Week-end: one with the sofa

A cresent moon against a pale peach-coloured sky in the gap between silhouetted bushes.

The good

I didn’t come remotely close to crying at work. The Bicycles and Broomsticks Kickstarter is fully funded, and I had fun watching the numbers go up. I’ve spent a lot of time lounging on the sofa alternating novels and the skating on TV, with the world’s fluffiest cat. Life’s not bad.

The mixed

Still tired, mind you. And a fifty-minute walk leaves me needing a sit-down instead of waking me up, the way it used to. But it is beautiful outside.

Hence the Guilt. I’d meant to be down on the Isle of Wight this weekend, to help out with the continued house clearing. Staying at home was the right decision, but I’d still like to be helping, and I’m still not. And clearly my family don’t need me wailing at them, so I’m not. I’m just wailing over here instead.

The difficult and perplexing

A nasty combination of self-doubt and jealousy of my contemporaries.

What’s working

I got myself a fancy Sicilian soft drink and a packet of pistachio nuts and sat down with a clearer-headed, wiser version of myself who doesn’t give a damn what other authors of my generation are up to. We discovered that what would actually help would be clearing my study up a bit.

Reading

Continuing with Sisters of the Vast Black, which is so lovely that I’ve been saving it for moments when I can devote my attention to it and enjoy it. Coastliners (Joanne Harris) floated to the top of the TBR pile and I read the first few chapters. #ChristieBracket prompted me to reread first The Pale Horse and Why Didn’t They Ask Evans? In both cases I’d remembered part, but not all, of the solution. In The Fellowship of the Ring I’ve just got to Rivendell.

Writing

Some more on Starcrossers (now two and a half thousand words too long…) and an explanation for my pitiful absence of sales strategy.

Making

A new mystery patchwork project. This one’s rather smaller than the last. Good job too: it has a tight deadline.

Watching

Doctor Who! Having rather fallen out of the most recent series, I really enjoyed that. It was ninety per cent fanservice and I’m not thinking too hard about the plot, but it was a load of fun.

Also, lots of skating.

Cooking

I have a pancetta and blue cheese risotto going in the slow cooker at the moment. We’ll see how it turns out. (You cook the whole lot and throw the cheese in at the last minute.)

Noticing

A low young moon.

In the garden

Still two white roses. This is always the first bush to bloom, but it’s not usually the last to stop. Lovely, anyway.

Appreciating

Fluffiness of cat. Fit of new tights.

Acquisitions

Some frippery from Paperchase – a stamp set and washi tapes. The parcel I missed turned out to be, as expected, a hoodie from Quires & Places Where They Meme (look, if other people can have Christmas jumpers then I can have an Advent hoodie). A new shredder (had nearly been running out of shredded paper to feed to the compost bin since the last one broke!) and a plywood contraption to raise my laptop to shoulder height. It’s bigger than I’d expected. We’ll see how it goes: work days will be the real test.

Picked up Golden Hill (Francis Spufford) and a DVD of Chorus Line in Oxfam this morning. And a solar lantern in Mountain Warehouse. This is of course prepping for the threatened power cuts this winter, but it’s already proved useful for picking thyme in the dark.

Line of the week

This is from Sisters of the Vast Black:

The moon was just spinning into springtime, but the wine warmed her straight through from her tongue to her fingertips.

Saturday snippet

Still on Starcrossers:

I’d seen the news pieces. I knew that there’d been a lot of clearage and repair. And I’d reminded myself that I would have to go in at the citizens’ gate. All of which is to say, I expected it to be achingly familiar and horribly changed, and I was right, and I don’t think expecting it helped at all. I couldn’t go into the inner hall (though if I was going to be Leader we were going to have to work something out) but looking from the promenade I could see the shimmering cover that patched the hole where there had once been a column and a graceful arching roof…

This coming week

The clocks go back; we move into November. Usually I count this as the beginning of winter, but it’s still so warm that maybe I won’t just for the minute. But it’s going to be quite a busy, social week, with a milestone (a transition, perhaps?) to be marked and negotiated as well.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Week-end: back on the round world

Stack of books topped with a model bus and two rubber stamps

The good

Two more days of Discworld. And a really useful meeting with my Cursillo secretariat this morning.

Some more rain: the water butt is now full again. Also, my legs are feeling an awful lot better. The left knee’s still a bit dodgy, but the pain in the calves is gone. Hurrah.

The mixed

I seem to have picked up some sort of con crud. But every lateral flow test so far says it isn’t Covid, so that’s something.

The difficult and perplexing

Tuesday and Wednesday were still Too Hot. I’m grateful for the coolth we have at the moment, but I don’t like wishing the year away.

What’s working

Plimsolls. Everything else leaves my feet feeling really weird.

Reading

I picked up Broken Ground (Val McDermid) in a charity shop on Tuesday, and then spent the afternoon reading it. It’s the one with the miners’ strike. I’ve read it before. I thought I might have done. Still worth a reread, and I’m hoping that it’s not going to end up being as prescient as it feels. Then I moved onto Whose Body? and Clouds of Witness (Dorothy L. Sayers). Also rereads, though I don’t turn to them nearly so often as I do some of the other Wimsey books. That’s because I’ve only just got hold of my own copy of Whose Body? (thank you, Nicky!) and Clouds of Witness isn’t really terribly good. I was rather pleased to have been able to read the whole of the French bit in Clouds of Witness without really thinking about it, and certainly without having to refer to the translation. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t the case last time.

Writing

More on this space opera thing. It’s not going to get done inside the word limit, but I’ll worry about that when I’ve got everything in there that needs to go in there. More on Households’ Rancour. And a rather overdue review of The God Painter.

Listening to

Really interesting talks on bees and why the BBC America The Watch didn’t work. And the ridiculously wide-ranging open mic night that is Toast and Jam. All at DiscworldCon.

Making

Slow progress on the mystery patchwork.

Eating

The last Friday of every month is Foodie Friday at Ely market. We managed to be there for the first time. I had spinach and cheese gozleme followed by a pumpkin dessert with tahini and walnut. This was my first time trying gozleme, and I’m a fan. Next time we might try to arrive earlier, though.

Moving

More hotel swimming. I am pretty sure this is what sorted out the calf pains.

Singing

I’ve had dreadful impostor syndrome around singing these last few months. Lockdown didn’t help, and then I overreached myself badly post-Covid and knocked my confidence. But I sang the Hippopotamus Song at Toast and Jam on Sunday night at the Discworld Convention, and it was fine.

Noticing

A hare lolloping across a stubble field in the morning mist.

In the garden

We came back to find greengages and tomatoes going great guns, and the first pears just about ready.

Appreciating

Two days off work after the con to get my breath back and to get things together for today’s meeting.

Acquisitions

Apart from the Val McDermid, I picked up Without My Cloak (Kate O’Brien) and Dust Tracks on the Road (Zora Neale Hurston) – there’s just something about a green Virago spine – One Pair of Feet (Monica Dickens), about which I keep hearing good things, Seven Ages of Paris (Alistair Horne) – doesn’t appear to say anything about open rear-platformed buses, clearly the most important age of Paris, but one can’t have everything – and Go Spy The Land: being the adventures of I. K. 8 of the British Secret Service (Capt. G. A. Hill), published 1932, with a lovely map of Russia on the endpapers, and which I will have to read with the part of my brain that reads John Buchan. I will be interested to see if Arthur Ransome makes an appearance. I also got two rubber stamps and a stripy vest. With grateful thanks to the charity shops of Ely.

Hankering

Somebody on the DWCon Facebook group is making Society of Chicken Polishers fabric patches. I want one. I’m going to get one when they restock.

Line of the week

And if the pool wishes, let it shiver to the blur of many wings, old swimmers from old places.

River Roads, Carl Sandburg

Saturday snippet

This is from the space opera thing:

I shaved myself and went in for decontamination, stood under the cold pink lights and scrubbed my body under the fierce pulse of the liquid until I wanted to scream. The fingers that had touched the contamination had to be held in a current that burned and licked at my skin like flames. It’s never what you might call a pleasant experience, but it’s usually satisfying, in its own strange way. This time it felt as if I was trying to tear my mind from my body.

This coming week

A short working week, with the bank holiday on Monday and a day off on Friday. Saturday is Ultreya GB (a national Cursillo gathering) hosted by London and Southwark dioceses, and I’m really looking forward to crossing the Millennium Bridge with other rainbow people. I also want to catch up with the Vuelta a España and get that patchwork project closer to done.

Anything you’d like to share from this week? Any hopes for next week? Share them here!

Daily Decoration: dire tinplate squirrel

Christmas tree decoration representing a squirrel sitting in a red boot

Things are getting a bit desperate here. I had to get this squirrel out of the box and hang it on the tree today. It didn’t go up on Christmas Eve because I don’t actually like it very much. But I think I’ll just about manage to find a decoration for each of the last few days of Christmas.

Today has been the last day before I start work again and, after weeks of dense grey cloud alternating with heavy rain, it’s been beautiful. I went out for my first bike ride of the year in the morning (who needs hills when you have Fenland winds?) and this afternoon Tony and I spent a cheerful hour and a half pruning the most awkward of the apple trees and destraggling the wisteria and the vine that grow over the pergola.

Hence the squirrel. We have a couple of visiting grey squirrels who scamper along the fences and steal from the birdfeeders. Today I saw one of them squatting on the pergola, nibbling away at something, I couldn’t see what.

Having spent a significant part of my life on the Isle of Wight, I’m honour bound to disapprove of grey squirrels, invasive species that they are. Particularly when they start stealing from the birdfeeders. On the mainland, however, I have to admit that I quite enjoy watching them. It’s particularly amusing when the Slinky that we installed on the birdfeeder pole does its job and stops them climbing up it from the ground (the squirrel’s own weight stretches the spring and deposits it gently back on the floor), though they’re quite capable of reaching their goal from any of the nearby trees and bushes.

As for the birds, we get sparrows and starlings, great tits (I think), blue tits (I’m almost sure), robins, blackbirds, goldfinches (occasionally), collared doves and wood pigeons, and once, very excitingly, a green woodpecker. Although since it was neither pecking wood nor looking particularly green I had to ask the internet for confirmation. I’ve heard what I think was a hedgehog and have seen what was definitely a hedgehog – twice. The second time was in daylight, though, which is a bit worrying. I put some cat food out for it. The cat food disappeared, but that might just have been cats.

Anyway, it’s been very pleasant to spend some time outdoors today, and I intend to do more of that this year. Perhaps in three months or so I’ll take a deckchair out, and a book.

December Reflections 16: plant love

the trunks and branches of four bare pear trees growing against a red brick wall

The pear trees were what caught my imagination when we viewed this house. The first time, back in November last year, I think I only noticed that there was a garden that someone had clearly worked hard with. The second time, I noticed that the bare trees that had been trained against the garage wall were still wearing their tags: Williams Bon Chrétien; Concorde. Pears. The Twelve Days of Christmas went round my head well before and long after the twelve days.

We moved in half way through March, and things were beginning to happen in the garden. There were no bulbs (there are now) but there were plenty of other things to find. I discovered plum trees at the back; the trees growing up against the trellises turned out to be apples. I found a self-seeded holly and decided to let it stay. The pear trees blossomed. I took photos of everything I didn’t recognise and asked Facebook for identification.

I planted out the faithful herbs that had come with me in their pots from the old flat. I sowed nasturtium seeds in a pot. I know how nasturtiums can get. The garden centres were shut, but I wouldn’t have been able to get to them anyway. I bought plants from tables with honesty boxes (or letter boxes): cosmos, lady’s mantle, passionflower, foxgloves. I started runner beans off in eggboxes in the conservatory.

Digging a hole to plant the foxgloves, I found another label. Morello. The thing I’d written off as a boring shrub turned out to be a rather sad little cherry tree. Growing up around an actual boring shrub were some raspberry canes. The thing that was climbing up over the pergola was a wisteria. The other thing that was climbing up over the pergola was a grape vine.

The thing that I’d thought was a hart’s tongue fern flowered and was an arum lily. The things that Facebook had told me were Peruvian lilies flowered and were red and beautiful. The wisteria and the grapevine climbed everywhere, making the whole back wall startlingly bright green. I pulled ivy down from the back wall. I planted out the runner beans.

The cherry tree yielded just enough fruit for a sauce. The raspberries ripened a few at a time: some I froze, some I ate. The plums went into crumbles and chutneys and the freezer. Apples became apple sauce and crumble and chutneys. The pears came later: more puddings, more chutneys, and the occasional one that was so perfect that the only possible response was to eat it. The grapes were small and sour and full of seeds. I considered a home winemaking kit. Maybe next year.

The roses came in ones and twos, one bush with white flowers, two with pink. The white one put out a shoot from its rootstock and shot up skywards. The ladybirds came and marched along the leaves and the stems.

I bottled the last of the pears and blew the fuse on the oven.

The dark shiny leaves of the pears turned to astonishing reds and yellows. The apple leaves were quieter about it. I trimmed back the wisteria and the grapevine, the apple trees, the pear trees, the spiky shrubs.

Now it’s almost back the way it was when we first saw it. Except for the extra rosemary bush. Except for the tubs planted up with bulbs. Except for the decrepit greenhouse which isn’t there any more. Except for the Peruvian lilies, which are determinedly continuing to bloom, even after the snow and the frost we had the week before last.

One would assume that after the first year there won’t be anything new to discover, but this garden has surprised me enough times for me not to be too sure of that.

deep red lilies with green leaves