Friday 23 October 2020

Maintenance visit

We actually managed a visit to Erin Mae this week. We'd been in Wales for a few, very enjoyable, days, sharing an AirBNB farmhouse with our London grandchildren (and their parents!), just making it before the Covid19 rules prohibited it. From the Brecon Beacons it was quicker to get to Great Haywood than to go home, so up we went. Erin Mae is still "winterised" from a year ago, and was not suitable for staying overnight, so we booked into the Premier Inn in Rugeley and went over in the morning.

The main task was to check that the covering I had over the chimney was still secure – Storm Dennis has been and gone since I set it up. I put an extra layer of plastic on and secured it with my favourite Gorilla tape – it's great stuff. The other thing was to put the pipes attaching to the top of the calorifier back in place. When I drained the water system a year ago I'd removed them to syphon water from the tank, and couldn't get them back in again. We were in a hurry to leave, so I'd left them … and it's now a year on. It should have been a very straightforward task, but I just could not get them to screw into place. In the end I asked Marina Engineering to do it and we left. Today I've had a message that's it's all been done, and relatively cheaply.

So now there are just two main jobs that will need to be addressed in the spring – assuming we're able to be back on board. Sealing around the cast iron chimney collar and replacing the flue from the stove turns out to be more complicated than I thought, and really beyond my expertise. I've had a chat today with the engineering department at Streethay Wharf, and we shall almost certainly take Erin Mae down to them as soon as we're afloat again. I also need to check that the central heating system doesn't have a leak. If we manage to get up in April, we'll need some sort of heating, and the fire won't be operational until the chimney is fixed.

All in all, we were really pleased with Erin Mae's condition. The inside was dry and smelled sweet. The work I've done on re-siting windows has clearly paid off and rain has stayed on the outside. Hopefully we will actually be able to do some travelling when the winter is past.

Tuesday 9 June 2020

Bird chat

We went for a walk in the New Forest today, from Burbush car park near Burley. Just 4 miles or so from our front door – aren't we fortunate!

Instead of walking along the old railway track towards Brockenhurst, which we've done once or twice recently, we headed northwest over the road. Here there is a mixture of heath and conifers, pretty sandy under foot with the land undulating in the general direction of Ringwood and the A31. In 34 years of living here, we can't remember having walked this stretch before. Not that we went particularly far – maybe two or three miles.

We saw just one other person about a mile away, and a glimpse of someone a bit nearer on the way back. What we did see, and hear, was a lot of birdlife. There were notices at the car park and one or two other spots about the need to take care, because of there currently being unusual numbers of rare groundnesting birds – one of the fruits of the pandemic. The air was alive with song. I'm no "twitcher", but it seemed obvious that a small bird complaining at our presence from a stubby tree should be called a stonechat. Then we heard a curlew that sang very persistently. Once in the shade of some trees we checked and confirmed our conclusions with an app my best beloved has recently put on her iPhone.

Curlews are apparently becoming increasingly rare in the New Forest, so it was very good to find at least one trying to pick the trend!

Tuesday 12 May 2020

Baking day

Friday, when I was growing up, was baking day. That characteristic smell in the kitchen as we came in from school. Cake for Sunday tea. And ginger biscuits.

We always thought of it as a war-time recipe, but exactly where my mother had acquired it I know not. For the four of us it was enough that she had a biscuit tin and that, as like as not, it had just been re-stocked with our favourite.

She continued to bake them (and put them in the same tin) for many years after we left home – one of the treats we and our own children enjoyed when visiting. The question was: could any of us, or our wives, manage to make them the same way? Recently we've been seeing who had the recipe and having a go at showing off the result during our family Zoom chats. In our household this is my best beloved's area of expertise and she's been doing very well – though she cheats a little by adding an egg to the mix, which means the consistency is consistent, crisp on the outside and chewy in the middle. They are very tasty!

Since the air streaming down from the Arctic has not yet made these parts too inhospitable we've been able to enjoy them in the sun in our garden, where the roses have continued to come out…

the rhododendron's short-lived blooms are showing well…

and the self-seeding foxgloves get on with the process of self-seeding.

Saturday 9 May 2020

A little less excitement

Yesterday I was at Lidl in Ringwood at 7 a.m., only to be told "Sorry sir, it's a bank holiday, today we open at 8!" Since the reason for going at 7 was to avoid the crowd, and since there would be a crowd at 8, I came home. But I was back this morning at 7. That's two mornings in a row, all in the name of shopping safely. Hardly surprising that after breakfast I went back to sleep until coffee time!

To ensure the day wasn't completely wasted, we went for a good walk at Barton-on-Sea this afternoon – we think it's legitimate to call the cliff-top and beach "local". It was hot so, seeing a couple with some ice-cream tubs, we followed our noses to the little convenience store / Post Office, and walked down from the cliff with a couple of the original "Feast".

It's a long time since we had ice-cream. But we walked it off in the afternoon sun. Once again, there were few people about, though some families had come down to the beach. My best beloved was pleased to spot some wild lupins.

About 3 km in all, though our unexercised legs told us it was longer. Back home in time for a cup of time, a couple of pastries bought yesterday from 9-year-old Naomi across the road (all proceeds to the NHS support charities), and a nice long FaceTime chat with our grandchildren in Dulwich and their parents. Not quite the excitement of VE day yesterday, but very satisfying.

Friday 8 May 2020

Very Entertaining Day

Heather from down our road put flyers round the doors…

and we all came out in force to have a VE Day lockdown, socially distanced party. My particular role was to facilitate some music.

Spotify provided an excellent rendering of the National Anthem, to follow the 11 o'clock silence, and a selection of marching band music, normally brought out for Remembrance Day. Tanya, from across the road, brought her saxophone to a socially distanced spot and played along.

What I found afterwards was that we had sadly taken no photos of all the people in our close enjoying, in a socially responsible way, the music, the occasion, the company and, of course, the weather. I did, however, get a photo of our picnic lunch.

Other families had far grander picnics, and some did front-garden barbecues! After lunch Tanya and I played some different numbers – a bit of Vera Lynn and so on. All in all we talked more with our neighbours (in a properly distanced way, of course) than we had done for a long time. It's been a VEry good day!

Thursday 7 May 2020

Lockdown roses

Being in lockdown in our bricks and mortar on the south coast has its positives. In particular we're getting to see the climbing roses appear in our back garden. We would normally have joined Erin Mae just before they start to emerge.

"Meg" is one of the first to appear. It's absolutely exquisite and one of my favourites.

Unfortunately the blooms are at their best for only a day or two before becoming a little dilapidated. Meg is on a pergola along with the Paul Lédé…

…which is one of the strongest.

In a week or two the pergola is going to be so covered with creamy blooms that you will hardly be able to see the leaves. Clinging to the final upright of the pergola is Golden Blossoms.

Very pretty at this stage but, like so many yellow roses, is very susceptible to the black spot which our clean air allows to flourish. On a different support nearby, on the other hand, is one of the healthiest – Compassion. Can you have apricot pink?

When we planted these roses many years ago, I put a "Mme Alfred Carrière" on the back fence. Big mistake! I'd thought we could train its 20 feet spread left and right along the 6' fence. It insisted on spreading out and completely taking over the patio area making coffee down there impossible. So last year it finally came out, and we've put in a "White Cloud" Not sure if will bloom this season, but it's growing well.

Our "New Dawn" is on an arch, and not come into flower yet, but the Iceberg on the house wall is getting started.

Like the Paul Lédé this will be a complete mass of blooms in a few weeks, and will probably still have a flower or two at Christmas.

Most of the roses in the front garden were inherited from the previous owners, in 1986. So I don't know what this one is:

It does, however, have the most amazing heady scent, and most of our neighbours dip their heads for quick sniff as they walk past. All helps to combat the lockdown blues!