Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

The spring garden

As the tulips and narcissus bow to a close, the garden is looking busier than usual at this time of the year and it's all down to my new policy of not digging out the border for winter.

Inspired by some of the gardening writers, who said leave the perennials and enjoy their wintry shapes, plus, do not dig the soil, I left everything untouched. There were a couple of surprises. Two trailing fuchsias, bought last summer and supposedly tender, survived.  The winter casulties included my most prolific duo, a salvia and and a perennial nemesia. I got rid of two phygelius because they had started to become thugs.
The daffodils were stunning this year, particularly "Dick Walden," and the delicate pheasant eye narcissus.

But the tulips didn't float my boat. I'd ordered two red types and the plan was to put them in the border at the front of the house, fringed with muscari and forget-me-nots I'd grown from seed. But when I started planting them, I realised I didn't have enough red bulbs for the space, so I changed plans and put them in the back garden instead. The orange and purple bulbs originally destined for the back went in the front border, and somehow didn't work very well because I'd also had some "free" purple bulbs and a few white ones which were different heights and colours, and it looked messy.

I've decided to treat my tulips as annuals and have a new display every year, which gives me the flexibility of using the containers for more plants during the summer.

Meanwhile, in the back garden, I've put in some new plants - monarda, which can tolerate most conditions, and nerines for a late summer display. I'm hoping that gladioli will be the new showstopper, having decided that dahlias and my garden don't really get on.

The two clematis Montana have been outstanding so I added a third, and I think this may be the year that honeysuckle Serota finally delivers on flowers. I've planted "Rambling Rector" to scramble up the obelisk and was pleasantly surprised to find the perennial sweetpeas all reviving to do the same.

Dicentra "bleeding heart" really went for it this year
The main colour theme is pink and purple with a few white highlights
The hawthorn is also in full flush. It always reminds me of David Hockney, whose exhibition we saw a couple of years ago. It featured lots of paintings of hawthorn, like big curly caterpillars, and apparently he adores it, waits for the flowering and then rushes out into the countryside with his easel.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Don't let the militant atheists take over

My blog is usually a place of insignificant ramblings about....er...rambling, gardening, cycling and the like. But one issue of recent days has stirred me into tackling a controversial subject.

I was pleased to see the religious leaders of the Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus in the UK defending David Cameron's statement that the UK is a Christian country (or group of countries for the pedantic). This came after a bunch of militant atheists decided to spout off in the Telegraph about undermining the rights of others, blah blah blah.

Enough of these politically incorrect buffoons, imposing their secular views on the nation.

The balance provided by religion is essential, in my view, to protect moral standards and ethics. I don't think anyone would disagree that the UK has become a more selfish, self absorbed and uncaring community in recent years. The decline in religious teaching at schools, the way it's become trendy to deride Christians (while enjoying their religious holidays, of course!) and the ways Christians are undermined, has led to a steep decline in moral standards.

Christians have been persecuted for wearing a tiny symbol of the faith, a cross on a chain, by the likes of British Airways. Christmas displays have been banned by over zealous councils and the Red Cross for fear of upsetting other religions.

And every time the other religions rally to say they are not offended. Hooray for common sense.

My rallying cry is for the militant atheists to back down. They are not the majority, despite dwindling church attendances. What we do need is for the The Church of England to put its house in order. Look at the resurgence of the Catholic Church, due entirely to the charisma and goodness of Pope Francis. He eschews all the trappings and engages with ordinary people.

The C of E leaders have largely been intellectuals, occasionally bearded and totally removed from the man in the street. Taking up battles like food banks is not the way to fill the pews. Changes in the tax-free status of the church would show it is putting its money where its mouth is. And the reactionary types in the Synod need to take a reality check. Do they really want to turn the UK into a truly secular state, because they are too blinkered to embrace change?


Sunday, April 20, 2014

A cycling mini break in border country

Henry Eckford
We've just returned from a three day cycling break in Shropshire, on the border with North Wales. The weather was fantastic for two of the three days. The highlight was a 25 cycle from our base in Wem (famous for the Eckford sweetpea) to Ellesmere. This ride included miles of gentle, quiet country lanes, a canal bristling with narrowboats and, of course, a damn good lunch courtesy of the Red Lion in Ellesmere.

The third day saw us cycling from Wem to Hodnet, unfortunately getting there too early for lunch and on the wrong day for the Hodnet Hall Gardens. It got progressively colder as we came back.

The distances were all in a day's work for John, who had not only just run the London Marathon (see previous post) but is well used to cycling, occasionally cycling to work (10 miles) and taking part in events like the London to Paris bike ride. But for me it was quite tough. My thighs have still not recovered from the uphill sections on the last day!

We stayed in the Old Rectory Hotel. Highly recommended, as is Byways Breaks who organised the holiday.


Saturday, April 19, 2014

John's Marathon Battle

My husband John ran his 25th marathon last week in London. It was his toughest one to date, not because of the hot weather, which never helps, but because he's been battling injury for over a year.

He damaged his Achilles tendon and running even short distances became impossible. He started a rigorous regime of physiotherapy and would occasionally set off for a run, confident the problem was fixed, but would limp home not long after leaving.

It was with baited breath that he began his winter training for the 2014 London Marathon with a group of friends from the Orion Harriers.

Fortunately all went well and John sailed through the marathon last Sunday, using his new GoPro camera to film an up close and personal account of the event, which you can view here:

If the plug in doesn't work, here's the link:
I was a spectator on the course, lucky to get a great vantage point at one of the elite runners' drinks stations manned by the Orions. One of the drinks belonged to a VIP:

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