stepping stones of truth

A journey along the path of life - the stones can be rough, smooth or even wobbly!

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Zero Weekend

This weekend happened earlier in May, but because the weekend celebrated a whole year, it's not really time sensitive! We have lots of "zero" year celebrations this year in the family - the MoH is 70; I am 60; our Eldest Daughter is 30; and we will have been married for 40 years.

We decided to have a family weekend in London to celebrate ALL of them, staying at our Eldest Daughter's place just off Brick Lane. We had thought that taking in a show and some nice meals would be great. But the ED had some great tricks up her sleeve.

Not only had she booked us in (several months ago) for drinks at the exclusive Vertigo 42 bar (at the top of the NatWest tower, the highest building in the City) but had arranged for a very special surprise alongside the champagne (I really like this photo) We took it in turns to have a bite of the cake, and then to eat the chocolate lettering around the plate. We now how to enjoy ourselves!

So the first place we go to is this exclusive building - this is the view as I looked up as we went up the first escalator. We got whizzed through into a lift that went all the way up - coded purple colour- the theme colour of Vertigo 42 - and up 42 floors in the wink of an eye (or the swallow of an eardrum).

We got shown to our seat and this was the view that awaited us! How thoughtful to place the compass direction by each window. I think we had the best seat in the house, with the view back along the Thames to Westminster. We enjoyed the champagne, the "cake", the views and each other's company. And also the thought that we weren't having to pay the prices for the food up here! AND the fun of going to the loo, knowing the plumbing went down 42 floors - well, the thought appealed to me anyway!

As dusk was falling, we descended and strolled back to Spitalfieds to an exceedingly brilliant tapas restaurant, Meson Los Bariles. Those are stuffed mushrooms in the front, and in the rear are calamares, mussels, patatas bravas, shell-on prawns in garlic and olive oil, chorizos, a mini-paella. And that was just the first round! Eventually after a relaxed meal, we wandered back towards Brick Lane and bed.

There are a couple of famous Jewish bagels shop in Brick Lane, a legacy of the time when it was the heart of Jewish London. We walked around the corner to buy our breakfast bagels - smoked salmon and cream cheese made up most of our order, with the MoH having traditional salt beef. There was a long, good-natured queue (I love Londoners) and the slightly unreal looking cakes and pastries caught my eye. But it was way too early in the day to indulge!

(the exterior shot is not my photo)

The evening saw four of us booked in for the musical "Wicked" It was decided not to pay the high prices for some seats, so we were up in The Gods, which are now quaintly known as The Nosebleed Seats! But even at that distance, it was a real spectacle, and very cleverly staged. I would be quite happy to pay a return visit to appreciate it again. A working knowledge of the film/book The Wizard of Oz will make the experience even better, it really is well written, with the story interweaving with the well known one. Excellent songs and singers. Lovely to see all the congnoscenti and fans wearing bright green clothes. Even the foyer was green!

We walked outside the theatre, and got straight on a red doubledecker us that took us through the busy bustle of the centre of London and the City, and almost to the door. Better than a taxi!

Then another surprise was revealed. She had arranged an even more exclusive visit - to The Gherkin aka 30 St Mary Axe aka Swiss Re buildingThis wonderful, wonderful building is not open to the public, and the lounge/bar at the very top is only for tenant companies and their guests. One of the ED's good friends and neighbours was able to whisk us in as guests! Wow. So at the appointed hour, late afternoon, we walked to the Gherkin and marvelled at the building - not a curved piece of glass in the place (oh apart from the lens at the very apex) and each piece of different dimensions, only a computer could have known which bit went where! That's us walking in the Sunday deserted City.

How fantastic to look back from the base of the Gherkin up to the NatWest Tower where we we were yesterday.

The corporate offices were plush and in very good taste. Ive seen all the documentaries about the building of the Gherkin, but of course they dont show the decor and office furniture.

Tower Bridge looked historic in the sunlight, and "Ken's Building" (Ken Livingstone, London's Mayor) looked spherical,modern and sleek in glass to the right. People say it resembles a pile of plates about to topple over, but I couldn't see the similarity. Then we watched an approaching storm and the sky darkened. But somehow it felt safe and secure.

There was more "fizzy" - Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut which we brought ourselves + glasses in a cool bag - and for several hours we luxuriated in the quiet opulence and strolled around admiring the architecture. We were very aware of what a special privilege it was to be there, on our own.

The views over London were spectacular. At one point we watched a small red balloon float by below us, and watched it float across the rooftops (just like the famous French film) towards where ED lives - a building with white triangular roof beyond the white spire of Hawksmoor's Spitalfieds church in the centre.

What a great weekend and a really special time with wonderful food and some exclusive visits.
A time to remember and treasure.

Monday, May 28, 2007

LLF becomes a DWOP

As regular readers may know, the LLF is my Life Long Friend. We met in Library School (now known as Thames Valley University) back in the sixties - the only two humans in the class! We played Travel Scrabble under the desks, and she can still beat me. Rats!

She and her husband bought our first place near Richmond, Surrey from us when we moved to Dorset. And they very nearly moved to Dorset a few years later. But finances decreed it was not to be. Her husband (also an Aquarian like the MoH) died last year, and after some thought she decided now to become a DWOP (Dorset Woman of Property) and buy a house in Dorchester. But not for her to retire to yet. Oh no, lots of working life left in the old dog..errr...ahem...person. Her parents live at the moment on the Isle of Wight, but they will move into the house, and enjoy the delights of Dorset. Her mother will have a great time, I am sure, and the library is only a walk away - good news for her father.

The house is tucked away, totally unseen from the road, sheltered and with its own enclosed courtyard garden. Most people would be totally unaware of its presence. There is only an anonymous door in a wall between two shops, which reminded me of Diagon Alley as a different world behind the door.

So here are some photos. If I had to live in town without trees and grass, it would do me fine.

The MoH (being a builder) has replaced some of the shingle aka Brighton Beach with pavers to match the original ones. And I have been given a chance to redesign the garden, at an appropriate time.

The downstairs room - huge enough for several grand pianos - which opens out onto the decking you saw in the first photo.

LLF watering the garden during a dry spell. There is no soil to speak of that will hold any water but the planting and rocks are easy on the eye and easy to maintain.

A view from the upstairs overlooking the garden, showing the new pavers. And behind the blue door is a passage to the outer door out into the wide world. Hence Diagon Alley (Harry Potter reference for the uninitiated)

The LLF has purchased a bicycle to get around town. This is her first ride down South Walks (where the Roman walls once stood) It will be very useful when she comes to visit her parents. They will move in when the redecorating is finished, and the MoH has installed a wet room (aka posh shower with no doors) for them. It should look wonderful and be great to use. She is going to attempt this weekend, for her first long ride, to get to our village along a reasonable cycle path, but its six miles!!!

And it is such fun being able to share the delights of furnishing a house and hunting for just the right pine beds etc. And of course, I get to see more of her (even without the chocolate cake she sometimes brings - Maison Blanc no less) Thats not a hint! (I know she reads this!)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

A medley of May morning flowers

A rose called Sterling Silver - it was a favourite with my Dad, who wasn't a great gardener.

The best seat in the house for the seedlings of brussel sprouts and something else that the Man of the House has on hold. He is waiting to harvest the new potatoes to allow them room in the veggie patch.

Just an old rambling rose of the sort you see growing in hedgerows, but lovely nonetheless.

Foxgloves are such a delight. But I can never tell their early leaves from comfrey - so we get a lot of comfrey (knitbone) growing. The MoH sometimes make a potion by steeping comfrey leaves in water. It smells foul but is supposed to be a geat plant feed. I'm not sure its worth it!

These are in the greenhouse, though the passionflower grows quite happily and vigorously outdoors in our village. The smell of the jasmine is delicious, but I think it would not stand the winter frosts (not that we had many last winter)

The first flower on the peony! It must have taken five years to bloom. I cant believe they grow like weeds.

The last blossom on the wisteria. The racemes (?) flower spurs (?) really do seem incredibly long this year. It must have been the mild spring. My wisteria pergola will have to wait till next year to be built. It would be lovely to sit under a roof of wisteria flowers drooping down through the gaps.

PS Ive written a few words about my reaction to the recent job upheaval over at ArkSanctum.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Wonderful walks

My Birthday Walk was lovely, just lovely. A warm sunlit evening at Osmington Mills - a small hamlet perched on the cliffs, really just a pub and a few houses. I had asked for a surprise, but hoped it could include a walk by the sea. My lovely girlfriends had bought me a wonderful present of a tree peony from Kelways (a past Chelsea exhibitor) They asked for a purplish pink one and apparently according to its label, this plant should be white! The proprietor said it is one of the unique variety rockii, and they responded that their friend too was unique. Aaaaah.

Here are a few of my Piddle Valley friends plus LLF and Youngest Daughter after the formal presentation of peony and cards and the traditional song. And the plant itself. Very special.

We then walked for a while along the cliffs by the beautiful blue sea. A magical evening, with the sound of the sea below and birdsong above. A snap of the LLF and YD with Portland aka The Isle of Doom in the background (strange place)

A few weeks ago we organised a Crocus Walk in aid of Breakthrough Breast Cancer with some of the same ladies involved. It really started as a chance to have an enjoyable stroll through the delightful Dorset countryside, ending up in a tea room for tea and cake! But we get sponsored for charity too.

This is the third year we had done it, and this year Gill and I did a recce but I havent yet posted the photos of the actual event. I took a short video of the tea at the tea rooms, but cant work out how to upload it. So till then - here are some snaps!

A confident start with T-shirt and balloons at the ready! We called in to the lovely church at Moreton, with recent windows etched by Laurence Whistler. It is so full of light and the windows are poignant and wonderful. This one is a memorial to a pilot - its worth a closer look to see the tail of the plane and the smoke trail of the dogfight, and Salisbury Cathedral.

A tense moment as we cross a boggy stream, left in the aftermath of some planned tree clearance of the pine forest. One of our number asks for help in a fit of lack of confidence!

Some amazing pine cones found on the forest floor. We all ended up carrying one as maces or weapons of war, or even a disguise!

The final destination and my first cream tea of the year, with myself and LLF (who is now an Honorary Lady having proved she can buy a round of drinks too) to the forefront. Incidentally we raised £125 for Breakthrough on the way.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Hip hip hurray, my birthday today!

Today is my 60th birthday!
A photo of this morning's poppy in the sunshine to celebrate it.

We've just had a family weekend in London, to celebrate the "zero" birthdays and events this year :-
The Man of the House's 70th; my 60th; Eldest Daughter's 30th AND our 40th wedding anniversay later on. There was champagne drunk on top of the two tallest buildings in the City of London and much good food eaten. Photos to follow!

My lovely girl friends are taking me out tonight - a secret destination (I asked for it to be a secret!) but my request was a walk by the sea!

LLF is coming down for the event too. Mind you I will be talking to her about work - because my birthday present from by bosses (they have no idea its my birthday of course) is a new job! We are being "restructured" and some of us have been allocated new posts if our old one no longer exists. C'est moi! And it is not one I expressed a preference for, or am even looking forward to. Yukk. But I still have a job at least.

However I am not allowed to speak about it yet - because only those with "unexpected placements" have been told so far. So I have taken the next couple of days off work as it seems unbearable to have to keep quiet with the close knit team of colleagues who are also affected by this decision. And to have to smile while receiving birthday congratulations!

I shall feel better about it soon, and will cease mourning my old lovely and enjoyable and exciting job. I wont let it affect my enjoyment of the day though. I had a good talk about it last night with sangha friends outside of work. And of course, it was soon put into perspective. One lovely lady has just celebrated her birthday which she knows it will be her last as she has cancer. Now that made not getting a job that I fancy seem hardly worth mentioning!

Still trying not to fall off this exceedingly wobbly stepping stone!!!

Onward and upward!!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Happenings in the garden

All sorts of flowers and bushes are blooming and blossoming. There are more aquilegia flowering than usual, and lots of different colours as they dont seed true colours apparently. Also known as columbine or granny's bonnets, they grow like weeds. Ive taken a few photos of the different colours.

The weigela is flowering well too, such a nice variety with its light pink flowers and variegated leaves. Its about fifteen years old and I hack it back each year. Its covered in bloom now, but this was a photo of an early flower.

The lilac is flowering nicely, though I think I will take out the small tree, its so straggly. You cant really prune it back to life, just start again with another younger tree I think.

You can see the white wisteria hanging down so beautifully. I really want a wooden arbour for it to trail across so that the blooms hang down between as you sit beneath. I saw one on a bridge over a lake in one of the Imperial gardens in Kyoto - it must be divine to walk beneath it in flower. I would be happy just to sit. We thought it was a mauve wisteria while we were waiting the seven years for it to flower! Now I think the white variety looks elegant against the flint stonework.

My young peony plant has got its first bud - after about five years of waiting! The person who gave it to me says it grows like a weed in her garden, I must be doing something wrong. I will take another photo when/if it flowers. That reminds me, I must pop out and stake it - its very windy right now, and the stem seems so fragile.

I walked outside to admire the bubbling stone, and realised that it was not bubbling very well at all. Only a trickle, it should be like the first photo. Then I looked more carefully and saw two eyes! Someone was having a rest, wedged between fountain head and stone!!