Monday, July 31, 2006

Last post

Just read it back and it seems rather harsh, but it was hot and I was knackered, so apologies for the rant. My MIL called and left a message on the answering machine to say she'd found her purse. It wasn't our answering machine, not sure whose it was, but anyway she tried. My husband called her yesterday and it was in one of the many handbags.

Weather has broken and we're back to more normal temperatures, and you can visibly see some plants in the garden relaxing. My species fuchsia were not faring well, as they like damper conditions than we've experienced this summer. I love the pale pink flowered one, the flowers look rows of tiny girls in tutus, but this summer there's hardly a flower to be seen. Meanwhile the plants that like hot, dry conditions are romping away, like the cotton lavender. Fig tree also has a bumper crop on it and the steak tomatoes are huge, and the old heritage varieties have grown some really ugly fruit that look a bit like baboons bottoms with piles,:)!!

My pix have passed the colour test with the new calibration, so I need to interpolate them, essentially blow up the file size, keyword them, burn them to CD and post them off to the plant library. I really hate every one of these processes, especially the interpolation as it sucks up every bit on RAM on the pc, I really need to get some more. So it's a job I'll tackle by degrees.

Better get going. Washing is getting soaked, so nice to write that!;)

Saturday, July 29, 2006

One of the good thing about getting cancer ........

at a relatively young age is that you hope dementia will never become an issue for you, that and maybe that pensions are something you really don't have to worry about. Global warming too, although this bloody heat is I making me revise my opinions on that one.

Yesterday we visited my MIL and took her out to lunch, although what happened later suggests she may have already gone ahead on her own. Last time we were up we had the "Ceremony of the Keys", whereby she turned several heavy mortice locks to let us in, and then locked them all up again from the outside when we took her out. When we all arrived back at the house after a lovely day out she discovered that the keys had gone AWOL somewhere, and the only recourse was to get an emergency locksmith out on a Saturday teatime - not a cheap solution!

So this time I locked up and kept the keys. We had a lovely lunch, saw dolphins swimming just off shore and had a cool visit to a garden centre that had all its sprinklers running.

Took her home, unlocked the door and let her into the house. Also checked the hoover over for her before we left. Then drove 80 miles home in blistering heat, only to get a call saying had I really locked the door when we were out as her purse was missing. I reassured her that yes all the locks had been on, and suggested she check the 8 handbags in her livingroom to see if it was in one of them. Now there's complete silence so either she's found it, or she's forgotten that she "lost" it.

Things are really slipping, and my husband and SIL have hard times ahead. My SIL was just up there with her young son, and because the house is so chaotic they chose to pitch a tent in the garden.

George Bernard Shaw, said, “Use your health, even to the point of wearing it out. That is what it's for. Spend all you have before you die; do not outlive yourself!”

Yo George, I hear you! I intend to keep tearing it up for as long as possible

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Getting older

Me too girl!!!! I love this shot from this week's Postcard Secrets. And I also love getting older. I think my 50s will be my best decade. Things may go south, but I hope I'll have the wisdom not to care.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Got up early to dig

This is one of my Cambo pix.

Worked in my own garden today. Digging out the tons of self seeded astrantia and cutting back things that have finished flowering. I also put in some new plants, a black sedum I saw at Cambo and the black bamboo I was given, plus some other grasses I have that needed a new situation, a miscanthus and a big stipa. So I should have lots of good verticals in this area next year.

It's great to have the strength again to really dig and pull and weed. The astrantia problem is in part due to me not being able to keep on top of things for about a year and a half. That and having a little pity party about what would be the point even if I did. But I feel enthused again, and it's a shame to see dominant plants taking over, it's a bit like letting the playground bully get things all his own way.

The news is just so bad. The Independent has strong things to say today about the value of a child's life. When are we all going to learn that we are not so different? This song by Karine Polwart simply says how pointless it all is:

I've Seen It All

Words and Music: Karine Polwart (Bay Songs Ltd)

Build a tower
Build a wall
Watch it burn
Watch it fall
Two for sorrow
And one for joy
I’ve seen it all

And it all comes undone

A pale man pleads
A pale man dies
One man applauds
And another cries
Teeth for teeth
And eyes for eyes
I’ve seen it all

And it all comes undone
And it all comes undone

Raise a flag
Raise your hands
Praise your Lord
And then raze his lands
While one falls
Another stands
And I’ve seen it all

And it all comes undone
And it all comes undone
And it all comes undone

Friday, July 21, 2006

Serenely yours

We had a great time. Provided I took N coffee in bed we were at work by 9.15am.
She really enjoyed the work. She varied the things she did, and didn't attempt any heavy digging, and managed to do 3 hours each day. The weather was kind as we had a sea mist in the mornings, which kept things cool. The gardens are wonderful, the colour and variety and the plantsmanship is just fabulous. I went back in the evening to photograph delicate backlight grasses and metallic blue sea hollies, and massive allium globes and a beautiful potager. We also walked the coastal path for 8 miles, but when we met a coastguard and asked how much further we had to do to the nearest town he took pity on us and drove us the last two miles.
We also went to St Andrews and tripped over American golfers.

It was a real retreat from reality and I loved every minute of it. I also enjoyed cooking. I took a bunch of staples, pasta, tomatoes, eggs, chorizo etc, and I really like the kind of cooking where you just raid the store cupboard and fridge and see what you can come up with. My bed was too hard, and my crappy hip ached, so I watched some early morning TV, this morning it was a series of film shorts on BBC2, a really weird mixture of things, made all the more odd by lack of sleep and the odd hour of the day.

Oh and I bought a great dress designed by a Thai woman, which is just so comfy and cool in this heat, and the head gardener gave me a present of a black stemmed bamboo (I'm sending him some of my pix as he gives talks on the garden and the planting and his pictures struggle to do it justice).
I think I could be a nun provided I got to look after the garden, and they weren't sticklers for actually believing.

My men had dinner waiting for me, and N stayed to eat with us. Dog is not speaking to me as we took N's dog and not him. They will all now ignore me for the rest of the weekend as the British Golf Open is on TV, and they have every radio and TV in the house tuned to it.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Going away 'til Friday

My friend N and I are going here for a week. My Skye friend told me about it, if you give them three hours weeding a day they give you accommodation and the rest of the time's your own.

Not sure N's spinal tumour will let her do 3 hours, so I've agreed to make up her her time. I don't mind as it looks a lovely place and if I'm doing jobs like weeding my mind floats off, free to think about things.

N has an MRI scan next week to see what the tumour is up to, so it will be good to get away and do other things, the time approaching a test always hangs heavy on your mind, as you try to prepare yourself for every possible outcome.

My men are doing other things anyway, so provided I leave the cupboards well stocked I doubt I'll be missed. And I get away from my pc, though I've taken the chapter of the book that I'm working on, so if I can't sleep I'll scribble some more in longhand.

Enjoy the week as best you can wherever you are.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Do you ever.........

catch a snatch of something, a piece of music, a line of a poem, or a clip of a film and wish you'd caught the name, or cut out the clipping and saved it? Well years ago, must be 15 at least, I read a poem in the Observer newspaper by the Canadian writer Elizabeth Smart about the death of her daughter, yes cheery as ever I know, but it was such a wonderful piece about a mother's guilt at living longer than her child, and indeed about not being able to give her daughter a sufficient appetite for life, as she'd killed herself.

I could never find the poem, and gave up trying. On Wednesday when I was looking through the bookshelves I came across Elizabeth Smart's biography, which I bought years ago looking for the poem, and couldn't believe it when it wasn't even mentioned. Anyway that rekindled my curiosity and I started researching on the net, which was barely in existence when I was last looking.

Well to my joy I found it, it's called Rose Died, and the actual manuscript drafts are available on this Canadian site.

I just love the net when it helps you like this. I also like it when a coming together of circumstances finally allows you to work out a niggle, even if it is just a tiny, though longstanding, one. As the years have past I've often thought I'd maybe dreamt about reading the poem, that it didn't actually exist. And funnily enough now that I've found it it's longer than I remember, but still very moving. I hope I'm not infringing copyright when I say that I particularly like these lines:

Two sins will jostle forever, and humble me
beneath my masked heart:
it was my job to explain the world;
it was my job to get the words right.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Gold on the bookshelf

A friend has recently discovered this site.
She regularly trawls the charity shops for old books, especially on fantasy and sci fi.
She's now decided to sell some on this site to boost her income a little. I did a quick check from my own bookshelves. Most gut wrenching discovery was that a two volume set of botany books inherited from my grandfather would be worth £800, sadly I only have one volume as the other was destroyed in a house flood we had many years ago.
I'd have kept it, but "helpers" at the time threw it out. Of course I didn't know it's value and thereore didn't claim it on my insurance. Oh well it's only money............

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Poker Faces

This is very low brow compared to seeing Adrieene Rich, but my son got me to watch a new quiz/gameshow show last night, where you have to bluff about the extent of your knowledge/winnings to stay in the game. The contestants have no knowledge of the other players standing in the game, but if they turn out to be the lowest scoring player at the end of a round and they don't bale out they stand to lose everything they've won. There were 6 contestants, 4 men and 2 two women. In last night's game both women caved in before most of the men, despite that fact that they were not in last place, indeed one was actually well in the lead. It demonstrated to me just how ready women can be to undervalue and undermine themselves. Of course it was a tiny unrepresentative sample, and both women said they stood to lose more money than they'd ever had, but still it made my heart ache to see how sure they were that they were doing badly, even when they weren't.

BTW I hate the way some TV channels are moving into mainstream gambling. This prime time show is sponsored by casino chain. I'm getting very Zen in my old age, as long as I've got a camera, my family, friends and garden I really don't want much else, other than the odd new book.

Better go, my writers' group is coming round today, so I'd better flick a duster, not that they'd notice, but I would know, lol!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Adrienne Rich

Well she was just amazing! The venue was The Pleasance in Edinburgh, a small intimate space, which she said she liked as it reminded her of a bookshop. (She read at the Festival Hall in London last week)
She is tiny, Piaf like, with hair cut stylish short and dark. Her face is very bright and alert,and her eyes miss nothing. Physically she's very frail, using a walker to get around, but her voice is strong and very clear. She read extensively from her latest book, "the school among the ruins", including the title poem, Tell Me, To Have Written The Truth, and Transparencies.

She said these days she thinks a lot about the nature of happiness and whether one can actually be happy while others suffer. She also spoke about her gratitude to translators, and said their work didn't receive enough acknowledgement, but that she was truly grateful to them as they made so many other wonderful poets available to her. She clearly reads masses of other poets, and enjoys weaving reference to them into her own work. The notes on the poems in the latest book sometimes refer to two or three other poets within a single poem. She also said that she loved airports, and the snippets of people's conversations/lives that she overhears, and she read a poem based on these bits of lives. She also read another poem about the disappearance, erosion, or as she put it the rusting of all left wing values in the US.

Sorry this is not a very in depth report, I wish I'd taken a few notes, but I was too caught up in listening to her read. And she didn't actually say that much in between poems, I think she wanted to read as many as she could, and let them speak for themselves.

She did a signing and she signed my copies of the school among the ruins, and a Wild Patience Has Taken Me This Far. I'll treasure them. Her first and last visit to Scotland was in 1994, so this was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear her read.

She was interviewd this morning on BBC R4 Woman's Hour and gave a much more expansive interview. Asked if she was optimistic about women's progress she quoted something along the lines of "I'm a pessimist by intellect and an optimist by will"

Junk mail and blogging

I'm beginning to think that, despite having the latest pc security, firewall, spam filter et al, there's a real relationship between the site/blogs that I look at and the junk mail that I receive. This morning I got a form letter from the Conservative party/Mr Cameron asking me to complete a multiple choice questionnaire. The only way they could have targeted me is by virtue of the fact that I followed a link on nhsdoc's blog to their site. The questionnaire is quite entertaining, it reads a bit like a beauty pageant candidate's manifesto, eg what are my priorities, do I want to tackle social exclusion, or make world poverty history or would I prefer to make my country secure?

I'm pretty apolitical these days, but I really get the sense that Mr Cameron is the new Tony Blair in the worst possible way. You take an ailing party, drop all it's old and less than appealing core values, and then give it a quick make over using some touchy feely slogans and hope the electorate will swallow it hook,line and sinker. Someone should tell him we've all had a bellyful of shows like Changing Rooms! .

Next thing we'll discover about him is that when he was only twenty one hewrote a twenty two page letter to Maggie Thatcher, telling her how much he had always admired her and Adam Smith.

The list of New Labour mess ups seems to be growing, the rules for life sentences, the one sided extradition treaty with the US, and now this morning the legislation surrounding openness in the English Family Courts. And they think the Home Office isn't fit for purpose!

Maybe I'm just too old and grumpy to think about politics these days, maybe it's a young person's game.

Exciting news today is that I'm going to hear the American poet Adrienne Rich read tonight. She considered by some to be America's finest living poet, so I'm really glad to be getting the opportunity to hear her read. My friend read Integrity for me at my 50th birthday party, Rich wrote it at 49. It's a wonderful, wonderful poem, so full of images of all the roles a woman plays in life.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Baby shoot went really well

I must admit I was really nervous, it's hard going into a new environment when you're not sure how good the light will be, what the people will be like etc, etc. But the couple were lovely and the flat was ideal, big white painted room with a large bay window facing north-west onto a park. The baby was a wee boy of three months, and we timed my arrival to match his lively time, although he'd woken early that morning, but I still got some great shots before he got fractious. But the best thing was that his Mum fed him at the end of the shoot and he then fell asleep on her breast and I took a few more quick shots, one of which is just stunning, he's wee fast asleep face and all I caught of his mother is her mouth smiling down at him in the top right hand corner of the frame.

It is such a smile of love. The shot looks amazing in black and white. I think it will be a lovely picture to have when he's older. I find it scary thinking you're helping to create people's family memories. I really like photographing people, but I hate the pre-match nerves, I could never do weddings!

BTW the "fee" for the shoot is going to my friend's McMillan Nurses charity fund raiser.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Taking your eye off the ball

Garden has just taught me a lesson about taking your eye off the ball. We've had really heavy rain and high humidity, and so the usual "June drop" on the fruit trees simply didn't occur, as the heat and moisture has allowed the trees to keep all of their fruitlets.
Well last night I noticed that a couple of the plum tree's branches were really drooping, trailing all the way down to the ground in fact. So I checked them out,and discovered they'd both snapped high up in the canopy, the sheer weight of all the fruit was just more than they could bear.
I should have checked the trees before this happened, and propped them up with clothes poles. I got GPS (Golf Playing Son) to go up into the tree and saw both branches off. It was funny seeing his big skinny form up on the platform in the fork of the tree, he used to climb up there as a wee boy and hide. They were really big branches, and the mess on the ground was pretty bad, twigs, fruit, leaves, and crushed plants. Luckily I've got a garden waste collection tomorrow, so I've been busy sawing up the branches and clearing up the mess. Every fallen cluster of green plums felt like a reproach!

A quarter of the tree is gone, and the only up side is that I suddenly have a new big patch of blue sky, and the whole garden feels much more open.

The tomatoes are loving this heat, the greenhouse is full to bursting with them. I'm growing old heritage varieties, like Brandywine and Black Russian. I can't wait for for the first ones to be ready. Yellow courgettes, zuchinni, are also appearing, and aubergines and peppers have flowers on them. It is such a great time of year.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


My friend the published writer and I were talking the other day. She told me that
she was hoping to try her hand at a script for a popular TV show. After that I read some blogs on screenwriting and came across this great site two adverbs.
Apparently a logline is a sentence that encapsulates a film plot/storyline and it is used to pitch a screenplay idea. The article gives some really great examples of possible loglines for famous films.

I thought I'd kick around a few ideas for a logline for my blog. These are my attempts so far:

A middle aged cancer survivor decides to treat her illness as a wake up call and sets about completely revamping her life into what she once hoped it would be.

A middle aged cancer survivor comes to realise that the last time she was truly happy in her own skin was as an independent, idiosyncratic girl, and sets about recapturing the essence of that time.

Following a cancer diagnosis a woman comes to realise that deferred gratification is a load of bollocks and so, with resistance from those around her, she sets about changing her life.

I quite enjoyed the exercise. I'm going to apply it to the novel that I'm currently trying to crunch out.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

My training for freedom programme

I'm getting my son to do some chores around the house, he won't entertain a summer job as he wants to get his golf handicap down. His handicap's been cut to six from eight in two weeks of concentrated playing after school. He hopes to be in striking distance of four by the end of the summer. I suppose I shouldn't complain, it's a healthy sport and at least I know where he is.

But today I got him to change his bed, and he complained he couldn't "do duvet covers" so I taught him the matching corners/inside out trick. Then I got him to hoover the stairs - I think he's starting to appreciate what it takes to keep this old house clean, let alone walk the dog, shop, cook, do the garden, work for two charities and try to get my photography work off the ground. I'm shooting baby pix at the weekend, a 3 month old boy, with his parents at their flat. It should be fun -I've never photographed such a tiny one before other than family members. He's lively between 10.00am and 11.00am, so I'm going to get there for then.

I'm still working on garden shots for the photographic library,and my new monitor calibration has proved difficult to get just right with theirs. I think mine always had a red bias so I'm having to retrain my eye when I edit.
The more I learn the more it feel like I've still to learn, but I just keep telling myself that I've come along way in a short time. But some of the fun has gone out of it as I'm just really, really critical now. Ansel Adams said you were lucky to take 2 great pix a year, I'm starting to believe him!

Monday, July 03, 2006


Sun is blistering down elsewhere in the UK, but we have thunderstorms and rain.
Last night great sheets of lightening light up the sky, I was worried it might hit some of the old beech trees over the road. And the poor dog was a complete basket case - well actually that wrong, he was more of a bed case, as he jumped up beside me and took over three quarters of my side of the bed, he knows not to mess with my husband's side, and then proceeded to shake profusely for the rest of the night.

Needless to say I'm feeling a little whacked today. My son is home, it's the first day of the summer holidays here, and he's not happy as it's too wet and thundery to golf. My suggestions about looking for gainful summer employment are so far falling on deaf ears!

Saturday was fun as I went to a big party thrown by friends, and we all watched the England\Portugal match. We were even kind to the few poor English souls who were there. (One of them had a hooter, but he was so dejected he hardly used it.)

Although at the end, when the drinks had kicked in, a few were rather naughty as they sent up loud chorus of "Scolari", he's the Portugal manager, sung to the tune of "Volare".

Then we all watched young Murray do his thing, which was just amazing. I just hope he keeps it going today.

Better go, don't want to have the pc on while these storms continue as we may get a power surge.

PS Well he didn't keep it going did he? He needs a coach, he was all over the place mentally in the first set. Very disappointing, if I were Roddick I'd be well pissed off at going out to someone who fails to perform in the next round. It's as if he can only function when he knows what to expect of the opposition. Ah the tender age of 19, he's a real man child!