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diary

Staring down the gunbarrel of 58

58 is here. Thus far it has been represented by a couple of cups of tea in bed, the opening of two cards (kids and Mrs D), the unveiling of my new guitar stand (v useful and good quality) and cooking myself a full Lincolnshire. I won’t need anything else to eat until tonight’s takeaway curry.

My Out of Office Message is on stating the facts. 

Thus far 58 has revealed little other than a determination that with the passing of mid fifties and the entrance into late fifties it’s about time I started to get a little fitter. A lot fitter actually.

This is not as simple as it seems, if it ever appeared thus. Christmas is coming hard on the rails and the festivities are in full swing. Tomorrow is the Wright Vigar Christmas Drinks do. We will be in London from Wednesday until Saturday immersing ourselves in the festive spirit. Ie gin, brandy etc. Upon our return we have the Brittain’s Christmas Party, an annual gastronomic delight.  Next week we have a quiet start building up to the annual Capacity Yorkshire conference in York on Friday, the Shed 7 gig in Manchester on Saturday and culminating with the Morning Star Christmas Carols session on Sunday.

After that it’s Christmas proper. You know the form.

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57 Varieties thoughts

the clock that ticks

It’s 4.30am. Downstairs in the front room I hear a clock ticking. I did not know we had such a mechanical device. There must be a battery involved as clock winding does not form part of our daily routine. The clock has been identified. This must be a device new to the house or why have I never noticed it before? We have no real need for this timepiece. There is always a computer of some sort near to hand with a highly accurate representation of the time. There must be a decorative element to the horological deployment, an aspect upon which I feel largely unqualified to comment. The responsibility of a different department. At this time of day the ticking, soft and barely audible though it may be, represents an unnecessary intrusion competing with the sound of passing cars outside.

The allegorical nature of the ticking clock is also unwanted at this time. 

The sound of the traffic reminds me that we live in an urban environment. With the curtains drawn it should be possible to imagine I am sat in a remote cottage. Outside it is pitch black and devoid of sound other than the wind and rain beating on the window pane. All sensible life forms have their own curtains drawn to the outside world. Heads down. This is not the case where I am sat.

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57 Varieties the art gallery

still life

apples, pears, a bit of melon, a blue and orange vase with yellow flowers

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57 Varieties poems poetry

leaves me alone

Leaves leave my lawn alone
Grass killer compost fodder
Unwanted dead wind drift
Shrivelleduglybrown

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57 Varieties diary

30th October 2019 CE

Early start, sniffles and a bit of a cough and sat in office waiting for it to warm up. No swim today. It’s bright out and the plumbers arrived at 7.30am to get the central heating finished off. All new radiators and pump. A lot of metallic sludge clogging up the system. Expensivo.

Used the path to get to the office today. The grass is wet and needs cutting again. The path is the long way round but it’s going to get a lot of use over the winter. Regular use will hopefully also stop it from becoming overgrown.

The office is still a mess but the tidying process must wait until I have the new shelving in place. This will hopefully get kicked off tomorrow evening in the Morning Star where I have a meeting on the subject.

Through the corner window I can see bamboo canes stacked in the corner of the greenhouse. There is poetry to the empty greenhouse. An overwinter pause in the growing process. It will come out fighting in the spring.

I have a lot on today. It’s good to have office time to get things done. Clear head despite the cold The garden is still. We have a nice garden, developed over 22 years of living here. It is multifunctional – a great place for bbqs and parties but also an extension to our living space.

Ten minutes in my hands are warming up. I do feel as if a cup of tea would go down well but I have no up here. It will be some time before one is proffered from the house. There is still 30 minutes before a working day officially begins although that rule doesn’t apply when working from home. Life is all work and play

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57 Varieties poetry winter series

Waiting for spring

deep hibernation

breath freezes outside blanket

slow rhythmic breathing

wondering whether 

cup of tea will make itself

stare into darkness

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57 Varieties

chicken casserole

Relaxing start to Sunday. Two cups of tea in bed. Fullish English (no egg). France v Tonga on telly. Chicken casserole prep (fiddly onions).

Rain. Yesterday’s outdoor efforts vindicated: lawn mown deck oiled. I daresay there is an indoor jobs list today. Anne needs some cranberry juice. Check if curtain pole repair has worked (remains to be seen – less than 50:50 I’d say). Upstairs the rowing machine sings.

Bookshelves in front need filling. Two hundred books this summer consigned to the loft. Cut not made. 

I find cooking very therapeutic. There is a difference between cooking in the morning and preparing a roast, say. A casserole deserves to be started early and given time to slow cook. The one time that cooking is stressful is Christmas Day where the timing is everything, the food more complex (parmesan parsnips, honey roast carrots, carrots and swede and the rib of beef where the right level of pinkness is paramount). Christmas also requires the right timing for the champagne – starting too early marks trouble.

Enough of this ritin stuff. A casserole doesn’t prepare itself.

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57 Varieties

Rugby

Shut away in the TV room. Still no aerial connected for the AV gear in the office so not watching the game there. Tis a beautiful morning out in the garden and were I in the office (garden room) I’d have the doors open. However this is not yet to be and so I’m settled in front of the house TV to watch Wales’ opening game in our Rugby World Cup campaign.

As I strode over the dew wet lawn to the house it occured to me that it won’t be long before we are hit by winter. It’s been a good summer, despite a few  ups and downs, but I quite like the changing of the seasons. I like the rain and I like the cold. We do need our central heating sorting out before Siberia sends us its customary icy Eastern blasts. 

This year I have my new pea jacket to look forward to. Should arrive towards the middle of October. Hopefully before I head off to Rotterdam for the RIPE conference and Amsterdam for Euro-IX. Purple lining. Think you’ll like it 🙂

My calendar is filled with such events. Not a bad gig really although these conferences are tough full on weeks – long days at the internet coal face and long evenings networking.

Tonight I have the Scout Group committee meeting. I am the treasurer of the 18th Bailgate Sea Scouts. Not had to do any treasuring yet mind you. Takes ages to get all the forms sorted out. Perhaps tonight is when I get going on the job. Get my teeth into treasuring. Treasurering? Fiscal fortitude. Like it.

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57 Varieties

Sat in the shed

It’s a warm September afternoon. I’m sitting in the garden shed, light on, listening to my faves playlist. All retro stuff natch. Cleaned the windows, for the first time. I keep spotting bits I’ve missed. I will never make a good window cleaner. Don’t have the right attitude 😉

I’m waiting for a delivery. Some TV aerial connectors and an aerial. I’ve had this audiovisual device for weeks now but not got around to plugging it into Freeview, aside from what I can do with tinternet. Tinternet itself is still accessed via the weefee coming from the house pending getting the cable run to the attic. The ducting is in place, just not the cable.

Anne has gone inside to listen to the Chelsea v Liverpool commentary. It is she informs me about to rain anyway. V sensible.

Harvested all my carrots and onions this afternoon. Very satisfying. Only a small crop but my crop. Now I sense the evening is approaches. A number of the carrots and onions were included in the beef stew currently bubbling away at gas mark one. It’s bound to be a goodun.

We will soon need to think about clearing a bit of the raspberry and strawberry patch to make way for the raised beds. Manyana.

My parcel arrived. Not sure I’m going to make much progress today. I’ll need to take the TV off the wall which is a 2 person job and then fit some temporary connectors which in itself is not a big deal but part of me tells me I might as well wait and get the job done properly. It isn’t as if I watch much TV anyway.

Been compiling a setlist. This is for me on the geetar. This is what I currently have:

Somewhere over the rainbow, Sweet Caroline, American pie, Hey jude, A little help from my friends, Lean on me, Dancing Queen (or Mama Mia maybs), Teenage dirtbag, 500 miles, Bohemian rhapsody, Killing me softly

Some of these I can already play but I need to learn them all without needing the chords in front of me. Also it isn’t a definitive list. Some songs won’t make the final list and maybs some new ones will appear. Whaddaya think. Some, like Bohemian Rhapsody, are great in theory – most people know the words but there isn’t much repetition music wise so would be a bit of a job to learn. V shall C.

The rain forecast by Anne has arrived and it is very heavy. I am trapped! All I have for sustenance is four bottles of beer in the fridge along with a tin of tonic water with no gin. There is the stew in the oven in the kitchen of course but will I be able to make it in safely? 🙂

The shed is not yet finished but I sense it is going to serve me well.

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57 Varieties

We have regained our house

It is a beautiful sunny day but the summer may be said to be officially over as John our fourth offspring has been despatched to the first term of his second year at Birmingham University.  I dropped him off at Lincoln railway station with only a Tenor Sax, a North Face duffel bag (mine!) and a leather satchel procured during our recent trip to Donegal. He has already delivered the rest of his kit to his room in Brum.

On the sibling front Hannah is in Germany assisting with Colt’s Munich to Vienna charity bike ride, Joe is also in Birmingham running a gig and Tom, one assumes, is in London, likely enjoying the hot tub he has on the roof of his new flat. All is good.

Anne and I have regained our house and we are back into planning meals for two with suitably sized joints of meat, and pared down vegetable offerings such as the single leek I bought this afternoon for tomorrow’s stew. This is all good stuff.

Anne has gone to the football leaving me the run of the house and the responsibility of preparing tonight’s tea which is venison steaks in blackberry sauce with a suitable vegetable accompaniment. Won’t take long. 

It’s going to be a quiet night following a busy ending to the working week that included a trip to York for the Lonap board meeting.

I have a book to read – History of the Irish Civil War 1919 – 1922 or simlar. Can’t remember exactly. It’s upstairs.

Outside there is a fair breeze. Returning from dropping John off there was also a long tailback of cars being held at the traffic lights down our road. On occasions like this I delight in overtaking on the wrong side of the road and pulling in to our drive. As long as there are no cars coming in the opposite direction obvs 🙂

The house is quiet…

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57 Varieties

Autumn arrives – or summer ends

Sat in the garden office with the doors open to the autumn. It is still warm and in fact last night we lit the bbq and ate outside by the blazing furnace that is the kadai fire bowl.

A chicken and leek pie has been prepared and is sat on the worktop ready for the pastry and the final blast in the range oven. Carrot, green beans and spuds will accompany it together with quite possibly peas seeing as they are my favourite.

Today is day four of the last Ashes test. Another indicator that the summer is coming to an end.

The trees are still – there is the barest murmur of a breeze. I can hear the strains of the piano floating across the garden from the conservatory. I may light the fire. It isn’t cold enough but there’s nothing quite like a nice log fire. Adds life to a room.

The greenhouse is about at the end of its useful life for the year. Still some onions and carrots to harvest. Outside the raspberry patch is also nearly fully fruited, if I can put it like that. I will soon be able to shift some canes and put together the raised beds we have been planning.

The birds are singing…

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57 Varieties diary

Wet

A dreary early morning with a wet garden and the rain still dripping off the trees. The traffic noise is louder because tyres make more noise with water on the road. I hear lots of dripping on the roof of the garden shed. 

As I sit here I also have the light switched on in the garden shed. It is a dull morning. Still I have to doors open wide to the garden and am enjoying the contact with nature. Lets just hope it isn’t raining when I have to go in and make the tea.

Over the weekend I did purchase tea making facilities for the shed from John Lewis in Liverpool. A kettle and a teapot. Unfortunately disaster has struck on the journey home – there is a small chip in the porcelain at the end of the teapot spout. I’ll have to see if it is superglueable.

The shed is looking somewhat untidy right now as preparations for the Beyond The Woods festival get into overdrive. This is fine as one of the purposes of building this garden office was to take the mess away from the house. The investment is already paying dividends. 

Post rainfall noise aside there is a stillness outside. Only a very slight breeze. I note I am overdue thinning out the apples. I did this for the first time last year and it really paid dividends with the best apple crop we have had in our time in the house. It isn’t too late to do it this year but it will need sorting soon. Means getting the ladder out and really I’ll want it to dry out first. See how I get on.

We had our first tomatoes yesterday. Three of them with one left on the windowsill to completely ripen. It must be said that they don’t seem as sweet as last year’s cherry tomatoes but I’ll withhold final judgement until we have had more fruit and it is at least looking like a bumper crop.

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57 Varieties

heatwave

Another early morning in the garden. We slept on top of the bed covers last night due to the heatwave the country is experiencing. Today is expected to be hotter. We will be in the air-conditioned cocoon of the jag for a chunk of the afternoon en route to Liverpool. The hotel in Liverpool will have ac natch though Anne doesn’t like it on at night so we will have to see.

I note that the arch in the garden now has flowers growing around it on both sides. At the start of the summer it had a rose on one side only but it has filled out nicely. In fact I think we have the best floral display we have ever had this year thanks to Anne’s continued efforts. Watering has become increasingly important.

The fridge in the garden office makes a noise, as fridges do. It isn’t an intrusive noise but it is there. It’s a compromise. If you want to have a fridge in the office then you have to put up with some noise but silence would be better. I’m opting for the cold water and the occasional cold beer, mostly for show. Certainly a cold pint of milk would be appropriate. One of the secondary objectives of the trip to Liverpool is a visit to John Lewis to kit out the office. Kettle, coffee maker etc. A bit of fun shopping with Anne. We very rarely go shopping together. It doesn’t work 🙂

There is a hedge sparrow foraging on the deck in front of me. With the double doors open it’s almost as if the office is outside. Did it notice my presence? I’m sat here quietly tapping away. An empty beer barrel stands on the deck, left over from the BBQ. I’ll have to take it back sometime but will have to wait until next week. There’s a fifteen quid deposit on the tap!

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57 Varieties diary

The forecast is hot

5.30am. An early morning start in the garden shed. Had a good night’s sleep and saw no point in staying in bed. The lawn remains mostly green although there is some sawdust in front of the decking. Left over from the build. The area around the fire pit has scatterings of charcoal from the barbeque on Saturday. It will soon disappear. I will have to start watering the lawn properly though as the next few days are going to be hot hot hot.

It will be interesting to see how the new office fares in the heat. It’s meant to be cool in summer and warm in winter as it is well insulated. If it comes to the crunch I can always dig out the air conditioner, purchased during a heatwave about five years ago when I was in the office at Lincoln University but little used. That business incubator building at the university was not very well designed when it came to insulation.

I can hear the birds outside and the fridge inside. The fridge contains bottled water. The philosophy is that it should contain beer but it doesn’t, yet.

Lunch out today at OleOle. We will be sat outside, presumably consuming chilled white wine with our tapas. I normally prefer red but when the temperatures are expected to be in the 30s as is the case today I suspect white will be preferable. I like the occasional bit of tapas.

The Garden Shed, as my new office is formally to be known, is mostly finished but not quite. The network cabling needs terminating and running back to the router in the loft and the furniture has not yet been ordered. When I say furniture I really mean chair and desk and a suitable cupboard needs sourcing for the patch panel and switch in the corner of the room.

In the garden I need to spend some time thinning the apple trees. I did this last year and it really paid dividends. The apples turned out to be the biggest we had seen in our time in this house. This year we have no cooking apples. The frost must have caught the blossom. Ah well. My experiment with onions is going well with the greenhouse based ones performing better than those I planted out. The cherry tomatoes appear to be developing a bumper crop which is exciting. Moreover we are not away for more than a few days at a time for the rest of the summer so we should fully benefit from the harvest.

We don’t have much space for vegetables in the garden with the raspberry and strawberry patch almost running rampant. Perhaps I need to discuss some veg space allocation in the raised beds planned for the autumn.

There is an empty beer barrel on the deck. A firkin of Castle Rock Harvest Pale. Just the right thing for the barbecue and indeed there was just enough left for a very pleasant drink or two on the Sunday when we had more or less finished clearing up. Talking of drink it’s time to make the tea.

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57 Varieties diary

5.30am in July

Woke up early after a good sleep. Despite being late to bed and then having to leave the room for a short while due to the convulsive laughter sparked by the act of rereading the first volume of Spike Milligan’s war memoirs: Adolf Hitler, My Part in His Downfall. 

I often get up early at this time of year. Best part of the day. Today however it is dull and rain is forecast. The noise of passing traffic also seems more noticeable. Perhaps it’s the atmospheric conditions.

Despite the impending weather the garden is very still. A very slight movement amongst the flower beds but the colour is largely motionless. The garden is also very green in contrast to last year’s fade to yellow during the dry spell. As I recall it was one of the best summer stretches we had had in a long time. Historically we have rejoiced when facing more than three or four consecutive fine days.

After twenty two years of living here the back garden is finally taking shape. There is a good balance to it with the greenhouse at the bottom left accompanied by an emerging cedar clad structure to its right. I say emerging as they builders haven’t finished yet but it is now only a matter of days. It is my new office. The business address will be “The Garden Shed, Rear of …  etc.

The constant sound of woodpigeons is one thing I wouldn’t miss in our back garden. As far as I can see their only purpose in life is to make annoying noises and be food for the peregrine falcons that inhabit the upper reaches of Lincoln Cathedral, a short walk down the road and an even shorter flight of the falcon.

My own purpose in life at this time of day is to put words to a page followed by the delivery of a pot of tea to the marital bedroom. In theory we take it in turns but I am usually up before Anne during the light mornings and consider it a privilege to take her tea.

Today is marginally more eventful than most. I am expecting a delivery of some new “audiovisual equipment”. This  includes a record deck. I don’t recall that I ever possessed a “new” record deck. I’m fairly sure the one I used as a kid was second hand. I may be mistaken. I don’t know what happened to it. In any case I have had no means of listening to my vinyl records for decades. I don’t even know that I will do so once the new deck has arrived. It is all too easy to use Spotify. We will find out very soon.

Right. Time to make the tea. Ciao.