Hellibores at Aunt’s

January 31, 2010

Hellibore about to flower

This is the largest hellibore that is about to flower at Aunts. However, we have to clear the garden so as to be able to get a skip in. Loads of trees are to go, leaving just a conifer, as they are seriously in the way. But in doing so, these hellibores would also be flattened. So I went up this evening in the dark (from having done the usual Mother run) to dig a couple up and pot them up.

Unfortunately for them, it turns out that they were growing through cracks in the hard standing, and it was impossible to do anything.

There were quite a number, and could only have been growing there for the last three or four years, since before that Aunt was still driving and parking her car on the hard standing.

Aunt’s funeral…

January 25, 2010

…was today. There was an impressive turn-out, even though the family, turned out in full, could not fill the first pew at the front. (the two young children, my nieces, did not attend, but apparently they were interested to, and even then the first pew would not have been filled).

A couple of hic-cups in the service. On one hymn, I had been trained to sing it by the text, rather than the line, so I was left hanging on at the end of the line (half way through a statement), where everyone else took a breath. Vicar might have been surprised by two strong singers in the front row (it would be four if the elder generation were in full form). Next was when the vicar introduced me to read…not the reading, but a poem; by that time I was up, so I continued to read the reading, and let the vicar correct himself to have Uncle read the poem.

But again, just like Father’s funeral, brother excelled at the Eulogy. Far better than uncle could have given, (given his poetry reading, which was without the a fluf, but lacked the “reading”) and I had already told him I knew he was the person for the job, but even so, this time, with the relative lack of material, he excelled, and afterwards I told him so. I again stumbled in the reading – what hope had I to write, let alone speak, an eulogy.

Mother managed the day relatively well. I stayed with her overnight last night – for practical reasons that proved correct – uncle was late. Mother does understand her sister has died etc.

After the service, the vicar gave mother a copy of the entire service, (his text, everything but the eulogy with brother will give her) in a suitable envelope. This impressed brother and I (it did not happen for our father), but really impressed brother’s wife – a Catholic (and hence my niece’s religion). I would not be surprised if her local priests don’t start doing the same thing in future.

We had a pub lunch afterwards, a local pub, which had been Aunt’s “regular” – by which I don’t mean she drank, but she attended, had pub lunches, and until she had to stop driving, Mother attended. The landlord recogised Mother, started to comment, so brother explained we had just come from the funeral – as if the black was not enough. Despite out attempt to get it across the local area, somehow they missed out the news,

It turns out they set her a place at her favourate table every day she was expected. Though they (clearly) did not get much profit from her custom, they too recognised she was a “pillar of the local community”. The had not heard, but had begun to be worried, explaining the previous no-shows as due to the exceptionally bad weather.

Aunt’s Death

January 23, 2010

My Aunt – Mother’s sister died some time last week at home.

I was the first to break in, (after the police) in 30 years, and what a complete mess I found.

Clearing the place will be a major job, even if one was not looking for relivent documents. Imagine 7 rooms crammed with rubbish,

But Uncle – surviving brother, the black sheep of the family, which is saying something given my status as a black sheep – is already creating a fuss, wanting to maximise his inheritance as soon as possible.

Learning to read novels

January 13, 2010

On the radio is a programme about the Juan Fernandez Islands, otherwise known as the Robinson Crusoe Islands. This reminds me of my first days at University.

I had studied science and music at school. I occasionally read novels, the
first of which was My Family and Other Animals by Gerald Durrell.
That was a story in itself, in that in those days WH Smiths employed people
who knew something; my mother asked one of them for a novel for me (about to go to secondary school) to read, and this was the suggested book. In the previous couple of years, my reading had been Principles of Physical Geography, and perhaps tellingly, the rather harder Principles of Physical Geology, which, aged 11, I found hard going.

Those books came from the local Public Library, not that you could get such books from the survivors of that service these days. I later discovered these were first year uni books.

As for the Durrell book, apart from devouring the rest of the series, I ended up
re-reading the book as it was a set text for the second year at secondary
school. Hum.

But having made it to University, I decided that I would extend my reading, and the first book I choose was what I believe was the first novel, namely
Robinson Crusoe. Again, I found it quite hard going. But I made it, and various other “classics”, to today’s rather eclectic mix of my reading. Despite having read the book, I still think of the (Dutch?) TV series based on the book, and in particular the short but memorable theme tune.

As for the radio programme playing in the background, how goats and *bramble* were introduced (Bramble? Who on earth just happened to have one spare as they were passing?)

Today I received in the post two communications from Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMCE as was). One was a tax refund. The other was a letter informing me that HMRC had looked at my file and decided that I should now submit a tax return every year.

The phone number on the form was incorrect; so was the number I was given the first time I got the wrong department. But eventually I got the right department. And I was launched into my second best joust with HMRC.

This is not an exact replication.

Having had to give huge amounts of personal details to prove who I was, I asked why I had been sent a letter stating that I would now have to send in tax returns, when I had been doing so for the last 18 years; and that in the same post I received a tax refund based upon the (paper) tax return submitted last October. While there was minor squirming of the jobsworth, I also threw in that I did not want a fine for a not submitted tax return at the end of Jan.

My best retort was when the company received a fine for not submitting the
company’s tax return. “Why are you fining us for non-submission of a return
when you also sent us a refund based upon the very return you claim you
never received”.

The cold continues

January 9, 2010

Fountain in Heron Square, Richmond.

Heron Square is a privately owned block on the riverside at Richmond, ajoining Richmond bridge to the north. Usually the square is opened up on Saturdays to a Farmer’s Market. (They used to have their own web site but I could not find a link to it! It was quite sparse there today, I suppose post Christmas as well as the general cold.

For some reason they had left the fountain running over the cold spell, and it produced a rather intesting effect (above).

The first thing I check when I arrive at Mother’s (apart that she’s OK) is the greenhouse, as there is still a bit of light. This was the case yesterday, where I noticed the minimum temperature had been just under 2C, and the maximum about 9C. So just frost free, and with the cold air blower running all the time, no damage anywhere.

I took this photo of the Cymbidium; although there was still daylight, the camera could not record a decent image without flash, which is why the backgrounds of so many greenhouse shots taken at this time of the year are so dark.