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

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Sunday morning

Celia will recognise the scenario: go for a walk that includes a visit to a place with small, independent shops; stop in those shops and see a dress/shirt/cardigan you like; try it on; buy it; return from your walk with a new addition to your wardrobe. However, I have added a new twist. The shop is in Maghera, a small town not far away, so when we returned there to buy groceries, I went back to the shop, Allie Mae, to take a second look at two more items I had seen, and I bought them too. The shop will soon have a website and be selling via shopify, so if you want to look at the stock, sign up here.
Not all walks end in shops. Walks around Cousin’s are entirely retail free. It was warm and sunny this morning when Westie Boy, Poppy and I followed out usual route to the end of the road and back.

Shaded

Blue skies

Fortunately it had rained in the night so Poppy enjoyed a paddle in the larger puddles while Westie Boy drank. I admired the view.

Interesting

Both dogs are now lying on the floor asleep.I may take them for a shorter walk when we come back from hearing Alan Johnson later today. They only had one good walk yesterday, but Poppy was tired by the late evening. She took to her bed while I read the Guardian and was soon snoring, then dreaming, making little woofing noises and moving her front paws. I must have been very quiet when I came to the kitchen this morning as I surprised her sleeping on the sofa. Continue reading

The Roads Well Travelled

My photographs so far are fairly sparse.

Sunshine

Fungi

In my defence, it is quite tricky to take photographs when you have a Westie at the end of a lead in your left hand, and a yellow Labrador at the end of a lead in your right. And you are making sure each dog stays ‘in lane’ so that you don’t get tripped up, tangled or twisted.

Poppy at the field gate

Other than that, the walks up and down the lane have mainly gone well. I say mainly as both canines disgraced themselves when we met a black Labrador, also on a lead, on the road. Honestly, you’d have thought they had been brought up in the gutter, or had never seen another dog in their lives. Gone were the socially adjusted dogs I know. Poppy and Westie Boy tolerate each other rather than being best mates, but faced with a dog they didn’t know they reacted as one, lunging and barking.

Once was enough, but we met the dog again and the whole performance was repeated. Seeing another dog coming towards us I expected the worst, but apart from suddenly pricked ears and quickened gait, we walked by without incident.

During the day yesterday I took the longer road to Belfast, travelling there and back by bus to meet Fiona. Regular readers of this blog will anticipate an account of shopping, but not this time. On Wednesday afternoon a friend of Cousin’s called at the house. She runs an antique business and I have been a customer of hers in the past. Her daughter Charlotte is a curator at the Ulster Museum, and curated the Fashion and Feminism exhibition Fiona and I visited last year. I said how much we’d enjoyed it, and a few hours later we got a message to say Charlotte would be happy to take us around her new exhibition Vice Versa.

It’s not a large exhibition, one gallery, but fascinating. Charlotte loves her job it’s clear. She talks knowledgeably and entertainingly. It was a lesson in socio-economic history, and much much more. Charlotte will be doing talks and arranging workshops I shan’t be about to attend, but i’ve A feeling Fiona might. Continue reading

Some pictures and thoughts from last week

I am looking at my diary and wondering if I can return to das Boot sooner rather than later. The good thing about being freelance is that you can take time off. The bad thing is that when you do, you don’t get paid.

Cow parsley

Flat earth and cows

But having discussed Mother’s ashes with Older Nephew who is going to think about the issue, our minds naturally enough turned towards my father.

Alert

Stretch

He was a fit man though an ex smoker, an ex Royal Marine Commander, a man who was always on the go. Barely a year after retiring he suffered a subarachnoid haemorrhage from which physically he recovered well. But it shook him. Suddenly his body had let him down. Mentally it took longer.

One swan with reflection

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Avoiding the cup final

A glass of chilled wine as the breeze picks up and the evening cools. It’s been hot today. I’ve drunk more than two litres of water, and shall drink more before I sleep. I am going for an early night. MasterB is currently stretched out on the bed, enjoying the air coming through the open door. Last night it was quite busy here, and I had already cleaned my teeth when he let me know that it was quiet enough for a perambulation. So I carried him ashore rather than risk my heart lurching as he leapt from the front of the boat, and once I’d got him in his harness we perambulated. Actually we stayed still for quite a lot of the time. Cats seem to like to drink in their surroundings, it’s quite boring when you are at the other end of the leash. Then there are spurts of activity, determined movements in directions I do not want to go. I hoped he’d have a poo, or at least a pee, but he saved the latter until he was back on board. I just hope he isn’t saving the poo for the journey home.

Toady, when it has been hot, he has spent most of his time under the rug in the forecabin, a rug that is supposed to save the upholstery from fur and claws. Sometimes he and I are not on the same page. The forecabin was bathed in sunshine. Surely it must have been horribly hot, but he stayed there until around five this evening, when he emerged, like Mole taking a break from spring cleaning, and blinked dazedly about him.

Shamed by my new neighbours (who set off after breakfast and have not been seen since), I felt I had to do some boat cleaning. The hot sun soon had my face running with sweat. Not wanting to disturb the grebes I didn’t want it to use the water pump and power hose. So my efforts, which were mighty but without great results, came to an end after an hour, and I retreated to the shower. I had already visited the big city, well a large village, and bought my newspaper, so after an early lunch I reclined and worked my way through pages of newsprint.

I knew, indeed how could I not? that Donald J Trump is coming to London this week. What I had not understood was how many members of his family he is bringing with him. This is less a state visit, more an invasion. I do hope they all have return tickets. Prince Charles and Camilla seem to have drawn the short straw and are spending a lot of time with Family Trump. I worked with a Trump supporter last week, and one day was enough to exhaust me. Continue reading

A little slice of heaven

The gentle movement of das Boot at her mooring, the creak of the ropes, the birdsong, are like a balm. The great crested grebes are nesting yards from the galley window, and watching them tidying up the nest, adding to it, taking it in turns to sit on the eggs, has fascinated me. When there was a change of shift last night, the one who had been sitting, the hen I think, immediately went off to collect more weed to add to the structure. Had she been thinking about this, looking about her for likely material during what must have been a fairly tedious afternoon?

Maybe Older Nephew’s and my coming and going provided her with some entertainment. We went to Ely and back, eating lunch aboard and enjoying a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc the ON had brought with him. The newly serviced engine purred. Not far from the marina we spotted a terrapin the size of a side plate. It was sunning itself on a stone. No doubt an unwanted pet, dumped in the river, and now a predator of small fish and young birds. I hope the baby grebes, when they hatch, will be beyond its orbit. MasterB joined us after a while, and as is now customary, I built him a cushion citadel. He seemed perfectly at ease. Continue reading

It’s pretty, isn’t it? No idea what it’s called though.

I can name some wild flowers, but not all, and not as many as I could as a child growing up in the country. Celia is more or less the same. So on our walk in the Surrey Hills last week there was quite a lot of “Look at that pink/blue/yellow flower. Do you know hat it’s called?” “No, it’s pretty, isn’t it?”

We were fine on Scarlet Pimpernels, English Bluebells, Celandines (though at first glance i thought they were Primroses), but that left a fair number of “it’s pretty, isn’t it?” moments. I’m hoping that you will help us to correct our ignorance.

These blue flowers made wonderful displays of colour on some of the shaded parts of our walk/

Blue close up

En masse blue

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In Which Celia and Isobel Go for a Walk in Search of Bluebells

I have so many posts half composed in my head, but unwritten and unposted: stray cats, blogging v WhatsApp, Brexit (again), amazing books, homelessness, climate crisis, MasterB. You get the picture. Maybe in time. But tonight, as we come to the end of Easter weekend, and the sun is shining, the blossom is still blossoming, the air has a gentle, mellow air, quite at odds with the political climate, I want to write about yesterday’s walk in Surrey.

Above the town

Above the town

Farm building

Farm building

Lush

Lush

I was born in Surrey and grew up there. I took its hills, its green fields, its bluebell woods for granted. You still get to enjoy these things in Surrey when your parents aren’t stockbrokers.

Bluebells

Bluebells

In leaf

In leaf

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Keeping it Sane

It’s been a busy week and a productive one. No, I am not talking about Brexit, though a new extension has been granted by the long-suffering EU until October. It sounds a good amount of time, six whole months, but once you subtract the days the house isn’t sitting it’s more like three. Mark Francois has made an arse of himself (again) by making threats to the EU and reading poetry aloud very badly, yet some people think he should lead the Tory party. Hello? Theresa May, whose air miles must be enough to get her to the moon and back by now, returned to the house and made the same speech again. Is it obstinacy, lack of imagination, or a plan to just wear people down? She does an aggressive upward look, reminiscent of Princess Diana, across the floor of the house to anyone who dares contradict her. Whatever the question was, Brexit is not the answer. Tonight, when the news was on, I deliberately left the room to avoid seeing the Farago announcing his new Brexit party with Jacob Rees-Mogg’s sister Annunziata on side as a prospective candidate. Some huge percentage of the adult population says it is suffering from Brexit related stress and anxiety. Tell me about it. I wake up from dreams about it.
Anyway, it’s Friday night and time for a bit of a break, though I fully intend to watch Have I Got News For You at nine o’clock, and I have already listened to the News Quiz. It’s like a itch I can’t help scratching. As though Brexit anxiety wasn’t enough, I have been worried about MasterB for the last couple of days. He has been under the weather, sleeping hugely, not nagging me much to play, taking only a cursory interest in his food. This morning, before I went to work, I rang the vet practice and talked to one of the nurses, describing his symptoms. If she told me to keep a close eye on things once, she told me a dozen times. Being Chief Litter Tray Monitor, I am well versed in MasterB’s bowel movements. Normally his digestive system functions admirably well, just the odd pungent smell from his hind quarters when he is sitting beside me, or the popping sound of wind breaking in tiny bursts. So I was able to say that yesterday’s deposit was less solid than usual. Today’s was even less solid than yesterday’s, so it seems something has upset his tum. I’m hoping he’s on the mend now as he has just led me to the kitchen and had a few mouthfuls of the wet food in his bowl, and his interest in biscuits has definitely returned. So long as it’s nothing serious, a few days of restricted calories might be just what he needs to shift the stubborn superfluous 500g he’s carrying.

 

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Dandelion Days

I’m watching the news where we keep switching back to the Commons chamber where a series of votes are taking place. So far the House has voted against a No Deal Brexit, which is fine, but if the EU, understandably frustrated by the situation, decides it does not want to engage with this pantomime anymore we shall leave with a no deal.
I don’t want to leave at all.
However, it is all too likely that a month from now I shall be living in a country unmoored. Prices will go up but income will go down. We are warned of empty shelves in the shops. I can buy lentils and so on, but what of green veg? Well, the answer maybe dandelion leaves. I was doing a spot of weeding on Monday, and as I dug out some dandelion plants I noted their young green leaves. So I separated them from the other weeds, chopped off their roots, brought them indoors, washed them and popped them in the fridge. Continue reading