Thursday 23 May 2013

Indoor garden viewing

Another episode in the garden story.  Everything is very late.  I have no idea how the Chelsea Flower show gardens managed to get their foxgloves out in time.  Mine are still quite short and green.

Today the irises are at their best.  It is going to rain tonight so this will be the peak, with no messy bits!  It is so cold here today and the garden is not inviting unless viewed through a window with a cup of tea in hand.  It did look pretty, early this morning before work, so I rushed out and took a few photos before the weather closes in again.  I really wished I hadn't put my winter coat in the loft!

In the border I have rather too many poppies.  I can't bear to dig them up and they are slowly taking over.  The forget-me-nots are just finishing and you can see foxgloves dotted about that are still green and stubby.   The two trees are viburnum which is going to get a severe haircut this year, and a pink flowering tree which I think is a hibiscus.  I know it has no manners and comes up everywhere.  I also have very spiky teasels (likewise bad mannered) and Canterbury bells which I love.  I try off and on to grow hollyhocks but they always look so scraggy with rust that I can't appreciate them.  There is a bay tree to the left which was in a pot.  It is now in the border and has started to grow in an alarming manner.  I have an idea they can get pretty large so I will have to have a really generous bay wreath for the front door next Christmas.

This is the border on the other side of the garden.  It is west facing.  I went a bit mad on wallflowers this year.  They have such a lovely perfume and last so long.  When I was little I remember Mum buying them in the autumn in the greengrocers  in muddy bundles.  We have just acquired a brand new greengrocers in the High Street, having been without one for 10 years.  I have great hopes that  he will stock marmalade oranges and wallflowers in due season.

The bundle of sticks is the kindling drying out in a decorative fashion for next year.  Hardly anyone has an open fire now in London, and using wood is carbon neutral as long as you grow more to replace it.  I do use smokeless coal though, to avoid encouraging smog.  I can remember not being able to see across the road on foggy days in the 70s when more people used coal.  Mum came to London from the Welsh borders in 1952 and remembers a true smog.  She said she went to the cinema and couldn't see the film.  All her clothes turned yellow at the edges with the sulphur in the air. Air quality now is much better, or at least, the dirt is less visible!  I must admit I used to find fogs quite exciting on the way to school,  especially crossing the road and losing the the direction of the other side!  I'm rambling, I think it's bedtime!

Sunday 19 May 2013

Shopping and near misses.

I used to take the children to Hounslow shopping centre from time to time with Mum.  We used to have tea (again!) in Woolworths and give the children a ride on the roundabout in the shopping centre.  The bargain was that they got off when asked without complaining.  A couple of times they made a fuss and we went back the next day and I wouldn't let them ride.  They only did it once or twice before they realised I meant it.  We didn't stay long, small children and shops really don't mix very well.

Sam, being a fairly mercenary child on occasion, would try his luck with any relative who might be willing to buy him something.  Not me though.  I was two things. Mean, and skint!

I was actually quite nice to the children, but playing games and reading and running round in the park is not interesting in cartoon form!

George knew no fear, climbing all over stuff and generally being intrepid.  Consequently he was often trapped in a safe room while I got the groceries out of the car down the road.  He really didn't like it!  One time he escaped under the stairgate which wasn't properly tightened.  He was just able to walk, but still very wobbly.  I had gone to the loo and when I came back he was gone.

My frantic calling produced a happy giggle from George, and there he was, teetering at the top of our very steep staircase, with a mouth full of tiny Lego bricks from Sam's room.  As  I approached he tried to run away from me and I just caught him before he tumbled down the stairs.  I did manage to get the Lego out of his mouth before he choked, and judging by his nappies, he didn't swallow any.  One of many near misses with a gung-ho but clumsy toddler!

I shiver when I look back!  After 10 years in a school I am now almost too conscious of health and safety!  I think we are better at preventing everyday accidents and things like stairgates are more carefully designed than 20 years ago.  I do wonder about how much we curtail kids' freedom to explore and get dirty though.  I am sure making mud pies is good for the spirit!

Wednesday 15 May 2013

Tonsillitis, cats, tea and cake

George had a real penchant for eating horrid things like shoes.  He was a very sucky and mouthy baby, he led with his tongue, a bit like our dog does now!  He used to dribble a lot too.  I thought it was teething or something, but no.

We had a lovely black cat called Kippen whose food was generally put out of reach, but his water was left on the floor all the time.  I had no idea the baby was drinking his water, but from the time he could get around, that's what he did.  Yuck.  He used to get tonsillitis about every 5 weeks for the 2nd year of his life.  We would trot off to the doctor every time his temperature hit 102 degrees, and be prescribed antibiotics.  What with Sam and his heart, and George and his tonsils, I used to be recognised by voice by the doctor's appointment secretaries.

The week the cat took sick and had to be put down, George was back at the doctor's.  "Do you have a cat?" said the doctor.  "not since yesterday"  I replied.  "Probably won't happen again then" , said the doctor.  He was right;
George never got another bad throat.

I don't know what it is about tea.  My Mum describes it as the universal panacea.  I would agree.  There are not many things that won't be helped by a really good cup of tea.  Even if things are going well, tea lifts the day to a new level.  This is especially true if you add cake.

Today at school we had a bake off, where all the staff were invited to bring and share a cake at lunch time. There were prizes for the prettiest and tastiest.  My friend and I provide the tea and coffee (or in some stubborn cases, hot ribena).  We have over 70 staff in our school and we had far more cake than we could decently eat in one lunch time.  We ate it all anyway.  I am not sure how many teachers suffered from the crash and burn of too much sugar followed by teaching a class of thirty.  Quite a few I would think!  I daresay we will find out tomorrow...  Mind you we got through at least 90 cups of tea and you have to hope that those who were properly fortified in that way would be able to manage the sugar low more easily.

Saturday 11 May 2013

Normal life continues. School beckons.

Mummy collects Sam from nursery.
Sam had a lovely time at nursery school.  He was looked after beautifully by the teachers and dinner ladies.  In fact they looked after him better than I did.

He was very picky about food after leaving hospital and would only eat a few things which could be packed into a lunch box.  He wouldn't touch the school dinners provided either.  One day I sent him in (as ordered by Sam) with a satsuma and a mince pie and a carton of milk.  Calorie wise, it was probably OK, but the school were not impressed.  "We can't find Sam's lunch"  the dinner lady complained on the phone.  "We can only find a cake and an orange."  Oops.

After an embarrassing meeting they offered to cook my home made burghers with peas and rice and keep him a bottle of tomato sauce in the school kitchen.  Sam was on cloud 9 and started to put on weight again.  I was pleased but I had a sneaking suspicion I had been out manoeuvred by a 4 year old!

Why are children obsessed with poo?  I can't fathom it.  In my view it has no redeeming features at all.  Particularly when tracked through the house on the buggy wheels.

Sam's school had a uniform policy which was unusual for a state school.  The boys had to wear grey flannel shorts summer and winter.  Mainly this just resulted in chapped knees, but for Sam it was a disaster.  In really cold weather he was allowed to wear track suit trousers over his shorts on the way in, but he had to take them off when he was at school.  One day mid morning, I got a call from his teacher to say could I come and get him and to bring a hot water bottle.  Despite being sat on the radiator all morning, he was still a rather interesting air force blue.  After that he was allowed to wear long trousers.  Soon after, they changed the uniform policy.  Sam was pleased.  He never did like to be different!

The phone calls home were a regular feature.   I couldn't have held down a regular job even if I had wanted to.  I was really fortunate that my friends were willing to swap babysitting.   One was a nurse and had three under 5s to look after.  She would even come if Sam was a bit off colour.  On the downside, I babysat her three when the twins had chickenpox.  Not a fun evening!

Wednesday 8 May 2013

Gardening leave

When it was cold and wet, I wrote a blog, which seemed like a good idea.  I still think it is a good idea, but I have been gardening this week so here is a quick update.

After we got a dog, it mainly rained for a year  - something to do with the Jet Stream being too far north.  I don't think the dog was involved in the weather, but he galloped around in the garden and pooped everywhere.  The grass got very tall in the constant rain, then large patches of it died of dog.

He is, however, very cute, so I have forgiven him now we have a dog proof fence to stop him galloping on the flowers.  It has also stopped raining and what is more, it is quite warm.   At last!


I cut the grass.

The apples blossomed
which is nice, because last year was their year off.  I didn't realise they would both choose the same year when I bought them, so every other year we have to buy apples.

I trained this tree which is a pitmaston pineapple into an S shape so that it would blossom more.  It is doing well this year, maybe because of all the rain.  It has tiny yellow apples which taste - you guessed it  -of pineapples.  They mostly taste of apples so they are not strange, just a bit unusual.

There are Oregon Thornless blackberries growing over the arch.  I am so glad they are thornless because they grow 16ft or so a year, and this weekend I was wrestling with the stems, trying to tie them in so that they didn't take over the world.  In the background is an elder tree which I use to make elderberry syrup for colds.  It's very effective and also strangely expensive for something made out of a hedgerow plant.  If you buy it in the health food shop it costs about  £8.00 for 120ml (or $12 for 4fl oz if you are in the USA).  I generally make it by the wine bottle full - which are great for preserving since screw tops came in.

This is a box tree.  My other half says its a pear, but we will have to see what happens when I next trim it.  I haven't decided.

It's so exciting making topiary!  It might turn into a rocket, or maybe some kind of hat.  Who knows?  Watch this space!