Tag Archives: DIY

Paved with good intentions…

It may have been me that inadvertently put paid to the sunshine by purchasing barbecue charcoal. I genuinely cannot remember lighting a grill at this house in sunshine. Sorry.

It really was a lovely splash of pre-summer at the weekend. We spent most of it at the park watching Zeph cycle laps and Ida try to bully strangers in the playground into playing her games.

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The garden is starting to respond to the warmth. Once again I’m marvelling in my overblown peony, and can anyone tell me why it’s always covered in ants? They march up and down the bud – busy and officious. I can’t see any aphids to milk…maybe they’re expected. I have blown Ida’s mind describing ants milking aphids and she is scouring the place with her magnifying glass for evidence.

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The clematis that has scrambled up my alarmingly tall eucalyptus tree is covered in pink flowers all following the sun through the sky. I love it and a passer-by knocked on the door last week intrigued by what she thought was an unknown exotic species.

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I have to avert my eyes during strong winds. I keep waking up sweating from nightmares about it crashing through the roof of the Ukrainian church next door. Amiable as they are I don’t think they’ll be pleased.  A tree surgeon is on my list of things to save up for. Along with the desperately needed rewire. In my blogging interlude our electrics have been condemned as dangerous and a fire risk.

Gulp.

On the bright side the ever-present damp may slow most sparks…  We’ve been doing our best to save but a recent redundancy development hanging over us means a finance rethink. Bah.

Always something to spend not-enough-money on. I have been slowly chipping out my studio space by the kitchen by removing cupboards and mouldy plaster and smothering everything with cheap white paint. Soon I will be able to leave my sewing machine out and not have to keep heaving it off the table for meals. I lull myself off to sleep at night imagining arranging all my fabric, buttons and jam jars of bits and bobs on walls of empty shelves.

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This is us barbecuing our tea. We’re not the sort to be put off by rain. Good thing too in this climate. I’m particularly loving the happy happy joy joy on the kids face. Also the fact my mum spotted a bit of blue sky

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End of term and a pep talk

Easter is nearly upon us, how the hell did that come round so quickly?

Today is the last day of term which means a 2pm pick up. Now I have never actually forgotten to pick him up. Although I’ve had a couple of oh christ – I nearly forgot – quick!  out the door and run moments. For some reason these memories make me jumpy and I keep checking my watch and skipping from task to task making more muddles.

This morning we watched the screening of the Bollywood film Zeph and his year group have been working on all term. All their teachers had dressed up, they had chairs set out like a cinema and cups of popcorn. At the end they gave out Oscars. It was not without technical hitches but loud, exciting and joyful. Exactly how I think school should be. I came away hugely cheered and Ida hopped and jigged all the way home.

She can’t wait to go to school and I have to retrieve her from the going in line in the mornings. Very different to my school experience and long may it last.

Unsurprisingly the morning back here has been a bit flat – especially since I’ve tried to impose a little order. Not something you would glean from a quick glance. I’ve been reading a friends flylady progress and feeling the need to return to some of those structures. I’ve talked about my attitude to chores and tidying many times before and without being picky I can see the need for a bit of decluttering and imposing some system scaffolds in my jumbled corners.

I need to stop procrastinating and start a bit of doing. I managed to pull my arm out of its socket recently so am waiting for a bit of healing and keep telling myself that after that I’m going to GET DOWN TO IT!

Steve’s got some time off over easter so you’d think it’d be the perfect time but it’s so tempting to play hooky. We’re going to see a friend as well and do some big city stuff and that’s all MUCH more appealing. Although I know some DIYing and order solutions would have a much bigger day-to-day impact on my life.

It’s too easy to let the small inner voice tell you you’re lazy. Often I feel like an observer in my life instead of actually inhabiting my body. In these gray leaden days I anchor myself with the children. Playing, reading to them, cuddling in bed – singing songs and idly spinning stories. Everything else loses focus and importance.

As I feel less miserable and more hopeful I think I’m too quick to write all that stuff off. It seems like time-wasting when I could have done work that left a physical mark. Finally feeling clear-sighted enough to look around at what needs doing – it’s far too easy to slip back into the habit of castigating myself for doing nothing.

Bolstered my Rachel (my therapist and she has a certificate so is surely worth listening to?) I decide to be a bit kinder to myself.

Getting through the days is hard work. Remaining emotionally connected is hard work. Well done Laura, bloody well done to all of us who get to school, cook tea, do bathtime and bedtime or even leave the house whilst wrapped in a soul numbing blanket of misery. Fecking brilliant people who manage everyday fighting a rushing tide of physical pain. Two fingers up to anyone who thinks you haven’t accomplished much in your day. You’re still breathing at the end of the day aren’t you? Then it’s a SUCCESS. Whoop whoop and maracas, flash of gold and a big flourish. Well done all of us broken vessels.

Just the easy stuff to do now.

Puzzling…

Every time I open the box I have hope. Hope that this time it’ll be different, we’ll all bond over the pieces. Our faces intent, happy, satisfied.

I see other people do it. There’s possibly nothing my sister loves more than a good jigsaw. It’s like she got the puzzling lot genetically and it skipped me altogether.

I feel like I’m letting the kids down though, despite my best efforts they take to those little pieces like ducks to water (ooh – very hard to do watery bits – like grey skies…) The other day, scouring my local charity shop for wool jumpers to felt, Zeph and Ida found a gorgeous box of old dominoes and a 1000 piece jigsaw of a toy crammed attic.

Like Dickensian orphans they gathered round my knees with their loot, gazing upwards with huge pleading eyes. Pleeeeeeeeeeeese they begged.

I should have known better, I blame a residual christmas goodwill, families gathered round a table, egg nog kind of glow.

I bought the damn thing.

God knows we’ve got plenty of stuff to do here. Including some Harry potter Lego and a wet felting kit I’m longing to try. But this afternoon after the final thank you letter was done and posted we got out the box and began the ritual searching for straight edges.

Literally 20 pieces in and two gentle corrections of my sorting from my nearly three year old daughter  (the shame – the shame ) I knew nothing had changed.

I hate jigsaws.

Two hours later we still haven’t completed the sides and I have a tension headache. Zeph has just tactfully suggested a break and Ida is still putting together the top section of monotonous beam.

I can’t stop thinking how I could transform the pieces into a necklace and wondering where we’re going to eat over the next six months which is how long it’ll take if I’m in charge of the J project.

Before the kids went upstairs for bath and bed they came to tell me that they WILL notice if I sweep the completed bits back into the box and burn it while they’re in bed. Ida added with a baleful look under her eyelashes that she will cry if this happens.

Darn.

Looking at the thing – they’ve done nearly half. I simply cannot understand how. Maybe it’s some kind of disability like being colour-blind? I mean I like puzzles generally. Crosswords, so- duko – even those pointless word grid things. I’m not averse to a bit of monotonous work either. Sometimes it’s very soothing.

Jigsaws though. Chewing tinfoil.

It’s nearly back to school time and the holidays have skipped by. Looking back at last years posts I notice how the Thank you cards were a painful battle and see what a difference a year makes.  Me relaxing over Zeph’s writing seems to have made an enormous difference to his confidence, ability and willingness to set pen to paper. I make a mental note to try to remember this the next time I’m seized with the urge to micro manage his skills, convinced he’s going to end up in a clockwork orange style gang roaming the streets –  engaging in gladiatorial knife fights (too much late night Skins watching…)

So far 2012 has passed smoothly, of course we’re only six days in. I didn’t make any concrete resolutions. Just to keep plugging away at the old ones. Maybe to post a bit more. To feather our mouldy nest a bit more decisively this year, to keep selling stuff and to relish the moment I’m in. 

This year holds the possibility of many things. My two years clear marker, Ida’s third birthday in a scant four days. Zephs metoric rise in the cooking tea department. A hallway free of ripped wallpaper. A quince tree in the garden.

I flex my toes in pleased anticiaption.

Just got to do that jigsaw first…

Sports Day

It is Zeph’s sports day today and incredibly grey and gloomy. He was slightly devastated and spent breakfast bemoaning the fact it rained on EVERY one of his sports days. I just nodded along and tried to hide the fact I was keeping everything crossed for rain.

I loathed sports day when I had to take part and always felt it was totally unfair that they didn’t have an equivalent day for anything I was actually good at – like reading or drawing. It’s all very well comforting children by saying you can’t be good at everything but why never give the less athletic a chance to shine?

Zeph seems unbothered by all this. True his infants sports day was basically six teams all taking turns at various obstacle races. Everyone gets a medal at the end. There are no races as such. Equally there’s no defined beginning or end or indeed, purpose. Watching it is painful, sustained boredom. I dread it nearly as much as the ones I was forced to take part in. Hideous.

Yet I still go – determined as I am to be a ‘good’ parent and a supportive one. This year, the first in junior school, threatens to have actual races – I’m curious to see how Zeph takes to it. I had to resist the temptation of a gin-in-a-tin at the supermarket this morning and frankly, it was only the imagined judgement of other parents that dissuaded me.

Ida and I have done a lot of painting recently. There are a million larger tasks I’d like to get my teeth into but I lack the motivation and, more crucially, a gripping hand. Both are quite dodgy at the moment but my left reminds me of a play mobile hook. So we pass the time making jars of water murky and filling scrap paper with owls having tea and cats waltzing under the moon.

I have ordered a bunk bed and various flat pack ikea items. The bed is due to arrive tomorrow. All for project bunk bed summer, there’s no getting out of it now…Soon I will be trying to use a screwdriver, getting red and sweaty while cursing loudly and comprehensively. Until then we’re happily daubing.

 BT’s today include, picking mint from the garden to add to the steamed new potatoes for lunch, a new tube of red paint, Ida feeding the cat titbits from her chicken sandwich, said cat racing back into the house away from the seagull lurching around at the end of the garden, Ida bringing me the hairbrush and a band and asking, very nicely, for a “tail”

Poppies, petals, pearls and pyjamas

I keep missing the poppies in my garden. There are plenty of fat buds but the emerging petals are whisked away in a moment by the wind and rain. I go out with a cup of tea and there are new buds and silk petals littered on the wet earth.

There are masses of beautiful scarlet poppies in front of Z’s school where the gardening club have scattered wildflower seed. They’ve left a triangle of unmown grass and last week we stood for five minutes watching the five gleaming goldfinches hanging off the thistle heads. So much loveliness for such a little effort. Today, sat on my bindweed adorned bench, I consoled myself with how properly wild the garden is. I’m going to get some photo’s and show you in the next dry moment. The grasses are up to my knee and topped with feathery seedhead plumes and my hollyhocks are gathering their strength for their breathtaking flower spikes.

I’ve finished my first baby hat, it seems veeeeery small and I am doubtful that an august baby will want a knitted hat… I’m trying to knit some boot things to match. It is very hard (for me) I don’t really understand what I’m doing – just struggling to complete each row according to the instructions and hoping the shape will make sense eventually. It’s a fine metaphor for life (but sure it tis no barn english) (this is a Simpsons quote and I am ashamed but Steve says it so often that, for me, it is a Steve quote.)

All my big hope projects lie pretty much where I left them when I last described them. They’ve been slightly abandoned as I slog through a grey period but I can feel a lifting in spirits and the feeling I could, maybe, accomplish something tingles in my fingers. I must fit more in this up period – a bit of DIY crowbar – ing could be good for the soul. Mum and Dad are coming on Wednesday for our postponed mussels and sardines feast. I need to pay more attention to the sweetness as life rolls on.

Today my heart caught at how big my girl seems. She has suddenly done one of those development jumps. In Asda last week she really wanted some new pyjamas but they didn’t have her size. Crouched down beside her defiant toddler self clutching the next size up to her chest I point out the trousers will be too long for her legs. “my legs get bigger mummy – they get longer in one week, two week.” It feels such a sophisticated new grasp of time passing, legs growing and long string of words threaded together and presented to me like glittering diamonds and lustrous pearls. She is her own person with busy secret thoughts behind her eyes. People ask if she looks like me or Steve but she is her own distinct shape.

In PJ’s that are much too big for her.

Making a mini-pond

I would like to present, da-da da-da Daaaaa!, The Pond Project

(or, indeed as Zeph would like to point out, the watery habitat spot..it is just a washing up bowl so we’re not sure it can qualify as a pond.)

The small people consult the plans…

A certain amount of scavenging and a rain drenched trip to a garden centre today have furnished us with most of the necessary stuff;

Four bricks and some moss-covered, three-year old playsand…

Some donated logs from mum’s extensive pile. A couple of thyme plants, an oregano, a salvia. In the white bag is water mint, a very small bit of yellow flag, a bunch of pondweed, and a small oxygenating grassy plant. (Yes, yes – I have lost the tags. They’re all native – that much I remember from the exhausting 40 minutes poring over them.) Oh and a purple light saber. Vital.

Position your old washing up bowl on top of the bricks. There is talk here of getting one short side of the bowl facing south and the other north (obviously) but since we’re limited in space this just went where I put it.

There was quite a lot of discussion from the supervisor about this and some heated consulting of the plans.

 It was resolved with a “because I said so..”

Right, then we packed sand between the bricks for the bowl to sit on. We used the spirit level to try to keep it as straight as possible. Maybe we should have employed it more than once during the process as it did come out a little crooked. Fits in with everything else though.

You need to bank up a mix of sand and soil at the south end and pile logs with a bit of soil at the other. You need more soil than you might think. There are now a few craters around the rest of the garden. We used some of our bit-ier compost at the logpile end. We also kept back a promising branch to put into the bowl as a dragonfly (ha!) perch.

Then you plant some low aromatic bee friendly  plants on the sandy bank and intersperse them with flat stones for basking flies and bees. We used a golden and a common thyme and the oregano. In the soil at the foot of bank I planted the salvia and I plan to put some more nectar rich stuff in here. 

We scattered a mixed seed packet of butterfly friendly annuals as well.

Now we’re getting to the good bit : cover the bottom of the bowl with a generous layer of pond gravel. Leave some for the top of the pots.

Arrange your plants as you will. They should be at the sunny bank end to leave the logpile end free for all the hedgehogs etc that will be falling over themselves to drink at the pool of loveliness. You should also pile up some cobbles in the corner there for wildlife to get in and out. We don’t have any yet and I’ve reassured everyone that they will be able to scramble out via the basking stick and pot plants in the interim. (Wotan help me if they don’t.)

Ah, the VERY best bit, filling it up. I’ve let this can of water stand for a couple of days. The water should clear and settle over the next couple of days.

I think when it rains it’ll overflow which will make the log side nice and damp for toads etc and should just drain away through the sandy bank. We’ll see since it’s raining pretty heavily right now.

The result;

wetland wildlife habitat, and….

happy Zeph. Phew.

Actually this was a lot of fun and not much financial outlay. I think it looks great and I’m feel pretty confident it’s safe for Ida as well. They were both massively  engaged and involved and Zeph just spent an hour with Steve tonight looking up the kind of flies, bugs and beetles it might attract. I’d heartily  recommend it as a family project.

Zeph found it in his Bird life magazine that he gets as part of a young RSPB membership that was a very welcome birthday present from my Aunt. So all round, a brilliant day – I’d like to end it with a photo of the snail Ida found on the bag of sand;

We caught her later putting him into her dolls house. It took a lot of persuading to convince her he’d be happier in the garden. I love all my BT’s.

A smashing time was had.

It looks as though the teasel is dressed up for best. Zeph’s sharp eyes spotted this on the way to Homebase. We went for some tiles that I have attempted to mortar to the top of my breezeblock wall that runs down the left hand side of my garden. It’s the right height for sitting but not the right width. I though I might try sticking on some slightly wider cheap floor tiles. We found a suitable box on the clearance shelf. I’m not really sure if it’s worked… I’m leaving the mortar as long as possible to go off.

We walked to the store along the wildlife rich footpath again. See, here it looks like a country lane;

but really this is what’s rushing by on the left;

Zeph is about to sneeze here, not overcome with horror...

We saw lots of squirrels, a couple of rabbits, a rat, loads of fluttery butterflies, ladybirds and hoverflies. Zeph and I laugh about how pugnacious the hoverflies are. They hum menacingly right in front of your nose, we like to stop still and “helloooooo” at them in silly voices. They dart away so fast that you don’t see it. First they’re there and then they’re gone.

I tell a friend about the wildlife and she urghs at the rat. Seems so unfair as she ahhed at the squirrels. These are urban, scraggy, wet flattened fur, heroin chic squirrels as well. The rat looked glossy and well-groomed in comparison.

While we were there I acquired a pot of wall flowers from the £1, half dead trolley. We also found some glazed ceramic tiles on the clearance shelf and I splashed out on some shears. Value ones but still about a million times better than my wonky ten-year old car boot finds. We push the heavy pushchair up and down the hills home pleased with ourselves.

The kids spend the afternoon bouncing, swinging and digging a big hole at the end of the garden. I carried out my mortar experiment and then have a happy and productive time smashing all the saved broken china into mosaic bits and sorting by colour into old biscuit tins and margarine tubs. Once again I’m amazed at how many plates don’t really go that far. We have a lot of blue, green and cream and not much in the way of hot colours. I resolve to check out some charity shops.

It’s Spaghetti Bolognese for tea. What with the digging and the slurping the kids really needed their bedtime baths. Cheer abounds among the bubbles. I make DIY plans for tomorrow. Zeph wants to paint eggs for the tree. It all seems look forward toable.

Crackers schmackers

They’re done, they’re done! All packed up in a shoebox and whisked out of the house so I NEVER have to look at them again. I carefully crept past Monica’s lair and left them at the office for her because I really don’t want to assemble them and I am totally rubbish at saying no.

Besides I’ve got glass jars to paint for tealights….

Here they lurk;

Looks like hardly any eh? Loki damn it.

I also nearly forgot another cake sale. Zeph suggests I should work at being more organised. I glare over the bowl of chocolate orange icing. Smirking he lays the table. To celebrate the sun shining it’s salad for tea. There are doleful faces all round the table, I redeem myself by producing a piece of cake for pudding. I berate my inner jewish mother for using food as a reward. Ho hum.

All my seeds are up, except the  beans which were quite old. Even the peas planted in pots outside are making a good showing. The potatoes are chitting beautifully and things are springing up in the garden. The delicate montana clematis I planted under the eucalyptus last year is smothered in buds. Squinting I can see it’s twined its way halfway up the tree. The peony is laden down with fat buds and there are forget-me-nots everywhere. I’m very envious of my neighbours camellias. I’m definitely going to try one in a pot for next year.

All the slabs are down on their thick bed of sharp sand. I need to water down the sand then fill the gaps with half sand, half earth with a generous helping of various seeds. I’ve got some small plants, creeping thyme and violas, to put in as clumps as well. I can’t wait for it to settle and moss up.

My Dad is coming on Saturday and I brace myself for his shuddering. I do know how to lay slabs correctly, with hardcore, levels and mortar. It’s just not what I wanted here…  

The next garden job is building my raised bed at the front with my gifted bricks. I have a bag of ready to mix mortar but think it’ll probably only do one layer. I’m also not sure if I need to try to drill holes in the concrete base. It’s pretty cracked already but still… need to do some googling I think. Walking around this spring nosing in other people’s front gardens I yearn for a magnolia. I wonder if a little one could survive in a shallow raised bed.  We’ll see. Steve says I need to curb my tree yearnings or we’re going to end up living in a Grimm’s Fairytale. “End up?” I say.

Death queries today; two. Hmmm. Spring has laid a beautiful thing before every step today. I appreciate it very much Lady.

seeing stars again, not cut from gold paper this time

I post the reply to the wedding invitation. We’re definitely not going – It’s for Steve’s nephews second wedding and is tooth grindingly formal. Now each to their own and all that but I fail to understand the “etiquette” of expensive wedding. The woman he’s marrying is the daughter of a lord and a deb. She’s also been married before, is over thirty and, as far as I can see, independent. So why are the wedding invitations couched in the language of chattels and dowries? More pertinently , why does she allow this? It’s all embossed, silver gilded, high cartridge pomposity. It’s also morning suits and no children and “carriages at midnight.”

I’m slightly mystified by the last and Steve and I spend idle moments wondering over it. My friend N solves it at a glance. “it means everyone out at midnight, that’s when it ends.” Later on Steve slyly says she’s blown her working class credentials out of the water. We swop suitable cryptic notes to include on a good old WC wedding – no hits til after pics (no punch ups ’til after the photographs) Hip it, no whippets (put your special brew into a hip flask for the church and no dogs at the reception.)

It’s the last couple of weeks before my birthday and I’m definitely in a grey trough. Unreasonably, I blame the crackers (Baphomet curse them *shakes fist*) but trudge on. I focus on the passing minutes and painstakingly collect beautiful things.

Today N gave me a lift to B&Q for more sand…and a couple of cut price stones….and some mortar. Poor love, Baal bless her and her lovely car. Ida and I poured sand and spread it out and I lugged a few slabs about. It’s coming on, slowly and wonkily – which is just how I like it. There was an incident with Ida, a trowel and my eye. She was trying to lever something up and slipped – you can imagine how sharply the metal trowel jerked into the air and then collided with my eye as I was bending over dropping a slab into place.

There was cursing.

Also a lot of Sow-ee ‘s and kissing better from Ida, mostly on my knees as she hugged them as I reeled around blinking furiously. We went in for a cup of tea after that…

Zeph has gone up a stage in swimming – Huzzah! – he finally managed the 10 metres of butterfly, a feat that had stalled him. Last term his teacher said to me he needed a bit of work on his butterfly stroke. Hmm, yes, I believe that’s why I’m forking out for lessons…because I swim like a decrepit gorilla. I’m really pleased for him, slightly less pleased when I see this stage mysteriously costs more. Bastards.

Steve comes home with a polystyrene tray of Saxifraga’s, “to go between the slabs” I am deeply impressed, he finds it hard to distinguish between pansies and daffodils. I suspect an outside influence but it turns out he read one of my wistful flora lists I leave around the place one the back of envelopes.

Zeph and I are childishly excited about going to the theatre tomorrow night. We’re going to see English Touring Opera’s Fantastic Mr Fox. He asks if there will be singing – “I would hope so…” I’ll let you know.

Marching on

On the third of march 2011 seven women in Abidjan on the Ivory coast were mown down by gunfire.

They were there, protesting peacefully about Laurent Gbagbo who has squatted in presidential power refusing to leave after he was legally voted out. Mothers, daughters and sisters took to the streets to peacefully show their support for the recognised majority holder in that vote; Alassane Outtara.

Seven of them paid with their lives.

We don’t realise how intensely privileged we are to have such an established right to protest. Todays news is regularly filled with people who face so much to stand up and say, “We disagree… we want something else. ” People who understand the risk and brave it.

To the people who feel that the men and women sitting behind a banks counter ready to pay in cheques or help you with withdrawals are in fact the fat cats who hedgefunded us into financial failure and therefore deserve to be stormed, terrified and to have bricks thrown at them, the people who possibly have confused the teenage fashion fan on a minimum wage working in Topshop for a tax exile, I say to you, frankly – you cunts.

Sorry to anyone offended by such frank cussing but to be honest those pathetic, adrenalin fueled, short-sighted, self righteous arseholes – have to me – just pissed all over those women’s corpses. Frankly if I could get my hands on them I’d be trying out a few of my previous thoughts about physically violent women. At the very least they’d be on my time-out step having a good think about their actions.

Zeph, Ida and I had a fantastic march. We were surrounded by a massive range of people – all passionate about showing their opposition to these cuts to vital services and heard many options and possibilities for  genuine alternatives.

I came away tired, happy and optimistic. I still retain that feeling although I am dismayed about the huge media coverage of a minority. I hope their actions have not totally overshadowed the rest of us who came and stood shoulder to shoulder, (watch it – I feel a Comrade rising to my lips..)

Zeph was amazing, really engaged in why we were there and helpful. Ida would have liked a banner to wave. I saw her drinking in the atmosphere and the people around us were charmed by her regal waving to the applauding people on the pavements. I’m pretty sure she thought they were there for her.

The food bribery held out until the journey home and thankfully both kids fell asleep on the coach back. Possibly the most hair-raising aspect of the day was hearing Reg, sharing the seat in front with Zeph, sharing some of his huge store of filthy stories and jokes. I had a brief chat with Zeph about context. He lets me know he knows what context is and do I? Since I’m the one who used the C word at sports day. I subside.

Today has been full of small important pleasures. We mooched around the garden.

 I’ve used up all the sand laying a couple of slabs. Going to have to beg another lift…

We planted seeds. Courgettes, peas, borlotti beans, snapdragons, lupins, sweetpeas, teasels, cress and a mysterious packet in Italian that I have assumed is mixed salad leaves.

We look at all the different daffodils, Ida shows me her favourite;

I appreciate it all very much. I make breadrolls and soup for tea. We all get muddy. Zeph counts the chits on our five charlotte potatoes. It’s a fantastic day.