The trials and tribulations of a life of leisure...


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Jim Clark Rally 2007

It was the Jim Clark Rally over the weekend.

Paul's parents arrived on Friday afternoon, shortly followed by Colin and Maureen. We had arranged to eat out at The Wheatsheaf in Swinton in the evening, as it was the latter two's wedding anniversary.

The rally was due to go past our house twice on Saturday, in the late morning and then again in the late afternoon. I had been watching the weather forecast as it had been raining all week leading up to it, but the BBC had been forecasting sun. Come the day it had switched to showers...

Luckily it was dry albeit cold in the morning. We moved the benches to the front of the lawn to get a grandstand seat. There was a small film crew on the other side of the road from us - apparently we were exactly the midpoint of the stage.

The rally got underway on time, but there was a large gap after the first few cars had gone past. We later heard that one car had failed to take the right-hand turn at the end of the Billiemains road and ploughed straight into the ditch at the other side of the road. James, one of our neighbours, had been spectating at that location, and described it as 'awesome'...

I took the opportunity to take the dogs out and wandered around the corner to Margaret's. She had erected a small marquee and had quite a few guests there too. Paul had walked down to the end of the bridge to try to find out whether the stage had been cancelled, but could not find anyone who knew. There were a couple of young 'safety' marshals there, who were kicking stones onto the road just to make it interesting.

After about half an hour the rally got going again.

Luckily the rain was still holding off so our planned barbecue went ahead. We were just finishing when the first of the showers started so we packed up and headed back indoors. There were still a couple of hours until the second stage past us was scheduled.

The rain had stopped by then and we headed back out wrapped in jumpers and jackets. The road was now quite wet...

Surprisingly the dogs are not too concerned about the noise, and on the whole were happier to be outside with us than left on their own indoors. There was only one occasion when a particularly loud series of bangs from one of the cars misfiring sent Jen heading purposefully back towards the house. Poncho had no worries whatsoever.

We spotted Anne, Neil and Jenny on the other side of the river, and then shortly afterwards on the verge on the corner - they had waded across. I nipped down the side of our cowshed and across the road to say hello. The rain started up again, so I decided to head back home for the shelter of an umbrella.

It then started bucketing it down, and we all, except Colin and Paul, decided to go back indoors until it eased. Paul invited Anne, Neil and Jenny over to get out of the rain. However, they were happy standing in our garden under umbrellas still watching the rally.

It eased off again so we ventured back out for the last few cars and land rovers.

On Sunday we all walked the dogs to Edrom. About half-way there, just around a right-hand bend, a large section of hedge has been taken out on the left and a little further on an abandoned wheel arch and bumper are propped up against the fence on the right.

Paul has just spotted that the rally is going to be shown on Sky Sport 3 at 3 p.m. today and again later on Sky Sport extra... I will be looking out for my garden :)

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 12

After wanting rain we got it, and kept on getting it for more than a week. When it eventually stopped we had strong winds which have dried it all out again. A few branches and stems have been snapped, including some of the gooseberry bushes which has highlighted that a couple of them appear to have some sort of fungal problem that needs sorting...

Yesterday was the first day I have managed to get out into the garden since my last report. I weeded the rockery and then planted up the phlox and viola from Jean, one of the dwarf rhododendrons and the two jasiones that came with the perennial collections. I also found a home for one of the aquilegia 'Black Barlow'. I potted up a few of the small self-seeded lupins and one of the Labrador violets, which Jean had expressed an interest in.

In the late afternoon I went back out and started weeding the high bank again - sticky willy and nettles had thrived. It is getting quite difficult now as the footholds are disappearing under the plants, but I have managed to do most of it now - just the area around the pampas grass to finish off...


Most of the spring bulbs have finished flowering now. Only the late daffodils are still looking good. However, the summer-flowering bulbs are now taking over.

I planted alliums in the high bank and in a couple of places in the long bank, and these are now opening.

The ranunculus bulbs Lillian bought me soon after we moved up here have survived into their second season, despite them coming into growth over the winter and are now putting on a good display.

The sparaxis are giving a good splash of colour at the far end of the lawn.


A pale pink and a mauve rhododendron at the top of the high bank are in flower. In the long bank three of the dwarf rhododendrons/azaleas are now flowering.

I inherited this red one, but do not think it flowered last year. I have made an effort this year to keep it clear of weeds and self-seeded aquilegias, and that seems to have done the trick.

I bought these other two last year, but can't remember if they were from Edrom nursery or Lamberton nursery...

There are two lilacs flowering at the bottom of the drive - one mauve and one white. There is a third one there but it is not earning its keep.

The long bank is now looking very colourful.

The orange potentillas are starting to flower, but the lemon coloured ones are well covered now.

I have four large brooms in varying stages of flower at intervals along the bank. I also have noticed a new bird nest in the one in near the rose bed.

The peonies were looking a bit battered after the strong winds, but it does not appear to have damaged the buds. In the last couple of days the first flowers have now opened.

I know that I posted a photo of the clematis montana in the last report, but it is now so covered in flowers I thought it was deserving of another mention.


Similarly the osteospermums are also looking even better now...

As can be seen in a lot of the other photos the dark blue aquilegias are now flowering all over the long bank.

However, I spotted this double one at the top of LB2. It also looks as if I may have a few mauve/purple hybrids, although I won't be sure until they open.

All four of the geraniums that I divided from the plant I brought up from Sandhurst have survived their ordeal and are now in flower. In fact they are doing so well that I will probably be able to split them again next year to give some away.

I have several different heucheras in the garden. I brought two brown-leafed varieties and a yellow-flowered green-leafed one, which I split into half a dozen plants, up with me. I also had one in my perennial collection. This red-flowered one was given to me by Janet, and is the first in flower. The yellow ones have thrown up 3-foot high flower stems, but are still to open.

The red-hot pokers at the end of the long bank have obviously enjoyed the rain and the sunshine of the last couple of days. The flower spikes have leapt up almost overnight.

I love poppies, and as well as the self-seeded field poppies and opium poppies I have sown Californian and Shirley poppies. These, which I think are Icelandic poppies, were already in the garden. They are hidden half-way down LB4 and can only be seen from the top looking down.

One of the lupin seedlings that I transplanted last year is now in flower. I can see flowers forming on a couple of the others.

The lithospermum has been in flower now for several weeks. However, this is the first time I have managed to take a half-decent photo of it.

Without a doubt, despite so much being in flower, the highlight of the garden at the moment are the saxifrages. They have taken over from the aubretias as providing the wow-factor, and they need to be seen in context to fully appreciate the effect they have in the long bank as a whole.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Goodbye to SOWPODS

When I got home on Sunday night one of the first things I did was ceremoniously drop my much loved and used Redwood into the bin. It had seen better days. I had bought it at the 1999 WSC from a 'little old lady' under a table - it was a banned book. Since then I had manually updated it when the new OSWI had come out. I liked it because it marked the words with £ for British only and $ for U.S. only. Poncho obviously liked it too as he had chewed the cover so the corner is now missing, and the spine was long gone.

I have just managed to track down my OSWI and it has now suffered the same fate.

I can now concentrate fully on my studying without having to quickly check when a word comes up that I do not know whether it is a 'new' word or just one I didn't know. It is quite scary how many 'old' fives I didn't know - it is obviously far too long since I went through them.

Zyzzyva is proving to be a very useful study program. I am using it at the moment solely in cardbox quiz mode. The only problem with it is that if you miss a couple of days, as I did this weekend, the volume of questions waiting for you becomes overwhelming. Yesterday morning I had 2500 when I first went in and it must have added another 300 or so during the day. I got it down to around 1850 when I went in this morning but it is going to take most of the week to get it back to manageable. Paul is asking who is in control - me or it...

Monday, May 14, 2007

Scottish Open 2007

I set off for Perth at 8.15 on Saturday morning, blissfully unaware of the roadworks on the Forth Road bridge. Luckily for me there was virtually no delay going north and I arrived at the venue at around 10.00 giving me enough time to have a cup of coffee, ciggy and prepare for the defence of my title.

Game 1 Tom Wilson W +208
Started slowly with me changing six tiles on move 3. A couple of twenty+ scores on the next two moves and my rack improved with sAURIES to take a good lead, picking CORNAGE out the bag. A series of good scores (58,30,42,45) saw me take a stranglehold on the game. Tom bonused taking the last seven tiles from the bag and I played out with BAPTISE to seal a good spread.

Game 2 Neil Scott L -120
We both changed on our first move, and my rack matured to SERIALS. It was all downhill from there with Neil bonusing on moves 4 and 5 and then scoring heavily with the high-pointers. I suppose if there was to be a game where the tiles were against me it was probably good that it was against one of my main rivals...

Game 3 Helen Polhill W +154
Helen started well but I overhauled her with TENNERs on move 4. KATA/AEROSOL on move 7 gave me a 100+ lead. I then went through almost the rest of the game with the second blank and no vowels, whilst Helen obviously had vowel-heavy racks. The board was getting fairly blocked for dumping tiles. We both changed and I still picked out consonants. Eventually I got a couple of vowels and could play RELINeS to increase the spread.

Game 4 Alec Robertson W +243
Again I started slowly and Alec bonused on move 4 to take a good lead. I bonused back on move 6 with LEANERS and picked both blanks and an S from the bag. I spent some time trying to find the optimum move, and eventually found rOdSMAN for 91. I continued scoring well, and (S)ECRETIN near the end guaranteed another large win.

Game 5 Mary Jones L -13
Mary started with UNFIXEd for 98 and I was struggling with unbalanced racks. I eventually bonused on move 6 with GROSSEd but was still 20 behind. Mary was still scoring well and blocking at the same time, but somewhere from the back of my mind I dragged up TIPCATS to take a small lead. Unfortunately I ran out of vowels and Mary could score enough in the end game to inflict my second defeat.

Game 6 Allan Simmons W +16
Allan was my other major rival and was a win ahead of me. I really needed to win this game. My first rack was EINRSUV - one of those racks when you really want to be replying. Unfortunately I was not, so changed UV. An easy bonus of SHRINED on move 2 but setting up FEHM as a 60 point reply and I was still behind. I had, however, picked LAITIEs from the bag - was not sure of (M)ILITATE. Allan caught me back up by move 6 with RATTLES - he missed (M)ARTLETS. A change from me resulted in another bonus of (M)ENACERs and a lead I could defend to hang on for the line.

So, end of day 1 with 4-2 and a good spread to be in second place. Martin Harrison was in the lead, still unbeaten but having avoided playing myself, Allan and Neil. I stayed overnight in a B&B, having decided it was a little too far to commute. I visited my cousin Iain and his wife Nicola for a couple of hours in the evening and then got an early night. A cooked breakfast in the morning set me up for the day to come.

Game 7 Martin Harrison W +68
I had played Martin twice before and lost both games. I could not afford to let this pattern continue. When Martin bonused on move 3 I thought 'here we go again', but holding EINPRUV I noticed that Martin's earlier play of BONK had not blocked a G and made the decision to go for PREVUIN(G)/BI/IN but was not certain of it. It came back with a tick and 110 points put me in the lead. I bet he wished he had played KNOB instead. I then picked CAUTERS from the bag to apply some pressure. Three moves later and CONTRaS put me well over 100 ahead. With six left in the bag I played off PELLE(T) to leave one. I could see the possibility of POLONIES from Martin, but if he didn't have it there was a good chance he would leave the P for my (P)ArOEMIA for another big win. Unfortunately down went POLONIES...

Game 8 Simon Gillam W +288
Simon is an out and out blocker. Luckily I was starting, and CRaGGED was a good a start for me as any. Simon bonused on move 2 but the top of the board was beautifully open now. I concentrated on trying to keep it that way. FORKED for 42 opened the bottom of the board. I had great tiles in this game, and plays of ANEU(R)INS for 66 (was unsure of UNSAINE(D)), QAIDS for 83, TOXINES for 101 and LEZES for 58 gave me my highest game score of the tourney of 621.

I was now at the top of the table...

Game 9 Amy Byrne W +125
The game was a lot closer than the score implies. Amy bonused first but I immediately replied with AEROBUs. We were pretty neck and neck until Amy made an opening and I capitalised with TODDLES. Going into the end game I had a bonus sized lead, but Amy obviously had the last S. With 3 left in the bag after Amy had played ISM my rack was heavy consonant laden, and the Q was still unseen. It was 50/50 whether Amy had picked it - she would have played QIS if she had previously had it on her rack. I worked through the worst case scenario for if I emptied the bag. If I picked the Q and Amy bonused out I would still win by 10. I played ZAP and did not get the Q...

Game 10 Anne Ramsay W +30
The first few moves saw us neck-and-neck, then Anne bonused on move 4. I balanced with (K)URU but was not rewarded, and was forced into a change on move 5, keeping ER. I bonused on move 6 with RAISERS to get back to level but Anne responded with TEDiEST. At this point both blanks and three of the Ss had gone, other than the E on my rack there were only two left
and the board was already quite blocked. I decided that I should just optimise my scoring as the chances to play a bonus were virtually nil. I played FETA for 46 and was rewarded with a good pick up for the board. WARY next for 44 and prayed that Anne could not take the triple danger spot. She played elsewhere and ERN for 33 got be back in contention. OP for 31 and I had taken the lead on a terribly blocked board. I had had the Q for a few moves and was praying for an I, and was given one. A couple of minutes passed waiting for Anne to play. Relief as she went elsewhere and I dumped QI for 24. Anne was now also under time pressure, and a change from her meant I could afford a low scoring move of GU(V) to balance and set myself up with the last U and A. There were still clunky consonants unseen (J/C/V/W/B). Anne semi-blocked with TUT/TAHA. We both played a couple of single point moves, jockeying for position. LUV by me for 18 to take a 24 point lead. JO/LO by Anne to take a 3 point lead, but now she was out of vowels and her clock had run over. I played off NAIF for 10, keeping CH. Anne blocked the A and I quickly, but had overlooked the LOCH playout.

Game 11 Ross MacKenzie W +45
Ross, like Martin, had won our last two encounters. I bonused first on move 3 with TOADIED. Ross bonused back on move 4 but I could play QUOP for 37 to maintain a bonus sized lead. Ross looked almost apologetic when he immediately played ANISOLE. I had BEHLOT? but could only see BOTHOLE and BROTHEL, neither of which played. I dumped the H and B for 23, and picked H and E from the bag. Again I could see nothing playable so dumped the HE to make another opening. I bonused the next go with OLEATEs but Ross responded with VERSING to take a 20 point lead which was maintained over the next couple of moves. Ross made an opening, but holding CEKLNRU I was not sure of CRUNKLE and chickened out of it, playing CUR(F) onto the triple instead. Going into the end game I checked the scores and found I had overscored him earlier and he was actually only 2 points ahead. Phew. With one in the bag I dumped L(E)Z for 21 keeping EIKNS, knowing an A would give me a playout of SNAKIE(R). I picked an I, and immediately spotted SINKIER but whilst waiting for Ross to play became less and less sure of it. Ross played off ANOXI(C) leaving AD and I could see that SINKER was enough to win the game so decided on the safe win. Ross then tried AD(VERSING) to snatch victory but off it came.

Allan and I were level on wins and he was catching me up on spread. I had a 42 point advantage going into the deciding game.

Game 11 Iain Harley W +58
Iain started with WHOLE for 30. With an awkward rack the best I could respond with was YEAN for 23. HUM one short of the triple lane for 29 from Iain. There was going to be a race to pick a C. All I could do was balance with FUG for 13, and immediately picked the Q to go with my Z. I dumped ZE to make BONZE to catch him back up on move 3 and then Iain bonused on move 4. This was not going to plan. I played FORT/BONZER for 31 to keep within a bonus. VICE/CHUM from Iain for 38. On move 5 holding AEIQSST I decided to play QIS for 30 rather than QAT for 36, but immediately duplicated the AT on my pickup. Luckily the Q was still available the next go to dump them, stopping one square short of the triple line. At last a good pickup to my rack leave and ASTONED for 90 to see me take a small lead for the first time in the game. A pickup of REPORT? followed by a 40 point play extended the lead to a breathing space. A vowel heavy rack but with the X allowed me to set up an insurance policy for the X. This was needed when Iain bonused with BEA(t) ERS down the side of REPORTs. COX for 53 was enough to seal Iain's fate.

If Allan had won by over 100 the title would be his, but Anne came over to tell me that he had lost to Simon. So 10-2 and +1102 points was enough for me to retain my title. A tourney rating of 193 was not enough to affect my ABSP rating, sitting still at 188.

Many thanks go to Amy et al for another well run tourney.

Monday, May 07, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 11

The weather has been quite variable since my last report - but very little rain, which means that the ground is now getting very hard. It also means that I am having to water the plants that are still waiting to go in. There was a short downpour last night but it is hardly noticeable now as the wind has dried it the ground out again already.

I have had a few sessions out there and achieved some of the tasks I had set myself.

I destoned some more of the seed beds, and have sown cornflowers, godetias and the remaining nigella. I am not sure how the previous seeds will do as Jen and Poncho ran down the bank to say hello to Ann, and have disturbed the end three seed beds :(

I spent a couple of days working on the new bed along the trellis. It has been weeded and dug over again to remove a lot more of the stones. The sacks of muck/soil improver that I dug in in the mud late last autumn have been working miracles - the sticky clay of last year is now a lot better.

The three peonies that I had planted up there are looking quite healthy although it will be another year or two before they reach flowering size I guess. The clematises also appear to have survived as has the jasmine. The solanum does not appear to have been as lucky, but Anne has promised to dig me up some sort of poppy-like plant that will grow to five or six feet tall that will replace it.

I have planted a lot of the perennials from J Parker and from Jean. I was tempted to cram them together as it still looks quite bare, but in the end was more restrained.

The other major task was the pruning-cum-hatchet-job on the buddleia in the long bank. Jean had looked it up in one of her books on pruning, and basically I could hack it to my heart's content. It is now only half the plant it was. Colin may be a lot more impressed with end result now...
I also had another go at the honeysuckle in the high bank as it had grown back down to the ground, hiding my three garden 'gargoyles' peering out from under it.

Another day was spent weeding the top of the long bank, getting it ready for the saxifrage display that is just starting but will look stunning in the next week or two.

I still haven't got up the high bank with the soil from Anne - I would rather wait until we have had some rain to soften the ground a little. However, the longer I leave it the more difficult it will be to get up there. My routes are now disappearing as everything is growing so vigorously.

The alpine strawberries are starting to flower. I have them growing up the bank at the end of the new bed, along the drive edge of the long bank, all along the front of the high bank, up the side of the honeysuckle and some have made it right up to the top.

The gooseberry bushes are looking very lush, and it looks as if I am going to have a good crop this year if the birds don't get them first.

The red and black currants also appear to be doing reasonably well - it would be hard to beat last year's abundance.


The late-flowering narcissi that I planted in the grass are now flowering. One clump is doing much better than the other.

I planted one group of rockery tulips (tulipa batanii) last year that are now looking very pretty...

I have discovered that I have a lot more bluebells than I realised in the high bank - I couldn't see them last year because of all the weeds!

The camassias in LB2 are starting to flower, a couple of weeks earlier than expected - the catalogue said late May. I planted five altogether, two at the top and three at the bottom, and all but one of them have thrown up two flower spikes.


The viburnums are now at their peak - there are five at intervals along the long bank.

The clematis montana is now covered in flowers. Everyone keeps saying that I need to cut it right back, but that is easier said than done. I haven't yet determined where it is actually actually growing from...


I bought two ajugas, this dark leaved one and a variegated pink leaved one, as ground cover in the rockery. They are both flowering at the moment. I prefer the darker blue flowers of this one.

I have two main varieties of aquilegias in the long bank, this dark blue one and 'Nora Barlow', which tends to flower slightly later. I also bought a magenta coloured semi aquilegia last year which has come back through, along with the 'Black Barlow' that are coming on a treat in my mini greenhouse.

The centaurea in the high bank are doing well. I was worried that I had trampled them to death last year when I did the first major surgery on the honeysuckle, but if anything they have spread.

I had been quite worried that the epimedium (youngiaum roseum) I bought from Edrom nursery last spring had not survived the winter - it is so dainty and delicate looking. I noticed a few buds of growth poking through the soil a few weeks ago, and now it is flowering...

The spring gentians I bought from Pearsons last year have been flowering for a little while now - I just love the beautiful blue colour. I will have to make sure that the aubretias do not swamp this one...

This geranium (macrorrhizum 'Ingwersen's Variety' ???) has just started to flower at the top of LB3. The leaves of this one have an unpleasant smell, as does the other similar one in the high bank (macrorrhizum ???). At first I thought a cat had been using the area as a toilet...

The osteospermum grow in my garden as perennials. I have two large clumps. This patch at the top of LB2 that must be nearly a couple of square metres in size now. Last year I had quite a lot of die-back, the leaves having turned very dark green/black, and I was not quite sure what to do with it. I cut it right back to the new growth I could see coming through. This year the winter was so mild that I have not needed to do anything with it.

The other patch is in the bottom right corner of the high bank. It had a little die-back in the middle of it, which I cut out. I had planned to plant an agapanthus to grow through it, but found the first shoots of this Solomon Seal already coming through.

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