Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Volunteering experience

Hi Everyone ! I hope you all survived Christmas and are looking forward to a lovely New Year.

I thought I would fill you all in on my brilliant experience with Crisis at Christmas (Finsbury Park, London centre) It was far and above my expectations, I can't put into words the enjoyment and satisfaction I and all the volunteers got out of it. Myself, my son, his girlfriend and their Australian friend (living here without family) loved it so much that we are up for it next year too.
If I hadn't had family commitments on Boxing day I would have gone back again before my next shift on the 27th, and again after that ( the centre closes today 30th) but I had to head back to Hampshire on 28th sadly.

The lovely veteran actress Sian Phillips, who was once married to Peter O'Toole was there at the centre as a volunteer, she was so lovely and mucked in doing anything asked of her, apparently she has been doing it for a few years now. All the shift leaders running the centre were friendly and amazing to work with. I met lot's of lovely like minded people from all walks of life and all nationalities. I never heard anyone moan about the tasks given and everyone I spoke to intends to go back.

My favourite tasks were washing hair ready for haircuts and serving food in the 'guest' dining room. Our 'guests' were so polite and thankful and believe me they were so well fed.  The amount of fresh veg and meat donated by businesses and shops was awesome and kept arriving throughout the days the centre was open.
There was also all sorts of luxurious donated as well, such as biscuits, cakes, chocolates, shampoos, shower gels.  The generosity was wonderful.

Although we four arrived together we split up to do our days work which was great because we all had our own individual experiences to tell each other. One task was normally done for around 40 mins to an hour and then we were relieved to go and have a cuppa and a snack in the volunteers area. ( I met some great people)
 We then waited for calls to volunteer for the next tasks. One task which we all thought would be boring was sitting in pairs minding 'gaps' this was because there were certain areas of the college that were out of bounds and if they weren't covered by anyone 'guests' would have been wandering all over the building and we wouldn't have known were they were or indeed if they were doing any damage (never happened yet !) but because the college has generously loaned the building for the third year running we have to make sure it's handed back in the condition it was taken over in. fair do's !! Anyway this task turned out to be great, as we got to be with another  volunteer to chat and get to know, and the passing 'guests' liked to stop and chat to us, so we had plenty of interaction with them as well.

CRISIS are doing a wonderful job and this was just at one centre. It is well run, catered for everything the 'guests' could have wanted. Showers, hair wash (if not showering at time of haircut) massage, healing, yoga, dance, (the Salsa class went down well ) optician, doctor, dentist, Internet and P.C classes, Bingo which was called out by a Cross Dressing 'guest' in a bright pink lurex dress who also played a mean game of football in the sports hall, I know this as she/he was on my son's team when he volunteered to do the sports. I have to say this particular guest was a gem and so grateful to be there.
I could go on and on but wont ! I would like to ask that you sponsor me though ( I won't be offended if you don't) please help Crisis to carry on their work all year by donating any amount no matter how small.
Here is my sponsorship link :



P.S next time I see a person sitting in a cold doorway I will always offer to buy them a coffee or a sandwich ( I never give money) that's one of my N.Y resolutions. My daughter saw a couple on Christmas Eve in Winchester go into a shop and buy a chap in a doorway a duvet. There are Angels among us even the Human kind !!

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy toasty warm feet

I was a bit naughty today because I opened a Christmas present from the hubby, but it was because my feet were freezing and indoors I never wear slippers, well that's until today ! you see I fell in love with a funky pair that I saw whilst out doing our Christmas shopping a couple of weeks ago. I just had to had some, so they were on my Christmas list.   I was complaining about how cold my feet were today and that I could do with those slipper now instead of waiting until Christmas, and he indulged me ! ( he also said it saved him having to wrap them up, typical  !!!!)  So here they are and they are so toasty and warm, but best of all they make me smile everytime I look at them.  I love them they are so eccentric, shame they aren't leather as I think I would wear them out !!!

Saturday, 18 December 2010

If You have a few minutes Please watch this

I found this little video on the main 'CRISIS' website and felt i'd like to share it with you. It's the second video down featuring Jeff Hubbard. The first video with Prince William is also worth watching. The photography is good too.

Oh no not more snow !!!

We woke up this morning to lot's of snow. So far we have avoided being snowed in, but today it's probably the worst we have had which is a nuisance as we were meant to be in Surrey to babysit the grandchildren today.  The roads are quite bad and my son rang to say that they were having a blizzard there, so our plans have been scrapped and we are staying home instead. 
I only hope that it isn't snowing over Christmas because I have to get a train from Esher to Waterloo on Christmas eve to meet up and travel with my son  who is volunteering with me, I will be staying with him and his girlfriend in their apartment as it's close to the centre we are all working at on Christmas day. I will be so disappointed if the plans go all wrong because of the snow. I am so looking forward to my shift on 25Th.

The Garden this morning

Our Christmas fireplace looks cosy with all the candles lit, and because we decided on not having a tree this year it makes a lovely seasonal statement.

I probably wont be posting again before Christmas, so I would like to say to everyone have a Wonderful and Peaceful Christmas and I wish you all a Happy New Year.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Volunteering at Christmas

I haven't posted for a while now as like everyone else with an allotment/gardening blog  there hasn't been a lot going in either. We have had some rain in the last few days so that's cleared the snow away, well almost.

I had to attend a prep meeting in London on Saturday for 'Crisis' who are the wonderful charity that look after the homeless, not just at Christmas but all year round.  The weather as you know has been terrible and I wasn't sure I would make the meeting. However I did manage to get there and was so glad I did.  It was held in a lovely Baptist church in Shaftsbury Avenue and at a guess I would say there were a couple of hundred people there.'Crisis' need and usually get 6,000 volunteers across the country, we were all first timers.

The speakers were all long term volunteers with loads of experience, some with 14 years or more working with the homeless. It was informative, fun and lovely to learn how 'Crisis' came about which was due to the 1960's film  'Cathy come Home' which is a classic now. but it really got started big time in the early 1970's.
I have volunteered to do a shift from  8.30 - 4pm in a day centre in London on Christmas day and again on 27th Dec from 4pm-10pm. 
The meeting highlighted the possible tasks we may be assigned to do, some of which I would never have imagined, and possibly may not like. But we (being myself, my son, his girlfriend and an Australian friend of theirs) all discussed it afterwards and all agreed it didn't put us off and we were looking forward to being useful in making the 'guests' (as they are called ) have a wonderful Christmas, something that we always take for granted.

All sorts of professional people like Doctor's, Nurses, Pharmacists, podiatrists, Opticians,all give their services for free, and more importantly their time over a 2 weeks period leading up to and after Christmas. Not full time of course but the odd few hour shifts here and there.  The 'guest' using the centres might not have  had a medical check-up for years, or had their eyes tested or their teeth checked, so it's a wonderful time for them. They even get to have a haircut or a manicure or perhaps a massage as well.  This is where we come in (possibly) so we are prepared !!! to maybe wash  their hair, or feet (gloves provided) ready for the haircut or podiatrist. as well as the usual serving the food to tables (not cooking as have to hold a qualification) there is also tasks like generally chatting and more importantly LISTENING to guests and maybe crafts and board games, they even have football matches (our day centre is held in a college, so lots of room).

We were warned that sometimes but rarely there are angry clashes between 'guest' and the language may sometimes be a bit 'blue'  but I was prepared for that so that didn't really concern me too much, as these are people that have to be rough and tough to just survive. They are not always treated kindly in their daily lives, so the pampering they get (for those who want it) is sometimes the only kindly touch they may have in a long time. It was heart warming to also to hear that for those with dogs there a special pampering centre for their furry companion to be seen by a vet and be spoilt and well fed whilst the 'guests' were in the day centres.

If anyone is interested in helping support this very worth while charity and it is worthwhile, we shouldn't have homelessness ! and like the speakers said it's not just drug addicts and alcoholics that are homeless.( which is the general assumption) but also  men and women who's marriage or relationships break down, people fleeing abuse, young people leaving foster care at 18,  redundancies leading to a loss of their homes is a re-occuring issue as well.

I hope I haven't sounded like i'm on my soap-box !!!! but I don't apologise for writing this post, as it's a great way to get poeple to think about the issue and maybe help in some way even if it's by  donating unwanted clothes or items or giving money, or even better volunteering.  I will let you know how my shifts go.

Have a lovely week

Monday, 15 November 2010

The thaw after a frost

I think the plants look so pretty after they thaw out from a frost.  They sparkle like they are covered in jewels as the droplets glisten in the sunshine.  I got caught out again by my neighbour who I'm sure thinks I'm quite dotty. I was in my PJ's with my wellies on, crouching down in the flower bed to get a good shot of the Delphinium that still refuses to wither and die.  It looked beautiful this morning with it's little water droplets glistening. I spotted it from the kitchen window and just had to grab my camera to try and capture it. I didn't get a good photo, somehow the camera just couldn't capture it well.

We spent a couple of hours at the allotment this afternoon, spreading the manure on the beds.  I put a good layer on the Rhubarb as it didn't do too well this year, so hopefully the extra manure will do the trick. I think another couple of  weeks tidying up and spreading manure then covering with black plastic should see the end of our visits for a couple of months. The purple sprouts 'Rubine' don't seem to be doing well and they are covered in white fly even though I have them in a cage of 'enviromesh'. I don't think the enviromesh is  keeping out the whitefly even though its so fine. I did notice that the sprouts in RHS Wisley were covered in them as well.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Ramblings of a plotholder

Hi there ! it's been a few weeks since I last did a post, doesn't time fly ?? the weather has been dreadful here as I expect it has been in your area as well. I don't mind the rain, but when you get the windy days as well and especially together, well what are we gardeners supposed to do ?  well there's always next years planting to plan and maybe a new layout for the beds on the allotment, then there's planning the rotation of crops. Hmmm  So maybe it's just as well we get some days like this so we can take stock and plan.

Yesterday I took delivery of a HUGE mountain of shredded farmyard manure. There are four of us (girls !)plot-holders sharing the £50 load, so that's great value at £12.50 each and you would only get 3 bags of compost at the garden centre for that money, which wouldn't go very far on an allotment. We had some from the same supplier last year and it is great stuff, and from the last load we all got more than enough for our whole plots and even some to stash in a corner.

If someone had told me 3 years ago that not only would I be paying out good money for a load of S**te but be wheeling it about in the early morning !! well I would have laughed my head off at such a foolish remark !!!  I have done things I never dreamed I would do since becoming an allotmenteer, such as crawling into a water butt complete with snails and creepy crawlies in there ! to unscrew the tap so I could replace it with a new one.  Another No No a few years back would have been using the chemical loo we have on the allotment, I'm even grateful for that now , I don't know how people get on with no loo on site.

I did take some photo's in the garden the other morning, but it was so windy that they were blurred as the plants I was taking pics of were whizzing about in the wind. The plants in question are a a very defiant delphinium that refuses to believe it's  autumn and has produced  a tall flowering stem and some rudbeckias that are sending forth blooms as if it were still summer, amazing, but very welcome.

There's not much else to tell really as I have been manuring and covering the beds ready for spring.  I have to cut the raspberries back yet and manure them and the rhubarb.  I still have lots of baby beetroots to pull up, also parsnips.  I planted some cabbages which seem to be growing slowly and I also have purple sprouting broccoli and purple brussel sprouts 'Rubine' which have both grown very tall and leafy.

I have to say I am looking forward to the break from gardening and veg growing for a few months and look forward to getting on and catching up with other hobbies such as crafts and reading. These other things take back seat during the busy planting and growing seasons.

Christmas will soon be upon us once again and I have decided to get the present shopping done early. I have also volunteered to work on Christmas day in a shelter for the homeless in London and again on the 27th Dec ( you have to do 2 shifts) I am looking forward to doing this as it's something I have wanted to do for a long time. The family have been fine about it and in fact my younger son and his girlfriend are volunteering with me. So it will be a very different kind of Christmas this year. I can't bear to think of all the lonely homeless people at Christmas, in fact not just the homeless, even just lonely people with no family or friends, so hopefully my little bit will help others. I think I will gain a lot by it too.

Well this has turned into a long rambling post and not even a photo YET, so here we go I will leave you with these three very different images to make up for rambling on.

I don't much care for the occupant , but I love his house

Remembering Summer

Longing for summer

Friday, 29 October 2010

Break in at the Allotment

Yes ! we had a break in. Lucky for me that my shed is facing a road and is overlooked by some houses opposite, and the road is lit as well so I escaped the thieves this time.  I do really feel for my fellow plot-holders who had their sheds broken into though,  One chap had a £300 rotovator stolen and he is gutted as anyone would be. The perpetrators cut a huge hole in the wire fence at the back of the allotments and just climbed in and helped themselves to larger equipment and left decent tools still in the sheds.

They obviously knew what they wanted as apart from damaging and forcing locks and breaking shed windows they didn't trash anything in the sheds and never took garden tools, camping stoves and kettles. They also stole a couple of wheelbarrows. I personally think a child or small person helped them as the windows aren't that big and some sheds didn't have the doors forced but had things taken from the other side of the shed, so someone small had to have climbed in to get to it. My friend lost her strimmer that way.
It's all very unsettling. I hate this time of year on the allotment at the best of times. I hate the mess, the leaves ( yes I know they make lovely leaf mould !) the mud, decaying plants , you get the picture ! OH what a misery I am today, so I will cheer myself up with a few photo's.

I hope you all have a lovely week-end, and next post will be a happy one promise !!

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

A Taste of Autumn at RHS Wisley

On Friday we went to the Autumn festival at RHS Wisley. It wasn't as good as I expected it to be, but it was a lovely sunny day and the grounds at Wisley were showing all the beautiful  autumnal colours, and also  signs of the severe frosts we had recently, lots of plants were blackened by the frost just as mine were at home in the garden, especially my dahlias which have now all been lifted and drying off to store over winter.

It was heaven there for 'Foodies' as most of the stalls were food. There was cheeses, pickles, jams, wine, cordials, oils, and lot's more, all delicious (well I had to have a free taster !!) and not the usual supermarket buys. I'm not sure I would go again, but as we were passing to go to my son's anyway we thought we would go and see what the festival was like.

We visit Wisley often as I am a member of the RHS and I do love it there.  The shop and garden centre are both so good with lots of wonderful gift ideas at this time of year. The restaurants ( there are a couple of them) are also very good value and the portions are very generous.

There were lots of apples

Stripey English Apples, I have never seen these before !!

Beautiful Seeds

Fabulous Pumpkins, some I've never seen before and now want to grow next year

Chillies and Onions

Beautiful Chard
Lovely Pink berries

Globe artichokes, these are on my 'must grow next year' list.

Some advice from RHS on how to grow artichokes

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Parsnips, Chillies and Soup

I think I have whats known as a GLUT of chillies, so help ! apart from drying and storing and of course cooking with some, what do all you peeps do with your chillies, suggestions please.

Then there's the Parsnips, I know that you are supposed to wait until a frost to sweeten them and get the best taste, but honestly they are so large and the roots so far down, it took two of  us to dig them up, and it was tough going, so I think cold soil would make thing even harder.  I have left lots in the ground, but decide to dig some up now.

They wouldn't get any prizes for looks, but my goodness they are tasty, so into a soup they went. I was into one of my experimenting soup making moods. This is what I made and it is delicious. I often forget to write down my experiments in soup making, so this one has been written down and posted on my crafts and recipe blog here so if you want the recipe follow the link.

And here is a photo of the soup which is 'Curried Squash, parsnip and courgette' YUMMY !!!


Saturday, 2 October 2010

A photo for Prospero

Whilst in Crouch End, London, a couple of weeks ago I saw this old book shop and thought of a blogger friend who goes by the name of  Prospero so I took this photo and said I would post it. Apparently it's a bit of a cult book shop for the local 'intellectuals' and even sells it's own (with name on) calico bag which people who use the shop carry around (so I have been told !) I saw the said bags hanging in the window, but didn't see anyone carrying one !! so I just have to take my sources word for it !!
So this photo is for you Prospero.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Raspberries, Rhubarb and Rainbows.

The late fruiting Raspberries, it's been a good year.

Beetroot, cooked and pickled in vinegar and my favourite Raspberry Curd.
I was busy in the kitchen yesterday.

After the rain, out came the sun and a wonderful double rainbow.

I have always loved rainbows, they never fail to enchant me.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

The colours of Autumn

Pumpkins grown on the allotment, they are so beautiful .

Chillies from my greenhouse.

Tomatoes in all shades, the yellow are delicious.


I love the Turkshead squash it's kind of ugly beautiful