Blogger loves me not. Cut off in mid comment I was and now it won’t let me talk to anyone. I’ll try again tomorrow.
Outside in the garden however, a triumph! The goldfinches have arrived and are consuming expensive niger seed at a rate of knots – well, a rate of nibbles really. Also there are greenfinches and the usual horde of sparrows and a lot of chaffinches but the blue tits and the great tits (or coal tits – I can never remember the difference) have vanished. Meanwhile, Barney has been struggling with a problem which is no more knotty than the rate at which birds eat seed but very worrisome all the same. There is a plague of jackdaws around the country, busily destroying thatch. So far, thatchers have tried double layers of netting, finer gauge netting, tying dead jackdaws onto the thatch (yuck) and some owners have tried shooting them. The jackdaws are supremely above all this and continue to pull straw and reed out through the netting and scatter it around. It seems they do it for fun! Mind, I’m not sure the RSPB have been approached to see if there’s something in thatch that they need – not nesting material as they do it all year round and don’t take it home with them. Litterers as well as vandals.
Myself, I’m rather fond of jackdaws, they have a wonderful black and grey coat and amazing silver eyes and are immensely intelligent and sociable (for birds) but I can understand that your average house owner would prefer not to have them playing fast and loose with his extremely expensive roof.
Plastic owls with swivelling eyes have been suggested as a deterrent but since even blue tits quickly learn the difference between a plastic cat and a furry and hungry one I suspect that this might fail. So I’m going to suggest jackdaw feeders to distract them. Like wasp traps? I’m pretty sure no one has tried this – it’s a bit counter-intuitive after all. Still it works with wasps and the only problem with jackdaws is that they might be bright enough to eat their cake and then play with the straw anyway. Unlike wasps which drink their sugar water and then drown in it.
Worth a try?
It was supposed to be raining heavily tonight
Fortunately I didn’t believe it and watered the garden. Lovely gardener would never forgive me if she turned up tomorrow and all the plants had died!
The rain must all be in Mrs Middle’s next door’s garden.
During the past two weeks I have mislaid an earring after a concert and then found it (after lengthy and fruitless searches and enquiries) on the floor of the car, lost a whole pair of earrings and found one in the pocket of a pair of trousers I was hanging out to dry and the other nestled in the rubber seal of the washing machine, spent a lot of time fielding banana, cheese, mandarin, grapes, avocado and breadsticks and have driven home along the A34, sticky and exhausted, several times, received one phone call from the surgery telling me the nice doctor would like to see me after the blood test and been out to dinner which was very nice indeed (especially as it seems quite likely that Nice Dr Gupta will shortly be telling me to eat less fat and salt).
Also I have discovered that sardine tin oil is excellent for removing sticky stuff left on the thumb after a plaster has been removed from it and that NGB rather likes the smell and feel of plasters but not the taste. Also, NGB is beginning to accept that, though not in any useful way, a Mum, I’m quite an acceptable person to have around even when the proper Mum goes away. Particularly, she likes it when pressing buttons on certain toys causes Grandma to sing (sort of). And that peering at a certain angle in a tiny mirror produces an image of Grandma. At close quarters I suspect all she gets is a large image of Grandma’s nose but she seems to find the whole thing quite fascinating and hugely funny. Sometimes she looks at me with an expression that is somewhere between wonderment and tolerant amusement with a strong element of “pull the other one Grandma”. And, when I left the other evening she looked, uncertainly, not altogether pleased. This is also how she looks when I arrive.
And I’ve bought an awful lot of beads.
Oh and I’ve had a hair cut. I can see again. So following a tip from Barney, I renewed a previously fruitless search for poppy fields. Usually there are one or two just up the road – never the same field as the previous year but this year I hadn’t found more than a few scattered poppies along the hedges and edges.
Anyway, Barney reported seeing them near a fairly distant village so I went looking.
And here they are.
The light was rubbish but the photo had to be taken in case they’re all gone by the time it changes.
I wish it had been like this!
This post may cause itching
Some time ago, Barney complained of an itch somewhere on his back and in between two moles which he could neither see nor reach. I looked at it and though I was pretty sure it was only an insect bite it did seem to be getting bigger and a bit scaly looking so I hesitated to say “This is not skin cancer” and suggested we take it to the doctor. Especially when he began to spend time rubbing his back on doors, walls and trees. It made him look a bit odd.
Doctor 1 agreed it probably wasn’t cancer but more likely a fungal infection and prescribed an anti fungal cream. Two extremely itchy weeks later we returned and by this time both spots had become patches and looked a bit cross. Doctor 1 prescribed an antibiotic after conferring with Dr 2. Two or three weeks later, we returned because it was beginning to look quite angry and got a second opinion from Doctor 3, and some cortisone cream. Inflammation? Isn’t that what cortisone cream deals with? After a bit of outright fury the first two patches began to fade a bit.
Somewhere between these visits, a new, large and apparently unrelated rash appeared on large quantities of Barney. (Mostly bits he couldn’t see easily). Lots of little pink spots. Itchy. A bit cross-looking.
At some point – now becoming a little confused in both our memories – we (I was coming with him as, of the two of us, only I could see the original spots) were handed over to Doctor 3 who is the practice’s resident skin expert. She had suggested the anti cortisone and also an all over body moisturiser. I thought the moisturiser might be exacerbating the new rash which rapidly evolved into big, extremely angry patches with an eczema like appearance. (Or maybe fungal). She thought not and prescribed more antibiotic. Come back in two weeks.
After this, confusion reigns and the only constant is that Barney itches. We are now treating the new rash as probably not but maybe scabies* So just in case it is, he’s now been covered with anti scabies cream. During our last consultation with Doctor 3, I mentioned that the itching itself was the main problem. Oh yes, she said sympathetically, itching is one of the most dificult and distressing symptoms to suffer. I wondered if he could take paracetamol to soothe the ITCHING!! Oh yes she said cheerfully and also at my suggestion, prescribed at least two antihistamines TO SOOTHE THE ITCHING!!!! Would it be a good idea if he didn’t have hot showers? I asked. Oh definitely – tepid showers will be much better she said encouragingly.
I began to wonder if these nice people had considered at all that the main problem from the beginning was the ITCHING!! And that the second problem was the resultant SCRATCHING!!!!
Just a thought. Well of course they didn’t have to sleep with a furiously itching, scratching, cursing person.
Anyway, one morning, I woke up with a small itch on my arm. Sleepily I peered at it – thinking, HaHa well I expect that means we’ll both end up in quarantine – and discovered, not an incipient rash but a tick !!!
Uttering several small screams, I shot out of bed and rushed down to the internet where I discovered some concise and clear instructions on how to remove ticks and what to watch out for after removal. I successfully removed it and following instructions, put it in a small jar in case it was needed for identification later (a mustard jar in fact – I always knew one of them would come in handy one day; thank heavens I didn’t exchange them for Christopher’s creme fraiche pots). I’m delighted to report that I have subsequently seen no signs of Lyme’s disease. Recounting this incident to a friend a few days later, I was delighted when she said she too had found one recently and had done exactly the same as me in every detail. I believe she also hasn’t shown any sign of Lyme’s disease.
Sorry, no photos but….
(….Oh you didn’t want photos? Because if you did, I was going to say they’re really easy to find on Google – marvellously clear and detailed. Thousands of them. In full technicolour.
….Oh well. Up to you.)
I notice that Barney has written
“black mustard sad” on the kitchen notice board. A slip of the pen? Or just evidence that the disturbance to his nerve-endings has finally led to derangement of a more general kind. Anyway, underneath that I have written
Which tends to suggest a slightly sadistic outlook.
Perish the thought. Let us think of roses and raindrops.
*Because it seems that the best way to deal with skin problems is to make a guess at the underlying cause and treat it. It’s a guess because the main symptom of skin problems is pretty much the same for most of them. If the treatment doesn’t work, that probable cause is eliminated and then you try something else. And so on. Hence the assorted attacks on the original itch. And unless I’m mistaken, the one that cured it was the one that simply reduced the inflammation and therefore the ITCH!!!!! So that he didn’t scratch so much and gave it a chance to cure itself.**
*Which reminds me, I’d like some scabious in my next patch of cleared garden. Not small pink spots but big blue-petaled cushions on long silvery stems with hairy leaves.
**The obvious reason to discount scabies is that although we have sat and slept in all the same places, I do not have any itchy rashes thank you very much (and don’t intend to either).
The intermittant sunshine and showers of the last week have given way to drizzle – to be followed by rain according to the weather forecast. What the forecast didn’t, (forecast) was that the water would be off today.
The cause of this most often used to be cattle trampling on the pipe that fed their drinking trough but since that was strengthened and properly covered, it has been some kind of failure of the newly installed pumping system that gets the water from the bore hole to the reservoir at the top of the hill.
Another frequent cause was somebody leaving a hose or tap turned on and draining the reservoir. And on one occasion a leak in the swimming pool belonging to the Independant Prep School up the road. Annoying since after the cattle, they are next on the pipeline and so until their swimming pool was full again (takes about a day and a half) the rest of us got none.
Anyway, I’ve temporarily deafened myself. My ear felt odd so I did that thing you do on aeroplanes to equalise the pressure – you know, holding your nose and breathing out against it. Oops! blocked ears! Both my hearing and my thought processes became strangely watery and echoey. So I went upstairs and poured wax removing stuff into the ears and after wandering around for a while listening to the booming of things which normally thud or squeak, I decided that since thought was not coming easily, I might as well sit on the floor with a sheet of Ikea instructions and some flat pieces of stuff and let them direct the next hour or so. I like puzzles. I now have half a chest of drawers erected and the ears have relented and ordinary noises are coming in. And meanwhile, the water came back and the sun came out. And the flycatchers are back! (They were late this year and we worried that a cat might have got them)
Water falling out of the sky over there
Quite a lot of water up there too
Ah! Fluffy water
And now I’m hungry. It’s my own fault.
Tomorrow I will be having a blood test – a fasting blood test no less! For one reason and another we’ve both seen an unusual amount of doctors recently and we’ve been reading about how us old people are at risk from heart attacks and strokes – just because we are old people, never mind all the other things we do which increase said risks. A while ago Barney was put on statins because of various risk factors that the doctor thought he had and then seeing as how he has the most normal blood pressure in the world, he took himself off them again. And I thought well, I am fatter, smoke more and have blood pressure levels normal for my age which is to say a little bit on the high side. Maybe I ought to have some of those statins. Though I can’t help wondering if there really is much point – I mean age is old and life cannot be prolonged for ever. You have to die of something eventually ^~^.
Well perhaps I’d rather not have a stroke or a heart attack just yet. I do have to finish making the chest of drawers and we have two more weeks booked on the boat this year. So I suggested statins to the doctor and he did various checks and booked me in for the blood test and today I must stop eating by 5.30pm and I may not have any alcohol since 9.45 this morning. (Not a problem then though I did feel a bit grumpy around 9 this evening).
Anyway, I’m drinking a lot of water. It’s not exactly filling but it gives my stomach something to do and I’m really looking forward to breakfast and coffee tomorrow. Oh and what a good thing the water came back!
Mine will not be growing in rows, that’s for sure.
Yesterday was one of those days when everything I set out to do turned into something else. For instance, I went into the kitchen intending to have a glass of wine and instead, washed out about twenty glasses that were left over from dinner the other night.
Earlier in the day, I set off to buy plants and arrived, on the far side of town with no list. After wandering around the nursery in a bemused way I was forced to admit that I couldn’t remember the half of what I wanted and couldn’t find the other half.
Later, I began to cook two curries and inadvertently added the half ingredients for one to the remainder of the ingredients for the other. Well, we still had two curries I suppose. (Also, just now I intended to type inadvertantly but instead typed inadvartantly. Aar!)
Now I’m supposed to be hastily assembling stuff and sorting stuff before rushing off for NGB minding. Um. Better go and do it.
Later there may be gardening. Photos of. All I’ll say now is that deference to my knees and back and subsequent employment of lovely gardener friend was a very good move indeed. And inviting her over for dinner was too. Not only because she’s lovely and we had a brilliant evening but because she brought strawberries! What a star!
April – before
June – after.
See? No rows. But there’s my Gertrude Jekyll rose and the Campanulas and the Verbena and the Salvia. The Crocosmia are looking a bit sad – they didn’t want to split up apparently – and the cowslip had been forced out onto the path so at some point it will be nestled back among the other flowers. There are also Anemone Japonica and Persicaria in there to flower later and the new Rosemary to replace the old one that died (It had a good innings, coming with us from our previous house twenty eight years ago. Nothing owing there). Oh and hidden in a shady corner there’s an Aconite – Christmas Rose even – and some Winter Box. The yellow Forsythia and the wonderful scented Philadelphus remain as does the gorgeous purple clematis which I planted when we first moved here. And something I’ve always wanted, a Hammamelis to flower in the cold, early months of Spring. Maybe I will learn how to make witch hazel lotion from its leaves? (Flowers? Bark?)
More to come as it settles in. And when I’ve got the hollyhocks to go at the back.
Now it’s time to feed the cat and then us. And Oh Look! the sun is out again. (Just now it rained on my garden : )
I am now an accredited part time grandbaby-sitter. It’s not the first time I’ve done it; when youngest was separated from GB’s Dad and still on her own and working in a restaurant, we had GB for assorted weekends and I babysat some evenings. And now, I’m doing two days a week minding the new Gorgeous Babe while her Mum works in the next room. We’ve done lots of tears because we didn’t want Mum to leave us together without her and then we’ve done playing on the floor and walking up and down the garden and going out in the pram (to the bead shop down the road which we both like – clearly we share a love of sparkly stuff). We’ve done dinner and nappies (yes, the nappies are definitely hard on the knees) and we’ve agreed that avocado is a Very Good Thing – even when we didn’t want dinner at all, thank you very much, if it comes without Mum. We’ve discussed the various ways in which a baby cup can be used and we’ve both got wet in the process. We are learning the tunes that come with the rolly-around, press-button, empty-out and throw-around toy. (Grandma is finding the pitch a bit of a challenge but NGB has no problem with the wide-eyed look of appreciation – I’m sure that’s what it is – when Grandma hits the top note*, having missed out a lot of the in-between ones). Grandmma is learning how to catch flying banana. And breadstick. And blueberry. And cucumber. And mug. Missed the tomato. I think the cat ate it.
I did think, well at least I can take lot of photos of her. This is not the case. We simply don’t have time for it. I remember with GB, I’d take photos of her and then show them to her and she was quite pleased with this arrangement but she was a good bit older – as Youngest pointed out, she wasn’t to be separated from GB for at least the first two years for more than five minutes.
Well, NGB is rapidly becoming mobile. My next challenge will be deciding whether to crawl after her on the aged and battered knees or whether the creaking and groaning process of getting up will slow me down too much to catch up anyway.
I can’t think why I imagined that because I’ve done it all before, it would be easy.
Never mind. Thanks to our shared love of things shiny and sparkly and not too expensive, I have bought beads and other stuff and have subsequently made earrings and a bracelet from some truly deliciously pastel coloured glass and semi precious beads. Having done jade green hearts and pale turquoise and summery blue glass, I will be moving on to veined rose pink and more pale blue. Then I have plans for red and black with silver accents. I have to tell you, this is a really good bead shop and it’s only a minute or two down the road! Already the staff are getting friendly with NGB who spends her time singing, gazing wide-eyed and bestowing an occasional fleeting smile of staggering charm upon them. Did I mention that she has the most wonderful smile?
And when we’ve done all that, we will dare the business of getting in and out of the car and go to Headington where there are no fewer than six charity shops. And after that, we will go and investigate the parks and tiny back streets of the city. Not to mention the Cowley Road where I will be able to stock up on spices and herbs and probably meet other Grandmas from all walks of life and many ethnic backgrounds and share the wonders of Grandbaby minding.
Who knows, after that we might do picnics! The Thames!! Canalside walks!!!
And then I think I’ll bring her home to see Barney, who is a trifle disgruntled because he isn’t getting a fair share of the Grandbaby minding this time round. (When GB was tiny, he was in a plaster cast after an arthrodesis operation and spent many hours asleep with GB. Perfect harmony it was and to this day, their relationship has that special dimension only obtainable from extensive sleeping together in an armchair in front of the TV).
Oh dear. I’m besoppied.***
And exhausted. It’s our second week and we’re doing very well but she’s developing a very stylish and speedy crawl. I knew this would involve knees.
Going to go and rest the knees.
*It’s the one that ends “diddle diddle WEEEE! Diddle diddle pom pom pom… Pom! You must know the tune? It starts “diddle diddle diddle diddle paa pom … te diddle diddle diddle diddle paaa pa pom – Diddle-iddle pom pom, Diddle-iddle pom pom, Diddle-iddle pom pom, de de de de de de de de …… and so on.**
**Oh, I forgot a few trills and runs but I’m sure you get the idea.
***See, totally besoppied but possibly degeriated as a result.
I went to the pub this evening (that was Sunday actually) and spent a happy hour or two talking about gardens (my lovely friend, the gardener), apricot trees, (Sheree, the paramedic who may have the only surviving apricot tree from Naxos after an apricot tree disaster*), Edgar and his delightful companion, Honey (a spaniel) who looks a lot like him, the weather (if you go to an English pub and you don’t discuss the weather at least once, it may be that you are not, in fact, in an English pub), hedgehogs (Barney and Dave discovered a mother and four babies in their last load of reed*), cats and baby birds and then baby birds in general together with feeding and rescuing of them from various disasters, food (ditto English pubs above), drinking and late nights – well we were in a pub after all.
There was more. The rain drizzled gently outside and it was mild, green, English and summery in that way that only England is (actually I have absolutely no evidence that this is true – I’m sure lots of places have Summers which are equally prone to drizzle and green-ness). It was just all rather nice. And our friend who has cancer (previously mentioned) was there too and having survived the near fatal experience of his first round of Chemo (bad reaction, diorrhoea and dehydration) was looking quite well and rather endearingly fluffy – Regrowth after initial hair loss.
On the way home, lovely gardener and I saw a tiny rodent, perhaps a shrew or a vole cross the road incredibly fast, I saw pigeons and sparrows and martins and maybe a distant kestrel, hunting. Leaves turned and silvered in the rain and wind and I gave thanks for the myriad accidents and choices that led me to this place at this time with these friends.
A couple of days earlier it was still sunny and I came home from baby minding across the Ridgeway.
It seems a bit soon somehow but it’s already babyminding day again tomorrow. So I’d bettter get some sleep. It will be a busy day.
Goodnight. May the rain be gentle and kind to your gardens and the sun open all your flowers (but not all at once you know, just a few at a time so you can have colours all year round)
*It’s a good story. She went to Naxos on holiday and came home with a bag of apricots. Illegal of course but not noticed at customs. The family planted apricot stones all over the garden, more for fun and educative purposes than in any expectaion of growing trees and miraculously, one did grow into a tree which bore fruit. Some years later, they learned that a blight had struck and killed all the apricot trees in Naxos and this year they are returning with a bag of stones from their tree to give to Naxos in the hope that they will grow there. Could anything be more serendipitous?
*Still there and doing well I understand. Since the reed came from Devon, I suppose these are Devon hedgehogs. I hope they can cope with Berkshire traffic.
But that’s not always the point.
I’m having a snuffle moment.
A close friend of ours was diagnosed with terminal cancer a few weeks ago. Barney, being the kind of person he is, immediately discovered that there were some things this friend had always wanted to do and that he now felt he’d would never be in a financial position to do them before it was too late (He’s been given approximately a year) and being the sort of person he is, Barney immediately planned a collection so that at least one or two of the choices that the disease has taken from our friend might be given back.
So willy nilly, we emailed a crowd of his friends, some of them complete strangers to us, and suggested a collection to give him the chance to do at least one of the things he wanted to do.
We collected a fairly large amount of cash from this guy’s friends. He’s a very sweet man with a lot of friends. And today, he had a gap between chemo and all the other miserable stuff that goes with the disease and he and his wife came over for dinner. We gave him a cheque and a card signed by everyone who had contributed and then we all snuffled a bit (well to be honest he just wept) and I have to say, we felt fortunate to have been able to do something for him.
Later on, when the cancer really gets stuck in there will be more things we might be able to do but for now, a number of people who couldn’t, for one reason or another, do anything much, have been able to do something and while there’s absolutely no way anyone imagines that this will change the basic situation, it does mean that our dear friend knows that a lot of people care about him and that he’s got one or two possible choices back that had been stolen from him.
There’s a bit of folklore (possibly apocryphal) that suggests that this song was written about wartime when the men weren’t around to dance for the Whitsun festival. One interpretation of the meaning of Morris is that it was a pagan ritual to ensure fertility in field and family. So quite important and originally only ever danced by men. (No doubt the women had their own rites.) It’s still a lovely song whether or not it’s about Morris, with a number of interesting historical references.
It's fifty long springtimes since she was a bride, But still you may see her at each Whitsuntide In a dress of white linen with ribbons of green, As green as her memories of loving. The feet that were nimble tread carefully now, As gentle a measure as age will allow, Through groves of white blossoms, by fields of young corn, Where once she was pledged to her true-love. The fields they stand empty, the hedges grow (go) free-- No young men to turn them or pastures go see (seed) They are gone where the forest of oak trees before Have gone, to be wasted in battle. Down from the green farmlands and from their loved ones Marched husbands and brothers and fathers and sons. There's a fine roll of honor where the Maypole once stood, And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun. There's a straight row of houses in these latter days All covering the downs where the sheep used to graze. There's a field of red poppies (a gift from the Queen) But the ladies remember at Whitsun, And the ladies go dancing at Whitsun. (John Austin Marshall)
Highlights of this year at Bampton included:
Sunshine when putting up tents and when taking them down.
A thirteen year old girl instructing , first Barney, then Michael in the art of cat’s cradle construction, then dragging her Father out from the pub as a demo dummy, demonstrating how it really can be done, with her brother in between his game of Aunt Sally, and then roping me in as an alternative dummy since it looked as though I might at least understand the rudiments.
Both ours and a friend’s new grandchildren being present and delightful.
Our older grandchildren having a wonderful time and being as good as gold all weekend.
Finding that the coffee shop is still going strong and still serves wonderful coffee and breakfasts. (Remembering the first time we did this 35 years ago and had 1/2 a pork pie and a pint of beer for breakfast)
Having the Sunday afternoon barbeque at the campsite with no rain at all.
Two hefty strangers trying their hand at Aunt Sally for the first time and watching as first they were told to let Grandad show them how it’s done by very small grandson, then when Grandad failed to score out of six shots, having small grandson (eight) score one out of two shots and to top it all, older grandaughter (nine) scoring two out of two shots.
The annual crowd of friends met well again.
Discovering a whole lot of new small alleyways in the back streets of the town.
Watching the spectacularly noisy and black-and-red border morris team, The Iron Men and seeing the Seven Champions team perform their eye-wateringly funny dance around two ‘prisoners’.
Less highly lit moments:
Rain all day on the Monday when the teams dance.
Peter and Ralph not being there.
Um …. probably there were others. I don’t remember.
I’ve posted so many black and white morris dancers – have a change. These are the Seven Gilders – the Iron men’s sister team. The Iron Men come from Coalbrook Dale of pottery and iron work fame and so do the Seven Gilders who painted the gold leaf on the pottery. (I think – I was well into a lengthy pub session when I gleaned these nuggets of information) Anyway, nothing to do with female pigs or Dutch currency.
I tried to upload videos of the dancing – eventually I came across a little note on Flickr which said “videos can be up to 90 seconds long” Ah. So two minutes and forty seconds might be a bit too long. Flickr seems not to be able to tell you it can’t do something until it’s finished trying and failed. I then tried to edit the video, using the little camera’s software. Hmm.
Moving swiftly along, here’s a little of the rest of Oxfordshire.
(Apologies for not doing the rounds yet – four days camping immediately followed by two days grandbaby minding have swallowed a week or more. Playing catch-up slowly)