Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Secret Squirrel

Early start today.

Secret squirrel meetings in north east Hants. Forecast was frost and fog, so decided to leave early just in case (though it does look clear here).


Hmmm. Weather turned out to be no problem. Real problem was the last 5 miles of the journey that took over 45 minutes. Never mind, my clock paranoia saved me, and I was still there with time to spare.

Interesting meeting. Lots of work to do. More on Thursday.

Off to Guildford after it was finished for afternoon in the office there. Bumped into some very old colleagues there... some I've known for over 20 years, but not seen recently.

Dropped colleague at Gfd Stn. Traffic aweful in Gfd Town... and even worse leaving the car park at the Station. Filtered into wrong lane and ended up coming back via Godalming - made a change.

Monday, November 29, 2004

Hanging on

Got up a little late, this meant the day seemed to start in a rush. Stayed up late to watch Match of the Day and see the Spurs' goals. Needless to say they were near the end of the programme.

First teleconf was at 8, that was followed by 2 further calls before 9. Had to decline offer to help Auntie with her archive.


Busy, busy, busy. Lots of calls all morning, but stil no contact from Shadow or esteemed client regarding updates. Decided to crack on with some preparation regardless so that hopefully we can short-circuit some of the red tape later.

Sunday, November 28, 2004

No Win

I splashed out on a lottery ticket for the draw last week. I didn't win. It would have been nice to sort the family out and get them all on a sound financial footing. I guess it will have to wait for another time.

Billy Connolly has a programme on TV showing his recent tour of New Zealand. I had always had a perception of NZ as a rugged and pretty place. I was not quite prepared for just how beautiful it appears to be. It seems like a gentle place, locked in the niceties of civilisation at it was 40 years ago. It has just leapt onto my list of places we must visit.

Went across to Havant to review the bathroom suites that we had seen in a brochure. Much easier to see them in real life. I think we are now happy with our choices and able to go ahead once we can afford it! Even managed to agree of taps and shower mixers.

Watched the football in the afternoon - great to see the arrogance and petulance of the Gunners beaten by the grit, determination, and hard work of Liverpool. I'll bet Cousteau-cub is happy. That leaves a 5 point cushion at the top of the table for Chelsea. Spurs won also... that made the Gorse Fox happy.

Saturday, November 27, 2004

Caked on Mud

Mild but overcast. Lazy start to the day.

Caked on mud of Cornwall still covered the car. Decided to break the habit of a lifetime and clean it off. (I know that silver cars tend not to show the dirt - but there are limits!) Actually it was so caked in mud that I had to go over it with the pressure washer, then wash the worst away, and finally give it a proper wash with clean water.

Stopped to chat with Mr & Mrs Magoo. Apparently planning permission has been rejected for the "infill" that was proposed for the house on the corner. I'm glad. It would be a bad precedent. I see that Ike & Tina are back from their cruise.

The Silver Vixen was hiding in the shrubbery again, burying various bulbs. Only a hundred more to go, she assures me. In the end, she admitted that she has planted 415 bulbs this autumn. The garden should be a riot of colour in the spring.

It is clear that the recently reduced hedges are starting to re-sprout. You would have thought that reducing them from 10 feet high and 8 feet deep to 1 inch high would be sufficient shock to kill them off. Evidently not. I suspect we will have do something inorganic.

Several weeks of accumulated garden rubbish had built up in sacks. This warranted a trip to see the dump trolls. All the bags fitted in the back of the car so the Gorse Fox was able to deal with the lot in a single trip.

Blodwyn phoned soon after I had returned. Apparently latest grandchild has been unwell with bronchitis, but was on the mend now. Needless to say, she had been summoned to assist Lady Penelope during the crisis. One can't help but think those families would totally collapse without her.

Friday, November 26, 2004

The Week Withers away

Slow start.

First conf call was at 10. Sounds interesting... help with some strategic secret squirrel stuff. Need to got to meeting in F. next Tuesday. Spoke with esteemed client and explained nothing was happening as we hadn't received the updated contract. Esteemed client planning to meet with Shadow during p.m. and will raise issues. Also told esteemed client of the possibility of resource seeding. Seemed resigned to delay!

Nice drone from BT came to look into problem with phone. Did a bit of debugging, but concluded the problem may lie at the exchange. After a while he called to confirm that there had been a faulty line card. He has run a new feed for us, and hopefully that will solve the problem.

Second conf. call of the day. Also interesting. Volunteered to take ownership of a further project for esteemed client. It's all going to get a bit busy soon!




The Silver Vixen spent some quality time hiding in the shrubbery, planting some Christmas Roses during the afternoon. Posted by Hello


Troubles in Ukraine still, after their recent election. Viktor the loser says Viktor the victor cheated and that Viktor the loser should be Viktor the victor, whilst Viktor the victor should really be Viktor the loser.

That's clear then!



Ahh! the weekend starts here. I'm not sure, but if I listen very carefully, I think I can hear a fine red wine calling my name. (I could be wrong, but it would be silly to take the chance).

I was right! It was calling... but I'm just toying with it and pretending I don't care. I'll sneak up on it soon and take it by surprise.

Thursday, November 25, 2004

Back to Normal

Only 84 emails to greet me this morning. It's nice to have a few days off! It would appear that liitle has happened in my absence (though I'm sure my absence had little to do with it). Originally planned to meet up with Miss Ellie in Guildford, but after a brief chat we decided it was not worth it as there had been so little progress.

Julie Hobbit missed us by a few minutes yesterday, but managed to get our address from the hotel so has sent on the promised book by post. She has also included her contact details, so we must get back to her. (The Postman commented that he'd seen my photo of the local sunset, on the TV - Fame at last! I assure you it won't go to my head.)

During the morning the Gorse Fox waded through emails and sorted out administrivia. Cousteau-cub printed some photos, and then the Silver Vixen took her home to Brighton at lunchtime. She explained that the had been a bit of excitement when nearing the lair of Cousteau-cub; the Police had a road (which she wanted to use) blocked off, and the front of one of the houses and it's top floor were missing. One hopes this was an accident and nobody was injured.

Heard from the Mighty Atom, his promotion has come through. Well deserved, and long overdue. He's talking of test driving a Golf this weekend. Be interesting to see how he enjoys it after the MINI.

Long conference call during afternoon regarding governance and project management. Oh joy!

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Home

Clouds processed across the morning sky. The primer of blue is well and truly hidden by the undercoat of flat grey, and the top coat of thick cloud. We packed our stuff ready to vacate the suite and head back eastwards. Whay does it always seem that bags shrink while you are away, and it is alsways more difficult to get all the clothes back in, than it was to put them in originally?

The Silver Vixen was due to meet Julie Hobbit before we set off, but despite giving her 15 minutes grace she didn't turn up so we headed off. We stopped briefly at Plympton to collect the Cousteau-cub and headed on. We varied the route home, by avoiding Salisbury, and sticking with the better roads. This added about 10 miles to the journey, but was more pleasant driving. In all the journey was uneventful, and we were home in just over 5 hours, averaging just 54+mpg.

Had a quiet evening watching Chelsea in the Champions League, whilst eating a take-away.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Trebah

Tuesday insinuated itself into our consciousness. Grey, gentle but brighter. A big yatch has arrived overnight and moored in the middle of the channel. After breakfast we donned our crampons and set off up to the car park. Heading generally south-west we made our way via Truro to the Helford Estuary and Trebah Gardens.

These gardens have been open since 1987, and we have visited the next door gardens of Glendurgan once before; yet we had never heard of Trebah until this trip. It was worth the wait.


Trebah, as you enter the gardens Posted by Hello

Trebah is set in a steeply sloping, wooded valley leading down to the Helford River. During WWII it was the embarcation point for US soldiers before the Normandy landings.


Trebah, looking down the valley Posted by Hello

The garden paths wind along the sides and zig zag across the valley. The valley sides are lined with specimen trees and shrubs, with underplanting of laurels, hydrangea and camellia.


The Lush planting of the valley sides Posted by Hello

Apparently when the owner was arranging the planting he would stand in his house with a telescope and binoculars directing the gardeners where to plant the trees. He would have the gardeners erect scaffolding to represent the fully grown tree, so that he could check the overall effect.


Looking across the valley Posted by Hello

We started our tour at the top, near the koi pond, then wound down through the water garden, to the beach path. In the centre of the valley was a small stream which had been damned in a number of places to create small ponds, or boggy areas for moisture loving plants. We passed Andrew path and continued to the beach where the path cross the stream on a path known as The DiDi. Seemed designed for us really!


Carefully placed specimens Posted by Hello

The beach still had some of the old slipways, but provided a tranquil spot to stand and stare, and watch the water fowl diving for fish. On a nice day it would have been a glorious spot to sit and soak up the view, and even have a swim.

We headed back along the west side of the valley looking down over the scene. One can only imagine what it must have looked like a few weeks ago at the height of the autumn colours.

As you will appreciate, a drizzly November day is sub-optimal as far as viewing is concerned, but despite the inclement weather the garden was spectacular. In fact, in my view, it surpasses Heligan (which we visited yesterday). After refreshments in the vistor's centre and a browse around the shop and plant centre, we headed back. I must say that Trebah is one of the very finest gardens I have ever seen.

Back in Fowey we parked at the highest point of the car park to try and get sufficient signal to call Cousteau-cub. Fortunately, we got through and made arrangements to pick her up tomorrow on our way home. We then drove down and parked in the town centre and took a pleasant stroll through the streets as the last of the winter light melted into darkness. As we walked towards the quay where the ferry docks, a huge ore carrier made its way up the river. It blasted out its warning siren and the ferry sat and cowered at Bodinnick until it was past.


The Town Quay in Fowey Posted by Hello


Dusk in Fowey Posted by Hello

Back in our suite, I processed the photos from the day, and The Silver Vixen wrote some cards.

For dinner we went to the Galleon. I can only recommend that no one should ever eat there again. It was apalling quality food, and let Fowey down dismally. However, while we were there a lone traveller (Julie Hobbit) came in and we got talking. This woman, about our age but looking about 16, was touring Britain from Australia. She had been trying to do this by public transport, but was reaching the end of her tether and talking of hiring a car for the rest of the trip. Having said that, she has managed London, Brighton, Dublin, Edinburgh, Orkney, Shetland and now the West country. She was a nice little hobbit and exchanged her complete life history (and medical history) over the course of a couple of hours.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Lost Gardens of Heligan - Found !

Another mottled grey, but dry morning. Though it is evident that there has been rain in the night. Blue patches keep opening up and the sun is trying it's best, but the clouds are sweeping rapidly eastwards to try and fill any rogue blue patch. The cockerels from the local farms have been clearing their throats since dawn, and the sea birds are riding the tide as it fights the river.

Managed to upload blogs for last couple of days... but will need a little post-production to add the photos and also to change the sequence particularly of the entries for 20/11, which got a little out of hand.

After a hearty breakfast we climbed the hill to the car park where we have had to leave the car. (The main disadvantage to spending time in Fowey). The plan for the day was to find "The Lost Gardens of Heligan". I'm not sure why they had been lost, as they were quite clearly shown on the map and on road signs.

Being late November, the gardens were not at their best, nor were they overrun with visitors. I'd be surprised if we saw more then 20 people the whole time we were there. So what were they like? Well they are split into two main sections; the North Gardens, which are more formal; and the Jungle and Lost Valley which are more naturalistic.

The gardens were started in the mid 1800's and flourished until the First World War. At the time of the war they went into decline, probably because most of the staff had volunteered to fight, and few had returned. The gardens became overgrown and eventually were retuning to nature. Over the past ten years people have had the vision to try and restore the gardens. This labour of love is ongoing, and must have been a gargantuan task, but today we can all benefit from the vision they guys had.


Livid Bark in a dense thicket of shrubs Posted by Hello

The North gardens surround a lawn. Everywhere you look are laurels and rhodedenrons. As you start to follow the path you walk through tunnels of foliage. It is quite eerie. Like being on the set of Lord of the Rings in the dark forest.


New Zealand themed area Posted by Hello

The gardens open up into a series of vistas, small ornamental gardens, and themed areas. At one end is the huge walled vegetable garden, next to the flower garden, and the greenhouses where they grew pineapples, melons, and peaches. Completing the tour of the north garden we visited an ornate Italianate garden, and wandered through and are known as the Ravine.


Italienate garden Posted by Hello

You can imagine that in spring, summer, or even early autumn it would be magnificent. However, in the damp flat grey of a November day it lacked that punch. It would, without doubt, warrant further trips at different times of year.

From the North gardens we made our way to the Jungle garden. The route led us through a woodland glade which had a number if bizarre sculptures growing out of the ground.


The Mud Sculpture Head Posted by Hello


The Mud Sculpture Reclining Figure. Posted by Hello

We then traversed a plantation of new young oak trees before the sight of the Jungle opened up in front of, what must have been, the main house.


Looking down the "jungle" valley from the top. Posted by Hello

This was just brilliant. The valley that ran away from the house had been extensively planted, and the stream that ran through the valley damned to form a number of ponds and small cascades.


Looking back up the valley towards the house from the first pond. Posted by Hello

A boardwalk had been provided to lead the visitor through the valley. Even in the grey of November, this was outstanding. One can only imagine what it is like on a bright summer day.


In the jungle Posted by Hello

For me, the Jungle was the highlight of the visit. Dense, lush planting of bananas, bamboo, chusan pine, sequoia, maple, yew, ferns, and gunnera filled the view in every direction. Greens juxtaposed against black, grey, and even red bark made you want to keep looking, yet at the same time move on to the next viewpoint.

We walked back to the main block by way of the wood project. This is where they handle their own timbers from trees felled within the property. They have their own saw for planking, an area for the wood to dry in stick, and even a kiln and small workshop. In the workshop they make most of the wooden items required in the gardens, and the very talented carpenter also makes some very fine furniture. One piece that particularly caught my eye was a pair of sycamore and toona side tables, beautifully crafted and finished.

We had a good time at Heligan, and then took a leisurely drive which led us to Veryan. This was a picture postcard village with some interesting round houses scattered in the village. We didn't stop, but it may deserve a further visit one day.

We were back at the hotel before five. The Silver Vixen read the paper and the Gorse Fox processed the day's photos.

In the evening we went down to the village and decided to eat at Sam's. This was the original restaurant that had been opened under the name, some 17 years ago. It has bistro-like feel, very informal, walls plastered with pop memorabilia, and a varied menu. We remember eating there with the girls some 10 or more years back. They are obviously doing well. Originally they used to close for 6 months of the year, but now stay open all but two weeks of every year - and are busy every day.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

South of Eden

The BIG DAY. The Silver Vixen's birthday today. She opened all her cards and presents before getting out of bed. She had a wonderful collection of really nice cards and some lovely presents. I'm sure the new purse from Betty and Barney Rubble with the trademark of "Fossil" was not meant to be a statement on the advancing years, nor the hand made card based on a dried up leaf skeleton from Patti... but then again!

The weather is better today. Dry and gentle with mottle grey clouds and no sign of a breeze (at least down here by the river bank). The view from the suite is really lovely, across the the gently lapping river to Polruan on the east bank, downstream towards the sea, or up towards Bodinnick.


Polruan from Fowey Posted by Hello


The Fowey Water Front Posted by Hello

So we set off to the Eden Project. The Gorse Fox, thinking he was Magellan, didn't bother checking the map so ended up the wrong side of St Austell. They'd only gone and built it somewhere other than he had thought... and what's more it was a lot closer to the hotel that he'd assumed. Turned round and went to the right place.
154 photos later we got back to the hotel.

What can I say about the Eden Project? It was superb, and surpassed my expectations by a long way. Reading about it, and seeing it on TV doesn't prepare you for the scale of the thing. It is vast, and the interconnecting Biodomes are just magnificent.


The Biodomes Posted by Hello


The Gorse Fox Posted by Hello

We started our tour with a gentle stroll down from the visitor's centre, stopping briefly to look at the ice rink, but declining the opportunity to damage any ligaments or bones. We then moved on, passing some ornamental vegetable planting to the Humid (Tropical) Dome. When the Gorse Foxes glasses cleared it became evident that this was huge and the planting was delivered on a massive scale. Picking mid-November, the place was pretty empty, so we were able to stop and start and retrace our steps at will. One suspects that this would not have been so easy when busy at the height of summer.


Stream in Biodome Posted by Hello


Waterfall in Biodome Posted by Hello


Silver Vixen in Biodome Posted by Hello

We wound our way through the dome zigging and zagging and crossing and re-crossing the stream that is fed from a big waterfall. There were exhibits describing bananas, rice, herbs, coffee, bamboo. It just went on and on.

At one point in the traversal we caught up with Patsy. This was the name we gave to a clone of Patsy from AbFab. She was of a certain age - i.e. late 50's or 60's, dressed to the nines, suede boots, blond long hair, and makeup that must have been put on with a trowel. I suppose you could even call the makeup impressionistic. She was a caricature, and evidently immensely bored with the progress of the party she was with. (I suspect she was dying to get back to the bolly).

It had taken us a good hour to traverse the first dome. We then stopped in the interconnecting area for a drink before continuing the tour.

After our comfort stop we continued into the temperate dome. This was more interesting and yet less impressive. It was interesting because it featured more plants that we are directly familiar with. There were exhibits looking at olives, scents, cork, vines, grasses and so forth. However, the scale was more familiar and that made the dome seem more sparse.


Vine Sculptures Posted by Hello

An interesting lessen for us all is that we should drink wines with genuine corks, rather than plastic stoppers or caps... because the farming and harvesting of cork oak is good for the environment, for insects, birds, and for pigs which graze the acorns.

From the temperate zone we went outside and started to zig zag through the exhibits which covered beer and tea among others. There was also clever planting on the steep slopes to bind the earth and prevent erosion of the banks.


Eden's bee Posted by Hello


Farmer Posted by Hello


Silver Vixen Posted by Hello

We filtered out by way of the shop, where we indulged in a little retail therapy before heading back to the hotel.

In the evening we decided to eat in the restaurant at the hotel. The chef is advertised as Nick Fisher, as if we should know who he is. We don't. But then, to be fair, he probably doesn't know who we are either. The restaurant was quiet and only the tables clustered by the windows were occupied.

It soon became evident from the muted conversations that we were surrounded bu pretentious 30-something foodies. This proved to be a great source of amusement throughout the meal. I think one of the lines that I liked best was delivered soto voce to the waitress: "We would like a creme brulee, and selection of cheeses, but our wine has run out. Could you bring the wine list so that we can select a dessert wine?".

Our meal was excellent, and presented beautifully on glass plates. (When you've finished with them you can use them as windows). The starter was a delicious mixture of pork and prawns. This was followed by Sea Bass for the Birthday Girl and Red Mullet for the Gorse Fox. We both finished of with a creme brulee made from clotted cream with a blackcurrant crumble accompaniment.