Tag Archives: poppies

An Early Night

Not sure where to start today. I missed a grim demonstration of nature in action this afternoon, but Julia reported it to me. A small brown bird was chirping in the gutter, clearly trying to entice its parents to come and feed it. Suddenly there was a flutter of black and white as a magpie landed, snatched the little bird up in its beak and flew off. It’s hard to imagine that there was  a happy ending. I’m not sur whether I feel sorry for the fledgling or regret that I wasn’t able to film it. Sometimes I am not a very nice person.

I spent the first part of the morning struggling to get to work through multiple roadworks. This was very annoying. Then I struggled to get home as a lorry had broken down on the Ring Road. Some days you feel more like a commuter than others.

We seem to have had nothing but news of people dying recently. One of Julia’s ex-colleagues died a few weeks ago and we only just found out and a neighbour died yesterday. Neither were covid related.

I looked up the crematorium in Gedling and found that they offer a range of products containing the ashes of the deceased. I knew you could get ashes compressed into diamonds at great expense (£1,400 for an amber coloured quarter carat stone to £16.500 for a clear 2 carat stone – plus extra for cutting if you want a more ornate cut of stone), but I didn’t know you could get the ashes of a dead relative used as the design for a paperweight. In a world that has gone mad with big weddings and conspicuous mourning, I don’t suppose it should be a surprise.

The Georgians and Victorians were very big on putting hair into mourning jewellery. However, there was a certain amount of thought and design in earlier times, which you don’t seem to find in a paperweight or pair of cufflinks. I would hate to think bits of me would have an afterlife as a piece of tacky jewellery. I really don’t know whether I should despair or laugh.

We had twenty three poppies this morning, but yesterday, having failed to deadhead for two days, only got ten. I may have to drop my estimate a bit, or deadhead with more enthusiasm.

That’s about it. Covid rates are rising again, the Government is in turmoil, a holiday company is going to take the Government to court because they haven’t put enough holiday destinations on the Green List, and I’m complaining about traffic and bad taste mourning jewellery. That, as posterity will show, is a truer measure about the thoughts of ordinary people than anything you will read in the papers twenty years from now. Covid will pass, but bad taste is always with us.

I haven’t slept well for the last few days, so I am going to go to bed after finishing this post. I have to be up early tomorrow – another blood test.

 

Spanish Poppies

Poppies and Poems

We had eighteen poppies this morning. Not as good as some recent days when we had over 20, but still quite good. If you say we average 15 a day (we have  second, small, patch too) in Junes, July, August and September, that’s about 1,700 blooms. That’s a lot of effort in flowering and, to be honest, a lot of deadheading too. And all from two patches of poppies which grow from cracks in the concrete. When we move I must try to save seed.

I am using a more structured approach to the day. I did 10 haiku this morning after arriving at work and emailed them to myself. I made a few notes on a submission I am making this evening and then started work. I wrote and the shop benefited from me starting early so I like to think it is good for both of us.

Did I say I was doing a Buson 100 (100 days writing 10 haiku each day.)? I honestly forget what I write in my notes, what I write in the blog and what I mean to write in the blog. Yes, I see I have mentioned it. I’m just over half way in days, and have a few poems in hand, so things aren’t looking too bad, though it’s till touch and go, as I can easily get two or three days behind, and it takes a bit of catching up.  This isn’t helped by losing a notebook with ten poems in it. However, as copy typing is very dull, half of me is happy to lose them and just write directly onto the screen. I’m finding it a lot easier to type haiku these days, instead of having to write them first. Typing is less stress on my hands too, so it’s all good.

Structure, planning, discipline. Bit by bit it seems to be working, though it’s mainly structure helping to develop good habits. Planning is OK, but could be better. Discipline seems to dissolve when I see an interesting link to follow and lose myself for an hour . . .

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Bees and Poppies – A Simple Post

We have been averaging 14-18 poppies each day. They make a good show in the morning but the petals fall by lunch, so they aren’t the best at providing a showy display. On the other hand, they did drift in free of charge. Others, which I have paid for, have failed to prosper. I keep saying I will have another go with the big red oriental ones, but never get round to it. Perhaps I will simply buy some cheap seed and sprinkle it in the gaps between flagstones. We established  a massive drift of Californian poppies on the farm by emptying some seed packets onto newly dug earth, so it’s worth a try.

Bee on Welsh Poppy

Bee on Welsh Poppy

There are some wonderful drifts of poppies on the ring road where they are letting the grass grow for the pollinators, with Californian and red poppies. They still have their petals when I drive home, so I’m thinking they may be better than the ones we have which, I think, are Welsh poppies. I always thought the yellow ones were Welsh poppies but when I looked them up I found these were an orange variety. There are yellow ones along the street, one of my gardening clients used to have them, but they don’t seem to have spread this far.

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

At one time we had a lot of marigolds. I was given them by a customer, and they spread well and kept coming back, but then declined over a couple of years. We still have three or four of them, but they are not showing any signs of recolonising the garden. It is strange how some things flourish and others don’t. The alyssum isn’t doing so well either, though I’m fairly sure that is being shaded out by the red valerian. That could be the reason why the marigolds have gone, as they would have been overshadowed by the valerian, which is a real thug of a plant, but I always think of them being tough enough to fight back.

Bee on Red Valerian

Bee on Red Valerian

That’s the trouble with gardening the way we do in the front garden – you get what you’re given, which in our case is red valerian. I’m thinking it might be time to cut some of it back and give other things a chance. The only thing that stops me is that it attracts hummingbird hawkmoths, which are always a pleasure to see.

The last bee is on Red Valerian because it would stay still in the morning when it was on the poppies. By 4pm there were no poppies.

I’m wondering id the black bee is a Field Cuckoo Bumble Bee because of the all black colouring. I’m not sure what else to look for to ID it, or if there are any other similar species. I’m hoping the hoverfly is a Marmalade Hoverfly because I like the name. It’s common round here, according to the ID guide, so I feel safe with that ID.

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

Blood Tests, Relaxed Restrictions and a Peaceful Protest

I had to visit the Treatment Centre for a blood test yesterday. I didn’t need one and I don’t do it for fun but I had been told to have another one in a clear case of the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing.

For posterity, I note the following things.

One – there was nobody on the door with masks, gel, advice or censure.

Two – people were once again drifting in through the door. Some weren’t using the hand gel and some were accompanying patients and didn’t need to be there.

Three – I saw a staff memeber walking round with their mask pulled down under their nose. Admittedly, it was a nose of heroic proportions and they were clearly proud of it (and possibly unable to get it into the mask), but it was still unmasked when it should have been covered.

Four – the cafe is open again, though you can onl;y have one person at a table.

Five – the phlebotomist is no longer wearing a face shield, as noted at City Hospital when I had my last anti-coagulant blood test.

These are not criticisms, just observations noted down for posterity. At a time we are told that a second peak is coming and that it is due to undisciplined social gatherings, it might be germane to note the slackening off of NHS discipline.

The service was excellent, if you ignore the fact the test was not necessary and the telephone helpline had proved to be bloody useless after they messed my prescription up.

On the other hand, I was able to collect a blood form, have the test, get my prescription and be given advice by the pharmacist and still get out of the car park in thirty minutes. Impressive stuff.

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Poppy

Tonight I have started learning the names for my finger joints so I can discuss them on the phone. There must be a poem in there somewhere.

I have also been noting the limits to my peaceful right to protest. It’s made a little more complicated by lockdown regulations but I may seek to defend myself using the Cummings or Stanley Johnson defence – I am too important to allow the law to limit my capacity for arrogance.

I’m also not quite sure about the legality of handcuffing myself to property which may or may not belong to someone else. The internet is rather uninformative on that point.

I now need as group of Suffragette bodyguards and I am ready for action.

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Poppy

There is, as you may suspect, a gathering cloud of civil unrest…

I wasn’t able to source any decent photos for peaceful protest or handcuffs on Pexels so I widened my search. Knowing what happens on the internet I really should not have searched for ‘handcuffs’.

That’s why you have poppies instead.

Poppies, Planning and Pottering

Yesterday it was coins, today it’s poppies. My life is varied if nothing else.

I spotted these bees in the poppies as I walked to the car yesterday. I did not have a lot of time to spare, and didn’t want the neighbours to think I was mad, so I just took a few shots as the poppies blew in the wind as I passed by on my way to work. As a result, the shots aren’t great, or varied.

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Orange Poppies

That’s the story of my life. Rush, rush, rush and never time to stop and get a grip. After a three month holiday I really should be more organised. In fact I should be so organised that everything is perfect. It isn’t, and I will probably look back on this time with deep regret. Not that such thoughts are unusual, as I find I have them more and more. I thought you were supposed to be at your most depressed in your 40s, and that you became more cheerful as you age. It hasn’t worked out like that.

I suspect that like “Life begins at 40” and “60 is the new 40” this is aimed at making old people feel better about themselves. In fact one of the links I followed, whilst saying positive things about old age, also mentioned that hearing loss could be a burden in old age. It mentioned this several times and I wasn’t surprised to find a big button at the end of the article linking it to a site to sell hearing aids. I may be old, and slightly deaf, but I can still spot when someone is blowing smoke.

Last night I started planning for my retirement. It’s less than five years before I can draw my pension and I’m looking at all my options.

A time machine would be good, as I could go back, correct my worst decisions, save more money and look forward to a comfortable retirement, Ditto for winning the lottery. Logic says that I probably have more chance of inventing a time machine than I have of winning the lottery. I have made some plans for that. My theory is that if you buy enough longcase clocks and set them all running at the same time they will, because they are old and unreliable, all start to show marginally different times. When 12 o’clock comes round a few days later the cacophony of clocks striking at slightly different times will set up a temporal vortex and I will step through it. Now I come to think of it, I might have got that from an episode of Doctor Who

I’ve just been looking at the WEA website (Worker’s Educational Association) looking for things to do in retirement. I hadn’t thought of them for years and now realise that some of their courses might have been useful during lockdown. Unfortunately the ones I want all have waiting lists. I’m sure I will manage to do something along those lines in the next few years.

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Bee in Poppy

I had always imagined that retirement would be spent pottering around, but I’m already pottering, so I need another ambition. As I’m already becoming noticeably more curmudgeonly as time goes on I can’t save that for retirement either. It really does seem like I’m becoming old before my time. I should, according to the internet, be out learning how to skateboard, not sitting at home moaning. As I can’t even balance well enough to put my trousers on without introducing a frisson of jeopardy into the proceedings, so I’m certainly not risking a skateboard.

As a retirement project I may write a book about getting old. With any luck I may manage to sell it as a a TV script, so I will ensure that bathing in asses milk, driving sports cars and drinking red wine are prominent in the book so I can travel the world enjoying myself. According to this article I will need to drink 180 bottles of wine a day to get the full benefit. If I ever work out how to function without a liver I may give it a go.

Never such innocence

Despite all my moaning and mention of boredom I’m having a reasonable time at work and, let’s face it, the money is enjoyable. After 25 years of precarious self-employment I’m just starting to relax with the idea there will always be money at the end of the month.

Here are some of the things I’ve been working on recently.

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The first one is a railway whistle – a traditional ACME Thunderer, as you can see, with the “LMS” stamp of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway. It came to us with a number of other bits, including a pair of First World War Medals, a membership card for the LDV, which was the forerunner of the Home Guard, and a nasty looking bomb or shell splinter.

The whistle disappeared in the post and we were just getting ready to reimburse the customer when, according to a note he sent today, it appeared. It’s taken a month. Such is life on eBay.

Private Mobbs served in France at the end of the war and hasn’t left much trace of his military activities, but, despite being in a reserved occupation, he was prepared to give up his nights and days off to train with the Home Guard to defend the country all over again.

The next photographs show poppies on coins. The commemoration of the Great War is becoming increasingly mawkish as time goes on, and the recent centenary celebrations have made things worse. Everybody, it now seems, is an expert on the First World War, and everybody has an opinion. I have my own opinions about many of these opinions, but I’ll keep them to myself. All I’ll say is that Blackadder Goes Forth is a comedy, but many people treat it like a documentary.

 

This is a crown issued by the Falkland Islands. The Falklands are not strangers to war, with a major naval engagement there in 1914, as well as the more modern war.

 

The second is issued by the UK, the first time (2017) that the UK has issued a commemorative of this type, though other Commonwealth countries have done so.

The story of then poppy as a remembrance of the Great War is an interesting one, and although we tend to think of it as a British thing, we owe it to an American academic called Moina Michael. She took the poppy on board and popularised it, and wrote a poem of her own in response to McRae’s famous In Flanders Fields.

They are poems of their time, and are probably not quite in line with modern taste, so the poem of the day is Larkin again, with MCMXIV.

 

Hoverflies and Broken Dreams

Subtitle: Poppies, Pollinators and Parcels.

I was torn between the two titles, but went for the bleaker one because I’m a shameless attention seeker.

I walked in to work this morning and found we had sixteen parcels to pack, It doesn’t seem much to do in three hours, though it’s probably fair to say that after seeing a couple of customers and queuing at the Post Office we had two and a half hours of packing. Or five hours, seeing as there were two of us.

That’s about twenty minutes per parcel, which seems OK, though when you have 100 loose coins to pack into a non-rattling parcel it can take a bit of time.

Part of the problem is that we have over two thousand items of stock on eBay and not enough storage space. We can locate 95% of the stock with ease, but we have to pack and repack the cupboards each time, which is time consuming, and the system is starting to creak.

To be fair, the cupboards are starting to creak too and I’m beginning to worry about being crushed to death in a cascade of coins and shattered woodwork. And shattered dreams. It was never meant to end like this…

Despite the somewhat gloomy thoughts, I am cheered by the poppy photos – they were absolutely packed with pollinators this morning, which validates our garden choices. They often have pollinators on them but the light and wind often work against me, and the numbers aren’t normally as impressive.

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Poppy with Pollinators

 

Poppies, Kids, Death and Zen

I deadheaded the poppies a couple of days ago. It seems to have paid dividends because this morning there were fifteen poppies in a spot where we had never had more than six.

I thought of stopping to take a photograph, but bit was raining, I was in my shirt sleeves and the flowers were not very impressive, being weighed down by water droplets.

It sounds artistic now, and I’m starting to regret not taking the picture, but it was cold and wet this morning and enthusiasm was not running high as I left for work.

By the time I returned they had all dropped. They do that. It’s very annoying.

For those of you who aren’t conversant with deadheading it’s a way of manipulating nature with just a pair of scissors.

Plants flower, set seed and then close down as their job of perpetuating the species is over.

If you cut the dead flower heads off before they set seed they have to keep flowering to fulfill their biological imperative. Tricky, isn’t it?

It’s a bit like kids. Once you have a couple you can stop. And you still end up dried out and dead, just like a flower in Autumn.

I have to go now, I’ve just started on a meaningful poetic thought and it needs nurturing. It starts with raindrops and ends with scattered petals, and has haiku written all over it.

Poppies growing from cracks in concrete

Poppies growing from cracks in concrete

I’m getting a lot of use out of very few poppy pictures. I’ll take some more pictures later in the week.

Open Gardens

Julia visited some local Open Gardens on Saturday. If you are interested in others there is a website here which details all the national ones.

One was clearly the result of spending thousands on hard landscaping and plants straight from the garden centre. I don’t know why you would do that on our street as the house prices don’t justify the cost of expensive garden work, and on our side of the street (as this one was) the gardens slope away from the house and face North.

If I’d been a gardener when I moved to Nottingham I wouldn’t have bought this house. Nor would I have slabbed the front garden to save work. However, plants still manage to grow in the front garden, as you can see from the poppies.

The plants were all planted in buckets because the soil, it seems, is so poor. That is strange because our soil, just a few hundred yards away is quite good. It wasn’t bad when we moved in and with compost and hoed weeds, falling leaves and leafmold it has improved over the years.  It could be a lot better, but we are best described as sporadic gardeners. Having worked as a self-employed jobbing gardener for 10 years I have to confess to neglecting my own garden dreadfully.

The plots were built up using sand when they built the houses eighty years ago, and the underlying geology is sandstone, so the soil tend to be a bit light. However, it is well drained and easy to work, and does respond well to feeding. There were allotments here before they built houses so it was hardly a barren desert.

I did, however, bring back a lot of compostable debris from my work as a gardener, so it all worked out well in the end.

That, I think is where many gardeners go wrong. Spend money on hard landscaping and plants and you will get a garden you can show off. Spend time on the soil and you will get a garden where you can grow things.

Next year I suspect this gardener will have to buy more plants from the Garden Centre to fill her garden again. One thing she won’t have to do is mow the lawn (or compost the cuttings) because the “lawn” is astroturf.

We will, once again, be cutting things back in a desperate attempt to keep ours looking vaguely like a garden. We will also return to planting calabrese and kale in the flower beds. It seems to do well and the pigeons don’t spot it like they do when you plant it in a vegetable bed.

In contrast to the posh garden there was another, where kids were playing. The owner kept apologising for this but Julia told them that was what gardens are for.

They were just doing it to help raise funds for local charities and show what an ordinary garden looks like.

It takes all sorts, and they are both valid uses of a garden, depending on your ambitions and lifestyle.

We had Hummingbird Hawk Moths in the garden a few years ago. We also had a nesting Blackcap. This year we had Painted Ladies.  You don’t get that with a tidy garden.

Red Valerian, like poppies, grows vigorously from cracks in the paving. It is a great food plant for moths and butterflies, though it’s a bit of a weed and not seen in the better sort of garden.

The Post I Meant to Write…

Just before I opened my email from the Royal Agricultural Society, this is the post I meant to write. The last post was merely a Jacobin rant, this one is about nature. It’s better for me than politics.

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A model of me in the garden

There’s not much to say as it’s late and the pictures can do the talking.

The pop-bottle poppies are still looking good after two years – Julia was going to take them down last year but everyone asked for them to stay up.

This is the “hedge” between the Mencap plot and the school plot. It’s willow clippings with ivy planted to grow through it.

And finally – some birds. There would have been more but a sparrowhawk swooped by and scared them all away.

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Great tits on feeder – Nottingham