Thursday, 28 August 2008

Birthday Boy

Just thought I would take a moment to record the fact that today is my 61st birthday. we'll be having dinner with our sons this evening to 'celebrate'.

"Trouble is, I'm older than I ever intended to be...."
Roxie Hart: from Chicago

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

Bank Holiday Weekend, Part Deux

If Holdenby was small and interesting, the re-launched Stoneleigh Park Country Festival was sprawling and tacky. There was nothing of the old Town and Country Festival about it. Simply put, it was a cross between a cheapskate Sunday market and a car boot sale.

We paid £25 to get in (including the 'old fogeys' concession, and quite honestly, it was a total waste of money. We heard other comments in the same vein. Stoneleigh is going to have to work very hard to make this event the same annual success that the original Town and Country Festival was. Maybe it will even tarnish the Royal Show?

The only good thing about it were the classic cars. They could have called it 'Stoneleigh Classic Car Show - with bits added'. But, I wonder if they will come back next year. We won't!

Our main reason for going was that we have decided to build a small studio in the back garden, and we hoped to see a few buildings to give us ideas. There weren't any! So we went off to Bentleys where we saw the widest range of garden buildings anywhere and made our choice. Now, I've got to start earth moving.

Holdenby Food Show

Holdenby Hall

Over the Bank holiday weekend, we visited a couple of country shows. The first was the Holdenby Food Show sponsored by Waitrose, though I have to say the Waitrose presence was quite discreet.

Not a bad event, this; quite small but with lots going on. Cost us £7.50 each to get in (we could probably have got the 'old crocks' concession and paid £6,50, but the admission included entry to the house as well). Good cookery demos with chefs from very good local hotels and restaurants. lots of different foods to try and buy and good value kitchen utensils. We had a good time and bought a pie dish which we went home and filled with a steak pie - delicious!

The only problem with this show was the signage - we got well and truly lost in the back roads in spite of the fact that Marea knows the area well since she drives through it every day on her way to work and has Marie Curie Cancer Care support groups in some of the surrounding villages.

Tunnel Brewery - where I usually buy my beer

There are lots of these old piles in Northamptonshire, and they all look more or less the same, but the gardens tend to be rather good - particularly Coton Manor which we visit occasionally. They do art classes and garden classes as well as running a small garden centre. It's well worth a visit, if only to see the Flamingoes.

Our second visit, to Stoneleigh, wasn't so good. More later.

Saturday, 23 August 2008

Lily beetle

While I was sitting in the courtyard having coffee this morning (what a change to have good weather for a bank holiday) I noticed a lily beetle on one of our dead-headed lilies. I hoped to be able to get a photo, but as I approached, it sidled round the leaf it had been feeding on and disappeared. Hopefully, it flew off. We picked off a lot of lily beetles early in the season and thought we'd got ahead of the game, but I think the mantra, to quote Mad-Eye Moody, is "constant vigilance". For those who haven't seen lily beetle (lucky you), here's the BBC Gardeners' World picture:-

© BBC Magazines Ltd. BBC Worldwide Ltd.

Friday, 22 August 2008


One of the most colourful bits of the garden at the moment are the lilies. They perform every year without too much effort on our part. We even have a pot where the lilies are taller than me. Unusually, though, we do have one pot where they haven't flowered at all, though they look perfectly healthy. Perhaps that's the problem and they're too happy.

When I was adding the second of these pics, called lilysmall, I was reminded of Lily Smalls from Under Milk Wood; "Nothing grows in my garden, only washing... and babies."

Thursday, 21 August 2008

Cats and guilt

I feel a bit guilty at the moment - let me explain: for the last couple of weeks, I've been reading heartfelt hand-written notices pasted around the village about a lost cat. Now the reason I feel guilty isn't because I've abducted the cat, though I do have a problem with the number of birds they kill. No, the problem is that, as I was going to bed the other night, the security light came on over the back gateway and, as I watched from the bathroom window, a large black/brown cat jumped over the gate and ran down the garden. I didn't make the call because (a) I wasn't sure it was the right cat, and (b) I didn't have the cat anyway. So why should I feel guilty?

Perhaps, anyway, they've found the cat and just forgotten to take the notices down.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Season of fruitfulness...

There's nothing like growing your own. Our first garden, some 45 years ago, had a large vegetable section, about 300ft long where I grew potatoes, cabbages, leeks, runner beans (for which I won first prize at the village show) and everything else I could think of. Since moving twice and downsizing, we now only have a courtyard and flower garden and, although we don't have the time for vegetable growing, we usually manage something edible among all the flowers.

We bought our strawberry plants mail-order and when they arrived they looked almost dead, but after replanting and feeding, they're doing rather well. We have one set in a pot on the ground, but the ones I like are in a hanging basket which lets the air circulate and keeps them clean and free from mould. They're on the computerised irrigation system, so I never have to worry about watering - who's had to worry about watering with the Summer we've been having? I just feed them occasionally and sit back and wait for my fresh strawberries.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Towards the end of Summer

It seems a bit odd to be starting this almost at the end of the Summer, but as we move through August, it's all happening in the hedgerows. The Elderberries are ripening, Hawthorns are reddening and everything feels full of life. In my neighbour's garden, the Bramleys are swelling and the chestnuts are forming in their husks. There'll be a bit more about my own garden later.

Recently, the village had a vote on village status - whether we wanted to remain a village or become a town. This, of course, is the main village; I live in an attached hamlet separated from the village proper by a main road. There seemed to be no advantages to being a town (we got to call the Chairman of the Council a 'Mayor' but there were no extra powers or finance) so, unsurprisingly, the villagers decided overwhelmingly that they wanted to remain a village. When some friends who live in the main village expressed their surprise (they voted for 'Town'), they seemed not to understand that many of the villagers had moved out of cities with the express intention of living in a village and weren't about to throw that away on a whim.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Got to start somewhere

I've started this blog because I want to make the point that not all English villages are of the Suffolk or Cotswold variety. I live in a small hamlet attached to one of the largest villages in England (possibly in Europe). It is surrounded by other villages whose roots are in quarrying and small industry as well as farming.

This is just a small beginning. I'm hoping to learn lots more about blogging and also about my own village and its surroundings. More soon