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


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Long Bank Extension Epic

I started creating the long bank extension at the start of September 2008. This is what it looked like a couple of days in...

One year on...

Two years on...

Three years on...

And then I did my shoulder in. No progress at all in 2012... And this was left to do...

So after spraying with weed killer yet again in July (and missing one section in the middle of it) come August I started work. I hadn't wanted to do all of it in one go but having missed a year I just went for it.

Nine days work to do the first pass of stones and weeds removal:

Oh, and one ant's nest in the middle which I sprayed and another at the top/path which I left well alone. And the day when the flying ants erupted from that one and were crawling all over the top before flying off haphazardly in all directions.

And did I mention the slates. It was bad enough finding them buried all over the bank - put your spade in and it comes to a full stop so then trowel to determine where it is to get it out, but when I thought I was almost finished I found the mother load buried about 4 inches under the surface about a foot in from where I wanted the edge to be. That cost me an extra day's work...

They stretched from the red hot pokers for a good yard and a half, several deep and were 'flaky'. I don't know how far in they go as I stopped excavating (very carefully - the small shards are as vicious as glass) when I had gone far enough for the garden.

I also dug out three wooden posts, numerous nails especially amongst the above slates and the ubiquitous farmer's nylon rope (orange and blue).

And then I started the second pass. Dig it all over again with a spade and get the rocks in place for my stepping stones. Another five days work. Paul helped getting the very heavy rocks in, and a further four rocks were provided by Allan (in addition to four donated a couple of years ago) to let me complete it just under 5 years on from when I very first started. And Jean still thinks I'm mad...

I had a couple of days off (well, getting nettles out of the high bank) but the last week I have been weeding the rest of the LBE (still not finished) and populating my new section. Other than bulbs and one shrub (a choisya from Morrison's) everything has been transplanted or divided from plants in the rest of the LBE.

I have reclaimed the path stretching the length of the LBE - this involved a lot of digging out of pulmonarias - and to think I started with one that hitch-hiked in a pot from Sandhurst.

And near the end of the path I noticed that the hibiscus that Maureen gave me as a seedling from her hibiscus that was a seedling from my mother's hibiscus is going to flower for the first time!

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Far East Adventures - Part 1 - Penang

Things did not go well in Penang... or Bangkok.

Firstly my case never made it to Bangkok. The flight was already late arriving and having to wait until the baggage carousel said that was it, no more baggage coming out, and then having to queue along with another half a dozen people to fill in the paperwork (not helped by not having the full address and they wouldn't phone Gerry to get it) left me feeling completely frazzled. I found the metered taxi rank and finally was on my way to Gerry's. I felt a lot happier when I recognised a few of the landmarks - most notably the elephant building which meant I was almost there. An hour and a half later than expected and I arrived.

Jane phoned the airport in the morning to give them the full address and baggage expected time of arrival kept coming and then going. Eventually at about 4.30 pm men arrived with a case - not mine. They then returned with another case - jackpot!

I had a few days to recover before the 5 am start on our drive to Penang to ensure we cleared Bangkok before rush hour(s). I would like to say that this was an amazing experience, but I hadn't appreciated how flat Thailand is so it was not great sightseeing! There are occasional standalone 'mountains' (too big to really be called hills) that are very dramatic in appearance with their almost sheer sides. A few have temples on top, and one had an enormous Buddha - I cannot imagine how it got there!

Anyway, back to the journey. Firstly miles and miles of salt farms. And that was replaced my hundreds of miles of coconut plantations. And it started to rain in the afternoon and kept going, other than a break of about 10 minutes. That was very unfortunate. Having been driving relatively slowly the traffic speeded up. And then came to a halt. As we slowly moved on around a corner there was a lorry upside down against the large concrete barrier protecting the road from a large drop. The cab was completely flattened... We only saw one other accident, a car overturned in the 'central reservation' (this is mainly a double tree-lined area with a drainage ditch in the middle that runs almost completely the length of the road to Malaysia except in the towns) but no-one looked hurt. However, I had given up counting the number of dead dogs at the outskirts of the towns we passed through.

We had many short breaks for food, a quick ciggie for me, and the necessary. I will just say that the service areas do not have Western lavatories...

Getting across the border was relatively pain free. I was a little wary when Gerry told me he didn't have a license to drive in Malaysia just before we reached the border and I had visions of us being turned back! I was dropped off at my hotel a couple of hours later. In total 1150 km that took us about 15 and a half hours.

The next day was free to recover.

I will skip over the scrabble itself. Suffice it to say that a year off from serious studying combined with some pretty dreadful tiles at times is not a formula for success. But I did have a good time. The Aussies were on the executive floor of the hotel and I got invited to join them for free drinks and nibbles at happy hour on several occasions :)

We set off for home after the prize-giving.

A scary moment as we neared the border. There was a road block across half the road. We slowed but there was no sign of anyone - until after we went through. Suddenly there was a police or army guy waving and blowing a whistle at us. Gerry reversed back, and now there were three of them. The one in charge was shouting at us - didn't we know we had to stop. Well, um, no. We had gone through really fast. Well, um, no. They checked our passports and made Gerry get out and open the boot. We were praying they didn't ask for a driving license... After a few minutes they let us go. Very relieved when we got over the border...

We stopped overnight (well just before midnight by the time Gerry found the hotel he had decided upon). I zapped my way up and down the TV channels trying to find the Wimbledon final - Jane had said she thought it would be on a terrestrial channel - but to no avail. I gave up and tried to sleep - replaced rock (pillow) with a towel and got a few hours. Got up about 7 am and went to breakfast. This was an experience. There appeared to be four coachloads of people staying there, all colour coded. Purples, Blues, Pinks and Yellows. It was a buffet breakfast, fully lined by 'uniformed' tourists. I had been a little concerned on the food front but needn't have worried - I spotted fried eggs, bread and toaster, marmalade, hot water urn and jars of coffee powder. I could have got a job - I appeared to be the only person who knew how to use a toaster! People were putting bread in it, and then removing it again 30 seconds later without pressing the handles down. No sign of Gerry though. I went back for seconds. Still no sign of Gerry, so I went back to my room to collect my bag and checkout. It was getting close to the time Gerry had said he wanted to leave by so I got the desk to phone his room - he was ready to go. And I got given the news of Murray's victory as we got in the car :)

No more incidents on the way back to Bangkok, and we managed to avoid rain most of the way. The last game of the final was being repeated on the TV as we stepped in the door.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Is This Really June?

I think we are a month behind. But we are catching up quickly. It feels as if we have had more nice days so far this month than we had in the whole of last summer!

I contemplated calling this post White Is The Colour...

Not only is the may just coming in to its full glory but the crab apple over the road is dripping with blossom...

And there is the smell of wild garlic in the air...

And when I haven't been playing scrabble I have been busy in the garden.

Veggie seeds sown. So far the only signs of this are two cabbage seedlings.

The high bank has been attacked. I was trying to work out how long it had been neglected. As I normally only venture up there in the spring and autumn and last year I never made it due to weather and my frozen shoulder it was at least 21 months, and possibly nearer 26... And it showed...

The nettles weren't quite as bad as when first we moved up here, but were still about 4 foot high. Two days to pull most of them out and another couple of hours digging out roots. I took the opportunity to then do some planting. Autumn crocuses dug out, split and replanted - still have a couple of dozen left over. Two rhododendrons and a Japanese maple that had survived in their original pots for several years waiting for a home. I also dug up and divided some primroses from the LBE, three dark geraniums self-seeded in the drive and half a dozen geranium Johnson's blue also from the LBE. If they don't survive the trauma I will try again in the autumn.

Today I started with spraying the end of the LBE that is still waiting to be done. Maybe this is the year... Luckily the mice had chewed through the Clinic Ace plastic container half an inch up the side so I still had some left! I also made up a small batch in a jam jar and went out with a paint brush to attack some of the large deep rooted weeds that are impossible to dig out of the long bank. This will be an ongoing campaign.

And then on to the long bank in earnest. Paul had started clearing buttercups but soon got bored after a couple of barrow loads. I got him to make a start on the brambles while I followed up where Paul had started, going deeper into the bank and under the shrubs. I got another three sack loads out (mainly buttercups but also nettles and other weeds) before calling it a day.


To do:

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Win Some, Lose Some, Win Some More

Time to catch up on my scrabble exploits.

February was Vienna. Nigel was there... I came second...
April was Marbella. Nigel was there... I came nowhere...
May was Malta. Nigel wasn't there... I won both the European Open and the Malta Open... Woohoo :)

June and back to domestic scrabble.

The Scottish NSC heat was on the 1st, and I abandoned Paul, visitors and guests to the annual Jim Clark Rally barbecue. I was under pressure to qualify. And after Melanie got a nine-timer against me in game 1 (MOp(H)EADS)  and followed it with 2 more bonuses I was lying last after the first round. Another loss in round 5 against Ross and the pressure was really on. And then I had to play Lukeman who was also struggling. A tense game that I scraped home by 2 points. 4-2, but my spread was poor so I needed to win the last game against Allan, who was undefeated. Luckily it flowed for me, and despite Allan having both the blanks I won by 170 to secure my qualification for the semis.

And then on the 5th I played my BEST 2nd round match against Allan. (I had a bye in the first round). It could have been so different. I lost the first game which was close - notable by the fact that the last 5 tiles I picked (3 and then 2) were all Es! In game 2 Allan played the phony DOILEYS on move 2. I challenged it off and then ensured the correct spelling was unplayable with a strategic AZO. A bonus of CIG(A)RETS and I was off and running. Allan got AUDILES down after dumping YO but I romped home. And continued to romp in the next 3 games. Allan conceded the fifth game after playing another phony when 150 points behind.

Next weekend is the Scottish Open, and then on the 18th I play my 3rd round BEST match against Ross. And I fly out to Bangkok on the 26th for more foreign adventures in Penang and the King's Cup.

Saturday, April 27, 2013


I realised that despite all my knitting over the last year and a half I had a distinct lack of cardigans. Jumpers overflowing, but very few cardies.

Well, that's not too hard to rectify...



And I also got around to buying and sewing in the zip for my hoodie jacket - I bought the yarn for this from a spinner/dyer on Lewis many many years ago (I guess the 1990s) when visiting my cousin Margaret and her husband Donald. Knitted the jacket last year. Zip only waited 9 months...

And possibly late April, more likely May:

Just finished blocking the body, first sleeve on the needles. I have no idea how this will turn out. I had 4.25 skeins left of this gorgeous Jaeger 4-ply silk that I got as an absolute bargain in 2011 and couldn't find a pattern I liked to use it. So I am making up my own...

I have also been busy in the garden. I finished weeding the LBE a couple of days ago - see April photo. And yesterday I started on the veggie patch. After my first abortive attempt when the weather gods sent down an onslaught of hail the moment my hands were covered in dirt I got back out an hour later and got in a good session.

This gives a good indication of the state it was in after a year of neglect due to last year's weather and my frozen shoulder. I actually got the next bed cleared as well by end of play yesterday evening.

Oh, and I have also bought some more yarn. 700g of organic merino aran. That was my allowed reward for knitting an extra mile over my 12 mile target of last year...

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Same Old Same Old

So I haven't blogged in a while. Time moves on but nothing really new happens.

I am still playing scrabble. After doing very little study last year I had my most successful run of results ever. Winning the King's Cup and the Romanian Open, third place in Prague and second in Vienna. My scrabble budget is looking very healthy. Off to Marbella in a week's time with a couple of spare days for R&R. And I've started revising again. Hmm... maybe I should stick to a winning formula, but I guess my luck will run out at some point.

I have managed one short stint in the garden to do a bit of a tidy up. We have been promised that temperatures will pick up just about the time I go away...

But I have been knitting.... and knitting...

I reached my goal of a mile a month last year, and a mile+ more:

That's most but not all of my year's labour.

So far this year I have completed another pair of glittens, two lace-weight scarfs, one mohair wrap, two pairs of socks, one cardigan, two cushion covers to finish off some old chenille and one replacement right-hand glove for the one I lost in Vienna. Another 2.2 miles of yarn. And I am well on my on another cardigan - body done and about a third of the first sleeve.

And I haven't bought any yarn for over 15 months!!!

And this is what I have left...

Main stash:


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