Saturday, 8 May 2021

The Distancing Diaries - 7th & 8th May, 2021

It was gloriously sunny when I got up on Friday morning so I did a load of washing and pegged it out on the line before booking next week's National Trust trip and doing my Wii Fit workout. I'd had a flurry of eBay sales overnight which I'd wrapped in readiness for the post office run. After breakfast, Jon stripped and changed the bed as the weather forecast was terrible for Saturday so it would our only chance to line-dry the bedding. 

The MyHermes driver arrived with a skirt I'd bought from eBay less than 24 hours ago and I decided to throw caution to the wind and wear it immediately. It's the second skirt I'd bought on eBay this week! I know I didn't need another vintage Indian cotton block printed midi skirt with a quilted hem but this exactly matched the waistcoat Liz bought me for Xmas and what're the chances of that happening?


The other skirt was waiting for me when I got back from Attingham. It'll be perfect for Greece...when I get there!

We'd had a bit of a disaster when we got home from our trip to Attingham on Thursday, the glass from Gilbert's headlamp fell out and cracked into a million pieces. Jon ordered a (costly) replacement and needed some specialist screws to attach it so, after he'd dropped the eBay parcels off, we had a drive up the road to B&Q, the DIY superstore. Needless to say, I couldn't resist a browse around the garden department and couldn't resist a scabious reduced to half price and a tray of alyssum for £1.15. 


Back at home, we had a bowl of noodles before changing into our gardening gear. Whilst wandering Attingham's woodland I'd spotted this pack of wildflower seeds tied to a tree. At the bottom of our lawn where our garden becomes wild and woody I decided to clear a space and sow my seeds, so I dug the ground over and scattered them, planting my new scabious in the middle. Jon made wigwams with the bamboo sticks we'd salvaged from the plants we'd dug up and we planted out the sweet peas we'd grown from seed. He used some of our stash of logs to edge the border.

A couple of days ago I was leafing through the fabulous book, Garden People (which I wrote about HERE) and spotted a Cotswold stone trough very similar to one we'd unearthed from the undergrowth years ago.

We managed to manoeuvre it onto our sack truck and drag it down to the area I'd cleared to make way for the compost bin. I filled it with compost and planted it out with alpines. 

While Jon continued repositioning logs, I planted my alyssums around the stepping stones and in the rockery that borders the path, I gave everything a thorough watering and retired to the bench for a mug of tea.

After a salad and flatbread we continued watching the wonderful Johnny Vegas: Carry On Glamping, Waking the Dead and Gardener's World, accompanied by a few rum and colas.

On Saturday the torrential rain woke us up at 5am although we soon went back to sleep. The lads generously allowed Jon to stay in bed until 6.45am & after he'd seen to them he returned with mugs of tea and we lay and read until 8.30am. I cleaned the lounge while Jon made sausage sandwiches. After stripping off my nail paint I watered the houseplants, spent a lazy couple of hours on the internet and ended up buying a garden bench, as you do!

Richard delivered a book reader Elizabeth mentioned when she'd left on my blog the other day. It sounded right up my street and I was really pleased to track down a secondhand copy for 88p.


By the time I'd had a rummage through my suitcases and swapped a few dresses in my wardrobe for a couple of others the rain was starting to ease off so we grabbed our jackets and dashed outside. Jon had a pile of junk useful things that will come in handy one day, which he spent a couple of hours sorting out and moving else. Meanwhile, I emptied the window boxes and planting the cyclamens, miniature goldcrests and ivy elsewhere in the garden. I planted the window boxes with geraniums and planted the rest in terracotta pots. 



We'd just about managed to finish our tasks before the rain returned so we scuttled back inside for a posh coffee and a couple of biscuits.

Thanks so much to everyone for your suggestions and thoughts on my Australian branch of the family. Amanda managed to find James' probate notice and told me that his son was a politician. An internet search led me to find his photo and to confirm this. James Chapman was born in Melbourne in 1855 and in 1922 was elected to the Tasmanian Legislative Council as an independent member for Hobart. He died in office in 1925. On his Ancestry.com page, someone had uploaded a photo of his headstone also inscribed with the words And Loved Son, Norman Morris Chapman, master mariner and airman, born 28th November 1899, killed in air accident Queensland, 3rd October 1934.

Norman working on his Gipsy Moth, 1931 (SOURCE)

It turns out that my fourth cousin was one of the pioneer pilots of Australian aviation! 

Norman began his working life at sea at the age of 14 as a cadet officer working his way up to becoming a ship's officer in passenger and cargo vessels on the Australian coast and on overseas missions.  In 1925 he took up flying, leaving his seagoing career to fly a single-engine aeroplane purchased by his older brother Geoffrey. In 1926 the plane crashed near Victoria, killing Geoffrey but leaving Norman only slightly injured. After the tragedy, Norman returned to the sea but due to the Depression, desk officer's jobs were in short supply so, with the help of his father-in-law, purchased a De Havilland Gipsy Moth (see photo above) and became well-known for his joy-riding missions between Tasmania and Victoria.

Norman, in the foreground, 1933 (SOURCE)

In the early 1930s, he joined Matthews Aviation and was one of the pilots responsible for pioneering the Bass Strait air service between Australia and Tasmania. Flying his own aircraft, he achieved the distinction of landing on ice at the edge of the Great Lake in Tasmania. It is also believed he achieved the first landing on Tasmania's rugged West Coast. In May 1934 he joined Qantas, at that time still a domestic airline. Based in Queensland, his duties included carrying mail and passengers between the company’s ports in western Queensland, and supporting the Aerial Medical Service (later renamed the Flying Doctor Service).

How amazing is this photo?

Norman in 1933 by George Matthews (SOURCE)

On 3 October 1934 the Qantas DH-50 aircraft Atalanta he was piloting crashed near Winton in Queensland while en route from Longreach on an early morning flight killing Norman and his two passengers instantly. He left a widow, Ella, and two young sons, Geoffrey and James.


It's pizza and salad for tea. Later we'll be drinking rum and watching the TV & anticipating tomorrow morning's charity shop rummage.


Cheers and see you soon!


PS Thanks for the hilarious eCard, Catmac. xxx

42 comments:

  1. Have you looked on Find A Grave? It sound kind of morbid, but there's tons of useful information on the site.

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    1. I have, thanks very much! It's fascinating! x

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  2. I have to say I'm thrilled the charity shops are open again. :)

    I've just been catching up on your blog posts, and loving your NT adventures.

    I'm fascinated by your family tree research. I was going to try to do mine during the first lockdown because our local libraries were offering free access to Ancestry.com for library members. Unfortunately it only seemed to be quite restricted and I really didn't have much luck. Do you have any tips please? xx

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    1. It's lovely to be able to go for our once a week mooch although we're thinking of braving it this week and spending a whole morning visiting different ones - it sounds so daunting after 14 months!
      You can get a long way on Ancestry without being a member but I opted for a pay monthly basic membership so I could view censuses and military stuff. I don't think I'd fancy doing it at the library as it can take hours if you find a particularly interesting branch. xxx

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  3. Your garden just seems to go on and on - love the trough. We watched Johnny Vegas the other night as well - about 8 years ago when we were holidaying on a campsite in France he was also there on holiday with his sister and nephew! He was very friendly and was in the pool everyday with his nephew chatting to everyone.

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    1. The more we clear the more daunting it seems to get!
      What a fab story about Johnny Vegas, I'm so glad he's as lovely in real life as he comes across on the TV, he's a national treasure! xxx

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  4. The skirts are gorgeous and it's wonderful you have a match for the fab waistcoat!

    The Australian connection is so interesting and what a lot you've found out in the short period since you first posted about it.

    The garden is looking wonderful; such a lot of lovely plants and the stone trough filled with succulents/alpines is wonderful. What an amazing photograph of the woman with the original stone trough; I loved her outfit and her style.

    I haven't yet watched Johnny Vegas glamping programme; but I watched a programme he was in years ago;set in Manchester where he was a small time drug dealer and in one particular episode he was tripping and I laughed till I cried. I can't remember what it was called but it was brilliantly quirky and funny.

    It's going to be warm tomorrow...enjoy!
    xxx

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    1. You can't ahv too many skirts, can you?!
      I'm so excited about some of the interesting ancestors I'm unearthing in the family tree. I can't believe nobody ever spoke about the Aussie airman!
      Johnny Vegas is definitely worth a watch, he's always been a favourite of mine but it's lovely to see him as a real person, he's such a sweetheart. xxx

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  5. The perfect season for losing oneself outdoors. I really really REALLY needed spring this year. She sensed it and returned. I love your pictures, Vix... each & every one. Much love~ Andrea xoxo

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    1. Send her to visit us in the UK please, Andrea. Spring seems to have gone missing lately! xxx

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  6. Who cares whether you actually need more Indian block printed maxi skirts? Life is too short to worry about things like that. And how amazing that the first one matches your waistcoat exactly! I can never resist buying more plants either, and I think I might have the same Scabious. I love how you made it the centre of your new wildflower border, which will look absolutely amazing come Summer. The bamboo wigwams are a great touch too. That stone through will look fabulous too planted with alpines. And to think it had been hiding in the undergrowth all this time!
    I'm glad to hear you've been making progress with the Australian connection. Once again, a fascinating read! xxx

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    1. Exactly! In the olden days I would have probably frittered the money away on bits and pieces I didn't really need when I went to town or popped into the pub!
      I loved that scabious, I can't believe it was in the clearance bit, I think there was a solitary brown leaf! xxx

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  7. That sounds like a lovely couple of days. I full support the purchase of the new skirt - you could NOT leave a perfect match! I am always awed by all the plants and gardening (says she who owns not a single plant), and I'm happy you took the packet of wildflower seeds, as wildflower gardens are my favourite. I can't wait to see how this all looks in a few months. Perhaps a video tour of your garden?

    As always, I love reading about your relatives. How cool to find all the Australian connections!

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    1. I had to have the matching set, I'm glad you approve, Sheila!! xxx

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  8. You're really cracking on with your garden. I love the wildflower area, we've rewilded quite a bit of our lawn and it's great for the pollinators. The free seeds are such a lovely free gift.
    What a lucky find the matching skirt is, it's a perfect match for your waistcoat.
    Despite stormy weather, we got out and walked Ziggy today, you seem to be having more sun than we are at the moment, it's still good to get out though, just to smell the fresh air!! xxx

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    1. I was watching Poppy wilding a lawn on The Great Garden Revolution, it's a brilliant idea although I had to smile at No Mow May, we've had a No Mow month since last August!
      We've got sun but it's very fleeting, those black clouds are never far away. xx

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  9. Of course you needed that beautiful skirt, and well done on another bargain. Have you seen the prices some sellers are asking for "vintage" Anokhi at present - I saw a dress in fairly bad condition yesterday that they're asking £220 for đŸ˜±đŸ˜š

    Your garden is looking absolutely fab at present, massive congratulations on the new bed and managing to move that beautiful planter.

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    1. The price of some of the Anokhi is utter madness and don't get me started on the vintage tag, any seller worth their salt can easily google labels and get an idea of the date things were made!
      That planter was a pig to move, Jon's back was twinging all the next day, the TENS machine was on overdrive. xxx

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  10. I had a wall hanging made in the fabric from your 2nd new skirt, that hung on my wall during my teenage student years.

    Love Uncle Norman.

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    1. Ahhh, the Indian block printed wall hangings and the smell of nag champa, taht sounds like my student bedsit, too!
      Wasn't Uncle Norman a cool-looking dude? xxx

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  11. Hi Vix how beautiful your Phool skirt is - so floaty will be fabulous for your holiday. The Anokhi quilt hem skirt is also gorgeous and how lucky to find same print as waistcoat. I absolutely love stone sinks and troughs, yours is going to look a real statement in the Summer overflowing with pretty flowers. Amazing how much you have found in a month on your Ancestry searches - aviation in the family! not surprising as you are so well travelled :)

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    1. I was excited to spot that Phool skirt, I can just see me it with an off-the-shoulder top, a straw basket and my clogs sitting at a harbourside cafe in Greece with an ice cold drink!
      I'm always gasping over troughs and sinks and old galvanised laundry tubs planted up in National Trust gardens, too!
      I was beginning to think it was only my Dad that had travelled so I was excited to find adventurers on Mum's side of the family, too! xxx

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  12. the early 20.cent. airmen - and -women - are a very cool bunch! and you have one in your family!!
    how are the chances to find the matching skirt? of cause you have to buy it. and the pastel hued, airy one is just lovely too.....
    i wish you luck with the wildflower seeds.....
    xxxx

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    1. I can't believe it - if only my Dad were alive, he was in the RAF and mad about flying!
      I couldn't believe it when I spotted that matching skirt. What are the chances? It's not like they were mass produced!
      We haven't had much luck with wildflower seeds in the past, the birds keep eating them! xxxx

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    2. usual garden soil is to rich for wildflowers - the prefer a poor, sandy soil mostly......
      xxxx

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    3. Hopefully it should work, we've sowed them where an old rotten tree used to be! x

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  13. Oh my goodness Vix - you've gone from upper-class/royal shenanigans to Indiana Jones style adventuring! No wonder you're so gripped! Norman in 1933 is everything - so handsome and dashing.

    I read this article about Johnny Vegas - https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2021/may/04/you-love-me-i-cant-take-that-to-the-bank-johnny-vegas-on-money-fame-and-grief which is a bit heart-wrenching. I hope the show reflected a bit of that context, as well as Johnny just being daft.

    Your new skirts are triumphant - especially the floaty one! But what is this thing called 'Having too many Indian block printed maxi skirts'? lol

    I've invested in a bit of hook and eye tape to put on my quilted jackets, to keep them fastened. Those rolleaux loop and button fastenings are either impossibly tight to get undone or just keep pinging loose lol. I thought I'd stitch some hook and eye tape inside the offending garment fronts, just to hold them in place. The tape is cheap as chips on eBay and mostly very pretty, as it's a often-used component in lingerie/corsetry (ooh Matron).

    I wish it was warmer and then we could do more gardening. Our 'grounds' are not big enough to work up a sweat over. I've mostly been tidying up spent daffs and sulking because my lovely pink tulips have finally fallen apart.

    I'm on the hunt for marigolds to deter aphids from my roses and tender budding plants - companion planting is a thing apparently! I also want a heavy duty squasher in anticipation of lily beetles (hate, hate) - vile creatures.

    Take care all; Maryland - hot tea, buttered toast and big love to you x



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    1. Hi Elaine! You really must watch the Johnny Vegas programme if you can, I've always loved him but even a hater would be hard-pressed not to want to give him a massive hug (when we're allowed), he's such a talented and sensitive soul and this prject is nothing less than brilliant. The article is spot-on.
      Great idea with the jacket fastenings, most of mine are okay but there's one tricky one that refuses to stay fastened, I shall investigate!
      Having a walled garden does have it's advantages, it's a bit warmer although nothing stops that pesky rain. I love marigolds, I've got ten I've grown in pots. I usually leave them on the patio but I'm also trying companion planting this year so some will be moving to the veg plot with the nasturtiums. I know creepy-crawlies are a vital part of life but I'm not a fan either! xxx

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    2. Creepy crawlies don't bother me - but aphids/greenfly wreaking havoc on rosebuds and lily beetles chewing at my tree lilies (plus they disguise their eggs in something that looks like dollops of bird poo on the leaves) do my head in!

      I've abandoned the pocket garden front of the house to slugs and snails - the birds perch on the roof and throw the snails to the floor to crack their shells and have a feast.

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  14. Happy happy Sunday Vix! wow that stone trough is brilliant. It sounds like the garden is changing and morphing into a wonderland. You keep thinking of great ideas. Vix we are so lucky to have our gardens. I am thrilled for you that the skirt matches the waistcoat! what a find.Speaking of gardens the hubster delivered to a customer yesteday and come back grinning because he got to tour the lady's lovely garden that had links to Vita Sackville-West. I wish I had gone with him! Lazy day today went for a drive and just relaxing in Vix world. Funny yesterday I was comptemplating where to put a wildflower garden. So exciting to read about Qantas. when my eldest was a toddler we drove out to Longreach in the outback and saw where it all began. That was an adventure. My sister was a flight attendant with them for years. Well off to walk around and see how the newbie plants are doing. Great read again! Shazxx

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    1. Poor Jon's back was twinging after shifting that trough but it's lovely to be able to see it from the house rather than obscured halfway down the garden! I seem to come up with a new idea every morning, it drives Jon daft!
      How fantastic that your husband got to tour that garden. I think he needs to be a bit cheeky and ask if he can bring you for a look, I bet the lady would be really flattered!
      Have you been watching The Great Gardening Revolution on Channel 4? So many inspriring ideas for natural looking, eco-friendly gardens, you'd love it.
      How wonderful to visit the place Quantas started. Until I read up abouyt Norman I had no idea it started life as a tiny domestic airline, it's always been one of the big plyers to me! xxx

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  15. Norman looks like he was a sensitive sort, but that's only my impression from his photo. He was a handsome chap for sure, and it was so interesting to read about this branch of your family. Your garden is doing wonderfully and I'm curious to see what grows from the wildflower seeds you found attached to that tree.

    Of course you had to have the skirt that matched the waistcoat - that's a no brainer!

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    1. That photo of Norman was taken by a professional and it's in the Australian National Archives. I love the twinkle in his eye and that chiseled jawline, how sad to die so young.
      I hope those wildflower seeds grow, I've had to chase a few pigeons off the patch since I planted them but at least they're leaving my sweetpeas alone! xxx

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  16. I've just looked at the Garden People link Vix and I thought how similar Great Missenden looks to your home Stonecroft x

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    1. Stonecroft on a much grander scale! You're right, Flis, I thought the same. xxx

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  17. Love the family info. I found a cousin on my mum's side and a whole lot of history that I never knew about. When I was learning Maori language (I've a long way to go here), great emphasis was placed on our family line. So I researched my mum's mum, part Maori, and went back as far as I could - didn't get too far but I loved doing it, as you obviously do too.

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    1. Isn't it exciting to find people you knew nothing about? It must be frustrating not to trace your Maori heritage as far back as you'd like. xxx

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  18. I remember your first post about the Garden People book, I loved it and went on to buy it. Funny enough it’s on a shelf where I see it all the time as it’s laid flat on top of a pile of books. I’m going to get it out again and have another browse through.
    I’m hoping we get some better weather this week so that we can get back in the garden. Mind you I’m that absorbed with the textile group new project after our Saturday zoom meeting, it matters not if I can’t get outside.
    Your family tree digging is getting more and more interesting. Oh that we could just step into their world for a while and speak to them.
    Lots of love, I’m off to layer up my clothing as it’s another chilly wet day here xxx

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    1. Strangely enough, a girl I'm friends with on Facebook had shared a few photos of her copy which jogged my memory. I love going through the photos, so many of those very formally dressed gardeners remind me of my grandma and grandpa who were never seen in anything other than smart clothes!
      It's a been a very frustrating week weather-wise, glorious when the sun's out but it just won't stick around. xxx

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  19. It's really amazing that you managed to discover so much interesting information from a simple note written with a pencil. Lovely to read about the thrilling experiences in your Australian cousins' lifes. Totally gripping biographies!.
    Lovely new skirt and lovely that it matches your waistcoat, You Rock It!. I'm missing my purchases at eBay.Uk, which was such a fabulously assorted place to buy!.
    Your garden is looking more and more amazing and it's so lovely that you share some of the joy it brings you with us!. Thanks!
    besos

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  20. wow, Norman was both a dashing and an interesting fellow! You have the best family history.

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  21. Hi Vix, how interesting that you have a Tasmanian connection and a politician to boot. Norman certainly was a trailblazer , flying over Bass Strait in those early days would have been quite a challenge. Great Lake is in the centre of the state and a bit remote so that too was quite the achievement. On another note your garden is coming on a treat , keeping you busy . The new skirt is wonderful . Hopefully your weather is on the improve. xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. If you have a blog I'll pop over and return the favour.

Lots of love, Vix