Procrastination

My wife’s doing heaps of overtime this weekend, and I’ve been sat here staring at a spreadsheet for several hours trying to motivate myself. It’s due next week, time is short, and I’ll regret it if I don’t do it. Trouble is, I’ve already worked most evenings this week and it’s all beginning to catch up with me.

Quite clearly the thing to do is procrastinate!

Tom McRae now has a blog, McRaetheism. As usual he’s walking that fine line between deadpan comedy and soul-destroying nihilism. He also has a couple of new song demos up on his myspace page.

We’ve belatedly been catching up with The Middleman, which is exactly the kind of cheesy, heightened-reality pop-culture-drenched romp that the world needs more of; it’s sort of what you’d get if The Avengers and Buffy Season 1 had a messy car accident. How can you not love a show in which the finale features an evil parallel universe, goatee beards and an impression of Snake Plissken from Escape from New York? Plus it apparently meets the bechdel rule. It’s *so* going to get cancelled.

Tonight sees the debut of the BBC’s Merlin in the Doctor Who / Robin Hood family slot. I’m not optimistic, but it does have Tony Head in it. And a dragon.

Thought for the Day: no matter how large or crowded the supermarket car park, someone is always trying to get into or out of the car right next to yours.

Cheesy Peas

It’s been another bring-work-home-in-the-evening kind of week for both of us, and Janet is working on Saturday too, so we were very glad to have Friday off. We decided to head down to my native Yorkshire and visit the Harrogate Flower Show so that Janet could spend her hard-earned cash buying Even More Plants to squeeze into the garden.

How to tell you’re in the North of England: On the way past York we found ourselves behind a Lorry transporting Mushy Pea Fritters (from Lockwoods, “the Mushy Peas Specialists”). No really. Take a look at that photo and tell me you don’t want to throw up just a little.

At the show we picked up a ‘wooden man carved into a tree trunk’ sculpture, which is currently looking for a home among the tree ferns at the foot of our garden. I think it’s possible to overdo this kind of garden ornamentation, but I have to say it looks pretty cool.

We were very lucky with the weather which miraculously held off from its scheduled pissing-it-down until we were safely back in the car and heading home.

I seem to have acquired a headache at some point during the day, but that’s probably because our cat Pixie decided to try to find us at 7 a.m. this morning by deploying the feline equivalent of sonar – this involves sitting in the hall downstairs and miaowing loudly until you hear a response, then (and only then) trotting happily upstairs and jumping onto your owner’s head.

Newts: The Next Generation

It had been a while since we’d seen any newts in our pond, having at one stage counted nine newts swimming around simultaneously. We’d more or less decided that the newts had left the pond, as newts are (so they tell me) wont to do.

Then, on the very day my wife declared that if we didn’t see a newt she’d give up, we found the tiniest of tiny baby newts (okay, larvae). And then two more. These really are small: only just over a centimetre long, about the size of a 1p coin. They have little gills and four tiny legs. Awww.

I’ve no idea how many others there may be lurking in the depths of our small pond, or what the chances of them surviving are, but this is a very cool discovery.

Dear (ebook) reader

My wife asks me to put the following issue to the enlightened denizens of LiveJournal. Since I don’t know any, I’m asking you lot.

For some time now (and specifically after seeing them on The Gadget Show) Janet has been considering getting an ebook reader.

You must understand that my wife reads a lot of books. She owns a lot of books. She owns a lot of books she hasn’t even read. She and books share an understanding. She even makes books. It’s not that she wants to replace books.

However she does think that it would be cool to download books: it would save on shelf space, and it would be handy when going on holiday. Now that ebook readers use ‘e-paper’ that doesn’t flicker or tire the eyes but looks just like printed text on a page, she’s getting really tempted. It’s this Sony model which has caught her eye.

On the plus side it looks decent, is small and light, gets good reviews and supports a variety of formats including the new standard “epub” file, audio and image files. Waterstones are promoting it and if she orders it by 3rd September you get 500 bonus points. They’ll have more than 25,000 ebooks to buy from September. She could download new books instantly, and cart them around. Plus she’d be living in Teh Futur.

On the down side it’s still pretty costly (circa £200), and the technology is still in its infancy so it could quickly become out of date (e.g. although it can display images the screen is currently only black and white). Also the files seem to generally come with DRM restricting how you can use them — i.e. a max of six devices — which seems like it goes against the spirit of a book. Most worrying of all, there are proprietary formats it can’t play (including Amazon Kindle) so you can’t necessarily just download ebooks from the US where they are plentiful. This last one is really what’s made her stop and think.

Personally I suspect that I’d love to own one of these but I’d never actually use it. I’m also incredibly materialistic and like having shelves full of *things*. I still buy CDs, even though I immediately convert them to mp3. I’m also not keen on the inverted “negative” image you get for a moment whenever the page changes, which can be seen on this video.

Opinions and anecdotes gratefully received. She’ll probably ignore you and do what she was going to do anyway, but you never know…

Making books

My wife just made some books. Actual books. To me, this is a little bit as if she built a new television set. It’s sort of like magic.

Essentially the magicprocess goes as follows. The paper is folded, then hand-stitched into groups of pages called signatures.

These separately stitched signatures are bound into essentially the inside of a book.

Then there’s a cardboard cover, in three parts so as to give it a flexible spine.

This is rounded to make a proper book shape. Here are three raw books.

Then the whole assemblage is glued together. Extra sheets link the cover to the inner pages, the cover is coated in book cloth/paper, and a cover design paper is glued over the top. Et voila! Three finished books

The end result is a little blank notebook that, frankly, I’d have a hard time telling apart from one bought in a shop. And all this from nothing but paper, cardboard, fabric and glue. How cool is that?

EDIT: And here’s an open book, so to speak.

Mmmm… stuff…

My birthday yielded The Absolute Sandman, Volume 3 (the kind of gorgeous object of desire that’s so heavy, nicely bound and on good quality paper that you’d want to own it even if you weren’t interested in the contents). Also Alice in Sunderland, The Sarah Connor Chronicles, unchillfiltered Laphroaig whisky (which I’m sampling as we speak), two Raymond Chandler novels, wine, Fererro Rocher and the finest of foodstuffs, Tunnock’s Tea Cakes. I’m led to believe a few other presents may be en route, and my wonderful wife even baked me a chocolate cake. With candles. Best Wife Ever.

In order to spread my feelings of goodwill far and wide, have a few links on me.

Ittybittykitt really does feature some of the most brain-meltingly cute kittens ever captured by CCD. Every time I see one of their photos I think that kittens couldn’t get any cuter, but somehow they do. I want to adopt them all.

One for veggiesu: I notice that ITV3 are doing a six-week season of crime thrillers leading up the allegedly “glittering” ITV3 Crime Thriller Awards. What’s interesting is that each week they’re showing a specially commissioned documentary profiling “the six best crime writers working today” aka Colin Dexter, Ian Rankin, PD James, Lynda La Plante, Val McDermid and Ruth Rendell. (I leave it up to the reader to decide whether these are in fact the six best crime writers working today whose TV adaptations ITV3 happen to own the rights to.) Could be interesting.

One for swisstone: Head of Roman empress unearthed near the previously unearthed statue of Hadrian in Turkey. Our local news is also banging on about visitors to Hadrian’s Wall being up on last year, which they’re — not implausibly — linking to the British Museum’s Hadrian exhibit and associated publicity. I shudder to think that it could have anything to do with Bonekickers instead.

I’ve put this on Facebook already but look: Chewbacca mouse! Awwww.

Further adventures in crafting

My wife’s been busy making crafty things again. As you know she’s a tireless explorer of different craft projects and gets through more in one weekend than I get done in your average month. This time around she’s turning her hand to wire bracelet making, and as usual she’s invested in a range of books, equipment and tools. She’s only made a few so far, but this is the one she’s most pleased with:

This one is copper wire shaped around a wooden mandrel, bound at intervals, with beads threaded on to make the pattern. As usual I’m very impressed. The other fruits of her labours can be seen here. She’s already taken an order from someone at work to do some more! I think Janet pretty much has a good time with everything she tries, but she’s particularly enjoying the bracelet making at the moment.

For those of you not interested in craftwork, here is a cute snoring three-legged cat:

Mwah ha ha ha ha ha

Inspired by ajr and my need to impose order on our sprawling Heap o’ Books, as previously detailed here, we went out this week and bought the tallest bookshelves IKEA had to offer, then bought the extra bits that made them taller, then bought extra shelves for them.

This weekend we de-stacked all the books, dismantled the old bookcases, assembled the new ones and (a first for me) attached them to the wall so they can’t fall over and crush us.

Before

Even Craftier

My wife has been crafting again. This time it’s one of her long-running projects that she’s finally finished in a sudden turn of speed, plus some glass jewellery.

She’s been making a few sets of wooden drawers for a while now, and this is the original practice piece made from pine which after many, many hours of sanding now opens and closes without sticking. At one stage I did wonder whether Janet’s hand would fall off before the box was completed. With a little Danish Oil it looks lovely. She wasn’t going to bother finishing this because it was just a test piece and she’s not overly fond of pine as a material, but I think it’s turned out really well.

Glass Jewellery too

Ups and downs

A day of excitement, thrills, gardening and wildlife.

Today was the annual ceremony of the removal of bubble-wrap from Janet’s greenhouse. We use the bubble-wrap as added insulation when there’s a threat of frost, but the greenhouse is a much lighter, airier place once it’s gone. It takes quite a long time because everything in the greenhouse including all of Janet’s carnivorous plants and the aluminium staging have to be moved onto the lawn, then moved back in again. Naturally we had cat help.

At lunchtime I was startled by a noise – let’s call it a squeal of terror – from upstairs. Janet had been sitting on the toilet when a large black spider had crawled over the top of her bare leg. When I got there she was in some post-traumatic stress, not least because she could no longer see the spider. I eventually located it by turning her trousers inside out in the bath. It was fairly juicy-looking. You can only imagine what would have happened if she’d put them back on without checking. 🙂

Later on this afternoon we were standing on our patio when a bird crashed very inelegantly into the top of the huge Leilandii tree next door. The tree is home to vast numbers of birds so we assumed that an enforcer for the local Pigeon Mafia had fumbled its approach, but then a bird of prey launched back out of the tree and flew right over our heads. It was speckled on its belly like a thrush, and about pigeon-sized. We reckon it must have been a Kestrel or a Sparrowhawk. It’s really good to know that there’s one patrolling somewhere near our house. Janet was so pleased about this it nearly made up for the Spider of Doom earlier. However she wishes me to be clear that nothing could ever make up for the HORROR.

We also found a couple of frogs in our pond a few nights ago. The newts are still there — we’ve counted at least three of them anyway — but we had a fine pair of yellow-brown frogs lurking under the surface. We’ve seen them a couple of times since then, always at night. I love the fact that we live in a suburban semi-detached house and yet we can see newts, frogs, toads, hedgehogs, bats, birds of prey, spiders and a wide variety of garden birds.

Newts!

We have frogspawn in our garden pond! Not much, but it’s there. More importantly, we were examining the pond today and saw not one but two newts swimming around in it… which may expain why the frogspawn is dwindling. Ahem.

Janet is over the moon. Getting either newts or frogs into the pond was one of the main reasons we built it. We knew we’d had newts in the garden at various points before installing the pond, but the pond has only been there since the middle of last year which is not long for it to naturalise in. Now not only are there the small snails we introduced but an entirely different species of snail, various insects, at least one itinerant frog who left the frogpsawn, and the newts we saw today.

CRAZY WIFE UPDATE: At Janet’s insistence we just went out in a thunder storm with a torch to check on our newfound newts, and there were at least six in the pond, which has to be a thriving colony by anyone’s standards. This is a rubbish photo of one. Then again it was dark, raining, thundering and lightning at the time.

We’re very pleased.

More wifely craftiness

My wife is one of those people who always has some hobby or other on the go. I may have mentioned this before. I may also have mentioned that she tends to jump in with both feet, and that the results are often highly impressive.

Recently she signed up for a silver art course at the National Glass Centre. The course was a mixture of traditional silver working, and silver art clay. The clay is a suspension of pure silver in clay that can be moulded and then fired, burning away the clay to leave just fine silver (99.9% pure in fact; purer than sterling silver.) Obviously the materials are quite expensive but Janet being Janet she now has a fair bit of silver clay, several tools, a number of books on the subject, and a butane-powered mini-blow torch. Oh yes.

She’s not much on wearing earrings but she does wear necklaces and bracelets so made a number of items of jewellery along those lines.

I think the pendants are fantastic. All the pendants were done with silver art clay; the leaf design was her own and the piece has been oxidised and then polished to give the antique, slightly coppery look with the polished silver showing through on the highlights. The other pendants are unoxidised silver with a lot of polishing. The gems are synthetic.

More pendant pictures

Kielder Water

We spent a nice day ferrying my brother-in-law up to Kielder Water in Northumberland. He works up there teaching outdoor pursuits, and it very slightly beats-the-hell out of my office as a workplace. Photos on our website here.

Kielder is a large reservoir surrounded by dense forest. Although it’s man-made, you’d be hard-pressed to tell once you get away from the dam itself (and the really quite science-fictional looking observation tower that pokes out of the water nearby). There’s some ongoing erosion around the shoreline as everything naturalises in, but otherwise it would sit comfortably on the outskirts of the Lake District. It’s bloody cold at this time of year, so we didn’t wander around for too long (plenty of frost in the shadows and actual ice along the high water mark) but we’re lucky to have beautiful countryside like this only about 90 minutes away.

Janet actually stood on the floor of what is now the Reservoir, at the foot of the observation tower, when she was a child (thanks to her Dad who was servicing some of the machinery in use on the site). I think that’s pretty cool. Looking at wiki it was finished around 1982.

It was nice to get out. Janet was ill with a nasty cold and cough for the best part of last week, but struggled diligently into work throughout — apart from last Monday when it became clear that even crawling out of bed was beyond her best efforts. I persuaded her to see sense and take the day off sick. As a result we haven’t done a great deal other than sit in the warmth for the last couple of weeks.

I have however purchased a lovely Ipod Classic 80GB in black, and the atrociously-named Jivebox from Logic3, a fine ipod speaker dock with a really solid and satisfying sound. I nearly bought several other ipod speakers from the thousands on offer, but a few good reviews (including a Gadget Show recommendation) convinced me and I’m pleased they did. I’m now um-ing and ah-ing about the in-car listening arrangement. At present I’ve got a lash-up that feeds the ipod headphone socket into the RCA cables at the back of our stereo. This works fine but I could do with a proper dock that holds the ipod in a convenient place and charges the ipod while we listen. This is the front-runner at present (the 2008 version, which may not be available ’til next month).

Read More Books, 2007

In January my resolutions were, as ever, to Read More Books, Dammit! and to Go to the cinema more. Not big on introspection but very big on realism. Even so I haven’t managed as well as I intended, especially on the book front.

Brief reviews below. No real spoilers here, but cut for length

The books I read in 2007:

1. Magic for Beginners

‘Tis the season

Had a fantastic trip back home to Yorkshire on Saturday and Sunday. We had a fine pub meal, chatted lots, and then went for a country walk on the Sunday. Said walk turned out to be considerably longer and colder than anticipated, especially when the low sun didn’t reach our little valley and a freezing fog descended, but we did survive long enough to reach the cars. It did afford an opportunity to see some beautiful frosty scenery, take endless photos, and feel Christmassy. Some pictures via my facebook here.

This was nothing compared to my brother-in-law John’s canoeing trip down the River Tweed on Saturday, however, which looks more or less like he was ice-breaking through the Northwest Passage. He’s posted some spectacular icy photos here.

All of which does make me feel slightly better about the lack of snow for the festive season.

Last night we boozed and played the not-at-all-festive Unreal Tournament 3 with John and another friend of ours, and today we cooked our finest Christmas meal to date, i.e. nothing went disastrously wrong and it was all more or less ready and warm at the same time. I was given plenty of cool presents including a big trilobyte fossil, Absolute Sandman Vol 2, and a Wii light sabre. More importantly I got to watch everyone else open cool presents too.

Now we’re Wii bowling the afternoon way before Doctor Who, and feeling slightly too full of food, chocolate, wine and coffee.

Burp.

The Official Blog of Christmas

Today Christmas officially began. We’re on holiday until 2nd January, we have all our presents bought (or at least ordered), the house is decorated, and several batches of cards have been sent. I even managed to get a proper holly wreath for the front door. Phear my l33t Christmas skillz.

It helps that while snow is notably lacking, today our garden was in the grip of a hard white frost of the kind that leaves the blackbirds pecking fruitlessly at soil which has the consistency of concrete. Our little pond was entirely frozen over, as was the bird bath, and everything looked very beautiful and very wintry. I felt so sorry for the small birds hopping around this desolation that I went out to break the ice and add some new fat-feeders to the ever growing number of peanut and seed feeders and hanging bird tables that festoon our apple tree. Fortunately for the birds we’ve been very lax this year in tidying up the windfall apples and the birds seem to be making a feast of them–either that or they’re benefitting from the various insects and worms that are making a feast of them.

In fact it’s been absolutely freezing for the last few days, with the kind of wind that makes it difficult to stand still at pedestrian crossings or bus stops without fidgeting from foot to foot. I know this because we went out for a christmas drink with Janet’s office last night and the walk there and back was bloody nithering.

Anyway, to get you in the mood here’s a little festive tune. Because nothing says Christmas like Tom McRae being a miserable drunk. I’m currently downloading carols from iTunes, something I’ve been meaning to do for a couple of years. Janet’s enquiry desk at work has been playing Christmas pop tunes on endless repeat, and so to preserve her sanity the house has been declared free of any hint of Band Aid, Aled Jones, Wham or Slade. Carols however can be tolerated. Although I’m an atheist there’s something about the sound of church choirs singing traditional carols that really gets me in the mood for Christmas. I’m sure it’s partly the result of all those Midnight Masses at our local Catholic church when I was growing up. When you get right down to it what is that fuzzy Christmas glow if not nostalgia for all those childhood Christmasses?

Ghosts and goblins

It’s begun. We’ve had six trick-or-treaters already. Four of the uninspiring ’12-year-old boys in tracksuits with Scream masks’ variety, and two of the ‘painfully cute little girls in witches’ costume’ variety. One was a man selling double-glazing, but we won’t talk about him.

As always our porch is bedecked with Halloween decorations in a way which would make any self-respecting house-holder cry with shame, and us glow with pride. Janet took the pumpkin carving one step further this year with a fantastic spider-web design she found online. I’m so impressed. I played it safe.

I realise that huge numbers of people lock the doors, hide behind the sofa, go out, or otherwise take out restraining orders on anyone under 20. Others say it’s tantamount to begging, or extortion. Some grumble it’s American culture subsuming our own. Even the police are talking tough. Frankly we have no complaints. We get all treats, no tricks. The worst I can say is that some of the kids don’t put much effort in, but many do, and many are accompanied by responsible parents. A significant portion are so sweet and so sincere you could die from cuteness on the spot. Especially when they squee with excitement as they leave with the bag of treats. Above all, and despite the recent commercialisation, it’s about kids being kids and having fun, not about anything antisocial. It’s cool.

EDIT: Sample grumpy news story.

EDIT2: All went very well, although we got through less bags of sweets than usual. I think some of the kids have grown out of it (we had a large group of older teenagers dressed as office zombies last year who said it was their final trick-or-treat). Plus we always get fewer when Halloween is mid week.

To cap it off I’ve managed to crack my head off the door post while taking down the decorations. Hard. Right on the outside edge of my eye socket. Ouch. There’s a tiny gash and some swelling, but despite Janet trying to cajole me into a trip to Casualty there are no signs of concussion. Just soreness!

Just astonishing

Predictable perhaps, but some the comments on this BBC news story about the entirely admirable move to vaccinate girls from 12 to 18 against cervical cancer really do betray both astonishing ignorance about medicine and neolithic head-in-the-sand attitudes to sexuality. The same levels of ignorance were equally in evidence in emails to BBC News 24. I should know better than to look, shouldn’t I?

And I quote:

“It cannott be right to inject cancer into patients”

(no really)

“The money would be better spent on Sex Education not vaccination.”

“Like myself, I will teach my daughter to wait for marriage before sex and this will eliminate problems like stds and pregnancy which also destroys unmarried womens lives and costs taxpayers millions taking care of illegimates. But, on the other hand, if it will save loose women from cancer then it will be ok for them.”

(pragmatism *and* generosity in one package)

“Why do women always get the vast majority of media attention, financial help and medical facilities when it comes to cancer treatment and prevention? The slightest news regarding breast or cervical cancer seems to hit the headlines.”

“It would be very interesting to know how much money was spent developing the vacine. Has an equivalent amount been spent attempting to do the same for prostate cancer – I very much doubt it. When will there be equality for men in health care?”

“one has to question the expenditure of “hundreds of millions” to save 1000 girls each year.”

“I DONT agree with this sexist vacination if males are’nt included”

(sigh)

“This is another great reason to teach your children at home.”

(say whut?)

“Total and utter propaganda to make more money for the pharmacutical companies. FACT is the immune system will stop all diseases”

(because, as we know, no-one ever dies from anything)

“I am against vaccination unless there is evidence showing the disease is contagious, air borne, spread by some sort of interaction. Personally, the idea of pumping children with all sorts of drugs/chemicals (vaccines), I find quite disturbing.”

(I’ve never heard it called “some sort of interaction” before)

…and so it goes on.

Janet is particularly annoyed at the sexism evident in many of the attitudes: women who have sex are ‘loose’ women who have done something wrong; money spent saving women would be better spent elsewhere (e.g. saving men!).

There are a great many rightheaded comments too, pointing out that this is not an issue about promiscuity. Sexually active does not mean promiscuous (and promiscuous does not mean immoral). Anyone who has sex, even once, is likely to be exposed to the virus. As Janet notes, all these concerned mothers must, presumably, have had sex at least once in their lives. That’s all it takes. Vaccinating young doesn’t mean we expect children to have sex young – but it does mean that the’re protected before they first have sex, which evidence suggests is most effective. I’m quite taken by one comment on the website: “The fact that I could get HPV did not make me not have sex, so I doubt the opposite will make people have sex.”

The idea, too that male diseases don’t get attention or funding seems to me to be ludicrous and inaccurate. Hardly surprising since those who are decrying this vaccine seem to be talking from sheer off-top-of-the-head prejudice. And the relative cost of this vaccination is hardly out of scale with other treatments / preventative measures.

By the power of Ebay

We have now become the last people in the western hemisphere to own a Wii. This is thanks to my wife’s considerable perseverance and the power of Ebay, which is a little like the power of Greyskull but less melodramatic. Haven’t played much so far but the sheer novelty of the Wii remote infuses even the most mundane game with a mixture of fun and frustration. At some point this will seem natural, but right now it’s like gaming with my feet. In a good way.

Interfering with our Wii-ing has been a flurry of cinemagoing this weekend.

Ratatouille

Surfeits, and having too many of them

Coalescent‘s new flat and associated shelving issues have reminded me that I’ve been meaning to post this.

People talk about having a “To read” pile of books. My wife has a “To read” shelf. It’s smaller now than at any time in the last two years but still the idea of her ever getting through them all seems faint at best, not least because new books arrive in the post almost daily.

Here’s a picture:

Cut for bigness…

Science: practical and theoretical.

Last night we laid on a rug outside and watched meteors. The rate was relatively low–at most one every five minutes with some longer lulls–but it was still great. Even the typically light-polluted city skies didn’t spoil the experience; indeed we probably saw as many stars last night as we’re ever likely to from this location, and the view was stunningly beautiful. The weather was absolutely clear for once. A really lovely prelude to my birthday.

Tonight we watched Richard Dawkins’s The Enemies of Reason on Channel 4. Despite agreeing with him in every way that counts I sometimes think that Dawkins is his own worst enemy, since he can come across as a strident, joyless naysayer. His recent polemic on religion fell a little foul of this. Here, although still preaching to the converted, he struck a good balance between singing the praises of reason (and, importantly, defining and demonstrating the beauty and relevance of science in everyday life) and analysing the failings of superstition and pseudoscience. Janet and I stopped the playback several times to debate the issues, but pleasingly there were very few things we raised that Dawkins didn’t himself address at some point in the episode. My only complaint is more of a wish: Derren Brown’s past contributions to debunking psychics and astrology have been so compelling that it would have been nice to see more of him than just a brief interview segment. My TV guide presented this documentary as something of an equal pairing between the two, and it intrigues me to think how much mileage could be gained from seeing Brown demonstrate before our eyes the ease with which apparently impossible phenomena can be faked. Even as it stands though I’m very interested to see part two next week.

Slow glass and fast food

We have this week off on holiday. That’s good.

So far we’ve spent it in backbreaking labour. That’s bad.

The backbreaking labour is Janet’s new Greenhouse. That’s good.

We rewarded ourselves last night with our first fast food order of the year. That’s double plus good. Janet had Chinese. I had Pizza Hut. It was great. The best thing is we have no need to feel guilty because it was low in sugar for Janet, and the fat’s irrelevant due to the aforementioned backbreaking labour.

The greenhouse itself is Janet’s new pride and joy. She already had a 6 foot x 8 foot one, but her carnivorous plants were beginning to complain about the lack of space. By “complain” I mean that several of them were quite grumpy and more than a few were developing into hunchbacks. The danger of them running amok and taking over the City was ever on our minds. Well, it was on my mind. Janet seems very blasé about the idea of her plants ‘pulling a Wyndham’, as it’s almost certainly known.

Getting back to the story: plants big–greenhouse small. Janet’s foolish husband suggested that we could make room in the garden for a bigger greenhouse, and suddenly there was a Janet-shaped cloud of dust dissipating beside him as she rushed to the internets. She ended up ordering a 6 foot x 14 foot one – nearly twice as long, and also the “High Eaves” version (meaning that the walls are taller before the roof starts).

We spent Sunday taking the old greenhouse down, two VERY long days on Monday and Tuesday assembling the new one, and today fitting all the staging and moving the plants back in from the porch (where they were, quite frankly, unnerving the postie). Thankfully the rain mostly held off despite the odd bit of drizzle, and we’ve even had some warm sun for part of it.

We had Janet’s Mum and Dad helping us to put the greenhouse up, for which we can’t thank them enough. Without them whole eons could have passed before we got the darn thing assembled. It’s a lot trickier than it looks, even having built one a few years back.

Inevitably there are pictures, as with all our projects. Look, just be thankful you don’t have before and after photos of me composing this journal entry…

Pictures…

Rocks, water, newts and cats

When last we left our struggling hero he was attempting to build a pond. Thwarted at every turn by the evils of pond liner, water, and pretty much all the other things you need to make a pond, not to mention gravity, it would be fair to say that he was making a bit of a meal of it.

Now read on…

So over the last couple of weekends we’ve continued pottering with the pond, on and off. It’s still not finished but now looks a lot more complete.

I must confess there was a stage after I’d done most of the rocks that I felt pretty fed up with it. We don’t have the budget or heavy lifting equipment to throw great slabs of rock into the ground as if a mountain spring had coincidentally thrust its way out of the earth in the corner of our garden. As a result it’s fairly small and stylised, and has an awful lot of cobbles and small rocks in heaps. However since Janet put some plants in I’m feeling much more positive. It looks like what it is: a nice, small garden pond. It’s certainly tranquil.

Pics