It is the last day of June as I write this. I have come indoors to watch one of the two World Cup games being televised today. As we draw nearer to the final game there are fewer being played so I don’t have to spend too much time out of the fresh air. Having said that it is nice to come inside for a while because of the relentless hot weather we have been experiencing lately. Again I have been watering the gardens because of the lack of rain. Even now the forecast doesn’t look promising for the possibility of rain with a further wait of nine or ten days being likely. All very well for sun-seekers but not for the plants in my gardens. I guess I would rather be praying for a spell of dry weather than the other way round. We haven’t reached the drought stage yet but if we don’t get much rain soon all that will change. The other day when out walking I was reminded of such a possibility as I saw a mobile water bowser being driven along the highway. I remember many years ago when living in Liverpool seeing a number of such vehicles being stationed around the place where I lived. Funny thing is though I don’t remember the drought at the time but there must have been one. As for droughts and water shortages I do remember there being a shortage when I lived in Freshfield which was just over thirty years ago. At that time there were restrictions in place against the use of hosepipes. If we have to resort to using the water butts I will have to be selective as to which plants get the most water. This is the main reason I have been thinking of installing another water butt. In the meanwhile I am still hoping and waiting that we’ll get rain soon.
Practically the whole month of May was fine and sunny with high unseasonal temperatures too. The month of June has been less so. We have had warm spells in June though they have been few. As I write this on the 22 nd we are told to expect a mini-heatwave for a few days. Today it is struggling to reach 20 deg C, pleasant enough but the wind is making it feel cooler. Do we really need high temperatures and humidity and little or no rain? No we don’t if we are being honest even though the warm days are welcomed. I have been spending a lot of my time just watering the gardens for if I leave off doing it for more than a day or so the plants begin to wilt, even those which are well established. None of the trees have been suffering of course for their roots reach much further below the ground toward the water table. The land around these parts is sand below the first metre so it doesn’t hold the moisture for very long. Our gardens have a fair amount of top-soil but I think it could be more substantial, heavier like it would be if there was some clay in the mix. There are alternatives of course, vermiculite for instance could be mixed in to help retain more water and a surface covering of bark and/or mulch is beneficial. We have been spreading both on the more exposed flowerbeds which has helped but when the weather is constantly very warm it isn’t enough and I have to water the ground more often. As the bushes and shrubs grow and develop they cover over more of the soil and that certainly helps it to stay wet longer. I have noticed that to be the case in the front garden where the bushes seem oblivious to the lack of rain. I do water them but less often than I water the rest of the garden. So yes, I do welcome the warmer weather as long as we can have some rain once in a while too!
I could sense the possibility of rain as I looked out through the window from my bed. It was Saturday morning (16 th) and five-thirty as I lay there contemplating the day ahead. I decided a walk was on the cards but I was hungry so I decided to wait until after breakfast this time. I had just finished breakfast and saw that fine rain was falling. I would need to take a raincoat if I was to brave the elements as they say. It wasn’t a warm morning at all, in fact it stayed pretty cool all day long. It was 16 deg C but it felt more like 10 or 11 in the breeze. I had put on my walking boots too thinking that lighter footwear was unsuitable for what seemed like a late Autumn day which as it turned out was a wise decision. The outward part of the walk was pleasant enough but I was glad I had put on the rainproof jacket for it kept me warm in the cooling breeze. I had reached the half-way stage when the rain began to pour down in earnest. It remained that way until I reached home when suddenly it stopped! As soon as I went indoors I realised just how cool it had been outside. There had been quite a number of women out running on the route I had taken and none seemed bothered about the driving rain. I knew how they must have felt having spent many a time doing the same thing years ago. I sometimes wish I could do it again but then realise how unnecessary it would be at my time in life. I get my exercising in other ways now not least of all taking a walk. It was Saturday and the afternoon was beckoning more activity. Did I succumb? I’ll let you guess.
I am writing this on Thursday 21 after having my lunch. I had missed breakfast as I tend to do when I plan going for a walk in the morning. This morning was no exception. It has been a wet and dull morning with no prospect of any sunshine at all today. It wasn’t raining heavily when I went out but there was a constant drizzle, fine rain, the sort that drifts slowly down from the sky and seems to get into every nook and cranny not effectively screened from it. Even such fine drizzle can lead to streams of gushing water in some places. Anyway, it wasn’t going to prevent my enjoyment and off I went. I headed to the beach and walked toward the pier at which point I took to the roadside because there was too much mud on the beach for the next couple of hundred metres. I decided to remain on the roadside and continued as far as I wished until turning off to return homeward along a different route. I did return to the seafront for the last part of my walk. By the time I arrived home I was ready to do it all over again……but I didn’t. It proves a point, one which I already knew anyway, that the more we exercise the more we want to and are able to. It is all about building up stamina. When we exercise our bodies produce endorphins, ‘Any of a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system and having a number of physiological functions. They are peptides which activate the body’s opiate receptors, causing an analgesic effect.‘ In other words exercising makes you feel good. It is the start of Winter (Dec 21 or thereabouts) today if it can be pinned down to the calendar of course. It is so mild despite the rain. For some time now I have done little in the way of work at home though there are some things in the pipeline ahead which I plan on doing. I made the decision to put off all little projects until the beginning of the new year and simply enjoy doing nothing for a while, apart from my exercising of course.
Ah, Sunday morning and all tucked up under the duvet made me feel so secure and warm, The curtains drawn back allowed me to see the new day outside and it wasn’t a pretty sight. Rain was pelting against the glass of the windows forced relentlessly by the strong north-westerly winds. I tried to close my eyes again but it was now too late, time to get up and face the day. I was going for a walk, down along the beach and back along the coastal road this time. It was around eight-twenty as I stepped through the front door, I was well wrapped up to face the elements and needed to be, it would get worse before it got better! I walked the half-mile or so to the coast road and crossed over to walk through the sand dunes and onward to the beach. There was the watery and muddy paths to negotiate before I reached the sand and soon after I arrived there the wind picked up and became stronger, then the rain began to fall again. It had ceased raining by the time I set off but now it was back with a vengeance. Have you ever stood in a waterfall? I have and there on the beach it felt just the same. I stooped down to the sand to minimise the drowning I was being given but thankfully it lasted only a few minutes before easing off to be just light rain for ten minutes. I looked heavenward to see a bright blue sky, the clouds had blown over, well most of them. I made it to the point where I was to turn off the beach and as I did I saw several police, coast guard and ranger vehicles with their crews standing close by. I wondered if there had been an incident along the beach for as I had approached the turning off point I could see flashing amber lights in the distance ahead of me further along the beach. Whatever the event was about it looked as though it was all over. I continued with my walk and homeward bound. By the time I reached home the sun was shining, it was warmer and most of the sky was blue. It didn’t last too long however as by one o’clock it was cloudy again, then sunny, then cloudy…..a day of two halves.
On Saturday through to Sunday afternoon we felt the effects of the latest storm to grace our shores and it was even worse than the previous one we had endured merely a matter of days before. You might say we were fortunate as it didn’t pass too close but it didn’t need to.
The eye of the storm passed over the Irish sea between England and Wales on the east and Ireland on the west. That meant the highest winds encircled it and guess where I live, right beneath them? On the map Southport is located just above ‘Liverpool‘ on the straight piece of coast before the next inlet above it. The eye of the storm passed over ‘Anglesey‘. The previous storm passed further to the west and we were less affected by it. The wind and rain were relentless and for hours we were bombarded with it. The driving wind forced some of the rain beneath the lead flashing over the bay window in a room at the front of the house. It found its way into the ceiling space and on to the floor in that room. When time and weather allow an investigation we will see what can be done to prevent it happening again.* I put off going for a walk on Sunday until after eleven o’clock. The rain had ceased but the wind was still strong at 35 mph (51 Km). I managed to get to the beach but it was hard-going though very refreshing. Surprisingly it didn’t feel very cold despite the wind. I walked a little on the sand before returning nearer to the coast road to walk there instead. I returned home ready for lunch an hour later, a little windswept! Around three o’clock the sun began to shine, the sky began to turn blue and thankfully the wind had dropped to a more respectable level. I actually found time to potter about in the garden!
* Post Script: I carried out the repairs which had caused the leak the following day having found a loose brick and some holes in the wall. They were hidden from sight behind the guttering. At the same time I replaced some of the plastic sheeting beneath the roof tiles which had become worn exposing the timbers behind.
On Friday morning I had a chance to sleep in until ten o’clock but was awakened by a phone call asking me to do a small electrical job. It was from an elderly couple for whom I had worked before and they insisted they would call me in preference before anyone else. He is a little senile and set in his ways whilst she had a stroke a few years ago which left her in difficulties with her speech. She couldn’t phone because of that and he seemed not to notice that I was trying to tell him I had retired as he kept on talking about the electrical problem. They live around three miles from me so how could I refuse to help? I dressed and went there immediately. As is sometimes the case with older folk they worry about potential electrical faults. As it happened there wasn’t a fault at all. What had happened was he had placed a piece of half-toasted bread into the toaster but somehow had wedged it in between the metal guide and the elements consequently short-circuiting the toaster.
That had caused the RCD to trip which cut the supply to other circuits too. He had already corrected the fault himself but it appeared he wanted to be sure. As E and I wanted to go shopping in the afternoon I missed the opportunity to go for a walk. I didn’t wish the same thing to happen on Saturday. I arose early on Saturday for two reasons, first of all I had to go and collect my medications and secondly, I hardly slept at all during the night so was awake anyway. It was a dull morning and threatening to rain, in fact that had been the forecast as we were expecting the tail-end of yet another storm to head our way. Again, although we were at the fringes where I live it got very wet and windy throughout the afternoon and evening. I wanted to go for a walk and fortunately was able to in the morning before the rain fell in earnest though it did rain for about twenty minutes while I was out. After lunch E went to her monthly meeting and I was left at home to hang out the washing, indoors of course for the rain was belting down!
I had managed to do a spot of clearing up of moss on the ‘secret garden’ flagstones and pathway as it was getting out of hand (compare to photo in yesterday’s post). Soon after the rain began to fall. With nothing better to do I spent a half-hour on the treadmill working out.
I got the chance to test the effectiveness of the coat I had purchased a month or so ago when I went for an early morning walk on Thursday. Although I have worn the coat several times since its purchase and some of those times in the rain, Thursday’s walk was a real test. Rain had been forecast to fall at around four o’clock but by the time I started out a couple of hours later it had stopped. I took the long route on my way to the coastal road and the sky to the west looked very menacing, so dark the clouds were almost black in colour and then I heard the rumble of thunder out toward the sea. To the east and south it was slightly brighter, that is the clouds were a lighter shade of grey! By the time I had reached the sea front it had begun to rain and it appeared I was walking in the same direction to where it was falling. It got heavier and heavier as I went along. Out to sea the horizon had almost faded into the sky and visibility was cut down so much the town of Blackpool, normally visible across the bay twenty miles away was nowhere to be seen. It wasn’t so much the rain that was the problem but the persistent wind blowing on-shore. The scene looked pretty much like that shown in the picture, water, water, everywhere..
The coat stood the test as expected which was just as well else I’d have been soaked through. On my chosen route there was nowhere to take refuge, nowhere for respite and to be honest I really didn’t wish to stop walking anyway. I doubt I will deliberately start my walks during a heavy downpour but it is nice to know that if I get caught out in a storm I can have the assurance of staying dry, at least under my coat. My feet didn’t fare so well, though not soaking wet they did get wet. I had been in two minds as to whether I should have worn my boots but chose my trainers instead. I think I should have worn the boots! Thursday did however turn bright and warm with wall to wall blue skies after lunch.
Another lie-in on Tuesday saw me putting my feet on the floor at 10 o’clock and missing breakfast once again. That didn’t matter, what was more important was I had a good night’s sleep even though I didn’t actually rest easy until 5 o’clock! It’s all to do with a change in routine, not having to get up for work and not getting to bed at the right time take their toll. I have to make the effort to settle things down before I am available for work in a couple of week’s time. When I retire none of this will matter but will I like it? Probably not but I will wait until I have crossed that bridge. So I was late getting downstairs and a banana and fruit drink would have to do until lunch a couple of hours later. Gazing out of the kitchen window a grey squirrel caught my eye and I spent a little time watching what it did. It was scampering about in the border and on to the lawn until after a few minutes it went over to have a drink from the bucket beneath the greenhouse which collects rain water. It comes more useful in the warm months of the year when there is little or no rain. All we do is take out the leaves that have fallen into it. The squirrel then ran up the holly tree and ended up in the branches of the naked sycamore behind it. Just then two magpies perched themselves in the tree but one flew off immediately the squirrel appeared. The other one played cat-and-mouse with the squirrel who kept chasing it off the branches. The squirrel got its way and the magpie flew off, probably for a bit of peace. While all this was going on there were two male blackbirds making a mess on the path by the lamp-post at the other end of the garden. They were doing what many birds do when searching for food, shifting fallen leaves to see what is hiding beneath them. They seemed to be having some success at my expense for it would be me sweeping up the scattered leaves later. They do the same with the bark we have in a couple of plant pots, in fact later in the day I had to put the removed bark back into the pots and take some preventative measures against it happening again. It is usually the little ones which make the most mess. I inserted some plastic sticks in the pots to deter the birds from landing on them until the flowers have grown tall enough for them to be removed. The pots contain tulip and daffodil bulbs some of which have already started to emerge. I think there are a few snowdrops in them too. When the squirrel had moved away I went outside and placed some more nuts for it to gather on its return. They were gone by the end of the day. Before I returned indoors I attached the new flag and raised it to the top of the pole but it hung there quite limply as there was hardly any wind at all. Finally I went indoors and prepared another pan of chicken and vegetable stew enough for two meals. After lunch, an hour later, I decided to go for a walk. The day was far colder than the previous day but there was hardly and wind. I was surprised how many people were out doing the same despite the cold. E had been out all afternoon and didn’t return home until early evening. Apart from my walk I stayed at home all day.
The weather forecast for Saturday was rain for most of the day. Any work I might want to do outside would have to wait until late in the afternoon when it was supposed to become dry. I had gotten up early and before breakfast I went out into the garden with a tape rule to measure something but first I checked the concrete I had laid the day before. It was solid but obviously still ‘green’. I had placed a cover over it whilst it set and decided to leave it covered until the rain had ceased. What was I measuring you might ask? On Friday I received an email from a company who sells among other things, street lighting posts. I had been making inquiries with a view to purchasing one for the rear garden but they had none of the type and size I wanted in stock. I chose to wait and they would send a message when they became available, the email was to inform me of that. I immediately ordered one online. This is the one I chose.
With a discount voucher but with the added cost of delivery the cost would be £319. I have at the time of writing on Saturday no date for the delivery. As Saturday was going to be wet I could do no work at least during the morning so I decided to pay a visit to the electrical supplier and purchase the materials I would need to install the lamp-post when I could get around to doing it. It will also require that I build a concrete base on which to stand it. The concrete mixer will need to stay out a little longer! The tape rule was to measure the length of cable I would need to reach the proposed lamp-post position which turned out to be a little under 19 metres. The cable I am using is pvc steel wire armoured which will be small enough to be almost invisible when I install it beneath the capstone where they overhang on top of the wall. The other materials included a weatherproof box in which I will put a control switch (for isolation only) and a weatherproof connection box where I will connect the cables and the wiring to the photo cell unit which will control the light. The photo cell could not be purchased over the counter so I have been trying to source one online. A few years ago I bought one to control the light in the front porch. It is a special unit which switches on at dusk, off at midnight, on a few hours later and then off again at dawn. It takes a few days to settle down and adjust the switching times more accurately and it will enable the light to remain off during the early hours of the day. In the meantime I have work to continue with on the Plot as long as it isn’t raining. The rain did ease off for about thirty minutes in the afternoon so I took the opportunity to mix some mortar by hand as it was quicker for such a small amount and I managed to lay the second paving slab and recover the area before the rain resumed. I wanted to lay some bricks on its rear edge as I had done with the first step but hadn’t enough time because of the rain. Here are two shots taken on Sunday morning.
It would be Monday before I could do any more work at home but I had two electrical jobs scheduled, one small one and the other not so small which would scupper the idea.