The Last Furlong

Comments on the race of life.


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They toil not, neither do they spin

My sister and I were brought up to know about literature. The Bible was literature as well as Dickens and other stuff. Sometimes little phrases pop into my head.

We went to a famous garden at eyewatering expense the other day. I wore my new red shoes which was a mistake. I am still recovering. And we wandered around from the formal gardens to the wild gardens.

The formal sections included the Topiary. There we found gardeners of all kinds watering, snipping, checking every detail, working hard. The gardens between the topiaries had the beds neatly planted out with seedlings lined up like little soldiers all in a row.

Control, control, control. Man’s authority over nature seemed somehow sad to me. The ancient topiaries, artistic and beautiful as they are, have been constructed over hundreds of years.

My red shoes complained as we wandered through. There were benches there but my sister, who is older and frailer than me, never once suggested we sit down. She had her walker thingy to assist her.

But the wild gardens were the most wonderful of all. They were, well – wild! There were no gardeners there, only butterflies and bees; and wild plants and flowers. And exuberant joy.

It was worth the exorbitant gate price just to see those.

I forgot about my new red shoes. And something popped into my head.

Consider the lilies of the field how they grow,they toil not,neither do they spin, yet I say unto you even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

Again, there were benches. But we never sat. I could have sat there for hours contemplating, absorbing, breathing beauty. Instead, I shuffled around behind my sister in my new red shoes feeling the pain. I bet Solomon made sure he was wearing comfy shoes at all times. He was a wise man, not vain, not silly like me.


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Length – 6 to 8″

I am constantly astonished at the Seasons every year here in the UK. I love them.

What, to me is incredible, is how quickly plants grow when they start doing it. Every winter, our garden appears dead. Every summer, it is simply packed with plants that have resurrected themselves.

You don’t get that in Africa or tropical places. Every day is a nice day. The garden is simply green. The plants flower at various times, not distinguishable from any other time. It’s same, same, same.

You don’t notice quick growth amongst the growth.

Here, I watch birds from my bedroom window. At the end of winter we did a huge cutback of dead vines. The first big prune for many years I think. So the birds have feared the exposure without hedges or creepers to hide in. But now everything is growing. The birds are back.

The old stumps of the creepers have sent up new vines that are growing at a mind boggling pace. Every morning, I can see how much they have grown in a day.

And no joke, it is six to eight inches a day!

How amazing is that?


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Siberian wind

My last post mentioned visitors in the garden.

We are having a busy weekend. Yesterday we had visitors. Mr Furlong makes a brilliant coffee.

Yesterday would have been smashing if we hadn’t frozen in the Arctic wind. 

After the visitors had left, I raced in and made two hot water bottles, one for the front and one for the back of me. One was for Mr Furlong actually, but he sacrificed it to me.

Now today, we are doing this madness all over again. We are visiting other people in THEIR garden, in the country. 

The sun will be shining. The Spring flowers will be lovely. The birds will be singing. It will be a beautiful day.

And I am going in my big fake fur coat, with my fake fur hat and my fake leather gloves and my fake wool scarf and my winter socks and big boots. 

Sitting for two hours in the freezing wind will be better today. Less stressful I think.

And our hosts will be amused at the madness of their visitor looking like a Siberian Cossack sipping coffee in their very English garden.


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Easter hunt

I am organising an Easter egg hunt for the grandchildren.

The Furlongs have done it before.

Many times.

But this Easter it’s different to the many times in the past when we did it for our own five children when they were growing up.

We don’t have to hide chocolate eggs cautiously, secretly the night before in the dark, whilst taking care not to walk on a snake, or discover a scorpion nestling in the bushes. Or placing the eggs at cunning heights so the St Bernand or Doberman or Rottweiler or whatever the large dog we had at the time was, didn’t scoff the lot, silver paper and all, before the morning.

This time, there won’t be any chocolate at all. I’m going to hide small gifts and fruit and biscuits in secret places in our garden.

And I could place them really low down near the ground about half an hour before the grandchildren arrive.

I’d have to do that, because even here, in our garden, we have devious animals that could scoff the lot in the twinkling of a night star. Or the light of day.

Greedy creatures like EINSTEIN the rat, or our very own BASS the dog.


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Sunday Lunch

Sunday lunch is poking around amongst the rocks and plants under the bird feeders.

At last the birds are coming back to our garden. Mr Furlong and I have worked hard recently to add flutter cover for birds since we  stupidly cut it all down in an attempt to make our garden ‘neat’.

It was so neat, any self respecting birds avoided it and settled in other people’s gardens instead. In a month or so, the creepers will be up covering the new arch and the wire fence,  now exposed, will fill with Clematis, Jasmin and Ornamental Hopps.

Bird paradise.

But this morning Sunday Lunch is here.

There is Sunday Lunch A and Sunday Lunch B. They are a couple. Sunday Lunch A, is HUGE! He would make a delicious meal for two.

Perfect for our Sunday Lunch.


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Bibbity bobbity birdie boo

Last year, in lockdown, the Furlongs were entertained by Robins nesting in the garden.

I have been wondering where the birds have gone that used to visit our garden. But some nights ago, I woke with an aha thought. They’ve gone because the feeders have become exposed.

We repositioned the Tea houses ( wooden feeders) on top of a greased pole that Einstein, the clever rat, could not scale. We dug out the wretched ornimental grass that shed its leaves all over the garden, that was startled bird cover. And we completely annihilated the dreadful thorny evergreen plant that grew along the fence. The exposed wire fence is waiting for creepers to overwhelm it.

So, we have shot ourselves in the feet.

The problem of the naked, exposed feeders is being rectified. We’ve bought a new garden arch through which we have trailed the variegated ivy that was previously trailing on the ground. And on the other side of the arch is an old clematis that falls over the wall next to the garden stairs every year. It’s full of leaf buds.

And the creepers along the fence are budding too.

There are no Robins nesting around the back of the shed this year.

But

they are nesting in a shed that our upstairs tenant uses that runs down the side of this building.

I know they are because yesterday, as I walked into the ginnel that runs alongside our side wall, two Robins I recognised, Mum and Dad, were on the ground there.

We startled each other.

Boo!

And the Dad hopped up to me as he used to last year, and asked for food.

But I had nothing to give him.

Seeing how disappointing I was, they took off, but not before I got a flash of insight as to where their nest might be. Trouble is, I’m a shorty and I think this year, the nest is in a yellow bucket on a shelf in the shed, under the roof, too high up for me to look into.

Today I shall make an offering of our best dried worms.

And wait.

And see.


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The convergence of laziness

Yes, I am physically lazy.

Always have been.

I hate excercise.

My main focus at school was to avoid sport. It was fortunate that during my very first tennis lesson, the server slammed the ball into my eye so I could feign terror of tennis to the gym teacher, so she let me off tennis. Someone bombed me in a swimming lesson and the teacher rescued me from the bottom of the pool. I feigned pool terror. The teacher let me off swimming.

My motto has been – never run if you can walk, never walk if you can sit, and never sit if you can lie down. It has worked all my life so far.

But now there is a convergence occurring that needs attention.

The neighbour walks the dog, so I don’t anymore. He gets much better walks from her – goes miles, in fact.

The weather is crummy, rain, ice, snow – always something to do with water. They don’t have lakes all over the place here for nothing. So I’m not walking to see my sister twice a week. I drive.

I never go out otherwise.

Gardening is out. Everything is dead. The ground is iced solid.

Swimming on Thursdays has been cancelled because of Covid-19.

And the final situation is that we now have a robot vacumn cleaner. He’s wonderful! I never have to do a thing except empty his tummy when he has finished his duties. If I change his tummy for a water tank, he even mops the kitchen and bathroom floors.

Whats there to do?

I know!

Eat!

Mr Furlong is a kitchen creature. He produces great food.

Food plus laziness equals fat.

It’s simple Math.


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Flowercide

You might have noticed that nowadays the term ‘Suicide’ is avoided wherever possible. People don’t commit suicide anymore. They “take their own lives” or “accidently overdose” or “self poison”.

The drug description for a popular suicide medication, talks about the risks of “self poisoning” where once it talked about suicide rates.

So do people accidently jump off buildings too? Some buildings and bridges are more responsible than others it seems. Do those who use them “self jump”?

Whats wrong with the word suicide? Its a black dark word that shocks. It’s calling a spade a spade. Likewise with the term murder. The press love the term murder. They don’t hold back using it with adjectives like “brutal” “savage” “vengeful” etc.

Sometimes a murder can be “accidental poisoning”. or “taking a life” or “accidental overdose” too.

I know.

I have commited flowercide.

Accidently.

I am very distressed.

I watered in a dose of fertiliser three days ago to our pot plants. There is mayhem here amongst my orchid population. All the blossoms are “self jumping ” off their stalks.

If I had noticed sooner ( but I was busy) I could have washed the poison away by rinsing pots in clean water. But I didn’t and I haven’t.

It wasn’t savage murder, nor vengeful; it was accidentlal flowercide and the result is brutal.

This morning will be consumed with rinsing pots, and they are many. I shall ask Mr Furlong to help me, when I show him the result of my crime.


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My Paludarium

I found a strange piece of moss in an orchid someone gave me for rescucitation. It had been planted in a glass bowl of ‘green stuff’. Orchids don’t grow well in ‘green stuff’ slopping around in water so I presumed the ‘green stuuf’ was decorative. So I repotted the orchid and kept the ‘green stuff’.

The green stuff turned out to be Java moss. It’s great fun. It enjoys growing. In fact it likes growing so much, it grows in water and on land. It grows without oxygen. It has no roots. It’s so happy growing, it will grow on anything as long as you hold it down somehow. Otherwise it simply floats around just ‘being’ in water. In air, it needs a bog to attach to. Water, bog, marsh, high humidity is what it likes. I made a moss garden with it. I made it in an enclosed bowl. It is still in the inidentifiable black marsh that it came in from the florist who first planted an orchid in it.

But now my adventures proceed.

I have made a paludarium. Paludarium

Well, I think of it as such.

In the base of my bottle is slate, water and a piece of florist ‘green stuff’ growing in my water area. Then, I picked some tiny dead branches on my walk with lichens, moss and ‘things’ growing on them and planted them in my slate bog. And lastly, I threw over a branchlet, a tiny shawl of Java moss. This little shawl of ‘green stuff’ hanging in the air, might not work because it is not in water, nor in bog, but just in super humidified air.

I hope my happymoss will grow there too.

Here’s a very bad photo taken with my very cheap phone. The happymoss is dangling over the lowest branch to the front, the other moss is just, well, moss!


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Einstein is back – and, boy, has he grown!

The rat that figured out how to get out of our humane trap, and did so regularly, disappeared when we stopped feeding our birds.

But so many birds are back here after reaping the autumn harvest in the countryside around here, that we have put out food again.

Simultaneously, the council mowed down the thick undergrowth all along the canal path. The inhabitants have had to move house.

One of them, Einstein, I think, had a brilliant idea. He thought to himself ,

“I remember the fine repasts I used to partake of night after night at the house along the road there. Ill just take a gander, and see if the doddery old mugs are still there. (Sniff sniff) They have such a stupid dog, I’ll be quite safe eating in their caged restaurant. (Sniff sniff) Mmmm, that smells familiar! Ah, yes look! Nice grub, I’ll just scramble up this old dead creeper, and I can nosh all those yummy fatballs while the mugs and their stupid dog are sleeping. (Sniff sniff) Ah, YUMMY!”

Well, the mugs have been watching through the window.

They are appalled at how large Einstein has grown. And he’s not welcome here.

So

there are two options.

We set the trap in the hope that Einstein has become so obese, he’ll never make it out again, or has forgotten the escape code. And then, we take a drive somewhere during lockdown (for a very valid reason, and not just for fun you understand), and release him somewhere in the Lakes. ( Lake District Tourist’s delight, not for drowning rats!)

Or

we phone the Council and ask them to retrieve their lost property!