Life carries on apace and although the weather still refuses to settle down, there’s always time in my horrendously busy schedule to take a walk, often with my camera and occasionally with a group of friends. We recently returned to Ashgill Force, on the South Tyne, where there’s a circular route, no more than a mile and a half long, which takes in a waterfall along with several cascades and small rapids. The reason I mention this is two fold; if you’re ever in the area (Alston is the nearest small town) I highly recommend a visit, although there are a couple of steep-ish sections which can be a little muddy, but the drive there takes you through a landscape of wilderness and stark beauty. England is still a great place to live, and getting out into the countryside and onto those less travelled paths is always a joy. You never know, there may even be a postcard or two in it this summer.
Back to the real business at hand. I was deciding whether or not to grow brassicas this year. Whenever I’ve grown them in the past I’ve either had to yawk up a protective net, or spend half my time killing cabbage white butterflies (something which I don’t relish) and squashing their attractive but greedy offspring. One of the new beds seemed like the ideal place, enough room for some cabbage, a few sprout plants and a couple of cavalo nero, a vegetable which I really enjoy, but which also attracts butterflies in their droves. My rather “rustic” effort at netting (which I may have actually featured in a previous post) consisted of a couple of canes holding up a bit of net, which was, in turn, held down by bricks and stones. It worked, after a fashion, but it was a faff and given this space is a little bigger, I knew I needed something both a little more practical and aesthetically pleasing. In situations such as this there really is only one man for the job. I posed the problem and Dave, as he so frequently does, came up with the answer. Simple, practical and easy to work with (the water pipe frame, not Dave) and put together in no time at all. On to the next challenge, whatever it may be.
I should have known and, apart from one thing, this episode isn’t really that noteworthy. The hazel grove we planted as a living memorial to Norman is in a field where sheep normally roam. We were taking a punt to think, as daft as they are, they wouldn’t get in amongst the young saplings, but get in amongst them they did. Off I strolled up the field, club hammer (for close in work) and my big stick (for distance whacking) in hands. Several sheep, mostly Herdwicks, stood above me on the crags (outside whacking distance) and watched as I righted the posts, replanted the trees that needed replanting and reversed a couple of the sleeves, to give them a better hold on the ground. Typical human though, thinking it was all about me and my anger, I got back to the greenhouse, only to look back up the field to see the sheep in amongst the repositioned posts, gleefully (or so I thought) doing their level best to show me who really was the boss. Off I tramped again, to redo what I’d just done and throw my big stick, in vain, at a large tup who stood balefully glaring at me, just out of my hitting arc. I rounded the bloody things up, itself no mean feat and drove them into the next field, before Dave found time to erect a fence around our little copse, allowing them back from whence they came. I may be imagining it, but every time I arrive at the greenhouse it looks like there’s a malevolent Ovine presence casting a beady eye from the crags, awaiting an opportunity to best me, again.
Put some beetroot seedlings into one of the raised beds but I’m also going to put seed in alongside (adequately spaced) at decent intervals (of time) as I continue my quest to grow more and crop for a longer period. I’m currently spending around 40p a day on beetroot juice, I’m working on the theory that, if I but a juicer, grow enough beetroot and live for another 15 years or so, I’ll be quids in, growing my own rather than buying it in.
I know we’ve done the strawberry thing to death already this year, but I couldn’t help noticing just how green, vibrant and healthy the leaves are looking, now all I have to do is get on top of the weeding. Having said that, it’s quite possible (in my mind at least) that the strawberries will turn the tables on the chickweed and crowd them into oblivion, saving me a job. Although plenty of flowers are appearing I’m not actually that hopeful of an early crop, we keep getting cold snaps, but I reckon once the temperatures stabilise a little and the house begins to warm up, we could do very well. There’s nothing quite like picking half a dozen fat berries, first thing in the morning and eating them fresh from the plant.
It looks as if I’ve managed to save just about all the tomato plants, I now have 42 of them, in various stages of maturity. Some of the lower leaves (which I’ll eventually remove just prior to planting out) have brown ends, but, given where we were, I’m quite pleased with the current situation. They still get “put to bed” every night and the compost they’re residing in has all but dried out (after three weeks). The biggest concern is root strength, but I won’t be able to really gauge whether or not I’ve done permanent harm until I plant them out. My short term memory is pretty poor, but I don’t think I’ll forget this particular lesson in a hurry.
Apropos of nothing, other than a reminder that my little bit of escapism, where I can enjoy a bit of solitude, take a bit of exercise and have a good old swear to myself, when things go wrong I’ve had a visit from a very large, very early and very sleepy (or very drunk on nectar) bumble bee. I originally and a little sadly thought it was dead, a result of the nighttime temperatures, but it wasn’t and, as the sun warmed the glass, off it went, buzzing away to itself, in search of further goodies. Another reminder how foolish we are, as the eco-loons do, when we start to believe it’s all about us. I laugh at them scornfully, shopping in Waitrose, getting ferried to their latest protest in daddy’s Range Rover and playing dead in the streets, when they probably don’t have a practical skill (or a genuine sense of humour) between them.
A quick shot of the greenhouse as I leave for the day. Steady away, a few hours at a time, trying to ignore the aching bones and the dead fingers has got me to here, with not a little assistance from Dave. There’ll be mishaps and problems as we go through the season and, no doubt, there’ll be times when I say “bollox” to it all, but (as I never seem to stop saying) I get out so much more than I put in, not even counting the tomatoes, spuds, chilies, strawberries and courgettes. Roll on the next phase of the year.
The Un-flushable Turd
When I lived in Essex there were two pubs in the village (there still are, so far as I’m aware), I used them both but my favourite watering hole was a Freehouse called The White Hart. An “old style” boozer, with a young landlord, where the only thing approximating food was a bag of crisps with a pickled egg inside it and the eclectic clientele were nothing if not colourful. All manner of people drank in there, artisans and self employed builders and craftsmen, mechanics, a couple of property developers, a couple of farmers, teachers, NHS workers, coppers, small businessmen and other assorted ne’er do wells. The beer was always good and so was the crack. From around 5pm onwards on a Friday night it was standing room only and although debate was often robust, it rarely went beyond that. At around the same time as I started drinking in there a group of ambitious people were setting about reinventing The Labour Party. At the time I wasn’t madly interested in politics but I did think that, in John Smith, Labour might well be onto something. Smith died of a heart attack in 1994 and he was succeeded as leader of the party by Tony Bliar (sic). Bliar himself was nothing more than a somewhat charismatic front man and rumour has it that Gordon Brown (one of the inner circle, along with the Machiavellian puppet master Peter Mandleson and the ever present “attack dog” Alastair Campbell, amongst others) thought he should have the job, but his dour Presbyterian demeanour was no match for the more photogenic and (some would say disarming) Anthony Lynton Bliar. New Labour was born and the die was cast.
Bliar became PM in 1997 and Brown got his rewards (serving as Chancellor from 1997 until 2007), as did Europhile trougher Mandleson, who had his finger in many a pie and was quite happy in the company of the elite of Global rogues. The rest, as they say, is history. The reason I mention The White Hart in this little diatribe is because I can’t remember one person, across the whole social spectrum who drank in there, that didn’t think Bliar was a proper wrong un’. How right we all were. Brown, “the crown prince” of New Labour succeeded Bliar as unelected PM, a job which he failed at spectacularly. Campbell too was with him from start to finish. New Labour under Bliar and with the tutelage of Mandleson tore the heart out of the UK in more ways than I care to recall, not least by its crazy immigration policy, which we’ll never recover from, but also with its PFI deals with big business (which we’re still paying £’s millions for to this day), a failed NHS computer scheme which cost the country £40 billion but made lots of people both very wealthy and eternally grateful, an upper chamber packed to the gunwales with Bliarite place-men and women and (to top it all) the disastrous war in Iraq, based on a tissue of lies (allegedly concocted by our friend Alastair Campbell and pushed through Parliament by a very persuasive, some would say knowingly mendacious, Bliar), which killed and maimed countless people and still costs lives, both in the UK and further afield, to this day.
I could go on, but to list every calumny visited upon us by this bunch of crazy, corrupt Neo-Marxists would take an age. Fast forward now to 2023 and it’s abundantly clear that Labour is reinventing itself, by going back in time. Starmer sees himself (as so many have before him, including one or two Tories) as the new Tony Bliar. Mandleson (as always working behind the scenes) Brown (“the finest chancellor of our age” who promised an end to “Boom and Bust” and who sold the nations gold at the very bottom of the bullion market) and “attack dog” Campbell (using both social and main stream media) are doing their utmost to denigrate the Tories (who, let’s face it, aren’t doing themselves any favours) and stratergising the election process, both for the local elections and the upcoming GE. I have no doubt Mr Bliar has skin in the game, too. Labour despises the aspirational working classes, has done since the mid 1990’s and maybe even earlier. It was our noses they wanted to “rub in diversity” and, in that at least, they were extremely successful. The EU fight isn’t over either, New Labour would have had us a vassal state if it had been able to secure another term in office and here it is, back again, hiding in plain sight, with a view, no doubt, to finishing what it started back in the nineties.
© Colin Cross 2023