In the gutter, looking at the stars

The rainy season has begun.

My chickens have been off the lay ever since a massive thunderstorm last Wednesday. Since then, we’ve been getting used to a daily build up of great, threatening cumulonimbus followed by a thorough drenching and I’ve been feeling smug because I finally managed to put up some guttering along my shed roof so I can catch and keep the rainwater. It was much easier than I had imagined it was going to be, leaving me wondering why it has taken me 3 and a half years to get round to it.

dsc_2471These thunderclouds are nearly 10 miles high.

I sometimes tear my hair out dealing with my kids: trying to get the family together for a day-trip, for example, feels less and less do-able as they grow into teenagers. But, of course there are bright moments when they dazzle you with their ideas. My daughter, dutifully doing a school project about space, blowing our minds at dinner telling us how smooth the earth is (“Everest is just a pimple,Mum.”), and her brother mashing this up with his favourite skyscrapers to make this infographic.

WIN_20180522_13_51_00_ProI’m going to drag them round Scotland on a boat this summer. Could be fun? It’s an incentive to finally finish the red gansey. Here it is looking a lot less metallic than it did last week when I counted a total of seven stitch holders plus circular needles in its folds.


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Fast forward

_20180516_144531.jpgThe weather has been extraordinarily good. I have been quite diligent in the garden. Nevertheless, my little corner of paradise is not-little, and, head down, bottom up in a nettle patch under the apple trees, or fiddling with little tiny seeds in the raised beds, or lazing by the barbecue I seem to have missed something happening in between winter and summer.

_20180516_144502.jpgI could swear that the last time I looked at that patch there was nothing there – today it’s three foot high.

Everything is in full bloom like June. Unfortunately, that includes the nettles.

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Make a Menu


Dinner yesterday evening was asparagus straight from the garden and eggs fresh from the henhouse. The above photo is by David Loftus from the book Jamie at Home published in 2007. I loved this recipe book* (I am not big on recipes and even less on books of recipes) because the styling reminded me so much of the Make a Menu book which was a feature of the kitchen when I was wee. My sister and I spent many happy hours turning its pages. It had a lovely hard cloth cover, was spiral bound, but its most attractive feature, to us, was the division of the pages into 3 – starter, main, and pudding – so that you could have it open at, say, tomato soup, lamb chops, and lemon meringue pie all at once. That book was like a toy to us. It also had lovely little lino-cut illustrations.

Illustrations by “The Plant” remind me of those Make-a-Menu days.

I rarely prepare three courses. Thank goodness there’s no pud my lot like better than a delicious orange and I can only do soup when I am in the mood. Back in the 1970’s three courses was expected every day, even from my Mum, who went out to work. And all the 3 courses of washing up had to be done by hand, too.

*actually I see it was from this book that I got two of my favourite recipes: for BBQ spare ribs (basically slathered in every spice and herb known to man and pre-cooked in the oven before going anywhere near the barbie) and slow-roasted lamb (um, get a big old bit of lamb, put it in the oven all day at 145). copyright Jamie Oliver, obviously.

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These paths made by walking are never quite straight. Lines of desire. The first cut of silage reveals the grass beaten down by walkers’ feet that can’t then be shaved as close. Footsteps in frost and a low, low sun to catch the faintest shadow. Leaf litter and snow.

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A very blustery day

DSC_2402.jpgI have to take a different route to school these days to avoid all the earthmoving that’s going on in the low fields.

Yesterday, as I heaved myself up the hill alongside the woods, I enjoyed seeing the first swifts, reeling around just above me in the windshadow of the trees, and the delicate bells of Solomon’s seal, low to the ground, yet trembling in the strong wind. (Listen to  Trembling Bells , pleasantly reminiscent of 70’s folk rock. )

The wind was whipping around in all directions. It seems as though my poor old chickens got caught out, unable to listen out for predators, they’ve been attacked, one is gone to feed the red kite and the other is currently recuperating in the hen house, but she’s covered in mud and a bit shaken.


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Jack by the hedge


A morning walk brought me by this old path where garlic mustard, or Jack-by-the-hedge, lives up to its name by growing right up against the centuries-old hedgerow. Its leaning in and not-quite clinging ways made me think of it as a cat, happily sliding-rubbing itself against the hedge’s legs. DSC_2392.jpgJust here, the hedge is a beauty, full of blackthorn, holly and roses. Thank you to the farmer who keeps it all safe for me to enjoy.

Further along I had to stand back into the ditch to photograph this magnificent tree. Could it be an elm?

DSC_2396.jpgAnd then, I think it was a trick of the moment, the very point of opening of the hawthorn buds, my sunglasses, the way the light was falling, I had to stop for this galaxy of mayflowers.


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A whole new world

Hello World

I had to laugh at myself when I attended a one-day course on Tuesday at the University only to find myself in a roomful of people who, with only one exception, had all probably not even been born yet when I studied my first effort at computer science. In other words, a roomful of people who’ve grown up with computers. Now, I’ve done a tiny bit of hobby coding and I know a bit of theory,  but, until Monday night I didn’t know what GitHub was, until 8 weeks ago I didn’t know that R was a computer programming language, I didn’t know there was such a job as Data Scientist. Now, all of a sudden, here I am, participating in conversations about data sets and machine learning.

Machine learning

Thinking about these new ideas is so aided by the wonderful way that analogies are built into the words that the science community has adopted. You can almost guess what “scraping” and “merging”, “overfitting”, “pruning search trees”, and “clustering” mean. It reminds me of when you’re learning a new foreign language and you sort of busk it, based on similarities with languages you know already and little leaps of the imagination. My non-artificial neural networks are making lots of new connections.

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