Thursday, February 26, 2009

Four full days and a walk in the woods

These are the sights I saw on my half hour walk last week, when it seemed a really spring like day. I make no excuse for including two photos of the crocuses in my garden.

A little further on, in my neighbour's garden a delightful display of snowdrops, to rival those at Wisley Gardens. I counted my own. 16 to date, but there'll be more next year.

Along the way, in a sheltered spot, some early daffodils.

I pass the little brook on my way to see the shetland pony, who lives happily in a field sometimes with a sheep for company.

After a quiet weekend, I've had a busy few days. Goldenford meeting occupied Monday morning and in the evening, I went with Irene and Joe to a filmed performance of Aida in Guildford. The two heroines were rather mature and matronly in appearance (I thought one of them was Dawn French at first) and the hero looked somewhat cross-eyed (partly as a result of his eye makeup) and villainous, but the music and sets were great, and surprisingly, after a while, I began to suspend disbelief. The second act was the best, full of triumphal music and well-known tunes.

On Tuesday, I managed the start of a short story for Writers' News, which I read out in the evening at Guildford Writers' Circle. Yesterday, the OH and I went to meet family from Kent at Haslemere for a perforance of Martha, a German opera, performed by Opera South. First we met up at the Winterton Arms for a tea, specially prepared by them for us. Lots of sandwiches, scones and cake. I managed to ignore the scones and cream, but indulged in the lemon drizzle cake. The opera was light, but fun and pleasant. To my surprise I won a collection of five CDs in their raffle, which brings my car collection to six.

And today, I've been to Guildford to meet up with my Surrey Graduate friends at the Guildford Institute for a veggie lunch. I was extremely strong minded and ignored the pecan crunchie meringue pie. Afterwards in a browse around Guildford, I found that Waterstone's, North Street, had got in copies of Tainted Tree; I went to the High Street branch to tell them that, and they said they were also ordering copies. (Copies of my novella, A Bottle of Plonk, were also on the shelves.) The fifth library copy has now arrived at Horsley Library, so Surrey people can read TT without problems. So a satisfactory day and week all round.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

An afternoon at Wisley Gardens

The ProdigalD visit has come and gone. The family arrived on Wednesday in time for a meal, and driving a huge van. It wasn't much fun, apparently driving it from Herefordshire to here, and the following day, they had to take it for another trip to pick up furniture left by s-i-l's late mother, to transport it back home. They left at midday, leaving us with GD2, and after lunch, we went to the RHS gardens at Wisley.

We spent some time in the new Glasshouse and were able to visit the butterfly house within. Fortunately, most of the butterflies were up near the ceiling. I'm not too keen on anything flying near my face. GD2 & I were offered the opportunity to stroke a dead butterfly. Neither of us accepted the offer, though plenty of people around did. It was very hot and damp in there, and we didn't stay too long.

In the Glasshouse, though, we saw a magnificent range of flowers, including a cactus garden. I haven't got the names of them, I'm afraid, but just look and enjoy. Outside, the two best things were a snowdrop bed and also cylamens - I didn't get a picture of the latter. I also took some video clips - one of a moorhen trotting out of the water, and also some fish, swimming lazily round and round. The family departed on Friday morning and normal service was resumed. Back, in fact, to the VAT.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Spring stirrings and food economies

The last of the snow has gone from the garden, and though it's a rather grey day, I nipped out earlier to have a look at the half a dozen snowdrops I'd spotted from the window. And lo and behold, there were crocuses too. I love spring bulbs; they lift the spirits at the end of winter and they're so wonderfully hardy. Imagine them, hiding under the ground when it was so cold that I didn't want to stir from the house, and then at the first possible opportunity, there they are. The other reason I love them, is because once you've planted them, on the whole, they double up and appear in places you don't expect them. This has happened with the snowdrops. I only planted a couple of bulbs that I found in another part of the garden, a year or so back. The number I have is small at the moment, but it will improve, I feel sure. I happen to have a particular liking for purple crocuses, though, although I have a few yellow ones too. Unfortunately, I suspect that the birds have been pecking them in past years, as they don't appear to be increasing in number as they should. So it's not a huge bank of colour; you have to go close to see them, but I still find them uplifting. The above is last year's photo - with sunshine.

Of course, winter hasn't ended; there's some more cold weather forecast, but at least this time of year is a time to look forward to a true spring and also to much lighter nights. I always notice when I go to my regular meetings - Goldenford, Guildford Writers, etc, how much difference it makes to driving, once the days start getting longer. And tonight, there is in fact a Goldenford meeting. We have lots to talk about, including the promotional events coming up in March.

This week, being half term, the ProdigalD, husband and daughter will be visiting tomorrow, and OH & I will be in charge of GD2 all of Thursday. What we do then, of course, depends on what sort of day it is. Then I have a busy week planned for the following week with a visit to two operas, one a filmed version of Aida with Irene and daughter, Joe, and the other a semi-professional production at Haslemere Theatre with M's two cousins and families. Somewhere in the week is a lunch and another meeting. And then February will be over. Somewhere in between, I have to complete the VAT return, though I've written to the VATman, asking if we can deregister, in view of M carrying out less work these days. It will be nice to get rid of that three monthly burden.

This afternoon is my trip to the supermarket. I've been listening to a radio discussion about the amount of food we throw away. Being of the old school, I tend to use up leftovers the following day, or freeze them. I have a range of rigid plastic boxes, in which I store what I call mini-dinners. Sometimes two or three of these - of the same variety, of course, are sufficient to produce an emergency meal on a subsequent day. I also cook roasts and carve them up and store them in foil parcels. Having two or three of these in the freezer is great when you feel too lazy to cook - and a lot cheaper than a packaged convenience meal from the shops. We've also reduced the amount of meat we eat. Usually no more than once a week in the winter, and once a fortnight in the summer with poultry, fish and a vegetarian dish popping up on the other days. Better for us, and better for the planet.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The best laid plans ...

It was all mapped out today - how I would make my escape from the men coming to lag the roof, leaving the OH to provide cups of tea and put up with the draught and fibre glass dust. When I sat up in bed, something was wrong; the world swirled. I got up, walking very tentatively into the kitchen, in case the walls came to meet me. I had a very mini breakfast, because my stomach didn't feel receptive either. No good going to meet the others (my fellow graduates/now reading circle) for lunch - could I even make it into Guildford for the discussion? The way I felt, I would really rather have gone back to bed.

Within half an hour the phone rang - the laggers had reported in sick (must have been something in the atmosphere) and wouldn't be able to come today. M rushed out to a job, and I very slowly came back to life. In the end, I missed out on lunch completely, and, still feeling rather fragile, drove to the Guildford Institute. Listening to a programme on recycling on the radio, I missed the turning for the car park, and had to drive further on and then turn. Then I found I couldn't turn right where I wanted to and had to make another detour, arriving about ten minutes late for the meeting. I was definitely functioning on less than four cylinders.

We had an interesting discussion on the two books - in general, appreciation of A Kind of Loving, in which I think we found an honesty and accuracy about the period and about a young man's hopes and dreams. There was lack of enthusiasm for The Catcher in the Rye; I personally found it rather self-indulgent and I dislike stream of consciousness anyway. I must admit I was surprised when someone pointed out it was published just after the war. It does make it ahead of its time. I had imagined it was also a fifties or sixties book.

I did a little shopping while I was there - only a couple of things, because it was cold, and I still didn't feel great. But I did go into one of the two branches of Waterstone's to ask if they'd take copies of Tainted Tree. I could immediately see reluctance on the face of the book buyer, but when she looked at the cover and the blurb, I could see she liked it and was tempted. I said we were doing a couple of functions in the near future and hoped we might get a bit of publicity. One is a talk on Saturday, 7th March at Guildford Museum for International Women's Day and the other an event at Guildford Library in April. We also hope to have an exhibition of our book covers. The buyer was won over and said she would order a couple of copies. Course, there's many a slip twixt cup and lip, but I live in hope.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Prisoner of Cell Block H

escaped today. I chose a time when the sun was out, last night's heavy frost had melted away - and I made a beeline for Sainsbury's. My second time out in the car in a week.

We have more snow or sleet forecast, so I stocked up for a siege. But I do hope I'll be able to get out next week - I'm getting stir crazy. At the moment on the agenda is a Guildford Writers meeting, the postponed visit to the hairdresser and lunch with my fellow alumni from Surrey University, followed by the reading circle meeting. While I'm there, men are coming to lag our roof, so I really hope that I'll be able to get out, because otherwise I'll have to watch them as they tramp in and out, have the loft open, making chilly draughts, and drop bits of lagging all over the floor. If I'm out, M will have to entertain them, make them teas and coffees. He'll be fascinated by the whole procedure anyway (men love watching other men work and asking them technical questions about it.)

Three copies of Tainted Tree are now in Surrey libraries and all are out on loan. The latest place to be added is Camberley. Presumably, of the two remaining books still on order, one will go to Horsley, who ordered them in the first place. I would expect one to be in Guildford too, as the book is set there. But you never can tell.

While stuck at home, I've changed the sheets in the two spare rooms, ready for the ProdigalD and family. M & I also spent some time yesterday, putting up the curtains, which I'd had cleaned. (Actually most of the time was spent putting in the fiddly clips into the top of the curtain.) If I ever get new curtains (and there's nothing wrong with the ones I've got, so it's unlikely to be soon) I will have a pole and great big curtain rings. That should save a lot of aggro. M also spotted a switch coming off the wall, so a repair job had to be carried out, with me holding the torch. It wasn't the most rivetting of jobs - and what's more, we ended up somehow fitting the switch in a slightly different place.

I have to get back to my reading circle book now. It's A Kind of Loving and gives a very accurate picture of the late fifties or early sixties. My, how difficult things were in the pre-permissive age.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Winter's still here

M & I are both much improved now, but today, we're marooned at home. Snow has hit Surrey in a big way - we have at least 12 inches of snow outside our doors, covering our cars and enveloping our garden furniture. In the photo above, you can see a hanging basket, too. The forecast for tonight is for a drop in temperature to minus 3 C - that's about 27 or 28F. (Sorry, I got it wrong last week, when I talked about the inauguration being at -11. It just shows that I'm beginning to adjust now to Centrigrade and forgetting Fahrenheit.) Unfortunately, the roads will be treacherous, if the snow freezes. The weather forecast is not promising, but if it thaws out a bit tomorrow, I may clear the snow from my car, so that I can get to the hairdresser the following day. This is not to get tarted up, in any way, just for a bit of a trim.

I call this photo, Snow Sculptures. These strange shapes are our garden furniture. I know some people have been out making snowmen. I managed to resist that. In any case, I didn't want to spoil the virgin snow by sinking my wellies into it. Even the milkman didn't get to us this morning.

Fortunately, I heard that snow was coming and went to Sainsbury's yesterday and filled up with fruit and veg. There is a major catastrophe if we run out of bananas. They are a staple diet for M. I think he must have been descended from an ape - did someone else come up with that idea?

Last night, having done very little during the day (apart from shopping) I had a sudden panic. The sheets in two of the bedrooms need changing and washing as the ProdigalD with spouse and GD2 will be visiting in a couple of weeks. It's February and time to do the VAT again, and end of month statements need to be knocked out too. I've spent too much time emailing friends about the snow - so I'll let my photos speak for me.
Not much washing on the line today.