The Cucumber Assassin

How hard can it be to grow a few edibles in the garden?

Well, harder than I thought. Take your cucumber – tricky little devil. On my second attempt now – the first batch just, well, collapsed and died! Not through over watering as I first thought – I think it was because I neglected them – nay! abandoned them!  on the cold conservatory windowsill when the temperature plummeted for one night to almost zero!

So here they are – the second batch – basking in the almost tropical heat of the kitchen windowsill. I’m afraid to move them now!

They are actually outdoor cukes and below are the ones I planted directly outside:   not died off – yet! – happy in their 5 star accommodation – cosseted, in fact, I’d say!

So their fate lies with my limited (but rapidly expanding!) horticultural knowledge and the fickle English climate.

I know! Stick to courgettes! But I want to grow one of these!

April 2020 The Lockdown

At the beginning of this year I said to myself that the year 2020 had a nice ring to it – nice round numbers – how wrong can you be!

We are living through extraordinary times – the COVID-19 pandemic is testing our reserves of patience, mettle, and resources to the limit. It’s only been a couple of weeks since life as we knew it was left behind to be  replaced by a daily COVID-19 TV Bulletin to inform us of the death toll and most recent infections – staggering statistics. They have brought into sharp relief the vital role of some of our nation’s workers  – those whose skills and services are keeping us going – doctors and nurses to tend to the seriously ill, farmers and food producers to keep us fed, delivery drivers to get the food to us, manufacturers who have been brought in to make ventilators and vital equipment, scientists to develop a vaccine to help combat the pandemic – and so many others. Although many people view the internet and social media as necessary evils, at the moment these things are providing a life line for vulnerable members of the community and helping preserve our mental well being.

Today’s politicians are  much maligned but in my opinion Boris Johnson and his team of ministers are not doing a bad job. We as a nation are not used to being told what to do but we’ve seen that there are people who don’t cooperate willingly and have shown themselves to be selfish and irresponsible  so  if it is necessary to introduce the same stringent measures brought in by other countries before us in a bid to save as many lives as possible – then why not?

At the other end of the scale there are people who, finding themselves unemployed or unable to continue their normal routine,  have volunteered to help in whatever way they can – what an amazingly generous attitude. I have relatives in Spain where the corona virus has had an equally devastating effect – they too have witnessed the best and the worst of human nature throughout this crisis and are shocked at its chilling trajectory. These are scary times – I think most of us just feel as if we are living through a bizarre and surreal situation – we are desperate to return to normal life but we also know that to achieve our aim we must do what we’re being asked to do. In times like these some people turn to their religion, others eat or drink too much, or there’s that pile of books you never got round to reading, or those recipes you could try or a game of Scrabble (now we are getting desperate!) We could end up as a nation of Candy Crush addicts! What is for sure is that we will end up with the best kept gardens ever!! especially if the sun keeps shining!

Experiments in black and white

I would never want to see things in just black and white, but as far as photography goes, with the aid of Photoshop you can see your colour photos as monochrome images as well and it makes for an interesting experiment. You find yourself concentrating more on the shapes, textures and composition of a picture – it’s a bit like when you turn the volume on a television down – what you notice are the facial expressions of the people on the screen, their gestures and movements rather than just what they are saying.

Of course some people only ever shoot their pictures in monochrome and they often turn out more striking than if you desaturate an image you’ve taken in colour. Here are some of my black and white pictures: I think architectural features stand out, patterns and textures are accentuated, you notice the shadows, reflections and shapes in the windows of buildings, the markings on a butterfly’s wings or a bird’s plumage.

The beautiful veined pattern on a brunnera

Vibrant colour is what most people associate with this plant but its form is beautiful too.
In this formal arrangement of lilies the contrast of the stalks behind them makes this composition work even better in monochrome.

I love this picture – the snowy white plumage of the goose and the dark gravel behind it. Birds’ plumage and their beady eyes look great in black and white

Vaulted ceiling in Avila Cathedral
And this is Ludlow Castle on the Herefordshire- Shropshire border, with its imposing walls and textured stone.
A typical house in the village of Weobley, Herefordshire – part of the Black and White Trail.
and this is also in Weobley, known as a cruck house for its curved timber frame.
There are many interior and exterior architectural features, which stand out when they are illustrated in black and white, and smaller every day things, like pieces of furniture, which just catch the eye.

What do you see here? I see a snake, but this is the stone lip of a water trough covered in lichen.
Avila’s impressive city walls
A market canopy in Sevilla, Spain with its unusual geometric roof
Arab Baths in Granada, Spain – a double take with its reflected image

Reflections, mirrored in water or glass, create some interesting effects

Glass panels in a block of flats in Girona, Spain
or man made features. such as this pebble mosaic garden path in a park in Madrid.

A silhouette creates a stunning image. A dark shape or outline against a light background makes for a great photo.

Toddler enjoying the cooling spray of a fountain in a park in Barcelona.
Butterfly alighting on a plant to feed

Eliminatiing the colour is an excellent ploy for getting people to concentrate on the details, the forms, the action …….

All decked out for the equestrian extravaganza that is La Feria de Abril in Sevilla, southern Spain
Little girl posing for a photo on the balcony of her home during La Feria de Abril
Spectators following the action as competitors climb up the hill into Avila, central Spain in the annual Vuelta a España cycle race.
Muscle power! Competitors on their way through Avila during La Vuelta a España
The city walls of Avila – magnificent backdrop to an exciting sporting event – the annual Vuelta a España cycle race .

I’ll finish with some butterflies – one of the most colourful creatures I can think of – but with their extraordinary markings they still look beautiful in black and white !