Thursday, 3 August 2017


This summer, so far, is not going terribly well. A sunny, warm day is exceedingly rare, most days we have grey skies, wind (or at the least strong breezes), and rain. It's not cold here, it's the middling sort of temperature we see in spring or autumn, the temperature where winter clothes are too hot to wear but summer clothes a little too cold. I'm compromising with summer skirts and a woollen shawl. It's permanently damp, and that with the lack of direct sunlight means the midgies are having a field-day, leaving me and the rest of the village covered in itchy bites. It's not pleasant to go out in such conditions, and after around 5 pm it's almost impossible to go out; if we aren't getting bitten we're getting soaking. Thus, to compound the summer misery, the garden isn't doing too well: weeds, of course, are thriving, and happily my roses are doing well, but so many flowers have proved too fragile for the excessive rain and windy conditions - the night-scented stock, for example, has died with the exception of one tiny flower which I'm hanging on to in it's huge pot, the sweet-peas aren't growing at all, my sunflowers are 4'' seedlings, and the pansies seem to be on the point of giving up. Crop-wise, the tomatoes and onions have completely failed (Meg should take partial blame for the onions: she snapped most of their stalks in early July), and the main crop potatoes look rather weak. The second earlies, though, are marginally more successful: I did get a not-unreasonable amount when I dug them up at the weekend.

To continue this miserable train, I also have some very sad news to share. I mentioned in my July post Agnes and Florence weren't doing very well: happily Agnes has recovered and gained all her weight back and has returned to her enthusiastic self, but my poor little Florence didn't make it. I've taken this one rather hard: she was very dear to me, very dear indeed. She was a lovely, lovely little hen, very affectionate, good fun, very happy and had such good spirit. She wasn't much of a mixer with the other hens, she actually seemed to prefer my company. Every single time I went out she would run up to me for a cuddle whilst the other hens were checking out if I had treats for them and whether or not it would be worth running up to say hello. Often when I didn't go out in the garden for a while she'd stand on her log and shout the place down. She was very laid back, too: she'd usually lie in my arms, especially when I was talking to my neighbour over the fence, and was known to lie flat on her back on my knee (it's worth mentioning one shouldn't let birds lie on their back for too long). She died a fortnight ago, and it's still pretty fresh. I'm always aware, when talking about losing hens, that people think hens can be easily replaced but, as someone who keeps hens and interacts with them, they all have very distinct personalities and are fantastic pets (hens are the best pets I've ever had, and I've had cats, dogs, budgies, and guinea pigs), so I can't simply get another hen and feel back to normal. They may only be £5, but I will never own another Florence. I may one day find another hen who I love as much as I love her, but Florence is gone. It's a sad time. This is one of my favourite pictures of her - it's not a good one at all, she's not posing nicely, but the thing is my camera wouldn't focus and she stood for ages looking sweet, but just as the camera focused something grabbed her attention:

One of the odder consequences of Florence being ill was that I read a lot. In her last fortnight we let her do whatever she wanted, and she wanted just to sit on my knee. I spent all available time with her, and she'd just sleep in her blanket, and I would read: this is how, in about ten days, I read Aristotle's Ethics, Crime and Punishment, The Letters of Abelard and Heloise, and The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. Thus, I am nearly finished my 20 Books of Summer Challenge. Here's how it's looking:
  1. The Golden Ass by Apuleius. ✔
  2. Ethics by Aristotle. ✔
  3. Confessions by Augustine of Hippo. ✔
  4. The Symposium by Plato. ✔
  5. Constellation Myths: With Aratus's Phaenomena by Eratosthenes and Aratus. ✔
  6. The Letters of Abélard and Héloïse. ✔
  7. In Praise of Folly by Desiderius Erasmus. ✔
  8. Journals of Dorothy Wordsworth. ✔
  9. Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. ✔
  10. Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett. ✔
  11. Monkey by Wu Cheng'en. ✔
  12. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford. ✔
  13. The Vicar of Wakefield by Oliver Goldsmith. ✔
  14. Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay. ✔
  15. The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark. ✘
  16. As You Like It by William Shakespeare. ✔
  17. Two Gentlemen of Verona by William Shakespeare. ✔
  18. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. ✔
  19. Selected Letters by Jane Austen. ✘
  20. All Passion Spent by Vita Sackville West. ✔
I now have a rather intimidating 'to-be-reviewed' pile: I've made a start on Confessions, but Lord knows where I'll start writing about Ethics! I also have Seneca's Phaedra for this week, and the rest can keep until next week. As for this list, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie might prove tricky: I definitely owned this book but it's gone missing, so I ordered a new one at the start of July but it still hasn't arrived. It was supposed to arrive on the 18th I think, but no sign of it, and the seller proved to be rather difficult, simply saying "We've got until 2nd August". It's the 3rd now so I contacted them and they've offered to "replace" it (given they've kept saying "we've got until 2nd August" I find it hard to believe it's now been lost in the post). Got a refund instead and ordered it from someone else, so let's hope it arrives before the end of August. Quite a waste of time!

As for the Austen letters: this month is Adam's Austen in August: I didn't participate last year, but in 2015 I read Mansfield Park and Persuasion, and in 2014 Sense and Sensibility. I've also, at different times, read her other three novels, Pride and Prejudice, Emma, and Northanger Abbey, so it's now time to read the letters! Other than that, and Miss Jean Brodie of course, this month I'll be continuing my read of Gone With the Wind (this is my second read and I love it more than ever!) and Plato's The Last Days of Socrates. I also need to catch up on Vasari, but my only 'plan' is to read randomly.

I usually finish these posts with pictures of the garden but it's so wet and foul I have pictures either of my house plants, or pictures of the garden taken from inside! The first picture, though, was taken on a walk when it actually wasn't raining! It's the path that leads home:

Path home.

Thistles. I always associate thistles with August.

My cacti.

Herb seedlings: there's basil, parsley, oregano, and coriander. 
Bram (left) and Pepys (right). I don't usually include pictures of them simply because they usually sit on their tree in front of the window. The light behind them makes them look like little silhouettes, but in the miserable weather they seem content to just hang out in their cage, making them easy to take pictures of.

The garden in the rain.

The bottom of the garden.

Roses (dreadful picture again, I know, but as I say I took it from inside!).

2nd earlies (Charlottes)

Happy August, everyone! 😊


  1. That "garden in the rain" photograph tells your weather story so well. Sad summer so far, but reading seems to keep spirits up. I enjoyed meeting Bram and Pepys.

    1. Yes, it's miserable. It's typical - I just (a minute ago) replied to a comment on another post saying it was sunny, but as I began to reply to this the sun went in and it's raining again. Supposed to go for a walk at half three, bound to get soaking again!

      Pepys and Bram are great fun, but hating the weather too. Not been able to let them outside in the aviary all summer. The long term weather forecast is bleak, but perhaps September will be nice... :)

  2. Oh, I'm so so sad to hear about Florence! I'm going to send you a pm, as my comment is too long to fit, I think!

    Hugs to you!

  3. I'm sorry about your little hen, and the generally rotten summer. Thank goodness for books.

    1. Thank you, and yes, thank goodness for books. Mind, I'm shocked at how little I remember a few of them: I sat down yesterday to write something on The Good Soldier and I do not remember anything! Like, nothing at all except for the fact there was a character called Florence! It's quite scary. Same for the letters of Abélard and Héloïse - I remember liking it, and the general structure, but that's literally it. It's quite bizarre, and needless to say I won't be writing anything on those too until one day when I might re-read them :)

  4. So sorry to hear about Florence. :( In the last year my family lost one of our most personable hens as well, "Ruby". She was so plucky, yet sweet as can be, and I don't think we'll ever have another quite like her.

    Love your photos - the cacti make a really neat display. It sounds like your summer has been the opposite extreme of in the Seattle area, it's been in the upper 90s, and the sky's full of smoke from forest fires up north. I wish we could trade weather for a week or two (or more)!

    1. Thank you - Florence was quite plucky. She was so happy, I could see she was very proud as well, and I'm glad for the opportunity to make her happy. She loved her life, and I wish she had have had longer.

      The cacti are quite bonny - I do love them. I have some Easter and Christmas cacti too, just re-potted those a few days ago.

      Your weather sounds rather awful too - a happy medium would be most welcome!


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