Saturday 30 August 2008

Coffee Morning

My husband looked at the calendar last weekend and was surprised to see that I was going to a coffee morning, because his mother went to work to avoid having to go to coffee mornings. Well I am not his mother - I am his wife and I am happy to go to the occasional coffee morning. This one was in aid of the flower club that I go to. The day started with a clear blue sky and glorious sunshine but by the time I was ready to go out, to the coffee morning, it was grey and cold. Nevertheless, we still managed to sit outside in the garden which backed onto one of the local golf clubs. We had looked at a house in this road, but considered the road too busy, so I was interested to see what life could have been like. In addition it was a chance to have a look at an established garden and pick up some ideas, as we are still struggling with our garden. I bought a plant for 50 pence from the plant stall and a small ornament from the bring and buy stall but managed to resist the cake stall and had no luck with the raffle. Also I met two ladies who live in the next village to us. Anything that helps with the cottage and garden and also expands my social life can not be bad. And I managed to work the late shift in the afternoon/evening. I am not trying to have it all. I just want a good balance of social life and work.

Tuesday 26 August 2008

Taking stock

In the spring I sowed some stock seeds (Matthiola incana) in a seed tray in our utility room. The utility room tends to be the only room in our house which maintains a constant temperature so I have found it useful for germinating seeds. Once they had germinated, I moved them into the conservatory which has more light and some heating. There, with tlc, the heat of the warming sun and light from the lengthening days, I grew the seedlings on into small plants. When I thought that the weather was warm enough, I moved the plants into our unheated greenhouse until they were ready to go out into the garden. About June, I planted out the most advanced of the stock plants in the garden. Within two days, all of the flower heads had disappeared. At the time a family of rabbits were regular visitors to our garden and I reckoned that they had eaten the flowers. The only other plant that had been affected was a red pelargonium and as this had never happened before and we had not been bothered by rabbits before, I though that it was only reasonable to assume that the rabbits were the culprits. I lifted the stock plants and put them back in the greenhouse in the hope that they would recover. In the meantime, I did some research, on the Internet, on the sort of garden plants that rabbits do not like. Luckily most of the plants in our garden are plants that rabbits tend to avoid. So I planted the remaining stock plants amongst plants which rabbits avoid and the plants kept their flowers. Thinking that I had the situation under control, I put back into the garden the stock plants that I had lifted, watched them carefully and they were doing alright, although I would not say that they were flourishing.

A few weeks ago, late one afternoon I heard what sounded like several shots from a gun and thought that maybe one of the local farmers had decided to have rabbit stew for his supper. Since that afternoon until this weekend I had not seen a rabbit in our garden. But now the rabbits are back and my stock plants have lost their flowers again.

Thursday 21 August 2008

No smoke, no fire

I was woken at 4.45 yesterday morning by two high pitched beeps. I knew instantly where they were coming from, but I buried my head under the bed clothes and hoped that it would not happen again. I did not want to be awake at 4.45 am - I had to work until 9.00 pm last night. I went back to sleep and was woken again at 6.45 am by two more high pitched bleeps. This time I got up and tried to silence the culprit, without any luck.

This has happened before and initially it was not obvious to me what it was. There are now so many gadgets in what was once two Victorian cottages, that it was difficult to know where to start looking for the culprit. How did the Victorans manage without all these gadgets? Quite easily, because they had not been invented. Could it be the computer - it often beeps if there is a power cut or if its' temperature gets too high. Could it be the burglar alarm - it's sometimes temperamental. Or is it something else? Could it be from outside? Is it coming from the neighbours? No, it was none of these. It was coming from one of the smoke alarms, which are wired into an electrical circuit and there was no smoke and no fire. So what was the problem? The smoke alarms have batteries in them which should be replaced every twelve months. The electrician probably told me this when he fitted the smoke alarms, but twelve months after the alarms were fitted we were gearing up for a builder to demolish the garage and semi gut the upstairs of the house. Changing batteries which were still working was not on our agenda at the time. I read the smoke alarm information leaflet, switched off the electricity as instructed and tried to take the cover off the amoke alarm to get the battery out. It wouldn't budge and after several attempts I thought that the whole thing was going to come off the ceiling. I phoned the electrician who told me to do what the information leaflet said but still the cover wouldn't come off. Eventually my husband realised that the smoke alarm didn't have a cover - it was in two pieces and you slide it apart. And there seems to be a knack to doing it, which I don't have. More than likely it is brute force and ignorance. Now, I just need that man with the knack or brute force and ignorance to sort out the problem.

Monday 18 August 2008

Party, party

We hadn't been invited to a party for ages and then we get invited to two in one weekend. So not much got done, this weekend, in the house or garden. In fact nothing much has been done for about a week as I, unexpectedly, had to work on Thursday and Friday last week. The parties were planned in the expectation that it would be high summer when they were held and both were scheduled to be held outside.

Saturday's party was a birthday party at the neighbours. My first problem was to buy a suitable present as the neighbours have absolutely everything, and I mean everything. I happened to see some silk flower arrangements which I thought would be to the neighbour's taste and that I had solved the problem but no, I had not thought about wrapping it, which proved to be a challenge. My husband carried it round next door. I didn't pay much attention to how he was carrying it. Fortunately he managed to get it to the door before it fell through the wrapping, as he handed it to her. Luckily it was not damaged - she just didn't need to unwrap it. The birthday girl does not actually have her birthday until November but decided that she would like a summer birthday party, in the hope that it could be held outside. Despite her best efforts, it seems that the weather thought that it was November, even though according to the calender it is August. On Friday her husband gave up on the idea of an outdoor party and organised a marquee. The whole thing including floor, carpet, starry roof, tables and chairs was put up in less than a day and the outside flood light. When these neighbours have a party they do not do things by halves. They had organised waitresses to look after the food and a cabaret act for entertainment. The marquee proved to be a very good idea as about seven o'clock the heavens opened and a gusty wind started to blow. The guests were kept dry, if a little cold and when I got to the point that I had, had enough of being cold I nipped home to get a cardigan. One advantage of a party at the neighbour's. Another advantage being that we did not need to worry about drinking and driving. We do not see much of our neighbours so it was an opportunity to catch up with them. Del boy, who has recently blotted his copybook, like Mr Wickham in Pride and Prejudice, decided that it would be wise to have a prior engagement.

Sunday's party was a more sedate tea party held in a garden on the banks of the River Dee, in aid of Guide Dogs for the Blind. No present required for this one. I made a chocolate cake for the raffle. They were lucky with the weather. During the morning it had poured with rain but the in the afternoon the sun did show itself for a time as we enjoyed sandwiches and home made cakes and drank tea from bone china cups. We then admired the half acre terraced garden, which is quite steep and must be a challenge to manage and maintain.

A warm and sunny weekend would have made so much difference to these occasions.

Monday 11 August 2008

Mr Bingley's gravel walk

I have decide to re read Pride and Prejudice. I have read it umpteen times before and it is one of my favorite books, but I find that each time that I read it, I take in some incident that I have not appreciated before. As I was dosing off in bed on last Wednesday night, Mrs Bennet was admiring the gravel walk at Netherfield and it set me thinking about our gravel walk which goes through what will be our gravel garden. The patio has now been laid and the gravel garden will be at the side. The flag layer has put down the membrane and the gravel. It is up to us to create the garden. In the mean time we can admire the new sandstone patio.

Last Monday afternoon the flag layer told me that there was one day's work left and he should finish on Tuesday. As it turned out it was one and a half day's work and they did not finish until Friday lunchtime. Tuesday was wet and the patio layers did not turn up because they need a dry day to finish the job. Wednesday was supposed to be wet but wasn't, however, the didn't turn up again. They could not be working anywhere else because all their tools were here. Over the weekend, we had to remove then from the various flowerbeds that they had left them in, so that we could do some gardening. On Thursday morning I was not expecting them, so did not get up early as I have been doing, but was woken up by their arrival and hopefully I got myself up, without them realising that I had been in bed when they arrived. The last I had heard from the Irish flag layer was that he would be coming on Friday as the weather forecast for Friday was good. If he decided to come on Thursday he would let me know. When I got downstairs the first thing that I saw out of the kitchen window, was a shirtless flag layer. Not a pretty sight at eight o'clock in the morning. The shirt was on and off during the day and I noticed that when he was cutting up paving stones he wore a mask and a red bobble hat. He looked a bit like a large garden gnome. I wonder what Mr Darcy would have made of a garden gnome?

Saturday 9 August 2008

Computer apoplexy

At the end of June I went on a half day course in connection with work. In the interests of saving paper, the planet and reducing global warming the PCT (Primary Care Trust) who were running the course had decided that instead of producing handouts relevant to the course at the time that they would e-mail the participants, at a later date. The information has since been sent to me as attachments to several e-mails. They are only reducing their paper bill. If everybody that attended the course prints out the documents, the paper still has to be used. On Wednesday I tried to print out the first document which ran to over one hundred pages. Our printer seized up after 85 pages and my computer has been having spasms and tantrums ever since. My husband and I have spent the morning fiddling with my computer and I now hope that it is alright. The bad news is that there are some more of these documents to print out. The good news is that my husband is home, so hopefully he can sort out any further problems .

Tuesday 5 August 2008


I quite like the warmer weather. It is nice to be able go out without a coat or umbrella and know that you are not going to end up cold or wet. But as with everything in life there is a down side. We have, and have had, every year since we moved here four years ago, birds nesting on the house. Each years there seem to be more nests. This year we have a total of twelve, and that does not include the three partly built nests that were taken down. It may sound cruel taking down partly built nests, but it is allowed as long as there are no birds in the nest. One warm afternoon, about two months ago, when the birds were building their nests, we were sitting outside trying to enjoy a drink, during our afternoon break from gardening and the air was thick with birds flying around. It was like a scene from the Alfred Hitchcock film The Birds. Bird droppings make an awful mess of the windows and window ledges and now they have built a nest above the conservatory which really is the last straw. They say that bird droppings bring you luck. Well by my reckoning we ought to be winning the Lottery jackpot every week, but we aren't. Since we moved here we have managed to have the windows cleaned only twice, earlier this year. The window cleaner said not to worry about the birds nests - he would take them down. His lad came round to do just that at the beginning of June. He took one look at the nests and said that he would be back with a ladder and I am still waiting for him to come back!

Then when we are in the house, there is the problem that we dare not have the windows open in case a bird flies in. I have got around that by opening the windows as much as I dare, in the evening, and pulling over the curtains. That, at least, allows some air to circulate and for the upstairs, which warms up as the day goes on, to cool down. At times I almost feel like a prisoner, trapped, in my own house.

Well on Saturday evening the tables were turned. I had intended to lock up the conservatory but it was still quite warm so I had left the windows slightly open. About an hour later I went back to lock up the conservatory and to my horror there was a bird in the conservatory. The wind had blown the windows wide open. Luckily the doors to the living room were shut so it hadn't had the chance to get into the house. The bird panicked when it saw me and I panicked when I saw the bird and I was quickly back into the living room. The bird kept flying into the windows almost knocking itself out. I decided that the best thing to do was to go outside and open the external conservatory doors, to give the bird a larger space to get out. This took some time as the bird was obviously tired and every time that it saw me it panicked and vice versa. Eventually the bird flew out, much to my relief. It was only a tiny thing and I hate to think what would have happened if it had got into the house. My husband watched from the bedroom window, not knowing what was going on, and commented that he wondered what I was doing, jumping around outside the conservatory.

Sunday 3 August 2008

Photo gallery

By popular request photographs have been added to the Chelsea comes to Cheshire post dated July 24, 2008 and the Going green post dated July 28, 2008.