with 3 Comments

The Common Cormorant

This week: Not everything survives; Figgy pudding; The Common Cormorant; Summertime;

Stari Grad Plain
Stari Grad Plain

As the temperature heads past 36ºC as I write this at lunch time on Saturday, we are back on the average for both high and low temperatures, for this week of the year.

By the end of the second week of August, the peak temperatures of summer should be past.

The high temperatures have meant that my outside activities have been curtailed to the bare minimum, simply to prevent being constantly soaked in perspiration.

With high humidity as well as high temperatures, the body’s natural cooling mechanism is just not working.

Not everything I plant survives

I have been watering night and morning for a few weeks now, but this week I was concerned about a Sweet Granadilla, Passiflora ligularis, which I planted three years ago.

This is a tropical species, native to the Andes mountains of western South America. I deliberately planted it where is was west facing, so had some sun, but not too much, in partial shade and in an area that stays above freezing in winter.

It really hasn’t grown as I expected, producing little leaf growth. Then this week I missed one evening watering and the next day the two leaves it has had wilted.

Dying plant
Dying plant

I dug it up, expecting quite a reasonable root ball, after three years in the ground, but I was very surprised that there was almost none. Little wonder it has not been taking up the water I have provided.

No root growth
No root growth

I left it to soak in the watering can while I prepared a sandy loam 3-2-1 mix of potting soil, sand and compost. My books say that it likes gritty, well draining soil. That was what it had where I planted it, but clearly it was not happy there.

With the secateurs I cut the partly dead main stem back. There are some small buds visible at the base, so there is a 50/50% chance that it might survive. It most certainly wasn’t going to survive much longer in the bed outside.

For the moment it is in the bathroom, where it is warm and humid, while I try and see if I can coax it back into life. I shall have to wait and see whether I have left it too late for the plant to recover.

Although we are in an area that is classed as tropical, not all tropical plants will thrive or survive, even when you try your best to match the climate that they originate in.

Figgy pudding

“We wish you a Merry Christmas” is a well known Christmas Carol, which includes the verse “So bring us some figgy pudding..”. Figs were a popular ingredient in Medieval and Middle English recipes.

Fygey is mentioned in the 14th Century recipe book, “The Forme of Cury“, but is not to be confused with the old French word figé, which meant ‘curdled’.

The Laudian Manuscript, in Oxford’s Bodleian Library has a recipe for figee – figs cooked in wine.

I have a good crop of figs on the trees this year. Some of the early ones I have already picked.

2020 crop of figs
2020 crop of figs

You know when a fig is ripe because the skin colour changes. It becomes a little darker green and small surface fissures appear showing the white of the layer just below the skin’s surface.

Ready for eating
Ready for eating

If you hold the fig between your fingers, it will feel soft and give a little. Just a single twist will easily detach a ripe fig from the branch of the tree.

Until I left the UK and moved overseas, I had not tasted fresh figs. They may have been a common English fruit in 14th and 15th centuries, but by the 20th, they were not grown any more.

We just had the dried variety, which to me seemed to have the texture and taste of compressed cardboard.

Picking a ripe fig, straight from the tree and eating it, gives you a sense of flavour that no dried fig, even the ones here on the island, seem to have. They are sweet and juicy, and bursting with complex flavours.

I will start to gather them soon and will then poach them in some local wine with honey. Then they will be preserved for use in the winter. Figs need harvesting several times a day. This ensures you catch them at peak ripeness and before they are attacked by hungry insects.

Preserving for the winter when fresh fruits are scarce is sensible planning. Apart from which, you can only east so many figs, fresh from the tree!

The Common Cormorant

The common cormorant (and shag)
Lays eggs inside a paper bag,
You follow the idea, no doubt?
It’s so to keep the lightning out.
But what these unobservant birds
Have never thought of, is that herds
Of wandering bears might come with buns
And steal the bags to hold their crumbs.

A short poem by Christopher Isherwood

I used to enjoy Poetry at school. None of your classic stuff, just plain doggerel that despite the nonsense, made sense to me.

So it was this week, as I tied some paper bags to my Triffid, in the vain hope that I might collect some seeds, that this poem came to mind.

Seed bag
Seed bag

Well it was a hot day, and hot sun does funny things to the mind…

My first thought was, I wondered if I would attract Cormorants from Stari Grad to my garden. I have the Volat’s fully recyclable paper bags ready and waiting. My second thought was that perhaps the European Brown Bears might come a wandering and steal the bags to hold their crumbs….

I’ll let you know.


Summertime and the livin is easy…

Two Greats – Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong

We are at that time of year when not even “Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun“. No one fires a Noonday Gun, but the Island’s Church bells ring a peal to let everyone know it is mid-day.

That signals the end of work until 4 pm. Most people take a siesta after sharing a relaxed family lunch.

I generally follow the local custom, depending upon my hour of waking. It is pleasantly cool outside at 05:30, whereas at 17:30 the temperature is still over 30 C.

However, much as I like Ella Fitzgerald’s singing, I cannot agree that the “Livin is easy”.

During my inside hours this week, I finished the latest monthly PMCC magazine. It was published on Friday – so that was another job out of the way.

For some time I have been creating a database for some research I am doing into police history. I need a programme where I can add all the information, photographs, details of the individuals involved etc.

The more relationships that exist between a set of tables in a database, then the more complicated it gets.

Today when you look at UK and many overseas police vehicles, they all look more or less the same.

Current BMW police bike
Current BMW police bike

Vehicles decorated with reflective Battenberg blocks of colours, conforming to British Standards specifications, are to be seen everywhere. But between the early 1970’s and the year 2010, there were multiple variations of livery, each separate and distinctive. But no one has actually recorded all these variations.

1990's West Mercia BMW
1990’s West Mercia BMW

That doesn’t help much when someone is restoring a former service vehicle. So with a full set of every force’s crest as a starter, I am building an archive of details of the various liveries. Here are some examples from just one force:

1990's West Mercia Honda
1990’s West Mercia Honda

Multiply that by 56 geographic forces, 6 non geographic forces, tunnel, docks and parks police and you get the idea why I need a database…

Late 1990's West Mercia Honda
Late 1990’s West Mercia Honda

An added difficulty is that to make the research available, it needs to be written using an open source programme. Microsoft Access® is a well known database programme and has been around a long time. But being part of the Microsoft Office® suite, means that to open an Access database, you need Office and not everyone has it.

2002 West Mercia BMW
2002 West Mercia BMW

I am using LibreOffice 6.2. This is a free, open source equivalent to Office, however I have struggled to get some of the features to work as they should.

I downloaded a 500 page manual, translated from German, however it is not the most user friendly manual that I have. Being a translation, I can see where a concept probably makes perfect sense in German, but has lost some intelligibility in the translation.

However, I have asked for help on the user forum

All this has meant that while I may not have done a great deal outside, I have still been involved in other things and have had a busy week. NRC

3 Responses

  1. Michael Charlton-Weedy

    Beautiful figs – lucky you!

  2. Brian Homans

    Always interesting to read about your escapades. Do you ever sit still and do not very much at all? I hope the plant survives but I am not betting my pension on it!

  3. Marcy

    Never tired of the blog and your pictures. Thank you for including me.