Wednesday 31 March 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 30th & 31st March, 2021

Just after I'd published my blog post on Monday evening Liz and Al came round and we were legally permitted to toast her birthday. They'd spent the day zip-wiring, Go Ape's very first customers of 2021 and they were treated like royalty. 

Despite the early hour and the chill in the air, I could already tell that Tuesday was going to be the glorious day we'd been promised. I did a load of washing and pegged it on the line before my Wii Fit workout and, after our fruit & yoghurt, I dragged the summer suitcase out from under the bed, grabbed my bikini top and a wraparound skirt, plaited my hair and pulled on my boots ready for a day in the garden.

Jon's plan was to work on Gilbert so, leaving him scraping and applying filler, I brought all the seeds and seedlings from the house and put them outside in the sunshine, giving them a thorough misting in the process. 

Spring is everywhere! My borders bring me joy.

The bed that we'd spent the latter part of last week clearing now contains our redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes and the gooseberry bush we'd bought from Wilko last year. Keeping with the fruity theme, I thought I'd try and dig up the rhubarb that lives in the patio border as it fares badly there, swamped by the cluttered planting. It took an absolute age to remove it and I hope it survives its new home although Liz thinks her father-in-law might have some going spare. 

Next, mindful of the frogspawn, I skimmed the pond for debris before topping it up with rainwater.

Kev, a blog reader who lives nearby, stopped off on the way to visit a friend and gave us these groovy Mid-Century stainless steel ashtrays with one penny inserts.

After our lunchtime noodles, I sowed Summer Savory, Black Velvet nasturtiums, Evening Primrose, rocket candytuft and columbine seeds in any available receptacle I could find.

Just like sewing, when it comes to gardening I make it up as I go along, moving things I find growing elsewhere and transplanting them in the hope they'll flourish. After sowing my seeds I wandered around the garden emptying out pots and digging up stuff until I had enough to fill the bed I'd cleared on Sunday.

24°C heat and a day pottering around the garden with the sun on my back...I couldn't be any more content.

I was struggling with my Wear:Sleep: Repeat collages so I'm back to wearing anything I fancy - today it was a block-printed organic cotton wraparound skirt bought from my beloved Cottage Cotton in Goa five years ago, and a crochet bikini top (part of a set) from Missguided, reduced to £6 three years ago. When it arrived I was so impressed with the quality and fit that I ended up buying another couple of sets.

After I'd finished my gardening I threw one of my vintage block printed bedcovers on the lawn and got stuck into my latest book, wondering why it's taken me 54 years to read any Frederick Forsyth. 

Tea was half a pizza with salad. 

The overnight temperature wasn't going to drop so, for the first time this year, we left Jacob out all night and I pegged another load of washing out on the line. We watched more of Waking The Dead on the i-player and the second episode of The Detectives: Fighting Organised Crime on BBC2.

Wednesday was another glorious day, I had a potter around the garden with the lads before mopping the kitchen floor and getting stuck into my Wii Fit. After breakfast, Jon suggested we walk down to Wilko as we needed a few bits and pieces so, after giving the seedlings a thorough watering, we made our way into town, picked up what we needed and walking back up the Hill of Doom.

This is Walsall's Guildhall, which formerly held the law courts, police station and cells. Two previous guildhalls stood here before the present building. The first was the timber-framed Medieval Guild of St John the Baptist. This building controlled local government and trade in Walsall. The guild itself was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1546, and a local corporation took over its functions although the building itself survived into the Eighteenth Century when it was extensively rebuilt. The only remaining part of the second Guildhall is the statue of justice pictured here, which has been dated to 1823.  The current building was completed in 1867. It was derelict for many years before extensive regeneration in the early 1980s by local architect Sir Gordon Foster. During the 1980s it housed some cool indie shops and a coffee shop downstairs in the old cells, later it became an Italian restaurant and now, sadly, it lies empty.

No coat, no jacket! We're having the warmest couple of March days in over 50 years. The vintage handmade patchwork maxi skirt & leather belt were charity shop finds, the vintage Polaroid sunglasses came from a car boot sale, the 1960s Santos Fashions, London cheesecloth blouse is from eBay and the fringed raffia bag was from Topshop's sale last year.

On the way home, we saw antique dealer, Spencer, who lives on the next street. He's the same age as us and we've known since we were teenagers. He has been on Salvage Hunters a couple of times, Drew ended up going to his house and buying some of his personal collection. Kirstie Allsopp also visited him when she did one of her naff makeover shows and rumour has it that she still hasn't paid him for what she took from his shop. We chatted about gardening and he offered us an old galvanised potting bench for a fiver, I handed over my cash and he offered to deliver it later. 

Of course, we didn't stick to the list when we were in Wilko, these bulbs accidentally found their way into our basket! After our noodles, we got changed into our working gear. Jon continued with his work on Gilbert whilst I set about planting 52 bulbs (I've left the hostas and the physalis for the weekend).

The bed I've been working on was supported by an old plank that had rotted down over the years. After a rummage through our stash I found out some Edwardian edging tiles which, after I'd dug out the old wood and positioned them, Jon hammered into place.

Much smarter!

I was just finishing up when Spencer popped round with our bargain bench. 

It's destined for the greenhouse, another job for the weekend.

Same, same but different! I'm wearing the black version of yesterday's bikini and another Cotton Cottage organic cotton skirt. 

It's Bin Eve so after we'd tidied up and brought the seedlings, tortoise and washing inside (we've got unseasonably cold temperatures forecast from tomorrow) we wheeled the bins out and labelled our litter -picking sacks ready for collection at 7am.

Tea was a Morrison's The Best Layered Vegetable Tart (with butternut squash, spinach and chestnuts on beetroot chutney in puff pastry topped with nuts and pumpkin seeds) along with a glass of wine - it's our Never Had A Wedding Anniversary tomorrow and we're celebrating 29 years of unwedded bliss early. Rum and cola will follow shortly!

Stay safe and see you soon.

Monday 29 March 2021

The Distancing Diairies - 28th & 29th March, 2021

 I was stunned to discover that it was almost 9am when I woke on Sunday morning. The previous day's leaf collecting must have wiped me out! I made tea, brought it back to bed and we lay and read for a while. When we got up we caught the end of The Andrew Marr Show and had a couple of slices of toast each for breakfast.

Despite the grey skies, it was dry which meant another day in the garden, Kitty from next door had the same idea. Jon moved the third of the raised beds we'd collected a couple of weeks ago whilst I potted up some of the bamboo & and moved it to beside the pond. Jon moved a couple of clumps to fill the gaps in the hedge - we've no problem if that area gets taken over by the stuff. 

While Jon mulched between the raised beds and filled them with compost I raked over the bed in front of the wood store and the leaves piled up beside the compost bin. 

Jon had planted an array of seeds he'd collected every time we were out last summer and they had all sprouted, we moved these into the cleared bed.

I wonder what they are?

After a break for noodles, we planted sunflowers, dahlias, sweetcorn, mini munch cucumbers, more Greek beans and potted up the tomato seedlings. I then did a litter pick of the avenue (and our hedge). A man waiting for a friend told me how much he loved the craftivism sign hanging from the gate. He lives in a house by the Arboretum, Walsall's largest park, and on just one day last week his wife picked up 13 discarded bags of dog sh*t from their front garden. I realised after he'd gone that I should have given him one of my signs. Isn't hindsight a wonderful thing?

My new-to-me quilted jacket is the perfect gardening attire and I was more than happy to wear it again as part of my Wear:Sleep: Repeat challenge, this time over one of my vintage block printed kaftans (from Old's Cool Traders), a me-made hat and my embroidered polo neck from East. 

The details: My vintage wellies (a permanent fixture of late!), Indian jewelled cuff (charity shop), Kashmiri papier mache bangles, Mum's 1970s pendant, Turkomen earrings.

Whilst Jon worked on his music I made another couple of banners. I can't take the credit for the words, Cozy Cottage in California left me some fantastic anti-littering quotes in her comments last week. If you feel inspired to make your own, I recommend half a square of craft felt (I bought mine from this eBay seller), writing your message in indelible marker pen and then chaining stitch over the top. I then stitch the felt to a strip of fabric which I hem and thread with gardening wire, leaving the ends long enough to tie around railings or lamp posts.

Tea was an aubergine & spinach masala Higgety Pie Tony had bought me, accompanied by with some veg. Later we watched another Walking The Dead and episode two of Line of Duty, as always it was stupendously good.

Gah! It was still dark when I got up on Monday morning, bloody clocks! My first task of the day is always to scrub out the cat bowls and fill them with fresh food & water and yet the lads go straight outside and gobble up the stale cat biscuits left out for the birds. 

After my Wii Fit workout, I wrapped the last of the eBay parcels and joined Jon in the kitchen for breakfast. After the dismally cold weekend, we'd been promised a mini-heatwave for the early part of the week and Jacob was already creaking around the lounge keen to get into the sunshine.

While Jon was doing the post office and supermarket run I sat outside and finished A Woman In Berlin, which was astonishingly good despite the harrowing subject matter. I've never read a war diary like it.

After our lunchtime noodles, we'd planned on an outing to the tip but Jon checked the live feed and the queues were insane so we decided to mulch another pile of branches, yielding four containerfuls which we spread around the garden.

We went for a walk around the block, hung our craftivism banners and were pleased to see that the McD's trash that had blighted Saturday's stroll was being picked up by another litter collector.

I wasn't sure if it would be the polo neck or the kaftan I'd be rewearing today but the forecast was spot on and it was the latter that got given the Wear:Sleep: Repeat treatment. This time worn with a vintage quilted Phool waistcoat & some vintage sunglasses.

The details: Lotts from Stockholm highwood taupe clogs, Phool waistcoat, Afghan earrings, Mum's 1960s turquoise, vintage Tropical sunglasses and copper pendant (Sheila has its twin!)

Tea was halloumi with roasted veg, a glass of wine & lashings of Henderson's Relish which until Allie Jane mentioned it, I'd never been aware of this veggie alternative to Worcester sauce (which contains anchovies). 

It's Liz and Adrian's birthdays! Liz & Al are on their way round as I type (it's legal to have friends visit your garden as of today) and we're visiting Liz & Adrian at the weekend. Must dash!

Stay safe & enjoy the sunshine!