Sunday, 31 March 2013

Lifford Track Training Session

Yesterday's training session took us to Lifford in Co. Donegal. Despite having a population of only 1658 the Athletic Club in this small border town has a "Mondo," track. The lanes haven't been marked up as yet, but it is open for training purposes.

 

After a warm up we performed various drills before running a 200m to get our legs turning in anticipation of the main course of our training. We were to run 4 x 600m at better than 1500m pace. We had some six minutes between efforts so plenty of time to get your pulse down, but not enough time to do much with the build up of lactic acid.

 

There were nine of us present and we sorted ourselves into three groups based on anticipated times. The slowest group started each effort some twelve seconds before the next group who in turn started twelve seconds before the speed merchants of group three. This arrangement was aimed at ensuring that everyone completed their runs more or less together.

 

My first effort resulted in a time of 115s, so a bit slow. The second and third runs were ran in 110s with the last effort being run in 105s.

 

Friday, 29 March 2013

Progressive Building Society Reports.

This is the reporting season for Building Societies. The Progressive Building Society is the larger by far of Northern Ireland's two local Building Societies. With assets of £1,628 million it is some thirty eight times larger than its regional neighbour the City of Derry Building Society. This places it at number ten in the Building Society size rankings. The City of Derry is the smallest of the forty six societies.

 

In common with most of its competitors the Progressive is having to make substantial provisions to cover potential losses on its mortgage book. In 2012 these provisions amounted to £7,170,000, up from £5,842,000 the previous year. That said the Society was still able to increase its reserves by £1,376,000. New mortgage lending was up almost 18% to £125 million and net mortgage assets had a very modest increase from £1,290 million to £1,307 million. Unlike its smaller rival, savings balances fell, (by £14m) and this is reflected in the overall assets which saw a decline from £1,655,242,000 to £1,628,432,000.

 

What may be an interesting development is in the change of directors during 2012. Mr Michael Parrott was co-opted onto the Board during the course of the year and as required he is now offering himself for election. Mr Parrott is a Chartered Public Finance Accountant by profession, but of much more relevance is that he is the Deputy Chief Executive and Finance Director of Market Harborough Building Society (assets £410 million). Is it possible that this move presages a further, "consolidation," in the Building Society movement?

 

City of Derry Building Society - The Smallest Building Society

The minnow of the Building Societies Association, the City of Derry Building Society sent out its 2012 Summary Financial Statement to its members ths week. The BSA website discloses that as of 31st December 2011 the Society had a total of 432 borrowers and 2063 investing members. With the Edinburgh based Century Building Society having merged with its much larger competitor, the Scottish Building Society, the City of Derry now has the honour of being the smallest building society in the UK.

The financial summary shows total assets as of 31st December of £42,608,000, up from £41,302,000, (plus 3.16%). Gross mortgage lending rose slightly and the total mortgage balance (excluding provisions) rose 2.6 % to end the year at £31.55 million excluding all provisions. Yet again the directors have thought it prudent to allocate the bulk of the year's profits as a provision against losses on the mortgage portfolio. It would seem that total provisions now stand at some £710,000 (excluding deferred mortgage indemnity insurance income). Members are told that no mortgage losses have crystallised as yet and that, "the Directors are confident that loan provisions ....... will reduce as the local housing market stabilises." Earlier in the Financial Statement it is reported that house prices in Northern Ireland are, "now averaging approximately 45% of their 2007 peak."

It will be interesting to see the full annual accounts for 2012. These will disclose the total number of mortgages where repayments are more than twelve months in arrears. The 2010 accounts disclosed seven such cases with the arrears in these cases totalling £74,946. In the subsequent year's accounts the number had increased to eleven with arrears of £109,228. Perhaps what would be even more elucidating would be knowing the total number of mortgages experiencing arrears and the directors' estimate as to what percentage of mortgages/chargees are in negative equity and by how much.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Tuesday's Exertions.

Kilometre reps was yesterday's session. Six of them with two minutes between reps. The coolness of the day prompted me to run a longer warm up than usual. My Garmin showed three and a quarter miles whenever I commenced the stipulated on road efforts.

 

I had hoped that I would have someone to work off during the session, but this was not to be. I had to run the entire session by myself. This definitely didn't help my average time, which ended up at 3min 45sec. The decline in speed which comes with age has to be continually fought against, but pushing myself when I am running alone is something which I find very difficult. Still I did at least complete the session and I know that I can run faster. A mile of a warm down competed the days exertions.

 

Pensioners exit Cyprus?

Many British pensioners were tempted and encouraged by a very favourable tax regime to retire to Cyprus. Those of them who were resident there for tax purposes were able to have their pensions paid free of UK tax and avail of a Cypriot tax rate which could be as low as five percent. The present financial crisis may well cause them to reconsider their decision. Tight fiscal controls have been imposed on personal accounts and the tax treatment of the future must inevitably be more severe. The calm financial waters of their initial halcyon days are now decidedly choppy. Hopefully most if not all of them will have been sufficiently canny not to have placed more than €100,000 (the equivalent of our £85,000 protected sum) with any Cypriot Bank.
Many British pensioners who retired to the Cypriot sun may now be reconsidering their decision. They will be worried about their savings, worried about the taxation of their income, worried about the cost of living and worried about being unable to realise their assets. It will be interesting to see how many will decide to or indeed be forced to retrace their steps back to Blighty.

Cyprus has been a tax haven for many. A large percentage of its GDP came from its now ravaged financial sector. Its economy will suffer and its British retirees will suffer.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Onion Bed

A slightly better day today. Well it wasn't snowing, nor raining, but it was still cold. Despite the near artic conditions I decided to brave the weather this afternoon and plant my onion sets. These had been awaiting their day of planting for almost a fortnight, so it really was time to free them from their brown paper bags and immerse them in their loamy bed.

 

The time spent bringing up barrow loads of compost, digging it in, firming up the ground and raking certainly warmed me up. The planting of the sets was a cooler occupation. When I am planting things or sowing seeds I cannot abide the restriction imposed by gloves. I need to feel what I am doing. The downside is that in cold weather the old digits can become very cold very quickly. Between the white and red onions I ended up with nine rows. I have planted the sets approximately six inches apart, with about ten inches between rows.

 

Onion sets are are quite hardy so I have no qualms about possible late cold snaps. One can purchase onion sets which are designed for autumn planting. I have tried them on two occasions but neither time was a great success. The bulk of the young onions did not survive the rigours of a winter in Northern Ireland.

 

 

Sentinel Heron

When I was depositing some old newspapers in the ubiquitous blue bin yesterday afternoon I came upon a hunched, grey figure standing in what passes for the garden pond. It was a grey heron.

 

Initially the bird did not notice me and it continued stabbing its dagger like bill into the murky, weed filled water. I assume that it was seeking a frog to assuage its hunger. Nature is a bit tooth and nail. Eventually the heron became aware of my presence. It glared at me, threw itself into the air and flew off with ill grace and with slow, ragged flaps of its wings. Not the most fluent of flyers is Mr Heron.

Friday, 22 March 2013

European Masters Indoor Athletics Championships

This is the week of the European Masters Indoor Athletics Championships. The venue for the Peter Pans of the athletic world is San Sebastion in Spain. Two of my training compadres flew out on Tuesday morning and are due to compete in their age group 1500m heats tomorrow, with the finals scheduled for Sunday. I was more than tempted to enter and book my flights when they were arranging matters, but my left hip was still causing me problems at the time and I didn't want to commit to the expense if I was going to be unable to run. As things have turned out I would have been able to compete. Hey ho.!

I would probably have ran the 800m. That, potentially would have have given me three races. To qualify from the heats in my age category would have necessitated running better than 2 min 30. That would have been a doddle. In order to qualify from the semi finals would have needed a time better than 2.26.31. If I couldn't manage that I think I would shoot myself. What then of the final? Well I cannot suggest that I would have won the race. The winning time was 2.11.41. Fourth place was 2.14.21. I think I might have been close to that. However I can only imagine. I wasn't at the starting line and I certainly wasn't at the finishing line.

Olympic Stadium Going for a Song

The national game is getting a spanking new football ground. What was the Olympic Stadium is now to be the home ground of West Ham United.

One might be forgiven for thinking that it wouldn't take a huge sum to carry out any necessary conversion work. It was constructed with seating; clearly there would have been changing rooms and the level grass surface is already there. Ok, so you need some goalposts and nets and corner posts and a few "home side" and, "visitors," signs. Not a lot of work. Not a huge expense. That is what one would have thought. Alas the reality is very different.

West Ham are to contribute £15 million towards the conversion costs. Not an insubstantial figure. They are also to pay an initial annual rent of £3 million. However the Government has apparently agreed to provide an additional £25 million, additional to the £35 million it was already committed to. So altogether the hard pressed taxpayer is coughing up £60 million. This is the Olympic legacy we weren't told about. If an athletics only stadium was not sustainable, then why oh why was the Olympic Stadium not constructed for a future that was sustainable? Not a sensible decision I would suggest.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Primrose Medicine

After the daffodil the primrose is probably the flower that is most closely associated with spring. As well as providing delicate colour to the garden and hedgerow the humble primrose can be found in many herbals, going back as far as Pliny. The latter regarded it as an important remedy for rheumatism, paralysis and gout. Modern day herbalists recommend an infusion of the root as a treatment for headaches. From a culinary perspective the flowers and young foliage can used in salads.

 

Monday, 18 March 2013

Cypriot Bank Levy

The proposed levy on bank deposits in Cyprus is extremely worrying. If the Cypriot government were to hold a referendum tomorrow asking its electorate whether Cyprus should remain within the Eurozone the result would be a resounding NO.

 

Even if the levy is watered down, (and this appears likely), the Cypriots will not forget this robbing of their personal assets. Very few of them will think that the governmental plundering of their accounts is a price worth paying for continued membership of the Eurozone and the Economic Community. Surely this development shows that the experiment that was the Eurozone is failing.

 

It is not even as if the levy is a fair levy affecting all of Cyprus's population equally. Many of the larger deposits will be the property of the self employed and the elderly. These are funds that are needed to fund their businesses and their retirement. The retirement funds associated with governmental officials, the civil servant monolith, won't be affected. The very rich will have most of their funds far outside the reach of the avaricious fingers of the Cypriot government.

 

Thankfully the United Kingdom Government resisted the temptation of joining the Eurozone. What it now has to do is ensure is that we have the referendum that will get us out of the European straightjacket. What Heath did Cameron must reverse.

 

Country Run

Mondays are one of the days of the week that I train by myself. I much prefer training in a group. There is of course the social aspect to this and it is just so much easier to put in a session, or a longish recovery run in the company of others. You have the banter and even during a recovery run the competitive aspect is just below the surface. Unfortunately, from a running perspective, I live just too far away from my training partners to meet them every day and I have been unable to find anyone in the near locale who is sufficiently interested in running.

 

Rather than drive to a venue for today's running, "fix," I took to the local country runs and ended up running a 5.5 mile loop. So quite a short session, both by distance and time. After yesterday's circuits my shoulders and arms felt rather stiff and sore so I thought that any mileage was going to be a bit of a chore. My first mile was completed in eight minutes, with the second in seven minutes thirty seconds. Thereafter I am afraid that I increased my pace rather. Probably a mite too fast for what was scheduled as, "an easy run." The Garmin announced my average pace for the outing at 7 minutes 6 seconds per mile.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Bouncy, bouncy. Splat!

I happened to be walking past a Sainsbury store this pm. The pavement was practically impassable. The cause of the blockade was what I understand is termed a , "bouncy castle." Not only was there this physical obstruction, but my ears were being assaulted by the throbbing breaths of a generator which was keeping the garish rubber structure afloat. A notice announced that this was all part of the, "Red Nose Weekend," celebrations.

 

I was not in a celebratory mood. To my mind these flatulent structures are garish, puerile and should have a sharp darning needle thrust through their epidermis.

 

The other structures which "sprogs," apparently need so as to enjoy their childhood and which I believe should be done away with are those silly trampolines with safety netting around the circumference. How often are they used? Most of them seem to be covered in a slimy covering of pleurococcus Perhaps their non usage is a reflection of the bmi of the average sprog, (aka child), in 2013.

Friday, 15 March 2013

Gardening Mentors

It is strange how thoughts and remembrances from the past suddenly jump to the forefront of your mind without any conscious effort. Perhaps it is just the random exercise of one's subconscious, or maybe something in the day jars somnamulant memories into life. I don't really know what caused today to be the day to remember the individuals who had fostered my childhood interest in gardening, an interest which has remained with me despite the inconvenience of non horticultural work. Whatever the reason, their names loomed large in my memory this afternoon.

 

They were all very different, but they all shared a love of growing plants. Joseph McLaughlin , ("Wee Joe) had been a commissioned officer in the Great War and subsequently became a farm manager. He was the Chairman of the local horticultural society. His passion was for heathers and conifers and season permitting he always had a sprig of heather in his buttonhole.

 

Sam Wilson was a retired police sergeant. He didn't have a garden of his own but he rented two allotments where he grew show winning vegetables year after year. I still have a gardening book and penknife that he gave me over forty five years ago. His allotments were taken for housing in I think 1968. He never really recovered from that.

 

Sam Magowan was the manager of a wholesale nursery where they grew various annuals and heathers. I had my first holiday job there, mainly taking heather cuttings. My target was twelve hundred cuttings per day.

 

There was then Ludwig Schenkel, a Jew who had escaped Austria just before the war. His great passion was for cacti and succulents. He had a large greenhouse crammed full of them and he had various sections of the greenhouse partitioned off so as to provide different climatic conditions. I dread to think what his electricity bill must have been.

 

The fifth of my mentors was an individual called Bill Porter. He was very patient with me and would explain exactly what he was doing in the garden and why. He supervised me carrying out simple tasks; sowing seeds, transplanting, potting on. He explained the niceities of double digging and made sure that I knew what were weeds and what weren't. It was he who helped me grow my first tomatoe plants when I was about seven years old. I remember having to use a short step ladder so as to rub out the higher side shoots and ,"stop," the lead growing shoots above the fifth or sixth trusses.

 

Strange the things that memory reminds you of.

 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Tesco Tries to Ingratiate Itself

The various ramifications of the horse meat scandal have hit Tesco hard. In an attempt to ingratiate themselves to their concerned customers they have even had poetry penned.

 

They are now hoping to placate their customers in Northern Ireland by announcing that they are going to double their buying of Northern Ireland meat. This will, apparently, result in the percentage of, "NI," meat in their local stores increasing from 20% to 90%. On the face of it this looks good for the local agri-food sector, but this will only the the case if farmers are paid a realistic price for their produce. I would hope that the recent furore results in more shoppers frequenting their local butchers, bakeries, fishmongers and fruit and veg merchants.

 

It would be nice to see a few Tesco stores having to close through lack of business.

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Shoes of the Fisherman

The Cardinals of the Catholic Church have apparently elected Cardinal Mario Bergoglio of Argentina as the new Pope.

Is it a sensible decision to elect a man of seventy six years of age to this post? How many individuals are at the top of their game or even near it at that age? What energy levels can a man of that age bring to such a position? Hopefully he will follow the example of his predecessor and hang up his mantum as soon as he realises that his mental and physical resources are not up to the task that he has given himself.

The Last Red Baron

It is that time of year. I am down to the last of the onions which I had harvested from the garden last summer. It does seem a long time ago. For some reason red onions seem to keep better than the ordinary white onion. Last year my red onion of choice was Red Baron.

 

I usually try to plant my onion sets in or about the middle of March. It is usually my depleting store of the previous year's onions which prompts me in to action. This year I have elected for Karmen as my red onion and the ever faithful Ailsa Craig as my white onion. Unfortunately I had to buy the red onion sets in grammes, £2.20 for 500g. They had been pre- weighed by the garden centre and placed in brown paper bags. I haven't counted the number of sets but I expect there must be about 160 in the bag. My white onion sets were purchased from the emporium which is called, "Workmans" Like me they are insistent that Europe should not do away with hundredweights stones, pounds and ounces. Their onion sets were loose and you selected whatever number or weight you wanted. I took 150 sets which at £1.50 per pound worked out at £1.70. Accordingly my total investment in onions comes to £3.70. This should give me at least a hundredweight of onions.

 

Housing Benefit Direct - A Universal Mistake.

The Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, Iain Duncan Smith is a great proponent of the Universal Credit. A major aspect of this scheme is the payment of housing benefit direct to the recipient subject to certain exemptions. The notion is that this will increase the recipient's sense of responsibility and self worth. Mr Smith's Department has been running six pilot schemes across Britain to gauge how well this will work in practice.

Unsurprisingly rent arrears have increased substantially in all six areas. In one area, Wakefield, the number of tenants in arrears has increased over fivefold. If the Minister did not anticipate this, then he should be handing back his red box and if he did anticipate it then he should equally be handing back the box. We are told that, "lessons will be learnt," from the results of the pilot schemes. There is only one lesson that has to be learnt and that is that the scheme does not work and will merely push more people into rent arrears and possibly into the hands of loan sharks and payday lenders.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Track and Training Review

I think/hope that my hip injury has finally healed. Last Thursday we were on the track for what for me passes as a speed session. After the normal warm up and drills we ran 8 x 200m with 200m walk jog between. My coach cautioned me against running too hard and reactivating my injury. There were six of us hurtling, or was it rumbling around the track. With the words of warning still to the fore I ran the first effort in a cautious 32s. No pains! Hoorah! I increased my leg speed thereafter and ran the rest of the reps in 28s. No after affects. It was good to be running at pace again.

 

Friday was the week's rest day. There was no group training session on Saturday, but we were instructed to do an hour of running at a comfortable pace. I ended up running for just over seventy minutes at an average of 7.20 per mile. Despite the rain and the coldness of the day it was an enjoyable and satisfying run.

 

My Sunday morning training companion is still unable to run due to the, "spur," that has developed on his left heel. His GP is to give him some sort of injection, but I fear that he will ultimately need surgery. Although he can't run with me he acts as coach and paces me on his bike while at the same time giving me a commentary on my speed. After my run we then spent upwards of an hour doing circuit training in the gym and ending up with five minutes on the punchbag. I returned home tired and very hungry.

 

Monday's training was another day of solitary training, but today found us all back on the track. We ran 5 x 400m followed by 5 x 300m. We were to run these efforts at 1500m pace. We had ninety second static recovery between the 400m and ninety second walk recovery between the 300m. I was reasonably content with my times, 74s for the longer reps and 52s for the shorter reps,

 

Sunday, 10 March 2013

The Concept of Indoor Rowing.

Bit of a contradiction really, - indoor rowing. It isn't rowing at all. Related to rowing certainly, but not the same sport. It isn't as if people are paddling up and down the municipal baths. Instead they are cosily ensconced in a local gym, or their spare room, pulling away at an energy damper as they sit on a rather uncomfortable seat which in most instances slides up and down a rail. The action simulates that of rowing.

 

The most popular rowing machines, also known as ergometers by the cognoscenti, are undoubtedly the Concept2 models. It must be more than ten years ago that I purchased one and although not a cheap item I must say that it has turned out to be the best piece of fitness kit that I have ever purchased. If weather conditions or injury prevents me running then I can still get a good work out.

 

I came across a web site this evening which gave the results of the 2013 Irish Indoor Rowing Championships. These had been held in Limerick. It also set out the age records for the various race distances. Being of a slightly competitive and inquisitive bent I decided to check what the 500m record time was for a lightweight (under 165lbs) male in the 50 - 60 category. I had tested myself over this distance in the last year and recorded a time of 1.38.4. It must be a pretty soft record as I find that I am 2.7secs inside it! The British record turns out to be 1.28.4. That might be a target worth aiming for.

 

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Foyle College - The First Four Hundred Years

Last night saw the official launch of the tome," A View the Foyle Commanding," which relates the history of Foyle College since its foundation in 1617. I won't pretend that I was the youngest person in attendance, but I certainly fell within the youngest quartile. Not unsurprising I suppose. History, reminiscence and memory tend to be the m├ętier of the grizzled and follicly challenged.

 

The venue for the event was the old Lawrence Hill premises of the School. Opened in 1814 it was only in 1967 that the School vacated its portals and moved to the angular Springtown building. I cannot imagine that that edifice will survive to see its two hundredth birthday nor I expect will the planned modular monstrosity which is to be the new home of the School. Maybe I am more grizzled than I imagine!

 

There were a total of six speeches. Initially we were assured that the speakers were limited to five minutes each. However we had just congratulated ourselves following this announcement when the MC did warn us that one of the speakers was a cleric and he feared the worst. His fears were not ill founded. This was not just a cleric, but a retired one. He had a captive congregation or at least a captive audience. He had a lectern in front of him and he was not going to loose his opportunity. He didn't. He seemed very happy with his allusions , they just weren't very apposite.

 

What then of the book itself? It is certainly a more professional production than those other School histories which I have seen. To date I have only dipped into the book so I am as yet unable to comment on the content in much detail. On a cursory glance I would probably suggest more socio-historical data and rather less emphasis on rugby and cricket.

 

Thursday, 7 March 2013

Ulster Bank Computer Problems - Again!

I woke up this morning to hear that Ulster Bank Limited and its parent, RBS, had had overnight computer problems with customers being unable to withdraw money from ATMs and avail of telephone banking. This brought back memories of last summer's debacle when Ulster Bank customers' accounts were affected for weeks on end following on from a computer upgrade on 19th June.

One would have thought that the Bank would have put suitable backup systems in place to ensure that customers would not suffer down time again. It appears not. Thankfully however the present glitch appears to have been corrected within a few hours. It will however cause certain customers to question their loyalty to the Bank. Is the Bank's computer software prone to malfunction? To err may be human, but we are talking about machines here!
I checked my account with the Ulster Bank on line this morning. I was able to access it without any problem and unfortunately there were no strange seven figure credits.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Tennyson's Run.

 

Half a league, half a league onward! Well to be honest each of yesterday's reps weren't that length. More like a quarter of a league, but a quarter of a league, a quarter of a league onward doesn't sound as good or as far. It isn't! Certainly Tennyson didn't opt for the shorter distance. I suppose it wouldn't have scanned.

 

Anyhows yesterday's training session consisted of six, five minute efforts with two and a half minutes jog recovery between reps. The session was done over a gently undulating 1k. grass course. Seven of the group appeared for the session. We regrouped after every rep, so you were able to judge whether you were improving or not in comparison with the others. This was very much a session that was orientated towards 5k racing. Most of the others had raced over 5k on Sunday unlike myself. I was reasonably heartened with my efforts. They were certainly indicative of an 18 minute time or thereabouts. I would settle for that.

 

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Northern Ireland and Negative Equity

Everyone in Northern Ireland knows that house prices have tumbled since the heady days of 2007. Back then,- six years has proven to be a long time in the property world,- the average house in Northern Ireland sold for £234k and builders were buying development land at over £1,000,000 an acre. People were anxious to get on the property ladder as soon as they could. They talked enthusiastically of how many thousands of pounds the value of their house had increased by in the last month. Banks and Building Societies were anxious to loan money and lots of it.

Six years on the confidence is gone, the market has imploded and the average price of a house has declined to £139,000, a fall of almost forty one percentage points. For those entering the property market for the first time houses are more affordable than they have been for more than twelve years. However the hidden downside of the market adjustment is that some thirty five percent of those Northern Irish house owners who have mortgages are in negative equity. This is the highest percentage of any region in the United Kingdom. According to the Belfast Telegraph the next worst region is Yorkshire and Humberside where the percentage is fifteen percent.

If someone is in negative equity in most instances that person is caught with their house or flat. Unless they have substantial savings, or the bank of mum and dad provide funds, they can't pay off their mortgage, even if they are lucky enough to find someone willing and able to buy their property. These house owners are essentially excluded from the property market, as are their properties. In the past, when house prices were increasing even at a modest rate, many people relied on the increasing equity in their house to provide the deposit for their next and larger house. With negative equity there are no available funds, quite the reverse.

We have all learnt the lesson that a house should not be thought of as a no risk investment.

Monday, 4 March 2013

An Evening with The Reverend Richard Coles

Some time ago I had cause to attend a dinner where the entertainment of an after dinner speaker was supplied in the form of one Rev. Richard Coles. The name was not unfamiliar to me. Indeed I quite often hear his languorous tones on Saturday mornings as I drive to training. He co presents Radio 4's "Saturday Live," with Sian Williams.

Not having ever been a follower of popular music I was unaware that he had been a bit of pop star in another life. Apparently he was fifty percent of the 1980's duo, "The Communards." His calling to High Church Anglicism clearly came as a bit of a career shift, although I suppose that as a priest he still has the ability to perform and even dress up. I wonder what's new in humeral veils this season? So on second thoughts maybe the change in direction is not so extreme. On occasions he does come across as if he is playing a part.

As an after dinner speaker he was moderately entertaining, although I thought that he could have introduced more asides concerning the people that he has met. He dropped a few names, but there was no elaboration. Sometimes I did think that I was listening to a job candidate giving a summary of his life and career to date.

Probably not the automatic choice of speaker for a rugby club dinner, but he would go down a storm at the annual WI jamboree at the Royal Albert Hall. Just sufficiently off piste for that audience methinks.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Orchard and Nuttery (Part 5)



I have now managed to plant all of the nut trees and apple trees which I  purchased recently. It took rather longer than I had anticipated and I certainly made much more use of my pick than I thought would be necessary. The ground was quite stony. Hopefully all of the trees will, "take," and I won't have to invest in any replacements.

I have some snowdrops which have grown in rather inconvenient places in the garden, so I think that I will dig them up, "in the green," and transplant them around my embryonic trees. Some daffodils and bluebells might also give a little bit of maturity to what I now refer to, (rather pathetically) as my orchard.

I am glad and rather relieved that I did not attempt to clear and plant out the entire orchard area in one year. Thankfully I now have almost twelve months to clear the balance of the designated ground and determine what further trees I will plant. Maybe some cherries and espalier pears. I am tempted by the notion of a walnut tree, but as they grow into very substantial trees I suspect that a place in the lower garden might be more appropriate than the rather restricted confines of the orchard and nuttery.

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Frog Chorus

I had hoped for a quiet afternoon in the garden, tidying up the vegetable patch. It was not to be. The air was punctuated by lazy, but incessant staccato croaks from the locale's frog population. These amphibian mathematicians had decided to welcome Spring with an afternoon of multiplication. The croaks and the splashing about were rather disconcerting.

What passes for the garden pond is in reality not much more than a winterbourne puddle clogged up with various weeds. Hopefully it will retain sufficient water to allow some of the frogspawn to mature into little Freddy and Freda frogs.

Do children collect frogspawn any more ? Do they follow the metamorphosis from tadpole to frog? I suspect not. I suppose playing computer games is more interesting!


Friday, 1 March 2013

Auction Lots

I received an email yesterday reminding me that Kennedy Auctions would be holding their usual fortnightly general auction tonight. There are usually about five hundred lots. Most of them are of car boot standard, but occasionally one does espy some item which is of reasonable quality and which neither the vendor nor the auctioneer recognises for what it is. However even for mundane items, the dregs of house clearances and the like, at least they are being recycled and the vendors are cheered with a few denarii.
 
I decided to view tonight's auction lots. The items that that had been rounded up for the auctioneers gavel were rather Iimpressive. Nothing attracted me. Some of the lots were very familiar. I think this might be their third or fourth appearance.