Tag Archives: teasel

Old Habits Die Hard

The secret of training, as many top athletes have said, is not dedication or motivation,, but habit. You don’r drag yourself into a November night because you are dedicated or motivated; you do it because you have established a habit.

At the moment I cannot help myself and have sat down at the blog to write. I will not, however, post it until Sunday.

I can’t really complain, because when I started the blog I did it partly to practice writing and establish a writing habit. I think I have succeeded in that ambition. The other part of the plan, to promote the Quercus Community group, did not go quite so well.

“C’est la vie”, as Chuck Berry said, it goes to show you never can tell.

On my return from work, I found the lighting subdued, the temperature cool and the air still. There were three bumblebees on the teasel in the front garden and, with it being cool and still, they were more inclined to pose for me than they had been last night. I was able to use both hands on the camera and work close to the bees without them taking flight.

I can’t see myself having to attend any awards ceremonies in the near future, but at least it’s progress. Looking on the bright side, if you don’t get prizes, you don’t need to polish them. One thing I do need to improve on, as the photos show, is learning which end is which. I would not like to be known to posterity as the man who took pictures of bumblebee’s bottoms.

Doh!

Despite what I said, I just pressed the button automatically and posted on Saturday night.Old habits, as I have already said, really do die hard.

2020

I said a while ago that I was going to cut back on blogging and with this being the 2,020th post I’ve made, which matches nicely with the year, this is as good a time as any.

I can’t keep up with the reading and commenting, for one thing, and it seems rude to ignore people when they are kind enough to pop along and have a look at the blog. If I cut down on blogging, I can spend more time of reading and commenting.

More selfishly, I want more time for other writing projects, and I want more time for reading books. In fact I just want more time. Some nights I can write the blog in twenty minutes, as you may have noticed from some of the titles. Other times I take several hours and a number of false starts. Some days the number of words you see is near enough the number that I wrote. On the bad days the 350 words you read may be the distillation of seven or eight hundred I actually wrote. On other days I have sometimes written as many as two or three part posts before getting into my stride. Some of those discarded posts may become full grown posts in time, but many don’t. I’ve just been through my drafts and removed 12 posts which would never have amounted to anything.

My intention at the moment is to write blog posts on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. I’ll see how that goes. My standards or organisation, as you may have noticed, are such that this may end up as any combination of days as I miss deadlines and sleep my evenings away. However, roughly three times a week I will post.

Friday night will be a report on my week, Sunday will be the usual ragbag and Wednesday will be the new day for posts on Collectibles. Probably.

I sent two lots of Haibun off to magazines last night. Having decided to start writing again I thought I might as well get stuck in. I finished fourteen haibun this week – six based on old ones that were hanging around, six based on notes in my notebooks and two just came to me as I was copying out the others.

I have copied them out, rewritten, trimmed, tightened and tinkered, and, finally, selected five to send off. They have gone. I’m now looking to see if I have another three fit to send. The trouble is that after all the work, some of them just seem dull and lifeless. I might have over-worked them, or I may initially have been blind to their faults.

This afternoon I started work on some school attendance medals for eBay, and when I got home I took some pictures of a bee on a teasel – holding the teasel still with one hand and using the camera with the other. I got one reasonable photo out of twenty attempts. ¬†Teasel without bees is an easier subject. I now know why we have teasel in the front garden, Julia says they are growing where she put some seed heads down when bringing them back from the Mencap Garden for a flower arrangement. I might have known she’d be at the bottom of it.

London School Attendance Medals 1890s

London School Attendance Medals 1890s

 

A Day That Failed to Deliver

Having made a plan for the day I awoke with energy and determination, dressed swiftly and went downstairs with high hopes.

At that point the plan failed to survive first contact with the enemy, hit the buffers and the wheels came off, as the mixed metaphors fell thick and fast, along with the cliches. The ‘enemy’ was, of course, my dear wife, who was already up to her ears in phone calls and had a list of things for me to do.

As a result I am now typing close to midnight and have only managed to tick three jobs off my list, though I have managed to do quite a few jobs that weren’t on the list.You have to wonder why I bother having Wednesdays off, as they have become just another working day for Julia during lockdown.

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Red Tailed Bumble Bee Mencap Garden Wilford

This is the third attempt I have made at today’s blog post as the previous two have degenerated into a whining complaint about the unfairness of life, the unfairness of wife and the perils of working from home. When we are all back at work I bet her clients, who know no boundaries, will continue to ring in the evenings and at weekends and we (along with many other people) will be worse off in terms of relaxation and work/life balance, than we were before lockdown.

This, along with masks and governmental ineptitude, seems to be one of the big stories of the day.

I have just spent the last hour wrestling with the shopping list for tomorrow. I started it in good time but stopped to eat, fell asleep in front of the TV and woke, stiff and grumpy, to find that I had two hours to shop and blog.

There is half an hour to go, so I will add a few photos from the gardens on Monday and sign off for the day. I pursued a red tailed bumble bee around the cranesbill and lilies but these two poor shots were the only decent ones.The cranesbill drooped under it’s weight and didn’t provide enough pollen to keep it, while the lilies provided pollen, but the bee was hidden deep in the flower as it collected.

Tomorrow I hope to be more positive, more productive and a much nicer person. I suspect I am only going to managed two out of the three as a major personality change is unlikely.

Teasel - Mencap Garden Wilford Nottingham

Teasel – Mencap Garden Wilford Nottingham

 

The Fading Sky

As I sit at the table to type I look out at a strip of pale blue sky under a layer of cloud. The cloud is touched by light along its lower edge but after that margin of hope, is grey and dead. This has been the pattern of the day, grey with a little brightness, and as I write the illuminated stripe is fading and the blue is becoming grey.

Last night we remarked on the richness of the sunset. I have pictured it before so I decided not to bother with another set of photos, but now I regret that decision. There will be other sunsets, but it’s foolish to squander them in the same way I did when I was an optimistic youth.

Julia is muttering in the kitchen as she uses an wok and a spice kit to produce linguine with prawns and rocket (arugula). It would be unkind, and unwise, to draw parallels between this and the opening scene of Macbeth, but the sky, the muttering and the spice kit are all inclining me to that sort of thinking.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

The prawn linguine with rocket is subtly different from the version suggested in the kit. I didn’t feel the need to order liguine, for instance, as we have plenty of spaghetti and it’s near enough the same. We didn’t have rocket either because I pressed the normal button in my favourites whilst shopping and ordered rocket and baby leaf salad. This gives a slightly different effect and was the subject of some of the muttering.

Although the greens were wrong, it wasn’t me who stirred them all into the meal instead of strewing half of them artistically on top.

It was quite like last night’s experience – a few substitutions and a tasty meal. We’ve made this sort of linguine before, though the seasoning with the spice kit is much better. I am torn when it comes to seasoning – professionals do it better but they use more stuff, including more salt. I try to steer clear of salt.

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Prawn linguine with rocket (and spaghetti)

Tomorrow we will having chicken pie with roast veg and the night after it will be the Iranian Vegetable Stew with the spice kit. Then it will be Thursday night – vegetarian stir fry followed by a new delivery of groceries from TESCO. This week I’m going to make sure I prepare a proper menu, as I’ve been relying on luck and repeating last week’s shopping for the last month.

We started lockdown by being organised and eating a lot of vegetarian options but over time we have reverted to more meat and convenience. We have also started eating fish and chips every week, though that is partly due to wanting to support the local chip shop, rather than a desire for takeaway food. We were already moving away from takeaways before lockdown, but it has certainly helped us stick to it. Our diet is healthier as a result and we are spending less.

I wonder what my diet will be like this time next year. If it’s still healthy I will tell you. If it isn’t, I’ll pretend to forget to tell you.

The teasel is from the front garden – we think they must have seeded from bird seed. The day lily is from the Mencap garden when we visited today to feed the wormery and do a few other jobs. Yes, this a ‘day off’ for a married man. The food has already been covered.

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

Day Lily Mencap Garden Nottingham

 

A World of Interesting Things

I’ve just been looking through my drafts and clicked on this, as I didn’t remember what it was about. There was nothing in it, so I’d obviously thought of a title and left it at that. I checked, but don’t seem to have used it before, so I must have just written the title and drifted off. I do that sometimes.

So, I need a post to go with the title. I’ve spent most of the day researching another post and, thoroughly bored, have decided to park it for another day.

Flowers are interesting. These are some pictures I took on my last few visits to the gardens. Some are new, others have been used before. The iris is, as I may have mentioned, is my favourite flower and, though it may not be as striking as some, the yellow flag is top of my list, as it is normally found by water. What more could you want than a glorious yellow spring flower growing near water whilst ducks quack in the background.

Tootlepedal has a particularly fine example of a blue iris on his blog.

I was sorry to learn on a quiz show today that the iris is only number 20 in Britain’s favourite flowers. This is clearly a travesty, and the list was compiled by people who had no taste. The rose was number one, which is not a surprise. They are pleasant enough, nicely scented and very decorative in quantity.

I am now going to fill up the post with photographs, and am going to tell you that I am doing it, as I need a few words to get me past the 250 mark.

Thinking of Summer

I’m looking forward to summer now. Autumn is all well and good, with plenty of interesting leaves and migrant birds and I like Spring, though it’s always a sad time as you know it won’t last.

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Teasel at Rufford Abbey

Winter, to be fair, offers a few frost-rimed photo opportunities but little else. In the English midlands we don’t have much to offer in the way of scenery or snowfall.

Marigold with frost

Calendula at Wilford

So that leaves Summer. Summer is easy – plenty of flowers and plenty of insects, including butterflies. There’s a lack of birds because they mainly hide behind leaves, but you can’t have everything.

I was speaking to Eddiethebugman earlier today. You may remember his guinea pig shots from an earlier post. He takes a lot of photos of insects (as you may guess from the name) and employs a technique called focus stacking, which produces brilliant images of insects.

As I understand it you bracket the focus settings and use a computer to put together a very sharp image using the best bits from all the shots.

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Angle Shades moth

It’s beyond my technical capabilities, but I’m a great admirer of anyone who can do it.

He was telling me that he was once criticised for using the technique, as it isn’t “proper photography”. It’s a bit like the list of words you shouldn’t use in poems – there’s always someone ready to tell you what you should and shouldn’t be doing. I even read a poetry competition judge recently saying that you shouldn’t write poems about butterflies.

Small Copper

Small Copper in the garden

Who wants to live in a world without butterfly poems?

The same goes for photographs. I’m always happy to see good close-ups of insects, no matter how they are produced. If someone wants to spend hours over producing one perfect image I’m prepared to admire both the photograph and the craftsmanship.

My photos, as you can see, are more of a point and shoot affair with a large helping of luck and hit and miss. I’ve added a few to liven up the post.

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Comedy carrot

 

 

A Walk in the Woods

I went for a walk in the woods today and, as you can see from the header picture, I managed to get a photograph of a Nuthatch. It took some doing, I’ve discarded around 20 blurred images and another 20 photos of an empty table. They really are flighty birds.

The morning looked hopeful, with sunlight and a number of great lighting effects behind the clouds. By the time I reached Rufford Abbey the light had, of course gone. It did reappear a couple of times, mainly at the wrong time and in the wrong place.

 

There were a few other birds about but I failed in my attempts to photograph a variety of tits and waterfowl. I had been hoping to get some shots of swans, with reflections, but that was doomed by a lack of swans. There were a few of this year’s cygnets about but they didn’t come close enough for an attempt.

One of the few subjects that did benefit from the lighting was the bed of teasels. They also have the advantage of not moving much.

 

The Last Nasturtiums

I’ve always gauged the end of the year by the first serious frost, which always tends to flatten the nasturtiums. In my mind winter starts when the nasturtiums finish. The calendar may disagree, but that’s how I see it.

They are actually doing quite well in the Mencap gardens at the moment. The nasturtiums are still looking reasonable, and there are quite a few stragglers in the beds. My original thought for a post was “The Last Geranium” but the photograph didn’t come out that well.

 

As you can see, there is still a lot of colour in the garden, though it’s mainly just a few stragglers rather than beds of colour now. The sumac has mainly shed its leaves now, though the sedums are still showing well.

The Elephant  Grass (Miscanthus sinensis Zebrinus) is still looking good, with its stripes and fronds and the teasel, always looks good at this time of year.

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In fact there’s so much to show that I’ve just posted photos and I’ll let them speak for themselves.

There were birds around too, plus a new art installation and piece falling off the camera – an interesting day all round, and material for a second post.