Saturday, 18 June 2016

Wandering through the Wisteria

Last Sunday cousin Paul Carter hosted a family party at Allendale Farm, his estate in Great Shefford. Good to meet up with some of the relatives I only see on this sort of occasion. Amongst the many gardens at Allendale the wisteria garden was originally a small paddock, but after Paul's son married Bonney there they planted the wisteria and it is now called the Wedding Garden. Val came with me. Here she is with Paul.

And with cousin-in-law Anne, Julie and baby.

As the day threatened a number of heavy thundery showers it was decided to hold the party in Paul's new barn. A very impressive building which Paul and a friend built from a flat pack. Must have been a big pack as the barn looked to be about twenty five feet tall. Each family took their own picnic. Table and chairs, but we needn't have bothered because Emm, Paul's friend, had organised everything, including a barbecue ably supervised by Paul's son Jim.

Jim, Michele, and Samantha.

And in the adjoining fields were some of Paul's cows.

I'm working on a large triptych right now. The subject is autumn leaves and will be painted in oils on fine Belgium linen. When finished the three pictures will stretch to about six feet wide and will be positioned above my young friend's bed. So far I've completed one and am about three quarters through the second. 

My young friend's garden is really coming along beautifully. Last weekend she worked hard on it while I performed a few chores in my role as under gardener. Here's a bit of an update. 

The apple tree has seventeen apples on it - fourteen more than last year. 

And not be outdone, here is one of my own hanging baskets on my front balcony.

On Sunday evening we invited Debbie McGee, her sister Donna, and Val over for dinner. MYF really excelled herself and made a wonderful roast lamb meal. If there's one thing I like more than anything it's mint sauce on lamb. It makes me salivate and in fact I like it on beef, pork and chicken. Here are the three girls. 

Today I played bowls in the men's handicap at the Henley Bowling Club. I was drawn against Barrie, the club's top player, who in fact won the match last year. I lost heavily.

Yesterday afternoon I had an appointment with the oncologist in Reading to reveal the results of last week's scan and blood test. It's always a worry and although it's three years since the last lung operation I won't be eligible for an annual scan until this time next year. Still every six months. We left in plenty of time for the 4.20 appointment, but as soon as we reached Twyford roundabout a plethora of blue flashing lights signalled that there was no way to reach Reading via the A4. A major accident had blocked the road completely. So after another half an hour wait before we reached Twyford crossroads we then discovered that the road to Reading was blocked by a bridge repair. So we were further directed to turn down a tiny mile-long lane where I knew there was a ford. And due to the heavy rain we've had over the last few days sure enough the depth measured two feet. We turned round eventually and were soon retracing our journey. Then coming down the lane towards us - and taking up just about the entire width of the lane - was an enormous lorry. If I'd been driving I would have just sat there as there is no way I could have reversed the distance that MYF had to. But she managed it and we resumed our journey. And what a convoluted route the sat-nav directed us - at one time we found ourselves on the motorway. However we finally arrived at the hospital, nearly one hour late. But it was worth it as I was given the all clear with no trace of the cancer returning and my bloods looking good.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

Lunch with Katie

Last Sunday we drove to London to visit Katie Boyle on her 90th birthday. It's hard to believe that she's reached that age. I first met her over thirty five years ago when she came to Singapore (where I was living at the time) to write her autobiography - 'What (this) Katie Did'. 

We've remained friends ever since. Sadly she's not too well at the moment, but surrounded by close friends, her sister Margherita, and others, we raised a glass or two. Rupert gave a small speech and the table looked lovely.

Shirley, the housekeeper when I first met Katie, was there too. Having not seen her for thirty years I reminded her that she'd taught me how to make delicious French onion soup. She, in turn, (and I'd forgotten this) reminded me that she still makes Shepherd's pie from the recipe I gave her then. This is the photo Katie sent me before we met all those years ago.

Now that both boats are in good working order my young friend and I took the little dinghy up the Hennerton backwater last Saturday afternoon. 

While I perched on the centre plank she operated the electric engine. And in complete silence we wended our way through the backwater. Just the sound of water birds and insects broke the silence. With a bit of difficulty I stood up in the boat while we changed batteries. After a while we approached the loveliest garden on the backwater, in my opinion.

It belongs to Tony and Gloria Mays. We moored there while we had our picnic. I love the Chinese bridge Tony had made some years ago.

When we got back to Marsh lock we found the approach littered with scores of boats all waiting to go through. There are so many more big boats on the Thames these days that four of them can easily fill most locks. But, being a tiny ten foot dinghy, we easily fitted into the lock. 

Finally we've finished our 3D jigsaw puzzle of the Taj Mahal.

Great fun to do but it took ages to work out which pieces go where. 

Last Saturday was garden planting day. My young friend has just about finished planting the new exotic purchases she made at the Urban Jungle. Things are really beginning to move now. We only had three apples that survived to full size last year, so it's good to count eighteen this year - but this is before 'the June drop'. 

The banana is looking good - and even has three babies. The grape vine is growing and the roses on the patio are in full bloom with a lovely scent.

The hostas are slug free and the 'red robin' trees are very healthy.

And her little garden looks so nice.

Sunday dawned very hot and sunny so we decided to take the boat up to Temple Island and moor nearby. A real chance to relax and do nothing.

It's Tuesday and I've just returned from my first match of the season at the Henley Bowling Club. We were playing 91 up, and I so very nearly won as I reached 86 - but not quite enough. I was beaten by just 5 points. I'm determined to win something this year. 

Now to get back to the large triptych I'm painting of autumn leaves in oil colour.