Monday, 27 April 2015

Threat of Late Frosts

Although it is almost May the dear old weather forecast is predicting that we could have nightime temperatures of minus five degrees centigrade. I am not quite sure what that means in proper currency. Clearly a temperature below freezing point is anticipated but I so wish the predicted cold spell could be cited in degrees farenheight. It would make so much more sense to me. Hopefully my tomato plants will not be killed or held back by the anticipated cold spell. Another couple of weeks and they should be ready for planting out in their rings. The peppers and aubergines are coming on apace. As for the cucumbers and gherkins they are still in the early stages of germination. I am hopeful that they at least will not be affected by the forthcoming sub zero temperatures.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Around the Discorectangle.

Rather a strange word, - discorectangle. It is the name for a shape that is very familiar to runners, most particularly track runners. I encountered this shape myself in very physical form this morning. It is the name that applies to a shape made up of a rectangle with semicircles at either end. My meeting with the shape was, as will now have been guessed, at an athletics track where a group training session had been arranged.



After the usual warmup and drills we started into the actual session. This was to be two sets of 5 x 400m with ninety seconds between efforts and ten minutes between sets. We have a mile race coming up in the next week so the aim was to mimic the pace that we expect to run that race at. For yours truly that meant laps of seventy seven seconds. We ran in small groups of similar ability with everyone taking their turn at the front and with the others tucked in tightly behind. The pace proved easier than I had thought it would be. My average time was probably around 75 seconds. The problem will be to stick four such laps together, back to back. If I get close to an average of 77 seconds I will be content. What was achieved last year is harder this year with yet another year in ones limbs.



Thursday, 23 April 2015

Bishop Street Cathedral Schools - A Cary Connection


The property presently known as Bishop Street Community Centre in Londonderry has I think quite an interesting history. In the middle of the nineteenth century the lands were, with others, held by one Alfred Alexander Julius of 19 Buckingham Street, Strand London, a solicitor by profession. He had acquired the fee simple from the Irish Society. Tristram Cary of Cumber Claudy a doctor of medicine and his kinsman Arthur Lunell Cary of Beech Cottage Co Donegal in their turn held from Julius under a lease in perpetuity and consequently were able to acquire the fee simple under the terms of the Renewable Leasehold Conversion Act. By paying the sum of forty three pounds and fifteen shillings to Julius the Carys were able to obviate the necessity of paying of the ground rent that they would have been committed to pay by virtue of the provisions of the Act. The assurance in favour of the Carys is dated 4th November 1861 and they were to hold the property as tenants in common as to five sixths by Tristram and one sixth by Arthur.

The lands at Bishop Street were not the only lands which the Carys co-owned and by way of a deed of partition dated 1st November 1873 they divided their joint property between themselves with Tristram paying Arthur one hundred and thirty five pounds by way of equality of exchange. It was Tristram who was to end up as the owner of the Bishop Street property. By this time he was living at Ballybrack Co Donegal and Arthur was resident at Castlecary. Arthur was the father of Arthur Pitt Chambers Cary who in his turn was the father of the author Arthur (Joyce) Lunell Cary. Joyce Cary's mother was Charlotte Louise Joyce.

In July 1890 Tristram, who by then was resident at 48 St. Thomas' Road, Victoria Park London, sold a portion of his Bishop Street lands to a Robert Alexander for the sum of £230. Some four years later the bulk of these lands were conveyed to the Representative Church Body upon trust as and for a site for a Mission Church and School in connection with the Parish Church of the Parish of Templemore, ( St. Columb's Cathedral). The then Dean, Andrew Ferguson Smyly raised the necessary funds by way of public subscription. The building which was erected became known as Bishop Street Cathedral Schools. Ownership remained with the Church of Ireland until 21st November 1962 when the property was sold to British Oxygen Chemicals Limited. That Company converted the building into a social club for its staff and it remained as such until it was disposed of to the local authority in 1975.




Monday, 20 April 2015

Nicola Sturgeon, aka Mary Doll.

  • For some weeks I have been asking myself why the leader of the SNP looks so familiar. The hair, the face, the verbal intonation. I have heard and seen this woman before. Where? When? Then it struck me. She is the wife of Rab C. Nesbitt . He of the string vest. Why hasn't she, "come out," and acknowledged that she is Rab's bit of fluff? It might even help her in her political aspirations. OK she isn't Mary Doll nor indeed Rab's inamorata but hey ho there is a distinct similarity of physiognomy.
  • Whether or not one has an affinity for the schism politics of the SNP there is little doubt that physical and verbal impressions do impact upon one's views on any political wannabe. This may be a matter of judging a book by its cover but we all do it. It is just one of those things. That's why I find it so strange that the SNP's ratings in the polls have increased since the Scottish referendum vote. The Labour Party are, I suspect, finding their leader's looks and lack of verbal dexterity a bit of a handicap despite his obvious intelligence.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Onion Business

A little late I know but I have finally managed to plant the onion sets. I had purchased them some four weeks ago but the work on my embryonic orchard had delayed work on the onion beds. Still the sets are now planted. I had purchased two brown bags of onion sets, Stutgar and Red Baron. I was pleased that I was able to buy the sets by weight and not in a prepacked plastic covering. That said being forced to purchase items which are measured in grammes rather than in stolid ounces is rather disconcerting. The bags declared their weight as being 500g and the cost was £1.99 per bag. Between the two varieties I had some 260 sets so about 1.5p per embryonic onion. Hopefully not too many of the crop will bolt. That is the danger with onion sets. Growing onions from seed gets round the bolting problem to a great extent but other problems then present themselves noteably succeptability to onion fly. I have found that onions grown from seed do tend to store better than those from sets. The flesh is I think tighter and maybe that is why they store better.


Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Strawberry Days Ahead

Rather than grow my strawberry plants outside and make it easy for slugs to decimate the crop I have elected to use the ground under the greenhouse staging. Inside growing doesn't do away with the problem of slugs entirely but it does make it easier to control and of course the crop is ready for picking much earlier.

This will be the fourth year for the plants. So far the crop has increased year on year and I am hopeful that I will experience a further incremental increase this year. The fruit are beginning to set and I am hopeful that I will be able to pick upwards of twenty four pounds of berries this season. Four weeks to go


Monday, 13 April 2015

Buzzard Visitation.

Every day I hear the meowing calls of buzzards as they ride the thermals over my abode. Today however one of these raptors decided to perch itself on the hedge adjacent to my bird feeder. Perhaps it was awaiting a sparrow or finch flitting in for a quick snack.

Although I was indoors I was no more than ten feet from this Messerschmitt of the avian world. He, or she, was oblivious to my presence. Its attention,(gender undetermined),was directed towards the bird feeder. Thankfully I didn't have to witness an execution. The noise of a passing car was sufficent to spook the buzzard and it powered itself high into the sky. Its plaintiff cries filled the sky.


Saturday, 11 April 2015

North American Immigrant Steals Food from Bird Feeder

Not for the first time I have caught Tufty's American cousin aboard the bird feeder and helping itself to a snack of peanuts. I suppose I should really purchase a couple of those squirrel proof bird feeders. There is at least one family of squirrels ensconced in the garden.

One would think that the beech nuts and acorns would be sufficent for their needs without having to resort to the food provided for the avian residents. Apparently not. I expect one shouldn't be too surprised that Mr. Grey Squirrel is taking the easy option and deciding not to ignore the gift peanut.

At last there seems to be a realistic possibility that the invasive grey squirrel can be controlled and that the red squirrel can regain its lost territory. The red squirrel's saviour may well be the pine marten. The ,"grey," is a bit of a lumbering treat for the pine marten whilst the, "red," is much more nimble and able to venture on to slimmer twigs where the,"grey," dares not venture.

I wouldn't object to providing a few peanut treats for the native, "red."


Friday, 10 April 2015

A Beach and a Moment.

I ventured a few miles up the east coast of the Innishowen peninsula yesterday. There was no real reason for this excursion save the perennial ache for solitude and a desire to be outside, free from the stultifying gloop of people and the nagging worry of reality.

I walked along the shingle beach picking my way through the seaweed thrown up by the last high tide. The day was sunny. You could feel the spring warmth on your skin but there was also a freshness in the air. The light breeze was blowing on shore pushing away any noise from the coastal road and easing back that close fitting skull casing of tension. A solitary oyster catcher paddled vigorously across the mud and silt uncovered by the receding tide. At the junction of mud and water rows of gaunt fence like structures stretched into the Lough. The features of the coastline opposite to me were indistinct, slightly blurred by haze, the view that greets the myope every day.

I see someone else lurch down onto the shingle. Solitude is shattered. The moment is gone. The tension returns.


The Orchard - Stage 2.

Two years ago I started to create a small orchard and nuttery. Stage one resulted in me planting ten trees comprising four cob trees and six apples. The latter were split evenly between cookers and eaters. At the time I decided to plant maiden apple whips but looking back I now wish that I had spent the extra few pounds and gone for feathered maidens. I suppose that I am just impatient and expecting quicker growth and productivity than is realistic.

This year I executed stage two of the master plan and have planted a further ten trees, all bare rooted specimens. They seem to be taking alright with the leaf buds swelling by the day. The trees included in this second planting were as follows:-

Plum Tree - Czar

Plum Tree - Victoria


Cherry - Stella

Cherry - Summer Sun

Cherry - Crown Morello

Pear - Beurre Hardy

Pear - Conference

Pear - Williams

Quince - Cydonia Oblonga


With a bit more clearance I think that I will have enough room for a further five trees. That however will be a task for next winter. I am not even quite sure what trees I will choose to complete the orchard with. Perhaps a mulberry and some more apples.


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Sunday Change

When I counted my age in single figures Sundays were very different from what they are now. Shops were closed. Churches were open. Out of town retail parks hadn't been thought of. There were nurseries but certainly no garden centres. Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Cafe Nero? They hadn't even been dreamt of by their creators. Sundays were a day apart from the rest of the week.

Save for a few paper shops that closed their doors at noon and the odd, the very odd corner shop the world of commerce took a back seat on the seventh day. People were just getting used to having two television channels to choose between. Sunday Night at the London Palladium was the, "must see," programme even though it was provided by the brash, young pretender of the airways, ITV.

Looking back I suppose Sundays were slightly boring, certainly for children. Visiting an elderly relative tended to be the highlight of the day. One was expected to pursue quiet hobbies and pastimes. Sundays were definitely less frenzied. Was it better? The temptation is to clamp those rose tinted lenses firmly in place and answer in the affirmative. However looking at things objectively causes one to admit, albeit reluctantly, that not all the changes have been for the worse. Maybe it is the speed of change which is the most disconcerting thing.


Monday, 6 April 2015

'Twixt Winter and Summer

If Spring didn't exist we would have to invent it. How else would we describe the period 'twixt the grey cold Stygian months and the sun warmed season of the cuckoo and the grasshopper. The skeletal framework of the trees still await their softening covering of leaves. The brightness of the daffodils and anemones preface the lusciousness that awaits the garden.

We are on the cusp of the gardening year. The risk of frost is just below the horizon and the beneficence of the forthcoming warmth is just beginning to poke through the detritus of winter. Winter is gone. The lusciousness of summer awaits. We are in springtime.



Friday, 3 April 2015

Tunnel under Northland Road, Londonderry

Within the grounds of the Northern Ireland Fire and Rescue Services at Northland Road Londonderry is the Victorian villa which was formerly the residence of the Superintendent of the Lunatic Asylum. The property was constructed circa 1873 and it is a four bay, two storey over basement building. It is rock- faced with Dungiven sandstone. A lack of balance is exacerbated by the narrower and shorter upper bays.

By the mid 1960's the old District Asylum which had been originally constructed to serve the counties of Londonderry, Tyrone and Donegal was disused and in a very ramshackle state. It was to be found on the lower side of Northland Road. The grounds had become overgrown by then and brambles and self seeded ash and elder saplings abounded. It was at that stage that I came upon the blocked up tunnel which ran between the asylum grounds and the Superintendent's residence. This provided him with his personal mode of entrance to the asylum. My recollection is that the arched tunnel had been blocked up some seven or eight feet back into the entrance.


Sources: City of Derry, An Historical Gazetter. - Daniel Calley