Monthly Archives: June 2015

28/06/2015: Midsummer week

IMG_5220

Fire: respect it.

Midsummer’s Day (AKA St John’s Day) was my birthday, as usual, and it was a bit muggy. Our eldest daughter celebrated Midsummer with a fire-leaping ceremony at her kindergarten. I never got to do things that fun on my birthday when I was young. Although I did play mini-golf with my nan once when I was about nine. That was pretty good.

We also visited the dentist, who was either not as loathsome as I recall him to be, or a different dentist. (How am I supposed to tell which it is?) None of my teeth needed filling this time, which probably means he was tired.

IMG_6016

Wasp larder.

At some point in the week (I forget the day) we decided it would be prudent to spray all of the metallic machinery of our opening windows with silicone lubricant. I did this, because it turns out it is part of my remit.

Unfortunately when I opened one of the windows to the study – the window by the damp wall, which is (probably inadvisably) opened least often due to its proximity to the sofa – I was beshowered by small green caterpillars. How lovely, I thought; caterpillars have built a nest out of mud in the space between the window and the frame.

This didn’t fit with my existing knowledge of what caterpillars – or indeed butterflies – get up to, but one adapts surprisingly quickly to new discoveries like this. For who am I to tell caterpillars how to conduct their business?

IMG_6001

Children with gooseberries.

But no! A quick Yandex revealed that what I had actually stumbled upon, was in fact a sort of larder for wasps; or a christening feast for baby wasps. The tiny little white dots in the corners of my photographs of the caterpillar “nests” were in fact wasp eggs, laid close to this fresh-ish store of living but paralysed flesh, which the wasp grubs would feast upon when they were born.

Happy midsummer, caterpillars!

Seriously though, if you can think of something really unspeakably gross, there’s a wasp that does it.

The good news is that our windows are now nicely lubricated and opening and closing smoothly.

IMG_5999

Gooseberries.

Oh, and the gooseberry crop was harvested, and you can see the bountiful nature of it right here. It has made me even more excited for the plum crop and the blackcurrant crop, both due later in the year. Even though you can’t really eat blackcurrants.

At least our location outside (although technically enclaved within) the political dominion of the UK means we are exempt from the cruel and archaic law that demands all Britons surrender their blackcurrant crops to the Ribena corporation, so that they can be turned into a syrupy drink that’s a bit like Vimto.

IMG_5268

Ponies up on Mynydd Carregog.

Fury’s bush’s first year was promising, providing a few handfuls of hard red-tinged berries. Sybil’s fair doubled this year, producing green furry berries of a variety of sizes and shapes. We ate the lot in a crumble that V cooked earlier today.

This weekend we went to visit the menhir known as Bedd Morris (between Cwm Gwaun and Newport) and walked up Mynydd Carregog, a desolate area of elevated moorland which is just next to it up a very gentle incline. It was a lovely, peaceful place with a near 360-degree view of that bit of the Preselis. Although Cwm Gwaun remained sneakily out-of-view, what with it being quite a severe little valley. Views of Dinas Island and what I presume was Newport were better. I think I saw the telegraph pole / communication mast thing at Crymych too. Pembrokeshire as a geographical entity (by which I mean including the Most Serene Republic of Landskeria) is beautiful in a rugged and understated way. Perhaps the ruggedness increases and the understatedness decreases toward the Preselis, which are definitely my favourite bit. But a lot of that area of the national park is lovely to look at and to explore, without necessarily being explicitly immediately obviously deserving of the national park status. It’s like they drew a line round the coast, with all the beaches and cliffs and other things people like, and thought “oh, we might as well include those hills too.”

IMG_6044

Fuchsias.

I like those hills. We would normally go to the beach if the weather was good enough, but it was my birthday week, so I made the informed decision to drive us to a desolate moor instead. There’s some fun stuff about the stone itself on Julian Cope’s stone-looking-at website.

Back here in Landskeria, where there are no national parks as yet, the fuchsias are blooming, the purple sage is purple, and the weird things that look like a cross between daisies and spiders have all but taken over that bed in the top garden.

IMG_6045

Purple sage flowering.

Our gardener (yeah, we have a gardener, he comes about once a month; it’s no big deal. It’s not like it’s illegal or anything) has trimmed some of the bushier bushes, so it’s all looking reasonably tidy for what is essentially an exercise in preventing nature from engulfing us.

I’ve been trying to teach my daughters how to play football. Which is tricky. Not least because one of them is still only one year old.

The elder child watched some of the World Cup with me last year, so maybe I’ll watch the final of this year’s with her if I can find out where and when it’s being broadcast.

IMG_6046

And other plants.

The week that was in Landskeria has gone by with few matters of state requiring any kind of international broadcast. We’ve hacked back and planted; we’ve harvested; I wrote a poem, but not an especially political one. V has begun reading another Lee Child book. All is as it should be.

Someone in Pembrokeshire has lost a cat called Mulius, judging by the posters on more or less every telegraph pole from Rosebush to Haverfordwest. I do hope they find it.

Alas, I have been too busy with affairs of state to further progress our nation’s march toward officialdom or even to begin arranging the launch of my next poetry book, which will serve as a sort of launch party for our country too. It’s amazing how much admin there is to do when you run your own country, even one that’s less than a square mile in size with a human population of four. Now I must go and administrate some dinner out of a pot and into some bowls.

I am pleased to relate that the weather is pleasant, the environment is stable, and the economy is good.

AV

21/06/2015: Summer Solstice in Landskeria

Roses wound the arch that separates West Landskeria from East Landskeria.

Roses round the arch that separates West Landskeria from East Landskeria.

We don’t as yet have an official list of observed holidays in Landskeria, and when we do I shouldn’t think Father’s Day will be on it. We’ll probably just celebrate International Men’s Day instead. Or International Why Isn’t There An International Men’s Day?, previously known as International Women’s Day.

But the inhabitants of our pioneering society grew up in the UK, and as such carry our Old Ways with us into this brave new frontier land.

So I have been celebrating with a trip to the beach and by mowing all three of our lawns.

Temporary happiness is a mown lawn.

Temporary happiness is a mown lawn.

Later on I will probably celebrate further by opening and pouring – and probably then drinking – a fashionable craft beer. Maybe I’ll even have a glass of Cono Sur Pinot Noir before during or after said fashionable craft beer.

Nobody yet knows. As I say, this is a young country, so we don’t have much in the way of established ceremony yet.

The flowers round pond #2 continue to be bushy and colourful and spirit-buoying. Alas, the torch lilies (which you might know as red-hot pokers) are on their way out. And so are the white things which might be lilies or orchids or goodness-knows-what.

Pond #2 complete with torch lilies and white things.

Pond #2 complete with torch lilies and white things.

There are numerous smaller flowers that come out where and when they want. Nobody knows what most of them are. Maybe they are poisonous. Maybe they are edible. Again: nobody knows. So much lost knowledge, or just general ignorance, it saddens me.

The compost heap is struggling to cope with the amount of grass we’re cutting. But you can’t just let it grow. I tried that once and V got annoyed. And then it was all the more difficult to cut when I finally got around to it. We have a saying here in Landskeria: the longer you leave something, the longer it gets. This saying is applicable to all sorts of physical and non-physical concepts. Anything that extends in such a way as could be measured using the notion of length, really.

Frog.

Frog.

I was hot during mowing the lawn today and felt sick, so I went inside to drink a swift pint of milk and returned to pond #2 to burp, whereupon a decent-sized frog emerged from the pond as if at my command. Naturally I was delighted.

Our hedges are getting pretty bushy, and further up the road toward Woodstock Cross there’s an enormous tree limb hanging by shards of tree flesh right above the road. It looks like it could fall and instantly kill whosoever might be passing below. But it’s outside of Landskerian jurisdiction, alas. So it’s the responsibility of David Cameron, or Carwyn Jones, or Stephen Crabb or one of those folks. Probably the Queen, ultimately, as she owns most of the land in the world outside Landskeria.

The first of many hydrangeas.

The first of many hydrangeas.

Inside the walls of our traditional Landskerian farmhouse-conversion we’ve been bumbling along trying and failing to house-train a papillon and watching season three of US prison drama Orange is the New Black. We produce our own culture here in Landskeria of course, but resources do not as yet stretch to lengthy television series so we make do with foreign imports for the time being. There’s no shame in that, we reason: it’s good to be open to learning about other people’s cultures.

Preparations are being made for the eldest Landskerian child’s kindergarten summer fair. So far we’ve put a box, some years ago having being reverted to its two-dimensional “plan” form, in the conservatory. Some time by the end of the day one of the adults will have to wrap some paper round it so it can serve as a functional yet attractive three-dimensional or “box-shaped” box into which lucky-dip prizes can be donated in anticipation of it being an actual lucky-dip box for the aforementioned fair. We are confident that between us we can totally action this, with minimal hiccuping.

I am keenly aware that I have set fire to nothing at all today. Not even bread, much less an animal sacrifice. And alas there is no prehistoric henge or stone circle upon our land. I would put one in, but I am too weak to move satisfactorily large stones of my own accord, and am unsure how the other residents would react to such a bold statement.

Sun, by Richard Austin.

Sun, by Richard Austin.

It is, nevertheless, the longest day of the year in Landskeria today (as it may well be in wherever you are from) and so far all I have to show by way of honouring the great ball of fire that sustains us all in the face of our frequent attempts to bring about the accelerated destruction of all that is joyous and within our reach is the lovely carved panel hanging on the wall near our primary checkpoint with the UK; AKA the road.

This was donated to Landskeria by Hampshire-based artist Richard Austin earlier this year and is our first (but hopefully not our last) piece of public art here in the Landskerian capital, which is known, for the reason that it takes up the entirety of the land within our borders, simply as “Landskeria”.

IMG_5963Yesterday a great tit flew right into our kitchen picture window and did itself some damage. My first reaction had been to laugh, because I’m a mean bastard. But when it turned out it was actually hurt (they usually just bounce off) I felt a bit guilty, and used the healing powers of my hands to nurse it back to health. It took a good ten minutes of my time, which would cost about £6-£7 if I was doing copywriting for it. Healing would probably cost more; I don’t know, I’m yet to professionalise the service. If this was the bronze age I could probably have dined out on that anecdote for a good 800 years, if not blagged full-on messiah status in some religion or other. As this is the age of godlessness and egotistical hedonism here in the Western Bubble I will be lucky to get a couple of likes on Facebook for saving the life of this living thing.

Yellow flowers that aren't daffodils or buttercups. The ones in the foreground are likely to be lilies.

Yellow flowers that aren’t daffodils or buttercups. The ones in the foreground are likely to be lilies.

But then again, it would probably have got back on its feet a bit quicker if I hadn’t picked it up and patronisingly stroked its head. If anything, judging by how many times it crapped on my hand (the exact number numbering three), I probably scared it a bit and delayed its recovery by about five minutes. So, probably not a messiah. Probably.

Next week is my birthday, so I will probably celebrate that evening with a fashionable craft beer or a glass of Cono Sur Pinot Noir. Maybe I’ll combine the two into a cocktail.

On the day itself I will celebrate by watching my eldest child jump over some fire by way of observing the festival of midsummer in the neighbouring territory of Wales. And by going to the dentist, whom I loathe.

View from the Eastern border with Wales.

View from the Eastern border with Wales.

Matters of state progress at the rate of a forced march of a battalion of lame hedgehogs to Moscow. In winter. By rough terrain.

But that’s administration for you.

At least I saw a raven by the pond today, which is a good bird and/or omen.

The weather is muggy. The environment is stable. The economy is good.

AV

RIP Christopher Lee, an inspirational dude to the end.

14/06/2015: returning from Waterford

IMG_5910

Foxgloves on the border.

We’ve been on holiday to Dunmore East, County Waterford, for the past week. So this feels like a good point for a first proper log entry, having returned to our home during a period where the garden is rapidly developing.

We travelled a fair bit in Ireland, taking in Waterford, Tramore, Fenor, Kilkenny, Courtown Harbour (well, mainly Pirate’s Cove) and Wexford, in roughly that order. The landscape, even by the side of M-roads, is lush and verdant, undulating with the odd mountain (usually referred to as a “knock” I think) plonked here and there. The coastlines are rugged and beautiful, with sandy coves and interesting rock formations.

IMG_5902

Sunflowers by the Boiler House.

My main memories, apart from the family fun during the day, and the evenings and mornings spent writing my new (also very old) novel, will be of the fantastic beer, and the relatively quiet roads.

Also the wonderful Waterford city model maps in both the Medieval Museum and the Bishop’s Palace.

The Irish National Heritage Park in Wexford was splendid too. I recorded a couple of lines of a poem I’m hoping to make a video for next to a dolmen and a stone circle there. That they are replicas as opposed to millennia-old originals imbued with pre-Druidic ritual magic doesn’t particularly bother me. They (and the roundhouses, chapels, Viking longboats and Norman castles) all looked great.

IMG_5909

Arum lilies.

As well as the ubiquitous Irish county and national flags, I saw a number of delicious four-province flags but, alas, I got no photographs.

We got back home to Landskeria late last night and V retrieved our dog Frida from our friends’ house this morning while I unpacked. (She was here for the first half of the week with my mother and little brother.)

A walk round the borders today reveals Arum lilies have appeared in the island flowerbed in the north garden. I don’t remember them from previous years, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t there. I’m neither the most observant person where plants are concerned nor even remotely knowledgeable. (I had to look up the name, certain that I’d recognize it when I saw it. I didn’t.)

IMG_5905

Newt spawn. I think.

Foxgloves are sprouting from the hedges, but also the flowerbeds, having sprung up to human height in the space of a week.

What I believe to be newt larvae can now be found when I sieve the ever-encroaching weeds and algae from Pond #2; apparently they are called “efts” once they’ve done a bit more growing. So I can’t wait for that. Our ever-abundant tadpoles (AKA “pollywogs”) are now quadrupeds with long tails, and most odd looking altogether.

IMG_5906

Tadpoles.

The lawn is full of wildflowers but mercifully not too out-of-control for a Sunday afternoon. (I won’t be mowing it today as it’s fairly damp and I am tired).

IMG_5901

Christmas tree by the sandpit.

The Christmas tree I planted last year after its second year of service has sprouted bountiful quantities of lime-green brushes from almost all of its branches. Despite V being quite sure it’s in the wrong place, next to the girls’ sandpit, it is doing splendidly. (It obviously disagrees.)

The sunflowers she planted in the dirt patch I cleared in front of the Boiler House are doing okay.

I found some fox poo in the top garden. At least I think it was from a fox. Too big for Frida and too small for anyone else’s dog. (And we don’t tend to get visiting dogs here.) I dread to think what would happen if she met a fox; she, being tiny, tends only to pick fights with snails. She’s often to be found lying on the rug in the play room crunching her way through one. This is especially amusing because she’s a Papillon, and therefore nominally French.

IMG_5903

Sybil’s gooseberry bush.

The gooseberry bushes and blackcurrant bushes both look promising at this stage of development. As does the plum tree. Apple tree and damson tree not so much.

Hopefully this year we’ll make better use of the fruits and I won’t stick them all in demijohns of cheap booze in the hope that they’ll turn tasty.

(This year I plan on using expensive booze. Or crumble.)

IMG_5915

Splash.

The explosion of white paint out the front where we put the bins out remains uneroded. A tractor ran over a binbag full of old paint cans that the binmen wouldn’t take. It looks pretty dynamic now. (But not bio-.)

The two wooden sheds continue to slowly decay, while basically fulfilling their purposes. Flies are increasing steadily. No further attempts by wasps to build nests have been noted.

The admin involved in establishing the sovereignty of a new republic is such that no constitutional updates are available at this time. The building of a fence and two gates has been postponed due to funds being siphoned into a separate funnel feeding the development of a new website for business services offered by the (adult) inhabitants of Landskeria. More on that later.

The weather is muggy. The environment is stable. The economy is good.

AV