What We Learn

London is getting pretty hot this week and I’ve been doing the traditional Nic thing of falling asleep and then waking up an hour later and then taking an hour to fall back to sleep. And repeat all bloody night…

On Sunday night I when woke up for the first time, The Moth Radio Hour was on and the theme was ‘the struggles, support and safety provided by family bonds’. Now it happens with it being July and godchildren 2 and 3 being ready to leave home we’ve all been involved in some end of an era thinking.

Obviously, Ma has given me a full measure of ‘struggle, support and safety’ and it’s entirety is too full to list here but as well as all of that Ma gave me books. It wasn’t just actual books although she did and I still have them but she taught me the value of reading. Like most kids I don’t remember the bedtime stories, I do remember that when we did the school library trip, I was the only kid that already had a library membership and was familiar with the children’s library at Fulham library.I was given books for Christmas and birthdays and they all had a message from Ma. This was huge for me as I also had Ma’s books from her mother (and others) which for me were a link to people that I would never meet and to Ma’s childhood. It’s one thing to know that your mum spent time convalescing in Broadstairs when she was a child, it’s another thing entirely to see the message that the grandmother that you never met wrote for your mum at the time. Also please note that in the same year when she was 9 and just 10 Ma was given Good Wives and Great Expectations!So actual books are one thing, my love of Jane Austen, the Chalet School and Georgette Heyer are all because they were things Ma liked to read. What she gave me was more than that. It was the love of reading, the permission to read and lose myself in a story and that it was ok to do that. All of that comes from Mum, who would often say “I was going to hoover/wash up/change the beds but I had a book” because who wouldn’t read instead of doing housework.I remember Ma removing lamps and lightbulbs from my room to stop me reading at night. And while I know that it was more than awkward to have a kid that had her nose in a book at very given opportunity, she never made me feel that reading and wanting to read was a problem. There were lots of other people in my life who did but in that I always felt Ma got it.

Of course she did, if she had a minute she’d be reading..

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Monday Miscellany: Very Social

Happy Monday! Last week was good, does it sound weird to say that I need this week to have less people in it?

I saw Jo and Tabs and Mrs Gauld on Tuesday and Sue on Wednesday and some of the godchildren on Thursday and then Ma on Friday and Saturday. I love all of these people and it was good and necessary to see them and spend time with them but I feel tired now. It’s not just my extreme introversion causing my tired start to the week, I’m two weeks away from my annual my birthday week off and I need the break.We’re due a mini heatwave this week, which as we know from previous heatwaves, we just don’t cope with, it’s not going to be as bad as it was in Europe or what’s happening in the US, but 34C is hot in the city. So I really need to make sure I leave the house at a reasonable time so I can get the slow but air conditioned district line instead of the fast but hotter than Hades central line. I also feel like that sentence needs more punctuation but I really am too tired to think about it!

Other stuff, we find out who’s going to lead the Lib Dems and the Tory Parties this week, and also the new Prime Minister and I need to say right now to anyone not British. I’m sorry, it wasn’t me but it is what it is….

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Friday Links: Is this what it felt like in the 1930’s?

Happy Friday!

I’m more than slightly horrified by the news and the state of the world. The 1929 crash led to another world war in 1939. We might be doing better than that but I saw some footage of Mussolini the other day and Trump and Johnson didn’t look that much different….

Anyway, here are this week’s links…

The Innisfil experiment: the town that replaced public transit with Uber

Boris Johnson is the epitome of what’s worst about the English ruling class

On the contrary: put simply, here was a man of little principle, amused by everything and not remotely bothered about the consequences of what he wrote or the damage he might be doing

UK’s renting millennials face homelessness crisis when they retire. This headline is wrong. I’m due to retire in 2041, so this isn’t about millennials, this is about Gen X, the trouble for elder millennials is about 10/15 years after that!

A Potential Hidden Factor in Why People Have So Much Trouble Losing Weight

Disruption has come for toilet paper

Generalise, don’t specialise: why focusing too narrowly is bad for us. This is really interesting

Trump’s social media summit was a circus. Its aftermath was even worse. On this evidence, the American Experiment has failed, the lab is on fire…

Why They Fear Ilhan Omar. This is spot on, Trump’s whole appeal is based on the insecurity of white men. Having had it their own way for so many years, to them fairness feels like discrimination.

Because if new immigrants allow themselves to be full citizens with voices, then what would winning the birth lottery do for Trump or Carlson or for their children? They would have to compete with all the talented children of the world, instead of just the ones born here, in the land of the lucky few who control and consume all the earth’s bounty.

Mid-year burnout: does it exist or are we all just permanently tired? I’ve been permanently tired for over a decade, I actually feel better right now because it’s lighter. I think this is right the baseline has changed. I know that I’m really lucky but if my landlord asked me to move, could I afford to rent (I’ll never be able to afford to buy), my job is great and I have the option of working from home, but what if they decided to make me redundant?, how will Brexit help all those things. Right now, I’m fine, but I never feel safe or secure. That has an impact, it’s no wonder that society is anxious, we have reasons to be anxious. What makes it worse, is that the politicians who ask us to trust them, never have to worry because they have money and they don’t seem to understand why everyone else is anxious. The net effect is to make us all feel hopeless…

‘Walkers are middle aged, hikers are cool’ The problem with young people is they think they do everything better…

To Survive in a Wetter World, Raise Ducks, Not Chickens

Apollo astronauts left their poop on the moon. We gotta go back for that shit. Yes, it could answer some fascinating questions but Christ on a bike, 50 years ago, we littered on the Moon. What the hell is wrong with us?

How can I tend my allotment without visiting every day? Lots of fellow allotmenteers here with good advice, set it up as low maintenance, perennials are your friend and while you won’t have to go every day, this time of year you need to go at least twice a week, just to keep up with the courgettes and the watering. I reckon half a day at least over the weekend and an hour or so during the week. It’s a commitment of time, no it doesn’t re

An Epidemic of Disbelief. What’s scary is how completely unsurprised I am by this…

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What’s for Dinner: The Low Energy Options

I talk about food quite a bit, from what I eat, to what I grow, to what I cook. I’m interested in those things in other people too. I’m really fascinated by what people buy and how they plan cooking to fit it in with their lives and taste and budgets.

However, the truth about social media is that we could end up with a pretty warped view of how people live because we only see the bits of life they show us. I talk a lot about making jam and cooking for yourself but no so much about my battle not to eat all the mint magums (which are the best type of ice cream and currently one of my favourite things).

So rather than talk about the food prep I did on Sunday or the amazing gooseberry compote I made last week I wanted to show you what I had for dinner on Saturday and Tuesday night this week.

On Saturday, after a day at the plot and an evening processing the produce, it was toast with mayo, ham and cucumber. I just couldn’t do cooking, I was too tired for anything complex. Yes ok the mayo was homemade but the bread was not.On Tuesday, I was at Jo’s in the afternoon and I didn’t get home until nearly 9pm, so it was melon.

On the days that I nourished my soul with allotment and seeing friends, I didn’t have the energy to cook. Sometimes that happens and sometimes it’s ok. I’ve said it a lot before now, if you don’t have the energy or you don’t want to cook then sometimes it’s ok not to!

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Allotment Adventures: Maintenance

After last week’s excitement, the plot really needed some attention. As ever this time of year, both the weeds and the things you want to grow are all thriving. So we picked: beetroot, carrots, salad, gooseberries, I gave the mint a haircut (because you’re supposed to give it a hard prune when it starts to flower) which Ma took for tea, the last bag of potatoes, the last rhubarb and two courgettes. In the week, I’d picked four courgettes and some sweetpeas. I’m not doing a running tally of everything we harvest (but I am thinking about it for next year!) we are doing it for courgettes and we’re at 15 so far this yearWe are also at the stage of the year where it seems to take as long to wash and sort the produce as it does to pick it! Especially as I made pesto out of the carrot tops (much to the disapproval of some of my facebook friends!).Anyway, after the harvesting it was all about tidying. We decided to take the sweet peas on the edge of the carrot bed out. Ma weeded around the courgettes and the bits of Joe’s plot that he hadn’t got to and for me it really shows that no-dig reduces weeds, I’m not saying we never get them because we do and we need to spend some time on the edges and paths but compared to Joe’s dug over plot, our weeds are so much lighter and that’s a good thing because my weeder is not getting any younger!I did the watering and feeding, I’m very excited to see the candy roaster and the uchiki kuri start to set fruit! I also planted some things. The boysenberry went in. There was some space up near the courgettes so I stuck the cucamelon in there. I also planted out my new pink next to the other one and repotted the lavenders. So I have to find space for the leeks, some curly kale and the ammi visnaga next week.  I’m also waiting on an order of kale and brassicas to arrive. We’ll use the kale but I’m going to ask Joe if he wants the brassicas we can’t use in the space that Ma has just weeded. It’s always better to have something in!I also tidied up the tomatoes (they do need attention, there’s no getting around it).Oh and finally, we’ve had some success with the cucumbers and the seeds have come up. I’ve decided that I’m not going to start them off indoors any more, next year I’ll either plant straight in the ground in May with some plastic over them or I’ll start them in pots but in the cloche because they really don’t seem to like being transplanted from my living room to the plot!We do seem to have a lot of stuff self-seeding, the aramanth is rampant and we seem to have two types. We also have nasturtiums, rocket and coriander doing its thing, mostly on my path. The borage is all over the place, including coming out of a compost bin and in my white flowers (I don’t know if I mentioned it but I bought a load of discounted seed from Wilko a while ago mixed it altogether and threw it in some soil near what it now the french bean bed, and most of the flowers are white, but some of the seeds were wildflowers and the borage looks nice there. We also have mystery squash, one growing with the french beans and another on the path. I can only assume it’s from a bird but I’m going to leave them to see what they do They’re only weeds if they’re plants you don’t want!It’s doing well and it looks pretty good. I can’t believe that we’re in July already and I’m thinking about autumn planting already. Because there is so much to do, we have the return of the list.

  • Weeding. The edges of the plot, the tops under the plum tree and the courgettes, which are going to need lots of attention.
  • Tidy the shed. Ma is itching to do this so we’ll get it done
  • Paint the shed
  • Sow dill in the cucumber bed
  • Sow beetroot and fennel
  • Sow chard
  • If kale arrives plant it out.
  • Plant out the last lavender
  • Find a place for the ammi visnaga and plant it there
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Monday Miscellany: Tiring but worth it.

Happy Monday! I had quite the week last week.

Work was stressy because it was quarterly reporting week. I don’t have a lot to do with that but you know when everyone you work with is having ‘that’ kind of week? I was helping to cover a sick colleague and it’s always fun to do something new to you when tensions are running high.

However, I got through the week and then I got to see Laura and Jess. We don’t see each other nearly enough but it’s so lovely when we do!So after a late night on Friday, it was allotment on Saturday and food processing on Saturday night. All that food needs to be washed and sorted, this week I also made another batch of pesto.

I was going to run around a bit more on Sunday but decided to stay home and catch up on life admin. So lots of food prep and housework and reading and I needed it.I was completely uninterested in the cricket, glad England won but I don’t really care about the cricket or the Grand Prix or the tennis. I was delighted to see that the Algerian football team beat Nigeria and will play Senegal in the Cup of Nations final on Friday. I was also delighted by both teams nicknames, the Senegalese are ‘The Lions of Teranga’ and the Algerians are ‘The Warriors of the Desert’ although both names probably sound better in French!

So I’m ready for the week and it should be pretty quiet, I’m seeing Sue on Wednesday for an allotment tour and catch up and honestly apart from work, that’s all I have planned!

It’s not very exciting but the joy of being middle aged is that I just don’t care about what anyone thinks about my less than rock and roll lifestyle!

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Friday Links: Civil Service

Happy Friday! I’m really not happy to be British right now, I’d rather be a voice in 27 countries, than told what to do by the US…


Not a Human, but a Dancer. This stuff is fascinating…

What the Measles Epidemic Really Says About America

The Guardian view on undiplomatic language: don’t pander to Donald Trump. Now that Kim Darroch has resigned, the way to do that is to appoint another career diplomat as ambassador.

Kim Darroch: effectively sacked by Johnson on the orders of Trump. I’m reminded of my favourite part in the baptismal service (bear with me on this), where we are invited to reject the devil and ‘all his empty promises’. We are being told that leaving the EU will mean ‘taking back control’ and ‘restoring Parliament’s primacy’, and this is actually what it means. It’s not taking control, it’s giving it to the US.

The embassy leak will damage far more than the special relationship

Kim Darroch quits as UK ambassador to US ‘after Johnson remarks’. They need to find the person that leaked the documents and send him to prison

How are small farms surviving? Airbnb. I know that lots of farmers in the UK do the same thing!

The Reason Anxious People Often Have Allergies

The Story of Humans and Neanderthals in Europe Is Being Rewritten

What’s in my dream holiday rental house? Decent kitchen knives, for a start. When Ma and I go on holiday, our, ok my ‘kit’ includes a knife, a cafetière, coffee mugs, champagne flutes and decent wine and gin glasses. All of them were emergency holiday purchases….we’ve trolled around Dublin and Newcastle searching for flutes and we had to go to Alnwick Wilko’s for a cafetière on one holiday. It was a bit of a departure this year when we arrived in York and drank out of the glasses provided….

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