Gardening: a warning from nature

A neighbour who is a gardener was bemoaning his workload over coming days, so I mentioned that I was currently at something of a loose end and I could just about tell one end of a spade from the other (I googled it).  He decided to take me on for some casual work and, rather curiously, I appear to have become a gardener.

Now the title 'gardener' suggests that I have some deep knowledge of greenery and a sense of the land around me, which I do not.  I use the term to describe myself purely because I have done some gardening and therefore can claim it in good faith.  I have got the weals, bites and cuts to justify the title even if I remain a complete amateur.  I have cut, I have deadheaded, I have dug up roots, I have removed ivy, I have tussled with a bush whose name even now escapes me but it bloody hurt. I therefore feel justiffied in calling myself a gardener.

By contrast to my severely limited knowledge, my neighbour and now boss is one of those almost mystical people who fe…

Dig out your misplaced optimism, England, it's the World Cup!

It's here again, the four yearly exercise in ambition, dreams, angst and eventual failure for anybody who takes an interest in English football.  I am a fairly poor fan, a former season ticket holder at Oxford United who nowadays seldom gets to a match but who talks a good game when required to in the pub and who follows their results with increasing surprise as they've turned into quite a formidable team.  The now obligatory affection for my team aside, as a resident of the central, south and eastern part of this island I am, of course, also a long-suffering follower of the most mercurial, frustrating, exhilarating team in the world,  the stuttering, infuriating but occasionally brilliant England.

And it hurts.

It hurts because England won the World Cup once. Because England have all the elements in place to be successful again: an established league system, a bunch of over-promoted, overpaid but also overly talented players, a football association equipped with the resources…

Quiche rating for beginners.

My wife came into the front room brandishing a quiche which she held in front of me, declaring: "Look at that. That's a corker of a quiche, that is!"

Now, don't get me wrong, it was clearly a very nice quiche - very colourful and clearly so full of healthy stuff that the loo is audibly quivering in anticipation - but how do you comment on that? How do you compare one quiche to another?

I suppose there are some quiches which are poorly turned out. Should a feta quiche be inflicted upon you by someone who hates you, it will invariably be white, powdery and disappointing.  A Quiche Lorraine can be woefully devoid of bacon and thus ill-deserving the moniker.

By contrast, a quiche may be too busy, as indeed my wife's chosen one was. It may taste wonderful but it may also just taste of loads of things which don't quite agree with each other. I don't know because I had already had my lunch. Plus, I can take or leave a quiche.

I wonder if quiche rating is a thing…

Bittersweet victory

Waking up after election day always brings out mixed emotions for a Lib Dem.  We are conditioned to suffer, being in a small party which is perennially, depressingly squeezed between the two lumbering elephants of the Red-Blue coalition.  Our gains are normally moderate, our losses always seem worse but when those gains come they are the greatest of moments.  It is therefore such a joyous experience to have woken up this morning to see some really rather impressive results across England.

Having been hammered in 2015, the Lib Dems have been fighting for survival.  That crushing defeat had one amazing outcome: membership of the party more than doubled within days as people angry at our treatment by the Reds and Blues decided to join up.

This new membership effectively saved the Lib Dems and it has been so wonderful to see these new members falling into step next to those of us who've been suffering campaigning for decades.  What is so inspiring is that those thousands and thousands o…

A day out in Gloucestershire

For Mother’s Day, we (‘we’!) decided to visit a local National Trust property, a deer coursing lodge just over the border in Gloucestershire. The lodge was built in the 17th century for a clearly hideously rich man so that he could entertain guests with this sport, apparently a precursor to horse racing, being quite simply an opportunity to bet on one of two dogs chasing the unfortunate deer for a mile down a narrowing field.
Interestingly, I learned that the deer usually survived, doubtless to be put through the same trauma again although on occasion it would become that evening’s dinner.
The lodge was typically grand, kind of like a portable stately home with massive fireplaces, high ceilings and the kind of repulsive portraiture so beloved of monied people of old.  I once worked for an organisation which held meetings in a fancy chamber which had two vast Gainsboroughs displayed, allowing me ample time to peruse them and to conclude that they really were atrocious, with tiny heads, u…

It's snowing! Head for the hills!

Apparently, it's winter, or at least it was once.  Now, we can't just have 'winter': we have to have 'The Beast from the East' (cold weather from Siberia) or 'Snowmageddon' (a bit of snow).  My favourite is 'Thundersnow', a brilliant name for snow with, er, thunder.

So, that's cold, wind, snow, gloom. Winter, then.

Now, there is no doubt that things have improved for most of us with better information and warnings available - not that anyopne heeds them.  People often have more understanding employers, there are better road clearances and preparations are usually made to deal with extreme weather.  The trains are all up the Swanney but that's normal: a spot of rain stops them on their tracks.

What is depressing is how each winter - for that is what it is - gets more and more apocalyptic in tone, with blood-curdling threats issued by weather people and police - DO NOT TRAVEL!  This is generally good advice and things would be significantly b…

If the suit fits...

The need to wear a suit after a fair while once again arose this morning so I dutifully unloaded the old stager from the wardrobe and put it on.  I'll be honest, it was a bit of a struggle.  This is odd because all my other very ancient clothes fit fine.  I persevered with the waist hooks (it's a formal trouser thing, ladies) until they snapped into place, leaving me gasping for breath, feeling like I was enacting a period drama and for some reason had been sent to the female costume department for the most 'Keira Knightley' of corsets.  Mercifully, the jacket was a little more forgiving - it seems my neglect of those pecs and abs has paid off - so I ended up suited and booted.

I trooped off to meet with people whom I sought to convince that I was the absolute fulcrum around which their operation should turn, we chatted for some time and eventually we all parted as friends. Whether 'friends' will translate into 'colleagues' I could not say but there we g…