Thursday, May 28, 2009


I [heart] Magnums! Not only is Waitrose doing a BOGOF promotion on their lovely ice creams on a stick, but Magnum is also running a competition. You enter a code from your stick into a Web site and have a chance to win cash cards! So far, I've eaten 3 white chocolate Magnums and won 20 quid!!!! And there are still two more dark chocolate Magnums in the freezer. Great ice cream and cashback -- ker-ching!

(PS: Hello Mr Magnum Marketer: Is this the sort of viral marketing you want? If so, send more cash/ice creams and I will write more blog entries.)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Vermin, vermin everywhere

It's been a bumper couple of days for wildlife around the homestead -- look who just popped up on our fence, looking rather damp and bedraggled in the pouring rain!

What next? Foxes? Deer? Tory candidates in the European elections?

Wait a minute!

That's not a bird -- it's a mouse! On my bird feeder! Eating the nuts!

(You might want to click on the photo to enlarge it.)

It is rather cute, with its big eyes, big ears, and little paws. Unfortunately, it's time is almost certainly running out, and I will be forced to remove its limp carcass from Shin's clutches at some point in the near future. But not today; it's too wet for Shin to go outside and she is instead luxuriating on her blankie downstairs. Bless.

Update: As expected, I had to retrieve a dead mouse from Shin this morning. It wasn't quite dead when I fought her off, so I put it in the hedge outside to recover. Big mistake. Nin brought it in about an hour later, and Shin, no doubt outraged by my earlier betrayal, proceeded to wolf it down. Now, I can't guarantee that it's the same mouse -- it actually looks smaller and less golden than the one above -- but it's still depressing. For me, and the mouse (of course).

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Paging Mr McGregor!

There's a bunny rabbit in the allotments, eating the lettuces!! I don't have a shotgun, but Nin shot out of the (upstairs) window, across the roof, down over the fence, and bravely saw it off.

It had better not come near my onions. There's a limit to my love for small, furry animals.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wot a scorcher!

An equally typical but much sunnier bank holiday Monday today. We set off for Mottisfont Abbey, our nearest National Trust house, calling in at the Hillier Garden Centre en route to pick up some ornamental mini bark mulch. The gardens (at Mottisfont, not at home) were looking glorious: splendid irises, the first of the 350 varieties of old-fashioned shrub roses in the magnificent walled garden, and sweeping vistas of fine English countryside. We ate rose-flavored ice cream in the shade of those trees that survived the gales of earlier in the month; we explored the cool (both literally and figuratively) ice house and cellarium; and we pottered alongside a tributary of the Test River, trout spotting. Then, it was back home to let in our stupid cat (Shin) who can't get to grips with the new, magnetic-lock cat flap that we installed last week and to do a little more gardening. Blessedly, it has also started to rain -- the perfect end to a very hot weekend.

We are an auntie

Yes, to paraphrase my favorite scapegoat, I now have a niece. 7 lbs 6 oz, lots of dark hair, and a fine set of lungs. Probably to be called Scarlett. Welcome to the Internet ...

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Confessions of an over-zealous pruner

Last year, before I had any real understanding of gardening (i.e., before I got three books on it for my birthday), I approached the garden with a "slash and burn" policy. Had napalm been available, I probably would have used that, but in its absence, I went a bit wobbly-bonkers with the secateurs. Anything green in the wrong place fell prey to my shears -- including the clematis on the Scots pine. The previous owners of our house had clearly tried to train it up the trunk, tying it with bits of (tatty) raffia. To me, it just looked like messy, unsightly growth -- and to my minimalist mind, that meant it had to go. Hack, hack, hack. It wasn't until my mother pointed out that I was removing most of a rather nice plant that I stopped. As a result, last year's crop of flowers was somewhat disappointing.

However, as with the hydrangea and forsythia out front, it turns out I've done no real long-term damage. This year, we have a beautiful waterfall of flowers from the clematis -- and now that the strong winds of the past 10 days have died down, I've been able to capture them on film. Once these flowers have died down, we'll attempt to tie the plant back onto the tree, but for now, I'm rather pleased.

Next on my hit list: the fuschia!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Being busy, achieving

Well, watching other people achieving on our behalf. To whit:

1. Broken window in conservatory: replaced.
2. Now-cleared border: filled with top soil and reseeded, in lieu of payment for broken window (see 1).
3. Chimney: swept.
4. Lights in kitchen and utility: fixed.
5. Car: serviced and MOT'ed.
6. Kitchen: tiled!

And this is on top of three runs this week and the watching of nearly half of the episodes of Season 2 of The Wire. Like I said, being busy, achieving.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

'Allo, guvnor!

The chimney sweep came round today. He cleaned our chim chiminee, polished the brass knobs, gave me some useful tips on burning fuel more efficiently, and then departed with a cheery whistle. Best of all, we're in his books now, so he'll call us this time next year to come and do it all again.

And he didn't look -- or sound -- a bit like Dick van Dyke. Altogether now:

Monday, May 04, 2009

An English Bank Holiday Monday

Other countries (used to) get military parades. We have grey skies and queues for the car park.