Garden update

Continuing on from previous years, I have included the latest image taken from the back of the garden looking towards the house. It is getting quite difficult to work out where I have to take it given the growth and establishing of various things. However…in reverse order…


The office in 2012


The office in 2013



Sadly there’s no dog on the path because both Emma and Freya were happy to stay in the library with Mirinda. Maybe next year.

Meanwhile, and elsewhere in the garden, I finally did something I’ve wanted to do for years. Okay, I admit, there was a makeshift one in place once upon a time but, given the many changes it was consigned to the past permanently. As makeshift as it was, I still used it.

But makeshift no more! Today I buried a long, strong, hollow metal spike in the middle of the grass then put this in it.


And, no, it’s not an umbrella. Or an aerial. Or a beacon to attract the lizard mothership. No, once the cover is removed and it is clicked into action, it looks like this


I was so pleased and the weather was so perfect that I washed a load (nine socks and a pair of shorts…which was all I had) and hung it out just to make sure it worked. And it worked a charm. Even better, it’s completely removable.

That’ll consign the dryer to emergency use only.

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The laziest cockerpoo

Today Mirinda was busy working on her DBA statistical analysis. There was a problem with a spreadsheet which we both had a go at fixing. Eventually she just re-copied the latest data into a fresh sheet and, voila, it worked.

I worked on the latest Blog Book given the Brittany 2007 worked out so well. The latest one is Ten Years of Paris which, hopefully will be ready to print this week.

In between wrestling with software issues, Mirinda worked in the garden, potting up bits and pieces and generally getting her hands dirty.

A rare successful sweet pea obviously NOT planted today

The weather was cooler than it has been though still pretty humid if you exerted yourself. At least there was no rain.

On the Freya front, we took her back to the vet. She woke up this morning and lazed about as if her legs were still inactive. When I forced her out of her bed, she was a bit unsteady but could walk without a problem.

Her jumping has completely stopped. She tries to push herself up but her back legs refuse to do anything. Because of this, I’m still picking her up. Mind you, she was fine on the back steps up and down into the garden.

Early in the afternoon, we took her back to vet just to check she was mending. The vet was more than happy with her progress. I repeated that she was just putting it on because she loved the attention.

Emma then disgraced herself in the waiting room. She obviously wanted to go to the toilet but rather than relieve herself before entering the building, she did it five minutes afterwards. At least it was just liquid. Still, most embarrassing. Not for her, you understand.

I made Joey layer cake for dinner preceded by asparagus in a lo-carb cheesy sauce I invented. It was very lush. I think we’ll be having it again tomorrow because I made too much.

The food didn’t last long enough for a photograph so here’s some Busy Lizzy instead.

At the base of the water feature
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Puppy woe

This morning I woke up to an uncontrollably trembling Freya. Her back legs didn’t appear to be working, as if the battery had run down or the hydraulics were shot. The poor thing had the most beseeching look on her face as she shook and tried to move.

Freya has always had a problem waking her legs up in the morning. It’s like they calcify in the night. While Emma always runs to say good morning and generally wiggle and twist like she hasn’t seen us for a year, Freya will open her eyes then just lie there for a bit.

Eventually, the tail starts then the legs will gradually stretch and lift her. She really is an odd dog.

This morning, however, nothing was working. I had to carry her downstairs and lift her onto the lounge. She cuddled up to me, sitting, her shivering not stopping.

I didn’t go to work today (working from home instead) because they have had a few days on their own already this week. It turned out quite fortuitous.

I settled down to work with Freya on my lap fast asleep. This was when the shaking stopped and she was just her normal, lazy self. Though whenever she woke up she just looked miserable.

Eventually I decided she needed to go to the vet. Okay, I know what a drama queen she is and how every time I think there’s something wrong with her it turns out to be a false alarm but it’s very difficult watching her seemingly suffer. Perhaps she’s the cockerpoo equivalent of a hypochondriac.

So we went to the vet. And she examined her all over, pressed bits, listened to others, took her temperature, the works. It was a full MOT. Apart from Freya favouring one back leg (which is why she was constantly shaking) and a high temperature, there appeared nothing wrong with her.

The vet suggested we get a blood test to make sure she doesn’t have a kidney infection or liver problems before treating the symptoms. She did this and we waited for the results.

Her white blood count was up which indicates that her anti-bodies are fighting some sort of infection. There were a few other minor things probably associated with the infection but otherwise she was not suffering from anything diabolically bad.

The vet then gave her an antibiotic shot followed by an anti-inflammatory, both needles she took with all the stoicism that I’ve come to expect with our youngest. Actually maybe that’s the problem. She just loves visiting the vet so much that she has a sort of Munchausen by proxy thing. Except not by proxy.

And then I carried her home. By the way, I tricked Emma with a couple of Twisty sticks because I know she would have thought I was taking Freya to the park without her. She was delighted to see me when we got back. She sniffed Freya a bit just make sure she didn’t go to the park without her.

And so Freya just laid about for the rest of the day. She did manage to eat. Not eating would be a real indicator of something seriously wrong with her.

Miserable face

I carried her outside to go to the loo a couple of times and, before going to bed she managed to walk herself down the back. Whatever her problem was, it is obviously not life threatening and I’m sure she’ll be perfectly fine by tomorrow.

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Eau de Freya

Aretha Franklin died today. She was 76. She WAS the queen of soul. What an amazing voice; what an amazing woman.

I wasn’t singing today, soul or otherwise though I was being recorded. I had an Alton Talking Newspaper. And you wouldn’t believe it, it was lashing it down with rain. There was no way I couldn’t wear a raincoat. Mind you, I still wore shorts.

There’s a very good reason why I wear shorts with a raincoat. I figure that my bare skin will dry a lot quicker than my jeans and I really hate wet trouser legs.

Mind you, it’s not that it was cold, just wet. I asked them at the studio why the English equate wet with cold. No one had an answer though they agreed that they did.

My question was mostly prompted by the temperature in the studio when I walked in. It was like a sauna. More conducive to sleeping than editing. I managed to stay awake…just.

My editing for the Alton edition

The session went very well. I had a great team (don’t I always?) with Katherine, Mo, Robert and Pete as engineer. Actually this was Robert’s last session as a reader as he’s rising up to the heady ranks of Presenter. I told him that I’d try to make a few mistakes in order to show him what could happen.

Poor Mo forgot she was rostered on and I rang her and teased her for a bit about it. Fortunately she doesn’t live very far away so she didn’t take long to arrive.

Katherine is from the Island of Skye and has the most beautiful accent. She’s always a delight to work with.

Afterwards, when the readers had gone, Pete asked me how I managed to stay so ‘up and bouncy’ when reading such dull stuff. I did notice a couple of times he appeared to be dozing off in the corner. This could have been jet lag because I think he’s just returned from Canada.

Anyway, I just told him I pretend it’s really interesting and then don’t take it very seriously. The combination works every time. I didn’t tell him that I’m basically taking the piss out of the local paper and I enjoy that too.

By the time I left the studio, the rain had not only gone but the sky was blue, the sun was blazing down and I started to melt inside the stupid raincoat I’d been forced to wear.

Down the alley

On the way home I picked up a black cocker spaniel called Ollie. He was very keen on my shorts, jumping up, sniffing the legs, getting a bit more friendly than you want a dog to get. I realised it was because of Freya.

I figure it’s better for her to sit on me than the furniture when she’s in season and, of course, she’d been sitting on me before I left the house. Poor Ollie was being driven mad with lust. His poor owner was being driven mad by him not listening to anything she said. After I explained she understood perfectly.

Safely home, I took the girls for a quick run into the park before giving them dinner.

For my dinner I decided to try something I’d seen on Instagram. It calls for three ingredients and the three of them are possibly three of my favourite foods. Avocado, cheese and bacon. And it’s so easy. Though mine didn’t look as good as the Instagram one it sure tasted good.

Mmmmm bacon

I’m clearly going to have to practice a bit.

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As Freya reached the peak of her season, I was stuck at home waiting for a number of deliveries. I was quite surprised by one which turned out to be something I wasn’t expecting while the thing I was expecting failed to arrive. Quite odd.

Poor Freya is not happy with the situation. You can see how miserable she looks. Emma, on the other hand, is not really bothered by having to sit on towels everywhere.

Misery chops

While Skyping with mum, Emma, rather than the towel, sat on top of Freya on the red chair. I was trying to get them both to look at me across the top of the table but Freya was too miserable…which is why I had to walk around and take the photo above.

We did venture out to the park after lunch (and after I tried cleaning the rug in the extension) but I had to keep Freya on a very short lead. At this stage she starts getting interested as well as dogs getting interested in her. It’s all very risky.

Walking through a small copse we came across a woodland construction with ‘Work in Progress’ chalked on the horizontal branches. It looks just like a prehistoric farmhouse…but small.

To Let

Most of the afternoon was spent setting up Mirinda’s new laptop. She needed one at home to avoid having to carry the work one back and forth all the time. It took me a while but at least it’s something that I do enjoy.

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Shots and Daggers

It would be fair to say that the Mighty Shots have not had the best start to a season. After three games we’ve drawn one and lost the other two. As I said, not the best start.

Tonight was the first game I could go to. It was against one of our favourite teams in the competition, Dagenham and Redbridge (or Daggers as Nicktor insists on calling them) and I, at least, thought it might be close.

The chat in the car going to Aldershot between Nicktor and me was about the previous games and how he’d gone to Sollihull where we lost 1-0 and how Chesterfield had demolished us 3-0. It wasn’t a good start to my season.

Naturally we went to the Victoria for dinner (and a few pints though I have to say they seriously need to get some proper beer on tap because we’re getting sick of Peroni) where I order my usual ham, eggs and chips with no chips to which the barmaid said “That’ll be ham and eggs then.

She then went to enter it into her terminal but stopped and looked up at me.

There’s no ham or chips, sorry.

I really wanted to suggest that this was, in fact, ham, eggs and chips without the ham, eggs and chips but didn’t. I ordered a salad instead, which was actually quite nice. And better for me.

Nicktor being on a diet ate what he always eats which equates to a ton of carbs and very little vegetation. In fact, he threw the gherkins away.

After a lovely break we headed for the Slab to join the other Old Age Complainers.

Speaking of the Slab, it would be remiss of me not to mention Nicktor’s book. He had the edit copy in his glove box. Quite an amazing achievement. 

Back at pitch-side, I had to buy a programme because Steve from number 11 let me use his season ticket rather than buy my own ticket and, of course, I always use a photo of the ticket on my blog post of the game. Which explains the photo immediately below.

Cover of the programme

Nicktor was a bit upset when I curled it to put in my pocket because he believes in keeping them flat and pristine. When he asked what I was going to do with it and I told him it would sit on a table somewhere for a few months before joining the rest of the recycling, he almost went purple.

Anyway, the game started and, suddenly, after three minutes, we scored our first goal of the season so far. We then went on to dominate the next 30 minutes, giving them very little possession. We were rampant.

Then we took our feet off the peddle a bit and they started attacking. Not that they managed anything beyond a few high kicks over the top of the floodlights. Halftime arrived and we were delightfully 1-0.

Halftime sprinklers

We came out fighting in the second half and scored a second goal in front of a very noisy East Bank. It was one of those four bites of the cherry jobs. Shots blocked and passed around until, finally, one landed the ball in the back of the net. And it was 2-0.

We then really stopped attacking and tried to defend our narrow lead. As usually happens when we do this, it let the Daggers back in and they scored a convincing goal right in front of us. Mind you, for a while no one knew if it was a goal. The referee didn’t blow his whistle or point to the centre circle. There was no indication at all. Then the score 2-1 came up on the electronic score board. Most peculiar.

There then began a concerted effort by them to equalise. They attacked and attacked and we managed to keep them at bay. Then, in the dying moments of the game, they scored again. A collective groan rose from the Slab until someone (probably Nicktor) suddenly shouted for people to look at the linesman. The goal was disallowed for being offside.

And so the game ended 2-1 to us. A jolly good start of the 2018-19 season for me. It was also a great night with Nicktor who I see so rarely these days.

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Dogs a-plenty

There were lots of dogs in the park today. I’m not sure why. Generally when we go (usually at around the same time) we might see a few; maybe four individuals tops. Today we saw four in the first five minutes.

It could have been because of my slow pace. Getting off the bus earlier, having come from the gym, I sort of twisted my ankle. It caused a bit of discomfort and reduced speed but otherwise was gone by the end of the day. I suppose it might have been dogs catching up and overtaking me whereas normally they’d still be behind me.

Or maybe it was just one of those things.

The numbers were not reduced by the woman who regularly minds her neighbours’ dogs and walks them at various times. She’s not difficult to spot. She can have anything from four to eight dogs, mostly barking with her responding in kind but louder.

Today she had seven dogs and frightened a woman walking her single Labrador. The woman with the Labrador suddenly grabbed her dog and asked the woman, fearfully, if her charges were dangerous. The woman with the big pack didn’t respond as she was too busy yelling at them.

The council is currently looking into stopping people walking too many dogs at a time (they are proposing a maximum of four) so I’m not sure what she’ll do if it comes into force. 

The tree trimming guys were busy in the Avenue of Trees as well, cutting back the dense canopy that’s been forming. This is the natural consequence of growth and is a regular job. The chaps who climb the trees and the ones who feed the detritus into the chipper or just place them in the undergrowth are always pleasant. They welcome the various dogs who walk by them, always ready with a pat and a chat.

A rather annoying couple of dogs are Charlie and Hunter. Actually Hunter isn’t too bad but Charlie does rather annoy Freya. He is a big white fluffy thing who does not listen to his owner. Hunter doesn’t listen either but he ignores Freya after an initial sniff.

Of course, with Freya still being in season, I have to keep her in my arms whenever a dog approaches. In the case of Charlie, I don’t have to hold her because she grips onto me, her claws like crampons in my flesh. She really doesn’t like Charlie very much.

Back at home, I decided to rest my ankle by working on our tax. It worked. My ankle was so bored by the end of the day that it righted itself just to get away.

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The joys of choice

Ages ago, during the Year of the Extension, we lived in Frensham for a bit. During that time, Day-z and I would go to the Farm Shop attached to the Frensham Garden Centre quite often. They stocked delicious local food and Border’s Biscuits. It made life away from the house almost bearable.

Fast forward to today. Mirinda wanted to go to the garden centre for some stuff and I suggested we go to Frensham for a change. It would also be an opportunity for me to indulge in the Farm Shop for a bit.

I have to admit that a trip to the garden centre (any garden centre) does not hold the same level of pleasure for me as it does for my wife. Sometimes she doesn’t let me go because I might be a bit grouchy. And spoil it for her. Obviously the presence of a Farm Shop is a definite improvement.

So we parked up and went into the garden centre. The first thing I noticed is that it has been taken over by Squires (the same people who run the garden centre at Badshot Lea), the second was the proliferation of these signs which should have been a clear and present warning.

And it’s correct

All changes appear to be for the worst. The most irritating is the piles of bags of compost, potting mix, grit and others too numerous to list which are outside the actual centre. It’s possibly a good idea having them closer to the car park and, therefore, cars but I’m not sure why they can’t tell you that is the case.

We went into the centre, grabbed a trolley and headed for the Farm Shop. A decidedly unfriendly atmosphere greeted us so we grabbed a few things and went back into the garden centre. Mirinda wanted some John Innes and grit for her Pixie Garden. Both of these were outside.

We wandered around then finally ended up outside. Mirinda had found a woman who told her how the system worked (or not worked, depending on your point of view). She said she’d collect the stuff together and put it on another trolley for us. We then went back in to buy some plants.

Back at the check out we encountered a queuing issue. I pushed the trolley into second spot when the woman from earlier tapped me on the shoulder to tell me that she was next.

Why do people leave big gaps? I thought she was standing discussing fruit trees not queuing. She indicated the trolley with the bags on it saying that was ours. We headed over to the next check out.

Here there was a lot of faffing around as item after item was not on the system. The lad on the check out didn’t really make eye contact so I can’t say whether he was bothered by it all or not.

Suffice it to say, that’s the last time we’ll be visiting Frensham Garden Centre. Mainly because, while the plants get an excellent service experience, they care somewhat less about humans. Given we have another two not far from us, we will use the power of choice to take our money elsewhere.

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Lunch guests on the terrace

While the afternoon looked a bit gloomy at times, the rain held off. This was a good thing because we really wanted to eat lunch on the terrace. Okay, we try and eat all our meals on the terrace in summer but today we had guests. And we wanted to share the experience.

The morning was spent in shopping and generally tidying up. Well, my morning was, Mirinda was working on her DBA. She now has a lot of data to code and put into the software she’s using to disseminate and conclude with.

We had a text to say our guests were running a bit late but given I made the frittata yesterday and all I had to do was knock up a salad, I wasn’t that bothered. In the end they were only half an hour late.

Uncle Buster and Loris finally meet Mirinda

Freya chose not to be in the photograph. It might have something to do with her being in season or it is more likely that she didn’t think quick enough.

We all enjoyed lunch, which included my newly fermented red cabbage sauerkraut, which I was very happy with and a bottle of red. There was a lot of chat and family confusions. All in all, we had a lovely time.

After eating and chilling for a bit, the four of us took the girls up to the Castle then back through the cow fields, working off lunch while enjoying the outside like all the other people we saw out and about. (It was rather weird to see a game of football on at the same time as another group was playing cricket.)

They left before five so, as Uncle Buster said, to avoid the horrendous traffic returning to ‘The Island.’ We waved goodbye. Mirinda went back to her DBA while I cleaned up…again.

My first red cabbage sauerkraut

This morning, while in Starbucks, my South African friend asked me why I keep a blog. Actually she first asked me what I did every day with my laptop in Starbucks. When I said I write a blog post every day she then asked why. I told her it was because I had such a bad memory, it’s handy to write things down in order to look back and remember correctly.

Well, as correctly as I report things at the time. Even in my own Gazcentric way, it is still quite handy.

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We have had the cottage up for sale since forever and, finally, we had an offer the other week. I then had to find a lawyer, which I did. Rather than making the trip across to Fleet for our old lawyers, I decided to try one a little closer, like in Farnham.

Today we had to go in and show some ID so they know we’re not tax dodgy, illegals with nothing better to do than break the law. Before the actual face-to-face, I had to go and fill out an inventory for the cottage. Because Mirinda was working from home, she dropped me at the cottage then went to the pub to do some work.

The first thing I need to say is that the garden has gone a bit rampant. I think this is probably because of the recent rain following on from nothing whatsoever for yonks. Still, it wasn’t that bad once you pushed through the golden rod hiding the edges of the path.

The path is there…somewhere

Other than the crazy garden, the cottage was fine and, once the torrential showers had passed to be replaced with the sun, it all looked most appealing. In fact, when Mirinda returned to pick me up, she was talking about moving back.

I had to remind her of two important things. Firstly her hay fever which was unbearable when we lived there and, secondly, I’m not sure how she’d manage without me there because there’s no way I’m leaving Farnham.

So, having completed the inventory and had a tour of inspection (Mirinda, not me, given she hasn’t been in the cottage for over ten years), we set off for the Holly Bush where we decided it was a grand idea to have lunch. Which, of course, it was.

TEA on tap and everything

Having eaten, we then headed back home before setting out once more, this time with documents tucked under one arm, for the lawyers. It was all very painless and we were once more out on the street after about 15 minutes. That should be it until the signing of the contract for Mirinda.

Now, fingers crossed that the sale goes through.

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