Life, photos but not the universe

Gone away – back soon

We are out and about for a few days – I may or may not have access to the internet so probably won’t be around here much.

Anyway, the other day I set off to the hills again;  the flanks of the Ridgeway beyond Lambourn.   Was slightly amused by the sign saying “Valley of the Racehorse” as I approached Lambourn.  I assumed this was a pun on “The Vale of the White Horse” which is on the other side of the Ridgeway.  The one side being famous for it’s racing studs and a population dominated by small, rather battered looking people, who talk about horseracing a lot and the other for it’s ancient white horse of Uffington, carved out on the side of the chalk downs and peopled mainly by tourists and walkers.

So there was Ashdown House nestled into a fold of the hills (closed when I passed so this is just the approach)

and a rather fabulous valley dotted with large glacial stones

a clamour, parliament or building* of  rooks harrying a kite

and from the top of the Ridgeway, a sunset.

Then I went home up the other side past the white horse but since the sun had set, I didn’t see it.

See you soon – hope all our weather is not as advertised over the next few days – unless you want rain?


*Well that’s what it says in wikipedia.  Myself I think a ‘clamour’ is more apt.   Since they do.

August 26, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Hypochondria rules

Only as it turns out I’m not one of those after all.

No, it seems that what with a possibly inherited high cholesterol level and (ahem) smoking and an underactive thyroid, I might even be about to drop dead of a heart attack.  On the other hand, once the thyroid treatment kicks in, it may reveal that I’m not, as Dr Porsche so picturesquely put it, a time bomb.  (Just potentially a little bit explosive I suppose).

Although there’s nothing I can do to affect the hereditary part of the high cholesterol levels since it happens  independently of lifestyle factors, I am advised to adjust my diet anyway.  This is proving both complicated and exasperating since what I mostly like to eat is mostly inadvisable.  And while I don’t mind eating a fair bit of what my Mum and Dad used to call grass (salad), I feel that woman cannot live on fatless, butterless, saltless and tasteless food alone.  Also, since I still have lingering suspicions about a possible dairy intolerance and my wonderful anti-heartburn medicine isn’t as effective as it used to be, even low fat cheese is to be eaten sparingly.  And anyway, who wants to eat low fat cheese?   Or scramble their eggs in low fat spread.

Never mind.  If  the patient info leaflets are to be believed, taking the thyroid treatment will make me feel better within a few days so perhaps I won’t care what I’m eating.  And maybe I will even be allowed to eat nice things a bit.

I’m going to have some coffee now.  (This is ok as long as we don’t venture into the perilously closely related area of high blood pressure, of which mine is usually a little bit high but not over the top for my age.) and later I may have my two units of wine which is beneficial as long as it doesn’t upset my stomach (the subject of which I have decided not to broach just yet.  One can only take so much adjustment on the medical front before becoming convinced that it’s all too difficult and complicated)

As to the hypochondria, I distinctly remember telling a doctor that I was suffering from tiredness, coldness, overweightness, aches, constipation and fat legs and a number of other things along those lines and being told  that I might be a little bit depressed.  Well, yes – not unreasonably I thought – that too.  And oh look!   That’s another symptom of an underactive thyroid.  Huh!

As an antidote to low levels of this and high levels of that I took to the hills.

The high road

And the low road

and had an unexpectedly close encounter of the avian kind.  This buzzard appeared healthy but damaged so as I’d forgotten to bring my phone and wasn’t keen to attempt to pick up a large raptor (what with all those pointy bits and it being quite lively) with my bare hands, I stopped at a nearby village and  found a young couple who appeared reasonably liberal and not likely to belong to the ‘if it moves, shoot it’ brigade and asked them to phone the RSPCA.  They said they would so I hope the poor thing has been rescued.

And now I have to go and get prescribed.  I’m quite looking forward to discovering how much effect this thyroid stuff will have – if any – on life in general.   For years and years, when people ask how  I am, my standard response has been “knackered thank you”.  Perhaps I won’t be any more.






August 23, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 9 Comments

musing on popular pests

Mosquitos, midges and gnats.  Small heat-seeking missiles with a payload of something itchy.  Spraying them is a waste of time, the best way to save yourself is to cover yourself from crown to sole with a sealed layer of fine gauzy stuff.

Or, to keep close (but not too close) to someone like Barney who they love.  (If you look closely you can see that they have formed a little black, spotty halo around his head – no, not that huge rain cloud, just the little dots -and more are on the way.  And you can see that they are all small and approximately distinct, so none of them are flying around me and the camera.)

Wasps.  Carnivorous and scavenging and enjoy your fruit and beer.  The less you wave your arms and scream, the less likely they are to turn to giant helicopter mode and attack you.

Slugs.  Revolting and slimy and destructive of tender leaves, have a  fatal attraction to beer and are a staple in the diet of hedgehogs (Sing – Where have all the hedgehogs gone, poisoned by slug pellets every one – except the ones that got run over of course).  If only people had used more beer traps and less slug pellets we might still have hedgehogs, albeit a somewhat tipsy generation of them.

Ants.  Lots and lots of ants.  And then a few more.  Having a tendency to trundle busily in long rows to and from your sugar bowl and their nest via the kitchen window.  Lots of predators and lots of ants to go round.  I wonder who gets the benefit of that stuff that you spray on them and which they carry back to their nest to poison each other for the next day or two.  Birds?  Moles?  Hedgehogs? (Sing – where have all the etc etc)  If only the little devils would stay outside where they belong!  And continue to eat aphids, which are a pest.

Flies.  And here’s a thing.  whenever I see a fly and get up to go and fetch our nice new electric, all-zizzing, all-sparkling flyswotter, they just leave the room.  Very effective and saves a lot of battery power.  Not much fun though.  Look, one’s just gone.  I’ll sit down again.  Oh it’s back.  I’ll get up again.  Useful excercise too.

Bees.  Awww!  Ouch!  Just don’t stroke the pretty fur if you want your fruit and flowers pollinated.   More to the point, don’t swallow one unless you want a swift trip to hospital.  I’ve always wondered why people do swallow them, it seems a very odd thing to do.  On the other hand, my step sister, aged less than two (surely?) at the time  was discovered one morning with a very large spider just disappearing into her mouth.  Since the family lived in Australia at the time this was a cause for concern. Anyway, bees are not pests.  They are an endangered species and suddenly everyone is obliged to love them and care for them which means being more careful with all the other pests, both flora and fauna, in case you inadvertently damage the bees.  Of course it’s too late for the hedgehogs* (Sing…..).

And here is the weather forecast for a number of big, flat American places.  Amazingly, the minute these titanic events are over, all those buzzing, hovering , swarming things pop right back into the place where they were before and continue to buzz, hover, swarm and generally go about their daily business.  I suspect they just nip into another continuum while all the noise and wetness is going on.  But anyway, these photos are absolutely stunning and have nothing to do with pests.

I expect you can tell by the disjointed nature of this post that I’m procrastinating.  I sort of want to go out but I sort of don’t.  Meanwhile after a lengthy decision making process, I chose to wear an orange pair of trousers with a red and orange tee shirt.  After much thought, I topped this with a nicely clashing red linen jacket.  This was great fun but now that I have to go out (soon, really, I will)  I keep remembering my two girls saying from time to time “But Mum, it’s Orange!  You can’t wear orange”.  As far as I can tell, unlike yellow, orange doesn’t make me look ill or demented and they never explained why not orange.  So actually it’s probably fine to go into town wearing orange and clashing red.  I just feel that there might be a lot of people of that age (pests) looking at me and saying “OMG she’s wearing orange!

This isn’t as BIG as he American weather but it was quite an impressive sight here.  Nothing like a bit of sky-blue pink to brighten up your evening.

Hope you’re all having pink evenings too.

*I don’t know this for sure but where once a daily hedge hog or three was a common sight on the roads here, either gruntling its way along the hedge or flattened, I haven’t seen a hedgehog alive or dead for two years.  Oh, I tell a lie, I saw a dead one in March.  But perhaps they’ve just followed the foxes and rats and gone urban?  I miss them.

August 13, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , | 12 Comments

general maintenance

Or something like that.

After the hectic last few weeks,  I thought now is time for a little quiet reflection and perhaps even a little time in the garden.  So first it rained and then the computer crashed and then there was this funny smell in the downstairs loo.


I turned the computer off and on and spent a lot of hours backing up (but not, as the machine first suggested, 8 days) and then spent a good deal of time steeling myself to approach the strange, soft, brown object lurking behind the loo.  It turned out not to be small dead animal, as I first feared, but a large fungus.  Presumably alive and looking to settle and spore all over the place.  So I bought some spray and after reading all the dire warnings on the bottle, sprayed the area anyway.  Smell gone but another one appeared instead in the kitchen.  Urgh!

So then there was a serious cleaning out of cupboards and after a bit of dithering I didn’t spray this with antifungal poison but with dettol.  (Evil spray seems bad enough in the loo but positively untenable in the kitchen even if in an area where only cleaning stuff and rubbish bins live).  thankfully, that smell seems to have gone too, otherwise I might have spent the next several days dismantling bits of cupboard and searching for lurking fungi.

Then today, I actually wandered around with secateurs and removed dead stuff and admired all over again the nice new plants and considered how many of the new little seedlings might be allowed to stay and for the manyeth time forgot to bring the fork out to deal with the definitely unwelcome weedlings.

Then I thought I’d update my blogroll – only to find that wordpress has decided some of my commenters no longer have links to their websites – including me!  Research into comment management and discussion display and other such esoteric subjects tells me nothing though I did discover that those commenters who are without links also have no url in the url box.  So I added my url to a comment that I edited which worked on the one post but I’m pretty sure no one else can edit comments on my blog, even their own.  It’s all a bit baffling.

So I’m wondering, Christopher and annajskye, when you are kind enough to comment here, do you have an option to enter your website/blog url?

Anyway, after such a hectic and stressful weekend, I thought a little quiet reflection might be in order (do I get a touch of deja vue here?) and Barney came home and suggested that this might be a good time to print a dozen pages of stamp displays on nice paper – of a non standard size*.  Now that’s done and the potatoes in the potato curry aren’t cooking, though it tastes wonderful.

Quiet reflection can go out the window.  I need a cigarette and another glass of wine.

Here’s a man with no time for reflection.  He has my sympathy.

*I couldn’t bear to go into the problems that this gave me.  And you wouldn’t want to read about them anyway I expect.



August 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 8 Comments

What we saw on our holidays

Lots of  Rosebay Willowherb (Fireweed in North America from whence it came – not a native plant here)  and Himalayan Balsam (which I have always known as  Policeman’s Helmets, obviously because the flowers vaguely recall an old-fashioned policeman’s helmet in shape.  I know, I know, in this photo there is no suggestion of helmetness or police – unless it’s the pink and white fashion police.  Expecting a riot along the canal banks maybe, where fashion is mainly not.)

I recently watched a programme about invasive foreign weeds – quite scary some of them, particularly Japanese Knotweed which is rife along the banks in urban parts of the canal and I saw places where there had been attempts to destroy it.  Not surprising since it spreads like wildfire (only underground), rears it’s deceptively pretty head through concrete and asphalt and and destroys the ground on which it grows.  It is almost indestructible and can also destroy house foundations – if there is any on a property it can be a reason to have a mortgage refused.

The Himalayan Balsam and the Rosebay Willowherb are also foreigners which probably need controlling a bit more, pretty though they all are.  To be fair to all these aliens, they only cause such trouble when imported to places where their natural competitors don’t thrive so if they’d been left at home where they belong they probably wouldn’t do so much damage.

This doesn’t apply to the two Kestrels perched on a wire at Hazlehurst.  A baby?  Not sure if he was just fluffing himself up in the brief sunshine or if he was recently fledged.

And ordinary Willowherb is a pretty and non invasive plant and it belongs here along with Musk Mallow and Meadowsweet.  Oh and Purple Loosestrife and Knapweed.  There’s fluffy, creamy Meadowsweet all along the banks.

Then there were at least two of the obligatory herons

and a fleeting glimpse of a Kingfisher which always makes me happy even without a photo – bluebirds see.  So where did the blue bird for happiness thing come from then?

Also two cows.

Definitely not in their right place.

And lots and lots of Sandmartins hurtling across the surface of the water, dipping and splashing as they passed.  I spent a concerted ten minutes trying to catch some photos of them but this was the best I could do – those blobs on the water.  If you wipe off all the specks and bits of dust on your monitor, whatever is left is them.

Ad now all this talk of weeds and pests makes me notice some examples of Barney’s inimitable style of pruning in the rose by the window so I’m off out with the secateurs.


August 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

So when do bees go to bed?

See, some of my new flowers have mildew and need to be sprayed.  But in case the new ingredient in mildew spray, which replaces an ingredient that was definitely bad for bees, is also not good for them, you are still advised to ‘wait till the bees have gone to bed’.  So this evening, I kept an eye on the lavender outside the back door, which is a bee magnet, and the evening wore on and the bees were sill buzzing contentedly around it.  It got later and darker and at 9 pm, when you could hardly see, there was still one bee being busy.

Eventually I went out in the dark, with a torch and sprayed my mildewed plants, keeping an anxious eye out for bees.  Also an ear.

Having a lot of new flowers in the garden changes your attitudes a bit.  Where once, this sight would have filled me with a warm fuzzy feeling, now it makes me slightly indignant.

Those cute little ears.  Huh!

The cheek of it!  He’s grinning at me!

Bad enough to have two bunnies in the garden munching away and digging where they didn’t ought but to find that they have multiplied without my consent, well, when the cat came in with a baby bunny in her jaws I positively encouraged her.  After all, it’s only natural, right?

And a hare even.  When I think how I took their side against the hunt and distracted huntspersons and hounds to give them time to get away I feel quite let down.

And then there are the deer.  Now that they’ve polished off all next door’s roses, leeks and beans, they’ve started on my rose and I only have the one.  Simply not acceptable and makes me think about roast venison!  I can imagine that if I’d actually done all the weeding and clearing and digging I’d be positively incandescent with fury and might even be out there at dawn with pistols.  (Water pistols maybe).

Fact is, I’d forgotten how complicated gardening can be.

Ah well.  There’s always other things to think about, like was Mrs Ladybird on her way to put out fires

Or was she just sheltering from the rain?

And was NGB after me or does she just want to be in the photo?


Now why do people say that when they mean to ponder the thing in question?

August 5, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 7 Comments

No really

I have to go to bed NOW!

Just thought I’d spend five minutes checking up before so doing, as above, and found that EVERYONE’S back and everyone’s posted lots of stuff while I was busy feeding the five thousand and drinking a lot and tomorrow I’m Grandbaby minding again.

It’s no good, I’ll just have to love you and leave you.

Don’t go away!!


Edit:  Oh!  Oops.  There’s one of them adverts.  At least there was just now before I logged in.  Should I pay money to be able to refuse to have them?

August 3, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments