Saturday, 23 June 2012

I am Not a Gardener!

…. but I have been blessed with a very full country garden!

It needs constant care; not only to remove the persistant weeds, the perpetual thistles, the secreted nettles, the colourful dandelions and other unmentionable unwanteds, but it also needs some radical trimming!

This morning I rescued the birdbath from behind ferns, fargesia bamboo and a rhododendron bush; I knew it was there, it had just become so overgrown due to the high rainfall over the last few months of 'drought' that no-one even noticed that its bowl had been blown off in one of the summer winds and was buried under another unknown 'ground cover' (euphemism for Weed!).  The bird bath has now been re-sited so we can enjoy seeing the birds splash & bathe! (So exciting to see the Coal Tit and Mistle Thrush enjoying it just a few hours later.)

At this time of year (summer) Corn Poppies are all over the place and look beautiful growing wild with their delicate red petals nodding violently in the slightest breeze.  But our garden has also sprouted some very tall Oriental Poppies in what was once a vege patch! According to the guide its common name is Oriental Poppy, and its Cultivar is ‘Patty’s Plum’ and although the guide says it grows to 70cm, this one is closer to 170cm in height!

 Also growing among the brilliant white Feverfew flowers are some Opium Poppies. An interesting combination - Opium & Feverfew. Feverfew is a medicinal herb known to relieve migraines, and Opium - well.....?!

Add in a few pretty lilacy-blue Harebells, and some Lady’s Mantle which nearly took over the fish pond, and it all makes quite a pleasant little patch.

Just to confirm – I didn’t know any of these flower's names (except the Poppy) while I was pulling up, cutting down and dragging things around this morning. I’ve spent the afternoon trawling through internet flower identification sites, bringing sprigs of flowers and leaves inside - and squashing little black bugs on my desk - to come up with these names!  Now where did I see a picture of that yellow plant with the red bits?!

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Keep Calm and Carry On!

There are some days when everything feels under control – ‘some’ could mean just a few days in 30 or twenty in 30! Usually my days go along at a fair 40mph pace – no rush, no boredom, just getting things done.
And then everything happens at once and life gets hectic!

Take June and July for example.  The third week in July is Megan’s graduation and we’ve known that for some time, so the weekend’s accommodation is booked and Bella has been booked into the boarding kennels for the long weekend. Sorted.

For a few months now I’ve been volunteering at the local primary school helping with reading and English literacy, and Tuesday mornings have been the only ‘booked’ date on my weekly calendar.  However, suddenly there’s a meeting with the charity I’m volunteering with and a meeting with a family, a meeting with the team and a training session to fit in to the next few weeks, all with consideration for other people’s busy diaries, and although mine appears to be flexible, it turns out that everything needs to be done on that one day when I’m already booked!

On top of that my elderly mother would like a holiday and will we take her, she’ll pay!  With weekends booked and busy, the only time for a holiday is Monday to Friday and the sooner the better. So the first week in July is booked, and now my mind starts racing as what we need to take, considering the car boot will have a wheelchair, walker, three pieces of adult luggage, food bags and boxes (self-catering) and the fishing rod! Food! Got to plan meals for the week, and don’t forget to include lunches and breakfasts! And things to read! The dog! Rush off to the kennels to make sure they have room for Bella at short notice.

And, and, and,……… meet someone at the chapel at 3.30 for the plates; make sure the songs are all ready for Sunday, both projected and printed for those who like printed, Argh! Can’t find music to one! Panic! (I need music!) Find an old music book on eBay, bid, hope I get it but it still won’t get here by tomorrow! Relief! Found music at home!
Hubby picked up some BBQ ribs last night and has invited a friend for a braai later – means I should make potato salad, and green salad, and take the rolls out of the freezer, and …. I need to check the kiddie story for tomorrow morning, and the activity things ………. and …. and …. and …

It goes on! But to top it all is our car’s mischievous workings at this time of planning overload!

I knew the petrol was lowish when I set out for the boarding kennels this morning, but the guage said I had 70 miles left in the tank – plenty, the warning buzzer only comes on at 50.  Having booked Bella into the kennels I climbed back into the car and the guage quietly tells me I have 3 miles left in the tank! 3?! Home is about 4 miles away!  Does coasting down the one and only windy decline help preserve enough petrol to get me home?! But why did it suddenly drop from 70 to 3? Is the car going to grind to a sad stop on the narrowest part of this country road with wide tractors and double-decker busses whizzing past as the cars queue up behind the silly car stopped on the road?! 2 miles. Please get me home! Please get me home! 1 mile. Well I can at least walk home from here, but the car would still be in a vulnerable spot. 0 miles. Well at least I’ve got to the village. Keep going. As I turned into my road, the guage suddenly woke up and registered 60 miles!  Scream!!!  As if I didn’t have enough things to keep my brain buzzing today! 

Relax! Cup of coffee! Smile!

Maybe the 'Keep Calm and Carry On' craze has something in it!

Have a nice weekend!

Sunday, 10 June 2012

A Peaceful Way to end the Day!

It was 8.30pm. The sun was shining, the world was bright. The buckets that ‘reigned’ down on Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant last Sunday have been drained and the winds that disrupted both west and east coast shipping in the middle of the week, are sleeping soundly. All that’s left is the breath of their snore if you listen carefully!

The place is Holbrook Creek in Holbrook Bay. An inlet where boats and yachts are moored, and at this time of the evening are stranded on mud banks and mounds.  Across the Stour River are the river front houses of Harwich. To the west and with grounds sloping down to the Creek is the Royal Hospital School with its distinctive towers behind which the sun is slowly sinking.

The last rays of the sun are caught by the clouds who stretch them across the bay in ribbons of orange and yellow and pink. They’re harvested by the barley fields as their Midas touch. The bright red field poppies growing intertwined with dainty white-flowered weeds in the gutter path of the field, add their own brush of colour to this pastoral live painting!

The harmonious chimes of the school clock carry across the fields and waters and blend with the nightly farewells of the chaffinch, robin, blue-tits and pigeons, with the crystal clear cuckoo continuing where the clock left off!

It’s peaceful, incredibly pretty and a beautifully pleasant way to spend the last few waking hours of a day!

Monday, 4 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend - Village Party

Monday 4th June 2012
The REAL Jubilee party day

 The children are on half term holiday, the scarecrows are looking a little bedraggled and at 4pm the party began! Music by Mike Reed (R&R), Tony King on the bagpipes, St Andrews Singers & 'High Water Mark', donkey rides, free hog roast to village residents, tea and cupcakes from the WI, cash bar, face painting by the Playgroup, games like ‘tip & run’ cricket run by Chelmondiston Primary School, Target Bowls by the Bowls club, the Rowing Machine challenge - altogether made a wonderful community spirited time.
The hog was on the roast from early morning, the marquees were successfully erected (once the instructions had been found), bunting was tied, chairs were put ready and the wooden table and chair sets (permanent school property) were cleared of all (gigantic) pigeon poo, but only after many papers, hands and bums had already had a sticky close encounter!

The weather was dry! And as the community started streaming through the gate at 4pm, the sun shone! Sorry about the Thames Pageant people yesterday, but today’s village party was dry, sunny, pleasant and fun!
“Are you a village resident?” Residents got a ticket for a free hog-roast (i.e. roll and freshly cut hog meat!), visitors were asked to pay £1.50.  This party was not a fund-raising event, it was a celebration of the Queen’s 60 years on the throne.  The community put more than their pennyworth in; donations in cash, cupcakes, milk for the teas etc. all made it very much a village party. Rolls had to be constantly sourced as the party grew, and the beer tent sold all their wares!

Village children under 16 got a free ice-cream, and (pre-arranged) received a jubilee mug.  The entire afternoon was a family occasion.

Taking my turn on distributing free hog-roast & ice-cream tickets meant I met more new people, but it was most fascinating to hear long-time residents marvel at the number of people they didn’t know mingling on the school playing field! The longest residence time I heard was a man who had been in the village for 70 years! Others gave their age away with their "48 years!", "27 years!" etc!

The bowls club tried to get more members while running their ‘target bowls’ competition and the local ‘thespian leader’ didn’t miss opportunities of touting for more men and women for the stage!

As the sun set, and most of the party goers had taken their children home, the stragglers helped dismantle tents, pick up plastic cups and return chairs. Everyone agreed the Village Party had been a huge success. The sun shone and everyone had fun! 

(Not a photo event unless you were 'media' so all these photos are google sourced except the sunset - a genuine sunset a few months ago, and the ones below)

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend - Sunday

Sunday 3rd June 2012

I suggested, aware that she who gets the vision gets the job, that together with the traditional combined church service (Anglican, Methodist, Baptist), we have a Sunday Brunch! Brunch from 10.30 and the service at 12noon. However, I am very grateful to the long-standing community members who actually carried out the Sunday Brunch and combined Jubilee Sunday service! They planned the brunch, the cooking facilities, the buying, the serving and even the washing up! Thank you! They were the ones who knew the people to contact, knew where to buy, how much to buy, who to ask to help, and the seating and tables!  The ministers of the three churches did their thing and representatives from each played their part with the Jubilee liturgy, the hymns, readings, sermon, prayers, and the national anthem. Thank you to everyone who planned, worked, and cleaned up afterwards!

‘The Plan’ was that Sunday 3rd June would be a beautiful sunny summer’s day like it had been for the past week. However, come the weekend, (and if you watched anything of the Jubilee Thames Pageant you would have seen) the clouds ganged up, threw down raindrops and blew a lot of cold air over more than our little village!  So the marquee that was planned to serve the brunch, was not needed. The envisaged scenes of people standing out on the soft green grass of the parish church eating bacon rolls, drinking coffee, fruit juices and eating pain chocolat while shielding their eyes from the pleasant Sunday morning sun, were replaced with chatting villagers laughing and sharing stories in the church school room and spilling over into the church itself.  Everyone was relaxed and unphased by the change of plan.

Inside St Andrews
‘The Planned’ open air combined service became an inside service of thanksgiving to God for giving our Queen the wisdom and strength to rule over us for sixty years.  The Anglican church’s usual congregation was more than tripled and not just with regulars from the other two churches, but with ‘non-regulars’ as well.

Like the Open Gardens, this became a time to meet new people.

The clouds, wind and rain were not going to stop the good British people from having a colourful pageant on the River Thames with over 1000 boats of various kinds and sizes joining Her Majesty’s Barge as it sailed from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge. From the comfort of our dry homes, many of us watched as red, white and blue bunting, Union Jacks, huge umbrellas, and lots of wet happy people waved and cheered along the banks!

Diamond Jubilee Sunday over with Monday still to come!

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend

Saturday 2nd June 2012

Today the Village showed off 10 Open Gardens and the scarecrow trail is underway!  Having a Village event like this is an excellent way to meet new people!  We aimed for the gardens of friends first and then branched out to some of the others, meeting the same people in different gardens! The gardens were lovely although some said this was the wrong time of year – very in-between with the Spring flowers finished and the Summer flowers not yet in full bloom.  But that didn’t stop people looking at the unusual, the well-known, the vege gardens, the orchards, the neat formal rose gardens and the nicely cut lawns! No pics I’m afraid (the English are a private lot and don’t like people taking photos of them or their things!) so that’s why I’ve included some pics of what’s come up in our garden!
I love poppies; their hairy stems and bowed buds! And this Apricot colour is lovely!
Irises in the pond
We have left our garden pretty much as it was when we moved here just eight months ago, to see what is going to come up each season – it’s a nice excuse anyway! We’ve had some lovely surprises! To my delight I’ve found red field poppies popping up, but unfortunately their delicate petals just don’t last long in the wind.  The dainty white, purple and pink ‘weeds’ (I think!) taking over huge tracts of garden space are so pretty. Someone said that weeds are all the plants you just don’t want in your garden! Blue irises growing in the pond (now devoid of fish probably due to a heron or cormorant’s hunger pangs) and lots of greenery of various shades make up a country garden look, for a while, until it starts to look untidy and frazzled at the edges!
Miniature rose in the front garden

Another kind of poppy! Nice & bright.
The humble buttercup!

A pink 'weed'?!
It was getting a little nippy by the 5pm closing time as we left our neighbours little garden but we met a couple we’d seen at other gardens obviously looking for our neighbours Open Garden sign. As we already knew they’d shut shop for the day and were preparing to traipse around hunting scarecrows, we invited 'new friends' in to ours for a cup of tea instead!  That’s how to meet new people!
An interestingly shaped pink flower!

A variety of Lavender!
One thing I now know I do want in my garden – Carnations. I used to grow Carnations in my Cape Town garden but discovered they were not easy to grow in KwaZulu Natal, so to find them growing in English gardens – no greenhouse necessary – is good. Now to find someone who’ll give me a cutting, and to decide where to put them!

As for the scarecrows (sorry, again no photos), there was a chimney sweep scarecrow at the chimney sweep’s house, a “Hamish Willie-uhhms” complete with bagpipes at the Scottish lady’s house, a traditional potato farmer at the potato farmer's house, and I believe the winning scarecrow was “Liz and her Corgies!” which we might get round to seeing tomorrow. And of course an assortment of others at gates and on street corners!

Friday, 1 June 2012

Diamond Jubilee Weekend 2012

Friday 1st June 2012

Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 60 years and the whole country is celebrating her diamond jubilee this weekend. The last jubilee like this was Queen Victoria’s in 1897 and it was for Queen Vic’s sake that the traditional diamond jubilee of 75 years was brought down by 15years!

After an entire month of rain in April and some gloriously hot summer days in May (over 25C!), the weekend the nation desperately wants to be sunny and bright is forecast to be overcast and rainy!

Our village has a little something on each day of this weekend; today a previously overgrown corner on the main road will be opened as the Jubilee Garden with new brick paving, newly planted colourful plants, and a bench and two chairs to enjoy the new space and colour.  This afternoon the primary school children will snake down the road for the official opening and to plant a tree.

Today is overcast; there’s certainly not enough blue sky to make a sailor even a handkerchief never mind about the traditional pair of trousers! But this morning was dry so Bella and I went for an hour’s walk in pastures new.

Behind the Red Lion (closed) pub, turn right towards Lings Lane, cross Lings Lane and we simply followed the footpath signs until we came to familiar territory on Bylam Lane leading up to the main road through Chelmondiston. From there we turned left on to Richardson’s Lane and found the familiar cutting past the playing fields and home – by this time the white skies had started to spit, just a little.

The intensely beautiful yellow fields of rape have faded and only one or two plants on the edges of the fields are hanging on to their yellow gowns. The bright red field poppies are springing up looking incredibly startling against the summer greens on an overcast day.  Even the yellow dandelions and weeds look pretty against the new greens.       

The chorus of birds, none of which I can identify except the tuneful blackbird, didn't care that the sun wasn't shining and twittered contentedly, flittering backwards and forwards over seeding grasses and crops; their young probably calling for more worms, more caterpillars, more insects! The bees hummed in and out of bright flower heads and there was probably quite a network of mouse paths at the base of those rape fields - Bella seemed to think so!  

It's the time of year when wild flowers and colourful so-called weeds make a walk in the country fields a pleasant and colourful morning well spent!