29 June 2011

one out, all out

Today I went past one of the schools where John is the gardener.  I don't go that way often, but I was blown away by the display of hollyhocks pushing their way through the fence onto the street.

There was something of the Great Escape about them, as if they couldn't wait to get out of the confinement of the school grounds.

Amazingly - and I hope I'm not tempting providence - the good citizens of the Isle of Dogs stepped aside so as not to impede their progress.

See them from the D7 bus on Manchester Road, opposite Island Gardens DLR station, and raise a cheer.

23 June 2011

treasury tag

I have a soft spot for the treasury tag, especially the ones with metal tags rather than the cheap looking plastic ones  There is something so seemingly sustainable tactile and thrifty about them and they do a much better job at organising paperwork than those slippery plastic folders.  When I recently saw on sale some tagged leather covered notebooks made out of recycled paper at an immodest price I thought I could make some myself.  So I took myself off to Mr Arber's shop to buy some treasury tags, surely the most likely place around here to have them in stock.  And he did, of course, at a very reasonable price.  My messy Tuesday afternoon was spent cutting little leather covers, retrieving from the cellar the research papers I had stored from my days studying for my master's degree to recycle for my prototype notebook and punching holes.  Easy as anything.  I very much liked the altogether pleasingly, men-from-the-ministry utilitarian result.

We made some at the WI later that day, though I think some women would have preferred something a little more Cath Kidston than Ministry of Labour.   Not me though, not in the least.

22 June 2011


I was thinking about what I might do with the old charity shop sweater I decided to felt.

Think no more.

19 June 2011

hungry gap

When I left the dentist after my root canal on the last really sunny day this week, she suggested that I do something nice for the afternoon to take my mind off the pain, so I went to the allotment to see what was going on and sit in the sun.  A much better option than a couple of ibuprofen.

Now vegetable growers will be familiar with the concept of the "hungry gap" at the end of spring when the brassicas  and chard are finished and nothing else is quite ready And then there's the aptly named Hungry Gap kale which I've flirted with but had not had the foresight to sow.  Not that it would have made much difference.  Even though there was plenteous asparagus and a good showing of cut and come again lettuce, so much of what I sowed never did grow because of the lack of rain and insufficient watering.  So I was delighted to see how much everything had come along while I had been galivanting elsewhere - hollyhocks and acanthus in bloom, the beans starting to climb the wigwam, a row of beetroots plumping up, courgettes not quite ready to cut (and probably the size of marrows when I go to cut them later).  Even the weak looking rhubarb I had dug up and replanted at the wrong time of year looked like it might survive.

I lounged in a deck chair ignoring the weeds and poppy heads until the enforced fasting and sun made me a little giddy.  Which is probably why I reversed into a lamppost on the way out of the car-park.

Ah, well.

18 June 2011


A few weeks ago, an idle reference to a western series I used to like as a child reminded me of how much I used to enjoy riding the sides of the armchairs and putting up curtains at the back of the settee to create my own personal wagon train.  Then I went to see the breathtaking  Meek's Cutoff, which had me on the edge of my seat wondering what exactly what might happen to those pioneer women and their families on the Oregon trail. All week, I couldn't stop seeing in my mind's eye those women marching in the heat and wind across the parched desert.

So I abandoned the internet, for which apologies, and we went camping.

It was windy.  It was sunny.  It was rainy.  But it was only in my head that there was any recognisable similarity between our campsite and a wagon train.  That we forgot to bring the food box and kettle was the greatest hardship we suffered.  We were warm and dry and comfortable. John pulled a face because he still wants to be camping out in the woods under the stars.  But even he had to admit that you being woken up at half past six in the morning by little boys playing football in their pyjamas and little girls making up those improvised story games was entirely forgivable when they were having such a good time.

We visited Eastbourne and the Towner Gallery (lovely space).   It isn't my favourite kind of seaside town  - streets a bit to wide, pedestrianised shopping, hotels with limited charm. But then how much does the town really matter when the beach is the best place to be, even if I was not quite up to braving the lively seas and sat instead sewing up hems.  If you have been putting off a tiresome bit of sewing, I'd suggest that it's much more easily done sitting listening to the waves dragging through the pebbles.

Later, up on the downs at Beachy Head, little crosses and wreaths were a reminder of a different kind of escapism with so many suicides that there is a chaplain on duty to try to help those who look like they may be contemplating their last leap.

Beachy Head
When the rain arrived on Sunday, we were making our way to see this chap...

The Long Man of Wilmington.  Something just a bit fake about him if you ask me.

Long Man of Wilmington

Then on to visit some cherubs at Berwick Church, painted by Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant in the early 1940s.  You walk into a dimly lit and seemingly unremarkable church, flip a switch, and the whole place is illuminated with colour and movement.  We'd seen a photo of Chattie Salaman posing as an angel in the Towner, so it was good to see what she looked like with wings, and to see the references to Sussex life incorporated into the murals - a trug full of vegetables, a schoolboy and servicemen, Downland sheep at the nativity.  And separately, in a dark corner of the church, a touchstone with the past - ridges carved into the stone by archers sharpening their arrow heads before Sunday practice for the battlefields.

A few miles down the road at Charleston with the skies dark and the rain pouring, there was  more colour - in every room, in the paintings, the rugs, the embroidery, the chintzy patchwork striped curtains, the gardens.  Lovely combinations - rust, teal, turquoise, yellow, blue, amber brown, mostly muted by age.  And knowledgeable, friendly volunteers to answer questions.  In many ways it was a perfect little outing, a bit of escapism, imagining how pleasant life would be to have your mates round to your country house, painting the furniture, sending your designs to mother to embroider for you, not worrying about, or doing perhaps, the cleaning or washing up, pottering in the garden, living in a rural idyll.

Back home, it's colour I'm thinking about.  And  those women transporting all their worldly goods in the back of a wagon.