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  • Wool-gathering in the autumn mists


    Yesterday I did my first bit of teaching for the year: 30+ bright eyed first year students, all looking to me for enlightenment on something called 'digital design methods'. A dubious privilege – especially for them. One student told me he'd had a brief career as an undertaker's assistant, which had involved sewing up nostrils and mouths prior to embalming. Made me think of the stitching of sailor's corpses into canvas prior to burial at sea and the final stitch through the nose that made sure they were really dead.

    Then I rushed back and tried to prove to some of my customers I really do know how to do it. Failed spectacularly by trying to squeeze an email the size of a bus thru a mailbox meant for Dinky toys. Just in time, I woke up to my incompetence and got the artwork through before the looming deadline.

    At dinner time I was reminded that a vegetable patch is such a responsibility. Every tomato and potato grown is like my very own child - a child that just demands to be eaten. Leaving them to rot in the ground or wither on the vine is neglect of the worst kind. So I whipped up some ratatouille from a vast marrow and beefsteak toms, chopping in some fresh herbs from the garden with fresh ingredients from the village grocer, nice Mr Asda. Last week the same marrow went into a very decent leek, tomato and lentil soup (recipe tba). With a bit of luck it'll be gone by Christmas.


    After a yoga class, which involved a certain amount of putting my foot in places where it doesn't belong, and a lot of blissful lying down I went to the grocer's. The fire alarm went off just after the nice assistant had found me to say they'd retrieved my two pots of yoghourt-for-£1 from the back room. The alarm had nothing to do with the lighters I bought or the quip about my being over 16. Mr Asda seems to train them well: disbelief was affected when I pointed out I was a multiple of that figure.

    Last night I dreamt about my graduation as a young designer a quarter of a century ago. For our 'final displays' we were asked to exhibit our coursework. In the dream my show consisted of a couple of dozen glass jars containing exotic fragrances I had blended. How very Mrs Jeffrey Archer.

    I will miss the first night of choir rehearsal tonight as I have to baby-sit my nieces who are seven, going-on-17. With luck I'll catch up on the singing next week. The choir's musical menu this year includes a bit of Tipett's 'A child of our time', some Vaughan Williams and Morten Lauridsen's 'O Magnum Mysterium' – which sounds more like an ice cream out of Philip Pullman to me.

    This Saturday is (drum roll) quiz night. It's in aid of the community orchard I foolishly thought would be a good idea. In the village hall, where else. On Sunday I'd really like to go up to London for the Hadrian show or the RA and maybe the Docklands Turkish Baths but it'd be a bit of a squeeze as I am bidden to the 40th birthday celebrations of a good friend.

    Picture 2.pngIt's exactly 30 years since the glorious Belgian singer Jacques Brel died. His Longchamp pipe was sold yesterday at a controversial Paris auction for €6875. The French were said to love him ten times more than British love the Beatles (which is really quite a lot). Today a newspaper article says that according to Dr David Fowler our 'beloved' Beatles weren't inspired by flower power and 'all you need is love' after all. Apparently the Beatles were young capitalists who just wanted to make a lot of money. Le plus ça change. For really revolutionary youth you apparently have to go back to the inter-war years, and a movement that was all about jumping naked into the River Cam.

    Enough gabble from me.

  • In the garden today...

    ...was this lovely comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album). Unlike many other butterflies, it stayed put when I started to take pictures with my phone, so I had plenty of time to get a reasonably good shot. At first its ragged appearance made me think it was near the end of its brief life (three generations live and die each season) but now I realise the torn edges are a characteristic of the species. Perhaps it was so drunk on the verbena pollen that it did not notice me. It never stopped to fold its wings, so I didn't get to see the characteristic white punctuation mark which gives this attractive butterfly its name.

  • In the garden today

    654e4e0ef97da85635769b5d4225d153.jpgThis roe deer fawn sprinted into the garden with its mother and a sibling this morning. The fields round here are now 'set-aside' and they provide good cover for roe deer, but this was the first time we'd seen one in the garden. The mother left her offspring behind when she jumped clear over the garden wall, leaving them terribly upset.
    I never realised they could utter such sad little cries! We did our best to chase them back into the field so that they could re-join her. We hope they don't become too frequent visitors as they can kill trees and lay waste to vegetable patches.

  • Going for a song


    At this time of year the birdsong is a terrific pleasure, but not if you live in the city. The New Scientist reports the end of the dawn chorus, killed off by city noise. It was thought that light pollution was the cause, but now it seems to be simply that the birds can't make themselves heard over the din of the traffic. Late at night, on my way back from the station, I've often been stopped in my tracks by the sad sound of a solitary wren, singing its heart out under the sodium glare. Now researchers say birds are getting stressed out by this forced adaptation.

    So it's a good thing that digital audio channel Oneword is no longer broadcasting. Thanks to the alternative reality provided by the internet, you too can listen to a sample of the channel's replacement, 16 hours a day of birdsong, apparently proving very popular with city-dwellers starved of the sound of the natural world.