Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Garden, midsummer 2017

 Some years are better for certain plants than others. This has been a stupendous year for day lilies..... an apricot one here;  and for crocosmia (formerly mombretia) too.  Sometimes the weather plays a trick on you before you can do anything about it!  The horizontal blue in the pic on the left is Russian Sage.... after two days or pouring rain and a gale force wind - and because I had not tied it up this year. 

I have more pictures of all the new day lilies.... but cameras and computers?  They transfer the pics and then hide them.  For the life of me I cannot find that last set of pics.  Never mind, plenty of summer colour here.


Below some lovely Hot Pokers - lovely because of a mini-heatwave this summer so at the time of budding and blooming, no slugs!  Some years I don't get a bloom!

I had a new bed to fill this year - and I filled it as much as I could with an assortment of red, orange and yellow   That little geum has been flowering non-stop since the end of May with careful deadheading. 

  So... two of the new day lilies in the new border, red cosmos and a white delphinium there too.

  The orange in the centre of this pic is a perenial mimulus (hardy-ish), so have planted amongst other stuff that is hardy to protect it from frost.

And below, just before it flowered, a new crocosmia from a private garden open to the public  (The Yellow Book).  The leaves have a grey shading, and this is echoed in the yellow flowers too.  And it is a baby one!  Sorry I don't have a name for this one.

Finally the big boy!  Here's crocosmia Lucifer, which gives a lovely show from the house (100 ft away) because of it's red brilliance.  Some might say "common as muck" and never have it, but I love the show. And to the left, Moorland Sunset, which is half the height of |Lucifer and has bright yellow stamens.

I think I have been very lucky this year.  Loads of colour and more coming.  Clematis Bill MacKenzie is flowering his heart out but I think that's because he heard me telling someone that he has to be moved - he has completely taken over an ornamental tree and several perennials!

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

A House Unlocked - Penelope Lively

 Because of divorced parents, Penelope Lively spent whole summers in Somerset with her grandmother in a large Lutyens-style house which she has almost photographic recall of.  Her memories become a small but fascinating historical document, her memory jogged by items within the house.  Her grandparents moved into the house in the early twentieth century. and her grandmother died towards the end of it.  Lively remembers the house and it's inhabitants from the 1940s onwards, but with the aid of photgraph  albums and items around the house, she recalls the history of the house and of course the family for around 70 years of the twentieth century.

And so this book becomes a small but telling history of that century and how the influences of the past are echoed in the house.  A whole chapter about the garden will inform you about plant collectors, garden designers and ha-has; another about the Church and it's place in society.  There are reflections on hunting, Alice in Wonderland and the class system.  A sideways look at life after the Russian revolution of 1917, and kindertransport from Germany in the early days of WW2.  Her unmarried and eccentric aunt was an artist whose ironwork still remains in a small village church in Somerset, and the grand piano remembered from childhood is still in possession of the family somewhere in North London. 

A short read at just over 200 pages, it's a fascinating insight into a time now gone, but a time that left so many memories - the way good manners were so important, mode of dress (gloves must be worn) and how it has changed,  and her thoughts on the changes she herself has seen.  Her own grandchildren join her in bed for a breakfast "cuppa", but this would have been unheard of when she herself was small.

Fascinating reading if recent history is something you want more of.  I enjoyed it!


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dead Sand - Brendan DuBois

Shortly after a 40 year old corpse is found in the sand dunes at Tyler Beach, various nasty things start to happen.  First the body of a teenager is found hanged in a holiday cottage on the shoreline.  Then an old fisherman dies when his boat blows up early one morning after arranging to meet  Lewis Cole.  His friend, Diane Woods, is the only detective on the local force and cutbacks and spending elsewhere combine to ensure that whilst there should be a second, it's unlikely, so she's certainly overworked.   Cole tells her he has a "column to write" and becomes involved in the investigation from a distance, made stranger because an acquaintance, Felix Tinios, is a small-town mobster with Mafia support. 
Set on the New Hampshire coast, here's a great read for a beach holiday, (or a holiday at home), in fact wherever you choose to read! I saw somewhere in a review about this book that the style was somewhere between Dashiel Hammett and Mickey Spillane.  Mmm.  DuBois certainly has for a hero a laid-back guy on the surface, but underneath he is a man of mystery and certainly there are a few nice one-liners. But the style is his own.  His hero, Lewis Cole,  has several scars on his body, the cause of which will not become clear until later in the book.  He has a past life, which we know about but his characters don't, and he loves his little house on the coast. He keeps several guns, all loaded and ready.  He was in love - he isn't now,  and he writes a monthly column for a tourist magazine based in Boston, Mass.   So how does he live?  how can he afford his coastal house, his car, his meals out?  You'll find out the back story as you read, and that back story will help you understand the man he is and  how he got there.
This isn't a cozy; it is a proper murder mystery.  But it doesn't have the blood and gore of a lot of modern police procedural novels which is great for me as I am totally uninterested in how the CIS team finds out the trajectory of any given bullet through a body!   For me, this is the best kind of  detective story.  Flawed hero, man with a past, and with other characters who you want to find out more about.
This was the first of the Lewis Cole mysteries from 1994, and the last (and tenth) in the series so far  was published last year.  So if inclined, you can read your way through the rest and keep tabs on Cole; or you can just read this one and enjoy it.  I certainly did!
A big thank you to Nan of the blog Letters from a Hill Farm where I found this book in the first place.  Nan has a smallholding, six retired sheep, a donkey, a husband and three grandchildren.  She may blog about them, or her monthly floral arrangement, a recipe she's tried, or books she has read.  She shows a list of blogs she visits too, and as you do when browsing the Internet, you may find yourself sidetracked off to one of those other bloggers.........


Wednesday, 2 August 2017

From understairs glory-hole to a smart corner of the house PART 2

THE REVEAL - as they say in the USA!  For me, Mrs Mac, I just say "here it is then".  Not 1st class pics, but then I mostly blog about books and I can steal pics from elsewhere on the net to show you the covers.  Here it has to be all my own work.....

Wooden blookcase removed, new metal cupboard and shelves fits right in!

And finally a real home for the printer - and wait till Mr Mac makes a "pullout" for it, too!

That top shelf there..... I could treble park a lot of paperbacks up there if I wanted!!

How it fits in..... very nicely - and you can get to all of it without moving anything else! 

A closeup of the panelling which was installed plank by plank, not just a sheet of MDF.

 So there it is!  The floor has to be tiled, we can get same-size tiles at B&Q but we will do that in the autumn - this is far too busy a summer!  But what a joy it is to have all the stuff that might require a spare bedroom or a whole corner of another room in one tiny place, and to have been able to "tidy up" that corner for good! 
 And at some time in the distant future, when someone else takes over our little house, perhaps this will become a reading nook.... my measurements tell me that a large comfy chair or a small sofa with a little table for a cuppa would certainly fit well in here!

And Major Tim?  He's a little light which plugs into the pc and comes on when you switch on.  You can turn him off if he gets on your nerves by closing his visor, but he was a wee present to myself for only £9.99!  Here he is floating in front of the screen ........

Metal cabinet and shelves from IKEA's Hindo range of outside furniture at a total cost of £90; and the shelves come with 4 matching hooks, which can be removed or moved around.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

From understair glory-hole to a smart corner of the house Part 1

So - the "office" before the makeover, tiny make-do desk, paperbags, printer on a make-do shelf, stuff all over the place!
200 years plus means lots of holes for hooks, screws, etc.

Desk (the proper one this time) is  a bit untidy too!
If you put a shelf up using just a big nail, this is what happens when you remove it all ...
And if you paint round a shelf, when it goes this is what you get!

But if you start the panelling......

.... and add new paint when you've finished, this is what you get


So at last, 15 years after we moved in, the space under the stairs is done.  Panelled, painted and with a new hold-all piece of furniture next to the desk, here we. are.  Done!

The underneath of the stairs has had a coat of the same blue,  also the half bookcase, which sits right under the stairs full of shoes because we have no hall, now also has a new blue jacket.  You can see what it looked like originally in the top pic, bottom right corner.

The first few brushstrokes were a bit of a shock.  The colour is the same as our living room, so we are used to it, but in this little space?  It's a wowser!  Once finished we loved it.   We added a new piece of furniture which holds all our files, paperwork, the printer, travel and language books (oh, and the bag of jiffybags and polythene wrapping).  The vacuum cleaner is no longer on display and everything is clear, clean, tidy.  Yay!