Monday, 29 May 2017

A free weekend (including Graham's birthday)

It's not often you get to do things for free, still less a whole weekend of them!  But a few weeks ago, for Graham's birthday, that's exactly what we managed to do.  Free sailing, tennis and swimming, accompanied by free desserts and strawberries and cream! 


Graham was working on Saturday morning, which gave the boys and me time to decorate his birthday cake.  We presented it to him at lunchtime, along with a little liquid refreshment.



For the afternoon, I thought it would be nice to do something a bit different.  Scanning the internet, I discovered that Burton Sailing Club had an open day, and we could go for a free ride on a sailing boat.  Perfect!  We headed down the road to Foremark Reservoir.  The very friendly club staff got us signed in and set up, and we all clambered into the motor boat to go catch a ride.  Unfortunately we'd picked the one moment of the day when the wind picked up and the rain came through.  Theo and I went first and missed the worst of the rain, but even so, the gusts made sailing a little too exciting for him, so we only had a short trip.  We switched with Toby and Graham, who had an even more exciting ride, with rain and a couple of mishaps (no one fell in!).  Straight after that, the sky cleared and the wind dropped right down, and we were back on shore watching all the boats peacefully drifting around in the sunshine.




For birthdays, we like to treat ourselves to dinner at a really high-class restaurant... so we went to McDonalds.  This decision was partly made because we had coupons to the value of three ice creams and a doughnut, so that was our free dessert.

In my search for things to do, I'd also discovered that it was a Great British Tennis Weekend.  Toby was very keen on this option, and barely managed to swallow his disappointment when Dad chose sailing instead.  So we decided that we could manage tennis after church on Sunday.  We went to the David Lloyd fitness club, which is one of those huge luxury gyms that you have to take out a mortgage to join.  It was warm and sunny and felt like we'd gone on holiday for the afternoon.

I'm very impressed by the efforts of the Lawn Tennis Association to get more people into tennis.  Last year Toby did a free six-week course; this year they have a couple of open weekends (the next is 22/23 July).  All the coaches we've met have been enthusiastic, friendly and professional, and it's resulted in us batting quite a few tennis balls around on the patch of grass at the end of our street.  This time Graham and I got a workout too, as we joined the adult coaching session and learned some of the basics of moving our feet and placing the ball.  Theo was noticeably youngest in the kids group, but he seemed to have fun and got some one-to-one attention.  Toby enjoyed being back on a court again too.

Afterwards we relaxed on the grass with a free bowl of strawberries and cream (an unexpected bonus!).  Then we had free run of the club's facilities for as long as we wanted.  We'd come prepared with swimming costumes, so we got changed and enjoyed the outdoor heated pool and jacuzzi.  We finally dragged ourselves out and headed home, sun-soaked and tired out by our free weekend!


Friday, 12 May 2017

How does your garden grow? Spring 2017

Isn't it exciting when little seeds you've planted start cautiously unfurling stalks and leaves, and turning into proper plants?  Most of my vegetable planting is now done for the spring, so I thought I'd update you with what's in this year.

I used some plastic sheets to turn my vegetable boxes into mini greenhouses, which I'd like to think helped with the germinating process.  One unexpected thing which sprouted were half a dozen courgette plants, which I assume are the same ones that never came up last year.  I transplanted them to some pots, where one has already been savaged by slugs.



The seeds that I did expect were spring onions, carrots and rocket, which have duly come up in neat little rows.  I haven't tried carrots before; they're supposed to be good companions for spring onions in some mutually beneficial way, so I'll put in another couple of rows soon and see how they go.

tiny spring onions and carrots


tomatoes and rocket

Other plants have been bought in.  Someone in the village put a mini-greenhouse-full of tomato plants outside their house, with an honesty box for charity, so I acquired four for a good cause.  The peas were a garden centre bargain - £2 for a tray which contained far more than I needed.  I do hope they do well, as I rather fancy podding my own peas.  I can't remember when I last ate peas from a pod - can you?

dwarf peas

Last year I coaxed strawberry runners from my old plants into growing by themselves.  The old plants died off, but the new ones are doing well.  When I turned the compost out of the old strawberry pots, I discovered it was full of woodlouse larvae, which may have had something to do with the demise of the strawberries.  Are they bad for plants?  I suspect ants of living in the other pots, which I wouldn't have thought would be much good for the plants, but so far they don't seem to be doing any harm.

strawberry flowers
So that's my attempt at self-sustainability this year.  How about you?  Are you growing anything?