Friday, 4 November 2016

Renewed Energy

Last week was half term, and with no classes to teach and the offer from a local friend to look in on my cats, I went away for a couple of days to see my friend S. She has IIH (as a primary condition, there are other problems!), and moved into a little semi-detached council bungalow set up for disabled living at about the same time I moved last year. Since she moved, she has successfully fought for her disability welfare payments (which were stopped after her re-assessment, where some incompetent jackass didn't document the issues correctly and they decided she wasn't disabled enough to qualify). The payments were backdated, too, so she has been able to go from overdrawn-and-what-the-hell-am-I-supposed-to-do-for-money to being able to get by well enough to be able to get by while concentrating on managing her conditions. She was also lucky in having good neighbours, who look out for each other. The pub at the bottom of her road even delivers her Sunday roast lunch, (we went there for lunch on the second day, and the food is good and reasonably priced!). The little bungalow is just right, with a little patio area and low maintenance flower bed out the back, so her Chihuahua can do his business and scamper around a little. He's evidently settled in well too! He's a complete sweetheart, so cute, especially when he sings along to the Family Guy theme. Well, 'sings' might be the wrong word, it's more like a howl and it's extremely funny.

S spoiled me rotten, giving me her old mobile so that I now have a working mobile phone again (not only that, but a smart phone too!). And, as we did occasionally when she lived down this end of the country before she became ill, we decided to have a spa afternoon. After scouting around, she decided we should go a little further afield and booked a couple of packages at the Celtic Manor.

We arrived only a couple of minutes late. S had been directed to the underground parking, where disabled spots were available near the entrance door to the spa level. They may have been close to the door, but weren't wide enough to allow easy access (such as opening the car door all the way to get the walker out easily, or space to use it past other parked cars!) and the parking charges were rather a rude shock as well. The light lunch was nice, although the lobby level which contained the bars and restaurants was a maze of changes of level, not ideal for someone using a walker. Good job we didn't take the wheelchair! There was a way through without steps up and down, but it wasn't obvious. The facial and back massage were utter bliss; the pool, crowded with kids and parents at half term, rather less so. The communal spa pool/jacuzzi was really not accessible unless you could manage a large step up and the pool surrounds were rather slippery. Even the women-only jacuzzi was not easy to step up and down into and rather noisy, as one of the jets was really strong and gushed water up the corner of the pool.  Not what I would expect from a 5 star hotel, and I think our old haunt at The Cliff in Gwbert does it better, feeling much more like a sanctuary, and with heated loungers too!

My drive to Pengam took longer than the couple of hours suggested by the AA, causing S some consternation that we would be late for our spa date. However, my drive home took even longer. Not only was I in my usual 'where on earth am I?' mode, trying to drive and navigate in a strange place in the dark, but having successfully got back onto the Heads of the Valleys road and settled into its groove with 21 miles to Neath, I found the road closed with a diversion taking us down the A470 onto the M4. It seemed to go on forever, taking me past signs which pointed to places close to where I'd started from, a good 3/4 hour previously. Once on the M4, the first sign I saw announced that Neath was 30 miles away. Not that there were many work-arounds for that road closure, but the Maps app on the phone will come in useful, as it will act as a satnav for those occasions where I had previously followed my nose and continued in ever decreasing circles until I found my destination.

I got home to find the cats a little clingy after my night away from them (the first since we moved) but none the worse for having been shut in for a couple of days. The next morning, far from feeling fresh from my spa treat and break, I felt tired out, my knees painful from the driving. I spent much of that day just sitting, knitting, binge watching Strictly It Takes 2 to catch up before the weekend's shows. I started a pair of socks to test out my 'everyday socks' pattern just before going away, and finished them on my rest day (so must write up that pattern!).

The day's rest was just what I needed, and since then I have been steadily reducing the laundry pile, doing a first read-through of a friend's novella (a compelling read, must send the notes back!), which prompted me to blog a little (because I've hardly written anything this year!), applying for a couple of jobs, getting a new sim for the phone and my old number ported over, and generally trying to learn how to use it without my head exploding. In a couple of months, it will probably become a natural part of my everyday existence to the extent where not having it will feel like I'm missing a limb, or something.

Having started to knit again, I was rummaging through my stash of yarns for some sock yarn I thought I'd bought, in order to test out my everyday socks pattern in a smaller size than my hefty, wide feet and ankles.  I didn't find it, probably because I thought I had better finish some WIPs before I indulged in more yarn or started another project. I found some other yarn I'd been looking for and, yes, more WIPs, although since they'd been packed away since I moved and I'd forgotten about a couple of them, perhaps they are UFOs until I pick them up and start working on them again.

I'm rather glad of this renewed energy. The To Do list never seems to get any shorter, and I suspect this is subconsciously deliberate on my part as I'm always happiest with lots to do. #NeverBored!

Wednesday, 2 November 2016

The OPAL New Zealand Flatworm Survey

Emptying the compost trug onto the freestanding heap the other day, the contents cascaded down the front and sides, missing my legs and feet only because I stepped briskly back out of the way. It's big enough to possibly fill two of my compost bins. The front garden now has its own heap in the centre, since anything I dig up in terms of grass and weeds will eventually have to be either brought through the house to the back garden, or left in place to rot for long enough that it can just be spread as mulch over the front garden. As far as the freestanding heap in the back goes, something will have to be done. Perhaps if I turn the top of it over to lean against compost bin #1, as there doesn't really need to be any space between them? I've another trug-full to empty now, not to mention disposing of the remaining tomato and courgette plants, now showing the effects of the cold nights we're having. I decided to have a look in my compost bins, after all the emptying, turning and refilling I did a few months ago.

Bin #3 is the next one to be emptied, and looks like it's almost ready to go. It has avocado stones growing in it, sending up pale, elongated shoots. Tempting though it is to transplant them and try to grow them on, using etiolated seedlings is not a good start and I know they really will not grow to a size to yield fruit in this country, short of being patient for a number of years while they grow in a heated glasshouse. I used to work with a chap who had an avocado tree in a large pot in the corner of his office. Last seen, it was trying to get through the ceiling and out of the window and although at least 10 years old, was still nowhere near ready to start producing flowers.

The other two bins seem to be rotting down nicely, (the compost accelerator seems to be working) with bin #2 being the most recently filled. I topped it up a few months ago with a forkful of stuff from the bottom of the (then newly-started) freestanding heap. Although it has space now for more to be added on top, I'm loath to do it, as the weight might reduce the air in the existing contents and lead to anaerobic conditions, which will stop it rotting down.

When I was turning over compost back in June, I was quite worried over the lack of worms, both in the compost bins and in the garden. But now, the bins are full of worms of all sizes, and I'm finding plenty of earthworms where I've been turning over the front garden. More significantly, in the time I've been gardening here, moving aside stones, pots, bags of compost and so on, I have looked for, but not found any New Zealand Flatworms. Thank goodness for that! Which reminded me that I'd had a card asking for results for The Opal New Zealand Flatworm Survey.

Having forgotten about that for a few months, I wondered whether it would still be ongoing. I went to the website to submit my survey results and it is! There has also been a soil and earthworm survey going on, although November is rather later than ideal to be doing that and it requires things like test strips and mustard, neither of which I have in the house. However, there was the most awesome guide to the common worms. Yes, I know, not everyone's idea of a thing to contemplate, but take my word for it, it's very well done and I shall doubtless use it sometime to study which worms have chosen to make this garden their home.

Oh well, that was the easy bit. At some point, I shall have to go out to empty and turn the contents of the bins; #3 into an empty compost bag if I've no bare soil that it could go onto, #2 into #3, #1 into #2 and the best rotted stuff from the freestanding heap into #1. At least now I have a lot more worms in the garden to help it on its way to lovely compost!

A Creative Mind?

I would like to think that I'm creative, but I stand in awe of some of my friends. Artists, designers, crafters, musicians, dancers, writers, who just seem to have an idea on an in-breath and a few out-breaths later produce art, craft items, music, choreography, books and poetry or a kitchen which looked as though it had been completely redesigned by adding a couple of shelves, a few tiles, and repainting everything.

Of course, I know it's not as simple as that. I was thinking about how to increase my creativity and productivity as I sat down at my desk this morning, musing about why I feel compelled to multi-task rather than focus on a single job or project. Earlier, I had been looking for some yarn I thought I had and instead found a project I'd started, packed away unfinished when I moved, and completely forgotten about. I was flicking through my design book with a friend last night, and wondering how and when I was ever going to make some of them. Maybe the number of projects on the go means I have plenty of ideas, it's the productivity which is an issue.

As I sipped coffee, filed a broken nail, updated and prioritised my To Do list, looked up some yarn, checked and answered email while opening what had come through the post, added updates to my accounts while opening the choreography notes to prepare for tonight's class, Facebook pinged up a post from one of my awesomely creative friends.

It was a meme, something along the lines of, 'If you want to know what having a creative mind is like, imagine a browser with 2,867 tabs all open at the same time'.

YES! Yes, that's me! And it looks like I'm not the only one. Maybe I do have a creative mind after all!