Holiday treats

We had a lovely week in a fairly isolated bay in Corfu – looking over the sea and high on a hillside. Our main exercise was walking to the bay and taverna – up and down a 1 in 5 rough hillside. Glow worms twinkling when we staggered home in the evenings.

A couple of weeks ago I had a deep dive (40m) and saw many large barrel sponges, lots of whip coral and some red and purple sea cucumbers. … On the way back to shore, the pilot of the boat saw a whale shark under about 6m of water, so we got close then went in with mask, fins and snorkel and tried to swim with it. It was about 6m long (they said) which is small for a whale shark, but by lazily sweeping its huge tail from side to side it went too quick for me to keep up for long. It was great to see it.

We’ve been going swimming yesterday and will be going swimming at the park today when X’s woken up in a rain kind of thing, which wets people but not the people on the other equipment at the park. [!]

We did do some short ‘walks’ in the Drakensburgs. They are marked paths which supposedly anyone can do. One was a 4 hour walk, and it took us that long, virtually to the minute. However we didn’t realize that we would be doing some rock climbing on it, and probably wouldn’t have done it had we been warned. Once we’d got to the top of the ridge it was very windy, freezing cold, but with a superb view.

She is back after 10 weeks in the Solomon Islands. Her dreams of a tropical island paradise were rather shattered there: beautiful blue sea which she couldn’t swim in because of the coral and various sorts of sea creatures (hostile sorts), lovely white sand which turned out on closer inspection to be gritty pieces of coral only to be walked on with thick-soled sandals and a sun which doesn’t just burn, it frazzles.

There are a few celebrations now planned… The team are going on a boat trip up the Hawkesbury River. The boat is the last ‘mail boat’ in Australia and provides a mail service to people living on the Hawkesbury. I think it is more of a tourist attraction these days but it should be a really relaxing day.

Prague is wonderful – even considering we never saw any sunshine – cloudy and rainy and cold. … We ate at the local cafes – went to lots of music concerts in different churches 5 p.m. or 7 p.m. You can dash to two if you like – went to the theatre. Had 5 days in Prague and then went to a Baroque old town in the South. Sun came out … Bohemia was beautiful countryside and old country towns.

… such a nice letter from X this a.m. She suggests that I go for a short coach tour in Switzerland next spring. Given I can sell the house and feel less broke and more energetic I’d rather fancy going with her.

whale watching

In April we went on a Caribbean cruise on the Norway which used to be the SS France when she was a Trans-Atlantic liner. It was a wonderful holiday with great weather and very relaxing. In September my friends came to visit and we had a lovely time including going whale watching in the Bay of Fundy – what a fantastic experience to see them so close up – the whales I mean!!!

We all keep on gardening

My B&B business is still thriving, nearly all the proceeds of which go into the upkeep of the garden. However hard I try to be abstemious, I always end up spending a fortune on seeds and plants each year, and then wondering why I have to spend so much time watering when the weather is hot and dry! … some things did extremely well, such as roses, peas, garlic, onions and autumn raspberries, while others failed quite spectacularly, in particular, summer raspberries, most tree fruit and broad beans. All my tomatoes and peppers were very late producing anything edible, due to the lack of sun in early summer, but there wasn’t a sign of the usual infestation of whitefly. There’s no pleasing gardeners, is there!

I had a lad who helped with the mowing for most of the summer. Very useful but he did it so badly that it nearly drove me to drink!

The ground is squelchy with wet after last night’s downpour and there won’t be very much more I can usefully do in the garden until it dries up a bit! The poor little seedlings do look bedraggled after it and I might earth them up a bit I suppose, but it seems rather fiddly and pointless to mess with them. Actually the slugs will finish them off in one more night if I leave them I expect – they have devoured a line of carrots, the first line of kale and sprouts and all the dwarf beans to date so there isn’t much hope I feel!

There is quite a large backyard which has an orange tree and some vegetables which I planted. However it mainly looks very run down as nothing has been done to it for years. I expect I will have to battle for several more years to rid it of noxious grasses which just take over if not kept constantly in check. Come autumn I will have planned it (I hope) and can plant some shrubs and ground cover which should improve it greatly. I have things in the front garden now – some cooking herbs, a climbing rose (to hide the iron fence), a white and ordinary coloured lavender, a rosemary bush, and two daisies both of which have a fungus and will have to be destroyed.

…if you’re against strong poisons on weeds and have only a small area, a drop of petrol will go down to the roots in no time, useful for between paving.

water creature

 

For my birthday in July everyone generously gave me money so I could put a water feature in the garden or, as X calls it, my water creature.

 

The garden has been lovely, always something new… I got quite a lot of strawberries last year, made lots of my strawberry syrup and bottled it. We shall use most of our homemade jams in the tearoom, muffins & jam etc. I may do marmalade and lemon curd for sale as one can make them any time. We have a good fig tree too, some citrus and mulberries besides plenty of pawpaws. We may do things like homemade bread & pate for lunches, and fruit salad. Youngberries and blackberries are growing well. Hazel nut trees have taken and one sweet chestnut tree, one blackcurrant (one small shoot survived the new gardener!) [Green with envy re this list!]

The weather here in Sydney is gradually getting warmer as spring turns into summer. The trees and shrubs are all in bloom so the City looks great. The Jacaranda trees have been stunning. I went on a garden excursion recently – to see some private gardens in the Blue Mountains. Unfortunately it rained all day and it really rains hard here. Anyway we had to spend a lot more time on refreshments than viewing.

The varieties of potatoes have me intrigued. One of the ‘house’ type magazines I bought had a feature on potatoes: it was really quite an education. One rather intriguing one is Purple Congo which is quite small and dark purple. I t mashes quite well apparently, to a beautiful lavender shade reminiscent of a colour some elderly ladies used to like their blouses. A bit off-putting, so I haven’t tried it, even though the writer of the article did promise it was very tasty. I am not going to have any vegetables other than a few herbs in pots. I cannot get enough sun at the right time for them to grow properly. I don’t want to put them in the front, although many home gardeners of Mediterranean origin do. You see these beautifully staked beans and tomatoes in beds next to the roses, which may have garlic or onions growing under them. … I sort of run out of steam when planting the front, as I came to the foundations of the original house in just that strip where I could plant. So it was digging and prising small stones from between very much larger and heavier ones, and chipping off the sopping old mortar. I couldn’t get out the largest: they were just too heavy, apart from being at a depth of from just above my knees down. I would see people drive and walk slowly past me trying to peer inconspicuously to see what I was doing, knee-deep in my own front garden.

What some do for fun

“We can concentrate on our training… we start at 8 a.m. day one and partner rides about 60 kms to where I am waiting and I run 23 kms over a mountain range. Then we sleep. Day 2 partner kayaks 67 kms down a river and I ride 70 kms. We’ll be tired at the end of it!!”

“We went to see this really funny movie called ‘Crocodile Dundee’, which is about this guy who lives in the Australian outback, and this female New York reporter comes to him because his leg had been bitten off, and he crawled to the hospital, and she wanted a story. Anyway, it ended up him coming to New York, where some really funny things happened, e.g. this robber stole this woman’s purse and ran off with it in the street, but Crocodile Dundee picked up a tin from the woman’s dropped grocery bag and threw 20 metres to hit the robber on the head. Anyway it was a choice film.”

“… 80 of her friends came [to the 21st party] – I was most impressed that none of the 80 smoked. Without exception they were all into rock-climbing or tramping or diving or … other disgustingly healthy pursuits!”

“We have been visiting friends. They spend about 3 months in the old goldfields prospecting. They stay in Tarnagulla which is a town of about 100 now but was approx. 70,000 during the gold rush. The trees have grown back and it is v. peaceful with the birdsong… [re postcard photo of Great Ocean Road] There are now only 8 apostles left. One crumbled into the sea, captured by amateur video, quite recently.”

gone fishing

“They had a little boat and the weather was good… One snag for him was that she caught lots of fish including two big ones they brought home and are now in the deep freeze, and he only caught 2 trout that weren’t big enough to keep!”

“I’m also playing rugby again this year and Mummy’s paranoid I’m going to get mortally injured. So much for family support!”

“… a man came in the other day who was 199 kg!! and he went bungee jumping! – they had to give him 2 bungee cords because one would have snapped.”

“The weekend was really fun, we played games the first evening, lazed around and played beach cricket the next morning, had a few deep and meaningful discussions interspersed with racing around the sand-dunes, games in the afternoon, dinner, then a bonfire on the beach for a large portion of the evening while we talked about direction and our lives and roasted marshmallows. (We ate the marshmallows, not talked about them!)”

campfire

The attraction of camels

“Our camel safari was great – a long way down to fall. Felt very precarious. The worst was when the camel lurched to its feet – or knelt to go down. We had our camel man and a guide – they put up our tent and cooked us breakfast and dinner. Lunch was cold. We needed it after all morning in the saddle under the hot sun. Pushkar Fair and Hindu Festival was marvellous.”

[Morocco] “Surprise, we are here in N. Africa. Decided to come for two weeks of sunshine. All the grey was getting depressing! We are enjoying the different way of life – having to bargain for everything. Of course we have had a camel ride!”

“We are in Broome. It is quite a fascinating place. Our hotel is on the ‘waterfront’, where we can observe the 9 metre tides – quite astounding the difference between high and low. It is still a pearl producing centre and we have visited the town’s jewellers. X worked out that if she sold her house, car and the cat she would be able to afford two of the strands of pearls we saw… We have both bought pearl shell buttons… I am able to report that I have been on an hour’s camel ride, first along the beach at dusk, then into sand dunes under a starry sky. Magic. I think I could easily sit on a camel for several days on a trek, but I will have to win a lottery. The early days here were very rough and ready, I understand, and quite dangerous. There is a Japanese cemetery where 909 Japanese (mostly divers) were buried.”