Snow & Ice… But This Time Last Year…

More of the white stuff has fallen and is still falling this weekend.

It is bitterly cold outside – and in – as we are both confined to the one room warmed by the wood-burner. The rest of the house is cold on account of our ’emergency level’ of low oil. Unfortunately the long-suffering forgot to check the oil gauge as red light and pump sign flashed frantically on and off warning of dangerously low levels.

 

In his defence it is situated behind the door, not always visible, and this is our first whole winter in our house, nevertheless his shoulders are slumped as it is his job in our house to check these things.

A quick phone call to our supplier would not relieve the current situation for at least 10 – 14 days! The recent Beast from the East has meant delivery times have been extended to cope with the backlog. The present ‘mini beast from the East’ will no doubt have the potential to extend delivery times further still.

As I leave the comfort of the wood-burner and add some warm layers to make a hot cup of tea in our freezing kitchen, my mind drifts off to warmer climes……..

This time last year we had no such worries as we relaxed at the end of nearly two months away on a warm beach.

GROUNDS-11Thailand was the last leg of our indulgent long holiday after four weeks touring New Zealand in a Motorhome, followed by two weeks in Australia.

We stayed at The Shore Katathani resort for a two-week relax and unwind from an amazing adventure packed six weeks of travelling. Our villa – expertly researched by the long-suffering was a dream. Set into steep lush hillside with beautiful sea views and its very own private infinity pool he and I were not disappointed with his choice.

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The steep walk up and down many steps/ramps gave us ample cardio in-between just lazing around and generally being waited on, and if the heat got too much and sweating man made an appearance we could always take the ever available golf buggy up instead. With high humidity outside and air-conditioning inside, drawing back the blinds in the morning revealed condensation covered glass doors out to the view. Luckily the Long-suffering duly obliged with his window cleaning skills!

Primarily Thailand was our down time however, we did do one all day excursion involving a ninety minute coach journey followed by a speed boat trip to the Phi Phi Islands archipelago in the Andaman Sea.

Maya Bay shoot location of the film ‘The Beach’ starring Leonardo di Caprio was one of a few islands our tour guide took us to.

This island has recently been in the news, reported to be temporarily closing from June this year due to the extremely high visitor numbers – 5000 or more people a day.

From our experience last year, controlling visitor numbers can only be a good thing for the conservation of these beautiful islands and reefs.  Nothing prepares you for the sheer volume of people on what is promoted to be an idyllic beach. The posters depict it almost devoid of people and boats. The reality is anything but!

Brochure Picture………

Reality……….

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There were quieter moments walking through the lush vegetation out to the lookout, a welcome retreat from the masses.

We also visited Monkey Island……

For our part we preferred to view the Macaques from the boat which was just as well as the shore was busy with other tour boats, although the monkeys from a distance seemed at ease with the attention!

Bamboo Island our first stop…….

and Ko Phi Phi Don………..

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Sadly all the islands on our visit were just parking lots for the many boats lined up along the shores or bobbing in the water. I am sure in the non tourist times when the masses have left they would once again resemble the idyllic Islands the Brochures suggest!

An encroaching storm meant a rough and wet ride back to Phuket as we sped accross the water, even the plastic ponchos we were kindly supplied with were in danger of being ripped from us by the strong winds whipping around the open to the elements boat. Exhilarating to say the least!

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Back in the vicinity of the wood-burner our time away from the british winter last year is but a distant, happy memory. Nevertheless spring is around even if it is currently under a blanket of snow!

 

 

Out from the Cloud!

This week I have been full of optimism once again at being able to continue my horticultural line of work. With a spring in my step and gentle warmth on my back I worked happily under the early spring sun reassuring me that a new growing season is just beginning. The gardens are full of promise as they wake up from their winter slumber.

Gone is the self-doubt and despair that winter always brings upon me as I tread carefully on slippery paths. Everything is heavier – soil, wheelbarrows and weed buckets. The cold and damp send my hip and leg into spasms. I lurch sideways as I over compensate for ‘being careful’. The dreaded limp becomes more pronounced and the familiar ache in my lower back groans with the extra effort of stability as I slip and slide. I question the logic of this labour intensive occupation!

I work less days in the winter now than before ‘The Accident’, such is my very real fear of damaging the good work my surgeon made putting me back together. I am lucky in that my regular clients are understanding, most have known me before and after. There is not so much to do, the gardens are for the most part winter dormant, nevertheless I still feel guilty every day I am at home.

Luckily some horticultural tasks can be achieved at the drawing board in the warmth of the dining room/office. A time to plan new gardens and borders.

In Winter my mood like the weather becomes unpredictable. Time alone becomes my friend and enemy in equal measure. I am either manic and ‘can do’ as I throw myself into new and put aside projects or the opposite as I head down into the pit of despair becoming despondent, reclusive and unable to concentrate or settle to anything productive.

A can do moment in January saw me enrolling on a beginners oil painting course. For the long-suffering any new hobby – there are many – give him welcome birthday present ideas and this year it was a floor-standing easel to assist me on another journey, this time as an artist!

The Kitchen has like the dining room become dual purpose, at least until the days are warmer when I will decamp out to the summer-house in the garden.

The class started with tonal studies, followed by gradually adding more colours. We have worked on portraiture, landscape and as now back to still life. Some are finished and some will need more work.

Efforts so far Portrait……

Still Life…….

Landscape……..

I have even in past years been manic with knitting projects…………

In previous years for the Grandchildren at Mole Hall a blanket and toys!

This year a knitting project for a new grandchild due in June …….

 

My worry of retiring from a job I love is the catalyst for my despair days. Hours of on-line searching for a less strenuous way to earn a wage plunge me downwards and bitterness rears its ugly head once again.

But in the end gardening is all I want to do, still….. Gardening makes me happy, and is the one thing above any other that I feel confident at. This week my mood was instantly lifted I was outside surrounded by nature – birds, early insects, rabbit munching young shoots, hopping away as I arrived. The resident dog, dropping her ball on my trowel as I weeded, eyes excited, tail wagging, expectant for me to throw one more time. A different garden the resident cat sat on top of an arbour purring as he too enjoyed like me the warming sun, his eyes lazy, half-shut watched me as I toiled away below.

Moving out of the winter season will steadily see my hours increase as the mornings get lighter and the working day gets longer. There will be less time and inclination to spend on indoor pursuits, although I am determined this year to keep up with writing, painting and photography. But for now thoughts of changing what I do will become a distant memory – that is until the next winter when old doubts will rise again!

 

New Wheels – Mini Road Trip!

The Mazda MX5 RF has just been announced as the What Car top Cabriolet for 2018. The long-suffering is feeling smug with a told you so look on his face. It may be top car but I (and him) have not seen another one on the road since his purchase last summer!

In June 2017 the long-suffering suffered a mid life crisis and as such traded his old ‘sensible’ Mazda 3 Saloon for the new ‘convertable’ Mazda MX5 RF. Of course ‘he bought it for us…..to make us drive out on warm, sunny days/evenings/weekends’. Who is he kidding!

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Practical it is not in our rural location – hedges are high while we travel low, dwarfed by large oncoming vehicles in the middle of narrowing roads and liable to bottom out as we swerve to avoid collision into a potholed passing place!

However what it lacks in practicality – small boot, only room for two – it more than makes up for in its frivolously fun drivability. With the roof down, wind in our ‘greying hair’ I am transported back thirty years to our first date in long-sufferings original soft top, the characterful lopsided Triumph Spitfire.

The RF has an electronic retractable hard roof meaning boot space is tight. On the upside with the roof retracted we are a little more enclosed than the traditional MX5 – my hairstyle if not perfect at our destination does not now resemble a birds nest!

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Although the hip outwardly groans getting in, once down into the seat it is comfort supreme, my exit is a little more tricky and as after any journey of more than 30mins I revert once more to my ‘Quasimodo’ style of walk until limbered up again.

After a few evening drives out locally to Weymouth……. IMG_2337Studland…….

and Lulworth Cove…..

we were ready for a two day mini road trip to Cornwall……….

Day 1….. Our early start on a warm July day paid off and we arrived at Trebah Gardens – our planned excursion – just after opening. The leisurely stop for breakfast along the way had not happened as in a blur we passed breakfast vans and cafes at speed. Long-suffering muttering ‘there will be another one further on’ of course eventually there was not!

Instead almost at Trebah, hunger getting the better of him he pulled into a garage, where we had words over inedible warmed bacon rolls – me, and spilt hot chocolate over the RF floor – him!

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Trebah Gardens –  beautiful 26 acre sub-tropical ravine garden.  Australian tree ferns, lush waterside plantings, majestic, stately specimen trees, blue Hydrangeas on mass and its own private beach. A gardeners delight!

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Gunnera Plantation

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After lunch on the private beach, our next stop was Portloe – a pretty unspoilt fishing village in the Roseland Peninsular. We walked up one side of the steep valley before stopping off at the Lugger Hotel where we sat outside drinking cold beer looking out to sea.

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On to Portholland beach – a granite wall backs the rocky outcrops of this beach, between the small hamlets situated to the east and west with a total of only forty residents between them. We sat for a while in the warm sun reclining in two travel deckchairs we had crammed last minute into the boot along with the cabin size case, holdall, coats, and walking boots. Not such a small boot after all it would seem!

Off the beaten track……..

And finally our stop for the night Mevagissey….

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A walk where we shouldn’t with the aid of a kindly villager!

Evening Sunset View from our B&B terrace

Cornwall-19 Day 2 – After a good nights sleep and a ‘Full English’ for breakfast we set off heading east to Charlestown our morning stop-off on our route back home to Dorset.

Cornwall-36The working Port here dates back to the late 18th Century and little has changed in Charlestown since. It has a lovely old charm with little in the way of any large scale developments and creates the perfect setting for period dramas such as Poldark, Mansfield Park and Hornblower to name a few.

We explored the resident Square Rigger ship moored against the harbour walls, an area busy with tourists and a party of artists busy sketching and painting the scene before them.

The Shipwreck Rescue and Heritage Centre centre located in an a historic China Clay building kept our attention for a good hour, following the history from its early beginnings as a small fishing village to present day. We walked underground tunnels where the clay trucks were pushed out to ships in the port for the once thriving China Clay industry which followed on from the transport of copper from nearby mines. The construction of the port dock and harbour began in 1791 by Charles Rashleigh.

We had time after our light lunch sat overlooking the port for a quick walk on the beach before heading home roof down until the rain stopped play, however this small inconvenience only served to enable the long-suffering to demonstrate once again how quick and with very little effort – just the push of a button – we could be watertight once more!

My thoughts on this Cabriolet of the year….. It is fun, economical – compared to my 4×4 – a responsive drive – according to long-suffering and it IS making us take time out especially spur of the minute which suits my personality.

However It is NOT practical for visiting gardens that have either plants for sale or any gardening related paraphernalia as there is just not the room for impulse purchases unless the boot is empty and even then there is a severe height issue!

Having said that I did manage to squeeze in the boot some iron sculpture for the garden from Trebah, but the coveted tractor seat had to reluctantly be left in the shop.

This year 2018 I shall hope for a good dry summer and lots more garden visits after all isn’t that what he bought it for? Oh and maybe I will spot another Mazda MX5 RF on our travels this year. Are there any other owners out there to back up the accolade?

 

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out!

IMG_1769And so the saying goes, but ….. does it mean The month of May or when the Hawthorn fills its branches with ‘May’ blossom?

It seems on this we mortals are divided, but whatever your preference our ‘May’ Hawthorn blossom is out in all its glory, however I am still wearing scarf and fleece, and if the last two weeks are anything to go by I will not be casting them off any time soon!

For the last six weeks or so summer bedding and vegetable seedlings have been available to purchase alongside the weekly grocery shop as well as the usual horticultural outlets. I wonder how many new enthusiastic gardeners were caught out by the late frosts of a fortnight ago, and then watched as they blackened and died, or sat and sulked becoming slug bait in their weakened state.

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I myself got itchy fingers with a cold frame bursting at the seams but luckily common sense prevailed on that occasion.

Instead my attentions went elsewhere in the garden specifically to my outdoor summer-house.  Until a couple of weeks ago it had become a second shed with folding garden chairs/tables, empty plastic plant pots and anything else that never made it back to the actual garden shed!

The idea was to create a calm space to read, write, paint or retreat to when I am either too jiggered to work in my own garden after toiling away in my clients, or long-suffering has his all things sporting day(s) on the TV!

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First a complete clear out of items to be stored elsewhere, the remainder sat outside waiting while I brushed and swept, disappearing in a cloud of dust sending any resident spiders heading for cover deep in any vacant nook or cranny.

An old table I up-cycled years ago was to become – with modification – my desk, all I needed was an upright chair to sit on……. Oh the beauty of the internet, at the touch of a button – or two – a second-hand furniture store was located in Dorchester not far from us.

Dorchester Curiosity Centre trading from the Old Bus Depot. An Aladdin’s cave greeted us as we moved from room to room full with furniture, bric-a-brac, collectibles and more. It was easy to lose yourself there for a couple of hours especially with the added temptation of a hot cuppa and glorious home-made cakes to die for!

In the end decisions had to be made and we settled on a painted chair for the desk, a comfy ‘Lloyd loom’ style chair to relax in and an old milking stool to use as a side table.

My ‘haven’ is now complete with gardening, art and writing books/magazines, there is power too extending the hours I can indulge out there!

IMG_1806This last weekend although sunny, was cooled by a chilly breeze, the welcome 12mm of rain did much to perk things up! The Dahlias in the cutting patch have come through the winter and are showing strong – if a little munched – growth, hopefully the late addition of copper rings will help keep invadors at bay! Long-suffering has given my retreat a fresh coat of paint – giving up Saturday afternoon sport fixtures to do so!

The autumn sown onion sett’s planted before our Road Trip have not been a success, appearing to my eye neither strong or prolific, in our reduced plot there is not room for more! Saturday I succumbed although ‘May is not out’ to the planting in the veg plot of runner & french beans, along with nurtured flower seedlings for the cutting patch. The courgettes will be waiting another week yet though!

The fleece is ready should frost threaten although the weather man is predicting rain for the days ahead. Fingers crossed then!

Some new – car boot and bargain basement new – additions to the garden for the toddler – from the house of two halves in Cyprus. Hopefully come August when next she comes to stay pressure on the wooden duck in the border who is almost headless from being continually thrown down the slide will be relieved.

Some May flowers in the garden……….

And a Sunday morning breezy steep coastal walk to keep the hip from getting complacent at West Bay Bridport……..

Where did April Go?

The whirlwind that is our family from the house of two halves in Cyprus have flown back to their home after spending sixteen days living with us. Calm – but not necessarily order – has returned to our humble abode

This past month has flown by in a whirlwind of activity as first we faced the reality of back to work after two months away on the other side of the world, whilst at the same time with the garden in full wake up mode there was jobs to do outside as well as in.

In the midst of all this activity, our sons Wedding Day was fast approaching – eighteen months of planning now only weeks away. Our daughter in Cyprus was to be bridesmaid the reason for their extended stay and our frantic endeavours to prepare the house for a family of six!

Preparations started out in the garage as the long-suffering swung himself monkey style up on the rafters to retrieve stair gates, Jumperoo, collapsible buggy, outdoor slide, toddler car seat and booster seat. Next it was the loft, down came the old  cot, toys, high chair and changing mat.

Through the door over the course of two weeks there followed by courier a steady stream of baby wipes, nappies, fold out mini bed, extra bedding, baby cream, breast pads and much more besides as the long-suffering catered for every eventuality.

Meanwhile I took the recyclable option and toured the local charity shops for toys and books to help keep the little ones entertained!

And like all the best Grandparents entertain we did! Every morning we woke up to read the wheels on the bus or incy wincy spider until we knew them word for word and the actions too.

Breakfast, first the toddler – a surprisingly clean affair, next the baby – totally the opposite – with that mornings offering over her, me and floor! My own breakfast was always a shared affair with toddler finishing hers extra quick to help me with mine. The older two – boy and almost teen – followed down later at intervals boy first with messy hair and teen her ponytail perfectly smooth after hours of repetitive brushing.

The end of the day always finished with the regimental routine of bath-time this used to be long-sufferings time, but now baby in too means back up is needed, we both and baby end up looking like drowned rats as toddler demonstrates her prowess at splashing every one and thing in sight!

I am left to do nappies and pyjamas, a stressful experience as the toddler has hers so tight as to stop leakage and possibly circulation!  The baby now rolls constantly while sucking her toes – her only option as sucking thumbs is frowned on by the parents – causing powder to not always land where directed, still the carpet has a lovely marbled effect now! Story time follows, book of choice Incy Wincy Spider!

The days went by too quick a never ending cycle of daily washing, cooking, working and best of all spending time playing with the young and chilling with the parents when young are in bed! Easter came and went leaving behind a mountain of Easter eggs in its wake.

Plug plants from Sarah Raven –  my guilty secret this year – steadily arrived at intervals in the midst of all this increased activity sending my stress levels through the roof as I secretly potted on the tiny fragile seedlings, so as not to alert the toddler to the delights of water and compost.

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And then the big day arrived, our son, ‘the baby’ of the family married his long term girlfriend. The ceremony was conducted and held at Athelhampton House in Dorset, more on this to follow in another post as I write my review!

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So here we are in present day ‘the aftermath’……………The washing machine is ready for a rest from the relentless daily offering of all things messy that only babies, toddlers, boys and teens provide. We have given away or are eating the Easter eggs left behind along with half eaten packets of biscuits and wedding cake – bad news for long-sufferings expanding waistline!

We have dismantled equipment now stacked waiting for the return to loft and rafters.  Our lounge once again is a grown up space as is the kitchen without high chairs, bibs, wipes, baby cups and cutlery.

The vases of table flowers so carefully arranged for the big day by the brides father and myself are gradually dying, each day on my return more petals from the ever depleted blooms have fallen until soon they will be no more.

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Only now in the eerie quiet of a house without children, we are suddenly both in mourning for the holiday of a lifetime so long in the planning over and gone, grandchildren arriving and then leaving, a wedding excitedly anticipated – bringing family and friends together if only for a weekend.

We will rally, quicker than we think too, already the long-suffering is back enjoying the rectangular box in the corner of the room showing all things sporting.

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Me, I will happily retire to tending the garden and endeavour to get back to regular writing again, away from all things sporting!

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The Meadow

What a happy homecoming, after eight weeks of travel on the opposite side of the world the garden and I are reunited.

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The grassy area at the front that this time last year – when we moved in – was a pristine manicured lawn with knife edged small circular beds under the three trees has now after only a year started its transition into a wild flower meadow.

I could hardly contain my excitement as we drove up the drive, at the sight of the many upright leaves from some of the 300 bulbs lovingly planted in the autumn. The Fritillaria meleagris already in flower, maroon chequered and white heads nodding in the warm sun and gentle breeze.

Leaving long-suffering to the cases I jumped out of the car for a closer look, my delight complete as I noted that there was a healthy representation from all the different bulbs planted – Camassia, Species Tulip ‘Saxatilis’ and Narcissi ‘Actaea’. I stopped short of counting every one but suffice to say at least 70 per cent had come up!

Narcissi poeticus ‘Actaea’ just one in flower but many more I hope over the next few weeks will slowly open imparting their lovely fragrance as I wander through the middle pathway.

It remains to be seen how many of the 150 wild flower plug plants planted last spring, make an appearance.  Some are already to be seen, the rest, well I shall watch and wait fingers crossed!

Meanwhile we left the luggage in the hall as we excitedly toured our ‘estate’ to see what other delights we could find…….

And more…..

Even more