Friday 18 November 2022

...colour crochet mania

For my birthday this year I was treated to membership of an online crochet course I've been coveting for months - 'Homage to the (Granny) Square', by Sue Maton at The Mercerie. The course runs over 6 months, with permanent access to the online material once the 'live' course is over. The start date was 1st November, and for the past few weeks we have been focussing on colour theory, making colour wheels...
...experimenting with tone and colour harmonies...
...exploring the Rowan Felted Tweed colour range (the recommended yarn)...
...playing with possible colour combinations - I used an online app for this...
...until finally arriving at our own individual colour schemes after (in my case) hours of careful deliberation. 
I was thinking about the beach at Seahouses (never far from my mind's eye) when I made my choices. The centre of my blanket will predominantly consist of the first five colours, which remind me of the sand dunes and sky at sunrise/sunset. The border will utilise the four blues, representing sea and sky. The vibrant red is my "wild" colour - inspired by the huge red poppies we saw growing wild amongst the dunes last summer. 

This is probably the most ambitious (and expensive) project I have ever embarked upon. I never usually buy expensive yarn - my "stash" consists of odd balls bought in sales, charity shop finds and cast-offs from friends. I still have oddments of yarn from when my children were little (30+ years old!). Those same lovely children clubbed together to give me a voucher for my local wool shop for my birthday, to help with the cost of the yarn, and I found an online shop offering a 25% discount for the rest. Even so, it feels a bit 'wrong' to be spending so much money on myself, especially during a global recession...but I'm itching to make a start with these gorgeous colours, and I know I'll love every second of the making process. Hopefully the finished blanket will be both beautiful and useful, and enjoyed by all of us for a very long time.

Hot off my hook - keeping my hands busy while I wait to embark on 'The Blanket of Joy' - is this wondrous creation, made of cheap and cheerful Stylecraft yarn - leftovers from this year's 100 day project, my daughter's Rose Cottage blanket and the Attic24 Harmony blanket that got me back into crochet just 12 short months ago. 
I made it up as I went along, starting with two large, identical hexagons, which each formed an 'L' shape (for the sleeves and body) when folded in half. I widened the back and lengthened the body with some big granny squares, and then added more length, and breadth at the front, with another ten rounds (starting centre back, going up the front, round the neck and down the other side). I added smaller granny squares to the sleeves, to make them 3/4 length, and then did a few decreasing rounds to gather them in slightly.
Sticking to traditional granny square rules I gave almost zero thought to colour combinations - mostly just grabbed the nearest ball to hand at the start of each round. I fully accept that it's at the loud and garish end of the colour scheme spectrum, and probably not to most/many people's tastes! My daughter has already named it 'Joseph' and I suspect my husband is refraining from comment on the grounds of 'If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all'...but it's a really warm, substantial garment (like a blanket in clothing form), and I will probably live in it all winter. It also fits beautifully with my 'Pushing 60 and Past Caring' style aesthetic!

Monday 7 November 2022

...Seahouses IX

Day One: First (rather blurry) glimpse of the beach, late afternoon, wind whipping the waves and driving sand across the shore, with Bamburgh Castle on the horizon. All this photo needs is a swooning lady with a heaving bosom in the foreground to make it the perfect front cover for a Mills & Boon historical romance.
The wind drove us away from the scouring sand towards the rocky shoreline at the start of the beach. I've never explored this section before - the path takes you onto the beach just after the rocks, and they're often under water unless the tide is quite far out. We've always just walked away from them, in the opposite direction, which turns out to have been a "Big mistake. Huge". (Roberts, J., 1990, Pretty Woman) These stratified rocks are AMAZING, carved and shaped by wind, sand and water into sweeping curves, etched with intricate swirls and patterns, and especially beautiful when softly lit by the low autumn sun. What a welcome back!

Day Two: We walked from Seahouses to Bamburgh along the beach. The wind had left hundreds of pebbles perched on their own little plinths...sea snail colonies huddled among the rocks...and porcelain-fine sea urchin shells scattered on the sand.

Day Three: We walked the length of the beautiful crescent beach at Beadnell Bay, on an overcast, windy day, pausing to watch the kite surfers sweeping back and forth across the surface of the waves, occasionally becoming airborne, like leaping salmon. Picked up a glowing turquoise shell, half-buried in the sand, which faded to pearly white indoors, away from that big, blue, reflective space.
Day Four: Rain was forecast, and rain came. We spent most of the day indoors, relaxing, reading, watching films, then mid-afternoon decided to disregard the weather and head for the beach. Even when it's almost entirely stripped of colour, misty, cold, and wet, this is still my favourite place to be - complete with prehistoric cave paintings and sentimental Valentines doodled in the sand.

Day Five: We packed up the car and parked by the beach for the final walk of the holiday - heading straight for the rocks this time! I will never grow tired of this beautiful place. 

Friday 14 October 2022

...a long weekend in Newcastle-upon-Tyne

Earlier this year my in-laws floated the idea of a trip away together for my husband's birthday. Initially we discussed traveling to Edinburgh by train, but eventually we decided to stay closer to home, and have a long weekend in Newcastle-upon-Tyne instead. Newcastle is top of my "Cities Most Likely To Move To" list, if we ever decide to leave Leeds. In fact, it's pretty much the only contender. My younger son went to Northumbria University, and we got to know the city quite well during pick-ups, drop-offs, and visits in between. I was thrilled to be returning!
  • Day One: My F-i-L wanted to travel there and back via the Tyne Tunnel. As a semi-retired mining engineer he's obsessed with large underground holes - filled or otherwise - so this came as no surprise. I prefer to salute the Angel at Gateshead whenever we head North, but compromise is everything in this game, so we dipped under the river, came up the other side and then, at his request, drove a little further past the city to visit Northumberlandia, the Lady of the North. Turns out this 'land sculpture' was created using earth from a neighbouring surface mine...well fancy that! We had a wander around the Lady's curvaceous contours, with a running commentary from our own on-site expert, and a cake-and-coffee break at the on-site cafe... 

...before heading to our city-centre apartment, just down the street from Grey's Monument, with (literally) a bird's eye view of the city below us. 
  • Day Two: We took the Metro to Tynemouth Station Market, which advertises itself as not just a market, but a good day out! I can certainly vouch for this - it was big, bustling and busy - with loads of different stalls, selling something for everyone, all under cover of the glazed Victorian station roof. We browsed up and down the platforms for ages, and I had a long felting/knitting/crochet-related chat with a lovely lady called Mairi, a.k.a. Raggy Badger, before purchasing a card and a little felt fox with a woolly scarf from her colourful stall. I so admire anyone who has the courage and commitment to "put themselves out there" and sell their work in this way - I always try to support with a purchase if/when I can. I also rescued a "pre-loved" doll (nice face, but in need of some TLC), from a mountain of dishevelled Barbies on a second hand toy stall, and bought two jars of homemade jam - strawberry and rhubarb, and raspberry curd. Both absolutely delicious on toast!
After we'd finished at the market we had a walk through the town to the beach, paused for a cake-and-coffee break, and then called into the amazing Razzberry Bazaar, a one-of-a-kind shop selling "an eclectic mix of creatively colourful clothing, accessories, gifts and homeware from around the world". Tucked away in a little back room there were some bolts of beautiful cotton fabric reduced to just £5 per metre. I couldn't resist buying the last couple of metres of some cotton lawn patchwork fabric - little 3" squares individually machine-stitched together. What a bargain!


In the evening we went along to the Alphabetti theatre for a 'pay-what-you-feel' performance of Sugar Baby, a darkly funny and somewhat surreal one-man play about an extraordinary day in the life of Marc, a small-time Cardiff drug dealer (played by Ben Gettins). We all enjoyed Ben's energetic performance, which really brought the story to life...but the narrow bench seating was excruciatingly uncomfortable, so we were quite relieved that it only lasted an hour! 

  • Day Three: After a leisurely breakfast we headed down the hill to the Quayside Market. Having picked up all those bits and pieces the day before I was trying to "look, not buy", and was doing quite well until we came to the Cotfield Mirrors stall. This is run by a husband and wife team (Alan and Carol), who specialise in mosaic/stained glass adornment of mirrors, furniture and more. Alan's style is quite precise, utilising intricate geometrical patterns, whereas Carol's work is more eclectic and unconventional. She incorporates pottery fragments, ornaments, shells, and other decorative found objects into her designs, and the longer you look the more you discover. I especially loved her tiny tableaux made from miniature model railway figures - flying kites, rock-climbing and sunbathing - inside little tins and broken tea cups that were grouted into the frames. 
Carol told me she often works on commission, either to a specific theme (e.g. Alice in Wonderland, Beatrix Potter, seaside, fairies, etc.) or a personalised design, using objects/items that have sentimental value to the customer (e.g. costume jewellry, watch faces, etc.) as a starting point. I couldn't afford any of Carol's more intricate work, but I really liked one of her 'simpler' mirrors, framed in a recycled wooden cable reel and decorated with the rich blue/white/gold/floral fragments of a ceramic vase. I decided to take the plunge and spend the money my parents gave me for my birthday - with instructions to "get yourself something you'll really enjoy" - because this mirror fitted the bill perfectly. Quite fortuitously, it also turned out to fit the wall space in my hallway perfectly too! I couldn't get a photo of it in situ without getting reflections of distracting clutter in the mirror, so have borrowed Carol's own photo instead, which really does it justice.
Copyright Cotfield Mirrors Handcrafted Mosaics 

Next stop was The Biscuit Factory, an independent art, craft and design gallery, with a lovely roof-top cafe, which we always try to visit whenever we're in Newcastle. I was happy to find that it had survived Covid and was still in business, showcasing and selling a wide range of work by all sorts of different artists. After the obligatory cake-and-coffee break we had a leisurely wander round the gallery. Having already blown my budget on Carol's mirror I came away empty-handed this time, but with a head full of inspiration and ideas.

The walk back to the city centre from The Biscuit Factory takes you through a rather run-down "no-man's-land" kind of area, alongside a busy 4-lane highway and over a series of pedestrian bridges across the A167 motorway, which intersects the city. I stopped to take a photo of this abandoned, semi-derelict building as we passed, and thought to myself, "Even the 'bad' bits of this city are beautiful!"

Our final stop for the day was at the Laing Art Gallery, as my in-laws wanted to revisit the Lindisfarne Gospels exhibition, which we had all seen together on a trip to Durham a few years ago. My M-i-L recalled that she had found it "disappointing" at the time (so did I), but they were prepared to overlook Einstein's other theory ("insanity = doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result") and return for a second viewing. Maybe I was just feeling a little tired at the end of a long day, but even with yet another cake-and-coffee break beforehand, I was firmly in Einstein's camp on this occasion. I appreciate the historical and religious significance attached to the book, but peering at it from 3ft away, through glass, in a very dimly lit room just doesn't do it for me! The book obviously needs to be preserved and displayed with great care, under very special conditions, but the exhibition would be vastly improved by the addition of some high quality reproductions (done to scale) of its individual pages, displayed in a well lit room, perhaps accompanied by replicas of the tools and materials the artist would have used to create such amazingly detailed and intricate work. Hey-ho! You can't win 'em all!

  • Day Four: We packed our suitcases and headed for the coast on the final day of the holiday. My M-i-L wanted to visit Spanish City at Whitley Bay, as she had heard about it but never seen it. We had one last cake-and-coffee break at Valerie's Tearoom and then walked along the beach for a while, in a vain attempt to burn off a fraction of our four-day accumulation of cake-and-coffee calories. I may never be able to look at a fruit scone again, but as holidays go, this long weekend in lovely Newcastle was a great success!

Friday 9 September 2022

...Troubles come in threes

1. On the Wednesday, at 8am, I got a panicked call from my Mum, to say that my Dad was having severe abdominal pains and had collapsed in the bathroom. I told her to phone an ambulance, then raced round to their house to wait with them until it arrived, around 40 minutes later. We then spent 12 hours at the hospital, in a scarily crowded/chaotic A&E department, where it was eventually decided that there had been a problem with the inguinal hernia he has been nursing for nearly three years, which had (thankfully) "resolved itself" without the need for emergency surgery. We decided that, on balance, even though the start of the day had been horrific, the outcome was almost worth it, as he was seen by a consultant who recommended he be booked in for a planned hernia repair operation in 4 months' time (allowing 6 months recovery time after his recent heart attack). Being free from near-constant hernia discomfort will be wonderful for him. 

2. The following night (the Thursday) it was the XXSCat Dog's turn to be taken for emergency treatment, after we discovered a painful swelling in her nether regions. This turned out to be an anal gland abscess, which actually burst while we were en route to the Vet. Here she is, cowering under the waiting room bench at midnight, rightly feeling very sorry for herself, poor wee girl. 

We felt incredibly guilty for not having picked up on the problem sooner - she had been very quiet and refusing to eat all day, but this wasn't completely out of character for her, and we'd put it down to the oppressively hot weather affecting her appetite. She's never had any issues like this before, but extensive post-incident-Googling (bordering on doctoral research) has taught me that anal gland problems are actually quite common in small dogs like her. It didn't help that she hadn't displayed any of the tell-tale behaviours that generally signal something amiss, which apparently include bottom-scooting and obsessive bottom-licking, in case anyone is interested! 

A strict, round the clock, nursing regime was put in place: co-codamol tablets at 7am, 3pm and 11pm, penicillin at 11am and 11pm, anti-inflammatory syrup at 11pm, nether regions bathing in warm water several times per day, and anti-bottom-licking devices installed. The grey Cone of Despair was briefly trialled (OMG, those accusatory eyes)...

...but was ultimately rejected in favour of the inflatable Comfy Collar (rather like a travel pillow for dogs) which earned her the nickname DCI Doughnut of Paw Patrol, seen here repawting for duty...
During off-duty moments she assumed the Inverted Draught Excluder position, making it possible for her to segue seamlessly from naps to belly-rubs without moving a muscle.
Ten days after the abscess was first detected (on the Monday), she was given a clean bill of health by the Vet, and we all breathed a massive sigh of relief. We're just not sure if she will ever be able to sleep normally again...
3. The following day (the Tuesday) my daughter tested positive for Covid, and four days later (the Saturday) I was testing positive too, both of us having finally run out of luck, two and a half years into the pandemic. I can't say that either of us have been severely unwell, but we've both felt pretty rotten at times, and I am so very glad to have been fully vaccinated and boostered, and to have been infected with the 'milder' Omicron variant, because the original strain could have been a whole different ball-game. Although we're both testing negative now, two weeks later we're still coughing, and I keep running out of breath mid-sentence when I talk! So we're taking things very slowly, hoping to dodge the dreaded Long Covid.

I knew I'd turned the proverbial corner when I felt like I could take a break from lying in bed/on the sofa, binge-watching The Office (US version) with my daughter, and start making things again:
  • First, a knitted 5" square for a non-knitting friend who had been asked to contribute to a communal knitted blanket. I adapted it from this pattern, and it was so easy I now want to make a whole blanket!
  • Then, over several days, I worked on a Wiksten top for my Mum's 85th birthday, made from recycled duvet cover fabric. I had to miss her actual birthday due to my Plague Rat status at the time, but it was ready by the time I tested negative again.

Without wishing to Tempt Fate, I'm rather hoping we'll be Trouble-free for a little while now...but if not, we'll always have The Office.

Saturday 20 August 2022


There have been lots of bees enjoying the lavender over the past couple of weeks. Not enough to be considered a swarm, but definitely enough for a small flock. It's been reassuring to see them going about their 'buzzness' in spite of the extreme weather we've been experiencing lately...
...although it probably has taken its toll on the bee population. One afternoon I found this little chap lying on the pavement, too exhausted to move, and had to carefully carry him home, where I revived him with some diluted honey solution. To me, he looked a rather young bee - gangly and skinny, like a teenage boy after a growth spurt. (Having been raised on the stories of Beatrix Potter, anthropomorphism comes naturally to me!) I imagined that he had overestimated his pollen-gathering abilities, flown too far from the nest, and run out of fuel for the journey home. It was lovely to see him paddling around in the honey-water, slurping madly with his proboscis, and then suddenly...
...he unfolded his wings, gave a quick buzz, and flew away. It's funny how the tiniest of tiny acts of kindness, can make one feel so happy, but I guess it's just a case of "every little helps".

Saturday 23 July 2022

...mostly making and a bit of mending

  • An Extra-Large Extra Pocket Bag - for all the things I need to take with me to the 12 week 'Joint Pain Management Program' I started at the beginning of June. This is a free, twice-weekly exercise class provided by Nuffield Health, designed to un-stiffen and de-creak stiff, creaky joints, which I applied for thinking that it might encourage me to move more and grumble less! So on Monday and Thursday afternoons I catch a bus into the city centre and spend an hour at the gym with a small group of similarly stiff, creaky people pursuing the same Move More/Grumble Less goal. We're now 7 weeks in, and I do seem a little less stiff, creaky and grumbly - as for moving more, hurrying to catch a bus into the city centre and back twice a week has definitely done the trick! 
To begin with I was using my Extra Pocket Bag for the smaller bits and pieces I needed (pen, padlock, membership card, face-mask, keys and phone) plus an additional bag for the Program workbook and a water bottle. This was challenging for my post-retirement, post-lockdown(s) Muddled Hermit Brain because I kept coming home on Thursdays, putting the additional bag down somewhere random, replacing the membership card and padlock with my wallet-with-the-bank-cards (because Thursday night is Shopping Night), and then ending up frantically searching for/swapping everything back again on Monday afternoon before dashing for the bus. After Session 5 (when I ended up at the gym in my comfy slip-on sandals because I'd forgotten to change into trainers amidst all the frantic searching and dashing) I decided to make myself a purpose-built, grab-and-go bag, big enough to store everything in just one place. 

The fully-lined Extra-Large Extra Pocket Bag features an internal pocket for the gym membership card (so it doesn't get lost at the bottom of the bag), a fold over flap with elasticated button loop (for easy access), a cross-body strap (for hands-free maneuverability), and two external pockets (for stowage of face-mask and phone when hopping on and off the bus). It is roomy enough to hold all the bits and pieces, the workbook and the water bottle, as well as a small foldable umbrella in the unlikely event of rain. Apart from a bit of measuring to determine basic pocket dimensions I pretty much made it up as I went along. This was quite taxing for the Muddled Hermit Brain, because the fold-over flap was a new (to me) design feature, and assembling all the layers in the correct order so that there were no raw edges or wrong sides showing when I turned everything the right way round took a lot of pondering and deliberation. At the points where I couldn't quite visualise things in my head, I drew diagrams, and afterwards added these to a written 'recipe' for future reference. Like Scarlett ("I'll never be hungry again") O'Hara, I'll never be custom-built bagless again.

  • A new (to us) fence. A couple of weeks ago my younger son, Sam, came over to help with its construction. The old fence has been slowly rotting away for years, and had finally reached the point where my Heath-Robinson "repairs" with garden wire couldn't hold it together any longer. Our new next door neighbour has been renovating and extending his house since the start of the year, and his back garden is full of piles of old building materials that have been stripped out/demolished to make way for the new. Every so often he has a big bonfire to get rid of the wooden bits, which always makes me cringe inside because it's so environmentally unfriendly and wasteful. So when I spotted a load of old floorboards amongst the debris I plucked up courage to ask if I could have them to repair the fence - and because he's actually quite a nice young man when he's not being a raging eco-vandal, he said "Take whatever you like Love!" and even helped us move them over the old fence! 
We pulled out lots of old rusty nails and cut them to the right length, and then I gave them a bit of a clean with a wire brush, and painted them. They had to be painted black because what would have been the undersides were coated in some kind of tar-like substance - maybe for water-proofing purposes originally - but the paint blended/covered this really well. We kept the original fence posts, and re-used some of the old fence boards (cut down to remove the rotten ends) to eke out the rescued floorboards, so the only new timber we had to buy was some 3 metre lengths for the horizontal rails. Sam has been hammering nails into wood since he was two years old, and in recent years has honed his DIY skills to craftsman's level through hands-on involvement in the construction of his Very Own House. He came armed with an impressive array of power-tools, including a rather intimidating nail-gun, and made short work of our 6 metre fence. Even though it's 'just a fence', mostly hidden by the bins and out of sight at the side of the house, I'm ridiculously pleased with it. Thanks to Sam's handiwork it is perfectly level, all the boards are evenly spaced, and it is very sturdy. Best of all it has given a new lease of life to a pile of old floorboards that would otherwise have gone up in smoke!

  • A patchwork Wiksten top. I was watching this lovely video on YouTube recently, and really liked the idea of a garment that could be appliquéd and stitched onto over time. Not long after, amidst another wardrobe de-clutter, I came across a couple of pairs of trousers (elasticated waists/ankles, denim-look drapy fabric) that I haven't worn for years, and a couple of pairs of my daughter's cast-off 'Mom' jeans that I'd thought I might wear but never have, despite being a bona fide Mom. I probably could have donated them to a charity shop (and part of me really felt I should, too) but in the end I persuaded myself that it was ok to repurpose them for something else. 'Something else' being a comfy, practical, sleeveless tunic/smock for all-purpose-knocking-about-in.
I started by cutting off all eight legs and opened them up along the seams, then joined them together to make two large patchwork pieces (four sections in each), big enough to cut the front and back of the tunic from. I used the drapy trouser fabric in the top halves, and the heavier jeans fabric in the bottoms, so that the tunic would 'hang' better over the shoulders, but even so, it was still very 'boxy' (as in, gave me fridge-freezer-like proportions). So I made casings from the cotton fabric I'd used for the neck facing/bottom edge binding and recycled some of the wide elastic from the trouser ankles to gather it in a bit at the sides. I added one of the patch pockets (from the back of the trousers) to give myself a double pocket on one side, but decided against using the other. Sometimes 'less is more', especially when you're in quadruple denim territory! The finished garment is not remotely stylish (or even very flattering, if I'm being completely honest), but it ticks every one of my comfy, practical, all-purpose-knocking-about-in boxes, and (when the fancy takes me) it will be fun to appliqué and stitch onto too.  

  •  Another Extra Pocket Bag. 'When Life gives you denim, make a bag for a friend'...(but only if that friend admires the denim bag you made for yourself). Literally days after I'd finished the patchwork Wiksten my very dear friend Sue commented on the usefulness of my everyday Extra Pocket Bag while we were out dog-walking together. So naturally I offered to make her one, thinking, "I have just the materials for it too!" - namely the spare patch pocket from the back of the drapy trousers, plus some other leftover pieces I'd kept. Sue happened to be wearing a very pretty blue and fuschia pink top at the time, so I decided to incorporate some fuschia highlights into the design, via the lining and the zip. Then, gaily abandoning the 'less is more' principle, I added a needle-felted/embroidered 'flower' on one side (a little-known allium/dandelion hybrid). It made me very happy to use up these scraps on another project, and Sue loved her little bag too. Result! 
  • A new crochet project. I've been literally obsessed with the nasturtiums and sweet peas growing outside my kitchen window this summer. I just can't get enough of the  juxtaposition of pastel pinks/purples with hot orange on a background of green leaves and stems. 
    Then I happened across this post on Instagram, which slightly blew my mind - granny squares AND patchwork?! What's not to like?! So when I met my eldest for a coffee just round the corner from a newly-opened yarn shop, and when that yarn shop had some very soft Scheepjes yarn in ALL the right colours, it would have been rude not to buy some and make my own granny square patchwork block... 
...and once you've completed one block...
...the magic of photo collage allows you to see what a whole lot more will look like. Can't wait! 

Friday 24 June 2022 joy

I don't consider myself a 'proper' gardener. My garden is very small, untidy, overgrown and...well, just plain wild in places. I don't have the knowledge/know-how or (more importantly) physical strength to try and tame it (small though it is), so Mother Nature and I just muddle along together, and sometimes the ivy, dandelions and brambles make way for me, and sometimes they grow unchallenged for a while. I feel very protective of this little patch of land though, and whilst it may appear unkempt to my tree-felling, slab-laying, artificial-grass-loving neighbours, it's beautiful to me. At the moment there is literally nothing that makes me happier than my morning and evening rounds with the watering can, tending to my 'crops' - nibbling on delicious, crunchy mange-tout peas and gathering little handfuls of raspberries to eat with yoghurt and honey. The slugs and snails (a.k.a. The Enemy) seem to have been ever so slightly deterred by the eggshells I've been spreading around my strawberry plants - so I'm currently harvesting at least two strawberries for every one they hollow out with their thousands of microscopic teeth*. Hooray! The blueberry bushes I planted last year have started to produce fruit, and my blackberry patch is covered in flowers, but the big success story of the year is lettuce. Four different varieties in heavily fortified containers, with 'moats' and copper tape to keep The Enemy at bay - I reckon I might be self-sufficient in lettuce all summer! 

*It's true, they do have teeth, I saw it on Q.I.!
The tables outside the kitchen window are where some of the most intensive growing action takes place. The planters on top are a lot easier to tend to (less bending), and a little easier to patrol - it was my (sadly mistaken) belief that very few of The Enemy would be willing to make the climb to get to them. Turns out it's actually the most determined/elite specimens that ascend to the summit, and they don't just pose for a photo and head back down once they do. I'm trying to abide by a 'live and let live' policy with The Enemy, but it's hard to show mercy when they munch through entire crops of seedlings in the space of just one if they're captured on the table top they get lobbed as far away as I can muster - usually into the ivy on top of the garage*. Currently growing in this area are mange-tout peas, chives, sage, lettuce and tomato seedlings, some sweet peas, a rogue foxglove and a wonderfully flamboyant nasturtium plant, which is spreading like wildfire.  

*Yes, I know this is ultimately a futile gesture, as (a) they have a 20 metre radius homing instinct, and (b) I throw like a girl. It just makes me feel better to think that I've ruined their day.
The nasturtium and an accidental poppy that appeared in one of the blueberry pots have been the floral highlights of my summer so far. I really can't decide which I love more. Nasturtiums make me incredibly nostalgic because my Mum always had them growing in the garden, wherever we were living, but this is a particularly magnificent poppy, standing around three feet tall and simply covered in buds. I can never seem to grow poppies on purpose, so I make sure to really appreciate them when they arrive by chance. I think this one may have been 'planted' by a bird, as it's directly below one of my bird-feeders. 
Speaking of birds, this is 'Girlie', a very tame female blackbird who comes and calls for meal worms every morning, sitting on the fence, or the extension roof, saying "Bip! Bip! Bip!" until I  give her her breakfast. She is quite unperturbed by me moving around nearby, watering the pots or having a cup of tea on the bench. This gives her a decided advantage over the other birds (mostly sparrows at the moment) who watch impatiently from the hedge until I go inside or move further away.
When I looked more closely at the photo below, of the windowsill birds and the nasturtium flowers, I realised that it also captured Girlie sitting on the fence, and the little red dot of the accidental poppy in the distance. Simple pleasures - garden joy!