Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Jazzing up the Front

The rose I purchased almost two years ago to ramble around the front door (who doesn't want a cottage with roses around the front door?) is living up to its name - Starlight Express - and growing frantically, to the point I am having to be determined with tying it to the trellis to keep it as relatively tamed as possible. However, it is making the front door look a tad unbalanced so the Bank Holiday had me hieing to the garden centre where I purchased a ball of privet on a stick. Or 'topiary', as I believe it is known in finer gardening circles.

It's about 5 and a half feet tall, this lollipop tree, and I thought maybe I could persuade the ball to take on the shape of a cat, or a hen, as it grows. What's not to like about a topiary cat/hen on a stick by your front door, eh? Anyway, I wanted a nice pot for it to sit in. A red one, I thought, to match the front door itself and the Aga and the kitchen walls, and to enrage my mother who hates red. Couldn't find the right pot and I wasn't prepared to compromise for the sake of convenience so the tree came home potless.

It has a pot now though! A square wooden planter. They look very well together except the wooden planter is wood and not red. But I could paint it, couldn't I? Yes, I could! Just another job to add to my endless list of jobs to do. Stupidly, I made a list recently entitled 'Jobs for the House and Garden.' Then I panicked and divided it into two lists - Jobs for the House and Jobs for the Garden - just so I could breath again. My fault for writing it all down, but I do like a list. But progress is being made, albeit slowly. I am currently in conversation with a carpenter/joiner chap about 1) wood flooring and skirting in the living room and dining room 2) sorting out the bannister and landing rails and maybe making them Bambino-proof which I suspect will involve making Bambino wear kitten socks, and 3) building an office/computer space in the gap under the stairs in the dining room so we don't keep chucking tat in the void behind the desk currently in situ. 

It was Andy's birthday a couple of weeks ago and I gave him a trail camera to fix up in the garden to catch exciting images of the boundless and myraid range of wildlife that wander around when we aren't there to see them. Andy has been moving it around to various locations, training it on interesting looking holes in the ground, gaps in the hedges, stuff like that. So far it has captured lots of running chicken pictures and lots of either me or himself pushing the lawnmower around. And birds. Lots of birds. 

Until last night, that is. When, there by the woodshed, there was.....

....a fox! A chuffing fox. Sigh.....

I am an optimistic though. I am holding out for an aardvark, maybe. Or a gnu. Andy asked if I was worried about a fox being around, because of the hens. Well, my theory is that we are meticulous about shutting them away safely at night and we have been keeping hens for 10 years now and never lost one to a fox so we should be okay as long as he keeps spreading his male pheremone pee around the hens' enclosure.

And if that isn't an open invitation to Fate to blow my theory out of the water then I don't know what is. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

'Tis easier to update a garden...

So, Weebly has decided it no longer likes my i-pad, it being too ancient and all, but I am not going to be forced into buying a new i-pad just because Weebly says so. So it is 'au revoir' to Weebly and 'Hello Blogger, my old friend,' once more.

On with the garden, then, which is less technologically stubborn and pushy, it's only updates being those we want to make of it and not the other way around.

With the onset of Spring proper, everything has burst into life. Much gardening occuring here at Damson Cottage, then. The wisteria is looking magnificent and smells delicious, too.

It is about a week later blooming than last year, but the flowers are heavier and longer.

I've been tiddling around with the courtyard, having decided to fill it up with more plants in big pots. Acers, then, and pansies, violas, azalea and in the borders aquilegia, some purple thistly thing and lemon balm in the shady border under the massive climbing rose.

The baby lavender and bay we were giving as housewarming gifts almost two years ago are positively rampant - and don't ask me how the strawberries took up residence because I certainly didn't put them there but there they are, romping away towards Wimbledon readiness...
Up in the middle garden we are expecting a tsunami of foxgloves and the lilac is beautifully lush.

The vegetable garden hasn't made much progress; however, you can see how well the hormbeam hedge we planted almost 18 months ago has developed. I am looking forward to the day when I can tuck myself up against it with a book, a cosy and secluded corner inside the veg garden. 

The fruit cage is doing well - raspberries, rhubarb, blackcurrant, gooseberries. The cuttings I took from the cultivated blackberry a.k.a no bastard thorns, have taken, much to my surprise! 

The grapevine is also looking pretty darn good. It is growing against the shed at the top of the garden. The shed is one third brick wall in height, and two thirds wood for the rest of the height. It isn't very tall. Our plan is to remove the wood bit of the walls and replace! Turning it into...a greenhouse! A BIG greenhouse! And the grapevine can be trained inside it to grow glasshouse grapes. Watch this space, becuase this is next Damson Cottage Big Project.

Today I planted two beds up with baby lavenders. You know what I am like with my lavender. They'll take a couple of years to properly establish but they'll make a lovely spread when they do.

The tree house is still the tree house...

And the hens are still the hens. Too much lounging around and half-hearted moulting going on at the moment and scant egg laying, but they are good girls and they entertain me enormously.

And then walking back down towards the cottage, all is green and lush and lovely...

Even the honeysuckle, which often pretends it is dead, has beenrejuvenated by the weather and is making a sterling effort of covering the oil tank. 

So now I am going to set about rejuvenating the blog, fluffing it up a bit, welcoming it to Damson Cottage. Good old Blogger! I'm glad to be back! 

Saturday, 31 May 2014

The Final Curtain...

...or perhaps NOT!! Hey, hey we are on our way! Finally, after much hoo-ha and huffing and puffing and 'shall we, shan't we?' lasting a good couple of years (because life is a dress rehearsal, isn't it, and we shall get that time back for good behaviour, shan't we?) Andy and I have moved to our own website!!

Called, surprisingly and originally, Much Malarkey Manor (!) it can be found by following this link to which you may have to type manually into your search engine of choice address bar because I am writing this on the Blogger app and cannot for the life of me find the linky thing that makes it work automatically. You can give it a try if you like, but don't hold your breath and/ or be surprised if the instant magic does not happen. Andy says he is going to tiddle with it later - I am assuming he means the link and nothing more rude or sinister. 

Anyhoo, why have we now gone all website? To be honest, we aren't 100% sure. It was something we discussed as we were playing around with website templates at the start of May. And these are the reasons we came up with. 

Firstly, it seemed a very grown-up thing to do. All the best people have websites, don't they? To let the rest of the world know what fab people they are and what they can do/ sell/ make etc. Secondly, it  was decided we needed a bigger and better forum for our writing, because we all know that bigger is better, don't we, especially when it comes to cake or potatoes or hot air balloons. And thirdly, as we both work part-time we needed something useful and worthwhile to occupy our spare hours with other than watching cookery programmes and playing endless games of Mah-Jong Titans. 

Well, it's a start anyway...and very much an early stage work in forgive the rough edges for a while as we become 'website savvy.'

To be honest, I wasn't expecting us to 'go live' today (this is a technical term, apparently). I was thinking it might be tomorrow, because tomorrow is the 1st June which has a neat and tidy air about it which appeals to my mild OCD tendencies - you know, doing something new on the first of the month. But then Andy took me by surprise. He also said, 'We are going live - TODAY! Write blogs! Tell people, in case they turn up at the old place and find the doors locked and all the furniture missing. We don't want them calling the police, do we?' So I did. I have.

And thus, as I approach the end of my sixth year a-blogging, we move into new and potentially exciting territory. No one can accuse us of being resistant to change, oh no! Just a bit slow off the mark, maybe. But we are determined to build this city on rock and roll...what? Did I mean that? You see - getting all celeb already! We are determined to build up the site, add new things (also a technical term) on a very regular basis, and hopefully keep you all as entertained as you have been in the past and more.

So this is the last post (par par paaaarp!) on this blogspot. Normal service is being continued on the new website. Forward we go, into strange new worlds, to seek out new cake, new civilisations, to boldly split infinitives where no decent teacher of English would have dared before...

See you, as Arthur Conan Doyle probably said, on the other side...! 


Thursday, 29 May 2014

Cobwebs Gone!

There is nothing like a short break in a cottage in the middle of nowhere surrounded by sheep in order to blow away the cobwebs. You know, those cobwebs that encroach by some stealthy and insidious process and clog up the workings of your mind to the point where you find want to trade in your boring current existence for something shiny, new and jolly well exciting. Damn those cobwebs! Damn them!

Anyway, Andy and I set off on Sunday for a much needed four day break in green and lovely Worcestershire/Herefordshire/Shropshire Shire. We found our cottage at the end of a long bumpy narrow track on top of a hill. Our neighbours were sheep. It was very quiet. Apart from the sheep. They were quite loud. But not as loud as rush hour cars, say, or neighbours having loud barbecues, or shouting matches, or, well, you get the gist. 

On Monday, we visited Malvern spa town, because they were having a food festival, which was excellent and far better than any excuse for a food festival I have ever attended in Kent. We purchased much lovely food and thus have lost no weight this week. We got a bit lost coming out of Malvern and ended up right at the top of the Malvern hills, almost in Heaven's clouds. It was a bit scary because a) the roads were very narrow and steep and full of locals who drove like lunatics because, presumably, they knew their roads well and were unafraid of heights and narrowness and brushing the bottoms of Heaven's clouds and b) we didn't know quite how and when we were ever going to find our way back to the cottage because we kept having déjà vu moments as we went round and round in circles. But eventually we did. Phew!

And the only not quite nice thing about the day was witnessing a cyclist whizzing down a steep hill, all togged up in Lycra and stupid goggles and pointy helmet pretending he was all that, and being most rude and shouty towards some pedestrians who weren't quite quick enough in getting out of his way because they were (how DARE they!) crossing the road at the time. This isn't the first time we have witnessed such bad behaviour from these togged up 'look at me - I'm a Bradley Wiggins wannabee' cyclists. Ordinary cyclists seem fine, but add Lycra and shorts and elbow pads and ta-dah! You get a moron who thinks he has the right to cycle down the centre of the road at high speeds, swearing at pedestrians and generally behaving like a lout. Well, it ain't clever, big or funny. It is wazzock behaviour. Get over yourself. Grow some road manners. And stop riding three abreast on roads with your mates like you are a car. Rant over.

We visited Malvern Abbey, too, and a National Trust property which shall remain nameless only because I do not wish to embarrass them by nominating them as having the worst set of tea room staff ever, who did a lot of faffing around in a very disorganised and faffy way and the words 'p*ss up' and 'brewery' kept springing to mind. And that a spot of watching how the efficient staff at Worcester Cathedral managed their tea room would probably be of some benefit. Just a thought.  

On Tuesday we went to Worcester. Lovely city. Lots of swans on the river. Magnificent cathedral. Interesting museum at the now sadly defunct Worcestershire Porcelain factory. They once had a factory cat called 'Pudding.' Great name for a cat, Pudding. No ego-cyclists. Marvellous cathedral tea shop. And no, I do not have a new job working for the Worcester Tourist Board! But their website did cause mild anger issues with Andy because of its general inadequacies. They might want to brush it up a bit. Oh, and on Tuesday we were almost hit by a small cow who jumped out of a ditch at us as we drove by, and we almost ran over an entire family of squirrels. But you will be pleased to know that no animals were damaged in the making of this short break. Phew! Oh, and Andy threw a bottle of wine all over a shop floor in quite magnificent fashion. But not as magnificent as the lady in the petrol station today who threw a whole crateful of Red Bull all over the floor.

Yesterday, we went to one of my favourite ever places - Ludlow. We didn't stay long because it was freezing cold and a bit rainy and mucho windio, and all I had with me was a flimsy cardie because I stupidly thought I wouldn't need my Winter coat in almost June, would I? Anyway, Ludlow was every bit as good as I remember it from our last visit. Did a spot of retail therapy in the form of a lovely floral jug (for flowers), a lovely shiny pink handbag (for lady writer accoutrements) and fluffy blue ballet slippers (for feet.) 

And today, we came home. Good journey. No hold ups. The cats were not cross with us for long for our blatant desertion of their constant animals needs and I don't think the hens were even aware we had been missing. The house was still standing, the postman had delivered nothing but junk mail and within two hours I had taken two cold calls - one from British Telecom who are well getting on my nerves at the moment, and another from a website I had visited about taking a Tefl qualification and whose website box I DEFINITELY remember ticking in order to prevent receiving cold calls...sigh...

But it is good to be home! I feel refreshed and dynamic, and my rant reserve is fully topped up. Andy felt so refreshed he immediately went out and bought a new law mower and mowed both front AND back lawns. 

And now I shall go and rustle up some dinner from holiday leftovers, which could be interesting...

Saturday, 24 May 2014

For English Teachers Everywhere

Found this during an Interwebbly perambulation. Cheered me up no end. Being an English teacher and all...

Great English Teachers Are...

...passionate about many things
...people to be reckoned with
...people with opinions
...people you can't ignore
...reading mad - they couldn't live if they didn't read! too hard
...don't pretend to know all the answers individualism
...balance spontaneity with structure
...have high expectations and ideals the process of teaching for its creative opportunities
...are undervalued
...have a powerful emotional impact
...get nervous on exam results day
...more important than they realise.

Monday, 19 May 2014

Grannie Blows Her Trumpet

Good evening,all!

I am briefly hijacking the blog from Primrose and Daisy (and I had to wait until this evening, Mondays being their 'Samova and Samosa' night out) to tell you quickly about what I did this afternoon.

This afternoon I attended a Celebration Tea at Kayleigh's school, to see her being awarded with a certificate, citation and book prize in recognition of her 100% effort in everything she does, her excellent academic achievement and her being an all-round fab little girl who is kind, and cheerful and caring and well behaved! 

Fair brought a tear to my eye it did! What a brilliant recognition of her first year in formal education! 

Well done, Kayleigh! Grandpa and I are very proud of you! And well done, Chris and Leane, for doing such a good parenting job that allowed Kayleigh to make this grand achievement. 

I am blowing my trumpet and I don't care who hears!

Right, back to the renovations of Much Malarkey Manor.

Daisy and Primrose will be back forthwith...I just hope they haven't over-indulged the samosas. Curried chick pea wrapped in fried filo, plus a chicken's digestive system is never a good combination. 

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Up, Up and Away!

Daisy is looking very pleased with herself. She has the kind of look on her face which suggests she has just made a discovery. A discovery like finding a lone biscuit in the tin which you thought was empty. Or that you are related to someone famous like James Pimm who invented Pimms. Or you can fly...

'How did you get over there?' demands Primrose. Primrose is standing on one side (also known as 'the correct side') of the chicken run fence, and Daisy is standing on the other side (also known as 'the green-and-lush-and-chicken-poop-free side') of the chicken run fence.The four feet high barrier betwixt the two is still standing, and the gate in the fence is shut fast.

'I flew!' says Daisy. 

'You what?' says Primrose.

'Flew!' says Daisy. 'You should have a go. Flying achieves instant access to the whole garden without having to want until Denise and/or Andy decide we can have an hour or two of wanton lawn destruction time and let us through the gate.'

At that moment Denise appears. 'You are a naughty hen,' she says, and, sprinkling a trail of sunflower seeds up the lavender walk, leads Daisy back to the gate in the fence and secures her on 'the right side.'

Daisy hoovers up the sunflower seeds and waits until Denise has retired to the Manor to continue supervising the builders who are continuing the transformation of the blog. This sequence of flying events has already happened three times this morning. Daisy is getting fed up of sunflower seeds and is wishing Denise would tempt her back to barracks with some other tasty tidbit, like, oh, brioche or smoked salmon or a few peeled grapes. 

'Now,' says Daisy. 'Watch this...'

And she paces up and down the fence a few times, and then stands back as though she is judging the height of the fence, and then she steps back a few paces as though she is assessing a bit of a run-up, and then, from pretty much a standing start, she leaps into the air, flaps her wings and lands...PLOP!... In the middle of the lawn some eight feet away. 

'Freedom!!!' she yells, as she flies through the air. 

From an upstairs open window a voice of resigned tone shouts, 'She's done it again!' and this time Andy appears, captures Daisy and dumps her back in the chicken run.

'It's a bit of a lark, isn't it!' says Daisy, who is very excited by the whole shenanigans. 'I only wish I had discovered this flying business ages ago. It is most liberating, both in the physical sense and the 'chickens shall not be slaves to the egg market' sense.'

'Perhaps I should give it a go,' says Primrose, although she is a little more reticent because she is considerably shorter in the leg and body than Daisy. 

'You could try,' says Daisy. 'Although you are a bit of a short-arse. Perhaps if you climbed on top of the new dust bath Andy so kindly provided for us the other week, you might achieve the extra height you need.'

'You mean like the extra height it gave you to destroy all the leaves on the bottom branches of the damson tree?' says Primrose.

'Exactamundo!' says Daisy. 'And most delicious they were, too.'

'I'm not sure,' says Primrose. 'I mean, I'm not great with heights. I'm getting a bit dizzy in these espadrilles,' and she waggled her feet at Daisy. Daisy ignores her, because it is her belief that espadrilles are a ridiculous item of footwear, especially when there are flip-flops to be had for half the price.

'And something else I have discovered,' says Daisy, by means of temptation,'is that I rather like lemon balm. See those holes?' and she points to the lemon balm which is looking a bit raggedy round the edges. 'That wasn't slugs, you know. It was me!'

'Really?' says Primrose. 'But Denise was very careful in her herb garden planning. She deliberately chose plants that caused repulsion in hens. Like lemon balm.'

'Well I say never be repulsed by anything unless you've given it a try,' says Daisy.

'Perhaps I'll try later,' says Primrose. 'When I've finished decoupaging this stationery box. Oh, by the way, we have a new guest at Much Malarkey Manor.'

'How exciting!' says Daisy.

'Her name is Joanne,' says Primrose. 'And I think we should mention other guests who have recently arrived, too, like Catherine and Sarah and Allan.'

'Where are we going to put them?' says Daisy. 'I mean, once the builders have finished with the renovations there will be plenty of space, but what with Olly taking up pretty much the whole of the West Wing with her knitting we are getting tight for space.'

'It's okay,' says Primrose, 'Tango Pete is arriving this afternoon to erect his Yurt.'

'Oh really?' says Daisy. 'I don't see how that is going to help...'

'A yurt,' interrupts Primrose, before the tone of the conversations starts plummeting into the gutter, 'is an enormous Mongolian tent. It has a proper floor and woodburning stove and everything. It is essential glamping equipment. A glampers is someone who needs their hair straighteners EVERY day, before you ask.'

'Riiiiight...' says Daisy, who is only half-listening because she is contemplating another flying excursion but can see Denise watching her from her arty-crafty writing room window with her best 'don't you dare' teacher look on her face. 

'So I think we are all right for accommodation,' says Primrose. 'And I am also glad, as temporary writers in residence, that we have attracted another guest with our witty banter. It means we can't be doing that bad a job.'

'Of course we aren't!' says Daisy. 'We are fab, we are.' 

And she disappears over the fence...