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


Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Durham Grand 2007 - Day 2

I got as much sleep as I normally do when I am away from home despite staying up late, thanks to my pillow. I felt a little frail...

Wayne has emailed me the details of our game - my bonuses on moves 2 and 3 were sIMILOR (upon checking afterwards that was the one and only word which surprised me) and TOEBIES. Wayne's bonus was KEYN(O)TED which I challenged, but was followed with WUXIA for 75, not a bonus. In a rarity for me I went over on the clock, having spent a long time near the end looking for bonuses and deciding what to dump to make openings.

Game 8: Lewis Mackay
Lewis had been unstoppable on day 1. I started and Lewis changed 5, bonusing on move 2 with EXPERTs whereas all I could do was L(E)VO to balance. My bonus on move 4 of ENAMIN(e)S meant I was still a couple of points behind. CUFF from Lewis let me clear a consonant heavy rack with WHOM to take the lead, but Lewis hit straight back with ASTILBE. I then rallied with consecutive plays of QAID (35), JA (36), TWANGED (84) and D(U)RGIEST (88) to take a commanding lead. (F)OODIE for 30 cleared a bad rack and the turnover made it unlikely that Lewis would get the two bonuses he needed. A late NUTRIAS from Lewis reduced the spread.
W: 475-430

Game 9: Phil Robertshaw
I started with FADED and had BELNOTU. Phil's bonus reply of HOV(E)RERS blocked both the Ds. I spent a long time on this rack - it looked so hopeful but eventually gave up and played the 4-x BUTANOL. I had not missed anything. Phil bonused again with (S)CABbIER. Trading insults, I played WA(R)TY. Phil moved further ahead with XENIA, and my rack had developedvowelitis. AUA for 16 followed by (C)IAO for 18 and I was slipping further behind. fRUITI(O)N from Phil on move 7 essentially meant that the game was his as I continued to struggle with unbalanced racks. He tried to be greedy at the end, playing out with SO(NO)R(E)S, which meant I kept the spread to 2 figures.
L: 315-409

Game 10: Stewart Holden
I started, and with 7 consonants changed 5, and Stewart opened with JAPAN. I hate to admit that I pondered for a long time before playing UNBE(A)RED. (J)UDAS response from Stewart, and DIXI from me. Stewart then bonused with a very well spotted (DE)MAgOGIC to take a small lead. I had six consonants, and opted K(A)V(A). I still had six consonants... MULCH over MUCH. Stewart spent a long time, obviously looking for a 9-x, before PARIT(I)Es hit the deck. I was hanging in, and having a U-less Q went for score with ROWED. This was hit with FEZ, but it could have been worse as I had blocked a potential ZA disaster. I had picked the last U and dumped QU(OD). Stewart took off the triple, and I scored with HIN. I had been steadily getting back in touch when I was hit with SEA(s)ONER and found myself a hundred behind again and tiles running out, and staring at an uninspiring rack of EEGOOYY. No miracle came...
L: 457-417

Game 11: Mikki Nicholson
This was a dream game...for Mikki.
Mikki's opening play of OF allowed me to score well with WHY and balance. He bonused with CANINES. My rack of BEMNORU looked hopeful, and I spent an age before playing NUB - it actually is a NUMBER 0 rack. Mikki then cleared his absolutely rubbish rack with BRATTL(IN)G. I could at least respond in kind this time with EM(B)ROILS. Mikki completed his hattrick with HEINIES. I won't bother you with the rest of my feeble moves in this game, other than INEP(T) which is how I felt. Mikki, however, was on for a mega score with consecutive plays of QUA (68), JOLE (75), XI (52), (C)OZED (34) before he changed 6, balanced, and then (R)ESOuRCE. I hate to say this, but he admitted it himself - greed overcame him at the end going for a 600+ score. WA(HI)TI was a move too far...
L: 402-565

Game 12: Janet Phillips
Janet opened with HOKI, and I replied with HEXED. Janet capitalised on it with FATE, and I balanced with POON holding an S. Janet took the hook off with JIBS, and I was forced into the lower scoring place for MESONIC. It was all looking good when I immediately followed this up with LA(N)OLINE, but Janet bonused straight back with (C)OMEDIaN. I had a consonant heavy rack including the Q, but scored well with HID. Janet scored more with FLAG. I picked another I, and dumped QI to retake the lead. We were nip and tuck for the next few moves. When Janet bonused with (T)ITTEREd I still had hope with one in the bag - AEORSTVV. My rack was AELNOSU. I spent a long time going through the possibilities, and eventually dumped the U hoping for an R or T. As it was I got a V which was no great surprise, but Janet missed her bonus outplay.
L: 396-464

Game 13: Russell Smith
I started with what is frequently the kiss of death move, QI. Fortunately Russell did not play the dreaded IF underneath. Russell bonused on move 3 with InFO(R)CES Here we go again I thought. I took the triple with (I)NDOW to regain a small lead. We both appeared to be struggling - well, I know I was - with unbalanced racks. Russell played a phony (G)LOaMERS. I blocked the spot with GOX. Russell made an opening with OM, with I blocked with UPGO, and now I had a cushion. When he eventually bonused with SISTERs I was still 30+ up. I just had to be careful in the end game to play out in two, as his rack of EPIZOAS* held some good scoring options.
W: 353-280

Well, day 2 had not gone to plan. I was actually quite pleased to not have a blank in the last game - it was the story of my day. I can't complain about day 1 though - I had at least seven - don't know what the distribution was against Steve.

Many congratulations to Lewis, who proceeded to win all the rest of his games.
Thanks as always go to the organizer, TD and computer operator - namely Laura, Amy and Ross.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Durham Grand 2007 - Day 1

I decided to drive to Durham as it is straight down the A1, and I could take my pillow with me in the car. I arrived in plenty of time, with only a short hold up around Newcastle.

Game 1: Jackie McCleod
I started with VEG and Jackie changed 1 tile. I was pleased to spot BE(E)TrOOT but knew Jackie was very likely to strike straight back, which she did with CANDIeS. I had picked a vowel heavy rack, but was able to score well with OHIA. More vowels, and RAIA the next go, followed by MAE then YEA. Jackie bonused with STERNUM to take the lead. I balanced again, taking the triple with FOIST which Jackie immediately extended with ING. However, I now had ADEEGLT and opted for DEL(E)GATE to retake the lead. And then it all went horribly wrong. FOX fron Jackie, and I balanced another vowel heavy rack with (R)UE. CUP from Jackie blocked my bonus so I dumped DI for score and to keep a bonus friendly leave. ZOS, WYND and LAIRISE from Jackie while I was forced into low scoring plays to make/keep an opening for a bonus that never came. At least I was able to block both the Is at the end to stick Jackie with the unplayable Q.
L: 378-474

Game 2: Anne Hidden
I had never played Anne before - she had opted to play in the open division rather in the ratings banded round-robin division. She started like a rocket with (C)ARABINE on move 2. My rack was not nice, and I chickened out of YAW(E)Y and opted for the safer WA(N)TY. ABA from Anne, and I cleared the second Y with FEY for 29 but Anne capitalised on it with WAT(T) for 38. By the time I got THEROID down I was still behind after Anne's previous play of LEZ. And then I took off - DETOX (55), PEANUTS (92), JOG (57). Anne blocked my bonus on the next move with FLU but with a blank and three Ss unseen I played fICKLE(53). Anne made an opening with RIS(K) and with AEIRROS the odds on me picking a bonus the next go looked good when I just dumped the O. Anne bonused with DIViNES emptying the bag and I played out with TARRIES.
W: 553-397

Game 3: Rahn McKeown
Rahn was over from the States, and hed been dubious about playing in the open division of a SOWPODS tourney. He needn't have worried...
I was replying and had TeNANCY, but Rahn's opening play of BEDIrTY meant I was stuffed. Rahn's second move of GRAPHI(T)E rubbed salt into the wound. BIZ for 34 followed by mOTIONE(D) for 77, but I was still 50 adrift. Rahn bonused again on move 6 with (E)ROTISES and I was forced into a change. Rahn semi-blocked with LOB and I made an opening with VAL(I), which I then had to block with a clunky consonant pickup. I got back to within a bonus behind with SNIFTED, but Rahn then killed the top of the board with CR(O)W.
L: 405-471

Game 4: Chris Harrison
I had never played Chris before.
I started with XU, keeping back the blank and had choices on move 2, opting for ONWARdS and picked HOSTIES from the bag. My next rack of AAANNS? actually yields an amazing number of bonus choices and I chose lAN(T)ANAS. Chris bonused back with DWE(l)LING, but it set up the triple for me and I was on 305 after 5 moves. The rest of the game was more mundane.
W: 516-296

Game 5: Robert Richland
I opened with SWELTER, balanced with MEOU on move 2 and then bonused again with CAREXES on move 3. I was able to clear my bad racks with WU(X)IA, IONI(C) and IVIES to still score well. Despite Robert's back-to-back bonuses of FIREPAN and (S)OLIDARE I was never in trouble, and H(A)NDOVEr at the end put icing on the cake.
W: 505-342

Game 6: Wayne Kelly
Wayne was celebrating his tenth anniversary of competitive scrabble. He presented each of his opponents with a small box of chocolates, which I thoroughly enjoyed last night after I got home.
Unfortunately I didn't photograph this board, which is a shame because it was a cracking game but I cannot remember many details. Maybe Wayne can help out. Wayne started, I bonused on moves 2 and 3 to his on moves 3 and 4. After 4 moves apiece I was 225-197 up, and 9-x opportunities abounded. The game was then nip and tuck as triples where exchanged and the board closed back down. I had to change on move 9. Wayne moved ahead and was able to keep blocking for the win.
L: 404-468

Game 7: Steve Perry
Again no photo...
I bonused on move 4, but Steve hit back on moves 5 and 6 to take the lead which I pegged back with the help of two Ss to score well from the triples to regain the lead. I felt relatively confident when Steve levelled the scores, but played of the last A and E to do so, as he had set up the Y that I held for an insurance policy score of 34 if needed on a tight board. In the end I kept scoring well, while Steve did not.
W: 416-339

So, 4-3 and with a good spread I was still in the hunt if I could have a good run the next day. Lewis Mackay was unbeaten, and I was due to play him first thing in the morning.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 18

It has been a period of days of great activity between periods of idleness as far as the garden is concerned.

The afternoon after my last garden report I completed weeding the gap created my removing the old broom. There was a lot of ground elder in there. I would be kidding myself to believe that I have dug it all out, but I tried. I then did as I had planned - rhododendron and heathers, along with the last couple of fuchsias and tulip bulbs.

As it was still sunny and warm I decided to make the most of the late afternoon and make a start on pruning the shrubs in the high bank. The buddleia was first on the hit list. I think I got a little carried away... Paul helped me to carry the debris over the road to the dump area.

I then had a planned break from the garden - jam/jelly making mode again. And then the weather turned cold and miserable so a few more days off.

The next foray out there saw me attacking (pruning) the senecios, flowering raspberry and yet another spiraea in the long bank.

The pruning dump is getting quite full up - in danger of blocking off our view again. I had great fun when I decided to tread down the branches and found it was quite springy - not quite as good as a trampoline but I could still do quite a good tigger impersonation.

Another few days off due to bad weather.

It was a little cold on Wednesday, but dry. I decided to make the most of it - the brambles I had uncovered pruning the buddleia had been annoying me ever since. I traced them back to several points around the pampas grass, which meant that I also needed to pull out the old leaves and canes from that to make an easier route through. I found another self-seeded pampas up there which I dug out as best I could. Margaret had phoned a few days back - she has a friend who wanted one, and if I had any more going spare... The last task was to plant the alliums - easier said than done. We obviously have/had a mole up there - there were a couple of small mounds that I had trampled underfoot. When I tried to use the bulb planter it went in fine, but the soil just fell straight back out again refilling the hole. Even trying to excavate planting holes with the trowel kept causing mini landslides back into them. I managed to plant about a dozen before calling it a day.

Yesterday was another good weather day. I got straight out there after the morning dog walk. I was determined to get the rest of the alliums in. Plan one was thwarted - I wanted to plant them amongst the geranium patch in the middle of the high bank, but couldn't make any headway through the stems and roots. Plan two hit the same problems amongst the alpine strawberries patch.

Well, nothing for it other that attack the spiraea that was growing between the two. Slow progress at first, trying to find places to stand to be able to get at it. After a while I was able to crawl under it and attack it from below until I could see daylight again. I managed to get around the back of it to pull out the giant nettles that were there - six-footers.

After lunch it was back out there to clear the dross that had accumulated under it, and then dig it over removing the stones and crud. Paul had bought me another pack of heathers from Aldi's. After a bit of playing about I decided on planting the four pink ones. At the back of them I planted the remaining bluebell and grape hyacynths from Lilian, and in front the alliums and a couple of groups of Pheasant Eye narcissi. The remainder of the narcissi pack I planted in the grass verge alongside the drive.

Buoyed on with how easily the bulb-planter had gone into the verge I got the last pack of narcissi from the house. All was going well until I decided to plant some up near the top of the bank by the trellis. I had just finished when I lost my footing. I don't know quite what happened as I slid unceremoniously down, but my right boob got one hell of a thump on the ground. It took a good couple of minutes before I got myself back up. Undeterred, however, I planted the rest of the bulbs but on the flat area. I finished off the day with the last of the lily tulips in LB6 - all the bulbs that I have so far had from J Parker are now in.

On the 'what's new' flowering front the sedum Autumn Joy are putting on a good display. I have quite a few patches of these in the high bank. There are also a couple of lare clumps of pale mauve asters that are just starting to flower.

The mahonias are flowering already. I am sure they are meant to be winter flowerers...

Jean phoned me up a couple of days ago to tell me how lovely the lilies are that I gave her earlier in the year. The pot that I planted up with ten bulbs is also looking pretty good, and we can smell them when we sit on the bench with our coffee.

Three of the lupins that I got from J Parker as plug plants have grown like mad since I planted them in the garden, and have decided to throw up flower spikes a little late in the season.

The mirabilis jalapa, another of my ten perennials for 95 pence, has also put on quite a spurt in the last few weeks and is now covered in small lemon coloured flowers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Garden Report 2007 - 17

September is bringing a late summer. The good weather is set to continue for the next few days at least which is good as there is so much needing to be done. I have had a steady stream of bulbs arriving through the post - just waiting for the allium Christophii and 15 dwarf narcissi. I have already been very busy out there.

Anne got James to cut down the sycamore that was growing on the corner on the other side of the road and was blocking our view across to the river and fields and hills beyond. She said we could throw our prunings into the hollow over there, which is great. It gave me the incentive to start getting all the overgrown shrubs back under control.

I pruned back hard the two buddleias that were in LB1 and Lb2, and then set about a very large spirea. I then discovered it was actually one large spirea and half a dozen smaller spireas. I dug out the smaller ones with hopefully enough root still intact to survive and left them on the verge. When Anne passed by I told her to take them if she wanted them - and she did. I have now planted up the large gap cleared with three fuchsias, two dwarf rhododendrons, a hosta and a pulmonaria. Around the plants I have planted tulips, dwarf narcissi and bluebells/grape hyacinths from Lilian. It still looks very bare but hopefully the fuchsias, if they survive, should grow quite a lot larger.

Paul also offered some help so I asked him to remove one of the brooms that had reached the end of its life. It came out much more easily than expected so I then gave him free rein to hard prune the buddleia in LB4 (again) - it was amazing how big it had got considering how much we had cut off of it earlier in the year. I weeded the area around the old broom and pruned back another spirea, and now have another large gap to fill. I am planning to put one of the largish rhododendrons that I bought from Aldi earlier in the year where the broom was.

I have also completed planting up the gap created in LB6 when the aucuba was sawn down. It doesn't seem to have done it any harm as the stump is now covered in glossy green leaves again. It can stay there - I just need to ensure it is kept small. Two agapanthuses and bulbs added to the previously planted fuchsias.

LB1 has been weeded and generally tidied up. I am hoping it will now need minimal work until next spring.

The new trellis bed has been weeded again, and the more vigorous perennials tied back to the trellis.

The rose bed was weeded again last week, and I had a bout of dead heading. They are looking a lot better now we have had a spell of warm, dry and sunny weather.

These are two of the new ones I planted earlier this year.

The climbing roses that are at the trellis in front of the cowshed are also putting on a very nice display at the moment.

Other than the cyclamens still being confused one of my pulsatillas also decided to flower again a couple of weeks ago, but I did not capture it on my camera. The potentillas have decided to put on a much better performance now too, after their rather feeble flowering display last month.

Not everything is confused - autumn plants are beginning to flower too.

This gentian has just opened its first flower. It is planted next to an alpine phlox so it is hard to see where one starts and the other ends.

The autumn heathers are also behaving themselves. I bought some more in Aldi's yesterday - also planning for them to help fill the broom gap, and hopefully act as a barrier to a land slide there.

The autumn crocuses are also doing 'what it says on the tin'.

The hypericum is now earning its keep, the berries are looking very decorative.

I have two clumps of phlox in the high bank - this pink one and also a white one.

I also have this white fluffy plant dotted around various places - I have no idea what it is as I cannot find it in my gardening book. If anyone can tell me what it is I would be very grateful.

Doggy Post

This post is for my friend Jackie who recently complained that there were not enough photos of the dogs in my blog. It is a little delayed as my old laptop went to the place old laptops go when they refuse to boot up. My shiny new one arrived on Monday. I installed my photo software yesterday and had a few problems but eventually got it working. Then Paul said he had found an updated version for Windows Vista. I uninstalled the old version and downloaded the new version and it didn't work... Paul took over and did it all over again. It still didn't work... This morning he tracked the problem down to the device driver for my camera and then found that as my camera is so old there is no new device driver available for it. I uninstalled everything again and went back to what I had originally installed...

Well here they are enjoying rawhide bone treats. These were good value - it took Poncho an hour to eat his. Jen was still going over an hour later. At gone 11 p.m. she got up when she decided it was time to go out for the late night pee break, and then finished it when we got back.

Poncho and Jen were given a 'bath' last week. They are both so well behaved - they just stand there while they have water sponged over them, shampooed and then rinsed off. Poncho just loves the rub down with a towel afterwards.

When they had dried off I went over them both with their grooming gloves. A lot of old dead hair came out, and their coats are now beautifully shiny and silky.

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