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It’s raining and I have a big, fat, infected insect bite on my leg. So I’m not walking the dog. It would be good for my mental state, and the state of my backside, if I did, but my leg hurts so I’m not doing it. Firstborn can do it. Then I’ll get m’husband to take me and dog for a drive, and look at lovely green grass out of the window.

In the meantime, here are some garden pictures:

Poppies in full bloom. They lasted barely a week before regular downfalls flattened them, but they were lovely while they lasted.

I love English marigolds which, being English, are pretty much rainproof. I planted loads in a pot and placed them on some steps in my garden so I can see them from my kitchen window. The guinea pigs love them too, so they get spare leaves when I’m feeling generous.

My garden is a pretty freeform sort of place, but occasionally it does itself proud in self seeded moments. The pink rose is the thornless climber whose name momentarily escapes me – oh, zephrine drouhin, I think – and the foxglove appeared all on its ownsome. Quite a few of the selfseeded foxgloves round here are white, so I’m rather pleased that this one managed to merge colours so beautifully with the rose.

Just out of shot is a shoot of stag’s horn sumach. I planted one which came from m’mother’s garden, which eventually died due to overvigorous pruning at the wrong time of year. However it had sent out a few exploratory parties to my back fence neighbour’s garden, so she now has a healthy bush in her garden plus more babies in pots. She handed me one back, plus they’re sneaking back under the fence. Slightly tyrannical, but beautiful foliage.

 Addendum: This is an embarrassing admission; in my attempts to add two new blogs (afreemaninpreston.blogspot.com and brightmeadow.co.uk) to my blogroll I have a)failed to do so and b)added my own blog. Which looks like the ultimate in vanity. If anyone has any idea how to change this, please let me know. I’m off to watch Blues Brothers – the second one, with John Goodman, not the original.

 

 

Well, I’m saying sorry but I’m not really. I’m just pissed off with myself and I don’t want to look at the luscious flower pics I’ve taken, or the busy market shots, because I want to KICK something because I hate myself and this research project so much. I don’t have time for this! Or the will. Or the drive, focus, whatever.

I’m still ploughing through my results section, statistic by statistic and table by table. Now I’ve found a reference which advises me that I should check my patterns of covariance to ensure that my test is truly unidimensional. Accordingly, I’ve rerun the reliability analysis and requested a covariance matrix and a summary statistic for each scenario. Now all that’s stopping me is that I DON’T HAVE A F******* CLUE what I’m looking for.

AAAAAAAARRRRGH!

 

I was walking Sparks around Oakwell Hall country park, admiring the wild roses

and the elderflowers when I started thinking “that motorway is a bit noisy today”. The M62 runs along the ridge behind the park, and there’s always a fair amount of traffic noise but this was even noiser than usual. I could hear horns blaring and thought there had been an accident until I suddenly remembered “oh, the fuel protests!” I wasn’t the only one who was a little confused; a coach driver in the car park asked me if a band was tuning up behind the hall. But once I’d got my thoughts lined up it all became clear – other clues such as the helicopter buzzing overhead, and the tunes some drivers seemed to be bipping out on their horns – made much more sense.

When we got back to the car I drove up the road, parked on the bridge and looked down at the traffic. It was moving, just not as quickly as normal. The BBC said this morning that they couldn’t go slower than 40mph, although a haulage guy on the BBC website was quoted as saying they’d stuck to 20mph. Trucks are also limited to the first two lanes so in theory the traffic should have flowed around them although, as you can see from the picture below, a van driver decided to show his solidarity and brought the whole lot to a crawl:

I am all for a greener Britain with less traffic on the roads, but simply upping and upping the price of fuel and the tax isn’t going to do it. More incentives to use public transport and move freight by rail would be good. M’husband saw a garage advertising petrol at 121.9p per litre on his way home today. Diesel is at least 15p dearer per litre. For my US friends, there are 3.785 litres to a US gallon – so that’s £4.61 per gallon or, with the exchange rate at just under $2 to the pound, over $9 per gallon.

Someone go slap the traders who are pushing oil prices up. And don’t simply tell me to drive less and take cheaper holidays. I have to drive my own car to do my job, and I am recompensed the princely sum of 20p per mile. We’ve been taking cheap holidays in the UK forever, in fact we have a touring caravan – which has suddenly become an increasingly expensive way to take a holiday.

 

I made a Victoria sandwich cake and a dozen butterfly buns.

I fed one butterfly bun to m’husband, who had just staggered in from work. That leaves 11. Then I walked round to the Co-op to fetch more sugar for my next batch of baking.

When I returned, 10 minutes later, I walked into the kitchen to find – just TWO butterfly buns remaining. I ran through the house, shouting “Who’s eaten all the buns!” Sons denied all knowledge. Then we noticed that Sparky was crawling round on her belly, looking extremely repentant. Yes, she had wolfed down NINE BUTTERFLY BUNS leaving not a trace of crumb, paper case or buttercream. She did not get any tea.

Firstborn son then polished off one more butterfly bun. This is as close as Sparky is ever going to get to a butterfly bun again:

I then got into an intense online discussion with American friends about the description and recipe for a butterfly bun. Once we had got through the usual quantity confusion (I say grams, they say cups; I say ‘gas mark’, they say fahrenheit) it came down to an issue of cake versus bun, and the size of the tins. Here are mine, to save future confusion:

That’s firstborn with tape measure, bun tin, a Victoria sandwich cake on the right and the last remaining butterfly bun balanced on the bun tin.

That’s my bun tin on the right, and my muffin tin on the left. However I suspect this is smaller than an American muffin tin, as when I make muffins from The Genuine American Cookie and Muffin Book, by Peter Shaffer (written by an American transplanted to North Yorkshire, all measures and ingredients translated into English) I always have more mixture than required for the dozen muffins the book says it will make. But I feel overfaced by an American muffin, so I’ll stick with the smaller tin size.

And finally, the Victoria sandwich cake (again) plus the chocolate sponge with chocolate whipped cream and chocolate ganache I just made for my oldest friend’s birthday:

Try not to feel sick.

I am trying to make sense of the stats on my research project. It all seemed so straightforward with my supervisor last week; but now I am at home on my own with SPSS and a load of nonsensical notes, and I’m not so sure. Today I have progress of a sort, as after much tortured thinking I came up with ‘refocus on your hypotheses’ so – now that I’ve remembered what they are – I’ve got a framework of a sort. Yesterday, however, I was tired from the London trip, spent the morning faffing about reading different blogs, then took Sparks for a walk with my SIL and nephew at Nostell Priory.

The newly restored Obelisk Lodge at the top of the park.

Lars lends a helping hand.

She loves me, she loves me not…

Lars and Sparky smile for the camera.

 

I’m of the Anglican persuasion anyway, but after yesterday’s trip to the National Gallery I am really really in favour of the Reformation. Waaaaay too many pictures of the Madonna, crucifixion, St Sebastian pierced with arrows and Judith chopping off Holofernes’ head. I was in there with my firstborn son, who is planning to take 2 art A-levels, and virtually his only comment on the day was “There were an awful lot of pictures of the adoration of the magi.”

I prefer portraits and Dutch landscapes. Firstborn prefers anything that isn’t religious, although he did comment at one point that Canaletto’s sea was “crap”. Which, on a closer view, I had to agree with. Brilliant buildings and ships, but his sea consisted of a solid background with little white wavelets.  After a cup of tea, gingerbread men (firstborn) and treacle tart (me) I whisked him round part of the National Portrait Gallery, which is one of my favourite places in the world, and bought myself a poster for the 18th century Bluestockings exhibition, in the hope it will inspire me to keep going with the research project. then we mooched around a few bookshops on Charing Cross Road, inspected the Chinese garden in the forecourt of the British Museum, and met Annabelle for dinner.

Excitement and exhaustion followed on the way home: we left King’s Cross at 8pm and were due in at Wakefield about 10.15, but our train stood in Retford station for half an hour before the guard announced on the tannoy that a train ahead of us on the line had caught fire! Aaargh! I had visions of us having to sleep on board as the guard told us there was no way to get past the stricken engine. However they got it moved eventually and we were just an hour late home.

It’s nice to be able to get into London so easily (fast trains from Wakefield mean only a two hour journey to King’s Cross) but it’s even nicer to get home and be picked up from the station by a warm and welcoming husband. M’husband had been tracking our journey home online so arrived just a few minutes before we did. Not so the poor woman he was talking to in the station, who had driven all the way from Holmfirth to pick up her son from the train which was due in at 9pm, only to be told on arrival in Wakefield that his train had caught fire (I am so glad I booked on the 8pm train from London rather than 7pm) and now wouldn’t be arriving until about midnight.

Here’s a picture for today; it’s the engraving used on the Bluestockings poster. Excellent exhbition, do go and see it.

 

It’s hot and my garden is responding to that and all the rain we had last month:

The roses are going great guns, and I didn’t even realise there were that many buds on the bushes.

 

I’ve spent the day at Bramham horse trials – first day of dressage today, plus the hunter show.

That’s Mary King, a member of the UK Olympic eventing team, ready to go into her dressage test.

There’s Sparky, sprawled out in the grass by the side of the dressage arena wearing her free neckerchief. I couldn’t get any decent pics of dressage tests; my camera is too small.

There were dogs everywhere, all very well behaved and on leads. The only place to let them off was on the cross country course (no horses on it today). These three belonged to a rider who was walking the course, and shortly after this the German Shepherd pup and the Jack Russell waded into the water jump – to test the bottom was nice and firm for the horses on Saturday, obviously. Sparks and I left them to their musings, and walked off to get through the woods and on the parkland loop, but first we came across this rider in the dressage practice arena:

I don’t know what that building is behind her. A summer house? A folly? It’s quite close to the main house, which we have never actually got around to visiting, despite living only 40 minutes away.

On Saturday horses and riders will be galloping around and encountering fences like this:

And this:

Most of them look quite inviting – if, and it’s a big IF, you had a good horse.

There were some lovely horses in the hunter classes. I love show hunters. I’d have a middleweight, or a heavyweight, in a flash, except that practicalities start to creep into my mind like a) if I fell off when I was out riding, how on earth would I get back on again without a mounting block and b) how much do they cost to feed. A darn sight more than a hardy native pony, I’d imagine.

Here’s Imperator, the winner of the middleweight class:

And here are the judges discussing final placings in the heavyweight class:

It was a very pleasant day, and a welcome distraction from my academic woes. I’ve given up on the PhD idea – for now. In the end, I’d decided this before I went to see my supervisor. I discussed it with her anyway, in the hopes she could produce some miraculous idea, but no such luck. There are too many family demands on my time and attention at present for me to devote myself to such a huge project, and I felt quite upset and frustrated by that. Especially when those demands are things like ‘make sure this gets posted for me’; ‘make me a sandwich’ and ‘when did anyone last dust?’ But I have a plan; I shall spend two or three years taking some short term and/ or part time contracts for things, as well as doing other independent study to keep my hand in.

 

Soon after we moved in here (20 years ago next month!) this aquilega appeared:

I can’t remember if it merely seeded itself, or came in a pot from m’mother’s garden along with some other stuff. Whatever, I wasn’t that impressed by its washed out pinky-purple flower and kept pulling it out. But it was persistent, as evidenced by the fact that it’s still there.

A few years ago I bought this aquilega:

Which turned out somewhat different to what I thought it would be, but it was interesting so I let it be. It turned out that aquilegas love my garden, as it kept seeding itself and can now be found all over my back garden flower beds on the sunny side. It also seemed to get on well with the pinky-purple resident, as they swapped pollen when my back was turned and came up with this:

A deep periwinkle blue, I think. And then this came along:

This one tends to the maroon end of the spectrum, so I find it a little bit funereal but I’ve allowed it to stay. Then last week I was fiddling with the plants and actually looked closely at this year’s self-seeded aquilega crop and realised I now had this as well:

I think it’s fabulous. Like a Victorian petticoat; all stiff frills and furbelows.

I am still musing on the PhD idea. How much do I want to do it? How bored will I get if I stick with what I’m doing now? Will I be able to stop myself being totally distracted by family stuff? If I’m going to do a doctorate I think the best time would be now, whilst I’m in the swing of research. If I left it a few years I’d then have to go through the whole ‘I can’t, I’m not capable’ panic all over again.

Meeting with supervisor is tomorrow. Given the amount of work I haven’t got done, she may laugh the doctorate idea out of the building.

 

 

Very soothing in the woods right now, as the tree canopy has thickened up and you are bathed in a soft, green light. Like this:

And it makes me keep thinking about singing ‘Into the Woods…” as I am toying with the idea of applying for a PhD. The one that’s come up sounds perfect, but… Well, I wouldn’t have time to go for many long walks with the dogs, and the emotional support at home can be somewhat sporadic, depending on how much cleaning is being done. On the plus side, I’d have a desk in the department, so I’d be able to concentrate on my work without endless distractions from children, washing, dirty bathroom floors and husbands who complain about the amount of paper I accumulate.

I’m going to discuss it with my supervisor tomorrow. As she would also be the supervisor for this PhD she may well exclaim in horror at the idea of supporting me through an even bigger research project. In the meantime I’m going to think happy thoughts, just like Sparky and Willis when they see an expanse of long grass: