Ides of March

Alright I confess it is 20 th April as you read this but I am more than four weeks ahead of you. I think there are 36 scheduled posts but that will be 37 by the end of this day. I find I like writing and I hope you get at least some enjoyment from them. They are never too long and sometimes even a little brief but I suppose ideal for anyone taking a coffee break. I do tend to go off track occasionally but try to keep a tight reign on things, after all I would hate to bore you. ‘Beware the ides of March’ as the soothsayer said to Caesar in Shakespeare’s tragedy but he didn’t take the advice and was stabbed to death. As I write this we are now at that same time in the year and one might say as the soothsayer that we should also take note and beware. To be sure in today’s society there is much to beware of, just take a moment to think on it. However this post isn’t about the dangers in life we all face from time to time no doubt but on things more positive.

There has been much to grumble about lately here in the UK, for one the poor handling of our government to deliver Brexit as promised. It all hinges on leaving the EU without a deal or accepting one which at the end of the day will never be to our advantage. Politicians being as they are just won’t agree. Those who side with the population who wish to remain are putting stumbling blocks in the way of progress. There are ulterior motives for this you can be sure. It is something therefore that we must be wary of and how appropriate since it is March 15 th (as I write). The weather is the other thing we grumble about but then we always grumble about the weather if it doesn’t suit us. It has actually been appalling over the past week or so with high winds and plenty of rain but that is to be expected in March. However there were things in the garden needing attention, cutting the grass and digging out the weeds which grow profusely at this time of year when it is wet and mild. Today, Friday was dry for a change and it lasted until late in the evening. I had been for a walk in the morning and after breakfast went to the local window installer to see if I could purchase a double-glazed small window panel (10 x 10 inches or 254 x 254 mm) which I wish to fit inside the new garage door I plan to construct. They could supply one for around £20 so I placed the order and would collect it the following week. Much time had been wasted during the morning but in the afternoon when it also happened to be sunnier I decided to mow the lawn using the new ride-on mower.

It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it and then I soon had it finished. One good thing about using it apart from it being easier was the fact that I didn’t have to empty the grass box three times as I had to do with the old mower. This one holds more and in fact I only had to empty it after I had finished! One small disadvantage with the ride-on mower is it uses more fuel of course because it carries a passenger. Following that job I went into the front garden and did some weed removing in the flowerbeds. The two green waste wheelie bins are full to the brim and await the first collection of the year on the 18 th March. They have been almost full for months. Saturday would be another wet and miserable day so I was glad I took the opportunity to get something done in the gardens while it was dry.

Shirley Anne

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A tad cooler and stuff

Who am I to complain about the weather we have had lately? It is a slightly cooler day today than it was yesterday but still several degrees above the norm for February. It is Sunday and I wanted to sit out for a while on the patio. It had to be after lunch as that was supposed to be the best time of the day for the sunnier weather. True enough it was and I managed an hour or so sitting in the warm sunshine. However there was a cooling breeze to accompany it which meant I had to sit in the most sheltered spot to feel comfortable. It didn’t last because thin clouds eventually lessened the warm rays of the sun and I reluctantly returned indoors. I wasn’t going to be tempted to return outside because the sunshine grew stronger for I knew it would be futile, and it was! It soon went dull again. Well after all it is still February. By the time you are reading this it will be the last day of March and hopefully a lot warmer. While I was sitting on the patio several things were on my mind. One of those things concerned the state of the lawn which by then was ready for its first cut of the year. I had attempted to start the petrol mower the previous day but it wouldn’t start. I decided I would check it out during the week……

Lawn mower

The picture shows the model we have at home (not the actual machine we have). So I was thinking about that and came up with the idea of having it serviced professionally by people who deal in lawn mowers and service them too. What could be easier especially as we have such a business close to home? At the same time I can ask about ride on mowers which I am interested in purchasing. Having looked at their website however I noticed a lack of variety and their prices are far more than I wish to spend. I have looked elsewhere and know I can purchase a suitable machine within my budget and that’s probably what I will do. There is only one foreseeable problem I might encounter and that is whether the machine will pass through the rear door of the garage to enter the garden! It will be dealt with one way or another. Anyway in the interim I have just loaded the mower into the back of my van ready to transport it to the repair shop tomorrow morning. I should by then have received the information I had requested about the ride-on mower too.

Shirley Anne

Bit of a tussle

It is Monday 18 th Feb. The weather is in a bit of a tussle at the moment hovering between nice and warm and cold and windy. Despite that we are told to expect a warmer week. As far as I can make out the worst of the weather is behind us as we approach Spring. Well all I can say is wait and see. I am more concerned about any frost we may still get and by that I mean a hard frost lasting days. Why is that I hear you ask? Well after lunch today it became rather warm and sunny so I made the decision to remove the frost protection I had provided for the more susceptible plants we have in the garden namely the Phoenix Canariensis (palms). Last year they took a battering from the easterly winds which brought about a severe frost. We seem to have been fortunate this year and the weather has even been unduly warm. So off I went into the garden and guess what happened? The sun went in and the wind picked up and it became much cooler. No matter it was just cool and not freezing! After I had returned indoors say half an hour later the sun re-emerged the sky went blue and everywhere warmed up again. Just typical of my ‘good’ fortune. One of the bags in which the pebbles had been delivered came in very useful for storing the pieces of bubble-wrap I had used to protect the plants. They can be used again though I did purchase a large roll of bubble-wrap which would last for years.

Hopefully there will be no hard frost in the remaining weeks of Winter. This morning I had taken a longer walk than I had done for months and walked southward to Ainsdale taking the coastal road. I wasn’t that warm even though there was a south to south-westerly breeze. I walked down to the beach there, lovely at any time of year. The tide was just turning as I arrived and was beginning to recede but was still high upon the beach. I didn’t stop there too long because of the wind exposure and turned toward the dunes to make my way back home. It was the first time this year I had taken that route. There was far more shelter from the wind in the dunes though the line of trees and undergrowth on my left afforded the most protection. To my right were the main part of the dunes the other side of which lies the coastal road. By this time the sun had appeared and was warming by back from the right. I met a couple of people walking their dogs and one or two others out jogging. Finally I was back home and having an early lunch as I had skipped breakfast but feeling well and invigorated.

Shirley Anne

Got it wrong

According to the weather forecast we were supposed to have had very high winds overnight on Wednesday. E tells me that in fact it had been windy though not as bad as was forecast. However I am only referring to the weather here where I live, it might have been a different story elsewhere. This morning (Thursday 7) I went to do the weekly shopping and the weather wasn’t very pleasant at all, wet and windy but this afternoon it is bright sunshine all the way. It is however getting windier by the minute and having just heard the weather report we are in for the high winds previously promised. Sometimes they just get it wrong or in this case the date!

Despite the weather we are having it isn’t as bad as it was when the picture on the left was taken a few years ago. Yesterday, whilst there had been reasonable weather I did some work in the gardens, a spot of clearing them of accumulated leaves and the twigs and small branches that keep falling from a neighbour’s tree in the rear garden. It seems to be forever dropping twigs or branches. I also spent an hour digging out unwanted bluebells and one or two montbretia. Unfortunately some of the bluebells bulbs cannot be dug out as they lie beneath the tangle of tree roots. I had to just dig as far as I could and pull out the stems. After removing the majority of the bulbs a couple of years ago I knew there would be others some of which I knew I couldn’t remove unless I also dug out the other plants. Either way it is an impossible task and I fear the bluebells will just keep appearing each year. When I am pushing up daisies they can do what they please and no doubt they will! Today however I am staying indoors and out of the wind. I have other things to do indoors anyway.

Shirley Anne

Spring days

Spring days in the Winter. Today it is warm and sunny after a night of light flurries of snow which didn’t take long to melt away. I am feeling much better than I have for a week or more and feel like going for a walk but I am remaining at home just for now. I like days such as these because they point to warmer days ahead. I watch the shadows as they slowly creep further south with each passing day. Out on the patio it looks so cozy and inviting though earlier I was out in the garden putting seeds out for the birds and walked past the patio on my way back indoors. There was a covering of frozen snow on the artificial grass as the sun hadn’t come around to warm it up. Even  as I write when the sun is approaching its highest for the day there is some ground frost in the shadier places. I looked at the forecast for the rest of the week and it looks as though we won’t get rain or snow or anything dropping out of the sky until Monday. I am happy about that, it is uplifting and will encourage me outdoors for a walk or two now that I feel better. The day after tomorrow will be the first of February and the day I take the van in for its annual check, the dreaded MOT! I am not expecting it to fail the test but it could. As I am retired there is less urgency in keeping the van on the road though I do need it for bringing home the shopping! I thought E hadn’t yet included me on her insurance so I can drive her car should it be necessary. She is covered on my insurance to enable her to drive the van should it be necessary though. That would have been a little of a one-sided arrangement perhaps but thankfully not. It is a beautiful Spring day in Winter.

Shirley Anne

How different

Saturday and especially Sunday were horrible as far as the weather was concerned, wet and windy, very windy for most of the time. They were what you might call typical winter’s days. On Monday morning I awoke thinking I had travelled to another planet, it was bright and sunny with no clouds in sight and remained so all day. The forecast for Tuesday was for rain throughout the day followed on Wednesday by another dry and sunny day. Very unsettled weather to be sure but we are talking about the UK.

I had no plans for the day except pay a visit to Dobbies the garden centre and that only for a quick visit and my free coffees. I didn’t think about it at the time but I I missed the opportunity to buy some things for the garden. As it happened E wanted to go into town to exchange some clothing on behalf of her mom and I wanted to purchase another air compressor for pumping up tyres. If you remember last week I purchased a compressor for E to have in her car but at the time it was the last of the stock. When I called in again they still had none in stock so one was ordered. Hopefully I could collect it at the end of the week. On the Friday of this week (1 st March) I would be taking my van in for its annual MOT test. I am trying to take as much rest as I can whilst I have the backaches but it is hard for me to sit doing nothing. At this exact moment I am sitting on the sofa writing this whilst the tv is on and I am watching an hour of drama. Makes a change from digging around the garden, refurbishing rooms in the cellar and the countless other things I normally do at home.

Shirley Anne

Now ice

Icy weather

Yesterday it snowed for a short time. Today it is very cold and icy. Overnight the temperature dropped to two below zero, pretty mild for some places in the world but for us, cold. It is now January 23 and I expect it will get worse before it gets better but hoping it doesn’t get worse. The forecast for the next week is a rise in temperature but will it remain milder? Weather forecasting has improved vastly over the years due mainly to the machinery of interpretation, mostly computers. Even so much gathering of information is needed before successful weather prediction algorithms can do their work. They don’t always get it right though. The only place I went outside today was the garden and only then to dispose of accumulated garbage. It is collection day tomorrow but I find that it isn’t worth wheeling the bin into the street as there isn’t much in it! Having disposed of the garbage I placed some food waste material, mainly the peels of a melon, grapefruit, orange and kiwi, into the compost bin where everything gets returned to basics for spreading over the garden as plant food. We might think it is garbage but the plants don’t! For them it is food, minerals and sugars and they thrive on it. Come to thing of it we do exactly the same, put minerals and sugars into our body so that we too can thrive. I sometimes feel sorry for the plants stuck out there in the garden in all weathers and today especially in the icy cold conditions. They have their defences and can put up with it, well most of them. The ones that can’t have been wrapped up for the winter, at least until it stops freezing over. Today, apart from a few minutes outside, I have remained indoors relaxing. My back pain is persisting and is taking a long time to heal though there is an improvement. Tomorrow morning I do the shopping but thankfully it should be a little warmer by then according to the forecast though they can get it wrong!

Shirley Anne

Snowy Day

It was Tuesday 22 Jan and during the late morning the weather was very wintry with the sleet and snow falling. It was for the second time this year so far but as on the previous occasion a few days earlier it didn’t last. No doubt it would snow again as February approached. February is for the UK usually the coldest, wettest and least sunny of all the months. The Sun is still low over the horizon so when it gets wet it pretty much stays that way for a while. If it snows and it is otherwise dry then the snow gets a chance to stick and build up. Fortunately that doesn’t happen much these days and hasn’t really done so at least here in the north-west along the coast though not along the whole coast hereabouts. The Liverpool Bay area is somewhat sheltered from the severest of weather but it doesn’t get away Scott-free. As I write I am hoping we don’t get weather which is too severe. E is presently in the cellar retouching the paint on one or two of the doors down there, mostly in the gaps of the planks that the doors are constructed with. They were made using tongue and grooved timbers and sometimes it is difficult to get the paint in between the timbers where there are gaps. She is very particular when it comes to detail. I am too but I had just about enough of working in the cellar once I had finished the painting. I couldn’t at present do any work anyway for I am still suffering with a little muscular pain and want to keep on relaxing until it improves. This is also the reason I haven’t been out for walks over the past week.

Shirley Anne

First time in a while

During the day on Friday (7 th Dec.) the wind gradually grew stronger with every passing minute. The tail end of another hurricane was on its way to our shores once more. It doesn’t last long but much damage can be done in its passing. We were to expect gusts up to 80 mph in certain parts of the country and this time where we live was right in the firing line. Time to take down the flag for the first time in many months. I had been for an early morning walk and it rained throughout but it was only light rain. The wind was weak too and stayed that way for a few more hours until mid to late morning when it grew strong. By that time the skies were partly blue and the sun came out. It wasn’t cold either at 13 degrees though the wind made it feel that way. Soon after breakfast I lowered the flag then returning indoors set about doing some painting in the cellar small store room. The room itself lies partly underneath the stone steps which lead into the cellar and it has a door which is usually kept closed. That means it stays pretty cool if not cold in there though at one time the heating pipes would give off a little heat as the lagging was poor. At the beginning of last year I sorted out that problem and put new lagging around all the pipes in the cellar. Now the little room will be colder still especially as most of the pipes in there have also been boxed-in. I guess it would be an ideal place to store wine and would be even colder than the room we converted into a larder early last year. In the rooms which have no other source of heating it stays on the cold side. Only two rooms get warm and only one of those stays warm throughout the day and night. The boiler room (also called the gym) naturally gets a little warm when the heating is on during the daytime, though not all day. The new utility room gets warm because of the freezers in there and gets no heat from the pipes which are mostly all now hidden as well as being lagged. That room stays warm all day long and through the night because we keep the door closed. That means the cellar hallway stays on the cool side. The coldest rooms in the cellar are the small store just mentioned, the large store room and the workshop though none of them gets any cooler than around ten degrees. E has found the utility room to be very useful for some aspects of her crafting work as there is water and a sink on hand, a worktop and most importantly (for her) it is warm!  So far I have only been working in the main area of the small store and have as yet to work in the area beneath the steps. That will mostly involve blanking off part of the room beneath the furthest steps and then painting it all. Today as I write I have still to paint the main area with its final coat and of course paint the whole floor when the room is finished. Today I also tested the wet room floor repair above the room and it had been successful.

Shirley Anne 

Door area

I spent a few hours working in the utility room on Tuesday (30 th) most of it around the door and the adjacent wall. First of all though I went for a walk. It was a cold and frosty morning and all the parked vehicles I came across were white! There was a gentle breeze blowing from the northeast but it was cold and in my face for the first half of my four and a half mile walk. On my return the wind died down and some clouds began to appear for there had been none at all until then. An hour after getting home there was a shower of rain and things started to warm up though it was still quite cold even so. I began the work after breakfast and later in the day this is how far I had got……

It doesn’t seem to be much work but it was tricky and awkward, especially above the door opening on the right hand side. The plywood which will be above the opening door will obviously be higher than the rest of the boxing-in. There is not much spare clearance but the door has to be removed in order to straighten the top of it by cutting a little off and that will ensure enough clearance. The door hinges need replacing too as one of them is broken. The door itself is a little bit twisted but you have to remember it has been there a very long time, probably being fitted when the house was under construction 141 years ago! It was simply made using planks of wood as you can see. Before I can do any further work on the project I will have to purchase that extra plywood I mentioned. 

Shirley Anne