Sunday, 29 April 2012

forget me not days

Forget me nots are pretty. Pretty to look at and pretty feckless.I always think of them as the reckless teenagers of the plant world.... arriving when and where  you least expect them, sowing their seed all over the place , and living where other, more fussy plants, wouldn't survive.

Like teenagers ,you can't forget  myosotis sylvatica. A few arrived years ago in the garden, their seeds blown on the wind from another village garden...and since then they've colonised one side of our cottage, where it's shady.

They're everywhere......and no matter how much I pull them up in late summer when their roots turn a rough rusty brown , they've already been at it....germinating madly , without a  care in the world. I don't even have to shake their seeds as I pull them up...they've already done the job for me.

But their charm overwhelms me every year...their cheery little blue blooms  with cheeky yellow centres are such a lovely sight to see at this time of year. Especially this year...when it's done nothing but rain for the last ten days...the forgot me nots are quite riotous, as they love damp conditions and shade.

So how did they get therir name? Well there's a number of  legends associated with them. The first is from mediaeval times.A knight and his amour went a walking by a river....he was holding a bouquet of myosotis (well interflora  and more flashy flowers weren't readily available then) .

He must have been showing off his armour ( how big, how heavy, have a look at my chain mail type of thing) because the weight of the armour caused him to fall into the water. He then threw the bouquet of flowers at her....shouting "forget me not".

There's another quite similar one - this one takes place on the banks of the River Danube where a young man and his girlfriend were walking. they saw some blue flowers there, on an islet.The young man crossed the river, picked the flowers , but then got caught up in the current on the way back.

He threw them at her crying "forget me knot" and disappeared.The girlfriend never forgot him and wore the flowers in her hair until her death.

Only in April and May I hope...the seeds would have been an absolute nightmare to comb out any later in the year.

There's some Christian legends as well. One says that God was walking through the Garden of Eden (after the creation) and he spotted a lovely little blue flower.He asked its name but the shy little flower said "I'm afraid I have forgotten Lord." But God replied "forget me not.Yet I will not forget thee."

 In another version...God names all of the plants except one.The blue flower cries out "Forget me not Lord" and God says "that shall be your name"

And since then, these lovely hardy annuals can  never be forgotten. How could they be? They turn up each year, come rain, come shade...and they've definitely lost their shyness.

And there's so many of them, that I can fill jugs and jugs with them, and they won't be missed in the garden.

Today's track is one which was released last year from Yellowire. It didn't seem to do much at the time, but the more I hear it, the more I like it.In fact I absolutely adore it! So catchy, especially the album version from Machines on Fire.

And I really think it should be released. Like the flower, it shouldn't be forgotten....especially now when it seems so appropriate.

"When is it summer?"
Please click the link below

Friday, 20 April 2012

from Australia with love....

I love wine.This will come as no surprise to those of you who know me.

Fizz, red wine, rose and white wine.In that order.  I shall be having a glass of red in an hour's time.Unless my friend Laura has already bought a bottle of white to share when I get to the pub tonight.

I love the whole ritual of having a glass of wine....pulling the cork out (or increasingly unscrewing the cap), listening to the sound of the wine pouring into the glass.And sitting there savouring that first sip.

I shall be featuring the local winemakers from Leicestershire in another post.....yes, there are some! But my heart, and my tastebuds are still back in Australia right now.In Margaret River.....

If you like your wine, then you are spoilt for choice there. Numerous wineries, some small,  some large are producing memorable, taste tingling wines for every occasion.

They sell their wines from the cellar door, and I spent quite a few days there travelling around the wineries...not just tasting the wines but admiring the gardens and settings......

One of my favourite visits was here

Established in 1986, I loved the broad sweeping avenue upto the cellar door

 There were pretty ,well manicured gardens too...

And this is where we tasted the wines....

Their Jete sparkling rose and sparkling white were as effervescent as the friendly and helpful assistant who poured a steady stream of  wines across the Howard Park and Madfish ranges.Bottles bought, I was hungry.Through the huge windows you can see above, I saw a group of people tucking in to lunch energetically.

When I asked where the menu was I found out that was lunch for the staff. And a good lunch it looked too. That's what I call spoiling the staff!

But many of the wineries do serve beautiful settings.One of them is at Watershed....the Boy and I enjoyed a long, lesiurely Sunday lunch at Watershed Wines, five kilometres out of Margaret River itself.

After trying out a number of wines, I decided on this cold, fresh and fruity.....exactly the right wine to accompany a tasty risotto and drink in the gorgeous view.

Whether you're really serious about wine, whether you're going out for a  drive and lunch, then  the wineries here have got it right...from the service, the ambiance and the settings. Everyone I met at every winery I visited were proud of what they produce....and so they should be.

Coming up shortly, back to reality...back to life in Leicestershire and Rutland....and how some back breaking digging will soon be producing dividends...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

rainy days

When I flew off to the sunshine at the beginning of March, it was raining - heavily. I peered through murky windows out at the grey Heathrow skies as I waited to board this airbus to Singapore and then onto Australia......and gleefully looked forward to my escape....

By the time I get back I thought, Spring will have arrived. The clocks will have gone forward, the nights will be lighter, and perhaps, just perhaps, the sun will be shining when I get back.

When I arrived back at Heathrow four weeks later it wasn't. Dark grey clouds and torrential rain accompanied me all the way back up the M1 to  home, lovely family, friends and .... reality.

And apart from a few days when the sun popped out briefly to say hello and shot back quickly behind the clouds, it's been raining ever since.

Ironic really ...I've been reading news bulletins declaring that half of England is under drought restrictions and hosepipe bans including Leicestershire where I live.

 On Monday British Waterways even closed a nearby eleven mile stretch of the Grand Union Canal between Aylestone Lock and Kibworth because of the drought.Apparently there's not enough water to keep the boats afloat.

This rain is much needed,I know that, but I'm sitting
 here on a dreary Wednesday morning ...dry admittedly, but feeling cold  and slightly melancholic as I watch the rain bucket down outside in the courtyard.You can't see just how heavy the rain is here in the photo...but last year's geraniums are getting a good free drink.(but don't worry, they'll be back inside tonight!)

Right now, I should be out on the allotment finishing off planting out the potatoes....but I'm not that daft.There are times when it's good to feel the soft rain on your face - but not today.I'd drown.

On the plus side though, the lawn is looking rather lush and my watering cans are full of rainwater!

And at least tonight when I'm reading the late news bulletins, there'll be lots to say in the weather forecast. Rain, wind, hail, a touch of frost, you name it....we've had it here recently.

Still,  wouldn't it be lovely to be able to say that one day this summer  the weather will be ..."SCORCHIO"!

In the meantime, this song by the wonderful Sam Lightnin Hopkins perfectly sums up my somewhat bluesy mood today.....

I give you - Rainy Day Blues

Friday, 6 April 2012

days when it's not what you think...and being childish

With many things in life, it's location, location, Australia any house near the water attracts premium prices in estate agents windows. The same goes for venues....if your cafe, bar or restaurant is on the seafront, or by the river, you're quids in.

I'm a country girl, but Perth is a beautiful city, surrounded by water ,with stunning vistas wherever you look.


A popular watering hole on the banks of the Swan River is not only in a fantastic location,

 it has a wonderful name


I me childish, but I sniggered uncontrollably when I saw the sign for the first time five years ago. Knowing the Aussie sense of  openness and sense of humour, I thought I had a fair idea of how the bar got its name, which made me laugh even more.

It turns out that how the bar got its name is not what you think's all to do with a cormorant.....allegedly....

One story has it that when the name for the bar was being decided a shag (a type of cormorant) swooped down into the water and emerged with two fish, and someone immediately said "Gee, thats a lucky shag".

So that's one version and it's true that there are alot of shags about even though I didn't manage to photograph one.....but I have evidence. I don't know about lucky shags...they're definitely shitty shags....

 It's a great place for drinks late afternoon , sitting outside....just admiring the view....

The place is filled with both tourists and locals, and those who arrive by boat and moor alongside....

Drinking in the sunshine, the view and a cold beer on a warm Perth afternoon ...what could be nicer?

Perhaps a bottle of wine?

A week later, I was in the bottle shop . I really fancied an ice cold bottle of rose....and I wanted it there and then. Looking along the rows, I saw a few that looked ok, and several that I knew would hit the spot because I recognised the vineyard, the variety of grape etc.

And then I saw one bottle.....I couldn't miss it....the label was so appealing...and so was the branding....I had to buy it....

Have you tried a bonking frog? I know...another really childish moment.It could have tasted like bilge water, but I had to try it. I suppose it's the equivalent of backing a race horse because you like its name. Ignore its form, the going, the jockey....just go for the name.

And that my friends is what I did - and what a lovely earthy merlot it was too.

So I guess I struck that shag, or some Australian who got more than a beer at a certain bar....

Today's track is from John Butler Trio...I fell in love with this band and this track on my first trip to Perth and saw them play live two years ago in Fremantle.There's no video but just sit back, relax, listen and enjoy (with or without a glass of bonking frog...)

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Local food rules Australia.....

You may have wondered  - or perhaps you haven't, why I've not posted since the beginning of March. Well, I've been in Australia, and as you can imagine , finding food from Leicestershire and Rutland to eat there was rather difficult. In fact it was impossible.Not even a slice of stilton ....

So, I decided to eat only food from Western Australia....and it's a much larger region than our two counties. It's the largest state in a huge country, one so large you could fit Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland into Australia thirty one (yes, thirty one!) times and still have a bit left over.

So there's huge tracts of farmland, and Australia exports an incredible sixty per cent of the food produced, mainly meat and grains.

But Australia now imports more than  a third of its fruit supply and almost 20 per cent of its vegetables.In fact ninety five per cent of the garlic in the shops is imported from China, yet can be grown all year round in Australia. Now that sounds worrying to me.

Visting Margaret River though, about a two and a half hour drive from Perth, there's lots of reasons to be cheerful though. The area is famous for its winegrowing, and wherever you go , there are estates selling wine from their cellar doors(more about those in another post)

You can also stop and buy lots of other produce from growers of avocados, olives, olive oil,  fruits, and berries ...and a simple drive to a winery becomes an adventure.

We stumbled on a hidden gem one lunchtime after a particularly enjoyable wine tasting on the Caves Road north of Margaret River. It was about half past one, and we were hungry.Correction, my son was starving. With capital letters. We came across Olio Bellio ...yes , they grow olives...right next to the car park

Their Extra Virgin Olive Oil is grown and pressed at Cowaramup Creek Farm, a 320 acre property

But they also make lots of other tasty treats....such as lemon or lime pressed olive oil,and  a wonderful mandarin and fig chtney as well as other condiments.And they serve lunch.

So we hoovered up quite a few samples dipped in bread and crackers...and then stayed for lunch. I ordered a delicious walnut, pear and feta salad with their own honey and mustard dressing , my son ordered pizza.He said it was the best pizza he'd tasted for a long time.....and I agreed. Well, I had to have a few slices didn't I? Oh, and as well as force feeding him some salad we shared some potato wedges roasted with rosemary and olive oil.

 Such a lovely lunch, all locally grown and produced....

And to drink, a local lemonade....served in a fully degradable bio cup.

A quiet spot under a shady tree for a lazy lunch ...with all  produce grown or made within a few miles.Local food rules -in Australia as well as Leicestershire and Rutland.