Saturday, 20 September 2014

Said is dead

You may recall that the middle boy's teacher doesn't like him to use the words "happy" and "sad".  Now I find out that we are not allowed to use "said" either.  Apparently Said is Dead.  He actually has it writ large on the classroom wall.  And we should all be using more adverbs.  I took a breath.  The middle boy braced himself.  He could sense an opinion coming.  "Said is useful", I said, "it disappears amongst the dialogue, you don't notice it's there."
"We're not supposed to use it" he muttered desperately.
"In Proper Books it's used all the time," I said.  "Look in whatever you're reading there and you'll see."

It was a bad suggestion, he was reading one of those ghastly Beast Quest books, "Issrilla The Creeping Menace" maybe, or "Tauron The Pounding Fury".  The so-called author Adam Blade doesn't actually exist.  Beast Quest is a clever marketing idea dreamt up by the publishers.  There are over 150 books, all sold with collector's cards of course.  They are written by lots of different writers.  Who have no doubt been told that Said is Dead, as there is plenty of exclaiming, hissing and shouting nastily.

I'm all for using lots of different words, but I worry that these rules will stick, and their writing will end up being awkward.  Anyway, as everyone knows, Teacher trumps Mother every time, so I didn't waste my breath telling him not to use adverbs, just to use better verbs.  I'll just come here and have a quick rant instead.

In fact I'm on a bit of a roll now, so while I'm passing I would just like to say (or maybe even comment waspishly) that I've heard enough about devolving extra powers to every single part of everyone everywhere to last a lifetime.  Where will it end???  If we keep looking inwards and arguing and trying to get lots of little local powers we will miss the bigger picture.  The more layers of bureaucracy and the more people given odd bits power the more trouble there will be.  The more scope for badly done jobs, people sitting around doing very little of any importance and getting paid for it and the less accountability there will be.  And the more complicated it will all become.  Do people imagine that it will all be more relevant to them somehow by having the men in suits sat five miles away instead of a three hundred and five miles away.  And what of companies looking to invest here?  Uncertainty will drive them away to somewhere where the people aren't constantly bickering amongst themselves.

I don't like to see lots of expensive additions to our governing bodies.  Mayors and twin towns and quangoes for absolutely everything.  I'd like to see everything pared down and efficient.  Not a long row of snouts in troughs up and down the country.  Because at the end of the day, it is us who will have to pay for all of these extra authorities and governing bodies.  Let's turn our efforts to producing something meaningful like a smoothly-run well-organised outward-looking country.  We shouldn't even have to use the word united.

Right, I'm done.  Two paragraphs, it wasn't too much I hope, but it had to come out.  I think I watched the news too much yesterday.  I shall try to decompress today.  Hopefully the BBC will too.

I spent a good portion of the day at the Children's Hospital yesterday as it was finally time for the biggest boy to have that plaster off.  We waited an hour for someone to slice the top of the cast off and bandage the remaining half to his leg to keep it straight.  It took the nurse about two minutes.  I told the biggest boy that I could have done it myself right at the start and then none of us would have had to sit around waiting for all that time before we could move along to the next place.  He looked a bit alarmed.  I said that if they put the circular vibrating cutters and scissors (both of which are designed not to cut flesh) out the front, the mums could have whipped off the casts on the way in and we would have all saved an hour.  I could tell he really wasn't happy with the idea.  Anyway, we traipsed up and down corridors for a while and the upshot is the leg is fine, although completely stiff, so it will be a couple of weeks at least before he is back at football.

This morning should be calm and happy and spent at home.  Football training has mysteriously moved to week nights, and while that means Wednesday is an insane rush it does mean that none of us have to be anywhere on Saturday mornings.  I'm thinking homework for them and baking for me.  I hope you all have a good weekend with plenty of rest and relaxation.  I'll see you on the other side.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

The September garden

After neglecting the garden a bit recently I put in some hours out there yesterday, cutting out old raspberry canes and tying in the new ones and mowing the grass.  It always amazes me how mowing the grass makes it all suddenly look neater.  I carefully avoided the many frogs that live here now, they are mostly in a "wild" strip down the edge of the garden.  There are lots this year, in all sorts of sizes.  The tiny ones are incredible, a whole perfectly formed frogling the size of a fingernail.

The best crop in the garden this year has been the pears.  They've never really set before now, but this year there are dozens of both varieties, Doyenne du Comice and Beurre Hardy.   The Beurre Hardy are a really good size and very heavy.

Another good crop this year has been these yellow tomatoes.  I've never grown them before, they are Golden Sunrise, from seeds given to me by my blogging friend Flighty.  We've been having them for lunch every day for a while now, and there are still plenty more ripening in this beautiful sunshine that we've been having.

The little Sungolds are still going strong too.  I pop out first thing every morning in the week to get some for the biggest boy's packed lunch.  I love sending them off to school with some homegrown things.  There are allotment cucumbers every day at the moment as well.

We usually have salad for lunch at home, along with bread and cheese, it's always something simple.  At the moment there is oak leaf lettuce, green and red, which never lets me down.

And something that the two littler boys and I really enjoy, French sorrel.

The leaves are always described as having a lemony tang to them.  They are really different and delicious.  I love them with tomatoes and a little salt and I'm hoping they keep going into the autumn.  They are certainly still growing at the moment.  In fact the plant is perennial, so it should keep going next year as well.

This is the salad bed, although there's not as much there as I would have liked.  My last sowing of rocket bolted, so I'm left with spinach, basil, marjoram and more sorrel.

These are a few late carrots.  I've no idea whether they will amount to anything, but no doubt the piggie will like the tops.  I must have sown about eight thousand carrot seeds this year, and I've yet to eat a single carrot.  In the triumph of hope over experience I shall be trying again next year though.

Elsewhere there's chard, which the snails are enjoying, and some spring cabbage, which the caterpillars are enjoying, and winter cabbages (no picture - they're really not very inspiring) that look so tough that nothing has attacked them yet.  Could be a winner.

There are still plenty of the bee friendly flowers that the boys sowed, and in this warm dry weather there are still plenty of bees.  Next year I want to grow a fluffy grey plant that I saw on television the other day that carder bees like.  I can't remember what it was called though.  Something about lambs or elephants I think.  Anybody know?  I can't remember what the programme was either, but the person with the plant was Brigit Strawbridge of "It's Not Easy Being Green" fame.  Anyway, the bee was there combing all the fluff off the plant and protecting it from bumble bees so that his girl bee friend would love him.  I need this sort of thing going on in my garden I do.

I'm still enjoying the pale pinks and whites of summer.  All too soon it will be the yellows and oranges of autumn.

See, they're creeping in already.

Does anyone know what the correct etiquette is when it comes to fruit hanging over your fence, but when the roots are actually in your neighbour's garden?

My next door neighbour is very nice actually and I'm sure he would be happy for us to have these grapes.  No doubt there are masses on his side of the fence too.  I'm thinking grape jelly.  Dare I risk straining something again though..?  I've had two spillages out of three attempts.  I wonder if I could put pears in with the grapes, I've got plenty of windfalls that need using.  If I don't hurry I know the blackbirds will take the grapes.

The last thing in my garden at the moment is this little piggie.

Once the night time temperatures start dropping below ten degrees (fifty in fahrenheit) she'll come inside, although she'll still go out on the grass most days if it's dry enough.  Today felt like a summer's day though, so no need to go anywhere just yet.  I hope the weather's lovely where you are too.  Enjoy the rest of your week.

Monday, 15 September 2014

Pictures and writing

I really wish I was one of those people with planned blog posts, a clear idea of what I'm going to say and complete organisation in every area of everything.  I've got lots of notebooks, so I do feel I'm on the right track.  Just need to fill them with stuff.

Today I felt like writing a blog post.  But what to say?  I dug out my cameras and had a look to see what photos there were.  First up, one of those little libraries in a 'phone box.

I took the two younger boys for a bike ride on Saturday afternoon.  Just about a minute down the road and you're in the countryside.  It was beautiful.  I was on the lookout for plums.  Lots of people sell produce at their gates, and I found some damson jam almost straight away.  While I dug around for my purse the middle boy tried to reach a blackberry and fell into the hedge, which was pretty much just stinging nettles and brambles.  I was on the other side of the road, so I told him to hang on until a passing car had gone and I'd rescue him (he was tangled up in his bike as well as mashed into the hedge).  When I turned to look at the car it turned out to be a police car.  The policeman was very nice and stopped to see if we needed any help.  With as much grace as we could muster we sorted ourselves out.  I did get the jam.  Also some eggs further on as well.  (On a bike, I know, madness!)

We stopped later on to pick blackberries too, there were some really superb ones.  I've always loved cycling, it's such a lovely way to see the countryside.  A great way to travel a reasonable distance, but you're still very much connected with everything.  Including a good smell of cow which followed us for quite a big part of the way.

There was a little bit of salt sea air on Sunday.  Even though the biggest boy can't walk very far we like to take him out for an airing every now and again.

This week I've got lots on my to-do list.  Lots and lots.  In fact one week won't be nearly enough.  I started with a trip to the allotment which has been a bit neglected lately.  The middle part of it isn't too bad, but the bottom and top ends are scary.  The bottom is the bit with the shed.  Behind it is thick grass and underneath the grass there used to be rhubarb.  Who knows if it's there any more.  There are  out-of-control compost bins and nettles as well, it's all quite daunting.  A job for another day.

Today I tackled the top bit, which is out-of-control fruit.  Blackcurrants, gooseberries and raspberries, with a rogue bramble coiling round it all.

The raspberries have had a couple of years to prove themselves, but I've had almost no fruit so I think I'll take them out.  In preparation for digging out the roots I lopped off the tops, along with bits of gooseberry, blackcurrant and as much of the bramble as I could get.  My arms look like I've had a fight with ten cats.  But the plot looks a little more orderly.

There's a huge pile of stuff in the middle of it now though.  I'm hoping it dries out enough to burn.

I scored a bit of a bargain while I was at the site today.  A Can-o-Worms wormery for just £2.  I've put it in the shed for now.  Come spring I'll sort it out with some worms.  Worm compost is the gold standard when it comes to compost.  So it made me particularly happy to find such a thing.  I appreciate that a bargain wormery isn't everyone's idea of delight, but what can I say, I'm quite low maintenance.

This is some of the middle bit of the plot.  The bit I'm less scared of.  I threw away a load of blighted tomatoes today while I was there.  There are a handful left along with the odd cucumber, some yellow courgettes and a few squashes.

On the way out I passed this plot.

I loved the bright orange against the bluish purple of the cabbages.  I do love looking at other people's plots.  Every one unique, and so many really pretty.

In the garden there are still apples.  These are Egremont Russets.  They grew really big this year.  The skins are quite thick so I quite often peel them, but inside they are absolutely delicious.

I've been looking at wool online this week.  A sure sign that the temperatures are dropping slightly.  It's how I know that autumn is on the way.  I've already got some yarn, but it's nice to browse the patterns sometimes and see what I might make to keep me snug in the winter.  Of course, at the rate that I knit it'll be winter 2016.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

A bit of company

I kept the biggest boy home from school this week.  It was his Year 6 camp, and everyone in his class has been off having a big adventure, while he is stuck with his leg in plaster.  Sending him to school to sit in the Year 5 class and read all week seemed like adding insult to injury.  So we've been at home and round and about.  I've tried to give him a few treats, although of course it doesn't make up for missing camp.  I've really been quite upset that he's missed out, there was so much that he was looking forward to.  He's been such a star though, no complaining at all, no sulking.

We went to Bath for a little light wandering.  On Pulteney Bridge there's a lovely little stamp shop, so I bought him some bird stamps for his collection.  We popped up to the American Museum as well, and spent some time sitting on the grass in beautiful late summer sunshine.

We went for a sit down in Bath library.  They were holding a competition to see what people could make out of old library books.

Look at this turtle, isn't he amazing.

Yesterday we went to Slimbridge, the biggest boy's favourite place.  We saw three new-to-him birds, which made him happy.  We ate chips outside the cafe, a bit of a treat, not something we normally do.  When we got home he got an ice-cream as well.  I can't say no to anything this week.

Today he was a bit tired so we stayed close to home.  We did have a short trip down to the community orchard for a few more windfalls.  Then we made this windfall jelly.  I got rid of the grotty bits, and he did the chopping.  We were quite the team.  I threw in a few pears and a handful of strawberries that I happened to have.  The strawberries turned it a nice pink colour.  I had a bit of an incident when I was straining it, honestly, I'm hopeless.  Juice all over the counter and dripping down the side onto the floor.  (Caro, I haven't forgotten the jelly bag, it's on my wish list).  What was left looks and tastes pretty good, although I say so myself.  Hurray for windfalls.

Tomorrow there are chores to do, but we'll make a little time to sit down together and play games and chat.  He's good company, this biggest boy of mine, and it's a pleasure to be with him.  Next week will be hard for him when he goes back to school and hears tales of all he has missed.  My heart hurts for him, although of course it will pass and things will move on as they always do.