Thursday, 30 July 2009

Spot the Kitteh.

Our game today is Spot the Wrong Kitty!

True skill comes when one is able to determine the Correct Kitty without restorting to mundanely obvious clues such as the tinkling of the pink bell or the yowl for instant-service food upon sight of Human Staff Member. Hints on how to do this include ascertaining a certain guilty/defensive look on one face (indicating full expectation of imminent bouncing from house) as well as distinguishing fur quality and pointiness of nose.

But there is not going to be an ejection of interloper, Arthur, today, as it is tipping it right down (today has been a FABulous windy day of thunder and rain and interspersed with sunshine -- proper weather instead of stiff-upper-lip weather!)

Monday, 27 July 2009

And now for something completely different...

Sometimes, I go wandering off. And yesterday, I was chasing butterflies (during the semi-finals of the racing)... and picking blackberries. And people worried. But it was all fine!

Earlier in the day, I noticed the prettiest butterfly on the Buddleia next to the Porta-loos (I called them 'portolets' and was mocked -- oh, come on, people. USE YOUR FREAKING CONTEXT CLUES! I'm obviously not talking about the nearest Starbucks... However, I must admit that portable toilet facilities have come a looooong way -- these flushed with blue liquid and had water faucets with a floor control, like the train!). Not being the kind of person who normally takes a camera to the toilet with them (although in airports, I am sometimes glad to have one handy to take photos of silly stick figure signs), this stalking opportunity was missed.

However, after the first round of the semis, I turned around from reading a history sign I was reading and Mr. E had disappeared. So I wandered the opposite way (from where our settlement area was) down the path less travelled, except that it was still fairly travelled, most notably by a large number of chocolate labs -- who seem to have absolutely no sense of occasion when persons are trying to caaaaaarefully stalk an insect and photograph it. But that is okay :)

[For the benefit of Judith, will think this looks like a path along which brigands might be lying wait, this is the smaller path right next to the larger path, which was very open and not filled with lurking murderers. Norfolk is the safest county in England!]

Quary would be spotted, camera made ready (because heaven forbid it should retain settings), creeping motions through nettles and grasses would ensue... and butterfly would fly off. Normal walking would proceed for a bit, some berries would be consumed (purely for energy and fibre), and then behaviour repeated, with some more productive interludes when other creatures would sit nicely.

This may or may not be golden rod -- I don't seem to be allergic to it, though. I think this is what they call a 'wasp' here. They ain't seen no real wasps...

This little fellow posed for quite a good while for me. He is rather dignified, and the tips of his antennae look like they have been dipped in gold. He is a Tortoiseshell. There is downy almost fur on his body (maybe it is) and it was a lovely olivey-browny-goldy colour.

A little further down the path (after another failed attempt at the main objective and a nettle sting), this nice Common Brown was willing to be photographed. Although, maybe he is a Gatekeeper, instead...

And a dragonfly, who bravely withstood an onslaught of shrubbery beating by a wagging tail and stayed still for me to capture several lovely shots.

Then, we have some ladybugs (or ladybirds, as they are called here). They always pose so nicely and don't flit away with the slightest hint of breeze. We need some to come live in our garden, but despite rumours that you can purchase a bunch of them and bring them home to set free, I have not yet found where one does this. (S'pose I could Google it, since I am constantly impatient with people who do not Google their questions.)

And finally, this was the only photograph I managed of the Peacock, which was taken during a veritable gale and involved me balancing on my toes with camera reached out as far as my arm could go, with an aim and a click. He is rather stunning, isn't he!? But after all that kerfuffle, I think my favourite is the Tortoiseshell, since he was so well-behaved and I got to see such detail on him.

Swan Lake

There are few things more fabulous than large tattooed blokes wearing tutus and pink tights and Dragon Boat racing.

It was even more entertaining when they were walking around the day-camping site, but I didn't want to get smacked.

Over £25,ooo was raised for the Anthony Nolan Trust at Sunday's Norwich Dragon Boat Race. Our team -- Stan's team, The Pedantic Smart Alecks -- came 19th out of 21 teams.

The Race was at Whitlingham Broad, just outside of Norwich in Trowse. A broad is a lake, usually signifying man-made in some way. Most of the broads in Norfolk are a result of the peat digging in the Middle Ages, but Whitlingham Great Broad is a new creation, being used as a quarry until the end of the 20th century.

Like myself, some readers (if there are any of you left since I am currently such a bad on-the-ground correspondent) may not be acquainted with 'Dragon Boat Racing'. It involves long boats with room for teams of 12 -- 10 rowers, one drummer, one helmsman. The helmsman is (for events like this, with loads of novices) provided by the organising company. The drummer sits on a precarious little chair at the front of the boat and... um, drums. It is meant to keep the rhythm of the rowing, since it is imperative to row in synchronisation in order to reach optimal speed, but a lot of the time the whole thing just went higgledy-piggledy. On other boats, of course -- we were actually doing pretty good after our initial row out to the starting point in the middle of the lake.

The racing begins with each team doing 3 heats, with 3 teams in each heat. The top 2 times of each team are averaged and the top 9 teams compete in the semi-finals, with 3 teams in the final (to R, very tight finish -- the winners were 2/10 of a second faster). The course is 40 meters long... and that is a whole heckuva lot longer than you think and than it looks. Sadly, we were not as buff as the rugby teams and other groupings of powerful human specimens, but it was still a Grand day out!

Swan Lake (pink tutu-ed tattooed persons, above) won in both the Best Dressed Category and overall.

We will be there next year, but it is yet undetermined if E will be dressing in tights.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Yes, ma'am. You and your hydrangea may go through...

This is a nice phrase, because it means that I can make my bus which is on the other side of the closed street... And if you got a good bargain (say, £4) on your hydrangea, the police/guard-ish type person will approve and tell you so.

This is fab. And probably only happens in Norfolk. I like Norfolk and find more reasons to like it here all the time :)

Certain aspects of 'professional business' culture have little part in this positive feeling, but paying my bills does, I suppose.

This Hydrangea Walk followed closely upon quite an eventful day (and prepared for yet another).

Firstly, yesterday (after a swivet relating to the forgetfulness of herself and the lack of organisation in La Casa), Sally collected me from the top of Elm Hill and we headed off to the Worstead Festival.

Worstead is northeast of Norwich and its festival is the largest village festival in Norfolk. In the Middle Ages, worsted fabric was woven here, preceding the wealth of Norwich weaving culture.

Sadly, unlike last year, Norfolk Yarns did not have a booth. This was actually fortuitous, though, since as a result, no extraneous wool was purchased and added to stash. (This is a feat of glorious achievement). I did, however, get some Crafty McCrafty ideas -- ideas are free and take very little storage.

And the sheep were bald by the time we saw them, so I didn't beg to bring one home (although I think my plan for putting one on a leash/lead and bringing it to The Common to graze sounds like a marvelous plan).

In the second field, were the heavy working horses, old cars (such as the Model T Roadster, to L) and tractors and machinery displays (and the hog roast -- yummy expectations were sadly disappointed).

The machine display looked to be about the most boring thing imaginable, but it was actually really interesting -- although if you had to sit there all day in the constantly humming and popping racket, you might have gone deaf. Each contestant had their machine(s) up and running and doing whatever they were supposed to do, and a little provenance tidbit was on some of the signs, too; the men (mostly), and their dogs, sat in lawn chairs behind their treasures and/or fiddled about with parts and oil and things. It was like a geek section for manly men :) Some of the tractors (even as modern as the 60s and 70s) had hand crank starters!

Another section of the field was for ploughing trials (I never figured out if there was a competition, or if they were just demonstrations). Commentating was a well-dressed and well-fed gentleman sat under a small white tent with a cane and a straw hat, looking every bit the part of a county fair cast member from Babe or Charlotte's Web.

Next to the ploughing section, was the horse judging arena. It was all quite fancy proceedings and the horses were noble and ginormous. The judge's assistant was another character actor, I swear, in a navy suit with lambchop sideburns and a bowler hat! The judging was very involved, and ribbons were won, but Sally and I had no idea who actually won. This horse was my favourite, but he only got a pink ribbon...

The chicken ark was quite tempting, but I refrained (£160 for ark and 2 hens; child not included). Sally was probably pleased with my lack of animal/foul purchases since her car might have absorbed some sort of unfortunate odour... so I brought five plants home instead. I notice an unfortunate, and increasingly frequent, tendency to aquire greater quantity of things than I can carry...

After a state of rosy-cheeked browsing was reached (from the brilliantly glorious day that it was -- see sky above for evidence), Sally dropped me back in Norwich (with my collection of plants) for to meet up with the rest of the winning quiz team... for an evening of riotous debauchery.


Despite the fact of my tardiness (and an attempted barring of the Plant Lady and her trolley) and everyone else's head start on the 6 pints per person (which was our prize -- and of which I managed only half of my allottment), it all remained quite civilised.

Emma had brought along the most intricate puzzle of King Solomon's Mines (second row, third in at this link). 1000 pieces does not fit even on the largest table in the King's Head, so we put the border together and then split it in half vertically and moved the halves opposingly sideways. Eamonn and Adrian decided that working two halves of a puzzle was the silliest thing ever, so they got the chess out.

Perhaps a little more eye-pattern coordination than realistic having not started puzzle at the beginning of the outing and in fading light, but SUCH a good time!

The Hydrangea Walk followed and E was gentlemanly and pulled my trolley with the lavender and multi-coloured yarrow inside. He is so tolerant!

NOTE: The puzzle remains unfinished since John (the landlord) wasn't too keen on our leaving puzzle out on table for us to come and finish at various times.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

...and then there was fire

So, when a person decides that burgers sound nice for dinner and they don't have a barbeque, and they don't want them pan-fried, and they have a garden.... dinner might get more expensive than their shopping partner bargained for (even though they are stood in Waitrose).

The dinner shopping trip then might take one on to a Homebase store (where they sell grilles et accoutrements. And also propane and propane accessories, but we didn't need any of that.).

And then one might end up leaving Homebase with a Weber charcoal grille, a bag of briquettes, some organic balsa twigs from Romania (for fire lighters)... and a hand fork and a pitchfork -- because you might need them, too.

Then, before one gets one's dinner, one must wait until said grille is put together :) Kittehs is helpful as wellllllll.

At the edge of the grill construction photographie, one can perchance spy some of the lettuces, which are doing extraordinarily well. Well, since I have never grown lettuces before, I think they are doing very well! That was the lettuces yesterday (above), and this is my harvest of lettuces today (left)! They are being taken to work to share tomorrow (the tidy ones, that is... I am keeping the ones that are a little tattier, but still scrummy!).

Earlier in the week, The Grille Man was also The Golfing Man. The first bringing out of the clubs in Norwich and what more fitting outing than the Royal Norwich Golf Club with Stan? Oh, certainly, my good fellow -- simply smashing! I am threatened with becoming a golf widow... so I may have to start grilling all by meself.

However, as smashing as the golfing is, the hollyhocks (at R in photo) are fabulously smashing and are blooming magnificently! However, there is a slight problem with rust -- which one can combat organically with milk (?) or non-organically with chemicals. The rust is winning. Any recommendations welcome.

In other news, there is still concocting going on with the elderflower! On Monday, concern kicked in because there was a type of scum on the top and no bubbles; I was distraught. On Tuesday, we decided to add a pinch of yeast, just in case it wasn't quite dead yet. And it has resurrected! (Or maybe it wasn't actually dead yet; the scum appears to be part of the normal process. Coming from the land of swamps, scum to me generally means 'ick'. But no more -- this is delish!)

Tonight, Clare confirmed by phone brewing consultation that scum is normal; one is also meant to stir so that the sugar gets eaten by the yeast, causing it to ferment more (although elderflower is not going to really get anyone tipsy). The big puffy bubbles are a good sign of life. And I tasted it, too -- YUM! But it is still sweet, so Clare says it is not ready to bottle.

Updates will be forthcoming! Bubble, bubble, toil, but no trouble.