Thursday, May 31, 2007

A pity it's a hamster in the picture. Visualise a chipmunk getting ready to face Edward Scissorhands, Buffy's puss who is making sterling attempts to beat the hunting record of Nimrod, the Mighty Hunter. Full story here.

I haven't been around much. I spent the bank holiday weekend and the days following feeling uncomfortable and brain dead. I went to the dentist yesterday who told me that it wasn't an abscess, as I had feared, but s...., the infection you get in the tubes in your head. My brain isn't working at the moment and I've forgotten the word. Still I'm on antibiotics and I hope that soon everything will be back to normal and I'll be able to think straight.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

I'm very fond of Nigella, otherwise called "Love-in-the-mist". The plants in our garden originated with a packet of seeds some 6 or 7 years ago. And they've come back every year by seeding themselves. They not only look very pretty they survive in the most problematic flower bed in the garden which has clay soil that is baked hard by the sun every summer.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A busy week in many ways. This is the week of the 24th Chelmsford Cathedral Festival and there have been events on all week. The Husband went to a concert of Purcell with the King’s Consort at the Cathedral on Wednesday evening and came home praising the music and the skills of the musicians. Together he and I went to two concerts at lunchtimes at local churches. On Monday there was an organ recital with the organist Edward Wellman who played mainly English music from composers such as Byrd, Whitlock and Hollins but also included JS Bach’s Fugue in D major and Widor’s most famous piece, the Toccata. Friday lunchtime, at another of the local churches we heard a duo called Flute Magic. The guitarist, Roger Montgomery, we’ve known for years as he taught the Stepson classical guitar. Roger is a very talented guitarist in his own right and am always glad to hear his wonderful guitar playing. At the concert he played with his daughter Ruth, a wonderful young flautist who plays professionally and teaches the instrument. She is profoundly deaf but it doesn’t stop her being a wonderful musician. She and her father played a number of Latin pieces by such composers as Piazzolla and Machado, a piece writyten by Roger as well as a wonderful flute solo by Reade. It was well worth going, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

As we shall be going to the wedding of the Husband’s niece on 9th June, I also went out to buy an outfit for the wedding. I found something I like, a skirt and top in a flowered fabric and a jacket in a pink self-brocade, and a wonderful pink hat covered with flowers and feathers. The photo the Husband took of me wearing the outfit really made me wince, I am not photogenic at all and I’m sure that the face in the photo looks nothing like the face I see in the mirror everyday but here’s a photo of me in the new outfit.

I’m not best pleased at the moment. Yesterday morning there was a huge racket in our back garden and opening the back door I was in time to see a big black cat wearing a collar disappearing down the side of the house. It wasn’t Nimrod, who doesn’t wear a collar (he doesn’t like them) and was sitting on the grass looking quite disgruntled for a cat who is usually so easy going. It was in the afternoon when I went out to do some gardening I discovered that the olearia and a nice iceland poppy that had just started to flower were both lying flat on the ground, obviously casualties of the fight. I suspect neither plant is going to look its best for the rest of this year, although I am hoping that with judicious pruning of the olearia both plants will be OK next year. Obviously one of the downsides of having cats.

Tonight we are off to another concert, nothing to do with the festival but of the Mugyenko Taiko Drummers. We went last year too and I’m sure I wrote about them then. We are both certainly looking forward to seeing them again this year.

Monday, May 14, 2007

I've come to the conclusion that I'm a very contrary person at times. For months I have been complaining about the weather and its affect on the garden: it's too dry, the soil is baked hard, plants are wilting and so-on and so forth, on and on. Then we got news rain was coming and I spent a happy afternoon spreading handfuls of pelletted chicken manure on the garden so that the rain could wash the nutrients into the ground. And then it rained and I was happy.... Now, over a week later and I'm getting frustrated that it's still raining and I can't get outside. I think part of it is that I can see just how the plants have benefittedfrom the rain and how much greener they are and how much better they look. Also, I can see that the poppies are out but it's so dark and overcast and wet that I've not been able to get outside to take pictures of them. Oh well, why is England known as the green and pleasant land? Because the rain we receive makes the plants so green and fresh looking. It will soon become dry again and then I'll have the opportunity to get outside. I can hardly wait, I've already lists in my mind of what has to be done next - prune back the ceanothus, weed the aquilegia bed and find some nice plants to put alongside them (has anyone any ideas of good companions for aquilegias? I'd be very grateful).

A question for ornithologists. Over the last few days we've observed a collared dove making a nest in the laburnum tree in a flower bed only about 10 feet from our sitting room. Just now looking out the window I saw a bird fly into the tree, obviously to it's nest. But is this too late in the year for any young to grow up?

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

The Husband doesn't like gardening and doesn't do the great proportion of the work outside - he leaves that to me. One exception is pruning the roses, almost all of which were drastically cut back and are only about two feet high at the moment. The one rose he didn't prune was a climber on the wall that flanks part of one side of the garden. Here are the flowers already blossoming there or about to come out.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

One of my aquilegias is out. Another is well on the way. I'm so glad - they are some of my favourite flowers.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Free Knitting Pattern: My Second Red Hat Scarf

After making my first red hat scarf I started on my second. And here it is, complete with the pattern. The good thing is that the pattern I used isn't difficult at all and you can do so many different things with it. I am considering, some time in the future, using the same pattern but no Contrast yarn, instead adding perhaps beads at each of the bottom edges.

I've started thinking about my third scarf. I've bought the yarn and have found an interesting pattern. Today I shall do the tension square so I can see how what I've imagined actually looks like in real life.

1 100g ball Sirdar Country Style 4 ply yarn - roughly US fingering weight (M)
1 50g ball Wendy Cosmic yarn (C)
pair of 4 mm knitting needles

2 repeats of pattern = 3.5 ins (9 cm)
8 rows of M + one repeat of C = 2 5 ins/4cm

The Pattern

C.O. 40 sts (multiple of 13 sts + 1)
Knit in pattern as follows:

Using M and Pattern 1:
Row 1: (RS) *K1, YO, K4, K2tog, sl 1, K1, psso, K4, YO; rep from * to last st, K1
Row 2: K1, P to last st, K1.

Repeat Pattern 1 four times (8 rows). Then put colour M to one side (don’t break the yarn, just thread it up the side of the knitting)

Using C and Pattern 2
Row 1: (RS) *K1, YO, K4, K2tog, sl 1, K1, psso, K4, YO; rep from * to last st, K1
Row 2: K to end
Row 3: as Row 1 of Pattern 2
Row 4: as Row 2 of Pattern 2

Repeat these 12 rows FOUR more times. Then using M and following only Pattern 1 continue to work until the piece is 22 ins long. Break the yarn and place the stitches on a stitch holder.
Make a second piece the same. Graft the two pieces together.

Friday, May 04, 2007

One of our rhododendrons has come out in flower. I've always loved the acid-loving plants like the rhodies, azaleas and magnolias and fortunately they like one of the beds in our garden.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I've had an interesting few days lately. It started on Sunday when our chapter of Red Hat ladies was one of many who went to London. We arrived at London by train after an "interesting" journey due to engineering works and, waiting for one of our party on the concourse of Liverpool St Station it was fascinating to see just how many people recognised us as members of the Red Hat Society. We were approached by two young Australian girls who recognised us and who said that they were well aware that the Red Hattters were active over there too, another lady approached us and took photos of us. Also we happened to meet the Queen of the Lake District Chapter, down in London with her mother and sisters to celebrate their mother's 85th birthday with a visit the previous evening to the London Palladium to see "The Sound of Music". They were going to same place as we were and so joined our party.

We were off to see "Menopause - the Musical" at the Shaw Theatre and arriving there it was fascinating to see just how many red hats were around. I would estimate that there were about 60-80 red hatters in the audience, which was predominantly female and "of a certain age". The musical itself had four female performers, was set in the Marble Arch Marks and Sparks and comprised many well-known popular songs with new words, all about the problems faced by those going through the menopause.
I have to admit that before I went I had had some doubts about the whole thing. I love good musicals and good music and knew that this one had received many very bad reviews, for example both The Times and the Daily Telegraph newspapers had said very unpleasant things about it, so I approached the performance with a few reservations. However, I enjoyed it a lot. OK, it's not likely to go down in history as a groundbreaking new musical but it spoke to its audience of the things that women of a certain age are going through, the way they become "invisible" to much of society, hot flushes, the inability to remember things, difficulty in sleeping, feeling that they have lost the boat in many things...... I reached the conclusion that the reviewers were young males who had absolutely no idea of what women actually went through. I have to admit that only those women who were either going through the change or have done so would really identify with the musical, but those who had were appreciative of the only thing around that actually covered what they were going through. However, I enjoyed myself and had a good time.
Monday was spent catching up with everything I should have done on Sunday and then came Tuesday: the Husband and myself's 14th wedding anniversary. We went up to London for the day and started off at John Lewis to buy my present. John Lewis has a wonderful selection of contemporary classic costume jewellery. In the past the Husband has bought me jewellery (usually earrings) himself, as he has an excellent eye for such things but for my birthday the earrings he bought me bore more than a close resemblance to a pair he gave me a couple of years ago. As it was he took one look at the silver earrings and said "these look nice" and I was obliged to say (tactfully) that I like them a lot, especially the identical pair he bought me about 5 years ago (and I wear frequently). Anyway, I found a really nice silver pendant that will go with many of my pairs of silver earrings, so that was nice. Then we walked though to Soho and found a good restaurant where we had a meal. Then we walked through to Trafalgar Square and the National Gallery. There they had a wonderful exhibition titled "Renoir Landscapes 1865-1883"
It was wonderful. Apparently it was the first exhibition specifically to concentrate on Renoir's landscapes rather then his better-known works which usually involve portraits or pictures of, say, cafe society. The paintings were wonderful and I was transfixed by many of them.
Yesterday I caught up with some things and an (almost forgotten) hairdressers appointment. Today I must get back to the garden. Yes, I'm still working at that, at times I feel I always will be. Gardening just never stops.