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Chris (Cwol) is coming round to visit any minute now, so I've been preparing things for his visit. Accordingly, there are freshly roasted coffee beans I did last night, and bread is baking even as I type. The plan is to have a steak sandwich at around midday.

I've rearranged my bedsit so two of us can sit at the table, and I have to say I like this arrangement a lot better. My easy chair is stuck in the corner. I'll see how it actually works in practice for day-to-day living, but for having someone over it's much more pleasant and open.

I've even hoovered. It's exactly as much faff as I remember, even with the tiny Tescos hoover that's so easy to move around. Now I know why I don't do it very often. I have to admit, it does make a real difference but I can't exactly see it being a weekly event. Anyway, it's done and I am pleased with the results.

My to-do list for today:

Post a letter
Buy steak
Make coffee
Drink coffee
Make a steak sandwich
Eat a steak sandwich.

The letterbox is right next to the butcher's, and the butcher is about eighty yards away, just to give some perspective.
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Ruthi and I got baked[1] and then rained on then baked and then rained on, then baked. Then ccooke caused pizza. There's some clearing of stuff into skips going on, but I am not hugely involved.

[1]Sunshine, not cannabis.
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Pol came back at about elevenish and went straight to bed without saying goodnight. Random lent me her phone charger. I asked if she had a nice dinner. She said in the end she hadn't eaten anything because she'd had toast while she was waiting for Pol to bring me back.

I made Pol a coffee in the morning, but he was having a fasting blood sugar, so it was wasted. Still, he sat and chatted with me a while, mostly about the Steam games he bought me. I am trying to download them while I am here, but the emails went missing and without the emails Steam isn't forthcoming on past gifts.

Spice and Hatter were bouncing on me all night long, so I didn't sleep very well. I have fed them and emptied the cat tray. I am also cleaning up the conservatory, which is full of rubbish from where the rats all used to be, and gathering my art stuff so I can do art. I've just stopped for a meal break. It's Tescos Value Cottage Pie - I feel quite brave for eating it.

Pol said he wouldn't be back tonight as he's out to a prearranged social event. I wish I was going - it would be nice to see people while I am here and I've switched to a later sleeping pattern to fit in with Pol and Random, so being up late isn't a problem. Still, there's Mary and Tim's wedding on Saturday! After which I am going straight home, which apparently spoils Random's trip to Coventry, as I was expected to look after the cats. They thought I was leaving on Sunday, but I decided to go straight home rather than get a train on Sunday for a journey I already don't like very much. Random has really had a lot of inconvenience from me this trip up, though she's being nice about it. Pol won't be able to look after the cats, because he's off to a different wedding with Kira. He leaves Friday evening, so I think from what he's said that tomorrow morning is the only time I will see him, before he goes to work and then to pick up Kira, and then to the wedding.

It's bright and sunny out today. The fruit trees look good where Pol planted them.

Anyway, I'd better go and eat, and then actually do something instead of moping around online.
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Today Kira went with me, but I could as easily have gone on my own. It's been bright and not too cold all day so far. We've somehow missed the patches of rain, seeing only damp pavements where rain has been.

This was the second lesson on Secretary Hand, which is ane bastarde to reade. 'e' is backwards. There's a sort of t which is actually 'c'. There's a 3-shaped capital E, except it's not an E, it's a lower case 'h'. There's a w which is actually an 'r'. There's a flourished O which is a 'G' and some weird scrolled thing which is a 'J', except when it is 'I'. There's a b which is a 'v'. And there are |||| marks, loosely joined together, which can be 'm', 'i', 'u', 'v', 'n' or any combination thereof.

And then, to save time writing, they have contractions. So #tE with a line above is actually 'Wch' with a line above, which is actually 'Which', the line indicating the missing 'hi'.

Oh, and this was before dictionaries, so spelling is more or less arbitrary. That said, the words read surprisingly modern. There's 'wee' for 'we', and 'soe' for 'so', and 'discrecon' for 'discretion', but most words are as you'd expect.

So yes, by the end of that, we were all quite thoroughly brainstretched and I was backsore too. I managed lunch, which had home-grown things in - baby pak choi (thinnings basically), baby spinach, rocket salad, baby celery stalks (thinnings again) and swiss chard, chives and nasturtiums. Some plants were salad, some went in with the beef meatballs and the carrots and the (dried, soaked) wild mushrooms in beef gravy. There were cubed boiled potatoes and butter with, and a little pancake (leftover batter from breakfast) to soak up the gravy afterwards. People are Fed.

Having shown willing as a host, I've now retired and left Kira and Small to entertain themselves while I sit hugging coffee Kira made and probably playing Minecraft all afternoon. It is 1.4.2, the Very Scary Update with carrots, potatoes, witches (and their huts), corner stairs, cobblestone walls, picture frames (you can put items in), flower pots and goodness knows what else in. Lots to do.
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Before I get onto gardening, I liked this letter to a girl.

The part of the house inspection I am given to get ready for is the garden. So, today, I:

Sawed out neat squares from the blown-down trellises to make smaller frames for the winter squash.

Took the rest of them apart and stacked the pieces.

Cleaned the masonry to repaint, only to find we're out of masonry paint.

Took out about fifty dead canes from last year's bushes.

Mowed the lawn, filling our not-small mower's basket up twice.

Edged same.

Stained the decking rails, fence and bird feeder. (You can't even see where I stained the decking rails in November - the weather has scoured it all back to bare wood).

Weeded, although only enough to appease the house agent.

I'm going to see if the local nursery will deliver me a bulk amount of bedding compost for all the May sowing, and the delayed late-April sowing. I basically need enough to cover the vast bulk of a twenty-foot-long, four-foot-deep bed six inches deep.
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Today I was outside before dawn. The radio had forecast a week ahead of scorching hot days, so I watered all the plants before the sun could hit them. Last thing at night would be better, but I am always so very tired by then. By the time I was done, there was a thin skin of ice on the bird bath, by that magical process that uses a black, shallow dish, morning sunlight and some weird trick of radiation. It allows people in hot countries to make ice in above-zero temperatures and I have no idea how it works. The outside was chill enough to see my breath, but the greenhouse was nice and cosy already. Thank goodness for the automatic vent. I foresee myself having to put blinds in as well later on.

I've planted out lots of strong young morning glory "Grandpa Otis" plants, which were sown less than two weeks ago. After only three days, they were strong seedlings with two leaves each, and now they're starting with their true leaves. They're poisonous as anything, so they're safe from slugs.

My sweet peas I wanted to cover the ivy have been eaten, so I planted out more. Learning from last night, I strewed the ground about them with dandelion leaves, but then I got nervous and gave each one a plastic bottle greenhouse as protection. They only get morning sunlight unless they get a lot taller, so they should be fine.

I had the idea of watering the holes into which I was planting my sugar snap peas before planting the peas themselves. I have no idea why I thought to do that, but doing so revealed that one of the holes had a major drainage problem and would have drowned my poor pea. I solved the problem by poking holes down through the clay pan with a knife-sharpening steel (one of my favourite gardening tools) until decent drainage was achieved. I put a comfrey plant in next to that pea, so it can drill down with its massive tap root and break through the pan of clay. It isn't quite ready to go out, really, so it got a little bottle greenhouse too.

My turnip seeds I think got baked to death in all the hot dry weather, so I planted out more under square clear plastic tubs. That particular bed (brassicas, carrots, alliums and helpful herbs and flowers) is a no-dig bed - a four-inch deep layer of rough compost on top of the existing layer of dead leaves. One dandelion has so far managed to work its way through even that layer, but its single long, blanched yellow leaf was simply plucked out and left for the slugs. Six leeks still survive, poor things. I actually plant leeks 'for real' next month with decent hopes that *those* ones will make it. I've learned more since the January sowing, and the future leeks will sit in plastic cups until a decent size, then go out. I'm not sure how many leeks I should sow for myself, anyone got an idea?

Not everything I plant out is dead or dying! The sugar snap peas I planted out a while ago are absolutely fine, thriving even. The raspberry, loganberry and redcurrants are fine. My calendula pot marigolds, by the blackcurrant bush, are starting to sprout. The potted nettles have already provided a meal. I have three living parsley plants and one coriander (I drowned the other one, which is very, very easy to do). I think some outdoor-sown asparagus peas are sprouting.

There are dandelion leaves everywhere now. I am starting to run out of dandelion plants. This is a new and refreshing situation.
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Back out into the garden again, on *another* warm sunny spring day - although we did have a hard frost a few days ago. Yesterday, it rained sideways, until I fell downstairs and badly twisted my ankle, after which it became warm and dry and perfect gardening weather. Today was lovely to begin with so, regardless of my ankle, out I went.

My 'normal' peas, Kelvedon Wonder, (not sugar snap or mange tout or sweet or asparagus) have developed a white mould, so that tray is out in the open to dry out. Everything else in the tray is burgeoning and couldn't be healthier. I have baaaaaaaaaaaby watercress. So tiny! I think I am down one leek, leaving 15. Everything else is still alive too, including the rocket which has lots of new true leaves and should be ready to harvest in four weeks or so, if it doesn't all suddenly die.

The rhubarb is alive and very well, with several leaves out now. I've dumped some asparagus crowns behind it, two different sorts the names of which I can't remember. At the time I planted them, which is to say this morning, the place where I put the asparagus was as far back as I could go. As it gets tallish, it's fine being the backmost plant. Of course, since then I've hacked into a thorn bush and the laurel, and now there's several feet of bare earth behind it, even counting the space for the growing fronds. I don't know what will play nicely with rhubarb, asparagus and strawberry and be taller than any of them.

I found a strand of bramble that had snaked out onto the lawn, disguised as cut twigs, and looped round to go back into the overgrown evergreen shrubbery again. I cut off the loop, cut it into sections and put it into a pot. Tame blackberries would be very nice.

The blackcurrant bushes have stinging nettles sprouting behind them, but apparently stinging nettle is very good for blackcurrants, so I have left it. The space underneath that the nettles don't get is going to be full of sage and nasturtiums later.

The west-facing wall, where I would eventually like fruit trees, has revealed two rose bushes hidden under the blown-down climber (winter jasmine? not sure). I'm planning to put all sorts of peas there this year, with winter squash and spinach underneath, interspersed with lavender and rosemary. The herbs will stay there but I'll have different veg next year, and have the peas where the leeks are now. My in-between planting there is rocket salad and pak choi, sown in August over the cut-down peas in the spaces between/under winter squash plants. I haven't fully sorted out the architecture of putting squashes in, but I know they like peas. I hope they like spinach.

The leeks and spring onions will have companion plants too: carrots (red, purple and fly-repelling orange) and purple-sprouting broccoli and romanesco. Marigolds will probably be in front of this bed, as well as dotted around elsewhere where they can do the most good.

My north-facing fence is wild. It's filled with shrubbery, snowdrops, rotting logs and cut twigs and is left alone, although it's probably getting a load of woodland-mixture wild seed at some point. Everywhere I'm not actively growing vegetables is getting wild flower mix.

Bulb-wise, the daffodils are *still* not out, and there's some hyacinth making an appearance, although obviously it has a long way to go. There are a lot of not-flowering bulbs that look like snowdrops - lots of healthy green or green-and-silver, but no flowers. Not sure what to do with those.

My ankle doesn't like me any more.
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Today was a lovely warm spring day with occasional sunshine and dry all day. I have a shocking cold, but it wasn't so bad earlier so I went out and sorted out my plants.

On the 14th January I sowed seeds of catnip, woundwort, comfrey, sweet peas ('Old Spice' mixed), leeks (White Star Autumn Mammoth), spring onions (White Lisbon) and rocket salad (cultivated type).

Of fifteen rocket salad seeds planted (seven months too early to be really successful apparently), 15 have come up. They were transplanted last week to a seed tray full of compost for cut-and-come-again, and are alive and well today, growing their true leaves. Apparently rocket salad quite often do very well when little and suddenly fall over dead, so we'll see. At this time of year they will also be more prone to pests, yay!

The leeks were planted far too early and will all die, but of the 24 seeds sown, 16 have survived long enough to be planted outside to die there.

The sweet peas got too cold and too wet and succumbed to mould, so of 18 seeds, only 12 made it into the ground outside, underneath the dead bush by the decking. The birds love that dead bush, so I am loathe to root it up just yet. It can be a trellis and feeding station for this year. The sweet peas are useful for adding nitrogen to the soil as well as smelling nice and looking pretty. I do actually expect most of the sweet peas to live to flower.

The spring onions were planted at the right time of year and should have been fine, but I think they disliked the three days they were deep frozen. Of twelve seeds, five seedlings remain alive for now, in a trough in the greenhouse. I have more seeds I planted on Friday which may do better.

Two catnip plants are just showing. There is no sign of the woundwort or comfrey. I have more comfrey seeds to sow much later in the year when it might do rather better.

I also dug up all the stinging nettles that were growing by the rhubarb, and have put it all into a lovely blue pot, with compost in the bottom and the same earth it was already in surrounding the roots. Stinging nettles, if wilted over flame, make a nice spring salad snack. They're also a boon to wildlife. The roots yield a yellow dye and the stems can be retted and woven into cloth. I expect the nettles to do very well, but the sheer act of trying to cultivate them might send them into a decline.

I also transplanted some chickweed seedlings out of the way of my sweet peas - chickweed is a very pretty salad herb, with a fairly pleasant greenish nothing-taste and pretty white flowers. I'll mostly be leaving it in place to grow as a green manure and occasional snack. The chickweed I haven't touched at all should do well.

On Friday, I planted out grown parsley from pots, and the bulbs of freesias and asiatic lilies. The last two plants are not edible and have no use in a vegetable garden, but I like them. Nearly everything else I am planting has a purpose - as food, to deter pests or to attract bees and wildlife.

I learned that if I want bee-friendly garden flowers, I have to grow varieties with single flowers rather than double. Bees get confused by double-blooms and can't get nectar, so they waste a lot of energy looking, then go hungry. Bees are in so much trouble already that I'll make sure my blooms are all single-flower only.
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Today was great. I woke up in time for Pol to tell me that Livi was coming over with Harvey and, very briefly, Adam. The last time I saw Harvey, he was a dark-haired babe in arms. Now he's a sandy-haired and very taking boy, full of curiosity about the world but amazingly good-mannered for someone who is only very nearly two. He's also a neat eater, within the limits of his dexterity. Human bodies are complicated to operate, and you don't realise how much until you watch a young person trying to use their hands well.

We went to the Swan with Two Nicks for lunch. The food was good - slow braised lamb shank with apricots and roasted garlic for me, chicken stir fry for Livi, Harvey had sausages and chips and some of Livi's crab salad and my side vegetables. He likes crab, which I thought would have been too bitter for a toddler. Livi looked in good form and was great company, talking about crafts and life in general, and Pol has been a sweetheart all weekend, so it was a really nice day out.

Pol's new toy, a radio-controlled helicopter, is a huge draw for just about everyone, apparently.

I got back tired, slept in a draughty room and woke up in agony. Cocodamol did nothing, which made me realise it wasn't actually a migraine, but a one-sided tension headache. While nothing except opiates seem to touch my migraine pain, opiates do nothing whatsoever for muscle pain, which needs anti-inflammatories or, in this case, a nice hot bath which Pol ran for me. So, my day started with company, moved on to lunch and ended with a lovely hot bath which I didn't even have to run.

It's been a nice day.
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I've culled all my dullest snails and kept those with lighter or more rufous markings. I'm now down from several hundred snails to about two dozen. Given the sheer number of eggs I destroyed, I'd have had over a thousand within a fortnight. The rotting plants have been taken out, the living plants put back and the tank water is clear again instead of murky green.

More people in my friendslist are dropping Livejournal and switching to Dreamwidth. I gather livejournal have been doing something even nastier with advertising, while Dreamwidth have just brought out a whole load of new features. I do like the way DW ask 'what do you think?' and take it all on board.

The weather continues sunny. It's very, very odd, at least for the North Wet of England it is. We're getting drought warnings. I like having the windows wide open and listening to birdsong all day. It's especially sweet when Moth's curled up under my right hand and occasionally prodding me in the midriff as a reminder to keep stroking her head. Poor Pol is going to be melting.

This article from last week offers a picture of how racism is affecting people in the British workplace today. To quote: Blatant racism is still far too prevalent in the workplace: more than a fifth still said they had been offended by a racial remark in their place of work. Chinese were the most egregious victims with 35% citing an example, followed by a quarter of Pakistanis.


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May 2014

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