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Dante Gabriel Rossetti had no particular connection with Birchington (near Margate) except that he was staying there when he died. He hadn't wanted to be buried with his wife- Lizzie Siddall (whose grave he'd unromantically dug up to retrieve the poems he'd romantically sealed in her coffin) and he was too rock and roll for the Abbey so they buried him where he dropped (so to speak)- by the south porch of Birchington church. The monument- which features the figures of Dante and Beatrice- with whom Rossetti had a life-long obsession- and St Luke, patron saint of painters- was designed by Rossetti's old mentor and mucker in the Pre-Raphaelite movement, Ford Madox Brown.

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They dug up Salvador Dali to conduct a DNA test on behalf of a woman who claims to be his unacknowledged daughter and found him well-preserved, as hard as wood and with his famous moustache still intact. His embalmer- who also attended the exhumation- pronounced him good for a few more hundred years.

I don't think I can explain why but this makes be foolishly happy- especially the bit about the moustache.
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You take out the old albums to look at something and- you know- other things catch your eye.

Here's my father cutting the lawn in his business suit in the Spring of 1973. It was a new mower and I suppose it had just been delivered and he couldn't wait before trying it out.

P.S. This was at the house they lived in before moving to the farm.
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I located my parents' photo album for the early 70s because I wanted to see pictures of the farm as it was when they first moved in. Essentially it was just a house in a field- with only a minimal wire fence to divide the grass that was the private garden from the grass where the sheep grazed. There were rose beds lining the path up to the front door- but otherwise nothing. All the trees, shrubs, flowerbeds we see today were put in by my parents.

I was explaining this to my mother while we sat out in the garden yesterday afternoon.  "You planted these trees," I'd say and she'd say "I see" in a tone that suggested we were talking about something that was interesting in the way that the Norman Conquest is interesting- but really nothing to do with her. 

Farm Life

Jul. 18th, 2017 10:23 am
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The sky is full of clouds that make me think of Boris Johnson. Well, Boris Johnson as the cartoonists draw him- with hair going everyway like a dandelion head that's just been blown at. 

I dug up the third large metal object. It turned out to be a shovel head. Very rusty and encrusted- as though it had been underground for centuries. How long has it really been there? Well, at least since my parents moved in- which is over forty years. It could well be Victorian...

Chris who owns the horses keeps rotating them. He took Justin and his girls away and now we have Snowy (who is his favourite) and Snowy's new foal plus the foal's dad and a random female we've been calling Winnie. I just took them a bunch of carrot tops. Snowy is very tame and Winnie who isn't decided that if Snowy didn't mistrust me she wouldn't either. The stallion- a handsome beast with a white streak of distinction in the mane he wears over his eyes- held himself aloof. These are all cobs- somewhere between wild and domesticated. I don't suppose they've ever been ridden. 
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One of the good things about the European tennis season- from the start of Roland-Garros to the close of Wimbledon- is knowing there'll always be something for my mother to watch in the afternoons that I won't have to close my ears to. Now that Wimbledon is over it's back to the quiz shows and the antique shows and the let's laugh at the proles shows like Judge Rinder...

It wasn't a classic Wimbledon. Again and again we were reminded that these are athletes working at the extreme limits of what is physically possible. Federer and Djokovic faced first round opponents who pulled out with injuries, Djokovic himself pulled out in the quarter finals with a bad elbow and Murray carried a hip injury through several rounds before it eventually did for him. Both finals- the men's and the women's- proved anticlimactic because Venus Williams was exhausted and Cilic hobbled by blisters. 

Federer was majestic. Not his fault that most of the serious competition limped off before he got a chance to have a crack at it. Never before has tennis seemed such an extreme sport, so attritional.

On the whole the women's matches were more entertaining. That's where the exciting younger players are- Ostapenko, Rybarikova, Muguruza- but what about the promising young men?  The best of the matches on the men's side was the one between Nadal (an ancient champion) and Muller (an ancient journeyman making good) and the championship was won by a man of 36. When the great era of Federer, Nadal, Djokovic and Murray closes- not quite yet but soon- who will there be to step into their shoes?

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Dig down anywhere in my mother's front garden and you hit a layer of building rubble- brick, stone, slate, glass, metal. I can only guess at what it represents. Am I perhaps looking at the rough and ready surface of a buried farmyard? 

I've been prospecting out there with my metal detector- working my way along the edge of a flowerbed. I haven't got very far yet because the second time the detector went beep I found I'd lucked onto a big cache of large metallic objects- and I've been digging in the one spot ever since.  First up was a wedge shaped item which- when cleaned- turned into a rectangular piece of steel plate with holes in it and boltheads still attached. That was yesterday's find. This morning I scanned the diggings again and I was still getting strong responses so I dug some more and out came a brick-sized lump- which looks agricultural- but I'll need to remove the accretions before I can be sure of its shape. I scanned again and the machine is still beeping. It's like there's a whole tractor down there.  I've exposed the edge of whatever the new thing is- and tested it with a magnet to make sure its metal-  but extracting it can wait until tomorrow.

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 Carrot tops: they have an earthy flavour with a touch of carroty sweetness and a tang of aniseed. Very agreeable. 

New Hobby

Jul. 13th, 2017 01:18 pm
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Talking about archaeology....

Our eldest grandchild has expressed a wish to do some metal detecting when she visits us on the farm and I said I'm sure we could hire a machine and Ailz said, stuff that, we can buy one...

I tried it out this morning. It works. I found several nails and a length of wire. From the amount of rust they've generated during their time underground I would say the nails "had some age to them."


Jul. 13th, 2017 10:37 am
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Here's an article about the archaeology of Tintagel. It seems there was something you can only call a palace there in the 6th century- with substantial stone walls and slate floors- and whoever lived in it was importing luxury goods from the Mediterranean and Near East. I know the academics hate it (or pretend to hate it) when you mention A***r or C*****t in this context, but really....
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It seems to me- from my limited experience- that cold callers are getting desperate. I had one the other week who bounced off my defences and lost his cool and started swearing at me- and one today who told me that if I didn't answer his questions he'd just call me back- which could be construed as a threat. I'd like to think they're getting rattier because more and more people are stonewalling them and the business model they represent is close to collapse. I hope that's the case- because it's a lousy model.

Flying Ants

Jul. 7th, 2017 09:43 am
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I walked out onto the drive yesterday evening and into a crowd of winged ants. They were milling about on the ground, clambering over the rocky terrain of the crazy paving then taking off one by one and heading west. Something similar was going on the other day on the courts at Wimbledon and causing annoyance to the players. It's one of the things I love about insects- that they go about their business with absolutely no regard to our carryings-on. We are I suppose very largely invisible to them- and impinge on them- if at all- as shadowy, incomprehensible forces of nature...


Jul. 6th, 2017 12:11 pm
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I lost my bead bracelets yesterday- and couldn't find them in any of the obvious places.

Ailz suggested that I might have stripped them off unknowingly along with the heavy duty rubber gauntlets I'd been wearing to wash some soiled clothing- and she was right. I found them where I'd never have thought of looking- at the bottom of the cleaning cupboard.
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We always knew we'd be moving on from here sometime- but now we've been made an offer we can't refuse- a very generous offer but with potentially tiresome consequences if we refuse it- and the move has become a reality that needs to be worked towards instead of a day dream.

And so we We've been looking at houses online. So many houses. Current favourite is an odd looking bungalow- like a child's fort made out of cardboard boxes taped together- on the coast between Seaford and Newhaven with a view across a railway line and a caravan park to The Sea!
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Finished The Way We Live Now, started Meredith's Diana of the Crossways. We're in the same world of wealthy people marrying for money and speculating in railway shares. It's not my favourite environment.

Do I like Meredith? Not sure yet. His style is ornate and eccentric in a way that reminds me of the further reaches of high Victorian architecture- William Burges for instance. His contemporaries thought him a great novelist and their descendants haven't so much downgraded as ignored him.


Jun. 28th, 2017 11:48 am
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We have a bar-code reader. I used it on the shopping this morning and then Ailz wanted it so she could transmit the data- only it had disappeared.

We looked in all the obvious places and eventually found it hanging from a nail neither of us would have dreamed of hanging it from.

We always assume when this sort of thing happens that it's my father being mischievous...
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I looked out an upstairs window and saw a lumpy shape I didn't recognise at the foot of one of the oak trees. The light was dim and there was foliage in the way and it took me a while to work out that what I was seeing was one of the rabbit shooters in his camouflage gear with his back against the tree- pretending to be part of the tree- with his rifle on its tripod between his outspread legs. No sooner had I made the identification than he started to move, got up and shifted his ground- as if some scientifically undocumented sense had told him he had been spotted and was under observation.
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I watched a cloud forming and dissolving.

I was lying in a deckchair looking straight upwards. Two wisps of vapour drifted into one and the whole began to grow- not moving laterally but expanding from its centre- creating itself from nothing, taking on form and substance and shading- until it was fat enough to be carrying rain- then acquiring dimples which became holes as the structure pulled apart into wispy fragments that faded to nothing.


Jun. 26th, 2017 12:02 pm
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Julia says the gypsies hold that a healthy horse won't touch ragwort- and if you have one that does it's because there's something wrong with it and it's using the ragwort as a suicide pill. I suppose that's why Chris is philosophical to the point of not being in the least bit bothered about the ragwort in our fields.

Even so I don't want to have his horses on my conscience or lie awake at night worrying about them and I've decided I'm going to do some extreme weeding. I made a start this morning; setting out with my straw hat and my sickle and my wicker basket like one of Van Gogh's noble peasants. In a way I regret the need; ragwort in full flower is glorious and smells glorious too. I remember reading about a farmer who has been bundling it up and selling it at the roadside as "country gold"- and why not?


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