Sunday, 24 July 2016

Visit to Elveden

We took MWNN's eyes to see the specialist in Norwich. On the way there, and on the way back, we visited the Elveden Estate at the Courtyard.  Click through pics for larger images.

On the way out, we had lunch at the Courtyard. Afterwards, MWNN had a rest in the car and I took Ron on the mile-long Eleveden Trail.

It was blisteringly hot, but, once into the woods, the forest air-conditioning kicked in.

Elveden is a large estate (Centre Parks is situated in Elveden Forest) Tank trials for WWI were carried out on the estate.

The soil is sandy. There are two reservoirs that are used to irrigate the farmland in dry months. Potatoes and onions are the main root crops that thrive in these conditons.

Snails seem to like it, too.

The woodland is mixed. Christmas trees and instant hedges are grown commercially on the estate. There are some beautiful London Plane trees on the trail.

The estate is also home to some rare wildflowers, some of which are to be found nowhere else in the world.

More common wildflowers were in evidence on the trail - like this Dark Mullain,

digitalis purpurea.

and wild raspberries

We made our way to the hotel where we were staying the night, and then on to the Spire Hospital where the specialist runs his clinics. He was running late, so I stayed outside in the grounds with Ron, for about 20 mins.

After a resonable, late, breakfast in the hotel courtyard the following day, we headed home, stopping at Elveden again to pick up some of their home produced pork and beef.

On our way home, MWNN joined Ron and me on the trail. We took our lightweight folding chairs so that we could stop, if necessary, for a rest.

Ron and I waited at the beginning of the trail, as MWNN needed to put on socks to walk in his sandals.

We didn't need to stop for a rest, and at the end of the trail, I went back to the car for the backpack with the elevenses' tea flasks. MWNN set up the chairs and we had a lovely cuppa in the air-conditioned forest. Rain threatened to stop play, but the forest canopy kept us dry until the shower stopped.

I tried to buy some Beckland Orchard posh pops sugar free, cloudy lemonade, that I had with lunch the previous day, but it was out of stock. However, I discovered that the producer is just 35 mins away from home. The hunt is on for more sugar-free products.

Saturday, 2 July 2016

Gentle bedtime reading?

First Direct
has a sense of humour. Good thing I have. Just finished reading the email setting out the changes to terms and conditions of my account.

It might not be a page-turner but consider this some (very important) gentle bedtime reading 

Important it might be, gentle, it certainly ain.t.

Greeting and handshakes over, we get the nub of the email - 

Oh the Terms, they are a changing
This isn't just any old Terms update. We know they can be heavy going so we've worked really hard on our new ones. We've reduced the number of words and made sure the ones that are there are in as plain English as humanly possible, so it's easy to find and understand the information you need, when you need it.

Lots of pages and millions of words  later (I'd hate to see the pre-reduced words version)
We're also working on an all-singing, all-dancing online version* which will be live on our website on or around the same date.

*They can't really sing or dance but you knew that already. 

Lots more pages and words later - If you're not reading this with a hot beverage, you're doing it wrong. 
Hot beverages have no bearing on my ability to wade through this ocean of words.

Outline of the 21 categories covered by the changes. 
We hope you're making notes. There'll be a quiz at the end*.
*There won't.                                    
No quiz? Would a summary of the terms that have acually been changed be too much to ask?

Lots more pages and far too many words later, and we're not half-way through yet - 
When you've finished reading these Terms you should file them away in a safe place. Don't make them into a paper airplane. We understand it's tempting..

Finally, at the end of the email, and *there is no test.

I think I've followed all that, but I/m not sure that it was worth all the effort for Thank you and goodnight.

Friday, 24 June 2016

New Floors - Day 3

Almost done, just the final door and furniture trims left to do,

The entrance hall was finished today. It looks really good, and I'm so glad I chose the lighter-coloured stair carpet.

Charlie managed the threshold between sitting room and hallway extremely well.

Now we just need to replace that terrible door frame colour. MWNN, some years ago "What colour do you want on the door-frames?" Me "Any colour but pink".

The threshold between hall and shower room will be covered by a metal bar, inside the shower room.

The parquet is such a good match for the oak hall-table.

We're very pleased with our beautiful new entrance hall floor.

Ron is not so pleased. He hates the new floors - ball-games are banned,

Thursday, 23 June 2016

New floors - Day 2

Today saw the installation of the new parquet floor in the sitting/dining room.

Decisions about furniture and location have yet to be made, but the Edwardian oak bookcase has already moved to its new position..

The parquet will be continued across the door threshold, into the front hall.

Some items of furniture have already gone from the house (thank you British Heart Foundation), leaving lots of space in the walkway between sitting room and dining room.

Ron is a bit confused.

The hearth needs a bit of renovation and paint work on its concrete base.

The rooms feel light, airy, and more spacious  without a carpet and with less furniture.

Wednesday, 22 June 2016

New floors - Day 1

The furniture has been moved, the carpet removed, and the floor boarded

in preparation for the new parquet floors.

Day 1 saw the sitting room parqueet pattern started.

We chose a 3" border with a 3mm contrast strip in dark oak.

Karndean blonde oak parquet

Once again, Wymondley Flooring is installing the new floors. Watching Charlie working on the parquet border and contrast strip around the hearth, reminded me why Wymondley Flooring is our company of choice.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

The Queen's official 90th birthday party

at Hitchin Priory, was organised by Hitchin Band,

Despite the rain, over 100 people turned up to hear the Hitchin Band, with the relatively new, musical Director Graham Chambers,

and twin-town Bingen-am-Rhine's Band, Sponsheim.

Before the performance started, the Master of Ceremonies for the Event, Tim Wheeler, read out a message from the German Band - in German. Apparently the translation was that the Germans hoped that Hitchin Band would play better than their English football counterparts would play against Germany in the Euros 2016.

I ordered the Party Full Afternoon Tea, and we settled down at a table that we shared with a couple who had moved to Hitchin, from Stevenage, five years' ago.

Hitchin Band kicked off with a virtuoso posthorn performance of the posthorn gallop.


Quality playing was evident from then on, from the whole band, including the award-winning cornet section.

Dianh Birch Won the Outstanding Cornet Award for the 1st Section 2016 at the London and Southern Counties Region of the National Brass Band Championships of Great Britain, 2016.

The Hitchin Band was placed third in the 'Premier League' of the Championships.

Hitchin Band, Putting on the Ritz


The Sonsheim Band followed Hitchin Band's first set, opening with the Radetzky March. I assumed we were going to be treated to lots more music from Vienna, or at the very least, their home country, but the band from Bingen followed the march with a Beatles Medley, followed by some Coldplay and Adelle.


MWNN and I finished our tea just as Hitchin Band returned for their second set. This included some great Jazz and Big Band pieces. I have yet to find anything that was uploaded to Social Media but it showcased just how far the band has progressed since we first heard them, 30 years ago.

We left after Hitchin Band's second set,even though we were keen to hear both bands together for the finale, and drink a toast to the Queen. MWNN had put on a loaf to bake just before we left, and it was nearing finishing time,

What we missed, was this


and this

Guest 2nd Baritone player in the white coat is former Hitchin Band player (now Dereham Band, Norfolk) Colin Warburton (note the name)

This was a smashing event. We saw lots of familiar faces, including a former Hitchin Band player-turned-science-fantasy-writer-in-retirement, CJ Burton

Tuesday, 7 June 2016

Stressless Magic

The most comfortable Stressless Chair ever made

In the middle of sorting stuff for when the flooring man comes to lay a new hard-floorin the sitting-room, dining room, and hallway, MWNN decided it was time to look for a new chair. So we packed the dog into the car and headed to Hatters in Bedford. The plan was for me to take Ron to Priory Park to walk, while MWNN selected his chair. It was way past lunchtime when we arrived.  I parked the car in a shady spot in Hatters' Car-park and gave Ron a quick pee stop. Before I returned to the car, MWNN summoned me into the store to see the selected recliner.

The chair is made by Elcornes It's the large version of the Magic Model - the most comfortable chair Elcornes make. Chair purchased, delivery date sometime in September, we made out way to Priory Park for a very late (3pm) lunch.

After lunch, I left MWNN and SiL to rest in the shade, while I took Ron for a rapid 30 minute walk.

The path from the Marina runs alongside the main lake.

This lake now occupies the site of a Roman Villa.

The lake is now home to a diverse population of flora and fauna.

There were several pairs of swans nesting on the bank.

Flag iris looking splendid.

Deadly belladonna.

Don't know what this tree is. It is covered in a cotton-wool-like mass of seed pods, but has long, narrow leaves. Could be a willow, as the air was filled with seeds floating on the light breeze.

Ron was more interested in the water than the wildlife. When we reached the far end of the lake, where there is a gently sloping shingle bank, he rescued some twigs that were in need of a good retrieving.

He loved this part of the lake. His high-trotting in the shallows (very Patterdale) drew comments from two young women sitting on the bank,

I needed a rest, at this point, but the only available seat was in full sun.

I took as much advantage of the shade as I could on our return to the restaurant, letting thetrees, wind, water, and wildlife work  their magic.

Wednesday, 25 May 2016

Nature in the back garden

I've just finished a Facebook challenge, where I posted a photi every day for seven days. Each of the photos illustrated my love of nature.

The back garden is blooming and full of nature busily doing natural things. For the first tine ever, blue-tits nested in the nesting box, which, by now, is covered in ivy, affording them protection.

Beneath the nesting box, the border under the crab apple has been colonised by the common columbine, predominantly a stunning blue, but with some white and pink also.

MWNN says that we acquired them from a beighbour, and I'm sure the first pair were planted by the gardener. They've spread (they tend to do that, native wild flowers) and the lawn may well be at risk.

The Columbine is very at home in this corner, in the shade of the trees, beside the wood pile and old bench,. They are in the spot that was once covered in ground polygonum that used to drive me wild in late summer and early autumn, by encroaching ever further along the border. The Columbine sbould be easier to control.

Beside the Columbine, a variegated holly seems to be flowering for the first time, so we may get some berries this winter.

In the space vacated by one of the many Viburnum shrubs, I have planted some Sweet Williams  They, too, should spread and provide some much needed colour at this time of the year,

The wild Hawhorn, that seeded itself decades ago, is in full flower, providing shade for the Columbine and stretching along the border to the

Variegated Euonyums Japonicus behind the statue of Minerva. The statue was called 'Rosemary' by the makers, Inigma, and I thought she was a fitting memorial for my Mum, who fostered my love of learning,

To the right of Minerva, is a mock orange, in full flower, but showing some signs of damage and age.. We need some warm, humid days for the scent to be noticeable in the evenings.

Across the terrace, the Red Hat Lady Rose has put out its first bloom. It will be followed by a profusion of flowers that cover the dwarf shrub throughout the summer.

On the opposite side of the garden, the Dogwood is giving a wonderful display of masses of flower heads. They will become dark purple berries in the atumn. When the leaves have dropped, the lovely red stems will bring colour to that corner of the garden throughout the winter.

The birds that have benefit from the berries in the garden include the thrush. They've been absent for a few years but have been spotted feasting on snails on the slate-covered bed containing the lavendar. I found a few pieces of evidence of the work of the thrushes in the  border this morning,

MWNN doesn't like me cutting flowers to bring into the house, so he bought me some carnations (big brothers of my little Sweet Williams) for the spot in the kitchen where I like to have a vase.