Sunday, 29 July 2012

Stalls, plants and Belly Dancing

Jubilee celebrations in our village were a great success. Held on Bank Holiday following the 2 rainy days which hampered the Thames Pageant, and based on the local playing field we had a variety of parades, activities and stalls. The expected attendance was around 500. On the day, over 3000 "stir crazy" villagers turned up, just happy to be out of the house and looking a a good time on a tight austerity budget. The whole age-range came along.

Three permanent queues formed from the opening around 1 o'clock - at the bar; at the hot dog/burger stall and at the ice-cream van. Only the bar had the facility to re-stock sufficiently to keep going for the evening entertainment of local bands and fireworks. The Mother's Union 200 bottle stall sold out in 2 hours. The Tombola Stall with over 100 prizes managed to last 3 hours. Teas and cakes raised over £1000 for a local Hospice.

And there was definitely a happy "buzz " around.

When Morris Dancers invited audience participation a few onlookers actually joined in. "Belly Dancing" attracted a lot more when the chance came  to wobble with professionals .""Zumba".. well..there almost wasn't room on the display area for all the writhing hands/arms/legs/bodies/heads that made up the enhanced performance. Such was the community "feel-good" factor and  infectious sense of belonging that time passed quickly.

Lots of organisations raise funds through similar events. Primary school staffs backed by well motivated parents swell school funds with an annual event which we were lucky enough to attend this year. The bottle stall "raffle" sold out; the burger/hot dog stall had a permanent queue and the bar was in continuous activity. An "up-market" hog roast (or was it hog-leg roast) seemed to be making a profit. A bouncy castle on free loan for the event raised a tidy sum, as did face painting (though at a slower pace).

But what caught my eye was a plant stall stacked with box after polystyrene box of bedding plants at £1 a box or 3 for £2.50. This was another generous donation from a parent with links to a nursery. I started with 3 boxes - followed by another 3 for daughter-in-law - fully expecting a sell-out within an hour. By tea-time stalls were beginning to pack up but amazingly, not the plant stall staffed by the tired but nevertheless still enthusiastic parent I had bought from earlier. She was clearly desperate to close down - which is how I ended up with 19 boxes, containing around 200 plants and a transport problem.

That infectious feel-good factor again..

Every which way but loose.

Walking up the Wrekin last summer (i.e. March 2012) I came across a delightful signpost offering the choice of "This Way ", "That Way " or " The Other Way". Loved it. Just enough hint that you were on a recognised route, but leaving scope for discoveries, mishaps and surprises. 

Coinciding with recent monsoon rains was our pre-booked caravan holiday in England. In good weather caravan holidays are great. No schedule; fresh air; immediate entertainment for visiting older grand-children (in the shapes of other children) and an excuse to wear comfortable old clothes and look faintly ridiculous. There is just one activity which causes mild anxiety - on a par with a dodgy lock on a toilet door or a parking meter that swallows £5 in coins then deliberates about whether or not to print a parking ticket. I refer of course to awnings.

Once erected caravan awnings are very useful. Once erected. The awning of one nearby caravan was so large it needed a separate hired van for the transport of fabric, poles zip-in extras and building tools plus the labour force. You could host a dinner-dance for 12 people in this awning and just use the anchoring caravan as a changing cubicle.

We put up our awning once a year. It has taken 5 years to evolve a system that works for the two of us. It is "Our Way". My anxiety stems from other caravanners,sitting inside their awnings, watching expectantly for new arrivals who will need their advice.
"If I was you I wouldn't start from there.."
"You're doing it that way when you should be doing it this way.."

One summer the ground was so hard (honest..) I needed a claw hammer to get pegs into the ground."Here; use my rubber hammer, you'll damage the pegs.." came the inevitable comment. So I obligingly hit a peg 20 times with the proffered rubber hammer then paused to make the observation that it was slow going. I then hit a stone. "How would the rubber hammer help in getting the peg out?" I ventured to ask. Still the unwanted help hung around - even when I removed the peg with my claw hammer and repositioned it with 4 hits.

True, we did have a phase over 3 years when an extra pair of hands was needed to hold a corner pole, just for a critical minute to avoid an implosion of poles, fabric  and guy ropes. That was the moment when "help" would arrive. Using "Our Way" G can politely but firmly refuse help. I am always underneath fabric at that moment, shouting muffled instructions for the next pole, dripping with perspiration and hoping small plastic wall brackets will last another year.

I don't offer to help put up awnings, unless asked.Even then I will only do exactly what is asked, with my mouth firmly shut but with the hint of a malicious grin. If anyone needs to know, then I will explain "Our Way".

But I will not help with dining table, chairs and dance floor - nor will I use a rubber hammer.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

The World from 90 centimetres

There has been much in the media about London’s new building, The Shard. 

Views from this tallest building in Europe are stunning, say the tv presenters. New aspects of London appear for the tourist and the London skyline itself is changed.

Some weeks ago, whilst multi-tasking the jobs of preparing for a community lunch and looking after grandson, I re-discovered the world from a height of 90 cms. Community lunch is held in a local church - a classic old building full of stained glass windows, pews, stone effigies, curtains and creaky wooden doors. With one eye on Rascal and the other on the collapsible tables that I was putting together I was intrigued by the exploration route he was following.

Up the wooden ramp used to avoid the high step which separates the choir end from the congregation, slowly along the pews, little fingers exploring the feeling of carving and the hard marble tomb that “towered” above his eyes. What was he finding? Needless to say the tables went up at record speed and I ambled over to share in the discoveries. Rascal was about 3 weeks into the art of walking so the world was now his to enjoy. Getting down to his level I found all sorts of small intricately carved features, traceable cracks in the tomb, small finger sized holes in the end of pews, subtle changes of height in the floors and well crafted colourful kneelers that previously I had just not noticed, viewed from a higher eye-line.

Likewise in our garden I have rediscovered the fun of hide and seek amongst the shrubs and tall plants. All the mobile small visitors to our garden love playing hide and seek; an infectious game which draws in adults of all ages and proves equally as popular as the trampoline purchased in a mad moment by Grandma with the plan of keeping up her fitness. 

This week discoveries will involve a caravan, awning, a large field with horses and tractors nearby and other small mobile children with a zest for what's new in life.

 Can’t wait!

Monday, 2 July 2012

Reflections on a summer day

It's very easy to control the rain. You just decide to re-discover 50 year old meccano skills by purchasing a lean-to greenhouse to stand next to the garage. The glass and aluminium structure lean-to  arrives in 5 heavy well-sealed packs and at the bottom of the last pack you find the instruction booklet, clearly written by someone who knows greenhouses. This is an unfortunate decision on the part of the manufacturer. The booklet should be written by someone like me who does not know greenhouse construction and who needs large print, lots of diagrams and an indication of how long each stage should take. 

I had decided to build a 3 sided brick base myself  and derived  a lot of pleasure in recycling bricks from other buildings in the garden, to create the precisely measured horizontal and vertical structure on which the frame would stand.(Spirit levels also need to be in large print with large bubbles). However, at that point the unfortunate rain control skill kicked in. So a job that should have taken about 5 days (grandpa pace) has actually taken 6 weeks. Every time I thought about building a section, the rain would begin.

This also meant that I have actually created the unwanted garden feature of a lake - which formed within my base walls. Fortunately the cement could not survive an attack by masonry drill and drain holes were created to drain away the reservoir, so removing the threat of water finding a way through hairline cracks in the backwall to invade items stored in the garage that do not respond well to damp. 

Yesterday I re-hung the greenhouse door the right way round and moved 5 thriving outdoor tomato plants into their new home. Elsewhere in the garden other vegetables are also thriving thanks to generous water supplies. I am now definitely proposing to build an oudoor rainfed irrigation pond over the next 2 months .. in the hope that we will have the frustration of wall-to-wall sunshine.