Monday, 31 March 2014

Marigolds in March

This is the time of year when the trusty floral harbingers of Spring appear and let us know that winter is behind us and spring is well and truly arrived - its a welcome sight to see the daffodils, muscari, witch hazel, forsythia and hyacinths to name but a few.  These are the perennial plants and flowers that return year after year without any effort from ourselves.  

However, I was delighted to see a marigold appear in the vegetable patch which had managed to survive the mild winter and is now already in full bloom.  Usually I have to grow them from seed each year and only just start planting them in March so don't usually see the flowers until May.  Here I'm talking about Pot Marigolds (Calendula) rather than French Marigolds (Tagetes), which are completely different!

Because this particular marigold is growing slightly out of season, it is amazingly bright in the garden and has neon, almost glow-in-the-dark qualities about it.

I grow them in the veggie garden because they are said to attract pollinators and deter aphids and this does seem to work for me and tomatoes in particular seem to benefit from their presence.  

They are also said to have medicinal uses.  For instance, in the American Civil War, doctors on the battlefield used marigold flowers to treat the soldiers' wounds because the flowers have antiseptic, antifungal and antibacterial properties and the plant is said to be particularly helpful for skin conditions.

In the kitchen, the petals can be used fresh in salads, butters and cheeses and also in cooked dishes such as omelettes and soups and for adding colour to rice dishes.  

When dried, the petals can be used to add interest to pot-pourri mixes or to decorate hand-made soaps and the fresh petals produce a yellow dye which can be used for colouring natural fibres such as wool, cotton and silk.

Such a happy looking, versatile little plant which is so easy to grow.  I would say its a must for any garden.

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

A New Bridge

Our town can be divided into 3 distinct sections:- north, south and beach.  We live in the north, close to the South Downs, the town centre is in the south and dividing the south and the beach is the river estuary.  Crossing the estuary is a footbridge and this has recently been rebuilt.

The old one was narrow and always busy with residents from the beach area going into town and townspeople and visitors heading for the beach in the other direction (and then both groups retracing their route later!).  Cyclists were allowed over, but had to dismount, which made it difficult as a person pushing a bike takes up a lot more space than a person sitting on a bike. Add to that the children (both in and out of pushchairs) and numerous dogs (both on and off leads) and you can see why we needed a new bridge.  

Original footbridge over the River Adur

Apart from that, the old bridge had seen better days and was reaching the end of its life.  

And so it was time for a new one ...

The new bridge took several months to complete and longer than expected due to technical problems but has been well worth the wait.  There are now lovely glass panels at the sides for viewing the river (with the previous bridge,  and its very high sides, you could only see the river if you jumped in the air and had a fleeting glimpse before you landed on your feet again!).  

Residents and visitors alike now love using the new bridge and it adds an extra dimension to the town.  And with funding from Sustrans it means that cyclists are well provided for and the bridge is wide enough for cycling to be allowed.  

Apparently, shortly after opening, someone rode a horse across the bridge which decided to go to the toilet half way across.  This was then declared a health and safety hazard and so cones were placed around the offending area before the correct "horse manure removing team" were free to attend and tidy up.  In my grandparents' day, word would have got out and it would be a mad race to the bridge with bucket and spade to collect a welcome supply of fertiliser to put on the roses!

It was sad to see 2 broken panes of glass already though.  Made of safety glass so no danger to the public, but I was unsure if these were acts of vandalism or "teething" problems due to the panel not been installed to the correct tension.

However, on a brighter note, the bridge is a happy place to be, making crossing the river a pleasure and on sunny days, you may even see and hear a busker playing.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

Finding the Unexpected

I don't normally do "music reviews" but have to report that last week-end I was browsing the charity shops for some particular type of music but didn't find what I was looking for.  However, I came across this CD and bought it on a whim.  Turns out I love it and have been listening to it in the car all week.

I looked up Sacred Spirit and discovered they started out in the early 90's and this was their third album in 1997.  The music can be described as electronic, new-age, world and ambient and is cleverly mixed so that, for example, one moment you're listening to haunting cello and a few moments later this is merged into steel guitar, drums or electronic trance.  One of my favourite tracks on the album, Legends , was also used in a lee jeans commercial.

Sacred Spirit's first album (Chants and Dances of Native Americans) was very different, telling the stories, legends and plight of the Native Americans and mixed traditional drumming and chanting with electronic dance beats.

Overall, their music is very experimental and each album has explored different themes, so this has opened a new door for me as I've got a few more to look into yet.  The CD is available online for just under £10 so I was quite lucky finding it for £1 in a charity shop.

Saturday, 8 March 2014

Springtime For Me

There's been a slight disagreement in the press recently on when exactly is the first day of spring.  Officially, it is the spring/vernal equinox - the date when the sun crosses the celestial equator and when the length of day and night are equal.  In the pagan calendar, it is the turning point of the renewal of life as the sun returns to the northern hemisphere.  In both these cases, this means the 20th March.  However, the Met Office have simplified things a little and say they see March, April and May as the Spring months and so for them, the spring begins on 1st March.

I like to agree with both... its good to celebrate the day when the sun returns to the northern hemisphere to give us longer days again and bring life to all that grows, but its also easy to divide the 12 months of the year into 4 seasons and so March fall appropriately into spring and instantly conjures up images of daffodils, bunny rabbits and new born lambs.

The sunny weather this week has definitely helped, and so in my mind I have now entered spring and will tentatively start packing away some of my thickest, woolliest clothes this week-end to make more space in my wardrobe until the autumn returns.

To say goodbye to the winter we've just had - here are some of my favourite photos from the season.

Thursday, 6 March 2014

And Now The Science Bit (part two)

There was a lot to see at The Science Museum and so I feel it justifies 2 blog posts...  

Like a lot of the big London Museums, entrance is free but with a suggested donation.  However, there are sometimes temporary exhibitions, talks and film screenings within the building and there may be charges for these.  There was an exhibition on 3-D printing - a fairly recent innovation which is developing quickly and which we'll see a lot more of in the future.


On the third floor, there was a huge area devoted to flight.  Its definitely an area of science, and an important one at that, but it also seemed to be an excuse to display loads of planes, just because they could!

Don't get me wrong, I love old planes (and was the last one out during a family visit to Tangmere Military Aviation Museum near Chichester!) but when there are so many grouped together like this, I feel the emphasis is more on history than science.  The exhibition here fell somewhere between the two and felt out of place.

But having said that, as I had suddenly found myself transported to an aviation museum, no visit would be complete without a mention of my home town hero from the Potteries, Reginald Mitchell, the inventor of the Spitfire (along with at least 23 other different aircraft). 

Statue of RJ Mitchell

There was a specially commissioned sculpture of him made by self-taught artist Stephen Kettle and constructed out of 400,000 stacked pieces of Welsh slate.

My verdict on the Science Museum?  Well, its definitely worth a visit and there are some interesting things to see, but don't expect full-on science as there's also a lot of history, art and design.  Some of the exhibits lacked information/explanation (or it was not easy to access) and the layout of the exhibits didn't seem to flow very well (although I think some renovations were going on at the time, which probably contributed to this).  All in all though, its a good place to spend a few hours, and the kids will love it!

Saturday, 1 March 2014

And Now The Science Bit (part one)

Our second port of call on our London trip last week-end was The Science Museum.  I'd never been before but always wanted to go as I'd heard good things about it, and Mr Cocopopia had visited a long time ago and wanted to revisit it.

There was certainly plenty to look at, although to me, it didn't feel that "sciencey".  There were loads of exhibits that I would have described more as social history, design and engineering but, I suppose if you wanted to get around it, you could call anything science if you wanted to.

We also found it tricky to negotiate our way around as certain sections seemed to be unavailable or not very clearly signposted.

It was good to be able to wander amongst the larger exhibits, although many items did seem to have been crammed in.

and it was interesting to be able to get behind the large screen of the IMAX cinema.

Anyone with a dental phobia look away now, but one of my favourite items was this vintage dental equipment station - so retro and so yellow!  Sometimes good design can appear in the most unlikely of places, and I was thinking that this would be fantastic to replicate if you were putting in a new bathroom and wanted something really quirky!

Next time - the Science Bit part two