Flowers

There was an improvement in the weather today. Though it was a bit drizzly at times, it was mostly dry. This meant I could work in the garden AND take the girls for a walk.

The day started earlier than normal as Mirinda had a meeting scheduled for 9:30 which, annoyingly, was cancelled not long before she arrived at the venue. While annoying, the short notice couldn’t be helped so it was difficult being angry about having to wake up at an hour earlier than normal. Still, having an excellent excuse didn’t prevent me being tired all day.

Having dropped Mirinda off at the station, shopped and walked home, I set about planting the hydrangeas we bought on Saturday. They are for the new bed I made last week, at the end of my office that borders Carmen’s Sweet escape. Needless to say they are pink.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea macrophylla

The green things are to keep Emma off. She doesn’t understand that a garden bed isn’t the same as a sleeping bed, she just hears the word ‘bed’ and stretches full out on it. Well, she used to. Now she’s returned to lying beneath the shrub opposite.

The hydrangea is called ‘teller pink’ and has “…large lace-cap flower heads of deep rose pink…” and should last all summer. It already looks pretty good but when it spreads out and becomes more bushy, it’ll look fantastic…hopefully. Here’s a close-up of the flowers:

hydrang02

We’ll plant some annuals where the green guards are at the moment to fill out the space while the hydrangeas grow. Hopefully that will deter Emma.

Speaking of Emma…during our walk she met two (larger) cockerpoos, one of which was exactly the same colour as her. In fact it was like a caterpillar had given Emma a bit of mushroom and she’d expanded to twice her normal size. She had a jolly run around with them but soon grerw a bit frightened when Teddy started getting a bit too vigorous. Fortunately, rather than run away, she headed for the space between my feet and sat, dodging Teddy’s nose. Day-z, of course, was safely tucked under my arm.

Teddy’s owner reckoned he was only boisterous when he came across other cockerpoos which is a bit odd. Emma is boisterous regardless of the breed and Day-z hates all other dogs but other poodles the most. I guess they’re just individual in their tastes.

One of the highlights of the day was getting to finish the custard from yesterday on a slice of apple, pear and almond pie. Even if I do say so myself.

0% chance of dry

I ask anyone reading this to spare a thought for the organisers of the Garden Show at Loseley Park. After rain on Friday, it also rained almost all today. Rather than three days, their enterprise only enjoyed one. I should also mention the open gardens at East Worldham which would have suffered today as well.

Needless to say, it was a pretty miserable day if you were unlucky enough to be outside. of course I battled the elements to go to the shops first thing. I could have asked Mirinda to drive me except I just had to document the progress made by the Adventure Playground people.

adventure08

As you can see from the above photograph, the walkway now has a handrail running both sides for the entire length. In the distance you can just make out the rope walkway that goes from the main fort structure to one of the outlying towers. Here it is a bit closer.

adventure09

To the left of the photograph, at the top of the tower is a strange statue of a big bird. It could be an eagle or a seagull, I couldn’t get close enough to tell. I also have no idea if it’s made of wood, iron, resin or coconut shells. In short, the rain started in earnest as I stood there so the camera went away rapidly followed by me.

Back at home, Mirinda was having a lovely Skype with Fi, interrupted on occasion by Jason and his disc cleaning antics and Lauren in her pyjamas. Jason, it seems, managed to survive his epic walk along the pseudo Kokoda Trail.

The rest of the day was rubbish so we spent it indoors. I made an apple, pear and almond pie and some real custard to have for dessert (and make up for the horrible jelly from yesterday). Mirinda said it was lovely.

And the roast this week was chicken.

0% chance of rain

It’s not often you come across Absolutes. The risk of being wrong is far too high a possibility that it’s rare to find a pin point prediction. Even psychics tend to fluff around the time of events and they can read minds/speak to the dead!

So, it was with a certain degree of surprise when we read that the chance of rain today was 0%. A few factors predicted something a little less certain. Firstly, it didn’t stop raining yesterday and, secondly, this IS Britain and it IS summer. While we disagreed with the prediction, the sky was clear enough for us to risk going to the Garden Show at Loseley Park.

The Garden Show started yesterday and is like a garden centre market with plants and other garden things as well as food. We wondered how many people actually went yesterday given the rain didn’t stop all day.

Today, however, with 0% chance of rain, there were quite a few people in attendance.

gardenshow01

Dogs weren’t welcome (odd for Loseley but I guess it’s the Garden Show people who make the canine rules) so the girls were stuck at home. Mind you, we took them for a lovely romp over Frensham late in the day so they couldn’t complain too much.

We encountered a young chap wandering around holding a plate of sliced up, just cooked Cumberland sausage. Of course we’ll try some! And, of course, we had Cumberland sausage for lunch served up by Dan Dan the Sausage Man.

sausageman

At some stage we were caught in a sudden rain shower which saw most of us heading for one of the three big marquees. So much for the 0% chance of rain.

We ended up buying a beautiful Spanish red and yellow bowl for the dining table (to hold fruit) and two hydrangeas for Carmen’s Sweet Escape then, leaving our purchases for later collection) we headed over to the Loseley Park Walled Garden.

Talk about full! The plants in the Walled Garden were in full flush spreading their floral beauty in every direction. We rather liked the holly hock jungle…

hollyhoxrox

…and the Almost Completely White Garden.

white

There was also a sculpture exhibition with pieces dotted throughout the garden. Most of them were resin and not many were appealing. Without exception, they were all too expensive.

sculpture02

I didn’t take note of any of the titles but I think the one above is called The Dancer and the one below is, possibly, Molecule.

sculpture01

One of the most attractive sights was, in fact, beyond the Walled Garden. The roof-scape of Loseley is always a treat.

loseleyroof

Eventually we headed home, collected the girls and took them to Frensham Little Pond where Emma was admired.

I made another jelly but it needed more sugar. Sadly it wasn’t what you’d call a success. Mirtinda has asked for apple pie and custard tomorrow.

Cecilia

What a horrid rainy day it was today. Not just in South Kensington but it also didn’t stop in Farnham. The rain was so bad that Embankment Station flooded on my way home.

At lunchtime, I was tempted to stay in the Science Museum but it was way too crowded to be even remotely pleasant so I braved the drops and headed across to the V&A.

I shook my head at the length of the rain soaked queue outside the Natural History Museum. The school holidays have just started and I reckon every family decided to visit Exhibition Road today. Even the V&A had more than the usual. Still, I headed through the Sculpture Hall and up the stairs to the paintings where the visitor numbers trickled to manageable.

It was here that I met St Cecilia.

Now, when Simon and Garfunkle sang about Cecilia up in their bedroom, making love in the afternoon, they clearly weren’t thinking of this one.

St Cecilia and the Angels by Paul Delaroche 1836

St Cecilia and the Angels by Paul Delaroche 1836

Back in Roman times there was a Roman maid called Cecilia (actually her name probably wasn’t Cecilia at all; she was probably of the gens Caecilia, a Plebian family who traced their origins back to Caeculus, the founder of Praeneste and possibly the son of Vulcan) who wanted to stay a virgin forever, secure in the knowledge that her Christian god wanted her to remain that way. If I was pressed to suggest why this is the case, I’d have to turn to the pagan Vestals who remained virgins in order to save Rome from being sacked. Again, this is just as stupid but at least it has some sort of symbolism attached to it.

Anyway, the insanely chaste Cecilia was betrothed by her father to some sleepy dude called Valerian. At their wedding feast, his new bride was off in a corner of the banquet singing softly to her god (ie to herself) when he approached her. When he suggested they could, perhaps, head for the Cubiculum for a bit of consummation, she stared blankly at him. He told her he meant sex and she blanched.

But no, dear husband, I cannot! My god wants me to remain forever a virgin!” Squealed Cecilia.
That seems a bit odd. Why then did we get married? Surely your god makes sex the reward for marriage which is why he had a problem with gay marriage for so long,” Valerian reasoned.
We were married because my father insisted. But god doesn’t agree.
So, how do you know this is what your god wants? Have you read it in a chicken’s entrails? Or via a message, magically printed across the sky in stars? Because, seriously? I don’t believe any of it.
An angel told me so.
Really? An angel? Well, can I see this angel? Or is that restricted to the mad?
If you believe, you can see anything you want.
If I take certain drugs I can see anything I want as well…and a good amount of stuff I’d rather not see. Still…If I can see this angel of which you speak, I shall not insist on taking your virginity.

And so Cecilia told Valerian to go and get baptised at a particular milestone leading out of Rome and he would see the angel. Why the angle couldn’t have just appeared I don’t know. And why make the poor guy wander out of the city? I have no idea. Perhaps angels prefer meeting at milestone. If so, I’m wonder what they feel about roundabouts.

Anyway…guess what? Valerian went, was dunked and, amazingly, saw an angel! Unbelievable, right? Definitely a great story to tell the mates down the pub. Better than that, he rushed back home, fell to his knees and told Cecilia he wouldn’t take her virginity. He then went off to a handy brothel.

Because she was a Christian and not because she was a virgin, she was martyred in about 230AD by having her head chopped off.

She is the patron saint of musicians because she sang songs to god during her wedding. Which makes me wonder about these saints. When god said he didn’t want people praying to anyone but him how come he then made all these saints and angels who will intercede on your behalf? Are they the celestial version of lobbyists? If enough musicians pray to St Cecilia for heavenly inspiration does it give weight to god’s decision about whether to answer their prayer rather than the poor chap who lost his arm in a holy war?

Before leaving the patron saint to music to hum along with a couple of psalms, I feel it only proper to mention that Simon and Garfunkle wrote the lyrics for Cecilia based on St Cecilia as the patron saint of music. The whole ‘making love’ thing is to do with artistic inspiration and is merely ironic given Cecilia’s rampant virginity.

Emma & Nick in London

Today I met up with Emma and Nick for a beer (or four). They are visiting the UK from the Sunshine Coast and seem to be thoroughly enjoying themselves. They especially loved Edinburgh though they weren’t so keen on Hayes. And who can blame them?

They were meeting Emma’s cousin after work – she works at the London Eye as a bouncer – so we agreed to meet at the Tattershall Castle. There was a bit of confusion with my directions but after Emma messaged me from one of the few streets I know by name, I guided them down the hill to the river and we met up.

afewkegs

We started off below decks in the lounge and I’m pleased to say they both had London Pride rather than some tasteless fizzy nonsense. They were both a bit concerned with seasickness. The bit of the Thames where the Tattershall Castle is moored, can be quite rough. This is due to the almost continuous traffic. Eventually it all became a bit much for them so we moved up and out onto the deck.

I’m afraid I managed to talk too much, though, fortunately, I didn’t go into any detail about the ship we were on. I was a bit dismayed on discovering that neither of them knew who Thomas Edison was but maybe I just take it for granted that everyone knows things just because I do. That’s hardly fair. And they had heard of Shakespeare. So I could tell them all about the Globe. I also told them too much about Lucy and our earliest ancestors and the reason why there’s still monkeys when we evolved from them.

I really, really hope I wasn’t too boring. Still, I had a lovely time. Emma is always a delight (and her teeth are looking pretty good) and Nick is a great chap, outgoing and not a bit shy.

I make it sound like I did all the talking for the three of us. This isn’t entirely true. They told me of their adventures so far and Emma’s delightfully mad Serbian grandfather. They had me in fits. He sounds a real cack. His concern over Nick’s premature picking of Angel Fruit was particularly funny.

Anyway, here’s a photo of me and Emma:

gazemma

Oops, sorry. Wrong Emma. Here’s a picture of me and Emma and, of course, Nick.

gazemmanick

Not understanding fiction

We’ve been watching 24. We’ve watched series 1-5 and presently we’re close to the end of the truly awful series 6. Now, while it’s quite clearly the worst one so far, it has thrown up some interesting facts. Most notably the fact that American television producers refuse to name Moslem countries when a threat comes from them.

This is not a problem when the threat comes from Russia or China. They are named with great abandon.

In fact, the poor Chinese get a rotten deal, harking back to the dim, dark days of the Yellow Peril when everyone in the West was taught how bad the Chinese were. This was easily accomplished because the only information source available to people was the newspaper. The newspapers spread the fear and loathing with amazing alacrity and freedom.

And it wasn’t so long ago that the threat of a world held in the evil grip of communism had the Free West quaking to the extent that a lot of innocent people were condemned and vilified. This communism, of course, originated in the USSR, making everything Russian pretty much no-go. Particularly in America where civil liberties took a bit of a hit as a result of the fear.

But, of course, we’ve all grown up a bit, realising that it’s okay to criticise or portray people in an negative fashion, as long as it’s tasteful and of entertainment value. I’m being a bit sarcastic there…in case you didn’t realise. However, we HAVE come a long way from such films as The Mouse That Roared where the name of the country is made up and America learns how to make decent wine. But that’s fiction where the good end happily and the bad unhappily, to quote Miss Prism. Sadly, not everyone understands what fiction is.

Back to 24 and the basic premise of series 6.

SPOILER ALERT!

There’s five suitcase nuclear devices which a man of some undefined nationality is going to set off in America, killing as many innocent people as he possibly can. His name is Hamri Al-Assad and we have no idea where he comes from, what he believes in or even if he drinks or not. He is aided and abetted by a Russian general called Gredenko who is in league with the Russian ambassador in LA. There is also a (ludicrous) sub-plot involving Jack’s brush with the Chinese consulate and subsequent torture with the chief protagonist returning and getting his hands on the triggering mechanism for the suitcase nukes in order to neutralise the Russian defence system.

All very exciting (though it’s not, really) and silly (which it totally is) but what interests me is the fact that while Russia and China are both named, where ever the terrorist comes from is defined as ‘Assad’s country.’ This is just ludicrous. I mean, seriously? ‘Assad’s country’? It’s like we’re all children.

And this reminds me of Bowling for Columbine, the documentary by Michael Moore. In it, he discusses (among other things) the Culture of Fear perpetrated in the US. The philosophy, basically goes that all the news is bad, all the baddies are really, really bad and everyone should be scared of everyone else by watching and reading as much bad news as they can. This instils fear and an ignorance borne of isolationist propaganda.

However, back to 24…the fact that the terrorist’s country is not named means that the producers are, not so subtly, indicating that this thinly veiled Islamic extremist represents all Moslem countries and it’s right and proper that everyone should fear all of them. Either that or they’re just scared. Though, if that’s the case, why didn’t they just make up a country and a religion and use that? That’s what they used to do.

Of course, this goes a lot further than just American TV drama. All of us fear Islam because that’s what the extremists want. They love the fact that we’ve made up a word like Islamaphobia because it gives them free reign to say whatever they like while levelling it at us whenever they feel threatened.

And don’t get me started on ‘race!’ A religion is NOT a race! All humans are ONE race – the human race. FFS! Talk about being desperate to defend yourself.

Anyway, I didn’t meant to get all political. This post is really about the enigma that is Jack Bauer, superhero and unkillable CTU agent. You’ve gotta love the impossibility that is Jack.

MAS

On every station platform in this country, set back a goodly distance from the edge, there is a thick yellow line. We are (almost) constantly advised to stand behind it. The majority of people manage to do this because, basically, what is there to be achieved by standing on the train side of it?

I guess those people who stand on the train side of the yellow line are the same ones who think they need to stand right on the edge of the kerb while they wait for the lights to change at busy intersections. It’s like all logic goes out the window. Standing so close or beyond where safety dictates for absolutely no gain is, frankly, moronic. And while I’m at it, why on earth do people stand with their finger poised over the door release button? Are they concerned they’ll forget how to lift their arm and press when the doors are actually released by the guard?

But, returning to the yellow line. As I say, every platform in the land has them and announcements as to their function are booming out on a permanent tannoy loop. It seems that most people believe the line is there to stop trains travelling in excess of 100mph sucking passengers off the platform.

While I guess safety is the main concern, there should be another announcement to the effect that if you stand too close and the train hits you, you will inconvenience thousands of people as they try to make their ways to where ever they are going (generally work or home). Mind you, most people are quite selfish and would possibly, secretly, enjoy this.

Now I have no idea how it came to pass that someone managed to get themselves hit by a train at Raynes Park this morning – the latest newspaper report just says he was hit by a train at around 6:30am and died – but it’s usually suicide. What I do know is that Mirinda’s train was delayed and she didn’t get any further than Aldershot before getting off and taking a taxi home.

Imagine my surprise when I returned from shopping to find the dogs in the house and the back doors wide open. I assumed I’d left one and therefore allowed the second but then discovered Mirinda sitting at the dining table happily tap tapping on her computer.

Rather than face the prospect of being stuck on the train for a few hours, she’d decided to come home then catch a train a few hours later when the fracas had died down and the schedule realigned. This was never going to happen. She worked from home all day.

While looking for any information regarding this morning’s fatality (or Major Act of Selfishness) I found some interesting information regarding train deaths. Apparently, and according to the Rail Safety and Standards Board, rail remains one of the safest ways to travel. I reckon it has to be THE safest, surely. Okay, maybe Thames Clippers are the safest, followed by trains.

Anyway, the Rail Safety and Standards Board is there to help with the suicide problem facing the railway companies. They work with the Samaritans and railway staff to try and anticipate and avert the public killing themselves with trains. (I’d personally opt for sleeping pills – no pain and you just fall asleep.)

The reason the RSSB was formed in 2003 following the inquiry into the Ladbroke Grove Rail Crash in 1999. It wasn’t formed just because of the statistics which keep creeping up each year regarding death by train across Britain. As well as general safety issues, they also deal with train horn noise.

However, leaving the problems of aural irritation aside for the moment, last year the number of deaths on the railways was 332. This figure is made up of 22 people trespassing on the tracks and 293 suspected suicides. (The other 17, I assume, relate to deaths not caused by being hit by a train – heart attack, murder by means other than a train but close to one, falling musical instruments, etc.)

Anyway, to get back to the Thick Yellow Line which started this post…according to the RSSB following research into the Thick Yellow Lines, they were originally put in place when we had slam door trains. The doors swung open and would smash people in the face so, to prevent idiots standing within the swing, the lines were painted.

British Rail poster

British Rail poster

I’m wondering why they chose to use a woman in the poster above. I remember slam door trains and the ones who opened the door and leapt off before the train stopped were men. I’m also a bit concerned for the chap in the bowler hat who is about to get walloped by the door.

And, just for the memory, here’s a slam door carriage.

slam_door_car