Monday Miscellany: 2022

Happy Monday and Happy New Year!

It’s still up

The weird time between Christmas and New Year is nearly at an end and I’m back at work tomorrow. I didn’t realise how much I needed the break, I feel better for having a rest, hanging out with my family and friends and having time to get to doing things at my pace. I fully accept that in the winter, my brain is slower than is idea and peri menopause has made that worse, so it was lovely to get around to things at my own pace. (This is hard on my mother who thinks at 1000 miles an hour and didn’t have any brain fog that I could see when she was going through peri!)

Hampton Court Kitchen Garden

Ma and I had a second Christmas dinner (beef) I got to hang out with the Gaulds at Hampton Court, go for a walk with Sue, there was some home improvement and general shenanigans. It was a good break and I’m heading into 2022 feeling refreshed if not entirely ready!

Today is a Bank Holiday here and I’m squeezing the last bit of fun with a visit to see Christina, Fred and Edie. There will be cocktails and baked goods and lots of admiring baby Edie and if I’m very lucky, seeing Tom, Yoey and Ivy and lots of admiring baby Ivy!

All in all I was thinking that 2022 was off to the best of starts given the circumstances. Yesterday there were two slight clouds on my horizon, my missing blueberry bush at the plot and last night’s encounter with a mouse. Goddamnit. It was running across the kitchen floor from the area around the fridge to the area around the washing machine, which is where I think they are coming in. It’s always January, they make themselves known. I spent this morning bleaching everything and redoing all the traps but I’m very, extremely unhappy about this.

Perfect Yorkshire Puddings (again)

The rest of the week will be working, we’re still working from home, so at least I can sleep in a bit later than if I was office bound. Obviously, the COVID/Omicron situation is fluid, but I’m expecting to be at home for at least the next two months, we’ll see.

Other things for next week, yoga everyday, sleep and getting back to a 10pm bedtime, getting the house tidy after the tree goes on Wednesday night and taking the first lot of decluttered stuff to the charity shop (it’s heavy and it’ll need to be done in sections!)

I hope that Christmas/New Year’s was kind to you and that you are able to head into this week and the rest of 2022 with enthusiasm and joy. Have a good week.

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Friday Links: New Year’s Eve

Happy Friday and well done for all of us still standing after another year of the plague and the Tories..

A message for 2022

You Have No Idea How Hard It Is to Get a Hamster Drunk

It Keeps on Raining Too Much Too Fast

The Tories call it electoral reform. Looks more like a bid to rig the system. They are handling COVID badly but the things they are doing are just as dangerous…

The One Thing Biden Is Doing Exceptionally Well

Anti-apartheid hero Archbishop Desmond Tutu dies aged 90. It’s not sad for him, he goes to God, but it’s sad for us because truly good men are vanishingly rare…

A Holiday Feast, Cooked in the Cab of a Truck

Dominic Raab photographed at Chelsea game without a mask. Oh FFS, as if drawing that game wasn’t bad enough bloody Dominic Raab was there…

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Monday Miscellany: Between Christmas and New Year

Happy Monday!

I hope that everyone that celebrates it had a good Christmas and that if you don’t celebrate it, you at least had a good break!

Manhattan and decorating the tree, a Dempsey tradition

We were at my brother’s and had a lovely day. We did wonder why the youngest nephew was so hyper but the discovery that he’d been running upstairs to demolish an entire chocolate orange and half a selection box, sorted out that mystery…

the nephews love a blanket

We’re very lucky and a good time was had by all, even the dog had fun.

the dog

Plans for this week, LFT’s permitting, are to see Jo and Ms T, go to Osterley House just chill out!

Happy Christmas!

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Allotment Adventures: Back on the Plot

After a couple of weeks off, we were back to the plot.

“where are the worms?”

We were there for five hours and although we didn’t get everything we I wanted to get done, we did get a fair amount done.

Firstly, emptying the bokashi bins and turning the compost! Our big plans for the day were to replace the two beds between the flowers/wild area and the herb and fruit beds with three new square raised beds. The two beds beings replaced were two of the first beds on the plot

July 2016 – first enclosed bed

For these ones, I’d laid down weed fabric and put bags of compost on the beds and sowed salad in one and courgettes in the other. We made the decision to put the lawn edging around them because that August Oli was coming and it was a quick and dirty way of preventing him from walking on the beds. There they have remained. We made one of them a square to give us a path to the back either last year or the year before and they’ve always been productive. One of the side effects of topping up the paths with woodchip every year is that it’s been breaking down into brilliant but shallow compost and the flowers self seed into it prolifically, so the beds get surrounded by the flowers and the raspberries that are intent on world domination, we noticed this year that the sides of the beds are breaking down a bit and we’d made the decision to replace most of the lawn edge sided beds this winter. We’re leaving two, the flower bed at the front and one more which will probably go next year.

I laid down a lot of weed fabric around beds in my first couple of years and there are absolutely places I would still do it, like under the shed. I wouldn’t do it like that now (which is why we going to be pulling up bindweed at the back of the plot for the rest of our lives). So I knew that pulling up as much of the weed fabric that we could was going to be part of putting the new beds in too. Ma and I harvested the last of the carrots that were in that bed, I sowed them late summer and just left them and there were so many carrots. That done, we pulled out the lawn edging and as much weed fabric as we could and the state of the soil underneath was instructive because it was barren. The composted down woodchip was full of worms and seeds and underneath nothing.

I have learned to garden from the internet and trial and error, most of the time I still don’t know what I’m doing. I will always love Joe (who had both halves of my plot previously) and Dennis, who works the plots next door to me because they were allotmenting before it was fashionable and the allotments wouldn’t still be here if they hadn’t. And loads of people on the site have inherited terrible overgrown and full of rubbish plots, (I think about Dionne’s plot, nearly 10 years later, she’s still struggling with the building site she inherited and doing a bloody good job), in comparision, I got a really good plot to take over (metal poles and sheds not withstanding) but each time, the soil was exhausted, lots of use of chemicals and minimal feeding of it.

The soil, dug over and weeded in May 2016

I know that my approach is not perfect and lots of people don’t like how I garden but I’m determined that when I leave this plot (in about 25 years time) the soil is going to be healthy and full of life. The woodchip is free and yes, it does encourage woodlice but five and a half years of topping it up is working and returning life to it. I can’t do all the things that need to be done to save the planet but what I can do is look after what is put in front of me, which is this plot, so that’s what I’m going to do.

Long story short, we build the beds, put them in, put down cardboard and woodchip on the paths around it.

New beds, new woodchip

Other things we did. Ma did weeding and we both did harvesting, as well as the carrots, we pulled up the parsnips and harvested chard, turnips and kale. We also cut back the raspberries because it was time. They were still trying to flower though, in December.

We have a task list for the rest of the year and January/Feb.

  • put beds together in polytunnel
  • weed paths not already wood chipped and wood chip them
  • cut back and transplant various roses
  • weed rose garden and pond area
  • weed and clear iris garden next to herbs
  • sort out planting in the new flower bed next to poly
  • sort out boysenberry/gooseberries next to new flowerbed
  • sort out caging for raspberries so they have support and don’t take out anyone’s eyes next year
  • top up compost on beds that need it (all of them that aren’t actively growing anything!)

I’m really optimistic that next growing season, we’ll just be growing and weeding and not building anything!

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Monday Miscellany: The Week Before Christmas

Happy Monday!

I have five days to finish all Christmas related jobs! Over the weekend, I bought a tree and bought a lot of Christmas presents, I’m close to done with presents, so I’m sure it’ll be fine. I have today off, I was going to have a haircut but Jane’s husband has covid so we’re hopefully going to go after Christmas. I could have given the day back but instead decided that I would spend the day finishing presents, tidying the house and catching up on housework (I don’t know why the bathroom has to be cleaned before Christmas but there you have it!). The idea is that with most of my people at work now on holiday, I’ll be able to crack on with some things I’ve been meaning to finish and then I can break up for Christmas on Friday and not think about work until the New Year! We’ll see how that goes.

Booster

Last week was pretty low key. I had my booster on Tuesday and my body decided to have a lovely flu like reaction, I basically had two and a half days of feeling rubbish. I was at home anyway so I mostly worked and slept. We had a virtual Christmas party on Friday afternoon. I often get credit for these things but actually the person doing the quiz and his team are the heroes, for something over screens, it was fun.

Mostly, like everyone else in the country (and beyond) I’m wondering if and/or when I’m going to get covid and hoping to God it’s not before Christmas, I will absolutely cope if I had to be home by myself for Christmas, but I want to be with my family. The nephews are 12 and 6, my mother is 73, there is absolutely a time when I’m not going to spend Christmas with other people but while I can and the boys can communicate in full sentences (and it’s touch and go with the eldest!) I would like to enjoy that!

when you get focus completely wrong

Have a good week and fingers crossed that you all get to have the Christmas you want…

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Friday Links: Unofficial Lockdown

Happy Friday!

I’d like to thank the voters of North Shropshire, for some good news amid the carnage.

I think we can all agree on this….

And this

Finally some links…

Go out, catch Covid, ignore the science. Or trust in Chris Whitty

Britain is hurtling towards lockdown by stealth – so Rishi Sunak had better act fast

Why America Can’t Test Like Europe. Here’s the thing, the only time I find the NHS rigid and invasive is when the Tories are trying to privatise it and sell my data. I’m not saying that everything is perfect but come on…

City allotments could be as productive as conventional farms, research finds. I haven’t been to the allotment for three weeks and I’m astonished at what it feels like not to me overwhelmed with veg. This week was the first time that the Oddbox felt like the right amount of fruit and vegetables.

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Monday Miscellany: Mid-December

Happy Monday!

Sunset somewhere near Oxford

This weekend, I went to Sarah and Justin’s for a visit, I was loved by Fred and made stuff with Sarah’s grandson.

Fred

There was also some Christmas tree decoration going on.

It was lovely.

I am glad to be at home though, I like being home.

This week, is WFH and Christmas prep. Last week, I booked my booster for Tuesday, so I will go and do that. But mostly, I need to write Christmas cards and buy and make Christmas presents.

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Friday Links: At Home

Happy Friday!

It’s been a week! I’m not back in the office now until whenever the Govt changes the advice to work from home if you can. Given the advice, our company has decided that the responsible thing is no in person meetings, so the Christmas party next week is off.

The worst thing is that this all feels like a reaction/distraction from No. 10 party scandal. They fucked around and were found out, I’m not sure that it’ll make much difference but when Ant and Dec start having a go about it things are bad

I’m not sure what I find worse, that they did it or that they weren’t clever enough to ensure there was no evidence, there was a tape of them talking about it after it had happened. If you are going to lie and cheat at least be good at lying and cheating, did Johnson’s education include any Machiavelli because if it did, no learning happened.

Anyway, here are some links….

What Is the Point of Boris Johnson?

Whether in Britain or Afghanistan, Johnson’s government fails and fails again

Boris Johnson’s rule is a throwback to the 18th-century golden age of sleaze

Tories, look in the mirror: hasn’t the price of being humiliated by Johnson become too high?

The escalating costs of being single in America. It’s not quite the same here but it’s pretty bad.

Why adoption isn’t a replacement for abortion rights. I’ve had an abortion, but there is absolutely no way I could have given a child that I literally grew in my womb up once it was here. That’s not to say I don’t have huge admiration for women who do that, that I don’t have sympathy for women who are unable to look after their children and have the choice taken away from them or that I think that adoptive parents aren’t ‘real’ parents. I’m saying that would not have been a choice for me. Abortion is just one choice someone who is pregnant can make, I don’t believe in taking any of their choices away.

The arguments about abortion in the US are about one thing: controlling women

Why we’re so obsessed with nuns. I feel that this should be retitled ‘Why non-Catholics are so obsessed with nuns’. If you’re a certain age and acquainted with Catholic Church or school, you’re not obsessed with them, you know them. In fact spotting plain clothes nuns in a skill, I still have!

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Monday Miscellany: The first week of December

Happy Monday!

I start this week, pretty bleeding tired. Last week I had my flu shot and spent the week feeling that I was coming down with a cold, basically, snotty with sinus pain and generally seedy. I got over it with echinacea and elderberry syrup and well timed use of cold drugs.

Which was just as well because this weekend was non stop. I met Ma for a birthday breakfast on Saturday.

I feel that her birthday card was accurate…

Constant supervision

After breakfast, gifts and a bit of shopping where I prevented her from buying a megaphone for either of the nephews, I went home to prepare for the onslaught of family lunch the next day. So by Saturday night the house was the kind of tidy that only visitors ever see!

On Sunday, I got up at 7am to start food prep. Everyone arrived at 10:30 ish to have coffee and cinnamon rolls. Dinner started with garlic bread (because if I don’t make it, the eldest nephew looks sad!), then a roast beef dinner and plum cake for pudding. Roast dinners are great but a complete pain if you only have one oven, six people to feed, no dishwasher and a tiny sink! I spent a lot of time washing up and cleaning up but it was a really lovely day.

One nephew on the phone, one in his den

This week, I’m going away at the weekend, so I’m cramming a lot of work, home and Christmas things into the week, there are only two weekends until Christmas and as usual I don’t feel at all ready and unlike last year, I don’t think Christmas will be cancelled at the last minute.

I have a list and I’ll just have to work through it, I’m pretty sure that everyone has those lists at the moment!

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Advent

Last Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent. Lots of people have put their trees up already, my quick straw poll of the office says that most of them are going up next weekend, people should do what makes them happy, if you want a Christmas tree now, put it up.

I will wait until Christmas Eve, because I don’t want to miss the anticipation of Advent. This year, I have my usual paper calendar and candle, a beauty advent calendar and Ma and I are sharing a wine advent calendar. We are in Advent now so listen to Christmas music, I’ve been doing this for a couple of years after reading about someone else who did. It’s fantastic, on Monday morning, I came into work listening to Bob Dylan singing ‘Must Be Santa’ – it’s impossible to be gloomy when that’s playing but it’s also really apt as we’re in Chanukah, and I’m waiting for Neil Diamond singing The Chanukah Song to make the week complete. 

There are loads of things to do in December that aren’t a tree but are about Christmas and feeling Christmassy. The 6 December is St Nicholas’ day, which basically involves being nice and giving away sweets (or leaving them in people’s shoes!), I won’t be punching heretics, which is the other thing, he’s known for, but he is my name saint so it makes sense.  There also Christingle, which is definitely a Protestant thing,  Luther and or the Moravian churches invented a Christkindl, meaning “Little Christ Child” festival which celebrates Christ as the Light of the World, it doesn’t seem to have a specific date, and can happen sometime between Advent and Epiphany, in the UK it was used to fundraise for the Children’s Society (the more you know!) , in which an orange stands in for the world, a candle for Christ’s Light, red ribbon for His blood, and finally sweets and dried fruit to represent the fruits of the earth and the seasons. When we did it we used cloves, which made it into a pomander. Which is probably good for an afternoon with a glass of wine activity. I will also need to find some time for Christmas baking, which I’ve just about got planned.

Activities and Advent calendars aside, I do want to spend some of the next three and a half weeks, waiting. It’s the thing, I find most spiritually useful in Advent and not because I need to learn to be patient (yes I absolutely do!). Waiting and patience rewarded is baked into Advent. Not just because we get the child in the manger, but in the story of Elizabeth and her desperate waiting for a child which she does finally get but not quite in the way she expected.

It’s a common failure of Christianity, that story about waiting and about getting what we desire. The concept that we are rewarded by God for faithfulness. We get muddled, thinking that if we asked God for what we want, and if we’re patient and good, it’ll happen. That if we’re not, it’s because we didn’t ask properly, or wait long enough or behaved well enough. We ask for a lot, for a home, security, money or at least not having to worry about it, a partner, children, freedom from sickness or pain. If enough of those things happen, we think it’s because we deserve them, we’ve been rewarded.

A friend of mine calls it ‘Harry Potter Jesus’, but the truth is that what God wants for us doesn’t always mesh with what we want for ourselves, sometimes God’s answer is no.

It’s hard to reconcile the idea of a God that wants good things for us, with that hard no. The disconnect is painful, we’re supposed to believe that God loves us and we should be grateful for what we do have and everyone else seems to have the desire of their heart and you don’t and it’s hard and it’s sometimes lonely but it’s God’s plan for you. Why can’t you get want you want, why doesn’t God love you enough. It really sucks, ask me how I know.  

Which is why I love the wait in Advent. At the end of Advent, I know what I’m getting, there will be a child, who will grow up to be a man, who understands all about that no. He understands how difficult it is to reconcile God’s Love with not having the things we want, when He said He loved us. He also shows me that real faith isn’t about reward but service.  

So I wait, and there will be lights and presents and joy and work and service. And someone who has run that race and can show me how.

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