Seen at the Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Phantom Flan Flinging *

Those of you reading yesterday may have thought I'd flipped and gone off into some sort of surreal fantasy. Well, I was feeling the same way myself. I'm still not sure if I've been dreaming all of this, but the constant pinching of myself assures me that I really am here.

Yes, a TV researcher did come to choir on Monday evening.

Yes, she did invite us over for a custard pie fight last night.

Yes, I did go - with 2 other choir members, a friend, plus 10 people from Neston Players who'd also had a similar invitation Monday lunchtime.

Unfortunately I can't show you anything of the fight itself - you'll have to believe me that the pictured innocuous looking building does indeed house a television studio. I'm not allowed to publish any photos until the programme is aired - around September time. The surrealness continued well into yesterday evening - the studio is also part of a massive Ministry of Defence complex, completely deserted when we arrived. It could have been the setting for a) an initiative test for us (which we were doing OK at, having assembled at the right place in spite of the directions being hopelessly wrong and the promised Volkswagen Beetle parked outside nowhere to be seen); or b) a very wobbly Dr Who story, probably dating back to the 1970s with Jon Pertwee or Tom Baker; or c) a James Bond Film - well a girl can dream can't she? We finally managed to locate the studio door and found we actually were in d) a very chilly TV studio within a very messy warehouse. It turned out that filming was running late - could we come back in an hour as they're shooting some time lapse at the moment? Luckily Kath lives close by so we decamped to hers for tea and a warm fire. On the way out, the previously invisible security guards had restationed themselves by the gate - getting out was much harder than getting in!

On our return, the studio waiting area had been transformed into a hive of custard pie making - 12 inch round flan cases topped with lashings of squirty sweet cream. The production team were in a frenzy and for once the Runners were living up to their job title. Near accidents were (disappointingly) avoided on a regular basis. Under bright studio lights at the far end of the warehouse, 2 tables were literally groaning under the weight of custard pies. A quick Health & Safety lecture, then the director came over and took us through what he wanted us to do. Laughing a lot was to be the main thing - before, during and after the fight. Then we met the Executive Producer - another Health & Safety lecture (!), plus a warning not too throw too high as they didn't want us to damage the overhead camera.

We were then led onto the set, limboing slightly under the camera boom to get there. We were lined up against the wall - we must have looked like a very strange unmatching police identity parade to our onlookers. A slight rearranagement of the players to form the most aesthetically pleasing shot, then the static cameramen did lots of staring enigmatically into his viewfinder, the director looked at his monitor at the side of the set, 2 moving cameramen recorded everything, the rest of the production team got out their digital cameras. All except one, he stepped in with his clapperboard to announce Take 1 - how cool is that!

We needed 2 takes for the 'before' shot, but after that we were pros and did everything else in one take. There was a bit of a tense 'schoolteam picking' moment as were divided into 2 groups - with much defection and taunting going on between the teams. My team were much more brazen - we lined up in front of our table where the main action was to be, whilst most of the others (except one brave lass - soon to be our prime target) cowered behind theirs. Another clack of the clapperboard and we were off, including several of the production team. Within seconds it was cake carnage and we were quickly covered from head to toe, front and back in a sticky, gooey mess. It takes about 10 minutes for 20 people to throw 1000 flans at each other, including picking choice pieces off the floor to throw again. My friend Chris was sporting a particularly fetching flan hat at the end of it all.

Another lineup for the 'after' shot and that was that. We were handed loads of wet wipes to get rid of the worst of our new facial makeup. I was glad of a complete change of clothes - even so I shed lumps of cake everywhere on the way home. I decided to treat myself to a bath instead of my usual shower. This revealed cake in some most unexpected places. However, today I think my hair has a more lustrous sheen and body to it - must have been all of that cream 'conditioner'.

Before the shoot I was worried that trying to laugh on somebody else's whim wouldn't work - it would be too forced or not at all. However, the banter of my fellow flan flingers and the surrealness of the situation soon took hold and I laughed until I ached. It was FUN! When can I do it again?

* = A regular feature on Tiswas, a Saturday morning TV programme of my childhood and an apt title for this post seeing I can't show you any of the action yet.

ABC Wednesday - O is for...


As well as the show gardens I've been featuring this week, the RHS Show in Cardiff had 2 marquees filled with specialist nurseries exhibiting their wares. The David Stead orchid display was a masterclass in displaying choice specimen plants to their best advantage and deservedly won gold.

Noodle your way over to Mrs Nesbitt's place for other choice ABC photographs.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

Meeting 'Esther in the Garden' Centre

Last Monday I met Esther Montgomery. In the event she might bring Ming along with her, I thought it best we meet on safe, neutral territory, so we mutually agreed that Poundbury Garden Centre's coffee shop would be a super place to meet. Looking at her blog, it seems Esther was worried about me too - I'm not an axe wielding alien from Saturn, but I did have my Swiss Army Knife (well concealed) just in case. Frankie from Veg Plot was nearer the mark - according to Belbin's team role assessment test, I am indeed a Plant (Resource Investigator too).

Unfortunately Ming was nowhere to be seen, so I can't bring you any stunning revelations about him, nor a sneeky photograph - you'll just have to make do with Esther's portraits. Esther was great - a witty, charming, straight talking companion. I decided not to probe too deeply about her blog - a large part of its pleasure is our daily episode fix as the mystery slowly unravels. Those of you who are a little puzzled by it - just hang in there it will make sense in time, Esther assures me.

Our time together passed all too quickly and Esther disappeared (see picture) into the garden centre to buy some seeds - but where is she? Like Ming, Poundbury is a mysterious place - a model village (looks it too), that seems rather lacking in soul and inhabitants. I saw nobody on the streets, no children playing, no dogs barking, no washing hanging out to dry (clothes lines are banned apparently). Did Esther join the residents somewhere else, in another dimension perhaps? If anyone's looking to remake The Prisoner and Portmeirion's unavailable, I recommend Poundbury to provide a substitute location.

Esther invited NAH and I to her house later in the week. Aha, I'll get to meet Ming - yippee! But illness on Friday prevented us from doing so. Perhaps that saved our skins? Next time I'll bring Skimble and Jess with me for protection, just in case.

An Announcement & A Bizarre Invitation

Last night at choir practice:

Hi, I'm from Touch TV and we're doing a series for the Discovery Channel on the Human Body. One of the episodes is looking at laughter.

We all found this very funny and laughed - right on cue.

Yes, we use up 341,000 calories during our lifetime just in the act of laughing.

Amazing - this could be the new diet we've all been waiting for!

We'll have 1,000 custard pies at our studios in Neston tomorrow [totalling 341,000 calories] and are looking for volunteers to come along to fling them at each other.

I find this idea strangely irresistable...

Slugger Off!!!

Another favourite garden from the RHS Show in Cardiff and featured on Breakfast News on the first day of the show. It was designed to be a lesson in slug avoidance without needing to resort to chemicals, hence it's name Slugger Off!!! Students from Heronsbridge Special School worked with a garden designer to realise their project and it will be rebuilt at the school after the show.

Planted with slug resistant plants (listed on the leaflet eagerly provided by the students), the garden had lots of lovely touches such as the nestboxes in the shape of buildings and the handmade pots hung in the trees to nurse along seedlings until they are robust enough to be planted out in the garden. I particularly liked the idea of using snailshells as cane toppers (see the bottom left hand corner of the picture) - another way of exacting some revenge in our war on snails!

The students were very keen to show me which parts of the garden they'd help to design. I asked one boy where he'd got his inspiration for his nestbox. The internet miss - of course, silly me. We were there when the students were awarded their RHS medal - a silver. They were so excited jumping and whooping with delight, unlike the garden designer who said grumpily I'd hoped for better, I got gold last year. I prefer the students' response and will donate to their appeal to help them realise a full blown kitchen garden for the school.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Puss, Puss

'A pint of your finest, Landlord please' - picture courtesy of NAH.

Our closest pub on holiday happily turned out to be the Royal Standard in Upwey, listed in The Good Beer Guide for the past 10 years. A magnificent resident eagle owl greeted us on the way in with several who whooos? A sign of randiness apparently. The resident cat Puss, turned out to be very affectionate and talkative - just right for a couple of cat owners missing their own pair (or purr?). Whilst her name isn't particularly original, the pub's landlord told us it's the only one she'll answer to.

The bar had an unusual feature for a pub - a cat flap. Apparently the landlord had to install it when they had three rescue cats. Whenever a dog came into the pub, the cats would leap over the bar, including climbing up customers' backs if any of them were in the way. The cat flap's installation has subsequently prevented much flying of fur and kept many a customer's temper just that little bit sweeter.

Luckily for us Skimble and Jess don't sulk and sit with their backs to us when we get home from holidays. They don't seem to mind that we may have been cavorting with substitute cats whilst we've been away. They've been extra loving and fussing since Saturday - Jess decided I needed my head sitting on this morning followed by her purring loudly in my ear to wake me up.

RHS Show Cardiff - University Research Garden

The couple I met who'd designed this show garden were most enthusiastic about what they'd done, but extremely nervous as they were about to hear the results of the RHS judging. It's a garden celebrating the 125th anniversary of Cardiff University and every aspect of the design had a meaning and connection with the university. Each of the original departments was represented in the bespoke sleeper steps; the plants were chosen for their connection to the university's research - for example daffodils for Alzheimer's treatment, chillis for cancer; recycled material such as PCs and bell jars were used as planters and cloches. Even the bicycle had a meaning as the first chancellor of the university went everywhere by bike.

This was my favourite garden for a number of reasons - those given above, plus the fact I studied at Cardiff for a year in the 1990's. Also, I may have had a hand (literally) in the materials used for the garden. On our last field course, we spent an afternoon at Llysdinam, the university's field research centre near Builth Wells, planting thousands of willow cuttings. My hand was blistered for a couple of weeks afterwards. The planting was for a major research project investigating the use of willow as a biomass crop. Willow from our planting was used to make the pictured fencing around the show garden. The garden was awarded an RHS Silver Medal - a great achievement for the first-time designers.

Sunday, 27 April 2008

A Garden in Time

This post is especially for Joy, a self-confessed Dr Who fan. It was taken at the RHS Show in Cardiff just over a week ago and was awarded the best Show Garden, attaining RHS Silver Gilt standard. This garden also appeared at Chelsea last year, but was more appropriate for the Cardiff show as Dr Who is filmed in and around the city. It's actual title was A Garden in Time and was a garden of 2 halves. The first half (pictured) was contemporary in its feel and reflected the current incarnation of the Dr Who series. The second half represented a garden from the 1960s (all square lawn and serried ranks of annuals plus vegetable plot - just like many gardens in Chippenham currently) which is when Dr Who first started. The pictured TARDIS had just been switched on by the garden designer (also pictured), was revolving and playing the Dr Who theme tune. A few seconds after this picture was taken, the garden designer was inundated by dozens of primary school children, all fans of the programme.

It wasn't my favourite garden at the show - more about that later on in the week.

Plot Views - April's Green Fuzziness

Friday, 25 April 2008

Garlic Experiment - Preliminary Results

My garlic glut is planted out now and sprouting strongly on the allotment. I have some preliminary results to share with you from my experiments in February. This is to see if fridge or freezer treated garlic can be used successfully in the event of us having insufficient winter cold to encourage bulb formation.

Garlic in the freezer

Don't bother - as dND predicted, the cloves' structure was damaged. They turned squishy and orange and are now on the compost heap.

Garlic in the fridge

These were placed in the fridge the same nights as frost was predicted, but taken out of the fridge during the day to simulate the same daytime warming as the outside garlic would be getting. They were unharmed by the experience and were beginning to sprout when planted out on the allotment.

Garlic left outside

My experiment's control group - left outside during the whole period and then planted out in a block on the allotment. They experienced 10 nights of frost and like the fridge garlic, they were beginning to sprout on planting.

General Observations
Preliminary results show that fridge treatment doesn't harm garlic. Unfortunately, there were frosty nights after planting, so I won't be able to see if fridge treatment alone is suitable for encouraging these cloves to form bulbs properly. However, I will still be able to compare the two groups for potential yield differences later on this year.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

ABC Wednesday - N is for...

...Not in Use

This is the sign that adorns our loo door up at the allotment for 5 months of the year. Whilst we're lucky to have a water supply, it's turned off in November for the winter to prevent burst pipes and leaks. It's only just been turned back on owing to the cold spring we've been having.

For other ABC Wednesday pictures hop on over to Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Around the World in Eighty Gardens

Has anyone else noticed there were in fact 82 gardens featured?

Tell me, which garden would you most like to visit and why?

Saturday, 19 April 2008

Here's the Second Awards Bus

As promised yesterday, I have more Awards to tell you about and pass on. Just because these are in my second post on the subject, it doesn't mean I value them less.

I've been enjoying getting to know my fellow ABCer Suburbia over in Bristol and it comes as no surprise she's been recognised as giving 'Good Chat'. Her blog is a lively one, as are the comments she leaves over here. It's great to find that she thinks the same about me. There doesn't appear to be firm guidelines on passing this award on, so I'm going to nominate Flighty - another dear friend who always leaves great comments here, gossips away over at Flighty's Plot and encourages non-Bloggers to start blogging. I'm also nominating Joy - I get at least one cheery message a day from her over at Blotanical as well as her regular comments on here. Finally, I'm giving this to Anna in the hope it will encourage her to start blogging as soon as time permits and to thank her again for her contribution. Stand up and take a bow the three of you!

I now need to let you into a little secret. I'm actually away whilst you're reading this (which explains why I'm not getting back to you at the moment), but I'm giving the new posting facilities in Google Beta a 'destruction' (i.e. thorough) test at the moment. Hopefully, something will pop up for you to read pretty much every day until I get back. However, it also means I'm facing my first ever Blogging deadline to get stuff done and I've encountered a problem with the instructions for the You Cheer Me Up award Deborah kindly awarded me last week. So I'm sorry Deborah - I haven't forgotten about it, I have my all nominees lined up, but I've simply run out of time to get this one right. Also Suburbia and Growing Our Own, I haven't forgotten about the meme you've both tagged me with - the questions are very good, but I need some more time to mull over my reply and I'll be doing this down in sunny Dorset over the next few days.

So dear reader, just like buses coming along, it's going to take me three attempts to answer and pass on all my awards.

Earth Day

Tuesday is Earthday, which this year focuses on global warming via its Call for Climate campaign. First celebrated in 1970, it has expanded rapidly - according to the Earth Day Network one billion people will be celebrating today through events, educational initiatives and campaigns in over 170 countries. Will you be one of them?

Logo courtesy of The Earthday Network.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Garden Ideas to Mull Over

I appear to be getting quite a few Search Engine hits lately on the theme of 'small garden ideas'. Poor people, they will have gone away a little disappointed so I thought I'd put up the courtyard garden displayed at the Ideal Home Show recently for anyone else who happens along later. I've always liked moongates and stream bed style planting - here small mound forming alpines and herbs were used to provide a planting tough enough to remain relatively interesting for the 24 days of the exhibition.

Surprisingly about a quarter of the exhibition space was given over to gardening - mainly spa pools and patio furniture unfortunately. The garden pictured above was part of the Eco Home exhibit. This also had another, smaller courtyard garden featuring recycled materials to use as e.g. garden mulches. The accompanying blurb also talked about using the garden pond as a means of raising enough fish to feed a family for a year. However, neither pond nor fish were actually shown. This is part of the garden built for the Dream Home exhibit. Owing to the indoor nature of the show, planting ideas were a little limited. However, I've always loved these metal Allium christophii heads ever since I first saw something very similar at the International Garden Festival at Westonbirt a few years back. At some point I'll convert these ideas into sketches for my gardening course.

Just Like Buses

Well it's been quite a week for VP here. I'm quietly typing away and a whole nosegay of awards and accolades fall into my lap. I'm really pleased - I write my blog to be the kind of magazine I'd enjoy reading and it's really good to know that many of you out there like what I do. Constructive criticism is also welcome. In order to thank everyone properly and to pass these beauties on, I think it's going to take more than one post to deal with this little lot.

Firstly, thanks to David McMahon over at Authorblog. He has a regular feature called Post of the Day, where he nominates his best reads. David has given me an honourable mention twice this week for Signs of Tinseltown and Hollywood Inaction. Thanks David - coming from an author, that's special praise indeed. Passing this award on is easy, just check out David's blog and say g'day - he also welcomes your nominations for the award.

Next up to give me an award was Viooltje - a lovely, recently made friend from Croatia. Do go and visit her blog for fun, informative posts and fabulous photographs of gardens and Kefalonia. Viooltje has been very generously telling me all about the music of her homeland, a style called Klapa. We're currently singing one of these songs (Plovi Barko) at choir and will be performing it at Stourhead next month. Viooltje's so enriched my experience that I hope we'll be doing some more of these songs in the future - and I know who to go to for some recommendations :)

I need to pass this award on to 10 people. A difficult choice when I have so many in my Google Reader. I'd like to nominate:

  • Threadspider - I know her previous blog received this award; it also needs to adorn her new one
  • Simon over at The Plot Thickens - Simon has been a good friend pretty well from when I started to blog. In addition to allotment goodies, go over there for a dash of poetry, folklore and an award winning shed
  • Kate Smudges - another Blogger escapee who needs this to decorate her lovely fresh new site
  • Gardenpunks - a dose of Californian sunshine, gardening and sustainability. Go and check Katie and Chris out if you haven't already
  • Aunt Debbi's Garden - worth a visit just to see her Gerberas and a sure bet to cheer you up
  • An Artists Garden - practical gardening with humour plus Karen's a very talented artist based in one of my favourite parts of Wales
  • Deborah of From Here to Eternity - from England to a farm in France complete with alpacas. It's a fascinating story
  • I'm surprised that this doesn't appear on Louise's blog already. Lots of lovely plants, poetry and friendly comments from over at her Patch
  • Jodi of Bloomingwriter fame - lots of thoughtful posts, comments and general blogging encouragement
  • David McMahon - see above for links. I've been a fan of his stories, humour and photography way before his awards to me recently!

I'm sure at least some of you have had this award before, but that doesn't matter. I don't think the awards criteria states that you can only have it once!

Phew - that's it for today. Deborah and Surburbia - don't worry your awards are in the next bus, sorry post to come along :)

Thursday, 17 April 2008

Magnetic Poetry - April

Another example which thoroughly justifies my nomination as the worst garden blogger poet over at The Garden Monkey. I'm secretly quite proud of this, but it's early days yet re actually grabbing the award. Last week's effort garnered my nomination, but my spectacular early efforts in the genre here and here have been overlooked. They show why I need my Bad Poetry tag.

This is just one category in the funtastic Fork n Monkey awards. You have until May 16th to vote. Note that some element of gardening must be included in any blog nominated. The full set of categories are:
  • Best Writing
  • Favourite Cat Blog
  • Favourite Seedling Photo
  • Favourite Snap Without Crackle or Pop
  • Heather Mills Al Fayed Award
  • Jeeves Award for Worst Dressed Celebrity Gardener
  • Most Entertaining Garden Website
  • Most Interesting Self-Portrait
  • Most Unusual Vegetable Based Blog
  • Not the Greatest Poetry in the World (mine!)

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

ABC Wednesday - M is for...


Way back in January when I was out taking pictures ready for World Wetlands Day, I spotted this rather pleasing combination by a neighbour's garden. I loved the contrast of the rich greens of the moss against the bark, berries, box and even the pavement. If you click to enlarge the picture, you can see that there are at least three species there. Just don't ask me to identify them!

Have a look at Mrs Nesbitt's Place for more pictures on the theme of M.

Tuesday, 15 April 2008

A Rare Event

NAH isn't called Non-allotmenteering Husband for nothing. Usually his sole contribution to our food production is ensuring the grass gets mown from time to time. However, his aunt in Poole gave us a Mantis Tiller last month, so I've managed to persuade him into another useful plot based actvity involving a gadget. Sadly Gwen has had to give up her plot now (third generation allotmenteer no less and my inspiration) and was only too glad to pass the Mantis on to us. Luckily NAH is an engineer, so was able to get the tiller working again. It was a close run thing - there was a certain temper lost this afternoon (believe me it's best to evacuate the area when this happens) which got placated by a swift ice cream of the Magnum variety (phew!). The Mantis isn't everyone's cup of tea, but it worked beautifully this afternoon, seeming to spite Fred at plot 20's dire warnings about our clay and the machine's light weight.

Now I can plant the held back spuds tomorrow - it'll be much quicker than last year thank goodness. The dry Spring conspired to make concrete out of my beds and I was almost in tears by the end of potato planting. Ruthie 3 plots up was literally crumbling enormous clods with her bare hands in a desperate attempt to cover her spuds with a finer tilth. Little did we know what was to come...

GBBD - April Flower Shower

In honour of my first Garden Bloggers Blooms Day, I wanted to give you something a bit special, so I've created a new Slideshow for my sidebar entitled 'April Flower Shower'. It shows you flowers from both my garden and my allotment, though I have to confess the cherry blossom's from round the corner, the pink magnolia is the view I have of my neighbour's new tree from our garden and the potty cats had me in fits of giggles at my local garden centre last week. I couldn't resist them and I hope you enjoy the show!

Whilst I was selecting the photographs, I noticed that my pear blossom had a rather nice visitor I hadn't seen when taking the shot. I love it when that kind of thing happens - so I thought I would show it you again to illustrate my GBBD post.

Monday, 14 April 2008

It's Decision Time

I've been over to Swindon today for my regular volunteer stint at Heelis, the National Trust HQ. I'm now at a bit of a crossroads there as I've been offered a meaty new volunteering role - the management of the volunteer programme for the Gardens Survey Project. This is a flagship, 3 year project being undertaken to survey 100 gardens. It involves plant surveying, GPS mapping and digital photography.

The offered role ticks a lot of the right boxes - it makes use of my skills in abundance, builds on the planning advice I've given to the project thus far and is far more interesting than the archive sorting I've been doing (and moaning about) lately. However, I'm not leaping at the opportunity. To me the role described looks like a full-time one, not 10 days induction followed by a day(ish) a week. A couple of the other volunteer roles appeal much more to me - Plant Recorder and Photographer. These are property based and look like they have a better fit with the gardening course I'm currently studying, but don't make such full use of my skills. Also the properties close to me aren't due to be surveyed until next year and may not require that kind of help anyway.

Another option is to go and do something entirely different - either at the Trust or elsewhere. So which is it to be - stay as I am, take on more responsibility, do something else there or elsewhere? The clock is ticking and I need to decide...

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Plot Views - Sunshine & Cat

[Fanfare] This is my 250th Post - I guess I'm not a blogging newbie anymore :)

Saturday, 12 April 2008

Leafing Through...

In response to Threadspider's comment last week, here's proof that Skimble does indeed bring us presents of the reddest Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin' leaves he can find. As you can see he's contemplating going and getting the next one. He always brings us red rubber bands too - I wonder if cats can see in colour?

Friday, 11 April 2008

Gardening Ideas at the Ideal Home Show

Gardeners weren't left out from the ideas shortlisted for the Innovations section of the Ideal Home Show recently. First up was an idea to save watering can overflow. I'm forever off to fit in another quick task whilst my can's filling up, only to return to find I'm also watering the patio. I won't attempt to explain how it works, but you can click on the image to enlarge it if you feel like reading the blurb...
Those of us used to using springform cake tins will be kicking ourselves for not applying the same principle to the humble plant pot - would we be millionaires by now? Maybe, maybe not...
Finally, not strictly speaking a gardening idea, but it gets to the heart of solving many a gardening tea break disaster. I suspect Nicey and Wifey might have a word or two to say on the subject...
What do you think of these ideas? Do you think any of them will actually hit the shops? Have you got an idea of your own? If so, perhaps you need to enter next year's competition...

Update: Crumbs, Nicey and Wifey had more than a word or two to say on the subject - do have a look here. And a warm welcome to those of you who've come over from their lovely site.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Hollywood Inaction

I tootled off late this afternoon following the tinseltown trail to see The Wolfman filming in Lacock. OK, I had a bit of a thing about Sir Anthony Hopkins as a teenager (in his classic BBC serial/Alistair McClean action hero phase), so I was really after a glimpse of the beknighted one. What struck me was how so many people (at least 50) can do what seems so very little for so long. The pictured extras were positively animated compared to what didn't happen for most of the hour I spent there. The fact that we were outside and most of the filming was inside the Tithe Barn probably didn't help either. In addition, the crew's communication system was less obtrusive than Monday's, so I suspect they heard all sorts going on through their earpieces. They did react, rather zombie-like in my view, to unheard commands from time to time. Sometimes this resulted in a series of barked orders - 'Stand by guys, let's lock it up',... 'Rolling',...'Cut there'. During this sequence two actors (one of them a rather dishy Benecio del Toro) briefly appeared at the door of the Tithe Barn and went in (dialogue - 'Morning', 'Morning' quickly fading to a mutter, mutter, mumble) whilst a lady with a basket walked past the door. That's it. 5 times in half an hour.

Three newspaper photographers were there to capture it all. Judging by their conversation they'd had a pretty thin day of it and had resorted to discussing their kit, especially lenses. 'Is that a 35:70 you've got there?' 'Yes, but I've got a 28:35 - I can do anything with that'. So why weren't you using it then? I also got an insight into the Hollywood hierarchy - the pictures they'd got of Hugo Weaving and Benecio del Toro just weren't good enough. 'Is He (Hopkins) here then?' 'Oh yes, went past this morning in a silver Merc.'

Trouble erupted just as I was leaving. The filming was right by the village hall which was holding a craft fair. Stallholders were disgruntled that no-one was visiting them and were complaining bitterly to the film crew about blocked access. To be fair, the film crew did keep the footpath open during most of the filming, allowing access both to the hall and the scarecrow trail many children were following in the late afternoon sunshine. I think the scarecrow trail was more of a problem than the filming - plenty of people were going past the hall, but with kids in tow crafts weren't really what parents had in mind for an afternoon's entertainment.

Update: dnd, one of my regular Commenters was an extra in another life. I just had to pull out her Comment into this Post as it adds a further insight into what happens on a film set:

'One of the reasons it takes so long is that it is re shot with the focus on a different person each time, so they can cut to full face view. That plus getting exactly what the director wants can take for ever even on an indoor set. There is also the problems of extraneous noise, people, cars, planes that we filter out but the sound recordist picks up.

But you do sit around for a long time, I discovered I could usually crochet a pet blanket during one days filming.'

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Thought Fragments from Bristol

Hustling bustle slows
To Temple tranquility
Stately sentinels salute
Relics in their midst

Roses for rememberance
Simple blossoms bloom
A pause in city life
Complete with birdsong

Scattered thoughts
Gather around me
I'm at peace
Time to pause, to reflect

Sirens shatter stillness
I walk on.

ABC Wednesday - L is for...


I couldn't resist this delightful kitty at the Ideal Home Show last wednesday. It was part of Number 1 Lower Carbon Drive, a full-size house built to show the latest ideas for greener living. There was lots of advice available too. The purpose of the cat? A visual representation to show each one contributes 10 watts of energy to a home. Just think of the heating bills we're saving with two!

Do go to Mrs Nesbitt's Place to find other ABC Wednesday pictures.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

Sunshine Botanics

Yesterday saw my return to The Botanic Nursery for their monthly plant workshop on unusual plants for lime tolerant soils. I think most people were put off by the snow flurries and hail, but as you can see, most of the time was spent in delightful clear sunshine. I was the only one there so 1:1 tuition was on offer for topics of my choice.

The nursery's transformed into a mass of green since my last visit. The glasshouses are full to bursting with choice plants - they're exhibiting at no less than 3 shows next week - one in France plus RHS London and Cardiff. By the time I catch up with Terry at Cardiff next Friday, I suspect he'll be exhausted. The pictured area was being 'tidied' ready for the next batch off plants to be set outside for hardening off. Alison was pricking out so industriously whilst I was there, I think they may run out of space quite soon.

I asked about my 'challenging' RHS seeds - Terry was much more relaxed about them and suggested I let nature take its course instead of fiddling around with things like cold stratification. In view of the time it'll take for the seeds to germinate, anything I do to try and hurry along the process won't actually save much time. I'll be taking his advice and I'll find a nice tucked away spot in a north facing part of the garden to let the seeds quietly get on with doing their thing. We have a gravelled side path to nowhere at the front of the house, so I think this will be a good spot.

We then took our customary walk around the shrub garden, gravel areas and glasshouses to see what was what. It was the perfect time for cherry blossom and a Snowy mespilus was in full flight too. Terry collected some cuttings material as we went and I then received a masterclass in softwood cuttings - I got to keep them too. I was then left to look around the nursery area - lots of plants were jotted down in my notebook for future reference. Uncharacteristically I resisted a couple of Heucheras ('Obsidian' and 'Lime Rickey'), but I did come away with a very large pot of Brunnera macropylla 'Jack Frost' I've been after for a while.

Two cups of coffee, chocolate Hob Nobs plus masses of knowledge and inspiration. Perfect.

Signs of Tinseltown

Unlike the last time, I managed to take a picture of the 'secret' sign at the end of our road yesterday. It's one of the cryptic clues left for the latest film crew to find their way to Lacock from the M4. On Thursday, the village will be graced with the presence of Sir Anthony Hopkins, who is starring in The Wolfman, a remake of the 1941 film. The Tithe Barn and High Street will be used for the scenes and judging by the signs a little further along the road, it looks like Castle Combe will also be used. We've also just heard that Dame Judi Dench will be returning to Lacock later on in the year to film a Cranford Christmas Special for screening in 2009. Exciting isn't it?

Last night we had our first choir social event - a meal at the Flemish Weaver in Corsham. On arrival, I found myself in the middle of another filming event, for Tess of the D'Urbevilles starring the latest Bond girl. The street opposite the pub was transformed (oh why did I leave my camera at home?) and two heavy horses and carts were trundling up and down. Various dark clothed dowdy extras crossed the street from time to time in response to very crackly instructions relayed to them via walkie talkies held by the film crew. Progress was slow as it took ages for the horse and carts to be repositioned for each take. We had the 'ambience' of the massive arc lights used on the set illuminating our meal plus windowseat views of all the action. Strangely the crew's packing up to go home coincided with our post meal rendition of some of our favourite songs - do you think we scared them off?

Monday, 7 April 2008


I was feeling rather left out when most of the UK's garden bloggers posted their pictures of snowy gardens, fields and snowmen yesterday. So here's the light dusting of snow Chippenham experienced for all of half an hour this morning. Canadian readers in particular will be falling about laughing at how such a pathetic amount is newsworthy. However, this is the only snow to have settled here so far this winter, so do indulge me - just this once ;)

Spring Pruning - The Key Stages

Work in Progress - Cornus pruning in the front side garden. You can also see where the public land begins on the left - land ripe for Guerilla Gardening...

Do you get kind of twisty about your garden at this time of year and want to change everything? Me too. The cure? Get on with spring cleaning the garden, especially pruning. My perennials have been cut down to let their fresh green growth stretch into the newly created space. The late flowering Clematis are cut back to newly sprouting buds. My climbing roses were cut back to their framework branches in February. The final job is to prune the shrubs such as Hypericum, Potentilla, Perovskia, Fuchsia, Teucrium and Cornus. I completed the job today - a little later than most years, but the recent cold weather has held things back a little. In doing so I've realised that there are several key stages to my approach with these shrubs:

1. The Nervous Nibbler
A bit of a twig here, a shoot there. The odd dead branch removed. A secauteur job only. 'Oh I don't want to hurt you, my precious' runs through my head as I go.

2. The Reckless Hacker
Right I can see what's what now. Everything's criss crossing each other, so must go. Let's get out the loppers, oh and this pruning saw's needed too.

3. OMG what have I done?
This stage is reached usually when my pile of prunings on the patio is approximately the same size as my house. Oh dear, is that tiny stump all that's left?

4. Oh well it'll come in handy for:

5. There that's much better
A state reached a few months later when the stump from stage 3 has magically transformed into a fully grown shrub again.

The Constant Gardener has a different approach - she thinks it's a more artistic activity.

Aw mum, where's the Teucrium? I wanted to play hide n seek!

Bizarre Bathrooms

One of the weirder aspects of the Ideal Home Show was the Madame Tussauds Celebrity Bathrooms display in the Bathroom Ideas section. This comprised of 5 different bathrooms replete with wax dummies - often posed as far away from the bathroom furniture as possible. Only J-Lo and the Louis Walsh/Simon Cowell combos were dressed in bathroom gear, the rest were dressed as if they were going to an awards ceremony, such as the pictured George Clooney. I took this picture just before closing time. Earlier on in the day you couldn't get near him for 'women of a certain age' queuing up to have their pictures taken. I felt it was just plain creepy - I haven't really liked things like this ever since being scared to death by The Autons in Dr Who as a child. I still have nightmares about being trapped in an old fashioned department store being chased by mannequins to this day. On Friday evening NAH and I watched Michael Clayton on DVD - a much better (and thought provoking) way to see George Clooney in my view.

Update: For those of you reading this on a Sunday UK time, your eyes aren't deceiving you. I was trying out Blogger's new beta test scheduling feature and set this piece up for Monday morning. It was happily sitting there as a scheduled item until I hit the refresh key when I returned to my blog and hey presto! it appeared before the scheduled date and time. I've reported this bug to Blogger. Be warned - I'll be trying this new feature again to see whether the post appears at the scheduled date and time, so be prepared for seeing something early again...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

An Ideal Day

On Wednesday, NAH and I decided we needed a bit of joint R&R and so we went 'up to the smoke' (London) to visit the Ideal Home Show, which ends today. Our last visit was over twenty years ago when we had a long weekend in London to celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Our souvenirs that time were a magnetic window washing kit (meant to be used for simultaneous outdoor and indoor window washing, utterly useless so thrown away) and a mincer (of the meat variety) which has languished in the back of a kitchen cupboard ever since. Surprisingly it's the show's centenary year, which seemed to be the perfect excuse for a return visit.

It's very hard to categorise the show. It's a weird mix of department store, educational/thought provoking exhibits and taking part in a really dreadful TV shopping channel - Nicer Dicer anyone? The show's centrepiece is usually some mock up houses. Latterly these are more like Portakabins than houses, but a Dream Home and Eco House were this year's offerings. Personally I was a little disappointed that the two concepts were separated as it might suggest to visitors that you can't be eco friendly and have your own dream space. However, I was heartened to see the visitors to the Eco House were taking time to read every label about the home's contents. Even stuff that I would normally turn my nose up at (e.g. recycled polysterene masquerading as wood - where was the sustainable forestry alternative?) was of good quality, but this interest was then let down by the lack of follow-up available to visitors who might want more information about how to get hold of the products.

The main centrepiece for this year's show was Century Street, an exhibition showing home interiors from 1908, 1958 and 2008. In addition there were displays from each decade in between, drawn heavily from Robert Opie's Brands Museum, which gave a real insight into how our social history has developed over a century. I found the 1958 kitchen quite unnerving as it was just like my gran's prefab house kitchen I can remember from my 60's childhood in Birmingham. It was also interesting to see how many of today's familiar brands are 80-100 years old. From the overheard comments, it was clear that this exhibit was jogging many people's memories.

There were also displays of iconic products - the kind that have really changed our lives in the past century. I was surprised to learn that the microwave was launched at the show as long ago as 1947. I don't think many of the products being demonstrated this year will make a similar exhibition in a century's time! The Innovations section was interesting - this included a competition for people (mainly design students' ideas were shortlisted from the thousands submitted) to come up with new product ideas. I was particularly amused by the hamster cage/paper shredder, where the hamster could make its own bedding on a regular basis. I thought the curtain that doubled up as an escape ladder in case of fire was a particularly strong idea.

We had a most enjoyable day - we only bought one thing, a skillet with a lid we've been hunting for for over a year - most of them don't have lids and NAH had quite an 'assertive' conversation with a salesman who told him he didn't need a lid. 'That's b******s' were NAH's final words on the matter. I was heartened to see when we did finally find the product we wanted on another stand, that the saleswoman put it in a cotton bag instead of the usual plastic fare. NAH was particularly endearing when he said (unprompted by me) 'Don't you give that to my wife!' as a woman tried to give me a Botox leaflet - bless. I've plenty more to tell you about the day including a full gardening report, but I'm saving that for posts later on in the week.

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Pet Celebrations

Today marks the start of National Pet Month here in the UK. So what better way is there to celebrate this event than by posting a picture of Jess in the garden this week?

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Well, were you fooled?

I'm a day late in posting this as we had an early start and late finish yesterday in order to go to the Ideal Home Show in London. I'm sure you'll agree it was worth it, just for the picture taken on the B&Q stand to illustrate my April Fool's Day roundup. More about the show itself in later postings.

I was pleased to see so many Garden Bloggers out there in a playful mood on Tuesday and thanks to those of you who left a comment on my small contribution. Jodi over at Bloomingwriter killed two birds with one stone by re-writing the opening lines of my favourite poem (TS Eliot's The Waste Land) for her Garden Bloggers Muse Day offering thus providing links to several jokes, including the splendid Daffogerberas and mysterious Indian artefacts I'd also seen in Nancy and Carol's gardens. I loved Aunt Debbi's tale concerning her monkeys' constant attempts to con her; Matron's new type of apple was a delight, as was Phil's astonishing news concerning Kew Gardens.

The BBC got a lot of mileage from their 'flying penguins' - even showing a 'making of' article the next day. This also provided the annual excuse to reshow the classic 'spaghetti harvest' spoof from 1957.

Update - from the Commenters on this piece, I see that Prairie Rose has the ultimate rabbit solution...

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

ABC Wednesday – K is for…

…Kitty cats

Having put our two cats Skimble and Jess up on the sidebar, it’s about time I introduced them to you properly. And what better place than ABC Wednesday where I’ve been struggling to find a suitable letter K out there? They’re our second pair of cats, a brother and sister born in January 2001, who joined us in late February the same year from a nearby cat rescue shelter. Sadly we left their mother plus 3 brothers and sisters behind, but they all found good homes – we know they must be good because of the owner vetting process we had to go through!

Both are going through the ‘spring madness’ at the moment: Jess chases randomly about the house and Skimble has found his tail again and chases it incessantly. Skimble’s also bringing us regular presents of the reddest Photinia x fraseri ‘Red Robin’ leaves he can find in the garden. He announces their arrival with much fussing and meowing. This habit’s so pronounced, we call each one a ‘Very Important Leaf’ (VIL).

Jess is named after the cat owned by Postman Pat – how unoriginal we are! We took longer to name Skimble - after T.S. Eliot’s poem, Skimbleshanks The Railway Cat. This was the first poem that NAH learnt by heart as a child and I’m sure if our Skimble lived by a railway, he’d be ‘busy in the luggage van’ too. He’s twice the size of Jess, 13 pounds in weight to her 6. You certainly know it when he lands on your lap!

Here you can see Jess’ audition to be the next Felix pin up. I’m sure the call will come any day now. She’s the brains of the outfit, having worked out how to open a half locked cat flap when set to incoming cats only. She’s also the talkative one - Skimble’s the strong silent type, though both have purrs like engines. She loves milk, yoghurt, cheese, pasta sauce, soup, curry, porridge - even cider on one memorable occasion. She’s an avid watcher of wildlife programmes and was glued to the tiger documentary last Sunday. She licks my head (we say she has a licker problem - she also has the swishiest of tails) when I’m in the bath or sitting on the sofa. She’ll also come and wake me up in the morning when NAH’s downstairs getting the breakfast and leaving me to have a lie in - vigorous treading, purring loudly in my ear and sitting on my head’s her usual technique.

As well as a liking for boxes, Skimble’s a foot fetishist – he curls round my feet, licking then biting them, purring away like mad. He also likes to sit on me under my tapestry frame when I’m doing my needlepoint. Initially he chases the wool and finally falls asleep with his paws curled over my leg. He also has an endearing habit of snoozing with one paw over his eyes. He loves collecting elastic bands, finding the ones our postman leaves on the streets during his round. He brings them in with as much excitement and ceremony as the VILs. He’ll tread on me for ages if given the chance, preferably with his nose up my armpit. He’s also fascinated by watch glass reflections made on the wall by sunlight – he’ll jump and chase them all over the place. So much so, that NAH has bought a laser pointer for him to chase the red dot – eventually into NAH’s slippers at the end of the game.

Both of them loved sitting on top of the PC monitor and were most confused when we went flat screen. Nowadays Skimble tends to sit at my feet when I’m working on the computer. I always know when NAH’s arriving home as Jess has a special meow that she makes at no other time. She also rears up on her hindpaws when you stroke her. Both are fluent in Spanish as I used to chat away to them when I studied the language. They love to help around the house being particularly proficient at bed ironing, especially any jumpers, fleeces, trousers and pyjamas we leave there. They love reading the newspaper, especially if they can scan it through their bottoms. Naturally they’re extremely good at gardening – that’s why they’re our ‘Garden Helpers’ ;)

ABC Wednesday is bought to you courtesy of Mrs Nesbitt's Place.

Tuesday, 1 April 2008

Now Flying from Terminal 5

Along with the 'flying penguins' on this morning's Breakfast News, it seems that pigs really can fly today. Unlike flights recently from Heathrow's brand spanking new Terminal 5...
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