of in the usual way as they contain mercury.  And speaking of that, what was the usual way?  How did you dispose of the old ones?  Since they weren’t allowed in the glass recycling box and the local tip didn’t have a skip for them I used to put them in the rubbish bin tucked into an un-recyclable plastic wrapping of some sort.

I imagined them crushed and settling over the centuries into some kind of silicon/metal-rich rock/compost in a landfill site.  Perhaps we ought to be cultivating our landfill more selectively.   In centuries to come when some kind of intelligent life is gradually recovering the ability to make use of the riches of the earth (after the  breakdown of human civilisation and the disappearance of the human race due to pollution, global warming and the scouring out of all our resources) perhaps there will be tree-like plants which eat plastics and poisons and will leave behind deposits of minerals and glass and thus ancient landfill sites will become a source of huge wealth.  I’m hazy about the details but anyway, since we won’t be around to dig stuff up it would be a kindness, a convenience to the future to leave our rubbish in a useful form.

Aha!  The perfect place for this picture.

After an ice-age has buried these at the bottom of a glacier, think of the excitement someone might have at discovering fossilised evidence of this small, circular life-form.

I find it difficult to resist a row of things, though I wouldn’t like to live in one.*

And fishermen come in rows though I often forget to take a photo as I’m mesmerised by the way they keep their rods extended right across the canal till the very last second as we chug towards them.  Also, it’s funny how fishermen and rain seem to go together.  Although on this occasion it was sunny, it’s clear that they were expecting, or had already been blessed with, rain as many of them have their umbrellas up.

Barney’s apprentice is a keen fisherman which seems somehow surprising in a seventeen year old boy even if he is an apprentice thatcher.  Not only a fisherman but apparently a successful competitor in angling events.  Last year he went to somewhere in Canada to compete and I believe, came home with some kind of prize or honour.  Since then, I have viewed the rows of  stern and unapproachable men with new eyes.  Although they spend their days sitting like scruffy, weather wrapped Buddhas along the canal and river banks, under all those waterproof and thermal layers beat hearts quickened by burning ambition … um, flooding ambition?

Ah well.  Probably I need to go to bed.  It’s being a busy few days.

Happy Mother’s Day!**

*One of these, that is.  We do in fact live in one of a row of houses but they’re much more solid looking than these.

**I’m assuming no one will read this during the next six minutes.

April 2, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 2 Comments