Friday, 30 May 2008

Chealsea Flower Show

It was my fifty second birthday last week and my daughters took me to Chelsea Flower Show because I had mentioned that I had aways wanted to go to it.

Helen came with me although Claire paid her share. We set off at 6:10am to get the bus to the railway station. It was surprisingly warm considering how early it was. Usually in Britain there is a nip in the air during early morning even if it turns out to be a warm day.

The sun shone on the station platform as we waited for the fast train to London.

I go to London quite a bit but when I go it is usually to Tottenham, which is a long journey to the north east of London. I use the underground because it is quicker and I am scared of getting the wrong bus and I never know what stop to get off. The underground is much simpler - a simple map to follow and I always know when to get off and where to change train lines. I was therefore resistant to Helen's plan to get the bus from Paddington station to Victoria station to meet up with the flower show shuttle bus.

She showed me on the Internet that it took the same amount of time to go by bus as underground. Also it would be obvious when we got to Victoria station so we would not miss the stop.

I'm so glad we went by bus because I rarely get to see the centre of London. The sun was shining and the streets were still very quiet. It was a pleasant journey viewing the beautiful buildings and parks from the top deck of the bus.

We arrived at the gates of the Flower Show grounds about 15 minutes before they opened at 8am. There was quite a queue, but as the day wore on we realised that we had made the right decision to go early. By 11 o'clock the crowds were very thick and it was difficult to get to see the garden displays.

We managed to see most of the gardens and all of the inside pavilion displays before then. The commercial stands, which we viewed in the afternoon, were very interesting too.

We had an early lunch. We were hungry by 11:00. We had taken breakfast to eat on the train but that was still early. Helen had read that it was recommended to go for lunch before 12 or after 2 due to the crowds of people. We noticed that most people had brought picnic lunches and were eating whilst sitting on walls or the grass, especially by the bandstand.

I love walking the streets looking at people's gardens so it was a real treat to see so many interesting layouts. I enjoyed the courtyard gardens best, the ones with a traditional theme. I'm not so keen on the 'modern' look with lots of concrete and no soul.

I particularly enjoyed sitting in all the swing seats for sale to see which was most comfortable. Of course that was the most expensive seat at a few thousand pounds. But it was also very good quality.

I also enjoyed the displays of plants in the pavilion. I didn't realise there were so many varieties of lavender or clematis or delphinium.

It was funny seeing people walking home with enormous plants in pots at the end of the day. We went on Saturday which was the last day so there was a big sell off. The shuttle bus was like a greenhouse with more plants that people. Regulars had come prepared with trolleys to wheel their acquisitions home.

My favourite flowers are the wild ones and I bought quite a few packets of seeds. Primrose and cowslips are the ones I snapped up first. I am looking forward to having a garden to sow these seeds in ...... but that is another post.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Freecycle and LETS

I've been having great fun 'shopping' using Freecycle just recently.

Freecycle is a wonderful organisation that makes marvelous use of the internet's capacity for networking.

People who live in the same geographical area join an email list and post offers and wants. When someone has an item they no longer want to keep they post an offer email describing the item and their postcode and people respond off list to them if they would like the item. If there are several people wanting the item, then the owner of the item gets to choose who they will give it to.

The fortunate person chosen then arranges a day/time to pick up the item and the original owner posts a 'taken' email to let everyone know it has gone.

If anyone wants a specific item they can post a 'wanted' email and people who can oblige let them know.

This system has two big advantages. It keeps items out of the rubbish dumps and helps those who are short of money.

I needed something to store books etc on a while ago and claimed a large and sturdy shelving unit. It is doing a marvelous job. As it would be impossible to transport it on my bike I 'employed' a driver to collect it for me.

The 'employing' of a driver is also a good story. I am a member of LETS. I think it stands for Local Exchange and Trading System. People in this organisation let other members know what they can/are willing to do for other people. This is collated in a directory. So when someone wants a service they look in the directory and asks a person who has listed that skill/service. So when I needed the shelf transporting I asked a guy who listed this service and he collected it for me. He charged me '5 Readies' and £2 for petrol.

The people of Reading call their LETS currency 'Readies' which is a play on the town name and a slang term for pounds. In the town of Wakefield the currency is 'Locks', which is a reference to the canal locks, of which there are quite a few in the area.

I remember when I was incapacitated with the 'flu for a few weeks when my girls were young. I could only drag myself downstairs to the sofa so I was around and aware of what they were doing. I could not cook for them, take them to school or shop for food. Fortunately a neighbour took my youngest, Claire to school with her daughter. And Helen was old enough and sensible enough to make beans of toast. I also wrote a note so she could get the child benefit money from the post office and buy a few items of food from the local shop.

My pride and independent spirit did not want to burden friends and neighbours with things that needed doing and I thought it would be great to have a system where you could ask people to do things and not feel obligated because you could in turn do things either for them or someone else. I had not got all the details worked out but knew some scheme like that would have been so useful to me then, and to others as well.

When I moved to Wakefield and discovered LETS I was relieved that someone had already thought through the idea and that I could slot into it without reinventing the wheel.

The main service I offer at the moment is EFT and earned a few Readies helping a certain lady over a series of weeks.

Everyone who joins is given some Readies to start them off trading. I remember in Wakefield several people would offer surplus vegetables from their garden. And I asked someone to help me clear my overgrown garden. Recently I have asked someone to come and mend a broken drawer, change a wheel on my bike and of course transport my Freecycle goods.

It is good that these two organisations work hand in hand so well.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Car registrations in North Carolina

Two driving instructor cars passed me yesterday. They both had signs on the roof displaying the name of their company.
One was 'Driving Ambition' and the other was '1st U learn'.

This reminded me of the car registration plates in North Carolina. Car owners there can make up their own registrations if they so want. If you didn't choose your own you got three letters followed by four numbers.
Here are some interesting ones that I wrote down as I saw them.
PAM'S RAM (a Dodge Ram)
JOY'S TOY (a red convertable)
WARP 9.9
IPORMUD (a very muddy truck)
YELLOBUG (on a VW beetle)

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Seagulls and Pigeons

We look out over a huge playing field which is part of a park. Every morning during the winter months there has been a flock of seagulls eating worms.

I noticed the other day that they do not come anymore. We have had a warm, dry spell and the ground is hard.

I wonder if the seagulls have gone to the beach with all the holiday makers and day trippers? There would be lots of dropped food going there now.

We live nowhere near the sea. We are about 30 miles from the place which is the furthest away from the sea you can get in England.

We now have a flock of pigeons grazing on the area. I wonder what they are eating? They do not look as nice as the seagulls. I had to look twice to see what the grey things were on the grass. They looked a bit like rats with no tails.

The seagulls by contrast looked regal, especially when they all took off when a dog came into their vicinity.

I love watching the bounding, joyful dogs jumping around their owners as they take their exercise.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Instant karma

I read out a snippet from a website to my 21 year old daughter:

'A party boat filled with 60 men and women capsized in Texas after all the passengers rushed to one side as the boat passed a nude beach.'

I laughed and said "That was instant karma for them."

Her reaction was quite different to mine and it took me aback. She couldn't understand why they had all rushed to that side. She would have gone to the opposite side of the boat. "Who wants to see a load of nude people? That's gross!"

Hmm, Oh what a wonderful world it would be to have more people like her. I know that I would rather travel with her than the 60 on that boat.

The Newbury Bus

The bus to Newbury goes past the end of my road so I sometimes catch it when traveling home from Reading station. This bus is sometimes a little one, especially on Sundays.

Yesterday this bus came into the bus station, which is just outside the train station. We got on, and as we were waiting to leave another bus that we could have got came in and went out. I fleetingly thought that maybe we should have got that one.

Well, the little bus was just about to leave when a lady got on wanting to go to Newbury. She said the train to Newbury had been canceled. She presented her ticket which was not valid on the bus but the driver was in a good mood and let her on anyway.

Then a group of young people arrived attempting to get on the bus with a train ticket. The bus driver was hesitant about this but they were all deaf with no speech so he could not communicate the problem. They motioned to one of their group who was not yet on the bus. The deaf guy with speech came and started to talk, but by this time the driver was already late leaving, so he motioned them to get on.

So they got on followed by a train-load of people trying to get onto the tiny bus. They weren't all of the same deaf party and the driver, realising that this was getting out of hand told the people not to get on.

He hopped off to ascertain where their proper rail-replacement bus was.

Meanwhile I signed to some of the deaf party that they needed a different bus. This bus needed a different ticket. This bus needed money for the ticket. They understood and off they trooped.

The driver came back and directed all the train passengers to their rail replacement bus which was waiting at the rail-replacement stop.

I was pleased that we had got that bus after all. It was much more exiting than the other journey would have been. And felt good to be able to help the deaf group. It is rare that my sign language ability is needed in daily life.