Fell off the Back of a Lorry

May 17, 2010

It was the village plant sale yesterday – a one-and-a-half hour gardeners’ feeding frenzy, with tray bakes afterwards for tea. I didn’t have anything to bring as my only spares, my squash seedlings, had succumbed to some sort of a wasting sickness. But as we walked up to the waterfall to check on Noticeboard Tree what time it started*, we noticed something strange in the river. Closer inspection showed that what looked like an enormous stack of planting seed trays was in fact exactly that. The other half nobly scrambled on boulders and retrieved about fifty of them, still in their parcel packaging, but unfortunately with no sort of a packing slip or delivery address that would allow us to track the owners down.

The river below the waterfall was also littered with seed trays so we ended up going back, getting our wellies and wading out to retrieve as many as we could. In the end we fetched more than a hundred of them out of the river. I’ve no idea how they might have got there – it’s been a long time since anyone delivered things of the sort of lorries something might genuinely have fallen out of the back of. My guess is that some courier got lost, or annoyed with his SatNav insisting that You. Have. Arrived. when he was miles away from anything that looked like a habitation (our postcodes cover quite a large area round here) just gave up and dumped them in the river. It’s the second time we’ve found something that looks like it was packaged for delivery in the same spot. I don’t understand it, but at least this time the fly tipping means I have ended up with a lifetime’s supply of plant trays. Indeed several lifetimes’.

So all that was left for me was to find some way of getting the surplus down to the village for everyone else.

A Three Bungee Problem

And then join in the mad rummage for goodies of my own.

Oh, and a top tip for anyone attending a village plant sale? Don’t bring a £20 note. You have to buy loads more plants than you can fit in a pannier to make it up to a non-embarrassing amount…

*This is important. Anyone rolling up half an hour after the start time would be left raking over the second rate stuff. In fact, anyone turning up at the start time would have been cutting it fine: the gardeners started baggsying the best plants twenty minutes early

Splitting Hares

May 16, 2010

Weeding in the garden yesterday, I had the unmistakable sensation that I was being watched.

Nestled in among the day lillies was a leveret – a young hare.

It was keeping a close eye on the big monster but it sat tight like its mother had taught it and I was able to get my camera and take a couple of photographs before it stood up and unhurriedly loped away.

I suppose it’s a bit inconsistent of me to be charmed by a baby hare but ferocious in pursuit of what’s probably a similarly-aged rabbit. But there’s something about hares – their unflappable air, their long legs, their speed, that makes me look kindly on them. And this one wasn’t in the veg patch, which helps. I was just thinking, before I saw it, that I didn’t really know what to do with that particular bit of garden. It’s too big for a flower bed, too full of shrubs to be much of a lawn, too weedy, too rocky, too rooty to grow anything interesting – altogether more of a pain than anything else. But it does, apparently, make very good hare habitat.

That’ll do me.

A Game for All the Family

May 14, 2010

Stuck what to do on a rainy Friday afternoon? Try this.

You will need:

  • Three frustrated gardeners
  • A small rabbit
  • An allegedly rabbit-proof walled garden
  • A stick
  • Some netting.

The aim of the game is to get the rabbit out of the garden.

Choose one person to be the Beater. The Beater has the stick. The other players (except the rabbit) are the Runners. The rabbit is the Rabbit.

Round one

Start with the Rabbit hiding in the herbaceous border. The Beater works his way up the border with the stick, chasing the Rabbit up towards the open gate. The Runners stand around making encouraging remarks. The Rabbit gets all the way up to the open gate and bolts for freedom to the bottom of the garden.

Round two

The Runners put up some netting to try and funnel the rabbit out of the gate. The Beater works his way up the border as before. The Rabbit gets all the way up to the open gate, sees the netting and bolts for the the bottom of the garden.

Round three

The Runners put up some more netting and stand guarding the bit where the Rabbit escaped before. The Beater works his way all the way up the border chasing the Rabbit. The Rabbit gets caught in the net, frees itself, sees the open gate, rejects that as clearly a trap, doubles back behind the Beater and bolts for the bottom of the garden.

Round four

The Runners put up more netting until almost the whole of the top bed is covered. The Runners stand guarding any gaps. The Beater works his way up from the bottom of the garden with the Rabbit as before. The Rabbit sees the netting, bolts through the legs of one of the Runners (the one who looks as if she wouldn’t beat a rabbit to death with a spade, given half a chance) and bolts for the bottom of the garden.

Repeat until humans give up, rabbit leaves garden (unlikely) or the Seeker catches the golden Snitch.

So far the score is Rabbit six, Humans nil.

To be continued…


May 13, 2010

Waiting for my train to Glasgow this morning, I noticed that Bigtown Station had had some work done. Mostly, this seems to be about improving accessibility: buttons to automagically open the doors, hearing loop signs and – my personal favourite – individual walking stick holders at the ticket windows so you can come in and make long and involved theoretical inquiries about buying tickets (‘I’m no buying any the day, mind, because I’ve come out wi’out my money, but if I were to buy one…’*) without holding up the queue of people who’ve come to buy actual tickets any further by having to search around for your cane afterwards. They’ve still not put in a ticket machine (could a ticket machine sell purely theoretical tickets? I think not) although there is an Irn Bru one, of course. And nor have they tackled the real accessibility issue which is that there are hardly any bloody trains. So a 90 minute appointment in Glasgow has turned into a full day’s travel with epic amounts of hanging around – at Bigtown Station (in case I get stuck in the queue behind someone wishing to discuss the metaphysics of possible ticket purchase and miss the morning’s train) – in Glasgow, at Bishopbriggs, and of course on the incredibly-scenic-but-not-particularly fast chunter there and back on the train.

Hmmm. I was waxing lyrical about the slow pace of life around here just a couple of days ago, wasn’t I? It just doesn’t fit too well with having to be somewhere – anywhere – at a particular time.

Oh, and it’s started raining again. I knew life would be worse under the Tories

*I really wish I were making this up

The Dogfather

May 12, 2010

I was in a farmyard this morning, and I noticed a little black and white cat, barely more than a kitten, coming out of a barn with a mouse in its jaws. It dropped its prey at the feet of the old sheep dog which sleeps chained up in the sun there, and nudged it with its head, as though to show it what a wonderful present it had brought it.

‘Awwwww,’ I said to my cycling buddy. ‘How cute is that?’ and we cooed for a while at the little vicious killer and its ancient partner in crime.

I have definitely lived in the country too long now.

A Timely Reminder

May 11, 2010

I set off on my bike at 8:30 today on a picture-perfect May morning, with blue skies and cool breezes and the sunlight filtering through the fresh green leaves of the trees. All was normal (apart from the weather, of course) until I got to nearest village and saw not one car but three, turning off to head down the back road to Papershop Village – my road. That’s odd, I thought. Must be something going on. Especially when the three cars were joined by three more behind me, and more coming the other way. This back road is exceedingly narrow, basically a single track road with passing places, except without the passing places. Locals know where the ditches are and pass each other by driving half on the verge and half on the road, breathing in and hoping. Generally, if I see three cars on the whole length of that road I wonder what the world is coming to, the traffic’s so dreadful And these weren’t locals. They were driving shiny saloon cars instead of tiny beat up minis or battered 4x4s. And they were making a bit of a meal of squeezing past each other, stopping at gates, and generally clogging up traffic.

A passing council lorry informed me – as it squeezed past one of these queues – that there was an accident blocking Big A Road. There might have been more details – he seemed inclined to lean out his window and chat, as he would have done had we passed each other on a normal day – but I was aware that we were holding up what was by now quite a big queue of cars, driven by people for whom minutes actually count*. Car after car started filtering past me, rushing to get into the queue of cars waiting to pass each other at the next gate. I thought about playing leapfrog with them – because most of the time I could quite easily have passed each blockage – but I didn’t want to end up roadkill, so I didn’t. At the top of the biggest hill, when I pulled over to let a lorry through that had been making a bit of a meal of overtaking me, another 20 cars streamed past in its wake. I wouldn’t mind – I didn’t want them on my tail – but only one of them actually smiled his thanks or even acknowledged my presence – as they streamed past. The rest of them looked like they were having a really crappy day.

As I finally threaded my way through a rather nicely developing gridlock at the turnoff into Papershop Village, I remembered that this was what cycling in London was always like, only with more birdsong and less hooting. And more hills. It’s probably what cycling in the South East of England is like, even out in the country. Too many cars, on roads that were never designed for them, trying to get to their nine o’clock meeting on time. I may complain about the weather, and the cold, and sometimes even the remoteness. But it reminded me I should be exceedingly grateful that I don’t normally have to complain about the traffic.  Although, obviously, I still do.

* someone showed me their ‘country clock’ the other day. It’s only got one hand, so it doesn’t bother with the minutes, although you can work out the quarter hours, should you ever want to.

Writerly Stuff

May 10, 2010

OK, it’s not all been bike rides and somersaulting green beans and scenery up here – I’ve been doing some writing stuff too. No, not a new book yet, so don’t ask – ‘how’s the writing going’ is one of those great unanswerable questions like ‘who can stop the rain?’ or ‘have we got a government yet?’ – but I have been busy setting up this, which will be out at the end of the month. There will be a short story from me in it, and – when it’s printed and I’ve wrestled PayPal into submission – there will be a way to buy it on-line and have it posted to you, actually physically, in a proper envelope with a stamp on it and everything. This digital world is overrated, I’ve decided. We put it together with actual cut and pasting – scissors and glue – and it was the best fun I’ve had in a long time.

Hmmm. Maybe Paypal is the wrong approach after all. Does anybody still do postal orders these days do you think?

If I could put Time in a Bottle…

May 8, 2010

‘It’s at that time of the year when I just want to press a button and make it all stay this way for another month,’ my neighbour said this morning.

I know what she means.

It’s all too fleeting

And photographs don’t even begin to capture it

But they will have to do.


May 7, 2010

Oh dear. I woke up this morning with a sinking feeling. I’d spent the night dreaming I was trying and failing to get on a ferry in order to vote (it made sense at the time), and I woke up to discover that everything I’d feared last night had come to pass, except for the bit about the ferry. Add in a late night and an incipient headache (and we weren’t even playing any of the electoral drinking games) and I was not a happy bunny. Not only that but the clouds were looming and it looked as though the first full outing of the Ladies who Cycle was going to be rained off*. Things were not going well.

But fortunately something’s gone right today. The clouds parted and we got on our bikes for an hour of slightly wind-blown but sunny, chatty riding. I came back feeling refreshed and restored. And then I spent the next hour or so pulling out dandelions to the accompaniment of Eddie Mair managing not to take the constitutional situation entirely seriously. We’ve still got no government, and unless Nick Clegg manages to arm twist Cameron into making Vince Cable chancellor** I’m still not that hopeful about the future. But there are many many fewer dandelions in our drive.

And how was your election?

*for which I blame the tories, and I’m going to continue blaming them for everything that goes wrong from now on.

**please God. Or anyone but Twerpboy Osborne…

Never mind the Election…

May 6, 2010

…Let’s talk about the things that really matter. Like what happens when a French (or should that be Australian?) bean decides to come up upside down.

‘What’s that you’ve got coming up in that pot – the swamp thing?’ the other half asked, and looking at it, I could see he had a point. While all the rest of my beans had put up nice green leaves, this one was determined to come into the world backwards. We had our first vegetarian breech birth on our hands, and I didn’t quite know what to do about it.

The correct answer, I suppose, for the sensible gardener, would be to throw that one away and start again. But I didn’t get a great germination rate for my beans, and I’m incapable of being ruthless with my vegetables, and besides, I was curious to see what it would do so I left it to sort itself out.

And lo and behold, it did*, after a fashion.

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Now the real question is whether I’ll ever persuade it to climb up a bean pole.

* The sensible blogger would probably also not have photographed it horribly backlit so the quality of the photos might have been better, but hey, everyone’s wise after the event. If you’ve got an upside-down bean plant, and you want to do a better job, feel free.


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