Sunday 30 August 2020

The Distancing Diaries - Day 162 & 163

On Saturday (day 162) the lads insisted that Jon got up first. He fed them, made mugs of tea and brought them back to bed where we stayed reading until 8.30am. 

Jon went downstairs and put the sausages in the oven while I stripped and changed the bed and loaded the washing machine. We had a dry day forecast so, for the first time in a week, it would be safe to peg everything out on the line. After we'd eaten I threw another load into the machine and gave the houseplants their fortnightly feed.

Jon went outside and fitted an extension to the existing irrigation system so the plants on the mirrored wall could also benefit if/when we go away. I got to work raking up the aftermath of Storm Francis.

Out of the sunshine it felt more like October than August so I mostly stayed in the suntrap that is our patio area, deadheading and sweeping.

I know I keep banging on about it but I'm still in awe of all the colour in the garden, I'm also beside myself with excitement over the Sicilian purple cauliflower which has been given a boost by last week's deluge. At this rate we might be eating it this year rather than next.

See the dusky purple flower in the top left hand corner of the collage below? That's one of my aubergine plants. We had no luck with them in the cloches or the veg bed so I decided to stick them in pots next to my perennials on the patio. I wish you could smell the Cosmos, its chocolate mocha scent is amazing.

Months ago Gardener's World had recommended cutting back the delphiniums once they'd flowered for a second, late summer showing. It worked!

How pretty is my Dusky Maiden delphinium? I thought my cornflowers had died off so moved them into the border to free up a few plant pots but they seem to have had a new lease of life.

 Saturday's outfit was the tomato dress although I had to wear my Indian quilted jacket when we went for a walk around the block, it was seriously cold!

A few years ago a lovely chap called Kev popped round with a ceramic VW egg cup for me (it's still in Gilbert's kitchen cupboard). Him & his wife read my blog and they knew Stonecroft as they live around the corner. He called round again today, he'd read that I'd been making masks and wondered if I could run a few up for him as he was struggling with the ones he'd bought online. I was more than happy to make him a supply in the colours of his choice and would have done it for free but he insisted that he give me a something in return, saying he had something in his car boot that might interest us...

Wow! A vintage doormat, Kev had rescued from a pub refurb many years ago. We live in the Highgate area of Walsall and Highgate Brewery sadly stands derelict at the end of the avenue. My Grandma rescued the Victorian lamp (above the front door) from a skip when the brewery was being redeveloped in the 1960s so the doormat could be a more appropriate addition to Stonecroft's frontage.

As I'd mentioned earlier, we went for a walk around the block. Tony is being plagued with spiders at the moment and we knew of a conker tree around the corner. There's an old wives tale that putting a conker in every corner of your room with deter spiders from coming in and there's definitely some truth in it as we used to be invade by the hateful things every year but since we followed the advice we've been spider-free for two years.

 Tea was a curry made with some Morrison's own vegetarian mince, dwarf french beans from the garden and the remains of a bag of frozen veg from the depths of the freezer served with a coriander nan.

The evening was spent drinking rum & cola and watching more Gone Fishing and Lady Bird, a rather lovely indie film currently on the BBC i-player.


I was the first up on Sunday (day 163). I saw to the lads, checked the extended irrigation system was working and managed to trip up the garden steps, snap my big toenail in half & skin my toes and then took mugs of tea, and my bloodied foot, back to bed where I made a start on my next book. It's a whopper, it should keep me out of trouble for a while.

Breakfast was eggs on toast, made in the new-to-us charity shop egg poaching pan. 

After watching Beechgrove Jon gave the hedge a radical trim whilst I followed behind with the garden waste bin and the rake.

At 100 metres long its a big task and we'd certainly earnt our noodles once it was done.

This week's nail paint is Barry M's Rock Pool....

And, as always, toes and fingernails match (Confession time: I photo shopped my injured foot).

Again it was a dry day, warm when the sun made a brief appearance and bastard freezing out of it. 

Inspired by Gardener's World, I planted a few sedum leaves in the hope of creating a few more plants.

The lads!

Jacob's hardly eaten a thing lately, it's too cold.

Jon spent the afternoon making some replacement thermal screens for Gilbert using some packaging from an Amazon delivery he knew would come in useful eventually.

I did some research for our Greek trip, deciding on the two places we'd like to stay. I'm sure it'll come as no surprise that we want not-too-touristy places with plenty of local culture, ancient history and interesting architecture. No purpose built "resorts", theme pubs or nightclubs and a peaceful beach without sunbeds or water sports. Next will be sorting some accommodation, most are offering free cancellations, which is a help. 

When we booked our flights back in February we were looking forward to some R&R on a beautiful Greek island after the chaotic festival season. Little did we know that we'd be in the midst of a worldwide pandemic just six weeks later & all festivals would be cancelled. 

Tea was individual quiches, veg pakora and vegetable gyoza with salad - made from some of our crop of crystal lemon cucumbers.

Tonight we'll be watching more Gone Fishing and George Clarke's National Trust Adventures. He's visiting Westbury Water Gardens tonight, a week behind us!

Stay safe & see you soon.

Friday 28 August 2020

The Distancing Diaries - Day 160 & 161

On Thursday (day 160), after my Wii Fit workout and our breakfast, we got dressed and got cracking in the garden. The Midlands been issued with an amber warning for rain so we wanted to get as much done as we could.

You did take a before photo, didn't you? Jon asked, halfway through clearing the border. Oh dear, in my haste to pulverise the pile of buddleia and magnolia branches we'd piled up yesterday I'd completely forgotten. This is the only photo I could find of how that area looked before Jon set to work. 

At a less than impressive 12°C , Thursday definitely wasn't bikini weather. I'd just got to the bottom of the pile of branches when Jon called me in for noodles. The forecasted deluge arrived shortly after lunch. We dashed outside to recover the tools, disconnect the shredder and drag it under The Egg ready to resume work in the morning.

Wearing: Vintage block printed kaftan and 1970s quilted jacket (both eBay), tooled leather belt and Clarks' Orinoco Club Chelsea boots (both charity shopped),  vintage umbrella (car boot sale)

With gardening plans thwarted I did a bit of mending, resewing the rouleaux loops, on the kaftan I'd had made from a vintage sari in Jodhpur earlier this year, as always accompanied by 6Music.

Did I mention that we'd booked accommodation for our first couple of nights in Greece? Well, unsure as to the travel situation, we cancelled the reservation last week while we were still within the free cancellation window but as Greece remains a government approved travel destination (at the moment) he's started looking again. We were hoping to travel around but the Passenger Location Form (PLF) that the Greek government have made mandatory for all foreign tourists only allows for two addresses within Greece so Jon got the Rough Guide out and attempted to draw up an itinerary but with so many amazing destinations he abandoned his studies and started to sort out his travel clothes instead. 

I cooked! Tea was roast peppers stuffed with couscous, sun-dried tomatoes, chopped olives & Feta cheese. We harvested our first courgette yesterday so I made a Greek yachni using a recipe I'd adapted from the lovely book our friend Lynn sent us.

As I'd only got one courgette I added a handful of frozen okra. The book says that, when using tinned tomatoes, Greeks often add a dessertspoonful of Worcester sauce to bring out the flavour but, as a vegetarian, I use tamarind sauce as it's fish-free.

Courgette Yachni

8oz courgettes (roughly chopped)

1 large onion (chopped)

Tin of tomatoes 

Dessertspoonful of Worcester / Tamarind sauce

Olive oil

Fresh chopped parsley

Ground black pepper

Ground sea salt

1 tsp sugar

2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar

  • Sweat the onion in olive oil until translucent
  • Add the rest of the ingredients
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes

 After tea we watched a few episodes of Gone Fishing on the BBC i-player. Jon's already seen a few and loved them & I'm late to the party. Who'd have thought that a programme about two middle-aged men going fishing would be such fun?

On Friday I was up at 6am to book a slot for our next National Trust adventure. The sun made a brief appearance as I did my last Wii Fit workout of the week but soon descended into the same old grey murk. We'd just eaten our fruit & yogurt breakfast when the My Hermes driver arrived with a parcel. Earlier in the week I'd visited the website of one of the several UK stores on the brink of closure and bought Jon four pairs of shorts, reduced by 75% in their Summer sale. All four pairs got the thumbs up and fitted perfectly so yesterday's packing is going to have to be re-thought.

Jon wasn't the only one being treated, look what arrived for me (although I think we'll be sharing it!)

Despite the rain we cracked on with the border clearance, Jon lopping and sawing and me shredding beneath The Egg. Those are the surviving garden lights, the ones closest to the house were destroyed by Storm Francis.

After a break for noodles we continued for another couple of hours. The lad hadn't shown any interest yesterday and were totally bemused by the changes when they braved the rain in the afternoon. Stephen Squirrel is most put out that his mousing corner has been razed to the ground.

The postman arrived with the new-with-tags Zara bikini I'd treated myself to from eBay. I tried it on and left glowing feedback for the seller. 

Despite the fact it was tipping it down and we'd got the heating on I decided to play around with my holiday clothes...

So far I've put aside....two skirts, two cotton camis, two kaftans, a midi dress, two maxi dresses, two bikinis, a sarong, a long-sleeved wrap-over sari top, two pairs of sunglasses, a raffia clutch, a straw bag, a maize fedora, leather chappals and a pair of Lottas. I'll be throwing in jewellery, my eReader and some face masks closer to departure.

Tea was the rest of the other night's pizza as Jon had forgotten to cut them in half and freeze them. Tonight we'll be partaking in some rum & cola, served - as always - in charity shop tumblers. I don't think I ever shared the JH Lynch coasters I found for £1 in the charity clearance shop earlier this year. They make drinking in the house a bit more special. 

A year ago tonight, I was dressed in a Lurex halterneck maxi, sequinned coat and barefoot. We closed our shop at the Towersey festival and danced to The Selecter in a field. Tonight we'll be staying in with the central heating on, the curtains closed and watching programmes about fishing and gardening....what a strange year!

Stay safe, stay fabulous and see you soon!

Wednesday 26 August 2020

The Distancing Diaries - Day 158 & 159

Tuesday (day 158) dawned, bringing with it Storm Francis. When I got up at 6.30am the rain, which had woken us in the early hours, remained torrential and the sky was so dark that I needed the light on for my Wii Fit workout. The irrigation system was working perfectly although hardly necessary. After our breakfast Jon popped out for a few bits & to do a post office run whilst I caught up with blogland.

When the weather's miserable I find it really hard to get motivated but with the incentive of a browse on eBay once I was done, I talked myself into sweeping the kilims in the middle room & the stairs and also to dust the frames on the Wall of Misery before joining Jon for a mug of tea when he got back from the shops.

While I cleaned our bedroom, Jon cracked on with tiling the bit of wall I'd been nagging him to do for weeks.

 Chores done, I checked into eBay and found a fabulous Zara fringed bikini, new with tags, at an tenth of the original retail price. The perfect antidote for a miserable day. Will I be wearing it on a Greek beach next month? I live in hope!

Stephen had been for a run out in the garden first thing but Frank, who hates the rain had stayed indoors with a plate of cocktail prawns. By mid-morning the deluge had stopped so he accompanied me into the garden so I could drag out the garden waste bin ready for collection in the morning.

The previous evening we'd taken the lids off our water butts and positioned every receptacle we could lay our hands on to collect the rain. Our houseplants will be happy.

 I bought this 1970s Anokhi pinafore from eBay last year. I'm quite high-waisted & the bodice was too long so I'd taken up the shoulder seams by a couple of inches which lifted the waistband to my natural waist. 

WEARING: Vintage Anokhi pinafore dress, 1970s Ayesha Davar cheesecloth blouse, Doc Marten oxblood Darcie boots (all eBay)

 A year later and I'd still not got round to cutting off the excess fabric and stitching the seams properly so after our noodles, I stripped off to my knickers and got it done. It took all of forty minutes. 

 By now the wind we'd been threatened with had arrived with avengeance. I heard a sickening crack & looked out of the window to see a huge branch from next-door's lime tree flying through the air. It missed Gilbert by inches but our poor garden lights weren't quite so lucky, bringing them down in a hail of broken glass. Once we'd recovered the lights and raked up the best we could, we drew the curtains, cracked up the heating and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.

After tea (half a quiche with a Greek salad and coleslaw) we watched three episodes of Diarmiud Gavin's Gardening Together (we'd watched three the night before) until Jon was hit by a bout of musical inspiration and had to lock himself into his music room composing a tune.

It was still blowing a gale when I got up on Wednesday (day 159) and I discovered that Storm Francis had claimed another victim, The Egg. 

At 6am I was outside staking my Delphiniums and Black Eyed Susans which had taken a severe battering overnight. 

 After my Wii Fit session and our fruit & yogurt breakfast the wind had finally died down so we popped into town as we needed a few things from Wilkos - new secateurs as ours had gone missing over the weekend, a lump hammer as the top kept flying off ours, a pack of replacement paint brushes and, after studying Lord Jon's gardening catalogue that had arrived yesterday, I fancied planting some Queen of the Night tulips.

We managed to tick everything off the list, deviating slightly by buying a pack of Black Parrot tulips instead of the Queen of the Night. The feathery petals won me over.

We called into the clearance charity shop spending a total of £4. We stocked up on books. I used to confuse Jodi Picoult with Jojo Moyes, mistakenly thinking she wrote chick lit (which I loathe), her books involve moral dilemmas or courtroom dramas and really make you think. I adore Harry Hole and haven't read Knife. We also bought another vintage egg poaching pan, 'cos two clearly aren't enough.

We drove over to Liz and Al's as we'd a birthday present for him. We sat in the garden chatting and eating homemade birthday cake for an hour or so before heading back home for lunch.

WEARING: Diya Studios maxi skirt with cotton camisole (new, retail buy), 1950s Tyrolean souvenir belt, Indian sponge coral beads.

I'd left the house wearing something entirely different but when I got back there was a parcel waiting for me. At the weekend I'd received an email from a lovely lady called Ellen who'd been stalking an Indian cotton maxi skirt in her local charity shop for weeks and, finding it reduced, she'd bought it, listed it on eBay but said that if I liked it to pop in an offer for the price she'd paid and it would be mine. 

Thanks so much, Ellen! I love it! 

A walk around the garden revealed yet more havoc wreaked by Storm Francis, with branches snapped off both the buddleia and the magnolia. And to think I spent a couple of hours on Sunday tidying up that area! 

Jon set to work with the hacksaw, assembling a pile ready for me to turn into mulch with the garden shredder tomorrow (weather permitting) and then got a bit carried away, lopping away until we'd got a huge gap in the border. I've been wanting to clear the area for a while and now he's started I'm excited.

Depending on what the weather throws at us - bearing in mind there's a Bank Holiday weekend coming up so rain is almost guaranteed - we're going to continue with the clearing and see what happens. Obviously no trees will be harmed on our quest, we don't want a fine of £2,500 per tree!

The Egg lives to see another day! We'll be having a cheeky Wednesday evening beer in there after our tea (pizza with salad, including lollo rosso, rocket, basil, parsley, Oriental leaves & chives from the garden).