A Spider Crawled out of an Inkwell…

Yes, the subject for today is handwriting, particularly the poor quality of my handwriting. I suppose the title shows my age – these days nobody would refer to bad handwriting looking like a drunken spider had fallen into an inkwell and crawled across a sheet of paper.

How many people reading this post have ever used an inkwell? And even if you have used one, how much actual writing on paper do you do these days? I don’t even write cheques. All I do is shopping lists, and I do those in block capitals so I can read them. When I was gardening one of my customers complained that whenever I wrote her a message it always looked like a ransom note.

As you may have guessed, I’ve been having problems reading my own writing.

My first memory regarding criticism of my writing is of being told off because it was large and childishly formed. This was in the village school I attended in Lincolnshire. My memories of it are not positive. On one occassion I was shaken and thrown to the floor because I had failed to memorise my multiplication tables over the weekend. There was not a lot of modern educational theory in place, the system being as Victorian as the schoolroom.

I wasn’t physically punished for my writing, the teacher merely called the headmaster (her husband) through from the other classroom so that he could shout at me.

My writing was too big, even I could see that, but it was just how I’d been taught at my previous two schools. I expect it was also childish, though I can’t really remember, as I was only seven at the time.

From that day on, until I left school, the only major complaint I recall was that my writing was too small.

The headmaster, by the way, was given four years for indecently assaulting a couple of girl pupils shortly after we moved away. Standards in educational recruitment have, I suspect, been improved over the years.

Since leaving school, I have rarely needed to do much writing, most of my written work being based on tick sheets and simple arithmetic. I don’t use cheques and a computer does the rest of my writing.

The current situation is that the only writing I do is my “to do” list, which I write every Sunday. And forget every Monday.

I’ve just been looking at the one from last week.

Most of them are easy enough, and even the instruction to “bug now sosks” isn’t too challenging, but reviewing the “forgetting boof” might be a little more difficult. “Boof” is clearly something that needs reviewing, so it’s a book, but I haven’t a clue which one it is. It’s not about forgetting, as I don’t have a book on that subject. At least I don’t remember having one. I’m going to have to go through the book pile and work it out by a process of deduction.

 

The Bread Group – A Retrospective

The Bread Group was originally set up in 2012 when we did a school holiday project with parents and children. One of the parents asked about us doing similar things in the future and Julia decided to set a group up so local people could get together and learn to bake together.

Gail arrived shortly after and under her leadership the group went from strength to strength, proving to be popular both for social, baking and health reasons. The group was the driving force behind our successful run of Open Farm Sunday events, and also helped make our one and only Winterfest a great success. That proved to be a problem.

The first winter event, organised by the farmer’s sister and with me as a disappointing  Santa, attracted 11 children and made a loss. The next one, with Julia on crafts and Gail on catering, and with a less grumpy Santa, attracted hundreds of people and made about £600. Things looked set for an annual event, with craft fair and profit, but by the time we were ready to plan for the next one the writing was already on the wall.

Cynics might say many things at this point, but this is meant to be a celebration of bread and friendship, and that’s how I’m going to leave it, with a selection of pictures and memories of bread, Christmas curries and the group’s visit to India.

Thanks are due to Gail and all members of the group for cheering the place up on a regular basis and for all their hard work in helping run the centre events over the years.

Sadly, although the kitchen extension is now complete, they have not been invited back and it looks like the group has now passed into history.

The days of wine and roses, they are not long…

 

 

What is this life…

What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

“Leisure” – W H Davies

I have, as I have said recently, been seeing more butterflies in the garden this year. It’s not due to good weather or better plants, just that I’m finding more time to stand and look at our garden. For the last couple of years I’ve hardly seen it.

I was reading a copy of Garden News from last month as I waited for Julia to leave work this afternoon. The head gardener from Helmsley Walled Gardens makes a good point towards the back of the magazine – make time to sit in your garden, consider improvements and enjoy it. She also suggests not over-gardening, but letting nature do the work for you. That’s my kind of gardening. I like her approach.

There’s a useful bumblebee ID chart on the garden website, though it’s slightly confusing that a buff-tailed bumblebee  has a white tail, as does the white-tailed bumblebee, and the garden bumblebee and heath bumblebee.

I have to ask about the wisdom of calling something white-tailed when it’s a common featureI also feel slightly cheated that the early bumblebee has a red tail, an ID feature it shares with the red-tailed bumblebee.

Anyway, enough of that, I’m going to sit and stare, at ebay, as W H Davies, may have said if he had lived longer.

Though I’ve just noticed Cockneys vs Zombies is on. It’s not the finest work Richard Briers and Honor Blackman ever did, but it’s not a bad film, and it’s streets ahead of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. If only Jane Austen knew, she’d be emerging from her grave…

 

 

Thinking of Christmas

Yes, it’s that time of year again. August, the traditional start to the Christmas season.

I’m not sure what stops people in the middle of the summer holidays and makes them think of Christmas, but it never fails. Julia started talking of her Christmas plans two weeks ago. She is preparing to raise funds for new polytunnel covers as the current ones are opaque, apart from the holes. We are going to be taping the holes soon but it is, at best, a forlorn hope. Personally I think “waste of time” is more accurate.

Here, as ever, is a selection of the Christmas that we will be  forcing parents to buy via the tried and trusted method of emotional blackmail.

In addition, she is forming plans to attend Christmas Fairs. As they are usually on Saturdays, a day she works, these plans are likely to involve coercing some unwilling soul into doing the Fairs. So far she hasn’t said more, but I do feel the metaphorical noose tightening. I am not really at my best in an environment that involves knitting, felting and quilling.

After a morning in the garden Julia went to the main building, where the conversation turned to Christmas. So it’s not just her…

 

Book Review – 50 Ways to Make Your House and Garden Greener

50 Ways to Make Your House and Garden Greener

by Sian Berry

Paperback: 128 pages

Publisher: Kyle Cathie; 1st edition (10 Jan. 2008)

ISBN-10: 1856267725

ISBN-13: 978-1856267724

I bought this book last year. It was brand new and 50p. This tends to suggest that after eight years they are struggling to get rid of the first print run, despite the author having an impressive record in the area.

I can’t think why, because as a quick run-down of ways to make a difference to global warming it can;t really be bettered. It has its fair share of  expensive things to do, but set against that there are plenty of cheap things to try.

As the author says:”Follow the tips you can, and don’t feel guilty about the ones you can’t.”

Put lids on pans when cooking, don’t leave your phone on charge overnight and leave an untidy corner for wildlife in the garden.

Clearly I find one of those tips easier to follow than the others, though I rarely charge the phone overnight and normally use a lid on the pan.

That’s the tone of the book – plenty of sensible reminders and small steps. There are also more tips than the 50 in the title – many of the 50 tips are subdivided into smaller points.

An interesting and highly recommended read, and you won’t often hear me saying that about a book on being green.

 

Being British, and Spending a Penny

It rained all night, drying up in time to drive to work. I then returned home to collect a parcel for delivery in Newark and arrived at Newark Market just as the thunder claps started. After that rain stopped it became quite hot, I took my coat off, and the sky clouded over again. I left before the dark grey sky could fulfil its threat. On the way home the weather was remarkably pleasant, actually being sunny and hot.

Weather talk is typically British, I admit. I will therefore move onto something typically middle-aged.

I needed the toilet when I arrived in Newark. The one nearest the car park has been closed for some years now, as part of the “improvements” to the town centre. However, I knew there were toilets in the Town Hall (which is also home to the museum and a half-derelict shopping centre). Problem solved, you would think. But no, those are closed too – only one “Accessible” toilet remains, and that wasn’t accessible because you need a RADAR key.

Now, I’m not disabled, but I’m not very mobile either. That means that although I’m not ready to admit to needing a RADAR key, it’s not very easy to climb the stairs in the pub next door. Anyway, I have a conscience about using pub toilets if I’m not using the pub.

Enquiries revealed that there are toilets round the back  of the shopping centre, not far from where I started. If I’d looked to my right instead of walking straight on as I left the car park I may have seen the grey-coloured sign suspended high on a wall. Even when you are close you can’t see it very well.

You then have to insert 20p, in 5,10 or 20p coins. I only had a 50p so had to ask a passer-by for change because they have a sign telling you they don’t give change. Twenty pence – that’s 48 times what it used to cost when I was a lad and “spending a penny” was a term you used to hear.

Two attendents were chatting in a cubbyhole, though one had gone by the time I emerged – some evidence that the rate-payer’s cash isn’t being totally wasted. Neither looked like this was the job of their dreams.

Newark markets itself as a tourist destination – based on today’s experience they have some way to go, which is sad as they’ve been doing it longer than I can remember (by which I mean around 30 years) and show no evidence of even getting the basics right.

In typical British fashion I made my feelings known be emitting a low-pitched but definite “humph!” as I left.

I am seriously thinking of writing a stiff letter to the council.

A Painted Lady Comes to Call

I’ve had a few problems with WordPress today, including the complete loss of a post. This was annoying as I’d spent a significant amount of time looking for links and photos.

Julia picked plums in the early afternoon and saw a Painted Lady in the garden – another first for the garden. Added to the Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk Moth we saw earlier in the year it’s all coming together nicely.


When we left home to do some errands this afternoon we spent a few minutes watching the front garden and were rewarded by two small brown butterflies hustling past in the swirling wind, then a larger one, which proved to be a Painted Lady. It took some photographing, as it was quite skittish and there was a stiffish breeze once it left cover.

We’re not doing too badly for butterflies in the garden, partly due to looking a bit more than usual and partly due to a good showing of Red Valerian. We’ve also had Mint Moths on the marigolds, which is a first, as I’ve always seen them on mint or oregano before.

As for the plums, Julia has picked over 200. As usual, it’s a case of picking them when ripe and then using them quickly before they start to go over. We’ve given some to Angela Across the Road, who gave us figs and tomatoes in return. We’ve also given some to the Young Couple Next Door, because they give us cake.

I’m going to make sure we feed the tree properly next year, and ensure the pruning is done properly. I’ve been a bit slapdash with pruning recently and it’s turning into a biennial bearer. This is my fault, not the tree’s. If the feeding works it should fruit moderately next year, which will take some of the vigour out of it for the year after. If not, it looks like I’ll have to remove fruit buds two years from now.

I think this all started about six years ago when we had a bad spring that killed all the blossom. The next year was a bumper year due to all the stored energy and the one after that we didn’t harvest any fruit at all. I should have got on top of it when we had the first bumper year, instead I added neglect to the problem by letting the pruning slip by.

We are having Plum and Apple Crumble for tea.

All in all this has been a good day.