Of holy vegetables, a plague of pennywort and diverse lives

The butter beans for tonight’s meal are bubbling away on the hob. I have just enjoyed my lunch, and am having a moment’s post prandial relaxation while the digestive processes get to work. It’s a beautiful day; sunny with a breeze which means I need to make sure I don’t burn when I go about my next self-imposed task to start cleaning the boat covers. I say start, because I want to see if the brushes on the cordless drill will make the job easier. However, I forgot to bring the charger, so how much charge is in the drill remains to be seen.

I have visited Reach, picked some blackberries to give my downstairs neighbours as a thank-you for keeping an eye on the plants these last couple of days, and doing my almost daily shop at the organic farm. Again I bought spinach. The other day I noticed there was a separate batch of spinach, half the price of the rest. This is what the label said:

Holey Spinach

Now the farm, as I have written before, as well as being organic also employs people with a range of disability, including those with learning difficulties. I assumed this was a spelling mistake. After all there’s holy basil, so why not holy spinach. Then I noticed the holey kale and the penny dropped. These were bags of veg with holes in.

The farm is my favourite place to buy flowers for my time afloat too.

Flower selection

At Burwell I filled the car with petrol and had a little explore. Burwell calls itself a village, but it’s huge. If only there were still a railway station there. I stumbled upon this chapel. It was the chimney that caught my eye at first.

Unexpected chapel, Burwell

Continue reading

Advertisements

August Nights

I am not terribly confident that I shall have an undisturbed night’s rest. We reached das Boot yesterday afternoon. There was no one at our end of the marina, so once I had opened up the boat, run the engine for a while and vacuumed away the worst of the dust, I let MasterB out of his travel basket while I unloaded the car. Contrary, he decided the interior of the car was somewhere he’d like to be. I lifted bags onto the grass and opened the boot for the rest: bed linen, food, new ropes, a bag of books for Older Nephew, towels and clothes. MasterB moved to the shelf at the back of the car and looked out, watching my progress.

When at last I picked up the food bags and turned towards das Boot he leapt down and followed me, stopping every now and then to look about him, assess the possibility of danger, sniff the grass. Why didn’t I have a camera in my hand? Then it was a leap on the gunwale, a swift look at the interior, and he was aboard. Great. Continue reading

Time Off and Time Out

I worked eight days in a row after returning from my hols and boy was I glad to have a couple of days off. I love my work, but it can be a bit intense at times, and I definitely needed time to recoup. I am rereading Milkman by Anna Burns for book group next month. However, my recuperation required doing a jigsaw, and having more credits than I know what to do with with Audible, I decided to buy the audio book so I could listen and solve simultaneously. It works really well. I’m switching between the audio book and the print version according to where I am and what I’m doing. It’s a multi-sensory experience.

This afternoon I left both the audio book and the real one at home and headed to Tate Britain to see the Frank Bowling exhibition. I am so glad I did. It is wonderful. I took some photographs once I realised it was allowed, so maybe I’ll post some of them tomorrow. His work is abstract and I found it tremendously uplifting, though I can’t say why. It made me wish I lived in one of those loft places which are murder to keep warm but which have vast walls. There were several paintings I think I could happily gaze at for the rest of my life. Continue reading

Looking Back at My Holiday

I have been working pretty solidly since getting home, the weekend no exception. I got back tonight and, having fussed MasterB, fed him, cleared the poo from the litter tray, I made my own evening meal. I lingered over it, knowing that when I put my fork down I needed to read some notes for work tomorrow morning when the alarm will be set for six thirty. So a few minutes ago, when i looked at some pictures from my recent holiday they were a welcome reminder of rest and relaxation.

A man came to the house with a book that belonged to his family. Generations past they kept a shop, and it seems my family were among the customers. Cousin and I scanned pages from the 1840s, worried perhaps we were going to find unpaid bills that would by now have accrued considerable interest. There were lots of sundries, quantities of leather, salt, tobacco and bread, but fortunately no outstanding debts. Phew.

Groceries and Sundries

Visiting Uncle Bill, now resident with his son, another of my cousins, we again admired the temperament of the two dogs, brother and sister, found with their mother abandoned by the side of the road in a ditch. They seem to have suffered no lasting trauma.

Bookend Dogs

Continue reading

What a Treat

I want an amaryllis. A particular one. Maybe I already have it, as I already have four growing in pots around my home.

As I wrote yesterday, I’m reading Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. And loving it. One of the characters is called Mary Treat. The details about are are so convincing, her research so fascinating I wondered if she was real, or if she was  a creation from BK’s fertile imagination.

So a few minutes ago I turned to the internet and found Mary Treat was a real person, a botanist, as she is in the novel, a woman who corresponded with Darwin among other celebrated scientists, who made a living writing about her observations and experiments.  She was self taught, a respected name in the scientific world. All this at a time when few women studied the sciences.

She has an amaryllis named after her, as well as three other species of plant and animal. Wow. Continue reading

What’s the beef?

That was a long post last night, so I am aiming for something shorter tonight, if only so that I have some time to read my book, Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver, before I go to sleep.

Despite the dangers to my mental health when politicians totally lacking in probity repeat nonsense like a religious mantra, I continue, most days, to watch Channel 4 News. I missed the start of the piece about climate crisis and a new report that urges us to move to a plant based diet and away from meat. I joined in as Cathy Newman interviewed George Monbiot and a beef farmer called Stuart. I didn’t get his last name. Stauart was big and smiled a lot. He smiled most when George spoke and shook his head a lot as he smiled. It’s a way of dismissing someone else’s cogent arguments by suggesting they are talking nonsense without actually having the means to refute them.

Stuart said if we in the UK stopped producing beef we would be simply exporting the problem as we would import it from elsewhere with lower standards. That is about all he said, but he said it over and over again, as though it was such a self evident fact that nothing else needed to be said. I got frustrated with George and Cathy for failing to point out to him that the idea is we all reduce our meat intake, and that should mean not importing meat. Maybe I had missed a vital exchange at the start of the interview that might have explained the lack of this point being made.

George remained remarkably calm and polite as he explained the impact of beef farming on the environment and Stuart continued smiling and shaking his head, and then repeating what he had said earlier. I had to admire George’s good humour and patience. In his place I should have wanted to slap Stuart. I suppose George has been banging the environmental drum for long enough to realise that the drip drip effect may work better than violence.

Mind Our Language

They say if you learn one thing from a talk, or a visit to a museum or gallery, it is time, sometimes money, well spent. On those grounds the lectures and seminars on sociolinguistics I attended as part of my first degree represent a good investment.

I recall studying newspaper articles, noting how descriptors were used to steer the reader to  particular view, to mould our responses. It was quite shocking, and has made me a more critical reader, more of a fact checker. When I started flat hunting in the days before the internet I would collect details of properties for sale from estate agents. Apart from those being sold by Roy Brooks who believed in calling a spade a spade – “in frankly appalling condition throughout” is one phrase I remember – these invariably one bedroomed properties were described as spacious. Spacious for whom, I’d wonder. Lilliputians perhaps. I fast came to the conclusion that the best way to read these bits of puff was to block out the adjectives, erase the ‘spacious’s, the ‘stunning’s, the ‘desirable’s and the ‘sought after location’s.

Once, listening to the news on the BBC in the 80s, my antennae twitched when I heard a dictator, renowned for disregarding human rights and with a pronounced penchant for imprisoning opponents without trial and then torturing them, had been ‘forced’ to execute some ‘rebels’. Sure enough, a short time later our government quietly softened its stance towards this man, his barbarities would be ignored in the name of trade. Continue reading

Love London

The new layout at the airport confused me. I could see the shuttle bus I needed to take to the railway station, but not how to get to it. So I wasted several minutes going in the wrong direction and the bus I had seen departed. Fortunately another arrived almost immediately. It was nearly empty, as was the train to London. Until we reached St Pancras. I looked up from my book and saw a sea of faces on the platform. Not all those people boarded the train, but as travelled through Farringdon and City Thameslink stations the train filled up. I got off at Blackfriars and made it to the bus stop just in time to see my bus pull away. Joggers dodged the pedestrians; commuters talked earnestly into mobile phones; the Thames flowed sweetly under the bridge. It was a beautiful evening.
After being the countryside I was struck, as I always am when I return home from less populated areas, by the hustle; the sheer number of people; the energy. I couldn’t decide whether I was pleased to be there or not, though I was increasingly impatient to see MasterB.
He was more interested in going into the garden. Within seconds I realised his pleasure at seeing me was more that I could let him out of the flat and into the big wide world than in an emotional reunion. Ah well, he made up for it later, and this evening. Continue reading

Homeward bound

We reached the airport betimes, travelling on a section of road that only opened this morning. Maybe someone cut a ribbon in the pre-dawn, maybe there was a fanfare. I don’t know. Cousin thought it might be busy, but the cars were sparse and we had one of those once in a lifetime conversations where we admired the unpitted tarmac and the smoothness of the ride.

The journey was so quick that I was turned away from bag drop and told to come back in half an hour. I sat on a metal seat and ate my lunch. The airport seemed very quiet. Even security, an area I have learned can take a long time to pass through at Belfast International, was nearly empty. However, I set off an alarm when I passed the first scanner and had to remove my shoes, enter the thing that looks like the orgasmatron in that Woody Allen film, and submit to being patted down before I could collect my hand luggage and proceed.  Continue reading