Justifiable homicide

Following the bareness of the winter months, when the garden was little more than twigs and logs for the fire, the arrival of spring and the push towards summer, has woken up a few flowers. It makes a huge difference.

Just outside the living room window, overlooked by Mirinda’s desk, there’s a little group of white aquilegias, commonly called white bonnets. They have just sprung up out of nowhere.

In contrast to this tiny group, almost the entire right-hand side of the garden is covered in lily of the valley. The scent on a warm day is delightful. Apparently, it’s one of Mirinda’s favourite flowers. That just goes to show that you can still learn things about each other after 30 years of marriage.

At the bottom of the stairs, leading down from the side terrace, a line of poppies appeared. We were wondering what colour they’d be. And if they’d be different or all the same.

They are all the same, a lovely sherbet yellow.

These are yellow wood poppies. They are native to Canada and the northern parts of the US, so I can only assume these were planted at some stage and have just spread. They are quite hardy and have no problem managing the below freezing winters. They are a very joyful colour.

Then, the other morning, I was sitting writing up my blog when, out of the window, I noticed a couple of bits of purple beyond the tree. It’s a big old rhododendron. The flowers bunched up like a bride’s bouquet.

And this morning, the weather being hot and sunny, I thought it would be perfect to just sit in the garden, under the shade of a convenient shrub and work. Then, of course, that dream was shattered and I was sent scurrying back inside.

It was the bastard next door with the chainsaw. I do have to wonder why the Swedish enjoy having a builder’s yard in an expensive, residential area. We love living here, but there’s no way we’d buy this house, because of the neighbours. Such a shame.

Of course, he would stop after about 15 minutes in order to, I imagine, organise whatever it was he was cutting up. There would then be a general opening up of doors and windows only to close everything up again once he recommenced. It was like that all day. Makes it very difficult to work from home when Chainsaw Man is doing the same thing.

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A dry day at Espresso House

I think last night marked the beginning of the party season here in Vendelsö. Schools are breaking up and mid-summer is rapidly approaching. The days are getting longer and the weather is warming up. So, of course, there was a very noisy pool party directly across the road from us.

Unfortunately, the music was shit, otherwise we might have enjoyed it as well. Still, it ended before midnight and the normally silent world returned. This afternoon, Mirinda noticed preparations for other parties starting to appear around the neighbourhood. I guess there’ll be more shit music to keep us awake coming up.

For us, though, it was more about Max getting a service. I found a Mini service centre in Tyresö and have been emailing Veronica there to organise one. This morning I took one of Max’s keys into her to be analysed.

It meant leaving the bus one stop earlier than I normally would, when heading for Tyresö Centrum, and walking a bit. Which was fine except it meant that I didn’t know what was going on at the bus station.

The first I heard that there was a problem was from Norah at Espresso House. She drew my attention to a hand written sign on the counter. Obviously I coudn’t read it which was why she told me what it said.

There was no water. A burst main had meant that around 60% of the shops in the centre were without water. This meant, specifically for Espresso House, that there’d be no coffee made. I was devastated. Then Norah offered me a couple of iced lattes instead. And, I have to say, they were very nice.

Norah then had to go down to the bore and haul up a bucket of water from the well.

When I left for home I saw the mud all over the bus station.

And the mud didn’t stop there. The floor of the bus I caught was covered in it as well. Every foot, every wheel, spreading it everywhere. Someone was going to have a fine old time with a pressure hose at the end of the day.

The mud, however, was the least of the problems with the buses today. The two I caught were full of school holiday kids. Flashback to Exhibition Road in South Kensington at half term. Never pleasant.

It always makes me feel that kids should be kept in some sort of isolation until they know how to properly behave among adults. This could also help the few adults who don’t know how to behave among adults.

Which nicely leads on to…

Prick of the Week

Here’s a bit of very weird parking.

It would appear that this car is about to enter a car space directly in front of it. Except there’s no driver. And no-one anywhere who could be the driver. Maybe he’s invisible. I don’t know, but he’s happily blocking the car park.

And, another prick today…

The British prime minister chartered a jet to take him from London to Cornwall today for the G7 meeting. A large part of the meeting is concerned with climate change and what the nations of the world can do about it. How about catching trains? Would that help?

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When Emma was scared

It was a very big day for the girls today. Their hair has been getting worse and worse. I have been snipping away, reducing some tangle but, basically, they needed some extreme hair removal. The kind of thing Kate used to do every ten weeks.

A couple of weeks ago, I booked them into a snipper at the pet shop in Tyresö Centrum. And today was the day.

First thing, though, Mirinda took them both for a walk in the rain. Yes, it was still raining. Off and on. Which is what punctuated the day with next door. Rain, chainsaw, rain, chainsaw, etc. Had me praying for more rain.

Though it wasn’t raining when I left with the girls.

Originally, Mirinda was going to drive us all then we were going to have lunch but work encroached, meaning I had to take the girls on the bus.

Emma didn’t like the bus. Freya headed for the space under the seat I was sitting on and just sat down, but Emma sat and shook with fear. I patted, stroked and talked to her, which helped, but she seriously didn’t like it. I don’t know if it was the noises or the movement or what. She was very relieved when we arrived at our stop.

She wasn’t too keen when I handed her over to the clipper but it happened so quickly she didn’t have much time to react. I then went to Espresso House for a coffee and a read.

There was a bit of confusion with the clipper. She told me to return at 4:30 when they’d be ready. I dropped them off at 1:30. I thought that was a bit long, and she said that about an hour each was right. I asked if it was going to take one hour each, and she said yes. I said I’d see her at around 3:30 then. As Mirinda said, numbers are very difficult.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to repeat the journey on the bus. Mirinda joined me, and we had lunch at the café she likes in the centre.

Eventually, excited and shivering, the puppies were ready. I thought they looked lovely, while Mirinda thought their hair was too short, though Mirinda always thinks their hair is too short. Still, we both agreed they felt like velvet.

According to the clipper, both of them were perfectly behaved and even helped her by offering their paws. I wonder why they don’t help me like that when I have to clean the mud off them. All I get is avoidance and a pointless attempt to escape through the corner of the shower stall. Nice to know they are helpful with strangers, though.

Back at home, the pair of them spent an unreasonable amount of time in sympathy gathering shivering. As Sue said on Instagram, Emma did not look delighted.

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Art in a time of covid

Every year, the Spring Salon at Liljevalchs Konsthall, attracts many entries and even more visitors. Usually around 5,000 artworks are submitted for examination and judging. Every year, that is, except for 2020. The plague put the kibosh on that. The other thing the plague did was heavily influence the entries in the Spring Salon 2021.

From a platform full of socially distanced people in gas masks to photographs of taped off seats, the images and memories of the pandemic graced walls and floors.

Håll avstånd by Stefan Bennedahl

On Sunday, I’d decided to take myself into Stockholm to visit the Spring Salon. I booked a ticket time of 12:30 and set off nice and early. The day was beautiful and the transport all linked up. Bus, ferry, tram, train, bus; I rode round a veritable circle. And, obviously, I had to visit our Viennese place (that isn’t Viennese) on Djurgården given I’d be nearby.

The clientèle is a bit different on a weekday. We’re used to seeing tourists taking fika ahead or in the middle of, various tourist adventures. Today, however, I joined a few tables full of workers in hard hats and work clothes as they took their lunch.

Given I was early, I then indulged in a lovely half hour in Galärvarvskyrkogården, a churchyard originally set up for naval use in 1742. It’s a lovely place on a sunny day. It was also lovely when we visited around All Saints Day last year.

Eventually, time ticked round to my timed slot and I entered Liljevalchs, the same as we did back in October when it was one of the few places open, the plague having closed most places. The staff were just as happy to see me though now with rather odd face masks. At first I thought that maybe they were part of the Spring Salon. They weren’t.

I then spent a delightful 90 odd minutes wandering around the over 300 selected entries, sometimes laughing, other times made sad, with a few times mystified thrown in. Possibly the most mystifying was a series of framed flattened white cardboard boxes. I took a photo especially for Bob.

Flattened cardboard boxes aside, the effect of the plague was just about everywhere. From a long line of bars of different coloured soaps (remembering how we were taught to wash our hands properly) to a suspended perspex screen.

Of course, not all the entries were covid related. In fact, one of my favourite pieces had more to do with humour than anything else. The artist,Ola Niklasson, had taken a load of ornaments and added squid to them. The largest one, I particularly liked.

Gosstund by Ola Niklasson

I was surprised at how many other people were there. Apparently the Spring Salon is very popular and, if today was anything to go by, I’d agree.

Shortly after I returned home, the sky blackened and the rains came. It poured and poured. I was incredibly lucky to have missed it. Another hour and I’d have been as drenched as the plants outside our house.

Apart from watering the gardens, the rain also stopped the annoying chainsaw next door. And that was definitely a welcomed consequence.

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“I never hear birdsong at Verdun”

I hadn’t attended a WFA webinar for ages. Then I spotted tonight’s subject, Hidden French Battlefields and thought it sounded interesting. And, though plagued with technical issues, interesting, it certainly was.

The talk was given by photographer Mike Sheil, who takes people on battlefield tours (when there’s no pandemic). The title of this post is a quote from Mike when asked a question about whether any of the places he visits maintain a sort of ethereal essence; any kind of palpable leftover memory of the fighting. I reckon it would have made a better title for his presentation. Or book.

Mike’s presentation took us along the oft overlooked French front as it extended further west. The western, western front, as he called it. I rather like the webinars which wander off the main track and head to less well trodden paths.

Mike showed us photographs of places where people usually cannot go. These places are mostly on private land, which aids to preserve and protect them. It seems a lot of people like to destroy historic remains. I don’t know why and Mike didn’t explain. I guess we should just be glad that these reminders are still there and people like Mike are allowed to, at least, photograph them.

One of the most interesting things about the talk were the carvings left by German, French and British soldiers at various times as the armies went back and forth, gaining then losing ground as the war ploughed on.

Possibly, the most amazing was a chapel in a cave. It featured a chi ro formed by three swords…which isn’t really very Christian.

There was also the high point in the French fighting when there was a mere 28 feet between them and the Germans, high in the mountains. Mike showed a photograph and it’s hard to imagine such close combat with guns. It reminded me of an earlier time when it was swords and shields.

It was also very cold with 100 metre snow drifts making everything white and impossible. He told us there were quite a few times that the two sides stopped fighting in order to survive the weather conditions. Which seems very odd to me. Presumably the soldiers who survived the sub zero nights then died the next day from fighting. Ironic?

There wasn’t a lot of humour in the presentation, except when Mike’s phone rang. After a lot of technical problems with his slides the sudden, shrill interruption by his landline had me in stitches. Fortunately, no-one could see or hear me.

He has a book, which he showed after being prompted by a question regarding its availability. It’s available from Amazon. It looks like a beautiful book though, Mike said, it also makes a good door stop. Obviously it has a lot of photographs in it, and it’s a big, fat glossy coffee table type volume. He also has a website, here.

An excellent subject for a webinar with some amazing photographs. An enjoyable hour and a half.

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Photobombed by the British PM

It was Swedish National Day today, which seemed to mean there were lots of strawberries everywhere. It was also the final day of the first test between New Zealand and England at Lords, which meant I was somehow allowed to talk about cricket for a bit.

To celebrate Sweden Day, we drove to a lovely town called Trosa, nicknamed The world’s end. We both fell in love with the place in a way that we didn’t at Bourton on the Water.

The two places are sort of similar. They both have water running through them, they have shops that seem made especially for visitors, both have long sections without cars. Where they differ is that Trosa is delightfully spacious and, as can be seen from the above photo, not crowded.

That’s not to say that there weren’t a lot of people out and about. The day was stunning with temperatures soaring on, what I can only guess, was the hottest day so far this year. In a country where there’s fewer people and more room, I would expect you’re going to be unlucky to find a crowd.

There’s also the fact that no-one is going to swim in the canal. It looks pretty deep and has quite the flow. It’s also used by lots of boats. Anyone foolish enough to dive in would very quickly disappear.

While the path alongside the canal is delightfully traffic free, even the roads that run parallel to it maintain a very slow speed limit. Families strolling along the streets far outnumber the vehicles and the vehicles respect the shared space. It’s the sort of thing they could do with in Farnham.

We had a good wander around, stopping for a light lunch at Ankaret, pub and restaurant. We sat on the terrace with the girls and soaked up the local flavours, including a rather pleasant and refreshing lager.

(Their website is not secure and, therefore, throws up all sorts of warnings, so there’s little point including a link. However, they do have an Instagram account here.)

Having had a lovely lunch, we then walked up to the church which has, in what increasingly seems to be the norm, a detached belfry. Built between 1694-1710, it was originally somewhere else then moved to the present site when the whole town was moved in the 17th century due to post-glacial rebound. This is when, like a see-saw, the removal of the weight of a glacier causes land at the other end to sink.

The church also has a votive ship, but I wasn’t able to find out anything about it. I have read that votive ships in Swedish churches are quite rare, which seems odd because I’ve seen quite a few. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

Trosa is one of the top four wealthiest communities in Sweden, and it shows. There’s lots of beautiful houses and the few for sale are well beyond a normal budget. I know because Mirinda insists, when we visit somewhere nice, that we go and look at local real estate, so we can imagine living there.

The town has its fair share of famous residents. Among them are the two B’s from ABBA. Actually, originally, my title for this post was going to be 2Bs of Trosa. But then I took a photo looking down the street where the museum sits and was photobombed. I obviously had no choice but to change the title.

It was quite a long trip to Trosa but well worth it. We had a gorgeous day (the weather had a lot to do with it) with ice cream and lots of boats. We were soon on the road, heading back home, where, in honour of Swedish National Day, I made pork and fennel, adorned with little Swedish flags.

Oh, and the first test between New Zealand and England at Lords ended in a rather tense draw. Or so it seemed watching the live updates coming from my phone.

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Swedish Nicktor enjoying the sunshine

A father was holding the hands of his very young daughter at full length as she tottered towards us on wobbly legs, reminiscent of mine. She had only started to walk a matter of days ago. She was looking very proud of herself. He said that his other daughter had seen her sister stand up first. She screamed for her parents to come and see. It was a wonderful family moment.

This was at Cafe Notholmen, on the most beautiful day here so far. There were boats and families and even people swimming. It was all so perfect.

Once he found out we were Australian, the father quizzed us about The Wiggles. We assured him they were real and very popular down under. He had a business meeting in the week with one of them and hadn’t heard of the group.

Going to the island for linner, was a delight. We’d spent the morning walking in the woods (MIrinda) and working on my podcast (me). While Mirinda is normally gone for a few hours, I’ve usually finished with the podcast in about 20 minutes. Though it’s going to take longer now.

While I did the recording last night, I had to write my next letter this morning. Because I’ve caught up with the previously written, FATN letters, I now have to write a new one each week rather than monthly. That’s adding a bit more pressure.

The pressure wasn’t eased by the builders next door. While they didn’t have the jack hammer going today, they chainsawed a bit and were using a circular saw. Then there’s their bloody truck that, for some reason, has to be turned on for at least ten minutes ever half hour. Noisy bastards.

But that was all forgotten for a few hours as we headed to the island.

There was a lot of people. It reminded me of the popular winter Sunday’s we visited except for the amount of clothes and the presence of boats on the water.

It’s hard to believe that we walked where that yacht is now anchored. And now it’s so warm that almost everyone we saw was wearing shorts and t-shirts.

One person we saw, wearing shorts and t-shirt, was a man who bore an incredible resemblance to a clean shaven, short haired, Nicktor. So much so that he shall henceforth be called Swedish Nicktor. Of course, Nicktor himself denied there was any resemblance, but we (including Dawn) beg to differ.

I managed to get a surreptitious photo. It’s a pity he’s looking down, but the likeness is undeniable.

I was sorely tempted to go and say hello but managed to check myself. He would have thought me a lunatic. Or worse. An Aldershot fan.

While sitting watching the people (and after we’d eaten) we indulged in an ice cream. I had the pleasure of trying a crème brûlée flavoured one. Obviously, being a bit of an expert, I had to try one. Mirinda insisted. I won’t bother writing it up on my ratings page because, firstly it was an ice cream and, secondly, it tasted nothing like crème brûlée.

After this minor disappointment, we went for a wander down by the dock, to admire the boats, when we discovered yet more doppelgängers. On board a yacht, two dogs suddenly appeared, excited to see the girls. While not unusual, these two dogs were the spitting image of our two.

The y0ungest, a full poodle, looked exactly like a young Emma. The older dog was like a proper sized cockerpoo but looked exactly like Freya. We talked to the owner, all amazed at the coincidence.

Mind you, looks were where the resemblance ended, really. While her two were a bit yappy and excited, desperate to leap ashore and accost the girls, our two didn’t take a blind bit of notice.

I really wanted to take a photo but always think it’s a bit suspicious wanting to take photos of other people’s dogs. Like taking photos of their kids. So I didn’t. Anyone reading this will just have to take my word for it.

And that was about it for our day. We drove home then had drinks on the terrace before watching some Vikings and El Vecino, a Spanish half hour sitcom based on a comic.

A perfect day, I’d say.

I should add that while the ice cream tasted nothing like a crème brûlée, it was still very creamy and yummy.

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Another quiet day in the country

While normally we practice OMAD* almost every day, sometimes, like today, I just feel like having something light for lunch. It’s generally not difficult to find some bits and pieces in our fridge given the smorgasbord nature of Swedish food. And today, I rather spoiled myself.

I usually have a few boiled eggs handy, and most weeks there’ll be leftover räkor. This week, just to add some flavour, I bought a little pot of black caviar to have with our salmon, so there was some of that as well.

It made for a perfect little bowl of protein.

I’d call it perfect springtime fare. And it was very much a beautiful, warm spring day. It’s just a pity it was spoiled by the builders next door.

First there was the chainsaw. They started with it yesterday. They’re not chopping down trees, so all I can imagine is they’re cutting up logs. All day yesterday and most of this morning. Then, in order to drive us just a little more insane, the jack hammer started up at about midday and continued until about 6pm.

I have no way of knowing what they were doing for certain but I think they were chopping up boulders. One thing I do know for sure is that it was not pleasant. The weather meant having doors and windows open, the jack hammer meant shutting everything up or just have a non-stop headache inducing racket going on.

Oh, the joys of living next door to a builder’s yard.

I managed to escape the noise for a while when I went up to Trollbäcken to shop, but that was scant relief.

On the bright side, today I found out about a Swedish village in Hokkaido, Japan. It’s called Sweden Hills and features falu red houses, and the residents dress up for midsummer and have crayfish parties. And, Swedes regular visit it. Imagine going overseas to see something that looks exactly like what you see every day at home.

I bet they don’t have a builder’s yard next door.

Finally, as the peace and quiet descended on our house, I knocked up a couple of tuna steaks for dinner. Accompanied by steamed pak choi and Gazzatouille, it’s always delicious. With the added pleasure of eating outside, given the end of the racket.

* One Meal A Day

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When you really need a toothpick crossbow

Today’s Talking Newspaper with Nigel felt like sitting in a car, careening downhill with no brakes. It was a thrilling, very funny journey through this week’s local news. Ironic when a lot of the pieces were concerned with Farnham traffic being at a stand still.

I wasn’t scheduled to present this week, but poor Clive is suffering with shingles, so we swapped. When I realised it was with Nigel, I was very pleased. He is brilliantly funny.

This edition was the first to be completed in one day rather than spread across two. So, pretty much like we used to do it. Prepare and edit in the morning, record in the afternoon. This will now be the norm as the studio starts to re-open.

In July, the studio will be used as well as the remote recordings, albeit in a different configuration. Not that that concerns the Remote Crew.

Talking to Tim, after today’s recording, he was hopeful that our new, informal, chatty type style will be recreated in the studio editions. I hope so. But we shall see. Or hear.

But that’s next month, for today everything went smoothly. It took me an hour to clip all the pieces then an hour and half to create the PowerPoint and running order documents which I then sent to Nigel for editing. I had heaps of time before the recording at 2:30 UK time.

While everything ran very smoothly, it was a shame being stuck indoors all day, given the weather. And the green of the garden.

Plus, stuck upstairs, with the window closed to shut out the noise, the heat was starting to get to me by the time we’d finished the recording. As soon as we all said goodbye, I was up and outside with a cold beer.

A lot of laughs, a lot fun, a lot of stuff about back home.

In the meanwhilst, during a sizeable work break, Mirinda took the girls for a lovely walk in the woods. It’s amazing that she can walk out of the house and be in the woods in just over five minutes. No need for the car, delightfully close.

And, just in passing, some strange AI threw up an ad for a toothpick crossbow in my Chrome browser this morning. Here it is:

I don’t know why. As far as I remember, I’ve never searched for either crossbows or toothpicks. Of course, now that I’ve written about them in the blog, no doubt I’ll start being inundated with the opportunity to buy tiny medieval weaponry. How weird the world is.

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Always wear your thongs in Australia

Back in the UK, if someone was to ask me what my signature dish was, I would have said my salmon with avocado crust – I probably have said so elsewhere in this blog. I was particularly pleased when I could get the lightly smoked salmon from Waitrose because it gave the meal more depth.

Here in Sweden, if someone was to ask me what my signature dish is, I would have to say my roast salmon and rakor salad. The salmon comes in big slabs and is not lightly smoked. It tastes like it just leapt from the water and into the oven. It’s also a meal that takes half an hour from start to finish.

It is the easiest meal I make, but it’s also possibly the tastiest and most satisfying. The beauty is it needs very little work.

Conversely, today we had our usual Norrby’s brunch which was the far more complicated goats cheese and spinach pie. Mind you, when I say complicated, it’s not really that difficult. It’s just a question of getting the wholemeal pastry right then chopping goats cheese and spreading spinach. The drizzle of balsamic and honey makes it extra special.

But, enough talk of food. Today was Wednesday and I went to Tyresö Centrum.

I was a bit worried about my knee but, since the advent of the compression bandage, it’s hurting much less and actually going some way to actually supporting me. I think it’s on the way to healing properly. I have no idea why it decided to be so painful. My best guess would be tendinitis but without the energetic sport to blame. I must have overdone my workout…which is hard to believe.

Anyway, it seems to be on Recovery Road, so I expect to write nothing else about it.

Rather, I talked about Australia to three women at the centre today. Firstly the woman at the fish counter in ICA.

She spent months in Oz a few years ago and loved it. It was after I complimented her English (which is almost perfect) and she said she supplemented her school learnin’ by hanging around with English people at Bondi Beach. I laughed. We all know that Bondi Beach, while in Australia is actually part of Britain and is not the beach any self respecting Aussie would visit.

I asked her about her Oz trip and she started in Melbourne and worked her way up to Sydney then spent a lot of time at Byron Bay before heading to the Sunshine Coast. She loved it, she said.

Then, before leaving for the bus, I had a chat with the baristas at Espresso House. They both longed to go to Australia but were worried about the animals killing them. I assured them that, while, yes, there were plenty of things that could kill you, I’d managed to survive for 35 years without something lethal killing me. As had everyone I knew. In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve never known anyone who died from snake, spider, octopus or shark.

I told the baristas at Espresso House that the worst thing in Australia was, in fact, the bindi. I described the awful little weed, saying that while a lawn might look tempting and lush, one was always advised to wear one’s thongs rather than go barefoot. This had them both in stitches.

I corrected myself and suggested flip flops. Norah-not-Eva suggested sandals. The other barista was laughing too hard, saying thongs meant something entirely different and she didn’t think wearing them on your feet would be much protection.

I assured them both that they shouldn’t not go to Australia because they were scared of the wildlife. That would be like not walking across the street because you were worried about the traffic stopped at the traffic lights. Yes, it’s there and, yes it could kill you, but you can’t let things stop you or you’ll never go anywhere.

Actually, I didn’t say that because I only just thought of it. But it’s true. I also didn’t say that they’ll likely never go to Australia because no-one will be able to for many years. By which time it will have become a cultural backwater prime for rediscovery by intrepid explorers.

Anyway, along with my knee, the weather was a delight. We sat outside at Norrby’s and they’d actually unwound the big shade over the seating. Bliss.

The garden at Norrby’s is coming along nicely. How well I remember the almost non-existent winter garden. We had a short wander around, admiring the plants before heading back home. I think Mirinda is missing our garden in Farnham.

She’s organised the gardeners to come around next week after Kate and James said it was getting a bit out of control. Fortunately, Mirinda managed to get Dave the Gardener so things will be in the best hands.

Katie had just finished her Pilates on the grass and was about to eat lunch. Fortunately, there’s no bindis in this grass.

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