Sunday, 8 June 2014

Legs and Peculiarity

The first rose of 2014
The lawn already has a sprinkling of fallen rose petals.  The first rose to open was by the entrance to the grove.  This photo was taken from just inside the grove, which is approached down a narrow grassy path which turns sharply to the east-facing entrance.  Shade is cast by a towering contorted hazel tree (Corylus avelana 'Contorta') and a wall of ivy.  Tucked next to the entrance is a small pond, which you can just about see half-hidden behind the ornamental grass in the lower left corner of the photo.

Click on the images to view them larger.


Within the Grove
In the photo above, you can see where the circular lawn of the grove has been re-edged.  Bare soil is already disappearing under poppy seedlings and the allysum which I've since planted.  I also planted some French marigolds but they were eaten overnight by slugs and snails.  For the same reason, hostas don't survive long in my garden, which is a pity as I like the quilted appearance of their leaves.  The pinks I planted are doing great, however, as are the tough ornamental grasses which I dug out of the lawn where they'd planted themselves before transplanting them to more useful spots - mostly around three sides of the small pond by the grove's entrance.  In the foreground of the photo are the branches of a shrub  - of unknown species - which Richard pruned back heavily only a month ago, and already it's sprouting new growth.  It provides the grove with privacy but was simply getting too big and swamping the holly shrub and patch of Crocosmia 'lucifer' beside it.



Red Damselfly
Our pond has attracted a red damselfly, who has been flitting around for a week now.  It did have a mate, and Richard saw them dancing around over the water's surface as they performed a little springtime ritual together, laying eggs in the water.  And here one of them is, in this photo - which also shows a drowning snail which I later rescued.  We've noticed a swift increase in the slug and snail population this year, now we don't have chickens to devour them.  I'm reluctant to put down slug pellets because of our dogs and wild amphibians.


Tadpole with tiny frog legs
While on the subject of amphibians, our tadpoles are now starting to grow tiny legs.  They're incredibly fragile and seem to have no strength at all but, nonetheless, there they are - an obvious sign of frogginess.  

The two solar-powered fountains stopped working.  With one, I put it down to old age.  The other, however, is only a few weeks old.  I cleaned the solar panels and made sure the fountain jets weren't blocked, but this made no difference.  So I took a closer look at the tiny engine which drives the fountain, despite the fact that I know as much about electronics and engineering as I do about brain surgery, and after a bit of experimental poking around found that the engine drives a tiny water wheel - it's this wheel which pushes water up the fountain pipe - and this wheel was bunged up with algae.  The second this was cleaned away the engine began whirring happily once more.  Problem solved.  So I then had a look at the older fountain and this had the exact same problem.  Old age, indeed....  It's been working just fine ever since.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I'd be giving a talk to Janine Pinion's creative writing class.  It went really well, and the students had plenty of questions about what a writer's life is really like.  Well, the answer to that one depends on the individual writer.  I debunked a few myths and encouraged them to experiment with different writing techniques, to keep writing regularly and finish what they start even when they don't rate it much, and to read widely.  They were a pleasant and enthusiastic group, and I enjoyed meeting them all.

This week I finished reading Lord Brocktree: A Tale of Redwall by Brian Jacques.  All the characters are animals, and it's a cheerful Fantasy tale of goodies versus baddies written, originally, for the children of The Royal Wavertree School for the Blind in Liverpool, which is not too far from where Richard and I lived for a short while, right before we moved to the Wirral peninsula.   I liked how a female character - a hare - took an important role in the plot,  challenging gender stereotypes without resorting to preaching.  The book was fun, and yes it's for kids - but for kids of all ages.

Vintage photography gives a strong visual edge to Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, the debut Fantasy novel from Ransom Riggs.  Again, this could be read by older children and adults alike.  Strong characters with believable personalities and a tight pace ensure this novel is a page-turner.  This book had been lurking in my To Read pile for at least a year before I actually opened the first page.  This pile is big.  Technically it's three piles, as if I stacked all the books in one pile it'd reach the ceiling and be in constant danger of crashing to the floor and taking my paternal grandmother's jardiniere with it.  Anyway, the title put me off a bit, as I had visions of another twee Harry Potter-esque bandwagon yarn.  That impression was incorrect, totally.  While the novel  does mostly revolve around children, it is entirely fresh in approach and, besides, many of these 'children' are much more than they seem - 'peculiar', even.  I recommend it highly.


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