Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Sound before the fury, coming closer and blue ice

Preparing  the sound in the forecourt of Somerset House. Tom Odell seems to be melancholy (to judge only and probably unfairly  by a single visit to YouTube where he performs a sad air with a guitar), He is a young singer/song writer with floppy blond hair. Reminds me of a medieval minstrel calling  for unattainable love. The gig will be over by the time you read this. None of us will know what we missed. Unless you were there?

A bridge camera with a 50 X optical zoom moving up from macro on the same lens and with remarkable stabilisation features  (hand held is fine) appeals to me as a means of fixing objects and creatures near and  distant and providing a record of passing inspiration, fleeting images, stolen moments.

A pair of frozen  blue eyes, irises swollen by the lenses, stare from behind a pair of spectacles on the nose of a red-faced old man at a bus stop. He is probably not looking at me but the eyes seem to have me in  focus. I am not generally embarrassed or scared, but as I walk by the impression leaves me momentarily uneasy.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Nectar, gourmet goes ga ga, and an armful of wormwood

A packet of "gold" (it turns out, pale yellow) nasturtium seeds this year produces a pleasing contrast in the garden. But only just. The seedlings in the greenhouse germinated but  grew straggly and weak because the cold Spring prevented me from planting them out when they had reached the appropriate size. The red flowered plants proved stronger, but two of the yellow made it  and flourish. Imagine yourself a bee looking for colour signposting nectar.                                                                                       

"Gourmet" at least in English speaking countries is becoming a terrible word, on the path to being meaningless.  "Gourmet paninis" I read on a blackboard in The Pantiles.  Paninis  are street food . Nothing wrong with that but are they sought by  gourmets? Why not a  gourmet bacon butty or gourmet baked beans?   Or gourmet spaghetti rings? Don't worry. They'll be on the the way. 
The herb bed in the vegetable garden is getting out of hand. Tall plants like wormwood, tansy and fennel are reaching for the sky. Because the bed,  which backs on to a wall,  is facing south, weighed down by droplets,  they lean forward towards the sun and across the pathway. After last night's rain I embrace the dripping wormwood stems to tie them back. The aroma intrigues. Is this what absinth smells like? It is a sensuous as well as an uncomfortable experience.

Monday, July 29, 2013

White faced crow, football supporters, and butterfly friendly

It is a crow I believe. It is in residence in The Grove where a couple of crows invariably mark their territory. But the white face is unusual.. Any thoughts?

"I don't like football," says Andy the Chiropractic. We agree that it is a good game spoilt by overpaid players and supporters with mental limitations. "Go to a pub after a rugby match, " he says and supporters of both teams will be drinking happily together. You don't find supporters of opposing football teams in the same pub without fights breaking out."

In the triangular flower bed opposite the public library butterfly-friendly plants are doing their best this afternoon. Bees there are in plenty  but not a butterfly in sight.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bread, wormhole and the sadness of things

 A batch of sour dough bread. I am using proving baskets to allow the dough to prove in different shapes rising from the baking tray rather than in a baking tin. The basket is removed for baking and exposing the bread and enhancing the crust.

Tom, having difficulty with my comment box, emails me  about the cloud photograph which I posted a couple of days back. It reminds him of  some clouds he had seen from a  third floor window in which a gap appeared like another  window opening into a different world. His memory in turn  recalls one of mine where on my regular route home on the M25 just after sunset a bank of cloud, opaque and purple in colour, filled the sky to the right. So dark and solid was it that I began to be convinced that it was a mountainside. The lights of cars driving in the opposite direction seemed to be traffic on a road skirting  its slopes.  I had the feeling that I had driven through a wormhole into another universe. Even now I still wonder if I had.

This morning I wake with the words "the sadness of things" on my mind. It is the title of a  haunting song by the singer songwriter Momus, but it seems to me to refer to  a more remote quotation. I cannot trace it. For some reason I think of some  Latin words, but their source eludes me. Things are sad though, collections of things separated perhaps from their owner, perhaps of no further use to him. It occurs to me though that in the sadness of  things, a vestige of pleasure, of former happiness resides, leaving in place of sadness an aura of melancholy.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Vegetation, farmers' market, War and Peace and rain

 The vegetable garden a few days ago. Since the photo, the beans in the background have climbed to the top of the poles. The flowers which I have talked about enough have become even more prolific.

The Tunbridge Wells  Farmers' Market has a new look to day. It has has moved, with the help of a traffic diversion,  from the narrow strip of road alongside the town hall and public library, to the  parallel stretch of Mount Pleasant between the corner of Crescent Road and Monson Road. Now it look like a real market with a broad walking  space in the middle of the traffic-less road between stands and much larger stands. The  nursery stands selling garden plants give the impression of flower gardens. A dazzling improvement. Matthew Sankey restaurateur and fishmonger is meanwhile  cooking a vast paella on his stand.

All day we have been expecting rain. The forecast promises heavy rain by midday. But it doesn't materialise.  In our neighbour's garden we sit in the still warm heavy air under a sort of bower. After a prolonged glass of Bollinger, bits of pork pie and quail eggs, to celebrate the  neighbour's birthday, I retire to bed. War and Peace is an excuse.  I read  the chapter where Prince Andrew Bolkonski's, apparently dead body is noticed by Napoleon beside his  regemental standard on the battlefield. On discovering him  to be alive, the French Emperor  orders him to be taken to the dressing station. When I awake it has rained heavily for a few minutes unnoticed by me.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Drama, droppings and satisfaction

Way through the clouds, a dramatic interlude during the recent heatwave.

It has seemed to me over the years that the appearance of a yew sapling in the middle of the established privet hedge which borders the garden must be no more than chance.  That this could be other than fortuitous doesn't cross my mind until today, until I see an infant beech pushing into the privet.  Then  I spot an explanation. Birds sit in hedges. Birds' droppings contain seeds. In this way different species of trees are distributed from woodland to hedgerow and from hedgerow to hedgerow.

"No insect around this year," says a builder from the site next door to the vegetable garden. I point to the broad strips of bee and butterfly attracting plants behind me. A couple of years ago he would have been right. Today bees there are in plenty. I am supposed to be growing vegetables, but the bees now give me greater satisfaction.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Examination, sardines, pilchards and time-keeping

A London pigeon takes a close look at a spot on a parapet at Somerset House.
Fresh sardines are now regularly available from fishmongers in England. At first I used to think that they must be imported from Mediterranean countries which are usually associated with sardines. It is only recently that I learnt that the sardines which now come to us from Cornwall are in fact pilchards. Pilchards? More or less the same as sardines, with the scientific name Sardina pilchardus, and close relatives if not junior versions of the herring. I remember them as a child tinned in a heavy tomato sauce, a cheap and less attractive alternative to traditional sardines in olive oil. Having regularly eaten  fresh Cornish sardines in recent years I now realise that they are pilchards served up differently. And marketed differently.  Fresh sardines remind us of seaside grills on the  coasts of Spain or Portugal, pilchards of wartime meals and food shortages.

The Frodsham bracket clock which I inherited a good number of years ago, used to keep good time, Then it seemed suddenly to be out of kilter. I moved it around on the shelf where it sits and levelled it with the help of a spirit level. Regulating it always worried me a bit. You are supposed to adjust a screw on  the pendulum. When I tried this I had no idea whether I had done it enough or too little. It had little effect. The clock continued to lose 10 minutes every two or three days.  I am not bold where clocks are concerned believing that they have souls or something close to it, and do not like to be probed to deeply. I tend to pussyfoot. The other day however I try again, open the little glass door at the back and wind the screw upwards. Then I forget about it for a few days. Yesterday and again today I remember to check and to my surprise find that it is keeping good time. I listen. It ticks calmly and seems to be saying to me: At last,  at last.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Evil spirits, stilettos and weather forecasters

St John's Wort was hung round houses on St John's eve to ward off spirits. It is Esold in health food shops because of its reputation as a cure for nervous depression. Cultivated versions appear in garden centres under its Latin name Hypericum. It is a perennial and a regular and welcome feature in my herb bed.

In the old fashioned shop that sells lengths of textiles and other material for needlewomen and needlemen, where Heidi buys her wool, I notice among the numerous trinkets on offer, wine cradles in the form of  women's stiletto heeled shoes, reference I suppose to the custom of drinking Champagne from a woman's slipper.

So widely used is the weather forecast on the BBC's web site that people quote it regularly in conversation without acknowledging the source. Because many of them are still new to on-line information, they deliver it with a wise expression as though they are conveying information received directly from the gods.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Fragment, vertical rain and butterflies

Éclat is the name of this picture which belongs to my series of photographs of torn and fading posters on walls or panels. I would like you to imagine it  blown up to 4 ft by 7ft on a white wall in a gallery.
Last night a thunder storm. The rain falls vertically. The sound of it as I lie in bed half asleep beating on leaves outside the open window is tranquil and reassuring  after the storm.
The small white butterfly is pretty common but so scarce are butterflies hereabouts this summer that the sight of one dancing above  the nasturtiums seems worthy of comment. So comment I will. If it were scarce I would be praising the delicate tracery of its wings and the the two  brown spots on them which help  to identify the species.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Self-seeding, wine-box and cough remedy

 Astrantia is a newcomer to our garden. It is an annual which seeds itself if given the chance. Monty Don, the  TV gardening  presenter recommends leaving a seed tray beneath it in  Autumn,  and allowing the seeds to settle in it.  Set the tray aside in the greenhouse and in the Spring seedlings should appear. I find that to grow and nurture a plant helps you to love and understand it.

A box, yes a box, of rosé wine yesterday comes to our house via a neighbour who can't chill it for want of space in his fridge. It fits our fridge so we have the problem of getting through 5 litres of the stuff. That's the equivalent of six bottles. The friends comes to lunch and  between us we get through two of the bottles.They take away another transferred to an old Evian bottle (water into wine) leaving us with roughly three more. An odd sort of cow this box. It contains a plastic membrane from which emerges a self-sealing spout, like the tube through which you inflate a balloon. To milk the cow you hold a glass or bottle under the spout, press a lever integral with the spout and out comes a stream of wine. The wine which our neighbours have stored for a couple of years is remarkably fresh,  and probably less oxidised than it would have been if it had lain in a bottle with a cork. The wine comes from Bergerac.

"Take fifty kernels of peach stones and a hundred of the kernels of cherry stones, a handful of elder flowers, fresh or dried, and three pints of muscatel. Set them in a close pot in a bed or horse dung for 10 days, after which distill in a glass with a gentle fire and keep it for use." It is a remedy for bronchitis, whooping cough and ordinary cough.  The recipe comes from the great herbalist Hilda Leyel. It  could be useful for anyone with a surplus of peach and cherry stones.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Miracle, pneumatic bliss and desire

All flowers if examined closely appear miraculous in their delicacy, balance of function  strength of purpose and  ultimate fragility. At this time of year I photograph poppies. Of all flowers poppies, in the way their buds unfold, seem to be miraculous, at least at the moment of examination. This is one of many poppies in the strips of wild flowers which I sowed last spring in the vegetable garden and are now alive with bees.

Last night, pizza. The dough moistened with olive oil and dusted with flour assumes,  after kneading, a litheness with special  promise of pneumatic bliss as it gently rises. The most difficult stage of pizza-making  is when  you press  out the ball of dough with your fingers to make a thin, elastic disk on which you will spread tomato  sauce and mozzarella cheese. As you stretch it, the dough retracts, requiring gentle teasing and understanding before it is properly dispersed. Experts whirl the disks at the ends of their fingers like flying saucers.

The BBC programme Something Understood goes out when I am usually asleep, but it is worth keeping awake for. This morning its current presenter Sarah Cuddon discusses desire, the inescapable urge that drives us to vision and creativity. The programme leaves me with the sound of Nina Simone singing Lilac Wine in my head. "...It makes me see what I want to see, be what I want to be... think what I want to think, do things that I want to do, drink more than I ought to drink..." And Tom Waits growling, "there's no prayer like desire. There's amnesia in a kiss."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Shade, sweepings and weird people

Into the shade.

As I prune the hedge the wind blows away the the lighter leaves and trimmingsgs. Where do they go?  Down the road into somebody else's backyard. What can I do? I feel sneaky though. It's like brushing the dust under the rug.  Or knocking something off a shelf in the supermarket and leaving it as though you haven't noticed it fall.

Old people increasingly refer to other old people and even some young people as odd, weird, excentric. Without such qualities how dull we would all be? Some of course aspire to be ordinary, Now that is weird.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Onion flower, femtometers and courgettes

Onion flower and an unusual one too. When I dug the vegetable  garden this spring, I found one of the Roscoff onions that Lucy had sent me from Brittany as sets early last year. It had swelled to onion size and survived the winter. I planted it with this year's onion sets and this is the result. What a wheeze when the flower has opened and faded  to save the seeds and sow them next year!

In the heat of the afternoon I retire to our cool bedroom to read The New Scientist. Is it the  intensity of the heat or my limited knowledge but incipient lethargy collapses my  concentration and I am no nearer  understanding how you measure a proton let alone  discovering that its dimensions are considerably smaller than previously supposed? The femtometer, a very fine unit  of  measurement indeed,  is used for the gauge. A new word for me, so I have  learnt something. Chambers Dictionary defines  the prefix  femto as signifying a thousand million millionth. My Oxford Reference Dictionary doesn't mention it all. Perhaps it is too small for the editors to have noticed.

In the vegetable garden I cut some courgettes (zucchini), about the length of my little finger. Not to be measured in  femtometers, but small enough to be a pleasure to toss in a frying pan with olive oil and a clove or two of  garlic alongside the strident orange coloured  flowers.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Scabious, cricket and fludidity

Various forms of scabious grow in the wild. This is a cultivated variety which is flourishing in our garden this summer.  Scabiosa Chile Black says the label from the nursery.

Paul the gardener across the road follows cricket. Before England lost three wickets this morning in the space of 12 balls, he predicts a five-nil series win for England. He may still be be right. Cricket and fine weather go together in my memory. I find myself checking the score automatically when I am not listening to the commentary. I can't bring myself to subscribe to Sky in order to watch it on TV. So I have to rely on steam radio. To think that we could watch it on the BBC before Murdoch snatched the contract.

I ask Andy the chiropractic  about McTimoney, the founder of the system which he follows. He tells me that McTimoney was an engineer before he became a chiropractic. Diagrams and models of the human skeleton dominate his practise room. It makes sense when you observe how bones and muscles are linked and work  together to facilitate movement and the desired fluidity of movement which unfortunately deserts us as we get holder. He ask me for a percentage assessment of any improvement I have felt in my stiff neck. Twenty percent I say, though now I revise it to 30 per cent.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Butterburrs, health and brevity

Butterburr. The big leaves were reputedly used to wrap butter in hot weather to keep it cool.

No air conditioning in the India Club restaurant aka The Bloggers' Retreat. Instead a through draft of cool air.   "Better than air conditioning, " we say. "Good for health," says the waiter.

If I were to choose a disorder to suffer from it would be attention deficit disorder.  I probably suffer from it already. I am impatient and intolerant. Brevity of expression suits me. It you have nothing to say, don't say it. If you have something to say, say it quickly and succinctly. Thanks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Parade, particles and pot-bound

Fuchsia on parade for summer merriment.

Dwelling as we do in spherical houses that collide in the wind
By chance or propelled by intent from within, to say hello
And part, we are engaged in something more than a pastime,
Rather less than a war. Greetings then
From the mirror of the eagle's eye to the searchlight's beam
We can't go on meeting like this, particles in an endless stream!

We count the buds on the pot bound agapanthus nursed through the winter over the years. Four in view yesterday, five today.

Monday, July 15, 2013

The net, shirtless and decisons

Our neighbour Milo takes on a grandson at table tennis.

On my first visit to Washington 30 or more years ago I was surprised at a notice at the entrance to a smart hotel. It read, "shirts must be worn." Nowadays such a notice would no longer arouse comment even in England where fine weather seems to dictate a new dress code to young men in the street: Shirts optional. Hotels beware.

Thinking back on decisions I have made in the last 70 years I find myself wondering how many could be described as good or right decisions. Less than 50 cent I estimate.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

glorious, owls and exercise

 The first morning glories this morning glow at the base of  a pyramid for the plants to climb.

In the shopping arcade called Victoria Place a number of owls including a snowy owl and a barn owl sit on perches.  A couple of keepers look after them. Children take it turns to stroke one of them. They seem very much at home and not a bit surprised at their surroundings. Perhaps it is because they have at some point in their lives been rescued by The Tomar Owl Sanctuary, a charity dedicated to the rescue, recovery and eventual release of owls and other birds. A surprise in a temple of commerce.

A woman with earphones performs exercises bending and rotating her torso beside a bench in The Grove, to the sound of music which only she can hear.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Thistles, libraries and puffing

A crowd of sow thistles.

It is hard not feel total love and admiration for the school girl Malala Yousafazai who addressed the United Nations yesterday in pursuit of a campaign to see better and more widespread education for girls in her country and other countries where it is withheld from them. Sad to see in the paper today which printed a full transcription of her speech, that 1000 libraries are likely to be closed in our own country in the next couple of years.

A tall grey-haired man, his back slightly bent, walks ahead of me, his hands behind his back. (I know him to be well into his eighties). He cups a cigarette in one hand. Every now and then without altering his pace he takes a leisurely puff.  I share his pleasure vicariously this fine morning.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Magpie, bikers and choking

Unpopular birds, magpies, but I like the way this one is enjoying the shelter of the long grass.

Three vintage motor cycles accompanied by three vintage bikers, leather studs and grey pigtails under their helmets stand opposite where we are sitting in The High Street. The bikes are Harley-Davidsons (thanks to Robbie who knows his bikes, I recognise that these are viewed without enthusiasm by the cognoscenti ). The three  middle aged rockers rev up filling the air with fumes and wait, line astern, so that they can take off together. For a few minutes we can neither breathe nor hear one another other speak. But it is good theatre.

A middle aged couple watch a blackbird in a tree by the path.  The woman looks at it through a pair of field glasses though it is no more than 25 yards away. It sounds distressed emitting the same plaintive cry over and over again. "You wouldn't think it is  a blackbird to judge by the noise it makes. But it looks like one. It's got a berry in its throat," says the man.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Shadows, redaction and slow motion

Tree, pillar and shadows.

Redaction, which means editing or rearranging, is a now widely used as a euphemism for censorship. It is a  specific against another word now in vogue, transparency, applied  wistfully to information which governments and others wish to remain opaque. An ugly usage.

Slow motion movie or high speed cameras focused on a face show it as something permanent, which it is not, the gaping fangs of a sportsman in the throes of anger or exaltation,  or the anguish of someone in pain. The camera not only lies but, by freezing or slowing down images,  grossly exaggerates what the eye normally witnesses. A cruel  and dishonest exploitation. Alright for a flower opening but usually  uncalled for in a grimace.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Vertical, tennis and dancing girls


Vertical gardens are becoming fashionable. This one is at the entrance to a house in the neighbourhood has I suspect occurred fortuitously. The  plants grow wild in the area  on roadsides and indeed on walls and will be thought of as weeds by many gardeners. The yellow vetch-like flowers are yellow fumitory, the blue is a campanula that invades the most unlikely corners round here and the small ivy-leaved creeping flowers (top centre) are dwarf mallow.

Tennis has always been my favourite sport because I have  played it more than any other. But given the choice I prefer cricket, test cricket in particular. As Andy the chiropractor says to me, 'thank God the tennis is over'. What has spoilt it  this year is:  the hysterical adulation of Andy Murray in  the media; the Wimbledon crowd  applauding his opponents unforced errors,  even double faults;  the Prime Minister making political capital out of game (a knighthood indeed) , and the dreadful commentators  (why do we need three of them?) vying with each other to state the obvious in the tiredest cliches their limited  minds can fathom. I long for the sound of willow striking willow and the polite applause of a crowd  appreciative of the complex of skills and character that you find on the cricket pitch and in the outfield. And the meditative commentary of the likes of John Arlott  and Brian Johnston.

As I push open the rear garage door on my way through to the vegetable garden, a shower of white rose petals descends on my head from a prolific rose that has grown in the last few days above the lintel. I feel like a bride or a prince in a fairy tale. Petals just petal have a magic of  their own. For some reason  I think of rose water and fountains and dancing girls.

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Foxglove, naming and dead-heading

More  magnificent foxgloves. Nearly over now they have been late to flower but all the better for their tardiness.

Weeds - plants growing where you do not want them to grow - irritate. But they are much less irritating when you can give them a name. After discussing salvia or sage yesterday, I find that a little plant that has sprung up in the wild garden turns out to be yet another salvia. It is less conspicuous than those cultivated either for culinary or decorative purposes. It is in fact  known  in some quarter as wild sage and in others as wood sage. Though by no means rare,  it is not to be found in every flower book. But the search proves instructive.

In the garden apart from watering we are at present engaged in dead-heading. A pleasant pass time on a summer evening which someone I used to know described as " making you feel like a lord of creation."

Monday, July 08, 2013

Sage, tranquitiy and Brazil nuts

Salvia is the name used in many Mediterranean countries, sauge in France for the herb which we call sage. The family includes more than 700 species distributed throughout the world. Salvia officianalis is the powerfully aromatic herb used here in stuffing and in sausages. Various varieties of garden flower meanwhile are referred to in England as salvia, though they are grown for their appearance rather than for  culinary  purposes .  The flowers of the one in the photograph which comes up every year in our garden,  flutter like butterflies  among the leaves of more assertive plants.

If you are looking for comforting words, which from time to time, in a cruel world can be be helpful, The King James Bible and the Book of Common Prayer offer riches which reach deep into most of us. But for me the most comforting words in the English language are those of Julian of Norwich the anchoress who lived in the 14th Century, surely on  account of the ravages of plague alone ,  among the harshest in English history. T S Elliot borrowed them  without acknowledgement in the fourth of his Four Quartets, Little Gidding. "And all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well." At one level all may be far from well. But they are I think comforting because, detached from physical travails,  they contain, (the essence of her optimistic theology) an abiding promise of tranquillity if of nothing else. Something close to the state delivered by great  music.

At the doctors surgery an old lady is discussing an appointment with the receptionist. There are complications which are gradually resolved. Once  business is out of the way  the lady says  to the receptionist.
"Excuse my asking but did you get your Brazil nuts."
The receptionist blinks in surprise and puzzlement.
"Last Christmas. I was standing behind you in the queue at Sainsbury's. I said to myself its her from the doctor's. I felt I had to ask you."
"I 'm sorry I can't say I can remember." Then: "Oh yes  I remember.  I got some in the end but nobody wanted to eat them."

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Thrush, two mobiles and a full English

Nice to catch a  shy thrush rather than a blackbird  in The Grove this time.

A  voluble man with two mobile phones at a cafe table toys with both of them. Now he seems to be talking into them at the same time. He is discussing his social life. As it becomes more detailed he leaps to his feet and wanders away his voice fading into a crowd of shoppers.

A full English is advertised outside a greasy spoon. Breakfast of  course. But the language changes. A few years ago would anyone have known what it meant? In those days breakfast was unequivocal. Eggs, bacon, sausage, tomato, baked beans perhaps. Fried bread, sausages, and, rather in the North than in the South, black pudding for the indulgent.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

Berries, strangeness and therapy

Among the wild plants which I have encouraged but not consciously introduced in out little garden  are these strawberries, wild strawberries, fraise des bois. They recur every years but seldom more generously than this year. Here's a handful dressed with crème fraîche.
"If you haven't found something strange during the day, it hasn't been much of a day." This quote from the physicist, John A Wheeler fits in well with the purpose of my daily posts and the justification  for them which from time time to time I find myself producing.
People with labels hanging about their necks seem to be about in the street recently. I ask myself if they have been attending some sort of meeting or seminar and have forgotten to remove their identification. Or are they proud of the insignia and reluctant to remove them. It reminds me of someone I knew well, who, unsure of herself and her position in the world, aspired not so much to high office as to  a status, modest but useful. She saw herself in a white coat, and  her name engraved on the door of  a clinic or interview room where she could exercise her authority and provide help for someone in need of therapy.


Friday, July 05, 2013

Weather, saw and aging

We are supposed to talk about the weather and little else in England. My preference is not to complain about it. Weather brings interest and variation and I am usually prepared to accept it whatever form it takes. But last spring and the first weeks of summer have been an exception. I have grumbled even on  this blog about rain and cold and the reluctance of plants to grow and  produce leaf and flower. The BBC weather centre with its icons forecasting  gloom and damp have been a permanent feature of recent months. Now today the icons promise five days of full sunshine.  A rare enough event to record with a photograph as though proof were needed.

In the vegetable garden the accustomed tranquillity is destroyed by the sound of a mechanical saw probably slicing metal on the building site next door. A pathetic sound, cruel yet  whining. Naaraargh... aargh.

I am sitting at a table outside a cafe opposite the station when a  young blond woman with a pleasant, cheerful face approaches my table: "Can  I take one of your sugars, my love," she says. It is a pleasing form of address from  a stranger. But I can't help asking myself if it would have been employed in similar circumstances  were I ten years younger.

Thursday, July 04, 2013

On the wall, l'esprit de l'escalier and ritual

Not everyone likes pigeons.  Flying rats is what pigeon detractors call them. For me they have a beauty all of their own. Look at the wing feathers soft yet etched into the curve of the back and breast like scales when the wing is folded. They are comical it is true. If they were human you might say pompous. That unblinking eye is rudely quizzical, the expression of the beak distinctly superior.

Grove Avenue is one of the little roads that leads up to The Grove from  the High Street. It is fairly steep, but it is not so much to regain my breath when I reach  the entrance to the little park as to enjoy the familiar view: the oaks, beeches and chestnuts, the benches and old fashioned street lamps; children on bikes and dogs bounding after balls. Stopping there with my shopping  is something I do almost every day, winter and summer, sunshine or rain. As I pause this morning woman with an antipodean accent greets me with the single question. "Are you lost?"
"Saved",  I say as I walk away. Alas only an esprit de l'escalier.

As I put the finishing touches to trimming our  newly reduced hedge this afternoon, I fall into the routine developed over the twenty five years during  which the hedge and I have been together. It is a question of  breaking down  the job into a number of rituals and variations which limit the monotony. So I clip the top of one section of hedge, then the side. Sweeping up the clippings from that section provides a pleasant change. Back to clipping the next section, another change. Section by second  the treatment continues, a litany rather than  a chore, something to look back on with a measure of satisfaction.

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

Cosmos, names and twigs

 This white cosmos is one of the few annuals we always grow because we like it and so do bees.

Note. He lives among the names of things rather than among the things themselves like a deaf musician or a blind painter.

 Nest building pigeons fuss around in our newly clipped hedge. They fly off with dead twigs left by the hedge cutters when they lowered the hedge back in the Spring and which I have missed.

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Fledged, skeleton and bloggery

A newly fledged blackbird visits the hedge and appears bewildered by the creatures which inhabit its borders. Wouldn't you be?
After one session with the chiropractic I have rediscovered the ability to turn my head and look to left and right which would be even more of a gift if I were still driving.  As it is I am already a fan. I have even read the leaflet which Andy gave me. The system which he practises is called McTimoney. He explains  the spectrum of muscular-skeletal treatments available which extend from various schools of osteopathy through various schools of chiropractic. All seek to establish a harmonious balance of skeleton  and muscle so that despite wear and tear  they can operate smoothly. Summarising its content the leaflet asks the rhetorical question:  "Isn't it time you discovered how the McTimoney technique  can help you, your family and your animals stay stronger and pain free for life?"That's reassuring. When I return next week I shall ask Andy who is fond of cricket  more about McTimoney. And whether - though I suspect he is far too young -  he remembers Keith Miller.

What  I enjoy most about blogging is the conversations which it can promote. The global village is alive. It's best when resonant with voices, and  voices, which when you listen to them, challenge and respond, arrange and re-arrange, construe and harmonise.


Monday, July 01, 2013

Chestnut, daisy chains, posies and chirocpractic

Spreading chestnut tree.

Swathes of uncut grass in the Groves to encourage wild flowers and insects also encourage little girls to make daisy chains and collect posies. Grown ups seem to enjoy picnicking among the cool,  green, aromatic leaf blades and buttercups. Country ways return. Long may the grass stay long.

A stiff necks that has haunted me through the winter drives me at last to a Chiropractic. My neck is after one session already more tensile. But almost the best thing is that the chiropractic, name of Andy, is a regular at The Compasses (or almostt). Unlike my dentist to whom I want to chat  but because of the nature of  his trade I can't, the chiropractic is free to talk  as he manipulates bone and muscle.   He I  and find much in common including beer and cricket. He likes test matches as distinct  from 20/twenty, which we agree is not the sort of cricket you can call cricket.