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.

 

Father And Daughter Time

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Becky and I are enjoying what is the only extended period of time we have spent alone together in our lives. There is much joint reminiscing and exchange of information, especially concerning my past, that is really quite new.

At one point, I accompanied Scooby, who wandered up the Gazebo Path, into the garden.

Patio planting

Having paid particular attention to hanging baskets and other containers, Jackie had thoroughly watered the garden before leaving yesterday.

In today’s baking heat, some plants, particularly the pansies in the first of these images, displayed considerable signs of thirst, so I managed to distribute the contents of a can or two.

Russell crow was not in evidence today, but Becky did spot a mouse in the compost trug outside the kitchen door. She freed it into the flower bed.

This evening Becky produced a tasty, well-filled, Spanish omelette which we enjoyed on trays in front of the television while we watched the 2nd XI World Cup football match between England and Belgium which was so thrilling that I am typing this when there is still 25 minutes to go. I drank Doom Bar.

A Glimpse Of What’s Been Happening

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A combination of my own slumbering stupor and a hot, humid, largely overcast, day presaging the predicted thunderstorm caused me to doze the day away.

Jackie, however, prepared Mum’s perching stool, and bolstered one of the wooden chairs, so that, first from the perch, and then from the chair, I would have an opportunity of focussing, to some extent, on that little corner.

My choice of the selection of supermarket ready meals Jackie has kept in stock for these crucial days, was tasty cannelloni. This was followed by vanilla ice cream.

Nothing For It

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I spent a considerable number of frustrating hours attempting to secure internet access today. I will not bore anyone with the details. Looking on the bright side, I decided to tackle the paperwork for my annual tax return. This went quite well until I tackled my bank statements, which I receive on a quarterly basis. The most recent batch has not arrived. “No problem.” I thought. “Now I bank on line I can take the necessary details from there”. …………… “Ah……..”.

There was now nothing for it but to wander round the garden with my camera in hand and a mobile phone in my pocket. There are, of course, less pleasant ways of spending my time.

The clematis Montana now drapes the front wall upon which a trough of blue pansies smile; the potentilla now dances with the vinca.

The sweet scent of the wisteria pervades the area beneath its arbour.

Buds of blue irises and red poppies are simply biding their time.

While I wandered and emptied a trug or two into the compost, Jackie continued replenishing soil and planting in beds and containers.

These verbascum look down on similarly hued Erigeron,

Cow parsley in Dragon Bed

just as the cow parsley soars above everything else in the Dragon Bed.

pansies and clematis Marie Boisselot buds

In the Kitchen Bed’s stone urn white pansies bridge the season of faded white daffodils and that of clematis Marie Boisselot, whose buds can be observed in the obelisk behind.

Geranium Palmatum

The first of the geranium Palmatums, which will soon arrive in abundance, has lined up along the Shady Path in line with heucheras,

Shadow on heuchera

on the leaves of which a hebe casts its shadow.

Erigeron, aquilegia, vinca, alliums, silenes

Erigeron, aquilegias, vinca, alliums, and silenes crowd each other in the Weeping Birch Bed,

aubretia and wild strawberries

as do aubretia and wild strawberries in the Oval Bed opposite.

Butterfly Small White, honesty

Small White butterflies flitted about.

Rosariae de L'Hay corner of Rose Garden

Rosariae de L’Hay enlivens its corner of the Rose Garden.

This afternoon, until I was back on line, I continued reading John Le Carr√©’s The Night Manager.

Dinner this evening consisted of Jackie’s excellent pasta arrabbiata with which she drank Hoegaarden and I consumed A Dark Apothic 2015 Californian red.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Behind The Nottingham Castle Bench

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After a day in our mother’s garden, I wandered around ours.

Lamiums

Lamiums rise from the Dragon Bed, where

Rhododendron

the first of our rhododendrons is in full boom.

Margery's Bed grass-side

Another of these rich red shrubs, in Margery’s Bed,

Pieris, rhododendron and view across lawn

can be seen on the grass patch side,

Pieris

beyond the pieris

Pieris and view across grass patch

that stands behind the Nottingham Castle Bench,

Honesty

opposite which one of the ubiquitous honesty plants presages the hebe blooms with which it will soon blend.

Cyclamen

Cyclamens border the Head Gardener’s Walk.

Pansies

These particular pansies smile in the West Bed,

Hellebore, comfrey

where hellebores, like these among the comfrey and the tellimas, are adopting their maturer colouring,

Snakeshead fritillaries

and snakes head fritillaries hang their lanterns.

Japanese maple red and camellias

We thought we had lost the red Japanese maple from which I had removed dead material two years ago. Aaron cut some more away recently and fresh shoots are appearing.

Daffodils

Many later daffodils linger

Tulips

and our surprise collection of tulips has revealed yet another dramatic red striped variety.

Spirea

A white spirea cascades over the Palm Bed,

Prunus Amanogawa

and at the front of the house the prunus Amanogawa is now in full bloom. Should anyone wonder at the proliferation of piping on this side of our building, that is because this, we believe, was originally the back of the house.

This evening we dined on real fusion food – Jackie’s superb savoury egg rice, Mr Chan’s spring rolls and prawn toasts, Lidl’s pork rib rack in barbecue sauce; Belgium’s Hoegaarden beer and Argentina’s Trivento reserve Malbec 2017.

The Lion Is Rampant

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Today was heavily overcast, the sun only making momentary appearances this morning. I wandered around the garden investigating its current condition.

 

Different varieties of daffodil continue to bloom; some Jackie has planted with pansies in the new urn we bought a few days ago. As can be seen in the last of this cluster, flies seem to like yellow flowers.

 

A range of tulips are beginning to burgeon.

West Bed

Plants in the West Bed gain in height daily;

Japanese maple

Japanese maples are coming into leaf.

I don’t think one is expected to doze whilst finishing reading a thriller, especially when enjoying it, but I did this afternoon. Well, it was soporific, and yesterday was a different kind of heavy.

The book was ‘The Lion is Rampant’, the first, written in 1979, by Ross Laidlaw, a Scottish writer of historical, thriller and spy fiction. It is a fast moving dystopian novel set in the Britain of the 1980s. Laidlaw’s story imagines a rebellion over Scottish Independence, a less violent political conflict concerning which continues to this day. Clearly bringing his experience of the Mau-Mau uprising in Kenya to his British fantasy, Laidlaw’s work has an air of credibility. He writes fluently, describing human emotions, the tough Scottish landscape, and harsh weather conditions. He uses dialogue well. The action scenes do have a touch of Daniel Craig’s James Bond about them, but they are none the worse for such exciting derring-do. It is a gripping story with a suitably understated thread of romance. I regretted having taken nearly forty years to read it.

This evening we dined on Jackie’s superb chicken jalfrezi with pilau rice. Mrs Knight drank Hoegaarden and I drank more of the Shiraz.