The Big Banana

The other week we prepared the two banana plants for the winter by cutting the stalks right down and removing the leaves. Just in time as today the temperature has gone down to minus 8 degrees. Brrr! This is a view outside in the country today.

Our Canadian holiday seems like a long ago dream but now back in England we celebrated my birthday with yet another event. The Mundy family had organised a family lunch at The Little Angel in Remenham on Sunday. All 20 came, together with my young friend, who helped Louisa, my niece, organise it. The only one not there was young Christopher - son of Neil and Stephanie - who is currently on a 6 month round the world adventure. And by the look of his Facebook photographs from Thailand, Australia and currently New Zealand, he's having a ball.
When we got to the restaurant and sat down a great big box was plonked next to me with instructions not to use a sharp point when opening it. As it weighed next to nothing I guessed it might be a hat. But when I opened the box a big red, helium-filled Virgin balloon snaked its way up to the ceiling. On the end of the string was a red envelope containing my birthday present from the family - a hot air balloon trip for two. What a treat! Neil even gave me a pair of balloon-themed socks to wear when we go on the trip.

By coincidence I photographed the Virgin balloon just the day before as it hovered over my neighbour's garden.

Kate, my young 10 year old great niece had designed and written this birthday card.

Here are a few of the many photographs taken that day.

And the cake.

After lunch, Stephanie (my eldest nephew, Neil's wife) read a long 16 verse poem she had written to mark the event. I can't show it all here but these are the first two verses:

We are gathered now to celebrate
The Years that you have lived,
So through our memories and archives
We have gently sieved

To mark the different stages
Of your rich and varied life,
We hope this poem brings pleasure
And does not bring you strife!

It goes on (skipping a few verses) :

And as your nation called you,
Sapper Mundy 23260247,
You requested Singapore for service,
Which turned out to be your heaven.

Not Long after National Service
You returned to this special place,
As an advertising executive
Surrounded by beauty and by grace.

The family came to visit
Your 'Island in the sun',
And were spoilt by your hospitality,
Each and every one.

It goes on a bit later:

Your artistic days continued,
And miniatures remained your bent
As tiny painted images
Across the world you've sent.

Your glamorous connections
Play an important part,
With celebrities and Royals
Featuring strongly in your art.

And the poem concludes with this final verse:

We want you to know you're special
And that we're glad to share the day,
When Uncle Bill, you turn 80,
Hip, hip, hip hurray!

Wasn't that lovely? Brought a few tears to my eyes. So I took the balloons home.

Christmas is fast approaching. I've made all my Christmas cards - all 300 of them - and posted the overseas ones. Even wrapped quite a lot of presents.

But I haven't been idle lately. This is another river painting I've just completed. I call it 'Autumn Breeze' and it depicts, in the foreground, John Bridge and his wife. (John built the boat) and on the opposite riverbank, a whole line of Dunkirk Little Ships.

Talking of boats I've just bought a new (second hand) one. It's an Interboat, and I'll transfer the name from my previous boat - Marsh Mundy - to it. My young friend and I went on a test drive last Saturday afternoon and can't wait till April 1st when we take delivery. It's 19ft long. This is it

Three weeks ago I had another session with the doctor about the osteoarthritis on my knee, as the pain is pretty constant now. I asked for another Cortisone injection (not that it helped much when I had one just before we went to Canada) but she said it was too soon to have a repeat. So I'm hoping to see a specialist as soon as possible. I thought she was going to arrange a consultation but when I phoned yesterday it seems it was up to me to arrange one! As I don't know any knee specialists how was I supposed to arrange a consultation. So maybe now something will happen.