Nasturtiums

I have a bed of nasturtiums in my garden. This was the bed that was full of tomatoes last year, but I planted some nasturtiums among them to keep the ground covered and because I like them and because, well, why not?

This year I am not growing tomatoes because last year they all got the blight so I am leaving it a couple of years before I grow them again. The nasturtiums, though, gave me no choice. They self seeded and came back bigger and brighter than ever and I was delighted. I was going for the zero effort garden this year, and they definitely met that!

Then this happened:

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The caterpillars took over. I know a lot of people with allotments plant nasturtiums as a sacrifice crop, and I can see why that works. The cabbage whites absolutely loved them. The devoured them in short order. I was a little bit sad for my plot which had been so beautiful not long before, although not nearly as sad as I would have been had they not been effectively free as they self seeded and required no effort to grow whatsoever.

I resigned myself to the fact that they were eaten, consumed, gone, and so would not get a chance to re-sow themselves for next year, and consoled myself with the thought that if any of our neighbours were growing broccoli we had probably saved it for them by attracting all the butterflies to our side of the fence.

But then look what happened:

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Once the butterflies had flown, the nasturtiums recovered! I was so delighted to see that they are all in flower again, and are giving us some much needed autumn colour. I have to say, that the original packet of seeds now stands as the best value garden purchase I have ever made!

I hope they get the chance to set seed again before the frosts come, so that we will see them again next year.

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Weekend Wanderings

One of the reasons I don’t post on here so often any more is that with the amount of time that the everyday living and earning takes, I don’t make as many things, craft or cake, and I don’t spend much time in very many places that aren’t work, school or home. I am sure that nobody want to hear how Master 9 spent all weekend on his computer, or that I have no idea what Miss 16 did all weekend because she was in her room the entire time.

So what exciting things did I do this past weekend to be worthy of a blog entry? First of all we went to Screwfix. Thrilling, I know.

The reason we went to Screwfix was to buy an air compressor and wrench, because whoever put the back wheels on my car the last time I had my tyres changed tightened the bolts way too much. There was no chance of getting them off by hand. So now we own a compressor. Still, to Mr PC a job is only worth doing if it requires the purchase of a new tool, so that was alright then.

This purchase precipitated our next trip. You see, a big problem with buying anything new, is that you have to find somewhere to put it, and our garage is choc-a-bloc full of all sorts of weird and wonderful items which we will probably never need again. We decided to do a trip to the Household Waste Recycling Centre.

The main thing to be dumped was our old exercise bike. The removal men broke it when we moved here over five years ago, and it had not moved from its corner of the garage ever since our moving day. It was a sad old piece of equipment, the once white plastic, now yellowed almost to buttercup, the moving parts stiff from neglect. So long, old thing, you will not be missed.

We filled the remainder of the back of my car with old sofa cushion inners, and cardboard boxes and packaging foam, and tested out my new rear shock absorbers on the speed bumps at the dump.

The funny thing is, that even having taken away about three cubic metres of junk, the garage is just as full as it ever was. I am going to have to get my eBay head on and start to get rid of the things that are too good to throw away. I will also have to train myself to throw things out even if they might possibly, at some point, maybe, be useful for something, because do you know how often we buy a duplicate of something because we can’t find the first one which we know we have put away somewhere?

Every single time.

I am on a mission, now. A tidy garage mission. 3 cubic metres down, about 15 to go!

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Running

An amazing thing happened in this past week. I met my running goal.

I ran for 30 minutes!

That really did deserve its own line. I have completed the Couch to 5K running program, along with Mr PC who actually completed it a bit before me. It has taken me 11 weeks to complete the 8 week course, but when I think about how badly I started this is truly amazing. I think anyone should take comfort from the fact that once your body realises that you are going to carry on regardless of how much whinging it does, it very quickly builds up the resources to do just that.

Once I got to the fitness level expected in the first week, which took 3 week rather than one, I kept up with the program for the most part until we got to the longer continuous runs. From the first 20 minute run, I couldn’t quite manage the full times. I was two runs behind at every point and walked for part of the way while Mr PC ran on. This week, though, I have put a big tick through that item on my mental bullet journal. 30 mins Done.

The other amazing thing which has happened at the same time is that the aches and pains have disappeared. I had a sore knee before I started, which was one of the things which made me nervous of picking running as a fitness activity. It is now completely fine. The running also made a small point on my hip sore, but that has also gone in the last three weeks. Lastly, from the day I got to the 8 minute run, up until a week or so ago I had a swollen achey ankle, which got worse with each run, then improved on each rest day. Now that, too, is completely better.

I have to say that this whole process has been far better than I ever imagined it could be, so I am determined to keep it up. In fact, I now have a new target.

Actually, it’s the same target: 5k. The name of the course is a bit of a misnomer. It says Couch to 5k, but is actually Couch to 30 mins, and I run rather slowly. I took a GPS out today, and it told me that I had run 3.736Km, so the next target is 5K, and I will try to increase my speed to get the run in the half hour rather than extend the time to 40 minutes. I really hope I can get most of the way there before the nights draw in and we are running in the dark!

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The Doctor Who Experience

I have wanted to visit the Doctor Who Experience in Cardiff for a long time. I am quite a fan. I can remember when I first moved to New Zealand in my first term at high school there in 1988, we were asked what our favourite TV program was. I replied Doctor Who. I think everyone must have thought I was a bit odd saying that as nobody else seemed to know or care about the show. Never mind. Not quite fitting in was my speciality.

I was delighted when the show was revived, apart from the fact that they scheduled it for when we were getting the kids ready for bed. We missed most of the first series, but were smart enough to record series 2, 3 and 4. Since series 5 with a combination of juggling bedtimes according to the ever-changing schedules and catch-up on iPlayer we have managed to keep up with it – apart from the occasional miss. We just realised today that Mr PC has never seen the Vampires in Venice episode or Let’s Kill Hitler.

This summer was our last chance to visit The Doctor Who Experience as it will close on 9 September. We booked the tickets and planned the day out. And we made it! That deserved the exclamation mark, as Master 9 has not been eating well for the last few days, and informed us this morning that he did not feel at all well. In the end we bundled him in the car for the two hour drive, having decided that if he felt worse on the way we would come home, but if he felt better we would continue. That was a good decision. He was bright as a button for the rest of the day.

We had a bit of a miracle with parking as well. There is a little pay and display car park right near the entrance to the site. When we arrived there were four spaces and we drove straight into one of them. By the time we had got out of the car and walked to the ticket machine there were no spaces left. And the ticket machine was broken, so we parked for free.

For the start of the experience, we were taken on an adventure in time and space, through some locations that are very familiar to anyone who has watched the show, especially anyone who has watched from the very first show back in 1963. That was a great introduction, then it was on to the museum part.

I loved looking at all the costumes and props. It is fascinating to see them up close in real life, and notice how they are different to how you expect. I thought the face of Boe would be bigger, Miss 14 thought he would be smaller. I absolutely loved that red velvet jacket that the twelfth doctor wears, and was a bit disappointed that he wore it in the episode that lasted (for him) four and a half billion years because I assumed that you might get a bit fed up of anything you had worn for four and a half billion years and never wear it again. In real life? Nah. Perhaps it needs Peter Capaldi wearing it to bring it alive. Clara’s clothes though, I love all of her wardrobe and would wear any of it any day (perhaps saving the Victorian outfit for special occasions).

Another thing that was great was seeing the different incarnations of the Tardis. I did enjoy taking a close look at the consoles and seeing how they changed, although I am not quite enough of a fan to match each console with its relevant doctor.

This is the one I love the best:

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After we had filled a goodly while looking at sonic screwdrivers and Cybermen, Oods and Sontarans, Silence and Daleks we went through to the gift shop. Sadly this was where it really became obvious they are winding down. Do you know what I might have bought if they had had any? Replica sonic screwdrivers, notebooks which look like River Song’s diary, a necklace with a Tardis key on it (Tom Baker version, please), a tardis moneybox, in fact a tardis anything-box. They had t-shirts and posters but not a lot else. The shelves were quite bare, which is a little disappointing when there is so much merchandise out there. I have downloaded a knitting pattern for tardis socks so I will go and buy myself some blue wool and knit them instead.

Overall it was a great morning out. The location is super too. Cardiff seems to be a really nice city. It was probably good that we got to see it in the sunshine, but we have left with a really great impression, and we will have to go back and see more of the place some time soon!

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Shopping Trip

Yesterday, I took my girls to Birmingham to go shopping. Miss 14 has been asking me to take them for ages, but shopping is not really my thing. It takes at least three weeks of mental preparation before I can find the enthusiasm to take a special trip out for the purpose of wandering round shops. Poor deprived children of mine! They don’t get to go very often.

Anyway, after a couple of weeks of putting it off, and a background of guilt that Miss 14 at least is having an incredibly boring and uneventful summer holiday, we went. Miss 16 has had more to do – she was on the NCS scheme for four weeks, which has filled in most of the break nicely, but wanted to come out too, and spend some gift vouchers she had for her birthday. Master 9 did not want to be dragged out, was most indignant that I might plan something for him to do, and just wanted to stay at home on his computer writing his game, so that was where we left him, along with Mr PC, who hates shopping in equal measure.

We decided to take the train. I hate driving, so where there is convenient and affordable public transport, that is my preferred way to travel given that I can’t afford a chauffeur. The train has the added advantage of terminating right in the middle of a shopping centre. Up the escalators, and straight into John Lewis we went. This is where I made my first and most exciting purchase: 4mm circular knitting needles. I would have quite liked to rush straight home and cast on, but never mind, we had other things to do.

Top priority for Miss 14 was to try Bubble Tea at Mee-Cha. I had a sip and it is rather odd. The very wide straw is sufficient to pull the ‘bubbles’ into your mouth, little spheres of fruitiness which burst in your mouth. It wasn’t unpleasant, but not something I would go out searching for.

We had also planned for lunch at Wagamama. Miss 14 was enthusiastic, and Miss 16 had been persuaded she would like something, and as she has an interest in all things Japanese, decided to risk it. I have to admit, I had never been to Wagamama before. Whyever not? It was absolutely delicious. Miss 14 loved it. Miss 16 loved it (that counts as a miracle in our house – and she tried the kimchi!). And I loved it. I am going to have to get a bottle of teriyaki sauce now, and if Miss 16 ever says she doesn’t like anything, drown it in that.

Of course, the food was the most important part of the trip, but we did get some shopping done too! J’ai acheter un beret, leading Mr PC to comment once I got home that all I needed was a string of onions. I already own the stripy shirt. The girls bought some clothes, were disappointed by the sale in Next, but found several things they liked in New Look.

I was all shopped out by the time we had to get the train back. Having a two hour wait if we missed the train was quite an incentive, and we ended up rushing back to the station and getting on the train with a couple of minutes to spare.

I hope that by going a bit further afield with the girls they realise how easy it is, and if they ever decide they need to go to Birmingham they will be able to say, ‘Yes, I know how to do that!’ and go ahead and get themselves there and back. I wonder how many people now spend their entire childhood being ferried from one place to another by parents, and then have no idea how trains or buses work.

It is quite nice, after a day of shopping to sit comfortably on a train, being carried home, while you chat about your purchases. We must do it again sometime, perhaps in about a year when my enthusiasm has renewed itself!

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Rain

Last night I was woken up by the rain. How long has it been since that last happened? It seems a rare occurrence, so either I sleep very soundly or the weather in this country is generally fine.

I love the sound of rain. Especially when I am warm and dry and cosy in bed. I love to hear it battering the windows and roof, creating a cocoon of white noise.

I also love waking in the night and knowing I don’t have to get up for hours. No baby crying or toddler needing the bathroom – that was all years ago and now I have the luxury of knowing that I have until the radio turns on at 6:55. The time is mine. I love that dozing feeling, the half wake, half sleep dreamworld, and the feeling of drifting.

Sometimes when waking life is hard, when work is stressful, or when the world around seems to be sinking into madness and chaos, it is useful to have that little oasis of bliss, that moment of complete and utter calm. So thank you rain for visiting us last night. Do come back again soon.

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Peony

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I have a beautiful peony. This picture is from April when the peony was in full bloom. This is the height of its prettiness. And that was all. Every year it has one flower. Just the one. And usually that single flower lasts only a couple of days before the wind or rain damages it.

Not long after planting this peony, I also planted some bamboo plants. Now the bamboo plants have spread, and I always meant to move the peony before the roots got too entwined, but I kept forgetting, or sighing at how difficult our soil is to dig, and neglecting to do it. Now I fear it is too late for that.

There was one good side effect from their closeness. This year the peony flower lasted nearly a fortnight, and it was nothing to do with any unusually pleasant weather. The bamboo stalks supported the flower, so even through wind and rain, the bloom was undamaged, so a win for my laziness!

If I could only work out what to do to encourage it to have more than one flower, I would be truly delighted!

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