Plant care

Went round Morrisons the other day, that great bastion of gardening. Found that for the princely sum of £1 it was possible to buy a miniature gerbera happily growing with flowers and leafiness covering their pots. Every colour except blue. When speculatively looking at these I was roundly told by a member of the household that I wasn’t allowed any more plants, “Cos you haven’t killed the last one yet.”

Such faith.

I have now planted out the hyacinth I was given for Christmas. At some point someone will notice, by which time it should be happily embedded.

It’s just annoying that I can’t bulk buy the gerbera and keep them like that – that would be all presents sorted for at least a year to come.

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SABLE: Stash Acquisition Beyond Life Expectancy.

Or to put it another way, collecting more wool that it’s possible to use in one lifetime.

There’s a lovely comment in a knitting book (‘Guerille knitting’, ‘Knitters handbook’?) that if you’re so attached to your stash of wool that you actually buy more rather than knit with what you’ve got, there’s a problem that needs sorting out and it’s not the knitting.

I’ve been wondering about two things. One is if it is possible to have SABLE with items beyond wool? I have a small wool collection, but looking around now there are cupboards full of books. They have sat in boxes for years, but I’m reading my way through them at last, so at what point would I reach SABLE?

In other news, a member of the household has taken the bait of the ‘Guards’ books from Pratchett’s Discworld being waved in front of him. He doesn’t get the references of the other books, so doesn’t enjoy them as much, but there’s now raucous laughter coming from the duvet coccoon when he’s reading the action whodunnits.

The second thing is the new clinical problem of hoarding (the fastest growing problem in over 65s besides dementia). Guilty say I, but my first degree sought a way round this as I was able to hoard for a nation and so be reasonably good at not hoarding for myself. Now I’m wandering the place with the mantra “You can’t take it with you”, either to the next life or a next stage of this one, although while unguents can be used, books are difficult to part with.

But more of this new hoarding problem. Apparently it is a phenomenon that has started in the generation of the ‘baby boomers’. These were the children born in ‘The West’ after the end of World War II. In the UK they were brought up during rationing, which ended in 1954. So, it was instilled into them that it was wrong, disobedient, sinful, to waste, to throw anything away that still had some use. So now that food portions have grown, some cannot leave anything on their plates and struggle with obesity, wondering why. And others have houses full of “but it’ll be useful one day”. Items can be given to charity to be used again, but then there’s the fear that they wouldn’t be available again when needed. We visited someone recently and found they’d forgotten they had four spare kettles in their loft.

As the ability to walk unhindered through the room is subjective, one diagnostic test is simply whether any item has to be moved in order to sit down.

But this isn’t SABLE as SABLE tends to only be about one type or kind of item. So looking around here, there’s too much stuff, but no actual SABLE or hoarding just yet.

And in other news, bittersweet reading for anyone who knows the reality, but at least there’s an example showing that although rare it is possible:

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Frozen in time

Apparently these days everything should be modern and fit for purpose. Really? Because modern doesn’t always mean fit for purpose. Ask any historic engineer. Shiny doesn’t for a moment mean clean, cleanable, stable or long lasting.

Today for the first time I stepped into St Mark’s Hospital in Maidenhead. And stood there gawping. Then I found the canteen, had a hot sandwich and a wander and gawped even more. I remember a friend complaining that modern hospitals, including ‘purpose built’ and ‘state of the art’ are too easily pulled down as they’re flimsy and rot, or when ‘the art’ moves on suddenly they cannot accommodate and so have to replace. Instead a solidly built hospital, designed to last indefinitely with plenty of room to re-organise, has the potential to last forever.

Which is, possibly, what could happen at St Mark’s. In the middle is St Mark’s, the original church, beautifully preserved. Surrounding it are the buildings, built in about 1835, which are reminiscent of the barracks at Pendennis Castle. Nothing has been changed, except that over the years heavier coats of paint have been applied and newer parts have infilled to ease transition of use. There are modern blocks around the back, but the complex at the front looks like everyone’s nipped out for a moment as they’re still busy fighting Napolean.

But within all this preservation of a timeless site is the real history that the rosy-eyed admirers of pretty buildings tend to forget. The older buildings were the local workhouse and when workhouses were converted it was usual for them to because the administration block. These days this is partly because they cannot be converted to meet modern accessibility requirements. But originally, like Ripon’s workhouse and others, it was not possible to use workhouse buildings as a hospital or for residential care as the local populace simply would not enter: for two generations the folk memory would be, “Cross the threshold and your dignity’s stripped and you’re not coming out” and so stay home no matter the illness. Eventually that gets forgotten, and the modern generations wonder what the fuss was, but I can still name the institutions it applied to.

But does folk history change? Is there really nowhere that conjures that idea now?

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Upgrading for new year

Just back from a New Year visiting friends and family. New Year’s Eve involved sending a small child to bed early (it was his bedtime) then playing with his toys, which is what small children are for. Unusually, as at least three of the “grown-ups” present had a variation of Aspergers, this was quite involved, especially as the small child in question had a trainset, which by the end of the evening could only be described as ‘epic’. I was very good – we didn’t actually put it on the ceiling, if only because the small child wouldn’t have been able to reach it and none of us wanted to start the New Year to the sound of wailing.

While there the kindly computer programming engineers took pity on me between boughts of minecraft and installed Windows 10 on my laptop, while simultaneously putting on as much privacy as possible. So now, after it has sat there forlornly for over two years, I have a laptop… that I can use… with a search function… (I was found cuddling it shortly afterwards). It still may “file everything under S for Stuff” (to quote Pratchett) but I’m beyond caring.

It does though have a really unnerving way of upgrading. When it magically roars back into life, there are the “large, friendly letters” (to quote Douglas Adams) that announce (to paraphrase):

“Welcome back”

“We’ve upgraded your operating system” (Ok… )

“All your files are exactly where you left them” (Hooray!!! Now, where on earth did I leave them, given that I couldn’t find anything with Windows 8…)

“And we’ve added a few new features” (NOOOOOOOO!!!)

Then something about “Tweaks” to the system but it switched on before I could read that.

Hal? Is that you…?

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Happy New Year!

Back from time off over New Year visiting friends and relatives around the country.

Went to Tesco and saw the Easter eggs, in the same aisle as the Christmas crackers. Apparently they were put out, “Straight after Christmas.”


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Belated Merry Christmas

“I’m busy”.
It’s an excuse I’ve always hated, especially in myself.
But looking at the calendar, every day has been solidly booked for weeks and I’ve worked everyday over Christmas too. Was even offered today, but felt that sleep would probably be a better idea.
So, belatedly, I hope that everyone had a good Christmas and that there is a lovely new year ahead!
Christmas decoration has been sparing – we sent and received cards, which are delicately balanced on each other over the mantelpiece, and have an inflatable Christmas tree hanging forlornly from the ceiling. Perhaps I’ll be better organised next year.

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Bringing home new or cheaper foods from exotic climes is always exciting, in particular if it’s something with no ‘normal’ means of eating it at home or with a wording that can’t be translated until after 2kg of it has been plonked on the living room floor. We now have a crate of ‘Volcanic’ beer. The Dutch chocolate sprinkles are being liberally dashed on frothy German hot chocolate. And there’s 1kg of ‘hearty’ coffee, which explains why the spoon stands up in it and why sleeping afterwards is difficult.

But words can work another way. At present there are certain cough and cold remedy ingredients that I am avoiding. As they’re evidently cheap to sell and perk people up long enough to buy a second box they are now in everything. Except one. ‘Alexanders flu powders’ contains only paracetomal, vitamin C, sweetener and lemon flavouring (and other stuff I’m not worried about). As far as I can find this can only be bought in Superdrug where it rivals in price with Superdrug’s own doesn’t-contain-anything-dire version. What’s intriguing is that as every other box has an advertising campaign behind it, the names of illnesses, remedies and basic descriptions have become copyrighted, leaving only labelling and colour schemes befitting the ‘white paper packets’ of the best arsenic filled Victorian or Christie detective novels. This is a little disconcerting when taking the stuff, especially when I walked out with six boxes at once.


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