Snow Days

White 'blossom' now.
My pink ‘winter blossom’ is white now.

Congratulating myself now, upon not having  bought my worms yet. This time, my procrastination has worked in my favour and that of the worms, I guess.  If you follow my other blog,  clevercomposting.com,  you will know that a kilo or so of ‘red wrigglers’ is about to enter my life, inhabiting my new worm farm.  The little dears are probably quietly winding around each other, still warm in the worm nursery, enjoying a mass orgy.  This means that I will not be going outside and finding a communal  grave in my yet- to- be- installed worm farm. Thank heaven for that – it would have been too devastating.

The drifting flakes are falling constantly now and the typical snowy hush has descended upon us. It is a Sunday, so traffic is almost non-existent and apart from neighbours introducing children and pets to the joy of playing in the snow, there is nothing much happening.

Poor Ponga
Poor Ponga

The cabbage trees across the road and the tree ferns in pots are bearing huge loads of the white stuff, their green blades bending under their unwanted and un-asked-for burden,  poor things. They are surely craving the warm sun and rain of home now, hating the freezing blast that is paralysing them and which will, eventually,  turn them brown and rotten.

The local ever-greens,  still showing signs of life, are bending too, sharing the load with their foreign neighbours, but with their tough leaves handling the strain far more successfully.

 

The lakes are not frozen yet, but should the temperatures nudge down a bit,  that ice will creep over the surface of the grey, grey, water shutting out the few birds that are still in evidence and sending the fish into a state of drifting coma. To me – it’s a miracle that anything survives at all. Bread moistened and tossed out onto the lawn, is ignored by the few birds that fly overhead. Not like NZ, where it would have been snapped up in an instant. So much to learn! I guess I will have to buy a proper bird feeder and buy seeds and stuff.

At the supermarket.Tomorrow we will have to go out to get some food. Our car does not like the snow, so we will probably walk. Not too far, thank goodness, and the outing will stimulate us – get the blood running again.  I wish I could get interested in walking round the lake!

Advertisements

Winter – the Final Frontier…….

OMG I have just realised how long it has been since I last wrote in this blog. Not since August last year. The past months have been totally taken up with getting into our new house, doing renovations, unpacking, and just getting all the everyday bits and pieces sorted. Then we had Christmas with all the attached brou-haha and now we are half way through January. (How’s that? Three and a half months in three lines.) Soon be summer and then Christmas once more. Shudder…….

 Now, winter is well entrenched and strangely, even M and I are already suffering from a lack of ‘outside’.  There is little incentive to go for a drive and a relaxing lunch when everything is grey, the roads are icy and the temperatures are below freezing. The same goes for a walk around the lake. It is bleak and quite beautiful in a stark, almost minimalist fashion, but just not appealing enough for someone who does not consider ‘walking for walking’s sake’, a priority.

"Our Lake"
“Our Lake”

It is fascinating, though.  Winter here, because of the preponderance of deciduous trees, offers a whole new view of previously secret places. Suddenly, the stately home up the road and down a long drive can be seen in all its glory. The shape of the lake that, in summer,  is completely hidden by the lush foliage of beech and birch, can now be truly appreciated.  Everywhere is now open to prying eyes, allowing  passers-by to snoop, to re-assess the gardens up the street and to check out a neighbour’s new extension or pool. What fun!

The novelty is short-lived, however. An all-pervasive grey continues to shroud the country-side, its effect compounded  by the clouds of vapour and smoke  curling out of heating vents and chimneys on every side. The odd blue-sky day is short-lived, ephemeral, its passing barely noted except as a momentary relief from the Pantone-like colour swatch depicting shades of grey that is now our daily expectation. The sun has no warmth, unless experienced through the glass of a conservatory and even then, it is a weak imitation of the real thing.

The Seagulls Playing on the Ice.
The Seagulls Playing on the Ice.

And…..the up-side? Well, we have a crash-hot  heating system. The fact that I need it set at a sky-rocket temperature compared with everyone else is a minor glitch, and I don’t care.  Lack of out-door excursions means LACK OF CALORIES. I have decided there is no finer way to conduct a diet than to avoid all restaurant and cafe eating.  I have time and a greater inclination to blog – not a bad thing at all as I am a great believer in ‘doing’ as a means of doing, if you see what I mean. A case of ‘don’t want to do’ – ‘improve’ – ‘love to do’.  I would love to take this opportunity to do heaps of cooking, too, baking in particular, but after the Christmas fiasco of food, food and yet more food, I am quite easily resisting the temptation.  I still have a pack of fresh cranberries in the freezer  though, that I bought before the holidays  to try a new  cake recipe I found on Pinterest. Can they still be called fresh, though?  Oh well, never mind. Maybe after I have lost a couple more kilos……

Finally, there are books, thanks to various second hand shops that support charities around the neighbourhood and the excellent Waterstones. Books on composting of course,  and – just published, the final book in the Robert Jordan (RIP)series “The Wheel of Time”.  Bliss – I cannot wait to start it, but of course, starting means finishing and that is not a happy thought and then, I realize that I have taken pleasure from these books for over 20 years now. A big chunk of my life.

A Wintry Blue Sky
Wintry blue sky.

Public Conveniences!!

The village square, Chilham.

Public lavatories, toilets, loos, or whatever you like to call them, figure largely in the lives of people who get around a lot. This was brought home to me recently when we were doing a bit of exploring in the Kent countryside.  As usual, there was no shortage of places to go  (I don’t mean the loo)- it was more a matter of deciding what direction to take – but since we had not been  previously, we chose a village that is has quite a reputation,  Chilham, in Kent.

Chilham Castle

Chilham is draped over the top of a range of gentle hills and can be accessed from the A252. The village square, once grassed,  is now paved.  At one end is the gateway to Chilham Castle, a fabulous home which dates back to at least 1086 when it was classed as a manor. It is open to the public on any day that we are not there.  Yes, we missed out again. (Must check these things more thoroughly!)

The road in Chilham
A beautiful walk. Shame about the signs!

There is a school, a church with a graveyard, pubs and encircling the square, beautiful medieval buildings, both houses and businesses.  These buildings straggle down the five roads radiating out, back down the hill and gradually peter out as flat ground is reached. Some parking is allowed in the square, but it seemed rather rude  to leave the car in what was really a communal front yard, so we opted to use the car-park at the bottom of the hill and to walk up.

And so to the loo issue. Sitting in front of a tent, surrounded by racks of brochures  and with a table covered with papers, was a very friendly local resident.  Behind her were the local public loos. A welcome sight, I may say for slightly older than middle-age travellers. But – not for long, it seems.  The local council want to pull them down because they cost too much to keep clean. The local population are totally dismayed and have organised a PETITION demanding that they be retained.  We were asked to sign it and did so, readily.

The Petition
A lady who cares!

Public toilets, as supplied for casual visitors, for the most part are the most revolting, filthy arm-pits of the world and if you can find one that is half-way decent, you should cherish it and commend those responsible.  I visited one in the North, not long ago and it was foul. All metal furnishings and floors and walls of scarred concrete painted in a tasteful shade of British Racing Green .  No paper except that strewn on the floor.  No locks on the doors.  Built-up dirt decorating the corners. The sort of place where you just know that you will pick up more ‘nasties’ if you wash your hands than if you don’t! But – guess what?  There was piped music surging through each cubicle and it was classical organ music – Bach, I do believe.  Very surreal.  There was a queue in this toilet.  It was situated at a popular picnic spot.  Why, why ,why do they not make some effort to make it clean and pleasant to use?

You know – there are some things on earth that will never make a profit.  Clean loos is one of them, luv and you just have to suck it up!

House in Chilham
The Elephant house in Chilham.

Back to Chilham. There were suggestions for over-coming the problem.  Perhaps a villager could hold the key and lock and unlock the building and ‘keep an eye on things?’ Unfortunately, the population is either rather elderly, or not always available. Older folk are wary of hoons and confrontation.  Perhaps visitors could use the loos in the local pubs and tea-rooms?  These buildings are TINY. Can you imagine a coach-load of tourists swarming through a tea-shop that can barely fit two tables and a couple of chairs?  And why should local businesses be expected to provide facilities when they can barely meet the needs of their own customers?

Who knows what the final decision will be?  I just hope that the loos stay right where they are and open for business, so to speak.  For God’s sake, this is England where millions of pounds are spent on winning gold medals and building stadia. Surely we can run to providing a decent place to have a pee!

Another view of the village square.
Another view of the square.

Oh – by the way. Chilham is famous for being the place where Miss Marple, Poirot and Jane Austen’s Emma were filmed!

For more on the Elephant House, see my future blog on Chilham.