Friday, 31 December 2010

Days of Auld Lang Syne

To-day in Scotland it's Hogmanay, which is not, as some might think, a drunken revelry (that comes later)
but is rather a time for reflection, and clearing the decks in readiness for the New Year. Bills paid, amends made, my mother would spend the day scouring the house and doing an enormous washing, for come the bells, there must not be a speck of dirt in the house. Just before midnight, even the ashes were raked from the grate. A window was opened, to let out the old year, then the front door, to let in the new. An uncle soon appeared, to ensure our "first foot" would be male, laden with food, drink and fuel, shortbread, whisky and coal.
Everything that happened at New Year was supposed to be symbolic of how the year would be and so much stress was placed on seeing in the bells at home with your loved ones that the English tradition of gathering in Trafalgar Square seemed very alien and not a little reckless. But times change and now Edinburgh has become so famous as party central that you have to buy a ticket for the Princes Street celebrations. From my house, I can see the shimmer of the fireworks and a moment later hear the "Crump!" Indeed, if I drove five minutes down the road I'd have a terrific view of Edinburgh Castle, but old habits die hard. Do I really want to be out on the streets come the bells? What would that presage?
Happy New Year!
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Sunday, 19 December 2010

Cabin Fever

Oh snow, not again. Am snow scunnered. Sorry to drop into dialect, but sometimes English is just not enough. I am not annoyed, irritated or fed up, I'm scunnered.
Right, that's that off my chest.
Last week was spent doing some serious number-crunching, so to cheer myself up I indulged in a spot of retail therapy, courtesy of you, the tax-payer. I ordered four apples, a plum, a pear and a cherry for the potager. The apples will be trained as stepovers along the central path and the plum, pear and cherry will, eventually, be fans to make a lovely backdrop of blossom and fruit. I know it's a gamble, given the precarious state of local government finance, but although you should live each day as if it's going to be your last, you have to garden as if you're going to live forever.
So thank you, fellow tax-payer, your generosity is appreciated. I also ordered some young perennials. Potted up and grown on, I'll sell them at our open day and the profit from that will more than cover the cost of the fruit trees. El Jeffe is talking about having three open days next year. Not sure if that's economically sound, but who am I to question my superiors?
Well, it's stopped snowing, so I'll go and clear the drive. May you all have a wonderful Christmas, and a happy New Year. Lang may yir lum reek!

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Morning Rush Hour
This is actually a picture I took last year, cos my phone and netbook are not speaking to each other. Something to do with Mercury being retrograde, I'm told, but it's all magic moonbeams to me. Anyway, this latest batch of snow is much deeper and still lying on the trees. It's so deep we're closed to the public so I've not had to rescue anyone (yet). Most of the gardeners have been seconded to the roads department and despite working their socks off to clear roads and pavements, they're still being subjected to dog's abuse from the very people whose cars they're pushing out of drifts. Honestly. So if you see some yellow coated homunculi spreading grit or shovelling snow, please don't throw things at them, or swear, or tell them it's all their fault you can't get to work.
The good news is the greenhouses are still standing, only five panes cracked. Last winter two unheated houses and two netting tunnels collapsed under the weight of snow. It was a horrific sight, all that broken glass and tortured metal, it gave me an inkling of how devastating earthquakes and the like must be. If it felt that bad seeing my workplace destroyed, how awful is it when your home's in ruins? This brings me to something that's been preying on my mind a lot. The plan to evict council house tenants if their income enables them to rent privately horrifies me. How evil to destroy people's security of tenure and turn housing schemes into transit camps for the poor. You may have been brought up to not play with those dirty schemies, and don't understand anyone wanting to live there, but believe me, the vast majority are decent, hardworking people. Why they should work to line the pockets of private landlords is beyond me.It's obscene and will turn housing schemes into ghettoes and I'm surprised that it's caused so little comment.
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