Monthly Archives: February 2009

Green grow

Something very exciting happened today – my lettuce seeds germinated. I am growing a container of lettuce on a windowsill, and lo and behold, germination – they are leaves for pulling, so not long till I can crop them.

And in the week I treated myself to something I had long wanted, a heated propagator – only £10 in B & Q. In that I have some herb seeds, in the hope that before I know it I will have home grown herbs.


Who goes there?

I’m not the most knowledgeable of bird admirers. I can identify some of the more common species if I’ve see them before and theY have clear identifying marks. I usually turn to Bea for help with anything new. But I do love to see them around the place. When I moved in, the last swallows were packing up shop, and after they went, there were few birds here indeed. I put out food on an improvised table and it went unregarded. I hung up half a coconut packed with fat and seed, and it is still there untouched.

There are compensations. A male kestrel lives in the carriage house next to my bedroom, and I often hear and occasionally see a greater spotted woodpecker. A barn owl lives with the neighbours half a mile away and graces my property by hunting over it.

Now however, my own chicken and geese and their feed are beginning to attract others. Feeding the hens he other morning I surprised a dunnock, who made good her escape in through the ai spaces of the eves of the hen house, and a cock blackbird flies in through the fox-proofing slats over the door of the goose loose box and feeds off the remains of their banquet.

And the spring brings others searching, I suspect, for nesting sites in the hedges. Thee are definitley hedge sparrows, and more dunnocks. I though I heard a thrush.

I am hopeful of spring migrants too.


This is not the biggest or the best bunch of snowdrops I have ever seen, not even the best this year. It is significant just because it is at the bottom of my drive.

For a long time, I thought there were no snowdrops in Ayrshire – I had not realised just HOW far the bitter winter had delayed things.

But all that has changed. We have had mild weather, even some sun and some still days. I have stared to plant out fruit bushes, and my daffodils (a gift from a friend’s grand son) are coming up. I have even been able to ride out on my poor J without fearing he will turn into a Dancing on Ice star.

And the birds are spreading out up my hedges and singing and singing.

Getting the better of the words…

I have small sympathy with the back-of-the-hand-to-fevered-brow inspirational writing. I take the grim view that writing is a craft and a profession and one had blessed well buckle down to doing one’s best regardless of the state of mind that befalls one.

Nevertheless, this I will concede. It is terribly hard to know at what point in research and preparation to start writing. The pressure of the desire to writ builds and builds – but sometimes waiting too long causes the heat to go out of the whole business. Or sometimes the desire to write just never comes.

Worse still is evaluating one’s own work. Immediately after writing it usually seems either very good or very bad. Neither is a reliable guide, especially if one is stretching out of one’s normal zone. Looking back now, I can see the first pieces I wrote for the seasonal blog love blooms bright were pretty terrible. I did rather better for the sister Lent blog Beauty from Chaos.

Beauty is about to restart for the year, and I have been trying something I find more difficult for it. Have I in any measure succeeded? Dunno. I’ll tell you in a year or so. The annoying thing is – everybody else will know in a few days.

Not bread alone…

Life is an extraordinary business. I am so often gob smacked at how hurt and help so often come from just the very direction we never would have expected.

I sat down to double mark a set of students’ essays this afternoon, and have bobbed up in a delightful place I was not looking for. I found myself looking through the perceptive eyes of a delightful and almost unknown companion. And there were audible clicks as parts of my recent experience fell into place.

How to make friends and influence people….

It seems that this vital knack is still lacking in the Scottish catering industry.

Today my son and his partner took me for lunch. My pub of choice is shut on Mondays, so we went to another. Kenneth is a veggie, and I am a bit fussy about how my meat has been reared, and don’t like fish. We were given a menu, and it was at once plain that cheese salad was the only veggie option (and we could not be sure it was veggie cheese, which matters to Kenneth). All the starters either had crustacean (unacceptable to me due to the way it is dispatched and I don’t much like it anyhow) or bacon which might have been and probably was continental in origin.

Kenneth and I ordered the tomato soup, and had a soup and pudding lunch. The soup was lovely. Eventually the proprietrix come to ask if everything was OK – yes, said I, but the vegetarian options were very limited.

‘Well!” she said, ‘you SHOULD have asked for the vegetarian menu!’ A thing which had never been mentioned to us.

Now I quite often eat veggie – as do various carnivores I know, because we like vegetarian food sometimes. I don’t WANT to juggle two menus. I don’t WANT to be accused of failing to ask for a separate menu and I don’t WANT my vegetarian friends to be forced onto a segregated menu.

It will be the last time I eat there unless somebody else really wants to go there – and really I did think these attitudes had died out at least ten years ago.

Cnut and Aristotle


Here are Aristotle and Cnut. Cnut is the fire and he is posing a considerable dilemma. He was put in in defiance of the laws of physics (hence his given name) – he is a new fire put in on the site of an old one. He sits well forward of the old fire. He sits SO far forward that the smoke from him cannot both observe the laws of physics AND go up the chimney. Said smoke prefers physics to chimney.

Aristotle is the BEST present I was EVER given – he is a stout but reasonably light pointed pole, and though not long enough to move the world, he does a good job at compensating for the lack of testosterone and therefore brute muscle in myself.

He has worked hard, but sadly has revealed a dilemma.

The old fire has a beautiful sandstone frame, of the kind beloved by interior decorators. The nice thing to do would be to clear out the cavity within and get a wood burning stove. However sadly this frame sits slightly recessed to the current plaster wall, which sits VERY proud of the wall behind, in order to prevent rising damp. In due time, it would be pretty simple to replace this wall and put a modern damp proof membrane in, thus taking the wall back. (As will need doing on two other walls in this room anyhow.)

So, it might be simpler to put in my existing fire surround and copper inset thingy. But, but, Cnut was made absurdly broad to go over the outside of the real old fireplace, and I would need to do a LOT of patching up.

I am very open to suggestions.

Unhappy, unhappy, very, very unhappy

Not me – for once I’m very cheerful, perhaps because I am no longer working at the shop, but self employed again. Suits me sooooo much better.

No, it’s the geese. We have hadsad-geesevery little snow, but it has been very cold, and the shallow pond the geese enjoy so much has frozen over. I have done what human kind can do – broken up the ice at the out flow, where motion keeps the water flowing, thus helping the few wild birds and the geese, but it is not the same. They are not happy. They patrol the edges of the pond, looking down gloomily. They look up and honk. Loudly.

‘Do something! This is so wrong!’

But they are settling here, just like me. The other night, I lost them. I went out to shut them up in their little loose box and they were nowhere to be seen. My heart raced. Foxy? It would have been very sad, because half an hour before I’d tried to herd them in with no success – to think a cup of tea too many had cost me my geese. But no, I finally went to check their loose box home, and there they were, feet tucked up in the warm down, feathers rustling, but heads still raised, alert. They had gone to the strange new place that was now become home.

The other week I convinced a sympathetic stranger that I was totally nuts by telling him that the geese were the genii loci and they would reveal the place to me. I think they have.