Orkney Stories

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This morning I finished reading a book worthy of one of Pauline’s bookmarks. This is George Mackay Brown’s ‘The Golden Bird’. That title is one of two Orkney stories combined in a John Murray publication from 1987.

As beautifully crafted as our NZ friend’s work, these stories tell of his Island home during the last quarter of the 19th century, when he traditions of centuries were beginning to be threatened. The eponymous title tells of the slow decline of the island community and the tensions of isolation within it. The next ‘The Life and Death of John Voe’ takes as its theme the story of a typical Orkneyman who sails the seas and returns to his roots to end his days. A voe, incidentally, is a small bay or creek in the Orkneys and Shetlands.

The writer, who spent all his life in the Orkneys lives, breathes, and conveys the essences of the hardy, taciturn, folk; the savage seas; the rugged landscape; and the essential isolation of the time. With spare, simple, poetic, language, Mackay Brown enthrals and informs the reader. Perhaps the most beautiful passages are left to the final stages of the second story. He is justifiably considered one of the great Scottish poets of the 20th century.

George Mackay Brown

The portrait of the writer inside the dust jacket is by Jessie Ann Matthew.

Somewhat later I toured the garden in order to check on irrigation needs.

Pansies in refreshed urn

I was encouraged by the sight of yesterday’s droopy pansies revived by the water I had given them.

Day lily

A variety of day lilies

Knifophia miniatures

and miniature knifophia thrived in the beds.

Bottle Brush plant red

The red Bottle Brush plants are now blooming.

Rose Super Elfin

The red Super Elfin rose is ascending the Gothic arch,

and most of the plants in the various pots and hanging baskets are still benefiting from the soaking administered by the Head Gardener. It looked as if I was due for an easy time.

Water drops on petunias

In the heat of mid-afternoon I undertook another check. This suggested it would be beneficial to water the patio and its surrounding containers. I therefore did that, mostly with a hose. Eventually I ran out of steam and could do. no more.

Soon afterwards Becky looked further afield and noticed droopiness in a chimney pot. She photographed the ailing plants and administered liquid refreshment.

Later, Elizabeth came for a visit and Becky cooked for the three of us. She produced an excellent meal of Cumberland sausages;  mashed potato; tasty onion, mushroom and red wine gravy; cabbage fried with black pepper and nutmeg; and a tin of sweetcorn because she couldn’t find any carrots to julienne and glaze.

 

Snatching Snoozes

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In ‘The Card Case’, I spoke of the client who had no money to pay my fee, but brought me the occasional small gift, all of which I have treasured for almost 30 years. I am not a science fiction fan, so I have not read many of his paperback books. One of these is Poul Anderson’s ‘The Makeshift Rocket’. I finished this short novel this morning. It was a surprisingly entertaining work. Light-hearted, with a touch of dry humour, once I had ceased trying to decipher the author’s attempts at reproducing Danish and Irish spoken English, I enjoyed the book.

Afterwards I photographed garden views from upstairs windows and from the stable doorway.

Having decided to reduce the codeine element in my pain relief, I struggled a bit today. On the other hand it may have been the amount of walking on uneven terrain I undertook yesterday. Consequently I spent the afternoon alternately dozing over snatches of World Cup football and having brief forays into the garden.

Lily, marigolds etc

A new day lily has forced its way through the soil to join the marigolds beside the greenhouse.

Palm Bed to eucalyptus

Geranium palmatums lead us past more day lilies in the Palm Bed to the eucalyptus and beyond.

Cosmoses, geraniums, violas

Urns, like this stone one Jackie has planted up at the end of the Brick Path,

Garden view from Shady Path to kitchen window

and the pottery one standing on the filled in well, counteract what she call “The June Gap”, when there is not normally much colour around.

The hanging baskets on the kitchen wall and the two clematises in pots on the corner serve the same purpose.

Rose Ballerina dances in the bed beside the entrance to the Rose Garden,

Rosa Gallica and Mama Mia

where such as Rosa Gallica and Mama Mia continue to splash their colour.

Hydrangea

Hydrangea Swinging Sixties is another plant in a pot,

Linaria and valerian

opposite which Linaria and Valerian vie for space in the Oval Bed.

My final trip up the garden was via the Phantom Path to join Jackie taking a break on the decking. There I passed the Cryptomeria Bed with its clematis, geranium palmatums, and hot lips; a penstemon in Margery’s Bed; a planted pot on the corner of the Gazebo Path; and Florence sculpture with her basket of bacopa.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s delicious chicken jalfrezi and splendid special fried rice. She drank Hoegaarden and I didn’t.

 

 

Hot Chocolate And Hot Lips

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It was another mark of progress this morning when I wandered around the overcast garden while Jackie was out shopping. I didn’t imagine I might have to be rescued in some way.

Wedding Day rose has begun to bloom on the Agriframes Arch spanning the Brick Path.

The diagonal view from the Heligan Path towards the greenhouse features Hot Lips and the clematis now blooming over the Phantom Path.

The arch over the Dead End Path, from which can be seen the Rosa Glauca in the patio, supports Compassion rose and scarlet runner beans.

Astilbe and campanula Samantha flourish in the West Bed.

Poppies, heucheras, and clematises vie with roses in the Rose Garden.

Bee flying to yellow bottle brush

Here, a bee sets its sights on one of the yellow Bottle Brush plants’ blooms.

Hostas and erigeron

The sun having put in an appearance this afternoon, and a hosta in the front garden having caught my eye, I ventured out again.

Geraniums

Jackie has replaced the pansies in the stone tubs on the wall with bright geraniums.

Fuschia Delta's Sarah

Fuchsia Delta’s Sarah thrives in the triangular bed beside the wisteria arbour;

Petunias and diascias

almost black petunias are set off nicely by pink diascias in a pot beside the Kitchen Bed;

and these hanging baskets on the kitchen wall contain diascias, lobelia, and bidens.

This evening we dined on our second helpings of yesterday’s Forest Tandoori takeaway meals.

Down The Garden

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Patio

As it began to rain whilst they were finishing the painting yesterday, Clare and Andrew had placed the garden chairs under the wisteria arbour. This morning, Aaron carried them to the patio.

The day was overcast. Jackie and Aaron spent the morning on garden maintenance, now at its most pressing. Aaron also filled his truck with our pruning and clippings. From the patio I continued on a perambulation with the camera.

I took my usual route along the Kitchen Path, passing the rose campion planted in front of the lysimachia firecracker with feverfew to the left.

At the corner by the iron urn, in view of the geraniums and verbena in a planter above the Dragon Bed with its pink snapdragons and prolific marigolds,

I made my way along the Brick Path, past the grass patch with its bed of bright pink begonias,

taking a rest on the Westbrook Arbour bench, and looking down the Phantom Path to sculpture Florence. Penny Lane is making her way up the Gothic Arch, opposite clematis Star of India.

Campanula persiciflora

The campanula Persiciflora stands at the south end of the Brick Path, beneath the dead snake bark maple.

It normally takes me quite a while to make inroads into a new book. “Pilling Always Pays’, by Thomas Armstrong, which I finished today, was no exception. My post-operative lethargy probably contributed to this, but I did also think that the author’s painstakingly thorough method of introducing his cast of characters may have played a part. Nevertheless, I will not hold this against him, for he proceeded to tell a carefully crafted story with numerous apparently disparate strands skilfully knitted together in the final pages. The setting was a provincial town in 1936, with its closely interwoven upwardly mobile community.  In ‘Auntie Ivy And Sir Edmund Hillary’ I featured what I had found inside my copy.

This evening we dined on succulent roast chicken, new potatoes, crunchy carrots and cabbage, and moist ratatouille, with flavoursome gravy.

 

Presentable For The Camera

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This morning I wandered round the garden with camera and crutch, but no perch. I began with the patio, and its hanging baskets and planters. The bed and breakfast sign was a Christmas present from Becky and Ian; the basket at its base, Jacqueline’s birthday present to Jackie.

From there I walked along the Kitchen Path,

 

taking the Brick Path to the far end of the garden,

 

and round to the Rose Garden,

where Jackie, who spent the whole day on general maintenance, including much weeding, sweeping, and raking, went to great pains to make this area, on which she had been working, presentable for the camera.

The football World Cup has nudged Bargain Hunt off the TV schedules. This meant that I could not take my usual fix for a post-prandial snooze. So I opted for the match between Egypt and Uruguay. This fitted the bill perfectly.

This evening we dined on succulent pork chops, tasty gravy, new potatoes, runner beans, and crunchy carrots.

Great Nephews

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Many of the blooms on the still quite small pink rhododendron, seen in this sculpture’s eye view from Five Ways, are now fully open.

Others recently flourishing include the yellow tree peony, various geraniums, and elegant libertias.

The flamboyant red and yellow tulips are changing their hues with age, while the euphorbias have reached full sculptural maturity.

A clematis Montana festoons the mauve lilac tree.

Orange poppies lead the eye to the marigolds alongside the greenhouse. Similarly the heuchera alongside the Dead End Path echos the recently flourishing copper beach leaves.

This latter path is visible from the patio where we sat with Helen, Shelly, Billy and Max who visited us this morning.

Although his usual cheerful self, poor little Max has chicken pox, so he was a bit thirsty and drowsy. Helen administered the bottle.

Billy was as active as ever, manoeuvring his vehicles, wandering about the garden, and munching chocolate bars. The two boys are Helen’s grandsons and Shelly, Jackie, and my great nephews.

This evening we dined on prawn toasts and Jackie’s superb egg fried rice with a rack of pork ribs in barbecue sauce followed by Easter bread and butter pudding. Should anyone wonder what this is, I would ask what else would you do with weird hot cross buns purchased in error, not having realised that the currants were in fact chocolate chips, other than put them in the freezer in case they might come in useful. Jackie drank sparkling water and I drank Tesco’s finest Médoc 2016

 

 

No-one Will Buy Any Ice Cream Today

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Today the Met Office threatened us with continuous steady rain. It didn’t come. We were also promised a stiff breeze. We received that. It was to be cold. It was. 6 degrees centigrade to be precise.

Mrs Knight drove us to Ferndene Farm Shop. While I loaded the Modus with three bags of compost she entered the hut to pay for them and emerged with a tray of geraniums. And I had thought we were only going for compost.

There was much on display in the outside garden centre. Rows and rows of plants like pansies, pierises; heucheras, hottuynias, heathers; and cellophane swathed bouquets.

Numbers of people who had time in the day to shop wandered around making plant selections.

Jackie was one. She sought and found a suitable climbing rose.

Dead-heading Marguerites

The young woman from the sales department, who had been in shorts a couple of weeks ago, offered me the opinion that it was too cold for sandals (sans socks, you understand), upon which I stabbed the air with my right index finger and exclaimed vociferously “I always go into sandals at the first sign of summer and I am not going back to more suitable shoes just because we’re having a little blip. Brrr”. She suggested that the blog-bound photograph I would publish of her tidying up marguerites would make her famous.

New Forest Ice Cream sign

As it was a bit nippy I nipped back into the car while Jackie visited the shop for some carrots. Noticing the advertising sign beside the door I speculated internally that no-one would be buying ice cream today. As my lady returned to the driving seat she announced “I have bought some New Forest ginger ice cream”.

Just to be perverse, the sun crept out this evening, enough to brighten the garden.

We dined on Jackie’s succulent roast pork with perfect crisp crackling, Yorkshire pudding, mashed potato, ratatouille, runner beans, and carrots bought this morning. The Culinary Queen drank Hoegaarden and I finished the merlot.