Drama in the Garden

Well. I don’t know where to start. There is a squirrel who is very keen on our bird feeders, and helps himself to as much as he can. However. There are also nesting magpies, who are very noisily protective of their young. Fair enough. I’ve seen them chase away a full grown cat, squawking like billy-o (the birds, not the cat), but yesterday things took a violent turn. They actually made contact with the squirrel (landed on his head!) while he was sitting in the tree contemplating how he was going to get into yet another new bird feeder (sold as squirrel-proof – bold, huh?!) so he ran down the tree and came and hid in the wisteria growing along our back wall.

That meant we had a jolly good view of his underside. He is actually a she, with young, I’d guess. Which would explain the persistence. She had a really good go at getting into the new bird-feeder, without success. We did consider putting out food for the squirrel, but decided she’d just eat that and then the bird food too.

The bird feeder actually does seem, so far, to be squirrel proof. She had a damn good go at it but failed.

I have another story about magpies. My daughter’s cat (JR) once managed to bring one in through their cat flap (how??), and it flapped around their bedroom, shitting the while, until her mother-in-law came to help. The bedroom actually needed redecorating! The magpie was unscathed, but very angry and vengeful. After that, the magpie and a magpie friend took it in turns to torment JR – they would sit on opposite ends of the shed roof, wait until JR ran towards one, then the other would creep up behind. And repeat, until the magpies were very close to JR and very noisy.

Meanwhile, here are more pictures of our garden. And a couple of herbs on our kitchen windowsill. The first one is basil, the second one is actually flat-leaf parsley, although I know it looks like coriander. The parsley will be planted outside shortly.

The decorating is coming along. Furniture in storage, decorating done, carpet chosen and awaiting fitting, then it’s curtains and re-upholstery. It’s going well, and in bite-size chunks, but still a bit much. We are at least able to sit in our lounge now, which we couldn’t for two evenings, so that’s an improvement. I’ll post before and after photos when it’s all done.

Normally with curtains I look for ready-made, and if I can’t find what I like, just buy the fabric and make them. But it’s too much now. So I’m working up to getting them made to measure. Mm.

This morning hubby and I went up to a National Trust property which is nearby. It has a moat! and the gardens are just delightful. Lots of big old trees. I love trees. All the lovely flowers, too. Why are my peonies not flowering like theirs? Huh?

Busy, busy, busy

Well, busy for me anyway.

Been doing some work in the garden – tidying up dead daffodil leaves, clearing a weedy messy old bit of earth and planted it up with two lamiums (deadnettles) and a Japanese painted fern, and thinking a lot about colours for decorating the lounge (walls, carpet …)

The decorator is calling round tomorrow to talk about colours which is helpful, because although I do have an idea of the colours I’d like, confirmation from somebody who does it for a living is always good.

Finished watching Friends. Love that series. Ten years! it’s so good. Started on Schitts Creek, which is just so damn funny. Also rewatched Colin From Accounts (BBC iPlayer), which is funny and bitter-sweet. For drama, we’re rewatching War and Peace. I read the book (and hated the style – why use one, or no, adjectives, when three will do? every damn time?) but the adaptation is lovely. Some very good people in there.

Also started watching Call My Agent (Dix Pour Cent is the French title) which is enjoyable but I don’t actually like very many of the characters.

So tomorrow I start packing up stuff I don’t want to go into storage for the decorating – glassware and stuff we need to keep in the house – and that’s quite exciting.

The first lot of photos show: a hydrangea I thought had died, some sempervivums doing very well, a bud on my eight year old rose bush (one of the 20 just coming out), the wisteria, some alchemilla mollis (Lady’s Mantle) and a heuchera – the colour combination is lovely, but much more by luck than judgement!

So the next lot of photos shows hubby’s engineering designs intended to keep the squirrels and bigger birds, like magpies and starlings, away from the bird seed; the new solar powered cat repeller (it makes clicking sounds that cats/foxes don’t like) and the two wooden nest boxes, which are both occupied, and very busy. It’s just so sweet to watch the little birds pop their heads out and then back in again, out and in again before daring to brave the tree/feeder. In the very last picture you can see the engineering design that didn’t keep out the blasted squirrel – they’re so persistent and clever!


I am an avid reader. One of my favourite things (apart from chocolate, obviously) is having a whole load of books to read. I read on my Kindle now as it’s easier on my hands than a heavy tome.

Just re-read all the Harry Potter books. Love these. It feels like being with old friends, and it’s sad when I’m finished. Then I re-read Lord of the Rings. A marathon task, but I do love it.

There are some similarities between the two stories. Both have “Dark Lords” whose name must not be mentioned. The Ringwraiths in LotR are very like the Dementors in HP. Both authors write about the natural world as “good” and industry/mechanical things as “not so good”. And in both, friendship and trust are the most important thing.


Small wins

Well. The heating system is all finished, and working a treat. Ditto the solar panels. I’ve booked the decorator, I’ve touched up the paintwork where the new radiators didn’t match the spaces left by the old radiators, and am in the process of organising a guy to do the other odd jobs.

I’m less tired than I was, and feeling more positive.

Today we took a load of rubbish to the tip (recycling centre) which is always a good feeling. The guys there are very helpful and friendly. Then weeded the front garden and tidied up the horrid old leaves from the daffodils and the bluebells. Looks so much better.

We are also doing “No Mow May”. The grass is already quite long. The neighbourhood cats really like it, though, nice and soft on their paws. Our lovely gardener is fine with long grass, as is his little dog Winston, who is such a character. Winston and I really like each other. It’s so sweet, the gardener turns up in his big van with all his equipment, his assistant, and this small dog who wags his whole body with delight, and runs about just for sheer joy.

The mowed grass you can see is next door’s. The daisies are a delight, and the bluebells are just to show off a bit.

New TV system. Well, sort of. I’ve disconnected the Humax PVR and bought a Buffalo 1TB external hard drive. Then I attached the new box to the TV, formatted it, and found out how to record on to it. We stream a lot of stuff now, there’s BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime and Netflix, but if we stream stuff from ITV, or Channel 4 or 5, that means we have to sit through adverts. We hate adverts. So I wanted to be able to record the commercial channels so that we can whizz past them.

It also means that we just have one “source” now – the TV. Humax don’t support Netflix, so we were having to switch from Humax to TV, which was a pain because the sound didn’t always work through the hi-fi. It does now.

There is no longer any juddering either – it was infrequent and fleeting but so damned annoying. Clearly the Humax was interfering somehow. Anyway it works better without. And I’ve managed to set programmes up to record – just need to see if you can set it up to record a series. Hmm.

The genealogy is inching along. Hubby has started on his family tree too, and solved a mystery that has long been bugging him. I think he expected to just log on, put in the information he had, and that it would all magically become clear. Frustrated doesn’t begin to cover it, but he has calmed down now, stopped threatening to cancel the whole thing, and is delighted that the mystery is solved. Further research required, though, as although we understand some stuff, there is more to be found. There is always more to be found, I guess, as I am discovering with my Scottish forebears. Who, frustratingly, seem to be called William more often than not. Not Catholics, clearly . . . .!

Granny and Grandad on their golden (50th) wedding anniversary (May 1979), photo taken by the local newspaper. The globe is to show how much they had travelled. Grandad went to the US in 1929 because of the depression, and when he had found work Granny went over too. She almost died of sea-sickness because the voyage was just so dreadful. Grandad ran a speak-easy for a while. He also was a butler while Granny looked after the children. They were just lovely.

Done! now onwards

Well, it took a whole month, but the heating now works. And the trunking now covers the pipes. What a relief. Phew.

Next up is some small handyman jobs round the house – I’m going to have a little go at touching up the paintwork myself and see how that goes before we book anyone.

Meanwhile the garden is just a joy. The rockery is doing so much better than I had hoped. And I’ve cleaned up several smelly old pots with diluted white vinegar and replanted them. Very pleased.

There are several pots I’ve replanted but for some reason known only to the Great Computer Geek in the Sky, I can’t upload the photos. Ho hum. Anyway, you can see the rockery!

Next up is the decorating. Just one room, but a big room, and lots to do in it. New carpet, curtains and upholstery after the painting is done. I need to sort out a date for the decorator, then get Pickfords in to move a load of stuff into storage. Can’t think beyond that at the moment – bite size chunks are better for me.

We have roundly ignored the stupid pretentious – and expensive! dressing up sh*t-show that took place on Saturday. For heaven’s sake. To quote Oscar Wilde, we can barely contain our indifference. We have a comedian called Harry Enfield who plays him, and the trouble is now that when I see a photo I can’t tell if it’s the comedian or not. Meanwhile Channel 4 is showing a documentary on what they call “The Problem Prince”. I’ll say! it’s Andrew, for those of you who don’t know. Very interesting. Hey ho.

And the saga continues . .

Well now. Where to start.

Old radiators removed. New radiators and pipes fitted. Air heat pump fitted. Enormous tank thing in what used to be the airing cupboard. New solar panels and battery storage fitted.

The solar panels were no problem at all. Scaffolders arrived, put up the scaffolding, solar panel fitters arrived, fitted the stuff, scaffolders took down the scaffolding. All in half a day. Easy peasy.

The air heat pump however is a different story. We were ten days without central heating or hot water. We have had a plumber and an electrician back (the electrician twice) to try and sort it out. Now we have hot water and heating, but the thermostat doesn’t work. So the heating does go on, but just gets hotter and hotter until we turn it off. Then it just gets colder and colder until we turn it on again. There are a couple of other problems, one of which is sorted, one of which isn’t yet. That is the short version. We are both really stressed, though less now than before, and the company doesn’t seem to understand either the problem, or how cross we are. However, we haven’t paid them the balance yet, so it will be sorted out before we do.


You can just imagine the mess. Plaster/brick dust everywhere. The guys were lovely, and funny, and one of the days they were here for thirteen and a half hours. 8 am until 9.30 pm. And they had a two hour journey each way. Heroes.

So we have the cleaners doing a full clean on Saturday afternoon. We have cleaned up the best we can but the dust just keeps on settling.

A couple of bits and bobs happened in the middle of all this. The tumble dryer (essential when there’s no heating and it’s pouring with rain!) was making screechy noises, and eventually died. Turned out it was 28 years old. Twenty eight! so we had to buy a new one, at great expense. But it’s great.

And the loft hatch, the one that the men kept having to go in and out of, fell apart. It was hanging by one hinge. Not great. So we had to get that fixed. But it’s so much better now! neat, tidy, safe and insulated.

Then there is the sale of the car. It was on Autotrader (a site where you can advertise your car as an individual) for a month, but on Wednesday somebody phoned and said I’d like to come and buy your car tomorrow please. Made me a reasonable offer, so I said yes. Then I panicked – what if it’s a conman? what if it’s a scam? anyway, it wasn’t. Guy arrived with a low-loader, checked the car, did the paperwork, paid us the money, and took away the car! excellent. So relieved. Now we are a one-car family, but as there’s only two of us we can manage fine with just the one. Phew.

What else? oh yes the garden looks lovely. Love this time of year.

No knitting/crochet mojo at all though. None. It’ll come back I expect when things are less fraught.

I’ve sent a DNA sample off to Ancestry.co.uk, and it’s currently being processed. Meanwhile I registered on their website and have been building a family tree. I did start one years ago and had kept a copy of the file, so it was easy enough to upload and carry on from there. It’s complicated, as I guess everybody’s is, as my mother was Scottish, and their records are kept differently and separately, and my father was Jewish, so lots of my ancestors are called Moses, or Nathan, or Miriam, or Esther. I have a lot of old photos, so have scanned them in and uploaded them (only people who have died – not sure about photos of people still alive, though hubby was happy for me to upload one of him).

The other thing is that people long ago, and Jewish families in particular, tended to have lots of children. So each ancestor I come across has nine or ten siblings. One is called Nathan Nathan. And he had a brother called Nathaniel Nathan. I do wonder if they were the same person, except that the birth dates are two years apart. It’s all very absorbing.

Haven’t quite got back that far yet, but my dad’s family was expelled from Spain in the Inquisition, so they scattered all over the world. I have ancestors in Holland, Russia, Poland, you name it. My sister is also doing the same thing so we are able to share information.

Here are my father’s parents. I never met them because they died long before Dad met Mother. Gladys and Sim Gordon. Sim was apparently quite scary according to my cousin. Wasn’t Gladys beautiful?


Yes, it is. But easing slightly.

Decorator has been, and I’m awaiting the quote.

The air heat pump will need new piping. Sigh. More disruption, but the end result will be better and more efficient.

Went to Vision Express who have referred me to the hospital because the prisms I need in my glasses are too complicated. Sigh. That means a wait of I don’t know how long before the appointment, and then I’m pretty sure they’ll give me a patch to put over at least one lens. A see-through patch, but still. I had one before, and they are ribbed, and irritating to wear. Eventually they’ll sort me out with a prescription and send me back to the opticians. Humph.

Then went to Specsavers to fetch the reading glasses I accidentally left there, and was roundly ignored. It was very busy in there, a bit like Paddington Station, so I phoned this morning to see what has happened to the computer specs they were going to sort out a month ago. Apparently there’s a “manufacturing delay”. Hmm. I think they forgot.

So I’m currently quite cross with Specsavers, and the only glasses which work are my reading ones, not the distance or computer glasses. Harrumph.

Managed to offload all the stuff we didn’t want via Freegle (I think it’s Freecycle in the US). Excellent service. And people come to your house to collect it! Amazing!

Meanwhile, in the big wide world, there seem to be no shortage of narcissists who just don’t care what the truth is. Nor do they seem to accept that the rules apply to them as well. At least our very own hasn’t tried to orchestrate his own arrest – possibly because he’s not likely to be arrested. My favourite two take-aways are (and I’m paraphrasing here): “No I didn’t tell [insert name here] because he wasn’t there. Anyway, I did tell him.” Also: “I didn’t realise following the rules meant following them perfectly“. What are you, 9?

Just finished re-reading Matthew Perry’s autobiography. It’s just so sad. At least he seems to be happy now. Well, happy-ish, anyway.

The weather is typical March – sunny spells, windy and showers. Lovely.

Son-in-law has just travelled from New Zealand to see his parents for their 70th and 80th birthdays. He stayed a week, managed to find time to visit us and is now back in the antipodes. What a hero. A 36 hour journey door to door, twice, in seven days.

It was my birthday yesterday. Sixty-eight years old. Where did the time go? I had a lovely day. One of the things hubby gave me was a DNA kit for Ancestry.com. I’m very excited to do it and send it off.

And here are the flowers NZ daughter sent me for Mother’s Day. Bless.


All the things:

Selling the car (now on Autotrader)
New solar panels being fitted (April 6th)
Heat pump being fitted (before decorating)
Decorator coming to quote – and that will involve new carpet, curtains and upholstery afterwards
Specsavers have cocked up my glasses one time too many so have an appointment with Vision Express next week (that’s the short version!)
Clearing out loads of stuff so getting it ready for Freecycle and/or the tip (recycling centre)
New dentist – first appointment last week, appointment for a filling for me made
Getting a man to quote for a network cable round the outside of the house
Four new tops ordered from Weird Fish’s sale (that’s exciting rather than worrying!)

I have had to write it down in a list in my “list book” so I don’t have to carry it all in my head.

Now it’s written down it’s slightly less intimidating, and I can cross things off as I go.

Anyhoo. Last weekend we went to near Guildford in Surrey to stay with ES and his wife. It was lovely. They went to great trouble to make sure I could eat (I’m a real pain to feed what with the IBS/dairy intolerance etc) and their house (part of a converted barn) is wonderful. The setting is beautiful too. We hired an electric car to make sure we’d have the range to get there, and that worked really well.

View at the back of the house. That’s hubby, right there.

The day before we travelled down, we had snow. Not what you’d call heavy snow if you lived in, say, Canada, but heavy for us. I was worried our little daffodils’ stems would be broken, but no! phew.

Nearly March

I am absolutely delighted to report that I have finally found some plant-based “cheese” that is just delicious. It’s made by Cathedral City, and is a very creditable substitute for mature cheddar. It’s wonderful. It’s been 20 odd years since I have eaten anything like it. For many years I managed with goat or sheep cheese, but had to give that up too a few years ago, so for a while now I have had no dairy at all. I’ve tried various vegan “cheeses” but they were all disgusting. Until now!

I made a fruit cake today. It’s very dry. I have put a piece of frozen bread in with it to see if that will help. If not, it’s going in the bin. I baked it for 20 minutes less than the recipe said too. Ho hum.

And here is a photo of a granny square blanket. I could either crochet lots of little squares and then sew them all together, do stripes, or just one huge granny square. So I’m doing one huge granny square. It’s going well. I had decided I’d use up some stash yarn which is not really any good for anything else. Blue, cream, lilac/purple, and I’m doing whole rounds before changing colour. Also waiting to see how the mood takes me before I actually choose which colour to do next.

It’s on hold for the moment (27/2/23) while I do some coasters for a birthday present, but handy to have next to me in the lounge when I feel the need of a bit of crafting without too much brain power involved.

The latest on the “getting the tv to play sound through the hi-fi”: I need to switch the TV and the hi-fi off. Then switch the TV on and make sure it’s in Netflix. Then switch the hi-fi on and make sure that is on the correct source. And it has worked ever since! what a faff though. Quel bazar.

I’ve been getting on with my Duolingo Spanish, and that seems to be going ok. I learn well like that, and am able to pick up on vocabulary, grammar, conjugation of verbs and declension of nouns ok. I do make mistakes, but learn from them. When I’m happy enough with the Spanish, I’ll brush up on my Italian too.

Picking up my new specs tomorrow. Bespoke lenses, FFS, because the double vision has worsened. Quietly excited but also a bit worried, because they were expensive, and there was a problem a few years ago which involved six visits to the opticians before they sorted my new specs out. Hmm. Fingers crossed.