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Posts Tagged ‘gardening’

life log #5


Still no weight check. No excuses, I just have not cleared out the office to reveal the scales. I am not eating to excess, but nor am I being that frugal and I know that I have to do something about that.

I am getting plenty of exercise. Work puts about six miles on the clock on each of the five days a week that I turn up at the office and, on those days I usually end up with about seven and a half miles in total. So far this year my total mileage is 351.6 (565 km). This is way down on last year when I was really pushing for over 4000 km for the year, but it is still respectable and I am in the top 3% of the 110,000 plus people using the app that I record my exercise on.

Work also exercises other bits of me besides my legs and the recent rodent repellent activities have seen a lot more of me getting stretched that usual (more on that shortly) so I am burning off calories at a decent rate through the day. The issue is more about cutting back on the number of calories going in than the amount I burn off. ‘Twas ever thus.

The noises in the cavity wall and loft have diminished so I am hopeful that my anti-rodent actions are having an effect. I am struggling a lot more up there that I used to. Our home is a typical product of the 1970s with inverted W trusses at about two foot intervals and I have grazes on both shoulders from scraping them on a regular basis plus more than a few on my head. I have bought myself a new headband torch (I can’t find my old one) the help me see my way around up there. I do have a loft light, but there is so much stuff that most of the place is in shadow and holding a torch means trying to sort stuff one handed; there have been several avalanches.

The rodent problem does mean that I have tackled the problem of a loft full of stuff with some focus at last. I a week five bin bags full have been extracted; old Christmas decorations, clothes that we will never wear again, many boxes of magazines and goodness knows what else have gone to the recycling centre so far and there is more to come, a lot more. Life laundry is the name of the game.

In the garden we have loads of bulbs showing although many of the daffodils (and related species) have come up blind this year which is a disappointment. The fairly mild Winter has allowed a lot of stuff to survive and my efforts at planting perennials seems to be paying off. At the moment my priority is to get all of the vulnerable plants and everything that lined either side of the garden out of the way for the fencing contractors arrival early next month. Whilst out there I have been trying to visualise what might be possible once the new fences are up. It looks as though I have a few days of decent weather to spend out there and so the loft clear up may go on hold, hopefully not to be neglected.

We are still both Covid free, still wearing masks around the shops and I still wear my mask pretty much all of the time at work. I was going to go to a swapmeet last Sunday, but the organiser posted a photo on Facebook showing the venue set up and ready to open with not a mask in sight amongst the stallholders. It put me off and I didn’t go. Cowardice? Yes, but here in Swindon we have one of the worst records in the UK at the moment for new infections so I am happier with a yellow streak. We are watching the travel situation with interest as we would very much like to go away this Autumn having kissed the last two years, but…

It helps that we are both anti-social. We have both had to put on a show in our jobs over the years meeting and being nice to all sorts of people and it is a joy not to have to do it so much these days. It isn’t that we don’t like people, we just prefer our own company. I tired to explain it in a note to my step-son yesterday and maybe I didn’t get the message over too well, but we have been together now for more than half of our adult lives and we like our own world. Lockdown has probably made us even worse.

I’ll wrap up here. It’s eight o’clock and I want to get the day under way, so stay safe out there wherever you are. See you next time.

life log #4


Odd how one thing leads to another. We have what sounds like a rat in the cavity wall between us and the house next door so I have been spending time in the loft trying to make sure that it does not come through. In shifting stuff out of the way I started to throw things out and, in going through one long forgotten box, I found many packets of photos.

Many of these were ones taken since the Berkshire Belle and I got together more than thirty years ago and, for one thing, chart the development of our from and back gardens down the years, but in amongst these were a few photos of me from the 1970s, pictures that I thought were long lost.

Most of them feature me in my long haired days between 1971 and 1974 and it was towards the end of the latter year that a change of job saw me start to have it cut a little shorter. By 1976 I was pretty conventional by comparison. There is also what is probably the only photo of me with a beard; I have worn one twice and didn’t like the look much either time. In the case of beard in the photo that I mention here I shaved it off whilst on holiday with my wife (the first one, my mother and wife wife’s mother and none of them noticed for a day and a half…

The first of the series of photos was taken about halfway though a bad time in my life between around February 1971 and March 1972, but from that point I made a change or two and started on a path that lead me from long haired layabout to polished professional as reflected in another photo taken of me in April 1994 whilst on a business trip buying materials handling equipment in Germany.

A lot of memories flowed from the photos and I can’t say that I am proud of all that I did on a personal level over those years. There were also some professional decisions that were questionable, but very step that I took, good and bad, led me to the Berkshire Belle so I have no regrets. The important things was that I recognised that I was in a hole that was, whilst not of my making, trapping me because of the way that I reacted to my troubles. I got out of the hole because I chose to and did something about it.

Back in the present I have a date in early April for the new fences and am starting to plan what to do once I have them. I foresee a lot of time fiddling and fettling in the garden over the coming months and so am hoping for some weather that will be conducive to getting things done. I don’t think that I will be spending as much on plants this year as usual, partly because I want to see what survives all of the changes, but also to see what the possibilities are. Last year was the first year for my new greenhouse and I did not do too well with it, possibly because I overloaded it. There were other factors, not least my long battle with the fox cubs that distracted me from some things and I have no idea what might come back this year from the destruction that the volt wrought. A consolidation year this year then.

I did try going back to soup making, my old faithful red pepper and tomato cropping up a couple of times. One batch usually does me four lunches and I don’t get bored with it. I still have not got around to weighing myself though and, as I write this, I am thinking that I will make sure the scales are put out before I go to bed so that I can check myself in the morning.

life log #3


so much is happening that it barely seems credible that I am already 6 weeks into 2022. I have been writing, but have there or four blogs that are not quite ready to publish; I seem to have lost that ability to bring some of these things to a conclusion, but it might also be indicative of the decision paralysis that afflicts me from time to time these days.

Our kitchen has featured some of the events that have occupied me. Back in November our combination microwave oven developed a fault and when the first engineer called in December a dud hearing element was diagnosed. A new one was ordered along with a replacement mechanism to set the timer as that was playing up too. The new part arrived between Christmas and New Year (we had had use of the oven for over a month by then) and whist the heating element was successfully fitted the other part was not the right one and so another spares order was created and a third visit booked.

Engineer number three arrived in mid-January and was somewhat taken aback by our 18 year old Neff. In reassembling it things did not go well and the upshot was an oven that we could no longer use. Our service contract offered an equivalent replacement and this was duly ordered, but fitting was to be at our expense and arranged by us. A few days later and we had our new Bosch product up and working.

That focused me a bit on my plans to replace the gas hob. I had come around to the thought of an induction hob, but there was a problem in that the ones that plug into a 13 amp socket are limited in terms of the total power available; you can’t have all 4 rings on full power at once. I won’t go into the complications of why fitting a 32 amp supply was not an option, but the bottom line was that it would have to be another gas hob.

So last Sunday, about two years after I had decided that I wanted to replace the old hob, I pressed the button to buy a new one. It arrived on Monday and was fitted yesterday in time for me to cook lunch for the Berkshire Belle. Finally it is done and the saving grace, I suppose, is that I had started putting away £10 each month as an emergency fund about 4 years ago and so there was a small cache of cash available.

Not content with us being without our combo oven all over Christmas the heating boiler shut itself down the weekend before last and left us without heating or hot water for 36 hours until we could get our man to call (he was due to do the annual service that week anyway. The fault was a minor one and was, thankfully, fixed in minutes for which we are duly grateful for the tolerance to cold that we had as children in an age before central heating was common is long gone. The Berkshire Belle first enjoyed central heating in about 1974 and for me it came 5 years after that with the second home that I bought as an adult.

I have not weighed myself for nearly two months and am conscious that there is a bit more of me around the middle than there was the last time that I stood upon the scales. I am not consciously eating more, but perhaps the Winter weather has curtailed some of the outdoor activity that might have burned off additional calories. I do need to face up to the scales of doom and find out though. I shall report next time.

Some garden labouring has begun as I have decided that I cannot wait another year before sorting out my back garden fence. I am in the usual battle with contractors who are, hopefully, much better at their job than they are at communicating, but I hope that I can get the work done before the end of March and that will open the door for some serious garden activity. In the meantime I have added another 50 snowdrops and 25 bluebells to the garden collection along with some other plants bought at random and on a whim.

Planting things that come up for a week or three once a year brought home the fact that I may not have many more years to enjoy them. I try not to let such thoughts crowd in on me, but it is hard not to. Having said that, as I sit here typing at the dining table and glancing out of the window from time to time, I have just seen a wren dance along the low front fence. We do seem to have a few more garden birds this year even if we have lost the big squadron of assorted tits and sparrows that used to entertain us. They are always a delight and that’s a good note to close on.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 78


No change in weight despite having tried to ration myself better and having slammed in a 30+km walk. Depressing to some degree, but life’s like that. I just have to keep my head down and not let things slide.

Generally I am fed up with just about everything right now, but, again, that is life and I have been around doing enough to know that it will not change and that I just have to get on with it. Right now there do not seem to be enough hours in the day and that never helps. I need to get back on top of one or two things and all will be well. I am in one of those periods when as fast as I get something out of the way, three or four other things crop up that are unexpected, but need sorting.

One of the problems that I have got past is the one where technology was preventing me accessing these blogs. It looks as though it was just various bits of software being out of synch and causing conflicts. I try to keep everything updated, for security reasons if nothing else, but sometimes it just gets in the way. Today I have updated my laptop and that required me to re-enter passwords for about half a dozen sites (so far) most of which I do not know the passwords for. On one of the ones that I did I was then asked to respond first to an email too confirm that I was who I said I was, and then to a text message for the same purpose. Some of it drives you mad.

And then I did the equivalent OS update for my tablet and spent, on and off, the next hour getting rid on all of the whizzy bits that are supposed to make my life easier, but none of which I want. Now my home screen looks like it used to, organised how I like it except that, despite having selected the largest icon size offered, they are all about 20% smaller than they used to be. The Berkshire Belle has also done the update on her tablet and, although it is the larger version of mine, it works differently and trying to help her has led to some tensions where she is getting different results. We are still friends though…

Since the Covid outbreak I have changed my routine from sticking £10 of petrol into the car once or twice a week to filling up every 5 weeks or so. On our way back from Reading yesterday my fuel light came on as we came off the motorway. Having dropped off the shopping and had lunch I popped out and filled up, paying 131.7 per litre which is about the highest that I have paid for a long time, but better than the 138.9 that my nearest filling station are asking. At one point last year I only paid 99.8 if I recall, certainly just under the pound per litre. As I write this I am getting the news that there may be a shortage, but that is not what my industry friends tell me. Hopefully we will not get into any stupidity over the coming days. Panic buying just buggers up the supply chain.

This week we have not been out to lunch, but did go out for breakfast instead and I think that the last time we did that was in Florida back in 2019. It made a nice change and we will try and do it more often. It does seem to be helping us get more confident about going out. I have had the call to go for my ‘flu jab this Saturday and we are hopeful that we will get our Covid boosters fairly soon.

I have been trying to repossess my garage and clear out the clutter that accumulates, much of which is packaging from our mail order forays. With Winter approaching I would like to be able to have easy access to it as a workshop for some of the things that I can’t do outdoors. I am still not coming to any conclusions about what I want to do in the garden over the Winter, but maybe not having too many plans will be a blessing. Often just having a few ideas works out better as I can react to opportunities that arise.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 72


My weight loss efforts just can’t get traction. I have a couple of good days and then there will be something that needs eating, or throwing, and I can’t abide waste. The other problem at the moment is bread. Both add calories.

The Berkshire Belle loves sourdough and, whilst we have good, local, source in Hobbs House, she wants me to bake it. Now I enjoy making bread. Twenty odd years ago she bought me a one day bread baking course and I have baked regularly since, albeit that I often resort to our Panasonic bread machine. Homemade bread is great, but I am trying to keep my carb intake down…

So far my first couple of sourdough loaves have not been good. They have been edible, but would not have won me any plaudits. I will keep trying and see what I can do, but I am finding it very frustrating, especially as we could just buy one.

As I know that I am not doing well enough on losing weight I have stopped weighing in. abject cowardice perhaps, but that is my decision for now. I really have too many other things to worry about right now.

Bread making has been eating into my time and so I have spent less in the garden. On the other hand I have been trying to put in about half an hour each day in de-cluttering. It is all necessary work and there is a bit of a feel good factor in doing it. There is just so much to do.

This week we have been out to celebrate thirty years of marriage. Our first lunch expedition for a while and we found ourselves the only customers. The food was good although it took a long time to arrive. We suspect that someone had to go out and buy the bread, but it was good enough when it arrived although it was one of those meals where the idea behind the dish could have been better. Still, we have been out, and the next few weeks see a run of special days; two birthdays and thirty two years together fall between now and early October so we are looking forward to a few more lunches.

I also have four weeks holiday booked in two lots of two weeks each. We will not do a lot, but hope to try and do something a bit different. A day out to the Isle of Wight is one that we will look at.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 71


Life here in North Wiltshire continues pretty much the same. Most people are still masking up to go shopping and there is little sign of change. Some people have gone away now that the schools have broken up, but few amongst the people that we know are venturing abroad other than some of my colleagues from Eastern Europe who have gone back home to visit family. Most of these drive and aim to make the trip in around a day and a half driving pretty much non-stop with two or more drivers taking turns.

For those of us who live here most seem to have abandoned thoughts of a trip abroad on the grounds of risk and cost. We have too and gave up on our plans for a return to the US for a second year and are now starting to wonder if we will ever go back. Given our advancing years maybe we have seen the last of long distance travel, but maybe the world will start to get a grip on Covid and things will both open up and look safer. Time will tell, but we are running out of it.

On that note we are looking to organise our cremations so that all of that sort of thing is taken care of when the time comes. It is not a subject that is easy to deal with, although I seem to be more pragmatic than the Berkshire Belle on these things. It is also crossing my mind to have another look at living wills in case either of us does loose our marbles. We talked about this when we made our joint wills and were told that we had just missed the boat for doing them in an economical fashion so we let the idea pass. Maybe we should look at it again.

I have not lost weight for another week. I am trying to stay positive about this and am reading up on how the body processes food from the perspective of type 2 diabetes to try and see if there is something there that will help me break out of this impasse. It is possible that I do have a bit of muscle build up; The last two weeks have been very physical in many ways with more heavy lifting that usual and I am noticing a change in muscle tone around my upper arms, amongst other places.

Being stuck at 106.5 kg is not so bad in many ways and is a lot better than being 123 kg as I was back at the start. Maybe I just need to change diet again as that sometimes has worked in the past. It does seem as though I am getting my head back around the need to shift weight and the old target of 100 kg is calling me again.

Into August now and out weather is weird. As I sit here after lunch typing the wind is howling around the upstairs windows and rain showers are sweeping through at irregular intervals. Just as I typed those words the sun has come out and the temperature has climbed as it should, but there are more black clouds rolling in. The poor plants don’t know what to do with themselves.

Apart from the wind and rain keeping me away from the jobs I need to do up the ladder my last go at that work on Monday has brought me back out in a rash. I had this problem last year and have not yet worked out which of the climbing plants that I am clearing I am allergic to. I think that it is one of the varieties of ivy, but what I have been clearing includes three types of that plant plus a hop, a grape vine and another one that I have forgotten the name of. Between planting by my neighbour and I these things have grown together over the years and the rapid spells of wet and warm weather over the last 6 weeks have seen rampant growth that needs cutting back. Insects and dust abound within this undergrowth and something there does not like me. Even with arms covered and wearing gauntlets something has gotten through and, if last year is anything to go by, I face a couple of weeks of discomfort before it goes away.

Stay safe wherever you are and thanks for looking in.

the lockdown log 70


Another one of those weeks when the scales were unkind. I had been fairly good on food intake and Monday through Wednesday had been very physical days where I ought to have been burning off the calories. I was feeling good and had been boosted by getting into a pair of 42 waist trousers for the first time in probably 12 or more years. It was looking good for the weigh-in until I got on the scales and they tried hard to take back the half kilo that I had lost last week. In the end they timed out showing the same as last week.

I responded to this by having a silly day and eating things that I should not have had, but then remorse kicked in and I am going to have a sensible week. At least I am for now…

Work is still getting the best side of me and I try to do the best that I can there, but I have been goofing off a bit outside of work and need to get a grip on some of the things that need doing around the house and garden.

I am also still having technical issues with blogging and have not yet managed to sort out my preferred device despite having spent a couple of lengthy sessions trying to resolve things. Another frustration that I can do without at the moment, but never mind. I can still rely of the old beast that I am writing the on albeit that Jingles, one of our rescue cats, has taken to spending her afternoons sleeping on the keyboard.

Anyway, just a quick offering this week and I will try to do better next time.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 69


This time last year major progress was being made in the deck refurbishment and extension and so it is depressing me slightly that, having achieved so much in the last twelve months, I am not finishing off the last parts of that grand plan. It is all silly things; some days it has been so hot that the paint would have dried on the brush even if the blizzard of Silver Birch seeds had not been falling. It is frustrating to be so close, two or three afternoons should do it, but not being able to get on with it.

General maintenance jobs keep me busy whilst trying to not spend more than about 30 minutes at a time out there in the heat. I do still have two foxes lurking around the neighbourhood, but they are not digging everything up now so what we have left in the way of plants are beginning to thrive. I have one cucumber and several tomatoes coming along in the greenhouse and we have had a few strawberries, tayberries and raspberries although those crops have been disappointing this year. We’ve also had a lot of salad leaves of varying sorts, but those are pretty much done now.

The scales gave me another half kilo off this week, so 106.5 and heading, slowly, the right way. I have gone past 1500 miles walked so far this year and am thinking about going back to afternoon exercise walks to supplement the calory burn. The target of 100 kg is still there taunting me, but can I get to, or beyond, it? This last week I have been feeling a bit weird each evening as I go to start organising dinner and have put this down to having had much less for lunch that usual. I have felt better once I have eaten my evening meal even if, for most of the last week, that has been a salad with some form of protein; blackened chicken one night, crab on another for example. What do I want most; to eat or to lose more weight? Only I can answer that one and I just need to channel my obsession down the right path.

With some dud weather coming up for the weekend I am trying to plan a few jobs that I can do under cover, but I have a feeling that I will end up lazing about doing nothing in particular. A couple of days of “I can’t be bothered” won’t do me any harm and might just allow me a bit of thinking time to plan a few things. It looks as though the salads will be off the menu and I might have to do a bit of cooking again. That will keep me amused, but proximity to food sources for an hour or so will test my will power.

At work we are still masked up and I am still wearing my mask when I go shopping as are most other people as far as my own observations are concerned. Despite what the media have been spouting about empty shelves I have not seen one myself and there seems to be plenty of stock about. I often wonder if the problem is actually a surplus and stories of shortages are spread to encourage overbuying…

I hope that you are not suffering shortages of supplies and that you can stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 68


I will start with the good news; the scales gave me 107 kg this week, so 4 kg down from last week and that makes it look even more like the 111kg was a spurious reading. What went wrong? Atmospheric pressure? Sun spots? I don’t know, but I am reassured that I am back on track.

The jolt that I got from the dodgy numbers last week did give me some motivation to try and focus. I have not gone into starvation mode, but have tried to cut back on intake and to be a little more thoughtful about what I am eating. The latter can be hard, especially when a certain voice calls through from the kitchen asking if I knew that such and such needs eating by today. Obviously not or I would have had that rather than what I have on my plate, but such circumstances tend to see me eating my share of the about to run out of date food in addition to what I had portioned out for myself. The difference is that a couple of weeks back I would probably have buttered some bread and made a sandwich whereas now I just eat whatever it is and cut out the extra carbs.

Out in the garden the foxes are still passing through and we get the odd signs of the passing, but the damage has largely stopped. Other pests have made an appearance though; blackfly, greenfly, caterpillars, slugs and snails to the fore and the constant battle has moved on. The wet, but warm, weather had seen growth rocket and with it the amount of time needed for basic maintenance is eating into getting projects done. The big Silver Birch in my neighbour’s garden is now shedding its seeds and, even with no real breeze, standing on the deck is like being in a minor blizzard which means that finishing the deck repaint is on hold for a week or two.

I am hoping to be able to get on with building a table for the barbeque in the coming week as that will mean that I have the table available and can get the barbeque off the floor and can also, perhaps, use the damn thing although I have never understood the attraction of standing out in the heat cooking on something that is even hotter. We are planning lots of things salad based for the coming week.

With the 19th approaching we have no plans to ditch our masks. Down in these parts we are also seeing a surge in C-19 cases and we will be staying safe to reduce the risk of being sorry. We are plotting going out for lunch one day soon though and one of the local pubs will be seeing us all being well.

Stay safe wherever you are.

the lockdown log 65


Life goes on for us and whilst I am calm about lockdown it is bothering the Berkshire Belle considerably. I am content wearing my mask; she is not, yet if we fail to spot the sanitation station at the store entrance (or are too preoccupied to notice), she can get quite stressed when she realises that we have not added that layer of protection. The oddities in the changing regulations bother her too; why can large crowds attend sporting events when you can’t have a concert and so on. None of this interests me in the slightest and I cannot give her any answers as to why these things are as they are. I just accept them as facts and get on with my day.

I suppose that it is my innate habit of ignoring anything that I cannot influence. It works for me and I do my best to let all of this just wash over me. Yes it is affecting my life, but I have adapted and just live a different life. I used to do this to some degree when we spent as much time as we could in the USA and I would tell people that we were not on holiday, just living there instead of here. And that is largely true because from the second trip onwards we did little that was touristy, rather we settled into trying to live as much like locals as we could. It was a different life to here and one that we liked better. Covid life is not like the one that we knew and it is not so good, but it is the one that we have and I do my best with it.

One this that I have noticed recently is the way that fuel prices have risen. I am notorious for not looking at what I have paid for fuel, but I do remember a point during lockdown about 12 months ago when I paid less than £1 per litre for unleaded. This week I spotted at the Esso station that I pass on the way to and from work that the litre price was up to £1.319. Pre-lockdown it was about 122.9 to 124.9 per litre, so it makes a bit of a difference, but I do not use too much these days and I am glad about that.

We have been out a bit this week and the Berkshire Belle has had two trips; one over to Cheltenham to the bigger Waitrose supermarket there and then a three shop trip locally the next day when we did a garden centre, Marks and Spencer and Lidl in a mini orgy of retail. It is important that I keep getting her out, even if these trips are hardly full of excitement. We talked a lot this week about going out to lunch one day, but did not come to any conclusions beyond the uncertainty of whether we would enjoy ourselves. Given the lady’s dislike of lockdown protocols as mentioned above it does, for her, take away much of the pleasure and if she is not having a good time, then nor am I. We stayed in for all of our meals and, in all probability, actually ate more healthily that had we dined out. Certainly it was cheaper.

There is no rush for us to book any holiday yet. Our preferred destination is America, but things are so bad over there that we are concerned about going. We have talked about a shorter trip to, say, Dubai, but that, as a major hub, is firmly red-zoned for now. It will probably be another year for us with no holiday now. We have no interest in going to Europe at the moment, even if they would have us, nor in a UK tour, so it will be making plans for 2022 by the look of it.

This coming weekend I have an appointment with the scales. It is a year since I had the diabetic diagnosis that spurred me into a concerted effort to lose weight and I need to see where I am and, perhaps, try and kick start another drive towards getting under 100kg. The Berkshire Belle has had a splendid result from her own diet. Her numbers are her affair and not to be shared here, but she has done very well and I am proud of her efforts. It is causing her some issues in that she has few clothes that fit and her normal sources, various US chains, are not readily available to her. We are working on that from a mail order perspective though.

In the garden we are still having fox problems although we seem to be down to two now. Mrs Reynard has not been seen for a few days and the dark red coloured youngster has also been AWOL lately. The remaining pair have possibly picked up on Mummy’s talent for killing pigeons though judging by the evidence and neither looks to be going hungry. Whilst the are still living in neighbouring gardens ours is still the preferred place for burying food as we have the well turned flower beds and planters that our neighbours lack. July is around the time that the cubs usually push off and find new homes so maybe only another.couple of weeks…

My efforts to build a new base for our mini-Kamodo BBQ have probably caused this latest downturn in the weather. Honest Mother Nature, I didn’t want to use it, just to get it up off the deck so that I could finish painting said deck. I am getting very tempted again to buy a pop-up gazebo to work under: It would protect me form both sun and rain after all.

Anyway, that is it for me for this week. Stay safe wherever you are.