Posted in Personal life

Where the Grass is Greener

Every month I write a column for our village newspaper, the Hawkesbury Parish News. This is my column for the August issue, written for its mid-July deadline. The weather has changed a little since then, but our garden has felt the benefit!

sample of our lawn grass

Ours must be one of the few lawns in the parish that has become progressively greener during this hot, dry weather, rather than turning to hay. However, the lawn had to get worse before it got better. It turned chocolate brown, in fact, as my husband, who never does anything by halves, dug for victory over the weeds and took large parts of the lawn back to bare soil.

Top tip here: if you want to cultivate a forest of dandelions, leave a trampoline in place for a few years, and they’ll colonise what was once grass. Until we moved the trampoline to clear that patch, it became our cat Dorothy’s favourite shady retreat, the thick bed of sap-filled leaves cooling her furry tummy.

view of lawn with ladders, husband doing woodwork, tools, etc
Our back garden is a hive of activity these summer days
photo of grass bordering flower bed
Lush new turf provides a neat edge to a parched flower bed

But then out came the grass seed, scattered across the fine tilth he’d created, and lovingly watered in, until that part of the garden began to resemble the early stages of a hair transplant (for someone with lime-green hair, that is).

A few days later, a kind neighbour gave us some leftover rolls of turf. Now parts of our lawn look like a thick, emerald-green wig.

But if you really want your grass to keep its colour, come rain or shine, my dad’s solution is hard to beat: astroturf in his Bristol townhouse back yard. It’s the perfect answer for those who are allergic to grass pollens (I wrote about hay fever in last month’s column) – or indeed for those who are allergic to lawnmowers.

set of four Sophie Sayers books
Best Murder in Show is first in a growing series of village mystery stories

Fancy a summer read while it’s still just about summer? (in the northern hemisphere, anyway!) Best Murder in Show kicks off at the time of a classic English village show – just like the one we’re currently preparing for where I live (though preferably without any murders).

Posted in Family, Personal life

As Safe As Hawkesbury Houses

(This post was written during the downpours at the end of last month, which now seem so long ago after the spring sunshine we’ve enjoyed this weekend!)

Post of Sandra Boynton cartoon  of Noah's ark
I’ve had this poster since I was a teenager. Ever the optimist…

“Mummy, do you think we’ll get flooded here?” my daughter asked during one of the many February downpours.

Vivid news reports of British homes and fields underwater strike fear into anyone living on low ground or close to a river. But flooding is one thing that needn’t worry Hawkesbury Upton folk, because elevation is one of our village’s many charms.

It’s an uphill journey from whichever road you enter Hawkesbury Upton. At its highest point, the village rises to over 600 feet above sea level. That’s not counting the top of the Somerset Monument. Perhaps my daughter had visions of us all taking refuge within that tower, fleeing up the unsafe stairs as the water rose about our feet. Should that ever become necessary, it really will be ark weather.

When I first moved to Hawkesbury Upton over 20 years ago, my elderly next-door neighbour, James Harford, passed on a useful tip about the local climate: “When it’s jacket weather in Sodbury, it’s overcoat weather in Hawkesbury.”

My parents live 20 miles away in the heart of Bristol, and I’ve noticed that their daffodils are always at least a fortnight ahead of ours, reflecting the city’s warmer climate.

In the past, it made me sad that we lagged behind. There’s nothing like Spring flowers to banish the February blues.

But now, as the downpours continue, I’m very happy to take the Hawkesbury Upton high ground – one of many compelling reason that I’ve vowed never to move house again.

(This post was originally written for the March 2014 edition of the Hawkesbury Parish News.)

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Posted in Personal life

Rain Starts Play

Image by Daniel R. Blume via Flickr

Last weekend torrential rain provided me with a welcome excuse to ignore the laundry (no chance of drying it in this weather) and to disregard the garden (unless I was to take up growing rice). I decided to do some work.

Talk about lack of resolve! Only the day before, I’d vowed to stop working at weekends. When you work from home, it’s too easy to switch on the laptop to check a few emails and end up lured into other, more time-consuming tasks. One thing leads to another – and before you know it, the day is gone.

But this time, it wasn’t to be. I started tapping away at the keyboard, but the screen would barely respond. That irritating on-screen egg-timer kept popping up, slowing down my progress down to a snail’s pace (albeit a snail with touch-typing skills).

It wasn’t my computer that was at fault, unlike my husband’s laptop. He’d immobilised it the night before in an unscheduled scientific experiment. He proved conclusively that a keyboard and a glass of wine don’t mix. It’s still drying out in the conservatory.

To rest my eyes from staring at the locked screen, I gazed out of the window at the hammering rain. And then it struck me: the weather was slowing down the internet. The local weather report revealed 97% humidity. With that much rain in the air, no wonder the signals couldn’t get through.

I logged into Facebook (slowly) to ask whether any of my friends were having the same problem. Eventually, some answers crawled back to me: y…e….s, w…e a…r…e.

Well, no more work for me then. I declared I’d take the rest of the day off. What a welcome change from the usual English summertime cry of “rain stops play”. In my case, rain was stopping work.

And then I realised why the weather was quite so bad: it’s only a week till the start of Wimbledon.

(This post was originally published in Hawkesbury Parish News, July 2011).