indoor flowers

The paperwhite narcissus in the bulb vase is now in full flower. As a single plant it’s not massively impressive, but nice to see, anyway.

The second batch of forsythia is now fully out, and I cut a third batch which is in the cool front room, to be ready when the second batch starts to drop.

Upstairs, the amaryllis in the bathroom is sadly just about over. It never lasts long, but is a splendid post-Christmas treat.

paperwhite narcissus


forsythia blossom

garden bits

A frost this morning, making delicate patterns on the cyclamen leaves. The winter-flowering clematis is unaffected of course, but I’m a bit worried for the camelia, as the buds are entering a sensitive stage.

cyclamen leaves


clematis flowers


camellia bud

not a brilliant week, so far

Last weekend, Mum went into hospital with very low blood oxygen (88%), which after investigation turned out to be due to fluid on her lungs. After three days on supplementary oxygen, she came out yesterday, but it’s unclear if the problem has been resolved.

Monday saw the start of roofers working next door – Rupert and Abby are having their roof entirely replaced. I don’t think mine needs doing (I rather hope not, at a cost of over £5,000!) – my suspicion is that theirs got upset when the previous owners converted the attic. Much loud banging and use of power tools with noise travelling down the walls – though one of the younger roofers was just cute enough to be worth occasionally watching, even swaddled up against the winter weather.

However, the front shared chimney was in a state. After a couple of discussions with Rupert and the senior roofing guy (who says he’s a former structural engineer), we decided that as neither of us uses the fireplaces this chimney serves, it should be reduced in height by seven courses and capped off. Dodgy /fallen out-of-use TV aerials to be removed, of course. My half of this work is several hundred unexpected pounds …

marmalade marathon

Day one of a three-day marmalade marathon! It has to be spread out, as my biggest mixing bowl only just holds 4 litres plus peel plus pith to soak overnight. And my big muslin square seems to have vanished! But my grandmother often used a pillowcase as a jellybag … so I’ve done likewise (after putting it through the washing machine, with no soap powder!)

24 Seville Oranages, 5 lemons


Bowl of zest, juice, water


pillowcase as jellybag

sign of spring

I’ve been off Facebook for three weeks or so, and avoiding contact – a bad depressive episode has floored me. I’m now starting to poke my head above the parapet again, rather cautiously.

It’s one of my personal rituals to bring forsythia indoors on New Year’s Day: I’ve been doing it for over 30 years now. This morning, the first buds opened, bringing a sense of moving forward towards spring. Upstairs, the amaryllis flowers have opened on the bathroom windowsill. I’m pleased with this one – it’s the 7th year its blossomed for me.

Quarter of an hour in the garden this afternoon – the first time this year it hasn’t been frozen solid! Thecages over the kale and chard, which had been flattened by snow, have been sorted out. I’ve also planted (more in hope than expectation) some byzantine gladioli that I got last spring – they’re supposed to need to be frosted, so here’s hoping!

forsythia flowers opening


amaryllis flower

still chilly

It continues to be most exceedingly cold – I’ve lit the stove almost every evening. There are still one or two tiny patches of snow left over from 28th December, and today has settled to being foggy with a very hard frost riming the garden plants.

I spent much of the morning setting up “Ring” doorbell and chimes, though I won’t actually install the doorbell until an angle bracket for it arrives.

clematis blossoms in a hard frost


The very last remains of the couple of inches of snow we had a week ago (28, 29, 30th December). The daytime temperature has been barely above freezing, though the snow melted where it was in direct sunlight in the middle of the day. The forecast is for daytime maximum temperatures of 2 or 3 C for the next week.

I’m actually glad of it. We haven’t had a proper prolonged frost for two or three years, and I suspect that’s why there have been so many garden pests for the past 18 months, Hopefully, this will reduce the slug and aphid population!

last remaining snow, in half-barrel.

New Year’s Eve

It’s been distinctly chilly here for the past few days. We had a bit of snow in the afternoon of 28th, which settled. A little bit more snow early on 29th – when I got up, the nespero tree was bent double (literally, the crown touching the ground) under the weight, but it soon recovered when I went out and shook it off. Snow turning to sleet on 30th, but little of the snow melted.

the first of the snow
the first batch of snow

I’d been due an Ocado delivery on 28th – rather a large one (nearly £250), partly because I’d managed to run out of assorted expensive items (olive oil, etc) at the same time, partly making sure I’m fully stocked in case of Brexit disruptions. However, as I wrote to my schoolmates group:

I was due a major food delivery today, from Ocado. I get two deliveries a month, regularly, and have done for the last seven years.

Last time there was snow on an Ocado day, things went fairly smoothly. I had a call from them, to say that the van had skidded off the road, but a replacement order would be issued and sent out with another driver, and would be about three hours after the booked time. It duly turned up, with a stunning-gorgeous and very apologetic driver – and I emailed Ocado to say “well done”.

We have about two inches of snow today. I had a phone call just after the end of the one-hour slot that the delivery was due, from the driver. He said “the roads are bad”, “there’s snow”, and he “had to get back to the depot”. As I usually pick an “environmentally-friendly” delivery slot when the van “is in the area”, I was profoundly unimpressed. The Ocado website continued to say that the delivery was on its way, but would be about 50 minutes late. After 90 minutes, I got a text to say that the delivery wouldn’t happen, but I could re-book on the website … the next date it offered me was not until 4th January!

The website then changed to say that they were unable to deliver today, please rebook.

I’m not a happy bunny! I rang Customer Services and was “rather firm” with the (very nice) lady there. She is currently trying to ring the depot, who are obviously being deluged with calls! She’ll call me back if/when there’s any news. I’ve said that I’m happy with a delivery this evening, or tomorrow, but 4th January is simply not acceptable.

I understand that the massive increase in on-line orders has stretched them considerably. I’m generally sympathetic to those experiencing unexpected problems. What I’m massively pissed off about is what seems to me to be a complete failure on the part of the driver and depot to attempt to sort out any useful way forward!

I am rapidly becoming a Grump(ier) Old Man.

Fortunately, Sandra from Customer Services rang back late afternoon, to say that they’d get to me between 9 and 12 on 29th. The driver rang at 10 on 29th, and delivered around 10.30. I’m very grateful, though a couple of items (especially bananas) were rather the worse for wear.

Today (31st – New Year’s Eve) is glorious sunshine, but the temperature hasn’t yet risen above zero, so there’s still lying snow, and the cold snap is forecast to continue for several days. I’ll light the stove shortly – since the sweep came a few days before Christmas, I’m much less worried about doing so! Tonight’s meal will be a roast duck (from frozen – originally bought a couple of months ago, when it was entirely unclear whether or not I’d be spending Christmas here in Worcester on my own). Roast spuds, parsnips, cavolo nero etc. Later will be a raspberry flan, using frozen home-grown berries from last summer’s glut.

The garden this morning:

garden with a bit of remaining snow

Christmas Eve

Going out to put the final bag of rubbish in the bin before going away, I noticed that “something” has had a go at daffodil bulbs in the front garden. I suspect squirrels, which are notorious for digging up crocuses – whatever it was, it clearly didn’t like the taste, so hopefully he rest of the daffs will be OK.

half-eaten daffodil bulb

Jane arrived just before 10 on Christmas Eve to collect me, and had a quick look round (the first time she’s been here) before we set off. Both of us wearing masks in the car, of course.

After lunch, I managed a quick walk round a very muddy Common. Sadly, I’d forgotten to bring a walking stick – most unlike me – so was rather slow and cautious. Going on to the start of the Common, there’s a ditch alongside the field hedge, which simply stops existing halfway down, so the water simply diverts to run down the path … becoming in effect a seasonal stream.

water running down the path

Occasional gleams of sunlight during the walk, one of which spectacularly lit up a set of Silver Birch, which really lived up to their name here.

silver birch

(posted retrospectively)

Life on plague island

I’ve had a really rough couple of days, though am now just starting to emerge from it. Seasonal depression is part of it, of course – I’ve been struggling for a few weeks, but that’s perfectly normal for me. I’ve been on the cusp of depression, but not actually over the edge.

However, the massive change in lockdown/tier arrangements only a few days before Christmas has deeply unsettled me. The lateness of it all, coupled with the certainty that it will rapidly prove to be not rigorous enough, is certainly part of it. The having to re-think Christmas travel arrangements and discussions with my Mum (and pressure to stay on extra days once I’m there) also doesn’t help. The sheer mechanics of getting stuff to people I’d expected to see over Christmas and now won’t: dealing with post and carriers at this very busy time shouldn’t have proved arduous but was right at the limits of my ability to perform.

So it was a severe bout of depression. Not going to bed until the small hours, waking before the alarm went off, loss of appetite (I under-shot my target 1500 calories a day by nearly 300 calories yesterday), intermittent bouts of tears for no reason, and massive apathy. All the usual signs.

I think / hope I’ve started to turn the corner, but am fretting about how I’ll cope, away from home, with the normal stresses (and of course pleasures) of a family Christmas, even curtailed and severely reduced in numbers as it is. I feel that I’m only marginally on the “not quite depressed” side of the border, and certainly don’t feel stable there.

Having coped well with the covid crisis for most of the year, I suspect part of it is things finally catching up with me. The start of next year maybe even worse as Brexit looms, and I’m actively trying not to think about it, though I will make sure that the food cupboard is well-stocked. At over £200, my next Ocado order is about a third higher than usual – though a fair bit of the extra cost is “treats” rather than essentials, reflecting my current low state.

Oh well, packing and house-cleaning are on the list for today – sister Jane is picking me up around 10am tomorrow.