Tuesday, 30 September 2008

A weekend with friends

This weekend we had Paul and Rachel up from Exeter to stay, and as a nice coincidence, Sunday was Rachel's birthday, so we had a small party.

Saturday being bright and sunny, we took Molly the Spaniel for a walk along the fields behind the village.

Marea, Rachel and Paul

This is one of our favourite walks; there are rabbits (not that Molly ever chases a rabbit); the village fox occasionally wanders up and down, and in the right season, there are blackberries and sloes to pick, though there are no sloes this year. All the stoned fruit seem to have failed after the glut of last year - no sloes, no damsons, no plums. One of the things I'm not so keen on, thoght I do understand they are necessary are the giant power poles and their cables stretching through the fields and off towards Croft hill.

So, imagine my surprise when I saw these lying in a corner of the Grange Farm field...

I looked up and, for the first time ever, I got a clear view over towards Croft and Huncote with NO poles and NO cables.

I don't know whether they are just going to renew them, but it looks rather permanent to me.

Sunday wasn't such good weather, so we went off to Staunton Harold where they have a craft Centre - The Ferrers Centre. There is some great jewellery, a 'Victorian Mechanical Toy Workshop' where toys are hand made to your personal order (his main item is fairies which sit on a bookshelf, moving their heads, waggling their wings and dangling their legs. We have one which I took in for a quick overhaul) and... there's some teriffic raku pottery. Now I have a thing about raku and we ended up buying a small boat by Richard Goodwin Jones http://www.goodwin-jonesceramics.com/public/gallery3D_public.htm. Richard GW is a friend of Paul and Rachel's - always a mistake to take a friend of the artist with you. You never get away without shelling out! Here it is on the mantelpiece with a couple of raku pieces by Ian Tomie, who may be Leicester’s head of urban design, but has also produced some pretty good pots.

Friday, 26 September 2008

Making life difficult for spiders

Quaker Cottage through the fog

This morning's foggy weather is very seasonal for the beginning of the new academic year. In years gone by, we've had fun with the relative humidity measurement exercises, asking the students "What's happening to the relative humidity when there's fog?" And, even more interesting, "What's the RH when there's freezing fog?" It gave us lots to talk about.
Anyway, as I was out walking Molly, it occurred to me that the fog makes things very difficult for spiders. I mean, no-one (no fly, that is) is going to stumble into a web that's visibly heavy with droplets. Seeing how many webs there are, I'm reinforced in my view of what a good thing spiders are; without them we'd be knee deep in flies!

Obviously, space is at a premium here - there are 3 stacked up on my mirror.

As we walked along, I was listening to Erik Satie's Gymnopedies. My friend J. who works in radio and has forgotten more about music and composers than I'll ever know, thinks Satie's eccentric. Well, that may be so, but his music is sublime, and appropriately melancholy for a foggy Autumn morning. If you haven't bee fortunate enough to hear the Gymnopedies, you will find a small sample of the first (1ere; Lent et Doloreux) on http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erik_Satie.

The fog takes all the colour out of everything. Not that there's a lot left in the garden, except for a few Dahlias (Bishop of Llandaff) and the Nasturtians which really come into their own when the weather gets cooler and before the frost hits them. The leaves make a great, peppery, addition to salads as well, so long as you make sure there are no blackfly.

I see there's a move back to the correct pronunciation of Nasturtians instead of the latinate 'Nasturtiums', which are something completely different. This from http://everything2.com/e2node/nasturtian "Indeed the OED records the usage of "Nasturtium" as "improp.", improper that is. So, if "Nasturtium" is wrong, what is it? The OED says it is "kinds of pungent-tasting cruciferous plants including watercress", but this little anecdotal conversation between J.R.R. Tolkien and his college gardener sets the record straight:

I consulted the college gardener to this effect:

'What do you call these things, gardener?"

"I calls them tropaeolum, sir."

"But, when you're just talking to dons?"

"I says nasturtians, sir."

"Not nasturtium?"

"No, sir; that's watercress."

And that seems to be the fact of botanical nomenclature...""

I'm not going to argue with Tolkien or the OED.

Monday, 22 September 2008

A reward for getting stung

This is the reward for getting stung on Saturday. On Sunday the family came round for lunch - what could be better than rib of beef followed by blackberry and apple pie. I think the picture speaks for itself.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Blackberries have more vicious friends

Lovely sunny afternoon yesterday, so Molly (the spaniel) and I went blackberrying. I thought we would just catch the last of the season. Lots seem to have rotted on the bush before coming to fruition. We had to search a bit but there are more still to come. We all know, of course that you don't pick blackberries after Michaelmas (september 29th) - this is the day the devil was thrown out of heaven and landed in a blackberry bush among the thorns. He takes his revenge every year by peeing on the bushes, so steer clear.

As if the vicious thorns weren't enough to protect the berries - from what - isn't the idea that they get eaten and the seed distributed? Anyway, as if that weren't enough, brambles associate themselves with stinging nettles. I got stung all up my right arm and, all evening in the theatre, it irritated me. I can still feel the stings as a minor irritation as I type, the morning after.

By the way, why don't dogs' noses get stung? Molly sticks hers into everything with no ill effects.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Early morning fox

I had to come in early yesterday morning to take Marea to the station (off to London for a meeting) and as I was getting out of my car, this fox came strolling by.

I only had my phone camera with me and it was set to medium quality (I've now set it to high) so the pic's not great, but I'm glad I got it anyway. I was surprised at how untroubled it was by my presence until I found out later that the cleaners feed it every morning. Apparently, it gets half a tin of dog food each day, so it's not surprising it looks so fit and healthy... and tame.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Seems a while

It seems rather a long time since I sent my last message. We've been away to Kefalonia (Cephalonia/Kefalinnia, etc.) for a week and, since I got back there's been a lot of catching up to do.

This is the view from our apartment a few minutes out of Fiskardo.

Across the Steno Ithakis, the Strait of Ithaca. Ithaca on the right, Levkada straight ahead, the port of Fiskardo tucked away in the bay, bottom left.

Since we last visited, about 9 years ago, things have got much more expensive. Fiskardo was never cheap, but in other parts of Kefalonia, we could eat for about 15Euros ($21-22, £12), but now we were paying about 35Euros ($50, £28). In Fiskardo itself, we paid up to 60Euros ($86, £48) - all per couple. The main thing that's changed, however, is the sophistication of the food, and especially the wine. Most tavernas don't sell Retsina, which I rather like, though it's available in all the mini-markets. They regard it as old-fashioned and lower class. Fiskardo, full of expensive yachts, wants to be more like San Tropez, but the designer shops aren't there yet.

Fiskardo, day and dusk.

Anyway, we had a very restful time, lazing on the balcony watching the boats come in and out, or motoring to Assos or Agia Efimia for lunch and sitting watching the boats come in and out, or having dinner in a quayside taverna and watching the boats come in and out (you can see a theme developing here).

Now, back in UK and Autumn is here with morning mists and, boy, is it cold!

Lots more Kefalonia pix at http://albums.phanfare.com/4520998/2008/

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

How do wasps know the date?

Now that September has arrived, everything has a very Autumnal feel; the leaves are beginning to turn, the fields are harvested and the starlings are gathering for the outward journey. They line up on the heavy power wires as if waiting for a train. I watched three of them mobbing a sparrow-hawk (I think) yesterday morning. He didn't wait around. The villagers have taken the best of the blackberries, but the apples are still growing to be harvested later in the Autumn.

One of the villagers shows me his haul.
He said he was going home to make apple and blackberry crumble. Mmmmm...

In the field opposite, which used to ba part of an orchard, the damsons have let me down. Rather like my plum trees, there was a glut last year and they're having a rest this year.
Damson bushes, devoid of fruit - perhaps next year.
However, my main point was how do the wasps, who have plagued us for a month now, know that the last day of August has gone and so should they?
The wasp trap - with wasps.
We had a very well-mannered young man come and cut back the laurel hedge so we can now see the thatched cottage behind and it lets much more light in, which should help the plants around the plum tree. I'll try to find time for a picture later. Anyway, i wasn't at home while he did the job so, last evening, I rang him up to say thankyou for doing such a good job. I think he was in the middle of his evening meal, so I felt rather embarrassed - silly, isn't it?