Saturday, 26 May 2012

Time off in the garden

Well I won't go in to just what a horrendous journey home I had, just to say, it involved a lot of stress. But when I got home at 11 pm and poured that glass of home made limoncello and went and sat in my garden, and the first sound that greeted me was an owl hooting and being answered by another distant oen for about 5 minutes, I knew that it was all worth it.

I've had wonderful weather and the first thing I had to do yesterday was mow the lawns as they looked like meadows. My friend has offered me a free strimmer, as I haven't got one, but I won't be able to pick it up until I am with him in the car, mid June, so instead I was on my hands and knees with a lawn edger trying to pull up some of the long grass and weed around the edge of all the beds. A quick trip to the garden centre for some compost and some manure and then I built up the compost around the potatoes and put some manure on the roses. Then I had a happy time examining all the activity in the garden: peas starting their long climb, apple tree thriving, fruit bushes full of healthy leaves, roses looking very happy, lupins beginning to grow flowers, onions growing well etc.

My neighbours have been putting up monstrous decking. They have decked their entire garden, 100% of it and there is nothing left now but soulless wood. Not my idea of a nice garden at all. The downside is that it has lost me quite a bit of privacy because it is so high it looks straight into my garden now which gets to me somewhat as I am not the constant chatting over the garden wall type in my back garden. Anyway, not one to stay annoyed, I now am planning my garden with a view to making these areas private again. I am going to use trellis around where my eventual seating area will be and that will instantly solve that bit (it was in my original plan anyway). There is a laurel growing in another area which will eventually be tall enough to solve the problem there although I might add another to it. The only other bit is at the side of the garden and I need to grow something that won't take years but isn't a privet, because they are not my favourite. On the list is ceanothus, forsythia and flowering currant at the moment, possibly a lilac tree. Any other suggestions are very welcome. Want it to grow at least 2 and a half metres and not take 6 years to do it.

Now I just bit my fingernails while I was thinking of plants (very bad habit), and got a distinct whiff of manure, so I'd better go and scrub my nails and finish up here.

Enjoy your weekend everyone.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Going home again

I'm going home for 3 days this weekend! Fate has dealt me a long weekend so I am taking advantage of it and getting the bus to Manchester tonight after rehearsal. I finish here in London in 10 days anyway but I am in need of some time in my own space so it is worth every bumpy mile up the M6 and back.
I wonder what will have been happening in the garden, I am pretty excited to see if things are wild because of all the rain or if things are dead because of the sun - who knows!
To catch up with friends and to just enjoy sitting in the garden as the sun goes down, maybe with a glass of my home made limoncello. Can't wait.
Home is where my heart is.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Blue Water

This week I had a day when I didn't have to go into London at all. Now I am in Kent and didn't really want to spend my day off travelling anywhere, so I took a walk. The people with whom I am staying live very near Bluewater shopping centre, one of the largest shopping centres in Europe I believe. Now, I know that many of you couldn't care less about a shopping centre, and I am absolutely with you on this, I hate shopping, I don't like consumerism, I don't enjoy battling through crowds for something I neither want nor need. But on this particular occasion, curiosity overcame my natural reluctance. I wanted to see this Cathedral to consumerism. And Cathedral it is with no shortage of worshippers.
Some attempt has been made to make it look like it is a rural setting - artificial lake with a bridge accross, trees planted around. All in attempt to confuse people into thinking they are having a day out in the great out-doors combined with a shopping trip - it doesn't work and leaves me cold.

What always surprises me are the amount of people in these places, crowds and crowds all with bags. Are we really in a recession?

I had a fascinating time looking in the shop windows at all the items I don't want and chuckling about some of the advertising slogans making you believe you can't possibly live without these things, promising price slashes and 70% off sales and many ridiculous claims.

I didn't go into any shops, not a one - it really was just to exercise my curiosity.

There is a certain blandness to these places and I am with Mary Portas on this one, why are shopping centres and high streets so dominated by the same old tat. The only time I ever really enjoy browsing is if I am (usually in a small town or village) surrounded by individual, privately owned shops with some food shops and delis thrown in or a good second hand store to rummage around or a market. Bluewater offered none of these and therefore had nothing to grab or keep my interest. I've asked it before, but why has shopping become a national past time?

30 minutes later I had had enough and left by the same entrance I came in, curiosity satisfied. It turns out that I am missing nothing!

Thursday, 17 May 2012


A few weeks ago, many of you helped to identify my Berberis in the garden. It's funny isn't it, but once you know what something is, you see them everywhere! Having said that, I don't often see a specimen quite as fine as my own. When I was home and opened the curtains on the first morning I was greeted with a gorgeous sight and I am afraid that, as usual, the photo really doesn't do it justice. It's about 10 feet tall and a riot of bright orange flowers.

Tucked away underneath in a very unassuming position is a large clump of delphiniums and a mysterious rubber pipe. The rubber pipe disappears into the ground and seemingly does nothing. Odd.

Now that my garden is getting going as spring makes way for summer I am learning what plants I have already, a very healthy and well established purple geranium, tulip bulbs, honeysuckle and clamatis, sedum, primulas, mombretia etc. It is lovely to inherit these things and watch them come to life over the summer and I am sure there are a few more surprises to come.

I am lucky because although there are plenty of established plants in the garden, it is far from overgrown and has been left without much character and personality, making it easy to put my own stamp and ideas onto it. I once lived in a house with a garden so overgrown and chocablock and full of bindweed that I never really got to grips with it (just in a rented house, I didn't live there very long) and I am so happy not to have a similar experience this time.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Moving on.

Thank you for my good luck and support last night, it went really well and I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Now today, believe it or not, I start rehearsals for another opera entirely! Altogether for the two operas there will be 35 performances.

So I have until a fortnight from Saturday and then I go home and do all my travelling and performances from my home base as all rehearsals will be finished. Performances drag on until October, but I will be home lots so I am happy that it is nearly time.

I wonder what I have been missing in the garden? There has been some sun and lots of rain so I imagine first of all I will have grass like a meadow. It was a carpet of dandelions before its last cut a week and a bit ago and imagine they have all come back with a vengeance. Its a shame really, because I think the dandelions are actually rather pretty.

My seedlings were hit and miss when I was last there. Some of the tomatoes are doing quite well, others are still a bit behind. Most of the cucumbers seemed to be dead, but let's see if they survive.

The chillis and peppers are growing but, oh so slowly.

I am growing marigolds to put in with the tomatoes and they are doing ok.

I've never grown leeks before and I think I went overboard, It looks like grass!

My mum is looking after a tray of my tomatoes and they are doing much better - the human contact element, I am sure.

Next time I will show you what has been going on in the garden and soon there will be a puppies update.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Opening night - 2nd attempt

Yesterday I was rehearsing (yeah, on a Sunday, it is a bit annoying) because it is my opening night at the London South Bank tonight. I had to share the advertisement with you, because that is a photo of me on the posters!

I am half bird, half man in this opera which explains the feathers and beak by the way. Yeah, I am the comic element, as usual - seem to have become typecast.

So today will be a lazy one until I wander up to the rehearsal call at 4 o'clock.

Wish my luck!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A celebration of roses.

Thank you everyone for my birthday wishes yesterday (and happy birthday today to MTVA)
I had a lovely day, someone at work had baked me a victoria sponge which we all ate when I got there and then the people I am staying with had made me a cake last night as well! Lucky and well fed man yesterday.

Last weekend, when I was home, my mum came with a beautiful rose to plant in the garden for my birthday present. It was a David Austen Tess of the D'Urbevilles rose, which is a beautiful crimson English rose, with a scent. It was such a healthy looking specimin and we put it in the ground straight away as the weather was so nice.

I think that this is one of the nicest presents I could ever have received, something that will be around for years and years hopefully and something that I will remember that my mum gave me for my 39th birthday, in the year I moved to the house. I absolutely love roses and have planted 4 including this one, since I arrived, one climber which seems to have taken and has started growing. This is a Zepherine Drouhin and should provide deep pink/red flowers.

Also a yellow rose bush, Golden Wedding I think that it was called, which I have planted at the front and should produce yellow roses:

There is a 4th which I didn't photograph because it isn't doing very well - it was a very cheap one from lidl and I think that in this instance I am getting what I paid for because it looks like a tiny dead twig at the moment, still, you never know, it may take and surprise us all.

Today I have a day off and I plan on doing very little. I would love to be gardening, but that is not to be. I will go for a walk later as the weather seems very nice.

I hope you are all enjoying your weekend, what are you up to?

Thursday, 10 May 2012


Is my 39th birthday. I have a lot to be grateful for and my life is very good. Can you ask for more for your birthday? I am a happy man and that is the best birthday present that there is and all that I need.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Now I am back in London

Yes, I'm back here, but I am going to try very hard to keep a positive attitude in my blog writing, because I realise that I got a bit gloomy over the last 4 weeks here (put it partly down to breaking my finger and being unwell for a good 3 weeks of it). There is only 3 and a half weeks left anyway, then I go on tour, which can be done using my home as a base.
So the weekend at home was fantastic and amazing and I loved every single second. I took loads of photos which I will use on the blog over the next few entries, to help keep the memories alive for me.
So first, I went out for birthday celebrations on Saturday night, my birthday is coming up and my friends birthday was yesterday. I baked my friend a coffee and walnut cake and it went down as such a success. Here it is:

and here is the recipe:

Coffee and walnut cake
For the cake
225g/8oz unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing
225g/8oz caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
50ml/1¾fl oz strong espresso coffee
225g/8oz self-raising flour
75g/2½oz walnuts

For the butter cream topping
125g/4½oz unsalted butter
200g/7oz icing sugar
50ml/2fl oz strong espresso coffee
12 walnut halves, to decorate

Preparation method
1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
2. In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until very light and pale.
3. Add the eggs one at a time to the butter and sugar mixture, beating
well to completely incorporate each egg before adding the next egg.
4. Add the espresso to the mixture and stir well.
5. Add the flour and walnuts and stir well to completely combine.
6. Spoon the cake mixture into a lined and greased 20cm/8in cake
7. Transfer to the oven to bake 30-40 minutes, or until a skewer
inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean and the cake is
8. Remove the cakes from the oven and leave to cool on a wire rack.
9. For the butter cream topping, beat the butter and icing sugar together and add the coffee. Spread over the top of the cooled cake.

My finger is still strapped up but I am well besides that!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Thrilled to be home!

It may just be for the weekend, but what a feeling being home is. Away from the overcrowded, busy, stinky, polluted, unfriendly, sullen, tiring (ok, you get the idea) city.
I wake up knackered but very happy this morning at a ridiculously early hour after about 4 hours sleep. I arrived in Manchester at 11.30 pm and my brilliant friend picked me up and drove me home. The bus was pretty good really. Quite comfy and the time soon passed with music and a book and just looking out of the window. It was full and I can see why at these prices. It was, a bit late (which is why my friend picked me up) but Friday bank holiday evening, what do you expect. I had to wander around the garden in the dark when I got it but it was a very bright moon (as has been explained here by 2 men and a little farm) and I could see bits and pieces. So by the time I had wandered, been so happy to be home and looked at everything, it was about 2 o'clock, so bed was long overdue. Of course I woke up at about 6 this morning with this overwhelming contentment. The sun was shining and not a hint of the rain that I expected. So all the curtains were opened and I had the joy of seeing my garden in daylight. I will take some photos later so that I can blog about them slowly over the next London stint (and remind myself how lucky I am).

The most wonderful sight was the Berberis tree that was identified by lots of you for me a few weeks ago. It is a glory of orange flowers and looks absolutely stunning. Most of my seedlings are still alive, although some look a little sun starved. I made the choice to leave them not in the sunniest window so that they wouldn't dry out, but some of them have a slight anaemic look. I will try a different place when I leave next time. My peas are peeping out of the soil outside and my roses are all growing, my new apple and plum tree has leaves, as do my fruit bushes and yes, my grass is long and weedy. If the rain holds off, I will get the chance to cut it today.

Today I will just enjoy being here and then later this evening, when my best friend finishes his nursing shift I will be taken out for my birthday celebrations (my birthday is next Friday but I won't be here then). My lovely friend had also left me a birthday present set out on my table, a lovely set of cheerful blue and white plates (I think he was fed up of my mismatched tableware) and some tea towels (again, laughed at my holy old towels).

So now to make the most of my time here. It is going to be a good day!

Friday, 4 May 2012

Bank holiday weekend

Today I will go home for 3 nights, hooray. I couldn't afford the train, which is a shame, but I hate the way that the ticket price system takes away any chance of spontaneity. When I found out that I was free the tickets were already all up at £75, so was just not going to happen.
So I am getting the megabus this evening, which has cost me £10 (one way), can't say fairer than that. It takes an extra 2 hours, but saves a lot.

I can't tell you how much I am looking forward to it. This month, I have been well looked after by very good friends, but as they say, home is where the heart is.

It is supposed to be raining all weekend, so not much will happen in the garden it seems, but I will photograph what has been going on and share the results of my March labours (if there are any results).

Also I will see the puppies. :-)

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Ready for bank holiday weekend

It been a strange week. My sore throat and cold, unfortunately turned into sinusitis and I was very unwell over the weekend, but today I am feeling better than I have felt for over 2 weeks so things are looking very much up. I did a lot of steaming because my doctor friend said that it was a better cure for sinusitis than any medicines, suits me, and it seemed to do the trick.
However I have possibly broken my finger. We're not sure if it is a break or a very bad bruised joint, but it is strapped up to the one next to it. Comes to something when the first thing I worried about was the fact that I might not be able to do any gardening when I get back with a dodgy finger.

So the good news is that I am coming home for the weekend this Friday evening. I have 3 days off, so probably won't have to come back to London until Monday afternoon at the earliest. I can't wait, I can tell you. I am sure I will come back to grass that needs cutting, more rain, a cold dusty house and some dead plants here and there, but I will love every single moment.

Sorry that my posts have been few and far between and probably a bit miserable and self-obsessed, but I will be back on track soon with more plans and more interesting things to talk about, I hope, bear with me.

My dress rehearsal is on Friday and opening night is on Monday 14th and I'm looking forward to both.