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…
The group painted the bench yesterday. It’s undercoated in white emulsion and then over-painted in blue wood. It’s a finish based on the available paint rather than any grasp of decorative technique, but it seems to have worked well.
They also had afternoon tea in the conservatory. It’s not actually a conservatory, it’s just one end of a polytunnel where they have a desk to work round. However, we were looking for a word to describe it, and what do you call a room where you can see through the walls? Garden room, Orangery or Conservatory?
As you can see from the photos, we lack oranges and can’t actually see the garden through the plastic so it became the conservatory. We will have to see if the name sticks.
I’m sorry about the lack of people in the pictures, as happy, smiling faces always make a great picture, Unfortunately that’s the way it is in the 21st century.
However, I’ve seen the other photos and can assure you there were plenty of smiles and paint splashes.
It was Tuesday so we went to a care home to make Christmas decorations. It’s not quite the jet-set lifestyle which my younger self anticipated, but it’s better than sitting in a bus shelter with a plastic bottle of cider.
We made garlands, table decorations and baskets. No doubt you are now stepping back, amazed, at the breadth of my talents, but that might be a bit premature if I’m honest. I have no talent for floral decoration, I merely have stronger fingers than the average lady of 80 years, so I can set things firmly in the oasis.
It’s actually amazing that two bin bags of garden cuttings (bay, rosemary and holly) and a box of dried poppy heads and statice harvested during the summer can do when added to a selection of second-hand baskets and willow hoops.
Fortunately, Julia and our neighbour Angela, do have some talent with floral decoration so it they made up for my deficiencies and the afternoon passed off without problem.
On the way there we drove through an industrial estate built near woodland, and saw a Jay on the footpath, which I’m always happy to see.
The way back was not so kind to us, with broken traffic lights and a traffic jam. A 30 minute journey took us an hour and a quarter. As I sat in the queue I couldn’t help thinking that life with a bottle of cider could well be less stressful…
Not sure if I’ve ever mentioned it before, but someone once told me that if you can learn one new thing a day you will become the wisest person in the world. As a result, I try to learn one or more new things a day. Despite this I can’t help feeling that I’m a long way from being the wisest person in the world. Part of the problem is that the more you know, the more you realise how much you don’t know.
I suppose that’s why they say ignorance is bliss.
On that subject, the farmer is currently showing round the people who will be taking over from us. There are seven days in the week but they need to meet on one of the days that we meet. Talk about rubbing it in. But as I said, ignorance is bliss.
As if that isn’t bad enough, they came and parked near the bird feeders and scared everything off. Humph!
However, back to knowledge.
Gemma wanted to know about baked beans and, as we encourage everyone to do, asked me to check it up on the computer. We covered haricot beans, Boston Baked Beans and Heinz Baked Beans, and during this tour of the net I noticed a link from one of the recipe pages.
The link is to the Boston Molasses Disaster. I’d never heard of it, but in 1919 it killed 21 people. From that page I went to the London Beer Flood. I’d never heard of that either, but in 1814 323,000 gallons of beer escaped from burst tanks, destroyed two houses and killed at least 8 people. I won’t spoil the surprise, so if you are intrigued by the names you can click the link.
The Farmer has now been loaded onto Dave’s van (the cardboard farmer, that is, not the breathing one) and he is off to school too. He was just too tall to fit in the car with Connie, and screwed together too tightly to allow us to dismantle the frame easily. That’s what happens when you ask a mixed group of artists and engineers to make a stand for a piece of cardboard.
We filled the rest of the day with making Christmas cards and I am now, reluctantly, going across to the kitchen to make jam. I really don’t like using the kitchen these days, with all the politics and unpleasantness that it now involves, but it needs to be done and I have no choice…
Later: Jam making went well – it’s all set and washed up now. 🙂
It’s rained all day, we don’t feel like using the kitchen because of the internal politics and I’m not eating biscuits.
So what do we do?
Well, we have to feed and water the chickens whatever the weather.
We also had a good moan about various things (centre left in a mess, one of the new toilets out of order, someone has thrown some of our stuff out of the kitchen).
We did a stock take of what we have left in the kitchen.
We picked the last of the chillies and the cape gooseberries
We made pom-poms. I managed 14 today. I explored a method I found on the internet – using a fork to wrap the wool round. I hope these photos explain it. It’s tricky getting it tied tight enough and fitting the scissors in, but it seems to work OK for producing small pom-poms.
A fork with longer tines may have been better (as would sharper scissors) and I’m just wondering how much wool you’d need to wrap a garden fork…
Then we played indoor balloon volleyball/tennis. It’s a game we invented last year using a large balloon. The rules are not fixed, the umpiring is abysmal and the scoring is random, but it seems to work. So far nobody has died playing, we’ve had no tears, and we haven’t damaged the building (though as we’re under notice to quit I’m not sure I’m bothered).
Indoor Balloonball – just look at the speed of that serve!
As we told the group – only boring people get bored.
I finished reading The Moonstone yesterday, I’ve been eating birthday cake and I’m in the middle of a massive pom-pom production session, so at least the the title was easy today.
Julia and Vicki have birthdays on successive days (though the years of birth are not quite so close) so we always have a surfeit of birthday cake at this time of year. I like the word surfeit. King John was said, in some reports, to have died of a surfeit of peaches at Newark in 1216 (they have been commemorating the 800th anniversary of his death recently), though it is more likely he died of dysentery. Henry I died of a surfeit of lampreys.
Lampreys have always seemed an unlikely thing to surfeit on, but it seems they were popular in the middle ages, and still are in some parts of the world. King John fined the City of Gloucester the equivalent of £250,000 for failing to provide his traditional lamprey pie one Christmas. In more recent times Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation pie was a lamprey pie provided by the RAF, and her Diamond Jubilee was marked by the gift of a lamprey pie from the City of Gloucester. Sadly, from a historical point of view, the latter pie was made with lampreys from the Great lakes in North America, as we don’t have many lampreys left, and they are now a protected species.
However, back to The Moonstone. It’s an irritating title because the Moonstone of the title is a yellow diamond, and not actually a moonstone. T. S. Eliot called it “the first, the longest, and the best of modern English detective novels in a genre invented by Collins and not by Poe.” While some of this praise might be open to argument, it’s certainly long. Similarly, it introduces many classic elements of the modern detective novel, including a country house setting, red herrings, a quirky policeman and a twist at the end. It’s just a shame that the twist in the end is such a long way from the crime.
You may be getting the idea by now that I think it’s a little longer than it needs to be. It is. So are many classic novels. Moby Dick, for instance, could do with being reduced in length and a spot of energetic abridgement would definitely improve Don Quixote. I may have touched on this before, but the book, in my hand, would open with the body of Don Quixote lying on the library floor (probably beaten to death with a big book of heraldry), as the crumpled Detective Sergeant Sancho Panza looks for clues. I don’t know what my ending would be, but I do know it would be a lot closer to the beginning than Cervantes managed – about 300,000 words closer to the beginning in fact.
Yes, despite all setting to work in the middle of the day, we managed just these 16, well 15¾ really, as one is still to be cut and tied. That’s enough for one wreath. Of course, the process isn’t quite as linear as wrap, tie, trim.
It’s more in the region of wrap, stop and help someone, wrap, stop and help someone else, wrap, stop and try to rescue one, sweep away a pile of woolly scraps as the attempt fails, wrap, tie, swear, find the scissors, hack, look for a decent pair of scissors, stop and help someone, trim, try not to look too disappointed, start again…
As Julia pointed out, as I moaned my way through the afternoon, the best days of my life are like a pantomime villain.
“How’s that?” I asked, in my role as perennial straight man.
“They’re behind you!”