Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Busy Time in the Garden and with some New Tools

As regular followers will know, I have for some time been scaling down my garden (i.e, borders and shrubberies) in order to cut down on some of the work as we get older.
This Spring I have been doing more of that and have also cut back,very hard,  the shrubs that are staying. 
I think it is now more manageable and I certainly will be keeping all the roses, both back and front.

I have acquired some new tools which are proving very helpful
Wilkinson Sword stainless steel 

This border spade has a kind of platform at the top which really helps when pushing the spade into the ground with one's foot

This Swoe style hoe is a brilliant piece of equipment. I have never had one like this before. It has a push and pull action, severing weeds from their roots.

The handle is also long enough to get right into the centre of beds, especially ones where I am unable to get  right into myself.
I can see this getting a lot of use. Up until now I have done all my weeding kneeling on the ground with a hand trowel and even crawling under shrubs at times. 

Another area where we have been digging out and replacing but poor Alan has had to use the old spade while I have been using the new one!

Well there isn't much colour right now but with 29 roses in bud I am expecting that to change quite soon.

Does not feel like Spring today though - just 5 minutes ago I took this picture of the hailstones in the garden. 

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Earl Grey Tea - Exploring Tea - Part 6


Who was Earl Grey
Everyone is familiar with Earl Grey tea, but not everyone will realise it is named after a former British Prime Minister.
Born in March 1764, Charles Grey – who became the 2nd Earl Grey in 1807 – was the Whig Prime Minister of the UK from Nov 1830 to Jul 1834. Among the notable achievements of his government was the abolition of slavery in the British Empire. Grey was also an architect of parliamentary reform, and the 1832 Reform Act saw major changes to electoral boundaries and the representation of major cities.
- Grey was educated at Richmond College, Eton and Trinity College, Cambridge
- A descendant of a Northumbrian family with its seat at Howick Hall, Earl Grey is commemorated by a statue on Grey’s Monument in Newcastle-upon-Tyne
- Grey spent his retirement at Howick, died in 1845, and is buried at a nearby church
Grey married Mary Ponsonby in 1794 and, between 1796 and 1819, the couple had 10 sons and 6 daughters. Prior to the marriage, he was already having an affair with Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (as played by Keira Knightley in the film ‘The Duchess’), who fell pregnant with a daughter, Eliza Courtney. Born in Aix-en-Provence, France in 1792, she only learned of her true father following her mother’s death 14 years later.
Dominic Cooper (Charles Grey), Keira Knightley (Georgiana)
Dominic Cooper (Charles Grey, 2nd Earl Grey) and

Keira Knightly (Georgina)

According to the Grey family, the tea which bears his name was blended specially for the Earl, using Bergamot to offset the excessive lime in the water at Howick, but many stories exist as to how he became to be introduced to the alluring blend. There is no doubt, however, that he led an eventful life, both politically and personally, and his name lives on in the form of one of the world's most flavoured teas.

Using only natural bergamot oil, Newby presents its own Earl Grey in loose-leaf form, as well as tea bags and extra-special Silken Pyramids, at the Newby e-boutique.
- See more at: http://www.newbyteas.com/2015/03/earl-grey/#sthash.x8ZhZK6z.dpuf

Crafted from silver at the height of the Regency 

period, this Paul Storr teaset from the Chitra

collection dates from 1810.

His work was found in the homes of the Prince 

Regent and noted aristocrats of the year. 

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

The Streets of Liverpool, Part 1

Liverpool, The City where I was born and lived as a child, 3 miles out of the city.
Photos from City Council and put together by Colin Wilkinson

St. George's Hall 1906
Some time ago I came across a couple of books containing photographic records of Liverpool in a second hand book stall
I certainly find them fascinating so will do some posts over time
The most noticeable thing is the contrast between the slums and the more affluent areas
I have to say that I was not aware of the existence of such slums when growing up and am quite shocked at some of the photos 
The history of Liverpool can be traced back to 1190 when the place was known as 'Liuerpul', possibly meaning a pool or creek with muddy water, though other origins of the name have been suggested. The borough was founded by royal charter in 1207, but Liverpool remained a small settlement until its trade with Ireland and coastal parts of England and Wales was overtaken by trade with Africa and the West Indies, which included the slave trade. The town's first wet dock was opened in 1715 and Liverpool's expansion to become a major city continued over the next two centuries.
By the start of the nineteenth century, a large volume of trade was passing through Liverpool. In 1830, the Liverpool and Manchester Railway was opened. The population grew rapidly, especially with Irish migrants; by 1851, one quarter of the city's population was Irish-born. As growth continued, the city became known as "the second city of the Empire", and was also called "the New York of Europe". During the Second World War, the city was the centre for planning the crucial Battle of the Atlantic, and suffered a blitz second only to London's.
From the mid-twentieth century, Liverpool's docks and traditional manufacturing industries went into sharp decline, with the advent of containerisation making the city's docks obsolete. The unemployment rate in Liverpool rose to one of the highest in the UK. Over the same period, starting in the early 1960s, the city became internationally renowned for its culture, particularly as the centre of the "Merseybeat" sound which became synonymous with The Beatles. In recent years, Liverpool's economy has recovered, partly due to tourism as well as substantial investment in regeneration schemes. The city was a European Capital of Culture in 2008.

The Docks and Overhead Railway

Lord Street 1908

American Tram 1900

Johnson Street 1935

Hill's Place, Wavertree, 1934

Burlington Street 1934

Dale Street 1908

New Quay 1908

The Floating Landing Stage on the River Mersey 1925

Children playing in sand pits in Whitney Gardens

Liverpool Overhead Railway 1946
Enjoyed many a ride on this line as a child

Fire Station 1906

Liverpool's last Tram 1957

Lord Street 1908

Church Street 1925
The city was second only to London for the amount of bombing that took place and I have vivid memories from childhood of seeing whole streets flattened by the air raids during the night. I remember very well the warning sirens and the all clear when the planes had returned to Germany.
Go here to see a modern transformed city, especially the waterfront

I can do lots more posts on times gone by in Liverpool so have titled this one part 1.

Monday, 4 May 2015

I'm Still Here!

Yes, I am still here but have not posted for a month nor hardly visited. This has not been intentional but as we all know 'life happens'. Talk about slowing down as one gets older, we just seem to get busier! Apart from that my i-pad and Facebook have played a part.
I need to rectify this with a few bits and pieces and get visiting you, my blogging buddies.
Where do I start - maybe with a photograph from the beginning of the year.

Our son was trying out his new camera for this photo
but the following are mine

The Grandchildren are growing fast
Five and Eight here

A lego gift I had bought for Bekah which she assembled in less than half an hour

We had some gorgeous weather in April and even managed to have our AGM at Pilgrims Hall outside

When pruning shrubs in March I began to think about cutting down on some more of the work in the garden (those who have followed my garden may remember that in the last two years we have removed some the larger shrub beds and replaced them with small island beds and planted new roses). I am looking ahead to the time when it might be more than I can handle.

So decided  to 'just do it' rather than dither.
Hopefully soon this area will be dug out and grassed over. I am now looking forward to seeing this area opened up. It was hard to let go of the Smoke Bush particularly, but it had spread to it's limit of 16ft x 16ft and a lot of the wood was dying off.

Still some Spring colour to enjoy

I'll finish with another tea note
My son just returned from his second trip this year and having seen how we enjoyed the tea he brought back from a tea plantation in Bangladesh in February, he brought some back from a Borneo tea plantation.
It's interesting to note the slight difference in flavour these teas have.
This is Sabah - the national black tea.
It is cultivated on the verdant foothills of Mount Kimbalu, Malaysia's first ever World Heritage Site. 
Here choice tender leaves are carefully harvested and meticulously processed to preserve the pristine purity of the Borneo Rainforest. 

Well I just realised that I have been blogging for 8 years Easter gone. To think that when I began I wondered what on  earth I would have to say!

Friday, 3 April 2015

Exploring Tea - Part 5 - Rediscovering The Art of Tea

In continuing posting on Tea I found this 4 minute video interesting telling of the vision behind
Newby Teas.
If you are interested in tea drinking you will be interested in this.


The definitive chronicle of tea’s extraordinary history, The Chitra Collection is as enchanting as it is elaborate. Pieces drawn from every continent bring a fascinating story to life, illustrated by the intricate craftsmanship of artisans through many hundreds of years – a craftsmanship rarely found today.
The Chitra Collection exists not just as a reminder of that past, but as a hope for today and tomorrow. Its elegant artworks represent an age where the business of enjoying tea was taken seriously, and the various ceremonial traditions which emerged around it were observed with great reverence.
By sharing the treasures which define this exquisite collection, Newby hopes to rekindle a desire to respect tea tradition again. Fine teas, blended, preserved and stored by those who truly care about indubitable quality, are deserving of that respect – a fact surely recognised by the likes of FabergĂ©, Paul Storr and Tiffany and Co, as they crafted esoteric teaware of similarly unquestionable merit.
Newly commissioned decorative pieces line up with one-of-a-kind antiques, beginning an overdue renaissance of tea culture led by Newby founder Mr Sethia, whose N. Sethia Foundation charitable trust owns the collection. While at present privately held, the collection’s items will add unique value and interest to future public exhibitions.
The Chitra Collection is an ever-present inspiration, a reminder that tea need never be ordinary, it should always be special.
You can discover more about the origins of the pieces which make up The Chitra Collection, and the personal ethos which inspired it's curation on the above video.
For myself right now I can hear Alan in the kitchen making tea
I'll be back
Happy Easter to everyone

Saturday, 21 March 2015

Exploring Tea - Part 4

Here we have a taste of the history of tea in China

China’s Tang Dynasty (609-907 AD), often called the golden age of Chinese civilisation, flourished alongside a golden age in tea. It was in this epoch that Lu Yu wrote his celebrated The Classic of Tea, which describes the Tang Dynasty’s elaborate tea culture. In his masterpiece, he describes the importance of the terroir where the tea is grown, the ideal water to use, the brewing process and the 24 items of tea paraphernalia required for serving the perfect ‘bowl’ of tea.
In this era and the centuries that followed, tea leaves were not infused but ground into fine particles whisked in hot water in a large vessel before being served in small tea bowls. In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD), this evolved into placing the crushed tea leaves directly into the bowls themselves and using a pot simply to boil the water, much like Matcha tea is served today. A royal pastime called doucha, or tea contests, gained popularity: tea dust was placed into cups and mixed with boiling water with a bamboo brush, this produced a powerful white foam and the tea-drinker with the best looking foam would win. 
This tradition of whisking tea can be seen to this day in chanoyu, the elaborate and methodical Japanese Tea Ceremony. Brought to Japan by the Buddhist monk Myoan Eisai (1141-1215 AD), tea was embraced in Japan alongside Zen philosophy and flourished into a nationwide pastime.
Firmly established in the East by the 15th century, tea’s journey further west was just beginning.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Exploring Tea - Part 3 - Milk Oolong

Milk Oolong

Apparently the finest Tieguanyin Oolong tea from China.
 You would not want to add milk to this tea


Cup: pale yellow-green
Aroma: cream, caramel
Taste: milk, floral, balanced
Finish: smooth, sweet

I found it delicate and definitely with a hint of cream and caramel on top of the mild green tea flavour.
A pleasant afternoon drink

 I first came across Newby Teas when looking for a good Peppermint tissane
I was so impressed with their website that I phoned them and asked if they would mind if I took information from their site in order to do some blog posts on tea
They were more than happy and yesterday I received some gifts of tea from them, the above being the first that I have sampled (apart from the Peppermint that I bought and showed in a previous post)

I'll be sharing some very interesting tea history in my next tea post.