Saturday, 30 April 2011

Snail food

A random trip to the garden centre to get some mildew-killer for the roses, and we found these geraniums that have a perfect colour match with the gîte. They are great for planting in pots since they don't give up the ghost as soon as you forget to water them, so they will go into the planters in front of the pool. That's if the snails don't get them first.

Also a freebie pic of the roses themselves.

Monday, 25 April 2011

A quick trip round the garden

When I lived in High Wycombe, I bought a scarlet perennial poppy plant. Its brash, bright flowers were pleasing on the eye, but I decided that I had planted it in the wrong place. Come the Autumn, I dug it up and moved it to where I thought it would be better suited. This resulted in two plants; one in the new place and another that grew from the roots left behind in the old place. It so happened that I decided that the new place was wrong too, so I repeated the process. After a few years of this, I would be greeted every Springtime with myriad bright, brash, cheerful poppy blooms, almost all of them in the wrong place.

I found this kind of endearing, (some would say because it encapsulates my approach to ensemble music-making, but I don't pay any attention to this) and perennial poppies have been a firm favourite of mine ever since. I usually buy them as plants, because I don't seem to have much luck growing them from seed. (Any hints and tips welcome).

This spring, the poppy "Aurora" in particular seems to be growing like a Triffid, and is the the first to bloom. Here's a pic, with some others from around the garden.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Hot air balloon

French for hot air balloon is montgolfière (f), after its inventors. A company offers flights over a selection of Loire valley chateaux, and we went to enjoy the experience. The flights take place at dawn and dusk because there is less wind at these times, and we set off at dusk. Our target chateau was Chenonceau.

Steering hot air balloons is a bit hit-and-miss. The pilot relies on the likelihood that the wind is going in slightly different directions at different heights. We set off quite a few miles from Chenonceau, so we were very dependent on a fair wind. Four balloons were launched and we established different heights to try to determine which one was the best one to take us to the chateau. The wind direction turned out to be about the same at all heights and we ended up slightly off to one side. But not so far away that we couldn't take any pictures.

In the end though, it was the flight itself that was the fun thing; the destination was largely irrelevant.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Window panes

These windows were spotted during the walk in St Suzanne. They form part of a shed wall, and it looks like they have been whitewashed ages ago and the paint has slid down. Well, I liked the patterns.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Oh no! Camera problems!

My blogcam seems to have developed a problem, in that there is a darkened area on the upper right hand side of the photographs it takes. It looks like it might be caused by a bit of dust. The spot gets progressively more obvious as the lens moves towards its maximum zoom, so I conclude that the speck of dust is on the glassworks as opposed to the CCD sensor.

I have tried removing the spot with image editing software (GIMP) and this works to an extent limited by my lack of skill, but takes a long time, maybe 5-10 minutes per picture. I probably need to take the thing in to a proper camera shop, but meanwhile a work-around is to hold the camera upside-down when taking pictures. It takes a matter of seconds to invert a photo, and although you can still see the dark spot (now in the lower left-hand part of the picture) it is much less offensive.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Joint concert

The Harmonie of St Suzanne joined with the Harmonie of Louvingé du Désert on Saturday afternoon to give a joint, free public concert in the evening. We were "at home" at St Suzanne and the afternoon started with a communal lunch, and continued with a visit to St Suzanne. The main visit concentrated on the medieval town centre, but we were able to give our two lunchtime companions a more personalised visit, with a ramble along the river valley and views of the old town from the Tertre Ganne opposite.

At 6:00 we did a joint rehearsal, had a light snack and the concert started at 8:30. We did the first half, the Harmonie from Louvigné did the second half and we all got together at the end for a couple of pieces together. A great way to spend a Saturday afternoon and evening, and we made some friends into the bargain. We will have a return visit in December. Looking forward.

Sunday, 10 April 2011


The Wisteria is out. An ideal thing to sit under whilst reading.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Trustworthy government

I got a letter in the post today concerning my personal pension. As far as I can make out, the upshot of it is:

1) The maximum pension I can draw (from the next re-valuation of my SIPP fund, that happens to be now) has been reduced by 17%. I just got a 17% income cut.
2) I don't have to buy an annuity when I am 75.
3) When I die, the inheritor of my pension fund has to pay 55% tax instead of 35%, a hike of 57%.
4) The inheritor can inherit even if I die after 75 whereas they couldn't before.

I might be being cynical, but it seems to me that:

1) In reducing the amount that I can take out of my pension, the government are increasing what will be left when I die, thus increasing their potential tax revenues.
2) What is left when I die will be taxed at a higher rate, increasing their potential tax revenues.
3) Perhaps they are hoping to increase their potential tax revenues, in that if I don't buy an annuity there might be some money left in my pension fund when I die that they can tax, whereas an annuity turns into a pumpkin when I die and thus produces no tax.

Is there a theme here? Do not rely on this blog post for financial advice. Do not make any decision based on the content of this blog post. Have a nice day.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

I love Springtime

We set off for a coffee this morning and I took the camera along to take a few snaps. The tulips are out in full splendour, with Mahonia, Rosemary and other shrubs making a showing (Wisteria photos to follow).

To make the morning complete, the wife found a lost glove, missing for a few weeks. Someone had found it on the road and put it on a door handle so it could be seen. Good job she didn't throw the other one away.

The plum trees are out in full blossom, and the buzz of the many, enormous, bumble bees working the nectar is more like a roar. Shame it doesn't translate well to a blog post, but you get the idea.

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